Laure Permon Junot was a longtime friend of the Bonaparte family; she eventually married one of Napoleon's closest friends, General Andoche Junot, andLaure Permon Junot was a longtime friend of the Bonaparte family; she eventually married one of Napoleon's closest friends, General Andoche Junot, and was intimate with the Napoleonic court. Years after Napoleon's defeat and death, the novelist Honoré de Balzac encouraged her to write her memoirs, when she was in desperate need of a source of income; happily for her, the memoirs were extremely successful, and for good reason.
At the Court of Napoleon: Memoirs of the Duchesse d'Abrantes reproduces only a fraction of the eighteen volumes she produced, but it's fascinating nonetheless, full of juicy gossip about Napoleon, Josephine, and Napoleon's family. One feels that Laure Junot would have been a wonderful companion at court; she was possessed of a scathing wit and didn't hesitate to level it at any available target. Here's a particularly good zinger, directed at Josephine: "Madame Bonaparte was an astonishing woman, and must have formerly been extremely pretty, for though now no longer in the first bloom of youth, her personal charms were still striking. Had she only possessed teeth, she would certainly have outvied nearly all the ladies of the consular court."
All is not sarcasm and wit, though; Laure often acknowledges good qualities in the people around her. Toothless or not, Josephine's charm shines through (particularly in comparison to Napoleon's second Empress, the bovine Marie Louise of Austria), and her daughter Hortense de Beauharnais comes off well enough to make me want to read more about her. I'd love to get a more complete edition of these memoirs, but in the meantime, even this relatively short version offers an instant trip back to the brilliant, scandalous court of Napoleonic France. ...more
Newly knighted Sir James Stoker has just returned from an expedition to Africa in which he found treasure and tragedy. Coco Wild is an older, scandaloNewly knighted Sir James Stoker has just returned from an expedition to Africa in which he found treasure and tragedy. Coco Wild is an older, scandalous courtesan, who's locked her heart away from anything that might hurt her. James could ruin himself by associating with her, yet they find each other irresistible.
This is my first Ivory, and I liked it quite a lot. Fairy tale associations are usually a plus for me, of course, but mostly, I really liked the hero and heroine and how well Ivory fit in their story to a larger plot about the fate of the African expedition.
(Since reading it, I have bounced off Untie My Heart and Beast, unfortunately, mostly due to too much of a power imbalance between the heroes and the heroines, which I didn't think was a problem in Sleeping Beauty.) ...more
Jane Jarvis isn't looking forward to her senior year at St. Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls; she's unpopular and proud of it, but she does haveJane Jarvis isn't looking forward to her senior year at St. Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls; she's unpopular and proud of it, but she does have her best friend Allison as an ally. She does, that is, until something strange happens to Allison, who's suddenly attractive, smart, and dating Jane's ex, Elton. Clearly, Allison has sold her soul to the devil -- quite literally, and Jane decides to save it for her, with the assistance of a mysterious but very cute freshman boy. Devilish is populated with well-drawn characters, but Jane is particularly great: snarky, rebellious, and very smart....more
Scarlett Martin has grown up in an unusual place: her family's hotel, in New York City. When each Martin child turns fifteen, as Scarlett does at theScarlett Martin has grown up in an unusual place: her family's hotel, in New York City. When each Martin child turns fifteen, as Scarlett does at the beginning of the book, he or she is put in charge of one suite in the hotel, and of any guests who reside in that suite. Scarlett receives the Empire Suite and its eccentric new guest, Amy Amberson, who hires Scarlett as her personal assistant. When Mrs. Amberson gets her fingers into Scarlett's brother's acting career, and Scarlett meets her brother's cute co-actor, Eric, things get really messy.
The romance isn't this book's strong suit; I found Eric wishy-washy and not very interesting. However, the family story makes up for that: the struggles of the Martins to keep running their hotel, the alliances between different siblings, Scarlett's younger sister's recovery from leukemia, and most of all, Scarlett's actor brother Spencer, the king of physical comedy, who pretty much walks off with the book, as far as I'm concerned. The relationship between Scarlett and Spencer is the most important one in the whole book (far overshadowing the romance with Eric), and it's delightfully portrayed.
I didn't like this as much as The Bermudez Triangle or The Key to the Golden Firebird, but I liked it a lot. (And upon Googling a bit, I find it's the first in a series, which sounds great to me and also makes me feel better about some of the family stuff I didn't think got resolved.)...more
This follows Castle in the Air as a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Charmain Baker is pleased when her family sends her to look after Great-Uncle WillThis follows Castle in the Air as a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Charmain Baker is pleased when her family sends her to look after Great-Uncle William's little cottage while he's ill; after all, she longs to have some time to herself and the freedom to read and do whatever she wants. But Great-Uncle William is the Royal Wizard of High Norland, and his house is...a little unusual. Soon Charmain is drawn into intrigue at the royal palace, where the king has called in magical help from another kingdom in the person of the sorceress Sophie and her family: her small son Morgan, a mysterious little boy called Twinkle, and a fire demon.
House of Many Ways isn't as good as Howl's Moving Castle, partly because although I really liked Charmain, I wanted more Sophie and Howl and Calcifer and Morgan, and partly because the plot is not quite as well put together; the villains in particular aren't terribly threatening (compared to the Witch of the Waste or even the demons in Castle in the Air). Still, it's as entertainingly written as Jones always is and was quite satisfying. Really, how could I resist a heroine who reads constantly and whose life ambition is to be a librarian?...more
Nina Bermudez, Avery Dekker, and Mel Forrest are the Bermudez Triangle, lifelong friends just about to enter their senior year of high school. But theNina Bermudez, Avery Dekker, and Mel Forrest are the Bermudez Triangle, lifelong friends just about to enter their senior year of high school. But the Triangle changes forever when Nina goes away for a summer program at Stanford; when she comes home, she has a new, long-distance relationship, and a big surprise waiting for her: Mel and Avery have become a couple. Johnson examines the girls' romantic and sexual feelings with sensitivity and warmth, as they struggle to come to grips with new relationships and emotions....more
This is a gripping account of the 1854 London cholera epidemic and how a physician and a curate investigated and discovered its cause. I very much likThis is a gripping account of the 1854 London cholera epidemic and how a physician and a curate investigated and discovered its cause. I very much liked the cross-disciplinary approach Johnson uses, exploring social history, epidemiology, city planning, and even the nature of scientific inquiry itself in his evocation of the epidemic and its world and era. I was less entranced with the last chapter, in which Johnson tries, not always convincingly, to relate the lessons learned in 1854 with lessons we should learn today about urban living, but on the whole, this was a fascinating book....more
Conrad's Fate is the fifth in Diana Wynne Jones's marvelous Chrestomanci series, about a powerful enchanter who controls the magic in a universe a fewConrad's Fate is the fifth in Diana Wynne Jones's marvelous Chrestomanci series, about a powerful enchanter who controls the magic in a universe a few worlds over from our own.
Conrad Tesdinic lives with his mother, his sister Anthea, and his uncle Alfred in Stallchester, in the English Alps. High in the mountains above Stallchester is Stallery Mansion, where someone is working magic, pulling the possibilities so that the details of life are constantly changing a little -- one day the mailboxes all turn from red to blue, and the books in Uncle Alfred's bookshop are suddenly different.
When the changes start to get bigger, Uncle Alfred persuades Conrad to get a job at Stallery Mansion, find out what's happening, and fix it, so that Conrad can avoid the awful fate Uncle Alfred sees hovering over him. At the mansion, Conrad meets Christopher (whom Jones's readers will recognize quickly as the boy who will become Chrestomanci), who's looking for his friend Millie, who came to Conrad's universe and disappeared.
If you haven't read any of the other Chrestomanci books, I'd recommend at least reading The Lives of Christopher Chant and Charmed Life before Conrad's Fate, because although Conrad himself is well-drawn, Christopher and Millie seem a little sketchy, perhaps because Jones is relying on readers' pre-knowledge of them. I did like Conrad's Fate very much, though. The depiction of Conrad and Christopher learning servants' life was wonderful, and the changing magic ("pulling the possibilities") was intriguing. It's not the best in the series (I'd reserve that honor for Witch Week), but it's a welcome addition. ...more
This volume brings together fifteen stories (all but three of which I'd read before) and a novella, "Everard's Ride". Spanning genres from science ficThis volume brings together fifteen stories (all but three of which I'd read before) and a novella, "Everard's Ride". Spanning genres from science fiction to fantasy and even a touch of horror (in "The Master"), all of the stories show off Jones' wit and wild imagination, qualities which make her one of the best young adult fantasy writers of today (perhaps one of the best fantasy writers of today, period). I was disappointed, though, that so many of the stories had been in previous collections - surely there were more to choose from?
Among the stories, the standouts are: "Enna Hittims", in which a girl who has the mumps draws stories about a fictional hero, who becomes frighteningly real; "Dragon Reserve, Home Eight", set on a world in which dragons are real and telepathy is illegal; "The Girl Who Loved the Sun", the myth-like tale of a girl who longs to become a tree; "Nad and Dan adn Quaffy", a witty story of a typo-prone science fiction writer whose computer suddenly starts talking to her; and "What the Cat Told Me" and "Little Dot", both tales of magic narrated by cats.
Since I already own and had read most of the stories, I was most looking forward to reading "Everard's Ride" and wasn't disappointed. Alex and Cecilia live in Victorian England, the children of a wealthy farmer; there is a mysterious island near their home, said to be the site of a ghostly kingdom called Falleyfell. When an enigmatic stranger comes to the farmhouse one night, Alex and Cecilia begin an adventure which leads them into Falleyfell and the dangerous intrigues of its court. Not as inventive as Jones' best novels, "Everard's Ride" is still fast-paced and thrilling, with glints of humor and vivid characters. ...more
Clio Ford isn't having the summer she wanted. Just after she landed the art store job she wanted (within the range of the guy she's crushing on), sheClio Ford isn't having the summer she wanted. Just after she landed the art store job she wanted (within the range of the guy she's crushing on), she found out that instead, she has to spend the summer with her estranged father. Worse yet, she'll be trapped on a yacht in the Mediterranean with her dad, his best friend Martin, his new girlfriend Julia (an archaeology professor), the girlfriend's gorgeous daughter Elsa, and Aidan, an arrogant grad student Clio knows she won't get along with, all searching for something that nobody will reveal to Clio.
This was a good outing from Johnson, with lots of plot and intrigue and interpersonal tensions to keep it going -- not as good as Devilish or The Bermudez Triangle, but better than 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I particularly liked the tangled relationships between Clio and Elsa and Aidan, which could easily have turned into heroine-vs.-rival girl annoyingness but was actually very well handled....more
When their father dies of an unexpected heart attack just after arriving home in his beloved gold Firebird, the three Gold sisters each react to it inWhen their father dies of an unexpected heart attack just after arriving home in his beloved gold Firebird, the three Gold sisters each react to it in different ways: sensible May tries to keep things going and has a surprising romance with Pete, whom she's known all her life, jock Brooks starts drinking and running with a rebellious crowd, and introvert Palmer withdraws even more, trying to hide her panic attacks from her family. Johnson's characterization is sharp and observant, as always, and the way she weaves the sisters' lives together with each other and with their friends and family is really good stuff....more