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Showing posts from July, 2016

Weekend reads and feeling very busy...

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My weekend read is Mary Robinette Kowal's new historical fantasy, Ghost Talkers. This one is set during World War I, and features the British Army's Spirit Corps, a group of mediums who debrief those who die in action in hopes of using that intel to help their troops. I'm totally smitten already and wish I could just read this rainy day rather than work!

Life has been pretty busy otherwise: lots of things to do on weekends, which is both lovely and tiring; and both my wife and I have had hectic work lives. I'm also doing some writing in hopes of getting into a nine-month writing intensive, so if things go well, it seems like the busy won't end! But that's not always bad, right?

What are you reading this weekend?

Book Review: Grace Without God by Katherine Ozment

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Title:Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age
Author: Katherine Ozment

First line: One night five years ago, I heard a strange noise outside the window of our brick row house near Boston.

Review: I've got a lot of complicated feelings about this book, and reviewing it requires a little coming out and disclosure.

I work for the Unitarian Universalist Association, the national office for the denomination. I'm married to a former seminarian. And until a few months ago, neither of us were members of a church because we both struggled with religion, religious organizations, and our own personal faith beliefs (but we've spent a decade searching for a church home).

Ozment's book immediately intrigued me because of the title (and subtitle): I know we're in a historical era of "spiritual-but-not-religious" and "nones", or people who identify as having no religion, and my wife and I are among those many.

From the s…

Book Review: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

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Title:Glamour in Glass
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal

First line: There are few things in this world that can simultaneously delight and dismay in the same manner as a formal dinner party.

Review: This second book in Kowal's Glamourist series returns to the Regency world she created in Shades of Milk and Honey (my review here), but Kowal departs from the strongly Austen-y feel of the first to a more standard paranormal historical feel -- a development I welcome!

Jane and her new husband find themselves in Belgium for their honeymoon, and they use the time to study some of the Continental glamour techniques and skills, as well as experimenting with the use of glass in glamour work. But Napoleon escapes Elba and suddenly they're at the front lines of battle. Unhesitating in their support of the British army, their loyalty to country and their skill in glamour make them targets.

As with the first book, I think heightened expectation set me up for disappointment, for while I liked …

Book Review: American Housewife by Helen Ellis

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Title:American Housewife
Author: Helen Ellis

First line: "Is this too dressy?" is Southern Lady code for: I look fabulous and it would be in your best interest to tell me so., from "Southern Lady Code"

Review: When I came across this line -- I fix myself a hot chocolate because it is a gateway drug to reading. -- in the first story, I knew it was love.

Ellis' collection of short stories are brisk, funny, and snarky. They go down dangerously easy and you may, like me, embarrass yourself then with some snirking, snickering, and outright laughter when in public. And like a lovely, boozy Sunday brunch with friends, I have no regrets.

The stories all focus on a certain type of married American woman, Southern and/or upper class and/or wedded to more than just a man. They're all an exaggeration, too, pushed to the point of ludicrousness, and yet, still painfully familiar.

My favorite stories included 'The Wainscoting War', which details the quick unravelin…

Book Review: Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

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Title:Mata Hari's Last Dance
Author: Michelle Moran

First line: We don't take a horse-drawn cab to his office.

Review: I read this book -- on the slim side at 272 pages -- on the flights to-and-from my work conference at the end of June.

A first person biographical novel of the infamous dancer-slash-spy, this splashy story has it all: winsome heroine, Paris, love affairs, rags-to-riches, a tearjerker of an end.

My only complaint is that I just wanted more; and given the many inaccuracies and mysteries about the woman known as Mata Hari, I'm surprised Moran didn't go deeper (or, hell, longer!) with her story. Instead, it feels like she stuck with the outline of events known for sure, and what's there is good -- it just didn't feel quite like enough.

Margaretha "M'greet" Zelle MacLeod's story begins as she's reinvented herself in Paris as Mata Hari, an Indian dancer trained at ancient temples. Discovered at a seedy bar by a lawyer who becomes h…

Books DNF'd so far in 2016

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I started this post expecting a longer list, but it turns out I've only DNF'd two books this year so far! (There are a few more unfinished, but I might pick them up again, so am not considering them DNFs. Arbitrary, perhaps, but there ya go!) Anyway, my thoughts on what I'm not going to finish reading. What have you DNF'd this year?


Ingrid Betancourt, The Blue Line

Basically, it's like Isabel Allende meets Susanna Kearsley -- South American history and politics with a little supernatural romance-y-ness. I really really wanted to like this one, being partial to Betancourt, but it was just a little too ... I can't put my finger on it ... emotionless? Stiff? The flipping between the past and present -- always something I'm "eh" on anyway -- was tiresome to me -- artificially stretched the tension.



Kiersten White, And I Darken

Loved the idea of what-if-Vlad-was-female but didn't "see" it in what was unfolding. Got about 10% in and just…