Why I’ve Fallen for Sydney Chambers

I’m totally head over heels for Grantchester.  The fact that the BBC Sydney looks like this doesn’t hurt.  

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Usually I’m a book before film girl, but I don’t mind having this face already in my head when I’m reading Sydney’s adventures. I really enjoyed Sydney Chambers and the Shadow of Death and the follow-up Sydney Chambers and the Perils of Night did not disappoint.  Here’s the scoop of Sydney’s adventures in book two:

The loveable full time priest and part time detective Canon Sidney Chambers continues his sleuthing adventures in late 1950’s Cambridge. Accompanied by his faithful Labrador Dickens, and working in tandem with the increasingly exasperated Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney is called on to investigate the unexpected fall of a Cambridge don from the roof of King’s College Chapel; a case of arson at a glamor photographer’s studio; and the poisoning of Zafar Ali, Grantchester’s finest spin bowler, in the middle of a crucial game of cricket. As he pursues his quietly probing inquiries, Sidney also has to decide on the vexed question of marriage. Can he choose between the rich, glamorous socialite Amanda Kendall and Hildegard Staunton, a beguiling German widow three years his junior? To help him make up his mind Sidney takes a trip abroad, only to find himself trapped in a complex web of international espionage just as the Berlin Wall is going up. Here are six interlocking adventures that combine mystery with morality, and criminality with charm.

Who would have expected Cambridge could be the scene of such murderous intrigue?  Again the book reads as it was almost made to be a BBC show but it works well while reading.  The mysteries are just long enough and just deep enough for an evening’s reading – but if you want to think deep thoughts you are left with the issues of post-WWII England including racism, homophobia, and the fight against communism.  But there’s still romance, and romantic betrayal, friendship and of course Dickens – the loyal black lab.  I am looking forward to more Sydney both on my tv screen and in book 3!  I’m very curious to see where the second season of the show goes based on the changes they made from the book.  

Thank you Bloomsbury USA for this copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Saying Goodbye to the Pink Carnation Series

Last September, we started the Bubble Bath Reader’s Pink for All Seasons – a year long read-along of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, timed to finish with the release of the 12th and final book in the series.

These books are fun and fabulous and full of interesting historical tidbits. We’ve done quick summaries on the books so far – click for books 1-3, books 4-6, and books 7-9. (And if you notice that the reading order is listed differently in different places, here’s Willig’s official list.)

And, so it ends here, with books 10, 11, and 12:

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The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (2011)

Synopsis: When the younger sister of Jane Wooliston (AKA our Pink Carnation) goes missing from her boarding school in London, Jane and her faithful chaperone Miss Gwen search for her, and along the way meet Colonel William Reid, whose daughter disappeared from school as well. Miss Gwen and Col. Reid get to know each other quite well in the search. In modern England, Eloise reads Miss Gwen’s gothic novel, 200 years after it’s one-hit-wonder debut.

Holly: I definitely enjoyed the relationship between Miss Gwen and the good Colonel, especially the time Miss Gwen dropped the line “we had a satisfactory romp; that’s all.” Things I did not love about this book, however, include Jane’s moodiness and Jeremy’s sliminess.

Amanda: I admit that I had a good sulk when Lauren originally announced this book.  I did not want to read anymore about Miss Gwen except as Jane’s chaperone.  I wanted a book about Tommy (See the Temptation of the Night Jasmine)!  But then I read The Passion of the Purple Plumeria and I fell in love with Colonel Reid and Miss Gwen.  I loved how she tried to boss him around and how he just doesn’t fall into line with what she wanted.  So I apologize Lauren for doubting your judgement of your own stories!    

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla (2014)

Synopsis: Sally Fitzhugh, whose root-vegetable-named brother we got to know quite well back in Pink #5, stumbles into the garden of the mysterious (and rumored vampire) Duke of Belliston, and ends up helping him uncover the truth about his family. Back in the 21st century, Eloise returns to grad school in Cambridge, MA, and has trouble with her advisor.

Holly: I read some reviews hating on this book for being a far cry from the start of the series, as the actual-spy contact is limited, and, well, there’s the vampire thing. However, I adored Sally and Lucien!  And, while I would have fully supported Eloise if she decided not to return to grad school, I am glad she had a chance to come to the right decision for her.

Amanda:  I’m glad I didn’t know my sister had read hating reviews because I was already apprehensive due to all the hints about the stoat.  I mean – who wants to read about a stoat?  But Sally was a delight!  So there wasn’t a spy connection – big deal – is a creepy murder not enough for people?! Loved the glimpse at a happy Turnip with his bride.

The Lure of the Moonflower (2015)

Synopsis: At last, the final book in the Pink series brings Jane’s story – we find Jane on assignment in Portugal, looking for a missing queen and forced to rely on Jack Reid for tactical help along with way. We get a conclusion to the Colin and Eloise storyline as well, but not without some final hijinks from one of our previous villains.

Holly: I am glad Jane got her story, and I’m so glad to have been a part of the Pink for All Seasons readalong. There are parts of this book that I quite enjoyed, but parts that didn’t quite sit well. Both Jane and her parents seemed like entirely different characters than those we’d gotten to know in previous books. Though, to be fair, that’s exactly what Lauren has done throughout the series – characters like Mary Alsworthy and Turnip Fitzhugh become totally different people once brought into the spotlight. The difference is, I guess, that I liked Mary and Turnip better after getting to know them, and Jane less.

Amanda:  I was totally surprised as this book began at how Jane ended up in Portugal.  As Holly said, Jane’s parents sounded like totally different people than those we met in the Passion of the Purple Plumeria. This annoyed me but I went with the story because since I’ve loved and trusted Jane all these years I kind of had to.  I did love Jane and Jack together, even if things were a bit too convenient in the end.  Maybe everything wrapped up a bit too well – including Eloise and Colin – but it was really a satisfying ending to a series I’ve really enjoyed.  If Lauren writes more Pink books I will read them!

Review: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce #7), Alan Bradley

Amanda

Hardcover, 416 pages

Published January 6th 2015 by Delacorte Press

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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I adore Flavia de Luce.  This is a review for book 7 of a series-but I’ll tell you when to stop reading if you haven’t yet started.  I have been a fan of this series since The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was published in 2009 and I wait impatiently for each new release.  Flavia is hilarious.  She is precocious, shameless, quick on her feet and probably too smart for her own good.  She does not tolerate fools gladly.  Be warned, if you make her mad you’re going to end up on her list of people to be poisoned.  She’s fascinated with murder and has an excellent record when inserting herself into a murder investigation.

So if you’re not familiar with this series start now!

Going ahead, now we’re on book number 7 and there will be some spoilers.  Flavia has been exiled to boarding school in Canada at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy.  It seems to me that she’s still not quite back to herself (a little too subdued, maybe) since saying goodbye to Harriet in Book 6.  But upon learning her mother had also been a student at Miss Bodycote’s she finds some comfort.  I was excited for the chance to get to learn more about Harriet’s past as well. I can’t think of another character right now that feels as mysterious as Harriet de Luce.  I want to know what her marriage was like and what the heck she was up to for the Nide in her short life!

I loved how Flavia just jumped into the school setting, introducing herself as “de Luce” and throwing out movie slang to try to fit in with the other girls.  Of course Flavia finds a body before she’s even spent a whole night at school.  Then she learns that girls have been disappearing from Miss Bodycote’s and who has time for homesickness-there’s a murderer to be found!  I found myself missing the setting of Buckshaw and the usual cast of characters that both support and infuriate Flavia but I did like seeing how Flavia handled herself with entirely new people.  She is so totally incorrigible.

I honestly think the last book ended so strongly that any book would have had a hard time following.  This mystery itself wasn’t my favorite either so I just can’t rate it as high as some others in the series.  That being said I am excited to see where Book 8 leads us-next year I hope?  I think this journey away from Buckshaw was important for Flavia to grow-up a bit and I look forward to seeing what she gets up to next.

3 stars!

Thank you Delacorte Press and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Series We Want To Start Reading

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday.  Here are 10 book series that we want to start

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Holly:

I know the prompt said NEW series, but I am a rule-breaker. Most of these series are more than two years old, but here’s what I want to start reading.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1, 2012) – this is the newest on my list. And, I have the first book thanks to a Kindle Daily Deal.

October Daye (Rosemary and Rue #1, 2009) – Amanda has demanded I read these books – but man, there’s a LOT of books…7? 8? That’s commitment. [Hello! You just read FEED, you should trust me by now.  Also finish FEED before you read more series. Also more, I am still emotionally preparing myself for #8]

The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars #1, 2006) – I think I heard about these on a History Chicks’ podcast. I love Alice retellings!

Abhorsen (Sabriel #1, 1996) – Apparently people love these books. I think they have zombies?

The Giver (Giver #1, 1993) – okay, I have actually read the first of these books, eons ago. But, who knew there were 3 more?!

Amanda:

The Giver- Unlike my sister I haven’t even read the first one.  I feel really behind the times here.

The Madman’s Daughter (The Madman’s Daughter #1, 2013).  I’ve been really into the Gothic reads lately. Maybe its Halloween coming?

Finishing School (Etiquette and Espionage #1, 2013).  Combining tea parties with spy technique? Yes please.

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice #1, 1994).  Ok, so this has been around a long time-but there are still new books coming out!  Retired Sherlock Holmes plus a teenage detective sounds so fun to me. Maybe this will keep the wait for the next BBC Sherlock season from being too painful?

Tawny Man/The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy Robin Hobb.  I have an ARC of the Fool’s Assassin, #1 of the Fitz and Fool Trilogy that was just released this fall.  However, I don’t think I’m going to appreciate it until I read the back stories-so to the library I go!

Any opinions on what should be read first? Besides Holly reading Newsflesh clearly.  Speaking of October Daye, I’m nearly emotionally ready to try to read the Winter Long-anyone want to hold my hand virtually through this book? I know she’s going to break my heart again.

5 Thoughts on Gilded & Silvern

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Gilded and Silvern are the first two books in a young adult trilogy by Christina Farley that follow Korean-American teen Jae, who moves to Seoul with her father and ends up pissing off some gods in the Korean spirit world. Oops.

I definitely enjoyed these books, both of which I read in one day – both on days that involved flying and waiting around at the airport. If you’re looking for something different – and fast – to read, I think you should give them a try. Reviews and comments are sort of all over the place on these two, so here’s what I think you should know:

1. There has been all kinds of talk recently on the need for diversity in books, particularly young adult books, because all readers should be able to see themselves reflected in literature. The GIlded series takes place in Korea, but Jae’s story is that of an American-born girl who grew up in L.A., transported to Korea – where she goes to an international school. I don’t think this means the book is less “authentic” – in fact, I think it makes for a relatable story. After all, how many American teenagers (of all backgrounds) have only a passing connection to their ancestral ethnic heritage, primarily through food and holidays? Jae has a few things she loves about Korea, but she’s learning about the country, the people, and the mythology as she goes.

2. The author, Christina Farley, is an American who spent years teaching in Korea. Ditto above – she’s not writing about the experience of being Korean, but that of an American in Korea.

3. Sometimes Jae acts like an idiot. And sometimes she treats her friend Michelle like she’s an idiot. Sigh – I think this is a common YA problem – as in Young Adult, the genre, as well as young adults, the people.

4. The romance (of course there’s a romance) happens super-fast and escalates quickly from the start of book 1 to the end of book 2. Again, that seems to be the case in YA. And, to be fair, they do go through some pretty intense experiences together, which perhaps ups the feelings of LUV.

5. These books definitely make Seoul come alive, and I felt like a learned a few things about Korea from reading them. And, in Silvern, there are some thought-provoking bits on North Korea. I appreciated all these real-life details in addition to the spirit-world setting.

Anyone else have thoughts on GIlded and Silvern?

 

Midway Through Grave Mercy

We’re 60% into Grave Mercy and the assassin convent.

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Catch our thoughts on the first third of the book here.

I received an email from Holly with the subject “62% and I do not like this book”.  At that time I was barely into the story so that was disconcerting!  Here’s where we are now.

H:     Back to the convent being the first people to be nice to her…okay, but the blind faith is just too much to deal with. Clearly too  much for Duval too which almost makes me like him…

A:     I agree, I almost like Duval.  Sometimes I’m finding him rather irksome thought.  I do really like Ismae’s  blood thirst.  That kind of makes me laugh. Like let me go check bodies out for more people to kill.

I like the duchess. I’m glad she’s strong willed thus far, despite her position and her age.  

H:    And WTF is with the creeper nighttime visits? I mean I get the purpose but she is completely at his whims of when and how long and he just springs in on her with no knock or warning? And then he sits and watches her sleep? This is totally a knock off of creeper Edward Cullen and I say rings of unhealthy relationships. For teenage readers. Ick.

A:    I totally see your point about the night time visits being creepy, but really they are a necessity for the cover up.  If they’re supposed to be lovers it would be more notable not to be there.

What I didn’t like was scene with the ankle grabbing and the kind of forced arousal:

“When his hand comes down and grasps my ankle, it takes every bit of willpower I possess to keep from jerking away…. ‘However will you play the game of seduction if you flinch so?’”

Maybe this wasn’t Cullen-esque in my mind, but it did creep me out for some reason.

H:     I understand the nighttime visits as cover-up. I do not understand why they must be unannounced. She is totally at his mercy when she is waiting in bed. Vulnerable much?

A:     Ok ok I concede this point.  

H:    Other things I do not like: overuse of ‘hooded eyes’ and ‘peahen.’

A:      Sorry. I find ‘hooded eyes’ to be such a good descriptive phrase it hasn’t bothered me.  Doesn’t it just make you see some creepy eyes?  And I do like peahen.

H:    Peahen once is a good descriptor. Twice stands out to me. Details,  pal.

And a couple plot points don’t make sense… no one knows where they are having the secret meeting then suddenly they’ve discussed a plan for her presence and she has a loaf of bread?

Also no discussion that Anne is about to meet the suitor then suddenly that’s clandestinely arranged.  I need believable details. Clearly.

A:    I think I just suspend much disbelief when we get to a convent of teenage assassin nuns sister.

H:    I do think Ismae’s evolving feelings and described well. And Duval’s. Just ended on the ‘i do not think it would be wise to linger tonight.’ I would be so behind some LUV if not for the creeping.

A:    I can usually get behind some LUV.  Its just too fast for me for someone who hated all men so recently, so I hope I come around on Duval because I feel the Luv coming!

Back to reading!  I’m hoping Holly gets over her WTF feelings!

Review: Only Everything

Only Everything, Kieran Scott

Amanda

Published May 6, 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

336 pages

Source: Author

From Goodreads…

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High school romance is tough—even for a bona fide love goddess. Can Cupid succeed as a mortal matchmaker?

When Eros (aka Cupid) is expelled from Olympus for defying Zeus after falling in love with Orion, she is banished to what she believes to be hell. We call it New Jersey. If she ever wants to go back to the comforts of her old life, she will have to find love for three couples—without using her powers.

Eros, now calling herself True, immediately identifies her first project in Charlie and believes finding him love will be a piece of cake. Charlie is new at school and eager to break out of his old image of band geek, so it’s lucky for him when he falls in with the right crowd on his first day. But music is still his passion. That is, until he meets Katrina…

Katrina is floundering after the death of her father and takes refuge with a boy who, while not entirely supportive, will be there when she needs him, unlike her mother. Too bad True thinks any girl Charlie talks to is perfect for him. Can she get out of her own way and help Charlie and Katrina connect, or will she be stuck in New Jersey forever?

I love reading mythology and I really like seeing these timeless stories with a new twist.  This was a fun and light take on Eros, the Greek god of love.  Kieran Scott turns Eros into a goddess with a bit of an attitude.  Eros has been so busy with her new love Orion that she’s not doing her work of facilitating love matches, so she is banished to Earth to get to work.  Eros becomes True, a high school student that would fit right into Mean Girls.

I admit, True was not my favorite character in the beginning.  She’s whiny and self-absorbed, but I really came around on her by the end and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. I think there’s going to be a lot more to her than just matchmaking.

I didn’t mind True’s less pleasant characteristics because I thought Charlie and Katrina were both just adorable.  It was obvious where the romance was leading from the beginning, but the journey was worth it this case.  Yes, this was a fluffy high school romance, but there the accompanying teenage angst was not overdone.  Scott was able to keep it serious without too much melodrama (besides from Aphrodite and when you’re a goddess you’re allowed to be melodramatic).  I also really love reading books where not every character is lily white and flawless so thank you Kieran for that!

A very cute new series, check it out when you’re looking for a light read!  

3.5 stars