Monday, October 28th, 2013
Since Halloween is coming up this week… how could I resist doing an If You Like about ghost stories? As you know, I’m rather devoted to the genre. (They go so well with a rainy afternoon and a hot cup of tea.) Some of these on this list are old friends, while others are new discoveries.
If you like ghost stories, you’ll probably like….
— The traditional ghost stories of E. F. Benson and Edith Wharton, excellent examples of the art of the bonbon sized ghost story;
— John Boyne’s This House is Haunted, a classic, Victorian-set ghost story about a governess who finds that her new post is somewhat more than expected;
— Susan Hill’s incredibly creepy The Woman in Black, also in the classic tradition;
— John Harwood’s The Ghost Writer, a twisty, turny, literary ghost story with a bit of the modern and a bit of the late Victorian;
— Simone St. James’s two 1920s set ghost stories, The Haunting of Maddy Clare and An Inquiry Into Love and Death;
— Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House (is it a ghost? or is it a mental breakdown?);
— Susanna Kearsley’s The Shadowy Horses, which has a ghost component to it (this is something of a friendly ghost);
— Barbara Michaels’s The Crying Child (which gave me shivers in my teens), Ammie, Come Home, and The Walker in Shadows, or, for a twist on the genre, Someone in the House;
— and Wendy Webb’s modern ghost stories, set on misty islands, The Fate of Mercy Alban and The Tale of Halcyon Crane.
Do you have any good ghost stories to recommend? There’s a new Simone St. James, Silence for the Dead, coming out in April, but anything to tide me over until then would be much appreciated….
Happy Halloween, all!
Friday, October 25th, 2013
I’ve been having a little Heyer-a-thon this week.
First The Corinthian, which I hadn’t read in some years, having decided, on a first read, that it was a little annoying. You can blame Bee Ridgway for this week’s Heyer binge: she spoke so glowingly of The Corinthian, that I had to go back and revisit it. There are some truly brilliant comic moments….
As is always the way with Heyer, once you pop, you can’t stop. (Or something like that.) From there, I moved on to The Quiet Gentleman, whose hero manages to be quite effective despite his soft tone.
After my experience with The Corinthian, I may have to go back and re-read Faro’s Daughter, which is another one I wrote off back in my teens and haven’t read since. I’m beginning to think my teenage self may have been somewhat lacking in literary judgment.
Which is your favorite Heyer?
And what have you been reading this week?
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
Those of you who follow me on Facebook may remember, way back in the spring, the acquisition by Sally Fitzhugh of an accidental pet stoat.
How does one accidentally acquire a stoat, one may well inquire? Well, I made a silly comment about something or other, to which there was a response involving a stoat, which may have led to a dare, which may have led to my promising to lend Sally Fitzhugh a stoat. (Suggested names included “Pulchritudinous Oblong”.)
Sally, I must confess, resisted her stoat. It began to seem as though the stoat would be lost until somewhere around the middle of Chapter Four, when an opportune moment arrived for stoatification.
So, for today’s Teaser, voila the initial introduction of the stoat in Pink XI, aka The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla:
Monday, October 21st, 2013
While we’re discussing books about interesting wives…
… one of the proposed titles for my second stand alone novel, aka The Victorian Novel, was The Collector’s Wife. Imogen, the historical heroine, is married to an antiquarian, who collects her along with his various medieval objets d’art. What I loved about that title was the nod it gave to the mid-Victorian mania for collection and classification– something that makes its mark on Imogen’s life.
In the end, though, we went with A Summer Engagement, since that spanned both the modern and historical elements of the story: summer 2009, when my modern heroine goes to clear out her great-aunt’s house near London, and summer 1849, when a Preraphaelite painter is hired to take the historical heroine’s likeness.
Which title do you like better?
Monday, October 21st, 2013
Today’s list is from Rosemary— who recently became engaged! So, while lifting a glass of virtual champagne to toast the impending nuptials, here’s Rosemary’s “If You Like” list, about Interesting Wives:
If You Like Books About Interesting Wives…
Having recently become affianced, I simply can’t stop myself from grabbing books with “wife” in the title. Not that this would have stopped me before the engagement, as I’ve always been fascinated with stories about women who try to build lives around dynamic husbands but also establish themselves as strong, formidable people — plus a little romance doesn’t hurt. So without further ado, here is my list of “Wife” books.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Five stars for this. A gripping tale, the book follows Henry, a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to travel through time, and Clare, who first encountered Henry mid-time travel when she was a child. After that meeting, the two are constantly thrown together, fall in love, and marry. But it’s not all butterflies and rainbows for the couple, as they must learn to construct a life around Henry’s crazy condition. Niffenegger is an expert storyteller, even though the book jumps from multiple points of view and time periods, it’s not hard to follow and makes you want to read more. It’s a heart-racing tearjerker that I couldn’t put down.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
This novel is told through the first person account of Hadley Richardson Hemingway, wife of a one Ernest Hemingway. Opening in vibrant Chicago 1920, it shows the Hemingways’ whirlwind romance that takes them from the U.S. to Paris to Spain — and ultimately its unraveling. Rich with characters like the Fitzgeralds, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein, I found it a compelling read that illuminated the Hemingways’ time abroad and the literary geniuses by which they were surrounded. The narrative did drag a little at times; some portions were altogether too Hemingway for me.
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
An utterly excellent, can’t-concentrate-because-I’m-thinking-about-the-characters kind of book. Set in Prague on the brink of WWII, Jewish couple Lenka and Josef fall in love. Thanks to the terror regime of the Nazis, they are separated… and don’t find each other again until they are in their 80s. I’d love to talk more about specific portions, but I’m wary of giving too much away, and can’t stress enough that you all should read this book. The prose is stellar, the characters believable, and premise absolutely wild.
Pilate’s Wife by Antoinette May
A crushing disappointment. As the title suggests, this novel is about the ancient Roman woman Claudia, wife of Pontius Pilate, who sentenced Jesus to be crucified. In Christian tradition, Claudia has a dream and warns Pilate not to go through with it, though (spoiler alert!) he does. Based on that alone, the book could have been soooo good, but in my opinion fell short; the author chose to ignore the Christian side of the story until the end, which is what made Claudia as a historical figure so compelling in the first place. While the writing itself was very good, Claudia and Pilate don’t even make it to Judea until about 3/4 of the way through the book. Most of the novel takes place elsewhere and all the elaborate plot twists have nothing whatsoever to do with the Passion story, which is the whole reason why being PIlate’s wife is so interesting. This novel felt like it could have been about any other random woman living in ancient Rome.
Many thanks to Rosemary for this wonderful (spousal) list! There has been an avalanche of wife books recently. Others that pop immediately to mind are Melanie Benjamin’s The Aviator’s Wife, about Anne Morrow Lindbergh; Lynn Cullen’s Mrs. Poe, about Virginia Poe; and Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.
What are your favorite “wife” books?
And can anyone think of any books about husbands?
To hear more from Rosemary, check out her blog at http://missrosemary.net/.
Friday, October 18th, 2013
I’ve begun my countdown to Halloween and, of course, my usual Halloween reading. This year, the new addition to the roster was John Boyne’s This House is Haunted, a classic Victorian-set ghost story.
What have you been reading this week?
Thursday, October 17th, 2013
How neat is this? Someone took a line from The Orchid Affair and turned it into a poster!
That’s Eloise speaking, as she examines the book stalls by the Seine. Huge thanks to Charis for bringing the link to my attention!
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internet, you can find me over at Confessions of a Librarian in Training, talking about favorite ice cream flavors, karaoke, and more– and there’s a give away! If you have friends who have been wanting to start the Pink series, there’s a copy of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation up for grabs.
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Voila the new paperback cover for The Ashford Affair!
I love how much it reminds me of the cover of The American Heiress.
For compare and contrast purposes, here’s Ashford hardcover and Ashford paperback side by side:
Which one do you like best?
The Ashford Affair comes out in paperback on March 25, 2014.
Monday, October 14th, 2013
Today we have a guest post from Christine, on a dual topic: female friendships (Henrietta would approve of this one!) and journeys of self-discovery.
Meredith A. asked about what books to read from other genres if you like historical romantic fiction. I started thinking about common themes in historical romance fiction that I like, other than historical and romance. Some of the less obvious elements I’ve found that I love are self-discovery (it seems those heroines are always coming into themselves) and awesome female sidekicks.
These books cover one, or both, of these elements (what I like to think of as “Thelma and Louise books” – find yourself with your BFF by your side the entire way, even if it means driving off a cliff together. Sorry if I spoiled the movie for you):
– Every Secret Thing, Susanna Kearsley – Kate is chased by mysterious bad forces as she tries to discover her grandmother’s secret. Kearsley is known more for her time-slip novels, which I absolutely love, but Every Secret Thing is my favorite. It’s rare that a mystery is so tightly woven – every detail is tied into the conclusion of the book, and the story is so gripping that you have to know where it goes. Throughout the course of the novel, Kate learns a lot of secrets about her family and her own past. It’s absolutely fantastic. Of all the books on this list, this is probably the one I would recommend people Read Right Now.
– The Art Forger, Barbara Shapiro – disgraced artist in need of work gets a slightly illegal offer from an old friend, discovers her inner strength and lets go of her demons in the process. The illegal deal the main character gets is related to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum heist and less than a week after I finished this book, there was breaking news that the FBI believed it knew who the thieves were, which made it super exciting for me. I really liked the main character. She starts off as weak, sort of “woe is me, I got screwed,” but she is making do as best she can and pursuing her art, and you want her to succeed.
– The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World. – Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner – memoir of three twenty-something friends who decide to quit their jobs, leave their lives, and travel the world. Putting aside a little bit of whiny-ness (really, you have the ability and funds to do this, what are you complaining about?), the book told the stories of their adventures, their lessons, and their friendship. They were each other’s sidekicks and support system during this journey and the book was a lot of fun. You can tell these aren’t professional writers – sometimes it was a bit disjointed, and there was a lot of annoying product placements for travel companies, but, overall, I enjoyed it.
– Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series – Ann Brashares – four teenagers who have been BFFs since they were in utero (moms met in a prenatal yoga class) find a pair of jeans that fits each of them perfectly. I don’t read very much YA, but I loved these books. The fifth book was a bit of a let down, and pretty depressing, but the original four were great. At the heart of the series is the strength of the friendship among these four girls as they experience life and a whole lot of firsts. Most importantly, it showcases how they’re there for each other in the end, even though they may be far apart and life may get in the way. And the movies weren’t bad either.
– The Perfume Collector – Kathleen Tessaro – 1950s woman discovers she has inherited from someone she has never met before, book follows the story of the benefactor and the heiress in two storylines. This book is fabulous as a historical novel, but what may not be evident is that there’s also an awesome best friend relationship. Mallory is the BFF that everyone wants – tries to stop you from wallowing, stands by you whatever you have to do, takes care of unpleasant tasks for you. The main character has had a bit of a hard life and carries an air of sadness, but Mallory is there to lighten the mood. Perhaps a bit shallow at times, but always looking on the bright side.
– The High Heels Mysteries series – Gemma Halliday – shoe designer constantly finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, solves mysteries with her BFF. This series I recommend with trepidation. It’s not well written. At all. The writing is cliched, the author uses the same phrases over and over, and the heroine, to put it bluntly, is stupid. Yet somehow, the books are just really entertaining and funny (possibly because the heroine is so stupid), and the BFF is awesome. She’s the awesome female sidekick who will support you in any ridiculous endeavor, even if it means getting shot at while dressed like a hooker. Seriously. That happened. I read these as e-books. I’m not sure if they’re available in physical book form but they’re usually available for free/cheap on Amazon for Kindle.
Any self-discovery/awesome female sidekick/both books you would recommend?
Friday, October 11th, 2013
Right now, I’m immersed in the swash and buckle of Georgette Heyer’s The Black Moth. I’m always struck by how much closer Heyer’s early books are to swashbucklers such as Sabatini’s The Lion’s Skin than to her own later Regencies. It’s so interesting watching an author evolve….
What have you been reading this week?