Monthly Archives: December 2012

Win your FREE copy of TWO MURDERS REAPED by Midnight on the Feast of the Epiphany!

CecyleeHeaddressSmileSign up on her ladyship’s list, answer a few questions to assure her ladyship you are not a robot, and receive your FREE copy.

Naturally, her ladyship will guard your answers, – as well as your email addresses – by locking them in her bejeweled casket. Or whatever one does these days.

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Emile Zola’s NANA

NanaNANA by Emile Zola is an interesting take on sex-obsessed Paris of the nineteenth century, the Paris that has now become a stereotype for sexual behavior in our own times. The heroine, Nana, is both available and unavailable. She gains notoriety when she bares all and appears on the stage in the nude as Venus. She is not shy at sharing her bed with several men. Yet when these men try to claim her, to possess her as their own, she turns away, preferring to be by herself.

So this is a wonderful novel, until the end. It is all a question of taste. IMHO, the ending, when Nana meets her end, was both distasteful and over-the-top. The Author’s Message and moralizing tone were too much. A pity, as it spoiled an otherwise great novel. Three stars.

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Lady Cecylee wishes to thank one & all for their support this year…

CecyleeHeaddressSmileGreetings.

For everyone who’s dropped by to visit me at my Castle on Facebook, I thank you. Christmas can be a stressful time, as well I know. Family members do not always see things in the same way, and the results can make life difficult.

As part of my way of thanking you for your support in the Year of Grace 2012, I thought I would share a Christmas from many years back.

‘Twas the year 1468.

If I told you that my family were forced to sit near the windows where icy fingers of air crept under our heavy clothes to chill our hands and feet, while my daughter in law and her family – her six brothers, her nine sisters with their stolen husbands – were ensconced by the fire, you will understand that our family gathering did not begin well.

If you now imagine how one of the Serpent’s sisters (yes, I referred to my daughter-in-law as a serpent) made unkind comments about my sister Cath, who was married at the great age of sixty-seven years to the Serpent’s nineteen-year-old brother John, you will see why I became angry, though I hid my feelings behind a mask of politeness.

When the Serpent then invited my darling son George to play cards with her, and goaded him into blurting out that he was engaged to be married, you will sympathize with my anxiety on his behalf.

When Edward, the King, expressly forbade George to marry his cousin Bella in front of the whole court, you can empathize with my dismay. For George could not marry without the permission of his brother the King, and yet this was the second prospect Edward had turned down. What was George to do?

I rose to my feet and confronted my eldest son. What followed changed my life forever.

If you wish to read about this Christmas long past, and how my words came to haunt me, please visit my library on Amazon, where I invite you to peruse my memoirs.

Next year, I am taking my memoirs on tour.
I would be delighted to meet you personally. I leave you with some information of that event: Thwarted Queen Tour Banner FINAL

Adieu and God Bless You and Yours

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Lady Cecylee de Neville

Duchess of York

Queen by Right

Abbess

 

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THE LOVE-ARTIST by Jane Alison

The_Love_ArtistI loved the concept of Jane Alison’s THE LOVE-ARTIST. What could be more fabulous than to get to know the famous poet Ovid and try to understand some of the mysteries of his life, like why he was banished from Rome, and why only two lines from his play MEDEA survive.

And in the beginning, I was not disappointed. Ms. Alison is an accomplished writer whose novel shows remarkable scholarship and a real sensitivity for how people thought in those days. Like many others, I thought her novel was beautifully written and I loved her descriptions.

But after a while, the novel palled. The problem was that the mechanics of telling the story were not well deployed. Everything about this novel was so indirect, with characters watching one another rather than engaging with one another. After a while, this became repetitive. The tensions rippling below the surface needed to be dramatized. People needed to show their emotions in tense dialogue, body gestures and raw words.

By the time I’d read half of this novel I no longer cared what was going to happen to Ovid and his lady-love. Which was a great pity. Three stars.

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A Happy Holiday Season to you and your loved ones

CynthiaHotelSnow2012Everyone,

Spun Stories will be going into hibernation for the next couple of weeks, as I try to deal with all the varied things I have to do this holiday season. But expect to see some book reviews in this space before I return after the first of the year.

I hope that you all have a happy and safe Holiday Season. And thank you all for your support during 2012!

 

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THE DARK MIRROR by Juliet Marrillier

It is always so hard to write about Juliet Marillier, because her talent places her in a class by herself. This book has the mystery, the magic and the engrossing worldview of a pagan Europe before Christianity took hold. In her SEVENWATERS chronicles, we explored ninth-century Ireland. In this series, we explore sixth-century Scotland. In both cases, we are witnessing the slow death of an ancient way of being before the Christian onslaught of these windswept lands.

 

So the story was wonderful, but compared with Ms. Marillier’s SEVENWATERS trilogy, this was weak. The protagonist, Bridei was perfect in every respect that you could possibly think of. His fey companion Tuala was more interesting, in that she was more rebellious. But for a fourteen-year-old girl she was remarkably poised and serene about the various misfortunes that assailed her.

This story had little of the realistic grit about it that made the SEVENWATERS books truly great. By the standards of most of the books out there, this was superlative. By her own standards, this book was not as strong as it could have been. Which was a pity. Three and a half stars.

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SLAMMERKIN by Emma Donoghue

If you are tired of romping through Jollie Olde England in a haze of ribbons and lace, this novel is for you. Written with unflinching clarity and with impeccable research, Emma Donoghue shows her modern audience just how difficult life was in 1760s England for most people. Especially women. What struck me so forcibly was how narrow the range of options were for women, even in England where women were allowed to run their own businesses, unlike their sisters in France or Italy.

 

The protagonist, Mary Saunders, is a sadly familiar character, a highly intelligent woman with a a great deal of ambition and no-where for all that energy to go. In this day and age, she would go to college and become an entrepreneur. But in 1762, fourteen-year-old Mary sneers at her Mother’s life of piecework sewing, and doesn’t want to pattern her life after her. Given that her mother is an exhausted and bitter woman, one feels a great deal of sympathy for Mary’s point of view. But when Mary makes her first mis-step, of getting knocked up by a street vendor all for that length of shiny satin ribbon, her mother throws her out onto the street.

 

I won’t say any more about the plot, you will have to read it. Suffice it to say that having started out by putting her foot wrong, Mary never seems able to do anything right, and brings disaster upon herself and those close to her.

 

Ms. Donoghue is a talented writer with a wonderful prose style, rich in imaginative images, great one liners and truly wonderful descriptions. It is a pity, therefore, that sometimes the pacing of the novel was off. The two places that come to mind are during Reverend Dobb’s sermon in the Magdalen, and when we’re in the carriage going to Monmouth as it leaves London. I think the effect of the sermon was to be boring, but the trick here is to convey how boring it was without boring the reader. The problem with the carriage scene is that it quickly became an information dump. A stronger editorial hand was needed in these passages to tighten the pace and prevent the novel from slowing down to a crawl. Four stars. A bookclub recommendation with reader’s guide provided. 

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Tidbits from the Internet

Here are a couple of new discoveries from this month:

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

  1.   B.R.A.G., which stands for Book Readers Appreciation Group, is an organization that tries to give Indie authors the recognition they deserve by bringing together readers and authors and promoting self-published books. They also have an interesting blog, which you can find here.
  2. Here is a search result from Google that I thought I’d share. I typed in “schedule of trade shows for books 2013” and this is the page I got. If you have a novel to promote, or you need to network with publishers, this info needs to go into your calendar!

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FINGERSMITH by Sarah Waters

I first read this book in 2004, at a time when I was making a transition in my life from being a research scientist to a writer. I remember so clearly reading that first page. By the time I got to the words at the end of the first paragraph, I was hooked. Here is that first paragraph:

 

“My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder. People called me Sue. I know the year I was born in, but for many years I did not know the date, and took my birthday at Christmas. I believe I am an orphan. My mother I know is daed. But I never saw her, she was nothing to me. I was Mrs. Sucksby’s child if I was anyone’s; and for father I had Mr. Ibbs, who kept the locksmith’s shop, at Lant Street, in the Borough, near to the Thames.”

 

In 89 words, Sarah Waters has given us such a complete feel for the world she is creating, the Victorian era of the early 1860s, that by the time one gets to the end of that first paragraph, one knows one is in the hands of a master.

 

This novel has everything, sophisticated characterization, wonderful descriptions, heartbreak, treachery and great plot twists. Yes, one can see that Ms. Water’s literary ancestors are Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and the Bronte sisters, but she brings a fresh new voice, a sly modern take, on the preoccupations of those novelists. Five stars. A book club recommendation.

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