This was my first Mary Stewart novel - and I loved it! For me, the biggest fun was being transported to such a magical time and place. Call me old-fasThis was my first Mary Stewart novel - and I loved it! For me, the biggest fun was being transported to such a magical time and place. Call me old-fashioned but I love a heroine that is spunky and sweet at the same time. Nicola is just that girl.
She arrives in Crete for a holiday and is unintentionally pulled into a dramatic mystery/murder/kidnapping that is being played out in the island. Prior to her arrival, two brothers have a run-in with local trouble and are being hunted/kidnapped by some really nasty bad guys. During her exploring, Nicola accidentally meets the older brother, Mark Langley, and wants to help. Although Mark encourages her to stay out of the whole mess, Nicola presses on. As a reader, I really liked that the characters were well-developed and drew you in immediately, not to mention all of the excitement and tension.
Nicola's tenacity in helping the brothers showed courage, strength and a stick-to-itiveness that was so appealing. I liked sneaking off with her and finding pieces of the puzzle together. And, there is just the right amount of romance and love floating about.
If you are looking for a page turner, this really fits the bill. The reader gets to follow along on some pretty hairy experiences which makes it fun. If you could read a book and hold your hands over your eyes, I would totally do it.
Thank you Jeanette, Misfit, et. al for a great buddy-read and intro to Ms. Stewart!...more
Still thinking about my star rating.... (edit) I think I will stay with three stars. I know that I am not a big fan of dysfunctional family dramas (forStill thinking about my star rating.... (edit) I think I will stay with three stars. I know that I am not a big fan of dysfunctional family dramas (for the most part, since there always is the exception!)and would probably not pick this one up again.
The focus is on Dolores who as a child suffers through a very unstable relationship with adults, who are of course, her mother and father. As a reader you can see the life that Dolores is headed for as she experiences traumatic events over and over again as a child. It's liking watching a scary movie, you have your hands over your eyes and are peeking through the fingers because you know it isn't going to be good.
As the book progresses, there were many times when you want her to rally and you think that maybe she can do it, but alas change/being damaged/surrounded by sucky people is hard. I also have to say that Dolores seemed to get the short end of the stick when it comes to human interactions, just about everyone in the book is out to destroy her either physically or emotionally. Just one big load of crappy people.
At the end things get better, not great, but Dolores has made it through which is the important thing. You have to give her a lot of credit for where she ends up.
I will say that Lamb is great at characterization and each person in the novel leaves the reader with a distinct impression and visual image - for the good and bad. He focuses in on the relationships between people and the complicated motivations and baggage people carry which is some crazy stuff.
Now daring myself to read another of his books!...more
A definite winner in my eyes. There are some books that just make you think and this is one of them. Taking the idea of 'odd women' and turning it intA definite winner in my eyes. There are some books that just make you think and this is one of them. Taking the idea of 'odd women' and turning it into a novel is just brillant.
Odd women are those women who are left after all other eligible men and women have been paired in marriage. These women are not outcasts per se but definitely live a much different life than those who have a husband.
Some of the women in this novel embrace the distinction while others are so afraid of becoming one that they make poor choices which resonate over their lifetime. One example is that of Monica Madden, alone in the world, she must support herself as a shop-girl. This profession is harsh and with a limitless supply of desparate workers; there is little to advance any worker's condition for the better. As soon as one worker is depleted there are many others ready to fill a position.
When an opportunity to marry a man of distinction and means presents itself, Monica is so afraid of losing this singular opportunity that she makes a decision in haste. This decision later becomes a central point in the story and leads to numerous bad decisions and complications.
At the same time, there are other women in the novel who embrace their freedom and control; these are odd women who have found a purpose. The pioneers who create the tide of liberation for women.
Rhoda Nunn, a peer and friend to Monica, is a perfect example of the type of woman that laid a path for future women to benefit from. Although she presents as a judgemental character at times, Rhoda is able to stand strong in her beliefs and desires and not become, as so many others do, beholden to any one man.
I loved this novel and there is much too much to describe. I can see a book club embracing this for a wonderful discussion. So many themes to explore: love, class, economic oppression, capitalism, feminism, desire, morals, just to name a few.
Thank you again Sera for introducing me to this gem!...more
This was my second time reading A Tale of Two Cities! The first being in high school. Although there is a lot of detail and very long sentences, theseThis was my second time reading A Tale of Two Cities! The first being in high school. Although there is a lot of detail and very long sentences, these two things appeal to me as a reader.
Book One and Book Two set up the novel for a fantastic ending. Social inequality and revenge is at the heart of the story in my opinion and both play out well. Dickens was skillful in showing how dogma even if for the right cause, can sweep up the innocent in a large net.
I admired the attorney, Sydney Carton and was silly enough to hope that in the end his life would be spared. Even though Mrs.Defarge had suffered tremendously in the past, I still could not forgive her ugliness to Lucie and her family. The complete opposites in good and evil.
I missed the humor that often shines through in his other books, but hey, a revolution is serious business. ...more
This was my first Holmes book and yes, I am hooked. For me this was a great introduction to how Watson and Holmes met and the backgrounds that createdThis was my first Holmes book and yes, I am hooked. For me this was a great introduction to how Watson and Holmes met and the backgrounds that created these fascinating men.
I really like both. Watson is so different from Holmes and is the more practical and immediately likeable.
I don't read a lot of mysteries and this was a very interesting start for me. Holmes and his observations seem so obvious after the fact and I liked being a passenger in his mind. In this tale, the part that the Mormons played was fascinating and meshed well with some of what I have read to date. But again, I don't like being a generalist and I can see how this would prompt concern amongst Mormons. I suppose it is the same with all writers who take liberties with religion, history and famous personalities.
This story also reminds me of Dickens and a Tale of Two Cities. Revenge is at the heart and is bittersweet.
Very few writers can bring you to the intimate level of familiarity and comfort with the people and times as Steinbeck. I could see, smell and feel CaVery few writers can bring you to the intimate level of familiarity and comfort with the people and times as Steinbeck. I could see, smell and feel Cannery Row. I have been a fan since The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden when Steinbeck first knocked my socks off.
In Cannery Row, Mack is the leader of a rag tag group of men who really don't mean harm but seem to inadvertently cause it everywhere they go. Much time is spent scheming and planning but not in a terribly malicious way, mostly they focus on getting what they need with the least amount of work possible.
Doc runs the neighborhood lab and is a marine biologist; a stable, kind presence. To show their affection, Mack and his boys decide to throw Doc a surprise party. Good intentions and bad karma equal a disaster. There is a round two for the party- givers which has better results.
The parallel stories of Lee Chong, Dora and Hazel blend in seemlessly and add richness to the main narrative. Although a short read, I took the time to really savor the words. So much in so few pages.
Usually I run from Oprah's book picks for many reasons, but because she is a well known Latina author, I wanted to read Allende and judge for myself.
HUsually I run from Oprah's book picks for many reasons, but because she is a well known Latina author, I wanted to read Allende and judge for myself.
Her novel did not disappoint. For me, the time period and limited freedom for women was wonderfully demonstrated through Eliza. Women at that time were either properly married or whores. There was very little in- between.
The story begins in Chile in the late 1840s and Eliza is the adopted daughter of Rose Sommers a transplanted Englishwoman who is well-meaning but selfish. Unsure as to her parental origins, Eliza is an accepted part of the family but only on the fringes of their circle. Eliza grows up sheltered and later imagines that she has fallen in love with a noble young Chilean from the wrong side of the tracks.
Eventually, her lover leaves her to pursue his fortune during California's gold rush. Eliza follows him as a stowaway and finds her independence and clarity around her path in life during her search for her lost lover.
Lots of adventures and details, some of which could be seen as repetitive or impossible hence my four stars. However, for me the themes around love, freedom, family history, injustice, feminism, class and human dignity made it well worth a read. ...more
This reminded me of The Children's Book a similar mood and cast of characters. Secret relationships, betrayals and poetry are at the center. Cecil ValThis reminded me of The Children's Book a similar mood and cast of characters. Secret relationships, betrayals and poetry are at the center. Cecil Valance is a guy for every occasion and is loved by everyone, drawing them in with his charisma and sexual magnetism. He visits his lover's home, Two Acres, and completely charms his sister. The visit will have effects on generations to come. She is much too innocent to see her brother and Cecil's undercurrents of passion. This all happens in the first part. The book is divided into additional sections where a different timeframe and relationship to Cecil, who becomes a famous poet posthumously, is explored. The selfishness of our memories and the difficulty of relying on individual perceptions to create a legacy are the most interesting bits in the book. You have to wonder how reliable human narratives and histories really are when social norms dictate how we think people are, act and love... the truth can and does vary from person to person. We humans are so complicated and each person's truth is their own. I will definitely read more of this author.
Gardens. Mine is a work in progress and I spend way too much time looking at seedlings and measuring daily growth and progress. I wonder about my neigGardens. Mine is a work in progress and I spend way too much time looking at seedlings and measuring daily growth and progress. I wonder about my neighbors who have professional firms come in to clip, blow, and mulch all the sameness into perfection. So I could certainly relate to Elizabeth and her escape into her own garden.
However the big difference is that I can choose when and how much time I will spend in my garden, with my children and on my career. Elizabeth is much more constrained and escapes to the country as to not have to deal with social norms and her husband 'The Man of Wrath'.
The book is full of her observations and short quips. My favorite: “When I got to the library I came to a standstill, - ah, the dear room, what happy times I have spent in it rummaging amongst the books, making plans for my garden, building castles in the air, writing, dreaming, doing nothing.”
This is my first foray into the Civil War and I am so glad I chose this book for a start. Initially the story is told from the perspective of two loveThis is my first foray into the Civil War and I am so glad I chose this book for a start. Initially the story is told from the perspective of two lovers torn apart by the war; Inman and Ada. All along it is unclear if these two will ever be reconciled - but we do know that they will never be the same.
Early on we meet Ruby who arrives to help Ada with her farm and captures all that is solid and grounded during this uncertain time. Ruby has her own back story with a father who unwittingly seeks and finds redemption.
There is a good share of violence which is not for the faint of heart but is necessary to demonstrate the real damage that this war caused to so many young men and their families....more
This was an excellent change of pace for me after a spell of tragic novels. Fast paced and magical, the storyline was unique which isn't easy to do. IThis was an excellent change of pace for me after a spell of tragic novels. Fast paced and magical, the storyline was unique which isn't easy to do. I enjoyed the protagonist Jacob and could feel his teen angst as he tried to not be too 'different' in a world of weird happenings. Jacob is very close to his grandfather who tells tales of an island where safety and strangeness co-exist. Jacob must find this island and how he is tied to its history.
The descriptions of the island and the 'peculiar' children made me believe. The photos included as part of the novel (I read it on an Ipad) are fantastic and gave me goosebumps. They are so unusual that the author blogged about their orgins on the Huff Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ransom-...
The ending leads me to believe that there is a sequel in the works (yeah!)
And what is cooler than an author named Ransom Riggs?...more
This was my first take with the Crusades. There were some amazing threads throughout the book, such as Miriam and Morgan. The passion and danger theyThis was my first take with the Crusades. There were some amazing threads throughout the book, such as Miriam and Morgan. The passion and danger they experienced was very well done. I have never been a battle and military strategy type of girl but Penman has an amazing ability to not only help you understand the tactics and players but also explains it so well in her writing that you not only get it, but also really care. Unfortunately I didnt connect as strongly with Richard and his bride, Berengaria. It might be that this was because there really wasn't a period where the two of them spent any significant time together. Perhaps if I knew more about Richard's earlier life I could have attached myself to him more. Eleanor of Aquitaine will always be my hero, stunning and strong, she was a woman way ahead of her time. How she managed to have such beautiful but destructive children is endlessly fascinating to me.
I want to know more about Phillipe, Henri and Isabella. Penman gives a fantastic introduction to each and really brings them to life. My time will be spent looking for a deeper insight into these major players. I also found the role of the Templars another area I want to know more about. Lots to absorb in an amazing narrative. Looking forward to the sequel....more
So timeless. I felt like Massie could be almost any child of selfish divorced parents in any era of history. She is too wise and knowledgeable of adulSo timeless. I felt like Massie could be almost any child of selfish divorced parents in any era of history. She is too wise and knowledgeable of adult relationships for her age and because of this some of James' writing is uncomfortable. This novel also proves that money and social status are no barrier to bad parenting. The story begins when Massie is rather young (perhaps around age five or so) and lasts for many years as she is shuffled from household to household. During this time span her biological and pseudo parents play musical relationships with multiple partners. As a reader I wondered how Massie manages to remain grounded and likable throughout. Perhaps it is because Massie does have Mrs. Wix, her steadfast, although sometimes irritating, governess as a confident and on-going supporter. As I finished the last pages, I had to wonder how all of the inappropriate exposure to adult relationships would play out for Massie in her life as an adult. ...more
For me this book was about conforming to social norms and how we act and feel in our day to day lives to fit into what society prescribes. Veronika, aFor me this book was about conforming to social norms and how we act and feel in our day to day lives to fit into what society prescribes. Veronika, a librarian (an awesome job I would imagine!), decides to commit suicide but luckily fails and ends up in an institution for the mentally ill. As she is 'treated' by the hospital's head physician she encounters other patients who are all looking for, but seldom finding, their place in the world.
I loved the dialogue and the opportunity that her 'illness' allowed for her to finally find and express her true self. Viewed as an unstable person allowed for her to voice and act out in ways she (and we as 'normal' individuals) would otherwise never have done.
"If one day I could get out of here, I would allow myself to be crazy. Everyone is indeed crazy, but the craziest are the ones who don't know they're crazy; they just keep repeating what others tell them to."
With this (and an on-going experiment by said head physician) Veronika finds love, acceptance and her true voice....more
If the main character hadn't been so self-absorbed and whiny, I think I would have enjoyed the story more. The conflict between being Cuban and JewishIf the main character hadn't been so self-absorbed and whiny, I think I would have enjoyed the story more. The conflict between being Cuban and Jewish would have been made so much stronger without the shallow characters and random, almost forced, sex scenes. There are so many better writings exploring the competing forces of cultural identity. ...more
Jane Eyre is one of my all time favorites. I remember so much about the first time I held the book in my hands and fell completely head over heels inJane Eyre is one of my all time favorites. I remember so much about the first time I held the book in my hands and fell completely head over heels in love with Victorian literature:the time, the feel of the period and Bronte's writing.
Wide Sargasso Sea is ambitious; I can't imagine wanting to take a famous book and writing the prequel.It takes a lot of guts to take this on.
In WSS, we uncover the story of the "mad" woman in the attic of Thornfield Hall where Jane comes to live. Discovering who Antoinette, Mr. Rochester's wife, is or was is quite scary. Scary in that this era of history dictated who or what you would be for the most part. Mental illness was not understood and a woman's role in the world was determined from birth and family circumstance. Once branded as 'mad' there was little hope for a recovery. The treatment of those experiencing mental breakdowns was appalling and most likely contributed to a worsening condition. ie. King George the Third.
Antoinette (or Bertha as she is later called by Rochester) is really quite ordinary at first and a victim of her surroundings and family. The experiences she is exposed to as a young child, I am sure traumatized her for life. Her relationship with Rochester and his treatment of her, are triggers for future behavior that could have been avoided in my opinion.
My impression was that her madness was not a given until others decided that it would be her destiny. She is quite normal and wonderful even though at an early age, her mother descends into a severe depression. I ended up despising Rochester, despite his ignorance, for being influenced so strongly by others and his belief that she was born to be mad.
It will be interesting for me to see how this novel colors my next reading of Jane Eyre. A great companion to one of my favorite novels....more