Review: Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein

OpheliaTitle: Ophelia

Author: Lisa M. Klein

Genre: YA, Romance, Historical Fiction

How did I get it? Powell’s (Portland bookstore/giant palace of awesome)

Summary: He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; she is simply Ophelia. If you think you know their story, think again.

In this reimagining of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia learns the ways of power in a court where nothing is as it seems. When she catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and Ophelia’s happiness is shattered. Ultimately, she must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever . . . with one very dangerous secret.

Lisa Klein’s Ophelia tells the story of a young woman falling in love, searching for her place in the world, and finding the strength to survive. Sharp and literary, dark and romantic, this dramatic story holds readers in its grip until the final, heartrending scene.

Review: I’m honestly not sure if I loved this book or not. I’m a Shakespeare girl, so I was in love with the idea of a retelling from Ophelia’s point of view, but I don’t know how to think about this novel.

It was well-written, although a bit archaic for a YA novel. Ophelia had plenty of wit and she was a very compelling heroine. Hamlet was portrayed fairly accurately, I think, although their love story seemed a bit stilted to me. Gertrude was a very intriguing woman, and the only character whom I could say I had a problem with was Laertes. His actions weren’t really explained very well and I felt like he was sort of passed over and made into a two-dimensional character when there was plenty of opportunity to show him in a more human light.

I really did love Ophelia for her thirst for knowledge and her awareness of the sexism within her culture. In a good deal of YA fiction, I see so many instances where the imbalance between women and men is obvious but never addressed. I didn’t have this problem with Ophelia. I could rely on the main character to realize the injustice of her situation and do her best to counter it, and that was very refreshing.

I think my only serious issue with this novel was the latter part of it. The plot is faithful to the original play, but because it doesn’t end where Shakespeare ended it, the last stretch of the book was rather boring. The author tacked on another hundred pages or so, and that much falling action is a bit of a yawn. But the end was very satisfying and I liked the way she brought everything full circle in this very bittersweet, hopeful way that made me smile.

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Probably not to the average teenager girl, but certainly to anyone with an appreciation for Shakespeare.

Purchase it:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

Other books by the author:

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Top Ten Books to Read for Halloween

Top 10 Tuesday Halloween

***Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish, with a new Top Ten prompt every week. Check it out!

I’ve linked everything to Goodreads, so just click if you’re interested!

Harry Potter pumpkin

1. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

I don’t think this even needs explaining. Witches and wizards and dark forests and castles and pumpkin juice sort of embody Halloween. Plus, is there ever a bad time to read Harry Potter?

2. The Diary of a Fairy Godmother by Esmé Raji Codell

I’ve loved this book since I was young. It integrates fairytales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but mainly it’s just this really cute story about a young witch figuring out where she fits in, and in the meantime, there’s some hilarity and chaos.

3. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

It’s a musical AND a book, aka my two favorite things. I actually read this book over the weekend because I saw it in the bookstore and had a “Yes! I need you!” moment. It’s sort of vaguely creepy but also lovely and mysterious and the narration makes it a very charming read.

4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

To be honest, I didn’t like this book. For one, while I have a weak spot for beautiful writing, Shelley just goes on. And on. And on. And by the end of it I actually threw down the book and scowled for a good hour. But still. It’s a classic for a reason, so I’m sure there are plenty of people who would enjoy it, plus the scary/creepy factor is definitely there.

5. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

I adored this book when I read it for the first time. I haven’t read it in years, but it’s still an old favorite. Kit, the main character, is a serious badass, and the whole Puritan background contrasts against that and highlights her fiery, exotic nature. It’s not really scary, but I still love it.

6. The Magic in Manhattan series by Sarah Mlynowski

This series is kind of awesome. Teenage witches are one of my favorite things, and I love all the fun and madness and coming-of-age hilarity.

7. Edgar Allan Poe

Poe needs no explanation. He’s friggin’ POE.

8. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman*

So I haven’t read this, but I adored the movie and I love the premise of little soon-to-be witches going to live with their eccentric aunts and growing up and living their weird lives.

9. Coraline by Neil Gaiman*

Who doesn’t love Coraline?

10. Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Double, double, toil in trouble! I mean, witches and murder and prophecies are the stuff Halloween is made of, and it’s got a nice, dark vibe that’s not precisely spooky, but not exactly a walk through a field of daisies either.

Also, if you’re looking for something Halloween-y to watch, my personal favorites include Hocus Pocus, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Bewitched, Harry Potter, The Corpse Bride, Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Phantom of the Opera, among many others.

If you have some good Halloween books/movies to suggest, I’d love to know about them! My bookcase hasn’t toppled over yet, so that means I still have room for more books! Let me know your favorites in the comments below.

See you Thursday!

*I haven’t actually read this (yet), but I’m still recommending it based on friends’ recommendations and what I know about the book.
Credits: Graphics courtesy of Obsidian Dawn.

Stacking the Shelves #1

***Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. It’s a chance to share any books you’ve bought, borrowed, or received in the past 7 days. All of the books on this list are linked to Goodreads.

Here I go, diving into these awesome memes! I’ve been buying wayyy too many books considering the amount of time I have to actually read them (which adds up to about .5 seconds per day), so I figured I should share them with the masses. Or rather, any poor unfortunate souls who happen upon my wee little blog.

And with that, here we go!

1. How to Read Literature Like A Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster

This is something I’m reading to help me with my senior project. I’m shadowing an English professor and if all goes well, my final product will be a completed syllabus and outline for a course on banned/controversial books.

2. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

I am so excited to write a review for this book. It’s basically a conversation between the author and Winnie the Pooh about Taoism and it’s so freaking adorable.

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3. The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles

This includes the three Greek tragedies “Antigone”, “Oedipus Rex”, and “Oedipus at Colonus”. I’ve read the first two for my lit class and enjoyed them, although Greek ideals amuse me.

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4. “Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay” by Annie Proulx, Larry McMurtry, and Diana Ossana

I didn’t know how much I needed this until I saw it on the shelf. I’m very intrigued by screenwriting, so maybe this will inspire me to give it the old college try.

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5. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

This is for my lit class. I cannot believe I’m actually going to read an entire book about a giant bug. God help me. Although this brings up my favorite joke (which, to my knowledge, I came up with): What is it called when you are attracted to a bug? INSECTuous. (Please laugh. That was funny, admit it.)

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6. The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford

Women in history=my favorite thing ever. Especially when we’re talking about women who are traditionally overlooked by historians and society in general (aka, basically all women). I’m not sure just how well-researched this book is, but the title is enough for me to want to read it.

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7. Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman

I have a bumper sticker on my car that says “I Heart Jane Austen” and I basically worship her. She’s such a clever author and her books are just chick-flick enough to warm the cockles of my heart and just sad enough that I have to wipe away at least one tear per reading. So obviously I’m all over a book that equates to a big giant “Kudos to Jane!” banner.

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8. Book Smart: Your Essential Reading List for Becoming A Literary Genius in 365 Days by Jane Mallison

I feel like I should know the classics. I mean, they’re classics for a reason you know? So I should at least give them a chance and try to understand why the literary has embraced them so fully. And a guide to finding those books never hurt anybody. ;)

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9. “Howl” and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

Ginsberg was pretty…interesting. I watched that movie with James Franco and I liked what I saw, and I hate reading poetry on the Internet (it feels like cheating) so I thought I’d go ahead and buy his stuff. Also, the little book is really thin and tiny and cool.

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10. Manhattan Transfer by Dos Passos

I bought this for my lit. class, didn’t read it, and there’s not really a need to read it anymore, so this is going on the Maybe Someday shelf. If anyone reading this post enjoyed this book, please comment below and tell me why you liked it. I’ve heard plenty of negatives about it, but not enough positives.

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11. Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason by Nancy Pearl

Who doesn’t want a book of lists? As a self-diagnosed list-maniac, I drool over books like this.

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12. “The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare

It was 20 cents! What was I supposed to do, leave it?

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13. “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

I feel like your bookshelf isn’t complete without some R&J.

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14. “Henry V” by William Shakespeare

I dunno, it was cheap and I’ve always been mildly interested in it, so why not?

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15. “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

Well we’re reading this in lit in the spring, so I thought I’d be a total nerd and read it now instead.

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16. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

I’m considering putting this on my fake syllabus for my senior project. I’m not that excited about reading it to be honest, but I’m going to try my best.

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17. “‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore” by John Ford

I’m actually really excited about reading this. It’s an early 17th century play about a brother and sister who fall in love (with each other, in case that wasn’t clear), and I’m just coming off a pretty serious “Borgias” kick, so I need something taboo and scandalous to keep me going. (I think incest is a thing now. It seems like it’s all over HBO. Which, if I’m honest, doesn’t bother me at all.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list, and if you have any recent additions to your bookshelf, you can comment here or make your own Stacking the Shelves post!