This was recommended to me by a friend awhile ago, and I decided to give it a read after a recent perusal of the Go Fug Yourself website which Cocks aThis was recommended to me by a friend awhile ago, and I decided to give it a read after a recent perusal of the Go Fug Yourself website which Cocks and Morgan run together. I'm not an every day reader of the site, but find myself turning to it every now and then, either when I'm in the mood for looking at lots of big hats or when I want a dash of celebrity culture peppered with lots of snark (or both).
Reading this, I didn't find myself openly guffawing as I sometimes do when reading GFY, although it was still pretty funny and especially very savvy about celebrity, the lengths that celebrities have to go to be publicly palatable, and 'royals culture,' if that can be a term. And some of the descriptions of how breathtakingly "smoking-hot" (their word) Prince Nick is—particularly when juxtaposed with how normal-gal-ish Bex is supposed to be—felt almost a bit Twilight in their swoonery. But I enjoyed the pacing, and I particularly enjoyed the cast of secondary characters, with their hilarious names, strange jobs, and rather charming character flaws. ...more
I got sick over the weekend and decided a non-ballroom romance was in order, and since I haven't read much contemporary, I went back to the NPR ReaderI got sick over the weekend and decided a non-ballroom romance was in order, and since I haven't read much contemporary, I went back to the NPR Readers' Top 100 list from a few years back (it's come through for me several times) and picked out this one. And I enjoyed a lot about it, not least in that not only is the heroine a well-qualified professional woman who can take care of herself, but also that both she and the hero both have their own demons and they support one another through rough patches. The relationship builds from a place of genuine friendship, the supporting cast is enjoyable and well-developed, the setting feels like a real place, and I think Carr does a good job of showing the complexity of rural life and 'country medicine' without getting either too provincial or overly starry-eyed about it.
I felt that the last third or so of the book felt a bit less natural and more forced, however. Once our couple actually couples, Jack goes a bit over-alpha, which I think fits his backstory but seemed nevertheless a bit overdone. And while the overall attitude about pot and marijuana growers in the region was actually fairly balanced, it got a bit much once the marines descended, formed a posse, and started talking about defending women and children. I'm not convinced, ultimately, that this book needed its grand protector climax—the story was working just fine as it was and the 'brush with death' was unnecessary....more
The farm at Viðfjörður in East Iceland experienced dozens of hauntings and ghostly episodes in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In this novellaThe farm at Viðfjörður in East Iceland experienced dozens of hauntings and ghostly episodes in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In this novella, Þórbergur Þórðarsson gathers together both folk anecdotes that were collected about these "wonders," as well as the memories of several sisters who grew up on the farm and who also lost several brothers in a drowning accident that they believe to be connected to a ghost who frequented their home—"sá gamli," or, "the old one."
Þórbergur being something of a folklorist—as well as a great believer in mysterious phenomena and entities himself—the stories are related in relatively unadorned fashion, but there are still a number of delightful scares: ghostly cat and seal heads thrown at unwanted guests in abandoned huts, disappearing doors, mysterious, gray cow-monsters, loud knocks on upstairs windows, premonitions, and even (my favorite)...ghost puppies.
I'm going to be translating an excerpt of this novella this semester and think it's going to be great fun.
With summer ending and the academic year beginning, this is likely the last book of my summer romance-reading binge. Having read a lot of historicalsWith summer ending and the academic year beginning, this is likely the last book of my summer romance-reading binge. Having read a lot of historicals this summer, I was looking for something a bit different and started searching for books that might fall under the 'lady pirate' heading. (I found, nicely enough, another book actually called Lady Pirate, but am still on the waiting list for it at the library...)
Almost a Scandal is not actually a pirate book, of course, but is rather a Georgian-era historical that follows the adventures of Sally Kent, a young woman raised in a naval family whose younger brother runs away instead of showing up for service. Loving the sea and sailing herself, Sally decides to masquerade as her brother (love a good masquerade), ostensibly to protect the family honor, but actually just because she thinks it'll be a lot more exciting than sitting around at home. She becomes a midshipman (so, you know, 'lady sailor') on a ship that is conveniently overseen by one of her brothers' hot lieutenant buddies, and the rest basically falls into place from there.
(*Some minor spoilers*)
Elisabeth Essex was an underwater archaeologist (super cool, right?) before she was a romance novelist, and so the 'awesome old ship stuff' is, not unexpectedly, pretty awesome. And the adventuring portion of the book, where Sally—Kent—spends her days racing up masts and unfurling sails and besting giant ship bullies with her wit and her ability to eat ghost peppers is delightful. She and her sexy sailor (who figured out her ruse early on, of course) get to go on a covert mission to basically just create havoc behind enemy lines, a mission she's chosen for because a) she's such an awesome sailor and b) because she speaks French. She survives the Battle of Trafalgar, during which she sustains an injury while protecting her love. It's all pretty great, and very refreshing.
My quibbles then come with the last bit of the book, when Kent is found out post-battle and is sent home to become Sally again. It's an interesting situation because, of course, not only has she gotten used to having much more freedom—as a man and then as a war hero (great passage, actually, where she talks about the different ways people approach her as a man with a scar, versus as a woman with a scar)—but she has this visible 'deformity' which she comes to realize will effectively shape the rest of her life. But in exploring the process of Kent reconciling with being/becoming Sally, the latter becomes a bit flatter, a bit overly dramatic and far more lovelorn than really makes sense. She assumes her lover has abandoned her, which I suppose I get, but the writing becomes quite florid and overdone and that's a bit of a shame, since she had a rather practical, free-spirited voice for the majority of the book. It makes sense that she would be in (emotional) pain and more self-conscious and less bold in her 'new' life/voice, but it's still a bit much. For instance, she thinks she overhears that her lover has taken a wife—a misapprehension that lasts for all of thirty seconds—but it's too late! The "clockwork of her heart was already irretrievably broken, smashed now into bits that would never fit back together."
And it's not just Sally's voice that changes either—the general narration starts to verge on florid. The word 'chalcedony' makes multiple appearances in the book (meh), but suddenly, the male lead starts shooting around his "chalcedony green gaze," his voice suddenly "gentled into roughness" (which if you think about it, doesn't even make sense), and it's just. too. much.
So, in summation: a really delightful adventure followed by a weaker resolution. Still quite charmed, though. ...more
A surprisingly engaging, super readable character study / peak into the world of aspiring gymnasts, touching on familial relationships, adolescence anA surprisingly engaging, super readable character study / peak into the world of aspiring gymnasts, touching on familial relationships, adolescence and adolescent sexuality, sacrifice, ambition (both of the personal and vicarious varieties), and the lengths people will go to in order to protect, shield, or simply prop up the ones they love. And it poses some interesting questions in this context. When your whole life—and the lives of the rest of your family—have all been dedicated to fulfilling the dreams and ambition of your one, extraordinary child, is anything out-of-bounds? Is having such a single-minded purpose (such as qualifying for the Olympic team) enough in and of itself to justify the means? That is, not just the second mortgage, the grueling work hours, the lack of personal time and space, the sidelining of your other child, but also far larger and more detrimental sacrifices. But, of course, when you've already made all of those, what's one more?...more
An interesting series of anecdotes about Unuhús ('Una's house'), a salon/quasi-halfway house for artists, writers, and social outcasts in Reykjavík inAn interesting series of anecdotes about Unuhús ('Una's house'), a salon/quasi-halfway house for artists, writers, and social outcasts in Reykjavík in the early 1900s. Though these stories were 'set in writing' by Þórbergur Þórðarson—himself a former resident of Unuhús—they're the memories of the poet Stefán frá Hvítdal, who lived there on and off for some years. As Þórbergur explains in the introduction, he took it upon himself to commit Stefán's memories about Unuhús to paper during the summer of 1922, while visiting Stefán and his wife in the countryside.
Despite the importance of Unuhús, its proprietor, and its residents at a pivotal point in Þórbergur's life, he himself wrote very little about his time living there, although there are some short stories and anecdotes about it that have been included in the recent collection of his previously unpublished writings, Meistarar and lærisveinar....more
This was picked up off a 'take-a-book' shelf and I brought with me on vacation because I'd read that Donna Leon's crime novels were in the vein of othThis was picked up off a 'take-a-book' shelf and I brought with me on vacation because I'd read that Donna Leon's crime novels were in the vein of other 'literary' crime authors I've enjoyed, because I was looking forward to a novel set in Venice, and because I was hoping for a great beach read. But while I truly loved all the descriptions of place/setting and the daily comings and goings of life in Venice (I would have happily read a book all about lunches in Venice, or one that spent a lot more time talking about the boat-buses, for instance), Doctored Evidence was incredibly frustrating and disappointing because of its latent (sometimes, actually, rather blatant) and totally needless (from a plot perspective) homophobia.
I get that in many instances Leon is conveying the POV and/or biases and bigotry of her characters. And often—through Elettra, for instance, and to a lesser and less-convincing degree, through Brunetti himself—these biases and prejudices are dispensed with. Nevertheless, a really icky (for lack of a more erudite word) feeling of homophobia lies over the whole novel. Brunetti goes on a hunt for secretly gay men who have positions of power in Italy because he convinces himself that their homosexuality (which he frequently equates with the seven deadly sin of lust) is the only reason that any of them might have been blackmailed and driven to murder an old woman.
Worse, I think it irresponsible (to say the very least) that a book written in 2004 should introduce a gay subcharacter who, in addition to having died from AIDS, also subscribed to pornographic magazines featuring very young boys. And this salacious, grimy detail and horrific false equivalence (i.e. gay man = pedophile) has absolutely no relevance to the plot whatsoever. It's never walked back, it's never recanted, it's never proven to be false. It's simply introduced so that later, another character can show her dignity and open-mindedness by saying that no one, not even a pedophile, deserves to die of AIDS. It reinforces a horrible prejudice and again, false equivalence, still held by many people and there's no reason for it. It's lazy and bigoted writing and I'd like to think that Leon could do better. ...more
This book was fervently recommended to me on a trip to the US a little over a year ago, a recommendation that I filed away and then forgot entirely unThis book was fervently recommended to me on a trip to the US a little over a year ago, a recommendation that I filed away and then forgot entirely until I found it on a summer reading shelf in a public library on the outskirts of Reykjavík. I read a review which summed it up as "that scene in Apollo 13 where they have to 'connect this thing to that thing using only this stuff,' but more," which was a really good sell for me, because that was, honestly, my favorite part of that movie. I'm not a science/engineering/sci-fi/space nerd (honestly: space is so scary—why do we keep going there?!), but despite that, I still found this to be a really invigorating read. (Clearly: I read it in two days.) I really liked all the bits about potato cultivation and even if I still don't really understand how he was able to light oxygen (or hydrogen? or nitrogen?...I forget) on fire and somehow end up with water, I sort of enjoyed reading about the process every time he went into explanations. And hey, it's basically an epistolary novel to boot, so that was fun.
Way late to the party, but glad to know what all the hubbub was about when this (and then the movie) came out....more
I'd seen another Loretta Chase title (Lord of Scoundrals) pop up on a number of recommendation lists and so when I couldn't find that one at the libraI'd seen another Loretta Chase title (Lord of Scoundrals) pop up on a number of recommendation lists and so when I couldn't find that one at the library, I decided to give Miss Wonderful a try instead. Chase seems to often get classified as a 'Classic' romance writer, and I get that from this book, which combines shades of Georgette Heyer with the overarching themes of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. This is a romance, of course, but that plot line is balanced with a rather complex one involving coal mines, the proposal for a new canal, and general distrust about modernization and mechanization. The gender balance gets upset pretty regularly, especially towards the beginning of the novel—our hero takes a Austenian tumble down a hillside and then has to be basically carried to safety by our heroine and tended to at her manor; he's also far more focused on fashion and clothing than she is—but these re-castings feel really natural to their circumstances, situations, and overall personalities. The plot resolution gets a little fast and loose towards the end of the book, there's a slight twist ending that didn't really feel necessary, and the heroine has some pre-wedding jitters that I didn't buy at all, but overall, I really enjoyed this book. Lots of banter and sparkling wit, lots of interesting non-romance plot, and lots of fun....more
An enjoyable P.D. James, although not my favorite of hers—a little too clever-clever with the murder plot and the big reveal (almost a bit Agatha ChriAn enjoyable P.D. James, although not my favorite of hers—a little too clever-clever with the murder plot and the big reveal (almost a bit Agatha Christie, which isn't something I necessarily look for from James) and I wasn't wild about the fact that Dalgliesh not only figures out such an extraordinarily convoluted scenario without any concrete means of doing so, but also that the How and Why details are withheld from the reader for so long. It seems a bit showy and is also an artificial way of increasing the narrative tension. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining entry in the Dalgliesh series and also reveals some interesting personality traits—and flaws—about the detective. ...more
I have really enjoyed the two previous Lovesey books that I've read—one from the Peter Diamond series (From Cop to Corpse) and one historical title (TI have really enjoyed the two previous Lovesey books that I've read—one from the Peter Diamond series (From Cop to Corpse) and one historical title (The False Inspector Dew)—and given that this book has arguably the best title ev-er, I was really looking forward to this book. But having read 3/4 of it, I just can't be bothered to finish it. For one, the murder doesn't happen until almost the last quarter of the book and when it does happen, the victim is a character that we've encountered, but not one that we've learned much about. As a result, her treatment feels cursory and unimportant, rather than a fully-fledged character who we have learned/will learn much about—a person whose life has some kind of real weight and significance.
Secondly, I don't love the relationship between the two police officers—it feels like they may have been better introduced in another installment of the series, but here, Sergeant Cribb feels a bit like a flat Sherlock imitation who spends a lot of time talking down to his lackey, Constable Thackeray, who himself is a bit of prude. They don't feel terribly relateable individually, and they don't have a lot of chemistry together.
Where this book does shine, however, is in creating its backdrop—Lovesey clearly spent an immense amount of time researching the milieu of London music halls and imparts a lot of detail into his story. Apparently, this book was adapted as a PBS Mystery! special and I imagine that it would be a really enjoyable TV program, if only for all the setting detail.
I'm not giving up on Lovesey and his historicals, but I am going to leave this unfinished. ...more