Monthly Roundup: September 2010

pink domo reads!
Monthly Round-up for September 2010

Read

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (re-read for the umpteenth time. still makes me laugh :] )
The Hollow by John Scudamore (for the Historical Novel Society Review)
Blameless by Gail Carriger
Blandings Castle by PG Wodehouse

Currently Reading

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig
Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson (slowly but surely…)

Books I couldn’t finish

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

The Monthly Round-up is a regular feature wherein I list the books I read each month.

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Monthly Roundup: August 2010

pink domo
Monthly Round-up for August 2010

Read
Changeless by Gail Carriger
Bleak House by Charles Dickens (for The Zen Leaf’s Read-along)
Reactions to Chapters 1-7 here

“Blatherings” have been written and will be posted according to this schedule:
Sept 1 – Chapters 8-13
Sept 8 – Chapters 14-19
Sept 15 – Chapters 20-25
Sept 22 – Chapters 26-32
Sept 29 – Chapters 33-38
Oct 6 – Chapters 39-46
Oct 13 – Chapters 47-53
Oct 20 – Chapters 54-59
Oct 27 – Chapters 60-67

Currently Reading
Blandings Castle by PG Wodehouse
Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson (slowly but surely…)
Daily Life in Victorian England by Sally Mitchell

The Monthly Round-up is a regular feature wherein I list the books I read each month.

Monthly Round-up: July 2010

pink domo!Monthly Round-up for July 2010

Read
Paris 1934 by Paul A. Myers (REVIEW)
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (REVIEW)
Mistress Pat L.M. Montgomery (REVIEW)
Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton (Read the first few chapters via NetGalley and can’t wait to get the published copy when it’s released. Made me shiver in a wonderfully creeped out way.)
Soulless by Gail Carriger (REVIEW)

Currently Reading
Changeless by Gail Carriger
Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson (slowly but surely…)
Daily Life in Victorian England by Sally Mitchell

Books I couldn’t finish
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Dickens and I don’t get along. I will give Bleak House a try one day, but till then…

The Monthly Round-up is a regular feature wherein I list the books I read each month.

Monthly Round-up: June 2010

Monthly Round-up for June 2010

Read
Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
Goy Crazy by Melissa Schorr
Strudel Stories by Joanne Rocklin
Does my head look big in this? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery (REVIEW)
Dragonwings by Laurence Yep
Annie on my mind by Nancy Garden
April and the Dragon Lady by Lensey Namioka

Currently Reading
Paris 1934 by Paul A. Myers (review book for the Historical Novel Society)
Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson (on hold)

Books I couldn’t finish

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

This reminded me of Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, but I just didn’t get into the magical realism that is such a heavy element of the story.

Empress of the World by Sarah Ryan

I just couldn’t get into this story, the characters a little too much precocious teen snark for me.

The Monthly Round-up is a regular feature wherein I list the books I read each month.

Monthly Round-up: May 2010

Monthly Round-up for May 2010


Read

Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence
Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea by Joyce Carol Thomas (Children’s book of poems)
An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World’s Largest Amish Community by Charles E. Hurst & David L. McConnell
Just Like Mama by Beverly Lewis (Children’s book on daily life of Old Order Amish women)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin and David Shannon (Children’s book on Native American story)

Currently Reading

Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery
Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa


Gave up on

Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

I really enjoyed the first two books in the Jessica Darling series, but the series started to lose some of its appeal after the third book. This one was a disappointment. I could not get into the story at all, it just read like stream of consciousness babble and snark. I tried, but decided it wasn’t worth my time after a few chapters.

The Monthly Round-up is a regular feature wherein I list the books I read each month.

Monthly Round-up: April 2010

Monthly Round-up for April 2010

Reviewed

Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed by Jane Austen and ‘Another Lady’
Love’s Shadow by Ada Leverson (for LibraryThing Early Reviewers)
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
The Watsons by Jane Austen
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

To be reviewed

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Searching For Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Currently Reading

Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence

The Monthly Round-up is a regular feature where I list all the books I’ve read during the month.

Chronicling Cecilia Part 4

Oh, Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart…

What fresh torment has been thrust upon our dear heroine.

I am about to begin Volume 5, and with just two more books to go before I finish Cecilia, I thought it the perfect time to document our heroine’s progress.

After evading her companions, Cecilia arrived in Pall Mall, only to have her whereabouts traced by the intrusive Mr. Morrice, town busybody and gossip. Interrupting her meeting with Mr. Delvile, Morrice is eager to know why this pair should be meeting at such a late hour. Delvile is certain that it will only be a matter of time before Morrice’s news is spread to the whole of London society, therefore her refusing to marry him after such a discovery will only cast a shadow on her virtue and damage her good name. Compelled to agree to meet him for their covert ceremony, Cecilia wrestles with herself and tries to overcome her original misgivings.

Meeting at the appointed location, Cecilia prepares to become Delvile’s wife and hopes time will allow the Delviles to forgive her for her trespass. But, alas, even the best intentions cannot make this ceremony a success. As the couple starts to take their final vows, they are interrupted by a stranger who challenges their union! The unknown woman is pursued, but not found. Too late, the pause allows Cecilia to consider her position and regret the ease with which she agreed to Delvile’s scheme.

Rejecting his claim, she returns to the country and finds temporary solace in the company of Mrs. Harrel and her brother, Mr. Arnott. There she once again meets the unfortunate Mr. Belfield, who embarked on a course of self-imposed solitude and labor to forget the troubles that assail him. Cecilia is taken aback by his actions, but finds that her own effort to forget her troubles by tamping down her emotions is no better.

Seeking to forget all that has transpired, Cecilia finds that the Delviles will not let her be. Mrs. Delvile soon arrives to warn her against seeking her son and tells her that she will never be forgiven for the loss of so fine an heir. Reassuring the lady that she has no intention to purse her claim, Cecilia believes that the trial is at an end when Delvile himself appears. Mother and son both try to wrest an agreement from Cecilia–the son, that she will be his, the mother, that she will reject such a union. The incident only serves to torment Cecilia further, who feels that it is her duty to honor the demands of so honorable a lady, but knows it to be at the cost of her future happiness.

When Mrs. Delvile experiences a terrible fit that leaves her incapacitated for several days, Cecilia feels she must renounce Delvile forever and tend to his mother until she is well enough to be transported to her home. Taking heart from the knowledge that Mrs. Delvile will be spared further pain, Cecilia tries to ignore her own pain. Caught up in the aftermath of her encounter with the Delviles, Cecilia is little prepared for the loss of her close friend, Mrs. Charlton, but when an unexpected visitor arrives and charges her to seek her happiness through good works, Cecilia vows to make the most of her situation and serve the needs of the poor and dejected. After all, what is her plight compared to that of her tenants?

Most of Book VIII was taken up with the several incidents that occured to hinder Cecilia’s marriage to Devile. Cecilia’s indecision may seem like fickleness at first, but it is her unwavering sense of duty that causes her to doubt her actions. During her short acquaintance with the Delviles, Cecilia came to regard Mrs. Delvile as the sort of friend she always sought, someone whose intelligence and sensibilities were in tune with her own. Nevertheless, in Delvile she found an equal whom she considered the most perfect of partners. Caught between two such individuals, Cecilia finds herself in a bind. She knows that giving in to the demands of one will surely earn her the censure of the other; she therefore deliberates too long on the matter and often finds herself changing her mind after giving her word. While she loves Mortimer Delvile, the respect that she has for Mrs. Delvile forbids her from wilfully rejecting that lady’s demands.

Will Mr. Albany’s good works help Cecilia overcome her misery? Her character is so good, that helping others may very well afford her some amount of happiness, but it seems as misguided as Mr. Belfield’s scheme to forget his past by immersing himself in hard labor.

With two books left, what will be in store for Cecilia? There is still the matter of Mr. Monckton’s intentions for her. Did he hire the stranger to interrupt the wedding? Was he involved in informing those close to the Delviles that such an event was to take place? And what will Cecilia do now that he insists on her residing in his home until her own home is completed?

Chronicling Cecilia Part 3

I have just finished Book VII and what a mess Cecilia is in!

To know that one is esteemed and, yet, not esteemed so highly to surmount such a trifle as losing one’s name for the sake of love is quite distressing. Poor Cecilia, driven from the home of the kind but proud Mrs. Delvile, has no alternative but to return to Suffolk and seek the hospitality of her dear friend, the elderly and infirm Mrs. Charlton, until she reaches her majority. What else was there to do but leave Delvile-Castle when it became clear that young Mr. Delvile was in love with her but refused to overcome his vain pride and take her name and all that such a union would imply? No, better to avoid his society altogether than continue to experience the pain of such a barrier.

Finding solace in the company of Mrs. Charlton, Cecilia resigns herself to her loss and applies herself to forgetting her feelings for Delvile, until she suddenly finds herself the recipient of Delvile’s devoted dog and her one-time companion, Fidel. Uncertain what such a message signifies, Cecilia begins to hope that it is a sign of Delvile’s good faith, until she learns that it is another of Lady Honoria’s silly pranks. But too late, Delvile arrives in search of his dog and his feelings cannot be contained.

Delvile proposes that Cecilia marry him in secret, so that they may conceal their union until she can be brought forth before the Delviles as his wife. Certain that his family will forgive the injury caused by the loss of his family name after he marries Miss Beverly, Delvile hopes that his mother’s esteem for Miss Beverly’s virtuous nature will win the family over.

More than anything, Cecilia wishes to agree to the proposal, the thought of betraying Mrs. Delvile’s faith in her is repugnant. Torn by love and honor, Cecilia nevertheless gives in to Delvile’s scheme and consents to marry him within the week, to then be hidden away in London until such a time as they can be united before the Delviles.

Setting off for London to procure a license, Delvile leaves Cecilia to find a male witness. Knowing no one she would trust more than Mr. Monkton, Cecilia turns to this gentleman, ignorant of his designs for securing her and her fortune. Canny as ever, Monkton convinces Cecilia to renege on her agreement, telling her of the derision with which the Delviles will regard her if she goes through with the marriage. Taking it upon himself to deliver Cecilia’s refusal, Monkton sets off for London but fails to find Delvile.

Unwilling to let Delvile think the worst of her should she not meet him as agreed, Cecilia journeys to London only to find herself inadvertently drawn into a party of London’s most ruthless gossips. Will she find Delvile on time or become victim to Miss Larolles incessant chatter?

Miss Larolles is almost as funny as Lady Honoria, these two ladies get up to no amount of trouble for the sake of pleasure and seem to bring comedic relief to the story whenever Cecilia is in an especially dejected mood, though Miss Larolles appearance is surely less than amusing to Cecilia who wishes to make haste and meet Delvile before the proposed wedding is scheduled.

Delvile’s manner of proposing to Cecilia is so full of objections that I cannot help but make the connection to Pride and Prejudice. Like Darcy, he makes it clear that a connection with her will gain him the disapproval of his family, but it is his own dismay at the loss of his name that makes his avowals of love all the more painful to Cecilia. That he loves her, he cannot deny, but that the thought of willingly giving up his name to marry her brings him joy, he cannot proclaim. Cecilia is not as headstrong as Lizzie, but she does feel as strongly. She feels the insult of his proposal and finds that it goes against her sense of duty and honor, but she agrees because she cannot deny her desire to be married to the one man that she esteems as her equal in character and sense. That she is blind to Mr. Monkton’s ulterior motive is Cecilia’s main fault, allowing herself to be swayed by one who means to deny her the happiness that she desires in order to keep her for himself.

Will Cecilia reach Delvile on time or will she her plans be cast asunder?

Chronicling Cecilia Part 2

Oh, Cecilia, what a fine mess you’re in!

I’m almost through Volume III and plenty has happened to our dear heiress. The extravagant Mr. Harrel has gone off and shot himself after dragging his wife and her much put upon friend to Vauxhall for an evening filled with Champagne and unusually high spirits. One guardian down, Cecilia had to make a quick decision: move in with the miserly Mr. Briggs, or the haughty Delviles? And what to do about dashing,young Mr. Delvile? Intolerable to move in with Briggs, but so much heartache to be found near Mr. Mortimer Delvile. But difficult though being near the object of one’s affection may be, living with a curmudgeonly penny-pincher who refuses to clean house or light fires is so much the worse. To the Delvile’s it is.

Meanwhile, Mr. Monckton has made himself extremely helpful, assisting Cecilia with the debts that Mr. Harrel coerced her into, and Mr. Arnott has proven himself a most devoted friend, though Cecilia regrets that she cannot return his deeper feelings. To make matters more troubling, Miss Belfield, Cecilia’s one true friend, may very well be secretly in love with Mr. Delvile. And if the letter Miss Belfield concealed when Cecilia called on her is any indication, Mr. Delvile has confirmed the young lady’s devotion.

Certain that Mr. Delvile’s recent coldness towards her is the result of his recent attachment to Miss Belfield, Cecilia finds herself perplexed by the effusive praise lavished upon her when the pair is caught in a storm.

Could it be that the conditions of her inheritance have created the barrier that separates them? Or is Mr. Delvile truly in love with Miss Belfield?

In the same manner that Mr. Darcy’s arrival at Netherfield raises the question of marriage and money, Cecilia’s wealth raises several points on the position of moneyed women. The theme of “gold-digging” abounds in literature, but more attention is paid to the difficulties of men faced with a sudden horde of women seeking an advantageous marriage, than the trouble faced by single heiresses in a similar situation. Though Mr. Wickham does not succeed with Mary King, Mr. Willoughby successfully entraps a rich wife to keep him in his favored mode of living. Cecilia’s friend, Mr. Monckton, married his older, rich wife in the hope that she would pass quickly and leave him her fortune. He tries to assure that Cecilia has no suitors so that she will be available to marry her “dear” friend when his wife is gone.

Wealthy though she may be, Cecilia is anything but free to choose her mate. The codicil in her uncle’s will demands that the man who marries her take her name, or Cecilia will have to relinquish her fortune. Find a man who will take the family name, or else. Sir Robert Floyer, Mr. Marriot, Mr. Monckton, and even Mr. Arnott all wish to secure Cecilia for their own advantage, making Cecilia wish for the privations of a humble existence if they would free her from their attentions. Nevertheless, the persecution that Cecilia faces from her suitors earns her social censure for seeming fickleness and haughtiness when she refuses to acknowledge any attachment to them. Why shouldn’t she make known her attachment for a respectable, titled gentleman like Sir Robert? Why should it matter that he only wants her inheritance? Why should a woman want to remain in control of her inheritance when other women are content with their lot in marriage? Her suitors are lauded for their fortitude and continued pursuit, while Cecilia finds herself forced to avoid society if only to prevent further gossip.

Just imagine Pride and Prejudice if Elizabeth had been the heiress. How differently Mr. Darcy might have reacted.

a laundress and an heiress

Netflix is usually pretty good about recommending period films for me to watch, more often than not based on books… so I can thank it for a few recent discoveries, including Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and now Catherine Cookson’s The Black Velvet Gown.

After watching the ITV adaptation of the novel, I felt that the film only touched the surface of the tale and left a lot to be desired. Therefore, in a very Hermione-esque fashion, I turned to the library. And there were dozens of Cookson novels, including The Black Velvet Gown.

As I thought, the film did not do justice to what is an engaging and captivating novel about class conflict, the power of education, and the position of women in Victorian England.

Cookson’s novel tells the tale of Riah Millican’s struggle to survive as a widowed mother of four in the Northern English countryside. Born in a seaport town, Riah married an outsider from the coal pits of the North, but wants more for her children than the sea or the pit. Taught to read and write by her husband, Riah and her children possess more education than most of the members of the lower class. Not only are they educated, her children have never been forced to work in the pits. Consequently, most of the other miners frown upon the Millican family, regarding them as snobs and social-climbers. Rejected by her neighbors when her husband dies, Riah is forced to return to the seaside port she so hated as a child, until an opportunity arises that changes her family forever.

Moving to the country, Riah finds employment as a housekeeper in the home of Percival Miller, gentleman and recluse. Initially refusing to suffer the presence of Riah’s children, the master soon becomes taken with Riah’s children, particularly her son Davey, and makes it his duty to further their education. However, it is Biddy, Riah’s eldest daughter, not Davey who takes to the plan, exhibiting an insatiable desire to learn that raises her far above her station, if only in education.

The master’s scheme irrevocably alters the Millican family and allows them to learn the meaning of knowledge and power as Biddy rises from her position as an abused laundress – the lowest member of the rigid hierarchy that exists among the servants at the local great house where she is sent into service – to establish herself as the intellectual equal (and often superior) of the members of the household that she serves.