Sunday, December 01, 2013

Bits and pieces: Staycation edition

Happy December!  Today's the last day in a five-day stretch where I did very little except read, sleep, eat, and go shopping a break I seriously needed. I don't normally get the chance to get this much reading done, but I've finished a book for every day I've been home.

First up was Mary-Rose MacColl's In Falling Snow, set at the Royaumont field hospital in France during WWI and in 1970s Australia. I wrote up my thoughts for the Historical Novels Review and will post them here later.

Next was Lynn Shepherd's A Treacherous Likeness, a twisting literary mystery in which London private detective Charles Maddox is asked by Sir Percy Shelley, son of the poet, and his wife Jane to investigate a case of blackmail.  This sets him into looking closely at members of the Shelley Circle and into his own family history.  The plot held my attention to the end, and the author was very clever in inserting her mystery into known events. All the same, I found some revelations historically unconvincing and the depiction of one real-life character ethically troubling.

Third was Barbara Davis' The Secrets She Carried, a family saga/mystery in which secrets (as you can guess from the title) from a small town in 1930s North Carolina emerge in the present day.  Just my type of thing.  This was a Kindle purchase; I hadn't requested a review copy for the HNR since I hadn't known the historical component was so prevalent, but since it was, I decided I should review it.

Finally, and to mark the halfway point in my TBR Pile Challenge, I read Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.  By far it was my favorite choice out of the five I've read so far. It's the type of book that left me feeling somewhat dazed after I finished because I was so immersed in the story of Lily, her laotong bond of friendship with Snow Flower, and the author's consummate re-creation of the inner lives, relationships, and rituals of women in their remote province of 19th-century China.  It's easy to see why it was a bestseller and book club favorite. See has taken a place and time that very few outsiders know and made it not only accessible but movingly real. 

Now I'm on to a fifth book in five days, Victoria Patterson's The Peerless Four, about the Canadian women's track and field team in the 1928 Olympic Games, and hope to have a review up soon.

Some other news updates:

I learned some sad news via Facebook recently.  T.D. (Tim) Griggs, who contributed a guest post here in April ("The Boer War: Britain's Vietnam"), passed away suddenly in October.  Tim was the author of numerous works of fiction, most recently Distant Thunder, set in India, Britain, and the Sudan during Victorian times.  He had won a book in my giveaway for Small Press Month and, in the course of our correspondence, kindly offered to write a post for my site.  My sympathies to his wife and family.

I've been debating whether to commemorate Small Press Month again next March. If I do, I'll include some reviews of non-small press books during that time because removing an entire month from my blog schedule created a backlog, but I'm unsure how much effort to put into it otherwise.  Any thoughts?

On this topic, one of my more popular small press giveaways was for Sarah Kennedy's The Altarpiece, about a nun living through Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries; the author contributed a guest post in May.  Her book came out in paperback ($14.00) in October.

Finally, since I've gotten questions about this here and elsewhere on social media I did send a note to the Library of Congress via their website comment form about the "Puritan maiden's diary," with a citation and link to Mary Beth Norton's article.  It may be a little while until it reaches the right person and gets investigated by their staff, but I've found LC quick to respond to questions and comments in other instances and am hopeful that will be the case here too.

18 comments:

  1. I know what you mean. I've also had a week off and have been using it to try and catch up on my TBR mountain. Unfortunately I simply made the mountain bigger as there have been some sweet book sales this past weekend.

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    1. Um, yeah. Some new books will be arriving soon here, too, so the TBR will be getting higher. That was part of the shopping I mentioned above. :)

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  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful staycation! Everyone needs one once in a while to unwind.

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    1. It's been very nice. By the end of day 4 I was getting stir-crazy, though, so we got out for a bit. There'll be more of this in December since we're not going anywhere for Christmas either.

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  3. Between still being victimized by this sinus infection and doing serious revisions on Da Book, I haven't been reading very much else. But I have been able to begin Nicola Griffith's Hild.. (Hild grows up to become St. Hilda of Whitby ....)

    So far I remain intrigued, because, though it's got all the elements one would expect included in a novel set in 7th century northern England, they do not come together in any standard expected manner (at least so far)!

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    1. Hope you feel much improved soon, C. Being sick, especially over a holiday, is no fun at all.

      I'd preordered Hild, so it arrived a week or two ago. There are so few novels set in that era, so it was a must-consider in that sense. That sounds encouraging.

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  4. I'm so glad that this is an adult novel, not a YA, despite the narrator being 3 when it begins, and a young woman when it closes.

    More! More! More adult fiction, please! :)

    Love, C

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    1. I agree. There needs to be more!

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  5. That Shelley Circle is just endlessly fascinating. And was there ever a better name that Claire Clairmont?

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  6. Sigh. I mean "than." Sick relatives, no brain today.

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    1. I read that her name was Clara Mary Jane, but she went by Claire because she liked the sound of it! She's a major character in Treacherous Likeness.

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  7. I need to read Lisa See!

    Finally did some reading -- just finished the last book in Stephanie Dray's Cleopatra Selene trilogy and adored it. I post my squee-filled review on Thurs.

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    1. Audra, if you ever get a chance to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I think you'd adore it as much as I did. Women's history, an out-of-the-ordinary setting, great writing... I wish I'd read it earlier!

      I'm looking forward to Book 3 of Selene since I really enjoyed the first two. I tried for a copy via Goodreads, but their algorithms hate me... even though I reviewed the two books I won from them. I'd just as soon have a finished copy, though, so I'll go and buy one. Looking forward to your review!

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  8. I really enjoyed Snow Flower also.

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    1. I've been meaning to read more of her work, but it and Shanghai Girls have been all for me so far. I'm not sure why - both were excellent!

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  9. Hi Sarah, glad you enjoyed Thanksgiving. Now the rush of Christmas...
    Please do continue with Small Press Month this upcoming year. I really appreciated you doing that and letting us know about those books as well. It's nice to know that there is much more out there for us historical fiction fans than just the big publishers--particularly the specialist historical fiction publishers such as Knox Robinson and Fireship. I've sent in quite a few patron purchase requests to my local library (for their collection) from these publishers. Thanks for highlighting them and other indy presses.










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    1. Hi Kim, I know - it's hard to believe Christmas is coming up so fast.
      Thanks for your comments on Small Press Month. Glad you found some interesting-sounding books that way, and it's great that some made it into your local library collection. Many of them don't get picked up by major library review sources, so they don't appear in as many libraries as they should. I'll work on putting something together for next March.

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