I guess I was expecting a bit more from this book - it sounded like it could be such an engaging story, but I struggled to slog through it, skimming iI guess I was expecting a bit more from this book - it sounded like it could be such an engaging story, but I struggled to slog through it, skimming in some parts. I loved Edward and Robbie, but I found Lilly to be a bit of a Mary Sue and I had problems enjoying the character....more
I was intrigued by the first book in this series, Mr. Churchill's Secretary. I didn't particularly like Maggie (in face she seemed to be a bit of a MaI was intrigued by the first book in this series, Mr. Churchill's Secretary. I didn't particularly like Maggie (in face she seemed to be a bit of a Mary Sue in that book, and this book reinforced my opinion of her - men instantly falling in love/lust with her; we're constantly told how unbelievably intelligent she is; it seems like she knows or is good at everything except where the plot point requires that she doesn't, though she is always quick to correct that). However, I loved the supporting characters - David, Chuck, John, etc. - and I thought Susan Elia MacNeal did fairly well with the historical characters.
Though it was obvious that the author did research, both books were rife with historical inaccuracies. I’m the sort of person that is easily bothered by something like that, particularly when a five minute google search can correct an inaccuracy. (view spoiler)[ For instance, there were no British fighters flying over Berlin in late 1940 (and it must be winter 1940 because of the Coventry raid); the earliest known flight was a reconnaissance flight in March 1941, and operations didn’t begin in earnest until 1943. What was John doing, then, flying a Spitfire over Berlin? How did he get through training in two months, anyway? The last book was late September and this is one is mid-November of 1940. (hide spoiler)]
Perhaps because of the errors, I never got a really good feeling for the time and place the novels are set in. Wartime London never really comes alive for me. Time is compressed very oddly in these stories anyway. In the first book for example, we are in June in chapter one and then must be in late September in the next, because the bombing of London has started. The readers are never advised, either through placards before the chapters or in the text itself, that there is any sort of time change (though time is signposted more clearly in PES than MCS - the Coventry raid provides context to figure out when this is supposed to be happening).
The editing is also kind of bizarre as well, though that’s been covered in other reviews, so I’ll leave it.
These things bugged me while reading both books. I thought the author was actually pretty good and that Secretary was clearly a debut novel. There was a good story there and I thought the second book would get better. I tried to turn my brain off and enjoy a fluffy read. I originally thought both books were about three star range; enjoyable, not great, may read future books sort of level.
But then, as I was progressing through the second book, I realized several plotlines were very familiar. A friend had just recommended the British TV series Foyle’s War on Netflix and I had just started watching it. The first episode deals with an older man who is married to a German immigrant. His wife is detained for possibly spying (the letter in the book and a photograph in the tv show) and dies of a heart attack while in the internment camp. His son, I think, goes to the local wealthy, powerful man in the show; Mr. Tooke goes to the King, and both are turned away. Both the son and Mr. Tooke remind the powerful man that an important person in their life is German, as well - the wealthy man’s second wife in the show and Lady Lily in the book. Both women are later killed gruesomely - decapitated by a piano wire strung between trees while out on their usual rides.
The similarities do not stop there. The Detective Chief Superintendent called to the crime scene in both the book and the show is a middle-aged widower with a son serving in the military (Foyle’s son is in the RAF and Wilson’s is in the Royal Navy). They both served in WWI and tried to offer their services for the war effort during the current war, but were turned down.
I was shocked reading it, as it was instantly recognizable to me and probably anyone that has seen the first episode of Foyle’s War. I googled it, and found that it seems the author not only did not properly attribute these borrowed plot points, she also borrowed another, even more important plot point from another TV show, down to some of the dialogue.
It may not be out and out plagiarism, but what happened here is very, very close. I can’t give this book anything more than one star as a result. I certainly won’t be purchasing any further books in the series....more
Fun, well-written mystery. I loved the characters - Malloy and Sarah were great characters, and all of the secondary characters were well-d3.5 stars.
Fun, well-written mystery. I loved the characters - Malloy and Sarah were great characters, and all of the secondary characters were well-drawn and interesting. Good historical details give the book a 19th century feel....more
I bought this book a few years back, and then recently accidentally bought it again. Thankfully, I could return this second, but I was finally prompteI bought this book a few years back, and then recently accidentally bought it again. Thankfully, I could return this second, but I was finally prompted to read it.
Rachel was a interesting character, and I was engaged by her story - watching her grow up, fall in love, etc. Unfortunately, I felt less engaged by the secondary characters.
I also enjoyed Alan Brennert's writing style, though it sometimes fell into a style that could be called purple. The pace of the plot, particularly at the beginning and at the end, moved along fairly well, with some lagging in the middle of the story - understandable because so much time elapses during the novel. (view spoiler)[I particularly enjoyed the parts of the book dealing with Rachel's life before Moloka'i and her initial internment, and the challenges she faced once she was released. (hide spoiler)]
So be somewhat warned: some of the secondary characters are thinly drawn and sometimes the prose becomes purplish, and sometimes the characters talk in ways that sound distinctly modern. I can also sympathize with some of the reviewers who thought that there was something missing from the story - some part of its soul, I guess. Overall, though, this was a pretty good read. Recommended....more
A fun dual mystery set in 1920s London. This was my first introduction to Joe Sandilands of the Metropolitan Police and I found him to be an engagingA fun dual mystery set in 1920s London. This was my first introduction to Joe Sandilands of the Metropolitan Police and I found him to be an engaging character. I also enjoyed Lily Wentworth, his partner, who is a rather kick-ass police officer. Throw in a mystery involving high profile murders and attempted murders (which ended a bit surprisingly) and a Romanov twist, and I sailed through it, thoroughly entertained. I'm making an effort to pick up some of the others in series, and hope they are as entertaining as this one....more
I was unexpectedly impressed by this little book, recounting the the life of the ocean liner Bavaria, later renamed Romantic. Based on the German lineI was unexpectedly impressed by this little book, recounting the the life of the ocean liner Bavaria, later renamed Romantic. Based on the German lines Imperator, Vaterland and Bismarck, the book was unexpectedly touching and sweet. I had a great deal of fun reading it, particularly since it concerns a period of history in which I am very interested and it is about ocean liners. This presents a very different outlook on both, and it was tremendously interesting....more
On the balance, I found my enjoying this book more than I didn't. The author has serious talent, and her ability to placeI received this as an e-ARC.
On the balance, I found my enjoying this book more than I didn't. The author has serious talent, and her ability to place the reader in the time and place she's writing about is astounding. You can almost smell the smoke, see the desolation, hear the cries and weeping. The Plum Tree has some of the best atmospheric and scenic writing I've ever read.
The characters, too, are engaging. I might be slightly biased - the experiences of the central family seem close (view spoiler)[(minus the heroine's stint in Dachau) (hide spoiler)] to the little my own Omi has described of her famiily's wartime experiences, and I empathized with them more than I might have done otherwise. The family seemed almost too squeaky clean, though. Possibly because they are the heroes, not one person in Christine's family even contemplates the Nazi rhetoric, which appeals to the reader but is possibly not entirely historically accurate.
Anyway, I became very fond of Christine, her sister Maria, and their mother. Their stories are each by turns heartbreaking and beautiful and it's very easy to get caught up in them. However, the secondary characters - Oma, Opa, and Kate, for example - were barely even present enough to register in my mind. They were only around in small ways to move the plot forward, then they disappeared, or so it seemed.
The main reason I gave this book three stars, as opposed to three and a half or four, is that I had a great deal of trouble with the pacing. Three or four years went by in less than 100 pages near the beginning and some scenes seemed to just drag on. There would be many pages between something happening, and then two or three very dramatic things would happen all at once. It was slightly disorientating and difficult to read through.
I also didn't particularly believe or care for the central romance, even though I really wanted to like it. In some places, particularly early on, the romance made sense, was even quite lovely, but there would be long stretches where I couldn't quite believe that a romance would work. (view spoiler)[There's a period of what seems to be several years when Issac and Christine wouldn't speak, even in secret, even though they are in the same town still. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, a good book. The scenes set in Dachau were particularly, almost brilliantly, well-written, and I would suggest the book for that part alone. The pacing seems off, but the writer is great at setting the tone of the scene. You feel as if you are really there with Christine. Slightly uneven overall, but still good; the author's clearly got a lot of talent....more
Did the author do any historical research? It was pretty off-putting to wade through several glaring errors. The characters were bland and the two maiDid the author do any historical research? It was pretty off-putting to wade through several glaring errors. The characters were bland and the two main female protagonists were nearly interchangeable to boot. Not recommended....more
I have a bit of a confession to make - I love the Phryne Fisher**spoiler alert** 3.5/5 stars rounded up to four.
I received this e-ARC from NetGalley.
I have a bit of a confession to make - I love the Phryne Fisher mysteries in general, and Unnatural Habits, the nineteenth entry into the series, did not let me down.
The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher is one of the best of the post-WWI sleuthing heroines - she is witty, smart, charming and extremely good at her job. Though there are some small allusions to other books or information that could be gleaned over the course of the series, Unnatural Habits is also suitable for a newcomer to the series. The recurring characters are all well-introduced and the mystery is self-contained. It also twisty and fun as well, involving missing pregnant girls, a missing journalist, socialists, white slavery, very terrible nuns and very vengeful 'nuns.' As expected, I had a great time following the clues along with Phryne and her minions.
I only had one small problem with the story itself - one thread of the mystery was tied up a bit too neatly in my opinion and involved a character whose very characterization in the early going makes them an unlikely candidate to be involved, in my opinion. Aside from this small niggle, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book and a lot of fun to read.
I would recommend to anyone that enjoys the Phryne Fisher series, or the Maisie Dobbs and Daisy Dalrymple series....more
3.5/5 stars, rounded up to 4. I received this book from NetGalley.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I would highly recommend it for lovers of D3.5/5 stars, rounded up to 4. I received this book from NetGalley.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I would highly recommend it for lovers of Downton Abbey or any costume drama - it is wonderful fun for people who enjoy those sorts of shows.
Yes, it is a bit soapy. Yes, there are some instances of insta-love (a writing device I absolutely hate - where the protagonist meets someone and can tell instantly they're soul mates and destined to be), and a rather weakly developed mystery (view spoiler)[involving Prudence's mother and Victoria and Rowena's aunt (hide spoiler)] that is solved very quickly in the last few pages. These things fail to distract from what I thought to be the real story - the interplay between the girls and the family as everyone finds their place, which was handled very well. I adored all of the small intrigues and betrayals; it made this book very fun to read.
Each of the three girls - Prudence, Victoria and Rowena - have the opportunity to tell the story from their own perspective. At the beginning, all three are difficult to tell apart - none has her own voice. They are almost interchangeable. However, as the book continues and the characters arrive at Summerset Abbey, each girl grows apart and each becomes a distinct voice in her own right.
I really liked Rowena and Prudence. Rowena, particularly, was very interesting, as she starts to investigate life outside her own family. (view spoiler)[The flying scene was a delight, as was her love interest, Jon (hide spoiler)] Prudence has the lion's share of the drama, and there were a couple of small twists to her story that surprised me. I was thinking one thing happened, but something completely different occurred. Prudence's ending was a bit of a shock as well - I didn't see it coming in this book, knowing this is a planned trilogy.
Victoria, the younger sister, was less intriguing to me, despite having an excellent story. She vacillated wildly between sounding very young for her eighteen years and sounding very wise, indeed, which was disconcerting.
I was a little disappointed by the characterization of the Buxton cousins, Colin and Elaine. Both seemed very interesting, but they along with their Cunning Coterie, were underused and underdeveloped. I'm hoping to see more from and about them, as they intersect with the main characters.
Anyway, this was a fun, easy read that reminded me very much of Downton Abbey. The writer had clearly done some research as to the Edwardian era and discussed this in her author's note at the end.
I would recommend this book, and will likely be looking for its sequels when they appear later next year....more