I wanted to love this book but it and I just didn't click. It seemed like the perfect book for me when I heard about it. Historical fiction is one of...moreI wanted to love this book but it and I just didn't click. It seemed like the perfect book for me when I heard about it. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and I love books with a good anti-hero. My very first research paper I wrote for high school I wrote on Mary Queen of Scots and I took a class on the Tudors and Stuarts one semester in college. This book seemed tailor made for me but I just could not get into it..
The historical setting of the book is marvelously written and the characters are interesting for the most part, when you can understand them. I was frustrated by all of the Spanish, French and Latin scattered through the book. It hampered my enjoyment of Lymond's personality because I could not understand half of what he was saying. The plot started off slow and consisted, at first, of nothing but caper after caper showcasing Lymond's brilliance. By the end of the book I was thoroughly annoyed with the man and could have cared less whether or not he was successful in his ultimate goal. He was almost a little too clever, jaded and cynical for my taste.
Because I wanted to like these books so much I started reading the second in the series when I finished this one and I had to stop. I just couldn't take it anymore. I will try to come back to them eventually but for now Lymond and I are saying adieu. (less)
Rosemary Sutcliff's work had been recommended to me by several different sources. I am grateful to all for introducing me to this wonderful author. I...moreRosemary Sutcliff's work had been recommended to me by several different sources. I am grateful to all for introducing me to this wonderful author. I hate that I have been missing out all these years.
The Eagle of the Ninth is historical fiction set in England during the Roman occupation. It is the story of a young Roman soldier stationed there whose career with the legions is brought to an abrupt end. Looking for a purpose to fulfill him afterwards he goes on a mission that takes him from southern England to the north of Scotland to find the Eagle lost by the missing legion his father commanded and discover the truth about what happened to them.
The language of the book is beautiful and it would make a great read aloud. The history is well researched, the characters fully developed and the plot engrossing. While this book technically falls into children/YA category it is equally engaging for adults to read. (less)
The Perilous Gard is a reworking of the Scottish ballad of Tam Lin. Or it might be more accurate to say the ballad of Tam Lin is worked into this stor...moreThe Perilous Gard is a reworking of the Scottish ballad of Tam Lin. Or it might be more accurate to say the ballad of Tam Lin is worked into this story which stands on its own merits beautifully.
During 16th century England Kate Sutton is exiled to a mysterious fortress called Elvenwood Manor but historically referred to as the Perilous Gard. As soon as she arrives she is drawn into the life of another of the castle's inhabitants, Christopher Heron the younger brother of the owner. He is haunted by the disappearance and presumed death of his niece which he feels is his fault. Kate and Christopher soon discover that the young girl is not as dead or lost as presumed. When Christopher trades his own freedom and life for that of his niece, Kate also finds herself a captive and in the position of having to rescue them both.
As a work of historical fiction this novel is wonderful. It accurately depicts the time and the personalities of historical figures while never once losing the magic of the story to historical reality. As a tribute to a very old and cherished folklore the book also excels. I enjoyed the ambiguity of the true nature of the Faerie Queen and her minions. Were they truly Fae or simply an ancient race who had managed to preserve their way of life by shrinking into the shadows?
Kate Sutton is a heroine of tremendous strength and ability. She is practical, sarcastic and uses her intellect to see her through trials. She is not a cardboard character though. She has plenty faults to go along with her better qualities. I love the relationship between her and Christopher and how each describes their view of it at the end of the book (funny and romantic stuff there).
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction or retellings of old fairy tales. (less)
Honestly, if I all I had known about this book was its premise I probably would have disregarded it as silly and never read it. However, it was writte...moreHonestly, if I all I had known about this book was its premise I probably would have disregarded it as silly and never read it. However, it was written by Elizabeth Marie Pope and as I love The Perilous Gard I gave it a go. And I am so glad I did.
The book is about a girl named Peggy who has just been orphaned and comes to live with her uncle at her family's ancestral estate in upstate New York. During her first meeting with her uncle he loses his temper and kicks out a perfectly nice young man who has assisted Peggy in reaching her home. After this less than auspicious beginning Peggy is promptly ignored and becomes lonely as she wanders about with no direction or companions. Into this loneliness enter four ghosts from her family's past from the time of the Revolutionary War. As they share thier stories Peggy's present situation begins to take on new and interesting forms.
I was suprised at how much I loved this book and how engrossed I became in the lives of the characters, particularly the four dead ones. The historical setting was genuine and interesting. It makes the reader think of the Revolutionary War in terms of the lives living it rather than the battles and dates that have historically marked it.
The character of Peaceable Sherwood is my number one reason for falling in love with the book though. I love characters who are conniving, snarky and charismatic and he has it all. If you enjoy reading characters like The Scarlet Pimpernel, Gen from the Queen's Thief series and Lord Peter you will enjoy reading this.
Overall, I found The Perilous Gard to be the better of the two but this one is definitely a keeper as well. I am sad that there are no more books by Elizabeth Marie Pope to discover. Why did she only write two books????? (less)
The cover of my copy of this book says, "A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane". That should really be the other way around. This is Harriet's...moreThe cover of my copy of this book says, "A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane". That should really be the other way around. This is Harriet's book. The third novel in the quartet of Peter novels involving Harriet, Gaudy Night finds her sorting out her feelings on the past and finally ready to contemplate a future. Sound easy? It is anything but.
The opening of this novel finds Harriet attending the gaudy of her former college, Shrewsbury at Oxford University. While there Harriet contemplates and weighs the pros and cons of married life versus life as a scholar. Seeing so many former bright minds dulled by years of marriage and child rearing Harriet wonders if the only choice is to lose oneself to someone else or spend a lifetime alone. Is there any way that finds a balance? When a string of strange incidents at the college involving some horrid notes and malicious pranks begin the dons call in Harriet, with her limited investigating experience, to help them figure out who is behind it. Harriet finds herself living at Oxford again for some months and is happy with how she fits and is able to work. However, as the campaign of the college "poltergeist" takes on new and dangerous aspects Harriet begins to suspect nearly everyone forcing her to question whether lifelong celibacy for scholarship can cause you to go mad. When the case begins to reach impossible levels she calls in Peter to help her. His arrival at Oxford brings closure to the case and the fraught five year relationship between Peter and Harriet.
I really enjoyed the further development of Harriet's character in this novel, the discussion of women and their roles in society, and the 1930's perspective on the rise of Hitler's Germany.
And then there was the romance. Peter and Harriet have a truly spectacular love story. (less)
Think it would be romantic to go back in time to the Medieval Age? Knights, jousting, tournaments, ladies in waiting, the age of chivalry and all that? Well, this book will pretty much obliterate any romantic notions you might have about this time period. The 14th century is considered a blanket 10, meaning they don't send historians there. It is too dangerous. When the Head of History at Oxford University goes on a holiday and takes pains to make himself unreachable, the acting head, a Medieval professor, works quickly to have the restrictions on 14th century lifted. James Dunworthy, head of Balliol College and 21st century historians, has serious issues with this. The historian they are sending is one of his favorite students, Kivrin Engle. Kivrin has been studying for this opportunity for a long time. She has learned to speak Middle English and old Church Latin. She has learned the arts and trades a woman needs to survive in 14th century England. She has been inoculated against all the diseases the contemps were want to get, including the Plague. This was an extra precaution on her doctor's part. Kivrin is going back in time to 1320 not 1348, when the Plague reached England. Except, oops. A mistake was made and Kivrin ends up in Oxfordshire, December 1348. The same time the Black Death arrived.
At the same time things are not going so well in 2054 either. An hour after Kivren is sent back the lab tech who set her coordinates collapses after announcing that something went wrong. He is rushed to the hospital where it is discovered he has an unknown virus. Oxford is immediately put under a quarantine and people start dropping like flies. The hospital is overrun in a matter of days. Everything is in chaos. It is Christmas so there are no techs at Oxford, except the unconscious one. Dunworthy only knows something went wrong with the drop, not what. In a climate of fear Gilchrist, the acting head, shuts down the Net, effectively trapping Kivrin in the hell to which they have sent her.
The novel is told from the third person limited point of view alternating between Kivrin and Dunworthy. Through their voices we see the same tragedy playing out in two separate centuries. Even with all of the medical technology and know how of 2054 there is nothing that can be done against an unknown pandemic. In each time period humanity is displayed in all of its fear, hate, hope and love. The stories parallel in many ways. Character traits, both likable and not so much, show up in people of both times. Church services, the ringing of bells, the devotion of care takers, the cowardice of some and the bravery of others are present in both stories.
This is not an easy book to read. But it is a great book to read. It does have a body count. Characters you despise will die. Characters you love will die. It is tragic and wonderful at the same time.(less)
This is a story of a typical little girl. Franny is a middle child struggling to be visible in a family with an older sist...moreReview first published here.
This is a story of a typical little girl. Franny is a middle child struggling to be visible in a family with an older sister in college and a perfect "saintly" little brother. She is struggling with growing into adolescence, having problems with her best friend, liking the boy next door, and wondering whether or not she will be able to attend her first boy/girl party. She is snooping into her sister's things to find out the secrets she won't share. These things make her accessible to contemporary kids and through her those kids will get a story that takes them to another time in history. A time when air raid sirens could interrupt recess with the panic of a nuclear attack. When people were building bomb shelters and storing food and bottled water. Wiles does a fantastic job at showing the building terror in the children, particularly Franny and her younger brother, Drew. The story is told by Franny herself and the writing is highly emotive. My only quibble with the story is the end. It was a little too dramatic and cliche' for my tastes. The rest of the book was just so good in comparison that the end really didn't seem to fit. Then there is the side story of Franny's sister's mysterious activities. This is never resolved. Now as an adult reader I know exactly what she is doing. I'm not so sure a sixth grader would. They might be left feeling robbed at not having that resolved at the end.
I love that this is a book written about the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Thank you Deborah Wiles for writing a 20th century historical fiction novel for middle grades not set during the Great Depression.) I also love the inventive format of the book, which is done documentary style. In between chapters there are pictures of historical footage from the time period with quotes and song lyrics. There are also a few essays. This really gives the reader a feel for the setting and history. I do wonder how much of it a child in the target age range would actually read and digest, particularly when it comes to reading the few essays that are scattered in it. I minored in history in college and, I have to say, these essays bothered me a bit. They are not sourced (the author does include a bibliography at the end but does not indicate which ones were used for what) and they are written in a style that is meant to sway the reader to think a certain way about the subject, with interjections here and there. There were several mentions of the conflict in Vietnam and President Kennedy sending troops there as part of this documentary part too, and I couldn't help wondering why, as that is not what this book is about. Sure it covers the same time period, but Vietnam is not mentioned in the actual narrative at all. I can see 5tth or 6th graders seeing a reference to troops in Vietnam and assuming that it is a city in, or an island near, Cuba. (I taught 5th grade, they really were that bad about Geography by the time they got to me. Clueless, pretty much sums it up.) It did make me wonder if this is a book kids would gravitate to on their own, or if it is one of those that teacher will foist on them. I have a feeling it's the latter.
My favorite aspect of the book was, by far, the depiction of life in the USAF. Sunday eating at the Club, dress uniforms, Sunday school at the Base Chapel, food coming from the Commissary, standing up for the National Anthem every time you see a movie (I, like Franny, was taken aback the first time I went to a civilian theater and didn't do this), the puffed up feeling you get when your sitting in the back seat and your car is saluted as it drives through the gate, all of it was perfectly conveyed. This quote sums up my feelings perfectly: "Just being on base makes me feel better. There's something solid and safe about it, where everything is controlled and neat, everything is known, the rules make sense, and my whole family belongs. Every bush is clipped just so, not a blade of grass is too high, and on every sidewalk there is a man or woman in uniform, walking to wherever he or she is going. Every few minutes a jet flies overhead. Sometimes lots of jets. Everything has a purpose." I can not tell you how much I miss the sound of fighter jets. They are the sound of home to me and I look forward to hearing them when I visit my parents.
My children will definitely be reading this when we study this time period in 6th grade. (See, there I will be, foisting.) It is actually the first book in a trilogy, so there are two more to come. I"m looking forward to seeing what comes next. (less)
The book has adventure, peril, a mystery to solve. It has romance. I'm sure there are many people out there who would en...moreReview originally posted here.
The book has adventure, peril, a mystery to solve. It has romance. I'm sure there are many people out there who would enjoy it for those things. I couldn't. For one, Agnes annoyed me to no end. She too often allows her petulance and will lead her down roads she ought not go down. Despite knowing that she ought not go down them. She is selfish and, once the mystery is under way, can not stand for any part of it to be conducted without her. For example, when a person she and her partner (Caedmon) have consulted is attacked she convinces Caedmon (who is said person's godson and was requested by him) to wait to visit the hospital until she can go with him. Yes, a person has been attacked and is bleeding in a hospital, possibly dying, asking for the person in the world he's closest to and you make him wait hours because what is important is that you be there. Nice. I really couldn't figure out what Caedmon saw in her (other than she was also smart and liked Egyptology). It was rather hard for me to have any respect for him because of it.
But all of that is nothing compared to how annoyed I was by the evident lack of historical research. Or what I perceived to be a lack. Maybe the research was there, only disregarded because it was inconvenient? All I know is that the historical inaccuracies kept throwing me out of the story. One of them ruined it completely. Historical Liberties Taken (the first I could have shrugged off if it weren't for all the ones that piled on top of it):
* Agnes asks her seamstress if she has read Pride and Prejudice and the seamstress says she has. The chances of a seamstress being able to read in 1815 are slim. If she could read, the chances of her being able to procure a copy of and then read Price and Prejudice are slimmer than slim. * This a book that takes place in high society and the author has not a clue how members of the peerage are to be addressed. She has characters referring to landed aristocrats as "Mr." and "Mrs." Agnes's father is referred to as Sir Hugh at one point, and then Lord Wilkins at another. It has to be one or the other, it can't be both. The former implies he is no more than a baronet, actually a commoner and not a peer. We know that can't be the case because it is mentioned he is a member of the House of Lords. If he is Lord Wilkins than no one would have been calling Agnes Miss Wilkins (which everyone does), she would be Lady Agnes. This knowledge can be acquired in less than five minutes by performing a Google search. * Agnes gallivants around London all by herself to a remarkable degree. She sneaks off to go to the British Museum by herself several times. Her mother allows her to go shopping for ribbon with nothing but a coachman. Which might be turned plausible if she were only shopping in Bond Street. Except the modiste her mother orders her clothes from is actually in the City, near the Tower. * At one point there is a conversation in Agnes's home. Her entire family is there, as is Lord Showalter. During the conversation one of the brother's says "bloody" and the other one uses the phrase "smooth as a virgin's throat". In mixed company. In front of non-family member. Who happens to be their sister's suitor. * This one is technically a spoiler (although one really shouldn't be shocked by it), but this is the one that caused me to do violence to the book by slamming it down hard (I was in the car, I couldn't throw it). Lord Showalter is a French spy but not, as Agnes assumes, a traitor. No, he is a French agent and not a British Lord at all, "Lord Showalter is a fiction, my past invented prior to my arrival here." Yes, because the British aristocracy is so stupid they simply accepted someone into their midst who claims a title that, prior to his introduction to them, had not existed. * The British government alters the Rosetta Stone in the attempt to erase any trace of the adventure.
Why does any of that matter? Understanding of the time and place of a historical fiction novel you are writing is critical to making it genuine. Just like shoddy world building will ruin a fantasy novel, lack of a genuine setting will ruin a historical fiction novel. Some might argue that this is a YA novel and that most of its targeted audience won't know the difference. I think that makes it all the more important to get it right.(less)
I really enjoyed Enola. The book is a first person narrative from her point of view. At the beginning she is scared and...moreReview originally posted here.
I really enjoyed Enola. The book is a first person narrative from her point of view. At the beginning she is scared and uncertain. However, she proves to have a brilliant mind capable of strategy and great deception. She learns a lot about life and human nature over the course of this one book and, because she is observant and processes information quickly, she is able to adjust herself accordingly and quickly. She is a girl who fights when she has to but mostly uses her wits to see her through. The book's supporting characters are also well written. Even the missing marquess, who is in the book very little, is given surprising depth (I really hope he shows up again in later volumes). I very much enjoyed the portrayal of Sherlock as well.
The first half of the book covers the mystery of Enola's missing mother and helps the reader to become acquainted with Enola and the world in which she lives. The other half of the book is more of an adventure story involving Enola's escape from the dooms of finishing school and her entanglement with the missing marquess. The whole thing is interesting, paced well and Enola's observations on life make for humorous and quick reading.
Nancy Springer did a wonderful job describing Victorian England. From the docks and slums of London's East End to the ridiculous practices of the upper class, this book has it covered. There is not a shiny gloss put over anything here. The prostitution, poverty and lawlessness of the East End are mentioned. There is an allusion in the prologue to the work of Jack the Ripper (the book takes place in 1888). The type of clothes women of the upper class had to wear and the restrictions put on girls of this time are well detailed. The popular view of women as witless and fragile is espoused by Sherlock and his brother several times. Enola's father was a rationalist and Darwin is mentioned as one of his favorite writers. Enola's mother is active in the struggling movement for women's suffrage. Pretty much every angle and aspect of Victorian society is given a nod to in this book and it is done without ever being didactic.
This book is marketed for middle grade readers but is enjoyable for any age. Teen and adult readers will enjoy it as well, especially if they like the mystery genre and are familiar with the character of Sherlock Holmes. Advanced younger readers will probably enjoy the mystery and adventure elements, but a lot of the rest of it will probably go over their heads. There are intense moments when Enola is held captive some younger readers might find scary.
I am very much looking forward to reading the other books in the series.(less)
Reading this book is like watching a good romantic movie. I enjoyed it and it gave me a break from thinking too hard. Li...moreFull review can be found here.
Reading this book is like watching a good romantic movie. I enjoyed it and it gave me a break from thinking too hard. Like in many good romances, the strength of the story actually lies in the wonderful cast of supporting characters. I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot less if it wasn't for how much it focused on people that weren't Anna and Rupert. The historical aspect was handled accurately too. For any out there who enjoy reading well written romance novels. And there is nothing in it, romantic content wise, anyone would find objectionable. (less)
Murder in Grub Street picks up just a few weeks after Blind Justice ends. Mourning the death of his wife, Sir Joh...moreFrom a review originally posted here.
Murder in Grub Street picks up just a few weeks after Blind Justice ends. Mourning the death of his wife, Sir John has arranged for Jeremy to have an apprenticeship in a printer's shop. The night before Jeremy is supposed to start the family and two young apprentices are savagely murdered with axes in their beds. A man, apparently crazed, was found at the scene axe in hand. He is apprehended but Sir John chooses to send him to Bedlam rather than bind him over for trial immediately when he acts as though he is someone else speaking for himself. Things are further complicated for Sir John and Jeremy when a new group of religious zealots determined to convert all the Jews make their presence known in Covent Garden.
Again, I enjoyed the way this novel depicted Georgian London and the way it is written in the language of the time. The plot was fast paced and interesting. I felt a couple of scenes were a bit unbelievable, but overall the story was engrossing. One thing I really liked about the first novel was Jeremy's voice and how he showed us this city through the innocent wide eyes of a country boy newly arrived. This continues in this novel although there were times when his innocence seemed a bit disingenuous.(less)
Watery Grave takes a place a little over a year after Murder ends. Jeremy is now a settled member of the Fielding...moreFrom a review originally posted here.
Watery Grave takes a place a little over a year after Murder ends. Jeremy is now a settled member of the Fielding home. Sir John has remarried and the new Lady Fielding is welcoming home her son, Tom, who has been aboard ship in the Navy for the past three years. The ship he crews has come into port with a scandal and an old Admiral friend of Sir John's asks him to help in the investigation. The Captain of the ship went overboard during a storm and the First Lieutenant, now acting Captain, has accused the Second Lieutenant of pushing him over. The crew is not too happy about this as they far prefer the Second Lieutenant to the First. In the course of his investigation Sir John uncovers the nastier side of His Majesty's Navy.
This is a really sad story. There is a lot of disillusionment experienced by the characters and the end was a bit depressing. I liked this realistic aspect and thought the author concluded it well. Jeremy's character is starting to grate on me a little now though. He is not so naive as he was in the previous two but he still seems far more innocent that a boy of 14 who lived in Covent Garden and worked daily at the Bow Street Magistrate would be. Maybe I am cynical though. As a word of warning for any who might be sensitive, this book has a lot of discussion about sex. Jeremy is, as I said, a 14 year old boy who talks to other teenage boys. The subject comes up. Sex is also a major component in what is uncovered in the investigation and a good many characters who turn up in this one are sailors on leave. So it's there more than a bit in the plot but not described at all. Some of the conversations are actually quite amusing.(less)
The third section of Beowulf has always been my favorite. It is just so sad and uncertain, yet hopeful at the same time....moreReview originally posted here.
The third section of Beowulf has always been my favorite. It is just so sad and uncertain, yet hopeful at the same time. Like most endings are in life. Plus there's a dragon. There are very few stories that can't be improved by the presence of a dragon. So I was pretty excited about the existence of this book.
This book says so much and at the same time the story is so simple. It is Rune's story and shows his journey from taunted farm boy to one of the king's men facing a dragon, and then on to a bit more. Through Rune's story the reader gets so much more though. Not the least of which is a very accurate representation of Anglo Saxon life. I have to agree that this aspect did remind me of Rosemary Sutcliff in that the power was in the details. Small things were included that gives the reader a sense of the setting and did not require a lot of description. There is also a lot said about seeking wisdom, governing, war, peace, love, friendship and family. None of this is didactic, it is the story.
The plot is fast paced. The story covers little time. Things with the dragon happen quickly. The story taken from Beowulf ends about two thirds of the way in and the rest of the novel is pure invention and follows the things that occur in the land post dragon. The end is a bit rushed and some of Rune's emotions are startling in how quick they form but it was still concluded well.
Rune is a fascinating main character who comes across as real. I felt everything he was feeling so acutely as I read the book I actually had to double check to see what point of view it was written in before typing this review. It is third but I could have sworn it was first. All of the secondary characters are interesting as well, particularly Beowulf and Amma. There are several strong females in the story and they tell of how important they were to the society they lived in.
This is definitely one I will be coming back to again and will share with my children.(less)
Like the first three Enola books this was an entertaining read but I didn't enjoy it quite as well as I did the others. The mystery in this one did no...moreLike the first three Enola books this was an entertaining read but I didn't enjoy it quite as well as I did the others. The mystery in this one did not engage me as much and I felt the historical setting was not portrayed as well as before. I did enjoy the interaction between Enola and Sherlock in this book. It was fun to see them working together for a while.(less)
I was worried after readingThe Case of the Peculiar Pink Fanthat the series may have lost some of its quality as it continued. It only took reading th...moreI was worried after readingThe Case of the Peculiar Pink Fanthat the series may have lost some of its quality as it continued. It only took reading the prologue of this one for me to say, " Ah, now that's more like it." This book is my favorite in the series after the original. Not only do we have more delightful encounters, or near encounters, between Enola and Sherlock but there is also the added presence of Florence Nightingale as a character. Ms. Springer does a delightful job of again accurately displaying history but also giving her own twist to the motivations of a well known figure in history. (She does include a very brief end note explaining what is true and what is fabricated.) The mystery in this one is tied up in the work of Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War and gives the reader a graphic picture of what life was like for those who fought it and the people who cared for them.(less)
Sherlock has finally figured out the fastest way to find Enola and its a good thing because he has received a communication from their missing mother...moreSherlock has finally figured out the fastest way to find Enola and its a good thing because he has received a communication from their missing mother that is for her. At the same time they are both tied up in a case involving a missing noblewoman. The book pulls together all the missing pieces in a tidy way and leaves the reader with a sense of closure. (Inexplicably to me Lady Cecily is brought up by Enola again at the end and it is said she has affection for her. I remain completely baffled by this one aspect of the books. She doesn't even really know Lady Cecily, she is fascinated by her own conjectures of Lady Cecily's personality. I really want to point out to her the difference and wish someone else Mycroft? Sherlock? would.) (less)
I didn't like this book nearly as much as I have the others in the series. Jeremy's voice is starting to grate on my nerves and his hero worship for S...moreI didn't like this book nearly as much as I have the others in the series. Jeremy's voice is starting to grate on my nerves and his hero worship for Sir John is beginning to get tedious. This is a personal preference objection. I prefer anti-heroes or at least heroes who flirt with being anti, and Jeremy is just far too well behaved. I also felt in this novel that the historical integrity was being sacrificed for twentieth century political correctness and thought.(less)