This was a reread for me for my face-to-face bookclub. Jim Dale does an excellent job with the narration.
Original review from Sept. 2012: Impossible tThis was a reread for me for my face-to-face bookclub. Jim Dale does an excellent job with the narration.
Original review from Sept. 2012: Impossible to characterize! Fantasy but not quite. Mystery/suspense but not quite. Romance but not quite. Allegory? Fairy tale? Steampunk? Metaphysical? All I know is that without much of a plot, and without much character development (which should be faults), and without even a real magical contest (if that isn't a spoiler), the author has created a magical, riveting world that I won't soon forget. It jumps around in time and place and from one character to another, which should be confusing, but isn't. It just adds to the sense of an elaborate illusion, the peeling of an onion to get to the truth of why all of this has been set in motion. And whose story is it in the end? Reading this book is a bit like reading Tarot cards. What do they mean? How do they relate to each other? Is it about the past or the future? It is about symbolism, and archetypes, and how we might escape from the things that bind us. It asks us to ponder the nature of dualism, black and white, good and evil, power and weakness, truth and illusion, the nature of time and of being. Among the recognizable archetypes are the Hero's Journey, the Wheel of Fortune, Merlin in the tree, Tristan and Isolde, and the Labyrinth. The prose creates vivid images, and I think this will make a splendid movie. My favorite scene: the boat made of books sailing on a sea of ink... I am still there, and I expect to look out the window and see the black and white tents far off in the cornfield. ...more
This was offered free on Amazon, and my mother's ancestors moved from Kentucky to Missouri to Kansas, so I'm hoping to get some insights into their exThis was offered free on Amazon, and my mother's ancestors moved from Kentucky to Missouri to Kansas, so I'm hoping to get some insights into their experiences....more
This is a period romance wrapped up as an okay country-house-type murder mystery, and the background of Lady Darby is intriguing. The author does workThis is a period romance wrapped up as an okay country-house-type murder mystery, and the background of Lady Darby is intriguing. The author does work in some interesting historical details (Burke and Hare, jigsaw puzzles), but the setting in the Scottish highlands, near Inverness, just doesn't work. I couldn't figure out the social background of these people, and what they were doing in Scotland. There was nothing Scottish about any of it, certainly none of the names given to the characters. Kiera is decidedly a late 20th-century Irish name, Alana and Greer are also 20th-century names. There are other anachronisms (summer squash soup?, raccoons in 19th-century Scotland?, comparisons of eyebrows to cotton blooming?) and the dialog is far too modern. On the whole, I found the characters to be very flat -- even the future love interest, Mr. Gage. The romance angle is very cliche. Maybe it is a notch above the usual Harlequin's judging by the number of 4 and 5-star reviews on Amazon, but I prefer more realistic meat to my historical reading. I read this for my "Wife books" challenge, and I won't be reading any more of the series.
Book Description: Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister's estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes. Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage--a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn't about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl. When Kiera and Gage's search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim...
Series info: Lady Darby mysteries: 1. The Anatomist's Wife ------------------------------ 2. Mortal Arts 3. A Grave Matter...more
I'm a sucker for pretty much anything set in Wales, good or bad, but this book turned out to be a loving tribute to the landscape. The author has a lyI'm a sucker for pretty much anything set in Wales, good or bad, but this book turned out to be a loving tribute to the landscape. The author has a lyrical way with words, and was able to create a strong sense of time and place, helped by the use of Welsh language words throughout. Morgana was an interesting character, and without the imposition of magic and witchcraft this could have been a 4-star historical romance. While I enjoy a good paranormal or fantasy story, I struggled a bit with it here. I wanted to be immersed in historical Wales, so every time magic was introduced it just didn't seem quite right to me. I had a few historical quibbles - the use of the famous song Calon Lan, for example, which wasn't written until 1890 probably at the earliest. It was interesting to learn something about Welsh cattle droving which died out in Wales after the introduction of railroads in the 1840s and 50s. Aside from the language (no glossary provided, which wasn't an issue for me, but those who don't know some basic Welsh might wish it had one), other elements of "Welshness" seemed contrived - let's throw in some references to Welsh cakes and bara brith and carving love spoons. And corgis, of course. The author does live in Wales, and obviously loves her country. Despite my nit-picking here, I enjoyed the book enough to give it four stars. It's a sweet love story, a tribute to Wales (especially the language and the landscape), and the triumph of good over evil.
Book Description: In her small early-nineteenth-century Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana, who has not spoken since she was a young girl. Her silence is a mystery, as well as her magic. Concerned for her safety, her mother is anxious to see her married, and Cai Jenkins, a widower from the far hills, seems the best choice. After her wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving her mother, and wary of this man, whom she does not know, and who will take her away to begin a new life. But she soon falls in love with Cai's farm and the wild mountains that surround it. Cai works to understand the beautiful half-tamed creature he has chosen for a bride, and slowly, he begins to win Morgana's affections. It's not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village. A dark force is at work there -- a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana. Forced to defend her home, her man, and herself, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything. (from book jacket)
About the author: Paula Brackston lives in a wild, mountainous part of Wales. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and is a Visiting Lecturer for the University of Wales, Newport. Before becoming a writer, Paula tried her hand at various career paths, with mixed success. These included working as a groom on a racing yard, as a travel agent, a secretary, an English teacher, and a goat herd. Everyone involved (particularly the goats) is very relieved that she has now found a job she is actually able to do properly. (from author's website)...more
This is fluff, but enjoyable fluff if you aren't expecting either a murder mystery, or the continuing voice of Jane Austen. P.D. James has her own styThis is fluff, but enjoyable fluff if you aren't expecting either a murder mystery, or the continuing voice of Jane Austen. P.D. James has her own style - that of omniscient narrator - but it fits the time period admirably. Still, it is narration, and lacks the sparkling dialog that characterizes Jane Austen. Those who are intimately familiar with Pride and Prejudice may tire of the endless rehashing of those events. Those who are not, may appreciate the filling in of the back story. I enjoyed learning where P.D. James has taken our familiar characters in the six years since the end of P&P. As for the murder mystery, this is not so much a who-done-it as it is an exploration of how the characters react to these events and the unfolding murder trial. All in all, this is probably better than most of the P&P sequels out there.
Description: It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy's magnificent estate. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. Elizabeth's sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy's sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball. Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth's disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a mystery and a lurid murder trial....more
I REALLY wanted to like this book. With a topic of reincarnation I thought it would be right up my alley. I ratWARNING: This review contains spoilers!
I REALLY wanted to like this book. With a topic of reincarnation I thought it would be right up my alley. I rate it a high 2. It was okay, but with some serious flaws. The author had a great concept, but the plot had serious holes, too many characters and characters in disguise to keep straight, and no real ending. Lots of loose threads and unanswered questions. As for suspense, there was too much switching of time, place, and point of view to build any tension. The main character, Josh, is just as clueless at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. The author desperately wants us to believe in reincarnation, but even her main character does not grow or learn anything from his experience. The best part of the book was the portrayal of ancient Rome and the Vestal Virgins. But who is Sabina? We never find out. Every other character seems to have a modern incarnation, but apparently not Sabina. The twist at the end makes no sense. And it just ends. There is no resolution of karma. In my experience, memories of past lives don't just come out of the blue unless there is a reason. We have agreed to have that experience as part of our spiritual growth, to resolve karma, to heal self-karma, or to validate our connections with people we have known in the past. None of that happens here. It seems to me the author is like Malachai - desperate to have that experience for herself, but with no idea what it really means. The "Memory Stones" was so gimicky. I wish the author had stuck with historical facts. If someone can tell me the series gets better, I might try another one.
Book Description: A bomb in Rome, a flash of bluish-white, and photojournalist Josh Ryder's world explodes. As Josh recovers, thoughts that have the emotion, the intensity, the intimacy of memories invade him. But they are not his. They are ancient…and violent with an urgency he cannot ignore—pulling him to save Sabina…and the treasures she protects. But who is Sabina? Desperate for answers, Josh turns to the Phoenix Foundation—a research facility that scientifically documents past-life experiences. He is led to an archaeological dig and to Professor Gabriella Chase, who has discovered an ancient, powerful secret that threatens to merge the past with the present. Here, the dead call out to the living, and murders of the past become murders of the present.
Series info: Reincarnationist series 01. The reincarnationist - read -------------------------- 02. The memorist 03. The hypnotist 04. The book of lost fragrances 05. Seduction
I'm not quite sure what to make of this one, but it was okay. Originally a dissertation project, the time period seems to be thoroughly researched. BuI'm not quite sure what to make of this one, but it was okay. Originally a dissertation project, the time period seems to be thoroughly researched. But despite all the detail, I couldn't quite put myself into this time and place. There's a stiffness and formality to the writing that gives this a rather old-fashioned feel and kept me on the "outside" looking in. It is a Christian novel, so the author indulged in a lot of theological dialogue. At least she didn't seem to be trying to save the reader's soul! Mostly it seems historically appropriate. I found the background about the Quaker schism interesting. Hannah, herself, seems to be open-minded to different points of view.
Hannah starts out in her marriage to Ahab with a great deal of naivete. Some of the romantic dialog is far too sickeningly saccharine for my taste, but I wouldn't say this is a romance novel. It is a portrait of a woman, growing and changing over time. Mostly we see her through her relationship with Ahab. The lengthy periods of his absences are glossed over far too quickly. Through her eyes, we see an Ahab that is too perfect to be real in the beginning. I do think the author did a better job with his character following the loss of his leg. One of Hannah's friends explains toward the end of the book "he's always had something broken inside" but we don't really see that foreshadowed at all. It seemed quite an abrupt shift in his personality after the accident. But again, it is all through Hannah's eyes.
It might be interesting to see how Hannah develops in the next book of the Ahab's Legacy trilogy now that she is separated permanently from Ahab, but I haven't decided if I really want to read it or not. I do like the historical detail, and there are hints of what Hannah might become through her interests in transcendentalism and introduction to the thinking of Lucretia Mott.
Description: Before Captain Ahab encountered Moby Dick, he met the woman who would capture his heart - Hannah Oldweiler. This voyage back to 19th Century Nantucket completes the portrait of the man who ruled the sea with an iron will, and introduces us to the woman who had a spirit and determination to match. When Ahab becomes obsessed with settling a score with the great whale, Hannah is left alone to raise their son and to oversee her husband's estate. Waiting and praying for his safe return, Hannah is faced with loneliness - a deep longing in her soul that not even her husband can meet. Will Hannah become as independent as Ahab? Will she take her future into her own hands? Who will fill the emptiness in her heart?
Series info: Ahab's Legacy trilogy 01. Ahab's Bride - read ------------------------- 02. Hannah Rose 03. Son of Perdition...more
I might have given this 4 stars, for Jane Austen's characteristic witty dialogue and skewering of society, but it was just so predictable. You knew whI might have given this 4 stars, for Jane Austen's characteristic witty dialogue and skewering of society, but it was just so predictable. You knew who was going to end up with whom, so there really wasn't any suspence about the outcome. I found the ultimate pairing of Marianne, 17, with the 35-year-old Colonel Brandon to be unsatisfying. Why not give the widowed Mrs. Dashwood a love interest? She is only 40, not that much older than he is! Elinor is boring. And Willoughby deserved better, I thought! I really only read this as a prequel to reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters for my Moby-Dick project. Except for being set in Devonshire, I don't see how sea monsters are going to be featured. Could be interesting!
The audiobook was narrated by Susannah Harker.
Description: The difference between the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, lies not only in their appearance but also in their temperament. Elinor's good sense contrasts with Marianne's impulsive candor. Yet in the face of a highly competitive marriage market, the sisters' experience of love causes both to readjust... Jane Austen's satirical powers of observation and expression spare no one in this lively study of the constraints on women of a particular class in the eighteenth century....more
Long, rambling, and something of a sea monster of a book. Called by one early critic "a chowder of a book," I would have to agree. At times it is brilLong, rambling, and something of a sea monster of a book. Called by one early critic "a chowder of a book," I would have to agree. At times it is brilliant, laugh out loud funny, thought-provoking, philosophical, and I can certainly appreciate all the historical detail. It's just not a subject I have any great interest in, or affinity for. Is it the greatest American novel ever written? It is certainly iconic, and I am glad that I have made the effort to finish the whole thing. Repeated exposure would probably raise my rating quite a bit, but I don't plan to revisit this one.
The audiobook was narrated by Frank Muller, who did a wonderful job.
Book Description: The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab has one purpose on this voyage: to seek out a specific whale—Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off his leg, which now drives Ahab to take revenge.
In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.
Opening lines: "Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."...more
A comical romp through the English countryside, which pokes fun at politics, lawyers, medical students, aggressive middle-aged women, fat people, costA comical romp through the English countryside, which pokes fun at politics, lawyers, medical students, aggressive middle-aged women, fat people, costume parties, and "scientific" research, for starters. Along the way, it is also a morality tale. The genial, bumbling Mr. Pickwick learns something about human nature along the way and is a better person for it. Goodness, generosity, mercy and forgiveness will triumph over greed, meanness, cruelty, and deception. Dickens is at his best when describing parties, Christmas festivities, and the conviviality of food and drink and friendship. My favorite character is Sam Weller, the faithful servant, friend, and surrogate son to Mr. Pickwick. One wonders if Tolkien modeled Samwise after this character. The plot, if you can call it that, is frequently interrupted by story telling. While the result is a bit rambling, the stories do usually either parallel or contrast something in the current situation. And of course, the whole thing is told with wickedly funny dialogue, satire and wordplay already mature in this first work of Dickens.
Description: Meet Mr. Pickwick, General Chairman and Member of the Pickwick Club, whose aim it is to advance knowledge (meet the good people of the neighborhood) and diffuse learning (talk with the good people of the neighborhood) by widening its members' sphere of observation (traveling to and between the good people of the neighborhood) so long as the effort be not too great (which it rarely is) and that there be plenty of room for good cheer (of which there is never a lack). Meet Mr. Pickwick, and you cannot fail to meet those cheery gentlement Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Tracy Tupman, Mr. Jingle, and Mr. Nathaniel Winkle. Meet Mr. Pickwick, and without a doubt your day will dawn a little brighter, and your temperament will be a little sweeter for the aquaintance. Narrated by Patrick Tull....more
This might have gotten another star from me, but I just wasn't in the mood for blood and gore. Though it lacks the cleverness of Pride and Prejudice aThis might have gotten another star from me, but I just wasn't in the mood for blood and gore. Though it lacks the cleverness of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the alternative history presented is quite believable! With the extensive "introduction" about how the author was given the journals and the dictum to write a book from them, I expected to return to the narrator at the end with some twist or other, so it felt a bit incomplete at the end. While P&P&Z stuck quite closely to Jane Austen's text (which is what made it work, in my opinion!), this book was derived from a mix of historical stuff with some madeup history (like Lincoln meeting Poe) thrown in, so the whole thing was a lot more ambiguous as to what was historical and what wasn't. Yes, this is fiction, but I think it might have been stronger with an actual underlying source. In the end, it almost works. I just think this book could have been so much more.
Description: While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.
Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation....more
Impossible to characterize! Fantasy but not quite. Mystery/suspense but not quite. Romance but not quite. Allegory? Fairy tale? Steampunk? MetaphysicaImpossible to characterize! Fantasy but not quite. Mystery/suspense but not quite. Romance but not quite. Allegory? Fairy tale? Steampunk? Metaphysical? All I know is that without much of a plot, and without much character development (which should be faults), and without even a real magical contest (if that isn't a spoiler), the author has created a magical, riveting world that I won't soon forget. It jumps around in time and place and from one character to another, which should be confusing, but isn't. It just adds to the sense of an elaborate illusion, the peeling of an onion to get to the truth of why all of this has been set in motion. And whose story is it in the end? Reading this book is a bit like reading Tarot cards. What do they mean? How do they relate to each other? Is it about the past or the future? It is about symbolism, and archetypes, and how we might escape from the things that bind us. It asks us to ponder the nature of dualism, black and white, good and evil, power and weakness, truth and illusion, the nature of time and of being. Among the recognizable archetypes are the Hero's Journey, the Wheel of Fortune, Merlin in the tree, Tristan and Isolde, and the Labyrinth. The prose creates vivid images, and I think this will make a splendid movie. My favorite scene: the boat made of books sailing on a sea of ink... I am still there, and I expect to look out the window and see the black and white tents far off in the cornfield.
Description: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.