Framley Parsonage

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Framley Parsonage
by Anthony Trollope
This is the book that started the whole readalong. After reading and loving Jo Walton’s “Tooth and Claw” I found out that it’s a retelling of Framley Parsonage using dragons. The entire Chronicles of Barsetshire readalong was started because I was curious how the original novel compared to the dragon-filled version and I’m OCD, so obviously I had to read the first three books in the series before getting to this one.
There are two main plots in the book; the first revolves around the young impetuous clergyman, Mark Robarts and a shady financial decision. He guarantees a bill for an untrustworthy man, which puts his own future in jeopardy. The second plot regards his sister Lucy and the wealthy Lord Lufton who falls for her. Lufton’s mother is opposed to the marriage and Lucy feels that to accept the Lord without his mother’s approval would be wrong.
The strength of the novel lies in its characters’ sincere struggles. We feel for Lucy as she wrestles with her feelings. Our hearts break for Mark Robarts even though we know he made a stupid mistake. Trollope has built a fascinating world within the Barsetshire society and now four books into the series we recognize characters and remember their stories from previous books.
**A few of my favorite SPOILERY scenes:
When Fanny Robarts finds out about her husband’s financial ruin she is beyond kind and patient. She makes it clear to him that no matter what happens, she is on his side. He already feels ashamed and sick for what he’s done and nothing she could have said would have made him regret his actions more. Choosing to show him love and forgiveness in that situation was such a demonstration of strength and compassion. 
I was absolutely giddy over Doctor Thorne’s sweet romance with Martha Dunstable. They were not young, but with the help of his niece they both realized how happy they would be together. His honest-to-a-fault love letter was too funny. It’s never too late to find love. 
BOTTOM LINE: I so enjoyed this one, but I will say I couldn’t help comparing it to “Tooth and Claw” throughout the book. Both are great, but adding dragons to the mix adds a special layer of fun. I love that this novel has more depth and a few additional side plots that the retelling skipped. Mark Robarts character was particularly good, since in “Tooth and Claw” he becomes a straightforward villain. After Doctor Thorne I think this is my favorite of the series so far.

Wordless Wednesday: Ollie Pup

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ollie pup and Junior 

More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

The Book of Ruth

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Book of Ruth
by Jane Hamilton
Ruth lives in a small town with her equally small-minded mother. Her brilliant brother gets out as soon as he graduates from high school, but Ruth seems content to settle into an unhappy oblivion of work at a dry cleaner. In theory Ruth is an interesting character because she is so ordinary. She’s not that smart or pretty or ambitious. She is an average person, one that you meet every day.
The problem in that in her ordinariness there doesn’t seem to be anything new to be said about her. She settles quickly for whatever life hands her, whether it’s a job where her mom works or the first man who expresses and interest in her. Instead of trying to get out from under the thumb of her overbearing mother, she continues to live with her even after she’s married.
I have an incredibly hard time relating to and respecting people like Ruth. She has an awful life, one that she continually complains about, but she does nothing to improve it. I just want to shake her and yell, “You can do better!” She marries Ruby, a man who is basically still a child. He’s lazy and spoiled. He forces himself upon her on their first date, but she decides that’s okay and agrees that taking care of him is her new second job.
The two most interesting characters in my opinion are Ruth’s brother and her aunt, both of whom always remain on the periphery. Both are villainized in some ways, particularly her brother, for working to improve their lives. By the end of the book I just wanted to be finished with all of the horrible characters I’d met.
BOTTOM LINE: I couldn’t stand it. I kept waiting for it to get better or for some lesson to be learned, but it never happened. I stuck with it because it was a book for my book club and I always read those all the way though so I can discuss them.

Book Cataloguing

Friday, July 25, 2014


Bring up book cataloguing with any giant book nerd (myself included) and you know you are about to get an earful. We each have our own system for tracking what books we’ve read and what we own. For some people it’s meticulous, others have are a bit more sporadic. For me it boils down to one word: LibraryThing.
I started my profile in 2006 and never looked back. Up to that point I’d used random collections of notebooks to write down what I was reading. There was no real way to track it and I still couldn’t tell you all the books I read in the years leading up to 2006. That year I was in the midst of graduating from college and starting my first job, so half of my books were in storage.
My best friend sent me a link to LibraryThing and within minutes I’d bought a lifetime membership (only $25, but that was a lot for me at that point!) and I started adding in my books. I even went to my Dad’s house and went through my boxes of books in his attic to write everything down to enter into LT. I got so caught up in what I was doing that I took a wrong step and fell through the ceiling.
Now, eight years later I have 2,979 listed in my library. This includes everything including categories like books I’ve “read but do not own” to books I “own but haven’t read.” I have dozens of tags that help me find what I’m looking for in a second. When I buy a book or start reading a new book I immediately add it into the system. It is second nature at this point and new books aren’t shelved in my home until they are in LT.
If I’m reading it I label it with the current month and year and note whether or not I own it. I can go back and see exactly home many books I’ve read each year and which months are better reading months for me. I also have tags for specific genres, graphic novels, poetry, nonfiction, etc. I can search through all of the nonfiction books I’ve read to give someone a recommendation when requested. The system also allows you to add in your own reviews, (I currently have 782 reviews up) and ratings. Unlike Goodreads you are allowed to use half stars, which I absolutely LOVE!
LibraryThing is also essential for helping me keep track of what’s on my kindle. Sometimes I buy a $1.99 daily deal and forget about it, but I always add it into LT and so I can check later and see that I own it. I find myself at used bookstores all the time checking LT on my phone to see if I already own a copy of a book that’s caught my eye. It’s saved me from making quite a few duplicate purchases.
I’m a huge fan of LT. I’ve tried Goodreads and just haven’t been a fan so far. I like seeing what my friends are reading, but I hate the dozens of friend requests I get from authors pushing their books. If you’ve never checked it out, I’d recommend at least stopping by LT to see if it’s a good fit for you.
How do you all track what you read and own?
p.s. Just in case anyone is wondering, I'm not getting anything for recommending LT, I just love their system.

Wordless Wednesday: IMA

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Indianapolis Museum of Art

More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the Top Ten Characters I Would Want with Me on a Deserted Island. Such a fun question!
1) Ford Prefect from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – His job was literally to create a guide with information about surviving on any planet. I bet he would have some great stories in addition to survival tips.

2) Hermione from Harry Potter – She’s clever and kind and has already proved herself valuable in countless situations.

3) Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones – He would provide witty conversation, definitely an asset.

4) Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings – He’s been to Mordor and back, so he’s got endurance. Plus he’s endlessly loyal.

5) Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games – She wouldn’t be much fun, but I bet she’d be able to catch us some dinner. The girl’s got survival skills.  

6) Robinson Crusoe – He would already know how to survive on a deserted island, which is helpful.

7) Guy Montag and his friends from Fahrenheit 451 – It might be cheating, but I’d love to take a couple of the people who have an entire book memorized. They could recent it allowed to keep everyone entertained.

8) Abbe Faria from The Count of Monte Cristo – He’s wise and willing to teach others. He’s a hard worker and infinitely patient.

9) Ender Wiggin from the Ender’s Game series – In addition to being a strategy genius, Ender has learned to value dozens of cultures throughout the universe.  

10) Anne Shirley – When things seem bleak Anne would cheer everyone up.


Monday, July 21, 2014

by Frank Herbert
A Duke and his family are sent to govern the planet of Arrakis. On that desert land dangerous sandworms travel just below the surface, water is a precious commodity and the native people, Fremen, are seen as the enemy. Arrakis is the only planet to produce melange, a valuable spice that is in high demand. Shortly after arriving on Arrakis a betrayal throws the Duke’s household into chaos. His concubine Jessica and their son Paul are in danger and attempt an escape. 
I struggled with this one, reading a bit and then putting it down for a week or two while I read other books. I thought the concept was interesting and enjoyed parts of it, but I felt like there was a lot of unfocused meandering which was hard to follow. I love novels that dissect the roles of leadership and question where real power lies, but that aspect of the plot was lost in the shuffle of a story that was trying to cover too much ground.
The novel is a unique combination of Sci-Fi, political commentary and philosophy, but that mixture comes across as a bit dry. There were some exciting action-packed moments and some interesting forays into social commentary, but it wasn’t enough of each to make it work for me. I did like seeing Paul’s transformation throughout the novel and Jessica’s training and special set of skills, but I felt like the flow of the book was hampered by the constant shift away from our main characters.
BOTTOM LINE: I wanted to like this one more than I did. I’m glad to have read one of the books that is held up as a pinnacle of the Science Fiction genre, but it wasn’t a huge hit with me. It felt stale and distant, more like I was reading a history book about something that had happened.
“‘A world is supported by four things...’ she held up four big-knuckled fingers. ‘the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous and the valor of the brave. But all of these are as nothing...’ She closed her fingers into a fist. ‘without a ruler who knows the art of ruling.’”
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
“The vision of time is broad, but when you pass through it, time becomes a narrow door.”


Friday, July 18, 2014


by Stephen King
Jake is an English teacher living a relatively nondescript life in 2011. Then he’s introduced to the “rabbit hole” a time-travel portal that spits you out in 1958. He’s told he needs to stop the Kennedy assassination and the saga that follows is a long road through the late ‘50s and early ‘60s through the eyes of a modern day man.
Technically the Kennedy assassination is the central plot, but it’s really about so much more than that. King has such a gift for crafting characters you care about deeply. He also managed to make me nostalgic for a time period that I never even knew. It's hard to explain exactly what it is about this novel that's so romantically nostalgic. King reminisces about sock hops and milkshakes, but it’s more about the atmosphere of small-town camaraderie than anything concrete.
Even though the book looks at that era through rose colored glasses, he also acknowledges the problems from that time period. There is racism and censorship in schools, there’s prejudice against anyone whose life veers outside the declared “norm.” King doesn’t gloss over those elements and that made the plot much more realistic.
There's a lovely cadence that the plot of the whole book follows, a tide of swells up and down, settling in new places, following his path to Lee Harvey Oswald and hitting roadblocks along the way. He inevitably must create a new life in the past and that complicates things further. The romance in the book can be a bit sappy at times, but it wasn’t overly so. There are also a slew of other characters that add depth to each scene. I loved Mimi a Texas librarian and Mike a jock with some serious acting chops.
Throughout the book King reiterates his belief that the past harmonizes. He says it over and over again, reminding the reader that the past finds patterns and repeats itself in ways that mirror other experiences. It was an interesting concept and though it also meant the book has some repetitive elements that grow a bit tiresome. It was an unavoidable facet of the plot since that’s part of the point of it all. I do think there are definite sections that could have been cut, but no one reads Stephen King because he’s short-winded!
It’s funny; I couldn’t help but think of the novel “Time and Again” over and over as I read this one. Then in the Afterward King says that’s his favorite time travel story of all time and in many ways it inspired this one.
BOTTOM LINE: A big, fat summer read with love and loss and plenty of twists. This isn’t a fast read, but it’s a good one. Sink into it and explore the past with Jake.
“Everyone knows that for such an unforgiving thing, time is uniquely malleable.”
**SIDENOTE: The audiobook version of this was excellent. The only part that bugged me was an off Jimmy Stewart-style voice the narrator used for one character towards the end of the book.**
Also, I am so glad I read “IT” right before this. I had no idea there was a plot overlap, but I definitely wouldn’t have appreciated some parts of the book if I hadn’t read “IT.”

Wordless Wednesday: Prague

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Prague, the City of Red Roofs

More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

Top Ten Favorite TV Shows

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for our Top Ten Favorite TV Shows! It actually asked for movies too, but since that list is crazy long I’m limiting myself to only TV shows that are currently on TV. There are tons that I love that have ended or been cancelled, but these are all great ones that you should be watching!

1) Game of Thrones

2) The Good Wife

3) Fargo

4) Mad Men

5) Walking Dead

6) Downton Abbey

7) Parks and Rec

8) The Americans

9) Sherlock and Elementary

10) Doctor Who

Are there any great ones that I missed?


Monday, July 14, 2014

by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Mabel’s new prep school roommate Ev is everything she’s not. She’s wealthy, beautiful and somehow the two become friends. When she’s invited to spend the entire summer with Ev at her WASPish family’s Vermont estate she is ecstatic. Tucked away in the Winslow family’s cottages Mabel gets a taste for the life of the upper crust, but things take a turn as she begins to realize there might be a darker world bubbling beneath the glossy surface.
Bittersweet is a twisty soap opera of a novel. Some of the shadowy twists are predictable, but it’s the tone of the book that made it a compelling read for me. Our unreliable narrator, Mabel, is both smitten and horrified by aspects of the world she discovers and it’s her loss of innocence that’s fascinating to watch. As she starts to uncover the horrifying family secrets it’s impossible not to wonder which side she’ll end up on in the end.
BOTTOM LINE: It was entertaining and I didn’t want to put it down, that’s exactly what I want from a big, juicy summer read. The dark plot didn’t disappoint and though it’s nothing earth-shattering, it’s a great one to throw in your suitcase to keep you entertained on your next flight.
“Water was a strange substance, like memory - much to push against, but nothing solid to hang on to.”

Classics Club July Question

Friday, July 11, 2014

Have you ever read a biography on a classic author? If so, tell us about it. If you had already read works by this author, did reading a biography of his/her life change your perspective on the author’s writing? Why or why not?
I have actually read quite a few biographies of authors. I’m always fascinated by the man or woman behind the pen. One of my favorites was Papa Hemingway by A.E. Hotchner. The author knew Hemingway personally in his later years and his portrayal of the author is a loving one. I’ve struggled with some of Hemingway’s work; I loved A Moveable Feast, but get lost in the misogyny of some of his novels. Seeing Hemingway through the eyes of a friend helped me temper my disdain a bit and try to understand the man on a deeper level.
Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields was another interesting one. To Kill a Mockingbird is such a beloved book and its author is so elusive. I loved learning more about not just Harper, but also her sister and father and the impact they had on her life. The book itself is a bit dry, but it did give me a deeper understanding of how Harper’s own life influenced her famous novel.
I read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, which is not a biography precisely, but more of a journey of a book. But it also gives an in depth look at Mitchell’s life before and after it was published and the grueling process of getting it written. Again, gaining more information about the author added to my appreciation of her novel.
Up next for me is the biography of Zelda written by Nancy Milford. My book club is reading it later this year and I’m so excited to check it out. Let me know if you’ve read it and what you thought!

Join in the fun at the Classics Club Blog.

Wordless Wednesday: Family Reunion

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fourth of July family reunion.
Five days of great weather, fire pits, &
wonderful conversation with family
from all over the country.
More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

Top Ten Favorite Musicals

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Last month I picked my own Top Ten Topic for The Broke and the Bookish meme and I'm doing it again. Here are my Top Ten Favorite Musicals. As I mentioned before, I love live theatre and I'm lucky enough to get to see a ton of productions because I review shows once a week at Stage Write! Musicals get a bad rap sometimes, but they can be so incredibly good without being cheesy when they are well done.

1) Les Misérables
2) Singin' in the Rain
4) The Sound of Music
5) Wicked
6) In the Heights
7) Cabaret
8) Jersey Boys
9) My Fair Lady
10) Chicago

Giovanni’s Room

Monday, July 7, 2014

Giovanni’s Room
by James Baldwin

David is a young man living in Paris and reflecting on a doomed love affair. This poetic story, a mere 160 pages, delves not only into his relationship with Giovanni, but also into his confusion, self-loathing, loneliness, shame and more. In a flawed attempt to figure out who he is and what he truly wants, David has a tendency to hurt those around him with little or no feeling. Baldwin’s beautiful and succinct writing style pulls readers into David’s world.  

In addition to telling a tragic love story, the book touches on the complicated role women held in society in the early 20th century. As they began to gain the freedom to make their own decisions they realized that in many ways they weren’t really free. The expectation was still that they find a husband as soon as possible.
“I don’t see what’s so hard about being a woman. At least, not as long as she’s got a man.” “‘That’s just it,’ said she. ‘Hasn’t it ever struck you that that’s a sort of humiliating necessity?’” … ‘I began to realize it in Spain that – that I wasn’t free, that I couldn’t be free until I was attached – no committed to someone.’”

BOTTOM LINE: A haunting look at love and its many forms, this story reminds the readers of the importance of understanding who you are. The pain and heartbreak is universal when we can’t even be honest with ourselves.

“But people can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, any more than they can invent their parents.”

“Much has been written of love turning to hatred, of the heart growing cold with the death of love. It is a remarkable process. It is far more terrible than anything I have ever read about it, more terrible than anything I will ever be able to say.”

*My edition is part of the Penguin Great Loves Series. The whole series is just gorgeous!
Also, this was my Classics Club spin book and I’m so glad I finally read it.

Framley Parsonage Readalong

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

** Have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend fellow Americans (and a regular happy weekend to everyone else!) My family is having a big family reunion over the next five days, so I will be back on Monday! **
Okay guys, we are halfway through the readalong! We've made it to the book that started this whole thing, Framley Parsonage. I read Tooth and Claw in January and later learned that the plot is modeled on this book. I can't wait to read this one and I'm guessing Amanda is just as excited!
"Mark Robarts is a clergyman with ambitions beyond his small country parish of Framley. In a naive attempt to mix in influential circles, he agrees to guarantee a bill for a large sum of money for the disreputable local Member of Parliament, while being helped in his career in the Church by the same hand. But the unscrupulous politician reneges on his financial obligations, and Mark must face the consequences this debt may bring to his family. One of Trollope's most enduringly popular novels since it appeared in 1860, Framley Parsonage is an evocative depiction of country life in nineteenth-century England, told with great compassion and acute insight into human nature."
We decided to space the last two books out a bit more to give everyone time to catch up if they want to!
September: The Small House at Allington
November: The Last Chronicle of Barset
Share your wrap up post with all of us at the end of the month and tweet your thoughts at #Trollope2014.

Top Ten Favorite Classic Books

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for our Top Ten Favorite Classic Books, which is one of my favorite topics! It's also incredibly hard to just pick ten!

1) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
3) Persuasion by Jane Austen
4) David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
5) The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
7) Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
8) I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
9) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
10) Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
BONUS: Shakespeare! I can’t pick between his plays so I’m going to give him his own bonus spot.