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.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...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.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...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
To be fair, I'm not a huge fan of Christian lit. I rarely read it, if just because I dislike being preached at for 300 pages. I knew this book was ChrTo be fair, I'm not a huge fan of Christian lit. I rarely read it, if just because I dislike being preached at for 300 pages. I knew this book was Christian lit when I picked it up, but I've been on a massive Titanic kick lately and thought it looked interesting. The sample chapter also looked pretty good, a beautiful cover, and the reviews were stellar. The Christianity wasn't my problem with this book. There were preach-y parts, but they weren't overwhelming by any means, and I felt that, for the most part, I could skip right over them if I found them objectionable.
No, my biggest problems with this book concerning its one-dimensional, almost unbelievably simplistic characters; the boring, stilted writing; the bad dialogue; and the fact that despite being set on the Titanic in 1912, there was very little sense of time or place.
I never got any sense of the characters, that they changed in any perceptible way. Again, to be fair, I skimmed large chunks of the last 100 pages or so because it just didn't hold my interest. But what I did see of the characters was less than impressive. Amelia never rang true to me - she was almost what a fan fiction writer would call a "Mary Sue" - no faults at all. The author tries to manufacture faults for the leading man, Quentin, but he's so nobly self-sacrificing, it's difficult to believe he once led a totally dissolute life. Some characters pop up and then nothing is ever done with them that I saw - Dorothea, for example. Nobody really grew as a result of their experiences. I could not care about them at all.
The writing was bland, as well. The dialogue was stilted and expository and never really rang true - something seemed off, as if you couldn't quite imagine real human beings saying what Ms. Goyer had her characters say.
I'll also echo someone else here, and say you never really got the sense that the characters were aboard the Titanic, or even really that they were living in the beginning of the last century. There was no sense of time and place at all. Extremely disappointing, since I was reading it for the Titanic in the first place. There also seemed to be a disappointing number of historical inaccuracies as well.
**spoiler alert** Mostly fast-paced and action-packed with fun characters. The book is long - and it does lag a bit in some parts - but I zipped right**spoiler alert** Mostly fast-paced and action-packed with fun characters. The book is long - and it does lag a bit in some parts - but I zipped right through it. I really enjoyed the book, which was a little surprising to me. I was looking for fiction set on the Titanic, and was a little dismayed to find the action shifted from the ship fairly quickly (interestingly, the Titanic parts seemed very well-researched). However, I was immediately intrigued by the alternate world the author created. The characters drew my interest quickly, even if they aren't particularly well-developed. You get a good sense of them, and they each have a fairly distinctive voice, but I felt like I never really got to "know" any of them. What motivated their actions? Why were some so uncomfortable in their own skins? There seemed to be a lot of back story that was merely alluded to, rather than fully explained - half the story.
The book quickly shifted into an espionage thriller and it screamed along. I hardly noticed the fact that I had read 450 or so pages. Once the group gets to their final destination, though, it slows down quite a bit. The battle that takes place seemed to drag on - it runs for nearly 200 pages. Once the group gets the carapace up and running, though, it picked right back up again.
It wasn't a perfect book. Some elements of the time travel were not adequately explained, particularly toward the end. There is the aforementioned problem with the characters and a couple of other small things. All that aside, it was a lot of fun to read. I loved the resolution I got at the end. I enjoyed the loop idea, a singularly horrifying consequence of mucking about with time. The twists were suitably mind-bending. I enjoyed most of the characters. The action was fantastic and the world-building for the alternate timeline was great.
Bottom line? I would recommend this book to just about anyone. :)...more
I would give this 3.5 stars, and so rounded up to four. I love the Daisy Dalrymple series, so I might be a bit biased - fair warning, but this was a sI would give this 3.5 stars, and so rounded up to four. I love the Daisy Dalrymple series, so I might be a bit biased - fair warning, but this was a solid entry into the series.
Daisy and her new husband Alec are shanghaied by their friend, the American million Arbuckle, into going to the US. He's set up jobs for both and they're to travel on the same ship as his family for the crossing to New York. Unfortunately, what should be an extended honeymoon crossing is instead beset with such trials as poor weather, sea sickness, professional gamblers and, of course, murder. I'm not terribly well-versed on the time period (post-Great War England and America), but I thought that the author added a number of small details that help create the ambiance - or what I imagine the ambiance - of those years.
Long story short? It was a fun book and a light, easy read. I was sick and neck-deep in bar exam prep when I read it, so I imagine I was probably very easily amused. I took off the star and a half because I had the mystery figured out from the first incident, with one small twist I didn't expect.
Fun book with enjoyable characters and a good mystery. My biggest problems were with the stilted dialogue and with the fact that both mysteries wrappeFun book with enjoyable characters and a good mystery. My biggest problems were with the stilted dialogue and with the fact that both mysteries wrapped up a bit too fast. I'm definitely going to give the other books in the series a try....more
Beautifully written, with great characters that suck you in from page one. I ripped through this book in just a couple of days, though that's fairly sBeautifully written, with great characters that suck you in from page one. I ripped through this book in just a couple of days, though that's fairly standard for books I like. Aside from a couple minor "uh-huh" moments, it was a great read. I thought I had the narrative path worked out in my head when I started the novel, but was pleasantly surprised as the book went along. There's also a very informative historical note at the end that points out where the author fudged the history for the sake of his plot.
I read Conrad Allen's book Murder on the Minnesota as my first introduction to this series. I enjoyed it, but thought it was a little clunky. I didn'tI read Conrad Allen's book Murder on the Minnesota as my first introduction to this series. I enjoyed it, but thought it was a little clunky. I didn't think I would try any of the rest of the series. Am I glad I changed my mind! This is a fun little mystery book that displays none of the clunkiness of scene and dialogue that would pop up in the third book of the series. I had a ton of fun reading it, even though I guessed the villains quite a ways before the great reveal. The best part was the evocation of the ship board atmosphere - you almost feel as though you're aboard the Lusitania along with our heroes. Recommended. ...more
Murder on the Mauretania was quite so well-written as the first book in the series, Murder on the Lusitania, and not nearly so clunky as the third booMurder on the Mauretania was quite so well-written as the first book in the series, Murder on the Lusitania, and not nearly so clunky as the third book, Murder on the Minnesota. Fun book and good mystery that kept me guessing until the last few pages. Recommended....more
I wasn't as thrilled with this book as I thought I would be, reading the first chapter. I dislike the almost vignette-like feel of the book and had soI wasn't as thrilled with this book as I thought I would be, reading the first chapter. I dislike the almost vignette-like feel of the book and had some difficultly keeping track of the time. The main characters, two Provencal sisters who become Queen of France and Queen of England in the 13th century, were almost indistinguishable as voices - the chapters switched back and forth between their points of view and the only clue as to whom was speaking was was the husband or the names of the ladies involved. The characters didn't seem to grow, though that might be a result of the time slippage. I got the feeling that some of the major events were skipped over or were passed over quickly. The writing also felt quite stilted....more