This is the first book in a series that on the face of it appears to be another attempt to take advantage of the 50 Shades hype. But it is not a 50 Shades wannabe. It is a good book. A very good book. The writing, pace and characters are all better developed that 50 Shades and definitely better than any of the 50 Shade clones.
It is formulaic, but it works and it includes an element that seems to be lacking in the angst-filled batch of erotic romance novels published lately. It is funny. There are some laugh out-loud funny lines. The characters take their relationship seriously, but they are also having fun. No brooding stares, no meaningful silence. The hero doesn't have an unbelievable medical condition that makes him violent in his sleep, he isn't obsessed with a medieval author to the point that he almost channels him and he is not the most wealthy, wildly successful, way too young for his success, handsome man in the entire world, or at least the Pacific Northwest. He is rich and good looking, but not the richest and best looking. So he comes across as more real than the heroes of several recent books.
It passed my sure fire test with flying colors. When I was done reading the book I wanted to know what happened to the characters next. I wasn't ready to let go of them. If a book makes me feel that way, I can forgive a lot.
If you like this genre I really recommend this book. You will not be disappointed.
I can handle books that are at their core very dull. I can handle books where the characters wallow in depression. I can even get through books where I don't "like" the main character. But I cannot handle a dull and depressing book about a character I can't stand. I don't have to have joyful HEA endings, but there has to be some small kernel of compassion or sympathy or even interest in or with the characters of a book or I cannot slog my way through it.
I read advance reviews of Hausfrau and while I thought it might be a tough read, it also piqued my interest and I was looking forward to reading it. Boy, was I disappointed. No, disappointed is too strong an emotion. If I had to sum up my feelings and thoughts about the book and it's characters in two words they would be "who cares?" There was not a single person in the book I found interesting enough to care what happened to them. Instead it was full of people that if I met them in real life, they would be instantly forgettable and never someone whose company I would be mildly interesting in keeping.
If the characters of this book existed in real life no one would ever think of writing their biography. There just wouldn't be any reason to justify it. So I am not sure why anyone would think it made sense to write a piece of fiction about them.
The narration was quite good. But that is the only positive comment I can make. I cannot recommend the book.
Another Harper book that includes my favorite fictional character of all time - Dick Cheney. Not that Dick Cheney, but the 200 year old slightly shady but lovable con artist vampire with the most inappropriate collection of tee shirts in the world.
I always enjoy a new entry into this series, if only because I get to revisit so many old friends. Even though the newer books in the series aren't quite as hysterically funny as the original, they are still always good natured and full of eccentric characters that you are not sure you would ever like to meet in real life.
This book deals with Gigi, a character introduced in the previous book, the younger sister of Iris who owns a Vampire concierge service. Gigi falls for an ancient Russian vampire, who looks only slightly older than 20 year old Gigi and Amanda Ronconi as always does a great job with all of the accents. We also learn more about the scary Ophelia Lambert, the forever 16 year old head of the Council who may be the most frightening teenager who ever lived.
If you are looking for a humorous, quick read, I recommend this book by Molly Harper and read by Amanda Ronconi. If you haven't read any of the earlier books you should start there.
What struck me the most about this book was the inequality of time spent on Bertie's turn as a dissipated Prince of Wales and the time spent detailing what was by most accounts a successful and important reign as King. I realize this is largely because he spent the majority of his life as the Prince of Wales and only the last decade as King. And I understood the author's intent - to show how the huge blunders and small catastrophes of his early wasted years, shaped him into the king he became. But it still seems to me that the reader walks away with a far better understanding of what made him a terrible husband, questionable friend and embarrassing representative of the royal family, than what made him a successful monarch.
All of that said, this was an informative, well researched biography of a man at the center of a stage, but more importantly of the time period in which he served and many of the secondary characters who surrounded him that we know little about. The characterizations of the prime ministers and senior governmental officials that served Victoria and then Edward was fascinating. She also gave a very balanced account of his wife Alexandra and his many mistresses, I thought. And even when Bertie was shown at his worst, the author used other key people in his life to show that no matter how poorly Bertie was behaving, his mother, his nephew, every member of the Churchill family and a few of his mistresses were worse.
Near the end of the book the author that King Edward's parenting skills definitely gave credence to the generally held belief that the British royal family makes terrible parents. And I know we are often doomed to repeat the mistakes of our parents, but I thought that the saddest aspect of the book was how uninvolved he was in the lives of his children. After the example of his parents, one would think he might have tried to compensate. But the only child the book spends any time on was his heir who Edward obviously disliked and who he believed was as wasted a human being as his parents thought Edward was. His obvious grief at his sons death made his treatment of him when he was alive all the more pitiable.
If you are interested in the prelude to and the reasoning behind World War I, this biography of the central figure of the Edwardian age, the uncle of Europe, this book is definitely worth reading. If you are more interested in the gossip and torrid behind the scene details of court life, this book is worth reading. In the end, the most interesting aspect of the book is that it manages to be two books in one. A tell-tell biography full of salacious gossip, rumors and fact, and a fascinating look at Europe before the war that shaped the 20th Century.
I read a couple of articles about this book before it came out and it made me very interested in reading. The premise was creepy but fascinating - a wealthy yet eccentric Georgian-era oaf selects two orphans with plans to mold one into the perfect wife.
The book did not live up to my expectations, although it was very readable and parts were fascinating. The most disappointing portion of the book was the part dealing with the relationship between Thomas Day and his two charges - Sabrina and Lucretia, names he gave them. This part of the book, which was the focus of the articles I read, didn't really live up to the hype. There is no good way to explore the relationship between a grown man and a pre-teen girl, without it becoming uncomfortable or creepy and I think the author tried so hard to avoid that, this part of the book was dry and dull.
What was interesting was the discussion about Day's circle of friends who formed the Lunar Society including Charles Darwin's grandfather and several of the authors, poets, philosophers and politicians of that time. A group that seemed so educated and erudite I could not figure out why Day was allowed to participate. Although, it bothered me that so many of these people knew about Day and his bizarre experiment and didn't try to put a stop to it
But the most interesting part of the book was the author's ending list of all the subsequent books, novels and plays that were based on this true story, including, at least partially, Shaw's Pygmalion. This is one of those foundational stories that I think I should have known about.
I really recommend this book, however, I admit that a key reason for my recommendation is the fact that I agreed with the author's characterization of two of the people at the center of the story - the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I have always been extremely skeptical of anyone who tries to paint their story as a fairy tale love story. There is nothing fairy tale-ish or loving about a conniving woman who tricks a gullible fool into believing she is worth loving and worth sacrificing the role he worked his whole life to attain. I think the most positive thing to say about the Duchess of Windsor was even though it was never her intent, her actions spared Britain of having Edward as king during the World War II. The fact that they went through the war with George instead of Edward as king had to contribute to their ultimate victory. So I was happy to know that the author's research seemed to support my opinion. At the same time however, she kept the book from veering into a mean and spiteful gossip session.
I enjoyed reading of the development of the relationship between George and Churchill. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Edward and George's brothers. I knew very little about the two and I felt that the way they blossomed into mature men during the war, similarly to George, redeemed the royal family at a time it needed redeeming.
As to whether the Windsors were German spies or naive dupes the Germans were able to manipulate - I vote for the latter. They came across as too shallow, self absorbed and unintelligent to be useful intelligence gatherers.
I thought the narration was a little weak. She was too breathless and excitable in places. Other than that though this was an entertaining and insightful book.
There are some very interesting side stories and anecdotes in Goetz's book. Especially about Conan Doyle. My love of Sherlock came late in life and I never paid much attention to his creator. That portion of the book made me want to read a full biography about the author.
However, as I read this book it seemed that the author wanted to write biographies about both Koch and Conan Doyle, felt like he didn't have enough for two complete books so he looked for a tenuous thread between the two and tried to use that thread to cobble together one biographical book about two people. And to me, the thread just wasn't sufficient to tie these two stories into one cohesive book. It made the entire book feel false.
Additionally, the title was inaccurate. Koch, who for all of his unpleasant personality traits and poor personal choices, evidently did contribute greatly to the science of medical research, didn't cure tuberculosis. He probably set the cause back several years. And while Conan-Doyle spent a few days in Germany viewing Koch's botched results and his wife died of tuberculosis several years later, he evidently had nothing to do with the "quest to cure tuberculosis."
Most people who achieve greatness in life also fail miserably, at least once. The two go hand in hand. It seems to me that while Koch's ultimate dishonesty has to be considered in any well-rounded evaluation of the man, it pales in comparison to his accomplishments and should not be the centerpiece of a biography.
And Conan Doyle dabbled in medicine while he struggled to be a writer. As soon as he met with success in his writing, he dropped medicine and never looked back. His interest in tuberculosis that prompted his visit to Germany had more to do with writing about the event than it ever had to do with questing to cure tuberculosis.
So, two stories, both with merit, but they were artificially forced together in a single book, and both suffer because of it.
I may be one of the few people who didn't fall in love with Larson's book Devil in The White City. His writing style is a little too florid and wordy to me. However, since I read anything I can about World War 1, my issues with Larson's writing style wouldn't stop me from reading Dead Wake. And it is a book worth reading. Dead Wake tells the story of the sinking of the Lusitania, but that is really just the launching point of the book. Larson interweaves other key events and people into the narrative so the reader gets a good overview of the British Intelligence system, especially its code breaking department, the German and British navy's, especially the German U-Boat program, the operation of one of the largest businesses of the period, the Cunard Lines and more importantly the individuals intimately involved in the fate of the Lusitania, not just those on the boat, the crew and the passengers, but also the captain of the U-Boat who fired the torpedo that sunk the ship. He brought detail to at least a couple dozen passengers and crew members, some who survived and some who didn't. People who were never famous and are largely unknown by now. Because so much of the book dealt with the minutia of people's lives, I thought his writing style was better suited to this subject.
He also dealt with the Wilson administration and Wilson's appalling immaturity and naivete far more sympathetically than other contemporary authors. If anything, his generally positive handling of Wilson, was about the only thing that rang untrue.
I listened to this book and while Scott Brick is a prolific narrator and I regularly listen to and enjoy his narration style, I found his narration of this book a little too dramatic. he tried to infuse the narrative with a little too much emotion and drama for my taste. Regardless, it is still a book worth listening to. And it seemed to go very fast.
I heartily recommend this book.
I was feeling pretty good after I finished the book "The Swerve" so decided to tackle another book that had long been on my TBR stack that dealt with essentially the same time period and the same dawn of modernity.
Russell Shorto also wrote "The Island at the Center of the World" about the Dutch new world settlement New Netherland. It remains one of my favorite historical books regarding that time frame. It was well written and extremely readable. So I had high hopes for "Descartes' Bones."
Unfortunately I was disappointed. The book was well written, but while I understand how important a figure Descartes was both at the launch of the modern period but also today, that really wasn't what the book was about. Rather, it was about the circuitous route Descartes skull took when it was separated from his body after his death. I think the goal was to use the skull, and actually his entire skeleton as symbols for the radical ideas Descartes proposed and by understanding people's reactions to the skull and skeleton we could understand their reaction to those ideas. Unfortunately that didn't work for me. I appreciate that his remains became relic-ized, mirroring what the church had long done with purported saints bones, but to me that has never been an admirable or interesting practice and in this case, it had little to do with Descartes thoughts and ideas and those are what was important.
If you want to read a piece of non-fiction dealing with the dawn of modernity, I recommend "The Swerve" over "Descartes Bones." Russell Shorto is a very good writer, but the topic itself was uninteresting and it fell far short of convincing me that the fate of Descartes skeleton and skull was anything I should remotely care about.
I purchased this book quite some time ago. I started to read it then, but put it aside because at the time I wasn't up for the level of attention it clearly required. I recently picked it up and this time I made it through. I am very glad I did.
The focus of the book is on the rediscovery of an ancient poem "On the Nature of Things" by Lucretius, and the impact that rediscovery had on the swerve towards modernity and the beginning of the Renaissance. The poem, which stems from the author's devotion to the beliefs and ideals of Epicurianism, was written almost 2100 years ago and was rediscovered by a priest on a mission almost 600 years ago.
I admit I have never made it through an entire translation of "On the Nature of Things" and since I don't read classical Latin I will never tackle the original. But I have read substantial portions and have found them both lyrical, perceptive and surprisingly modern. I was interested in learning about how the poem was viewed within the context of the time of its rediscovery.
I think it is far fetched to give this rediscovery alone so much credit for swerving western civilization into the modern world. But I do agree it is one of the important factors. Greenblatt used this event as a launching point to explore several of these events and factors and the key participants at the time. The portions of the book that focused on the time period, the people and leaders who lived through them and especially the martyrs created by a church desperate to avoid any thoughts or ideas that did not mesh neatly with their doctrine, were fascinating. Much of this information wasn't new, but Greenblatt is quite a story teller. Large sections of the book were real page-turners. And it is rare to find a non-fiction book about a 2000 year old poem written to honor one of the fringe philosophical movements of the time, that was rediscovered by a Catholic priest about 1600 years later after being long forgotten and buried in a monastery, that could achieve "page-turner" status.
I highly recommend this book. And I highly recommend it be listened to. Edoardo Ballerini is one of my favorite narrators and he does an outstanding job on this book. His narration is what moves this from a four star to a five star.
I've put off reading this series for a few years and I am not certain why. It covers one of the most fascinating times in recent history - the First World War - and I tend to read anything I can about that time period. It is by an author whose other works I enjoy - to a degree. I found the first few books of the Monk series fascinating, the Pitt series far less so, although I read several of them. The problem with Perry is, while I like to read series books in order and one after the other, when possible, the books in her series tend to run together and they all begin to sound like essentially the same book with different secondary characters and London locations inserted into the same plot line.
I was hopeful that would not be the case with this series. I enjoyed No Graves as Yet, the first book in the series. It takes place at the cusp of the war, the main event that drives the plot actually occurs the day the Archduke is shot. There was a family of main characters to get to know and while they all seemed dry and stiff, based on Perry's style of character development, as well as the time period the book was set in and the class of the family, that probably makes sense. There are more colorful characters when the plot moves to Cambridge and London, which keep the reader engaged. The problem was there wasn't anybody the reader could really like or really hate. There were several characters I found very annoying though. But the storyline was complex enough it kept my interest even if the characters always didn't.
The mystery revolved around a plan to keep England out of the war.It seemed a little far fetched and overly complicated, but since this plan was the reason for the mystery that drove the book, I was OK with that. The end held a few surprises, which was great. In her other series, the endings quickly became predictable.
The book was full of details regarding the ramp up to the war and Perry did an excellent job with her research and her ability to so clearly define a specific time and location.
I usually enjoy Michael Page's narration, and he did a good job with this as well. The only problem I noticed with the narration was there were too many middle-aged male characters for him to give each a unique voice, inflection or diction and I had trouble telling who was talking sometimes. And he contributed to the annoying qualities of a few of the female and younger male characters by the shrillness of his voice sometimes.
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