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Showing posts from July, 2010

Review: Poison, by Sara Poole

Pages: 392Original date of publication: 2010My edition: 2010 (St. Martin’s Press)Why I decided to read: I heard about this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programHow I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, May 2010Set in 1492, Poison is told from the point of view of Francesca Giordano, professional poisoner to the Borgia family (or, more accurately, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope). Cardinal Borgia is a dangerous man, willing to do anything to further his ambitions, and he hires Francesca to help poison the current pope. Meanwhile, Francesca discovers a plot that her father, also a professional poisoner, may have been involved in. I did like the premise, I really did; that’s why I decided to read this book. It has a great, eye-catching opener, too, which kept me reading. But the plot is so convoluted and so “been there, done that,” that I found myself not caring anymore about what happened to any of the characters. I guess my main problem with the novel is that it fell short of…

Review: Chatterton Square, by EH Young

Pages: 378Original date of publication: 1947My edition: 1987 (Virago)Why I decided to read: Looking at the list of Virago Modern Classics, it piqued my interestHow I acquired my copy: Ebay seller, June 2010Set in the months leading up to WWII, Chatterton Square focuses on two people living across the street from each other in Upper Radstowe (based on Bristol). There are the Blacketts: Mr. Blackett, a domineering, selfish bore who stifles his very Victorian wife, and their three daughters, especially Flora and Rhoda, who live under the thumb of their father. Across the street live the Frasers, with no discernable man at the head. Rosamond Fraser is a mostly carefree mother of five children growing to adulthood, who lives with her old childhood friend, Miss Spanner. All of the action is set around the eponymous Chatterton Square, yet it's always referred to as the Square, never by its full name. This is one of those novels that are frequently described as “character driven.” As far …

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MzB of Should Be Reading (though it’s going on tour this upcoming month). Anyone can play along! Just do the following:--Grab your current read--Open to a random page--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that pageBe sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!“In the weeks after Christmas, Elizabeth began to dream of Nathaniel Bonner, so that she grew both anxious before she fell asleep, and reluctant to wake in the morning. While the rising sun touched the frost on her windows and shattered into rainbows, she would lie half conscious in the warm nest of her covers and relive what she had dreamt, blushing and slightly breathless, confused and strangely discontent.”--From Into the Wilderness, by Sara Donati

The Sunday Salon

What a crazy week this has been! My cousin, who’s ten, was in town for most of this past week, and since he’s high energy, it’s taken a lot of energy especially out of my mom, who also had to deal with my 87-year-old grandmother. Plus. my sister was in town for the weekend, so it’s been mostly crazy around here. All of my posts this past week have been scheduled; and I only got around to writing a bunch of outstanding reviews yesterday afternoon. It’s quieter here now that my mom has driven my sister back to New York, and I’ve spent much of today catching up on sleep and, of course, reading. Right now I’m reading one of my Virago Modern Classics: The Rising Tide, by Molly Keane (though it was originally published under her pseudonym MJ Farrell). I’m really loving it; the author really knew how to combine wonderful (sometimes exasperating) characters with a great plot. I’ve been cruising Ebay for more books by Molly Keane, since I’m living her writing style. This is easily one of the b…

Review: Unnatural Death, by Dorothy Sayers

Pages: 264Original date of publication: 1927My edition: 1995 (Harper)Why I decided to read: a character in Nightingale Wood was reading “the latest Dorothy Sayers” and that inspired me to pick up this one.How I acquired my copy: secondhand bookstore, Brooklyn, May 2008I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while, ever since I bought it used in a bookstore near where I used to live in Brooklyn. My interest in Sayers’s novels resurfaced a couple of months ago, and since I’m reading her books in order of publication, this one was up on deck next after Clouds of Witness.One day, Lord Peter and his confederate, Inspector Parker, hear the tale of an elderly woman who died apparently of natural causes—but the young doctor in the case thinks there’s something suspicious in the circumstances under which she died—circumstances in which the old woman’s niece has a lot to gain or loose by her death. When Lord Peter investigates the story, he starts to unravel a tangled web of legal and medical issu…

Review: Dracula, My Love, by Syrie James

Pages:Original date of publication: 2010My edition: 2010 (Avon)Why I decided to read: it was offered on Amazon VineHow I acquired my copy: Vine, May 2010Dracula, My Love is a retelling of the Dracula myth. It’s been a long time since I read the original, and my memory is a little hazy about whether or not this book stays true to its inspiration. But I really enjoyed this novel, covering Mina (Murray) Harker’s experiences from her time at Whitby (where she meets a man named Mr. Wagner, obvious to everyone but her that he’s Dracula), her love affair with Dracula (even though she’s married to Jonathan) up through the time when she must make a difficult decision regarding her personal happiness. I’ve read Syrie James’s other two books (one based on the life of Jane Austen and her inspiration for Sense and Sensibility, the other about Charlotte Bronte), and this one is just as enjoyable. The author’s prose flows very smoothly and the plot moves along quickly. James’s Mina Harker is a belie…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading (though it’s going on tour this upcoming month). Anyone can play along! Just do the following:--Grab your current read--Open to a random page--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that pageBe sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!“Suddenly Tripes lifted his head and growled; then his tail thumped the floor. The door quietly opened and Hugh tiptoed into the room.”--From To Defy a King, by Elizabeth Chadwick

Review: Love's Shadow, by Ada Leverson

Pages: 225Original date of publication: 1908My edition: 2010 (Bloomsbury Group)Why I decided to read: it was offered through LTERHow I acquired my copy: blogger giveaway, May 2010Love’s Shadow is a very short novel about a group of upper-class people living in Edwardian London. There are Bruce and Edith Ottley; Hyacinth Verney, a local debutante; Cecil Reeve, an eligible bachelor; Anne Yeo, Hyacinth’s companion, who imagines herself to be an elderly spinster (although she’s no more than thirty); and others. The biggest problem I had with this novel is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot. The pace picks up at the end of the book, when a misunderstanding threatens Hyacinth and Cecil’s happiness; but the book is more a series of character studies than anything else. However, the characters aren’t very well fleshed out (with the exception of Bruce, who’s a fantastic bore and I can’t really understand why Edith stays with him). The potential for the novel is there, it just doesn’t…

Review: Nightingale Wood, by Stella Gibbons

Pages: 387
Original date of publication: 1938My edition: 2010 (Penguin)Why I decided to read: It’s my “N” title for the A to Z ChallengeHow I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble giftcard, April 2010Viola is newly widowed when she’s invited by her husband’s family to come live with them in Sible Pelden. There’s Mr. Wither, who’s a fantastic bore; Mrs. Wither, who doesn’t quite care for her new daughter-in-law (due to the fact that she’s the daughter of a shop owner); and Tina and Madge, their middle-aged daughters who have never quite grown up and are waiting for something to happen to them. The story follows these characters and others over the course of a year, the highlight being a charity ball at which a local eligible bachelor named Victor Spring will be present.One of the things that Stella Gibbons is famous for was her sense of humor, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Nightingale Wood. Stella Gibbons’s humor is a little more maniacally funny, but the characters and plot of…

Review: Howards End is On the Landing, by Susan Hill

Pages: 234Original date of publication: 2009My edition: 2009 (Profile Books)Why I decided to read: it was recommended to me through Amazon UKHow I acquired my copy: AmazonHowards End is on the Landing is a short collection of essays in which Susan Hill, author of The Woman in Black, went on a search through her house to find a book—and found hundreds that she hadn’t read, and dozens more that she had forgotten she owned but wanted to return to. She then resolved to read more books from her ever-growing collection, making a vow to not buy any more books (more power to her!) There were a couple of caveats: she would still accept books from publishers, for example. The essays in this book aren’t organized in any particular way, so Hill’s discourses tend to be a bit random at times; but her writing style is superb, and she writes well about the books she loves and doesn’t love. Be warned, however, that there’s a fair amount of literary name-dropping (everything from “EM Forster once dropp…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MzB of Should Be Reading (though it’s going on tour this upcoming month). Anyone can play along! Just do the following:--Grab your current read--Open to a random page--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that pageBe sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!“It was through his wife Mr. Herbert got into touch with the village and the village with him. Her beaming kindness smoothed away the resentment sometimes roused by his tart or sarcastic retorts.”--From The Rector’s Daughter, by FM Mayor

Review: Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, by DE Stevenson

Pages: 331Original date of publication:My edition: 2010 (Bloomsbury Group)Why I decided to read: It was offered through LTER; and while I didn't win a copy, it inspired me to track down a copy to read.How I acquired my copy: Amazon.comMrs. Tim of the Regiment is a novel about the adventures of Hester Christie, army wife and mother. The book covers a period of six months, starting with the family’s move to Scotland (and all the headaches that that entails) and culminating with a fortnight in the Highlands, during which time Hester plays fairy godmother to a number of couples. Mrs. Tim was based on the diary that DE Stevenson kept; she was herself an army wife, and when she showed her diary to a friend, the friend suggested that she spruce things up and publish it. Therefore, Hester’s “voice” is very much like what DE Stevenson was like—her wit sparkles, and her characters jump off the page (even the family car has a name and personality!). As Hester says, her sense of humor is “obs…

The Sunday Salon

Another really quiet weekend here. This past week has been quite busy; I spent most of the week tying up loose ends at my old job before moving on to the new. They haven’t hired anyone for the old job, but I spent a part of the week teaching an extern how to do the job. I also passed on another part of my work to someone else. The problem is that I was doing the work of three people in my old job, so finding people to do all of that was the challenge. My parents took me out to dinner on Friday to celebrate, and that was really nice. I’m looking forward to starting my new job tomorrow, though. I received a very nice e-mailed welcome from the out-going person who holds the job and a couple of people in the department, and it seems as though I’m really going to like it. I think in the future I’m going to change things up a bit; instead of going to the gym after work, I think I may go in the morning. I tried doing it that way one time a couple of weeks ago and actually enjoyed it (?!) so …

Friday Finds

Here’s a look at what’s come into my home recently:Amberwell, by DE Stevenson. Having read the two of her books that are in print, I was anxious to read more by her. It’s too bad that most of her books are out of print…Poison, by Sara Poole. An ARC of a novel set in 1492 Rome.The Sixth Surrender, by Hana Samek Norton. Another ARC; the novel is set in the early 13th century. I’m most of the way through it now and the story really runs away with itself in the second half. Every Eye, by Isobel English. My Persephone for July.Some Bloomsbury Group classics: Henrietta’s War, Henrietta Sees it Through, Let’s Kill Uncle, Mrs. Ames, and the Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris/New York omnibus. A bunch of Virago Modern classics have forced themselves into my house over the past month or so:Diana of the Crossways, by George Meredith. The Edwardians, by Vita Sackville-West. The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth Von ArnimThe Gentlewomen, by Laura TaylorThe Land of Spices, Kate O’BrienThe Orchid House, by Phyll…

Review: Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes

Pages: 203Original date of publication: 1939-1945My edition: 2008 (Persephone)Why I decided to read: browsing on the Persephone websiteHow I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, June 2010Good Evening Mrs. Craven is a collection of 21 short stories that Mollie Panter-Downes wrote for The New Yorker during the war years. Although she was English and lived in Surrey for most of her life, her work both as a short story writer and as a journalist has been virtually forgotten in England; and yet she was a prolific writer, writing over 800 pieces for The New Yorker during her career. Mollie Panter-Downes’s stories are vignettes that focus on short moments in the day of average Britons during the war. None of these people is particularly remarkable, but they live in extraordinary times, and how they cope with that is what’s so fascinating about this collection. From country housewives serving on Red Cross committees and housing evacuees, to young working women surviving the London Blitz…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MzB of Should Be Reading (though it’s going on tour this upcoming month). Anyone can play along! Just do the following:--Grab your current read--Open to a random page--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that pageBe sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!I’m reading two books today:“The cloth was substantial yet sensuous, worthy indeed of a royal court, a place she would not likely see, Juliana handed it to Mathea.”-From The Sixth Surrender, by Hana Samek Norton“It was said of the Exchange in Manchester that if you strolled there long enough you would meet everyone you knew. Sophie must have left just too erly, for it was in the street that she encountered Jesmond Farraline.”

Review: The King's General, by Daphne Du Maurier

Pages: 440Original date of publication: 1946My edition: 2009 (Sourcebooks)Why I decided to read: I was interested in the premise of the bookHow I acquired my copy: Borders, February 2010Whenever I read a book by Daphne Du Maurier, I always want to go out and buy all of her books currently in print. Her books generally fall into two categories: suspense (like Rebecca or The Scapegoat); or historical fiction, like (Frenchman’s Creek or The King’s General); or something in between, like The House on the Strand.The King’s General is set during the English Civil War. Honor Harris falls in love with Richard Grenvile, but her planned marriage to him falls short when she has a rising accident. Many years later, Richard is the King’s General in the West, and Honor is making shift at Menabilly, a house built and owned by the Rashleigh family. Daphne Du Maurier brings a piece of Cornish history to life as Richard and Honor’s stormy and often complicated relationship plays out. Honor and Richard’…

The Sunday Salon

For those of you who live in the United States, happy Fourth of July! I have a long weekend off from work, so I’ve been spending this rather humid weekend relaxing—reading, watching TV, etc. My sister has been in town from New York for the weekend, and she goes back tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, I’ve got tomorrow off, and I’ll probably be doing the same things I’ve been doing for the past two days!June was a busy month for me in terms of, well, everything: I was offered and trained for me new job (which I officially start on Monday the 12th). They’re searching for a replacement for my current job, which is no easy task considering there’s a lot to do. But I’m really looking forward to my new job; at first it’s going to be mostly clerical work, but there’s a lot of room for advancement as well. In terms of reading, I read 15 books this month, many of which were hits with me. I discovered Virago Modern Classics, which I’ve really been enjoying, and I’ve acquired a whole bunch of them, so…

Review: The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, by Ellen Bryson

Pages: 331Original date of publication: 2010My edition: 2010 (Henry Holt)Why I decided to read: it was offered on Amazon VineHow I acquired my copy: same, May 2010Set in New York City in 1865, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno is set amongst PT Barnum’s Museum of Human Curiosities. The story is narrated by Bartholomew Fortuno, the Museum’s Thin Man, who notices a strange woman entering the Museum late one night. His curiosity leads to an assignment from Barnum, who asks Bartholomew to shadow the mysterious woman.It’s a good premise, and I enjoyed the setting of the novel: I love reading novels set in historical New York, But the author’s writing style is uneven; sometime’s she’s erudite about the nature of Human Curiosities and their relationship with the rest of the world, but sometimes the writing is clunky (“Abigail something or another,” I said, remember only the poor girl’s first name”). There’s a heavy amount of foreshadowing in this novel, so much so that the author pra…