In the Lake of the Woods is one of those books that I can acknowledge as a good book, masterfully crafted by a gifted author. However, it's a book tha...moreIn the Lake of the Woods is one of those books that I can acknowledge as a good book, masterfully crafted by a gifted author. However, it's a book that I don't like. The characters are twisted and despicable, and incapable of evoking sympathy. Some of the descriptions are graphic and truly stomach-turning. But even as I cringed away, I couldn't help but admire the strength of the writing itself. (less)
Everyone seems to love Eggers, and I tried, but I couldn't get past his arrogent, self-obsessed, snarkier-than-thou language. As a character on a page...moreEveryone seems to love Eggers, and I tried, but I couldn't get past his arrogent, self-obsessed, snarkier-than-thou language. As a character on a page, he's someone that I should have cared about, felt somewhat invested in. Instead, I found myself completely turned off, rolling my eyes and just waiting for it all to end.
He did well with the title and the acknowledgements, but it all went downhill from there. (less)
Now, I'm a huge M.M. Kaye fan, and absolutely loved her Death in Cyprus, so I went into this book with pretty high expectations. Unfortunately, they w...moreNow, I'm a huge M.M. Kaye fan, and absolutely loved her Death in Cyprus, so I went into this book with pretty high expectations. Unfortunately, they weren't quite met.
We start off at a ski resort in the mountains of Kashmir, in the bedroom of one Sarah Parrish, a young British woman on a bit of a holiday. She hears a noise outside and sees a masked man trying to break into her neighbor's window. And when she goes to warn the other young woman, she's swept into a world of intrigue and murder. *dramatic music*
While the plot itself held up fairly well, I found myself questioning the various character's motivations and relationships. Is one conversation enough for strangers to become confidants? Is a general sense of duty enough to compell someone to go chasing down answers on their own, in spite of deadly peril? And don't get me started on the entirely improbable love story.
All things considered, it was an enjoyable mystery. Unfortunately for me, all the characters didn't quite add up. (less)
**spoiler alert** Trade Wind is one of those delightful books that you can tell belongs to another decade, just from the sentence structure and style...more**spoiler alert** Trade Wind is one of those delightful books that you can tell belongs to another decade, just from the sentence structure and style of storytelling. I couldn't quite tell while I was reading whether the historical setting was meant to be a device to advance the story, or whether the main characters' lives were an opportunity to write about the political and social situation in Zanzibar. Yes - Zanzibar.
Hero Athena Hollis (our heroine) is on her way to her uncle's family in Zanzibar when she manages to get tossed overboard in a storm and rescued by the despicable - yet dashing - captain of a slave ship. Once desposited with her relatives at the American Consulate, Hero, being a devout crusader against all manner of injustice, manages to embroil herself in dangerous local politics.
Amid all rebellion and intrigue, Hero must also make a decision about a husband. There's Clayton, her uncle's step-son, to whom she has been practically engaged for several years... and of course, Rory Frost, the dashing captain who is decidedly not suitable.
There's really no question about who Hero will ultimately end up with, though many readers will be horrified by her treatment at the hands of Captain Frost, who rapes her in response to the rape and subsequent suicide of his mistress - crimes laid at Clayton's feet.
It's Kaye's treatment of this rape that really unsettled me. The act itself was not described, and only aluded to in vague terms. But Hero seems to understand why he does it, is not overly perturbed, and after a discussion with Clayton, ends up at least partially blaming herself. (If she had slept with Clayton, he wouldn't have needed to rape Frost's mistress, and none of it would have happened...) She is upset with Clayton, but still willing to consider him as a potential husband. And she forgives Frost without him ever offering an apology - as if he had nothing to apologize for. Highly disturbing all the way around.
But despite all that, probably because of Kaye's skillful writing, it's difficult to be disturbed while in the middle of it all. I truly enjoyed the book, and was pleased by the ending, though it was certainly not without problems.
I've already put another of Kaye's historical novels on hold, and am awaiting it eagerly. (less)
Many of my complaints about Death in Kashmir could be applied to Berlin as well... and I could add a few more. Something about a helpless heroine, a m...moreMany of my complaints about Death in Kashmir could be applied to Berlin as well... and I could add a few more. Something about a helpless heroine, a massive coincidence, and a cast of underdeveloped characters, perhaps. But even so, I genuinely liked the novel.
Miss Miranda Brand is visiting her cousin and his wife, stationed in Berlin just after WWII. But on the train over, she wanders into the wrong compartment and comes out with blood on her hands and her slippers. The man in charge - a vague equivalent to a police detective - seems to believe her story... but she's not sure. And then when other people start dying she wonders just how likely it is for an innocent person to be convicted.
It all has something to do with the story the murdered man told that evening at dinner just before he died... a story of mystery, murder, and a fortune in diamonds. A story that involved a little refugee girl with treasure inside her doll... a girl who is all grown up now.
It's a fun mystery... reminicent of some of Agatha Christie's work. While our heroine is lamentably helpless, I rather enjoy a decent male character with rescuer tendencies. =) (less)
So, apparently Julie Andrews writes kids books. I’m not quite sure how I managed to miss that.
Mandy is a sweet, independent ten-year-old living with...moreSo, apparently Julie Andrews writes kids books. I’m not quite sure how I managed to miss that.
Mandy is a sweet, independent ten-year-old living with other girls in an orphanage in England under the kindly eye of Matron Bridie. Despite the matron’s efforts and the companionship of the other children, Mandy feels discontent, wanting a place she could truly call her own.
So one day, Mandy climbs the old stone wall and ventures into the country beyond, where she finds a dilapidated old cottage. No one lives there. No one seems to want it. But Mandy does. And with a lot of work, a little “borrowing”, and a little bit of fudging the truth, Mandy turns the cottage into a refuge. But how long can she keep the secret from prying roommates and her concerned matron?
Mandy is a very sweet, gentle sort of story – the kind of story I read growing up. So it was with a certain sense of nostalgia that I sat down to read the book. There may be little to distinguish it from its peers, but it did manage to make me cry – a point in its favor! (less)
Daine's innate ability to get along with horses caught the eye of Onua - royal horsemistress of Tortall - and secured her a job when she desperately n...moreDaine's innate ability to get along with horses caught the eye of Onua - royal horsemistress of Tortall - and secured her a job when she desperately needed one. But as much as Daine protests, she can't keep away from the speculation that her talent is magical, that she might have the Gift. To learn more about herself and her ability, she'll have to tell the truth to some very powerful people... but if she can't control her talent, the whole nation may suffer the consequences.
Altogether, it's a fun, engaging adventure story featuring a selfless, brave young woman. I found it overly simplistic in places, but would offer it to an older elementary or middle-school student without hesitation. (less)
**spoiler alert** There is a sort of book that is difficult for me to pick up. I’ll let it sit on a bedside table or a bookshelf for several weeks, lo...more**spoiler alert** There is a sort of book that is difficult for me to pick up. I’ll let it sit on a bedside table or a bookshelf for several weeks, looking at it every time I walk by, perhaps picking it up and leafing through it, saying “I’ll start you tomorrow. Or perhaps the next day.” But it’s not a book I avoid because it is somehow unworthy, trite, or badly written. I’m afraid to pick it up because I know that once I begin I won’t be able to stop. I know I will be devastated and heartbroken, clinging to a thread of hope that reminds me that there might be a happy ending come the last page. There has to be.
I’d never truly encountered this sort of book until I picked up Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest and was entranced by Sorcha, and then followed her daughter Liadan’s tale in Son of the Shadows. Readers were forced to witness the death of Liadan’s mother, a relatively benign literary tragedy, until you remember her mother was the Sorcha we loved and wept over in the first book. And so I put off reading the third book. It sat there, on the top of the pile of books that I tried to ignore. It follows different characters one generation later—-the spotlight is fixed on Fianne, Liadan’s niece.
It's beautiful. Spellbinding. It's the story of Fianne, a child of four races, daughter of an impossible union, and granddaughter of a terrible power. She is forced to choose between two terrible alternatives--to watch all those she holds dear suffer and die, or to watch the ultimate defeat of the Irish and the death of the old ways and the fair folk.
The characterization is phenomenal, the setting absolutely captivating. I don't know how long it's going to take me to reach for the fourth book. (less)
Sequels aren't supposed to be as good as the books that came before them. My first words upon setting down Daughter of the Forst, the book that came b...moreSequels aren't supposed to be as good as the books that came before them. My first words upon setting down Daughter of the Forst, the book that came before this, was, and I quote: "Omyfreakinggosh, that was amazing." I had similar thoughts when I finished Son of the Shadows. It was beautiful and incredible and powerful. Marillier gets the "best author discovered this year" prize. Perhaps the "best author discovered while I'm at grad school" prize--and that's saying a lot.
Her characters are well-drawn and moving--real characters, not roles or stereotypes. Very few books can make me cry, but this one did, because then I had invested so much of myself into the story. The setting is exquisite and tenderly rendered, creating a picture of an Ireland where the old ways clash with both Christendom and the still-older ways that lie hidden.
This tale is not a retelling of a traditional fairy tale, as Daughter of the Forest was. It's the story of Sorcha's daughter, the one who exists outside the pattern, the one the fair folk did not fortell, the one who might have the power to change everything.
It's beautiful and absolutely enthralling. Go forth and read. Right away. I mean it. (less)
You aren't supposed to read a 500 page book in one day... and then read it again the next day even though you have a bunch of other things to do becau...moreYou aren't supposed to read a 500 page book in one day... and then read it again the next day even though you have a bunch of other things to do because you just can't help it.
Sorcha is the youngest child and only daughter of an Irish lord who is too wrapped up in his war with the Britons to see the lovely young woman she’s becoming. Nevertheless, she is happy in the love and protection lavished upon her by her six brothers. But Sorcha finds her happy life ripped away from her by her father’s second wife who casts an evil spell on the six brothers. Only Sorcha has the power to save them, but at a terrible cost to herself. Marillier’s exquisite retelling of the Grim Brother’s tale “The Six Swans” is both powerful and enchanting, blending magic and history, love and war.