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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: 'The Mistress of Nothing'

THE MISTRESS OF NOTHING
By Kate Pullinger
Historical Fiction
January 2011
Touchstone Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-4391-9386-0


Based on the memoirs of Lady Duff Gordon, who exiled herself to Egypt in the 1860s when suffering from consumption, leaving behind her children and husband, THE MISTRESS OF NOTHING is one of those "it could have been great" books. The novel focuses on her maid, Sally Naldrett, who was as enamored of Egypt as her mistress.


But Sally apparently forgot her station, falling in love with an Egyptian man, bearing his child and refusing to follow her former employer's demands once she was discovered. The story then devolves into melodrama.


What one person can mean to another should have been at the heart of this novel, which strangely won Canada's Governor General's Award. But the storytelling is all what might have been, and not realized. The opening sets up expectations that action and introspection will provide a full-bodied reading experience. Sally looks back at the events about to be revealed. There is regret that she is no longer loved by her mistress, although the way events are described it's hard to see that she ever was so regarded. There is acknowledgement that she was never thought of as a human being but, at best, a beloved pet dog. Even using 19th century sensibilities, employer-personal servant politics and feelings could have led to a fascinating novel. Tied to real, documented lives perhaps made this next to impossible.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 'A Lonely Death'

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:


Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
At one pont as he drove eastward, Rutledge had stopped along a road in Hampshire to offer a lift to a woman trudging back to her village with her marketing in her basket. He had needed to hear a human voice, someone who knew nothing of him or his past.
 
-- A LONELY DEATH, the latest Inspector Rutledge novel by Charles Todd

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: 'The Weird Sisters'

THE WEIRD SISTERS
By Eleanor Brown
Fiction
January 2011
Amy Einhorn Books (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
ISBN: 978-0-399-15722-6

This is a wonderful book. It is charming, humorous, poignant, sniffly-inducing, heartwarming and not a whiff of saccharine or tweeness. That's brilliant for a debut novel about three sisters, named after Shakespeare characters by their professor father, who return to their small college hometown when their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer.

And here's why this is a wonderful book: Rose (Rosalind), Bean (Bianca) and Cordy (Cordelia) are both alike and different. Their characters' names are reflected in their personalities and stories yet are hardly mere copycats. They do, as the cover copy says, love each other but cannot stand one another. They are rivals and best friends.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 'The Weird Sisters'

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser†sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
***********
Here's mine, posted early so I don't miss the entire day, from Eleanor Brown's charming new novel, THE WEIRD SISTERS:
 
We did the dishes together and then Bean put on the record, opened the front door wide, and danced on the porch below the yellow light, moths beating anxiously against its warmth. By the end, she had pulled Rose up from the porch swing, and they danced together, breathless and wild, sweating in the chill air.

Review: 'Hate List'

HATE LIST
By Jennifer Brown
YA Fiction
Paperback edition October 2010
Little, Brown
ISBN: 978-0-316-04145-4

Valerie Leftman is trying to regain some semblance of normal life. But she's got some things holding her back. Her leg still hurts after she was hurt five months ago. She lost her boyfriend. Her friends aren't happy with her any more. Pretty much everyone hates her. Not even her parents are on her side. She used to have a hate list of people who teased her or her boyfriend, and they found out about it.

They found out about it when her boyfriend, Nick, opened fire inside their high school commons in a Columbine-style massacre before killing himself. Six people, including a popular teacher, died before Nick shot Valerie, wounding her in the leg, and killed himself. Now that the cops have cleared her, her parents and shrink are ready to send her back to the same school. And if her legs would do it, Valerie would gladly run in the opposite direction of that school and just keep going.