Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Book Review 2022 #2 - Lisa Kleypas's Devil in Winter

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: February 28th, 2006
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Evie Jenner keeps the true horrors of her life hidden from her friends. She can not hide the stutter she has developed from being broken by her mother's family, but she would never tell her friends about the abuse, both physical and mental, because she knows there's nothing they could do about it. All she wants to do is get away from her family and see her father before he dies. But Ivo Jenner runs a gaming hell and it wouldn't be "proper" for Evie to visit him. What's more, her family have their eyes on Ivo's fortune. Evie will be married to her cousin Eustace and then, well, she has a feeling they might do away with her. When the Viscount St. Vincent attempted to marry her friend Lillian Bowman by kidnapping her and running off to Gretna Green Evie realized how desperate the rake was. Desperate enough to swap one heiress for another? Showing up on his doorstep one night Evie tells him of her plan. They are to immediately set out for Gretna Green where they will be married. They will consummate their marriage to make sure it is legally binding in case her relatives have any ideas. They will return to London where Evie will take care of her father until he passes. At which time St. Vincent will get his money and they will live a marriage in name only. He will have his money and she will have her freedom, both getting exactly what they want. The only problem with this plan is that on their long trip to Scotland St. Vincent starts to be intrigued by his future wife. After they consummate their marriage he is shocked to realize how much he still wants Evie. This has never happened to him. Women chase him he will be damned if he will chase after his own wife! But his protective nature that he never knew he had is brought to the fore by Evie. He worries about the long hours she spends at her father's bedside. He has started to worry about the club. In fact he's rather taken with Jenner's and is taking over the business. For someone who has spent their entire life broke, idle, and a womanizer, the arrival of Evie Jenner in his life has changed everything. The question is, will he be able to hold onto it?

Going into Devil in Winter I had two questions that needed to be answered. One was how were they going to make Viscount St. Vincent palatable after he kidnapped and threatened to rape his best friend's fiance? The other was how would the book be structured after the first two books were basically the exact same premise with different wrapping paper? Both were rather quickly answered. The book has a structure all it's own and St. Vincent was desperate but would have never really raped Lillian and would have not even kidnapped her had he realized the depth of his friend's feelings. Yes, this is a bit of backtracking to make St. Vincent that most common of tropes in romance, the domesticated rake, but given as he's the hero it was to be expected. But what's interesting is that Lisa Kleypas doesn't fully reign him in. His reputation with women stands and it's by making Evie's life the worst nightmare that Charles Dickens could ever have dreamed up that St. Vincent is the only option for her. I actually really liked the darkness of Evie's life. With fellow Wallflower Annabelle's story we got a hint of the seedy underbelly that existed in this time period, but it was at a remove. The degradation was happening offstage in another room to her mother. Here Evie is being tormented and tortured by her own family. She literally would probably be better off dead than stay in her current situation so sure, a possible rapist really isn't that bad when she'd be holding the purse strings. By moving beyond St. Vincent and into the gambling den that is Jenner's we stay within this lower echelon while being shown that just because you live in the demimonde you don't need to be the evil that is embodied by Evie's family. You can be good and prosperous, just not of the higher ranks. Though once St. Vincent is done with Jenner's anything is possible. I just loved this story because it had more depth, more of a Deadwood vibe, and just wasn't at all what I expected. Now the question is, can Scandal in Spring surprise me as well?

Monday, January 23, 2023

Tuesday Tomorrow

All Hallows by Christopher Golden
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden is best known for his supernatural thrillers set in deadly, distant locales...but in this suburban Halloween drama, Golden brings the horror home.

It's Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man.

There's a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn't belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them...and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road?

All Hallows. The one night when everything is a mask..."

I'm always here for Christopher Golden, but this one, this one is extra spooky!

Murder Grove by E.V. Adamson
Published by: Scarlet
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 312 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Death seems to follow her: two murders, three decades apart...

In 1990, within the deceptively peaceful woods of her Sussex neighborhood, Mia witnesses the brutal murder of her mother and wakes up in a shallow grave. A man confesses to the murder and later dies in prison, but Mia never comes to terms with her mother's death.

After another brush with tragedy in 2021, Mia and her boyfriend Rich move from London to a small Spanish village where they can begin a new life. At first, Val Verde seems to be everything they could wish for. But when a body is found in the olive grove outside of town, they realize that their would-be safe haven harbors a terrible secret. Will they discover the deadly root of evil before it's too late?

Breathlessly paced with an atmospheric setting, Murder Grove is a twisty psychological thriller from the author of Five Strangers."

Death follows!

Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie
Published by: Redhook
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the macabre mind of a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author, this heart-pounding novel of horror and psychological suspense takes a ghost hunting reality TV crew into a world they could never have imagined.

Fade to Black is the newest hit ghost hunting reality TV show. Led by husband and wife team Matt and Claire Kirklin, it delivers weekly hauntings investigated by a dedicated team of ghost hunting experts.

Episode Thirteen takes them to every ghost hunter's holy grail: the Paranormal Research Foundation. This brooding, derelict mansion holds secrets and clues about bizarre experiments that took place there in the 1970s. It's also famously haunted, and the team hopes their scientific techniques and high tech gear will prove it. But as the house begins to reveal itself to them, proof of an afterlife might not be everything Matt dreamed of. A story told in broken pieces, in tapes, journals, and correspondence, this is the story of Episode Thirteen - and how everything went terribly, horribly wrong."

Oh yes, ghost hunting TV shows, of the fictional variety, are my jam. Too scared to watch the real thing.

The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly
Published by: Mobius
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 512 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This reunion will tear a family apart....

Summer, 2021. Nell has come home at her family's insistence to celebrate an anniversary. Fifty years ago, her father wrote The Golden Bones. Part picture book, part treasure hunt, Sir Frank Churcher created a fairy story about Elinore, a murdered woman whose skeleton was scattered all over England. Clues and puzzles in the pages of The Golden Bones led readers to seven sites where jewels were buried - gold and precious stones, each a different part of a skeleton. One by one, the tiny golden bones were dug up until only Elinore's pelvis remained hidden.

The book was a sensation. A community of treasure hunters called the Bonehunters formed, in frenzied competition, obsessed to a dangerous degree. People sold their homes to travel to England and search for Elinore. Marriages broke down as the quest consumed people. A man died. The book made Frank a rich man. Stalked by fans who could not tell fantasy from reality, his daughter, Nell, became a recluse.

But now the Churchers must be reunited. The book is being reissued along with a new treasure hunt and a documentary crew are charting everything that follows. Nell is appalled, and terrified. During the filming, Frank finally reveals the whereabouts of the missing golden bone. And then all hell breaks loose.

From the bestselling author of He Said/She Said and Watch Her Fall, this is a taut, mesmerizing novel about a daughter haunted by her father's legacy..."

Book within books that contain a treasure hunt, yes please!

Rivers of London: Deadly Ever After by Ben Aaronovitch
Published by: Titan Comics
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 112 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"CSI meets Harry Potter in this graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch - writer of the bestselling Rivers of London supernatural police procedural crime novel series, Andrew Cartmel author of The Vinyl Detective and Celeste Bronfman.

Illustrations from a mysterious book of fairy tales drawn in the late 1800s are coming to life in the 21st Century and causing havoc. The illustrations were originally painted by a Victorian artist called Jeter Day who disappeared one night in an enchanted forest when he was spirited away by tree nymphs never to be seen again...

Now, with the enchantment accidentally broken by Olympia and Chelsea, daughters of the river goddess Mama Thames, Jeter, twisted by his time spent with the nymphs, has returned to our world bitter and resentful. It is a world he neither recognises nor likes. All he wants is his life returned to him and woe betide any man who stands in his way.

With Peter and Nightingale busy on another case, it falls to sisters Olympia and Chelsea with the help of the Foxes to stop Jeter and save the day."

This book might be VERY important to what's coming to my blog this year...

The Twyford by Janice Hallett
Published by: Atria Books
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The mysterious connection between a teacher's disappearance and an unsolved code in a children's book is explored in this fresh novel from the author of the "clever and often wryly funny" (PopSugar) novel The Appeal.

Forty years ago, Steven "Smithy" Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. When he showed it to his remedial English teacher Miss Iles, she believed that it was part of a secret code that ran through all of Twyford's novels. And when she disappeared on a class field trip, Smithy became convinced that she had been right.

Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Smithy decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. In a series of voice recordings on an old iPhone from his estranged son, Smithy alternates between visiting the people of his childhood and looking back on the events that later landed him in prison.

But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn't just a writer of forgotten children's stories. The Twyford Code holds a great secret, and Smithy may just have the key."

I love mysteries that are about a fictional author's oeuvre. 

The Marriage Season by Jane Dunn
Published by: Boldwood Books Ltd
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 338 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"'It's not a fair world I'm afraid. Beauty or fortune carries the day. You have the beauty and I the fortune, so there's every chance we'll succeed'

In Regency England, marriage is everything. For young widow Sybella Lovatt, the time has come to find a suitable husband for her sister and ward Lucie. Male suitors are scarce near their Wiltshire estate, so the sisters resolve to head to London in time for The Season to begin.

Once ensconced at the Mayfair home of Lady Godley, Lucie's godmother, the whirl of balls, parties and promenades can begin. But the job of finding a husband is fraught with rules and tradition. Jostling for attention are the two lords - the charming and irresistible Freddie Lynwood and the preternaturally handsome Valentine Ravenell, their enigmatic neighbour from Shotten Hall, Mr Brabazon, and the dangerous libertine Lord Rockliffe, with whom the brooding Brabazon is locked in deadly rivalry.

Against the backdrop of glamorous Regency England, Sybella must settle Lucie's future, protect her own reputation, and resist the disreputable rakes determined to seduce the beautiful widow. As the Season ends, will the sisters have found the rarest of things - a suitable marriage with a love story to match?

Sunday Times bestselling author Jane Dunn brings the Regency period irresistibly to life in a page-turning novel packed with surprising revelations, which all comes wittily, gloriously, good in the end. Perfect for fans of Gill Hornby, Janice Hadlow, Jane Austen, and anyone with a Bridgerton-shaped hole in their lives."

If you're having Regency Romp withdrawals, here's a book for you!

A Fashionable Fatality by Alyssa Maxwell
Published by: Kensington
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Set in the Downton Abbey era of post-WW1 England, Alyssa Maxwell's latest historical mystery finds sleuthing duo Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady's maid, Eva Huntford, investigating a murder at a house party attended by fashion royalty. This evocative, well-crafted historical series appeals to fans of Rhys Bowen, Deanna Raybourn and Victoria Thompson.

Amid the aftermath of the Great War and its hardships, it's no wonder that many wish to rediscover life’s pleasures - parties, fashion, dancing. Still, Lady Phoebe and Eva are disconcerted when a small gathering at the home of Phoebe's sister, Julia, becomes a far larger and more glamorous affair...Julia has invited her favorite French fashion designer, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, and Coco's current beau, the Earl of Chesterhaven. Coco has brought an entourage of her own, including two models, and intends to use the gardens as a photographic setting for her latest creations. Madame Chanel is as outspoken as she is talented, offering a scathing critique of Phoebe's fashion sense. There is tense competition between the models as well. When one of the guests is found dead of smoke inhalation, it appears to be a tragic accident. But was a footman really to blame for mistakenly closing the fireplace flue, or is there a more sinister explanation? Phoebe is determined to find out, despite the protestations of her sweetheart, Owen Seabright. Both above and below stairs, Phoebe and Eva uncover myriad motives - career ambition, romantic rivalries, and even deeper betrayals. For despite the surface beauty, there are ugly secrets in the world of Maison Chanel, ones that a killer will risk anything to protect"

Because the twenties are the ideal time for a murder mystery!

The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A woman learns to expand the boundaries of her small world and let love inside it in this sparkling and unforgettable novel by Audrey Burges.

From her attic in the Arizona mountains, thirty-four-year-old Myra Malone blogs about a dollhouse mansion that captivates thousands of readers worldwide. Myra's stories have created legions of fans who breathlessly await every blog post, trade photographs of Mansion-modeled rooms, and swap theories about the enigmatic and reclusive author. Myra herself is tethered to the Mansion by mysteries she can't understand - rooms that appear and disappear overnight, music that plays in its corridors.

Across the country, Alex Rakes, the scion of a custom furniture business, encounters two Mansion fans trying to recreate a room. The pair show him the Minuscule Mansion, and Alex is shocked to recognize a reflection of his own life mirrored back to him in minute scale. The room is his own bedroom, and the Mansion is his family's home, handed down from the grandmother who disappeared mysteriously when Alex was a child. Searching for answers, Alex begins corresponding with Myra. Together, the two unwind the lonely paths of their twin worlds - big and small - and trace the stories that entwine them, setting the stage for a meeting rooted in loss, but defined by love."

The perfect book for the dollhouse obsessed who spent their childhood marveling at the Thorne miniature rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago or Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle. 

Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn
Published by: Kensington
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.

But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact - a "friendfic" diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary's simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline - a guidebook for getting started on a new path.

Georgie's plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate - Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side - if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.

Honest and deeply emotional, Georgie, All Along is a smart, tender must-read for everyone who's ever wondered about the life that got away..."

So this book is telling me, I really need to make a list.

Against the Currant by Olivia Matthews
Published by: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In Olivia Matthews's Against the Currant, the first Spice Isle Bakery Mystery, investigating a murder was never supposed to be on the menu...

Little Caribbean, Brooklyn, New York: Lyndsay Murray is opening Spice Isle Bakery with her family, and it's everything she’s ever wanted. The West Indian bakery is her way to give back to the community she loves, stay connected to her Grenadian roots, and work side-by-side with her family. The only thing getting a rise out of Lyndsay is Claudio Fabrizi, a disgruntled fellow bakery owner who does not want any competition.

On opening day, he comes into the bakery threatening to shut them down. Fed up, Lyndsay takes him to task in front of what seems to be the whole neighborhood. So when Claudio turns up dead a day later - murdered - Lyndsay is unfortunately the prime suspect. To get the scent of suspicion off her and her bakery, Lyndsay has to prove she's innocent - under the watchful eyes of her overprotective brother, anxious parents, and meddlesome extended family - what could go wrong?"

A tight-knit community, a bakery, and murder? Second helping please!

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim
Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The first book in an epic fantasy series set in an Arabian-inspired land with secret spice magic. Raised to protect her nation from the monsters lurking in the sands, sixteen-year-old Imani must fight to find her brother, whose betrayal is now the country's greatest threat.

In the hidden desert city of Qalia, there is secret spice magic that awakens the affinities of those who drink the misra tea. Sixteen-year-old Imani has the affinity for iron and is able to wield a dagger like no other warrior. She has garnered the reputation as being the next great Shield for battling djinn, ghouls, and other monsters spreading across the sands.

Her reputation has been overshadowed, however, by her brother, who tarnished the family name after it was revealed that he was stealing his nation's coveted spice - a telltale sign of magical obsession. Soon after that, he disappeared, believed to have died beyond the Forbidden Wastes. Despite her brother’s betrayal, there isn't a day that goes by when Imani doesn't grieve him.

But when Imani discovers signs that her brother may be alive and spreading the nation's magic to outsiders, she makes a deal with the Council that she will find him and bring him back to Qalia, where he will face punishment. Accompanied by other Shields, including Taha, a powerful beastseer who can control the minds of falcons, she sets out on her mission.

Imani will soon find that many secrets lie beyond the Forbidden Wastes - and in her own heart - but will she find her brother?"

You say djinn I say I'm in!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Book Review 2022 #3 - Tasha Alexander's Secrets of the Nile

Secrets of the Nile by Tasha Alexander
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: October 4th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Lady Emily has long wanted to take a romantic trip down the Nile with her husband Colin. While having her stepdaughter and mother-in-law on the dahabiya might not be the romantic trip Emily had imagined it is because of her mother-in-law that the trip is happening at all and thankfully Emily and Colin's three boys aren't there. Yet. There have been some rather alarming correspondences about train timetables and crocodiles. Hopefully their nanny is up to the job of keeping them in England. As for their trip, Mrs. Ann Hargreaves has been lifelong friends with Lord Bertram Deeley and due to his late wife's health he has wintered every year in Egypt at his magnificent home in Luxor. And each voyage he has peopled his house with friends. He has long hoped the Ann would join him in Egypt. But until now Ann hasn't felt up to visiting. Egypt was were she met her beloved late husband. They met halfway up the Great Pyramid at Giza and were engaged by the time they came down. A story that has always endeared her mother-in-law to Emily through all their strife. Needless to say Emily is not the sort of wife Ann pictured for her son. But that doesn't preclude her from using Emily as a convenient shield against Lord Deeley's plans. Showing Emily, Colin, and Katarina Egypt in her own way meant that instead of being on his boat with the other guests they have taken their voyage at a more sedate pace. Plus they were spared the other guests. Now that they have finally arrived in Luxor and are at the mercy of Lord Deeley's hospitality they are now defenseless against his other guests; Mr. Troubridge, an amusing fellow, or so says Lord Deeley, Mr. Inigo Granard, Lord Deeley's political counterpart, and Inigo's wife Adelaide, Lady Wilona Bestwick, a termagant if ever their was one, and her young companion, Miss Pandora Evans, Dr. Oliver Rockley, a young doctor to assure the safety of the travelers, and finally Mr. McLeod, an archaeologist at a nearby dig who has been invited to fill out the numbers. As they take in the opulence of Lord Deeley's house his hospitality is almost suffocating. He has done everything he can for his guests, including preparing the most sumptuous of feasts. A feast that is to be his last as he dies from arsenic that was added to his special tisane he partakes of at the end of every meal. The police assume it is the work of a disgruntled employee who has since run away, but Emily and Colin aren't so sure. Therefore it is up to them to find out who the real murderer is because they were most likely at that dinner table and one rarely stops at one murder.

If you are a fan of Lady Emily and Tasha Alexander you are perhaps overwhelmed that Emily has finally made it to Egypt. You knew this would one day happen but every time a new volume was introduced Emily was off to Russia or Greece or France or anywhere that wasn't Egypt. And us die hard fans have long known how much Tasha has been wanting to write this volume. She is one of the biggest Elizabeth Peters fans out there and she has peppered references throughout previous volumes. So I can tell you that not only is today the day, but that today is magnificent. This book is everything Lady Emily fans have wanted, this is everything Elizabeth Peters fans have wanted, and it is even everything Agatha Christie fans have wanted, and I'll even say Clue fans will find something to love. I have not enjoyed an Egyptian mystery this much since Elizabeth Peters' The Curse of the Pharaohs, which is hands down my favorite in the Amelia Peabody series. And if anyone is wondering, yes, Amelia was in the Valley of the Kings in 1904 when this book is set but that is all that you will drag out of me on that subject. As for how much I love Egypt, I will talk your ear off! My entire life I have been fascinated with Egypt, perhaps because my parents loved to tell me stories that were equal parts historical and terrifying. I remember crying at the Chicago Field Museum because my Dad told me if I looked on the pharaoh I would be forever cursed. And in an interesting twist of fate a dear friend of my family actually worked on the excavation of Tut's tomb with Howard Carter. I've been to every traveling exhibit of mummies that has come within a day's drive from me for as long as I can remember. And back in 2011 I was overjoyed when I stumbled on the Haskell Oriental Museum at the University of Chicago and was well chuffed it was mentioned within the pages of this book. I mean, I think it's mandatory because Tasha used to live in Chicago, but another author might be remiss. But what gets me every time I read one of Tasha's books is that she connects to the wonders of a place on a different level. There's a depth of feeling and understanding that makes you realize how much she loves Emily's passion and they ignite in the reader a love as well. Not just of Emily, but of the wonders of the world she is seeing. Secrets of the Nile took me back to my Art History classes where my deep admiration of Egypt was assured and Tasha once again had me falling in love with a culture I had previously studied. By now I've convinced you that this book is all about Egypt, but it's not, it's about mystery and romance and, just like Emily's first adventure, And Only to Deceive, the fluidity and mutability of our pasts. How new evidence can change how you look at a previous event forever. If I have one hope for this book it's that you will fall in love with Egypt forever. Sorry, I seem incapable of not bringing it back around to Egypt. It's a mystery!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Book Review 2022 #4 - Julia Quinn's It's in His Kiss

It's in His Kiss by Julia Quinn
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: June 28th, 2005
Format: Paperback, 399 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Gareth St. Clair has one person in all the world whom he loves, that is his maternal grandmother Lady Danbury. His father would publicly declare Gareth a bastard if it wouldn't make himself look like a cuckold. But now that Gareth's older brother has died and he is to inherit, one would think things might change. Well they do, but not because of his father, because of Hyacinth Bridgerton. Much like Gareth, Hyacinth is a darling of Lady Danbury's. In fact they really are the only two. Which is why they are sitting next to each other at the Smythe-Smith Musicale. An evening of "entertainment" that Lady Danbury insists they go to because someone needs to cheer those poor Smythe-Smiths on. And for the first time in memory Hyacinth didn't hate the evening. Could it be because of Gareth? She's being continually hounded to get married, and she's under no delusions that it's because her family wishes to be ride of her. She knows she can be a bit much, but no one has ever even come close to getting near her heart. But is that because, as her mother says, she won't let anyone in? Well, the last person she'd let in is Gareth St. Clair. He's a hardened rake. Hyacinth has heard ALL the stories from his grandmother. Yet there's something about him. Something that is different. The next day, a Tuesday, Hyacinth is reading Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron to Lady Danbury as she does every week when Gareth arrives and interrupts the two lamenting the heroine's fate. Gareth has just come into possession of his paternal grandmother's diary which his brother left him. He's dying to know what it says, perhaps she knew his real father! But the problem is the diary is in Italian. Hyacinth happens to mention she knows Italian, perhaps overstating her skills a little just to impress him. But she offers to have a go and is instantly obsessed with Isabella's life and a secret she held, a cache of diamonds she never told her husband about. Gareth and Hyacinth become frantic in their search for the jewels. Could there be a better revenge on his father than stealing the jewels out from under him? Perhaps marrying Hyacinth, the girl his father said would never accept him. Unless that is exactly what his father wants...

Hyacinth, as the youngest Bridgerton, hasn't played much of a role in the previous volumes due to her age. From Colin's book onward we've had hints that she's rather a handful with a love of gossip and an unguarded tongue she seems to share more DNA with Lady Danbury than she does with the Bridgertons. She's the sibling whom Anthony longs to have off his hands as, all things considered, while her family loves her, she's a bit of a nightmare. And this, right here, is why I so heartily love Hyacinth. Yes, she puts on a strong front and knows it's important, nay, imperative to always be yourself, but she knows that she can be "too much" for some people and I can so relate to this that it's painful. It took me a long time to find friends whom I could be myself around. Friends who didn't think I was too loud, or too enthusiastic, or just too much. It's painful when you know your faults are an intrinsic part of yourself. I have tried to be quiet, I've tried to tone myself down, but it's frustrating to the point of tears sometimes to feel that the world just doesn't get you. And when Hyacinth's mother had a rather frank conversation about her muchness that told the truth but blunted the sting with so much love and admiration for her daughter amongst the frustration I too cried. Why can't Violet be my mother? I've had the truth handed to me in harsh ways and to have someone love you enough to express the truth through love instead of through vindictiveness just makes me love this book all the more. And the fact that Hyacinth finds love with Gareth just makes me happy, because he loves her because she's different and outspoken and just Hyacinth. And as for Gareth, well, this might be the only Bridgerton novel where I connected with both halves of the couple completely. I totally related to his desolation that there was just one person in the world who loves him and whom he loves. That small unit can be scary. That one connection so fierce yet so fragile. Dammit, now I think I'm going to cry again. Thankfully whenever I feel maudlin I just have to remember how much Lady Danbury is in this volume. Dammit, she's just awesome. Her love of purple prose and romance underneath all that snark just adds another layer of perfection to someone I already thought damn perfect to start with.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Tuesday Tomorrow

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"New York Times bestselling author Grady Hendrix takes on the haunted house in a thrilling new novel that explores the way your past - and your family - can haunt you like nothing else.

When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn't want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn't want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.

Most of all, she doesn't want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. Unfortunately, she'll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it'll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market.

But some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them...

Like his novels The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires and The Final Girl Support Group, How to Sell a Haunted House is classic Hendrix: equal parts heartfelt and terrifying - a gripping new read from "the horror master" (USA Today)."

Oh, how I've been dying to read this book. Perhaps that's not the best thing to say about a book with a haunted house?

The Motion Picture Teller by Colin Cotterill
Published by: Soho Crime
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"An enchanting new standalone novel from CWA Dagger winner Colin Cotterill, set in Bangkok: a mystery without a crime, where the line between fact and fiction blurs, and nothing is as simple as it appears.

Thailand, 1996: Supot, a postman with the Royal Thai Mail service, hates his job. The only bright spot in his life is watching classic movies with his best friend, Ali, the owner of a video store. These cinephiles adore the charisma of the old Western stars, particularly the actresses, and bemoan the state of modern Thai cinema - until a mysterious cassette, entitled Bangkok 2010, arrives at Ali's store.

Bangkok 2010 is a dystopian film set in a near-future Thailand - and Supot and Ali, immediately obsessed, agree it's the most brilliant Thai movie they've ever seen. But nobody else has ever heard of the movie, the director, the actors, or any of the crew. Who would make a movie like this and not release it, and why?

Feeling a powerful calling to solve the mystery of Bangkok 2010, Supot journeys deep into the Thai countryside and discovers that powerful people are dead set on keeping the film buried."

Mysterious films that only a few people know about? Yes, that is totally my jam, can't you here me hyperventilating over here?

The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 608 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A novel of sensational literary and psychological suspense from the best-selling author of Less Than Zero and American Psycho that tracks a group of privileged high school friends in a vibrantly fictionalized 1980s Los Angeles as a serial killer strikes across the city.

Bret Easton Ellis's masterful new novel is a story about the end of innocence, and the perilous passage from adolescence into adulthood, set in a vibrantly fictionalized Los Angeles in 1981 as a serial killer begins targeting teenagers throughout the city.

Seventeen-year-old Bret is a senior at the exclusive Buckley prep school when a new student arrives with a mysterious past. Robert Mallory is bright, handsome, charismatic, and shielding a secret from Bret and his friends even as he becomes a part of their tightly knit circle. Bret's obsession with Mallory is equaled only by his increasingly unsettling preoccupation with the Trawler, a serial killer on the loose who seems to be drawing ever closer to Bret and his friends, taunting them - and Bret in particular - with grotesque threats and horrific, sharply local acts of violence. The coincidences are uncanny, but they are also filtered through the imagination of a teenager whose gifts for constructing narrative from the filaments of his own life are about to make him one of the most explosive literary sensations of his generation. Can he trust his friends - or his own mind - to make sense of the danger they appear to be in? Thwarted by the world and by his own innate desires, buffeted by unhealthy fixations, he spirals into paranoia and isolation as the relationship between the Trawler and Robert Mallory hurtles inexorably toward a collision.

Set against the intensely vivid and nostalgic backdrop of pre-Less Than Zero L.A., The Shards is a mesmerizing fusing of fact and fiction, the real and the imagined, that brilliantly explores the emotional fabric of Bret's life at seventeen - sex and jealousy, obsession and murderous rage. Gripping, sly, suspenseful, deeply haunting, and often darkly funny, The Shards is Ellis at his inimitable best."

A typical Bret Easton Ellis book, in that is loved and panned in equal measures.

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall
Published by: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"They were eleven when they sent a killer to prison. They were heroes...but they were liars.

Kate Alice Marshall's What Lies in the Woods is a thrilling novel about friendship, secrets, betrayal, and lies - and having the courage to face the past.

Naomi Shaw used to believe in magic. Twenty-two years ago, she and her two best friends, Cassidy and Olivia, spent the summer roaming the woods, imagining a world of ceremony and wonder. They called it the Goddess Game. The summer ended suddenly when Naomi was attacked. Miraculously, she survived her seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who had hurt her. The girls’ testimony put away a serial killer, wanted for murdering six women. They were heroes.

And they were liars.

For decades, the friends have kept a secret worth killing for. But now Olivia wants to tell, and Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods - no matter how dangerous the truth turns out to be."

I will read ANYTHING Kate Alice Marshall writes.

Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A mystery dinner theater party thrown by local author with a taste "for rather gruesome humor" requires guests come dressed as infamous killers - Jack the Ripper, Dr. Crippen, and the like. Whatever could go wrong?

Know-it-all amateur criminologist Roger Sheringham settles in for an evening of beer, small talk, and analyzing his companions. Ena Stratton, the host's sister-in-law, catches his attention. Her erratic mood swings and loud, gossipy talk is winning her more than a few enemies amongst the guests. When she's found dead, it's clear that one of the partygoers helped her to an early grave.

Noticing a key detail that could implicate a friend in the crime, Sheringham decides to meddle with the scene and unwittingly makes himself a suspect.

Tightly paced and cleverly defying the conventions of the classic detective story, Anthony Berkeley's dark sense of humor and taste for the macabre drive this 1933 classic.

This edition includes an introduction by CWA Diamond Dagger and Edgar ® Award-winning author Martin Edwards."

I read the first two Roger Sheringham mysteries years ago when I was on a Golden Age kick and I simply adored them. I love that Poisoned Pen Press is re-releasing these classics with lovely covers. I want them all!

The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sherriff
Published by: Scribner
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A stunning speculative novel about a small English village preparing of the end of the world.

Edgar Hopkins is a retired math teacher with a strong sense of self-importance, whose greatest pride is winning poultry-breeding contests. When not meticulously caring for his Bantam, Edgar is an active member of the British Lunar Society. Thanks to that affiliation, Edgar becomes one of the first people to learn that the moon is on a collision course with the earth.

Members of the society are sworn to secrecy, but eventually the moon begins to loom so large in the sky that the truth can no longer be denied. During these final days, Edgar writes what he calls "The Hopkins Manuscript" - a testimony juxtaposing the ordinary and extraordinary as the villagers dig trenches and play cricket before the end of days.

First published in 1939, as the world was teetering on the brink of global war, R.C. Sherriff's classic science fiction novel is a timely and powerful missive from the past that captures human nature in all its complexity."

So eerily timely and timeless!

The Cabinet of Dr. Leng by Preston and Child
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Preston and Child continue their #1 bestselling series featuring FBI Special Agent Pendergast and Constance Greene, as they cross paths with New York's deadliest serial killer: Pendergast's own ancestor…and now his greatest foe.

AN INCREDIBLE JOURNEY

Astoundingly, Constance has found a way back to the place of her origins, New York City in the late 1800s, leaping at the chance, although it means leaving the present forever.

A DESPERATE OPPORTUNITY

Constance sets off on a quest to prevent the events that lead to the deaths of her sister and brother. But along the road to redemption, Manhattan's most infamous serial killer, Dr. Enoch Leng, lies in wait, ready to strike at the slightest provocation.

UNIMAGINABLE ODDS

Meanwhile, in contemporary New York, Pendergast feverishly searches for a way to reunite with Constance - but will he discover a way back to her before it's too late?"

I love a good mystery and a good time slip!

Tales of Carnival Row by George Mann, C.M. Landus, Charles Valasquez-Witosky, and Jordan Criar
Published by: Legendary Comics
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 156 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Take a trip down The Row with the official expansion of the hit Amazon television series!

In the dark and magical world of Carnival Row, there are many stories to be told. Explore the Burgue, where war-weary humans and fae strike an uneasy peace and eke out a meager co-existence in Legendary Comics' new anthology graphic novel Tales from Carnival Row. Take a closer look at the myths and half-truths surrounding Philo, Vignette, Millworthy, Agreus, Tourmaline, and Aisling.

Writers George Mann (Wychwood, Newbury and Hobbes) and series writers C.M. Landrus, Charles Valasquez-Witosky, and Jordan Criar have crafted tales that will shed light on some of the most popular characters from the neo-noir Victorian fantasy television series."

I adore Carnival Row. I love George Mann more than I can say. This is a match made in heaven, or you know, the Burgue.

Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman
Published by: Harper Perennial,
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Steeped in mystery and rich in imagination, an exhilarating historical novel set in Georgian London where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations, and romance.

London, 1799. Dora Blake, an aspiring jewelry artist, lives with her odious uncle atop her late parents' once-famed shop of antiquities. After a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, her uncle begins to act suspiciously, keeping the vase locked in the store's basement, away from prying eyes - including Dora's. Intrigued by her uncle's peculiar behavior, Dora turns to young, ambitious antiquarian scholar Edward Lawrence who eagerly agrees to help. Edward believes the ancient vase is the key that will unlock his academic future; Dora sees it as a chance to establish her own name.

But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth, she comes to understand that some doors are locked and some mysteries are buried for a reason, while others are closer to the surface than they appear.

A story of myth and mystery, secrets and deception, fate and hope, Pandora is an enchanting work of historical fiction as captivating and evocative as The Song of Achilles, The Essex Serpent, and The Miniaturist."

The time period, the concept, the the, EVERYTHING!

I'm No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts by Kristin Chenoweth
Published by: Harper Celebrate
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 224 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Aristotle. Socrates. Descartes. And now, Chenoweth. (How about some women, am I right?)

From television actress, Broadway star, and New York Times bestselling author Kristin Chenoweth comes I'm No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts, an inspiring high-design, colorful book featuring philosophical-ish musings on connection, creativity, loss, love, faith, and closure. Just like Kristin's grandmother inspired her to trust her heart and develop her own belief system, you'll be inspired to develop your own life philosophies, as you journey through some of Kristin's most vulnerable and humorous personal stories, in her constant pursuit to make the most out of life.

In each chapter, you'll find:

Behind-the-scenes stories from Kristin's personal life
High-design, colorful pages of inspirational quotes
Engaging prompts, prayers, and inspiring quotes

Oh, and a warning: There will be Bible verses. There will be f-bombs. Read responsibly.

I'm No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts is the perfect book to pick up on days when you need an extra shot of encouragement, a little laughter, and a gentle reminder that kindness can take you a long way. This is a great gift to give for birthdays, holidays, graduations, Mother's Day, or for fans of Kristin Chenoweth, known for her Emmy Award-winning role in the ABC hit series Pushing Daisies and Broadway's Wicked."

I adore the cover, Kristen Chenoweth is a true muse!

The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A working-class woman who infiltrates Singapore's high society to fulfill her dreams risks losing everything in the process - including herself - in this propulsive novel by debut author Kyla Zhao.

For as long as she can remember, Samantha Song has dreamed of writing for a high-society magazine - and she'd do anything to get there. But the constant struggle to help her mom make ends meet and her low social status cause her dream to feel like a distant fantasy.

Now Samantha finds herself working at a drab PR firm. Living vicariously through her wealthy coworker and friend, Anya Chen, is the closest she'll get to her ideal life. Until she meets Timothy Kingston: the disillusioned son of one of Singapore's elite families - and Samantha's one chance at infiltrating the high-society world to which she desperately wants to belong.

To Samantha's surprise, Timothy and Anya both agree to help her make a name for herself on Singapore’s socialite scene. But the borrowed designer clothes and plus-ones to every glamorous event can only get her so far. The rest is on Samantha, and she's determined to impress the editor in chief of Singapore's poshest magazine. But the deeper Samantha wades into this fraud, the more she fears being exposed - especially with a mysterious gossip columnist on the prowl for dirt - forcing her to reconcile her pretense with who she really is before she loses it all."

Pretense and dreams.

The Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict
Published by: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict comes an explosive novel of history's most notorious sisters, one of whom will have to choose: her country or her family?

Between the World Wars, the six Mitford sisters - each more beautiful, brilliant, and eccentric than the next - dominate the English political, literary, and social scenes. Though they've weathered scandals before, the family falls into disarray when Diana divorces her wealthy husband to marry a fascist leader and Unity follows her sister's lead all the way to Munich, inciting rumors that she's become Hitler's mistress.

As the Nazis rise in power, novelist Nancy Mitford grows suspicious of her sisters' constant visits to Germany and the high-ranking fascist company they keep. When she overhears alarming conversations and uncovers disquieting documents, Nancy must make excruciating choices as Great Britain goes to war with Germany.

Probing the torrid political climate in the lead-up to World War II and the ways that seemingly sensible people can be sucked into radical action, The Mitford Affair follows Nancy's valiant efforts to stop the Nazis from taking over Great Britain, and the complicated choices she must make between the personal and the political."

One of two Mitford books this week. You'd think they'd spread them out a bit... It's not like EVERYONE is writing about the Mitfords now is it?

The Mitford Secret by Jessica Fellowes
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A mystery with the fascinating Mitford sisters at its heart, Jessica Fellowes's The Mitford Secret is the sixth and final intriguing installment in the Mitford Murders series.

It's 1941, and the Mitford household is splintered by the vicissitudes of war. To bring the clan together - maybe for one last time, Deborah invites them to Chatsworth for Christmas, along with a selection of society's most impressive and glamorous guests, as well as old family friend Louisa Cannon, a private detective.

One night, a psychic arrives, and to liven things up Deborah agrees she may host a séance. But entertainment turns to dark mystery as the psychic reveals that a maid was murdered in this very same house - and she can prove it.

Louisa steps forward to try to solve the cold case. But with a house full of people who want nothing more than to bury their secrets, will she be able to unmask the murderer? And how deep does the truth lie?"

And the series FINALLY ends.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Book Review 2022 #5 - Andrea Penrose's Smoke and Lies

Smoke and Lies by Andrea Penrose
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018
Format: Kindle, 355 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

If there's one thing that Lord Saybrook and Arianna have learned, it's that if they won't do Lord Grentham's bidding then he will find leverage to force them to do his bidding. And his favorite leverage is family. This time it's Sandro's cousin, Eduardo de la Vega. Eduardo has been stationed on Elba, Napoleon's palatial prison, and has gone missing. Therefore it serves "everyone's" interest for Sandro and Arianna to travel to Elba. A gentleman scientist and his wife will be welcomed by Napoleon with open arms while really they will be listening for any concrete evidence that Napoleon has his eyes on his old throne and of course trying to find Eduardo. Lord Grentham though isn't taking any risks with Napoleon and therefore has saddled Sandro and Arianna with two rather sketchy associates. The Baroness Plessy-Moritz seems ill-equipped for espionage, but her friendship with Napoleon's sister is a boon, whereas Count von Wolfram isn't who he says he is. Wolffy is an old associate of Arianna's. He had been the proprietor of the Wolff and Lamb Theatrical Company, where Arianna learned her disguise skills back when she was fighting to survive in the West Indies. But how do his skills apply to this situation? As they all board the Basilisk none of them really know what they are in for. Their assignments are illusive and no one is what they seem and they have become becalmed in pirate-infested waters. Which is when things go from bad to worse as yet another person from Arianna's past emerges. What's even more humiliating than finding her in this situation is having him be the one to rescue her. But she can deal with that another day, because they must get to Elba at all costs, and so far it has cost the captain of the Basilisk his life in a back alley in Gibraltar. Reaching their destination is a miracle in and of itself, but how are they going to navigate the world Napoleon has built around himself when he is the greatest tactician ever? Perhaps by appealing to his sweet tooth?

This adventure is balls to the wall bonkers in the best possible way. It's Clue meets And Then There Were None meets Horatio Hornblower where you're constantly uncertain of your footing but enjoying every minute of it. But then, I've always been a sucker for big boats. There's something so classic yet powerfully elemental about old fashioned sailing vessels. They were their own little worlds and taking that concept and making it into a bit of a locked room mystery just made me giddy. Yes, I spent an inordinate amount of time when young dreaming of my perfect pirate ship, so taking that which I've always loved and the Regency addict I've become and making this wonderful confection just made me want to do nothing but read this book until I'd reached the very last page. What's more this is the first book in the series in its new iteration. For those who read the paperbacks like me, the recipes are gone. I'm of slightly two minds as to this development. As I have previously mentioned I found the recipes distracting as they interrupted the flow of the narrative. Stick them in the back was my initial response. But then by the third book almost all the recipes involved coffee or espresso so I changed my mind to get ride of them entirely. Now some of these recipes I actually want to try, but here's a clue about me, NONE OF THEM will have coffee. I don't just dislike coffee, I detest it. And I hate more than anything the adulteration of chocolate with coffee. Just don't do it OK? But seeing as the recipes are gone so are my gripes. My gripes about recipes. Now I have a new gripe. My new gripe is that since this series moved from a publishing house to being published independently you can see the lack of polish. There are some repetitions with turns of phrases that a good editor would have caught, but more irksome were the straight up errors. Wolffy changes how he addresses Arianna all the time. She's either Anna or Annie. If there had been an explanation as to this I wouldn't have minded him constantly calling her one or the other diminutive. There isn't. Therefore I am annoyed. But the bigger annoyance I had was that in the previous volume Arianna is lamenting her lack of knowledge of the Greek Mythology, which she hasn't had time to fix yet, but somehow she magically knows all these myths? Yeah, I'm not buying it. But I would say buy this book because the errors don't take away from the narrative, they just make you a little peeved every once in awhile. Is it Anna or Annie!?

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Book Review 2022 #6 - Jane Austen's Sanditon and Other Stories

Sanditon and Other Stories by Jane Austen
Published by: Everyman
Publication Date: March 28th, 1996
Format: Hardcover, 502 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Due to a geographical mistake and an accident Charlotte Heywood has been given the extreme pleasure of visiting Sanditon with it's chief cheerleader, Mr. Tom Parker. A seaside resort unlike any other. The water is clearer, the sand cleaner, and the prospects endless, as long as one or two large groups were to take homes for the summer. But not to worry, it's just the beginning of the season and Sanditon's year round inhabitants are characters enough for Charlotte. Especially when all the Parker siblings descend on the town and Mr. Arthur Parker shows Charlotte the joy of a perfectly toasted piece of bread. Well buttered. While in another part of England altogether Emma Watson has be thrust back on her family after being raised by her wealthy Aunt and Uncle. Her Uncle tragically died and her Aunt remarried, thus making Emma superfluous and no longer an heiress. She and her family make the best of this sudden reversal in fortune, but it is very odd being thrust back on one's family who now seem more like strangers. Whereas in another section of England entirely Lady Susan is concocting a scheme. Being recently widowed she was rather too open with her feelings and flirtations at some friends she was visiting and therefore has taken refuge with her brother-in-law and his wife, a wife that Lady Susan did her best to make sure he didn't marry. But Lady Susan is so eloquent with her words that she soon smooths over any reservations that anyone might have. She has been ill used and isn't the villain everyone makes her out to be. Or that is what she loudly proclaims while secretly scheming to get her daughter Frederica off her hands and carrying on her affair with a married man. Sadly for Lady Susan her sister-in-law soon starts to suspect that her first opinion of her was the true one and she works to disentangle her family from Lady Susan's copious affairs while also keeping her ill used daughter Frederica within the bosom of her true family. Will Lady Susan be found out or will she somehow slither her way free of scandal once more?

If you are someone who views Jane Austen's output as her canonical six books you are missing out. While yes, if you read this book you might forever be scarred because she was unable to finish Sanditon, once you get beyond this disappointment, made easier by the television adaptation, you will be delighted by the humor and wit of her unfinished works. These aren't polished, these aren't perfect, but that's what makes them genius. This is Jane Austen unfiltered. Her books are perfectly polished gems, these are the uncut rhinestones that will just delight you with their sheer absurdity. Here gentlemen of good fortune aren't in want of a wife, they are in want of animal traps to ensnare women who dare to come too close to their homes, as one does. And yes, I literally snorted out loud at that remark. And don't worry, the young lady's leg which was mangled ended up perfectly fine. I think. She might have fainted a time or twenty. And that was my impression over twenty-five years ago when I first read Austen's juvenalia and it still holds true. Women are passing out left and right, poisoning rivals, carrying on with married men, having husbands die in the most outrageous manner, and hating on Queen Elizabeth. Anything and everything was skewered by Austen and she took obvious delight in doing so. The novella Lady Susan is included in this collection and while many people sadly only know this story because of the subpar adaptation of it a few years back staring Kate Beckinsale confusingly called Love and Friendship, because Love and Friendship is an entirely different story, no one ever talks about how Lady Susan is a brilliant parody of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Seeing as at seventeen I had not read Les Liasons Dangerueses, though I was familiar enough with the story thanks to the Glenn Close/John Malkovich adaptation being omnipresent, I didn't get how Austen's writing style was aping Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. She was a beautiful mimic when she wanted to be, and she got right to the heart of everything I hate about that book and mercilessly poked fun at it. Seriously, if there's one thing rereading Austen's unfinished and early work all these years later has taught me is that I think she would have been the best and funniest friend a person could ask for.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Book Review 2022 #7 - Lauren Willig's The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig
Published by: NAL Trade
Publication Date: August 5th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 496 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Sally Fitzhugh spent all her time at Miss Climpson's Select Seminary for Young Ladies dreaming of the day when she would leave. Adventure was right outside the walls! Sometimes right inside the walls. Perhaps adventure is overrated. Sally is in her second season and she never thought the time would come when she would be bored with this life she dreamed of. Life was simpler surrounded by the four walls of Miss Climpson's. Life was wonderfully static. And her two best friends Lizzy and Agnes hadn't gone on a grand cross-county caper without her! And where was she? At another boring ball. As if things couldn't get worse the silly people of the ton are enraptured with Lizzy's step-mother's book, The Convent of Orsino, engulfing the little season in October in a vampire craze. The mania might have played itself out if not for the fact there is a member of the ton that perfectly embodies the vampiric ideal. He's moody, he's broody, he's been away for years, perhaps locked in a dungeon! He's an enigma to everyone, he's the Duke of Belliston. The newly returned Duke has been absent from England since the death of his parents years prior and all the rumors of anything supernatural comes to rest on his shoulders. He is the perfect vampire, or so everyone is saying. Everyone but Sally. She thinks it all too silly and is far more interested in the fact that Agnes and Lizzy are now out and perhaps they will enliven this dreary season. Only since their adventures after Sally left Miss Climpson's the trio is more a duo and Sally is feeling distinctly left out. At another interminable party abutting the regal home of the Duke of Belliston Sally dares to walk across the dormant gardens over to his house. Boredom and the assumption that she won't be caught make Sally rash and she strides straight into Lucien, the Duke himself. Events soon transpire to thrust these two together on a more daily basis... But is their relationship something the two of them might secretly hope for? Could Sally fall for a supposed vampire? Is there someone fueling the vampiric rumors? And, most importantly of all, was Lucien the adventure Sally was waiting for all along?

Lauren doesn't take herself too seriously and she is able to have fun with the historical genre while deftly skewering it at the same time with wordplay and modern nudges and winks. Here The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla vampire literature is lovingly lambasted. Just the idea that Miss Gwen, that bane of all young gentleman with her pointy parasol, would be the Stephenie Meyer of her day is a hoot. Miss Gwen not only has the ton in a virtual vampire frenzy, but she even has sparkly vampires, with Lauren creating parodies on so many levels, from what it is to be an author, to an author's fanbase, all the way to all the different vampire iterations over the centuries, that you can't help but fall for this book. This 19th century Twilight-Mania is far more entertaining than the actual Twilight-Mania was. Add to this the references to Monty Python's Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and to The Princess Bride, Lauren's willingness to take liberties will make you smile. This series just gets better with each installment. And all these years later I still hope that a miracle will happen and new stories will appear. Because Lauren just keeps developing as a writer and I will always long to know what happens next. She was able to avoid many of the pitfalls of long running series by having each book be some offshoot of the first volume. Main characters will reappear, but never in more than background rolls, while the previous background characters take center stage. I love Sally Fitzhugh taking center stage, and yes, that's because I have a great love for all the Fitzhughs. But beyond that Sally is such an interesting character (but let's not talk about the chickens) with an indomitable will for one so young. And of course Sally's book would have to deviate from the staple of Napoleonic spies and secret leagues, with a murder mystery and a random attack stoat. Vampires and stoats and spies oh my! Give me more Fitzhughs or give me death!

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