Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Source: Goodreads

Catherine Morland is the second of four children of a small town vicar, and after befriending the wealthy and childless Mr. and Mrs. Allen, is invited to go to Bath with them for a few months. While there she makes the acquaintance of the Tilneys and the Thorpes, wherein her adventures in polite society begin.

A few of my classmates and I have decided to create a Jane Austen Book Club, and we’re reading them in the order they were written, so we’ve begun with Northanger Abbey. This novel is often touted as being a gothic novel making fun of gothic novels, and while Catherine is certainly obsessed with the genre, but having never read any true gothic novels, I can’t say that I see the humor in any of it.

To be perfectly honest, I hated almost every. single. character.
Nearly everyone is completely self-absorbed and focused solely on the possibility of their own personal happiness. The never ending prattle of these characters would be exhausting if let loose upon society. Austen herself breaks the fourth wall to talk to the reader constantly, explaining why she did some such thing or left something else out, and I really think getting rid of all the fourth wall breaks would make the story at least 15% more interesting.

It feels as though John Thorpe’s entire reason for existence is to be a bigger wierdo than Henry Tilney, thus making Henry look good by comparison. Tilney even admits at the end that he only ever gave Catherine the time of day because she seemed to be into him, and he didn’t have anything else going at the time. And Catherine was only into him because she only had two options and John is John.

I’m pretty sure everyone I know has met at least one Isabella Thorpe in the course of their life. She gaslights everyone, is petty, jealous, and a compulsive liar. She thinks she’s a big fish in a small pond, even though she’s not an interesting human at all, and keeps jumping from relationship to relationship because the grass is always greener on the other side. She’s exhausting, and not a person you’d ever want as a friend, but when you have no friends, she’s an easy one to keep. The worst part is that her younger sisters are perfectly nice humans and are going to get treated like trashy, tiny versions of her for the majority of their lives just because she and John are awful people.

Captain Tilney was interested in Catherine in a creepy way. Not letting them tour the house or garden without him? I’m just going to come on out and say loudly that this makes him sound like he’s eyeing up Catherine for himself. Every time he talks about Henry’s home, he makes sure to mention something he built with his own two hands. He’s very obvious about the house needing a lady’s touch, embarrassing everyone. An not letting anyone into Lady Tilney’s rooms is just strange.

The things I did enjoy about the book were the parts where Catherine was off in her own imagination. Her walk with Henry and Eleanor, the tour of the house, the story Henry tells her on the way to Northanger, and her first night there. I loved how those papers played out at the very end, and I think the novel would have actually been better and more well rounded if the story were told from Eleanor’s POV. Could you imagine having a friend come to visit who believes that your house is haunted and that your mother was murdered most foul? Having a gullible friend like Catherine would be fairly entertaining. All these bits and pieces of delight were not enough to outweigh the mostly awful characters and the fourth wall breaking, however, and I was very happy to be done with it.

HHC Rating: 2 Stars.

Other reviews in the Jane Austen Book Club:
Sense & Sensibility (August Book)
Pride & Prejudice (September Book)
Mansfield Park (October Book)
Emma (November Book)
Persuasion (December Book)

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 – P. Djèlí Clark

Source: Goodreads

In Cairo, 1912, Agent Hamed and his new partner Agent Onsi, of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, have a case on their hands. The Superintendent of Tram Safety and Maintenance at the largest hub in the city – Ramses station – insists that one of his tram cars is haunted. Ever since the space between the human world and the spirit world of the Djinn was perforated, The Ministry has been in charge of dealing with any uncanny police matters, which also, occasionally, includes hauntings. But Tram Car 015 is no normal haunting, and it will take all of the agents’ faculties to find a way to exorcise this spirit.

The steampunk-like setting for this story is beautifully imagined, and the suffragist movement created added depth to the world and its characters that I didn’t know I needed, but which absolutely made the story what it is. Deeply engrossing and mysterious, I was sorry it ended so quickly, but was 100% satisfied with the story. I think I just really want this to be a series? and maybe eventually a television series? Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but this story seems like it would adapt well to the screen and be just as captivating so long as Clark were at the helm. Personally, I can’t wait to go out and read more of Clark’s stuff, like The Black God’s Drums because this was just so, so good.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

May Bird and the Ever After (May Bird, #1) – Jodi Lynn Anderson

May-Bird-and-the-Ever-After-Jodi-Lynn-anderson

Source: Goodreads

May Bird lives in a mansion. It is old, and the only remaining building in town. She likes to explore the rundown square, as well as the woods that surrounds them. She hates school and the wall of briars that impedes her exploration of the forest. She also hates the ghost that comes to her room every night and watches her. Her mother can’t see him and wants to send her away from Briery Swamp to a boarding school somewhere in upstate New York. Everything changes when May Bird finds a letter, addressed to her, in the 50-year-old ruins of the Biery Swamp post office. Now a walk in the woods could change the course of her life, and death, forever. May Bird, her cat Somber Kitty, and the ghost are the only ones who can save the world of the dead.

I picked this one up at the library in 2016 simply because it had ‘ever after’ in the title. I like fairytales, alright? But this book is no fairytale. In fact, it took me a while to read its 300 pages because I kept scaring myself. I don’t do creepy or scary, and this has a decent helping of both, with a bunch of gross on the side. Nevertheless, once I got into it, I became completely sucked in. I could never have invented a place like the Ever After. It’s just not my style. But the fact that this world exists fascinates me to no end. It’s so perfectly detailed, and the writing is perfect. The trials that May Bird faces in this first book of the trilogy astounded me, and I laughed and cried and freaked out at varying points. Let me just say, for the record, that it’s hard to read with your eyes covered.

In all honesty, the book isn’t really that scary. I’m just a scaredy-cat. I hate being scared. I don’t do scary movies or scary books. I stopped watching the film of Stephen King’s It halfway through because my friends fell asleep and I was too scared to finish it alone. The only time I don’t get scared is when I’m protecting someone else. Then I can be brave. But reading scary books is not something I necessarily enjoy doing. I didn’t grow up reading the Goosebumps series because the covers scared me, but I’d guess that this is probably on par, especially since it came out a mere three years after the first Goosebumps book.

The point of view alternates irregularly between May Bird and her cat Somber Kitty, who end up in the land of the dead, known as the Ever After. We’re given to believe that live people used to visit frequently, but that since Bo Cheevil has come to power, everything has gone to Hell in a handbasket. The ghouls are escaping their pit in the dead sea, and the Boogie Man has been operating with an iron fist (and some giant dogs). The addition of a prophecy and a mysterious lady who runs an even more mysterious farm sucks you into May Bird and the Ever After like a water demon.

This book is middle grade/juvenile fiction but contains some pretty creepy ghosts and monsters. Recommended if you like scary stories like R.L. Stines Goosebumps series, but also if you’re willing to put up with some creepiness in your awesome dimensional-traveling adventure book.

HHC Rating:  4 Stars