Friday, February 8, 2013

TLC Book Review - The Uninvited Guests

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
HarperPerennial 2012

Format?  paperback

Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of The Uninvited Guests from the publisher in exchange for a review; however, my review below and the opinions therein are entirely my own and offered without bias.

Why?  Like so many others right now, I'm interested in the lives of those who inhabited the manor houses of old England...especially during the time period where American influences began sneaking through, fortunes were lost and the World Wars began...equalizing those who thought they couldn't be equaled.

I was reminded of?  "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Downton Abbey," A Christmas Carol and The Importance of Being Earnest.

What Now? I'm keeping this one...right next to Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables.

Golden Lines

It was true; Smudge was very often forgotten.  Like Clovis and Emerald before her, she was left to herself to get on with the business of her upbringing, but unlike them, she was alone in the endeavor.  Clovis and Emerald had had one another as company when marooned by the various tides of their parents' commitments.  Smudge's loneliness suited her; she was celebrated by her mother, as well as neglected, and she found much to be cheerful about. (12)

Charlotte had many good qualities, but was ruthlessly self-serving, and she would have been the first to admit it. (23)

Clovis, out of breath and very white in the face, with his arms flung wide, announced, "There's been a dreadful accident!" (47)

"We've been sent here first," she said.  "We are ever so grateful you'll have us...Will you?" (55)

"Any word from the Railway?" she said, and another put in, "They didn't say how long it would be." And another whispered urgently, "We really must get on," to which a few yeses and ayes were added. (60)

"I am so sorry to inconvenience you, but I believe you were warned?" (82)

"Now, in a moment I ought to go down, so you're to wait here, Lady, and be a very good girl until I return."
Lady had the look of a pony that might or might not do as it was told. (109)

Charlotte's expression, adoring - either those she gazed upon or herself - altered of a sudden to something like horror.  She could not disguise it.  Her fingers, which has been resting lightly on the doorknob, a crystal one, gripped it whitely, and she fixed her eyes on the gentleman traveller.
"You," she said.
"Yes." Their visitor's tone was easy, but his catlike stillness was menacing. (111)

"Darling boy," she said, "could you ever hate your old mother?"
Clovis patted her. "Silly question, Ma; what's up?"
"Answer. I need it.  Whatever happened?  Would you and Emerald hate me?" 
Clovis dropped his guard and lowered his head in adoration, his clean cheek lightly touching her hair.
"No, Mother, never.  We'd never hate you; you're our very dearest and you should know it." (155)

"Come on!" barked Traversham-Beechers.  "I can't baby you through it!"  It is an adult game - not child's play - if you can't think of how, then I shall pass the glass." (163)

"You shamed us all," she said.
"You shamed yourselves," was his smiling answer. (179)

"We must lay them to rest," said Emerald with warm compulsion, gazing into the fire, "and we must make them comfortable." (214)

"Dignified," said Charlotte. "Dignified." And then she bowed her head and cried.
"There, Dearest, there..." said Edward. (257)


As they wait to hear if their home, Sterne, can be saved, Emerald Torrington's family prepares for her twentieth birthday celebration.  As a result of a train accident, however, the family is forced to harbor an entire group of passengers who have nowhere else to go until the Railroad company makes arrangements for them. Over the course of one stormy night, secrets are revealed and lives are changed directly and indirectly by the leader of the group who is out for revenge.

What I Liked

Smudge - she marched to the beat of her own drummer.  At first I wasn't sure how I felt about her nickname...but then I found out her real name, Imogene.  Yep, Smudge was much better.

Clovis - also an independent soul, living and rebelling against a society in which he felt suffocated.

Charlotte - don't judge me for this - while certainly not the best parent in the world, I believed that she too was just trying to get through each day.  She harbored secrets, but was willing to do whatever it took to keep her family safe, no matter how unconventional her actions.

The themes - it is possible to hold onto tradition while breaking free of some of the more choking, psychologically damaging yokes of society's expectations.  Jones handles these very issues without preaching, without ranting, without slapping the reader over the head.  There is one particular relationship (can't tell you who), which made me want to jump up and cheer.  The reader and the characters know the relationship is not meant to last, but both parties are ok with that because of the freeing benefits each receives from the other.  

What I Didn't Like

The pace - a little slow in the beginning - I actually began to worry a little by pg. 100 when I was finding myself skimming and/or having to return to passages to see what I missed.  After I finished the The Uninvited Guests and looked back over it, I was only then able to see how the beginning leads up to the end.

Overall Recommendation

I think lovers of classic gothic literature will appreciate The Uninvited Guests the most.

The Author

Sadie Jones

HarperCollins website for The Uninvited Guests 

Other Stops on the Tour

Monday, January 21st: Conceptual Reception
Tuesday, January 22nd: Drey’s Library
Wednesday, January 23rd: Olduvai Reads
Monday, January 28th: nomadreader
Tuesday, January 29th: Bibliosue
Wednesday, January 30th: Excellent Library
Thursday, January 31st: 5 Minutes for Books
Monday, February 4th: Speaking of Books
Tuesday, February 5th: Giraffe Days
Thursday, February 7th: Oh! Paper Pages
Friday, February 8th: Peppermint PhD
Monday, February 11th: All Grown Up?
Friday, February 15th: Silver’s Reviews

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Boston's Hurricane Nor'Easter

My first visit to Boston a couple of years ago pretty much moved Boston to the top of my list of favorite U.S. cities.  
I love the historical aspects of the city and absolutely love that so many of its people actually KNOW and CARE ABOUT the history.  

That's my friend Alicia on the left, posing with this beautiful young 18 year old who was our restaurant server our first night in Boston at Durgin Park.  This young woman was incredibly friendly, started a genuine conversation with us and was able to answer all of our questions about where we were in a conversational tone...she hadn't "memorized" any of it.  I even asked her if the restaurant owner required that they know about this historic restaurant which argues (along with Union Oyster House) about who has been in business the longest).  Our server said the owners like for them to know about the history, but they have no script to follow nor are they told to learn it.  She just thinks it's "cool."  Ahem.  A kid who thinks history is cool?  
Oh boy.

One of my favorite, favorite things about Boston besides its people is their spectacular accents.  I've lived my entire life as a Southerner...and my accent is thick.  I've been to meetings all over the U.S. where I'm asked to talk frequently...just to the other participants can hear it.  I'm serious.  
I don't mind; I don't hear it myself, but obviously it follows me.  
Bostonians have their own distinct accent and it thrills me!  

What further makes a Bostonian accent so much fun is the lighthearted way its speakers deal with it.  They seem to embrace it just as much as I embrace my Southern twang :)
Our accents are part of who we are and are something we picked up as children as we were immersed in the language of our families and our areas.  I love that.

What makes me sad though is having to leave early due to the impending blizzard :(  
The news stations are all warning of possibly 2 feet of snow.

Here's what it looks like at my house in Mississippi when it snows:

In Mississippi, we watch the snow fall, we giggle and squeal and even run around in it with our shorts on.  If there's an inch, we quickly form snowballs and mucky looking snowmen and frequently change our sopping wet clothes while playing in the snow bc it's melting just as quickly as we can play with it.  The day we had the snow in the pic above, we delayed school openings.  

Here's what 2 feet of snow looks like in New England:

I don't have a clue what you do with this.

In the words of one of my favorite meme ladies on the web: 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Working in Boston this week

A few days ago, my youngest, a friend and Layla were playing in the front yard with temps almost in the 70's.

I knew I had this ahead of I tried to enjoy the sunshine.

The youngest likes to send one of her friends with me on trips, and Llama Llama was the winner for the Boston trip.

Llama Llama and I spent a looooonnnnnnngggggg day at the airport.  We boarded our first flight only to have to get back off the plane when the forward outer doors wouldn't seal.

A few hours later and 2 missed connections, we finally left the airport.  Llama Llama was tired.

Llama Llama and I stayed positive all day...and we were rewarded with this view of Boston Harbor when we finally checked into our hotel.

Llama Llama thought we should turn on the SuperBowl which was more than 1/2 over...but that was ok...we missed Beyonce and the blackout...but we did get to see the Dodge Ram commercial which we both voted as a winner.

Llama Llama and I had missed supper somewhere along the way, and we're trying not to eat junk.  We knew it was expensive to order room service...but it was almost 10 p.m. and we were hungry.
Who knew llamas liked clam chowda?

 Llama Llama could barely keep her eyes open once her tummy was full, so she went on to bed under the Chicago Cubs blanket the youngest insisted we bring.  

We woke up to this...

Beautiful huh??

My middle daughter said, "Mom, who's that crazy lady running in the snow??"  
I said, "That will be me before this week's over."
Oh, yes, I will run on the trail that runs parallel to Boston Harbor.
Rain, sleet or snow, I will.

Monday, February 4, 2013

TLC Book Review - Proof of Guilt

Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd
HarperCollins 2013

Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Proof of Guilt from the publisher via TLC Book Tours; however, the review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.

Format? oversized paperback - ARC

Title? I don't seemed to me that Rutledge spent most of the novel trying to prove innocence rather than guilt.  At the end when the puzzle finally began to make a little sense and Rutledge had a specific target, then and only then did I feel Rutledge was looking for proof of guilt.

Cover? meh...a train track obviously...through the English countryside and an old church...or abbey that's been closed

Why?  I love this kind of historical mysteryish fiction...and I LOVED the Bess Crawford installment I read a while back by the same authors.  I thought Proof of Guilt would be an easy pick for me.

What Now? Honestly, I'm going to give this one to one of my colleagues this week while I'm in Boston or leave it in my hotel room for someone else to try :(  I'm very sad.  I truly expected to love Proof of Guilt.
I did break my law about reading series books out of order, so I can't help but wonder if that was part of my problem with this read?

Golden Lines

The young Scottish corporal had not wanted to die.  But he would not lead his men back into the teeth of a German machine-gun nest when they'd lost so many already in futile attempts to silence it.  Rutledge had wanted to spare him - but his corporal's very public refusal had left him no options.  The claustrophobia he'd endured since then had been nearly unbearable.  Nor had he been able to free himself of Hamish or that memory. (38)

"What will become of you, if he marries and brings a bride home?"
Tears stood in her eyes.  "He's not that mean.  I'll have a home.  He's told me so.  For as long as I live." (83)

She considered him.  "Do you really think I could have killed anyone?" Her voice began to shake at the start, and then she brought it under control.
"Sadly, for the police there is nothing that marks a murderer.  Nothing that allows us to look at you and know whether you are guilty or innocent."
"I've killed no one," she said huskily.  "Please go.  Please." (137)

Mrs. Bennett was completely blind to the truth, to what these men were and what they were capable of.  Rutledge wondered how her staff viewed her - as a gullible fool they could manipulate or as someone who believed in them. (208)

He stayed with her through the Magistrate's Court, where she was remanded to Holloway, and the last things he saw were her wide eyes as she was led away, half hidden by the prison matron who had taken her in charge. (286-287)

Where the hell was Lewis French? (324)


A unidentified dead man is found in the middle of the road, the victim of what looks to be a motorcar accident.  Two other men are missing, the heads of two families known for the production of Madeira wine in Portugal.  Ian Rutledge from Scotland Yard investigates the accident and has a myriad of suspects to choose from.  But, which suspect is a true lead, and what is the true story behind the dead man's identity and the disappearance of two wealthy men...and how do they all connect...or do they?  Battling his boss's need for swift closure, whether or not the suspects are truly guilty, Rutledge perseveres against all odds, digging below the surface to find an answer buried deep in the past.

What I Liked

The snippets about Rutledge's time at war and the effects he brought home with him...these are randomly interspersed but added just enough depth to keep me going.

old Mr. Belford - the most likeable fella in the entire story for me.

Rutledge's sister Frances...I wish I could've gotten to know her better.

The Bennett home - now this was a plotline I could have really dug into, especially the buried secret. :p

What I Didn't Like

Hamish MacLeod "speaking" to Rutledge from the dead.  I wonder how much of a role this character played in the earlier novels and if I would have felt differently about his "psychic presence" with Rutledge throughout the novel.  It felt silly to me...especially after a while.  The reader is given a brief intro/reminder of Hamish, but it's not enough to truly care about this character who is obviously still a large part of Rutledge's life.  

Too many characters with minute connections...I never could keep them all straight...ever.  I pushed past pg. 50, then 100, but then finally by pg. 250, I gave up on trying to understand everything.  I kept reading with just the slimmest of hopes that it would all come together for me.  It never did.  Proof of Guilt should have been a DNF for me, but my evil "must finish" monster made me keep going.

Lewis French - what a hateful man...even though we never actually get to meet him :(  

Rutledge's reporting trips to Markham...Markham was another dislikeable character...and while there was certainly tension between Markham and Rutledge, I just didn't feel like all this attention and dialogue was necessary.  It almost felt like "busywork" to me.

The women - I felt sorry for Agnes a point, but then I wanted to slap her.  I actually liked Valerie Whitman the most because she didn't try to hide from the gossip caused by French's decision not to marry her.  I liked Mary Townsend the least, however of really no fault of her own.  She was the woman who was to become the dutiful wife.  Of course, this was the role she was groomed for, and she didn't know any better, but good grief, she was French's fiancee' and knew nothing about him really, least of which his whereabouts...and that didn't really concern her.  She was worried about him when she realized he was actually missing, but she didn't even think it was strange that she hadn't seen or heard from in a while.  She was going to be his wife for crying out loud.  Who are these people??

Overall Recommendation

I don't usually give negative recommendations because I pick out the books I want to read based on my interest areas.  I'd rather not read a book that there's a chance I won't like.  Life is entirely too short for that. I can't recommend Proof of Guilt to those who have not read the earlier books in this series.  Just to give the series a fair shake, I'm going to back up and at least read Book 1 in this series, A Test of Wills.

The Author

Charles Todd

Other Stops on the Tour

Tuesday, January 29th: 5 Minutes for Books
Wednesday, January 30th: Bookfoolery and Babble
Thursday, January 31st: A Bookworm’s World
Monday, February 4th: Peppermint PhD
Tuesday, February 5th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Wednesday, February 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, February 7th: Between the Covers
Monday, February 11th: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, February 12th: Short and Sweet Reviews
Wednesday, February 13th: I Read a Book Once
Monday, February 18th: Speaking of Books
Friday, Februay 20th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog