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
I enjoyed the pacing and general plotting of this one, but maybe didn't connect with the main character that much. I liked, however, that she was a suI enjoyed the pacing and general plotting of this one, but maybe didn't connect with the main character that much. I liked, however, that she was a successful, professional woman and had a life that didn't center around romance. I think I also found the romantic hero a bit wooden and overly alpha for my tastes, although his backstory (and the backstory of his and Cameron's relationship years ago) was rather well developed. But he did a whole lot of 'stalking like a panther' towards her, which felt silly instead of sexy, and although his brooding was mocked by secondary characters a lot, it still seemed a bit much at times. I've started the second in the series, though, so it's clear that overall, this worked for me, even if it's not entirely my cup of tea. ...more
I found this book—along with two other installments of the Penguin series celebrating the 150th anniversary of the London Tube—on a 1 bookshelf in BriI found this book—along with two other installments of the Penguin series celebrating the 150th anniversary of the London Tube—on a £1 bookshelf in Brixton on a recent visit and picked it up for the sheer novelty of the series and the esoteric back cover. What a delightful surprise. Wadham's thinly-veiled autobiographical memoir is funny and candid, offering rich portraits of various family members in a way which feels real and unadorned. These are splendid characters, but she presents them, and herself, as nevertheless flawed and biased and very, very interesting. It's not actually about the Tube (or specifically, the Circle Line, as advertised) but it hardly matters: this is a tightly written, vibrant, and revealing portrait of a complicated and fascinating family living in London in the 1970s. ...more
**spoiler alert** The Strange Library is, appropriately, a strange little story that can be read in one sitting. The scenario—young boy goes to librar**spoiler alert** The Strange Library is, appropriately, a strange little story that can be read in one sitting. The scenario—young boy goes to library, only to find himself taken captive in a basement labyrinth by a brain-eating librarian and attended by a man dressed in a sheep costume who makes killer doughnuts—seems, at first, like it's going for the overhanded metaphor. But then you hit giggle-worthy statements like "I mean, public libraries like this one were always short of money, so building even the tiniest of labyrinths had to be beyond their means" and run into passages like the following:
"Mr. Sheep Man," I asked, "why would that old man want to eat my brains?"
"Because brains packed with knowledge are yummy, that's why. They're nice and creamy. And sort of grainy at the same time."
"So that's why he wants me to spend a month cramming information in there, to suck it up afterwards?"
"That's the idea."
"Don't you think that's awfully cruel?" I asked. "Speaking from the suckee's point of view, of course."
"But, hey, this kind of thing is going on in libraries everywhere, you know. More or less, that is."
This news staggered me. "In libraries everywhere?" I stammered.
"If all they did was lend out knowledge for free, what would be the payoff for them?"
So yes, possibly a tongue-in-cheek poke at public service detractors, but hardly an allegory.
Which means then, that The Strange Library is rather a real story kind of story, a bizarre little tale that simply takes its joy from the expansive possibilities of storytelling and relishes the chance to occasionally drop a super-literary, self-consciously unexpected turn-of-phrase, such as: "Like a blind dolphin, the night of the new moon silently drew near." (Which left me wondering, I might add, if dolphins that are not visually impaired somehow swim louder than their counterparts...)
Of course it should also be mentioned that the illustrations—all of which were sourced from archival materials in the London Library—are splendid. ...more
I was enthusiastic enough about the first of the Hathaways series that I jumped straight into the second, but while the premise was strong, the overalI was enthusiastic enough about the first of the Hathaways series that I jumped straight into the second, but while the premise was strong, the overall effect was a little too contrived for me. He (obviously) loves her; she (obviously) loves him. All the intervening drama then is just a whole lot of 'the lady (or actually, the man) doth protest too much.' The story of these two characters was much more effectively and interestingly dealt with in the first book, I think, when they were only secondary characters. ...more
Part of my 'I'm finished with classes, time to binge read genre fiction' spree, this was my first Kleypas book. I picked it up after her name kept comPart of my 'I'm finished with classes, time to binge read genre fiction' spree, this was my first Kleypas book. I picked it up after her name kept coming up on favorites lists and also because she seemed to be beloved of many of the readers over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books who have long praised her plots and her actual writing.
Kleypas' writing is, indeed, very fluid and smooth, and she avoids the a pitfall you find rather often in romance, that is, overworking any one metaphor or adjective (particularly during/regarding sex scenes) so much that it becomes a bit cringe-inducing. I seem to have found myself reading a lot of historical English romances that take place in gaming hells or casinos (A Rogue By Any Other Name, for instance, or even Georgette Heyer's Faro's Daughter), so the non-ballroom setting didn't fill me with precisely the same sense of relief and freshness that it seems to have with other readers. But the premise was clever and for me, the characters were actually appealing precisely because of their weaknessess and shortcomings. If I were really going to level any complaints, it would simply be that a) it becomes abundantly clear less than 10 pages in that this irredeemable rake has already fallen madly in love and is, clearly a pretty stand-up guy even though everyone (including himself) spends a lot of time in doubt of that, and that b) the ending takes rather too long to well, end.
I'm interested in reading more of Kleypas, though, and maybe will go for one of her books about non-aristocratic characters yet...perhaps one of the Bowrunners series.... ...more
I found this book on a list of romance novels with body-positive, full-figured heroines and having read and enjoyed a book of MacLean's before, I wasI found this book on a list of romance novels with body-positive, full-figured heroines and having read and enjoyed a book of MacLean's before, I was intrigued. It was a quick read and an enjoyable one, although given some of the writing tics found here, I wasn't surprised to learn that it was the author's first romance for adults (versus YA readers). I think there are some descriptions here that either get overused or just feel a bit...odd—for instance, I'm not personally a huge fan of the idea of one's mouth being "plundered" and nor do I think the euphemism of "sweet rain" is at all successful—but all in all, it was light and fun and chock-full of sexy bits and bound to turn out happily, which is the point, really.
I've read complaints from readers that decry the immense, period-inappropriate improprieties that the main character allows herself and I see that, and I also agree with comments that the misunderstandings of the book are generally of the sort that could be cleared up immediately if either of the main characters would just say what they actually meant when they needed to. However, I accept that a book with a title this playful is not going to place epic focus on historical accuracy (this is frothy fun, not a textbook) and the latter complaint is basically my main quibble with Sense and Sensibility, so at least MacLean is in good company as regards that one shortcoming.
If I want to read a historically accurate (albeit chaste) regency romance, I will read a Georgette Heyer novel. But for English-y, historical-ish romance with a maximum of scandalous interludes, I think MacLean fits the bill. ...more