**spoiler alert** The latest (and, I believe, final) entry in the Beka Cooper trilogy moves, in my opinion, out of the juvy/YA category and into a lev...more**spoiler alert** The latest (and, I believe, final) entry in the Beka Cooper trilogy moves, in my opinion, out of the juvy/YA category and into a level of complexity, as well as grimness, that is more adult. I would definitely not shelve this in the kids' section of the library, as issues of slavery and torture are discussed very frankly and are often disturbing.
The primary criticism that I had was that the beginning confused me, as there seemed to be a backstory that I'd missed. Beka fills it in by bits, but I couldn't help feeling for the first 30 pages that there was a whole book I'd somehow failed to read (there isn't; though my memory of the last book isn't crystal-clear). I'm not 100% convinced by the love interest, either, though I'm mostly glad that it's not the main point--and that Beka won't be giving up her career as a Provost's Guard.
As the book progresses, however, I was completely drawn into the story of Beka's latest and most significant Hunt. I was particularly impressed with the handling of her growing conviction that one of the Hunt team must be a traitor. I was pretty sure she had to be wrong, because I simply couldn't believe that any of the characters could have done it (much the same feeling she has, but she's in a position to know someone must have. I kept thinking the author would pull off some trick to exonerate them all). The shock and grief when the treason is reveals is very well portrayed, as well as the need to get on with the job at hand.
On reflection, if I could I'd probably give this 4 1/2 stars, just a little mark-down because of the awkward opening and maybe a bit too much violence.(less)
I frequently have a love-hate relationship with Bryson's work. His book on hiking the AT drove me nuts, when I wasn't dying of laughter, because he wa...moreI frequently have a love-hate relationship with Bryson's work. His book on hiking the AT drove me nuts, when I wasn't dying of laughter, because he was so totally clueless about hiking and backpacking. When I read I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away, I saw his take on many places I knew, and found it often shallow and stereotypical, which made me doubt his books on other places I didn't know.
But when Bryson starts in on history, I think he's at his best. He is good at taking a hook and using it as a means of wandering at will through all sorts of interesting trivia, and I'm a sucker for that. Bryson uses the history of his house in England as an excuse for a study of everything from the origins of glass windows to sex, death, and the spice trade.
Bryson doesn't always manage to pull the threads together into the coherent whole we'd like, however, and while most of the individual anecdotes are interesting, he can get dry at times as he works to string it all together.(less)
First, I have to say that even though listening to a book isn't a huge investment, I nearly quit on this one. I picked it up because I am intrigued by...moreFirst, I have to say that even though listening to a book isn't a huge investment, I nearly quit on this one. I picked it up because I am intrigued by the series, and enjoyed the first two books well enough (with some slow spots but enough to keep me going).
Black Powder War begins promisingly enough, with the abrupt departure of Temeraire and his crew from the Far East, and I actually kind of enjoyed the "travelogue" section as they flew across Asia, though one could argue that there is too much time spent on it for what it adds to the story.
Alternatively, I might argue that there is too little time spent on it. In point of fact, I think that the book is really two separate stories--the trip from Asia to Turkey and the capture of the eggs makes an excellent story, and could stop right there. The second half of the book feels very little connected to the beginning, which may be why my interest lagged (that, and the fact that losing battles in which one isn't fully invested is not that much fun).
I am glad I did resume listening (at the urging of another Goodreads reviewer!), as there are some nice surprises near the end. The end, incidentally, clearly leaves things wide open for the next book--so much so that there is some sense that the author has merely divided an on-going saga somewhat arbitrarily into book-length sections.
The relatively strong ending is just enough that I will continue to read the series, though I may take a break before starting the next volume (which I am assured is better).(less)
In general this was a fun read and an engaging story. I found the writing and the pace of the story a little uneven, however, so that it wasn't always...moreIn general this was a fun read and an engaging story. I found the writing and the pace of the story a little uneven, however, so that it wasn't always the first thing I turned to for reading. By the end, though, I couldn't stop.
Each volume of this series ends with an "except" from a book on dragons, which I have found to be a bit dry and anti-climactic. That doesn't change the fact that the story overall is well-told and innovative.(less)
Brief Summary: Ten-year-old Ha lives in Saigon in the last days of the Vietnam war. Her father is missing, and the war is getting closer all the time....moreBrief Summary: Ten-year-old Ha lives in Saigon in the last days of the Vietnam war. Her father is missing, and the war is getting closer all the time. When the city falls, they flee with many others, and eventually come to America, and settle in Alabama, where they must learn a completely new culture and language, in a place where people who don't look like everyone else are definitely not appreciated. The most telling indication of how hard it is there is Ha's own statement: No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama
Review: Inside Out & Back Again is told in a spare, first-person verse style that is, for me, both moving and frustrating. Moving, because it is very well done, and it's a hard story to hear without feeling. Frustrating, because the verse form leaves so much unsaid. This is my standard reaction to books in verse, and is not necessarily a bad thing.
The story itself is well told, unfolds convincingly (as it ought, given that according to the notes at the back it is in many ways the story of the author's own journey to America), and takes us far enough to be satisfied with the direction Ha's life will be able to take. The writing is excellent.
Because the verse form is so sparing of words, the 262 pages is actually a great deal less, and it took me only about two hours to read this book. That makes it in fact something about midway between a short story and a novel, which also explains the feeling that much is left out of the story. I compare this to many of the works of Karen Hesse, who also writes in a spare poetic form, and also manages to not only convey the emotions powerfully but to carry the story well. Unless you hate the verse form on general principles, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.
4.5 stars (just a hair off for the lingering desire to know more. . . or is that just me?) (less)
With it's inevitable comparison to James Herriot's Yorkshire Vet tales, this book struck me at once as good "comfort food" for the reader. Nothing ear...moreWith it's inevitable comparison to James Herriot's Yorkshire Vet tales, this book struck me at once as good "comfort food" for the reader. Nothing earth-shaking happens, and you don't expect it to, but life unfolds in interesting and amusing ways. If events seem a bit predicatible, I have to say that I think that's what Taylor is after.
Several reviewers here have criticized Taylor for that predictability, and for characters that may seem a bit 'stock,' and I think that, having read the rest of the books in the series, Taylor has taken that to heart. Each book in the series is a bit more nuanced and interesting, without losing that comfortable reading experience that is a large part of the appeal.
I think that the books probably would appeal to anyone who likes Jan Karon's Mitford books.(less)
I think this is a very strong entry in the "Aunt Dimity" series. The book makes good use of the hyperbole of Lori's overreactions (this time to the ri...moreI think this is a very strong entry in the "Aunt Dimity" series. The book makes good use of the hyperbole of Lori's overreactions (this time to the risks her sons face in starting school--what if a train carrying deadly gasses derails by the school?!) to keep the humor level up, even while dealing with a potentially very real threat.
I complained about Aunt Dimity Goes West for excessive use of the supernatural. In "Vampire Hunger," Atherton gets it right, in my opinion. While we are left wondering for much of the book if maybe there is a real vampire (at least, Lori is), in the end the mystery is resolved in a satisfyingly concrete manner. In the process, at least one long-running issue for the series is finally resolved as well.
Altogether, a very satisfying bit of literary comfort food.(less)
There's nothing "great literature" about the Aunt Dimity books, but they do what they do very well.
Aunt Dimity Goes West is not my favorite of the se...moreThere's nothing "great literature" about the Aunt Dimity books, but they do what they do very well.
Aunt Dimity Goes West is not my favorite of the series, however. Maybe that's because we move out of the English countryside and into an area that I know much better, so the stereotypes are more jarring and the setting less exotic. Also, Ms. Atherton brings in an additional ghost (or whatever Aunt Dimity is), and I find that stretches my willing suspension of disbelief to the edge of breaking. Too many mystical elements and she loses me.
But the unfolding of the story with just the right amount of humor, interpersonal stuff, and suspense/danger is pretty well on target. We can laugh with Lori at her own overreactions, and have a good time worrying about the mysterious dangers she and the twins face without ever really losing any sleep over it.
And we get the comfortable and comforting ending we expect.
My husband and I often refer to the mysteries and light fiction we read as "brain candy." But books like the "Aunt Dimity" series are more along the lines of comfort foods--things that can make you feel that all's right with the world.(less)
Stealing Freedom is the story of one slave girl who manages to reach freedom. Based on the historical accounts of Ann Maria Weems' escape from Rockvil...moreStealing Freedom is the story of one slave girl who manages to reach freedom. Based on the historical accounts of Ann Maria Weems' escape from Rockville, Maryland, to Dresden, Ontario (Canada was, in the late 1840s, the only place a slave could go to get beyond the reach of the slave catchers, thanks to the Fugitive Slave Act).
When the story opens, Ann is not unhappy with her lot in life. Food is a little sparse, and she has too little clothing, especially in winter. But she has the most important thing: her family. Her father is a freeman, and is working and saving to buy all their freedom (because of course any child born to a slave is a slave, even if one parent is free). But before they can save enough, if such a thing is possible, with the owner raising the prices every time he thinks he might get close, Mr. Price, their owner, starts breaking up the family.
Ann's three brothers are sold off somewhere to the south, with no warning at all. Then the abolitionists come to help purchase the remainder of the family--but Mr. Price refuses to sell Ann. What's more, he refuses to let her parents even visit once they have left--and he makes sure they leave at once. Ann is left alone, at about 12 years old, and falls into a deep depression. Only when she opens herself to the slave community around her does she emerge from her despair. And only then, when she is starting to rebuild her life, does freedom come for her.
The second half of the book is the account of her actual road to freedom. The author states in an afterword that although she made up some dialogue (some was actually taken from letters), and compressed incidents of Ann's early life, the events are all real. Ann's journey to freedom was by turns harrowing and tedious, as she was alternately "delivered" from hand to hand and hidden for long periods.
The book does an excellent job of capturing the feelings of the slaves, as well as the attitudes of the whites. The story has a strong sense of purpose, and just enough suspense and adventure (you know she's going to make it, but the close calls along the way are still exciting) to hold the interest of readers of all ages. The writing is strong, not talking down to her young readers at all, just telling the story simply and vividly.(less)