Confession of a Serial Book Dater: Renée Rosen’s WHAT THE LADY WANTS

My goal is to read 30 books by the end of 2015 (rather than reading the first chapter of each before tossing ’em aside, which has become a bad reading habit of mine).

20893377With this in mind, I picked up Renée Rosen’s WHAT THE LADY WANTS.

(3* books down, 27 more to go)
*I didn’t review the 2nd book. It was Dani Shapiro’s STILL WRITING. It’s a book every writing should read.

Summary: In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.

What I disliked: The novel had a soap opera touch to it: adultery (check), hysterics galore (check), a bitchslap (check), bitchpushes (check), and by the end, because of the rushed pacing, it felt like the story went on a killing spree (check), with characters dropping dead in almost every chapter.

What I liked: I was expecting a historical fiction about Chicago and Marshall Field, but instead I got a swoon-worthy romance between Marshall Field and Delia Spenceer Caton (both historical figures). I enjoyed their blossoming relationship. **SPOILER ALERT!** What initially annoyed me was the plot twist used to justify Delia and Marshall’s affair: her husband ‘conveniently’ turns out to be homosexual and his wife ‘just happens’ to be a psychologically unstable laudanum addict with an “evil streak.” It felt very contrived, especially considering that there isn’t much historical fact backing this plot twist. However, after a few pages, the author managed to smooth out my ruffle feathers. And throughout the book, despite the soap opera, I can say for certain that Rosen is a great storyteller who weaves her words beautifully.

Favorite Passage: “Delia stood back in amazement. She’d never felt so important. This was a man who was respected by all for his tastes and here he had followed her choice. She realized she’d never really been taken serious—listened to—and by a man she respected to this extent. A burst of confidence awakened inside her. She held her shoulders back, standing proud. It was as if Marshal had shone a light on her, allowing her to see her true self.”

I recommend this book if you:

  • want to be swept into the world of glamor, scandal, and shopping.
  • love Rhett Butler, because Marshall Field (in the book) reminded me of him.
  • are going through The Paradise/Mr Selfridge withdrawal.
  • interested in the history of Chicago.

I mildly enjoyed this book, and now I’m leaving it for Joyce Maynard’s AFTER HER or I might try to finish Winston Graham’s POLDARK (I got halfway through then stopped after watching the BBC adaption Ergggg). Hopefully I’ll be able to commit to one, unlike the 3 other books I dropped before picking up Rosen’s What the Lady Wants.

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POLDARK (Episode One): My First Impression

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Summary: In late 18th-century, Ross Poldark returns to his Cornish tin mines after spending three years in the army to avoid charges of smuggling, leaving behind his sweetheart Elizabeth. On his return, having fought in the American War of Independence, he finds his father dead, his estate in ruins and Elizabeth engaged to his cousin Francis. In need of help he takes on a new kitchen maid, Demelza, after rescuing her from a beating bringing him into conflict with hostile locals.

Episode 1 Recap:

Screenshot - 2015-03-24 , 3_33_28 PMThe episode opens with Ross Poldark fighting a losing battle in the American Revolution. When the war ends, he returns to Cornwall, England, with a scar on his face and a wounded leg.

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Screenshot - 2015-03-24 , 11_13_03 PMDuring the journey home, he pretends to be asleep while he listens to the whispers among people who have recognized him. Ross learns that his father–the libertine–is dead, and that he has inherited the ancient Poldark land. Continue reading

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New Period Film: Madame Bovary (2015)

I absolutely CAN’T wait to watch this! I read Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary several years ago and fell head over heels in love with it.

Set in Normandy, France, Madame Bovary is Gustave Flaubert’s classic story of Emma Bovary (Mia Wasikowska), a young beauty who impulsively marries small-town doctor, Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), to leave her father’s pig farm far behind. But after being introduced to the glamorous world of high society, she soon becomes bored with her stodgy husband and mundane life, and seeks prestige and excitement outside the bonds of marriage. –Apple Trailers

 

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Click Here For More Period Dramas/Films

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Confession of a Serial Book Dater: Joseph Boyden’s THROUGH BLACK SPRUCE

I’m going to try to finish reading 30 books by the end of 2015 (rather than reading the first chapter of each before tossing ’em aside, which has become my bad reading habit).

51MehE7kutLWith this in mind, I picked up Joseph Boyden’s THROUGH BLACK SPRUCE and finished it a few days ago.

(1 book down, 29 more to go)

Summary: This is the story of two immensely compelling characters: Will Bird, a legendary Cree bush pilot who lies comatose in a remote Ontario hospital; and Annie Bird, Will’s niece, a beautiful loner and trapper who has come to sit beside her uncle’s bed.

Broken in different ways, the two take silent communion in their unspoken kinship, revealing a story rife with heartbreak, fierce love, ancient feuds, mysterious disappearances, murders, and the bonds that hold a family, and a people, together.

What I disliked: Throughout the first 80 pages or so, I set the book aside several times, my heart wandering to other books. Those 80-ish pages…I found to be really draggy. The plot didn’t seem to be going anywhere. But I read on because I enjoyed the writing style.

What I liked: Once I reached the second quarter of the book, the story picked up and packed some really good emotional punches.

As I read on, the two narrative voices that initially seemed unrelated started intersecting together into a poignant tale of family, love and healing. From page 80 onwards, I found myself furiously underlining the many beautiful passages.

Favorite Passage: “When I die, nieces, I want to be cremated, my ashes taken up in a bush plane and sprinkled onto the people in town below. Let them think my body is snowflakes, sticking in their hair and on their shoulders like dandruff.”

I recommend this book if you’re:

  • into stories about family healing
  • into books that give a sense of community
  • interested in magical realism
  • have a thing for indigenous literature
  • tired of the city and want to escape into the haunting & majestic wilderness of Canada

LOVED this book, and now I’m leaving it for Kate Morton’s THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN or Ha Jin’s MAP OF BETRAYAL while I wait for The Book (Winston Graham’s ROSS POLDARK) to arrive in the mail (I want to read the book before watching the BBC adaptation!).

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On a different note, I discovered the TV series ANNO 1790. I really want to watch it but can’t find a subtitled version *le sigh*

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Writerly Endurance: Try again. Fail again. Fail better

The anxiety you feel after submitting a requested revision to an agent is paralyzing. Because with R&Rs, you’re oh-so-close to landing an agent, yet oh-so-close to falling back into the Query Trench.
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So that’s where I’m at right now — I sent the R&R and am now waiting for the agent’s response. How do I feel–knowing this is my second and final chance with Agent A? Initially, I was incredibly stressed (so much uncertainty, too many feelingsss!) until I picked up a book at the library and read this:
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I’ve heard it said that everything you need to know about life can be learned from watching baseball. I’m not what you’d call a sports fan, so I don’t know if this is true, but I do believe in a similar philosophy, which is that everything you need to know about life can be learned from a genuine and ongoing attempt to write…
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The writing life requires courage, patience, persistence, empathy, openness, and the ability to be alone with oneself. To be gentle with oneself. To look at the world without blinders on. To observe and withstand what one sees. To be disciplined, and at the same time, to take risks. To be willing to fail–not just once, but again and again, over the course of a lifetime. “Ever tried, ever failed,” Samuel Beckett once wrote. “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” It requires what the great editor Ted Solotoroff once called endurability.
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-Dani Shapiro, Still Writing
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After reading this, I was like…Oh yah! This is what it means to be a writer. Fine. BRING IT ON! I can take whatever comes my way.
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So, to the writers who are querying/on an R&R/on submission, we can never be certain of what awaits us around the corner in our writing life, but we CAN be certain that if we do get rejected (heaven forbid), we’ll probably wallow in self-pity for a few days, but then we’ll get back up and begin again. Why? Because we’re writers. We are ones who endure.
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