The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue (Piu Marie Eatwell, 2015)

dead duke

Why did you choose this book?

With a title like that, why wouldn’t you choose this book?

What’s it about?

In the late 1800s, a woman came forward claiming that her son was the heir to a dukedom.  According to her, the notoriously eccentric 5th duke of Portland (who lived in tunnels underneath his family home) led a double life as TC Druce, owner of a bazaar.  She alleged that the duke faked the death of Druce when he became tired of a second persona, and that if Druce’s grave was opened, no body would be found.  She applied to the courts to open the tomb and, as a result, to prove that her son was the rightful duke, being the 5th duke’s only legitimate male child.  Was she right?

Categories

Nonfiction, history, 1800s England, legal history

Other recommended reads?

Any type of historical cold case would hit the spot, though you have to have a certain taste for the macabre to appreciate this book.

Review

I really enjoyed the first half of the book.  I was intrigued by the premise and was curious to find out whether the Druce grave really held the body.  Compelling evidence was given on both sides, though I won’t give away the conclusion.  I also liked reading about the unusual habits of the 5th duke.  This book isn’t for those who want a light read, however.  It is more legal history than anything else and you need to be prepared for chapters and chapters of details about trials, juries, judges, and testimony.  After the grave was opened, I found the rest of the book anticlimactic and was ready for it to end.  I also thought it was strange that Eatwell gave multiple postscripts to the book and left the second very open-ended.  Not a bad book but not a great one either.

Up next?

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A Curious Beginning (Deanna Raybourn, 2015)

curious beginning

Why did you choose this book?

A historical mystery with a spunky female protagonist!

What’s it about?

Veronica Speedwell is a professional butterfly-hunter interested in all areas of natural history.  She is also an orphan, taken in by a pair of elderly sisters.  After the second sister’s funeral, she returns home to find a burglar.  He threatens her but she is rescued by a German baron, who whisks her away to London, promises to tell her about her family, and deposits her in the warehouse home of a tattooed taxidermist named Stoker.  When the baron is murdered, the two are on the run before either is arrested in connection with the crime.

Categories

Historical mystery, set in London, late 1800s

Other recommended reads?

This is the best historical mystery I’ve read in a while.  Another series set in historic London is the Lucy Campion series by Susanna Calkins, though that series is set much earlier.  If it’s the writing style you like, try Wendy Sand Eckel’s Murder at Barclay Meadow.

Review

I loved this book!  Veronica is a feisty heroine who never takes no for an answer and isn’t afraid to get her Victorian hands dirty.  Stoker is the gruff but intelligent male counterpart along for her adventures.  I love the hint of romantic tension between the pair without being smacked in the face by romance.  I really enjoyed the author’s writing style.  The language was stilted enough to keep the reader in the 1800s, but it was witty and made me chuckle.  It was also easy enough to understand that I didn’t have to think about it, like I do with older authors like Agatha Christie.  I enjoyed this one enough that I will be going back and reading her other series – Lady Julia Gray.  Have you read those?  I don’t know anything about them – so please share your thoughts but no spoilers!

Up next?

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell

 

It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History (Jennifer Wright, 2015)

it ended badly

Why did you choose this book?

I love history and this sounded unlike any type of history I’ve read before.

What’s it about?

Failed romances ranging from ancient Rome to mid-20th century.  Many of these involved famous names I’d heard, but I didn’t know much about the love stories (including Norman Mailer stabbing one of his wives twice at a party).

Categories

Nonfiction, biography, history, miscellaneous, humor

Other recommended reads?

It almost falls more into humor than history.  I’m not sure what else to say about that.  You might like books by Felicia Day, Mindy Kaling or Jenny Lawson if you like this, but I haven’t read those so I can’t say for certain.

Review

I learned about a lot of strange romantic relationships from this book, all of which I didn’t know about previously.  I enjoyed the author’s writing style and sense of humor, but at times I felt that she was trying too hard to be funny or quirky.  I read this while pet sitting and it was the perfect book for short spurts of reading in between taking care of a dog and a puppy and a snake.  One of my favorite captions describes a picture of Louis VII, “Louis wasn’t smart, but he was nice and had a delightful beard, and that’s almost as good.” (p. 29, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II).

Up next?

The Dog Master by W. Bruce Cameron or A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn, whichever I finish first

The Dog Master (W. Bruce Cameron, 2015)

dog master

Why did you choose this book?

I’m a bit obsessed with dogs.  People who know me know that’s an understatement.  This novel deals with the first dog, so I was on it!  I read the first chapter in an issue of BuzzBooks (first chapters of highly anticipated books for the next 6 months or so), and was hooked!

What’s it about?

At this point in prehistory there are several tribes of people: the quiet Frightened, the Wolfen (who take their community organization from wolf packs), the Kindred, the fish-eating Blanc, and the vicious Cohort.  The story follows a Wolfen named Silex, a Kindred named Calli and her son Mal, and a female wolf critically injured in a lion attack while pregnant.

Categories

Historical fiction?  The time period is just “prehistory” but I’ll count that as historical fiction

Other recommended reads? 

Probably other works by this author, though I haven’t read any of his other books

Review

I loved the premise of this book.  I also loved that there was a section dealing with a modern day archaeologist looking for fossil evidence of the first domesticated dog.  I found the process of domestication unbelievably simple in this book, and the structure of the tribes overly complicated.  I’m not sure that the Cohort or Frightened were necessary.  I’m also not sure how these tribes fit into actual prehistory.  I finished the book, but I’m not sure why.  I didn’t care about the plot outcome or any of the characters.

Up next?

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Never Always Sometimes (Adi Alsaid, 2015)

never always sometimes

Why did you choose this book?

I love when books have a premise involving crossing things off to-do lists.

What’s it about?

Prior to entering high school, best friends Dave and Julia created a list of things to avoid over the next four years.  Now that they are seniors, the duo has decided that their next great adventure will be to do each and every one of those things.

Dave has been nursing a crush on Julia throughout high school, but she seems oblivious.  Just as steady, nerdy Dave starts to move on, wild and passionate Julia starts to realize her feelings for him may be stronger than she thought.

Categories

Teen, fiction

Other recommended reads?

This is hard for me, as most of the teen books I read have mystery or fantasy elements.  This one is more just plain fiction.  Some of the characters are similar to John Green characters (particularly Paper Towns), but I don’t think it has the same mysterious elements as the Green books I’ve read.

Review

I love love love Alsaid’s writing style, and the way the characters sound.  They way they talk and think resonated with me and what I remember about my high school years, and their adventures were the kind of thing my friends and I would have done in high school (or at least would have dreamed of doing).  I thought that Julia was a bit over-the-top for me sometimes, kind of like Margo in Paper Towns, but this book has inspired me to read the rest of Alsaid’s novels.

Up next?

It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls (Lynn Weingarten, 2015)

suicide notes

Why did you choose this book?

I read the synopsis somewhere and thought it sounded like an intriguing teen mystery.

What’s it about?

June is shocked and horrified to hear that her best friend, Delia, has died (apparently by suicide).  At first, she accepts it, but over time she becomes convinced that there’s more to the story.  June sets out to investigate.

Categories

Teen

Review (WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS)

At first I was intrigued by the premise of this teen book, thinking it would be a mystery about Delia’s death.  As it continued on, it became less and less plausible.  Apparently, Delia’s stepfather tried to force himself on her, so she decides to run away and fake her own death.  She joins up with a group of other kids who have faked their deaths, and eventually June becomes caught up in the group as well.  I was still hanging on with the book until the teens band together and kill Delia’s stepfather.  Just like in Killing Mr. Griffin (Lois Duncan, 1978), I found this plot device unnecessary and nauseating.  It is never clear if the stepfather is actually the villain or if Delia is just an attention-seeking, dramatic brat.  Even if he was a villain, there are other ways that the ending could have been written to ensure he received his just desserts.  While it’s true that I’m no longer a teen, I read Duncan’s book as a teen and was just as repulsed by this theme then as I am now.   I’m not even going to bother suggesting other recommended reads, because I would never recommend this one.

Up next? 

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Murder at Barclay Meadow (Wendy Sand Eckel, 2015)

barclay meadow

First, a bit of a disclaimer.  I apologize for the super-long delay in posts.  I’m back on blogging after a break over the holidays and some much-needed family time.

Why did you choose this book?

It sounded like an intriguing semi-cozy mystery.  Which it was.  More on that later.

What’s it about?

Rosalie Hart is living in her aunt’s historic home in Eastern Maryland after discovering that her husband cheated on her.  She’s finding it hard to fit into the community, so she joins a memoir-writing class at the local college.  When she finds the body of a teenage girl on her property, she decides to investigate.  With the help of her writing class colleagues, she begins to look into the situation…

Categories

Cozy mystery, mystery

Similar reads?

I’m a lover of most cozy mysteries.  This one doesn’t quite fit that genre for a couple of reasons.  First, the sleuth manages to investigate without the aid of any law enforcement officers (though she does get a couple of clues from the sheriff’s secretary).  Second, there is a little more detail of the gore involved (for example, that the body was bloated and starting to decompose).  That type of information isn’t usually part of a cozy.  That being said, some of my favorite cozies are Virginia Lowell’s Cookie Cutter Shop mysteries and Lucy Arlington’s Novel Idea mysteries.

Review

Overall, a well-structured cozy.  One of my favorite things about cozies is the richness of their language.  I just love the way the authors describe the characters and scenery.  I also really liked the supporting cast of characters and the fact that it was a group of amateur sleuths rather than a solo endeavor.  I wish we’d spent a little more time around the culprit, but I had trouble solving the crime (which is a good sign!).  I’ll definitely be reading the next book in this series!

Next up?

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten.  I know I said last time I’d be doing Mission: Hindenburg but it’s been so long since I read it that I’ll wait and review the next 39 Clues book I do instead.  It’s coming out this spring.