Friday, July 30, 2010

GIVEAWAY: A 75th Birthday Celebration for Penguin

One of the most famous publishing houses, Penguin, turns 75 years old TODAY.  Founder Allen Lane chose ten titles in 1935 and published them in England, complete with the stamp of that cute little black and white bird.  By 1937, they set up shop in Holy Trinity Church Crypt in New York City.  

Make sure you check out their anniversary website which is full of fun photos, cover art, and even a way to follow that orange Mini.

So to help them celebrate (and because I love the cheeky little penguin) I am giving away TWO books.  Since this is a milestone for Penguin, I thought I'd make it a sort of past-meets-present-sister-act.

You can win a copy of WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte and a copy of THE EYRE AFFAIR by Jasper Fforde (based, of course, on characters created by Charlotte Bronte).


All you have to do to enter to win these fantastic literary pieces is:

1) Wish Happy 75th Birthday to Penguin on your Facebook or on Twitter with a link to this post
2) In the comment section for this post, put your name, email and a link to the post you made (see #1).

That's it!  I will announce the winner one week from today, Friday, August 6.  Happy Reading.

Many thanks to Lindsay at Penguin for providing the titles for giveaway.

Monday, July 26, 2010

GIVEAWAY & CONTEST - The Quickening Maze

The fine folks at Penguin (via Viking) sent me an extra copy of this interesting novel (my review is here).  So if you would like to win this fine tome, here is what you do:

In the COMMENT section below:

1)  Tell me about a time you were lost - literally or figuratively - in 100 words or less.

2) Leave your first name and email address in the following format: (at) domain dot com

3) Link to this post (after you've written your comment) either on your Facebook page or via Twitter.

The winner will be announced one week from today -- Monday, August 2, 2010.

Thanks to Meghan Fallon at Viking / Penguin

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I always look forward to starting new books -- ones to review or otherwise.  When I knew this one was on its way, I watched the mail everyday.  It is by a British author.  It's about an asylum ... and poets ... and madness ... and takes place in Victorian England. What more could I want?
The novel is a fictional imagining about real people and places.  Dr. Matthew Allen was a psychiatrist, phrenologist and steampunk inventor who owned and ran the High Beach Private Asylum, situated on the edge of Epping Forest, east of London.  

At the time, the forest was a netherworld between bustling London and country idyll.  The old growth trees were a hiding place for gypsies and become a perfect metaphor for the tricky, surprising line between sanity and madness.
The forest was also an inspiration for nature poet John Clare - inmate at the asylum.  He is joined in the sanitarium by Septimus Tennyson, brother to Alfred who takes a home in the village to be nearby his ailing brother  (Foulds often references Tennysons as yet unwritten tribute to friend Arthur Hallam, one of my favorite poems).
Fould's book wound up short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in late 2009 as a work of "intense and atmospheric imagination."  It is a very addicting read, even if it seems deliberately obtuse at times.  Foulds manages to create distinct voices for each of his characters, ones that leave the reader sympathetic to each delusion.  

The book is written in numerous first-person, inner thoughts from these characters and Allen's family.  As Dr. Allen sinks further into his ill-fated machinations, as  Margaret falls victim to her own imaginings and Hannah attempts to navigate courtship, we wonder if anyone will leave High Beach the better for it. Ironically, we never hear the thoughts of Dr. Stockdale, who, seen though the eyes of others, becomes the villain of the tale.  
Foulds' most impressive feat, however, is not the story-telling.  He truly has a refreshing way with words.  It is not affected or forced.  Descriptions simply drip with tangibility.  However, a word of warning.  This is not a source for historical accuracy.  Anyone looking for or expecting the concrete and clear excitement of something like The Devil In the White City will be quite lost and frustrated.  

Thanks to Meghan Fallon for the review copy

Book: Paperback | 5.23 x 7.87in | 272 pages | ISBN 9780143117797 | 29 Jun 2010 | Penguin | 18 - AND UP

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Considering my obsession with this period in history, and some of its tenants, I cannot believe it took me so long to find this book. I have heard, anecdotally, of the Bright Young People but I knew little about their specifics. Even with this marvelous history as a guide, they are still a fluid, amorphous bunch. Which I suppose was the point.
After WWI, the French turned to surrealism. America turned to jazz. The English, it seems, turned to their aristocracy-turned-high society. The inception of exorbitant inheritance taxes burdened the landed gentry -- their parents. Older siblings returned from the war broken and confused. This lost generation needed an outlet, an escape, and above all to be heard. The result was stunning.

These fabulously wealthy twenty-somethings knew that time was fleeting, and made the most of it. Champagne flowed at parties that lasted until dawn. Scavenger hunts zigzagged the players all across London. And yet there was a deeper sadness that permeated their carousing. A sort of nostalgia in their own time.
Besides, it was not all frivolity. The great writer Evelyn Waugh was a bright young person. So too was the fantastic portrait photographer Cecil Beaton. This frenzied time produced self-assured artists.
This book chronicles the soirees and the stories of those who gave them in sparkling, sepia-toned perfection.

Bright Young People
The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age
D. J. Taylor
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks, January 2010
ISBN: 978-0-374-53211-6, ISBN10: 0-374-53211-7, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 384 pages, 16 Pages of Black-and-White Illustrations/10 Illustrations in Text/Appendix/Notes and References/Index