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"Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome is the story of a doomed love triangle between a man, his wife and their housekeeper. Given the social conventions of the time, Ethan feels he must stay, trapped in a loveless marriage, rather than pursue his true feelings. Supposedly, the most auto-biographical of all Wharton’s novels, her main character is a man torn between duty and love with disastrous results. He is a truly sympathetic character even though his choices are always wrong. Is this his fault or that of fate? Continue reading .

Review: "Elizabeth and Her German Garden" by Elizabeth von Arnim


One of the beauties of reading well-seasoned literature is that we modern women forget what life was like for women a hundred or more years ago. How easily we forget that having the liberty to choose one’s own activities is a relatively recent phenomenon for women. For Elizabeth, an upper class woman who was not enchanted by cooking and sewing, her passions for such “wasteful” activities as reading books and garden planning could only be fulfilled because of an indulgent husband, but even then, only then with ever-present feelings of guilt. Continue reading .

"The First Sir Percy" by Baroness Orczy

The First Sir Percy could be called The Laughing Cavalier, Part II because it takes up where the previous book leaves off in the highly addictive Scarlet Pimpernel series. The story teeters on the brink of disaster, as again, we wonder just who can we trust, and how in the devil is Diogenes going to get out of this trap, and again, should he? If you have read The Laughing Cavalier, don’t stop there. After all, you’ve already learned the Dutch, you know the characters, so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy The First Sir Percy. Continue reading .

"The Laughing Cavalier" by Baroness Orczy

The first of two prequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Laughing Cavalier is set in Holland in 1623. It tells the story of Percy Blake, a foreign adventurer and ancestor of the Scarlet Pimpernel who goes by the name Diogenes. Unlike The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diogenes has not yet established himself as a man of sterling character or irreproachable moral integrity. Some of the fun of The Laughing Cavalier is that one is uncertain whether he will wind up in jail or on the scaffold, and whether he just might deserve such a fate. Continue reading .

Review: "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott


Today’s reader might find some aspects of the novel moralistic–however Alcott is never preachy. She broaches subjects such as etiquette, feminine behavior, and the roles of the parent, spouse and child in a happy home. These moral teachings can be used by the reader or disregarded, but the completely genuine way Alcott presents her subject matter makes it easy to digest. If you are open to the advice she is giving, Little Women makes for a wonderful self-help book for women and men of all ages. Continue reading .

"Anne of the Island" by LM Montgomery

If the prior two books lacked romance, this one makes up for it. Anne and two college friends share a quaint house in Kingsport, and there is a constant stream of “beaus” coming through the door. One of the friends, Phillippa Gordon, is an excellent addition to the book. She is vain, but knows it, and that somehow makes her utter superficiality less annoying. Even she has her share of romance, happening upon it–as seems the theme of this novel–where she least expects to find it. Continue reading .

"One of Ours" by Willa Cather

A winner of the 1923 Pulitzer Prize, One of Ours tells the story of Claude Wheeler, a young Nebraska man who is struggling to find meaning in his life. The novel is divided thematically into two parts. The first part is set in the Nebraska wheat fields where Claude works on his father’s farm. The second part takes place in France where Claude serves in the American army during WWI. Continue reading .

"Anne of Green Gables" and "Anne of Avonlea"

Perhaps surprising for a book about a young girl, readers of both genders and all ages have posted reviews about how wonderful Anne’s story is, “without violence, sexual situations, or earthy language.” We marvel that we still have the capability of being taken in by such a simple story. Somehow these novels help us tap into a primal instinct for nature and simplicity that reminds us of what life’s really about, and they do it most absorbingly. Continue reading .

Review: "Cecilia" by Fanny Burney


Fanny Burney’s second novel is the story a young and beautiful heiress whose army of suitors is made up of gentlemen, scoundrels, and many others who are not what they seem. Admired by Jane Austen and other contemporaries, it is said that the title for Pride and Prejudice is taken from the last pages of this novel. Continue reading .

"The Secret Adversary" by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie carefully weaves her story with clues that appear to be casually dropped, and which the reader may not take to heart. Her skill at foreshadowing marks her as a master storyteller whose stories endure nearly a century after they were written. Continue reading .

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