The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg
To be published: March 31, 2015
George Sand was way ahead of her time. The book starts out on the day Aurore (Sand’s real name) decided to leave her home in the French Countryside and her husband Casimir and try her luck at becoming a real novelist in Paris. It is a trial separation from her husband, and the story goes on to explain how she came to this point by jumping back and forth between her birth and after her move to Paris. She starts writing for a journal magazine when she is publishing her first couple of books and relying on her husband for income, to becoming totally independent with her own money and a string of lovers, both male and female. She starts dressing and acting like a man and eventually takes the pen name, George Sand. George is friends with writer Victor Hugo, artist Eugene Delacroix and composer Franz Liszt. She most famously tries to court the famous French actress Marie Dorval, composer Frederic Chopin and writers Alfred de Musset and Gustave Flaubert. 3 stars.
I have always been fascinated with George Sand, but never knew anything about her. So when I saw this historical fiction, I jumped at the chance to read about her. My biggest gripe about this book was the length. The book started off interesting, but then got really tedious. It was if the author was turning the book into an academic nonfiction instead of a historical fiction. It became another one of those Advanced Readers Copies that I was sloughing through, having to review because I promised to, instead of because I was enjoying it.
Overall, I really enjoyed the story and she was an intriguing character both in her personal and professional life, a woman who didn’t take no for an answer in an age when women always took the backseat and did whatever their husbands told them to do. I never knew that she had children and it was cool that her son got to apprentice with Eugene Delacroix, the Romantic French painter so famous for paintings like Liberty Leading the People (28th July 1830), and later became a writer in his own right. George was also very political, even starting her own political journal and supporting worker’s rights. She led a pretty sad life with her father and brother dying young, her mother abandoning her, her tempetuous relationship with her grandmother, and her horrible relationship with her husband. It seems like she never really found happiness in love, but only in the her books. I would like read some of her own writing and would pick either Lelia, Indiana, or Consuela.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author, in exchange for my honest review.
Prudence (The Custard Protocol: Book One) by Gail Carriger
Prudence (Rue to her friends) has been raised by Lord Akeldama (a vampire), while her mother Alexia (preternatural – one who has no soul) and father Conall (a werewolf) are living in his 3rd closet next door. Rue is a metantural, and has the ability to neutralize and temporarily steal supernatural powers. Set about 20 years after the events of The Parasol Protectorate series, Prudence is now a very proper young lady and has been given a dirigible and given the mission to get some very special tea from India. She promptly painted it red and black to look like a giant ladybug and named the ship “The Spotted Custard”. Her best friend Primrose is coming as her companion, along with Prim’s brother Percy (the resident scholar) and the rogue engineer Quesnel. Once they get to India, they realize that things are not as they seem. A brigadier general’s wife has been abducted and with the help of some very familiar werewolves, Rue and her crew set out to find her and the reason why she was abducted. Recommended for ages 16+, 4 stars.
I have been waiting for this book forever, ever since finishing the last book in The Parasol Protectorate series, which I adored. This book was awesome and definitely worth the wait, though I had to re-read Timeless as I couldn’t remember anything from it because it had been 3 years since I read it. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot-line, but suffice it to say, there are way more were-creatures than you can possibly imagine. Miss Sekhmet was a very intriguing character as well, and I’m hoping we will see more of her as the series progresses.
As other reviews I have read have mentioned, there was a distinct lack of romance in this book. The author several times hinted at a possibility, but it seems we’ll have to wait till the second book for that scenario to come to fruition. The book was hilarious, as is usual with her books, usually involving occasions where Rue has stolen someone’s powers and then in left bereft of clothing and has to walk back starkers, or arguments with her mama. In Chapter Seven, there is this quote about vampires: “One could not blame people for not disliking vampires. Vampires were like Brussels sprouts – not for everyone and impossible to improve upon with sauce.” Or that section in Chapter nine where she basically propositions Quesnel to tutor her in the ways of l’amour, “in a trial position…a low risk, scientifically experimental situation,” which pretty much scandalizes playboy (despite his reputation). There is a lot of negativity towards foreigners, especially those who are not white skinned, but that goes with the time period the book is set in (i.e. the 1890s).
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author, in exchange for my honest review.
Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy
Published March 3, 2015
Struan Robertson is top of his class in the tiny ex-mining town Cuik, in Scotland in 1989. A writer, Phillip Prys, whose work Struan enjoyed during his last school year has had a stroke. His family put an ad in the paper for a nurse to take care of Phillip. Struan, who had previously worked in an old folks’ home as his after-school job, is a perfect fit in more ways than one. So he takes the job to fill in his gap-year before university. He genuinely cares about Mr. Prys, in a way that no-one else in his family seems willing or able to do. The family includes the miscreant teenage son, an overbearing entitled ex-wife who still calls herself Mrs. Prys even though it has been many years since they’ve been married, a chubby selfish daughter and her anorexic best friend, and the current Mrs. Prys who is about forty years younger than her husband. Will Struan survive his meeting the English or will it forever change him? 3 stars.
I picked up this book based off the blurb because I am fascinated with the relationship between English and Scottish people in the modern age, because even though they are part of the same nation, there is still a great deal of animosity there because of past historical events. I lived in Scotland for nine months while in school and my husband is English, so I have a unique perspective on this phenomenon as well. I, for the most part, disliked most of the Prys family (especially the previous Mrs. Pryce), and felt sorry for the daughter and the current Mrs. Prys. I had a bit of a tough time getting into the book but was genuinely curious what Struan would get up to in that crazy house, and kept reading to find out. There was a bit of disparaging between the English and the Scottish but wasn’t as bad as I would’ve thought, just your basic Londoners thinking they are better than everyone, especially a Scottish lad from a backwater mining town. But that is also linked to class and ethnicity as well.
The Case of the Cursed Dodo (The Endangered Files #1) by Jake G. Panda
Published Dec 15, 2014
Jake G. Panda is a private detective at The Last Resort, a hotel for endangered animals. He gets a call from his friend, the Professor (a Himalayan hare), asking for his help. The Professor has uncovered a mysterious suitcase with a jade dodo inside when he suddenly goes missing. Jake is on the case and out to find his friend. He quickly becomes involved with the Underground Resistance movement against poachers, a group of sketchy rats, and a couple of mysterious dames. Recommended for ages 9-13, 3-1/2 stars.
I rather enjoyed this quick read. I was curious how the author was going to turn classic film noir into a book for kids because the genre is kind of gritty and full of alcohol swigging, which isn’t very kid friendly, but I think he managed it with this “jungle noir”. I personally didn’t like the whole “book pretending to be a screenplay” thing, but it did its job setting the stage. While I’m not sure most kids would get all the jokes, overall, I think the book really worked and would definitely draw a child’s attention in. Plus there were all the endangered animals, most of whom I’d never heard of and found myself browsing Wikipedia whilst reading it. Maybe if it was being read by a class, you could do a nonfiction tie-in after reading it and get the kids to report on one of the endangered or extinct animals. I look forward to reading more books in the series!
I received a copy of the book from the author, in exchange for my honest review.
Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army by Georg Rauch
Published: Feb 24, 2015
Austrian George Rauch was a fascinating man. He was drafted into Hitler’s army in 1944 at age seventeen, despite being one-quarter Jewish (his maternal grandmother was Jewish). He is immediately sent to the Russian or Eastern Front as a telegraphist, part of the communication department of the infantry. He manages to survive till the end of the war, despite many close shaves, only to be taken to a Russian POW camp at the end of the war. He manages to survive that and makes it home to his sister and mother. He never talks about his wartime experiences until the 1980s, while living Mexico, when he suddenly decides to write down his experiences in German to his wife, who translated the book into English. The book is told through a series of letters from Georg to his mother, with the author filling in missing parts of the story himself in-between letters.
When I first saw this book, I really wanted to read it. There are hardly any books on World War II, at least that I’ve found, on the subject of the war from the viewpoint of someone on the German side. You always hear from the Allies, so to get a book taken from the honest viewpoint a part-Jewish teenager, plus one whose parents not only disagreed with Hitler’s government but was also actively hiding Jews, is pretty intriguing. The book got a bit dense with all the battles, how the supplies were dwindling, as well as the hygiene problems of the soldiers of being without baths for long periods of time. But overall I enjoyed it. George was a very likable character. He was a smart teenager who built his own radios and a Morse code machine before he became a soldier and his ability to come up with fantastic food from scavenged materials while at the front (or near it at least) was fascinating. After returning to Austria after the war, he manages to find his family and ends up traveling the world before settling in Mexico and becoming an artist.
Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.