(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’m a big fan of Marian Keyes and was very excited when I found out this was coming out. And very happy to get my name on the holds list early! It was a real pleasure to read something of hers again that revisits the Walsh family. Since I wrote about her books for my St. Patrick’s Day post I’ve been itching to go back and read her earlier books and this definitely made me want to. There are 5 Walsh sisters and this is the final sister’s story-Helen.
Helen doesn’t really like people, she’s brusque, and she doesn’t fit in with folks. She’s a private investigator who’s fallen on hard times-business has dried up and she has lost her house, electricity, etc-and she’s forced to move back in with her parents. This is all especially difficult because, as she tells us in bits and pieces, she’s had a bout of depression that landed her in a hospital once before, and it seems like it might be happening to her again. Out of the blue an ex-boyfriend comes to her with a very important, top-secret, case: she must find a missing member of a once powerfully famous boy band before the reunion concert scheduled in less than a week’s time.
I really enjoyed this so much. Keyes is always funny and has a great way of blending funny, sassy, strange characters with genuinely heartfelt, realistic, touching emotions. It was a treat to see Mammy Walsh again and little peeks at the other sisters. And it was fun to have this one be a mystery and try to figure out where Wayne could have gotten to. The only thing that wasn’t super was the part about her no-longer-friend, Bronagh. She is alluded to occasionally, always in the past tense, so you know something big has happened to her. From previous books I assumed it was going to be a huge, very emotional revelation, and it ended up being very anticlimactic and not a big deal to me. But really, that was just a small part of it. I loved this and it was so much fun to have a Marian Keyes to read again.
I read this book for review purposes. You can find my review here. Scroll down the post to find what I had to say about it. This is a new review gig for me and I won’t be writing about the books I read for review here, but since I do like to have an account of all that I read I will post a link to those reviews as they occur.
(Hub Reading Challenge: BFYA)
I am coming to grips with the realization that I may not finish the reading challenge. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the books I “have” to read vs. the books that I’m dying to read. Not to mention a lot of these challenge books seem raaaaaather long. But, for all that Seraphina seemed to take me forever to read, I really liked it a lot. (Ironically, you know how a pull quote by a known author on the cover of a book is supposed to make you want to read it? This had the lamest one ever “Some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read”. Really? It turned me off.) So, yes, dragons. This is a wonderful fantasy book. One of those great ones with a fully created land with a history, like Tortall (in the Alanna books) or the land in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. In this land there is an uneasy peace between dragons and humans. In the past dragons just ate the humans and it was constant war. But 40 years ago a peace treaty was created. The treaty has not eliminated distrust between humans and dragons, though, and most humans despise the dragons (who take a human form when among humans.) Seraphina has a terrible secret that would likely get her killed if people knew-she is half human, half dragon. Her father didn’t realize her mother was a dragon when he married her. And as for dragons, who despise emotions, her mother was a terrible creature who deserved to die. Seraphina tries to attract no attention at the royal court, but her tremendous musical talent does make her known. There is just so much in this book I couldn’t begin to describe it all-espionage, plots, betrayal, family secrets, falling in love, and the bizarre “mind garden” of “grotesques” that she mentally visits.
This was a terrific fantasy novel, and I’m looking forward to book #2.
I loved A Tale Dark & Grimm so much that I had to get this second book right away to read. And everything I loved about the first book is present in this one! Funny asides to the reader, gruesome action, familiar faces and bits from various fairy tales, and so on. In general, I just really like the style this author has going on.
This story is all about Jack & Jill. And yes, Jack does go tumbling down and break his crown, and Jill goes tumbling after. But who Jack & Jill are and how they end up on a quest is really nicely imagined and put together. Their story is quite an epic adventure and includes goblins, scary mermaids, a beanstalk, and all sorts of things. There’s a talking frog from a well in this story, which would be the second time in just a few weeks I’ve read about that (first-Enchanted.) This was a wonderful adventure and I hope that we’ll be seeing more of these.
On an unrelated note, I’m not doing so great with my Hub Reading Challenge and am very concerned I won’t finish it.
(Reading Challenge: Popular Paperbacks)
This is the sort of YA book I really enjoy-straight up realistic fiction ( I say realistic but the truth is in my adolescent I saw none of this in me or my friends, but, like with movies, that’s why it’s fiction) with some conflicts, some happy resolutions, and personal growth. I especially liked that the main character was a boy because even as an adult now I am still fascinated by the secret look into a boy’s point of view. Sammy, the boy, is a pretty well-adjusted kid. He lives with his single mom, is an aspiring musician, has some nice solid friends, is great friends with a girl who he thinks he might like to have be a girlfriend, and is in a band. Unfortunately his band is kind of a mess, especially because the lead singer is an enraged loose cannon. There several different threads to the story that all tie nicely together. One thread is his connection to his grandfather who is mentally slipping away into dementia. But the moments of clarity provide for some wonderful bonding, as his grandfather was a professional musician. Then there’s the girl situation. I thought this was resolved pretty easily, which was, frankly, refreshing. And the losing their virginity part was very nicely done and very positive. Again, refreshing.
I especially liked seeing Sammy’s relationship with his male friends, including his best friend Rick, who is gay. Although Rick is out to Sammy he hasn’t dated anyone yet and doesn’t really want to discuss it. Sammy points out that this makes their relationship lopsided because if they’re friends and he can go on and on about wanting Jen5 (such a novel affectation-who do you know in real life who names themselves with a number? made me think of another book about Su5an Smith), shouldn’t Rick be able to dump on Sammy about his own dating angst? I thought Sammy was really sweet to Rick and I really liked their friendship.
The music in the story is great-Sammy’s description of what it’s like when he plays, his songwriting, the bands that get mentioned, the prospect of a career in music (the part where he sees a fairly successful guy he looks up to behind the counter of a coffee shop is great.) And I loved it that at the end all the referenced songs were compiled in a playlist! I’m fairly certain that in my husband’s music library we’ve got all those songs and I’m going to ask him to make me a disc of it so I can have a listen. It was a nice touch to a nice book.