[Review] John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow by Mimi Matthews

Publisher and Publication Date: Perfectly Proper Press. July 20, 2021.
Genre: Gothic literature.
Pages: 364.
Format: NetGalley e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary NetGalley e-book copy from Austenprose. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers who are in the mood for a Gothic literature story.
Rating: Excellent.

Purchase links:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble

Advance Praise:

“Bertha Mason Rochester shines, dominating her scenes with vitality and strength. The style, too, is spot-on, reprising the spirit of 19th-century Gothic prose without descending into mimicry.”— Publishers Weekly

“An entertaining spin on a classic with thrilling twists and turns…Matthews skillfully transforms a well-known story into a truly original tale.”— Kirkus

“[Matthews] retells Charlotte Bronte’s classic story in a way that will keep fans of the original novel totally gripped from cover to cover… Fresh and dynamic… Fast-paced and spellbinding…a book you will have a hard time putting down.”—
Readers Favorite

“One of the most moving, suspenseful, innovative and remarkable retellings of a classic in the history of, well, ever… Every page is sheer rapture as [Matthews] moulds popular source material into a spell-binding creation so wholly her
own.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration

“[A] captivating and ingenious retelling of Jane Eyre with a supernatural twist. Smart, suspenseful, and deliciously spooky, JOHN EYRE is a must-read; I loved everything about it!”— Ashley Weaver, author of the Amory Ames Mysteries
and the Electra McDonnell series

Author Info:

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Regency and Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

Website/ Twitter/ Facebook/ Pinterest/ BookBub/ Goodreads

Summary:

Yorkshire, England. 1843.
When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious. Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all. From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

My Thoughts:

John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness is a story strong in atmospheric tension and mystery. It is a story re-written from two famous stories of the 19th century. Both of these stories are favorites of mine. When I had the opportunity to read and review John Eyre I jumped at the chance with excitement.

There are several reasons why I love John Eyre:
1. It is a story thick with tension, mystery, anticipation, fear, and dread.
2. I love the details in the story. Human mannerisms and the small things that are done every day that bring a realness to the story. For example, the winding of a pocket watch.
3. I love the descriptions of the scenery and homes. In an atmospheric story like Gothic literature, it is important to show the reader an impact of the gray and grim; and a mist or fog or other objects that obscures what maybe behind it. It is writing that brings mystery and tension.
4. There is a level of sexuality or sensualness in some of the characters, but it is not to a point that takes the story to a level that is too revealing. It is subtle but noticeable.
5. John Eyre is the lead character or hero in @Austenprosethe story. If you recognize his last name, and if you remember the character in the famous 19th century story, Jane Eyre, you are correct. He is the male form of Jane. The story Jane Eyre is my number one favorite story!
6. John Eyre comes across as a Byronic type hero. One of the anticipations for me while reading is I waited and hoped for his character to mature or blossom. I wanted to see a full revealing of his person. I also had strong empathy for him.
7. The story towards the end has gruesome details. This is necessary and is apart of the revealing of what the story has been building up to.
8. Bertha Mason is the female lead character. She is strong, assertive, intelligent, and bold. She is beautiful and has a vibrant personality. She is a person people notice. She is the opposite, because of her language and behavior, in how many of the women are portrayed in l9th century literature. Her character is more of a contemporary written figure. However, her character is a solid balance for the whole of the story. She is certainly intriguing.

Themes in John Eyre: honesty, loyalty, jealousy, obsession, courage, bravery, kindness, heroism, innocence, fear, good and evil, deception, romance, empowerment, hope, and charity.

[Review] The Count of Monte Cristo (Abridged) by Alexandre Dumas

Publisher and Publication Date: Barnes and Noble Classics. 2004.
Genre: Fiction. Classic literature. Classic French literature.
Pages: 608.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Classic literature readers.
Rating: Good.

This is the first Chunkster size book for that reading challenge I’ve finished in 2021.

This book is read for the 2021 Victorian Reading Challenge.

This book is also read for The Classics Club.

This book is also read for Back to the Classics Challenge 2021. #4 A book written in not my first language. “4. A classic in translation, meaning any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer.”

I’ve had this book in my TBR piles several years. I’m excited to cross it off the list of books to be read.

Link at Barnes and Noble.

Alexandre Dumas, 1802-1870

Biography on Alexandre Dumas

Goodreads author page

The Count of Monte Cristo was first published in a serialized form. The French title: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo in 1844-1845.

Summary:

France. 1815.

Edmond Dantes has everything going for him. He has a loving father. He is in love with a beautiful woman he is engaged to marry. He has a career as a captain of a ship. He is young and handsome.

There is a man who is very jealous of Edmond. He plots to destroy Edmond. Edmond is accused of treason. His sentence is in a prison fortress built on a small island. Edmond wastes away in his prison cell for 14 years. During this time, Edmond develops a friendship that becomes a lifesaver. And, Edmond plans his revenge.

My Thoughts:

I like The Count of Monte Cristo, but I am not in love with the story. It is not a story that swept me away like Les Miserables or other five star/excellent classic literature books I’ve rated. But it is a good, solid story.

It is a simple story to follow.
It has heroes and villains.
It is told in a chronological order of events.

A man who has everything going for him in life and it is stolen in a brief moment. A great injustice is done to Edmond. I have empathy for his plight. I feel an investment in what is going to happen. I felt surely with a chunkster page book a reckoning will come.

It is a story that in the beginning pages I felt sadness and anxiety. However, the story has a good building up and leads to a satisfying closure.

Themes in the story: betrayal, ambition, courage, redemption, revenge, perseverance, honesty, good and evil, deception, heroism, honor, suffering, judgment, injustice, justice, self-control, empowerment, and grief.


[Review] The Secret of The Grand Hôtel du Lac by Kathryn Gauci

Publisher and Publication Date: Ebony publishing. 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 274.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: Gift.
Audience: Historical fiction readers who enjoy World War II stories.
Rating: Excellent.

The story is inspired by true events in France during World War II.

Kathryn Gauci’s Author Page @Goodreads.
Kathryn Gauci’s Website/ Blog/ Facebook/ Twitter

Summary:

1943. World War II.

Guy Maxwell is an SOE on a mission in France when he is shot in the left leg. He also has other serious injuries. The Germans had intercepted his rendezvous with another agent. Guy Maxwell is thought to be in hiding.

SOE officers Vera Atkins and Colonel Maurice Buckmaster ask Elizabeth to return to France and find Guy. Atkins prepares Elizabeth with accurate clothing, a special make-up compact, brooch pin, and a pistol. Elizabeth returns to France hoping to find Maxwell and solve the mystery of what happened.

Guy and Elizabeth are married.

The time period of this story is leading up to the D-Day, Normandy, France invasion of June 6, 1944.

My Thoughts:

I love this story! I love it because of the two main characters: Guy and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is one of the toughest female lead characters I’ve read. She is a no-nonsense, intelligent, savvy, beautiful; and, she is handy during a torture scene using her brooch pin. Elizabeth is very much in love with her husband. This is a second aspect of why I love this story: it is a great love story.

I’ve read a few other reviews. One of them is in regards to the inaccurate history of some of the story. For me, I am not bi-lingual. I do not speak or read French. I am not going to catch-on to inaccuracies about the French language and customs. I believe it is possible the average reader is just like me.

Over-all, I believe the story is entertaining, thrilling, and adventurous. It is a strong tension building story. It is difficult to lay the book down.

The story is based on real events that began in October 1944.

Themes in the story: heroism, fear, good and evil, deception, revenge, sacrifice, honor, romance, suffering, survival, war, trust, hope, self-control, and loyalty.

[Review] Revelations by Mary Sharratt

Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. April 27, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature. Medieval history. Travel.
Pages: 320.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

Mary Sharratt’s website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Goodreads author page

For more information about the book visit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This link provides an excerpt at the bottom of the page.

To read more information about Margery Kempe:
Medieval Studies Research Blog on Margery Kempe
Historic-UK
British Library– This link shows illustrations of her autobiography.

Summary:

Margery Kempe was born about 1373 and died after 1438 or 1440. We do not know precise dates of her birth and death. She was born and lived in Bishop’s Lynn, Norfolk, England. She married John Kempe. They had 14 children. She began having visions after the birth of her first child. She was about 20. She continued to have visions. Some visions were of Jesus Christ sitting next to her. Some of the visions were frightening creatures. She is considered a mystic. She is not a Catholic saint, but she is remembered in the Anglican Communion. Her autobiography is the first in the English language.

After the birth of her 14th child, she told her husband they should not be sexually intimate anymore. She had a difficult labor with the 14th child. She did not want to risk her life with another pregnancy and labor. To cut herself off from her husband was shocking, unheard of during this era; and it marked her as an uncommon and disobedient wife. She began preaching to women, she traveled extensively without her family; and she visited Julian of Norwich, another female mystic, to seek support and guidance. She was arrested several times. She was tortured. She was considered a heretic. Her autobiography is written with transparency about her life. It is an unusual story for its time. It is a story about a woman living during the middle ages who endured many of the same things other women endured, except Kempe’s visions and pilgrimages set her apart.

My Thoughts:

Revelations is a remarkable story. It is a story that causes me to pause and reflect on what it must have been like to be a woman who didn’t have a choice to say no. No was a forbidden word for females. Females were to be compliant and obedient. If they were not, they were viewed with suspicion.

Several reasons led me to give an excellent rating to Revelations.
1. I love the characterization of Margery Kempe. She is a woman ahead of her times. She loves her children but felt drawn to something more. She illustrates what grief does to people. She has a strong personality but is stifled by culture. Her character develops in her maturity. Through her story, I understand maternal and child health during this era.
2. I have not read another story about Margery Kempe.
3. Descriptive setting of her travel mode, scenery, people, and the places or cities she saw.
4. Other female characters in the story gave different perspectives on women’s lives of this era and how they felt about Margery.
5. The story is chronological or linear. I am so glad to read a story that is not multiple time periods going back and forth.
6. The story shows male and female relationships, especially marriage. I am more sad than angry at the dominance of males over females. Sad for the females of course.
7. The story shows the different roles or responses from her children. People are people and their perspective and behavior is varied, but I saw her children showing different responses to her life.
8. Inner and outward conflicts.
9. Revelations is one of my favorite types of historical fiction: women in history.
10. There is a building of sensory, imagination, fear, anxiety, and tension.

Themes in Revelations: death and dying, bravery, courage, kindness, innocence, shame, suffering, judgement, injustice, conformity, charity, and hope.

[Review] The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Publisher and Publication Date: Viking. September 29, 2020.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 288.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers who like time-travel and second chance stories.
Rating: Good.

Amazon link

Barnes and Noble link

Summary:

Nora Seed is 35. She is unmarried. She does not have children. Her parents are both dead. She is estranged from her only sibling. Her cat died. She does not have close friends. Her job is not rewarding or satisfying.
Nora feels the heavy burden of regret. She is depressed and withdrawn. She isolates herself in a mindset of “if only.” She makes the decision to end things. It is at that moment she is reacquainted with an old friend from her childhood. This person is the librarian at the Midnight Library. The Midnight Library is a place housing books that hold choices about other types of lives Nora can choose from.

My Thoughts:

I’ve heard “regret is a slippery slope.”
I’ve heard celebrities who state, “they don’t regret anything they’ve done.”
I feel the reality is somewhere in the middle. If we live long enough, and we are humble, we are going to have regrets. The real question is what do we do with regrets?
The Midnight Library eventually delves into trying to answer that question. The answer gets a little techy or philosophic, but stays away from an answer a Christian would give to the question: What do I do about regret? I will give you my answer at the end of this review.

I have mixed feelings about this book.
I will start with what I like about The Midnight Library.
1. I like the unique storyline.
2. I like Nora Seed. I have great empathy and compassion for her character. I wish that I could give her a big hug.
3. I like the librarian. She is a person from Nora’s past who is a good memory. This person is several things all rolled up into one person: counselor, confidante, friend, comforter, encourager, nurturer, and a wise teacher. I like it that the librarian doesn’t tell Nora what to do, but she allows Nora to choose.
4. I like the slow revealing of what Nora learns about her choices.
5. I enjoyed reading about some of the stories, and the people she meets or becomes reacquainted with.
6. I like the short cast of characters. The story is easy to keep up with.
7. Nora’s last name is Seed. Most of the library books are green. One of them is gray. I see a garden of sorts. A garden of Nora’s life that she can grow anew.

What didn’t work for me:
1. This is a story that tries to answer some of the deepest and hardest questions in life. It shows one character’s fictional story which is not reflective of everyone or of the reality of real people. What I mean is this is such a deep plot and story over-all that it can not be considered “the answer.” Remember it is fiction. Do not confuse the book with real life.

Final Thoughts:

Every human who has ever lived is imperfect. This means we make choices or other people make choices that turn out to be wrong. Nonsensical. Regretful. People are imperfect. Relationships are imperfect. Life is filled with happy times and sad times. It is filled with questions that will not have answers. It is filled with people who will never get us or like us.
In my own life it has been necessary to at least spend some time thinking about regrets. Serious regrets. For example, hurting the feelings of a friend or family member. Sometimes hard things need to be said, but I am referring to words that should not have been said. I want to examine what I said and don’t say it again. I want to ask for forgiveness of that person that I offended.
In looking back to my past, there are times that at first I considered a choice to be a regret, but later realized it turned out to be a good thing. There are things, important things, that I learned along the way after that choice. These things have shaped the person I am today. These things, and their experiences, humbled me, brought wisdom, and matured me in ways that I might not be if I had made that other choice. And, I have found out that if I’d made that choice, I still would be an imperfect person living in an imperfect world which means that choice would still not bring perfection. And, lastly, I believe God does not waste anything. Those choices I made in the past He did not waste in forming the person that I am today. He did not waste those hard experiences, and often painful experiences, after those choices.

My mother and daddy both were married and had children. They were in mid-life and enjoying their families. Both their spouses died tragic and painful deaths. My mom and dad met and married, and, even though they were older, they were able to conceive me. From a young age mother told me I was her “joy.” That’s a wonderful thing to be told. Their pain and loss led to a new life for my parents and siblings. It was imperfect. But love was there.

The Midnight Library deals with suicide. It is important that if a person is thinking about ending their life they do not read this book but contact Suicide Prevention Hotline. 1-800-273-8255.
Please reach out to someone. Do not remain in the mindset you are in. People care. I care.