Book: The Extra-Large Medium

Title: The Extra Large Medium
Author: Helen Slavin
Genre: Paranormal Women’s Fiction
Length: 288 pgs

Summary: Annie always thought chocolate brown was the new black, because everyone was wearing it. It didn’t take long for her to realize that no one else saw these people wearing all-brown outfits, and that these people happened to be dead. As a grown-up, Annie begins to treat her habit of finishing the ghostly “unfinished business” as a job; it is when her husband disappears and doesn’t return to her, wearing brown, telling her his unfinished business, that things become seriously wrong.

Excerpts:
pg 1 – In Hell they all wear evening gowns. Heavily boned bodices. Dress-shirt collars just that bit too tight. Your forehead just that bit too sweaty and the perspiration running like an itching, infuriating river down from your armpit into the elastic of your knickers. The point where it pinches your waistband.

pg 36 – Funny how the words for the male member all smack of stupidity. ‘Member’ for a start off, some idiot politician. John Thomas, who no doubt plays a banjo in Tennessee. Todger, the thick dog who can never find where you’ve thrown the stick. Dick, the man who wears the most hideous golf sweaters at the local links. Cock, a strutting brainless bird puffed up with his own importance and getting around ALL the birds. Donger, a dwarf breed of conger eel. Prick, so quick you hardly notice and before you turn your head it’s all over.

pg 46 – Most of the young men, and a couple of the older ones I picked out, seemed only interested in one thing. They made small talk, ate dinner or pretended to listen to your boring recollections from your day at work because they felt that this would work some miracle on the elastic of your knickers. They didn’t want you. They wanted sex. Conversation was just some boring form-filling requirement that had to be gone through to get to the sex. No one seemed any good at it either.

pg 47 – For a brief time at the university I was known as the Ice Maiden because I was notoriously hard work on a date. Then I discovered the Ice Maiden Sweepstake. The bet was on as to who could crack the Ice Maiden. ‘Crack’. It was their word. I would have preferred ‘thaw’: you melt the ice with the heat of your passion. But no. They would have a ‘crack’ at it.

Why should you read this book?
If you think perhaps this book has a theme similar to The Sixth Sense, that’s what I thought too. Except instead of being a thriller of sorts, this book is insightful and humorous, with a succinct tone that doesn’t forgive any character and yet makes you feel for them nonetheless. At its heart, this book is about a woman who loses her husband and waits, against her will, for the day she has to legally declare him dead.

For you writers, read this book to learn how to write about a topic (like death) without depressing the reader. Every character is flush and real, people we can relate to or have had a conversation with. Annie is a great anti-hero, as well; she is flawed, can’t seem to hold on to material objects or the people around her, and yet is crying out for someone to ground her from her ethereal calling. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and read it in one evening, I couldn’t put it down.

Book: The Wayward Muse

Title: The Wayward Muse
Author: Elizabeth Hickey
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 293 pgs

Summary: It is the beginning of the Victorian era, and Jane is a very ugly girl. On an outing with her sister, Jane is spotted by two artists that consider her the most beautiful woman in the world, thus changing her life forever.

Excerpts:
pg 1 – Jane Burden was considered the plainest girl on Holywell Street, and that Oxford slum was home to many worthy candidates for the title. Mary Porter, who was afflicted with a lazy eye and copious freckles, lived there, just across the street from Alice Cunningham, who had crooked, discolored teeth and thinning hair. Number 142 was the residence of Catherine Blair, whose neck and ear had been horribly burned when she was a baby, and whose left leg was somewhat shorter than the right. But even she was considered marginally better looking than Jane.

pg 2 – But it was her expression that truly made Jane Burden plain. For she seldom smiled, and her green eyes, which might have been considered striking on another girl, were empty. They weren’t sad; sadness could be fetching. They were not grave and serious or soft and pleading or tearful and melancholy. They were blank. Jane’s eyes told everyone who met her of her misery and her despair. They told of a girl who had ceased to hope for anything, who had gone deep inside herself to withstand her lot. It made the others uneasy.

pg 53 – Jane only laughed. Rosetti knew something that the people of Holywell street did not. He knew she was a fairy queen. […] Her silence was now called dignity. Her height and her skinniness were regal rather than ugly.

pg 286 – “What is my mind made of?” asked Jane.
“Oh, I think it’s a willow basket,” said Morris. He put down his pipe and stood up. “Soft and pliable but incredibly resistant. The only way to unravel it would be with great violence and a pair of very sharp scissors.”

Why should you read this book?
Excellent writing, as you’ll find in the excerpts I’ve posted. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, despite Jane’s character, which makes me respect Hickey even more. Once I realized the plot, I almost put the book away, except Hickey’s writing and depiction of the characters stayed my hand. This book is one of the best fiction depictions of a real Victorian marriage that I have read yet; the main characters are real people, and while the story may not be entirely factual, the plot seems to follow the real time-line faithfully. The writing style is simple yet lush, the scenery vivid, the characters organic and sympathetic. Anyone working on making their characters flawed, especially the main character, should read this book as an example of how to maintain your reader’s interest.

Book: Miss Wonderful

Title: Miss Wonderful
Author: Loretta Chase
Genre: Regency Romance
Length: 342 pgs

Summary: Mirabel Oldridge thought she had everything under control on her Regency property. Her eccentric, distracted father was happily studying his plants. She managed to keep her family home safe from opportunistic managers (at the expense of her one chance at love and marriage). But now, now there is a new problem; one she never thought she would have to face: Alistair Carsington. Carsington is a hero from Waterloo sent to convince Mirabel’s town, to convince Mirabel, that they need a canal that would ruin their picturesque countryside. It certainly doesn’t help that, despite her innate hatred of Carsington and all he threatens to change, Mirabel begins to find herself attracted to the oversensitive, immaculately-dressed, and maddening idiosyncrasies that define him.

Excerpts:
pg 34 – He knew–better than many men, in fact–that a woman’s speech could be fraught with hidden meanings bearing no discernible resemblance to spoken words. He did not always know what a woman meant, but he was usually aware that she meant more than she said, and that the “more” was, more often than not, trouble.

pg 88 – No tear trickled from the too-blue eyes and along the straight nose, and the soft, pink lips didn’t tremble.
Her chin jutted out a bit, but that seemed to be her usual way, looking defiant or stubborn or in general uninterested in trying to please anybody.
All the same, she struck him at this moment as young, far younger than her years…and lost.

pg 93 – “I can walk and talk at the same time,” came Mr Carsington’s deep rumble from behind her.
He was very close behind her, she discovered as she glanced back. “I’m
thinking,” she said.
“But women are much more complicated beings than men,” he said. “I believe you can even hold more than one thought in your head at once. Surely you must be able to walk and talk simultaneously.”

pg 95 – She pretended not to understand, though she could not pretend it dismayed her. It had been a very long time since an attractive man had made improper remarks about her person. She’d forgotten how agreeable it was.

pg 121 – He was not used to women, to anyone, studying him so closely. He was not used, he realized, to anyone taking the trouble. No one else looked deeper, past the elegant appearance and charm. He wondered uneasily if anything of value existed beneath the polished surface.

pg 180 – As the unnatural gloom dissipated, Mirabel’s natural bouyancy returned. Few cases were truly hopeless, she told herself. They only seemed so to people lacking courage and imagination. She was not one of those people.
Why should you read this book?
This is the first romance I’ve read where the heroine was older than the hero. Made for an interesting dynamic. I liked how Carsington and Mirabel, though they obviously came from familiar moulds, had defining characteristics and backstories. When I first began this book, I rolled my eyes at yet another Regency romance. But then Carsington became much more than a dandy with a limp, and Mirabel was something more than just an old maid who dropped everything for her family. Even the distracted father had a reason for his eccentric ways. Read this book for plausible motives to the characters’ actions. I personally would have liked to see a little more character development, but then, maybe it wouldn’t have been a strict romance. A good, quick read for those romance readers looking for a little more depth and heart to the fairy tale.

Book: The Thirteenth Tale

Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Genre: Fiction
Length: 406 pgs

Summary: Margaret Lea has a secret about her birth; a secret that haunts her to this day, and affects every decision she makes. She is the daughter of an antique book dealer, and so is his helpmate in running the bookshop that maintains their lifestyle. One day, a letter arrives for Margaret, written in an awful hand, requesting that she journey to the home of the infamous writer, Vida Winter. Miss Winter is infamous because of her past, or lack of it, for with every interview there is a new rendition, and none of them are true. There is no record of Miss Winter’s birth, her childhood…nothing to say who she was before she appeared in the literary world. Miss Winter, it seems, wants to tell the truth of her past for the first time, ever, and she has chosen Margaret for the job. After thirty (or forty, perhaps?) years of public speculation about the past of Miss Vida Winter, and the plot of the missing thirteenth tale from her book Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation (only twelve were released), Vida Winter is ready to speak the truth.

Excerpts:
pg 4 – (I never read without making sure I am in a secure position. I have been like this ever since the age of seven when, sitting on a high wall and reading The Water Babies, I was so seduced by the descriptions of underwater life that I unconsciously relaxed my muscles. Instead of being held buoyant by the water that so vividly surrounded me in my mind, I plummeted to the ground and knocked myself out. I can still feel the scar under my fringe now. Reading can be dangerous.)

pg 5 – Some writers don’t like interviews of course. They get cross about it. “Same old questions,” they complain. Well, what do they expect? Reporters are hacks. We writers are the real thing. Just because they always ask the same questions, it doesn’t mean we have to give them the same answers, does it? I mean, making things up, it’s what we do for a living.

pg 32 – I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a yearning for the lost pleasure of books. […] Miss Winter restored to me the virginal qualities of the novice reader, and then with her stories she ravished me.

pg 45 – People with ambition don’t give a damn what other people think about them. I hardly suppose Wagner lost sleep worrying whether he’d hurt someone’s feelings. But then he was a genius.

pg 46 – “Readers,” continued Miss Winter, “are fools. They believe all writing is autobiographical. And so it is, but not in the way they think. The writer’s life needs time to rot away before it can be used to nourish a work of fiction. It must be allowed to decay. […] To write my books I needed my past left in peace, for time to do its work.”

pg 100 – You could hear the power of his brain in his voice, which was quiet but quick, with a facility for finding the right words for the right person at the right time. You could see it in his eyes: dark brown and very shiny, like a bird’s eyes, observant, intent, with strong, neat eyebrows above.

pg 177 – As he listened, he had been been rather struck by her queer little voice. Despite its distinctively feminine pitch it had more than a little masculine authority about it. She was articulate. She had an amusing habit of expressing views of her own with the same measured command as when she was explaining a theory by some authority she had read. And when she paused for breath at the end of a sentence, she would give him a quick look–he had found it disconcerting the first time, though he now found it rather droll–to let him know whether he was allowed to speak or whether she intended to go on speaking herself.

pg 220 – His voice had the unmistakable lightness of someone telling something extremely important. A story so cherished it had to be dressed in casualness to disguise its significance in case the listener turned out to be unsympathetic.

pg 289 – Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes–characters even–caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you.

Why should you read this book?
Because it is a love story to readers and writers. This just might be my favorite book if 2007, just as Elantris was my favorite of 2006. I will be hard-pressed, I think, to find another book that immediately enfolded me in its mystery and charm, leaving me dazed in my everyday activities as I contemplated the characters and plot. Every character is tangible and sympathetic, the setting is distinct, and the plot is original (to me, at least). The style is romantic in the classic sense of the word, yet entirely believable given the narrator’s (Margaret) deep appreciation of books. We’re never given a time period, yet I’m left with the impression that Margaret lives in the 1930s, 40s, or perhaps even 1950s.

Reading this book left me with sensations of DuMarier’s Rebecca, Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, LeFanu’s The Wyvern Mystery, and other such romantic, gothic, books. Read it for the intense characterizations. Read it to know the language of a bibliophile speaking with another bibliophile, describing favorite works. I feel as though The Thirteenth Tale has changed me and so my writing: it’s let me believe that there are readers willing to entertain a more romantic and classic style from a modern author, and that is good news indeed.

Book: Hood

Title: Hood: The King Raven Trilogy (Book 1)
Author: Stephen R. Lawhead
Genre: Fiction
Length: 472 pgs

Summary: Rhi Bran ap Brychan, heir to the Elfael throne, has never been much for responsibility. Not since his mother died when he was a young boy. Bran is headstrong, selfish, and egotistical; rebellious against his callous and and tyrannous father. But now his father is dead–killed by Norman invaders determined to take over the Welsh and their lands. The people of Elfael have been enslaved, made to pay taxes they have not the money for, forced to work lands that are not their own and thus making it impossible to tend to the year’s harvest: the people of Elfael are starving, and they need a leader. Unfortunatly for Bran, he is their last hope.

Excerpts:
pg 59 – So far as Bran could ell, to reign was merely to invite a perpetual round of frustration and aggravation that lasted from the moment one took the crown until it was laid aside. Only a power-crazed thug like his father would solicit such travail. Any way he looked at it, sovreignty exacted a heavy price, which Bran had seen firsthand and which, now that it came to it, he found himself unwilling to pay.

pg 60 – “Pay tribute to the very brutes that would plunder us if we didn’t,” growled Bran. “That stinks to high heaven.”
“Does it stink worse than death?” asked Iwan. Bran, shamed by the taunt, merely glared.
“It is unjust,” granted Ffreol, trying to soothe, “but that is ever the way of things.”

pg 123 – Bran, working with uncanny calm, placed another arrow on the string, took his time to pull, hold, and aim. When he let fly, the missle sang to its mark. The first warrior was struck and spun completely around by the force of the arrow. The second ran on a few more steps, then halted abruptly, jerked to his full height by the slender oak shaft that slammed into his chest.

pg 138 – Shocked, horrified, mournful, and leaden with sorrow, Merian moved through the first awful day feeling as if the ground she trod was no longer solid beneath her feet–as if the very earth was fragile, delicate, and thin as the shell of a robin’s egg, and as if any moment the crust on which she stood might shatter and she would instantly plunge from the world of light and air into the utter, perpetual, suffocating darkness of the tomb. […] Anyone observing Merian might have thought her distracted or concerned. Knowing that nothing good could come of any overt distplay of emotion where Bran was concerned, she wallowed her grief and behaved as if the news of Bran’s death was a thing of negligible significance amidst the more troubling news of the murder of Brychan ap Tewdwr and all his warband and the unwarranted Ffreinc advance into neighboring Elfael.

Why should you read this book?
For one thing, it’s the story of Robin Hood set in Wales. Rather than the Saxons fighting the Normans, it is the Welsh, who already have fought with the invading Saxons and come to a grudging level of symbiosis, who now fight against the encroaching and greedy Norman-Ffreinc. Welsh stories tend to fascinate me, if only because they haven’t had much play time in the fiction world, at least by my understanding. However, in the last couple of years I’ve read some excellent books about the Welsh, such as Nectar from a Stone by Jane Guill.

This book, while well-written, could have used some editing in the length, I think. The character development is thorough, and for that reason alone you should read this book. The setting description is vivid and doesn’t take away from the pacing of the narrative. Yet, there were parts that dragged and had me wondering when I was going to read a portion that more closely resembled something of the traditional Robin Hood legend. So, if you’re thinking of reading this book, don’t start it with the Kevin Costner or Errol Flynn versions in mind. This Hood, Bran, is conflicted. He doesn’t want to be a hero; he actually spends most of the book trying to run away. An interesting new spin on the tales of Robin Hood, this book is the first in a trilogy, surprise surprise. The next one is called Scarlet, which I can only assume is a reference to Will Scarlet, Robin Hood’s second-most loyal companion, Little John being the first.

Book: The Bronte Project

Title: The Brontë Project: A Novel of Passion, Desire, and Good PR
Author: Jennifer Vandever
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Length: 288 pgs

Summary: Sara, a graduate student working on a PhD thesis, is attempting the impossible: she is looking for the missing letters of Charlotte Brontë. Sound similar to a book I just read/reviewed? Or maybe this? It must be the fashion these days. However, this book stays firmly in the present, and follows Sara’s journey from being engaged to a wonderful man, to finding her place in the world once he decides he must follow his dream to live in the squalor of Paris, à la George Orwell.

Excerpts:
pg 10 – Sara took a deep, stabilizing breath. Claire was like the anti-Sara: Where Sara was slim-hipped, small-breasted, and quiet, Claire was shapely and loud. […] Sara favored the practical and the classic in clothing and colors that, as her mother liked to point out, occurred naturally in bruises–blacks, grays, and blues–while Claire went for the blatantly trendy and expensive. On Claire even black looked red.

pg 36 – Sara normally had a tireless patience for these books. But now she realized resentfully that these people she was reading about simply lacked cable television. Get over it, she found herself thinking about yet another governess suffering from an unquenchable longing. Get over it and get cable.

pg 92 – “You see, when there is is a mystery standing in front of me with her arms folded, I must investigate. I must unpeel what I do not understand. I am French.”
“Well, I’m American and we destroy what we don’t understand.”

pg 95 – “On you, she is silent. You see, your influence already. A smart person who rarely talks terrifies people–in her mind she’s forming judgments. What does she think? It’s a kind of power and Claire collects power. Did she tell you she’s trying to be quieter?”
Sara stared off thoughtfully, feeling the weight of the liqueur on her thoughts. She looked at Denis and smiled mysteriously. If silence was her power, so be it. She took the bottle from him and poured herself another shot.
“She says nothing!” Denis exclaimed.

Why should you read this book?
Vandever’s fiction is clean and easy to understand; she manages to do the unthinkable, which is to make the audience feel for a type A personality as the main character. I call this book women’s fiction rather than a romance because, like romances, Sara has entanglements with the other sex, but, unlike romances, the story is not about finding the perfect man for Sara, it’s about Sara finding herself. Vandever uses quotes from Brontë’s letters to start the beginning of each chapter…sometimes they make sense to me and other times they seem randomly chosen. Such is the danger of using quotes to begin passages of your prose. For a better example, try Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. I have to say I liked this book, though I can’t exactly say why. It’s a simple story about the year in the life of Sara, and there are no real villains–maybe that’s why I liked it. Similar to St Ursula’s Girls Against the Atomic Bomb, I suppose. Give it a try, see what you can learn about your own fiction by reading Vandever’s.

Book: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

Title: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Author: Lauren Willig
Genre: Historical Fiction, Chick Lit
Length: 400 pgs

Summary: Eloise Kelly is a PhD student chasing after the elusive Pink Carnation, a British spy during the Napoleonic Wars. Trekking across the Atlantic in search of primary sources to discover the identity of the Pink Carnation, Eloise discovers the biggest scoop of all time, one that the “finest historians” have missed–the secret history of the Pink Carnation. While reading journals of those involved, she stumbles upon a heady romance that leaves her aching for a little of her own. As from the front flap, “How did the Pink Carnation save England? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?”

Excerpts:
pg 121 – “Miss Balcourt is not repugnant.” Richard twisted in his chair, and stared at the door. “What the devil is keeping supper?”
Geoff leaned across the table. “Well, if she’s not repugnant, then what’s the–ah.”
“Ah? Ah? What the deuce do you mean by ‘ah’? Of all the nonsensical…”
“You,” Geoff pointed at him with fiendish glee, “are unsettled not because you find her repugnant, but because you find her
not repugnant.”

pg 247 – Unfortunately, I knew exactly what I was suffering from. LIPID (Last Idiot Person I Dated) syndrome: a largely undiagnosed but pervasive disease that afflicts single women. […] As everyone knows, lipids are fats, and fats are bad for you, and therefore ex-boyfriends must be avoided at all costs.
This is what comes of having a bio major as a roommate for four years.

pg 279 – It wasn’t that I wanted Colin Selwick, I assured myself. Good heavens, no! I wanted what he stood for. I wanted someone who would drop a conversation when I appeared, who would worry if I said I felt sick, who would automatically shield me from being jostled without even stopping to think about it.

Why should you read this book?
First of all, just because the author has a PhD in history does not mean she got it all right. If you look at the Amazon reader reviews, you’ll find people bewailing such scenes as a young woman walking around at night, alone on the shipdeck, in her nightgown, talking to a man who had been a stranger not eight hours before. And in the time of Jane Austen! Please keep in mind that this is fiction, and it’s chick lit fiction at that, despite its historical fiction plot.

So, with that in mind, read this book for snappy dialogue, a fast plot, and some pretty funny characters. Pink Carnation has a creative little twist in taking a modern lead reading about a historical lead; the modern story is in first-person, and the historical fiction is in the third. I can’t say it’s an entirely new idea, but I was surprised in any case because I hadn’t realized the novel was written in such a fashion. I will say that I found the historical supporting cast more interesting than the historical romantic leads, Amy and Richard, and that the modern romance between Eloise and Colin should have been fleshed out a little more. But then again, that’s why there are books two and three, right? Another thing to look at when reading this book: the danger of using eye-catching words more than once. The fact that Willig used “stentorian” twice in the book had me laughing just for the fact that she must like that word. (FYI: stentorian is an adjective meaning extremely loud, and almost always describes someone’s voice.)

While I won’t claim this is high fiction, I also don’t think that was Willig’s intention. This is a feel good book to be read in a couple of hours with a certain suspension of disbelief. After all, she’s writing about a fake spy…I think we can give her a little leeway.

Book: The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

Title: The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars
Author: Steven Brust
Genre: Fiction/Folktale
Length: 210 pgs

Summary: This is technically two separate stories about two cocky young men who use their wits to get what they want. The thing is, one is a Hungarian folktale about Csucskari, a young gypsy who puts the sun, the moon, and the stars back where they belong. The other story is a contemporary first-person narrative about Greg, a student painter who dropped out of his junior year of college three years ago to work in a studio with four of his artist friends. There aren’t really chapters, just a series of vignettes, and the vignettes switch between the contemporary narrative and the folktale.

Excerpts:
pg 27 – I feel the same way about art. I want to do more than just paint a pretty picture; I want there to be some substance to it, something about life, about nature, about people. I want someone to be able to look at one of my paintings more than once; more than twice, even, and continue to find things in it. I want people to say, “Yeah, I’ve seen that, but I didn’t really notice it was like that before.” But you can’t just impose “meaning” and “significance” onto a paintin, like adding vodka to a punch. It’s either in you or it isn’t. The joke is, though, that you can’t know if it is or it isn’t unless you work at it.

pg 87 – The idea isn’t to show off how much detail you can capture, the idea is to use exactly the RIGHT details to express what you want to express, and no more. […] You need to be technically skilled enough to do anything, but then you have to know when not to.

pg 106 – Whenever I get this far into a project, it always starts to drag, on matter how excited I am. The important thing is to keep going, and, no matter how much it hurts, to take care that each stroke is applied correctly. A lot of my worst work has been done during the middle stage of a project, when I feel that, if I’m sloppy here I can make up for it later — but you can only repaint something a certain number of times before you’re going to lose some of the luster, or, if you keep wiping things off with turpentine, before you hurt the canvas itself.

Why should you read this book?
Because the voice of the first-person narrator, Greg, is pretty good. I decided I didn’t like him because he was too cocky, and that’s when I took a step back and said, “Bravo, Mr Brust! You got me to hate your character!” I have to applaud anyone who makes me feel anything for their character, especially if it’s a first-person narrative. Generally, I tend to just read and wonder what really happened, but by the end of the story I was beginning to see how the folktale narrative was tying in with the first-person narrative. It’s an interesting treatment to the stories; had they been written separately, I don’t think they would have been interesting enough to carry a book. So, read this book for a different writing treatment, for the character voice, and for a little bit of Hungarian folklore.

Book: The Slightest Provocation


Title: The Slightest Provocation
Author: Pam Rosenthal
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 352 pgs

Summary: In the tradition of Romeo and Juliet, Mary Penley and Kit Stansell of the Regency feuding Penley and Stansell families elope, after nourishing a secret friendship from their early teens. Their first year of marriage is one long honeymoon night, if you get my drift, but when Kit is teased by his club friends for only lusting after his wife (how provincial!!), he dallies with an actress and catches a disease such that he can’t go to bed with Mary for a year. This doesn’t stop him from going to other actresses, however, and to get back at him, Mary allows Kit’s best friend to seduce her. Of course, Kit walks in on them, and that’s just the backstory.

When the book actually starts, Kit and Mary have been separated for nine years, during the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon is finally defeated, and Kit and Mary are returning to England, worried by rumors that there is an insurgency threatening their homeland.

Why should you read this book?
I can see what Rosenthal was trying to do with this book, partially because I read her group blog, History Hoydens. She took an actual event from history, threw in her own fictional characters who would have access to the people involved, and went from there. Rosenthal is completely correct in the debauchery of married Regency couples, so I guess I can’t complain on that aspect, except that, in reading this book, I kind of felt like the plot was completely secondary to Kit and Mary’s lust for one another, which apparently never died even after nine years of separation. Sure, we’re reading about English countryside intrigue, and we’re also learning about Kit and Mary through their memories of one another. Their realization that they got married much too young is apparent, and that they’re trying to work through their history is admirable. I don’t know. I have mixed feelings, but I’m primarily disappointed. The cover is just so pretty, I hoped to read something that would both impress and touch me, but instead, I found myself just making sure I was reading it alone because it felt… naughty haha.

The novel is well-written, but I didn’t read anything that particularly spoke to me, or made me want to write it down as a quote, which is why there aren’t any excerpts with this book. So, I would say this book left me with an “eh” sort of feeling once I finished. Also, why were we paying attention to the lovelife of Mary’s servant? It didn’t really add anything to the story except that it made the character a little more 3D. Take it or leave it, this book probably isn’t meant for my demographic.

Book: St. Ursula’s Girls Against the Atomic Bomb

Title: St. Ursula’s Girls Against the Atomic Bomb
Author: Valerie Hurley
Genre: Fiction
Length: 252 pgs

Summary: So. This book is interesting. St Ursula’s Girls Against the Atomic Bomb by Valerie Hurley is about Raine Rassaby, a free-spirited high school girl who is determined to be a heroine and save the world from nuclear missiles and other dangerous horrible things like the military. Her mother is a concert violinist and her father is a famous astrologist; her late grandmother converted to Judaism so she thinks she’s Jewish even though both of her parents are Catholic. She’s in love with the Slovakian Jewish gardener, and her Catholic school guidance teacher, who has his own problems, lives next door. The book starts crazy, and it doesn’t seem to come to any sort of real resolution, in the way that a typical romance would, which is why I’ve labeled this book as simply fiction, it almost asks to be literary fiction.

Excerpts:
pg 44 – When Raine told her about her fears, Vikey said, “Fear isn’t something to be gotten rid of. It’s something real and human, something to pay attention to. Drunks are fearless but that doesn’t make them courageous. Fear is a signal, to be honored and listened to. It was proper for us to be afraid of the Nazis and the Hlinka Guard and not berate ourselves for our fears.”

pg 46 – “Raine, please–you’re working yourself into a froth. Can you think a calming thought?”
“I can try. But there might be a mushroom cloud in it.”

pg 63 – “Adults always act like they’re Gepetto, and they’re afraid someone else is going to breathe life into Pinocchio.”

pg 69 – After lunch, he wanted to smooth his hands down over Frieda’s sun-warmed hair. He longed to put his arm around her and lead her into their bedroom and share everything he was thinking with her and ask her a lot of questions and make love to her. Instead, he sat gazing out the window, listening to Mrs. Rassaby running through the scales on her violin. He watched a flock of grosbeaks fly into the garden and peck at the withered sunflowers. Robins mated for life. But he was sure they did not return to the nest every night with tales to tell their mate of a dazzling peacock.

pg 76 – “There’s a part of me that’s very weak and doesn’t know much and is scared of everything,” she said. “But under it is something else, this strong person who believes in the power of love and thinks human beings can squirm out of their predicaments. One layer is full of fear and one layer is full of belief. Do you ever feel like that?”
“Of course. It’s the human condition.”
“It is?”

pg 103 – “Eventually, I got kind of fixated on Patty, and I loved Michael’s white shirts and his turquoise eyes, but then something sad happened. One day I was sitting on a bench on Broadway feeding chocolate-covered raisins to the pigeons, and I saw Michael and Patty walking together up Broadway. I stood up and stared at them. They weren’t holding hands, but everyone once in a while, they’d bump shoulders. They didn’t see me or anyone else–they only saw each other–and it was their obliviousness that was so painful to watch because I wanted so much to have that kind of obliviousness with somebody. I walked home like I was sleep-walking and went up the stairs to my bedroom and climbed into bed and felt how completely separate I was from everyone and everything.”
“So were you in love with this girl?”
“I guess I was doing what all girls do–shopping for a woman to become.”

pg 141 – I have never been able to figure out if America is a bunch of promises we don’t intend to keep, or if it is sometihng astonishingly beautiful that we have carried in our hearts from another land. Justice, Liberty, Freedom, Equality, Opportunity, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These are dreams. They’re ideas. […] I feel it is up to my generation to read Common Sense and go Whoa, Tonto! Since when has America been about making bombs and making money?
Why should you read this book?
For the pure eccentricity of the characters. Raine is so eccentric she almost seems unbelievable, except that I’ve met people like her before. Al, her guidance counselor, provides a complement because he seems so normal it almost hurts to read about him. The book was well-written, the characters were faithfully executed, and, I’m sad to say, I forgot all of their names except for Raine as soon as I closed the book. So, if you’re planning on reading this book, take heart in Raine and her eccentricities; learn from her implementation if you have a similar character and aren’t sure how to write about him/her. Just be careful, because when I finished this book, I felt no different from when I first picked it up. I believe there isn’t anything more dangerous to a writer than to have a reader feel apathetic toward your work.