Many of the strengths of this series are present in this book-- the characters and their interactions remain fun, Maureen Johnson's writing is still h...moreMany of the strengths of this series are present in this book-- the characters and their interactions remain fun, Maureen Johnson's writing is still hilarious, quotable, and surprisingly suspenseful, I still like the premise and the manner in which ghosts behave. But the plot for this book suffers from so many of the classic middle-book problems. It hinges on Rory being infinitely, inexplicably stupider than the reader, and it is far too slight and wheel-spinny to be a whole book unto itself. Still well-worth reading, as I love the series and quite like Aurora, but I do miss the plausibility of the first book, the way it stuck to largely recognizable teenage behavior. (less)
A sweet, slight book that actually did better on developing secondary relationships than it did on writing the main couple. I was invested in the hero...moreA sweet, slight book that actually did better on developing secondary relationships than it did on writing the main couple. I was invested in the heroine's diner, her parents' faltering marriage, her own romantic mishaps, her brother's unexpected roimance-- all of it. I liked the town, I loved her dog. Maggie was maybe two shades too saintly for me to love to my bones-- helping out so many people all the time just didn't feel real to me-- but I liked her and I liked her love interest, Malone, although their relationship was surprisingly underdeveloped, given the genre. It's more about the two of them deciding to make a real effort at dating than it is about the two of them finding True Love, Forever and Ever-- something I appreciate for its realism, but something that maybe indicates that the balance of the book is less than perfect. I could have handled a little less story about Father Tim in favor of a few more scenes of the main couple actually talking to one another.
On the whole though, it was breezy, funny, fast-reading, and quite enjoyable. I'll definitely look into more Kristan Higgins books. (less)
There is just something about Helene's voice that makes her feel like my funniest friend. She just knows her way around a good story. While 84 Charing...moreThere is just something about Helene's voice that makes her feel like my funniest friend. She just knows her way around a good story. While 84 Charing Cross Road will always be first in my Hanff-heart, Underfoot in Show Business is a very close second and should not, NOT BY ANY MEANS, be out-of-print. Hanff's stories about she and her friend Maxine* struggling to make it as a playwright and actress (respectively) in 1940s Manhattan are just hilarious. They make me profoundly nostalgic for that time period without ever overtly romanticizing it. Just the way that certain people have of making everything sound fun without every being dishonest about it, Helene's got that, in spades. She also has genuinely hilarious stories-- like my favorite, of Oklahoma! and its out-of-town opening, in the chapter "No jokes. No legs. No chance."
If you love 84 Charring Cross Road, but haven't read any of Hanff's other books, start here. And if you haven't read either, MY GOD READER, what are you waiting for?? SNAP TO!
*Who always makes me think of the line from When Harry Met Sally-- "People were always crossing rooms to talk to Maxine." (less)
This book made me laugh out loud, it made me flip pages frantically to find out WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT, it made me sigh soulfully over perfect romanti...moreThis book made me laugh out loud, it made me flip pages frantically to find out WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT, it made me sigh soulfully over perfect romantic scenes, it made me cry, it was-- in short-- a Mary Quinn book. The mystery here is a little less tightly-plotted than the others have been, as the two disparate threads Mary is investigating never coalesce into a larger, joined problem and the payoff in each-- since neither has been the specific focus-- is therefore lessened. But Mary's emotional journey is depicted with beautiful detail, so this is a minor quibble. I am so relieved that there will be a fourth book because, even if this one provides a satisfying conclusion to the series, saying goodbye to these characters for good would break my heart. I am just so attached to Mary and James. (less)
This is, without a doubt, the strongest bookn in Joanna Bourne's very strong Spymaster series. Justine and Adrian are both fascinating individuals, th...moreThis is, without a doubt, the strongest bookn in Joanna Bourne's very strong Spymaster series. Justine and Adrian are both fascinating individuals, their love for one another is great fun to read about. The espionage plot really holds up, largely thanks to the manner in which Joanna Bourne jumbles the narrative, interspersing the mystery set in the books' present with flashbacks to Justine and Adrian's past missions. This book is even better if you've read the others, particularly The Forbidden Rose, but is definitely enjoyable even if you haven't. I highly recommend the series. (less)
I love comedies of remarriage. I love inventive, well-plotted romance novels. This is both. If you are looking for something to make waiting for Serie...moreI love comedies of remarriage. I love inventive, well-plotted romance novels. This is both. If you are looking for something to make waiting for Series Two of Downton Abbey to begin again, you could do a lot worse than dipping into this. There are occasional moments of glaring historical inaccuracy, like when the word friggin' is uttered by one of the main characters, but otherwise, guys, seriously. This was kind of awesome. (less)
The only thing about this book I don't like is HOW LONG I WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE. It's kind of astonishing that Maureen can take a soapily...moreThe only thing about this book I don't like is HOW LONG I WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE. It's kind of astonishing that Maureen can take a soapily paranormal plot that would usually make my eyes ROLL DIRECTLY OUT OF MY HEAD and, by keeping her characters as grounded and hilarious as she usually does, turn in something that's simultaneously hilarious and utterly gripping. I think this one is going to sell like hotcakes. I like it so much that I officially forgive it for not being about my one true YA boyfriend, Spencer Martin. (less)
This book makes me want to read, not just all Stephanie Perkins's future books, but also everything that Julie Strauss-Gabel has ever edited. Ignore t...moreThis book makes me want to read, not just all Stephanie Perkins's future books, but also everything that Julie Strauss-Gabel has ever edited. Ignore the cover, ignore the rotten title, because inside is a swoon-inducing love story based on genuine character development; a slow-burning romance that isn't all spun sugar. Not quite as great as E. Lockhart or Maureen Johnson at her best, but thoroughly satisfying. I don't know quite how it became such a blog favorite overnight, but I am glad the praise pushed me past the rotten cover art. (less)
This book was quite charming. The plot is a little thin for my taste, but pitch-perfect for the middle grade audience it's intended for. The character...moreThis book was quite charming. The plot is a little thin for my taste, but pitch-perfect for the middle grade audience it's intended for. The characters, however, are delightful, most especially mischevious, stubborn Kat and her big sister Angeline. The hijinks throughout the book are hilarious-- especially Kat's longed-for encounter with a highway man. (less)
This book was an absolute delight. While I was just a touch lukewarm on Bk 2 in the series, this one was just peachy. Finally got to return to its wit...moreThis book was an absolute delight. While I was just a touch lukewarm on Bk 2 in the series, this one was just peachy. Finally got to return to its witty embraces after wrapping up the fiction portion of my YA Lit class and even with months of delay in the middle, the writing hooked me again in no time flat. (less)
While this book is no Cold Comfort Farm, it is pretty compulsively readable. None of the characters are strictly likeable, but none of them are out an...moreWhile this book is no Cold Comfort Farm, it is pretty compulsively readable. None of the characters are strictly likeable, but none of them are out and out bad hats either. The commentary on social mores is witty and frequently spot-on, but some of the class conflict and snobbery scattered throughout has changed enough that it's not recognizable. If you're looking for a light, fun romance, with a bit of witty commentary and a nice whiff of period glamour, this is a good choice.(less)
This book would easily be a 3.5, were such a rating possible, and a higher rating still were the 3rd act misunderstanding-to-separate-the-couple just...moreThis book would easily be a 3.5, were such a rating possible, and a higher rating still were the 3rd act misunderstanding-to-separate-the-couple just a fraction less absurd. Out of the six very similar Ibbotsen romances, this one is dead center in the pack-- not as good as my favorites, A Countess Below Stairs and The Reluctant Heiress, but comfortably jumbled in with A Company of Swans and Madensky Square in the just-barely-second tier, and ever so much more fun than her other WWII volume, A Song for Summer. The secondary characters and settings, always where Ibbotsen really shines, are once again delightful. Quin's stern Aunt Frances and Ruth's kindly Uncle Mishak are especially delightful, and both Bowmont and Vienna sound like places straight out of a dream. (less)
If you've read and enjoyed Eva Ibbotsen's other recently republished historical romances, this one is just the same and perfectly charming. The plot i...moreIf you've read and enjoyed Eva Ibbotsen's other recently republished historical romances, this one is just the same and perfectly charming. The plot is extremely similar to that of The Countess Below Stairs, but the supporting cast is distinct enough that it's still quite enjoyable to read.
All of Ibbotsen's heroines are roughly the same type: whisper-thin urchins with huge eyes and mischevious grins whose pure-hearted joy at life and art makes them glow from within. Her heroes, by and large, are often alike as well. They tend to be rich, intelligent, commanding types who are admired by all who know them but also secretly haunted, usually by a lost love, who's usually a secret huge bitch only also beautiful so they are too blind to see it until it's TOO LATE. Both heroes and heroines are full to the brim with nobility of spirit and a fierce commitment to justice for all.
That said, even though the types are largely static, the details of each character do make them individual, and the plots-- much as their end point in wedded bliss is clear from page one-- tend to be pleasantly twisty and turny about getting there in unexpected ways. And, as always, Ibbotsen's love for the places she writes about-- here, it's Vienna, her beloved birthplace-- elevates the text enormously. Just like half the fun of an Alexander McCall-Smith book is the lush, detailed, foreign setting, half the fun here is the beauty of Vienna, the anecdotes about Mozart and Shubert, the hijinks of the decrepit Austrian royals who gather to celebrate Guy Farnes's wedding, the beauties of the Austrian countryside, and the sumptuous descriptions of Guy's shallow fiancees many, many fine dresses.
So, if you enjoy a lovingly-wrought historical romance, or are just looking for some genuinely satisfying airplane-or-beach reading, definitely pick up one of these books. I'd recommend starting with A Countess Below Stairs, as it's the best, but all five of the re-released titles are quite enjoyable. (less)