Challenge Roundup for February

Happy Leap Day! It only comes once every four years so enjoy it. Um, leap around or something.

I did a lettle better on my reading challenges this month. 

Only one book for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge was read and reviewed this month, Roughing It In the Bush. I planned on reading way more but this one book nearly ended my reading life. I'm now 7/13.

I ended the month with 2 more books for the Audio Book Challenge: Entwined by Heather Dixon and I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. That's 4 out of 12 and it's only 2 months into the challenge. Woot!

I crossed off one book for the Gender in SFF Challenge, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and I'm half through Herland right now. So...I need to find 4 more for this one. Oh and now there is a Goodreads group.

I'm so glad I put Roughing It In the Bush into my Genteel Ladies in Foreign Lands challenge because, Lord, that book needed to be counted twice. I hope the other books on my list go a bit better. 

Here's hoping March will be a better reading month! 

Psst... Over Here...

Or over there anyway.

I've posted a review of The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, a public domain short story from Project Gutenberg, for Project Gutenberg Project. Have a look and leave a comment if you please!

Roughing It in the Bush by Susanna Moodie: Review

In 1832, Englishwoman Susanna Moodie immigrated to Canada with her husband. He had big ideas; they were going to make their fortune in the backwoods of Canada. From the beginning, things do not go as planned. The ship takes longer than intended to cross the Atlantic and arrives in Quebec during a cholera epidemic. Throughout Roughing It in the Bush, a 500+ book she wrote 20 years later, Susanna chronicles their struggles as they encounter swindlers, bad neighbours, bears, terrible weather, ruined crops, fire, disease, while losing just about everything.

Right from the start, things between Susanna and I were rocky.

I had issues with Susanna's portrayal of the people she meets throughout the stories. She'll often make herself look better at the expense of others, particularly if they weren't British. She'll make sweeping statements about groups of people and when she meets someone who doesn't fit the mold she's created she says they are an exception. Right from the get go, she starts in on this. There is an incident as the ship they are on comes up the St Lawrence. She tells the reader how calmly she acts while her passenger mates, Scots, lost their senses. Earlier, she comments on the residents of Grosse Isle (a quarantined island), mostly Irish, as being drunken and immoral.

Susanna Moodie- judging you!
Later, she meets her new neighbours who hassle her constantly. These are American settlers. Instead of saying she has awful neighbours, she says her neighbours are Americans (or Yankees, she calls them) and therefore awful. It's hinted at that these people once owned the land and the tiny house the Moodies now occupy. They lost their farm because they could not pay their debts. Wouldn't that make them resentful of the new owners? She also criticizes the way they farmed the land. Considering how the Moodies had zero experience in farming and make a crappy job at it themselves, she's one to talk! Of course, that's not their fault. They were naive and taken advantage of by the wily Canadians.

The Canadians see an opportunity to take advantage of a situation and a couple of middle-class, wannabe farmers with money and not much sense is a golden one. I would have more sympathy for Susanna, if she weren't such a snob. It's like she just can't help herself. She's the Queen of the Backhanded Compliment. When she does have something nice to say, she nullifies it with 5 or 6 nasty things. The Canadian girls are pretty but their looks don't last, they're vain and proud. That sort of thing. No one escapes Susanna's judgement. Yet she remarks that people just aren't nice to her. Hm, I wonder why?

For a couple of chapters, Mr Moodie gives his take on things and it's a refreshing change. He gives a balanced account of their struggles when they first arrive in Canada. There are also some political issues neither mentions but are part of the historical record that add to their troubles. I wondered why Mr Moodie brought his bride, an educated daughter of a ruined landowner, with him. Wouldn't it have been better to have left her in England with family until he had things settled in their new country? They seem ill-prepared for even the smallest hardship. Susanna doesn't even know how to milk her own cow. Maybe she was so awful to everyone because she was just so miserable at that time. Or maybe that's just how she was. Even her sister Catharine felt her writing focused too much on her misery: 'Catharine observed in her sketch of the early life of Susanna that her sister’s imagination was “romantic, tinged with gloom and grandeur, rather than wit and humor.”' Source

Susanna has moments though. She writes lovingly of the scenery and about how awed she is by Canada. When she focuses her attention on her own family and herself, the story is very interesting. They were carving a life out of the Canadian wilderness at least trying anyway. Once the family gets into "the bush" Susanna, distracted by trying not to die, is easier to take. Their life becomes much more difficult. There are fires, malaria, tornado, the crops fail, and their debts climb. A little humility does her some good and she finally has a few nice things to say about people. Susanna herself was a complicated woman. For all her prejudices, she had a social conscience; she met her husband at an Anti-Slavery meeting. She speaks kindly of the native people, though she sees them more like intelligent pets.

Besides Susanna's attitude, I also had difficulty with her writing. It was all over the place. People would appear and disappear without explanation. She had the irritating habit of referring to people and places with a capital letter and a dash, common in 19th century writing yes, but she was inconsistent with it. Someone might be "B-" on one page and "Bob" on the next. It drove me bananas. I had moments where I didn't quite believe the things I was reading, they were beyond the limit of human patience. She was writing Roughing It in the Bush as a warning to other English people with thoughts of emigrating and because of that I wondered if she wasn't James Frey-ing things up to suit her purposes.

Still, with so few women writing about their day to day lives as pioneers, Roughing It in the Bush is a rare piece of history. I just wish it was written by someone else. And let me tell you I'm glad to be finished with it!

I do want to read her sister Catharine Parr Traill's book The Backwoods of Canada to compare their experiences in the Canadian wilderness. I'd also like to read Charlotte Gray's biography of the two ladies, Sisters in the Wilderness.

This was the first book for my personal challenge, Genteel Ladies in Foreign Lands.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Freedom

How are ya doin' this Sunday? Good, I hope. It's been an excellent book week for me. I ordered myself a couple of books from The Book Depository last week and they arrived in time for my birthday: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey (Persephone) and The Long Ships by Frans G Bengtsson (NYRB). The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey arrived by truck for review and (a couple of weeks ago) Kin by Lesley Crewe came to the house too. 

So, today is my birthday. I don't have any big plans for today. Mom is making me supper and the hubs made me a cheesecake. Other than that it's going to be a typical Sunday. I remember when birthdays were big deals, not so much when you're on the wrong side of 30. I don't mind it this year, unlike other years when I complain about getting older. I suppose it's because I'm working on being healthier and feeling pretty good.

Did you know Freedom to Read here in Canada starts today? On the Freedom to Read website there is a 39 page list of books that have been challenged in Canada since the 1960s. People are still challenging books for as many reasons as there are people. Quite a few of the recent ones were over differences in opinion on where in the library a book belongs, by patrons and librarians. I think that's different from outright banning. Still, it's good for the public to know what is happening in the libraries. Some of the challenges involving children's content could be solved by parents explaining to their kids their views on the topic. I do that all the time; it's called parenting. As for the adult books, if you don't like it then don't read it. You are an adult. Anyway, have a peek at that document. It's interesting.

Right now I'm reading Herland by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman, which is interesting and entertaining. I finally finished Roughing It In the Bush by Susanna Moodie. Oh Susanna, that was one long-ass book!

So, that's it for me. I'm going to get myself some more coffee. How was your reading week?

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (audiobook): Review

In a bad mood? Pick up I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. You'll be smiling soon.

When we first meet Poppy Wyatt she's desperately searching for her engagement ring. She lost the antique emerald, her fiance's family heirloom, during a luncheon in a fancy hotel with her pals. In any situation this isn't good news, but it's worse for Poppy since she thinks her future in-laws hate her. She and fiance Magnus are having dinner with them and they'll want to see the ring! Somehow she has to find that ring and fast. 

Matters get more complicated when her phone is stolen by a guy on a bike. How is anyone supposed to call her to say they found her ring without a phone? It seems that her prayers have been answered (one prayer anyway) when she spies an abandoned phone just sitting in a garbage can. Who would throw away a perfectly good phone? Poppy takes it for her own and right away the strange phone calls start, including one from Sam Roxton. His PA quit and dumped this phone and now he wants it back. Poppy refuses and commandeers the phone until she gets the ring back. 

Reluctantly Sam agrees to share the phone with her but he doesn't know what he's in for. Poppy can't help reading his emails and gets involved in his life, personal and professional. She makes it her mission to right the wrongs in Sam's life despite the fact that she doesn't know the guy. You can imagine the problems this creates.

I love Sophie Kinsella's characters. I think the reason for this is because they are exaggerations of parts of ourselves. Poppy Wyatt is no exception. I felt for her right away. Who hasn't lost something important, even for a moment, that is sure to cause a catastrophe in our lives? And Poppy's reliance on her phone and the ways in which she uses it are familiar to anyone who relies on technology.

Some people get cranky about Kinsella's books, calling them anti-feminist, but I can't understand this. The heroines are smart and funny; their problems could be the problems of any modern woman.* People do go into debt because they can't stop shopping, people rely too much on technology, and a lot of us have trouble with confrontation. In these novels, the guys aren't perfect any more than the ladies are, and most of the focus is on the woman coming to a realization about herself because of the situation she finds herself in. Why shouldn't the girl get her man along the way? Doesn't James Bond get the girl after saving the world? People need to relax; it's fiction. Plus it's darn funny. The things Poppy says or does had me laughing out loud. Her interactions with Magnus's odd family were a riot. 

Obviously I loved Poppy. Magnus is a tad one dimensional but there usually is that one guy in Kinsella's books who is. Sam is fairly easy going considering Poppy keeps inadvertently wrecking his life. The rest of the cast has a variety of quirks that add to the comedy. The only thing that I wasn't a fan of was the stuff with Poppy's parents which seemed a bit out of place in the story.

So, yes, I loved I've Got Your Number and I hope you will too.

*Well, maybe no one has been haunted by their grandmother's ghost (Twenties Girl) but who knows?

About the Audio: The narrator is Jayne Entwistle. At first when I heard her I thought, "Oh no! It's Flavia De Luce!" She did the narration for A Red Herring Without Mustard. I was worried I'd keep thinking of her as Flavia but it didn't take long for me to get over that. Jayne is the perfect voice for a comic character like Poppy. Her emphasis is spot on, especially when she reads Willa's emails. She did an excellent job and added so much to my listening experience.




Vintage Romance: A Kiss Is Still a Kiss (Photo)

Western Suburbs Rugby League Football Club players leave for New Zealand, 19 September 1934 / Sam Hood

This will be the last Vintage Romance post. I hope you've enjoyed them.

This photo is another from Sam Hood. What a romantic guy.

Entwined by Heather Dixon: Review

Soooo, I didn't love Entwined by Heather Dixon. I gave it an "It was Ok" on Goodreads because that's pretty much what I felt once I finished it. Then I see all the reviews over there that proclaim it the biggest deal since Big Wheels and I'm left dateless at the Prom. I had to wade through the 4 and 5 stars to find some fellow 2 starers.

Here's the plot: Entwined is a re-telling of the fairy tale Twelve Dancing Princesses. Azalea and the other 11 are left motherless on Christmas Eve. The King, their Dad, is all "leave me alone!" "Mourning for a year," "No dancing," and then goes off to war. The girls find a magical passageway where they can dance the night away with a magical dead guy named Keeper. But things are never as they seem and Keeper wants something in return. Meanwhile, Azalea must take a husband, once the King returns, and a troop of eligible young men are brought a-courting. It's like The Bachorlette without the hot tub. Somehow the plot stretches out for 12 hours.

Perhaps the beginning of the story reminded me too much of Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, which, because of my daughter, I've seen dozens of times. She even had the costume. It's very cutesy how all the little girls have lisps and are adorable. Maybe it's also because I was reading The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, a collection of adult retellings and a creative one at that, at the same time. It's my thinking that if you are going to retell a fairy tale, you should go all the way with it. Make the Beast a shallow high schooler cursed by Mary-Kate Olsen, have Red Riding Hood become a pair of werewolf killing sisters bent on revenge. Entwined follows the Grimm version quite faithfully, with the exception of the bad guy and some angst.

I didn't find there was much depth to the characters, even Azalea. Other than liking Bradford for his warm brown eyes and crooked smile what else was there about him? I thought for sure Bramble was about twelve years old because of how she acted (I expected her to put frogs in people's beds next), instead of a girl of marriageable age. None of the girls think mourning for a year is fair. Not one says, this is our duty as princesses so we should just do it. No, they all collectively believe they have the right to dance all night long with a guy they feel is creepy. If he's creepy, and a few times made them uncomfortable, why keep going back? If they were under a spell, I could understand it but they want to dance so they do.  Even the bad guy's plan was rather pitiful. That's the best he can come up with after thinking about it for 200 years? 

Several plot points weren't explained satisfactorily. Why was the Kingdom poor? Why was there a war that lasted about five minutes and seemed to happen just so the princesses were left alone to sneak off to dance?   I could go on but I won't.

On the other hand, this is the sort of book I could give to my nine year old and not have any qualms about it. There's nothing controversial about it. It's a straight up happily-ever-after story.

Anyway, I missed the boat on this one. Maybe you won't.

About the Audio: First of all, Entwined is really long and by the end I just wanted it to be over. An abridgement would have been nice. The narrator is Mandy Williams, who has a pleasant enough voice though the younger girls voices grated on my nerves and if I had to hear the King say "Just so" one more time I would have screamed.




Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Snowed In

Hello, Darlings! How is your weekend? Mine is pretty low key, since we had a nasty snow storm yesterday. It snowed all day long. It's good snowman making snow so maybe I'll make one.

You would think being snowbound would mean lots of reading. I did read but mostly I spent the day beating my husband at Words With Friends. It's seriously crazy how competitive we get about games. There is no letting the other person win. It's to the death!

I am the last person in the world to start watching Downton Abbey. I made the mistake of downloading the free first episode from iTunes. Now I must see every episode ever made! It's addictive. My Mom has been watching it right from the beginning but I did not listen to her. I should have. Luckily, Vision TV here in Canada is playing it from the beginning starting this week. I will catch up shortly.

Project Gutenberg Project blog debuted this week. I'll have a review up on Monday. I'm reading some short stories for it now. I'm still trucking on with what has become for me The Longest Book In the Universe, or so it seems. It's taking me forever to read Roughing It In the Bush. When will it end?!!! I did finish two audiobooks this week, one I liked and one I didn't: Entwined by Heather Dixon and I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. I won't say which is which yet.

I'm still participating in the Get Moving Fitness Challenge though I'm finding it challenging to get on a treadmill when I want one. I'm glad my local Y is doing so well, I really am, but lately it's hard to find an available machine and my yoga class has gotten really full. I should be happy for all the people getting fit but for my own selfish reasons I wish they'd stay home! I also fell off the Eating Healthy wagon this week because of Valentine's Day. I must get back on it. It was totally worth it though. And... since artichoke dip is my weakness, I want to try this Hearty-Choke Dip from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry. I watched them make it on the show last week.

This brings me to something I'm finding disturbing about Pinterest. I've noticed it before but I read some comments on a Pin yesterday that gave me shivers (and not in a good way). There is a lot of unhealthy thinking and advice on Pinterest. It's admirable to strive for health and fitness. I want to be healthier and live the best life I can. I would be lying if I said it's not about looks for me too, of course it is, I'm like everyone else and have things I'm not happy about my body. However, one should never sacrifice health for looks. 

I saw a Pin with some questionable advice but it was the comments that got me: "You can only lose weight if you starve yourself," "Don't exercise because muscle looks like fat." It upset me to think that impressionable people would read those comments and think they're true. There are so many Pins that focus on appearances in a negative way: thin shaming or fat shaming. The "Ew, gross!" comments on photos of many body types. Pinterest is a visual place and we all have our own idea of beauty. We pin beautiful things, but there is not just one ideal body. 

Anyway I Repinned something that sums up my thoughts on the subject. I wish I knew the source, I pinned it anyway. If you know the source, I would be happy to correct it.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: Review

Talk about re-imagining fairy tales! Angela Carter takes traditional fairy tales twists them, turns them, and stands them on their heads.

This collection includes the title story plus 9 others. Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty all make appearances, with some werewolves and vampires sprinkled in for good measure. I haven't always liked fairy tale retellings; I couldn't get through My Mother She Killed Me...

As with most short story collections, there were ones I enjoyed and ones I thought were kinda weird. Luckily the ones I didn't care for so much were short.

The title story, The Bloody Chamber, is my favorite. In it a Rebecca-esque heroine marries a much older, wealthy man with a past. Instead of one dead wife, he has three. All having come to a tragic end. That's a bad, bad sign but she marries the guy anyway. After the wedding, the husband whisks her away to his isolated castle. He has an obsession with her virginal state and she finds some old books that make her think he's a super freak.

During the honeymoon, he leaves on business but warns her not to go down into his secret chamber. What happens when you tell someone not to do something? They immediately do the opposite. Since this is a retelling of the Bluebeard story, you can imagine what she finds. I loved the twist that occurs at the conclusion of this one.

In The Lady of the House of Love, a vampiric Sleeping Beauty type with a Miss Havisham streak sits waiting for her dinner to arrive: a young, virginal* soldier. He's completely clueless that he's about to become the main course. There is much angst, the usual for vampires. What I liked about this story is how the lady has the power to give or take a life and the innocent young thing in unknown danger is the man. Of course, I'm rooting for the guy to make it out in one piece. Anyway you look at it, he's not going to stay untouched by darkness for long as he's about to head off into the trenches of World War I.

It's not all serious though. One of the silliest stories is Puss-in-Boots, where a feline Casanova helps his owner knock boots with the young bride of an old man. He comes up with some creative schemes to get guy into the lady's boudoir.

Since I read The Bloody Chamber as part of the Gender in Sci-Fi Challenge, I read it with my mind on gender. Some of the women are clever, some are powerful, some are even a bit bratty. They have the power to tame beasts or are beasts themselves. Grimm's fairy tales make women victims or damsels in distress. In these stories, the women don't have to be victims, because of the actions they take, or their very natures, they change the ending of these tales.

These are grown up fairy tales that deal with human sexuality in a number of the stories. At times, the stories made me uncomfortable, but I believe this was her intention. This didn't take away from my enjoyment of the stories, in fact it gave more to think about. Carter is not afraid to take on the most primal aspects of human nature.

I'm sure much of what I read went right over my head but I enjoyed the majority of the stories just for the stories themselves. Very entertaining.


*That seems to be a running theme.




Presenting...Project Gutenberg Project

Ta-da! This is the not-really-a-secret project I'm a part of: Project Gutenberg Project.

The Project Gutenberg Project blog is your Go-To venue for reviews of books in the Public Domain, like the ones you'll find on Project Gutenberg. Myself, Iris, Alex, Meghan, Aarti, Ana, Lu, and fearless leader Tasha are regular contributors.

From the About page:

Project Gutenberg Project was started with the goal of making public domain titles from sites such as Project Gutenberg and Librivox more accessible. Although a great resource, Project Gutenberg doesn't currently categorize books by topic or genre, so it's difficult to find obscure gems. Solution: research, discussion, and reviews!
 I hope you'll all check it out and add the feed to your reader! 

Vintage Romance: Baby Kisses (Photo)

Norland Nursing Home, Ashfield, 15/11/1937, by Sam Hood

Aw, sweet!

The photographer is Sam Hood, the same photographer of the first Vintage Romance post, A Soldier's Goodbye.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Concentration

Wow, I can't believe Whitney Houston died. That's crazy. I was never a big fan but as a teen in the late 80's and 90's her music was the soundtrack of my youth. I can't count the number of dramas that occurred with her songs playing in the background. So sad...

It's another slow reading week for me. I don't know what's going on there. I've been busy, yes, but also I can't seem to fall into a book the way I once did. I've certainly started enough books this week though. I picked up Lady Chatterley's Lover for my book club and started listening to Entwined on audio. I'm still chipping away at Roughing It in the Bush.

It's not just reading but writing as well. It's been difficult to write reviews or posts. I'm making excuses not to. Even writing comments. I'm reading posts from other bloggers but can't think of a darned thing to write. So if you write a great post, know I'm reading it but not commenting, ok? Maybe I should just watch TV for awhile and hope this mood goes away. I need a kick in the butt. Or just keep focused on one thing at a time. 

Maybe my lack of concentration has to do with the new acquisition at my house: a Cuisinart Keurig coffee maker. I'm going through those K-cups like nobody's business. 

Before I go, you have to watch this YouTube video from Ron Charles.

Vintage Romance: By the Lake (Photo)

Tømmerflådning ved Hampen Sø i Midtjylland

Ah, young love. I wonder who they were and if their romance continued beyond this picnic by the lake.

Sven Türck was a Danish photographer who posed people for happy photos during the Depression. Hopefully this makes you happy today.

Happy Birthday, Mr Dickens!

Happy Birthday, Mr Dickens. You look good for 200, not a day over 150. I hope you have a great day. Apparently lots of people will be celebrating for you, including the Queen. Sorry you can't be there in person.

Just wanted to say thanks for the great stories. I've been reading them since I was a kid and even blogged (do you know what a blog is?) about them. Here are my thoughts on Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Hard Times, if you are interested. I know I have tons more of your books to read. Will I be 200 before I get to read them all? I would say keep writing but, you know, being dead kinda prevents that. If you somehow manage it though, could you write a female character who is neither a mouse nor a bitch? Thanks.

Anyway, have a good one and say hi to Wilkie for me.

Your fan,

PS- Here's a little "movie" (that's what we call them) about you, just in case you forgot some of the highlights of your life.

Quiet by Susan Cain: Review

Have you ever been told you're "quiet"? I have, lots of times. I know I'm an introvert. I don't like loud crowds. I try to get all my Christmas shopping done early so I don't have to deal with them. I'd choose a book and my pjs over a party any time. So when Quiet by Susan Cain was offered for review on Shelfawareness, my curiosity was piqued. What could she tell me about introverts that I didn't already know? Well, a few new things anyway.

Quiet, for the most part, discusses how introverts live in an extroverted world. The world as it is now loves the extroverted. The more gregarious have an advantage over the timid, and yet Cain gives examples of introverts who changed the world: Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Steve Wozniak. The quiet have an important place in the world. It's just difficult to be heard.

I found the beginning of the book fascinating. She describes how it felt to be an introvert at a Tony Robbins seminar (the ultimate extrovert), an evangelical church meeting, and a Harvard business school class. It sounds VERY SHOUTY! The real world experiences she had were interesting. When she got into the science bits, I found my mind drifting and it took me longer than usual to finish the book. It just couldn't hold my interest. 

Cain does have some helpful advice for the introverted in regards to careers. You don't have to completely change to fit in but recognizing your weaknesses and strengths will make life easier. She doesn't believe you can force yourself to be more extroverted if you aren't passionate about what you do. Like Eleanor Roosevelt or Al Gore, if you believe in what you do, you will be able to move people. 

She isn't anti-extroverted and believes there are advantages to the introvert/extrovert relationships, whether they are romantic ones or friendships. I like meeting extroverted people (one on one, not crowds of them) because they tend to get me talking. When I meet another introverted person, conversation can be like pulling teeth. I'll ask a lot of dumb questions just to get someone to talk; they probably think I'm an idiot. 

There is a chapter on raising introverted children and I had some trouble with the advice. Some of it is aimed at teachers who have a lot of things to deal with on a daily basis. It's not always practical to do the things she suggests. Also, kids need to know that the world doesn't always bend for them. You have to find your own way. 

Cain briefly touches on the idea that a person can't be completely introverted (or extroverted). After reading some of the lengths people go to avoid talking to others, I realize that maybe I'm not quite as introverted as someone else!

Quiet will make you think about your personality and create discussion. Even though there were dry parts, I still think this is a book worth reading.

Thanks to Random House for the review copy.




Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Not Ready for Some Football

So, there's this big game on tonight in the States, the Super Bowl? Perhaps you've heard of it. Since I'm not into sports (football is way down on the list of things I'd watch), I'm going to watch Thor instead. That's like football, right? Maybe I can eat some game-ish snacks while I'm at it. 

I started my first book for my personal challenge, Genteel Ladies in Foreign Lands, Susanna Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush. I'm 200 pages in and only halfway through it. She is driving me insane. She hasn't met a person she can't make a judgement upon. I will finish it though. Happily, I now have The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and I'm enjoying it a lot.

I bought some books this week. It's funny how you go looking for one thing and even if you don't find it you come out with books anyway. Funny how that works, huh? This week I picked up two Canadian small press books: Firmament by Bruce Johnson (Gaspereau Press) and And Also Sharks by Jessica Westhead (Cormorant Books) at the used book store. Plus, I was sent YOU Comma Idiot by Doug Harris from Goose Lane Books, another Canadian small press. I really want to read more from small presses, especially local ones. Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith (Quirk Books) was on sale at the chain store. I still haven't read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies though I have it on my shelf.

So that's my reading week. How was yours?

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim: Review

This is the ultimate ladies' fantasy book. Imagine a travelling to a beautiful country to be waited upon while you relax in the sun in complete peace and quiet. There's a whole industry based on this fantasy: spas.

The ladies in The Enchanted April don't have a spa to run off to. They aren't the kind of ladies to get massages or mud facials. Mrs Wilkins is bullied by her husband who thinks he married a weirdo. She tries to please him but it's not working. Mrs Arbuthnot believes her lot in life is to serve the poor. Her favorite saying is, "Think of the poor." The women meet when Mrs Wilkins sees Mrs Arbuthnot reading an advertisement in the paper for a holiday to a castle in Italy. Although they don't know each other, they can see the possibilities. April in Italy, away from the gray, dreariness of their lives.

The cost is more than they are willing to pay by themselves so they advertise for room mates. Two apply: Lady Caroline Dester and Mrs Fisher. Both have their own personal reasons to want to escape for awhile. At first, the four women clash but eventually San Salvatore does its magic.

I loved The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. This isn't some sad sack story, although I was shocked at how these women believed their own happiness is unimportant. Still, it made me laugh out loud in places. Mrs Wilkins (Lotty) is a bit of a nutter. She's the first to fall under San Salvatore's spell. She embraces her quirkiness and gains a confidence she never had before. She's convinced the icy standoffishness of the others will melt with time. Mrs Arbuthnot (Rose) is frightened but also a little jealous of Lotty's epiphany. She wishes she had back the love of her husband she once had. Lady Caroline just wants to be alone and think about her future. Mrs Fisher wants to be alone to think of her past. Of course, they all come around and make friends which ends up solving their problems.

I had an issue with Lady Caroline. She's so beautiful that any man in her presence turns into a drooling idiot. They "fall in love" with her instantly without her saying a word. This annoys her to no end. Everyone just smiles and expects her to put up with it. I wanted her to kick the guys in the nards. She's beautiful so it's okay to stalk her and act like morons? Please.

Despite the Caroline situation, I was satisfied with the ending. It is such a peaceful story. I whipped through it in a day. It made me dream of spring. It's not a castle in Italy but a little Enchanted April in January does the trick.

The Enchanted April is a free download from Girlebooks. There were a few typos here and there but nothing too distracting. It's also a New York Review Books Classic. Those books are lovely.




Vintage Romance: A Soldier's Goodbye (Photo)

Soldier's goodbye & Bobbie the cat, ca. 1939-ca. 1945 / by Sam Hood

It's February! The month of LOVE! I thought over the next 4 weeks I'd post some vintage photos with a romantic theme. Click the photo for the source. This one is A Soldier's Goodbye (and Bobbie the cat). Two sweethearts give a last farewell before the gentleman goes off to serve in World War II. I hope he returned to her safe and sound.