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Retro Friday: Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

The news of Mary Stewart recently passing away reminded me that I’ve been meaning to read more of her novels. I have a few of her romantic suspense novels in my TBR pile, one of which is her first novel Madam, Will You Talk? When I found out that this book is set in Provence, I was immediately curious and I wanted to read it sooner rather than later.

Madam Will You TalkHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Charity had been looking forward to her driving holiday through France with her friend Louise – long, leisurely days under the hot sun, enjoying the beauty of the Provencal landscape. But very soon her dreams turn into a nightmare, as Charity becomes enmeshed in the schemes of a gang of murderers.

While I do read cozy mysteries from time to time, I can’t say that I’m a big fan of them. But there’s something about Mary Stewart’s writing that just draws me in. There’s a certain charm in her books that lets me see what life must have been like at that time. I like that her heroines are smart and capable ladies, even if they don’t believe they are. Madam, Will You Talk? is about Charity, a young English widow who goes off with her friend Louis on a summer vacation to the South of France and unexpectedly gets involved in a murder mystery. This is how she feels when she runs right smack into trouble:

“I was alone. Any help I got now would only come from myself, and I was well aware that I am not the stuff of which heroines are made. I was merely frightened and bewildered, and deeply resentful of the situation in which I found myself.”

I believe Charity handles herself very well for someone who was supposed to be on a holiday but ended up being chased all around the country instead. I love how Charity’s excellent driving skills come in handy and a powerful car becomes her weapon:

“I laughed. I was as cool as lake-water, and, for the moment, no more ruffled. The feel of that lovely car under my hands, in all her power and splendour, was to me like the feel of a sword in the hand of a man who has been fighting unarmed.”

I wish I could drive like that! The setting of the book starts in Avignon and explores the surrounding areas including Nimes and Marseilles. Mary Stewart’s descriptions made me want to visit Provence and all the places that Charity went to. One of the reasons why I enjoy this author’s romantic suspense novels is because each book is set in a beautiful and vibrant location. It says something about Mary Stewart’s writing that she can make these places come alive. She also has a way of keeping readers in suspense all throughout the story. I feel like I was right there with Charity, while she was being chased by a suspected murderer. I was cheering her on while she zoomed her car through all those French highways. I kept turning the pages because I wanted to get more information. I was very curious about how the mystery will be solved and how the romance will develop. As with all other Mary Stewart mysteries that I’ve read, Madam, Will You Talk? ended on a satisfying note. Another good romantic suspense read. I look forward to reading the rest of her books.

Other reviews:
Miss Darcy’s Library
Quirky Bookworm
Gudrun’s Tights
Bookwitch


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Mary Stewart

This morning I found out that author Mary Stewart has passed away. She was 97 years old. Announcement and obituary from The Guardian can be viewed here and here. A snippet from the obituary:

Stewart introduced a different kind of heroine for a newly emerging womanhood. It was her “anti-namby-pamby” reaction, as she called it, to the “silly heroine” of the conventional contemporary thriller who “is told not to open the door to anybody and immediately opens it to the first person who comes along”. Instead, Stewart’s stories were narrated by poised, smart, highly educated young women who drove fast cars and knew how to fight their corner. Also tender-hearted and with a strong moral sense, they spoke, one felt, with the voice of their creator. Her writing must have provided a natural form of expression for a person not given to self-revelation.

Loved that story about how she met her husband and how they got married three months later. It’s heartbreaking that she badly wanted to have kids and yet she couldn’t. I found it interesting that that’s what led her to write novels. While I discovered Mary Stewart’s books fairly recently (only a few years ago) and I’ve only read a handful of them, I wanted to write a post about her novels because I enjoyed reading them and I would like more readers to pick up her books.

STB Nine Coaches Waiting

I can still remember how I first discovered Mary Stewart. I was asking my book pusher friend Angie for recommendations that were similar to Eva Ibbotson’s writing because I love her books. Angie then mentioned Mary Stewart and recommended that I can start with Nine Coaches Waiting. I grabbed a copy and read it as soon as I could. I was charmed by this Jane Eyre-esque book and I knew it wouldn’t be the last Mary Stewart novel that I would read. I have read some of her other titles since then and I keep meaning to read more of them. One thing that I really like about her romantic suspense books is that each is set in a different town or city and she does such a great job of describing the place. In this website that focuses on Mary Stewart, it is mentioned that she and her husband “traveled extensively, and these trips provided inspiration for the spectacular and exotic settings that her novels are so famous for.” I’ve also heard good things about her Arthurian series, which I’m also planning to read. Mary Stewart is the kind of author that I wish I had known about sooner. Her novels would have probably ended up as old favorites if I discovered her when I was much younger. As it is, the best that I can do now is to catch up on reading her books and try to spread the word about them. I’m thinking of reading her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk?, soon since it’s set in the South of France and I would love to read more about that region. Please feel free to recommend and talk about your favorite Mary Stewart titles, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.


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Book Haul: YAckers Secret Santa

I’m sorry for the radio silence for the past few days. There’s so much going on ever since I’ve been back in Singapore that I haven’t had a chance to update the blog. I thought I’d post a quick update on a package that was waiting for me when I got to the office last Tuesday. I knew it was from the YAckers Secret Santa and I was excited to see what was inside:

YAckers Secret Santa 2013

YAckers Secret Santa 2013_2

YAckers Secret Santa 2013_3

It’s a package from Angie! Thank you so much for the lovely books and chocolates, Angie. I’ve already started on the Godiva chocolates and they’re yummy. I’m looking forward to reading these two books. :) This reminds me that I still haven’t finished reading the books that I got from last year’s YAckers Secret Santa.

What about the rest of you, did you get some nice books for Christmas?


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Book Haul: Times Book Sale

I veered away from my usual Sunday library visit because my friend invited me to go with her to the book sale organized by Times. Since books are pricey here in Singapore, I wanted to take advantage of the availability of bargain books.

Times Book Sale

I was delighted to discover that there were several shelves of books in that place and all of them were being sold at a discounted price. So of course, we spent a few hours browsing through everything. I was pleasantly surprised to see novels written by Filipino authors available in the sale:

Filipino books in SG book sale

I was thrilled when I saw this edition of The Queen of Attolia because I don’t have a copy of it yet and one can never have enough copies of one’s favorite books:

Queen of Attolia in Times

Remember when I said that I haven’t bought books for myself ever since I moved here in Singapore? I’ve only purchased books given as gifts to friends. For my own reading, I just borrow from the library. Well, I made up for that with this stash:

Times book sale haul Dec 2012

Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart
Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Kiss It by Erin Downing
Hangman’s Holiday by Dorothy Sayers
Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy Sayers
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
The Chocolate Run and The Cupid Effect omnibus by Dorothy Koomson

I got all of these for only SGD 32. Not bad, right? I like seeing them all lined up on the shelf in my room. Yay for more books! What about you, what books have you bought or borrowed this week?


17 Comments

Shoot That Book: The Gabriel Hounds

Shoot That Book combines my passion for books and my tendency to become trigger happy with a camera. My lack of photography skills is compensated by my enthusiasm. Basically, I like taking pictures of books.

Shoot That Book nail polish edition is back! See, I have this thing of taking pictures of my nail polish with a book cover that matches it. I know it’s a bit silly but I think it’s fun. Click here to view previous photos. The nail polish colors that I’m wearing in these pictures were actually just borrowed from my officemate. I think the light blue, kind of aqua tones go well with the pretty cover design of The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t read this book but I hope to do so soon.

What’s great about this special nail polish is it changes color depending on temperature. See what happens when I dip my hands in cold water:

Pretty cool, huh? I’m no longer wearing these shades but I’ll keep you guys posted the next time I have nail polish on – if I manage to find a book cover to match it. Also, I think I’m getting better at putting on my own polish (a lot cheaper than going to a salon to get a manicure).


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Shoot That Book: Mary Stewart Twins

Shoot That Book combines my passion for books and my tendency to become trigger happy with a camera. My lack of photography skills is compensated by my enthusiasm. Basically, I like taking pictures of books.

I know I’ve featured Mary Stewart’s books often enough here on my blog even though I’ve only read a couple of them. This week, I started on another of her romantic suspense novels set in Greece: My Brother Michael. I couldn’t help but notice how similar the reissued Hodder & Stoughton copies of My Brother Michael and Nine Coaches Waiting are. It looks like the young women on the covers are twins:

They’re even wearing the same outfit, in different colors. Plus, they’re both doing the same thing: smelling flowers. I know this happens a lot in book covers – similar images or illustrations or models are used. But it’s the first time that I’ve noticed it in books written by the same author and from the same publisher. What other book cover lookalikes have you spotted lately?


16 Comments

Retro Friday: The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

I’ve always wanted to go to Greece. It seems like such a lovely place, rich in culture and I would love to try authentic Greek food. I have no idea when I’ll be able to go though so I have to content myself with reading books with Greek settings. The Moonspinners is set in Crete and is the second Mary Stewart romantic suspense novel that I’ve read. I’m slowly enjoying going through her entire backlist.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Nicola Ferris, on leave from her job as a secretary in Athens, has been looking forward to a quiet week’s holiday in Crete, enjoying the wild flowers and the company of her cousin Frances.

But before she even reaches her destination Nicola stumbles on evidence of a murderous crime involving a young Englishman and a group of people tied together by blood and the bonds of greed. For the first time in her life Nicola meets a man and a situation she cannot deal with…

I love that Mary Stewart’s books have different settings. I may not be able to afford a trip to Crete, but I can afford to read a book about it. The Moonspinners has such an atmospheric setting and it was one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading it. I liked seeing Crete through Nicola’s eyes because even if she’s lived and worked in Athens for a year, she’s still a foreigner. The little town she stayed in is a quaint and quiet little place, on the brink of being discovered by tourists. She described Greeks as warm and welcoming, fascinated by newcomers and eager to please. The descriptions reminded me a bit of the Philippines – beautiful beaches, pleasant weather and people known for their hospitality. It sounds like a tourist’s dream place, right? It would have been if Nicola didn’t land right smack in the middle of a mystery. Being a nice person, she volunteers to help out even if those involved don’t want to endanger her.

I’m not a big fan of suspense or mystery novels but there’s something about Mary Stewart’s writing that draws me in. I’m never sure of the characters in the novel. I feel like I’m always nervous and worried for her main character, some of her scenes can really make my heart pound. And I’m never sure of the other characters in the novel – who is at fault, who is innocent and if they are hiding anything. I also like how Mary Stewart blends romance and suspense in her novels. Although I did feel like the romance in The Moonspinners was underdeveloped. I would have liked more scenes and conversations between Nicola and her man, I felt like they didn’t have enough time together. I liked the romance much more in Nine Coaches Waiting. Still, The Moonspinners is an oldie but goodie, I believe all of Mary Stewart’s novels are like that. I can’t wait to read the other Mary Stewart novels set in Greece: My Brother Michael and This Rough Magic. I have a feeling I’d enjoy reading those as well. Also, I’ve heard that there’s an old Disney movie based on The Moonspinners, I need to find a copy of that too.

Other reviews:
At Home With A Good Book and the Cat
Kate’s Bookcase


22 Comments

Want Books: Mary Stewart’s Books

Want Books? is a weekly meme hosted here at Chachic’s Book Nook and features released books that you want but you can’t have for some reason. It can be because it’s not available in your country, in your library or you don’t have the money for it right now. Everyone is free to join, just grab the image above. Leave a comment with a link to your post so I can do a roundup with each post.

I know I usually only post about one book in each of my Want Books posts but I couldn’t help but write about all of Mary Stewart’s books. So far, I’ve only read one of her books: Nine Coaches Waiting. She’s such a delightful author and it seems like so many readers are fans of her work. That made me more excited to read the rest of her books. Her romantic suspense novels have all been re-issued in these lovely modern classics edition and I’ve managed to acquire five more of them.

Only a couple more until I have the entire set! Although I’ve been telling myself that I should finish reading the ones that I have before I buy the rest. I’m currently in the middle of The Moonspinners. Aside from her romantic suspense novels, Mary Stewart also wrote an intriguing Arthurian series, from Merlin’s point of view. I want these as well but they’re not locally available.

Someday, I will have a complete Mary Stewart collection. Maybe when I’m done trimming down the TBR pile. What about the rest of you, what books are in your wishlist? Are you obsessing about one particular author as well?


21 Comments

In My Mailbox: The Mary Edition

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie. This meme is about books that you received or bought during the week.

For the past two weeks, I was able to acquire five actual books, four of which were written by someone named Mary.

The King Must Die by Mary Renault
The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault
My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart
The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Not included in the picture because it’s an ebook, Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra:

All of them have such pretty covers, don’t they? The Mary Renault books were recommended by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Wein, and I’m really excited to read them. I bought the two Mary Stewart books because I want to collect all of her romantic suspense novels. Five Flavors of Dumb is a gift from a good friend of mine, fellow Filipino book blogger Tina of One More Page. Thank you, Tina, for the belated Christmas gift! :) Here’s another bookish gift that I received from Celina:

It’s a leather bracelet that says “READ” and I love it. Thank you, Celina! I’ve already used it. I know it’s not book-related but I also received this postcard from a friend who’s visiting Paris, I think it’s the first postcard that I’ve gotten from France:

Sigh, it’s only the first month of the year and I’ve managed to buy several books. Note to self: read these books before buying new ones. Let’s see if I can read the books in my TBR pile instead of steadily increasing its number. What about the rest of you, what books did you get this week?


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Shoot That Book: Mary Stewart Lovelies

Shoot That Book combines my passion for books and my tendency to become trigger happy with a camera. My lack of photography skills is compensated by my enthusiasm. Basically, I like taking pictures of books.

I know I already posted a picture of my latest Mary Stewart acquisitions in my In My Mailbox post this week but I couldn’t help but take more pictures of these pretty editions. I’m now the proud owner of four of her stand alone romantic suspense novels – only ten more to go until I have the complete set. Here’s a shot that shows the lovely heroines on the cover:

That’s Charity, Nicola, Linda and Mary. The details on the upper right hand of the covers:

I like the ones representing Paris, Crete and Northumberland. I don’t know why the image on the lower right corner just has a plant instead of a place. Here’s a group shot of all the covers:

Really excited to read all of these and to get the rest of the books in the set. Don’t you all agree that the covers are beautiful? Are any of you planning to complete a certain set or series of books lately?

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