Thursday Quotables: Dreamers of the Day

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!
Dreamers of the Day

Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell
(published 2008)

I was feeling a little uninspired regarding this week’s Thursday Quotables post, not because I’m not reading good books, but just because no particular quotes or passages have really jumped out at me in the last few days.

So pardon my break from the usual, but for this week, I thought I’d revisit an old favorite. Mary Doria Russell writes incredibly beautiful and thought-provoking books, whether the subject matter is Jesuits in space (I kid you not) or the larger-than-life historical figures of the Old West. Dreamers of the Day was published in 2008, but I didn’t read it until 2013. It’s a wonderful book set in Egypt after World War I, featuring a lonely midwestern spinster who ends up rubbing shoulders with the political luminaries of the time, including T. E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill.

The book is full of amazing insights, but for some reason, as I was skimming through my newsfeed this week, this book came particularly to mind. There are so many wonderful snippets, but I think I’ll just share this simple closing sentiment, so relevant today (and always):

When it comes down to it, I don’t have much in the way of advice to offer you, but here it is:

Read to children.

Vote.

And never buy anything from a man who’s selling fear.

I really can’t say enough wonderful things about this book. Check out my review from 2013 here, if you want to know more. (And really, read the book!)

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Shelf Control #71: The Secrets of Midwives

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

secrets-of-midwivesTitle: The Secrets of Midwives
Author: Sally Hepworth
Published: 2015
Length: 320 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A novel about three generations of midwives (a woman, her mother, and her grandmother) and the secrets they keep that push them apart and ultimately bind them together

THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES tells the story of three generations of women devoted to delivering new life into the world—and the secrets they keep that threaten to change their own lives forever. Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back 60 years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—a secret which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?

How I got it:

I received an ARC via NetGalley when the book was released… and then never got around to reading it. Shame on me.

When I got it:

2015.

Why I want to read it:

I’m currently about 60% of the way through Sally Hepworth’s newest release, The Mother’s Promise, and I’m loving it. Last year, I read (and loved) The Things We Keep (review). So since I think so highly of this author’s second and third novels, it seems like a good bet that I’ll enjoy her debut novel, The Secrets of Midwives, as well. Plus, check out that synopsis! It has so many elements I love — multiple generations of women, family ties, historical settings, and strong female characters at the center of it all. This is one I really need to take off my e-shelf, and soon!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Month of Maisie Readalong: Birds of A Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

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Welcome to the Month of Maisie Readalong Blog Tour, celebrating the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I’m delighted to be participating in this blog tour, which features each book in the Maisie Dobbs series, leading up to the newest release, In This Grave Hour (release date March 14th – book #13 in the series).

For my stop along the blog tour, I’m focusing on the 2nd book in the series, Birds of a Feather.

Note: See the bottom of this post for the schedule of the rest of the tour. The Month of Maisie Readalong is sponsored by TLC Book Tours.

Synopsis:

An eventful year has passed for Maisie Dobbs. Since starting a one-woman private investigation agency in 1929 London, she now has a professional office in Fitzroy Square and an assistant, the happy-go-lucky Billy Beale. She has proven herself as a psychologist and investigator, and has even won over Detective Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad—an admirable achievement for a woman who worked her way from servant to scholar to sleuth, and who also served as a battlefield nurse in the Great War.

It’s now the early Spring of 1930. Stratton is investigating a murder case in Coulsden, while Maisie has been summoned to Dulwich to find a runaway heiress. The woman is the daughter of Joseph Waite, a wealthy self-made man who has lavished her with privilege but kept her in a gilded cage. His domineering ways have driven her off before, and now she’s bolted again.

My thoughts:

I read the first Maisie Dobbs novel two years ago (review), and was instantly intrigued by the fascinating main character. Maisie is a strong, independent, but damaged woman. A nurse who lost her beloved to his incurable war injury, Maise returns from the battefields of the Great War a changed woman. With the patronage of the wealthy woman who once employed her as a housemaid and the tutelage of a respected professor and psychologist, Maisie develops her intuitive skills and applies them to the pursuit of investigations. Maisie dedicates herself not just to solving cases, but to understanding the deeper issues leading to the individuals’ pain and suffering, and works to help her clients achieve not just closure, but also healing.

In Birds of a Feather, set in 1930, the war may be long over, but its lasting devastation is not. As Maisie investigates a missing-persons case, she unearths the terrible damage wrought by guilt and blame. While the people involved all bear some burden of wrong-doing and bad decisions, it’s clear that the war itself is the villain here, leaving lasting wounds and ripping huge holes into families, villages, and communities.

Maisie herself is a wonderful lead character. She’s not a typical woman of her time. Maisie clearly considers herself a committed loner, as she still makes weekly visits to the man she loved, even though he can’t recognize or remember her, and she mourns the life she never got to have with him. But as we see in Birds of a Feather, Maisie finally starts to open herself to the thought of what the rest of her life might look like. Meanwhile, she’s doing very well professionally, incorporating her unique blend of mindfulness and physical empathy into her investigative approach.

I enjoyed Birds of a Feather, although I was a bit less caught up in the story than I was in the first book. Maisie Dobbs has all the details of Maisie’s sad backstory, and as such, really lets us into her life and mind. The 2nd book is much more focused on the case than on Maisie herself, and I missed the focus on the personal.

That said, the case itself ends up being entwined with a murder case under investigation by Scotland Yard, and Maisie is at her best when she’s in hot pursuit of the truth, even after being cautioned to stay out of the way by her police contacts. As the case becomes more complicated, it’s fascinating to see Maisie’s determination and resourcefulness in tracking down the pieces that connect and putting together a solution that only she could find, with her holistic approach to sleuthing.

I highly recommend the Maisie Dobbs series for readers who love historical fiction, great detective stories, or both!

Links:

Goodreads:

Purchase links:

Amazon  **  Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

jacqueline-winspearJacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestselling Maisie Dobbs series, which includes In This Grave Hour, Journey to Munich, A Dangerous Place, Leaving Everything Most Loved, Elegy for Eddie, and eight other novels. Her standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was also a New York Times bestseller and a Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.

Find out more about Jacqueline at her website, www.jacquelinewinspear.com, and find her on Facebook.

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The details:

Title: Birds of a Feather
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: 2005
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours

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Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Maisie tour!

Monday, February 20th: Life By Kristen – Maisie Dobbs
Tuesday, February 21st: Bookshelf Fantasies – Birds of a Feather
Wednesday, February 22nd: Reading Reality – Pardonable Lies
Thursday, February 23rd: A Bookish Way of Life – Messenger of Truth
Monday, February 27th: Back Porchervations – An Incomplete Revenge
Tuesday, February 28th: Mel’s Shelves – Among the Mad
Wednesday, March 1st: History from a Woman’s PerspectiveThe Mapping of Love and Death
Thursday, March 2nd: Book by Book – A Lesson in Secrets
Monday, March 6th: Bookish Realm Reviews – Elegy for Eddie
Tuesday, March 7th: My Military Savings – Leaving Everything Most Loved
Tuesday, March 7th: Barbara Khan on Goodreads – Leaving Everything Most Loved
Wednesday, March 8th: Lit and Life – A Dangerous Place
Thursday, March 9th: #redhead.with.book – Journey to Munich
Tuesday, March 14th: Reading Reality – In This Grave Hour
Wednesday, March 15th: M. Denise Costello – In This Grave Hour
Thursday, March 16th: Mel’s Shelves – In This Grave Hour
Friday, March 17th: A Bookish Way of Life – In This Grave Hour
Monday, March 20th: Helen’s Book Blog – In This Grave Hour
Tuesday, March 21st: Book by Book – In This Grave Hour
Wednesday, March 22nd: Jathan & Heather – In This Grave Hour
Thursday, March 23rd: #redhead.with.book – In This Grave Hour
Friday, March 24th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom – In This Grave Hour
Monday, March 27th: History from a Woman’s Perspective – In This Grave Hour
Tuesday, March 28th: What Will She Read Next – In This Grave Hour
Wednesday, March 29th: Bookish Realm Reviews – In This Grave Hour

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The Monday Check-In ~ 2/20/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life:

presday

Three-day weekends rock. Sleep, read, repeat.

What did I read last week?

birds-of-a-feathergirl-before

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear: Done! I’m participating in a blog tour celebrating the Maisie Dobbs series, and will be posting my thoughts on book #2 on Tuesday.

The Girl Before by JP Delaney: Done! Check out my review, here.

In audiobooks…

Fire Touched

I finished listening to Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs, from which I realized that (a) I read this book so quickly when it was first released that it just didn’t sink in, and (b) my love for the Mercy Thompson series is eternal. I really hadn’t remembered much about the plot of Fire Touched (except the opening scenes — who can forget a giant green troll on a bridge?). I’m glad I revisited this book, so I’ll be 100% ready for the next book as soon as it’s released… March 7th!

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week.

Bookish tech fun:

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My latest obsession is the Libib app (which I heard of thanks to someone else’s blog post this week, and now I can’t remember whose it was!). I’m happily scanning all of the unread books on my shelves so I’ll have a way of keeping track. It’s quite fun. Can’t wait until I’m done and I see how the total number has changed from my last count a year ago.

Oh, and thank you, Goodreads, for finally adding in rereading capabilities! Check out the post about it on the Goodreads blog, here. So now I can document just how much times I’ve read Outlander (5 or 6?), Harry Potter (at least 7 or 8), and all my other faves.

Bookish news:

pullman

Anyone else squeal and/or jump up and down when they heard about Philip Pullman’s upcoming release, The Book of Dust? Just me? Yes, October’s still a long way off, but considering it’s been 17 years since The Amber Spyglass came out, I’m willing to wait just a bit longer to finally get a companion series. Check out the latest news, here.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 mothers-promisesparrow-hill-road

Haven’t quite decided what I feel like reading next — something to pull on my heartstrings or a spooky ghost story?

Now playing via audiobook:

prudence

Prudence by Gail Carriger: After listening to all of Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series audiobooks, I decided to go back to Prudence. I didn’t love it all that much when I first read it (as evidence, check out my original review), but perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood at the time. I’ve listened to about 25% by now, and it’s quite fun.

Ongoing reads:

MOBYOne Hundred Years of Solitude

My book group is reading and discussing Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon — 2 chapters per week — with an end date coming up in June.

It’s week #2 of Outlander Book Club’s group read of One Hundred Years of Solitude. If you’d like to join in, just ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: The Girl Before

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Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

For a book that consumed my attention nonstop for an entire day, I sure was left feeling unsatisfied.

The premise sounds delicious. A beautiful home, stark and pristine and worth far more than the rental price. Okay, so fine, there are rules — about 200 different items that tenants must agree to in order to live there. And then there’s the fact that only a select few are considered worthy: A lengthy, intrusively intimate questionnaire only possibly gets you in the door for an interview with the property’s architect and owner, and even then, you’re likely to get turned down..

But still, in a tight housing market where even exceeding your budget gets you little better than a dump, this place is a true find.

(Okay, not for me. Once the “no books” clause comes into play, I’m out. But I digress…)

The Girl Before is told in alternating chapters, of “Then: Emma” and “Now: Jane”. As their stories unwind, there’s no doubt that these two women, both vulnerable and bearing emotional scars, are just the sort of easily manipulated prey that might appeal to someone who needs total control. As we get to know each woman, we learn why the house at One Folgate Street appeals to them, and why they’re so eager to upend their lives that they’re willing to accept the terms and conditions that come with the home.

Warning signs abound. There are the odd little facts about the history of the house’s origins, the architect, Edward, and his personal life. There’s Edward himself, who’s quite overly involved for a rental landlord. Emma moves in after a terrifying crime, and Jane after a personal loss, but both are desperate for a fresh start — desperate enough to overlook the little clues (oh, like a house that’s programmed to only turn on the shower after you do a regular assessment of your moods) that they may be in over their heads.

The Girl Before is a thriller that pushes all of a reader’s buttons, with plenty of clues and alarms and suspicious behavior. I could not put it down… but that doesn’t mean that, in the aftermath, I actually enjoyed reading it.

Here’s the deal:

This book certainly makes for compulsive reading — but by about the 2/3 mark, the narrative and the personalities started to change. We find out more about each of the characters, and certain stories and statements get turned on their heads. Emma’s storyline in particular gets completely turned inside out, and I found myself filled with disgust for her actions and their fall-out. (Trying to be non-spoilerish here…)

In fact, certain characters are so not at all what they seem that the revelations and the book’s climax seem to come completely out of the blue. And yes, that’s what thrillers try to do — throw the reader off the scent, come up with a scenario that hasn’t been done before, one we never see coming. But it has to make sense, and I’m not sure that the climax and denouement of the story actually do.

I also, I will admit, am predisposed to dislike “girl in peril” stories, and setting up these two characters as victims and people easily controlled, for different reasons, kind of set my teeth on edge. By the end, although Emma’s circumstances should make her an object of pity and sorrow, it’s hard to feel any compassion for her, the more we get to know her. And Jane is all over the place too, although at least she ultimately displays some backbone and agency.

In the end, while I couldn’t stop reading, I wound up feeling rather cheated. Plot points that were practically lit up in neon ended up being red herrings. Characters’ actions in the big reveal seemed totally divorced from what we’d known of them up to that point. And again, I found it pretty much impossible to care at all about Emma once a particularly unforgivable action of hers is revealed.

So, do I recommend The Girl Before? Not so much. It’s a thriller, to be sure, and it was a good diversion on a rainy day (which is why I spent all day indoors today reading it, instead of going out where it’s wet and chilly). But I don’t like the portrayal of the women characters’ actions or motivations, and didn’t feel like their inner lives made a whole lot of sense or did credit to them as people.

Also, a minor complaint: Why is this book published under a pseudonym? Is that the trendy thing to do now? The author bio on the back flap says that J. P. Delaney is a pseudonym for “a writer who has previously written bestselling fiction under other names”. Hmm. I looked it up, and the identity of J. P. Delaney isn’t hard to find. From an article in the New York Times, it sounds like the author chose to use a non-gender-specific pseudonym to keep readers guessing. (Spoiler: He’s a man.)

Are we supposed to be impressed by his ability to get inside the women characters’ heads? For me, at least, it didn’t work. Maybe that partially explains my feelings about the characters. Not that a male author can never write from a female perspective, but it takes a great deal of talent and empathy to do so convincingly. The Girl Before misses the mark.

I’ll end this rambling review with a not-too-surprising insight: Writing reviews is pretty cathartic. As I sat down to right, I was still feeling overall kind of positive about The Girl Before. But now that I’ve been actually putting my thoughts together, I’m left with a pretty deafening UGH. The last third or so of this book made me feel used and manipulated, and that’s not a good thing.

Can I get my rainy day back for a do-over?

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The details:

Title: The Girl Before
Author: J. P Delaney
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: January 24, 2017
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Thriller
Source: Library

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Thursday Quotables: Devil’s Cub

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!
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Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer
(published 1932)

I’ve jumped on the Georgette Heyer bandwagon! I finally read one of her books (thank you, awesome book club of mine!), and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can check out my mini-review here, but meanwhile, here’s one of the many amusing little dialogues from the book:

Miss Challoner rose from her chair, and curtsied. “You are extremely obliging, my lord, but I must humbly decline the honour of becoming your wife.”

“You will marry me,” said his lordship, “if I have to force you to the altar.”

She blinked at him. “Are you mad, sir? You cannot possibly wish to marry me.”

“Of course I don’t wish to marry you!” he said impatiently. “I scarcely know you. But I play my cards in accordance with the rules. I have a number of vices, but abducting innocent damsels and casting them adrift on the world is not one of the them. Pray have a little sense, ma’am! You eloped with me, leaving word of it with your mother; if I let you go you could not reach your home again until tomorrow night at the earliest. By that time — if I know your mother and sister at all — the whole of your acquaintance will be apprised of your conduct. Your reputation will be so smirched not a soul will receive you. And this, ma’am, is to go down to my account! I tell you plainly, I’ve no mind to become an object of infamy.’

I find this character’s definition of infamy rather amusing, as earlier in the book he shot a highwayman, and later got drunk and shot a man in a duel over a card game. So shooting folks is okay, but ruining a girl’s reputation isn’t? I guess you had to be there.

(But really, it’s a very enjoyable book!)

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Shelf Control #70: Parts & Wreck

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

parts-wreckTitle: Parts & Wreck
Author: Mark Henry
Published: 2013
Length: 200 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Wade Crowson, a brutish and brooding playboy and veteran vivisectionist for the Parts Department, runs into more than he bargained for in new partner, Lucid Montgomery, a quirky beauty with a bizarre secret and a string of psychiatric diagnoses she tries hard to keep hidden. Loving Luce will stamp a demonic target on her back and thrust Wade into a frenzied whirlwind of hilarious misunderstandings and, quite possibly, a stripping gig for empty-nesters. Can they withstand the savagery of an exorcism (with or without the split pea soup) and come out alive and …in love?

How I got it:

I think I actually bought myself the e-book.

When I got it:

2013 or thereabouts, after an author I really like blurbed the book.

Why I want to read it:

Okay, I am totally going out on a limb with this one! Not my usual fare, especially if you consider the books I’ve tended to DNF most recently. Still, I do sometimes love a good urban fantasy or supernatural thriller… and while I think the cover is totally cheesy, I may break down and give it a try when I want something light and fluffy. The Goodreads ratings range from abysmal to superb, so no real help there… but based on being alerted to this one by an author I enjoy, I can’t help feeling like I should (eventually) check it out.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 2/13/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Bookish complaint:

Goodreads, stop telling me I’m behind on my 2017 reading challenge! I know I’m behind, okay? Life’s craziness on the rise means my dedicated reading time is in decline. Argh. I’m sure I’ll catch up, but meanwhile, I don’t need the reminder every time I log in!

What did I read last week?

alwaysdevils-cub

Always by Sarah Jio: Finished! My review is here.

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer: Finished! My first Georgette Heyer… but it won’t be my last. What fun! Check out my thoughts on this book, here.

finishing-school-collage

I finished these audiobooks the week before last, but finally got around to writing about them just now. Check out my thoughts on the terrific Finishing School series, here.

And as for books that I didn’t love… there were a couple I didn’t finish:

gilded-cagefirst-grave

Gilded Cage by Vic James: I didn’t really read enough to justify calling this one a DNF. I picked it up, started it, and realized it just wasn’t working for me. I doubt I’ll come back to it. I know a lot of folks loved this book, but the magical world it describes doesn’t interest me.

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones: Now this one counts as a DNF. I read about 125 pages before the constant snarkiness and silliness got to be too much for me. I decided I wasn’t having enough fun to spend any more time on it.

Fresh Catch:

One new book this week!

norse-mythology

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 birds-of-a-feather

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear: I’m participating in a blog tour celebrating the Maisie Dobbs series! I’ve only read the first book (review) so far, and I always meant to continue, so I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour stop, coming up later this month, for book #2 of the ongoing series.

Now playing via audiobook:

Fire Touched

Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs: Finishing up my audio re-read. Man, do I love this series!

Ongoing reads:

MOBYOne Hundred Years of Solitude

My book group is reading and discussing Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon — 2 chapters per week — with an end date coming up in June.

And new this week: Outlander Book Club’s group read of One Hundred Years of Solitude is just getting under way, with discussion of one chapter per week. If you want to join in, let me know. All are welcome!

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

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Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Dominic Alistair, Marquis of Vidal is a bad lot, a rake and seducer, reckless, heedless, and possessed of a murderous temper. He is known by friend and foe alike as the “Devil’s Cub.” Yet as the handsome and wealthy heir to a Dukedom, he is considered a good prospect on the marriage market. Vidal currently has his eye on the young, lovely, and unintelligent Sophia Challoner, and Sophia’s greedy mother is more than happy to encourage his dubious attentions.

When lovely, saucy Mary Challoner had practiced her bold deception upon the hot-blooded, fiery-tempered young Marquis of Vidal–substituting herself for her young sister he had thought to carry off to France–she had little notion he would grimly hold her to her part of the bargain. Now he had left her, and she was alone, a stranger in a strange land, prey to the intrigues of glittering, heartless, 18th century Paris.

Only one person could rescue her–the Marquis himself. But how could she ever trust this man? How could she even hope to overcome the contempt in which he held her? And how could even the sudden flowering of her love ever bridge the terrible gap between them?

My Thoughts:

Until Devil’s Cub, I’d never read a Georgette Heyer novel before, despite knowing several readers (of excellent taste, in my humble opinion) who absolutely adore her work. Georgette Heyer was such a prolific writer that I had no idea where to even start, but fortunately, my book club decided to go with something on the “classic romantic” side for our February book of the month and came up with Devil’s Cub, so I was spared the dilemma of having to choose.

The description really says it all. There’s a Marquis — such a scoundrel! But devilishly handsome. A sweet, decent young woman. A flighty sister. Oodles of lovers’ quarrels and misunderstandings. Elopements and escapes by carriage. Reputations and ruining on the line!

Devil’s Cub is a galloping piece of entertainment with never a dull moment, as social niceties are observed and broken, all in the name of love and honor. The characters are quite endearing. Mary has a backbone and makes for a great heroine, and although the Marquis’s use of threats to get his way rubs my modern sensibilities the wrong way, he’s exactly the sort of decadent lord with a heart of gold that would have been popular in the romantic fiction of the time.

This was a very fun read, light and entertaining, and a diverting little showpiece of social norms and scandals during the Regency era. Devil’s Cub is actually a sequel of sorts to These Old Shades, but it works perfectly fine as a stand-alone (although I do want to read that one as well, as soon as the library has a copy available).

I’m not going out on a Georgette Heyer binge right this second, but I do want to read more of her books. Any suggestions? Any must-reads? Let me know!

Meanwhile, as always, I’m so thankful to be part of an amazing book club that gives me incentive to read books outside my usual reading habits.

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The details:

Title: Devil’s Cub
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication date: Originally published 1932
Length: 323 pages
Genre: Historical romance
Source: Library

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Five reasons to read the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger

finishing-school-collage

MADEMOISELLE GERALDINE’S FINISHING ACADEMY FOR YOUNG LADIES OF QUALITY was established 1820 as an institution of finer learning, higher manners, and social graces for young women who wish to present their best selves to society. Our young women learn modern languages, dance, music, household management, etiquette, and finishing from the finest instructors on land or in aether. And each morning, after breakfast, every student recites, with religious solemnity, the school motto, ut acerbus terminus: TO THE BITTER END.

Our students don’t just learn to curtsy—they learn to finish—both the right kind and the wrong kind of finishing. But please note that our alumni are not simply assassins. A graduate of Mademoiselle Geraldine’s would never complete an engagement in a way that was messy, unbecoming of a lady, or attracting of attention. They are discrete, they are subtle: they are ladies of quality.

(from the Finishing School website, http://finishingschoolbooks.com/the-academy)

Want to have a heap of fun? Step one: Get your hands on Etiquette & Espionage. Step two: Keep reading until you’ve read all four book in the series.

And better yet: Get the audiobooks! These books deserve a nice, relaxed listen.

I read Etiquette & Espionage years ago, when it first came out (review), and had a deliciously lovely time with it. So why did I stop? I’m not exactly sure, except (a) my dreaded aversion to series-reading raised its ugly head and caused me a fatal lack of interest by the time book #2 was released, and (b) somehow in the interim, I’d convinced myself that the series had too juvenile a tone to appeal to me in the long run.

Wrong on both counts. What was I thinking?

All these years, I’ve managed to believe that I wouldn’t enjoy the Finishing School series, and as a result, I ended up depriving myself — until now! — of the pleasure of reading these super silly yet totally wonderful books.

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

So, if any of you either haven’t heard of the series, or heard of the books but aren’t convinced that you should give them a try, here are five reasons why they need to be at the top of your MUST READ or MUST LISTEN lists, ASAP.

1) Fantastic world-building: The world of the Finishing School is full of Victorian manners, proper English ladies and gentlemen, lots of tea, and all sorts of supernatural beings — who are an accepted and honored part of society, thank you very much. Vampires, werewolves, and ghosts exist, mingle with humans, and are received in the finest of homes. A steampunk sensibility is in the forefront throughout, so expect lots of gears, dirigibles, mechanical servants and soldiers, valves, frequensors, and the like.

2) Strong female characters: The finishing school of the series title is a floating school housed in a dirigible, in which “young ladies of quality” become finished — in the dangerous arts of espionage, artifice, and assassination, among other important subjects. The most talented of the girls may have careers ahead of them as intelligencers, or may be destined to marriage to high ranking gentlemen so they can work their wiles behind the scenes. In any case, the young women we meet have backbones and brains, are handy with all manner of weaponry (I love Sophronia’s bladed fan), and can out-think any and all bad guys on a moments’ notice. Main character Sophronia and her best friends Dimity, Agatha, and Sidheag aren’t afraid to fight, scheme, flirt, and lie in order to protect each other and the people they care about. What’s more, Sophronia especially doesn’t particularly care about the rules of society, and is determined to set her own course and grab her own destiny, no matter whether others want to take her choices away.

3) Sense of humor: From the smallest of touches to the sublimely ridiculous, Gail Carriger’s writing has just enough arch humor to make every moment fun without crossing the line into dumb jokes. The conversations and descriptions all add to the overall sense of never taking things seriously, broken only when there are moments of true sorrow or tragedy, which the author is equally good at conveying. For snippets of the awesome writing and dialogue, check out some of my Thursday Quotables selections — here and here,

4) Terrific narrator: This is why I so highly recommend the audiobooks. The narrator is amazing! Moira Quirk captures the wickedly funny nature of the dialogue through her sharp-edged delivery, phrasing, and rhythms. She lends distinct voices to Sophronia and her friends, as well as to the oh-so-amusing vampire Professor Braithwope and the countless other unique characters, capturing the class differences with ease… and making me laugh out loud on a regular basis. (Note to self: Stop listening to funny  audiobooks in public.)

5) Visits from familiar friends: Prior to writing the Finishing School books, Gail Carriger had already collected a devoted following of her Parasol Protectorate series (which I adore). Although Finishing School is set approximately 25 years before the start of Soulless, book #1 in the Parasol Proctorate, there are quite a few familiar characters who appear in both series. Conveniently, since we’re talking about supernatural beings, there’s no reason why everyone’s favorite vampire, Lord Akeldama, can’t be a major player in Sophronia’s world too — looking as fashionable and fabulous as always, of course. Some of the others making appearances, large or small, in the Finishing School books are Sidheag Maccon and Genevieve Lefoux, plus a few others we see more or less in the shadows, going unnamed, but awfully familiar, like an inscrutable butler and a sandy-haired Beta werewolf.

Convinced yet?

In each book, the storyline builds on itself, adding to our knowledge of the characters’ inner lives and personal strengths, and then showing them in action as they team up to stop the bad guys and pretty much save the world, or at least, the British Empire. As this series is YA-targeted, the main steam in the story comes from the boiler rooms, not from sexytimes — if you’re looking for adult sexual encounters, check out the Parasol Protectorate books. Still, the Finishing School books contain some truly spectacular romantic moments, a love triangle that’s more than your typical YA three-sided geometry, and a crossing of class and race lines that make Sophronia a woman far ahead of her own time.

But let’s not get too serious about all this. The Finishing School books are good, silly, fun  — amazing characters, dynamic plot, loads of steampunk detailing, and dramatic, hair-raising escapes and adventures.

Please, please, please go check this series out! You’ll thank me. I promise.

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