Tuesday, April 29, 2014
The Figure in the Shadows is an enjoyable book. The tension builds nicely and draws the reader into the action. The only thing that annoyed me is Lewis' extreme crybaby routine. I found myself wishing that Uncle Jonathan would tell Lewis to stop being such a wuss and stand up for himself. Rose Rita does effectively stand up for herself, and the contrast between her and wussy Lewis is striking. On to The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring. That book will feature Rose Rita, and I am looking forward to it.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Lewis Barnavelt is a 10-year-old orphan who goes to live with his Uncle Jonathan after the death of Lewis' parents. Uncle Jonathan lives in a interesting old house in New Zebedee, Michigan, and he's a wizard. Uncle Jonathan's next door name is Mrs. Zimmermann, who seems to barge into the house at any time. Oh, Mrs. Zimmermann is a witch. Uncle Jonathan acts weird at times, wandering around the house, and listening at the walls. Lewis spies on his uncle, and finally, he learns that it's because there is the sound a ticking clock in the house that is worrying Uncle Jonathan. Yep, it's the clock in the title of the first book The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Uncle Jonathan fears that it might be some evil magic from the former owner, Isaac Izard. Uncle Jonathan bought the house after Izard's death.
Lewis makes attempts to fit into his new home and with the new school kids. However Lewis is on the tubby side, and he's not very good at sports. The kids all make fun of him, but Lewis thinks he made a friend in Tarby, a popular, athletic boy. But Tarby starts to join in on the mocking. Lewis decides to wow Tarby with stories about Uncle Jonathan's wizard abilities by eclipsing the moon. Tarby seems impressed, but then Tarby says that Uncle Jonathan must have hypnotized him. Lewis then says he can bring a dead person back to life. Well, Tarby calls Lewis on it, and the pair meet up in the cemetery. Unfortunately, Lewis performs some magic from his uncle's books, and he appears to raise Isaac Izard's wife, Selenna. Everything heats up then. An evil presence (could it be the dead Mrs. Izard) moves into the house across the street, Tarby is more mean than ever to Lewis, and Uncle Jonathan is getting more antsy about the ticking clock in the walls. is it a Dooms Day machine? Can Lewis, Uncle Jonathan, and Mrs. Zimmermann return Mrs. Izard to the dead and stop the ticking clock?
The story was a quick read, and I found myself rooting for Lewis. The action moved fast and furious at the end, and I just know that there will be more exciting adventures for Lewis and company. The most interesting thing is that Edward Gorey illustrated the book, and his illustrations really add to the eerie atmosphere. Because I am such a read-aholic, I got several John Bellairs books from the library. Now, I'm hoping for a nice, good thunderstorm tonight!
Thursday, April 24, 2014
The heroine of The Judas Kiss is Philippa, aka Pippa, Ewell, the younger sister of Francine, who is a gorgeous and charming young woman. Unfortunately, the Ewell sisters lose both parents within a short time of each other. The father had run away to the island of Calypse to be an artist and marry the woman he loved, leaving behind a repressive live on his father's country estate. With their parents dead, Francine and Pippa's grandfather brings them back to England to raise them. The grandfather is an malicious person, hiding mean spiritness behind religious zeal. He makes the girls' life miserable, and the only good thing is that they have each other and their kindly grandmother. When foreigners from the Bavarian Alps visit the next-door estate, Francine and Pippa sneak in with the aid of their maid and the foreigner's houseboy. When Francine catches the eye of Baron Rudolph, heir to the kingdom of Bruxenstein, who is visiting, it seems like an answer to a prayer. The grandfather wants Francine to marry Cousin Arthur, who is just like the grandfather. Well, Francine runs off with the Baron, and they marry. Francine keeps Pippa updated with a few letters, and then Pippa finds out that her sister has been murdered in a hunting lodge with Rudolph. The newspapers refer to Francine as Rudolph's mistress, and they don't mention the little boy that Francine told Pippa she had. Well, Pippa is shocked. As she goes every day to the empty house where the foreigners lived, she meets a handsome man that she thinks is an equerry to Count who owns the house. They go to look at the church registry that Pippa had seen with Francine's wedding signature, but it no longer exists. Thinking that Conrad, the equerry will marry her, Pippa sleeps with him. She can't believe it when he says that he can't marry her, but he can make Pippa his mistress. Pippa couldn't bring herself to leave with him.Then when the grandfather tries to get Pippa to marry Cousin Arthur, Pippa rebels. The grandfather dies in a fire, and some think that Pippa killed him because he was going to throw Pippa out of the house. However, the fire is deemed an accident, and Pippa, with inheritance money from her grandmother's estate, travels to the Bavarian Alps to find out what happened to Francine. There she finds that Conrad is really Baron Signmund, next in line to rule the kingdom of Bruxenstein. Pippa is in Bruxenstein under an assumed name, and acting as a companion to Countess Freya, who is supposed to marry Sigmund/Conrad.
As you can tell, there is a lot of intrigue going on and a rather complex plot. Does Pippa figure out who killed Francine and Rudolph? Can she prove the pair was married and had a child? If she can, she might be able to free Sigmund/Conrad from his marital obligation to Freya. Of course, all is resolved in the end. I grew to like Pippa. She gave in to human emotion and lust, and she had a relationship with Conrad, even though she knew it wasn't really right, and that Freya, whom she grew to love, would be hurt.
All in all, The Judas Kiss was another satisfying read. I found myself engrossed in the mystery, and I have to admit that I didn't figure out who the evil person was in the plot until the very end. I do have to recommend The Judas Kiss, and I will be adding it to my favorite Victoria Holt books.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
This time, I saw The Devil on Horseback on the local library shelf, and I decided that read it again. The heroine of the story is Minella Maddox, an English girl who helps her mother run a girls' school in England. The local lord of the Derringham Manor sends his daughters to the school, and he encourages his friends to do the same. When the Comte Fontaine Delibes comes with his wife and daughter to the Derringham estate, he sends his daughter, Margot, to the school. Minella, or Minelle as Margot calls her, and Margot become friends. When Minella goes to the manor house to take tea with the Derringham girls and Margot, Minella wanders into the Comte's bedroom as she secretly wanders during a game of hide and seek. The Comte is instantly fascinated. Also fascinated by Minella is the only Derringham son, Joel. Minella's mother dies, Joel is sent to Europe before he could commit to a relationship with Minella, and Margot runs off with a stable boy. Margot is brought back, but is found to be pregnant. The Comte has an idea of how to solve the problem of Margot and how to get closer to Minella. Minella will act as a cousin to Margot. The pair would go off to a distant town in France for Margot to have her baby, and then Minella would go with Margot as a companion and cousin, back to the Comte's estate in France. Of course, Minella has been raised to behave properly, and she does not succumb to the Comte's overtures. Intrigue follows Minella as the Comte's past peccadillos are revealed to her. He has an invalid wife, an illegitimate son (Etienne), Etienne's mother (the former mistress), and the surviving twin of a child that the Comte killed in a riding accident (Leon). The Comte's wife dies from an overdose; was it suicide or murder? Margot is blackmailed over her illegitimate child. Minella is a target of murder attempts, and the whole of France is an an uproar with the approach of the French Revolution.
The story is well-written, and I found myself on the edge of my seat for the last quarter or so of the book. There were a variety of twists to the plot, and it looked like things would end poorly for the Comte. He's the Devil on Horseback of the title. The book has the perfect blend of romance and suspense. I found myself becoming very attached to the characters, and I was anxious that all would turn out well for them. The Devil on Horseback lived up to my fond memories, and I would have to say that it is still one of my favorite of the Holt books.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Boy, did I enjoy reading Grey Mask! It was thrilling and exciting. The plot was convoluted enough to keep the reader guessing what was going to happen next. I have to admit that I did not foresee one of the twists in the end. I did figure who Grey Mask was, but there was a lot more going on than I figured out. One of the things that I love about Wentworth's Miss Silver books is that there is always a romantic relationship developing throughout the story. In Grey Mask, it is the relationship between Charles and Margaret, the former engaged couple. Then there is the budding relationship between Margot and Archie Manning, Charles' buddy, who helps him with the threat against Margot. In the end, everything is satisfactorily tied up. I like happy endings, and Grey Mask's ending was very satisfying!
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Israel is also a land of immigrants. Some have had to make a livelihood from nothing. The emigrants from other Middle Eastern countries, such as Iraq and Iran, had to leave all their possessions behind, escaping for their lives. These people have had to pull themselves up from their bootstraps, and they did a pretty good job of it.
I found the book informative and entertaining. Senor and Singer talked to a large number of entrepreneurs and politicians. They managed to get time from a variety of interesting folks, including Shimon Peres, who could explain how things were developing in the beginning of the birth of the country through to the modern day. The cool thing about Start-up Nation: the Story of Israel's Economic Miracle is that it does a good job of explaining the Israeli personality and the state of business in Israel. If you are interested in starting up your own business, you can leave some tips from the book, but in general, the goal is to explain a country-wide phenomenon.