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review 2017-10-14 18:19
The Bones of Paris (Harris Stuyvesant) - Laurie R. King

Enjoyable 1920s mystery-thriller with a distinctly creepy vibe. Works in a large and colourful cast of American and Parisian artists of note. Complex, twisty plot with more of an edgy note than King's Holmes & Russell mysteries.

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review 2017-10-14 18:17
Touchstone - Sherlock & Holmes under another name ;D
Touchstone - Laurie R. King

Effective period spy thriller. It seems to pick up on elements of her longer Holmes/Russell series, with Watson & Holmes type traits spread among the cast and an emphasis on discussing the woman's role(s) in society at the time.

 

Enjoyable and unexpected. In the style of classic literature, it has perhaps a bit more description than modern readers will be used to.

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review 2017-07-01 23:28
A light, fun, and dynamic story set in the 1920s, particularly recommended to those with an adventurous and playful spirit.
Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story - Teagan Riordain Geneviene

I was the lucky winner of this book as part of a promotion the author run on her blog, Teagan’s Books and I freely chose to review it.

I have been a follower of the author’s blog for several years, although I was not following her when she wrote this serial. Teagan Geneviene is a fascinating and versatile writer. I have read her novel Atonement, Tennessee (check my review here) that is a magical experience, full of finesse, beauty, and attention to detail, evidently the fruit of a lot of thought, careful planning, research, and revision. On the other hand, she is also able to produce her legendary serials. She starts with an idea, or an image, and asks the readers of her blog to contribute certain elements. These might be things (objects, words, concepts), foods, words related to a certain era… She links each one of the posts to the blog of the contributor, and progressively builds up her story, going wherever the three things (foods, objects, or whatevers) and her imagination take her. Although, as I’ve said before, I wasn’t following the author’s blog when she wrote this serial, I have met the main character, Pip in a later serial and I have followed several others, some with familiar characters and a recent one with different characters, and more in the steampunk style. Unsurprisingly, they have a big following and the authors keeps her followers (and I suspect, herself) guessing where the story is going to go next.

Many of the readers of her blog had asked her to publish the serials in book format and finally, she obliged.

Anybody reading the description of this volume will get a sense of how it came into being. The story has a wonderful sense of time (the jazzy 1920s, brilliant, young, full of flappers, parties, movies, and excitement) and it is told in the first person by Pip, a young woman transplanted from the South to the big city, with a huge imagination and an endless curiosity that gets her involved in all kinds of adventures, including but not limited to: kidnappings, rides in fire trucks, romances, secret coded messages, international intrigues, hidden treasures… Pip also has a wonderful turn of phrase (she never swears, at least not as we understand it, and there is no bad language in the book, although she uses her own expressions that colour her language and readers will come to love) and believes she is a very modern woman, although she is less savvy and cool than she would like to believe.

This is a short novel, quick, fast and full of adventures that will delight readers of all ages and will not offend those worried about bad language, erotica or graphic violence. Although in this format readers do not have access to the wonderful images, fruit of the author’s research, which illustrate her blog posts, it does offer continuity and an easier to follow story that will keep readers on their toes. It has elements of historical fiction, of mystery (although not by design, it could fit into the cozy mystery category), and a few touches of romance (or rather, romantic interest).

Although this work is too short to fully demonstrate the author’s abilities, it does give the readers a taste of her sense of fun and adventure, and it introduces a character that will become a close friend in series to come. As an exercise, I would suggest you try and put yourselves in the author’s shoes and every time you start to read a new chapter, headed by the three things, try and imagine how you would use those three words to continue the tale. I am sure you’ll be even more amazed at the story.

The author is working on turning some of her other serials into books, so if you enjoy this one, there are more delights to come your way. And, do not forget to check Atonement, Tennesse.

Recommended to anybody looking for a light, fun, and dynamic story set in the 1920s, particularly those with an adventurous and playful spirit.

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review 2017-06-20 23:10
Novy's Son: The Selfish Genius - Karen Ingalls

I am familiar with Karen Ingalls’ work, having chosen this novel after reading Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  Since I read that book first, when I read Novy’s Son I was provided with a natural timeline of a family riddled by natural spirit, which, however creative or inspiring, seems to invariably place them in a position to be judged.  I was pleased to reacquaint myself with Novy, the son of the notorious artist Mr. Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  But years spent with a doting mother who was spurned by society and left unsupported by a career-obsessed father has made him cold.  Despite this, he and his wife have a son (and other children as well), the protagonist of this book, Murray Clark. 

 

It is an interesting journey to begin reading a character’s story when he or she is a child.  In a way, it is easier to understand the foibles of the protagonist once one has become familiar with his or her past. While Novy is labelled selfish and is considered a wholly unlikable character, it is made clear that there is no absence of love in his heart.  There is a history of disassociation in the men who precede him; each have a proclivity to rely on himself and his habits.  That being said, it is no shock that Murray exhibits that same self-defensive mode that keeps him at a safe distance from the world around him, even if this mode entails self-destruction.  The tenderness readers see in him as a child while he grows up in southern California leaves within the reader some hope that he is human after all and capable of showing compassion. 

 

I regard Karen Ingalls as a skilled writer, her style easily identifiable by its matter-of-fact tone.  What struck me as distracting, an error that affected the quality of my reading experience, was the random assortment of Herman Melville quotes.  In addition, the e-book formatting had no distinct paragraph spacing, which made the sudden appearance of a Melville quote even more jarring.  Technological structuring aside, the story is worth reading, although I suggest reading Davida first!

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review 2017-05-18 02:19
Jazz Baby - Beem Weeks

            Before I began reading this book I was warned that it was “gritty.” That was the exact word used. And the person who generously cautioned me was telling no lie.  Oftentimes the story of the maturing Baby Teegarten made me cringe and my stomach churn.  It had nothing to do with Beem Weeks’ writing style, but rather with the brutality young women were faced with during the 1920s.

            The first person perspective allows readers to face Baby’s harrowing journey to making it big in a society that demeans girls and views them as commodities rather than human beings.  Beem Weeks writes about broken dreams and the crushing weight of circumstance.  While Baby has a vision of making it big in the northern United States, desperate for an escape from barren Mississippi, she is cut short and settles for the dark world of New Orleans speak easies.  The real tragedy of the tale is that the summation of all the horrible events Baby experiences reflects the desperation some feel to escape, whether they are escaping a regrettable past or a home that never felt like home. 

            While I can’t say that this is a book I would read again, Beem Weeks’ writing skill is undeniable.  I tend to prefer romance and stories that take me on an emotional journey that end in me ultimately feeling fulfilled and happy.  When I finished this story I mostly felt dirty.  But to accurately depict the tale of his protagonist, the author had no other way but to include those details for the sake of authenticity and perhaps even shock value. Returning to that warning I was given—Jazzy Baby was a chilling and indubitably gritty approach to a coming of age story.

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