Song for the Basilisk, Patricia A. McKillip. B.
I find it exceedingly difficult to describe the plots of most of McKillip's novels. There were bards--and the prose and cover are loverly.
The Pride of the Peacock, Victoria Holt. B+.
Victoria Holt is such a guilty pleasure! This one was about...well, her typical gothic novel with masterful men and lying family.
The Linnet Bird, Linda Holeman. A-.
A surprisingly uplifting novel about a prostitute. Linny Gow's father forced her into prostitution at the age of 11 (or 12? I have a bad memory). After several years spent on the streets, Linny is literally rescued by a kind doctor when she needs it most. He is able to help her get off the streets, and Linny starts leading a respectable life as his "cousin". She tries desperately to keep her past secret, and her new life takes her as far away as India. This was a beautiful book--I loved Ms. Holeman's style and many of the characters. The plot seemed unique, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tesla: Man Out of Time, Margaret Cheney. B+.
Nikola Tesla has been added to my list of dead men for whom I would travel back in time. As far as biographies go, this was mediocre. BUT, the subject material made up for the author's lack of writing prowess. This man was so incredible, that I need to read at least one more biography to make sure everything in this one was TRUE. The experiments this man made! Unfortunately, any scientific explanations in this book were entirely over my head, but it was still an "enlightening" read.
Crown Duel, Sherwood Smith. A.*
If you're looking for a good fantasy with rebellions, politics, intrigue, and social machinations, read this. It's a wonderful, hilarious book.
The Beacon at Alexandria, Gillian Bradshaw. A+.
Now here's an original idea! Set in the 4th century, a young noblewoman, Charis, wishes to flee from marriage to an evil man. Having an interest in medicine, Charis decides to head to Alexandria, dressed as a boy, to become a doctor. Here's where it gets good! Charis doesn't just dress up as a boy, she dresses up as a eunuch. Brilliant, yes? The plot is very exciting, and the novel is steeped in information about the great events of the time: the Christian debate, heresies, Goth invasions...marvelous bit of historical fiction.
Cleopatra’s Heir, Gillian Bradshaw. A-.
This historical novel investigates what would have happened if Caesarion, son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, had survived his assassins. Ms. Bradshaw comes up with a very unique and convincing way for Caesarion to allude the assassins, and this is another fine example of historical fiction.
(2)Kingdom of Summer, Gillian Bradshaw. B+.
(3)In Winter’s Shadow, Gillian Bradshaw. B+.
These are the last two in Gillian Bradshaw's Arthurian trilogy. I would highly recommend if you are into Arthurian Legend, for she is an excellent author. The one thing about this trilogy (which goes for anything Arthurian), is the amount of frustration and angst. After reading so much about this mess, I was beginning to feel really upset.
(1)Long Night Dance, Betsy James. B.
(2)Dark Heart, Betsy James. A-.
(3)Listening at the Gate, Betsy James. A-.
A very curious series. Betsy James created a few very unusual societies and put them in a strange, mythical setting. It was like Irish-fishing-village-meets-ancient-myth
The Falconer’s Knot, Mary Hoffman. B.
A mystery surrounding a young man, a young woman, monks, and nuns. It was okay.
(2)Forged in the Fire, Ann Turnbull. B.
The sequel to No Shame, No Fear--a novel about a pair of Quaker lovers in 17th century England. You can imagine the trials the pair faced. This one takes them through the year 1666---so we get fire and plague. I don't know why, but I love reading about the black death.
(2)Peregrine, Joan Elizabeth Goodman. B+.*
This is the sequel to Winter Hare, but I believe it can stand alone. It is about a young, widowed noblewoman who goes on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to avoid remarriage. She doesn't journey only physically, but emotionally, as she overcomes the grief of losing her husband and child.
The Lais of Marie de France, Marie de France (Translators: Robert Hanning and Joan Ferrante. B+.
Lais are short stories in verse based on folk tales (or so I believe). The Lais of Marie de France consists of 12 lais and was written in the 12th Century. They are adventurous, mostly romantic, and also humorous stories. I really enjoyed reading this, and I thought the translation to be a good one (as far as anyone can tell, who hasn't read the original version or any other translation). Each lai had a commentary written by the translators, which helped to understand each lai in its historical context. "Bisclavret" was about a werewolf. :D
The Sleep of Stone, Louise Cooper. B+.
An odd little story about a fairy of sorts (not your cute, pixie type) with a name of all consonants (just call her Ghysla) who falls in love with a mortal man. She goes to desparate lengths to win this man from his betrothed, but must make a terrible choice in the end...
(1)Murkmere, Patricia Elliott. A.
A fantastic gothic novel. It gave me the feel of 18th or 19th century Great Britain, but is set in a fantasy world. The religion that this little world practiced was very interesting, as it revolved entirely around birds. Anyhow, a young girl--Aggie--goes to a mysterious estate--Murkmere--to be a companion to the mysterious Leah, ward of the master of Murkmere. I loved Aggie and Leah and many of the other characters. This novel was really well written, and I recommend it.
(2)Ambergate, Patricia Elliott. A.
The sequel/companion to Murkmere, this could probably stand alone, but I would suggest reading Murkmere first. It's about Scuff, the little orphan scullery maid from Murkmere Hall who must flee from the law, owing to a crime she committed in her shadowy past. I loved this--there's all sorts of conundrums and political upheavals. A well-written, suspenseful, and entertaining read.
The Swan Maiden, Heather Tomlinson. A-.
A sweet little fairy tale (possibly a re-telling?) about a princess/sorceress who must choose between love and magic. There are many recognizable fairy tale elements--but not your usual fairy story. Ms. Tomlinson's prose is that delicate kind which is so suited to this sort of novel.
Avielle of Rhia, Dia Calhoun. D+.
Rebellion and prejudice face a young princess. Whooppee. I really didn't like this book. I always try to figure out specific reasons why I don't like a particular book, but I can't pinpoint anything on this one. I simply did not like it.
I am Rembrandt’s Daughter, Lynn Cullen. C-.
I believe that the title is self-explanatory. Lynn Cullen has a good sense of humor. I, however, cannot stand books written in the first-person-present-tense. I cannot understand the recent craze for writing in this particularly awkward and illogical tense, but it's to the point where I need to check every book for it before I read it. It's damn annoying. Besides issues with the tense, there were far too many lengthy descriptions of Cornelia (Rembrandt's daughter) shaving her decrepit old father's flabby chin.
Jamaica Inn, Daphne du Maurier. A.
I may have liked this even better than Rebecca. After her mother's death, Mary Yellen goes to live with her aunt and uncle who own Jamaica Inn. Despite a few warnings to stay away, Mary has no where to go, and honestly wants to see her mother's sister, Patience. After she arrives, it doesn't take long for Mary to realize that there is something very rotten in the state of Denmark. There is her rough and creepy Uncle Joss, who has completely broken Mary's Aunt Patience, and the fact that this 'inn' is not housing travelers. Very suspenseful, very romantic---a yummy read.
Daughter of Deceit, Victoria Holt. B+.
How one person's life can be utterly ruined by her mother's flightiness, and one person's ambition.
Enter Three Witches, Caroline B. Cooney. D+.
This is basically Shakespeare's Macbeth told through the eyes of a ward of the Macbeths. It was badly done and extremely disappointing. The whole bit with "by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes" was overplayed.
Anna the Adventuress, E. Phillips Oppenheim. B.
I collect antique books. This was one about romance and mistaken identities.
Love Letters, Chris Massie. B.
This one was about a soldier from WWI who falls in love with a crazy lady....odd book. But I kinda liked it.
The English Orphans, Mary J. Holmes. A-.
Another antique find--a sort of Cinderella story.
The Colonel’s Daughter, John Strange Winter. A/F.
Yet another antique. This one, written about 1897 I believe, was shockingly well done, until about 30 pages before the end, when the whole thing took an unexpected nose dive into a crock of literary shit. I was never so mad in my life! Now I know why it went out of print. Hence the split rating.
The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman, Nancy Marie Brown. B.
An interesting book about Gudrid, a Viking woman (sister-in-law to Leif Erikson, actually) who, in Icelandic sagas, traveled to the New World and Greenland in the 10th/11th centuries. That certainly caught my attention. As far as non-fiction goes, this wasn't that spectacular. Too much dialog added that was unnecessary and too much information about archaelogy which really seemed to kill the whole point: whether or not this woman actually traveled to Greenland and Vinland. I like non-fiction that doesn't beat around the bush. However, it did inspire me to pick up The Icelandic Sagas from the library.
Nobody’s Princess, Esther Friesner. B+.
A novel about Helen of Troy while she was still Helen of Sparta. She hasn't even met Menelaus yet, so she is quite young. Not a bad book a'tall--quite interesting, actually.
I can't get enough lively book discussion, so feel free to discuss!