This is the first book in a very long time that had me laughing out loud for pages on end. I can't remember when I've been so entertained. The dialog...moreThis is the first book in a very long time that had me laughing out loud for pages on end. I can't remember when I've been so entertained. The dialog is spot on, filled with dry humor. As I mentioned in my Black Moth review, I actually liked the duke better in that novel than this one. Here he is older and plays a father figure (surprisingly!) for most of the book.
I did find the whole revenge theme somewhat tiresome after a while, and was surprised at the bloodthirsty-ness of even the peaceful characters towards the end--though the violence turns out to be minimal. I let this slide, though, as the story is as much an adventure as romance. I wasn't overly fond of Leon/Leonie, but her interactions with the Duke and his brother Rupert---actually everyone--were the best parts of the book.(less)
I liked the premise of this book: a 29-year-old woman, who has led a relentlessly uneventful life up until now, finds out she's dying and starts to sa...moreI liked the premise of this book: a 29-year-old woman, who has led a relentlessly uneventful life up until now, finds out she's dying and starts to say what she wants to say and do what she wants to do in spite of her controlling family. Montgomery writes honestly and touchingly about her subject matter up until about 3/4 of the way through when, I suppose, she decides she can't end the thing on a depressing note. Then it gets hokey and not believable and ends (for me) unsatisfactorily. It could have been exponentially better if she had kept up the tone of the beginning of the novel.
I still rate Anne of Green Gables as LM Montgomery's greatest work, but I'm hoping I can find another book by her that lives up to that first one.(less)
After what I think is my favorite Von Arnim so far, Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther, this one was a bit anti-climactic. But it's Von Arnim, so stil...moreAfter what I think is my favorite Von Arnim so far, Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther, this one was a bit anti-climactic. But it's Von Arnim, so still very good.
The premise is a tired English woman (I'm not sure if we ever know her name) after WWI escapes some personal troubles in London (we never know exactly what) and goes to her house among the Swiss mountains that has been vacant during the whole of the war. It is the start of summer, and at first our narrator spends her time sporadically writing in her journal (which we are reading) and lying in the grass, trying to get back her energy to face the world again. As she gains strength, she starts to notice that she is lonely, and almost immediately two English women, also of ambiguous personal circumstances, show up literally on her doorstep. The hostess takes them in, and they embark on a strange and endearing path to helping each other.
The plot has a lot in common with other Von Arnim novels--I would say something like a sequel to Vera and Fraulein Schmidt and a prequel to The Enchanted April. I do highly recommend this for other Von Arnim fans since there seem to be more and more of us out there. Others may like this one for it's original narrative technique and highly readable prose.
This should be just out at Gutenberg and soon out at Girlebooks--the text was a proofreading project I did with Marc at freeliterature.org.(less)
The Black Moth, though actually a minor character throughout much of the plot, ends up stealing the show. He is oh so evil, yet oh so intriguing. He f...moreThe Black Moth, though actually a minor character throughout much of the plot, ends up stealing the show. He is oh so evil, yet oh so intriguing. He fairly drips with an aura of mystery whenever on the scene--which is never expected, but always premeditated. Some diss this book as Heyer's first and flawed attempt at a historical romance novel, written when she was 19. Don't be so fast to overlook it and go on to her more recommended novels. If you'll be reading her other Alastair series books (These Old Shades, Devil's Cub....), it is requisite to read this first. Though the names are changed, the characters are the same and the plot references carry through the books chronologically. Having read These Old Shades, my opinion is that TOS is a superior book in many respects, but I enjoyed The Black Moth character better in this first book over the latter where he's more old fogey-ish than villain.(less)
This review was originally published at Girlebooks.com.
This is a captivating story about love and tea. It is told from the point of view of the titula...moreThis review was originally published at Girlebooks.com.
This is a captivating story about love and tea. It is told from the point of view of the titular character, Ida Mae, a divorcee grandmother living in Ohio. As the story opens she is waiting for her best friend since she was 10 years old, Jane, to arrive for tea. Jane and Ida Mae have always been complete opposites--Ida Mae being the quiet homebody and Jane the bustling actress. But their friendship works. They complete each other, perhaps more than the various lovers and spouses that entered the two women's lives over the decades. In this first scene we learn some devastating news: Jane has cancer and has only a few weeks left.
From there the narrative shifts between flashbacks in the form of Ida Mae's journal entries and the present during the last days Ida Mae and Jane have together. From Ida Mae's past journal entries we see the start of her friendship with Jane and her years in high school with her first boyfriend. Marriage and a daughter follow. In these life changing events both in past and present, one thing stays constant: the enduring connection between the two women and tea.
If you are a tea drinker, as interested in the ceremony as the drink, then you are in for a special treat--"Tea Party" isn't in the name of the book for nothing! The appendix includes several recipes for sweet treats for the tea table as featured in the book. Another treat is an introduction and epilogue in which author Ginnie Bivona chronicles her experiences from when the book was turned into a Hallmark movie, Bound By a Secret. The meta-story behind the story gives this book a personal touch, nicely enveloping the narrative into something you won't soon forget.(less)
This long book took me ages to read. It started really well, and I got into the characters especially some of the "bad" ones. I thought she would have...moreThis long book took me ages to read. It started really well, and I got into the characters especially some of the "bad" ones. I thought she would have more of a sense of humor, a la Jane Austen, but no. Her tone turned out a bit too moralistic for me, with the "bad" characters in the end suffering from their dependency of patronage, the "good" characters suffering a bit at first from not relying on patronage but in the end turning out the better for relying on their own intelligence, good morals, etc. Edgeworth gets more and more obvious with this theme as the book goes on and it is tiresome.
But her writing is impeccable, and the cast of characters very interesting. I just wish she hadn't been so harsh about it all, had a little fun with it, and we would have a little more fun with her.(less)
I didn't want to read this one straight after The Pursuit of Love because I didn't want to get the two confused. But turns out that I did read it stra...moreI didn't want to read this one straight after The Pursuit of Love because I didn't want to get the two confused. But turns out that I did read it straight after, and in hindsight I should haven't have worried. While the plots of the two novels are intertwined, this one is very different from Pursuit.
The story mainly deals with Polly, a friend of the narrator Fanny (who also narrates of Pursuit). The characters are grown-up in this one, which is a shame because the charm from the first story came from the childhood antics of the Radlett children. There are a few characters that are interesting, if not lovable. Cedric was my favorite--the flamboyant Canadian who moves to Paris to find his true identity and ends up Lady Montdore's plaything. In my mind's reenactment he was played by Tom Hollander, in the same style as his character from Bedrooms and Hallways--if you've seen that.
I would give this one 3 1/2 stars if I could. The Pursuit of Love deserves a full 4 stars. As you can tell, I didn't like this one as much due to the fact that I was bored with Polly and wished Mitford devoted more pages to the interesting characters. But the book ended quite abruptly and left me wishing for more.(less)
What a long book, but Kingsley's excellent sense of humor makes the dry parts bearable. She's at her best when writing in travel journal style. Can yo...moreWhat a long book, but Kingsley's excellent sense of humor makes the dry parts bearable. She's at her best when writing in travel journal style. Can you believe this woman went alone, in 1893, to remote areas in West Africa crawling with cannibal tribes? Some areas had never been visited by a white man, much less a white woman. Her views on African problems and issues at the time are very sensible and logical to the modern reader; she never falls into the trap of basing her opinions on prejudice. This is evidenced by the fact that she esteems the most feared cannibal tribe, the Fans, as her preferred hosts and traveling companions.
The rest of the book that is not travel narrative is her thoughts and research on Africa and its "fetishes", which is what seems to be her word for the religious and traditional customs of the natives. This fetish talk is interesting in some parts, especially when she is talking about her favorites, the Fans. But it gets tedious toward the end. In the Preface she notes that this book was originally published in a much longer version that had since been cut down substantially. She probably should have cut more. Also, it would have made more sense to put some of the meatier chapters on fetish toward the beginning to give the reader a suitable introduction to her interests and the tribes with which she comes in contact.
As a historical piece, this book is a must-read for anyone remotely interested in the history of West Africa, particularly at this period of encroaching European influence. As a travel book, it is amazing for the fact that this woman did what she did. I have read a little history on Mary Kingsley and found that she was initially driven to West Africa with not only curiosity but also suicidal tendencies. Several members of her family had just died, and she felt little sympathy with the conservative, late Victorian English society that surrounded her. So she fled abroad, knowing full well that over 70% of white men who went to West Africa succumbed to fever or other maladies. Turns out that West Africa treated her well, and she went on to travel for several more years. She eventually succumbed to typhoid in South Africa in 1900.(less)
What an interesting narrator! At first I wasn't sure about her, but I did like the adventure of it all--running away from her father, marrying impetuo...moreWhat an interesting narrator! At first I wasn't sure about her, but I did like the adventure of it all--running away from her father, marrying impetuously, running after her husband across the globe to Australia; we can forgive her impetuousness because she was very young. But as she got older I got less and less forgiving and she got more and more annoying! The transition from young impetuousness to older and deeply flawed character was really well done. It is refreshing to read such an obviously far-from-perfect heroine, and all from her point of view. I will definitely read more Ada Cambridge.(less)
This one is u-turn from Stout's other novel, Radium Halos, which was based on historical--and tragic--events. Celebrities for Breakfast is a purely fi...moreThis one is u-turn from Stout's other novel, Radium Halos, which was based on historical--and tragic--events. Celebrities for Breakfast is a purely fictional beach read that will have you laughing and possibly wincing throughout. Some of the best moments for me came from pre-teen Shannon who gets to live every pre-teen's fantasy of meeting her favorite movie star. One of the best lines, which will give you an idea of the tone of the novel, comes from Shannon's mom referring to said movie star, "He may be famous, but he's still just a human being who puts his leather pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else."(less)
I love digging up these excellent novels from decades or even centuries ago that no one knows about today. The First Violin is part mystery, part roma...moreI love digging up these excellent novels from decades or even centuries ago that no one knows about today. The First Violin is part mystery, part romance, and part musical. It starts with 17-year-old May Wedderburn living a quiet, almost boring existence in her small town in England. Her quiet existence is shattered when she attracts the amorous attentions of the local wealthy landowner, Sir Peter. May has no interest in Sir Peter's offer of marriage and is even a bit afraid of him. There are dark rumors about his last marriage and the circumstances surrounding his last wife's demise. Enter the town recluse and sister of said late wife, Miss Hallam, who offers to whisk May away to Germany. May, not only eager to get away from Sir Peter but also pining for excitement of any kind, heads to Germany as a companion to the old woman and to take advantage of some musical instruction.
The above is basically the first couple of chapters, and from there it's hard to put this book down. May does indeed encounter the excitement she's in search of almost immediately upon leaving home. She also experiences a great musical awakening in the land of Bach and Schumann.
If I could give this a 4 1/5 I would, only for a slight disappointment at the very end of the novel where author Fothergill takes advantage of some seriously unbelievable coincidences. Otherwise, it is a perfect novel, one I will be revisiting many times in the future. I will be sure to brush up on my classical composers before then, which will no doubt heighten my enjoyment of this excellent story.(less)
I gave this 4 stars because I can't bear to give a Von Arnim novel less than that. But this book was my least favorite Von Arnim that I've read thus f...moreI gave this 4 stars because I can't bear to give a Von Arnim novel less than that. But this book was my least favorite Von Arnim that I've read thus far. The writing is excellent, plot interesting, but I just couldn't get excited about reading the next chapter. The whole time I was thinking, "Call up this Skeffington guy already!". Von Arnim draws out the action a bit too much. However the end of the novel takes an interesting twist which made it all worth the wait for me.
Some reviews are saying that this novel is anti-feminist, which I think misses the point. Yes, the protagonist is judged by others and most importantly herself by her appearance. Von Arnim doesn't make a value judgment on this, it's simply a fact that as true in this novel as it would be in real life in such a situation. The real point is what do you as the reader learn from that? What does our protagonist learn from that? And how do her circumstances throughout the novel and most importantly at its end change her and your views?(less)
Somewhat slower than the better Heyer books, she tends to go into great detail about insignificant plot details. But she's such a good writer than it'...moreSomewhat slower than the better Heyer books, she tends to go into great detail about insignificant plot details. But she's such a good writer than it's all enjoyable. I love both the leads, and love the secondary characters perhaps even more. Sherry's friends are just fabulous. Good book, just not as great as my Heyer favorites: Cotillion and These Old Shades for example.(less)
It is the 12th century in the city of Worcester. At the Nunnery of the White Ladies, old lay-sister Mary Antony performs her daily ritual. As the nuns...moreIt is the 12th century in the city of Worcester. At the Nunnery of the White Ladies, old lay-sister Mary Antony performs her daily ritual. As the nuns return from Vespers through the underground passage into the cloisters, she counts them in her unique way--dropping one pea for each nun from her hand into a bag. Today the count is different. Today the nuns pass, all the peas drop into the bag, and then one more nun passes by.
Who is this intruder? Could Mary Antony's senses be failing her? Or is it the ghost of Sister Agatha who, years before, was accidentally locked into the underground passageway and suffered an untimely death?
The White Ladies of Worcester is another winner from Florence Barclay, author of The Rosary. As in the Rosary, Barclay pulls you into the action of the novel straight away. The rest of the story revolves around the Prioress of the nunnery who, in her youth, was deserted by her betrothed. The depth of her anguish sends her to the nunnery, and she eventually rises to the top of the ranks. Later events unfold to make the Prioress question the vows she took, while others try to sway her decisions with their own interests in mind.
Barclay invents some wonderful, developed characters here. Our hero, the knight Hugh d'Argent, is strong and burley--a guy you wouldn't want to mess with. But he's easily the most sensitive guy in the novel. Unlike Fanny Burney whose heroes should be slapped for being so whiny, Hugh feels strongly but stoically, which makes one love him all the better.
As I made my casting recommendations for the Rosary, I also have some in mind for The While Ladies.
The Prioress: Cate Blanchett would make a lovely Prioress. She must be beautiful, but understated enough for a nunnery. She must have long, flowing, blonde hair. She also must have a temper and be strong in her resolve.
Hugh d'Argent: Oh how I wanted to cast Richard Armitage as Garth Dalmain in the Rosary! But that just wouldn't work out, James McAvoy fits Garth much better. However, Armitage would fit the Knight to perfection: dark and handsome, has that melting stare, and looks great in armor.
The Bishop: I had a hard time picturing the Bishop for the majority of the novel, probably because he's a hard character to make out. Is he good, is he bad, is he neither? Towards the end it finally came to me: Jeremy Irons would meld this ambiguity of character wonderfully.
Mary Antony: This is my favorite character in the book, and I imagine would also be the most fun to enact. She's quite old, and she's got an attitude. Someone like Sophia from the Golden Girls (Estelle Getty) would be great, however it appears she is no longer with us.(less)
The first half is a quaint romance. While both the hero and heroine could be a little more interesting, I believe the point is that they aren't intere...moreThe first half is a quaint romance. While both the hero and heroine could be a little more interesting, I believe the point is that they aren't interesting at all. Emily borders on being annoying for her stupidity and letting everyone trample all over her, but she's so sweet one can't completely dislike her. Lord Walderhurst is simply an older, utterly logical fellow looking for a gal--and not just a pretty face, which is admirable.
The second half has been called racist in recent times for its treatment of Indians. However, if one takes it as simply a portrait of the attitudes at the time, there's no offense taken (at least for me). I don't believe Burnett was trying to make a moral statement about anything, but undoubtedly she had some interesting views on India and it's people (similar to The Secret Garden). Where did she get this from? I don't see anywhere in her biography ever living in or visiting the place.
Despite the controversy, I actually enjoyed the second half more than the first. The ending was rather strange but not dissatisfying. I will have to think a bit more on what she meant by it...(less)