**spoiler alert** This book reads rather like the skeleton of a better, more interesting book. I've not read The Thirteenth Tale (I always meant to, b...more**spoiler alert** This book reads rather like the skeleton of a better, more interesting book. I've not read The Thirteenth Tale (I always meant to, but now I'm far less likely to), so I don't know if this is typical of Setterfield, or if this book just sadly went awry.
This is supposedly a ghost story, though it contains no actual ghosts. Rather, it is the outline of the life of a man who is very good at business, very poor at social relationships, and the intertwining of his life with rooks.
The odd thing is, I didn't begin to dislike it till the very end - when I checked the screen and realized I was 80% of the way through, and nothing particularly interesting had happened. We never truly get in the head of William Bellman, and it is thus difficult to give a damn about his successes or his losses. I should have preferred a book about his stricken daughter, Dora, or even the woeful seamstress Lizzie. Well, really, I should have preferred some damn detail about anything.
If you don't mind a book that goes no further than telling you "this happened, then this happened, then this happened, the end," you might not mind this as much. Certainly Setterfield is capable of writing pleasant to read prose, so there's that comfort at least, but what she was trying to get at with this story remains a mystery to me. (less)
It takes an incredible amount of talent to write genuinely readable comedy, especially readable GENRE comedy. It's easy(ish) to be funny for a chapter...moreIt takes an incredible amount of talent to write genuinely readable comedy, especially readable GENRE comedy. It's easy(ish) to be funny for a chapter or two, but to keep a reader going without getting sick of the joke is a sign of real skill, and John Scalzi is at the top of his game in Redshirts.
Whether or not you're an avid Star Trek fan (I fall into the Not category), the concept of the ill-fated red shirt wearing crew member is firmly ensconced in the collective pop culture unconscious. So what if these poor bastards caught on to their own expendability? How would they react and deal with the hazards of their profession? And why is there a damn Box that goes ding?
This is a brilliantly meta novel, and as mentioned above (Box what goes ding), Scalzi doesn't hesitate to poke fun at the tropes that pop up again and again in sci/fi shows and books. Yet, it's the kind of ribbing a real fan gives a genre: not mean-spirited, just in on the joke and enjoying every moment of it.
While there's a good portion of Redshirts that's just damned funny, it also has its poignant moments. The codas especially were unexpected, but a fun literary exercise. Without giving away mad spoilers, I will just say that Scalzi has really thought through the implications of his narrative. It's this extra thought that elevates Redshirts above standard genre parody.
I've been a little "meh" about my reading lately - picking up books only to take forever to finish them, or putting them down and forgetting about them. I finished Redshirts over the course of an afternoon, neglecting just about everything else I was supposed to be doing. That's just about the highest praise I can give a book - so I encourage you to seek this one out once it's out in stores!(less)
Holy shit. Y'all, this is bad. This is the gold medal winner of the Bad Romance Novel Olympics. The platonic ideal of bad. It is so bad I enjoyed ever...moreHoly shit. Y'all, this is bad. This is the gold medal winner of the Bad Romance Novel Olympics. The platonic ideal of bad. It is so bad I enjoyed every page because I knew it could only get worse, and it never let me down.
Okay, so you have the heroine, Ashley. Ashley is a 23 year old college graduate whose list of things she doesn't understand contains the following: business, computers, and bottle openers. No, I'm not kidding about that last part. She is so helpless she has to ask the "hero" to open a wine bottle for their dinner because she CAN'T FIGURE IT OUT.
Meanwhile, the hero (who for the sake of this review we will call Douchecanoe). Oh, Mr. Douchecanoe. You see, he rilllllllly wants to merge his business with the hotel business of Lady Fails-a-lot's father. Daddy dearest says sure, just marry my useless (albeit decorative) daughter, and business is go. Trouble is, he's a Very Serious Douchecanoe, and Ashley is a Troublesome Free Spirit. You know, the usual businessman/flighty lady conflict.
Actually, I feel a little bad for Sir Douchecanoe. Ashley is an idiot. I mean, full stop. She's a like six year old girl in the body of an adult. Everything she does is in full hyper-sparkle mode - until of course she gets her heart broken at which point she develops a spine and moves to San Francisco and joins a lesbian commune - oh wait, no, that's another book. She instead decides to become a perfect little docile housewife because somehow that will make M. le Douchecanoe love her.
From this point on it's pretty predictable - Ashley martyrs herself, Senor Douchecanoe realizes he's a big old meanie (once she's pregnant, anyways), and they move to the country because you CAN'T RAISE A FAMILY IN THE CITY. NEVER. YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE AXE-MURDERERS. GAY AXE MURDERERS.
Does Daddy Dearest get away with it? Oh yes, because she knows he was just trying to look out for her. Gag. Does Douchecanoe-san ever stop treating her like a small, fragile child? Bien sur que non.
Highlight of the book: Ashley finding out her marriage is a sham by accidentally smacking her hand (while TWIRLING) into Herr Douchecanoe's laptop, and knocking the battery out. She figures out how to put the battery back in, but doesn't "understand" computers (or birth control. or breathing. or anything) and "presses buttons" until "lots of programs" appear, one of them being the .pdf of the contract her cher Papa made le Comte de Douchecanoe sign re: marrying her.
I fucking love romance, but jesus h christ, this book is why we can't have nice things.(less)
This is the first Meredith Duran where the romance just didn't work for me, and I'm honest-to-god bummed out about even saying that. Her writing is st...moreThis is the first Meredith Duran where the romance just didn't work for me, and I'm honest-to-god bummed out about even saying that. Her writing is still pitch-perfect, and I wish every romance novelist working in historical form could capture her sense of time and place.
Sadly, this is the first time I have actively loathed a heroine. Nora has had some terrible things happen to her, it's true, but her loyalty to her family came off as sheer stubborn idiocy. While I enjoyed the trope reversal of the hero being madly in love against his better judgement, Nora just keeps doing the goddamn stupidest things up until the very end of the book. By the time she causes a bar fight by blindly wandering out into a rowdy tavern, I was ready to throttle her myself. In fact, I was never convinced that Adrian wasn't two steps from murdering her, nor that he particularly respected her intelligence.
Adrian himself is a particularly interesting hero - a Catholic who has renounced his faith, and who is, as other reviews have stated, fairly villainous. I wanted to see him with a heroine like Mina (from Written on Your Skin), who I feel would've given him a better run for his money.
All disappointment in this particular couple aside, I still think Meredith Duran is one of the most talented romance novelists on the scene, and I will wait just as eagerly for her next book as I did for this one. (less)
I had the oddest reaction to this book - I enjoyed it while reading it, but the moment I'd finished it I couldn't stem the a growing swell discontent....moreI had the oddest reaction to this book - I enjoyed it while reading it, but the moment I'd finished it I couldn't stem the a growing swell discontent. Certainly, Ms. Kowal's command of Regency-era literary styling was excellent - it felt of the time, without being unreadable to a modern reader. And her conceit of "glamour" started out as interesting, but unfortunately, like the rest of the book, really came to naught.
What kept me reading at first was the surety that something had to happen eventually. And I suppose at the very end it did, but when every other plot point had been dragged out past all reason, it seemed odd that the excitement would be over in a matter of two or three pages.
I think what Ms. Kowal was attempting was a gentle Regency romance, with magic thrown in. The trouble is, to a committed lover of the Romance genre such as myself, the romance in this book was an utter failure. She sets up two potential suitors for Jane, and we spend the majority of the book with the one she doesn't pick. The one she does is a cipher - why he falls in love with her is befuddling, especially when they've barely spent any time together. Why, in fact, does she love him? We know she admires his art, but surely admiration of a single skill isn't enough to build an entire romance upon!
Further, the magic in this book seems to only serve as a plot contrivance. There's nothing about where it came from, how it was discovered, why it is that glamourists should be itinerant (it's clearly more of a skill than just painting).
The kicker for me was how much I motherfucking HATED the character of Melody. She's Jane's younger, prettier, bitchier, sister - and she gets away with every bit of bad behavior. There are literally no real consequences for this girl, and meanwhile Jane is constantly trying to get back in her good graces. By the end of the book, I would have cheered if a tree had fallen on her.
All in all, not an unpleasant read while in progress, but very unsatisfying once one sits down to think about it at all.(less)
Yay, a new Urban Fantasy series that doesn't suck! This was my first time out with Seanan McGuire, and I'll be adding her backlist to my (shamefully)...moreYay, a new Urban Fantasy series that doesn't suck! This was my first time out with Seanan McGuire, and I'll be adding her backlist to my (shamefully) huge to-read pile.
Discount Armageddon is a graceful balance of humor and action all the way through, and McGuire is extremely adept at keeping the humor fresh, funny, and not too overwhelming. I admit that I'm wary of comedic books because of their potential to devolve into slapstick at the expense of plot, but clearly this is an author who knows her way around a clever turn of phrase.
The plot itself is fun and original: assume that all the monsters you grew up hearing about exist, and imagine there are people who study and hunt those monsters. Throw in a family that's spent generations hiding itself from the villainous Covenant (who are out to Kill All Monsters) and a member of that family who just wants to dance, and you've got yourself one hell of an entertaining world to spend a few hours in. Ms. McGuide obviously has a very vivid imagination, and it was good fun to get to experience it.(less)
My, what a nasty little piece of work this is. I think perhaps Gillian Flynn has been channeling Cornell Woolrich, or one of the other masters of the...moreMy, what a nasty little piece of work this is. I think perhaps Gillian Flynn has been channeling Cornell Woolrich, or one of the other masters of the dark part of the human psyche. It's hard to review Gone Girl without giving away too many spoilers, so suffice to say this is classic Flynn - sharp, biting, and ruthlessly enjoyable. If you need too much redemption, or a character with pure motives, stay away. Those of us who enjoy rooting for the bad person, or watching someone get themselves inextricably bound up in more and more trouble through their own mistakes, well, here's our book.
Four stars instead of five because I do have some reservations about certain coincidences, and one character ties a little too well into MRA "bitches be crazy" thinking. I'll add more once the book has been out a while, because it deserves a fresh unspoiled read.(less)
This book hits so many of my reading kinks it's not even funny. For one, it's a gentle, but loving, poke at the Nancy Drew novels I inhaled growing up...moreThis book hits so many of my reading kinks it's not even funny. For one, it's a gentle, but loving, poke at the Nancy Drew novels I inhaled growing up. For two, it's a fun satire on 1950s culture (you can spend the whole book playing "spot the unnamed celebrity"). For three? It's just fun! Nurse Cherry Aimless is a delightful and darling heroine, and her exploits with her cadre of lesbian adventurers in the wonderland of San Francisco are a blast to read.
I think what really made this book work for me is the obvious love Mabel Maney has for the source material. Too many parodies are simply mean-spirited takes on the original - Case Of the Not-So-Nice Nurse is the equivalent of a gentle ribbing from a friend, instead of the cutting remark from a total stranger. You can enjoy this book as an adult, while remembering the sense of delight and wonder you had reading Nancy Drew as a child, without the book trying to make that childhood enjoyment come off as unseemly or immature.(less)
Joanna Bourne, unfortunately, seems to be one of those well-loved romance novelists who, for whatever reason, leaves me cold. Since "The Black Hawk" w...moreJoanna Bourne, unfortunately, seems to be one of those well-loved romance novelists who, for whatever reason, leaves me cold. Since "The Black Hawk" won best Romance at AAR, I figured I'd give her another shot (having read the first in this series and not being taken enough to keep up with it). While I enjoyed "The Black Hawk," and would give it a four star rating based on technical writing skill, the romance failed to capture me which meant I could not in good conscience give it a higher rating.
I think part of what failed for me was the suspense of the relationship: we know at the very beginning that Hawk and Justine have not stayed together before, but they've survived thus far. Since about 3/4s of the book is in flashback, there's a certain urgency that is lacking in their interactions. We know they're not going to stay together at the end of each vignette, but we also know they're coming together at the end. Justine is a great heroine, but for whatever reason her redemptive arc just didn't spark for me. Everything sort of plodded along with great consequence, and so at the end, I wasn't unhappy with the book, but I didn't find it especially memorable or even close to being the best romance of the last year.
All that said, I realize that as a romance reader I lean towards books where it seems impossible that the hero and heroine should ever make it - I like racing to the end of the book, wondering every second how the author is going to pull this relationship off. While I don't care for excessive melodrama, I do like a little heart-wrench in my romance. If you're on the fence about reading the Black Hawk, please don't let this review dissuade you. If nothing else, it's an enjoyable way to pass the time.(less)
This is, in the parlance of its setting, a cracking good read. Set in 1912, it has a pleasantly dark cast throughout the whole story, giving the reade...moreThis is, in the parlance of its setting, a cracking good read. Set in 1912, it has a pleasantly dark cast throughout the whole story, giving the reader the impression of hunting madness alongside Sebastien in the Smoke. There's an authenticity to "The Bedlam Detective" that belies some of the more extreme plot points - the characters don't come off as modern people in fancy historical dress. From Sebastien's casual dismissal of native cultures to the imperial fancies of Sir Owain, the impression the reader gets is purely early twentieth century.
While the mystery was enough to keep me turning pages, it was the overall atmosphere that had me finishing this in a matter of a few hours (a rare occurrence for a full-time bookseller and part-time student). The descriptions of the ill-fated Amazon voyage that put all the players into motion is so ineffably creepy, and there is a point towards the end of that part of the tale that I don't want to spoil, but it genuinely made my skin crawl in horror.
It's certainly not High Literature, but it is a damned good read, and I have high hopes for a series.(less)
If you're interested in having a 1950s look, this is THE book to have. The authors, makeup artists to the stars, cover everything from how to style yo...moreIf you're interested in having a 1950s look, this is THE book to have. The authors, makeup artists to the stars, cover everything from how to style your hair & makeup, to skin and exercise routines. Having tested the exercise routines personally, I can tell you that they'll give any modern ab workouts a run for their money!
What I find especially enthusing about the Westmore Beauty Book is the authors' stance on beauty: rather than encouraging women to meet a single false ideal, they run with the idea that EVERYONE has beauty - it's just a matter of letting your inner beauty shine with a little pride in your appearance. Certainly there are some cringe-worthy 50s moments to be had every so often (naturally, they assume every woman is either married or trying to be), but overall the tone is one that I think is far healthier than the beauty attitudes of today. They also constantly advise against spending on beauty beyond your means - rather they offer suggestions for how to work within your own budget. I defy you to find similar advice in Cosmo.
I was also pleased that their recommended beauty routine (cold cream, witch hazel toner, rich moisturizer) has actually been majorly beneficial to my skin. You don't see cold cream around much any more, but it removes ANYTHING, and your skin feels super soft afterwards. If you have problem skin such as I have, definitely give it a shot.
All in all, a great reference book, and the only vintage beauty book I refer back to all the time.(less)
Really, instead of a written review, this should just be video of me laughing so hard while reading this at lunch that I started laugh-sobbing, much t...moreReally, instead of a written review, this should just be video of me laughing so hard while reading this at lunch that I started laugh-sobbing, much to the amusement of those around me. And I was only on chapter three - the chapter that involves, so help me god, a dead squirrel hand-puppet. If you've read Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) before, I don't have to tell you she is absolutely hysterically funny. If you haven't, then, prepare yourself for one hell of a ride through her demented carnival ride of a life (roadkill puppets and all).
This is a book so funny that I found total strangers reading over my shoulder. Hell, even my boyfriend who is definitely NOT a reader has made me swear he's next on the list to read my galley copy. At this point, I have friends ready to shank me if I don't get them a copy. It is that. damn. good.
What sends this book above and beyond is the way the author has dealt with the tragedies in her life. I respect her so much for being up front and almost casual about her struggles with mental and physical health. It's refreshing to read about mental illness in a way that doesn't exoticize or stigmatize the sufferer - for Lawson it's just part of everyday life. So beyond making her readers snort-cry, she's doing them a real service, and what else could you ask for? I mean, besides a giant metal chicken called Beyonce?(less)