Sunday Reads: February 17, 2013

Books:

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

Coincidentally, I had already started listening to this audiobook when the bones of Richard III were discovered. To be honest, I didn’t even realize that the Richard in Gregory’s book was that Richard until I read this article!

Even without the connection to recent events, Gregory’s book is an interesting portrayal of the oft demonized king. She turns the suspicion of his guilt on its head and makes him into a highly sympathetic character. By the end of the book I was rooting for Richard and the Plantagenets!

If you’re looking for more historical fiction check out my reviews of Above All Things, City of Women and The Pleasures of Men. For more Philippa Gregory try The Other Boleyn Girl. Made into a movie starring Scarlett Johanson and Natalie Portman, this book details Henry VIII’s relationship with Anne Boleyn’s lesser-known sister Mary. It provides an interesting look into the politics of Tudor England!

Newspaper Article:

State of the Union TweetState of the Union
Less of a news article and more of an event, I loved watching and reading the State of the Union address. In following the speech online, I was astounded by the power of social media. The discussions showed a level of political debate usually reserved for the classroom!

Blogs:

Immersed in Stories: From Binge-Watching to Marathon Reading

I love this take on how much our culture loves a good marathon! Though marathons are generally thought of in terms of television (think Law & Order: SVU), the author also considers reading marathons. I think I’d like to take on a good day of reading, what about you?

Sunday Reads: February 10, 2013

Books
By Invitation Only

By Invitation Only: How We Build Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkins Wilson

The story of how two HBS grads came from wildly different places to start one of the most successful online sample sale sites, By Invitation Only isn’t light reading but it’s definitely fun. I really liked how the A’s (as they refer to themselves) show every step in the startup process and how quickly things change in that environment. They give helpful management tips at the end of every chapter, highlighting what they learned from their experiences – I liked these because I could pretend I was doing homework for my management class!

Of course, I was predisposed to like By Invitation Only. I was an early convert to the online sample sale craze, joining Rue La La, One Kings Lane, Hautelook, and others just weeks after they opened. Even without all of my sample sale love the book stood on its own as an interesting portrayal of life at a startup.

life-below-stairs

Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney

As Downton Abbey mania sweeps the United States a whole slew of books about the Edwardian era have come out. Though it’s easy to fall in love with the glamour seen at Downton/Highclere, the reality is that running a house like that was hard work!In this rendition of “Upstairs/Downstairs” Maloney recounts typical menus, daily chores and standards of decorum. Interspersed with excerpts from Punch and other papers, Life Below Stairs was fun to read and definitely made me appreciate my modern household appliances!

Check out some other books about servant’s in the Edwardian era:

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell: This one is a memoir by a woman who was once a kitchen maid.
While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax : A little different, Wax’s book shows how the series bring a group of fictional women together.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon : If you just can’t get enough of Downton, check out this true history of Highclere Castle where it is filmed. I have this one out from the library right now so I’ll let you know how it is!
The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary’s Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore’s Christmas Pudding – More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs by Emily Baines: Looking for something to eat as you watch tonight’s episode of Downton? Why not try Lady Mary’s Crab Canapés?


Films

I haven’t done much magazine or online reading this week, so instead I thought I’d share the films I’ve been enjoying:

 Valentino the last emperor

Valentino: The Last Emperor *– Ever since I saw The September Issue, I’ve been yearning for a good fashion movie. Valentino hits the mark with beautiful dresses, posh Italian accents and sweeping views of Paris – c’est magnifique!

Funny Face

Funny Face* – I’m a sucker for anything starring Audrey Hepburn but this might be my new favorite. She plays a nerdy bookseller who is taken to Paris to be the face of a magazine and a prominent designer’s new collection. As an added bonus the author of Eloise, Kay Thompson, plays the fashion editrix!

J.crew the man who dressed america

J.Crew and the Man Who Dressed America – Part business documentary, part profile of J.Crew this documentary is a wonderful escape from the real world. Clocking in at under an hour it’s the perfect lunchtime treat.

*available on Netflix

~ available on Hulu

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Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Summary: Evie O’Neill has been a very bad girl. After pushing a party trick too far and exposing a scandal she’s sent off to live in New York City with her crazy Uncle William who runs The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. It’s the days of bobbed hair and bathtub gin but Evie’s secret powers may be a more interesting party trick than anything Fitzgerald could dream up. When a series of killings that seem to relate to the occult occur, the police ask for Uncle William’s help and Evie tags along hoping to put her abilities to the test.

Bechdel test? Evie really only has one female friend, the super-boring Mabel. Unfortunately the girls’ conversations revolve mainly around the dreamy Jericho Jones, making this a fail. (For a book by Libba Bray that does pass the test, check out my trailer for Beauty Queens!)

Rating: 4/5

Was it as good as Beauty Queens or A Great and Terrible Beauty? Not exactly. The book held my attention toward the end but it seemed that throughout there were a few too many characters. I’m sure that they’ll be important for the next book in the series but here I didn’t’ really care about  them which made reading their chapters a bit of a chore.

Other than that the story was wonderful. Bray really hits the feeling of 20s glamour on the head with her discussion of speakeasies, Ziegfeld productions, and NYC apartment life. The slang was a real treat (though it may be a little confusing to those who don’t read very closely, Bray often defines a term once and then uses it again a hundred pages later – keep your thinking hats on boys and girls!)

Christmas 2012: Teen Reads I Recommend

And here you thought I was through with my book recommendations for the year! I couldn’t do another Christmas guide without mentioning my favorite YA books for the year. Most of them I’ve read within the past 10 months or so but a few old-school favorites made it onto the list.

Secret Letters by Leah Scheier

1. Secret Letters by Leah Scheier : Victorian setting + strong female character + Sherlock Holmes-ian mystery? Count me in! This is the book that I thought The Name of the Star would be — and this time I wasn’t disappointed. Scheier is a genius with words: the story is fast-paced and enticing. My biggest disappointment with this book was realizing the sequel won’t be out for far too long. As a side-note, this is a YA version of Dust and Shadow by Lyndsey Faye that I reviewed earlier this year and mentioned in my books I recommend post.

Pure by Julianna Baggott

2. Pure by Julianna Baggott: I’ve already reviewed this one on my blog but it was so stellar it warranted mentioning again. Baggott writes in the vein of Collins, Roth and Condie, making the book an excellent addition to any fan’s collection.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

3. Looking for Alaska by John Green: As a Kenyon alumna I’m practically required to be a John Green fan; luckily for me, his novels are spectacular! I had to read Looking for Alaska as part of my YA Literature class (INLS 530) and I’m so glad it was a requirement. The story is so heartbreaking, “coming of age” done correctly. Drop everything and go pick it up, now!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth: Another book for those Hunger Games fans, Roth writes about a post-apocalyptic US where families have been replaced with groups called factions. Teens are tested and placed into a faction based on their abilities, but once they get there the teens are forced to prove themselves. Terrifying in the way the Hunger Games are, the series is a way to keep Collins fans reading.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

5. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak: I came late to the party on this one! It came out ages ago but it bears mentioning here. The story follows a young girl in WWII Germany who learns about the power of words through stolen books.

Christmas 2012: Books On My List

 

There seems to be a general theme with my book wish list this year. I’ve chosen primarily nonfiction works: some memoirs, biographies, and DIYs. I could give you a philosophical reasoning about the shift, starting with my educational journey from liberal arts to professional school, but you’re more interested in the list, aren’t you?

  1. Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
  2. Celebrate:  A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends by Pippa Middleton
    England + entertainment + a Middleton? Count me in!
  3. Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan
  4. The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
    I reviewed her earlier work Dust and Shadow — https://alexandrampatterson.com/2012/10/05/book-review-dust-and-shadow/
  5. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle (50th Anniversary Edition)
    This was the first “big girl” book I ever read. I remember one of my elementary school teachers read it to us every day during “story time.” Though I began to prefer L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light as I grew up, the Wrinkle in Time Quintet will always have a special place in my heart.
  6. Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
    I’m currently reading How To Be a Woman and loving it so I would really like to have a little more Caitlin Moran in my life!
  7. Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored by Mary Gabriel
  8. Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem by Carolyn G. Heilbrun

I’m hoping to see a few of these in my stocking this year! Which ones are you excited about?

2011 Book Roundup

It’s that time of year again–time for the end of year book round-up! Though I set out to read 52 books this year I came in just short of my goal with 50 books read. I’m currently making my list for next year and I’m looking for suggestions! Have you read any great books in the past year?

1. In the Land of Invented Languages (Okrent)

2. Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys)

3. Room (Donoghue)

4. Memnoch the Devil (Rice)

5. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson)

6. Call It Sleep (Roth)

7. The Day of the Locust (West)

8. The Big Sleep (Chandler)

9. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Stein)

10. Ariel: Collected Poems (Plath)

11.  The Hunger Games (Collins)

12. Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest  (Crusie)

13. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Fowles)

14. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher (Summerscale)

15. In Cold Blood (Capote)

16. The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton (Sexton)

17. Sepulchre (Mosse)

18. The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood)

19. Slammerkin (Donoghue)

20.  Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures (Wittman)

21. The Invention of Murder 

22. Dr. Faustus (Marlowe)

23. Death Comes to Pemberley (P.D. James)

24. Persuasion (Austen)

25. Bitter is the New Black (Lancaster)

26. The Ghost Map (Johnson)

27. I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

28. More, Now Again (Wurtzel)

29. The Playboy of the Western World (Synge)

30. Clockwork Angel (Clare)

31. Clockwork Prince (Clare)

32. City of Fallen Angels (Clare)

33. City of Ashes (Clare)

34. City of Glass (Clare)

35. City of Bones (Clare)

36. The Year of Magical Thinking (Didion)

37. Catching Fire (Collins)

38. Mockingjay (Collins)

39. The Nineteenth Century (Collins)

40. The Subjection of Women (Mill)

41. The Victorian World Picture (Newsome)

42. Chasing Harry Winston (Weisberger)

43. Hannibal (Harris)

44. Red Dragon (Harris)

45. Sisterhood Everlasting (Brashares)

46. The Monster of Florence (Preston)

47. The Rum Diary (Thompson)

48. The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Pollan)

49. Witch and Wizard (Patterson)

50. An Unquiet Mind (Jameson)