COYER Wrap-up

COYER Winter Challenge
COYER Winter Challenge

I participated in the Winter COYER and though I didn’t accomplish my goals I still had fun and am glad I joined this challenge.

Here were my goals for COYER:

  • Read & review at least 20 books – that would be two books a week! — I read and reviewed 17 books
  • Visit and comment on at least 5 reviews from the linky a week — Not accomplished
  • Participate in at least 2 of the read-a-thons — Not accomplished
  • Participate in at least one twitter party — Not accomplished
  • Participate in the Facebook group — Not accomplished
  • Do at least 1 mini-challenge — Not accomplished
  • I plan to post a list of books which I may read when the challenge begins — Not accomplished
  • Have fun– Done–I had lots of fun!

………………………….

I read and reviewed 17 books (all electronic and inexpensive) which almost met my goal of 20 books. One of the reasons I chose 20 books was that I misread the rules and thought I could read library books, too. (I had a number of library books checked out.) However, I re-read the rules and realized the library books had to be digital copies–which makes sense it’s called COYER–Clean Out Your E-Reader!

I didn’t get any other goals accomplished other than having fun! 2015 has been very busy so far and I just haven’t had the time to take part in the other activities. That seems to happen with reading challenges I join. I read, but just don’t get anything else done so I’ve decided in the future not to set goals of participating in all the activities!

I thank Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading for hosting this challenge.

Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

half-a-kingHalf a King
by Joe Abercrombie
Narrated by John Keating
Series: Shattered Sea #1
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Published by Recorded Books, 2014 (Del Rey, 2014)
Audiobook, purchased
336 pages
9 hours, 17 minutes
Grade: B
Narrator Grade: B
Synopsis: “I swore an oath to be avenged on the killers of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver. Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer. Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper? But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…

“The fool strikes. The wise man smiles, and watches, and learns. Then strikes.”

and

“What is the world coming to when an honest man cannot burn corpses without suspicion?” asked Nothing.

Cheers

  • I enjoyed this book a lot.
  • Prince Yarvi is a survivor and he has lots to survive during this book. He’s also smart. He’s had to learn to use his wits in a world which values physical strength.
  • I like how much Yarvi grows and changes during the course of the book. He learns the value of loyalty, planning and friendship.
  • The book mostly features Yarvi traveling by ship and overland. The area they were in kind of made me think of books about ancient Ireland, Britain and surrounding areas I’ve read. One book in particular I read a few years ago (Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale by Donna Jo Napoli) about a princess kidnapped from Ireland and her travel around the oceans and seas until finally she reaches Iceland. That story is based on an ancient Icelandic story.
  • Yarvi finds out revenge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
  • So many well-written and fleshed out characters–Nothing, Samael, Shadikshirram. the Queen and many others.
  • The end of the book is a surprise.
  • The narrator is good.

Jeers

  • There are slow parts in the story. This could be part of listening to the book over a long period of time.
  • It was sometimes hard for me to keep track of all the characters since there are lots of them.

About the author

  • Joe Abercrombie is a British fantasy writer and film editor. Besides The Shattered Seas series he has written The First Law Trilogy as well as stand-along novels.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • This is the first book by Joe Abercrombie I’ve read, but I plan to read more.
  • This book took me a while to listen to–too many things happening to listen to an audiobook as much as I wanted to.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book by an author you’ve never read before)
  • COYER Winter Reading Challenge–hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading (audiobook)

Review: Hot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell

hot-lead-cold-ironHot Lead, Cold Iron
by Ari Marmell
Series: Mick Oberon #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy (Historical)
Published by Titan Books, 2014
E-book, purchased
400 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Chicago, 1932. Mick Oberon may look like just another private detective, but beneath the fedora and the overcoat, he’s got pointy ears and he’s packing a wand.

Oberon’s used to solving supernatural crimes, but the latest one’s extra weird. A mobster’s daughter was kidnapped sixteen years ago, replaced with a changeling, and Mick’s been hired to find the real child. The trail’s gone cold, but what there is leads Sideways, to the world of the Fae, where the Seelie Court rules. And Mick’s not really welcome in the Seelie Court any more. He’ll have to wade through Fae politics and mob power struggles to find the kidnapper – and of course it’s the last person he expected.

Now I’m a PI in a filthy, crime-ridden city, where I gotta talk like I’ve got a beef with grammar if I wanna halfway blend in, in a world that actually hurts me.

and

His peepers were zipping back and forth like pixies on caffeine….

Cheers

  • I love the world building and setting. 1932 Chicago isn’t a place I see much in fantasy!
  • This world parallels our world except for the magic and the Fae and other supernatural creatures.
  • One of the best new urban fantasy series I’ve read in recent years.
  • I’ve seen this book compared to the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. The similarities: They both live in Chicago and Mick Oberon has a similar humor to Harry Dresden. I like Oberon’s inner dialogue and that he takes everything with a grain of salt. (Sometimes literally–he uses quite a bit of salt in this book!)
  • This book also has a slightly different take on the Fae community. I haven’t seen this twist before–that the Fae mimic human behavior. I like how the author uses this in the book.
  • The Seelie and Unseelie Courts in the Chicago Otherworld near the human city of Chicago is built from the homes or buildings destroyed or torn down in the human Chicago. The Seelie Court is modeled after the municipal government in Chicago. They use titles like Judge and Police Chief, but the titles don’t tell a person how important that Fae are. For example, the King is just one of many judges.
  • The gangsters are great characters.
  • I like all the slang the book uses. “Lamps” and “peepers” are eyes; “choppers” and Chicago typewriters” are Tommy guns.
  • The book has a number of twists and turns and I didn’t see most of them coming.

Jeers

  • I thought Oberon could have managed without making a deal with Queen Mob. That just sounds like a bad idea.

About the author

  • Besides this book which is the beginning of a new series Ari Marmell has a written a number of other books including the Widdershin’s Adventures. He’s also a long-time RPG player.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I want to read the next book in this series! Luckily, the next book comes out in a few months.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book with antonyms in the title)
  • COYER Winter Reading Challenge–hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading (e-book, $1.99)

Review: A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

a-beautiful-blue-deathA Beautiful Blue Death
by Charles Finch
Series: Charles Lenox Mysteries #1
Genre: Historical Mysteries (Victorian England)
Published by Minotaur Books, 2007
E-book, purchased
324 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, likes nothing more than to relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book. But when his lifelong friend Lady Jane asks for his help, Lenox cannot resist the chance to unravel a mystery.

Prudence Smith, one of Jane’s former servants, is dead of an apparent suicide. But Lenox suspects something far more sinister: murder, by a rare and deadly poison. The grand house where the girl worked is full of suspects, and though Prue had dabbled with the hearts of more than a few men, Lenox is baffled by the motive for the girl’s death.

When another body turns up during the London season’s most fashionable ball, Lenox must untangle a web of loyalties and animosities. Was it jealousy that killed Prudence Smith? Or was it something else entirely? And can Lenox find the answer before the killer strikes again—this time, disturbingly close to home?

He had always wanted to be a traveler in his heart, and while he had made it pretty far–Russia, Rome, Iceland–he had never lost that childhood vision of himself, dusty and tired but triumphant, finding something completely new out on the edge of the world.

and

The reason these clubs flourished, Lenox felt, was that this was an age of unusually rigid separation between men and women. He and Lady Jane ignored that separation, but most men spoke very little with women except at parties, and were most comfortable playing a hand of cards or smoking a cigar with their friends, a kind of solidarity encouraged in grammar school, public school, and university, all of which excluded women.

Cheers

  • I enjoy the day-to-day life Charles Lenox talks about. I like hearing about his clubs and the people he meets.
  • Charles discovered he was good at solving mysteries and since he doesn’t need money he never charges anything. He often helps Scotland Yard, but they aren’t very appreciative–though they’re glad to take the credit when he solves a case.
  • Charles agrees to investigate the death of a maid who had once been a maid for his friend Lady Jane. This investigation has a number of red herrings both for Charles and the reader. I did have an idea who the murder was (and I was right!) However, there is more to the mystery than I thought at first.
  • I like Lady Jane. Since she lives next door to Charles and they’re good friends I think she will be included in future books. I hope so.
  • This is not a thriller. More of a quiet mystery, a little old-fashioned perhaps. I enjoyed it. It was a quick book for me to read though the pace of the book is slow and steady! I know that sounds contradictory, but that’s how it felt. And it was great for a cold, winter day to sit by the fireplace and unlike Charles I could sit, stay warm, drink a hot cup of tea and read instead of venturing out in the snowy weather as he had to!
  • Charles loves to plan trips and he collects the maps he would use on those trips. He often has to cancel his trips if he’s involved in an investigation. But he dreams of the trips he might make someday.
  • I enjoy the description of Christmas with his brother’s family.
  • The imagery of the “beautiful blue death” (bella indigo) is great.

Jeers

  • Sometimes there’s an omniscient point-of-view foreshadowing events. This wasn’t necessary and I think the book would have been better without it.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I liked this first book and plan to read more books in the series. I bought several when they were on sale!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book with a color in the title)
  • COYER Winter Reading Challenge–hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading (e-book–$2.99)

Review: The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey

the-bloodboundThe Bloodbound
by Erin Lindsey
Series: Bloodbound #1
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Published by Ace, 2014
E-book, purchased
368 pages
Grade: C+
Synopsis: Of all those in the King of Alden’s retinue, the bloodbinders are the most prized. The magic they wield can forge invaluable weapons, ones that make soldiers like Lady Alix Black unerringly lethal. However, the bloodbinders’ powers can do so much more—and so much worse…

A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.

Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.

But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…

He was not afraid. He would be surrounded by friends and allies. He had always been surrounded by people who loved him, ever since he was a child. Strange, then, that he should feel so utterly alone.

and

“. . . What do you suppose his Domain is like?”

“Hell is full of crows that peck at your eyes, and heaven is an everlasting tournament of verbal jousting and improvised comedy. You never stumble over your words, and everyone laughs at your jokes.”

Cheers

  • I like the first part of this book better than the rest of it.
  • I like the military, strategy and battle portions of the book.
  • Alix is a good character in her military role, but her romances undermine her authority as a military leader.
  • I did like that Alix is honest with Liam and finally with Erik.

Jeers

  • The romances.
  • The Epilogue is unnecessary.

About Erin Lindsey

  •  This is the first book by Erin Lindsey. She also writes the Nicolas Lenoir fantasy mystery series as E. L. Tettensor.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I really enjoyed the first part of the book, but gradually realized I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I got to the end of the book. I’ll have to decide whether to read the next book. I wish the author had left out the romance or at least not put in so much . . . maybe waited for future books.
  • I’ve mentioned in the past I don’t like very much romance in my fantasy or science fiction.
  • I have the first book in the Nicolas Lenoir mystery fantasy series so I plan to read that. I don’t think it has romance in it like this book does so I may like it better.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book with a love triangle)
  • COYER Winter Reading Challenge–hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading (Christmas gift)

Reading Challenge Update–Jan & Feb

my-reading-challengesI have a page for each of my challenges. On those pages I update my challenges as I read a book or review it.

 

………………………..

Audiobooks (challenge– 20-30 audiobooks)

–I’ve listened to 5 books

Cloak & Dagger (challenge–20 books)

–I’ve read 4 mysteries

Goodreads (challenge–110 books)

–I’ve read 19 books so far (17% complete–2 books ahead of schedule)

Library (challenge–12-16 books)

–I’ve read 1 book from the library

New Authors (challenge–25 new authors)

–I’ve read 6 new authors

TBR (challenge–read & review one TBR book on the third Wednesday each month)

–I’ve reviewed one book on each of the third Wednesdays of January and February

TBR Pile (challenge–31-40 books)

–I’ve read five books from my TBR pile

Ultimate Challenge (challenge–list of 52 subjects)

–From the list of 52 subjects I’ve read 10 books which match subjects

COYER Winter Challenge

–COYER ends on March 6 so I will put my end of challenge update next week

Review: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

i-robotI, Robot
by Isaac Asimov
Narrated by Scott Brick
Series: Robot #0.1
Genre: Science Fiction
Published by Random House Audio, 2004 (originally published 1950)
Audiobook, purchased
225 pages
8 hours, 20 minutes
Grade: B+
Narrator Grade: B+
Synopsis: The three laws of Robotics:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

With these three simple directives, Isaac Asimov changed our perception of robots forever when he formulated the laws governing their behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future — a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.

Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-reading robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world — all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asimov’s trademark.

“I, on the other hand, am a finished product. I absorb electrical energy directly and utilize it with an almost one hundred percent efficiency. I am composed of strong metal, am continuously conscious, and can stand extremes of environment easily. These are facts which, with the self-evident proposition that no being can create another being superior to itself, smashes your silly hypothesis to nothing.”

and

“Fifty years,” I hackneyed, “is a long time.”

“Not when you’re looking back at them,” she said. “You wonder how they vanished so quickly.”

Cheers

  • The stories all show robots and humans, their interactions and the philosophical questions of using robots. Lots of food for thought.
  • I thought I’d read this book, but what I remember reading are the Robot novels #1-4 which are more science fiction mysteries with a partnership between Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw (the R stands for Robot).
  • The narrator is good. He talks very clearly and because he’s portraying a journalist he doesn’t display a lot of emotion which works. However, during some of the stories there is some emotion and he does show that.
  • Isaac Asimov coined many ideas and terms which are now used in other science fiction novels and even in science.
    • The Three Laws of Robotics, for example, is an idea used in many books and movies.
    • The positronic brain, robotics, psychohistory are all words and ideas credited to Isaac Asimov.
    • He influenced many other science fiction writers.
  • These stories told by Susan Calvin as she’s interviewed at the end of her career as a robopsychologist are fascinating as they show the evolution of robots, the many different types of robots, the funny and frightening aspects as well as the fear most humans have for robots.
  • The field of robopsychology is very interesting. How Susan Calvin solves problems with robots . . .  the puzzles of why these robots behave the way they do.
  • I feel like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation owes a lot to the way Isaac Asimov developed his robots.
  • Several other characters besides Susan are recurring. The most interesting to me are the two human troubleshooting engineers sent to test new robots in field conditions. The ways they figure out the problems and idiosyncrasies of the robots are sometimes funny and sometimes frightening.
  • One of the most interesting robot is the mind-reading robot. This robot interacts directly with Susan and other directors of U.S. Robots. Since he can read minds he’s able to tell them things they want or “need” to know. However, because of the Three Laws things don’t work out quite how the humans hope!
  • I felt sorry for some of the robots.

Jeers

  • I would have liked to have known more about some of these characters, but we learn very little about them. Except perhaps the loneliness of Susan Calvin’s life.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • The movie I, Robot starring Will Smith has very little in common with this book. As I recall they use the Three Laws of Robotics, but that’s about it. Some of the same names, but anything else? No.

About Isaac Asimov

  • He wrote over 500 fiction and nonfiction books; won many awards during his life including the Hugo, Locus and Nebula Awards; and had a PhD from Columbia in biochemistry. Considered one of the pioneers of science fiction writing.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book that became a movie)
  • COYER Winter Reading Challenge–hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading (audiobook)

Review: Classic Love Poems by Shakespeare, Browning, Poe, et al.

classic-love-poemsClassic Love Poems
by (see below)
Narrated by Richard Armitage
Series: None
Genre: Poetry
Published by Audible Studios, 2015
Audiobook, free
22 Minutes
Grade: A
Narrator Grade: A
Synopsis: For anyone who’s in love – or hopes to be – what greater celebration could there be than to hear the world’s greatest love poetry read lovingly by Richard Armitage? With 15 poems by William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and more, Classic Love Poems is a listening treat for Valentine’s Day – or any day.

Included in this collection are:
• “How do I love thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
• “Sonnet 116” by William Shakespeare
• “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe
• “To Be One with Each Other” by George Eliot
• “Maud” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
• “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell
• “Bright Star” by John Keats
• “Love’s Philosophy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley
• 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
• “Meeting at Night” by Robert Browning
• “The Dream” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
• “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe
• “I carry your heart” by e. e. cummings
• “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron
• “Give All to Love” by Ralph Waldo Emersonvalentine-card

Cheers

  • I admit I don’t read a lot of poetry, but when I saw that Richard Armitage narrated these I had to listen!
  • When I watched North and South which stars Richard Armitage several years ago he became one of my favorite actors!
  • His voice is excellent for these poems.
  • This was a free download from Audible on Valentine’s Day and I listened right away. It’s only 22 minutes, but it is wonderful to hear someone read these so well.
  • I even recited a few lines from “How Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning to my husband and wrote them on the card I made for him! He was gobsmacked, I think…LOL

Jeers

  • None

And a few thoughts . . .

  • So fun to listen to these poems!
  • This Audible edition is free until March 9, 2015

A sample poem


Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Review: A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

a-test-of-wills-audioA Test of Wills
by Charles Todd
Narrated by Samuel Giles
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge #1
Genre: Historical Mystery (Great Britain, 1919)
Published by Recorded Books, 2012 (originally published 1996)
Audiobook, purchased
305 pages
10 hours, 28 minutes
Grade: B+
Narrator Grade: B
Synopsis: Ian Rutledge returns to his career at Scotland Yard after years fighting in the First World War. Unknown to his colleagues he is still suffering from shell shock, and is burdened with the guilt of having had executed a young soldier on the battlefield for refusing to fight. A jealous colleague has learned of his secret and has managed to have Rutledge assigned to a difficult case which could spell disaster for Rutledge whatever the outcome. A retired officer has been murdered, and Rutledge goes to investigate.  

“Tell me something. Why is everyone so determined to believe Wilton is innocent?”

Surprised, Davies said, “He’s a war hero isn’t he? Admired by the King and a friend of the Prince of Wales. He’s visited Sandringham, been received by Queen Mary herself! A man like that doesn’t go around killing people!”

With a wry downturn of his lips, Rutledge silently asked, “How did he win his medals, you fool, if not by being so very damned good at killing?”

Cheers

  • A very good story. Well written.
  • This is as much about WWI as it is about the murder mystery.
  • Ian Rutledge was a soldier in WWI and is still suffering from shell shock though he has come back to work for Scotland Yard. He hears a Scottish voice in his head. The voice of the soldier he executed during the War.
  • This case involves Army officers and someone suffering from shell shock. This doesn’t help Inspector Rutledge who is trying to survive in the world and work through his problems. Which is the reason a resentful colleague suggests Scotland Yard send Inspector Rutledge to investigate this case.
  • Scotland Yard does send Rutledge to investigate this difficult case, because they decide he’s expendable since he’s just started work again after the War.
  • Rutledge isn’t sure he has what it takes to solve crimes anymore. And he has flashbacks from the War. This is a difficult case for him, but he perseveres.

Jeers

  • The book had a lot of characters so it was a little hard to follow the narration.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I enjoyed this book so much and I want to read more books in this series.

Literary Awards

  • Barry Award for Best First Novel (1997), Anthony Award Nominee for Best First Novel (1997), Dilys Award Nominee (1997), Edgar Award Nominee for Best First Novel (1997)

About the author

  • Charles and Caroline Todd are the mother-son writing team who use the pen name Charles Todd. They also write the Bess Crawford series about a WWI nurse.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • COYER Winter Reading Challenge–hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading (audiobook)

Review: Servants’ Hall by Margaret Powell

servants-hall

Servants’ Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance
by Margaret Powell
Narrated by Susan Lyons
Series: None
Genre: Memoir
Published by Audible Studios, 2013 (originally published 1979)
Audiobook, purchased
192 pages
7 hours, 3 minutes
Grade: B
Narrator grade: B
Synopsis: Margaret Powell’s Below Stairs, a servant’s firsthand account of life in the great houses of England, became a sensation among readers reveling in the luxury and subtle class warfare of Masterpiece Theatre’s hit television series Downton Abbey. In Servants’ Hall, another true slice of life from a time when armies of servants lived below stairs simply to support the lives of those above, Powell tells the true story of Rose, the under-parlourmaid to the Wardham Family at Redlands, who took a shocking step: She eloped with the family’s only son, Mr. Gerald.

Going from rags to riches, Rose finds herself caught up in a maelstrom of gossip, incredulity and envy among her fellow servants. The reaction from upstairs was no better: Mr. Wardham, the master of the house, disdained the match so completely that he refused ever to have contact with the young couple again. Gerald and Rose marry, leave Redlands and Powell looks on with envy, even as the marriage hits on bumpy times: “To us in the servants’ hall, it was just like a fairy tale . . . How I wished I was in her shoes.”

Once again bringing that lost world to life, Margaret Powell trains her pen and her gimlet eye on her “betters” in this next chapter from a life spent in service. Servants’ Hall is Margaret Powell at her best—a warm, funny and sometimes hilarious memoir of life at a time when wealthy families like ruled England.

In 1922 when at the age of 15 I entered domestic service after two years as a daily, servants were considered less than dusty by those who employed them; and ignorant, even positively not all there by that section of the working class–male and female alike–who wouldn’t have been seen alive or dead as a servant below stairs.

Cheers

  • I found the story fascinating. I liked reading (listening) to a memoir about a particular era and way of life.
  • The narrator was good. I have no idea how Margaret Powell may have sounded and know very little about English accents, so all I know is the narrator has an English accent and read the story well!
  • Margaret Powell is so interesting and her narrative of servants’ lives in the 1920’s and 1930’s is a great story.
  • Margaret starts as a kitchen maid and becomes a cook. The part where she works with Rose is at the beginning of the book and only a small part of the overall story.
  • Margaret doesn’t start as a very happy kitchen maid. She loves to read and wanted to continue with her schooling, but that wasn’t an option in her family. However, she continues to read and enjoys learning and ultimately goes to school and passes her O-levels and A-levels (after she was well into her 50’s), writes a number of books and becomes a TV personality. Quite an accomplishment.
  • Includes a discussion of class differences. There’s a definite pecking order among the servants just as there is “above stairs.”
  • I enjoyed the descriptions of the dances the young servants attend and the romances which sometimes occur. For many of the servants there may be a bit of romance, but never any “fairytale marriage.” Though some of the young maid’s think Rose’s elopement is like a fairytale, the older, more experienced and cynical servants insist it isn’t.
  • The story tells the poverty many servants lived through after they were too old to work.

Jeers

  • This is advertised as story about a maid who elopes with her employer’s son. Yes, it does tell that story, but it’s not really the most interesting part of the book.
  • This is mostly the story of the 1920’s and 1930’s until the last few minutes–used to wrap up everyone’s lives after WWII. That was rather abrupt.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • Apparently Margaret Powell’s books were used for creating Upstairs, Downstairs (a British TV series in the 1970’s).
  • I had never heard of her before and was happy to find this book on sale at Audible.

About the author

  • Margaret Powell (1907 – 1984) was an English writer. Her book about her experiences in domestic service, Below Stairs, became a best-seller and she went on to write other books and became a television personality. Below Stairs was an impetus for Upstairs, Downstairs and the basis of Beryl’s Lot, and is one of the inspirations of Downton Abbey. (from Wikipedia)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (A memoir)
  • COYER Winter Reading Challenge–hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading (an audiobook–$4.95)