I didn't love all these stories, but I really liked most of them, and fell head over heels for several. Ray Bradbury's combination of love, loss, yearI didn't love all these stories, but I really liked most of them, and fell head over heels for several. Ray Bradbury's combination of love, loss, yearning and compassion speaks to my heart....more
And we're back on form! I was underwhelmed by the last Phryne book but enjoyed this one a lot - perhaps because it's partly a love story and partly aAnd we're back on form! I was underwhelmed by the last Phryne book but enjoyed this one a lot - perhaps because it's partly a love story and partly a (gently mocking) tribute to Sherlock Holmes.
Phryne's old friend and lover, Dr John Wilson (ahem), is in town and suffering from an unrequited passion for his travelling partner, mathematician and wartime code-breaker Rupert Sheffield. When Sheffield's past threatens his present, Phryne is determined to protect John from harm, a task which may end up embroiling half the gangs of Melbourne, not to mention MI6.
Meanwhile, Inspector Jack Robinson needs Phryne's help with in a choir whose conductors keep having unfortunate accidents...but as the choir prepares to sing Mendelssohn's Elijah, it becomes clear that not only the conductors are in the firing line. Unravelling both these mysteries will take all of Phryne's ingenuity, not to mention that of her household and protégés.
This is darker than Greenwood's recent efforts, with the war and its after-effects on the various characters playing a large role. I loved the character of John Wilson and was very happy with the way his storyline played out. I was less impressed with the murder mystery aspect - I felt there were a couple of slapdash elements to the storyline. That said, this was a hugely enjoyable read with a mostly satisfying conclusion. More Phryne soon, please!
Joe Spork is a clockwork-repairer, taking after his boring grandfather rather than his crime-boss dad and he's very happy with that, thank you.
Edie BaJoe Spork is a clockwork-repairer, taking after his boring grandfather rather than his crime-boss dad and he's very happy with that, thank you.
Edie Banister is an ex-spy with a romantic past, a sworn enemy, and a ticking bomb that could destroy the world - if her arch-enemy doesn't get to it first. When she embroils Joe in her plot, all hell breaks loose.
This is a hugely entertaining, riveting, playful masterpiece. I loved The Gone-Away World, but if I had a complaint about it, it was that I felt it lacked a bit of heart. Angelmaker is all heart, and I completely adored it. Like many heroes, Joe Spork suffers somewhat from blank canvas syndrome, but he well and truly fills out his character by the end of the novel. Edie is a wonderful character, furious at the limitations imposed on her by old age, but still brilliantly resourceful. There's a master villain, a female sidekick who absolutely refuses to be a sidekick, and a character who feels very much like a tribute to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy's Connie Sachs.
The book has over five hundred pages, and I'd happily have kept going for another five hundred. Harkaway has a poet's relish for language, and for me, he has well and truly fulfilled the promise of The Gone-Away World. I can't wait to see what he writes next....more
I'm such a sucker for the Regency romance + magic trope, and this was a strong example of the genre, in that the writing was of a higher calibre thanI'm such a sucker for the Regency romance + magic trope, and this was a strong example of the genre, in that the writing was of a higher calibre than in other books I've encountered. A fun, quick read, and if the plot execution felt a little lightweight in the end, I didn't mind too much (although that's why it gets three stars rather than four)....more
I wanted to like this much more than I did. A Victorian feminist turning the establishment upside down, with a healthy serving of light romance on theI wanted to like this much more than I did. A Victorian feminist turning the establishment upside down, with a healthy serving of light romance on the side, is such a great premise. Unfortunately I felt the execution was lacking - the plot was simply boring and the writing, while not terrible, was pretty pedestrian.
The fact that I was eventually caught up in the action enough to read the finale in one big gulp brings it up from two to three stars for me, and I will probably read the next book next time I need some brain candy - but I'm certainly not dashing off to find it now....more
Moran has a knack for taking the issues that many women deal with and serving them up with humour, exasperation and compassion in a way that hopefullyMoran has a knack for taking the issues that many women deal with and serving them up with humour, exasperation and compassion in a way that hopefully makes them understandable to a much broader swathe of the population than would listen to, say, Germaine Greer making the same points. A lot of the things she talks about were already clear to me, but it was refreshing to see them dealt with in such vernacular terms.
I should say that it is a very heterocentric, white and cisgender-centric (is that the right term?) book. But Moran isn't pretending to be everywoman; she speaks from her own experience, and I found that a lot of her experience applied to my own experience....more
This was a reread, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Atkinson tackles the familiar theme of violence against women - in this case against particularly undThis was a reread, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Atkinson tackles the familiar theme of violence against women - in this case against particularly underpriveleged women such as prostitutes. By setting the story in Leeds, with one timeline running just before the Yorkshire Ripper began his reign of terror, Atkinson highlights the differences between the way such victims were viewed thirty years ago and now - and the prejudices that still remain.
At the heart of the story are two innocents: a little girl called Courtney, taken under the wing of lonely ex-WPC Tracey, and a dog rescued from certain death by Jackson Brodie. Both Tracey and Jackson are haunted by the memory of another innocent whom they were unable to save.
Atkinson draws us into a world of police indifference, brutality and corruption, gradually unravelling a murky plot in which almost all of the adult players are implicated. Even knowing what was coming, I was caught up in the storytelling, and I loved the fact that I was able to better appreciate Atkinson's skill this time around. There are some loose threads, which I'm hoping Atkinson will tie up in another book. But this one is my favourite to date....more
I wrote this non-spoilery review a while ago for Meet at the Gate, website of the excellent Canongate Books. I'm reposting it (finally) in case anyoneI wrote this non-spoilery review a while ago for Meet at the Gate, website of the excellent Canongate Books. I'm reposting it (finally) in case anyone still needs persuading to read this book, which is one of my all-time favourites.
The Book Thief is set in Molching, a small town in Nazi Germany that is far enough from Munich to avoid political significance, but close enough to Dachau that Jewish prisoners are occasionally marched through there. It's a town full of ordinary people who are struggling to survive a war - like the mayor's wife, who might almost seem to have given up on life...except for one small act of rebellion. Like Rosa Hubermann, who insults everyone impartially but loves warmly. Like Rudy Steiner, a boy trapped in a world he can make little sense of. Like Hans Hubermann, impoverished house-painter and accordionist, caught out by an old promise and his own sense of honour. And at their heart is Liesel: fierce, passionate, a lover of words and stealer of books.
When we first meet Liesel, she is nine and reeling from the loss of her family. Delivered to the fostering authorities, Liesel is thrown into a new life which, while poverty-stricken and plagued by Hitler's apparently arbitrary edicts, is a step up from her old one. At a funeral she steals a book, which turns out to be a handbook for gravediggers. It is the beginning of a journey in which Liesel, and eventually many other characters, find power through the written word while the world collapses around them.
Given the setting, it is perhaps appropriate that the narrator of The Book Thief is Death. Zusak isn't the first writer to make use of Death as a character, but he puts this narrative twist to excellent use here. To Death, humans are objects of curiosity, to be viewed (but not always kept) at a distance. Because Death is in turn relating Liesel's tale, it's hard to know from whom the descriptions originate, but they are always memorable: Rudy has hair the colour of lemons; Hans has eyes made of silver and kindness; Rosa is wardrobe-shaped. Words have power: they literally tap people on the shoulder, or even slap them across the face.
This is a story about death and about Death. But it is also a love letter to the human spirit: to the individual heroism that makes us human in the face of mindless mob brutality....more
I really don't think I can do justice to this book. It's the best thing I've read in quite a while, and only one other book has moved me as much as thI really don't think I can do justice to this book. It's the best thing I've read in quite a while, and only one other book has moved me as much as this one - The Book Thief. I like this coincidence, since both are set during World War II and both feature strong female heroines, although in the case of Code Name Verity there are actually two strong female heroines, with the narrative being split between them.
"It's like being in love, discovering your best friend." So says the first narrator, describing an early encounter with Maddie. And indeed, the first half of the book reads very much like a loveletter. Under the guise of providing information to the Gestapo, the narrator recounts the story of her and Maddie's friendship, from their very different beginnings up to the night when their plane was shot down over Occupied France.
The narrator has been tortured, and her story is interspersed with harrowing details of the way she and other prisoners of the Gestapo are treated. But it is also filled with beauty and humour; it's almost as if she can escape whatever fate awaits her when she talks of Maddie's exploits, or remembers the fears they shared with each other. For me, it's these lighter moments that allow the reader to keep reading through the horrific reality of the present.
This is a story of friendship and bravery. Of undercover intrigue and derring do. Of two girls from very different backgrounds who make the perfect team. It's heartbreaking and beautiful and I want to make everyone I know read it.
So if you've made it this far and you've yet to pick up the book, why not give it a try?...more
This is such a dark book - I love it, but it's a hard story to enjoy, full of heartbreaks punctuated by misunderstandings. Parts of it feel like wishThis is such a dark book - I love it, but it's a hard story to enjoy, full of heartbreaks punctuated by misunderstandings. Parts of it feel like wish fulfilment; parts of it feel as if LM Montgomery was wondering what to do with the reader between the "big" scenes. And yet Emily is such a great character that she still carries the story, for me, ably backed up by Ilse and to a lesser extent the New Moon folk....more