Tag Archives: Patricia Wentworth

Series Obsession: Mad for Maisie

22nd March 2012

You guys know I have a tendency to gush about my favorite series, right? I mean, I wouldn’t leave you alone about Miss Silver and only haven’t blogged about her because my habit was getting pricey. Then there’s the Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series that I devoured. Then I discovered Bess Crawford, the series by Charles Todd (which I will tell you about next week), and I read all the books in that series in a weekend. So yeah. I love a good series.

I first discovered Maisie Dobbs in Target many moons ago. Now I know some people swear by the book selection at their Target, but I was never all that impressed with ours. Plus, if I’m going to buy a book, I’m going straight to Barnes & Noble, our only bookstore in this area. However, Target is one of those places I go when I need a pick-me-up. It’s so cheery. And what better way to put a bounce in your step than to buy a new book? That was probably 7 or 8 years ago, and I read Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear. The novel stuck with me because of Maisie.

Can I gush?

Maisie Dobbs is a grown-up Nancy Drew, except she’s not privileged like Nancy, though she does run around in a spiffy little MG, and honey, I loved me some Nancy Drew. We’re talking lights-out-read-under-the covers-in-the-dark kind of love. I’d pretend I was asleep when my mom came in and reminded me (knowing I was awake) that I would ruin my eyes reading in the dark. I loved Nancy because she was afraid of a lot, but she did what she had to do anyway.

That’s Maisie. Except instead of being scared of noises made by peacocks, Maisie’s dodging shrapnel. Let me explain…

Maisie goes to work as a domestic for Lady Rowan when she’s young because her mother has died, and her father isn’t bringing in all that much money. Maisie is devastated to leave her father, but she knows a job is necessary, and the Comptons have quite a library. Used to early hours, Maisie begins getting up very early to read in the library until the Comptons come in very early and catch her, tucked away with a book. Lady Rowan, spying the intellect in the young girl, puts her through school where Maisie excels until she joins up as a nursing sister during World War I. After these experiences, which leave her scarred both mentally and physically, Maisie returns to school and trains with Dr. Maurice Blanche, an eccentric man who mentors Maisie in psychology and the human spirit.

Can we also talk about my obsession with World War I?

There is something undeniably interesting about this time period, and I didn’t need the Downton Abbey craze to tell me that. In part, I think it’s because the role of women changed so much during and after this war that it left an indelible mark on society. Maisie is a perfect example of that: she starts her own business as “psychologist and investigator” – with a male assistant, Billy. Her cases inevitably lead both her and Billy back into their wartime experiences in an England still catching its breath after the atrocities of war. It’s an incredibly unique perspective.

Anyway, Jacqueline Winspear will be in Houston at Murder by the Book next Wednesday, and I so wish I could go. It starts at 6:30 p.m., the same time I tutor two men for the TOEFL test. If you’re anywhere near there, make sure you head over. The newest book Elegy for Eddie comes out next week as well, and I may have to suck in and spend full price for the hardback. Or, maybe it will be a bit less for the ebook. We. Shall. See.

In the meantime, if you have a Nook and want to read the first book in the series Maisie Dobbs, definitely let me know. We’ll do the whole share thing, and you can borrow it! This series doesn’t have to be read in order, but there is a definite character progression. If you want more info on each individual book, TLC Book Tours is having Maisie March, and there are tons of blogs participating with reviews for all the books. Check it out here at the TLC Books website.

Buy the books from Indiebound or for your Nook.

 

Reading the old year out…

31st December 2011

And I must say, I’m not at all sad to see the back end of 2011. It was a very tumultuous year, and I am very happy to be ringing in a new year this evening with a mini-readathon cooked up by two other bloggers (Becky and Tasha) and myself. There will be champagne, so in the infinite wisdom and singing voice of Bing Crosby, let’s start the new year right.

But. Before we get to that, I wanted to do a year end post. As of midnight on December 30, I have read 121 books. Of these, 46 were written by men and 75 written by women (wow!); 109 fiction and 12 nonfiction. This year I read 9 audiobooks, and considering I read none last year, that’s quite a jump. Also, just so you can see my habits, 42 of these books came from the publisher/author/publicist, but I bought 52 and checked out 26 from the library, a pretty decent statistic. Now down to brass tacks….

Least favorite books of the year: Let’s just get this one out of the way. I only really disliked two books this year, and if you’ve been around for a bit, you can probably guess the first one: The Magicians by Lev Grossman. The other I just finished this morning: Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron. I’ll put up a review next week with details. Suffice it to say, memoirs are tricky.

Best New-to-Me Series: Well, obviously I love the Patricia Wentworth Miss Silver books, but seeing as they were written in the last century, I won’t call them new. If you’re looking for a vintage mystery, give these a go. Also consider joining me for Miss Silver Saturdays through 2012.

Best New Series: I just finished Discovery of Witches and am pretty much in love with it. I can’t wait for the next one. Many compare it to Twilight, but for me, it was much more reminiscent of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I loved it!

Funniest Book: Hands down, Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. In fact, this is a book that I plan to re-read soon, I liked it that much. Definitely keep an eye out for debut author Matt Norman.

Best Dark Comedy: Funny Man by John Warner. I’m really surprised this book hasn’t gotten more attention, as I think it’s pretty genius in a lot of ways. I’m really eager to see what else Warner writes.

Book that Made Me Think Rainbow Rowell stole my life and wrote about it: Attachments. Runner up for funniest book of the year, it was just so perfectly me. Sadly, many other bloggers have said the same thing, so obviously I ain’t anything special. Distinctive? Pshaw.

Book That Seriously Creeped Me Out and Blew My Mind: The Magus by John Fowles. Review next week, and boy howdy, what a book. Thanks so much to Sean at Read Heavily for the gift.

Best Middle Grade Book: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. Absolute fun and super smart. Reminds me of books written when I was young.

Book that Made Me Cry: Thankfully there were only two of these this year (one sparked this post about crying in reading). The other is A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead. This is nonfiction and about the women of the French Resistance. It’s incredibly moving to see just how much the human spirit can endure.

Most Beautiful Book: The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock. This is physically just a beautiful, beautiful specimen of a book. The cover art, the inside art, the paper. It’s technically the biography of a woman artist, but it’s so much more than that.

Biggest Surprise: Ian Fleming’s Bond series. Yes, he can be a misogynistic, slightly-racist ass, but damn, these books are good. If you think you know Bond from the films, think again and join Lit Housewife’s Shaken Not Stirred challenge. You won’t be disappointed.

~and last but not least~

Best Book of 2011: Galore by Michael Crummey. I read this book in April, but it will not leave me. The story is timeless, the writing superb. If you haven’t read it, make sure you add it to your list for the new year. I compare it to East of Eden by Steinbeck and House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. One of my favorite passages from the book is below:

~Watching Judah emerge from the whale’s guts, King-me felt the widow was birthing everything he despised in the country, laying it out before him like a taunt. Irish nor English, Jerseyman nor bushborn nor savage, not Roman or Episcopalian or apostate, Judah was the wilderness on two legs, mute and unknowable, a blankness that could drown a man.

So that’s my list. I wish you all the best in 2012 and hope to see you back here. Thank you all for reading, commenting, emailing, etc. I so enjoy your company.

And on that note, what was your favorite book this year?

Out of Print Love

16th November 2011

I am not particularly interested in bookish news as, no doubt, you’ve noticed around these parts. However, The Millions often has some great articles and snippets, such as this little jewel.  Apparently Norton has a redesign of the Jeeves’ books, and they’re really delightful.

Very Good, Jeeves!

 Designer: Lilli Carre

The Inimitable Jeeves

 Designer: Jonathan Bartlett

Just Enough Jeeves
Designer: John Hendrix
The first two are my favorites, but the last is fun as well. Then, of course, there are also the beautiful covers on the Patricia Wentworth books, produced digitally by Open Road Media, proving ebook covers can certainly be lovely:

Though I am not normally a fan of covers with only partial body parts of women, I am also not a fan of full photos of people on the covers. I find it takes away from my own depiction of the characters. [Cue the “picky” jokes.] These, though, are well designed, and I love the image of London behind the title.

So. Have you come across any fantastic redesigns or out-of-print books being reprinted? I’d love to see them.

Miss Silver Saturday: The Benevent Treasure

12th November 2011

Candida Sayle has one incredibly memorable event as a young girl. Invited to the coast with a friend’s family but arriving before them, she asks about the tide. Two elderly women note her name and tell her the tide will not rise until 11 p.m. She walks upon the beach, only to be stuck on the cliff side when the tide begins to rise much earlier. Fearing death, she calls out for a time.  Stephen Eversly happens to hear her and pulls her up to safety, though they cannot get back to the inn until the next morning. Much her senior, he protectively holds her until dawn.

This is one of the best openings to a book I’ve read in a long time, and though this particular motif (young woman stuck on the side of a cliff in danger of drowning) returns in several Wentworth books, it’s particularly effective here. Plus, it’s incredibly romantic, and I was so sad that it appeared Stephen and Candida would never meet again.

But five years later, a lot has changed.The last of Candida’s relations has died, and she has no options until two great-aunts reach out, past a family dispute, to ask Candida to visit. Eccentric and co-dependent, the Misses Cara and Olivia Benevent make Candida uncomfortable, especially after she has a dream that these two women were the same who nearly drew her to her death on the coast five years earlier. As Candida sees more of her aunts and learns of the Benevent Treasure and its terrible curse, she becomes more and more afraid of the Benevent home and family.

As usual with a Miss Silver book, the star here is not Maud Silver. Instead, Wentworth writes a novel of characters: Candida, an innocent but intelligent young woman. Olivia Benevent, who I swear is very similar in demeanor to Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca. Cara Benevent, a poor soul who only wants love but who has been browbeaten by Olivia for so many years, she is withdrawn and skittish.

Miss Silver comes in – only when called and takes charge of the situation, knitting needles in hand, rising to the occasion in the final pages of the book. If you haven’t read Miss Silver yet, don’t let the knitting needles deter you. Yes, she knits with them, but mostly she uses them as a way to disarm her clients, who are usually hesitant to talk to her, whether it’s because they feel silly or that they shouldn’t discuss family business with a stranger.

Read this: and be prepared to be drawn into the wilds of England with missing secretaries, a mysterious legend, and a healthy dose of romance.

P.S. If anyone decides to take up the Miss Silver series, let me know. I’d love to read in tandem or include your posts for Miss Silver Saturdays.

Obsession…You’re My Obsession

10th October 2011

First, a little 80s fun for your Monday morning. Because side ponies, elves, and gladiators are so hot.

But my obsession? I blogged about it last week. Patricia Wentworth. Ever since I read Grey Mask, that is literally all I want to read. More Miss Silver! I’ve been holding off buying any more because I have so much other – really great – stuff to read. But I just can’t. I want to read them now.

As I’m writing this, it’s Sunday evening and raining, so I think I’ll indulge. Then maybe I can move on to something else.

Have you ever been that sucked in by a new series? Or am I as crazy as the people in that music video?