This was just as satisfying as I expect from the series. Lots of great character interactions, interesting side characters, and Heather finally confro...moreThis was just as satisfying as I expect from the series. Lots of great character interactions, interesting side characters, and Heather finally confronts the mother who abandoned her and stole all her money. The mystery is a little weak, but the rest of the story definitely makes up for it. And Heather and Cooper are married! Lots of fun all around.(less)
I wasn't as thrilled with The Mark of Athena as I'd hoped, but this one more than made up for any dissatisfaction I'd felt with the previous book. As...moreI wasn't as thrilled with The Mark of Athena as I'd hoped, but this one more than made up for any dissatisfaction I'd felt with the previous book. As usual, the story bounces around between the different POV characters, but this time it's also strongly divided between Percy and Annabeth's adventures in Tartarus and everyone else's adventures trying to get to Greece, both groups aiming to shut and seal the doors that are letting monsters free from Tartarus into the real world.
Riordan manages to balance all these different POV chapters pretty well, keeping each storyline interesting, though I think I preferred the Tartarus plot just a little more than the real-world one. There are a couple of interesting developments, the biggest one probably being that Leo, the "seventh wheel," finally has a love interest of his own. I have mixed feelings about the revelation about Nico: (view spoiler)[Kudos to Riordan for having a gay character, but he can't quite bring himself to use the word, and I'm not sure if this represents subtlety or if he...just can't bring himself to say it. This is a young adult series, after all. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, this was extremely satisfying, and my son and I enjoyed reading it together. I look forward to the final book, coming out next year.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It's always such a joy to read a new Sammy Keyes novel. In this one, Sammy's finally met her father and they're going on a cruise together (without he...moreIt's always such a joy to read a new Sammy Keyes novel. In this one, Sammy's finally met her father and they're going on a cruise together (without her mother, whom I still don't care for). Naturally, Sammy stumbles into a mystery, in this case one surrounding a very wealthy family who are all after their dead father's money. The mystery is strong, and Sammy's growing relationship with her father is so satisfying I wanted to see more of it. I still say Sammy and Marissa don't stand much chance of staying friends, even if Marissa weren't moving far away, but it was nice to see Sammy's dad Darren and his best friend Marko interact. Darren and Sammy are a lot alike, and despite my distaste for Lady Lana, I would like to see how the three of them get along together.(less)
There are no words. Wow. I knew there was a good chance I would like this. I didn't think it would be my favorite book of the year.
I am not a fan of J...moreThere are no words. Wow. I knew there was a good chance I would like this. I didn't think it would be my favorite book of the year.
I am not a fan of Jane Austen pastiche, none of the "after Pride and Prejudice etc." books, none of the "let's retell Jane Austen set in the modern world!" because I find no fulfillment in them. Longbourn is not one of these, not only because it tells the story of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the servants at Longbourn as opposed to the original characters, but because it succeeds at adding not length, but depth, to the original work.
I'm not going to bother explaining the plot, because there's a lot that would be spoilers. The three main POV characters are Sarah, the older housemaid/lady's maid; Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper/cook; and James, the newly hired footman. Each of them takes up the narrative in turns, lending their perspective to the story at exactly the moment it becomes most interesting. I fell in love with Sarah, whose working day begins as the novel opens, her chilblained hands struggling to bring in water for washing day. Baker's prose is beautiful and her love for her source material undeniable. She takes few liberties with Pride and Prejudice, and the ones she does take, again, add depth to the original story. I had no idea anyone could redeem Mr. Collins' character. That alone makes the story brilliant. Her treatment of Wickham is similarly engaging; everything Baker does to expand on his character is plausible given his behavior in the original book.
Baker doesn't bother aping Jane Austen's style, which lends a sense that Austen's Regency-era prose is that of the gentry, while Baker's is that of those below stairs. It's structured like a three-volume novel, each book ending on some event that changes the story and sets the stage for the next part. I had some misgivings about the beginning of Book Three, which goes back in time to show some of what happened before the start of the book, but it turned out to be the right choice. The ending is sweeter for the tension leading up to it, and if The Silver Linings Playbook stayed with me for a day after I finished it, this one keeps replaying in my head with no sign of going away. Maybe it was the timing, maybe this was just the book I wanted to read at just the moment I wanted to read it, but I was blown away at how strongly I reacted to it, and I am certain I will return to it again.(less)
I wasn't as excited about the last two books in the series, despite my enjoyment of the characters, because I signed up for Napoleonic War alternate h...moreI wasn't as excited about the last two books in the series, despite my enjoyment of the characters, because I signed up for Napoleonic War alternate history fiction and wasn't as interested in Laurence and Temeraire's wandering around Australia and the Americas. This was a welcome return (at least half of it was) to the War, and Napoleon's aggression on Russia.
The first half, though, is a digression into Japan which I also enjoyed because I like reading about Japanese culture in the 19th century, and Novik succeeds in making her alternate history reflect some of the isolationism of that time. Unfortunately, she also gives Laurence amnesia (he loses eight years of his memory), which struck me as sort of unnecessary to the plot. It effectively resets his relationship with Temeraire, since they've only been together for five years, so we're treated to the poignancy of Laurence having to build a new relationship with his best friend and discover everything, good and bad, that happened to him during that time. (Okay. I admit to being amused at his momentary belief that he's Emily Roland's father.) But that's really all it does, increase the tension in sort of a gimmicky way. It's a relief when his memory begins to come back.
My other problem is the one I've had since book six, which is that the plot has become a series of short adventures strung together like beads, none of which are long enough to support a full novel and each of which is only tenuously connected to the other. This book has two sections, the first being the escape from Japan and the second being Laurence's mission to bring hundreds of dragons from China to bolster the Russian army. Yes, they're connected, but very loosely, and I find I'm dissatisfied with stories that are less plot than mere connected events.
So why four stars? Because, as usual, Novik's characters are superb and her story, irrespective of my complaints about how it's structured, is exciting. We see old friends and make new ones--I didn't think I'd like General Chu much, but he ended up being one of my favorites. And Iskierka, who drove me crazy when she first appeared and now just makes me laugh, makes the first part of the story really interesting. I look forward to finding out what comes out of her and Temeraire's egg--her matter-of-fact revelation that she's carrying it was wonderful. As usual, the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire carries the story in places where it might otherwise sag. And Novik ends the novel in a way that left me eager for the next volume, something I couldn't say about either of the two previous ones. Complaints aside, I liked it very much.(less)
I'm predisposed to like Terry Pratchett's books, so it's no surprise that I loved this one (with a few quibbles). The book begins with the story of a...moreI'm predisposed to like Terry Pratchett's books, so it's no surprise that I loved this one (with a few quibbles). The book begins with the story of a young man driven to create a steam-powered engine--a locomotive--and succeed where his father failed. But almost immediately that plotline is interrupted by a scene that seems completely unrelated that touches on the ongoing internal problems the dwarves of Discworld are having. As the novel progresses, however, it becomes clear that this second plotline is the real story, the culmination of several books' worth of storytelling that began back in The Fifth Elephant (though technically you could make a case for it beginning as far back as Feet of Clay). This is both the strong point of the book and its weakness, because Pratchett is finally bringing this thread to a conclusion, and it's extremely satisfying to see that happen. On the other hand, there's never any sense that the heroes are in real danger from the villains, and the climax, while satisfying, doesn't really put the people involved in danger either.
In the end, though, you read a Discworld novel because you're invested in the world and the characters, and this one delivers on that promise. The Moist von Lipwig books are probably my favorites, and I loved seeing Moist and Adora Belle happily married (which they accomplish by often leading separate lives, and that makes perfect sense for them). Another thing I enjoy is seeing Commander Vimes from someone else's perspective, particularly Moist's--the policeman and the con man. And Vetinari's insistence that they put a rail line all the way through to Uberwald...of course that has nothing to do with Lady Margolotta, because there's nothing between them. Nothing. Don't look any further or it's the kitten torture for you. (Kitten torture made me laugh so hard I had to explain it to my husband.) It's what you'd expect from a Discworld novel, and I was extremely satisfied by it.(less)
Much as I enjoyed this, I didn't like it as much as Life Among the Savages, probably because as Jackson's kids got older, it was increasingly difficul...moreMuch as I enjoyed this, I didn't like it as much as Life Among the Savages, probably because as Jackson's kids got older, it was increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that they're either brats or Jackson isn't a very good parent. Still, there are some excellent moments here, particularly her description of the new house they buy, her oldest son Laurie's one year in Little League, and the wild antics of their pets. Jackson is still brilliant and funny, and the book is well worth picking up.(less)
I had my first literary criticism class when I was twelve. Children's Literature, taught by Mrs. Simone, who loved children's books and loved to teach...moreI had my first literary criticism class when I was twelve. Children's Literature, taught by Mrs. Simone, who loved children's books and loved to teach children how to read critically. Our great reward, twice that year, was to be allowed into the library's discarded book room to choose a lost book of our very own. For someone who until that point had a library composed mostly of books from the Scholastic catalog, this was such a thrill: old books--you know the smell--that had been read and loved until they almost fell apart. Web of Traitors was one of the books I chose. (The other was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which is a whole 'nother review.) I still own it, tattered, spine coming away from the pages, a souvenir from those faraway days.
As I read the book again for the first time in, I think, twenty-five years, I'm astonished at how much of history it introduced me to. This is where I read about Socrates for the first time, learned the Athenian love of theater for the first time, even the first time I read about code making and breaking. It gave me the most romantic notions about Athens that were never fully dispelled even when I learned that its famed democracy only applied to men.
Alexis, fighting against his father's expectations for him, wants not to challenge Athenian tradition but to follow a different path. Of course, he does end up challenging both tradition and morals in listening to that gadfly Socrates, let alone by associating with a common girl like Corinna. And, also of course, he and he friends thwart the planned invasion and Alexis succeeds at writing a play which is performed at the Theater Festival. This is, after all, a suspense novel for young adults. But it's a thrill to think of being able to write a play that competes successfully with those written not just by adults, but by experienced adults.
Corinna, unexpectedly cultured for a girl whose mother keeps an inn, was one of my first feminist examples from literature. Not only is she clever, she also performs a daring act of espionage that puts her body on the line AND rescues Alexis when he's caught by the traitors. I admired her daring, even as I now as an older reader recognize that Trease was cheating a little by making her so unnaturally cultured despite her upbringing. He engages in a little classism by suggesting that (view spoiler)[her being born to an upper class family made her innately superior, and that superiority wasn't damaged by being raised the daughter of a coarse innkeeper (hide spoiler)]. Her friendship with Alexis isn't spoiled by any romantic notions, though I imagine you could extend the story by suggesting that Corinna, at the end, is someone Alexis's hidebound father might at some point find acceptable for his middle son. But that's not important to this story.
I re-read this because I was looking for fiction about Athens that wasn't about its wars with Sparta. There is remarkably little in that vein, which makes this book even more unique. I have no idea what I saw in it that made me pick it--a book that hadn't been checked on since 1967, a book that had sat abandoned on the shelf for another 17 years--but I am certainly glad that I did.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The mystery wasn't all that hard to unravel, but I love Philip Marlowe as a character and I love Chandler's depiction of 1930s California. In fact, th...moreThe mystery wasn't all that hard to unravel, but I love Philip Marlowe as a character and I love Chandler's depiction of 1930s California. In fact, the entire supporting cast was well-drawn, particularly the corrupt cop and the client Derace Kingsley (although what kind of name is Derace, anyway?).(less)
Not as good as Angela's Ashes, better than 'Tis. McCourt is unfailingly honest about what it was like for him to teach English at four high schools an...moreNot as good as Angela's Ashes, better than 'Tis. McCourt is unfailingly honest about what it was like for him to teach English at four high schools and one college of varying levels of quality. Unfortunately, what it was like for him was pretty bleak. Well-trained in the Catholic art of Examining your Conscience (his words), McCourt also supplies a ready stream of insights into his personality. I can't fault him for this, but it made me sad for this Irish American who was so consistently hard on himself. What works best are the moments where he connects with his students, whether vocational students just trying not to fail high school to the brightest and best of Stuyvesant High. I came away with a higher appreciation of the struggles high school teachers face.(less)
How could I have guessed that the author of The Daughter of Time, one of my favorite authors ever, could have written such a lumpy first novel? I mean...moreHow could I have guessed that the author of The Daughter of Time, one of my favorite authors ever, could have written such a lumpy first novel? I mean, Tey's a great stylist, she writes description so well that you hardly mind that it's pages and pages of the stuff. And even in this novel, Alan Grant is a vibrant and interesting character, even if he does love fishing. But it's unfortunate that Tey chose to make such broad characterizations of cultural and national groups. The murder (the stabbing of a man in the press of a theater queue) could not have been committed by an Englishman; Englishmen slit throats from behind; it must have been a Levantine, because those foreigners are so shifty. American gangsters are fond of organization, but the Englishman is an individualist. In later novels, Grant's tendency to draw conclusions about people from their appearances becomes more refined and less authoritative. Given that his conclusions about the murderer were completely wrong, it's possible Tey meant to show how ridiculous such characterizations are, but I would think that would mean that, at some point before the end, Grant might have thought "geez, that sure was boneheaded of me."
The mystery itself. Well. I think it was obvious that Grant's singleminded pursuit of his suspect meant that he was missing something, but the revelation of the real killer...(view spoiler)[Please. We go through 7/8ths of the novel discovering, tracking, and apprehending someone whose alibi is nonexistent but compelling, and then at the last second a completely different person walks in and confesses? Way to undercut the whole story. (hide spoiler)]
I'm glad I read Tey's other novels first. This one was disappointing and I doubt I'd have bothered with the rest if I'd gotten to this one first.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Enjoyable as always. The appearance of Eric's sire, with a new child in tow, cranked up the tension; I kept waiting for his sire to demand something u...moreEnjoyable as always. The appearance of Eric's sire, with a new child in tow, cranked up the tension; I kept waiting for his sire to demand something unthinkable of him. I'm still not fond of Sookie's continuing relationship with the werewolf pack of Shreveport, mainly because Alcide keeps expecting things of Sookie that he takes for granted she'll do. It doesn't seem like the favors go the other way very often.(less)
This third and final volume in the Milkweed Triptych was enjoyable, but ultimately a disappointment. Tregillis continues to deliver on the fast-paced...moreThis third and final volume in the Milkweed Triptych was enjoyable, but ultimately a disappointment. Tregillis continues to deliver on the fast-paced action, and handles the rewriting of the timeline of Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War well. With two Raybould Marshes running around, his decision to make Old Marsh's perspective first person and Young Marsh's third person kept the two narratives clearly separate. Some of the suspense is lost when it becomes clear that this "new" timeline is our actual history, which presumably isn't going to be obliterated by Eidolons, but the internal suspense (such as Liv and the baby heading off to doomed Coventry for safety) keeps the story moving.
It's the ending I object to, in which all the loose ends are tied up and Gretel finally receives her just reward: (view spoiler)[She's not killed, but marooned on a barren island by Marsh and Marsh with her wires cut off, and left with an ongoing supply of food so she'll live a long life in torment, without being able to use her power. (hide spoiler)]. It's said more than once that Gretel is evil, but aside from those assertions I don't see much evidence for her being anything but criminally insane. In particular, the interludes where we get inside her head reveal that she's completely doolally and focused entirely on creating a reality in which Young Marsh falls in love with her. Her attempts to kill Liv and Agnes are evil, but I'm not sure a person with her type of insanity can really be said to be evil. She is definitely not in the same class as von Westarp, who murdered and tortured children to achieve his goals in perfect sanity, and I don't even think she's in the same class as the necrophiliac Reinhardt, who burned a dozen kids out of vengeance. Gretel, like von Westarp's other children, needed to die to prevent the apocalypse; the two Marshes' justice for her is nothing more than personal vengeance, and it makes them less than heroic. What's unfortunate is that it fits with their personalities, so my question is, why should I have any respect for either of them?
I'm no less a fan of Tregillis's work because of this book, but I hope his next novel is less disappointing for not being part of an otherwise very satisfying trilogy.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Nick Meyer's first novel, The Seven-Percent Solution, was a clever take on the Holmes mythology. Meyer used the existing Arthur Conan Doyle stories an...moreNick Meyer's first novel, The Seven-Percent Solution, was a clever take on the Holmes mythology. Meyer used the existing Arthur Conan Doyle stories and associated now-canon writings to build a story in which Holmes encounters, and is treated by, Sigmund Freud. Meyer does the same thing in this book, where the mystery centers on the theatrical community of the West End. Holmes encounters Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, Henry Irving, Bram Stoker, both Gilbert and Sullivan...the list goes on, which may be part of the problem; yes, all these people associated with each other, but it still starts to sound like name-dropping.
But the real problem is that the solution to the mystery is so blindingly obvious that even I figured it out, and I'm terrible at working out whodunit. If I can solve the case faster than Sherlock Holmes, there's something really wrong with the book. I think, if you don't guess the solution, it would seem like a clever twist; as it was, it just felt pedestrian.
As pastiche, the book is pretty good. Meyer has a nice grasp of the language, and his footnotes are entertaining. The overall impression that this is a true Sherlock Holmes story persists (though Holmes and Watson's characters are more fleshed out than in the original stories, which I consider a plus). But as a mystery, it falls flat.(less)
Wow. That is just not where I thought the series was going--and I mean that in the best possible way. At the beginning, it seems like it's going to be...moreWow. That is just not where I thought the series was going--and I mean that in the best possible way. At the beginning, it seems like it's going to be all about the weres coming out and the backlash against them, but that naturally evolves into a story about the fairies and the inevitable war between their two factions. Sookie is what connects those two stories, and we're reminded in the strongest of terms that despite her courage and intelligence, she is ultimately and terribly no more than human. This is definitely one of my favorites in the series.(less)
It's fun, it's frivolous, it's Dave Barry. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, and I loved how he used the face of Suze Orman to indicate when s...moreIt's fun, it's frivolous, it's Dave Barry. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, and I loved how he used the face of Suze Orman to indicate when some of his more outrageous statements were totally laughable. A good, light read for a rainy day.(less)
I like Neil Gaiman's voice even in his lesser works, which I feel this is. His construction of the boy's family is beautiful, and I like the boy's int...moreI like Neil Gaiman's voice even in his lesser works, which I feel this is. His construction of the boy's family is beautiful, and I like the boy's interactions with the Hempstock women. But this feels like a very slight story; it's simple in the way that Coraline (which is *not* one of his lesser works) is, but as this is written for an adult audience, it comes across as too short a story to be a full novel. Three stars for the basic story, pushed to four because Gaiman is a master of prose and I'm never unhappy when I read his books.(less)
I really ought to give this book four stars because I think it has a few problems. But it was so intensely, viscerally satisfying I just can't bring m...moreI really ought to give this book four stars because I think it has a few problems. But it was so intensely, viscerally satisfying I just can't bring myself to. Höst writes books that are exactly the kind of fantasy I love, and while I think I liked Medair better, it's a really close call.
Ash has been pretending to be a boy for eight years, "adopted" by an herbalist named Genevieve. Now, someone is murdering herbalists, and when Genevieve is killed, Ash takes up with a nobleman named Thornaster to figure out who's behind the killings and why. Ash is a complex character, and her motive for becoming a boy and going into hiding, when it's revealed, is both an interesting plot twist and part of what drives the story. Thornaster is clever and has a mysterious past, but I liked that he didn't have any idea his new seruilis (sort of like a page) is female until that fact is proven beyond all doubt. I was proud of myself for figuring out his real identity when Ash did, and I liked how their romance developed despite having reservations about this very heterosexual man falling for her so quickly after having only known her as a boy. But, as with Medair, I liked the romance so much that I stuffed those reservations in a closet and locked it.
There are some other problems with the book. I am completely in favor of authors dealing out information for the reader to figure out as opposed to stupid infodumping all over the place, but I think Höst may have gone a little too far in the other direction. This may also be because when Ash becomes a seruilis and is introduced to the other young men of this status, there's a big section in which all of their names and descriptions are thrown at the reader in one go. It's a little overwhelming and I think it could be offputting; I saw it as a challenge, but I don't know that that's the default reaction.
The flip side of this is that Höst has created a really interesting world with an intriguing religion/magic that goes much deeper than what's presented in the book. Even though I'm pretty sure there's not much more story here, it makes me sad to leave behind so much creativity. I'm pretty sure, though, that I will be reading this book again, so it's not so much leaving it behind as leaving it behind for now. Excellent work, and I look forward to reading more of Höst's work.(less)
This is going to be one of my favorite Garrett novels once I read it for the second time. It was so stressful the first time that I kept having to put...moreThis is going to be one of my favorite Garrett novels once I read it for the second time. It was so stressful the first time that I kept having to put it down to catch my breath. Good interaction between our old favorite characters, an interesting story and more of Garrett bulling through all problems to a solution. So why was it stressful?
(view spoiler)[Okay, so I really love Strafa Algarda. A lot. I love how she came into Garrett's life. I love how perfect they are for each other. So the moment when some policemen gets a report saying, "Oh no. Furious Tide of Light has been killed" and just goes on, it took me a minute. And then I didn't believe it. And then, like Garrett, I kept on not believing it and expecting Glen Cook to pull a miracle out of somewhere so Strafa would not be dead. It was devastating and it made it so hard to read the book. The moment when (view spoiler)[Little Strafa disappears and adult, no-longer-dead Strafa gets pulled out of the coffin (hide spoiler)] was a huge, beautiful relief. I seriously wish I'd read the last page first. It would have spared me a lot of heartache. (hide spoiler)]
The best thing about this book is that the ending virtually guarantees there will be another. Go for it, Glen Cook.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)