Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “#CaptainTuttle”

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #25 – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place.And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

I often feel like Alice.  Most days, actually.  I’m afraid it’s more to do with what I do for a living, which is an awful lot like a caucus race. Just running and running in circles, getting nowhere, and yet somehow expecting things to be different.  Trying to dry off, but getting swamped with waves just at the wrong time.

Alice is bored with real life and her lessons, and wishes everything was nonsense.  Her trip down the rabbit hole teaches her that while a little nonsense now and then (is cherished by the wisest men) is all right, nonsense all the time can be scary and confounding.

Alice tries to make sense of her surroundings and the beings she encounters, while growing and shrinking randomly depending on what she eats and drinks. She gets some good advice, especially from the Cheshire Cat (if you don’t care where you’re going, then it doesn’t much matter which way you go – you’ll get somewhere so long as you go on long enough).

Of course this is a favorite, it has been since I was a little girl. I can’t wait until my little one is old enough to sit still for a reading. Until then, I’ll continue to amuse myself with it.

“Mad Hatter: “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”

Because Poe wrote on both.  Yup, that’s it.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #24 – Royal Renegade by Alicia Rasley

This book is subtitled:  “a Traditional Regency Romance Novel.”  Not my usual fare, but the description of the book on Amazon sold me.  Full disclosure, I got this for free for my Kindle, like quite a few others (seriously, there are a ton of free books for Kindle, you should check it out). It’s for sure a romance novel, but no bodices are ripped, and I’m pretty sure Fabio had nothing to do with the book cover.

Our heroine, Tatiana, is a Russian princess.  I have learned (through this book, and my attempts at reading Anna Karenina, among others) that Russia was lousy with royalty back before the revolution. Tatiana is the daughter of one of the conspirators who took out the most recent Tsar, who was then executed by the current Tsar (even though that’s who he helped).  Tatiana is extraneous, and is basically sold to the Duke of Cumberland, who may be a murderer, among other things (he’s apparently also ugly, and a bit scary in the boudoir).  Our hero, Viscount Devlyn, is a soldier in Wellington’s army, and is suffering from a form of PTSD.  He’s sent home to England to rest, and is then sent to fetch Tatiana safely to England.

They (of course) meet cute, they (of course) don’t like each other at first, and they (of course) have more in common than they realize.  They also (of course) fall in love, and (of course) encounter a number of difficulties along the way.

The book isn’t great, but it’s entertaining in its own way, especially if you are a romance fan. It’s generally not my bag, but for Regency period pieces, I’ll make the occasional exception.  There’s a sequel that involves John Dryden, Poetic Justice, but I’m not certain I’ll check it out.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR 4 Review #23 – The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham

The “stolen crown” belongs to Elizabeth Woodville, the woman Edward IV married in secret. Elizabeth’s younger sister Kate married Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.  Henry’s kind of an idiot, seemingly influenced by the last person he spoke to – unfortunately for him, he talks to Richard (Gloucester) way too much.  The young couple is caught in the whole Yorkist/Lancastrian mess.

The story is told from the viewpoints of both Kate and Harry from their marriage as children (Kate is 7 and Harry is 9 when they are “married”).  They grow up together, and at some point fall in love and have children (according to what I’ve read, this author has taken great license with this).  Personally, I had never heard of Kate and Harry Stafford, other than maybe peripherally, and the author has done a good job in interesting me in these people’s lives. We see them at King Edward IV’s court amid all the scheming and treachery. After King Edward’s death, Harry sides with Richard (they’ve had some good drunken times together and are “blood brothers”), which tears his family apart and ultimately leads to his death (spoilers?).

Kate is clever and strong, and is written as far more modern-thinking that she likely was.  She is forced to lie, run, hide, and keep her children safe because of her husband’s horrible decisions. Harry does get a redemption arc, although again this may be artistic license rather than historical fact. 

The interesting part is, the author gave her reasons for her license, and certainly her research can not be faulted.  If you enjoy historical fiction, especially from this time period, and are looking for something beyond the usual cast of characters, The Stolen Crown is a good option.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #22 – Tudor Rose: The Story of the Queen Who United a Kingdom and Birthed a Dynasty by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Elizabeth of York was the oldest daughter of Edward IV, the last man standing after the War of the Roses, and Elizabeth Woodville, the woman he married in secret (which complicates things later). The book opens with a young Elizabeth playing with her younger brothers Richard and Edward; Edward becomes king after their father dies. Richard of Gloucester is regent, and takes the boys away from their family.  He puts the boys in the Tower of London, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s where the incoming monarch would normally stay.  The trouble is, the boys never left the Tower, and to this day, no one knows what happened to them.

Elizabeth and her family were also trapped, having run for sanctuary thanks to the quick thinking of Elizabeth Woodville. While they were in hiding, the marriage of Elizabeth and Edward IV was declared invalid, and the kids all declared bastards (something that came up later too); Richard was declared king.

After a while, the family left sanctuary and joined the court. It was rumoured that Richard wanted to marry her, but that didn’t happen. Henry Tudor signed a promise to marry her while he was in exile. She was also betrothed to a couple of other people. The poor girl was a total pawn in the game of thrones (sorry, had to do that).  Henry invades, and defeats Richard at the Battle of Bosworth, becoming king Henry VII.  He marries Elizabeth, and they have wee Harry 8.

I enjoy historical fiction, especially if it’s well-researched and doesn’t go too far off the rails. It’s clear that the author knows her Plantagenets and her Tudors, as well as her Lancastrians and everyone else. She was able to bring people who are hundreds of years distant from us to life, without making them too modern or anachronistic. I would recommend this book if (like me) you are into the whole British monarchy thing.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #21 – Don’t Try This at Home edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman

This book is subtitled “Culinary Catastrophes from the World’s Greatest Chefs,” and is a sampling of essays by mostly famous chefs about some oddments and debacles in their careers.  Some are funny, some are sad, and most aren’t terribly catastrophic.

One of my favorite stories was Eric Ripert’s tale about how he became a chef. It’s mostly because he was a terrible waiter.  Tony Bourdain’s entry is (of course) well written, entertaining & profane; Gabrielle Hamilton’s is annoying and self-important (sorry, I’m not a fan, even though I adore her restaurant).

The book is mostly entertaining, especially if you’re a foodie. Otherwise you’re probably not going to know who most of these people are, and care even less.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #20 – The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

And we’re back to the Scarlet Pimpernel.  There are a couple of books between the ones I reviewed earlier and this one, but I never quite figured out the proper order of the stories, and it probably doesn’t matter.  In this book we start in Paris in 1794, well into the Revolution.  Citizen Tallien is engaged to Theresia Cabarrus, whom he met in Bordeaux, and who is in love with Moncreif, a revolutionaire, who is loved by (and loves?) Regine de Serval. He convinces Regine’s brother and sister to cause a scene at some kind of revolution party or something, which isn’t a good idea. They’re saved by the Scarlet Pimpernel, in one of his disguises, as Rateau, the coal heaver.

The trick with the Pimpernel, and somehow the revolution guys never figured it out, is that if there’s a stranger, and he’s kinda big, he might just be the Scarlet Pimpernel.

The Pimpernel takes the de Servals and Moncreif back to England, but Teresia gets Moncreif to help her get the Pimpernel back to France.  See if you can guess how. Yep, Mrs. Pimpernel is back in France, needing to be rescued by her Sir Percy, who of course obliges.

All of the Pimpernel books are fun lagniappes. There’s not much to them, but that’s all right – like most of the things I read, I use them as a distraction from the daily crap. I love to escape into the world of Percy Blakeney and forget where I am.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #18 – A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

I read this book after I saw the movie.  Ok, full disclosure:  I didn’t know there was a book.  How embarrassing. The good thing about it, though, is that whenever I read this book (which is about once a year), I see Julian Sands, Daniel Day Lewis, Crazypants Bonham-Carter, and (swoon) Rupert Graves in my head.  I don’t even need the DVD (which I also own).

The story opens in Florence, a city I’ve never been to, but I feel like I know, because of Forster’s descriptions.  Lucy Honeychurch and her maiden cousin Charlotte Bartlett are in the Pensione Bertolini, run by the cockney signora, and are not happy with their rooms. They were promised “a view” of the Duomo, but didn’t get it. Lucy mentions this at a meal with the others staying at the pensione (a motley collection of Brits), and a father and son offer to change rooms with them.  This is shocking (shocking!) to some of the ladies, although Lucy is all for it, since she really wants a view.  Lucy runs into the father and son (Mr. and George Emerson) a few times, wanders Florence, gets peevish, plays Beethoven, and drives out in carriages with a bunch of the pensione residents and the Reverend Mr. Eager. Things happen.  Big things.

Because of the big things, Lucy and Charlotte leave the pensione, and head to Rome, where they meet Cecil Vyse and his mother.  We don’t get to see this part, unfortunately. I’d be curious to see what Forster made of those early encounters between Lucy and Cecil.  However, we next meet Lucy back home at Windy Corner, in Surrey.  Cecil is visiting, and he asks Lucy to marry him.  This leads to one of my favourite scenes in the movie  (“I promessi sposi,” said he.  They stared at him anxiously.  “She has accepted me,” he said).   The rest of the story is about Lucy, her muddles, tacky novels, and true love.  Will Lucy end up with the right man?  Well, of course.

Also of course – I recommend this book with all my heart and soul. If you haven’t, please read it. You’ll fall in love with Lucy, George, Freddy, and even Cecil a little bit (just at the end).

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #17 – His Good Opinion by Nancy Kelley

OK, now I’m done with the Austen additions. At least for now.  This is another P&P told from Darcy’s point of view, but not as good as Pamela Aiden’s trilogy, in my humble opinion.  The author does give a bit of backstory, starting with Darcy surprising Georgiana (and Wickham) at Ramsgate, which I liked. Although it would have been better if Darcy had just beat the shit of Wickham there & then. That would have made for some interesting bits in P&P, ret-con wise.

Anyway, this book once again traces P&P, only without as much humor as Aiden’s books, and considerably less detail. However, it was still the usual entertaining diversion, tailor made for Austenites, by Austenites.  There’s not much else to say about it, outlining the plot would be pointless.  Darcy starts out his usual haughty self, and learns to loosen up and earn Lizzie’s love.

Reading stories like this is like wearing comfy old slippers. I may not go back to them like I go back to the originals, but they’ll do when I’m tired of the same old stuff.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #16 – Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Oopsie, I was wrong. Yet more Austen-plus stories.  This one at least has a bit of a twist – a murder mystery written by the venerable P.D. James.  I’ve read a bunch of James, so much so that I unfortunately can spot the murderer pretty easily. Yet, I was still entertained by the story, and would  recommend this one.

Lizzie and Darcy are at Pemberley and the Bingleys are visiting.  One night, Lydia shows up (ugh – I have always found her one of the more loathsome Austen characters) in hysterics, screaming that Wickham has been murdered (if only).  Sadly, he’s alive, but his friend Denny is lying dead in the woods, with Wickham standing over him.  Wickham swears he didn’t do it.  Darcy still needs to make enquiries, because he’s the local magistrate. He has to recuse himself, though, given the family relationship.  Wickham is prosecuted for the murder, but Darcy does some investigating on his own, like the clever lad he is.

The book was neither great nor bad, it was just all right. The murderer was pretty well telegraphed, and the characters weren’t strictly Austenesque. I heard an interview with James on NPR when the book first came out, and I about fell all over myself to get it the moment it was released (on Kindle). I guess I don’t mind having spent money on it, but I might have preferred to have spent less.  Or maybe I’m just spoiled by all the freebies.

Either way, this is yet another OK addition to the post-Austen genre, and pretty standard P.D. James fare.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #14 – Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anne Elliott

I might have a problem.  I can’t stop reading Austen-adjacent books.  This one follows little Miss Darcy after Lizzie and Darcy are married and they’re all living at Pemberley.  She’s keeping a journal of her daily life, which isn’t terribly exciting.

Georgiana is now old enough to be “out,” but isn’t really interested in getting married, because she’s still so damn shy.  Lizzie is working with her on that, and she’s getting better, but she’s not quite there.  Lady Catherine de Bourgh has decided that Georgiana should be married, and of course is sticking her big nasty nose into everything, presenting a very unsuitable suitor.

Meanwhile, Georgiana realizes that she’s in love – with Colonel Fitzwilliam, her much older cousin and guardian. I really don’t like this, I think it’s an awful idea.  But I guess some people (including the author) were shipping them (?!). I don’t mind the cousin thing, it’s the whole “in loco parentis” deal that he’s had over her since Mr. Darcy (senior) died. Them being in love is just creepy to me.

Georgiana does some growing up in this book, which is entertaining enough. Elliott writes fairly well, and definitely kept me engaged in the story. It’s a fine addition to the collection of any Austen-phile.

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