Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: A Dance with Dragons SPOILER review

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

A Dance with Dragons is the fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin, and to say it was long awaited would be an understatement. Released in 2011, this book resumes the storylines of characters left idle since A Storm of Swords in 2000- namely Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister. They are the big three in terms of POV chapters, and between them they are the bulk of the book. So we’re talking over 10 years of waiting to resume these storylines! Was the wait worth it? In a word- yes.

Please note this review WILL contain spoilers for the book, so if you don’t want to be spoiled please stop reading. You can check out my non- spoilery review here.

The storylines of the main characters were fun to read, although in some cases a little unsatisfying. Tyrion travels half the world to meet Daenerys, and is very close at the end, but after a thousand pages it was a little frustrating that he’s just getting there. Martin seems to be showing us as much of his world as he can, and while it’s enthralling and fun it is also slowing the plot waaay down. I thought it a little implausible that he just happens to run into Jorah Mormont- I mean what are the odds? Tyrion as always is great, and has some great lines, but his arc is indicative of the whole book- the storyline is still expanding, not winding down.  

I enjoyed Jon’s storyline although I thought he made some bad decisions. Jon has to balance the needs of the Nights Watch against the demands Stannis is placing upon him. He could have explained himself a lot better to his men, for one thing. The things he does, while perhaps necessary, are so counter to the Nights Watch that he was bound to make enemies. He should have known that and taken precautions. Melisandre warns him numerous times. Still the ending was shocking! It’s a good thing Melisandre is at the Wall- I think he’s going to need her help at this point.

A lot happens in Jon’s chapters, but at the same time he’s still at the Wall and I can’t help but think how in the first three books he came to the Watch, went beyond the Wall, rode with the wildlings, came back and became Lord Commander. Again, a sense that the plot has slowed down.

Daenerys is even more frustrating for me than Jon. I’ve never been a huge fan of Dany, mainly because I just don’t like her decisions. Settling in Meereen was baffling to me, and she’s still in the vicinity at the end of book five. I know she wants to learn to be a good ruler, but in my view she should have went to Westeros a long time ago. Or at the very least by now she should be making preparations for Westeros, but she’s still bogged down in the east. That may change soon, however.  

Dany’s story seems to be at a critical point, the battle for Meereen is looming and the dragons are making their presence known. If Martin resolves this early in the next book and she sets out for Westeros, that could jumpstart this series. Still, again I couldn’t help thinking that after a thousand pages we’re still not done with Meereen.

Having said all that, I got more mileage out of the secondary characters. Davos’ storyline takes him in an unexpected direction. Davos has always been a favorite of mine- he’s been raised to lordship but he is a common man by birth, with a common sense perspective. I loved the chapter where he meets with Manderly. Yeah- that’s all I can say about that. The north remembers.

We revisit Jaime briefly, we get to see Arya in Braavos and Bran finds the three eyed crow. We get a glimpse of Melisandre through a chapter of her own, which shows her to be utterly committed to her cause but raises as many questions as it answers. The most interesting storyline for me in this book may have been the Jon Connington chapters. I thought Connington’s perspective was fascinating.

Is Young Griff really Aegon Targaryen, thought dead all these years? I didn’t see this coming. And I really enjoyed seeing the Golden Company. They launch a lightning attack on Westeros while Daenerys struggles in Meereen. It feels like a game changer. And one cannot help but think how words have consequences. After all Tyrion broaches the idea of Aegon sailing west, rather than east, and that’s exactly what he does after binding the Golden Company to his cause. I can’t wait to see Dany’s reaction when she finds out her brother’s son is alive and invading Westeros to claim the throne!

The last third of the book is where things start happening at a breakneck pace- each chapter has a cliffhanger. These are probably the biggest cliffhangers of the whole series, and the most frustrating. I mean, we have two pivotal battles that are imminent, a HUGE development at the Wall- and we have to wait. The epilogue is a reminder that anything can happen in this series and the next book should start off with a bang- except that it’s probably a ways off yet. That’s what is truly frustrating. In an interview Martin’s editor noted that some material was held back for the next book. With the wait between books being what it is, I really feel Martin or his editor should have given us resolution of at least one of these cliffhangers.

Nevertheless this is such an absorbing, fun, immersive book that I highly recommend it. It’s a breath of fresh air after the disappointing A Feast for Crows. The first Tyrion chapter has him sailing across the narrow sea, picking up his storyline from  eleven years ago, which just felt weird! We then revisit Daenerys and Jon and from there the book just picks up steam. There are shocks and surprises galore, revelations and secrets- it’s not always a series for the faint of heart, but the rewards are tremendous for those who have been anxiously waiting for more from these characters.

Bottom line- this is a fantastic book, with a ton of subplots and details and secrets. It’s fun if you like this world at all, and I could keep reading these storylines forever. In terms of the overall plot though, it has slowed down so much that it’s hard to see the Winds of Winter being much different- we’ll get more forward movement but if the pace continues at this rate, can Martin finish in two books? Only time will tell.

Excerpts:

“Prince Aegon,” said Tristan Rivers, “we are your men. Is this your wish, that we sail west instead of east?”
“It is,” Aegon replied eagerly. “If my aunt wants Meereen, she’s welcome to it. I will claim the Iron Throne by myself, with your swords and your allegiance. Move fast and strike hard, and we can win some easy victories before the Lannisters even know that we have landed. That will bring others to our cause.”

In the shadow of the Wall, the direwolf brushed up against his fingers. For half a heartbeat the night came alive with a thousand smells, and Jon Snow heard the crackle of the crust breaking on a patch of old snow. Someone was behind him, he realized suddenly. Someone who smelled warm as a summer day.
When he turned he saw Ygritte.
She stood beneath the scorched stones of the Lord Commander’s Tower, cloaked in darkness and in memory. The light of the moon was in her hair, her red hair kissed by fire. When he saw that, Jon’s heart leapt into his mouth. “Ygritte,” he said.
“Lord Snow.” The voice was Melisandre’s.

Review: A Dance with Dragons

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

A Dance with Dragons is the fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin, and to say it was long awaited would be an understatement. Released in 2011, this book resumes the storylines of characters left idle since A Storm of Swords in 2000- namely Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister. They are the big three in terms of POV chapters, and between them they are the bulk of the book. So we’re talking over 10 years of waiting to resume these storylines! Was the wait worth it? In a word- yes.

The storylines of the main characters were fun to read, although in some cases a little unsatisfying. Tyrion travels half the world to meet Daenerys, and is very close at the end, but after a thousand pages it was a little frustrating that he’s just getting there. Martin seems to be showing us as much of his world as he can, and while it’s enthralling and fun it is also slowing the plot waaay down. Tyrion as always is great, and has some great lines, but his arc is indicative of the whole book- the storyline is still expanding, not winding down. 

I enjoyed Jon’s storyline although I thought he made some bad decisions. Jon has to balance the needs of the Nights Watch against the demands Stannis is placing upon him, while at the same time strengthen the Wall. The things he does, while perhaps necessary, are so counter to the Nights Watch that he was bound to make enemies. Still the ending was shocking! It’s a good thing Melisandre is at the Wall- I think he’s going to need her help at this point.

A lot happens in Jon’s chapters, but at the same time he’s still at the Wall and I can’t help but think how in the first three books he came to the Watch, went beyond the Wall, rode with the wildlings, came back and became Lord Commander. Again, a sense that the plot has slowed down.

Daenerys is even more frustrating for me than Jon. I’ve never been a huge fan of Dany, mainly because I just don’t like her decisions. Settling in Meereen was baffling to me, and she’s still in the vicinity at the end of book five. I know she wants to learn to be a good ruler, but in my view she should have went to Westeros a long time ago. Or at the very least by now she should be making preparations for Westeros, but she’s still bogged down in the east. That may change soon, however. Still, again I couldn’t help thinking that after a thousand pages we’re still not done with Meereen. 

Having said all that, I got more mileage out of the secondary characters. Davos’ storyline takes him in an unexpected direction. Davos has always been a favorite of mine- he’s been raised to lordship but he is a common man by birth, with a common sense perspective. I loved the chapter where he meets with Manderly. Yeah- that’s all I can say about that. The north remembers.

The most interesting storyline for me in this book may have been the Jon Connington chapters. I thought Connington’s perspective was fascinating. I can’t say much here without massive spoilers- see my spoilery review for that. Suffice to say that this takes the story in an all new direction, and adds another player to the game of thrones.

The last third of the book is where things start happening at a breakneck pace- each chapter has a cliffhanger. These are probably the biggest cliffhangers of the whole series, and the most frustrating. I mean, we have two pivotal battles that are imminent, a HUGE development at the Wall- and we have to wait. The epilogue is a reminder that anything can happen in this series and the next book should start off with a bang- except that it’s probably a ways off yet. That’s what is truly frustrating. In an interview Martin’s editor noted that some material was held back for the next book. With the wait between books being what it is, I really feel Martin or his editor should have given us resolution of at least one of these cliffhangers.

Nevertheless this is such an absorbing, fun, immersive book that I highly recommend it. It’s a breath of fresh air after the disappointing A Feast for Crows. The first Tyrion chapter has him sailing across the narrow sea, picking up his storyline from  eleven years ago, which just felt weird! We then revisit Daenerys and Jon and from there the book just picks up steam. There are shocks and surprises galore, revelations and secrets- it’s not always a series for the faint of heart, but the rewards are tremendous for those who have been anxiously waiting for more from these characters.

Bottom line- this is a fantastic book, with a ton of subplots and details and secrets. It’s fun if you like this world at all, and I could keep reading these storylines forever. In terms of the overall plot though, it has slowed down so much that it’s hard to see the Winds of Winter being much different- we’ll get more forward movement but if the pace continues at this rate, can Martin finish in two books? Only time will tell.

Excerpts:

In the shadow of the Wall, the direwolf brushed up against his fingers. For half a heartbeat the night came alive with a thousand smells, and Jon Snow heard the crackle of the crust breaking on a patch of old snow. Someone was behind him, he realized suddenly. Someone who smelled warm as a summer day.
When he turned he saw Ygritte.
She stood beneath the scorched stones of the Lord Commander’s Tower, cloaked in darkness and in memory. The light of the moon was in her hair, her red hair kissed by fire. When he saw that, Jon’s heart leapt into his mouth. “Ygritte,” he said.
“Lord Snow.” The voice was Melisandre’s.

Hagen’s daughter burst naked from beneath the trees with two wolves at her heels. Asha wrenched loose a throwing axe and sent it flying end over end to take one of them in the back. When he fell, Hagen’s daughter stumbled to her knees, snatched up his sword, stabbed the second man, then rose again, smeared with blood and mud, her long red hair unbound, and plunged into the fight.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Feature & Follow



Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read

This week's question: If you could only have one book for the rest of your life- what would it be?  

Wow- there's a question. Only one? Well it if has to be one, I'll go with this.

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

But isn't that 3 books? Well yeah although I've read that Tolkien intended for this to be one volume- so I'm OK. :) Aren't I?

I mean how can you go wrong with this one?

Here are my runner- ups (I'm probably forgetting a whole bunch of favorites, which I'll remember as soon as I hit POST):

Planet of Exile

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. LeGuin- the story of Rolery, a chieftain's daughter who meets the leader of a lost Earth colony and falls in love, and their struggle to survive the coming winter on a world where seasons last a generation. I read this as a kid and loved it- and still do.

From Goodreads: The Earth colony of Landin has been stranded on Werel for ten years--& ten of Werel's years are over 600 terrestrial years. The lonely & dwindling human settlement is beginning to feel the strain. Every winter--a season that lasts for 15 years--the Earthmen have neighbors: the humanoid hilfs, a nomadic people who only settle down for the cruel cold spell. The hilfs fear the Earthmen, whom they think of as witches & call the farborns. But hilfs & farborns have common enemies: the hordes of ravaging barbarians called gaals & eerie preying snow ghouls. Will they join forces or be annihilated?





Another runner up:



Another Tolkien- this one is a guilty pleasure, its a collection of writings on Middle- Earth, with stories that cover all 3 Ages of that world. It's fun to read through just to see his thoughts on various things, like how the Istari came to Middle Earth and more about them. Definetly recommended if you're a fan and want to know more.

From Goodreads: Further tales that expand "The Silmarillion" and "The Lord of the Rings".

This collection ranges from the time of "The Silmarillion" to the end of the War of the Ring in "The Lord of the Rings". Its many treasures include Gandalf's lively account of how he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag-End, the emergence of the sea-god Ulmo before Tuor, the only story of Númenor before its fall, and all that is known of the Five Wizards.

The collection has been edited by Christopher Tolkien, who provides a commentary placing each of the Tales in the context of his father's work.


So what is your one book today?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #11 Fangirl



"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on... Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Why? Well, who isn't? Seriously though, I've seen some reviews and they all seem positive. It seems to have a lot to say about coming of age, the struggles introverts can face, and leaving the comfort zone of fandom. It just looks fun.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teaser Tuesday #11



Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading

To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author too

"One by one, the men of the Golden Company rose, knelt, and laid their swords at the feet of his young prince."

A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin, p. 318

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

Yeah yeah I know I did a teaser from this same book last week... I'm still reading it. Almost done... there's just so much teaserific stuff in this one! Couldn't resist.

What is your teaser today?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Post #8



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead

This week I was featured on The Attic's blogger interview feature Behind the Blogger. The interview is here. I was really excited to do this and share a little of myself with all the bloggy people out there. I'm the third interview she's done and I will be checking back each week to see who she interviews next. A big thank you to Caroline for that. Check it out!

No reviews this week, although I did make progress on several of my reads. The big news for me was changing my blog name and address. I started out blogging under my name but quickly realized I wasn't happy with that, and it just made sense to make a change. I had several names I kinda liked but settled on Book Haven- after all that's what I want this to be. A place where I (and hopefully others) can go and talk about the latest book, movie or whatever. A haven of sorts...

Thanks to anyone inconvenienced at all by my moving things around for sticking it out.

Now for some news from around the blogosphere.

The Divergent teaser is here. All 12 seconds of it. Whatcha all think?

Over at tor.com there is an interesting review of Fangirl. This actually made me want to read it, I'm kinda jumping on the bandwagon for this one. Beware there are some spoilers.

Award- winning SF/ fantasy artist Michael Whelan has a Tumblr blog now, with a LOT of beautiful images. Whelan is of course a legend in SF/ F illustration and you can see why here, chances are if you read science fiction or fantasy you've seen his stuff. Find it here. And enjoy the images.

Also io9 did a feature and interview with Whelan, including some art he's doing for indie book series The Mutant Hunters.That feature is here.




That's it for my week. How was yours?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'm being featured today at The Attic!



I'm being featured today at The Attic as part of her regular feature Behind the Blogger

The interview can be found here.

Thank you Caroline! It was a lot of fun!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Welcome to Book Haven- my blog name and URL have changed!

Hello all,

My blog has changed names! I am now Book Haven. I really want this blog to focus on the book reviews and other bookish stuff so a name more suited to that just makes sense. Everything else will be the same- just changing the name and URL. My new URL is http://gregsbookhaven.blogspot.com/


Please join me here, I would be happy as a clam if you would continue to visit. Thanks friends!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #10 The Wild Dark Flowers



"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm looking forward to the publication of The Wild Dark Flowers, the sequel to Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke. The sequel has just been finished and announced on her webpage, check it out here. I just finished Rutherford and was hoping for a sequel, so this is good news. It's early yet, so there is no cover yet and no official synopsis. Publication is sometime in 2014.

My review of Rutherford is here.

Rutherford Park: A Novel

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Teaser Tuesday



Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading

To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author too

"You came to Winterfell with your father." "I don't recall what for."

A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin, p. 591

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

Jon Snow is meeting with Alys Karstark who has come to him for aid. She's in a bit of a pickle and she and Jon are recalling that they met once before. It turns out her cousin is trying to wed her since she's second in line to inherit Karhold. Jon may have something to say about that...

What is your teaser today?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Post #7



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead

This was a pretty good week, I finished up Rutherford Park and cleared the way for some other stuff I want to get to. Summer is winding down and I'm looking forward to some cool nights, autumn leaves and fall reads.

My review of Rutherford Park is here.

Some interesting bits from around the blogoverse.

5 Reasons Why Han Solo is the Most Realistic Person in Star Wars.


Win a copy of Fangirl at this sweepstakes! I know lots of people are waiting for this one

Fangirl



Here are my other hijinks from last week.

It's Monday What Are You Reading
Teaser Tuesday
Waiting on Wednesday
Friday Feature & Follow

Friday, August 16, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday #5



Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read

This week's question: Share something you've learned about book blogging or just blogging in general in the last month. 

Wow, where to start? I've only been doing this for about 2 months so I've learned a lot. One thing I've learned is there are some very nice blogs out there, and mine is a little... basic. I'm thankful to everyone who comes by and comments even though my blog isn't exactly the most visually striking one out there. So... I'm going to invest in a custom design at some point, I think. I don't know all the coding stuff so I'll probably hire it done... so if you design blogs or know anyone who's good let me know. :)

Of course I know that content is as important as design, and I'm trying to put good content up. I've discovered that writing reviews really changes how I look at books, and how I read them too. I've never taken notes on books before but I do that now on occasion. And of course meeting and chatting with other bloggers has been a tremendous learning experience.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: Rutherford Park

Rutherford Park: A Novel

“Snow had fallen in the night, and now the great house, standing at the head of the valley, seemed like a five-hundred-year-old ship sailing in a white ocean.”

So begins Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke, the story of a great country house on the eve of World War I. The story starts on Christmas Eve, when Octavia Cavendish, the lady of the house, sees her husband in an intimate moment with another woman. At the same time, her son Harry has seduced a maid, with tragic and far- reaching consequences. We are immediately drawn into a world where tradition and propriety are everything. William Cavendish is an earl and a creature of that tradition, proud and unbending, while his wife Octavia chafes under the restrictions placed on her as lady of the house. Harry has dreams of his own, as do his sisters Louisa and Charlotte. And underneath the surface everyone has secrets.   

The story is told from the viewpoint of both family members and servants as lives change and the storm clouds of war gather on the horizon. William has a secret that may change their lives forever, and Octavia has to make a choice between duty and love. In many ways this is the theme of the book. Harry wrestles with guilt over his earlier indiscretions, unaware that he has a child in the world. The servants too must grapple with the changing times- some are anxious to embrace change, while others take comfort in, and are indeed defined by, their traditional ways. It’s a fascinating mélange of luxury and heartbreak, secrets and lies, set against the backdrop of a world plunging into war.   

Rutherford Park is a phenomenal book. If you’re looking for a Downton Abbey vibe, you’ve got it right here. But it’s so much more than  that. It’s a fine story in its own right, and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. This is a book I was sorry to finish. The characters are often achingly real, and the glimpses into the life of this period were fascinating and occasionally harrowing. 

The last page was a joy to read, and symbolic of all the changes that have affected this family throughout the course of the book. Times are indeed changing, and it’s nice to see the family change as well to meet the challenges of the future. There’s a hint of redemption here and it was touching. There is a sequel in the works, and I will be reading it to see where the family, and indeed the estate, go next. If you’re interested in a story about family, love and duty you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Excerpts:

He looked at William. "You kept this secret," he said. "All these bloody years."
William stiffened. "I don't intend-"
"But she came to our house!" Harry exclaimed. "Came here, and to Rutherford. She sat and ate our food and lorded it over the bloody servants..."
"Be quiet," William said.
"Be quiet!" Harry repeated. "Is that what a gentleman does? Be quiet about it?"
"I should think you have little room to maneuver on the subject of being a gentleman," William retorted. 

"Whatever ship he came on, he makes himself at home," Harrison said. The plates clattered; the tea was poured. He began to laugh. "And he charms ladies, so I hear. Especially wives."
"Does he?" said Mary. "How would you know?"
"Popular in town. Popular all over. Certain titles."
"That's enough of that," Mrs. Carlisle countered.
"I expect she likes him."
"She's hardly ever at dinner," Nash said. "So I doubt it."
Harrison looked at him. "Do you indeed?" he replied scathingly. "So knowledgeable. Such a man of the world."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #9 The Winds of Winter



"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I have to go with The Winds of Winter by George RR Martin. I hate to pick a book that does not have a cover or release date yet, but I am slowly working my way through a re- read of A Dance With Dragons and I just can't help it. There are so many unresolved plotlines, so many cliffhangers it's really hard to wait! Must...know...now.

read winds of winter

OK I know this is not an official cover, but it's out there and I needed something! If you want a sneak peek there is a sample chapter here.

What are you looking forward to in this series? Who do you love, who do you hate? Favorite characters, most shocking moments... let me know in the comments, I love to talk Game of Thrones.



What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Teaser Tuesday



Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading

To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author too

"It is hearsay. I have no idea what happened."
"But why didn't you marry the woman?"


Rutherford Park p. 125

Rutherford Park: A Novel

The setting is the drawing room, a meeting between William and Octavia Cavendish and their son. William has just admitted to having another son, in France prior to his marriage. This son was just at the house the night before, seeking an inheritance. The sparks are about to fly now...

What is your teaser today?

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's Monday. What Are You Reading? #7



It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and is a great way for others to  find out what you are planning to read this week and, best of all, see what others are reading

Last week I finished

Rules of Murder (Drew Farthering Mystery #1)

Review is here.

This week I'm reading

Rutherford Park: A Novel

Yeah this looks like chick lit, I know- why am I reading it? Here we have a son (and heir to the manor) having a fling with a maid, with tragic consequences. The lord of the manor may be having an affair, and the lady is feeling constrained by the rules she must follow.

This is the third country house book I've read in the last few weeks, but already this is the most serious, with very precise period detail and a more realistic tone. This isn't so much a mystery as a look at how these houses really worked and a family that has plenty of fractures and issues to deal with.

I'm also reading

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

and have been for several weeks. It's a re- read and I read a chapter or two here and there, in between the other stuff I've got. So it's slow going but I will have a review up for it at some point.

What are you reading?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sunday Post



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead

This week went by fast, we are now into August and the summer is winding down. Hard to believe. We're having a pretty good summer though weather- wise, not super hot like last year. This week I finished up Rules of Murder. Review is here.

Rules of Murder (Drew Farthering Mystery #1)

Here's my other shenanigans from last week.

It's Monday. What Are You Reading?
Teaser Tuesday
Waiting on Wednesday
Friday Feature & Follow




Next week starts the Michigan Renaissance Festival.


Hard to believe it's that time of year again. Looking forward to strolling the lanes, revisiting favorite merchants and swigging a tankard of ale (or three). And of course, a pub sing at the Guinness Pub...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review: Rules of Murder

Rules of Murder (Drew Farthering Mystery #1)

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering is a 1930's country house mystery. Drew Farthering is the heir to Farthering Place, a sprawling manor in the English countryside. Drew and his friend Nick, the son of the butler, live a luxurious life at Farthering- but it’s about to get more complicated. Drew comes home one night to find guests at the house- including a particularly unwelcome guest named David Lincoln. Rumors abound that his mother Constance and Lincoln had an affair in Monte Carlo. Lincoln also happens to be in business with Drew’s stepfather Mason.

Mason has a niece in America named Meredith who is coming for a visit. Meredith soon arrives with two friends and she and Drew hit it off immediately. The Fartherings throw lavish parties, and Drew and Meredith are getting to know each other when the unthinkable occurs- a murder on the property. It seems that during the fireworks more than just merrymaking was going on.

No sooner does everyone react to this shock than another murder occurs- or is it murder?  The mystery deepens and family secrets begin to reveal themselves. When it is time for the girls to leave for their holiday tour, Meredith decides to stay behind and help solve the mystery. Meredith is witty and well- educated, and she shares a love of mystery novels with Drew and Nick.  They decide to tackle the case themselves and put their amateur skills to the test.

Drew plays a cat-and-mouse game with both the killer and the chief inspector, as he and Madeline pursue leads and attempt to solve the mystery on their own. There are twists and turns and red herrings, and Drew soon finds that all is not as it seems, and he doesn’t know who he can trust. Loyalties are tested and secrets are revealed, and no one may be safe from the killer who is still out there.

This is a good story and I enjoyed it a great deal. There are literary references throughout as Drew, Meredith and Nick compare notes and contrast the case with the stories they’ve read. The romance between Drew and Meredith is charming but feels rushed. Drew is portrayed as attractive and of course he’s rich, but Madeline seems to fall for him too fast. The dialogue between the two of them seems forced at times, not realistic

I also feel that Meredith doesn’t have enough to do here. The blurb says Meredith is “whip-smart”, and she is, but this is mainly Drew’s show and she is sidelined too often. I would have liked her to take a more active role in the investigation. I had the impression they were going to tackle the mystery in a more equal way, and was rather disappointed by that. I was also a little put off by Drew’s treatment of her at times. He calls her “darling” throughout and talks rather condescendingly to her at times, and while that may be realistic for the time and setting, I found it a bit jarring.

In spite of these flaws I did enjoy this story and look forward to future installments. The world of Farthering Place was fun to explore. The little details of life at the manor- teatime, changing for dinner, parlors and libraries, were interesting.

As a side note this book is published by Bethany House, a Christian publisher and there are some religious elements present, but they are small and do not overpower the story. I thought it added a nice touch to the story.  

Excerpts: 

"She is pretty," Madeline admitted. "Well, prettyish. In an obvious sort of way."
"That may be so, and she certainly can cook."
"Yes," Madeline drawled, "I bet she can."  

She held out one hand, gloved in a leopard print, and Drew bowed dutifully over it. 
"Miss Brower, it's been a revelation."
Muriel smirked and flounced down the stairs, swaying her hips. Drew gazed heavenward.  


Feature and Follow Friday



Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read

This week's question: Create a reading list for the imaginary English lit class you'll be teaching this semester. 

OK here we go

Pride and PrejudiceThe Hobbit  A Midsummer Night's DreamThe Merry Adventures of Robin HoodThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer

This list skews a little toward the fantastical but I think each of these books has something important to say. It's certainly a English lit reading list I would have liked...

What's on YOUR list?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #8 Behind the Shattered Glass



"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I am anticipating Tasha Alexander's latest Behind the Shattered Glass. This is another country mystery, this time a neighbor bursts through the French doors of an estate and we have another mystery on our hands! I have not read Tasha Alexander before so I have some catching up to do, but this looks good. Publication date is Oct. 15.

At some point I'm going to need a break from country mysteries but for now I'm going with it! I keep seeing new ones I want to read.

Behind the Shattered Glass (Lady Emily, #8)

From Goodreads:

A ruined abbey on a beautiful estate in Derbyshire, a murdered peer, and a most unlikely romance make New York Times bestseller Tasha Alexander’s new novel Behind the Shattered Glass absolutely irresistible

Anglemore Park is the ancestral home of Lady Emily Hargreave’s husband Colin. But the stately calm of country life is destroyed when their neighbor, the Marquess of Montagu, bursts through the French doors from the garden and falls down dead in front of the shocked gathering.  But who has a motive for murdering the young aristocrat?  The lovely cousin who was threatened by his engagement, the Oxford friend he falsely accused of cheating, the scheming vicar’s daughter he shamelessly seduced or the relative no one knew existed who appears to claim the Montagu title?  Who is the mysterious woman seen walking with him moments before he was brutally attacked?

The trail takes readers into the gilded world of a British manor house and below stairs to the servants who know all the secrets. One family’s hidden past and a forbidden 
passion are the clues to a puzzle only Lady Emily can solve.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Teaser Tuesday



Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading

To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author too

"I hope you and I shall have a great many words," he told her. "And dancing and dining and-"

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering p. 43

Rules of Murder (Drew Farthering Mystery #1)

Drew and Madeline are just starting to hit it off after a very fine party, including dancing and fireworks. Unfortunately, they're also about to find a body. How inconvenient!

I'm not very far into this one yet but so far it's quite good.

What is your teaser today?

Monday, August 5, 2013

It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and is a great way for others to  find out what you are planning to read this week and, best of all, see what others are reading.

Last week I finished

Bellfield Hall (A Dido Kent Mystery, #1)

Review is here.

This week I'm working on

Rules of Murder (Drew Farthering Mystery #1) Rutherford Park: A Novel

Rules for Murder- another country house mystery with a twist. This time the sleuth is the heir to the manor, along with an American debutante. This should be fun!

Rutherford Park- I saw this over the weekend and picked it up. Pre- WWI country house stuff. A rakish son involved with a maid, the lady of the house witnesses her husband in an indiscreet liaison, secrets galore both upstairs and down. This looks very good.





Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Post #5



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead

I had a pretty good week. It's already August, wow! The weather has been cooler but still nice for late summer. I'm actually enjoying the summer days without it being super hot.

This week I read a murder mystery set in an English country house. Review here

Bellfield Hall (A Dido Kent Mystery, #1)

I also met some people through the various memes I participated in. That frankly has been one of my favorite things about book blogging- meeting lots of new folks who share a passion for books. I've been blogging regularly for a little over a month now and it's been a lot of fun. I've learned a lot and been exposed to a lot of books I wouldn't even know about if not for this community. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to comment or say hi.

I'd also like to spotlight the teaser of George RR Martin's new story, posted at TOR. The story comes out in December as part of the Dangerous Women anthology. It's a short snippet but for those waiting on new Ice and Fire material, it's worth a look.

It's Monday. What Are You Reading?
Teaser Tuesday
Waiting on Wednesday
Feature and Follow
Saturday Snapshot

New arrivals this week

Rules of Murder (Drew Farthering Mystery #1)

Rutherford Park: A Novel

How was your week?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Snapshot #2

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at West Metro Mommy Reads

To participate in Saturday Snapshot post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a link to your post at Melinda's site. Photos can be old or new, and be any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes. How much detail you give is in the captions is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online








Review: Bellfield Hall

Bellfield Hall (A Dido Kent Mystery, #1)

Bellfield Hall is a mystery set in the Regency period of England. Dido Kent, an unmarried woman (or spinster, as they say) has been called to Bellfield Hall, the sprawling country estate of the Montague family, by her niece Catherine, who is engaged to the Montague heir Richard. It seems that on the night of a ball celebrating their engagement, Richard mysteriously called the engagement off and disappeared. As if that’s not enough, a body of a young woman was found in the shrubbery outside the manor. Catherine wants Dido to get to the bottom of Richard’s disappearance.

The story starts out with Dido writing a letter to her sister, and sets the stage by introducing all the players. Sir Edgar and Lady Montague are of course scandalized by the murder on their property. Mr. Harris, who made his fortune in India, and his gossipy wife  have two daughters who are, as they say, very eligible but approaching the age at which their prospects might start to dim. They are being courted by Colonel Walborough, a ponderous man with perhaps some secrets of his own, and Tom Lomax, a cad with a gambling debt problem. Then we have Mr. William Lomax, the father of Tom and the man who runs the business of the estate. It is this latter worthy that catches the eye of Dido- for he is an older gentleman, widowed and apparently a man of quality.

Rounding out our cast is Catherine herself, the jilted fiancée, who has not known the missing Richard Montague very long but is very devoted to him, and Dido’s waspish sister-in-law Margaret. Dido soon discovers there are a lot of questions surrounding the engagement ball. Why did Richard Montague disappear so abruptly? What do Sir Edgar and Lady Montague know that they are not telling? And what will Dido do when she finds herself perhaps drawn into an affair of the heart? 

Throughout the story Dido writes letters to her sister in which she details her latest deductions. This serves the purpose of tying together the various clues and spelling things out for the reader. The mystery has some twists and turns, and it’s one of those stories where you can’t really guess the ending (or the identity of the murderer) because you don’t have enough information yet. The eventual reveal strains credulity just a bit, but then again in a time and place such as this, with family secrets and reputations on the line, who is to say what lengths people would go to?

Dido, who thinks she has long since left romance behind, is surprised to find herself attracted to Mr. William Lomax. They share a compatible intellect and a distaste for the shallow games of the drawing room. This was a nice touch, I felt for Dido as she navigated both the hidden secrets of the manor house and her own reawakened emotions. 

I liked this story, although I thought the beginning was a little confusing. The initial letter Dido writes references all the players and it was hard at first, at least for me, to know who everyone was. It takes a little time to get to know them all and once you do, you find that some of them are not as they seem. I thought the beginning could have been more reader friendly. I enjoyed the period details sprinkled throughout, the glimpses of luxury- mentions of a Greek temple on the grounds, the peacock making its way across the gravel pathways. This is a finely written story with a lot to offer those interested in Regency era mysteries.

This is first in a series- the second book is A Gentleman of Fortune.

Quotes:

"However, I was obliged to abandon this intriguing idea when I discovered that her maid was with her all the time and the footman visited her repeatedly to take, at different times, logs for her fire, a letter and chocolate".

" 'I do not think it is possible for a man to be handsome, agreeable and rich. I put it down as a kind of law of nature that he will always be lacking in one of those three cardinal virtues.'

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Feature & Follow #3



Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read 

This week's question: How do you handle a book you don't like? Do you DNF or do you power through? 

I've done both. I try to finish books but if I'm not liking it, I will DNF. Time is too short to spend on something that's not working for me.

Having said that, if the book has been provided by an author/ publisher I would finish it. I think that's only fair if I've agreed to read it, but I won't post a negative review. I'll let them know it wasn't my cup of tea and thank them for the chance to read it.

How about you? 


Bookish News: New George RR Martin excerpt at TOR

TOR has just released an excerpt of the new George RR Martin story coming in December. The upcoming anthology Dangerous Women contains a novella by Martin called "The Princess and the Queen" The story concerns the Dance of the Dragons period in the history of Westeros, when two factions of Targaryens fought over the Iron Throne. Game of Thrones fans won't want to miss this!

The teaser for the novella can be found here.

Dangerous Women

From Goodreads:

The Dangerous Women anthology contains following stories:
- Introduction by Gardner Dozois
- “Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie - A Red Country story
- “My Heart is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott
- “Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland
- “The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
- “Bombshells” by Jim Butcher - A Harry Dresden story
- “Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
- “Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale
- “Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm
- “I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
- “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson
- “A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman
- “The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman - A Magicians story
- “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
- “City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland
- “Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon - An Outlander story
- “Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon
- “Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling - An Emberverse story
- “Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes
- “Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
- “Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector - A Wild Cards story
- “The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire sto

Review: The Land That Time Forgot

This time I'm looking at The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I saw this edition at my local Barnes & Noble and remembered reading these stories when I was a kid. I didn't remember much of the story so I thought I would give them a try and see how they come across all these years later. See my thoughts below. One note- this volume contains the titular story as well as sequels The People That Time Forgot and Out of Time's Abyss. I have not read either of those yet.

The Land that Time Forgot: The Land that Time Forgot, The People that Time Forgot, Out of Time's Abyss

World War I, dinosaurs and cavemen… oh my. The Land that Time Forgot is a tale by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the celebrated author of the Tarzan and John Carter of Mars novels, among many others. The story was written in 1917 and serialized in pulp magazines, as many of his stories were. This book was still in print when I read it as a kid, and can still be found in various commemorative editions such as this one. Burroughs' popularity over the years cannot be denied. 

This is the story of Bowen Tyler, an American who volunteers for the ambulance service in France in World War I. He is on his way across the Atlantic when his ship is sunk by a German U-boat. Tyler however survives, along with a woman named Lys La Rue. They are rescued by an English boat and are soon back on course for England- however the U- boat reappears and takes Tyler and the English crew captive.

The U- boat makes for Germany but Tyler and the other prisoners soon find a way to take over the sub. The sub changes hands a couple times and before long they’re in the south Pacific, hopelessly off course and low on supplies. They come across a great island  called Caprona, with high, impenetrable cliffs that conceal an inner world of prehistoric danger. The idea of an island like this existing in the Pacific beggars the imagination, but then again this was written in 1917 and so perhaps was more plausible then.

By now they are nearly out of fuel and are effectively stuck They explore a warm inland sea teeming with prehistoric life, encounter dinosaurs and even catch glimpses of man- like beings watching them from the shore. They eventually make a camp and begin to explore the land of terror they have been thrust into. They soon encounter the tribes of primitive man who dwell here as well. The German and English crews declare a truce so they can work together for common survival. Will they survive long enough to find a way to return to the world they know?

Burroughs is at his best when describing the lush plant life, the nightmare creatures from a bygone age. This is one of the original "lost world" stories. Unfortunately it was hard for me to like this story at times. The first third of the book is about the voyage and struggle for control of the submarine. This was meant to be thrilling I’m sure, but I kept thinking yeah yeah let’s just get to the dinosaur island. You can safely skip the first 50 pages or so and pick up where they’re at Caprona and not miss much. 

Tyler makes several questionable decisions early on, trusting members of the crew he hardly knows with way too much responsibility. This nearly results in disaster. At another point after rescuing Lys from cave people he goes hunting with them and promptly gets lost. He almost gets captured again by another tribe, manages to stay free but then falls asleep and promptly gets trussed up. I couldn’t help thinking dumbest guy ever?

This all fits the Burroughs formula though. His novels are known for their episodic nature- invariably the love interest is kidnapped and the hero must fight through impossible odds to win her back. This often happens multiple times in the same series. It’s all great fun if you’re in the mood for a quick, breezy read and old fashioned adventure.  

Burroughs writes interestingly about love. As is the case in many of his stories, Tyler pines for Lys throughout the first third of the story, having of course decided he loved her almost on sight, with the usual misunderstandings that cause her to turn up her nose at him when in reality she loves him too. Insta- love before it was trendy. Here the romance is handled less gracefully than in many other of his tales, even by Burroughs’ standards. It really felt rushed and there is not a lot of depth there.   

Unfortunately there are also several instances where it is clear this was written in an earlier time. Racism and the like were not unknown in the pulps of the era. There are elements here that are not politically correct by today’s standards, and while it’s not the worst example of this I’ve seen, it can be jarring to modern readers.

I grew up reading Burroughs and loved his books as a kid. Some are better than others, of course- the John Carter series remains my favorite of all his works. This story unfortunately does not match that standard. I will always be grateful to Burroughs though for his imagination, and for the tales of wonder he provided. He blazed a trail that many have followed, and for that he deserves recognition.