Last year I read Daphne du Maurier's masterpiece Rebecca, and I loved it. I'm happy to say My Cousin Rachel had the same moody atmosphere, the same slow build of events, and the same feeling of not knowing who to trust or what will happen next. It's an English thriller-light sort of book, set in Cornwall during, I think, the Victorian period. Philip Ashley's cousin, Ambrose, who raised him, dies in Italy not long after marrying Rachel. When Rachel comes to stay with Phillip, the reader and the young man are left wondering if she's to be trusted. Mysterious letters from Ambrose are penned to Philip, but can they be trusted or are they the ramblings of a fevered mind? I loved this book. I'm not sure I could choose a favorite between it and Rebecca, high praise indeed. Highly recommended, especially when you're looking for a moody, suspenseful read. My rating: 5 stars.
And I finished Anne Byrn's* American Cake, which I just adored. Although I'm not much of a fan of sweets, there's something about cake that I find irresistible. And this book does it right. Byrn gives us the history of cake in America, how it and its ingredients have evolved over the centuries, but also provides numerous sidebars of historical information and helpful techniques. There was a big, beautiful, full-page photo of each cake in the book, which I loved (there's nothing worse than recipes without pictures). Although I don't bake much (at all), there were a lot of cake recipes that I would love to try. I loved the book so much, I bought a copy for my mom (who loves to bake). My rating: 5 stars.
*Author interview this week, I promise!
I'd put off reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand all year because I was anticipating a great book and I wanted to save it for just the right time. Happy to report I am not disappointed. As much as I loved her The Summer before the War, I love this one equally. Generally, I enjoy historical fiction more than contemporary, but I also tend to enjoy a good novel set in another country, and this one was that. Very English-y, folks stopping to drink tea every four pages or so, colorful characters. It was a feel-good book but also dealt with deep topics: interracial relationships, sense of place, disappointment in one's children, having difficulty with change. Simonson can write a character better than most, and I enjoyed these characters immensely. The story feels very much like At Home in Mitford--small town life, and Major Pettigrew is a more believable Ove from A Man Called Ove. Mrs. Ali, whom the major falls in love with, is a lovely, strong, and wise Pakistani woman. I didn't rate this one a full five stars because the plot, especially toward the end, veered into the unbelievable and dramatic, and that irritated me a bit. Still, a great read. My rating: 4 1/2 stars.
This week I continue with:
I haven't been marking poems in Jane Kenyon's Otherwise because I'd be marking every other one. If you're looking for a good book of domestic and nature poetry, pick up something by Kenyon.
I'm working my way through Firefly Hollow, and it's getting interesting. Will Cricket and Firefly return to their nations or continue to pursue their dreams with the miniature giant (boy), Peter?
I'm really enjoying The One-in-a-Million Boy, despite the narrator who I find distracting. The characters are quite good, and I'm feeling a happy ending coming (though I'm only about halfway through).
When I finished My Cousin Rachel, I'd planned to pick up The Perfect Horse about the Royal Lipizzan stallions during World War II. I got a couple pages in and realized I just couldn't stomach another World War II book no matter its theme. I substituted News of the World, a National Book Award Finalist and something I've been really excited to read. I'm finishing out October with a lot of fiction, highly unusual for me, but I'm really happy with what I'm reading right now.