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Showing posts from October, 2010

The Sunday Salon

Happy Halloween! I’m not really a Halloween person anymore, but this year I kind of got in the mood for it. Last night I was catching up on CSI episodes; there’s one from a couple of weeks ago where there’s this serial killer that breaks into the homes of do-gooders and kills them for having skeletons in their closet. This was especially scary to me considering I’m at my parents’ house home alone, while they’re on the opposite coast this week! I couldn’t fall asleep, thnk that there might be a man dressed in full-body latex lying under my bed! (where do the writers of CSI come up with these ideas?). Another good reason why I’m eager to move into my new apartment building (which, with any luck, will take place sometime in December)—at least I’ll constantly have people above, around and below me rather than being isolated in the suburbs. I only read ten books in October but at least one of them was a 700-plus-page chunkster (Penmarric). October was a busy month for me personally; I

Review: The Abyss, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Pages: 577 Original date of publication: 1995 My edition: 2009 (Sphere) Why I decided to read: Heard about it through HFO How I acquired my copy:, January 2010 #18: 1833-1837. Covers the building of the railways and the early reign of Queen Victoria In The Abyss , the struggle between Nicholas and Benedict Morland really takes center stage. Benedict still lives in exile, working on the railways, while his brother, Nicholas, lives a life of decadence at Morland Place, surrounded by a cast of unsavory servants. The jealousy Nicholas feels towards his younger brother is mirrored in the larger struggle going on in England—between those who support the railways and those who do not. As you might guess from the book’s description, this installment in the series focuses on the rivalry between Nicholas and Benedict. There tends to be a bit black-and-white feel to their relationship; one of them is completely bad while the other is completely good. Still, you

Review: Penmarric, by Susan Howatch

Pages: 704 Original date of publication: 1971 My edition: 1990 (Ballantine) Why I decided to read: I heard about it through the members at HFO How I acquired my copy:, January 2010 Penmarric is a novel that is mostly based upon the Plantagenets—specifically, Henry II, Eleanor, and their children. This novel takes the Penmar/Castellack/Parrish families from 1890 up through the end of WWII. Penmarric is the family estate (loosely correlating to the English throne); and the story is told from the POV of five of them: Mark Castellack (i.e., Henry), his wife Janna (Eleanor), Adrian (Henry’s illegitimate son Geoffrey), Philip (Richard) and Jan Ives (John). The story follows that of the Plantagenets closely. If you’re familiar with the story of Henry and his family, you might think you know what will happen here—but Susan Howatch adds quite a new dimension to the story of the Castellacks and their family home. I love multi-generational stories of families and o

The Sunday Salon

Remember how I bragged about not buying books last weekend ? Well, all of that got shot out of the water when, during my lunch break on Monday, I went to the Philly Book Trader and walked away with seven books: That Lady, by Kate O’Brien, The Rising tide, by Molly Keane, Mad Puppetstown by the same; and Devoted Ladies, also by the same (it was a good day for molly Keane finds), Harriet Hume, by Rebecca West, Love, by Elizabeth Von Arnim, and Troy Chimneys, by Margaret Kennedy. The first three I already own and I’m giving away to LTER members in the Virago Modern Classics group, so they don’t count! I also find myself increasingly tempted by the new Persephones that came out this week, so I may cave in and buy those too. I might as well be honest, here! I’ve found lately that I’m in a reviewing slump. Normally I try to write reviews s soon as I can after reading books; but this week I read four books and I’m not in the mood to write any of the reviews. Part of the problem is that

Review: Mini Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella

Pages: 414 Original date of publication: 2010 My edition: 2010 (Dial) Why I decided to read: Heard about it through How I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, September 2010 I’ve read all of Sophie Kinsella’s books to date, and I’ve enjoyed nearly all of them. Her novels are quirky and fun and funny, and they always provide their reader with a bit of brain candy. Mini-Shopaholic is the sixth Shopaholic book featuring the adventures of Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood). You’d think that after six books in this series, the series would have jumped the shark, so to speak, but still Sophie Kinsella manages to find fresh material for our heroine. Mini Shopaholic takes place two and a half years after the last Shopaholic book, Shopaholic and Baby, leaves off. Becky’s daughter Minnie is essentially going through the Terrible Twos, and everyone else (including Luke) think Becky spoils her. Added on top of that is the fact that, apparently, Minnie is becoming a mini-shopah

Review: Told By An Idiot, by Rose Macaulay

Pages: 315 Original date of publication: 1923 My edition: 1983 (Virago) Why I decided to read: Heard about this through the Virago Modern Classics list How I acquired my copy: Ebay, July 2010 Told By An Idiot is the story of one family from 1880 through the early 1920s. Mr. Garden is a clergyman who frequently switches faiths; then there’s his wife, who quietly devotes herself to her family; and then there are their six unusually-named children, who are adults (or nearly so) when the novel opens. Times, they are a’changin’. That’s essentially the theme of the novel as we watch the Garden family grow and mature. We watch the younger generation marry and have children; and then we watch their children grow up, too. This book is not only an interesting look at one family, but the times in which they live at the end of the 19 th century, how things change, and how the Garden family reacts to it. I feel as though the author used this novel to comment, albeit subtly and

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254 Original date of publication: 1964 My edition: 1964 (William Morrow) Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite author How I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009 Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was. This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest , a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy

Review: City of Light, by Lauren Belfer

Pages: 503 Original date of publication: 1999 My edition: 2005 (Dial) Why I decided to read: recommendation How I acquired my copy:, December 2009 Set in Buffalo, New York, in 1901, City of Light is told from the point of view of Louisa Barrett, a 36-year-old spinster and the headmistress of a prestigious girls’ school in town. She is extremely modern, almost to the point of yawning, and her progressive views on girls’ education and the position of women in society in general got to be wearying after a while. The novel starts with a sensational murder connected to the power plant that’s owned by Louisa’s best friend Tom. This novel was a little confusing. At some points it’s a murder mystery; at others, it’s social commentary; at others the novel focuses more on the technological and political issues of the day. It’s as though the author conducted tons and tons of research on her subject (by no means a bad thing) and she decided that she just

The Sunday Salon

With the purchase of my new condo, I’ve severely curtailed my book shopping habits. I’ve really gotten a lot better at not impulsively going into bookstore, shopping online, and accepting review copies. For example, in August I added 18 books to the archive; in September, I acquired only four (only two of which were bought). So far this month, I’ve only bought one and anticipate acquiring only one more: my October Persephone (the bought book was a VMC edition of Hester, by Margaret Oliphant) Not buying books hasn’t stopped me from walking into bookstores to browse, however; this past week during my lunch break I went into Borders and wandered around for a half an hour, imagining the possibilities. I nearly came away with Dark Road to Darjeeling, by Deanna Raybourn; Dark Moon of Avalon, by Anna Ellliott; and a number of Nancy Mitford books that I’ve been dying to read. Amazing, the kind of willpower I had to turn all of that down! I’m still patting myself on the back. But I had maj

Review: The Tortoise and the Hare, by Elizabeth Jenkins

Pages: 252 Original date of publication: 1954 My edition: 1983 (Virago) Why I decided to read: Amazon UK recommendation How I acquired my copy: Ebay seller, July 2010 Imogen Gresham is 37, married to a very successful barrister. They have an eleven-year-old son, a rather beastly boy named Gavin. Imogen’s husband, Evelyn, develops a friendship with their neighbor, a wealthy fifty-something-year-old spinster named Blanche Silcox. She and Imogen are completely opposite; and it’s Evelyn’s relationship with Blanche that colors the whole tone of his relationship with his wife. Imogen is a domestic, preferring home over hunting or any of the other country pursuits that her husband engages in. It’s partly due to this as well that their relationship becomes fraught with tension. They have nothing in common, so it’s really no wonder that Evelyn turns to an older woman (one much closer in age to him than Imogen is) for, at the very least, friendship. It’s an odd affair; usuall

Review: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and Mrs. Harris Goes to New York, by Paul Gallico

Pages: 306 Original date of publication: My edition: 2010 (Bloomsbury Group) Why I decided to read: I’m trying to read all of the Bloomsbury Group reprints How I acquired my copy: Book Depository, June 2010 Technically, half of this book is a re-read; I read and reviewed Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris in 2008, so I was thrilled when I found out that it would be reprinted along with Mrs. Harris Goes to New York . They are two stories in and of themselves, but Mrs. Harris Goes to New York is best read alongside Mrs. Harris Goes to New York . I’ve noticed that the plots of the two stories in this book (more stories than novels, really) tend to conform to a certain formula: Mrs. Harris is a charming sixty-something-year-old woman who uses her forceful personality to charm and sometimes manipulate people and situations. Her adventures sometimes strain credulity, but I really enjoyed following her all over the world. Mrs. Harris is perhaps not very intelligent, but she’s ver

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! “Benedict looked round, and saw a man trotting towards them, waving his hat and shouting. As he drew nearer, Benedict recognized the cob from Fleetham Manor that was used to go for letters, and the man lurching in the saddle with the unease of one who could not ride was the footman, William.” --From The Abyss , by Cythia Harrod-Eagles

Review: The Countess, by Rebecca Johns

Pages: 285 Original date of publication: 2010 My edition: 2010 (Crown) Why I decided to read: Heard about this through the Amazon Vine program How I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, September 2010 The Countess is a novel about Countess Erzebet Bathory, apparently the first female serial killer. In the early 17 th century, she was rumored to have murdered dozens of young women. As with many of these kinds of novels, the story is told from the Countess’s point of view, and it covers her life starting from when she was a small child and continuing up until her incarceration. It’s an interesting subject, by my, does the author manage to make it boring. The novel focuses a lot on Erzebet’s early life, and the plot moves at a very, very slow pace. I don’t know a lot about Hungarian history, so the parts of this novel that dealt with that were extremely edifying; but this novel disappointed me in terms of plot. I was intrigued to find out how the Countess would explain her

Review: William: An Englishman, by Cicely Hamilton

Pages: 226 Original date of publication: 1919 My edition: 2007 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: Browsing the Persephone website How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, February 2010 William: An Englishman is a bleak tale about William Tully, a young man who takes his honeymoon to Belgium on the eve of WWI. A naïve man, he is completely inexperienced and completely unprepared for what he is about to witness. He is a Socialist, and his wife, Griselda, a suffragette, so they are both rather idealistic as well. William and Griselda, have no idea about what’s going on in the outside world, and they make flippant comments about men playing at war while the war really begins in earnest around them. This is a short novel, but a very powerful one, with an even more powerful message, about the difference between the horror of war and the naïveté of the main character. Cicely Hamilton wrote this novel sitting in a khaki tent during the war, so she understood as well a

Review: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Pages: Original date of publication: 1928 My edition: 1998 (Harper Torch) Why I decided to read: I felt like reading more Dorothy Sayers How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, April 2010 I’ve been meaning to read more Dorothy Sayers for a while; but when Susan hill mentioned it in Howards End is on the Landing , I knew that this had to be the next to read. In the years just after WWI, an old military man (a veteran of the Crimea) dies in his club. Although it would seem that he died of natural causes, Lord Peter Wimsey determines that he was murdered; and he sets out to prove not only the time of death but the manner in which the General died. At stake is money, and who will inherit it. Of her early Lord Peter mysteries, this one is undoubtedly Sayers’s best. She seems to have gotten better and better with each book she wrote, and she really perfected her art with this book. She deals with not only the petty stuff, but the larger things that were going on in

Review: Every Secret Thing, by Emma Cole

Pages: 463 Original date of publication: 2006 My edition: 2007 (Allison and Busby) Why I decided to read: I’m a fan of the author’s novels as Susanna Kearsley How I acquired my copy: from the author, December 2009 Des cription fr om Amazon: When an old man strikes up a conversation with her on the steps of St. Paul's and makes a mystifying mention of murder and an oddly familiar comment about her grandmother, Kate Murray is intrigued. But she never gets to hear the rest of Andrew Deacon's tale. Shocked by his unexpected death, she wonders whom this strange, old man is, and what the odd reference to her grandmother could mean. Interest piqued by the story never told, Kate becomes drawn into an investigation, uncovering secrets about the grandmother she thought she knew and a man she never did. Soon she is caught up in a dangerous whirlwind of events that takes her back into her grandmother's mysterious wartime past and across the Atlantic as she tries to

Review: The Poison Tree, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Pages: 438 Original date of publication: 1994 My edition: 2006 (Sphere) Why I decided to read: I’m in the process of reading through the Morland Dynasty series in order How I acquired my copy:, January 2010 #17: 1831-33; covers reform and the reign of William IV This installment of the series focuses on the period just after the post-war depression, taking its reader into the reign of William IV and the Reform movement. Jasper Hobsbawm is a supporter of the movement in Manchester, but his involvement leads to danger, both for him and Sophie. At Morland Place, Heloise is still grieving over the death of James, while her eldest son Nicholas forces his brother Benedict to find a job with the railway pioneers. This is another really great addition to the Morland Dynasty series, with some excellent character development. Nicholas is of course the villain of the piece, but he’s not a stock character; and Benedict, while technically the “good” guy, isn’t co

The Sunday Salon

Fall is here! I love it when the weather gets colder and you can start wearing fall clothing again—I haven’t bought very much this year due to the fact that I wear scrubs to work. But I did buy some black and gray dress pants, long-sleeved t shirts to wear under my scrubs, a cute top at Gap (I haven’t shopped there in ages, yet most of what I’ve bought this fall has been from there); and then I bought this jacket in the green (be careful; Piperlime is dangerous!). I know I really shouldn’t be buying new clothes, but before I literally had nothing to wear—nothing fit me anymore! So I think some rejuvenation in my closet is a good thing. It’s been a busy week here, both at work and at home. At work we were preparing to get new carpet, so I spent the second half of the week packing up. On Friday our computers were dismantled and they came in to remove the furniture; so I was able to leave early. Friday was also closing day on my new apartment, so at lunchtime I went over to sign the