The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently #2)

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently #2)
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently #2) by Douglas Adams
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently #2),
by Douglas Adams

This remains one of my all-time favorite books, by one of my favorite authors. This re-read was to plumb the content for locations I want to visit during my upcoming 42 for 42 trip: I am traveling to 42 places that occur in Douglas Adams’ novels for my 42nd birthday.

I’m hoping to see Miss Schechter’s view of the Park, the street the Draycott’s lived in, the places Dirk couldn’t buy a cigarette, and the train station in our world that is hiding the great hall of Asgard.

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Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)
Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness
Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2),
by Deborah Harkness

Better than Book One. Far more compelling, and I was interested to know what happened to the characters. Overall, I find the book still too choppy with writing not rich enough to really convey what is happening in the characters internal worlds and external environment. Almost as if the author is writing in a language I don’t quite speak.

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A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1),
by Deborah Harkness

If I could give this a 2.5, I would, because it is just below average, but not by much. After consideration, I can’t give it a three though, because of the ending. The end of the book is a blatant, unapologetic cliffhanger. Not even a pretense that this could be a stand alone book, which makes me resentful. I bought your book, Ms. Harkness, trusting I would get a beginning, a middle and an end: I’m cheated! There’s lots of beginning, a little middle…and no end in sight.
*DING!* a star falls…

I enjoyed this “beach read” book, but it didn’t draw me in. The language and writing were very straightforward; for a book about magic, the writing style was mundane.

It was very easy to put down and at times I avoided picking it back up.

Still, the premise is interesting, some action sequences worth following, and the protagonist has a lot of room to grow if you can wait out the annoying naïveté.

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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,
by Michael Chabon

My introduction to Chabon was the Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and I fell in love with his rich and savory writing style.

This book is not for the average reader interested in love triangles, motorcycle chases, or jewel thieves, but it does have all of those things.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is a coming of age story. I loved it. The novel completely immersed me in a gender, a sexual awareness, a city, a culture, a lifestyle that was 100% foreign to me. It was done so beautifully and skillfully that even though I could relate personally to almost nothing, I never felt jolted out of the story or even a little bit skeptical.

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Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories #3)

Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories #3)
Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories #3),
by Mary Robinette Kowal

Reviewing a single book in a series is often difficult. As a “series addict,” I believe books should both ‘stand on their own merits’ and ‘be read in context.’

In the spirit of full disclosure, I sometimes choose to only read a series-author’s books if there IS a series, and if it is (mostly) DONE. In the spirit of Inigo Montoya, “I hate waiting.” And I also like more of a good thing. With no waiting.

Having finished book 3 of the Glamourist histories, I feel challenged to say why I gave 5 stars to Books 1 & 3, but only 3 stars to book 2. I also feel that it is important for me to acknowledge that while my “stars” tend to be entirely emotional, given upon immediately finishing, when I choose to write reviews, they are after…at least a few moments of reflection. Today, over an hour! (sadly if I wait too long they do not get finished)

Technically, all three books feel similar, but books 1 & 3 have 2 specific things that book 2 does not. (Sorry readers – I apologize openly for the numbers).

First, I am loathe to say it, but I think that perhaps…perhaps it is because in Without a Summer, we once again experience our beloved Jane as the inadvertent protagonist-as-antagonist. Our dear, flawed Jane makes a mess of things. And again, as in book 1, her sister bears the brunt of Jane’s fallibilities. Jane’s messes lend a huge amount of valid suspense and are allowed to resolve in a way that keeps me, as a reader, in love with her as fallible and forgivable.

Second, as in book 1, book 3 has a single, actual antagonist. Someone evil, in the background, creating a bad situation for Jane and those around her. A really good bad guy makes a book truly great.

Book 2 was good, and enjoyable, but didn’t have the punch-in-the-guts that comes from foiling a villain. The reader isn’t carried along on the rising tide of Jane’s tendency to make matters worse before they get better. That is replaced with a main course of heroism and a side dish of tragedy.

I feel privileged to have accompanied Jane through book 2, but book 3 is a happy return to what I enjoyed about book 1, while book 2 lacked the direct action…and mistakes…that are uniquely “Jane.”

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Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal

This book has 302 pages and took me four hours. They were four WONDERFUL hours. I love Jane Austen, but more than that, I love Fantasy. SOMEONE WROTE BOTH!!!!

This book is a perfect example of what it is, and a perfect thing I never knew existed. I am so excited that there are 3 more out there for me to savor and enjoy. I may have to restrict my reading and save them for when I REALLY NEED some reading that is entirely light, airy, and beautiful.

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Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (Jane Austen Mysteries #10), by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (Jane Austen Mysteries #10), by Stephanie Barron
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (Jane Austen Mysteries #10) by Stephanie Barron
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (Jane Austen Mysteries #10),
by Stephanie Barron

This installation of a series beloved to me seems to have less “Jane” and more madness. While I am glad that Jane and Henry get to enjoy each other’s company, the other characters, and even the settings of this book, feel less solid than I have come to expect. Perhaps as there is more fiction – fewer of Austen’s actual letters to hang the fiction on – I found the descriptions of Brighton, pavilion, rooms, less clear and immersive than previous works. Still, the action led to an interesting plot; As with all mysteries, the blinds and dead ends were enjoyable. Unfortunately, Jane’s single minded coherence is lost in the efforts of too many characters, going to too many places, causing a tumbled, unstructured narrative that feels different than Jane writing to herself in her little journal. Despite the more ‘active’ nature and pace, I was still able to linger over some description. I enjoyed the Master of Ceremonies character who socio-autistically recalls every person, every dance, and every aspect of ‘toilet’ for every Assembly. Useful in a murder investigation, to be sure. The flirt with Lord Harold’s broader tale – then continuation of The Elephant In The Room – was disappointing, and made Mona feel less a ‘friend’ than a haute ton convenience of plot. Still, I enjoy every one of these novels like canvassing what is new with old friends: this one is just more like tepid coffee with an old friend who is having an off day.

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Northern Exposed, by Darren Burrows

Northern Exposed, by Darren Burrows
Northern Exposed by Darren Burrows
Northern Exposed
by Darren Burrows

This book is worth five stars for fans, but only two stars as a book. It has great background info if you loved Northern Exposure, but it is not well written. It is repetitive. It is dry. I laughed twice in 225 pages, and only once seriously (evil bear cub). Burrows alludes to issues with the making of the show, but does not substantiate them. This book could have been so amazing if Burrows had either: Deepened his own NE journey OR included perspectives of other cast members and Cicely “residents.” Instead, it is a barely engaging book not quite about a young actor growing up and not quite about a hit TV show.

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Diary of a Provincial Lady (The Provincial Lady #1)

Diary of a Provincial Lady (The Provincial Lady #1)
Diary of a Provincial Lady (The Provincial Lady #1) by E.M. Delafield
Diary of a Provincial Lady (The Provincial Lady #1)
by E.M. Delafield

This book had funny moments but in thinking about it overall, can only be recorded as an obligation. I am saddened because it was gifted to me by a Dear Friend who enjoyed it enough to purchase a copy for me, which I AM very grateful for. Despite the fact that I could not like it, I do not wish to dissuade D.F. from doing the same on any future occasion. One blot on her otherwise spotless record shall go entirely unnoticed by me, excepting in this review, where I am compelled to be honest (as the Provincial Lady NEVER is).

This reader is definitely ill-suited to enjoy the day to day domesticity of the book: Depressing – verging on abusive by modern standards. Reflect that I am grateful not to be British, and in particular, not British during the 30’s. I did my best to attempt to appreciate it in the context in which it was created, but unlike an Austen Novel, which at least has ups and downs, the monotony of the diary – accurate or satirical – made it read like the stacks of bills that are always on the mind of the Provincial Lady. I am too personally haunted by the spectre of poverty to enjoy her unease about overdrawn bank accounts and polite conflicts with service providers over billing.

Furthermore, I was prevented from enjoyment by the constant French to be figured out from context or looked up, and a format which made hard work of understanding the most basic situations: Why do people keep asking her to speak to them? What does her husband DO all day? Why does she insist on so many ridiculous things, like bulbs, picnics, and social work. All of the lives and activities in the book are cut off abruptly, with no ending…just as a diary would in life, I suppose, but it did not give me any satisfaction to have made it through the book in its entirety.

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The Scroll of Years (Gaunt and Bone #1), A Book Review

The Scroll of Years (Gaunt and Bone #1), A Book Review

Having finished The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich only moments ago, I hereby judge that it is not an average, everyday book. By that I mean it is not about a cast of characters placed in stories and committed to the written word.

Instead, Willrich has written a magical invitation to peruse a series of bound pages where, by happy chance, fantastic figures’ own paths direct them to travel back and forth in this specific vicinity…and they happen to have been captured by a sensitive translator.

My ruling on The Scroll of Years is based on many things, but foremost the structure of the book. Willrich’s debut novel is comprised of long and short chapters, tales within tales, and shifts in time, location, culture, perspective, and language. The result is deceptive: the simple exterior of a fantasy softcover hides an interior that is a complex literary work. This book insistently demands that any prospective reader thrust away their grasp of linear tale telling as a prerequisite to jumping into this adventure.

I will not mince words: This is not a book everyone will enjoy. The protagonists travel an entire world of territory, and the stories told are drawn from every major occurrence of a human lifetime. I found it difficult at times to catch up again after putting it down, as if somehow the story had continued to evolve while I wasn’t actively reading it.

To enjoy the work, I suggest that you be a reader who can be dropped without warning or explanation onto the back of a Springfang, into a bottomless pit, or through the portal of scholarly monastic life. This is not a book for any reader requiring reason or exposition. Persistent readers will find some of each inside this novel, but it will be wrapped carefully and carried next to a character’s true heart.

The Scroll of Years is a collection of tales about persons generally meeting the modern definition of “westerners” and “easterners.” The travels and antics of the characters are guides or perhaps crutches, for the reader seeking wisdom about an astonishing range of life experiences. From the book, readers can steal treasures about true growing up, forgiveness, partnership in love, parenting, and even coming to peace with our own flawed selves.

The thrilling cover illustration of high-fantasy artwork, and Willrich’s own description of the novel as “sword and sorcery” does the book an injustice. I believe it is well beyond what the traditional fantasy novel has provided. The Scroll of Years is more than one rich world-building adventure; it is easily three or perhaps, lucky seven. Characters go beyond the traditional troupe of scout, fighter, thief, wizard, and cleric, to include the avocations of monks, politicians, assassins, poets, mothers, fathers, adolescents, emperors, dragons, walls, ways, ghosts, vampires, accountants, sailors, outcasts, and even a loyal log-chasing dog.

What I enjoyed about the novel was being tossed into a wonderful new way to use language. Willrich has invented novel techniques for dialog and storytelling that derive from opposites. His writing incorporates east and west, man-on-the-street and sage, human and animal, child and adult. I can only describe my reaction toward writing so completely new and different as similar to how I felt reading Gibson’s cyberpunk for the first time. Reading this book is likely to cause a disturbance in your Chi, but channeling will reward the reader tenfold.

What I had to overcome to enjoy the book was the idea that I was picking up a recreational-fantasy drug. This book requires attention, commitment, and participation from its readers. If you allow it, this book can teach you more than a little bit about life’s biggest lessons. To the inattentive, I imagine this book is just a muddied flood that will wash over you, scrape you up with pointed words, and carry you away, without ever allowing you to plumb its depths of meaning.

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