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Marissa Reads in 2018

This is a continuation of the topic Marissa's 2017 Reading Register.

The Green Dragon

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1Marissa_Doyle
Jan 1, 1:22pm Top

Reporting for reading duty! :) No particular goals or number of books to be read--just READ and have fun. Oh, and try to remember to tag books read just to help me keep better track.

And for starters I finished the follow-up to The Hum and the Shiver, Wisp of a Thing after getting home from a party past night. I did not like it as much as Hum--none of the characters were particularly likable or sympathetic, and characterization kind of seemed all over the place, depending on the needs of the plot. Going on to the third book, but with less high hopes.

2majkia
Jan 1, 1:32pm Top

Yes, fun! Reading should be fun! Happy New Year!

3jillmwo
Jan 1, 1:36pm Top

*thumbs up* I'm glad you're here as you so frequently have wonderful recommendations!

4Meredy
Jan 1, 3:51pm Top

>1 Marissa_Doyle: Happy new year. I'm glad that stars automatically carry over to continuation threads, but I'd have found yours anyway. Your comments shed light, both when you like something and when you don't.

I haven't set goals either, because to me there's no contest or prize to be won. Reading is its own reward, and there's even a certain deliciousness in thoroughly hating a book, isn't there?

5Peace2
Jan 1, 4:13pm Top

Happy New Year! Wishing you lots of good books this year and the time to read them, before I retire behind the curtains to continue my lurking.

6Jim53
Jan 1, 5:32pm Top

Happy new year!

7SylviaC
Jan 1, 7:54pm Top

I always enjoy seeing what you've been reading. Hope you have a great year!

8Sakerfalcon
Jan 3, 9:26am Top

Happy New Year! You managed to end 2017 by hitting me with a BB for The hum and the shiver, and I'm sure your aim will be just as good this year too!

9pgmcc
Jan 3, 9:30am Top

Have a wonderful 2018 Marissa. I shall be sitting here watching your reading joy unfold.

Did that sound creepy?

I hope so!


10Marissa_Doyle
Jan 7, 1:25pm Top

Long Black Curl is the third installment in the Tufa contemporary fantasy series set in the mountains of Tennessee and featuring a mysterious population that likes to keep to itself there. It's also where I'll be stepping off. While I found it better than the second book, that things that made the first book so enjoyable--the lyrical edge to the writing, the delicate sidestepping that made the fantasy elements so alluring--are gone. I'm sure others will continue to enjoy the series, but it no longer works for me.

The Bletchley Girls...while the actual stories related by the nonagenarians who worked at or for the British code-breaking center at Bletchley Park during WWII were interesting, I frequently wanted to throttle the author for her genuinely bad writing skills (and where oh where was the copy editor?) Poor grammar (comma splices, which are my particular nails-on-blackboard, abound), incorrect use of words (if you're not sure of what it means, don't use it!), and a semi-literate writing style all rather ruined it for me. These women and their stories deserved better. And if you want better, try Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, about the American counterparts of the Bletchley Park girls--it was one of my Best Books of 2017.

11hfglen
Jan 7, 1:39pm Top

You might also try Station X, which puts The Bletchley Girls in context.

12Marissa_Doyle
Jan 7, 1:51pm Top

>11 hfglen: Yup--read that one (and others--this is a topic of interest to me, which I think is why the poor presentation of The Bletchley Girls annoyed me so much.) I'm looking at a few others I haven't yet read, all as background reads for a possible new story, so I'm open to other recommendations.

13Meredy
Jan 7, 2:49pm Top

>10 Marissa_Doyle: Uh-oh. Wish I'd read that before I clicked "buy now." I don't want to be throwing my Kindle across the room. Thanks for the warning, anyway.

14MrsLee
Jan 7, 5:16pm Top

>10 Marissa_Doyle: Ahhhargh! Sorry to hear that.

15Marissa_Doyle
Jan 7, 7:57pm Top

It was still an interesting book--but it definitely set my teeth on edge at times. I see from the other reviews that I'm not the only one.

16MrsLee
Jan 8, 9:03am Top

>10 Marissa_Doyle: My mother started reading The Bletchley Girls the other day. She isn't hating it, but finds the skipping around different girls to be confusing (to be fair, my mother doesn't always track well in life, either).

17Sakerfalcon
Jan 8, 9:59am Top

>10 Marissa_Doyle: Thanks for the heads-up about the decline of the Tufa series. I've got the first book and am looking forward to it but am actually relieved that I don't need to seek out the rest.

18humouress
Jan 8, 11:24am Top

Hi Marissa! You're off to a good start to the year with lots of books. Thankfully, I've been able to dodge the book bullets.

19Marissa_Doyle
Jan 8, 12:35pm Top

>18 humouress: Aw, but get hit is half the fun! ;)

>16 MrsLee: It WAS confusing, when you have a Pat and a Pam and several Jeans and and and...

I'm reading up on the topic because I'm thinking about using Bletchley Park as a setting for a story, so if anyone's got other recommendations, I'd love to hear them. I've picked up a few others to read, including The Debs of Bletchley Park which is on order.

20Meredy
Jan 8, 2:53pm Top

>19 Marissa_Doyle: In the naming of a multitude of characters, kindness should trump realism. I can handle being in a small group that has two Cathys and three Lindas, but I'm looking right at them and I know who's 35, who's 65, who has the long hair, and who has the dimples. In a book I think it's a courtesy to avoid repeating first letters of names even when you have twins--not like one drafted novel I read that had a Mike M. as main character, plus three Margarets, two Marys, a Martha, a Mary Ann, and a Marianne. Not surprisingly, the author's name began with M. Where was the editor? In that case it was me, and I made him a list and said "Don't do this."

21Marissa_Doyle
Jan 9, 9:51am Top

>20 Meredy: Oh, dear...!

Onto a fun picture book for grown-ups--though older children will enjoy it as well, the humor is on the tongue-in-cheek end of the spectrum--Walking Your Octopus: A Guidebook to the Domesticated Cephalopod. Purporting to be a handbook for owners of pet octopuses, it's also about the strong bonds of affection between a young woman and her octopus (respectively named Victoria and Otto, of course) and their daily activities. The illustrations possess a steampunk-edged Victorian-ish sensibility (I love Otto's Cthulhu jack-in-the-box toy that makes a few appearances) and the whole is simply good fun. Of note is the unusual format--the book measures 14" wide by 7" tall. There are follow-up books in the same vein which I'm looking forward to getting my hands on.

22MinuteMarginalia
Jan 9, 6:47pm Top

Thank you for those observations about The Bletchley Girls -- wondered if it was just me who found the writing rough. The historical information is interesting, but the author seems to have problems integrating the women's stories into the larger picture (at least so far). I'm looking forward to trying some of the other titles you recommended.

23Marissa_Doyle
Jan 9, 7:40pm Top

>22 MinuteMarginalia: You're welcome. I've just started Gwen Watkins's Cracking the Luftwaffe Codes: the Secrets of Bletchley Park. She's one of the women in The Bletchley Girls, so it will be interesting to read her own account.

24Sakerfalcon
Edited: Jan 10, 7:54am Top

>21 Marissa_Doyle: I saw you'd added the octopus books in Connections on my LT home page the other day and thought they looked awesome! I may have to look out for them ...

25Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Jan 12, 6:14pm Top

>24 Sakerfalcon: The second Octopus book Traveling with Your Octopus arrived today, and it's fairly adorable. :) Less text than the first one, which is too bad, as the interaction of the serious-sounding text and the tongue-in-cheek pictures were part of the charm.

26Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Jan 12, 6:25pm Top

Finished Cracking the Luftwaffe Codes: the Secrets of Bletchley Park and My Secret life in Hut Six: One Woman's Experiences at Bletchley Park. Both were very much memoirs, about the authors' personal experience of their time working at Bletchley Park during the war, rather than about Bletchley Park as a larger entity. I enjoyed both--while there were similarities, the two women were very different and experienced life there differently, but both felt that it was one of the most remarkable experiences of their lives (and both lived well into their nineties.)

27Marissa_Doyle
Jan 15, 12:28pm Top

The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet Well-written, easily-understandable-by-laymen examination of the enormous earthquake that struck southern coastal Alaska on Good Friday in 1964 and how it would eventually help corroborate plate tectonic theory through the studies of one geologist who wasn't even a seismologist to begin with. Offers good background history on the growth of tectonic theory, on the history and development of this part of Alaska, on how individual towns and their inhabitants fared during and after the quake (9.2 on the modified moment-magnitude scale--the second largest recorded earthquake), and on the geologist, George Plafker, whose work in Alaska helped bring about acceptance of tectonics. The descriptions of the quake by survivors was gripping.

28Marissa_Doyle
Jan 17, 6:04pm Top

Wallis's War An historian's semi-tongue-in-cheek re-imagining of the story of Edward and Mrs. Simpson, in which a small cabal of forward-thinkers in and around the government (among them Duff Cooper and Harold Nicholson) have concluded that having the not-very-bright Edward as king will be disastrous for England in light of the coming war in Europe, so they light on Mrs. Simpson as the perfect way to ease him aside, and convince her to cooperate...then continue to use her to try to maneuver matters to (unsuccessfully) try to avoid the war. Mrs. Simpson is an at-times amusingly unreliable narrator but in the end we can't help but be in sympathy with her. The author uses footnotes to support her story even while cheerfully admitting it's all fiction. Interesting portraits of Duff Cooper, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Galleazzo Ciano (Mussolini's son-in-law) and others.

29clamairy
Jan 20, 2:55pm Top

I like your goals. I too prefer to let the books pick me, for the most part. Hope your reading year is varied and wonderful.

30Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Jan 26, 9:31pm Top

>29 clamairy: Thanks, clam!

Just finished The Summer Before the War, because it was time to take a break from non-fiction for a few books. I'm still trying to figure out why it was named as it was: most of the action takes place once WWI has been declared, and the war as it affects a small Sussex town informs much of the action of the story. Overall, it was...so-so. The writing didn't draw me in: the descriptions were ponderous, ditto the narrative, and the dialogue was supposed to be amusing but didn't quite hit the notes. I never really fell fully in sympathy with the characters I think I was supposed to most sympathize with, and the unsympathetic ones tended toward caricature. I love books about the Edwardian twilight...but I doubt this one will ever merit a reread.

Now...what next? Must see what I've squirreled away on the ereader. It may be the new Frances Hardinge...

31Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Feb 18, 12:27am Top

Not much reading done over the last few weeks--too busy with work. Quick summary of February reading to date:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Wonderfully metafictional (it started life as a Harry Potter fan fiction written by a character in one of Rowell's other books), and wonderful in its own right.

What Jane Austen Didn't Tell Us: the Backstories of Seventeen Characters in Pride and Prejudice It was a gift from a dear friend, so I had to read it. But very much not my cup of tea. I do not care for the scores of Jane Austen prequels and continuations and retellings that have sprung up like mushrooms that aren't quite poisonous enough to kill you, but will certainly make your life miserable for a bit. I survived.

World War I Love Stories Oh, my. At times so sad and tragic, occasionally so heart-warming. The photographs bring the couples involved to life, and a sprinkling of historical sidebars add context. Very well done, and a marvelous source for, say, someone who might fancy writing a WWI set novel some day.

How to Read a Dress Useful visual guide to the construction of women's clothes from the 17th century to the mid-twentieth century.

Devil's Cub A Georgette Heyer re-read, read more for purposes of plot deconstruction (but with time taken to enjoy the particularly amusing parts.) She was a genius at fitting her plots and character types together.

Ad Astra: the 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook I like reading cookbooks; this one had the added fun of being a compilation of recipes from author members of the SFWA (some of whom I know.) There's even a couple of good recipes in there, though the emphasis somehow ended up being on sweets and alcohol... ;)

Oh, and January stats: 10 read, 0 rereads, 0 DNFs

Edited to fix a typo. Sigh.

32Meredy
Feb 18, 2:33am Top

I sure wish I could deliver quick, deft summations like that.

33Marissa_Doyle
Feb 18, 10:32am Top

>32 Meredy: Your six-word summaries definitely qualify as quick and deft in my opinion. :)

34MinuteMarginalia
Feb 18, 11:51am Top

>31 Marissa_Doyle: I haven't read Carry On but thoroughly enjoyed Fangirl and thought Rowell really added to the potential of YA by spinning one of her creations in this fashion. Have any other authors ever taken a fictional (i. e., imagined by them, not an actual publication) work referenced in their books and turned it into a separate publication like this?

35Marissa_Doyle
Feb 18, 12:18pm Top

>34 MinuteMarginalia: Might S. qualify, at least partly? Except the book written for the book (pardon the convolution) is not a separate publication.

Oh, wait--yes. J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and another one she wrote on the history of Quidditch (the name escapes me) qualify--they were mentioned early in the HP series, and then she wrote them as (I believe) a fundraiser.

36MinuteMarginalia
Feb 18, 1:11pm Top

>35 Marissa_Doyle: I thought of S -- amazing concept! -- but it didn't seem quite the same thing. Had completely forgotten the Rowlings.

37Sakerfalcon
Feb 19, 9:00am Top

>34 MinuteMarginalia: Catherynne Valente's The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making originated as a character from her earlier novel Palimpsest's favourite book. It was just mentioned in passing but Valente then wrote it and some sequels.

>31 Marissa_Doyle: I just bought How to read a dress for the collection at work. I'll have to take a look at it.

38clamairy
Feb 27, 8:41pm Top

>31 Marissa_Doyle: & >34 MinuteMarginalia: I actually enjoyed Carry On more than I did Fangirl, and I thinks it's because I felt I didn't need to take it as seriously and could just have fun with it. And fun indeed was had!

39Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Mar 18, 2:21pm Top

Not much reading lately, between work and anxiety about the state of the world and shoveling a great deal of snow. Though losing power for several days did encourage some reading...

What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories Fascinating concept, but ultimately I'm not sure it worked. The book consists of long essays about six women (ranging in dates from Dorothy Wordsworth in the late 18th century to Helen Gurley Brown in the late 20th) and what their writing about food might say about them as human beings, as products of their time, and (sometimes) as artists. While the writing was excellent, I could not help feeling that many points were a tad belabored; I think this might have done better as essays published in periodicals rather than as a book of social history.

Wicked Autumn A DNF, and had it not been on my e-reader, it might have been thrown against a wall. Appalling bad cozy mystery, which is a shame because the setting (charming English village) and the sleuth (C of E vicar who was once an MI5 agent) had great potential. Almost nothing happens until around page 75, when the murder finally takes place; before that is boring and repetitive scene-setting with cardboard characters and not particularly good writing. Made me very cross, as you may have already guessed.

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold Marvelous idea--Cold War urban fantasy--hampered by its format (a serial written by multiple authors.) It might have worked if the organizers had kept a firmer editorial hand on things; at one point it felt like there was a missing episode. Not sure if I'll read more--the concept and characters and a few of the plot twists were fun...

A couple of Georgette Heyer re-reads Cotillion and Arabella, partly to make up for the meh books I've read and partly for writerly deconstruction to examine how she put them together. Always an interesting exercise--she was something of a genius at plotting, really, even when her characters aren't the most appealing. Currently juggling another Heyer, The Nonesuch, for the same purpose and taking notes on The Debs of Bletchley Park for research purposes.

(edited to look at wonky link)

40cmbohn
Edited: Mar 18, 2:10pm Top

Whenever I hit a real reading slump I know Georgette Heyer will pull me out.

41Marissa_Doyle
Mar 18, 2:22pm Top

>40 cmbohn: Yes! She's also my favorite comfort read. :)

42jillmwo
Mar 18, 5:56pm Top

>39 Marissa_Doyle: I recognize that mystery you reference and must concur. I had such hopes for that series and it just did not work for me.

43Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Mar 24, 5:07pm Top

Not feeling quite the thing right now, so a quick list of recent reading:

Catalyst: A Novel of Alien Contact I'm a big Nina Kiriki Hoffman fan, and this story was completely "her" for all that it's a foray into science fiction rather than her more usual contemporary fantasy. Catalyst is an excellent title for the story in many ways. Recommended for Hoffman fans; those not familiar with her work might want to start elsewhere.

The Princess Diarist Picked up the ebook cheap on B&N as I'd never read Carrie Fisher; a deeply personal, at times almost impressionistic (and at other times down and earthy) and often poignant look at her early career as Princess Leia, and how it shaped her life.

As You Wish was a joy to read--I mean, how could a book about the making of The Princess Bride movie not be? It sounds like it was an extraordinary event in the lives of all involved, and some of the anecdotes Elwes recounts are hilarious. Andre the Giant passed out in the lobby of the Dorchester... :) Great fun if you're at all a fan of the movie.

44Marissa_Doyle
Mar 27, 10:27pm Top

I've been somewhat under the weather the last few days, so getting more reading than writing done...

God, No! We're huge Penn & Teller fans in my family and loved How To Play With Your Food. This was different, but almost as funny--more of a memoir than anything else, full of cheerfully raunchy (and occasionally touching) stories and humor laced with Penn's personal philosophy. Probably not for everyone, especially if you're made uncomfortable by blue language, but I thought it was a lot of fun.

Anno Dracula 1899: One Thousand Monsters I can't decide whether Kim Newman is a genius or batsh*t crazy...or both. Another entry in his brilliantly conceived and realized alternate history/horror series in which Dracula has married the widowed Queen Victoria and is bent on taking over the world; the setting this time is Japan. Incorporates huge amounts of Japanese folklore and mythology, which I enjoyed, but beware the often-gory action scenes. The inclusion of a character named Popejoy made it worth the price of admission. ;) Don't pick this up if you haven't read at least the first book in the series.

45Marissa_Doyle
Apr 5, 10:24am Top

Corrupting Dr. Nice Oh my goodness, this was a lot of fun! Science fiction, time travel, screwball comedy, and biting social satire all in one tidy package. There's one misstep (plot-wise, I mean) toward the end involving the romance aspect of the story, but still a jolly good read.

Queen Victoria's Matchmaking Well, the title about sums it up--a look at how Queen Victoria assiduously tried to use the marriages of her grandchildren to help guide the political landscape of Europe...only by the 1880s and 1890s, that ship had long since sailed: no royal marriage could do much against the larger social and economic forces in play. Incidentally, she was vehemently opposed to her granddaughter Alix of Hesse marrying the heir to the Russian throne; how might history have been different if Nicholas had not married Alexandra? She egged him on in his adherence to his father's autocratic ways; might the Bolshevik Revolution not have occurred if he had pursued the path of constitutional monarchy for Russia?

46clamairy
Apr 5, 1:07pm Top

Sorry to hear you weren't feeling up to snuff. I'm sure this suck-tastic weather isn't helping much. And the state of the world only makes it worse, as you pointed out above.

I've loaded a couple of Heyer's on my kindle at your behest (And Jill's & Cindy's, etc.) but just haven't gotten to them yet. This year, hopefully.

Feel better! The warmth has to arrive eventually. And hopefully we'll have an actual Spring this year and not go right from having the heat on to having the AC blasting.

47Marissa_Doyle
Apr 5, 6:20pm Top

Thank you, clam. Of course, the weather today wasn't very springlike...

I forgot one book--a brief National Trust publication entitled Care of Clothes detailing how laundry was handled in the centuries preceding the underemployed Whirlpool repair man. It's taken from a larger work--The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society 1500-1914 which I now must get my greedy mitts on.

48humouress
Apr 10, 1:11pm Top

>45 Marissa_Doyle: Hmm; the Matchmaking sounds interesting. The whole first half of the 20th century was a mess of what-ifs.

49Meredy
Apr 14, 8:00pm Top

>45 Marissa_Doyle: BB time: giving Corrupting Dr. Nice a try, on your recommendation. I like time-travel fiction and could use a little comedy. Hope it works as a read-aloud.

50Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Apr 19, 1:49pm Top

>48 humouress: It was interesting--not as elegantly written as something by Flora Fraser, but worth a read nonetheless.

>49 Meredy: I hope you'll enjoy it, Meredy.

Since then...

Hockomock: Place Where the Spirits Dwell The Hockomock Swamp of southeastern Massachussetts is steeped in legend and folklore and is well known in some circles as the center of the so-called Bridgewater Triangle, where Bigfoot, various spooks and phantoms, and UFOs are said to gather. I grew up not far away and always enjoyed hearing the stories about the place, and hope this book would be a good compilation of those stories. Alas, it wasn't--the author spent far too much time inserting his personal religious beliefs and writing fictional vignettes about the Hockomock--and not doing a very good job of it, either. Sigh. (and I don't know why the touchstone isn't working...pooh.)

The Murder of Mary Russell I overdosed a bit on Laurie R. King's wonderful Russell & Holmes books, and so did not read this one when it first came out. The lingering overdose effects have worn off sufficiently for me to have been able to enjoy this latest entry, which is more than a little deceptively named but still quite enjoyable--though Russell and Holmes are indeed in the story, the main character is Mrs. Hudson--and King creates a most unusual backstory for the devoted housekeeper. I'll be looking forward to the new installment releasing later this year.

I'm presently partway through another Kim Newman horror/thriller/romp, The Man From the Diogenes Club, a compilation of short stories and novellas featuring his paranormal investigator, Richard Jeperson, and a great deal of 1970s cultural references. They're fun, but the book weighs in at over 500 pages, and a little Newman can go a long way at times. I may set this aside and read something else, then return to it.

ETA: Touchstone still not working...

51Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Apr 24, 10:30pm Top

Alfred Hitchcock's Supernatural Tales of Terror and Suspense
Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery
Tales to Tremble by
More Tales to Tremble by

Well, that was some fun reading! The above are anthologies of spooky stories from my youth; I ran across one and searched out the rest on eBay, etc. to see if the dreaded Suck Fairy had slapped her wand on them. Happily, she had not. But they made for curious reading: I remember liking the heck out of them, finding them wonderfully shivery and dark and scary at age eight or nine. Reading them now, mumbledy-mumble years later, I was somewhat surprised to realize that while they may have been called books for kids and two published by a children's house (Whitman), they were not written for children, and do not feature child characters--these are all stories of adults doing adult things in 19th and early-to-mid 20th century settings, written by people like Dickens and Lord Dunsany and M. R. James and I liked 'em just fine back then as well as I do now. Certainly they weren't at all "written down" to children. As someone who writes for young adults, I think it was a salutary reminder not to underestimate young readers. And yes, it was huge fun to revisit them!

Happily, my next read is likely going to be making it onto my best of the year list. The Oversight is precisely my kind of book--historical fantasy set in a mostly "real" 19th century England where magic swarms underneath. Lots of twisty plot threads, truly horrid bad guys, marvelously imaginative world-building, and good, solid writing. If there's one niggle I have, I can't say the characters have really gotten under my skin and become as "real" as I might like, but there's so much else to make up for it that I'm very happy. I'm about 2/3 of the way through, and will be jumping straight into the second book of this trilogy. Highly recommended.

52pgmcc
Apr 25, 1:21pm Top

>51 Marissa_Doyle: written by people like Dickens and Lord Dunsany and M. R. James

You cannot go far wrong with any of those authors.

M. R. James's stories are wonderful. I have a friend who earns his living by telling M. R. James stories in the persona of M. R. James. His performances are masterful and wonderful fun. He has expanded into Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and a few other authors in recent years.

53Marissa_Doyle
Apr 25, 5:42pm Top

>52 pgmcc: Oh, of course you can't. I just find it interesting that their stories were included in books (published in the 1960s) intended for child readers. I'm not sure if that would happen today.

Your M.R. James storyteller friend sounds wonderful!

54pgmcc
Apr 25, 8:05pm Top

>53 Marissa_Doyle: He played M. R. James ib a documentary about James that was produced and presented by Mark Gatiss.

55Meredy
Apr 26, 2:37am Top

>51 Marissa_Doyle: Awaiting your final take on The Oversight. It sounds like my kind of tale too.

56Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Apr 27, 11:02am Top

Finished The Oversight and am definitely moving on to book two in the trilogy, The Paradox. My opinion stands--it was a very enjoyable read with excellent plotting and world-building, brisk pacing (sometimes maybe a little too brisk), and solid writing and craftsmanship, but it's not hitting me the same way as did one of my 2017 reads, Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift books, as truly standout fantasy.

The main issue is that I found it difficult to really care about the characters--I never developed a visceral connection to them, though I was definitely on their side (unfortunately, in the case of one of the main POV characters, Lucy Harker, I honestly could not muster any like or sympathy. I found her amoral and selfish, though I think I was supposed to feel sorry for her.) They remained, for the most part, rather flat--curiously, the villains came out as more vividly alive than the "good guys" did. I can't help wondering if it's because this is the author's first adult book(s)--previous to this he'd been writing middle-grade fantasy (for readers in the 8-12 age range). There's some very fine MG fantasy out there, but I've found it often neglects character development in favor of plotting and tension/pacing.

So, yes--I'll definitely finish the series and will enjoy it, but I'm sad that it's not living up to what it could be.

57Marissa_Doyle
May 16, 10:22pm Top

Eek. Things got busy, and are likely to stay that way. A new young adult book will be making its appearance this summer; keep an eye on next month's Early Reviewers offerings for details. ;)

Finished The Paradox and started The Remnant, all part of the Oversight trilogy...and just had to put it down around page 30 and read something else. It's not that I don't think The Remnant was good, but...evidently the author is also a screenwriter, and I've found that books written by people coming from a screenwriting background just tend to be exhausting--too much action, and not enough space to breathe between plot pinch points. I'm sure I'll come back and finish The Remnant, but not until I've had a rest.

By way of "...and now for something completely different..." I picked up something from my bedside TBR piles-- Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, which was a restful, absorbing read (and, amazingly, wasn't a rehash of anything else I've already read on the topic) which of course made me pick up Persuasion for a cozy re-read. This reading made me decide Mary Elliot Musgrove was the most awful character in the book, despite Sir Walter's and Elizabeth's good claims to the title; Mary was such a wet in her selfishness. Still love the Admiral and Mrs. Croft (as one does), and oh, the denouement discussion between Anne and Captain Harville (and the resultant letter) still can give me shivers. A most satisfactory re-read.

Then, for some reason (FSM knows why) I picked up a book I'd gotten a deal on at B&N. The Harvest was a contemporary horror story set in the mountains of North Carolina, complete with alien seedlings trying to take over the planet by turning people into mindless botanic zombies... and it totally failed at being an Appalachian Stephen King, which I think is what it was aiming for. But King, love him or hate him, is a damned good prose stylist and can usually (at least in the books of his I've read--I'm by no means a King completist) keep a firm rein on his plot. This story completely escaped the author, who furthermore confuses piles of extraneous description for world-building. Don't bother with this one.

58Meredy
May 25, 7:37pm Top

Well, Marissa, I've just posted a review of The Bletchley Girls, and it says essentially what you said, only with a lot more words. I'm not sorry I read it, but I am sorry it isn't a better book.

59jillmwo
May 26, 1:55pm Top

>57 Marissa_Doyle: I know! I liked Jane' Fame as well for the very same reason.

60Marissa_Doyle
May 26, 2:39pm Top

>58 Meredy: I'm sorry it wasn't better too--the women she interviewed deserved much, much better.

>59 jillmwo: Were you also seized by a compelling need to reread an Austen as well? ;)

61Marissa_Doyle
May 30, 6:17pm Top

The Philosopher's Flight I'm a little stymied on what to say about this book. For multiple reasons, I loved it: alternate history with magic? My favorite flavor! American setting? We need more of those! And a universe where women are (in general, with a few notable exceptions) the ones with the magic abilities? OM NOM NOM! The world-building was fabulous, the character development a little less so--I found most of them a little flat. But there were other aspects that didn't have me convinced, such as the premise that the magic in the book's world has only been around a couple hundred years: why hadn't it been discovered before that? And the form of the prejudice that the male narrator faces as he attempts to find a place in the female world of magic just didn't ring right, somehow. I really did enjoy this one, and will be reading the others as they come along (it's the first in a series)--I hope someone else here will pick it up, because I'd love to discuss it further.

I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land A Connie Willis short. I'm a die-hard CW fangirl, but this one failed to reach orbit for me. Fun (if rather depressing) premise about the death of books and where they go, but missing her trademark humor and usual wonderful plot twist. I maybe get the feeling this was something she personally feels deeply about and had to get out of her system, but I don't think it stands in the same place as much of her other shorts.

A re-read, just because it popped up in my Nook for $1.99--The Haunting of Hill House remains as eerie as ever. This reading gave me deeper appreciation for her characterization, even of small secondary characters. Wonderful.

On to Ironskin, a retelling of Jane Eyre with a heavy overlay of fantasy elements. I'm partway through, and while I'm intrigued by the world-building, the characters are feeling rather flat. We'll see how it finishes.

62Sakerfalcon
May 31, 6:35am Top

>61 Marissa_Doyle: I didn't love Ironskin as much as I'd hoped to. I'll be interested in your final review.

63Marissa_Doyle
May 31, 10:40am Top

>62 Sakerfalcon: Yes, I'm thinking it might be a DNF despite the interesting world. Ah well, it isn't like there aren't a ludicrous number of other books to be read on my ereader and in the piles next to my bed...

On to Only Human, the final book in Sylvain Neuvel's wonderful SF trilogy. Giant mechas + snarky humor.

64Sakerfalcon
May 31, 11:10am Top

My biggest gripe was the relationship between Jane and Rochfort felt forced - they had very few interactions before they suddenly got together, no equivalent to the wonderful conversations that Jane and Rochester have in Jane Eyre itself. I think the sequels look much more interesting but as they are quite hard to get hold of I'm not likely to try them.

65Narilka
May 31, 3:05pm Top

>63 Marissa_Doyle: I just finished up Only Human this morning. Still need to review it but I gave it 3.5 stars. I'm interested to see what you think when you're done.

66Marissa_Doyle
May 31, 5:38pm Top

>64 Sakerfalcon: Yes! I can't help thinking the story might have worked better if the author had not tried to shoehorn it into Jane Eyre. It might have come out less forced.

>65 Narilka: Hmm, interesting. How did you rate the first two?

67Narilka
Edited: May 31, 9:01pm Top

>66 Marissa_Doyle: 4 stars each for the first two. I'm going to write my review tonight.

Edit: Review posted. Skip to the last paragraph for my summary and no spoilers.

68Marissa_Doyle
Jun 6, 8:44pm Top

I put off the Neuvel for a few days--I think I'll have to be in the right mood for it--and picked up some Regency fluffiness instead, as a warm-up for some work. First up was Sherwood Smith's little collection of Austen homages, Jane Austen After, which was light years more to my taste than most of the other Austen continuations I've picked up...and Jane Austen's meeting with Count Dracula was a hoot. Then came a reread of a Georgette Heyer that I hadn't picked up in a long time, The Toll-Gate, which is a curious cross between a mystery and a romance. While the romance isn't entirely convincing (the hero and heroine are madly in love after interacting only five times--really, Georgette?--the mystery aspect is rather fun and grounded in historical events. I may need to read another couple of GHs to get properly entrenched in the era.

And my new book is up in Early Reviewers--wheee!

69clamairy
Jun 6, 10:38pm Top

>68 Marissa_Doyle: Congrats!!!
(Sadly, I can't request any because I still haven't reviewed a few from several years back.)

70MrsLee
Jun 9, 10:24am Top

>68 Marissa_Doyle: Aw sweet! I haven't looked there recently because lately I've had a lot of no-shows and it was getting depressing, then I found it freeing because I could read whatever I had on my shelves. lol

71humouress
Edited: Jun 9, 10:50am Top

>68 Marissa_Doyle: A Sherwood Smith /Jane Austen mash up? Yes please.

I think the best Heyer I've read is Foundling; quite unexpectedly good.

I can't get ER books unless they're e-books, because I'm not in the States. Um ... and I have a couple from eons ago that I haven't actually read yet ... *looks around innocently* But best of luck!

72Narilka
Jun 9, 6:34pm Top

73Marissa_Doyle
Jun 19, 10:32pm Top

Oh dear...a quick data dump, or I shall forget what I've read...

Another couple of Georgette Heyer re-reads, The Quiet Gentleman which I've come to appreciate more, and The Corinthian which has a vaguely amusing plot, but which crashes and burns based on the squicky age difference between the almost thirty -year-old hero and the seventeen-year-old heroine. This one has not aged well.

On to Fastest Things on Wings, a memoir by a hummingbird rescuer in the LA area--I enjoyed it, but definitely found myself skimming the author's pontifications on life and human nature in order to get to the parts about the birds. They're amazing little creatures--we have multiple feeders and plant hummingbird-friendly flowers because we enjoy them so much.

And still in a birdish mood, I went on to Birdology: Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur--Sy Montgomery is a much more graceful writer, and no skimming occurred here. I especially enjoyed the chapters about cassowaries and parrots; the chapter on crows (which we are also very fond of) led me to my current read, Gifts of the Crow.

74clamairy
Jun 20, 3:58pm Top

>73 Marissa_Doyle: ARGH! You scored a Book Bullet Bullseye with that Sy Montgomery! Isn't she the author of The Soul of an Octopus? Indeed, she is.

Hope all is going well with your latest book release plans. I thought I saw a Facebook post...

75NorthernStar
Jun 21, 1:04pm Top

>73 Marissa_Doyle: - I'll have to look for Birdology - sounds interesting!

76Marissa_Doyle
Jun 28, 10:06pm Top

>74 clamairy:, >75 NorthernStar: Ooh, a double hit! ;)

Gifts of the Crow ended up being a skim after about half-way--it isn't a bad book, but not what I was wanting. If you're into learning about the serious brain science going on behind animal actions/reactions, you might enjoy this. But that's not what I wanted, and the writing was clunky to boot.

On to Caw of the Wild which went a little too far the other way--while I enjoyed following the author's experience with crow observations in her neighborhood, I got a bit impatient with her anthropomorphisizing and her sermonizing.

And now for something completely different... Creatures of Will and Temper was a historical fantasy which I picked up as a special on B&N, and was underwhelmed. The historical flavor was unevenly and rather poorly applied (and the author's referring to every horse-drawn wheeled vehicle as a "coach" was intensely annoying), and for a book in which fencing played a prominent role, there wasn't much depth--it felt as if the research maybe went as far as reading a Wikipedia article or two on the subject. Overall, it read to me like two-thirds of a book--the plot was rather thin and sort of fizzled at the end, the characters were shallowly drawn and not very likeable, and the main fantasy element--demons--never really explained or explored. I won't bother looking into any follow-ups.

77Sakerfalcon
Jun 29, 7:36am Top

>76 Marissa_Doyle: Oh, rats! I'd read good things about Creatures of will and temper (now I can't remember where though!) and picked up a copy while I was in the US. Oh well, I'll give it a go and hope I can overlook the faults you found. *sigh*

78Marissa_Doyle
Jul 1, 1:24pm Top

>77 Sakerfalcon: Oops. :/ Well, maybe you'll like it better than I did...

Alligators, Old Mink & New Money was a bit of a fluffy palate cleanser, about a former model turned vintage clothing shop owner. I know little about clothing designers, but I do love me some vintage and junk stores, so it was a fun read.

On now to a YA fantasy, The Traitor's Kiss. At about the halfway point, and it's okay--I'm not raving about it, but haven't decided to DNF it.

79Marissa_Doyle
Jul 8, 10:17pm Top

The Traitor's Kiss was...okay. The plotting was good, but I never felt the characters came to life--they more felt like chess pieces to be moved around a board at the behest of the author, not like humans reacting. And the reason behind the romantic conflict set off by a Big Reveal was unconvincing, leaving much of the last section of the book not being emotionally convincing. I doubt I'll follow this trilogy any further.

And speaking of trilogies, I finally finished Sylvain Neuvel's excellent Themis Chronicles which ended with Only Human, which I enjoyed greatly though it was less science-fictional and more about socio-political philosophy and human nature, a lot of which rings very familiar in light of some current events. In fact, I might go back and reread the first two books in the series again just because I liked these books so much. Though I do regret that the unnamed "friend" of the earlier books does not get the same treatment as Dr, Franklin did--he was a marvelous character. Still, the ending was satisfying.

80Narilka
Jul 9, 8:43pm Top

>79 Marissa_Doyle: I totally agree about your second spoiler for Only Human. That would've been nice. His character was definitely missed. The Russian lady was not a good replacement.

81Marissa_Doyle
Jul 9, 9:47pm Top

>80 Narilka: No, she wasn't. I think she was more dark comic relief than anything.

82Marissa_Doyle
Jul 24, 10:17pm Top

Well, I did end up going back to reread the first two books in the Themis Files series, Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods, and they were as good as ever. It was an interesting exercise to read the last book in a trilogy and then to go back to re-read the first two, rather than the other way around. I'll be watching for Neuvel's next books.

Next up was Island of the Mad, the latest in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. She's having fun inserting more historical figures into her stories; Cole Porter and Elsa Maxwell both have important roles in this story set in mid-1920s Venice. And while it was fun, I think the series is losing its edge. I'll probably continue to read any future books just because I like King's style, but...well, sigh.

Onto a different Sherlock Holmes-derived story, by romance writer Sherry Thomas--A Study in Scarlet Women. Thomas is fairly well respected in the romance world, and I kind of get the feeling that whoever her editor was decided that this book didn't need much editing...but a firm editorial hand guiding the story's structure (and not allowing the ending to be as rushed as it was) would have made it much, much better than it was. I like the main character, Charlotte Holmes, so I'm reading the follow-up, A Conspiracy in Belgravia. We'll see after that whether I read any future installments.

83clamairy
Jul 26, 7:11am Top

>82 Marissa_Doyle: Good to know. Sleeping Giants was on sale recently, and I was tempted but I'm trying so hard to keep the Kindle books from piling up. Perhaps I'll snag it if it pops up again.

84Marissa_Doyle
Aug 23, 12:56pm Top

Oy. Life got busy with a major conference in Denver in July, a new YA book release from Book View Cafe (Between Silk and Sand) and a ten-day belated 30th anniversary trip to Iceland with my DH, which was simply glorious.

So first, I finished A Conspiracy in Belgravia and am not inclined to continue the series--ah well. Next up was And Only To Deceive, a historical mystery that seemed very promising in the first couple of chapters...but the quality of the writing deteriorated after that, with the main character (whom I did not find likable) doing things because the plot called for them to happen rather than because they seemed like natural actions/decisions. Not continuing the series.

After that I went on an Eva Ibbotson binge, re-reading all five of her adult/YA historical romances--A Song for Summer, Magic Flutes, A Company of Swans, A Countess Below Stairs, and The Morning Gift. They're charmingly written and lovely comfort reads when one wants something cozy to slip into during crazytimes. :)

Next up has been Iceland-related reading--The Far Traveler, non-fiction about a 10th-11th century Viking woman who appears in a couple of the Icelandic sagas and traveled from Norway to Iceland to Greenland to Vinland (Labrador), and eventually went on a pilgrimage to Rome as well. Wonderful story, well presented, with lots of discussion about archaeological evidence...and now I'm on Last Places: A Journey in the North which is both hilarious and beautifully, evocatively written--it's reminding me of Redmond O'Hanlon's better books (though perhaps a tad less neurotic.)

85Marissa_Doyle
Aug 27, 9:43am Top

I happily discovered that another installment in a fantasy-of-manners series I've really enjoyed is out. Whiskeyjack is the third book in the Greenwing and Dart series, and set in a marvelously developed world with faint echoes of Georgette Heyer to it (yum, catnip!) This one suffered a bit from poor proofreading, and I still think the whole series could use a bit of a stronger editorial polish, but the characters and the story and most especially the world continue to charm. I'm hoping there will be a fourth (and more) installment, because there are plenty of loose ends that could be tugged on...

Also read a short story set in the same world, In the Company of Gentlemen, which was a nicely done story-within-a-story, but also tied into another couple of the author's books, which I may have to look up.

86Sakerfalcon
Aug 28, 5:01am Top

>85 Marissa_Doyle: I want to try the Greenwing and Dart books based on your praise for them. Books with a Heyer-ish feel to them are right up my alley!

Also, I see you recently added a book about Little Women to your library. I am eagerly awaiting your review when you get around to reading that one!

87jillmwo
Edited: Aug 29, 6:20pm Top

Can you say more about the Greenwing and Dart series? Where do I start? Particularly important to know if one is being warned against the third in the series, per your posting in >85 Marissa_Doyle:.

88Marissa_Doyle
Aug 29, 7:23pm Top

>87 jillmwo: Oh, definitely start with the first book, Stargazy Pie, if you decide to try them. Their setting is firmly fantastical and magic is an important part of the world, but there are definite overtones of late 18th/early 19th century England in the culture and the form the world takes. The story revolves around a young man just returned from university to his home town; his mother is dead and his father, a decorated army officer, killed himself after betraying his regiment, and the young man himself left school under a cloud...but I don't dare dive any further into it because the plot quickly gets very complicated. The tone is on the lighter side, but there are very bad people who do bad things and must be stopped, and good people who care about each other--friendships are very important in the story. The writing style can be a tad opaque at times--the author struggles with transitions--which is why I suggest that some gentle editorial guidance would not come amiss. But the world she created is deep and rich, with an elaborate history and geography and regional cultures and mythology. I'm not warning against the third book so much as wishing it had gone in for one more buff and polish before release.

>86 Sakerfalcon: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters is very good so far...

89Marissa_Doyle
Sep 5, 10:09am Top

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters Excellent. It's more or less a biography of Little Women; the author touches on details of Louisa May Alcott's life as it relates to the writing of the book and its publication history during her lifetime (including which bits of the story were drawn from her life) and after...and then discusses the effect it has had on the reading public, the publishing industry, and beyond (including the film and TV adaptations and--surprise!--opera.) She spends a very interesting couple of chapters on the role Little Women does and doesn't play in modern literature for children, and suggests that reintroducing it to school reading lists (from which it has been purged because everyone is sure boys won't like it) along with other "girl-centric" works of fiction might go some way toward addressing the issue of rape culture--that because boys aren't asked to read books about the lives of girls, it's become easier to internalize that girls aren't people. Lots to think about here--if you're a fan of the book (yup, me) or have an interest in children's literature, it's definitely worth reading.

Lady Katherine Knollys: the Unacknowledged Daughter of King Henry VIII Oh, dear. I don't often rate a book so very low, but this was awful--I've read high school papers that were better. Which is too bad, as the subject was interesting. Katherine was the daughter of Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn, but was never acknowledged as the king's daughter because to do so would have jeopardized the legitimacy of his marriage to Mary's sister Anne: Henry was using the verse in Leviticus about not marrying his late brother's wife as reason for his divorce from Katherine, and admitting to an affair with Mary yet marrying Anne would have been the same thing, more or less (gotta love how he created his own problems...) But the research was so poor (most of the references were to secondary sources) and the writing so very bad that I'm seriously scratching my head over how this was considered publishable. Avoid.

The Bride of the Blue Wind A novella by the author of the Greenwing and Dart series I like so much. A retelling of the Bluebeard story in a fantastical pseudo-Arabian setting; very pretty imagery, but slight (and yeah, okay, at ~50 pages what else could it be?)

Ghost Hedgehog I do like Nina Kiriki Hoffman's work, and this was very much in her regular vein--a fun story about a boy who can see the spirits of the dead and accumulates ghosts who attach themselves to him, starting with his awful teacher who drops dead of a stroke in the middle of class...and maybe turns out to be not quite so awful as he'd thought. There was ample room for this to become a lot more than the novella it is; maybe she'll decide to expand on it some day (or maybe she was just having fun with the concept and this was enough to scratch the itch.) Fun read.

Just Sit Meditation is something I've been thinking I need to add to my life, but I'm not sure this was the best introduction. A little too cutesy and manic, which seems to defeat the purpose...

Betty Crocker Lost Recipes: Beloved Vintage Recipes for Today's Kitchen A compilation (and updating) of recipes from 50s and 60s era Betty Crocker cookbooks; it was a fun read if you're weird like me and enjoy reading cookbooks. Some recipes (in my humble opinion) deserve to be forgotten, but some look to be worth reviving. A few were actually ones I was already familiar with--it was fun to learn where they came from. A little more background about the history of the cookbooks from this era might have been nice.

A Useful Woman Sigh. I'm really wanting to love this historical mystery for the setting alone--Regency London and the upper ten thousand, which is usually catnip. The set-up and background of the characters should also be up my street, but it's just not clicking. I've tried to read it twice and have bogged down both times, and the murder that the heroine is supposed to solve has only just happened, and I just. don't. care. I may give it another try, but I don't know...

90Sakerfalcon
Sep 5, 10:33am Top

>89 Marissa_Doyle: You've sold me on Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy! Onto my wishlist it goes ... though we'll see if I can actually wait until Christmas or if I buy it myself before then! I'm really glad you added this and drew this to my attention.

91Marissa_Doyle
Edited: Today, 3:51pm Top

Not much reading lately; Real Life (tm) is interfering in a big way, and I just haven't had the attention span, unfortunately. Which is too bad; I need something that will, like the old Calgon ad, "take me away!"

Island on Fire: the Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano that Covered a Continent in Darkness A re-read, because I visited the area last month and now have better context for it.

Lady Helena Investigates A so-so historical mystery--it wasn't bad, but it wasn't terribly good either; none of the characters ever really came to life for me. I don't think I'll continue the series.

>90 Sakerfalcon: I hope you'll enjoy it, whenever you read it!

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