Book Review: What Alice Knew

What Alice Knew

Paula Marantz Cohen

Sourcebooks Landmark

352 pages

Henry James is an author who has gained popularity as an author since he wrote during the Victorian period.  That was about all I knew about Mr James when I picked up this book, and it turned out that his occupation as an author had little to do with the premise of this book.

James, instead, finds himself embroiled in a murder mystery.  Jack the Ripper has taken London by storm, and everyone watches in horror as one by one more murders are committed.  James’s brother, William, is called over from the US by Scotland Yard to aid in the investigation, and he and James quickly come to their own conclusions as to who the perp is.

Lastly, the two brothers are aided by their sister, Alice.  Alice is interesting because her worldviews are that of a feminist but she is a self induced invalid who seemingly cannot bear to get out of bed and face the real world. However, she has a woman’s sensibility that her two brothers lack, and although all three siblings work together to solve the crime, Alice is the one whose levelheadedness helps to solve the crime.

You may remember a few weeks ago when I read and reviewed The Dracula Dossier.  Both books are about Jack the Ripper, although the narrator of The Dracula Dossier is Bram Stoker. I found it interesting that Oscar Wilde played a bit part in both books!

I liked the fact that the books were so incredibly different, despite having the same basis.  I thought both authors made a convincing argument and it was fun to see how both books ended.

Other Reviews:

Devourer of Books


Reading with Tequila

Books I Done Read

I borrowed this book from my local library.

The Sunday Salon: 11/28/2010

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope all my fellow US bloggers had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I have had a great holiday weekend spending time with my family and eating lots of yummy food.

My first time working Black Friday was surprisingly easy.  I had to be at work at 6am, so that was difficult, but our store didn’t have any sales, so we weren’t insanely busy. I tried to walk around the mall after my shift to do some shopping but the mobs were unbelievable and I gave up.  Good for any of you that were able to brave the masses!

I finished Annie on my Mind this week.   I have been enjoying reading more GLBT fiction this year and this book was no exception.  I thought it was still extremely relevant even though it was written almost thirty years ago.  I then started A Ticket to the Circus, by Norris Church Mailer.  I have had this particular book checked out from the library for what seems like months but then I saw a few days ago that Ms Mailer died and I figured I should pick it up.  I am SO glad I did, because it was just what I needed to get me out of my slump.   I have never actually read anything by Norman Mailer, but I definitely plan to soon.  Have any of you read anything by Mailer?  If so, what are your thoughts?

I hope all of you enjoy your Sunday!

The Sunday Salon: 11/21/2010

Happy Sunday all!  I literally just woke up–I haven’t even had my obligatory cup of coffee yet! So excuse me if this post is a bit fuzzy.

While I typically love Sundays, if only because it’s the weekend, there is always that dread of returning to work on Monday that tends to cast a pall over the day.  Not so much today though, since it is only a three day work week! The anticipation of Thanksgiving and a four day weekend is making the rest of the week seem like a piece of cake.  Although I do admit the prospect of working at Lush at 6am on Black Friday is a little bit daunting.  I’ve never worked in retail before, so this Black Friday will be my first!  Anyone have any horror stories to share with me?

Ok, so on to my reading from this past week.  I finished What Alice Knew, by Paula Marantz Cohen.  It was interesting to read it only a few weeks after I finished The Dracula Dossier, as both books featured Jack the Ripper but the suspects and motives were completely different.  I then read Dangerous Neighbors, by Beth Kephart.  I have been wanting to read Kephart for awhile now but I was not able to make a connection with this book, and for that reason it fell a bit flat for me.

I am now reading Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden.  I only started it last night, so I am not far in yet, but I am getting a sense of deja vu, like I have already read the book before.  Don’t you hate when that happens?  I decided to keep reading, because enough of the book, so far, is new to me.  We’ll see how much, if any of the book, continues to be familiar to me.  I don’t remember reading it, as much as I wrack my brain, so I am thinking maybe I picked it up before but only read a bit of it before putting it down and moving on to something else.  Who knows!

Once again, I am going to be having another Sunday where I get little to no chance to read.  While I am happy I got to sleep in, I now have to get my butt in gear, because I have a busy day ahead of me! I hope the rest of you get more reading time in then I will!

Literary Blog Hop, Nov 18-21

The Literary Blog Hop is a weekly meme hosted by The Blue Bookcase.

Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?

Not only do I think that non fiction can be literary–that is generally the only time I actually enjoy non fiction.  For the most part, I want my non fiction to read like a good novel.  The following books are non fiction at it’s best, and I think that their success is due mostly to the way the book is written and not the subject matter.











What do you think?  What are some of your favorite non fiction books?

Book Review: Burning Bright

Burning Bright

Tracy Chevalier

Penguin Group

320 pages

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

I admit it—I loves me some William Blake.  I am not a poetry lover by any means.  In fact, I was one of those self professed poetry haters in college, much to the chagrin of my professors.  Slowly though, my opinion started to shift and I even found some poetry that I enjoyed reading!  Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience were some of my favorite poems.  That fact, coupled with my enjoyment of Tracy Chevalier’s other books made Burning Bright an obvious choice for me.

Jem Kellaway is an adolescent boy who has just moved with his family from England ’s countryside to the hard knock streets of London in 1792.  He and his family are mourning the death of Jem’s brother and they are trying to make a clean break of things.  Life in London though is not what they anticipated, and fitting in is difficult to do.  Jem’s father has brought his family to London after being offered a job by Philip Astley, the ostentatious proprietor of Astley’s Circus.  Meanwhile, Jem also befriends a local girl named Maggie, who is his polar opposite (think innocent vs experienced).  Maggie has been brought up on the streets of London and her father is a professional swindler, so she is a bit jaded.

Maggie and Jem quickly become fascinated with their neighbor, the poet William Blake.  Blake is infamous around London for his political leanings, but Maggie and Jem, along with Jem’s sister Maisie, soon discover that Blake is an interesting man to be around.  Despite the fact that they are kids, he is always willing to have a chat with them, show them his printing press, etc.

So here’s my beef with the book.  If you read my Sunday Salon from 11/6/2010, then you know that I complained about this book being boring.  I did end up changing my tune, as I felt that the second half of the book picked up.  However, I don’t think Chevalier executed Burning Bright as well as she did her other books.  For instance, as with this book, The Girl with the Pearl Earring also involved a famous man (in this case, Vermeer).  The story was

William Blake

told from the viewpoint of one of his servants as opposed to one of his neighbors, but the effect was still the same—take a normal, everyday person and have them tell the story of a more famous person.  I don’t think that we got the intimate view of Blake that we did with Vermeer.  He seemed two dimensional and almost like an afterthought.  He could have been any old random character thrown in the mix.  He did not take center stage in the story.  I really felt that was a shame, as Blake was an interesting guy.  Chevalier could have gone so much further with it.

I did enjoy the metaphor of innocence versus experience, and I thought that it gave the book a little twist.  Otherwise though, I feel that the book was about Jem and Maggie and not about William Blake.  In trying to separate my expectations of the book from what it really is, I can say that this is a fun piece of historical fiction that could have stood on its own.  However, given that Blake should have had a larger part, I can’t say that I am not disappointed with how it all turned out.

Other Reviews:

I *know* I recently read a review for this one on another blog but now I can’t find it!

I purchased this book from Half Price Books.

The Sunday Salon 11/14/2010

Happy Sunday! It’s getting a bit late here and I am writing my post from my parent’s house since we’ve been here all afternoon (and I only woke up a half hour before we left to come here!).  I could give a million excuses as to why my blogging has been lagging again this week, but we’ve all heard this story before, so I will refrain.

I finished Burning Bright this week, by Tracy Chevalier.  Last Sunday I complained that the book was moving a bit slowly for me.  I am glad to say that the book ended up picking up for me.  I will say that I don’t find it to be as enrapturing as Chevalier’s other books, but her books are so great that this one had high standards to live up to.  Once I finished it, I moved on to What Alice Knew, which I am about 2/3 finished with.  Jen from Devourer of Books recommended it knowing that I appreciate stories involving Jack the Ripper. It is very gripping thus far and I am really appreciating the dichotomy between Alice, William and Henry James (yes, the novelist).  Hopefully I finish it fairly soon as it was due at the library October 30 and I ave been accruing fines for over a week now!

I hope everyone got some good reading done today.  Unfortunately, although I brought my book along, I have not read a single sentence yet today.  I am hoping that I get into the swing of things with my second job soon and I am able to get back to normal with my blogging and reading.