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Showing posts from December, 2010

The Year in Review: 2010

201 reading stats: Number of books read: 145 Number of re-reads: 2 Number of distinct authors: 114 Male authors: 12 Female authors: 102 Most frequent author: Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (8) New-to-me authors: 74 Second-time around authors: 17 Longest book completed: Into the Wildrness (896 pp) Shortest book completed: The Circular Staircase (148 pp) Books from series/sequels/trilogies: 35 Number of series represented: 21 Most productive month: March, June (15 each) Least productive month: November (8) Books first published in 2010 (my edition): Reviews posted in 2010: Genres (some may overlap): Fiction: 136 Chick lit: 1 Historical fiction: 73 Classics: 47 Mystery: 17 YA: 0 Short Stories: 3 Other: Nonfiction: 10 History: 7 Biography: 2 Memoir: 4 Women’s Studies: 6 Essays: 3

Review: American Rose, by Karen Abbott

Pages: 397 Original date of publication: 2010 My edition: 2010 (Random House) Why I decided to read: it was offered through Amazon vine How I acquired my copy: Vine, October 2010 When Amazon Vine came out with their October newsletter, I told myself that I wouldn’t select anything; I’ve got way too many unread books lying around as it is! But when I saw that Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City , had a new book out, I couldn’t resist. And who could? This nonfictional account of the life of a famous burlesque dancer was begging to be read. But I was disappointed. Clearly, the author is interested in her topic, but her approach to the book was all wrong to me. The flashes backwards and forwards in time were very distracting to the flow of the book. and I feel as though the author skipped over a lot of stuff in order to get to the racy bits. As a result, I felt that Gypsy Rose Lee’s relationship with Michael Todd could have been fleshed out a lot more—I get t

Review: Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Pages: 261 Original date of publication: 1930 My edition: 2006 (Harper) Why I decided to read: I felt like reading more Dorothy Sayers How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, May 2010 Strong Poison is the first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery that features Harriet Vane. When Harriet Vane, a mystery writer, goes on trial for the murder of her lover, who is also an author, Lord Peter sets out to exonerate her—falling in love with her as he does so. Harriet is less developed as a character, of course, than Lord Peter is—but you can see a lot of promise with her and her relationship with Lord Peter. She’s headstrong, feisty and unconventional, and her conversations with Wimsey are some of the better parts of the book. You can tell that she’s quite a mental match for him; and the comparisons between Harriet and Sayers are very clear. Previously, we’ve seen Wimsey as stoic and a bit arrogant, and it’s nice to see some romance come into his life, and see him brought down a no

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! “Mrs. Challoner’s was a good school as schools went in those days; there was much of the convent and much of the prison about it. The governesses and teaching staff found themselves members of an abused, ill-paid, and down-trodden profession.” --From Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary , by Ruby Ferguson

The Sunday Salon

Alright, so I said I’d be away for a few days, but I couldn’t help it! As the rest of the east coast of the US became snowed under, my family and I flew out to Arizona for (at least for me) a week. Of course, it’s comparatively warm here! Yesterday we celebrated Christmas and then ate an early dinner (roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, of course) before heading to the airport. As far as book receiving goes, I didn’t get much, since the bulk of what I received was apartment-related. But my mom did give me a year-long Persephone subscription. She gave me the receipt she printed from online, which has the list of books I’m going to get this year. Since I want to be surprised each month, it’s taking all of my will to keep myself from looking at the list! Whenever I go on vacation, I always overpack, bookwise. Like clothes, I want to have options! I brought: Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary, by Ruby Ferguson; Thunder on the Right, by Mary Stewart; Henrietta Sees it Through, by Joyce De

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays, everyone! I'll be taking a break from blogging for a few days, but I'll probably schedule a few posts here and there in the meantime. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Review: The Ladies of Lyndon, by Margaret Kennedy

Pages: 320 Original date of publication: 1932 My edition: 1981 (Dial Press) Why I decided to read: heard about this through LT How I acquired my copy: the Philly Book Trader, December 2010 Although written in the 1920s, The Ladies of Lyndon is set in Edwardian England and during and after the First World War. Agatha is one of the most sought-after debutantes of her season, and she marries John Clewer in order to become mistress of Lyndon. Her marriage is unhappy, and she finds comfort in her relationship with an old flame. This is a novel that explores various characters’ search for satisfaction in their lives—oddly enough, it’s John’s brother James who is happiest with his life, although everyone thinks he’s rather “off.” However, because James is the one who’s most comfortable with himself and his life, he’s one of the most endearing characters in this book—along with his wife, Dolly the former housemaid. By marrying her, James raises a lot of eyebrows, but he re

2011 A to Z Challenge

I enjoyed doing the A to Z challenge in 2010, although I didn’t finish it. But I think I’ll give it a second try in 2011, doing the Authors and Titles options. This, of course, is figure-it-out-as-I-go… Titles: Alas, Poor Lady , by Rachel Ferguson The Bolter , by Robin Osborne Cassandra at the Wedding , by Dorothy Baker The Du Mauriers , by Daphne Du Maurier Every Eye , by Isobel English Few Eggs and No Oranges , by Vere Hodgson The Glass-Blowers , by Daphne Du Maurier The Heroine's Bookshelf, by Erin Blakemore The Invisible Bridge , by Julie Orringer Jane Eyre , by Charlotte Bronte K The Lion of Mortimer , by Juliet Dymoke Mrs. Miniver , by Jan Struther N The Outcast , by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles Pearl Buck of China , by Hilary Spurling Q Reuben Sachs, by Amy Levy Sisters by a River , by Barbara Comyns Thunder on the Right , by Mary Stewart Unbeaten Tracks in Japan , by Isabella Bird A Very Great Profession , by Nicola Beauman The

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! “This was a masterstroke, Pietro knew. To mention the name of the officiating priest was to lull suspicion.” --From The Saracen Blade , by Frank Yerby

Review: The Hidden Shore, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Pages: 584 Original date of publication: 1996 My edition: 2007 (Sphere) Why I decided to read: I’m working my way through the Morland Dynasty series How I acquired my copy:, December 2009 #19: Covers 1843-1848; early Victorian period Finally, with Nicholas Morland’s death in The Abyss , the series shifts focus from the Morland brothers to other members of the family; in this case, specifically, Charlotte, daughter of Rosalind and Marcus. She has spent the first 21 years of her life living on relative poverty; but at her father’s death discovers that she’s a wealthy heiress. She is vaulted into high society London, in the company of her cousin Fanny, who is already out but not married. Charlotte forms an attachment to Oliver Fleetwood (who has a “reputation”), but disappointment leads her to become involved in philanthropy and medicine. It’s a relief for the series to move away from the Morland brothers. In some of the previous books, there was a lot

The Sunday Salon

We’re less than a week away from Christmas, and all I can think is, is it really Christmas already? Come to think of it, the end of the year too. Amazingly, all of my Christmas shopping is done; I just need to wrap stuff. My family and I are headed out to Arizona on Christmas Day for a week, and I’m looking forward to hanging out there—especially since it’s been so cold here in Philly recently. I feel as though I’m not really ready for the cold—cold weather in January and February I can prepare for, but not December! I also don’t like these short, short days—I get up at 5 in order to work out and take the train in to work; and when I get off at 7:30, it’s still a bit dark out! Then when I go home at 4:30 it gets dark while I’m riding home. I can’t wait for my new apartment to be finished so I can move in! My mom, dad and I went down there after brunch in order to see the place, and it’s really moving along! It’s a mess, but the cabinets are in and the tile is down in the bathroom;

Review: Amberwell, by DE Stevenson

Pages: 224 Original date o f publication: 1955 My edition: 1967 (Fontana Books) Why I decided to read: I’m on a mission to read all of the DE Stevenson books I can find How I acquired my copy: Ebay, June 2010 Amberwell is the story of a family living in Scotland in the early part of the 20 th century. The Ayrtons live at Amberwell, a sprawling house built by an ancestor in the 18 th century. Anne, Nell, Roger, Constance, and Thomas are different as different could be, and they all grow up to pursue their own paths. Constance opts for a traditional marriage; Anne, told that she’ll end a spinster, runs off to marry a school teacher; and in WWII, Roger becomes a soldier, while Nell surprises everyone by turning into Amberwell’s capable chatelaine. DE Stevenson’s books should really all be back in print (though I don't know who would buy them but me!). There’s a small revival of her books going on; Miss Buncle’s Book was reprinted by Persephone (and they’re re-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! “As the first notes came drawling out in a melancholy procession he felt a twinge of liking for the music. It certainly had grandeuer—a black Spanish kind.” --From Tell It to a Stranger, by Elizabeth Berridge

Review: The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough

Pages: 673 Original date of publication: 1977 My edition: 2010 (Avon) Why I decided to read: re-discovered it in Borders while browsing How I acquired my copy: Borders, November 2010 The Thorn Birds is actually a re-read. I first read this at about this time of year when I was thirteen, and ever since then it’s kind of been one of the books that defined my adolescence. The Thorn Birds is a classic about one family in New Zealand and Australia from WWI to the 1960s, especially focusing on the relationship between Meggie Cleary and Father Ralph de Bricassart. Fourteen years after my first reading of this book, my opinion of it has changed somewhat. One of the things I remember most about it was that there was a lot of sex in it—and I mean a lot. This time around, I kind of skipped through all that stuff in order to get to the heart of the story—Meggie and Ralph. I must have been much more of a romantic the first time I read this book, because this time I found myself

The Sunday Salon

On Sunday evenings, I always feel a little bit of a letdown. The weekends always seem so short, and there’s all this anticipation about the week ahead. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been busy with a major project at work that’s made me a bit anxious, since this is really my chance to prove myself. Last weekend my best friend from high school came to visit; I haven’t seen her in three years, and I took her down town to see my new apartment and explore the city. This weekend, I’m battling a cold, but it’s not quite as bad as it could be. I’ve spent a good portion of the weekend watching TV and writing reviews, since I’m sorely behind in that. What I usually do with my reviews is schedule them to post automatically; as of about 15 minutes ago, I had none. Currently, I’m reading some more Dorothy Sayers (Strong Poison, which is the one where we meet Harriet Vane). As far as book buying goes, my vow to acquire less has promptly gone down the tube; I bought three Viragos at

Review: Some Tame Gazelle, by Barbara Pym

Pages: 252 Original date of publication: 1950 My edition: 1984 (Perennial) Why I decided to read: I’m on a quest to read all of Pym’s novels How I acquired my copy: secondhand bookstore near my office, November 2010 Some Tame Gazelle was Barbara Pym’s first novel. Her writing style is rather quaint and old-fashioned, which is probably why her books fell out of fashion, but it’s the quaintness that makes this novel so good. Some Tame Gazelle is less polished than some of Pym’s later novels (such as Excellent Women or Jane and Prudence ), but it shares some of the same themes. This one is set in a tiny village and focuses on the life of two spinsters in late middle age, Harriet and Belinda Bede. There’s a new, young curate in the village for whom Harriet develops a fondness; her sister has an unrequited love for the vicar, whose wife doesn’t love him. Added to this is a pompous Archdeacon and an Italian count who frequently proposes marriage to Harriet. As I’ve said,

Weekly Geeks

Do you plan on participating in any reading challenges in 2011? Are you planning on hosting any reading challenges? Perhaps you'd like to share an idea for a reading challenge--to see if there is any interest! Share with us which challenges look tempting to you! (You don't have to "officially" join any of the challenges for this weekly geek. Just let us know which ones you'd be most interested in.) You might want to spend some time browsing A Novel Challenge . Are there any challenges you are looking forward to that haven't been announced yet? Regardless of your challenge plans, are you starting to plan ahead for next year? Do you make lists or goals? Are you a person who enjoys reading more if it is structured? Or are you all about being free to read what you want, when you want? I hadn’t started thinking about challenges for 2011, but I’ve participated in some in the past and found them to be fun. One of my favorites for 2009 was the Pub Challenge

Review: The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton

Pages: 562 Original date of publication: 2010 My edition: 2010 (Atria) Why I decided to read: I love all of Kate Morton’s books How I acquired my copy: Amazon preorder, November 2010 Kate Morton is one of the few authors I’ll buy in hardcover. I first heard about her through the Amazon Vine program, when The House at Riverton was offered, and I’ve been hooked ever since; I even bought The Forgotten Garden when it was out in the UK but not in the US. The Distant Hours takes place in a crumbling old castle and features three elderly spinsters who harbor a dark secret dating from WWI. Their story is contrasted with that of Edie, a young woman in 1992 who investigates the story. Like Morton’s previous books, there’s a Gothic undertone to the book, but it’s never overt. The emphasis here is on telling a good story, and that Kate Morton does very well. Each of the characters, minus Edie, has skeletons in the closet, but the skeletons aren’t what you think they’ll be. I

Review: The King's Daughter, by Christie Dickason

Pages: 468 Original date of publication: My edition: 2010 (Harper) Why I decided to read: Saw it in a bookshop in London How I acquired my copy: LTER, October 2010 I’m reading historical fiction less and less lately, but when I found out about this one, I thought I’d give it a try, since I’ve enjoyed three of Christie Dickason’s other novels. In this one, she remains in the seventeenth century, focusing on the life of Elizabeth, the daughter of James I. She and her brother were widely popular, so much so that their father tried to keep them away from the public as much as possible. This novel focuses on Elizabeth’s early life, primarily with the arrangement of her marriage and all that that entails. Christie Dickason is a good writer, but there were some points in the novel where I found myself rolling my eyes. Elizabeth is a royal daughter, but in this book the author has her dressing in men’s clothing and running off to brothels in Southwark. And nobody would have