I'm generally a fan of long books that really let me immerse myself in the world the author has created. When Alyce suggested I read Jonathan Strange...moreI'm generally a fan of long books that really let me immerse myself in the world the author has created. When Alyce suggested I read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, I put it on my list of books to get to and eventually I picked up a copy and read it.
There's a lot to like about it, but I never quite felt really engaged in it. And when a book is just over a thousand pages long, that's a lot of time. I liked it but I never quite passed that boundary to loving it. I think the problem is that there wasn't any clear antagonist. And of the several main characters, none are really protagonists either.
I could never quite decide if the book was trying to be lighthearted or serious. And it's written in a rather distant sort of style that kept me at arms length. I know it sounds as if I didn't like it at all but that's not the case. It is interesting and it's an amazing novel in many ways. I just felt like I didn't like it as much as I should have. Perhaps the closest comparison I can make is Neal Stephenson's in that it's the journey that's interesting but the conclusion doesn't quite live up to the rest of the book. That's true here as well, but for the most part, I didn't care about the characters as much as I generally do in Stephenson's stories.
I'm more or less neutral on recommending it. Because of its length you have to invest a lot of yourself to get through it and whether it's worthwhile depends on your love of fantasy and how it intersects with early 19th century England.(less)
This is the latest and probably last book in the Stoner McTavish series. I'm guessing it's the final one because it was written ten years ago and ther...moreThis is the latest and probably last book in the Stoner McTavish series. I'm guessing it's the final one because it was written ten years ago and there haven't been signs of any others.
In all the other books, Stoner travels to some other place, Wyoming, Maine, Arizona, etc. to solve someone else's problem. This one takes place at home or at least it's her new home. McTavish and crew have moved from Boston to Shelbourne Falls, MA and the story is set in an around that area. Well, most of it is. The rest is set in non-ordinary reality and just exactly where that is on a map is up for serious debate.
Stoner's Aunt Hermione is sick. She's tired and forgetful and just not herself and the doctor's can't find anything wrong with her. But, Aunt Hermione's psychic friends say that Stoner is the only one that can solve the problem. Yes, this Stoner McTavish book heads straight for the supernatural and doesn't look back.
In the process we learn a lot more about Aunt Hermione than we have in the other books and she's an interesting and engaging character. The other regular supporting characters are also there and just as quirky and interesting as normal.
While I enjoyed the book, I did have one fairly big issue with it. I can't really reveal that problem without some spoilers so be warned. It seems like Aunt Hermione uses herself as bait to force Stoner to confront repressed childhood trauma and the supposed antagonist is set up. We never learn what motivated the antagonist and it seems odd that Aunt Hermione would allow someone to be used like that even to do good for someone else. It felt awkward and contrived and out of character. Maybe I missed a step along the way. That's always a danger when reading before going to sleep, but I don't think I did.
Even so, Stoner is (mostly) lovably neurotic and the cast of characters is endearing. Everyone should have an extended family of people like that in their lives.
If you've made it through all the other Stoner McTavish books, by all means, read this one. If you've been indifferent to them, you can miss this one. It's an interesting read but not my favorite of the series.(less)
I really liked The Mists of Avalon. I enjoyed the sequels though though not to the same degree. This one...not so much.
I may not be giving the book a...moreI really liked The Mists of Avalon. I enjoyed the sequels though though not to the same degree. This one...not so much.
I may not be giving the book a fair shake. I didn't relize that it was not only a prequel to the Mists series, but it was also a sequel to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fall of Atlantis. I haven't read Fall and so this story starts in assuming I was familiar with some backstory that I didn't know. I didn't know until I read the author's note at the end that this was the case or I might have picked up the other book first, but my experience with this one was so unrewarding that I'm not inclined to do so.
I've like other stuff by Paxson but this one just didn't work for me.(less)
The fifth Stoner McTavish book takes place at Disney World. Well, most of it does. Some of it takes place in some sort of parallel world that looks a...moreThe fifth Stoner McTavish book takes place at Disney World. Well, most of it does. Some of it takes place in some sort of parallel world that looks a lot like one of the rides at Epcot. This is definitely not a book for those who require cause and effect to be firmly related. This is one of those books where Things Happen and, of course, Stoner is a magnet for Things Happening.
However, if you can suspend your disbelief enough to get past that detail, it's a fun read. We get to see more of the supporting cast, particularly Marylou and the dialog and characterizations are always interesting.
Though I liked the book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first four, it's the most overtly peculiar of the books. Strange things happen not only to Stoner but to most of the others as well. Don't expect any explanations for how or why these phenomena happen. Life will be easier on you if you do. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.(less)
Though I enjoyed this, it was probably my least favorite of the Avalon books. That's probably because except for Mists of Avalon, originally read year...moreThough I enjoyed this, it was probably my least favorite of the Avalon books. That's probably because except for Mists of Avalon, originally read years ago, I've read the subsequent books fairly recently and with relatively little time between them. When you read them so closely they start to look formulaic.
This book concerns Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine. Bradley and Paxson fill in the blanks in Helena's life starting with the idea that she was born in Britain and was a Priestess of Avalon. Unlike the other books, this one ventures far and wide covering the width of the Roman empire and roughly eighty years of (speculative) history. This is an interesting time historically because Christianity goes from being a persecuted cult to the state religion of Rome.
In the timeline of the other books, this takes place before the second section of Lady of Avalon and ends somewhat after that section but well before the third section.
It's interesting to see how the authors try to build a world view where the claims to correctness of multiple religions can be right. It's a tough assertion to make and still be able to tell a story that holds together. Within the Avalon books, the most overt supernatural manifestations occur to or via the efforts of Avalon's priestesses. These priestesses believe they are right because their magic works. That has to be a compelling aid to a religion. They also claim to believe that the teaching of many other religions are correct, or at least have some fundamental truth and that all religions are just a different facet of the same gem.
In any event, Bradley and Paxson's accounts of 4th century life in the Roman empire are interesting and Helena's fictionalized life is certainly interesting. She was in a place to witness and to a degree shape events that continue to affect our world to this day. Why did Constantine become a Christian? How did the fragmented Church achieve some degree of unity?
Though the book isn't without flaws, it's worth reading if you are a fan of the Avalon books. Just don't read them all in a row.(less)
The fourth book in the Stoner McTavish series has her winging her way out to Colorado to retrieve the car of a client who had to fly back to Boston fo...moreThe fourth book in the Stoner McTavish series has her winging her way out to Colorado to retrieve the car of a client who had to fly back to Boston for a family emergency. Except, alone on the Colorado interstate, the car mysteriously dies and somehow Stoner finds herself back in 1871 in a small town where, of course, trouble's a-brewin'.
My first thought was that we weren't going to see any of our old, familiar characters in this one except for a brief appearance in the beginning, but, as it turns out, that wouldn't be quite right. At least two of the characters are the reincarnation, or perhaps I should call it the "preincarnation" of Aunt Hermione and Gwen. While the book never says or even speculates on any others, I've got my money on the saloon owner being Stel Perkin's preincarnation, not that it has any relevance to the story.
Anyway, like Gray Magic, this one is pretty well based in New Age mysticism combined with an interesting look at Colorado not long before it becomes a state. I've no idea how accurate Dreher's historical account is, but, like the other Stoner books, this one is a fun read.(less)
The third book in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series picks up right after the evens in The Forest House and provides some of the history of Avalon...moreThe third book in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series picks up right after the evens in The Forest House and provides some of the history of Avalon from it's founding to perhaps a generation before The Mists of Avalon. We find out how Avalon separated itself from the normal world to a place between our world and Faerie and why it happened. We also learn of that souls that make up this story are tied to Avalon and Britannia and so although we are told several stories separated by decades in one sense they are part of the same connected story that spans hundreds of years.
Though certainly not up to the standard of Mists it's an entertaining book, particularly if want a glimpse into Bradley's view of what life in Roman Britain might have been like.(less)
The third book in the Stoner McTavish series has Stoner and Gwen heading out to visit Stel Perkins for a vacation. We met Stel in the first book and i...moreThe third book in the Stoner McTavish series has Stoner and Gwen heading out to visit Stel Perkins for a vacation. We met Stel in the first book and it was great to see her make an appearance. Everyone needs a Stel Perkins in their lives.
In this book, Stoner doesn't set out to solve a mystery, she's drawn in by a mysterious illness that's affecting women in the area and she has several curious encounters with a Native American woman who tells her it is up to Stoner to make things right.
This is the most overtly mystical of the series so far but it works well. Stoner seems to come to a sort of acceptance that these sorts of things are going to keep happening to her and she needs to be a bit more open minded even though she'd rather that Strange Things would stop happening.
The story manages not to become too melodramatic and stays entertaining and, as always, the characters are interesting. At least the protagonists are, the antagonist tends to be a bit one-dimensional, but the book really isn't about the antagonist. It's a book about things below the surface and how there is always more than one way to look at the world.
And, Stoner's quest to be ever so politically correct is always entertaining!(less)
his is the sequel to The Mists of Avalon in that it was written later, but a prequel in that it is about a period of time roughly 400 years prior to...more his is the sequel to The Mists of Avalon in that it was written later, but a prequel in that it is about a period of time roughly 400 years prior to the first book. It deals with the events that lead up to the founding of Avalon. The historical context is the middle of the 2nd century AD and Britannia is firmly under the yoke of Roman rule.
The story revolves around the lives of Eilan, a local girl and Gaius, a half-Roman boy. You can think of it as a sort of Celtic/Roman West Side Story or Romeo and Juliet. For all of it's predictability, it's still an entertaining novel. Bradley contrives an interesting speculative look into the life of Britain in the 2nd Century. It doesn't quite live up to Mists but that's a pretty tall order. There's something about the Arthurian legend that seems to resonate with us in an almost visceral way. Judging it by that standard it may disappoint, but that would be unfair. It's definitely worthwhile.(less)
This is the second book in the Stoner McTavnish series and, like the first, it's a fun read. Many of the characters from the first book are back along...moreThis is the second book in the Stoner McTavnish series and, like the first, it's a fun read. Many of the characters from the first book are back along with some new ones. In this story, Stoner is convinced to investigate the disappearance of the sister of her Aunt's friend. In the process she spends some time in a psychiatric hospital where the something shady referred to in the title seems to be happening.
This book, unlike the first book, is a bit more overt in it's supernatural elements though it's not really a big plot element. Stoner's neurotic behavior may have met it's match in one of the patients she befriends. Hopefully she'll learn to chill out a bit in later books, but I suspect not; that seems to be an essential part of Stoner's character.
The relationships between Stoner and the other characters are what really make these books work. The mystery element of the story is fairly straightforward and won't really keep you guessing but caring about the characters and what happens to them do keep the pages turning.(less)
This book is one of those that I would consider required reading. Marion Zimmer Bradley's telling of the Arthurian legend from the point of view of Mo...moreThis book is one of those that I would consider required reading. Marion Zimmer Bradley's telling of the Arthurian legend from the point of view of Morgaine is so captivating that even twenty years later, I come back to it.
It's the story of Britain after Rome has faded but the influence of Rome, particularly through spreading Christianity hasn't. Britain is on the cusp where the spread of Christianity is eclipsing the native, ancient religion. You'll see all the familiar names from the legend, Arthur, Guinevere, etc., but their roles may not be exactly what you expect. In Bradley's tale, Morgaine is a priestess of Avalon who tries to serve the Goddess, the Lady of Avalon, her King and brother and is ill-used in the process. For me the book succeeds because when I read it I got the sense that it could have happened like that (if you're willing to suspend disbelief enough for the magical elements of the story).
When I first read this, I couldn't put it down. If you haven't read it, you should remedy that!(less)
arper Blaine is a private investigator in Seattle. She's involved in a case where things go bad quickly. She wakes up in the hospital to find out she...morearper Blaine is a private investigator in Seattle. She's involved in a case where things go bad quickly. She wakes up in the hospital to find out she died and was revived. That would be enough to unnerve most people, but it's worse for her. She keeps seeing things that aren't really there. And so begins her journey to accepting the idea that her world is a lot more complex than she ever believed.
She meets a witch, ghosts, vampires and a necromancer and is sucked into events for which she isn't prepared.
The hardest part for me with books like this is the suspension of disbelief. However, if you can get past that little obstacle, it's a fun ride. Harper is an interesting character as are most of the characters that we meet.
If you like mysteries, ghosts, vampires and such, give this one a read.(less)
I just finished rereading this one and it's still enjoyable. The second time around I get to marvel at the richness and intricacies in the story where...moreI just finished rereading this one and it's still enjoyable. The second time around I get to marvel at the richness and intricacies in the story where the first time I was just caught up in the story.
It's been years since I read this the first time where the television show is much fresher. I wish they hadn't shortchanged Bran and Ariya's stories in the show. Both are substantially abridged compared to the book.
I just reread this and I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time, perhaps more. Though the plot no longer holds any surprises, the characters and s...moreI just reread this and I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time, perhaps more. Though the plot no longer holds any surprises, the characters and settings are familiar and loved. After watching the television adaptation I now hear the characters in the voices of the actors which surprised me.
This is one of my favorite fantasy series and I'm glad that is still true upon rereading!(less)