Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the category “2 stars – an ok book”

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #19-21: Various mysteries by Elizabeth Peters

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See my review comparing three Elizabeth Peters mysteries, The Jackal’s Head, The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits and Devil-May-Care at Loopy Ker’s Life.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 post #50 – Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe

Someone please save me from myself. I can’t stop reading these Austen-adjacent, fan-fic books. Some are better than others, but none come even close to the original. Anyway, this one has a bit of a twist. Our heroine, Sophie Elliot, is a modern gal who just caught her boyfriend cheating, and who has a sucky job. She really wants to be a writer. So her dad loans her money and her aunt loans her a flat in Bath so she can write her Austenesque novel.

Of course the flat is in a building that was next door to where Jane and family lived when they were in Bath. Of course her downstairs neighbor is cute and cool. Of course she picks up a glove, steps through a gate, and goes back in time, into the body of her ancestress (who is presumably the model for Anne Eliot of Persuasion) to meet the actual Jane Austen. Ok, forget that last “of course.” The whole time-travel aspect of this book is very silly.

Sophie meets the Austens, but her family doesn’t approve because her dad is Mr. Eliot, and thinks she’s friending-down, so to speak. Sophie goes back and forth between now and then, and the time tables between visits gets awfully jumbled. It’s not the best-written book, but I still managed to get through it.

I wouldn’t necessarily say it was bad, but I also wouldn’t recommend it, even if you’re an Austenania addict like me.

Captain Tuttle #CBR4 post #49 – My Dear Charlotte by Hazel Holt

I had never heard of this author before, but apparently she’s a prolific mystery novelist, writing under this name as well as Barbara Pym. The story is somewhat Austen-adjacent, but not in the way you would expect. In this book, the main characters are Elinor and Charlotte Cowper. The story unfolds mainly through letters to Charlotte (hence the name), but inserted in the letters are actual excerpts of letters Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra.  It’s fairly easy to figure out what language is Austen’s, although the author does try her best.

So the story is a cozy mystery, set in Lyme (one of Austen’s favorite places). There’s a wealthy family, and the matriarch dies under mysterious circumstances. Was it a heart attack, or was it poison?  And if it was poison, whodunnit and why?  She was pretty nasty, so no one’s really broken up about it.

Some of the main suspects are her husband, a couple of relatives who stand to benefit from her death, and a few others. Elinor tells Charlotte about everything that’s going on, from the dances to the murder investigation.  The epistolary nature of the book sets it a little bit apart from other mysteries I’ve read, but also limits the narrative, since we’re stuck in first person.

This is a perfectly fine story, especially if you like the Regency stuff, and/or if you like cozy mysteries. It took me a while to figure out who did it, but once it popped out, it was pretty obvious. It was a quick read, and (as you know I like) a nice distraction from the usual bullish*t of my life.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #92 Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer

Although Georgette Heyer is most famous as THE Regency romance novelist, she did not write her first Regency romance until she was ten years into her career.  Up until that point she played around with several different types of historical novels and mysteries.  As a teenager, Baroness Orczy (of Scarlet Pimpernel fame) was one of her favorite novelists and so quite a few of Heyer’s earlier romantic comedies are set in the 18th century and are very much in that adventurous, swashbuckling mode.  Powder and Patch is a straight up romantic comedy (almost no swashbuckling, though there is a duel) set in the 18th century and it is probably my least favorite of her romantic comedies.  It’s only her second novel, and she still hadn’t found her voice as a writer.  Unless you’re a completionist and want to read all the Heyers, I’d say give this one a pass.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #88 The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer

The Black Moth is the first novel written by legendary historical romance novelist Georgette Heyer.  It’s a swashbuckling romantic adventure in the vein of the Scarlett Pimpernel. This is the only one of Heyer’s novels available as a free download but if you’re only going to read one Georgette Heyer novel this should not be the one.  She wrote this book while she was still in her teens and it shows.  The plot, dialogue and characters have none of her accustomed sophistication.  For all that, there are signs of the greatness to come and it’s pretty astonishing that such a young person could have written with such wit and attention to detail.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #35 – London Calling by Anna Elliott

The further adventures of Susanna and Captain Clark, who is actually Lord James Ravenwood.  They’re now engaged, and he’s still doing the spy thing for king and country.  England is still at war with France, and James has to go to London to do some intriguing.

Susanna follows him, mostly because she’s jealous and afraid he might cheat on her.  Sounds legit.  Of course Susanna gets involved, at first without James knowing.  She gets into a few scrapes, and needs a bit of rescuing. She stays with her flighty Aunt Ruth in London, and auntie gets involved too.

It’s pretty easy to determine how everything all shakes out, but that’s not to say the book isn’t entertaining.  It’s yet another fun little piece of fluff, a great distraction and a quick, breezy read.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #34 – Susanna and the Spy by Anna Elliott

Anna Elliott concentrates her writing on the Regency period, like many of the books I’ve reviewed this Cannonball.  She’s also the author of those Georgiana Darcy diary books, which are Ok, as is this book.

Susanna Ward lost her father, who was a bit peripatetic, but took very good care of her.  She’s trying to find work, most likely as a governess.  It’s either that, or she doesn’t want to think of what will happen to her. Her father’s family has money, but had disowned her father long ago. She’s on her way to London to look for work, and at a stop on the way, she runs into a man she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.  He worked on the family estate,  and tells her he thinks her grandfather was murdered.  It’s possible his death was connected to a local ring of smugglers, led by a man calling himself Captain Clark.

At another stop on the way, at a roadside inn, Captain Clark barges in her room bleeding.  Susanna decides to help and hide him, so there’s your meet-cute.  Susanna ends up at the family estate, and meets her uncle, aunt and cousin.  Some are friendlier than others.  And then Captain Clark shows up, using another name.  Hmmm, he may not be what he seems.

Susanna sleuths around to find out who Captain Clark really is, and who killed her grandfather.  It’s a nice little piece of fluff, also like a lot of the books I’ve reviewed this Cannonball.  2012 was a rough year, as you can tell by my choice of reading material.  I’d recommend this to anyone who likes old-fashionedey cozy mysteries, or Regency romances.

Jen K’s #CBR IV Review #42: The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

If you like Christopher Moore, you probably know what to expect from this. I would say I liked it least of the ones I’ve read but others may disagree.

Miss Kate’s CBR4 Review #11: The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

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I am a big fan of the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series. Well, slightly obsessed, actually. They have everything: history, romance, swordplay! Well written characters, unpredictable outcomes. And who wouldn’t want to go back in time, meet a handsome chivalrous stranger, and have sexytimes/adventures? Unfortunately, Gabaldon’s books are LONG. They take years for her to write, and while there is a big payoff, this also means big gaps between the books.  (See also: Martin, G.R.R.) So when someone suggested I read Susanna Kearsley in order to fill my Outlander-less days (and get my time travel fix), I figured I’d give her a try.

The Rose Garden is the story of Eva Ward, a successful Hollywood publicist. Devastated by the death of her sister, she travels back to the place where they had spent their childhood summers – the rocky, mist shrouded coast of Cornwall. There, Eva reacquaints herself with the area and renews old friendships. She stays at the rundown mansion of family friends. Here we meet a familiar cast of characters: the bickering brother and sister duo, the wise free-spirited stepmother, the artsy shopkeeper, the former playmate (who’s grown up into a hunk).The estate has fallen on hard times, and Eva agrees to help out.

While she heals her heart and starts to reassess her life, strange things happen. One day, while out walking, Eva finds herself transported back to the early 18th Century. Just as abruptly, she’s transported back. This begins to happen more frequently and without warning. The time she is sent to is dangerous, especially for a woman alone. The Jacobites are gathering for their first (failed) rebellion. Fortunately Eva meets a handsome, chivalrous stranger (of course!), and he becomes her protector. As she finds herself pulled back and forth, romance and adventure ensue. Will she choose to stay in the 18th Century, or go back to her Hollywood life? Can you guess? C’mon, guess.

The book is filled with detail: the lush countryside, the Gothic mansion. The characters, while stereotypical, are likeable enough.One thing that I found very strange was the lack of description of the main character. What does she look like? We’re never told, and it’s kind of frustrating, especially when you consider that she’s flouncing back and forth 300 years. You’d think her appearance would inspire some kind of comment, other than “Woman, your hair is not dressed!” It must have been a conscious choice by the author, but it’s a curious one.

The Rose Garden is a romance with a little adventure, tied up neatly at the end. It’s more romance than adventure, while I enjoy my historical fiction with a side of romance/sex, not as the main focus. But that’s just me. (Gabaldon fans may argue with me that her books are romance, there’s still a LOT of swashbuckling going on there, as well as a wealth of historical detail.) I did enjoy this book, even though I thought it slight and very predictable. I found myself trying to figure out how it would end, and was mostly right.

This is a cozy read, if not one that will stick with me.

http://misskatesays.com/2013/01/02/cbr4-review-11-the-rose-garden-by-susanna-kearsley/

Amurph11′s #CBR4 Review #48, Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann

“Baa, baa, black sheep, Have you any wool? Yes, sir, yes, sir, Three bags full.” -English nursery rhyme

Three Bags Full is exactly what it says in the subtitle: a sheep detective story. It’s an enjoyable little caper, about a flock of sheep who stumble upon their shepherd with a spade through his chest, and endeavor with some difficulty to solve his murder.

Bad news first: as a detective story, this isn’t the best. The resolution isn’t satisfying in that all-loose-ends-tied, Agatha Christie sort of way. There are some ends that remain very loose, and the motivations of the murder are never entirely clear. That having been said, if you pick up this book for a tightly paced thriller, than you probably came to the wrong place. The appeal of Three Bags Full is, as it should be, in the mammalian voices of its narrators.

The flock narration is a clever convention, and it’s what makes the story so charming. Sheep, after all, are not known for being the world’s smartest creatures. No one’s going to make an animated Sherlock Holmes knock-off with a sheep as a stand-in for the famous detective (they’re going to use a mouse, obviously). The fickle motivations of the woolly Irish flock are a pleasure to read—they’re constantly battling their sheepy urges to graze and sleep, and not worry about the fate of their shepherd’s murderer. Moreover, each sheep has its own distinct set of foibles, personality traits, and personal motivations. There’s a former circus sheep with a painful past, a Miss Marple-like old ewe tasked with the dubious role of keeping the flock focused, a senile old ram and his mysterious twin brother, and my personal favorite, a wistful ewe with a penchant for heights, who thinks that clouds are just sheep that have conquered the abyss and longs to do the same.

The story hardly matters. The shepherd dies, and the sheep suspect each of the eccentric townspeople in turn: the dreaded butcher, the sinister priest, the eerie Bible-thumping spinster, the suspicious competing shepherd, and the bright young stranger, before ultimately solving the mystery and absurdly trying to clue the townspeople in (the scene in which they manage to convey what happened to the town is eye-rollingly absurd; I could get behind the rest of the books whimsical absurdities, but this was a step too far for me). All in all, Three Bags Full is a fun romp; it won’t change your life, but as an interlude between depressing books, you can’t go wrong.

Recommended for: former Agatha Christie lovers who also enjoy sheep and quirky Irish comedy

Read when: you  have a serious literature hangover

Listen with: jaunty film scores with Irish undertones. The score of Waking Ned Devine would work, if you could find it.

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