Moonlight Snowfall
Actual footage from my life right now

 

So, yeah. Hopefully I'll be back soon.

Review
4.5 Stars
The Game of Kings buddy read complete
The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

This was really something of a tour de force by Dunnett. I'm still certain that I missed a significant percentage of the plot, and even more of the literary, historical and linguistic allusions. 

 

I really did enjoy this book, and will definitely read on in the series. Dunnett is a fearless writer - she didn't hesitate to put her characters (all of them) through a series of trials, some of which were downright awful. She killed off one character of whom I was extremely fond. I was, and still am, shocked at the almost casual speed of that particular death.

 

Someone else mentioned the women characters and how wonderfully well-rounded they were. I totally agree. I loved Lady Sybilla, especially at the end. 

 

Dunnett also very much respected the intellect of her readers (maybe sometimes too much, from my perspective, lol). She packed the book with nuggets for the discerning reader to find. I'm sure that I missed a lot of them. She also just takes off with the story and proceeds apace, reaching a breakneck speed toward the end, when the revelations and the action are flying.

 

The final reveal wasn't particularly shocking to me - I think that she had set it up throughout the course of the book so that it was pretty natural. This was really a swashbuckling adventure, and not a mystery, so she wasn't so much trying to palm the ace as keep it away from the characters view for a while.

 

Of all of the characters, Lymond remains the most unclear to me. I still don't feel like I have a real handle on who he is - he played so many parts that he almost doesn't have a true identity. He is infinitely iinteresting, and I'd like to get to know him better. 

 

I'm not sure when I will get to the next book, but I will get to the next book.

For my fellow Agathytes!

 I'm still laughing about this

 

 

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 365 out of 543 pages.
The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

I am bringing up the rear of the buddy read. I am really liking the book, but I've been slammed at work and so I am pretty much reduced to binge watching multiple episodes of West Wing when I get home at night because my brain can't cope with concentrating on things!

 

I am totally curious about what is really going on with Lymond. Dunnett is doling out information one nugget at a time, so I feel like there is going to be some huge reveal before this is over. 

Promotion by Dean Street Press

I follow Dean Street Press on Facebook.

 

They do a "free until Friday" promotion and this week's promotion is for:

 

 

(Link to amazon page)

 

Plot summary: 

 

In the schoolroom in Lowndes Square, a child, in her ugly, unsuitable frock of plum-coloured satin, cut down when discarded from one of her mother's, bent over the cutting out of a doll and its cardboard wardrobe, and shivered as she worked.

Hilarious, shocking, and heartbreaking in turn, A Harp in Lowndes Square is like no other Rachel Ferguson novel. Perhaps her most personal work - and the closest she ever came to a ghost story - it tells of Vere and James, twins gifted with 'the sight, ' which allows them to see and even experience scenes from the past (including one, at Hampton Court, involving royalty).

The twins are already aware of their mother's troubled relationship with her own mother, the formidable Lady Vallant, but the discovery of an Aunt Myra, who died young and of whom their mother has never spoken, leads them to uncover the family's tragic past. Against the backdrop of World War I and Vere's unexpected relationship with an aging actor (and his wife), and rife with Ferguson's inimitable wit, the novel reaches a powerful and touching denouement when the twins relive the horrifying events of many years before ...

A Harp in Lowndes Square was originally published in 1936. This new edition features an introduction by social historian Elizabeth Crawford.

'It is only (now) that I realise how much ... my work owes to the delicacy and variety of Rachel Ferguson's exploration of the real and the dreamed of, or the made up, or desired.' A.S. Byatt
 

 

And

 

 

(Link to Amazon page)

 

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

 

He caught the back of a chair, staggered and groaned. There was a heavy crash and fall, and the parson lay motionless and livid, while lilies from a vase fell, like a wreath, across his chest.

 

The Rev. Ulder, everyone agreed, was the parish priest from hell. In addition to tales of drunkenness and embezzlement, the repellent cleric had recently added blackmail to his list of depravities. There was scandal in the district, plenty of it, and Ulder had the facts. Until, that is, a liberal helping of morphia, served to him in the Bishop’s Palace, silenced the insufferable priest – for good.

 

Was it the Bishop himself who delivered the fatal dose? Was it Soames, the less-than-model butler? Or one of a host of other inmates and guests in the house that night, with motives of their own to put Ulder out of the way? Young Dick Marlin, ex-military intelligence and now a Church deacon, finds himself assisting Chief Constable Mack investigate murder most irreverent.

 

Arrest the Bishop? was first published in 1949. This new edition, the first in many decades, includes a new introduction by crime fiction historian Martin Edwards.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 212 out of 543 pages.
The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

Just an update on the buddy read that started over on GR because BL was down on our intended start date of last Sunday! 

 

There are four of us reading - myself, BrokenTune, Lillelara & Themis-Athena.

 

The Game of Kings is divided into four parts:

 

Part One: The Play for Jonathan

Part Two: The Play for Gideon

Part Three: The Play for Samuel

Part Four: The End Game

 

I'm currently in the last section of Part Two, called French Defence. All of the titles and subheadings relate to chess moves. I don't play chess, so they are more or less meaningless to me, although even I am not such a savage that I don't know that chess has historically been called "the game of kings." This is the first in the six book series that centers on Francis Crawford of Lymond, swashbuckling Scot of dubious morality (or so it seems at this point).

 

I think everyone is enjoying the book. It's not an easy read, though. Dunnett has basically tossed the readers into the middle of an ongoing political intrigue without an ounce of backstory, and I'm just scrambling to catch up. It's a remarkably effective technique - she is definitely not an author who is willing to dole out information in predigested info dumps - although it takes work to read. Lymond is constantly showing up in different guises so every time a new character is introduced, my antennae start quivering. Is it him? Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes I still don't even know.

 

So, the overarching question is what is going on here? Is Lymond a traitor? Is he not a traitor? Is he being framed? Is he not being framed? Is he good, bad, or just terminally self-centered? Is he hero or anti-hero? I don't know.

 

Anyway, because it is fairly hard work to read, I'm not gulping it down in a single reading. I'd like to get to the end of Part Three tonight, but that might be too ambitious.

 

An invitation to the BL Expats group on GR

Back in 2016, it seemed prudent to set up a group on GR where we could all meet up if BL didn't survive. The group still exists, and there were a few requests to join while BL was down (which I have approved - sorry for the delay, but it took me a while to notice them) but now that we're back up, it seemed prudent to post the group address over here again.

 

I think that most of us have made our way over there as a place to get info and stay in contact, but for anyone who follows me who isn't already part of the group, if you are also on GR, the group link is BL Expats. It's a private group, but I think that the link will take you to the group so you can send a request to join.

We're back!

 

Hellloooooo everyone! 

January haul

 

I am trying to buy fewer books in 2020, but buying fewer books doesn't mean buying no books, right? 

 

The three BLCC books were bought with an Amazon GC that my daughter gave me for Christmas. The Willa Cather is Shadows on the Rock, which I haven't read, and which is one of her later books. I bought Shadows on the Rock and The NYRB edition of The New York Stories of Edith Wharton used from Abe Books. I don't have any specific timeframe for reading either of them.

 

The final book is Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark, which I will be reading this month, although I'm not sure precisely when I will start it. It's quite short, so it should be a quick read. It was also purchased used.

 

Total cost: $13.36

Saturday Six Degrees of Booklikes Separation

I'm going to try to remember to play a new game on the first Saturday of each month - I'm going to pick a book currently being read by one of my BL friends (or something that someone read in the preceding few days), and create a chain of books to get me to a book that I want to read during the month.

 

For January, I'm going to do Six Degrees of Separation from Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth. 

 

 

Grey Mask - Patricia Wentworth 

 

 

My second book is Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte, since it also has the word "grey" in the title.

 

Agnes Grey - Angeline Goreau,Anne Brontë 

 

 

Agnes works as a governess for some horrible, horrible children, which takes me to a fun little Courtney Milan romance that I read a while ago:

 

 The Governess Affair - Courtney Milan  

 

If we're going to talk about books with "Affair" in the title, I have to mention Agatha's first book:

 

The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie 

 

Which involved a poisoning murder, and which takes me to Tasha Alexander's 

 

A Poisoned Season - Tasha Alexander 

 

The main character of "A Poisoned Season" is Lady Emily Ashton. She shares a name with Emily Eden, author of:

 

The Semi-Attached Couple and the Semi-Detached House - Emily Eden 

 

Which is sitting on my TBR cart, ready to read...

 

So, there we go. From Grey Mask to Emily Eden, in five, easy books.

 

If you want to join in the fun, use the tag "six degrees of BL separation". I shamelessly stole this idea from a blogger I follow on wordpress, Kate, of Books Are My Favorite and Best, although I have given it a Booklikes twist.

Review
5 Stars
Simply delightful
Miss Buncle's Book - D.E. Stevenson

I've read a few other D.E. Stevenson books, but this book takes the prize so far. No wonder it stands as one of Stevenson's most beloved books out of a lot of beloved books.

 

We start with our protagonist and heroine, Barbara Buncle, a spinster a bit past her prime, worried about making ends meet. Like many women of her time, she has slipped into genteel poverty. She's prohibited by custom from seeking gainful employment, her dividends have diminished to nearly nothing, and she isn't sure how she is going to make it through the winter, prices for things like heat and food are so dear in 1934. She needs to come up with a scheme to supplement her meager income. She contemplates chickens, but ultimately decides that she will write a book and sell it to make a tiny bit of extra money.

 

So she writes, although, as she explains, she has no imagination, so she has no choice but to write what she knows. And what she knows is her village of Silverstream, which she (barely) camouflages by calling it "Copperfield," and she knows the inhabitants of her village, whom she also (barely) camouflages by changing their names, so Dr. Walker becomes Dr. Rider, and Mrs. Bold becomes Mrs. Mildmay.

 

Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be) Miss Buncle has an unerring eye for the human foible, and she gets deeply under the skin of the village inhabitants when the book becomes a runaway best seller. Mrs. Featherstone Hogg (aka Mrs. Horsley Down), a termagant who prides herself on her village status, gets a hold of the book and immediately recognizes the village, and herself, in its pages. Miss Buncle has published under a pseudonym, and the entire village is afire with trying to figure out who wrote the book. At the same time, the book seems to be having a queer effect on some of the villagers, and they start bursting out with interesting behavior all over the place.

 

There were several times that I laughed out loud as I was reading. D.E. Stevenson has written some lovely, lovely characters. Miss Buncle is a delight, as she, too, begins to act like her village counterpart, buying herself a new hat and a dress or two that swishes deliciously around her ankles, and generally gaining confidence and abandoning her repressed, spinsterish attitudes. She is astonished at how much money she has made, and is forced to make up a generous uncle to explain her sudden affluence. The youthful granddaughter of one of her neighbors, Sally Carter, is delightful and drawn with both kindness and affection. The doctor and his wife, Sarah, are wonderful. And the publisher, Mr. Abbott, is very funny.

 

There are several follow-ups to Miss Buncle's Book. The next in the series (spoiler alert) is Miss Buncle Married, which I have already ordered from Abe Books. I didn't buy the lovely Persephone copy because it was around $20.00, so I bought a recent Sourcebooks reprint for $3.99 (with free shipping). 

 

For this one, though, BrokenTune sent me her gorgeous Persephone edition. I've actually never owned one of the traditional dove grey Persephones - they are hard to get a hold of in the U.S. I do have a few of their "classic" editions, which have the printed cover, and they are nice, but the traditional Persephones are just a pleasure to handle and read. The cover is buttery smooth, the end papers are gorgeous, and the printed paper has such a nice feel. Even though they are expensive, I might sign up for one of their book of the month clubs. I will treasure this one, and I imagine that it will become a book that I reread often as a comfort read.

 

TL/DR: I loved this book. It was simply delightful.

Reading progress update: I've read 129 out of 332 pages.
Miss Buncle's Book - D.E. Stevenson

Hahaha

 

This book is just delightful.

Reading challenge

Is anyone else having an issue with the reading challenge not showing books finished?

Review
3 Stars
Only one book left in the series
Cold Earth: A Shetland Mystery (Shetland Island Mysteries) - Ann Cleeves

I had a very good New Year's Day and finished two books. I am at my limit as far as socializing goes and really need everyone who is not my immediate family to go away. And then I need my immediate family to leave me alone for several days so I can recharge my batteries in solitude.

 

This holiday season has really made me realize that I need alone time desperately. No one in my family aside from my son seems to have this same need, and at this point, between the road trip, the wedding, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, I feel like I haven't been alone since September. My in-laws, thank God, are leaving this morning after spending New Years with us, and I can't wait to have my house back.

 

This is the seventh book in the Shetland series. I didn't think that this was one of the stronger entries. I was blindsided by the solution, so I guess Cleeves was successful there, but I didn't feel like I was blindsided in a good way. More like the misdirection was all too heavy handed. 

 

It wasn't an "ah ha" reveal, it was more like a "wtf" reveal.

 

Anyway, I put book 8 on hold at my library and I'm going to finish out the series. I'll be sad to have finished and will miss my periodic visits to the Shetland Islands.

Review
4 Stars
First book of 2020!
Madam, Will You Talk? - Mary Stewart

This book was delightful. I really enjoyed Charity, the heroine, with her mad driving skills and complete lack of any instinct for self-preservation. David, the 13-year-old boy she befriends, was completely delightful. And the hero,

Richard,

(show spoiler)

was not nearly as appealing as Charity's dead husband, Johnny, but I didn't hate him either.

 

This was a twisty, fun, classic piece of romantic suspense set in the south of France in a post-WWII world. One of my favorite Mary Stewart's so far - and so much better than Touch Not the Cat!

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! A Buddy Read Is Announced
The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

The first BLBR of the year begins on 1/12/2020! Enjoy us for the first book of The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.

 

Plot summary:

 

The first book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles, Game of Kings takes place in 1547. Scotland has been humiliated by an English invasion and is threatened by machinations elsewhere beyond its borders, but it is still free. Paradoxically, her freedom may depend on a man who stands accused of treason: Francis Crawford of Lymond.

 

Lillelara & BrokenTune are both planning on reading along. Let me know in the comments if you are going to join the fun!