readerly rambles

Readerly Rambles: Two Books

readerly ramblesTo Let is the last installment of John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga detailing the drama-filled life of the wealthy Forsyte family. Galsworthy would go on to write two more three-book episodes concerning this changing family through the generations. To Let is the story of Soame’s daughter, Fleur, and Irene’s son, Jon, falling in love and the stress it brings on those two hurting families. It is also about the trouble that arises when one keeps family secrets from the young and doesn’t encourage open communication.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler is narrated by struggling college student, Rosemary Cooke. Rosemary’s brother left home as a teenager and her sister, Fern, has been missing since she was Rosemary was five years-old. It is very difficult to write about this book without spoilers, but I can tell you that this book is also about the trouble that arises when one keeps family secrets from the young and doesn’t encourage open communication.

Yes. Wildly different plots and characters, but — oddly — similar Truths in these novels I adored them both, but I absolutely wept during the Fowler book. SO GOOD.

~~~ Stats ~~~

To Let by John Galsworthy

Started: 7 April 2015

Finished: 13 April 2015

Pages: 230

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: owned

Stars: 4.5 out of 5 stars
~~~ Stats ~~~

We Are All Simply Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Started: 14 April 2015

Finished: 19 April 2015

Pages: 310

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: library

Stars: 5 out of 5 stars

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Readerly Rambles: 23 March 2015

readerly rambles

What I Read: I finished Susan Higginbotham’s historical fiction novel Her Highness the Traitor at lunch. The novel is herhighnarrated by Frances Grey – mother of Jane Grey the nine-day queen – and Jane Dudley — wife of the Duke of Northumberland. The novel traces the Duke of Northumberland’s rise to power and his installation of his daughter-in-law, Jane, as queen of England, many executions, and Mary Tudor’s claiming of the throne of England. There have been many fiction and non-fiction accounts of the Tudor’s history, but I liked that this book was narrated by the two mothers. The women had very little power and instead had to rely on letter writing, flirtation, flattery, giving gifts and being a good hostess to enact any change or to advocate for their loved ones. I will say that the first half of the book felt a little muddled; the chapters switch back and forth from Frances Grey and Jane Dudley. Their “voices” are so similar and found that I often had to look back and refresh my memory on which narration I was reading. After a hundred or so pages I was familiar enough with the household and characters to determine the speakers. By the end of the novel, both women are fully realized and beautifully constructed characters and their sorrow and loss are felt. Although not my favorite Higginbotham novel, this is a good one and I recommend it to Tudor history lovers.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 16 March 2015

Finished: 23 March 2015

Pages: 319

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: Borrowed from interlibrary loan

Stars: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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What I’m reading: I’ve already dipped into a new memoir called It was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell. I think I will either really like it or really hate it. It is a memoir about a woman coming to peace with her body and food after weight loss. I placed a request for it through interlibrary loan because I thought it was about a woman who lost weight and was still unhappy and realized it was her unhealthy relationship with food that was the problem. The back cover blurb is from the host of The Biggest Loser and I *hate* that show with every ounce of my tubby self. They perpetuate eating disorders, but that is a post for another day. I’ll let you know what I think next week.

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What’s up Next: More Galsworthy and a Virago novel. The next Forsyte book is To Let and my Virago read for this month will be Mr. Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner. Let’s see if I can get both knocked out before the end of the month.

Readerly Rambles: 16 March 2015

What I read: I read three books in the span of a week. before everyone get’s all excited let me tell you it was a YA novel, a comic collection, and a children’s classic. I’ll save the comic collection review for later (I plan on reviewing several comics at once in the future). For now here are my mini-reviews of the other two books I read.
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: I was consumed by this book. Funny, devastating,  and poignant, this story is about Arnold Spirit and navigating his life on the reservation and his life as a fairly popular kid at his predominately white high school. The drawings by Ellen Forney add a visual richness to the text. This story is so great for young people. It navigates teen problems like dating and friendship, it addresses poverty and addiction, it speaks about racism and privilege and all tied up with wry musings of a teenage boy. Ugly cry alert; I haven’t cried this much since I read The Book Thief.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 9 March 2015

Finished: 10 March 2015

Pages: 240

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: Borrowed from university library

Stars: Five out of Five

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Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Sam gifted me a beautiful Penguin Threads edition of this childhood favorite. This Victorian novella follows the life of Black Beauty, a horse of good-nature and high spirit, from a the time he is a colt until his “retirement” to a happy field to live out the rest of his days. This book isn’t for everyone. I’m sure many people would find it cloyingly sweet and moralistic. Sewell discusses animal abuse and work conditions, but she also manages to add in all sorts of moral lessons from “don’t drink” to “be honest” to “don’t stay out in the rain too long.” This story hit a perfect pitch with me and animal rights are so important to me. There were many beautiful quotations about valuing animal life. Here are a few favorites:

“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.”

“Do you know why this world is as bad as it is?… It is because people think only about their own business, and won’t trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed, nor bring the wrong-doers to light… My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.”

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 13 March 2015

Finished: 15 March 2015

Pages: 224

Challenges: Back to the Classics Challenge — Children’s Classic

Owned/Borrowed/Library: Owned

Stars: Four out of Five

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What’s Up Next: Tonight I’m starting a new volume of Fables (Camelot, #20) and later this week I plan on digging into Susan Higginbotham’s novel about Jane Grey, Her Highness, The Traitor.

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: 9 March 2015

readerly rambles

What I Read: My weekend was busy, but thanks to the #flashreadathon I was determined to fit some reading in. I finished In Chancery by John Galsworthy and it was every bit as good as Man of Property. chance1

The story takes place about a dozen years after the events of The Man of Property. Winifred is having trouble with her irascible husband, Monty, and it seems as if a highly scandalous divorce is her only option. She is being advised by her brother Soames Forsyte. Soames has troubles of his own; he desperately wants a son so that his property and name and can pass on. Soames entertains the notion of marrying Annette, a French girl working in her mother’s restaurant, but dreads divorcing Irene, his estranged wife. Soames still believes that Irene is his property and that she should return to him and give him a son. The entire plot unfolds – complete with scandal, divorce, death, marriage, and children – with Soames as the instigator. The desire of Soames to possess humans in the same way he possesses his picture collection sets off a chain of events that will impact the lives of the Forsytes for decades. I encourage fans of Downton Abbey to pick-up this series. It is a billion times better than Downton Abbey could ever hope to be.

What I’m Reading: I picked up Lucy Knisley’s French Milk yesterday, but I couldn’t get into it. I’m hopeful I’ll start a book that will stick tonight.

What’s Up Next: Sherman Alexie’s the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I’m really excited about this one.

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: 16 February 2015

readerly rambles

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What I Read: The other day I had a hankering for a very particular type of book. I wanted a non-classic, academic/nerd thriller. On a whim I went to the public library and returned home with three contenders. I ended up starting Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl and I couldn’t put it down. Blue Van Meer is a precocious high school student with a enigmatic father who is a professor and rejects putting down roots. A combination of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, this novel is smart, fast-paced, and will keep you guessing. Filled with teen angst, encyclopedic trivia, and criminality, this book was exactly what I needed.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 04 February 2015

Finished: 13 February 2015

Pages: 514

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: From the public library

Stars: Four out of Five

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What I’m Reading: I’m about 50 pages into my reread of Antonia White’s Frost in May. I’m really enjoying it, as I’m a huge fan of boarding school novels. Funny story; Atticus was pretending to read this book last week and I asked him what it was about. He very nonchalantly informed me that it was about a mommy and an Atticus being chased by a dragon and they had to climb into a volcano to find but then were burned black and went to live with trolls. Ummmmm… not exactly, but that would make an exciting story. I hope to wrap up this slim book in a few days.

What’s Up Next: I might dip into a graphic novel (French Milk, perhaps?) or maybe start volume two of the Forsyte Saga, In Chancery.

Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: 02 February 2015

readerly rambles

What I Read: I finished three books in January. I thought I would slip a fourth book in but then a wicked stomach bug obliterated our house. I haven’t been “actively ill” since Friday, but I STILL CANNOT DRINK COFFEE. I feel so unlike myself.  Anyhoo, onto the books. I read Emily Eden’s The Semi-attached Couple and the Semi-detached House for the Virago Project and I read the first book in the Forsyte Saga, The Man of Property by John Galsworthy.

My last book of the month was Catherine Bailey’s The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, A Plotting Duchess, & a Family Secret. Baily originally did not set out to write this book. She wanted to write about the 1,700 young men from the estate’s 30 villages who fought in World War 1. Many of the soldiers didn’t survive. As she was sifting through the 9th Duke of Rutlands “secret rooms” — where he meticulously cataloged and archived all the family’s correspondence and documents — she discovered three HUGE gaps with very precise start and end dates. Fascinated by the intentional editing of this family’s history she set off to explore what secrets lurked in those gaps.

I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book. The meticulously detailed logs and letters, the layout of the castle, the daily lives of the servants…. riveting. What makes it more exciting is the books details the night the 9th Duke dies and indicates that an attempted break-in occurred shortly after his death. I was riveted and then I wasn’t. See I was expecting espionage or madness or incest or something sordid and wicked. Instead I found the three gaps to be “meh”. The first is tragic, but not scandalous. The second was cranky, but not scandalous. The last secret was scandalous, but I think only in that time period and I believe modern readers will be more sympathetic. And the break in detailed at the beginning of the book? Never resolved and completely unrelated to all the secrets. Grrrr.. So there isn’t a haunted castle, the duchess is more overbearing, conniving mother than plotting and the family secrets are meh.

That isn’t to say that this book is no good, I did really like it. The historical detail about World War 1 was fascinating and I loved hearing about all the letters. Read it for the research and the history and NOT for juicy gossip.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 23 January 2015

Finished: 29 January 2015

Pages: 465

Challenges:

Owned/Borrow/Library: From the library

Stars: Four out of Five

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What I’m Reading: At lunch I picked up Geek Love by Katherine Dunn for the Estella Society Read-along!

GeekLoveRAL-300x300I’m also still into my Cranford audiobook.

What’s Up Next: In addition to Geek Love and Cranford, my February TBR consists of:

  • Frost in May by Antonia White for the Virago Project and my TBR Challenge
  • In Chancery by John Galsworthy for the Forsyte Saga Read
  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters for the Literary Exploration GoodReads Group
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell for fun
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson as an audiobook.

Bookish Miscellany:

I’m putting the final touches on my gift for my Bookish Valentine! I’m having so much fun with it!

Let me know what’s shaking in your corner of the reading world. Happy Reading!

Readerly Rambles: Bookish Hauls, a Bookstagramathon, and a Challenge

readerly rambles

First, I’d like to share my bookish spoils. Many thanks to Sam for knowing exactly what I wanted.

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Penguin Threads collection is complete!

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Now I only lack the last two books in the Penguin Horror series. Huzzah!

bookstagram_readathon

If you follow me on Instagram (nerdybookgirl) you may know that I am participating in the Bookstagramathon. My goals are to finish The LuminariesIntroverts in Church, and my audiobook of Rebecca. This will get me to my 40 book goal. I also plan on posting my January TBR and digging into my first read of 2015. Expect updates on Instagram and I’ll do a brief update next week on the blog.

backtotheclassics2015BUTTON

Now, I’ve decided to join another challenge even though I swore I wouldn’t. BUT, a good chunk of my reading is composed of classic novels. I just couldn’t help myself. I am going to play really loosey goosey with this challenge. I’m not posting a list. Instead I am going to fill-in where I can. Check out Back to the Classics and let me know if you will be participating