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 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)
Strong Poison is a book that is mystery, romance, philosophy and social commentary combined in a very interesting and funny story. This is the third b...moreStrong Poison is a book that is mystery, romance, philosophy and social commentary combined in a very interesting and funny story. This is the third book of Dorothy Sayers I have read and now I know why so many people claim she was a genius.
Lord Peter Wimsey is in a hurry to figure out who murdered a little known writer before the wrong person is convicted and hanged. The police are convinced he was murdered by his former lover, Harriet Vane, who is a mystery writer. When her first trial ends with the jury being unable to reach an agreement Lord Peter steps up to help find proof of the defendant's innocence. He only has a month before the new trial begins and normally that would challenge him. But this time he is not interested in the challenge so much as the outcome because he has fallen in love with Harriet.
It was interesting to watch Peter, who is normally so in control and cool, lose it a little in this story. Also for someone who always knows what to say he totally puts his foot in it the first time he meets Harriet. All of thier interactions in this book were hilarious.
I read Gaudy Night first, not realizing it was part of a sequence and while it did not hurt my enjoyment of this book I wish I could have experienced reading them in order (less)
Busman's Honeymoon picks up the story of Peter and Harriet on the day of their wedding. There are several amusing, and sometimes sweet, letters and jo...moreBusman's Honeymoon picks up the story of Peter and Harriet on the day of their wedding. There are several amusing, and sometimes sweet, letters and journal entries at the beginning that fill in the details of the time that has elapsed from the end of Gaudy Night to the big day. Peter and Harriet leave for their honeymoon at a house they have purchased near where Harriet lived as a child. The first day there one catastrophe after another occurs, culminating with the discovery of the former owner dead in the cellar. So of course, Peter and Harriet have to spend their honeymoon working, hence the title.
The book is, of course, brilliant. Like Sayers other Lord Peter books it is not the mystery aspect of the novel that makes it wonderful but the keen insight into humanity, the philosophy and the tackling of weightier issues that pushes it into the brilliant category.
Gaudy Night allowed us to see Harriet come to terms with her demons and, with Peter's help, overcome them. In Busman's Honeymoon it is Peter facing his demons and he has Harriet to help him this time around. The book paints a startling picture of a mind haunted by the things it has witnessed, the war it survived and the struggle it constantly undergoes to balance responsibility, honor and a massive guilt complex. Unlike all of the times Peter simply ran away and into himself, this time there is another person to factor in to his decisions and actions. This and the tension that is created by the situation as Peter and Harriet (and Bunter too) adjust to the new reality and revelations marriage brings about is the center of the story. The mystery acts as a catalyst that brings all of this to a head.
Peter and Harriet are one of my favorite literary couples and I am grateful to Sayers for rendering such a beautiful and complex love story. (less)
Dorothy Sayers is brilliant and, as a result, so is Peter. I have so much fun reading these stories. This collection contains all of the short stories...moreDorothy Sayers is brilliant and, as a result, so is Peter. I have so much fun reading these stories. This collection contains all of the short stories featuring Peter Wimsey complete with his amazing abilities of dection and witty banter. The stories run the gamut of mystery plotting. There are murders to solve, thieves to catch, subterfuge to enact and even a giant crossword puzzle that must be solved to find a missing will. Many of the other beloved characters from the Lord Peter novels, including Bunter and Harriet (accompanied by little Wimseys) are found peppered throughout the collection. For anyone who is a fan of great detective fiction this is a must read!(less)
The concept of this book is unique and intriguing. I went into it with great expectations but found the book to be average at best. I enjoyed the lite...moreThe concept of this book is unique and intriguing. I went into it with great expectations but found the book to be average at best. I enjoyed the literary allusions, particularly the "who is Shakespeare really?" ones. However, the rest of the book fell flat for me. I could not connect with Thursday, the main character. It is possible I would have enjoyed this book more and rated it higher if I hadn't just finished "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis. That was such a superior mixture of time travel and literary allusion for me, and this book couldn't match it.(less)
In order to have a solitary holiday with no mail or phones Harriet sets out on a walking tour of the coast. One day after lunch and a nap she comes a...more In order to have a solitary holiday with no mail or phones Harriet sets out on a walking tour of the coast. One day after lunch and a nap she comes across a corpse on a rock. It is the body of a young man and his throat has been slit. Knowing that the tide will come in soon and wash the body away Harriet does some investigating, finds the razor used and takes pictures of the body to give to the police. When she finally is able to reach a phone she calls the police and then the press, thinking that she should try to control the media story as much as possible. The next day Peter, who was notified by his reporter friend, arrives at her hotel in Wilvercombe to help in sorting out crime, be it murder or suicide.
This is definitely my least favorite of the quartet of books with Harriet in them. It is loooong and the mystery is a complex puzzle. I felt that part dragged a bit. However, as far as the development of Peter and Harriet go it was a good read.(less)
Sir John Fielding was the half brother of British novelist, Henry Fielding. Together they started the first London police force known as the Bow Stree...moreSir John Fielding was the half brother of British novelist, Henry Fielding. Together they started the first London police force known as the Bow Street Runners. After Henry's death, John took over as the Bow Street Magistrate. His ability to discern truth and learn the facts of crimes was extraordinary given that he was blinded in an accident in the Navy when he was 19. Bruce Alexander wrote 11 fiction novels in which the historical figure of Sir John is the protagonist. Blind Justice is the first volume of the series. I am looking forward to reading the others as well.
The narrator of the story is a 13 year old by the name of Jeremy Proctor who finds himself standing before the famous magistrate after he is accused of a theft he didn't commit. Sir John dismisses the charges against Jeremy but at the same time brings him under the custody of the court. While trying to sort out Jeremy's future Sir John is called to investigate a death. In the course of gathering information the extremely observant Jeremy proves useful as a pair of eyes for Sir John when needed and helps during the rest of the investigation.
The mystery is an interesting puzzle though not tricky or surprising. The plot unfolded in a way that was never boring. The characters are memorable, some for being rather stereotypical of the time period. The two things that made the book a great read for me were the historical integrity of the novel and Jeremy's voice.
Georgian London is represented in all its glory and grit from the upper class to the Covent Garden prostitutes and everything in between. The job the Magistrate and the Bow Street Runners had before them is shown clearly through the eyes of the innocent country boy Jeremy. The historical figures who make appearances in the novel are not trifled with. They remain true to the historical accounts of their lives with no embellishment. This is true of the ones who are merely small players and of Sir John, who is the main protagonist. I found the book to be a clear window on what life in London at the time was like.
Jeremy is a newcomer to London so seeing the world through his eyes allows even those not well versed in London history to gain a clear picture of what it was like. The novel is written very much in the style of the times so it reads like something Henry Fielding himself might have written. Jeremy's story reads genuine as a result. I found this made it easier to get caught up in the time period even more. I also enjoyed Jeremy's observations on the world around him and is innocent obliviousness to many things was amusing.(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)
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)
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)
I really enjoyed this series when I first started it but as I've continued it my enjoyment has been steadily decreasing. I skipped and skimmed great c...moreI really enjoyed this series when I first started it but as I've continued it my enjoyment has been steadily decreasing. I skipped and skimmed great chunks of this one without missing anything and keeping up with both mysteries just fine. In the previous novel I noticed some places where 2oth century ideals and thoughts were being unrealistically spouted by the characters and this continues in this volume as well. I think maybe I need to take a break from the series for a while before moving on to the sixth volume. (less)
From looking at the cover you might come to the conclusion that those kids are creepy an bizarre. They are not creepy, b...moreReview originally posted here.
From looking at the cover you might come to the conclusion that those kids are creepy an bizarre. They are not creepy, but they are a bit bizarre. Otto doesn't speak (by choice), Lucia is uncomfortably forthright and Max is super smart and likes to sit on the roof. This is their story and I have a great love for books about siblings who adventure, suffer, and succeed together so I was expecting to like the Hardscrabbles. I was not expecting them to earn a place in my heart next to the Bastables, Pevensies, and Penderwicks, but they have.
The adventures of the Hardscabble children will captivate young readers. What child doesn't love the idea of being on their own in a big city? Or living in a miniature version of a castle complete with its own carousel? Or finding and exploring a secret passageway? Or brilliantly outwitting all the grownups? These kids argue and fuss with each other like any other group of siblings. There are characteristics in them all kids could identify with, but at the same time they are so different, and having such a strange adventure that their story is engrossing. It is the perfect combination.
I really enjoyed the style of the writing here as well. From the beginning it pulls you in: "There were three of them. Otto was the oldest, and the oddest. Then there was Lucia, who wished something interesting would happen. Last of all was Max, who always thought he knew better. They lived in a small town in England called Little Tunks. There is no Big Tunks. One Tunks was more than enough for everyone."
This is one of those books where the story is told in third person by a first person narrator who provides commentary for the reader. Normally that type of narration drives me nuts, but it worked for me in this book, probably because the narrator is one of the children and not some unknown supercilious adult. The narrator's identity is meant to be secret, as this is the story of all three children and not just one. The narrator, not necessarily agreeing with this edict, gives the reader plenty of information to make an accurate identification. I absolutely love the narrator's wit, such as: "They hooted and laughed and staggered around like a pack of drunken idiots as the Hardscrabbles walked by. If I ever become like this when I am a teenager, I hope someone smothers me in my sleep." and "Here is my most important message to you: All great adventures have moments that are really crap."
The ending is a bit rushed, which I'm noticing a lot in books lately. It is described in the book as bittersweet and I think young readers would agree. As a mother, I found it to be really really sad. Don't worry, everyone, including the cat, is alive and well in the end. Happy even.
If you know a kid who loves adventure, humor, and mystery then put this book in their hands. If you are a lover of those things yourself, you should read it too. (less)