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review 2017-12-11 23:55
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 Reads (Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night and Yuletide)
The Poetry - David Shaw-Parker,Christina Rossetti,Ghizela Rowe
Goblin Market - Christina Rossetti
A Christmas Visitor - Anne Perry
Colour Scheme - Ngaio Marsh,Ric Jerrom

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book of poetry.

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter.

 

Holiday Book Joker as Bonus Joker: A book set on Winter Solstice (or Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere)

 

  

 

Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night Read: Christina Rossetti: The Poetry

A wonderful reading of some of Christina Rossetti's best-known poems by David Shaw-Parker and Ghizela Rowe, including her long narrative The Goblin Market, which I also own (and reread, for the occasion) in a delightful hardcopy edition illustrated with images by Christina's elder brother, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Not holiday reading per se (and The Goblin Market is decidedly dark), but still very fitting poetic complementary material for the holiday season.  Highly recommended!

 

  

 

Yuletide Read: Anne Perry: A Christmas Visitor

Anne Perry's Christmas novellas are spin-offs of her major Victorian series (Thomas & Charlotte Pitt, and William Monk, respectively), featuring supporting characters from those series as their protagonists.  A Christmas Visitor is the second of those novellas, and its protagonist is Henry Stanhope, a mathematician friend of William Monk's.  Stanhope travels to the snow-laden Lake District to spend Christmas with the family of his longstanding friend Judah Dreghorn; only to discover that just prior to his arrival Judah has apparently slipped on a set of ice-sheeted stones crossing a brook on his estate.  What initially looked like an accident, at closer inspection is revealed to be murder, and while everybody's favorite and allegedly most likely suspect is soon found, it falls to Henry to find out what really happened.

 

Perry's writing is very atmospheric and captures the Lake District, 19th century rural society, and the Christmas spirit to perfection -- I loved this story right up until its very end, which (even for a Christmas book) struck me as overly moralizing and sentimental on the one hand, and just that decisive bit too neat on the other hand.  (Readers not enamored of mysteries hingeing on certain points of law might be turned off on those grounds)  Still, for a quick read to get into the spirit of the season (and be served up a nicely-plotted mystery into the bargain), I could hardly have done better -- and the stellar reading by Terrence Hardiman contributed greatly to my enjoyment.

 

  

 

Winter Solstice Book Joker Bonus Read: Ngaio Marsh: Colour Scheme

One of my favorite mysteries from Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series, here served up in an unabridged reading by Ric Jerrom.  The story is set in Marsh's native New Zealand and begins on Summer Solstice, which is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and thus makes the book eligible for this particular holiday's book joker.

 

The mystery is set at a spa hotel near a hot springs / mud pot / small version of Yellowstone National Park type of area, where a gentleman who has made one enemy too many (i.e., your classic Golden Age murder victim) one day is found to have fallen into a boiling hot mud pot.  (He may or may not also have been a German spy -- the story is set in the 1940s -- but this is one of the rare exceptions of a Golden Age mystery with that kind of angle that is blessedly devoid of "5th column" shenanigans, and where the war background is actually used skillfully to demonstrate how WWII affected daily life even in seemingly remote New Zealand.)  Also present at the spa is, inter alia, a star of the British stage and screen (unabashedly based on Sir Laurence Olivier) -- secretary in tow -- as well as, arriving on the day after the "accidental" death that very probably wasn't an accident, a Mr. Septimus Small, whom none of the other denizens of the spa manage to figure out, and who soon inspires the wildest conjectures as to his identity and occupation.

 

Upon revisiting the mystery -- thanks in no small part to Ric Jerrom's excellent narration and portrayal of the characters -- I found the story's inner logic (and the path to the solution) decidedly more obvious than when I first read it a few years ago, but then again, this time I knew where the whole thing was headed and, consequently, I was not as distracted by minutiae as the first time around.

 

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review 2017-12-10 12:39
Stone Circle
Stone Circle - Kate Murdoch

 

 

In Renaissance Italy in the village of Pesaro, Seer Savinus is looking for someone who shares his talents for divining the future so he is able to cultivate the next generation and Seers.  Savinus' daughter, Guilia is talented, however, women in the trade are simply not respected.  Savinus decides to hold a competition.  One of Pesaro's noble family's son, Nichola Valperga competes as well as a servant in the Valperga household, Antonious.  Antonious has far more ability in the field and is recognized right away by Savinus.  Nichola has limited ability, but Savinus agrees to apprentice Nichola as the secondary apprentice out of respect to the noble family.  From the start the two young men are at odds, Nichola can not stand that a servant has a position above him and Antonious can not understand Nichola's haughty nature.  Tensions rise as Giulia's affections towards one apprentice emerge and jealousy leads to violence.  

Stone Circle immersed me into 16th century Italy and the alchemy practices of the time.   I was surprised to learn the esteemed role that Seer's played in the society and that they were often employed by nobles to learn the best time for special events to take place and even who they should marry.  Savinus was my favorite character, wise and conscientious in his choices, helped along by his psychic abilities. Antonius and Nichola were typical young men, but their strained relationship demonstrated the division between classes at the time.  I was waiting for one of them to compromise on their differences as so many of the adult characters suggested.  Guilia was an interesting character for me, I really wanted her to take a more prominent role in her father's practice rather than simply be a love interest; however she did show insight and grow as she realized the apprentices true nature.  Jealousy was a theme throughout the story, and it was one that had dire consequences.  It was interesting to see that even with magic and alchemy all of your problems could not be fixed.  Overall, an engrossing story that mixes history, magic and romance. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

 

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review 2017-12-10 12:34
A Fun, Enjoyable Historical Young Adult Book Not To Be Miss
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

Historical fiction is a genre I am most interested to read but have a fear that I might put it down. One week ago, I have heard a lot of good reviews and opinions about The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue and with an upcoming book discussion and Skype with Mackenzi Lee. Here's some thing I have to be honest about - I would never pick up a book with a book cover that features a real person. I admit I was skeptical at first but after a while, just trusting my intuitive I give it a go and read it.

 

I have no regrets in the end.

 

Set in a 18th century period, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue begins with Henry 'Monty' Montague, a care less, young drunk charmer who happens to be a born gentleman from a high-class family waking up next to his best friend Percy, one day before their Grand Tour around Europe. Tagging along is Henry's sister Felicity, who is on her way to a boarding school. Every thing was thought as plan by Henry's father, only that it goes very wrong because of Monty's behavior that leads to (surprise) an unexpected turn of events filled with adventure, mystery, conspiracy, a little bit of science and of course, romance. For a young adult book, its a fun read. What is more surprising is that its so light and easy, its enjoyable in many ways. While its pretty straight forward, its the combination of all that makes this relaxing that doesn't need much deep thought but just sit back, rest and drink your preferred tea (or coffee).

 

I would recommend this without a doubt for anyone who wants light reading or a historical buff but in a young adult manner. I can't say much as it will spoil a whole lot more but this is a book, despite how people say never judge a book by its cover, should pick it up and read it.

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text 2017-12-07 15:01
The Fate of Kings

Mark Stibbe is a guest on my blog today, announcing his new release The Fate of Kings and discussing the relevance of late 18th century politics to modern times. 

 

Source: samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-fate-of-kings-and-its-relevance-to.html
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review 2017-12-06 23:38
A joy to read despite the shortcomings
Only Mr. Darcy Will Do - Kara Louise

I’m such a sucker for these kinds of books featuring Pride and Prejudice. There are so many different types of retellings and most of them are good. This one has its moments and it was enjoyable to read.

 

So in this twist, our beloved Mr Bennet dies prematurely and Elizabeth becomes a governess. This was rather interesting, and it does suit Elizabeth rather well - although back then in the day it’s a drop in the society ladder and everyone she knows makes sure she knows it.

 

So she meets Rosalyn which I thought at first, was an ideal friend for our dear Lizzie. She’s a bit  vapid and valley girl type of character. Especially when Mr Darcy is around (can’t blame her, we all love Mr Darcy) but it’s almost to the point where she’s annoying about it.  It’s not until the latter half of the novel where Rosalyn does a complete 360 and she becomes a pretty awful person (including her mother).

 

The plot in this one tries to stay within the main one we’re all familiar with it just diverts the path a bit and comes back to full circle. Which is nice as it tries to stay true to the original story at the same time you just get a different “what if” scenario to enjoy reading. I’d have to say I enjoy reading Hamilton (another cousin of Darcy’s) playing along with Elizabeth. It was playful banter and he sounded like the type of rogue we all love to read and fall for (albeit, foolishly). It was a bit hard to get into at first but it’s worth going through to the end as once Rosalyn does her 360 turn, everything becomes much more interesting.

 

The only thing I did not enjoy reading is towards the end Darcy does something completely out of character and it just did not sit well with me. He’s not the type to be outspoken even when it comes to be madly in love. Don’t make him something he’s not. It nearly ruined the entire book as it was doing so well staying close to the true nature of the characters only to have him do something he wouldn’t EVER do (nor can you picture him doing so).

 

Also, the ending just dragged too much for me. We get it. We all know what’s going to happen. We all know what did happen. There’s no need for extra fodder in the last few chapters of the book. It could have just ended with the proposal or wedding and done. Perhaps the last few chapters could have been made into an entirely new idea for another book to be made. It was just so unnecessary.

 

Overall, it was a good read for those that love Pride and Prejudice “what if” scenarios and fans. I enjoyed it despite those changes in characters that nearly caused me to grind my teeth and yelling out certain expletives.

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