July 25, 2013

Beauty, Bookmarks & Branch

Today, I am going to reveal my obsession with all things beautiful in general and Susan Branch’s illustrations in particular, as well as to share with you some photos of my bookmark collection.

What constitutes beauty? Nobody knows. The same thing can be perceived both beautiful and ugly, depending on the beholder. There are certainly lots of people who find beauty in Francis Bacon’s paintings, but I truly dislike them. By contrast, I’m a huge fan of Gainsborough or Monet. Also, even though it is considered stylish and modern, and costs a fortune, I would never ever live in a concrete cube, such as this. But, I would love to live in a charming Georgian mansion house, such as this, even if I would be deemed old-fashioned. Likewise, I prefer pretty dresses to jeans, silk and lace to cotton, roses to daises, nail polish and make up to bare face and nails etc. etc. I am very Anneish in this respect . . .

This is also the reason why it is and has always been very important to me how my books and bookmarks look like. There is nothing more disappointing than a book printed on a rough and stinky paper. I don’t like to touch such books and can’t even fancy reading them. Likewise, I always need some pretty bookmarks to accompany my readings; otherwise, I would feel uncomfortable. Hence, I always looking and searching for stylish bookmarks when I go shopping. Here is a picture of some of the many bookmarks, I have collected over the years.

However, about two years ago, when I used to live in Switzerland, I somehow wasn’t able to find any “decent” bookmarks. So, I went online and searched, and searched, and searched. And, after many hours I came across Susan Branch’s website and blog, and, as it was one of the most beautiful websites I had ever seen, I fell in love with it immediately. If you haven’t heard of her yet, you should go and check out her site (don’t forget to subscribe to Willard, the best newsletter you’ve ever received), because besides being a highly talented illustrator, she IS a kindred spirit.

Susan’s works seem to be inspired by her adoration of Beatrix Potter, but they are nevertheless highly original. She is also an avid fan of Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery, and all things British. And she is, of course, a passionate cook and gardener, and a bookworm. Susan is also the author of several cookbooks and books about housekeeping, all of which she has written and illustrated by hand. Her newest book, A Fine Romance, is about to be published and recounts the events of her visit to England last summer. This book is highly recommended to readers who love the English countryside, would like to read a rather extraordinary travel book, and prefer watercolour illustrations to fancy high-gloss photos.

So, back in 2011, I discovered Susan Branch’s world and have stalked followed her ever since. And, I have happily printed, cut out, and added the bookmarks provided by her for free to my collection. Aren’t they just beautiful?

On June 26, 2013 then, Susan told her followers in a post that she would give away a Beatrix Potter bookmark to someone lucky. This bookmark wasn’t meant to be a bookmark; originally, it was planned to be an illustration for the new book, but Susan was somehow unhappy with it. So, she had used it as a scrap paper, before deciding to cut it up and making bookmarks from the strips. And, guess who was the lucky one who won the Beatrix Potter bookmark? Yeah right, it’s ME! When I got the email from Susan, I just went crazy . . . And, a couple of weeks later, one of the most stylish and beautiful envelopes ever arrived in Hungary, containing a short note by Susan and the bookmark. This is how it looked like:

As you may see, the bookmark is also signed and personalised by her! Can you imagine how excited and happy I was and have been since? And, because I’m so glad, I wanted to thank her publicly. Which is why this post came into being . . . So, thank you indeed, Susan!

PS: In case you are wondering how you could have your own Susan Branch bookmarks, be sure to check out these posts over on her blog: The Wonderful Magical Moon . . . Bella Luna; Hearts and Flowers; Went to a Garden Party . . .; Blessings; Critters, Springtime and YOU!; Here Comes Summer . . .; Minutia (of the best kind); as well as the "free stuff section" of her shop.

July 18, 2013

The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock

The guns of August are rumbling throughout Europe in the summer of 1914, but war has not yet touched Abingdon Pryory. Here, at the grand home of the Greville family, the parties, dances, and romances play on. Alexandra Greville embarks on her debutante season while brother Charles remains hopelessly in love with the beautiful, untitled Lydia Foxe, knowing that his father, the Earl of Stanmore, will never approve of the match. Downstairs the new servant, Ivy, struggles to adjust to the routines of the well-oiled household staff, as the arrival of American cousin Martin Rilke, a Chicago newspaperman, causes a stir. But, ultimately, the Great War will not be denied, as what begins for the high-bred Grevilles as a glorious adventure soon takes its toll—shattering the household's tranquillity, crumbling class barriers, and bringing its myriad horrors home. (Source: Goodreads)

My Thoughts
This book has repeatedly been recommended to Downton Abbey fans; also the front cover of the new edition says: "Before Downton Abbey, there was Abingdon Pryory..." As I am a hardcore Downton Abbey fan and upon reading Laurel Ann's review, I knew I must read this trilogy. And, I ordered all three books without hesitation, because I prefer reading all parts of a series, even if it's very likely that I won't love all parts equally. Anyway, I am currently reading the third instalment; so, I don't have an opinion of the whole series yet. Nevertheless, I wanted to share my thoughts about the first part as soon as possible. Also, I thought that this review would be just perfect for me to return to my neglected blog and to you.

July 01, 2013

Austen in August: A Reading Event Hosted by Adam

Oh my... It's ages since my last post, and I truly wish I had more time to blog and to socialise. I haven't even been on Twitter for God knows how long. Work has been so crazy lately!!! And, I am missing my blogosphere friends. :-(

Despite being so busy with work, I have not neglected reading. So far I have read 10 classics, which is what I aimed at this year, and I've also read 13 other books. That means that I have read 23 books until now, and my goal for this year was to read 30 books at least. So, I'm on schedule...

Originally, I planned to read all major works by Jane Austen in spring, but I got tempted by other books, which is why I still have to (re)read Emma. I'm also participating in the What Would Jane Do?, The Romance, and the 2013 Women challenges, and have some Austenish books on my TBR list. Hence, when I got an invitation to the Austen in August reading event, which is hosted by Adam from Roof Beam Reader, I couldn't say no. So, thanks for the invitation and for hosting the event, Adam. My answer is: YES!

For this event I'm planning to read:

1. Emma by Jane Austen (for the obvious reason)
2. Austenland by Shannon Hale (because many people say it's one of the best reimaginations)
3. Sanditon, The Watsons, and Lady Susan by Jane Austen (if I still have time, after finishing the above two, and because I've never read these)

So, that's that. My sign-up post for the Austen in August reading event. If you'd like to join, just hop over to Adam's blog, read the details and sign-up too!

See you in August, when, hopefully, I will have more time to write reviews and chat!

Review: Rebecca

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier My rating: 3 of 5 stars It isn’t easy to review this book. I have been a lo...