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Aug 29, 2011

Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman
Paperback544 pages, Touchstone
ISBN-13 978-1451623499
Review copy from the publisher, thanks so much!
Burton Book Review Rating: Epic Fun

Emma, a prima ballerina in London, is at a crossroads after an injured knee ruins her career. Forced to rest and take stock of her life, she finds that she’s mistaken fame and achievement for love and fulfillment. Returning home to Australia, she learns of her grandmother Beattie’s death and a strange inheritance: a sheep station in isolated rural Australia. Certain she has been saddled with an irritating burden, Emma prepares to leave for Wildflower Hill to sell the estate.

Beattie also found herself at a crossroads as a young woman, but she was pregnant and unwed. She eventually found success—but only after following an unconventional path that was often dangerous and heartbreaking. Beattie knew the lessons she learned in life would be important to Emma one day, and she wanted to make sure Emma’s heart remained open to love, no matter what life brought. She knew the magic of the Australian wilderness would show Emma the way.
Wildflower Hill is a compelling, atmospheric, and romantic novel about taking risks, starting again, and believing in yourself. It’s about finding out what you really want and discovering that the answer might be not at all what you’d expect.
This is one of those novels that you know from the beginning would be a page-turner, and then when you finish it you wish you hadn't ended your journey (and wish for truly waterproof mascara). Wildflower Hill is a multi-generational story that starts with Beattie as a young girl and ends with Emma, her granddaughter. The two women were seemingly worlds apart, but perhaps after Beattie's death there can be a sense of rebirth with Emma if she could only find the path that Beattie carved out for her.

Beattie's story is sad, sweet, hopeful and horrifying as she deals with ostracization due to having a daughter out of wedlock and for respecting colored people. She is thrown every obstacle society can give her and we get to read of Beattie's journey through her life in bits and pieces through Beattie's eyes, and then a bit more of her mystery through Emma's discoveries. The book transitions to the granddaughter Emma who loses her career as a ballerina after an injury and heads down to Australia to pick through the estate left to her by her grandmother. She uncovers mystery after mystery as she tries to deal with the direction of her own life which she was completely unprepared for after her boyfriend leaves her and her career is over.

There are alot of things going on within the story, from high end society versus the commoner, from neighbor against neighbor and mother versus stepmother. From Scotland, England to Tasmania, Australia..all of it ties together to make Wildflower Hill the epitome of saga material with all those facets of Gone With the Wind type of feel. Love, lust, greed, labor, prejudice, secrets, courage are all underlying themes, but through it all we are waiting for redemption. Aching for it, for both Beattie and Emma. The writing style was fluent and easy to absorb, and the characterizations were pure and simple, and easy to identify with. Beattie was a woman to admire, and maybe Emma wasn't just because she couldn't think outside the box. The development in the plot from point A to B was a thrilling, inspiring, and quite an entertaining journey for me. What more can I ask for? A sequel?

Aug 27, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

Saturday, August 27, 2011
To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken, post it to your blog, and link it up to Alyce's blog At Home With Books.

June 2011

June 2011

Time flies.. summer is almost gone.. taking with it fleeting memories of nature's freedom
Quick .. catch him while you can..
As we prepare for the autumnal changes and wait for the season's majestic hues.

Aug 26, 2011

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

Friday, August 26, 2011
The Map of Time: A Novel by Felix J. Palma
Hardcover: 611 pages
Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (June 28, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1439167397
Review copy provided by Atria, with many, many thanks!
Burton Book Review Rating:Fabulous.

Set in Victorian London with characters real and imagined, The Map of Time boasts a triple-play of intertwined plots in which a skeptical H.G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and thereby save the lives of an aristocrat in love with a murdered prostitute from the past; of a woman bent on fleeing the strictures of Victorian society; and of his very own wife, who may have become a pawn in a 4th-dimensional plot to murder the authors of Dracula, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, in order to alter their identities and steal their fictional creations.  
But, what happens if we change history?  Felix J. Palma raises such questions in The Map of Time. Mingling fictional characters with real ones, Palma weaves a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting, a story full of love and adventure that also pays homage to the roots of science fiction while transporting its readers to a fascinating Victorian London for their own taste of time travel. 

I've always been a non-conformist. So, there are times when books from Oprah's Must-Have list immediately get ignored by me, just because. (Not that this one is on it.. because does Oprah even do that anymore?) I have seen The Map of Time getting some attention here and there, and I must admit that The Map of Time is worthy of whatever accolades come its way. There are quite a few (deserving) gushy blurbs on this book, such as:

"Strange and wonderful. Magical and smart."~M.J. Rose
"Singularly inventive, luscious story with a core of pure, unsettling weirdness."~Cherie Priest

I can't really add more to that except that I heartily agree. Let's just say, I got it. I really got it. And then there are some who won't get it, but I am glad I was one of the lucky ones. The book is a gorgeous piece of work in itself which got it on its first path to my heart: a hardcover with embossed gold lettering, intriguing imagery on the cover and the endpapers and then the book is a hefty 611 pages. So, I read a few other books before tackling this one because I figured I'd be bogged down with those 611 pages and I would probably have to carve out a chunk of my life to devote to this book. BZZZZZ I was wrong. I found myself reading over one hundred pages a night, and that is a feat considering that I typically read half that in twice the amount of time as I tend to fall asleep rather easily. The Map of Time was different.

It is so different that I cannot even strictly classify this book. Historical fiction because it is set in 1896, but it jumps ahead to the year 2000 which makes it a time travel book. And that means science fiction and that means I have lost you, haven't I? WAIT.. come back!!!!! I admit that there was a paragraph or two in the scientific explanations that started to wear me down, but the rest of it was, quite frankly, genius.

So along with history and science there is a bit more that makes up this whole circle of life: Romance. Heroes. Suicidal tendencies. Murder. Jack the Ripper. Evil inventors. Automatons. H.G. Wells. Insights into mankind as a human race. An omniscient narrator you want to smack every now and then. Just a little bit of everything for everyone all wrapped up in this magnificent book that I honest to God truly snuck out of my desk drawer and read at my desk at work. There was just something about this story, however convoluted it strived to be- how it connected and reconnected in circles of time from the past and the future, that really grabbed me. The whole concept of these ripples of time and the effect of the time continuum through the past to the present to the future was very well plotted out in all of its intricacies. And the addition of intriguing characters like Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, and the Elephant Man were fantastic little escapades into the author's clever world of alternate history. It was really a pretty complicated storyline, but the way it all started filling in as I went along ended up enhancing the story more and more for me, although I wish the ending was a bit more dramatic than it wound up being.

So what was it all about anyway, you ask.. well, it opens to a young man contemplating suicide because his girlfriend is gone. But his cousin saves him by giving him hope that he can go back in time when she was alive and perhaps alter the future.. and that was part one. Along comes part two, and we meet another set of characters, yet they cross paths with the first group.. and the very important fabric of time is thus created.. but what happens if we pull on that one stray thread? What exactly does unravel? A bit of treachery and dishonesty starts to fray the fabric and yet we remain still stuck in the circle of time and reality becomes a bit dimmer as the hope for a better future brightens the present...

I don't want to spoil it anymore... the synopsis alone gives off a lot of information that should be enough to whet your appetite. Since this is a book of an eclectic origin, I think there are a select few who just won't be able to understand or appreciate the storyline, but then there will be others like me who are fortunate enough to have enjoyed climbing out of the box with this one. And be careful with that box, folks, because there are dragons and ferocious beasts that will kill you if you open it...

The intro to part 3, via camera phone.

Aug 22, 2011

The Man in the Moon: The Guardians of Childhood (Book One) by William Joyce

Monday, August 22, 2011
Illustrated by: William Joyce
$12.99 56 pages, Ages: 4 - 8
September 6, 2011

The Man in the Moon:

Up there in the sky.

Don't you see him?
No, not the moon.

The Man in the Moon.

He wasn't always a man.
Nor was he always on the moon.
He was once a child.
Like you.

Until a battle,
a shooting star,
and a lost balloon
sent him on a quest.

Meet the very first guardian of childhood. MiM, the Man in the Moon.

When the heroes of childhood
band together, anything is possible.
Get ready for an adventure of epic proportions. 
When I first heard about this book, I was so impressed with the website and its imagery, and I knew I had to have it for my four year old and nine year old. I was so excited to see it in real life because it is truly beautiful! We spent two nights reading it because it is not your average children's book, and it is 56 pages long. It is not written like a toddler's picture book, though it would be a very beautiful one if they scaled down the writing. As it is, The Man in the Moon is an enchanting story about a little boy in the moon we call MiM, and his gallant friend Nightlight who saves him from the evil darkness..

See evil darkness, Pitch, on the right? (click to enlarge)
My toddler loved the story of the Nightlight, and my eldest enjoyed hearing a new story about a man in the moon which she never could really say she knew anything about in the first place. There were Lunar moths, and the Moon Clipper ship, helpful moon mice, visions of Earth far away.. I can't wait to see the Dreamworks movie Rise of the Guardians in the fall of 2012, which are based on books and artwork of William Joyce. I especially want to see the return of Nightlight, who was my toddler's favorite. My daughter really wanted to know more about MiM and the balloons he collected from the children from the earth.
This is going to be quite a series, as it tries to widen its net of potential readers (and viewers) with six chapter books and seven picture books. Evil darkness Pitch is said to be included in more of the books as well, as the author tries to help young readers conquer fears of the dark. The next book will be the chapter book in October, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, which features our favorite Santa Claus.
Keep your eyes open for these, folks! I am collecting all the books for my kiddos, as it will be something they will both enjoy for years to come. I love how there will be both picture books and chapter books to satisfy readers of all kids' ages. This has been an endeavour twenty years in the making for the author and artist, and it is nice to see how dreams can come true even for us older folks. Find out more information here:

Aug 19, 2011

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

Friday, August 19, 2011

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen
Hardcover, 448 pages
Putnam Adult, August 4, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157097
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

From the author of The Creation of Eve comes a tale of love and madness, royal intrigue and marital betrayal, set during the Golden Age of Spain.
Juana of Castile, third child of the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Fernando, grows up with no hope of inheriting her parents' crowns, but as a princess knows her duty: to further her family's ambitions through marriage. Yet stories of courtly love, and of her parents' own legendary romance, surround her. When she weds the Duke of Burgundy, a young man so beautiful that he is known as Philippe the Handsome, she dares to hope that she might have both love and crowns. He is caring, charming, and attracted to her-seemingly a perfect husband.
But what begins like a fairy tale ends quite differently.
When Queen Isabel dies, the crowns of Spain unexpectedly pass down to Juana, leaving her husband and her father hungering for the throne. Rumors fly that the young Queen has gone mad, driven insane by possessiveness. Who is to be believed? The King, beloved by his subjects? Or the Queen, unseen and unknown by her people?
One of the greatest cautionary tales in Spanish history comes to life as Lynn Cullen explores the controversial reign of Juana of Castile-also known as Juana the Mad. Sweeping, page-turning, and wholly entertaining, Reign of Madness is historical fiction at its richly satisfying best.

Many historical fiction fans have been introduced to Juana of Castile by reading The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner (Ballantine, 2009) and now there is another novel of this often misunderstood queen. Sister to Catherine of Aragon and daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Juana came from a famous royal family and some would assume "good stock." Yet, she is know as Juana the Mad. The traits of insanity have been linked to her, her brother, and Isabella's mother, but how much of this is true? We may never really know, but we'll have fun trying to find out!

Lynn Cullen delves into Juana's life with this piece of fiction that is testament to the consuming power of greed of those who surround Juana. Christopher Colon (aka Columbus) was one of them, her husband was another and even Juana's parents were. The titles that landed at Juana's doorstep were unwanted and unexpected, and they eventually made her a prisoner in her own lands.

The author offers Juana's story of most of her life, and embellishes a little here and there to make it different than that of C.W. Gortner's recent novel. The two are similar in that they are both told in first person, and as such both are sympathetic towards Juana. The players around her change a little, which created a different contexts between the books, therefore I was not having too strong of a sense of deja vu. I enjoyed Lynn Cullen's portrayal of Juana, and of the events that saw her imprisoned for reasons beyond her control. Juana's husband Philippe was the one you would love to hate, and I would've enjoyed a little bit more story into what life was like after Philippe died. Her father Fernando seemed to be the villain at the end but it seemed to end a bit abruptly.

Poor Juana was the phrase going through my head for much of this read, and I wish there were something triumphant and hopeful that we could have gotten out of the read. Yet, more to the point, Juana lived her later life ruling as queen by name only, and perhaps there really was nothing to be hopeful for. One thing that troubles me has nothing to do with the book, but the fact that Phillippe was supposedly so handsome he was known as Philip the Handsome. I just don't see it.

If you are interested in reading more of Ferdinand and Isabella, Christopher Colon, or Juana of Castile, this quick reading novel will not disappoint, although how much is true or not we would never know. As fiction, this novel was fast-paced and intrigued me enough to want to know more about Juana and her family. I was especially tickled to see Margaret of York, Dowager Duchess, featured as the evil grandmother of Philip and yet another power hungry player. Reign of Madness was a myriad of page-turning worry and suspense for Juana as this reader wished for Juana to fly out of her coop once and for all, and into the arms of the one who truly loved her...

Read an excerpt here.

Aug 15, 2011

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

Monday, August 15, 2011
The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer
Paperback, 368 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca Reissue May/June 2011, originally published 1951
ISBN: 9781402238833
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: Fabulous Heyer Fun!
Returning to his family seat from Waterloo, Gervase Frant, seventh Earl of St Erth, could have expected more enthusiasm for his homecoming. His quiet cousin, stepmother, and young half-brother seem openly disappointed that he survived the wars. And when he begins to fall for his half-brother's sweetheart, his chilly reception goes from unfriendly to positively murderous.
One of Heyer's most suspenseful Regency romances, The Quiet Gentleman combines an ingenious mystery plot with her signature witty style and effervescently engaging characters.

Although most of Heyer's romances seem to follow a formula of witty heroine vs the world who doesn't realize the direct path to everlasting love, The Quiet Gentleman sets itself apart. Focusing on Gervase Frant, the Seventh Earl of St Erth, the novel strays from the female point of view and even adds a bit of gothic and mysterious tones. Our hero, Gervase, returns to his (estranged) deceased father's estate after serving in the army to claim his inheritance, much to the dismay of his half-brother and stepmother who didn't actually think he'd survive Waterloo. Gervase is of the character where he could shrug off their dislike of him, but things get dicey when strange happenings occur that put Gervase in harm's way. Could his half-brother Martin really detest him so much as to wish that Gervase were dead? Is the step-mother the epitome of the evil witch? Or, is the house really haunted?

The romance comes in when Gervase meets Martin's love interest, Marianne, who is a beautiful and cheerful young lady with many admirers. Martin is quite protective of his invisible tie to her, and Gervase is a bit more dashing than Martin and an immediate rivalry occurs. Luckily, Gervase's cousin Theo is on Gervase's side and acts as a bit of a buffer between the brothers and is a trusted confidante of Gervase. And when Gervase's friend Lord Ulverston comes to stay, Martin earns another foe. Thrown into the mix was Miss Drusilla Morville, neutral friend and loyal companion to all (who could always be counted on to do the Dowager's tedious tasks).

It has been my previous experience with Heyer that her novels take a bit to get used to its jargon of Regency speak and a myriad of characters who normally take a bit of time to comprehend. With The Quiet Gentleman, there was not an immediate onslaught of unfamiliar names and we are taken right to the action after the opening description of the magnificent homestead of Stanyon, which is somewhat of a medieval fortress turned castle turned grand estate, which in itself becomes a bit of a character in the story.

I enjoy Heyer's writing because of the way she writes with class, and I love knowing that I will be entertained just because of a silly situation or a witty remark. I am not expecting a thrill-ride or something so extraordinary to knock my socks off; I simply appreciate the story and the setting. Heyer had such a clever mind and writing style, and she did it very well.  Heyer is similar to Austen and I often feel that Heyer is overshadowed by Austen, even though Heyer was so much more prolific. I have read ten Heyer's and one full Austen now, and I have not been disappointed with Heyer's romances and mysteries yet. I think I enjoyed this one most of all because of its slightly different formula. It is put in her romance genre, yet I enjoyed the mystery of it most of all. And the fact that it didn't focus on a woman and instead followed the gentleman (and then the women in his life) was a nice change of pace for me. For real Heyer and Austen fans, this one should not disappoint in the least.

Read an excerpt here. In honor of Georgette Heyer's 109th birthday, Sourcebooks is temporarily offering ALL 46 of Heyer's titles in e-book format at $1.99 each:

eBooks Available for $1.99
Sale prices are only good August 15-August 21, 2011
Heyer’s Birthday: August 16, 2011

Aug 9, 2011

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer
Paperback, 368 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca reissue June 2011, originally published 1955
ISBN: 9781402238796
Review copy provided by the publisher, with many thanks!
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

A Delightful Tangle of Affairs…
The Earl of Spenborough had always been noted for his eccentricity. Leaving a widow younger than his own daughter Serena was one thing, but leaving his fortune to the trusteeship of the Marquis of Rotherham – the one man the same daughter had jilted – was quite another.
When Serena and her lovely young stepmother Fanny decide to move to Bath, Serena makes an odd new friend and discovers an old love. Before long, they’re all entangled in a clutter of marriage and manners the likes of which even Regency Bath has rarely seen.

Bath Tangle is another one of Georgette Heyer's witty romances, and this one really had me laughing towards the end. Lady Serena is a willful young woman, destined to be a spinster, who now lives with her younger mother-in-law who has no idea how to reign in Serena's wild ways. Lord Rotherham has been named as a guardian of her inheritance, which really should not be of a huge concern except that he must also approve of whom Serena chooses to marry. This could become tangled due to the fact that there is some prior history between Lady Serena and Lord Rotherham where Serena backed out of their marriage negotiations at the last moment.

Serena is a wonderful character to read of, and she was the exact opposite of the ladylike of her sweet-natured mother-in-law, Fanny. After Serena's father's death, we wondered what exactly would happen to Serena, and how the arrangement between her and Rotherham would wreak havoc. Lo and behold, Serena becomes reacquainted with a previous suitor and they contrive to hide their relationship until the proper mourning period has passed. All this seems simple and straightforward, yet as only Georgette Heyer can divulge, Regency hijinks galore follows Serena everywhere she goes. Rotherham is left to wonder at her, as he obligingly lets her live her wild life, but poor Fanny is all in a flutter and Serena' betrothed doesn't know whether to be besotted or scornful.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the reader knows that Lady Serena is making another mistake by betrothing herself to Major Hector Kirkby. And there are more love tangles in Bath as Rotherham is engaged to a young lass who has no idea what she is getting herself into besides the idea of a coronet. As always, Bath Tangle contains a lot of witty remarks and colorful Regency dialogue with a bit of action at the end, making for a typical Georgette Heyer romance that demonstrates her clever prose with ease. For readers who are new to Heyer, they may not appreciate the prose at first, especially as this one started off hard to follow with many characters. It turns out that the story ended up following along with just a few of these initial characters and thus became easier to follow after a few more chapters. Moreover, it was a bit slow to reach any feverish pitch, so Bath Tangle would be best suited  for those already with an admiration for Georgette Heyer. This was my eighth Heyer novel, and I am still ready for more of Heyer's classy writing and charming Regency situations. I have enjoyed both her romances and her mysteries, and if you have enjoyed Jane Austen, you really need to discover Georgette Heyer as well.

I am amassing a collection of Heyer novels, and I am tracking my reading progress with them at Burton Book Review. The green navigation button at the top of this page titled "Heyer" also leads to this page.
Read an excerpt of Bath Tangle here and one from later in the book can be found here.

Aug 5, 2011

No Rest for The Dead: A Novel by 26 Writers

Friday, August 05, 2011

“I enjoy puzzles. Trying to write a chapter in this novel without really knowing what had already happened and what would happen later was certainly like a puzzle. I decided to be a little perverse. I asked myself what would happen if my chapter turned everything around?” —R.L. Stine
“It’s said that organizing writers is like herding cats, and one fears for the man or woman who tries. I wrote my chapter and, as a novelist is advised to do in Hollywood, threw the manuscript over the e-fence and ran in the opposite direction. Imagine my delight – the inimitable Andrew Gulli has not only brought together a world atlas of writers but in the process has created a world-class mystery. It’s been a pleasure. And the rest of us didn’t even have to break a sweat.” —Gayle Lynds
"I think for me the most exciting part of being involved in this project was to be in the company of so many fine writers--not only because I've admired their work for years but because it gave me an insight into the different techniques they employed and their approach to the craft of writing fiction. Normally I'm not an author who "plays well with others," but it was exhilarating to be part of a team working together in such harmony, all for the benefit of our readers." —Jeffery Deaver

No Rest for The Dead: A Novel by 26 Writers
Hardcover, 272 pages
Touchstone (July 5, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1451607376
Editor's proceeds to benefit Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: Four Stars
When Christopher Thomas, a ruthless curator at San Francisco’s McFall Art Museum, is murdered and his decaying body is found in an iron maiden in a Berlin museum, his wife, Rosemary, is the primary suspect, and she is tried, convicted and executed. Ten years later, Jon Nunn, the detective who cracked the case, is convinced that the wrong person was put to death. In the years since the case was closed, he's discovered a web of deceit and betrayal surrounding the Thomases that could implicate any number of people in the crime. With the help of the dead woman's friend, he plans to gather everyone who was there the night Christopher died and finally uncover the truth, suspect by suspect. Solving this case may be Nunn’s last chance for redemption … but the shadowy forces behind Christopher’s death will stop at nothing to silence the past forever.

In this innovative storytelling approach, each of these twenty-five bestselling writers brings their distinctive voice to a chapter of the narrative, building the tension to a shocking, explosive finale. No Rest for the Dead is a thrilling, page-turning accomplishment that only America’s very best authors could achieve.

Written by some of the mystery genre's most noted writers, No Rest for The Dead is a clever collaboration that is intriguing, engrossing and suspenseful. The concept of the many authors was the first thing that hooked me, but the storyline that followed was a feat in itself. I am rarely stumped during formulaic mystery novels, but this one kept me guessing.

The story begins as Rosemary is executed, and then we go back in time to see how we get to that point. We figure out early on that Rosemary was framed for murdering her husband, but with the large cast of characters we could never really figure out who was who. This presented a minor drawback, as the character pool was so large I started to get confused, but that also kept the suspect pool large and therefore my curiosity remained peaked.

With the many different authors we are also presented with many different angles, some first person and some third person, of several of the characters. There was the detective who became washed out has been because of Rosemary's case, and several of the museum employees where the victim, Christopher Thomas had worked. Family members and art aficionados complete the cast and we are in for a ride as we are presented with one plot twist after the other.

As for the writing, you always felt the transition between the authors as each writer flowed to the next, and some chapters were better than others. There were some that I didn't like the feel of the writing, but I knew soon enough that I would be rewarded with a new chapter and a new writer. For mystery lovers, this is a win-win: twenty-six authors all packed into one entertaining novel. Plus, the editorial team is donating their portion of the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is another win-win.

Authors include Sandra Brown, Jeffrey Deaver, Diana Gabaldon, Michael Palmer, R.L. Stine and Alexander McCall Smith. Watch the video embedded above for a fun look at them.

Aug 1, 2011

All Book Reviews Linked Here to The Burton Book Review

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Burton Book Review Rating System
1 star = Not recommended
2 stars = Interesting premise, someone else might like it
3 stars = Good but could be better, didn't totally rock my boat
3.5=I enjoyed it; Had some minor quirks
4 stars = Very Good, Recommend!
4.5 stars = Almost perfect! Enjoyed immensely!

Click to See my Top Ten Best Reads of 2009 at The Burton Review
Click to See my Favorite (top 8) Reads of 2010 at The Burton Review

The dates will show the year that I read and reviewed it, and my rating:
(Of the year 2009 published Qty. #64)
(Of the year 2010, published Qty. #61)
(Of the year 2011, published to date: Qty. #30)

General Fiction
13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro (2011, 4 stars)
22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson (2011,4 stars)
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie (2009, 4.5 stars)
Dracula in Love by Karen Essex (2010, 4.5 stars)
Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff (2010, 4.5 stars)
Follow Me by Joanna Scott (2009, 3.75)
Girl in Translation (2010, 4.5 stars)
Mothers and Daughters by Rae Meadows (2011, 4 stars)
Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan (2009, 4.5 stars)
Sunset Park by Paul Auster (2010, 2 stars)
The End of Everything by Megan Abbott (2011, 3.5 stars)
The Girl She Used To Be by David Cristofano (2009, 3.5 stars)
The Housekeeper and The Professor by Yoko Ogawa (2009, 5 stars)
The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly (2011, 3.5 stars)
The Matchmaker of Kenmare by Frank Delaney (2011, 4 stars)
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (2009, 4 stars)
The Wish Maker by Ali Sethi (2009, 1 star, did not finish)
This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia (2010, 5 stars)
Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitten (2009, 4 stars)

More Chick-Lit/Women's Fiction than not:
Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton (2009, 3 stars)
The Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton (2009, 3.5 stars)

31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan (2010, 5 stars)
No Rest for the Dead by 21 authors (2011)
The Osiris Alliance by Jack Ford (2009, 3 stars)
Crowner Royal by Bernard Knight (2009, 3 stars)
Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders by Gyles Brandeth (2011, 4 stars)
Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo (2010, 3.5 stars)

Georgette Heyer
Arabella (2009, 5 stars)
My Lord John (2009, 2 stars)
The Convenient Marriage (2009, 4 stars)
The Devil's Cub (2009, 4.5 stars)
The Masqueraders (2010, 3.5 stars)
The Nonesuch (2009, 4 stars)
The Unfinished Clue (2009, 3.5 stars)

A Darcy Christmas: A Holiday Tribute to Jane Austen (2010, 4 stars)
Bellfield Hall, or the Observations of Miss Dido Kent by Anna Dean (2010, 3 stars)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (2009, 5 stars)
Darcy and Anne by Judith Brocklehurst (2009, 3.5 stars)
Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester (2010, 3.5 stars)
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in The World by Abigail Reynolds (2010, 3 stars)
Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell (2010, 3.5 stars)
The Darcy Cousins by Monica Fairview (2010, 4.5 stars)
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview (2009, 4 stars)
Wickham's Diary by Amanda Grange (2011, 4 stars)

Lady Julia Grey Mystery Series by Deanna Raybourn:
Silent in the Grave (Book One) (2010, 4.5 stars)
Silent in the Sanctuary (Book Two) (2010, 4.5 stars)
Dark Road to Darjeeling (Book Four) (2010, 4 stars)

Biblical Fiction
Delilah by India Edghill (2009, 4 stars)
Girl Mary by Petru Popescu (2009, 3 stars)
The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy (2010, 4.5 stars)

Young Adult Historical Fiction
The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry (2010, 4 stars)Eleanor of Aquitaine's daughter

Historical Fiction
A Cottage By The Sea by Ciji Ware (2010, 5 stars) *
By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan (2010, 4 stars)
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (2011, 4.5 stars)
Castile for Isabella (part 1 of Ferdinand & Isabella trilogy) by Jean Plaidy (2009, 3.5 stars)
Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell (2010, 4.5 stars)
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran (2009, 4.5 stars )
Harriet and Isabella by Patricia O'Brien (2009, 4.5 stars)
Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham (2010, 4 stars)
Incognito by Gregory Murphy (2011, 4 stars)
Indiscretions of The Queen by Jean Plaidy (Georgian Saga) (2009, 4 stars)
Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware (2010, 5 stars)
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira (2010, 4.5 stars)
O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell (2010, 5 stars)
Palace Circle by Rebecca Dean (2009, 3 stars)
Partners by Dave McGowan (2009, 3.5 stars)
Penelope's Daughter by Laurel Corona (2010, 4 stars)
Receive Me Falling by Erika Robuck (2010, 4 stars)
Roses by Leila Meacham (2010, 4.5 stars)
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (2011, 4.5 stars)
Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant (2009, 4.5 stars)
The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell (2011, 4 stars)
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan (2009, 4.5 stars)
The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt (2010, 4.5 stars)
The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming (2010, 3.5 stars)
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (2010, 5 stars)**
The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner (2009, 5 stars)
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott (2010, 5 Stars)**
The Murder in The Tower by Jean Plaidy (2009, 4 stars)
The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin (2010, 3 stars)

General Medieval Historical Fiction:
Brothers of Gwynedd: Book One by Edith Pargeter (2010, did not finish)
Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick (2011, 5 stars)*
To Defy A King by Elizabeth Chadwick (2011, 4.5 stars)
Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell-Barnes (2010, 4 stars)

Eleanor of Aquitaine Related Novels:
Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine (2010, 4 stars)
Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman (2009, 3 stars)
The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick (2010, 4 stars)
The Queen's Pawn by Christy English (2010, 3.5 stars)
The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick (2010, 4.5 stars)
The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas (2011, 4 stars)
The Secret Eleanor by Cecelia Holland (2010, 3.5 stars)
To Be Queen by Christy English (2011, 4.5 stars)
Queen Defiant: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Anne O'Brien (2011, 4stars)

France/French Revolution Novels:
Before Versailles by Karleen Koen (2011, 5 stars)*
Désirée: The Story of Napoleon's First Love by Annemarie Selinko (2010, 4.5 stars)*
Finding Emilie by Laurel Corona (2011, 5 stars)*
For The King by Catherine Delors (2010, 4 stars)
Madame Bovary's Daughter by Linda Urbach (2011, 4.5 stars)
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran (2011, 4.5 stars)
The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent (2010, 4 stars)
Twilight of A Queen (Book#5) by Susan Carroll (2009, 3.5 stars)

Wars of the Roses Related Novels:
Queen by Right (about Cecily Neville) by Anne Easter Smith (2011, 3 stars)
The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (2010, 3.5 stars)
The Rose of York: Love and War by Sandra Worth (2009, 3.5 stars)
The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham (2010, 3.5-4 stars)
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (2009, 4 stars)

Tudor Genre:
All the Queen's Players by Jane Feather (2010, 3 stars)
Elizabeth I: A Novel by Margaret George (2011, 5 stars)*
Her Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Mary Tudor by Julianne Lee (2009, 4 stars)
His Last Letter: A Novel of Elizabeth I and The Earl of Leicester by Jeane Westin (2010, 3 stars)
Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth (2011, 4 stars)
Rivals in the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan (2011, 4 stars)
Secrets of The Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan (2010, 4.5 stars)*
Secrets of The Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson (2009, 5 stars)
Secrets of The Tudor Court: Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson (2009, 4 stars)
Secrets of The Tudor Court: By Royal Decree by Kate Emerson (2010, 4.5 stars)
St. Thomas's Eve aka The King's Confidante by Jean Plaidy (2009, 4 stars)
The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry (2011, 4 stars)
The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy (2009, 2.5 stars)
The Captive Queen of Scots by Jean Plaidy (2009, 5 stars)
The Dark Rose (Book 2 in Morland Dynasty) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (2010 reissue, 3 stars)
The Other Queen by Phillipa Gregory (2009 0 stars)
The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham (2011, 5 stars)*
The Queen's Mistake: A Novel by Catherine Howard by Diane Haeger (2009, 3 stars)
The Queen's Rival by Diane Haeger (2011, 4 stars)
The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory (2010, 4 stars)
The Royal Road to Fotheringay by Jean Plaidy (2009, 5 stars)
The Tudor Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York by Margaret Campbell Barnes (2009, 3.5 stars)
The Tudor Secret: Book 1 Elizabeth I Spymaster by C.W. Gortner (2011, 5 stars)
The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory (2010)
Young Bess by Margaret Irwin (2010, 4 stars)

Tudor Non-Fiction
After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland by Leanda De Lisle (2009, 3.5 stars)
Arbella by Sarah Gristwood (2009, not a typical review, but 4 stars)
Bess of Hardwick: Empire Builder by Mary S. Lovell (2008, 5 stars)
Elizabeth's Women:The Hidden Story of The Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman (2009, 4 stars)
Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love by Elizabeth Norton (2010, 3 stars)
Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock (2010, 3.5 stars)
The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir (2009, 4.5 stars)
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades (2010, 4 stars)

Other Historical Non-Fiction
Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman who Helped Hide the Frank Family by Miep Gies (2009, 4.5 stars)

Historical Fantasy/Arthurian
Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott (2010, 4 stars)
The Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott(2009, 4.75 stars)
Child of the Northern Spring by Persia Woolley (2010, 3 stars)

Historical Romance
Highland Rebel by Judith James (2009, 3 stars)
My Unfair Lady by Kathryne Kennedy (2009, 3 stars)
The Treasures of Venice by Loucinda McGary (2009, 4 stars)
The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers (2009, 3.5 stars)

Romance - Contemporary Fiction
Wild Highland Magic by Kendra Leigh Castle (2009, 3.75 stars)
Too Hot To Handle by Robin Kaye (2009, 4 stars)
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown (2009, 3 stars)

Inspirational Non-Fiction
The Noticer by Andy Andrews (2009, 5 stars)
The Sitting Swing by Irene Watson (2009, 4 stars)

General and Biographical Non-Fiction
Betsy Ross and The Making of America by Marla R. Miller (2010, 3 stars)
Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Theft, Murder and Detection by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (2009, 4 stars)
The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose (2009, 3.5 stars)
Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter by Antonia Fraser (2010, 3.5 stars)

I have been quoted at Sourcebooks May 2009 Review round up:
What Would Jane Austen Do~This is full of romance, a hunky guy, and even some Jane Austen to boot, which I think Regency romance fans would enjoy. The Burton Review

Too Hot To Handle~If you like Janet Evanovich as I do, you will enjoy Robin Kaye. This book is an easy victory for Robin Kaye and I look forward to more of her accomplishments. The Burton Review

Incognito by Gregory Murphy

Monday, August 01, 2011

Incognito by Gregory Murphy
Paperback, 320 pages
Berkley Trade July 5, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0425241035
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

An elegant literary mystery set during the Gilded Age.
 New York City, 1911. Representing the widow of a Wall Street financier, lawyer William Dysart travels to a small Long Island town with a generous offer for Miss Sybil Curtis's cottage and five acres of land. But when Sybil refuses to sell, the widow threatens to use her influence with the state to seize the property.
Intrigued by Sybil's defiance and afflicted by a growing affection for her, William develops a desire to help her that becomes an obsession he cannot define, one that tears away the facade of his life, and presents him with truths he's unprepared to face.

When I first saw this novel's blurb I was immediately intrigued by "Gilded Age" and "Long Island". Long Island is where I spent twenty years of my former self, and it would be exciting to be able to capture a bit of those memories and glitter it with the Gilded Age. Incognito is a quick summer read, with a bit of suspense, mystery and love all tangled up into a historical fiction novel. The dapper William Dysart finds himself in a horribly unromantic marriage but he seemingly has everything else while working as an attorney for a successful firm. In reality, he is still struggling to decipher his family's past and the death of his mother from years ago. His father offers no answers and his wife offers no love. William becomes involved in a court battle between a high society matron and a small town girl of Long Island, and William finds himself drawn to the simplicity of this country life and the young woman, Sybil Curtis.

Along with William's own secrets, there are quite a few to unravel to get to the heart of the issue between Sybil and the powerful Lydia Billings. Sybil has her own family mystery and is hiding a torturous secret while for some reason Lydia is willing to stop at nothing to destroy Sybil. William crosses the boundaries of professional versus personal as he becomes more and more attracted to Sybil, despite the fact that he is married to Arabella, the most beautiful woman in the city. It is quite obvious Arabella's beauty is only skin deep, and prefers fashion, frivolity and balls as opposed to her husband.

Best quote from the book that sums up William's thoughts on society:
"An impressive stage, he thought, on which to act out yet another of life's foolish pageants sanctified by tradition and contrived to give meaning to the meaningless."
While we immediately dislike Arabella, we are that much more impressed with William. Stumbling through the shadows of the past, William forces himself into the middle of the battle of property which turns into something so much more than he can handle. With threats of scandal and destroyed reputations, the novel pulled me into its clever web of deceit and treachery and I didn't stop until I reached the last page. With a mix of elegance and evil our beloved New Yorkers were portrayed along with power, prestige and the contradictions of supposed blessings of the rich. I loved the exquisite blend of themes, with the many New York attitudes and the magnificent backdrop of Long Island, the city and all the quirks of high society as it were, once upon a time. Incognito is perfect for those looking for an absorbing novel that has much to offer within its small package, and is a fantastic debut for Gregory Murphy, who I can happily report is working on his second novel.