Charming! While at times the story seemed to drag for me, the worldbuilding was full of gems and full of surprises, and Sophie was a delightful protagCharming! While at times the story seemed to drag for me, the worldbuilding was full of gems and full of surprises, and Sophie was a delightful protagonist. I can see why so many people love this....more
A romance classic for a reason. I almost didn't want it to end.
Sugar Beth is an awesome character. She did horrible things and made terribly poor choiA romance classic for a reason. I almost didn't want it to end.
Sugar Beth is an awesome character. She did horrible things and made terribly poor choices in her youth, and at the book's start, she's grown up a lot and is on the tail end of a redemption arc. Though her intention is a short and sweet homecoming (get in, get the painting her late aunt bequeathed her, and get out), life get complicated and she's forced to stay longer in a hometown where she is, very decidedly, not welcome. Despite Sugar Beth's Mean Girl past, she now carries herself with dignity and not a small amount of mature sass. Her attitude (fun to read, easy to respect and like) made her vulnerability stand out in sharp, raw relief, too. Colin was less interesting to me, but I didn't have too many problems with him. His actions were understandable, if not always good or moral high-ground decisions.
Winnie and Jeff's marriage troubles were quite engaging to me, and I loved how realistic their daughter was, but Winnie herself was not always easy for me to comprehend. I couldn't completely buy that she was ignorant of the reason why Sugar Beth hated her in their youth. As for the Sea Willows, I liked their friendship, but I was annoyed by the cliquey-group-ish-ness that accompanied it (though, yeah, I know, that's often a side effect of a strong group of friends). It left me with the impression that this was a way they treated people in general, not just Sugar Beth.
This book is self-conscious as a romance. Pointedly relevant Georgette Heyer quotes start each chapter, and the hero and heroine read and reference romance novels in general. I can see how this might annoy some readers, but I found that this added to the book's value for me. Colin inflicts a "punishing kiss" on Sugar Beth early in the book, and unlike the punishing kisses one might find in a old-school romance, it's clear that this kiss was intended to be every ounce as skeevy as it comes across.
It's not a perfect book. It did, however, suck me in completely, kept me thinking and feeling, and I loved the deservedly legendary Sugar Beth. Neither she nor Colin were perfect, either, and their flaws and their missteps and their past made their romance a very memorable one. This is the third SEP I've read and the one I've liked the best--I thought the heroes in the others were jerks, whereas Colin's jerkish behavior was at least understandable to an extent if not always justifiable, and his flaws seemed intentional, and I could see why he and Sugar Beth would fall in love and be good partners for each other. And that's just what I want in a romance....more
I skipped this book the first time I read the Bridgerton books because I thought Anthony was an asshole. I still think he's a jerk and hypocritical, aI skipped this book the first time I read the Bridgerton books because I thought Anthony was an asshole. I still think he's a jerk and hypocritical, and I still kind of wished for all the Bridgertons save Colin to fall off a cliff, and this story was basically the same exact story as The Duke And I, aaaaaaaaand Kate was so undistinguishable of a character, but I really liked Edwina, the sister of the heroine, and I wanted to find out who she ended up falling in love with, and I enjoyed the Bridgerton Pall Mall scene a lot. Particularly the end of the scene, when Edwina was like, "You overdramatic idiots, just go get the damn ball from the lake IT'S RIGHT THERE. Fine, being the only person here with a modicum of practicality, I will go do it myself." Except more daintily and politely than that. I'm sure she was thinking it, though.
For my sanity, I think I might skip rereading An Offer from a Gentleman and go straight to rereading Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, which I know I liked....more
Nearly a decade since tragedy stole her twin sister from her, Maeve Leahy is living a cold if functional life. She has drained the color out of her liNearly a decade since tragedy stole her twin sister from her, Maeve Leahy is living a cold if functional life. She has drained the color out of her life, and she has buried her emotions in her academic career. "Bring on winter," she states in the opening paragraph; she's not afraid of grief or of cold, but of having to feel. Her life takes a magical turn when she impulsively buys a keris, a Javanese sword, at an auction after fighting an attraction to it: it reminds her of a sword she and her sister lost in the sea while playing pirates as children.
It's a standard plot: a possibly mystical item of exotic origin sends previously cloistered woman off on an adventure. This book shines, however, because Walsh's prose is graceful and immensely readable, and her structure is perfect: Maeve's contemporary narrative, and the "Out of Time" passages from Moira's memories. I am a big fan of twinned narrative lines in novels; my two favorite books, Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, employ this technique, and Walsh effectively uses her twin narratives to illuminate and enrich both the present and the past, the inner lives of both Moira and Maeve. The way the story is told is perfect for the story that's being told.
Maeve and Moira themselves are also at the heart of the book's strength. Their emotions (as well as Maeve's repression of hers) their relationship, and their love are the book's heartbeat, and Moira's absence in Maeve's adult life is depicted, interestingly enough, as a forceful presence. I found myself completely wrapped up in Maeve and her journey to healing. She felt very real to me. At one point, I was in tears and unable to see the pages and was frustrated (with myself!) because I urgently wanted to keep reading on. Maeve's relationship with Noel also struck me as realistic, always a bit edgy and not over-idealized, and I found myself caring for him and his journey as well.
The "suspense" plot involving the empu was less engaging to me, and I didn't follow it as closely as I followed Maeve's emotional life. However, both elements--the external and the internal plots--ended satisfactorily for me.
I borrowed a copy of this book but upon finishing promptly bought a copy of my own, because I can see myself longing to reread this in the future....more
Reread. I remember checking out this book from the library multiple times when I was about twelve or so, and I'm happy to report it stood up to yet anReread. I remember checking out this book from the library multiple times when I was about twelve or so, and I'm happy to report it stood up to yet another reread as an adult.
Up in heaven, Eleanor of Aquitaine is waiting, impatiently and a bit impertinently, to find out if her husband Henry II will finally be judged to have served enough time "Below." To help her pass time before the verdict, three figures from her life--Abbot Suger, who knew her at the time of her marriage to Louis VII; Empress Matilda, Henry II's mother and Eleanor's mother-in-law; and William Marshal, the much-revered knight during the time of the Plantagenets--tell how they knew of Eleanor, narrating her life and, most particularly, her character and her personality.
Though the characters tell Eleanor's story in a fairly straightforward way, I still found it an engaging method of learning not only the facts of Eleanor's extraordinary life, but the motivations behind some of those amazing twists and turns. The writing is appealingly wry at times ("Any man with responsibilities in government is bound for Hell at least for a little while," says Abbot Suger, explaining why it took him, a good man of the church, a good handful of years before ascending to heaven) and understatedly poignant at others ("I wanted to bid my newest grandson welcome," Matilda-Empress says of her later years. "When a person reaches the age I then was, there are many more goodbyes than hellos. The hellos become precious.") A good read, and a good reread as well....more
Ronson's approach and tone are my favorite things about his books: he writes in a generally straightforward way, but not without a certain impishnessRonson's approach and tone are my favorite things about his books: he writes in a generally straightforward way, but not without a certain impishness that recognizes the over-the-top outlandishness going on around him.
I found this book, looking at extremists and reactions to extremists, not as well-grounded as The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry. There wasn't enough analysis or depth in exploring what our society says about extremism and what extremism says about our society; some of the anecdotes didn't seem to do or say or show anything, and others were only lightly developed. The portraits drawn of these extremists were almost always entertaining, but they weren't more than portraits. The book, and Ronson, made a good point at the end, and sometimes people in the book said very shrewd things, but I think I expected conclusions to be drawn, a wider perspective to be shared. And this didn't happen; instead, I was left wishing for a deeper analysis than this collage of anecdotes provided....more
Finally got my hands on this one. It's a good collection of earlier (no later than 1930) Jeeves and Wooster stories, each with the standard plot hijinFinally got my hands on this one. It's a good collection of earlier (no later than 1930) Jeeves and Wooster stories, each with the standard plot hijinks and an insane amount of literary references in Bertie's delightful narrative (the amount of allusions in the fairly short "Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit" alone is a bit humbling). I think I'm nearing a (probably temporary) saturation point for Wodehouse, however, which limited the upper bounds of my enthusiasm for this collection.
If one doesn't want to start with one of the full-length novels--starting with Right Ho, Jeeves or The Code of the Woosters would be my first recommendation--this collection might be a good starting point if you want to dive into a short story or two and get a feel for the prose and the characters....more
Rich and nuanced without being overwhelming in such a short format. I loved Cole's voice in this one. (I didn't like Sweet to the Taste very much, butRich and nuanced without being overwhelming in such a short format. I loved Cole's voice in this one. (I didn't like Sweet to the Taste very much, but this short-but-strong romance is SO GOOD.)...more
Reread. Because it's that time of year, and this is always a good read. Two of my three favorite stories are the ones that weren't previously publisheReread. Because it's that time of year, and this is always a good read. Two of my three favorite stories are the ones that weren't previously published: "Cat's Paw" always delights me (a detective / country murder mystery story that's also awesomely science fiction--the sciences being biology, zoology, and psychology) and "Epiphany" fills me with longing and wonder and a happy sigh as I set the book down. (Also, Mel's understated horror at B.T. stealing a Bible always makes me giggle.) It's pretty much my only example of how a somewhat-unresolved short story can leave me feeling utterly satisfied. My other favorite of the stories is "Inn," which takes the classically Connie Willis style of plotting and gives it a fresh (or very ancient) spin, and even though I know it ends well, I hold my breath at points. These aren't superficially happy Christmas stories: these are Christmas stories that turn a loving and amused (but certainly clear-eyed) gaze on who we, who observe Christmas in so many different ways, are and are not....more