3.5. Good, but so far, my least favorite of Kearsley's novels. The ending came a bit too quickly and there were some loose ends never explained, but o...more3.5. Good, but so far, my least favorite of Kearsley's novels. The ending came a bit too quickly and there were some loose ends never explained, but overall, an entertaining and atmospheric read.(less)
I am a sucker for books about cool and calculating bitches. Serena is a book about the coolest and most calculating bitch in all of Bitchtown, and whi...moreI am a sucker for books about cool and calculating bitches. Serena is a book about the coolest and most calculating bitch in all of Bitchtown, and while she is a horrible, horrible person, I couldn't help but admire her.
Really -- tell me when the last time you tamed and trained a wild eagle to eat rattlesnakes at your behest? When did you ride up and down the Appalachians and build a logging empire? When did you have a crew of men reciting tales about you as if you were some cruel Greek goddess?
You don't need to know much about this book going in to enjoy it. I do agree with other reviewers in that it was hard to keep track of the crewmen, and the ending seemed a little sudden, but boy, did I enjoy it.(less)
This is the second Susanna Kearsley book I've read (The Winter Sea being the first), and I have to say, so far, they are perfect historic/paranormal/r...moreThis is the second Susanna Kearsley book I've read (The Winter Sea being the first), and I have to say, so far, they are perfect historic/paranormal/romantic escapist fare. Both books have an interesting, intelligent female lead (in this book, the protagonist is an archaeologist), everything is well-researched, and there is usually at least one handsome love interest.
Lest you think, "oh, romance novel," or "oh, ghost book," let me stop you. Yes, romantic tension is a factor in this book (as well as The Winter Sea), but it's a far cry from "heaving alabaster bosoms" and "sword of manhood." Any actual love scenes are more of the "And the hot guy said something really hot, and moved toward her [fade to black]." Similarly, the ghost stories are portrayed through the eyes of a skeptic with a reasonably open mind.
What I really loved about both of these books, but particularly The Shadowy Horses, is the way Kearsley weaves interesting personalities, local lore, history, tools and methods of the trade (be it archaeology or otherwise), and sheer mood alongside the paranormal and romantic aspects. I finished this 400+ page book in several hours because I could not put it down.
The only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because I thought the ending was a bit lacking -- the climax and denouement came quite suddenly, and because I was on an e-reader, I didn't realize quite how close I was to the end until it happened.
Still, though, I'm ready to go to Scotland and have a wild historical adventure while I stand on a cliff overlooking the ocean and the wind blows through my hair dramatically. To me, that's the mark of a good book: I want to go live in that world.(less)
4.5. I knew I would love this book because I loved The Paris Wife, the story of Ernest Hemingway's put-upon first wife. And frankly, I don't like Fitz...more4.5. I knew I would love this book because I loved The Paris Wife, the story of Ernest Hemingway's put-upon first wife. And frankly, I don't like Fitzgerald or Hemingway (although I prefer Fitzgerald of the two), so I am predisposed to like their wives. (And yeah, I loved Midnight in Paris, so.)
The book starts just about when Zelda meets Fitzgerald, and ends shortly before her untimely demise.
I barreled through this in a day. Zelda's forceful personality comes through the pages -- charming, intense, reckless, and a bit righteous. I loved "her" (I put that in quotations because I don't know how much of this was really her, and how much was the author's speculation) observations and frustrations with how nothing she did was recognized until her husband put his name on it. (Or nothing she did was recognized until he lifted it from her letters and put it into his books without credit.) She's a prototype of a feminist, but unwilling to associate herself with the movement for various reasons.
And of course, the Lost Generation, with Paris, their art, their fashion, their absinthe, salons, and multiple spouses are a heady combination in and of themselves.
Some nitpicking: Although I think I understand why the author chose not to go into much of Zelda's shock treatments and such, the ending did seem to come a bit quickly. I also felt a little cheated out of "the disastrous trip to Cuba" and am not sure why Ms. Fowler didn't use Zelda and Scott's own correspondence in the book. Copyright issue, perhaps?
Still, though -- I thought this was beautifully written, beautifully depicted, and now all I want to do is drink champagne in a beaded dress cut down to there. Cheers to Zelda and the author.(less)
I liked the public defender protagonist, European travel, the interesting case, and stories set throughout the 20th century. So it was a disappointmen...moreI liked the public defender protagonist, European travel, the interesting case, and stories set throughout the 20th century. So it was a disappointment when all of a sudden, BOOM. Everything was over far too quickly with no real resolution. It was as if the author got tired of her story and ended it with "And things turned out the best they could under the circumstances, the end."(less)
It's strange for me to think that most young adult readers (the target audience, not those of us who are older) were too young to remember or comprehe...moreIt's strange for me to think that most young adult readers (the target audience, not those of us who are older) were too young to remember or comprehend September 11, 2001. I can't imagine trying to write about the historical and cultural significance of that time period, not to mention the sheer terror it inspired.
So I have to admire that Mal Peet writes about the Cuban Missile Crisis, gives it a historical background, and still manages to really bring the shock and terror home to affect a couple of horny teenagers who want nothing more than to go Lewis & Clark on each others' uncharted territories. Had I read this 10-15 years ago, it would have sparked my interest in the historical narrative beyond the book. (I read this with the benefit of already having a history BA, so I was somewhat familiar with the era. The historical portions of this book offered a different and fun take on what I already "knew.")
My one small gripe is that some of the dialogue is written in dialect, and not one I could readily "hear" when I read it.
Peet's style is refreshing, slyly funny, and harsh when it needs to be. Definitely enjoyed this pick for the Forever Young Adult book club, and would recommend it to YA and adult readers alike.(less)
Gorgeous book. I'm no fan of Hemingway, but McLain does a beautiful job of taking you back to 1920s Paris and the avant-garde crowd that powered the c...moreGorgeous book. I'm no fan of Hemingway, but McLain does a beautiful job of taking you back to 1920s Paris and the avant-garde crowd that powered the cafe scene.
You know right from the beginning that Hemingway will cheat on Hadley, his first wife, which makes their dizzying courtship all the more poignant. And it's the same old story you've heard before in other books--he doesn't treat her well, she doesn't want to lose him--but the thing here is that it's all studded with historical personae that make the book stand out.
I love McLain's unpretentious-yet-lyrical tone, and I especially loved the way Hadley was depicted as feeling so unremarkable around the larger-than-life people in the their social group. Well, yeah--if you're hanging around with Gertrude Stein and Picasso, you're probably going to feel a little blue that you're not as talented (and insane) as the others. It's a great touch of realism in a book that obviously took pains to do the story, the era, and the famous figures justice.
As an aside, I just went to the local Picasso exhibit, which has hundreds of pieces from the Musee National Picasso in Paris -- so reading this book after having admired that work was even more arresting. I may have to go see the Parisisan Avant-Garde exhibit at the MOMA - my curiosity has been piqued.(less)