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Etiquette & Espionage

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Sophronia is fourteen and forever getting into trouble at home and is less than pleased when her mother sends her to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But it quickly becomes apparent that this is no ordinary finishing school as Sophronia learns not only how to curtsy and flutter her eyelashes but also knife-throwing and the best means of only poisoning certain guests at a dinner party. Of course, her penchant for getting into trouble also lands her in the midst of mystery that may take more than her own skills to solve.A delightful first entry in Carriger's new young adult series, fans of the Parasol Protectorate series will enjoy it thoroughly. Sophronia is a charming heroine (although she does act a bit older than her 14 years) and Carriger creates yet another cast of well-rounded and entertaining characters with just a few familiar faces tossed into the mix. The steampunk element adds a particularly nice twist to the boarding school genre and Carriger's wit is in strong evidence. I definitely look forward to future books in the series.
Clockwork Princess

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In the final entry of the Infernal Devices trilogy, the Shadowhunters are still on the hunt for Mortmain and searching for the answer of why he needs Tessa for his plot against the Shadowhunters to work. In the midst of this larger conflict, Jem's inevitable death looms larger and Tessa's heart remains divided between Will and Jem.A good ending for the trilogy, Clare weaves an epic conclusion to the trilogy and finds endings for all of the characters that will leave devoted readers of the series a bit misty-eyed but ultimately rewarded.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery

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Gossip is the major sport in the small village of King's Abbot with very little in the way of exciting topics. But when Roger Ackroyd is found murdered in the his study, speculation goes wild. The main suspect is Ackroyd's stepson, Ralph, but when Ralph's fiance approaches Hercule Poirot who has been living in quiet retirement in the village, M. Poirot agrees to discover the whole truth.An absolute delight from start to finish. Christie's prose is sharp and witty, clearly evoking the period of the late 1920s in a small village with one large manor house. The characters are all well-rounded creatures whom it is easy to picture and Hercule Poirot sparkles as the understated Belgian detective with his peculiar approach to English and his emphasis on the power of "the little grey cells." But the big star of this novel is the mystery itself which is absolutely brilliant. I defy you to determine whodunnit.
The Kite Runner

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Amir and Hassan are close friends living on Amir's father's estate in Afghanistan. But at the age of 12 in 1975, Amir makes a choice that will forever alter his relationship with Hassan and have ramifications in Amir's own life for decades.Beautiful and heartbreaking, this novel brilliantly captures the relationship between Amir and Hassan which is full of complexities. It also reflects the shifting realities of Afghanistan from a poor, generally overlooked nation, to one at war with the USSR, to a nation which is discussed commonly in the supermarket in the United States. Never an easy read with plot turns and descriptions that may be horrific or extremely upsetting for some readers, it ultimately reflects the single Afghan phrase that emerges repeatedly in the novel: life goes on.
The Well of Lost Plots

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Thursday Next is temporarily residing in the Well of Lost Plots while continuing her apprenticeship as a Jurisfiction agent with Miss Havisham. However, her hopes that things would be tamer in the land of fiction than in the real world are soon dashed as she deals with grammasites, rogue characters, and Godot is missing. When someone starts killing off Jurisfiction agents, Thursday must figure out what they all have in common or risk becoming a victim herself.Another delightful turn in the series, Fforde deftly creates a fantastic world that is an absolute delight. While at some points it did feel as though the plot were meandering a bit and Fforde was simply showing off his fantasy world, it's a great world to show off and I didn't really mind. Of course, the plot also builds to an impressive crescendo that rattles on to a satisfying conclusion.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

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It's been a year since September's adventures in Fairyland and after much wishing and waiting she has finally returned. However, the Fairyland she comes back to is much different as she discovers that everyone is losing their shadows - and their magic - to Fairyland-Below. There September's shadow rules as the Hollow Queen, Halloween. Once again, September finds herself on a Quest to set Fairyland back to rights.Fans of the first book will love this sequel. The narrative voice remains a delight, weaving the rich tapestry that makes up Fairyland and Fairyland-Below. September is still a charming heroine, who is starting to grow up, and starting to come into a new, fresh heart. A great fairy tale for all ages.
Princess of the Silver Woods

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When Princess Petunia is accidentally kidnapped by one of the Wolves of the Westfalian Woods, she assumes that this is the worst that can happen on her trip to visit the elderly Grand Duchess. But upon arriving at the Grand Duchess' estate, she discovers that things are lurking in the shadows that may drag her and her sisters back into the Kingdom Under Stone.The third book in the trilogy (beginning with Princess of the Midnight Ball), follows the youngest of the twelve dancing princesses as she has adventures all her own. While George riffs on Little Red Riding Hood in the novel, this is not a strict re-telling of that tale but instead a continuation of the larger narrative begun in the first novel. I enjoyed Petunia as a character with her strength of character and different perspective on the curse she and her sisters suffered from when she was much younger. Oliver, the alternate perspective in the novel, is also quite charming. There were some small flaws in the narrative (characters knowing things they shouldn't, etc.) that a good editor should have caught that bumped this down a rating. Otherwise, an excellent conclusion to the trilogy.
Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens

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A biography of Dickens' ten children is no easy task and Gottlieb creates a highly readable book. Dividing the book into the childrens' lives while Dickens was alive and after his death is an intriguing structure although providing their lifespans in both halves of the book rather than just the first would have made things a little clearer for me. The children themselves are interesting cast of characters with disparate lives in the army in India, Australian sheep stations, and as painters (among others). However, Gottlieb makes broad sweeping statements about the nature of each of the children without providing substantial enough evidence to keep some of them from rubbing me the wrong way. Additionally, the lack of any citations in text irritate me as well. An interesting introduction but not a thorough academic source for individuals interested in the Dickens children.
Tender is the Night (Collins Classics)

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In the late 1920s, Rosemary Hoyt, a young Hollywood starlet, encounters the glamorous Dick and Nicole Diver on a beach in the French Riviera and falls in love with the pair, particularly Dick. However, all is not as it seems in the Divers' marriage with Dick playing the role of both husband and doctor to Nicole whose mental illness is a constantly recurring third party in their disintegrating relationship.First and foremost a character study, Tender Is the Night slowly reveals the inner-workings of Dick Diver over the course of several years, investigating how an intelligent and ambitious man ended up in a relationship in which he feels he is slowly losing his independence. However, surrounding the melancholy tale of Dick, Fitzgerald beautifully describes several parts of Europe and the life of the idle rich American expats who lived there during the late 1920s. A read that is great not only to experience the skills of an author near the height of his brilliance but to empathetically observe Dick on his decline
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus

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Everyone knows Odysseus' version of things, but what about his ever-faithful wife, Penelope? What does the good wife have to say for herself?A quick but brilliant read. Atwood creates a rich voice for Penelope as she recounts her life in a way that reframes her existence outside of that of her husband. Interspersed with Penelope's narrative are interjections from a chorus made up of the twelve maids who Odysseus had killed for colluding with the suitors. These often more poetic turns provide a different perspective again on the tale Penelope weaves. An intriguing exploration of a woman who in the original source text only matters in relation to her husband, Atwood creates a complex woman who remains an enigma even in her own tale.
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