Book review: A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

I think I need to offer a warning: There will be much gushing in the following review, I will probably go on and on and on much too long, and yes, there probably might be a few spoiler-ish items as well. But if there’s one thing you, as a romance reader or a reader in general, need to take away from my paltry offering of praise for A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson, it is this: just read the book. A Company of Swans is so worthy – worth the time, the money, worth finding a private quiet place to read a few pages, worth losing sleep and reading way past your bedtime, worth the countless things you put off in exchange for finding out “What happens next?”, very much worth every second spent between these pages. Now, for the rest of you who stick around and manage to muddle through this mess, take a deep breath, make yourself a cup of tea (or your beverage of choice), and allow me to list most of the reasons I fell in love with this gloriously marvelous book. Ready, set, go!

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The Bookseller’s Daughter by Pam Rosenthal – “Rosemary for remembrance…”

It’s probably not fair to compare The Bookseller’s Daughter to other Pam Rosenthal books I’ve read and enjoyed like The Edge of Impropriety, but that’s exactly what I found myself doing, fair or not. The Bookseller’s Daughter has the Rosenthal erotic stamp to the romance between Marie-Laure Vernet and Viscomte Joseph d’Auvers-Raimond, but both characters felt a little incomplete, not as complex or compelling as Marina and Jasper in TEoI. Marie-Laure, in particular, felt a bit static to me while Joseph was a much more dynamic character, a hero in transition.

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Review: Thief of Dreams by Mary Balogh

 

 

“…a dream itself is but a shadow” Hamlet 2.2

He gazed up at the blue sky and knew that heaven – at least in this life – was neither a time nor a place to be grasped and made into a possession. It came in fleeting moments and then went away again to leave one nostalgic and yearning and on the verge of tears.” (Thief of Dreams)

Sometimes a book lingers after I finish reading it. Sometimes it fades away into the ether (or the shadows to allude to the quote above) as soon as I close the cover. In the past, Thief of Dreams by Mary Balogh is a book that fell somewhere in the middle of those two reactions. I’d read it a few times, remembered a few key scenes that would beckon me back for a re-read, but I was never blown away, so to speak, after reading it. It was always merely “enjoyable”, a little heavy on the angst, but satisfying in the end as most of Mary Balogh books are for me, but ToD was never one of my five-star book hangover reads. That’s okay, too, by the way. It doesn’t detract from the innate goodness in a book to be enjoyable or make it less than any other book. But this last re-read of Thief of Dreams made me think that maybe, just maybe, I kept this book and reread it every now and then for reasons I didn’t recognize those other times. Maybe all my buttons were in overload at the particular time I read it. Maybe I hurried through it too quickly. Maybe every book needs its own perfect “time” to leave a lasting impression like when the moon is in the Seventh House, Jupiter aligns with Mars and peace begins to guide the planets. All I know for sure is that this time, my latest re-read of Thief of Dreams held a few surprises that left me scratching my head and wondering “How on earth did I miss that or this?” Honestly, I like when that happens. It’s almost like reading it for the first time.

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There is always music…

 

As soon as the curtain opened on Argan sitting at a table adding up his apothecary’s bills, the audience fell utterly silent. ‘Three and two make five, and five makes ten and ten makes twenty. Item; on the twenty-fourth, a little emollient clyster to mollify, moisten and refresh his worship’s bowels –thirty sous. Thirty sous for a clyster? In your other bills you charged but twenty; and twenty sous, in the language of an apothecary, is only ten sous –so there they are. Ten sous.’

Rockliffe was surprised. The fellow was good. More than that –he was different from the common run of his profession because he was utterly believable. He actually was an old man mumbling over his counters and coins and bills … and he was holding the house spellbound. ‘So then. In this month I have taken one, two, three …… six, seven, eight purges and one, two, three … ten, eleven, twelve clysters; and last month there were twelve purges and twenty clysters.’ He paused, shaking his head. ‘I don’t wonder that I am not so well this month as last.’

And then, in the third act, something odd happened. Whether it was caused by a certain turn of the head or a particular inflection in the fellow’s voice, Rockliffe couldn’t be sure … but he suddenly had the peculiar feeling that L’Inconnu wasn’t unknown at all; and, consequently found himself caught less in the performance than in mentally eradicating Argan’s old-fashioned wig, false eyebrows and pince-nez. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright impossible.

Rockliffe was just about to dismiss the notion when, unexpectedly, L’Inconnu’s eyes met his; and, just for a fleeting second –and only because he was watching so closely –his Grace saw recognition in them.

‘Dear me,’ he thought wryly. ‘How very interesting.’ (The Mésalliance, Stella Riley)

Interesting indeed, my dear Rockliffe. And intriguing. This was the introduction of L’Inconnu, the gifted and talented actor playing the hypochondriacal Argan at La Comédie-Française. That Rock and L’Inconnu recognize each other tickled my reading senses in The Mésalliance. Who is he? What eight-year old scandal? Why was L’Inconnu so disturbed, disconcerted to be recognized by Rock? What on earth was a titled Englishman doing treading the boards in France? How did he come to this point? As a side note, if a writer wants to perfectly bait the sequel trap for an unsuspecting reader, this is the way it should be done. A few tantalizing hints dropped and a blip big enough to register on the ennui monitor of the heretofore smooth brow of one of the most dynamic, omniscient, fascinating, smoking hot heroes (otherwise known as Rockliffe by the by), and I’m hooked. Reel me in. Brava, Ms. Riley, brava!!

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Nature’s “Undersong”

 

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” ~,Ralph Waldo Emerson

My poor reading blog has suffered over the past several months while I muddled through an awful, terribly long, excruciatingly painful reading slump. Reading has always been my go-to comfort activity, a solace when I’m troubled, a joyful place, a place to celebrate all of the good, positive, life-affirming truths, and a path to explore new ideas and thoughts or to re-examine and expand not-so-new ones. When that left me for a time, I was adrift. Not an exaggeration for one who has been known as a “book-worm” since I learned to read. I felt as if I had lost my best friend to be honest. I took heart in the belief that my voracious appetite to read would return at some point if I could just be patient, wait it out. In the meanwhile, I began to spend more time combining two of my second-most favorite pastimes: photography (strictly amateur, of course) and love of nature, walking, wildlife.

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Daphne by Sarah Carlisle

 

Reading slumps. I haz one. *sigh*

The bane of every reader no matter the genre. Mine has been particularly virulent and long lasting. And apparently not exactly over and done quite yet. My desire to read has returned gradually over the past month/six weeks though not my desire to, you know, actually write words, much less coherent sentences, about why or why not the book entertained. Ah well, I live in hope. Be gentle, dear reader, with this first attempt in many months to attempt to write something that hopefully will resemble a review.

Daphne by Sarah Carlisle was a gift from a friend who has been very supportive to me during a time when I shunned my book room (thank you Janet!!) when I actually closed the door to that room so that I wouldn’t even catch a glimpse of the stacks and stacks of books in my bookcases just waiting for me and judging me silently and scornfully. Or so it seemed. But I digress. Or procrastinate. Or dilly dally. Whatever.

Daphne was enjoyable but not exactly memorable. It took me about two weeks to read through a paltry 220 pages which again speaks more to my reading slump and not to the quality of writing. Indeed, I quite enjoyed Ms. Carlisle’s style – easy, simple, straight forward without unnecessary embellishment or complicated plot lines. As I said, more a lack in me than a lack in story or characters or plot.

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Mary Burchell’s A SONG BEGINS: Romance Doesn’t Get Better Than This …

A wonderful review by the incomparable Miss Bates (Miss Bates Reads Romance): Mary Burchell’s “A Song Begins”

Miss Bates Reads Romance

A_Song_BeginsUntil reading Mary Burchell’s A Song Begins, Miss Bates found it hard to believe that anyone could rival her beloved Betty Neels. And yet, here she is, enthralled with Mary Burchell. And all she can say is, MOAR! A Song Begins is the first of Burchell’s Warrender Saga, a series of thirteen romances she wrote for Mills and Boon stretching from 1965 to 1985. They are set in the opera world and feature harsh, closed-off heroes and heroines who can hold their own against them. Burchell and Neels share the exclusive heroine POV and the mystery, which Miss Bates loves, of knowing the heroes only by their actions. Their kindness and love for the heroine are hinted at with only very occasional near-tender gestures. Otherwise, they’re cyphers of raised eyebrows, mysterious smiles, flashing, angry eyes, suppressed frustration, and an exacting work ethic, to which our heroine’s inexperience is subject, in…

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Persuasion by Jane Austen . . . “You pierce my soul. . .”

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Persuasion wasn’t always my favorite Jane Austen novel. I, of course, quickly fell in love with Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility), and Edmund Bertram (Mansfield Park) long before Captain Frederick Wentworth was even a blip on my romance radar screen. But, the older better more discerning I become, the more I found myself returning to Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion until one day I realized this is my go-to Jane Austen pick-me-up book. The one I read when nothing, absolutely nothing, else will interest me. (I have unfortunately been suffering under a massive reading slump since the New Year kicked off so, ahem, I may have read Persuasion a time or three since.)

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The Mistletoe Kiss by Betty Neels

The Mistletoe Kiss by Betty Neels was published in 1997, when Betty Neels was in her late eighties. This charming Christmas-themed romance may have been written late in her life and writing career, but it’s one of my favorite Christmas romances and one I’ve read, reread many times. Actually, it’s just one of my favorite romances. Period.

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