Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of A Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale – Trailer/Interviews

I just finished listening to Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of A Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale, and I loved it. I am still thinking about what I’ll say about it, but I wanted to share the videos the author made to promote the book. They provide a synopsis, and some interesting tidbits on the evolution of divorce for the middle classes, and the hypocrisy in how the law was applied. Interestingly enough, Mrs. Robinson was older than her alleged” lover, and it came up in the trial where she was referred to as “a predatory and aging seductress.” The etymology/genesis of cougar?

The other videos are here on YouTube (Victorian Divorce Law Rested On Double Standard) & (How Isabella Robinson’s Private Diary Was Used To Bring About Her Own Disgrace).

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Demands by Mark Billingham   Book Review

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The Demands by Mark Billingham – Book Review

In Mark Billingham’s The Demands, Detective Sargent Helen Weeks is a new mom whose life has already been touched by personal violence with the murder of her child’s father. When teenage thugs harass a local newsagent, Javed Akhtar, she hesitates when it comes to getting involved- hoping he can resolve the issue without her help. Little does she know that the newsagent, a grieving father,  has an agenda of his own. It involves holding her and another customer hostage while demanding that Detective Tom Thorne investigate the alleged suicide of his son in prison. Thorne races to find answers for Akhtar before either of the hostages can come to harm.

Sigh. I have found another mystery series to add to the growing list of detective series where I have some catching up to do. Thorne is pretty much all that both women and men love in their hero detective. He’s smart, doesn’t play by all the rules and he cares about the people involved in his cases – he wants to find justice for them. I also got the feeling that he was probably pretty easy on the eyes. Never a bad thing.

Anyway, the case is complex and Billingham touches upon ethnic and religious tensions in London as Akhtar is convinced that the country to which he has dedicated his life has rushed to the easy conclusion in the death of his son. There is definitely evidence of discrimination as Thorne re-investigates all the angles of the altercation that led Akhtar’s son to be imprisoned in the first place, but other troubling angles arise in which privilege and sexuality play important roles. Accompanying the tense hostage scenes and the action of the developing investigation are the interior lives of both Thorne and Weeks. Thorne is pondering the aftermath of his latest failed relationship and Weeks is still lost and grieving over her own partner’s death before they were able to resolve their troubled relationship.

While it’s hard to feel empathy for a man who would take hostages to achieve his aims, Billingham manages to make Akhtar understood, if not championed. The Demands is deftly plotted and well-written and makes for a read that is both thoughtful and suspense filled. Readers who are new to the Thorne series will have no problems jumping right in. Highly Recommended.

Read More Reviews At: A Bookworm’s WorldMy Bookish Ways – The Review Broads 

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Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)- Audiobook Review

Bring Up The Bodies is Hilary Mantel’s second book in a trilogy detailing the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell. In spite of its daunting reputation I loved the first in the series, Wolf Hall, once I got the hang of a somewhat confusing narrative. Mantel has a way of writing that makes this history of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell – which is widely known and discussed –  come alive with strong tension and suspense despite knowing the outcome. Quite a feat. Summarizing these books is easy peasy. In Wolf Hall, Henry wants to marry Anne – Heaven and Earth are moved, England’s religion is irrevocably altered, and people die to make this happen. In Bring Up The Bodies, Henry wants to marry Jane Seymour – Heaven and Earth are moved, and people die (chiefly Anne Boleyn, her brother and a selection of Anne’s other courtiers) to make this happen.

Okay, so a little more detail. Henry and Anne have been married for a few years and the bloom is off the rose. They have had their first child, Elizabeth, and though Henry is clearly disappointed he’s willing to take that as a sign of Anne’s fertility. Surely they will have a boy soon…only they don’t. After several miscarriages Henry begins to look on Jane Seymour with greater and greater interest (she is placid and more biddable than Anne, who can be a shrew), and hints that surely something must be wrong with his marriage to Anne that they have not been blessed with a male heir. Henry speculates with Cromwell on possible ways to invalidate his marriage, and Cromwell, ever the master statesman and negotiator, sets about to make what Henry wishes a reality.

Once again Mantel excels at exemplifying the complications that make Cromwell’s job such a balancing act, and just how skilled he is at managing the affairs of country and king. Cromwell bears the brunt of disapproving for creating the means of Anne and Henry’s marriage, and he is not popular for it. He has the precarious position of attempting diplomacy and managing the affairs of three factions – those who are upset with Henry’s treatment of Katherine and the bastardized Mary, Anne and her kin, as well as Jane Seymour’s family – who is on the rise. His life clearly hangs in the balance if he makes a misstep. Allusions are made to the the deaths of both Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas More, who are never far from the forefront of Cromwell’s thoughts. Everyone knows what happens when Henry is displeased. Still, I felt less aligned with him this time around. Something about the speed of the events, the callousness of making the accusations, and the way Cromwell interacted with the accused had me questioning Mantel’s version of events toward the end of this novel. I understood Cromwell’s position but  I definitely liked him less – and I wanted to check up to see where Mantel was playing fast and loose with history because some of it just didn’t  jive.

Mantel is as deft with her portrayals as she is in Wolf Hall. The characterizations are witty, and she communicates a vast amount of information about the state of the kingdom and its people as well as the players involved in Henry’s marital woes. As ever she manages to take a known outcome and still insert tension, entertainment and suspense. Bring up the Bodies succeeds in accessibility where Wolf Hall caused trepidation. A worthy sequel, but I wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I was its predecessor. Recommended.

Audiobook Thoughts: I have heard much ado about the narration skills of Simon Vance. It was part of the reason that I chose to listen to Bring Up The Bodies. I enjoyed the narration and the way he voiced his characters. Bring Up The Bodies has quite a bit of dialogue and it was easy to follow along knowing who was speaking at any given time. Henry was whiny (very appropriate, imho) and Cromwell sounded super dry and witty. Vance handily captured both the gravity of the narrative and the personalities of the characters. Listen!

Read More Reviews At: Tiny LibraryDevourer of Books (Audiobook Review)Literate Housewife (Audiobook Review)S. Krishna’s BooksBookLust

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty   Book Review

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The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty – Book Review

Cora Carlisle is thirty-six in 1922, the summer that she chaperones a teenaged Louise Brooks throughout the duration of a prestigious summer dance program in New York, in Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone. When we first meet Cora she is married to a wealthy, handsome lawyer, and preparing to send their twin boys off to college. Cora is a bit at loose ends with her boys off working a farm for the summer, but she is surprised when Myra Brooks immediately accepts her offer to care for her daughter. Cora informs her husband of her stay in New York with  Louise in no uncertain terms, and it is then that it becomes apparent that the marriage is strained, that Cora has secrets, and isn’t the meek little housewife she seems at first to be. Cora is searching for something that even she can’t define. This summer is her opportunity to investigate what she’s ignored for many years.

I have to admit I didn’t have much desire to read this novel. Not knowing anything about Louise Brooks, few things appealed to me less than reading about her and her summer chaperone. My book club is the reason I picked this up, from the very first pages, I was absorbed with The Chaperone and Cora. Cora’s tale of discovery is both suspenseful and engaging, and though I was equal parts frustrated with her troubled marriage, timidity in disciplining Louise and naivete, I also loved being enmeshed in her world and watching her nascent self-awareness and insight and eventual self-actualization. Moriarty’s writing is charming and atmospheric, and I loved that the turns in Cora’s life were always surprising and a natural next step in her evolution. The Chaperone is compulsively readable. It’s hard to put down once you’ve started it, so make sure you have some time! Highly recommended.

Read More Reviews At: Amused By BooksThe Picky GirlMeaghan Walsh Gerard

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Nightfall by Stephen Leather   Book Review

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Dare Me by Megan Abbott – Book Review

Megan Abbott’s Dare Me examines the lives of cheerleaders through high school juniors and best friends Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy. Beth has always been the top cheerleader and her friend, Addy, her lieutenant. The girls’ relationship has been strained in recent months and undergoes further changes when they get a young, new coach at the beginning of the year. Coach French undermines Beth’s iron grip on the squad, dividing loyalties when she decommissions Beth as the team’s captain. Even as they all give Coach French their complete allegiance, Addie knows how dangerous a scorned Beth can be. For Beth, it’s war – and when a suspicious death connects back to the coach, it’s on.

My introduction to Megan Abbott came last year when my book club read The End of Everything. Her disturbing, yet compelling portrayal of the friendship of teenage girls, and what happens when one of them goes missing, gave my book club plenty to buzz about. She is no less astute in her observations here as she details the girls’ tenuous relationships with each other – forged in weight loss, peer pressure and brutal competition. Abbott never shies away from the dark undercurrent running just beneath the surface of intense friendships, and Beth and Addy’s relationship is rife with the deepest love and support as well jealousy, hurt and manipulation.

The relationships between adults and teenagers in Abbott novels are refreshing and infuriating, filled as they are with nuanced complexities, and a frankly questionable nature. Both Beth and Addy’s parents are, typically, absentee in their daughter’s lives and while the coach seek to control the team from a leadership standpoint, she is a flawed substitute instead of an improvement over mean girl, Beth. She masterfully manipulates the girls to satisfy her own needs and loneliness. The girls are attracted to Colette French, not only because she is young and beautiful, but too, they can sense that she is a match to their emotional existences – as vulnerable and damaged as they are.

Dare Me is written in a voice that is staccato and flitting – sometimes repetitive. It took some getting used to, but it always seemed perfectly suited to these girls who had to be so focused on their cheer routines, but at the same time had so much to pay attention to, and be distracted by – their weight, text messages, parties and shifting allegiances. Once again Megan Abbott has written a novel about friendship, loyalty and love containing a compelling plot that is equally thoughtful and engaging. Recommended.

Read More Reviews At: Devourer of BooksS. Krishna’s BooksHome Cooked Books  – nomadreader

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 September BOOK CLUB  – Breed by Chase Novak (Giveaway)

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September BOOK CLUB – Breed by Chase Novak (Giveaway)

On Tuesday August 7th, BOOK CLUB will be discussing  Dare Me by Megan Abbott. The discussion will be at Devourer of Books. In September we will be reading Breed by Chase Novak (Mulholland Books).

Breed book cover

From the publisher:

Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don’t have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire . . . but with awful consequences.

Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents’ bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing.

Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost.

You can start reading Breed at Mulholland’s blog.

If you would like to participate in Breed BOOK CLUB in September, please fill out this form by noon tomorrow. Your mailing address will be discarded if you aren’t selected to participate and used to mail you the book if you are. I do not share or retain any personal information. Only those selected will be contacted by email.

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