Category Archives: 2011 Reviews

Review: The Man in the Moon: The Guardians of Childhood (Book One) by William Joyce

Illustrated by: William Joyce
$12.99 56 pages, Ages: 4 – 8
Legends/Folklore
September 6, 2011
The Man in the Moon:

Up there in the sky.

Don’t you see him?
No, not the moon.

The Man in the Moon.

He wasn’t always a man.
Nor was he always on the moon.
He was once a child.
Like you.


Until a battle,
a shooting star,
and a lost balloon
sent him on a quest.


Meet the very first guardian of childhood. MiM, the Man in the Moon.
When the heroes of childhood
band together, anything is possible.
Get ready for an adventure of epic proportions. 

 
When I first heard about this book, I was so impressed with the website and its imagery, and I knew I had to have it for my four year old and nine year old. I was so excited to see it in real life because it is truly beautiful! We spent two nights reading it because it is not your average children’s book, and it is 56 pages long. It is not written like a toddler’s picture book, though it would be a very beautiful one if they scaled down the writing. As it is, The Man in the Moon is an enchanting story about a little boy in the moon we call MiM, and his gallant friend Nightlight who saves him from the evil darkness..
 




See evil darkness, Pitch, on the right? (click to enlarge)

   
My toddler loved the story of the Nightlight, and my eldest enjoyed hearing a new story about a man in the moon which she never could really say she knew anything about in the first place. There were Lunar moths, and the Moon Clipper ship, helpful moon mice, visions of Earth far away.. I can’t wait to see the Dreamworks movie Rise of the Guardians in the fall of 2012, which are based on books and artwork of William Joyce. I especially want to see the return of Nightlight, who was my toddler’s favorite. My daughter really wanted to know more about MiM and the balloons he collected from the children from the earth.
 
This is going to be quite a series, as it tries to widen its net of potential readers (and viewers) with six chapter books and seven picture books. Evil darkness Pitch is said to be included in more of the books as well, as the author tries to help young readers conquer fears of the dark. The next book will be the chapter book in October, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, which features our favorite Santa Claus.
 
Keep your eyes open for these, folks! I am collecting all the books for my kiddos, as it will be something they will both enjoy for years to come. I love how there will be both picture books and chapter books to satisfy readers of all kids’ ages. This has been an endeavour twenty years in the making for the author and artist, and it is nice to see how dreams can come true even for us older folks. Find out more information here: http://guardiansofchildhoodbooks.com/

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Children's

Review: Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen
Hardcover, 448 pages
Putnam Adult, August 4, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157097
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

From the author of The Creation of Eve comes a tale of love and madness, royal intrigue and marital betrayal, set during the Golden Age of Spain.
Juana of Castile, third child of the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Fernando, grows up with no hope of inheriting her parents’ crowns, but as a princess knows her duty: to further her family’s ambitions through marriage. Yet stories of courtly love, and of her parents’ own legendary romance, surround her. When she weds the Duke of Burgundy, a young man so beautiful that he is known as Philippe the Handsome, she dares to hope that she might have both love and crowns. He is caring, charming, and attracted to her-seemingly a perfect husband.
But what begins like a fairy tale ends quite differently.
When Queen Isabel dies, the crowns of Spain unexpectedly pass down to Juana, leaving her husband and her father hungering for the throne. Rumors fly that the young Queen has gone mad, driven insane by possessiveness. Who is to be believed? The King, beloved by his subjects? Or the Queen, unseen and unknown by her people?
One of the greatest cautionary tales in Spanish history comes to life as Lynn Cullen explores the controversial reign of Juana of Castile-also known as Juana the Mad. Sweeping, page-turning, and wholly entertaining, Reign of Madness is historical fiction at its richly satisfying best.

Many historical fiction fans have been introduced to Juana of Castile by reading The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner (Ballantine, 2009) and now there is another novel of this often misunderstood queen. Sister to Catherine of Aragon and daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Juana came from a famous royal family and some would assume “good stock.” Yet, she is know as Juana the Mad. The traits of insanity have been linked to her, her brother, and Isabella’s mother, but how much of this is true? We may never really know, but we’ll have fun trying to find out!

Lynn Cullen delves into Juana’s life with this piece of fiction that is testament to the consuming power of greed of those who surround Juana. Christopher Colon (aka Columbus) was one of them, her husband was another and even Juana’s parents were. The titles that landed at Juana’s doorstep were unwanted and unexpected, and they eventually made her a prisoner in her own lands.

The author offers Juana’s story of most of her life, and embellishes a little here and there to make it different than that of C.W. Gortner’s recent novel. The two are similar in that they are both told in first person, and as such both are sympathetic towards Juana. The players around her change a little, which created a different contexts between the books, therefore I was not having too strong of a sense of deja vu. I enjoyed Lynn Cullen’s portrayal of Juana, and of the events that saw her imprisoned for reasons beyond her control. Juana’s husband Philippe was the one you would love to hate, and I would’ve enjoyed a little bit more story into what life was like after Philippe died. Her father Fernando seemed to be the villain at the end but it seemed to end a bit abruptly.

Poor Juana was the phrase going through my head for much of this read, and I wish there were something triumphant and hopeful that we could have gotten out of the read. Yet, more to the point, Juana lived her later life ruling as queen by name only, and perhaps there really was nothing to be hopeful for. One thing that troubles me has nothing to do with the book, but the fact that Phillippe was supposedly so handsome he was known as Philip the Handsome. I just don’t see it.

If you are interested in reading more of Ferdinand and Isabella, Christopher Colon, or Juana of Castile, this quick reading novel will not disappoint, although how much is true or not we would never know. As fiction, this novel was fast-paced and intrigued me enough to want to know more about Juana and her family. I was especially tickled to see Margaret of York, Dowager Duchess, featured as the evil grandmother of Philip and yet another power hungry player. Reign of Madness was a myriad of page-turning worry and suspense for Juana as this reader wished for Juana to fly out of her coop once and for all, and into the arms of the one who truly loved her…

Read an excerpt here.

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Filed under 15th Century, 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Isabella of Castile, Juana of Castile, Spain

Review: The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer
Paperback, 368 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca Reissue May/June 2011, originally published 1951
ISBN: 9781402238833
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Faboulous Heyer Fun!

Returning to his family seat from Waterloo, Gervase Frant, seventh Earl of St Erth, could have expected more enthusiasm for his homecoming. His quiet cousin, stepmother, and young half-brother seem openly disappointed that he survived the wars. And when he begins to fall for his half-brother’s sweetheart, his chilly reception goes from unfriendly to positively murderous.
One of Heyer’s most suspenseful Regency romances, The Quiet Gentleman combines an ingenious mystery plot with her signature witty style and effervescently engaging characters.


Although most of Heyer’s romances seem to follow a formula of witty heroine vs the world who doesn’t realize the direct path to everlasting love, The Quiet Gentleman sets itself apart. Focusing on Gervase Frant, the Seventh Earl of St Erth, the novel strays from the female point of view and even adds a bit of gothic and mysterious tones. Our hero, Gervase, returns to his (estranged) deceased father’s estate after serving in the army to claim his inheritance, much to the dismay of his half-brother and stepmother who didn’t actually think he’d survive Waterloo. Gervase is of the character where he could shrug off their dislike of him, but things get dicey when strange happenings occur that put Gervase in harm’s way. Could his half-brother Martin really detest him so much as to wish that Gervase were dead? Is the step-mother the epitome of the evil witch? Or, is the house really haunted?

The romance comes in when Gervase meets Martin’s love interest, Marianne, who is a beautiful and cheerful young lady with many admirers. Martin is quite protective of his invisible tie to her, and Gervase is a bit more dashing than Martin and an immediate rivalry occurs. Luckily, Gervase’s cousin Theo is on Gervase’s side and acts as a bit of a buffer between the brothers and is a trusted confidante of Gervase. And when Gervase’s friend Lord Ulverston comes to stay, Martin earns another foe. Thrown into the mix was Miss Drusilla Morville, neutral friend and loyal companion to all (who could always be counted on to do the Dowager’s tedious tasks).

It has been my previous experience with Heyer that her novels take a bit to get used to its jargon of Regency speak and a myriad of characters who normally take a bit of time to comprehend. With The Quiet Gentleman, there was not an immediate onslaught of unfamiliar names and we are taken right to the action after the opening description of the magnificent homestead of Stanyon, which is somewhat of a medieval fortress turned castle turned grand estate, which in itself becomes a bit of a character in the story.

I enjoy Heyer’s writing because of the way she writes with class, and I love knowing that I will be entertained just because of a silly situation or a witty remark. I am not expecting a thrill-ride or something so extraordinary to knock my socks off; I simply appreciate the story and the setting. Heyer had such a clever mind and writing style, and she did it very well.  Heyer is similar to Austen and I often feel that Heyer is overshadowed by Austen, even though Heyer was so much more prolific. I have read ten Heyer’s and one full Austen now, and I have not been disappointed with Heyer’s romances and mysteries yet. I think I enjoyed this one most of all because of its slightly different formula. It is put in her romance genre, yet I enjoyed the mystery of it most of all. And the fact that it didn’t focus on a woman and instead followed the gentleman (and then the women in his life) was a nice change of pace for me. For real Heyer and Austen fans, this one should not disappoint in the least.

Read an excerpt here. In honor of Georgette Heyer’s 109th birthday, Sourcebooks is temporarily offering ALL 46 of Heyer’s titles in e-book format at $1.99 each:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MS. HEYER!
eBooks Available for $1.99
Sale prices are only good August 15-August 21, 2011
Heyer’s Birthday: August 16, 2011

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Georgette Heyer, Regency

Review: Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer
Paperback, 368 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca reissue June 2011, originally published 1955
ISBN: 9781402238796
Review copy provided by the publisher, with many thanks!
Burton Book Review Rating:

A Delightful Tangle of Affairs…
The Earl of Spenborough had always been noted for his eccentricity. Leaving a widow younger than his own daughter Serena was one thing, but leaving his fortune to the trusteeship of the Marquis of Rotherham – the one man the same daughter had jilted – was quite another.
When Serena and her lovely young stepmother Fanny decide to move to Bath, Serena makes an odd new friend and discovers an old love. Before long, they’re all entangled in a clutter of marriage and manners the likes of which even Regency Bath has rarely seen.

Bath Tangle is another one of Georgette Heyer’s witty romances, and this one really had me laughing towards the end. Lady Serena is a willful young woman, destined to be a spinster, who now lives with her younger mother-in-law who has no idea how to reign in Serena’s wild ways. Lord Rotherham has been named as a guardian of her inheritance, which really should not be of a huge concern except that he must also approve of whom Serena chooses to marry. This could become tangled due to the fact that there is some prior history between Lady Serena and Lord Rotherham where Serena backed out of their marriage negotiations at the last moment.

Serena is a wonderful character to read of, and she was the exact opposite of the ladylike of her sweet-natured mother-in-law, Fanny. After Serena’s father’s death, we wondered what exactly would happen to Serena, and how the arrangement between her and Rotherham would wreak havoc. Lo and behold, Serena becomes reacquainted with a previous suitor and they contrive to hide their relationship until the proper mourning period has passed. All this seems simple and straightforward, yet as only Georgette Heyer can divulge, Regency hijinks galore follows Serena everywhere she goes. Rotherham is left to wonder at her, as he obligingly lets her live her wild life, but poor Fanny is all in a flutter and Serena’ betrothed doesn’t know whether to be besotted or scornful.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the reader knows that Lady Serena is making another mistake by betrothing herself to Major Hector Kirkby. And there are more love tangles in Bath as Rotherham is engaged to a young lass who has no idea what she is getting herself into besides the idea of a coronet. As always, Bath Tangle contains a lot of witty remarks and colorful Regency dialogue with a bit of action at the end, making for a typical Georgette Heyer romance that demonstrates her clever prose with ease. For readers who are new to Heyer, they may not appreciate the prose at first, especially as this one started off hard to follow with many characters. It turns out that the story ended up following along with just a few of these initial characters and thus became easier to follow after a few more chapters. Moreover, it was a bit slow to reach any feverish pitch, so Bath Tangle would be best suited  for those already with an admiration for Georgette Heyer. This was my eighth Heyer novel, and I am still ready for more of Heyer’s classy writing and charming Regency situations. I have enjoyed both her romances and her mysteries, and if you have enjoyed Jane Austen, you really need to discover Georgette Heyer as well.

I am amassing a collection of Heyer novels, and I am tracking my reading progress with them at Burton Book Review. The green navigation button at the top of this page titled “Heyer” also leads to this page.
Read an excerpt of Bath Tangle here and one from later in the book can be found here.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Georgette Heyer, Regency

{Giveaway!} Review: No Rest for The Dead: A Novel by 26 Writers

“I enjoy puzzles. Trying to write a chapter in this novel without really knowing what had already happened and what would happen later was certainly like a puzzle. I decided to be a little perverse. I asked myself what would happen if my chapter turned everything around?” —R.L. Stine
“It’s said that organizing writers is like herding cats, and one fears for the man or woman who tries. I wrote my chapter and, as a novelist is advised to do in Hollywood, threw the manuscript over the e-fence and ran in the opposite direction. Imagine my delight – the inimitable Andrew Gulli has not only brought together a world atlas of writers but in the process has created a world-class mystery. It’s been a pleasure. And the rest of us didn’t even have to break a sweat.” —Gayle Lynds
“I think for me the most exciting part of being involved in this project was to be in the company of so many fine writers–not only because I’ve admired their work for years but because it gave me an insight into the different techniques they employed and their approach to the craft of writing fiction. Normally I’m not an author who “plays well with others,” but it was exhilarating to be part of a team working together in such harmony, all for the benefit of our readers.” —Jeffery Deaver

No Rest for The Dead: A Novel by 26 Writers
Hardcover, 272 pages
Touchstone (July 5, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1451607376
Editor’s proceeds to benefit Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Stars

When Christopher Thomas, a ruthless curator at San Francisco’s McFall Art Museum, is murdered and his decaying body is found in an iron maiden in a Berlin museum, his wife, Rosemary, is the primary suspect, and she is tried, convicted and executed. Ten years later, Jon Nunn, the detective who cracked the case, is convinced that the wrong person was put to death. In the years since the case was closed, he’s discovered a web of deceit and betrayal surrounding the Thomases that could implicate any number of people in the crime. With the help of the dead woman’s friend, he plans to gather everyone who was there the night Christopher died and finally uncover the truth, suspect by suspect. Solving this case may be Nunn’s last chance for redemption … but the shadowy forces behind Christopher’s death will stop at nothing to silence the past forever.

In this innovative storytelling approach, each of these twenty-five bestselling writers brings their distinctive voice to a chapter of the narrative, building the tension to a shocking, explosive finale. No Rest for the Dead is a thrilling, page-turning accomplishment that only America’s very best authors could achieve.

Written by some of the mystery genre’s most noted writers, No Rest for The Dead is a clever collaboration that is intriguing, engrossing and suspenseful. The concept of the many authors was the first thing that hooked me, but the storyline that followed was a feat in itself. I am rarely stumped during formulaic mystery novels, but this one kept me guessing.

The story begins as Rosemary is executed, and then we go back in time to see how we get to that point. We figure out early on that Rosemary was framed for murdering her husband, but with the large cast of characters we could never really figure out who was who. This presented a minor drawback, as the character pool was so large I started to get confused, but that also kept the suspect pool large and therefore my curiosity remained peaked.

With the many different authors we are also presented with many different angles, some first person and some third person, of several of the characters. There was the detective who became washed out has been because of Rosemary’s case, and several of the museum employees where the victim, Christopher Thomas had worked. Family members and art aficionados complete the cast and we are in for a ride as we are presented with one plot twist after the other.

As for the writing, you always felt the transition between the authors as each writer flowed to the next, and some chapters were better than others. There were some that I didn’t like the feel of the writing, but I knew soon enough that I would be rewarded with a new chapter and a new writer. For mystery lovers, this is a win-win: twenty-six authors all packed into one entertaining novel. Plus, the editorial team is donating their portion of the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is another win-win.

Authors include Sandra Brown, Jeffrey Deaver, Diana Gabaldon, Michael Palmer, R.L. Stine and Alexander McCall Smith. Watch the video embedded above for a fun look at them.

And for an extra special treat, there are two copies of this book up for grabs! Leave a comment here telling me your email address, and you are entered! Offer open to USA only and ends 8/16/11.

And a note to my regular readers, I will now resume regular programming with historical fiction very soon..

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Mystery

{GIVEAWAY!} Review: Incognito by Gregory Murphy

Please see the end of the review for details on how to enter for book Giveaway of Incognito!

Incognito by Gregory Murphy
Paperback, 320 pages
Berkley Trade July 5, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0425241035
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four NY Shiney Stars!

An elegant literary mystery set during the Gilded Age.
 New York City, 1911. Representing the widow of a Wall Street financier, lawyer William Dysart travels to a small Long Island town with a generous offer for Miss Sybil Curtis’s cottage and five acres of land. But when Sybil refuses to sell, the widow threatens to use her influence with the state to seize the property.
Intrigued by Sybil’s defiance and afflicted by a growing affection for her, William develops a desire to help her that becomes an obsession he cannot define, one that tears away the facade of his life, and presents him with truths he’s unprepared to face.

When I first saw this novel’s blurb I was immediately intrigued by “Gilded Age” and “Long Island”. Long Island is where I spent twenty years of my former self, and it would be exciting to be able to capture a bit of those memories and glitter it with the Gilded Age. Incognito is a quick summer read, with a bit of suspense, mystery and love all tangled up into a historical fiction novel. The dapper William Dysart finds himself in a horribly unromantic marriage but he seemingly has everything else while working as an attorney for a successful firm. In reality, he is still struggling to decipher his family’s past and the death of his mother from years ago. His father offers no answers and his wife offers no love. William becomes involved in a court battle between a high society matron and a small town girl of Long Island, and William finds himself drawn to the simplicity of this country life and the young woman, Sybil Curtis.

Along with William’s own secrets, there are quite a few to unravel to get to the heart of the issue between Sybil and the powerful Lydia Billings. Sybil has her own family mystery and is hiding a torturous secret while for some reason Lydia is willing to stop at nothing to destroy Sybil. William crosses the boundaries of professional versus personal as he becomes more and more attracted to Sybil, despite the fact that he is married to Arabella, the most beautiful woman in the city. It is quite obvious Arabella’s beauty is only skin deep, and prefers fashion, frivolity and balls as opposed to her husband.

Best quote from the book that sums up William’s thoughts on society:
“An impressive stage, he thought, on which to act out yet another of life’s foolish pageants sanctified by tradition and contrived to give meaning to the meaningless.”
While we immediately dislike Arabella, we are that much more impressed with William. Stumbling through the shadows of the past, William forces himself into the middle of the battle of property which turns into something so much more than he can handle. With threats of scandal and destroyed reputations, the novel pulled me into its clever web of deceit and treachery and I didn’t stop until I reached the last page. With a mix of elegance and evil our beloved New Yorkers were portrayed along with power, prestige and the contradictions of supposed blessings of the rich. I loved the exquisite blend of themes, with the many New York attitudes and the magnificent backdrop of Long Island, the city and all the quirks of high society as it were, once upon a time. Incognito is perfect for those looking for an absorbing novel that has much to offer within its small package, and is a fantastic debut for Gregory Murphy, who I can happily report is working on his second novel.

The publisher is offering one lucky follower of Burton Book Review their own copy of Incognito!
To enter, please comment on this review with your email address so that I may contact the winner..
This giveaway open to followers in USA and Canada, and ends on 8/12/11.

For extra +1 entries, facebook this post, tweet it, or blog it! Be sure to leave me those links. Thanks!

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Mystery, New York

Review: The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott
Reagan Arthur Books, Little, Brown
July 7, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0316097796
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:3.5

The End of Everything is one of those quick reads that you just can’t put down. Even though the subject matter is creepy-crawly with themes of bad deeds of evil doers.. it certainly held my attention. This is the story of two tween girls who have been best friends and neighbors for as long as they can remember, and were always like two peas in a pod. Lizzie and Evie shared their clothes, their lives, their thoughts with each other until that one untangible thing came along that Lizzie knew that Evie was hiding from her.

And then the unthinkable happens: Evie disappears pretty much into thin air and Lizzie is the last person to see her alive. Lizzie is bombarded with all the emotions at once, and still she knows that somehow Evie is out there, alive. Told in first person, we go through all of Lizzie’s thoughts and suspicions as we follow Lizzie’s life during those horrific weeks that Evie is gone. She spends time with Evie’s grief stricken father, and even while Evie is gone she feels something a bit more for this Mr. Verver, which is creepy in itself. And then Evie’s older sister Dusty is there, watching on the outside, making Lizzie and us readers feel that Dusty knows something, and we can’t quite put our finger on it.

Lizzie at first helps the police, but then fabricates stories to the police as an effort to steer people in the direction of insurance agent Mr. Shaw, based on her hunch. Mr. Shaw’s family is then turned inside out, as the police take any leads they can get. But as a reader we begin to question, is it really Mr. Shaw? Is all this for nothing? Did Evie jump in the lake? Did someone else take her? All these questions along with that gut-wrenching fear grip you as you read this book, and given its horrific subject matter of a young girl gone missing and what could happen to her as she is abducted, this is a story that is well-told. It was full of suspense and with its own weird twists that kept me guessing – making me think I should look up the author Megan Abbott’s previous works.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews

Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Viking Adult, July 26 2011
ISBN13: 978-0670022694
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Na Yorkah stars

A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with an uncommon sense of purpose.



Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.


The story opens on New Year’s Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss.

Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression, readers will quickly fall under its spell of crisp writing, sparkling atmosphere and breathtaking revelations, as Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.

Every now and then you read a book that grabs you from page one and you can’t set it down. For this one, the first few pages were a bit iffy with me attempting to get settled into the upcoming story because the dialogue was just weird and couldn’t pinpoint who was what or who and why I was there. An evil fleeting thought even passed through urging me to set it down and move on. That cover was just mesmerizing enough to pull me in.

And like a little Energizer bunny I kept going and going and going and going and going… I felt like I had become a New Yorker all over again within these pages.. I neglected to cook dinner for the kids and opted to read instead.. I managed to take a shower.. and then I kept going and going. I finished the book at midnight fully knowing that I had to wake up for work in six hours. At 352 easy pages, I was completely immersed in the characters, and the story. Why was it so tantalizing? I can’t really put my finger on it. It was atmospheric with characters that were over the top, being lovable and hate-able all at once.

These characters were a mixture of stereotypical New Yorkers, but it was set back in the quaint year of 1938. It was a humdinger of a year for the main character, Katey, as she and her best friend Evie meet up with the dashing Theodore “Tinker” Grey and toast the town. A grand time was had by the trio until the unthinkable happens one rainy night. Everything changes for the new friends and it wasn’t all good.

The storyline focuses on Katey, Evie, and Tinker but includes a host of circles of friends who flit in and out of Katey’s life. Most of all, there was New York. I couldn’t help but to imagine my great-grandfather and the extended family living out the lives that the book exhibited in that long ago era. The narrative was descriptive in a methodically engrossing sort of way and I simply couldn’t tear myself away from it. There were several levels of the social classes at work in the story, but predominantly it was a bit more of a slice of life of the well-to-do at high society clubs like 21, Bentley autos and fancy shmancy hotel rooms. And there was Katey, watching it all, invited in, but not exactly a part of that world as she is a straight-laced hard working girl who keeps perfect time. She is in love with Tinker although we don’t really know for sure if she knows it, and she dates others and we wonder if she’ll ever see the light. But then we wonder who really is this Tinker fellow anyway.

I would be remiss if I did not mention a major pet peeve, though. The form of the novel is a bit odd, with the prologue and epilogue thing in a novel and zero quotation marks. Zero. Major complete total annoyance about the lack of the tried and true proper written format. Which is why this is not a 5 star for me. Please use proper punctuation in a book. I get it that you’re totally cool and innovative in your non-conformist ways as a debut author, but get over it. So, with the title of the book mentioning “rules” (*I used quotation marks purposely), I wonder if there is a hidden meaning here. Whatever it was I missed it. Otherwise, Tinker used George Washington’s little handbook of Rules of Civility to help fit in with high society, yet with all these polite mannerisms he lacked the sincerity of it all as it didn’t run core deep.

Despite the lack of quotation marks, Rules of Civility is purely fantastic stuff. Loved this story and if you are/were a New Yorker, or even maybe want to be, this novel really shines just for that 1930’s New Yorker feel it embraces. Think F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, etc. And it was kind of a shame I didn’t make this one drag out a smidgen longer so that I could tote that quaint cover around a bit longer.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, New York

Review: Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders by Gyles Brandreth

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders by Gyles Brandreth
Touchstone, May 2011
Trade Paperback, 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9781439153680
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Great fun! Four stars!

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders opens in 1890, at a glamorous party hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Albemarle. All of London’s high society — including the Prince of Wales — are in attendance at what promises to be the event of the season. Yet Oscar Wilde is more interested in another party guest, Rex LaSalle, a young actor who claims to be a vampire.

But the entertaining evening ends in tragedy when the duchess is found murdered — with two tiny puncture marks on her throat. Desperate to avoid scandal and panic, the Prince asks Oscar and his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to investigate the crime. What they discover threatens to destroy the very heart of the royal family. Told through diary entries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, and letters, Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders is a richly atmospheric mystery that is sure to captivate and entertain.

I love me some history with mystery and vice versa. Vampires, no, not so much. But last year I read Dracula in Love by Karen Essex and really loved it. The theme of medical experimentation is in both of these books, horrific as the thought is. I knew this Oscar Wilde series by Gyles Brandreth already had accumulated a following due to the prior mysteries, so I wanted to give this fourth one a try. Oscar Wilde was truly an amazing man, and I enjoyed how his character was so efficiently infused in this mystery. The absolute main draw of this mystery was the wittiness of Oscar and his never ending amount of one liners.

Apparently different from the previous forms of the series, this installment utilizes many different narrators as told via notes, letters and diaries. The main characters are all distinguished gentlemen who behaved in similar fashions, so I had to sometimes go back and look at the heading of the particular note or letter to see who was speaking presently. The narrations were short and swiftly changing, hence the minor confusion at times. This would be the only negative about this book, as the story was full of these British guys partying like 1890’s rock stars and doing their little investigations of the murders along the way. There was indeed one of those guys who swore he was a vampire, and the murdered victims were adorned with vampire-like wounds, but that was pretty much the extent of the vampiristic tendencies except of course for the men discussing the habits of vampires. The first victim was a beautiful duchess named Helen, whom Oscar liked to quip “She is Helen, late of Troy, now of Grosvenor Square.” The sleuths had to decipher whether there was a big cover-up going on because “the prince detests scandal” or was the prince never really involved at all.

Along with Oscar Wilde, other famous notables we have would be his close friend, Bram Stoker, aspiring vampire author, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the slowly becoming famous author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Among the suspect pool we have doctors, Princes, and of course, the vampire friend Rex LaSalle whom Oscar was infatuated with. And then of course there was the magnificent character of Victorian England herself, where the author did a magnificent job of setting the scene and reimagining the cobbled streets of the era. I especially enjoyed the High Tea scenes, where it boasted a feast that excluded only tea. One of the suspects, the Prince of Wales, is the same prince who became Edward VII in 1901, and it was his order that none of this vampire murder business be published while he was alive, which is why we have this splendid story at our disposal now (wink, wink).

And as far as the mystery goes, I had a feeling regarding the whodunit part, but the why part was intriguing as well. The novel was definitely the “rattling good yarn” the author wanted to give us, and I will definitely keep an eye out for his other Oscar Wilde history mysteries since I enjoyed this one so much.

Some witty Oscar Wilde lines in the novel:
The man who thinks about his past has no future.”
It is, of course, the the second editions of my books that are the true rarities.”
The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.”

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Mystery, Victorian

Review: Madame Bovary’s Daughter by Linda Urbach

(To enter the giveaway for this novel which ends 7/16/11 visit Burton Book Review here.)

Madame Bovary’s Daughter by Linda Urbach
Bantam Paperback, 512 pages
ISBN 13: 978-0385343879
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:4.5 stars!

 

Picking up after the shattering end of Gustave Flaubert’s classic, Madame Bovary, this beguiling novel imagines an answer to the question Whatever happened to Emma Bovary’s orphaned daughter?

One year after her mother’s suicide and just one day after her father’s brokenhearted demise, twelve-year-old Berthe Bovary is sent to live on her grandmother’s impoverished farm. Amid the beauty of the French countryside, Berthe models for the painter Jean-François Millet, but fate has more in store for her than a quiet life of simple pleasures. Berthe’s determination to rise above her mother’s scandalous past will take her from the dangerous cotton mills of Lille to a convent in Rouen to the wealth and glamour of nineteenth-century Paris. There, as an apprentice to famed fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth, Berthe is ushered into the high society of which she once only dreamed. But even as the praise for her couture gowns steadily rises, she still yearns for the one thing her mother never had: the love of someone she loves in return.


Brilliantly integrating one of classic literature’s fictional creations with real historical figures, Madame Bovary’s Daughter is an uncommon coming-of-age tale, a splendid excursion through the rags and the riches of French fashion, and a sweeping novel of poverty and wealth, passion and revenge.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert caused quite a stir over a hundred years ago in Paris, as it gave us the uninhibited housewife’s struggle to always want more than what she was given. Madame Bovary caused a scandal with her adultery, and died a young woman. Shortly after, her doting husband followed her to the grand mausoleum. This left their daughter, Berthe, a penniless orphan. And this is where author Linda Urbach picks up the story as she brings us the tale of Berthe’s life in Madame Bovary’s Daughter.
With great attention to period detail, the author recreated Berthe’s world in France as she struggled to find her place in the world. Berthe is young, but intelligent, and yet the author had the young girl making decisions as a young girl would, even though I wished Berthe would wise up at times. Those times were very hard for her, and she just wanted a normal, decent life for herself. That was not in the cards, though, as her grandmother reduced her to a slave and later Berthe toiled in a textile mill.
Berthe’s only female friend was a thief, but Berthe managed to maintain a friendly relationship with a painter. He introduced to the world of art, and this opened up her creativity. She later found herself suggesting fabrics and designs to friends of her employer, and managed to work her way up slowly in society. How she got there was a struggle that was at times difficult to bear, as she underwent much hardship since her story began. But throughout her story, we witness Berthe becoming a young woman, never quite losing her girlish impetuousness, but finally managing to make wise decisions.

Madame Bovary’s Daughter is not a quick light-hearted read, as it can be depressing and disheartening And even though my psyche railed against the poor decisions of Berthe, I always wanted to keep reading and see how she would get out of her current predicament. As a pretty young girl, Berthe attracted the attentions of many (female and male), thus there were several sexual situations and they could get graphic. These scenes add to the authenticity of the plight of Berthe as she attempts to make her life better than her own mother’s was. At 500 pages, this novel took me 3 days to read, which means I found it very hard to put down. A very intriguing story, and Gustave Flaubert would be proud to have Berthe’s voice finally on paper, as well as an additional understanding of Gustave’s original characters.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Victorian