Tag Archives: England

Glamorous Illusions

Title: Glamorous Illusions
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Publisher: David C Cook
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6430-0

“The question isn’t how society defines you, nor how I define you, but rather how God defines you, and in turn, how you yourself want to be defined,” are words written in a letter to Cora in Lisa T. Bergren’s The Grand Tour Series novel, Glamorous Illusions.

At four hundred and two pages, this paperback book is the first in the series set in the early nineteen hundreds about a woman coming of age. With no profanity, mild romantic physical contact and some violence, the historical fiction is targeted toward Christian women. At the end of the book is a chat with the author, discussion questions and historical notes.

Twenty year old Cora Diehl Kensington has been away at Normal College in Montana for two years working on her teaching credential. When she returns home for the summer to her parents’ poor farm, she immediately has to deal with her father having a stroke. Although her mother and she nurse him back to health, taking care of the daily chores is too much for the struggling family.

Weeks later, a distinguished older gentleman visits the barely producing farm, divulging a horrible secret to the unassuming young woman that will alter her mother, father and her lives forever. Frustrated, angry and feeling a loss of belonging, Cora’s life is instantly changed without her approval or willingness.

When told it is in her best interest, she agrees to go on a Grand Tour of Europe, traveling with no one she knows through London, Paris, and on to Provence, to supposedly enjoy the sights, history and art.

Guided by a “bear” and his nephew via steam boats, sailing ships and carriages, she visits the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and museums, while constantly praying for God to show her how to be herself in spite of her new circumstances. Staying at a British palace and a French chateau, she feels like an interloper as she questions adapting to the finer things of life in a world of opulence, wealth and snobbery.

It is not until two men of opposite means vie for her attention that she realizes she must be true to herself to find friendship, meaningful relationships and her own way to become the woman God wants her to be.

Bergren does an excellent job developing endearing characters while being a travel guide to England and France in the early twentieth century. No doubt readers will easily anticipate the next book in the series to find out how Cora will adapt to her new-found lifestyle.

This book was furnished by the publicist for review purposes.

This review will  be posted on Bookpleasures, DeeperShopping and Amazon with links on Bookfun.org, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

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Jane Austen’s England

Title: Jane Austen’s England
Authors: Roy and Lesley Adkins
Publisher: The Penguin Group
ISBN: 978-0-670-78584-1

“In her novels, Jane Austen brilliantly portrayed the lives of the middle and upper classes, but barely mentioned the cast of characters who constituted the bulk of the population,” Roy and Lesley Adkins write in their book, Jane Austen’s England.

At four hundred and twenty-two pages, this hardbound book with a cross-stitching design of time-period objects on the front page is a tribute to the land, people, and ways of England during Jane Austen’s lifetime that enabled her to produce such classic writings.

After eight pages of maps and an introduction, the book has twelve thorough chapters, ending with pages on weights and measures, a chronological overview, notes, bibliography, lists of maps and illustrations, acknowledgements, and an extensive index. There are also sixteen glossy black and white pages of photographs of Austen, writings, hard-to-read publications, artwork, and buildings. Targeted toward her fans, this is an excellent resource for early nineteenth century living in England that could be used for collegiate educational purposes.

No doubt the beloved female novelist of the day wrote wonderful stories of the middle and upper class society in her tomes, yet this book is a compilation of the world that surrounded her during forty-one years of life. With the aid of diaries, writings, newspaper articles, legal documents, travelogues, memoirs, and histories, the book lightly describes Jane and her upbringing; but it concentrates on the rigid division of societal classes of poor verses wealthy, landowners controlling servants, and day-to-day lifestyles.

With many quotes from William Holland, Parson Woodforde, and others, the writers correlate Austen’s life starting at her birth and ending at her death to what was happening around her in their chapters on marriage, sex, children, education, home, health, fashion, religion, employment, leisure, traveling, illness, medicine, and dying.

Besides learning King George III reigned while Britain was at war during most of Austen’s life, she was sent to Oxford at age seven for private tutoring, nearly died of typhus, enjoyed dancing and the seaside, and, although proposed to, she never married and left everything to her sister in her will.

The reader gets a small peek into the famed author’s private life but eyes become wide-opened in learning how life and people around her acted and behaved. At that time, marriage was usually forced or arranged based on status, women averaged birthing six to seven babies, condoms were made out of animal intestines, under-aged children worked hard in mines, land was the ultimate decider of wealth, and bloodletting was a common cure for ailments.

Authors Adkins and Adkins offer an extensive, detailed study of early nineteenth century England, producing a marvelous, informative, and complex textbook of the life, time, and viewpoint of both rich and poor ordinary people who became the creative backdrop in all of Jane Austen’s books.

This book was furnished by the publicist for review purposes.

This review will be posted on Bookpleasures and Amazon with links on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Pinterest.


Filed under ***** Great - A Keeper, If You Borrow It, Give It Back!, Business / Money / Education, Non-Fiction

Woffles – A Fishy Adventure

Title: Woffles – A Fishy Adventure
Illustrators: James Curtis and Nick Curtis
Publisher: CowPat Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9571058-0-5

Dogs are man’s best friends, and teenage boys have special relationships with them, especially if they have one as their own pet. In Woffles – A Fishy Adventure teenagers James Curtis and Nick Curtis tell a story about their own black Labrador dog named Woffles in southern England.

This oversized, unnumbered but around fifty page paperback depicts a drawing of a gray large dog with his bright red tongue hanging out on the front cover. Written and published in the United Kingdom, it has different English spelling of a few words than what Americans are accustomed. Several different fonts, colors of wording and sizes are used that take a little away from the story line and may be distracting to new readers. The drawings are simplistic but easily understandable. The book is targeted to young children from preschool age and up but can be enjoyed by adults too.

The book begins with a two-page drawing of a dog with a very long red tongue which has a blank box to write in the book owner’s name. Some pages continue this theme of reader involvement and interaction by asking questions such as “what is your favourite place?” or “how long can you hold your breath?” or “do you have a pet and if so, what is the name?”

Woffles is a large dog who lives in the countryside and has a best friend dog named Pip, who is considerably smaller in stature. Woffles mentions cool sheep, rocking trees and glorious mud while sometimes using very large, long words. After playing a round of doggy pool with Pip, Woffles and his friend take a ride in the green farm car to his favourite place, the fishy farm. At the fishy farm, they take a swim in the cool water and watch Chris Cod dump colorful fish into the lake using the long, curly water slide that is connected to his truck.  The two pet friends see a nearby picnic basket and take a couple of their favourite sandwiches before heading back home.

The story is simple and the drawings are a mix of crayons and pencil work, obviously done by two different artists. There is a sheep and a bee drawn into some of the pictures that may be of interest for some to locate. A child can enjoy answering the many questions in this short, quick read that two young, creative and entrepreneurial relatives designed and wrote.


This review will also be posted at http://www.bookpleasures.com and http://www.amazon.com.

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Second Impressions

Second Impressions

Author: Ava Farmer
Publisher: Chawton House Press
ISBN: 0-97816136475-0-9

For over twenty six years, Ava Farmer has cherished, loved and engrossed herself in the writings of Jane Austen. As a tribute to her obviously favorite author and her abundance of meticulous research over decades, Farmer has written an extensive sequel to the famous Pride and Prejudice in her novel based ten years later, Second Impressions: A Novel.

This hard cover book has a drawing of a proper mid-nineteenth century dressed English woman writing a letter with a quill on the front cover and paragraphs about the book and a review on the back. It is divided into two volumes, at one hundred and ninety four pages and at two hundred and six pages respectively. Although there are punctuation, capitalization, grammar and spelling errors, they appear to be intentional, reverting back to the time period and similar to Austen’s prose. In addition and supposedly in keeping with Austen’s “stile,” the bottom of each page has the first word listed from the next page perhaps to engage the reader.  There is an interesting five page epilogue that explains the writer’s courageous intentions.

For Austen fans of Pride and Prejudice, Farmer continues the story’s love of the Bennett family now in post-Napoleon England, mainly concentrating on the Darcy kinfolk a decade later. With Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy living in Pemberley with his sister Georgiana, the other four Bennett sisters and their families are mentioned and updated intermittently. True to the prior novel, marrying off female family members to wealthy suitors verses espousing by love is the main theme. With a plethora of travels throughout England, Paris, Switzerland and the dirty Italy, the three main characters compare their lots in life, materialistic advantages (and sometimes lack thereof), upper end status in society, new scientific inventions or choice of clothing against friends, new acquaintances and family relations, sometimes with dry, sarcastic wit.

In this sequel, there appears less dialogue, conversation and bantering among the characters and more detailed, descriptive and comprehensive places they travel, societal expectations and criticisms and historical background. At times the reader feels bogged down in the technical as if it is a travelogue, wanting to jump to the emotional, personal joys and disappointments of each self-inflected individual.

The heart of the book is the unrequited love that finally blossoms between Georgiana and her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam who has nurtured, known and bares his soul to her without realizing it throughout the years.

Although there have been a few rewrites or postscripts to the renowned novel, Farmer’s deep commitment and love of divulging herself into Austen’s writing world has paid off in her dutiful work of fiction. Not only would this novel be enjoyed by Austen enthusiasts, but would make a wonderful supplement to any college class on women and their attitudes during the mid-eighteen hundreds.

Posted July 2012:



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Filed under **** Good - Will Be Glad to Pass On to Others, Fiction

How To Do Things With Books In Victorian Britain

How to Do Things with Books in Victorian BritainAuthor: Leah Price
Publisher: Princeton University Press
ISBN: 978-0-691-11417-0

Leah Price must love, cherish and honor all things about, related to and involving books in the 1900s. Her book How To Do Things With Books In Victorian Britain conveys her dedication, knowledge and writing skills in regard to the art of books and reading.

This off-white linen hard-bound book is covered with a gray jacket of cut roses made out of white with black written pages. The book is three hundred and fifty pages. Of those numbered pages, eighteen are dedicated to an introduction, twenty-eight for notes, thirty-two for works cited and a twenty-two page index. There are twenty black and white illustrations throughout the seven chapters and a conclusion. There was no noticeable grammar or typographical errors.

This book is geared to those deeply involved and entrenched in the Victorian era of English writing as it cites authors such as Dickens, Trollope, Collins and Mayhew along with the Bible. Chapters dissect actual novels, religious tracts and biographies, commenting on specific sentences or paragraphs and how they relate to books, the opinions of books, the types of readers and the cultural outcome of such books during the 1900s.

Price does an excellent job in explaining the how and why of books during the era by discussing how the readers perceived themselves (men read newspapers to learn world events while women read novels that kept them away from their daily chores), the economical and social status of owning, reading or reciting books and how printed paper was mostly thrown away during the era. Often it mentions books related to the Bible and how they were promoted, popularized or shunned.

The title of this book tends to be deceiving as it is not actually how to do things with a book (meaning a physical project, exercise or task), but more of a history of the evolution of books during the time period. Based on the title alone, I expected more of show-and-tell book showing what Victorian society did with the books themselves. Granted Price mentions using books/newspapers to hide behind to avoid a spouse or use as wastepaper, but I did not see mentioned using a Bible for smacking a ganglion cyst on the wrist (perhaps this was before the 1900s).  For this reader who has been out of college for decades, it was a challenge to remember the storyline of some of the books (example: David Copperfield) so missed some of Price’s humor or nuances.

Due to the subject matter, this book would be ideal for a university or college class room setting as a wonderful resource tool when discussing an author of the Victorian age. Price does a great job in getting her point across about her findings and the reader learns about the types of books and their viewpoints.

Posted May  2012:



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Filed under ** Think Twice - I Didn't Like It, Non-Fiction