I picked up Suddenly You (2001) by Lisa Kleypas because I was still craving some romance after finishing Julie Anne Long’s I Kissed an Earl. It’s not that I disliked I Kissed an Earl, but I kept waiting for a comforting kind of intimacy that I never found. Apparently I have very specific needs for my romance. Thus, with my romance craving unfulfilled, I tried another one.
After reviewing, The Runaway Duke by Julie Anne Long, Mrs. Julien recommended that I move on to Long’s Pennyroyal Green Series. Dutifully following her expert opinion, I picked up I Kissed an Earl (2010)–one of the middle books of the series–I think. I chose this one primarily because it was immediately available on Kindle from my library.
Violet Redmond is beautiful, smart, spoiled, and bored. She is used to attention and getting whatever she wants. She is also very loyal and loving to her family. So when she discovers that her missing brother might actually be rampaging the seas as the notorious pirate Le Chat, she springs into action to find him and protect him.
Violet’s plan involves sneaking onto the ship of the man ordered by the king to capture Le Chat–the recently appointed Earl of Ardmay. With naivety and optimism, Violet believes she can find her brother and figure out what’s going on before the Earl–thereby saving her brother from a hangman’s noose. Although I found this rather unbelievable, it did get Violet and the Earl on the same ship with cross purposes, guaranteeing some strife and betrayal.
I had mixed feelings about this book, so it might be easiest if I split it up into likes and dislikes.
Read the details here.
Life After Life (2013) by Kate Atkinson is another book that I heard about through Cannonball. The reviews were positive enough to draw me in, although the premise reminded me of Groundhog Day and I worried how the book would work without becoming tedious. I shouldn’t have worried. The above quote isn’t an accurate depiction of what occurs, and I found a surprisingly thought-provoking and moving story instead.
Ursula Todd was born in a village in England in 1910. She immediately dies, choked by the umbilical cord. And she is born again. This continues throughout the book as different versions and variations of Ursula’s life are examined through her coming of age and two world wars.
I should know by now not to start reading any romance novels if I want to get anything done–especially good ones. I picked up The Runaway Duke (2004) by Julie Anne Long this morning and now it’s evening. I haven’t done anything useful all day, but I’m done with the novel. Sometimes I think I need days just for decompressing and stress relief. That’s what I tell myself anyway.
So, this is the second book I’ve read by Julie Anne Long and I think I like her combination of likable characters, adventure, danger, and mystery. Sometimes the coincidences bringing everything together were laughable, but since I was being entertained, I didn’t mind.
Even after seeing the trailer for Twelve Years A Slave, the movie, I wasn’t really thinking about reading the book. Slavery is so dark and so brutal that I figured even watching the movie would be hard. I wasn’t sure I wanted to delve into a detailed account of what appeared to be a bitter story. But then I saw a positive Cannonball review and figured I’d have to read it. So I picked up a brand-spankin’ new copy of, Twelve Years A Slave (1853) by Solomon Northup from my library.
It took me a little while to get used to the formal writing style. The beginning of the story is chock full of new names, characters, and places that I had trouble keeping straight. It was also in the beginning that I most felt the need for a historical commenter to put some of the events and customs into perspective. Although I’ve read a small bit about slavery in the South, I’m not very knowledgeable about living conditions and restrictions for free blacks in the North. I wondered if it was unusual that Solomon would leave for D.C. without leaving his wife a note. I also wondered how prevalent kidnapping like Solomon’s was in that time period–especially after Britain declared the slave trade illegal. Solomon certainly ran into a number of other kidnapped free men on his journey south.
But then I got into the story, and I became so involved with Solomon’s life that I couldn’t put it down. Solomon has a pretty varied view of slavery and how it affected him. Having endured both a kind man and a heartless asshole as “masters,” as well as work with sugar plantations, cotton plantations, carpentry, and playing the violin, Northup had a broad view of different aspects of slavery.
I found Calling Me Home (2013) by Julie Kibler from another Cannonball review. The review intrigued me, so when I saw the book just sitting there in the library, I had to grab it. I’ve often found that stories based on personal experiences and lives often feel more compelling and true than others. I think this is the case with Calling Me Home.
Author Julie Kibler heard a story about how her grandmother had fallen in love with a young black man when she was a teenager. I don’t know how closely Kibler followed her grandmother’s story in this book-or even how many details she learned about her grandmother’s old love, but she is the inspiration for this story.
I feel the need to apologize for what I’m about to write. Everyone seems to love Courtney Milan. I swear I’m not that picky but she just doesn’t do anything for me. I decided Milan wasn’t for me when I read Unclaimed a while ago, but everyone’s consistently positive reviews made me think I should give her another try. That and the vague promise of opera sex piqued my interest. So, I optimistically picked up Unraveled (2011).
Click here for the rest of my review.
I hadn’t heard of Chinua Achebe until his death in March. I’d seen Things Fall Apart in the bookstore but didn’t realize its significance until I read his obituary. Not only is it one of the most widely read books in African literature, it is considered “the archetypal modern African novel” and is a staple around the world.
The novel follows the life of Okonkwo, an Ibo leader in pre-Colonial Nigeria. Okonkwo is respected because of his strength and his reputation as a wrestler, but his life has been marred by anger. Okonkwo has “no patience with unsuccessful men.” He seems to be a strict follower of his village’s customs, but his extreme intolerance of inaction and what he sees as cowardice ultimately leads to his downfall.
The title of the book comes from a Yeats’ poem that says “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” In the novel several things fall apart – Okonkwo’s family, his village, Nigeria – due to fear, anger, tradition, British colonialism and Christian missionaries.
Toward the end of the book one of the white authorities says, “one of the most infuriating habits of these people was their love of superfluous words.” I found this interesting because there is nothing superfluous about the book. It’s a beautiful, sad, evocative story – part Greek tragedy, part cautionary tale, part historical fiction. I read the book, but I think it would be even more affecting to listen to the audio book, where you hear the correct pronunciations and intonations, but also because so much of this book relies on oral traditions of the Igbo people on whom this was based.
I bought my copy of Things Fall Apart at my local used bookstore. Inside was an inscription from Mrs. Bernstein to Marc. “This is a book I read in college, and I still consider it one of the greatest books I have ever read. That is why I wanted you to have a copy. You may be a little too young for it now but one day, when you have nothing to do in Texas, maybe you’ll pick it up.”
I hope Marc took Mrs. Bernstein’s advice and read the book.
If I were more charitable, I’d say that I didn’t like Unclaimed (2011) by Courtney Milan because I’ve been reading too many romance novels lately and they’re just getting old. But I think it’s more than that. I was bored by the unbelievable characters and story and I just couldn’t get into this one. Someone, somewhere mentioned Milan as a favorite, which is why I picked up Unclaimed, but her writing definitely does not work for me.
Read the rest of my review here.
And just to make it clear what you’d be getting yourself into, here’s the cover art.
The irrepressible Flavia de Luce is back for a 4th go at some amateur sleuthing. When a world famous film star is murdered while filming in the de Luce mansion, Flavia is like a dog with two tails. Is it any good though? Find out here