January Book Haul

The “original” meme (I don’t know if this was the very first one – thus the quotation marks), In My Mailbox, was created by The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie. Right now Kristi from The Story Siren is hosting In My Mailbox, plus other bloggers are hosting similar memes with different names. I don’t know who’s hosting Book Haul, though, or who started it.

January Book Haul - 1January Book Haul - 2January Book Haul - more Agatha Christie

  • Watch for Me by Moonlight (The Midnight Twins #3) by Jacquelyn Mitchard
  • Lincoln (Narratives of Empire #2 / stand-alone) by Gore Vidal
  • Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7) by Patricia Briggs
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • not on the photo: Daylighters (The Morganville Vampires #15) by Rachel Caine

I never thought I’d actually have Watch for Me by Moonlight in my hands! Squee!! I totally squeeled with glee when I got the package – I’d ordered it about three weeks ago, via Amazon, from a bookshop in Philadelphia, PA, USA. It was kind of ridiculous how easy it was. And now I can finally read the conclusion to The Midnight Twins trilogy. *happy, happy sigh*

Lincoln and Gone With the Wind weren’t planned kids, so to speak.  But when I went to a bookstore to buy textbooks, o’ how could I resist thee? I went to the English Bookshop for a quick browse and found Lincoln in the bargain bin – for 5 EUR. And maybe in my subconscious I was in the Civil War era, because my eyes fell on the name plate Mitchell, so I looked for Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind. It’s one of my mom’s most impressive reads of her life, although having read it as a teenanger probably played a role as well.

I have already read Frost Burned, and while I still believe that the peak of the series was Bone Crossed, I still love the characters very much. I do wish Mary Jo, Honey and Aurielle will finally muster up some respect for Mercy, though. (Mostly referring to the excerpt of Night Broken at the back of my mass market paperback copy, which arrived two weeks earlier than the official U.S. release date, woo hoo!)

Then I got some (!) Agatha Christie books from my sister because, in her words, “they distract [her]”.

  • Death on the Nile
  • Blausäure (Sparkling Cyanide)
  • Das Eulenhaus (The Hollow)
  • Der Wachsblumenstrauss (After the Funeral)
  • Murder in Mesopotamia
  • The Murder in the Vicarge
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Peril at End House
  • Lord Edgware Dies
  • Miss Marple and Mystery: Over 50 Stories (which has all stories from Thirteen Problems aka The Tuesday Club Murders)

The blue book inbetween is Zwei Prager Geschichten by Rainer Maria Rilke.

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Classics Club Challenge (2)

It’s time for another update… although there isn’t much to update on.

I haven’t read a word of David Copperfield since my last update, which was more than a month ago.

Similar is my progress within Emma by Jane Austen. I’m around Chapter 14, and in the previous chapter, finally someone (John Knightley) has told Emma that Mr. Elton is wooing her, not Harriet. And what does Emma do? Laugh it off, of course. Argh.

The Classics Club’s theme of month is Shakespeare, and while I had envisioning researching & writing a blog post about each month’s theme, I quickly realized that I just didn’t have the time, energy or motivation for it. So I’m trying to read one Shakespeare play in January, and that’s Measure for Measure. I read the introduction to the play before reading the actual play, and it was very fascinating. I even started highlighting passages and words, which I NEVER do – until now. (Textbooks are another matter. Shh.)

“[…] Our natures do pursue,
Like rats that ravin down their proper bane,
A thirsty evil; and when we drink, we die.”

(Act I, Scene 2, lines 117 – 119)

I actually don’t really understand the imagery in line 118, but it has struck something in me when I read it – so here it is.

Book Review: A Spy in the House (Y. S. Lee)

A Spy in the HouseTitle: A Spy in the House
Series: The Agency #1
Author: Y. S. Lee
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication year: 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction; Victorian-era
Rating: 4/5

Sentenced as a thief at the age of twelve, Mary Quinn is rescued from the gallows and taken to Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. There, Mary acquires a singular education, fine manners, and a surprising opportunity. The school is the cover for the Agency – a top secret corps of female investigators with a reputation for results – and at seventeen, Mary’s about to join their ranks. She must work in the guise of a lady’s companion to infiltrate a rich merchant’s home with hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the Thorold household is full of dangerous secrets, and people are not what they seem – least of all Mary.
(from the blurb – because it’s a well-written one and I’m too tired to think)

I remember reading A Spy in the House for the first time about two and a half years ago and being slightly thwarted by terms like “drawing-room”, “lady’s maid”, “skivvy”, “footmen”, “Lascar”, etc. Thanks to my education in British upper-class society through Downton Abbey, I was able to put the story into a richer context the second time around.
The year is 1858, and the author has actually Ph.D. in Victorian literature and culture, so her description of the Victorian society Mary lives in is not only vivid but also accurate – I suppose. The setting is London, and the Great Stink of Thames makes it not the most romantic stage – and it’s not meant to.

The story is not just one of detective story. I rather found the underlining sub-plots more interesting: gender roles, women’s positions in the society (even James Easton undermines Mary’s ability every now and then although he has seen firsthand what she can do), the gap between the employers and employees, the trade with India, Chinamen and the discriminations they have to face. These finer points are emphasized and brought to life through Miss Thorold’s restlessness with her life without even consciously realizing it, through men’s comments on women and “what they are supposed to do” (shop and admire wedding dresses, if you are a middle class girl, apparently), through the life of the scullery maid, Cass, through Mary’s conversation with Mr. Chen (that had a personal touch to it – at least to me), and more.

The investigation itself is rather slow-going, but it is fueled by the assistance of one James Easton, a character you will soon meet – about 50 pages into the novel. As I have mentioned before, James did frustrate me sometimes with his careless remarks but I did enjoy his and Mary’s easy banter. James Easton is a character that is easy to like although he can be pig-headed, because he does not dismiss the notion that women can be as intelligent and sharp as men. The difference between him and the “normal” behavior of a Victorian gentleman is shown in the scene where he, his brother, Miss Thorold and Mary discuss the Crimean War. Miss Thorold plays the “typical” (I assume) role of a clueless Victorian middle-class girl while George Easton is indignant at Mary having an actual opinion on such matters as wars. James is not fazed though, and continues to debate the matter with Mary, each provoking the other.

The language the author employs is a little hesitant and simple at first, even a bit repetitive. It gets better as the story progresses, creating a mix of Victorian terms and expressions and modern language to help the readers’ understanding.

All in all, the book started out as a 3.5 and progressed into a solid 4, and if you like historical fiction and/or interested in the Victorian era and women’s positions and the opportunities they had (or the lack thereof), A Spy in the House is for you.
To the readers who have already read this book: I’m happy to inform you that the few loose ends in the book are wrapped up in the upcoming final book of the series, Rivals in the City.

2014 resolutions – reading

Based on my 2013 reading statistics, here are my 2014 reading resolutions:

1. Read at least 10 non-fictions.
2. Read at least 15 books written by male authors / that are narrated by male characters.
3. Read more ebooks.
4. Read at least 10 classics. (esp. for Classics Club Challenge…)
5. Read at least 15 books that have LGBTQQIA as main characters.
6. Read at least 3 books on/about paganism.
7. Review at least 15% of the books you read in 2014 (re-reads included).
8. the-books-to-read-in-2014 include:

  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (2014-release)
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  • TBA (Study #4) by Maria V. Snyder
  • Unwind (Unwind#1) by Neal Shusterman
  • The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (2014-release)
  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King (2014-release)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
  • Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger
  • Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7) by Patricia Briggs