**spoiler alert** I am a big fan of ML's Elemental Masters series and Five Hundred Kingdoms series, and was excited to read Home from the Sea. I mostl**spoiler alert** I am a big fan of ML's Elemental Masters series and Five Hundred Kingdoms series, and was excited to read Home from the Sea. I mostly enjoyed it, but not as much as I expected.
Synopsis: Mari Prothero's father is the luckiest fisherman in their little Welsh village. When Mari learns that she must marry a Selch (seal-person) to maintain the luck, she uses her strength of mind and her latent mastery of water magic to strike a bargain more to her liking. Can her new allies from London, and from a previous Elemental Masters story, help her keep her family together?
Good things: I liked the Welsh setting and Mari Prothero. Welsh heritage is big at my house, and I found the milieu very enjoyable, from the village, the isolated cottage, to the Manor and environs.
Bad things: ML really set me up for some great plot twists that never happened. •First, what about all those dark magicky things with their eyes on her? (The constable doesn't count; he's merely annoying.) I thought the evil Mari Lwyd had some good potential, but alas, it was a non-starter. •Second, the contract with the selches specifies one child goes with the selch parent and one stays with the human parent. Since Gethin snatched both children, Mari had a strong case for serious payback, especially after all the tit-for-tat business about dealing with magical folk. I was excited to see how that would play, but it never came up. This would have been a good time for Llyr to show up and wield some Oldest magic. •Third, with all the Selch cousins/kinfolk rallying around her in Selchland, where was Mari's mother & brother? Not so much as a nod? I was watching for some kind of reunion to warm the sea-chilled cockles of my heart, even though Mari no longer mourned her lost kin. But nothing. Another plot strengthening device, wasted. •Fourth, Puck keeps hanging around, but won't interfere with his counterpart, Llyr. Kind of expected Llyr to make an appearance, even in passing (see Second), but no.
I'm not sure how I feel about Nan and Sarah. My recollection of them is pretty dim, so I cannot rely on my previous reading of The Wizard of London to strengthen Home from the Sea. I find the girls less interesting, and don't feel their whole storyline did a whole lot to advance the plot, aside from tying it to the White Lodge thread of the series. Maybe if I remembered them more, it would help, but it's not my job to remember, it's ML's job to make the story stand on its own.
In short, I almost loved it, but the disappointments are real. ...more
I was given this book by the Goodreads first look program, but life events have slowed my reading and review.
When Maggie Hope takes the position of tyI was given this book by the Goodreads first look program, but life events have slowed my reading and review.
When Maggie Hope takes the position of typist in 10 Downing Street, she finds herself taking dictation for the prime minister himself: Winston Churchill. In May 1940, this means having an inside perspective on British government in World War II. But Maggie has problems as well. How will she and her roommates protect themselves from the bombings? Why was her predecessor murdered? And how will she deal with the chain of events that follow her enquiries into her dead father's mysterious past?
I wanted very much to like this first effort by Susan Elia MacNeal. And there are elements to like. Maggie and her roommates are easily distinguished--no small feat amongst a largish group--as are the young men who squire them around town. The storyline has intertwining threads that tie up nicely in the end. Churchill is more of a cameo than a character; although he has his moments of engaging in the plot, there is little to develop his personality or his relationship with Maggie, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on what you are hoping for.
But there is much to indicate that this is a first novel. The plot takes a chapter or two to take off, and the love interest occurs in such fits and starts that it is nearly startling when it turns up. The pacing is uneven. An old joke misses the point when the punch line is omitted--I hope that error exists only in the review copy. But Mr. Churchill's Secretary loses a star over one more weakness.
It strains the believability of a historical novel when 21st-century ethics wreathe historic characters, imbuing them with anachronistic attitudes by which the characters (a) judge their contemporaries, and (b) blatantly reflect on societal trends that are current decades or centuries later. Many of the characters seemed more 2012 than 1940. On the one hand, 1940 is close enough to 2012 that Maggie's frustration with the patronizing attitude of the men with whom she works is acceptable. After all, she is a brilliant mathematician, with the academic credentials to prove it, and women were stepping up to fill many formerly masculine roles while the men fought on the front. On the other hand, a homily on gay rights stepped over the line into fantasyland. Ms. MacNeal paved her way well--Maggie's aunt/guardian is a lesbian professor at Wellesley, and one of her closest friends is gay. But brilliant Maggie cannot be unaware of societal norms in the 1940s, and homosexuality would have been condemned as a perversion in all but the most radically liberal fringes of society, especially in 1940s Britain, when a war-office staffer would have been carefully vetted for any behavior that would make him open to blackmail. I cannot imagine that their little social circle could have accepted him as anything other than "a confirmed bachelor" and "a perfect gentleman" in that historic milieu, with any suspicions otherwise remaining unspoken, or that David would have been so openly interested in men.
Given this, if you think you will like it, you probably will. ...more
She used to be Myvanwy Thomas, Rook of the Checquy, the super-secret agency that harnesses and manages those who have special abilities. Now her memorShe used to be Myvanwy Thomas, Rook of the Checquy, the super-secret agency that harnesses and manages those who have special abilities. Now her memory has been permanently erased, and she can only go by the letter in her pocket that begins: Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine... As she resumes the identity of Myvanwy, she rebuilds herself and forges alliances, never forgetting that whoever did this to her is still out there.
Tremendous fun, and a great first novel by Daniel O'Malley. Men in Black meets the X-Men, with a dollop of The Bourne Identity and a twist of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I look forward to the sequel....more
I have been following the life and times of Steve Jobs for 25 years, and have read innumerable articles, books, interviews, and advertisements on hisI have been following the life and times of Steve Jobs for 25 years, and have read innumerable articles, books, interviews, and advertisements on his personality, successes, failures, etc. This is by far the most complete, in terms of the scope (his whole life), the sources (everybody, including him and his inner circle, as well as his ill-wishers), and the quality of writing (Benjamin Franklin, here I come). The story arc hasn't changed, but the depth and insights are new and revelatory.
If you think you might like it, you will. It's a long and meaty read, so give yourself some time.
PS - Steve doesn't edit his language, and Isaacson quotes him faithfully, so don't say I didn't warn you. It's still worth it. ...more
Puppets of dueling enchanters, Celia and Marco are magically bound to a game that centers on Le Cirque des Reves, the titular night circus. Only graduPuppets of dueling enchanters, Celia and Marco are magically bound to a game that centers on Le Cirque des Reves, the titular night circus. Only gradually do they see how complicated the game has become, and what the stakes mean to them and to those they love.
How did I like it? Like the story itself, my opinion of it gradually unfolded.
On page 10, when Prospero swore, I had half a mind to stop reading, because books filled with swearing annoy me. On page 28, when Celia tries to heal her sliced fingers, I had 3/4 of a mind to stop reading, because books filled with pain and abuse hurt me. But Morgenstern's storytelling had already captivated me, and I persevered with the quarter-mind I had left. And before long, I was, like so many of the characters, enchanted.
Not-as-bad things: The Night Circus is not filled with swearing. There is the one afore-mentioned f-bomb. The overt pain and abuse end quickly, and...are like the brutality in fairy tales, demonstrative of villainy but not the stuff of monstrous nightmares and broken lives. The single sex scene is short, veiled, and near the end.
Good things: A plot that unfolds richly, beautifully, and subtly, much like Le Cirque des Reves. Characters that are likeable (mostly), multi-dimensional, and compelling. The imagery is stunning, with mesmerizing images that linger--a cauldron burning with white fire, spell-binding rings, red scarves, and an entrancing clock.
If this sounds like something you will like, read it. Because you will.
This is classic YA fantasy, and rightly so. Young Ged expands his prodigious gift for magic by learning from the best, but his pride leads to disastroThis is classic YA fantasy, and rightly so. Young Ged expands his prodigious gift for magic by learning from the best, but his pride leads to disastrous consequences. Those of you who aspire to write a better Star Wars, take lessons from Ursula Le Guin on how to create the character of a likeable talented boy with flaws that have the potential to utterly destroy himself and his world.
I finished this last year, and am FINALLY updating my bookshelf.
Well-bred but poor woman, past her marriageable prime, unexpectedly attracts and marriI finished this last year, and am FINALLY updating my bookshelf.
Well-bred but poor woman, past her marriageable prime, unexpectedly attracts and marries a marquis, thus becoming the titular marchioness. Through melodramatic crisis, warm affection turns into deep and abiding love.
If there were such a thing as a cozy melodrama, Frances Hodgson Burnett would have written it, and this would be it. I enjoyed....more
**spoiler alert** E. L. Doctorow has written one of my all-time favorite short stories, and I have always found the Collyer brothers intriguing, so I**spoiler alert** E. L. Doctorow has written one of my all-time favorite short stories, and I have always found the Collyer brothers intriguing, so I eagerly immersed myself into his newly-released novel, which is based very loosely on their history. Homer and Langley Collyer were famous for barricading themselves in their New York mansion in the early 20th century, filling it with hoarded miscellany, and dying--one under a collapsed heap of trash, the other, crippled and unable to care for himself, shortly thereafter of starvation.
But I found I could not finish the book. While Doctorow has a wonderful voice and storytelling skills, I found that knowing how it all ended made it incredibly depressing. Sometimes we really don't want to know that they don't live happily ever after. Also, sexual relationships are described in some detail. But with those caveats, you could enjoy a well-written story that I, alas, could not....more
Alice Hoffman has made a name for herself with such novels as Practical Magic, but I have not read her before this. The Probable Future touches on theAlice Hoffman has made a name for herself with such novels as Practical Magic, but I have not read her before this. The Probable Future touches on the lives of the Sparrow women, residents of Unity for generations, and definitely different. Each receives a gift on her thirteenth birthday: Elinor is able to smell a lie, her daughter Jenny dreams other people's dreams, and Jenny's daughter Stella can look at a person and see how they will die. Stella's inexperience in dealing with her gift results in her father being jailed for murder, and sets in motion a series of events that transform the Sparrow women and those who love them.
Alice Hoffman writes beautiful and compelling prose. Her characters are distinctive and, for the most part, sympathetic. "Magical" comes to mind--not just the peculiar gifts held by the Sparrow women, but Alice's entrancing voice and spellbinding narrative make this novel one I can highly recommend. The Probable Future is certainly an adult novel, although a mature teen could well enjoy it. I rate it no more than PG, since it eschews sensuality or graphic details....more
I have read David Crystal before; he is a linguist with a highly readable style that I enjoy. This book is a combination of travelogue and language trI have read David Crystal before; he is a linguist with a highly readable style that I enjoy. This book is a combination of travelogue and language trivia. Since the travelogue is mostly Wales, with some England and a smattering of some few other places such as San Francisco, and all these topics/locations interest me, I found it a pleasant diversion, and pleasant diversions are deceptively difficult come by. ...more
Since the author is a licensed psychotherapist and personal organizer, this book takes a different twist on clutterbugs. Ms. Glovinsky posits that itSince the author is a licensed psychotherapist and personal organizer, this book takes a different twist on clutterbugs. Ms. Glovinsky posits that it is not enough to just put things where they go; we must also figure out where our head is, and work with it. Since our brains are hard-wired individually, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing things. I was relieved to know that I'm pretty functional after all when it comes to clutter, and interested in the challenges that others face.
Especially interested in the way Ms. Glovinsky quantifies Things: an abstract no-strings-attached way to define the stuff in our space that must be dealt with. ...more
**spoiler alert** Christopher Fowler launches his Bryant & May mystery series with an explosion that destroys the headquarters of the Peculiar Cri**spoiler alert** Christopher Fowler launches his Bryant & May mystery series with an explosion that destroys the headquarters of the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London, along with Arthur Bryant, the elderly and eccentric detective that spent most of his waking hours there. John May, his colleague of many years, determines to discover the perpetrator of this outrage, following clues that force him to revisit the first case they solved together. So we follow two storylines--Bryant and May as fresh-faced novices exploring a string of theatrical murders during the London Blitz, and the modern-day May, painstakingly reconstructing the circumstances of the loss of his long-time partner-in-crime-solving.
Good things: Excellent characterizations, writing, and story line. Fowler skillfully manages the jumps between time periods without signposts or clumsiness, an impressive feat. And his development of the story is equally impressive--he neither tips his hand nor springs his surprises out of thin air, but smoothly brings you to the satisfying and clever resolutions of the parallel story lines.
Bad things: The crudeness of some of the conversations is not to my taste. Also...(trying to avoid a spoiler here, but not succeeding entirely)...the nature of the murders suggested a cruel, even sadistic, mastermind, yet the unmasked villains are portrayed as pitiable, even pathetic.
I'm still trying to decide if I will continue with the series. But if crudeness is not an issue for you, you could do much much worse. ...more