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Literary Friday: Winter Break Edition

Friday, February 21, 2014

This week I read two books because Shelley has been out of school for Winter Break, and we've spent tons of time at the barns for make-up riding lesson from all the snow and inclement weather.  Waiting for Shelley's lessons gave me lots of time to read!

I read Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale.  I loved Ausetenland, and but where Austenland is reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice, Midnight in Austenland is all about Northanger Abbey….and I thought it was *great*!

I enjoyed the late thirty-seomthing heroine Charlotte Kinder because she is a strong, well-drawn character.  She decides to visit Austenland because it was recommended to her by her travel agent.  Charlotte is recently divorced, and her husband and his new wife have custody of her children for the summer. There are several flashbacks in the novel explaining what makes Charlotte tick, from childhood memories to anecdotes about her marriage and subsequent divorce.  I enjoyed these scenes because it really helped give a complete picture of Charlotte as well as her quirky inner monologues with herself.

Charlotte is soon inspired by Northanger Abbey's Catherine Morland because she is determined that a murder has occurred at Pembrook Park.  Colonel Andrew's "mystery" that he's arranged as an "entertainment" allows her imagination to run wild, and during a power outage she swears she finds a body hidden in the mansion.  This book has a definite gothic vibe à la Catherine Morland, and a few of the new characters were downright psychotic.

It was fun to see Colonel Andrew and Miss Charming again.  I love their characters, and they were even more fully developed in this novel.  Although a light read, I enjoyed the murder mystery and conclusion of the story very much.  If you're a Northanger Abbey or Jane Austen fan in general and/or a gothic novel/ light mystery fan, you'll enjoy Midnight in Austenland.  

On another note, I did finally get to see Austenland, and I thought it was so much fun.  Jennifer Coolidge's performance was spot-on, and Keri Russell was cute in it, too.  Jane Seymore also stars as Mrs. Wattlesbrook, the mistress of Pembrook Park.  If you missed it on a previous post, here is the trailer for Austenland.

Now for the Friday 56 
@ Freda's Voice

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It's that simple.

"She blew out her cheeks and tried to focus on driving.  She could feel him staring at her, contemplating her, and it was such an unfamiliar sensation that she sprouted goose bumps as if she'd been tickled.  Thoughts fled her head.  Apparently they found the place too crazy to stick around."

from Page 56, Midnight in Austenland

I also read Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield.  It was my pick for our St. Stephen's Episcopal Church book club.  I'm afraid I'm about to be voted off the island out of book club.  

I have waited for years for her second book.  I absolutely loved The Thirteenth Tale, and it was one of my all-time favorite books.  But Bellman & Black falls way short of the touted ghost story it is supposed to be.  I don't think it in any way represents that genre.

William Bellman makes a mistake as a young boy.  When he is ten, he shoots and kills a young rook with his slingshot.  An impossible shot, the parabola linking himself to the bird is flawless.  Skip ahead a few years, and William is working in a mill he'll eventually own.  But when he loses almost his entire family to illness, he strikes up a deal with a mysterious man to save his remaining daughter.  As a result, he becomes and obsessive-compulsive manager, and embarks on a quest to create the quintessential Victorian mourning emporium and Bellman & Black is born.

What disappointed me so much about this book is Setterfield's exhaustingly lengthy description of Victorian textile mills and Bellman's OCD obsession with his Bellman & Black business.  That's pretty much the gist of the book: description after (boring) description, and the story is totally lost.  There are a few interesting breaks from the descriptions with these little personified blurbs about rooks.  I had no idea that there are so many collective nouns for rooks! Maybe if Setterfield had focused on the Victorians' obsession with the dark and middle ages, occult, and funeral practices of the Celts (which she did barely touch upon) it might have made for a better story.

The only way I would recommend this book to anyone is if he or she wants to learn more about how a Victorian mill was run or about the Victorian mourning process.  I really wanted to like this book.  And my book club members are not going to be happy with me.  I dread our meeting this morning!

Bellman & Black book trailer

If you want to learn more about the Ravens at the Tower of London and other raven lore, I suggest Boria Sax's City of Ravens.  Many of the folklore surrounding the tower ravens began during the Victorian era.

What have you been reading?  Please link-up and share!

Literary Friday

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. A second Austenland book! I am still waiting on my copy of the first one, but I am so adding this one to my wish list. I have the movie on my Netflix list also.

    As for The Thirteenth Tale, I was not a fan so I never intended on picking up her second. I'm sorry it was a let down for you.

    Great reviews as always!

  2. I'm definitely a Jane Austen fan and would love to read the book you recommend. But it is disappointing when you look forward to a book that you keep reading thinking it will get better. Hope you survive your book club meeting! heehee! Have a fun day! Hugs!

  3. I liked Midnight in Austenland, too (though not as much as the first book). She did a great job of translating the gothic genre to modern day, without dipping into horror. :)
    I'm sorry Bellman & Black was such a disappointment! I hate when authors datadump, instead of weaving the story with the facts. Victorian practices of many things are fascinating, from our 21st Century perspective, but only a scholar would be willing to sit through supposed-fiction just to learn it. Bleh. Better luck with the next book!

  4. I still haven't read the first Austenland because everyone's so enthusiastic about it and I'm always a bit skeptic about adaptations or modernisations! Maybe I should just give it a go! Thanks for sharing :) Hope you have a good weekend! I'm following on Twitter!
    my Friday post
    Juli @ Universe in Words

  5. Oh, dear! I had wanted to read Bellman & Black. I'm glad I didn't get an ARC because I really don't want to know about Victorian mills or the Victorian mourning process. I had a narrow escape.

    Happy reading!

  6. Both AUSTENLAND and MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND sound like books I'd adore! Thanks for the recommendations.
    Here's the link to my Friday post: CAKE.

  7. I read Austenland and loved that. I can't wait to read Midnight in Austenland.

  8. I love when you post about books, you always give great suggestions and I need it becouse it's not that easy to decide on a book in a foreign language! So thank youuu, I'm goingo to order Midnight in Austerland!
    ciaooo bacio

  9. Midnight in Austenland looks awesome and I have B&B on my wish list already!!

    Happy weekend!

  10. Thanks for sharing. I haven't read either of the Austenland books, but it sound like they should be on my wish list. I appreciate your comments at The Busy Mom's Daily.

  11. Heeya
    Me again! Just responding to your comment on my post! If you'd want to read The Medea Complex, I could give the author your email address so she can send you a review copy. Let me know :)

  12. I LOVE Shannon Hale, but only know her from her YA selections. I will give her "chick lit" a try!

  13. "Thoughts fled her head. Apparently they found the place too crazy to stick around." - Snort, I think I like this author's humor. I may have to try this book. Glad you got so much reading done. :)

  14. I am going to look for the Austenland books--they sound like my cup of tea. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  15. I agree with your thoughts on Bellman & Black. I totally missed the point of that book! If only it had been an actual ghost story...

  16. I have not heard of that Keri Russell movie. I need to see if I can find hasn't been on pay per view or if it was I missed it. When I used to read I always loved it when a favorite book had a sequel. It was like extending the vacation!

  17. I share your feelings about Bellman & Black...


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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