Perhaps not entirely historically accurate, but the author paints a rich, closely detailed world. There is enough intrigue and romance to keep shorterPerhaps not entirely historically accurate, but the author paints a rich, closely detailed world. There is enough intrigue and romance to keep shorter attention spans interested, and it's serious enough not to be complete brain candy. The one downside? Too many minor characters, sometimes it was hard to keep track of who everyone was. Enjoyable if you don't read too deeply or expect too much....more
Not quite vapid enough to be a bodice ripper, yet not quite heavy enough to be serious historical fiction, this book walks the fine line and manages tNot quite vapid enough to be a bodice ripper, yet not quite heavy enough to be serious historical fiction, this book walks the fine line and manages to be true to its setting while still being enjoyable enough to be a quick and engrossing read despite its daunting size. I enjoyed this more than I liked its sequel, Through a Glass Darkly. While I still found the fact that there were way too many characters to properly keep track of to be a problem, I enjoyed Alice infinitely more than Barbara as a character, and found her story to be much more interesting. ...more
Blah blah historically inaccurate, blah blah overdramatic. This is a fictional novel - key word fiction. Of course Gregory took liberties with detailsBlah blah historically inaccurate, blah blah overdramatic. This is a fictional novel - key word fiction. Of course Gregory took liberties with details and characterization. I managed to turn off the historical nitpicker and quite enjoyed the book. It wasn't particularly deep or thought-provoking (although it tried to be at times) but was mostly a quick, interesting read that pulled me in. At times I thought Mary was far too passive, considering everything that Anne had done to her, and that too much was attributed to Anne, but overall I have few complaints. It was interesting. The end....more
I read this ages ago and probably wouldn't enjoy it now but I loved it back in the day and I don't want to re-read it in fear that my memory of it wilI read this ages ago and probably wouldn't enjoy it now but I loved it back in the day and I don't want to re-read it in fear that my memory of it will be tarnished....more
I've been on a big historical fiction kick lately, and I loved Koen's last two books, and I liked this one a lot, just as well. My only problem was thI've been on a big historical fiction kick lately, and I loved Koen's last two books, and I liked this one a lot, just as well. My only problem was that the ending still left things unfinished - I would've liked to see Barbara, than to hear about her through her old friends. And the plantation plot didn't go anywhere in the end. In fact, I would've liked to read more about Virginia and less about London and intrigue. Barbara is much more interesting....more
Very long, but very well-written and -researched. While there were a few plot points that seemed like holes to me, and the ending seemed rushed comparVery long, but very well-written and -researched. While there were a few plot points that seemed like holes to me, and the ending seemed rushed compared to the rest of the book, I was completely engrossed in the story the whole way. Amazing....more
Jacob Jankowski, a young Polish man studying veterinary science at Cornell, loses his parents in a car crash. Left with nothing, not a cent to his namJacob Jankowski, a young Polish man studying veterinary science at Cornell, loses his parents in a car crash. Left with nothing, not a cent to his name, he walks out of his final exams and lost, wandering, hops a train. That train belongs to none other than the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, and before long, Jacob finds himself playing vet to a host of exotic animals, including chimpanzees, giraffes, lions and yes, the eponymous elephant (she is called Rosie and she is a notorious lemonade thief). Naturally, along the way (this is a coming of age story, after all) Jacob finds friends, makes enemies and even manages to finally lose his v-card falls in love.
What struck me so immediately and entirely about this book was Gruen's narration and the sheer amount of research she put into the novel. Her writing style strikes that perfect balance between simple prose and just the right amount of description to draw you into her world and hold you there. It's straightforward without being dumbed-down and eloquent without being flowery. Her circus folk use terms and phrases that are sometimes explained, sometimes not (I still don't know what a First of May is) but regardless, their words help bring the dusty, dirty, dangerous world of the train circus to life.
The depth of the many characters, human and animal alike, struck me. Nearly everyone had a distinct personality (more on that 'nearly' later) no matter how small of a role they played. The animals especially touched me, as an animal lover - I wanted to carry Bobo the chimp around and feed Rosie the elephant candy too - but be warned, Gruen doesn't shy away from sensitive subjects and thus there are quite a few instances of animal violence in the novel. It's heartbreaking, but it adds to the realism of the story. The good, the bad and the ugly is all on display here - Uncle Al's greed and the suffocating grip he has on his circus, August's terrifying outbursts, Barbara's promiscuity, Camel's tragic paralysis - nothing is glossed over or candy-coated, some people are cruel, some situations heart-breaking and the world more the richer for it.
The only aspect of the novel that fell flat to me was the romance. Marlena, the star of the liberty horse show and wife of the possibly-insane August, is beautiful and soulful, with a somewhat tragic past and an immense talent for performance. Sadly, she is just that - a pretty angel in pink sequins that Jacob so desperately wants to rescue from the unstable clutches of her husband. Their relationship is underdeveloped, based on escape - Jacob wants to save her and Marlena wants to be saved. There's no passion there, no chemistry. I was more interested reading about Barbara the cooch dancer.
Dull romance aside, I was perfectly satisfied reading the novel for the period descriptions, the action and the supporting characters. Gruen is a talented writer, and I adored the view she painted. The hardships, the struggles, the hopelessness and subsequent desperation, the first shining rays of hope; the animals' antics, the widely varied personalities of the circus folk, the slang, these were all things that made the story real for me and made me want to commend Gruen for a job well done. Next time, just leave the romance at home....more
I'm not going to recap the plot of the stories - the other reviewers have done that already. I'm just going to say that I really enjoyed the individuaI'm not going to recap the plot of the stories - the other reviewers have done that already. I'm just going to say that I really enjoyed the individual stories and the way they loosely wove together. The first and the last especially appealed to me.
Noyes is good at creating distinct characters and establishing their separate voices. Since the stories are all quite short, we get to know the characters in each tale just enough to give us a good sense of their personalities and histories and how they contribute to each story. Moreover, Noyes is very adept at setting the mood - in the first and second stories especially, I really felt the eerie, oppressive weight of Kerfol and the unsettling sensuality that she wove into the tales. The whole book is darkly atmospheric, madness and haunting mixed with lust and despair. A good quick read for a rainy day....more
Daphne Kalotay's debut novel, Russian Winter, is luminous, mysterious, masterfully crafted - and problematic. The novel follows prima ballerina Nina RDaphne Kalotay's debut novel, Russian Winter, is luminous, mysterious, masterfully crafted - and problematic. The novel follows prima ballerina Nina Revskaya from the streets of Soviet Moscow and the dressing rooms of the Bolshoi Theatre to present-day Boston, where she is auctioning off her marvelous jewelry collection. Her story is intertwined with that of Grigori Solodin, a professor and translator, who is in possession of a necklace that holds both the key to his birthright and a mystery that only Nina can solve, and Drew Brooks, an associate at the auction house, working to decipher the secrets that Nina is keeping.
I almost feel guilty putting this book on the 'historical fiction' shelf. It's hardly historical fiction, despite the fact that it's set in the 20s. TI almost feel guilty putting this book on the 'historical fiction' shelf. It's hardly historical fiction, despite the fact that it's set in the 20s. The most historical things in it are the clothes, some slang and, of course, the Prohibition and bootlegging. Otherwise, it's watered-down Gossip Girl with era envy.
I didn't much enjoy the first book in the series, and read this one out of a weird sense of obligation. Whereas Bright Young Things was simply unimpressive, Beautiful Days was borderline offensive. Let's look at our heroines: three skinny white girls, one of them wealthy and the other two perfect examples of rags-to-riches wish fulfillment. Anyone in their world who's overweight is instantly mocked, and there's not a person of color to be seen until the last twenty pages. Everyone is perfectly straight, with the exception of Billie, who's a cardboard cutout of the lesbian stereotype. There is a scene between Billie and Astrid that turned my stomach - if you're wondering why that's offensive, look up why Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" is offensive. And there's the extremely unhealthy, abusive relationship between Astrid and Charlie that's glorified in the same way that the abusive relationship between Bella and Edward is glorified.
All this aside, the book was simply boring. Nothing happened until the last fifty pages, and the other two hundred pages were wasted on descriptions of clothing, the girls whining and repeated failures to communicate. If any of the girls would just say what they mean at any given time, so much of the conflict in the book wouldn't have happened - but, of course, in a successful story there must be conflict and instead of creating something clever Godbersen seemed to go the lazy way of lobotomizing her heroines. Essentially every single struggle stems from the girls' expectancy to have their mind read and their wishes preemptively fulfilled. Communication is key, darlings!
Well! I didn't expect to have that many feelings on the book. From the other dissatisfied reviews, it seems that I should give Godbersen's Luxe series a try. I really hope it fills the many gaps that Bright Young Things has left behind. ...more
I am still trying to finalize and solidify my thoughts on The Diviners, but I'm fairly certain that this book comes swinging into a solid 3 stars forI am still trying to finalize and solidify my thoughts on The Diviners, but I'm fairly certain that this book comes swinging into a solid 3 stars for me. If I hadn't thought about it too hard, been too critical of a reader or considered Libba Bray's past works or audience, it would have likely been a solid 4 stars. But I had, and so it's not.
This is probably not going to be a cohesive review, but more trying to sort through my jumble of thoughts. Read at your own risk.
I was a huge fan of Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy when I first read it, but I've found her subsequent works to be lacking. I thought Beauty Queens was trying too hard and was rather in-your-face about its own satire; I couldn't get past the first 60 pages of Going Bovine although I suspect I'll give that one another try. I'm wondering if I'll even like A Great and Terrible Beauty nearly as much if I decide to re-read it, but I'm refusing to do so out of fear (is nothing sacred?!). So I dove into The Diviners with trepidation mixed with excitement. I am also decidedly not your average YA reader, and don't typically enjoy the most popular works (see my scathing one-star reviews of such timeless classics as Shiver or Wither). So it was going to be a toss-up.
Luckily I landed squarely in the middle. Throughout the read, the book proved to be enjoyable and entertaining; despite its heft, it was a quick, easy read and I blew through its 500+ pages quickly. My main problems were with the protagonist and the predictability of the plot.
Although it deals with some adult, heavy themes, The Diviners seems to be aimed squarely at YA readers. It reads very young, from Evie's characterization to the ridiculous amount of time it took our heroes to unravel the mystery. When the book did touch on heavier themes (trigger warning) (view spoiler)[such as rape (hide spoiler)] it felt uncomfortable and out of place. Evie herself acted and spoke like a much-younger teen, and I suspect she was declared to be seventeen so her drinking and partying wouldn't raise too many eyebrows. Still, mention of sexual desires between her and Jericho made me feel awkward, and I'm far from a shrinking violet when it comes to sex or violence. It was odd that I was more comfortable with the gruesome murder descriptions than Jericho admiring Evie's nightgown-clad body.
As I mentioned before, the plot was predictable to me; I guessed the twists and turns of the mystery pages before the characters did, especially because they took frequent detours to drink, kiss and fight. I guessed the pattern of the murders and the final 'offering', and had to wait around for the rest of the team to catch up on the page. Slightly irritating, but not a deal-breaker.
Unfortunately, I really disliked Evie. I liked that she was a real, flawed teenage girl with a past and desires, ambitions, etc (aka a well-rounded character) but I didn't like her personality or how little she'd developed throughout the story. I hated how selfish she was - everything she did, including helping with solving the murders, was to ensure her own well-being, and she didn't appear to care about any of her so-called friends (and certainly not her family) unless it served her somehow. She was immature and self-absorbed, and while those are perfectly valid character traits I don't particularly enjoy reading about such characters. I kept rolling my eyes and willing her to grow up, and she never did.
I was also really weirded out by the 'romance'. I thought the book was gunning for Evie and Sam, but all of a sudden Evie and Jericho flew in and smacked me in the head. There was no chemistry between the characters, and the 'romance' was so poorly developed, it blindsided me. At first Evie is complaining about how boring Jericho is, then she's admiring his broad shoulders. I'm pretty sure there's going to be a love triangle in the future installments. I can't wait. /poorly veiled sarcasm
OKAY I'M DONE COMPLAINING I SWEAR. I loved, loved Bray's writing and world-building in this book. She certainly did her research into the time period, and although the constant slang became a little much, the writing was so atmospheric that I loved being immersed in NYC in the 20s. I also appreciated that Bray delved into the Harlem Renaissance and wasn't simply content to whitewash the jazz age like some works I won't name - *cough*Bright Young Things*cough* - as its an incredibly important aspect of the 20s and needs to be acknowledged.
While I found the murder-mystery plot to be overly simplified for the benefit of the reader, I liked that it served to set up the stage for the future of the series. The fact that the murderer acted as a catalyst to bring the Diviners into being, and into the open, setting up the next chapter of the game. I'm excited to see how Bray brings out the wider, overarching plot of the series and ties it all together. She's a skilled writer, and I am looking forward to the next installment, despite all of my previous complaints. I just hope that Evie cools it with the slang and the selfishness in the future. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more