Category historical – 1800s

2010: #76 – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See)

snowflowerBook #76 was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.  The back of the book reads:

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an "old same," in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a captivating journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. Now in a deluxe paperback edition complete with an expanded Random House Reader’s Circle guide and an exclusive conversation between Lisa See and her mother, fellow writer Carolyn See, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel is, as the Seattle Times says, "a beautifully drawn portrait of female friendship and power."

This is the sort of historical fiction I love.  It takes me to a time, place, and culture I am only passingly familiar with, and makes me want to learn more.  I found myself running to Wikipedia on more than one occasion, especially to better understand foot-binding. Some may get caught up in the accuracy of the historical fact, but to me this book was about much more.  It’s about friendship; mothers and daughters; class-based, feudal society; the role of women, not only in their family but in society in general; betrayal; husbands and wives; love; and misunderstanding. Because we see things through Lily’s eyes, we often don’t understand what’s going on any sooner than she does. As readers, we are tied so closely to her discoveries that we feel her astonishment, happiness, sadness, and pain. I also found the book to be well-written.  Oftentimes an author can adopt the speaking and writing style of their characters to the detriment of the reader, but the prose here is gentle and engaging. This sparked several interesting discussions in my book club, and I recommend it for yours. I’ll definitely read another book by Lisa See.

Other reviews:

A Novel Menagerie » Blog Archive » Book Review: Snow Flower & The Secret Fan
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan « Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage!
Tiny Little Reading Room: Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Book Nut: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
#18 ~ Snow Flower and the Secret Fan :

Page count: 288 | Approximate word count: 100,800

2009: On Writing (Stephen King)
2008: The Dead Room (Heather Graham)
2007: Body Rides (Richard Laymon)
2006: Dragonfly in Amber (Diana Gabaldon)
2005: We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver)

Used in these Challenges: The Four Month Challenge – Part 4; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project; Historical Fiction Reading Challenge; New Author Challenge 2010; Pages Read Challenge Season 2;

2010: #4 – Night Fire (Catherine Coulter)

nightfire Book #4 was Night Fire, the first book in Catherine Coulter’s Night Trilogy.  The back of the book reads:

Dear Reader:

Night Fire, the first of the Night Trilogy, was first published in early 1989. I haven’t rewritten it, just cleaned it up a bit and Avon books has given it a wonderful new cover.

Arielle Leslie is a sixteen-year-old girl forced to wed Paisley Cochrane, a sadistic old man who abuses her. When he dies, she believes herself free. But she’s not.

Burke Drummond, Earl of Ravensworth — a young man she’d worshipped three years before — is home from the wars, and he wants her. When he catches her, he’s in for an appalling surprise.

I hope Burke and Arielle are two people who will touch you as deeply as they touched me. They face problems and obstacles never spoken of in Regency times.

If you haven’t yet read Night Fire, do give it a try.

— Catherine Coulter

I have mixed feelings about this.  Arielle is horribly abused by her first husband, but frankly, Burke wasn’t much better for much of the book.  He decided that he wanted to have Arielle as his wife, and who cares what she thinks about it.  Surely, if she’s forced to spend all her time with him, she’ll come around eventually!  Burke may have never physically hurt her, but the beginning of their relationship was no less abusive.  That being said, I did like Arielle and Burke and I liked them together, in the end.  There’s some interesting conflict here, and a recurring theme of how husbands and wives relate to each other.  Her groom, Geordie, was also an interesting character — I wish he’d been used more in the story. I’ll read the rest of this trilogy, but I hope the subject matter isn’t so difficult in the others.

Page count: 400 | Word count: 99,867

2009: Kopek the Destroyer (Phil Owens)
2008: The Ice Queen (Alice Hoffman)
2007: Agnes of God (Leonore Fleisher)
2006: Postmortem (Patricia Cornwell)
2005: The Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket)

Used in these Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; Reading From My Shelves Project; 1st in a Series Challenge; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; Year of the Historical;

2009: #54 – The Black Tower (Louis Bayard)

blacktower Book #54 was The Black Tower by Louis Bayard.  The back of the book reads:

Vidocq. The name strikes terror in the Parisian underworld of 1818. As founder and chief of a newly created plainclothes police force, Vidocq has used his mastery of disguise and surveillance to capture some of France’s most notorious and elusive criminals. Now he is hot on the trail of a tantalizing mystery—the fate of the young dauphin Louis-Charles, son of Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI.

Hector Carpentier, a medical student, lives with his widowed mother in her once-genteel home, now a boardinghouse, in Paris’s Latin Quarter, helping the family make ends meet in the politically perilous days of the restoration. Three blocks away, a man has been murdered, and Hector’s name has been found on a scrap of paper in the dead man’s pocket: a case for the unparalleled deductive skills of Eugène François Vidocq, the most feared man in the Paris police. At first suspicious of Hector’s role in the murder, Vidocq gradually draws him into an exhilarating—and dangerous—search that leads them to the true story of what happened to the son of the murdered royal family.

Officially, the Dauphin died a brutal death in Paris’s dreaded Temple—a menacing black tower from which there could have been no escape—but speculation has long persisted that the ten-year-old heir may have been smuggled out of his prison cell. When Hector and Vidocq stumble across a man with no memory of who he is, they begin to wonder if he is the Dauphin himself, come back from the dead. Their suspicions deepen with the discovery of a diary that reveals Hector’s own shocking link to the boy in the tower—and leaves him bound and determined to see justice done, no matter the cost.

In The Black Tower, Bayard deftly interweaves political intrigue, epic treachery, cover-ups, and conspiracies into a gripping portrait of family redemption—and brings to life an indelible portrait of the mighty and profane Eugène François Vidocq, history’s first great detective.

I love historical fiction that introduces me to a time I’m not familiar with, in this case, the French Restoration following the ousting of Napoleon. Unlike The Firemaster’s Mistress, a recently unfinished read which also took place in an unfamiliar era (early 1600s England), I almost immediately got a feel for Paris in the early 1800s. One is pulled into this story not by Hector Carpentier, who serves as little more than narrator for most of the book, but by Vidocq, the eccentric yet extremely effective police chief who comes to Hector in search of a murderer.  And, someone who actually existed! A fact I did not know until after I finished. That’s another mark of good historical fiction to me… it sends me straight to Wikipedia to learn more.  It left me wanting to know about the real mystery of the Dauphin, and whether he really did live or die.  History does not truly know, and by the time you get to the end of this book, you’re not sure Fiction knows either.

Audiobook length: 9hrs 50min | Approximate word count: 110,400

2008: Plum Lucky (Janet Evanovich)
2007: Grave Peril (Jim Butcher)
2006: Twelve Sharp (Janet Evanovich)
2005: Hot Six (Janet Evanovich)

Used in these Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge 2009; What’s in a Name Challenge;

2009: #38 – The Masque of the Black Tulip (Lauren Willig)

blacktulip Book #38 was The Masque of the Black Tulip, the second book in Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series.  The back of the book reads:

Harvard grad student Eloise Kelly achieved the academic coup of the century when she unmasked the spy who saved England from Napoleon. But now she has a million questions about the Pink Carnation’s deadly French nemesis, the Black Tulip. And she’s pretty sure that her handsome on-again, off-again crush, Colin Selwick, has the answers somewhere in his archives. But what she discovers in an old codebook is something juicier than she ever imagined.

I loved this book as much as the first, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.  This one was more romance than mystery, but there’s a healthy dose of each. And humor! Once again, Eloise isn’t sure what she wants, but she’s sure she’s making a pretty big fool of herself. And back in history, the secret agents of England and France are up to their old tricks, except this time, Henrietta, the Purple Gentian’s sister, wants in on the action. It’s not too hard to figure out who the Black Tulip really is, but watching the characters follow the red herring is part of the fun. The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger in Eloise’s story, so I’m anxious to see where it goes!

Page count: 464 | Word count: 137,010

2008: Hide (Lisa Gardner)
2007: The Night Gardener (George Pelecanos)
2006: Case Histories (Kate Atkinson)
2005: I’m Not the New Me (Wendy McClure)

Used in these Challenges: Spring Reading Thing 2009; The Countdown Challenge; 100+ Reading Challenge 2009; 2nds Challenge; 2009 eBook Challenge; The 999 Challenge;

2009: #26 – Soul Catcher (Michael C. White)

soulcatcher Book #26 was Soul Catcher by Michael C. White.  The back of the book reads:

Augustus Cain is a damaged man haunted by a terrible skill: the ability to track people who don’t want to be found. Rosetta is a runaway slave who bears the scars, inside and out, of a life of servitude to a cruel and unforgiving master. Her flight is fueled by a passion and determination only a mother could feel, and she would rather die than let anyone drag her back to hell. In a dark, volatile time prior to the Civil War, fate has bound the hunted and hunter on a remarkable odyssey from Virginia to Boston and back again—an extraordinary test of character and will, mercy and compassion, that will change them both forever.

I love a good Civil-War-era/1800s-in-the-U.S. historical fiction novel. And this *was* a good one. Cain is a man who’s more than a little bit lost.  He’s basically sleep-walking through life, drunk on either whiskey, laudanum, or both, and gambling for money to live. Except he’s not always a great gambler, and now he’s gotten himself into a debt he can’t run away from.  When the man he owes money to wants him to use his tracking skills to bring home his runaway slave, Rosetta, Cain doesn’t really have a choice. Soul Catcher is the story of that journey.

Cain is forced to travel with a group of men that you would expect to be slave-catchers… generally either apathetic or downright cruel and sadistic. There is a lot of both the expected and unexpected here, and though I mostly guessed the ending and the decision Cain would make about his life, I never would have guessed the final twist. Some may question how realistic Cain and Rosetta are in their actions and interactions, but I can believe it all the same.

Page count: 415 | Approximate word count: 124,500

2008: Twilight (Stephenie Meyer)
2007: Full House (Janet Evanovich)
2006: Judgement in Death (J.D. Robb)
2005: The Sigma Protocol (Robert Ludlum)

Used in these Challenges: 9 for 09 Challenge; 100+ Reading Challenge 2009; The 999 Challenge; Read Your Own Books Challenge;

2009: #10 – Claus, A Christmas Incarnation: Vol I (C. John Coombes)

claus_sm Book #10 was Claus, A Christmas Incarnation: Volume I by C. John Coombes. The back of the book reads:

Escape to a time When life was an adventure.

Our nation was young, And so were her people. A time of struggle and setback, Of pain and perseverance.

A time also of freedom, joy, And the birth of new traditions. The future was fearful and uncertain, But no more so than for the children.

For them, let us say, Fate brought forth a man. He was wealthy and influential, He was good-hearted and generous. A man of conjecture and mystery. He was there for them, a savior, A second chance, a hope.

Only one person may have known him. A person who struggled to understand him Through the eyes of a child, Through the heart of a woman.

A disciple named Elizabeth.

This was an absolutely beautiful read.  Just gorgeous.Claus is the story of Elizabeth, an orphan (for all intents and purposes) who comes to work for the Lady Rebecca Claussen, a woman who was once an orphan herself and who has now dedicated her life to helping children.  Through Elizabeth’s young eyes we are witness to the journey to America of Lady Rebecca and her generous and kind husband, Christopher Claussen.  Does that name seem familiar to you? That’s where the familiarity ends, for this is a story of Claus you could never have imagined.

What C. John Coombes gives us here is something that is so often lacking from self-published works… description.  The description in this novel is lyrical and thorough.  I’ve never been so interested in the workings of a sailing ship, nor so entranced by a battle with pirates.  Elizabeth is perhaps too smart for her own good, but through her eyes we see things we may never have noticed otherwise. And, to top it all off, the author himself has literally illustrated the story beautifully. He is a very talented man! This was quite a long read (almost 700 pages in pdf), but it was well, well worth the time I put into it.

Page Count: 657 | Approximate word count: 218,200

2008: Dead Aim (Iris Johansen)
2007: Maisie Dobbs (Jacqueline Winspear)
2006: K is for Killer (Sue Grafton)
2005: Immortal in Death (J.D. Robb)

Used in these Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge 2009; 1st in a Series Challenge; 2009 eBook Challenge; The 999 Challenge; A-Z 2009 Challenge;

2008: #74 – The Face of a Stranger (Anne Perry)

14642738 Book #74 was The Face of a Stranger, the first book in Anne Perry’s William Monk series.  The back of the book reads:

His name, they tell him, is William Monk, and he is a London police detective. But the accident that felled him has left him with only half a life; his memory and his entire past have vanished. As he tries to hide the truth, Monk returns to work and is assigned to investigate the brutal murder of a Crimean War hero and man about town. Which makes Monk’s efforts doubly difficult, since he’s forgotten his professional skills along with everything else….

I enjoyed this, but man… it took me a long time. Two weeks! Part of that was the fault of my schedule, but it was also a slow-moving story.  When you first meet Monk, he doesn’t know who he is.  I think this lends an extra bit of flair to this book — you don’t have any background about your main character.  As he relearns about himself, you’re learning about him too.  And since he doesn’t particularly like what he’s learned about himself, you get to see him grow.  He really doesn’t have a choice but to become an entirely new person.

The mystery here is interesting, but it’s the main reason that the plot is slow-going.  Things didn’t become really interesting until Monk started putting the pieces together and remembering things, and that’s more than 3/4 of the way through the book.  My only other experience with Anne Perry is her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels, and I didn’t think this was quite as good.  I’ll read more in the series because I really like a good historical mystery, but I’m going to have to work my way into the next one.

Page count: 345 | Word count: 113,305

2007: Love and War (John Jakes)
2006: Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
2005: Hornet Flight (Ken Follett)

2008: #65 – The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Lauren Willig)

13821777 Book #65 was The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, the first book in the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig.  The back of the book reads:

Nothing ever goes right for Eloise. The day she wears her new suede boots, it rains. When the subway stops short, she’s the one thrown into some stranger’s lap. And she’s had her share of misfortune in the way of love. So, after deciding that romantic heroes must be a thing of the past, Eloise is ready for a fresh start.

Setting off for England, Eloise is determined to finish her dissertation on two spies, the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. But what she discovers is something historians have missed: the secret history of the Pink Carnation-the most elusive spy of all time. As she works to unmask this obscure spy, Eloise has more and more questions. Like, how did the Pink Carnation save England from Napoleon? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly escape her bad luck and find a living, breathing hero of her own?

I adored this.  From Eloise’s spunky confrontation with Colin over the family papers to her weakness for champagne to Amy and Jane’s scheming to the surprise of Miss Gwen to Richard’s family, this book was a jewel. I can’t believe it was out there for three years before I heard of it.  I liked the fast pace and the humor, even during serious situations.  Amy is independent and adventurous and not as smart as she needs to be, and it all adds to her charm.  I wish we had gotten to know Jane a little better, but her story is still to come.

I chose a short passage to share that I thought captured the tone of the story perfectly:

Richard rather fancied the idea of springing out of a brandy barrel, rapier at the ready. “Not the vintage you were expecting, gentlemen?” he would drawl as he leaped out of the cask, brandishing the shining steel of his blade in their astonished faces.  With a thrust to the left, and a stab to the right, he’d fight his way through the room, dueling personally with the man in charge, flipping his sword in an arc across the room.  And then he’d deck the man guarding the gold with a quick uppercut, whirling to fight off the three men who’d jump on him from behind.  He’d kick the first in the stomach, trip the second, and run through the third.  And then he’d make some sort of witty remark.  “Huzzah for the Purple Gentian!” his men would cheer.

If only it ever happened that way.

I guarantee I will be reading this series to its conclusion.

Page count: 426 | Word count: 127,785

2007: Blood Sport (Dick Francis)
2006: Danse Macabre (Laurell K. Hamilton)
2005: Silent Partner (Jonathan Kellerman)

2008: #15 – The Paid Companion (Amanda Quick)

13867407.JPGBook #15 was The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick. The back of the book reads:

The Earl of St. Merryn needs a woman. His intentions are purely practical Рhe simply wants someone sensible and suitably lovely to pose as his betrothed for a few weeks among polite society. He has his own agenda to pursue, and a false fianc̩e will keep the husband-hunters at bay while he goes about his business. The easiest solution is to hire a paid companion.

However, finding the right candidate proves more of a challenge than he expected – until he encounters Miss Elenora Lodge. Her dowdy attire and pinned-up hair cannot hide her fine figure and the fire in her golden eyes. And her unfortunate circumstances, and dreams of a life of independence, make the Earl’s generous offer undeniably appealing.

But Elenora is unsure what this masquerade might entail. For St. Merryn is clearly hiding a secret or two, and things seem oddly amiss in his gloomy Rain Street home. She is soon to discover that his secrets are even darker than his decor, and that this lark will be a far more dangerous adventure than she’s been led to believe. And Arthur, Earl of St. Merryn, is making a discovery as well: that the meek and mild companion he’d initially envisioned has become, in reality, a partner in his quest to catch a killer – and an outspoken belle of the ball who stirs a wild passion in his practical heart.

Not my usual type of book (I don’t know that I’ve ever read Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick before), but I really enjoyed this. It was a romance without being really heavy-handed with the LOOOOOVE, and it was a light historical mystery to boot! You pretty much know how it’s going to end, but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of the journey.

Page count: 418 | Word count: 94,800

2007: Dark Side of the Moon (Sherrilyn Kenyon)
2006: Burnt Offerings (Laurell K. Hamilton)
2005: F is for Fugitive (Sue Grafton)

2008: #11 – The Bone Garden (Tess Gerritsen)

14590439 Book #11 was The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen.  The back of the book reads:

Present day: Julia Hamill has made a horrifying discovery on the grounds of her new home in rural Massachusetts: a skull buried in the rocky soil–human, female, and, according to the trained eye of Boston medical examiner Maura Isles, scarred with the unmistakable marks of murder. But whoever this nameless woman was, and whatever befell her, is knowledge lost to another time. . . .

Boston, 1830: In order to pay for his education, Norris Marshall, a talented but penniless student at Boston Medical College, has joined the ranks of local “resurrectionists”–those who plunder graveyards and harvest the dead for sale on the black market. Yet even this ghoulish commerce pales beside the shocking murder of a nurse found mutilated on the university hospital grounds. And when a distinguished doctor meets the same grisly fate, Norris finds that trafficking in the illicit cadaver trade has made him a prime suspect.

To prove his innocence, Norris must track down the only witness to have glimpsed the killer: Rose Connolly, a beautiful seamstress from the Boston slums who fears she may be the next victim. Joined by a sardonic, keenly intelligent young man named Oliver Wendell Holmes, Norris and Rose comb the city–from its grim cemeteries and autopsy suites to its glittering mansions and centers of Brahmin power–on the trail of a maniacal fiend who lurks where least expected . . . and who waits for his next lethal opportunity.

With unflagging suspense and pitch-perfect period detail, The Bone Garden deftly interweaves the thrilling narratives of its nineteenth- and twenty-first century protagonists, tracing the dark mystery at its heart across time and place to a finale as ingeniously conceived as it is shocking. Bold, bloody, and brilliant, this is Tess Gerritsen’s finest achievement to date.

The historical part of this book was great, despite the West End Reaper being heavily based on Jack the Ripper. I really enjoyed the story of Rose and Norris, despite its sad end. However, the present day stuff wasn’t really needed. I feel like Gerritsen really wanted to write historical fiction, but she was afraid it wouldn’t grab her usual readers so she had to throw these present day ties in. I could have done without Julia altogether.

Page count: 384 | Approximate word count: 121,589

2007: Prince of Fire (Daniel Silva)
2006: L is for Lawless (Sue Grafton)
2005: The Wide Window (Lemony Snicket)

2007: #123 – The Wyndham Legacy (Catherine Coulter)

 14531139Book #123 was The Wyndham Legacy by Catherine Coulter.  The back of the book reads:

At the age of nine, Josephina Cochrane is mockingly dubbed the “Duchess” by her half-cousin, Marcus Wyndham. Little does Marcus suspect that the Duchess will one day reign sovereign over his own future. For the Earl of Chase, the Duchess’s father and Marcus’s uncle, leaves a double-edged inheritance, a legacy that will bind their fates.

When the Earl of Chase dies without a son, Marcus stands to inherit his fortune and title. But the old earl, bitter that Marcus escaped the tragedy that claimed the lives of his two sons, has laced his legacy with vengeful stipulations.

But there is another Wyndham legacy, one beyond the Earl of Chase’s rank and holdings; a treasure from long ago that’s shrouded in legend. Before the rival legacies can be settled, the Duchess and Marcus must solve two mysteries – one from the past and one that shadows the present.

I’ve never read Catherine Coulter and don’t read a lot of historical romance, but I enjoyed this. Most of the book was banter between the Duchess and Marcus, and you found yourself cheering them to succeed. And Aunt Wilhelmina was just about the best “evil relative” I’ve ever read — more comic relief than anything else. The “Wyndham Legacy” was mostly just a diversion from the love story, but the ending was a surprise.

Page count: 384 | Word count: 122,678

2007: #104 – Crocodile on the Sandbank (Elizabeth Peters)

Book #104 was Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first book in Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. The back of the book reads:

Elizabeth Peters’s unforgettable heroine Amelia Peabody makes her first appearance in this clever mystery. Amelia receives a rather large inheritance and decides to use it for travel. On her way through Rome to Egypt, she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young woman abandoned by her lover and left with no means of support. Amelia promptly takes Evelyn under her wing, insisting that the young lady accompany her to Egypt, where Amelia plans to indulge her passion for Egyptology. When Evelyn becomes the target of an aborted kidnapping and the focus of a series of suspicious accidents and mysterious visitations, Amelia becomes convinced of a plot to harm her young friend. Like any self-respecting sleuth, Amelia sets out to discover who is behind it all.

This was a must-read on my vacation, because what better series to read when you’re going to see the Pyramids? I’ve read several books in this series, so it was nice to see how Peabody and Emerson meet. The mystery is simpler than the later novels, but enjoyable. There’s seven years between this book and the second one, and I wish there was another book in there covering the first years of their marriage and Ramses’ early childhood.

Page count: 262 | Word count: 73,275

2006 – A Stroke of Midnight (Laurell K. Hamilton)

2007: #103 – Callander Square (Anne Perry)

Book #103 was Callander Square, the second book in Anne Perry’s Thomas & Charlotte Pitt series. The back of the book reads:

Murders just didn’t take place in fashionable Callander Square, so Inspector Pitt’s well-bred wife Charlotte couldn’t resist finding out why one had. Suddenly there she was, rattling the closets of the very rich, listening to backstair gossip, and unearthing truths that could push even the most proper aristocrat to murder….

This was a good second entry in the series, but I feel like Thomas Pitt is just a secondary character. I was hoping to see more of him in this book, since the first was primarily focused on Charlotte. I’d like to see more interaction between him and Charlotte in their private lives. The mystery was solid, though.

Page count: 256 | Word count: 84,669

2006 – Velocity (Dean Koontz)

2007: #21 – The Cater Street Hangman (Anne Perry)

Book #21 was The Cater Street Hangman, the 1st book in Anne Perry’s Thomas Pitt series. The back of the book reads:

While the Ellison girls were out paying calls and drinking tea like proper Victorian ladies, a maid in their household was strangled to death. The quiet and young Inspector Pitt investigates the scene and finds no one above suspicion. As his intense questioning causes many a composed facade to crumble, Pitt finds himself couriously drawn to pretty Charlotte Ellison. Yet, a romance between a society girl and so unsuitable a suitor was impossible in the midst of a murder….

How can I not like this? It combines two of my favorite things… historical fiction and a murder mystery! It’s set in Victorian-era England, and I think all the intricacies of social life at that time are well portrayed. It must have been so stressful living at that time and always worrying if you’re doing and saying the right things! It seemed to me that the worst thing one could do was be “impertinent”.

I’m not sure how I feel about Anne Perry’s somewhat sordid past, but I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading/listening to the others in the series.

Page count: 288 | Approximate word count: 101,645 | Filed in:

2006: #96 – When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Lawrence Block); #97 – The Kill Artist (Daniel Silva); #98 – A Dangerous Fortune (Ken Follett)

ginmill.gifBook #96 was When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, the first book in Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series. The back of the book reads:

In the dark days, in a sad and lonely place, ex-cop Matt Scudder is drinking his life away — and doing “favors” for pay for his ginmill cronies. But when three such assignments flow together in dangerous and disturbing ways, he’ll need to change his priorities from boozing to surviving.

I decided to start this series from the beginning because I read All the Flowers are Dying, the 16th book, and enjoyed it.

If I had read this book without reading #16 first, I probably wouldn’t read any others. I found the Scudder character to be very rough around the edges, though by the end of the book I could see a little of the Scudder from later in the series. The mysteries were interesting, but I had one of them figured out early. None of the characters were particularly likable. I’ll continue the series based solely on #16 and hope for quick improvement!

Book count: 96

Pages in book: 384
Page count: 40,288
Words in book: 75,933
Word count: 11,968,428


Book #97 was The Kill Artist, the first book in Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. The back of the book reads:

Former Israeli intelligence operative Gabriel Allon is drawn back into the game to take on a cunning terrorist on one last killing spree, a Palestinian zealot who played a dark part in Gabriel’s past. And what begins as a manhunt turns into a globe-spanning duel fueled by both political intrigue and deep personal passions…

Super, super book. I’ve been listening to this in the car, and at first I was a bit concerned that I wasn’t going to like it. It took me a few hours to get through the set-up. However, once the “action” started, I was hooked. Gabriel is the moodiest spy you’ll ever fall in love with, and I hope there is more of Jacqueline later in this series. The information about the Israel/Palestine conflict is as timely as ever. If you like espionage, intrigue, and international politics, you must give this a try.

Book count: 97

Pages in book: 448
Page count: 40,736
Words in book: 106,043
Word count: 12,074,471

fortune.gifBook #98 was A Dangerous Fortune, by Ken Follett. The back of the book reads:

In 1866, tragedy strikes at the exclusive Windfield School. A young student drowns in a mysterious accident involving a small circle of boys. The drowning and its aftermath initiates a spiraling circle of treachery that will span three decades and entwine many loves… From the exclusive men’s club and brothels that cater to every dark desire of London’s upper classes to the dazzling ballrooms and mahogany-paneled suites of the manipulators of the world’s wealth, Ken Follett conjures up a stunning array of contrasts. This breathtaking novel portrays a family splintered by lust, bound by a shared legacy… men and women swept toward a perilous climax where greed, fed by the shocking truth of a boy’s death, must be stopped, or not just one man’s dreams, but those of a nation, will die…

Loved it. This was a nice change from the WWII era Follett that I’ve read. However, there’s one thing that ties all of his books together for me — his characters. They are always captivating and complex and interesting. The banking stuff is even written in a way that I can understand! The book covers 26 years in the life of a family, and in the end, the good and the bad both get what they’re due — just the way it should be!

Book count: 98

Pages in book: 568
Page count: 41,304
Words in book: 165,499
Word count: 12,239,970

1,000,000 words surpassed — 2/2/06
2,000,000 words surpassed — 2/14/06
10,000 pages surpassed — 3/10/06
3,000,000 words surpassed — 3/16/06
4,000,000 words surpassed — 4/3/06
5,000,000 words surpassed — 5/30/06
50 books surpassed — 6/12/06
20,000 pages surpassed — 6/29/06
6,000,000 words surpassed — 6/29/06
7,000,000 words surpassed — 7/21/06
8,000,000 words surpassed — 8/18/06
30,000 pages surpassed — 9/3/06
9,000,000 words surpassed — 9/6/06

10,000,000 words surpassed — 9/27/06
11,000,000 words surpassed — 10/9/06
40,000 pages surpassed — 11/3/06
12,000,000 words surpassed — 11/4/06

Holy crap, I’m almost to 100 books!

2006: #67 – The Grim Grotto (Lemony Snicket); #68 – Letters from an Age of Reason (Nora Hague); #69 – The Deep (Peter Benchley)

grotto.gifBook #67 was The Grim Grotto, book the eleventh in Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. The back of the book reads:

Dear Reader,

Unless you are a slug, a sea anemone, or mildew, you probably prefer not to be damp. You might also prefer not to read this book, in which the Baudelaire siblings encounter an unpleasant amount of dampness as they descend into the depths of despair, underwater.

In fact, the horrors they encounter are too numerous to list, and you wouldn’t want me to even mention the worst of it, which includes mushrooms, a desperate search for something lost, a mechanical monster, a distressing message from a lost friend, and tap dancing.

As a dedicated author who has pledged to keep recording the depressing story of the Baudelaires, I must continue to delve deep into the cavernous depths of the orphans’ lives. You, on the other hand, may delve into some happier book in order to keep your eyes and your spirits from being dampened.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

These books just keep getting better. The Baudelaire children are even getting love interests! There was even very near death in this one. The storyline is really starting to come together. I’m almost sad that there are only 2 books left.

Book count: 67
Pages in book: 323
Page count: 27,231
Words in book: 48,526

Word count: 7,910,789

reason.gifBook #68 was Letters from an Age of Reason, by Nora Hague. The back of the book reads:

n eloquent debut novel set amid two historical hotbeds of racial tension, moral hypocrisy, and shifting sexual convention

Miss Arabella Leeds, the high-spirited teenage daughter of a prominent New York family, and Aubrey “Brie” Paxton, the “high yellow” pampered house servant of wealthy French-American slave-holders, are destined to fall in love.

They are each bound for London, where their chance meeting will transform both of their lives. But before their paths can cross, they will experience high adventure, erotic awakening, and the discovery of long-buried family secrets amid the salacious underpinnings of corseted Victorian society. And as the Civil War drenches America in blood, it will be their passion, unstoppable and forbidden, that will challenge both Arabella and Brie to rethink what freedom means and what love costs . . . as their bond places them forever outside the mores and conventions of their time.

This was a very good book. The writing style was interesting — everything was in the form of letters and journal entries. Different fonts were used to indicate different authors. I got so wrapped up in the characters that I was dismayed when the story ended just as I felt it was beginning! I’m hoping her second book is a continuation.

Book count: 68
Pages in book: 656
Page count: 27,887
Words in book: 300,014

Word count: 8,210,803

deep.gifBook #69 was The Deep, by Peter Benchley. The back of the book reads:

On a perfect day in Bermuda a honeymooning couple dives into the offshore reefs. They are looking for the wreck of a sunken ship. What they find is surprising. It lures them into a mysterious and increasingly dangerous encounter, a relentless struggle for survival. Now, open this book. Discover for yourself the action, the meance–the hidden underwater world of the Deep.

This was different from other Benchley books I’ve read. If you don’t recognize the name, this is the guy who wrote Jaws. His other books that I’ve read have all involved some sort of creature. The only evil creature in this book is man. Not a bad read — nice and quick. My only complaint is that I liked the main character better before any of his background was explained. Really, the guy was kind of a jerk.

Book count: 69
Pages in book: 291
Page count: 28,178
Words in book: 82,062

Word count: 8,292,865

1,000,000 words surpassed — 2/2/06
2,000,000 words surpassed — 2/14/06
10,000 pages surpassed — 3/10/06
3,000,000 words surpassed — 3/16/06
4,000,000 words surpassed — 4/3/06
5,000,000 words surpassed — 5/30/06
50 books surpassed – 6/12/06
20,000 pages surpassed — 6/29/06
6,000,000 words surpassed — 6/29/06
7,000,000 words surpassed — 7/21/06
8,000,000 words surpassed — 8/18/06

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