Book review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of three brothers: Lowell, Fern and Rosemary – the narrator herself.

First at all, the writer since the beginning of the book employs a different way of writing:

“I’ve told you the middle of my story now. I’ve told you the end of the beginning and I’ve told you the beginning of the end.”

This could give an impression of a confuse narrative but the produced effect is extremely opposed of this first thought.

By the middle of the book, Rosemary starts to feel the regretful loss of her sister Fern who simply vanished without any further explanation.

On the other hand, her brother starts to be involved with the “Animal Liberation Front” and as consequence, he is persecuted by the FBI.

“Anyone can join the ALF. In fact, anyone involved in the liberation of animals, anyone who physically interferes with their exploration and abuse, is automatically a member so long as the action takes place according to ALF guidelines.”

In the meantime, their mother goes into a deep depression process.

In order to avoid spoilers, I will stop to describe the plot here.

And why did I give 5 stars to this book?

For many reasons:

1. the writer uses in a magnificent way since the narrative flows naturally even if it is taken in different periods of the characters’ lives.

2. the subject of this book is quite actual and extremely relevant in my opinion. The animal’s abuse by drug and cosmetic companies have been extremely debated and quarreled nowadays. Brutal acts against animals such as slaughterhouses can not be tolerated any longer.

Which is the reader who can confess that he/she managed to contain his/hers tears after reading the book “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell? I couldn’t!!

If you want to learn what happened with Fern, you must read the book. Not only for this reason but due also the arguments above described.

I haven’ read the other nominees for the Man Booker Prize 2014 but since this book is already listed in the short list, I do hope this book will get this award.

Book review: The Tudor Vendetta by C.W. Gortner

The Tudor Vendetta (The Spymaster Chronicles, #3)The Tudor Vendetta by C.W. Gortner

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

This is the third book of the series “The Spymaster Chronicles”.

Even if I have only read the first book of this series, I was able to follow the plot of the present book.

Brendan Prescott, the queen’s man who was trained by Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster and his beloved Kate, are in charge to find the hiding-place of Lady Parry, her favored lady in waiting.

Seventeenth-century engraving of Queen Elizabeth with William Cecil (left) and Francis Walsingham (right)

Blanche Parry was Elizabeth’s servant since her birth and apparently attended her in the Tower of London before her crowning.

The Tomb of Blanche Parry, Bacton Church. Copyright © Terry Richardson

Even if the Queen suffers an attempt of poisoning, Prescott and Katie travel to Vaughn Hall, a sea-side manor in order to accomplish their mission.

The book is fast-paced and the author always performs an extensive and careful historical research work which keeps the reader’s interest in the narrative.

A true masterpiece for all historical mystery fans.

4* The Secret Lion
5* The Last Queen
5* The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
3* The Tudor Vendetta
TR The Queen’s Vow
TR Mademoiselle Chanel

Book review: Kenilworth by Walter Scott

KenilworthKenilworth by Walter Scott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Free download available at eBooks@Adelaide.

Due to the Scottish Independence Referendum, which occurred in Sept. 18, I decided to read a couple of books written by two great Scottish writers: The Master of Ballantrae (see my review here) by Robert L. Stevenson and the present book.

The love affair between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, is very well-known and has been described in several books.

However the role played by Amy Robsart, Dudley’s wife, into this plot was never put in a first plan, on the contrary.

The Kenilworth Castle – Dudley’s castle to which the tittle refers played an important historical role, from the Siege of Kenilworth in 1266 to the scene of the removal of Edward II from the English throne.

Even if this book has some historical inaccuracies, such as the circumstances of Amy Robsart’s death as well as the real date of her death (Sept. 8, 1560), Scott manages quite well to write a masterpiece on this historical period.

Two TV series were made based on this book: Kenilworth (1957– ) and Kenilworth (1967– ) with Jeremy Brett, John Bryans, John Fraser.

4* Rob Roy
3* The Heart of Mid-Lothian
4* Ivanhoe
3* Waverley
4* The Fair Maid of Perth
4* The Bride of Lammermoor
$* Kenilworth
TR The Monastery
TR The Pirate
TR The Waverly Novels: Anne of Geierstein
TR The Two Drovers
TR The Antiquary
TR The Lady of the Lake
TR The Talisman

Book review: The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter’s Tale by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's TaleThe Master of Ballantrae: A Winter’s Tale by Robert Louis Stevenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Free download available at eBooks@Adelaide.

This book is being discussed by the 19th Century Literature Yahoo Group.

This is the story of two brothers set during & after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, often referred to as “the Forty-five”, in Scotland, India & America.

An incident in the rebellion of 1746, by David Morier

The narrator of this book is done by Mackellar, the loyal steward to the Durie of Durisdeer family, which consists of an old lord and this two sons – James, the Master of Ballantrae, and Henry. Another relative, Miss Alison Graeme, also lives with the family.

The two brothers have opposite trends: James supports Bonnie Prince Charlie and goes and fights for the Jacobites while Henry stays at home to keep favor of King George II. In this way, whichever side wins, the family’s estate will be preserved.

Once the Rising fails, the Master is reported dead and Henry becomes the heir of the estate. Living without glory brings no happiness to the surviving brother.

The End of the ‘Forty Five’ Rebellion – William Brasse Hole’s original etching, “The End of the ‘Forty Five’ Rebellion” depicts the final chapter of the 1745 Highland Rebellion led by Prince Charles Edward and the retreat of his defeated troops. Fatigue, hunger and despair accompany the wounded troops.

However, a turmoil in the story will happen once Coronel Francis Burke arrives bringing letters from the Master.

In order to avoid spoilers, I will stop my review here.

A movie was made based on this book: The Master of Ballantrae (1953), with Errol Flynn, Roger Livesey, Anthony Steel as well as three TV series: The Master of Ballantrae (1962– ); The Master of Ballantrae (1975– ); and The Master of Ballantrae (1984).

For those interested in reading a biography about the author, there are at least two interesting books on this subject: Fanny Stevenson: A Romance of Destiny (1993) by Alexandra Lapierre and Under the Wide and Starry Sky (2013) by Nancy Horan, see my review here.

However, it should be noticed that both books are fictionalized biographies. For a complete list of RLS’s biographies, please visit the author’s website.

The Battle of Culloden in fiction:

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon.

The Jacobite Trilogy by D.K. Broster.

Waverley by Walter Scott.

The Scottish Thistle by Cindy Vallar.

Culloden by John Prebble.

Book review: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

The Children ActThe Children Act by Ian McEwan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – Book at Bedtime:
Ian McEwan’s powerful story about faith, love and the law and about the welfare of children and the duty of those who care for them. Read by Juliet Stevenson. Abridged by Sally Marmion.

Juliet Stevenson begins Ian McEwan’s powerful and haunting new novel, The Children Act – a story about faith, love and the Law and about the welfare of children and the duty of those who care for them.

Fiona Maye is an esteemed High Court Judge presiding over cases in the Family Court and admired for her ‘godly distance and devilish understanding’. But beneath her professional composure, her happy marriage of thirty years is suddenly in trouble and a recent case has caused her heartache. Now she faces a life or death decision.

For religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy is refusing life-saving treatment, and his devout parents support his wishes. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? What really lies in the boy’s best interests?

This story did not convince me, specially after I have read many other books by this author.

NYTimes review.

4* Amsterdam
4* Black Dogs
3* Enduring Love
5* Atonement
3* The Innocent
3* Saturday
3* On Chesil Beach
3* Sweet Tooth
2* The Children Act
TR The Cement Garden

Book review: The Crossword Murder by Nero Blanc

The Crossword Murder (Crossword Mysteries, #1)The Crossword Murder by Nero Blanc

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

This is the first book of the Crossword Mysteries written by the couple of writers Cordelia Frances Biddle and Steve Zettler.

The idea used by the authors by making use of the puzzle word is not so original by considering the books written by Herbert Resnicow.

Being a puzzle’s user, I found the proposed puzzles quite confusing once they are used to solve the mystery plot.

A few words a bout the plot itself: Thomas C. Briephs is a rich crossword puzzle editor whose private life is subjected to a constant blackmail.

After his murder, his mother asks the Greek-American private deceptive Rosco to held the investigation.

Through the crossword puzzles, Rosco tries to find some clues to the murder and tries to find out how Annabella Graham, the crossword of another Newcastle paper, could be possible involved in Thomas’ murder.

The narrative is richly filled by dialogues but the authors don’t manage to keep a high level of suspense, on the contrary.

The proposed puzzles are quite confused and it seems they were made by amateurs since they don’t follow the traditional way of make a crossword puzzle.

Book review: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All ThingsThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of Henry Whitakker and his daughter Alma.

Henry is a British autodidact botanist who tries to surpass his competitors which work at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.

In order to find new horizons, he decides to move to America where he becomes a healthy and successful botanist in Philadelphia due to the selling of the Peruvian roots which were used to treat malaria at that time. He builds a magnificent house in a huge propriety where he starts to build his own gardens with plenty of glass-houses.

Alma is his only daughter who survived at the countless miscarriages of her mother Beatrix. By moving to America, the married couple decided to bring their own Dutch governess.

By telling the tale of the life of a woman botanist in the 18th century, the author keeps the reader’s interest even if in the middle of the book the narratives becomes a little bit boring.

Alma becomes fascinated by the mosses and she writes two books on this subject. She falls in love by a younger man, Ambrose Pike, who paints orchids and he will make a real turmoil in Alma’s life.

In order to overcome a disastrous marriage, he moves to Tahiti where he will die.

After her loss, Alma decides to donate her inheritance to her adopted sister and decides to travel to Tahiti in order to understand the final and tragical life of her husband.

By returning to Holland, he finds out the Darwin’s evolutionist theory with many resemblances with her own observations and she shares her old age with sharing her knowledge with another nature’s scientist.

A beautiful and engaging story even if sometimes the narratives extends beyond count. Sometimes we have the impression that the author will engage in a romantic story but the author manages to move back to the historical fiction.


An interesting article just came up: The Gardens of Their Dreams by Robin Lane Fox.