A Moment of Silence by Anna Dean

When I discovered A Moment of Silence a few months ago, I immediately added this book to my wish list since it was described as a mystery novel with a touch of Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. I don’t think I need to tell you how much I love Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, because if you follow my blog, then I suppose you are already familiar with this fact. Thus, I was eager to read this book because I knew that I would love it. And I must say that I really did love this charming novel and I am looking forward to reading more works by Anna Dean in order to find out more about her main character Miss Dido Kent.

But now let’s have a look at the plot:

In 1805, Miss Dido Kent arrives at Belsfield Hall, the country estate of the Montague family, in order to help her niece, Catherine, deal with the fact that her finacé, Richard Montague, has suddenly broken their engagement and disappeared. Miss Dido learns that at Catherine’s engagement ball, a peculiar thing had taken place: a stranger had appeared at Richard’s shoulder and had looked at him without saying a word. Afterwards, Richard had immediately broken off his engagement to Catherine and left Belsfield Hall, never to be seen again. Therefore, heartbroken Catherine seeks the help of her spinster aunt Dido in order to discover the motive for Richard’s strange behavior and disappearance. But it seems that Miss Dido will have to solve yet another mystery, since after her arrival at Belsfield Hall, the discovery of a body in the shrubbery is made. However, Catherine’s aunt enjoys solving mysteries, thus she is eager to shed light on the strange and shocking events that have taken place at Belsfield Hall. Nevertheless, she must pay heed, as everyone seems to have something to hide and people are willing to do everything in order to keep their dark secrets safe. The Montague family seems to have a few skeletons in the closet, and Dido must be careful not to put herself in danger while trying to uncover the mysteries of the past.

A Moment of Silence was a delightful book and it was a real joy to read such an entertaining novel! As I was reading this book, I often caught myself smiling because the main character is so amusing with her interrogations, assumptions and observations. Miss Dido Kent is such a likeable character; she is very clever and she reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, with her witty way of questioning everybody and with her many enchanting thoughts. What I really loved about A Moment of Silence was the fact that Anna Dean has given the reader a glimpse into Miss Dido’s mind by allowing the protagonist to reveal her thoughts through letters. That way, we can witness what is really on Miss Dido’s mind and furthermore, we can conclude many things by knowing how she feels about a certain matter. In my opinion, this was very cleverly done by the author and I found it very refreshing to read Miss Dido’s letters.

A Moment of Silence was the perfect book for me, as I love a good mystery novel. Moreover, the book’s ingredients were very appealing to me, since the novel deals with dark secrets, intrigues, lies, murder and deception. The murder case was not that important to me (although I was eager to find out Whodunit); I was more interested in Miss Dido and I loved how she tried to solve the mysteries with her nagging questions and her desire to know about everything and everyone. She doesn’t spare anyone and she always observes even the smallest things, and we all know how important that it, when it comes to solving a murder case! All in all, I must say that I really enjoyed this book and I couldn’t get enough of Miss Dido Kent! I recommend A Moment of Silence to everyone who likes to read mystery novels and crime fiction and I think that this book will appeal to all Agatha Christie fans!

Note: I would like to thank Chiara Priorelli from Allison & Busby for sending me a copy of this great book. You can find out more about A Moment of Silence here.

Also, make sure to check out Aarti’s review of A Moment of Silence (the U.S. title is Bellfield Hall) at Booklust.

Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael

With so many books out there about the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen (and their heroines), the reader might feel overwhelmed and find it hard to choose which book to read, as not every book revolving around the lives of these talented female writers is necessarily a good one. As a huge fan of the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen, I tend to check out nearly every book that deals with their lives and some of them catch my attention. Thus, I have read numerous books about these great authors. Some of them were fantastic, but some of them were a mere disappointment.

So when I heard about Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael, it immediately aroused my interest and I was looking forward to reading it. Luckily, I won a copy of the book on Library Thing and I was eager to find out if the book would live up to my expectations. And I must say that it nearly did. I have to say nearly, because it wasn’t perfect, but nonetheless, it was an enjoyable and pleasant read. The author has done a great job portraying the Bronte sisters in an authentic way and those who are familiar with the biography of Charlotte Bronte and with her works will notice that the author has attempted to stay true to the author’s voice. Nevertheless, I have some negative things to say about this novel. Since the book is called Romancing Miss Bronte and since I have read a synopsis of the book, I thought that the author would go more into this theme of romance. Instead, I was a little disappointed to find out that the romance was not the romance I expected. But here’s more on why I felt this way:

In real life, Charlotte married her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, nine months before her death. She has known him for many years, and he has been in love with her the whole time, but Charlotte wasn’t really interested in him until she was left all alone with her father, after her siblings’ deaths.

(Note: I won’t elaborate on Charlotte Bronte’s biography, since I have already told you about her life in my review of Becoming Jane Eyre).

Part fiction, part biography, Romancing Miss Bronte imagines how love unexpectedly found Charlotte and shows the relationship between her and Arthur. However, as I said earlier, I expected more romance. I thought that the author would put more imagination into this subject. Instead, we only get brief glimpses here and there and witness various encounters between Charlotte and Arthur where they exchange a few words. Charlotte thinks of Arthur as a peculiar curate and gives him the cold shoulder most of the time. Although Arthur is present throughout the whole novel, it is not until the end of the book that romance comes into play.

The book concentrates more on the Bronte siblings and their relationship with each other. It captures the passions and hopes of these gifted siblings and it shows how they struggle to publish their works and make their dreams come true. The novel also focuses on Charlotte’s growing fame and her meetings with London’s high society (which by the way fail to feel the emptiness in her heart, left by the deaths of her beloved siblings). But I already knew all these things (having read so many books on the Bronte sisters), and thus I read on and on and waited for the romance to get into the game. At least, at the end of the book, I was rewarded and I quite enjoyed Arthur’s wooing and his soft side that finally won over Charlotte’s heart.

For those who haven’t read anything about the Brontes’ lives or aren’t familiar with their biographies, I would recommend this book, as it gives a detailed account of the main events that happened in Charlotte’s life. I would have probably enjoyed the book more, if I hadn’t already known about the Bronte sisters’ lives (and if there would have been more romance involved, because the title suggested it). But I’m afraid that I made this book sound bad now, which I assure you is not the case. It really wasn’t what I expected, but it was still a great novel, well written and very true to Charlotte Bronte. I just wish I had read this book before I knew anything about the Brontes; then I would have probably loved it. I hope my review was not all too confusing for you! If I were to rate Romancing Miss Bronte, I would give it three and a half stars out of five.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

I didn’t realize how much I missed reading until I began to read Tracy Chevalier’s historical novel Remarkable Creatures. It was a delight to read such a notable book and I savored every page of it! So here’s my review:

Mary Anning, a young girl from the working class, collects and sells fossils in an effort to earn some income and thus support her family. Since her father’s death, Mary’s family has been struggling financially. Therefore, Mary spends every day on the beach of Lyme Regis, hunting for fossils. But for Mary, fossil hunting isn’t just about earning money – she has a real passion for her discoveries. The residents can’t comprehend Mary’s love for fossils, so she doesn’t have a good reputation in her town. The villagers think of her as an odd girl and their resentment to her becomes even stronger when Mary befriends Elizabeth Philpot, a spinster from London’s upper middle class. However, Mary has never been overly concerned about what others might think of her. Thus, she continues to visit Elizabeth and the two protagonists spend a lot of time together, hunting for fossils, studying their findings and exchanging thoughts on evolution and extinction. Over the years, Mary and Elizabeth have developed a strong bond, despite the fact that there is a 20-year age difference between them. Even though they come from different social backgrounds, their mutual respect and their love for fossils unites them and with Elizabeth’s help, Mary soon makes the most remarkable discoveries, such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. The clever girl has often found ammonite and belemnite shells in the past, but these fossils were common in Lyme Regis, thus they were nothing out of the ordinary. Her latest discoveries however, are the rarest of creatures, arousing the interest of many wealthy collectors, and Mary’s contact with them makes her once again the talk of town. Hence, the curious girl has to deal with gossip, scepticism and chauvinism. Moreover, her friendship with Elizabeth is threatened by jealousy. Will the two manage to overcome any obstacle and save their friendship? Any will Mary finally gain respect for her findings?

Remarkable Creatures is an absorbing and highly accomplished novel about two incredibly strong women who share the same passion and who struggle for recognition in the male dominated world of science in the 19th century. Tracy Chevalier skillfully illustrates how the inspiring protagonists are brought together by their shared obsession. However, this novel is so much more than just about scientific discoveries – it’s a radiant and moving novel about friendship, mutual admiration and jealousy. The author manages to create a mesmerizing setting and her attention to detail is what makes this book a must read for history and geology fans!

Although Remarkable Creatures is a work of fiction, Mary Anning, Elizabeth Philpot and other characters in the book really existed. Bestselling author Tracy Chevalier became inspired by Mary’s fascinating life story while visiting a small museum in England, where she came across some of Anning’s fossil finds. And I’m sure readers are glad that the author made this “remarkable discovery”!

I highly recommend this beautifully written tale to those who like historical novels and who like to read books about exceptional women. I really loved this amazing book because it was very interesting to learn about fossils and to find out that women made such incredible scientific findings. However, Mary and Elizabeth encountered a lot of scepticism and chauvinism because of their love for fossils. Mary Anning’s discoveries were largely overlooked at that time, due to her gender and social status. Her fossil finds were controversial and they raised questions about the history of origins. Mary’s discoveries forced people to look at the world with different eyes and that’s what makes her findings so important!

All in all, I must say that I really enjoyed reading this engaging book. It left me with a fascination for fossils and made me want to read other novels by this outstanding author!

I would like to thank Amanda Walker from Penguin Group for giving me the opportunity to read and to review this great book!