Top Ten Books I Found Through Recs/Hype

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. The prompt was books people keep telling you you must read, but I felt more comfortable listing works I’ve already read for that reason and liked rather than just passing on other recs or books you’ve probably heard the hype about already, anyhow. So, here goes:

Top Ten Books I Found Through Recs/Hype:

1. “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling
-My secret’s been that I actually put this down the first time I tried to read it and only picked them up again for the hype…only to get thoroughly into the fandom.

2. “The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory
-This was lent to me by my mother, who firmly believes that Anne did probably engage in incest with George in order to beget an heir.

3. “The Great, Good Thing” by Roderick Townley
-A friend gifted me this work and I loved its meta style.

4. “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman
-I’m actually not a fan of most of Gaiman’s works, and the synopsis for this book is not something I normally go for, but somehow I really like this one.

5. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
-This one actually had to be recommended to me over years, simply because it’s so hard to explain and the title sounds boring to me, I think.

6. “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones
-One of my happiest author discoveries, I think this was actually thrust upon me by my little sister.

7. “Wee Free Men” by Terry Pratchet
-This is another big author whose works I largely don’t connect with, so I need recommendations to find the ones that I do really enjoy.

8. “Soulless” by Gail Carriger
(Full review here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/soulless-the-parasol-protectorate-series-1/)
-This was another gift from a friend.

9. “Her Royal Spyness” by Rhys Bowen
(Full review here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/her-royal-spyness/)
-A friend literally put this into my hands in a bookstore and I couldn’t put it down.

10. Georgette Heyer books
-This regency romance author I found because a close friend began a reading aloud marathon of them with me, and luckily she wrote enough for me to still be working through them. Examples are:
“The Grand Sophy”: (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/the-grand-sophy/)
“Black Sheep”: (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/regency-romances-best-bickering/)
Frederica,
and for mysteries-
“Behold, Here’s Poison”: (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/behold-heres-poison/)

Well, I guess that rather doubled as my reading secrets blog. So, what are your favorite books discovered through insistent recommendations?

The Grand Sophy

The Grand Sophy

By: Georgette Heyer

(http://www.georgette-heyer.com/)

Harlequin 1950

An historical fiction romance review

 

When fate (and family) toss a monkey, a terrier, and a parrot at your household and the girl who brought them still causes the most havoc, she must be The Grand Sophy.  Accustomed to running her father’s house and being left to her own affairs, Sophy believes that a little resolution is all that’s needed to solve everyone’s problems.  When she puts her powers of resolve, observation, and charm to the task of managing her cousins’ difficulties not a lot goes smoothly.  From illegal debts to romantic kerfuffles, nothing can daunt Miss Sophy Stanton-Lacy.  On the other hand, Sophy’s tactics daunt her acquaintance and infuriate her eldest cousin Charles.

Heyer’s twists and endearingly flawed characterizations keep readers surprised and entertained.  Facing the world through Sophy’s eyes makes obstacles moot and conventions easily manipulated.  Quick tempers add drama and a galloping pace to this family story.  The mistress of meddling, The Grand Sophy brings the regency era to life in a whole new light, and her own story to a rollicking finish that’ll leave you wanting more.  No matter who tells her what to do, or what her temper demands, this is one heroine who isn’t about to let it get her down, or allow her readers to put down this book.

Devil’s Cub

Devil’s Cub

By: Georgette Heyer

http://www.georgette-heyer.com/

Sourcebooks Casablanca 2009

An historical romance fiction review

 

Here I was expecting a cozy, amusing read, and the Devil’s Cub pounced on me.  The locales, characters, and overall tone of this work are not in Heyer’s usual style, starting with the title character.  Georgette Heyer’s never shy of the Bad Boy Mystique, but the Devil’s Cub takes the cake.  And more literally, the girls, the races, and even the winnings in gambling dens, are all taken at the impulse of the Marquis of Vidal.  This restless antihero’s passions set a quick pace for the novel and a fast beat for the heroine’s heart.

Mary Challoner meets the Marquis when he begins paying attention to her more beautiful sister.  A combination of protectiveness, foolishness, and as it turns out tenderness compel Mary to draw the Marquis’ dishonourable intentions to herself.  However, her character is the least well developed of any I’ve read in a Georgette Heyer book.  The interaction between the leads clearly shows why she suits the role of Marchioness of Vidal.  Why the Devil’s Cub found a place in her heart is a mystery that happens before the action, before their interaction, and without any demonstrable connections with Mary’s identity.  There are some facts about her life that suggest reasons for Mary’s partiality (at least to me), but nothing is really explored along these lines.

The really strong characters in this novel are the Marquis’ parents, the Duke and Duchess of Vidal.  As the stars of These Old Shades Justin, the Duke of Avon, and his Leonie put in bold, genuine, and refreshing appearances.  Add in a vivacious cousin with engagement problems and an uncle who’s insulted at being told he’s growing moral, and it keeps the novel pleasant.  Even so, it needs the fast pace and adventure clichés to keep this novel interesting.  The Devil’s Cub has his appeal, but the cub’s mate isn’t really what I’d wish for him, and is certainly not the heroine I expect of Georgette Heyer.

Miss Prattle Says

Escapade

By: Joan Smith

http://www.belgravehouse.com/bookstore/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1009

Fawcett Crest Book 1977

A historical fiction romance review

 

Escapade is a story that would have been titled “Morals and Mores” if Jane Austen had written it.  Puella, nickname Ella, alias Miss Prattle, is a highly unconventional girl.  Uninterested in Almack’s, an aspiring novelist, and unwilling to flirt, Ella’s behavior in society is anything but the norm.  In fact, the only thing convincing her to take note of the haut-ton is her writing job.

On the opposite end of society, the Duke of Clare finds himself at the peak of fashionable affairs.  Nothing unusual ever happens, no matter what folly he tries.  Not even when the notorious gossip columnist starts taking him to task for his foolishness does the Duke of Clare consider change possible.  After all, the richest eligible bachelor in London may do as he likes, no matter what the printed “Miss Prattle Says.”

Smith needs no more than a house party to turn everything around.  The Duke’s unsurprising life gets some spontaneity.  Ella becomes witty in person as well as in the papers.  But no Escapade is truly safe, particularly with Miss Prattle reporting everything to all of London.  Can the Duke and Ella weather everything that lies between them?  More importantly, can their reputations weather the outcome?  It’s anyone’s guess.  The only safe bet in Smith’s book is the Duke of Clare’s mother and her appreciation of Ella: who could possibly not like the person who introduced you to Jane Austen?

This book is wonderfully written.  The relationships are organic; the problems keep you in suspense without getting overdone.  It’s so similar to the style of Georgette Heyer that I misremembered it as hers for awhile.  Smith’s writing edge may lie more in situations and thoughts than in conversation, but the same sharp wit is evident.  Escapade is a quick, absorbing read with a delicious combination of the tart and the sweet.

Behold, Here’s Poison

Behold, Here’s Poison

By: Georgette Heyer

Bantam Books 1973

http://www.georgette-heyer.com/

A historical mystery review

 Behold, Here’s Poison takes readers right to the heart of every murder investigation: family tension.  The Matthews family has lost its tyrannical head.  Heyer lightly leads the way from the bereaved relatives’ realization that they are really all right with Gregory Matthews’ absence to their dawning comprehension that death makes everyone else far more annoying.  It also tends to make neighbors and outside relations both hideously present and far more loathsome.

However painful it clearly is for the family, however, Heyer’s readers are clear to watch the sparring matches, the questionable actions, and the police investigation.  Two bereaved sisters, a theatrical sister-in-law, the artistic nephew, the modern niece, and the “amiable snake” comprise the Matthews’ family.  The local doctor, family friends, and an extra relation or two also appear to pay respects and add to the emotional broth.  Heyer allows the reader to feel a step ahead through most of the book.  The subtle hints and varied remarks-from acid to asinine-guide readers through the twisting plot without being carried along by a cryptic detective.  The detective’s there largely to do the grunt work and draw out clues.  If high suspense or violent actions are your taste in murder mysteries, this is not the book for you.  For keeping investigation skills in practice or enjoying a leisurely look into others’ foibles and trouble, Behold, Here’s Poison is excellent.

Is it possible to see the plot ends before they come together?  Basically yes, but there is certainly enough to discover and piece together to make the journey interesting.  Is it the most satisfying of endings for a mystery novel?  The divulged facts themselves aren’t the most gratifying, but the way Heyer handles her reveal makes up for it.  For a comfortable, rainy day read, or when you want a mystery but know you’ll need to live through breaks, Behold, Here’s Poison offers a good read.

Mysterious Heyer

I haven’t read a great deal of Georgette Heyer’s mysteries.  To be frank, the couple I read before were not encouraging.  Nevertheless, Behold, Here’s Poison sounded like a good time.  I’m taking time out at about the two thirds mark to say: IT IS.  Thus far my favorite sentence is: “He was dressed with the most finicking care, and nothing could have been more symphonic than the blend of his shirt with his silk socks and his expensive tie.”  Note the use of the word “finicking,” which wordpress is currently claiming is not a word (they also have a problem with “wordpress”).  I have for a long time now believed that “finick” should be able to expand and be used in more ways than “finicky.”  This, right here, is evidence my instinct is correct.  For this alone, this book would be delightful.

However, it also has more to recommend it.  There was a fairly meager start where we meet the staff first (not to figure prominently again, it seems), and the victim is already dead.  Then it picks up, and Georgette Heyer is running with it.  There’s less manners and social conventions than normal, but the twists and turns of the detective’s struggle to find answers are actually unexpected.  Even though there’s a lot less urgency than I’ve found in most murder mysteries, Heyer still contrives to make her insinuations and subtle hints pop up in your head with explanation marks:  Well, it wouldn’t have been her!  SUSPICIOUS!!  So, he’s shady!  And so on.  Unlike an Agatha Christie novel where you feel you’re just trying to keep up with Poirot, or making sure to latch onto everything important, Behold, Here’s Poison is a languid read.  You make more of the connections and predictions yourself without feeling you’re constantly behind.  The detective’s there to do the grunt work and draw out clues-the real stuff thus far remains the reader’s.  (I have my money on X turning out to be innocent in order to become romantically involved with Y.)  When I finish I may draw up an official review, but as I’m enjoying it right now, I wanted a finicking ramble about the experience of it.  After all, a good mystery story really is mostly about the middle, as that is where the suspense, and the draw lies.  The ending is obviously essential, but it doesn’t last as long, and so even a disappointing reveal can’t keep something from being a good read once (providing it’s merely disappointing, not awful).

Regency Romance’s Best Bickering

Black Sheep
by: Georgette Heyer (www.georgette-heyer.com)
Sourcebooks Casablanca 2008
An historical fiction review

Miss Abigail Wendover leads a charming life full of high fashion, close friends, and a confidence that enables her to keep her own counsel in the face of both societal and familial objections. Some proud and determinedly proper relatives were Abby’s greatest trial until her beloved niece Fanny fell for the older, controversial Mr. Caverleigh. A chance encounter with this suitor’s uncle Miles sets Abby on her way towards rescuing Fanny, exploring romance, and deciding what rules are really worth caring about.

Possessed of an independent living as well as an independent mind, Abby’s choices lead her beyond the simple struggle between propriety and desire, and into the dilemma over how to select which pressures and thoughts should count towards her decision. The combination of Abby’s insights with her impetuous streak of humor turn her into one of Heyer’s most delightful, fresh, and modern heroines. Between Abby’s mental comments, her banter with the roguish Miles Caverleigh, and Heyer’s masterful use of different points of view, Black Sheep delivers Abby’s story with enough wit and fun to make it sad that there’s less than 300 pages.