I enjoyed this book just as much as I did the first--maybe a little more, as there's a more unified plot. Miss Buncle, now Mrs. Abbott, takes it intoI enjoyed this book just as much as I did the first--maybe a little more, as there's a more unified plot. Miss Buncle, now Mrs. Abbott, takes it into her head to buy a run-down house in a little village so as to get away from the constant social demands of her and her husband's friends in town. She's also sworn off writing, particularly since she likes her new home and is afraid of having to move away if she publishes another book about her neighbors. But she hasn't sworn off observing, and once again we get a novel full of delightful, quirky characters and interesting interactions between them.
I loved Mr. Abbott's nephew Sam, though his falling in love was telegraphed strongly--actually, I think that was part of the appeal, drawing him so strongly as a man about town just waiting for the right girl without knowing it. And Jerry, the "right girl," was just as engaging. Barbara Abbott, though, is still the main draw, and her innocence that passes for arch cleverness fascinated me. The ending was just right: (view spoiler)[I was afraid Jerry would end up inheriting the fortune after all, and her marriage to Sam was revealed at just the right time. (hide spoiler)] I hope there's another Miss Buncle book, because these are sweet and satisfying and I'm enjoying them immensely.["br"]>["br"]>...more
What a delightful book! Miss Buncle, in a financial bind, decides to write a book to make some money. She writes engagingly of the people she knows, nWhat a delightful book! Miss Buncle, in a financial bind, decides to write a book to make some money. She writes engagingly of the people she knows, not being clever enough (by her own admission) to make things up--and yet she does, in the sweetest way. When the book becomes a best-seller, she gets into trouble with her neighbors, though none of them suspect her to be the author. I loved the way in which Barbara Buncle's book changed her neighbors, mostly for the better. I also thought it was hilarious that her own publisher couldn't decide if she was a clever satirist or simply very innocent. The ending (view spoiler)[in which Barbara decides to marry her publisher (hide spoiler)] didn't satisfy the romantic in me, as it was rather prosaic and I'd hoped for something more, well, romantic, but overall I loved the book and look forward to reading more about Miss Buncle's adventures....more
I figured I had a good chance of liking this one better than the first, and I did, mainly because I was so irritated with Aiden and Cassandra's relatiI figured I had a good chance of liking this one better than the first, and I did, mainly because I was so irritated with Aiden and Cassandra's relationship and that's gone. But it feels like a middle book--lots of holding patterns, lots of wondering who's going to strike next and where. There's also a scene I found unnecessary: (view spoiler)[Our Heroes go hunting for Artemis and find nothing but her bloody remains, then fight a battle with Ares in which they're described as slipping around in what's left of her. It wasn't that it was gory so much as that it was overdone. It lost all impact. (hide spoiler)] I'm still intrigued by the series, but it was the ending that kept me interested, not all the maneuvering that happened in the middle....more
This book makes it clear (if you weren't already aware) that the trilogy isn't so much about the plot, with its slave rebellions and outright warfare,This book makes it clear (if you weren't already aware) that the trilogy isn't so much about the plot, with its slave rebellions and outright warfare, as it is about the love story at the heart of it. If you buy Arin and Kestrel's somewhat tumultuous relationship, you will eat this book up with a spoon, no question. For me, it never quite worked--I was always conscious of what Rutkoski was doing to up the stakes, and it felt...not manipulative, but constructed in a way that would let the two of them reconcile and then get together at exactly the right time. (view spoiler)[AMNESIA?!? Seriously? I get that Kestrel would be traumatized by her time in the labor camp, but AMNESIA?!? It was the perfect way to spin out that reconciliation, but at the cost of me taking the relationship seriously. (hide spoiler)]
On the other hand, this was the first time in the trilogy that I actually believed Kestrel was as clever as we kept being told she was, with one caveat: (view spoiler)[That last game she played with the emperor, with the poisoned tiles--there's no way she could have avoided touching them because games like that depend on both players mixing the tiles before drawing them. It sounds like a clever plan, but if you think about it, it falls apart. (hide spoiler)] I loved the moment where, when she's had her previous actions described to her, she says, "I sound really stupid." And I thought yes, you were. Arin, of course, continues to be led by his heart, and I hated every minute of that. He's got responsibilities to his people that he was frequently willing to ignore for the sake of True Love.
I loved Roshar. He's funny and smart and he was my favorite part of the book. He was sensible in ways Arin should have emulated. That's all.
Just to repeat, because I think this is important: this is a book about a relationship that has been cranked up to eleven. The background, setting, and plot, which have flaws, (view spoiler)[The ending really isn't an ending. There's turmoil in the empire because the emperor is dead and Verex has run away, Arin doesn't know a damn thing about governing, his allies may or may not continue to support him, and the war isn't actually over. (hide spoiler)] are all subsidiary to this. This whole trilogy asks the reader to participate in a vicarious emotional experience, and if you can go with that, you will love this series. If not, you'll probably be left going "but what about...?" I enjoyed the books, but it was at a remove because I couldn't engage with Arin and Kestrel's love. This third volume salvaged some of what bothered me about book two, but ultimately it didn't matter. I don't regret reading it, but I doubt I'll come back to it again.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I requested this book after recently meeting the author and wanting to read something she'd written. I like historical fiction, though WWI is not a peI requested this book after recently meeting the author and wanting to read something she'd written. I like historical fiction, though WWI is not a period I've read much about, and this was a gripping adventure story that kept me interested from beginning to end. The story centers on espionage in World War I; the Spider of the title is Julian Olivier, a German-speaking Frenchman sent to spy on the Krupp munitions factory, and the Sparrow is Evette Touny, involved in counterespionage in Paris. The story of the war plays out through their actions, as well as those of Canadian pilot Warren Flynn and the girl he's attracted to, Claire Donovan, whose father is an American maker of war materiel.
Much as I liked Warren and Claire, I think the book would have been tighter if it had stuck strictly to the POVs of Julian and Evette. Julian's development as a character is particularly good, as he goes from being a simple poilu to having sympathy for the German family he works for as his cover. But both romances are sweet and satisfying, and I would be sad to lose Warren's story. The ending is rather melodramatic--which is to say the villain suddenly turns out to have a flair for gruesome death hitherto unrevealed--but in general everyone's scars are well-earned, and I was glad to have read it.
This novel is sort of a prequel to some of the author's other books, or at least Julian's relatives show up elsewhere, and I'm interested enough to want to give those a try.
I received a free copy of this from Netgalley....more
This is a long story that sort of works as a real epilogue to The Smoke-Scented Girl. I can't remember why I wrote it, other than that I like screwbalThis is a long story that sort of works as a real epilogue to The Smoke-Scented Girl. I can't remember why I wrote it, other than that I like screwball comedy, and this is sort of its near-cousin. Download it for free on my website here....more
This collection of short pieces by Terry Pratchett is fun, if not particularly thrilling--but then, it's more or less what I expected, so I'm callingThis collection of short pieces by Terry Pratchett is fun, if not particularly thrilling--but then, it's more or less what I expected, so I'm calling it a win. There's some repetition of content because these are essays and letters written at various times for various purposes, but, again, it's the nature of the beast. I especially liked his description of searching for frankincense at Christmastime in Bristol and the story of casting a honeycomb and bees in gold. I dipped into this now and again over the course of a week, and it was well worth the time spent. (I also managed to splash it with teriyaki sauce while cooking dinner. Reading and cooking rarely go well together.)...more
As this book opens, Janet Drummond checks into a seedy motel where she's come to stay because her astronaut daughter Sarah is about to go into space.As this book opens, Janet Drummond checks into a seedy motel where she's come to stay because her astronaut daughter Sarah is about to go into space. Sarah may have it together, but her brothers aren't so lucky: Wade is only just pulling himself together after a lifetime of screwing up, and Bryan struggles with depression. Janet's ex-husband Ted and his trophy wife Nickie are there too, as is Bryan's girlfriend Shw (no vowels) who is pregnant. Due to a random twist of fate and gunshots, Wade and Janet both have AIDS. And they're all about to embark on a crazy adventure that will, unexpectedly, bring this family back together.
I love the craziness of Coupland's novels, how rooted they are in character. None of these people are anyone I would necessarily want as a friend--except that they are wonderful in their oddities and quirks. Without going into spoilers, I can say that Coupland made me love them enough that the event which should have been a deus ex machina, wasn't. I call that remarkable.
Because it really is character that drives this story. If you like the characters, if you believe the characters, the book becomes lovable. I don't know that the title is true, but it's certainly true that all families have quirks which look insane to the outside observer. This family just has more of them than most.
I picked this up intending to re-read Eleanor Rigby after I realized it's been on my shelf for several years. It made for a lovely afternoon's entertainment....more
After reading this book, I think the subtitle should have been "The OSS: At Least We Tried." The author does his best, but the subtext paints a picturAfter reading this book, I think the subtitle should have been "The OSS: At Least We Tried." The author does his best, but the subtext paints a picture of an organization balked at every turn, whose missions rarely turned out as they should. To be fair, much of this was due to the fledgling spy organization receiving very little cooperation from the information-gathering arms of other military organizations, but it's hard not to admit that the OSS played less of a part in winning the war than I think O'Donnell would like.
However. This is not a book about the OSS as an organization; it's about the men and women who took part in its many, many operations throughout the European and Pacific theaters of war. And those stories were fascinating. If the OSS failed, it was rarely because its operatives were stupid, inadequate, or cowardly. The OSS recruited and trained hundreds of men and women who undertook sometimes deadly missions; in some cases, those men and women simply disappeared from history after being captured. O'Donnell conducted so many interviews it's amazing the book is as short as it is. Much of it is simply the words of the survivors, and those stories are truly gripping. This is not an exhaustive history, but as a collection of personal records, it's remarkable....more
I finished this book exactly 75 years to the day after the events recorded. That was coincidence, but it did give the read a little more significance.I finished this book exactly 75 years to the day after the events recorded. That was coincidence, but it did give the read a little more significance. This account of the most severe bombing London endured during the Blitz is told through the lives of its survivors, many of whom Mortimer interviewed. That gives it maybe too personal a touch, as he also recounts events through the eyes of people he couldn't possibly have met or known their thoughts. I also wish he'd cut down on the number of people he followed, because it was sometimes difficult to keep track of who was who. As a snapshot in time, however, it's poignant. I didn't realize just how many Londoners remained in their homes while the bombing went on, nor how much resentment there was by lower-class Londoners of those of the well-to-do whose homes (due to the pattern of German bombing) were rarely in danger. An interesting read if you want a glimpse of the war through the eyes of the people who lived it....more
I'm slowly working my way through this series, and thoroughly enjoyed this one, in which Frank Carpenter, son of Sophie and Paul, uses the Portable DoI'm slowly working my way through this series, and thoroughly enjoyed this one, in which Frank Carpenter, son of Sophie and Paul, uses the Portable Door to try to save the life of veteran monster-killer Emily. Only someone really wants her dead, so he has to keep trying. And trying. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the ending: (view spoiler)[It's stupid for Paul and Sophie to claim the Portable Door is only safe with them, because Frank was doing an excellent job using it, and since they used it plenty of times for selfish reasons, they hardly have a fair argument. Though it was funny that "eternal youth," for them, meant eternal awkward adolescence. (hide spoiler)] Fun, funny, and worth reading....more
Michael J. Totten is one of the finest journalists working today. This book is a collection of pieces ranging over more than a decade, from Israel toMichael J. Totten is one of the finest journalists working today. This book is a collection of pieces ranging over more than a decade, from Israel to Vietnam, Cuba to Lebanon. I'd read a couple of them before, but most were new to me, and all spoke to a lively understanding of the cultures they're about. I recommend this book to anyone who's interested in global politics on a personal scale--or if you just want to get really outraged, read the chapter on being trapped by Alitalia over the Christmas holidays....more
This was an enjoyable look at some forgotten comic book superheroes, most of which were deservedly forgotten, but a few who died an untimely death dueThis was an enjoyable look at some forgotten comic book superheroes, most of which were deservedly forgotten, but a few who died an untimely death due to publishing issues or just bad timing. My favorite is probably The Eye, which is nothing but a giant eye and is frankly creepier than most supervillains. But there's also Fantomah, who I didn't know is credited with being the first female superhero (she predates Wonder Woman by more than a year) and whose art is unique for its time. I'd like to see a return of Nelvana of the Northern Lights, too....more
I should have written this up when I read it, but I didn't. I love Hilary McKay's books, so this was just more of the same--great characters, funny stI should have written this up when I read it, but I didn't. I love Hilary McKay's books, so this was just more of the same--great characters, funny stories, a happy ending that isn't perfect. Even so, I think I like Binny in Secret better. (view spoiler)[The thing with the dog just irritated me, that it was SUCH a HUGE COINCIDENCE. And it irritated me even though I knew it was coming because I read Binny in Secret first. It didn't ruin the book for me, but it came close. (hide spoiler)]...more
This was fun and frothy--a lighthearted romp with plenty of excitement. I'd have enjoyed it more if it had had more depth; there are places where evenThis was fun and frothy--a lighthearted romp with plenty of excitement. I'd have enjoyed it more if it had had more depth; there are places where events are just glossed over in favor of getting to something more exciting. I also would have enjoyed more depth in explaining the magic of the world instead of, again, glossing over it. And there were other places where Nix appeared to put in details just so we'd know he'd done his research. Overall, though, very enjoyable and action-packed....more
The title for this book arose from a brainstorming exercise in which you generate as many titles as you can and then see what books you can develop frThe title for this book arose from a brainstorming exercise in which you generate as many titles as you can and then see what books you can develop from that. I gave the list to my husband to mark his top five favorites while I did the same. This title was at the top of both our lists. (It was not until much later, thanks to Amazon's search engine, that I discovered the phrase "smoke-scented girl" also comes from Andrea Höst's book Hunting. It was the weirdest coincidence I've ever encountered with one of my books.)
Developing a book from a title is a very different process from choosing a title for an already-written book. To me, smoke suggested fire, and I had the idea of a young woman attached to some kind of fire from the beginning, but the first thing I wrote for this book was the magic system. I wanted a sort of early Victorian feel for the world, so I generated dozens of "command words" based on Latin (though not the obvious Latin roots) and worked out how magicians in that world would work magic. Enter Evon Lorantis, inventor of spells, obsessive and a bit of a nerd (though still very attractive). Once I had those three elements, the rest of the story--Evon investigating a mysterious spell that turned out to be rooted in myth--came together easily.
The greatest secret about this book, in which smell and taste play such crucial roles, is that I have virtually no sense of smell. I had to make up almost everything about the scent of Kerensa's spell, and my husband would sometimes prod me to include a smell detail in places because I hadn't for a while. Sometimes, in writing, you just have to fake it.
I wish I knew where Piercy Faranter came from. He's one of two characters I've created who seem to write themselves, as if they came fully-formed from some other place. I liked him enough that I've written another book in this world with him as the main character, rogue, spy, and man about town. I hope people like it, because I love Piercy and enjoyed showing a different side of him.
My son is currently reading this book aloud to his sisters. He's a budding voice actor and is using this book for practice in narration. Some of the voices he does are...interesting. I had to stop him doing Evon as a gravelly-voiced forty-year-old, for one. But it's been fun to listen in occasionally and be amazed that they're all willing to be entertained by something their mom wrote....more
I read this and The Penderwicks on Gardam Street back to back, drinking in how delightful these stories are. I was a little taken aback to discover thI read this and The Penderwicks on Gardam Street back to back, drinking in how delightful these stories are. I was a little taken aback to discover that half the Penderwicks are absent from this book, Martin and Iantha and baby Ben off on a sort-of honeymoon, and Rosalind on vacation with her friend. But Skye, Jane, and Batty make up for this absence with their own brand of hilarity. Having their old friend Jeffrey along made everything that much better.
I'm not sure how I feel about this plot (which I'll have to spoiler-tag): (view spoiler)[in which the girls' summer neighbor turns out to be Jeffrey's absent father, who didn't even know Jeffrey existed. It was deeply satisfying as I read it, but when I was finished and started thinking about it, the coincidence was a little too much to take. Worse, though, was that I didn't think Jeffrey's reaction made much sense even for a twelve-year-old. It's not as if Alec abandoned him, and Jeffrey's insistence that he could have found out if his mother had had a baby is irrational; why would Alec have even suspected such a thing? It felt played for drama. But I thought of all that afterward, because Alec is so charming and I really wanted Jeffrey to have a father who was as wonderful as his mother was awful. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, there's the usual assortment of wild schemes, near-catastrophes, misunderstandings, and a first kiss that leaves much to be desired. I really love this series and am looking forward to the next book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more