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Surrounded by Books

I read historical fiction, mystery, foodie memoir, and well-crafted YA (sometimes other genres).

The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time

The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time - Jeff Deck, Benjamin D. Herson I really wanted to like this book, based on the premise. Two friends on road trip, correcting all the misspellings on signs and menus. Combining grammar with a buddy movie! Sure!But the book itself needed an editor for the sheer weight of the unnecessary adjectives and pretentious prose. I'm willing to give the book a little slack, for aiming for the kind of Superhero Saves World intrepid tone, but I don't think the aim was very true. For writers who claim to hold Strunk and White as personal role models to have written something like this? Feh.

Silhouette of a Sparrow

Silhouette of a Sparrow - Molly Beth Griffin I was utterly charmed from the first page of this historical novel. Set in the 1920's, it tells the story of Garnet Richards, a young woman who chafes at the strict rules her mother, and then her aunt lay out for her, ladylike pastimes, like embroidering for her hope chest, marriage after high school. When Garnet is sent away for the summer, to a lakeside resort with her even stricter aunt, she meets a flapper named Isabella. I really loved the way this evolved, the descriptions of the setting, and of Garnet's cutouts of paper birds- transforming her passion for learning and science into something more ladylike... and the way her friendship, and relationship with Isabella evolve. I zoomed through it in one sitting.

Princess Elizabeth's Spy (Maggie Hope Series #2)

Princess Elizabeth's Spy - Susan Elia MacNeal Based on the last two chapters, my review will have to consist of !!!!!!!

Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope Series #1)

Mr. Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal Totally sucked me into the series!

Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective

Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective - 'Pat Head Summitt',  'Sally Jenkins' loved it, stayed up foolishly late to finish

Ghost Hero (Lydia Chin and Bill Smith Series #11)

Ghost Hero - S.J. Rozan loved this as much for Lydia Chin as the narrator, as for the craft of the mystery

The Chalice

The Chalice - Nancy Bilyeau I should have gone back and re-read at least part of The Crown before starting The Chalice. It took me a few chapters to re-orient myself into Joanna Stafford's world of Tudor intrigue. The cast of characters, their competing conspiracies and goals, became quite a tangle until I settled into the story properly. Once it got going, I was sucked in though. There are stretches of decidedly grim (if not grisly) conspiracies and events. I Tweeted to the author that The Chalice should be renamed "Joanna Stafford Can't Have Nice Things." And it's true- with the convent gone, she can't have her quiet religious life, but with the threat of prophecy, and all the layers of power plays, conspiracies and various people betraying or vying to influence Joanna, she can't much have a quiet life after the convent either. As in the first book, I like her fierceness... and the humanness of her puzzlement when faced with the prophecy, and with the ways to sort out her competing obligations, loyalties and desires.I hear there's going to be a third book. While I'm eager to see how Joanna's adventures unfold, and to see whether she does, in fact, get any nice things happening, I feel that this book and its prequel were reasonably self contained.

Buckingham Palace Gardens (Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Series #25)

Buckingham Palace Gardens (Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Series #25) by Anne Perry - Why haven't I read Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt books before? Victorian era mysteries, right in (one of my) sweet spots. I'm told that it's better to read the series in sequence to see how the relationships develop, but I think I had enough fun reading this that I don't mind reading out of order.The way it started, with a prostitute gorily murdered in Buckingham Palace, gave me a rather persistent thought of "London... SVU?" which I had trouble shaking over the first couple of chapters. But that's more a commentary on myself than it is on the quality of the book.The thing that impressed me most was the way the investigation and the interrogation got bound and constrained by social niceties of status and of how different classes were allowed to interact. Perry switched perspectives in different chapters, enough so that I could really see the discrepancy between characters' interior lives and the constrained way they behaved towards each other, navigating the social sphere in a series of calculations of how much to say to whom, when. I don't think I've seen that captured quite so well in other Victorian era historicals I've read. I think I have, for the first time, in years of reading Victorian era historical mysteries, an understanding of just the sheer painful stiltedness and constraints of having to conduct a murder investigation in a society bent on keeping up rigid social structures. I enjoyed a few moments where investigators were trying to shield women, or servants from what was going on, only to be dumbfounded by what people already knew.Definitely going to read as many more books in this series as I can.

Alone (Detective D. D. Warren Series #1)

Alone - Lisa Gardner too grisly and violent for me but I kept reading it because I wanted to know how it ended. I don't watch SVU for the same reason I almost didn't finish this book. one interesting thing I found out was that the author holds a contest where she names characters in the book, after fans and then kills them off, it's a great honor. clever idea.

Fitzwilliam Darcy; Rock Star

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star - Heather Lynn Rigaud love a good fictional band novel, but as Austen pastiche goes, I think the one with zombies was easier to believe

The Wicked and the Just

The Wicked and the Just - Really good Medieval history, set in 13th century Wales. YA, so a fast read, and just as focused on Cecily and Gwinny's animosity and hopes and dreams as on the larger historical backdrop. Reading on kindle, the alternating perspectives were a little tough to pick up, but that was a formatting issue I think.A bit of a bleak book, though.

The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker - Kate Alcott Fascinating account of the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic, combining fictional characters and those drawn from history. I'm left thinking-- in historical fiction, is there such a thing as a spoiler?

The Will of the Empress (Circle Reforged Series #1)

The Will of the Empress - Tamora Pierce I really liked this, although it was my introduction to the Circle of Magic books. There was enough context and backstory woven through that I got the gist. As ever, I really like what Tamora Pierce does with magic and culture in her fantasy novels, and with interesting, strong characters, especially the female ones. I wish she'd write more in the Tortall universe.I never read the books leading up to this- but I was able to get the characters and key events by context. Might go back and try reading the Circle of Magic, though I get the sense it's the kind of thing that works better when you're reading for the first time as a tween.And it definitely passed the Stayed Up Too Late Reading test.

The Secret of Laurel Oaks

The Secret of Laurel Oaks - Lois Ruby The fact that I stayed up well past my bedtime to finish this should be review enough. An excellent ghost story, with just the right amount of spookiness, and really interesting historical detail.

Paladin of Souls (Chalion Series #2)

Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster Bujold I'm really enjoying this series. I took a while to change mental tracks after following the adventures of Cazaril in the first book. I enjoy the worldbuilding, especially the religious aspects. And, so as not to be spoilery- there's a formula to the second half of the book that I really like.

Venom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose, #1)

Venom - Fiona Paul This one has been on my to-read list since BEA. I'm a sucker for good historical fiction, and this promised Renaissance Intrigue.Well. It was historical fiction. Set in Renaissance Venice.But.At first, I thought I would power through what felt like a slow start.And then there was the kind of love interest angst that even my 14 year old self might have rolled eyes at a bit. Kind of wanted to whack the heroine upside the head.Also, I think I'd thought, from misreading the cover copy that the heroine was a courtesan in Venice. Or an Assassin. No such luck! I think I kept reading hoping that plot twist would emerge instead of the murders and artists and love affairs and midnight sneaking about.I'll say this- there was enough misdirection about the mystery that I didn't see the plot twist at the end coming.And it's a series? Why is it a series? Bah!