Really enjoyed this YA novel by the author of The Interestings. It did bear some resemblances to The Interestings, but in this outing, Wolitzer craftsReally enjoyed this YA novel by the author of The Interestings. It did bear some resemblances to The Interestings, but in this outing, Wolitzer crafts a well-paced and original YA novel that contains some fantasy elements but still serves to illuminate important truths about literature, life, and (to continue the alliteration in an annoying way) loss. One plot line is a bit thin and, oddly enough, I found the character of Ms. Q disappointingly flat, but overall the book was a well-written and thought-provoking flight of imagination based in some valid insights about human nature. Enjoyable! ...more
My Lenten decision to cut out Facebook during the week (as well as several snow days recently) has led to an upswing in my reading. Yay!
Flavia's seveMy Lenten decision to cut out Facebook during the week (as well as several snow days recently) has led to an upswing in my reading. Yay!
Flavia's seventh outing is good, but a tad convoluted, tho hers generally are. Once again, this one follows a familiar arc with Flavia chasing red herring after red herring, then tying up all the loose ends--to an extent. The switch in location (this one's set in Canada) requires a bit more background, which slows the narrative a bit, and my biggest frustration is that the entire school F. goes to is never clearly defined: is it a school for spies pretending to everyone, even its own students, to be a regular boarding school? Is it a school for spies whose students are so tricky that they all, nod-nod, wink-wink, just keep up the facade of being a regular boarding school? What's up with the Headmistress? With the vanished students? The haziness of the details felt careless.
Overall, it's not Bradley's best Flavia, but it's a pleasant read. ...more
Well: I *loved* McMahon's The Crimson Rooms, and I was delighted to find this one on audio so I could start right in. And: it's well-written, as CR isWell: I *loved* McMahon's The Crimson Rooms, and I was delighted to find this one on audio so I could start right in. And: it's well-written, as CR is, and provides an incredibly detailed historical context, as CR does, but the main character is much less likable, and I'd say that the plot, lacking the mystery aspect of CR, drags a bit more. I do find that pacing is tricky in audiobooks, because we don't have the heft of the remaining pages to give us a sense of where we are, but I still think the final 1/3 could've moved a bit more briskly. My second and third reservations are connected, because I think that what makes the last 1/3 drag is Emily's self-absorption: even though she is realizing how self-absorbed she was/is, witnessing what is of necessity a self-absorbed process got a bit tedious.
The last segment of the plot sped up again, and then McMachon left us hanging a bit--but upon mature reflection, I realized that her decision not to include a post script with Emily writing from 25 years down the road and tying up all the loose ends fits perfectly with Emily's discovery in the book that life is complicated, that you might wish for a return on your investment, but what if that entails great human suffering? Etc. So: overall, I think Alchemist's Daughter is a worthy forerunner to Crimson Rooms, but I might not have sought out CR if I'd read AD first. ...more
Sharp and funny, but drags a bit in the middle. There are some great lines, and Hornby does a really nice job of describing the feeling of working witSharp and funny, but drags a bit in the middle. There are some great lines, and Hornby does a really nice job of describing the feeling of working with inspirational people. Barbara/Sophie is a sympathetic character, but there are a few clunkers thrown in to keep it all moving. Hornby's insights on social change in the 60's and on the effects of getting older ("It was absurd that they were getting old, Sophie thought--absurd and wrong. Old people had black-and-white memories of wars, music halls, wretched diseases, candlelight. Her memories were in color, and they involved loud music, and discos. . " (435), for example) are well-worded and astute. I liked it a lot (as did my husband), despite a slightly draggy middle. ...more
Checking back through the series, I noticed that I DID read this book, but I can't really remember when: I have a summer feeling about it, so I'll sayChecking back through the series, I noticed that I DID read this book, but I can't really remember when: I have a summer feeling about it, so I'll say it was last summer. I'm experiencing the same diminishing satisfaction with this series as many other folk have noted. I DO find these to be better as audios, since the lovely accent and delivery keep me focused on the plot vs. Winspear's pedantic writing and Maisie's annoying and recurring traits. HOWEVER, I do keep reading them! Ah well. This one was not one of Winspear's best; few of the series have met the insight and social context Winspear provided in the first few, which I found fascinating. ...more
Shocking, laugh-out-loud-funny, heart-breaking, and vividly honest about many forbidden topics, the novel was a huge surprise. I tore through it in onShocking, laugh-out-loud-funny, heart-breaking, and vividly honest about many forbidden topics, the novel was a huge surprise. I tore through it in one day. It reads like a memoir, with a strong sense of hindsight making 14 -17 year old Dolly/Johanna self-aware beyond her years (and self-destructive behavior), but it's fiction. I can't remember where I got the recommendation, or if I just spotted it on our library's shelf (it seems an odd choice for our small New England town!), but I'm going to be recommending it widely. While the sexual details feel over-the-top at first, Moran's clear-eyed assessment of how her character uses sex is both insightful and troubling--and some of the description had me weeping with laughter. Most notable, though, is Moran's ability to depict a family that's struggling to survive on the edges of the lower middle class: her insights into the impact that poverty has on all their lives and her simultaneous emphasis on the love that keeps them all surviving make the book unusual, refreshing, and memorable.
I want to read her "How to Be a Woman" ASAP! ...more
This "new Christie" was well-written, but so densely and ponderously plotted that I gave up 1/2 way through and skimmed to the end. Hannah adds a confThis "new Christie" was well-written, but so densely and ponderously plotted that I gave up 1/2 way through and skimmed to the end. Hannah adds a confused, flawed police officer as narrator, thus adding another layer to Poirot's traditional "I know everything, and I can't believe you haven't figured it out" approach. Catchpool's self-doubt and incomprehension slowed everything down enough that once I had two or three other books I wanted to read, my impatience won out and I skimmed to the end to find out, more or less, "whodunnit." I would say that true Christie aficionados would enjoy this book, but I think a slimmed plot, more directed narration, and about 100 fewer pages would've worked better for me. That said, it's a high quality imitation with lots of moving parts. ...more
Really enjoyed this Heyer outing because it explored the usual formula of marrying for convenience in a new way. Though she didn't delve into the issuReally enjoyed this Heyer outing because it explored the usual formula of marrying for convenience in a new way. Though she didn't delve into the issue of the heir-begetting, Heyer pushed her characters a bit, developing layers of nuance that I didn't expect, and that most "Regency Romances" lack completely. ...more
I gave up on this one when it became clear that poor Edgar and his mama couldn't get a break. Wroblewski is a powerful writer, but his imagination is I gave up on this one when it became clear that poor Edgar and his mama couldn't get a break. Wroblewski is a powerful writer, but his imagination is dark and mythic in a way that got just too heavy for my somewhat fragile psyche during a hugely snowy Maine winter. I got the book out of the library, power-read through what I *thought* would be the dark part, and then discovered that Wroblewski was going to make the rest of the book dark. . . . so I let myself off the hook. It's a hugely sprawling book with lots of echoes and overtones of myths, archetypes, Dante, etc. etc., but it's way too devastating for my daily commute. Wroblewski cuts no one a break in this story--no one, including any reader foolish enough to become connected to any of his characters. ...more
=Sigh.= When I hear "Anne Lamott's new book," I, perhaps naively, expect that her book will actually be *new work,* so I rush out and buy it for my be=Sigh.= When I hear "Anne Lamott's new book," I, perhaps naively, expect that her book will actually be *new work,* so I rush out and buy it for my best friend and also a copy in hardback for myself. Imagine my naive surprise when I read this book ($22.95 worth of new book) and find about 75% of it to be RECYCLED BOOK: essays I have read in her OTHER books (which I also rushed out to buy, often in hard back)!!!!
I really enjoy Anne Lamott--I see her as one of the ways that "God is still speaking" in our modern times, to use the UCC slogan. She has gotten me through some tough times and has provided me with words, jokes, and perspective that I value deeply. Some of her new essays in this collection are, I am sure, excellent, and some of her old ones that have been reprinted here are among my favorites. However, when I think of this collection, my overwhelming sense is that I've been ripped off, manipulated into spending my hard-earned teacher-money for words I've already spent my hard earned teacher money on before.
And that makes me sad, and more than a little bit angry. ...more
Found this during a random wandering session in my beloved library's shelves, and since I've enjoyed other Ruth Reichl non-fiction, I thought I'd giveFound this during a random wandering session in my beloved library's shelves, and since I've enjoyed other Ruth Reichl non-fiction, I thought I'd give this a shot, and ended up enjoying it a lot. It's obviously based on the demise of Gourmet, and I had the feeling throughout that if I knew more about Gourment's staff and setup I might've seen it as a "roman a clef" (I think?) or a poison pen novel, but as it was, it provided several slices of lives very different from my snowbound Maine teacher/mom experience. Pleasant and interesting (also mouthwatering!), the book strained to hold all the plot-lines together at the end, and the love story aspect was the weakest aspect. However, foodies and Reichl fans, as well as Gourmet experts, should enjoy it. ...more
Another abandoned book, but I pretty much expected that. Given our endless snow this year, I've been reading a lot, and I was roaming my beloved publiAnother abandoned book, but I pretty much expected that. Given our endless snow this year, I've been reading a lot, and I was roaming my beloved public library (Ellsworth Public Library! Three cheers!)'s shelves when I spied this offering from Evanovich. Somehow, her Stephanie Plum novels work (tho less effectively as the numbers go on) but I have found her non-Stephanie books to be pretty fatuous, and I especially remember reading one that she co-wrote with Dorien Kelly and finding it unbearably dumb. . . . so for some reason (call it cabin fever?), I thought I'd give this one a shot.
Suffice it to say that Evanovich should probably *not* try to do historical fiction. I'm not stickler for complete historical accuracy, but why set a novel at a particular time period and then ignore nearly everything about that society's rules, expectations, attitudes? Stir in a tedious plot and you've got yourself one star. ...more
Abandoned this one pretty fast: too dumb to endure. An adult woman who acts like a moron is something I can't accept, unless I've already gotten hookeAbandoned this one pretty fast: too dumb to endure. An adult woman who acts like a moron is something I can't accept, unless I've already gotten hooked, as is the case with the Diane Mott Davidson series. Dorothy Cannell's nitwit lacks Goldy's recipes, so I put her down pretty fast. ...more
Sometimes, when I start reading a book, I know instantly that I'm in the hands of a skilled story-teller. Characterization, narration, word-choice, paSometimes, when I start reading a book, I know instantly that I'm in the hands of a skilled story-teller. Characterization, narration, word-choice, pacing--everything just flows together, creating a world that closes around me. McMahon's The Crimson Rooms is a perfect example of that experience. I got the title from the FB article "Books to read if you like Downton Abbey," and I inter-library-loaned a few on one of our many snow days. . . Several of them were weak outings (lookin' at you, Snobbery with Violence and Withering Heights), but The Crimson Rooms is an excellent novel, combining strong characterization, fascinating historical detail, an interesting whodunnit aspect, and a strong plot. I read it in about three days, deliberately working not to sprint through it just to find out how it ended, and my book hangover when it ended was intense! Luckily, McMahon has just published a sequel, only available in England at this point, but I think I'll indulge myself with a little Book Depository treat for Valentine's Day.
One of the recommendations from a FB link, "If you like Downton Abbey, try these books," Snobbery with Violence was poorly written but entertaining noOne of the recommendations from a FB link, "If you like Downton Abbey, try these books," Snobbery with Violence was poorly written but entertaining nonetheless. Chesney, who also writes as M.C. Beaton, crammed way too much into too few pages, ending up with a bewildering panoply of characters who were thinly developed. The focus was dizzying, swooping from one paragraph that zeroed in on the deep personal secrets of one minor character to cover a day or a week of action in a few lines. "Tell, don't show," becomes Chesney's motto--the whole piece feels rushed, as if she was trying to crank out the story without truly developing its structure. Still, somehow, the character of Daisy the maid and the few glimpses of historical facts about the upper classes views of the middle and lower class make the novel a 2 star read rather than a 1.
*If you're craving a good and somewhat similar historical novel, try Katherine McMahon's The Crimson Rooms (my next review). It's excellent!* ...more