#134 ~ Loving Frank

January 13, 2009 at 11:28 pm | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, Reading | 10 Comments
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Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

In search of a home of his own, Mr. Edwin Cheney of Chicago convinced his wife Mamah to agree to commissioning a local American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, to design and build their family home. Mr. Cheney gained his house, but he couldn’t have known that he would ultimately lose his wife to the architect. Loving Frank tells the story of the love affair of Mamah and Frank from Mamah’s perspective. Mamah’s decision to leave the husband for which she never had any passion cost her as well. In her time, adulterous women lost custody of their children and their reputations to boot. Her story is one of heartache, sensuality, and the discovery of who she is and who she wants to be.

Loving Frank reads like a story out of 19th feminist literature like The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Awakening by Kate Chopin. In so many ways, unfortunately, Mamah is the embodiment of Edna Pontellier. She finds her self dissatisfied with domestic life and agonizes over the realization that she really knew beforehand that she shouldn’t have married Edwin. Although he respects her father and cares for her family, he is not a creative soul. Frank Lloyd Wright is. As he, too, has grown unhappy in his own marriage, it’s only a matter of time before the two begin an affair. After leaving her family to run away with her lover, she comes face to face with the reality of living with Frank. Frank may be a man of vision, but he is all too human. He has deep character flaws that cause her distress and embarrassment. The guilt of leaving her children and the ill effects of being under the harsh spotlight of a the scandal loving media start to take their tole. It is only after attending a speech by Ellen Key, a feminist writer famous in Europe, that she starts to understand that the secret to her own happiness and fulfillment can come from no place but within herself.

Mamah and Frank are both self-centric people and are often unlikable. They both want the fairytale life, but tend to whine when it isn’t handed to them on a silver platter. Although he thought of Mamah as his intellectual equal, Frank was dismayed repetitively when she wanted to leave his side to pursue her own goals. Mamah continually found it difficult to love Frank through his human weaknesses. They both wanted nothing more than to express their creativity. Neither really cared to get their hands messy with the work of keeping relationships together. Had fate not intervened in the end, it seems doubtful that their relationship could have survived after the drama created by their scandalous relationship died down.

This review was difficult to write. I enjoyed Loving Frank , despite the fact that portions of the novel seemed long and dry. Given their personalities, it was often difficult to sympathize with Mamah and Frank. That being said, to enjoy a novel, it is not necessary to like the main characters. Lolita is one of my favorite novels, but I do not like nor agree with Humbert Humbert. The exploration of feminism in the early 2oth century through Mamah’s growth as a woman was very interesting. In that day and time, a woman lost her place as mother when she willingly gave up her place as wife. For women with children, personal freedom came at a huge cost. As the narrative tended to wander off course in some areas and then the author included too many unnecessary details in other, there were loose ends that were not tied up in the end. What could have been a brilliant, emotional and powerful conclusion to Mamah and Frank’s story fizzled. I would still recommend this novel, most especially for a class about early feminist literature. Although this is a work of historical fiction, it would provide the perspective of a woman living in America at the time.

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To buy this novel, click here.

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The Sunday Salon ~ I’m Back!

January 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 17 Comments
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The Sunday Salon.comAfter a week of computer frustration, I am back! This afternoon I actually felt like picking my laptop back up and getting back to work again. I’ve missed you guys!

While I’ve been away, I have been getting some things accomplished. I got rid of all my half.com books. I sold them all for $10 and then promptly bought The Reader. Yes, it’s true that the last thing that I need is a book. Still, what a nice trade against boxes filling the back of my Grand Caravan? With the room I’ve made, I’ve been able to able to box up my sprint and summer clothes and put them on the top shelf of my walk-in closet. My clothes will no longer be wrinkled the moment they’re hung up. This also is making more room for my my stamping supplies. I’m not finished organizing the space, but I’ve made some great progress.

I’ve also been reading. Since the New Year, I’ve read My Lady of Cleves, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Etta, and Tomato Girl. My Lady of Cleves and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are both books off of my Just for the Love of It Reading Challenge. Because I’ve also joined the January is ARC Reading Month, I will be reading ARCs the rest of the month. It felt good to be reading non-ARCs. It’s re-energized me for the rest of the month. Etta and Tomato Girl are books off of my 2009 ARC Reading Challenge. I’m well under way. I’m currently reading Mermaids in the Basement for an upcoming book tour and author interview. This is another one for the ARC Reading Challenge. But that’s not all! I forgot about my first read for the War through the Generations Reading Challenge ~ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I’m listening to it on my Zen Creative (which I LOVE) and enjoying it.

I’ve got a lot of reviews to catch up on now that I no longer get hives touching a computer after work. First up will be my last book of 2008 ~ Loving Frank. Loving Frank is the first book we read in my Facebook Historical Fiction Lovers Book Club. 64 people have signed up and I’m really happy about that. The book for February is Soul Catcher by Michael White. If you want to join in on the fun, there is plenty of time. Most of all, we’d be happy to have you.

The New Year is a time to make resolutions. As someone who is overweight, my resolution is either to lose weight or, when I’m feeling more confident, to learn to love myself. This year I wasn’t sure what I wanted. Over the past 11 days, I decided that I wanted to live healthy – and doesn’t that accomplish both? I joined SparkPeople (Lithousewife is my username). It’s a really cool free site where you can set your goals and meet others getting healthier. Best of all, there is a Bookworm community for those who want to devour more books while easting less. 🙂 You know that’s right up my alley. I’m watching the first episode of this season’s The Biggest Loser and it is very, very motivating.  I look forward to giving you updates on my healthy me challenge as the year progresses.

I hope that all of you are doing well. I will be back on the blogs tonight – right after I do a Wii Fit workout.

Without a Computer of Her Own

January 8, 2009 at 7:25 am | Posted in LIfe | 16 Comments
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despairReaders, it is a sad time for Literate Housewife. Over the weekend, a tragic accident befell my beloved laptop. The blue screen of death announced pretty clearly to my husband that a new hard drive was needed. So, I am using a loaner laptop that is driving me crazy. I’m so annoyed by it all that I didn’t even turn the computer on last night. Although I know that it won’t be fun to recustomize everything again once the new hard drive is installed, just having it back on my lap will make everything seem better.  I hope to be back up and running by the end of the week.

In the meantime, I would like to thank Amy and Darlene for the wonderful awards they gave me yesterday.  You both made my day.  While I’m waiting for some good computer time, I’ll be working on passing these awards along.  I will also be working on my reviews for My Lady of Cleves, Loving Frank, and Etta.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful day.

25811 ~ A Look Back at 2008

January 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 18 Comments
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After manually compiling the books I read last year, I’ve come up with the following statistics:

The Basics

Total Books Read: 78 (24 more than 2007)
Total Pages Read: 25811 (4800 more than 2007)
Average Number of Pages: 331 (54 less than 2007)

By Category:

Total Books Loved: 23
Total Books Liked: 34
Total Books Neutral: 15
Total Books Irritating: 3
Total Books Hated: 3

Literate Housewife’s Top 10 Books Read in 2008

Of the 23 books I loved last year, I’ve chosen the following as my favorites (displayed in no particular order):

water Gardens of Water by Alan Drew
cover-of-witchs-trinity-pb The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman

lobster Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan

cover-of-the-last-queen The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner

cover-of-the-seamstress The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Peebles

gargolye The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

cover-of-capote-in-kansas Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers
cover-of-reluctant-widow The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

cover-of-the-front-porch-prophet The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond L. Atkins

cover-of-finding-nouf Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris

#133 ~ The Sister

January 2, 2009 at 6:04 pm | Posted in Books, Family, Historical Fiction, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 4 Comments
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The Sister by Poppy Adams, read by Juliet Mills

Virginia Stone, a 70 year old spinster, lives alone with her moths at Bulburrow Court, her family’s mansion.  She is an eccentric old woman who grew up during WWII and its aftermath.  She is peculiar, most especially about time and tea.  To say she is set in her ways would be an understatement.  When her younger sister Vivien returns to Bulburrow Court after leaving the family home and her sister for London nearly 50 years earlier, Ginny reflects on her life, from her alcoholic mother  Maud, her lepidopterist father Clive, who mentored her in the study of moths, and her love for her absent sister.  She approaches her history with the same unemotional scientific eye that she uses with her moths and other insects.  It doesn’t take long to start questioning Ginny’s reliability as a daughter, sister, and narrator.  This novel held my interest from the beginning with Vivi’s tragic, near-fatal fall and the numerous mysteries and questions that continued to come up to the surface.

Poppy Adams is an extremely detailed writer.  Her use of entomology and the study of the moth clearly stem from a great deal of research.  While Ginny loves to go into lengthy and often gory detail about her science, the minutia she shares with the reader provides important insights into Ginny’s morality, mental state, and obsessive compulsiveness. There is an interesting passage about a colony of ants taken over by a butterfly larva that still has me thinking about Ginny and what the truth about her family might have been.

This is the first audio book I truly enjoyed.  No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July and Savannah by John Jakes (which I couldn’t finish) were complete flops for me – both because of the narration.  In addition to the story itself, The Sister had what the others so far have not – the perfect reader.  Juliet Mills’ voice and reading was such a complement to Ginny that I can’t image there being a more perfect vocal performer for the novel.   The way she enunciated “pupal soup” throughout the novel was both sickening and dead on for Ginny’s character.  She expertly read dialog for the other characters as well.  There was a scene where Maud, drunk, could not hold her tongue to Ginny about her opinions of Albert, Vivi’s boyfriend.  That exchange between Maud and Ginny was wonderful and riveting.  Although I’m tempted to read the physical book the next time around, I can’t imagine reading it without hearing Mills’ voice.

This novel, because it is narrated by Ginny, does not provide answers to all of the questions that are raised.  Who exactly is the sister?  What exactly did the rest of the family and the village of Bulburrow know about Ginny that she did not?  If she has been mentally ill her entire life, why in the world would Vivi and Albert entrust her with their family in the way that they did?  Did she truly carry on Clive’s work after he retired? What exactly went on with Dr. Moyse?  At first, this made the ending fall a little flat for me.  However, upon further reflection, it would be impossible to know what Ginny did not and this is made even that much more difficult as she had a talent for blocking out the unpleasant portions of stories and conversations.  Truly, this novel is open-ended, allowing the reader to discern the truth from the delusion.  The Sister invites additional readings.  It would be very interesting to read this a second time to see what I might have missed the first time.  While under no circumstances would I ever sit down for tea with Ginny Stone, I’d love to study her in more depth.  She is a fascinating character whose voice, like that of Vida Winter from The Thirteenth Tale and many of Patrick McGrath’s narrators, will stay with me for a long time to come.

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To buy book in audio, click here.
To buy this book, click here.

Just for the Love of It Reading Challenge

January 1, 2009 at 4:34 am | Posted in Books | 7 Comments
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Because I couldn’t help myself because this challenge is so wonderful, I’m joining Bethany, Shana and Alyce in Sheri’s Just for the Love of It Reading Challenge.  What’s nice about this is that it only lasts from January through April, making the first four months of the year time to focus on reading the things that you love.  Here are the rules:

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This will really test my resolve, especially the part about accepting books from publishers, publicists and authors that I’m “truly intersted in.”  I’ve definitely gotten beter since my ARC crisis hit me full force.  This will be a test to see how long I can keep my resolve.  Here is the list of books I’ll be reading thus far:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
America America by Ethan Canin
Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer
The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman
The King’s Daughter by Sandra Worth
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
False Colours by Georgette Heyer

2009 – The Year of Reading Challenges

December 31, 2008 at 10:10 am | Posted in Books | 9 Comments
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Before I take a look back at 2008, I’m looking forward to the year to come.  I did not have more than a vague notion of what I wanted to accomplish in 2008.  It was also somewhat of a turning point with my blog.  I started it as a means to chronicle my goal of reading 52 books in 2007.  With no clear vision and with ARCs starting to pour in, my idea of reading 12 tomes did not get farther than a couple hundred pages into Anna Karenina.  This year is going to be different.

Now that my ARCs are more under control, I’m making 2009 my year of reading challenges.

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Book Award Challenge II:  I joined this challenge earlier this year.  I haven’t really gotten started with it, but there is still time to complete this challenge.  I have really wonderful books waiting for me.

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War Through the Generations:  I joined this challenge as soon as I read Serena and Anna’s announcement.  This year the focus is WWII and I’ve challenged myself to read 6 books this year that focus on that.  I may end up reading more, but I didn’t want to over extend myself.  See, I have learned much from my ARC crisis this year. 🙂

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ARC Reading Challenge:  Speaking of learning from my ARC crisis, I don’t want to get back into that place again.  I joined this challenge because it was definitely for me.  I am going to read at least one ARC per month in 2009.

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Dewey’s Reading Challenge:  Today I am officially joining Dewey’s Books Reading Challenge.  I am going to read one of the books Dewey reviewed throughout the life of her wonderful blog, The Hidden Side of the Leaf.  Here are the books I selected by year:

2003 ~ Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
2004 ~ Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
2005 ~ Old School by Tobias Wolff
2006 ~ Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
2007 ~ Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
2008 ~ Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier

So, 2009 is shaping up to be a great reading year.  I’ll have some award winning books, some books about WWII, some of Dewey’s books, and maintaining control of my ARCS (which 7 to 8 times out of 10 are good books).  I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.

What are your reading plans for 2009?

Who the Tudor Are You?

December 29, 2008 at 10:38 am | Posted in Historical Fiction, LIfe | 11 Comments
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I found this fun quiz sponsored by The Tudors on today’s Early Buzz on PopCandy (thanks Whitney!).  It’s entitled “Who the Tudor Are You?” and after answering a few simple questions, it identifies who you would be in Tudor England.  To my surprise and shock (being Roman Catholic and all…), I am a Bishop and can expect to live for another 11 years so long as I keep the King happy – lucky me:

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Who the Tudor are you?

#132 ~ The Conqueror

December 28, 2008 at 9:13 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Historical Fiction, Reading | 6 Comments
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The Conqueror by Georgette Heyer

The Conqueror tells the story of William the Conqueror, from his bastard birth, to his life as the Duke of Normandy, and finaly to his triumphant rise to the throne of England. Given the circumstances of William’s life and the political climate of both Normandy and England in the 11th century, this is quite an undertaking.

After reading The Reluctant Widow, I was very excited to start The Conqueror. My thinking was that if I loved her Regency Romances, I would really love her historical fiction. I was mistaken. Unlike The Reluctant Widow, this novel took me over a week to finish. This was mainly due to the slow and inconsistent pacing of the plot. While much time and energy was spent on William the Conqueror’s numerous battles, very little was spent on his relationship with Matilda or who he really was as a man. This lack of character development was true throughout, filling pages with numerous supporting characters between whom I could not readily distinguish. For me, they further bogged down the story and made it seem even that much longer than it really was.

There were flashes of Heyer’s brilliance when she tells of the circumstances of William’s birth, when she introduces Raoul, the fictional man through whom we meet William as a man and learn of his exploits, and when she tells of William’s “courting” of Lady Matilda. I also found it interesting to learn of ways in which William modernized the warfare of the day through strategy and the inclusion of archers. Clearly, William is a man capable of capturing the imagination of readers nearly a full century after his full and adventurous life. Unfortunately, this potential was lost to me amidst the superfluous characters and many of the battles in Normandy that did not add to the plot or provide any additional insight into William or, for that matter, Raoul or Matilda.

While The Conqueror did not engage me or take me away to time and places of William’s life, I am glad to have read it. This novel is best approached as one to read over a period of time. It would be interesting to read this in chapters or sections as a prelude to a thorough biography. I am curious to learn more about William, Matilda and and the lives of their children. In that way, this novel was a success. I hope to find a good book that focuses on the life that William and Matilda shared. If you have any suggestions, I would be most appreciative.

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To buy this novel, click here.

SantaThing

December 24, 2008 at 4:45 pm | Posted in Books | 17 Comments
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santathingThanks to a fun post written by Fyrefly, I found out about SantaThing, a wonderful Secret Santa type of book exchange facilitated by LibraryThing.  I received my SantaThing books yesterday and I’m so exicted!  I got Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer and The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman.  I am loving Georgette Heyer these days (review of The Conqueror coming soon), so Charity Girl is right up my alley.  I haven’t heard of The Dress Lodger before, but it sounds really good.  Many thanks to my Santa.:)

I also had fun playing SantaThing, too.  I selected The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  She likes a combination of literary and historical fiction, so The Monsters of Templeton was the first thing that came to my mind.  To fulfill her literary fiction needs, I thought the combination of F. Scott Fitzgerald and a current Brad Pitt movie would hit the spot.  I’m looking forward to reading that myself next year.

I think that SantaThing was a huge success and I’m looking forward to participating again next year.  For the LibraryThingers out there, did you participate?  If so, tell me all about your loot!

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