Friday, May 14, 2021

"Legendary" by Stephanie Garber

I almost never like the middle story in trilogies.  Like, basically never.  It's almost invariably my least-favorite part of a trilogy.  And Legendary is no exception.

I do think this book suffered because I loved Caraval so much (gushy review here), and then I dived straight into this book after finishing that one... only to stop reading after a few chapters because I just... wasn't loving this book.  And then I'd started it again, only to set it aside again.  

Now, I wanted to love it.  I was expecting to, in fact.  But, it was like... do we have to have another Caraval with another set of cryptic clues and another set of characters we can't trust?  It was as if the author said, "Oh, I see you liked Caraval... do you want another Caraval?"

Or, to put it another way, what I wanted was a new adventure in the same setting, and what I got was the same adventure in a new setting.  Sigh.

Also, to be fair, part of the reason I didn't love this is that it was focused on Tella, aka possibly my least-favorite character from Caraval.  Pretty sure everyone who read my review of that, where I said she irked me, was either like, "Hahaha, wait until she reads Legendary -- she'll change her mind!" or else "Ummmm, so... yeah... Legendary will be an interesting ride for her."  Alas, the latter were correct.  I don't dislike Tella as much as I did in the first book, but I still don't really like her much.  I especially disliked how she kept lying to Scarlett and keeping big secrets from her that were as much about her as about Tella.  Unfair.

Now, you'd think I'd have liked that the other major character in this was Dante, who was possibly my favorite character in the last one.  Unfortunately, when you take the Mysterious Man in the Shadows and bring him out into the forefront of the story... sometimes the mystery and shadows were the best part of him, and the limelight washes him out. 

But I'm still invested enough to want to read Finale.  And often, the third book in a trilogy is my favorite, so you never know, I might love that one too.  We shall see!  I did still really like Garber's writing style, so it was an enjoyable read in that regard.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for more sexual innuendo and make-out scenes, plus some non-violent icky parts involving lots of blood going everywhere.  Again, the language was fairly clean, but not squeaky.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Winners of the S&S Giveaway!

Here we go!  The winners for the five Austen-related prizes are as follows:

Prize 1 (candle): Becky

Prize 2 (lip balm): Roxann

Prize 3 (sticker sheet): Kendra

Prize 4 (bookmarks & portrait sticker): EF Buckles

Prize 5 (bookmarks & bookstack sticker): Ivy Miranda

Congratulations to all five of you!  I will be emailing you each to ask for mailing addresses later this morning.  

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the read-along -- whether you commented on every post, only one or two, or even just followed along quietly, I'm so happy I could share this reading time with you!

I am not currently planning any more read-alongs here on my blog, but might do one again this fall or winter.  We shall see!  Meanwhile, I am tossing around the idea of doing a quick and informal buddy read for the book The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.  It's not long or deep, but it's loads of bookish fun and would be great to read with pals and laugh over together.  

(Mine from my Instagram)

I think I would try hosting that simultaneously here at The Edge of the Precipice and also on Instagram -- everyone could read at their own pace, and we'd all discuss it at the end of the month -- some in comments on a blog post here and others in a chat group on IG, whichever people prefer!  We're still figuring out what our summer will be like, though, so I won't make big plans for that until we know what we're doing for a vacation, and when.  Just something for you to keep in mind, if you're interested!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

"Elizabeth and her German Garden" by Elizabeth von Arnim

I loved this book!  Oh, it was so refreshing and fun.  I am well on my way to being a firm fan of Elizabeth von Arnim -- in fact, I have bought a couple more of her books already.  I love how she makes me laugh!

This is really a journal in which she talks about her efforts to create the perfect garden in the home she shares with her German husband and their children.  Her garden is her retreat, her pet project, and her creative oasis for several years.  She has grand plans for it, but her series of German gardeners never quite seem to either approve of or understand those plans.  Still, she loves her garden.  I love to garden myself, and even though I don't have to deal with intractable gardeners, my little flower garden never quite does what I want it to either.  Gardens foster patience, I think.

But don't think that this book is boring because it's about an Australian who likes flowers and is married to a German.  It is hilarious.  Witty, wry, friendly, salty -- just altogether marvelous.  It reads like a series of letters from a sarcastic and yet kind friend, and I loved getting to read it in the springtime when my own flower gardening is underway.

Particularly Good Bits:

Sometimes I feel as if were blest above all my fellows in being able to find my happiness so easily (p. 15).

A woman's tongue is a deadly weapon and the most difficult thing in the world to keep in order, and things slip off it with a facility nothing short of appalling at the very moment when it ought to be most quiet (p. 25).

Well, trials are the portion of mankind, and gardeners have their share, and in any case it is better to be tried by plants than persons, seeing that with plants you know that it is you who are in the wrong, and with persons it is always the other way about (p. 57).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some very pointed wit indeed.


This was my 20th book read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list, and my 23rd book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021

Friday, May 7, 2021

"Caraval" by Stephanie Garber

Um.  Wow.  So, yeah.  I binge-read Caraval.  Four hundred pages in two days.  While also teaching my kids, cooking meals, etc.  I can't remember the last time I read a new-to-me straight-up fantasy book that I liked this much.  Probably, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was the last time I just fell into a fantasy world and didn't want to come out.

(MILD SPOILERS follow, basically just about whether or not some characters survive to the end of the book.)

As usual, it wasn't the fantasy world that grabbed me, it was the characters.  Write a story with a protective older sister who would literally die to save her younger sibling if she had to, and I will be interested.  Make that older sister naïve, helpful, stubborn, and cautious, on top of being protective, and I'm just going to be a total fan.  I am. Which is why I loved Scarlett from basically chapter two.  Which is why I inhaled this book, because I had to know she was going to be okay.  I mean, I figured she would be okay in the end, but I had to KNOW.  

The other characters... hmm.  I kept wanting to like Julian, but not trusting him enough to actually like him, but still really wanting to like him.  He kept reminding me of Loki in the MCU, and that is exactly the way I feel about Loki 99% of the time, so yeah.  He could grow on me, maybe.  Scarlett's sister Donatella... irked me a lot.  She also reminded me of Loki in some ways.  Like, she knew her older sister loved her and would do anything for her, but she also just kept doing things that would freak her sister out, and I got frustrated.  

But then there was Dante.  Depending on how Dante plays into the next two books, I could become a Dante fan.  Black-clad man of mystery with suspicious intentions lurking around the edges of the story?  Ohhhhh, yeah.  I could fall for that guy.  We shall see.

(END OF SPOILERS)

We definitely shall see, because I got books 2 and 3 from the library when I was only halfway through this one.  My kids and I finished their school year yesterday, so I am absolutely going to just inhale those two books too, to kick off my summer break.  And I can't wait.

So, what this book is actually about, if you're one of the tiny number of people on the planet who, like me, hadn't already read this trilogy, is a pair of sisters with a horrifying, abusive father who escape their island nation with a pirate named Julian, bound for this magical mystery circus place called Caraval.  And then Donatella gets kidnapped, and Scarlett has only a few days to find her, and she can't actually trust anyone in Caraval because everything is a game and an illusion, and the whole thing slides very, very sideways.  

Through the whole book, I kept being reminded of some vague something that it felt similar to.  Especially at the end.  It wasn't until this morning that I realized what that something is:  it's "Shore Leave," one of my favorite episodes of Classic Star Trek!!!  This was like "Shore Leave" crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so no wonder I dug it. 

I really liked a lot of the writing.  Some of it was a bit... rushed... but it's also a fast-paced adventure story, so me wishing it would slow down a little here and there may have been simply fall-out from me reading a lot of Jane Austen and J. R. R. Tolkien lately.  Garber had so many amazing turns of phrase and unexpected little descriptions that it reminded me a teeny bit of Raymond Chandler now and then.  Just a teeny bit.  Just here and there.  But I liked that too.

Now, there's a lot of suggestive content -- I should probably mention that.  People touching and kissing and almost kissing and pressing against each other.  I think maybe it would have been nice if Julian's torso hadn't been described quite so often as being "row after row of smooth, brown muscles."  (That's not a direct quote, but pretty close.)  I got that he's tan and muscly and lean the first time, thanks.  But... it's YA, and I wasn't that annoyed by it.  Nobody actually ends up having sex, but there's a scene where Scarlett definitely was about to be bedded by someone, except she found a way out of it, so... yeah.  Most of it is just people making unspecified suggestive remarks, looking other people over in sexy ways, and so on.  It never crossed the line out of my comfort zone, but I wouldn't let my kids read this until they were at least 16.  Just throwing that out there.

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for the above-mentioned suggestive content, cruelty, and bloody violence.  Not actually gory, but there were sections with a lot of blood going everywhere.  I think there was also a sprinkling of bad language, but nothing major.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Sense and Sensibility GIVEAWAY!

We did it!  We read Sense and Sensibility together, and I had so much fun digging deeply into the text with you.  To celebrate, I'm giving away five Jane Austen-esque prizes:

Prize 1: "The Air is Full of Spices" candle I bought from Northanger Soapworks.  This is one of my absolute favorite candles -- it smells like oranges and spices, and the name comes from a line of Col. Brandon's in the 1995 film version of Sense and Sensibility, where he describes what India is like for Margaret Dashwood.

Prize 2: "Turn About the Room" lip balm I bought from Northanger Soapworks.  It smells like peppermint and is both soothing and refreshing.

Prize 3:  Sheet of Sense and Sensibility stickers I bought from Vivi At Home Studio.  

Prize 4: Three bookmarks (left-hand set) I bought files from Allegra Digital for and printed myself, plus a portrait sticker of Jane Austen I bought from A Fine Quotation.  The bookmarks are double-sided!

Prize 5:  Three bookmarks (right-hand set) I bought files from Allegra Digital for and printed myself, plus an Austen bookstack sticker I bought from Vivi At Home Studio.  The bookmarks are double-sided!

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE, to any country where the USPS delivers.  Enter via this widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway will end at 11:59pm EST on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. I'll draw five winners on Wednesday, May 12, and announce them here on this blog that day, as well as alert them by the email provided to the widget. Use an email address you check often! If I don't receive a response from a winner by Wednesday, May 19, that winner will be disqualified and I'll draw another. 

This giveaway is open worldwide to anyone living in any country where the USPS delivers. I am not responsible for the activities of any postal service -- I will send off your prize in the condition shown above, but it's arrival condition is not something I can control. 

To enter, must be 18+ or have parent's permission to provide a mailing address. Void where prohibited. Not affiliated with Blogger, Google, Etsy, or any of the shops listed here. I purchased all these prizes, they were not donated or solicited in any way. I will use your email and mailing addresses solely for the purpose of this giveaway. They will not be saved by me to use another way or provided to anyone else.

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 49 & 50

Here we are!  All done! 

Whew.  All's well that ends well.  I'm sorry if you were expecting a big, romantic proposal scene, but Austen tends not to indulge in those.  She's more interested in the overall relationships of the characters with each other, I think, and not just here for the kissy stuff.  For which I am very appreciative, overall.  I'm not a big fan of the kissy stuff either.

Anyway, I chuckled a lot over these last two chapters.  Austen gets pretty feisty, doesn't she?  Poking fun at Edward's habit of getting engaged to young ladies without consulting his mother.  And the whole opening of the last chapter made me laugh aloud multiple times, about Edward being "resuscitated" because his mother decided to forgive and reinstate him, and so on.  Oh, man.  That was pretty priceless.  And then she gets a little snarky at how Colonel Brandon never measures up to Marianne's original ideal of a Romantic Hero... but it's okay, because Marianne grows to love him anyway.  Awww.

Some interesting monetary information from the notes in my annotated copy, as to how much Elinor and Edward will have to live on.  His mother gives him ten thousand pounds, and the notes say this "would produce five hundred a year in income."  Edward also is expecting about two hundred and fifty pounds a year from his 'living.'  Also, Edward had two thousand pounds of his own, and Elinor had one thousand, which together would give them another one hundred and fifty income every year (you just live off the interest of your money, basically).  So, all told, "their income would be nine hundred a year" (p. 699).  Waaaaaaaaaay at the beginning of the book, Elinor said she thought a young couple would require a thousand pounds a year to be undoubtedly happy, so she's not quite going to make it to that amount at this time, but she's certainly going to be comfortably off.

And that's it!  We're done!  I'm working on my celebratory giveaway post now, and I'll have that up as soon as I get it finished.  This evening, I hope!

Thank you, everyone who participated.  This was a lot of fun for me, and I hope it was for you too!  Don't worry, you can keep discussing this for as long as you like.  In fact, here are a couple final discussion questions:

1.  Does Elinor get a character arc?  Does she change or grow over the course of this book?  Or is she just here to provide counterpoint to Marianne, making Marianne the actual heroine?

2.  Marianne + Col. Brandon -- do you love their pairing, or not?  And why?

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 47 & 48

So Much Suspense!  I don't know about you, but I really didn't want to stop reading at the end of chapter 48, so I am going to try to post this quick, read the last two chapters, and post about them today too.  Because yikes, the end of 48 is a wretched place to stop.

I love this line about Elinor's thinking process:  "Reflection had given a calmness to her judgment, and sobered her opinion of Willoughby's deserts" (p. 650).  Not only is it important not to make snap judgments, but it's also important to realize that our emotions can be swayed by a forceful personality, and those emotions can affect our reason.  When Willoughby is present and pleading his case, even Elinor can't quite resist his charm.  But when he's gone, she takes the time to think over what she now knows about him, and his claims, and can see them much more clearly.  Something for us all to remember and try to follow!

I'm really happy for Marianne, that she realizes that even if she had married Willoughby, she would not have been happy with him forever.  She would eventually, inevitably have learned about his seduction and abandonment of Eliza, and she would have lost all respect and even love for him.  I think this must be of a great comfort for her, realizing she hasn't missed out on lasting happiness and love.

In fact, she realizes that her own happiness "never was his object" (p. 654).  He was thoroughly selfish in his love, only caring about how it made him feel, not about how it would affect her.  Another important lesson for us, to be careful not to give our love to those who care only about their own happiness and well-being, not our own.  In fact, I personally feel like that's one way you can tell if a relationship could last -- do both people in it put the other person's welfare and interests above their own?  (And if they both put God first, the other person second, and themselves last, then I think you've got an unbeatable romance there.)

(SPOILERS BELOW!)

And then, their servant drops the big bomb.  Miss Lucy Steele is now Mrs. Lucy Ferrars.  Dun-dun-dun.  (At least we didn't end with THAT chapter!)  Happily, neither the Dashwoods nor ourselves are left in the misunderstanding of which Mr. Ferrars Lucy married -- not for long, anyway.  Edward arrives, announces that he's unmarried, but Lucy has married Robert, and then off he goes because honestly, that's enough news for one day, am I right?

What does Elinor do?  Does she go into hysterics?  No, that's Marianne, and she's not even the one involved in this love quadrangle!  Elinor *almost* runs out of the room (running was unladylike, especially in the house, so she maintains proper behavior even now) and closes the door behind her... and then "burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease" (p. 670).  Final, definite proof that it's not that Elinor doesn't feel deeply, but that she "will be mistress" of herself (p. 666).  No one is going to control her by playing on her emotions, the way Willoughby preyed on Marianne -- she controls her emotions herself, so no one else can.  

Yeah, I don't want to stop here, so I'm going to read the next couple chapters as soon as my kids finish school.  Here's hoping I have time to post about them yet today too.  And then... the giveaway!  And we'll be done!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you think Willoughby will continue to regret losing Marianne, or is he going to move on pretty quickly?

2.  Did you just read straight on to the end instead of stopping here? 

Monday, May 3, 2021

"The Lady and the Lionheart" by Joanne Bischof

I'm glad I read this book for two reasons.

One, it's shown me several pitfalls NOT to stumble into with my own Beauty and the Beast retelling, which I'm currently writing the first draft of.  Such as, if your 'beast' is going to have some kind of physical 'otherness' that is supposed to be shocking and off-putting... make it something that actually would be shocking and off-putting. 

Two, it hammered home the fact that Research Really Matters.  A lot.  And getting lazy with your research is not okay.  Especially not in the age of Wikipedia.  Now, this book is set in 1890.  My own books are set from 1866 to 1884, so far, which means I have a reasonable idea of what kinds of words, fabrics, slang terms, music styles, and things of that ilk are contemporaneous to the last half of the 19th century...and also with how easy it is to find out if they're period-correct or not.  

For example, hey, guess what?  In 1890, no random chick in Virginia is going to know what ragtime music is.  It's just barely being invented in New Orleans right then, and it'll be years before it becomes mainstream enough that a random chick in Virginia would be able to recognize it, much less spontaneously play ragtime music on a piano (and that after not having touched a piano for five years).  And that's just the one thing that I was so annoyed over that I ranted to Cowboy over it for minutes on end, so I still remember it vividly.  There were a lot of other things that yanked me out of the story because I wondered so hard if they were accurate or not.  

I HATE being yanked out of a story by having my credulity stretched until it snaps.  (I also kept getting yanked out by the sloppy/clunky writing... and I'm not sure which annoyed me more.)

Also, if you're going to write about a 7-month-old baby, maybe check with the parents of some 7-month-old babies to see if what you're having this fictional kid do and eat is plausible.  I know it's been 8 1/2 years since I had a 7-month-old, but... most babies that age don't have very many teeth, for one thing.  They can gum soft foods like bread, but... I'm just sayin'.

I suppose I should briefly mention what this book is about.  A young woman named Ella who dreams of becoming a nurse comes to the rescue of a man named Charlie and his sick baby.  Charlie is a lion-tamer in the circus.  (He's actually named Richard Lionheart, because subtlety is not a big thing with this book.)  Ella is beautiful and Charlie has shaggy hair and tattoos, so that makes them Beauty and the Beast.  Romance ensues.

(Mine from my Instagram.)

(SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH).  So, the tattoos.  I know that they were a way bigger deal in the past than they are now.  Especially in the Victorian era, when people were Extra Sensitive about certain things.  But I really can't think of any evidence from any of my own historical research that would make me believe that people then found them so disgusting that, wow, it would be a tough choice between getting a lot of tattoos or becoming a male whore.  The whole tattoo thing seemed blown way out of proportion.  Yes, they're permanent.  Yes, they're unusual in that era, for people who weren't sailors or South Sea Islanders.  Yes, circuses would have a Tattooed Man or a Tattooed Lady as a curiosity or "freak" in their sideshows.  But... I did not buy that there was any reason for Charlie to assume that the fact that he had tattoos would make him unmarriageable or unfit for ordinary human interaction.  Seemed very contrived to me.

(MORE SPOILERS)  Also, while we're at it, what was up with the semi-erotic scene where Ella touches Charlie all over his bare chest and back and arms?  Now THAT would have been completely unacceptable behavior in Victorian times.  No way was she going to feel comfortable doing that, especially not with her lingering trauma from her rape five years earlier.  That felt very much like the whole scene was just there to give female readers a chance to vicariously get all hot and bothered, and I was NOT cool with it.

(END OF SPOILERS)

The romance in this is sweet and relatable, and I really did love Charlie in particular.  Men with Sad Pasts and Kind Hearts always draw me, you know.  But every time I'd get drawn into the story by the characters, I'd get thrown out again by the clunky writing.  I know this is an earlier book by this author, so maybe her writing skills have grown to match her story-creating skills by now...

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for memories of a teen girl's rape, a visit to a brothel, suggestive comments made by minor characters.  There's also some kissing, but that's tame.

This is my 20th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 45 & 46

We only have four chapters left after this!  Only two more posts!  Oh my goodness.  Well, I suppose I should mention right now that I'll be holding a small giveaway when we finish this, with Austen-inspired goodies and so on.  Just in case you need something to look forward to ;-)

Right, so, on to the chapters at hand.  Elinor is clearly a better person than I am.  She is way more willing to think of good things to remember about Willoughby than I would be.  So, um, good for her.

I do get a little annoyed that Mrs. Dashwood is almost acting like Edward never existed, though.  Like, she never commiserates with Elinor about losing him.  At all.  I get that she's focused on Marianne's brush with death, but she takes time to discuss Willoughby.  Not Edward, though.  Poor Elinor.  Not that she probably wants her mom to really talk about him much, but it would be nice to know she cares and sympathizes, you know?

It's struck me, this time through the book, that Marianne has gotten a way bigger character arc than Elinor.  She started out indulging her every passion and refusing to take time to think anything through, and now she's learned to be calm and reasonable.  She's learned and grown.  But what's Elinor's arc?  I know we're not to the end of the book yet, but so far, Elinor started out reasonable and self-controlled, and she's still reasonable and self-controlled.  Hmm.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you think Marianne will stick to her resolution to "divide every moment between music and reading" (p. 640) all summer?

2.  Do you agree with Marianne when she says, "My own feelings had prepared my sufferings" (p. 644)?  If she had behaved less passionately, would her suffering have been any less?

Saturday, May 1, 2021

"The Last Fire-Eater" by Charity Bishop

I was fairly convinced through almost this whole book that history wasn't going to let Charity Bishop give the couple at the center of this story a happy ending, and I was kinda mad about that.  Because I got attached to the title character very quickly, and I needed a happy ending for her.  Needed it, I say!  

Lambert Simnel, titular character of The Queen's Falconer (the previous book in the Tudor Throne series), gradually falls in love with Davina, a young woman who knows the secrets of fire eating.  They're both part of a massive entourage accompanying Princess Margaret to Scotland for her marriage to King James there.  Davina has more secrets than just how to handle fire, and the truth about her past ends up threatening to separate them forever.

SPOILER!  Happily, Bishop bends history just a smidge to give them a happy ending.  All is well.  END SPOILER

Sir Thomas Lovell gets a kinder, gentler role in this book than usual, and even makes amends with his wife, Lady Isabel, over the course of the journey.  But don't worry, he got to do quite a bit of rescuing, conniving, threatening, skulking, and generally being a dark hero.  Which made me happy, as he's been my favorite in this series since the beginning.

Although this is part of the Tudor Throne Series, I think you could read it as a stand-alone and not be lost.  This book in particular works well as a self-contained story.  So if you've been curious about Bishop's books, or if you just want to try out some new history-based fiction, I definitely think you could jump into the series here and be fine.

NOTE: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.  I was not asked or required to leave a review, positive or otherwise.  All opinions are my own.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for some smooching, a wife and husband who desire each other, and some medieval violence.

This is my 19th book read from my TBR stash for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.  

Friday, April 30, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 43 & 44

But wait!  There's more!  Now, in the space of only two chapters, you can get a near-deadly illness AND a visit from a self-absorbed ex-lover!  All for the low, low price of learning to understand your actions and the people around you.  Act now, Marianne, before these opportunities are gone for good!

Um, so, yeah.  Exciting times in these two chapters, eh?  First, Marianne almost succumbs to a terrible fever, which Mrs. Jennings suspects is a "putrid" fever.  My annotated copy says that means she thinks she probably thinks it's typhus.  So you can understand why Mrs. Palmer evacuates her baby as swiftly as possible!  They did understand that being near a sick person could spread that disease to you, even if germs weren't quite understood yet at this time.

And once again, hurrah for Mrs. Jennings!  I love how she, "with a kindness of heart which made Elinor really love her, declared her resolution of not stirring from Cleveland as long as Marianne remained ill" (p. 574).  What an absolute wonder she is. 

Oh, quick note about them calling the apothecary for Marianne, since my mom asked me what was up with that.  According to the annotated edition, "The apothecary was the most basic medical practitioner, who would respond to normal illnesses, give advice, and prescribe medicines" (p. 573).  Elsewhere, it explains that when someone got sick, you would first try home remedies, and most women had at least some experience nursing ill people because most illnesses would be treated at home.  And home remedies were generally about as effective as a doctor's for most things, honestly.  

So you would maybe call an apothecary to get some medicines or remedies you didn't have on hand, but you only called a physician in very extreme cases.  Physicians had attended school to learn medicine, and they treated illnesses, but didn't do surgery.  Surgeons did surgery, and they tended to have the most medical training, but they didn't treat illnesses, just did things like stitching up wounds and amputating limbs and other surgical things.  ANYWAY, that's why they called the apothecary, who was kind of like our pharmacists today, but did house calls?  And why they talk about sending for an actual physician when Marianne gets worse.  They probably would have had to send to a large town or even to London to get one of those.

But all within a few pages, the danger is past and Marianne is recovering, whew.  I'm really glad Austen doesn't drag this out for chapter after chapter.  Aren't you?  I think that could be a big temptation for an author to milk the illness for lots of drama, but Austen knows their lives are dramatic enough already without a prolonged illness.

And then she just tosses Willoughby into the very end of the chapter, like *BOOM!* 


And now, yeah, any shred of sympathy I might maybe have been feeling for Willoughby are completely blown out of sight by his absolute self-absorbtion.  Notice that he's not here to check on Marianne and make sure she's okay, or even to ask how she's doing.  He's only here because he can't bear the idea that she might die while thinking badly of him.  Everything he says is focused on himself, his feelings, his desires.  It's a giant pity party he tries to disguise as concern for Marianne, and I am just... done with him.  He even flat out says that the reason he came himself instead of just writing a letter was because it "was necessary to [his] own pride" (p. 604).  So at least he's self-aware enough to realize that, but still.  Ugh.

Elinor is pretty done with him too, I think.  She even scolds him, pointing out, "You have made your own choice.  It was not forced on you.  Your wife has a claim to your politeness, to your respect" (p. 614).  From Elinor, that's a pretty fierce scolding.

And here we are again, with people making Elinor relay news for them.  Prevously, Colonel Brandon asked her to tell Marianne all his revelations about Willoughby's mistreatment of his ward.  Then he asks Elinor to offer the living at Delaford to Edward.  And now Willoughby wants Elinor to tell Marianne he really did love her and never intended to seduce her.  Poor Elinor!  All these hard messages to relate.  Yeesh.

Anyway.  Good-bye, Willoughby, and good riddance.

Discussion Questions: 

1.  Why do people keep making Elinor give other people messages and news?

2.  Do you have any sympathy left for Willoughby by now?  Do you think I'm being too harsh on him?

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll

Well, I've discovered that, like The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, this book is pretty fun to read out loud, even though if I read it silently to myself, it annoys me.  So I did enjoy reading this aloud to my kids over a couple weeks, mostly because I got to do lots of silly voices.  Though, by the end, I was running out of new silly voices for all the characters!  So, yeah, that was an interesting challenge, and did make it fun for me.

But, on a whole, this book is very silly and nonsensical and I am... not a fan.  There's no actual point to the story, aside from "will Alice ever get to be a normal size again?" and it turns out to all be a dream, so even that isn't an actual point.  And I just don't enjoy pointless stories.

(Mine from my Instagram account.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Nothing unacceptable for kids here.

This is the 19th book I've read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list.

Monday, April 26, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 41 & 42

And now, for something completely different:  Lucy says nice things to and about Elinor!  And then reverts to being conniving and greedy, secretly planning to mooch milk and eggs off Colonel Brandon's estate once she and Edward are married and living near him.  Pardon me while I roll my eyes very far back into my head like a twelve-year-old.

I had to chuckle over John Dashwood saying, "I am convinced that there is a vast deal of inconsistency in almost every human character (p. 548).  Um, yeah, way to describe yourself there, dude.  But at least he's been friendly and polite to Elinor and Marianne all along, not shunning them while Elinor had a chance with Edward, only to try to make friends with them now.  I guess his greatest inconsistency is in not being able to see how unfair his wife and mother-in-law have been, and thinking he's been totally fair and generous himself.

Also, Elinor makes some very icily sarcastic remarks to her half-brother that go way over his head, which makes me laugh too.

Anyway, off we go to Cleveland, as in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, not the city in Ohio.  Where you will probably be shocked to discover that Marianne does not catch a terrible cold by wandering off in a storm to recite poetry while staring at Willoughby's home.  She also does not get carried home in a downpour by a heroic Colonel Brandon.  That's one of the biggest deviations from the book that Emma Thompson did in her screenplay for the 1995 film, but since it makes such a nice parallel to Willoughby's first entrance in the story and gives Brandon something very manly to do, I never mind it at all.  But here, Marianne just gets chilled sitting around in the damp grass while indulging her passion for dead leaves.

I'm struck by Austen's description of Marianne once again insisting on being unhappy.  She writes, "In such moments of precious, of invaluable misery, she rejoiced in tears of agony to be at Cleveland" (p. 564).  Oh, come on, Marianne, stop making yourself miserable on purpose!!!

Discussion Questions:

1. Are you starting to lose patience with Marianne's rejoicing in self-perpetuated agony?

2. Are you like Marianne in that she "had the knack of finding her way in every house to the library" (p. 566)?

3. Are you surprised that Mr. Palmer is "very capable of being a pleasant companion" (p. 568)?

Friday, April 23, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 39 & 40

Well, finally!  Something goes right for somebody!  Isn't Colonel Brandon just the sweetest, most thoughtful man?  Offering this "living" to Edward, whom he barely knows, simply because he sympathizes with the injustice of parents interfering in the love lives of their children.  Of course, Brandon has no way of knowing that he's actually hurting his friend Elinor by this, because now Edward will be able to marry Lucy instead of putting off the marriage because of insufficient money to support a wife.  But Brandon doesn't know Elinor loves Edward, he just knows Edward is a friend of hers, and he thinks this means Elinor will be glad to see her friend have a home and a way to earn a living.

Which, you see, is the trouble with being SO guarded of your feelings as Elinor is -- you may end up getting hurt by people who are trying to be kind to you because they don't know what your feelings and thoughts are.  Better to be a little less reserved, at least with those you can trust, I think.

Here's a little aside from my annotated edition:  although several characters her believe that a clergyman who makes only 200 pounds a year is too poor to marry, that's actually a bit more than Jane Austen's father was making as a clergyman when he married her mother.  So it might not be enough to live well, but it's do-able.  

The whole thing where Mrs. Jennings and Elinor misunderstand each other is pretty funny, isn't it?  And it goes on just long enough, but stops before it becomes tiresome and ceases to be funny.  At least, I think so.

Quick note:  I'm so sorry I'm very behind on replying to comments and discussing this book with you!  The last two weeks have been ridiculously busy, and I have had almost no time to do even ordinary internet things like check my email.  I'm trying to fit blogging in, but even that has been tough, as evidenced by my posting this at 10:30 on a Friday night.  Next week should be much calmer!  So I promise I'm not ignoring y'all!  I will reply when life has settled down again!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Did you think the misunderstanding about what Colonel Brandon was asking Elinor was funny?

2.  Do you think it's better to marry sooner and be kind of poor, or put off marrying a few years until you will be more comfortably off?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 37 & 38

And so, the secret is out.  Finally.  Anyone else breathing a huge sigh of relief on behalf of Elinor because she doesn't have this awful secret hanging over her head anymore?  Whew.  Even though it means Edward is firmly and publicly engaged to Lucy Steele now, which is sad for both Elinor and Edward, it's just... got to be a big relief to have it known.

Random note:  the "Nancy" they keep mentioning is the elder Miss Steele, the one with the fixation on some doctor.  Her first name is Anne, but Nancy was a common nickname for Anne at that time.  So if you were reading along and suddenly went, "Who in the world is this Nancy person?" now you know.

I find this line so... illuminating?  Enlightening?  Interesting?  Something:

"But unwelcome as such a task must be, it was necessary to be done, and Elinor therefore hastened to perform it" (p. 482).

Elinor does not avoid necessary tasks just because they're annoying or unwelcome.  She hurries up and does them.  Are you that way?  Because I totally am not, usually.  I will put off an annoying or unwelcome task, like telling someone bad news or sweeping the kitchen or taking out the compost, for as long as I can by coming up with other tasks to do first.  But not Elinor.  Rip off the bandage and get it over with, that's her philosophy, maybe?

Anyway, Elinor here gets to state something that we see over and over again in Jane Austen's books, which I quite agree with:

"And after all, Marianne, after all that is bewitching in the idea of a single and constant attachment, and all that can be said of one's happiness depending entirely on any particular person, it is not meant -- it is not fit -- it is not possible that it should be so (p. 486/88).

I heartily agree.  I think if you're depending on one human being to make you happy, you're in for a lot of disappointment.  I have a loving, affectionate, happy marriage that has lasted nearly 19 years... but I do not depend on my husband to make me happy.  I have friends, he has friends, we both have dearly loved family members -- we are not each others' whole worlds.  And if we had not met, I feel sure God could have led us to other people we could have been very happy with too.  I think happiness in marriage is a blessing, but also largely a choice and a decision that two people make -- we like each other, so we shall be happy together.  And we keep on working to promote each others' happiness, but not insisting that our own happiness must be entirely supplied by them and them alone.  

Anyway.  That got long-winded.  Clearly, I have Many Thoughts on that subject.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Are you like Elinor, and like to get unpleasant, yet needful, tasks over as fast as you can?

2.  Do you agree that it's not possible/healthy for one's happiness to depend entirely upon one particular person?

Sunday, April 18, 2021

"A Girl from Yamhill" by Beverly Cleary

Have you ever wanted to know what Beverly Cleary's own childhood was like?  Was it anything like that of any of the kids she wrote about so vividly, like Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins and Ellen Tebbits?  Well, this book is your chance to find out!

In fact, bits of Cleary's own childhood, as related here, did make it into her books.  Playing "brick factory," getting called a "nuisance" by a teacher, making stilts from tin cans, and other little details like that are here.  But Cleary's own childhood was not so carefree and innocent as the ones she wrote about.  She grew up during the Great Depression, and her family struggled like most in America in those days.  Her mother was something of a cipher, and tried to live vicariously through her teenage daughter.  An uncle tried to molest her.  Cleary made friends her mother didn't approve of, had to move several times, and gradually discovered she had a talent for writing stories other people wanted to read.

This book follows Cleary from toddlerhood through the end of high school.  She published a second volume of memoirs that I suppose picked up where this left off.  I might try to read that one, but I didn't particularly love this book, even though it was a fast, engrossing read.  I mean, I did enjoy it, but not enough to want to reread it, you know?  I'd rather reread one of her fiction books for kids.  Though maybe her weird mom would not be in the other memoir so much?  She bothered me, to be honest.

Particularly Good Bits:

To this day, I cannot outline fiction.  I find that an outline limits the flights of imagination which are the joy of writing.  I write and then rewrite, bringing order to the second draft (p. 263).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16.  Cleary talks about things like never having sex explained to her, dating a man in his twenties when she was in high school, and her uncle's attempts to molest her -- things that are NOT something I would read to kids, tweens, or younger teens.  Don't think this is a book you can read aloud to your kids. 

This is the 18th book I've read off my TBR shelves this year for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 35 & 36

Okay, not only is Lucy a poisonous little viper, she's entirely delusional.  She's completely convinced herself that Mrs. Ferrars and Fanny Dashwood truly like her for who she is, and absolutely oblivious to the fact that they were only being nice to her to spite Elinor.  Which, honestly, is hilarious.  Oh. My. Word.

Of course, Fanny inviting Lucy and her sister to stay with them is only going to encourage Lucy in this notion.  Which is understandable.  And I have to say, Fanny and Lucy are a fun pair to watch because they're both so determinedly insincere, both saying nice things and not meaning them at all.

But I really can't stand either of them.

Also, so, is it terribly mean of me to absolutely love the scene where Edward walks in on Fanny and Elinor chatting and we have The Most Awkward Five Minutes in British Literary History ever?  It's really horrible for all of them... and yet it makes me laugh.  Especially the bit where "Edward seemed to have as great an inclination to walk out of the room again, as to advance farther into it" (p. 448).  It's horribly embarrassing for everyone except Lucy Steele... but honestly, I end up just feeling really proud of Elinor through the whole ordeal, and laugh at Lucy for being such a prim little minx and behaving rather badly by being "determined to make no contribution to the comfort of others" (p. 450) and not participating in the conversation.  That's terribly rude, and I know Edward sees her that way.

By the time I got to the bit where "Edward muttered something, but what it was, nobody knew, not even himself" (p. 452), I couldn't help laughing aloud.  I'm grinning at it even now.  Wow.  How does Austen make a scene that's so ridiculously awkward also be so funny and even enjoyable?

Chapter 36 is dull by comparison, but has some funny bits, mostly at Robert Ferrars' expense.  And Mr. Palmer's refusal to say his baby is the most beautiful baby ever made me chuckle.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you think Lucy Steele and Fanny Dashwood realize at all that they're both just using each other for very selfish reasons?  Or does Lucy think Fanny is actually being kind, and Fanny think Lucy actually likes her little boy and so on?

Friday, April 16, 2021

"The Canary Trainer" by Nicholas Meyer

For years, I have wanted to read a book that inserts Sherlock Holmes into The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.  Why?  Because the edition of that book I first read, way back in 1999, mentioned that some people suggest that the "Rat Catcher" character might actually be Sherlock Holmes in disguise.  I have since learned that Leroux was actually a HUGE fan of Sherlock Holmes, and it's very possible that he meant the Rat Catcher to be Holmes in disguise.  

Well, what Holmesian wouldn't want to read a version of it where that's really Holmes?

So, I was excited to learn that Nicholas Meyer had written a book that mashed the two together.  I've long been a fan of Meyer's book The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and hoped he would do the story justice.  And, for the most part, he did.  Holmes was very Holmes-esque, I like that Irene Adler got to play a part that didn't involve her trying to seduce Holmes (because I'm tired of pastiches that use her that way), and I liked seeing the events of The Phantom of the Opera from a different perspective.

But Holmes isn't the Rat Catcher.  In fact, the Rat Catcher never shows up at all.  I mean, I guess you could say Holmes kind of steps in to take his place in a way?  But... it wasn't how I was hoping, so... I will have to reread this sometime without my expectations in the way, and I think I will be even more pleased with it then.  Which doesn't mean I didn't like it now, because I did!  A lot.  Enough to keep it on my shelves.

Particularly Good Bits:

It is often so with human nature; we take for granted and disparage our greatest gifts and years to be accepted in capacities for which others might be better suited.  Clowns long to enact Hamlet, doctors to write novels, and in my case here was a detective determined to play the violin (p. 46).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some mild innuendo, peril to many characters, and several fairly creepy scenes, as befits anything about the Phantom of the Opera.

This is my 17th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 33 & 34

You know, I was perfectly happy living my life without John and Fanny Dashwood on the scene.  How about you?  Ugh, they're just insufferable.  John going on and on about how "poor" he is, just to convince Elinor he can't help out.  Fanny and her mother only being nice to the two Steele girls and barely speaking civilly to Elinor and Marianne... just disgusting!

But wow, Austen's sarcasm is in beast mode here.  She says that Mrs. Ferrars "was not a woman of many words: for, unlike other people in general, she proportioned them to the number of her ideas" (p. 434).  Way to sock it to both Mrs. Ferrars and people in general, eh?  And then she says, of the display of wealth that John and Fanny put on, that "no poverty of any kind, except of conversation, appeared (p. 436).  Wow.  You can almost hear that one sizzle.

Austen's authorial gloves also come off regarding Lucy Steele.  She outright says that Lucy "believed herself to be inflicting a severe disappointment" (432) on Elinor when she tells her that Edward won't be at the dinner party.  And then she says that Lucy "hoped at least to be an object of irrepressible envy to Elinor" (p. 434) over how uncomfortable she is about meeting Edward's mother.  No more conjecturing about whether or not Lucy is a villainess here, eh?

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you think Col. Brandon catches on that John thinks he's interested in Elinor?

2.  Did you laugh aloud when Elinor snarks at her half-brother John that "assisted by [Mrs. Ferrars'] liberality, I hope you may yet live to be in easy circumstances," like I did?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"Yesterday or Long Ago" by Jenni Sauer

This book made me so happy :-)  It is the perfect sort of springtime book, where even when serious things happen, you have the solid sense that everything will work out just fine.  It's basically a gender-flipped Aladdin retelling, but it's also just it's own sweet thing, and I loved it.

My favorite thing about Yesterday or Long Ago is how it revolves around a friendship between two young women, Rinity and Amya, who are completely loyal to each other.  So often, female friendships in fiction get used to set up tension when they both like the same guy, or one of them gets more successful at her job than the other and jealousy breaks up their friendship.  But none of those sorts of clichés happen here -- hooray!  Instead, Rinity and Amya are kind, considerate, and truthful with each other.  Sure, they do disagree at times, but "will they stay friends?" is not a plot point at all, and I loved that.

Another thing I loved was how Rinity used storytelling to calm herself down, to get herself through stressful situations, and even to explain herself to others.  I identify strongly with that habit.  Also, Amya sews, and so do I, so that was a fun connection for me too.

Both girls fall in love with men far above their social station, and trying to figure out how to tell the men the truth about where they come from is the biggest problem they have for a while.  But then Rinity gets tangled up with a shady man who claims to know who her real father was, something she's always longed to know, and everything gets pretty worrisome for a while... but, like I said, you always have a sense that things will end well, which makes the darker parts not too dark.

(My photo from my Instagram account.)



This is not exactly a sequel to Sauer's debut novel Rook di Goo, but instead takes some side characters from that book and has them be love interests, antagonists, and secondary characters here.  The two books take place in a shared universe, but can be read independently.  So it's a little bit like how characters from one of my Once Upon a Western books will pop up in later books and stories too.  I like interrelated stories like that :-)

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher and was in no way obligated to review it.

This book will be released on May 12.  If you want to know how and where to pre-order it (and receive some pre-order swag!), please check out the author's blog for that info.  Even though I got to read an ARC, I'm ordering a physical copy myself because I know I'll want to reread it, and I want it on my shelf.

You can add it to your to-read shelf on Goodreads right here.

Particularly Good Bits:

She fought to keep her words a hiss, keenly aware that they were in the Library and the books wouldn't like it if she yelled (ch. 4).

She couldn't just keep reading books and pretend reality didn't exist (ch. 15). 

She pushed that hope away, though she knew that wasn't how hope worked.  It was a pesky thing that had a habit of sticking around far longer than she wished and refused to be killed no matter how hard you tried.  It was tenacious as ivy and twice as stubborn (ch. 27).

She wasn't a girl in a storybook.  People often assumed she didn't, but she did know the difference between reality and stories (ch. 29).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some perilous moments and lots of kissing.  But sweet and innocent kissing, nothing racy.  No bad language; very mild violence and peril.

This is my 16th book read from my TBR for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Monday, April 12, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 31 & 32

Any kindly thoughts you may have had regarding Willoughby can now be kicked to the curb.  A pox upon him!  My goodness.  Well, now you know why he's my most-despised villain in all of Austen's books.  (Not most-hated -- that's John Thorpe from Northanger Abbey.)  I mean, it's bad enough to have jilted Marianne in favor of a rich heiress, but now we learn that he seduced, impregnated, and abandoned another seventeen-year-old girl.  Boy, did Marianne ever dodge a bullet!

And at least she's being nicer to Col. Brandon now that she knows he has the sort of melancholy and Romantic background she always finds the most interesting.  It was very hard for him to relate this painful history of himself, the girl he loved, and her daughter... but at least Marianne talks to him now.  Sometimes.

By the way, a note on the mention of Col. Brandon and Eliza meaning to elope to Scotland.  At this time, underage people could not get married without their parents' consent in England, but they could in Scotland.  And nobody was supposed to get married without going through the proper procedure of getting a license and so on, which took a couple weeks... but you could get married right away in Scotland.  So people who wanted to elope and get married quickly, especially people under the age of 21, often would try to run away together to Scotland and get married.  Such marriages were considered legal in England too, so you can see why it would be popular.  A common destination for eloping couples was a town called Gretna Green that was just over the border into Scotland, which is where the Bennets assume one of their daughters is heading when she runs off with someone in Pride and Prejudice.

Also, uh, did you catch that Col. Brandon challenged Willoughby to a duel over his treatment of Brandon's ward?  That's what he means by "we met by appointment, he to defend, I to punish his conduct.  We returned unwounded..." (p. 390).  Dueling was illegal in England at that time, according to my annotated copy, but still a fairly popular way for gentlemen and soldiers to deal with things like this that couldn't be taken before a court.  As long as you weren't caught in the act by the authorities, it was basically okay.  Also, by this time, it didn't matter if you didn't actually wound or kill your opponent -- to show up and stand up bravely while they fired a pistol at you was still proof of your courage and a way to defend your honor.

Now, Col. Brandon was, obviously, in the military.  He even served a tour in India, where little uprisings all over probably meant that he had at least participated in skirmishes.  The fact that he's a colonel means that he was either the first or second in command of his regiment.  So I feel like him NOT shooting Willoughby at all is a mark of his innate morality, that he's proved his point by calling Willoughby out and facing him, and so he forbears to actually hurt him.  Though MAN, that had to have been hard, not shooting the guy who debauched your ward AND captured the heart of the woman you love.  Wow.

Alas, Marianne sinks into depression. And UGH, Lucy Steele has returned to the narrative.  We're going to turn now away from Marianne's romantic troubles and focus on Elinor's instead.

Last thing:  I laughed aloud over this bit about Mrs. Palmer: "She was determined to drop his acquaintance immediately, and she was very thankful that she had never been acquainted with him at all" (p. 398).  Too funny!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you also think Col. Brandon missed Willoughby on purpose?

2.  Do you groan whenever Lucy Steele appears on the page?  Or are you kinder to her than I am?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 29 & 30

And now we enter the sad and wretched part of the book where Marianne Is As Sad As Is Humanly Possible.  All the time.  Poor thing :-(  I mean, yes, she throws herself into "excessive affliction" and "most nervous irritability" with great abandon, but she truly has reason to be heartbroken.  I mean, does anyone else here want to punch Willoughby in the face?  Hard?  Just because Marianne kind of goes overboard with the grieving doesn't mean her grief isn't real and warranted.

Here's something interesting that I learned from my annotated version:  London had its own postal system, separate from the national postal system of Great Britain, called the "two-penny post."  For two pennies, you could get a letter to anywhere in London in an hour or so.  Amazing!!! Anyway, this is how Marianne is able to send a letter to Willoughby early in the morning, probably by the 8:00 mail collection, and Willoughby gets it in time to have his reply delivered to her somewhere around 11:00.  My goodness, how speedy and efficient!  

Anyway, we get to see something very illuminating in chapter 29:  Elinor crying violently.  Which provides us with proof that she is definitely capable of experiencing strong emotions.  She just has learned how to choose when to give way to them and when to hold them inside.  Also, it shows us that she's extremely sympathetic with Marianne's plight.  She agrees that it this terrible.  Which makes Marianne's outburst toward her sister, claiming that Elinor "cannot have an idea of what I suffer" so obviously unjust.  Sigh.

As for Mrs. Jennings, I say, hurrah for her!  She may be fond of gossip and teasing, but she is an absolute brick when it comes to standing by an injured friend.  She does everything she can think of to help ease Marianne's sadness, and it's not her fault that she's so different from Marianne that nothing she can think of actually helps.  I mean, she even offers to let Marianne "name her own supper," which means she'd have to change the pre-arranged menu she'd agreed on (possibly days in advance) with her cook.  Possibly have to send someone to purchase different food.  She's willing to put herself and her staff to the expense and trouble of that, just to cheer up a girl who constantly belittles and avoids her.  Hurrah for Mrs. Jennings!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Does anyone else think that Willoughby has been exceedingly foxy and clever in having managed to never actually tell Marianne he loved her?  (At that time, declaring your romantic love to someone was considered the same as a proposal.)

2.  Do you want to say "hurrah for Mrs. Jennings" too?  Or are you more of Marianne's opinion of her?

Friday, April 9, 2021

"Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome

What a perfectly marvelous book!  I absolutely loved this story and these characters, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.  Read it aloud to my kids, I mean, which is what I did with this one.

Four siblings (John, Susan, Titty, and Roger) visit the Lake District in Great Britain with their mother and baby sister while their father is busy working.  Because this is the early twentieth century, they get permission to sail out to an island and camp there for several weeks, and have many adventures, both on the island and on their boat, the Swallow.  They make friends with two sisters who sail their own boat and call themselves the Amazons, and after having a merry war, they make peace and continue having adventures together.  Believable, jolly, sometimes exciting adventures that I just loved.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Clean, wholesome, and sweet.

This is my 18th book read and reviewed for my 3rd Classics Club list, and my 15th read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 27 & 28

Oh, Marianne.  You poor thing.  It's not at all shocking that you're confused by Willoughby's behavior and feeling faint.  It's such a good thing that Elinor came along to London to take care of you!

It strikes me as a little... ironic?  funny? that Colonel Brandon is basically turning into the epitome of a Romantic hero, pining away for an unattainable love and making himself a bit despondent in the process... and Marianne can't see it.  Sigh.

Okay, something I learned from my annotated edition this time around, regarding shaking hands.  It says that men and women would only shake hands with someone of the opposite sex who was closely connected to them by blood or marriage, or impending marriage.  So Marianne wanting to shake hands with Willoughby shows that she basically considers herself to be engaged with him, whereas his refusal to shake hands with her is basically his rejecting any such close connection.  Which people in Austen's day would totally have understood, since this was the common rule of propriety at the time, but we don't really get, so I'm glad the book mentioned it, and I'm passing that along.

It's so interesting that Elinor feels that her own situation, of never being able to marry Edward, is now better and/or more comfortable than Marianne's, because at least she doesn't have to feel ashamed of him for doing the right thing by standing by his previous promises to Lucy Steele.  Whereas, Willoughby has dropped Marianne like a hot potato, and you just can't think well of a guy who'll do that.  It's a very small bit of comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

Discussion Questions:

1.  How do you think this would have all proceeded if Elinor had stayed home?  Would Marianne have behaved any differently?

2.  Do you think better of Lady Middleton now, because she was willing to abandon her own pursuit of entertainment to take Marianne and Elinor home early from the party?  Was this kindness, or only good manners?