Sailing in a Sea of Words

Literature Fanatic. Writer. I tend to lean toward mystery and fiction, but I like to change patterns with the occasional YA or non-fiction book. I hope you enjoy my reviews and they inspire you to read the book yourself!

Book Review: Careless People

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby - Sarah Churchwell

Book: Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of the Great Gatsby

 

Author: Sarah Churchwell

 

Genre: Non-Fiction/Literary Criticism/F.Scott Fitzgerald/Biography

 

Summary: “May one offer in exhibit the year 1922!” exclaimed F. Scott Fitzgerald. “That was the peak of the younger generation, for though the Jazz Age continued, it became less and less an affair of youth.” A hinge point for the carefree American born out of the devastation of the First World War, 1922 was also a year that altered the direction of Fitzgerald’s own life - and the year in which he chose to set his masterwork, The Great Gatsby. The autumn of 1922 found the young novelist at the height of his fame, just twenty-six years old and publishing his fourth book, Tales of the Jazz Age. A spokesman for the nation’s pleasure-hungry youth, Fitzgerald made his home in the glamorous and reckless streets of New York - a city dizzyingly defiant of Prohibition, bursting with the nation’s expanding economy and growing ambitions. Those final incredible months of 1922 were full of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald drinking and partying and quarreling at a frantic pace, all against the backdrop of financial crises, literary milestones, car crashes, and media scandals in the Jazz Age metropolis. That same autumn, a horrific crime engulfed the city and commanded the nation’s attention: a brutal double murder in nearby New Jersey, compounded by a preposterous police investigation and an array of celebrity-hungry suspects. Proclaimed the “crime of the decade”, the Hall-Mills murder case was never definitively resolved and has been almost wholly forgotten today. Yet the enormous impact of this bizarre crime reverberates through The Great Gatsby - a novel that Fitzgerald began planning in the autumn of 1922 and whose plot he ultimately set within that fateful year. Careless People is a unique literary investigation: a thrilling double narrative that reconstructs the farcical inquiry into a gruesome crime, as well as a passionate, scrupulous search for the roots of America’s best-loved novel. Overturning much of the received wisdom of the period, Careless People blends biography and history with lost newspaper accounts, letters, and newly discovered materials. With great wit and insight, acclaimed scholar of American literature Sarah Churchwell constructs a different framework for the novel we know so well, revealing new ways of thinking about the moment and the world that defined Scott Fitzgerald’s most consummate work. Most important, Churchwell offers fresh perspectives on the infamous relationship of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, providing for the first time a detailed account of their life at the end of 1922, when the couple’s legendary existence began to splinter, even as Fitzgerald’s marvelous novel began to emerge. Interweaving the biographical story of the Fitzgeralds with the unfolding investigation into the Hall-Mills case, Careless People is a thrilling combination of literary history and murder mystery, a mesmerizing journey into the dark heart of Jazz Age America. - The Penguin Press, 2013.

 

-read more-

Book Review: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure - William Goldman, Michael Manomivibul

Book: The Princess Bride

 

Author: William Goldman

 

Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Adventure

 

Summary: A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts - The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic. As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini - the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik - the gentle giant; Inigo - the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen - the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate. - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

 

-read more-

Book Review: The Sonnet Lover

The Sonnet Lover - Carol Goodman

Book: The Sonnet Lover

 

Author: Carol Goodman

 

Genre: Fiction/Travel/Shakespeare/University

 

Summary: Did Shakespeare pen a series of passionate sonnets, unknown to modern scholarship, ardently praising a mysterious dark-haired beauty? This tantalizing question is raised in a letter to literature professor Rose Asher. But the letter’s author, Rose’s star pupil, is not telling: a troubled, enigmatic young man, he plunged to his death in front of the college’s entire faculty, an apparent suicide. Determined to find the truth, Rose journeys from New York to Italy, back to the magnificent Tuscan villa where as an undergraduate she first fell in love. La Civetta is a dreamlike place, resplendent with the heady scent of lemon trees and the sunset’s ochre wash across its bricks and cobbles. Once there Rose finds her first love still in residence. Torn between her mission and her rekindled feelings, Rose becomes enmeshed in a treacherous tangle of secrets and scandal. A folio containing what some believe to be one of Shakespeare’s lost sonnets has vanished, and literary immortality awaits whoever finds the manuscript - as do a vast Italian estate and a Hollywood movie deal. Uncertain whom she can trust and where she can turn, Rose races against time and unseen enemies in a bid to find the missing masterpiece. Lush, lyrical, and enthralling, The Sonnet Lover vividly brings to life the Tuscan countryside and the fascinating world of the Renaissance poets. Unmatched in her ability to evoke atmosphere and intrigue, Carol Goodman delivers her most ambitious and satisfying work to date, a seductive novel that skillfully propels its reader headlong to the final suspenseful page. - Ballantine Books, 2007

 

-read more-

Book Review: The Invention of Murder

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime - Judith Flanders

Book: The Invention of Murder

 

Author: Judith Flanders

 

Genre: Nonfiction/Mystery/History of Murder/Victorian England

 

Summary: Murder in the nineteenth century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous, with cold-blooded killings transformed into novels, broadsides, ballads, opera, and melodrama - even into puppet shows and performing dog acts. Detective fiction and the new police force developed in parallel, each imitating the other - the founders of Scotland Yard gave rise to Dickens’s Inspector Bucket, the first fictional police detective, who in turn influenced Sherlock Holmes and, ultimately, even P.D. James and Patricia Cornwell. In this meticulously researched and engrossing book, Judith Flanders retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder, both famous and obscure: from Greenacre, who transported his dismembered fiancee around town by omnibus, to Burke and Hare’s body-snatching business in Edinburgh; from the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, to the tragedy of the murdered Marr family in London’s East End. Through these stories of murder - from the brutal to the pathetic - Flanders builds a rich and multifaceted portrait of Victorian society. With an irresistible cast of swindlers, forgers, and poisoners, the mad, the bad, and the utterly dangerous, The Invention of Murder is both a mesmerizing tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable. - St. Martin’s Press

 

-read more-

Book Review: Garden Princess

Garden Princess - Kristin Kladstrup

Book: Garden Princess

 

Author: Kristin Kladstrup

 

Genre: Children’s Fiction/Fantasy/Royalty/Life Lessons

 

Summary: Princess Adela has always been more than a little unconventional. She would rather work in her garden than find a husband - much to her step-mother’s dismay - and Adela’s version of happily ever after involves traveling the world and collecting rare plant specimens. So when the opportunity arises to attend a garden party thrown by Lady Hortensia, whose beauty is rumored to be rivaled only by the loveliness of her gardens, Adela cannot resist inviting herself, even if it means wearing a too-tight dress and impractical shoes. But the moment Adela sets eyes on Hortensia’s garden, she knows something is amiss. Every single flower is in bloom - in the middle of October! Not only that, but a talking magpie is stealing the guests’ jewels. Is it possible that magic is involved? Can Adela get to the root of the mystery before it’s too late? - Candlewick Press, 2013.

 

-read more-

Book Review: The Perfume Collector

The Perfume Collector - Kathleen Tessaro

Book: The Perfume Collector

 

Author: Kathleen Tessaro

 

Genre: Fiction/Paris/Perfumer/Inheritance/Two Time Lines

 

Summary: London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London’s most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn’t come easily to her - and perhaps never will. Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There’s only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d’Orsey. So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d’Orsey’s story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London. But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva’s past and Grace’s future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be. Illuminating the lives and challenging themes of two fascinating women, The Perfume Collector weaves a haunting, imaginative, and beautifully written tale filled with passion and possibility, heartbreak and hope. - HarperCollins, 2013.

 

-read more-

Book Review: Behind the Scenes at Boston Ballet

Behind the Scenes at Boston Ballet - Christine Temin, Wally Gilbert

Book: Behind the Scenes at Boston Ballet

 

Author: Christine Temin

 

Genre: Non-Fiction/Dance/Ballet

 

Summary: In 1958, a determined suburban dance teacher founded the New England Civic Ballet. Today, that company is known as Boston Ballet - a company that has faced head-on challenges of remaining true to its mission while attracting the audiences and financial support necessary to maintain live performances by these dedicated artists. For centuries, ballet companies have transported audiences beyond the workaday world, one performance at a time. Someone who sees a ballerina perform beautifully in Swan Lake may be impressed, but many who appreciate ballet remain unacquainted with all the logistics of sets, people, and money that must come together for a world-class company to complete a season of performances. Beyond the glare of lights onstage lives a world of physical trainers and fund-raisers, artistic directors and executive boards, and endlessly rehearsing dancers and musicians, all laboring to create memorable performances that inspire, thrill, and entertain. In its relatively short history, Boston Ballet has faced charges of racism; cases of dancer anorexia; a young dancer’s death; and the precipitous, publicly embarrassing departures of one director and one director-elect. The real story, though, lies not in these occasional public incidents but in the daily challenges of preparing and performing a repertory that spans almost two centuries, from La Sylphide (1836) to world premieres created specifically for the company. Boston Ballet’s story highlights the tremendous amount of work and energy applied to each show before the curtain can be raised. In this unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the life of a company, former Boston Globe dance critic Christine Temin and photographer Wally Gilbert present a compelling portrait of Boston Ballet. Their evocative prose and penetrating photography turn the spotlight on all the elements - from toe shoes and costumes to rehearsals and revenue - that come together (or fall apart) in a season. - University Press of Florida, 2009.

 

-read more-

Book Review: The Chaos of Stars

The Chaos of Stars - Kiersten White

Book: The Chaos of Stars

 

Author: Kiersten White

 

Genre: Teen Fiction/Mythology/Romance/Coming of Age

 

Summary: Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up. Of course, when you’re the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that comes with the territory. Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she’s offered the chance to move thousands of miles away, she jumps on it. But as much as Isadora tries to keep her new world and old world apart, she quickly realizes there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. - HarperTeen, 2013.

 

-read more-

Book Review: Crossbones Yard

Crossbones Yard - Kate Rhodes

Book: Crossbones Yard

 

Author: Kate Rhodes

 

Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Fiction

 

Summary: Alice Quentin is a psychologist with some painful family secrets, but she has a good job, a good-looking boyfriend, and excellent coping skills, even when that job includes evaluating a convicted killer who’s about to be released from prison. One of the highlights of her day is going for a nice, long run around her beloved London - it’s impossible to fret or feel guilty about your mother or brother when you’re concentrating on your breathing - until she stumbles upon a dead body at a former graveyard for prostitutes, Crossbones Yard. The dead woman’s wounds are alarmingly similar to the signature style of Ray and Marie Benson, who tortured and killed thirteen women before they were caught and sent to jail. Five of their victims were never found. That was six years ago, and the last thing Alice wants to do is enter the sordid world of the Bensons or anyone like them. But when the police ask for her help in building a psychological profile of the new murderer, she finds that the killer - and the danger to her and the people she cares about - may already be closer than she ever imagined. With gripping suspense and a terrific new heroine, Kate Rhodes’s Crossbones Yard introduces a powerful new voice in crime fiction. - St. Martin’s Press, 2012.

 

-read more-
SPOILER ALERT!

Book Review: Blythewood

Blythewood - Carol Goodman

Book: Blythewood

 

Author: Carol Goodman

 

Genre: Fiction/Teen Fiction/Supernatural/Boarding School/Fantasy

 

Summary: At sixteen, Avaline Hall has already buried her mother, survived a horrific factory fire, and escaped from an insane asylum. Now she’s on her way to Blythewood Academy, the elite boarding school in New York’s mist-shrouded Hudson Valley that her mother attended - and was expelled from. Though she’s afraid her high society classmates won’t accept a factory girl in their midst, Ava is desperate to unravel her family’s murky past, discover the identity of the father she’s never known, and perhaps finally understand her mother’s abrupt suicide. She’s also on the hunt for the identity of the mysterious boy who rescued her from the fire. And she suspects the answers she seeks lie at Blythewood. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark secret of what Blythewood is, and what its students are being trained to do. And the more rigorously Ava digs into the past, the more dangerous her present becomes… Vivid and atmospheric, full of mystery and magic, this romantic page-turner by bestselling author Carol Goodman tells the story of a world on the brink of change and the girl who is the catalyst for it all. - Penguin, 2013.

 

-read more-

Book Review: The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride - Yangsze Choo

Book: The Ghost Bride

 

Author: Yangsze Choo

 

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Supernatural/Coming of Age

 

Summary: Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound. Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, traditional ghost marriages are used to placate restless spirits. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price. After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lims’ handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits, and monstrous bureaucracy - including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets - and the truth about her own family - before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever. - HarperCollins, 2013

 

-read more-

Book Review: Kissing Shakespeare

Kissing Shakespeare - Pamela Mingle

Book: Kissing Shakespeare

 

Author: Pamela Mingle

 

Genre: Fiction/Teen/Time Travel/Historical/Romance

 

Summary: Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood; she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school’s staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide. Fellow cast member Stephen Langford has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks her if she like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he’s a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to sixteenth-century England - the world he’s really from. He wants Miranda to use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare - who is showing alarming signs of taking a very different path in life. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world’s greatest plays will never be written. Miranda isn’t convinced that she’s the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Still, she reluctantly agrees to help. After all, Stephen promises that once Miranda’s part is played, he will return her to the present and she can get on with her “real” life. What Miranda doesn’t bargain for is finding true love … with no acting required. - Random House, 2013.

 

 

 

I picked up this book in Barnes & Noble a year or so ago. I love Shakespeare and the plot pulled me in, so why not? 

 

I did enjoy the book. Miranda is a very tough, no nonsense girl who adapts very well to the situations she is placed in. She is clever, honest, and very “normal”. I liked her and her journey, her “coming of age” so to speak, was explored extremely well. I loved Stephen. He’s a very sassy guy and I loved his wit.

 

The story itself is very easy read. The plot is very straight forward and doesn’t deviate in the slightest. It reminds me of the plot of a Doctor Who episode. You might want to be aware of Shakespeare and his works before reading this. Mingle does make references without explaining them so I would advise brushing up on your Shakespeare. She does, however, explain the clothing and customs of Shakespearean England well so you’re not left in the dark.

 

Mingle is able to balance the multiple plots and keep them entwined in such a way as to not deviate from one so much as to damage the others. There are clear character changes - Miranda at the beginning of the novel is not the same Miranda at the end of the novel. The character development is believable though the romance seems a little forced sometimes.

 

The ending itself, without spoiling anything of course, is very bittersweet and I was so angry at the end! I’ve heard Mingle is making plans for a sequel though so I’m crossing my fingers and hoping! The ending was totally unfair! 

 

Overall, I enjoyed the book very much and it’s a light read. If you’re looking for a feel-good story where there is little to no complicated details, this is a book you’ll have fun with.

 

I give Kissing Shakespeare an A-.

 

~*~

 

Please support the author by buying the book or borrowing it from a friend or a library.

Thanks for reading!

Wicked Autumn - G.M. Malliet

Book: Wicked Autumn

 

Author: G.M. Malliet

 

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/British Mystery/Small Town Murder/Spy

 

Summary: The first in a delightful series set in the bucolic English hamlet of Nether Monkslip, Wicked Autumn stars a handsome and eligible vicar with a shadowy past as a secret agent. Max Tudor has all the village ladies swooning until one of them turns up dead. Perfect reading for Agatha Christie fans, Wicked Autumn is wickedly entertaining and G. M. Malliet is a rising star. - Minotaur Books, 2011.

-read more-
SPOILER ALERT!

Book Review: The One

The One - Kiera Cass

Book: The One

 

Author: Kiera Cass

 

Genre: Fiction/Romance/Dystopia/Rebellion/Futuristic

 

Summary: The time has come for one winner to be crowned. When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown - or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose - and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants. - HarperTeen, 2014

 

-read more-

Book Review: The Selection Stories: The Prince & The Guard

The Selection Stories: The Prince & the Guard - Kiera Cass

Book: The Selection Stories; The Prince & The Guard

 

Author: Kiera Cass

 

Genre: Fiction/Romance/Futuristic/Dystopia/Side Story

 

Summary: Before America Singer was chosen to compete in the Selection… She was in love with a Six named Aspen Leger… And there was another girl in Prince Maxon’s life… Step inside the world of the #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series with these two captivating novellas, available in print for the first time. Also includes additional scenes from The Prince a teaser to The One, a Q&A with author Kiera Cass, and more! - HarperTeen, 2014

 

-read more-

Book Review: The Art of Frozen

The Art of Frozen - Charles Solomon, Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Book: The Art of Frozen

 

Author: Charles Solomon

 

Genre: Non-Fiction, Animation, Art Design, Film, Film Design

 

Summary: In Disney’s Frozen, fearless optimist Anna sets off on an epic journey - teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven - to find her sister, Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom. Taking inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen” and the culture and landscape of Norway, the artists of Frozen have created a dynamic, other-worldly icy setting filled with striking background work and detailed costumes. Featuring stunning artwork from the film’s creation - including sketches, storyboards, colorscripts, and much more - The Art of Frozen is the ultimate behind-the-scenes look at the research and artistry that went into the making of this wintry action-packed adventure. -Chronicle Books, 2013

 

-read more-

Currently reading

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly