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review 2017-03-07 16:56
Marking Time
Marking Time - April White

Saira Elian is a 17-year-old Californian girl whose English mother disappears while Saira, a solitary parkour free-runner and tagger (hope I got that right!), is out doing her thing in “the tunnels” somewhere under LA. Faced with the Child Protection Services unless she can name a relative who will take responsibility for her, Saira reluctantly tells them about someone in England.

 

That someone was waiting for me when I stepped off the British Airways flight in London: Millicent Elian. I hadn’t seen my grandmother since I was three years old […] My mother couldn’t stand her. Not a big surprise given the way she was sizing me up, probably wondering if I was worth the effort. […] “I see you got his height.” Millicent’s tone was not flattering. “Hello, Millicent.” I knew I should be more polite and call her “Grandmother”, considering she just kept me out of foster care, but she hadn’t really earned the title. “And his manners, too, obviously.” “I wouldn’t know.” […] “I have a car waiting.” Of course she did. Millicent’s fancy gray Rolls Royce waited at the curb outside the airport, and her fancy gray driver held the door open for us. “Home, Jeeves,” she said with total authority. “Jeeves? You’re joking.” “I don’t joke.” Millicent’s expression didn’t change. Jeeves caught my eye in the rear-view mirror and very slowly, he winked. It wasn’t much, that wink, but it was something.

 

It turns out that the Elians are a family of time-travellers, and Saira’s mother, who is normally gone for only a couple of days (or that's how it seems!) is now being held against her will in Victorian London. And that, of course, is where half the story, and most of the adventure, takes place.

 

One aspect of the story that fascinated me was the love between Saira and a young man in Victorian times who had already known Saira in the future in her own time and fallen for her there – or should that be “then”? He, of course, doesn’t know about this yet, and she can’t tell him because the secret of how he came to be still a young man all those years later is just – well … I’ll leave it to you to sort all this out when you read the book, and add only, by way of encouragement, that while the ingredients may not be entirely original (there’s Hogwarts here, and Ann Rice, and Jack the Ripper, and Time Travel) the resulting dish is something different from the usual run-of-the-mill YA, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

 

(Here's a different cover - I much prefer it.)

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review 2017-02-08 14:25
Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth - Lee Jackson

If you are fastidious, don't like filth or stench, then you would have not wanted to live in Victorian times as there was plenty of both and even if you were wealthy it was no protection as there was no avoiding either! This is a really well researched book, filled with everything you could possibly want to know about this subject. There was a lot of fascinating information about grime, soot, toilets, housing, washing clothes and bodies etc, but there was also a lot about this or that committee, so and so said/did this, somebody else did that which wasn't nearly so interesting and I ended up skim reading these sections. The photos don't work too well on a kindle which is a shame. It is still worth reading this title to get a great insight as to how our forebears lived.

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review 2016-02-03 19:30
Marking Time
Marking Time - April White

Saira Elian is a 17-year-old Californian girl whose English mother disappears while Saira, a solitary parkour free-runner and tagger (hope I got that right!), is out doing her thing in "the tunnels" somewhere under LA. Faced with the Child Protection Services unless she can name a relative who will take responsibility for her, Saira reluctantly tells them about someone in England.

 

That someone was waiting for me when I stepped off the British Airways fkight in London: Millicent Elian. I hadn't seen my grandmother since I was three years old [...] My mother couldn't stand her. Not a big surprise given the way she was sizing me up, probably wondering if I was worth the effort. [...]

"I see you got his height." Millicent's tone was not flattering.

"Hello, Millicent." I knew I should be more polite and call her "Grandmother", considering she just kept me out of foster care, but she hadn't really earned the title.

"And his manners, too, obviously."

"I wouldn't know."

[...]

"I have a car waiting." Of course she did. Millicent's fancy gray Rolls Royce waited at the curb outside the airport, and her fancy gray driver held the door open for us.

"Home, Jeeves," she said with total authority.

"Jeeves? You're joking."

"I don't joke." Millicent's expression didn't change.

Jeeves caught my eye in the rear-view mirror and very slowly, he winked. It wasn't much, that wink, but it was something.

 

It turns out that the Elians are a family of time-travellers, and Saira's mother, who is normally gone for only a couple of days (or so it seems!) is now being held against her will in Victorian London. And that, of course, is where half the story, and most of the adventure, takes place.

 

One aspect of the story that fascinated me was the love between Saira and a young man in Victorian times who had already known Saira in the future in her own time and fallen for her there – or should that be "then"? He, of course, doesn't know about this yet, and she can't tell him because the secret of how he came to be still a young man all those years later is just – well ...

 

I'll leave it to you to sort all this out when you read the book, and add only, by way of encouragement, that while the ingredients may not be entirely original (there's Hogwarts here, and Ann Rice, and Jack the Ripper, and Time Travel) the resulting dish is something different from the usual run-of-the-mill YA, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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text 2016-01-21 06:54
Holy Bag of Books Batman! (TBR Thursday, January 21, Part 1)
The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London - Judith Flanders
The Counterfeit Heiress - Tasha Alexander
The Cat Sitter's Nine Lives: A Mystery - Blaize Clement,John Clement
Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble - Mignon F. Ballard
Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause - Mignon F. Ballard
An Inquiry Into Love and Death - Simone St. James
Austenland - Shannon Hale
Horologicon - Mark Forsyth
The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Lexicon of Life Hacks for the Modern Lady Geek - Sam Maggs
Marked Fur Murder (A Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Mystery) - Dixie Lyle

So I came home to find this waiting for me on Tuesday:

 

My bookoutlet.com order arrived!  From the USA via Belgium if the bag and tag are to be believed.  In addition to the new-to-me goodies listed above, I got three more: 2 Illona Andrews books I've read but don't own (Magic Bites and Magic Bleeds), and an upgrade from ebook to hardback of Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs.

 

None of the books were more than $3 each, which is good, because there's no way I could afford the shipping costs otherwise - especially with the side jaunt to Belgium it took.  

 

 

Is anything better than coming home to a load of new books just waiting for you?  Well, yes, there are a few things better, but precious few. 

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text 2016-01-02 19:29
2015 Roundup
We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals - Gillian Gill
Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends - Mary McAuliffe
The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London - Judith Flanders
Uprooted - Naomi Novik
The Martian - Andy Weir
Embers - Sándor Márai,Carol Brown Janeway
The Rhetoric of Death - Judith Rock
Murder as a Fine Art - David Morrell
The Invisible Library - Genevieve Cogman
The Alchemist's Daughter - Mary Lawrence

Well, I had a good reading year in 2015 - I beat my original goal of 75 in October, and finished with 95 or so books read.  And most of them were good reads, some very good indeed. 

 

Best books I read this year: We Two, a joint biography of Victoria and Albert, by Gillian Gill; Dawn of the Belle Epoque, a cultural history of Paris, 1870-1900, by Mary McAuliffe; The Victorian City, a study of Dickens' London, by Judith Flanders; Uprooted, an Eastern European fantasy novel by Naomi Novik; and The Martian, by Andy Weir.

 

Weirdest reads: Embers, by Sandor Marai.  (Beautiful writing, but a strange, strange "plot.")  The Awakening of Miss Prim, by Natalia Fenollera. 

 

Best author discovery: Judith Rock, who writes historical mysteries set in the Paris of Louis XIV.  Her detective is a Jesuit priest, whose duties are teaching rhetoric and ballet to the aristocratic sons of France.  There are only four volumes that I know of in the series; the first is The Rhetoric of Death.

 

Weakest reads: Murder as a Fine Art, by David Morrell.  (The main character is well developed; unfortunately no one else is, and the plot is highly melodramatic.)  The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman.  (Too many plot elements stuffed, with none done full justice, into one short novel.)  The Alchemist's Daughter, by Mary Lawrence.  (A historical mystery with ahistorical tea, and a heroine I didn't either like or care about.)  Medium Dead, by Alexandra Gladstone.  (Victorian lady doctor, whom all including Queen Victoria accept, and her boyfriend, the earl whose hobby is breaking and entering combined with lock-picking, I just couldn't buy.)

 

But all in all, a very good year!  I hope 2016 is as good.

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