We chose Austenland for my Anglophiles book club, and I was excited to read it. Although I confess here and now that I have yet to see Colin Firth as...moreWe chose Austenland for my Anglophiles book club, and I was excited to read it. Although I confess here and now that I have yet to see Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, I do love Jane Austen's books, although I have not worried myself with the film adaptations. Colonel Brandon was always more my style than Mr. Darcy.
Austenland centers around Jane Hayes, a thirty-something who is obsessed with Jane Austen novels, and Mr. Darcy in particular. Her aunt, whose name might be Carolyn or might be Caroline depending on which page you're reading, dies and leaves her a trip to Austenland, an immersive themed living experience, for three weeks. Jane decides to go and participate, and then spends 200 solid pages complaining that a) none of it is real and b) the obvious Mr. Darcy type is too Mr. Darcy and she can't believe in him.
The book is poorly written--sometimes sentences were written in the wrong tense (everything is written past tense when suddenly a random sentence is written present tense), sometimes overly casual compared with the rest of the book, sometimes anachronistic beyond what one might expect from a period piece, and overall, I felt Jane was an unsympathetic and insipid protagonist. There really was nothing to recommend her, and I still sit here wondering why on earth Henry eventually falls in love with her. Her obsession with boyfriends past and boyfriends future borders on pathological, and nowhere in the storyline did I experience any transformative scene that allowed me to understand how she suddenly considers herself a 'recovered romantic'.
I love England, I love Austen, but I did not enjoy this book whatsoever. (less)
This book affirms my desire to be Helene Hanff when I grow up. This is a brilliantly written travel memoir of her trip to England. Unlike most travel...moreThis book affirms my desire to be Helene Hanff when I grow up. This is a brilliantly written travel memoir of her trip to England. Unlike most travel memoirs where the author tells you why his or her point of view of the destination is far superior to most tourists, she unabashedly tells her story of her time in England and the people she came to love without a care in the world to what anyone else might think. Many people take their trip to England, but this trip was hers and written in the humorous style she was known for. The minute I finished it, I wanted to start it all over again for the first time. I looked her up and was so sad to discover she died in 1997. It felt like losing a friend.(less)
Despite my proclivities for England and those who call her home, I am not much on English history and the old kings and queens of England. I knew very...moreDespite my proclivities for England and those who call her home, I am not much on English history and the old kings and queens of England. I knew very little about Elizabeth I, although I did watch the movie starring Cate Blanchett (the first one) about 10 years ago. Sadly, it was a little too brutal for me, and I watched it once and never again.
However, I need audiobooks. And a friend recently loaned me this one so that I'd have a nice, long read while driving around for work. Driving is one of the few times I force myself to read something I'm not sure I'll enjoy, as I don't have anything else to do. So consequently, while I was not excited about the subject matter, I liked that there were 16 discs to fill my time.
Boy was I in for a surprise! This was a great book! The story was riveting. I would come home at night to read up on the Tudors and see how much of the book was factual and what happened to the various players on the fringes of Henry the Eighth's court.
It took me nearly 2 months of driving to finish it, but that was with the holidays breaking up much of my drive time. I will definitely read more by Alison Weir--several other titles have been recommended to me and if I can get them on audio again, so much the better!(less)
I absolutely loved this book. My husband and I are adopting a baby in the coming year and while we easily came up with a boy's name, we were having a...moreI absolutely loved this book. My husband and I are adopting a baby in the coming year and while we easily came up with a boy's name, we were having a hard time with a girl's name. After reading this book, we've found our answer, something unique and original without being too "out there". If you love England, you will love this book. It is interspersed with quotes on names from famous British authors, it has a lot of background information, the hows and whys of baby naming in Britain, and appeals to the Anglophile in us. Enjoy!(less)
**spoiler alert** Jane Green's The Other Woman is the story of Ellie Black, virtual orphan in London, who meets Dan Cooper, a handsome single guy wit...more**spoiler alert** Jane Green's The Other Woman is the story of Ellie Black, virtual orphan in London, who meets Dan Cooper, a handsome single guy with a family Ellie's been dreaming of.
Until their wedding is announced and Dan's mother becomes a complete nightmare. Linda takes full creative control of the wedding and when it's over and Ellie announces that she is pregnant, things go from bad to worse. While Ellie could have taken the bull by the horns and confronted Linda, she never does, until a terrible accident forces things to come to a full stop.
I really like Jane Green. I didn't find Ellie to be one of her more sympathetic characters and I felt like a lot of her problems were brought on herself. And after a while, Ellie completely over-exaggerated Linda's behavior, and I myself wanted to smack her upside the head and tell her to relax a little. Fortunately, Green inserted Ellie's friend Lisa to do it for me.
It was a good, quick read, and a book that I enjoyed. I skipped to the end to see if there was a happy ending, and I must be frank, usually if I do that and I find out that the book has ended in a way that seems a little too "this" or a little too "that", I'd quit. Even though the ending was a little too "this", it's a testament to Green's writing that I finished anyway.
And anyway, isn't "this" basically what I read chick lit for?(less)
Reading Katie Maxwell's The Year My Life Went Down the Loo, which was recommended to me by a friend, I initially thought, "What a self-absorbed little...moreReading Katie Maxwell's The Year My Life Went Down the Loo, which was recommended to me by a friend, I initially thought, "What a self-absorbed little snot this girl is!"
Emily is 16 and her parents have just ruined her life by moving her to England while her father serves as an adjunct professor for a year in Oxford. Queen of hyperbole, Emily sees everything as uber-coolio or the worst thing to ever happen to her. The book is a series of emails mainly from her to her friend, Dru, who is still back in Seattle, nursing a broken leg and a broken heart.
Emily regales Dru with stories of her stormy relationships with hunky Aidan, dreamy Devon, and the patient and sweet Fang. She is also friends with Holly, a fellow fifth year, Peg, and Lalla.
The book spans about 3 months, and I gather is the first in a series.
To be honest, I kind of hated Emily in the beginning. She is so centered on her own inner angst and the turmoil of starting a new school that she can't see the forest for the trees.
However, as the book progresses, you realize that she is actually quite an intelligent and moral young woman who is meeting head on the problems that she faces either as a result of her family's decision to move or as a result of her own actions. I began to actually root for her about halfway through the book, and I'm hoping that if I can get my hands on the others in the series, I'll continue to feel the same "rah, rah, Emily!" spirit as her journey progresses.(less)
Two short stories turned into a book. The first details the travails of an upper middle class, childless British middle aged couple who return home fr...moreTwo short stories turned into a book. The first details the travails of an upper middle class, childless British middle aged couple who return home from the opera one night to discover that their entire apartment has been cleaned out, right down to the toilet paper roller. While the husband is dealing with the insurance companies and police, Missus finds she likes the simplicity of this new spartan existence. But when their material goods are unexpectedly found, how will they react?
The second short story is I guess a bit of a memoir about when Bennett had some crazy old lady park her van in his yard and refuse to move it. Social services tries to help the lady, neighbors attempt to help, but at the end of the day, she dies in her van, surrounded by piles of junk and it turns out she has money in the bank and could have done quite well for herself. The narrator (or author) tracks down the woman's brother who tells her tragic story.
I honestly expected more from both stories--I thought perhaps the storyline with the wife realizing that "stuff" doesn't make you happy could have gone somewhere, but that was over all too soon when tragedy strikes a second time. As for the crazy old lady in the van, the story just made me sad. Maybe I've been working with sickly old people too long. Not one of my favorites this year. (less)
Darren McGrady began working for the Royal Family as a pastry chef and quickly moved up the ranks to serve as Diana's personal chef until her death in...moreDarren McGrady began working for the Royal Family as a pastry chef and quickly moved up the ranks to serve as Diana's personal chef until her death in 1997. Here he presents many of the recipes he served the Royals, and Diana in particular. Filled with artifacts, personal notes, photographs and never-before-seen memorabilia, this is much more than a cookbook. It is an opportunity to see how the Royals really live and to eat the exact recipes that graced the tables of Windsor, Balmoral, Kensington, and Buckingham Palaces.
The book is filled with entertaining anecdotes about the Royal Family as well as amazing facts about the royal residences. For instance, I think it is Windsor Castle where the kitchen is a 20 minute walk from the dining room, and the food still has to arrive hot and fresh. Aboard the royal yacht Britannia (now decommissioned), they were working in such small quarters, there was a special sailor whose sole job was to go up and down a ladder to get food from the pantry below decks. The fun and affectionate remembrances of the family were also great to read. I look forward to trying more recipes from this wonderful book. (less)