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There are TWO posts today...Sorry about that :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Review: A Poisoned Season

Author: Tasha Alexander
Pub. date: 2007
Genre: Mystery/suspense/historical fiction

London's social season is in full swing, and Victorian aristocracy is atwitter over a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Adding to their fascination with all things French, an audacious cat burglar is systematically stealing valuable items that once belonged to the ill–fated queen.
But things take a dark turn. The owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered after the theft is reported in the newspapers, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Lady Emily Ashton. It takes all of Lady Emily's wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, while faced with a brewing scandal that threatens both her reputation and her romance with the dashing Colin Hargreaves.

My Thoughts:
This book was a fun and fabulous read. Emily is fortunately an "independent" woman who is ahead of her time. She furthers her intellectual pursuits, such as learning Greek, while trying to maintain balance with her position in society and its conventions. Victorian women were not supposed to be strong, intelligent women, who were interested in the goings on in the world. Gossip and fashion were a woman's domain. Emily is an independent thinker, and unfortunately this got her into trouble with society's matrons. Luckily for her, Emily was able to manage her troubles.

Tasha Alexander captures the conventions and formalities of Victorian society very well. Women were usually trapped with no real voice or opinion with respect to their futures, yet Emily is lucky enough to be able to try and control her fate by staving off another marriage, to a man she is in love with no less. The conversations between her and Colin Hargreaves are sweet, romantic and passionate. The conversations reminded me of a duel.

Keep in mind, Emily did all this while trying to solve a few mysteries along the way. The mysterious circumstances in the book were quite suspenseful. They seemed like multiple plot lines and yet connected. One mystery from many different angles.

Emily is a delightful a heroine who is quite capable of not only taking care of herself, but others who may find themselves in need of assistance as well. This book was truly a novel of suspense and kept me guessing until the very end, including the romantic aspects as well. I felt as though I was transported to Victorian times, and I look forward to reading the next in the series as well.

I would like to note, that this is the second book in the series. Events from the first book are described, but I liked this book so much that I will go back and read the first one too. Regardless of knowing the plot.
This was a very satisfying, enjoyable, fun, and easy read. I highly recommend it!
(Can you tell I really liked this book? ha-ha)
{Cross posted on Victorian Challenge}

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Review: Skeletons at the Feast

Author: Chris Bohjalian

Pub Date: 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction

From Publishers Weekly

In his 12th novel, Bohjalian (The Double Bind) paints the brutal landscape of Nazi Germany as German refugees struggle westward ahead of the advancing Russian army. Inspired by the unpublished diary of a Prussian woman who fled west in 1945, the novel exhumes the ruin of spirit, flesh and faith that accompanied thousands of such desperate journeys. Prussian aristocrat Rolf Emmerich and his two elder sons are sent into battle, while his wife flees with their other children and a Scottish POW who has been working on their estate. Before long, they meet up with Uri Singer, a Jewish escapee from an Auschwitz-bound train, who becomes the group's protector. In a parallel story line, hundreds of Jewish women shuffle west on a gruesome death march from a concentration camp....Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

My Thoughts:

Each character represents a perspective on WWII. The mother who lived through WWI, considers herself a German, and yet hears the rumours about the atrocities and can't believe German people would do such a thing. A foreign POW who tries to explain the world's view of Germany, but may have some doubts about current events as well. The 18 year old daughter who is naive, has never been outside of her current farming community, and yet knows that what was drilled into her at school (anti-semitism) cannot be quite right. Uri a Jewish man who has lived through these events, and has had to kill or be killed in order to survive. Doesn't exactly like German people, but has admiration, understanding, and feelings for the family he is traveling with.

None of these characters can believe that what is happening in Germany is true, but they know that it is. The things that human beings will do to one another is horrific, but it happens. Not only in the past but today as well, i.e. Darfur. This book describes not only German atrocities but those committed by the advancing Russian army as well. If you are squeamish, I would not recommend this book. However, if you would like to read an eye opening and thought provoking novel, then pick this one. It really made me think about what I would do in this situation. I hope it would be the right thing and that I survive.

I highly recommend this book and will keep Bohjalian on my list of authors to read in the future.

Edit: This is part of the TBR Challenge 2009 hosted by AvidBookReader. So please check some other participants reviews, if you have a chance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

I have seen this around several book blogs and find it intriguing. I did some investigating and reading of other teasers, and found the source, MizB from Should be Reading.
These are the parameters:

  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 & 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

    • Here is my Teaser Tuesday:

      I was determined to find a way to gentley persuade her to take a more active role in her relationship with her husband. This might prove more difficult than uncovering the identity of my mysterious admirer.
      pg. 101 from A Poisoned Sesaon by Tasha Alexander

      Tuesday, January 13, 2009


      By taking a circuitous route, Marg at Reading Adventures to Cindy Pon at A little sweet a little sour to Sarah Maclean at macleanspace, I found a contest, and some good blogs along the way of course.

      Sarah is releasing her first book ever in a new young adult, three book series about the Regency period titled The Season. The series will also have a mysterious side as well. Please go check out all these great blogs and Sarah's new book The Season.
      (I tried the sprout thing, and I'm just not that tech savvy.)

      Wednesday, January 7, 2009

      I Capture the Castle

      Author: Dodie Smith
      Pub Date: 1948
      Genre: Young Adult
      My Rating: 4.5/5

      From St. Martin's Press:

      I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"--and the heart of the reader--in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.

      I was not sure what I was in for when I picked this book up. The description above does not give much away, and I think that's a good thing. I read this book with complete curiosity and yearning for what was going to happen next.

      You, the reader, are reading Cassandra's journals regarding the events that have transpired over a six month time period. It is 1930's England and she and her family are as poor as church mice. How they managed I'll never know, but most people do. And I think it was much easier back then, to be poor than it is now. (That's an interesting thought.) Her family is a bit dysfunctional, and out of left field, but you just accept them for who they are and that this is their situation. They all love one another and struggle to get by every day. They stand by each other through thick and thin.

      The protagonist of the story is Cassandra who is 17 and coming of age. She is an insightful, touching, and engaging character who draws you in with her observations of her life, family, and feelings. Cassandra made me remember my own teenage years, and some of the difficulties and new feelings that I had also discovered back then. I can certainly sympathize with Cassandra, in some areas.

      This book was an entertaining read. There actually is a castle, and I can certainly picture it in my mind's eye through Smith's descriptions. All of the characters came alive in this book.

      And you can't help but feel proud of Cassandra for turning into a mature young woman. This is a book for both young and old alike. And for the older reader, it may make you feel a little young again.

      I would like to note, that some reviewers on the web had extreme difficulty with the poverty that is described, and the events surrounding the father. I just tend to take things as they are described. It is just a book. The story to me was Cassandra and her growing up. Just felt it had to be said.

      Exhibit regarding Irene Nemirovsky

      I know this comment may sound like an advertisement or something, but I thought I would pass it along any way. Irene Nemirovsky was a great writer who should not be forgotten, and I guess she touched me more than I realize.

      From Hannah Furst

      I recently read your post about Irène Némirovsky and wanted to let you know about an exciting new exhibition about her life, work, and legacy that opened on September 24, 2008 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which will run through the middle of March, will include powerful rare artifacts — the actual handwritten manuscript for Suite Française, the valise in which it was found, and many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. And for those who can’t visit, there will be a special website that will live on the Museum’s site

      The Museum will host several public programs over the course of the exhibition’s run that will put Némirovsky’s work and life into historical and literary context. Book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Tracy Bradshaw at 646.437.4304 or Please visit our website at for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list. Thanks for sharing this info with your readers.

      If you need any more, please do not hesitate to contact me at

      Monday, January 5, 2009

      Novels from Irene Nemirovsky

      Pub Date: For this collection, Everyman's Library, 2008
      Genre: Fiction
      My Rating: 4.25/5

      About the author from Bantam Publishing:

      Irène Némirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903 into a wealthy banking family and emigrated to France during the Russian Revolution. After attending the Sorbonne in Paris she began to write and swiftly achieved success with DAVID GOLDER, which was followed by more than a dozen other books. Throughout her lifetime she published widely in French newspapers and literary journals. She died in Auschwitz in 1942. More than sixty years later, Suite Française, was published posthumously, for the first time, in 2006.

      David Golder
      • A novel about greed and loneliness, the story of a self-made business man, once wealthy, now suffering a breakdown as he nears the lonely end of his life.
        (from the book jacket)

      The Ball

      • A pointed exploration of adolescence and the obsession with status among the bourgeoisie

      Snow in Autumn

      • An evocative tale of White Russian emigres in Paris after the Russian Revolution

      These novels are short fictional stories that allow the reader to emotionally connect with the characters, especially the protagonist, in each one. The events that occur only help to reinforce those connections, whether you have experienced them or not. You may even know people who behave like the characters in these stories. My Super Sweet 16 on MTV immediately came to my mind for one of the stories.

      Nemirovsky truly understands and is able to convey human behavior and emotions. Whether you agree with the actions of the protagonists or not, you can not help but feel sorry for them. And although these stories are set in the earlier part of the 20th century, the themes that are explored are certainly very relevant.

      I highly recommend this book, even though I didn't read the last story. I just knew the protagonist would not have a good ending. It is a shame the life of this wonderful author was cut so short.

      Thursday, January 1, 2009


      2009 Challenges

      This is from J. Kaye's Book Blog
      Click here to see my progress.

      This challenge is to read as many books from the LOST series as you can. It is being hosted at the LOST Book Challenge Blog. Click here to see my progress.

      This is for the Everything Austen Challenge hosted by Stephanie's Written Word Click here for my list and home page for this challenge.

      This challenge is hosted by avidbookreader. Click here for my progress page.

      My Rating System

      I use a rating system similar to the grading systems used in schools. Instead of A+, A, A-, B+, etc., I assign numbers. I feel it allows for better delineation and scoring rather than a 5 point scale. I measure things in my job using this type of system and it makes more sense to me. These numbers more accurately represent how I feel about a book.
      So without further ado:

      100-90 would be in the A range
      89-80 would be in the B range
      79-70 would be in the C range
      69-60 would be in the D range
      59-0 would be a failure, so why assign a letter.

      Honestly, I will not finish books I don't like for some reason. I don't see the point when I have so many other books I want to read. Therefore, 99% of the time I like all the books I read, but some not as much as others.