Monday, August 31, 2009

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James

From the publisher:

"Though poor, plain, and unconnected, Charlotte Bronte possesses a deeply passionate side which she reveals only in her writings--creating Jane Eyre and other novels that stand among literature's most beloved works. Living a secluded life in the wilds of Yorkshire with her sisters Emily and Anne, their drug-addicted brother, and an eccentric father who is going blind, Charlotte Bronte dreams of a real love story as fiery as the one she creates.

But it is in the pages of her diary where Charlotte exposes her deepest feelings and desires--and the truth about her life, its triumphs and shattering disappointments, her family, the inspiration behind her work, her scandalous secret passion for the man she can never have, and her intense, dramatic relationship with the man she comes to love, the enigmatic Arthur Bell Nicholls."

My thoughts:

Charlotte Bronte is an author who is near and dear to my heart. I first read Jane Eyre when I was eleven years old and became absolutely fascinated with gothic romances. It remains one of my most beloved novels to this day, and if you ask anyone in the family why my daughter's middle name is "Jane," they will tell you truthfully, "She's named after Jane Eyre."

I was delighted to read The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte as Syrie James is successful in capturing the authentic voice and spirit of Charlotte Bronte. Many aspects of Charlotte's life are well-documented in preserved letters to her family and friends, and James used the contents of these letters and other biographical research as the basis for these fictional diaries.

In these diaries you will learn of the trials and tribulations of the Bronte children -- growing up motherless and poor as the children of a strict clergyman, they often escaped into a fantasy world and wrote stories and poems from an early age. Each sibling secretly hoped to one day become a published author, and it was their gift of writing that gave them such joy and sense of accomplishment. Charlotte, particularly, was quiet but independent, and often bristled at societal limitations placed on women. Intending to open their own school, Emily and Charlotte travel to Belgium for intensive study, and it is here that Charlotte meets a professor who will have a profound impact on the course of her life and her emergence as a novelist.

The purpose of the diary, though, is the exploration of her heart; the effects of the tragic loss of so many she loved, her relationship with the curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, and the personal fulfillment this unlikely relationship ultimately brings to Charlotte's too-short life.

Highly recommended for fans of Jane Eyre.

Title: The Secret Dairies of Charlotte Bronte
Author: Syrie James
Publisher: HarperCollins
454 pages

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Zombies & Chickens & Awards, Oh my!

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the Zombie Chicken -- excellence, grace, and persistence, in all situations even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.

Thank you to my wonderful blog friend, Kim, at Chapter Chit Chat for bestowing the Zombie Chicken Award on my little Slice of Life! I promise, under threat of a zombie apocalypse, to pass this award of excellence on to other bloggers whose posts and book musings inspire and energize me!

First on my list today to receive the Zombie Chicken Award is Lezlie at Books 'N Border Collies. Besides featuring the cutest pups (Skye and Max), her book blog is chock full of interesting links to book-related topics and her writing is informative and concise. I love her plan and mission statement for being a lifelong learner!

I recently discovered Sharon's lovely blog, Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews. It is a very welcoming and peaceful place to visit, as if you have wandered into a secret garden. Her book reviews are excellent -- polished and professional. Treat yourself to a few minutes each day at Sharon's blog.

My favorite genre is historical fiction, and there are so many terrific blogs that specialize in this area. One of my new favorite historical blogs is The Burton Review. Marie writes professional, thorough reviews and makes her blog an enchanting place to visit.

And last but certainly not least, one of the most charming and energetic bloggers that I've had the pleasure of meeting in this book community deserves this award: Reagan at Miss Remmer's Reviews. She's just the most enthusiastic, thoughtful book blogger out there!

So.....there you have it. I will now proudly display this newest token of friendship from Kim and happily pass it along to thank those fantastic bloggers who make this book blogging community so much fun.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Second Sight by Amanda Quick

Late in the reign of Queen Victoria...

"The skeleton lay on an elaborately carved and gilded bed in the center of the ancient laboratory that had become the alchemist's tomb.

The two-hundred-year-old bones were still draped in tattered robes that had been fashioned of what had surely been the most costly silks and velvets. Gloves and slippers embroidered with gold and silver thread shrouded the bones of the hands and feet, giving an eerie appearance of flesh and blood."
p. l, Second Sight by Amanda Quick

My thoughts:

This was an unusual novel, combining elements of mystery and the paranormal in the Victorian era. The heroine of the story, Venetia Milton, is a victim of circumstances. Forced to support her siblings due to her parents' death, her father's scandalous past, and their financial advisor's duplicity, she tries to earn a living as a photographer. She is resigned to the fact that marriage is not an option for a working woman with scandalous family secrets. In addition, Venetia has a few secrets of her own to hide...she has psychic abilities and can perceive an individual's aura.

Good fortune and financial success arrive when she is hired by the mysterious organization, the Arcane Society, to photograph a collection of the society's ancient artifacts. The photographic fee is substantial and society member, Gabriel Jones, is young, handsome, and all alone in the crumbling mansion. During her week- long assignment photographing the secret artifacts, Venetia develops of plan of seduction...she believes the encounter, while being enjoyable, will remain their secret and they will both move on when the assignment is completed.

While enjoying their night of seduction, they are interrupted as intruders attempt to break into the house. Venetia is dragged through a secret tunnel by Gabriel and sent to safety far away from the Arcane Society's mansion. She watches in horror as the mansion goes up in flames.

Saddened by the news that Gabriel Jones has died in the fire, Venetia decides to use the significant fee she received from the society to relocate her family, open her own fashionable portrait studio, and assume the identity of "Mrs. Jones." A widow maintains respectability and much more freedom in Victorian society, and Venetia enjoys her independence. She didn't consider that someone would stop at nothing to obtain the secrets of the society. By assuming the identity of a society member's widow, she has unwittingly put herself in grave danger.

Imagine her surprise when her best-laid plans go awry.

"There was nothing like having a dead husband return from the grave to ruin a fine spring morning."

This was a light, quick read, and it kept me turning the pages. The romance aspect, I thought, was flat and lacked depth and dimension, but the elements of suspense were interesting. This is a series which reveals more of the society's secrets in each installment and I'm anticipating continuing with the series.

4 stars = very good; worth reading

Title: Second Sight
Author: Amanda Quick
301 pages
genre: paranormal mystery

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. If you'd like to play along, please do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

Here's my teaser from The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James:

p. 3

"I have, in my secret heart, long dreamt of an intimate connection with a man; every Jane, I believe, deserves her Rochester -- does she not? Yet I had long since given up all hope of that experience in my own life."

Blogger gremlins?

So sorry if anyone tried to leave a message under a post titled, "The Sounds of Silence." I wrote a post yesterday, but I kept getting an "error" message. I thought it best to delete the post if it was causing a problem...evidently it went through to bloggerland but it is not here on my blog. Must be those little blogger gremlins....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Arcane Society

I'm always on the lookout for an interesting or unusual series, and I recently discovered Amanda Quick's Arcane Society collection that combines the Victorian period (a favorite of mine), mystery, romance, and the paranormal. The first book in the collection is Second Sight which introduces the Arcane Society, an ancient secret organization devoted to psychic research. I will soon be posting my thoughts about Second Sight, a romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, but in the meantime here are two youtube clips that discuss the series and give the background to the intriguing Arcane Society. There is also an author interview with Amanda Quick (she also writes under the names Jayne Ann Krentz and Jayne Castle).

You can also visit the author's website and read the history of the Arcane Society by clicking here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

From the publisher:

"East London, 1888 -- a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths. Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.

But Fiona's life is shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything--and everyone--she holds dear...."

My thoughts:

The Tea Rose is a sweeping saga featuring star-crossed young lovers Fiona and Joe in Whitechapel during Jack the Ripper's reign of terror. Hopes and dreams, tragedy, terror, suspense, love and loss, revenge, good fortune and triumph are the threads that weave this tale of the indomitable heroine, Fiona Finnegan. I enjoy big, chunky historical novels, and this one takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as she travels from London to New York in her struggle to survive and overcome the adversity in her life. The novel needed some editing as I thought it ran a little long in parts and could have been more concise, but the period details were interesting and the twists and turns of the plot lines were compelling. The reader is a little battle weary by the ending, but it is worth it to stay until the bitter end. Do I love it enough to read the sequel, The Winter Rose? Probably not -- this will be a stand alone book for me. Can't quite put my finger on it, but it lacked that special quality that would have made this otherwise
interesting story a 5 star read. If you've read it, what are your thoughts?

Title: The Tea Rose
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
557 pages

4 stars = Very Good; worth reading

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jane Austen - The World of Her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye

I have a confession to make -- I didn't always have a fascination with Jane Austen and her writings. Except for one dismal attempt at writing a term paper in high school comparing and contrasting Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, I didn't know anything else about her work. (I received a "B" on my paper, and all I can say was that the teacher must have been in a very generous mood when grading it.) I was a much bigger fan of the Brontes, and I've read all of the works of Emily, Charlotte, and Anne Bronte.

I think it is wonderful now that reading and studying Jane Austen's work and her world has become popular, and many websites, blogs, movies, handbooks and reference books on Regency times abound. I have added this reference book, Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye, to my library to enrich the books that I am reading for the Everything Austen Challenge.

The book is divided into two major sections:

Part I - The World of Jane Austen

Discusses topics such as her family, royalty, social ranks, transportation, masculine occupations, male education and military life, feminine occupations, fashion, cultural pursuits, social life, homes and domestic interiors, and other tidbits of information that gives the reader a glimpse into everyday living during this time in history.

Part II - The Novels

All of Austen's major writings are discussed with a synopsis of each, a list of characters, with interesting background information added (portraits and pictures of what some characters may have looked like, and etchings and photos of homes that may have influenced her writings.) Austen's writing process is also included as she discussed her methods often in personal letters.

This is a wonderful resource for the serious student of Jane Austen's work. Very readable and filled with great photos and maps. (My favorite photograph is of Austen's little writing table with her tiny spectacles placed on top of one of her letters which is housed in the British Library.)

Title: Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels
Author: Deirdre Le Faye
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Limited (London)
320 pages/paperback

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

What are you reading on Monday? is a weekly meme hoste by J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book blog where you post books completed last week and plans for upcoming books. You can find her blog here to participate.

Well, it's been a slow week as far as what was actually accomplished this past week, but the two books I am currently reading are both chunky historical fiction works (600+ pages), so I'm enjoying the experience and not in a hurry to finish.

I posted a review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. I loved it and gave it a five star review.

I have also organized my upcoming TBR books by genre; if you scroll down the right side of my blog, you can see at a glance which books will be coming up for review.

And last but not least, I received this "Your Blog Rocks" from the fabulous Reagan at Miss Remmer's Review last week, and I think it is very appropriate to pass this award to J. Kaye for not only hosting this weekly meme, but for all she does in the book blogging community. J. Kaye, your blog rocks, and so do you! So, this one is for you:

It's back to school week here for us, so it will be a busy one! Have a great week!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Giveaway Winner! - Vision in White by Nora Roberts

Thank you to everyone who entered my first giveaway, and I enjoyed visiting all of your wonderful blogs. Since the response was much greater than I anticipated, I decided to pull TWO winners instead of just one. So....without further ado, the TWO winners of the beautiful novel, Vision in White by Nora Roberts are:

Penny @ Penny's Pages

Tea @ ilovelovebooks

Congratulations, Penny and Tea! You will each be contacted by me for mailing info, and you will each receive a copy of the book.

Stay tuned....I'll have another giveaway in the near future!

Until then, happy reading!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

"I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers."

from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

My thoughts:

Have you ever had a book that when you finished reading it, you couldn't wait to recommend it to everyone you know? As soon as I finished this beautiful little treasure, I knew this would be something that I could confidently and whole-heartedly recommend to all my friends and family members that are book lovers, regardless of their genre preference. It is a book that celebrates literature, the value of friendships that sustain us during hardships, the strength of the human spirit, and the power of human kindness.

The novel is written as a series of letters among friends and acquaintances of WWII journalist Juliet Ashton. What begins as a coincidence (a Guernsey resident has a book of the writings of Charles Lamb that once belonged to Juliet, and her name and address are on the inside cover), turns into a life-changing experience as she begins corresponding with the quirky inhabitants of the Guernsey Island. She learns of their plight during the German occupation, and discovers that their Literary Society literally saved their lives and evolved into a way to come together to survive the hardships of war and German occupation. Knowing that she must visit the Channel Island herself to meet the residents and write a book of their experiences, she travels from London to Guernsey, and is forever changed.

Written in a style that is both witty and poignant, you will find that this is a book that will stay in your heart and mind for a long time.

5 stars = Loved it! Highly recommended!

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Genre: Fiction
290 pages

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A House With Four Rooms

My daily ritual is to check in at writer Deanna Raybourn's blog to read her daily posts. I enjoy her perspective as she writes about her life as an author, mother, and wife, and she just happens to love reading and writing about the past as much as I do.

Today's post addressed the way in which she approaches life in order to achieve a healthy balance and still accomplish many things in several areas of her life. She quoted the work of 20th century writer and poet Rumer Godden, and the following quote comes from her autobiography, A House With Four Rooms:

"Everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person."

I thought this was very interesting, and in examining my four rooms I see I do often neglect to take time to visit each room daily -- or I avoid one room completely for long periods of time. I do get the feeling that I'm out of balance from time to time. I think I'm going to put this quote where I can see it every day to remind me to take better care of my four "rooms."

How about you? Have you visited all four rooms lately?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Friends Award

Another huge "Thank You" to my friend, Reagan, at Miss Remmer's Review for this kind "friends" award. There are always amazing things going on at her fast-paced, info-filled blog! She's on a mission to inspire young readers to love the world of books, and I just can't wait to hear her stories when she gets into the classroom!

Now it is my turn to pass this friendly award on to people who have friendly blogs that I visit often:

Kim at Queen Bees Book Blog has so many good books coming up, especially cozy mysteries! Who could resist?

Sheila at Book Journey has a super blog, chock full of great book information, giveaways, guest reviews, and so much more. More importantly, Sheila puts the spotlight on other blogs, as well, and is always leaving positive comments and helping other bloggers.

Septembermom at My Voice, My View has been a wonderful friend of my blog and leaves the kindest comments. She has a beautiful and inspiring blog. She is a busy mom, a writer and poet.

Mary at Book Fan has a fabulous blog with all the latest in current fiction. She's going to convince me to step out of historical fiction and into current fiction with all her tempting titles! ;)

There are so many more great blogs that I visit and consider all of them to be friends. Thanks so much for making this a fun experience!


Monday, August 3, 2009

What are you reading on Mondays?

What are you reading on Mondays? is a weekly meme hosted by J. Kaye's book blog. You can find her here to see what she and others have completed last week and plan to read for this week.

Good morning!

Last week, I completed the delightful book, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James and have posted my thoughts. This will fulfill one of the six required books/movies for the Everything Austen Challenge.

New for this week is the first book in a fantastic historical fiction trilogy by Sharon Kay Penman: Here Be Dragons. The blurb on the back cover says, "...princesses held captive in stone towers, bloody wars, princes scheming to dethrone their own brothers, castles under seige, maidens in distress, rampant infidelity, lusting, mead guzzling, wine drinking, and love affairs that topple did England survive the thirteenth century?" This sounds terrific to me and I can't wait to get started.

I will also be completing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. I started it this weekend and I love it. I am still reading The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly and hope to post my thoughts on this novel soon.

Have a great reading week!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"A House Without Books is...... a room without windows."
Horace Mann, educator

I so agree! I cannot imagine living without books, and we are definitely a family that likes to surround ourselves with the books we love. From the moment you walk in the front door, and through every room, (even in the closets) you'll find evidence that we are book lovers.

J. Kaye at J.Kaye's book blog had a fun post this morning, and I thought this would be a good time to welcome visitors of my blog into my reading world. The post was, "Post a Picture of Your Bookshelf;" J. Kaye took pictures of all the different places she stores her books, her methods for recycling her books, and her future plans for her world of books. Sounded fun to me, so here goes:

Most of my everyday reading takes place in my office/craft room which is an upstairs bedroom. Here is a small bookcase where I store all my current books (TBR or just finished). You'll find mostly historical fiction, classics, historical romance, period mysteries, and the paranormal.

One of my favorite spots to read is in this chair in my office. It is a bright, sunny spot to curl up with a good book, and since I have beautiful trees right outside the balcony, I feel like I'm in a treehouse.

Next to my reading chair is a little magazine table where I store all my current scrapbooking magazines so they are close at hand when I have time to sit and think about what I want to create next. Also on the table you will find the books I am currently reading.

One of my favorite ways to organize and keep things tidy around the house is to use baskets -- all sizes and shapes like the one pictured here next to my reading chair. Since we have books all over the house, I like to have one place in each room to store the books so they don't get lost, shoved under the furniture, or worse, eaten by the pup. He doesn't always make wise digestive decisions! :)

Here is my most valuable collection of books. They are my family's memories. These albums represent about fifteen years of journaling and chronicling photographs, and these are the only material things I took with me in 2005 when we had 24 hrs. to leave the city. They are my treasures.

There is a big walk-in closet where I store all of my research books, grad school textbooks, and teaching materials. I haven't had time yet, but I would like to install more adjustable shelves to make space for more book/magazine storage. There is a collection of heavy winter coats currently taking up valuable book storage space, so the coats are about to get dry-cleaned and sent to charity. Who am I kidding? We need heavy coats here like you need snow skis in Florida.

As for my future plans, I know e-books are the rage, and I do see many benefits to e-readers....but, for me, I think I will always love the printed page. Perhaps I will get a kindle for the convenience of always having something with me when I am out and about, but for me, at home, there's nothing like cozying up with a good book and a cup of coffee.

So, how about you? What is your reading world like?

Click here for J. Kaye's book blog so you can see her post and find links to other bloggers' responses.

Favorite Period Dramas

Mount TBR

Joanne's to-read book montage

On a Highland Shore
A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
Maisie Dobbs
Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

Joanne's favorite books »