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Results 1 - 25 of 514
1. My Year with Jane: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park. Jane Austen. 1814. 464 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

I have read Mansfield Park three times. The first time I found myself frustrated and bored. Where was the romance? Where was the satisfaction? Who was supposed to be THE HERO?! Was it really supposed to be Edmund?! The second time I read it, I found myself entertained. I also found myself falling for the wrong hero, Henry Crawford and asking plenty of what might have been questions. The third time it was a joy to revisit. This isn't the first time that it has taken multiple readings to enjoy and appreciate and love an Austen novel. I haven't decided what this means exactly. If it is a good thing that Austen's novels are layered and complex and take some time to absorb, or, if it's a weakness. If you don't exactly "enjoy" something the first time, what is there to make you want to go back and read it again and again? I think Pride and Prejudice is the one big exception to the rule. Also perhaps Persuasion.

Fanny Price is the heroine of Mansfield Park. She is intelligent, observant, selfless, and considerate. Part of this is her upbringing, she's been brought up to put everyone else's wants and needs and whims ahead of her own. Part of this is just her nature, in my opinion. She treats everyone with kindness and respect regardless of whether they "deserve" it or not.  
It would be delightful to feel myself of consequence to anybody.
Fanny, being always a very courteous listener, and often the only listener at hand, came in for the complaints and the distresses of most of them.
Edmund Bertram is Fanny's cousin. He will be a minister. He falls madly in love (if it is truly love and not lust) with Mary Crawford. For almost the entire novel, he talks on and on and on and on about Mary to poor Fanny. He can at any given time give you a top ten list on why Mary is completely wrong for him and why it would never work out in the end. But she is the ONLY WOMAN IN THE WORLD HE COULD EVER LOVE. Of course, Fanny is in love with Edmund. Fanny's patience in listening to Edmund alone would make her worthy of being a saint.
I cannot give her up, Fanny. She is the only woman in the world whom I could ever think of as a wife. If I did not believe that she had some regard for me, of course I should not say this, but I do believe it.
Mary Crawford is Fanny's opposite in many, many ways. She doesn't know how to be serious. She talks way too much. She shares way too much. She's rude and inconsiderate. And her first love, her forever love, will always be herself.
Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.
Henry Crawford is Mary's brother. He is Fanny's opposite too. He has a very high opinion of himself. And he finds nothing so satisfying as making women fall in love with him. He loves being loved and adored. He determines at one point that it would be SOMETHING to have Fanny fall in love with him. He knows it will be the most difficult challenge he's faced so far. She's no fool. In the attempting, it is Henry who falls hard. He finds himself for the first time actually caring and loving someone else. Or does he? Austen is a bit ambiguous how far his reform goes.
I never was so long in company with a girl in my life, trying to entertain her, and succeed so ill! Never met with a girl who looked so grave on me! I must try to get the better of this. Her looks say, ‘I will not like you, I am determined not to like you’; and I say she shall.
They will now see what sort of woman it is that can attach me, that can attach a man of sense. I wish the discovery may do them any good. And they will now see their cousin treated as she ought to be, and I wish they may be heartily ashamed of their own abominable neglect and unkindness. They will be angry,” he added, after a moment’s silence, and in a cooler tone; “Mrs. Rushworth will be very angry. It will be a bitter pill to her; that is, like other bitter pills, it will have two moments’ ill flavour, and then be swallowed and forgotten; for I am not such a coxcomb as to suppose her feelings more lasting than other women’s, though I was the object of them. Yes, Mary, my Fanny will feel a difference indeed: a daily, hourly difference, in the behaviour of every being who approaches her; and it will be the completion of my happiness to know that I am the doer of it, that I am the person to give the consequence so justly her due.
Now she is dependent, helpless, friendless, neglected, forgotten.” “Nay, Henry, not by all; not forgotten by all; not friendless or forgotten. Her cousin Edmund never forgets her.” “Edmund! True, I believe he is, generally speaking, kind to her, and so is Sir Thomas in his way; but it is the way of a rich, superior, long-worded, arbitrary uncle. What can Sir Thomas and Edmund together do, what do they do for her happiness, comfort, honour, and dignity in the world, to what I shall do?”   
Mansfield Park is without a doubt one of the messier Austen novels. Messy isn't the perfect word, I know. The characters of Mansfield Park are so messed up, so in need of fixing. Readers never know exactly why Fanny loves Edmund with all her heart and soul. Readers just have to take Fanny's love on faith, believing that she knows best, that she knows her heart better than we do, and, that Edmund BEFORE Mary was worth loving. Austen's ending is far from romantic in that the romance between Fanny and Edmund is not developed on the page.

I can easily imagine Fanny in these words:

You give your hand to me
And then you say, "Hello."
And I can hardly speak,
My heart is beating so.
And anyone can tell
You think you know me well.
Well, you don't know me.

And with a big, big stretch, maybe Edmund in these words:

Are those your eyes
Is that your smile
I've been looking at you forever
Yet I never saw you before
Are these your hands holding mine
Now I wonder how I could have been so blind
And for the first time I am looking in your eyes
For the first time I'm seeing who you are
I can't believe how much I see
When you're looking back at me

 The first is "You Don't Know Me" and the second is "For The First Time."

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (2014)

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. Alan Bradley. 2014. Random House. 310 pages. [Source: Library]

I haven't loved each and every Flavia de Luce book equally. I definitely enjoy Flavia as a character and narrator even though I can't always relate to her all the time. In this sixth mystery, Flavia's focus is NOT on a current murder mystery. Far from it, even though a murder occurs practically in front of her (at the train station), she can't really be bothered. Why? Well, her mother is coming home...at last. For Flavia, the one de Luce child who CANNOT remember her mother at all, this is just confusing and bittersweet. Is she glad her mother's body has been found? That the body is being returned so it can be properly buried? In a way, perhaps. But. The homecoming is just as bitter as it is sweet. It upsets the family so much, brings so many emotions out in the open where they cannot be ignored. The situation is forcing Flavia outside her comfort zone. If the novel does NOT focus on the current dead body, what does it focus on?! Well, it focuses on the past; it focuses on the years leading up to World War II. It provides context for her mother's life...and death. For Flavia solving this mystery of who her mother was, who she really was, her worth and value, means EVERYTHING. There were quite a few uncomfortable scenes in this one for me. I found the scenes where Flavia is trying to scientifically bring her mother back from the dead (after ten years) to be a bit creepy--she's trying to acquire the right chemicals to resurrect the dead.

Just like the previous book, this one closes with change on the way for Flavia.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. A Rogue's Life (1856)

A Rogue's Life. Wilkie Collins. 1856. 159 pages. [Source: Book I bought]

I am going to try if I can't write something about myself. My life has been rather a strange one. It may not seem particularly useful or respectable; but it has been, in some respects, adventurous; and that may give it claims to be read, even in the most prejudiced circles.

 Who is the rogue in Wilkie Collins A Rogue's Life? None other than Frank Softly. He comes from a respectable (though not wealthy) family. He falls OUT of favor with his parents and INTO a good bit of trouble. Debt factoring into this rogue's story quite often. He doesn't really "fit" with any of the "respectable" professions allowed to his class. And I believe his first "profession" is as a caricaturist. He sells his work, has it published, is quite successful using a pseudonym... for a while But. When people match his real identity with his pseudonym...well, that just won't do. That is when his parents make a stand.

A Rogue's Life is a short, pleasant read. It's told in first-person narrative. And the narration is quite lively. His adventures and misadventures are a bit crazy perhaps, making the whole too complex to easily summarize for review. But. It is an easy enough story to follow when you're actually reading it.

Essentially when this 'rogue' falls madly in love--and, of course, it's love AT FIRST SIGHT, with a beautiful yet mysterious young woman, there is NOTHING he won't do to find out who she is...he will woo her no matter what it costs him...

Another 'fun' element (if 'fun' is the right word?) is the speculation involving an inheritance. Frank's sister will inherit a good deal of money from someone (I can't remember who) IF and only IF Frank can outlive the grandmother. So throughout the book, there is all this speculation about the future! The grandmother is very old and determined to live forever, and, of course, Frank's misadventures (including prison time) could lead to his dying young...

It's an odd book in a way. But overall, it was a pleasant way to spend an hour.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. My Year with Jane: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. 1813. 386 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

Is Pride and Prejudice your favorite Jane Austen novel? Why or why not?

I must admit that Pride and Prejudice is not my favorite, favorite Austen. I almost like that it is not my favorite book by Austen. But. No matter how much I say it isn't my favorite, every single time I reread this one, I am surprised by how satisfying and lovely it really is. It is so incredibly familiar, and I think that is part of the charm. The dialogue is so familiar, the characters feel like old friends, you can't help getting swept up into the story, the romance once again. The movies probably have more than a little to do with that. Do you have a favorite adaptation?

There are so many characters to love, so many characters to love to hate. Do you have a favorite? Elizabeth is not my favorite Austen heroine, but, she is probably among my favorites from Pride and Prejudice. I love her relationships: seeing Elizabeth with Jane, seeing Elizabeth with Charlotte, seeing Elizabeth with Lady Catherine, seeing Elizabeth with Darcy!

Like most Austen novels, the more attention you pay to the little details, the more you'll be rewarded! That is why rereading is oh-so-essential.

His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters. Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to hear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it. “Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.”
“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.” “I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Mr. Bingley, “for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.” “You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet. “Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.” “Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings toward him.
“My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not dancing? Mr. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner. You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure when so much beauty is before you.” And, taking her hand, he would have given it to Mr. Darcy who, though extremely surprised, was not unwilling to receive it, when she instantly drew back, and said with some discomposure to Sir William: “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner.” Mr. Darcy, with grave propriety, requested to be allowed the honour of her hand, but in vain. Elizabeth was determined; nor did Sir William at all shake her purpose by his attempt at persuasion. “You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it is cruel to deny me the happiness of seeing you; and though this gentleman dislikes the amusement in general, he can have no objection, I am sure, to oblige us for one half-hour.” “Mr. Darcy is all politeness,” said Elizabeth, smiling. “He is, indeed; but, considering the inducement, my dear Miss Eliza, we cannot wonder at his complaisance — for who would object to such a partner?” Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had not injured her with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her with some complacency, when thus accosted by Miss Bingley: “I can guess the subject of your reverie.” “I should imagine not.” My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”
“It is a rule with me, that a person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot write ill.” “That will not do for a compliment to Darcy, Caroline,” cried her brother, “because he does not write with ease. He studies too much for words of four syllables. Do not you, Darcy?” “My style of writing is very different from yours.” “Oh!” cried Miss Bingley, “Charles writes in the most careless way imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest.” “My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them — by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents.” “Your humility, Mr. Bingley,” said Elizabeth, “must disarm reproof.” “Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.” “And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of modesty?” “The indirect boast; for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which, if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting. The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance.
“Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.” Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Miss Bingley succeeded no less in the real object of her civility; Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much awake to the novelty of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and unconsciously closed his book. He was directly invited to join their party, but he declined it, observing that he could imagine but two motives for their choosing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere. “What could he mean? She was dying to know what could be his meaning?” — and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him? “Not at all,” was her answer; “but depend upon it, he means to be severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him will be to ask nothing about it.” Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in anything, and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives. “I have not the smallest objection to explaining them,” said he, as soon as she allowed him to speak. “You either choose this method of passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.” “Oh! shocking!” cried Miss Bingley. “I never heard anything so abominable. How shall we punish him for such a speech?” “Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination,” said Elizabeth. “We can all plague and punish one another. Tease him — laugh at him. Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be done.”
It is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?” “They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.” Mr. Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.
When those dances were over, she returned to Charlotte Lucas, and was in conversation with her, when she found herself suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy who took her so much by surprise in his application for her hand, that, without knowing what she did, she accepted him. He walked away again immediately, and she was left to fret over her own want of presence of mind; Charlotte tried to console her: “I dare say you will find him very agreeable.” “Heaven forbid! That would be the greatest misfortune of all! To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil.”
I must stop quoting now! I have a feeling that they could get out of control!

My first review September 2007
My second review December 2011

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Reread #9 Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. 2008. Random House. 274 pages. [Source: Library]

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of those rare, rare books where you could almost open it up to ANY page and find something to smile about. And that, of course, is something to be treasured and applauded because it makes for a completely satisfying read from start to finish. This novel is told completely through letters. Readers get to know characters in their own words, for better or worse. Readers can try to read between the lines and make connections perhaps. They might attempt to play "Miss Marple" like one of the minor characters and spy out what is really going on...

The heroine of the novel is a young author named Juliet Ashton. During the war, she wrote a regular column under the name of Izzy Bickerstaff. Now that the war is over (finally!!!), her columns have been published together in book form. She's happy. Of course she's happy. Why wouldn't she be happy. The war is over. Her book is being received positively. Sure, she feels the need to move on, to write a book under her own name, to write a very different book. And true, she's a bit in doubt as to what that next book will be and if that book will live up to the success of the first one, but...

So most of her letters are to her publisher, Sidney, or to her best friend, Sophie. But. One letter she receives changes her life. And it wasn't an obvious change-of-life letter. It was a friendly, down-to-earth letter from a complete stranger. He'd read "her" book. No, not the book she'd written. But a book that had been in her library, a book with her name and address in it. It was a book by Charles Lamb. This used book found and read during the war, really, really effected him. He connected with Charles Lamb, and he thought she might have book recommendations and such.

So. Juliet discovers almost by accident several things. First, that Guernsey was occupied during the war. (If she'd known during the war, it had slipped her mind because it didn't really impact her--not because she was selfish, but just because when your own world is a big tumbling-down uncertain mess, you don't really think of the island of Guernsey in the big-scheme-of-things.) Second, that a group had come together through desperation and lust (for a pig dinner!!!) to form the "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society". Though for the record, the Potato Peel Pie part came later! Of course, she HAS to know more, and she wants all the details. She NEEDS more. She wants to hear more from men and women in this "literary society." She wants their stories--about books and reading, about the Nazi occupation, about the war, about their hardships (hunger, separation from children, etc), about their joys and sorrows. Of course, all this will take time and trust...

And that is what makes this one so great, in my opinion. I loved the getting-to-know experience. I loved the relationship building. I loved seeing friendships form. I especially, especially loved the bond that formed between Juliet and Kit (a war orphan). There were so many giddy-making moments in this book!

I would definitely recommend this one! It is so wonderful, so charming, so perfect!!!!  

I first reviewed this one in August 2009.  

Favorite quotes:
I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with.
That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.
Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.
Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.
I love seeing the bookshops and meeting the booksellers-- booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no one in his right mind would want to own one-- the margin of profit is too small. So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it-- along with first dibs on the new books.
Isola doesn't approve of small talk and believes in breaking the ice by stomping on it.

It was amazing to me then, and still is, that so many people who wander into bookshops don't really know what they're after--they only want to look around and hope to see a book that will strike their fancy. And then, being bright enough not to trust the publisher's blurb, they will ask the book clerk the three questions: (1) What is it about? (2) Have you read it? (3) Was it any good?
Will Thisbee gave me The Beginner's Cook-Book for Girl Guides. It was just the thing; the writer assumes you know nothing about cookery and writes useful hints - "When adding eggs, break the shells first.”
“What on earth did you say to Isola? She stopped in on her way to pick up Pride and Prejudice and to berate me for never telling her about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Why hadn't she known there were better love stories around? Stories not riddled with ill-adjusted men, anguish, death and graveyards!”
The first rule of snooping is to come at it sideways--when you began writing me dizzy letters about Alexander, I didn't ask if you were in love with him, I asked what his favorite animal was. And your answer told me everything I needed to know about him--how many men would admit that they loved ducks?

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Rereading Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/2003. Random House. 190 pages.

It was a pleasure to burn. 

I first read and reviewed Fahrenheit 451 in May 2007. I then read the graphic novel in October 2010. I couldn't resist reading the "real" book at that time as well. I even sought out A Pleasure to Burn, a collection of stories that traces Bradbury's developing themes. That collection included two crucial stories: "The Fireman" and "Long After Midnight." (Also I watched the movie.) The summer of 2012, I read tons of Ray Bradbury, and, of course, I had to reread Fahrenheit 451!

I definitely consider Fahrenheit 451 one of the rare must-reads. It is intense and thought-provoking. The novel, as a whole, is powerful. But it is in conversation (or dialogue) that this one truly shines. Guy Montag's conversations with Clarisse, with Faber, and to some extent even his boss and wife. It's a very reflective novel as well. In its pages, readers get a glimpse of a man at his most vulnerable: a self awakening of sorts as a man wakes up to the nightmare world in which he's been a part of all along.

Favorite quotes:

Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute...Remember, Montag, we're the happiness boys. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. (50-1)  
 We've started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are? Is that why we're hated so much? Do you know why? I don't, that's sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. God, Millie, don't you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe... (62)
Good God, it isn't as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. (78)
 It’s been a long time. I’m not a religious man. But it’s been a long time.’ Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read. ‘It’s as good as I remember. Lord, how they’ve changed it in our parlors these days. Christ is one of the family now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.’ (81)
Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. (83)
Though this one is "about" books, in a way, it is not. It is about the ideas, emotions, concepts behind the books. It is about the knowledge and wisdom sometimes contained in books, but never exclusively found in books. It is about choices and lifestyles. The nightmarish culture found in Fahrenheit 451 is a result of people choosing to be shallow, selfish, materialistic, technology-obsessed, and pleasure-seeking. People are "happy." But their "happiness" is fake. It comes at the cost of suppressing emotion and intellect. Free thinking is not encouraged. Thoughts shouldn't have depth and substance! One shouldn't ponder, consider, or reflect! It's about lives packed with noise and busyness--a blur of distractions--all designed to keep you from realizing there is something more, something that has been lost.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Rookwood (1834)

Rookwood. William Harrison Ainsworth. 1834. 464 pages. [Source: Bought]

Rookwood is a mess of a novel. But sometimes it is easy to love a mess, to love a book despite its flaws. If Rookwood is a mess, it is because it is a blending of genres and story lines.

There is the incredibly creepy, ever-mysterious Rookwood family. The mystery involving lies, secret marriages, hidden wills, and a LOT of murder. The heart of this plot is focused on inheritance. Who is the rightful heir of the Rookwood estate? Is it Luke Bradley the supposed "illegitimate" son of Sir Piers Rookwood and Susan Bradley? There seems to be proof the two were married and he is in fact legitimate after all. Is it Eleanor Mowbray? There seems to be a hint in that direction. Is it Ranulph Rookwood? He's certainly confident that he's the rightful claimant. And he's ready to defend it against contrary claims. The plot is creepy and bizarre because the family history is so strange and blood-filled. The book also lacks a clear HERO.

When it is creepy, it is incredibly creepy. The chapters that focus on the underground wedding are so very weird and creepy. Before Luke found out the truth about his past, about who he is, he was in love with a gypsy girl, Sybil Lovel. And Sybil's mother, Barbara, is truly something. As soon as Luke does find out the truth, he becomes fascinated with the idea of marrying his cousin Eleanor Mowbray and 'stealing' her away from his half-brother, Ranulph. (Eleanor and Ranulph were in love already.) The "romance" of this one is truly creepy and a bit bloody.

Balancing out the gothic romance, readers meet Dick Turpin, famous highwayman. Over half the novel stars Turpin. Readers see him eating, drinking, joking, singing, laughing, fighting, riding, holding up coaches, etc. Readers see him among friends and enemies. Turpin knows Luke Bradley. He knows of the messy inheritance. He has in his possession the marriage certificate. He wants Bradley to be triumphant perhaps, but he'll bargain with either side. He and Bradley work together at times, and against each other at times. Bradley isn't above playing legitimate hero and rescuing the damsel in distress if he feels like it. Turpin overlooks the frustrations Bradley sends his way. These sections of the novel are incredibly light. All action. All adventure. A lot of drinking and singing and general merry-making. And an incredible amount of boasting!

"Thoughts should not always find utterance, else we might often endanger our own safety, and that of others."
It is as necessary for a man to be a gentleman before he can turn highwayman, as it is for a doctor to have his diploma, or an attorney his certificate. 
You may both of you be gratified, gentlemen," said Palmer. "Talking of Dick Turpin, they say, is like speaking of the devil, he's at your elbow ere the word's well out of your mouth. He may be within hearing at this moment, for anything we know to the contrary."
By-the-by," added he, surveying Jack more narrowly, "it occurs to me that Turpin must be rather like you, Mr. Palmer?"
"Like me," said Jack, regarding Coates askance; "like me—how am I to understand you, sir, eh?" "No offence; none whatever, sir. Ah! stay, you won't object to my comparing the description. That can do no harm. Nobody would take you for a highwayman—nobody whatever—ha! ha! Singular resemblance—he—he. These things do happen sometimes: not very often, though. But here is Turpin's description in the Gazette, June 28th, A.D. 1737:—'It having been represented to the King that Richard Turpin did, on Wednesday, the 4th of May last, rob on his Majesty's highway Vavasour Mowbray, Esq., Major of the 2d troop of Horse Grenadiers'—that Major Mowbray, by-the-by, is a nephew of the late Sir Piers, and cousin of the present baronet—'and commit other notorious felonies and robberies near London, his Majesty is pleased to promise his most gracious pardon to any of his accomplices, and a reward of two hundred pounds to any person or persons who shall discover him, so as he may be apprehended and convicted.'" "Odsbodikins!" exclaimed Titus, "a noble reward! I should like to lay hands upon Turpin," added he, slapping Palmer's shoulder: "I wish he were in your place at this moment, Jack." "Thank you!" replied Palmer, shifting his chair. "'Turpin,'" continued Coates, "'was born at Thacksted, in Essex; is about thirty'—you, sir, I believe, are about thirty?" added he, addressing Palmer. "Thereabouts," said Jack, bluffly. "But what has my age to do with that of Turpin?" "Nothing—nothing at all," answered Coates; "suffer me, however, to proceed:—'Is by trade a butcher,'—you, sir, I believe, never had any dealings in that line?" "I have some notion how to dispose of a troublesome calf," returned Jack. "But Turpin, though described as a butcher, is, I understand, a lineal descendant of a great French archbishop of the same name." "Who wrote the chronicles of that royal robber Charlemagne; I know him," replied Coates—"a terrible liar!—The modern Turpin 'is about five feet nine inches high'—exactly your height, sir—exactly!" "I am five feet ten," answered Jack, standing bolt upright. "You have an inch, then, in your favor," returned the unperturbed attorney, deliberately proceeding with his examination—"'he has a brown complexion, marked with the smallpox.'" "My complexion is florid—my face without a seam," quoth Jack. "Those whiskers would conceal anything," replied Coates, with a grin. "Nobody wears whiskers nowadays, except a highwayman." "Sir!" said Jack, sternly. "You are personal." "I don't mean to be so," replied Coates; "but you must allow the description tallies with your own in a remarkable manner. Hear me out, however—'his cheek bones are broad—his face is thinner towards the bottom—his visage short—pretty upright—and broad about the shoulders.' Now I appeal to Mr. Tyrconnel if all this does not sound like a portrait of yourself." "Don't appeal to me," said Titus, hastily, "upon such a delicate point. I can't say that I approve of a gentleman being likened to a highwayman. But if ever there was a highwayman I'd wish to resemble, it's either Redmond O'Hanlon or Richard Turpin; and may the devil burn me if I know which of the two is the greater rascal!" "Well, Mr. Palmer," said Coates, "I repeat, I mean no offence. Likenesses are unaccountable. I am said to be like my Lord North; whether I am or not, the Lord knows. But if ever I meet with Turpin I shall bear you in mind—he—he! Ah! if ever I should have the good luck to stumble upon him, I've a plan for his capture which couldn't fail. Only let me get a glimpse of him, that's all. You shall see how I'll dispose of him." "Well, sir, we shall see," observed Palmer. "And for your own sake, I wish you may never be nearer to him than you are at this moment. With his friends, they say Dick Turpin can be as gentle as a lamb; with his foes, especially with a limb of the law like yourself, he's been found but an ugly customer.
Tell me, girl, in what way? Speak, that I may avenge you, if your wrong requires revenge. Are you blood of mine, and think I will not do this for you, girl? None of the blood of Barbara Lovel were ever unrevenged. When Richard Cooper stabbed my first-born, Francis, he fled to Flanders to escape my wrath. But he did not escape it. I pursued him thither. I hunted him out; drove him back to his own country, and brought him to the gallows. It took a power of gold. What matter? Revenge is dearer than gold. And as it was with Richard Cooper, so it shall be with Luke Bradley. I will catch him, though he run. I will trip him, though he leap. I will reach him, though he flee afar. I will drag him hither by the hair of his head," added she, with a livid smile, and clutching at the air with her hands, as if in the act of pulling some one towards her. "He shall wed you within the hour, if you will have it, or if your honor need that it should be so. My power is not departed from me. My people are yet at my command. I am still their queen, and woe to him that offendeth me!" "Mother! mother!" cried Sybil, affrighted at the storm she had unwittingly aroused, "he has not injured me. 'Tis I alone who am to blame, not Luke." "You speak in mysteries," said Barbara. "Sir Piers Rookwood is dead." "Dead!" echoed Barbara, letting fall her hazel rod. "Sir Piers dead!" "And Luke Bradley——" "Ha!" "Is his successor." "Who told you that?" asked Barbara, with increased astonishment.
Dick saw the effect that he produced. He was at home in a moment. Your true highwayman has ever a passion for effect. This does not desert him at the gallows; it rises superior to death itself, and has been known to influence the manner of his dangling from the gibbet!
"Proceed now with the ceremony," continued Barbara. "By darkness, or by light, the match shall be completed." The ring was then placed upon the finger of the bride; and as Luke touched it, he shuddered. It was cold as that of the corpse which he had clasped but now. The prayer was said, the blessing given, the marriage was complete. Suddenly there issued from the darkness deep dirge-like tones, and a voice solemnly chanted a strain, which all knew to be the death-song of their race, hymned by wailing women over an expiring sister. The music seemed to float in the air. THE SOUL-BELL Fast the sand of life is falling, Fast her latest sigh exhaling, Fast, fast, is she dying. With death's chills her limbs are shivering, With death's gasp the lips are quivering, Fast her soul away is flying. O'er the mountain-top it fleeteth, And the skyey wonders greeteth, Singing loud as stars it meeteth On its way. Hark! the sullen Soul-bell tolling, Hollowly in echoes rolling, Seems to say— "She will ope her eyes—oh, never! Quenched their dark light—gone for ever! She is dead."
The next time you wed, Sir Luke, let me advise you not to choose a wife in the dark. A man should have all his senses about him on these occasions. Make love when the liquor's in; marry when it's out, and, above all, with your eyes open. This beats cock-fighting—ha, ha, ha!—you must excuse me; but, upon my soul, I can't help it."
"Every man to his taste," returned Turpin; "I love to confront danger. Run away! pshaw! always meet your foe."
A man should always die game. We none of us know how soon our turn may come; but come when it will, I shall never flinch from it. As the highwayman's life is the fullest of zest, So the highwayman's death is the briefest and best; He dies not as other men die, by degrees, But at once! without flinching—and quite at his ease! 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. April Lady (1957)

April Lady. Georgette Heyer. 1957/2005. Harlequin. 270 pages. [Source: Library]

In some ways, April Lady is a very simple novel. A husband and wife are madly in love with each other; but each thinks the other only married out of convenience. They are horrible at communicating with one another. Nell may love her husband dearly, but clearly she does not understand him. Perhaps the couple's biggest problem is that of inequality. Instead of being husband and wife, they sometimes act like parent and child. (There is quite a bit of scolding at times. I can see why, she does act incredibly foolish. But still. His scolding isn't going to solve anything!)

April Lady may be predictable from cover to cover, but that does not stop this romance from being a satisfying one. What I enjoyed most about April Lady was the characterization. It wasn't that I loved the heroine, Nell, or her husband, Cardross; it was that Nell and Cardross were surrounded by interesting characters.

So. Nell has a brother, Dysart, who is a reckless gambler. (He's a LOT of fun, however.) Giles (Cardross) has a half-sister, Letty. She's silly, foolish, stubborn, and spoiled. Letty is in love with Jeremy Allandale. She is insisting (to anyone who will listen) that they HAVE to get married right NOW. It's not good enough that her brother will consent to the match in two or three years when she is nineteen or so. Now, now, now. Cardross also has a good friend, a cousin named Felix Hethersett.

I loved Felix, Dysart, Letty, and Jeremy more than Cardross and Nell. If this romance did not have such a great cast of "minor" characters, it would be awful.

22 / 33 books read. 67% done!

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Sprig Muslin (1956)

Sprig Muslin. Georgette Heyer. 1956/2011. Sourcebooks. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

Sprig Muslin is a lovely romance novel by Georgette Heyer. It is very reader-friendly; the pacing is even and it's a delight from the start. (In some of Heyer's novels the satisfaction comes in the last third of the novel; that isn't the case in Sprig Muslin). What makes Sprig Muslin satisfying isn't the romance, it is the comedy.

Sir Gareth Ludlow is on his way to propose to a very respectable woman, Lady Hester. He is quite fond of her, has respected and admired her for years. But he is not madly in love with her. On his trip, he accidentally meets Amanda "Smith." This young woman is obvious trouble from the start. She is obviously a woman intent on running away. He doesn't know her real name; he doesn't know where she's from--city or country; he doesn't know anything about her character except that she's a big liar, has an extraordinary imagination, and is incredibly foolish. This is a woman in need of rescuing. She needs someone with commonsense and no agenda to get her back where she belongs. He doesn't exactly want the job. But someone has to do it. He can't just leave her to her own designs or something awful could happen.

Amanda is the life of this novel. She is foolish, imaginative, stubborn, and vivacious. She is always plotting, always on the move, always calculating the situation and writing a new story. She keeps the novel going at a tremendous pace. Sir Gareth can hardly keep up with her, and the others they meet along the way are just as bad.

The novel is a big misadventure; there are plenty of interesting characters as well. This novel works BECAUSE Sir Gareth and Amanda are not love interests. I loved every minute of this one. Not because it was romantic and giddy-making, but because it was just so funny.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Bath Tangle (1955)

Bath Tangle. Georgette Heyer. 1955/2011. Sourcebooks. 368 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I may not have loved Bath Tangle the first time I read it, but I REALLY loved it this time!!! One thing I'm learning by rereading all the Heyer romances is that timing is everything, that there is a right mood and a wrong mood for reading. This time, I was definitely in the right mood to enjoy Bath Tangle from cover to cover.

Heyer is sometimes compared to Jane Austen. Bath Tangle shares some similarities with Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. The feisty relationship between Ivo, the Marquis of Rotherham, and Serena is in some ways like that of Elizabeth and Darcy. Ivo and Serena were at one point--perhaps five to seven years before the start of Bath Tangle?--engaged to be married. I wouldn't say there is regret on her part, at least not that she'd ever admit, however, there is enough regret on his side--which he hides under some pride. There are hints at Persuasion, but just subtly. The start of Bath Tangle even reminds me a tiny bit of Sense and Sensibility: it starts with a death (Serena's father) and is all about family adjustments. Serena and her step-mother Fanny are out of a home because of an inheritance; and there is some family tension. However, they are not poor.

Serena is close to her step-mother, Fanny, who is several years younger. The two decide to keep house together. Fanny does not want to go back to live with her parents. And Serena does not want to have to live with a fussy aunt. They can chaperon one another. The two eventually decide to go to Bath to finish out their year of mourning. Bath Tangle is about their time there and the men and women they meet. Hector is one of the gentleman they meet. He and Serena flirted years ago; he thought she was THE ONE. She is very pleased to see him again. She has very fond memories of being worshiped. The two do not announce their engagement, but they do come to an agreement. Emily is a young woman that Serena and Fanny spend some time with. Emily is the fiancee of Ivo. Fanny thinks the marriage would be a huge mistake. Serena thinks that Emily just needs time and training, that she can be made to be worthy of Ivo. Mrs. Floore is a very interesting character, as well, she is Emily's grandmother.

The "tangle" of the title is very appropriate for the relationships in Bath Tangle are very messy. Even though Ivo is not present in a great many scenes, I felt his presence was still FELT throughout much of the novel. I really thought the tension between Ivo and Serena was great. Loved all the arguing. Loved how he understood her better than Hector! The last third of the novel was practically perfect.

Bath Tangle is a romantic comedy. The love lives of most of the characters are settled by the end of the novel.

I also appreciated the historical detail in this one. There is some time spent discussing Glenarvon by Caroline Lamb, which was quite a sensation in 1816. Also there is discussion of the wedding (or upcoming wedding) of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Speaking from Among the Bones (2013)

Speaking from Among the Bones. Alan Bradley. 2013. Random House. 400 pages.

I've enjoyed each of the Flavia de Luce mysteries written by Alan Bradley. This young detective is quite original, though her mystery novels have, in a way, become more predictable. I mean that readers know almost exactly what to expect of the series, of the main characters, of the writing. (Not the details of the actual mysteries, the murder mysteries.) If you love the character of Flavia de Luce, it can be a good thing--comforting, satisfying--to know that nothing ever changes. Still, a little character growth wouldn't be a horrible thing in any of the main characters. (There are two significant things readers learn by the conclusion of this book. These potentially could change things up a bit.) It probably won't surprise anyone that Flavia discovers a dead body in this newest mystery. She found it in an ancient tomb they (the church) were getting ready to excavate. There were plenty of peculiar details about it, plenty of clues for a young girl detective to follow. These clues lead her into great danger, perhaps the greatest danger she's known thus far in the series.

If you have enjoyed the series in the past, this one is worth reading. Others include: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard, and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Reconstructing Amelia

Kate, a high-powered attorney in New York, loses her teen daughter, Amelia to suicide. Amelia apparently jumped off the top of a building at the ritzy private school she attended, though why, Kate doesn't understand. Her daughter was ambitious -- one of the "good" kids and certainly did not seem to be suicidal. Why would she just decide to kill herself one day?

Shortly after Amelia's death, Kate receives a text message that implies Amelia did not, in fact, kill herself, which sets the woman off on a mission to find out what re
ally happened.

The story unfolds through the voices of both Kate and Amelia, in alternating chapters and through text messages, emails, and Amelia's posts on social media. The topics of hazing and bullying play a huge role in the plot, which I found perfect for the issues teens face in today's society, as well as interesting in that they made for quite the thriller. Topics such as these are often very sensitive, emotional stories, rather than fast-paced page turners. 

Once I picked up the book, I did not want to put it down for a second. Forget chasing my toddler around (ok, I didn't really forget, I promise), I wanted to just turn the pages as fast as I could and find out the real deal behind Amelia's death. 

Though I don't quite understand the comparisons to Gone Girl, I do love a good page-turner and would recommend this to those that are looking for a great read to keep them guessing. I just think Gone Girl was more of mind-play with a whole lot of vulgarity. A great story, but not for everyone. This one would make any mystery/thriller lover happy. 

Thanks to Harper for the review copy!

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13. Les Miserables (1862)

Les Miserables. Victor Hugo. Translated and Introduced by Norman Denny. 1862/1976/2012. Penguin. 1232 pages.

Reading Les Miserables was an experience! For six or seven days, I kept good company with the novel. I definitely was not expecting to finish this chunkster in one week! But I found the story so compelling. Political, philosophical, spiritual, dramatic, and romantic. Each word describes the novel, in part. While there are many characters in this novel, I loved the narrator the best of all. Who are some of the characters? Bishop Myriel, Jean Valjean, Fantine, Inspector Javert, Cosette, Marius, Eponine, Enjolras, and Gavroche--just to name a few.

Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who seeks shelter from Bishop Myriel one night. Though he's been treated only with kindness, Valjean in his bitterness (he was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread), he steals the bishop's silver. When the theft is discovered, the bishop is all compassion telling the officials that there has been a misunderstanding. Valjean did not steal the silver; it was given as a gift. In fact, he's happy to give Valjean his silver candlesticks as well. Valjean is shocked and overwhelmed. The meeting turns out to be quite life-changing.

When readers next meet Valjean, he has a new name and life. Monsieur Madeleine is a successful business man. He has a BIG heart. He's always giving. He's always thinking of others. He's always doing what he can, when he can to make a difference when and where it matters most. One woman he is determined to help is a young, single mother, Fantine. Circumstances have separated Fantine from her child, Cosette, but, Valjean is determined to correct as many wrongs as he can in this situation. He will see to it personally.

Unfortunately, his past catches up with him. He learns that a man has been arrested; "Jean Valjean" has been caught. Of course, Madeleine knows this is nonsense. Can he let another take his place in prison? If he tells the truth then he can no longer help the poor, but if he doesn't tell the truth, how could he live with himself? He does the honorable thing--though it is one of the greatest challenges he's faced so far.

But that means, for the moment, that Cosette is left in unpleasant circumstances...

There comes a time, an opportunity for Valjean to escape. What he does with his freedom--this time he's assumed drowned, I believe--is go and find Cosette. The two become everything to one another. Cosette is the family he's never had, never even knew he needed or wanted... the two end up in Paris.

Almost half of the novel follows the love story between Marius and Cosette. But it isn't only a love story. Marius is a poor man in conflict with his rich grandfather. The two disagree about many things. But their main source of disagreement is politics. At first, Marius is swept up in his father's politics, with a new awareness of who his father was as a soldier, as a man, as a possible hero. But later, Marius begins to think for himself, to contemplate political and philosophical things for himself. He becomes friendly with a political group at this time. But his love of politics dims when he falls in love with Cosette...and she becomes his whole reason for being. For the longest time these two don't even know each other's names! This romance isn't without challenges...

This novel has so much drama! I found it beautifully written. So many amazing passages! Such interesting characters! I'm not sure I loved the ending. And I was frustrated with Marius at times. But. I definitely loved this book!

Favorite quotes:
What is reported of men, whether it be true or false, may play as large a part in their lives, and above all in their destiny, as the things they do. (19)
We do not claim that the portrait we are making is the whole truth, only that it is a resemblance. (25)
The flesh is at once man's burden and his temptation. He bears it and yields to it. He must keep watch over it and restrain it, and obey it only in the last resort. Such obedience may be a fault, but it is a venial fault. It is a fall, but a fall on to the knees which may end in prayer. To be a saint is to be an exception; to be a true man is the rule. Err, fail, sin if you must, but be upright. To sin as little as possible is the law for men; to sin not at all is a dream for angels. All earthly things are subject to sin; it is like the force of gravity. (29-30)
'The beautiful is as useful as the useful.' Then, after a pause, he added: "More so, perhaps.' (38)
I was not put into this world to preserve my life but to protect souls. (40)
Conscience is the amount of inner knowledge that we possess. (52)
The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human race has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced. (56)
He pondered on the greatness and the living presence of God, on the mystery of eternity in the future and, even more strange, eternity in the past, on all the infinity manifest to his eyes and to his senses; and without seeking to comprehend the incomprehensible he contemplated these things. He did not scrutinize God but let his eyes be dazzled. (67)
There are no bounds to human thought. At its own risk and peril it analyzes and explores its own bewilderment. (68)
We can no more pray too much than we can love too much. (69)
There are men who dig for gold; he dug for compassion. Poverty was his goldmine; and the universality of suffering a reason for the universality of charity. 'Love one another.' To him everything was contained in those words, his whole doctrine, and he asked no more. (69)
The bishop, seated at his side, laid a hand gently on his arm.
'You need have told me nothing. This house is not mine but Christ's. It does not ask a man his  name but whether he is in need. You are in trouble, you are hungry and thirsty, and so you are welcome. You need not thank me for receiving you in my house. No one is at home here except those seeking shelter. Let me assure you, passer-by though you are, that this is more your home than mine. Everything in it is yours. Why should I ask your name? In any case I knew it before you told me.'
The man looked up with startled eyes. 'You know my name?'
'Of course,' said the bishop. 'Your name is brother.' (87)
Is there not true evangelism in the delicacy which refrains from preaching and moralizing? To avoid probing an open wound, is not that the truest sympathy? (90)
'Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man.'
Valjean, who did not recall having made any promise, was silent. The bishop had spoken the words slowly and deliberately. He concluded with a solemn emphasis: 'Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good. I have bought your soul to save it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.' ( 111)
Gold and pearls were her dowry, but the gold was on her head and the pearls were in her mouth. She worked in order to live, and presently fell in love, also in order to live, for the heart, too, has its hunger. (125)
Animals are nothing but the portrayal of our virtues and vices made manifest to our eyes, the visible reflections of our souls. (164)
What is the riddle of these countless scattered destinies, whither are they bound, why are they as they are? He who knows the answer to this knows all things. He is alone. His name is God. (180)
There is a prospect greater than the sea, and it is the sky; there is a prospect greater than the sky, and it is the human soul. (208)
To make a poem of the human conscience, even in terms of a single man and the least of men, would be to merge all epics in a single epic transcending all. (208)
We can no more prevent a thought from returning to the mind than we can prevent the sea from rising on the foreshore. To the sailor it is the tide, to the uneasy conscience it is remorse. God moves the soul as He moves the oceans. (213)
The sisters, then, had this in common when they were girls, that each had her dream, each had wings, those of an angel in the one case and those of a goose in the other. (519)
He never left home without a book under his arm, and often came back with two. (593)
Our imaginings are what most resemble us. Each of us dreams of the unknown and the impossible in his own way. (597)
There comes a moment when the bud bursts overnight into flower and yesterday's little girl becomes a woman to entrap our hearts. This one had not merely grown but was transformed. Just as three April days may suffice for some trees to cover themselves with blossom, so six months had sufficed to clothe her with beauty. Her April had come. (606)
Of all things God has created it is the human heart that sheds the brightest light, and alas, the blackest despair. (844)
'After all, what is a cat?' he demanded. 'It's a correction. Having created the mouse God said to himself, "That was silly of me!" and so he created the cat. The cat is the erratum of the mouse. Mouse and cat together represent the revised proofs of Creation.' (995) 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. The Inimitable Jeeves (1923)

The Inimitable Jeeves (Jeeves). P.G. Wodehouse. 1923. 225 pages.

The Inimitable Jeeves is my favorite Wodehouse yet. (I've also read The Man With Two Left Feet and My Man Jeeves.) I loved this short story collection because it is all devoted to Bertie and Jeeves! Featured stories include: "Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum," "No Wedding Bells for Bingo," "Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind," "Pearls Mean Tears," "The Pride of the Woosters is Wounded," "The Hero's Reward," "Introducing Claude and Eustace," "Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch," "A Letter of Introduction," Startling Dressiness of a Lift Attendant," Comrade Bingo," "Bingo Has a Bad Goodwood," "The Great Sermon Handicap," "The Purity of the Turf," "The Metropolitan Touch," "The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace," "Bingo and the Little Woman," and "All's Well."

These stories introduce one of Bertie's friends, Bingo Little. He is quite the character. He is always falling in love with someone. And there's always drama that Bertie and Jeeves get drawn into! But Bingo Little isn't the only source of drama! There's also Bertie's family, including Aunt Agatha and two of his cousins, Claude and Eustace, to name a few. Some of the stories are set in the city, others take place in the country. All are delightful!!!

My favorite sequence of stories is "The Hero's Reward," "Introducing Claude and Eustace," and "Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch." In this sequence, Bertie finds himself accidentally engaged to a girl, Honoria, a young woman that Bingo was once quite smitten with! Sir Roderick is Honoria's father, and their lunch together is quite delightful! He's not quite sure he likes Bertie, not quite sure Bertie is sane... enter an insane number of cats, fish under Bertie's bed, and a stolen hat... and you've got an unforgettable chapter!

Read The Inimitable Jeeves
  • If you like short stories
  • If you love short stories
  • If you hate short stories
  • If you enjoy P.G. Wodehouse
  • If you want more Bertie and Jeeves
  • If you love to laugh
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Faro's Daughter (1941)

Faro's Daughter. Georgette Heyer. 1941. 288 pages.

I absolutely loved Georgette Heyer's Faro's Daughter. In the first chapter, readers meet Mr. Ravenscar (Max) as he visits with his sister, Lady Mablethorpe. She wants him to to prevent an imprudent match of his nephew with an unsuitable young woman, Deborah Grantham. This "vulgar" woman lives in a gaming house with her aunt! He goes to visit the young lady in the gaming house, even gambles with her for a while. His conclusion: she's not a good match for a gentleman, certainly, but she might be easily bought off. Instead of talking with his nephew, he'll talk to her instead and offer her money if she promises to never marry the boy.

Readers just don't see this from his point of view, however, readers also get to meet Deborah for themselves. And Deborah finds Ravenscar's offer insulting and infuriating. How dare he assume she could be bought off! Though she hadn't any plans on marrying Adrian, she know plans to do just that. Well. If she has to. She's hoping that that won't be necessary after all. If only she could get Adrian to fall in love with someone else...

Ravenscar and Deborah hate each other so much, their interactions are so intense. They bring out the worst in each other...

I loved this one so much! It's a great read cover to cover. So many interesting characters and stories.

Read Faro's Daughter
  • If you love Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Much Ado About Nothing, etc. Romance stories where the hero and heroine HATE each other before they fall in love...
  • If you enjoy Georgette Heyer
  • If you enjoy Regency romances, historical romances
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 Comments on Faro's Daughter (1941), last added: 3/18/2013
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16. Gossip review

Lovie French is the owner of a ritzy dress shop in Manhattan -- the place where everyone who's anyone goes to purchase a special outfit for any occasion. She not only caters clothing to the rich, she's also the level-headed balance between her two closest friends from boarding school. 

Dinah is a spitfire with a mouth that often gets her into trouble and Avis is somewhat uptight, conservative, and pretty much Dinah's opposite. It's quite obvious from the very beginning, that the only thing they have in common is a friendship with Lovie. When Avis' daughter begins dating Dinah's son, poor Lovie is in the middle of a very awkward situation, while also attempting to manage her own difficult love life. 

The book bounces between the 1960's and the present, giving us a look at just how Dinah and Avis each became friends with Lovie while away at boarding school and how their relationships have developed over the years. Despite reading a few other tough reviews, I really enjoyed this format and ended up speeding through the book over the course of an afternoon!

The subject seems somewhat light -- a dress shop owner and her two friendships -- but the plot and the characters are incredibly detailed, rich, and written with a depth that I really enjoyed. Everyone has secrets and those secrets make the rounds, giving the large city of Manhattan a small-town appearance. It was an addictive read and one I'm very glad to have picked up!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the review copy.

1 Comments on Gossip review, last added: 4/8/2013
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17. The Corinthian (1940)

The Corinthian. Georgette Heyer. 1940/2009. Sourcebooks. 261 pages.

 In The Corinthian, we've got a bachelor, Sir Richard Wyndham, who happens to rescue a damsel in distress, Penelope Creed. Penelope set on running away from her aunt--who is encouraging her into a loveless marriage with her cousin Fred--is disguised as a boy. Richard, while on his way home and a bit drunk at that, sees Pen climbing out her window--by way of her bed sheets of course. He "catches" her just in time. Granted, this "she" is dressed as a he. But there's no fooling Richard. A bit amused at the situation, and wanting to run away himself to avoid an unpleasant appointment the next day, he decides to help out. She wants to escape London--and her aunt--and travel to Bristol (or near Bristol anyway). She's got a childhood friend, Piers, who she fancies herself madly in love with. Five (or so) years ago, these two promised themselves to each other. Hearing this tale, Richard decides to join in the journey and ensure her safety. The two will go together. He will act as her tutor-uncle-cousin and 'protect' her along the way. (Each identity is used on their journey at various stages.) Their journey is rarely boring--they get in and out of trouble along the way.

This one is a delightful romantic comedy. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one! I love Pen Creed. I love Sir Richard. The dialogue is just too much fun in this Regency romance!

A scene between Pen and Richard:
"Were you locked in your room?" enquired Sir Richard.
"Oh no! I daresay I should have been if Aunt had guessed what I meant to do, but she would never think of such a thing."
"Then--forgive my curiosity!--why did you climb out of the window?" asked Sir Richard.
"Oh, that was on account of Pug!" replied Pen sunnily.
"Yes, a horrid little creature! He sleeps in a basket in the hall, and he always yaps if he thinks one is going out. That would have awakened Aunt Almeria. There was nothing else I could do."
Sir Richard regarded her with a lurking smile. "Naturally not. Do you know, Pen, I owe you a debt of gratitude?"
"Oh!" she said again. "Do you mean that I don't behave as a delicately bred female should?"
"That is one way of putting it, certainly."
"It is the way Aunt Almeria puts it."
"She would, of course."
"I am afraid," confessed Pen, "that I am not very well-behaved. Aunt says that I had a lamentable upbringing, because my father treated me as though I had been a boy. I ought to have been, you understand."
"I cannot agree with you," said Sir Richard. "As a boy you would have been in no way remarkable; as a female, believe me, you are unique."
She flushed to the roots of her hair. "I think that is a compliment."
"It is," Sir Richard said, amused.
"Well, I wasn't sure, because I am not out yet, and I do not know any men except my uncle and Fred, and they don't pay compliments. That is to say, not like that." (68-69)
Fred Griffin in conversation with Sir Richard:
"What, sir, would you think of a member of the Weaker Sex who assumed the guise of a man, and left the home of her natural protector by way of the window?"
"I should assume," replied Sir Richard, "that she had strong reasons for acting with such resolution."
"She did not wish to marry me," said Mr. Griffin gloomily.
"Oh!" said Sir Richard.
"Well, I'm sure I can't see why she should be so set against me, but that's not it, sir. The thing is that here's my mother determined to find her, and to make her marry me, and so hush up the scandal. But I don't like it above half. If she dislikes the notion so much, I don't think I ought to marry her, do you?"
"Emphatically not!"
"I must say I am very glad to hear you say that, Sir Richard!" said Mr. Griffin, much cheered. "For you must know that my mother has been telling me ever since yesterday that I must marry her now, to save her name. But I think she would very likely make me uncomfortable, and nothing could make up for that, in my opinion."
"A lady capable of escaping out of a window in the guise of a a man would quite certainly make you more than uncomfortable," said Sir Richard.
"Yes, though she's only a chit of a girl, you know. In fact, she is not yet out. I am very happy to have had the benefit of the opinion of a Man of the World. I feel that I can rely on your judgment."
"On my judgment, you might, but in nothing else, I assure you," said Sir Richard. "You know nothing of me, after all. How do you know that I am not now concealing your cousin from you?"
"Ha-ha! Very good, upon my word! Very good, indeed!" said Mr. Griffin, saluting a jest of the first water. (124)

Read The Corinthian
  • If you enjoy Regency romances
  • If you enjoy historical romance
  • If you enjoy historical romance with a touch of drama, mystery, and murder...
  • If you enjoy Georgette Heyer
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2 Comments on The Corinthian (1940), last added: 3/15/2013
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18. Lord Edgware Dies (1933)

Lord Edgware Dies (OR Thirteen at Dinner). Agatha Christie. 1933. 260 pages.

I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this Agatha Christie mystery. It stars both Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings, a combination I find very hard to resist. The mystery begins with an American celebrity--an actress, Jane Wilkinson--asking Poirot for help. She's not asking him to solve a crime, exactly. She's asking him to go to her husband--whom she hates--and ask him if he'll grant her a divorce. After this consultation, she "carelessly" mentions how she wants her husband to die; at one point she even shares just how she would kill her husband. A few take her seriously pointing out to Poirot that Wilkinson is the type of woman who would kill without thinking it wrong. But Poirot likes to make up his own mind, come to his own conclusions about people's characters and motives.
So when a little time later, Lord Edgware is killed, Poirot becomes interested in the case...

This one was a delightful mystery! I just love Agatha Christie! This may be among my favorite Poirot mysteries!!!

Favorite quotes:
"I always find alibis very enjoyable," he remarked. "Whenever I happen to be reading a detective story I sit up and take notice when the alibi comes along." (122)
"Between the deliberate falsehood and the disinterested inaccuracy it is very hard to distinguish sometimes.."
"What do you mean?"
"To deceive deliberately--that is one thing. But to be so sure of your facts, of your ideas and of their essential truth that the details do not matter--that, my friend, is a special characteristic of particularly honest persons." (128)
"The positive witness should always be treated with suspicion, my friend. The uncertain witness who doesn't remember, isn't sure, will think a minute--ah! yes, that's how it was--is infinitely more to be depended upon!"
"Dear me, Poirot," I said. "You upset all my preconceived ideas about witnesses." (129)
"My good friend," he said. "I depend upon you more than you know."
I was confused and delighted by these unexpected words. He had never said anything of the kind to me before. Sometimes, secretly, I had felt slightly hurt. He seemed almost to go out of his way to disparage my mental powers.
Although I did not think his own powers were flagging, I did realize suddenly that perhaps he had come to depend on my aid more than he knew.
"Yes," he said dreamily. "You may not always comprehend just how it is so--but you do often, and often point the way."
I could hardly believe my ears.
"Really, Poirot," I stammered. "I'm awfully glad, I suppose I've learnt a good deal from you one way or another--"
He shook his head.
"Mais non, ce n'est pas ca. You have learnt nothing."
"Oh!" I said, rather taken aback.
"That is as it should be. No human being should learn from another. Each individual should develop his own powers to the uttermost, not try to imitate those of someone else. I do not wish you to be a second and inferior Poirot. I wish you to be the supreme Hastings. In you, Hastings, I find the normal mind almost perfectly illustrated." (133)
"You are like someone who reads the detective story and who starts guessing each of the characters in turn without rhyme or reason." (135)
Read Lord Edgware Dies
  • If you enjoy murder mysteries with more than one murder
  • If you enjoy Agatha Christie
  • If you love Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings
  • If you enjoy vintage, British mysteries
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2 Comments on Lord Edgware Dies (1933), last added: 4/8/2013
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19. Ruth (1853)

Ruth. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1853. 432 pages.

In high school, I was required to read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I have issues with the messages in The Scarlet Letter which I share in my review, but essentially I wrote, "I think it would be horrible if The Scarlet Letter was a person's only exposure to Christianity. Because you know what, what this book lacks--really lacks--is the gospel message."

Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell has some similarities, in a way, to The Scarlet Letter. Both books being about "fallen" women raising illegitimate children. But. The books are so different in quality, tone, depth of characterization, and message. I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Ruth.

Ruth Hilton is an orphaned teen working hard as a seamstress, she meets a rich young man, they fall in love. She's out walking with him--innocently walking one Sunday afternoon--when her employer, Mrs. Mason, sees her and throws a fit. Since her employer is her guardian--since she lives with her--Ruth feels she has no where to go. So Mr. Bellingham finds her easy to persuade: she can join him for his trip to London and then Wales.

Who knows how long this connection would have lasted if Mr. Bellingham hadn't happened to become very ill. Ruth nurses him until his mother arrives. When his mother does arrive, Ruth's fate seems certain. The two will not be allowed near each other again. For Ruth is a horribly, evil woman.

Fortunately for Ruth, Mr. Benson has a big, big heart for he knows a big God who is all about grace, forgiveness, and second chances. Mr. Benson does not see Ruth as a "fallen woman." The thought of judging Ruth for her sins never once occurs to him. Ruth needs special care: forgiveness, acceptance, unconditional love. Mr. Benson and his sister, Faith, welcome Ruth into their lives completely. Even knowing that she is going to have a baby.

For better or worse, the Bensons decide that Ruth should become Mrs. Denbigh, a widow. They leave Wales and go back to their home, taking Ruth with them...

Ruth grows up and matures into a beautiful, godly woman. She's a good mother and a hard worker. She is able to work to help support herself and her son. She gets work as a governess, but all cannot remain calm and easy. For Ruth's secret eventually surfaces...

I loved this one so much! I loved the Benson family so much! And Ruth was a great character as well. The novel is beautiful, tragic, and just about perfect.

Read Ruth
  • If you like Elizabeth Gaskell
  • If you hated Scarlet Letter
  • If you enjoy Victorian literature 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2 Comments on Ruth (1853), last added: 3/7/2013
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20. Peril at End House (1932)

Peril at End House. Agatha Christie. 1932. HarperCollins. 287 pages.

It is such a pleasure to read an Agatha Christie mystery. Peril at End House stars Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings. (I really love it when Hastings is "helping" Poirot solve a case.) This mystery is a hard one for Poirot to solve, though he doesn't realize that until the very, very end! This is a novel that could very easily be spoiled so I won't say much about it except that it was a pure delight to read this one! 

I think I LOVED this one so much because it kept me guessing, and it kept Poirot and Hastings guessing as well! While it's not unusual for a mystery--a crime--to keep Hastings guessing, it was satisfying to see Poirot stumble around a bit!

Favorite quotes:
“Poirot," I said. "I have been thinking."
"An admirable exercise my friend. Continue it.”
“You have a tendency, Hastings, to prefer the least likely. That, no doubt, is from reading too many detective stories.” 
“Evil never goes unpunished, Monsieur. But the punishment is sometimes secret.” 
 Read Peril at End House
  • If you like Agatha Christie
  • If you like classic or vintage mysteries
  • If you like British cozy mysteries
  • If you like Captain Hastings and Hercule Poirot

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2 Comments on Peril at End House (1932), last added: 3/9/2013
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21. Calling Me Home review

I don't fly often, but when I do, my main travel accessory is a book that will pass the time on the plane. I don't like to take the chance of starting one once I'm already enclosed in that steel flying contraption, because, inevitably, I'm not going to like my book of choice and I'll be stuck for hours with nothing to do. I'm sure it's happened to most of you. 

I picked up Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler on the last leg of my trip home from Florida. I didn't have anything left to read and I hadn't started this one yet, so it had two strikes against it already (flying rule strikes, that is), but this book defied the odds beautifully. 

I ended up loving the story of a young hairdresser being asked, out of the blue, to drive her elderly client across the country for an unknown reason and the conversations that took place between the pair on the way. 

Isabelle is an 89-year-old spitfire and Dorrie her young, black hairdresser. The story is indeed about racial lines, but it's also an incredible friendship story, a love story, and family drama. Kibler created each of her characters in a way that completely hooked me -- having me feel all the necessary emotions for each one. Though Isabelle's mother wasn't the most sympathetic of characters, I was able to feel sympathy for a woman just choosing to do what she knew. That's the mark of a great author. 

I ended up racing through Calling Me Home in that 2.5 hour flight. It was beautifully written and easy to want to tear through, as I really needed to know what would happen to everyone at the end. I was reading so quickly, the woman seated next to me on the plane, in her full Army uniform, asked me about the book, because she noticed. She said she was going to buy it as soon as a store was open the next day. Another reader gained. 

I highly recommend you all checking this one out!

1 Comments on Calling Me Home review, last added: 3/8/2013
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22. Why Shoot a Butler? (1933)

Why Shoot a Butler? Georgette Heyer. 1933. 352 pages.

While I've read plenty by Georgette Heyer, Why Shoot a Butler (1933) was my first mystery novel by Heyer. I definitely enjoyed it! Mr. Amberley, our detective hero, is on the way to visit his aunt, uncle, and cousin. He's lost his way because he followed his cousin Felicity's directions. While he's trying to find his way, he sees a woman on the side of the road. Upon further investigation, he realizes that this woman is standing by a car...a car with a dead body in it. Amberley is convinced of two things: he does NOT like this strange woman, their conversation was, well, awkward to say the least; but, his instinct is telling him that she is innocent of murder...and that if he were to report her being found by the body that she'd be arrested. The police probably wouldn't look hard for the real murderer then. 

His visit with the family goes well. And as the murder investigation gets under way, he stays around and does his own investigation. He learns more and more about this woman, Shirley Brown, and her brother. He is on her side even if she doesn't want him on her side or by her side...

I really loved this one and found it very pleasant.

Read Why Shoot A Butler
  • If you enjoy Georgette Heyer
  • If you like British mysteries
  • If you like vintage mysteries of the 1930s
  • If you like mysteries with a touch of romance
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 Comments on Why Shoot a Butler? (1933), last added: 3/10/2013
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23. Hamlet, Revenge (1937)

Hamlet, Revenge! Michael Innes. 1937. 312 pages.

Hamlet, Revenge is the first mystery novel I've read by Michael Innes. It was published in 1937 and stars Inspector Appleby. The first half of the novel focuses on Scamnum Court, the family is producing a private showing of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Family, family friends, friendly acquaintances will star in this tragedy. Of course, from the start, readers know that all will not go well. (It is a mystery, after all. But there is plenty of foreshadowing in the introductory chapters.) The second half of the mystery focuses on Inspector Appleby and company as they try to solve the murder(s) that occurred on that tragic weekend.

There are SO MANY suspects in this one. So many characters introduced, and it was almost impossible to remember who was who. The mystery is very detailed, clues abound, and if you've got the attention to give to this one, it would probably be worth your time. It took me a while to get into this novel, but by the end I did care.

Read Hamlet, Revenge
  • If you enjoy mysteries, British mysteries, vintage mysteries
  • If you enjoy mysteries with literature and/or drama and/or academic connection

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2 Comments on Hamlet, Revenge (1937), last added: 3/12/2013
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24. The Case of the Late Pig (1948)

The Case of the Late Pig. Margery Allingham. 1948. 144 pages.

I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Margery Allingham's The Case of the Late Pig. This was my first introduction to Albert Campion, and I just have to say that I love him! I do! I love him. This mystery had me hooked from the very beginning. The first sentence reads, "The main thing to remember in autobiography, I have always thought, is not to let any damned modesty creep in to spoil the story. This adventure is mine, Albert Campion's, and I am fairly certain that I was pretty nearly brilliant in it in spite of the fact that I so nearly got myself and old Lugg killed that I hear a harp quintet whenever I consider it. It begins with me eating in bed." Isn't that a WONDERFUL way to start a book, a mystery?! Old Lugg, by the way, is his valet.

The book begins with Lugg reading aloud the deaths in the Times to his master as he's eating in bed. Albert isn't exactly thrilled at this 'new' behavior of his valet which he picked up from keeping company with another valet. Albert is glancing through his own letters as well. Suddenly he makes a connection: one of his old school mates has died. A man with the nickname of Pig Peters. (R.I. Peters is his real name.) Pig Peters was a bit of a bully--almost always a bully. But. Campion did promise himself (and Peters, I believe) that he would attend his funeral. So off to the funeral they go. It's a very strange funeral--little attended. And all would be well, except that Pig Peter's funeral was in January...and his body turns up again in June! And it's obvious to Campion that the death is only a few hours old...

This mystery delights cover to cover. I absolutely LOVED the writing, the dialogue, the characterization. IT was just a joy to read this one!!!

Read The Case of the Late Pig
  • If you want to read a really GREAT mystery
  • If you enjoy British mysteries
  • If you enjoy vintage mysteries
  • If you enjoy Margery Allingham
  • If you enjoy cozy mysteries
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

3 Comments on The Case of the Late Pig (1948), last added: 3/13/2013
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25. The Comfort of Lies review

Tia, Juliette, and Caroline have never met, but their lives intertwine in a crazy-complex way that no one would probably wish on their worst enemy. 

Tia, a lost girl in love with a married man, becomes pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption. Caroline becomes the mother of that child. Juliette is the wife of Tia's love. Told from the perspective of each of the women, we watch the story unfold as Juliette finds out about the child and becomes obsessed with her and finding out the whole truth of her husband's relationship. 

None of these women is exactly likable. They each have their own flaws and live up to those flaws as the story builds, but that's why the book was so readable. They were written like any typical real woman. The character development is excellent and though I didn't love the characters, I think Meyers wanted it that way. I think she wanted us to dislike them enough to believe in them and I really did. I wanted to know what they would do and how they would react to the confrontations they were meant to have and if they had all been sympathetic, likable characters it wouldn't have rung true. 

If you're into intense drama, I definitely recommend checking this one out. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour. Check out the rest of the stops on the tour here

You can find author Randy Susan Meyers on Facebook and Twitter or at her website

2 Comments on The Comfort of Lies review, last added: 4/7/2013
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