Since I’ve gotten so behind on my reading the past few months, I missed a number of books from Netgalley and Goodreads that I had planned to review. So I’ve decided to do some mini reviews instead of my usual longer ones. Here’s what I’ve been catching up on:
Everyone knows the end of the Romanov story, but when it came to The Romanov Sisters, for one, discovered that I knew more about the legend than the reality. Rappaport brings pre-Revolutionary Russia exhaustively to life, through letters, diaries, and memoirs of those closest to the Romanovs and the family themselves. Unfortunately, this detailed scene-setting is not backed up with a lot of analysis or political context, something I really found myself wanting. The Romanovs were so domestic and “average” a family, despite the royal trappings, that they were kind of boring, and the girls were often difficult to even tell apart. I liked learning some more of the history of the dynasty, but the book was somewhat dry and boring in the end.
Set amidst the coal mine fires of 1960s Pennsylvania, The Hollow Ground is the story of a dying place, a family destroying itself from the inside, a girl learning truths that are hard for anyone to face, and a curse that hangs over it all. The Howleys are a truly interesting and twisted American family—mother Delores, who was abandoned to an orphanage by her stepmother as a child, father Adrian, who has always felt overshadowed by his dead younger brother and carries a huge secret, Adrian’s bitter and brittle mother and enigmatic father, and, at the center of it all, narrator Brigid, who fears she carries the family curse inside her and uncovers the secrets the adults in her life are hiding as they all face the threat of their town’s destruction from the mine fires. The setting, prose, and characters of this debut novel were fantastic. I’d vaguely heard of the coal mine fires before, but I had no idea they were so dangerous and destructive. Unfortunately, it starts slow, as a rather banal coming of age story, and the end felt unsatisfying as well, resting on cliché and easy solutions. But the flawed characters were fascinating, particularly Delores, who was angry, vicious, vindictive, proud, and childish by turns. All in all, a compelling piece of historical fiction
I was really excited for Shards of Time. Really, really excited. That’s probably the problem. I’ve loved Flewelling’s books since I was sixteen, but I’m not sixteen anymore and she’s not writing the same books, either. Thus Shards of Time, which was a decent if not altogether exciting fantasy novel, was a fairly big disappointment for me. Something happened that I’ve been expecting since book three, and once would have made me jump in excitement, but the execution of it left me decidedly meh. Seregil and Alec, who I love and adore, have been with each other for so long and are so damn domestic and comfortable that their relationship is—dare I say it?—boring. The faie, who once upon a time were so rare and exotic that Alec thought they were a legend, are suddenly everywhere. The villain was flat and cliché. I should stop, because it’s starting to sound like I hated Shards of Time, which I didn’t, not really. But I do have to say something I never thought I would, which is that I’m glad the Nightrunner series is over. It was starting to feel stale, even to me, a huge fan. I’m excited to see what Flewelling writes in the future, because she has a gift for great characters and usually for plot. But in the end, this one was a miss for me.
Coming soon, there will be reviews for Chaplin and Company by Mave Fellows and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. Stay tuned!