It took me so long to read Tipping the Velvet, not because it wasn’t good, but because I was so annoyed with the protagonist Nancy that I had to keep walking away from it. Blargh!
Nancy Astley is just an ordinary fish monger’s daughter, until she discovers the theatre and more specifically Kitty Butler. Kitty’s act is singing as a male impersonator. Nancy falls head over heels in love and when Kitty must leave for another gig, Nancy signs on as her dresser. It doesn’t take long for the two to become lovers and then to Nancy’s surprise a duet upon the stage. Nancy trades her skirts for men’s trousers and a new name: Nan King. Nan King is a star in her own right with plenty of her own admirers but she only has eyes for Kitty. Everything is peachy until it isn’t and Kitty breaks her heart.
I’m going to get Spoilery…
Nan! Grr. First, she acts appropriately after Kitty’s revelation: moping and crying and acting like an angsty teen, all that she’s missing is blasting “All By Myself” for hours at a time. It’s what she does after she puts her pants on that’s the problem. She stumbles into prostitution, as a dude. It’s almost impressive how she manages this. Her reasons for taking on this career drove me insane: Revenge. Revenge? She gives some explanation but all I could think of was Alexandre Dumas and what he might say to this.
I don't know how she figures she's getting back at anyone. Kitty can’t see her. What does she get out of it? Some weird kick when men tell her she’s “such a pretty boy” while she laughs to herself? As for money, she could have gone to her theatre friends for help if she needed it but her pride wouldn’t let her. Worse is to come because a nasty rich lady takes her in and says “I own your soul!” Nancy, being Nancy, says *shrug* “okay.” She turns her back on the only true friends she has because the evil lady has lots of money and she’s hot for teacher. And so begins the most heartless relationship ever created.
End of Spoilers.
Later, when she finally gets herself together, someone lays out for her all her deeds and the flawed logic that lead to them. It takes that for her to see just how much of a brat she has been. She lets things happen to her and then blames destiny for it, like she has no responsibility for her own actions. It was this attitude that made me frustrated with Nancy and found it hard to sympathize with her.
Thankfully, Nancy does grow as a person and by the end becomes less self-absorbed. It takes awhile.
I didn’t enjoy this Sarah Waters as much as the other two I read: Affinity and The Little Stranger. They, being more creepy, were different in tone. I think I had come to expect books with that feel. Very Wilkie Collins-ish. I would have loved it more had I read it before the others. Tipping the Velvet is Waters’s debut novel and I thought parts dragged on too long. That’s not to say it wasn’t brilliant in places. It was shocking and funny and heartbreaking. I’m always impressed by Waters’s ability to convey emotion. The reader is with Nancy watching Kitty’s act over and over, falling in love with Kitty the actress like a modern teen might fall in love with a TV star. I might not have always liked Nancy but she always felt real.
What can I leave you with? It’s bold. Waters doesn’t pull any punches. Be prepared. There are many Sexytimes. I’ll never look at the Victorians the same way again.
I know I said I wasn't interested in the Olympics but those Opening Ceremonies suckered me right in. I haven't watched much of the games though. I really liked the Winter Olympics. What can I say, I am Canadian. The Summer ones, not so much. I tried to watch the Men’s Beach Volleyball but that wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped. Right now the Women’s Cycling is on. I’m hoping Clara Hughes does well but it’s not looking good.
I’m making my way through Tipping the Velvet, still. I think I’ve passed the part that was annoying me. I still want to kick Nancy in the pants though. She’s rather bratty. Not much left of the book now. I can do it! All these pages are counting toward my Olympic Reading. Not bad so far.
Two books came in the mail this week: Diving Belles by Lucy Wood and All Is Clam by Hilary MacLeod. That’s it.
And have you heard?! Estella’s Revenge E-zine has been reincarnated as The Estella Society! So exciting!! If you are a book blogger, get involved.
Finally, here are this week’s Photo a Day pics. For a better look, check out my Tumblr.
I went into Spoiled with fairly low expectations. First, two authors. Second, the authors are bloggers (I have bug up my butt about bloggers turned authors: “Hey, let’s write a book!") Snooty-snoot-snoot me. But wait! I loooved Spoiled. It’s not Austen (Austen may have written about Hollywood children had she lived now, who knows?) but it was fun and funny and just what I needed.
The plot, my friends, is this: Molly Dix just lost her Mom to cancer and found out that her father is actually Brick Berlin, a Tom Cruise-type actor who lives in California with his other daughter, Brooke. Molly finds herself on a plane to California to start a new life with this newly found family, but to add insult to injury Brooke is unwilling to share the spotlight or her father with anyone else. She’s making Molly’s transition into this strange new world extremely difficult.
What can I tell you? Spoiled is fun! I laughed at the antics of Brooke and her nemesis Shelby. Those girls have a long history of crazy and are quite good at swapping insults. Beverly Hills is fertile ground for crazy antics. No wonder Molly feels lost in her old running shoes. Not everyone Molly meets is banana-pancakes though. Her new friends Max and Teddy add some normalcy to the situation. They can give her some perspective and offer advice- though not always good advice.
Spoiled has a lot of heart too. Not only does Molly have to adjust to a new life but she must decide what to do with her old boyfriend back home, a boy who helped her through the toughest time of her life. Brooke is not completely unsympathetic. Although she is totally self-absorbed, she is scarred from her mother’s abandonment and desperate for her absent father’s attention. There’s definitely a feeling of “rich people have feelings too” in the pages.
So enjoy Spoiled. I think you will. The only problem with the book is that at just one year old it’s already dated: Demi and Ashton? Tom and Katie? Who are they again?
Grammar. Is it surprising that song writers are intrigued with it? Probably not, considering they are manipulating language to suit their needs. Often grammar goes out the window when it comes to creating a good rhyme. Strangely enough, I heard two songs this weekend that referenced grammar in some way.
Underwhelmed by Sloan. This song has been around since I was in high school but I don’t think I really clued into what it was about. It’s allllll about grammar. First, he says underwhelmed isn’t a real word, then he corrects his girl friend’s grammar and she doesn’t realize it. His fastidiousness drives a wedge between them. She, fed up, writes a story about her life and their relationship. He tells her “affection has two f’s.” This is a doomed romance, obviously.
North Star by Joel Plaskett Emergency. Just a quick reference- he’s working on his grammar while driving his Chevy.
My thanks to Laina who pointed out that Oxford Comma by Vampire Weekend is about, well, the Oxford Comma. Who gives a fuck about the Oxford Comma? I do. I use it all the time.
There must be more. Do you know of any?
For kicks, here’s Underwhelmed. I’m not sure if I should feel really old or young again.
Keep working on your grammar, people, or you’ll end up in a song.
(Brought to you by the letter D, for Don’t want to write a review.)
Two people share a gift. Even though they live on opposite sides of the Atlantic, they’ve grown up together. Maggie Johnson lives in South Carolina; Andrew MacDonnell in the Highlands of Scotland. Maggie sees Andrew in her dreams, sometimes experiencing what he experiences. The year 1746 will test their connection to each other. Each have battles to fight before they’re under the same sky.
Leave your disbelief on page one, my lady friends! Escapism, ahoy! Highlanders? We got ‘em. Cherokee heroes? Got ‘em too. All that and a profound mystical understanding between the hero and heroine- before they even meet! And when she’s in deep do-do he tells her he will find her, through her dreams. Oh my.
But it’s not all happy fun times. There is some brutal scenes in this novel. Bru-tal. Probably right up there in my top ten of horrific stuff that happens to fictional characters. Graham takes the writer’s maxim of kill your darlings to heart. It ain’t pretty.
If you can gird your loins and get through the bad stuff, you’ll find a darn good plot and excellent writing in Under the Same Sky. I was swept up in the story. The pacing is fast with one thing after another happening to the hero and heroine. This is a romantic story but the hero and heroine spend most of the novel miles apart so not much in the Sexytimes department. The secondary characters aren’t just props either. They have their own wishes and desires too. I would have loved to have seen what Graham could do with characters like Janet and Soquili.
I enjoyed Under the Same Sky very much and recommend it to anyone with a hankering for a little Scottish romance.
Genevieve Graham is a Canadian writer living right here in Nova Scotia. Yay! So this one counts for the Canadian Books Challenge. She has a second book out now with Andrew’s brother as the hero. Excellent.
Thanks to Penguin for the review copy.
Happy Sunday, ducklings! How's she goin'? Going good here. We've all recovered from the plague and are back in business. The hubs is on vacation now so I foresee many days of doing nothing. I get lazy when he's around.
I could talk about all the book blogging controversies on the internets but A. I’m trying to be less “bloggy” here and B. aren’t we tired of it? Anyway it’s all a matter of people saying “you should review like this and if you don’t you are a Big Meanie” and that’s just silly. Let’s move onward.
I don’t know if it’s the heat or the fact that I’m reading Les Miserables on the side but I can’t get into a serious book. Instead, I’m reading things like Spoiled by Heather Dicks and Jessica Morgan. It’s cotton candy for the brain but soooo entertaining. I even downloaded an audiobook, The Expats, but haven’t even turned it on yet. I’ve been listening to Bananarama and Blondie all week instead (raise your hand if you remember them!). It’s just that kind of week.
Apparently the Universe is in tune with my mood because Sourcebooks sent me a bunch of romances this week. How did they know?
Last night I watched a bookish movie One for the Money, based on the Stephanie Plum series. It was cute but not great. I don’t know why she didn’t go for that Ranger guy. Yoozers! I would like to start reading the series now though.
How’s this for bizarre? I dreamt I was reading 50 Shades of Grey. Just happened to be reading it in this dream. I feel like I was in that episode of Futurama where Fry discovers his dreams have ads in them. I even woke up wondering if I was reading it then realized I wouldn’t fork out the $$$ for it. Library? Ebook only please. Har-de-har-har. Anyway the waiting list is too long. I’m waiting for Gone Girl from the library and I’m 13th in the queue. I’m thinking I might need to buy it. Here’s the thing though: if I buy it I know it will languish months on my shelf. A library copy provides a sense of urgency. “I must read it now! I only have 2 weeks!” Am I the only person who does this?
I should wrap this up. The Photo A Day Challenge was quite challenging for me this week but I did it. Here’s what you’ll find on my Tumblr.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend!
Origins of this feature:
Every so often I get emails from a certain big box bookstore that I've purchased from in the past with the declaration, "If You Liked...., Then You'll Like...." The trouble is I often wonder how these books are related. Who made the decision that these books are similar enough that having liked one, I'll like the other? Was it a real person? Or a computer generated list? I've thought about this form of marketing and believe I know a few books that belong together. If there was a box set of related books, like they do those movies at Halloween or Valentine's Day, these are the ones I'd choose to package together.
Young Ladies’ Entrances Into the World
Evelina by Fanny Burney
Evelina finally gets to leave her home in the country for the big city of London. While there, she fights off unwanted encounters in the backs of carriages, is kidnapped a couple of times, endures the machinations of her vulgar relatives, and even gets taken for a walk with a couple of prostitutes. You know, everyday stuff.
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Catherine Moreland also finally gets to leave her country home for the city of Bath. Catherine grew up on the works of authors like Burney and is looking for adventure. Luckily, she finds some but her misadventures skew toward the social faux pas of others. She’s manhandled much less than poor Evelina, although she is taken for an unwanted carriage ride with a ne’er do well.
Jane Austen parodied many books, especially the gothic potboilers, that were popular novels of the time in Northanger Abbey. Evelina was one of them. Although not a gothic novel, Evelina’s plot involved a naive young girl in a constant danger of losing her virginity. Even though it was a more extreme novel than Northanger Abbey, both satirize the society the authors’ live in.
If you’ve read all the Austen novels but would like something similar, I recommend reading Evelina.
In 1922, Cora Carlisle, a housewife and mother to two grown boys, agrees to chaperone a fifteen year old dancer to New York City for the summer. The teenager is Louise Brooks, the not yet famous silent film actress. Louise has her own ideas about New York City and they don’t include a stick in the mud chaperone. Louise wants excitement, gin, and men eating out of her hand. Cora has her own agenda for the trip which is revealed in flashbacks throughout the story. By the end of the trip, secrets are brought to light and Cora makes some major changes in her life.
The book is titled The Chaperone because although Louise Brooks is the reason for the trip to New York City the story is all about Cora. I enjoyed learning about her as the story progressed so I won’t say to much about her background or her life so that you can experience that yourself. I will say that sometimes I laughed, with Louise, over her naivety. It’s sad actually that Cora saw the world the way that she did. She didn’t have much choice in it since she lived with Prohibition a long time as well as the popular attitudes towards sex. And, well, her marriage wasn’t all that it should have been. Louise on the other hand is all too knowledgeable for the wrong reasons. They both are a reflection for the times: bathtub gin and Prohibition, Flappers and corsets, all incongruous.
Since the book is The Chaperone, I expected the story to wrap up after her chaperonage was over, instead the book continued right up until the end of Cora’s life. It’s not that I didn’t like this continuation but it was like it was another book. A sequel? Cora was reading The Age of Innocence during the summer, and commented at one point about what an idiot Newland was for tossing away his chance at happiness. She thought it was a stupid ending for a book (yep). Once Cora decides to pursue her own happiness, I thought that was it. I was surprised to see so much book left! I would have been totally satisfied with an epilogue or even just turn it off with a sigh and think, “I wonder how it all worked out?” I guess I expect books to end that way. The last 50 years of her life felt like it had been crammed in there. Still, that didn’t keep me from bawling at the end.
About the Audio: The Chaperone is narrated by Elizabeth MacGovern, aka Lady Cora Crawley. So a Cora is narrating another Cora’s thoughts. Hrr? I was a little thrown by that at first. I kept imagining Lady Crawley at the dinner table reacting in shock over something Lady Sybil said. MacGovern is a good choice since she plays a character of that era anyway. I enjoyed her Kansas accents.
Guess what? I joined the Photo a Day July Challenge hosted by Fat Mum Slim. I’ve been using my much neglected Tumblr for daily uploads but I’m taking Kelly’s approach and posting the week’s worth on my blog. This is a collage from this week’s photos in no particular order. It’s been fun and challenging.
Speaking of photo challenges, Kelly and Trish are co-hosting the Where in the World Are You Reading? Monthly Meme. Luckily you have lots of time to add a post. I want to but need to get myself near a bookstore first.
Because I hadn’t been feeling too well, I read a lot. I finished Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham, a historical romance with a paranormal twist. I really liked it which just goes to show you need to mix things up a bit. I also listened to The Chaperone, liked that one too. I’ll have reviews up soon. I’ve started Les Miserables. I’m not sure what to make of it. So far, nothing has happened. Not sure what Victor Hugo was going for here but since I’ve only at page 50 of 1500, I’ll give it some time.
Hopefully, by next Sunday I will have something to talk about. There’s lots of stuff going on out there but I just don’t have the mental power to put any thoughts together.
Grace’s husband disappeared one evening leaving their baby girl in her stroller just outside their front door. The police and neighbours search for him but the general consensus is he got tired of being a grown up and split. Grace moves back to the city, leaving their new life in the country behind. But not really, because she moves back to the tiny village a year later to decide what to do with the house and possibly figure out what happened that night.
It took me two tries to get into Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster. The first time, I was cranky with it. I wasn’t liking the writing style, too much tell, and Grace has suspicious eyes for everyone without any real explanation (also some weird formatting error with my ecopy was making me crazy). I actually put this aside for a month, which was a good thing, because whatever my problem was the first time had fluttered away. I was liking it a lot. I wanted to know what was going on in that house and the gothic atmosphere was A-OK. I’m still not in love with Foster’s writing style but either she improved as the book went on or I got used to it.
About that gothic atmosphere. Grace’s house, which is actually her husband’s grandparents’ old house, is in the Yorkshire moors. Of course it is. It snows a lot, leaving her stuck in the house. She has a weird neighbour and it just wouldn’t be a gothic novel without a loony family. Then there’s the house which has a freaky clock and a creepy basement.
Although there were parts that were Nancy Drew-esque (the mysterious ticking clock), I ended up liking Beneath the Shadows. The ending wasn’t that much of a surprise but I was interested enough in what happened to Grace’s husband that any faults the book had I could overlook. I also appreciated the nods to Rebecca sprinkled here and there.
This is a nice quick read for a sultry summer night, thoughts of winter snowstorms will keep you cool.
Thanks to St Martin’s Press for the review copy via NetGalley.
So, Cranford… It’s not full of car chases and everyone kept their shirt on. I’m not sure what to say about it. It’s cute? It has a happy ending? Hmm, maybe I’ll start with a synopsis and go from there.
The narrator, whom we later learn is named Mary, visits the town of Cranford over a few years. She’s friends with the (elderly?) ladies Matty and her sister Deborah. Mary reports on the adventures of the the two ladies (one dies fairly early on) which are of the old lady variety. They visit people, gossip, play cards, etc. It’s all very cute and cheeky. Mary is very droll and there is a bit of an edge to her reporting, though you can tell that she loves the ladies and the little village.
I don’t have a lot to say about Cranford because although I liked reading it at the time, it didn’t really stick with me. I’ve put off writing my thoughts on it and now some time has passed and not much of the book has left an impression. I wouldn’t put it up there on my favorites list but I didn’t hate it either.
The only thing that I came away with was how difficult it was in the 1800s to be a single lady of slim means. Any financial difficulty could result in a life and death situation. With no training or ability to make a living, a middle class lady was dependent on friends to see her through. I imagine many did not have the happy ending this character did in real life.
I hear the mini-series is very good. Maybe watching it will help.
It’s Canada Day! Just in time for the 6th Canadian Books Challenge to start. What a coincidence! Have you signed up yet? I have, like I do every year with varying degrees of success. I just squeaked over the finish line this year.
Serendipitously, I received some catalogues from local Canadian publishers this week. Quite a few things caught my eye. I thought I’d share my finds with you and maybe inspire you to read them yourself.
Kin by Lesley Crew. I actually had this one for review for a long time but I like to read things closer to publication date (September) so I haven’t gotten to it yet though I’m looking forward to it. She’s so good at writing of the complicated family dynamic and this looks like it’s in the same vein. (Nimbus)
Blood Brothers in Louisbourg by Philip Roy. First, I’m a sucker for a great cover and I love this one. The peoples- they have faces! No headless ladies on this YA cover. A historical fiction set in 18th century Louisbourg about two brothers, who don’t know they are brothers, brothers from another mother- one is from France and the other Mi’kmaq. I hope it’s as good as it looks. (Cape Breton University Press)
My Grandfather’s Cape Breton by Clive Doucet. This is a new edition of a classic book. I read this pre-blogging and I loved it. It’s a charming story of a boy’s summer visit to his grandfather’s farm. (Nimbus)
Chasing Freedom by Gloria Ann Welsey. Another YA historical fiction. This one has been out awhile but it reminds me that I must get it. This one features a young Black Loyalist in 18th century Nova Scotia. (Roseway)
All Is Clam by Hilary MacLeod. Another Shores Mystery from Hilary MacLeod. This time The Shores have a murder at Christmas. Although set at Christmas it’s available in July. (Acorn Press)
The Christmas Secret by Various. Another one for your Christmas reading. Christmas stories from twenty Atlantic Canadian writers. (Nimbus)
So there you go! Some potential Canadian Books Challenge reads from a couple of small Canadian presses. (Find all the Nimbus Publishing books at http://www.nimbus.ca/)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make potato salad.
Happy Canada Day!