A to Z Reading Survey

I found this on Gin & Lemonade‘s blog and thought it looked like fun:

Author you’ve read the most books from:

It’s hard to say. Some are more prolific than others so I’ve read more from them even if they’re not my “favorite” authors. According to Goodreads I’ve read 19 books by LM Montgomery, 18 by Juliet Marillier, 17 by Lisa Gardener, 15 by Mercedes Lackey, 15 by Marian Keyes, 15 by Phillippa Gregory

But I wouldn’t say that they’re my favorite authors. Just that they’ve written more than a lot of other authors that I read.

Best Sequel Ever:

Hmmm… This one is hard! I’m thinking of book two in my favorite series… Often the second books aren’t my favorites! My initial instinct is to say Anne of Avonlea but I don’t want to be too predictable, so I’ll say Emily Climbs. It’s the sequel to Emily of New Moon and it’s by the same author.

Currently Reading:

Just started Marlena by Julie Buntin. So far it’s good but I’ve only read the first few chapters so far.

Drink of Choice While Reading:

Tea. Iced in warm weather, hot in the cold.

E-reader or Physical Book?

I’ll read an ebook on occasion but I far prefer physical books. If I read something as an ebook I feel less like I’ve read it. Does that make sense? Probably not!

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:

Hmm… This is surprisingly tough because most of the guys in YA aren’t guys I’d want to date, and most of the guys in adult fiction are too old for high school me to date (have I been giving this too much thought?) Maybe Gilbert Blythe when he was high school age. He was always a sweetie!

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:

Hmm… I remember when I read Crime and Punishment my senior year of high school. I didn’t think I’d hate it but given previous experiences with Russian literature I didn’t think I’d end up liking it. But I did. I don’t know if it qualifies as me “giving it a chance” since I had to read it for school. But we ended up talking about it in class at the same time that I was reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History at home. Since Tartt’s novel alludes to Crime and Punishment quite a bit, the class discussions ended up enriching both books for me.

Hidden Gem Book:

Time and Chance by Alan Brennert- I actually just remembered the title and author of this one after only remembering the plot for a long time!

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

Probably the first time I fell in love with a book. The “problem” is that I’ve fallen in love with a lot of books from an early age.

Just Finished:

Touch by Courtney Maum

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:

Non-fiction about topics that hold no interest for me.

Erotica

Graphic/gory horror

Longest Book You’ve Read:

According to Goodreads, it’s Clarissa by Samuel Richardson at 1,534 pages. I read it in college. Though I read a different edition from the one on there. I think my edition was probably a few hundred pages less. Mostly likely due to bonus material like introductions, footnotes etc.

Major book hangover because of:

I suppose it depends on what we mean by “book hangover”. If we mean a book that stayed with me emotionally for a long time after I read it, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry and A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara, are probably the most recent ones. I’ve read other great books since then but these lingered under my skin in some way.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

2. But my books are not limited to bookcases.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I think in college I was sort of obsessed with it. I did my senior project on it and discuss it a bit in this post.

Preferred Place To Read:

My bed. I can also go for a hot bathtub. I want to get a really comfy oversized chair just for reading.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (because sometimes a quote just a true thought perfectly into words)

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie The Pooh (just simple and lovely)

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (something I try to remember!)

Reading Regret:

You mean like a book I’ve never finished? Or one I wish I hadn’t read? I don’t understand…

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series):

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher- I don’t actually know if it’s complete but I’ve only read the first 6 and I think there are like 15 in all.

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Tarien Soul by CL Wilson

The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear- Again, I don’t know if it’s complete but I’ve only read the first 3 and there are many more out there.

The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

It is insanely hard for me to limit this to just three books!!!

Unapologetic Fangirl For:

Outlander. I started reading the books over a decade ago. When the TV series started I revisited them and got hooked all over again.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:

At the moment I’m looking forward to Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Worst Bookish Habit

Planning to read more than I can get to.

Dog-earring pages.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Well, it doesn’t say which bookshelf, but I picked one at random. The 27th book is The Collector by John Fowles

Your latest book purchase:

I bought these at a used bookshop at the same time:

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye

The Night Watch by Sara Waters

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):

Probably Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I think that’s the last time I remember thinking “I should go to sleep. But I need to know what happens next!”

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best Dual Timeline Novels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 20: Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

This topic didn’t really speak to me. My thinking is that if I’m no longer interested in reading them, then why waste time writing about them? So instead I decided to look at one of my favorite fictional genres. I love dual timeline narratives in which the past and the present interact in some way. It could be a literal interaction; such as someone from the present having contact with someone in the past, or it could be more thematic- the present day character learns about some past event that illuminates something that s/he is experiencing. My “rules” for this list are that there isn’t allowed to be any literal time travel. Each character needs to remain physically in his/her own period. Visions of the other period are allowed though. Also, only two primary timelines are allowed. We can learn bits and pieces of what happens in between, but the main narrative focuses on two timelines. Here are ten favorites:

51pv4ly0mtl-_ac_us218_1. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton– I was initially reluctant to read this after having been rather disappointed in Morton’s debut The House at Riverton. But I’m so glad that I gave her another chance because now she’s one of my favorite authors! This story starts off with a little girl, turning up abandoned on a ship from England to Australia in 1913. The only clue as to her identity is a book of fairy tales in her suitcase. Years later, her granddaughter, Cassandra, inherits a cottage in Cornwall, and journeys to England to discover the truth about her grandmother’s origins. She discovers that the key to the puzzle exists before her grandmother’s birth, with a Victorian country house full of family secrets. Friendship,  rivalry, betrayal, romance, and murder all play out in stories within stories. But even though the narrative is intricate (to say the least) it’s not hard to follow. Each chapter heading tells us exactly when and where the bit we’re reading takes place.

51iaiuahol-_ac_us218_2. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley– Susanna Kearsley has written many wonderful novels in this genre. For me, this one is a standout but anything she’s written is a reliable bet. Julia Beckett moves into an old farmhouse, one that she’d wanted to own since childhood. But when she moves in, she begins dreaming of Mariana, a British woman who lived in the house in the 17th century. Mariana loved her neighbor, Richard, a Loyalist, whose politics put him at odds with her uncle. Though their romance ended in tragedy, Mariana and Richard loved each other too much to stay separated. Their love will come full circle in the present day, and Julia will have an important role to play in the resolution.

51c-asvgcil-_ac_us218_3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield– Reclusive author, Vida Winter, has never told anyone the truth about her life story. When she’s old and ill, she hires Margaret Lea to write her biography. Margaret listens in fascination and disbelief as Vida tells her story of gothic weirdness. It’s complete with twins, a ghost, a governess, a fire, and a secret that’s never been shared. Margaret has her own issues with trust and intimacy, and her own past. Through listening to and telling Vida’s tale, she may find some resolution in her own life.

5160vyclkel-_ac_us218_4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel– During a performance of King Lear, Arthur Leander, famous actor, has a heart attack onstage and dies despite the best efforts of an EMT in the audience. The EMT, Jeevan, later learns that on this same night the terrible flu began to spread. There is no cure, hospitals are flooded, and people begin to panic. Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves in his apartment as the world around them falls apart.  Fifteen years later, Kirsten, who as a small child appeared in that fateful production of King Lear, is an actress with the Travelling Symphony. This is a performing arts troupe that travels from one settlement of the ruined world to another. They perform Shakespeare and play music for the small communities of survivors because “survival is insufficient”- people need reminders of what it means to be human. When they arrive at St. Deborah by the Water and encounter a cult and a violent prophet who doesn’t let anyone leave. The book covers twenty years during which the twists of fate that link these disparate characters are revealed.

51lo8bgzurl-_ac_us218_5. The Plague Tales by Ann Benson– In 1348, a Spanish doctor  Alejandro Canches is tasked with keeping the court of Edward III alive during the plague. Nearly 700 years later, in a futuristic 2005 (the book was written in 1995 so 2005 was the future then!) Janie Crowe, a physician comes across a soil sample that contains a microbe that may unleash the bubonic plague on a post-Outbreak world that has already been decimated by disease. As the book progresses, these two separate stories of doctors fighting disease begin to intertwine in interesting ways. This book can be read as a standalone, or as the beginning of a trilogy. It’s followed by The Burning Road and The Physician’s Tale.

51iqjeozjvl-_ac_us218_6. A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware– Blythe Barton was one married to a Hollywood power player. Then she walked in on him in bed with her sister. One messy divorce later, Blythe takes refuge in Cornwall, where she’s rented a cottage for the summer. She meets Lucas, the owner of the cottage that she’s renting. Jack is a widower, the father of a young son, who is trying to keep his estate going. Blythe wants to help. But she soon begins to have dreams and visions of Lucas’s ancestors. In the 18th century, the estate belonged to a woman, also named Blythe Barton. She was married, against her will, to a man named Christopher, though she loved his brother, Ennis. All three have tragic fates, but observing these historical events gives Blythe the perspective she needs to move on with her own life.

41xgjp2alkl-_ac_us218_7. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve– In 1873, two women living on the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire, were found murdered. A third woman survived by hiding in a sea cave. In the present day, photojournalist Jean goes to the island with her husband, Thomas and their daughter Billie. The plan is for Jean to shoot a photo essay for a magazine about the murders. They take a boat with Thomas’ brother Rich and his girlfriend, Adelaine. As Jean is drawn into the murders that happened so long ago, Thomas and Adelaide are drawn to each other. All of the characters, in both timelines, are heading toward disaster. The book is based on real murders that happened on the island Smuttynose, though the contemporary story is fictional. Actually, the historical story is fictional too since the crimes in the book happen in a way very different from the story that came out in court at the alleged killer’s trial. The book was given an ok film adaptation in 2004. It’s worth a look if you like the story, but it comes as no surprise that the book is better.

51h-9e-csql-_ac_us218_8. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood– Like The Weight of Water, this is based on a real-life murder. In 1843, Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery were murdered in Upper Canada. Grace Marks, a maid in the household, and James McDermott, a stableman/handyman, were convicted of the murder. McDermott was hanged and Grace Marks was sentenced to life in prison. That much is historical fact. Atwood’s novel begins after Grace has been incarcerated for some time. A committee that believes in her innocence hopes to have her pardoned and released. Since Grace cannot remember the crimes, they hire Dr. Simon Jordan, a psychologist to evaluate her and determine her sanity. Dr. Jordan meets with Grace and listens as she tells him the story of her life, leading up to the day of the murders. We follow Grace’s story and at times we wonder about the truth of what Grace tells Dr. Jordan. She seems to make an effort to keep his interest. We’re left with a sense of ambiguity. How much of what Grace tells is the truth? If what she tells isn’t the truth, does that mean she’s lying? This was recently made into a netflix miniseries that was also pretty good.

61hyvemt7ol-_ac_us218_9. Possession by AS Byatt– In the 19th century, poet Randolph Henry Ash, known for being a devoted husband, had an affair with his fellow poet Christabel LaMotte. At the end of the 20th century, scholar Roland Mitchell discovers evidence of the secret romance and begins to investigate. His quest leads him to LaMotte scholar, Dr. Maud Baily. The two become obsessed with finding out the truth about what happened between Ash and LaMotte, and their own romantic lives begin to become entwined with those of the poets. Both stories are told in parallel and come to echo one another in interesting ways. The book had a film adaptation that wasn’t bad on its own but made some fairly significant changes from the novel.

51ixaf4tmsl-_ac_us218_10. The Eight by Katherine Neville–  In 1790, Mireille, a novice nun at Montglane Abbey is tasked with helping her cousin, Valentine, disperse the pieces of a chess set in order to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. The set was a gift from the Moors to Emperor Charlemagne, and now it’s sought by power-hungry men and women including Napoleon, Robespierre, and Catherine the Great. In 1972 computer expert Cat Velis is sent to Algeria on a special assignment. Before she leaves, she is asked by an antique dealer to find the Montglaine Service, the same chess set that Mireille had tried to protect. It’s rumored to be in Algeria. As Cat tracks down the chess set and learns its history, she discovers the power that it contains.  The author wrote a sequel in 2008 called The Fire but I haven’t read it yet.

51timps1ytl-_ac_us218_11. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor- Yes I know it’s supposed to be ten but I had trouble deciding between a couple, and I ended up just including an extra book. This is also based on a real incident. In 1917, England is still in the grips of the most devastating war that it’s ever seen. Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, two cousins in Yorkshire, announced that they’ve photographed fairies in their garden. They release the photographs and become a national sensation. A country torn apart by war sees to have found the magic it desperately needs. Eventually, though, Frances and Elsie feel that they might tell the truth about the pictures. In 2017, Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and discovers an old manuscript. She becomes immersed in the story it tells, that ties past to present. But when she discovers a photo, she learns that reality and fantasy may be intertwined as well.

 

 

I’ve Been…

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  • Working. Hard. Mid-Winter break has just started and I find myself needing it desperately. I think that if teachers didn’t have these breaks we’d go absolutely insane. The kids would too, but teachers? Definitely. If you’re a parent and you don’t think teachers work hard, think about how difficult your kids are. Then picture 30 of them in a classroom. Try to manage their behavior. Plan lessons. Be accountable for their learning. Add some administrative responsibilities. Get the idea yet? I love my students but I definitely like being able to give them back at the end of the day. That’s how I know I’m not ready for kids of my own (well that and other reasons!)
  • Polishing up my Beautiful manuscript. In the next month, I plan to send it out to a few more beta readers just to make sure that all the wrinkles are smoothed, and then compile the whole thing, send out some advance copies to reviewers and see what happens! When I first decided to publish it, it felt like I was daring myself to do it. It still feels like that but in a more real way. Like it’s actually happening.
  • Working on the (so far) untitled follow up to Beautiful. I’m about halfway through which is a tough point. You’re not at the beginning where it’s new and you’re excited anymore, and the end is still a long way off…
  • Watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is living up to the praise I’ve heard. I got a 30 day free trial of Amazon prime a few days ago and I’m trying to take advantage of it as much as I can before it runs out. Recommendations are welcome!
  • Reading a lot of the Belletrist book club picks. It feels sort of weird to choose books based on the recommendation of a celebrity, but Emma Roberts has good taste! So far I’ve read The Rules Do Not Apply, Sex and Rage, and South and West. The Immortalists and An American Marriage are also on my TBR.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Lesser Known Romances

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday;

February 13: Love Freebie (Romances, swoons, OTPs, kisses, sexy scenes, etc.)

I feel like a lot of my favorite romances are pretty well known.  I love Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and Jane and Mr. Rochester (why do 19th-century male characters never go by their first names?) as much as the next girl.  But this week, I decided to share a few favorites that might not turn up on everyone else’s list.

51bumg7jwll-_ac_us218_1. The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson– Eva Ibbotson was primarily known for her children’s books. However, she wrote five romances intended for older readers (the others A Company of Swans, The Secret Countess, A Song For Summer, and Magic Flutes are also worth reading). They’ve since been re-released for a YA audience. They’re flawed in that they depict relationships with gender roles that are somewhat old-fashioned. But they’re usually sweet enough and fun enough so that it doesn’t bother me too much. I have a fondness for this one. It’s about a Jewish family in Austria. They get out of the country when Hitler invades and make it to England. But they’re separated from their twenty-year-old daughter, Ruth who wasn’t able to get the proper paperwork. Quinton Somerville, a friend of the family, offers to help Ruth. He’s got the papers to get to England, and she can come with him, as his wife. Once they’re safely in England they can get the marriage annulled. Ruth takes him up on his offer, but neither of them counts on falling in love…

51eksizfwl-_ac_us218_2. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– I forgot why I picked up this book in the first place. Novels about cranky old men aren’t automatic reads for me. But something attracted me to this book and I’m glad it did! Major Ernest Pettigrew is a retired Englishman who is the embodiment of duty, pride, and traditional values. Major Pettigrew is a widower who is trying to keep his son from selling off the family heirlooms when he finds an unexpected ally in his neighbor, Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper. Their cross-cultural romance shocks everyone, themselves most of all. But it also reminds us that while people may seem like opposites, they can still find strong common ground; enough to build the foundation of a relationship. And it proves that falling in love at 70 is just as sweet as it is at 17.

51guog1xvl-_ac_us160_3. The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee– I can’t remember how I first came across this book. But its a provocative futuristic sci-fi love story. Jane is living a life of luxury on an Earth that’s barely recognizable to the reader. But she’s not happy. Robots have replaced humans as laborers but when a new line comes out they’re also used as performing artists and the wealthy use them as sexual partners. When Jane meets Silver, a robot minstrel, his song convinces her that there’s something more to him than just metal and programming. Something almost human. She gives up everything and she and Silver run away together. As their relationship grows, Silver becomes more and more human. Is that just a clever illusion created by his programming? Is Jane needy and mentally unstable? Or has she seen in Silver something that no one else can?  If Silver is truly capable of loving Jane, he’s in terrible danger, because he’s more than anyone expected. If he has all of the advantages of a robot but can truly feel and love like a human, then actual humans can’t complete.

51l6zlabawl-_ac_us218_4. The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery– I feel like this book has been getting more attention lately which I’m glad about. But it’s still largely unknown, so I feel like it can go on this list. Valancy is a twenty-nine-year-old “spinster” who lives under the overbearing thumb of her mother and her aunt. When she gets devastating news from the doctor, Valancy is motivated to do some living while she still has the chance! She becomes friends with Barney, a handsome free spirit whom her family does not approve of! She confides to Barney that she doesn’t have long to live, and proposes marriage. After all, he won’t have to live with her for long, and it’ll make her happy before she dies. After they marry, Barney and Valancy are happier than they’d ever dreamed. But Valancy’s fate hangs over their heads. Colleen McCollough wrote a novel in 1987 called The Ladies of Missalonghi, with a very similar plot set in the Blue Mountains of Australia. The similarities prompted accusations of plagiarism. Having read both, I think they’re just two novels that have similar plotlines.  I prefer The Blue Castle though.

51f6ex2-vul-_ac_us218_5. Precious Bane by Mary Webb– This is a fairly new discovery for me. Prue Sarn’s “precious bane” is her cleft pallet. It sets her apart from the other girls in her Shropshire community for better and for worse. It isolates her from her peers, but that isolation is also the source of inner strength. Prue’s brother, Gideon, is determined to lift the family out of poverty. He devotes everything he has to make money, which is the very thing that may ultimately destroy him. In a way money is his “precious bane”. It promises a better life but ultimately destroys life and love. Meanwhile, Prue has fallen in love with Kester Woodseaves, a weaver with a gentle spirit. Like Prue, he’s an outsider, due to his gentle nature rather than anything external. Will his good heart allow him to see the beauty in Prue?

51nbhw4ql8l-_ac_us218_6. Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith– A lot of readers compare this book to the (brilliant) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, though it was actually a fictionalized account of the first year of the author’s own marriage. Nonetheless, the heroine, Annie Brown, has a lot in common with Francie, the heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Annie and Carl get married in the 1920’s just before Carl starts law school in the midwest. Annie leaves her Brooklyn home to go with him. Their families oppose the marriage, but they’re young, in love, a bit naive, and optimistic. They face challenges from poverty to more personal conflicts. This isn’t really a plot-driven book. It’s far more character driven. It’s hard not to root for Carl and Annie as they begin to build a foundation for their lives together.

51ktieauzl-_ac_us218_7. The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer– I first encountered this novella after seeing the exquisite musical that was inspired by it. It’s a beautiful book as well. Margaret Johnson is an unhappily married, wealthy, Southern woman traveling in Florence with her daughter, Clara in the 1950s. When Clara falls in love with Fabrizio, a young Italian (and he with her), Margaret finds herself torn between two equally strong impulses: to protect her daughter and spare her the pain of lost love or to hope that Clara might be luckier in love than Margaret was. The story is about the courage that it takes to fall in love and the bravery in hoping (in the face of experience) that it might last forever.

31vqaqjxh5l-_ac_us218_8. Passion by IU Tarchetti– This is probably an odd choice. It’s another book that I discovered thanks to my obsession with musical theater. Sondheim’s musical of the same name won a Tony in 1994 but is still one of his less popular works, though it’s one of my favorites. The story is about Giorgio, a handsome, young, Italian soldier. He is having an affair with the lovely (but married) Clara in Milan when he is transferred to a remote base in Parma. There he is invited to dine at his commander’s residence, and he meets the commander’s cousin, Fosca. Fosca is terminally ill, highly strung, and unattractive. She is also madly in love with Giorgio. Though he tries to avoid her at first, Giorgio eventually realizes that Fosca is offering him something that Clara cannot: a pure, true, love that requires his total surrender, yet gives him everything that she has in return.

51x5chc9f7l-_ac_us218_9. Katherine by Anya Seton– Though this book is a novel, it is based on a real-life love story. During the fourteenth century, John of Gaunt, son of a king, fell in love with the already married Katherine Swynford. Even after Katherine is widowed, she and John are prevented from marrying due to politics. However, their affair survives decades of struggle, war, politics, adultery, murder, and danger. I can see where some contemporary readers might see John and Katherine’s romance as one-sided or not very romantic. However I think that is holding a couple in the middle ages to modern expectations. In a time and a place where royal used and discarded mistresses on a regular basis, John maintained his love for Katherine over the course a lifetime, even when casting her aside would have been more politically expedient. He regarded Katherine as his wife and his partner. The descendants of John and Katherine’s children, the Beauforts, include much of the British royal family. For fans of medieval literature this book has appearances from Geoffrey Chaucer (who was Katherine’s brother in law), and includes the writings of Julian of Norwich who also appears as a character in the book.

51lsl4lfqql-_ac_us218_10. Remembrance by Jude Deveraux– Hayden Lane is a bestselling romance author with a problem: she’s fallen in love with the hero she wrote in one of her books.  When a psychic tells her that her obsession may be due to something that happened in a past life, Helen decides to see a hypnotist, who transports her to Edwardian England where she encounters a previous incarnation. But she must go back even further, to the Elizabethan era, before she learns how her earliest incarnation, Callie, was in love with a man named Talis, and how they unintentionally betrayed each other and cursed their future selves. In order to set things right, Hayden will have to figure out a way to break the curse and change history. Some elements of the plot are a bit farfetched (even if you believe in reincarnation, the curses can be hard to buy into!) but it kept me reading. Unlike many romance novels, this doesn’t have a traditional “happily ever after”, though the ending is decidedly hopeful.

The Shuttle: A Review of My #PersephoneReadathon Read

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For the #PersephoneReadathon I picked The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I finished reading it today and thought that I’d share my impressions. Overall I gave the book four out of five stars. It was an interesting exploration of the differences between Americans and Brits in the early 20th century. It was also a look into an abusive marriage. Rosalie Vanderpoel is a wealthy American girl who is easily swept off her feet by Nigel Ansthruthers, a British nobleman who has fallen on hard times financially. Rosalie’s younger sister, Bettina, warns her that Nigel isn’t what he seems. But since Betty is a child, it’s easy to dismiss her warnings. After twelve years of marriage to Nigel, Rosalie is a shadow of her former self. She’s had a son, who was born with a deformity as a result of Nigel’s abuse of Rosalie while she was pregnant. Now Rosalie wanders around Nigel’s decaying estate, trying to care for her son and avoid her husband. Due to Nigel’s efforts to isolate her, Rosalie has lost all but the slightest contact with her family in New York.

Meanwhile, Betty has been growing up. At twenty, she’s beautiful, educated, and intelligent, and she feels ready to take on her brother in law and get her sister back. When she arrives at the Ansthruthers estate, Betty is horrified, not only by the change in her sister but by the way the once beautiful estate, and the surrounding village, has fallen into disrepair. She gets started at once, fixing things. But fixing the gardens and furnishings of the house proves to be much easier than helping Rosalie out of the trap that she’s been living in for so long.

Betty is an interesting protagonist. At one point her father comments that because of her business sense, she should have been born a man. She retorts that she’s glad to have been born a woman because she’s still able to do what she wants as one. In spite of a knack for managing practical enterprises, Betty isn’t really interested in business except insofar as it helps or harms the people she cares about. I was left wondering what she’d do at the end of the book when her self-appointed task was through. She’s too smart and practical to be a socialite. Too long on that circuit and she’d be bored out of her mind. But without her quest to rescue Rosalie, which had been her mission in life since she was a small child, I’m curious as to where she’d channel some of her energies.

So why did I give this book four stars rather than five? Well, it was about 500 pages and it should have been about 300. I don’t mind a book being long if what happens on the pages justifies the length. But in this case, we don’t need 2-3 pages of description of a minor character’s opinion and impressions whenever he/she meets Betty. Nor do we need the endless descriptions of Betty’s various moods. That slowed down the narrative enough to take off a star. However, I hope that it won’t keep people from checking this book out because I did enjoy it.

Thanks to Jessie @ Dwell in Possibility for hosting this readathon. My Persephone wish list is now significantly longer!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been on My TBR Forever

For That Artsy-Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

February 6: Books That Have Been On My TBR the Longest and I Still Haven’t Read

Initially, I thought “this is good because it allows me to revisit my vast TBR and see if there’s anything on it that no longer interests me.” Unfortunately, it seems like I won’t be able to make the list any shorter. Doing this just reminded me of how much is out there that I still haven’t read!

51u90swjwl-_ac_us218_1. Jane of Lantern Hill by LM Montgomery- Added June 10, 2010- Basically, I’m almost always up for LM Montgomery. This was one of the last books that she completed. It was published in 1937. She began writing a sequel, but she didn’t finish it before her death in 1942.

 

 

51nqwdcdk1l-_ac_us218_2. Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson- Added May 6, 2012- Initially, my impression was that this was an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Anne of Green Gables for its 100th anniversary. But the reviews are, for the most part, good, so I decided to give it a chance. I just haven’t done so yet!

 

 

51stziqnlpl-_ac_us218_3. Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan- Added June 8, 2013- I blame my Bronte obsession for this one. I’ve read several of Jude Morgans novels, finding some better than others. But I haven’t read his imagining of one of literature’s most famous families.

 

 

418ggw4js1l-_ac_us218_4. The Seance by John Harwood- Added June 17, 2013- I added this after reading and enjoying one of the author’s other novels, The Ghost Writer. I still plan to read it at some point!

 

 

 

51-yojeobol-_ac_us218_5. Grange House by Sarah Blake- Added June 17, 2013 – This is pseudo-Victorian gothic novel, which is one of my favorite genres. According to Amazon, it features a ghost story, a love story, a family saga, and a mystery.

 

 

 

51hzkq6uiel-_ac_us218_6. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart- Added  June 17, 2013- I’m a big fan of Mary Stewart but I’ve somehow managed to miss one of her most famous novels. I’ve also managed to have it on my TBR  for almost five years and not get to it!

 

 

41ymby0gnxl-_ac_us218_7. Anna by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles- Added  September 20, 2013- I really enjoyed the first two books in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles The War at Home series (note to self: make sure the other three books are also on your TBR) but I didn’t like the start of her Morland Dynasty series. I decided to give her work another chance though with The Kirov Trilogy, about a young Englishwoman who goes to St. Petersberg to be a governess to the children of a count.

 

51ziknwmo7l-_ac_us218_8. Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue- Added November 1, 2013- I put this on my list after reading Donohue’s debut The Stolen Child. Since then, I’ve also read and enjoyed his The Boy Who Drew Monsters. But this book seems to revisit some of the themes that Donohue dealt with in The Stolen Child- particularly missing children, parental grief, and children with unexplained origins.

 

51uhbuwfkkl-_ac_us218_9. Palisades Park by Alan Brennert– Added November 2, 2013- I added this book to my list after reading Honolulu and Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. Unlike those two novels, this one doesn’t take place in Hawaii. It’s set in New Jersey in the 1930s, at and around the Palisades Amusement Park.

 

 

51ucsihmw9l-_ac_us218_10. The Town in Bloom by Dodie Smith- Added December 22, 2013- I think that I decided to read more of Dodie Smith’s work after finished (and loving!) I Capture the Castle. But I didn’t get farther than putting several titles on my TBR! I think this one especially appealed to me because it was set in the London theatre world.

#PersephoneReadathon Days 4&5

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(Day 4) Author Shout-out: Shine a spotlight on a neglected woman writer you wish more people knew about

Wow, this is tough because there are SO many amazing female writers out there!

  • I love Kate Morton’s work. Usually, she writes dual timeline novels set in England. My favorite is probably The Forgotten Garden, though The Distant Hours is a close second. I’d recommend her work to fans of Susanna Kearsley.
  • Kate Forsyth started off writing a popular fantasy series The Witches of Eilenan, but I’m a fan of her more historical novels. The plots are based on fairy tales, but Forsyth weaves them into real history. Bitter Greens is a triple timeline novel based on Rapunzel. It’s probably the most “fantasy” of the newer books. The Wild Girl is based on Dorchen Wild, the wife of Wilhelm Grimm. The Beast’s Garden is a WWII set love story based on “The Singing Springing Lark” which is the Grimm’s version of Beauty and the Beast.
  • Sarah Addison Allen writes magical realism. Her debut Garden Spells is a bit like Practical Magic and I’d recommend it to fans of Alice Hoffman. I also enjoyed most of her other work. I also really liked The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon.
  • Finally, Eva Ibbotson wrote so many fantasy novels for an audience of teens and middle-grade readers. Fans of Harry Potter need to check out The Secret of Platform 13 right now. She also wrote some lovely romances and short stories intended for adults. I’m fond of most of her work for older readers (which has since been reprinted, targeting the YA market) but my favorites are probably The Secret Countess, A Company of Swans, and The Morning Gift.

(Day 5) Read This: Give a book recommendation/readalike based on a Persephone title

Since I’m currently immersed in The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett, I’ll go with that one. I can easily see how it influenced Burnett’s most famous novel, The Secret Garden. Like The Shuttle, The Secret Garden emphasizes that the restoration of a place’s natural beauty can restore a broken spirit as well. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte is another novel that comes to mind. Like The Shuttle it looks at an abusive marriage in a time and place where feminism wasn’t even a thought, and divorce was taboo. Though Helen (the protagonist of Tenant) is very different from Rosalie in The Shuttle and handles her situation in a very different manner. Finally, The American Heiress also deals with the turn of the 20th-century trend for wealthy American girls to marry impoverished British nobility.

#PersephoneReadathon Day 3

(Day 3) Time Travel: Tell us which decade you are currently “visiting” and share your favorite historical period(s)

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In The Shuttle, I’m “visiting” the end of the 19th century. The exact date that the action of the story is taking place isn’t clear. Frances Hodgson Burnett began to write it in 1900 but it took her years to finish. The book was published in 1907 but the events take place over several years. Based on some of the characters and subjects (wealthy American girls marrying impoverished British nobility, and transatlantic travel via ships) we can assume that it was not intended to be a historical novel.

What’s interesting is that the attitudes that the British characters and American characters hold about one another, still persist today in some form. There’s a definite perception that the British are more refined, classy, and cold. Whereas the American characters are warm, natural, and prone to excess. That said, Burnett also suggests that those cultural stereotypes are not representative of the complete picture of either county.  For example, Bettina Vanderpoel, the protagonist of The Shuttle, has many of what Burnett seems to consider American virtues: she’s practical, hard-working, intelligent, and forthright. However, she initially only sees the world from her own perspective. She’s offended by the generalizations that her European classmates make about Americans, but she eventually realizes that she’s guilty of some very similar generalizations.

Within the characters, there is a lot of variety. Bettina’s sister, Rosalie is a “typical” American in some ways, but she is not practical or intelligent. She’s never worked hard because she’s never had to. She has a good heart but gets into trouble because she doesn’t check in with her head. Bettina, by contrast, is extremely intelligent and very hard working. Not because she has to be (she’s just as wealthy as Rosalie), but because she chooses to be. Like her sister, her heart is usually in the right place, but she’s able to change her perceptions based on new information. The British characters have their good and bad examples as well. We meet one who is a villain with (so far!) no redeeming features, one who seems to be a traditional romantic hero, and several who are somewhere in between.

It seems like Burnett had admiration for the good in both countries, but wasn’t blind to the faults of either. She began writing The Shuttle when she lived in England and was an American citizen, living on Long Island when she finished.

As far as “favorite” historical periods go, I’m primarily a Victorian fan. Queen Victoria lived from 1819 to 1901, and so many of my favorite books were written during that period! Those aren’t by any means limited to books taking place in England. I just like 19th-century fiction in general. That said there are a lot of other time periods I enjoy reading about!

#PersephoneReadathon Day One

For those who don’t know, Jessie @ Dwell in Possibility is doing a readathon featuring books from Persephone Books, an independent UK publisher of forgotten/neglected work from (mostly) female writers. Most (but not all) of the writers they publish worked in the 20th century.  1057543

For the #PersephoneReadathon I’ll be reading The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Written in 1907, this is the story of a wealthy American woman who marries a titled but penniless British aristocrat, not realizing that he’s a pretty nasty piece of work. Her little sister sees through him though. Burnett is best known for her children’s novels The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, but she wrote for adults as well. Though I’m only a few chapters into this book so far, I’m really excited to see where it goes. Burnett seems to have had a progressive (for her time) view of marriage, which comes through in little asides that the narrator makes about the characters. Though I haven’t gotten to know the protagonist, Bettina, very well yet, I’m eager to read more about her. The description on the Persephone website says that she:

 is the reason why this is such a successful, entertaining and interesting novel – one could almost say that she is one of the great heroines, on a par with Elizabeth Bennet, Becky Sharp and Isabel Archer. This is because she is so intelligent and so enterprising – she has the normal feminine qualities but a strong business sense, inherited from her father, and instinctive management skills (as we would now call them). If every man in England married a girl like Bettina Vanderpoel, we are meant to think, England’s future would be as glittering as America’s.

I’m also looking forward to talking about these books with other readers on social media. In response to the Persephone Book Challenge:

(Day 1) First Impressions Challenge: Tell us how you first discovered Persephone Books and/or the first Persephone book you read

I first discovered Persephone books a few months ago when I started this blog. I own a few Persephone books but The Shuttle will be my official first read!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can’t Believe I Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

January 30: Books I Can’t Believe I Read

I decided to be pretty open in how I interpret this one. It could mean books I can’t believe I read because they’re not my usual genre or books I can’t believe I read because I hated them so much, or books I can’t believe I was lucky enough to read. A lot are books that didn’t appeal to me at first but I read them anyway and was surprised by how much I liked them. A few are books that looked great and I can’t believe I kept reading them when I discovered how disappointing they were.

51j4urrkj3l-_ac_us218_1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy– I read this for a class in college. I wasn’t a fan. I found the war parts dull and several of the peace characters really irritating. It’s a long book to read when you’re not enjoying what you’re reading! But I did it.

 

 

 

51qf7-d2cl-_ac_us218_2. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– This is more in the category of “I can’t believe I read this stuff in middle school!” I loved it at the time. I read the whole thing in a weekend and went right on to the sequels. But the story involves incestuous romance, child abuse, religious fanaticism, and that’s just the first book in the series! Scandalous stuff for an 11-year-old!

 

41bdgu2fkpl-_ac_us218_3. New Moon by Stephanie Meyers– Well I can believe I read the first one. It was really hyped and I like to check books out when they’re really popular with a lot of people. But I can’t believe I read the rest of the series. I suppose because I found the first one to be OK (at the time) and then wanted to finish what I started? I don’t think much of this series though.

 

51vg7zt42ul-_ac_us218_4. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda– Stories told in reverse don’t usually work for me. It usually becomes more about the trick than the story itself.  That was my problem with this book. I read this because I found it for a dollar at a used book sale. It was worth the dollar but I’m glad I didn’t spend much more than that.

 

 

51pnvfoqqcl-_ac_sr160218_5. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken– I think I outgrew YA a few years ago. That’s a very general statement. There are many YA books that I love. But in general, the YA fantasy trilogy/series thing doesn’t interest me much anymore. But a few people told me that this series was a lot of fun so I decided to give it a try. It was a fast read, but even though it ended with a pretty big cliffhanger, I realized that I didn’t care enough about the characters to keep reading.

 

515a-chyel-_ac_us218_6. Public Secrets by Nora Roberts– I don’t usually read Nora Roberts. I have nothing against her, but I always saw her as sort of “corporate” in a way… I picked up this book when I was staying at my grandmother’s house and needed something to read. It was OK. It didn’t make me want to run out and read lots more Nora Roberts books, but it entertained me enough at the time.

 

51bphux9gl-_ac_us218_7.  Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear– Something about this series seemed very… blah to me when I first read the description. Or maybe I just didn’t find the cover intriguing (I know, I know, I’m not supposed to judge them that way…) I read the book based on a recommendation and I’m really glad that I did. Three books into the series, I’m loving the series about a female psychologist/detective in England between WWI and WWII.

 

51lnzses14l-_ac_us218_8. The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley– I picked this up because a dual timeline novel taking place in contemporary England, and during WWII sounds right up my alley. The review from Shelf Awareness said that it was  “sweeping, poignant saga that will enthrall fans of The House at Riverton, Rebeccaand Downton Abbey”. So really it’s not surprising that I read it. What’s surprising is that I kept reading it. I suppose I wanted to see if it got better as I went on. It didn’t.

61wblmzijl-_ac_sr160218_9. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett– My dad recommended this one to me. I had my doubts about being entertained by a novel about building a cathedral in the middle ages. But once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.

 

 

 

41ii-qq8gpl-_ac_us218_10. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley– I’d seen this recommended so many times. When it started off slow, I told myself to give it time. When it didn’t get better, I told myself there must be a reason why people love it so much. When I finished the book I wondered why I gave it so much time and effort.