Those Talented Brontës…

What is it about the Brontë sisters?…

Bronte Pillar portrait

In one very small home—a parsonage—at the top of a village in Yorkshire, at the mouth of the windswept moors, there lived a family of immense talent. I would even use the term genius. There is something mystical there, something divine, in the fact that three women could change literature and create powerful works that would question Victorian society’s morals, daily life, and how women were treated. The power and the truth in their works is astounding—and it has resonated throughout time, and throughout my life in particular.

Bronte Parsonage Museum

I read Jane Eyre for the very first time when I was a sophomore in college, enrolled in the course “Women in Literature.” I devoured those pages in Indiana University’s student union, seated on a comfy couch in front of a Gothic-style limestone fireplace that was as tall and as wide as a young woman. I felt the heat of the flames that swallowed up Thornfield Hall; in the marrow of my bones I felt Jane’s desire to be seen as more than poor, plain, little, and obscure. Charlotte Brontë’s work dug into me deeply.

A few years later I read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights on audiobook. While the audiobook did not do the book justice, my reaction after my first reading was—at least initially, before a good analysis–that those characters are terrible people, and they seem to yell at Top-Withens-Haworth.jpgeach other an awful lot. (I recently finished a re-read of the novel and—while I still didn’t like the characters, or enjoy it as much as Jane Eyre—was wowed by the powerful writing, and the story of those doomed characters… it’s a story that haunts me and perplexes me still, which makes me admire it all the more).

In graduate school I was reading several hundred pages of political science literature a week, but after the tragic NIU school shooting in 2008 I wanted to escape—all I wanted to read was fiction. I read Maeve Binchy, Marisa de los Santos, and other contemporary authors before turning to Jane Austen to re-read my favorites. And then I picked up Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey. It was so unlike Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and I absolutely loved it. It was like a Jane Austen novel, yet not; it was realism, yet more than that—it’s clear to me now that Anne Brontë is forever a governess, as her writing seems to teach the reader, and seems to respond to both the complex writing of her sisters’ as well as controversial topics of that time period… This is something I will love to address in future posts… (and Anne’s masterpiece, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall! It’s so often overlooked, and everyone should read it. Seriously).

Fast forward to 2016 when a wonderful novel was released: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. It’s about Samantha Whipple—the last living Brontë dMadwoman Upstairsescendant. She’s attending Oxford and she has some family mysteries to resolve. This novel immerses the reader in Brontëland, learning obscure details about the family and the works of the three sisters.

That was what re-ignited my passion for those three genius sisters.

After reading that novel I wanted to learn more about the Brontës, and so I discovered the ultimate guide: Juliet Barker’s The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors. It was everything I wanted to learn, everything to satisfy this growing interest, and more. Subsequently the BBC made the film To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters. It was incredible to watch a part of the sisters’ lives play out on the screen and it made me love them more—their battles may not have been so different from our own: having a brother (Branwell) battling mental illness and addiction; going up against gender bias and hoping their work would be judged fairly as they shared it with the world; having a love for writing that was so strong, it was irresistible.

Dear readers, that is the history of my Brontë obsession interest and how it has grown over time. And now across social media I’m excited to find an entire Brontë tribe who is just as obsessed enthusiastic about this incredible family! So enlightening and lively are the discussions taking place about their works and their lives (especially regarding Emily Brontë, as it is the 200th anniversary of her birth), the controversies, and the myths, I’d like to contribute my own voice.
bronte books

Over the following months I plan to share my interpretations of the Brontë sisters’ works, discuss their lives and the historical context, and basically celebrate these incredible women. Won’t you join me on this journey?

Which is your favorite Brontë work? Do you have a favorite Brontë sister?… Comment below or on Twitter/Instagram, and let’s start the discussion!

Happy Reading,

Photo credits, respectively:

Book Review: Don’t You Cry

Alright my fellow readers, I’m back with a book review my fingertips have been eager to type (my two year-old who no longer naps has had different plans for my time!).

Don’t You Cry (coming May 17th) is suspense/thriller writer Mary Kubica‘s third novel. With a tight plot, flowing prose, unpredictable twists, and a satisfying conclusion, this is the suspenseful treat for which you’ve been searching. It stayed with me for weeks after I turned the last page!


 From publisher’s website:

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person she thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside of Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dish washer. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under Pearl’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end. (Cover image taken from author’s website)

The first third of the novel feels like a ticking time bomb as the story winds up, the tension builds, and the reader is teased with possible answers to the puzzle—and then the story takes a sudden turn. Everything I thought I’d figured out was completely wrong in such a satisfactory way.

Don’t You Cry is exquisitely written, and Mary’s descriptions are so well done that I sometimes paused after finishing a sentence to let the image settle in. Her characters are drawn vividly and realistically. And of course it offers twists—especially at the end—that I did not see coming.

You will feel aftershocks with this one, my friends; you will think about this novel days after you’ve finished it. This suspense/psychological thriller truly lives up to its genre, and you will love it as much as I did. (I want to write more, but I’m afraid I’ll give something away!)

Now go pre-order your copy!

Book Review: The Forgotten Room

Written by three talented authors of historical fiction (Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White), The Forgotten Room tells the story of three women in fascinating times: the Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties, and 1945. (And check out that cover! Beautiful!)

The Forgotten Room

Olive Van Alen, daughter of a famous architect who took his own life, lives during the Gilded Age just before the turn of the century.  She works as a maid at the very mansion her father designed, hoping to unearth the reason for her father’s suicide.  But when she meets one of the household’s sons, her plans take a different turn.

Lucy Young is living life as an independent woman of the 1920’s, working hard as a secretary at a successful law firm.  But her heart is broken after the loss of her mother, and her mind is preoccupied with the mystery her mother’s last words held.

Kate Schuyler is a young doctor working harder than her male counterpart during WWII at the Gilded Age mansion that’s been converted into a hospital.  When a strikingly handsome and severely wounded corporal arrives the steady ground beneath her seems to shift, calling into question everything she thought she knew.

As the authors take us through these riveting times, we slowly discover the connection among these three women–their loves, their sorrows, and their joys.  So profound is the message that one decision can affect generations to come.  I devoured this novel, the mystery unfolding before me in unpredictable ways, unsure of how it would all come together in the end (I love when that happens, don’t you?).  Such an enjoyable read!

The Forgotten Room is being released January 19th! Pre-order your copy now!

Happy Reading!



(NetGalley provided me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review; cover photo from publisher’s website, Penguin Random House)


Five Favorite Reads of 2015

Dear Readers,

I enjoy this time of year for so many reasons: the magic and miracle that is Christmas, the hope and wonder that a new year brings, the glittering snow (that has finally arrived in the Chicago area!), and the laughter and new memories shared with friends and family.  Also, the end of the year lists and discussion about what was best in 2015.

Since I’m always on the lookout for another great read, I’m always excited to read my fellow bloggers’ “favorite books of the year” lists, so I thought I would share mine! If you’re searching for something to cuddle up with next to the fire when the kids are napping, look no further. 

My five most favorite books (in no particular order) that were released in 2015… 

1. All the Difference by Leah Ferguson (Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction)


In this well-written and page-turning work of women’s fiction, Molly finds herself unexpectedly pregnant.  On New Year’s Eve her boyfriend proposes marriage and what follows is Molly’s life if she says yes, or if she says no, in the style of the movie Sliding DoorsWhich will she choose in the end? The powerful and precise writing, the twists and turns, and your concern for Molly will have you turning the pages as quick as you can. 

My favorite aspect of the novel is how accurately and beautifully Leah describes pregnancy and motherhood—Yes, I said reading about Molly giving birth, and then again as she cares for her infant, yes, that’s exactly what it’s likeThe scenes come to life, the characters are authentic, and the plot is laid-out well, with everything coming together at the end in a realistic and hopeful way.

2. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (Women’s Fiction/Magical Realism)


In her enchanting sequel to Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of the Waverly women as they anticipate the first frost– a restless, unbalanced time for them.  We are immersed in a small North Carolina town, where the Waverly magic is legendary and Claire sells her candies that can alter moods, her sister Sydney yearns for a baby, and Bay’s magical talent is making her teenage years even more difficult.  As change and a mysterious stranger with a secret sweep into town, the Waverly women must brace themselves and hold their family together.

Sarah captures the essence of autumn—you can smell that crisp air and feel the charm of that quaint town— and conveys a story with heart, mystery, and magic in a way only she can.  Even if you haven’t read any of the author’s previous work you will enjoy this one, I promise.

3. The Snow Globe by Judith Kinghorn (Historical Fiction)


In this engrossing Downton Abbey-esque novel we meet the likable Daisy Forbes living a privileged life on a luxurious country estate in post-WWI England.  It’s Christmas 1926 when Daisy stumbles on the truth about the father she so admires—he has a mistress.  As Daisy attempts to grapple with how this affects her family she is also navigating her way through the Roaring Twenties, searching for a place to belong in the world and moving to London in hopes of finding it.

The chapters alternate between Daisy and her mother Mabel, and I enjoyed gaining the perspective of someone of the older generation who is in her situation.  This charming novel was the perfect read as I await the return of Downton Abbey—it has romance, strong female characters, and likeable supporting characters who do their job well.

4. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert (Women’s Fiction)


First of all, what a cover! I was craving everything coconut after reading this novel.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is sprinkled with elements of my most favorite works of fiction (Pride & Prejudice) and movies (You’ve Got Mail), plus mouth-watering descriptions of food, and it takes place in a fun Midwestern city (Milwaukee)… What’s not to like?

Talented chef Lou finds herself heartbroken and, coincidentally, that’s also the night her restaurant is reviewed by the anonymous (and grumpy, and new-to-Milwaukee Brit) food critic, Al.  He writes a scathing review, and on the day the story runs they happen to be at the same pub and end up chatting.  Lou discusses how great the city is and Al, disbelieving, challenges her to prove it.  Their relationship grows from there as they eat their way through the city, and his career takes off while hers plummets.  Will they fall for each other? Will Lou go back to her ex? Can Lou forgive Al if he reveals his true identity? A lovely read! (And keep and eye out for Amy’s next novel in July 2016, Luck, Love & Lemon Pie)

5. Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica (Psychological Thriller/Suspense)

Pretty Baby

Just like with Mary’s debut novel, The Good Girl, I could not put Pretty Baby down.  In this psychological thriller, the main character Holly notices a teenage girl holding a baby one rainy afternoon as they stand waiting for a train.  Should Holly, a caring woman who has spent her life helping those in need, confront this stranger and attempt to help her? She invites Willow and her baby into her home and the story unfolds from there, told in chapters alternating among Heidi, Heidi’s husband, and Willow.

It is a fascinating read—elegantly written, suspenseful, with great twists, secrets, and a satisfying ending that will have you questioning everything you just read. (And keep an eye out for Mary’s next novel in May 2016, Don’t You Cry)

What were some of your favorite reads of 2015? Comment below!

Happy reading, and happy new year!



P.S. My next post, in January, will be about books coming out in 2016—some I’ve already read, others I must wait for! Looks like it will be another great year of reading!

P.P.S. Check out my Goodreads page for all the books I read in 2015.

(**all photos above courtesy of authors’ websites; links provided in titles**)

Book Review: A Window Opens

Dear fellow readers—

I think summer carried me away, distracting me with sun and fun and lots of writing and reading—but apparently not much book blogging! But I’ve returned, and I’ve got some wonderful recommendations which I’ll be (finally) sharing with you over the coming weeks and months.  The first: A Window Opens, by Elisabeth Egan.

Synopsis from publisher’s website:

In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.

Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

A Window Opens touches on dilemmas that many women are facing—whether or not to work outside the home, juggling house and work, caring for parents while still caring for young children—presented through the likable and complicated protagonist of Alice Pearse.  Her issues and her struggles are as authentic and relatable as the character herself—yes she’s smart and successful, but she’s also complex, imperfect, and has her quirks, just like you and me.

I also enjoyed reading about Scroll, the trendy Apple/Amazon-like company she finds herself working for.  Among her co-workers (who add great tension to the story) are the down-to-earth and scruffy office mate, the holier-than-thou and shallow CEO who is so consumed with the “big picture” and his own great ideas that he misses the practical problems and valuable employees right in front of him, and the boss who is conflicted between acting as a friend or acting as a superior– all of whom I believe we’ve all encountered at some point in our lives.

This novel has much to offer, and is a satisfying and moving read— I found myself gritting my teeth in frustration, moved to tears, and smiling at some of Alice’s experiences as I thought, “yup, I’ve been there!”  In a touching yet realistic end, the story tied together very well.

I highly recommend this book, and believe it would give book clubs some great discussion topics.

Happy reading!


(Netgalley provided me with an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.)