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review 2020-07-04 22:28
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen,Anna Quindlen

This is by far Jane Austen’s most popular book, and while as a kid I found it dull and slow, re-reading as an adult I had a great time with it. It’s easy to see where that popularity comes from. First, unlike some of Austen’s other books, which just have some romance in them, this one actually is a romance, in that it’s structured around the growth of and obstacles to Elizabeth’s and Jane’s relationships.

 

Second, to the extent that it moralizes (and Austen always moralizes to some extent), it’s mostly about issues that remain both relevant and palatable today: the dangers of assuming yourself better than everyone around you, of clinging to a negative first impression despite new information, of taking people at their word when they eagerly insist to virtual strangers that all their problems are other people’s fault.

 

Third, and perhaps most importantly, Elizabeth is a great heroine. She’s witty, energetic, and has a sense of humor, which makes her fun. She’s intelligent, caring, and has a backbone, which makes her admirable. And she’s judgmental, jumps to conclusions, and has some learning to do, which makes her human.

 

Warning: there will be SPOILERS below.

 

There isn’t much I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said: it’s well-written, engaging, and to an adult reader, it’s quite funny. It’s the perfect piece of intelligent escapism. It’s full of well-drawn and realistic characters, many of them a little bit ridiculous, and the author invites us to laugh at them with her. It isn’t “just” a romance, but explores the intersection of love and money in Austen’s society—though for all that, Austen’s heroines aren’t as mercenary as some make them out to be. At the end I think Darcy is genuinely in love with Elizabeth, while she’s still in the early stages of infatuation, overwhelmed by the fact that this rich and handsome man cares enough to put himself out on her behalf. But I don’t think it’s just about the money either.

 

I do wish Austen didn’t lapse into narrative summary at the most inconvenient moments, like proposal scenes (!). I actually didn’t remember that Georgiana appears in person in this book, probably because although she and Elizabeth meet several times, none of Georgiana’s lines are ever transcribed for the reader. But Austen was in many ways pioneering the modern English-language novel, so it’s inevitable that not everything was perfect, and impressive that despite that she was able to write characters who still manage to inspire emotional investment today.

 

I’ll use the rest of this space to comment on some characters I viewed differently this time around. First, the treatment of Mrs. Bennet is rather sad: it’s true that her perspective is limited, but she actually is trying to do right by her daughters, and she obviously loves her husband more than he loves her. Given that the Bennets are on good terms with what seems like a large circle of acquaintance (her claim that they dine with 20 other families is meant to be ridiculous, but is impressive by today’s isolated standards), I suspect her manners are quite good enough by her neighbors’ standards, and it’s the stuck-up Bingley sisters and Mr. Darcy who judge her. It’s a little sad that their happy ending requires Elizabeth and even the otherwise-angelic Jane to distance themselves from her.

 

Lydia, on the other hand, would be a strong candidate for the heroine if this were a modern novel. Modern audiences seem to love the young woman driven by sexual or romantic passion to flout societal convention just as much as Austen’s society hated her. Particularly sympathetic in Lydia’s case is that she actually loves Wickham but is deceived about his regard for her. Lydia’s exuberance also makes her fun to read about, though because she’s a teenager and not the heroine, she has all-too-human flaws as well: she’s self-absorbed and can’t be bothered to listen to anyone she disagrees with. The scene where she claims she’s “treating” Jane and Elizabeth to lunch, but makes them pay because she already spent her money, is particularly amusing.

 

Then there’s Mary. Before I thought of her as a typical teenager in her high regard for her own intellect, and starting out here I was sympathetic to her based on her position alone. She’s the only unattractive one out of five sisters (ouch), and also the only member of the family who doesn’t seem particularly beloved by anyone else: her older and younger sisters are each a close-knit pair who also have good friends outside the family, while the parents each have their favorites, all of it excluding Mary. On this reading, though, it seemed likely that Mary is on the autism spectrum, though to Austen’s and therefore Elizabeth’s eyes it just looked like cluelessness. Mary is sententious and blind to social norms, and unlike with Lydia, it isn’t because Mary doesn’t care (she’s visibly embarrassed when her father calls her out at a party). The scene that clinched it for me comes after Lydia’s disgrace, when Mary approaches Elizabeth to suggest that they should “pour into the wounded bosoms of each other the balm of sisterly consolation,” which Elizabeth considers so bizarre that she makes no response. This seems to indicate that either Mary actually does not realize that she and Elizabeth don’t have this kind of relationship, or she’s trying to bond with her but has no idea how to do so. Unfortunately, Mary seems unlikely to improve in understanding when no one can be bothered to explain anything to her.

 

Reading this right after Emma, I was surprised by how different it felt: shorter chapters, more dialogue, and rather less polished, but perhaps more fun. It didn’t touch me particularly deeply, but I did enjoy it a lot and it also gave me plenty to think about. That’s what makes it a true classic I suppose, that there’s always more to discover and new perspectives to see upon re-reading.

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text 2020-07-02 22:13
Reading progress update: I've read 24 out of 415 pages.
Il cardillo addolorato - Anna Maria Ortese

Starting again, since I had a long-ish break since last time I read it, and also so that I can go with some detailed personal thoughts about the book.

 

The first chapter is very solid and striking, with the first paragraphs sounding a bit like a fairy tale, only to have Ortese's narration constantly undercut it by noting that it's still the real world - at one point there's a very prosaic mention of the fact that the streets smellled like manure, due to the fact that the time horse carriages were still the main means of transportation. It feels a bit as if she's constantly going "Just keeping it real, son". However, the sarcastic edge gets a bit lost due to the very flowery prose - if the intention was to be sarcastic at all, but I'll see as I go further on with the book.

 

And speaking about the writing, in some descriptions Ortese just overuses commas, almost as if she got paid by the number of them she put in the manuscript. Even for a language like Italian, that allows for much longer sentences than English, it's a bit too much.

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text 2020-06-26 01:21
Short and Sweet Summertime Reading Master Tracker - First Month Update
Because He's Perfect: Anthology for the Movember Foundation - Danielle Dickson,Anna Blakely,Ally Vance,Alice La Roux,Renee Harless,Sienna Grant,Claire Marta,Lexi C. Foss,Tracie Delaney,Dani René,K. L. Humphreys,Elle Boon,Carrie Ann Ryan,Victoria James,Samantha Lewis,Lexxie Couper,Anne Joseph,Victoria-Maria MacDonal
Once Upon a Wedding: A Fiction From the Heart Second Chances Anthology - Priscilla Oliveras,Jamie Beck,Falguni Kothari,Sonali Dev,Sally Kilpatrick,Tracy Brogan,K.M. Jackson,Hope Ramsay,Barbara Samuel,Donna Kauffman
No Dukes Allowed - Grace Burrowes,Anna Harrington,Kelly Bowen
This Wedding is Doomed! - Stephanie Draven,Jeannie Lin,Shawntelle Madison,Amanda Berry
Hearts Entwined (Ladies of Harper’s Station #2.5) - Mary Connealy,Karen Witemeyer,Regina Jennings,Melissa Jagears
Love By the Letters: A Regency Novella Trio - Kelly Bowen,Vanessa Riley,Grace Burrowes
The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations - Karen Witemeyer,Becky Wade,Sarah Loudin Thomas,Kristi Ann Hunter
Serving Up Love: A Harvey House Brides Collection - Tracie Peterson,Karen Witemeyer,Jen Turano,Regina Jennings

Update #1 (June 25, 2020)

9 novellas read (about 25% of total novellas)

1 anthology finished

1 anthology DNF; read 2 out of 11 stories (18%)

 

I feel like I should be further ahead than I am. I am going to read more from my NOOK. No need for random number generator since the BL-opoly game is doing the job. 

**********************************************************************************************

Original Post

I decided that my summer reading project was to read anthologies and novellas/shorter works (150 pages or less) off my NOOK and Kindle. Short and sweet is the theme for this year, as I wanted space to read longer works at my leisure without feeling unproductive. Also, I want to have short works ready to read so I can structure my days around reading and other hobbies, errands, and such and not the news or social media (BL exception, of course) - I really need to get off my phone more, that screen time tracker is not good for my health.

 

Dates for this reading project: May 25th (Memorial Day) to Labor Day (Sep 7th) - 106 days. I am aiming for one story from an anthology or novella per day, with the goal of averaging about 100 pages per day. I put a few winter holiday ones on the list for a Christmas-in-July reading week. To kick off the project, I will be starting the longest anthology and use Random Number Generator to pick a novella. After that I will use RNG or go by mood - probably the second method most of the time.

 

Anthologies

1. No Dukes Allowed by Various Authors 0/3 stories read

2. This Wedding is Doomed! by Various Authors 0/4 stories read

3. Hearts Entwined by Various Authors 0/4 stories read

4. Once Upon a Wedding by Various Authors 2/11 stories read; DNF the rest.

5. Because He's Perfect by Various Authors 20/20 stories read - FINISHED!

6. Love by the Letters by Various Authors 0/3 stories read - Currently reading

7. The Christmas Heirlooms by Various Authors 0/4 stories read

8. Serving Up Love by Various Authors 0/4 stories read

 

Novellas

Nook:

1. Changing Leaves by Edie Bryant

2. The Cost of Hope (The Cost of Love #1) by G.S. Carr

3. Once Upon a Winter's Eve (Spindle Cove #1.5) by Tessa Dare

4. A New Life (West Meets East #1) by Merry Farmer Done!

5. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

6. Hollywood Holiday (Hollywood Headlines #2.5) by Gemma Halliday Done!

7. Out of the Storm (Beacon of Hope #0.5) by Jody Hedlund

8. A Lady of Esteem (Hawthorne House #0.5) by Kristi Ann Hunter

9. A Search for Refuge (Haven Manor #0.5) by Kristi Ann Hunter Done!

10. Love by the Letter (Unexpected Brides #0.5) by Melissa Jagears

11. Love on the Prairie (McKinnie Mail Order Brides #1) by Ciara Knight

12. Love in the Rockies (McKinnie Mail Order Brides #2) by Ciara Knight

13. Mrs. Sartin's Secretary (Lords of Chance #2.5) by Wendy LaCapra

14. That Healing Touch (Cutter's Creek #1) by Kit Morgan

15. The Christmas Mail Order Bride by Kit Morgan

16. What Lies Behind Us (World War II Sisters) by Sierra Rose

17. A Little Light Mischief (The Turner Series #3.5) by Cat Sebastian

18. Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club #0.5) by Joanna Shupe

19. A Hero's Promise (Culpepper's Ring Novella) by Roseanna M. White

20. Fairchild's Lady (Culpepper's Ring Novella) by Roseanna M. White

21. Mail Order Cowboy (Gold Valley #1.5) by Maisey Yates

22. Hometown Heartbreaker (Copper Ridge #3.5) by Maisey Yates

23. Claim Me, Cowboy (Copper Ridge #4) by Maisey Yates

 

Kindle:

24. Proper English (England #0) by KJ Charles Done!

25. Dance All Night (Dance Off #2.5) by Alexa Daria Done!

26. Willow: Bride of Pennsylvania by Merry Farmer

27. Engaging the Competition (With This Ring? Novella) by Melissa Jagears

28. Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure (Worth Saga #2.75) by Courtney Milan Done!

29. Dueling the Desperado (Brides of Blessings #4) by Mimi Milan Done!

30. Where Snowy Owl Sleeps (Brides of Blessings #9) by Mimi Milan Done!

31. Birth of the Butterfly (Brides of Blessings #11) by Mimi Milan Done!

32. Miracle on Ladies' Mile by Joanna Shupe

33. After a Fashion (A Class of Their Own #0.5) by Jen Turano

34. The Husband Maneuver (A Worthy Pursuit #0.5) by Karen Witemeyer

35. Worth the Wait (Ladies of Harper's Station Novella) by Karen Witemeyer

 

 

 

 

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text 2020-06-24 18:41
BL-opoly, Pandemic Edition -- Roll #11
Girl, Woman, Other - Bernardine Evaristo,Anna-Maria Nabirye
The Ultimate Sherlock Holmes Collection - John Gielgud,Ralph Richardson,Bart Wolffe, Arthur Conan Doyle

I rolled again yesterday after having finished my books from roll #10, but it was too late and would have taken too long to add the new books I'm planning to read, so I deferred posting until today.  So here's where the dice are taking me in this round:

 


(I was going to leave the Sherlock Holmes for later, but somewhat incredibly it seems to be the only unread book in my audio library with a European monument on the cover at the moment; besides, I don't feel like double checking which of my book titles might be used to spell one of the city names, and there is, after all, no such thing as a wrong time to revisit Mr. Holmes ...)

 

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review 2020-06-24 04:03
A Charming Look at One Girl's Pursuit of Happiness
Anna - Laura Guthrie
I knew this should have been a happy thing. Maybe happiness just didn’t feel like how I thought it ought to feel. It certainly seemed a small reward for such a lot of chasing by so many people in so many different times and places. But if Dad seemed to think it was worth chasing as hard as he did, for as long as he did, and in the many different ways that he did, then there must be something to it.


Anna is a thirteen-year-old girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder (she identifies as Asperger's syndrome), we meet her on a bus bound for her mother's house in Scotland. Her father has recently died (under circumstances it takes us a while to learn), and after a brief period in Foster Care, she's on her way to live with her mother—a woman she has had no contact with for over a decade.

 

It takes no time at all for the reader to see that Mom wasn't ready to take custody—in any sense. Anna's confused by her new reality—as anyone would be, exasperated by ASD. She wanders around the neighborhood meeting people. There's a varied and colorful cast of characters that we're introduced to—of various ages, social levels, professions. Anna's interactions with them tell us plenty about her as well as them all.

 

Anna's a delightful girl with her own particular way of looking at the world. It's a pleasure to see things through her eyes and watch the way her mind works. The people she surrounds herself with—both by circumstance and choice—are almost as fun and rewarding to read about. For example, her mother learns how to be a mother—actually, she learns how to be Anna's mother—and finds some healing for the circumstances that led to her separation from Anna and her father.

 

Happiness is the theme—and not a subtle one—of the book. Anna's focus on it is one of the first things we encounter when we meet her and she doesn't let us lose sight of it. She sees a lot of different ways that happiness can be found/expressed, but her goal (something her father taught her) is to find it in all circumstances. This perspective is catching, and her new friends and family start to do it—I think I spent a bit more time looking for it while I read the book, too.

 

An unexpected highlight for me was the way Guthrie used Christians and Anna's mother's church in this book. This is not Christian Fiction—and bears none of its hallmarks. But it is filled with solid, believing, Church-going people. Not morally perfect, hypocritical or judgmental, or any of the too typical ways that Christians are generally depicted. But people of faith, who've made mistakes, sinned against each other, and have found/are finding restoration—and along the way, are aided by the others in the church. I also liked the church services—the way Anna's mother explains them to her brought a huge smile to my face. There's no preaching to the reader involved, but we get to see faith in action and its effects.

 

I have two, related, complaints with the book. The first is that the book is just too short—this is really more of a backhanded compliment. I think each member of her extended family could've used more time, more character development. Maybe it's just because I enjoyed spending time with all of them—and it's clear that we only get the highlights of the relationships in the novel. But I think it's a little more. If scenes had been given just a little more space to develop, I think it'd have been a little stronger of a novel.

 

The second complaint is along the same lines—it was too rushed, too compact. It felt like Guthrie knew where all the plotlines were supposed to resolve and didn't want the book to go beyond a certain page count. So, the material we get in the last 10% of the book feels like it should've been given at least twice (maybe three times) the number of pages.

 

This is a charming read, full of heart, humor and love. It's not what I typically read—but when I find this kind of book, it makes me happy. I hope this sounds like the compliment it's supposed to be, but Anna feels like it'd be the kind of thing to introduce to your older MG/younger YA reader if you want them to grow up into a Fredrik Backman reader—the same kind of collection of interesting characters, an idiosyncratic protagonist, and a heartwarming feel. Guthrie's not in Backman's league—yet—but I can see her getting there. I'd enjoy reading more by her in the future, and in the meantime, I'm glad I got to read this—and recommend it to anyone else.

 



My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the novel) they provided.

Love Books Group

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/06/23/anna-by-laura-guthrie-a-charming-look-at-one-girls-pursuit-of-happiness
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