Friday, December 9, 2016

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue
Cath Crowley
projected publication date: June 2017
5/5 stars

Rachel is in a deep depression after the death of her brother, and for a change of scene, moves back to her home town to live with her aunt.  While there, she reconnects with her former best friend, Henry, on whom she had a massive crush before she moved away.  Working with him in his family's second hand bookshop, she finds herself drawn to him again.

The bookshop has an unusual feature: the Letter Library.  These are permanent books for the purpose of highlighting favorite passages or even leaving letters in for other people.  One of the best parts of this Words in Deep Blue is reading the notes left in various books, plus the discussion of books by the characters.  Crowley herself leaves a note for the reader; a wonderful surprise and an fantastic addition.

 Crowley is an fine writer, and I was immediately captured by the plot and the realistic (and flawed) characters.  This is a quick read, but one that I feel will stay with the reader for some time.  In addition, Crowley gives some excellent book recommendations through her characters.

Words in Deep Blue is a teen love story, yes, but it's also a story about dealing with grief, taking chances, as well as a celebration of the written word.   I highly recommend it, especially for young adults that love books and the words therein.

Note: for adults that might not want a teen love story, a similar book is The Storied Life of A J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, another 5 star read.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Sweet Dove Died by Barbara Pym

The Sweet Dove Died
Barbara Pym
4/5 stars

Leonora, beautiful, elegant, narcissistic, forms a relationship with Humphrey and his nephew James.  While she appreciates Humphrey's attentions, she finds the company of the much younger James to be more desirable, until his lover comes between them.

While reading the Sweet Dove Died, I was reminded of quote by Somerset Maugham regarding Jane Austen:
"Nothing very much happens in her books, and yet, when you come to the bottom of a page, you eagerly turn it to learn what will happen next. Nothing very much does and again you eagerly turn the page. The novelist who has the power to achieve this has the most precious gift a novelist can possess."
In this lightly comic book, the plot is minimal--nothing very much happens-- and yet the interest engendered by the characters compel the reader to continue to read.  The actions and reactions of these characters, particularly Leonora, were so believable that I couldn't be sure where the story would go.  The Sweet Dove Died is a satisfying exploration of various types of love, and yet Pym keeps her readers held at arms-length (like Leonora does her suitors) so there is little, if any emotional, involvement for the reader.  Excepting that sterile feeling, this is an excellent book, well worth reading.  (I would recommend, however, for new readers of Pym to start with Excellent Women.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

November OwlCrate

The theme for the November OwlCrate was Wonderland, and it is my favorite box so far!  It contained Heartless (which I reviewed earlier), a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with a matching bookmark, an exquisite brass "curiouser and curiouser" bookmark, a quote magnet ("imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality"), and a tin of an exclusive OwlCrate blend of tea (which is delicious).

August Folly by Angela Thirkell

August Folly
Angela Thirkell
4/5 stars

In the fictional county of Barsetshire is the small village of Worsted.  When the Dean family comes for the summer, the inhabitants are shaken up by a Greek play, a raging bull, a stubborn mule, misunderstandings, and, most of all, love.

August Folly is a typical Thirkell novel, gentle and witty.  It started off slowly, with a confusing introduction of many characters, but once that was out of the way it became tremendously enjoyable.  Unlike some of her Barsetshire novels, this one doesn't require a previous knowledge of any of the others.  Overall, I love her signature style and found August Folly to be a delightful read.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart

The Pigeon Pie Mystery
Julia Stuart
3/5 stars

When her father, the Maharajah, dies, Princess Alexandrina (known as "Mink") finds herself in overwhelming debt.  Queen Victoria offers her a grace-and-favor residence in Hampton Court Palace. As Mink is still getting to know her eccentric neighbors, one of them dies after eating a pigeon pie prepared by her maid, Pooki.  With Pooki's life on the line, Mink decides to find the culprit herself.

The Pigeon Pie Mystery is a typical cozy mystery, with Victorian details and some good humor.  Stuart is a fine writer--I especially liked how she wove the backstories in with the main story--but the plot itself was only average.  Overall, this is a pleasant, fluffy read that most likely won't remain in the reader's memory for long.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer
5/5 stars

Heartless is a prequel to Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland, and tells how kind, happy Catherine turns into the "blind and aimless Fury" (to quote Carroll) that is the Queen of Hearts.  It all begins with Catherine's dream to open a bakery, but then life becomes immensely complicated: the unappealing King wanting to court her; she becomes attracted to the King's handsome, new Joker; and a Jabberwock appears to terrorize the kingdom.  Experiencing, for the first time, love, danger, and dismay, Catherine finds herself faced with a myriad of decisions that will affect not only herself, but many others as well.

Meyer skillfully entwines her original ideas with Carroll's established ideas to create a fully living world.  The sprinkling of Carroll quotes, and the visits from Wonderland friends, are a true joy.   The characters were fleshed out, with believable actions and reactions.  The prose was well-written, and drew the reader into the plot quickly.

The reader knows, before starting the book, that Catherine will become the Queen of Hearts, a passionately miserable individual.  The strain of melancholy that is woven through out the book purposefully keeps the reader anxious--it's always in the back of the mind that happiness is not the ending for Catherine.  I must say that Meyer did not disappoint, and delivered a heartbreaking ending that left me in tears.

Overall, I can find no fault with Meyer's beautiful, tragic novel, and recommend it wholeheartedly.

Note:  I do think, though, that readers will enjoy Heartless most if familiar with Carroll's original tales.  I paused a few chapters into the book to reread both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and was extremely glad I did.