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Showing posts from February, 2011

Review: The Three Sisters, by May Sinclair

Pages: 388 Original date of publication: 1914 My edition: 1982 (Dial Press) Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of Virago Modern Classics How I acquired my copy: Ebay seller, July 2010 After a reading slump during Virago Reading Week, I was actually thrilled to come across a book that redeemed things for me! The Three Sisters is a novel that is loosely based upon the lives of the Bronte sisters, though the similarities are superficial. Alice, Gwenda, and Mary are the daughters of the Vicar of Garthdale, spinsters living lonely, bored lives on the moors. All of that changes, however, when a young, attractive doctor arrives in the village… Originally published in 1914, this book is a strange hybrid of Edwardian values and Victorian conventionality. The time period in which this book is set is indeterminate (definitely not as early as the Brontes, though, since a brief mention is made of a car later in the story). The novel is loosely based on the lives of the Bro

The Sunday Salon: Persephone Reading Weekend

Persephone Reading Weekend is winding down (sadly)! I had a great time this weekend, reading A Very Great Profession and now Few Eggs and No Oranges, which is a fascinating look at one average, middle-aged woman’s experience living in London during WWII. It’s a chunkster, but I’ve been in the mood for those recently. I’ve also been really into nonfiction, so this fits the bill quite nicely. After Few Eggs and No Oranges, I’ll have read 29 Persephones, with three more I own that I haven’t yet read: There Were No Windows, The Mystery of Mrs. Blencarrow (several people have read and reviewed this this weekend, which makes me eager to get to it myself), and Alas Poor Lady. I’ve also enjoyed reading the blogs of other Persephone-philes, adding exponentially to my Google Reader! I’ve found other bloggers’ comments on the books they’ve been reading to be very insightful. Also this weekend I’ve been reading back issues of the Persephone Fortnightly letter, which can be found on the

Persephone Reading Weekend Update

I’m very excited to be participating in Persephone Reading Weekend! Yesterday I posted a review of Every Eye, which I actually read about a week ago but was waiting to post my review. I enjoyed it, but honestly, not as much as some of the other Persephones I’ve read. By the way, here’s a list of Persephones I’ve read and reviewed in the past . I’m currently reading Nicola Beauman’s A Very Great Profession, which in obvious ways complements the novels that Persephone and Virago have reprinted. I’m really enjoyed her insightful comments on women writers and their novels in the interwar years, especially since I’ve read many of the books that Beauman mentions. Unfortunately, however, the “to be read” list is growing exponentially! This is definitely a good book for Persephone and Virago aficionados to read. As far as the giveaway for The Mystery of Mrs. Blencarrow goes, I’ll pick a winner tomorrow in my roundup of the weekend. If you’re participating, what are you reading?

Review: Every Eye, by Isobel English

Pages: 119 Original date of publication: 1956 My edition: 2007 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: browsing the Persephone catalogue How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, June 2010 As I was browsing my TBR shelves for something to take with me on a business trip (traveling theme and all of that), my eye (no pun intended) was drawn to Every Eye , a slim novella about a woman who marries a much younger man and takes a holiday to Ibiza. The novel isn’t so much about the holiday as it is about the journey, and it’s a novel that is “based on the premise that life is lived forwards but understood backwards” (from the preface written by Isobel English’s husband, Neville Braybrooke). There are many flashbacks to Hatty’s affair with a much older man, and her relationship with her step-aunt that illuminate certain things about Hatty. There’s not much action per se in this book, but there are some absolutely gorgeous descriptions of the scenery as Hatty and Stephen tr

Review: The Tudor Secret, by CW Gortner

Pages: 327 Original date of publication: My edition: 2011 (St. Martin’s) Why I decided to read: Heard about this through How I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, December 2010 Originally published as The Secret Lion , The Tudor Secret is the first in what will be a series featuring Brendan Prescott, an orphan foundling who was raised in the household of the Dudley family. In 1553, King Edward is on his deathbed, and William Cecil gives a secret mission Brendan. Soon he finds himself working as a double agent, as he attempts to discover the secret of his own birth. There ‘s a lot to like in this novel, mainly in the historical details that the author weaves into the story. He knows Tudor history like the back of his hand, and it definitely shows in this book. Because it was his first novel, however, there are some rough patches. There were a couple of plot holes that I had trouble navigating around—primarily, why would a secretive man such as Cecil entrust 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! “After three summers they had dug up all the skeletons, at least all the ones they could find, anyway they were getting rather bored with ours, as another Anglo Saxon burial ground had turned up about ten miles away, I suppose if you come to think about it, England must be stiff with old disused burial grounds, only perhaps ours was in rather a good state of preservation, if ever I get a field of my own I’m going to dig very deep and see what I can find. “ --(one sentence) from Sisters By a River , by Barbara

Review: The Lion of Mortimer, by Juliet Dymoke

Pages: 274 Original date of publication: 1979 My edition: 1979 (Ace Books) Why I decided to read: Recommendation from Amazon How I acquired my copy:, February 2010 The Lion of Mortimer is the third in a loosely connected series about the Plantagenet family, in which their story is told from the point of view of those closest to them. This Plantagenet is Edward II, and the story is told from the point of view of the Montacute family. The story takes Edward from his time as Prince of Wales up through his death, and the early part of the reign of Edward III. At only 274 pages, the novel covers a lot of ground, and as such, it’s pretty sketchy on the details of Edward’s life. Therefore, I felt that the characters were not well developed—especially Isabella, who I feel was a much deeper person than she’s portrayed in the book. The author gets Edward’s character down pat, though Piers Gaveston is not as well developed as the other characters and Hugh Despenser

The Sunday Salon

Another weekend come and gone! I was away for most of the week for a conference in San Diego, but I got back late on Friday night/the wee hours of Saturday morning. While I was on the plane, I finished reading a review copy of Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud, which the author generously sent me to review; read all of Every Eye, by Isobel English (review to be posted during Persephone Reading Weekend next weekend), and then most of The Du Mauriers, Daphne Du Maurier’s biography of her ancestors. All three are great reads. My current read is a short one: Sisters by a River, by Barbara Comyns, a novel told from a child’s point of view (complete with erratic spellings), based on the author’s life. Speaking of Persephone Reading Weekend ( Claire at Paperback Reader is hosting and has more on it), I received several books in the mail this past week that I might read: Alas, Poor Lady, by Rachel Ferguson; A Very Great Profession, by Nicola Beauman; Few Eggs and No Oranges, by Vere Hodgso

Review: The Loved and Envied, by Enid Bagnold

Pages: 280 Original date of publication: 1951 My edition: 1990 (Penguin/Virago) Why I decided to read: Read this as a part of Virago Reading Week How I acquired my copy: The Philly Book Trader, January 2011 Lady Diana Cooper was a famous socialite of the 1910s and the wife of Duff Cooper. She and the life she led were fictionalized in several books, including Nancy Mitford’s Don’t Tell Alfred and The Loved and Envied , which was written by Lady Diana’s longtime friend, Enid Bagnold. The Loved and Envied is the story of Lady Ruby Maclean, and deals with the theme of aging, especially the effect that aging has on a beautiful woman. This is the third book I read for Virago Reading Week; unfortunately, it just wasn’t my week! I didn’t really care for this book, either. The author tends to hit her reader over the head—over and over—with her theme. Lady Ruby is supposed to be this fascinating woman, attractive to everyone she meets; and yet I didn’t see the appeal at all

Review: Harriet Hume, by Rebecca West

Pages: 288 Original date of publication: 1929 My edition: 1980 (The Dial Press) Why I decided to read: read this for Virago Reading Week How I acquired my copy: The Philly Book Trader, October 2010 Man, this is a weird one, one I don’t quite know how to describe; and maybe it went over my head a bit too much! This novel tells the story of the relationship between two people: the free-spirited musician Harriet, who lives in a lopsided house in London, and her lover, Arnold, a politician The story takes their relationship/friendship through many years, at which they meet up periodically. This was a very, very slow read for me, and one I didn’t enjoy very much. Part of my problem with this book was Rebecca West’s writing style; the only way I can describe it is bizarre! For example: “But the governess had turned her gaze on them, and had on seeing the marks of deep emotion on the faces made a long leap through the ether to some universe thickly upholstered with seducti

Review: Devoted Ladies, by Molly Keane

Pages: 303 Original date of publication: 1934 My edition: 1984 (Virago) Why I decided to read: Read this for Virago Reading Week How I acquired my copy: The Book Trader, October 2010 I’ve been really up and down with Molly Keane’s books. On one hand, I loved The Rising Tide and Taking Chances ; on the other, I really didn’t like Loving Without Tears or this one. This is the story of the friendship between two women in London (and then, in true Molly Keane fashion, a decaying old estate in Ireland). Jane is a weak-willed woman who is caught between her friendship with Jessica and her budding relationship with George Playfair; Jessica is controlling and manipulative. Neither of the two main characters is particularly likable, which made it hard for me to care what ultimately happened to them. Jane is practically a doormat and not that smart; Jessica gets herself involved in everybody else’s life, which I found irritating to the extreme. Their relationship is passion

The Sunday Salon:; bits and pieces

Another Sunday, come and gone! I always feel as though the weekend go by too quickly. Tomorrow I’m off for a business trip in San Diego, so I’m looking forward to some slightly warmer weather in my near future! It’s really funny when I pack for trips; I always pack the books first and then clothes. Speaking of which, yesterday I bought a few new items for my trip, just so that I’ll have some springtime stuff to wear. Lately I’ve really been in the mood to wear skirts and dresses. When it comes to books and traveling, I always bring the “junk” stuff by tried and true authors, that I know I’ll enjoy. I obviously never want to slog through a book, but especially so when I’m away! Reading this past week has been about average; I finished an ARC of CW Gortner’s The Tudor Secret and May Sinclair’s The Three Sisters (amazingly good; after a reading slump during Virago Reading Week, it was good to find another Virago that I enjoyed). I’m now reading a review copy of Madame Tussaud,

Review: The Devil's Acre, by Matthew Plampin

Pages: 408 Original date of publication: 2009 My edition: 2010 (Harper) Why I decided to read: I LOVED the author’s first book How I acquired my copy: The Poisoned Pen bookstore, Scottsdale, AZ, December 2010 Originally published in hardcover as The Gun-Maker’s Gift , The Devil’s Acre tells the story of Samuel Colt, and the factory he built in Pimlico in London in 1853. The story is told alternately from the point of view of his London secretary, Edward Lowry; a young factory worker named Caroline Knox; and her sister and brother-in-law, an Irish immigrant who plots to use Colt’s weapons for a political assassination. Meanwhile, Colt himself has his own agenda—especially with war in Europe looming on the horizon. I really, really loved the author’s first book, The Street Philosopher , so of course I was excited to read this one. But what a huge disappointment for me! The author has a talent for describing the places and people (fictional and not) he writes about, but

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! “Suddenly she started up and listened. She heard out on the road the sound of wheels, and of hooves that struck together.” --From The Three Sisters , by May Sinclair

Review: The Bolter, by Frances Osborne

Pages: 344 Original date of publication: 2008 My edition: 2010 (Vitage) Why I decided to read: discovered it browsing in Borders How I acquired my copy: Borders gift card, November 2010 The subtitle of this book is “The story of Idina Sackville, who ran away to become the chief seductress of Kenya’s scandalous ‘Happy Valley’ set.” It’s true that Idina Sackville (a cousin of Vita Sackvile-West and the great-grandmother of the author) had a fascinating life; during her lifetime she “bolted” from five husbands and three children, settling down in Kenya. She wasn’t a particularly beautiful woman, but her sexual exploits were legendary, and she inspired characters for several books, namely the Bolter in Nancy Mitford’s novels. The author, Frances Osborne, is a great-granddaughter of Idina; unfortunately, she imposes herself too much into Indina’s story. She also focuses too much on Idina’s sex life and not enough on Idina’s experiences in Kenya, which in itself is an int

The Sunday Salon

I’ve been very busy for the past couple of weeks! Two weeks ago I moved into my new apartment, so I’ve been very busy with all that entails. There are still some finishing touches that need to be done (I didn’t get the window blinds for the living room until Tuesday), but it’s all looking pretty good! I spent much of the first Saturday unpacking books; I think I had 31 boxes of them! Nothing is organized on the shelves, though. I culled a lot from my collection to trade at the Book trader here in Old City Philadelphia for credit for new books—so I went back there this morning and walked away with The Ice House, by Nina Bawden, The Burning of Bridget Cleary, by Angela Bourke, West With the Night, by Beryl Markham, and Mary Olivier: A Life, by May Sinclair. The Book Trader is a great place to find those hidden treasures—especially those of the Virago kind! Speaking of Virago, last week I participated in Virago Reading Week. I usually love many of the books they reprint, but for so

Review: The Winter Journey, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Pages: 624 Original date of publication: 1997 My edition: 2007 (Sphere) Why I decided to read: I’m trying to read the whole Morland Dynasty series How I acquired my copy:, January 2010 #20: 1851-1855: Covers the Great Exhibition; Crimean War In The Winter Journey , the story of the Morland family shifts focus for a bit. A distant cousin arrives from South Carolina in time for the Great Exhibition. Charlotte, happily married to Oliver Fleetwood, uses her wealth and influence to help build a hospital, in London just as cholera strikes. Her brother, Cavendish, is a cavalry officer called to the Crimea; and Oliver, an intelligence officer, goes there too, along with Charlotte. The family takes a bit of a back seat to the historical events that are taking place. The Crimean War takes up a good chunk of the novel, especially the tragic Charge of the Light Brigade, which I’d obviously heard about but never really knew much of. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles gives he

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! “Edward responded by putting her hand to his lips, genuinely moved. But this mood of grief and of determination to honor his dead father lasted only a few hours.” --From The Lion of Mortimer , by Juliet Dymoke (a novel about Edward II)

Review: Henrietta Sees it Through, by Joyce Dennys

Pages: 180 Original date of publication: 1940s My edition: 2010 (Bloomsbury Group) Why I decided to read: I’m trying to read all the books reprinted by the Bloomsbury Group How I acquired my copy: Bookdepository, June 2010 Henrietta Sees it Through is a continuation of Henrietta’s War , taking Henrietta, her doctor husband, and their village up through WWII. Like the first book, the story is told through Henrietta’s eyes through a number of letters she writes to her childhood friend, Robert. Many of the same characters appear in this book, especially the indomitable Lady B. I wasn’t quite as charned by Henrietta Sees it Through as I was by Henrietta’s War . This one just wasn’t as funny, especially since most of the book revolved around Henrietta’s friendship with Lady B—touching, at times, but I would have liked to have seen more from Mrs. Savernack, or the Conductor, or even Henrietta’s husband. But there are some truly touching moments in this novel, and even a