A rather slow moving story. This author has written better books. The saving grace of this book (and even more in her other books) is the way she make...moreA rather slow moving story. This author has written better books. The saving grace of this book (and even more in her other books) is the way she makes the children both very smart but also young-sounding. (less)
Really pervasive sexism from the main character. He even seems to know it sometimes. Interesting forensics, decent mystery, but I think there are mayb...moreReally pervasive sexism from the main character. He even seems to know it sometimes. Interesting forensics, decent mystery, but I think there are maybe 7 women in the whole book, but one of them is the corpse, and another is the murderer.(less)
This book reminded me of Maggie Prince's "The House on Hound Hill" and Penelope Lively's "The Ghost of Thomas Kempe" because of the similarity in plot...moreThis book reminded me of Maggie Prince's "The House on Hound Hill" and Penelope Lively's "The Ghost of Thomas Kempe" because of the similarity in plot and atmosphere, and also the historical period of the respective ghosts. One of the things that stood out for me was how independent the children are in this book. It is hard to imagine a modern preteen casually assuming nobody would pick her up at the airport, catching several buses, and making her way to the right house! I think that was meant to show that Carol was unusually independent even for the 70s, but today it would trigger an Amber Alert (or the English equivalent), I suspect.
Carol has come to visit her aunt and uncle in England, and slowly becomes friends with their son Bruce, as she discovers that their 17th century house is haunted. Carol and Bruce unravel the mystery by deduction, luck, and hauling a lot of masonry in the basement.
The prickly relationship between Bruce and has dad is handled well. When Carol and Bruce are talking with the priest about their ghosts, and Bruce is reluctant to tell his skeptic historian father about them, the priest says, rather directly, "Your father has a clear, sensible mind and a generous personality. I think you could hurt him very deeply if you wanted to." Bruce says, "What makes you think I want that?" and the priest replies, "Because you do hurt him."(less)
I really enjoyed this. Cormorant and Robin are such decent human beings, it made it a pleasure to read about them. I think I've become accustomed to b...moreI really enjoyed this. Cormorant and Robin are such decent human beings, it made it a pleasure to read about them. I think I've become accustomed to books where the protagonists are badly flawed people who I can't root for. Sometimes those books are worth reading, but I read in horrified fascination at what the character will do next, rather than because I like them. ("The Talented Mr. Ripley" comes to mind, although I have only seen the movie, not read the book version.) I hope J.K. Rowling continues the series and doesn't give up on it just because people know about the pseudonym now.(less)
Eh. Not a bad book, but nothing outstanding about this. I could say the same for the series — the books always hold my interest, but they don't have m...moreEh. Not a bad book, but nothing outstanding about this. I could say the same for the series — the books always hold my interest, but they don't have much unique to offer. It's not a bad way to pass a Saturday afternoon and evening, though. (I will say that the romance isn't working for me — I haven't liked ANY of Lily's suitors so far. Sailor may be the best of them, but he's no catch. Aidan's an ass. I'm glad Max is out of the picture and I hope he STAYS out.)(less)
This was a pretty decent sequel to "The Wizard..." but not as good as the first book. Oona remains as clever as always, which is one of the delights o...moreThis was a pretty decent sequel to "The Wizard..." but not as good as the first book. Oona remains as clever as always, which is one of the delights of this series. Without giving too much away, in this book she shows how vulnerable she is to emotional and other kinds of manipulation, against which her intelligence provides only so much help. The reader is in the position of watching this happen and not being able to do anything about it. (I think this was a realistic choice for the author to make, but it really made me squirm.) At several points I had to stop myself from banging my iPad on my forehead. "Come ON, Oona, you're not going to fall for that tripe?!" But of course she does. I hope she learns from it in the next book.
A thing that really bothered me: Oona considers the possibility freeing Samuligan near the end but immediately seems to reject the idea because she likes him too much to let him go home. I thought that was more than a little ugly. He's essentially a slave, in a time when, on the other side of the iron gates, slaves have recently been freed. Too bad that sentiment didn't make it to Dark Street. Maybe I'm expecting too much insight from such a young character.(less)
(If you haven't read the previous nine books, ignore my review.) This book was meh, especially coming after Laurie's previous two, which were very enj...more(If you haven't read the previous nine books, ignore my review.) This book was meh, especially coming after Laurie's previous two, which were very enjoyable. The action is slow for the first 60% of the book, and Abbie is especially annoying. She moans and groans even when she knows she's got the weaker argument. She pushes her own work off on other people. The whole wedding subplot is just boring, and the comic relief from Cat wasn't funny or interesting.
I did not like the addition of politics (but especially Republican politics) to the series. I'm sure Laurie has already accounted for this and just doesn't give a damn about people on the other side of the red-blue divide, but I found it distasteful enough that I don't want to continue reading the series if that's how things are swinging. If you're a Republican, you may like it.
There are also some continuity issues that I found bizarre. We left Dutch at the end of the last book with just a 60% chance of LIVING, but yet he seems totally back to normal in this book, while Abbie can't walk without a cane. I mean, it's plausible that his type of injuries just healed faster, but I thought there needed to be a paragraph somewhere at least saying that's the case.(less)
Okay book, very generic story for its genre. Characters and descriptions so cliched that I was singing along with the chorus: "one of Lon's eyebrows s...moreOkay book, very generic story for its genre. Characters and descriptions so cliched that I was singing along with the chorus: "one of Lon's eyebrows slowly raised and the corner of his mouth twitched in amusement." (How many times have I read that description?! How many times have YOU? After the slow eyebrow raise, did you anticipate the corner-mouth-twitch?)
It had a slight twist ending (with so much heavy-handed foreshadowing that I guessed), but it kept me reading. All that said, I'll probably go on to the next in this series and hope this is a case of inexperienced author issues.(less)
**spoiler alert** This book was a huge improvement on the previous one in the series, Grave Witch. Alex makes decisions, doesn't spend the book gettin...more**spoiler alert** This book was a huge improvement on the previous one in the series, Grave Witch. Alex makes decisions, doesn't spend the book getting rescued by other people, and shows signs of being less stupid than the previous adventure made her seem. Mind you, she STILL wanders off into fairyland without a backup (something she at least agonizes over) but this was better.
The villains in this book were superior too. The bad guy of the previous was evil but cardboard; less so here. I liked the Winter Queen, who was played by Tilda Swinton in my imagination, and also the other Fairy creatures like the irritable FIB fairy cop. The only disappointment was the final villain, who we never met enough times in the course of the book to feel for, although she had a sad ending.
On the subject of baddies, the supporting villains are more interesting than the Big Bad, in every case in this series. Alex's dad is given some real development, as is her sister in the previous book. I thought it was interesting that for a while it looks like the Big Bad might be Alex's friend, but then it turns out not to be.
The fairyland itself was well-rendered, even if it owes a debt to Lewis Carroll and multitudinous video games. Looking forward to seeing more of it in the next book.(less)
The first of the Johnny Dixon books is now available on Amazon as an ebook! The only reason to own a paper version is if you can find one with the ori...moreThe first of the Johnny Dixon books is now available on Amazon as an ebook! The only reason to own a paper version is if you can find one with the original Gorey artwork, and I'm sure one day I'll get one. In the mean time, it was nice to reread it. This is actually one of the creepier Bellairs books, and I remember that I don't own an original Gorey copy because when I read my friend Jacob's in elementary school, it badly frightened me. I own originals of all of the other Bellairs books, though.
It was interesting reading this on the iPad because the fictional Duston Heights in the book is actually Haverhill Massachusetts, so I could go back and forth between the book and the map, finding the exact street Johnny is walking down. Because I've walked through Haverhill several times, I even have pictures of some of the places in the book, like the Merrimack river off of Water street.(less)
**spoiler alert** This was a decent and enjoyable paranormal mystery, very much like a Sue Grafton Kinsey Milhone with magic. I liked the Grave Witch...more**spoiler alert** This was a decent and enjoyable paranormal mystery, very much like a Sue Grafton Kinsey Milhone with magic. I liked the Grave Witch private detective character, Alex (see book cover), but I wish the author hadn't made her such a birdbrain. Seriously, she is DUMB. This is a heroine who repeatedly wanders into situations from which she needs to be rescued by one of the Potential Boyfriend characters, a policeman named Falin, or the other, a grim reaper-type who collects souls. She does not suspect that Falin is a fairy FIB agent (Fae Investigative Bureau, heh) despite the odd and otherwise inexplicable way he appears on the case and the many strange coincidences that happen whenever he's around. This situation persists through most of the book, and results in intense readerly frustration. Then there's the way Alex decides to talk to herself aloud when she's hiding in the bathroom from possible bad guys, thus tipping them off to her presence. I mean, it's one thing to stub your toe or have something fall on you at a crucial moment, but it's another to TALK TO YOURSELF. And yes, I live alone and talk to myself in my apartment also, but I'm not calling myself a private investigator or hiding out. Or how about going to see clients when she knows she has people hunting for her and it might be a trap? All of this would bother me less if Alex actually put two and two together occasionally, but instead she goes around blundering and getting rescued until finally it's all spelled out by the bad guys. And I do mean spelled.
You might think from this that I hated the book, but that's not true at all, I just got frustrated with it. It's actually a very fast and engaging read. Alex is certainly lovable, but I wish she spent more time on offense and less on defense. I won't say she never tries to make things happen. It's more that every time she takes action, it gets away from her and she has to extricate herself (or a Potential Boyfriend does). The effect is to make her seem incompetent at life. I have read the next book and she does much better there, but since I'm reviewing this book, those were the issues I had with it.(less)
I really enjoyed this book but it wasn't quite as good as Coronets and Steel. I think in part this was because Coronets inherited some structure from...moreI really enjoyed this book but it wasn't quite as good as Coronets and Steel. I think in part this was because Coronets inherited some structure from Prisoner of Zenda that was lacking here. That said, I've read this book twice now—it's been out a week— and by any normal standard it's excellent; it has the misfortune to be a sequel to a book that was BEYOND excellent.
On the first reading, I felt the early days of Kim's return to Dobrenica was such a downer and such slow going that I nearly despaired, but the book picks up after and from there I was hooked. When I reread it, the beginning didn't bother me at all. Curiously, this is exactly how I felt about the camping scenes in the last Harry Potter book, so there must be something about knowing a book picks up later that makes slow parts more bearable on a reread.
Without giving away anything, the end of the book is upbeat but hardly resolves all the issues, so I hope this means Sherwood Smith will write another book (or more than one!) and give us a well-resolved ending.(less)