REVIEW – Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

“We mustn’t let next week rob us of this week’s joy.”

Ah, how lovely it is to be back in Avonlea. Anne is preparing for college and although the majority of the story takes place at Redmond, the magic and coziness isn’t lost.

I felt that the strongest part of this book was the exploration of Anne’s friendships, both new and old. Phil is hilarious, Prissy is a delight, and although dear Diana isn’t in much of the book, that friendship endures.

“I’m afraid to speak or move for fear all this wonderful beauty will vanish just like a broken silence.”

I’m sad to think that we won’t be returning to Patty’s Place in the future, but our brief time there was so lovely.

Also, is there anyone who DOESN’T absolutely love Gilbert Blythe?

I loved that this story covered approximately four years of Anne’s life, and I’m excited to see where the next books lead.

REVIEW – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Rich or poor, we will keep together and be happy in one another.”
I think it’s safe to say that everyone who enjoys this book desperately wishes they could be part of the March family (which makes Laurie so incredibly relatable at times). This is a great read for the Christmas season, but honestly holds up any time of year – it’s cozy, it’s funny, it has so much heart. I figured the best way to review it would be to break it down by character – particularly the March sisters and Marmee.

“Call yourself any names you like; but I am neither a rascal nor a minx, and I don’t choose to be called so.”
Meg’s story is incredibly important – she’s the only sister who dreams of what’s “expected” of her. And for Meg, she gets exactly what she wants and ends up thriving. Alcott outlines some marriage and parenthood struggles in Meg’s life, but they’re relatable – she and her husband grow closer as a couple because of them, and Meg ends up living a lovely life that she’s proud of.

“I like good, strong words, that mean something,” replied Jo.
Many of us avid readers (and writers) identify with Jo – she’s technically the “main” character of the novel, and her story is the most interesting (arguably tied with Amy). Jo’s journey from bookworm tomboy to published writer has you rooting for her every step of the way. I will admit, i’m not really pleased with how her story ends (however, I am glad she doesn’t end up with Laurie) but I also understand why Alcott made the choices she did for Jo given the time period (and Little Women is loosely based on Alcott’s life).

“If Jo is a tom-boy, and Amy a goose, what am I, please?” asked Beth, ready to share the lecture. “You’re a dear, and nothing else,” answered Meg.
Dear, sweet Beth. The unfairness of her story has always been apparent to me. After contracting scarlet fever (that she was exposed to only because she was being kind and helping others), she spends the rest of the book sitting idly by, while her sisters grow up, travel and marry. Somehow, Beth’s faith and sweetness never change – she gladly welcomes death and worries most about how her loved ones will carry on once she’s gone.

“I want to be great, or nothing.”
I think Amy gets a lot of unfair criticism for being the “worst” March sister. Amy grows the most throughout the novel – she starts as a sometimes silly, often selfish 12-year-old girl, but she grows into a thoughtful, smart and determined young woman. Amy seems the most “real” to me, because she has the most to learn.

“Once upon a time there were four girls, who had enough to eat, and drink, and wear, a good many comforts and pleasures, kind friends and parents, who loved them dearly, and yet they were not contented.”
Marmee is, in my opinion, the best literary mother of all time. Although her character does take a bit of a backseat to the four sisters, her influence is evident. She has managed to raise four kind, intelligent, caring girls – the lessons she teaches them still (mostly) hold up today, and I always love coming across her nuggets of wisdom while reading.

At its core, Little Women is truly a feminist piece of literature (there are some antiquated thoughts and statements in the text, but they are merely a symptom of their time). There are timeless life lessons about growing up, family, friendship and individuality.

REVIEW – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”

Oh man. Victor is the WORST. He’s melodramatic. He’s a total jerk. He doesn’t take any responsibility whatsoever for what he’s done.

“…but am I not alone, miserably alone?”

And the monster? It’s hard not to feel bad for him (despite the…murders…) He just wants love, acceptance and companionship.

“Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?”

This is a classic for a reason. It’s not spooky, or terrifying, but it is pretty heartbreaking. Victor’s inability to care for his creation, and his choice to not warn his friends and family that they might be in danger, makes him 110% liable for every terrible thing that happens in this book.

REVIEW – Dracula by Bram Stoker

“Listen to them – the children of the night. What music they make!”

Dracula is a spooky, gothic classic (duh). Stoker’s writing is incredible and covers every little detail. His terrifyingly vivid descriptions conjure up the sights, sounds and smells (seriously, SMELLS) of our journey from Castle Dracula to London and back again.

“…God seems to have deserted us.”

I audibly gasped multiple times while reading this book. Sometimes due to the horror within, and other times due to the amazing writing. There’s a scene in the first 50 pages that might be one of the most chilling things I’ve ever read. And if you think it will be relatively tame due to the era in which it was written, don’t worry. There’s no lack of blood in this book.

“But we are strong, each in our purpose; and we are all more strong together.”

The book includes a pretty solid cast of characters, and we get the perspective of each throughout the course of the book. Van Helsing and Mina were the most fascinating and best developed, in my opinion.

“Every breath exhaled by that monster seemed to have clung to the place and intensified its loathsomeness.”

There were moments throughout the book that reminded me of modern horror (and fantasy) novels. I wouldn’t be surprised if books like Silence of the Lambs, IT and even the Harry Potter series drew inspiration from Dracula, or vampire lore in general.

“…it all seems like a horrible tragedy, with fate pressing on relentlessly to some destined end.”

Dracula is not without its faults. It does drag a bit towards the middle (one character’s plot feels repetitive at times) and I found the ending to be a bit anticlimactic, but it’s still a solid classic that horror fans will enjoy.

REVIEW – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

“Why was I always suffering, always brow-beaten, always accused, forever condemned? Why was it useless to try to win any one’s favor?”

What can I say about Jane Eyre that hasn’t already been said? This book has it all – romance, suspense, a large cast of interesting characters, a complex, interesting heroine. There’s an underlying theme of feminism and independence. Even almost 175 years later, this book is relatable. Jane’s emotions and inner thoughts stand the test of time.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will.”

Poor Jane can’t seem to catch a break for awhile – from her horrible childhood at Gateshead to the sadness at Lowood, Jane struggles to find her place. She settles in as governess at Thornfield, and falls in love – but then a horrific secret tears everything apart.

“Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart!”

She experiences her lowest point after fleeing Thornfield, but only to be embraced by a family and community.

“…and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him.”

As I got closer to the end, I was hoping Jane would ultimately get the happy ending she deserved. (Reader, she did.)

REVIEW – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“I thought how strange it had never occurred to me before that I was only purely happy until I was nine years old.”

I’ve been meaning to read The Bell Jar for years, and I’m glad I finally did. Plath’s writing is engaging and easy to read. Esther Greenwood is a likable character, and I found myself rooting for her the entire time.

I think this book will resonate with anyone who has experienced anxiety or self doubt; a lot of Esther’s thoughts really hit the nail on the head when it comes to believing we aren’t enough. (I don’t have any personal experience with depression so I don’t want to comment on that.)

I think, even given the time in which it’s set, this book tackles mental health issues pretty well.

REVIEW – Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

I’m so glad I finally read Anne of Green Gables this year, and I’m excited that I was able to find a boxed set of the series!

Anne of Avonlea was a lovely, cozy book, although not *quite* as magical or memorable as the first (but still good!)

I found myself laughing out loud while reading. I loved my journey back to Avonlea and catching up with the characters I grew to love in the first book.

Anne is such a delightful character – I love how she’s able to find goodness in joy in everyone and everything.

REVIEW – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I’m not quite sure why I never read Anne of Green Gables as a kid, but I’ve always been interested in the story.

I read this at exactly the right time – I recently read quite a few disturbing, unsettling books and was in desperate need of something light and cozy.

I didn’t expect to fall in love – with Anne, with Avonlea, with the Cuthberts – everything about this book was lovely.

You can tell that the book is suitable for younger readers, but it didn’t feel like a “children’s” book. I’m excited to read the rest of the series!

REVIEW – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”

I enjoyed this book so much more than I initially thought. I had heard good things, but I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t realize how much the plot would pick up towards the end.

Rebecca begins as a very atmospheric, gothic novel. It’s slow, but not boring. Manderley seems like a beautiful home, but there’s a hint of something sinister and unsettling.

I don’t want to give too much away – I didn’t know much about the story before reading it and I think it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible.

[spoilers ahead!]

I had two theories about Rebecca’s demise. At first I thought it was pretty obvious that Maxim had killed her. Once we learn her true nature, I thought that maybe she had faked her death and was still lurking around the house (with the help of Mrs. Danvers).

I do think the plot started to fall apart at the end when we learn that Rebecca had cancer, and that was viewed as a motive for her “suicide.”

Every character in this book is flawed. Rebecca is just a terrible person. Maxim is a condescending jerk with a bad temper (…and that whole murder thing, too). Mrs. Danvers is just wretched. And while I do feel bad for our narrator, her blind devotion to Maxim is terrifying. Upon learning that he killed Rebecca, instead of being horrified she’s RELIEVED that her husband never really loved Rebecca and she no longer feels that she has to compete with a dead woman.