Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review - Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Published by: Back Bay Books
Publication Date: 1945
Format: Paperback, 351 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

"If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper." 

Vomiting through a window doesn't seem like the most promising start to a friendship, yet that is how Charles Ryder first meets a rather inebriated Sebastian Flyte. Charles is swept up in Sebastian's wake of luxury, decadence, eccentricities, and alcohol vapors. Throwing off his rather mundane life, Charles is wooed by the world of privilege that Sebastian belongs to. Charles falls not just for this sot with a teddy bear, but for his whole life; the family, the house, everything. Looking back on those halcyon days while mired in the WW II, Charles lovingly thinks of the world that has been lost forever. Yet Charles lost entre into that world earlier then the announcement on the wireless that England is at war. His love affair with the Flytes had soured over the years, moving from Sebastian to his sister Julia, Charles took whatever he could of this family, but it the end, it was something deep in the family that made certain he was never one of them, and never could be.

Before I became an avid reader Brideshead Revisited was one of those books that my father kept saying I had to read. I won't say that it's his favorite book, because the author is Evelyn Waugh and not Sherwood Anderson and the book's title isn't Winesburg Ohio, but Brideshead Revisited is firmly in place as one of his favorite books. Much like this little old lady I met at a Rembrandt show in New York who was insistent on how memorable his work would be when seen in it's original setting (ie Amsterdam), my Dad has the same tenacity and insistence of how the language of Brideshead Revisited would capture me and not let me go. Many conversations with him start "I remember how the language captured me the fist time I read..." insert any of his favorite classic books here, usually Jude the Obscure, but for this instance, Brideshead Revisited. Though, for Brideshead Revisited the refrain is more "when Lord Marchmain comes home to die..." or anything to do with Edward Ryder, Charles's father. Still, despite the copious copies of the book laying about the house, I just didn't pick it up.

When I started to hone myself into the Anglophile that I am today I watched as many miniseries as I could lay my hands to, and Brideshead Revisited finally entered into my life officially in at least one form. At this point my father had already worn out his old VHS copy and for his birthday I had upgraded him to the DVD set which I now watched. Brideshead Revisited is literally THE definition of a miniseries, and it set the standard for what we expect in our miniseries today. Mainly it was the first to be shot entirely on location. I loved all the houses and scenery, and Anthony Andrews, such a perfect actor, as are every other actor save one, I didn't love Jeremy Irons. There's something about Jeremy Irons that bothers me. He has a wonderful voice, but I think his voice has led people to ignore the fact that he seriously can't act. I am 100% anti-Jeremy Irons. So watching the miniseries all I could think was, ok, I've had enough of this for quite awhile now (except the John Gielgud lunch scene, that can NEVER be watched enough), I don't think I'll read the book right now... and so, until this month, I had never realized how right my father was in this instance.

Evelyn Waugh's writing is like a palate cleanser, everything that you read before was lugubrious and everything that you read after is sub par. Brideshead Revisited shows how fast a book that is well written goes. Time disappears, the words just flow, except for the occasional drunken tumble over a word or phrase that is now out of it's time. The lunch between Anthony Blanche and Charles, where Anthony dominates the conversation, felt just as if you were sitting opposite him in that restaurant and were being overwhelmed by his torrent of words and your inability to get a word in edgewise, a sensation that I am sure we have all experienced with certain of our own friends and were vividly reliving while reading this passage. And even while I didn't necessarily like or relate to any of the characters, the language usage is so lush that you can't help but agree with the little quote on the cover that calls the book "[h]eartbreakingly beautiful... The 20th century's finest English novel." To write a story that is so of it's time and so unrelatable to a certain extent, yet to have it forge a connection with me, well that is wondrous writing.

Even if the world of the novel is unrelatable to a certain extent, except in our daydreams, it's the themes of the book we relate to. Waugh wrote this book looking back on a golden age that was gone, destroyed by war and an ever changing world. The Flytes embody this full stop. They lived at the height of decadence but look what happens to them. Their world ends and they are literally a dead end gene pool. Look to the four Flyte children, Brideshead has married a woman too old to bear children, Julia is living apart from her husband and due to her previous miscarriage on top of the fact a reconciliation is unlikely she will never have a child, Cordelia lives as a nun, and well, Sebastian, even if he wasn't homosexual, he's basically living a monastic life now. They are the world that has come to an end, so it is only right that they too have come to an end. This mourning for what is lost and can not be had again, their youth, this golden age, this innocence... the light snuffed out on the bright young things is the spine of this book. The world keeps turning, and while the story of the Flytes is a bit fatalist, we can relate to the loss, because as we age and move on we lose all the time.

Now I do have to address one thing. The Catholic question. Does it really matter? Yes and no. While I do find it ironic that a catholic wrote what might be the most anti-catholic book out there, the religion aspect is more a signifier then an actual physical thing. We are like Charles Ryder, we are on the outside looking in at this world of popery that we don't quite understand, even if some of us were even raised Catholics. But I really think that it's not a question of religion, but more a symbol of something in your life that you don't necessarily want but still you need it and it is all consuming to your detriment. So am I basically saying that Catholicism is a form of addiction like Sebastian's drinking? Now that I think on it, yes I am... Now I'm not saying that it is like this for anyone other then the Flyte's, but their relationship with God is unhealthy and not only brings down their lives but takes away their happiness and fills it with guilt and remorse. It's this dogged insistence that they stick to the old ways that links back into the fact that their time on earth is done. We must adapt in order to survive. At least Waugh was able to give us this loving eulogy to a world now lost.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review - Sadie Jones's The Uninvited Guests

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: May 1st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Emerald Torrington is turning twenty. To celebrate there is to be a party at Sterne with her closest friends and family. Yet the family is preoccupied with the fact that unless Charlotte's second husband comes through, they are to lose Sterne. Charlotte stays ensconced in her room as her daughter Emerald busies herself with the preparation for the party, while her son Clovis lounges about, which is what Clovis does best. Her youngest, Smudge, is plotting how to get another animal silhouette on her bedroom wall while the family is busy with the party... Lady the horse is going to be a lot more tricky than the cats or dogs. The maid Mytle and the cook Florence Trieves are in a state trying to get ready for the arrival of the Suttons, Ernest and his sister Patience, as well as John Buchanan, who has been buying up local estates and covets Sterne. Yet all this is pushed to one side when there's a horrible train accident nearby and Sterne is needed to house those who were in the accident.

The upheaval of unexpected guests on the night of a big dinner party is a big to-do, but they all do what they can. There are only a few people after all. But when Charlie Traversham-Beechers walks through that door and back into Charlotte's life, the victims from the accident are the least of their worries. Charlie is invited to dinner, as he is dressed for the occasion, minus a tie... he is a cut above the other ragged souls that have been displaced by the accident. Yet he brings a malevolence with him. A cheerful party becomes mean and vicious. Parlor games taunt and torture, versus entertain. It is as if the devil himself has come into their midst and has unleashed everyone's inhibitions. The passengers also start to increase in number and become more and more rowdy and demanding. Why hasn't the railway come to collect them? How much longer will Sterne endure this upheaval? If the inhabitants of the house can just regain control, just until the dawn, perhaps all will be right.... even if there might still be a horse in Sumdge's room.

Imagine Flavia De Luce in a ghost story like The Woman in Black or The Turn of the Screw and you've pretty much got this book. There are two driving narratives, that of the dinner guests and that of Smudge. Smudge is the comedic counterpoint that balances the continuing degradation of the dinner party. Yet Smudge is the key on which the denouement hinges. Personally I felt that the book was a little hard to get into. Not only do you have trouble establishing a time period, if you are like me and avoid book descriptions like the plague because they might spoil the book, you wouldn't know this book is set in 1912. I was totally confused by the combination of cars, carts, and carriages, that I couldn't dive into the book. Also, the plethora of hard to say names didn't help the narrative at all either. Yet, with the arrival of the train passengers I knew that this book could work. As I said at the time: "If this goes where I'm hoping it goes, it's going to be bloody brilliant!" It did go there! I loved that it was willing to embrace not just the Downton Abbey aspects of the story, but the supernatural aspects that the vagueness of details allowed for.

Yet... in the end, it overstayed it's welcome, much like the passengers. There was a distinct feeling of this should end, but it didn't, at least not when it should have. The party is over, now they're dancing, now they're eating, now they're providing beds for all the people, on and on. Sometimes it's best to leave things to the imagination and just fade to morning. I didn't need to read the minutiae of getting the horse out of the house, or of the inhabitants of Sterne redeeming themselves for their pushing aside of the passengers. By overstaying it's welcome, the book took what would have been a brilliant short story and made it a decent book. It really would have been a wicked awesome short story and kept that air of the supernatural, without having it fade away to meaninglessness.

Also, on a completely different note. I loved this book's design. The cover is sheer perfection, well, except for the mistake of Charlie having a tie. But the end papers being Smudge's silhouettes on her wall was wonderful.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn
Published by: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: February 25th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Set against the lush, exotic European colonial outposts of the 1920s, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn delivers the captivating tale of one woman who embarks upon a journey to see the world—and ends up finding intrigue, danger and a love beyond all reason.

Famed aviatrix Evangeline Starke never expected to see her husband, adventurer Gabriel Starke, ever again. They had been a golden couple, enjoying a whirlwind courtship amid the backdrop of a glittering social set in prewar London until his sudden death with the sinking of the Lusitania. Five years later, beginning to embrace life again, Evie embarks upon a flight around the world, collecting fame and admirers along the way. In the midst of her triumphant tour, she is shocked to receive a mysterious—and recent—photograph of Gabriel, which brings her ambitious stunt to a screeching halt.

With her eccentric aunt Dove in tow, Evie tracks the source of the photo to the ancient City of Jasmine, Damascus. There she discovers that nothing is as it seems. Danger lurks at every turn, and at stake is a priceless relic, an artifact once lost to time and so valuable that criminals will stop at nothing to acquire it—even murder. Leaving the jewelled city behind, Evie sets off across the punishing sands of the desert to unearth the truth of Gabriel's disappearance and retrieve a relic straight from the pages of history.

Along the way, Evie must come to terms with the deception that parted her from Gabriel and the passion that will change her destiny forever…."

Seeing as her standalone A Spear of Summer Grass was so awesome I am beyond excited for this new standalone!

Death of a Policeman by M.C. Beaton
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 25th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Local police stations all over the Scottish Highlands are being threatened with closure. This presents the perfect opportunity for Detective Chief Inspector Blair, who would love nothing more than to get rid of Sergeant Hamish Macbeth. Blair suggests that Cyril Sessions, a keen young police officer, visit the town of Lochdubh to monitor exactly what Macbeth does every day. Macbeth hears about Blair's plan and is prepared to insure that Cyril returns back to headquarters with a full report. But Cyril is soon found dead and Hamish quickly becomes the prime suspect in his murder."

My mom's favorite series, hands down.

Night Owls by Lauren M. Roy
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: February 25th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 604 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Night Owls bookstore is the one spot on campus open late enough to help out even the most practiced slacker. The employees’ penchant for fighting the evil creatures of the night is just a perk…

Valerie McTeague’s business model is simple: provide the students of Edgewood College with a late-night study haven and stay as far away as possible from the underworld conflicts of her vampire brethren. She’s experienced that life, and the price she paid was far too high for her to ever want to return.

Elly Garrett hasn’t known any life except that of fighting the supernatural beings known as Creeps or Jackals. But she always had her mentor and foster father by her side—until he gave his life protecting a book that the Creeps desperately want to get their hands on.

When the book gets stashed at Night Owls for safekeeping, those Val holds nearest and dearest are put in mortal peril. Now Val and Elly will have to team up, along with a mismatched crew of humans, vampires, and lesbian succubi, to stop the Jackals from getting their claws on the book and unleashing unnamed horrors…."

Looks like a fun new urban fantasy series!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Downton Abbey Ice Capades - Will Ferrell Style

Because it fits this month and I'm more then a little addicted to the Olympic figure skating...

Book Review - Jane Sanderson's Eden Falls

Eden Falls by Jane Sanderson
Published by: Sphere
Publication Date: September 12th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Eve's brother Silas is trying to make a go of his luxury hotel in Jamaica. He even has his nephew Seth working for him as his second in command. But things aren't going well. The staff is surly, the customers are fleeing, and Silas is desperate. He thinks that perhaps his sister Eve could help him, but it's not like he's going to ask her, that would be demeaning. Instead Silas writes a letter for Seth to send to his mother, pulling on her heartstrings, and she inevitably agrees to come, despite her husband pointing out the fact that the letter was obviously penned by her own brother and not her son. Yet Eve goes to Seth and tries to fix Silas's problems... though she will fix them in her way not his, which causes yet more strife.

While back in England Eve's family misses her so much it hurts. Even her dear friends miss her. Anna and Amos are at loggerheads. He, as an elected MP for Labour, doesn't view it right that his wife should not only befriend, but work for the upper classes. Their honeymoon is certainly over. While the Earl of Netherwood, Tobias, and his faithless wife Thea are actually coming back together, having a second honeymoon. But the one person making the most news is Lady Henrietta Hoyland, Tobias's elder sister, who is making headlines for her work with the suffrage movement, and for her attack on Downing Street that has lead to her imprisonment. This is just what the youngest Hoyland, Isabella, didn't need when she's coming out; her family in tatters. Yet through the tribulation and strife, the things that really matter, family, love, will be all that remains at the end of the day.

What I have loved most about this series is the minutiae, the day to day details of these characters lives and how from the lowliest pit ponies to the Countess herself, they all flitted in and out of each others lives in Netherwood. This book is completely different from the two proceeding volumes, instead painting the lives we have come to love in broad strokes with the result being that rich, deep characters, have become one note caricatures. Whereas before we were treated to the insights of the Dowager Countess's maid, Flytton, she gets one measly mention in this installment. I'm not sure if this tone shift is because Jane wants to take the books in a different direction, perhaps to lure in more readers, or if she has reached the point wherein she has so many characters that she is unable to successfully juggle them. My money is on the later, mainly because for this volume we were given four pages of dramatis personae, poor Flytton is even excluded there. But I will not discount the "new readers" because there seemed to be a bit too much explaining of people and situations that readers of the series would easily remember.

The narrative has always been linked by a common location, Netherwood, so that people flowed in and out of each others stories easily. By pushing them so far apart distance wise, it seems like when they do show up it's not natural but fate forced to make the story still work as before but within this new rickety framework. The narrative style needs to change if the characters are going to continue to be so geographically dispersed. Maybe the answer is individual books for certain characters. Or being willing to let some characters go or take a backseat for a book or two. Because the lack of detail, the willingness to gloss over things and speed ahead, made this a messy book that left me dissatisfied and wanting more. Plus, if we are to follow every character and then Eliza's journey to France is just mentioned in a sentence or two... well, either you stick to your new style completely, or just abandon it as the failed experiment it obviously is.

One thing that was really missing from this novel was the food. In the previous volumes Jane has lavished attention on the food, making my mouth water and making me wish I had a cook to bake those ambitious recipes in the back of the book for me, or at least Eve's shop around the corner to visit. Gone even are the recipes, and gone is the heart and soul of this book. While food is still important, much like many of the characters, it's just mentioned quickly and pushed aside. This I think is symbolic of what has really happened with this series. As Eve says, you have to put love into your cooking. The ritual of making the humblest pie to the most elaborate feast all comes down to the love put in. I felt like the love was gone, in some cases, like Amos and Anna's bickering, literally gone. 

But what ripped out my heart and jumped on it was that I still love these characters, and all the new ones as well. To see them so briefly and in such circumstances hurt me more then if I hadn't seen them at all. Unlikeable characters ran riot, with Silas becoming so horrid it was almost unreadable. And likable characters like Amos who were complex and many sided became one dimensional and mean. Plus Seth! What the hell! There was such progress with Seth at the end of Ravenscliffe and then it's not just two steps back but who the hell is this evil little Silas wannabe, he's a shit. Everything was cookie cutter without the joy of making the cookies. The plot was predictable, Henrietta's being literally an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs, while Silas and his Jamaicans... that wasn't obvious... not in the least (rolls eyes and sighs). I'm just exasperated. A book that I had so looked forward to picking up has basically broken my heart.

I also wonder, at the end of the day, if Jane was trying to thrust some "morality play" into this mess. With the very vehement hatred of the government from the likes of Amos and Henry, to the dissatisfaction with the monarchy, and then the brouhaha with the Tsar, all on top of which men like Silas, who embody all that is wrong with the empire... was Jane being heavy handed with the war is inevitable to fix this broken world? That revolt is not just coming but inevitable? With our foreknowledge of what is in store, the upheaval and insurrection, she is lending all events portents of doom. I kind of hate this in books. Yes, we know where all this leads, but you know what, people at the time didn't know exactly where it was going. To be basically giving them prophetic abilities seems too much to take in. Plus, if the next book is anything like this one, well, I don't know if the series can even make it to the outbreak of war if it continues this rabid downward trajectory... unless Jane does another time jump...   

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review - Jane Sanderson's Ravenscliffe

Ravenscliffe by Jane Sanderson
Published by: Sphere
Publication Date: September 30th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 534 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy (different edition then one reviewed)

Eve Williams can hardly credit that she is living the life she is. Mere months before she was on her way to destitution as a widow with three children, but now she's engaged to be married to Daniel MacLeod, the head gardener at Netherwood, has a thriving business, and is moving into the substantially larger Ravenscliffe house on Netherwood Common. Much of these successes are thanks to the indomitable Anna, her best friend and co-conspirator. Though not every life is perfect. Eve's son Seth is rebelling against all the changes that he feels are disrespecting the memory of his father. To Eve's horror, after his twelfth birthday Seth signs on at the colliery that his father Arthur loved, but which killed him nonetheless. She wants Seth to realize that their new station in life has opened up vast opportunities for him as well. He doesn't have to live the life his father lived. Arthur would want a better life for his son, but Anna counsels Eve that Seth has to learn this for himself.

Though the biggest change in Eve's life is the return of her little brother Silas. She hasn't seen him since her wedding to Arthur when he was a scraggly youth and left saying that one day he would send Eve bananas. One day the bananas arrive and a few days later so does Silas. Silas has made an astounding success of his life as a shipping magnate specializing in the importing of bananas to England. He plans on expanding his shipping line out of Bristol and is working on making a luxury hotel in Kingston, Jamaica, and is looking to acquire a coal mine near Netherwood. Silas, unaware of the upheaval in Eve's life, is overly zealous at the success she too has made of her life and starts to encourage her to think bigger, to expand, to grab at every opportunity she is given. Much of these opportunities are connected with the family at Netherwood. After she helps them out of a tight spot when the King comes to visit, Lord Netherwood, following a reassessment of his life, is inclined to give Eve her company outright as a wedding present, relinquishing his share. Yet Lord Netherwood dies before he can commit this to paper. Silas's desire to force the Hoylands hand and get Eve what she deserves creates conflict in Netherwood, with Silas on one side, Anna and Amos on the other, and Eve stuck in the middle. Eve's life might be better, but it is far from perfect.

When the first book in a series is wonderful and perfect I can only imagine the pressure this puts on the author. Jane Sanderson had less time and more expectations with her followup to Netherwood. Thankfully Ravenscliffe exceeded all my expectations. With the expanding of this little microcosm of Edwardian England with new characters and new situations, Jane was able to stay true to the gritty and glamorous world of her first novel, yet infuse it with even more humor and humanity. Throwing us headlong into the upheaval at the great hall with the remodelling and redecorating for the King's arrival made me fall right into this book and not want to leave. The cook dropping dead hours before the first big dinner and having Eve step in was a situation of such absurdity combined with the feeling of her walking a tightrope, led to such suspense I didn't want to go to sleep. In that moment I had such a connection with Eve, I had so much invested, I felt that I was there with her. Jane just has this knack of creating characters that you connect with on so many levels, that you become invested in their lives and just need to know what happens next. Yet, Ravenscliffe isn't just a character piece with historical figures popping up, there are real and relevant issue that ring true to this day, giving the book a depth that most literature today lacks.

In the first book, Netherwood, we see Eve make a huge success out of the ruin of her life. Eve's restaurant becomes not only a place that locals visit, but a destination in Yorkshire for a day out. Her pies are even a hit with the King, who loves food reminiscent of his days in the nursery. Well maybe we should just say he loves food period, and he really loves Eve's puddings and pies. Yet with the arrival of Silas we see someone who has made a real success of his life. He is quite literally a millionaire. Eve and him had the same life, the same start in the world. On that day she married Arthur, Silas set out to make something of himself, and boy did he ever. When compared side by side, Eve's "huge" success in the first book is a pittance when compared to what her brother has achieved. This is the crux of what is a politically charged issue. The situation here is an interesting take on the dynamic of a woman's place in society. The little success Eve has carved out for herself is lauded because she is a woman and any success is amazing in this male dominated society. Yet what could Eve have done if she was male? Would Eve have been as or even more successful then her brother? I think she would have!

Lady Henrietta is the more vocal proponent of women's equality and suffrage in Ravenscliffe. Not only does she run the estate after her father's passing, but she institutes reforms in the collieries that will save lives, as well as becoming political and taking up the banner with the likes of Mrs. Pankhurst! The book shows quite clearly the injustices, but then it shows us that forward thinking women can help effect change. They are just as, if not more capable then the men in their lives, this is especially true of Henry and her inept brother Tobias. This time in history was the true beginning of women demanding the equality they deserved. While it would be another fourteen years from the events of this book till some women got the vote and a further ten years till it was more universal, it was a time of change and this book shows us, more then a dry history textbook, why it was needed and how the change was effected. Is equality for women such a hard concept to grasp even in this day and age? It is a basic human right.

Having the characters that we have known and loved as our friends incorporated into real history and real struggles makes not just their own stories come alive, but makes history come alive. Also, what did I say about historical figures popping up? Well, of course they do, but they aren't what the book is about, they are woven into the plot making it relevant to the story, not just a cameo. The introduction of Mrs. Pankhurst, Churchill, Keir Hardie, and the King, forward the story but also place it in the bigger picture. Jane Sanderson's story coupled with living breathing history makes her plea of suffrage and women's rights more urgent, more real. The only thing I would ask is that she drop the cliche of suffragists all having lesbian leanings... it's ok if it's character driven, just not ok if it's politically driven. Suffragists are all spectrums of women, don't pigeon hole them after writing a book that embraces the trail blazers and the pioneers of equality.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell
Published by: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Publication Date: February 18th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Historical fiction at its best — The Brothers Grimm meets The Thirteenth Tale .

I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told.

And so begins Elise Dalriss’s story. When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a minstrel’s tale about a beautiful princess asleep in a tower, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered—and she is the only one left who knows what actually happened so many years ago. Her story unveils a labyrinth where secrets connect to an inconceivable evil. As only Elise understands all too well, the truth is no fairy tale."

Oh, just what February needed, some Gothicy goodness!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review - Jane Sanderson's Netherwood

Netherwood by Jane Sanderson
Published by: Sphere
Publication Date: September 29th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 455 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy (different edition then one reviewed)

Eve Williams and her husband Arthur live a hard but satisfying life. When Eve was growing up in Grangely never did she think that she would end up in Netherwood, married to a good man who worked hard in Lord Netherwood's mines, with three beautiful children, where a good meal on the table and a clean house would be her pride and joy. Though her life is about to be tested in many ways. The miners in Grangely have been trying to improve their conditions by unionizing and instead have been given the boot. Eve feels it's her duty to help those who haven't been given the opportunities she has. Eve and Arthur agree to take in a refuge, Anna, and her baby. Anna's husband has recently died and Anna is far from home, having fled disapproving parents in Eastern Europe. When Eve's world comes crashing down with the cave-in that kills Arthur, it is Anna who gives her the impetus to go on.

Anna tells Eve that she must do something. Eve must find a way to make money and save her family from penury, because there is no one else to do it. Buoyed by her family and friends, Eve opens up a pie shop in her front parlor, catering to simple Yorkshire fare. Drop scones, Yorkshire pudding, raised pork pies, the food of the common man cooked uncommonly well. And Anna and Eve do uncommonly well. They have a steady income and they are financially secure. But Anna, she has ambitions, she sees a bigger shop, a tea room, she has the entrepreneur in her bones and without Anna, Eve wouldn't be grabbing at life with both hands. Soon Eve's cooking comes to the attention of the great house and Lord Netherwood asks for Eve to cook for his son's coming of age party. This one job is the beginning of a life Eve could never have imagined. Cooking for the aristocracy and even the King! She might have lost everything when she lost Arthur, but if Arthur could only see her now, she hopes he'd be proud.

While, I won't disagree with the books claim to be "Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey," I am after all a fan of Downton and thought this book was perfect, but I will also say that it is a little misleading. This is like a gritter Yorkshire version of Upstairs, Downstairs, where the "downstairs" encompasses not just those physically in the grand estate, but those under the protection and sufferance of the grand family in the village, especially those working for the family under dangerous conditions mining their coal seam. It took me awhile to get into Netherwood because of my erroneous expectations, but once I started to expand my view beyond the grand house I kept expecting to take center stage I realized how much more interesting a book about all these interconnected lives surrounding the house was. This gulf between the haves and the have-nots is more prominent because of the lower classes being not just downstairs, but down the mines. It expanded the traditional narrative of this type of manor house book and gave me a broader and more interesting canvas then I would have expected. From labor disputes to unions to downstairs skirmishes, this book was willing to not shy away from unsavory topics, much like Upstairs, Downstairs did in it's time with addressing real issues while also being entertainment, unlike a show like Downton, which only seems to cover issues like suffrage because it's a "period detail" versus an important issue.

There was hardly a character in this book I disliked, even the villains are perfectly villainous and therefore beyond censure. Even the young lordling who will one day be Lord Netherwood was lovable in his own drunken misspent youthful way. While Eve is the cooking virtuoso, I think Anna is the real genius, she sees the opportunities that others don't. You'd expect her to be this meek little widow caring for a newborn, instead she is like a general on a battlefield issuing commands, more pies here, tea room here, expand there, move move move. Each and every character is so vibrant and alive they become your friends and you don't want to leave them, luckily for me there are already two more books in the series. All my fictional friends in this book lead me to worry about them. I fretted about the dynamic between the family and the workers, because you see that there isn't any malice between the two, just misunderstandings. The uniqueness of the characters and their complicated lives made this book just stand out amongst others of its ilk as the pinnacle to which you must strive. In layman's terms, read this book now!

Though be warned, you will be hungry. And not just a little peckish, oh dear no, this book will make you so freakin' hungry you'll be wondering if you have a chance to find a place with pies nearby. Oddly enough I do have a sweet and savory pie shop less then a block away, but it is of dubious repute, so hungry I remained. You know, in some books, the talent or special quality that the hero or heroine has is so ill defined that you just aren't able to connect. That was so not the case here. Jane Sanderson described the cooking and Eve's abilities so well you just wanted to go to her house and eat. Plus, with all the food, this book certainly qualifies as a comfort read. There is something about comfort food and the safety of a kitchen that makes you feel safe and loved. Shows like Pushing Daisies or The Duchess of Duke Street knew this, as do Mrs. Bridges and Mrs. Patmore, by welcoming us into their kitchens, they welcome us into their hearts and they into ours. But the one thing in the entire book that entertained me more then anything else? The lovely idea of "Duchess sized servings!" The idea of basic pies and food but made as finger food so that it wouldn't be off-putting to those of delicate sensibilities and palettes. Too perfect, much like everything in this book. I gotta dash now, Ravenscliffe is calling me!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review - Kate Morton's The House at Riverton

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Published by: Atria Books
Publication Date: January 1st, 2006
Format: Hardcover, 473 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy (different edition then one reviewed)

Grace is dying. In her life she has done many things. From being a Doctor in archaeology, a nurse in a field hospital during WWII, to the grandmother of a famous writer, she has lived a full life. Yet it's the time she worked in the great house at Riverton that everyone wants to know about. The tragedies of the family she served, but most importantly, the fateful night when the poet Robbie Hunter blew his brains out during a party. The story everyone knows isn't the truth. There's a movie being made at the house about that night... Grace is relieved when she realizes that they got it wrong. They don't know. They haven't guessed. But even thinking about that time she so easily slips into the past. Grace is there watching fate unfold once again. Grace is the only one alive who knows what happened that night and she has to decide if she is going to take the secret with her to the grave or not. Time is running out.

The House at Riverton, or by it's original and far more apt title, The Shifting Fog, is a painful and laborious read from a first time author. I spent hundreds and hundreds of pages waiting for something, anything, to happen, but alas this hope was in vain. Having read two of Kate Morton's later books I felt like I could feel her struggling with The House at Riverton. She hadn't yet developed the knack of creating narrative and likable characters that fill her world of gently peeling wallpaper and mysterious houses. There's also the issue that she seems to have a fixed set of themes that she uses, which could form any of her books basic premise, and then she builds from there. As a reader, there is only so many times you can read about the Grandmother/Mother figure dying with a secret about where they really come from, paternity/maternity, and those left behind finding out the truth. Yes, you can spin this "time slip" framework differently and have a great read, but in all seriousness, you are best left skipping this installment.

The boredom though was nothing compared to the lack of originality displayed here. In fact, if you just skip to the end and read Kate Morton's "Author's Note" she handily writes out all the things she's "borrowing" to write The House at Riverton. So if I were you, I'd not read the book and read her sources instead. Firstly, I seriously want to know, when did it become standard that all cooks and all butlers had to be Mrs. Bridges and Hudson from Upstairs, Downstairs? I mean, there was a time prior to Upstairs, Downstairs, I know that might come as a surprise to many, but there was. During this era where there books of this type? I really want to know, because Upstairs, Downstairs has become the seminal work in this class system based writings and has influenced so many other works that I really would like to know if there's perhaps someone else these writers could emulate once in awhile if they are unable to summon any originality? Yes, it's cool that Mrs. Bridges and Hudson have become the standard archetypes, but seriously Kate, when you even copy their mannerisms, their physical presence, even down to Mrs. Bridges's topknot... well... it makes me want to watch Upstairs, Downstairs, and not read your book.

Let's get to the "borrowing" that bothered me the most. For, oh, I don't know, 199 pages, there is no plot. Nothing at all. Zip, nadda, zilch. Then with the appearance of Teddy Luxton I noticed a plot kind of faintly in the background... a familiar plot... in fact, the plot to The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. That's right, Hannah became Linda and Teddy is 100% Tony Kroesig! The fact that she fell for him because he did the one romantic gesture of his life at the right time, the fact he's a banker! Oh, and then later the whole German angle. It's ok to make a reference here or there to Nancy Mitford, I mean, modern literature set during the 20s does look back and is strongly influenced by the writing of that time period, mainly Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, but come on Kate! You seriously couldn't take it further, that it to the next step? Take it anywhere then the boring predictability of where this book went. At least Nancy Mitford had the sparkle and wit to embody these bright young things, you just built a book around the most boring character ever to exist, Grace. 

And Grace is where the book falls completely to tatters. To have the most boring, the most ineffectual lead ever be the narrator of your book, well, there was no chance that The House at Riverton could work. Grace is so dense and naive and a "yes man" that the book's lack of forward momentum is obvious. An object in motion will stay in motion while an object at rest will stay at rest, and Grace is a giant lump of immovable object. She sits, observes, and does as she's told. In fact, I have such a hard time rectifying this boring individual to the old lady that everyone heralds for having such an interesting life that I don't believe they are the same person, they just couldn't be. A throw away line quoting Agatha Christie about Poirot having the ability to be a great archaeologist and Grace's love of Poirot making her become an archaeologist doesn't make sense of the intervening years! Yes, Grace's naivety and stupidity meant that in the past her actions lead to horrific consequences, but seriously, doing something stupid doesn't make you smart. It may fundamentally change you but it can't up your IQ. I flat out refuse to believe that this dumb little maid ended up a Doctor. There is nothing in the narrative to support this change and so it is my belief that they are just humoring the old lady because they don't think she's right in the head, being the simpleton we have been given tons of evidence in support of. Yes Grace, you were a great "Doctor" you really really were. And your life story, oh, so fascinating, tell it to the tape recorder so I can listen to it over and over again. Um, no.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Tempered by Karina Cooper
Published by: Carina Press
Publication Date: February 11th, 2014
Format: Kindle, 333 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Forced out of London's coal-blackened streets, Cherry St. Croix is faced with her most difficult undertaking yet: sobriety.

At long last, my guardian, the enigmatic Mr. Oliver Ashmore, has revealed himself-and his order is clear: I am to be dried out at once, regardless of my wishes.

I loathe the country estate I am imprisoned within. Footsteps follow me, voices call for me, and my sanity wavers. In my fevered dreams, I am haunted by those I failed, while waking proves no protection from the ghosts of my reckless past. The craving for laudanum plagues me. I require a distraction.

To unravel the alchemical mysteries of my mother's family, I must rely on Ashmore's tutelage. I am lured to the art and drawn by the secrets my guardian possesses. Yet the deeper I delve, the more I believe that something dreadful disturbs these haunted corridors. In my madness, I fear that what it wants me."

Oh yes, more Karina please!

The Tinker King by Tiffany Trent
Published by: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 11th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Science and magic mean danger in this sequel to The Unnaturalists, which School Library Journal called “an entertaining mix of steampunk and fantasy.”

After Vespa, Syrus, and Bayne defeated the Grue and restored order to their world in The Unnaturalists, they thought their future was secure. Empress Olivia, committed to peace and equality for humans and Elementals alike, was a fair and just ruler. And the Creeping Waste had vanished, giving them hope for the first time.

But rebellion is brewing in the far-off city of Scientia, and dark Elementals are plotting war in the ruins of New London. Before they know what’s happening, Vespa, Syrus, and their friends are plunged into a new swamp of intrigue, deception and magic—and the cost of survival may be more than any of them are willing to pay."

More Steampunky goodness for this week!

Murder in the Afternoon by Frances Brody
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: February 11th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"An intricate plot in the post-WWI English countryside and Frances Brody's "refreshingly complex heroine" (Kirkus) combine in this absorbing mystery perfect for fans of Jacqueline Winspear and Agatha Christie.

Dead one minute…

Young Harriet and her brother Austin have always been scared of the quarry where their stone mason father works. So when they find him dead on the cold ground, they rush off quickly to look for some help.

Alive the next?

When help arrives, however, the quarry is deserted and there is no sign of the body. Were the children mistaken? Is their father not dead? Did he simply get up and run away?

A sinister disappearing act.

It seems like another unusual case requiring the expertise of Kate Shackleton--and Mary Jane, the children's mother, is adamant that only she can help. But Mary Jane is hiding something--a secret from Kate's past that raises the stakes and puts both Kate and her family at risk."

Seeing as the first book in this series had a pun on sheeps... well, she's sold me on the series. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Book Review - Daisy Goodwin's The American Heiress

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 1st, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 468 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Cora Cash is the wealthiest heiress that Newport, New York, and possibly the world has ever seen. Not even the son of that historic family, the Van Der Leydens, is good enough for Cora, or so her mother keeps telling her. Mrs. Cash wants her daughter to rise up above the title the Americans have given her, the Golden Miller's Granddaughter. Mrs. Cash wants what only their new money can get overseas, a "new" title, and the prestige that comes with it. Taking Cora and her horses to England on the family's ship the SS Aspen, she is soon nestled in the bosom of the English Aristocracy. Her rumored equestrian skills secure her an invite to the home of Lord Bridport, Sutton Veney, where he is master of the famous Myddleton Hunt. The day of the hunt will change Cora's life forever. Her seat on her horse is impeccable, several people even comment that she could be mistaken for being English. Yet separated from the pack she falls off her horse in a copse of trees and is rescued by a young man.

The young man happens to be Ivo, the Duke of Wareham, whose estate, Lulworth, Cora happened to stumble into. Ivo has been shut away from the world since the passing of both his father and elder brother and the remarriage of his mother, making her a double duchess. Cora's mother couldn't have arranged a more felicitous meeting had she spent months plotting and scheming. The Duke is in desperate need of money, which her daughter Cora will be glad to give him in exchange for his hand. To Cora's mother it's all a business transaction, but to Cora, it's surprisingly an affair of the heart, which she realizes when Ivo proposes and she accepts out of love. But dreaming of being a Duchess and the reality are two separate things. The English way of life bears little resemblance to the life she has known. Secret codes of conduct, drafty houses, servants gossiping, Cora didn't know that this is what she was getting into. Add to that Ivo's ex, Charlotte Beauchamp. Charlotte seems to think of taking Cora down a peg in Ivo's eyes as her new favorite game. Can Cora figure out this new world she's thrust herself into, or will she do a flit.

The American Heiress isn't the most deep or philosophical of stories. The plot is pretty predictable, but somehow, the way the story is told and the ease of the storytelling rise it above the mundane and run of the mill and make it a wonderful read that I wanted to devour in one sitting. What makes the book so refreshing is that the story clips along at a great pace. We are never bogged down within the mire of effusive detail or unnecessary information, excepting the end house party which needed a little temporal help. Cora has her coming out ball and then the next chapter she's getting ready for her first hunt in England. Other authors might have documented the entire journey across the Atlantic and Cora's daily routine of walking her horses on the steamship, but thankfully not Daisy Goodwin. We also get the story from multiple characters, from Cora, then from her black ladies maid Bertha, occasionally Cora's mother, add to these multiple viewpoints from characters that aren't even integral parts of the narrative, insignificant characters like the millinery girl who helped Cora once and is now our conduit for Cora's wedding, from outside the church on a street in New York City, and there's a spark to the book that I can't really describe. Perhaps it is because we have more in common with that girl on the street corner and therefore connect with her voyeuristic interest in the story, but for whatever reason you want to give, it just seriously makes this book work.

As for Cora, the buccaneer who actually fell in love, it's almost like this is the promised Downton Abbey prequel, her name is even Cora!  You connect to Cora despite her being everything you're not and a little spoiled to boot. In my mind she's more then a little like Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. You like her but you're not quite sure why. I was actually worried about her parties and hoping she wouldn't make a mistake or social faux pas and therefore show herself to be a gauche American. She tries so hard to fit and fails or stumbles time and time again I just wanted her to be picked up by Ivo and cherished. And on the downstairs side of the narrative, we have Bertha. Bertha is also like Cora in that she is not fully likable. She takes care of her spoiled mistress, but all the while looking out for her own future with thinking of the resale value of clothes and gloves, or how she can parlay an accidental windfall to her advantage. She's a schemer, but also devoutly loyal. By these two main characters having such diametrically apposing characteristics they become more human, more real, because people don't make sense in reality.

Yet beneath all these trappings of wealth and luxury, Daisy Goodwin is bringing up serious subjects within the confines of an upstairs, downstairs narrative. There is the most obvious, the us versus them mentality that comes between servants and masters, but there is also the us versus them of American versus English, black versus white. Poor Bertha is an outcast in many senses, being black, American, and a servant, she really doesn't fit in anywhere, and therefore those misanthropes among the readers, me included, connect to her plight. But there's also how different Cora and Ivo are. Ivo can not handle the celebrity of wealth that is second nature to Cora growing up in the states, while Cora can't grasp Ivo's reserve or his shame at how she will willingly thrown money at a situation. It's these opposing dynamics that make the book so much more then a love story. And in the end, was it really a love story? The ending was a little too open for my liking...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review - Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers

The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton
Published by: Viking Books
Publication Date: 1938
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy (different edition then one reviewed)

Nan doesn't want a governess. Her sister Jinny didn't have to have one, neither did the Elmsworth girls, and the irrepressible Conchita surly never needed one, not that she would have accepted her fate as Nan does. But Nan's mother is convinced that Miss Testvalley will be able to not only help Nan, but get some good British refinement that is lacking in her little American savages and perhaps help as an entree into New York society. But New York society isn't ready for these girls. Conchita makes a match with a third son in a great British family and it gives Miss Testvalley an idea. If New York society is so shocked by these young bloods, why not take them over to England. Give them a season where anything they say or do is unique and alluring compared to the dull English roses the aristocracy is used to.

In no time at all the girls are settled into the highest echelons of the British Isles. Jinny is married to Lord Seadown, the Brightlingsea heir and older brother to Conchita's husband. Both the Elmsworth girls, while not in the peerage, make very advantageous marriages monetarily and politically. While Nan surprises everyone and marries Ushant, the Duke of Tintagel, the wealthiest man in England. Yet Nan isn't happy. It becomes clear that her husband married her not for wealth or even for love, but because she was naive as to what a duke was and wasn't hunting for a title, that and her youth makes her malleable. Though the longer she is married to Ushant, the more she realizes that their marriage is a mistake. This realization has nothing to do with the fact that she is falling in love with the young Guy Thwarte. She would be fine if Guy never knew of her love as long as he was happy and she was free once more.

Back in the days before DVRs and having anything you could possibly imagine to watch just at the flick of a switch, spending the midnight hours surfing the channels always yielded the most interesting results. On channels like A and E, before they became the home of reality programing, you could often find interesting miniseries airing at anytime of day or night. It was on this channel that I first saw Nathaniel Parker deflate a sheep in Far from the Madding Crowd. I'm not sure what channel it was on that I first stumbled across The Buccaneers, but it was definitely in one of these late night surfing sessions. Much like how I caught Louisa May Alcott's The Inheritance in bits a pieces, it wasn't until years later when it was released on DVD that I got to watch the series in all it's glory. The cast alone is a who's who of British and American actors, from the omnipresent James Frain (seriously, he was recently in Grimm, The White Queen and Sleepy Hollow AT THE SAME TIME), to Greg Wise and Michael Kitchen to Mira Sorvino and Connie Booth. This miniseries had it all, including Castle Howard!

At the time I was unaware that the miniseries was based on an incomplete manuscript of Edith Wharton's. I mean, I knew it was Wharton, I just didn't know the she died before she could finish it, much like Elizabeth Gaskell and Wives and Daughters. I do remember stumbling across the "finished" book one day at a used bookstore and picking it up. I mean, seriously, how could I NOT buy it? Firstly, I liked the miniseries, and secondly, well, it had a John Singer Sargeant painting on the cover that happens to belong to the Devonshires. What I didn't know until I was researching the book before I read it was that the miniseries and this specific book have different endings and that both endings are kind of reviled by fans of Wharton. This made me wonder if perhaps I should have read the incomplete manuscript, but then, even knowing that there was no ending, I might get that unexpected sadness that I did when reading Wives and Daughters. Also, having seen the miniseries didn't spoil me for the book. Is the wrong ending maybe acceptable because at least it is an ending? The fact that it ends "happily ever after" is what gets most Wharton fans... it wasn't her style. Edith's MO was more, and everyone is sad, some are dead, there is no striding happily into the sunset. Yet maybe it was this change up that made the book appeal to a wider audience? But what would Wharton herself think? There's a part of me that really wants Martin Scorsese to get his hands on this and come up with a bleaker ending...

The problem with a book with two authors writing the same book more then fifty years apart is the question where does Wharton end and Mainwaring begin? To me, there's a complete seismic shift at the beginning of the third section, wherein Nan hijacks the book as the heroine she was always meant to be. The book definitely falters here because until now the focus of the book had been more egalitarian. Nan taking over, while she is our heroine, is unable to shoulder the narrative much as she is unable to shoulder her duties as a duchess. How can we really connect with someone who doesn't know her own mind or even who she is? While humans are more realistic when faced with internal conflict, her conflict combined with her lack of personality made my growing love of the book falter. How can she love that Guy has this connection to his ancestral home yet not see the same connection in her husband? Is this a flaw of Ushants? Or is it a flaw in Nan? Looking to see where Wharton's writing ceased, it appears to be long after these problems start cropping up in the book. Wharton was just roughing it out and because she herself changed the feel and style of the book Mainwaring was never able to get The Buccaneers to rebound and seemed to be so desirous of tying things up quickly that the book ended abruptly and the reader is left with the sad realization that this could have been a true masterpiece if Wharton had lived.

While the book does have it's problems because of the situation it was put in because of Wharton's death, the overarching theme of the power of art and literature is captivating to me. The character of Miss Testvalley with her connection to both art and literature through her cousin Dante Gabriel Rossetti, breathes life into the book. The characters that are most alive are those with an appreciation of the beauty of the world. In fact, this might be why Nan loves Guy over Ushant, despite them both having this underlying connection and obligation to their ancestral homes, Ushant views his stewardship as an obligation and a duty, not a privilege bound in love. He never appreciates the art for it's beauty and ability to transport you, he views it as part of the house. It is this ability of beyondness that Nan talks about, this transcendence that can be found in art and literature that made me sit up and say yes! You need to look beyond, you need to expand your horizons to make yourself all that you can be. This is not an insular little world we live in, no matter how hard you might try to make it. Go out and read a book, go to a museum, capture some beauty for yourself and you will maybe find a little happiness, because as Wharton shows us, art is life.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: February 4th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 560 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this third book in Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has. "

I have been very impatiently waiting for this book. That's right, IMpatiently.

Wildwood Imperium by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 4th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 608 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The third book in the New York Times bestselling fantasy-adventure series from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of The Mysterious Benedict Society

A young girl's midnight séance awakens a long-slumbering malevolent spirit...

A band of runaway orphans allies with an underground collective of saboteurs and plans a daring rescue of their friends, imprisoned in the belly of an industrial wasteland..."

Séances? Sold.

India Black and the Gentleman Thief by Carol K. Carr
Published by: Berkley Trade
Publication Date: February 4th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"India Black’s double life operating a high-class brothel and running high-stakes espionage for Her Majesty’s government can take its toll. But there’s no rest for the weary—particularly when an international conspiracy comes knocking…

India Black is one of Victorian London’s most respected madams—not a bloody postmistress. So when Colonel Francis Mayhew forwards a seemingly innocuous shipping bill to her address, she’s puzzled. And when three thugs bust down her door, steal the envelope, and rough up both her and fellow agent French…well, that’s enough to make India Black see red.

The veteran spies soon discover that Mayhew has been butchered in his own bedroom. An impromptu investigation leads them to London’s docks, where India makes a startling discovery she can’t bear to tell the rakish French—she has a history with their chief suspect, the gentleman thief who once stole her heart…"

Totally behind on this series, guess there's no better time to catch up then now!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Downton Denial

You might not know it yet, but you are suffering from Downton Denial. You're in the middle of the new season, everything is good, it's great in fact. Mary is rebounding quite nicely with Anthony Gillingham and Charles Blake, though my money is on Charles... who could resist the lure of Julian Ovenden, seriously? Daisy is turning into this wonderfully snarky character that is almost getting better lines then Maggie Smith. Also, what will happen with Edith's ever complicated love life, could there be something worse then being left at the alter? And then there's Anna and Bates. Poor poor Anna... at least Julian Fellowes didn't kill her! And finally, Rose, who is turning out to be far less annoying then I anticipated, which is a nice surprise. Throw in some Americans and you have first rate television... but you are still in denial.

The fact remains that come February 23rd you will have no more Downton. You will have to wait a whole year just to have nine more episodes... the fact that you don't want to face up to this knowledge is where your denial comes in. But I am here to aid you! I am here to help you cope with the bereft feeling that will overtake you in the weeks to come. While Downton Abbey is unique in it's own way, it's not so unique that you can't find books to fill the void inside. For the month of February I will have a plethora of Downtonesque reading suggestion to help you through the loss to come. It's the least I can do for my fellow sufferers.
  The Prize:
An awesome Downton Abbey ornament! Not only is it reminiscent of the bells in the servants halls that feature prominently in the opening credits, but it has a lovely picture of Highclere Castle in the center, where they film Downton Abbey. Let me put it this way, it's so cool that when I ordered it specifically for this theme month, I had to order one for myself as well. Should note that the bell doesn't work very well... that or everyone has just decided to ignore it...

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE (for clarification, this means international too), just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter, you just get more entries if you prove you love me by following.

2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s) or email me.

3. Contest ends Friday, February 28th at 11:59PM CST (Yes, I know it would be nice to have a leap day for extra entries... but that's just the way it is.)

4. How to enter: Just comment in the space below!

5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

  • +1 for answering the question: Who is your favorite character on Downton Abbey and why?
  • +2 for becoming a follower
  • +10 if you are already a follower
  • +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @eliza_lefebvre), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link! There's a handy code on the side for your sidebars!
  • +25 if you comment on any of the posts during the Downton Denial Celebration, with something other than "I hope I win" or a variation thereof.
Good luck!

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