Tag Archives: 2012

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.

The Eyre Affair: Review

26 Feb

Imagine a world where one can literally get lost within the pages of a book; where people travel door-to-door debating the authenticity of Shakespeare’s works; where genetically-engineered dodo birds are beloved household pets. This is the setting of The Eyre Affair, written by Jasper Fforde.

The Eyre Affair takes place in Great Britain, in a futuristic 1985. Thursday Next, the novel’s heroine, is a SpecOps agent in the LiteraTec division – a group of detectives devoted to investigating literary crimes. The LiteraTec division is known for receiving relatively benign assignments. Yet that all changes when Jane Eyre is abducted from the pages of Bronte’s beloved novel. Now Thursday must find the villain within the pages of this literary masterpiece before the beloved heroine disappears forever.

The Eyre Affair was a very enjoyable read! Fforde fills each page with literary wit and allusions – a sort of scavenger hunt for book lovers. I have never read Jane Eyre (gasp!), yet I was able to understand many of the allusions to Bronte’s novel. After finishing this novel, I have resolved to read Jane Eyre next, a novel that has been on my TBR pile for quite some time. I am also determined to read more novels by Charles Dickens – another author who seems to hold a permanent position in my TBR pile. I love it when one book inspires me to read another!

This is the third book I read for the Mount TBR reading challenge; I am committed to reading twelve. I am finding that, as soon as I finish one book from my TBR pile, I add another book to it! Alas, that is the life of a reader.

When She Woke: Review

24 Feb

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan is a futuristic retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The novel is set in Texas, where separation of church and state is a thing of the past and Roe v. Wade has been overturned. Hannah Payne, the novel’s protagonist, has devoted her life to family and church. Aside from her ability to create beautiful garments by hand, Hannah’s life seems unremarkable. That is, until she makes a decision that changes her life forever. As the novel begins, Hannah finds herself lying on a table in a paper-thin gown, her skin dyed red. Hannah is now a Chrome – a criminal whose skin is genetically-altered to reflect the crime she has committed. Her crime? Taking the life of her unborn child, a sin that is unpardonable in pious Texas. Life for Chromes is difficult. Because their crimes are advertised on their skin, Chromes face daily discrimination and persecution. Yet Hannah doesn’t feel like a criminal – she made the decision to abort her unborn child in order to protect the baby’s father. When She Woke illustrates the process Hannah must go through to understand the decision she made and adapt to life as an outsider.

When She Woke addresses many sides of a very sensitive issue – abortion. Like Hannah’s family, I believe that all human life is sacred, including the lives of unborn babies. Yet in spite of my personal beliefs, I truly felt compassion for Hannah. Although the novel focuses on a very difficult topic, it is still an enjoyable read. Reading When She Woke made me want to re-read The Scarlet Letter. I read The Scarlet Letter in high school, and I remember being very captivated by the plot. I’m sure I would enjoy it even more as an adult.

Now, I’m on to my next book for the Mount TBR Challenge – The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde!

The Night Train: Review

29 Jan

Dwayne Hallston loves music. At the age of seventeen, Dwayne and his band – the Amazing Rumblers – study the music of James Brown, hoping to recreate the sound of Brown’s album Live at the Apollo. After hours of practice, the Rumblers earn a spot on The Bobby Lee Reese Show and have a chance to perform on television.  At the same time, Dwayne’s friend Larry Lime is studying the music of Thelonius Monk. Under the tutelage of a jazz musician known as the Bleeder, Larry Lime learns to play the piano. Though Dwayne and Larry’s love for music binds them together, their friendship is unacceptable in their small southern town in 1963. Dwayne is white; Larry is black. In a community where people are divided by racial boundaries, music has the potential to bring people together.

While I appreciated Edgerton’s depiction of how music can heal our differences, I found The Night Train difficult to finish. I couldn’t connect with Dwayne or Larry. I had to push myself to finish the novel – a sign that I wasn’t truly engaged. I read this book as part of a “community reads” event promoted by my local library. Although this wasn’t my favorite book, I am grateful that our library provides opportunities for the community to experience literacy together. Like music in The Night Train, sharing a book can truly bring people together!