Emma

Emma by Jane AustenEmma by Jane Austen
Number of pages: 474 pages
My copy: ebook, free from Amazon

‘I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall’

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.

* * *

I wasn’t sure what Austen to read this year until my book club did the choosing for me. Emma won as this month’s choice of read, so I knew I was going to read it early this year. Then I came across Miss Match by Erynn Mangum and found out it was based on Emma. I didn’t really like the former, and that made me wary with this book, thinking maybe I wouldn’t like this either (but I kind of doubted that, since this is a classic, and I’ve liked Austen so far).

Emma is about Emma Woodhouse, a 21-year-old woman who’s swore never to marry not because of past hurts but because she feels that she is perfectly content with her life. This doesn’t stop her from meddling with other people’s affairs, though and she’s decided to appoint herself a matchmaker for her new friend Harriet Smith, after she had proven that her matchmaking skills are good based on her old governess getting married to someone she matched her with. This meddling starts the mess in all of Emma’s life as she finds her carefully laid out plans unraveled, and she realizes that maybe she doesn’t always get it right. With a cast of other interesting and sometimes annoying characters, Emma finds out a thing or two about love from the most unexpected people.

Talk about a slow reading. I know I read classics very slowly because of how it was written, but Emma is probably the book that I took the longest time reading, since it takes me about 2-3 days to finish a book. Emma took me more than two weeks. At times I wanted to stop reading and pick it up sometime else, but I know that if I do that, I will get completely lost in the story and would have to start again.

Emma is highly amusing, even if it can get boring sometimes. I had to laugh at the long lines of dialogue — and I mean pure dialogue since there wasn’t much action being described as the characters talked. It made me imagine that they were all just standing around and talking in their long skirts and suits without really doing anything else but that. Sometimes I wonder if there was a point with all the dialogue and the number of names mentioned in the first few chapters got me so dizzy that I couldn’t keep track anymore.

Here’s a not-so-secret: I spoiled myself with the ending. Somewhere during the first part of the book, I decided to go on Wikipedia and read about the novel just so I know what to expect. I read the summary and continued reading the novel, watching out for the key scenes mentioned in the synopsis. I don’t think it made the novel less of a fun reading experience for me, but it did remove the surprise factor a bit.

The thing I realized about Emma is how different the heroine is from the two Austen heroines I’ve read: Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Elliot. I read in a review once that people always read and liked Pride & Prejudice first, enjoyed Emma more but loved Persuasion. I find that I have a different type of relationship with the books because of the heroines. Elizabeth Bennett is someone I’d want to be friends with while Anne Elliot is someone I wanted to be. Emma Woodhouse, on the other hand, is someone I know I am before I can become Anne Elliot. It’s like Emma is younger version of these two other heroines — the not so mature yet still smart heroine that grows into a character you’d love if she decides to learn from her mistakes. Emma is flawed and annoying at times, and I can say that I related to her more than I expected I would. It’s almost like looking in the mirror sometimes, and it’s funny because it lessens the annoyance I had with Emma at the first parts of the book.

I can say that Miss Match was definitely a lot like Emma, but even so, I find myself less irritated with Emma than Laurie. Maybe Laurie was really just irritating to me, period. It makes me wonder again if I was/am anything like Laurie, and if I saw the things I hated about myself in her. Maybe I did. The difference between Emma and Laurie is Emma seemed to have learned how to be a proper lady in the end while Laurie just kept on being…meddling. But that may be because it’s a trilogy, and there’s more character growth in the next books.

But I digress. Emma is an enjoyable read, despite its length. Was I ever so glad when I finished it! It does get better by the third part of the book, so if you’re reading it, just keep on because it gets interesting. While it’s not my favorite Austen novel (this still goes to Persuasion), I liked Emma a lot more than I expected I would. Like the other Austens I’ve read, the ending made me sigh in happiness, and made me close the (e)book with a smile. :)

Rating:

In My Mailbox (13): The First Weeks of January

It’s been a while since I did an In My Mailbox post, and it’s not because I went on a book buying ban, but because I was just too lazy to make a post about the stuff I got. I thought I’d be able to make it long into a the new year without buying new books, but alas. Who am I kidding?

So this is a consolidated post for the past three weeks of January, and maybe even some in December. If I can remember what I got back then, of course. :P

In My Mailbox is a weekly book meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren, where bloggers post about what books received that week, be it via  mailbox, library or store.

BOUGHT:

  1. White Cat by Holly Black – I only got this because Chachic posted a positive review of the book, and see, I’m still easily swayed. It helps that I got the e-galley of the next book from Simon and Schuster, so when I saw this in Fully Booked, I knew I can’t let it go anymore. :P
  2. Some Girls Are by Courtney SummersHolly reviewed this early this week, and well, consider me sold. I love contemporary and I like reading about high school cliques (sans the scandals, of course), and this one got really good reviews. I’m so glad I spotted this one yesterday when we visited Fully Booked after the FBB/Flippers meet up. :)
  3. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta – This was actually the first print book I purchased this year. I saw it in Fully Booked Eastwood and didn’t let it go, forgetting that there was a sale that weekend. Pfft. Ah well. :)

GRABBED:

Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal, translated by Soledad Lacson-Locsin. At yesterday’s Filipino Book Bloggers/Flips Flipping Pages meet up, someone had this translation of Noli Me Tangere up for book swap. I have been wanting to get my hands on a translated copy of this novel for a long time now, but I wasn’t sure which was the best translation. This one was what Blooey and the Flippers read last year, and is said to be a really good translation. I got it and no one stole it from me, so…yay. Finally!

Now a little backgrounder: Noli Me Tangere is written by the Philippines’ National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. This is a required reading in high school, but I never really read the novel in its entirety because our copy in high school was the summarized version (no, it’s not abridged, if you’re thinking that’s the term — it was actual chapter summaries that we had to summarize for another report. Hmph). I figure in my life as a reader, I must read this novel at least once in my life. So yay.

The bookmark is one of the giveaways for the Flippers meet-up. :)

GIFTED/BORROWED:

  1. Captivating by John and Stasi Elredge – this is a Christmas gift from my friend RE. I’ve read this one in college and it was one of those good books for women that I really liked. My mom has my other copy of this and I don’t even know where it is right now. Haha. I don’t know if I will read this anytime soon, but it’s nice to know I have another copy here to refer to when I need it. :)
  2. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis – this is lent to me by RE, too, and this is the best C.S. Lewis work according to him. This is only a lending copy though. Heh. I have a feeling I’ll like this one, too, and I’ve reserved it for February reading already. Now to find a copy of this one. Hmm.

WON:

Being Jamie Baker by Kelly Oram. I’ve seen this book from Kai‘s blog, and I added it on my wish list for the sheer pink-ness of it. :P I followed the author on Twitter, then on Facebook for her contest and even exchanged tweets with her during NaNoWriMo. I never expected to win because I’m not really lucky with winning, but lo and behold: I was her second winner! :) Thanks, Kelly!

This kind of took its sweet time to arrive at home, and I thought it would be lost in the mail forever, but good thing it arrived just before 2010 ended. :) I love how pink the book really is. :D The book is signed, too:

EBOOKS:

I got too many ebooks since December. Talk about crazy buying binge? Sort of. :P I also got a ton of e-galleys from Simon and Schuster’s Galley Grab. :D

Bought:

  • Miss Match and Match Point by Erynn Mangum
  • Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John – loved this!
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen – my physical copy is with some friend, so I splurged on an ebook.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – loved this, too! Review coming up soon
  • Infinity by Sarah Dessen

For Review:

  • Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
  • Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell
  • Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
  • Red Glove by Holly Black
  • Stay by Deb Caletti
  • Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

There is probably more, but I forgot about them.

I know I said I won’t be stressing over my TBR, but I really think I should get to reading the other books that are starting to pile up in the apartment, the ones I acquired before 2010 ended. I really should work on that. I should.

Yeah, I always say that. :P I bet most of you guys do too. :P

Miss Match

Miss Match by Erynn MangumMiss Match by Erynn Mangum
NavPress, 336 pages

Lauren Holbrook has found her life’s calling: matchmaking for the romantically challenged. And with the eclectic cast of characters in her world, there’s tons of potential to play “connect the friends.” Inspired by the recent success of matching her sister and new husband, Lauren sets out to introduce Nick, her carefree singles’ pastor, to Ruby, her neurotic coworker who plans every second of every day. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything. When Lauren’s foolproof plan begins to unravel, she learns that a simple introduction between friends can bring about complicated results. And as she reconsiders her new role as Cupid (as well as her vow to stay single forever), will Lauren finally decide that God’s plan is always good enough?

I have seen Miss Match first on my friend’s bookshelf when she got back from her trip from the USA. I have been meaning to borrow it for the longest time but I always forget to ask about it when we see each other. Then when I got my Kindle, I have been eying the book in the store, thinking if it was worth the splurge. Come Christmas, I saw it went down to less than $2 and so I finally got it for myself. I started reading it soon after I finished the creeps-inducing read that is Choker.

Miss Match sounds and looks like everything there is to your typical chick lit. The pink cover with a girl and coffee cup is just the icing on the cake. Miss Match tells the story 23-year-old Laurie Holbrook who spends her free time making matches for her friends and family. Declaring herself to be single forever, she’s decided instead to match her friends, particularly Nick, their singles pastor and Ruby, her time-conscious Type-A co-worker. As Laurie works her “magic”, she makes new friends, learns a bit about how tricky relationships can be, and learns about God’s sovereignty along the way.

Wow, when I wrote it that way, it sounds like a book that I would pick up, read, enjoy all throughout and pick up life and faith lessons afterward. It sounds like a book that I would write a long thoughtful review of, pointing out the things I would like to remember as a mental note. When I put it that way, it sounds like something I would thoroughly enjoy and recommend to all my other girl friends.

But.

As much as I wished I could say I enjoyed Miss Match…it saddens me to say that I did not.

I’m not one to give up reading books easily, especially ones I paid for myself. Miss Match really proved to be a big challenge — a first for a Christian chick lit novel. I liked the premise of the story, and I was curious enough to see how the author would make Laurie and her matchmaking connect with God’s sovereignty. As a whole, I liked sort of romantic aspect and the relationships of the characters in the book. I liked most of the supporting characters, particularly Laurie’s sisters and her co-workers. But as much as I liked the others, I must say this: I really, really disliked Laurie.

It’s hard to like a book when you don’t like the heroine, especially if you spend 100% of the book inside their head. Laurie first seemed like a nice person, but after a few chapters, I was getting sick of her. She’s bratty, almost self-centered. Her initially witty quips became annoying soon after you get past the first few chapters. It makes me wonder sometimes if I said the same things when I was 23 and if I was that annoying, too. Her characterization felt horribly inconsistent, like she was spouting random facts about herself as a reaction to the things people are doing around her and it seemed so abrupt that I never really had a clear picture of who Laurie was as a person. The only thing I really knew about her in the story was her fondness addiction to chocolates and coffee. The amount of chocolate and coffee that Laurie consumed in this novel almost made me want to check out the top ten diet pills because I know I’d blow up like a balloon if I ate like her. I also find her lack of ambition particularly disturbing at her age, too. At 23, I was already somewhat going through some major career and life decisions, while she’s perfectly normal about her being where she was. She didn’t seem to act her age — she seemed more suitable as a high school student.

Okay, maybe her being annoying may be on purpose, but I found Laurie extremely manipulative, too, and it was probably the thing that had me shaking my head most while reading the novel. Sure, she was being a matchmaker, and true to form, she was being meddlesome. I kind of had a problem with the way her being meddlesome was justified by how she understood God’s sovereignty. Case in point (spoiler warning ahead):

My father once told me there comes a time in every woman’s life when she desperately desires to be married.

No offense, Dad, but I think you were wrong.

I think there’s more. Most women desire matrimony — but with the guys God has created for them. My job is to be still and wait, knowing He is God.

And occasionally pushing a couple together. Just now and then of course…

What does that verse in Colossians say? “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to god the Father through him.”

…Matchmaking is a deed, right? Thanks God.

I find that particular conclusion a little off-putting, especially since I found everything Laurie did in the book manipulative and self-serving. She pushed the two characters together and would not give up not because she trusted God completely, but because she couldn’t fail this match since she’s never been wrong about her matches. Does that spell God’s sovereignty? It doesn’t seem like it. The rest of the spiritual aspect in the book also felt like it was forced and shallow.

They say it’s based on Jane Austen’s Emma, but since I haven’t read it yet, I can’t say how accurate it is. However, I’d like to believe that Emma wasn’t a Mary Sue, unlike how I found Laurie Holbrook. Nothing sucks the fun out of reading than being in a Mary Sue’s head. So…meh. It’s been five days since I finished reading this book, and I still can’t shake the annoyance I felt over this character. There are two more books in the Laurie Holbrook series and they say it gets better, but I think I’m going to pass for now. Maybe if I read this book before I’ve read some good chick lit with strong, non-Mary Sue characters, I would have liked it more since I didn’t really know better then. Or maybe, if I read this one when I was younger, I would have enjoyed it more. But right now, I just think Miss Match is disappointing.

Rating:

My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle store

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
RadiantLit
Coral Rose