Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Word of the Week 1

In many books I read, I find a word or phrase that I have not "met" before and that I wish to be better acquainted with. Some words are worth doing research on, and I would like to shine the spotlight on one such new word or phrase every week.

This week's phrase is: "cottage ornee" (with an acute accent on the first 'e' in ornee)

"He is a warm friend to Sanditon - ' said Mr. Parker - "and his hand would be as liberal as his heart, had he the power. - He would be a noble coadjutor! - As it is, He does what he can - and s running up a tasteful little cottage ornee, on a strip of waste ground Lady Denham has granted him..."
- from Sanditon by Jane Austen.

What exactly is a "cottage ornee"?
For starters, it is pronounced the French way - "cottaazh ornay"

From gardenvisit.com

"A cottage ornee is a villa on a small scale, which may be characterised by the garden-front opening into a picturesque lawn varied by groups of trees. The cottage is generally low in proportion to its extent, and the roof; which is frequently thatched, has projecting eaves. The walls should be covered with climbing plants, and there is generally a veranda round the house."

From the Wikipedia entry on Houghton Lodge (pictures included):

According to Wikipedia, around the final quarter of the eighteenth century, "it became fashionable for the upper classes to enjoy country life due to the improvements in roads which made a visit to the country easier than it had been."

"The new fashion extended to architecture and incorporated elements from the growing interest in the picturesque. Designs became more rustic, houses became lower and seemingly smaller, often at the expense of the servants comfort, as the still essential domestic quarters were forced out of sight, often underground or onto a separate wing of their own.

Houghton Lodge:

Houghton Lodge is a standing cottage ornee in Hampshire, England. This website has nice pictures and explanations to go. It even has a section on Jane Austen and the cottage ornee. I enjoyed exploring this site, and would love to visit Houghton Lodge someday!

Teaser Tuesday 2

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just 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!

My Teaser for today:

"Reginald has a good figure, and is not unworthy the praise you have heard given him, but is still greatly inferior to our friend at Langford. He is less polished, less insinuating than Manwaring, and is comparatively deficient in the power of saying those delightful things which put one in good humour with oneself and all the world."

from Lady Susan by Jane Austen (in the volume Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon, page 56).

Comments: I have been a bit behind with my reading this week, but enjoyed reading Lady Susan very much. It joins Emma and Northanger Abbey as one of my Austen favorites now. What a delightfully wicked character Lady Susan is!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Mystery Challenge

Another interesting challenge from Kals at At Pemberley. It involves reading books by Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - two pioneers of detective fiction. Here are the rules:

1. This challenge is from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010.

2. You will have to read a minimum of 6 books in total: two Miss Marple mysteries, two Sherlock Holmes mysteries and two Hercule Poirot mysteries. You can of course, read more than 6 books if you want to.

3. The books you have chosen for this challenge can overlap with other challenges.

I'm in - thanks for hosting Kals!
Book read toward this challenge:
1) Sad Cypress - Poirot (finished April 2)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just 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!

My Teaser for today:

" I shall be afraid of her. - She must have too masculine and bold a temper. - To be so bent on marriage - to pursue a man merely for the sake of situation - is a sort of thing that shocks me; I cannot understand it. Poverty is a great evil, but to a woman of education and feeling it ought not, it cannot be the greatest. - I would rather be a teacher at a school (and I can think of nothing worse) than marry a man I did not like."

from The Watsons by Jane Austen (in the book Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon, page 110).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Good first book in a series

Gallows View by Peter Robinson
Year: 1987
My Rating: Four Stars

The short of it: This first book in the Inspector Banks series has a straightforward plot, but is solid in character development.

The long if it:

This is the first in the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson. Chief Inspector Alan Banks and his family have just moved to Yorkshire from London and are trying to adjust to both to country life and to the Yorkshire culture. Unfortunately, things are not as quiet as Banks had hoped they would be. He soon finds himself with three cases on his hands - a Peeping Tom, a series of burglaries, and the murder of an old woman, each of which may or may not be related to the others.

Being the first book in a series, the focus is on character development. Robinson provides us with a complex, yet likeable detective. Like Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford, Banks is a family man. However, he is obliged to work with the intelligent and very attractive Jenny Fuller, a psychologist assigned to the case, and finds himself sorely tempted to have an affair with the willing Fuller. This aspect of the story is valuable to the development of Banks' character, and for us to get a better understanding of the man behind the dedicated cop. Banks also has short-lived hobbies and is currently obsessed with opera.

Robinson also paints nice pictures of Bank's wife Sandra and his boss Gristhorpe. It is very refreshing to see that Gristhorpe is a boss who seems to genuinely care about his subordinates and works hard to maintain good relations within the unit - a nice change from the often antagonistic and unpleasant superiors seen in crime fiction (Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley series and Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series come to mind here).

The plot itself is not too complex or deep, but there is a nice twist at the end which makes it interesting. The book brings to mind Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series. The setting (rural Yorkshire) plays a significant role, just as Rankin's Edinburgh does. While Robinson's prose is not as captivating as Rankin's is, and Banks is not as complex or troubled as Rebus is, he is a character with promise and this book left me asking for more of him. If you are a fan of Inspector Wexford or Inspector Rebus, you may enjoy this book. If you have never heard of them, I would still recommend this book to any fan of police procedurals who enjoys becoming involved with the characters.

Quote of Note: "Screeching! Good lord, woman, this is the sound of the human spirit soaring: 'Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore.' " Banks's soprano imitation made up in volume what it lacked in melody.

Bonus: According to Peter Robinson's blog - ITV is getting ready to bring Inspector Banks to television and Stephen Tompkinson is to play Alan Banks. While I'm not too familiar with Tompkinson, he seems to have a solid resume, and can apparently "raise his right eyebrow halfway up his forehead without moving the left eyebrow" (source: IMDb).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

One more challenge!

I have to say I'm enjoying signing up for challenges! This time is it the Typically Britsh Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Book Chick City. I'm going for the highest level here - reading 8 books by British authors. I am a bit of a "britophile" and look forward to read British authors across genres.
List of Books:
1) Gallows End by Peter Robinson (finished March 19)
2) Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon by Jane Austen (Mar 30)
3) Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie (finished April 1)
4) The Murder Room by P. D. James (finished April 15)
5) Cotillion by Georgette Heyer (finished May 2)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Jennifer at Crazy for Books has a book blogger hop going on every Friday. What a great way to visit new blogs and get to meet new bloggers! I look forward to visiting several new blogs this week, and a big thanks to all who made their way here through the Hop!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Not just for dummies

Title: Jane Austen for Dummies
Author: Joan Klingel Ray
Year: 2006
Number of pages: Around 340 with actual content
My Rating: Five Stars

The short of it: Very good introductory reference for anyone who has read all of Jane Austen's major works and who wishes to have more insight into her life and the manners and customs of the time she lived in.

The long of it:
How does a curricle differ from a gig? Why didn't Jane Austen marry? What is an entail? What is the "special license" that Mrs. Bennet wants for Lizzie's wedding? What were the rights of ladies in Austen's times? Did Jane Austen ever comment on social issues?

Questions like these arise on reading Jane Austen's work for the first time, or even on subsequent readings. This book gives a good overview of the life and times of Jane Austen in a crisp, clear, and engaging manner. It is well-organized and easy to read with illustrations and pictures where relevant, and includes a broad spectrum of subjects ranging from dancing, courtship and marriage in Regency times to authors who influenced and who were influenced by Austen.

There are very relevant examples from Austen's works under each topic, which makes it entertaining and understandable. The number of examples seems slightly weighted in favor of Pride and Prejudice, but I can understand that given popularity of that book as well as the breadth of issues addressed in it. The book also has discussion sections on Austen's books and film adaptations (up until 2006), and Ray does insert her views a bit here, thus breaking the instructional tone that books in the Dummies series sometimes tend to have. Initially, I was a bit skeptical on even reading a book from this series cover to cover, but I could not pass on a book by Joan Klingel Ray. Ray is a professor of English and was also the president of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) from 2000 to 2006. According to the book, she has taught at least three Austen-related classes , and reading this book makes me wish I can sit in on one of her lectures!

As in all the Dummies books, there is a section titled "Parts of Tens" which has several "top ten" lists and discussions, including ten Austen-related places to visit, ten memorable characters, ten Austenisms and ten Austen-related books. The last provides a list of good sources in various areas related to Austen and the Regency period, in case the reader wants to acquire more in-depth knowledge in a given area.

The one thing I did not enjoy in this book was someone's inability to proofread. The book does contain a few minor errors, mostly grammatical. I did not appreciate Edward Ferrars being referred to as Edmund or Eleanor Tilney being called Elinor! However, these are very minor and do not take away from the book, unless the reader is particularly picky about these things.

Overall, I heartily recommend this book both to the Austen newbie as well as to more experienced Janeites. However, be sure to have read all the six major works of Austen before you read this (in spite of the book telling you otherwise), as one cannot really write such a book as this without spoilers!

Quote of Note: "Readers may love Dickens, but I never hear Dickens's fans calling him 'Charles.' Yet Austen fans easily call Austen 'Jane.' Jane is that wonderfully witty, wise, and well-spoken narrator who's a friendly and welcome companion as you read the novel." (page 17).

Bonus: Here is an interview with Joan Klingel Ray from AustenBlog.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Awesome Author Challenge 2010

Awesome Author Challenge 2010

Alyce at At Home with Books is hosting this very interesting challenge. According to Alyce, "The idea behind this challenge is to read works by authors who have been recommended to you time and again, but you haven't gotten around to reading them yet. These are the authors that everyone else tells you are awesome, thus the "Awesome Author Challenge" title."

I do tend to get in a rut with regards to the authors I read, and I'm hoping that participating in this challenge will motivate me to expand my horizons. I am going to do this challenge at the Easy level and try to read books by three authors.

1) Baroness Emmuska Orczy
2) Peter Robinson
3) Georgette Heyer

List of Books for this Challenge
1. Gallows End by Peter Robinson (finished March 19)
2. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (finished April 22)
3. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer (finished May 2)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Classics Challenge 2010

Classics Challenge 2010

Here I go with my first real blog post, and participating in my first challenge. So as not to be too hard on myself, I decided to do the Classics Challenge 2010 offered by Trish as I'm planning on reading a number of classics anyway.

I am going to work at the Classics Snack level and try to read 4 classics and a bonus. As of now, the four classics I plan to read are:

Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy and
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

My bonus book is going to be Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer and Barrows. This challenge will fit in well with my goal to read all the Gaskell works I haven't read yet; this is certainly the year of Elizabeth Gaskell for me, and I'm loving it so far!
Books finished for this challenge:
1) The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (finished April 22)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Welcome to my blog. As you may have guessed, I love to read. In particular, I like the classics, British crime fiction, and nonfiction that is mostly philosophy or science. I also like watching adaptations of books I have read and will be writing about them too. I appreciate your stopping by - please do leave a comment if you can!