Re-Read Challenge: Elinor M Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School Books

I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging lately.  My addiction to blogging comes and goes in spurts.  I suspect it’s probably inversely related to how much time I’m spending at work, which, at the moment?  Way too much.  Oh, I’m still reading everyone’s blogs and commenting every now and again, but my own blog feels somewhat abandoned.

Anyway, here’s something to try and get me out of my blogging slump: Nath’s Re-Read Challenge.  And I’ve chosen my Chalet School books for this one.

51kxH6Hh-AL._SL160_ I mentioned a couple of weeks back that having come across the Girls Gone By Publishers site (which specialises in reprinting girls’ fiction from the 20th century), I’ve not only ordered a couple of new-to-me CS books, but also started re-reading my own collection.  I’ve re-read a good selection of my CS books since, ranging from the early Tirol days (“Jo Returns to the Chalet School”), the War years when the school moves back to England (“Peggy of the Chalet School”, “Bride Leads the Chalet School”) and then back to Switzerland (“The Chalet School Wins the Trick”, “Summer Term at the Chalet School”).  And err… quite a few more besides.

It’s probably no great stretch of the imagination as to why I’m loving these re-reads – they’re taking me back to my childhood days when the most I had to worry about was if I had finished my homework or not!  Ah, those were the days…

Anyway, the Chalet School series, if you haven’t stumbled them before, follows the establishment of a boarding school for girls on the shores of the Tiernsee in the Tyrol by Madge Bettany, who in later books, marries the head of a TB Sanatorium, Dr Jem Russell.  The series spans a good number of years – the eldest daughters of Joey Bettany, Madge’s younger sister and the first-ever pupil, lead the school in the final CS book, “Prefects of the Chalet School”.

51WAMY841KL._SL160_Some unique CS customs include its trilingual requirements, with all girls expected to be fluent in English, French, and German, and alternate days being dedicated to each language.  There is much emphasis on outdoor pursuits, be it walks (and rambles), sports, or excursions, as fresh air and sunshine are thought to be directly linked to health.  And each term brings its own major event, be it a Nativity play, the Sale (and yes, that’s with a capital S) or a sports regatta.  As with other boarding school stories, there are naughty Middles galore, with prefects and mistresses keeping a close watch over them.

However, it isn’t just boarding school life with pranks and midnight feasts.  More serious themes are tackled, for instance, the effects of WWII – “The Chalet School in Exile” deals with its German and Austrian girls having to leave and the school eventually having to evacuate to England.  The school’s close links with the Sanatorium (apart from Madge and Jem, quite a few ex-pupils and staff end up marrying doctors, not least of all Joey!) mean that a number of girls have relatives at the San and there is acknowledgment that not everyone will live, and even those who do may not recover fully.

51mE8bPZ4hL._SL160_To me, part of the charm of reading contemporaries written years ago is getting a sense of the social norms and values of the time, and the CS books are no exception.  The girls get ticked off for using slang – for instance, the word “smashing” is absolutely taboo!  They have to “croc”, walking two-by-two in public places and keeping their voices low in case they disturb passers-by.  In “The Chalet School Triplets”, there is a school trip where they end up in a department store (with lifts operated by liftmen) and there is mention of how the mistresses “turned them loose, warning them to keep sight of each other”, even though the youngest is “nearly sixteen-and-a-half”.  Nowadays, teens pretty much roam where they please at will, surely?

Re-reading these books (together with commentary from the CBB boards) also made me realise several anomalies that never struck me at that time.  For instance, Joey Maynard (nee Bettany)’s close involvement with the Chalet School – didn’t she ever want to let go?  And how the teachers (or mistresses) stayed sane in the closed atmosphere, especially in the latter Switzerland books when they were based on the Platz, and it was a good hour to anywhere else.  And oh, lots of other things which amuse me now  🙂

As much as I’m loving these, I’m starting to find a bit of same-ness seeping through – I will probably finish a few more that I want to re-read over the next couple of weeks… and then move on to my next obsession!

Anne Bishop’s “The Shadow Queen”

Nath invited me to do a buddy review of Anne Bishop’s “The Shadow Queen” at Breezing Through.  So I basically provided a series of random thoughts on the book, and Nath kindly edited them into a coherent whole.  I could get used to that.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you thought.

Warning: There are probably spoilers galore because it’s more of a chat post-read rather than a “proper” review.

New-ish Books

Surfacing from my Chalet School glom to gloat over my new books that have arrived recently, courtesy of Amazon and The Book Depository:

518h68WxCdL._SL160_ Cassandra Clare’s “City of Glass”:  This is one of March’s new releases I was super-excited about and it’s arrived early!  The cover is just as good IRL.  I love.  I think this is going to be my weekend book.

A couple of anthologies also came recently – “Firebirds Soaring” (tagline: An Anthology of Original Speculative Fiction) and “Lace and Blade 2” (romantic fantasy). 

51M2O0pzw2L._SL160_ The former is the third in the Firebirds series (here’s a review at The Green Man Review), and I really enjoyed some of the stories in the first two (“Firebirds” and “Firebirds Rising”).  The publisher, Firebird, is an imprint of Penguin, and specialises in reprints and reissues of speculative fiction, according to its slightly out-of-date website.  The only original fiction it publishes are in its anthologies.  Oh, and again, beautiful cover.  It’s probably slightly sad, but placing this book and “City of Glass” side-by-side makes me smile – their covers somehow complement each other perfectly.

51m25z1uEvL._SL160_ “Lace and Blade 2”, as the title suggests, is also second in a series, and is published by the Leda imprint of Norilana Books, an independent publisher.  Again, I liked some of the stories in the first anthology, hence me ordering this one.

41e1 zt7VlL._SL160_ Finally, I also got “The Chalet School Christmas Story Book”.  Heh.  It’s a collection of Christmas stories set in the Chalet School world, some written by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, and some by other contributors.  I couldn’t resist.  In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m still enjoying my Chalet School books.

PS: Yes, I missed March’s TBR Day challenge.  Next month, I promise.

Another Trip Down Memory Lane

January was the month for glomming LM Montgomery stories, now March has me rediscovering my Chalet School titles!

I stumbled across Girls Gone By Publishers while looking up something else (don’t ask what, because I can’t remember), and realised they owned the copyright to Elinor M Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School books and were reprinting some of the more obscure ones.  Now I loved these when I was a kid and couldn’t resist ordering one, despite the rather expensive prices – £12 for a trade paperback, but you get the full unabridged edition (I never realised the Armada paperbacks were apparently heavily abridged) plus an essay and short story.

So I ordered “Two Sams at the Chalet School” (one of the later ones set when Len Maynard is the Head Girl, for those who are familiar with the series) and wow, did it bring back memories.  I remember being totally fascinated with the concept of boarding school and how it seemed like so much fun; in hindsight I would probably have hated it!

I have since discovered the CBB forums, which have really in-depth discussions on the various books and lots of information regarding the whys and wherefores of various Chalet School traditions and peculiarities, and am completely engrossed in reading through the various threads.

And that’s why this blog has been rather quiet lately.

Around the Web

*happy dance* Juliet Marillier has sold two more books in the Sevenwaters series!  “Song of the Island” will be published in 2011 (via Writers Unboxed).  While that feels like ages away at the moment, I’m thrilled that there will be more Sevenwaters.

And via Historical Tapestry, check out the graphic novel version of Pride & Prejudice (click the thumbnails at the bottom of the page to enlarge).  What do you think?  The sisters look a bit too modern for my liking, but Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy do look somewhat like how I picture them.  The only thing is that there is so much crammed into the few pages that I’m not sure if it will ever capture all the nuances of the book itself – I mean, the ball scene is on the 5th page, and I’m sure it took more than a few chapters to get there in the book.

Books for March

I can’t believe we’re already well into March.  What happened to February?

There are quite a few new releases I’m planning on getting this month:

51qM3v6Y2KL._SL160_ Anne Bishop’s “The Shadow Queen” (dark fantasy):  I’m one of her many Black Jewels fans and can’t wait to revisit this world.  “The Shadow Queen” follows the descendants of the main h/h in “The Invisible Ring” (a standalone Black Jewels novel), which happens to be one of my favourites – so yay!

And the back cover blurb sounds great:

Dena Nehele is a land decimated by its past. Once it was ruled by corrupt Queens who were wiped out when the land was cleansed of tainted Blood. Now, only one hundred Warlord Princes stand—without a leader and without hope…

Theran Grayhaven is the last of his line, desperate to find the key that reveals a treasure great enough to restore Dena Nehele. But first he needs to find a Queen who knows Protocol, remembers the Blood’s code of honor, and lives by the Old Ways.

Languishing in the Shadow Realm, Lady Cassidy is a Queen without a court, a castoff. She is not beautiful. She thinks she is not strong. But when she is chosen to rule Dena Nehele, she must convince bitter men to serve once again.

Theran’s cousin Gray is a Warlord Prince who was damaged in mind and body by the vicious Queens who once ruled Dena Nehele. Yet something about Cassidy makes him want to serve—and makes him believe he can be made whole once again.

And only Cassidy can prove to Gray—and to herself—that wounds can heal and even the whisper of a promise can be fulfilled.

Excerpt here (out now)

 

518h68WxCdL._SL160_ Cassandra Clare’s “City of Glass” (YA urban fantasy):  I’ve mentioned before how much I like Ms Clare’s Mortal Instruments books, and “City of Glass” wraps up the trilogy.  I’ve even ordered the US version, because the UK release is only in July (I hate it when publishers do that).  While I’ve had to shell out for the US hardcover price, I get the added benefit of the much better US cover (left) – I really hope the UK version (right) looks better IRL because at the moment, the only positive thing I can think of is that it will probably stand out on the shelves!

Excerpt here (out March 24, July 6 UK)

 

51IdzKI1TYL._SL160_ Ilona Andrews’ “Magic Strikes” (urban fantasy):  I wasn’t completely sold on the first book in this series (“Magic Bites”) and so took a while to get around to the second, “Magic Burns”.  And then I got really excited about this series  🙂

The covers have been good so far, and this one is no exception.

Excerpt here (out March 31)

 

51FOQDKj2nL._SL160_ 51U3eRs-NhL._SL160_Deanna Raybourn’s “Silent on the Moor” (historical mystery):  I loved the first two Lady Julia Grey novels (“Silent in the Grave” and “Silent in the Sanctuary” respectively) and can’t wait to read this one.  I’ve got my fingers crossed for lots of Brisbane, and based on the back cover blurb, I suspect I won’t be disappointed.

Despite his admonitions to stay away, Lady Julia arrives in Yorkshire to find Brisbane as remote and maddeningly attractive as ever. Cloistered together, they share the moldering house with the proud but impoverished remnants of an ancient family—the sort that keeps their bloodline pure and their secrets close. Lady Allenby and her daughters, dependent upon Brisbane and devastated by their fall in society, seem adrift on the moor winds, powerless to change their fortunes. But poison does not discriminate between classes….
A mystery unfolds from the rotten heart of Grimsgrave, one Lady Julia may have to solve alone, as Brisbane appears inextricably tangled in its heinous twists and turns. But blood will out, and before spring touches the craggy northern landscape, Lady Julia will have uncovered a Gypsy witch, a dark rider and a long-buried legacy of malevolence and evil.

Oh, and I think in the battle of US v. UK covers, it’s US 2 UK 0.  This is a pink travesty.

Excerpt here (out now US, June 19 UK)

 

51PNBLPIiLL._SL160_ Nalini Singh’s “Angel’s Blood” (paranormal romance):  Ms Singh’s Psy-Changeling paranormal romance books are autobuys for me, so getting this one is a no-brainer for me.  Reviews so far have generally been really positive too.  I still haven’t bought the e-novella that came out a couple of weeks back, “Angel’s Pawn”, so maybe I’ll get that before reading “Angel’s Blood”.

Excerpt here (out now)

Re-Read Challenge: Elizabeth Peters’ “The Mummy Case”

617PNTs22kL._SL160_ I made the deadline this month!  Just.

Right, after umm-ing and ahh-ing about the choice of books, I went for an Amelia Peabody book.  Despite only stumbling onto this series relatively recently (I read the first one just over two years ago, and the first book “Crocodile on the Sandbank” was written back in 1975), I love love love this series.  I cannot describe how much I adore the Amelia books.  It is one of my all-time favourite series.  Ever.

In case you haven’t read any of these books yet (in which case, what are you waiting for?!), these are mysteries set in turn-of-the-century Egypt.  Amelia, her husband Emerson, her son Ramses, and other family members are keen archaeologists, who manage to embroil themselves in mysteries and mayhem during their annual excavations.  And yes, there is a strong romance element in these books.

I chose “The Mummy Case”, because this is the first book where Ramses (Amelia and Emerson’s son) plays a large part – and I am completely infatuated with Ramses.  This is the first time I’ve re-read TMC since finishing the Peabody series, and it was interesting to revisit these characters early on in their family life.  I wonder if Ms Peters knew where she was going to take these characters in later books when she wrote the early ones?

These books are written in Amelia’s POV, journal-style (though in later ones, Ramses and others’ POV are also included), and Amelia is on fire in this book.  Her relationship with Ramses is forefront in this one, with her attempts to conceal her pride in her son (even in her personal journal) hilarious.  And I love her matter-of-factness about things; this is a typical paragraph:

[Ramses] was also alarmingly precocious.  A lady of my acquaintance used that term to me, after Ramses, aged four, had treated her to a lecture on the proper method of excavating a compost heap (hers, in point of fact). (Her gardener was extremely abusive.)  When I replied that in my opinion, the adjective was ill-chosen, she believed me to be offended.  What I meant was the word was inadequate. “Catastrophically precocious” would have been nearer the mark. (p.6)

The running joke in this book is Emerson’s reproaches to Amelia for being undemonstrative towards Ramses, but after one of the final scenes, I don’t think he will ever accuse her of being unmaternal again!

As always, Ms Peters brings late 19th-century Egypt to life.  There is one scene when Amelia and Emerson set out to a rendezvous with a possible villain in the midst of the old city at night – incredibly atmospheric and wonderfully suspenseful.  Ms Peters’ love and knowledge of Egypt shine through in her writing and always make me want to visit Egypt – this is an example:

[The pyramids of Dahshoor] are built of white limestone, and this snowy covering exhibits bewitching changes of tint, according to the quality of light – a mazy gold at sunset, a ghostly translucent pallor under the glow of the moon.  Now, at a little past noon, the towering structures shone dazzlingly white against the deep blue of the sky. (p.132)

Ahhh… there is so much I loved about this book that I have no idea how I’m going to cover it all.  The chaos that follows young Ramses despite his parents’ best efforts, Amelia’s passion for pyramids, Emerson’s insistence that he doesn’t want to get tangled up in mysteries (hah!), the multiplying mummy cases…

Oh yes, and the ending in this book is brilliant.  Without giving too much away, Amelia and Emerson end up in what seems like a hopeless situation (and I do mean hopeless), and how Ms Peters resolves it and the aftermath is incredibly funny.

“The Mummy Case” is packed with hilarious scenes, Egyptian detail, characters that capture your heart, and a plot full of twists and turns.  This is a wonderful installment in the Amelia Peabody series, and I’m glad I chose to re-read it for this challenge.  In fact, I’ll probably continue on to the others now.

Back cover blurb:

The irascible husband of Victorian Egyptologist Amelia Peabody is living up to his reputation as ‘The Father of Curses’.  Denied permission to dig at the Pyramids of Dahshoor, Emerson is awarded instead the ‘Pyramids’ of Mazghunah – countless mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere.  Nothing in this barren spot seems of any interest – but then a murder in Cairo changes all of that.  The dead man was an antiques dealer, killed in his shop, so when a sinister-looking Egyptian spotted at the crime scene turns up in Mazghunah, Amelia can’t resist following his trail.  At the same time she has to keep an eagle eye on her wayward son Ramses and his elegant and calculating cat and look into the mysterious disappearance of a mummy case…