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Original Essays | July 22, 2014

Nick Harkaway: IMG The Florist-Assassins

The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had... Continue »
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    Nick Harkaway 9780385352413


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gaby317 has commented on (296) products.

There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron
There Was an Old Woman

gaby317, April 25, 2013

Arguably, There Was an Old Woman is a New York sort of mystery. There's very little violence or gore. Instead, we are drawn in by Ephron's descriptions of Higgs Point as a neighborhood, the period finishings in Mina Yetner's home, the description of the young curator's job and her upcoming exhibit of the history of the Empire State Building.

Through the story of Mina Yetner, Ephron takes us to the Depression and what it was like for a young woman working her first job in New York City and in the iconic Empire State Building. Mina's choice to work came at a time of freedom and employment for women and as we read Mina's story, we're drawn in, imagining this unique time.

It struck me that in There Was an Old Woman, the main, pivotal characters, those that carry the action forward are women from the young art historian and curator to Mina, who in her youth moved to New York City to build a life and worked at the Empire State Building.

Not that the book lacks mystery. There is psychological suspense as we wonder whether the events that Mina describes are actually happening or if she's slowly deteriorating. There is drama as well - families divided by alcoholism, greed, and disappointment. There's romance with the dashing lawyer who has stopped practicing law and has opted to run his family business, the corner store.

Ephron's writing is clear, I focused completely on the characters and story, drawn into the build up and development without noticing anything else. I kept wondering what would happen next. If you're looking for a fun read set in New York City, check out There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron.

ISBN-10: 0062117602 - Hardcover $26
Publisher: William Morrow (April 2, 2013), 304 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.
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Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy)

gaby317, February 19, 2013

Chosen as one of Amazon's top YA books for 2012, Shadow and Bone is the sort of adventure story that I love. The heroine, Alina Starkov, was raised as an orphan with her best friend Malyen Oretsev in the house of their benefactor Duke Keramsov. As the children grew up, they were trained to serve in the army: Alina as a cartographer and Mal as a tracker.

For as long as they could remember, their country had been battling a growing "Shadow Fold" of darkness with flesh eating monsters called volka. While on reconnaissance, Mal was attacked by one of the mythic volka and when Anika tried to save him, they discovered her unusual magical powers. Anika is whisked to the capital to be protected, trained, and to fight to dispel the Shadow Fold. But she discovers that her enemies are not limited to the flesh eating volka, that enemies and allies at court can be far more dangerous than monsters.

Anika learns to navigate dangers and intrigues of court and seems to come into her own. But betrayal comes when she least expects it. Help comes from an unexpected source and Anika must find a way to save herself, her oldest friend, and the nation that she loves from an overpowering force. Shadow and Bone is a story about loyalty and friendship and an unimaginable challenge. It's beautifully written and deeply engrossing. I am eagerly awaiting the next two books in the series.

Ages 12 and up.
ISBN-10: 0805094598 - Hardcover $17.99
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (June 5, 2012), 368 pages.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher.
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Tiny Book of Tiny Stories #02: The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Volume 2 by Joseph Gordon Levitt
Tiny Book of Tiny Stories #02: The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Volume 2

gaby317, January 30, 2013

I just wanted to give a shout out for The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2. I was fortunate to read and review the first volume when it came out and am glad to report that this next book is just as enchanting. The Tiny Book is a collection of illustrations and small statements, so that you find a tiny poem/story for every 2 pages.

The book is a collaboration of different artists - "HitRecord" curates submissions from the public to come up with a careful selection that combines humor, hope and just a little darkness. It's the sort of book that I would have loved as a teenager and still enjoy now, many many years later. The book's cover says: "The universe is not made of atoms; it's made of tiny stories."

There are stories of love (some sad and some happy), I prefer the sad ones and sort of wonder which ones appeal to other readers. There are some that are humorous, that make you take a look at the world around you or poke fun at language. For instance, one of my other favorites refers to loopholes.

The book itself is tiny, easy to carry with you. It's beautifully done with nice thick paper. It's a good book to keep and/or to give to someone with a love of language and a sense of humor. I recommend it highly!

ISBN-10: 0062121634 - Hardcover $14.99
Publisher: It Books (November 13, 2012), 128 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.
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Proof of Guilt: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd
Proof of Guilt: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

gaby317, January 21, 2013

Inspector Ian Rutledge was the only man in his army unit to have survived the World War I. One of the most traumatic moments of the war involved having to order the execution of his second in command, Hamish MacLeish, for disobedience when he refused to order them men on what proved to be a suicide mission. By the time that the series begins Rutledge has returned to his prewar occupation as a Detective Inspector at Scotland Yard. Having survived the horrors of the war, he carries much of the trauma with him but as PTSD or "shellshock" was seen as cowardly, Rutledge struggled to keep the effects of war hidden from everyone around him. He'd been able to repress the trauma although it would sometimes surface in the person of Hamish whose voice would sometimes speak out, much like an angry and resentful conscience or guide. Inspector Rutledge is dogged, reckless, and a brilliant detective although he's not popular with his superiors. Aside from the unusual and perplexing cases that he draws, Rutledge has the added challenge of his war baggage and the petty grievances and orders from his superior at Scotland Yard. All of these obstacles give Inspector Ian Rutledge novels an added texture and drama - so much so that I find them addictive.

In Proof of Guilt, we find Inspector Ian Rutledge's with a new superior officer, Chief Superintendent Markham, as Inspector Bowles has been temporarily removed. We're not sure whether the new boss will be better or worse, for while he hasn't been overtly prejudiced against Rutledge, there are indications that he could be difficult, perhaps even more difficult than Bowles. A well dressed and unidentified man is found on a well kept street in London. Though his body has been dragged and all his papers have been taken, he carries a distinctive and expensive French pocket watch and the street is undisturbed - no trace of a body having been dragged. An unidentified body doesn't usually merit a visit from Scotland Yard, but Rutledge is assigned to the task.

Careful detective work leads Rutledge to find the owner of the watch and to look into the secrets of a respectable and successful merchant family. He finds a family fortune made in Madeira, an attempted murder by the son of a business associate, a jilted lover, prominent business partners missing. As Rutledge sifts through the conflicting evidence, through interviews and testimonies, "weighing every expression and every word", he takes us with him to a complex investigation. The novel has the fluid and understated prose that I associate with the best of British mysteries (although the authors of this series are Americans!). I savored Proof of Guilt and am almost disappointed that I've finished reading it and it'll likely be another year until the next Inspector Ian Rutledge novel comes out.

ISBN-10: 0062015680 - Hardcover $25.99
Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (January 29, 2013), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and Partners in Crime Tours.
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The List by Siobhan Vivian
The List

gaby317, October 17, 2012

The List stood out for me. I enjoyed reading it as an adult and I know that I would have loved it if I'd read it in high school. The concept itself is catchy but it's the execution that makes it such a fascinating read. Siobhan's eight main girls are complex and fully fleshed out without any of them becoming tedious, whiny or annoying or impossibly perfect.

Siobhan shows each of the girls reacting very differently. Not surprisingly, those scorned are particularly interesting: Freshman Danielle, "Dan the Man" starts tearing down copies of the List but they are plastered all over the school. Gorgeous Candace is baffled and comes back with a harsh joke, ripping on the nearby blind girl, an innocent bystander. Sarah tries to flip the word back at the world - by writing "UGLY" on her forehead. Jennifer sets a record after having been voted the ugliest girl for all four years of high school - by this time she's learned to swallow her feelings and pretend to laugh.
While being singled out as pretty doesn't affect the other four girls the same way either. Abby has to deal with knowing that her best friend wasn't selected as the prettiest girl - and that her older sister Fern had been singled out as the ugliest girl not so long ago. Lauren is new to public school, so the sudden surge of interest is stressful and confusing. Lauren isn't prepared for all the politics that comes with her sudden popularity. Bridget has body image issues - she's lost a lot of weight and can't stop herself from losing more. The acknowledgment of how much she's blossomed puts more pressure on her. She worries that she's giving her beloved younger sister a bad example - and this adds to her stress.

Principal Colby calls all those named to her office in an attempt to repair the damage and stop the tradition, everyone knows that this isn't going to help. The girls' friends and boyfriends try to behave decently but social pressures eventually do their own damage. It takes much strength and toughness to handle the repercussions of being on the List - I found myself sympathizing with each of the girls as they tried to keep their lives on course.

Siobhan Vivian delivers an engaging and sympathetic story with humor and sensitivity. The List is a book that I plan to share with my nieces and friends.

ISBN-10: 0545169178 - Hardcover $17.99
Publisher: Push (April 1, 2012), 336 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.
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