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Showing posts from June, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to: --Grab your current read --Let the book open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. --You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from… that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! “He had been careful, yet he had also been a fool. He had carried letter, he had raised sums of money, and he had asked no questions, and part of him despised himself for becoming involved with the sordid and temporal business of politics, the absurdities of who had the right to what title.” --From The Maiden , by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Review: The Warrior's Princess, by Barbara Erskine

I usually love timeslip novels like this. A first-century Celtic princess’s life parallels that of a modern-day woman, who escapes to Wales to avoid someone who attacked her in London. Later Jess, the modern-day woman, goes to Rome, partly to escape her attacker (who followed her to Wales), partly to research Eigon’s story. I thought I couldn’t go completely wrong with a premise like this. The premise is good, but the execution of the book falls far short of my expectations I enjoyed the historical part of the novel, but it took me a while (about 300 pages) to get in to Jess’s story in the present day. You really have to suspend your sense of disbelief at this book, peppered as it is with too many coincidences and deus ex machinas to save the day to count. It’s lazy writing, in my opinion. And although Erskine conveys Jess’s sense of panic at being stalked really well, through the first 200 pages or so, I found myself thinking, “OK, I get it now, can we move on to the more interesting

Review: The Rossetti Letter, by Christi Phillips

The Rossetti Letter is a dual time period novel. In the modern day, Claire Donovan is completing her doctoral degree in early modern European history, writing her dissertation on the Spanish Conspiracy of 1618, in which the Spanish ambassador to Venice planned a takeover of the Republic. The plot of the conspiracy was denounced by a courtesan named Alessandra Rossetti, who had lovers in many influential places. Claire travels to Venice, where she finds that someone else, a well-known Cambridge historian, is writing a book on the exact same subject she is. I enjoyed the historical part of this novel much more than the modern-day bits. It’s clear that the author doesn’t know much about modern-day academia. First, it stretches credibility that someone completing her doctorate would not have visited the country in which her dissertation is set. Claire’s dissertation is on the Spanish Conspiracy, yet before the events of the book, she’d never set foot in Venice or Spain to do her research.

Friday Finds

More TBR: The Coral Thief , by Rebecca Stott. All I know about it is that it’s historical fiction; coming out in September. The Counterfeit Guest , by Rose Melikan . Historical mystery set in the late 18th century.

Review: Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict is the sequel to Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. This time the tables are turned—a young 19th century woman named Jane Mansfield wakes up in the body of Courtney Stone, a 21st century woman living in LA. Jane here has more challenges to overcome than Courtney did, as she learns to adopt herself to a totally new life. Along the way, she becomes attracted to Wes, one of Courtney’s friends. She also learns a lot about herself, and she learns that the 21st century isn’t so much different from the 19th, after all. This book was a quick read; I finished it in two sittings. It’s enjoyable for the most part, and funny. There’s good character development, but only insofar as Jane/ Courtney goes; the other characters aren’t as well defined. The ending of the novel was very open-ended, too. There’s not much focus on how or why Jane and Courtney exchanged bodies (yes, Courtney hit her head in a pool and Jane fell off her horse, but that doesn’t quite

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to: --Grab your current read --Let the book open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. --You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from… that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! “This is the kind of thing that makes the English cringe, of course, and we were only just recovering when he added that we were all going to eat some genuine, American brownies, to mark the “debut,” ugh, of a “genuine, American girl.” Quite apart from the toe-curling sentimentality of all this, to most of us in those days “brownies” meant young Girl Guides, just as “Cubs” meant young Boy Scouts, so there was a certain amount of hilarity released by the announcement that we were going to east some, but we listened on as Jeff praised his daughter, Terry, who then seized the microphone for herself, paying tearful tribute to her w

The Sunday Salon: London

It’s a quiet weekend, BUT this week I finally bough tickets for a vacation I’m planning for September. Guess where I’m going? LONDON! I haven’t been back to England in seven years, and it’s definitely time for a return trip. I’ll be there for a week, and I’m staying at the St. Giles hotel on Bedford Avenue, very close to nearly everything (it’s also a stone’s throw from this former bookshop). I’ve got ideas for the things I want to see, but I need some help: if you’ve been to London, what else do you think I should do while I’m there? I wanted to go to the V&A, the British Museum, Hatchard’s Bookshop, Persephone Bookshop, Temple Church, the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub (where Samuel Johnson and Voltaire, Thackeray, and Dickens were patrons), go see a show (Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is playing, as is Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black ), and a few other places. I fell as though I won’t have enough time to get it all in!

Review: Death at the Priory, by James Ruddick

Death at the Priory is the true story of a murder. In 1876, a London lawyer named Charles Bravo was poisoned to death in his suburban home, the Priory. Suspects abounded—the man’s wife, Florence; her ex-lover, Dr. James Gully; the housekeeper, Mrs. Cox; and the groom. But the case was never fully solved. In this book, James Ruddick offers a convincing solution to the mystery. The book is divided into two parts; the first covers the events of the murder and inquest, while in the second the author outlines his theory, narrowing the suspects down one by one. This fewer-than-200-page book began in the late 1990s as a series of research papers, by an investigative journalist. As a result, the book is highly readable, with short, snappy chapters. But because the book is so brief, it really fails to even scratch the surface of what Victorian domestic life was really like. And the author makes a lot of generalizations about the Victorians (“theirs was a heavy drinking age”), without backing i

Friday Finds

Not much has been added to my TBR list recently; I'm trying to get my number down a bit. But here's one: The French Gardener , by Santa Montefiore. I seem to be attracted to books about mysterious houses and gardens...

Review: Wait for What Will Come, by Barbara Michaels

Wait For What Will Come was a quick read, and a novel much in the vein of Mary Stewart. Carla Tregellas, a young American schoolteacher, inherits an old house on the Cornwall coast from a distant cousin. Upon arriving in Cornwall (in the midst of a storm, no less), Carla discovers the legend of a young woman who disappeared, nearly 200 years previously, in the arms of her so-called lover from the sea. In the present day, Carla finds a surplus of handsome, eligible men, including a handsome lawyer, a mild-mannered country doctor, and an artistic, temperamental type. The story itself is a bit campy and over the top, but I love Gothic stories, so I wasn’t bothered by all that too much. There’s something about old houses that really captures the imagination, isn’t there? And the author infuses the novel with enough humor so that the tension of the plot is relieved somewhat. The novel is admittedly a bit dated—references to the feminist movement and 1970s music abound. Still, there were so

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to: --Grab your current read --Let the book open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. --You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from… that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! “Jess glanced over her shoulder at the open door. She was, she realized, already surprisingly reluctant to leave this peaceful place in spite of its uneasy echoes.” --From The Warrior’s Princess , by Barbara Erskine

Review: The Angel's Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Angel’s Game is definitely one of the best book I’ve read this year. It’s a prequel of sorts to Shadow of the Wind, and it’s set in 1920s Barcelona. The plot is hard to describe. David Martin is a young writer, and the author of a number of lurid crime stories written under a pseudonym, when his first “real” novel (published under his own name) bombs. David is approached by a mysterious French publisher named Andreas Corelli to write a book. Later, David finds that the house he lives in was once occupied by another writer, also approached by Corelli for the same purpose. Reading Shadow of the Wind isn’t a prerequisite towards reading this book, but it definitely enhances one’s reading of The Angel’s Game . The tone of this book is a lot darker, and bleaker, than Shadow. But like Shadow , Barcelona comes alive here; from its streets to its parks to its cemeteries, the darker side of a beautiful city comes out. Like the title of one of David’s books, Barcelona really is the City of

Review: The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, by Maya Slater

Well, here we go again. Another “sequel,” or Jane Austen spinoff. The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy is just that—Mr. Darcy’s story as told through his own eyes. The story covers pretty much the same time period as Pride and Prejudice , and is essentially a retelling of the famous novel—with none of Pride and Prejudice ’s wit or humor. She even steals lines directly from Austen! Slater creates nothing truly new with this novel, but at the same time she doesn’t even stick with what we know of the characters from Jane Austen’s novel (it’s often overlooked, but in Austen’s book, Mr. Bingley has about four sisters). It was hard for me to believe, too, that Darcy would be friends with Byron. Nor is there any kind of historical accuracy (in many places in the book, for example, Darcy refers to Caroline Bingley and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst by their first names, where in reality they would have been known as Miss Bingley, Mrs. Hurst, and Hurst). All the characters in this book are one-dimensional, and

The Sunday Salon

It’s been a quiet Sunday; read a little bit, wrote some reviews, watched some TV, and took a nap. I’m currently reading David Liss’s The Devil’s Company , which I received from I believe the May bonus batch in Library Thing Early Reviewer’s program. I've enjoyed Liss's Benjamin Weaver mysteries much better than I enjoyed his stand-alone novel. Other books read this week were: The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy (another LTER offering), and Sacred Hearts , by Sarah Dunant. My opinions of these books are disparate; I gave the Jane Austen spinoff one star, which Sacred Hearts received four. I’ve written reviews of about four books, all of which will be posted at some point this upcoming week or the next. How was your Sunday?

Review: Daughters of the Grail, by Elizabeth Chadwick

Set in France in the early 13th century, Daughters of the Grail (previously published as Children of Destiny) features the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heresy. Bridget, while not a Cathar, is a healer who is wanted for heresy nonetheless. Her story is intertwined with that of Raoul de Montvallant, a Cathar sympathizer. The story continues in the next generation with Magda and Dominic. I’d studied the Cathars in school, but it’s been a while, so I was glad for the opportunity to have my memory refreshed. While I didn’t enjoy Daughters of the Grail as much as I've enjoyed some of Chadwick’s other novels (her earlier books are heavier on the romance than the history), I did enjoy the story, especially in the second half of the book, when Magda and Dominic’s stories took over. There is, however, great character development, and this novel is well-researched, as Chadwick’s books always are. I wasn’t too keen on all the “visions” that the characters kept having, and had a har

Review: Season of Storms, by Susanna Kearsley

From Amazon: Reviewers have likened Susanna Kearsley's mysterious, suspenseful novels to those of Barbara Michaels and Mary Stewart and praised her "original and colorful" characters and "brilliantly managed" plots (The Denver Post). Her newest tale, Season of Storms, evokes the majesty and mystery of the Italian Lake District... In the early 1900s, in an elegant, isolated villa called Il Piacere, the playwright Galeazzo D'Ascanio lived for Celia Sands. She was his muse and his mistress, his most enduring obsession. She was the inspiration for his most stunning, original play. But the night before she was to take the stage in the leading role, she disappeared. Now, in a theatre on the grounds of Il Piacere, Alessandro D'Ascanio is preparing to stage the first performance of his grandfather's masterpiece. A promising young actress who shares Celia Sands's name but not her blood has agreed to star. She is instantly drawn to the mysteries surroundin

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to: --Grab your current read --Let the book open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. --You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from… that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! “The oily bastard. Bedmar had a sudden desire to reach over and snap Silvia’s neck.” --From The Rossetti Letter , by Christi Phillips

Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe

Connie Goodwin is a graduate student recently promoted to candidacy, when she is exhorted by her advisor to find her primary source for her thesis. A summer trip takes Connie to her grandmother’s dilapidated cottage to fix the place up in order to be sold, and she finds a scrap of paper with Deliverance Dane’s name on it. Connie then finds herself searching for Deliverance’s book of physick. The novel is punctuated by little scenes from the seventeenth and eighteenth century, detailing the journey of Deliverance’s book. The good: this book was a real page-turner. Although somewhat predictable, I found myself reading this book way past where I told myself I’d leave off. However, the bad outweighs the good. The author is working on her PhD, and the novel reads like it’s written by someone working on their PhD; Howe tends to pontificate a lot about various aspects of early American life. The plot forces the reader to suspend their sense of disbelief. SPOILER ALERT: I wish that the author

The Sunday Salon

Another quiet weekend here, as usual. I took a trip to the library yesterday and came away with Barbara Michaels’s Wait For What Will Come , Death at the Priory , by James Ruddick (nonfiction about a Victorian murder, much like The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher ), and The Rossetti Letter , by Christi Phillips. I finished the Michaels book pretty quickly, and I’m about 30 pages into the nonfiction book. This week I also read The Winter Mantle and Daughters of the Grail , by Elizabeth Chadwick; Season of Storms , by Susanna Kearsley; and The Chevalier , by Susanna Kearsley. Reviews of some of these are already up, and the reviews of others will be posted later this week, as will a review of Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane . How was your Sunday?

Review: The Chevalier, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

#7: 1689-1718: Covers the Glorious Revolution; the Act of Union; the 1715 Rebellion In 1689, Annunciata Morland goes into exile with James II. Her sons Karellie and Maurice go to Italy, while back at home at Morland Place, her grandson, Matt, is the family patriarch, marrying the cruel and heartless India Neville. It’s a marriage from which nothing good can come. The story covers nearly 30 years, up through the Scottish rebellion in 1715, with James Stuart the “Pretender,” or “Chevalier”—depending on which side you’re on. Finally, the Morland Dynasty series makes it through the 17th century and into the 18th. The 17th century isn’t a particular favorite, and the character of Annunciata Morland isn’t a particularly appealing one, so I’m sort of glad that her story is mostly over. And even when she was in her fifties and sixties, she was still running around like a much younger woman. Matt’s also not really a favorite character, since he allows India to push him around most of the time a

Booking Through Thursday: Stickies (on Friday)

“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.” This is hard. In no order: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith) The Sunne in Splendour (Sharon Kay Penman) Forever Amber (Kathleen Winsor) One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) On the Road (Jack Kerouac) Katherine (Anya Seton) The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath) The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) The World According to Garp (John Irving) Peyton Place (Grace Metalious) A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon) Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier) The Painted Veil (Somerset Maugham) Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) I don’t normally read them much, but short stories that have stayed with me: The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? By Joyce Carol Oates

Friday Finds

Friday finds: The Warroir’s Princess , by B\arbara Erskine. It was recommended to me on Amazon because I generally like timeslip novels. This one is about a Celtic princess from two thousand years ago. The Jewel Book , by Anna Davis. Recent release, set in London in the 1920s, about a career girl by day/flapper by night.

Review: The Winter Mantle, by Elizabeth Chadwick

Set in the years after the Norman Conquest, The Winter Mantle begins with the Waltheof and Judith, one an English captive and the other a Norman and the niece of William of Normandy. They should hate each other, right? They marry for love (or lust), though not all is a bed of roses. The story continues on into the next generation with their daughter, Matilda, and Simon de Senlis, a young Norman knight. Chadwick’s historical fiction is always top-notch. She really knows how to transport her readers back into another time, into the lives of people who jump off the page, even though they’ve been dead for hundreds of years. I love how she makes the reader become emotionally invested in her characters, even though you might not like them—Judith certainly isn’t my favorite of Chadwick’s heroines, but I really got involved in her story. According to Chadwick’s note at the end, it’s been popularly believed that Judith held some responsibility for betraying her husband to William, but the auth

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to: --Grab your current read --Let the book open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. --You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from… that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! “’He promised to come down and light my fires tonight.’ I though that a remarkably racy statement for her to make in the company of strangers, until I looked at her face and realized she wasn’t aware of the English double meaning of the phrase.” --From Season of Storms , by Susanna Kearsley

Review revisited: East of the Sun, by Julia Gregson

In honor of the US publication date of this novel, which is today, I'm reposting this review in the hopes that you'll go out and buy it! This book wass initially recommended to me on Amazon UK because I purchased The Forgotten Garden there as well. Well, one thing turned into another late one night... and all of a sudden I found myself clicking “proceed to checkout.” You know how it is. I'm actually rather glad I made this impulse purchase. Set in 1928 and 1929, East of the Sun is the story of three women who go to India: Rose, a young woman going to get married; her best friend Tor, going to be her bridesmaid and hopeful that she’ll find a husband herself; and Viva, a young woman accompanying them on their voyage in order to reclaim a trunk that once belonged to her parents. Also in her care is Guy Glover, an unstable sixteen-year-old, who’s just been kicked out of boarding school and who quickly becomes a risk to Viva and her charges. Once the women get to India, nothin

Review: Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death, by Laurie Notaro

I was introduced to Laurie Notaro’s books back in 2007, when I inadvertently stumbled across a copy of The Idiot Girls’ Action Adventure Club . Since then, I’ve read each of her collections of essays (except the one about Christmas), and I’ve enjoyed them immensely. That’s why I was thrilled to pick up a copy of her latest. Notaro’s essay collections are laugh-out-loud funny, and Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death joins her sisters' ranks. By far my favorite essay was the one after which this book was named—only the day before, I’d had my very own sort-of Laurie moment behind the wheel of my car (except I didn’t react nearly the same way as she did). I also greatly enjoyed Laurie’s story about taking a cruise. I was a little bit put off by the potty humor in this book, but I guess that’s what she’s known for. Other than that, though, this book had me rolling in my seat with laughter.