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review 2018-04-13 15:53
The Ashes of London
Ashes of London - Andrew Taylor

by Andrew Taylor

 

The Ashes of London is set against the Great London Fire of 1666. There are two stories intertwined. A first person narrative from James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, who is tasked to track down the killer of a mummified corpse found in St Paul's after it has burned down, alternating with a third person account of Cat, an heiress whose father is in exile for treason who faces many of the hardships that women had to deal with in that era, rich or poor.

 

Cat is a strong character and intelligent. She has an aptitude for architecture that the role of women would usually squelch, but through a series of mostly unfortunate circumstances, she finds herself in a position to develop.

 

The changing perspectives actually work very well. There is a healthy dose of political intrigue and an element of mystery to be solved. The book held my attention and the last few chapters got into some tense action that had me glued to the pages. I'm glad I've got the sequel waiting for me because this was definitely one of my best reads this year!

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review 2018-04-11 19:12
Pretty Face by Lucy Parker - My Thoughts
Pretty Face - Lucy V. Parker

I loved it.  Pure and simple. I loved it like I loved the first book in the series.  It's fun and it's sexy and it's honestly a joy to read, just in the way it's crafted. 

Back when I was a tween, hell, I guess I'd have been about 10 or 11 (1966/1967 to put it in time frame), I started reading the Penny Parrish books by Janet Lambert.  Sweet, teenage type romances that followed Army kid Penny through her teenage to her adult years.  And Penny became a famous Broadway actress who ended up marrying her director and it was MARVELOUS!  Then, a few years later, I read one of my first Harlequin Romances - Kay Thorpe's Curtain Call (1971) and absolutely loved it.  So much that other than my Janet Dailey collection, it's the only Harlequin of hundreds that I've read that I have left on my bookshelves.  Lucy Parker's books bring me back to that time and remind me of the dreams I had as a girl, to be a stage actress (didn't happen *LOL*, but I still love the dream).  I feel the same way reading Lucy's books as I did back then and I like the feeling - it's a good one.

The characters are terrific and never perfect, even the secondary or thirderary.  *LOL*  I know, I made up that word, it should be tertiary, I think.  Anyway, Lucy's characters, while they are bigger than life, which, of course, they are or who'd want to read about them, they are also relatable with flaws and not so nice traits at times.  I especially liked the way Margo, the hero's ex, was portrayed.  Her emotions and motivations when dealing with Lily and Luc are real and understandable.  She's not a martyr, nor is she a bitch.  I liked that!

Another important thing that I loved was that the author navigated the pitfalls of the power imbalance between the big director and the young actress very well.  It never felt icky or anywhere near #metoo-ish.  Luc was always respectful and mindful of the power imbalances as was Lily and they spoke about them.  So, kudos to Lucy!  That could have gone very wrong.

One thing that Lucy weaves throughout her stories is a sense of fun and witty humour.  I love it!  I've even laughed out loud while reading.  Which brings me back to the girl I once was.  Back in the day, my best friend, Cat, and I used to devour romances - Harlequins, Heyers, Silhouettes... we'd sit and read, different books, and read out delightful passages to each other and then... we'd trade books!  Had we had Lucy Parker's books back in the day, there would be a ton of passages read out loud and then, I'm pretty sure we'd make sure we each had our own copies.  :) 

Oh, read these books!  Sexy and fun and I just love them!

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review 2018-04-10 15:35
The Secret Life of Mrs. London - Rebecca Rosenberg

I have been a historical fiction fan forever and was intrigued by The Secret Life of Mrs. London. Jack London was an unknown to me. I am not familiar with his writing, his life, or anything else about him. It was interesting to learn about him in a fiction book, but still walk away with facts about his life. He was not overly likable, the way he treated those close to him was not something that I could understand. He was entirely into himself, his needs, and the way he wanted those in the public to perceive him. I struggled with his decisions and his actions but they played a huge part of the story of Houdini and Charmian (Mrs. London). Houdini is someone I am familiar with. He has always intrigued me. I love magic and risks he took while entertaining crowds has always interested me. The author, Rebecca Rosenberg, did an amazing job of describing his shows, from the things he wore to the tricks her did I could picture them as I was reading. The relationship with his wife, Bessie, was sweet. There is no doubt he loved her but there was more to their relationship. Charmian is not your typical wife. She is wife to an eccentric writer who is very demanding of her while not always giving her what she needs. Her devotion to Jack London was unrequited. I wanted her to be stronger, stand up to him, demand he give her the attention she needed. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is an amazing historical fiction story that I would recommend picking up.

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text 2018-04-07 16:17
[Book Review] White Fang & Call of the Wild: Why London isn't a good writer.
White Fang - Jack London
The Call of the Wild - Jack London

Well, well, well. Here we have two books that are classics, as well as absolute disappointments. The only reason I ever picked up a Jack London novel is because they are assigned in 7th and 8th grade honors English. And let's be honest, they are terrible. Why they're classics is a mystery to me. I do know that COTW was one of the first really commercial books (besides things like the Bible or etc.) and had lots of positive uproar. However, that was back then. This is now. Writing has evolved, people have changed. This book should NOT be a classic. Books like Dracula or Murder on the Orient Express are creative enough and written well enough to be a good choice to read now. Absolutely none of London's books are this way, I am upset that in the education system, they believe a 170 page novel about a dog/wolf thing that's written terribly is a good thing to assign to the gifted students in exchange for books like The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird, that, in my school, even if you're an honors student, don't read until 10th/11th grade, and by then you aren't being challenged enough. Not that you were to start with, anyways. 

 

Now, in both White Fang & Call of the Wild, the writing is terrible. Sure, London uses some big words and goes into detail of one thing for three whole pages, but it doesn't make any sense! I'm fine with a paragraph of detail for something that's important, but you don't need more than 2-3 sentences to describe a tree, for goodness' sake. If you take out all of the unseeded filler, you're left with a 50 page book, that isn't worth a read anyways. Also, the plot development is terrible and the actions of each character don't seem to have a reason or explanation. It goes from one scene to another with little to no transition. The dialogue, also, is horrendous. I understand that people used to talk like they do in London's novels, and that's not on him, it's more on the people that make the revised editions before sending them out. They leave it there, and it just seems like a bunch of illiterate characters talking. If the people speak like that, why can the dogs think in perfect English?

 

Now, the plots are fine. The development is fine in the beginning, but by the time London gets to the end of the book, you can tell he was done with it. It's rushed with little to no detail, and comes to an abrupt end. A long beginning, short end, and boring middle does not make an acceptable classic book. 

 

Now, with Jack London's history. I know that the books are more lifelike as he actually experienced many of the things he writes about, but he was never an author. His books were so bad that they got rejected for years by many publishers and magazines, until he finally got COTW published. It was a hit, and so was White Fang, but many of the others he wrote never really got popular. Even though they were famous, though, they were not good. Like the last two Divergent novels, or the couple Harry Potter books that didn't quite live up to the name. But anyway, Jack London was never a writer. He even claimed once that he was not good at reading or writing for a while before he actually wrote his first few short stories.

 

Anyway, if you have the choice, I wouldn't read these. They're a snooze-fest. Unless you want to read them because their classics or you actually have enjoyed London's work. Though, some of his short stories are better than his books.

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review 2018-03-29 14:48
A nice guide to London’s history, but poor directions
Cadogan Book of Historic London Walks (Cadogan Guide) - Leo Hollis

London is a city of layers.  From its Roman core, successive generations have built over and outward, turning the walled town into the vast metropolis that it is today.  This evolution can be seen just by walking around central London, yet many of the signs of it are tucked away in obscure corners or hidden in the anonymity of everyday life.

 

It is for those people who seek to discover the city’s past for themselves that Leo Hollis wrote this guidebook.  In it he details a dozen walks that allow participants to explore the span of London’s history, from the Roman remnants to its vast physical expansion during Victorian times.  Each walk includes a small map and instructions in bold as to the streets to take, along with explanatory text providing the background of the sites and their historical relevance.

 

Hollis’s book can be a good tool with which to explore London’s past.  His text is readable yet insightful, bringing to light the relevance of so much of the architectural and geographical landscape that might otherwise be taken for granted.  Yet its usefulness is marred by the unclear directions the walks offer.  Oftentimes these are more simplistic than London’s streets can justify and in a few places they prove to be outright wrong.  These problems can be surmounted by an aware reader, though, and should not detract from the informative explorations of the city that Hollis offers within its pages.

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