An extremely original and engrossing take on the plague apocalypse trope. There is a lot to think about in this story of the last woman on earth: whatAn extremely original and engrossing take on the plague apocalypse trope. There is a lot to think about in this story of the last woman on earth: what is our responsibility to others? does it trump our responsibility to ourselves? why do we need stories and companionship? do ethical questions have any meaning in a world of one? how do we cope with utter loneliness? what is the purpose of a human life? how do we judge if someone has lived theirs well? Dietzel poses all of these questions and more, but it's up to the reader to answer them....more
I picked this out at random on Librivox one day and am SO glad I did. It is composed, as the title says, of stories about, yes, a houseboat on the RivI picked this out at random on Librivox one day and am SO glad I did. It is composed, as the title says, of stories about, yes, a houseboat on the River Styx which turns out to be a men's club for various famous dead people (mostly men). The master of ceremonies is Sir Walter Raleigh; members include Shakespeare, Baron Munchhausen and Noah., among others. In addition to the typical men's club activites (i.e., playing cards, shooting billiards, smoking, and drinking) they also discuss things like which animals should have been saved from the flood and whether the club should host a Ladies’ Day (the discussion gets heated when it comes down to who should and should not be invited, e.g. Eve, Lucretia Borgia, Delilah, all six of Henry VIII's wives).
Most of the book consists of conversation so it's not exactly breathtakingly paced, but it's witty, clever, perceptive, and in quite a few places downright hilariously funny....more
You have known all along that something in this story wasn't right...Perhaps, even now, you will feign ignorance, attempt to deny your complicity in tYou have known all along that something in this story wasn't right...Perhaps, even now, you will feign ignorance, attempt to deny your complicity in the construction of this lie...
Indeed. Well played, Buehlman. Well played. ::cries a little::
When I was a kid, maybe ten or eleven, I saw one of the old black-and-white Dracula movies, probably a Hammer Films production. I have no idea which one it was, but the last scene was of Dracula, alone in this Victorian library or parlor, his head slumped over the shaft of the spear through his chest that's pinned him to the wall, the early morning sun streaming in through these huge double-height windows. That scene haunts me to this day, its sense of desolation and melancholy and sadness and, yes, horror (though perhaps not the kind the filmmakers intended).
Something similar washed over me when I closed The Lesser Dead this morning. This is so much more than a vampire book that it's hard to know how to talk about it.
Here is one thing I can say: Normally I'm one of those rabid page-turners (what's next what's next WHAT'S NEXT WHAT'S NEXT!!) but I found myself consciously drawing out the reading of this book because although I very much wanted to know what happened next, I could sense that something bad was coming. Something I didn't want to see, or know. I was right -- but not at all in the way I expected. Whatever happened next was going to happen by the platform in Union Station, out in the open, under the lights. With an audience...
Which leads me to another thing I can say: This is an excellent piece of storytelling. It's difficult to end a story in a way that is both utterly unexpected and yet still fits all the events that have preceded it, but that's what happens here. Even more challenging is to pull off an ending that makes the reader go back and re-assess everything they just read. That also happens here. Finally, there's a certain level of "meta" as well, since the ideas of narrator, of story, of reader expectations -- not to mention the relationship between narrator and reader -- are played with and questioned in interesting ways.
So...yeah, go read this. Then think about it. Then maybe read it again, knowing what's coming.
(P.S. Very minor spoiler stats for the animal lovers in the audience: (view spoiler)[dogs that die=0, cats that die=1, bird that doesn't die and is well taken care of=1, derogatory mention of insects=many (hide spoiler)].)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Top-notch historical fiction is hard to find. Top-notch adventure fiction is hard to find. Well-written witty anti-hero protagonists are hard to find.Top-notch historical fiction is hard to find. Top-notch adventure fiction is hard to find. Well-written witty anti-hero protagonists are hard to find. Good historical adventure fiction with a well-written witty anti-hero protagonist is...well, you see where I'm going with this. I can't remember who first told me I should read these books. I wish I could because I would send them lots of presents in gratitude.
The story arc is not particularly original: a brilliant but dissolute younger son and a stolid older one with bad blood between them, dissolute younger son turns out to be not so dissolute after all (I shall say no more for fear of spoilers). But Dunnett executes the tale with flair, energy, inventiveness, and a remarkable level of historical detail. The 1500s is one of my favorite time periods for historical fiction -- so much going on in politics, religion, philosophy, science, an immensely active and fertile time so she's got lots to work with.
Part of my love for the book is due to the main character, Francis Crawford of Lymond, Master of Culter. Accused traitor and leader of a band of outlaws, yet somehow one can never quite believe the worst of him; one suspects there is more. If the facts did not prove me wrong I would suspect Dorothy Dunnett of being Dorothy L. Sayers, because Lymond is very much like Lord Peter Wimsey. Lymond is less high-strung and more physically active (as you'd expect in the 16th century!), but both are aristocratic, highly (perhaps over-) educated, single-minded in pursuit of a goal, prone to quotation, chronically underestimated by their opponents, and exceedingly intelligent with a fierce sense of honor and loyalty. Both are also excellent musicians and their own harshest critic.
The supporting cast is just as much fun, particularly Will Scott, younger son of the Earl of Buccleuch, whose evolving relationship with Lymond forms one of the more interesting strands of the book. Will has been off at school in France with detrimental results:
"Moral Philosophy, that's the trouble," said Janet with gloomy relish. "They've taught poor Will moral philosophy and his father's fit to boil...He's quoting Aristotle and Boethius and the laws of chivalry and the dreicher spells of the Chevalier de Bayard on loyalty and the ethics of warfare. He's so damned moral he ought to be standing rear up under a Bo tree. And he won't keep his mouth shut. I grant," said Lady Buccleuch with a certain grim amusement, "that the pure springs of chivalry may be a little muddy in the Hawick area, but that's no proper excuse for calling his father an unprincipled old rogue and every other peer in Scotland a traitorous scoundrel."
As you can perhaps tell from Will's mother's speech above, the book's female characters are also excellent: intelligent, active, strong-willed, sensible, and perfectly willing to go behind their menfolk's backs if that's the most efficient route to the most sensible solution. (Mary Queen of Scots has a cameo as an inquisitive four-year-old to whom Lymond teaches a naughty riddle!)
The interweaving of the adventures of the Master of Culter with the Byzantine twists and turns of Scottish, English and French politics makes for a swashbuckling story complete with duels, spies, pitched battles, cattle raids, explosions, murders, archery contests and more. There's at least one death that will make you cry, and the conclusion -- which is in doubt up until about the last ten pages -- will make you cheer.
We all wonder "what-if" -- what if we'd gone to a different school, taken a different job, married a different person, moved to a different city. PatrWe all wonder "what-if" -- what if we'd gone to a different school, taken a different job, married a different person, moved to a different city. Patricia Cowan, elderly resident of a home, knows that she had trouble remembering things like taking her medicine. But she remembers two completely different lives very clearly. As with many novels of this type (e.g. Options), the moment on which her two lives hinge is when she accepts/refuses her boyfriend's marriage proposal; from that moment on her lives diverge. The book spans something like sixty or sixty-five years so of necessity it reads like a series of vignettes, but the two lives (neither of which maps precisely to the reality we know) are beautifully drawn. Unlike Life After Life there is no grand goal and the lives don't repeat or intersect; these are just two stories of a life as it might have been lived. Neither alternative is better or worse than the other, just different.
Which is, I think, the book's point. No matter what choices you make, you will experience love and sorrow, joy and fear, satisfaction and anger. It's only the details that differ. You can dwell on the might-have-beens, or you can recognize that being human means we are at once unique and very much the same in what we want: to be happy, to be useful, to love and be loved....more
Very, very funny. Bro. Hiram Brother, Kansas City Freemason, is a bit pompous, tight with his wallet, and likes his sherry, but he does manage to meetVery, very funny. Bro. Hiram Brother, Kansas City Freemason, is a bit pompous, tight with his wallet, and likes his sherry, but he does manage to meet the most interesting people. Although he describes his as a "sleepy little lodge," somehow Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill, Teddy Roosevelt, and even Sherlock Holmes manage to stumble in the door at one time or another. Even if you don't know anything about Freemasonry, you'll get a good laugh out of Bro. Brother's (mostly) honest descriptions of his (mis)adventures in this collection of entries from his daily diary. The wonderfully detailed illustrations are an added bonus....more
I got hold of an advance reading copy of this, so was lucky enough to read it before it was officially released. Well, actually my husband got the ARCI got hold of an advance reading copy of this, so was lucky enough to read it before it was officially released. Well, actually my husband got the ARC and I had to wait until he was done with it before I could get my greedy little hands on it. Longest two weeks of my life.
Given that the author's previous two books were "period pieces" -- although from wildly different periods -- I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, a very contemporary story complete with classic cars, AA, chat rooms, and the interwebz. Happily, I was not disappointed. The main character, Andrew, is a complicated man with a strong sense of integrity but, one quickly suspects, certain secrets in his past that are coming back to haunt him. This turns out to be true, but in more ways than are at first obvious.
I do love non-obvious.
There was quite a bit of non-obvious in this book which meant that I was frequently surprised -- and for somebody who reads as much as I do, that's not easy to do. The surprises were not so much in the broad arc of the story, which is a classic (and I mean that in a good way) tale of redemption, as in the details and the execution, and in what one might call the inflections of the ending, the way it’s shaped and carried out.
Two things I particularly liked about the book's treatment of magic. First, magic isn't free. One doesn't simply shout some garbled Latin and wave a wand -- this magic takes some serious effort, both mental and physical, to learn, to control, to use (safely), in some cases simply to understand. And there's no question that magic is potentially very dangerous stuff in this world; it can blow up in your face if you're not careful. Second, the story didn't get bogged down in the mechanics of the magic -- recipes, spells, how you do it, how it works. There's just the right amount of detail, and nicely modernized (Andrew’s particular skill is with cars and film footage, for example, while chicagohoney85’s are with computers), that the flavor permeates the story without overwhelming it.
Which is good because, despite the fact that magic is wound thoroughly about this tale, in the end it’s all about the people. And I like these people, Andrew and Anneke (and Chancho and Michael and even chicagohoney85), enough that I want to know more about all of them. (Here’s where I admit that I’m hoping for a sequel, or maybe Michael’s backstory...shhhhh...) They aren’t perfect, but like most of us they’re good people doing their best to muddle through, and deal with their past mistakes in a stand-up way without compromising what they believe.
Oh, and he made my cry over Salvador. Thanks, buddy.
Buehlman’s novels have all been billed as horror, but clearly they aren’t horror for horror’s sake. It’s not about a high body count or creative methods of killing people off (although he’s good at that, and Between Two Fires had a lot of them!). It's about applying horror to characters -- putting them in horrifying situations -- to see how they respond, the way an engineer applies heat or pressure to a substance to see if it will break. "Test to destruction" is how you learn what something is really made of, and this seems to be a recurrent theme, first with Frank Nichols in Those Across the River, then Thomas in Between Two Fires, and now Andrew and Anneke.
I read this as a young 'un and didn't find out until MUCH later that the author also wrote all the James Bond books! Once you know that, the presenceI read this as a young 'un and didn't find out until MUCH later that the author also wrote all the James Bond books! Once you know that, the presence of international spies, gelignite, and a car with superpowers make perfect sense. I like to think the car was a prototype designed by Q that somehow accidentally ended up getting sold for scrap :)
Apart from the car, the children and their father, the book shares nothing whatsoever with the Disney version, but it's equally entertaining and great fun. Think of them as two completely different books ("The Further Adventures of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang") and you'll be fine. I wish Fleming had written more children's books -- his writing style is original, quirky, and fully accessible to kids without being condescending (a feat which so many adult authors who try to write for children can't seem to master)....more
I don't have words for how much I loved this book. A fantastic and highly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, fast-paced, with plenty of adventure tI don't have words for how much I loved this book. A fantastic and highly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, fast-paced, with plenty of adventure that actually means something, not just running around for its own sake, and many loose ends are explained/tied up. I cried at least three times, including most of the way through the last 20 pages or so. Two thumbs up.
(Oh, and like the other two there are plenty of in-jokes and references to various nerdy/geeky things, including a nod to this guy that absolutely cracked me up.)...more