Book Club Picks: Julie

So Happy Mother’s Day All!

I have never done a mother’s day post before, why? I don’t know. I must have been too busy celebrating my mom.

I had wanted to review The Mother Keeper on Mother’s Day, I thought it would be cute-but I didn’t want to put off my book club pick reviews that long. I thought I would have them all finished and be caught up by now.

I knooooooooooooow!!! I am so behind. I don’t know what happened. I have no excuse.

What’s happening?

So I decided that I would kill two birds with one stone. For Mother’s Day I will honor my mother with a review of one of her favorite books, which is also the next Book Club Pick up for review-her choice of course. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, book club reviews? Never fear-I can give a brief recap.

So as you all know I started a book club, because you know me and books…

Every month we read a book and I do a little post on the book we read and discussed. What can I say, I just love books.

There is no theme, other than with each month, a different member gets to pick a book, whichever one they want. This time, as I mentioned above, the book club member-my mother chose:

Julie by Catherine Marshall

I would also recommend this as a Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers

So this book was written by Catherine Marshall, of the Christy fame. She based the book on her own life, including the poetry she wrote when she was a young girl, and the Johnstown Flood.

Julie comes from a family of five, the Wallaces-mother, father, Julie, a sister Anne-Marie, and a younger brother, Tim. Her father was a Minster in the South, but for some reason unknown to her and her siblings, has quit the ministry and a stable good-paying job to in Depression ridden American to use his wife’s small inheritance to purchase a newspaper,The Sentinel, in Alderton, Pennsylvania.

What’s going on?

Have any of you seen North and South? I love that miniseries (and plan on reviewing it sometime). But the reason I bring it up is that in that series the Dad quits the church and moves them from the South to the factory-filled North. And we are all on the edge of our seat trying to figure out what happened, and it takes quite some time until they reveal it.

It’s the same here. The left the beautiful South to go to North, the town of Alderton, controlled by Yoder Iron and Steel (based on Carnegie Steel). They are shocked when they see the cut up land and the haze and soot.  And boy when they reveal what happened to make the dad leave, it’s a doozy. Worth reading defintely.

Wow

Julie was hurt and upset that they left her senior year to start all over again somewhere new, and completely confused as to why. The trip doesn’t start off with the best of origins as their car overheats and they get covered in mud.

They are rescued by Randolph Munro Wilkerson, English Aristocrat, here in America to run the Hunting and Fishing Club. I know that might sound a little strange, but this is he 1930s when limited income royals were marrying the “gilded” heiresses.

Julie is completely mortified that she has this handsome stranger meeting a muddy mess.

When they get to their home and office, the family is shocked to discover that they are all to be the newspaper staff. Writing, editing, cleaning, collecting subscriptions, collecting ad space, etc. The hardest thing will be having to convince people who are already “trimming the fat” that a newspaper is something they need to spend money on.

This will not be easy

One day, a man, Dean Fleming, comes in to ask them to print some handbills for him and offers his services, free, everyday. Julie doesn’t like him as he knew that her father left the ministry and spoke to him about God and faith. She thinks he is going to use his volunteer time to try and force his philosophy on her father and them.

For the thousandth time

Julie starts school and makes some friends. She even likes the minister, Reverend Spencer Meloy, who I don’t like. He cares about social change and is avid about helping the steelworkers, unionizing, aiding the new immigrants by getting them better housing-etc. But to me it rings false. I think he is concerned about these issues, but I feel like he does it for the glory of himself, a complete contrast to Dean who cares about a lot of the same things but has a humble spirit. Dean continuously is there for the family, winning over everyone and becoming a part of the Wallaces.

So the Hunting and Fishing Club has this giant earthen dam, and from the very first moment Julie saw it she has felt weird about it. There is something dark and ominous about it. Now some of you might remember when there was that big scare with the Oroville Dam two years ago and everybody had to evacuate? My family had to be evacuated as we were in the potential danger zone and we went to Las Vegas to wait it out. Before that, I never knew that the Oroville Dam was an earthen dam either. When reading this book, it made me view things differently and brought back all the emotion and things we went through then.

So the Wallace family tries to adapt to their new surroundings and life. Julie helps out with the newspaper, along with navigating normal teenage issues-dating, school, etc. She still has a crush on Randolph, but doesn’t really see anything happening there.

Times get tougher and tougher, as Yoder steel lays people off and it looks like the newspaper is going to go bankrupt, and then what will the Wallaces do?

But thankfully, Dean comes through and the Wallace’s hang on. But times are tough and more and more people lose their jobs, which means less subscriptions. Mr. Wallace has been hit with bouts of depression, Mrs. Wallace saying that it was a malaria attack rising up again from when he spent a few months in the South. On these days, Dean always comes. He doesn’t call or get called, he just knows and comes to help him.

Dean is a powerful character who’s has an amazing relationship with Christ. He comes to help the Wallaces, praying for them nonstop and aiding them both spiritually and physically. Too bad the Hales didn’t have a Dean to aid them.

Flooding happens and the Wallace’s get scared, but the rest if the town is unfazed as it happens every season. The water is a little higher than normal, but flooding is just a part of Alderton. It is so horrible the National Guard is called in and keeps people from going into Alderton. Mr. Wallace is hit hard and becomes bed bound again as he worries about damage to the newspaper office.

When the water recedes and they can get to the town, they discover that the newspaper office is safe, the printing press ad paper managed to be just barely out of harms way. With her dad too ill, Julie picks up the slack and loves it.  Her stories get published, and even her poems later on.

Wow!

While writing the flood story Julie wonders about the Dam. She calls to interview them, but no dice.

I got this!

Spencer creates an aid helping organization to try and help the workers in the Lowlands (immigrants, minorities, etc.) This book presents the hard issues as they discuss who should take the blame for he damage? Who’s responsibility is it to help the people? The church? The town? Yoder Steel? The Federal Government?

Hmmm

Julie joins the crusade and learns about how Yoder treats their employees. They have a baseball team, fire department, library, night classes for the workers, etc. But they also have high rents, a company store that is bought on credit, and essentially “own” their employees. If you have ever read The Jungle (one of my favorite books) it is pretty much the same thing.

Things continue and graduation is looming along with Julie’s senior economic project. She’s unsure what to do it on until she hears her dad is visiting Tom McKeever Jr, (the Senior being the one who owns it) and she tags along hoping to get some answers on the Dam.

Julie finds out that the Dam was bought by private businessmen, which means that since it is not government owned there is no one fact-checking up on it-but it is up to the owners to decide what to do with it and make sure repairs are done, etc. The lake covers 450 acres and has 500 million tons of water. The spillways were fenced off (not good!!!) as the lake above stocked with fish.

Julie writes her paper and her father writes an editorial, that while isn’t outright saying there is a problem, it isn’t going to be something Yoder Steel will love.

A little while after the story is published, Mr. Wallace gets invited out to Tom McKeever, Senior’s private railroad car, a high honor. He brings Julie along to the meeting full of rich food and belongings, extremely posh-a complete contrast to how everyone done below is living. McKeever didn’t like the story and wants the Wallace’s to back off.

julie writes a story on the labor issue but her father won’t print it as it is too one sided. She angrily sends it to The New York Times and forgets all about it as she becomes intangled in love trapizoid with Rev. Spencer Meloy, Randolph, and high schooler Graham Gilliam. But the NY Times calls her a they are publishing the article.

Now this is where the book gets really good. Once I started reading and hit this part, I could not stop.

They start writing articles in The Sentinel, and Yoder Steel does not like it. It’s the Wallace’a against everybody as Yoder Steel tries to destroy them by killing their dog, harassing them, attacking the presses, attacking Julie, threatening others so they drop their subscriptions, etc. Everyone has to make a moral choice on who they will side with. As for the Wallaces, will they stay firm in their beliefs, or fall under Yoder Steel?

Besides that storm, an actual rainstorm is coming their way. And then the real bomb of the book is released.

“Life and death for everyone in Alderton that day hung on such small decisions as to where they would be in the early afternoon.” pg. 324

BOOOM!!! When I got to that line I was crazed to find out how it all ended.

Then the Dam breaks and all hell breaks loose.

Reading this part is amazing, the total destruction only takes a few minutes and she counts them one by one as to what happens. It was so frightening to read that and think that could have been us two years ago if the water went over the lip of the dam. With all the heavy rain and full rivers, we are still jittery. I leave a week’s worth of clothes in my trunk just in case we have to evacuate again.

So what makes this an Non-Austen Read for Austen Readers?

First, the story is about a young romantic, reminiscent of Catherine from Northanger Abbey or Marianne Dashwood from Sense & Sensibility. She loves to read-along with writing poetry and stories. She dates some of her schoolmates, but they just don’t bring up that feeling of romance she’s encountered in books and wants in real life (partly has to do with the fact she fell hard for the English Lord). By the end of the book her life experiences have matured her-keeping some of the same romantic soul, but like Catherine and Marianne, has learned to temper it. 

Julie gets a proposal from the Reverend Spencer Meloy, who I don’t like, and it is an awful proposal. Basically “we think alike and like the same things, lets get married.” Not quite as bad as Mr. Collins or Mr. Darcy but still bad.

Like Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility the Wallace family goes through numerous changes that they have no real control over. While the Wallace family is much poorer than the Elliots and the Dashwoods, these girls can relate as they have to trim the fat, adjust their life, and have others see them as not marriageable material from their lack of finances. 

Rev. Spencer Meloy reminds me of Mr. Elton and Mr. Collins as to me I felt he wasn’t really being a minister for Godbut instead was looking to lift himself and his interests. Like these two men, he focuses on what he wants and believes, only. He also proposes badly as he reads women wrongly-thinking Julie is just as interested in him as he is in her because of a “look she gave”, ugh gag.

Ugh, this guy!

But like I said, this was a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it!

For more Book Club Picks, go to Book Club Picks: The Mother Keeper

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Glassblower

For more Christian novels, go to Book Club Pick: Far Side of the Sea

For more on The Great Depression, go to I Don’t Want the Money: It Happened One Night (1934)

For more bible verses, go to Book Club Picks: Desperate Pastors’ Wives

Advertisements

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Glassblower

So this is something I started a while back. Sometimes you want more Austen books after you have read all her books. There are variations on her stories, but sometimes you don’t want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read or watch?

That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but in something fresher than a retelling.

The Glassblower (Glassblower Saga #1) by Petra Durst-Benning

The story is set in Lauscha, Germany-glassmaking capital of the world.

Joost Steinmann’s family has been the glassmaking business for years. When his wife passed he took it on himself to raise his three daughters: Johanna, Ruth, and Marie.

One day is a day like any other, but when the girls go to try and wake him for work-he’s dead.

After they bury their father and have a wake, they find themselves unsure what to do next. How will they survive in the turn of the century as three women? Especially, in a glassmaking village in a culture where women do not make glass.

So a family of three sisters who’s father dies and they find themselves at a crossroads and not quite sure what to do-especially as they have no money. So when I read that it instantly made me think of:

The eldest daughter, Johanna, is logical, sensible, business-orientated, and good at figures. As the eldest she budgets, shops, goes to the town nearby and bargains with wholesalers and shopkeepers. Her response to their dad’s death, other than heartbreak, is to immediately look for work-reading that made me think of:

Elinor Dashwood

Unlike Elinor, Johanna is stubborn, determined, and a bit hot-headed. She starts in the Heimer foundry-but after criticizing the way the glassblowing shop is run, she loses her job. She leaves to the city working for Strobel, the wholesaler and shopkeeper. She learns a lot from him, and grows from country girl to shop assistant. She does well, but her employer is an odd man with dark passions and plans for his protege.

The second daughter Ruth, has aways longed to be in choir, or out on the town, or be with boys-but her father kept them away. She is a romantic, dreaming of a Prince to sweep her off her feet.This made me think of:

Marianne Dashwood

Ruth decides to go husband hunting, looking for a rich man to take care of her. While working at the Heimer glassblowing business, she sets her sights on the unwedded son, Thomas Heimer. Thomas is not interested in getting married, but Ruth won’t settle for anything less-she tries to play the game to get what she wants, will she win? Or lose?

The youngest girl, Marie, is a dreamer who loves to read, draw, and paint. She also is interested in a “male” oriented profession, glassblowing. This made me think of:

Margaret Dashwood

Marie loves working in the Heimer factory as she loves to paint and design the glass. With both her sisters essentially moved out, Marie begins to fool around in her father’s workshop. After some instruction from their next-door neighbor, and very close family friend, she begins creating beautiful Christmas ornaments. But will her secret stay secret and she’ll be able to continue creating, or will it be discovered that a woman is glassblowing and she’ll be shunned from her community?

Hmm…I don’t know!

So you can already see why it is a Non-Austen Read for Austen Readers as the setup has similarities to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. however, this is not a copy of that book.

I found this incredibly well-written as it captures your attention. The characters felt very real and it was a great story, one I didn’t want to put down.

It dealt with the reality of women living in a time where they were vulnerable without men and without many options.

I liked how the story was about the three sisters trying to work together, but that they also didn’t always gets along-very real. I hate when they have these absolutely perfect families. Johanna worries about everyone, but at the same time can boss them about and not listen to what they are saying. Ruth can become self-absorbed, but she is there if they need them. Marie likes solitary and quiet, but at the same time will put herself through anything for her sisters.

The book deals with serious issues, like rape, spousal abuse, child abuse, etc.

Wow!

It also shows the culture and history of the beautiful glassblowing region.

This is actually the Christmas Tree Topper my family has.

I would strongly recommend checking it out!

For more non-Austen reads for Austen readers, Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: Suitors and Sabotage

For more stories on sisters, go to The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Modern Day Novel of Jane Austen

For more on Sense & Sensibility, go to Austen Avengers Assemble!

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: Suitors and Sabotage

So this is something I started a while back. Sometimes you want more Austen books after you have read all her books. There are variations on her stories, but sometimes you don’t want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read or watch?

Hmmm…

That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but in something fresher than a retelling.

Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

So we added this book to the library last July and I was very interested in reading it, but had too many books on my to-read list. I decided to read it at a later time, you know what I’m talking about.

I first became interested in the book because of the cover, I know-we aren’t supposed to, but it is so beautiful.

Then I looked at the back and saw:

“…Jane Austen spiced with action, suspense, and humor.”

“Jane Austen fans in need of a good book look no further.”

“It’s Jane Austen meets Jane Foster…”

After that I HAD to read it, if it is recommended for Austen fans-here we go.

Gracebridge Manor in Fotheringham, Kent -1817

Miss Imogene Chively has returned from her London season a success, or so her family believes. Imogene did not enjoy the parties, being on display, etc.

Hopefully, she will not have to go back as she has a suitor- a Mr. Ernest Steeple. He’s very, very interested in her and about to visit and stay a few weeks.

Imogene is a very shy and not looking forward to him coming, but at least she will be home.

I don’t want to do this

She an her friend Miss Emily Beeswanger (what a name!) are relaxing outside the ruins of the nearby castle, when Imogene’s dog puts himself in danger. They try to get him back, but he won’t listen!

Oh no!

But in the end they are assisted by a handsome young man.

After he saves their dog, the man introduces himself as Benjamin “Ben” Steeple, the younger brother of Ernest. He has accompanied him, and the two arrived early. Mr. Chively, Imogene’s father, is monopolizing Ernest, so Ben decided to check out the castle ruins. Ben is studying to be an architect and could not pass up the opportunity.

Sorry, I have it in my media library and had to use it.

Benjamin joins the ladies for a picnic and Emily sets her cap for the charming, flirtatious, dashing man. Emily went with Imogene for the London season, but did not have anyone interested in her. She’s feeling like a failure and this handsome man seems to be the answer to her wish to be married.

Emma Woodhouse from Emma (1996) AKA the Kate Beckinsale version

Imogene’s dog, Jasper, takes off into the old ruins, again, and Ben helps save him for Imogene. They end up bringing part of the castle down and destroying their clothes in the process (not like they are naked bit that those clothes can never be fixed to be in their previous condition ever again).

Ben goes to change before dinner and encourage his brother. Ernest is over the moon about Imogene but feels disheartened as he is trying to spend time with her, but has only been spending time with the dad. He’s worried he won’t have anything to converse with her, so Ben tells him to talk about Joseph Turner.

Uh, excuse me…his name is Joseph Mallard William Turner. Sorry if my art history is showing, but he did make beautiful paintings. They were large “romantic” pieces of art. We studied Slave Ship, Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On, in my class but they wouldn’t have seen that painting as it wasn’t done until 1840.

Anyways…

Anyways…sorry for that derail.

So the brothers are some of the best parts of the book as it is fun to read their interactions as they mess with each other. For instance Ben tells Mr. Chively that Ernest likes economics and Mr. Chively spends the whole night talking his ear off about banking and interest.

I’m so bored….BEN! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!

Ben, however, spends the night talking to Imogene and Emily and enjoys conversing with both women. He’s a major flirt and loves charming the ladies.

Ugh!!

Imogene finds herself feeling uncertain as she is in a place she has never been before. She knows that Ernest likes her…but all this attention-could Ben have feelings for her too? Are two brothers fighting over her?

But then Emily points out all the attention Ben has been giving her and the way he has been treating her. Could this be worse than she thought, could he like both Imogene and Emily?

After the two talk, Imogene becomes convinced that Ben is just flirting and charming both of them (very Frank Churchill). Imogene is a little saddened at that, but Emily will not give up. She wants Ben and practices her best flirtations in order to win his heart.

The next morning, Ernest is taken off by Imogene’s father to go fishing, while Ben gets to spend the morning with her. He is doing his best to extol his brother’s virtues, but finds himself holding her hands longer than necessary and thinking more about her than his brother.

Wow, Ben, really? Your brother’s girl! You know he’s into her. And he’s your BROTHER!!!!!

Forget you!

They spend time together, but then Imogene goes to give Emily’s sister, Harriet, her drawing lessons.

Afterwards, she finds Emily decked out in her most flattering gown, ready for Ben’s return-you know pulling a Sandy.

Besides the Beeswanger family, and the Steeples, the Tabards are also staying with the Chivelys. Mrs. Chively, Mrs. Beeswanger, and Mrs. Tabard were very close friends, and relatives. Mrs. Tabard passed away and since then Mr. Tabard has been a ghost of the man he once was. His son Jake has become an incorrigible prankster-pairing up with Imogene’s older brother Percy.

Ben has a horrible secret and admits it to Imogene. He wants to be an architect more than anything in the world, but he cannot draw! He begs her for lessons and to keep his secret. It makes Imogene feel special as her family doesn’t care about art and she begins lessons with him.

OKaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Red flag number 2!!! Liar, secret keeping, your only role is to make HIM better. Imogene, walk away-walk away!!!

That evening Ernest and Imogene finally have a chance to spend time together. Ernest tries to talk about Turner, but can’t. He admits he knows little of painting and that he is a…reader. Not of poems or essays…but…literature.

A handsome, kind, caring, rich man who loves to read?

I’m with Mrs. Bennet!

He’s PERFECT!!! He’s the mythical unicorn!!!!!

Imogene begins to enjoy Ernest’s company just as much as Ben’s and finds herself in a real quandary. She likes Ernest and Ben, but she can’t have both so which brother will she choose?

But before Imogene’s heart can tell her the path to take-some strange things start happening. Her jewelry is found in Ben’s room, then a burr is under his saddle and almost kills him, the castle starts falling down as well, and more. Someone is after Ben, but who?

A MYSTERY!!! You know what that means…

Mystery, you say? I’m on the case

To further complicate this midsummer nights comedy of errors; Ernest and Ben both like Imogene, Emily likes Ben, Jake seems to be interested in Emily, and Imogene doesn’t know which man she wants.

Uhhhh…

And who is doing all these mysterious things? Could it be Percy or Jake, taking their “jokes” too far? Could it be Emily, who is after Ben-maybe trying to dissuade him from Imogene? Or could it be Ernest who wants to take Ben out of the running for Imogene’s heart?

Thoughts After Reading:

This book was pretty enjoyable for the most part. I thought the beginning and middle were really good. The parts that kind of turned me off was when the story began to drag on with the constant back and forth of Imogene trying to decide on a guy.

Which one, which one…

It really bothered me too how both men laughed off Imogene’s fear. I mean come on guys, there is too much happening for it be an “accident”. Seriously dudes.

Come on guys!

There is also a weird part when Imogene accuses Ernest of doing all these things to Ben and Ben becomes furious. She is in shock about how “unreasonable” he is and hopes to never see that “unreasonable” side again. Ugh, girl please-you just accused his brother of trying to kill him. If someone said that to me about my sister I would have flipped a table at them. How dare you!!!

That’s my sibling!

But really, whether you will love or hate this book will boil down to one thing-which guy you like better. It is a tale as old as Fritz and Ernst (The Swiss Family Robinsons) or modern day-Dean and Sam (Supernatural). You have two guys who are amazing guys-both nice, brave, good people. One is more of an introvert, one more of an extrovert; one slightly more brawny, one slightly more brainy; etc. And you can only choose one!

Who would I pick? I really liked Ernest. I thought he was kind, caring, sweet-loved that he was a reader and found him to be like Mr. Tilney-comfortable, a novel reader, and just fun.

Ben, on the other hand, I could not stand. He made me think of Frank Churchill, a charmer-all fluff, and no substance. I really felt that Ben picked up on how Imogene feels ignored and not valued for her art and really  played on that manipulating her into being with him so he can use her artistic ability to further his career. I hate charming flirts-they are such jerks so I didn’t want her with him, I wanted Ernest!!! But hey that’s just me-you might feel differently.

Plus, 100000000000000000000000000000000x points: Ernest has read all the Jane Austen  novels.

What?

For more non-Austen reads for Austen readers, Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: A Love for Keeps

For mysteries, go to Suspense & Sensibility (Or First Impressions Revisited)

For more Young Adult books, go to Prom & Prejudice

 

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: A Love for Keeps

What to do after you have read all the Austen novels.

Hmm…

There are variations on her stories, but sometimes you don’t want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read or watch?

Just sit around and do nothing?

That’s why I started this series. I will review other books that have things we love about the Austen novels, but are something fresh, rather than a retelling.

A Love for Keeps (Brides of Arkansas #1) by Janet Lee Barton

This book takes place in Eureka Springs, Arkansas- year 1886 (70 years past Regency England). Megan Snow is the eldest of the three Snow daughters and with the death of their father, has tried to find a way to take care of her family. She has been approaching different banks in the hope of getting a loan in order to start her own dressmaking and designing building. Unfortunately, she has struck zero.

Please let someone say yes!

They approach the last bank, Connors Bank, in which the handsome and charming bank manager, Mr. Nathan Brooks, takes a chance on them. Mr. Nathan finds the Snow family to be very charming, and talented as Megan creates an amazing series of outfits for his daughter.

The two strike up a lot of conversations and Nathan finds himself drawn to Megan.

What?

But Nathan has a sad past…his wife was killed in a fire and his daughter managed to just barely escape-being saved by his sister-in-law. He feels heavy guilt, as he was not there to save his wife. He has remained single due to this, but now is starting to open his heart.

There is more complications to this story as Abigail Conners, Nathan’s sister-in-law, is deeply in love with him. She has been when she first met him, far before he married her younger sister Rose.

Ever since the fire she has always felt it is her time, her chance-but unfortunately Nathan has continued to grieve. Now, to her delight, he is willing to consider marrying again, but at her chagrin-he is interested in Megan Snow! A dressmaker? A Merchant? Someone below their station? NOT ABIGAIL!!!

While Nathan tries to woo Megan, Abigail tries her best to dissuade Megan-pulling every plan in her arsenal to convince Megan she is not capable of becoming the next Mrs. Brooks.

As you can see this has quite a few elements of the Austen stories and characters for those who are fans. We have a great romantic character-with a sad heartbreaking backstory (making him even more romantic) like Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility or Captain James Benwick from Persuasion.

We have a lot of Pride and Prejudice as Nathan and Megan have a romance that crosses the social line-although the class system was much different in England than America.

Unacceptable

And of course the number one thing, Abigail could be Caroline Bingley’s twin. The two are so similar in their scheming to get the man they love-from clothes to catch his eye, lying about things and engagements to dissuade the women, and any other scheme they can to get the guy to look and choose them over their rival.

Nathan, you cannot be serious

A fun, clean, quick read that gives Austenian elements we love in a new story.

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Book Club Picks: Wuthering Heights

Book Club Picks: Wuthering Heights

janIt has been a while since I have done this post. I’m sorry, I’ve just been so busy with other postings.

However I will be catching up, I quite a bit behind. Ooops, sorry!

So as you all know I started a book club, because you know me and books…

Every month we read a book and I do a little post on the book we read and discussed. What can I say, I just love books.

There is no theme, other than with each month, a different member gets to pick a book, whichever one they want. This time the book club member choose:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I love Wuthering Heights, it has always been one of my favorite books. I used to be in love with Heathcliff.

So when one of the book members picked it I was so ecstatic.

So the book has one of the best beginnings ever. A man, Mr. Lockwood, has been renting a house in the country as he wants to get away from everyone and everything.

However, he realizes that the hermit life is not cut out for him. He visits with his landlord, finding him hospitable-if a little brusque. He decides to surprise him one day and finds his host angry-and the house Wuthering Heights to be very unhappy. Mr. Heathcliff is angry, there is a Mrs. Catherine Heathcliff who is also angry and says she is a witch, Haerton Earnshaw who is an illiterate Neanderthal, and Joseph a grumpy hand. The snow keeps him from leaving and he has to stay the night.

Mr. Lockwood goes to a room no one uses-it has been untouched for years. He finds himself unable to fall asleep and stays up reading a diary by Catherine Earnshaw, who used to live in that room. Then we have one of the spookiest, chillingest, best writings:

I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten. ‘I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in—let me in!’ ‘Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. ‘Catherine Linton,’ it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton) ‘I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!’ As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, ‘Let me in!’ and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear. ‘How can I!’ I said at length. ‘Let me go, if you want me to let you in!’ The fingers relaxed, I snatched mine through the hole, hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer. I seemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour; yet, the instant I listened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on! ‘Begone!’ I shouted. ‘I’ll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.’ ‘It is twenty years,’ mourned the voice: ‘twenty years. I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’ Thereat began a feeble scratching outside, and the pile of books moved as if thrust forward. I tried to jump up; but could not stir a limb; and so yelled aloud, in a frenzy of fright. To my confusion, I discovered the yell was not ideal: hasty footsteps approached my chamber door; somebody pushed it open, with a vigorous hand, and a light glimmered through the squares at the top of the bed. I sat shuddering yet, and wiping the perspiration from my forehead: the intruder appeared to hesitate, and muttered to himself. At last, he said, in a half-whisper, plainly not expecting an answer, ‘Is any one here?’ I considered it best to confess my presence; for I knew Heathcliff’s accents, and feared he might search further, if I kept quiet. With this intention, I turned and opened the panels. I shall not soon forget the effect my action produced.

Heathcliff stood near the entrance, in his shirt and trousers; with a candle dripping over his fingers, and his face as white as the wall behind him. The first creak of the oak startled him like an electric shock: the light leaped from his hold to a distance of some feet, and his agitation was so extreme, that he could hardly pick it up.

‘It is only your guest, sir,’ I called out, desirous to spare him the humiliation of exposing his cowardice further. ‘I had the misfortune to scream in my sleep, owing to a frightful nightmare. I’m sorry I disturbed you.’

A ghost of Catherine Earnshaw Linton.

Mr. Lockwood heads home and falls ill. He questions the housekeeper Nelly about Heathcliff and she tells them the story…

So Mrs. Earnshaw died years ago and left the gentry Mr. Earnshaw with a son, Hindley, and daughter, Catherine. Mr. Earnshaw was very abusive and so are his children-wild-like the weather on the moors.

Nelly lived in the house as well, taken in by Mr. Earnshaw. One day everyone’s life changed when Mr. Earnshaw returned home with a boy! A curly-hair, dark-skinned boy (most likely Spanish, Italian, or Russian) and raises him with the family. Mr. Earnshaw hates his own son and lifts up Heathcliff. 

That is not good,

Nelly, Hindley, and Catherine all hate Heathcliff on sight. They pinch, hurt, annoy, accuse, etc.; him-although Catherine ends up growing to like him. Soon the twoare thick as thieves and never want to spend any time apart from each other.

Mr. Earnshaw dies, and Hindley becomes the head of the household. He abuses both his sister and Heathcliff, taking no interest at all in how they are raised. Catherine is a gentry daughter, a lady, but she is a wild animal-no instruction in becoming a lady.

Hindley marries a very simple. childlike woman who dies in childbirth. He then hates his son, becomes an alcoholic, and is even more abusive.

Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship is changed when one day she gets injured and taken in by the Linton family. There she learns how to pretend to be ladylike-still wild and crazy and abusive when things aren’t her way. 

Even though she loves Heathcliff she will not marry him. She will not chain herself to a man who has no family, no last name, he can’t do or become anything. She marries Edgar Linton and Heathcliff runs away. 

When he returns years later he comes to get his revenge on all-He will take Wuthering Heights and its son from the high and mighty Hindley, get revenge and hurt Edgar, and lastly-break Catherine’s heart like she broke his…

Watch out…

So Wuthering Heights is a book about passion, and not just passion but unbridled passion. All these characters do whatever feels right to them, without thinking of what may come with their actions or the price they or others may have pay for their passion.

Often the Bronte’s books are compared with Jane Austen’s. That makes this not only a book club pick, buuuut…

Austen’s books take place more inside-sitting rooms, manors, etc, while the Bronte’s more on the moors and in nature. The Bronte’s are much darker than Austen work’s playing with similar themes but much deeper. Such as with Jane Austen’s books they may be secrets and hidden connections-the Bronte’s take a darker twist.

The term wuthering means decaying, blustery, turbulent, etc-the personalities being wuthering as much as the house, and as wild as the moors they reside.

I have always loved this book, but it was hard to read as what I had gone through with my husband. I understand how Heathcliff feels-with no last name and known family-he is essentially without a social security card and has no way of really doing anything. However, because he is hurt, he then hurts others-and no matter what happened to him that behavior is never okay.

Cathy is just as abusive and very conniving. With her brother as her guardian she knows she will meet no one and grabs at Edgar to get away-bringing pain and destruction and heartbreak to him.

“Edgar Linton, as multitudes have been before, and will be after him. was infatuated:and believed himself to be the happiest man alive on the day he led her to Gimmerton Chapel…”

I know how that feels, and how it feels to discover you are 100% wrong and the person you married is crazy. After the abuse I suffered from my husband I defintely do not sympathize with Heathcliff as much as I do Mr. Rochester, from Jane Eyre. I too married a crazy person who tried to kill me.

But it still is a good story and one I recommend reading in your lifetime.

I did notice two things this time reading the book. In a novel based on the Bronte sisters, The Madwoman Upstairs, by Catherine Lowell, she says that the only reason that the abusive horrible Mr. Earnshaw would adopt Heathcliff and treat him good was because he was his illegitimate son-but that’s not true. He “adopts” Nelly and brings her into his home. If he did that and treated her well and she is of no relation, why not Heathcliff? Plus he probably likes the savageness of Heathcliff, made him think of himself more than his “pansey” son.

The second thing I noticed, is that the story is told through Nelly and she really paints an absolutely awful and horrible portrayal of Heathcliff. But when Heathcliff came Nelly was awful-horrible and abusive to him as she didn’t like him on sight (probably jealous she no longer was “special” as the only one taken into the house). If she hated him that much-and I mean hate as she throws him outside in the dead of winter as she would like him to go away or die-only letting him come back in as Mr. Earnshaw demands it. And this is the actions of a child-wanting another person to die rather than being in the house with them-how can we trust a word she says? How do we know she is giving the undoctored truth?

Still a worthwhile read with so many great quotes-still a favorite no matter what, just not while I’m healing.

For more book club picks, go to Book Club Picks: Until the Day Breaks

For more Wuthering Heights, go to One of Many

For more Heathcliff, go to Smells S’Wonderful

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Widow of Larkspur Inn

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Widow of Larkspur Inn

So this is something I started a while back. Sometimes you want more Austen books after you had read the others. There are variations on her stories, but sometimes you don’t want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read or watch?

Hmmm….

That’s why I started this series. I will review that have things we love about the Austen novels but in something fresh than a retelling.

The Widow of Larkspur Inn (Gresham Chronicles #1) by Lawana Blackwell

The book is set in England of 1869. Julia Hollis is a wealthy mother of three-Phillip, Aleda, and Grace-and a recent widow. Three weeks have passed where they have all been in mourning and Julia receives the greatest surprise of her life.

Oh no!

They have lost everything due to her wealthy surgeon husband’s double life as a gambler.

The house has been repossessed by the bank and sold, the servants all staying to take on with the new owner. All her jewelry, including her ring, are taken as well. A large chunk of her clothes sold to a shop for extra money. They are forced to move to the small town of Gresham, as the only thing they left is an old coaching inn, The Larkspur Inn.

Their butler, Jensen, lends them money and helps them start putting ads in papers; the idea of the inn being turned into a lodging house.

Besides the Hollis family, they are going to be joined by Fiona O’Shea, one of the maids. Years ago when Fiona knocked on their door, a starving immigrant from Ireland, Julia forced her husband to hire her-and since then they have been very close friends.

They head out to Gresham where the house is a mess, but thanks to help from the local community and the Vicar and his daughter; things start looking up. Soon there are letters and lodgers who come into their home.

Yay!!!

Their lodgers are: Mrs. Octavia Kingston, a crotchety old woman with a heart of gold; Mr. Durwin, business entrepreneur and herbalist; Mrs. Dearing, former pioneer of the California goldfields with her late husband; kindly knitting Mrs. Hyatt; and the famous Ambrose Clay, amazing actor, who is taking a break from the stage as he is trying to find a way to combat his bouts of depression.

We have quite a group of characters

The other story that is told is that of Reverend Andrew Phelps. He is a widower with two daughters, Elizabeth and Laurel, and teaches at Cambridge. His oldest daughter is infatuated with a young man, Jonathan Raleigh.

Andrew had thought Jonathan was a great guy, but received an anonymous note that if he were to go to a certain address he would find Jonathan with a married women, notorious for her loose lifestyle. Andrew doesn’t want to believe such a thing is true, but as his daughter is head over heels, he has to investigate it. He goes and finds that it is true.

Time passes. Jonathan apologizes, but Elizabeth is heartbroken and listless. Andrew worries over her and decides it is time to leave Cambridge. When he hears that the Vicar of Gresham has to move because of his rheumatism, he snaps the post up and moves his family to the tranquil village.

Romance, cheer, etc. This book has it all and is a fantastic read.

So why would an Austen fan love this book?

Hmmm…

It has a lot of the flavor of Sense and Sensibility, with a family losing everything and having to move forward, in a way they never thought they would ever be, and having to use that resilience in the troubles they face.

We also have a touch of Marianne Dashwood in the character of Julia. When Julia was young she was a lot like Marianne, emotional and falling head over heels in love-putting her all in a man who had major flaws. Like Marianne, Julia was incapable of seeing those flaws as she had on the blinders of love.

Now with all the aftermath and having to move, Julia’s views on what is important character in a mate changed, just like Marianne after Willoughby breaks her heart and she recovers from her illness.

“Marianne was born to an extraordinary fate, she was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, to counteract, by her conduct, her favorite maxims . . . . Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion . . . [she found herself] submitting to new attachments, entering on new duties.”

Jonathan Raleigh is a Willougby-like guy. He has money, class, high rank everything-but also the spirit of a rogue.

It is a great book and definitely worth a read with it being fun, loving, and having great characters. I read it, minimum, once a year.

For more on Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: A Change of Fortune

For more on The Widow of Larkspur Inn, go to Pot o’ Gold: 17 Irish Heroes

For more bible verses, go to Book Club Picks: Until the Day Breaks

For more Sense and Sensibility, go to The Austen Series: Reason and Romance

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: A Change of Fortune

Have you ever felt this way? You’ve gone through all of Austen’s books and want something more to read? There are variations on her stories, but sometimes you don’t want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read or watch?

Hmm…

That’s why I started this series Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers. In it I will review books that have things we love about the Austen novels but something fresh than a retelling.

A Change of Fortune (Ladies of Distinction #1) by Jen Turano

So this story doesn’t take place in Regency England but Gilded Age America. However, it does have a few elements we love of the Austen fare.

The main character of the story is Lady Eliza Sumner, an English aristocrat who’s family fortune has been stolen and left her with nothing. To try and recapture her wealth and take revenge on her embezzler, she disguised herself and took a job as a governess as she searches for her quarry.

Being a governess can be a hard living. We all remember how it was an awful fate in Emma.

“With the fortitude of a devoted novitiate, she had resolved at one-and-twenty to complete the sacrifice and retire from all the pleasures of life, of rational intercourse, equal society, peace, and hope, to penance and mortification forever” (p. 156)

Anyways, Lady Eliza is asked to join a dinner party when one of her charges is sick and can no longer attend. There she meets two eligible bachelors who all the women wish to marry, brothers Thomas and Zayne Beckett. The Beckett brothers are after a Eugene Daniels who turns out to be working with the man Lady Eliza is searching for.

Hmm…

Lady Eliza, Agatha Watson (daughter of the family she is governess for) and the Becketts all have a hilarious interaction as they try to break into a house and attempt to escape the police. The women are arrested as they are thought to be “ladies of the night”, and the Becketts go rescue them.

Lady Eliza is fired from her position and stays with Thomas Beckett, his two kids, and his mother-casting off her disguise and revealing who she is. She develops friendships with Agatha and the Becketts, and all team up to try and outsmart the villains.

At first Eliza is intent on not trusting anyone, but when all try to help her and show their care for her; she starts wondering if maybe her plans aren’t the ones she needs to follow after all, maybe God has something better in mind.

So the Austen flavors, what do we have?

Hmm…

So Austen had Mrs. Bennet, always worrying and trying to scheme a way to get her daughters married off. In this we have twice the scheming with Mrs. Watson (Agatha’s mother) trying to throw every eligible man she can at her oldest daughter Agatha in the hope of seeing her settled. She quickly befriends Mrs. Beckett who is trying to set up her sons and daughter (even though her daughter is in another state at the moment.) While Mrs. Bennet was shrill in her cries to get her girls settled, these ladies are hilarious at the ways they scheme to settle their own.

We all know of Mr. Darcy’s famous awful proposal, what was he thinking?

We have an equally bad one on this novel when Thomas Beckett proposes to Lady Eliza stating that he wants to marry Eliza as he is “fond of her” and she will be a “good mother” to her children. Actually he does worse than Mr. Darcy, he doesn’t even really ask her to marry him, but states those things

This book is full of mystery, intrigue, although it is far goofier and sillier than Austen’s work. If you are looking for a fast read that is comedic and easily read through, with a handful of Austen elements, this is for you.

For more on lost fortunes, go to A Family Affair

For more Pride and Prejudice, go toDarcy’s ’80’s Power Song

For more book reviews, go to Book Club Picks: Until the Day Breaks