Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “authors”

Reader Round Up: February, March, April


That’s a big oops. My carefully planned blogging schedule has blown up due to malaise. I admittedly got caught up in the Winter Slumps and thought about posting but didn’t. I did read, though, which helped keep me occupied during the looonnng evenings (dark at 4 pm is cruel). Spring is now here and that means sunshine has restored my energy levels.

In order to get caught up I will select the favorites reads from the last three months to review. These are all five star reads.

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel: Towles, Amor: 9780670026197: Amazon.com:  Books

Once upon a time, in the land of Russia, lived a charming count by the name of Alexander Rostov. And while it might seem demeaning to compare A Gentleman in Moscow to a fairy tale, Towles has deftly tweaked all the elements of that endearing (and enduring) genre into a sophisticated story that is enthralling, entertaining, enlivening, and quite satisfying. The bonus is once I learned Kenneth Branagh was Rostov in the planned series, the enjoyment became doubled as Branagh fleshed out Rostov’s appearance in my mind’s eye. One of the best reads I’ve experienced in quite a long time

Amazon.com: The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of  Literature Will Improve Your Writing eBook: Clark, Roy Peter: Kindle Store

The Art of X Ray Reading reminds me of Thomas Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Both books prompt me to practice closely reading the book in hand. While Foster provides a magnifying glass, Clark provides a kaleidoscope to better see the rich colors within the writing. His choice of books are hit or miss with me, but he did touch on a couple of favorites that I will absolutely pay more attention to on the next reading. The writing lessons alone are worthwhile and are inspiring. I applied the X Ray lens to an AP Lang lesson and brought new meaning to the piece. I look forward to my next AP Literature class and seeing how students pick up The Great Gatsby clues. Makes me wish I could teach Creative Writing once again.

Miss Fortune (Allie Fortune Mystery Series, Book 1): Mills, Sara:  9780802469267: Amazon.com: Books

Shades of The Maltese Falcon drift through this tribute to the 1940’s detective novel. Instead of a tough private investigator who runs with fast women and drives a faster car, readers contend with the “Princess P.I., a savvy socialite who has earned a reputation for being one of the best in the business. At first the cliche phrases and situations were off-putting, that is until I accepted them as pastiche. A solid plot worthy of a Bogart film, intrigue and humor, and a double storyline create a fast-paced read and an anticipation for the second book.

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An amazingly positive story of how one man turned trash into a treasury of music. The story and colorful illustrations blend and harmonize as the background story of Paraguay’s Recycled Orchestra is told through Ada and her violin. Truly inspirational how beauty was found among the tons of garbage and how a dream became a reality that changed lives.

Henry and Ribsy - Wikipedia

As a tribute to the recent passing of Beverly Cleary I grabbed Henry and Ribsy off the library shelf since she was an author I appreciated growing up. Granted, some of the situations and attitudes are a bit dated; however, kid and dog antics run true and are timeless.

Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury: 9781451673319: Amazon.com: Books

When I first read F451 back in my twenties I no doubt appreciated Bradbury’s lyrical warning of a supposed future. This last read is a revisit due to both curiosity if it’s as good as I remember and because we are studying it as a class in AP Lang. Yes. It’s still as good. Wait–it’s much, much better due to Bradbury’s future coming fast upon us.

The Return of the Twelves: Clarke, Pauline, Bryson, Bernarda:  9781585790210: Amazon.com: Books

Books like The Borrowers, a tiny family in a big world, enthralled me as a child. Somehow, The Return of the Twelves, which echoes believing the unbelievable, escaped my reading attention. As an adult, and a “brontyfan,” I appreciate this story so much more. It’s rather a back door introduction for young readers to the brilliance of Charlotte and her Bronte siblings. The story itself is typical of the sixties, where children are precocious and are possessed of much more independence than their contemporary readers. Parents are presented as absent-minded, patronizing, or clueless of their children’s lives. Clarke’s story presents a likable cast of characters, particularly Max, who becomes protector of the Twelves or Young Men. His responses to their animation have a sense of verisimilitude as he both indeed at their existence while remaining fiercely protective of them. The plot cleverly provides the actions of the Twelves through a combination of the present and through Max’s imaginative efforts. At times the plot wobbles on timeworn, but will suddenly turn the corner with a refreshing twist. A satisfying read for those who like adventure and can still believe at least six impossible things before breakfast.

Amazon.com: Love in Lowercase: A Novel (9780143128212): Miralles, Francesc,  Wark, Julie: Books

A quirky book difficult to place genre-wise. Love story? Quest? Mystery? Not muchly magical realism? In some ways it reminds me of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist in that an ordinary young man begins to discover the extraordinary by stepping out of his comfort zone. Love In Lower-Case explores how it is too easy to fall into a routine, desiring for a change and when change begins to happen, it is difficult to accept. A likable character, odd circumstances, a mysterious cat, an annoying stranger, and a Yoda neighbor all mix together for a satisfying, though not earthshaking weekend read.

The Bronze Bow - Wikipedia

I would like to think as a young reader I would have appreciated the skillfully crafted story of a young Jewish man who discovers that love is stronger than hate, especially when facing such a fearsome enemy as the Romans; however, I doubt that I would have. I am ever so impressed with The Bronze Bow—its plot, setting, details, message. And the ending. The ending is absolutely stunning. As an adult I am absolutely impressed and moved, and I would like think my young reader self might have recognized the value of Speare. Maybe.

So many good reads kept my wits from dullifying totally through this last long winter. I can’t imagine not having a book to read.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or if I have tempted you to plump out your TBR list.

Happy reading!

March: National Reading Month


Oh my. Not just the one day celebration for book lovers. An entire month dedicated to reading.
I’m in.
How to celebrate this wondramazing celebration?

Hmm…

How about a book recommendation for each day of the month?
From A to Z, I hope you will find a book to read:

Any title grab your eye? Tickle your interest? Call to your favorite bookmark?

Happy Reading!

All Creatures Redeux


As a fan of All Creatures Great and Small, both the books and the original television series, I have mixed feelings about the recently released update to Herriot’s classic.

New faces for an old favorite

On one hand, I’m thrilled to see an updated version since the old version’s filming style was not very creative, just basic camera angles and editing.

Then again, an update might focus too much on making the series “pretty” through extra scenery shots which takes away from how the books focused on the dynamics of the people, as well as the wonderful animals.

On one hand, I look forward to seeing new faces in old roles.

Then again, how can anyone expect to replace the absolutely marvelous cast led by Robert Hardy?

So—last night I tuned in my PBS Passport (best ever Christmas present to myself) and watched the first two episodes of the first season.

Verdict:

It is a pretty update, with its sweeping shots of Yorkshire, and there is plenty attention on building dynamics within the cast. We’ll make that a positive.

As for the cast itself. Samuel West brings credit to the inexplicably frustrating, insufferable, yet charming Siegfried Farnon. The other cast members are unknowns, and hold their own. I am puzzled by Mrs. Hall, the housekeeper. I remember her being much older in the books, and in this update she appears to be Siegfried’s age, and their inevitable clashes come off more as married couple bantering than the respected nemesis that the original Mrs. Hall appeared to be. This is a marring point, because Mrs. Hall apparently has a wayward son by the name of Edward, but she doesn’t appear old enough to have a son able to be out and about living independently. Sadly, this is a sticking point for me. Mrs. Hall wasn’t that prominent of a character, yet here she is quite entrenched in the household.

Overall verdict:

To be fair, I will have to put aside my strong allegiance to the old series and view this new series on its own merits.

What are your thoughts on the updated All Creatures Great and Small?

All in the Name


In my exploration of ways to promote my book, Someday We Will, I discovered the website TeachingBooks. Their opening statement says it well:

“TeachingBooks strives to enrich everyone’s experience reading children’s and young adult books with our original and curated literary resources.”

They feature hundreds of kid lit authors and provide study guides and other resources for teachers and students. I immediately signed up and created my own author page. After all, who wouldn’t want to be in the company of authors like Eric Carle, Madeleine L’Engle, Lois Duncan, Walter Dean Myers and other notables?

TeachingBooks
Like kid lit? Check out this site.
Read more…

It’s Time for an Update…


Have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate my local library? If I haven’t, then I am remiss, because it is one special place staffed by the most amazing people.

They have been very supportive with my debut picture book Someday We Will published by Beaming Books. On a sunny Friday a trio of library folk met up with me at a local park, launching the first of their local author spotlight series. Marcy, (PR maestro), was our moderator, and Kimber, (amazing youth librarian), as the interviewer, and the intrepid Mike, (life-long learning coordinator), acting as our camera crew passed an hour discussing the book, addressing how children are separated from loved ones, like grandparents, and we even covered the mystery of the publishing process. We had a great time! Here is the link to the interview:https://m.facebook.com/marcy.timblin/videos/4408356815902483

The best part was being presented with my book fashioned into a clock!

The library staff added their comments, making this a much appreciated gift!

Another activity the library provides for the community are the story walks. This is gaining popularity in different areas, especially since storytime is not available yet to share books.

Take a walk while reading my book!

Another update is finding reviews popping up on different websites. I do enjoy those surprise finds! Here’s a recent one from Big Books for Little Hands:

Someday We Will – Beaming Books has so many great titles for families and this one does not disappoint. A sweet book about all of the fun things that grandparents and grandkids do together, from going on road trips, and playing outside, to eating ice cream before dinner. I love the way this book brings to life the excitement and anticipation of visiting grandparents, who live far away, after a time apart. This book reminds me so much of the way my sisters, brother and I counted down the days until we visited our grandparents each summer.

And Ms. Emily from the Harrisburg Library in Illinois selected my book as her pick of the month:

Clear out in Illinois they are reading my book!

Ms. Emily’s Pick of the Month

And the Seattle Book Review gave it a 5/5 review, saying: ” I felt as if I was being transported to this beautiful world that the grandparents and grandchildren are having together. The illustrations were beautiful and whimsical.

Trying to promote a debut picture book during the pandemic has indeed been challenging. An author has to persevere and be creative, and also rely on the strength of the book to gain momentum among readers.

If you haven’t yet checked out Someday We Will, I hope you will, especially if you and your family are separated from loved ones, because Someday We Will be together again.

Even though Grandparents Day was Sunday, September 13, Grandparents are special everyday. Wouldn’t this be a great book to share with grandparent you know?

Reader Round Up: July


July proved diverse in reading interests. I reread Austen’s Emma, which prompted me to view the different flavors of cinematic Emma.

I then forged on and submitted a few of my TBR requests to the inter-library loan quadrant of our library since that train is allowed to roll down the track to provide literary supplements to the collection once again. I also wandered amongst the shelves*, selecting book titles that caught my fancy as a means of prolonging my visit to the library. It is one of the only places in town that requires masks (not suggests or recommends), creating a safe atmosphere that promotes a sense of peace.

*sadly, the library has recently closed until further notice, but the good news is that curbside service is still running along with inter-library loan.

Here are my highlights–click on the Goodreads link to read more thorough review information.

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Not my favorite Austen, yet it is fun anticipating the lines from all the different films. Goodreads
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Written by a friend and former writing group comrade, Dianna has written books for Scholastic and her writing is engaging and interesting in the topics she tackles. This one is based on a true story of a courageous bull terrier. Goodreads
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I revisited the Thin Man films with William Powell and Myrna Loy–then I read the book. Verdict: I preferred the films. William Powell is soooo funny (although the drinking part got tiresome). Goodreads
Finally, I have read all three of the Bronte sisters. Agnes Grey is an appetizer, not a full meal—at least compared to Jane Eyre. Goodreads
Winner of the 1964 Hugo Award—if you like Ray Bradbury, check out this winner of a galactic tale. Goodreads
Gladwell knows how to conversely present a complicated topic, in this case, he dials in the factors of what creates success. Goodreads
Westover’s memoir is worth the hype and acclaimreading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers before her book added more depth to Westover’s story of overcoming adversity to reach academic success. Goodreads
Pride and Prejudice enthusiasts might enjoy this focus on Mary, the middle Bennet sister. Purists? Hmmm… Goodreads
Amelia and her Egyptian adventures definitely provide a lively read. Goodreads
Clever idea of telling a story through physical construct instead of the usual chapter within. A quick, fairly engaging read. Goodreads

Have you read any of these titles? Any of the titles entice you?

Author Spotlight: Austen’s Emma Dilemma


Next to Pride and Prejudice,Jane Austen’s Emma seems to be the novel most cinematized. Case in point, another Emma opened to theatres as the covoid shut them down. Just as we got our hopes up for an Austen on screen they were dashed—much like the promise of Frank Churchill arriving for a visit and then not showing up.

Ozge’s World meme
(oh that Frank—tsk)

The basics of Emma are Austen pointing out the class differences in Regency society along with following the exploits of a rich girl’s ennui as we wait for her character arc of improvement. In the mean time, the reader is entertained by a couple of intrigues by way of mistaken romances. The foundation of oh so many stories we see today.

What is problematic for the reader is deciding if Emma is likable as a character. There is no doubt Lizzie Bennet wins the Favored Austen Girl Award, but are we supposed to appreciate Emma as well? It’s doubtful. Even Jane Austen admitted to have created a character that only she would probably like.

Lizzie through the years

The novel starts out leaning towards the idea Emma is a privileged girl with the possibility of becoming or could possibility be a (ready for it?) snob:

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

With that introduction, Emma could go either way: beloved of all or too good to believe. Austen indicates that Emma Woodhouse being pleasant, pretty, privileged has one obvious fault:

The real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself…

And that’s where it gets interesting when it comes to interpreting Emma for the silver screen.

The faces of Emma through the cinematic lens

Gwyneth Paltrow leads out with her elegant, polished Emma in the 1996 version. This version applies a favored eye towards Emma who is presented as a charming young woman who struggles to emerge on the other side of being accomplished in the art of having “grown up.” The story fairly follows Austen’s novel. Emma is quite likable and the audience appreciates her struggles as she blunders her way through the office of being a beautiful rich daughter of a gentlemen.

Gwyenth Paltrow providing perfection

Also in 1996 is the lesser known version starring Kate Beckinsdale whose Emma is just tad snobbier than Gwenth’s version and her character arc is much less visible. This version seems to focus more on the class differences, with wide shots of servants and the poor which populate Highbury.

Kate Beckinsdale portrays a refined demure heroine

Then there is the leap to 2009 with Romali Garai appearing in a decidedly contemporary version. Although the four part series is quite lush and pretty with its costumes and setting, it lacks Regency decorum. The director’s intent was to create a hybrid Emma by dressing everyone up Regency style, yet acting as if they are in a modern rom-com. This Emma acts more like a teen debutante with her expressive eyes and outward manner, she is all dressed up but forgetting how to behave. She even allows Frank Churchill to rest his head on her lap during the Box Hill picnic. *Shocking*

Romali Garai romps as a Regency girl just wants to have fu-un

There is the Clueless version—a sort of the ‘90’s offering of taking a classic and setting it in high school as in Ten Things I Hate About You or She’s the Man. This is not a Regency Emma and kind of pays tribute to Austen’s Emma, but it’s not the book. Maybe not even the Sparknotes version.

Then there is the 2020 version. This was supposed to be the senior lit class outing as we had just wrapped up our Austen unit. Good thing I didn’t reserve the bus since school went into soft closure while the theatres went into shutter mode. I have been waiting to view this newest entry for ever so long. My anticipation turned into disappointment as the entire movie became too, too much. The colors, clothing, setting is that of Easter candy cloyingly overdone. The tone of the movie is snarky, with Emma coming off as a mean girl. And just when we think she isn’t quite human, she bleeds, quite literally, when faced with being really, truly in love.

Don’t cross Ana Taylor-Joy’s Emma

With all these Emmas to chose from it’s difficult to decide which best represents Austen’s ideal. Paltrow’s poised Regency princess?Beckinsdale’s aloof elite gentlemen’s daughter? Garai’s winsome, youthful rich girl? Taylor-Joy’s prickly fashion plate?

If Austen’s intent was to showcase the time period while gently mocking the societal hierarchy by inserting some well-placed humor, as we watch Emma’s character arc emerge I would say place Paltrow’s Emma with its range of characters, infuse with the gorgeous palette of Garai’s version and insert Beckinsdale’s pointed shots of the struggling lower classes. Not sure about Taylor-Joy’s contribution and I am Clueless about adaptions and where they fit in Austen remakes.

If you are an Austen Emma fan, what are your thoughts towards the Emma dilemma? What is she all about—favored princess, snob, airhead, snark—or somewhere in between?

Reader Round Up: June


Sometimes a novel stands out from the others. It shines out its brilliance so noticeably that it deserves an entire post. Leif Enger’s Virgil Wander is such a read.

Five Star–most def

Halfway through the book Virgil , out titular hero, and Rune, think Gandalf with kites, are drinking a Nordic spirit, apparently possessing the kick similar to sake, and Rune makes the philosophic observance “…that just because a thing was poetry didn’t mean it never happened in the actual world, or that it couldn’t happen still.”

This is what is so noteworthy about Virgil Wander as a novel. It is not exactly real-world in scope, neither is it magical realism, but neither is it so unbelievable as to be dismissable. The naysayer critics argued that Enger’s engaging tale is stretching unbelief a bit too much. Like Rune noted, just because it didn’t happen, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

It seems storytellers, the ones like Garrison Keillor who come from Minnesota are the ones who take the ordinary and lean it somewhat so that you have to tip your head to get it all in focus. Or at least I do. I took it with a grain of salt when Keillor spun his hometown stories of seemingly average citizens and transformed their lives and situations into above average. Enger does the same with his own Minnesota tale. He takes a small town on the banks of the Lake Superior and tips its inhabitants a bit sideways and creates intriguing situations out of the mundane. For instance, a sturdy sturgeon that is repudiated to be the cause of death for one fisherman takes on menacing qualities akin to Moby Dick. That homey festival that every small town hosts, the one with corn dogs, a parade, face painting, and a band? Enger turns into an event celebrating the hard luck days of the town, complete with children dressing up as frogs to replicate the day it indeed rained frogs upon the fair town. There may or may not be a bomb threat involved. There is even a raven who becomes mildly domesticated of his own volition.

If the novel sounds odd in highlighting aspects that caught my eye. Well, it is odd. Odd wonderful. Oddly captivating. Odd how I couldn’t stop reading it, being irritated when I had to stop periodically to eat or sleep.

I vastly relished Enger’s debut novel Peace Like a River, and so did the nation. It only took eighteen or so years for his third novel to appear (haven’t caught up to his second one yet), but it sure was worth the wait.

Looking for amusing, Keillor-style storytelling, winsome characters, unforgettable setting, and a couple of mysteries to sweeten the plot? Then I hope you locate a copy of Virgil Wander.

Let me know if you found a copy or if you have read it. Let’s dialog this five star find.

Debut Redeux


With libraries and bookstores barely on the open side, you may not have had the opportunity to properly meet my debut picture book, Someday We Will.

written by Pam Webb
illustrated by Wendy Leach

The book’s focus is building the anticipation of grandparents and grandchildren sharing activities when they visit together.

Swimming is a favorite activity

The idea for the book developed from my own anticipation list, for all the “someday” activities I would one day share with my own granddaughter.

There are so many fun activities to share together!
Reading books together builds lovely memories

Reading books together is a favorite activity. Going to the library and selecting titles, suggesting favorite authors, or discovering new reads creates shared moments of lasting value.

Waiting, waiting for that special day to be together again

Being separated from loved ones is difficult, yet keeping that hope of being together again someday is important. That hope and anticipation of one day sharing good times together again is like keeping a bit of sunshine in our hearts on cloudy days.

Memories are sunshine for cloudy days

Although the book’s target audience is for grandparents and grandchildren, holding on to that “Someday” applies to anyone who anticipates being together with a loved one.

Thanks for stopping by!

If you are looking for a book that expresses how you look forward to being with someone, especially if you are a grandparent, I hope you will look up Someday We Will.

BOOK DETAILS
TITLE: Someday We Will
AUTHOR:
Pam Webb
ILLUSTRATOR:
Wendy Leach
PUBLISHER:
Beaming Books, 2020
TOPICS: family, visits, multi-generational, anticipation
AGES:
K-3
FICTION: Hardcover

Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Beaming Books
Video Link

Activites Link

Reader Roundup: May


Books kept me sane during May.

Between creating and maintaining distance learning lessons that “needed to have value, but not overwhelm students,” while preparing juniors and seniors for their AP exams, I escaped into reading as means of escaping being chained to my laptop screen.

Fortunately, my local library opened up curbside service, allowing patrons to order up books from the website catalog and we would then schedule a pick up appointment. A definite sanity saver. I was beginning to wonder if I would have to raid my hubs’ technical reference books and hunting guides for reading material.

Title Highlights for May:

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

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I will grant that Cormier is a brilliant writer, and his novels are unique in how they challenge readers to lift up the rocks of humanity to study the ugly that lives underneath. I personally cannot tolerate the bullying and senseless cruelty that is the center of the plot, and had to really force myself to finish the book.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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Second read, six years later:
Having devoured the 530 page book in a day the first go round, I have always felt I did it an injustice. I am glad I returned to this sumptuous novel and took the time to savor its brilliance this time. I initially avoided it as I didn’t want to read about WWII during Covoid quarantine, yet I then realized it wasn’t so much a war story as it was a story how the human spirit can endure through tragedy, often continuing with the means to thrive. It is an inspirational story deserving of all its accolades.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

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Creative plot, and more mystery/thriller than detective novel, The Tiger in the Smoke is a quick and mostly satisfying read if one can keep the characters straightened out—a problem when starting out with #14 in a character driven series.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

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The story vacillates between Mayberry and Parks and Rec with its wholesomeness, off-color humor, quirky characters, and small town politics. Apparently, this is the first in the series. Frankly, I was hoping the novel would live up to its title. The seventh daughter talking with books was the best part of the plot.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

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Despite its unique and lyrical style, it’s difficult to connect with characters who continually make incredibly unwise choices. No doubt a five star book in its own right, yet this reader still needs to enjoy the story, not just admire the writing.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I Can’t Remember What I Forgot by Sue Halpern

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For those who like their science delivered in friendly, anecdotal ala Malcolm Gladwell style, then Halpern’s book about the timely topic of memory loss, as in preventing dementia or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, is a read to consider.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

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Take the trope of outlier girl meeting up with too-good-to-be-true boy (Meg/Calvin from Wrinkle in a Time) and stir in a time traveling plot complete with distracted mother and missing father, and you find yourself on familiar ground in Brashares’ story about the future.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Ah, there is nothing like a full-blown, well-written Victorian drama set in a quaint English town. There’s gossipy neighbors, entangled romances, unexpected weddings and funerals, secret undercurrents, plot twists—just the right elements for a BBC historical series. Bronte and Austen seem to be the more remembered lady novelists of that era; however, Gaskell holds her own and should not be overlooked.

May consisted of a grand mix of genres and the variety proved a tonic for my frazzled state of mind. You can find more reviews at my Goodreads website.

UPDATE: The library opened its doors today! Double Woo-Hoo!!

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