Book Review: The Typewriter’s Tale

The Typewriter's TaleThe Typewriter’s Tale by Michiel Heyns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


*I loved this book. I’ve read my share of James, but it was years and years ago. When I started reading this book the first thing I had to do was sloooooow the heck down. This is a novel to be savored, like rich chocolate. The writing is luxurious and when you relax into it you feel transported to a different, more dignified, time. Not that people weren’t as manipulative and nasty as ever, but just better dressed and more well-spoken while going about it. . .

I was also thrilled to see my old friends, adverbs, back in such abundance. When is the last time somebody in the literary world dared to use so many adverbs? Heyns uses them fearlessly and to great effect. Each sentence is like a mini work of art and you get the impression Heyns lovingly considered the worth and meaning of every single word before it earned its place on the page.

Heyns has a wicked sense of humor and a poison pen which is very reminiscent of James and Wharton. The internal reflections of the main character, Frieda, are what really make this book great. She is at once innocent and very insightful, looking from the outside, while being slowly drawn in.

Heyns is enamored of James but is still capable of portraying him “warts and all” and I found I liked the novelist more and more as the book went on. It is sometimes easy to view the artist as self-indulgent and affected, but Heyns’s characterization is sensitive and avoids the obvious traps.

I wouldn’t say this was a beach read, but it would go well with a shady, quiet river and some chocolate.

****Possible SPOILER****
I wish the ending had been more fulfilling, but fans of James will expect an ending like this. You get the feeling Heyns is making Frieda suffer so she will have something to write about, something to push her on her way to becoming an author.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed this book and am grateful something this elegant can still find its way into a publishing house and then out again, without giving in to twenty-first expectations. Beautiful.

*My reviews are about my enjoyment of a book as a reader. I’m not a literary critic and I don’t delve deeply into the psychological motivations of the author and/or characters. If I am reviewing a book on my blog, I consider it worth reading. Books I read and don’t care for, for one reason or another, I do not review. There are plenty of other places to find negative reviews.

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Book Review: Animal Hats

Animal Hats: 15 patterns to knit and show offAnimal Hats: 15 patterns to knit and show off by Vanessa Mooncie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was shocked to see I am not the only person around with an obsession for animal hats. I haven’t knitted any animal hats, but here are a few I crocheted.



I’m much more comfortable with a crochet hook than I am with knitting needles so I just made up these hats as I went along. But for a knitted hat, I knew I would need a pattern.

I am currently making the rabbit hat and plan to tackle the more difficult elephant hat if that goes well.

So far I’m impressed with the book and find the instructions very straightforward and easy to understand. I like that each pattern lists yarn weights (mostly chunky) along with specific brand names. I am using Lion brand Thick and Quick for the rabbit hat instead of the Rowan Chunky Felted Tweed the book has listed. I love Rowan yarns but at $12.95/skein (If you can find it) that would put this hat (the pattern calls for 5 skeins) at just under $65, which I’m not willing to pay.   I dropped a needle size to get the right size for my gauge swatch.

None of the patterns are rated for skill level, but it is pretty clear by looking at them how difficult or easy they will be. The dog and frog hats, for example, look easier than the elephant or rabbit or cow.

The patterns all include both child and adult sizes.

Stay tuned for pictures as I promise to actually take some during the process this time!

I was planning to make these as Christmas gifts, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to give them away…

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Top 10 Favorite Historical Romance Novels. Review: Dangerous in Diamonds

Dangerous in Diamonds (The Rarest Blooms, #4)Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book on my Top 10 List of historical romance novels. I’m not reviewing the books in any particular order, but I have to say that Madeline Hunter’s Dangerous in Diamonds leapt into my head for my first review for several reasons. One, I love all Madeline Hunter’s books. Two, I have to say that Castleford just might be my ultimate hero. Three, the book has an exciting, rich story to go along with its two interesting lead characters.

I love Castleford. He reminds me of the Duke of Avon in These Old Shades. Oh, they are not alike in personality, of course, but they are alike in that they behave the way I would hope a real duke might behave. Powerful, decisive, and determined. Oh, and handsome. And clever. And a sophisticated lover. And–well, you get the point.

Like Hunter’s other novels, there is actually some history to go along with the romance. The story takes place in the midst of violent social unrest that adds a dimension of immediacy and physical danger (which I don’t want to give away) to the novel.

While Britain undergoes a post-War personality shift Daphne and the Duke of Castleford are engaged in their own struggles. Daphne doesn’t want to become yet another of Castleford’s many women, and he, not surprisingly, is intrigued by any woman who doesn’t leap into bed with him.

Neither is exactly what they appear on the surface and discovering exactly who they are is both fascinating and page-turning.

I’ve re-read the book 3 times and still laugh out loud whenever Hunter gives the reader a peek inside the duke’s head. He is so arrogant there should be another word in the dictionary just for him. But he is also clever, thoughtful, and surprisingly aware of the thoughts and behaviors of those around him.

I believe Daphne is is perfect foil and her strong, silent, and determined personality thwart Castleford in a way that is more believable than any head-on confrontation would be. She is a woman of her time and works within the limitations that were once imposed on our gender. She is a heroine who maintains her dignity.

I find the way Hunter depicts the development of their relationship particularly compelling. I love how there is some distance between the characters right up to the end. He is a duke. I would imagine one does not start calling a duke by his Christian name within a day of knowing him. I like that Hunter maintains this distinction because I believe it is part of who Castlford is and would not be easily shed.

What I love even more than Hunter’s great characterization, interesting story, and swoony romance is the fact she doesn’t transform Castleford into something unrecognizable by the end of the book. No, instead he remains himself. Which doesn’t mean he is unchanged, not at all. Like any romance hero he has to make choices that will ultimately show he puts his love for his heroine above everything else in his life. But he is not so altered by the process the he isn’t still Castleford.

This is the fourth book in the quartet, but I inadvertently read it first. Immediately after finishing it I bought the others. While I love the first three and admire how each story is distinct, Dangerous in Diamonds is my favorite among Hunter’s books.

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Book Review: The Hot War, Harry Turtledove

Armistice (The Hot War, #3)Armistice by Harry Turtledove
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off, this is my first novel by Turtledove, who I’ve heard about for years. I used to teach US history, so I really got a kick out of the deft blending of actual historical actors/events with fantasy.

I greatly enjoyed almost everything about this book. The only reason I am at 4.5 stars is because I just can’t make the jump to 5 because of the dialogue, which I thought was far less “masterful” than the rest of the book. For whatever reason, the dialogue often pulled me out of the story. Not because it was anachronistic, just because it often felt a little clunky. I think it was even more noticeable when compared to the rest of the book. The author’s ability to paint a picture and scene with words is amazing. His alternate vision is also chilling and makes for a page-turning read. If this were a first or even second or third attempt, I would probably bump up the half star. However, it seems like somebody who has been writing this long might offer more compelling and smooth dialogue. The dialogue made the novel feel”distant” to me, if that makes any sense.

All in all, I found the book very enjoyable. The blurb says this book is a good place to start if you’ve never read a Turtledove book before and I have to agree as I had no problem getting into the swing of things right from the first page. The author is great at pulling the reader in without devolving into heavy backstory or resorting to annoying info dumps (well, not any that I noticed, but I suppose my opinion might be different if I had read the prior 2 books.

I would read another book by Turtledove, but probably not the first 2 in this trilogy

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Book Review: Impala by Andrew Diamond

ImpalaImpala by Andrew Diamond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s always a good sign when I can’t stop reading. Well, a good sign for the book, but a bad one for my own schedule. That is what happened with Impala. I started reading it yesterday afternoon, stayed up late, and then started right back up this morning–in spite of the many things I was supposed to do…

I have to admit the book was so good it actually surprised me. (And I’m sure I’ll take a lot of flack for the next few sentences…) I don’t usually read indy authors just because it is so hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. But I took a chance on this book because the blurb was well-written. Well, so was the whole book. Just on a technical level alone it was clean and I didn’t spot a single typo. Or maybe I didn’t spot any because I was too riveted by the story to notice or care. Either way. . .

Anyhow, this is Diamond’s second book so I always like to provide some comparisons when I’m reviewing a relatively new author. The first 2/3s of the book, especially, reminded me of some of my favorites: Palahniuk, Gischler, Neil Stephenson, and even a little of Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko. Yes, I thought Impala was THAT twisted, hip, smart, clever, funny, and readable.

Over and over and over I laughed out loud– the bicycle scene and “Who Killed the Mockingbird” being two of my favorites. Mixed in with all the humor was some truly beautiful prose–Mr. Diamond does an excellent job of painting pictures with words.

I also greatly enjoyed the entertaining lessons on programming and hacking, not that I could follow a lot of it (reminded me of Stephenson’s discussions of high tech-ery and The Calculus in Cryptonomicon). So, it’s not too bad when you can amuse a technical incompetent with computer-speak.

Russ is the main character and we see things from his POV. Ah. Russ, Russ, Russ. Where do I start with Russ? He is, as my mother used to say, his own worst enemy. He is clever, funny, thoughtful, and often a jerk. However, Russ and I share one important characteristic: he HATES discourtesy. Yes, and he does something about it, too…

Russ’s unwillingness to give ground even when faced with guns and muscle-bound goons reminded me of Arkady Renko, another guy who is his own worst enemy. Like Renko, Russ does not always choose the path of least resistance. Or even a path at all. And boy, does Russ take some beatings for his decisions. Seriously, I felt as if somebody had beaten ME at certain points in the book.

Two of my favorite parts of the book were Russ’s internal monologues (love his chats with the FBI) and his ability to turn his scorching IQ on himself from time to time. He knows he has the makings of a very bad man, but he isn’t going to submit to that side of himself without a struggle.

It really is hard to put the book down because there is always something going on. It’s often difficult to know where things are going next because Russ is out of control. Which makes it exciting. And fun.

I would ding this book half a star for length because I thought it could have been longer. I would have LIKED to read more, especially when it came to the events of the last 1/4 of the book. But because it hardly seems fair to drop a rating a full star because you liked the writing so much you want more, I’ve given Mr. Diamond the full 5.

This book was a blast and I’d read another by this author in a heartbeat.

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