Pearl in the Mist (Landry #2) by V.C. Andrews

pearl-in-the-mist-landry-2-by-v-c-andrews

Fate whisked Ruby from a simple life in the Louisiana Bayou. But her new riches bring more treachery than happiness…

Even after a year as a Dumas, Ruby still wonders at the splendour of the family’s New Orleans mansion, and rejoices in the love of the father she had never known. But true happiness in her new home is as elusive as d swamp mist. Ruby must carefully avoid a venomous enemy: her stepmother, Daphne, who cringes and sneers at her backwater upbringing. And Ruby’s every effort to befriend her twin sister, Gisselle — especially since Gisselle’s crippling accident — is answered with bitterness and vicious backstabbing.

So idyllic Greenwood — the exclusive girls’ boarding school that her father has chosen for his daughters’ senior year — seems to promise some peace from the conniving Daphne, and maybe even a fresh start with Gisselle. But Ruby’s kind isn’t welcome at Greenwood, and the legendarily strict headmistress, Mrs. Ironwood, plots with her stepmother to make her life miserable. Meanwhile, Gisselle is on a mission to break every school rule, leaving Ruby to suffer the humiliating punishments. But Ruby doesn’t lose hope — until a terrible tragedy leaves her alone in a world that never really wanted her. Ruby will have to summon every last ounce of her Cajun strength to reclaim her home, her future, and the happiness she once knew….

Pearl in the Mist (Landry #2) by V.C. Andrews

So – my revisiting of melodramatic books from my teen years continues with this second book in the Landry series.

These books are big, Southern US sagas with characters who are more stereotypes than real people, almost like they’re in a pantomime for adults. You know exactly who is good and who is evil, and the characters never deviate from those roles. The books are set many decades ago and totally dated, but that’s part of the charm.

I swear, I remembered the twins in this book as fair-haired, but apparently that was just me projecting my teenaged self onto them.

I was all over these as an adolescent, and remember this series particularly appealed to me because our heroine, Ruby, is an identical twin. Twin drama! Swapped identities! Stolen identities! One is an angel and one is the devil incarnate (and boy does she never stop complaining!).

Then we have the EVIL stepmother character who seems to spend her entire life plotting to ruin Ruby’s – for no particular reason.

Of course, despite her angelic qualities, nobody will ever listen to Ruby, and so she is constantly being blamed for her sister’s behaviour – that is, when people aren’t trying to lock her up in various institutions. She is the ultimate Mary Sue, and exactly the reason teen girls went crazy over these stories.

Honestly, the reason I kept reading was because I want to get to the next book, where the characters are finally out of school and living adult lives. I’d forgotten how bloody young they all were in the early books.

Virginia Andrews and – after her death – her ghost writer V.C. Andrews… Well, I hate people applying the word “trashy” to books, but I cannot think of anything more appropriate in this case.

Romance Passes the Bechdel Test

a-summer-in-sonoma-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

Good read on Heroes and Heartbreakers the other day: Romance Passes the Bechdel Test.

For those who don’t know, the Bechdel Test was basically created to determine whether a form of entertainment respects women. it judges films, television shows, books etc. on whether female characters are more than their relationships with men:

The rules now known as the Bechdel test first appeared in 1985 in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For

…two women discuss seeing a film and one woman explains that she only goes to a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,

2. who talk to each other,

3. about something besides a man.

Romance – sometimes justifiably (*especially* books in the Young Adult and New Adult genres) – cops some criticism for not passing this simple test, meaning the female characters only exist to fight over guys.

However, this article argues something slightly different.

If I think of my favourite romances? Yes, the fact they are called ROMANCE means men play a big part in them, but plenty of authors also make the female friendships and relationships very important.

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Think, for example, Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers series (or any of her books, actually – historical or contemporary). The female connections come long before the romantic relationships with men do.

Sugar Creek by Toni Blake

Toni Blake’s books are first and foremost about female friendships.

never-too-late-a-novel-by-robyn-carr

Think of Robyn Carr’s small town stories. She actually calls come of her books “girlfriend books” because the women’s connections come first.

The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie

How about Anne Gracie’s wonderful stories with sisters and friends? The Autumn Bride doesn’t even introduce the hero until 1/4 of the book is over, but we have plenty of time to meet the series’ four heroines and watch them go to hell and back together.

Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter

Madeline Hunter works very hard on female AND male friendships. It is one of the reasons she is one of my absolute favourites.

I recently unfollowed some men online because they were sharing “jokes” about women. Memes about how there’s no point trying to understand women – because women do, and ‘that’s why they hate each other’.

Ha, ha, ha, ha…. or not.

I see (and hear from some people, too often of “a certain generation”) about how women are all bitches, and women hate each other, and women this, and women that. As though men are better specimens because they were born with different equipment dangling between their legs.

It’s not true. Just because women might sometimes be more emotional about some situations – well, that’s because so often women care more, and look after their families better. Every family emergency and death I’ve been part of recently? It was the women diving in and doing the hard work, caring for sick family members, supporting each other, organising funerals, making the phone calls and writing the cards.

I like any article that celebrates that instead of scorning it, and hope to see more of this on romance and women’s fiction sites.

A Woman of Spirit by Kate Loveday

a-woman-of-spirit-by-kate-loveday

It is often a spur-of-the-moment decision that can become a turning point in life. So it is for Kitty Morland, a young woman in London in 1878.    
When she yields to temptation one fateful day, the consequences of her action force her to flee to Australia, hoping to join her brother.

On the other side of the world, she meets two men–William, an expatriate English aristocrat, and Rufe, a charismatic Colonial entrepreneur involved with trading in diamonds and in the goldfields.

Beautiful and spirited, Kitty needs all her courage and determination to survive the ordeal of marriage to William, a bullying husband. When he is drowned it leaves her alone to give birth to a daughter and to run a timber-cutting business in a male-dominated era that considers a woman only as an obedient homemaker and bed-warmer.

When she is offered a chance at love and happiness with Rufe, will she make the right decision?

A Woman of Spirit by Kate Loveday

Once I adjusted my expectations, A Woman of Spirit was a solid read that begins in Victorian England and concludes in colonial Australia.

I expected this to be more historical romance than general historical fiction (it was tagged “romance” on NetGalley). It turns out it is a family saga, complete with a to be continued at the end.

I love both the Victorian era and women-centric books concerning colonial Australia, and this was solidly researched on both counts. The main character has to flee England after false accusations against her, and after actually committing a crime that might get her in very serious trouble.

I will say that the idea she came up with to hide the evidence of her theft was a little… it made me queasy (think modern-day drug mules)!

The woman and her mother reach New South Wales fairly early in the story, and the real plot begins there. I did find it a bit odd that one of the first people they met in Sydney knew their family back in England, and recognised them by their surname! There were tens of millions of people in Britain in the late 1870s, and Australia was working its way up to a million.

If you read the blurb put out by the publisher, you are going to learn almost the entire plot. I’m not sure this is a good way to sell a book, giving everything away at the start.

However, this was solid historical fiction. I am appreciating that publishers are starting to take chances on books set in 19th century Australia. Variety is always good!

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 2nd – 8th January

preparing-for-ukrainian-christmas-in-canberra-australia-sonya-heaney-varenyky-5th-january-2017

Cooking hundreds of varenyky (Ukrainian dumplings) – just one of our trays – for Ukrainian Christmas.

hydrangeas-summer-flowers-canberra-australia-1st-january-2017-sonya-heaney-garden-nature

Summer Flowers on New Year’s Day.

So, it was another week, another Christmas for us. Now I have a few days to sort out birthdays for both my parents (and me!), have Ukrainian New Year, and then we’re off to Italy and London. It will be Easter straight after that – and we have two of those, too!

It has been very hot here, and it is going to get hotter in the next few days. I need to exercise because I have long-term knee problems related to my years as a ballet dancer (I have a talent for dislocating my right knee every few months!), but who can exercise when the temperatures are up around 40°C (104°F)?!

Speaking of ballet, I found an old photo of me backstage during a season of Giselle (Andrew, if you ever see this, I hope you don’t mind me posting your picture!). It was 1999, and – obviously – my night off from performances.

giselle-backstage-1999-sonya-heaney

canberra-summer-sunset-new-years-day-sonya-heaney-1st-january-2017-sky-clouds-australia-nature

First sunset of 2017

According to the lovely pussy-grabber, only stupid people oppose Russia. I’m guessing that means “stupid people” like my family and other friends in Ukraine, who are in the process of being invaded and slaughtered.

I was hacked by Russian trolls again on Saturday evening.

America: I know Russia rigged your election, but many millions of you still voted for this. It is unforgivable, and deeply upsetting for me on a personal level.

trump-and-putin-propaganda-in-montenegro

Pro-Trump and Putin propaganda appearing in Montenegro. Serbia and Montenegro are almost totally anti-Ukrainian and pro-Putin. This is Hitler and Stalin take #2, and nobody seems to care.

Some of my favourite authors? I can no longer read their books. Anybody who supports Trump… It’s shocking we live in a world with people who think like that. This isn’t a difference of political opinion; it’s literally supporting mass murder.

I don’t even want to know what is going to happen to the world in the next four years.

Revisiting Old Books

ruby-1992-the-first-book-in-the-landry-series-a-novel-by-v-c-andrews

My review of The Workhouse Children by Lindsey Hutchinson

the-workhouse-children-by-lindsey-hutchinson

Coming Up for Madeline Hunter

the-most-dangerous-duke-in-london-decadent-dukes-society-1-by-madeline-hunter

Cover Love

devil-in-spring-ravenels-book-3-by-lisa-kleypas-uk-cover

Revisiting Old Books

ruby-1992-the-first-book-in-the-landry-series-a-novel-by-v-c-andrews

I really need to catch up with my review books (did ANYBODY get anything done over Christmas? I sure didn’t!).

However, instead of catching up with new reads I’ve been heading back to books I read more than twenty years ago.

flowers-in-the-attic-dollanganger-book-1-novel-by-virginia-andrews-1979

Who didn’t go through a Virginia Andrews phase? Most people I know hit that period somewhere around year seven, when reading things like Flowers in the Attic was considered adult and edgy (and really bloody incestuous!). I have a mountain of largely second-hand paperbacks by Andrews and the ghost writer who took over after her death – all family melodramas worthy of soap operas.

No idea why, but I’m rereading a few of these truly trashy books at the moment (spoiler: they’re nowhere near as good as I thought they were back in the 1990s!).

I think sometimes revisiting old books isn’t the best idea.

The Workhouse Children by Lindsey Hutchinson

the-workhouse-children-by-lindsey-hutchinson

When Cara Flowers’ beloved grandmother dies she leaves her, not only an enormous fortune, but also a huge responsibility – to find their estranged family.

Cara’s quest leads her to the doors of the imposing Bilston workhouse where families are torn apart with no hope of a better life.

Shocked by the appalling conditions, Cara vows to find a way to close the workhouse and rescue its residents. Fraught by countless hurdles her mission becomes personal when she is left asking why was she raised by her grandmother, and what has her missing mother got to do with the looming workhouse?

The Workhouse Children by Lindsey Hutchinson

I am interested in the subject matter of this book, and have recently been reading a bit about the working classes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. And so I requested The Workhouse Children for review.

While the research was very well done, the story was tell instead of show, making it hard to care about the characters.

If you are reading this book to get a peek into life a century and a bit ago, there is plenty of information here. There’re lots of little details that were researched well. I also appreciated the use of a real place as the setting, and enjoyed doing some research of my own as I read.

I only wish I cared about the characters.

Perhaps some of my issues with the story come from the fact different genres focus on different things. Romance is often a more emotional genre than women’s or historical fiction (this book is historical women’s fiction), and the reader experiences feelings and reactions alongside the characters. I found here that I was watching people experience things from afar.

I know I tend to go overboard with commas when I type, but the lack of commas in this book sometimes made it a struggle to comprehend. For example:

I had to go with John on the cart until you were born Charlie.

This was an editing issue that should have been dealt with in the publication process.

So, if you’re looking for a book that’s heavy on the history, you might enjoy this. However, if you’re looking to connect with the characters, you might struggle a bit.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Book-Based Christmas Movie #3

The last in my Christmas romance books that have been made into movies, and are now on YouTube, and I hope they’re there legally! series of posts:

Trading Christmas, based on the book of the same name by Debbie Macomber.

trading-christmas-by-debbie-macomber

Trading houses. Trading towns. Trading Christmas.

Emily Springer, widowed mother of one, decides to leave her hometown of Leavenworth, Washington, to spend Christmas with her daughter in Boston.

Charles Brewster, history professor, seasoned curmudgeon and resident of Boston, wants to avoid Christmas altogether.

Through an Internet site, they arrange to swap houses for the holiday. So Emily goes to Boston–and discovers that her daughter has gone to Florida. And Charles arrives in Leavenworth to discover a town that looks like Santa’s village, full of Christmas trees, Christmas music and elves.

Meanwhile, Emily’s friend Faith Kerrigan travels to Leavenworth to visit her–and finds Charles the grouch…whose brother, Ray, shows up at Charles’s place, to find Emily living there.

Through all the mix-ups and misunderstandings, amid the chaos and confusion, romance begins to emerge in unexpected ways. Because when Christmas comes, so does love…