Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts
The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy #2
(Berkley, 2014, 319 pages)
In Book Two, Connor is taken back to an earlier time to encounter the son of the original Dark Witch. There are many likenesses but the mission remains the same. The power of three is strengthened to the power of six as Meara Quinn, Branna’s best friend, realizes that she is falling in love with Connor. While preparations are being made to battle evil, Connor slips back in time to get advice from his kin. Roberts continues to tell the mystical tale while painting pictures of beautiful old country and the bonds of friendship and love. And just when you think the O’Dwyers have rid themselves of their adversary, the reader finds evil lurking in the fog waiting to break through and steal their power.
Betrayers by Bill Pronzini
(Forge Books, 2010, 272 pages)
Tamara is a detective who works along with Nameless (also known as Bill) at the detective agency. Tamara pursues a personal case as she uncovers the swindler scheme that Lucas Zeller is involved in. Lucas is a former lover who Tamara is curious about. In the meantime, Nameless pursues two separate cases, one involving the owner of a mysterious vial of cocaine that his stepdaughter brought home and the other surrounds a ghost that continues to haunt an elderly woman. In the end, the reader finds that all the cases revolve around betrayal.
The Biographer’s Tale by A. S. Byatt
(Knopf, 2001, 320 pages)
The themes of The Biographer’s Tale are very similar to Byatt’s most popular novel Possession. In both books, disillusioned graduate students turn their backs on literary theory to pursue literary mysteries. They turn from the abstraction of criticism to the lives of authors – and in turn, their own lives become more complicated.
In The Biographer’s Tale, Phineas Nanson sets out to write his own biography of an obscure literary biographer named Destry-Scholes. Although Phineas thinks that researching a biography will be a straightforward task, the indeterminacy of his subject quickly becomes apparent. Truth and falsehood mix as Phineas tries to track this elusive figure through his writings on various historical persons. Trying to piece together a picture of Destry-Scholes from these fragments proves much harder than anticipated.
Given their similar themes, I didn’t find The Biographer’s Tale to be nearly as successful a novel as Possession. That said, I was immediately pulled into the story and had a hard time putting it down. I enjoyed it if for no other reason (and there are plenty more), that it contains probably the best description (or non-description) of a love scene I have ever read:
“And I’m not going to describe what happened, though I am going to record that it did happen, because I am not that sort of writer.”
Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2014, 192 pages)
People had been singing this book’s praises for so long that I decided to grab it while I went on vacation in November. This collection is made up of 8 short stories and unfortunately I wasn’t really sucked into any of them. I can certainly appreciate Moore’s talent as a writer, but I’m not sure this was the book to prove it for someone who hasn’t read her work before.
Of the 8 stories, those that I enjoyed reading the most were “Debarking” (about a recently divorced man entering into a new relationship) and “Wings” (which looks at a romantic relationship that has started to get stale… an elderly gentleman gets thrown in the mix and things quickly start to change). I’d like to look at some of her previous short story collections, or perhaps try one of her novels. While this book didn’t wow me, it DID wow a lot of critics so if you’re looking for something to read and want to try some short stories, this may be just right for you.
Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate
by Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries
(Grand Central Publishing, 2015, 288 pages)
I discovered this title when I was researching business books this fall. My husband and I are hoping to move at some point in the near future and I’m mildly obsessed with scoping out Zillow so I figured this would be a worthwhile read.
The authors of the book are the creators Zillow so they talk a lot about how making data accessible to the end-user was their big goal. A lot of the data they have incorporated into their site used to only be available through a real estate agent. Now that the information can be thoughtfully broken down and made visible to the consumer, they are able to make better-informed decisions about their real estate purchases.
The chapters are short and straight-forward. There are definitely tips you can take away from this book, including information about where it makes the most sense to put your money if you’re hoping to improve the value of your house; why it might make more sense to rent than to buy; how the word choice of a house listing can significantly impact the types of offers you receive; and lots more.
This book was great in making me think more strategically about the home-buying process. It also was a great selling tool for the Zillow site itself – I hadn’t realized the many different factors that went into it, but now I feel like I know how to better manipulate the site to see the many features it has.
If you’re a Zillow fan or are looking to buy/sell/rent in the near-ish future, you might want to pick up this book.
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
(Touchstone, 2014, 259 pages)
I started listening to the audio verison of As You Wish before I saw the movie The Princess Bride. The first disc was about how the film came to be, how the actors were cast, etc. Then, I thought, “I should probably watch the movie before I go on.” After I finished the book, I wanted to watch it again.
The book is written and read primarily by Cary Elwes who played Westley in The Princess Bride. Elwes is a British actor who does a great job with voices, and when he talked about other actors, he could sound like them too. What makes the audio version of this book even more special are the memories shared by director Rob Reiner and other actors, including Robin Wright (Buttercup), Wallace Shawn (“Inconceivable!”), Chris Sarandon, and Christopher Guest, all who read their own segments of the book. Other memories from Mandy Patinkin (“You killed my father; prepare to die!”), Billy Crystal, and Fred Savage are also interesting but are not read by the actors themselves. Still, whoever read their parts did a nice job emulating their voices. Although Andre the Giant (Fezzik) died in 1993 at the age of 46, there are several heartwarming stories about him in the book. Other stories include how certain scenes were shot, such as the trek up the Cliffs of Insanity (Wallace Shawn was terrified of heights); how the great sword fight between Westley and Inigo Montoya was choreographed; and about injuries sustained on the set by interactions with swords AND an ATV, of all things.
This would have probably been a delightful book even if I hadn’t watched the movie after listening to disc 1, but I’m glad I watched it. Now I’ll wait for it to come on tv again so I can see when Westley blacks out during a sword fight for real.
Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes
by Jason Aaron; illustrated by John Cassaday and Laura Martin
(Marvel Comics, 2015, 160 pages)
Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes collects the first six issues of this new series by Marvel. The story picks up after the Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star. Han Solo and Princess Leia try to escape. Skywalker fights Vader. C-3PO ends up a pile of talking metal. Chewbacca fixes the Millennium Falcon just in time. Vader goes to Jabba the Hutt for resources. Luke, along with R2-D2, returns to Tatooine to find his origins. Boba Fett attacks them.
It has all the characters and exciting storylines you want from Star Wars. The artwork is great with the characters closely resembling those in the film. The dialogue also captures the personalities of the characters in the film–especially C3PO’s comedic rambling and the sarcastic love/hate relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia. Luke Skywalker seems a little more insecure than I remember him in the movie, going on and on about how he is not really a Rebel, but he eventually becomes a hero. I highly recommend this volume and look forward to Volume 2 if the characters continue to stay true to the film trilogy.