Determined to save her family from impending doom, Katherine Ann Stephenson - Kat - chops her hair, dresses as a boy, and runs away from home. Unfortunately for Kat, she makes it as far as the garden before she's discovered and hauled back inside.
Kat's oldest sister, prim and proper Elissa (who has a penchant for dramatics - mostly given her love of gothic romances), is set to wed Sir Neville, an enormously wealthy man who would not only raise the family's status but also settle a bit of gambling debt. Stepmama outdid herself with this one: she managed to arrange this marriage and she will not let anything stop it. While Elissa is determined to do her duty to the family, she can't help but worry about the rumors that surround Sir Neville. His first wife had died and he's the main suspect.
Elissa isn't the only one with troubles, though. Angeline has been going through Mama's magic books (their mother was a powerful witch) and created a love spell with disastrous results. Now the boy won't leave her alone, proclaiming his love night-and-day and proposing at every available moment.
Kat has her own share of problems too: in an attempt to try her hand at a bit of magic, she mistakenly discovers a secret Order that her mother belonged to and learns she's more powerful than any mere witch: Katherine Ann Stephenson is a Guardian.
Kat, Incorrigible was delightful. Kat is gutsy and fearless, full of nothing but love for her family - though perhaps not Stepmama. Her running commentary was hilarious and more than once I laughed out loud. Kat is the kind of girl I would have loved to be at 12 and would have loved to be friends with.
The Stephenson family had once been fairly respectable in Society's eyes. Papa was a member of the clergy and was liked by the townspeople. His marriage to Mama raised more than a few eyebrows. Although Mama came from a good family herself, she made no secret of her powers and that ultimately led to her undoing. She died shortly after Kat was born and when Stepmama moved in, she hid all of Mama's portraits and books in a cupboard never to be seen again.
That is, until Angeline decided to work some magic, which led to Kat finding an enchanted mirror, which led to discovering the Golden Hall, which led to Kat learning she was her mother's heir and Guardian, which led to... It was a never-ending spiral and I loved it. The best part though had nothing to do with magic. Kat's bond with her sisters was incredible. Though they may fight and argue and annoy each other to death, they fiercely love one another and would stop at nothing to save the others. When Kat hears about Elissa's engagement to Sir Neville, she makes up her mind then and there to save her no matter what. No matter how much trouble she'll get into nor how many lectures Stepmama will give her.
Kat, Incorrigible was a brilliant, lovely novel full of charm and fantastic characters. Each had a distinct voice and it was magnificent. Between the funny commentary (seriously, read Kat's thoughts on Elissa's obsession with becoming a gothic heroine and try not to giggle!) and the non-stop action, this book kept me entertained the entire time I was reading and I will most definitely be back for more....more
Although I finished the book last week I sat on this review for a few days. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is the type of book that needs to be digested slowly and given careful thought. Personally, I adore those kinds of books and am absolutely ecstatic I found this one.
My misery is a woman's misery, and it will speak - here, rather than nowhere; to my second self, in this book, if I have no one else to hear me.
Wilkie Collins; Armadale
The book opens in 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland and introduces Isabella Robinson, the 36-year old wife of Henry Oliver Robinson. Isabella had remarried after the death of her first husband and was left with no inheritance as he willed everything to a son from an earlier marriage.
Isabella's life with Henry was not a happy one (her only joy came from her three sons) and it was her unhappiness that led to her infamous diary.
'Dreaming all night of absent friends, romantic situations, and Mr. Lane,' ran another entry. 'Oh! Why are dreams more blest than waking life?'
Edward Lane had been a family friend for quite some time before becoming the target of Mrs. Robinson's affections. He and his wife are very close with Isabella and on multiple occasions their children stayed with Isabella and her own sons while the Lanes were away.
Over time, however, Isabella's marriage rapidly weakened and her friendship with Edward developed into something more - at least on her part. The two would spend countless hours discussing philosophy or literature and, from what Isabella mentions in her diary entries, the two seemed very compatible.
One thing I loved about Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace was that the book doesn't waste any time getting to the story. Things start happening from the very start and I think that would certainly help in keeping the attention of a reader who typically doesn't go for non-fiction. Many times I've picked up a non-fiction book (although fiction definitely applies as well!) that sounded absolutely fascinating, only to be bogged down with technical jargon the average reader wouldn't understand or to have the story start so slowly I've had to force myself to continue. I'm extremely pleased that this isn't the case with Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace.
Oh, thought I, each of these roofs conceals human life with all its mysterious joys and sorrows. Doubtless, many a sojourner in these dwellings has a private history, thrilling, exciting, strange.
Not only does the book have a wonderful pace, but the writing is simply remarkable. At times I completely forgot I was reading non-fiction. Despite the lack of dialogue, I never once felt the story lacking. In fact, I feel I got to know the characters extremely well!
George argued that in women, as in men, 'strong sexual appetites are a very great virtue...If chastity must continue to be regarded as the highest female virtue, it is impossible to give any woman real liberty.'
While Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is Isabella's story, there were a few other story lines woven in and it all came together beautifully. After struggling with his own issues, George Drysdale published a rather radical-minded book on sexuality. Phrenology and hydropathy were two courses of medicine very much in vogue. A new divorce court had made it much easier for couples to end their marriages. Each story line had its center-stage moments without losing focus of the main story and it was great.
All the guests were encouraged to walk in the park. 'I strolled a little beyond the glade for an hour & half & enjoyed myself,' reported Charles Darwin in a letter to his wife, '-the fresh yet dark green of the grand Scotch firs, the brown of the catkins of the old Birches with their white stems & a fringe of distant green from the larches, made an excessively pretty view. At last I fell fast asleep on the grass & awoke with a chorus of birds singing around me, & squirrels running up the trees & some Woodpeckers laughing, & it was as pleasant a rural scene as ever I saw, & I did not care one penny how any of the beasts or birds has been formed.'
One thing I was extremely surprised to discover was that Isabella was an acquaintance of Charles Darwin! I really enjoyed reading the chapters where he played a role. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace largely took place before and during his theories on evolution and reading his thoughts through letters was interesting.
The above quote was from Darwin's time spent at Moor Park, a hydropathy spa opened by Edward Lane. Isabella also spent time there and it was at Moor Park, after years of spurned advances, that Edward Lane finally returned Isabella's affections and the two shared a kiss.
'All day,' she wrote, 'this dream haunted my brain. "I never loved any one as I did thee, both mind and body," I had said in my dream, and in my waking moments the same idea was breathed still in my ear.'
While Isabella doesn't go into detail (and it is this lack of detail that ultimately leads to the court's decision at trial), she does mention multiple trysts until Edward ended things one day.
At his sudden rejection, Isabella fell ill and it was while she was bedridden that Henry discovered the diary. That scene was easily one of the most exciting in the whole novel. And how it ended! The moment Henry came across Isabella's diary and realized what it was, the first part of the novel ends. Such a fantastic finish to book one. Loved it!
'We can colonise the remotest ends of the Earth...we can spread our name, and our fame, and our fructifying wealth to every part of the world, but we cannot clean the River Thames.'
The second part of Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace focuses on the trial. The divorce court was still in its infancy and in cases of adultery, the odds were definitely stacked against the wives. Multiple witnesses and evidence were required in accusing a husband of adultery, while husbands accusing wives had hardly any opposition at all. Also, accused wives were not permitted to attend the trial, so Isabella's diary had to speak for her.
The summer of Isabella's trial saw record temperatures and with the heat came the stink. I can't even begin to imagine what that must have been like!
Though the journal contained elements of melodrama and sentimental fiction, the judges considered that as a whole it told a nuanced story, rendered credible by its self-recrimination, disappointment and doubt. Its exaggerations and excesses were those familiar to any diarist, to any desperately unhappy person or to anyone in love. It was ultimately not a work of madness, but of realism, an account of the limits of romantic dreams.
In the end Isabella won her case, although she lost custody of her children along with any inheritance. She also found her reputation in tatters and her own mother disowned her. As her children came of age however, they chose to break ties with Henry and live with their mother.
While Isabella's story doesn't end on a particularly high note, her trial certainly made waves. Numerous books were published afterwards depicting unhappy wives taking on secret lovers. Diaries saw a surge in popularity. Laws changed to enable incompatible couples (as well as abused wives) ways to separate.
Ms. Summerscale definitely did her research. I was shocked when I reached the end of the book: there were still nearly 100 pages left! Those pages were notes and references and a bibliography! Almost 100 pages!
I was so excited to read Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace and it didn't disappoint at all. I absolutely loved it. ...more
It's always unnerving to see how an author follows a wildly successful debut. Ms. Howe's first novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was massively popular and I had mixed emotions going into her sophomore novel. On the one hand, YES ANOTHER BOOK!! However, on the other, there was that tiny wave of trepidation, that little voice wondering whether she could possibly top her first release.
Turns out, yes. Yes she most certainly can.
The House of Velvet and Glass takes place during 1915. World War I has yet to reach America, though coverage is on the front page of all the papers. Just three years earlier, Titanic - a legend even during her existence - sank on that fateful night in April, 1912.
Sybil Allston lost both her mother and her younger sister when the ocean liner sank. Being the oldest, Sybil was the first to make her debut, spending hours upon hours attending parties and mingling with the best of Boston's society. She was the talk of town and everyone was certain it was only a matter of time before Benton Derby would propose. Unfortunately, he suddenly married a frail woman named Lydia, took off for Italy, and Sybil was destined for spinsterhood. Her mother, Helen, wasted no time in turning her attentions on Eulah, Sybil's younger sister.
Eulah was everything Sybil wasn't: outgoing, funny, flirty, headstrong. She fiercely defended her position on suffrage and insisted women be given the right to vote. She was a girl ahead of her time and Helen was determined to see her daughter married off to one of Boston's finest. So determined in fact, that she had her husband, Captain Lan Allston, purchase two tickets for the famed Titanic, in order to take Eulah around Europe. (In the afterword, there's a really interesting tidbit: in 1912, a first-class ticket for Titanic cost $4,350. Today, that same amount would be over $90,000!!)
Naturally, Sybil harbors anger and resentment at being cast aside. She's barely in her mid-twenties, yet at that period in time, girls were expected to already be married and raising a family at her age. After hearing about the sinking, she feels a sick sense of relief that she wasn't brought along, and the thought overwhelms her with guilt.
One year later, a spiritualist gathers a group of surviving relatives and holds a seance. Each year Sybil returns in an attempt to make contact with her mother and sister and winds up receiving a small glass ball. A scrying glass, the medium calls it. It is with this glass (along with a little help from opium) that Sybil begins having visions.
The House of Velvet and Glass is told in three parts: flashbacks aboard Titanic, flashbacks during Lan Allston's time spent in China as a young sailor, and from Sybil's perspective in 1915. While I adored the novel as a whole, it was those brief moments on Titanic that I especially loved. With each new scene I held my breath, anxious to find out if that was the moment the liner hit the iceberg.
The entire cast of characters were beautifully fleshed out. Harlan, Sybil's younger brother; Lan; Dovie, Harlan's girlfriend; Professor Derby. Even the minor character were wonderful and I felt a connection to every single one of them.
I was particularly pleased with the romance. Perfect. I was never a fan of instalove and the slow pace of the romance in this novel was a delight.
I could truly go on and on for days about this novel. Haunting and richly detailed, The House of Velvet and Glass is an absolute joy. Not a lot of action takes place, but there was never any need and at no point did I find its quiet pace to be lacking. Looking back, there was never a dull moment or any scene where I felt bored or wanted to set the book down. Quite the opposite, in fact. I didn't want to set it down at all. It was all I could do to keep myself from calling in to work sick just so I could continue reading - and that's really saying something.
The House of Velvet and Glass's release comes at a perfect time: this week will be the 100th anniversary of Titanic's sinking. This novel went above and beyond all of my expectations and I highly recommend it. ♥
An interesting note: it seems the e-book will include an essay by Howe, a Q&A, and the original article from the Boston Daily Globe of Titanic's sinking from April 15, 1912!
Of course, it was rather a hard lot, to be cherished. The beloved can so easily disappoint when the inevitable prove to be human.
Lannie felt himself to have come from an old place. Salem was a long-memoried town, its streets stalked by ghosts. As a boy his mother told him of witches who liked to fillet disobedient children, and even though he knew she was spinning fairy stories he nevertheless grew up with the weight of past generations on his shoulders. He carried the burden of tradition with a mixture of pride and disquiet, or even resentment. Every choice bore the implied judgment of these ancestors he never knew, whose memory must not be sullied, whose expectations for him must not be let down.
Her breathe escaped her mouth and nose in a cloud of warmth, and she grinned, imagining that it was her soul that she could see, moving in and out of her body, instead of her breath.
I’m a big fan of serial killer novels (it’s probably best I don’t run around blurting that out in public…) and the method in which these girls were kiI’m a big fan of serial killer novels (it’s probably best I don’t run around blurting that out in public…) and the method in which these girls were killed & displayed was completely unlike anything I’ve read before.
The Pleasures of Men is a classic case of a great plot but a terrible execution (aka Matthew Pearl syndrome). I recently discovered Kate Williams has written multiple non-fiction books and I’m open to trying those. The writing in The Pleasures of Men is definitely not suitable for fiction; it really shouldn’t have surprised me that Williams is a notable historian.
I gave up with this one early on after a few attempts at starting it. Even though I desperately wanted to enjoy this book, it just didn’t work for me. I was thoroughly confused at times. The story is told through Catherine’s eyes, yet there were many times where I wasn’t sure who the narrator was or just what was going on.
Despite my best efforts, The Pleasures of Men & I just weren’t meant to be....more
Drop what you're doing and read this now! I've been raving about this book for the past week and am finally able to sit down and put all my flailing into words.
"For heaven's sake, boy, put your mask on," Mr. Socrates snapped. "No one should see your face."
Mr. Alan Socrates hears about an odd little child and buys him. It sounds remarkably cruel - and it is - but it's as simple as that. He takes Modo (a terribly sweet but horribly deformed boy) to his estate, Ravenscroft, and there the child is raised.
While Modo views Mr. Socrates as his father figure, the man is hardly around. He's always off traveling and on the rare occasions that he does decide to drop by, he quizzes Modo in order to see how his studies are going.
Modo is raised by a wonderful woman, the caretaker of the estate. Whereas Mr. Socrates only allows Modo to read "approved" material (certain articles from the newspaper, for example), Mrs. Finchley will go out of her way to sneak in a picture book or two, something fun and light-hearted. She was the first person to truly care about Modo and it broke my heart when Modo had to leave Ravenscroft.
Modo undid the knots and removed the mask, setting it on a table. He felt naked. This was not a face for the world to see, Mr. Socrates had told him so.
The masks are vital. Until Mr. Socrates decided Modo was to leave to estate, Modo had no idea what he looked like. All of the mirrors and anything remotely reflective were to be removed. I wanted to rush to Modo's side the day Mr. Socrates forced him to see himself for the first time.
Modo has a wonderful gift: shape-shifting. He's able to see a portrait or merely use his imagination and his entire body will change and take on the features of another person. Mr. Socrates is determined to use Modo's ability to his advantage.
Mr. Socrates is the head of a secret organization that employs agents to do various tasks. From the time he was bought, Modo had been trained to become Mr. Socrates' ultimate agent.
When Modo is 14, Mr. Socrates takes him to London - the very first time Modo has ever been outside - and leaves him there. ...just leaves him. He tells Modo he'll check back soon and that Modo should put his training to use and fend for himself.
At various times throughout the book I wanted to throttle Mr. Socrates. This scene was one of those times. Here was Modo, a terrified boy who has never been outside before, suddenly dropped off in the middle of London and told to have a nice life. Throughout it all, Modo was such a sweetheart, I wanted to reach into the book and give him a huge hug. :( Don't let the jerks get you down, Modo. ♥
Modo only nodded, but smiled idiotically under his handkerchief.
Oh man. Modo's crush on Octavia (another agent employed by Mr. Socrates) is so, so, so insanely adorable. They were just too cute. I was really hoping their romance storyline would have been given a bit more attention, but there are other books, so yay! So cute.
Dr. Hyde is a mad scientist who took orphaned children (and Prince Albert), surgically enhanced them by placing large bolts into their shoulders, and fed them all a tincture, rendering them fully conscious, yet completely unable to control their bodies. There was a fascinating chapter where a character was under the influence of the tincture. He was aware, yet could not move a limb. Instead, his body moved on its own with its own purpose.
The action was fantastic! The Iron Giant-type machine was so cool and the fact that a prince and little children were all connected to it - literally - and forced to pilot it was neat.
Mr. Socrates gathered up the paper. "As a rule, I prefer no descriptions of my agents to appear in print." "It won't happen again, sir," Modo said. "Next time I'll just let myself burn up in the blaze."
I adored watching Modo grow. In the beginning, he was a tiny, timid boy who had no idea what the real world was like. After Mr. Socrates comes back into Modo's life, Modo is different - but in a good way. He's no longer scared and naive. He's a character you get to know and come to care about and multiple times I was honestly worried for him. I wanted things to work out for him, I was rooting for Modo the entire journey. When his transformations began to wear off or his masks slipped, I was scared for him. When he started having flutter feelings whenever he was around Octavia, I squealed in delight.
"Marvelously boring. Though there is a good sword fight at the end."
♥ One of my favorite scenes in the book was an Octavia/Modo scene. Modo is reading Hamlet and Octavia walks in on him. She immediately begins to mock Modo for reading not just Hamlet, but Shakespeare in general. Modo unsuccessfully attempts to defend himself, but Octavia isn't having it, although in the end she gives in and mentions the one part of the play she enjoyed.
This book was so, so, SO wonderful! I can't wait to tear into the next!...more
Rainy days are great curl-up-with-a-book days! Sick days are fabulous curl-up-with-a-book days! Combine the two and you get the perfect day for reading. Yesterday I finally read The Case of the Missing Marquess.
When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers—all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother's strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?
What a lovely, lovely book. I finished it in one sitting (granted, I was sick in bed and it wasn't a particularly long book, but there's something to be said for a book you can read cover-to-cover in one go). I love when I stumble upon a book by chance and it turns out to be magical. I forget where I first heard of this series, but something about Sherlock Holmes's little sister intrigued me.
The book opens with Enola's 14th birthday. Her mother mysteriously vanishes and cannot be found anywhere. All she's left behind for Enola are a few small presents: a handmade book of ciphers and a small book about the meaning of various plants and flowers.
After searching the grounds of Ferndell Hall Enola sends a telegraph to her brothers, Mycroft and the famous Sherlock. It has been ten years since she last saw either of them - not since their father's funeral - and she had always believed it was her fault. She was born so late in her parents' life, she wasn't a son, she wasn't ladylike enough, she was always viewed as a disgrace to her family, the list goes on and on.
Her brothers arrive and Enola realizes things aren't always what they seem. Her brothers, in their own way, do care about her, and the reason for their avoidance wasn't because of her, but because of their mother. After the death of their father, Mycroft became head of the household and, therefore, in charge of both Lady Eudoria and Enola. Both Mycroft and Sherlock are appalled by the state of the house and its grounds: the only help left are the cook and butler. It is discovered Lady Eudoria had been requesting more and more money from Mycroft (to pay for larger stables, various maids, gardeners, a governess, etc) only to take the money for herself and eventually flee the house she viewed as a prison.
Mycroft takes it upon himself to send Enola to a boarding school and the day she's set to leave, she flees. After solving a few of the ciphers, she finds some of the money her mother hid away and embarks on her own quest to find Lady Eudoria.
I truly don't think I can say enough about this book. It was that wonderful. I adored Enola. Whereas Sherlock feels she is of "limited cranial capacity" she is, on the contrary, quite smart and loves solving riddles and puzzles. She's also incredibly witty and sarcastic and I simply loved her.
She looked all of a glow from the heat and the exercise. Horses sweat, you know, and men perspire, whereas ladies glow. I am sure I looked all of a glow also. Indeed, I could feel all-of-a-glow trickling down my sides beneath my corset, the steel ribs of which jabbed me under the arms most annoyingly.
The other characters - particularly Viscount Tewksbury - were equally as lovely and I hope they have larger roles throughout the rest of the series.
Quotes I enjoyed:
That word: Perditorian.
From the Latin perditus, meaning "lost."
Perditorian: one who divines that which is lost.
But...but how dare she, with all her blather of spirits, title herself no nobly? Knower of the lost, wise woman of the lost, finder of the lost: That was my calling.
Sherlock and Mycroft would have wanted Mum back in Ferndell Hall, but obviously she did not wish to be there. When--not if, but when I found her, I would ask of her nothing that might make her unhappy. I was not seeking her in order to take away her freedom.
I bought this book on a whim because I loved the opening line: "After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper."I bought this book on a whim because I loved the opening line: "After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper." How could I possibly resist?
Although it started out a bit slower than I liked, it quickly picked up the pace and continued on through to the end (which was no easy task: the book is over 700 pages).
I was extremely surprised by how emotionally invested in this novel I became - more than once I actually shouted aloud at the characters, chastising their actions or begging them not to trust so-and-so. It even reached the point where I, the reader, was unsure who to root for.
I was very disappointed with the ending. I had hoped things would have worked out differently for Edward....more
I was 12 years old when I was assigned this book and hated every second of it. It seems that others like it quite a bit, but they were all much olderI was 12 years old when I was assigned this book and hated every second of it. It seems that others like it quite a bit, but they were all much older when they read it, so perhaps my age had something to do with it.
It's not often I completely abandon books - I normally stick with them until the end - but I nearly threw this book across the room after just a few chapters. It is honestly the worst book I have ever read. If it was possible to give a book less than one star I would. It was truly awful....more