Jul 5, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Help me Pick a Book!

The Sunday Salon.com

Hello Sunday Saloners. A while ago I joined the 4Rs Challenge, hosted by The Literate Housewife and Fyrefly. The R's stand for recommend, read, review and repeat, and here's how it works:

You create a thread asking for recommendations for yourself. At the same time, you visit other people’s threads, and make recommendations for books you think *they* would like. Once you have your list of recommendations, you pick one of the books, read it, and review it! Simple
I feel terrible that I wasn't involved enough on the recommendations front this time around - the weeks when the forum was at its most active were my busiest weeks, so I had trouble keeping up with anything online. But people came up with some great recommendations for me regardless, and now the trouble is deciding which book to read. Which is where you come in. I really like Eva and Kim's reading polls, so I thought I'd do one myself. I'll share a short plot summary, and you'll tell me which book you think I should pick up:

  • Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey - The first in a fantasy trilogy I've always been curious about: "Trained from childhood to a life of servitude and espionage, PhŠdre Delaunay serves her master, Anafiel, as a courtesan and spy, ferreting out the dangerous secrets of the noble houses of Terre d'Ange. When she uncovers a treasonous conspiracy, however, her life takes on a new and deadly purpose. Set in a world reminiscent of late medieval and early Renaissance Europe, Carey's first novel portrays a society based upon political and sexual intrigue."

  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber - Historical fiction set in the Victorian age: "An intricate tale of love and ambition and paints a new portrait of Victorian England and its citizens in prose crackling with insight and bravado. Using the wealthy Rackham clan as a focal point for his sprawling, gorgeous epic, Faber, like Dickens or Hardy, explores an era's secrets and social hypocrisy. William Rackham is a restless, rebellious spirit, mistrustful of convention and the demands of his father's perfume business. While spying on his sickly wife's maid, whom he suspects of thievery, he begins a slow slide into depravity: he meets Sugar, a whore whose penetrating mind and love of books intrigues him as much as her beauty and carnal skills do."
  • The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy - This one has actually been on my wishlist for a while: "A provocative transformation of the classic fairy tale into a haunting survival story set in Poland during WWII, Murphy's second novel (after The Sea Within) is darkly enchanting. Two Jewish children, a girl of 11 and her seven-year-old brother, are left to wander the woods after their father and stepmother are forced to abandon them, frantically begging them never to say their Jewish names, but to identify themselves as Hansel and Gretel. In an imaginative reversal of the original tale, they encounter a small woman named Magda, known as a "witch" by villagers, who risks her life in harboring them."

  • To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis - Another one that's on my wishlist: "What a stitch! Willis' delectable romp through time from 2057 back to Victorian England, with a few side excursions into World War II and medieval Britain, will have readers happily glued to the pages. Rich dowager Lady Schrapnell has invaded Oxford University's time travel research project in 2057, promising to endow it if they help her rebuild Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by a Nazi air raid in 1940. In effect, she dragoons almost everyone in the program to make trips back in time to locate items--in particular, the bishop's bird stump, an especially ghastly example of Victorian decorative excess."

  • Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas - A historical romance set - you guessed it - in the Victorian era: "Deftly evoking not only the romantic tension between hero and heroine but also the conflicts and challenges of the Victorian era, this superb romance from Kleypas launches her new series centered on the Wallflowers, four young ladies who are sick of being snubbed and overlooked by London's bachelors and who have banded together to find themselves husbands."

  • Cordelia Underwood: Or the Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League by Van Reid: I love the title of this one so much! "Reid's debut takes place in a simpler, gentler time in 1898, among the well-to-do of Portland, ME. It has parallel plot lines, one of which involves 23-year-old Cordelia Underwood, who lives with her parents and has just inherited from her Uncle Basil a parcel of land in upper, inland Maine that possibly contains buried treasure. The other plot line involves middle-aged Tobias Walton, a man of independent means who travels the world and who this year does his home state. Along the way he has picked up a valet by the name of Sundry Moss, twin brother to Varius Moss. Then there are the three nutty fellows who want Tobias to be the chair of their newly formed club, subsequently named the Moosepath League."

  • Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall - I've seen this one around, and it does sound good: "She has the right clothes, the right friends, and the right last name, but fifteen-year-old Maddie Crane sometimes feels like an outsider in her clique in the wealthy, seaside town of Hawthorne, Massachusetts. And when her gorgeous, eccentric cousin Cordelia LeClaire moves to town, Maddie is drawn toward her ethereal, magical spirit and teeters even more toward the edge of her friends' tightly-knit circle. Kate Endicott and the Sisters of Misery--a secret clique of the most popular, powerful girls in school--are less than thrilled by Cordelia's arrival. When Kate's on-again, off-again boyfriend Trevor takes an interest in Cordelia, the Sisters of Misery become determined to make her pay."
You can vote in the poll below to help me decide. Thanks in advance! (I'd be even more grateful if you told me why I should read the one you voted for in the comments, of course!)

It's also time to give the answers to my quiz from last Friday. Thanks to everyone who participated.
  1. Which famous Victorian poem is quoted at the beginning of Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty? "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred Lord Tennyson

  2. Who wrote the book on which the movie Adaptation was based? Susan Orlean, and the book is The Orchid Thief. Wonderful book, and wonderful movie.

  3. Name two Printz Award winners and two Honor books. You can find a complete list at the Printz Project blog.

  4. Name one Lambda Award winner. List available at the Lambda Literary Foundation site or on Wikipedia.

  5. In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, what is the title of the book Sam Vimes religiously reads to his young son? Where is my Cow? (Is that my cow?)

  6. Which book won the 2009 Carnegie Medal? Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd. I'm afraid I asked "which book", so the author alone wouldn't do!

  7. Who was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature? Selma Lagerlöf, who is indeed the author of The Wonderful Adventures of Nils.

  8. Name three authors (yes, three!) who have written personifications of death. I had Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Markus Zusak in mind, but all the answers you gave me are of course also acceptable.

  9. In Bill Willingham’s Fables series, who was the first mayor of Fabletown? King Cole.

  10. What are the titles of the second and third books in Lois Lowry’s The Giver trilogy? Gathering Blue and Messenger.

  11. Shannon Hale’s Book of One Thousand Days is a retelling of which fairy tale? Maid Maleen.

  12. And while we’re at it, Jeanette Winterson’s Weight is based on which myth? I'm afraid it's Atlas, not Sisyphus, though I can totally see how the title makes it sound like it's Sisyphus!

  13. Who illustrated Kate Bernheimer’s The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum? Nicoletta Ceccoli, one of my favourite illustrators.

  14. Which other well-known author was Daphne du Maurier connected with? (I almost wrote “related to”, but that wouldn’t be quite right.) This wasn't a very good question, was it? I had J.M. Barrie in mind, since the Llewelyn Davies boys were Du Maurier's cousins, but I can see why some of you said Charlotte Brontë. I find bits of random and useless literary trivia like this fascinating: I almost asked who Dante, William and Christina Rossetti's uncle was. (Answer: John Polidori, Byron's physician and author of "The Vampyre".)

  15. What was Lewis Carroll’s real name? Charles Dodgson.
I'm sorry that this was more challenging than I had expected! It's easy to overestimate how widely known something we know actually is (I actually remember a study about this back from my days as a psychology major).

I hope you all had fun, though, which was the main goal anyway. The winner is Claire at Paperback Reader - congratulations, and I'll get in touch with you via e-mail about your prize.


  1. Oh my goodness, I can't believe I won! It was one of the hardest quizzes I've done for some time.

    I haven't even read The Fox Woman yet... I'm saving it for Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge, which begins later this month :),

    I voted for The True Story of Hansel and Gretel.

  2. Tough voting...I ended up going with the Cordelia one.

  3. I voted for To Say Nothing of the Dog. I haven't read it, but I have a copy and I hear it's marvelous.

    I have read The Crimson Petal and the White and was disappointed with it. Others I know have liked it a lot, so you might too.

  4. Aren't reading pools super-fun?

    I thought The Crimson Petal and the White was boring and stereotypical. So no to that.

    I voted for Coredila Underwood, because it sounds awesome and if you love it I'll read it too. :D (what's up with you and Cordelias? hehe)

  5. To Say Nothing of the Dog got my vote too. It is the kind of book i would like to read.

  6. I haven't heard any of the books above except Secrets of a Summer Night. So I won't vote, that would be misleading. But Secrets of a Summer Night is a typical historical romance book with lots of sex and stuff. Lisa Kleypas is an amazing writer and she is funny too.

    So if you don't mind reading such books, Secrets of a Summer Night would definitely be a good one. Otherwise my advice would be to skip it. But then again, if you want to really try something new and branch out a little form you generally read, do read this book.

  7. For the most part, once I'm finished reading a book, I give it away. I don't have enough time to read all the books I own that I haven't read nor the space to store books I'm already done with, so I rarely even ponder re-reading, but an oh-so-few books I keep anyway in the offhand chance. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel was (is?) a keeper. I kept it, and then I thought, this book is so great I want to give it away so someone else can read and love it, so I did. Then I thought, "Why did I do that? I really wish I still had a copy," so I bought myself *another* one to keep. That's how much I loved it, so if you love it even half as much as I did.....well, you get what I'm saying. It's among the best Holocaust books I've ever read (and I think I've read quite a few) and the way it's framed in the fairy tale is just oh-so-cool. How's that for a "why?"? ;-)

  8. I read To Say Nothing a long time ago, but I have fond memories of it. I read it back when I read almost nothing but science fiction and fantasy. Nevertheless, it was one of the best of the bunch.

  9. Great choices...I also voted for The True Story of Hansel and Gretel and put it in my reading log for TBR.I think you would enjoy it because it is a fractured fairy tale with historical fiction. I know you like Fantasy and Historical Fiction...so this would be an excellent fit for you.
    The Crimson Petal and the White, has not received stellar reviews. Not that that is my sole reason for not choosing it for you, but it is mostly historical fiction.
    I believe you like the magic and fantasy a lot.

    My second choice would be
    Sisters of Misery because of the magical ethereal subject matter.

    Hope you have a great week Nymeth.
    Enjoy the book you select.
    This sounds like a really fun challenge. I wish I had known about it.

  10. Please please please read The True Story of Hansel and Gretel. I loved it.

  11. I haven't read any of these, to put that out there... so I voted for the one I want *you* to read and review so I can get a feel for it ;)

    I'd already heard very good things about Kusheil's Dart, and I really like other Kleypas I've read... but I voted for To Say Nothing of the Dog because the summary is fascinating and I've never heard of it, and I would love to see what you think.

  12. I forgot to include my why: because The True Story of Hansel & Gretel sounds AMAZING!

  13. I had a hard time deciding between Cordelia Underwood and the Willis book. Both sound really fun!

  14. Well, as the author of SISTERS OF MISERY, I'm a bit biased. But I think that you should definitely read it because the sequel, THE LOST SISTER, is coming out in August. I'm so honored to be included in this amazing group of books. I'm excited to read your review of SISTERS OF MISERY!!

    Megan Kelley Hall

  15. I am trying to get my own book-blog up and running, and came across yours...since the subject matter is similar, I hope you are interested. I am doing as-I-read reviews, plus other essays about books and reading in general.


  16. I voted for KUSHIEL'S DART, but mostly because I love the rest of the series so much. The first book is good, but it didn't quite blow me out of the water. Carey's worth sticking with, though. She does some gorgeous things with her characters.

    I also really enjoyed THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE. It's this big, sprawling Victorian book with all sorts of fascinating things going on. I couldn't put it down. I do recall that the ending disappointed me, though.

    And I've heard absolutely wonderful things about Connie Willis. Her books are all on my post-TBR wishlist.

  17. I've read both CRIMSON PETAL and HANSEL & GRETEL and it was hard to pick between them. I went with Hansel though because I think you would enjoy it. The combination of fairy tale with the Holocaust is especially moving and I think it sounds like something you would like.

  18. I voted for Cordelia Underwood because I really enjoyed it one time when I read it on a camping trip; but I think Hansel & Gretel sounds wonderful too.

    I enjoyed the quiz! I have that same problem of thinking that everyone knows the same things I know (apart from all the stuff about Oscar Wilde).

  19. Nymeth, that was a great quiz. I voted for The True Story of Hansel and Gretel.Happy reading.

  20. The Crimson Petal and The White: I loved it, the Dickensian feel with the mix of a world Dicken's would never have been allowed to show us.

  21. I voted for To Say Nothing of the Dog, because I've heard all kinds of great things about it. =)

  22. Cordelia Underwood, because I love her name and it takes place in Portland,ME, not far from my home town!

  23. Okay, I know that I voted so that my vote already counted. But I need to gush.

    I read The Crimson Petal and the White pre-blogging but it was one of the books that has stayed with me for the longest time. I love the era that Faber is writing in and you really feel, by the end of it, like you're friends with Sugar. And I love that.

    It also brings up really interesting sexual misconceptions of the times and makes you think about what how the characters would be different if they understood sexuality better.

    Even if it doesn't win, you really have to read it. Well, you don't HAVE to. But you should. :)

    Annnnd, that is the end of my rant. I'll go back to being quiet now. Hah.

  24. I voted for Cordelia Underwood because the description appealed to me!

  25. I feel very selfish voting for Kushiel's Dart. I've been curious about that one myself and would love to read your review of it! I should get points for honesty, right? ;)

  26. Well, I vote for Secrets of a Summer Night. =D

  27. OK, I'm not going to vote because I think I was the one who suggested Sisters of Misery - which is really good and I am excited to see here that the author said the sequel is coming out next month!! Good luck on your selection.

  28. I haven't read any of the books on your list, so I am interested in your reviews. I can't place why I've heard so much about The Crimson Petal though??? I voted for that, but it doesn't look like anyone else did! :) I'll have to look in on it to see if I can figure out where I've heard about that book...

  29. I voted for The True Story of Hansel and Greta...for purely selfish reasons, I'm afraid. I've been wanting to read that one for a while, so I'd love to hear what you think of it.

    The first mayor, huh? Does that mean Prince Charming is going to win this upcoming election? Don't actually answer that, of course. ;)

  30. I liked helping you pick your next read!! That quiz was hard!!!! :)

  31. I love the idea of the 4Rs Challenge. I considered participating but decided it wasn't a good time.

    You've got some great picks there. I've read The Crimson Petal and the White. I want to read Michel Faber's other work. He's such a talented author. I can't say enough about Louise Murphy's book. I hope you'll read that one!

  32. I felt kind of so-so about Faber's book. It started out excellently, but about two-thirds of the way through it just kind of petered out for me. The writing was very good though. Enough so that I wouldn't mind reading another one of his novels.

    I haven't read any of the other novels, so I don't know if you'd like those more. I hope you're enjoying The Forgotten Garden! It's on my TBR shelf.

  33. Tough choices! Because they are sounds so good!! But I voted for The True Story of Hansel and Gretel. I love fairy tales, and I think you know that! :P

  34. Hi Ana! I don't think I've heard of any of the books mentioned here but from the sound of it, The True Story of Hansel and Gretel gets my vote...

  35. I own a copy of Hansel and Gretel and started reading it a year ago and stopped for some reason! I forget why now, but I'm sure it's good! I voted for To Say Nothing because I have TONS of friends telling me to read it. It's apparently pretty good!

  36. I voted for To Say Nothing of the Dog. It's not winning so far but I still think you must read it :)

    It's such a fun and engaging story. Well, I'm sure the others are good too. Ah so many books so little time right?

  37. I voted for The Crimson Petal and the White. I loved it, loved it, LOVED it. Even though it's such a long book, it kept me entertained all the way through. So I wouldn't call it boring or stereotypical.

    On the other hand, I think Hansel and Gretel would also be a good choice for you. I know you love retellings of fairytales, and I've heard very good things about this. Plus, it's been on my wishlist for some time.

    Secrets of a Summer Night is good, if you like historical romances. Actually, I'd say it's better than the average historical romance. I've read the whole series of the Wallflowers (there's a book for every season, each focusing on one of the four ladies in the group) and it was nice, even though the books get a bit repetitive after you read four of them in a row.

    Sisters of Misery has also been on my wishlist for a while, but I don't know much about it. I only like the cover and blurb very much - plus, at the moment I'm going through YA books like they're going out of fashion.

    I had never heard of the other books you mention before.

    (On a sidenote: I've managed to get my hands on a copy of Tender Morsels!)

  38. Well, since I've got a dog in this fight, I'm not actually going to vote, but I stand by my recommendation that I think you will totally love To Say Nothing....

    All of the rest of them sound good, though - I'd be particularly interested in your opinion of The Crimson Petal and the White, since I've had it on my TBR pile for a long time, but keep getting intimidated by its size.

  39. Kushiel's Dart is in my top three favorite books of all time, so it was a no-brainer for me. Also, The Crimson Petal and the White really disappointed me.

  40. Oh my goodness I haven't heard of any of these. Guess I'll go crawl back under my rock. Anyway, if I had to suggest one, I'd say The Crimson Petal and the White. Either way, can't wait to hear what you think and discover some new treasures!

    Although I didn't have time to participate in your quiz, I loved reading the questions (and feeling clueless) and reading the answers and feeling enlightened. :)

  41. I vote for "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis. Why? Well, how else are you going to find out what the bishop's bird stump is?? ;o) This book had me chuckling all the way through for its zaniness and poking fun at the Victorians. And the time travel adventure part isn't to be missed!

  42. I'm a sucker for revisionist fairy tales, so 'The True Story of Hansel and Gretel' sounds awesome to me.

  43. My vote was for Crimson Petal and the White. I read it with my book club a few years back and we all loved it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

  44. I was kind of bored with The Crimson and the Petal. It was ok. The only other book I've read is The Sisters of Misery. I thought it was pretty good!

  45. Claire, there's no rush whatsoever about The Fox Woman! You won it, it's yours, so take your time :P You did great in the quiz :) I'll e-mail you today.

    Amanda: That does sound like a good one, doesn't it?

    Teresa: I've heard great things about that one also. I'll get to it at some point, even if it doesn't win!

    Eva: They are :D And lol, that's a good reason :P Very practical :P

    Scrap Girl: It does sound awesome!

    Violet, you could have voted anyway just from the summaries :) Thank you for your comment, though. I don't mind sex scenes in books, and though romance is out of my comfort zone, it's definitely good to venture out and try new things from time to time!

    Megan: Persuasive enough that I'm convinced I HAVE to read it soon whether or not it wins! It looks like it will, though :P

    debnance: I'm a sucker for speculative fiction, so that one really sounds right up my alley!

    Wisteria: Wow, you know my taste well! And the challenge starts again every 3 months, so you can join for the next round :D

    Lu: Considering how great you last two recommendations to me were, your vote counts extra ;)

    kiirstin: lol! That reasoning seems to be popular :P

    Wordlily: They do! I expect I'll get to all of these at some point, regardless of which one I read for the challenge.

    Megan Kelley Hall: You may be a tiny bit biased, but the vote still counts :P Thanks for stopping by! Even if I don't read the book for this challenge I'll get to it at some point.

    BookSnob: First of all, welcome to the blogging community! I'll be off to visit you in a bit :)

  46. Memory: lol, post tbr-wishlist :P I should make one of those. Except I'm awful at sticking to rules even if I make them. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!

    Heather: I was dying to read Hansel & Gretel last year when a couple of bloggers reviewed it, but then it sort of fell off my radar. I'm glad this challenge brought it to my attention again!

    Jenny: yay, someone who's read Cordelia! And I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the quiz :)

    Vasilly: Thank you!

    Katrina: Wow, that is a VERY tempting description!

    Shannon: So have I. I want to read it before too long even if not for the challenge.

    Gavin: I love her name too :)

    Lena: The gushing was very much appreciated! I really like this: "makes you think about what how the characters would be different if they understood sexuality better."

    Bermudaonion: It does sound like a lovely read, doesn't it?

    Carl: lol, it's a practical reason, and nothing wrong with that :P

    heidenkind: Thanks again for the recommendation :D

    Literare Housewife: Even though it's not winning, thank you for bringing it to my attention! I do plan to read it at some point.

    Becky: It's not winning, but it has quite a few votes now!

    Debi: *slaps forehead* I CAN'T believe I did that!! Aaaaah, I suck :P

    Staci: And I liked having you help :D

    Literary Feline: There's always the next round in 3 months!

    J.S. Peyton: Sadly, I'm not too crazy about it so far (I'm about halfway through) :/ The story's interesting, but I strongly dislike her writing style.

  47. Melody: lol, I do know :P

    Alice: It does sound like an amazing one!

    Renay: It's been recommended to me quite a few times too!

    Iliana: It's not too far behind Hansel & Gretel, though! And yep...so little time.

    Alessandra: It seems that the Faber book causes a lot of passionate and diverse reactions! Thank you for your thoughts on all of those. And yay, Tender Morsels :D I really hope you enjoy it.

    Fyrefly: I think I would, yes! And I confess to a mental "ay caramba" when I went to Amazon for the plot summaries and noticed the size :P

    Hawkeyegirl: Thank you for your thoughts! I've been meaning to read Carey for a long time.

    Trish: I'm glad you enjoyed the quiz. I really didn't mean to make it so hard :P

    Terri B: Bishop's bird stump, eh? I want to know!

    Kim: So am I!

    Dar: The word "Victorian" was enough to put it on my wishlist, so I will get to it even if not for the challenge :)

    Stephanie: It seems that that one is a love it or hate it kind of book! And The Sisters of Misery does sound good :)

  48. They all sound interesting! I think first you should read, "To Say Nothing of the Dog"... sounds interesting.

    I just finished reading "Upon's Eagles Light" by Clover Autrey, and though it was a simple book, it was still interesting and endearing.

  49. I voted for Crimson Petal as I really enjoyed it, though I know its not everyones cup of tea. I found it to be a really rich and descriptive novel, though the ending may not please some! It is reviewed in my 2008 reads.

    Kushiel's Dart sounds very interesting too though! I may look that one up. Happy reading.

  50. I voted for Kushiel's Dart. It's what I'm reading now. It's heavily detailed and not a fast read, but I keep finding myself picking it back up. I just wrote on how the beginning of it, oddly enough, reminds me of Lois Lowry's The Giver: http://lay-ra.blogspot.com/2009/07/separated-at-birth-giver-kushiels-dart.html.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.