Three and a half stars. Good characters, decent world-building, and plenty of action (especially in the second half). The story centered on a shape-shThree and a half stars. Good characters, decent world-building, and plenty of action (especially in the second half). The story centered on a shape-shifting faerie and human romance, that was heavy-handed and hard for me to buy into. Lots of wicked monsters, but the evil queen of the Fae was an over-the-top caricature. I felt the back story of the High Fae courts and the usurping queen could have been fleshed out better, but of course that can slow down the racing plot....more
I think I may have read a Barbara Pym novel ages ago, but I can't remember which one. Certainly, I have heard her name over and over for those who lovI think I may have read a Barbara Pym novel ages ago, but I can't remember which one. Certainly, I have heard her name over and over for those who love an English village story told with wit and charm. I enjoyed this book, but it left me wanting. We see a typical collection of village characters: among others - the elder and the younger doctor and their wives; the two elderly ladies who live together and reminisce about the past; the widowed rector, his older sister who yearns for sunny Greece, and their sour housekeeper; the pretentiously cultivated food inspector (critic); and new to the village, Emma, an anthropologist who is staying at her mother's vacant cottage while she 'studies' the village society. With different narrators, we get little windows into the individual lives and their relationships. It is set in the late 1970's and the village seems to be a backwater, not really part of contemporary culture, with some wistfulness about the past. The manor is now owned by vacant landlords, and without the family at the heart of the venerable, if rather feudal, society, the village has no center. People rarely attend church and the rector rattles around in the big rectory, while the young doctor's wife covets his large, but not centrally heated, house. Still the village moves in traditional circles. Emma, who is the main character in an ensemble, is approaching middle age and has never married. After she sees a former lover on a TV program, she writes him a little congratulatory note. Surprisingly, he shows up to visit her, and admits to having marital difficulties, but Emma is not sure where she stands. He decides to rent a cottage in the village to write his book, and seems to expect Emma to help take care of him, which she does in part. I found that particularly aggravating, and why Emma would want to have anything to do with this rather dull, married former lover is puzzling. Emma herself doesn't seem to know how she feels about anything. She's been trained to be the detached observer, which has seeped into her own personal perspective. The other available male, the attractive widowed rector, isn't drawn particularly flatteringly. He obsesses about village life and burial customs in the 17th and 18th century and earlier, and seems more interested in the past than in the lives of his parishioners, albeit whom he attends with dutiful care. However, he does seem modest, rather introverted, sympathetic, and careful not to offend. He has let his unhappy sister take over the running of the household, yet he has been rather oblivious to her personal desires.
While there is not a lot of plot action, things do change, and characters make decisions about their futures. Despite being slow-moving, it is a quick read, and Pym's wit enlivens the rather dull characters in the somewhat torpid plot. This was Pym's last novel -she died two months after finishing it - and not her best work, I hear. She struggles a bit with trying to be contemporary, I believe. If you're a Pym fan, I'm sure you wouldn't want to miss it. ...more
I picked this book up on a whim at Target. I'd never read Anne Tyler before, but the reviews were effusive. And I agreed! It's a story about a familyI picked this book up on a whim at Target. I'd never read Anne Tyler before, but the reviews were effusive. And I agreed! It's a story about a family - and a house - in Baltimore (I love house-centric books!), bouncing back and forth in time from 1994 up to 2012, 1959 to the 1930's. Wonderfully real characters and intricate family dynamics. It felt very southern to me. (Is Baltimore even considered southern anymore? Tippy-top southern?) Well, it turns out Anne Tyler grew up in North Carolina, so no wonder it seemed familiar. My hometown was even mentioned in passing. The book had me laughing and snorting out loud so often that my husband would raise his eyebrows at me, but there is some sorrow and poignancy here too. Highly recommended....more
I was hoping for a nostalgic 1960's-70's romantic suspense/gothic on the order of Mary Stewart, Jane Aiken Hodge, or Barbara Michaels, but was disappoI was hoping for a nostalgic 1960's-70's romantic suspense/gothic on the order of Mary Stewart, Jane Aiken Hodge, or Barbara Michaels, but was disappointed. Silly, stereotypical characters with no development. Writing seemed geared for a twelve-year-old level, with only minimal dialogue, and even setting description (with setting being the most going for it) was cliched. Transparent 'mystery' plot. Not worth the time, though it was a very fast read....more
DNF I got through half of this (288 pages out of 561) before finally giving up. This is a very strange book, and not at all what I was expecting judgiDNF I got through half of this (288 pages out of 561) before finally giving up. This is a very strange book, and not at all what I was expecting judging from the enthusiastic endorsements here (and on the paperback format page) and from a recommendation from an Instagram friend. It gave me the feeling of a 1950's black and white B movie (fitting enough as it was published in the mid-50's originally): rather heavy philosophizing in the midst of a preposterous sci-fi/fantasy plot. It didn't work for me. I'll be donating this book to the public library....more
This is a very difficult book to review because it's not life coach Martha Beck's trademark memoir or self-help (I prefer self-awareness), nor is it sThis is a very difficult book to review because it's not life coach Martha Beck's trademark memoir or self-help (I prefer self-awareness), nor is it straight fiction. It's an allegory. I really have never much cared for allegories. I would rather infer meaning from a novel than have it served up on a platter. I never liked The Pilgrim's Progress or The Celestine Prophecy, either. But I love Martha Beck. I've thoroughly read four of her books, thought her column was the best thing in O Magazine, receive her daily email inspiration, and have even listened to some of her teleseminars. I think she is smart, wise, insightful, compassionate, artistic, articulate, and hilarious - all qualities I would like to emulate. As with her last book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, Martha ventures into, well, wilder territory - less brain science and more shamanism, less psychology and more anthropology, less objective reality and more myth.
As a novel, I found the story didn't grip me. I kept putting it down in favor of other fiction. I wanted to get to the meat of the message (those who have read it will get the wink here) - the lessons Martha wants to convey about spiritual awakening. Martha has always been practical in her advice and gives definite methods to practice, though they're not always easy to do or keep up. In this book they are called tasks, and there are seven of them. Martha herself seems to have amazing paranormal experiences which she balances with her educated (she has three Harvard degrees), scientific side. This has made for fascinating reading or listening as she tells about them. But those kind of 'magical' experiences don't necessarily follow from practicing her suggestions, I've found. I think one has to be intuitively or psychicly open to them. Instead of Martha recounting her experiences, in Diana, Herself we read about an average (but not really) woman named Diana who falls for and teams up with Roy, a macho celebrity extreme survivalist, and goes with him alone to film episodes of his TV show in a large remote California wilderness area. They are separated and Diana must learn to survive on her own in the wild with the help of her spirit animal, a wild boar called Herself. It gets pretty trippy from there. I heartily disliked Roy from the beginning, so Diana's obsession with him was not sympathetic, though I suppose good looks and celebrity glamor must play their part. The dialogue between Diana and Roy verges on the "Me, Tarzan, You, Jane," order, i.e. ridiculously simplistic, involving hero-worship from Diana and narcissistic misogyny from Roy. Roy is an un-nuanced caricature at best. Diana has a woeful lack of self-confidence and a boatload of self-hatred, which makes her a ready victim. The book is more or less the story of how she not only overcomes her self-loathing but comes to see herself as a goddess, representative of the divine feminine, and at one with the universe by becoming wild. I know, it's a bit much to swallow. The survivalist parts just seemed rather tedious to me instead of adventurous, and I'm someone who loves nature and lives in a semi-wild area (I sometimes hear a bear outside my cabin at night). So, it wasn't the wilderness setting itself that was off-putting to me, as it may be to strictly urban types (though I have to admit to not relishing the hunting and eating parts). Diana, Herself could be categorized as a fantasy as much an an allegory, but it didn't read like a fantasy book, and it is heavy-handed with its message. Sometimes the omniscient narrator addressed the reader directly, which seemed jarring. Not unheard of, but not popular in contemporary fiction. And who is the narrator? Here's a clue: it's not a person. In reading this book, I was reminded of Carlos Castaneda's The Teachings of Don Juan and A Separate Reality, which I read way back in the 1970's. However, whether real experiences or imagined, his stories, as far-out as they were, seemed authentic and believable and had the feel of an alternate reality. Not so here.
All-in-all, I was disappointed with this format and would prefer to get Martha's teachings straight up. In the afterword, she does outline and explain the seven tasks towards spiritual awakening, which to me was the most valuable part of the book. I will probably read the sequels, just to see where she goes with it. Two and a half stars, rounded up, because it is Martha Beck....more
Another excellent mystery in the series. I really enjoy the feeling of settling in with familiar characters when I pick up a new selection in a seriesAnother excellent mystery in the series. I really enjoy the feeling of settling in with familiar characters when I pick up a new selection in a series I've been reading for a number of years. It's much easier to jump into the story without trying to figure out who's who and the intertwined relationships among the many characters, rather like the comfort of a popular TV series where nuances are often lost on the uninitiated viewer. There are always new characters introduced, of course, but often a slightly familiar minor character comes forward to play a starring role. Crombie does this often, mining her older books for a character to bring into the limelight. She also features an historic place in her books, the majority of which are set in London, and she chose the Crystal Palace area for this one, introducing a bit of its history at the beginning of each chapter. Crombie looks to the past for the motivation for her murders, as well, and uncovering the past connections among characters is one of the most intriguing aspects of the mystery. The series features married detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, and since they now technically work in different arenas, the murder case usually falls under one or the other's jurisdiction. In this book, it is Gemma's, and her sergeant Melody Talbot also plays a prominent role. Duncan is left to handle child care with their young foster child and inserting himself in an unofficial advisory capacity. It is rather refreshing to have the alpha male Duncan taking a professional back seat as he is on family leave in the important, but often neglected role of child caregiver. Of course the next book will feature Duncan front and center. I've already reserved it at the library, and then I will have to wait until the next one is published. After fifteen books, Crombie hasn't disappointed me yet....more
Really excellent! I love Deborah Crombie's mysteries. She is one of three mystery writers whose series I have read and keep reading, the others beingReally excellent! I love Deborah Crombie's mysteries. She is one of three mystery writers whose series I have read and keep reading, the others being Louise Penny and Jacqueline Winspear. Crombie is American, with her setting and characters being very British; Louise Penny is Canadian; and Jacqueline Winspear is English living in America, with her books primarily set in England. For me, these writers strike the right balance of having engaging characters, intriguing plots, and interesting settings, without being overly dark and grim and gratuitously violent as some detective mysteries, or frivolous or silly as cozies can be. Is it just the British/Canadian ambiance I prefer? Perhaps. Of the three, I think Crombie is my favorite.
As in her other books, Crombie has highlighted a subject for her research which she builds the story around. Here it is competitive rowing, both women's and men's. The murder victim, Rebecca Meredith, is not only an Olympic level rower, but a high-ranking detective with the Met. Her drowning was no accident, but who would murder her? Her former, but still friendly, husband? Someone she crossed in an investigation? Another rower, damaged by war injuries, she had recently taken up with? Someone from her past with a need for vengeance? Someone high up whose crimes she could expose?
Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard is about to go on leave when he is called in to take the case. He begins to feel that his boss and other higher ranking officers want to tidy up the investigation quickly and are targeting one of the suspects to ensure the least scandal and difficulties for the police force. Kincaid thinks they are trying to railroad the wrong person for murder. He is shocked to find a string of related crimes pointing to someone of prominent standing in the force, and especially so when he realizes how close this person had come to harming his wife Gemma, a detective herself. Now it had become personal for Kincaid.
The story is wonderfully plotted, with old familiar characters as well as sympathetic new ones. I particularly like how Crombie shows us the domestic side of Duncan and Gemma, with their two boys from combined families, and now a three-year-old foster child they have taken in and hope to adopt, as well as two dogs and a cat. It is always a struggle for them to combine family life with their work, and Gemma, particularly, has qualms about neglecting the children while being devoted to her work. Crombie is also excellent at setting the scene - from the Thames River, to the rowing club, to the various cottage and apartment dwellings of her characters. I love the way she includes descriptions of interiors and laughed aloud when she described an upscale property investor's modern renovated apartment: Freddie Atterton's flat was enough to make anyone feel like hell. It was black on gray on spare, and not even the good lighting and the architectural details preserved by the renovation made much dent in livening the place up. Ha ha. In contrast Duncan and Gemma's house has a very homey, cozy feel, with her Clarice Cliff artisan teapot taking center stage.
I guessed the murderer when first introduced, with the slightest clue dropped, probably because I've come to recognize the author's style, but was carried along with the fast-moving plot as other crimes and suspects take the stage. Crombie cleverly weaves these together, as she slowly reveals the connecting threads. For me it is the most satisfying kind of mystery and I look forward to reading the next in the series.
Three and a half stars rounded up. Jojo Moyes is a talented writer who can create tough new scenarios for a favorite character and keep her readers wiThree and a half stars rounded up. Jojo Moyes is a talented writer who can create tough new scenarios for a favorite character and keep her readers with her. Louisa from Me Before You loses her bounce in this sequel as she suffers from debilitating grief. She is now in London working at a dead-end demeaning job in an airport bar and her only other interactions than with wearied, frightened air travelers hoping for a little Dutch courage are with a grief counseling group. Sounds depressing, right? Well, it is. Moyes is convincing in depicting Louisa's state of mind without losing our sympathies. I'm not quite sure how she does it, but injecting some of Lou's dark humor certainly helps. Moyes knows that most of her readers will have read the first book and are already sympathetic to Louisa and are rooting for her. I won't go into the difficulties Louisa falls into for fear of spoilers, but her sympathetic good nature makes her vulnerable. This lends itself to some dilemmas that many of us could imagine: how much can you sacrifice for others and is it necessary and right to withdraw to protect your own well-being? Some of the family dynamics from the last book spill over in a comforting way, and Louisa must come to the point where she is ready to move on, not only in romantic relationships, but embrace the present and future. Can she reclaim her zest for life she had before Will's death and follow his admonition to live fully? The book kept me up late reading, and I think that's always a good sign of an author hitting her mark....more