Victoria Simpson
So, I just realized what a bad blogger I am...I moved and neglected to tell anyone.  Here's the deal: I still write and such, just not as many book reviews.  I'm actually more concerned with human rights...and am also planning a move to, while I still do mention books and review them (on goodreads) I've broadened my horizons. My new home is at  Go check it out.  The writing has improved, I assure you.
Victoria Simpson
 Okay, the last thing I posted was a scathing essay on Abelard and Heloise.  This will be better.  I'm talking about Jane by April Lindner.  Here's the blurb from her website that is on the back of the book:

"Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance. But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love? An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers."

I finished the book yesterday, and I have to admit, the girlish part of me absolutely loved it.  It's a classic romance, and I mean romance in the non-Harlequin way.  Granted, when I first started, the idea of Edward Rochester--now Nico Rathburn--being a rock star was off-putting.  Rochester is my FAVORITE Byronic hero so I'm protective.  I can see him as a moody musician, but as a rock star?  That's far-fetched for me.  Yet in the book, it kind of works.  It's still not a move I would ever make, but I was able to go with it and still enjoy the book.

The story was, of course, modern and was geared towards a younger audience.  It lacked the delightfully scrumptious language of the original, Gothic Jane Eyre.  Also, some of the symbolism was cast aside.  However, one thing I did like about it was that Lindner integrated Jane's past by using flashbacks.  It kept the pace up while still getting her back-story.   However, while I miss the more formal tones, there are definite pluses.  The first is that it does become a toned-down romance while at the same time showing a young woman becoming strong and independent.  The actual story becomes more tangible to the modern-day audience. I think this makes today's audience see the story of Jane Eyre in the clear way that the original audience saw it.  Secondly, this is a great way to introduce today's teens, primarily girls, into classic literature.  They've been eased into Jane Eyre so that they now can start on the actual book instead of reading volume upon volume about angsty vampires.  I almost think there needs to be some sort of "Classics for Young Adults" series like they do for younger children.  I think that one needs a good foundation in the classics to better understand the world of literature as a whole.  After all, books are always in dialogue with each other.

Four stars from me because I enjoyed it so darn much, though, it probably needs a 3.5.  Though, that cover is so lovely it probably pushes it back up to four stars.  Isn't it scrumptious?  
Victoria Simpson
Okay, first off, I am so terribly sorry I was gone so long!  Life is insanity.  Secondly, I read but did not finish The Letters of Abelard and Heloise.  It was terrible.  That's a one and a half to two stars from me.  This review is actually a paper I had to write on it.  You'll get the gist of the book from reading it.

"The story of Abelard and Heloise is a tragic love story.  A scholar had a forbidden love affair with his student.  They were discovered.  Heloise goes to a convent and takes orders, and Abelard went on teaching until Heloise’s uncle betrayed him.  Abelard was castrated, and then he too took orders.  The letters between these two shows how their love continues even after these events.  However, their love affair became even more interesting due to their complicated gender dynamic.  At first glance, the dynamic between the two looks very traditional, but as one delves further into their discussions of God and love, the relationship begins to look like one of an odd power struggle.  
On the surface, Abelard looks like he was the dominant one in the relationship.  He was her tutor.  Abelard still acted like he was “in charge of her” when writing the letters to Heloise.  This particular passage is interesting to look at because it is passive-aggressive:
“So, if you still watch over your daughters as carefully as you did previously over your sisters, it is sufficient to make me believe that any teaching or exhortation from me now would be wholly superfluous.  If, on the other hand, in your humility you think differently, and you feel that you have need of my instruction and writings in matters pertaining to God, write to me what you want so that I may answer as God permits me” (56).
So, with that passage, there is evidence of Abelard trying to still control his pupil, who he beat when they were in the first flush of love, while he used God as an excuse for his continual attempts to control her.  In fact, Abelard’s “instructions of God” to Heloise all appear to be suspiciously controlling.  He also seemed agitated with her at times, such as the fifth letter.  
“The whole of your last letter is given up to a recital of your misery over the wrongs you suffer, and these, I note, are on four counts.....I have decided to answer you on each point in turn, no so much in self-justification as for your own enlightenment and encouragement, so that you will more willingly grant my own request when you understand that they have a basis of reason, listen to me more attentively on the subject of your own pleas as you find me less to blame in my own and be less ready to refuse me when you see me less deserving of reproach” (72).
Obviously, Heloise challenged the great Abelard’s power, and this was his rebuke.  Abelard was desperately trying to remain in charge of Heloise.  
However, Heloise’s actions put an interesting spin on this story, preventing it from looking like it was a traditional dynamic.  She began her letters by referring to him as “lord”, and said that he should not address her like one would an equal or superior (63).  In the same letter, the fourth letter to be exact, Heloise tried to passive-aggressively place herself in power.  She began discussing women and how they were the downfall of men.  Yet, the more she wrote about this, the more women start to look like they are the ones in control: “Only the woman he had sex with could infatuate Solomon, wisest of all men” (67).  While this is painting women as evil or temptresses, this also gives them power.  Heloise also posits herself as temptress of Abelard saying, “so that at least by long contrition I can make some amends for your pain form the wound inflicted on you” (67).  This implies she was the reason he was punished, and therefore, she is somewhat placing herself on the same plane as Delilah and others.  This puts her in a place of power over Abelard.  As this book continues on, there are other places where she seeks to instruct him and vice versa.
This book appears to be a book about a man and a woman who were love with each other and had a great love for God.  While they both were very devout to God, at points they seem to be using God and the Bible as weapons to gain control over the other instead of encouraging the other in their Christian path.  The two argued in the letters many times.  Their love does not seem so deep after a while.  They had a love of arguing with each other, they enjoyed their sex together, but did they really love each other?  Simply ending a letter with romantic phrases does not equal love.  Perhaps they had a rough sort of love, like an old married couple, but they lacked a great deal of tenderness that one would expect to see.  Either way, the relationship between the two of them has managed to last throughout time. "

I would like to point out also that in terms of gender dynamic, I loathe power struggles.  I prefer to recognize the strengths of each gender, and that the two work together.  This book does none of that.  They are both weak individuals trying to leech power from putting the other down.  Weakness in either gender is offensive to me because weakness in the individual is offensive to me.  

Anyways, maybe when I get more time, I can give you guys a happier review.
Victoria Simpson
Miracle of miracles, my lovely reader...

I have time this day to write a review AND the writing bug has seen fit to bite me.  So, lovlies, let's look at The September Society by the incredibly talented Charles Finch (Yale and Oxford, people.  He got the education that still haunts the misty corners of my dreams).   Without further ado, I present my much delayed review of The September Society.

This novel is the sequel to the much beloved and praised A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mysteries).  That novel must be read first.  Really, reading a mystery series out of order is a no-no.  It was nominated for an Agatha Award, so you know it's worth your time if you're into the mystery genre like I am.  

This novel, like its predecessor, is about gentleman detective Charles Lenox in Victorian England (so, naturally I'm all over this stuff).  Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

"In the small hours of the morning one fall day in 1866, a frantic widow visits detective Charles Lenox. Lady Annabelle's problem is simple: her beloved son, George, has vanished from his room at Oxford. When Lenox visits his alma mater to investigate, he discovers a series of bizarre clues, including a murdered cat and a card cryptically referring to the September Society." "Then, just as Lenox realizes that the case may be deeper than it appears, a student dies, the victim of foul play." What could the September Society have to do with it? What specter, returned from the past, is haunting gentle Oxford? Lenox, with the support of Lady Jane and his other devoted friends in London's upper crust, must race to discover the truth before it comes searching for him, and dangerously close to home.

I found the novel very entertaining.  Charles Lenox is like the functional Sherlock Holmes.  However, I can't lie and say that it was fast-paced.  It wasn't.  It was dreadfully slow in the beginning.  So. Slow.  I was getting a bit antsy because I love Charles Lennox, really I do--probably because I picture him looking like the picture below:

But really, all joking aside, I do love him.   He's very brilliant.  And I love the characters.  But they were stuck a plot that ran like a slow molasses.  And then Dallington comes along and all is fine.  JUST HOLD ON FOR DALLINGTON!!!!

But really, it is very well written and very enlightening.  I liked his first one better, to be honest, but I still really enjoyed this one.  I got a nice education on Parliament which is very helpful, I must say.

The setting takes place in Oxford and London--the descriptions of both are fantastic.  

I give it 3 and a half out of 5.  

I wish this was better written, but alas, my dear reader, certain packing duties and a bubble bath are calling to me.  It will be my very last luxury, you know, before I head out to perform my summer duty at a camp.  I leave you Victoria and shall return as:

...well, hopefully not. 

Adieu, dear reader!  That's quite a parting image I left you with, eh?
Victoria Simpson
Dear reader,

I must apologize for my absence.  My real job plus life in general has demanded much of my attention.  However, I've felt rather negligent so I thought I'd give you a taste of what was coming up (because I have been reading and seen some movies in the midst of my whirlwind).  Dear reader, I am on the verge of writing a rather biting review of Gregory Maguire's Lost, sharing with you the joys of the reemergence of my love for Mr. Mister, telling you why The Prince of Persia is entertaining enough for at least one viewing, and, this is the most exciting for me, a Shutter Island double feature--you get the book and movie review.

Reader, I do hope this makes up for my absence.  I apologize in all sincerity.  If I can swing another blog post between now and Sunday (the day I depart for medical duties at a camp for a week as Nurse Simpson), then I shall.  Please don't get you're hopes up though.  When I return, which I shall, I will definitely post more often.

Please forgive me.

Always yours,

Victoria Simpson
Dear reader,

This is going to be a really quick review.  There's not much to say about it.  Iron Man 2 was okay.  I'd give it a 3 out of 5.  ScarJo was pretty awesome.  Robert Downey Jr. is still a big crush for me--though I like him better as Sherlock Holmes.  There's not much to say.  It was an okay movie.  It's entertaining but not fantastic or groundbreaking.  I'd wait until it came out on DVD or something.   It's the movie you'll watch on TBS one day.  But it was still funny.  And, if all else fails, ladies, Robert Downey Jr. is still nice to look at.... I love his smile.

Up next: Lost: A Novel, The Prince of Persia, Letters to JulietThe September Society (Charles Lenox Mysteries), and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles).

Suggestions for things you want reviewed?  Questions?  I'd love to hear your opinions.
Victoria Simpson
I must say, I feel awful for Ridley Scott doing this movie because everyone's either A) expecting Gladitor, only in tights, or B) the one with Kevin Costner only with better accents.  It's neither, and I'm okay with that.  The plot is terrific.  Someone said it was too plot heavy and to that I say, nay nay.  A movie without a good plot is, in my humble creative writing student's opinion, trash.  A movie cannot be like a short story that has no plot and is all about whether or not the lady's coat being yellow means something.  It needs substance.  It cannot be all about slitting throats, either.  Robin Hood has never been a tale of gore, anyhow.  It's a tale of honor and freedom--tale of one man's defiance. Yes, this could entail gore, but not necessarily.  There is some decent action, by the by.  All I mean to say is, just because this movie is not Gladiator does not make it less of a movie.  It still has a great message.

So, some interesting things to notice about this movie are the many different things that remind me of various portions of English History and Lit.  You have the wild boys in the woods, like J.M. Berrie's Lost Boys or the boys in William Golding's Lord of the Flies.  There is also reference's to England's Celtic beginnings, if you pay attention to some of the carvings.  There was the wonderful portrayal of England and France's feud.  There were probably others that I missed, but you see my point.  This was story of England.  This is England's eternal story.  If you know anything about it's history, you know that unification has always been a crucial and too often lost thing for England.  I enjoyed seeing them come together for once.

Let's discuss Marion.  She's the first Marion I can actually tolerate.  Yay Cate Blanchett!  I do love her.  Best line in the movie?  "Good God, Marion."  She's along the lines of Queen Gorgo in 300.  She wasn't this haughty woman who doesn't need a man, but she wasn't a damsel in distress.  Congratulations, Hollywood, a woman that's relatable.  I can't give too much away, but suffice to say, she kicks major tail.

Another plus is that this movie is funny.  I actually liked Prince John for about ten minutes.

Robin Hood showed the importance of freedom, honor, and keeping your word.  Fight for what's right.  My favorite part?  It showed that community and family is important.  Those in the movie, in Nottingham, they took care of each other.  There was order, and they honored it.  Everyone had a place; everyone served.  The peasants honored Sir Walter, Marion, and Robin, and never once did those three take advantage of their people.

No, it's not Gladiator, but as a woman who has watched men fall by the wayside and seen the destruction of family and caring for your community, I appreciated it. I'm afraid many men will like it because there isn't enough bloodshed and fail to see the importance of honoring a woman and protecting the weak. They won't see that they need to be responsible.  But, I hope they do.  I really, really do.  Do men like that Robin Longstryde exist?  I think they do, but they are too few of them.

So, I give it four stars out of five.