This review is for both the print and audiobook versions of this book.
You know when a fantasy novel is shortlisted for a Man Booker Prize it's got toThis review is for both the print and audiobook versions of this book.
You know when a fantasy novel is shortlisted for a Man Booker Prize it's got to be doing something right. If you, like me, liked reading British Victorian fantasy (from writers like George MacDonald Fraser) when you were young, then you will love this book, which is like a grown-up exploration of a particularly British view of Faerie. If Jane Austen wrote fantasy, it would look something like this: crisply written prose, witty dialogue and a beautifully realized society of characters. Love!
UPDATE: I just listened to the audible version of this book and it was fantastic. Wonderfully narrated by Simon Prebble (who was perfectly cast and gave wonderful voice and inflection to all the characters in the book), this audiobook may be one of the best I've ever listened to. I listened to it before falling asleep at night and it truly made the perfect bedtime story for a grown up. I was completely transported by Prebble's soothing and drily witty storytelling style. I highly recommend the audiobook version of this book.
If I were to write a top five list of my all-time favorite Georgette Heyer novels, this one would definitely qualify. Set in the 18th century, this roIf I were to write a top five list of my all-time favorite Georgette Heyer novels, this one would definitely qualify. Set in the 18th century, this romantic comedy has one of Georgette Heyer's most captivating heroines - the stammering, diminutive Horry. The Convenient Marriage is one of the first Heyer novels to be enlivened a pack of dimwitted and silly young society men (think Wooster in PG Wodehouse's books) whose antics add a dimension of hilarity to the storyline. This bright, light, witty romantic comedy is an absolute delight to read....more
Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite books, it's one of my desert island books. Absolutely every time I read it, I get something about iPride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite books, it's one of my desert island books. Absolutely every time I read it, I get something about it. When I was in my teens, I read it for the romance, but as I matured, I started to get more and more out of it. Although I've heard the book dismissed as "wedding porn", the fact of the matter is, Jane Austen is pragmatic rather than romantic about marriage. Written at a time when divorces were almost impossible to get, Jane Austen's book takes marriage very seriously as who one marries permanently impacts the quality of one's life (which is still true, particularly if one has children). The book is full of unhappy marriages, most notably Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. Although at first glance, Mr. Bennett is more sympathetic than Mrs. Bennett, closer reading reveals an indictment of Mr. Bennett's laziness and contemptuous attitude towards his wife. In all of Jane Austen's novel, the romantic leads must earn their happy ending by getting to know one another very well, by establishing that their love interest is worthy of love and respect and, most importantly, have the stability that Jane Austen deems a necessary ingredient to a felicitous union. In every book there's an attractive, charming love interest whose flightiness makes them a bad bet for a long-term commitment like marriage. Her heroes and heroines have near-misses, avoiding marriage to these creatures. It's not particularly romantic, but honestly, I think Jane Austen's wisdom on these matters is still relevant. Love is a good starting point, but it's not really enough if you want to have a successful marriage or partnership.
I love this novel for its wisdom, it's well-observed comedy of manners. I love it because it's light and bright but also deep and wise. I love it because it entertains and informs. I just love it....more
I *heart* this book. I've re-read it several times and I'm sure I will re-read it many times more. What I love about this book is that it's not like eI *heart* this book. I've re-read it several times and I'm sure I will re-read it many times more. What I love about this book is that it's not like every other Renaissance-y or Celtic-y fantasy book I've read. Yes, the book takes place in an alternate Earth whose countries and religions bear striking similarities to our own, but Carey uses her mythological departures (from Christianity and Celtic pagan traditions, among others) as a way to shed light on religion in a new and interesting way. While her books read as straight up genre fiction, they leave you with a new perspective on religion and spirituality. Moreover, I have never read another book that handles sexuality in quite the way that Carey does and honestly that, more than anything else, is what makes her books so thoroughly addictive to me. They're just sexy, people. Remember the erotic impact of the first few Anne Rice vampire novels? Well, multiply that by three or four and you'll get what I'm talking about. I absolutely love the fact that Jacqueline Carey writes about all aspects of love and sex in a way that is ultimately positive and affirming. This book is a fun and satisfying adventure with great naughty bits and a surprisingly thoughtful aftertaste. Can't recommend it enough....more
Alice in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass were two of my favorite books when I was growing up. I fell thoroughly and deeply in loveAlice in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass were two of my favorite books when I was growing up. I fell thoroughly and deeply in love with the books' delicious nonsense and I can't say I ever really got over it. To this day there's nothing that delights me quite so much as a story with imaginative, unrealistic elements. Illogical impossibilities such as talking animals, spaceships, impossible travel, gods, monsters and conscious machinery? Sign me up, I can't get enough of it.
Recently I listened to the audiobook version of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and I realized just how deliberately Neil Gaiman is following in the tradition set by Lewis Carroll. His hero, Richard Mayhew, falls into an underworld version of London and his adventures there reflect the wordplay and delirious sense of fun of the original Alice books. Gaiman consciously echoes the Carroll's language, talking about how many impossible things Richard had believed before breakfast. (I'm paraphrasing, I don't have the book in front of me.) Revisiting London Below inspired me to revisit Wonderland and I'm very very glad I did. This is a marvelous book, justifiably celebrated as a classic, and I find it every bit as inspiring as an adult as I did as a child.
This is absolutely one of my favorite Georgette Heyer novels. It is almost a sequel to her first novel, The Black Moth. Almost all the main charactersThis is absolutely one of my favorite Georgette Heyer novels. It is almost a sequel to her first novel, The Black Moth. Almost all the main characters are here but with different names and slight adjustments to their back stories (hence the title). It's a swashbuckling historical romance in the vein of Scarlet Pimpernel and Alexandre Dumas and is absolutely delightful to read. Georgette Heyer is one of the most elegant and witty prose writers I've ever come across. She's like a cross between Jane Austen and PG Wodehouse but with an air of sophistication and an exquisiteness of taste that is all her own. This book is an excellent example of why Heyer's writing has been so admired by various more famous writers such as A.S. Byatt. But this book is not just well-written - it's blessed with one of her best plots and most memorable characters. It's a book that will make you laugh and cry and which you will close with a smile on your face. If you are only going to read one Georgette Heyer novel, then I nominate this as one of the contenders for that slot....more
I've read this book a couple of times and I absolutely love it. Maybe it's because I worked in advertising (and have my own horror of logos) but I reaI've read this book a couple of times and I absolutely love it. Maybe it's because I worked in advertising (and have my own horror of logos) but I really identified with the main character (even though obviously I am no where near as cool as she is). Usually with William Gibson novels, I feel like my brain is being overloaded with information at all times and I'm only absorbing a fraction of the data contained in the novels. But Pattern Recognition manages to have all of the thematic complexity that William Gibson fans expect with a "cleaner" narrative that is much easier to follow. The writing here is so filmic that when I think about the book I actually see scenes in my head as if I've experienced them visually rather than textually. In fact, I'm simultaneously dying for someone to film this book and at the same time terrified that whoever shoots it will screw it up. Really a wonderful, hauntingly beautiful book. My words of praise do not come anywhere near doing this book justice....more
Neverwhere is one of my favorite novels. The sheer inventiveness of it makes my brain fizz over with happiness.
Richard Mayhew, a Scot living in LondoNeverwhere is one of my favorite novels. The sheer inventiveness of it makes my brain fizz over with happiness.
Richard Mayhew, a Scot living in London, helps an injured girl named Door and is drawn into the world of London Below, a city that exists in the mystical margins of London Above, peopled by the people who fell between the cracks. Like Alice in Lewis Carroll's books, Richard is forced to face a series of impossible events that he is barely able to cope with. Door's entire family has been slaughtered and she is being stalked by Croup and Vandermar, supernatural assassins (and seriously among the best villains ever created). She needs to find out who is after her and why before Croup and Vandermar can finish her off. For anyone who has ever looked at a London Tube map and marveled at the names, Neverwhere is a particular delight as Neil Gaiman's vivid imagination turns various tube stop names into real things. We have an Angel named Islington, an Earl's Court (a medieval court housed in a train carriage that travels the Underground, presided over by an Earl), actual black friars. These delights only scratch the surface of all the delightful improbabilities of London Below. It's not a place I'd want to live but it is an amazing place to visit.
I already loved the book before downloading the audiobook version but hearing Neil Gaiman read it made me fall in love with it over again. Who knew that Gaiman was such a good reader? He does a great Scottish accent for his hero Richard Mayhew and gives marvelous life to his delicious villains Croup and Vandermar. I highly, highly recommend checking the audiobook out....more
I just reread this book for the first time since childhood and was delighted to find I enjoyed it and loved it every bit as much as an adult. ApparentI just reread this book for the first time since childhood and was delighted to find I enjoyed it and loved it every bit as much as an adult. Apparently, Burnett was inspired by an unfinished story of Charlotte Brönte's to write this story and I definitely felt a relationship between this book and Jane Eyre. Both novels deal with intelligent, imaginative, moral orphans whose spirits are not broken by the cruelty they are treated with by the adults in whose care they find themselves. This book is sweet but it is not saccharin - Sara Crewe is a tough, strong little thing and her moral rectitude, honesty and sense of honor are pretty inspiring....more
Of the recent biographies of Anne Boleyn, I'd say this is the best and for that reason, I've held on to as a reference. I particularly like the fact tOf the recent biographies of Anne Boleyn, I'd say this is the best and for that reason, I've held on to as a reference. I particularly like the fact that Ives is careful to note his attributions, or at the very least the texts on which he is basing his ideas. There are assertions made by the author that I don't entirely agree with -the available evidence on Anne Boleyn's early life is quite slim and as a result almost all biographies on her are largely extrapolated. Overall a well-researched biography. For an assessment of Anne Boleyn's life that feels more accurate, I would refer you to David Starkey's excellent Six Wives of Henry VIII. What Eric Ives' book has that David Starkey's lacks is depth of information. For any serious student of the time, it is useful to read the suppositions of a scholar who has studied the available evidence, even if some of his conclusions seem over-confidently stated. If you are looking for a companion piece to read to counterpoint Eric Ives, I recommend Retha Warnicke's biography of Anne Boleyn....more
Wow. I can not believe I had never heard of Lois McMaster Bujold before a month ago. Because after reading this book, I want to read everything else sWow. I can not believe I had never heard of Lois McMaster Bujold before a month ago. Because after reading this book, I want to read everything else she's written. She is a fantastic writer. The book is clearly inspired by Medieval Spain (in the same way that Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books are inspired by post-Roman Empire Europe), Iselle and her desire to unite her country through marriage and war are strongly reminiscent of Isabella of Castile (who ultimately united Spain). The hero, Cazaril, is a little bit of a Don Quixote figure - doggedly faithful and romantic, he is a little bit of a saint and a little bit of a madman. At first, the book almost reads as a straight up historical re-imagining. But then, we start to learn about the curse of the Chalion royal family and the role of the five gods in the lives of the main characters. And that is when the book leaps to a whole other level. This book is not only fun to read and filled with interesting, love-able (yet imperfect and human) characters it has an incredibly satisfying spiritual themes. I loved it. This is the perfect book to curl up with on a lazy, rainy Sunday because once you pick it up, you will NOT want to put it down....more
Full disclosure: Emmie was my teammate during GISHWHES. So I'm not even going to pretend to be neutral about this book, but I am going to say, THANK GFull disclosure: Emmie was my teammate during GISHWHES. So I'm not even going to pretend to be neutral about this book, but I am going to say, THANK GOODNESS IT'S GOOD! Because you know there's always that worry when you read a book by someone you know that it isn't and you won't know what to say. This book is a gritty, realistic take on a superhero story. I don't mean gritty in the Batman Begins way that has broad strokes of gloss along with the darkness of the story. There's no gloss here. This story is set in a very real Edinburgh, Scotland. (Scotland on the verge of voting on the referendum, no less.) A place where ordinary people have to struggle for the little they have while around them they see the wealth of tourists and English-owned businesses. The main character is a smart, ambitious lower middle class Scottish woman who's barely scraping by in her entry-level accounting job. She's got a jerk of a boyfriend, a tyrannic boss and a roommate who's essentially a stranger. But all of that changes when Gwen drinks a super-charged Irn-Bru that gives her average body an upgrade in strength, speed & stamina and her voice the ability to mimic others' voices perfectly. This book offers all the juicy verve of our favorite underdog stories, in which against all odds a hero emerges to right the wrongs of society's injustices. It was a pleasure to read and I recommend it to anybody who loves a good superhero story....more