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Best Books of 2011

13 Mar

Sorry to be so late on this post! I can’t believe I haven’t already posted this! I swear I thought I did. I don’t know what’s up with the formatting for this by the way. I did NOT type everything in italics, and even going back trying to change it, it stays like this!

1. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- Definitely the best of the Sherlock Holmes novels- no long flashback scenes like the others.

2. The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer- Hilarious combination of romance and mystery. Loved the characters.
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini- Not enough tears to cry. Even better than The Kite Runner.
4.Eon/Eona by Alison Goodman- Action-packed fantasy/dragon series that I couldn’t put down.
5. Divergent by Veronica Roth- Finally found a dystopian I liked just as much or even more than The Hunger Games!
6. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers- Mystery not involving a murder. Excellent Harriet Vane/Peter Wimsey scenes.
7. Champagne for One- by Rex Stout- By far my favorite Nero Wolfe mystery so far.
8. A Game of Thrones– by George R. R. Martin. Action-packed and addicting.
9. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie- One of many great Agatha Christie novels. Loved how she did something different with only four murder suspects.
10. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan- Great to see Percy Jackson again.
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder- Not your typical YA fantasy.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis- A sci-fi/murdery mystery/dystopian. Covers a lot of great genres!
If I Stay by Gayle Forman- One of the few contemporary novels I enjoyed, and even this has a hint of the supernatural.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- This gets better with every reread!

Georgette Heyer Reviews- Death in the Stocks, These Old Shades, Devil’s Cub

29 Jul

Death in the Stocks- A man is found dead, locked in the stocks on a village green. It turns out he was a jerk and just about everyone he knew had motive to kill him. Georgette Heyer’s mysteries aren’t as intricately plotted as Agatha Christie’s, nor are her characters as well-drawn as Dorothy L. Sayers’s, but I still find them enjoyable. They have the same comedic, charming quality as her Regencies. This one was no exception- very light-hearted and funny, despite being about a murder. The victim’s younger half-siblings and their whacky antics in this were hilarious. It’s not something to turn to if you’re looking for deep and meaningful material, but it’s still a fun book. My Rating: 8/10

These Old Shades- This is one of her earliest works, set in the Georgian era. It’s a reworking of a lot of the characters from The Black Moth, which she wrote as a teen. The title refers to the characters being “shades” from that book.The hero in this book, Justin Alistair, the Duke of Avon, is a reworking of the villain from The Black Moth, a “bad” man past forty. The heroine, Leonie, is a nineteen year old girl who has lived as a boy since she was twelve. I was pleasantly surprised by this book because, frankly, my expectations were very low. The age difference was a bit squicky but I still found it amusing and fun. My Rating: 7/10

Devil’s Cub-This is actually a sequel of sorts to These Old Shades, dealing with Leonie and Justin’s son, Dominic, the Marquis of Vidal, a man even wilder than his father had been. Vidal is sent to France to avoid scandal after killing a man in a duel. He is determined to take Sophia Challoner, a girl he’s infatuated with, along to be his mistress. Mary Challoner, determined to save her sister from ruin, goes in Sophia’s place to try to trick Vidal, but he makes her go. I actually liked this book in the beginning, but it quickly went downhill for me. Vidal’s taking Mary because any slut would do for him and then repenting once she shot him and he realized she was actually respectable actually didn’t bother me that much because it’s not meant to be taken seriously. But I never bought into the romance. The characters didn’t even interact enough for me to buy their falling in love. And seriously, how terrible were Leonie and Justin as parents if their son ends up even worse than Justin was??? My Rating: 6/10

Latest Georgette Heyer- The Toll Gate, Friday’s Child, A Civil Contract

7 May

The latest Georgette Heyer books I’ve read have thankfully all been good!

The Toll Gate- This one follows retired Captain John “Jack” Staple as he leaves a boring family party and stumbles upon a mystery- a boy running a toll gate by himself because his father is missing. He can’t leave things as they are and decides to stay and man the gate. He falls in love with Nell Stornaway, granddaughter of the impoverished local squire- whose family is involved in the mystery. I loved this one! It’s one of Heyer’s few Regency romance/mystery combinations and they’ve all been winners for me. I loved Jack and Nell, along with the side characters. My rating: 10/10

Friday’s Child-
Anthony Verelst, Viscount Sheringham (“Sherry”) is annoyed that he will not have control of his inheritance until he turns 25, unless he gets married. He says he will marry the next girl he sees, who happens to be his childhood friend, Hero (“Kitten”). Hero is actually in love with Sherry but he doesn’t know this and the two get married. Wacky hijinks ensue. After The Convenient Marriage and April Lady, my expectations for this were VERY low. But I actually highly enjoyed it! The couple were both young and immature with this one, and so I found their issues and misunderstandings more believable. I adored Sherry and Hero as well as the side characters. It had both lighthearted, funny moments, as well as touching scenes. My Rating- 9/10

A Civil Contract- Another marriage of convenience! This is the last one, as far as I know. Adam, Viscount Lynton, marries Jenny Chawleigh, daughter of a very wealthy but vulgar merchant. He is unable to marry his love, Julia, and would have had to sell his beloved estate, Fontley. Adam doesn’t remember meeting Jenny, a school friend of Julia’s, who is actually in love with him. This story actually takes us through a year of their marriage. It’s much more serious in tone and I actually found it a bit depressing. Adam is a nice guy and is always a gentleman to his wife, even though he finds her unattractive and does not love her. It does have a happy ending, like all  Heyer novels but it made me feel down at times.                     My rating: 8/10

Georgette Heyer- The Convenient Marriage, April Lady, The Talisman Ring

2 Feb

The Convenient Marriage- This book looked like it was going to be charming in the first couple of chapters. Lord Rule and Horry’s meeting was a really humorous and delightful scene. Unfortunately, once it got underway, I quickly lost interest. Horry’s stammer was really annoying to read and I found her naivete and stupidity astounding! This was my first Heyer that followed a married couple and needless to say it didn’t leave a very good impression. 6/10

April Lady- What a choice to follow up with! This was very similar to The Convenient Marriage- a married couple love each other but each think the other doesn’t because of a misunderstanding. Add to that an annoying girl (Letty) and a well-meaning but good for nothing brother character and you get April Lady. Sheesh, why couldn’t Nell and Cardross, or Horry and Rule, just talk out their problems? I know there would be no book if that happened but I wasn’t a big fan of either book so there would be no complaints from me there. Other characters repeatedly tell Nell in this one that her husband loves her and that she should just tell him the truth. I don’t think anyone reassured Horry like that (but I don’t remember) so that makes Nell even stupider. Not to mention that they’ve already been married nearly a year! How dense are these girls? I like her stories that feature more intelligent heroines. 6/10

The Talisman Ring- This one was MUCH better. It’s set pre-Regency and combines mystery/adventure with romance. It’s hilariously funny and almost even a spoof of the genre. I thought I would find Ludovic and Eustacie, the secondary couple, annoying, but they actually made me laugh! I simply adored Sir Tristram and Sarah was really a dear. She was craving adventure and excitement but underneath she was still sensible. I loved the story, I loved the humor, I loved the characters…this probably goes into my top favorite Heyer books! 10/10

Worst Books of 2010

1 Jan

Unless it’s for an assignment, I usually try not to read books that I don’t like, but sometimes I just can’t help it (especially if I’ve spent money on it!). I try to keep telling myself it will get better or I force myself because it’s a classic and/or I want to compare it to the movie, etc. For whatever reason, I read and finished a few books this year that I didn’t really like all that much, and here they are.

Bottom Ten

1. The Bridgerton Series- by Julia Quinn. I stupidly bought the whole series of eight books because I’d read good things about this author on C19 and Julie is a fan and we usually have similar taste. I fell in love with Georgette Heyer and I thought I would like these too. I was sadly mistaken. While Heyer’s books were meticulously researched, these were not. It was almost like 21st century characters just set in a different time period. All of the siblings’ stories seemed to go remarkably similarly. They all had a pretty good premise- they seemed like they would be good in the beginning and just went downhill as I read further. The first book, The Duke and I, in particular, really made me uneasy. There was one scene in it that was nothing more than a rape to me and I swear if the gender roles were reversed, everyone would be crying foul. I won’t say more. Just a disappointment.

2. Doing It– by Melvin Burgess. It’s kind of like a British American Pie, but not really. It seemed funny at first but then it just got repetitive and boring. Some of the graphic scenes with young characters also made me uncomfortable. A friend at work lent this to me and highly recommended it…sadly I couldn’t share her enthusiasm.

3. Looking for Alaska– by John Green. Gah, I’ve been hearing everyone say how great an author John Green is and this book had a medal on it so I thought it would be good. I usually like YA novels but I couldn’t get into this one. I guess I don’t like the ones just about normal teens. I also found the character of Alaska, whom the protagonist is in love with, to just be beyond insufferable so I couldn’t get his obsession.

4. Lorna Doone– by R.D. Blackmore. Nothing like the exciting, action-packed miniseries. This was just 700 pages of John gushing over how perfect and beautiful Lorna was. Snore….

5. Middlemarch– by George Eliot. I forced myself to read this and Daniel Deronda. Both books were pretty hard to get through, but the miniseries were excellent!

6. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist– by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Borrowed from the same girl as Doing It. This one wasn’t any better. Quite a snoozer really. I’ve learned now that our tastes are just too different (she’s also a big Dickens fan!).

7. Oliver Twist– by Charles Dickens. I actually read fourof his books this year. Bleak House was half good (two different narrators), Little Dorrit was not, and A Tale of Two Cities was actually surprisingly decent. Oliver Twist makes the list because I haven’t seen an adaptation good enough to redeem the story for me. I had to finish it, as it’s been sitting with a bookmark at the halfway point for over four years now. I just had to get it over with.

8. Passenger to Frankfurt– by Agatha Christie. She was past her peak at 80 years old. I’m still not sure what this book was actually about. Something about a spy ring and lots and lots of the characters complaining about everything wrong in the world.

9. Sprig Muslin– by Georgette Heyer. Unfortunately, I didn’t love all the Heyer books I read. This one and Powder and Patch were duds. The Black Moth wasn’t very good either but she wrote it as a young teen so I’ll give her a pass.

10. The Way We Live Now– by Anthony Trollope. The story actually seemed pretty interesting but it was hard to enjoy because I didn’t really like any of the characters. The miniseries was really terrible too.

Honorable Mention: Matched– by Ally Condie. It wasn’t a bad book, by any means, but just underwhelming coming so soon after The Hunger Games. The writing style in the present tense was very similar and it didn’t work as well here because of the lack of action. I’ve also read The Giver as a child so this just wasn’t all that original, and the love triangle was pretty weak (getting pretty sick of that trope in YA). Still, it seems like it could be good setup for a trilogy. I should have known all of that going into it but I loved the cover so I ignored my own warnings. We’ll see how the rest of the series is!

Best Books of 2010

31 Dec

I made my goal of reading over 100 books (101 to be exact). These are obviously not all books released in 2010, but books that I read this year. They’re in alphabetical order because I couldn’t rank them.

Top Ten Best:

1. And Then There Were None- by Agatha Christie. I just started reading Christie about a month ago and have found nearly all of her books that I’ve sampled so far to be delightful, but this one was by far the most suspenseful and gripping. Ten people with dark secrets on an island are killed off one by one- each person suspected is the next to die. Runners up are The Mysterious Affair at Styles (her first novel) and  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (if I hadn’t figured it out from the summaries).

2. The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak. I’ve read a lot of WWII novels about children, especially in middle school, but this was definitely unique- told from the point of view of Death! It’s a tear-jerker, so be warned!

3. The Hunter Games– by Suzanne Collins. I’ve put off reading this because it seemed just like Battle Royale, which I was too squeamish to watch and/or read in full. (Just the clips of the movie I saw were too much!). But I bit the bullet and gave it a try and was hooked! True, it did seem to be very similar to Battle Royale, but I’m not qualified to make a comparison because, as I said, I haven’t seen or read the whole thing. It took a while to get used to the narrative style with so many sentence fragments but when The Games themselves began, it really fit. I thought the two sequels paled in comparison to this brilliant opener.

4. The Kite Runner– by Khaled Hosseini. You know the story. It was on my shelf for five years and now I’m kicking myself for that.

5. The Law and the Lady– I don’t know when I bought this book but I almost reordered it this year until I found it when reorganizing my books. Oops! The last Collins title I had read (Man and Wife) I found disappointing so I was pleasantly relieved that this one was just as good as his Big 4, in my opinion. I’ve always loved Collins for writing strong females.

6. The Nonesuch– by Georgette Heyer. I loved almost all of the Heyer books I’ve read, but this one is probably my favorite for the delightful hero and heroine and really, the whole cast of characters. My other favorites are Sylvester and Regency Buck.

7. The Red Pyramid and The Lost Hero– by Rick Riordan. It’s a tie! I couldn’t decide which one I liked more. His two new series are off to a better start already than Percy Jackson and the Olympians, which I read last year to fill the void Harry Potter left in my heart and ended up adoring.

8. A Room with a Viewby E.M. Forster. From everything I had seen about the 1985 movie, this seemed like nothing more than a fluffy romance. But I found the book to be so much more powerful and moving story about a girl’s sexual awakening and growth to making her own decisions. Unfortunately, the movie was just what I thought and the newer version went too far the other way, but that’s a different story.

9. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Adventures and Stories Volume 1by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I cheated on this one. I really read three books out of five in one book- The Adventures, Memoirs, and Return of Sherlock Holmes. (I had already read the other two years ago). I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes since watching The Great Mouse Detective and some of the old movies with Basil Rathbone as a child. My favorite of the short stories are “A Scandal in Bohemia” (Holmes outwitted by a woman!), “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” (even if Doyle had some facts about snakes wrong), “The Yellow Face” (Holmes overconfident and WRONG), “The Final Problem” (Moriarty!), and “The Adventure of the Empty House” (Holmes returns!).

Honorable Mention: Crown Duel– by Sherwood Smith. I remember checking this out of the school library in eighth grade as two books and loving it. I finally remembered the title after ten years and finding it at the store as one book, which was quite convenient. I loved it even more this time.

Honorable Mention: Sense and Sensibility- by Jane Austen. I had read this title at least a couple times in the past, plus seen the many adaptations, but it wasn’t until this past year that I saw it in a new light and it climbed higher on my list of favorites.

Georgette Heyer Update!

8 Nov

I can never go too long without reading another Georgette Heyer book. I still have a lot to go, but unfortunately they will run out eventually. I know I can always reread, but even so, I’ve been trying to space them out a bit.

Venetia- I’ll have to be honest and say it took me a long time to get into this book. I had read about the first two chapters before I got stuck. Admittedly, this was partly because of personal reasons and I also lost the book at one point. Yet it was true that I was not hooked from the start. But a few weeks ago, after finding it again I gave it another go. I was not disappointed! I’m usually not a fan of the “reformed rake” cliche yet this book didn’t quite follow that pattern. I found Venetia and Damarel’s love story to be very natural (and a bit sensual at parts!) and after all, Venetia did not even try to reform Damarel. She fell in love with him, knew he loved her as well, and thought she would have a much more exciting life as his wife. I like to think that Damarel was faithful to her all the same, as his past reckless behavior really all stemmed from a broken heart. 9/10

Why Shoot a Butler- Found this her dullest mystery of the few I’ve read. It was one of her earliest, so I guess she just hadn’t hit her stride yet. 6/10

A Blunt Instrument- I was able to guess the murderer from the start and I spent the rest of the book hoping I was wrong. Should I be proud of myself or disappointed because it was too obvious? I still enjoyed the book, but the mystery wasn’t really a mystery to me. The characters of Neville Fletcher and Sally Drew were amusing but I actually enjoyed Sergeant Hemingway and his slight bitterness the most. I’ve read enough of Heyer’s detective novels now to where I know there is a romance in each of them so it doesn’t surprise me anymore. This one did feel a bit tacked on, but still cute nonetheless. 7/10