I wait ages for a decent novel and then two come along together, although I imagine this tour de force provokes strong reactions either way. Personally, I enjoyed the nods to 17th-century picaresque farce, the Henry Fielding references and the unusual, intriguing setting. The air of mystery around the central character was well sustained, and there is probably much to consider if you fancy writing an essay about it. But I don't.
At last - a shining shaft of sunlight in the recent fog of mediocrity. Novik's Temeraire novels are evocative but, freed from that very male context to write a sometimes dark, always female-centred fairytale, she writes like a, well, dream (as long as we ignore the mushy middle). Who can I lend it to?
Just admire the striking cover and don't bother opening the book. It's dull and confusing and the characters have no character but what really made me stop reading was the weird determination to capitalise types of bird. Seeing Crow and Bittern clog up the page is simply too distracting. I bet the copy editor and the author had strong words over that particular stylistic decision.
Anne Tyler is a novelist without equal but even she has her off-books. This retelling of 'The Taming of the Shrew' as an amiable romance among socially awkward characters may feature her signature sharp observation but lacked bite and conviction. I wonder if it even started out as a Shakespearean update but was adapted to be one on request.
The Ghost Story, more like, in the sense of it being hardly there. As this series goes on, it becomes more like a soap opera and less like a tightly plotted set of murder mysteries. There was only one candidate for the murder(s) this time, which killed the suspense, and even that took a back seat to the tedium of the characters' relationships. Disappointing.
The first odd thing is that the cover is almost sexy but actually the content is the sort of thing my 8-year-old reads. The second odd thing is that it tries so hard to be steampunk cute that it loses most of the charm it's aiming for. And the third odd, but common, thing is that it's determinedly 'first in the series' and therefore is more of a prologue than a self-contained story. Disappointing.
By this point in the series, you'd expect to feel some emotional investment in the characters but neither they nor the story are particularly memorable in this sixth book. But I'll keep reading the series purely for the local interest.
A fairly standard cutesy romcom, enlivened by the narrator's mentor, an invisible talking horse, but unfortunately that disappears two-thirds of the way through. Well written but its distractingly self-published feel could have been solved with a decent structural edit.
Temeraire is as appealing a dragon as you can imagine, so it's a shame that his rather dull human handler/companion Laurence gets most of the page time. Still, the alternative history is diverting even if the story itself isn't and the lack of proofreading too distracting in places.
Most fictional detectives are dysfunctional but it's a wonder Claire deWitt can do any detection at all. That's the real mystery, as Claire enters a downward spiral of drugs and a tenuous hold on reality. It's certainly an interesting and unusual read, and one that's probably pretty layered beneath all the confusion.
Points gained for a good, colloquial translation (for once) of a rather forgettable snapshot of four irritating, self-entitled siblings. I think the reader is expected to be on their side, but they were all so selfish that I didn't care. Interestingly French atmosphere, though.
I thought it was high time I read a Cecelia Ahern book and it was just as I expected - readable and undemanding chick lit. Though I wonder if my take-home message that the book was about lives wasted for no reason whatsoever is the one that's intended.
What it lacked in immersive historical veracity, it made up for in joie de vivre. It's no Cadfael but it was a fun mystery in an unusual setting. And sometimes that's just fine.