To Marry an English Lord: Review

10 May

I am going through serious Downton Abbey withdrawal! I devoured Seasons One and Two – I think I finished both seasons within two weeks of watching the first episode! Now I’m regretting my lack of self-control – if I had paced myself, I wouldn’t have to wait months until the new season begins. Instead of waiting patiently for Season Three, I have spent my time devouring any book I can find relating to Downton Abbey and its historical setting. I recently read Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, which I thoroughly enjoyed. You can read my brief review here.

I recently finished another book focused on the British peerage called To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace. This book documents the stories of several wealthy American heiresses who boarded a ship looking for a husband with a respectable British title. Several familiar names – like Astor and Vanderbilt – appear in the book. This book is such an enjoyable read! It is literary cotton-candy. After reading this book, I feel like I can better understand the world of Downton Abbey. The authors do a wonderful job of entertaining the reader while explaining the British social hierarchy – sometimes with a hint of sarcasm.

This is the tenth book I have finished in 2012.

Bird by Bird: Review

29 Apr

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott has been in my TBR pile for a long time. For five years, in fact. It’s been in the pile for so long that I have forgotten who recommended it to me. If I could remember, I would say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

I LOVED Bird by Bird! In this book, author Anne Lamott shares her advice for writers. Lamott’s sense of humor and practical advice kept me turning the pages. I found myself laughing out loud, and by the end of the novel Anne Lamott felt like a close friend. I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, and this book has given me some practical insight into the life of a writer. This is a book I will certainly revisit in the future.

This is the seventh book I have read for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. It is also the ninth book I have finished in 2012.

A Few Updates/Reviews

9 Apr

  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly – This novel tells the story of Mattie Gokey, a bright and determined young woman who dreams of becoming a writer. Armed with a tattered dictionary, Mattie finds a word for every situation. Mattie’s words fail, however, when she learns of the murder of Grace Brown, a young woman found dead in the lake in Mattie’s hometown. A Northern Light depicts Mattie’s coming-of-age and the investigation behind Grace Brown’s murder. While this is a fictional story, it is based upon an actual murder investigation. I also read that Grace Brown’s murder inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy … another book for the TBR pile! This is the fifth book I read for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. It is also the sixth book I have finished in 2012.

  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon – I am OBSESSED with Downton Abbey! I just started watching the show this year, and I finished every episode within one week. I am already counting down until next season’s premiere. With that being said, I was so excited to find Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey at my local bookstore. This book focuses on the fifth Earl of Carnarvon and his wife, Almina. It was an incredibly interesting story! One of the most interesting facts I learned from this book is that the fifth Earl of Carnarvon discovered King Tut’s tomb. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Downton Abbey. This is the seventh book I have finished in 2012.

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – I do not usually enjoy nonfiction; I prefer the more creative world of fiction. However, I thoroughly enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. This book has been on my TBR pile for quite some time, and I am so glad I finally decided to read it. I found the story of Henrietta’s cells very intriguing! I liked how the narrative transitioned between the past (Henrietta’s life/sickness) and the present (her children’s struggle to understand what happened to their mother). This is the sixth book I read for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. It is also the eighth book I have finished in 2012.

Jane Eyre: Review

13 Mar

Jane Eyre has been on my TBR pile for years. Although I read many great pieces of classic literature in high school – including Wuthering Heights, a masterpiece by another brilliant Bronte – Jane Eyre was never assigned. In my adult life, I have picked up the novel several times, only to put it aside after a few chapters. (I’ll admit that the length of the novel intimidated me, even as an adult.) After joining the Mount TBR Reading Challenge, however, I resolved to finish Jane Eyre this year. And I’m SO GLAD I did!

Jane Eyre’s early life is miserable. After her parents pass away, Jane is sent to live with her cruel aunt and loathsome cousins. Though Jane’s aunt dotes upon her own children, she treats Jane with contemptuous detachment. She is, after all, only raising Jane due to a promise she made to her dying husband. Jane’s cousins are equally unlikable – they either ignore Jane completely or treat her with ruthless hostility. Jane is relieved, therefore, when her aunt agrees to send her to Lowood, an all-girls boarding school. Rather than providing the freedom Jane yearns for, however, Lowood reinforces the submission and deprivation to which the young girl has grown accustomed. In spite of all obstacles, Jane is resilient. She not only excels in her studies at Lowood, but she also becomes a beloved teacher at the school. Soon, however, Jane knows she must move on to other opportunities and thereby finds herself at Thornfield. While at Thornfield, Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester, the manor’s brooding, mysterious owner. Throughout the novel, Charlotte Bronte traces their dark romance.

In many ways, I’m thankful that I didn’t read this book in high school. I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much as a teenager as I do now. For instance, the importance of Jane’s  inner turmoil as she considers St. Clare’s proposal would have been lost on me as a teenager. As an adult, however, I found myself cheering for Jane as she chose to refuse his proposal. Jane knew she might not receive another proposal, yet she would not wed a man who did not love her passionately – like Mr. Rochester. The stubbornness that Jane uses to resist her ruthless cousin at the beginning of the book saves her from a lifetime of service with a man she cannot love.

I also enjoyed the darkly romantic nature of Bronte’s book. Mr. Rochester is certainly a mysterious character! He is haunted by his past. Oh, and he’s haunted by his crazy wife hiding in the attic.🙂 I have to admit that I was tempted to hate Mr. Rochester MANY times. After all, he did not reveal his past marriage to Jane until it was uncovered by his brother-in-law at the ceremony. This was certainly ill-treatment of a woman who showed him acceptance, understanding, and love. I found myself loving Mr. Rochester simply because Jane loved him.

Jane Eyre is now one of my favorite books! This is my fourth book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. It is the fifth book I’ve read so far in 2012. I’m currently in the middle of A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly and The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, both of which are on my TBR list.

Musing Mondays

5 Mar

This week’s Musing Mondays prompt asks…

When you walk into a bookstore — any bookstore — what’s the first section you head toward (what draws you)?

When I walk into our local Barnes and Noble, I usually stop at the “What’s New” table to take a look at new releases. Then, I always make a beeline for the fiction section. Always. Yes, I am fairly particular when it comes to what I read. I’m not a fan of sci-fi, and I rarely read non-fiction. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a self-help book, and I’ve never read a romance novel. But I have spent HOURS poring over the novels on the shelves of the fiction section. While historical fiction and classics are my favorite, I will read almost any book labeled “general fiction.”

Friday Finds: TBR Pile Edition

2 Mar

The only reading challenge I have committed to this year is the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. So far, I have finished three novels for the challenge: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. I am currently reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, another book from my TBR pile. For the first time in years, the pile is getting smaller! In an effort to keep chipping away at my TBR pile, I thought I would share the unread books that I found on my bookshelf this week for Friday Finds.

Theme Thursdays: Name

1 Mar

This week’s Theme Thursdays prompt asks readers to find the word “name” in the books they are currently reading. My passage comes from Jane Eyre, a book I am thoroughly enjoying:

“Even in that obscure position, Miss Scatcherd continued to make her an object of constant notice; she was continually addressing to her such phrases as the following: – ‘Burns’ (such as it seems was her name; the girls here were all called by their surnames, as boys elsewhere), ‘Burns, you are standing on the side of your shoe; turn your toes out immediately.’ ‘Burns, you poke your chin most unpleasantly; draw it in.’ ‘Burns, I insist on your holding your head up; I will not have you before me in that attitude,’ &c., &c.”

Helen Burns is a saintly figure in the novel, marked by a selfless, forgiving demeanor. Though Miss Scatcherd treats Helen with marked antipathy due to the girl’s untidiness, Helen does not respond with anger or disbelief. Though they are close friends, Helen’s patience and quiet submission make her a foil of Jane. I admire Helen’s contentedness, yet I find Jane’s spirited nature to be much more realistic and relatable.