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Showing posts from December, 2009

Review: Bride of Pendorric, by Victoria Holt

Favel Farrington, the daughter of an artist, is literally swept off her feet by Roc Pendorric, who takes her to his family’s ancient estate in Cornwall. The family are all eager to welcome her—but there’s something sinister going on at Pendorric. For many years ago, a Bride of Pendorric died tragically at a young age, as did Roc’s mother, Barbarina. Local legend has it that Barbarina’s ghost is waiting for another Bride to come and take her place—in death. Bride of Pendorric is obviously a twist on the Rebecca story—except instead of the dead former wife, it’s a dead former mother-in-law that’s the ghost! Victoria Holt’s novels are characterized by a wonderful sense of foreboding, starting with the very first page, and I’m glad to say that it’s not lacking here. Holt’s descriptions of Cornwall, characterized by its eerie fogs and local superstition, makes me want to visit Cornwall myself (after all, there’s got to be a reason why do many authors of novels in this the Gothic suspense

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! “Clearly these are the rules that are not to be unmade, and I imagine with good reason. The very air in here could probably explode without a moment’s notice.” --From The Book of Fires , by Jane Borodale

Review: Prima Donna, by Megan Chance

This novel opens with a murder. In its aftermath, feted soprano Sabine Conrad flees her life in New York in the late 1870s to start a new one in Seattle, as Marguerite Olson, a few years later. She takes a job at a boxhouse, first as a cleaner and later as the theater’s joint manager. Her partner, Johnny, dreams of turning the boxhouse into a real theatre, but Marguerite always fears that her past life and actions will come back to haunt her—as indeed it does. The novel is told through diary entries made by Sabine, and also later, when she is Marguerite. Right from the very first sentence of this novel, I was hooked on this book. I’ve read three of Megan Chances novels, and they’ve all been enjoyable, fast-paced reads. Prima Donna , like The Spiritualist and An Inconvenient Wife , is well-researched, and draws you in to the Victorian era like few other novels can. It’s an extremely absorbing novel that I never really wanted to put down. Her previous books have a bit more suspense to t

Review: The Plantagenets: A Pride of Kings, by Juliet Dymoke

A Pride of Kings is the first in a series of six books featuring the Plantagenet kings and queens. As the back of this book says, this is ”a series of historical novels which tell the story of the Plantagenet monarchs through the eyes of the men and women who served them, loved them, or betrayed them, and in so doing, helped shape the events of English history.” This book focuses on the story of William Marshal, the man who served Henry II and his sons, in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The novel is a short one, but it follows William Marshal from 1168 up nearly until his death, jumping a lot in time (for example, one minute William’s marrying Isabel; the next minute their daughter—and third child—is being born). Comparisons will inevitably be drawn between this book and Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Greatest Knight ; and by extension, Sharon Kay Penman’s novels on Henry II and his family. Chadwick’s book is much more meatier than A Pride of Kings, but this novel is enjoyable non

The Sunday Salon

I’m back! I had a great holiday. I didn’t receive all that many books, but I did receive a year-long subscription to Persephone (where they send you one book a month), a one-cup coffee maker, several giftcards (one of which I’ve already used up, to buy the full-volume version of Kristin Lavransdatter and Pauline Gedge’s The Eagle and the Raven ). Sigh. I have no self-control! I also got a Snuggie from my sister; and since it’s beige in color, it rather makes me looks a bit like a Poor Claire! But it’s very warm and comfortable, and I’m wearing it right now. I know it’s the last Sunday in December, but I’m saving my yearly wrap-up for next Sunday. I know, though, that I don’t have much reading left to do (I’m probably only going to get around to reading one more book before the end of the year). Read this past week, however, were Prima Donna , by Megan Chance (review will be up on Tuesday); Nanny Returns , by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus; and I’ve spent yesterday and much of today r

Going on hiatus for a few days...

...I'll be busy with work and such today and tomorrow, and then I just want to enjoy the holiday over the weekend. I definitely plan on doing a bit of reading during my "time off." I may post something on Sunday, and reviews will definitely be up on Monday and Tuesday. In the meantime, happy holidays! --Katherine

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! “Johnny was impatient and short waiting for Blakely Davis’s decision about investing. I was not.” --From Prima Donna , by Megan Chance

Review: The White Horse King, by Benjamin Merkle

The White Horse King is the true story of Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, who lived in the late ninth century. He defended his country against Viking invaders, introduced a mini literary renaissance, and revamped the legal system of Wessex. I’ll be honest and say I was disappointed, a bit. While the author does a great job of describing the Viking raids, and of describing the battle scenes that the Angle-Saxons fought against them, he skimps a little bit on the actual “biography” part of the book. I got a great picture of life in Saxon England as a whole, but I got a very small picture of Alfred himself and what he was like. Plus, his grasp of medieval Christianity and the effect it had on people’s lives, seemed to be a bit weak. As a historical source, it’s a good introduction to the period, but on the other hand, I would have preferred a book that was less simplistic. I also found the sidenotes to be off-putting, taking up nearly half a pages (thankfully, they disappear partway th

Sunday Salon

Goodness, what a week it’s been! Yesterday, of course, we were snowed in, with about two feet of snow here yesterday. Somehow, today, I got roped in to shoveling snow, so that’s where I’ve been all morning. My first question wasn’t: so how am I going to get out of the garage in order to get to work? More: how is the mail delivery guy going to get up the driveway in order to deliver packages? LOL. It’s hard to believe the holdays are upon us! I’m not nearly done with my Christmas shopping yet. I’ve done a bit of it online, as I hate brick-and-mortar shopping around this time of year. In terms of reading, here’s what I’ve completed: An advance copy of Sadie Jones’s forthcoming novel, Small Wars. Good, but maybe not 100% my style. Saplings , by Noel Streatfeild. A coming-of-age novel set during WWII. Little Bird of Heaven , by Joyce Carol Oates. Stunning, and wuite possibly one of the best books I’ve read all year. I really don’t know how Joyce Carol Oates keeps turning out excellent fic

Friday Finds

Oh, why can’t I stop adding books to my TBR list? Savage Lands , by Clare Clark. Set in 1704, featuring fledgling America. Coming out in February and acquired through Vine. The Dead Travel Fast , by Deanna Raybourn. Actually, since I read her blog, I’ve known about this book for a while, as Raybourn wrote and edited it, but it just came back on my radar recently. My Fair Lazy , by Jen Lacaster. Another book that looks to be promising, from one of my favorite humor writers. The House of Lost Souls , by FG Cottam. A novel of suspense and horror, featuring haunted houses and the like. What’s on your TBR list?

Review: The Emperor, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

#11: Covers 1795-1802; rise of Napoleon Napoleon is on the rise, yes, but the Emperor in this case could easily be the Emperor butterfly which briefly makes an appearance. Jemima Morland’s children are all grown up, and making their own decisions—and mistakes. Both Lucy and James carry on affairs and create scandals, and Mary joins her husband on board his ship, where she gives birth during the battle of the Nile. The more I read this series, the more character development I find is occurring. Jemima’s not one of my favorite Morland heroines, and her children makes some questionable judgment sometimes, but the characters in this part of the series feel a lot more fleshed out and real to me, more believable, probably because of their flaws. After all, everybody makes mistakes, and everybody (I would hope) learns from those mistakes. In the previous installment of the series, I believe I mentioned how sometimes in the Morland Dynasty series a character will come in and declaim about the

The 2010 Chunkster Challenge

I’ve joined another challenge for 2010! The Chunkster Challenge , running from February 1st 2010 to January 31st 2011. Because there are so many chunksters on my TBR list that I’ve been meaning to get to for ages, I’ve decided to do the Mor-book-ly obese level, six or more tomes. Here’s my list: 1. Penmarric, by Susan Howatch 2. A Hollow Crown , by Helen Hollick 3. The Eagle and the Raven, by Pauline Gedge 4. The Mitfords , by Charlotte Mosley 5. Lark Rise to Candleford, by Flora Thompson 6. No Angel, by Penny Vincenzi 7. Within the Fetterlock, by Brian Wainwright 8. The Physician, by Noah Gordon 9. Harold the King, by Helen Hollick 10. City of Light, by Lauren Belfer 11. Lords of the White Castle, by Elizabeth Chadwick 12. The Falcons of Montabard, by Elizabeth Chadwick 13. Shadows and Strongholds, by Elizabeth Chadwick 14. The Lady Tree , by Christie Dickason 15. The Botticelli Secret, by Marina Fiorato 16. The Lute Player , by Norah Lofts 17. Vainglory, by Geraldine McCaughrean 18.

Review: The Overnight Socialite, by Bridie Clark

Lucy Jo Ellis is an aspiring designer who moves to New York to work in the sweatshops of the Fashion District in order to get her foot in the door. After the city nearly chews her up and spits her out, Lucy meets Wyatt Hayes IV, who has a bet going with his best friend that he can turn the average girl on the street into one of New York’s most sought-after socialites. OK, so the author borrows directly from My Fair Lady for the plot of her book. But it’s really an enjoyable story. So there definitely is some predictability here. But Lucy Jo is a character with a lot of heart, and passion for what she loves best. Nearly all of these characters are a lot more three-dimensional than those in Clark previous novel, Because She Can . There are characters in the book, especially Wyatt and his best friend, who are undeniably flawed, but that makes them all the more real. Wyatt’s ex girlfriend is a bit of a caricature, but other than that, I enjoyed reading about these people. Nonetheless, the

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! “Throughout lunch the talk went on as it had in the taxi. Kim, full of bounce and excitement, and she trying to draw Tony into the conversation and only getting monosyllabic replies.” --From Saplings , by Noel Streatfeild On a side note, I keep seeing posts pop up around the blogosphere about the Persephone Secret Santa thing that bloggers have been doing(gift givers and giftees were recently announced)! If only I’d known about it! Oh, well. Maybe next year. :).

Cover Deja-Vu #17

The first cover is that of Mariana , by Susanna Kearsley; the other, the CreateSpace edition of Jane Austen's Persuasion .

The Sunday Salon

Another quiet weekend here. I did do some Christmas shopping this weekend-albeit online. I’ve also been re-watching Upstairs, Downstairs, starting from the beginning—an excellent show that’s well worth the watch. In terms of reading, this past week has been average; I finished Bride of Pendorric , by Victorian Holt, and Tulip Fever , by Deborah Moggach. Currently, I’m reading an ARC of Small Wars , by Sadie Jones—set in Cyprus in the 1950s (the book's been out in the UK for a while, but is coming out here on January 19th). I haven’t read her first novel, The Outcast , but I’m enjoying this one very much. I went to the library yesterday and only picked up two books: Little Bird of Heaven , by Joyce Carol Oates, and The Devil’s Door , the second Catherine Levendeur mystery (I enjoyed the first here ). How was your weekend?

Weekly Geeks

Lots of questions on this week's post -- feel free to answer any or all! Do you have a book wish list for the holidays? (Or is that one of those 'duh' questions?) If so, what's on it? Are you very specific when someone asks what you want for a gift? Or do you throw caution to the wind and say, "Oh any book you choose...." Or do you prefer a bookstore gift card? Do you buy books for people on your gift list? Do you choose books for them that you like and try to influence their reading (or hope they'll loan it to you when they're done)? Or do you get specific titles from your giftee? Where do you buy your book gifts? Do you shop at local independent bookstores, or the "big box" stores? or do you shop online? I have an eternal “TBR” list going on at LibraryThing, so really any book on that list that I don’t already own is a welcome gift! I’ve suggested as a gift from my mom a Persephone subscription for Christmas (where they send you one book

Review: The Victorian Chaise-Lounge, by Marghanita Laski

This short (99 pages) novella is a horror story of sorts. Melanie Langdon is a happily married woman who is recuperating from tuberculosis and the birth of her child, sometime in the 1950s (when the book was published). On her first day out of her sickroom, Melanie lays upon an old Victorian chaise-lounge, and finds herself transported back in time, into the body of Milly, a single woman living in 1864. Such a short novel and so complicated to explain. It’s a horror story, but completely unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s also a time slip novel, but again, unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Melanie/Milly is incredibly preoccupied with the idea of death, for one thing; I know of no other time travel book in which a character actually imagines her alter-ego in the past as rotting and decaying. It’s pretty creepy, to say the least. It’s a novel which is incredible preoccupied with the idea of being “saved,” in a religious sense, and about identity—it turns out that Melanie an

Friday Finds

Some more TBR: The Heaven Tree Trilogy , by Edith Pargeter. I’m always on the lookout for good medieval historical fiction, and this seems to fit the bill. Gildenford , by Valerie Anand. Same as above; it’s a rare find, but I found a copy for under $10 on Amazon. Becoming Jane Eyre , by Sheila Kohler. Novel coming out at the end of the month about Charlotte Bronte. The Book of Fires, by Jane Borodale. Recently requested an ARC of this novel set in early 18th century England. A Hollow Crown , by Helen Hollick. Novel set in 11th century England. The product description on Amazon says that it’s about 500 pages; but my copy runs to over 800… Flush , by Virginia Woolf. A “biography” of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, published by Persephone books. Small Wars , by Sadie Jones. I’m reading an ARC of this novel right now; it’s set in 1950s Cyprus.

Review: Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath, by Sigrid Undset

The Wreath is the first book in a trilogy focusing on the life of Kristin Lavransdatter, a fictional woman living in early 14th century Norway. The trilogy covers her life from early childhood until death; and in one volume, is about 1000 pages (I’m reading the trilogy in the individual volumes published by Penguin classics, so that all of this doesn’t become too overwhelming). The Wreath covers Kristin’s childhood and teenage years, as she falls in love, and has an illicit relationship, with Erlend Nikulausson, an older man with a shadowy past. The three volumes of Kristin Lavransdatter ( The Wreath , The Wife , and The Cross ) were originally published in the early 1920s. Apparently, Sigrid Undset’s writing was largely informed by her Catholic religious beliefs, and I do believe that this is very much in evidence in The Wreath—starting with Kristin’s trip to the church at Hamar and the author’s descriptions of the church, the influence of religion is very strong in our heroine’s li

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! “Roc came home at once, his business uncompleted, and when I saw him I realized again the depth of his affection for his sister. He was stunned by what had happened, and seemed to have forgotten all about our strained friendship.” --From Bride of Pendorric , by Victoria Holt

Review: Silk, by Alessandro Baricco

Silk is a short novel—so short that I finished reading it within the space of an hour two. It’s the story of Herve Joncour, a French merchant of silkworm eggs, who travels to Japan. While there, his attention is caught by a young woman, with whom he has an affair. As I’ve said, this is a pretty short novella—my edition is only about 90 pages, most of which is white space. There are lots of short chapters in this book, lots of short sentences, ideas half realized. The love affair between Herve and the young woman in Japan is so muted and mysterious that it’s nearly indiscernible. There’s not much characterization, so we don’t ever really get to know Herve or any of the other characters in this book (his love interest isn’t even given a name!). This makes it very hard for the reader, in the end, to really care about the characters—or the love story. For such a short book, there’s a lot of repetition, too; the author mentions over and over again how Herve’s paramour doesn’t have oriental

The Sunday Salon

I’m in the middle of reading a couple of things right now, which is a bit unusual for me. This week I started reading an advance copy of The Swan Thieves , by Elizabeth Kostova (author of The Historian , which I enjoyed). I’m really struggling through it, because it is one tedious slog. I’m only about 200 pages in, and seriously considering not finishing. I’m just not connecting to any of the characters, none of which are believable or compelling. Elizabeth Kostova is also fond of advance-the-plot mechanisms. On the other hand, I’m reading a Victoria Holt novel, Bride of Pendorric , and enjoying it very much. Holt’s stories are always creepy—a bit campy, too, but that’s the fun of it. Also finished this week were The Emperor , the 11th book in the Morland Dynasty series; The White Horse King , by Benjamin Merkle (a biography of Alfred the Great, though it’s not so much a biography as an exposition of Anglo-Saxon England); and The Plantagenets: A Pride of Kings , by Juliet Dymoke. The l

Review: The Champion, by Elizabeth Chadwick

This novel is set against the tournament circuits of the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Alexander de Montroi, an escapee from a brutal regime at Cranwell Priory, goes to his brother, a tourney knight. Eventually, he becomes a knight himself, eventually entering into the retinue of William Marshal. Meanwhile, Monday de Cerezay is the daughter of a tourney knight and seamstress. She and Alexander fall in love—with adverse results. Once again, Elizabeth Chadwick gives us a wonderful rendering of the 12th century, combining romance with a wealth of historical detail that never bogs the story down. I was especially fascinated with the marriage scene, where Alexander and Monday’s son was legitimized. The reason why I love Chadwick’s novels so much is that she always manages to create a story that draws the reader in. Although the romance seems a bit pedestrian at times, it’s also a bit bittersweet; they don’t really realize how much they love each other until after they’ve parted ways.

Review: The Scapegoat, by Daphne Du Maurier

The Scapegoat is the story of two men, identical in appearance, who meet by chance in a train station one day. After a few drinks too many, the Englishman, John, wakes in the morning to find that the Frenchman, Jean, has stolen his identity—and that John must take his doppelganger’s place, as the Count de Gue and the master of a failing estate, family, and glass making company. I’ve read I believe six of Daphne Du Maurier’s novels now, and I can honestly say that this is different from the others. It’s not an historical novel, nor is it a novel of suspense. There’s no real feeling of terror that the reader feels (except maybe for one scene at the end) while reading this book. There’s no real mystery, here, either, except for the one of Jean’s past that John tries to piece together bit by bit. So what kind of novel is The Scapegoat ? It’s a brilliant novel about human nature, which pits two men who are in appearance very similar; but in other ways are very, very different. John’s life

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! “The battle went on until three in the morning. When finally the signal to discontinue was hoisted, the English ships drew off, took the land breeze out of the bay just far enough to get clear water, and hove to.” --From The Emperor , by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles