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The Ladies of Grace Adieu - Susanna Clarke
Genre: Fantasy

I have to say, I didn't think I would like these short stories. Not because I had heard anything negative about them, but because I had tried Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell a few years back and couldn't really get into it. Possibly the reason for that is because I listened to the audio book instead of reading it myself - I found the constant switching to footnotes to be disorienting in an audio-only setting.
The Ladies of Grace Adieu I also listened to, but with fewer footnotes than Jonathan Strange, I found it pleasant as an audio book.

Here are my thoughts on each of the stories:

The Ladies of Grace Adieu - I had thought the title story would dominate the collection a bit more than it did. Not knowing anything about the book I had thought the Ladies would appear throughout the collection. I was a bit disappointed that they did not. After building up their characters so much I found it disappointing that it didn't accumulate to more. The climax felt lacking and parts of the story seemed to be rather less important than it seems they were being built up to be. In the end this was a story about sexism and female revenge. Interesting, but not the best of the lot.

On Lickerish Hill - Another story which took a long time to build up to an anti-climactic ending. This is basically Rumpelstiltskin but instead of a tiny goblin-like man, he's a faerie. This one literally made me say "meh" when it finished. There wasn't enough difference from the original story to make it worth the retelling.

Mrs Mabb
- This story was fun but I was disappointed that we never really got to see Mrs.Mabb. Clarke wove in a lot of fairy lore. I like the classic idea that people might lose track of time when under the influence of a fairy and could let the rest of the world pass them by without realizing it. Also the concept that a person could dance themselves to death thinking that they are part of a beautiful ball is very fairy-ish though I can't place where I know it from.

The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse
- This story was very short and seemed to lack a point. It had an interesting concept that was not developed very much. The idea that a person's fate could be woven into a tapestry is not new, but I like how Clarke made the Duke able to affect his own fate and intelligent enough to do so.

Mr Simonelli or the Fairy Widower - Probably my favorite of the lot because of all the possibilities it hints at for other stories branching off this one. I particularly like the mouldering glory of the fairy house that is viewed by mortals as a gorgeous palace. I'd like to hear more about Mr.Simonelli.

Tom Brightwind or How the Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby -This story was fun to listen to and moved at a good pace. The scene with all the builders being magically called was very good and really captured my imagination.

Antickes and Frets - I didn't care for this story at all. It was another story that seemed like it was going to be interesting in the beginning but soon lost steam and ended disappointingly.

John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner - I really enjoyed this story. It's written in classic fairy-tale style with a trio of unfortunate incidents occurring to a poor unsuspecting protagonist (the charcoal burner) who then has to seek help from higher powers to remedy his problems. Each time the problem, and remedy, grow in size until the fairy antagonist must face the charcoal burner and right his wrongs. A good story about the powerless defeating the powerful (with supernatural help).

All in all, I found Clarke's style to be entertaining and often amusing, but in general the stories took rather a while to get to the point. I fear that I still won't have the patience for Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell but after these short stories, I am willing to give it another try - this time in text format.

A River in the Sky - Elizabeth Peters
Genre: Mystery

Having been a fan of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries for many years, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw she had written a new addition to the series.

Peters has set A River in the Sky in 1910, for fans of the series this means it comes between Guardian of the Horizon and A Falcon at the Portal.
At this time things are heating up politically in the Ottoman Empire and events are in motion that will lead toward the Ottoman-German Alliance in 1914. The Emersons end up smack in the middle of the political turmoil (as is their wont) which this year ends up being Jerusalem rather than Luxor.

Peters has always made her love for history evident in her books, and it has been something I particularly appreciate about this series. However I feel that in this particuar novel she got a bit carried away with wanting the setting to involve pre-WWI politics and the plot consequently became less focused.
I think that in trying to include English secret agents, German spies, underground resistance groups, Turkish militants and corrupt religious leaders too much explanation was necessary before the plot could move forward.
Unlike most other Amelia Peabody books there was not one main mystery which moved the plot along; instead there were mini mysteries that were more like intrigues and unexpected happenings and less like mysteries. The only mystery that continued through until the end was the identity of a particular person and the explanation ended up being very anti-climactic. A lot of the questions that were brought up by the plot either resolved themselves into some ordinary explanation or were explained away quickly at the end of the book.
The main reason I have come to love these books is the characters. One can't help but feel that Peters is writing a bit of herself into Amelia and the fact that she is willing to show when Amelia is being overconfident or ridiculous has always been endearing to me. The books are primarily written in first person (except for the bits from Rameses' journal) and Peters does a brilliant job of conveying a realistically flawed character - who is aware of her flaws - without allowing her to admit it explicitly. Unlike the plot, this aspect of Peters' writing was as good as ever.

Though I still love Peters' writing, I found this book to be mediocre and very very thin on plot.

That said, I still look forward excitedly to see what Elizabeth Peters will write next.

Currently reading:
The Secret Garden - Francis Hodgson Burnett
Unseen Academicals - Terry Pratchett
The Man Who Knew Too Much - G.K. Chesterton

It is my intention, though whether or not I will actually be able to follow through remains to be seen, to read an average of a book per week from now til the end of the year.
Finding myself to have inherited upon marriage, a large number of as-yet unread books, and also finding myself (again, thanks to marriage) to have a Kindle with a seemingly unlimited number of free classics, I now have quite a lot of books at my disposal.
I'm sort of hoping that putting my intention down in writing will help make it more of a reality.


It is my intention that this blog will be a place where I discuss the books I am reading and give my opinions on them. It will be both a motivation to write regularly (a thing I enjoy, but seem to have fallen out of practice) and to think more deeply about what I am reading. I find that lately I seem to read a book only to move onto whatever is next in my extensive to-read list. Possibly my slightly OCD habit of listing items in order to check them off as Done is taking over here.

The title of the blog is from a quotation by Richard DeBury, a 13th century Benedictine monk and writer. I first saw it carved into the wall outside one of my university's libraries.
"In books I find the dead as if they were alive; in books I foresee things to come; in books warlike affairs are set forth; from books come forth the laws of peace. All things are corrupted and decay in time; Saturn ceases not to devour the children that he generates; all the glory of the world would be buried in oblivion, unless God had provided mortals with the remedy of books."

And so, without further wordiness, I hereby christen this blog.

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