"When Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a surprising portal into American history. Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?
Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.
Huguette was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, nearly as rich as Rockefeller in his day, a controversial senator, railroad builder, and founder of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike, to quietly pursuing her own work as an artist, and to guarding the privacy she valued above all else.
The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the Titanic.
Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. We meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts, and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune. Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs, Empty Mansions is an enthralling story of an eccentric of the highest order, a last jewel of the Gilded Age who lived life on her own terms.
The No. 1 New York Times bestseller. Best non-fiction books of the year at Goodreads, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble. One of the New York Times critic Janet Maslin's 10 favorite books of 2013."
I have to confess, I struggled soooo badly with this book. It just didn't do it for me and at the point of writing this post (Saturday evening 8:40pm), I've actually only read 10% of the book #epicfail
I don't know if it is because it's based on real-life (it is, after all, someone's life story - and I'm not really a big fan of 'real-life' stories) or the fact that there is SO much history to plough through, but I just couldn't read more than a few pages at a time.
I'm disappointed because the book has almost four stars on Goodreads, which means I'm among a minority of readers who don't like it; I'd never heard of Huguette Clark before starting to read Empty Mansions and being overwhelmed with info probably wasn't the best way to get to know this 'famous recluse'. Apparently if I'd got further into the book, I would have learnt all about how strange Huguette's life really was but as it is, I didn't and I'm still pretty clueless as to who she is and why her homes sat empty for 60 years, and even what happened to her millions. (anyone wanna give me the brief skinny on her?)
If you've read this book before, or have been reading along as part of this month's Blogger2Blogger Book Club, then head over to Lit Lovers and pick a few questions to answer in your blog post (don't forget to link up with Kelly & Holly on Tuesday) and be honest, whether you loved or hated it - I wanna know if I'm the only one who struggled with this book!
MASSIVE props have to go to our host, Kelly, because without her, and her super generous act of mailing me her unused Kindle (yes, from west coast America to middle England), I wouldn't have been able to read a word of this book - so, because I feel so bad for not finishing this book, I promise here and now to keep reading, for Kelly's sake! #lovethatlady
No, your eyes do not deceive you, I am indeed posting on a Saturday!
I'm actually playing catch up; the beautiful Bon posted her book review on Wednesday, and because I was crazy busy at work this week I'm only now having time to write and post my review of September's book...
I read this book whilst soaking up the sun in Barcelona back in July, and overall I enjoyed it - it was quick and easy to read, making it the perfect poolside book, although I do have a few complaints #standard
Firstly, I have to agree with Bonnie; it really bugged me that the author kept reminding me that Eleanor wasn't 'pretty' and was 'overweight', and Park (in comparison) was so well turned out, to the point of being 'perfect'; I think it would have made more sense for the book to have been written from Eleanor's POV and then I could have got passed the 'perfectness' of Park and the 'unattractiveness' of Eleanor - it'd be her thoughts and feelings, but as it is, it doesn't quite work for me. Secondly, what actually happens?! Eleanor and Park fall in love and then she moves away and they never see one another again - what is that about?!
I sometime wonder if I'm too old now (at almost 30) to be reading YA novels, but then I think, surely a good YA novel should take me back to being 16 again, it should make me remember teenage nerves and the lack of confidence that comes with being unsure of who you are and what you can, and can't, say.
Book Club Discussion Questions:
Did you like the book?
Overall, I would say yes I did, however I suspect that it might have more to do with the location in which I read it; sunning myself by the pool in Barcelona was the perfect place to read this book. I suspect that if I'd read it elsewhere (like a rainy cold day at home or on the bus) then my enjoyment would have been affected significantly.
Did you find their ill fated relationship to be sweet? Believable?
I guess I found it a little unbelievable that someone as 'perfect' as Park would fall for someone as 'imperfect' as Eleanor, but it was nice to imagine that the perfect guy would fall for the imperfect girl (as Bonnie said, don't all 'normal' teenage girls dream of getting an absolutely amazing guy). However, I did find their interactions sweet; it made me smile to think of Park being respectful and trying to calm down his hormones when around Eleanor.
The one interaction between characters that I did find sweet, was when Park's mum realised who Eleanor was and made more of an effort with her, not only because her son liked Eleanor but because she understood more about Eleanor's life than Park ever would.
Did the language bother you?
As I'm always dropping the f-bomb, the language didn't bother me in the slightest. I don't have much contact with today's 16 year olds, but I remember being 16 myself and, although I guess I do swear more now than I did then, I did swear, so I actually find books about teenagers with little or no swearing more unbelievable than those books when every character is 'f-ing and jeff-ing'.
Another busy Friday morning at work means another late High Five for Friday post, but here we go...
1 | I guess the best thing to happy this week was Hubs and I celebrating four blissful years of marriage...
We didn't really get to celebrate last night as we were speaking to a plumber about our dodgy boiler, but we're gonna snuggle up tonight and watch a film :)
2 | Last weekend's DIY went great, with the fireplace looking worse now than it did - that's what's supposed to happen - I don't think we're going to get finished this weekend, but I promise to post photos when we do #scoutshonour
3 | I know it aired on Monday night, but I'm planning to watch the premier of Gotham on my lunch break - I've heard mixed reviews but I do have high hopes for this season, as I mentioned here, so I'm gonna stick with it!
4 | If you haven't had the chance yet to hear/watch/read Emma Watson's truly moving speech at the UN on Sunday, go here now and enjoy - she's an inspiration and, despite being well-overdue, the campaign (#heforshe) is something you should encourage everyone one you know to get behind!
5 | I've officially started the #100happydays project; if you wanna follow along you can follow me on Instagram.
Sorry for the lack of photos in this post, but you know where to go to get your daily dose
of happiness form my life :) Have a great weekend!
Four years ago today I married the love of my life, my partner, my best friend.
My wedding day was the best day of my life and everything was perfect, even if Hubby did give me his right hand during our vows (the registrar had to correct him, because I hadn't noticed either), so much so that I'd love to go back and do the day all over again, exactly as it was, although I'll pass on the three years planning, thanks!
Over the years, many people have told Hubs and me that we're 'like two peas in a pod' and while we usually laugh it off, I truly do believe we were made for one another, we're soul mates, and I can't wait to see where this journey we call life takes us.
Tom, I love the man you were the day we met, I love the man you are today and I love the man you're going to become (the father and the grandfather); I love everything about you. While everything I said last year is still true, I'm not looking back, I'm looking forward, to the next year, to the next decade and to spending the rest of my life with you by my side!
Guess what? There are officially just 100 days left of 2014!
I know, crazy right?!
Anyway, to end the year on a high and celebrate the small things that I take for granted on the daily, I've decided that I'm going to follow the crowd and take part in the #100happydays project, which, if you don't know all about (seriously, where have you been?), you can read about here.
I'll try to do weekly updates here, but if you want a daily dose of happiness, and seriously, why wouldn't you, then just follow me on Instagram#shamelessplug
That most glorious time of year is almost upon us... no, not Christmas, but season premiere time. Autumn Fall TV is about to start again for 2014, so today I'm sharing with you a list of awesome TV shows that you should be watching...
1. Supernatural (obviously)
Now entering its 10th season, Supernatural is about two brothers (Sam and Dean Winchester) and their fight against evil. Being 195 episodes in, I can't tell you what the show is about outside of the brothers' relationship (we'd be here all friggin' day), but I can tell you that catching up will be well worth it (if you do choose to catch up, please, please, please, don't give up after the shitty seasons 6 and 7; it gets soooo much better. Although don't let the thought of 46 bad episodes deter you; they're not bad as individual episodes, it's just the story arch that's poor in these two seasons).
I am, and have always been, a DC girl at heart, so a TV show adaptation about Green Arrow is right up my street. Arrow (which airs on Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW and on Sky1 for my UK friends) started two years ago and has been one of its network's most watched shows (not only is the storyline excellent, but the cast are pretty easy on the eyes too), hence season 3 and a kinda spin off - The Flash...
3. The Flash
The pilot for this brand new show has been leaked online and I have to confess, I've watched it. It's all good though, because I plan to keep watching. The pilot is excellent and, being made by the same people as Arrow, I have high hopes for Barry Allen and his crew! Even better, if you chose to watch The Flash (Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW), you don't have to move from the sofa afterwards as Supernatural airs right after - almost guaranteeing an excellent night of TV every Tuesday! [trailer]
Brand new to Fox this autumn fall (Mondays at 8/7c and on Channel 5 for my UK friends), Gotham tells the story of new recruit to Gotham City Police Department, Detective James Gordon to solve one of Gotham's most high-profile cases ever: the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. It's a must for any batman fan! Watch a trailer here.
A 10-episode drama series, Kingdom takes place in Venice, California, and is set against the backdrop of Mixed Martial Arts. It stars Frank Grillo, Kiele Sanchez, Matt Lauria, Jonathan Tucker, Nick Jonas and Joanna Going. [trailer]
This autumn fall, I will also be watching The Affair (Oct 12th on Showtime) and Constantine (Oct 24th on NBC)
and keeping up with Agents of Shield, The Fosters, Chasing Life and Chicago PD.
What are you looking forward to watching this fall?
Will you be joining me in watching any of these shows?
How the frig is Friday going so quickly? I'm normally written and published by now, but the day is just getting away from me! So this is gonna be as quick as I can; you know the drill by now...
1 | Babysitting went well last weekend; you can read all about it, and see some cute photos, here.
2 | Hubs and I are preparing for a busy weekend. We're restoring a original Georgian fireplace in our bedroom, so on Wednesday night, we bought all the stuff we need #wishusluck
3 | Despite complaining about all the books I have to read, I picked up two new books at the library on Tuesday, including this, which I am so excited to read...
4 | I'm off to see my bestie tonight; she's moving down south #sob but in order to move, she has to get rid of some of her clothes, so guess who gets first pick of her dresses :)
5 | Finally, and probably most sadly (that's totally a phrase), I won the weekly quiz at work this week, with 16 out of 16 - oh yeah, who 's the brainy kid at the front of class, why that'd be me!#boom #ineedtogetoutmore