And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 10+ hours
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And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, which was our book club selection for March, is narrated by Kate Reading and is the first in a series of Lady Emily mystery novels set in Victorian England. Lady Emily is a woman ahead of her time, interested in being free to do as she pleases without the constraints placed on her by society. Her marriage to Philip, the Viscount Ashton, comes quickly as she locks horns with her mother, who like Mrs. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice is eager to marry of her daughter to a man of great fortune.

Following her husbands fatal trip to Africa on safari, Lady Emily finds herself engrossed in his journals, learning more about her husband than she did during their short courtship and marriage. She’s fallen in love with him, as she never expected she would, but what she discovers could render his reputation and hers asunder. She embarks on an unconventional journey to uncover the truth, even if it means her husband is less honorable than she believed.

Alexander’s historical fiction is delightful with its colorful characters, red herrings, and societal constraints. Lady Emily has more wealth than other women would at this time, and her antics are a little less shocking in Victorian society than they otherwise would be, though her mother would disagree with me. The allusions to Mrs. Bennet are strong, but not quite as funny as the Mrs. Bennet in Austen’s novel. Lady Emily’s mother is a bit more grating on the nerves, but probably because she is only seen from Lady Emily’s point of view.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander is engaging, and I’d be interested to see what happens to Lady Emily in the second book and whether she warms up to marriage again later in her life. Living a life of independence, however, is something she’s not likely to let go of without some serious incentive.

Book Club:

Unfortunately, I missed the meeting for this book, as I had not finished it in time and have found myself extraordinarily busy with work, moving, and adjusting to home life changes.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

The daughter of two philosophy professors, Tasha Alexander grew up surrounded by books. She was convinced from an early age that she was born in the wrong century and spent much of her childhood under the dining room table pretending it was a covered wagon. Even there, she was never without a book in hand and loved reading and history more than anything. Alexander studied English Literature and Medieval History at the University of Notre Dame. Writing is a natural offshoot of reading, and my first novel, And Only to Deceive, was published in 2005. She’s the author of the long-running Lady Emily Series as well as the novel Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon (audio)

Source: Hachette
Audiobook, 12 hours
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The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon, narrated by Kate Reading, is rough story with a shining light of hope at its center.  Beautiful girl, who has a developmental disability, meets a deaf African-American man at the School, which is really just an institution for disabled people, in 1968.  Spanning about 40 years, readers are taken on a mysterious journey with beautiful girl, Lynnie, and with Homan as they seek to achieve self-actualization, while still hoping that their dearest wishes will come true.  After a fateful escape from the school and leaving her baby with Martha at a farmhouse nearby, Lynnie is recaptured and returns under the secret tutelage of Kate, who helps her learn to speak again.  As Lynnie grows as an artist and as a young woman, she still harbors the desire to see the man she loved, even though she did not know his name, and her baby again.

Lynnie and Homan are drawn incredibly well and with a compassionate hand by Simon, and the narration by Kate Reading is superb.  Readers will be drawn into their hardships, their hopes, their dreams, and their friendships along the way, and like them, readers will hope for the best possible outcome.  Despite speech difficulties, learning to read, learning sign language, and overcoming harsh disappointments, Lynnie and Homan never become more than human, while they have buried their hopes inside and think about them, they face their disappointments as many of us would.  They despair, they cry, they worry, and they dream.

As a sister of a disabled brother, Simon’s novel hit home in a lot of ways because we knew about these institutions and my parents had decided to keep my brother home and found him area programs that would help him when they could afford them.  The abuse that the disabled suffered in these institutions was nothing short of horrific, and I cannot imagine how my brother would have endured those things.  Lynnie and Homan are discriminated against, made fun of, and more, but its the moments of kindness, compassion, and love that field their journeys.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon, narrated by Kate Reading, is stunning, compassionate, and emotional.  It is a testament to a world in need of healing and greater inclusion and understanding.  I’m only sorry that it took me so long to listen to this phenomenally touching story.

About the Author:

Rachel Simon is an American author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her six books include the 2011 novel The Story of Beautiful Girl, and the 2002 memoir Riding The Bus With My Sister.


About the Narrator:

Kate Reading has been a freelance narrator for over twenty years. She received an Audie Award for Bellwether by Connie Willis; an Audie nomination for The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, recorded with her husband, Michael Kramer; and an Audie nomination for Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell. She has also received numerous Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which has named her Narrator of the Year and, for two years running, Best Voice in Science Fiction and Fantasy for her narration of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. As Jennifer Mendenhall, she has worked as a stage actor in the Washington, D.C.

Mailbox Monday #133

First, Happy 4th of July, everyone! I hope that you are celebrating our nation’s independence and are having fun doing it. Whether you are spending a quiet day at home with loved ones, journeying to see family, or traveling to a fireworks display, it’s good to remember what we fought for and continue to fight for through elections and protests. I also want everyone to take a moment to think about our soldiers who are not home with their families and to wish them well and send our support to them for their sacrifices.

I’m not sure what we’ll be doing this 4th of July, but whatever it is, I’m sure we’ll just be happy to spend time with Wiggles and relax.

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon at the right to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is A Sea of Books.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  Her Sister's Shadow by Katharine Britton for review from Penguin.

2.  Curses and Wishes by Carl Adamshick from the American Academy of Poets.

3.  Flies by Michael Dickman from the American Academy of Poets.

4. Bitter Bitch by Marie Sveland, translated by Katarina E. Tucker from Skyhorse Publishing for review in September.

5. The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock for an August TLC Book Tour.

6. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon on audio from Dawn of She Is Too Fond of Books, read by Kate Reading; Thanks, Dawn.

7. Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg, which I purchased from Borders online with my coupon; thanks to Florinda for a great review.

8. Rescue by Anita Shreve, which I’ve wanted to read since it came out and I also got from Borders.

What did you receive in your mailbox?