Monday, September 20, 2010

But First! A review of Bellfield Hall by Anna Dean

Bellfield Hall (Anna Dean) was one of the books I received as a birthday gift from my mother in law; it came highly recommended by AustenBlog. It is a mystery set in the Regency period, intended to appeal to fans of Jane Austen. I had started reading it back in March but then got my Kindle right around the same time, and spent the next several months dissing my pile of actual books. So Bellfield Hall languished till I picked it up again yesterday afternoon (I needed a palette cleanser after reading two ridiculous faerie-related young adult novels in a row) and spent the rest of the day reading it.
Miss Dido Kent (spinster) is visiting her young niece on the occasion of her engagement party when a young woman turns up murdered in the gardens of Bellfield Hall. Dido's inquisitive nature soon has her investigating the murder a la Miss Marple. It quickly becomes obvious that the murder had to have been committed by someone within the house, and a great many secrets held by all present become known to Dido. The mystery is eventually solved and there is an ending satisfactory to most parties involved.
I realize that's not much of a recap -- I fear I would wind up telling half the plot if I got much more involved than that.
The read was definitely an enjoyable one, in the same vein as My Dear Charlotte, which I reviewed a few months ago. I liked our heroine immensely, and the setting was everything I want out of a book that's supposed to make me think about Jane Austen. There were times when the voice stepped a bit out of the boundaries of the historical time period -- the characters made comments now and then that wouldn't have been used at the time. This didn't distract me terribly (I read one review in which the blogger alleges the characters say "stuff" all the time, which I would have noticed, so I'll posit that it was said once and since she didn't like the book anyway, it felt like they said it over and over), especially since the aim of the book was true -- e.g. if you enjoy Jane Austen, historical mysteries, Miss Marple, Agatha Christie, or all of the above, you'll enjoy this book. It's very well-written -- not as lyrical as My Dear Charlotte but not pandering either.
I didn't realize until just this morning that this is actually the second book in an intended series; for some reason I thought this was the first. So of course now I have every intention of reading the first one -- but it's not available in the United States! I hate when that happens. Also it appears the third in the series has also been published in the U.K. Here's hoping it is eventually released here as well.
Honestly? It's not going well with Freedom. I continue to struggle my way through the first chapter, having had promises of sex, drugs, rock and roll, and redemption if I can only stick it out. But thus far, it's just a slog through a swamp of too many words. I can't believe Oprah loves this book so much... then again, this is the same woman who wanted everyone to read William Faulkner a few years back. Personally I think the only time anyone should ever read William Faulkner is as a Lit major in college, under threat of not graduating.
Or maybe that's just me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stay Tuned...

I'm going to read Jonathan Franzen's new book Freedom. And then I'm going to review it here.

Some pre-emptive disclosure is necessary: I hated The Corrections (it was a long, boring book filled with whiny and unlikable people), and Franzen himself seems like a smug asshole (no one thinks you're hip and cool for turning down Oprah, not even my smug asshole hipster friends, dude, so give it a rest already). So I have to be open about the fact that I am going into reading it with copious amounts of negativity. I am expecting to hate it. But the HYPE! I can't get past it. I really have to read this book that's been called "the novel of the century" and that has caused two of my favorite (female) writers to get all up in arms about gender inequity in the literary world.

Granted the century is but 10 years old, and there's plenty of time for something better to come along. However, I maintain that the best book EVER is Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And that book came out in 2001. And won a Pulitzer Prize! So it stands to reason that my vote for the Novel of the Century is already cast.

But anyway. I'm gonna read this thing. I am. The whole thing.

No, really.