Here’s to Little Women

On this day in 1868, the first volume of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was published. It’s one of my all time favorite books, and Jo March is my all time favorite character in literature.

And just recently Rifle Paper Co. paired with Puffin to create some amazing new editions of several books, including Little Women.

little womenFind it here. Also, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, and Heidi. All equally gorgeous, and all headed for my bookshelf.

Death Comes to Pemberley

I am sure there are many, like myself, who count Pride and Prejudice among their favorite books. Those infamous first words, dashing Mr. Darcy, all those manners and curtsies…ooooh, so good! So when I spotted Death to Pemberley, by PD James, on the bookshelves I looked on with horror. A sequel? To Pride and Prejudice? Say what?! But upon reading the cover, I was intrigued. A murder mystery at Pemberley? Hmmmm…yes please!

Elizabeth and Jane are leading the peaceful existences we all imagined. Big houses near one another (one too nosy mother-in-law drove Jane and Mr. Bingley from Netherfield), pretty children and perfect husbands. All is well.

As the story opens, Pemberley is on the cusp of hosting a yearly ball. How lovely! But it’s interrupted when (guess who) Lydia arrives. Of course. And she’s in hysterics. Of course. Why? Apparently, Wickham has just been murdered.

And so the story begins. It’s really less Pride and Prejudice and more Downton Abbey (which I have no problem with. Have you seen that show? It’s awesome). Death Comes to Pemberley is a fun murder mystery. Most of the P&P gang is back but the story centralizes on Darcy. We get some insight into his relationship with Wickham and learn why it’s sometimes a bummer to be a magistrate. But this is one of the few complaints I have: not enough Elizabeth. And can I get some Mr. and Mrs. Bennet please? A small Mr. Bennet cameo is not enough. I mean, if a murder can’t inspire a family reunion, what can?

The middle of the book moves a bit slow. There’s a lot of legal talk and witness accounts are repeated. But the ending moves much more swiftly once the murder trail begins… dun, dun duuuuuuuuunnnnnnn.

There was an interesting little subplot in the book- a love triangle-of-sorts (and who doesn’t love one of those) between Georgiana, Col. Fitzwilliam, and a good-natured, poor, handsome young lawyer. Lots of attention should always be given to tension-filled romantics. Or so I believe.

But overall this is a great book if you’re looking for a quick, weekend read. It’s no masterpiece on par with P&P, nor does it need to be. I’ve always had an inkling that we hadn’t heard the last from Mr. George Wickham.

just so cool

Got an old hardback book that looks…old?

Take a gander at this fantastic tutorial at ohdeedoh. You can create and design your very own cover! Such a great idea! I can’t wait to try it:

image from ohdeedoh

Persephone Books

I am completely obsessed with Persephone Books. It’s a publishing company based in London and they reprint awesome books from the twentieth century, mostly authored by women, which have largely been forgotten. The stories are varied, interesting, and entertaining. Persephone publishes fiction, non-fiction, and cook books (but I don’t cook so there’s a good chance that  I will not be reading these). The first Persephone book I read was Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. I had never heard of it – I picked it up because of the amazing cover art.

misspettigrew2And this is such a great book! It’s wonderful to curl up with on a rainy day. And it’s a quick read too. It’s about a wonderfully spontaneous and glamorous day in the boring, dreary life of Miss Pettigrew. I highly recommend. It was made into a movie (which is not as good as the book – what else is new – but still a lot of fun to watch). I’ve also read Cheerful Weather for a Wedding by Julie Strachey. It’s a short book about a girl who’s thinking that it might not be the best idea to be getting married. There’s some great characters and wonderful description in this book. You can easily read it in one sitting.

But I highly recommend visiting their website and seeing what other books they have to offer.

The Old Man and Me

 

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Simply put- this is a good book. Actually, it’s a great book! I loved reading every word and was disappointed it came to an end. There are some books that you just never want to end. The Old Man and Me is a completely original spin on a somewhat cliched story line: a young American woman flies off to England to reclaim her fortune by seducing a rich old man who is in possession of it.

I probably never would have taken a second look at this book had I not read Dundy’s first novel, The Dud Avocado. The title The Old Man and Me sounds cheesy and all kinds of boring. And when I pulled the book of the shelf at the library, the cover was worn and yellow and torn. It looked like it hadn’t been read in years and smelled like it too as I thumbed through the musty pages. But what I happily discovered was a wonderful cast of characters who are insanely entertaining.

What made me fall in love with Elaine Dundy’s writing while reading The Dud Avocado is the wit she infused into her characters. That same charm and edge I enjoyed in Dud Avacodo is everywhere in The Old Man and Me. The clash of the British and American cultures come into play to create some classically hilarious and awkward situations.

So, the story is this: American Betsy Lou, moonlighting as Honey Flood, an American heiress set loose in England, is out to seduce C.D. McKee. C.D. McKee is a very rich man. Make that a very rich OLD man. And Betsy Lou believes she is the rightful owner of his riches. How that actually works out is a wonderfully complicated, melodramatic, and enjoyable flashback to read, so I won’t ruin that story line here. But to get back her money, Betsy Lou must first get to C.D. And once she accomplishes that, she has no idea what she’s going to do or how she’s going to her her money back. What Betsy Lou had not counted on was that she might, possibly fall in love with that C.D. McKee. But as her funds disappear and she becomes more desperate, Betsy Lou has to decide how far she’ll go to get back what is hers.

The Old Man and Me was written and takes place in the sixties. But the story isn’t antiquated and the characters are as alive as ever. The story jumps off the pages and sucks you in from the first page until the very last sentence. The comedy is face-paced, and at times very dark – but never dull.

The Dud Avocado

“It was a hot, peaceful, optimistic sort of day in September. It was around eleven in the morning, I remember, and I was drifting down the boulevard St. Michel, thoughts rising in my head like little puffs of smoke…”

The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy, follows the adventures of Sally Jay Gorce, an American in Paris. She has no plans and no real expectations – only for adventure. She falls in and out of several acting jobs and falls in and out of love with several men. Along the way she breaks off an affair with her older Italian lover, takes up with a movie-star-to-be and loses her passport.

I had never heard of The Dud Advacado before reading it. I had never heard of the book’s author Elaine Dundy. But there is really something wonderful about this book. There is a hint of the chick-lit we’re all so used to nowadays. But there’s a depth, an intellect, a realness to the story and especially to the characters that is so often absent in the chick-lit books we’re inundated with now. There’s an evolution to Sally Jay and her story. She’s not saintly – she has good moments and some not-so-good moments, but she’s always open to life, open to adventure.

It’s amazing to think that this book, so filled with adventure, wit, and energy about one independent free-thinking young woman was written in 1958. Some of the fashions and slang may have changed, but the themes present in this book have weathered the years and still resonate with young women of today. Figuring out what you want in life and what kind of person you want to be is tricky business. And can be a bumpy road. I couldn’t put this book down and recommended it to ALL my friends. Very glad I bumped into it that day in the bookstore.

Bitter is the New Black

The title pretty much says it all. This is the tale of a bitter, unemployed, fabulously attired, fiercely determined woman in her 30′s. Her name? Jen Lancaster. Her mission? Find a job. Where does the bitterness fit in? Well, way back when, she had it all: a fabulous apartment, regular hair and spa appointments, designer bags, designer shoes and a good paying job. Unfortunately she was fired and left scrambling as she tried to decipher life with no job. Sound like the next big thing in chick lit? Guess again. This is the true story of a real girl in the very real world.

The hilarity of this book stems from how Lancaster fills her days once her former employers give her the old heave-ho. Volunteering her time at a local animal shelter (in designer clothes), collecting unemployment checks (carrying a designer bag), redecorating her not-so-humble abode and spending plenty of quality time watching reality TV. She also deigns herself a junior sleuth – drawing up plans to solve the mystery of her missing newspapers. But starting her own website about her unemployment and attempts to find employment is what sets her back on course (eventually). This book is so hilarious, I often found myself laughing out loud on the train on my morning commute to work (the stares of annoyance didn’t even bother me).

If Lancaster were a super-sorority-bitch all the time, this book would probably be unbearable to read. And though the tone of Bitter is the New Black is truly sarcastic there are pockets of real life that pop up which any reader can relate to. One of my favorite moments was when Lancaster was explaining why the air conditioner was broken and was exasperated why no one could understand said explanation:

“I told him fifteen times the blowery thing worked fine but it never made the big whoosh full of cold, cold air so the pipes didn’t get sweaty and the issue was a lack of the chilly-making juice. I said we probably just needed another box of neon like we did when our AC was out in Lincoln Park. I’m not sure how I could have expressed the problem more clearly.” (cue laughter followed by annoyed looks)

Ultimately Lancaster was writing about a bad time in her life. But she got through it with the support of her boyfriend, her grit, and a great sense of humor. She got through it all and came out the other side a little wiser. Lancaster wrote two sequels to her first memoir – I can’t wait to get my hands on them and speed through.