Tag Archives: 1920’s

Sunday Post – 16th September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Last week I pulled a no-show here as I was staying with my daughter over the weekend and getting to know my adorable baby granddaughter. It was lovely touching base with all the grandchildren and chatting with my daughter until the wee small hours as she fed the baby. She has recommended a new comedy TV series, Upstart Crow, which she reckons is right up my street. I’m looking forward to catching up with William Shakespeare’s efforts to write his plays, in between his eventful commutes back to Stratford-Upon-Avon…

As for the rest of the week – I’ve now completed the course notes for my Creative Writing classes which are due to start tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing my students as it seems a very long time since we broke up for the summer. On Wednesday, I attended my Pilates class, but gave Fitstep a miss as I’ve been nursing a sore hip. I might alternate between the two, but right now until I’m a lot fitter, I think trying to do the two classes in one morning is simply beyond me. On Thursday, I started teaching Tim again and was delighted to hear that he is enjoying his Music course at Chichester college. Last night, we went to our favourite Chinese restaurant, The Dragon, for a meal, accompanied by my sister, to celebrate our twenty-third wedding anniversary – where does the time go? It certainly doesn’t feel as if we’ve been married for twenty-three years!

This week I have read:

The Poisoned Chalice Murder – Book 2 of the Black and Dods mystery series by Diane Janes
Tom Dod’s Aunt Hetty is worried – three sudden deaths have occurred in the sleepy village of Durley Dean. They might seem like tragic accidents, but Aunt Hetty isn’t so sure. After all, all three took a stand against Reverend Pinder, the new vicar of St Agnes Church, whose controversial changes have divided the congregation. But is there really a killer among the parishioners? And while Fran leaps at the chance to spend a weekend at Aunt Hetty’s sleuthing with Tom, could the trip prove to be a poisoned chalice in more ways than one?
I loved the first book, The Magic Chair Mystery, and this follow-up didn’t disappoint. Fran, the protagonist is intelligent and sympathetic, while the mystery, set in the 1920s had plenty of period detail. Review to follow.

 

Immortal Creators – Book 2 of the Immortal Writers series by Jill Bowers
Sixteen-year-old author Scott Beck never wanted to be an Immortal Writer—not after his father was killed on a mission attempting to dispatch his own villain. Scott blames Shakespeare and the Writers for his father’s untimely demise, but no amount of hatred will prevent the oncoming alien attack, which has come over to reality straight from Scott’s book.
Scott is forced to collect his characters—an Air Force colonel, two of the best pilots on Earth, and an alien enthusiast from the year 2134—and defeat the alien king before Earth is obliterated by his ships. But an odd sickness Scott calls his Writing Fever might just kill him before the aliens have the chance.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Scott is convincing as a very reluctant protagonist, who has to face up to the fact that he is the only person able to save Earth. I will be reviewing this in due course.

 

Spinning Thorns by Anna Sheehan
Sleeping Beauty has woken. The world has been renewed. Everyone is living happily ever after . . . Almost.

Sharp, blood-seeking thorns still surround the castle. A feud remains between those who wield magic and those who were subjected to it. And while the kingdom is divided against itself, nothing can thrive. A rebellion may be needed – and that’s where Sleeping Beauty’s daughter comes in . . .
This fairytale retelling is a delight, mashing up elements from Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin in a clever, convincing way. I posted my mini-review of this one on Amazon UK and Goodreads.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson

Teaser Tuesday featuring Immortal Creators – Book 2 of the Immortal Writers series by Jill Bowers

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Nyxia – Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad by Scott Reintgen

Review of The Watchmaker’s Daughter – Book 1 of the Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer

Friday Faceoff – A wolf doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of sheep… featuring Wolf Brother – Book 1 of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver

I N T E R S T E L L A R – Instafreebie Giveaway featuring some of the 54 books available

Authoring Annals – Writing in Heaven and Plunging into Uncertainty Hell

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Off to North Wales for a writers’ week. Meantime a writerly warning. http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2972 Hybrid author Juliet McKenna spells out how to spot the vanity publishers leeching off unwary writers

Bob Dylan: Forever Young https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2018/09/06/bob-dylan-forever-young/ Thom’s marvellous site is always worth visiting if you enjoy passionate, beautifully written articles about a range of popular music – but this one dedicated to the birth of his granddaughter struck a particular chord with me…

The Five Mistakes the Caused Me Not to Write my Column This Month https://writerunboxed.com/2018/09/15/the-five-mistakes-that-caused-me-to-not-write-my-column-this-month/ Bill Ferris and his writing advice is another firm favourite – and this hilarious offering reminds me of the excuses I make on my blog when I have to confess why I’ve missed posting yet another article.

My Passion for Reading https://literacyletters.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/my-passion-for-reading/ Rae is one of the remarkable, interesting people I have met through my blog and this short article about her love of books and reading is an inspiration.

NASA Wins an Emmy Award https://earthianhivemind.net/2018/09/09/nasa-win-emmys-awards/ Steph has highlighted this achievement by including a video of NASA’s activities. It’s worth watching.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

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Friday Faceoff – Mirror, mirror on the wall… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week featuring on any of our covers is the word QUEEN. I’ve selected Queen Lucia – Book 1 of the Mapp and Lucia novels by E.F. Benson.

 

This edition was produced by Wildside Press in August 2003. I think the figure raising the crown to her head is particularly apt, given the content, but the rest of it is just wrong. This book charts the power struggle of two society figures striving to be the arbiter of taste and culture in a small ex-pat community. It’s all about light and brightness – harshly so at times… So why anyone thought a gloomy old offering like this would work is beyond me. They haven’t even got the font right.

 

Published in February 1984 by Black Swan Books, this cover is far more appropriate. I love this depiction of a key scene in the book which brings out the period detail and I’m pleased to see the font is spot on. My one niggle is that border which cramps the lovely artwork, adding nothing to the period detail or appeal of the cover.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Impedimenta in September 2011 is beautiful. I love the stylised scene. Whereas the previous cover is crowded with lots going on, this is far more stripped back, featuring the two beautifully dressed women. The detail of the light fitting on the wall adds to the period feel and the colouring and design is sheer class. However the title and author fonts are too small and in the wrong font.

 

This edition, produced by Harper Perennial in March 1987 has nailed the period feel. We have Her Majesty seated on her throne in all her glory, while the border detail and font are all part of the design and add to the appeal of the cover, rather than feeling like an afterthought. I would have liked that wonderful image to dominate more, though.

 

This Italian edition has it all. The beautifully dressed woman, with her hand on her hip and dressed to kill, glares out at us, taking no prisoners. The colour scheme is bright and beautiful, the detailing wonderful. Those pillars framing the image are spot on, giving the artwork that 1920s outline. And the title and author text is the right size, right font and in the right place. This is my favourite – but what do you think? Do you agree with me?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods Mysteries by Diane Janes

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Once again, it was the cover that attracted me to this offering, along with the emphasis on it being a 1920s murder mystery. I really like that era, being a fan of Agatha Christie and an even bigger fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, so I hoped that Janes would prove to be an entertaining read.

1929. The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death.

This is the very simple premise that sets up the story, where a guest speaker inexplicably disappears during a conference and when her body is later discovered, it is assumed she has committed suicide. Both Frances Black and Tom Dod don’t believe this is the case and are determined to get to the bottom of why Linda is murdered.

I loved this one – Janes has taken care to set up the story and establish the characters in much the same way as Christie did. There is also no shortage of likely candidates when it comes to working out who the murderer is. As the investigation proceeds, we also learn more about Frances and Tom – and why the pair of them might be very willing to spend time and energy worrying about a problem that has nothing to do with their own daily routines. Despite this story consciously harking back to the past, there is no sentimentality in Janes’s depiction of the 1920s. The shadow of the Great War is still lying heavily across the country and although women have been granted the vote during the previous year, the manner in which Frances is frequently dismissed makes me very glad that I wasn’t born in that era.

I was also impressed with the worldbuilding and the level of historical detail throughout – at no time did any of it jar. What you don’t get with this book is foot to-the-floor action as the story builds steadily while Frances and Tom discover yet more facts and clues surrounding Linda’s life. Nonetheless I was immersed in the world and wanting to know exactly why Linda was murdered and who did it.

One of the pleasures in reading this type of crime novel is trying to guess the culprit and while I won’t claim to be particularly good at it, I can report that I didn’t guess whodunit, yet the murder and why it was committed made complete sense. I came to really like Frances and I’m going to be looking out for more books in this series – luckily it seems that Diane Janes is a prolific author. Yippee! While I obtained an arc of The Magic Chair Murder from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Dancing With Death Book 1 of the Nell Drury series by Amy Myers

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This classic country house murder mystery from Severn House popped up at Netgalley and caught my eye…

1925. The fashionable Bright Young Things from London have descended on Wychbourne Court, the Kentish stately home of Lord and Lady Ansley, for an extravagant fancy dress ball followed by a midnight Ghost Hunt – and Chef Nell Drury knows she’s in for a busy weekend. What she doesn’t expect to encounter is sudden, violent death.

This cosy mystery is a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read. Myers evokes the period well as steady, sensible and very ambitious Nell Drury, working at Wychbourne Hall as Chef, suddenly finds herself confronted with a violent murder of one of the guests. While it might have seemed unlikely that a young woman would land a prize post like this, due to the shortage of young men after the ravages of WWI, this was a time when a generation of women had an opportunity for a career – so long as they didn’t want to get married. Nell is one of those women. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognise the strict hierarchy of below stairs as she regularly locks horns with housekeeper, Mrs Fielding, who is thoroughly disapproving of a female chef.

But Nell has other things to worry about other than whether her soufflés will rise, when Lady Ansley appeals to her to ensure none of the servants are caught up in the bloody murder. I like Nell’s character. Her cool-headed steadiness and self-confidence comes from having to fight for her place and growing up in the war years, which still casts a long shadow over most of the characters – and quite right, too. Myers has very much caught the flavour of the age, it seems to me, having grown up with stories of the time from my grandmother, who was a flapper.

In order to make this sort of book really work, we need a good spread of likely suspects amongst the supporting cast and Myers certainly provides plenty of memorable, strong contenders. We have the eccentric aunt who is convinced the house is crowded with a posse of ghosts, all keen to make contact with their living counterparts; the gang of bright young things, including the three Ansley youngsters who are caught up in the frantic round of parties and nightclubbing; two school friends who seem far too attracted to each other rather than their supposed partners; the vamp; the terrifying elderly female relative (think Maggie Smith); and her arch-enemy a sprightly avuncular gentleman. In the middle of this, you have poor, bewildered Lord and Lady Ansley… There is also a strong cast of below stairs characters and a rather forbidding detective from Scotland Yard who travels down to investigate the murders as the local bobbies are completely out of their depth.

This is all as cosily familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa – but there is a good reason why Agatha Christie-type murder mysteries work, demonstrated here by Myers’ well-written homage. The pages simply turned themselves as I dived into this one while struggling with a heavy cold. The denouement was also well handled – I hadn’t guessed whodunit or why and was also pleased that some of the red herrings cast around during the investigation weren’t necessarily as herring-like as I’d thought. It always slightly annoys me when an author provides a parade of suspects and a trail of clues – only to suddenly provide a completely different set of motives with a flourish at the end. Myers isn’t guilty of such a sleight of hand. My only niggle is the very, very abrupt ending – unless for some reason my arc is missing a final paragraph. But this one is recommended for fans of a classic cosy mystery set in a country house.

While I obtained the arc of Dancing with Death from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.

8/10

Review of Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the successful Newbury and Hobbes series set in a version of Victorian London – see my reviews of The Immorality Engine here and The Osiris Ritual here. All very anarchic and entertaining stuff with plenty of action and the alternate, cool touches that defines steampunk. Would I enjoy this new genre mash-up series?

ghostsofmanhattan1926. New York City. It’s the Roaring Twenties but not as history remembers it. Coal-powered cars line the streets, while zeppelins and biplanes patrol the skies. The US is locked in a bitter cold war with a British Empire that still covers half the globe and the Lost Generation is drinking away the nightmares of the trenches. In Manhattan, a run-down police force is losing the fight against a tide of powerful mobsters and against one in particular: The Roman. His henchmen – not all of them human – with the streets and the body count is rising. It’s time in need of a hero. It’s a time in need of THE GHOST.

As you can immediately see from the blurb, steampunk has shifted from its more usual Victorian timescape, which was really successful in my opinion. There are some significant problems with the Victorian era – not least that many of the ingrained attitudes towards anyone not white, male and upper middle-class jar with modern tastes. Not that I’m holding up the 1920’s as any ideal of broad-mindedness – but attitudes and behaviour had been modulated by the Great War. Did Mann take account of that huge event? Absolutely. I have read books set in the 1920’s that completely ignore the Great War, while Mann effectively depicts the damage wrought upon his protagonist, who is still haunted by the carnage experienced in the trenches.

There is a gothic-noir feel to this book that puts me in mind of the Batman films. Not that I have a particular problem with that – Mann knows how to tell an entertaining tale. His characters are reasonably convincing and I’m guessing that there are untold layers about the Ghost we will uncover in subsequent books.

The baddies are satisfyingly nasty – in fact my chief grizzle is that I would have liked to learn more about The Roman who appeared to have really fascinating backstory. I will be looking out for the next in the series – I generally enjoy Mann’s work and I’d like to see where he takes the Ghost in future instalments.
7/10