I have made it halfway through this book, and I just can't go any farther. I'm giving it two stars, because there was enough there to keep me going foI have made it halfway through this book, and I just can't go any farther. I'm giving it two stars, because there was enough there to keep me going for over 200 pages, but I'm just not getting any more out of it. It is exceedingly slow and introspective. The characters are, yes, self-conscious to a fault, anxious, defensive, and obviously don't have a clue what happiness is. The convoluted dialogue is hard for me to imagine anyone actually participating in. I realize this was written in the late 1960s but it felt so much older. I don't know what else was published in Britain in 1970, but seriously? this is the winner of the first Whitbread award?
KIRKUS REVIEW (Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1972): Although this is basically a sentimental book (the title referring to the theme song of one of its two central characters -- a former band leader -- indicates that), it hasn't the appeal of her Logical Girl (1967) and it is more consistent with her earlier work which offered a substantial sociology of Anglo-Jewry. Throughout the first half of this book, ostensibly dealing with the making of a documentary by four or five people, Gerda Charles examines the soul of the Jew always suffering from his Jewishness without even the ""protection of stupidity""; always worrying his way, self-consciously but ambitiously, out of his ""small"" world of the People of the Book at a time, 50 years before this, when in their crass ignorance they were not even ""People of the Word."" This is the past inherited by the Jewish poet, minor, ingrown and consumptive, who will be the subject of the documentary; but it also imposes its allegiances on Michele, a writer and a teacher and a Rabbi's daughter, and Jimmy Marchant, the band leader, who have never found personal happiness. Less susceptible to it is Georges Franck, director of the documentary -- a charmer, a betrayer who finally will hurt everyone in connection with this project but still will enable Michele and Marchant to find some sort of compromise together for their half-lives. . . . The novel moves very slowly since the author is far more interested in permitting her characters to assess themselves and each other -- it is sometimes talky but not preachy. At one point she questions whether life should take precedence over art -- in this case it is life, and Gerda Charles, with her very level intelligence and practical realism, deals with it on just those terms.
My difficulties with audiobooks continues. I don't know if it is the style of this book or my aging brain, because I did enjoy the story and the telliMy difficulties with audiobooks continues. I don't know if it is the style of this book or my aging brain, because I did enjoy the story and the telling of it, but I had to go back and relisten to the first couple of disks and finally get a print copy to read alongside. The second half seemed to go better, and I may or may not finish reading the print copy. But that is by no means a complaint of either the book or the narrator.
This debut novel by Australian Kate Morton is an homage to Rebecca and other gothic-style romances. It would appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, and I was picturing the actors of the TV series as their counterparts in this novel as I listened. As in Downton Abbey, we see life from both the upstairs and downstairs points of view, the devastating effects of WWI on the family, and the unraveling of the social structures in the 1920s, especially for women. There are family secrets, too, which are readily guessed by an astute reader. The plot is slow-moving and drawn out. Probably the British title The Shifting Fog fits better than The House at Riverton. As a gothic novel, I expect the house to be a character in its own right, and I just didn't feel it here. So probably 4 stars as a period piece, 3 stars for plot and development. I would like to have learned more about Grace's life after the events of 1924 and how it affected her. As it is, this is just the confessional of a very old woman who has kept a secret for nearly 75 years.
Book description: Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they -- and Grace -- know the truth. In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever. ...more
Fans of Jodi Picoult ought to like this one. It's a love story with a twist, a chance to learn something about quadriplegia, and an exploration of theFans of Jodi Picoult ought to like this one. It's a love story with a twist, a chance to learn something about quadriplegia, and an exploration of the pros and cons of the right to die. The love story of two very different people learning how to relate to each other I thought was very good. I knew how it was going to end, although I kept hoping it would be different. Partly, I just wasn't convinced by the choices made. I'm sure it's a tragedy for anyone to become a quadriplegic, but I just couldn't agree with Will's determination to die. Why wasn't he getting counseling for depression? Why wasn't he able to work? And he tells Lou at the end that the past six months was the best of his life. It just didn't add up for me at the end. Will was ultimately controlling and selfish. Lou was a dishrag. She did grow tremendously through prodding from Will, but I didn't get the sense that she had taken control of her own circumstances afterward. Lots of food for thought. This should make for a great book club discussion.
Book Description: Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living. ...more
Also published under the title Second Thyme Around. A pleasant enough romantic comedy and just the light-hearted fluff I needed after Cutting for StonAlso published under the title Second Thyme Around. A pleasant enough romantic comedy and just the light-hearted fluff I needed after Cutting for Stone! The story is cute, if somewhat predictable, and the setting is picturesque. The main plot is really about Perdita and her friendship with the elderly and failing Kitty. After Kitty suffers a stroke, it is clear that she cannot continue to live on her own. The author has done a good job of exploring their unusual friendship, issues of failing health, loss of independence, and ultimately dealing with the loss of a surrogate parent. The sub-sub-plots of Janie, who has a crush on Lucas, and Roger, the "long-lost" nephew adds a nice depth and some humor. I was less satisfied with the romance between Perdita and Lucas. After focusing so much in the first part of the book on how badly Lucas had treated Perdita, and on his anger issues, and tendency to be a bully, I just didn't see enough of a change in him to feel comfortable with their relationship. And to try and justify his behavior by saying that Perdita had been too passive and let him get away with it? Come on, seriously? I am glad that Perdita has learned to stand on her own two feet, but the bully is still a bully. Still, I would read more from this author.
Book Description: For years, things have run quite smoothly for Perdita and her organic gardening business. So what if her hair needs a complete overhaul, her sweater has more holes than Swiss cheese, and there's no hope of a boyfriend on the horizon? The last thing Perdita wants is a meddlesome man in her life-but she's about to get one, in the form of her completely infuriating ex-husband, Lucas. Lucas in disagreeable, curt, arrogant, and smolderingly gorgeous. He's also the new chef at Grantly House, Perdita's number-one customer. Worse, Mr. Grantly has the insane idea of starting a television cooking show that will put Lucas and Perdita together as "The Gourmet and the Gardener." Now, things are heating up in the kitchen--and elsewhere. With the bright lights blazing and old feelings stirring the pot, it could be a recipe for disaster...or absolute delight.
Main characters: Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, Katherine (Kitty) Tylney, Jane Boleyn - DowageSetting: England, London, Greenwich Palace Time: 1539-1542
Main characters: Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, Katherine (Kitty) Tylney, Jane Boleyn - Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.
First paragraph: "You're not going to steal anything." I left the question--Are you?--off the end of the sentence. But Cat heard it anyway.
Favorite lines: "We spent yet another rainy day endlessly sewing. I wondered at all the shirts we sewed. For the poor. For Cat's husband. How many shirts did he need? Or was it like the fairy tales, and the things unsewed themselves every night? Was she forever sewing the same shirt, like Sisyphus pushing the rock up a mountain for all eternity?" p. 279
I was pleasantly surprised by this first book in the Gilt Novels series. Told from the point of view of a lady in waiting to Catherine Howard, the 5th wife of Henry VIII. Although Catherine is vain, selfish, spoiled, ambitious and reckless, Kitty is loyal to her friend. At first we see the fun-loving (but reckless) side of Catherine Howard. This can be forgiven while she is a "nobody" in the employ of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. But once she has caught the eye of Henry VIII and become the Queen of England, her recklessness puts the lives of those around her at risk. You won't lose much sleep over the eventual fate of Cat, but will Kitty survive and learn to stand on her own two feet? Kitty is based on a real person, but not much is known about her. Ms. Turner has given her a bit of a love interest. The ending is bittersweet - we don't know whether or not there will be a happily ever after for her. The historical setting of the book seems well researched, but the use of contemporary teenage attitudes and mannerisms makes it clear the series is aimed at contempory teens. That might be off-putting for adults used to more "authentic" historical fiction, but it wasn't as off-putting as I had thought it might be from the description of this series as "Gossip Girl meets the Tudor Court."
The books in this series are not chronological and stand alone. They can be read in any order.
Description: When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.
About the author: Katherine Longshore grew up on the northern California coast. At university, she created her own major in Cross-Cultural Studies and Communications, planning to travel and write. Forever. Four years, six continents and countless pairs of shoes later, she went to England for two weeks, stayed five years and discovered history. She now lives in California with her husband, two children and a sun-worshiping dog.
The Gilt Novels series info: #1 Gilt ---------------------- #2 Tarnish #3 Brazen #4 Courted...more
I'm a sucker for pretty much anything set in Wales, good or bad, but this book turned out to be a loving tribute to the landscape. The author has a lyI'm a sucker for pretty much anything set in Wales, good or bad, but this book turned out to be a loving tribute to the landscape. The author has a lyrical way with words, and was able to create a strong sense of time and place, helped by the use of Welsh language words throughout. Morgana was an interesting character, and without the imposition of magic and witchcraft this could have been a 4-star historical romance. While I enjoy a good paranormal or fantasy story, I struggled a bit with it here. I wanted to be immersed in historical Wales, so every time magic was introduced it just didn't seem quite right to me. I had a few historical quibbles - the use of the famous song Calon Lan, for example, which wasn't written until 1890 probably at the earliest. It was interesting to learn something about Welsh cattle droving which died out in Wales after the introduction of railroads in the 1840s and 50s. Aside from the language (no glossary provided, which wasn't an issue for me, but those who don't know some basic Welsh might wish it had one), other elements of "Welshness" seemed contrived - let's throw in some references to Welsh cakes and bara brith and carving love spoons. And corgis, of course. The author does live in Wales, and obviously loves her country. Despite my nit-picking here, I enjoyed the book enough to give it four stars. It's a sweet love story, a tribute to Wales (especially the language and the landscape), and the triumph of good over evil.
Book Description: In her small early-nineteenth-century Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana, who has not spoken since she was a young girl. Her silence is a mystery, as well as her magic. Concerned for her safety, her mother is anxious to see her married, and Cai Jenkins, a widower from the far hills, seems the best choice. After her wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving her mother, and wary of this man, whom she does not know, and who will take her away to begin a new life. But she soon falls in love with Cai's farm and the wild mountains that surround it. Cai works to understand the beautiful half-tamed creature he has chosen for a bride, and slowly, he begins to win Morgana's affections. It's not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village. A dark force is at work there -- a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana. Forced to defend her home, her man, and herself, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything. (from book jacket)
About the author: Paula Brackston lives in a wild, mountainous part of Wales. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and is a Visiting Lecturer for the University of Wales, Newport. Before becoming a writer, Paula tried her hand at various career paths, with mixed success. These included working as a groom on a racing yard, as a travel agent, a secretary, an English teacher, and a goat herd. Everyone involved (particularly the goats) is very relieved that she has now found a job she is actually able to do properly. (from author's website)...more
An overly clever pastiche with an ensemble of mostly unlikeable characters. The main storyline involving the almost-romance between Pasquale and Dee iAn overly clever pastiche with an ensemble of mostly unlikeable characters. The main storyline involving the almost-romance between Pasquale and Dee is sweet. Most of the characters border on caricatures. Some of the writing is quite lovely, and it does have its humorous moments. We go back and forth between the 1960's and the present day, following a variety of people. How they all relate to each other doesn't come together until the end of the book. Then throw in some chapters like the first chapter of one character's unfinished war novel, another character's movie pitch about the Donner Party, or the first chapter of the movie producer's autobiography. A little pretentious, but it sort of works. Woven throughout is the theme of looking for happiness by following your desires, no matter how ruinous or self-destructive those desires might be. Pasquale and Dee make a different choice - to do the right thing instead of what they think will bring them happiness. I think a second theme might be the hunger that we all have to create something that will outlive ourselves. Hence the Donner Party with its images of cannibalism, one character's obsession with anorexia, various forms of artistic expression - wartime artwork in a cave, movies, plays and music - keeping dreams alive (extreme plastic surgery?), and sublimating the loss of those dreams through alcohol, drug abuse, and pornography. It's a book that makes for interesting discussion. Of course, I enjoyed Richard Burton as a character and I now have to watch the movie Cleopatra.
Book Description: The story begins in 1962. On the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies a tall, thin woman approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, an American starlet, and she is dying. And the story begins again today when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot, searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier....more
I was pleasantly surprised by this sweet little book. It's a quick read about friendship, high school crushes, school activities, embarrassing parentsI was pleasantly surprised by this sweet little book. It's a quick read about friendship, high school crushes, school activities, embarrassing parents, and other teenaged angst. The love story aspect is a little weak, but this is high school after all, and it's G-rated, so okay for younger teens. I enjoyed the interplay between the two girls. I was the quiet bookworm among my more outgoing friends. I would have liked a take-charge friend like Ashleigh, but Julie seemed much too passive about everything. I probably was like that in high school, too. It takes time and experience to learn to be assertive and stand up for yourself. Not that Julie is bullied - it's just that her agreeableness and fear of hurting someone's feelings are bound to do more harm than good in the long run. The boys were far more charming and thoughtful than I remember any boys being in high school! Heck, I'm still looking for my poetry-writing, fencing and sailing enthusiast Mr. Darcy myself! I enjoyed the side-plot of the high school musical, and Julie's relationships with her parents, the mother coping with unemployment, and her remarried father and the attempts (unwelcome!) of his new wife to ingratiate herself into Julie's life. I might have rated this higher if I weren't so far removed from my teenage years! Still, it was a nice bit of fluff in-between more serious reads, and I enjoyed the Jane Austen angle.
Book Description: Julie is a quiet bookworm. Her best friend Ashleigh, on the other hand, is an "Enthusiast." As long as they have known each other, Ash has been obsessed with one thing or another. Now it is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which just happens to be Julie's favorite book. Before Julie knows what hit her, she and Ash are decked-out in 19th-century garb, smelling like mothballs, and crashing the all-boys prep school formal dance. Their mission is to find their personal Misters Darcy. But when they set their sights on the same young gentleman, their journey into the world of proper English courtship looks like it might cause a broken heart or two....more
I really loved this story. The author spent 20 years on it, and the historical detail is fascinating. Lots of descriptioCaution: May contain spoilers!
I really loved this story. The author spent 20 years on it, and the historical detail is fascinating. Lots of description of clothing, food, and daily life, whether on the Iron Range of Minnesota or behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Opera with Enrico Caruso. It brings to life the lives of immigrants at the turn of the century and up through the 1930s. I really didn't want the story to end. I wish it had been made into a trilogy. The first half of the book was complete in itself - the story of Enza and Ciro growing up and ending with their at long last engagement. The second book could have covered their marriage, leaving NYC for Minnesota, establishing a business and ending with Ciro's much too early death. Enza's life as a widow could have been a third book, and this section was all too short in the book. It ended with her finally agreeing to return to visit Italy with her son and his bride, but I would love to have had the story continue with that trip, her family reunion, and the rest of her life as a grandmother perhaps....
My only quibble with the audiobook was the decision to have two narrators. Annabella Sciorra had an elegant voice, and a believable Italian accent. When Adriana Trigiani took over the narration I found it distracting. Her voice almost had a New Jersey accent, and the change in pronunciation of names was disconcerting. But I got used to it. It wasn't bad - just different - and I suppose was a reflection of the big changes in their lives at that point, and that they were now Americans, not Italian immigrants.
Book Description: The majestic beauty of the Italian Alps at the turn of the twentieth century is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy. When Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished and sent to hide in America. Soon Enza's family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America. Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America. Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I as Enza begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House. Over time, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.
Inspired by Adriana Trigiani's own family history and the love of tradition, The Shoemaker's Wife defines an era with operatic scope that will live on in the imaginations of readers for years to come....more
This book does not try to retell the story of Pride and Prejudice, but it does serve as the framework for a story of the servants at Longbourn. The liThis book does not try to retell the story of Pride and Prejudice, but it does serve as the framework for a story of the servants at Longbourn. The lives of the Bennets take a definite backseat here, with a lot of gaps. This is its own story. Jo Baker has taken some liberties with their back stories, which might raise some eyebrows, but to say more would be spoilers. I liked the framework. I liked the different point of view of the servants. But I thought the love story between Sarah and James was a bit weak. It sort of lost continuity in the last third of the book - perhaps a few chapters from James' point-of-view might have been illuminating. The ending was only so-so for me. But there is a lot to enjoy along the way, especially in the day-to-day lives of the servants and their thoughts and feelings. Definitely a book that I could see myself re-reading some day, perhaps alongside P&P and Pride and Prejudice: The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote.
Book Description: In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended. ...more
I thought this was a hoot! Wonderfully silly and the narrator did a terrific job with the voices. It's a great send up of the whole paranormal romanceI thought this was a hoot! Wonderfully silly and the narrator did a terrific job with the voices. It's a great send up of the whole paranormal romance genre, with plenty of action: Think Luke and Leia fighting demon-possessed teddy bears, a character described as Army Barbie, and a government homeland security agent that reminds me of Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter stories. Oh yes, and the Devil himself who lives locked up in a statue. There's also a Hellmouth ala Buffyland....
Book Description: Mary Alice Brannigan doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Nor does she expect to find that Dreamland, the decaying amusement park she’s been hired to restore, is a prison for the five Untouchables, the most powerful demons in the history of the world. Plus, there’s a guy she’s falling hard for—and there’s something about him that’s not quite right.
But rocky romances and demented demons aren’t the only problems in Dreamland: Mab’s also coping with a crooked politician, a supernatural raven, a secret government agency, an inexperienced sorceress, an unsettling inheritance, and some mind-boggling revelations from her past. As her personal demons wreck her newfound relationship and real demons wreck the park, Mab faces down immortal evil and discovers what everybody who’s ever been to an amusement park knows: The end of the ride is always the wildest....more
I thought this was great fun, but great literature it is not. Jane is a thirty-something woman with the emotional IQ of an 18-year-old. She is obsesseI thought this was great fun, but great literature it is not. Jane is a thirty-something woman with the emotional IQ of an 18-year-old. She is obsessed with the idea of having the perfect boyfriend, yet she doesn't really have a clue what she wants in a man. I love the idea of Pembroke Park - does such a place actually exist? The characters are shallow stereotypes, and the novel lacks any real depth, but for sheer escapism you don't want anything that actually makes you think. The ending is predictable, but one wonders if Jane's experience has really taught her anything in the end.
Description: Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man -- perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Predjudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?
Series info: Austenland series 01. Austenland - read ----------------------- 02. Midnight in Austenland ...more
I might have given this 4 stars, for Jane Austen's characteristic witty dialogue and skewering of society, but it was just so predictable. You knew whI might have given this 4 stars, for Jane Austen's characteristic witty dialogue and skewering of society, but it was just so predictable. You knew who was going to end up with whom, so there really wasn't any suspence about the outcome. I found the ultimate pairing of Marianne, 17, with the 35-year-old Colonel Brandon to be unsatisfying. Why not give the widowed Mrs. Dashwood a love interest? She is only 40, not that much older than he is! Elinor is boring. And Willoughby deserved better, I thought! I really only read this as a prequel to reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters for my Moby-Dick project. Except for being set in Devonshire, I don't see how sea monsters are going to be featured. Could be interesting!
The audiobook was narrated by Susannah Harker.
Description: The difference between the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, lies not only in their appearance but also in their temperament. Elinor's good sense contrasts with Marianne's impulsive candor. Yet in the face of a highly competitive marriage market, the sisters' experience of love causes both to readjust... Jane Austen's satirical powers of observation and expression spare no one in this lively study of the constraints on women of a particular class in the eighteenth century....more