You might enjoy this if you like cozies and Christmas themed reading. Very light reading with a likeable main character. I was amused by the main char...moreYou might enjoy this if you like cozies and Christmas themed reading. Very light reading with a likeable main character. I was amused by the main character's attention to clothing and looking stylish. This may not seem unusual until you know more about the character!(less)
If I had read this as a teen, and before I'd had any exposure to The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, I probably would have loved The Sword of Shannara....moreIf I had read this as a teen, and before I'd had any exposure to The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, I probably would have loved The Sword of Shannara. This first in the Shannara series has too many parallels to LOTR for me to rate it any higher than I have though. At 750+ pages, it is also too long and detailed. Of course, if Brooks was following Tolkien's pattern then the length and uber detail is understandable. I liked it well enough that I will read the next two in the series (since I already own them). Who knows ... maybe it will grow on me!(less)
The Gates by John Connolly had me laughing and reading bits and pieces out loud to my husband for the entire book. Yes ... there are demons, witchcraf...moreThe Gates by John Connolly had me laughing and reading bits and pieces out loud to my husband for the entire book. Yes ... there are demons, witchcraft dabblers, The Great Malevolence, mayhem, and the possible end-of-the-world. I know these are not typically characters and topics that one would think of as funny, but in Connolly's hands they are screamingly so. It helps that there is a narrator who pops in, mainly in the footnotes ... Let me stop here for a moment and discuss the footnotes bit. I find footnotes to be quite distracting and usually do not appreciate them in my fiction. Heck, I can hardly stand them when I'm reading scholarly material, but I understand the necessity in that venue. But the footnotes Connolly writes into The Gates add to the hilarity. I couldn't help hearing the musical jingle from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fade in and out as I read the footnotes. I also couldn't help hearing the narrator's voice from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when I read the footnotes. I can probably attribute this to the fact that in both Hitchhikers Guide and The Gates the narrator is trying to explain the outrageous that really can't be explained. So, what I'm trying to say is that I didn't find the footnotes to be a distraction at all and thought they made the book even funnier. Anyway, moving on from the footnotes ...
Young Samuel Johnson is a little boy that you can't help but love. He is rather nerdy, wears thick glasses and tries really hard to please people. For instance, he thinks he is showing initiative (and don't adults love it when kids show initiative?) by getting a head start on the Halloween night crowds and going door-to-door three days early. Instead he simply baffles the adults who misinterpret his actions as obnoxious or, at the very least, see him as a bit daft. So when Samuel witnesses the beginnings of an invasion of earth by a horde of demons he has a difficult time convincing the adults that he is not just a little boy with an overactive imagination. YES! Impending doom! The end-of-the-world is coming! Caused by the intersection of the supernatural and science (this is where the Hadron Collider comes in; really, you just have to read it)!
Can little Samuel Johnson and his dog, Boswell, save the world?(less)
Fire and Hemlock is based on two Scottish ballads, Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. It is a coming of age story and a tale of reclaimed childhood memori...moreFire and Hemlock is based on two Scottish ballads, Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. It is a coming of age story and a tale of reclaimed childhood memories that had been, mysteriously, lost.
The author held me enthralled. I loved the coming of age struggle and I loved the mysterious and fantastical elements. At it's core Fire and Hemlock is also a sweet love story that doesn't truly present itself as viable until the very end. I did read the ending several times because I felt a bit muddled, but I have a feeling that if I were fourteen I would have understood as only the young can understand sometimes.
The House at Riverton is the story of 98 year old Grace Bradley and is told through a series of flashbacks. It is a story of the classes, the loyal se...moreThe House at Riverton is the story of 98 year old Grace Bradley and is told through a series of flashbacks. It is a story of the classes, the loyal servant class and the idle rich, and the changes to the English class system from Edwardian times through two world wars and into the present.
In 1914, Grace Bradley came to Riverton Manor as a 14 year old housemaid. Hers was the life of dutiful and selfless service to the Hartford family. There was a fierce loyalty to the family shared by the servants at Riverton creating a "downstairs" camaraderie. In fact, a real "Upstairs, Downstairs" feeling permeates the book. During her early years of service, Grace's life becomes forever linked with those of the Hartford grandchildren Hannah, Emmeline, and David.
One of the key events and that which really drives the story and binds the past to the present, is a tragedy that occurred during a lavish house party at Riverton in 1924. This tragedy forever changed the lives of those involved and continues to haunt Grace. Grace has remained loyal to the Hartford family and has never divulged the true events of that long ago night. Grace knows she will not live much longer and, as she is the only living person who knows what really happened, decides to narrate her story onto tape recordings that she sends to her grandson.
The House at Riverton is Kate Morton's debut novel and, as such, has a lot to recommend it. Her writing captured the Edwardian class system and the difficulties experienced by the characters as this system faded away and they struggled to find their new "place" in society. I truly enjoyed the way the past haunted the present. The author did seem to lose some steam though about two thirds of the way through the book and character development suffered. One thing in particular disappointed me. Several characters returned from military service, in the Great War, with shell shock. This condition was pivotal to the events and ending of the book, yet it was merely mentioned and the characters with shell shock unsympathetic and two dimensional. A bit remiss of the author to gloss over something so pivotal.
I have Morton's next novel, The Forgotten Garden, on my stack of books to read and I am looking forward to it. I'm hoping the author just gets better with time and experience.(less)
The Vintner's Luck is the story of the relationship between a human and an angel. In 1808, Sobran Jodeau is a young vintner who steals two bottles of...moreThe Vintner's Luck is the story of the relationship between a human and an angel. In 1808, Sobran Jodeau is a young vintner who steals two bottles of the family wine and wanders off into the vineyard one night with the intention of drowning his first real sorrow in drunkenness. He literally stumbles into the angel Xas, who catches him as he falls. They spend the night discussing Sobran's rejection and agree to meet again at the same place the following year. Xas has an appetite for earthly pleasures and this meeting, between human and angel, becomes an annual event that develops into a relationship that intensifies causing much joy and sorrow.
I must say up front that I struggled during most of the book with what I considered a theological affront. The God that Knox presents is not inherently good and neither is Lucifer inherently evil; there is really very little to recommend one over the other. God and Lucifer are immortal beings focused on their own eternal battle. They maintain a remote existence from humanity while using the angel, Xas, as a pawn. This does create an empathy, especially for Xas. It is this empathy, and my own pursuit of the deeper questions underlying the story that kept me reading this book. Oh, and the writing. Gorgeous.
The writing is at once lush and succinct, and left me both dazzled and sometimes confused. I had to work hard to determine the meaning of some passages and even then they were sometimes elusive leaving a "cloudy" spot. I like the way Memory, in her review, describes Knox's writing as "rarely transparent."
The Vintner's Luck is much more than a moving story written beautifully. It is deeply spiritual and delves into the very nature of love and hatred, of good and evil ... with an intensity that made me cry at times. What does it mean to be fallen? To be redeemed? To be rejected? To be loved? How very painfully these things seem to intertwine sometimes.
So, did I like the book? I am aware that my thoughts might seem a bit conflicting without a clear answer to this question. I will say that I was both repulsed by and drawn to this story. The author was able to get under my skin and move me. I sat about thinking for hours after reading this book. These are good things. (less)