Thursday, August 23, 2012

Throne of Jade by Nomi Novik

This is the second book in the Temeraire series. In book one Temeraire learns some surprising things about his heritage and what he learns then sets the stage for this book--their adventure in China.

This was another totally absorbing book. Although I found all the battles and deaths distracting (you know I'm addicted to happy endings) I still found this book wholly entertaining. Again I was interested in Temeraire's questions as he seeks answers to what the life of a dragon should be like.

I think there was actually one F-word in this book--bothersome. Why is it there? Also, Temeraire has a...what do you call it with dragons? affair, I guess you could say. No details, no descriptions, no scenes, just mention of it. His first night with his love interest (and it really is not a big part of the story at all) results in some pretty rough consequences for Laurence.

Overall, this is a series I am really liking. I look forward to reading the rest of it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

This is the first book in the Temeraire series. It takes place in Europe during the Napoleonic wars. Ship Captain Will Laurence finds himself unexpectedly in possession of a dragon's egg that is ready to hatch. He knows his duty...and he knows that it will possibly end his career in the Navy.

There are a lot of dragon books out there. But I've never read one set in the time of Napoleon. And I've never read one where the dragon is somewhat autonomous. Temeraire is an especially intelligent dragon and he asks questions about his role in the war, his subjection to the British government...he's a thinking dragon.

I really liked Naomi Novik's characters. I especially liked Will Laurence and his formality, his gentleman-like ways. I loved the close relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. 

I didn't like the many battles and the inevitable deaths--I like happy endings best, of course. I also didn't like the free and easy moral code of the Aerial Corps. Why is this lifestyle idealized this way in so many novels? But those are just small irritations in a book that I really, really liked a lot. I look forward to reading the whole series.



Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

This is the book that follows Shades of Milk and Honey and continues the story of our Jane and her husband.
In this book they travel to France and get entangled with Napoleon's army.

This book was much more involved and exciting than the first book. The magic that Jane is mastering is much more useful in this story as well--in the first it was used only for entertaining.

I've enjoyed both books a lot.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

I really liked this book. It's like Jane Austen only with magic. I think there's a whole genre full of this stuff. Anyway, this one was lovely.

Plain Miss Jane Ellsworth envies her beautiful sister's looks even though she has great talents of her own... in magic. Not a particularly ladylike talent. This is her love story.

I really, really liked this book. There are a lot of stories about magic and it's interesting when an author has a fresh little twist on this oft-encountered theme. I have to admit that I found the carriage chase towards the end a little confusing...and the book wasn't perfect in its period details, and I got very irritated with Jane's sister's jealousy of Jane...but all in all I liked Mary Kowal's characters and her unique take on magic in this entertaining story.

Squeaky clean, too, by the way!

Bloodline by James Rollins

This is part of the Sigma Force series. The Sigma Force is a group of warriors who works for a division of the government--I'm a little foggy on the details of their little task force, but those aren't important anyway. This is essentially an adventure story--lots of mystery, intrigue, danger, even a little romance. There's also usually some science in there. In fact, at the end of each of his books, James Rollins gives references for the factual items that he bases his fictional stories on.

I really like this series. I like the characters and I like James Rollins' imaginative conflicts. It's hard to see how one author can think of so many plots in which the safety of the world is at stake! In this book the Sigma Force group finally unravels the mystery of "the Guild". If you've followed this series you will know the importance of this.

This was interesting, exciting and very fun to read. James Rollins is inconsistent in his use of bad language. I've read books of his where there is very little and then books where there is a lot (Sandstorm, for instance). This book had a few very bad words in it. Two, I think. Other than those little shockers, it was a great read.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt

When I was young, my sister collected many Victoria Holt books and she and I gleefully read them all. I saw this one at the library and brought it home to see if it still gives me the same pleasure that it did then.

Victoria Holt writes romantic adventures--rather gothic, always mysterious. In each of her stories, our heroines unfailingly find themselves endangered by their love situations before their heroes inevitably find them and rescue them and all is well.

In this book Helena Trant, always enchanted by the lore of the Black Forest, meets her doom there--thrice! Once as a schoolgirl and twice as an adult.

I do still enjoy these stories. I find Victoria Holt's dialogue a little stilted, but I have always enjoyed the stolid sensibility of her heroines. They always find themselves in fantastic situations that they somehow digest with British common sense. Still, despite the phlegmatic natures of our leading ladies, the dashing men in their lives find them irresistible and this, of course, leads to all their trouble and then, in the end, to their blissful resolutions.

Victoria Holt doesn't use bad language in her books and she doesn't include sex scenes either (although there are plenty of love scenes, they are not explicit in any way). Her stories are romantic and rather predictable and always entertaining. They may not be quite as enchanting to me now as they were when I was younger, but I still enjoy them.

Vienna Blood by Frank Tallis

This is a historical mystery. It takes place in (as you might gather from the title) Vienna in the very first years of the 20th century. Our main characters are Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt and his friend, psychologist Dr. Max Liebermann. The story opens with the slaughter at the zoo of the emperor's favorite snake. This killing is closely followed by the brutal slaying and mutilation of several women of dubious reputation. Detective Inspector Rheinhardt is called in to investigate and he consults Dr. Liebermann (a student of Freud) about the possible mental/emotional state of what is shaping up to be a serial killer.

The relationship between the two men is interesting. They are both very musical and find a musical connection with the murders as well. I found the political background of the mystery very interesting too. One gets a sense of the social turbulence that preceded the coming war. I started reading the next in this series, but found it a little too Freudian for my taste. A little Freud goes a long way, I believe. Still, this book was captivating and I enjoyed it very much.

I have to mention that Frank Tallis must have the largest vocabulary of any writer I am familiar with. I encountered at least a dozen words in this book (a mystery, no less!) that I had to look up in order to define. So fun! I was romanced from the beginning by Mr. Tallis' use of words like "fenestrated", "hierophant", "horripilated", "batrachian" and "crepitating". Sigh. Loved that.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

This is one of those sweeping generational novels. It's also a bit of a romantic adventure.

A little girl is left on the dock in an Australian port town. She doesn't know her name and can't say where she traveled from or where she is going. She is eventually adopted by the dock master and raised as a daughter in his home. She is very happy....until he tells her on her 18th birthday the truth of her origins.

This book is the story of her search for her roots. The mystery is not quite unraveled in her lifetime, though. It is her granddaughter who finally digs out the whole story.

The book was entertaining and interesting. But. It all hinged on one very unlikely co-incidence that felt very contrived (the fall on the boat, fyi). And that kind of thing really bugs me. Still, despite a predictable ending, the story was engaging enough and I enjoyed reading it.

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

This classic novel is an active piece of abolitionist literature. It's full of religion, suffering, hope, terror, joy.... and it is beautiful.

We meet some slaves who live in Kentucky, close to the border of Ohio, on the estate of a benevolent master....who finds himself in difficult financial straits and decides to sell two of them. We follow these two for the next several years. We meet their fellow slaves and we follow them through their experiences--good and horribly bad.

Can there be any good endings in a book about slavery? In this book Harriet Beecher Stowe makes even the awful parts seem better by the nobility of her characters and their integrity even in the midst of their suffering. I felt uplifted by the dignity of Uncle Tom. He touched for good every one that he encountered.

Still, it is a book meant to make a strong statement against slavery and in defense of the natural intelligence and competence of these people who were stolen from Africa--and it really does.

I was surprised at how much I liked the book. I highly recommend it to all ages.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

This is a Regency Romance in the classic style (not a "bodice ripper"). I love Georgette Heyer. Well, I love her romances. Her mysteries are entertaining, if unexceptional, and her histories are rather dry--or at least I find them so--but her romances are witty and sweet and perfect.

This book is about the arranged marriage between the Earl of Rule and Elizabeth Winwood. Except Lizzy is in love with a solider and doesn't really want to marry the earl. She knows she must, though, to save her family from financial distress. Enter Horatia ("Horry"), Lizzy's much younger sister, who decides to offer herself to Rule in place of  Elizabeth, thereby saving Elizabeth from a loveless marriage and enabling her to marry her soldier. Horry, we are told, has glowering eyebrows and a stutter, but is also entirely engaging. Will Rule accept her offer?

This is not one of my favorite Georgette Heyers, but it is still charming and entertaining. Somehow all of the Heyer ladies are captivating and all the men romantic and masterful. I always enjoy her romances.