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text 2019-02-09 16:17
RIP Rosamund Pilcher
The Shell Seekers - Rosamunde Pilcher
Winter Solstice - Rosamunde Pilcher
September - Rosamunde Pilcher
Coming Home - Rosamunde Pilcher


I first encountered Mrs. Pilcher at a time of crisis in my life - my first marriage was breaking up, and I was struggling with the grief of finally giving up on something that had been dying for a long while. I picked up The Shell Seekers in the book rack at a Target, I think, drawn to the rich, floral cover.



I really had no idea what to expect from the book, and once I started reading, I was hooked. I plunged, headfirst, into Pilcher's world - of Aga stoves, and cauliflower cheese and furniture polish and cold white wine and sun-soaked afternoons in Cornwall. It was so extraordinarily British and it described a world where comfort and luxury were important, but also small.


Being American, and especially growing up in the conspicuous consumption 1980's, my impression of luxury had always been a sort of New York City, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" excess and materialism. Reading about this other sort of luxury, a bit shabby, not reserved for the extremely wealthy, but a middle class to upper middle class sort of sensible approach to comfort that many of Pilcher's characters value, was new to me. I fell in love with Penelope Keeling and her star-crossed love story broke my heart, but it was her hard work creating security and comfort for her children, in spite of her worthless husband, that really won me over.


I don't think I can pick a favorite - they've all been important to me at different times of my life. The Shell Seekers was my gateway drug, and I reread it many times. Then September became a favorite, and I would read it in the autumn. Winter Solstice is one that I read almost every Christmas season because I love the theme of chosen families. Coming Home hasn't ever made it into my "constant rereads" rotation, although I remember liking it very much.


Her shorter novellas aren't as good as her four doorstoppers, but they are still an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so. I had print copies of all of them at one point, and then I unwisely decluttered them. Last summer I realized that I wanted to read her again, and I've picked up as many as I can find at used book stores and library sales. I carry a list in my wallet, and when I find one that I don't have, I buy it for a couple of bucks. I can read them quickly, and will stack them on a table next to me and simply read them in succession until I get bored. This works best on a summer day, sitting on my front porch, with a glass of iced tea (or white wine, depending on the time) next to me. With fresh lemon, because Rosamund Pilcher would definitely put lemon in her tea.


I won't make the mistake of decluttering Mrs. Pilcher again - she has earned her spot on my shelves, along with Agatha Christie and Lucy Maud Montgomery and Jane Austen and, quite possibly (depending on how I feel about the next few books of hers that I read), Barbara Pym. 

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review 2018-05-30 16:17
Don't Know What Else to Say Besides I Enjoyed It
The Shell Seekers - Rosamunde Pilcher

Even though I gave this five stars, I do want to say that the back and forth between timelines got a bit much after a while. I still loved this book, but when I re-read it in the future, I will probably just skip over that and stay mostly in the present parts of this book. 


"The Shell Seekers" follows Penelope Keeling and her family. Penelope is 64 years old and  is self-sufficient and determined to do her own thing, even though two of her adult children (Nancy and Noel) are hell-bent on either making sure their mother has a carer and finding out where the paintings their grandfather did (one of them called the Shell Seekers) in order to sell them after finding out how much they are now worth. 


The only child of Penelope's that will not make you want to smack them upside the head is Olivia.  


The book showcases Penelope's life, we follow her childhood, dealing with World War II, and then a loveless marriage that causes her to do what she can to support herself and her children due to her terrible husband. The book goes from that and to the present with her finding new friends that she cares about, Antonia (related to someone who was once close to Oilvia) and the gardener.  


I will say that due to reading "September" it was nice to find out in a little way what happened to Penelope's children, and we get to see a much different side to Noel. That said, reading this book, I ended up really disliking him and Nancy. Frankly I wish that Penelope had a chance to really tell off her two children. Selfish wasn't even the word.


Nancy without realizing it, seems to be in a loveless marriage and her two children are going to just disappear from her life one day. She blames her mother for a lot of things that made me want to tell her to grow up myself. 

Noel is hell-bent on money. You don't really get why since he seems to be doing well. 


Olivia seemed to be the only child that got her (we find out why that may be later) and the one she was closest to. We do find out about a man that Olivia was in love with, but that whole part was boring to me. Not enough for me to lower my rating, but enough for me to go okay, can we please get past this soon?


The writing was lyrical and once again I do think that Pilcher's books shine when she describes what is going on during World War II. That said, the flow of the book was affected by going back and forth to Penelope's past and the present day. We also would switch POVs too, so you don't just stick with Penelope through this, you go and read Nancy's, Noel's, and Olivia's, and even Penelope's mother, etc. in this one. 

The main setting of this book was Cornwall. I swear after reading the last couple of Pilcher books I need to visit there and Scotland. She really does a great job making the places in her books feel like characters. 


I have to say that the ending of the book was a surprise. I don't want to spoil, but thank goodness for Olivia. I would have loved to read a book with her in it as a central character again. Too bad that Pilcher is retired. 

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text 2018-01-01 18:28
Happy New Year

My resolutions for New Year's Eve fell by the wayside due to exhaustion.  It was physical exhaustion brought about by mental/emotional exhaustion, so although I did accomplish some of what I wanted to do, I didn't get to all of it.


I cleaned up several hundred accumulated emails from the backlog, though that is barely a drop in the very large bucket.


I reviewed/recorded most of my Festive Season tasks and reading, leaving only two or possibly three to go.  The final tally was a disappointing 19 points, but I read three VERY LONG books in the mix, and I'm patting myself on the back for them regardless of "points."


During the gaming time, I also made significant progress on one of my long-term, ongoing personal projects: the transcription of all those spiral notebook diaries.  Yesterday morning I reached January 2017, so I am just a few days less than a year behind!


This coming week-end is the Flagg Gem and Mineral Show held at Mesa Community College.  Though not nearly as big as either the Quartzsite or Tucson extravaganzas, the Flagg show is close to home and convenient, with free parking and admission, and more than enough goodies for me to ogle.  It's not that I need any more rocks, but, well, a girl can't have too many!  The weather forecast as of last week was not promising, but it has improved steadily the closer we get to the show.  Friday looks like the best day, with mostly sunny skies and a high around 75.


The following week-end is the two-day Heritage Days celebration at our local Superstition Mountain Museum.  I'll be setting up there to (try to) sell some of my jewelry and other hand-made goodies.  Last year we had horrible weather, with powerful storms that destroyed several vendors' canopies and kept visitor attendance way down.  The forecast looks much, much better for 2018, with mostly sunny skies, high temperatures around 70, and neither rain nor wind predicted for either Saturday or Sunday.


There's one part of Heritage Days that I am very much NOT looking forward to.


One of the entertainment acts scheduled is singer Paula Erlene, "America's Yodeling Sweetheart," and her husband Ermal Williamson, who does a John Wayne impersonation.  At last year's Heritage Days, Paula debuted her new, original patriotic song, "We Are One," which Ermal (as MC) touted as "the next God Bless America."  He further exclaimed that Paula was writing new verses almost literally while rehearsing. 


As I sat under my little rain-drenched canopy and tried to smile through the yodeling, I realized I had heard Paula's "new" song before.  The tune was completely familiar, and even over the noise of the wind in the cactus, the murmurings of the appreciative crowd, and the tramp of footsteps in the muddy ground, even with the terrible outdoor acoustics, I knew the words to this song she claimed to have written herself.


We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We'll share a dream and sing with one voice,

"I am, you are, we are . . . ."


How was this possible???  I had never heard of Paula Erlene before in my life, but I knew the words to the song she bragged about having just written.


After the Saturday shows -- the entertainers each perform twice each day -- I hadn't pegged it down, and I was too cold and too tired by the bad weather to even think further once I got home.  But it nagged at me, so that when she took the stage for Sunday's performances, I listened more closely to the words . . . because I had  finally developed a very sneaking suspicion as to why this song was so familiar.


As Paula once more sang the chorus,


"I am, you are, we are Americans,"


I knew the last word was wrong.  And before she finished her new, original composition, I knew why it was so familiar.  There was nothing I could do while I was at the Museum, but as soon as I got home Sunday evening, I got on the computer and found confirmation of my absolute worst thoughts.




Some of you here may recognize the performers, though this YouTube screenshot is of a 1994 live (and farewell) performance.  Some of you may already have recognized the lyrics.




I broke into tears when I realized what Paula Erlene, "America's Yodeling Sweetheart," had done. 


She had stolen someone else's work and claimed it as her own.  (I played the video linked above just now and started crying again.)


Paula Erlene now has a CD out that appears to include the song.




Whether there is any credit given to the original composer and lyricist, I don't know.  


EDITED TO ADD: I was finally able to get a decent shot of the Facebook page on my other computer with larger monitor, and yes, it does state that "We Are One" is adapted from Woodley & Newton's "I Am Australian."  This is more than she and Ermal did at Heritage Days last year; it will be interesting to hear what they have to say this year.



But on her Facebook page -- or Ermal's, if you will -- she does claim to have written it herself.







Maybe it's just a nasty and shameful American habit of cultural appropriation.  "God Save the King" became "My Country 'Tis of Thee."  And "To Anacreon in Heaven" became "The Star-Spangled Banner" (minus, of course, its racist later verses).  Paula and Ermal performed in South Korea ahead of the recent visit by American "officials," and their political affiliation is apparent.  It's not likely that any public announcement of this infringement would be met with anything other than, well, approval.


After last year's discovery, I wrote to The Seekers, either via Facebook or email, regarding the situation.  I never heard anything back.  I don't have a recording of Paula's performance or her claim to have written the song herself.  I only found the above Facebook claim this morning.


I hate these people.  I hate them with a white hot passion.  I hate their supporters and defenders.  And I know America is better than this.


Australia certainly is.



Watch the views of the audience on this one




And from 2012, with verses not in the shorter versions, verses Paula Erlene also . . . used:







From Wikipedia:


It was often played at citizenship ceremonies from 2008 until 2012 when the Copyright Tribunal ruled that this was an infringement and ordered the Federal Government to pay Bruce Woodley $149,743.34 in compensation.[4]


In 2009 two additional verses were added to show remembrance during the official National Day of Mourning for the victims of the Black Saturday bushfires.[9] Woodley performed the song along with his daughter Clare and Kinglake fire survivors Merelyn and David Carter during the memorial service at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on 22 February.[10][11]

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review 2017-11-07 14:40
The Status Seekers by Vance Packard
The Status Seekers - Packard Vance Oakley

An exploration of class behavior in America and the hidden barriers that affect you, your community, your future.

"IS AMERICA A CLASSLESS SOCIETY? NO! says best-selling author Vance Packard in this scorching investigation of the status and class structure of our society. The car you drive, the church you attend, where you went to school, the house you live in -- even your choice of words -- are brandings of your place in society. This is your status -- and you may be stuck with it, like it or not. The author minces no words in letting the reader know exactly who he is, how he measures up, where he is likely to go -- and where, because of society's harsh rules, he is NOT likely to go."

~ from back cover (1963 Cardinal Books paperback edition)




First published in 1959, The Status Seekers is a nonfiction work that looks at the various distinctions and divisions that crop up among social classes. As a starting point for his investigation, Packard poses the question, "Are we, as a society, classless?". Though this book will understandably read dated in some parts, there's still quite a bit here that will ring relevant in today's world!


Packard notes how people, in general, seem to constantly be measuring up their current position in society: assessing, judging, critiquing, approving, dismissing. People find themselves tempted to buy status symbols, hoping it will gain them the good favor of their peers, neighbors, co-workers, etc. We strive to have an abundance of leisure time because having a wealth of downtime, in a way, is a symbol of high status. Even when it comes to employment, people sometimes even take lower paying positions if it happens to be with a company that has more social respectability (ie. taking a sales job over factory work even if the factory pays better). Even children show signs of picking up on class distinctions.


But Packard asks, what do you do if those people you wish to impress don't approve of your "lower class" acquaintances? How far do you take your need to get in with the "in crowd"? Where is the limit, the cut-off where you put your foot down and refuse to change...do you have one, even? It gives the reader something to consider, for sure. 


Packard also looks at class distinctions when it comes to various ethnic groups. To gather data for this book, he based himself in New York City, studying people from various minority communities, coming to the conclusion that class division seems to get more complex when social barriers run up against ethnic barriers. While observing the different communities in NYC, he was stunned to find that while there are barriers between minorities and Caucasian communities, there also seems to be ethic ranking between minorities groups -- he describes witnessing, on numerous occassions, people from Irish, Italian, and African American communities all turning / looking down on people from the Puerto Rican neighborhoods. 


Within this text, Packard divides his research up into five units. Here's a general breakdown:


Pt. 1: Looks at how status, generally speaking, tends to be achieved and looks at the likely reasons people feel so driven to achieve high social status.


Pt. 2: Looks at the markers of status -- home, neighborhood, job, school, etc. Chapter 5 in this section is especially interesting, as it looks at "snob appeal" -- being part of an elite social club (paid membership or invite only) -- how far does that get you?; striving for that idyllic, Pleasantville kind of "home sweet home", the constant one-upping. He looks at the historical development of status symbols: once cars became more affordable, people seemed to make the home the major symbol of their good fortune in life. He also mentions the old trend of real estate agents writing up home listing partly in French to try to entice high bidders because French was considered "the language of snobs" LOL.



Part 2 also looks at the determining factors behind how much prestige a particular job might garner a person. One has to take into account how high up in the company the position gets you, the amount of authority and / or responsibility you have in that position, the type of clothes you wear for work, how much intelligence / experience is required to obtain that position, the dignity that comes with the title, financial rewards, even the very address of your office! 


Even if your line of work is farming, Packard points out that you can be judged on the amount of acreage you have, what kinds of crops you work with, etc. People can lump a farmer into "limited success bracket" range unless he's working with huge acreage. 


Packard even gets into the hierarchy that has historically existed within the field of prostitution! 


Lastly, he looks at barriers and adjustment periods that tend to develop for people coming from different social classes or races, especially the effect on interracial relationships. 


Pt. 3: Considers the "Strains of Status": what long-term price does one ultimately pay for aspiring to levels of presumed social success and respectability? Packard gets into the various mental illnesses that one might potentially develop from the strain of trying to measure up -- anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, ulcers, hypertension, allergies, other physical or psychosomatic problems. 


Pt. 4: "Trends" of Status Seeking --- Packard's guess on where it looks like (or what it looked like in the 1950s-1960s, that is) this compulsion to steadily socially elevate oneself might be headed, the patterns / evidence in history that give us clues. This was one area where even readers of today can look at his thoughts and see, even now, he was not too far off on some of his estimations!


Pt. 5: looks at implications for the future... what does this drive for status mean for the future prosperity of the human race as a whole? 



Though Packard does try to focus on facts and research for this book (as he should, of course), I also quite enjoyed when he would interject some of his own commentary on topics here and there. He offers asides here and there such as "class boundaries are contrary to the American Dream"; noting that discussion of class distinction, he found, generally make people uncomfortable but he did notice wives, as a whole, seemed to be more conscious of status than their husbands; at one point he even remarks, "Californians are the least status-conscious people in the nation." SAY WHAT?! Being a native Southern Californian myself, I laughed out loud reading this as that is anything but the truth these days! :-P Even if I didn't always agree with the guy, lines like these certain kept me turning pages to see what else he threw out there! 


For an economics based book, I found Status Seekers (surprisingly) highly entertaining! Packard gets into a lot of engrossing, thought-provoking subject matter, not to mention that this one is likely to be kind of a fun read (even if just to browse through) for history buffs. It's neat to have works like this where readers of today can get a sort of first-hand look back at what economics and society looked like a few generations back and compare it to how far (and maybe how not that far at all sometimes, lol) we've come today! 

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review 2017-07-19 08:02
Spannender Auftakt einer Reihe
Soul Seeker - Vom Schicksal bestimmt (Soul Seekers, #1) - Alyson Noel,Ariane Böckler

Die evermore Reihe der Autorin habe ich geliebt! Da war es für mich gar keine Frage und ich musste diese hier natürlich ebenfalls lesen. Allerdings war es hier auch so, dass ich anfangs Schwierigkeiten hatte und teilweise durch viele Geschehnisse verwirrt war. Aber ich kann definitiv sagen, dass mir dieser erste Teil weitaus besser gefallen hat und ich bin unheimlich gespannt, wie es weiter geht.


Inhaltlich wird ja eigentlich alles im Klappentext gesagt und genau das bekommt man geliefert. Rund um - pures Fantasy und ständige Spannung. Deswegen möchte ich auch nicht weiter auf den Inhalt eingehen, da ich sonst spoilern würde. Manchmal habe ich geglaubt, dass ich wissen könnte, was als nächstes kommt, aber ich wurde stets überrascht. Mit dem Ende habe ich so überhaupt nicht gerechnet und jetzt schwirren mir einige Fragen im Kopf herum. Natürlich muss ich bald den zweiten Teil lesen, denn ich will unbedingt wissen, ob meine Vermutung passt, oder eben nicht.


Wie immer, hat es mir besonders der böse Zwillingsbrude Cade angetan. Ich weiß nicht, ich stehe immer auf die Gegenspieler. :) Aber auch Dace hat mir diesmal sehr gut gefallen und im Vergleich zu evermore, hat mich hier die Hauptprotagonistin Daire nicht genervt. Was mich zum Schluss nur etwas wunderte, war, die Stelle mit den Mädchen aus der Schule. Aber mal schauen, wie und ob sich das noch entwickelt. Rund um waren alle Figuren sehr authentisch und das hat mir sehr gut gefallen.


Das Cover finde ich ebenfalls klasse. Ich ärgere mich immer wieder, dass ich die Bücher der Autorin nur als E-Book habe, denn sie würden wunderbar in mein Regal passen.


Der Schreibstil ist, wie man ihn von Alyson Noël gewohnt ist. Sehr einfach und gut verständlich. Mir gefällt das. Es gibt keine umständlichen Sätze und man wird im Lesefluss nicht gestört.


Mein Fazit ist ganz klar. Das Buch hat mir sehr gut gefallen und ich empfehle es auf jeden Fall weiter. Man bekommt Spannung, knisternde Romantik und ein super Fantasy Paket.

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