Monday, March 12, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James.
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 291 pgs.

Guess what Santa Mom and Dad gave me for Christmas?  That's right, the New York Times bestselling book, Death Comes to Pemberley by renowned author PD James.

First, the plot:  A murder occurs on the eve of Lady Anne's ball at Pemberley.  At the heart of the murder:  Lydia, Wickham and Captain Denny. Cue mystery to solve; GO!

Ok, so here's the thing: As I write this blog entry this book sits at #12 on the New York Times Bestseller List.  It was #11 last week.  And has been on the list for the last 13 weeks--since it was released.  And here's my thought.  It was good, but I'm not sure it was that good.  I think it's selling like hotcakes because of its author.  Which isn't a bad thing, but it's not the best piece of JA fanfic to come across one's desk.

It's not that I'm an expert or anything.  Or that I have this extremely amazing memory for P&P, but I was distracted at the beginning of the book.  PD James spends quite a bit of time introducing the characters, plot and their nuances to us.  Her exposition is a lengthy twelve pages long.  And I felt like some of it was, well, wrong.  Obviously, there are things to make up with one's own imagination, and I can't put my finger on it exactly (esp. because I write this entry at least 2 weeks after I finished it.  Please blame work/kids/life.).  And maybe it is something as simple as the voice with which James wrote.  The exposition is written as an omniscient narrator, from the view of Meryton's female residents collective thoughts on the the Bennet daughters marriages. Maybe it just didn't sit quite right with me.  I'm not sure.

Once I was past the introduction and on to the novel, it was more enjoyable and a great little mystery.  Albeit, one that was a bit obvious and for that I was a bit disappointed.  (I guess I like a bit more "Oh my gosh! No Way!" plot to my mysteries.) Nevertheless, I did enjoy it and give it 3 Bonnets--with pretty ribbon.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Downton Abbey

Since the season finale of the second season of Downton Abbey aired here in the U.S.  last night, there's been quite a sigh of "Well, finally!" mixed with "More! More! More!"  around our house and with various friends.  That said, I've been on a nostalgic tour of various online articles about Downton today during my down time (aka afternoon nap time.)

I thought I'd share these here with you, Readers, for your perfect amusement.  It should satisfy your Anglophile needs until season three can be ripped from various sources online.  (Not that I would ever condone such behavior.  Ever. Never.  Ermm.  Well.  Right-o.  Changing the subject please...)

Read some great recaps at  They are sarcastic and witty down to the perfectness of it all.  Ending with Lady Grantham quotables from each episode.  Highly recommended.

For laugh out loud, gaffing at your work desk during lunch or just because you needed a break, something that will make all of your coworkers stare at you as you bust a gut:
Downton Abbey printable paper dolls.  (Thank you, Amy!)

The Abbey That Jumped the Shark by James Fenton (I was led to this from one of Vulture's articles on Downton.  Both are interesting and anything that invokes the jumping of the shark is worth it.  Can you say, "Mysterious bandaged war vet with amnesia?)

Downton Abbey: You are Awful...But I Like You from the Guardian, published in November 2011.  The article calls it "warped genius.  And I agree: Actress Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) is" exempt from all criticism because she is wondrous (fact) and has saved the entire series from near-disaster.

Fabulous pictures of Downton stars On-Screen and Off-Screen.  These pictures make me love costumes, makeup and period dramas even more!

And of course, the official site:
Great exclusives here along with various links to other fun things Downton-ish.  (Like the Guardian's quiz: Which Downton Character are you?)


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Prom and Prejudice

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg. Scholastic, 2011. 231pgs.

Think Pride and Prejudice at an elitist girls school named Longbourn Academy.  What's the most important thing in their lives?  Not getting married, but going to the prom.

Lizzie is a scholarship student who befriends her roommate Jane.  Jane is excited because Charles Bingley is returning after a semester abroad. At a mixer of students from Longbourn and also Pemberley Academy, Lizzie meets Charles and his friend, Will Darcy.  Mix in the usual Darcy pride, some prejudice of a poor and outcast Lizzie and well, it's pretty much the same P&P we all know and love, but in modern teen time.  Mrs. Gardiner is Lizzie's piano teacher.  Charlotte is another scholarship student and Lizzie's only other friend. Wick is a student who Darcy doesn't get along with and tempts Lizzie with lies about Darcy.

If a teen picks this up and has never read the original, I doubt that they'd get all of the name similarities or the plot resemblance.  But alll in all, a very cute version of Pride and Prejudice for the teenage crowd.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dancing With Mr. Darcy

Dancing With Mr. Darcy: Stories Inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House. Edited by Sarah Waters Harper, 2010. 245 pgs.

This collection of stories represent the finalists in the Jane Austen Short Story Competition held by Chawton House Library.

While I enjoyed this collection, I found it not as quick of a read as the previous two collections of short stories blogged about earlier (Jane Austen Made Me Do It and Pemberley Variations).  I found a lot of the stories hard to get through and I can't quite pinpoint why.  To that end, I am annoyed at myself.  But try as I might, I simply can only think that so many of the stories were rather lackluster.  The winning entry in the contest--"Jane Austen Over the Styx" by Victoria Owens--
was by far the best one and was the gold star among them. Jane Austen finds herself in the "infernal regions" and must answer to the "court of the dead."  There she finds many of her characters quite upset with her, saying that she willfully portrayed them as "a snob, a scold or a harpy."  The sentence:  Her books will live on, but letters written to her brother Frank are to burned upon his death and thus, no one else will delight in their "wisdom and shrewdness." Again, a great twist to what really happened to Jane's letters.  Again, a bit feeling like Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series.  But nevertheless, too cruel a fate indeed.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tug of War

Today is officially the last day of my maternity leave with child numero dos.  I've had the following emotions today:  
Bleck:  Getting out of bed at what time?  
Delight:  That little boy really likes to giggle! 
Wonder:  Another onesie?  Really?  Kid, you do like to spit up.  
OH CRAP:  (Probably said something else, but I'll be polite.) What am I going to book talk 1st hour on Monday morning?  Guess we know who will be doing homework this weekend.  
Frustration: Kid, will you nap so Mama can blog?  
Sadness: Really, I have to go to work and leave him with daycare and he'll never be this small again and that baby smell will soon disappear and ohhhhhh....

Last week I discovered Mommy blogger Glennon Melton from the Huffington Post.  Her post from earlier this week was called "Friendly Fire" and was about the never ending debate of whether or not women should work outside the home.  She'd heard a radio program earlier in the week that had women debating the issue.  Of course, all of the callers, she noted, were women from one side of the issue or the other. 

She says that if you are a working mom you are racked with Mommy Guilt that goes something like this:  "YOU KNOW, THE ONLY WAY YOU'RE GOING TO BE A GOOD MOTHER AND WIFE IS IF YOU QUIT YOUR JOB AND STAY HOME."  And if you are a stay-at home mom you are racked with the Mommy Guilt that goes something like this: "YOU KNOW, MAYBE YOU'D BE A BETTER MOTHER AND WOMAN IF YOU COULD JUST GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND WORK."

She relates these thoughts to a scene in the movie "Liar, Liar" where Jim Carey's characters is in the bathroom and is busy throwing himself against walls and punching himself.  When there is a knock on the door he says, ""I WAS KICKIN' MY ASS! DO YA MIND?" And Melton replies:  "I understand the act of kicking one's own ass. I do it all the time."

Yep.  Let me just say, we are so good at that, us women.  That kickin' our own asses thing when it comes to our jobs as moms.   Melton's post really hit home this week.  Child numero dos went to daycare for the first time.  We did a quick trial day--to let daycare get used to him, for him to get used to daycare, and most importantly: for me to get used to not being around him 99% of the day (and because I needed a good day of errands and back to work shopping).  I cried half of the day.  Blubbering at home.  Holding it in at Caribou.  Sobbing to music in the car.  Trying to contain the continued blubbering on errands.  Seriously.  Seriously? Yep, I spent most of the day mentally kicking my own ass. 

On Monday I start work again.  And it's going to stink.  But then I'll be in the swing of things after a few days and dare I admit it now?  I'll like it. I'll like getting out of the house, dressed and presentable.  I'll like talking books with teenagers.  I'll get really frustrated with them, but it's pretty enjoyable. And then it will happen. I will eventually start kicking my own ass again.  For liking what I do and for spending time with other people's kiddos each day and not my own.  

And so after reading the "Friendly Fire" blog entry, I have to keep reminding myself.  I have the best of both worlds.  I get to be both a working mom for 9 months and then a stay-at-home mom in the summer.  I get it when the working mom screams, "QUIT YOUR JOB AND STAY HOME."  I get it when you need to take a day off (albeit sick or otherwise) and run errands to stay sane or to chaperone your kids this or that.  And I get it when stay-at-home moms screams, "I NEED TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!"  I get it when you need to tell your hubby that he's watching the kids so you can get a cup of coffee and read for a whole solitary hour with no interruptions.  I so get both sides of mommyland. And it's a hard choice to figure out which one is right for me or for you. I just wish, for either side, I didn't end up kickin' my own ass so much--that there wasn't such a tug of war pulling at my heartstrings.