Victoria

Daisy Goodwin

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This very readable account of Victoria’s early years is timed to coincide with PBS’ Masterpiece presentation. It hits all the high spots to those familiar with Victoria’s life, adding some imaginary conversations and physical reactions to Albert that hint at Victoria’s sensual appreciation of him as a man. It never hints at how utterly boring her court and her private life were, but instead puts its focus on the joy of being a young queen in love.

The Black Dahlia

James Ellroy

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I heard the author on the radio and bought the book under the misapprehension that it was new. I was surprise to find it was written in 1987. The main character, a police officer, reminds me of the main character in the move LA Confidential, which I enjoy very much. I suspect my enjoyment was due to the casting, for I am a big Russell Crowe fan.

The first half of the book is enjoyable, but the second half bogs down in the deterioration of the two policemen involved in the investigation. It has answers to who killed her, but since it is fiction it is impossible to know whether the killer is someone real or a figment of the author’s imagination.

Defenseless

A. J. Rose

Defenseless

Every book I have read by A. J. Rose is something different. From hard-boiled murder mysteries, to a light-hearted romance, to this story. Kyle and Jesse love one another and are planning a marriage. Jesse’s family is accepting and supportive, Kyle’s family not so much.

Then when they are waiting for their ride to arrive after a Pride event, their life changes forever. Brutally attacked on the street by bigots, Kyle and Jesse attempt to put their shattered lives back together. Attempting to deal with their physical injuries, anger, depression, and shame, the two struggle to cope with their demons. The whole thing culminates in a courtroom drama, as the perpetrators are brought to justice.

With every book. A. J. Rose gets better and better. I look forward to her next.

Coromandel Sea Change

Rumer Godden

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This book was originally published in 1991, but reads as if it were written much earlier. We are not given the time frame in the book, but it feels timeless. It  tells the story of a young couple, Blaise and Mary Browne, who are spending their honeymoon at Patna Hall on the Coromandel coast of Indian.

At the center of the story is Auntie Sanni, owner of the hotel. She gives the sense of having seen it all and accepts everyone as she finds them. Unruffled, she takes everything with a calm sense of someone at peace with herself.

Life is not so unruffled for the young newlyweds. Blaise, in fact, is a bit of a brute. He is completely untouched by the beauty of Indian and resents his young wife’s visceral response to its charm. He especially resents her involvement with a young politician, and gives her grief for her activity in his campaign. Life in Indian can be ugly as well as beautiful, and the Brownes experience both sides.

This lovely story held my attention until the final page. I especially liked the descriptions of the physical beauty of Indian and the variety of people involved in Patna Hall.

Cruising the Library

Melissa Adler

When I was of college age in the early 1970s, a friend was taking a class called ‘Deviant Behavior.’ It explored various groups from homosexuals to the Gray Panthers. I asked her who defined the norm? She looked at me as if I had two heads, and she never really understood the question.

In my asking, though, I had unwittingly placed my finger on the difficulty. If you have the power to define what is ‘normal,’ you have the power to label anything else as deviant. The Library of Congress took it one step further when it came to sexual behavior, pathologizing anything but heterosexual behavior as perverse and deviant.

Subject headings, including homosexuality or fetishm, cross-dressing or drag queens, would be found grouped under the head of paraphilias, a medical term used by psychiatrists to label deviant behavior. Even literary works, which had nothing to do with medicine were classified there. The books themselves might be kept in the Delta Collection, with access limited to law-enforcement personnel or legislators involved in obscenity laws.

The power of an organization such as the Library of Congress is explored. The struggles of people, ordinary people, living ordinary lives accepted today as ‘normal,’ to be accepted by the Library of Congress, make up the bulk of this fascinating and readable book.

 

Faro’s Daughter

Georgette Heyer

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About five years ago, I made one of the best purchases. Georgette Heyer’s books became available for Kindle for $1.99 each. I don’t care for her historicals or her mysteries, but her Regency and Georgian romances are the best, so I bought 27 of them. Some titles I had already purchased for $8.99 or $9.99 so this was quite a bargain. I’ve been reading Heyer since high school and never tire of her stories. This one was new to me, and I found it delightful.

The ending was a little abrupt, with the hero clasping the heroine in his arms, and her melting all over him. She didn’t really do a good job laying a foundation for this climax, and it seemed a little rushed and too pat, but the rest of the book was good enough for me to overlook it. That being said, this is not one of my favorite Heyer romances, and it will be a long time until it gets a reread. I’m sure I’ll be rereading These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub long before this one. Still, it was nice to discover a Heyer I hadn’t read before.

Delights and Prejudices

James Beard

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This book, written in 1964, hasn’t aged well. As a memoir with recipes, it fulfills neither of its functions very well. His memories of his mother, who introduced him to great cooking and set him on his way, are interrupted by rambling accounts of his travels and later experiences as a chef and writer. The recipes are dated and the memoir is unsatisfying. I know James Beard’s place in the pantheon is cook is secure, but this book made me wonder why.

Brittania Mews

Margery Sharp

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This delightful story, written in 1946, is as fresh and entertaining today as when it was written. The life story of Adelaide Culver is intertwined with the progress of the Mews from horse stable to fashionable address from Victorian times to post-war Britain. Through it all, fiercely independent Adelaide makes her own way, from young girl to elderly women without fear or favor of anyone.

Margery Sharp is a treasure.

A Moveable Feast

Ernest Hemingway

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Paris in the 1920s was a magical time for Hemingway. He and his first wife Hadley lived very frugally, but his lack of cash was more than compensated for by the richness of the people who moved through his life: Sylvia Beach, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, were just some of the people Hemingway interacted with.

This classic made Paris seem the romantic ideal for starving artists. It is a nostalgic look back at a time gone forever, but is not sentimental. A lovely look at at lovely time in an artist’s live.