Thursday, August 29, 2013

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Loose Lady Bovary (Wayward Women Week)

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, not to be confused with Madame Butterfly—different Madame, different country, different time—is about an unfaithful French housewife in the early to mid-1800s. Madame Emma Bovary has a beautiful daughter and is married to a doctor but she is bored, bored, bored. Stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do, and irritated by her dull and lonely life, she starts to despise her husband. Just the look of him disgusts her. One scene at dinner reminds me of Kathleen Turner’s repulsion at watching her husband, Michael Douglas, eat dinner in War of the Roses.  Madame Bovary’s skin seems to crawl as she watches Charles innocently enjoy his meal.

He sucked his teeth after eating, and made a horrid gulping noise at every mouthful of soup he swallowed, and he was beginning to put on flesh, his eyes, which were barely enough to begin with, looked as if they would be squeezed up into his forehead by his podgy cheeks.
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1856; reprint, New York & London: The Heritage Press, & The Nonesuch Press, 1950), 63.

There are only two things that seem to alleviate the tediousness of her pathetic existence:  men and money.  Emma finds much needed excitement in a couple affairs behind her unsuspecting husband’s back. Sneaking around to lovers who appreciate her, give her a sense of purpose.  And so does spending her husband’s hard-earned cash.  Emma didn’t need the QVC Channel to buy everything and anything under the sun to fill her home and empty life.  But it’s never enough. Where does it all lead?  In the end something’s got to give, much as it did in Madame Butterfly.

Happy reading,

Annette

What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email: Readinginthegarden@gmail.com



Monday, August 26, 2013

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

This Ain’t No Lady (Wayward Women Week)

Unless you’re living under a rock, almost everyone has heard of the book Fifty Shades of Grey, even if you haven’t read it—like me.  Apparently the series of three books is so steamy, it advanced global warming a couple of notches.  I understand that the trilogy takes passion and sex to a new level.  If you’re not quite ready for that degree of intensity, there are other tamer versions of lust, infidelity, and romps between the sheets that you may want to consider. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, for example, is a 1928 novel that was so notorious it was banned in England until 1960. It has detailed sex scenes that may require a few ice chips to cool you down.  The novel is about poor Constance Chatterley’s quest for happiness, or at least an escape from the real world.  When her husband comes home from the war, he’s paralyzed from the waist down.  This puts a major crimp in all efforts of the horizontal mambo. And as if that wasn't inconvenient enough for Connie, he also seems to be drifting away from her emotionally. Connie can’t take it anymore.  She’s numb inside, an empty shell and desperately needs something to bring her back to life.  Even her father sees her dilemma and urges her to have a fling. “Why don’t you get yourself a beau, Connie? Do you all the good in the world.”  And like a good daughter, she takes his advice and seeks out the comforts of the gamekeeper, Oliver, at her estate.  Oliver is all man. This strapping, red-haired handyman is a very capable in many aspects.  Although he is obviously beneath her in status, that doesn't stop her from being beneath him, literally. But are they just physical frolics, or does it lead to more?   Read it to find out. Get a glass a wine and a highlighter and get ready for some spicy evenings!

Happy reading,

Annette


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email: Readinginthegarden@gmail.com

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

An Austen Addict's Alter-Reality (Jane Austen Week)

Instead of looking at a book by Jane Austen, I’m switching gears with a book that serves as a tribute to Austen.  Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler is about a modern-day woman who considers Pride and Prejudice her “drug of choice.”  It’s the book she rereads through every breakup, disappointment, and crisis.  And this time she really needs Elizabeth and Darcy to get her through a doozy, the breakup of her engagement.  She pours herself  an icy shot of Absolut, cracks open the book, and then things get a bit fuzzy.  When she wakes up, she’s in a strange room with strangers all around her. The obviously confused Brits keep calling her Miss Mansfield.  It’s all quite a dream until Courtney can’t pinch herself awake.  She’s actually in another time and another woman’s body.  The back of the book cover explains that “… not even her level of Austen mania has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience.”

I haven’t read and reread Austen’s novels enough to make analytical comparisons of this book to Austen’s work .  All I know is that I truly enjoyed this book and Courtney’s journey back to an eye-opening clash of cultures. Inconveniences  and realities of the time period take her from a realm of romanticism to mild irritation. Corsets are uncomfortable; pungent body odor is offensive.  I never would have thought that a nice carriage ride would actually be a bone-shattering event.   

My book club read this novel and most of the group gave it a thumbs-up. The complaints that did come up were that it seemed to be slow at times. One book club member said she kept waiting for something to happen. She was a bit put off with the constant referring back to the 21st century and the rather flip and sarcastic comments when things didn't go right. No surprise that we all agreed that women especially didn’t have it easy back then.  This book is not a scholarly dissection of Austen’s work; it is a fun jaunt into a different time and place.



“After clattering around in Mary’s coach for who knows how many hours, my bones have become castanets.”
Laurie Viera Rigler, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (Dutton, 2007; reprint, New York: Penguin Group, A Plume Book, 2008), 225.

“All I do is have a nice chat with a guy over dinner and everyone’s ready to order wedding invitations. Talk about assumptions.”
Laurie Viera Rigler, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (Dutton, 2007; reprint, New York: Penguin Group, A Plume Book, 2008), 68.


Happy reading,

Annette


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email: Readinginthegarden@gmail.com

Monday, August 19, 2013

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Appreciating Austen (Jane Austen Week)

Jane Austen, 1775-1817
Jane Austen is one of the most popular English writers of all time. Two hundred years of publication is a pretty impressive record.  There aren't too many people who haven’t heard of her.  Who hasn't watched a movie based on one of her novels?  But, for as much as some people happily get lost in the language with words like thither, mischance, and felicity (Kathleen Kelly in You've Got Mail, for example), other people shy away from the archaic vocabulary of the past. It’s not always easy, breezy reading.  If you haven’t yet dipped your toes into the world of Austen and don’t know how ready you might be for it, you may want to consider starting with Northanger Abbey.

Northanger Abbey is Austen’s first novel, although it wasn't published until after her death. It is shorter than her other works but just as charming. Like the others, it’s about finding love in a time of great social restraints and rules. Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland is invited to spend the summer with family friends in Bath, England. There she is immersed in the high society life of grand fashions and galas.  Her search for romance and adventure leads her to the Tilneys’ estate called Northanger Abbey, where she is later invited as a guest. Unfortunately, she’s not quite on her best behavior. After reading Gothic novels, her over-active imagination runs wild in the old home and she sets out to uncover the “mysteries” of Captain Tilney’s deceased wife.  This doesn'’t sit well with the Captain’s son, Henry Tilney, the man Catherine longs for.  Of course, complications and misunderstandings arise.  

I really liked this book and the characters. Critics note that the book is not as smooth as her later novels.  Who knows, they’re probably right. I’m not an Austen scholar. I don’t belong to an Austen club.  I cannot randomly cite Austen quotes. And I’ve only read three of her six books.  But I did find Northanger Abbey amusing.  I enjoyed her humor and the foreign world of an elegant yet stifled society.  

“He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and if not quite handsome, was very nearly it.” (Henry Tilney)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818; reprint, Cambridge, U.K.:Worth Press Limited, 2008.), 11.

“It did not appear to her that life could supply any greater felicity. (Catherine when Henry asked her to dance for a 3rd time.)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818; reprint, Cambridge, U.K.:Worth Press Limited, 2008.), 57.

“Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.” (Catherine)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818; reprint, Cambridge, U.K.:Worth Press Limited, 2008.), 18.

“Catherine had expected to have her feelings worked, and worked they were. Astonishment and doubt first seized them and a shortly succeeding ray of common sense added some bitter emotions of shame.” (When Catherine found Mrs. Tilney’s room)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818; reprint, Cambridge, U.K.:Worth Press Limited, 2008.), 162.




Jane Austen Novels:

Emma (1815)
Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous)
Persuasion (1818, posthumous)


Happy reading,

Annette


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email: Readinginthegarden@gmail.com

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Puddn’head Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins by Mark Twain

Twain’s Twins Meet Puddn’head (Mark Twain Week)

Puddn’head Wilson by Mark Twain is the story of a young misunderstood lawyer who has a hobby of collecting fingerprints, which he later uses to solve a crime. The story begins with Dave Wilson, arriving in Dawson’s Landing, Missouri in 1830. We discover his background and his struggles to become a respected attorney in the small town. One off-handed remark, however, dooms him and the town’s people quickly think of him as a fool, dubbing him “Puddn’head.”  Then, Wilson’s story fades out while the book sheds light on another tale of a slave called Roxy. Roxy has a very light skinned baby, who happens to be the same age as her master’s son.  There’s a shakeup at the house where slaves are caught stealing and threatened to be sent down South.  Worried, Roxy decides to switch her son with the master’s, protecting him from harm.  The slaves are not sent south after all. Her son now thought to be Tom Driscoll the master’s son, grows up in a life of privilege and later turns out to be a heartless cad. After the master dies, Roxy is freed and goes away to live on riverboats. Unfortunately, she loses her money when her bank fails.  She returns to her rightful son, “Tom,” and asks him for money.  He’s not so giving, though.  About that time some extraordinary Italian twins come to town.  A murder occurs and Puddn’head Wilson steps back into the story to solve the crime. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to the master’s real son, what happens to Roxy and the Capello twins, and how all stories tangle together.  It’s a funny tale entwined in crime story.

Before Puddn’head Wilson, Twain wrote Those Extraordinary Twins - A novella about twins who also appear in Puddn’head Wilson. In Those Extraordinary Twins; however, the men are conjoined. They are accused of assault in a small town and end up in court with Puddn’head Wilson defending the twins. The story is short and silly, but still worth reading.  Look for editions where both stories are presented together.








Partial List of Mark Twain Works 
(In order of publishing year. Click on title in blue to read review)


**The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other StoriesBook of humorous short stories including a frog race in Calaveras County. 1865

Innocents Abroad Non-fiction travel book about Samuel Clemen’s journey through Europe on a chartered vessel. 1869

**Roughing It Non-fiction, autobiographical account of Mark Twain’s six years he spent in the West (Nevada, California, and even Hawaii) in the 1860s.  1872

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Story of a cunning boy’s adventures in small river town. 1876

A Tramp Abroad – Non-fiction travel book. 1880

The Prince and the Pauper – Story of a poor boy who resembles the prince so much, the prince decides to switch places with him to experience life outside the palace.  1882

**Life on the Mississippi- Non-fiction musings of Samuel Clemen’s life as a riverboat pilot and what it took to navigate those precarious waters. This book is filled with not only Clemen’s personal exploits, it is also aimed to be more educational, with a few facts and figures of the Mississippi and towns around it. Mainly though, Twain drew me in and kept me there with his signature clever storytelling and amusing way with words. 1883

“…as for the contents of his skull, they could have changed place with the contents of a pie, and nobody would have been the worse off for it but the pie.” 
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, unknown), 443.

“I managed to get around this question without committing myself.”
“I crept under that one.”
“I climbed over this one.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, unknown), 200.

**The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ­­– The story of a boy raised by a drunk father who runs away and rafts down the Mississippi with a runaway slave. 1885

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court  - An American engineer is transported back to the time of the early Middle Ages in King Arthur’s court where he captivates the locals with his modern technology. 1889

**Those Extraordinary Twins - A novella about conjoined twins who also appear in Puddn’head Wilson. They are accused of assault in a small town and end up in court with Puddn’head Wilson defending the twins. 1892

The £1,000,000 Bank Note and Other New Stories – More short stories, essays and reflections by Mark Twain.  1893

Tom Sawyer Abroad – The last of Tom’s adventures, this short novel takes Tom, Huck, and former slave Jim, cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon; destination, Africa.   There they encounter new sights like the Great Pyramids and engage in wild escapades. 1894

**Pudd'nhead Wilson - A young misunderstood lawyer has a hobby of collecting fingerprints, which he later uses to solve a crime. 1894

Tom Sawyer, Detective – Tom solves a mysterious murder involving his uncle.  1896

A Double Barrelled Detective StoryNovella about Sherlock Holmes in California. 1902

The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories – A collection of short stories.  The $30,000 Bequest is the tale of a couple who are to receive a large inheritance and start thinking of ways spend the money. Also includes A Dog's Tale – Told from the perspective of a dog, this short story relays how a dog saves a child from a burning house but is misunderstood and beaten.  1904

**The Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider  - Published posthumously in 1917 Sam Clemens chronicled his life from childhood to adulthood. In the preface of this book, he notes that he is speaking from the grave as he knew this would be published after his death.  He declares that what is written is a true an honest account of his life.  “It has seemed to me that I could be as frank and free and unembarrassed as a love letter if I knew what I was writing would be exposed to no eye until I was dead, and unaware and indifferent.”   Twain tells of growing up in Hannibal, Missouri, the inspiration for St. Petersburg, the fictional setting in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. A life that spanned 75 years, we learn of his time as a printer’s apprentice, a typesetter, a riverboat apprentice and later riverboat pilot, a silver miner, publisher, world traveler, lecturer, and of course, author.  We get to know his wife, Olivia, and their children, and learn about the devastating death of their daughter, Susy, and later another daughter, Jean.  We are also told of his financial troubles forcing him to return to the lecture circuit.  This book is a thorough glimpse into highs and lows of an author, entertainer, husband, father and beloved American icon.

** Denotes books I have read

Happy reading,

Annette


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email: Readinginthegarden@gmail.com

Monday, August 12, 2013

Roughing It by Mark Twain

The Mark of Greatness (Mark Twain Week)

Mark Twain is an American icon, a master storyteller, who has captivated audiences for over 100 years. He is known and loved for his humor and remembered most notably for bringing the adventures of two boys to life: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He didn’t stop (or even start) there, though.  If you like his writing style, his sarcastic humor, you have many, many more books of his to enjoy. This week I’ll take a closer look at a few of his books. 

Roughing It by Mark Twain

A weaver of wit, sarcasm, and astute observation, this memoir of Twain’s life is a trip through Nevada, California, and the Sandwich Islands, now known as Hawaii in the mid 1800s. In 1861 Twain travels by stagecoach to Carson City, Nevada, where his brother, Orion, was appointed Territorial Secretary of Nevada. Twain recounts frontier life in Nevada with humorous tales of thieves, murderers, miners, Chinamen, buffalos, and coyotes. He tells of Mormon immigrants, of life in the desert, prospecting, and the dreary and laborious task of processing silver ore.

Though both my husband and I read this book years ago, we still laugh at the “spider” incident.  It’s also hard to forget Old Miss Wagner and her glass eye. With one amusing anecdote after another, this book is pure entertainment. They say laughter is the best medicine.  So, the next time you, or someone you know, is feeling down, pick up a copy of Roughing It.  It might not cure what ails you, but it should definitely make you smile.

“I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith & Wesson’s seven-shooter, which carried a ball like a homeopathic pill, and it took the whole seven to make a dose for an adult.”
Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 3.



“But don’t you know that the very thing a man dreads is the thing that always happens?”
Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 30.


“And the next instant,” added my informant, impressively, “he was one of the deadest men that ever lived.”
Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 44.


“It is chloroform in print.” (about the “Mormon Bible”)
Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 72.








Partial List of Mark Twain Works 
(In order of publishing year. Click on titles in red to read review)


·  **The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other StoriesBook of humorous short stories including a frog race in Calaveras County. 1865

·  Innocents Abroad Non-fiction travel book about Samuel Clemen’s journey through Europe on a chartered vessel. 1869

·  **Roughing ItNon-fiction, autobiographical account of Mark Twain’s six years he spent in the West (Nevada, California, and even Hawaii) in the 1860s.  1872

·  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Story of a cunning boy’s adventures in small river town. 1876

·  A Tramp Abroad – Non-fiction travel book. 1880

· The Prince and the Pauper – Story of a poor boy who resembles the prince so much, the prince decides to switch places with him to experience life outside the palace.  1882
·         
  **Life on the Mississippi- Non-fiction musings of Samuel Clemen’s life as a riverboat pilot and what it took to navigate those precarious waters. This book is filled with not only Clemen’s personal exploits, it is also aimed to be more educational with a few facts and figures of the Mississippi and towns around it. Mainly though, Twain drew me in and kept me there with his signature clever storytelling and amusing way with words. 1883

“…as for the contents of his skull, they could have changed place with the contents of a pie, and nobody would have been the worse off for it but the pie.” 
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, unknown), 443.

        “I managed to get around this question without committing myself.”
“I crept under that one.”
“I climbed over this one.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, unknown), 200.

·   **The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ­­– The story of a boy raised by a drunk father who runs away and rafts down the Mississippi with a runaway slave. 1885

·   A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court  - An American engineer is transported back to the time of the early Middle Ages in King Arthur’s court where he captivates the locals with his modern technology. 1889

·   **Those Extraordinary Twins - A novella about conjoined twins who also appear in Puddn’head Wilson. They are accused of assault in a small town and end up in court with Puddn’head Wilson defending the twins. 1892

·  The £1,000,000 Bank Note and Other New Stories – More short stories, essays and reflections by Mark Twain.  1893

·  Tom Sawyer Abroad – The last of Tom’s adventures, this short novel takes Tom, Huck, and former slave Jim, cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon; destination, Africa. There they encounter new sights like the Great Pyramids and engage in wild escapades. 1894

·   **Pudd'nhead Wilson - A young misunderstood lawyer has a hobby of collecting fingerprints, which he later uses to solve a crime. 1894

·  Tom Sawyer, Detective – Tom solves a mysterious murder involving his uncle.  1896

·   A Double Barrelled Detective StoryNovella about Sherlock Holmes in California. 1902

·  The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories – A collection of short stories.  The $30,000 Bequest is the tale of a couple who are to receive a large inheritance and start thinking of ways spend the money. Also includes A Dog's Tale – Told from the perspective of a dog, this short story relays how a dog saves a child from a burning house but is misunderstood and beaten.  1904

·   **The Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider  - Published posthumously in 1917 Sam Clemens chronicled his life from childhood to adulthood. In the preface of this book, he notes that he is speaking from the grave as he knew this would be published after his death.  He declares that what is written is a true an honest account of his life.  “It has seemed to me that I could be as frank and free and unembarrassed as a love letter if I knew what I was writing would be exposed to no eye until I was dead, and unaware and indifferent.”   Twain tells of growing up in Hannibal, Missouri, the inspiration for St. Petersburg, the fictional setting in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. A life that spanned 75 years, we learn of his time as a printer’s apprentice, a typesetter, a riverboat apprentice and later riverboat pilot, a silver miner, publisher, world traveler, lecturer, and of course, author.  We get to know his wife, Olivia, and their children, and learn of the devastating death of their daughter, Susy, and later another daughter, Jean.  We are also told of his financial troubles forcing him to return to the lecture circuit.  This book is a thorough glimpse into highs and lows of an author, entertainer, husband, father and beloved American treasure.

** Denotes books I have read

Happy reading,

Annette


What did you think of this Roughing It? Post a comment or email: Readinginthegarden@gmail.com

Monday, August 5, 2013

Favorite Books Worth Repeating

Annette’s 21 Book Salute 
(Say It Again, Sam Week)

Some books are entertaining.  Some are interesting.  Some books are fun and fast.  Some draw you in because of an exciting plot.  Some keep you going because of the author’s great writing style. And some books contain many if not all of these hooks that make them memorable. They wedge themselves in the folds of your brain, where you find yourself thinking about them every once in awhile.  The books listed below have done just that.  They’ve settled into a warm and cozy spot in my mind and heart.  For me, they are unforgettable.  They are some of my favorite books, although there are many others that also came very close to falling into this category. It was actually difficult to whittle this list down.  This is not a complete and final list of my favorites, just the ones that I have reviewed so far.  Check it out and see if any of them fall on your list, too. Click on the titles to read the reviews.

In Alphabetical Order

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Written with humor, this is a memoir of a poor boy growing up in Ireland, who later comes to America. Warning: this book may leave you with pangs of hunger in commiseration or pangs of guilt in having eaten that Snickers bar.

Phileas Fogg with his valet, Passepartout, race around the world in order to win a bet and find themselves in a series of adventures. I call it the original Amazing Race.

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Published in 1948, this is the biographical account of growing up in a family of twelve kids with an eccentric father who was an “efficiency expert.” 

City of Thieves by David Benioff
A novel about two men who are sentenced to death in St. Petersburg, Russia during WWII.  They are given a one chance for survival:  get a dozen eggs for a Soviet officer for his daughter’s wedding.  It’s an almost impossible request that leads the two into heartbreaking and dangerous adventures told with a gripping, humorous style.

The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas
A woman marries a man she barely knows and moves to the Colorado Territory where she faces adversity on the new frontier and in her home. Mattie is a practical, optimistic, and sometimes naïve woman who makes the best of the most trying situations. I was rooting for her all the way.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
In some seriously cold and god-forsaken place a man is trapped in an unhappy marriage.  Along comes someone to brighten his day, but ….well, you’ll just have to read it. 

The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken
A librarian forms a friendship with an overly tall boy.  She calls it love, and it is a love story.  But a different kind of love. Miss Cort narrates the story looking back on her life, and it “McCrackles” with a blunt, honest, and dryly humorous tone.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
A gripping memoir about unbelievable circumstances of Jeanette’s family growing up.  Both parents were extremely intelligent, but did everything they could not to work and properly provide for their family. Instead, the kids are always dirty, hungry outcasts.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Everyone knows this whopper of a book is about the saga of a spoiled Southern girl, Scarlett O’Hara, during and after the Civil War.  What you may not know is that the book differs a little from the movie. Sure, Scarlett is still spoiled and Rhett is oh so handsome. But in the book she has more than one child, and more shockingly in the book the famous quote of “Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn,” is strangely missing “Frankly.”

The Guernsey Literary and Potato PeelPie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
After WWII, writer Juliet Ashton finds herself corresponding with a man on Guernsey Island.  Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, she learns about the people and history of the island.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Set in volatile Jackson, Mississippi in the early sixties, this story revolves around a budding reporter who clandestinely interviews the black hired help. She compiles their true stories into a book that rocks the town.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 
Written by one of the famous Brontë sisters, this book follows the life of an orphan girl who endures many hardships before becoming a governess.  She falls in love with her master, totally inappropriate given her place in the household as well as the fact that she’s kind of homely compared to his upscale friends.  Charlotte Brontë first published the book under the pseudonym Currer Bell. Charlotte lived the longest of all the siblings but died shortly after she married.

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
A young girl is ripped away from her family and sent to a leper colony on Moloka’i in the late 1800s.  In this isolated place with a horrible disease Rachel grows up and learns to live with the hand she was dealt.
  
The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas
The women in a quilting bee in a small Kansas town in the 1930s welcome a new member to their group. Queenie, one of the farm wives, befriends Rita and tries to help her in her quest to become a journalist who is unraveling an unsavory secret.

Basil paints the portrait of handsome Dorian Gray. When Gray later makes an off-handed remark that he wished he would always look like that, it magically comes true.  But the results of a remarkable life of beauty and youth can become boring, and boredom can lead to no good.

Based on the true story of Evelyn Ryan who raised a hungry family of ten kids on contest winnings. Her husband is an alcoholic who does little to support the family. With humor and an indomitable spirit Evelyn wins money, food, toys, and even a car for the family.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Not to be confused with the kid’s classic Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, this story is about a young woman who marries a handsome widower.  Mrs. de Winter’s new life at Manderley is not what she thought it would be with housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers’, constant reminders of the late Rebecca de Winter. The book starts with one of the most famous openings: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman A twelve-year-old girl who lost her mother moves in with her great-aunt Tootie Caldwell. CeeCee begins her life in this southern town with a cast of memorable characters. Hoffman’s writing style is fun and amusing.

A successful children’s book author spends winters with his wife in the Caribbean and summers in Ghana with his second wife.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
After the sudden death of his parents, a veterinary student joins a circus.  As he learns the ropes in this world of animals and eccentric people, he falls in love with the brutal owner’s wife. Good book!

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
A memoir about an English couple who retires in southern France. It’ll make you laugh and hungry as he describes his new life and the delicious meals there.


Happy Reading!
Annette

Comments or questions email readinginthegarden@gmail.com


Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Magnificence and Murder at the 1893 World’s Fair (Murder, He Wrote Week)

Another book about a murderer I enjoyed was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It’s really two stories in one, based on actual events.  One plot follows architect, Daniel H. Burnham, of the 1893 World’s Fair (aka World’s Columbian Exposition) in Chicago.  The other narrative details the first recorded American serial killer, Dr. H.H. Holmes.  The planning and execution (forgive the pun) of the World’s Fair was absolutely amazing.  The fair covered about 600 acres with approximately 200 new buildings erected in a very short amount of time—all for six months of entertainment that over 27 million people attended!  It’s so sad that the remarkable buildings were intended to be temporary and no longer exist. While Burnham was busy planning something extraordinarily magnificent, H.H. Holmes, whose real name is Herman Webster Mudgett, planned something extraordinarily horrifying.  He too, constructed a remarkable building, but for other reasons.  The hotel he contracted to be built was remarkable in the fact that he somehow slipped in a gas chamber.  His house of horrors drew in beautiful women attending the World’s Fair.  But it was more like the Hotel California.  You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.  Holmes was one sick pup. 

Some women in my book club weren’t too thrilled to be reading about the exploits of a true killer, nor were they always as enthused about the abundance of detailed information about the construction of the World’s Fair.  In the end, though, most like the book. At the very least, it was eye-opening.  I truly enjoyed not only the stories, but also the author’s writing style and give it two thumbs-up—one for the architect’s story, one for the murderer’s story.


Happy Reading,
Annette


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