- This is my first experience reading the Little House series. In each one of these books, it always amazes me how simple yet complicated life is for the Ingalls family. Simple because they don't have many of the issues that face us in the 21st century. Complicated because you couldn't just run to the grocery store if you forgot an ingredient. Now that they're settled in South Dakota in a growing town it will surely be easier, but it's still hard to imagine living that life.
- All of the books in the series are basically the same. They tell the story of a year in a new place and everything they needed to do to survive. Sure, there are variations based on what new place they are living in, but the basics don't change. That's probably part of what makes this series so beloved, especially for those who read it as children. You can escape to life on the prairie over and over.
- As Laura gets older, she's showing a lot more personality, which is fun to see. She's a tomboy, always ready to head outside and explore. It's nice to get to know her.
- Why don't they talk about anything sad? In between these two books, Mary went blind and, according to the family tree in the front, they had a little brother that was born and died - yet is never mentioned. I'm guessing skipping over the details of these events (or the event entirely) was a conscious decision Laura Ingalls Wilder made as she was writing. Perhaps she thought people read these books for their feel-good nature, not for reality. I guess I'd rather know the truth of what happened to their family, but maybe that's just because I'm reading the books as an adult.
I never got a chance in April to share my thoughts about On the Banks of Plum Creek, which was the April read for the Little House Read-Along. So I thought I would write up my thoughts for both books this month.
The Yellow House provides an interesting perspective of early 20th-century Irish history. Eileen is an O’Neill – an Irish warrior, Catholic, and fiercely proud. When her life falls apart at age sixteen, she has to learn how to take care of herself and what is most important in life. Two men – one the Quaker mill owner’s son and the other an Irish republican – want their say in Eileen’s life, leaving her with hard choices about her future. Throughout it all, she dreams about bringing her family together again in the Yellow House.
Before I traveled to Ireland in 2007, I did a fair amount of reading about the Irish struggle for independence from Britain in the 1910s and 1920s. The Yellow House provided me with a viewpoint that I hadn’t considered before. Eileen lives in Ulster, the area we now know as Northern Ireland. This area is heavily Protestant (which is why they are still part of Great Britain), but Eileen was Catholic. The Catholics in the southern part of Ireland wanted independence from their British overlords after centuries of oppression. But the Protestants in Ulster still wanted British protection, since they were afraid of the Catholics. And where does that leave you if you are a detested Catholic in a Protestant area, soon to be cut off from the rest of newly-independent Ireland? No wonder Eileen was so conflicted in every aspect of her life.
Eileen is a difficult character to love. She’s very prickly to everyone around her, constantly running her mouth and avoiding friendships. But she had an incredibly hard life, and it’s not too difficult to feel sorry for her and to desperately want a happy ending for her. There were times in this story when it was hard to tell the author’s purpose – is the focus the history of Ireland, or is the focus Eileen’s story? If this had been consistently clear, I think I would have enjoyed the story more. As it was, I still learned quite a bit about Ireland from a perspective I wasn’t expecting. Any book that causes you to think about something from a different angle is a good one.
I am a huge fan of both Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I have read Jane Austen's six books multiple times (so much so that my copy of Pride & Prejudice is literally falling apart). When I discovered Georgette Heyer a few years ago, I began rapidly devouring her books.
Turns out Regency romances is one of my all-time favorite genres.
When I recently picked up An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan, I found so many similarities to Austen and Heyer that I found the book boring to begin with. And that got me thinking - are all Regency romances basically the same?
1. The main female character has a mind of her own. Doesn't matter what age she is, but she is sure to make her opinion known.
2. The main male character is either an upstanding man who has never thought of marriage, or a rake in desperate need of being reformed.
3. At least one person elopes or tries to.
4. There's a ball of some sort. Probably more than one.
5. The main characters protest that they will never fall in love - until they do, usually on the last page.
An Accomplished Woman had all of these aspects, which is probably why I discounted it right off the bat. It's just a rip-off of Austen or Heyer.
But then it turned out to be more. Each of these authors has a slightly different approach to the Regency romance. Jane Austen's is an authentic approach - she lived during Regency times and was simply writing about life as she knew it. Georgette Heyer's is an accurate approach - she includes so much period detail and slang that sometimes I can't even understand what the characters are saying (took me a long time to realize that "making a leg" meant bowing). Jude Morgan's is a nearly satirical approach - he is simultaneously writing and laughing at the genre of Regency romance.
And that's what finally set An Accomplished Woman apart from any Austen or Heyer book I had read. He walks right on that line of making the story believable, yet helping you realize how ridiculous these characters and events are. It's how Jane Austen would have written a Regency romance if she lived in 2015. Once I realized this, I settled in to thoroughly enjoy An Accomplished Woman. And enjoy it I did!
Reviewlets - 5* Character Edition [The Secret Life of William Shakespeare; The Curriculum Vitae of Aurora Ortiz; Glamorous Illusions]
There have many books, both fiction and nonfiction, written about the life of William Shakespeare – despite the fact that we don’t know all that much about his life. Was he even the playwright he is claimed to be? How could a lowly glover's son become the most famous playwright of all time?
Jude Morgan tackles that question, and answers it in a perfectly plausible fashion. Shakespeare comes to life on these pages, with all of his restlessness and passion to be on the stage and to be writing for the stage. Despite that, this book really doesn't spend much time on the writing of the plays. Instead, it focuses on Shakespeare’s relationship with his wife, Anne, who was left behind in Stratford while he ran off to London. Not an easy relationship, to be sure. Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson make cameo appearances. And Will Shakespeare himself becomes a sympathetic, but flawed, man. If you want a version of Shakespeare’s life that could have been the real one, then this is the book for you.
Reading a book in translation is more than just being able to read the words in English. It gives you a glimpse of another culture through the eyes of that culture. Aurora Ortiz is a young widow who is looking for a job. She sends her resume to a temp agency, but her version of a resume is a long letter baring her heart. And it’s not the only long letter like this that she sends to the agency. It’s not a very long book, and it took me awhile to really get a feel for the author’s intent. How exactly were we supposed to feel about naïve Aurora? (And this is where I think getting a glimpse of another culture comes in.) But soon I was totally drawn into Aurora’s struggle to find her place in the world, and I was cheering for her every step of the way. Aurora Ortiz is a character that will stick with you for a very long time, one that will make your life better by knowing her.
Cora Diehl has come home to the family farm in Montana, only to have her life turned upside down. Her father has a stroke, and then it turns out that he isn’t really her father. Soon, Cora’s summer plans include the Grand Tour in Europe with her newly discovered half-siblings.
I loved this book from page one. First of all, it’s Christian historical fiction, which means I don’t have to worry about swearing. And the characters turn to God to help them through their struggles. Extremely refreshing!! Secondly, Cora is strong in her faith and strong in herself. Yes, she goes through a lot of soul-searching to discover who God means her to be. But in each of those struggles, she is very relatable and real. And who of us hasn’t wished we could have gone on the Grand Tour, spending months in Europe seeing all the major sights?
This is the first book in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to see where Cora and her family travel next and what God brings them along the way.
Georgette Heyer is one of my favorite novelists. If you can’t have any more books by Jane Austen, then you’d better start stocking your shelves with books by Georgette Heyer. I haven’t yet met a Heyer book I didn’t like, and Friday’s Child was no exception.
Lord Sheringham, turned down by the woman he supposedly loved, instead decides to marry a girl he’s known since childhood. It was a rather hasty decision, and since Hero has never been “out” in society, she’s hardly prepared for a life as Lady Sheringham. Soon known as Kitten to Lord Sheringham and his closest friends, Hero gets herself in scrape after scrape, although always with the best of intentions. How is she supposed to know any better? Lord Sheringham begins to regret his hastiness in marrying her, until he discovers he cares for his Kitten more than he ever expected.
As always, Heyer writes a plot full of delightful twists and amusing dialogue. But it’s the secondary characters that really set Friday’s Child apart from many of her other Regency romances. From George Wrotham, who is always looking for an excuse for a duel, to the Honourable Ferdinand Fakenham, who speaks before he thinks more often than not, to overly vain Isabella Milborne – every single character brings amusement and life to this story. Georgette Heyer’s books are always good, but it’s not often that every character is so fleshed out with a life of his or her own. Friday’s Child is a delight to read, and I finished it with regret.
When I was creating my list for the Classics Club, I knew I wanted to include something by Sir Walter Scott. I've already read and enjoyed Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, and I knew Scott had plenty of other books to discover. I did some investigating and settled on Waverley. It was about the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Ever since I traveled to Scotland in 2007, I've been curious about the Jacobites.
Little did I know when I picked Waverley that I was choosing a momentous book in literary history. Waverley was Scott's first novel. Previously, he had only published poetry. Waverley and its successors were international bestsellers. It established the novel as a serious form of literature. And it created the genre of historical fiction. Before Waverley, there had been history and fiction, but it took Sir Walter Scott to combine them into historical fiction and make the genre widely popular.
Waverley tells the story of Edward Waverley, the nephew of an English lord who, pretty much through his own naiveté, finds himself fighting on the side of the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie Stuart. Like Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey, Waverley read too many romances as a child, and now he is drawn to the romance of Scotland. He finds love and a brotherhood that changes the course of his life.
Despite being about a rebellion, there isn't a ton of action in this book. It's rather slow-paced, with plenty of notes in the back to refer to in order to figure out exactly what Scott was trying to say. This book isn't for everybody; some would probably find it boring. But I definitely enjoyed discovering Scotland in the mid-1700s and experiencing this piece of literary history.
The Wicked Day is the story of Mordred. In case you’re not familiar with the Arthurian legends, Mordred is typically the villain of the piece. He is King Arthur’s son with his half-sister, and he causes the downfall of Arthur and Camelot. He’s not a character that gets a whole lot of sympathy.
Until you read Mary Stewart’s The Wicked Day. She does an admirable job of turning Mordred into a character you can care about. One who, granted, does have some problematic traits. But overall, his actions have just been misunderstood. We follow Mordred from his childhood on the Isle of Orkney to his final battle with Arthur. Along the way, we see why he acted as he did. And it all seems perfectly reasonable. It’s not an easy feat to turn a villain into a misguided hero, but that’s exactly what Stewart does.
If you have any interest in the stories of King Arthur, you should certainly add this book to your reading list. All the elements of the legend are there, but from an entirely different and fascinating point of view.
I picked A Little Folly by Jude Morgan up off the New Books shelf at the library. It was a book I couldn’t resist – a Regency romance! Think Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. This is a genre I love to escape into.
A Little Folly follows siblings Valentine and Louisa. The novel begins with their extremely overbearing father dying, leaving them free to live their lives the way they want for the first time ever. This means inviting their cousins (on their mother’s side, therefore frowned upon by their father) to stay. They bring a friend, Lady Harriet Eversholt, who is currently separated from her husband. Scandalous! And fascinating…especially to Valentine, who hasn’t much experience with worldly women.
Louisa is thrilled that her father’s death means she can finally turn down Pearce Lynley, the man her father picked out for her to marry. After that bold stroke, where were her newly found freedom take her next?
A Little Folly was certainly a enjoyable read. The plot had just enough twists to keep you guessing. The characters, for the most part, where easy to imagine being friends with. Honestly, though, I did have a bit of difficulty in getting a handle on James Tresilian. His characteristics kept changing enough that I couldn’t quite get a hold on who he was. There are definitely some plot points and themes strongly reminiscent of Jane Austen. As someone who wishes Jane Austen would have written three times as many novels as she did, I am happy to see her influence in A Little Folly.
For fans of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, A Little Folly is a great addition to your bookshelf.
I love Pride and Prejudice. It was my gateway book into Jane Austen the summer before my junior year of high school. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve reread it. And watched the BBC adaptation. Pride and Prejudice holds a special spot on my bookshelf and a special place in my heart.
So when I heard about Longbourn – the servants’ version of Pride and Prejudice – I immediately added it to my to-read list, although with some trepidation. How could it ever live up to Jane Austen?
Honestly, it didn’t. But it didn’t have to. Longbourn tells an entirely separate story from Pride and Prejudice. The Bennets are only incidental, providing inconveniences and work. Telling their story is not the purpose of this book. The lives of the servants take center stage.
Mrs. Hill becomes a living, breathing person. She is much more than just someone who hands Mrs. Bennet the smelling salts. She has hopes, dreams, and a history (a very unexpected one!). Sarah, the housemaid, wants so much more out of life than what she currently has. But how will she find it? By following Bingley’s exotic and tempting footman to London? Or by getting to know James, the mysterious footman at Longbourn whom no one seems to know anything about?
Jane Austen has been criticized for leaving the “real world” out of her novels. Life is not all tea and parties. Longbourn attempts to put the history of the time back in. The slave trade is mentioned, and the war with Napoleon is dealt with in much more detail than I expected. You would think that a book about servants would be even more inward-focused than one about the higher class, who at least are free to travel around the country. Not so.
Jo Baker treats the Bennet family with respect, but not kid gloves. You don’t need to fear that your perception of them will be dashed, but your eyes will be opened to the differences in class that were simply taken for granted in that time. Above all, you will learn that a servant is no different from anyone else in their hopes and fears. And you will get to know the servants of Longbourn quite well, and love them as part of the Bennet family.
I'll readily admit that Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances are my escapist reading. When I’m looking for a literary treat, I’ll pick up one of her novels. I love the Regency world. Even though Heyer’s characters are far removed from the sphere of Jane Austen, the wit and sparkle is very reminiscent of her.
One of the books I’ve treated myself to was These Old Shades, the first of three books about the Alastair family. My mother lent me her copy, knowing that I would get around to reading it before she would. In fact, based on my recommendations, my mother has bought several Heyer novels – but has yet to read any, if I remember correctly. What treasures lurk in to-be-read piles!
These Old Shades takes place mostly in Paris. Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, is walking home late one night when a boy crashes into him. The boy is running away from his brother. Justin spontaneously decides to purchase him and make him his page. This earns the boy’s undying gratitude and an extreme amount of loyalty. The boy, Leon, begins his life as Justin’s page, but Justin soons discovers that Leon is not exactly who – or what – he seems. This book is a mystery and a romance, giving insights into the not-so-wholesome life of the nobility and glimpses of Versailles under Louis XV. The climax is suspenseful and dramatic, but leads (as you would expect from Heyer) to a happy ending for the characters you have come to love.
If I told you any more about the plot, I would spoil the mystery! Suffice it to say that the characters are endearing (even Justin – eventually), the plot is twisty, and the wit is present as always. Heyer delivers a very enjoyable tale again – the perfect escape for, well, just about anytime you’d like an escape!
P.S. Does anyone know what the phrase “make a leg” means? The male characters were constantly “making a leg” to another character. Of the many Heyer books I’ve read, I don’t remember seeing this phrase before. Is it a type of a bow? That was the best explanation I could come up with. Anyone got another??
My name is Julie, and I own a lot of books. As in, they are stacked on the floor because I've run out of room on the shelves. And those shelves? There are so many books on them that they smile -- not sag; smile. This blog will cover book reviews and all manner of other bookish things.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.