The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields, a Review

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The Age of Desire is a snapshot into the lives of Edith Wharton and her loyal secretary Anna Bahlmann during the years of Wharton’s relationship with Morton Fullerton. Set against the backdrop of Paris (starting around 1908/1909 ish),The Age of Desire is less a novel about Edith Wharton and for me, more a story about the complexities of friendship between women and men. It captures a lot of what I’d imagine relationships and changing perspectives/expectation around gender to be like back around the turn of the century, without being stereotypical or overly trite.

While I am not a Wharton scholar, so I can’t say whether this fictionalization is an accurate portrayl of her life, I did enjoy getting to know the version of Edith that Fields creates on paper. Like many of the characters we find her novel, she is not always likeable, complex, but relatable. The same goes for Anna, who can be just as frustrating as Edith. The ancillary characters are equally as enjoyable (except for maybe Edith’s husband who I don’t think is meant to be truly liked).

Love that there is lots of travel depicted in this book, and Fields describes and conveys each locale in a way that is comprehensive but not exhausting. My one real qualm would be, if anything, there is too much back and forth between The Mount (the Wharton’s US country home), NYC and Paris… but maybe I’m just jealous of their lifestyle. By the end of this almost 400 page novel I was ready for things to wrap up. Not keen for it to finish, but curious to see how it was all going to play out.

Nit-picky spoiler (highlight the text below to read): Wish the editor had been a little bit more like the eagle-eyed Bahlmann and recommended Fields use some variety when trying to convey two legs touching under a table (which seems to happen a lot in this book), than “I could feel the pressure of his leg against mine.” I think I read that phrase at least 10 times.

Available from Amazon.com, or the New York Public Library, which is where I got my copy from.

Any other good historical fiction works from the last few years I should check out? 

xo The Book Bird 

The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley, a Review

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There is something comforting about slipping into a Lucinda Riley novel. Her debut novel, “The Orchid House,” was one of my favorite books of 2012, and thus it was much anticipation that I dove into her latest inter-generational novel which is set in India and England. Just like “The Orchid House,” the novel introduces the reader to two separate story lines that you just know will inevitable collide. While that much is obvious, how they’re going to intersect is where Riley really gets you hooked.

The cast of characters in “The Midnight Rose” includes a young Hollywood actress and the great-grandson of an Indian matriarch who spent her youth in England. Though from face value totally unrelated, both characters intersect with the Astbury family, which is where things get interesting. Told from a variety of third-person views, the novel can be a little bit slow in places, but the quality of Riley’s writing is good which makes it easy to power through.  The characters are somewhat stereotypical, band some plot revelations you’ll see a mile away, but you know what? It’s OK. At the end of the day, this is a solid novel that is pretty impressive in scope and quality.

Just like “The Orchid House,” “The Midnight Rose” is on the epic side, clocking in at almost 500 pages, but don’t let that daunt you– seriously, you’ll fly through it faster than you would expect.

Good for: Those looking for a beach book, or a vacation from thrillers/heavy reads; anyone who has a long plane trip coming up.

Skip it: If you like to get right to the plot twists and turns, don’t have patience for scenarios where you can guess what is going to happen.

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com, and on shelves on March 18th, 2014.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher via NetGalley.

Lisa Unger- In The Blood

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This was the perfect book to be stuck in an airport– it made the hours of killing time fly by. I hate comparing books to other books, but the best way I can think of describing “In the Blood” is if “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and “Gone Girl” had a book baby.

Told from the point of view of college-aged compulsive liar, Lana Granger, the plot’s twist and turns will keep you frantically turning pages as each story arc neatly intersects and culminates in a crazy conclusion. Who is Lana? What is her past? Where is her missing friend? Is she lying to herself or just the reader? I don’t want to give away any secrets, but while some might finds parts of the novel far-fetched, I was was so consumed by the story that I didn’t even notice at the time.

Well-written, and a definite must for those that like psychological thrillers and blind-corner plot twists, I can’t wait until my friends read this one so we can talk about it!

Available from Amazon.com (or for loan via the New York Public Library for you card holders!).

xo The Book Bird

The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen, a Review

18885741Mysterious disappearances. A political zealot with some VERY questionable opinions. An resolved case from the past… 

All of your standard Scandinavian police procedural pieces are there when it comes to Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Purity of Vengeance: A Department Q Novel. A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars (I really need to pick a rating system and stick with it in 2014), there was not necessarily anything bad about this book. In fact, I think if anything I’m probably jaded from having read too much Scandinavian detective fiction… Sadly,  it just didn’t bowl me over.

This was the first time I’ve picked up one of Adler-Olsen’s novels, and from the reviews of others I had high expectations. They were met to a certain extent: likeable, quirky lead characters, easy to pick up, interesting plot, etc. However, where the novel fell flat for me was the predictable storyline and pacing. The Purity of Vengeance stays a little too well inside the lines to motivate me to want to read the rest of the series; if I had to pick one Nordic prickly, alcoholic police detective, I’m still going to go with Harry Hole.

Again, I’ve read a lot of mystery novels, so maybe the plot twists were more obvious from my POV, but was disappointed that around the 30% mark I knew how it was going to go down. That said, for those that enjoy the ride vs. the twists and turns, definitely give this one a chance. While it’s the fourth in a series, I haven’t read the previous novels and found it easy enough to pick up and run with.

On shelves recently, you’ll find it in the new release section of your local bookstore or via Amazon.

xo The Book Bird

First Book of 2014!

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So glad I decided to make this the book I kick off 2014 with Rob Delaney’s Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, it was devoured it in one sitting that was filled with maniacal laughter, snickers, and some other really attractive snorting sounds.

 While I typically stay away from the writings of comedians, Delaney’s book is an entertaining mix of self-deprecating humor, honesty and crazy stories.The chapters are short, slightly abrupt and sometimes start one place and totally end up somewhere else, but you know what? It totally works. Be advised, there is definitely an undercurrent of seriousness- Delaney documents his battles with alcohol addiction and depression. Though the darkness of some of those pages came as a surprise, they added a certain gravitas that made you appreciate Delaney’s humor that much more. My only complaint is that the book was a little on the shorter side- I definitely could have gone a few more rounds.

Available from the New York Public Library or Amazon.com.

xo The Book Bird

 

2014 Reading Resolutions

This year I have set the lofty goal of 80 novels (with a stretch goal of 85). In 2013 I comfortably made it to 80, but keeping in mind we’ve got some big things in store for 2014 (i.e. cross country move…), I think this is a good place to start.

Keeping that in mind, here are my Reading Resolutions of 2014:

  • No books that contain any of the following plot devices: secret children, former high school flames or, a “summer that changed everything.”
  • I will not pick up any best-sellers from the last 10 years that I have not previously felt motivated to read (ugh, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I’m looking at you).
  • If going the historical fiction route, I will try to read something that doesn’t feature Catherine the Great or any of Henry VIII’s wives, sisters, cousins or relatives.
  • Life is too short for books that are not interesting; I will sample before I buy and commit.

What are your 2014 Reading Resolutions? Any good books I should put on my list?

xo The Book Bird