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Showing posts from June, 2011

Review: The Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Pages: 354
Original date of publication: 1931
My edition: 2006 (Harper Torch)
Why I decided to read: I’m trying to read all of the Lord Peter mysteries in order of publication date

I enjoy Dorothy Sayers’s mysteries, I really do; but with the last couple that I’ve read, I just haven’t liked them quite as much as, say, Murder Must Advertise or The Nine Tailors (her two best, in my opinion, so reading them first was kind of like eating desert before dimmer).

The Five Red Herrings takes place in an artists’ community of Scotland, where Lord Peter is conveniently at hand to investigate the murder of an unpopular (of course) artist. All of the suspects in the case are artists; the key to this mystery is discovering who, since the culprit leads the detectives on the case on a wild goose chase half the time. I have to admit that I kind of got bored about halfway through; the mystery deals endlessly with timetables. Usually, I’m all about the small details that make up a really good murder; but th…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. 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!“The wind in the wires is like the tearing of soft silk under the blended drone of engine and propeller. Time and distance together slip smoothly pas the tips of my wings without sound, without return, as I peer downward over the night-shadowed hollows of the Rift Valley and wonder if Woody, the lost pilot, could be there, a small human pinpoint of hope and of hopelessness listening to the low, unconcerned song of the Avian—flying elsewhere.”--From West With the Night, by Beryl Markham

Review: Flush: A Biography, by Virginia Woolf

Pages: 118
Original date of publication: 1933
My edition: 2005 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: Persephone catalogue
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, March 2011

I have no idea how to categorize Flush: a Biography. Flush is a “biography” of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s devoted spaniel, which is fictional and imaginative, so it’s basically a cross-genre book. The novella covers Flush’s long lifespan and highlights major event in his life, starting with his arrival at the Wimpole Street house in 1842. We also get to see Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life through Flush’s eyes, from her courtship with Robert Browning to their elopement to Italy and beyond.

I expected this novella (for it’s not really a biography in the traditional sense) to be more in the style of Virginia Woolf’s other novels, so I was a little bit apprehensive about Flush. But I was pleasantly surprised. Flush is an easy, enjoyable read, mostly because of the subject matter, but also because it’s an extremel…

The Sunday Salon

It recently occurred to me that I haven’t written one of these Sunday Salon posts in a while! I thought, therefore, that it might be a good idea to organize my reading and do some sort of mid-year roundup. So far this year, I’ve read much less than I did last year or in 2009; right now I’ve finished reading 52 books, with Deanna Raybourn’s The Dark Enquiry currently in progress (a nice bit of escapist summer reading). This year I’ve been reading more nonfiction; 11 books this year.I’m still going strong with reading Virago Modern Classics and Persephones; 26 and 7 books, respectively. I’ve had the good luck of enjoying most of the books I’ve read this year; the best read so far is F Tennyson Jesse’s A Pin to See the Peepshow, sadly out of print but a really interesting fictional take on a famous 1920s murder trial. F Tennyson Jesse was a crime journalist, and this novel reads like sensationalist fiction sometimes, but I absolutely loved it. Review TC. Other good reads for the first ha…

Review: The Virago Book of Women Travellers, ed. by Mary Morris

Pages: 438
Original date of publication: 1993
My edition: 1999 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: heard about it through LibraryThing
How I acquired my copy: Awesomebooks, February 2011

The Virago Book of Women Travellers is a collection of excerpts of writing from women traveler, from the seventeenth century through the twentieth. Many, many authors are represented here, from Flora Tristan (who I learned was the grandmother of Paul Gaugin) to Isabella Bird to Beryl Markham, and includes a number of authors who I knew through their fiction but wrote about their travels as well: Vita Sackville-West or Edith Wharton, for example, or Kate O’Brien, who had a lifelong love for Spain that you see in her novels, but experience her love for the country firsthand through her travel writing.

These women represent a number of nationalities, traveled pretty much everywhere, and experienced pretty much everything. Especially prior to the twentieth century, women (particularly single women) used travel as a…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. 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 page
Be 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!

“Surely marriage, love, whatever you liked to call it, was the greatest experience of life? How could it leave Marian as calm, cool, and amused as before?”

--From A Pin to See the Peepshow, by F Tennyson Jesse

Review: Troy Chimneys, by Margaret Kennedy

Pages: 245
Original date of publication: 1952
My edition: 1985 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: LT recommendation
How I acquired my copy: the Philadelphia Book Trader, October 2010

Margaret Kennedy’s 1953 novel tells the history of Miles Lufton, a self-made MP from a large family and the owner of Troy Chimneys, an estate in Wiltshire. Although the house’s name is the title of the novel, the focus is on Miles and his rise to prominence in the early 19th century. The book follows Miles’s political career less than it does his personal life, told in a series of letters and “memoir” entries, paired with letters from Miles’s Victorian descendants, who are rather horrified at his behavior.

Margaret Kennedy’s novel has a very Jane Austen feeling to it, since she focuses mostly on what goes on the drawing room, so to speak; there’s this lovely, idyllic, and pastoral quality to Troy Chimneys that you just don’t find in the world of politics that Miles moves in. Miles buys the house as a means of secu…

Review: The Three Miss Kings, by Ada Cambridge

Pages: 314
Original date of publication:1891
My edition: 1987 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: LibraryThing recommendation
How I acquired my copy: Awesomebooks, February 2011

The Three Miss Kings of the title are Elizabeth, Patty and Eleanor, three young women from provincial Victoria, Australia. After their parents die, the three sisters move to Melbourne, chaperoned by one of society’s matrons, who, having no children of her own, adopts the girls as her own. While in Melbourne, the sisters become acquainted with Paul Brion, a newspaperman towards whom Patty instantly develops antagonism. The novel follows the girls through a year in their lives as they deal with the ins and outs of Melbourne society—developing, as they do so, romantic interests.

It’s a novel based on the classic Victorian sensationalist format; these books invariably have a case of hidden identity, a thorny legal problem, and a “will they or won’t they get together?” romantic storyline. This novel has all three of them, in…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. 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 kept thinking of her all the time. There was nothing else, only her face in front of me as I walked.”--From Don’t Look Now: Stories by Daphne Du Maurier (“Kiss Me Again, Stranger”)

Review: The Perfect Summer, by Juliet Nicolson

Pages: 290
Original date of publication: 2006
My edition: 2006 (Grove Press)
Why I decided to read: Amazon recommendation
How I acquired my copy: borders, July 2010

The Perfect Summer chronicles the summer of 1911—one of the hottest summers of the 20th century in England. The coronation of George V took place in June 1911, and the summer was characterized by multiple strikes. It was one of the last few summers before WWI, one of the last summers of the Edwardian period, and a summer in which everything seemed idyllic.

The book is arranged chronologically, from May to September 1911, and tells the story from the point of view of many different people—from queens to choirboys. Because of this method of organizing the book, it sometimes seems a little disorganized; there’s no central theme to any of the chapters (which are divided into the months of summer) and as a result they seem a bit unfocused. The book covers a lot of ground, too, from political events to social goings-on and beyond. I d…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. 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 page
Be 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’s such a recreation to be disobedient sometimes, isn’t it?’ Tim was saying, as if they were both being disobedient together, and he was taking some of the responsibility off her shoulders. Barty laughed.”

--From Saraband, by Eliot Bliss

Booking Through Thursday

Do you read book reviews? Whose do you trust? Do they affect your reading habits? Your buying habits?

I frequently read book reviews—often if I’m reading something, I’ll stop and read reviews on Amazon or LibraryThing to see how other people feel about the book. I do read reviews of books before I read them, but not quite as often—I’m trying to limit my TBR list for the moment. I don’t go and buy the book right away, but I’ll let it stew on my TBR list for a while on LibraryThing before I take the plunge.

What I’ve found with reviews is that often it’s the three-star reviews that are the best—they talk about both the good and bad aspects of a book, instead of simply raving about it or having an ax to grind about it. I also pay close attention to reviews if the book I’m looking at isn’t quite so well-known or widely read.

Review: The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer

Pages: 748
Original date of publication: 2010
My edition: 2011 (Vintage)
Why I decided to read: found this one while browsing in a bookstore
How I acquired my copy: 30th St. station bookstore, Philadelphia, May 2011

I totally picked this book up on a whim as I was waiting for a train in 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. I had about three other books in my suitcase (for an overnight trip!), but this was one of those books that sits on display right at the front of the store. And since I was in the mood for a big, long saga, this one seemed like it would be right up my alley.

There are two distinctive parts to this novel. The first part begins in 1937 when Andras Levi, a young, gauche Hungarian-Jewish man, comes to Paris to study architecture. He meets and falls in love with Klara, a woman nine years his senior. So far, so good. But with war on the horizon, things don’t remain calm for long, and Andras and Klara are forced to move back to Hungary. This novel covers a lot of ground, literal…