In need of a quick fix after I finished another book faster than I anticipated, my Californian friend recommended Zorro from her own bookshelves. As a...moreIn need of a quick fix after I finished another book faster than I anticipated, my Californian friend recommended Zorro from her own bookshelves. As a fan of the occasional swashbuckling romance, this was all the more appealing because of how California history is also a prominent feature of the book.
And what a delight Zorro was. Colorful, epic, and virtuous, this book is a perfect filler for the in-between stages, the times when you're not sure what to read next, since you've just finished a masterpiece and don't think anything else can measure up. Well, the beauty of this book is that Allende writes with a style that will keep you entertained and invested, her characters complex and defined. At times the tale can get a little tedious, but what I enjoyed about Zorro was that I could put it down and easily pick it up several days later. I attribute this to the fact that the book is not told in chapters; it simply keeps going, one long tale after another until the story of how Zorro came to be has run its length.
As a fan of the old Disney black-and-white television show, I loved reading Allende's version of the rise of Diego de la Vega, the by-day identity of the masked man to his late night, Robin Hood-type escapades. Allende has left nothing out: Zorro is a well crafted and finely edited number that will entertain a wide audience, since there truly is a little bit of everything for the well read reader to appreciate.
If you enjoyed this book and are looking for something to follow-up, I also recommend checking out The Scarlet Pimpernel - a swashbuckling favorite of mine with another charming, swoon-worthy male lead.(less)
The process of reading this book for me fluctuated like a sound wave: at times my interest was high, and in other parts I felt lik...moreHm. What a letdown.
The process of reading this book for me fluctuated like a sound wave: at times my interest was high, and in other parts I felt like this could not drag on any longer. If the book had not been an easy read, I suppose I would have quit much earlier on.
My criticisms for this book are quite high in the historical side, since I disagree very much with the representations of Hamilton, Philadelphia, Burr, and other Federalist stars. Still, I could have forgiven this if I had truly enjoyed the plot and its fictional characters. Unfortunately this was not the case, and I'm left feeling even more unsatisfied. There was some major potential here, and Liss chose an incredible cast of characters. I'm disappointed how so many of them turned out. Also, was I supposed to be rooting for the Whiskey clan? This I never could decide either. Who were my protagonists?
My biggest complaint, however, has to do with the character of Joan. I never fully believed her, and I think this mostly stems from the fact that I did not believe Liss's writing as a woman. What she said, what she did - it just did not seem comprehensible and womanly to me. And as for the character Ethan, I also never found him worth my time and sympathy. In the end, what do we learn from either one of these characters? I have absolutely no idea, and I am very disappointed to admit so.
I like to think that even though this period was filled with turmoil and frustration with the budding government, there was still enough of a patriotic spirit left in the people to carry them through the challenges of an early nation. Perhaps this is an idealistic view of history that I have, but it's at least a conclusion that many historians have made. This? I can't decipher what Liss wanted me to conclude, and that sense of confusion is enough to make me disgruntled.(less)
The last 40 pages of the book saved it from being a 2-star for me, and aside from the plot wrap-up, those pages consisted of an epilogue and author's...moreThe last 40 pages of the book saved it from being a 2-star for me, and aside from the plot wrap-up, those pages consisted of an epilogue and author's note. Still, something that Hicks had to say about war, loss, and patriotism stuck with me, and I was moved by how he crafted these messages into a novel of powerful insight.
I haven't ever before read anything that so dramatizes the cruelties of the Civil War as this book does, and the one thing I'm left feeling now is grateful. I'm grateful to have a country I am proud to be a part of, but it's saddening to think that our nation has shed so much blood still after this horrific experience on our own soil. I feel as if some things have been put into perspective for me here. Even though I did not particularly enjoy the plot that Hicks created for Carrie and her family after the war, I suppose there wasn't much for people to enjoy after so much death occurred. People turned to whatever they could to channel their grief, and Carrie's cemetery of Confederate soldiers is an incredible monument to the loss families suffered.
Patriotism is a fleeting topic in this book, but Hicks emphasizes that people have a duty to uphold the honor of their families, their comrades, and lives lost. Carrie McGavock was quite a force of a woman, and in some sense this book is a feminist piece - another interesting spin for readers looking for something a little different in the world of historical fiction. A heavy read but a book with a purpose, The Widow of the South is a tribute to a woman who truly did a service to the American nation - and for that I commend Hicks and his efforts.(less)
Oh my Lord, poor Richard Adams. This is what life after Watership Down has come to? After page 39, though, I realized this book was not going to be ev...moreOh my Lord, poor Richard Adams. This is what life after Watership Down has come to? After page 39, though, I realized this book was not going to be even worthwhile continuing. There's just no way. The book might be titled "outlandish," but I had really hoped it wouldn't also be a reflection of the writing and plot itself. As much as I hate to say this about a favorite author, I do not recommend.
The summary of this book is intriguing enough: roaming minstrel falls in love with the wife of a man who is quite high up in the English ruling system, and the two have to run away to avoid his wrath - ultimately leading to war. However, I did not even get to the running away part of this book. I was so mortified by what happened on page 39: Raymond declares his undying love to Allison in less than TWELVE HOURS OF KNOWING HER. True, some very, very unrealistic things happen in book plots, but sometimes the author just makes things make sense. You leave enough of your logic at the door that an unruly plot is forgivable when the characters are endearing, the plot is well developed, and the dialogue isn't a waste of breath. Unfortunately, I simply cannot go on with what Adams has given us here; two out of three of these requirements for a good book have already miserably failed and are beyond repair. I cannot believe that the relationship of these two has any stability or foundation whatsoever, and their dialogue is so juvenile and mundane that I actually feel sorry for them.
I skimmed the next twenty pages or so...predictable, predictable, and more correct predictions. Not worth your time, and it's almost pathetic. Close the cover, move along, and try to remember that Adams has already authored a modern day classic.(less)
Well, even though the book didn't knock my knickers off, I think I might have found a new favorite author.
Like The Pale Blue Eye, Bayard has once agai...moreWell, even though the book didn't knock my knickers off, I think I might have found a new favorite author.
Like The Pale Blue Eye, Bayard has once again crafted a novel of historical suspense with a character who is known the world over: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol's Tiny Tim, all grown up and more maturely called Timothy Cratchit.
The book follows much of the same formula that Bayard used for Eye: a sentimental protagonist, stained by his past relationships, seeks redemption in his salvation of a young, energetic young mind, who quickly becomes a sidekick and a lovable character as they seek to conquer an even greater, darker, evil force. In this book, Tim's young sidekick is Colin the Melodious, who to me sang a very similar tune to Dickens' the Artful Dodger (from Oliver Twist). Bayard is so talented at paying his respects to the originators of his updated character versions, and I think Dickens himself would have approved with what Bayard has done here with some of his classic characters. Mr. Timothy is a little racy at times, but it still is an adequate page-turner with sympathetic characters and well timed dialogue. (I hate it when authors don't know how to put words into their characters' mouths. Bayard, on the other hand, never squanders a word. Every sentence seems very carefully crafted, and as a reader I really appreciate that Bayard does not waste my time when there is a story I'm itching to continue.)
All this said, Mr. Timothy has a very mature depth to it, but the plot itself never completely drew me in. I think because even though Tim is a former cripple with a recently passed father, he lacked the humor and wit that Bayard's characters wielded in The Pale Blue Eye. Tim is a hero and a victim, but I suppose I kept waiting for him to exponentially grow. For a plot that wasn't all that convoluted, I think I just wanted even more depth to the character development.
But from what I've read by Bayard already, I think my review is more of a challenge to him than it is a critique. Since Mr. Timothy met my expectations for what I thought Bayard could achieve, I suppose I should be thankful that Bayard raised the bar on his own work with The Pale Blue Eye. I've been so impressed with Bayard's writing, and the fact that I believe he met my expectations with a nicely rounded story is really quite an accomplishment for any author. (less)
Louis Bayard does a spectacular job capturing a youthful Edgar Allan Poe, and I enjoyed every turn of events in this mystery novel with an historical...moreLouis Bayard does a spectacular job capturing a youthful Edgar Allan Poe, and I enjoyed every turn of events in this mystery novel with an historical twist. Poe is such an engaging character, and this book has further encouraged me to read more of his own real-life work. He more than springs to life under Bayard's pen, which made him all the more likable and impish in the confines of West Point Academy.
While the book's main character is not Poe, Detective Landor shares his own dark secrets that make him an ideal partner for the sprightly poet. I suppose what surprised me the most (and what really engaged me, despite the fact that I originally thought this book would be too military focused) is how West Point is portrayed. If anything, Bayard's interpretation reminded me so much of J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and its neighboring village of Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter series, which made the reading of this book an even greater delight. Everything, even West Point, has a magical element to it, which perhaps is all the spell of the Poe influence. If so, Bayard certainly bewitched me; his writing style is so eloquent but succinct that it honors and respects the Poe legacy extremely well.
The book's plot is easy enough, but what really made this rise above the three-star rating was the friendship of Poe and Landor. Creating a chemistry between two completely fictional characters is difficult enough, but to build it between a person who actually lived and a character of complete fiction is all the more compelling. I loved the dialogue between the two, and Bayard fully and warmly delivers.(less)
Lately, I have been attracted to the dark, macabre books of my library. This book certainly filled both of those qualifications, along with "extremely...moreLately, I have been attracted to the dark, macabre books of my library. This book certainly filled both of those qualifications, along with "extremely disturbing" and "books that make me cry." (Come to think of it, that last one should be a new shelf, since crying at the end of the book is something I have been doing a lot lately.)
This book is not for the faint of heart. Hansel and Gretel, although young and innocent, are possibly the most delicate yet wisest characters I have come across in many readings. However, some of the terrible, tragic circumstances they are forced to endure are so vivid that I physically squirmed. (I'm one of those people who can't stand the thought of having blood drawn. That is exactly how I felt during some events of this book - unfortunate for me but a compliment to the author for making me truly *feel* these horrors.)
I was captivated by Murphy's writing style: vivid and eloquent, yet traumatizing at all the right moments. I was very impressed with how she described World War II horrors without being unnecessarily gory or crass. The scenes still carried the right balance of emotion, and I was captivated by so many of the characters - whether they were victims or antagonists. This book left me so emotionally worn, yet I am genuinely glad I took the time to read it. Not only was it a quality piece, but it left me eager to read more of Murphy's work, to better understand Nazi occupation of Poland, and to seek out more texts in this era - not to mention I was completely satisfied with the story's telling. The only thing that really held me back from giving it five stars was because I felt some of the character back stories could have been better fleshed out, but then again that probably would have made the book 500 pages long. I also felt that outcome of some of the circumstances were a a little bit convenient, such as a few particular getaways. However, I feel survival during this time often hinged directly on the luck of the draw.
Still, this book was completely worth my time. I definitely feel that it complemented my reading of The Book of Lost Things completely, which is another book I must recommend that you check out.(less)
Wait a minute! What happened to the end of this book? What happened to the entire book, period? I am so confused. Shoot, I don't even know what to thi...moreWait a minute! What happened to the end of this book? What happened to the entire book, period? I am so confused. Shoot, I don't even know what to think. I was so caught up in the suspense...I think I just realized Jody Shields dragged me along for 300 pages, only to arrive at a fall apart ending.
Well, now that I have my initial exclamation out of the way, let me confess that as much as I want to be angry at this book's ending, the rest of the read was so engaging that I'm liable to forgive Shields. A murder in Vienna, adulterous adults, an inspector and his wife...I still am befuddled how this all went wrong. Still, I'll give it three stars since it was an enjoyable ride nonetheless. I would recommend this book to people simply because I want to know more people's thoughts on it. Seriously, I think it will make you either angry or irritated, but I need to know.
This is a terrible review, isn't it? Oh, well, I don't care. I just wasted three days of reading, so you can waste three paragraphs reading my two cents. Good Lord my confusion has even infected my reviewing methods. (less)
I'd give this 2.5 stars, but I'm rounding down because I realize how little I was impressed. Even though it is clear Brooks put hours of research into...moreI'd give this 2.5 stars, but I'm rounding down because I realize how little I was impressed. Even though it is clear Brooks put hours of research into each intricate detail, I just could never get into the plot and the characters themselves. The chapter "A White Hair" was the only saving grace in the entire book, and I wish she had been allowed to be the novel's narrator instead of the annoying Hanna, who despite her estranged relationship with her mother, never earned my sympathy.
Shame, really. I had higher hopes because of the book's recognition. (less)