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Showing posts from December, 2011

End of year meme

I can’t believe it’s the end of 2011! I think I always breathe a sigh of relief once Christmas is over. Last weekend in observation of Christmas we had a 3-day weekend, and this week in observation of the New Year, we had another 3-day weekend, so it’s been nice to have a bit of a break, even if I couldn’t take a full vacation this week as I was originally planning. I’ve been busy with stuff at work and school, and it feels good to finish the year off strong. I stole this from Verity at Cardigangirlverity!

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before? Moved in to my new apartment in January! Started working on my Master’s degree in biomedical writing.
2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t typically make (or keep) New Year’s resolutions, but this year I think I’d like to keep up an effort to clean house more often. Literally clean house, I’m often very lazy about that kind of thing! I’d also like to be more social and reach o…

Booking Through Thursday

What were your favorite books of 2011?

1. A Woman’s Place, by Ruth Adam
Wonderful social history of women in Britain from WWI to 1975.

2. The Du Mauriers, by Daphne Du Maurier
Du Maurier’s account of a few generations of her family, in particular her grandfather, George Du Maurier, author of a popular Victorian children’s book.

3. Few Eggs and No Oranges, by Vere Hodgson
A diary that the author kept during WWII. I loved her sense of humor, even though she went through something horrific.

4. Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, by Isabella Bird
A fantastic travelogue, written by a fearless woman who became the first Western woman to travel in the hinterlands of Japan.

5. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (re-read)
One of my favorite books of all time!

6. Anderby Wold, by Winifred Holtby
I love all of Winifred Holtby’s novels, and although this was only her first, I love the way that she depicts Yorkshire life.

7. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
Another classic, and on that I should have read many years ago…

Review: Bricks and Mortar, by Helen Ashton

Pages: 304
Original date of publication: 1933
My edition: 2004 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: Persephone catalogue
How I acquired my copy: Persephone shop, London, September 2011

In Bricks and Mortar, a young architect meets and marries a young woman named Letty, mostly through the finagling of her mother. Unhappy in his home life, over the next thirty years, Martin Lovell looses himself in his work, moving houses every now and then. He also takes comfort in his relationship with his daughter Stacy.
Although not written in the first person, we see everything from Martin’s point of view, so, for example, in the opening scene when he arrives in Rome, the first thing that’s described is the city’s buildings. Ashton’s descriptions of architecture are truly beautiful. Poor Martin gets trodden on right from the first, but he takes comfort in the work he’s passionate about, and in the daughter who possesses a fiery spirit and a passion almost equal to his own. It’s a beautifully written book,…

Review: The Winds of Heaven, by Monica Dickens

Pages: 320
Original date of publication: 1955
My edition: 2010 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: It’s a Persephone reprint
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, April 2011

In The Winds of Heaven, a woman in late middle age is left nearly destitute when her husband dies. Forced to live off her three daughters, Louise spends her time going back and forth between the three of them. One is married to a successful attorney; another to a rural farmer; and the third works as an actress in London, having an affair with a married man.
It’s a bittersweet little story; Louise is treated as elderly, although she’s only 57, and treated as though she’s yesterday’s trash by her daughters and their husbands. On the other hand, she begins a friendship with a man who works in the mattress section of a large department store, offering her some kind of companionship in her “old age.” Dudley is the only one who treats Louise really well, not expecting anything back from her, but it’s not until it’…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
Be sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

“She stayed out late, deliberately, in order to keep Miles waiting. With her return t London she had regained something of her feminine self-assurance.”

--From
Family History, by Vita Sackville-West

Review: Ordinary Families, by E. Arnot Robertson

Pages: 331
Original date of publication: 1933
My edition: 1986 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: It’s on the list of VMCs
How I acquired my copy: Charing Cross Road bookshop, London, September 2011


Ordinary Families is the story of an English family living in the small village of Pin Mill. Lallie is one of four children to a former adventurer, and they spend their days boating and hunting in Suffolk.

This is one of those classic coming of age stories in which one girl struggles to figure out her place in a large family, overshadowed as she is by her beautiful older sister. I liked Robertson’s descriptions of the family, especially Lallie and her father, but I also thought her descriptions of the family’s boating excursions were a bit, er, overboard at times. Robertson is good at character development and exploring the relationships between the various family members. It’s also very frank, for the 1930s, about various aspects of growing up. Because the plot moves along at a very slow pace, it’…

The Sunday Salon

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is just a week away, and that the end of the year is two weeks away! I’ve spent the past couple of weeks doing the usual Christmassy things: buying gifts, etc. There doesn’t seem to be much point in actually decorating my apartment for Christmas, since it’s just one person. But it’s been fun seeing all the Christmas trees go up in the windows of the apartments in my apartment complex, and seeing the Christmas decorations down in the lobby. I also re-watched Love Actually, which is my favorite Christmas movie. So I’ve {kind of) gotten into the spirit of Christmas this year!As for reading, I’ve just not done very much of it this year in comparison to other years. Usually I can read about 150 books per year, but this year I’m drastically down, with only 93 books finished (realistically only one or two more will be finished before the end of the year). Part of it is that I’ve been busy with school; and with me officially starting work on my Master’s deg…

Persephone Secret Santa: Revealed!

About a week ago, I received a package in the mail with the telltale Persephone postmark on it, and yesterday I finally opened it to find… Marghanita Laski’s Little Boy Lost, which was given by Allie at A Literary Odyssey. A couple of years ago I read The Victorian Chaise Lounge and enjoyed it, so I’m eager to read this one as well. Thank you so much! I gave a copy of Someone at a Distance to Colleen at Colreads. I make no secret of the fact that Dorothy Whipple is one of my favorite Persephone authors, so when I saw this was on her wish list, this was a no-brainer. Interestingly enough, we live in the same state (Pennsylvania)!Happy Persephone Secret Santa! What did you give or receive, if you participated?

Review: Aspergirls, by Rudy Simone

Pages: 231
Original date of publication: 2010
My edition: 2010 (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)
Why I decided to read: I was on Amazon looking for books on Asperger’s to read
How I acquired my copy: Amazon, September 2001



I'm not usually into reading books about Asperger's, but I picked this book up because I recently disclosed it to my supervisor at work (after experiencing sensory processing problems), who told me he thought it was "just a label." This book more or less confirms everything I've ever known about Asperger's, but it's tailored to women and girls, which makes it much more relevant, at least to me. For some reason, research on autism and Asperger's focuses more on the male experience, so I thought that this book was refreshing in that aspect.

The book is divided into chapters that focus on all the challenges that girls and women with AS experience: self-taught reading skills, sensory problems, gender roles, puberty, dating and relationships, frie…

Review: The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald

Pages: 123
Original date of publication: 1978
My edition: 1997 (Houghton Mifflin)
Why I decided to read: LibraryThing recommendation
How I acquired my copy: The Strand, NYC, April 2011


In 1959, Florence Green opens a bookshop in the seaside town of Hardborough, a quintessential small village in which everyone knows everyone else’s business—and many people are resistant to change. Flying in the face of opposition, Florence opens her shop, which is popular at first—and then various interfering busybodies in Hardborough try to shut her down.

I thought that Florence as a character was a little bit flat and she tends to take back seat to some of the more interesting characters such as Christine, Florence’s assistant, or even the small-minded Violet Gamart. Florence doesn’t seem to be much of a reader; for example, when she reads the reviews that Lolita has gotten, she asks Milo to read it instead of reading it herself. She doesn’t even seem to care too much when the townspeople try to shut the b…

Review: One Fine Day, by Mollie Panter-Downes

Pages: 184
Original date of publication: 1946
My edition: 1985 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read: It’s on the list of Virago Modern Classics
How I acquired my copy: The Last Word bookshop, Philadelphia


Set in the summer of 1946, One Fine Day is a novel about the inhabitants of one town as they try to regain some semblance of normal lives after WWII. Laura Marshall is the focal point of the story, but other characters meander in and out throughout the book. Even the dogs have personality.

Things are clearly changing; Laura, for example, tries to make do without household help, and the Cranmers leave the Manor after their family had been there for hundreds of years. Yet people are still forced to use ration books. The tone of the novel is bittersweet, a kind of wistful yearning for a way of life that can’t go on post-war: “it was too idiotic, but there she was all the time, down in her house in Wealding, struggling to keep up a life which had really ended.” Things are different f…

Review: The World My Wilderness, by Rose Macaulay

Pages: 254
Original date of publication: 1950
My edition: 1992 (Virago Modern Classics
Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of Virago Modern Classics
How I acquired my copy: the Philadelphia Book Trader, August 2011


The World My Wilderness is the story of Barbara Denison (or Barbary), a teenage girl who used to live with her Bohemian mother and French stepfather in France during WWII. All her experience is with the French Resistance, running free to do as she liked. When her stepfather drowns, Barbary is sent back to her father, a distinguished lawyer, and to London, still ruined from the Blitz and very much resembling a ghost town.

On the surface, The World My Wilderness is a coming of age story, set at a time when things had changed drastically. Macaulay uses the theme of wilderness and jungle over and over to illustrate the way that Barbary feels. She’s torn between the two halves of her family, belonging no place and lost. The World My Wilderness is one of Rose Macaulay’s most compli…

The Sunday Salon

Another Sunday again! I’ve been spending my weekend a number of ways: yesterday my sister came down to Philly from New York, so I met her and a few of her friends for some shopping at Anthropologie and brunch, and then more shopping on Pine Street, where there are a few consignment shops where you can get designer fashion for really, really cheap! That’s how I found a fantastic camel-colored DKNY coat for $55! I love finding hidden gems like that, don’t you?

Today I am back at the grindstone, as I had several assignments to revise for class that are due tomorrow. Friday is the last day of class, so I have a break for a bit before the spring. I’ve finished everything but my final paper, which I haven’t gotten back from the instructor yet; thank goodness she gave us an extension for revisions on that!

I am always surprised at this time of year how close Christmas is. Only a little over 3 weeks away! I am never very good at shopping for Christmas gifts, because I’m very, very bad at figuri…

Review: Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons

Pages: 233
Original date of publication: 1932
My edition: 2006 (Penguin)
Why I decided to read: It’s on the list of 1001 books to read before you die
How I acquired my copy: Waterstone’s, Piccadilly, London, September 2011


A tongue-in-cheek satire, Cold Comfort Farm is a novel about a young woman named Flora Poste, who goes to live with her cousins, the Starkadder family, on their farm in Sussex. It’s a cast of characters, to be sure: Judith and Amos, and their children, Seth, Reuben, and Elfine; and a host of others, including the reclusive Aunt Ada Doom, who hasn’t left her room in 20 years because she saw something nasty in the woodshed when she was a child. One by one, Flora takes on each member of the family, acting as a sort of fairy godmother, especially to Elfine.

It’s a funny novel, but not overtly so. For example, I loved the part where Mr Mybug (not really his name, but no matter) regales Flora with his theory about Branwell Bronte being the author of Wuthering Heights. In this w…

Where my two college majors collide

… or, where history meets literature. Isn’t it interesting how off the wall documents like library records can tell you so much about someone? What will our descendants be inferring about us from our reading habits 100 years from now?http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2011/11/the_wondrous_database_that_reveals_what_books_americans_checked_out_of_the_library_a_century_ago_.html

Review: The Rose Garden, by Susanna Kearsley

Pages: 429
Original date of publication: 2011
My edition: 2011 (Sourcebooks)
Why I decided to read: It was offered to be for review
How I acquired my copy: review copy from the publisher, July 2011

Warning: spoilers below!


The Rose Garden is Susanna Kearsley at her best. Eva Ward is a publicist who comes to the Cornish coast to scatter the ashes of her recently-deceased sister. A house called Trelowarth was once the home of smugglers, and Eva finds herself drawn back into the 18th century where she meets a man named Daniel Butler and becomes associated with Jacobean plots.

Daniel Butler is kind of a mystery as a character, because we only get to see him for short snatches of time. But I can definitely see how appealing he is as a hero. But other than that, the character development of this novel is good. Better than that, though, is the writing. Kearsley’s writing is smooth, and the romance aspect of the novel is neatly woven in—it’s not too strong, but we know where Eva’s heart lies.

The plo…