Archive | August, 2015

Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes: Life After Motherhood

21 Aug

A 40+ year old professor who has a daughter from an early sexual encounter discovers that she can be both a mom and a lover – with a man ten years younger. Ally is an interesting character and the story is told in flashbacks to her first romantic weekend with a younger man – a student in her classes – and then when the same man re-enters her life, as a famous actor who is working with Ally’s daughter. The characters are robust and different, with fully fleshed out supporting characters. The daughter is feisty and the relationship between mother & daughter felt very real.
A little bit of a fantasy in that Ally has not had many sexual relationships so stumbling into this relationship with a most considerate and loving, rich, gorgeous actor with “a perfect penis” (yes, that is how he is described) feels a little unreal. Kind of Princess Diary for middle-aged women, but the journey was fun, and I enjoyed the personalities of the characters.


The Brigadier’s Runaway Bride: Lackluster Regency Novel

21 Aug

I did not enjoy this book primarily because NOTHING happens. Any drama happened before the book starts (the heroine goes off on her own to spend the night in Bruges with her soldier fiancee; he is injured and has to struggle to make his way back) but the only thing that drives the book forward is the internal, misguided debate that each one has over whether they should resume their intimate relationship. She feels like she can’t until her post twin pregnancy body is back in shape, and he doesn’t because…I’m not sure why. A couple of sex scenes and then we’re done. The whole book – not one single plot point, not one real obstacle, just lots of hand-wringing fretting. Ugh. I found myself just quickly flipping thru pages, checking to see if there was any action or, in fact, any real dialogue. Nope. The title is totally mis-leading – she didn’t run away. In fact, I don’t even know how she got back to England from her one night tryst. Maybe the other books in the series have more action and I would read one more – but if it’s like this with no plot and no development and characters I couldn’t care about, then I’m done.

Dick Van Dyke’s Tips for Old Age: Keep Moving!

18 Aug

Who doesn’t want to learn the secrets to a happy life from the indomitable (and 89 year old) Dick Van Dyke!
This refreshing memoir shares his enthusiasm for life, for not getting hung up (he didn’t know how to dance – he did it anyway!) and for keeping moving!
I enjoyed his anecdotes and his wisdom – this would make a perfect holiday gift for anyone, especially those who are on the other side of 60 with fond memories of his TV show and his movies.
Thumbs up!

keep moving

Move over, Amelia Peabody! Veronica Speedwell is Latest Victorian Eccentric Heroine

18 Aug

Deanna Raybourn, author of the Lady Julia series, launches a new series with A Curious Beginning. Featuring a strong-willed Veronica Speedwell who goes on adventures hunting butterflies as a lepidopterist, and engaging in liaisons with attractive foreign men, who discovers people are out to kill her. She meets up with the mysterious Stoker, runs away to a traveling circus, confronts Scotland Yard and learns who her father is.
The two main characters are crisp and feisty, with witty and frank dialogue, and supporting characters are robust as well. The Victorian setting is nicely fleshed out.
A fun historical murder mystery with hints of romance.
Looking forward to reading the rest in the series as they come out!


All the Light We Cannot See: Astonishingly Beautiful WWII Novel

14 Aug

Astonishing. Lyrical. Riveting. Moving. This book is a gift of discovery. Masterfully written. Elegantly constructed.
On the surface, a story about two young people during WWII – a blind French girl and a German soldier. But so much more than that. We see the connectedness of everything. We see the world. The author brings everything together – I wanted to devour the book and I wanted to savor it. I highlighted incredible passages, I lingered over language. I was stunned by how it was woven together.
“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”
The book starts slowly – as the French town of St. Malo is about to be bombed by the Allies – and moves back and forward in time, between Marie-Laure’s life, and Werner’s. The world is richly detailed and characters are given dimension and life.
So many beautiful elements, so intricately and seamlessly constructed.
Like Marie-Laure re-reading her beloved 20,000 Leagues Below the Sea, I want to read this over & over.
Tour de force.

The Life of Legendary Chinese Courtesan Sai Jinhua Reimagined in The Courtesan

14 Aug

Sai Jinhua, a courtesan in the late Qing Dynasty, who lived through the Boxer Rebellion, and traveled in Europe with her diplomat husband – famous in Asia and now brought to life in a new novel by Alexandra Curry.
Sold to a brothel at the age of seven, when her mandarin father is executed by the Emperor, we experience her terror and resolute determination to survive.
I didn’t realize how large a historical character Jinhua is in China while I was reading, so some of the impact of re-imagining her as a warm and courageous woman, making the best out of the circumstances of her life, was lost on me.
Beautifully written, with a detailed sense of time and place, I appreciated The Courtesan for bringing to life a part of history that was previously unknown to me. I enjoyed reading it, notwithstanding the many traumatic events – the footbinding!! – sex slave at the age of 12!! – and was motivated to learn more about her and that time in history.

Magical Creatures and Regency Manners: Sorcerer to the Crown

14 Aug

Lovely combination of a magical culture set within Regency England. From stuffy men’s clubs to Malaysian vampires, racism (the two protagonists are people of color), sexism (upper class women are too delicate to handle magic – not!) and politics, this was a fun mash-up of Regency manners with magic. Much like a steam punk world, magic is simply part of the infrastructure, with Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers Society charged with keeping England’s magic flowing. Zacharias, a freed slave, finds unexpected help from Prunella Gentleman, a teacher at a school for girls, with boundless ambition to use her magic.
Some reviewers mention struggling initially with the Regency tone & language – versed as I am in that medium 😉 I did not.
The book is titled #1 so one would assume there will be additional titles in the series. I look forward to reading them!