Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A Dangerous Collaboration

A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4)A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Veronica, Stoker, and Tiberius visit a castle on an island off the coast of Cornwall. A disappeared bride, a poison garden complete with rare butterflies, smuggling caves, hidden rooms, a healthy supply of suspects, and plenty of angst from the past figure in the latest Veronica Speedwell mystery. Deanna Raybourn does not disappoint. It's another winner.

We know they will solve the crime, but will Stoker and Veronica finally say those fateful three words to one another?

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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Camp Austen

Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen SuperfanCamp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. The author started out in full-snark mode attending a Jane Austen summer camp hosted by his university only to discover that the Janeites in attendance, while a bit silly, were touchingly human as well. While the gossiping glee never fully abated, why should it? "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?" Impersonating Mr. Darcy and other Austen heroes for the purposes of ballroom dancing and theatrical performances, the author never fully renounced his outsider status. But he did learn a thing or two about himself, including the fact that Regency man-garb (constricting, tailored clothing, cutaway jackets, and tights) make you look like a rock star. They also instantly improve your posture!

As an admirer of Jane Austen, albeit one with a lapsed JASNA membership, I thought this was an accurate description of the kind of events that draw the faithful: equal parts gossip session, scholarly presentation, Regency Comic-Con, and excuse to drink tea and smother scones with clotted cream.

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Monday, March 4, 2019

The Summer Before the War

The Summer Before the WarThe Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the idyllic fields of Sussex to the trenches in France, Helen Simonson's poignant and gently humorous novel focuses on the people in a small town whose lives are upended by the Great War.

It's billed somewhat as a Downtown Abbey-esque story (Julian Fellowes meets E.M. Forster old chap), but it was more focused on middle- and working-class concerns. The gentry still think it's all about them, but what else is new? This story is a real gem!

"For the first time, as her tea grew cold in the cup and her porridge gelled in its bowl, she saw what it meant to be of limited income. It was a noble concept for the church sermon or the pages of an improving novel, but a chilling prospect on a sunny Sussex morning."

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