I had never heard of John Colt before I picked up this book, but I found his story fascinating and, at times, incredible. In fact, if I had encountereI had never heard of John Colt before I picked up this book, but I found his story fascinating and, at times, incredible. In fact, if I had encountered this story in a novel I probably would have quit reading in eye-rolling disbelief. That the story happened in an era we tend to regard as more restrained and straitlaced than our own just proves that the more things change, etc. etc.
I am in awe of the scholarship that must have gone into writing this book, and I admire how the author presented his facts without ever losing the narrative in extraneous detail. The research is clearly there, but the book moves along at a fast clip and is never less than absorbing. Well done. ...more
This book had hilarious moments, but ultimately it felt a bit formulaic. In just about every story Bertie acquires some jacket or painting that the ulThis book had hilarious moments, but ultimately it felt a bit formulaic. In just about every story Bertie acquires some jacket or painting that the ultra-conservative Jeeves deplores, Bertie refuses to get rid of it (pride of the Woosters, after all!), some problem arises that Bertie tries to solve without Jeeves' help, disaster ensues, Jeeves swoops in at the last moment to save the day and in gratitude Bertie gets rid of whatever item caused the rift between them in the first place. Often quite funny, of course, but it got a little monotonous after a while. I still love Bertie, and The Mating Season is still one of the funniest books ever written, but this collection of stories didn't quite do it for me. ...more
**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed this story, perhaps because I could identify with the heroine. I know how hard it is to break out of a cocoon/shell**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed this story, perhaps because I could identify with the heroine. I know how hard it is to break out of a cocoon/shell as the heroine attempts to do, and I could relate to the reserve that hinders her progress.
When [her family] began removing life-long restraints from Reba they observed her as eagerly as if (instead of being anything so ruled by the laws of nature as a girl, or even a rose) she were a magical Japanese flower that had only to be dropped into a glass of water to unfold into marvelous beauty. … In spite of long skirts and turned-up hair, removed restrictions, summer-resorts full of young people, diamond bracelets, gold watches and chains, Reba would not unfold. Occasionally one finds a Japanese flower that refuses to bloom in the water. It has been too tightly compressed. So had Reba.
I appreciate the strength she shows as she forges a path to independence, despite her family's attempts to stop her. I appreciate that she never turns her back on her family, instead returning to them on her own terms. I also love how the hero works to change and improve himself so that he can be worthy of the heroine. He was so sensitive to her wishes and believed her so far above him, that at times I felt he deserved better than a heroine who thought so meanly of him. Happily she redeems herself in the end. I wish all of Olive Higgins Prouty's works—especially the Vale series—were available in eBooks. I really admire the heart and depth of her writing....more
Interesting mystery. I liked the premise, the setting and the characters, though I found the writing style a bit much at times. Lines like: "Power ofInteresting mystery. I liked the premise, the setting and the characters, though I found the writing style a bit much at times. Lines like: "Power of suggestion," screamed Helena strike me as a little overwrought, and the author's technique of fading out of scenes just as someone is about to reveal something important was a little cornball. But overall I enjoyed the book and expect I'll give Carr another try....more
I like how this story has more depth than the usual romantic suspense novel. There is still romance (although it's fairly understated) and suspense, bI like how this story has more depth than the usual romantic suspense novel. There is still romance (although it's fairly understated) and suspense, but Stewart provides characterization, lots of character growth and a moving "No man is an island" theme that gives the story unusual resonance. Reading about the English characters' awe at seeing so many historical sites in Delphi made me wish I had more of a classical education and could quote Sophocles on command as they do, but luckily that level of information isn't necessary for enjoying this story. ...more
If I were ever to make an argument that the human race is getting dimmer as we go along—which I have long believed—this book could be part of the discIf I were ever to make an argument that the human race is getting dimmer as we go along—which I have long believed—this book could be part of the discussion. The Marriage of William Ashe was the best-selling book of 1905 in the United States. It was probably looked down on by some of the literary elite of the time, not just because of its popularity, but because of its melodrama and extravagance. However, comparing it to popular fiction of today, it is hard to escape the conclusion that our intellectual capacity is much less than it used to be. Maybe technology has made us dumber, or maybe peaks and valleys of achievement are natural, but it's hard to imagine a novel dealing with the meaning of love, loyalty, and the place of religion in modern life achieving a similar popularity today. At the time, The New York Times review of William Ashe said:
It reveals new depth and beauty with each reading; one appreciates how superbly the author has triumphed over unusual difficulties of situation and of character; and with what noble conclusions she has charged a story which might easily have sunk into a moral morass. Its place is with the books that do not die. Its author stands among the few living writers of fiction to whom the immortals have passed the torch.
Compare that with how, a mere one hundred years later, Publishers Weekly described the best-selling book of 2005, The Broker by John Grisham: "the novel reads like a contented afterthought to a memorable Italian vacation, with little action or tension, plastic characters and plot turns that a tricycle could maneuver." Quite a contrast to William Ashe, a novel that forces the reader to ponder issues such as the meaning of higher law:
Is it, as all the sages have said, the pursuit of some eternal good, the identification of self with it—the 'dying to live'? And is this the real meaning at the heart of Christianity?—at the heart of all religion?—the everlasting meaning, let science play what havoc it please with outward forms and statements?
Even the artwork mentioned in William Ashe points up the contrast between then and now. In the course of a Venetian holiday, the protagonists visit the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore to see The Last Supper by Tintoretto.
The author describes the painting in glowing detail, concluding
For there is in it an appeal which torments them—like the winding of a mystic horn, on purple heights, by some approaching and unseen messenger. Ineffable beauty, offering itself—and in the human soul, the eternal human discord: what else makes the poignancy of art—the passion of poetry?
Contrast that with the artwork our society reveres now. Such as White Painting by Robert Rauschenberg:
It's part of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art collection and is described on the website in glowing terms:
In each case, Rauschenberg’s primary aim was to create a painting that looked untouched by human hands, as though it had simply arrived in the world fully formed and absolutely pure. Considered shocking and even characterized as a cheap swindle when they were first exhibited publicly in 1953, the White Paintings have gradually secured a place in art history as important precursors of Minimalism and Conceptualism.
Standard Grace Livingston Hill fare. Saintly, beautiful heroine is beset by comically villainous foes who seek to destroy her. She bears her troublesStandard Grace Livingston Hill fare. Saintly, beautiful heroine is beset by comically villainous foes who seek to destroy her. She bears her troubles with angelic resignation (literally angelic; no human would react that way) and is eventually rewarded for her virtue beyond her wildest imaginings. These books are like a spoonful of whipped cream. Pleasurable, but need some substance to offset the cloying sweetness. ...more
It would be hard to say what I hate most about this book and its publication. I hate that my library website now lists To Kill a Mockingbird as "To KiIt would be hard to say what I hate most about this book and its publication. I hate that my library website now lists To Kill a Mockingbird as "To Kill a Mockingbird Series, Book 1" as if Go Set a Watchman is a sequel. (IT'S NOT A SEQUEL!) I hate that Harper Lee's lawyer claims she recently discovered the manuscript when in fact she has known about it since 2011 and was only waiting for Harper Lee's sister and longtime protector, Alice, to pass away before she and the publisher cashed in. I hate that the announcement of publication was made only two months after Alice Lee's death. And I especially hate that the lawyer, Tonja Carter, claims Harper Lee fully supports this publication when in fact Ms. Lee is a frail, hearing- and sight-impaired stroke victim living in a nursing home who was most likely manipulated into this publication.
All that would be appalling enough, even if the story were good. But it isn't. It's rough, it's preachy, it's boring, the dialogue is unrealistic, and Jean Louise's internal monologue switches between 1st and 3rd person in an odd, clumsy way. So maybe I hate most that the person tasked with protecting Harper Lee chose money over honoring her literary legacy. I hate that people are equating the Atticus Finch of this rough first draft to the Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird as if this book is a continuation of the same story rather than the germ of an idea that eventually became a classic novel. And I really hate that this money grab by Harper Collins and the bloodsucking lawyer will likely tarnish two great American classics--the book and the movie--forever. The sad thing is that it's working. This never-should-have-seen-the-light-of-day book has sold 1.1 million copies in a week--the fastest selling book in Harper Collins history--and I really, really hate that.
This week, the world lost its collective mind over a dentist who killed a lion. I'd like to reserve my outrage for the lawyer who killed a mockingbird....more
I used to love Jane Aiken Hodge way back when, but this book makes me wonder why. The storyline was silly, the romance lacked depth, the characters weI used to love Jane Aiken Hodge way back when, but this book makes me wonder why. The storyline was silly, the romance lacked depth, the characters were nondescript, and there really didn't seem to be much reason for the romance other than gratitude and propinquity. The heroine, Camilla, begins falling in love with the hero almost instantly--apparently for no reasons other than physical attraction and because he rescues her from governess hell. The hero, Lavenham, takes a little longer because he doesn't trust women. Emphasis mine, because we're told over and over that he doesn't trust women. In fact, the story occasionally dips into his point of view just so he can mutter to himself about how much he doesn't trust women. The episode from his childhood is certainly traumatic, which makes his attitude at least somewhat understandable, but after a while I just wanted to say, for god's sake grow up and get over it. The plot revolves around Lavenham's mission to Portugal which is comically vague. (The author includes a lot of history about Portugal's role in the Napoleonic Wars but skates over minor details like the hero's reason for being there.) His one brush with danger seems included only to provide a romantic interlude. He spends the rest of his time dancing attendance on the Portuguese royals to absolutely no effect. It is this life-or-death non-mission that also leads to his abandoning the heroine for close on 50% of the novel, leaving her and his own sister to fend for themselves as war erupts in Portugal. This is hardly heroic behavior but is not even the worst of what he does to the heroine. Happily for the romance, she's more willing to forgive him than I was on her behalf. All in all, a forgettable romance....more
Mary Stewart has to have been the most literate romantic suspense author ever to place a heroine in peril. Who else could have characters discussing wMary Stewart has to have been the most literate romantic suspense author ever to place a heroine in peril. Who else could have characters discussing whether Corfu could have been the island setting for Shakespeare's The Tempest, knowledgeably comparing notes on the details of the play (from memory, naturally), and making literary references that other characters always recognize, however obscure (Aleister?) Reading Stewart's stories is always educational and usually like taking a vacation abroad. In this case it's a travelogue of Corfu and the people--and one dolphin!--of Greece. The suspense component was suitably suspenseful even if the reasons behind the bad guy's actions were rather obscure. Perhaps the politics of it made more sense in 1964. The climactic scene seemed unnecessarily dramatic and the romance could have been more satisfying, but overall this was an enjoyable read....more
This is one of my least favorite of Heyer's Regency romances. The characters are unappealing, and the mystery at the heart of the story could be clearThis is one of my least favorite of Heyer's Regency romances. The characters are unappealing, and the mystery at the heart of the story could be cleared up by one frank conversation amongst family members. Not exactly riveting stuff. In a close race, the heroine finished as my least favorite character. An amazing chance to escape a life of drudgery as a governess comes her way (for however implausible a reason), thereby bringing her into contact with a charming set of brothers who fall all over themselves to accommodate her, and all she can do is whine about it. Sometimes she is spirited and intent on bringing the hero down a peg, which gives her the potential to be a fun character, but more often she is humorless and complaining, which makes her annoying and totally unworthy of the "splendid adventure" she finds herself in the midst of. The hero is a close second on the annoying front. He hoards information like gold--to the detriment of several other characters in the story--and behaves as if his word is law and his instincts infallible. The romance between them is nonexistent and only signaled by other characters' reaction to them. Far from compelling, but even sub-par Heyer is better than most....more
I'm kind of on the fence about this book. On the one hand, I loved the way Emily has to learn to craft a life for herself after all her friends go offI'm kind of on the fence about this book. On the one hand, I loved the way Emily has to learn to craft a life for herself after all her friends go off to college. She eventually does a good job of it--as one of her former teachers says to her:
"You've discovered, I see, that we have to build our lives out of what materials we have. It's as though we were given a heap of blocks and told to build a house..."
That's a message that really resonates with me and I enjoyed watching Emily grow. What I didn't enjoy as much was her odd obsession with Don, who from the beginning seemed like a real jerk, and the slightly preachy tone of the story. I appreciated Emily's zeal to help the Syrians, but the romanticized, one-dimensional portrayal of them was ridiculous (borderline insulting, really), and at times I felt the author was more interested in pushing a political agenda than in telling a story. That is (emphatically) not what I'm looking for in a novel. I read, re-read and loved the Betsy-Tacy books as a girl, but for me, this book doesn't quite measure up. ...more