This book was getting a ton of advance praise and press and while I didn’t even bother with her last book I was pretty interested in this one. I ended up receiving it to review (lucky me!) and I enjoyed it very much. In fact, gave it 5 stars on Goodreads and it got a star in the column as well. Here’s the review I did for it:
p.s. Summer camp friendship is pretty similar to boarding school, so it had that going for it to start with
(Hub Reading Challenge: Popular Paperbacks)
After The Diviners it was a treat to pick up a fluffy book I could read in a day. The inspiration for this story is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and the characters share the names of the characters in the original. The story is modernized and set in an exclusive snobby wealthy private school where Lizzie Bennett is a scholarship student and looked down on by everyone else. Enter Will Darcy (who looked like a teenage Colin Firth in my head.) I liked the new details Eulberg gave the story-Lizzie is such an accomplished pianist that she’s destined for Carnegie Hall, the prom at the academy is covered by the New York Times Style section. I enjoyed how much this followed the original, even to the extent that sometimes these über-rich kids spoke like English people in the 1800s.
A fun, quick, prom season read.
(Hub Reading Challenge: BFYA)
I’ve had this book anchoring my bedside table for almost a year now. Having it be on the Reading Challenge list was the kick I needed to pick it up. This book is huge-coming in at over 550 pages. And the thing is, I don’t think it needed to be that long. The book is about a girl in the 1920s who has a supernatural gift, she is a “diviner.” Due to some trouble in her small town, Evie is sent to Manhattan to stay with her uncle, a bachelor who runs a museum of the supernatural and occult along with his hunky mysterious assistant, Jericho. Evie is hot to experience all that 1920s Manhattan has to offer-speakeasies, gin, flapper dresses, loose morals, and jazz (insert jazz hands here.) Her swanky new friend Theta, a Ziegfeld Follies girl, aids and abets her, while her straight laced friend Mabel tut-tuts. A horrendous murder kicks the mystery off. Soon, it is a string of murders that seem to have something to do with the occult-weird brandings and sacrifices are present. Uncle Will, Jericho, and Evie begin investigating. Then there are all the other diviner character, like Memphis and his brother Isaiah.
This was definitely an engaging, if too long, story. However, if this was a movie I would never in a million years see it. Occult-supernatural-horror-grisly? Not for me. In fact, all the murders were way too scary for me. But, I soldiered on. I wish this was a stand alone book, and I think it could have been. But, like all things these days, it’s #1 of presumably a trilogy. And if the other books are this long I probably won’t read them. The world of the 1920s is very fully detailed and realized-almost a little too much. It’s clearly well researched, but I felt that it seemed like the author was going down her big list of details about the 1920s and making sure to include a song title, historical figure, slang phrase, wardrobe detail, etc. on every other line.
Hub Reading Challenge: PPYA
I’ve known about this book for quite a long time and even attended the studio recording of the audiobook. And yet, I just wasn’t interested in reading it. I’ve had it checked out for a month and only somewhat unwillingly picked it up yesterday morning because I thought I should give it a try. Well. Apparently I just didn’t know what this book was all about because it was fantastic. I have an hour’s time this afternoon while I wait for my daughter in dance class and I couldn’t even save it for then. I had to just spend the morning reading it until it was done because I was so caught up in it.
The first thing that made this so compelling was the fact that it’s set in a boarding school! Present day, London. Rory has moved there from New Orleans and is going to spend a year there while her parents are on sabbatical. Just as she arrives and is dealing with fitting in a murder occurs that mimics the first murder of Jack the Ripper. A second soon follows and the city is caught up in copycat Jack the Ripper panic. I’ll pause here to say that Rory becomes involved and it’s a great thriller and I totally recommend it. If you don’t mind spoilers scroll on down past picture and I’ll tell some details that might explain it better. Otherwise, just take my word for it, enjoy the photo, and go check this book out of the library (and p.s. the cover was one of the things that turned me off. I hope it’s better in the paperback version.)
OK, so what I didn’t know that made the book completely exciting was that due to a near death experience the first night at school Rory can see ghosts. And it turns out that she’s not the only one-that others who can are part of a super secret, denied by the government, but run by them, organization. Ghost police, if you will. And without realizing she was seeing a ghost, Rory saw the murderer who is terrorizing London and becomes involved with this ghost squad in trying to stop him before he kills his next target, who is Rory herself.
This was an exciting and suspenseful mystery. The supernatural element was not totally crazy. There’s some historical stuff in there, which was nice, and there were loads of the type of boarding school details that I just eat up.
Last week I was looking up authors that I used to really enjoy reading and wondering whatever happened to them (Billie Letts, where are you??). I saw that Jeanne Ray had a newer book I hadn’t read and promptly checked it out. She hit it big with her book Julie and Romeo not only because it was good and popular, but also because she was a first time author at age 60!
This was a delight with a great premise. A woman, the wonderfully named Clover Hobart, wakes up one day to discover she is invisible. How did this happen? And even worse, why doesn’t her husband or son notice??! When she runs over to her best friend’s houses the friend immediately can see that it’s just clothing floating in the air. This is such a depressing and horrid turn of events that Clover doesn’t know what to do. When she sees a notice in the paper advertising “Calling Invisible Women” with a meeting scheduled at a local hotel, she goes. And finds out that there are lots of other invisible women! They discover that they had all taken a combination of prescription medication and that is what has caused them to disappear. Most of them feel pretty dejected, especially when people don’t even notice their invisibility. I liked it that their invisibility wasn’t just a metaphor for women of a certain age, taken for granted by their families and workplaces. Yes, that was certainly part of it, but they were actually truly invisible. Clover and the other women bond and get fired up to use their invisibility to their advantage (I loved the chapter where Clover and her friend ride the school bus and spend the day at the high school making people behave), and to also confront the pharmaceutical company that has caused this.
I really liked this. I liked how, although Clover’s husband and son take her for granted, they are shown to be not terrible oafs, but people caught up in their own problems, too. This is funny and clever and thoughtful.
I think Elizabeth Berg is a wonderful writer, and she always manages to tug at my heartstrings (some of her books are downright weepy) and make me cry a little at the sadness of life, and then at the resilience of human nature and the hopefulness and humor of life. So I can’t believe I have to say this about her newest book, which I was super excited to get-it wasn’t that great. I didn’t cry. Didn’t feel that connected to the characters. It felt very much like an outline of one of her books, rather than the actual book.
It started out with great promise-Cecilia is a motivational speaker whose very best friend died a few months ago. That, combined with the memory of her friend telling her to take a break from work and get out there and do stuff, is the catalyst she needs to stop work and sell her house. She spontaneously moves in to a house that has 3 women living in it. The next thing you know they are all off on a road trip for their own personal closure type adventures. Renie to meet the daughter she gave up for adoption, Cecilia to connect with the love of her youth, another to meet up with her ex-husband, and I don’t even remember the last. It all felt so sketched out and not fully realized. I didn’t feel invested in the characters’ stories at all or believe in any kind of relationship between the four women.. Also, I literally could not tell how old Cece was supposed to be. You might think that doesn’t make a difference, but it does. Was she elderly? Her own mother was still living so she couldn’t have been that old. But was she of another generation than the women she was living with? Was she in her 40s or 70s? It was strange to not know, and also then I wasn’t sure how much of an urgency she felt to get out there and do things.
I hate to say that I wouldn’t recommend an Elizabeth Berg book, but she has so many better books you could spend your time reading. This fell really short for me.
I didn’t love this as much as I’d hoped to. Also, when I got to the end and realized that it wasn’t on my reading challenge list (I thought it was) I was totally bummed. It’s a graphic novel memoir of a month and a half spent in Paris. The author/subject is a college age girl who goes there with her mother. It’s a great experience for them as they eat lots of interesting things (paté galore) and see lots of art. I did enjoy reading about the things they saw and places they went, but didn’t feel there was anything especially compelling. Also, this might be terrible, but I really had no empathy for her 20something malaise-depression-boyfriend missing. It’s very much a personal travel journal/diary, but neither her personal life nor her observations were interesting enough to make this a compelling read.