Firstly, I must say I shelved this on my Virginia shelf even though it takes place in West Virginia, for many reasons. It takes place in an unnamed coFirstly, I must say I shelved this on my Virginia shelf even though it takes place in West Virginia, for many reasons. It takes place in an unnamed county that is adjacent to Virginia (with some switching of allegiance between the North and South during the War). A lot of details remind me of Front Royal - it was established in 1788, it is home to the American Everlasting Hosiery Company (reminiscent of American Viscose/Avtex), it is a railroad town, and I think I even noticed a reference to a Lehew family. Very weird! But of course, I love when books take place in my backyard, so it got automatic bonus points.
And let me tell you - the setting is spot on. Without going over the top with excessively direct descriptions, Barrows captured small town life, Depression-era life, Southern life, and life for a 12-year-old with a semi-broken family. That is skill. (Since I personally can't imagine a 12-year-old's voice, I couldn't decide if she captured Willa's voice quite right for awhile, but in the end I decided it was convincing.) I truly don't think I can do justice to how authentic everything about this novel was. In addition to the setting, the characters were remarkably drawn too; the had distinct personalities, thoughts, feelings, and voices, which is to me is less common in fiction than one would expect. (I think the writer's voice often overtakes the character's.) I particularly enjoyed the dialogue, which I could swear I heard out loud - particularly all the "how-you?"s! While Willa and Layla were arguably the main characters, others (particularly the aunts) were just as present and vibrantly drawn.
And look, I've hardly talked about the plot at all. Clearly, without plot this book could stand on its own as a slice of life in Depression-era WV. But the story was strong too, and the title sums it up perfectly - this was a book about the truth according to various members of the Romeyn family, citizens of Macedonia, and others. Barrows explores the nature of truth and lies, the reason one might be chosen over the other, and the effect they have on the teller and the told. She does this using more than one situation, as well. From the family's past (as seen by various members) to the history of the town (as seen by prominent families in contrast to the reality unearthed by Layla as she researches for the WPA), the effects of these lies echo to the present (1938). Yet the truth continues to be hidden. Some of the characters grow and change while others remain stagnant, and it all comes back to their relationship with and perception of the truth.
I've just gone and made this novel sound really heavy, but I promise it's not. Nor is it light and frothy. The Truth According to Us is the kind of book that you quickly and easily come to inhabit while you're reading, and when you finish it and close the cover, you find that it has also come to inhabit you. (Translation: you fall right into it and fly right through it, and when you finish, you can't stop thinking about the themes!)...more
This book just didn't grab me the way I hoped it would, so much so that I nearly gave it only 2 stars. The concept was great, and the unfolding of theThis book just didn't grab me the way I hoped it would, so much so that I nearly gave it only 2 stars. The concept was great, and the unfolding of the plot from multiple points of view was a good storytelling choice. However, the suspense just felt too weak to me. Here's a woman who has an unknown person basically threatening her life (by exposing her past and/or pushing her in front of a train), but her fear of exposure/death just doesn't seem that real. (view spoiler)[Add that to the fact that Jonathan's parents wrote an entirely fictional account and didn't know what actually happened in Spain... (hide spoiler)] I felt like this was a kernel of a story that could have been developed a lot more if it was treated more as domestic/realistic fiction than suspense. How each character handled the truth (or their version of it), how the secret affected their personalities/relationships/psyches, how Jonathan and Nick became the men they became from the boys they were... I would have loved to see more thoughtfulness and less voyeurism. (view spoiler)[While it worked really well for the plot, I am never a fan of rape for storytelling value. When it is used, I hate for it to sound so detached and unemotional, used as a plot device in a largely heartless manner. However, I did love how strong Catherine was, particularly in leaving her husband who was so much more "accepting" of her rape than the thought of her being unfaithful. (hide spoiler)] So while I somewhat enjoyed this book and would definitely read another by Knight, I'm sad to say that Disclaimer didn't live up to the promise of its blurbs....more
This is my first book by Santa Montefiore, but I don't think it will be my last. This is the story of not one but two beekeeper's daughters. In the 19This is my first book by Santa Montefiore, but I don't think it will be my last. This is the story of not one but two beekeeper's daughters. In the 1930s, Grace learns the art from her father Arthur; in the 1970s (and to a greater extent later in life), Trixie learns the art from her mother Grace in turn. I thought Montefiore did a wonderful job of describing the people and places of both timelines. The English countryside and Massachusetts seaside were equally vibrant in my mind. I felt like I came to know many of the characters well, and I could feel what they felt--it's been a long time since a book made me want to fall in love, but this one did. Montefiore's writing is subtle and exquisite, bringing alive emotions from first love and familial love to grief and regret. Some characters were less accessible, simply because they were keeping secrets and hiding their true natures or feelings. It was beautifully done. Buzzing through the whole narrative were bees, as plot points and as metaphors; they were perfect for tying the whole thing together.
I thought the book was great, and it was well on its way to 4 stars, until the epilogue. Or really the last couple of paragraphs of the epilogue, where they live conveniently ever after when a magic wand erases most of their problems and everything is abruptly wrapped up in a tidy package. (view spoiler)[When Jasper's wife left him and he immediately decided he could be with Trixie now, I thought it was just horrible. He couldn't leave his wife and duty before, but suddenly it's ok when he didn't have to be man enough to do it himself? Awful! (hide spoiler)] I would have preferred a vague, tomorrow-is-another-day, GWTW-type ending. Seriously, aside from the epilogue it was a delightful, insightful, heart-tugging gem of a book.
*edit: What the heck, I'm going for 4.*["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I was unsure whether I really wanted to read this, because I didn't see how Andersen could continue with fresh ideas for the series--but I'm glad I diI was unsure whether I really wanted to read this, because I didn't see how Andersen could continue with fresh ideas for the series--but I'm glad I did. This book is about a new generation of Tudors in an alternate history, where Elizabeth has married Philip of Spain and had a daughter with him, and her deceased brother William (son of Anne Boleyn) might have had an illegitimate daughter with Minuette (central character of the first trilogy). This book was more about William's daughter than Elizabeth's, and I liked it that way, because it felt less fake. Some of the problems of Elizabeth's fictional reign echo history, such as the issue of what to do with Mary of Scots and the question of divorce and succession. (Henry's divorce apparently paved the way for Philip and Elizabeth to amicably split, but which country's succession does their daughter belong to?)
At the center of the novel was a French Catholic plot to oust the English Protestant queen, which was more than plausible. Lucette Courtenay (daughter of Minuette and possibly of the dead king)'s place as Walsingham's spy seemed unlikely but also somehow convincing. To this suspenseful situation, add a dash of romance and parental conflict in the life of a likeable 22-year-old girl, and you have a pretty entertaining read. Sure, part of me would like more depth to the alternate history (hinted at by bits such as the continued existence of Guildford Dudley, executed for treason in historic reality), but on the other hand I liked the light and frothy treatment. I'm spoiled--I just want to have it both ways!
*edit: And can I say the original trilogy's covers were girly yet tasteful, but this cover is just stupid looking?*...more
I enjoyed this book a lot more than Midnight Crossroad. If this had been the first book in the series, I think it would have worked a lot better. HarrI enjoyed this book a lot more than Midnight Crossroad. If this had been the first book in the series, I think it would have worked a lot better. Harris continued to be vague and mysterious about the townfolk in some ways, but not so much that things just didn't make sense. On the other hand, part of this clarity came from introducing peripheral characters from Sookie's universe, and I liked the idea of it taking place in its own world. Still, it does have a different enough feel from Bon Temps to work out. This entry also had a better mystery with a pretty clearly executed investigation than the first book, which gave it the more genre mystery feel (with an obvious fantasy bent) that I enjoyed in the early Sookie books. So all in all, a relief that Harris is improving as this series continues, rather than completely falling apart as Sookie did....more
How many books have I read by Picoult? Three? I'm already sensing a pattern - family drama/tragedy leading to estrangement and a court case, and we alHow many books have I read by Picoult? Three? I'm already sensing a pattern - family drama/tragedy leading to estrangement and a court case, and we all live judiciously ever after. That's not to say this (and the other books I've read by Picoult) weren't good, it's just that they're already feeling formulaic.
That being said and on the other hand, she does really bring some interesting issues to light and leave her reader with a lot of food for thought. In this case, the idea of who has the authority to make end-of-life decisions for a man in a coma, which was about as complicated as such a situation could get. The son had reached the age of majority and previously had a specific conversation about his father's end-of-life wishes, but they had since fallen out and not spoken for years. The daughter was a minor and hadn't had a specific conversation with him on the subject, but they'd lived alone together for years so she knew him best. Add to that the medical reality versus hope for survival, and you've got one complex situation. Oh yeah, and the stepfather is a lawyer who gets involved in the case too.
I was a bit frustrated because I related much more to one point of view than the other, perhaps partially because I found one of the siblings to be more sympathetic than the other. Of course, this could be a chicken/egg scenario where I was more sympathetic to said sibling because I related more to their point of view. Either way, it felt inevitable and not balanced to me. But I think that's the nature of the subject matter, and Picoult does a good job (in this and other books) with illustrating both sides as fairly as she can.
In an interesting twist, she made Luke, the coma patient, a sort of wolf-cultural anthropologist. He observes them, he lives among them, and he learns how their society works. Picoult obviously did a lot of research, and it gave her a great jumping off point to explore what it means to be wolf and what it means to be human. How much of the wild is in a human being? Is a wolf's way more natural? Are we the same or different? Which way is better?
So, as always, a thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining read from Picoult....more
Despite the cover, this book is way more serious than chick lit-y (though there are several chuckle worthy moments). There was also more than one placDespite the cover, this book is way more serious than chick lit-y (though there are several chuckle worthy moments). There was also more than one place where I was incredibly choked up (okay, maybe even crying and nose-blowing). It was quite an emotional ride.
If the cover looks very Kate and Will, there's a reason. The royal Lyons family is very like the Windsors, with an older ruling queen, her stiff son, his absent wife (though here she is suffering from some sort of dementia and tucked away in the country instead of deceased), and their two sons - the older serious one and the younger (ginger haired) playboy. Gee, sound familiar? And after nearly a decade-long relationship, the heir marries a commoner (though she's American, not a wealthy Englishwoman). Despite sounding like things are "plagiarized" from reality, there are enough changes and details to make it feel fresh, and the similarities just ground the characters enough in reality to make it feel, well, realistic. (The history of the monarchy felt pretty real too - Queen Victoria was their ancestor, but after that, the authors are very vague about the descendancy. So it's fictional, but grounded in reality.)
Of course, it was way more than the echoes of reality that made everything feel so real. The characters were incredibly drawn, from the major players to those we see only in passing. I cannot adequately describe how well-written the characters were. Added to a very well developed plot (I liked the choice of five sections that took place a couple of years apart each), I felt the things that happened to them. I was elated, frustrated, despondent, and in love.
And I must really be in a thinking mood lately, because this one also made me ponder about the nature of celebrity, especially royal celebrity, and the connected ideas of privacy, identity, public masks, etc. etc. etc. Take that beloved Duchess of Cambridge, for instance. Since we first "met" her, she's always seemed so classy, poised, and lovely. But is she really? Or does the private Kate like to drink and curse and generally act a fool with her friends like the fictional Bex does? We'll never know, I guess. But I never thought about it before, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. By taking inspiration from a real person and crafting some incredible fiction, Cocks and Morgan shine a light on just how uncomfortable (and maybe even excruciating) unasked-for celebrity can be. With little Prince George in the picture (not to mention the impending arrival of his younger sibling next month), I could easily see this duo of authoresses taking up the tale of Nick and Bex starting a family - and I bet it would be just as unexpectedly real and fresh as The Royal We.
Now that was a lot of typing for a review of a book that I expected to be fluff. I think royal lovers and haters alike would enjoy this story and learn a bit about the negative effect of all the adoration on people who are real individuals, not storybook characters. All thanks to some storybook characters who read like real individuals. Good stuff....more
This was a surprisingly meaty book for being so short. Despite its length, Lévy-Bertherat conveyed a lot with her concise yet descriptive writing. ArcThis was a surprisingly meaty book for being so short. Despite its length, Lévy-Bertherat conveyed a lot with her concise yet descriptive writing. Archaeology Hélène moves to an apartment in Paris above that of her great-uncle, Daniel Roche (aka H.R. Sanders, author of a popular adventure series). What follows is a rediscovery of childhood (both her own and those of her acquaintances that read her uncle's books), an unearthing of family history (and what our roots say about us), an examination of whether reality or our own version defines our lives, and an inquiry into the origin of stories. And yet it could also be read simply as an entertaining story of family mystery if one doesn't want to think deeply. Of course, you'll have to do some thinking, because the author is very subtle and leaves the reader to connect many dots. So I'll summarize this highly gratifying book as I started: a very big book for being so small!...more
Frankly, I'm relieved this series has come to an end. I stuck with it because I really liked Gloriana in the beginning, and I had to know how things eFrankly, I'm relieved this series has come to an end. I stuck with it because I really liked Gloriana in the beginning, and I had to know how things ended up for her. I think the addition of gods and goddesses several books ago is what really turned me off, particularly when Greek and Roman are mixed willy nilly with no obvious reason. I guess as love triangles were cleared up, family drama became necessary instead. And oh, what drama. Glory's parents, especially her mother, are way too single-minded, to the point where they feel more like convenient plot devices than characters. And while Glory continues to pay lip service to wanting to be an independent woman, Blade purchasing a building (far outside of her means) as a wedding present is A-OK. So yeah, just a lot of problems for me as a reader, but I guess it was a decent enough wrap up with "farewell performances" from many of Glory's old lovers and friend. ...more
Atkinson is a beautiful writer, and this book exemplifies her skill. It can be read with or without having read Life After Life (having been written aAtkinson is a beautiful writer, and this book exemplifies her skill. It can be read with or without having read Life After Life (having been written as a companion rather than a sequel), and it may appeal more to those looking for a man's perspective of the war and no alternate timelines. I love how she eschews a linear timeline in favor of jumping around in Teddy's life, from 1925 to 2012 to 1960, all the while circling 1942-1943 like Teddy's bomber over Berlin. You see how the war changed Teddy in some ways and reinforced his character in others. And in a way he's an Everyman, affecting the people whose lives touch his--his grandchildren, his flight crew, women he meets in the war--just by being himself. I think its particularly fascinating how his daughter, granddaughter, and grandson all inevitably become who fate dictates they become because of where they came from... Okay, convoluted I know. But Atkinson has a gift for making me think, and often in circles, apparently! And on that subject, I must say that while this book was wonderful to begin with, Atkinson's ending takes it to an entirely different level, making you want to either sit and think for awhile or turn directly to page one and start over! It's not Life after Life, but it's still a phenomenal book on its own. ...more
Apparently lots of people like this book enough to give it 4 or 5 stars. Not me. I didn't like the plot, I didn't like the disjointed narrative methodApparently lots of people like this book enough to give it 4 or 5 stars. Not me. I didn't like the plot, I didn't like the disjointed narrative method, I didn't like any of the characters, I didn't like the humor (I didn't laugh once), and I didn't like the portrayal of cats in general. Of course they're highly intelligent, but evil minions of Beezlebub? Please. Even if they were, they wouldn't need a human go-between, especially such a weak one. Very sad. I need to go find theA Dog's Purpose for cats now....more
Despite having hints of My Name Is Memory, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, various medical thrillers, and even Now You See Her, this book was still oneDespite having hints of My Name Is Memory, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, various medical thrillers, and even Now You See Her, this book was still one of a kind. Even though it was technically sci-fi, it felt more like a paranormal/historical/mystery/romance-type genre bending mashup. Which I quite like. I'm sure it won't come as a big surprise to people who know me that my biggest complaint was that I wanted more. Although this time I feel more justified in saying so. Womack had this great idea that could have been so much more fully developed, instead of the convenient and sudden reveal of "the Egyptian life." (Side note: Why did all of the past lives have to be historically known? Why couldn't they have been regular people?) I think the Egyptian life in general is what turned me off in the end. It took a plot that relied on science with very little suspension of disbelief and suddenly gave it this "woo woo" element that just didn't feel right. With a more satisfying climax/falling action, I would have liked this book a whole lot more. Still, it was an enjoyable read overall....more
I quite enjoyed this new book by Kinghorn. It was definitely lighter than The Memory of Lost Senses (and presumably The Last Summer as well from whatI quite enjoyed this new book by Kinghorn. It was definitely lighter than The Memory of Lost Senses (and presumably The Last Summer as well from what I've heard, though I haven't read that one). While there was family drama, it was more of the hidden affairs and young people acting out varieties than the deep dark family secrets variety. Of course any book about this time period will draw comparisons to Downton Abbey, which generally annoys me, but this one really is a great read-alike - it's frothy and fun, there's a big country house with three daughters reaching womanhood, there are servants with their own secrets, and there's even an upstairs-downstairs romance between a daughter and the chauffeur! It was really good for historical fiction "for women." It was well anchored with descriptions of clothes, music, dances, and food (of course), but also with name-dropping of politicians (in the context of women's suffrage) and historic events. I think I can honestly say I've never read a book that included Agatha Christie's disappearance as a starting point before! I also liked her obvious (but not overdone) use of the snow globe as a metaphor for Daisy's privileged life. So while I didn't have a reaction dramatic enough to merit 4 stars (I rarely do, these days!), I must say that this book was lovely and a perfect read for times when this is the kind of book you're looking for (if that makes sense)....more
This novel was truly one of a kind and definitely a strong debut. Fishbane cleverly mixes the tales of a true historic figure (Anna Swan) and a womanThis novel was truly one of a kind and definitely a strong debut. Fishbane cleverly mixes the tales of a true historic figure (Anna Swan) and a woman of his own invention (Andorra Kelsey). Both are giants (nearly 8 feet tall), both are immigrants (from Canada and Andorra), both live through war (the Civil War and the Great War), and, most importantly, both struggle to find a measure of normality (in vocation, love, and life in general) in a world that is not kind to those who are different, particularly women. I was impressed at how well-drawn both characters were, especially considering their creator is a man and of average size. I wanted to give this more than 3 stars, but my reading theme of the year is greediness - I just wanted more! There were so many subjects and emotions touched upon that I would have loved to see unpacked more completely. Ultimately, the book just felt too short to contain two larger-than-life ladies. Ah, but the promise! I look forward to Fishbane's next endeavor....more
After I finished this book, I immediately went back to read the publisher's blurb, because it wasn't at all what I was expecting It was much less of aAfter I finished this book, I immediately went back to read the publisher's blurb, because it wasn't at all what I was expecting It was much less of a history/self-help than a... self-history? Bolick chronicles her romantic history and self-awakening as influenced by five historic women (so she chronicles their romantic histories as well). Some of it was quite interesting and thought-provoking (although she was preaching to the choir here - which will be her main audience, I assume), but it just wasn't the book I expected. Yet another case of needing to find the right reader for the book!...more
I like a good parallel narrative, and this was no exception. What made this one special was that the historical plot took place in the 12th century (mI like a good parallel narrative, and this was no exception. What made this one special was that the historical plot took place in the 12th century (much earlier than most of these types of books) and in Japan (much different from the usual Western setting). The modern story was also more complex, as it followed two sisters with very different lives - an interesting look at nurture vs. nature, I thought. I thought all of the characters, primary and secondary, were incredibly well-written. Dilloway also balances the modern and historic stories well, especially considering the complexity of relationships and domestic struggles in each. I particularly liked that the sisters struggled to figure out why their mother had this story of Tomoe Gozen hidden away in her things. While they never really get a satisfactory answer, it makes them think long and hard about themselves and their mother. So while the reader may also feel unsatisfied on this point, it's really the question - not the answer - that's important. I think How to Be an American Housewife needs to go on my to read list!...more
I don't know why I was so underwhelmed by this book. The concept was good, the writing was fine, the characters were likeable enough... So what was itI don't know why I was so underwhelmed by this book. The concept was good, the writing was fine, the characters were likeable enough... So what was it? I guess the execution just fell a bit flat. Particularly the rather abrupt ending. I'm finding it really difficult to put into words, clearly. So I'll just say that it's a good story, and someone is going to really love it, but that someone was not me....more
I never would have picked this up if it weren't for book club, and I never would have imagined giving it four stars, but here we are! It took me a fewI never would have picked this up if it weren't for book club, and I never would have imagined giving it four stars, but here we are! It took me a few dozen pages to get into it, because the writing just seemed so juvenile. (Of course, this was because it was told from the point of view of a newborn puppy, so that makes perfect sense, but it didn't make it any easier to read.) At first I thought it was going to end up being a catalog of how humans mistreat dogs, which also didn't bode well, but it morphed into this big, multi-life story of how people love dogs in different ways, how dogs feel differently about different people, and what our purpose in each other's lives are. It was really beautiful.
Every now and then it made me smile to myself and sometimes let out a small chuckle, but I wouldn't call it "hilarious" as some people have. The humor was in the realistic. I particularly enjoyed the dog's (he goes by many names over time - Toby, Bailey, Fella, Ellie, Bear, Buddy) opinion on the cats he encounters over his lives. I was so relieved he wasn't able to "talk" to them, as that would have completely juvenilized the whole thing; in fact, Cameron was very successful at not writing what could have easily been an infantile book after the early chapters (that, as I said, were probably meant to read that way).
This was a "page turner," not in the suspenseful sense but in the sense that you grow to love the dog and his voice and can't wait to see who he becomes and what he gets up to next. Somehow Cameron balanced an entertaining story with some really thought-provoking ideas while (largely) avoiding sentimentalization. And ok, it made me sob. More than once. My cats were not impressed with the amount of snuggling I wanted to do when I finished it, which I'm sure Bailey would see as further evidence of their inferiority! :)...more
I knew I was going to like this book, and I knew it wasn't going to be nearly long enough. Right on both counts, but in ways that I wasn't expecting.
TI knew I was going to like this book, and I knew it wasn't going to be nearly long enough. Right on both counts, but in ways that I wasn't expecting.
There is just no way that anyone can write a travelogue that covers 196 (plus some now nonexistent) countries in a completely thorough manner. Do you talk about each country one at a time, or do you do an overview of subjects - food, religion, war, sex - with brief comparisons of standout countries? Podell does a little bit of each, alternating between chapters on specific countries (or more often regions), how he managed his travels logistically, highlights of visits, and subjects like foods of the world (one of my favorite sections). And it was great, but I did want more. More more more! This extends to accompanying materials as well. I did read an ARC, and it was obvious that some pictures were missing (the captions were included), but I loved the ones that were there. Too many travelogues rely on the words, and Podell's words do speak for themselves, but the images really add something, particularly when they're so well chosen. On the other hand, I would have loved a map or two - or 20!
Podell begins by saying that his book will include countries that most people won't see in their lifetimes, but this ends up largely equating to one continent: Africa. There were a few mentions of the Middle East and South America, and nations like China were mentioned in passing due to subjects like food, but on the whole it felt very unbalanced. I think a bit more on European and North American countries would have lent an interesting study in contrasts - and really, how many Americans are likely to travel to Finland or Latvia? There were a few great inclusions of non-African nations like Nauru and Mongolia that were fascinating, but again... I wanted more!
Another example of my longing for more story is his visit to Yemen. He hints at interesting personal experience with qat, but skips right over it (in stark contrast to Horwitz's entertaining descriptions in Baghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia), but then he tells this fabulous story about his "invention" of sushi to the excitement of fellow (Taiwanese) tourists. Perhaps the best sections were those on Cuba and North Korea, since Americans have been banned from Cuba and fewer than 1000 Americans have visited North Korea since the end of the war. Podell's thoughts on the communist governments of each country were really intriguing as well. While he didn't directly contrast them, an engaged reader will definitely find some thought-provoking ideas in contrasting them herself.
And speaking of Podell's thoughts - what a guy! He's a great storyteller and just seems like such a character. He's had multiple successful careers (ad man, journalist, lawyer, etc.) and more girlfriends than I could wrap my head around. (Tantalizing hints of his personal life are sprinkled in where they can't be avoided. He traveled with lots of girlfriends - 34 female traveling companions thanked in the acknowledgements! - and tries to pick up college girls in Brisbane when he's over 70. Then comes home in 2012 and marries a woman 49 years his junior. I love this dirty - and yet somehow classy - old man!) He can be very funny, sometimes goofy and sometimes dry. (Goofy example - he make a pun involving poetry and lemurs that ends with the invention of the "lemurick.") Every now and then I felt his humor bordered on non-PC (and in the acknowledgements he thanked someone for making him cut things more offensive than those he included), so that might turn off some readers. Anyway, he's also very intelligent and insightful, on subjects from the aforementioned communism to global warming to overpopulation and its relationship to rice. (Another note: he's a very liberal, educated, atheist Jew from New York, and his ideas reflect that - be warned, conservative readers.) And of course, he is enterprising, brave, adventurous, and - let's be honest - just plain ballsy. And maybe a little bit crazy. But awesome. His would be some excellent coattails to grab onto to see the world.
And I would love to see more books by him, perhaps more detailed stories of his travels broken down by region (Podell on Oceania) or subject (Podell on World Relgion). So to conclude this enormous review, I highly recommend this one - if you go into it knowing that it's going to whet your appetite but leave your hunger raging in the end!...more
I just couldn't put this one down... thank goodness it was Saturday! I loved almost everything about it. The writing was very descriptive and evocativI just couldn't put this one down... thank goodness it was Saturday! I loved almost everything about it. The writing was very descriptive and evocative. It was like stepping right into Belle Époque Paris - particularly the world of art and architecture. And I wasn't expecting this at all, but it was quite erotic, in a way that reminded me a bit of Alma Katsu's Taker trilogy (which also had a good historical feel) - but this was better. At first the way Rose describes the house of La Lune feels a bit like magical realism (à la the Waverly House in Garden Spells, and then it takes this dark turn, with Sandrine beginning to behave out of character and act a bit mad - is she really possessed? What could have read as melodramatic and over the top somehow came off as eerily realistic. The ending was great too, especially the last sentence - BAM. What a great, atmospheric read.
*As an aside, I must say as a big Phantom fan, I was appalled that this book, which takes place in 1894, made reference to Gaston Leroux novel, which wasn't published until over a decade later. I did read an ARC from the publisher, so I really hope this incorrect (and really actually awkward and unnecessary) reference disappears from the published version. But look, even with a glaring factual error, picky me still gives it 4 stars!*...more
I have had Soli's The Lotus Eaters on my mental-maybe-read list for awhile, so when I entered the Goodreads giveaway and won this book, I was pretty eI have had Soli's The Lotus Eaters on my mental-maybe-read list for awhile, so when I entered the Goodreads giveaway and won this book, I was pretty excited. At first I thought I might get into it, but it just wasn't my thing. I didn't like any of the characters and their terrible life choices, which made it difficult to enjoy. Maybe it would have helped if I could relate to them a bit more, but I'm not middle aged; a lawyer, chef, or entrepreneur; or likely to flee from my problems in a careless and probably illegal manner. I feel like the right reader would find this compelling, thought-provoking, and entertaining, but that reader just isn't me....more
I'm always excited for new work by Ellen Crosby, a great writer and a lovely woman. This was a good continuation of the series. I love how Sophie's caI'm always excited for new work by Ellen Crosby, a great writer and a lovely woman. This was a good continuation of the series. I love how Sophie's career contributes to the story. As a photographer, she's very observant and plausibly notices things that others might not. Crosby also does a great job of incorporating history, science, D.C. and Virginia geography, and pretty strong character development (especially for the genre). I quite enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to mystery readers looking for something a bit different. I'll look forward to the next one....more
This book will garner some obvious comparisons to Neverhome, so let me just go ahead and get this out of the way - I liked Sisters of Shiloh better, fThis book will garner some obvious comparisons to Neverhome, so let me just go ahead and get this out of the way - I liked Sisters of Shiloh better, for many reasons. Firstly, this book was about the good guys instead of the damn Yankees. (I know, it's horrible, and I'm about the most unracist person you will find, but I'm also a Southerner. But that's a story for another day.) I also enjoyed the multiple points of view seen by an omniscient narrator. We hear about the motivations of the sisters Libby and Josephine, but also of Libby's dead husband and other members of the company. (A lot of boys fighting for honor or to protect family.) Probably most importantly, it was beautifully but simply written. I often felt Neverhome's disjointed, literary quality was forced. So that was a plus.
This novel covers so many aspects of a man's war through a woman's eyes - blood, applejack, dirt, music, lice, hardtack, cold, camaraderie, mosquitoes, boredom... And we learn of all these things in passing, in simple language. The whole environment of the war isn't described extensively, but somehow we get a feel for all of those things (and more). The atmosphere is fantastic. Libby (Thomas) and Josephine (Joseph) have fascinating psyches, grief turning the one about crazy and love leading the other to an extreme loyalty. The emotional landscape is remarkably complex for such a short volume. And speaking of landscapes, I also enjoyed the geographic one. I love when anything takes place in Virginia, particularly the Valley, so just hearing familiar places mentioned was fun - especially since there were only a couple of battles fought over the course of the novel (notably Fredericksburg), and they spent most of it marching or bivouacked.
So why only 3 stars? I've obviously gotten greedy this year. This was a great book, and I just wanted MORE!...more
I fell right into this book from the enticing prologue. Both stories were great, and once my brain worked out what I'd read recently that involved theI fell right into this book from the enticing prologue. Both stories were great, and once my brain worked out what I'd read recently that involved the Pacific European internment camps (A Town Like Alice), I got down to the business of enjoying the book. And I did. It was beautifully written, the parallel worked (even if it relied on a big coincidence), it was moving (to the point of tears in some places), and it just felt so real. Well, the modern story did. On the other hand, I felt like the story of the camps felt somehow whitewashed. The gory physical details were there, but they didn't feel as real to me as some of the emotional aspects of both Klara and Jenni's stories did. That probably doesn't make sense, and maybe I've just become immune to filth and violence in books. (With recent reads like Irène, I guess that's entirely possible.) Also, the ending of Klara's memoir felt a bit rushed, but I'm willing to allow that the point of her memoirs was to focus on her life during the war - still, I would have liked to hear more about the assimilation back into Dutch society. I even mostly loved the ending, up until the last sentence of the epilogue. In fact, that sentence was enough to almost knock my rating down, but when a book moves you to tears, it must be something wonderful....more