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Laura McDonald

Laura McDonald is a web developer by trade who enjoys long walks on the moors--er--hills of Central Texas. She is Girlebooks' founder and site administrator. Laura's literary preferences include Jane Austen, the Brontes, epistolary novels, and travelogues.

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Review: Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party

Review: Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party

This is a captivating story about love and tea. It is told from the point of view of the titular character, Ida Mae, a divorcee grandmother living in Ohio. As the story opens she is waiting for her best friend since she was 10 years old, Jane, to arrive for tea. Jane and Ida Mae have always been complete opposites–Ida Mae being the quiet homebody and Jane the bustling actress. But their friendship works. They complete each other, perhaps more than the various lovers and spouses that entered the two women’s lives over the decades. In this first scene we learn some devastating news: that Jane has cancer and has only a few weeks left. Continue reading .

Review: "Belinda" by Maria Edgeworth

Review:

Belinda, first published in 1801, is the story of a young woman who comes of age amid the distractions and dangers of London society. From her stays at both the extravagant, aristocratic Delacours and the sober, rational Percivals, she molds her views on love and marriage and much more. Belinda learns from the mistakes of others (and many does she witness) rather than rashfully committing the mistakes herself. From her tutelage by Lady Delacour and the Percivals, we see Belinda grow from a confused little girl into a confident young lady that is admired and eventually depended upon by all. In love, her suitors find they must grow and prove their worth to her, rather than the reverse. Continue reading .

Review: "Letters of Love & Deception" by Emily C.A. Snyder

Review:

This is a lovely collection of short stories by Emily C. A. Snyder, author of another Austen-themed publication Nachtstürm Castle. This time around Snyder treats us to two different styles of paraliterature that draw upon all six of Jane Austen’s novels as inspiration. Part I: Heroes and Histories captures the behind-the-scenes moments of Austen’s original works. In Part II: Types and Trifles, Snyder runs with her imagination, taking on various “what-ifs” to hilarious results. Continue reading .

Review: "Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel" by Deena Stryker

Review:

Deena Stryker’s memoir is An American Woman’s Journey from the Cold War to the Arab Spring. Highlights include her stint as Fellini’s press officer during the shooting of the film 8 1/2, journalistic adventures in Cuba where she held informal conversations with all the members of government including Fidel, Raul and Che, and five years behind the real Iron Curtain where she started a family. Not only a professional journey but a deeply personal exploration, you will learn some history while Stryker engrosses you in her narrative. Continue reading .

Review: "Olive" by Dinah Maria Craik

Review:

First published in 1850, Olive is a variant on the story of Jane Eyre. The titular character is not an orphan, but she suffers from a physical deformity that acts as a similar social impediment. Olive grows up sheltered, thinking nothing is wrong with her. However when her overprotective nursemaid dies, it is a great shock to her to know that she is not attractive to men and will probably never marry. Even though Olive is determined to support herself and be happy in spite of her hardships, she eventually does find love in a very unlikely person. Continue reading .

Review: "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" by Anne Brontë

Review:

Readers looking for more Brontë after consuming Emily’s and Charlotte’s work often turn to the less famous sister, Anne. One common theme among these readers is surprise that Anne is as good or even better than her sisters. Agnes Grey, Anne’s first novel, is sweet and impeccably constructed. However The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is her stronger novel. While also impeccably written, much of this novel is not sweet. Its strong points lie in the gutsy portrayal of taboo and uncomfortable subjects such as alcoholism and marital strife. Continue reading .

Review: "The Pastor's Wife" by Elizabeth von Arnim

Review:

First published in 1914, The Pastor’s Wife is the story of Ingeborg who grows up being pushed around by her father, the Bishop. In the first moment she is ever alone and left to her own devices, she decides to take a trip to Switzerland. She is alone for only a few hours, however, and then the next overpowering man comes into her life, a German pastor. Through no effort or even desire of her own she somehow becomes his wife and begins yet another journey in pursuit of control of her life. Continue reading .

Review: "Evelina" by Fanny Burney

Review:

Evelina: Or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World was published in 1778. Evelina has been raised raised in rural seclusion until her eighteenth year. She then travels to London learns how to navigate the complex layers of 18th century society and earn the love of a distinguished nobleman. This sentimental novel of manners often satirizes the society in which it is set and is a significant precursor to later works by Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth. Continue reading .

Review: "Middlemarch" by George Eliot

Review:

First published in 1871, the story is set in the 1830s in a fictional English town of Middlemarch. It interweaves the stories of several major and minor characters, focusing centrally on Dorothea Brooke–an idealistic and ardently religious young woman. Many describe Middlemarch as Eliot’s finest work and a masterpiece of Victorian era literature. Continue reading .

Review: "The Doctor's Dilemma" by Hesba Stretton

Review:

First published in 1872, the story is that of Olivia who, as the curtain opens, has been locked in a room, threatened, and is frantic to escape. She sees her chance, and her escape takes her to the smallest of the Channel Islands named Sark. There she and lives peacefully, under an assumed identity, until she has an accident and is in need of a doctor. Dr Martin Dobree comes from the neighboring island to help and is instantly taken with her. Thus unfolds various circumstances that delve into Olivia’s past and what will become of her future. Continue reading .


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