Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Anita Brookner

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Another week, another missed blog post. I’m so sorry, friends. I’ve been wrestling with my sluggish internet connection for far too long, and am hoping to get it sorted out this week. I had no idea that upgrading my connection could be so complicated.

However, I have not spent the entire week on hold or talking to technical support. I have also been reading, of course. Last week, we did a little day-trip to Prince Edward County to pick local blueberries (it’s the tail end of the season; we’ll go during the first week of August, next year) and ended up at Miss Lily’s Café in Picton.

Miss Lily’s serves pretentiously packaged but absolutely delectable coffee from Toronto. And it’s connected to Books and Company, an airy and beautiful independent bookseller with a resident cat. It was hot outside, I felt weary, and the children were industriously painting themselves with ice cream. Nick said to me, “Why don’t you slip in for a browse?”

I was only waiting to be asked. I shot inside and, two minutes later, was perusing Books and Company’s small used-book section and asking myself, in genuine astonishment, Why haven’t I ever read Anita Brookner? They were offering a used copy of Hotel du Lac for $3.50. Ridiculous! How could I not?

So. Hotel du Lac.

This is the edition I bought, although someone's attempted to peel off the Booker McConnell sticker.

Nothing much happens in the first half, and the “scandal” constantly, mysteriously mentioned in that first half is thoroughly foolish and predictable. This is the point. The novel is a window into the acerbic, curious, slightly depressive, and uncompromising mind of its protagonist, Edith Hope (“a writer of romantic fiction under a more thrusting name”), who spends a week or so at a Swiss hotel in the off-season.

The novel is beautifully written, with a clarity and precision that’s quite startling to read. And it’s a quiet but steady – intransigent, even – tract about the importance of respecting and holding to one’s own standards and beliefs, even when they offend and inconvenience everybody else.

I’m afraid that sounds like faint praise, but it’s an old-fashioned book in the best sense of the word. It is a success on its own terms, which is precisely what it set out to be.

Have you discovered or rediscovered any authors recently? What are you reading? Also, did you get your fill of local berries this year? I feel a deficiency!

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We are all Jane Austen

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Hello, friends! This week, I saw an interesting conversation develop about Jane Austen, race, and feminism. It started at Reading in Color, when Ari asked, “Is Jane Austen only for white people?” Sayantani at Stories are Good Medicine picked up the conversation and posed the logical follow-up question: “Can feminists dig Darcy?” There were loads of interesting observations in the comments at Reading in Color, and my intention here isn’t to rehearse those dialogues or respond to each one. But I was struck by the questions and want to talk a bit about how they sound to me.

To my ear, at least, each question can be flipped around and made more general:

Should everything I read as a woman of colour include characters of colour?

Should everything I read as a feminist be overtly progressive?

In sum, should we create a world of books that reflects our own world views and positions?

It’s certainly important to see ourselves – our own kind of people, whether we’re talking race or creed – reflected in our literature. It creates a sense of community, assists us in defining ourselves more clearly, helps us to look critically at our own strengths and shortcomings.

But at the same time, what a wilfully small world that would be. Can you imagine how limited our interests, imaginations, interests, and conversations would be, if that were the case? How unable we’d be to imagine another point of view, or follow an argument that didn’t relate directly to our own interests? How would we learn new things? How could we admire – and borrow – streaks of brilliance that we didn’t create?

We must read widely, read deeply, and read well outside our comfort zones if we’re to learn and grow. And if we enjoy what we read – if we absolutely adore what we discover – so much the better.

I’d also argue that when we make assumptions about the homogeneity or reactionary nature of Jane Austen’s (or anyone else’s) world, we’re limiting ourselves as much as we are them. People assume all the time that Victorian London was lily-white, with a clear-cut and never-changing social order. The reality is much more complex, as I try to show in the Agency novels.

Finally, isn’t it interesting that we don’t have to give our beloved Jane Austen a special get-out-of-jail-free card? Think about the lesson at the heart of her most-adapted novel, Pride and Prejudice. It is, at core, a novel about humility: 1) not presuming yourself superior to another group of people (in Darcy’s case, the Bennet family), and 2) being able to retract your hasty judgement of someone based on hearsay (in Elizabeth’s case, Darcy). That’s a fine message for any progressive book to carry – whoever the author.

Are you an Austenite? What have you learned from Jane Austen – or another favourite author?

Other bits from this past week:

On the same day I received my finished copies of Traitor, I heard on Twitter that They Are About – as in, already on sale in some places! One reader in Texas and another in Kentucky have already read the real deal. This is so exciting.

This review from Forever YA is the funniest review I’ve ever read about one of my own books.

And here’s a terrific podcast about the Plimsoll line, which has a small but important role in the plot of A Spy in the House. Thank you, MrsFridayNext, for sharing it with me!

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The Traitor in the Tunnel!

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Hello, friends! I’m so thrilled today to share with you the North American cover for The Traitor in the Tunnel:

Those of you with an editorial eye will now be wondering, “The Traitor and the Tunnel” or ” The Traitor in the Tunnel”? Why are you so inconsistent, Ying? Don’t you know the title of your own book? In fact, there are two slightly different titles. I originally chose “and” because I wanted the title to allude to different traitors and different tunnels, and that’s what we did at Walker Books for the UK edition. But the fine editors at Candlewick Press felt that “in” sounded better – faster, snappier, cleaner. And once it was pointed out to me, I agreed. So the North American edition is The Traitor in the Tunnel. Did you think it was possible to agonize this much over a simple conjunction or preposition? ;)

I also wanted to share with you an absolutely lovely review of Traitor by Niranjana Iyer of Brown Paper. Iyer says, “The richness of detail, the intelligent writing, the intricate plots, and superbly-drawn characters elevate this series miles above most YA offerings on the shelves today; I’m delighted to hear this trilogy now has a fourth installment in store for its many devotees.” Thank you so much, Nina!

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A Walk in the Void & Kat, Incorrigible

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Hello friends! This month, Mondadori publishes the Italian edition of the second Agency novel. It’s called La Detective. Passeggiata nel vuoto, which translates to The Detective: A Walk in the Void. I really, really, really wish I could read Italian.

Here’s the cover:

And the full dustjacket:

What do you think?

I also have a few lovely announcements. Some French readers have asked when the third Mary Quinn novel (The Traitor and the Tunnel in English; I don’t know what the French title will be), will be published by Nathan. There’s no firm date yet, but it’ll be early in 2012. Hurray! I’ll update this as soon as I have a date for you.

This month, The Body at the Tower is the Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children‘s Book of the Month! Their review is here.

Deborah Sloan just told me that A Spy in the House is on the Bank St College of Education’s 2011 Best Books List! If you’re curious, their picks are here (as downloadable PDFs), grouped by age. Spy is on the 14 and up list.

And finally, a truly fantastic announcement that’s not about me or my books: Stephanie Burgis‘s debut novel, Kat, Incorrigible, is published this week in North America! Huzzah!

I’ve raved about Steph’s novel before. If you love Jane Austen, magick, sly wit, and sibling solidarity, you will adore Kat’s adventures. But don’t just take my word for it – read the first three chapters here! Congratulations, Steph!

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Notorious Victorians, farewell

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

This is it, the last post in the Body at the Tower blog tour, and it features the Edinburgh Seven. Sound like a group of revolutionaries of some sort, doesn’t it? And they were. They were rich, educated young ladies who had the nerve to decide that they wanted to study medicine. Obviously, trouble ensued. You can read more about their story at Booksmugglers.

Then, Booksmuggler Thea reviews Body, calling it “another winning, impeccably well-written historical mystery”. Huzzah!

Thanks so much for joining me on this blog tour. Regularly scheduled blogging returns on Thursday, when I continue my English adventures. See you then!

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The whole Mary & James thing

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Okay, so the #1 question I get from readers – and this is by a long shot – is, “Will Mary and James get together?” Naturally, I don’t have a simple yes-or-no answer for you. James is back in The Body at the Tower but the path of true love is never entirely smooth, know what I mean? I go into a bit more detail in an interview with Cecilia at the Epic Rat, but it contains some spoilers for both Spy and Body. If you can’t stand spoilers, feel free to email/tweet me your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them in a discreet and tantalizing manner.

Cecilia also reviews Body. It’s a great review but it, too, contains spoilers for Spy. It’s a cruel world out there for innocent readers.

I’ll see you tomorrow for more Notorious Victorians!

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Happy bookday, Body!

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I will refrain from gag-inducing metaphors of birth & infancy. Suffice it to say that today, the second Agency novel, The Body at the Tower, is published by Candlewick Press. I’m one-third disbelief, one-third out of my mind with excitement, and one-third “Stop it, Ying, you’re such a nerd”.

Fortunately, it’s not all about me. The Body at the Tower blog tour is at Steph Su Reads today, where I guest-post about Notorious Victorian Joseph Merrick – aka the Elephant Man – and the way he used celebrity as a survival strategy. His is a tragic but also smart and fascinating story.

Steph then reviews Body: “damn if the pages didn’t nearly catch on fire…” *evil cackle from smug author*

There is no real-world launch party today, but stay in touch: I’m planning an online launch party in September. Details to follow.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to celebrate.

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Notorious Victorians, celebrity edition

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Welcome to the second week of The Body at the Tower blog tour. My theme for the next 2 days is the idea of celebrity and today I’m guest-blogging at A Reader’s Adventure about one of the most notorious of Victorians: writer, dandy, aesthete, and scandal-magnet Oscar Wilde. Once again, the Victorians seem oddly contemporary in their adoration and hatred of the limelight.

Mariah also reviews Body. As she warns, you’re in for “slight spoilers for first book. And possibly some fangirling.”

I’ll see you tomorrow – which is, by the way, the OFFICIAL PUB DATE for Body! – at Steph Su Reads with part 2 of Victorian Celebrities.

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Notorious Victorians, days 2-5

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Hello, friends. On Tuesday, the Body at the Tower blog tour stops at Bookworming in the 21st Century. There, I talk favourite books and writing challenges in an interview with Kristen. And Body gets a 5-star review!

I’m going to have patchy internet access for the next few days, but the blog tour rolls on. Do check in at GreenBeanTeenQueen on Wednesday for my essay on Notorious Victorian activist Annie Besant and Sarah’s review of Body.

On Thursday, I’ll be talking about Charles Darwin as a Reluctant Revolutionary at Cornucopia of Reviews. There, Lizzy also gives Body a glowing review. Yay!

Friday’s guest post is about women’s rights campaigner Lady Caroline Norton, over at Reading in Color. Ari’s review is a beautiful one, but beware – it contains minor spoilers for Spy.

I’ll post next week from Vancouver, when the blog tour continues with four more Notorious Victorians and an interview. Can’t wait!

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Notorious Victorians

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Welcome to the first day of the Body at the Tower blog tour! My theme this time round is Notorious Victorians and today, I’m guest-posting over at the Story Siren about the scandalous Victoria Claflin Woodhull, aka the first woman to run for president of the United States. Woodhull’s life was even juicier than that sounds.

Kristi at the Story Siren also reviews Body, giving it 5 stars! She praises its “Spectacular characters… superb writing… awesome storyline. It’s easy to read, fun and just plain ole’ entertaining. I can’t wait for another adventure with Mary in book three!” I’m thrilled to hear it.

I’m also chatting with Sara at the Hiding Spot, where we discuss favourite scenes, novels, and words. Right now, mine’s “quiddity”. What’s yours?

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