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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Palace Circle by Rebecca Dean

Palace Circle: A Novel
Publisher: Broadway
Pages: 432 pgs
Genre: Historical Fiction/England
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, 20 in 2009

Summary from Publisher:

Palace intrigue, romance, and illicit affairs—Rebecca Dean has written a glorious novel that will sweep Philippa Gregory fans off their feet.

Delia Chandler, an eighteen-year-old Southern girl, marries Viscount Ivor Conisborough just before World War II, becoming part of the Windsor court. It’s every girl’s dream come true. But Delia is jolted from her pleasant life when she realizes, after the birth of her two daughters, that Ivor chose her only to bear an heir to his estate. Shortly thereafter, she begins an affair with her husband’s handsome, titled, and frequently scandalous best friend.

When Conisborough is appointed as an adviser to King Fuad of Egypt, Delia exchanges one palace circle for another, far different one. While she sees Egypt as a place of exile, her two daughters regard Egypt as their home. Only when war comes to Cairo—and Delia finally reveals the secret she has kept for so long—can she begin to heal the divisions separating her from those she loves.

Rebecca Dean’s irresistible combination of real events and masterful storytelling will keep readers fascinated until the very last page.

My Review:

From the beginning, I was really intrigued with this book. I had no idea what to expect but I did expect a really interesting read…which I got. The time period the story takes place in was a huge draw for me. I love books that take place in the World War I era. Especially when it is a book that cannot be classified as a “war book”. I was disappointed, however, that this seemed to be more of a backdrop.  I really liked the story of Davina and Darius. They were the most deep characters and had the most personality. I found myself waiting for their story to take over when I was reading. The writing was also really good. It kept me engaged when my interest would perhaps have dwindled with the shifts in point of view.

Palace Circle was not perfect. I had trouble becoming attached to some of the characters. Especially Delia which is especially troubling because the majority of the book is about her. She just wasn’t a type of character that I like. She seemed kind of vapid. I was never able to make a connection to her and by the time I was able to kind of like her, the story shifted to Petra. The generational format of this novel could also contribute to this. Once you really start to become interested in a character, the story shifts to another. I find that in novels with formats like this, it is hard to really get into any character’s story and become involved in the novel itself. I also found the ending to be a bit disappointing. Without giving it away, it seems like the story broke up in the middle of the novel and no real conclusions were made. I understand that this is the first book in a series but need there to be some loose ends tied up at the end of a book regardless if it is in a series or not.

Overall, I liked Palace Circle. Perhaps not enough to continue with the series but if you like Philippa Gregory or Rosalind Miles, you should definitely pick this up.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

30 Question Meme

I saw this from Morid Romantic who got it from The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Ranting and I figured “Why not?”.

1. Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
I have always preferred paperback. It doesn’t matter trade or mass market. They are more portable and less strenuous to read.

2. Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Barnes and Noble. They have a huge store in my town. Borders is really small and has a very limited selection

3. Bookmark or dog-ear?
Bookmark. I have these really cute book rugs.

4. Amazon or brick and mortar?
I love Amazon. Especially the Marketplace. The shipping is a little bit of a problem but penny books can’t be beat. A visit to a brick and mortar store is a treat for me.

5. Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
Neither. I have a very ummm… random organization. Meaning there is none. For a librarian that is a really sad statement.

6. Keep, throw away, or sell?
Keep. Unless I didn’t like it and then I donate it.

7. Keep dust jacket or toss it?
Keep it definitely. They edges get frayed if you don’t keep it on. It also helps distinguish the books on the shelf.

8. Read with dust jacket or remove it?
I take it off when I read and then put it back on when I am done.

9. Short story or novel?
Novel. I really don’t like short stories at all.

10. Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
Harry Potter. I have this monstrous crush on Severus Snape. It goes beyond crush actually.

11. Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
I read 100 pages at a time.

12. “It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
I would like to think it would be “It was a dark and stormy night” but if I am honest it’s “Once upon a time”. I don’t like to admit I am a romantic.

13. Buy or borrow?
I buy all my books. I don’t like to borrow books even from the library. Also a bad thing for a librarian to say.

14. New or used?
A used book has a lived-in charm to them.

15. Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?
A little bit of each of them. Usually, I have a list and I work from that. Most of the time I buy by author.

16. Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Tidy ending most definitely.

17. Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
Nighttime. I find that I am the sharpest at night.

18. Stand-alone or series?

19. Favorite series?
Anne of Green Gables

20. Favorite children’s book?
A Secret Garden and A Little Princess

21. Favorite YA book?
Harry Potter series. Also Little Women if Little Women can be considered YA.

22. Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
The Daisy Chain

23. Favorite books read last year?
The Professor’s Wives’ Club, The Jane Austen Book Club, Jane Eyre, Jane Austen by Elizabeth Jenkins

24. Favorite books of all time?
Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, the Anne of Green Gables series, Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

25. What are you reading right now?

I am currently reading All of Me by Lori Wilde, Who Do You Think You Are? by Alyse Myers, The Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, and Drood by Dan Simmons. I like to read about 5 books at a time. I get bored easily when reading any less.

26. What are you reading next?
Up next immediately is The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer, The Cradle by Patrick Somerville, The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano. After that, My Lord Jim by Georgette Heyer, A Worthy Legacy by Tomi Akinyanmi, Great Expectations the Graphic Novel, Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones, Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly, The Lacemakers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri, and A Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith.

27. Favorite book to recommend to an eleven-year-old?
Little Women, Secret Garden, Black Beauty, Pippi Longstocking

28. Favorite book to reread?
Jane Austen’s books and the sequels that other authors have written.

29. Do you ever smell books?
Yes! Especially old books and the smell of new paperbacks. It is perhaps my favorite smell in the world. Aside from the Opium perfume which my mother used to wear when I was a kid. It’s comforting to me.

30. Do you ever read Primary source documents, like diaries or letters?
I was a history major in college, so, yes. I especially like reading immigration sources like ledgers and ship manifests.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Musing Monday (April 20th)

This weekly event is hosted by Just One More Page.

Coming towards the end of April, we’re a third of the way through the way through the year. What’s the favourite book you’ve read so far in 2009? What about your least favourite? (question courtesy of MizB)

It is flabbergasting to me that it is so far into 2009. I always know my year is beginning to dwindle when my New Jersey Devils start the playoffs and I begin to panic on their behalf. I am also disappointed that I haven’t read as much as previous years. School is such a distraction.

My Favorites:

Galway Bay was perhaps the most touching and engrossing books I have ever read. I will never forget it. I will read it again and again. I loved it.

Flannery was also amazing. I usually read biographies of authors and people I have some knowledge about and that makes the biography worthwhile even if they are not really good books to begin with. But this time, I knew nothing about Flannery O’Connor and have never read anything she has written. It is a testament to Brad Gooch that he was able to create an interest in me where no interest had been before. I may or may not read anything by Flannery O’Connor in the future but this biography will stay in my shelves.

Sunday’s At Tiffany’s hasn’t been reviewed on this blog because it has just been finished…like right now. The review will be up this week. It was the most sweet and romantic book.

There are a bunch of books that I wish I could include in this list such as The Professor’s Wives’ Club by Joanne Rendell, the Bridget Jones books, and this wonderful Jane Austen biography by Elizabeth Jenkins.

Least Favorite:

I am lucky. There has only been one real clunker.

A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff- I don’t know why this book rubbed me the wrong way but it did. There was no continuity and I could have cared less about any of the characters. It just wasn’t for me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Flannery by Brad Gooch

Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor (Hardcover)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 464 pgs
Genre: Biography
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, 20 in 2009

Summary from Publisher:
The landscape of American literature was fundamentally changed when Flannery O'Connor stepped onto the scene with her first published book, Wise Blood, in 1952. Her fierce, sometimes comic novels and stories reflected the darkly funny, vibrant, and theologically sophisticated woman who wrote them. Brad Gooch brings to life O'Connor's significant friendships--with Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Walker Percy, and James Dickey among others--and her deeply felt convictions, as expressed in her communications with Thomas Merton, Elizabeth Bishop, and Betty Hester. Hester was famously known as "A" in O'Connor's collected letters, The Habit of Being, and a large cache of correspondence to her from O'Connor was made available to scholars, including Brad Gooch, in 2006. O'Connor's capacity to live fully--despite the chronic disease that eventually confined her to her mother's farm in Georgia--is illuminated in this engaging and authoritative biography.

My Review:
Before I begin, I must tell you, I have never read anything by Flannery O’ Connor. I may have glanced at a story of hers in high school but that was so long ago. This might have hampered my enjoyment of Gooch’s novel if it had been less interesting and badly written but, thankfully, Flannery was an interesting read in itself.

I was a bit worried when I started reading because of my lack of knowledge about Flannery O’ Connor. I was surprised when I immediately became engrossed in Flannery’s life.  I became attached to her and I wanted to know more about her. She was quite the quirky character. I often found myself laughing out loud at something she said or did. She was quite the character and I really enjoyed getting to know her.

Flannery was an extremely well-written book. It was one of the few biographies that I have read that managed to be informative but not overbearing. I thought it was a really balanced portrayal of Flannery.  The pictures also enhanced the material in the book. They provided an excellent visual reference point. Sometime I find that pictures are chosen for aesthetics rather than to serve a purpose but that definitely was not the case with this biography. When I wanted to get a mental image of a place that Flannery frequented, I looked in the picture insert. I did at points become confused as to who was who because of the constant parade of people through Flannery’s life but after a while the names became familiar and easy to remember when they were referenced again.

For someone who has never read a word of Flannery O’ Connor (that she can remember), I really became attached to her. I want to read her works now. And I think I will. Someday.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Musing Monday (April 13th)

This weekly event is hosted by Just One More Page.

How do you respond to the comments on your blog? Do you try to email individually or comment on post yourself answering the comments above? What do you think is the best way to respond to comments and do you respond to all of them? Do you feel slighted if you don't receive a response back from the blog owner? (question courtesy of Jenn)

I just recently started getting comments on my blog, so I am still learning how to respond to them. When I have more than one comment for a post, I reply with a comment of my own with answers to each individual person. I respond to most of them or at least I try to. I don’t feel slighted if a blog owner does not respond to me most of the time. But if I see they have responded to everyone else and ignored my comment then I do feel a bit neglected but most of the time I do realize that people have lives.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It’s Monday (err Saturday)! What are your reading this week? (April 11th)

This weekly event is hosted by J. Kaye at J. Kaye’s Book Blog

Books Completed

Flannery-Brad Gooch (review almost done)

Palace Circle-Rebecca Dean (review almost done)

Books reading:

Drood-Dan Simmons

Sundays at Tiffany’s -James Patterson

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane –Katherine Howe

Why Shoot a  Butler-Georgette Heyer

The Four Corners of the Sky -Michael Malone (almost done)

Up Next-

All of Me-Lori Wilde

The Only True Genius in the Family-Jennie Nash

The Cradle–Patrick Somerville

The Talisman Ring-Georgette Heyer

The Girl She Used to Be-David Cristofano

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham

The Traitor's Wife
Publisher:Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 1402217870
Pages: 512 pgs
Genre: Historical Fiction/English
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge , RYOB Challenge, Romance Challenge, 20 in 2009 Challenge

 Synopsis from Publisher

In fourteenth-century England, young Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of King Edward II, is delighted with her marriage to Hugh le Despenser and her appointment to Queen Isabella’s household as a lady-in-waiting. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Eleanor’s beloved uncle is not the king the nobles of the land—or his queen—expected.

Hugh’s unbridled ambition and his intimate relationship with Edward arouse widespread resentment, even as Eleanor remains fiercely loyal to her husband and to her king. But loyalty has its price…
Moving from royal palaces to prison cells, from the battlefield to the bedroom, between hope and despair, treachery and fidelity, hatred and abiding love, The Traitor’s Wife is a tale of an extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times.

My Review:
The Traitor’s Wife is an extremely interesting and well-written novel about the marriage of Eleanor de Clare and Hugh le Despenser during the reign of King Edward II. This is one of the historical periods where my knowledge is sketchy at best. I knew that Hugh le Despenser was a historical “bad guy”, that Kind Edward II was a weak king, and that the time period was turbulent but this is where my knowledge ends. The events and happenings of the time period were a mystery to me before reading Higginbotham’s novel. This book read like a historical soap opera with one crazy event happening right after the other. And I have to tell you, I absolutely loved it.

From the very beginning of the novel, you can tell Higginbotham has painstakingly researched every fact and event in the novel. I really love it when you can tell that the author of a historical novel has researched the time period and subject matter they are writing about. I also thought that this benefitted the portrayal of the characters. The characters have depth and personality and induced some fairly strong emotional reactions to their behavior. I wanted to shake Eleanor for being so loyal to Hugh; I wanted to throttle Hugh, Edward and Isabella for being such prats. The Traitor’s Wife is also bolstered by wonderful writing and beautiful descriptions.

I did find, however, that I had trouble following the story because of the many events in the novel. I was able to follow much better when I read in sections. It is definitely a book that requires an investment of time and energy but it is definitely worthwhile. It will spark an interest in learning about these people and this time period. I would recommend The Traitor’s Wife to anyone interested in reading a dramatic historical fiction about English history.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

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