First, I just have to say that I LOVE Celia Rees's writing style. It's so simple, but it's incredibly evocative. It's wonderful.
On the other hand, I'mFirst, I just have to say that I LOVE Celia Rees's writing style. It's so simple, but it's incredibly evocative. It's wonderful.
On the other hand, I'm not really a fan of her heroines. I loved Sovay. I liked Nancy, from Pirates! okay. But Violetta...well, let's just say she was underwhelming.
She spent most of the book hiding or being rescued. Then when she finally did something assertive, it jarred with the rest of her personality. I can't really imagine her ruling a country - any country, no matter how small. She was just too...boring.
With a stronger heroine, this book would have been relatively awesome. Shakespeare! Twelfth Night! Adventure! Italy! Illyria! But then Violetta and Stephano, her perfect counterpart because both are so personality-less, kind of ruined it.
I loved everything about this book except V and S. If they had been more interesting, I would have loved the entire book. As it is, it's good, it's really good, but I just can't love it. It's tough to love something when it has two big flaws....more
Her books for older people (A Countess Below Stairs is my favorite) are really excellent, but her children's books are almost -I do like Eva Ibbotson.
Her books for older people (A Countess Below Stairs is my favorite) are really excellent, but her children's books are almost - better. By which I mean...even more tightly plotted, even more lovable, even more well-written.
Annika isn't absolutely fascinating, but she's strong and funny and she has pretty hair. (Although I have to say, I'm a bit tired of the protagonist shut up in some awful place, succoring herself with remembering something good about her life [cooking, the pattern on the rug in her old bedroom], forgetting a minute detail and falling into despair). She refuses to see the truth for a while, but then eventually comes round.
What makes this book so good is Vienna. Ibbotson lived in Vienna when she was young, and she obviously knows it very well - well enough to make me want to live there, anyway. The Prater and the opera; the musicians on every street corner and the cafes full of writers and Society with newspapers on sticks; the Lipizzaners and the parades of the astonishing military every other week. She writes about Vienna as a magical city, full of allure and enchantment, better even than Paris - and, I suppose, it is....more
There's quite a bit of Jane Austen here. There's also quite a bit of something a lot like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. There's also quite a bitThere's quite a bit of Jane Austen here. There's also quite a bit of something a lot like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. There's also quite a bit more mediocrity than can be found in either of them.
Jane Austen: the creator of six basically perfect novels, a writer still wildly popular, the inspiration for more sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and rip-offs than any other writer ever. Jonathan Strange etc: a clever, intelligent, funny, thought-provoking novel with depth, well-researched, well-written, well-everything.
It's like David Liss read Mansfield Park and Jonathan Strange and decided to rip them both off, thereby making his book not really a rip-off of either of them. If he'd stolen half of their combined wit, originality, and brilliance the book would've been twice as good.
That's not a completely fair judgement. TE is relatively original. Relatively. Changelings, dead spirits (say what you want, call them "fairies" if you like, they seem more like glorified zombies to me), golems, spells, etc. I can't say I was surprised with the blandness of the book, though. From the cover - a lovely one - and one which has been used at least twice before, if not three times (the woman and the basic idea), I should have realized that most of this book would have been recycled, too.
Some things made me laugh. Actually, only one: in which a tortoise is referred to as a "raging beast" which "set upon" some people. The idea of a tortoise, or any slow-moving, dull-looking reptile as a raging beast struck me as absolutely hilarious. I don't know if David Liss intended it to be, and I tend to doubt it, since it was in the middle of the climax.
(Is that a spoiler? Sorry if it is. It's not really a plot development...just a random raging beast, aka tortoise, interjected into it.)
(view spoiler)[For the spoilerish issues: First, Lucy kind of irritated me. She did a lot of kissing Byron, for one thing. She did not do a lot of kissing Mr. Morrison, for another.
Second, when did Mr. Morrison stop being an obnoxious guy pulling easter eggs out of her ears and start being Indiana Jones (but less cool)? And third, when, exactly, did Lucy fall back in love with him? That was so unclear it wasn't funny. (hide spoiler)]
Mary Crawford...wasn't. Liss basically summarizes Mansfield Park in a paragraph or two to give her backstory - mentioning Fanny as "something of a simpleton", which just infuriated me because Fanny is much, much smarter than everyone else at the park except for Edmund, and obviously far smarter than Mr. Liss - and tries to make her unscrupulous, but she's completely unlike Mary. For one thing, did you imagine her as blond and green-eyed? Or stunningly beautiful? For another, this fake Mary didn't have any of Mary's wit, or her corruption, or her innate self. Did you even READ Mansfield Park, David Liss??
Not to say that I didn't enjoy the book. I did. It entertained me very well. Even though Lucy sometimes said things out of character - for example, "splendid" - even though the writing was sometimes painful - for example, "'Such and such,' Lucy answered in return - even though I found both "heroes" kind of obnoxious and I don't think there was enough kissing in one quarter and way too much in another, I enjoyed it. It's not bad.
It's just not that good. Despite its pretensions to being Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, it falls short. Despite its wish of being kind of as good as Jane Austen, it can't even get off the ground.
So don't hold it up as Austen or Susanna Clarke. Think of it as something new and unaffected by any other author. You'll like it better that way. You'll see what its merits are, instead of complaining about its faults.
I thought it would be better. It wasn't. I liked it anyway.
What else can you wish for?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Yet another book that I got halfway through and then skimmed to the end. It's becoming an epidemic.
In this case, though, I feel perfectly entitled toYet another book that I got halfway through and then skimmed to the end. It's becoming an epidemic.
In this case, though, I feel perfectly entitled to skip more than half of the book. It was BAD. And it had so much potential! That's part of the reason why I think it's so awful.
Rose can taste emotions in her food. It makes her life terribly difficult. And then everybody dies. No, actually they don't, but probably they should have, because aside from being BAD, this book is also WEIRD.
Joseph, what, turns into a chair?? WTF?????? It was about here that I started skipping madly, paging through whole chunks of the book. Then I just gave up. I didn't read past the wedding.
You know another really really super-weird thing about this book? There aren't any quotation marks, or anything else, to mark speech. It goes like this.
I'm sick, I said. I think, I'm said.
It drove me absolutely crazy. Not because it was hard to tell when someone was speaking, because sometimes it really was. Because it is a silly, obnoxious, stupid affectation and Aimee Bender should know better.
Okay, to sum up: Rose tastes emotions in food, her brother turns into a chair or something, and the book ends in misery.
I don't know what kind of screwed-up world Aimee Bender lives in, but I can tell you one thing: I wouldn't want to live there....more
I am an avowed Twilight hater, despiser, loather, detester, abhorrer, and abominater. (I had to check a thesaWow. Apparently vampires really are sexy.
I am an avowed Twilight hater, despiser, loather, detester, abhorrer, and abominater. (I had to check a thesaurus for the last two.) So why would I want to read this? Well, because it actually looked...good. Not the typical crappy vampire story.
As it turned out, it's not the typical crappy vampire story. It's way more well-writen than Twilight; I mean, the writing is nothing special, but it's quite good. More than the flat blandness of Stephenie Meyer.
Look, I'm already tired of comparing this to Twilight. Why is the new genre of vampire-werewolf-paranormal always being compared to Twilight? There might actually be some good v-w-p stuff out there, but by all these endless Twilight remarks we're setting them back. Okay. Done with Twilight.
Jessica bugged me. She did. I liked her, she was likable enough, but at her sudden decision at the end seemed way out of character. She'd never done anything like that before...not that drastic, anyway.
Lucius...well, he's not my type, but I can see his appeal. Even though I just don't like the idea of kissing someone with fangs.
There is a lot of really BAD "paranormal romance" out there. This is one of the ones that isn't bad. It's good. I liked it.
You have no idea how hard it is for me to say that...I've been fighting the whole paranormal thing since the beginning. Well, everyone's wrong at least fourteen times a day. This is at least my fourth....more
After reading this, I'm tempted to strongly believe that it couldn't have been good even if someone other than Catherine Delors had written it. I meanAfter reading this, I'm tempted to strongly believe that it couldn't have been good even if someone other than Catherine Delors had written it. I mean, the premise, sure, is pretty interesting, but after that the whole book is heavy and dull.
I'm not a prude. I think. I try really hard not to be one - and yet I just could not like Gabrielle. Or sympathize with her. Or even pity her. I loathed her too much.
First: the way she continually forgives everyone around her for everything. Her brother for molesting her, her husband for abusing her, her "protector" for coming over all jealous, her friends for being selfish and shallow...until a chapter near the end where she threatens to throw her daughter out of her house because Aimee, the daughter, doesn't like that Gabrielle is writing her memoirs.
I'm sorry?? After forgiving your lover(s) for slapping you, strangling you, putting you through hell, etc. you're going to throw your daughter out of your house because she questions you? Yeah. Okay.
By the way, I'm SO DONE with historical fiction full of sex. Sure, this isn't as voyeuristic as some (cough, Philippa Gregory, what a nasty-minded woman) but it's still FULL of it. Every man falls in love with Gabrielle (one, two, three, four, five off the top of my head) and she sleeps with at least three, treating her readers to too many details.
Look at Jane Austen. Look at Edith Wharton. Look at Dickens. They're all trapped within the bounds of their society, and do they write sex scenes? No, they do not. And are they all very highly regarded? Yes, they are. Here's a hint to all you up-and-coming authors: sex makes your book tawdry, cheapens it, takes its soul out. You're succumbing to the same trick every other author is using. Maybe it works, but it doesn't make your book good. It makes it unpleasant.
The more I think about it the angrier I get. I'm sick of bad historical fiction touted as brilliant. Nothing new has come from this book. The main character is boring, her relationships are shallow, no new French Revolution facts have been brought up. Marie Antoinette and her family are presented as shallow, money-grubbing, evil, etc. or in other words, completely inaccurately.
Oh my god, I just realized that Sarah Miller wrote Miss Spitfire! Wow, am I slow on the uptake... _____________________________________________
I spentOh my god, I just realized that Sarah Miller wrote Miss Spitfire! Wow, am I slow on the uptake... _____________________________________________
I spent more than a week on this book. Partly because I was loving the writing and the atmosphere, partly because I couldn't bear to get to the end, because I knew what was going to happen.
My first impression was, "What a downer!" (This was partly because I had dissolved into tears and was desperate to get rid of some of them.) My second one was more like, "That was so powerful." Because it was. I couldn't stop crying.
Because it is powerful. The Romanov family, the seven of them, went through things which would break most people, but they loved each other so much that they lived through all of them. Until the end, which was a horrendous waste of human life and love.
Books like this, stories like this one, remind us that humanity has to be very, very careful, or atrocities like this will happen. It's a lesson most heads of state could take to heart at the moment....more
I read this so long ago I honestly cannot remember much about it. I'm sure I enjoyed it...but I do remember it being really weird. Julie Andrews is aI read this so long ago I honestly cannot remember much about it. I'm sure I enjoyed it...but I do remember it being really weird. Julie Andrews is a great actress but her writing is just bizarre......more
**spoiler alert** I couldn't finish this. It didn't appeal to me; from the first page I wasn't into it, and about 3/4 of the way through I dropped it**spoiler alert** I couldn't finish this. It didn't appeal to me; from the first page I wasn't into it, and about 3/4 of the way through I dropped it on the floor and couldn't make myself pick it up again.
I did read some of the epilogue and a few of the preceding pages - and Gen and Roxane? Really??
Ann Patchett, I try to to like you, but I just can't.
This could have been amazing, one of the best books of the year, one of the best books ever. Interlocking stories, English culture, fascinating characThis could have been amazing, one of the best books of the year, one of the best books ever. Interlocking stories, English culture, fascinating characters...well, two out of three.
The writing was really, really mediocre - not quite Syrie-James or Meyer bad, but way below the standard of even most typical YA. I mean, Shannon Hale, Patricia Wrede, J.K. Rowling (duh), Mary Hooper all outdo Nicolson by MILES. Literally miles. And Nicolson does so much telling, and so little showing, that it was tough not to groan every five minutes.
Can we please be DONE with beautiful, slim, kind, clever, punctual, efficient, passionate young women who are way smarter than they should be because they're so young? Nancy Drew started it off, and Maisie Dobbs has become one in a series; May Thomas is the newest and possibly dullest of all. She. Is. So. Boring. There's not a single original quality about her. Everything she does or says or thinks or feels is hackneyed, cliche-ed. She has been written before, and much better.
Moving on to Julian Richardson, her erstwhile love interest...boring. Vain. Shallow. A character with so little depth and so few characteristics I can't bring myself to write any more about him.
Evangeline Nettlefold has more depth than anyone else in the book, but she turns out to be a straight-up witch so good riddance to her. Fat, bald, vain, she has a puffed-up opinion of herself and somehow fails THROUGHOUT the book to see how COMPLETELY ridiculous she is. I mean, you'd think that when she looked in a mirror while wearing a skimpy dress more suited to Wallis Simpson than someone with the build of an elephant she would realize that she'd be way better off in something made for her, not the aforementioned W.S., but she wears the skimpy thing anyway, because she lacks the intelligence to see for herself what EVERYONE around her does.
The story of Wallis Simpson and the King fades into the background, which is good because Wallis is presented as a grasping hussy and the King as a weak-chinned moron instead of the conflicted, caring, passionate person he really was. Furthermore, he did NOT begin his radio speech giving up the throne with the famous line about "the help and support of the woman I love." That was more than halfway through.
It's these little gaffes, when Nicolson is clearly trying so hard (too hard) to give her novel the proper historical atmosphere, that relegate the novel to utter mediocrity. Bad writing, shallow characters, jerky plots can be ignored if the atmosphere is particularly excellent - look at Dickens (leaving aside the bad writing; however much I hate Dickens, his style is excellent, but that's neither here nor there at the moment). Unfortunately, Nicolson falls short in every, but every, respect....more
I love Jane Austen. I love traveling. I love Spanish. I love light books with some depth, and I love sweet love stories. This book has all of them. WhI love Jane Austen. I love traveling. I love Spanish. I love light books with some depth, and I love sweet love stories. This book has all of them. What's not to love?
As it turns out, I should have mentioned that I love strong, funny female protagonists, and then the book wouldn't have had all of them. Amy E. Smith (I think the middle name is nice but a bit pretentious to have on your book cover) is nice enough, but she reminded me too much of Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love[, Whine] fame. That's not to say that she was as whiny, or as self-centered, or as relentlessly stereotypically American, or as annoying. But she was a little whiny, a little self-centered, etc. She thought she was Lizzy, but really she's more like Marianne. Who I have never liked much.
She's also not a great writer. I mean, she's not bad, but she really isn't Jane. At one point she writes what she thinks Jane "would have" written, and it is terrible. Awful. Think Syrie-James-clumsiness.
The Austen discussions aren't that in-depth, but the coupling of Jane and Spanish and South America is so unique and so interesting that the book is definitely worth reading. Yes, I stayed up late to finish it. And yes, I have dragged out my Austen books and I'm reading them. All over again.
Addendum: (Wow, I love that word) Two things were almost deal-breakers. First, the movie version of Pride and Prejudice that Amy watches is the one with Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfadyen. I hereby declare that this is among the worst adaptations of books I have ever seen, and I have seen many, many, many. This is bad. Very bad. Despite looking very pretty, the movie completely misses the point of Jane Austen and strips it of all its social commentary, turning it into a sappy love story. (If you are anti-Austen, you will say that all Austen is sappy love stories. Oh, you poor reader, how very wrong you are.)
Second almost-deal-breaker: Amy's Spanish-language-immersion teacher says that the casting in the previously-reviled P&P movie is good, because Collins is short. And it doesn't say he's short, but you know that he is anyway. Sorry, Luis, you're 100% wrong. Here is the quote: Mr. Collins seemed neither in need of encouragement, nor inclined to be silent himself. He was a tall, heavy-looking young man of five-and-twenty....
Okay, they're little things. Both bugged me. Now I've said them, and they don't bug me anymore....more
This was such a disappointment - especially because it could have been so good. SJN is a good writer on good days; Ahab's Wife is a very interesting bThis was such a disappointment - especially because it could have been so good. SJN is a good writer on good days; Ahab's Wife is a very interesting book. Unfortunately, she wrote Abundance on a series of bad days.
The biggest problem with the novel is that it brings absolutely nothing new to Marie Antoinette. Not only is she herself kind of lame (she has very little strength of character, and I don't mean as in being strong, I mean as in drawn in very weak pencil on wet paper), but every other character has no more depth than she does. The King, Mercy, Maria Teresa, Fersen (a relationship so poorly presented that it makes Twilight look good), Yolande, the Princess de Lamballe...they are all cardboard cutouts, or worse, mere names with no characteristics at all. They are watery approximations of humans.
I can't believe I spent this amount of time on such a horrible book. SJN managed to present Marie Antoinette in the same light as countless other writers - the plot moves at the pace of a dead snail - not a single character holds any interest - the writing is overblown and very dull - in fact, I cannot think of a single positive thing in this entire novel. It's that bad.
Please, please don't waste your money - read Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey instead, which is well-written, interesting, and far, far better than this empty piece of claptrap which Sena Jeter Naslund has so tediously stretched out into five hundred pages. Despite its (interminable) length, it is thinner and paler than a watery shadow. It is ghastly....more
Starting off, I'd better say I am not an Edith Wharton fan. Like, at all. I'd rather run a mile than read The House of Mirth again. So normally, I wouStarting off, I'd better say I am not an Edith Wharton fan. Like, at all. I'd rather run a mile than read The House of Mirth again. So normally, I would never have picked up this book. "Ugh! Edith Wharton? Probably depressing and miserable...like everything else she wrote."
A very good and much-loved friend of mine, Irene Goldman-Price, is a (wonderful) Wharton scholar, and she compiled, translated (from Edith's AWFUL handwriting), transcribed, annotated, and enhanced Edith's letters to her former governess, Anna Bahlmann. Irene is an excellent writer and an incredible scholar, but her book isn't pedantic or dull. The focus is on the letters, and the brief introductions to each chapter and to every few letters make the letters themselves even more entertaining.
Edith Wharton, however sad her books are, was a great writer. Her letters, especially the cheerful ones, are absolutely delightful. Without Irene, I would never have picked this up, let alone given it five stars, but because a) Irene is an excellent writer and an even more amazing person, b) she obviously knows everything about her topic and c) it's an unparallelled collection of letters, the book deserves all of its accolades.
Deirdre LeFaye's edition of Austen's letters is confusing, especially the notes, and there's a lot of excess nonsense. There is nothing like that here. It's concise, touching, well-written, and intelligent. Thank goodness for Irene Goldman-Price....more