London, 1912. Frankie, a semi out-of-place lady journalist, is tasked with interviewing and photographing Ebony Diamond, an elusive trapeze artist andLondon, 1912. Frankie, a semi out-of-place lady journalist, is tasked with interviewing and photographing Ebony Diamond, an elusive trapeze artist and suffragette who does not wish to comply with Frankie's request. Her determination to break the story anyway causes Frankie to cross paths with a case simultaneously being investigated by Frederick Primrose, a London inspector. When Frankie's quarry mysteriously disappears, both she and Primrose are on a race to find out what really happened to Ebony Diamond.
Let me start with what was wonderful. Ribchester made sure she did her research; there was a plethora of facts strewn about the book without it coming across as a history lecture. One of the bits of praise festooned on the cover for The Hourglass Factory was this gem from The Independent:
Fine flourishes from historical incidents in its prologue and epilogue make for a memorable start and finish.
I couldn't agree more. Throughout the novel in fact, the reader is enlightened with the ins and outs of daily life as London moved from the turn of the century to the years prior to WWI. We see suffragettes breaking windows with hammers, men's clubs, the construction of theater props and costumes, the oddities of beauty regimes, and the big news headlines of the day. Not an aspect of research was neglected. From this perspective, the world of 1912 really comes alive with Ribchester's writing.
Side characters are also richly drawn and wonderful, even if they appear for only a handful of pages in the novel. I really wanted to spend an afternoon with Twinkle, the aging glamour girl who Frankie normally wrote a column for. It is rare to find an author who puts so much into the appearance of tertiary characters and this, too, led to some great world development.
However - and this could really be down to my own personal pickiness when it comes to mystery novels - I found myself with an increasing restlessness the further I read. To me, chapters seemed to end quite abruptly - the equivalent of cutting to commercial mid-scene in a television show. The practice interrupted the action in odd ways on more than one occasion. Likewise, the movements of Frankie were frequently back and forth between locations with little learned by either her characters or the reader, leading to some amount of frustration on my part. The reader also sees far less of Primrose than they do of Frankie, which impeded some amount of character development for a major player in the novel, even as side characters were fully explored. By the time I was halfway through I found myself losing interest.
Nevertheless, I do believe that my hangups with the book are just that - my hangups. I would recommend The Hourglass Factory to fans of historical fiction, mystery novels, and fans of books with strong female characters that the author hasn't made annoying in a misplaced attempt to make them strong. I would also say that as this is a first effort by the author, it is a promising indicator of novels yet to come. ...more
The White Forest plunges the reader into the aftermath of the disappearance of one Nathan Ashe, a high society youth, and the two women who love him -The White Forest plunges the reader into the aftermath of the disappearance of one Nathan Ashe, a high society youth, and the two women who love him - Maddy, a debutante with a family in disgrace, and Jane Silverlake, a main character harboring the supernatural ability to sense the souls of objects. Nathan is fascinated by Jane's abilities, and, convinced she is the key to some cosmic mystery, presses her to include him in ever greater experiments to see where her power leads. But Jane has no idea of the source of her abilities, nor what they mean. Nathan turns to a dangerous cult led by an even more dangerous leader for answers, and disappears. Maddy and Jane search for Nathan, wading into ever more perilous waters and learning more about the truth concerning Jane's powers. My responses to The White Forest felt oddly like I was reading two separate books. For the first half, I was not enthused in the slightest. It was not so much that The White Forest was not a good plot, but more that I could not seem to immerse myself in the writing. The first half of the novel depended heavily on flashbacks introduced merely with Jane mentally moving from aspect of the present that would remind her of some key events that occurred prior to the novel's beginning. The constant interruption was not conducive to sinking into the world McComber presented. The disjointed feeling grew, and I soon found that every little thing could derail the flow of the book - I felt myself becoming distracted quite often. At one point, the author used the phrase "cemetery gates," and I couldn't stop myself from singing the lyrics of the song by Pantera. I simply was not engaged by the story, which is strange because the concept of the novel is so different and enticing. I also found myself having an extremely hard time relating to any of the three main characters. Jane was cold, Maddy seemed to wear a constant mask, and Nathan...well, I simply thought he was a twit. A slightly tool-like twit.
And then The White Forest hit the halfway point, and it was as though another book had sprung up in its place. Perhaps it was reconciling myself with the fact that Jane was not a very sympathetic main character, perhaps it had to do with the cracks in Maddy's exterior falling apart, or perhaps it was an upswing in the pacing an action, but I found myself truly looking forward to the prospect of reading. Suddenly, Jane's secret moved from something to experiment with to something to use. The relationships between Maddy, Nathan, and Jane became more complex and nuanced. Sympathizing with Jane was less of a herculean task. I cared about the characters, and what became of them. The plot was suddenly quite stimulating, and I devoured the last quarter of the book in a single setting.
The vast difference in my reaction to the first and second half of the book make a review of this novel exceedingly difficult. If you enjoy a very slow build with characters who are not relatable before a sudden burst of action, this is the perfect book for you. If sticking it out for nearly two-hundred pages before being able to sink lovingly into the pages of a novel is just a bit too long of a wait, you may want to give this one a pass. For myself, I will not write off McOmber in the future. I was so completely entranced by the second half of The White Forest it has to bode well for future books he writes.
When I was a teenager, Block's Weetzie Bat series seemed like a crazy, brilliant, and beautiful way to spend my free reading time, so revisiting the aWhen I was a teenager, Block's Weetzie Bat series seemed like a crazy, brilliant, and beautiful way to spend my free reading time, so revisiting the author with her first(?) adult novel was sort of a trip down memory lane.
The Elementals didn't disappoint. Having suffered the disappearance of her best friend, Jen, while she was on a school trip at Berkeley, 18 year-old Ariel begins attending Berkeley herself, not as much for the school at self, but to determine the fate of her friend. Back home in LA, Ariel's mother is fighting a battle with cancer, and between her sorrow over Jen and her fear of losing her mom Ariel is floundering at a time that most new college students flourish. That is, she flounders until she finds her place among a quasi-Victorian gothic clique consisting of Tania, a self-styled faery queen type, Perry, Tania's consort, and John, the kinder, gentler member of the group, whose description reminded me somewhat (visually) of a young Peter Steele.
Block weaves a good tale (as I remember her doing back in the day). It is evenly paced, with poetical language and characters that leap out at you from the pages. Ariel moves in and out of ennui, passion, and visions of an enchanted world while she pieces together the broken parts of her life. This is the kind of book that you read in a fever, because you are sucked so wholly and deftly into the mind of the main character. And while the ending felt a bit too abrupt for my tastes, I enjoyed the ride overall. Definitely recommended to fans of Block's other work....more
Before reading The Master of Blacktower, I hadn't read anything by Barbara Michaels since The Sea King's Daughter, which I read a very, very long timeBefore reading The Master of Blacktower, I hadn't read anything by Barbara Michaels since The Sea King's Daughter, which I read a very, very long time ago. But this novel had sat on my shelf for about six years unread, so I thought it was high time I get around to it.
It was, on the whole, a good read. Michaels does a good job of emulating the traditional high Gothic romance of the 18th/19th centuries. The reader follows the uniquely named Damaris to northern Scotland, where she lives in a large manor house nestled in the highlands and works as the secretary for the master, Gavin Hamilton. Gavin is mysterious, arrogant, and brooding, and of course Damaris falls in love with him. And, as this is Gothic, there are of course secrets hiding in the woodwork that Damaris must uncover, for she ignores them at her peril.
I liked Damaris. I liked the cast of side characters - all well-drawn and adding to the plot in solid ways. I didn't really care for Gavin, but I generally get frustrated with cocky male characters, so this wasn't a big deal. I loved Michaels description; this was one of those rare books in which I felt like I was actually present in the spaces being described. In short, with the exception of Gavin, I loved the book.
Until I got to the ending.
I can't say anything about it without giving anything away, so I won't. But the rest of the book was strong enough to carry four stars, so I only demoted the book by one because of the way things tied up. I still think it is well worth the read, particularly for fans of the Gothic genre. ...more
In The Cuckoo's Calling, down-on-his luck PI Cormoran Strike - a character reminiscent of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie - is tapped by the adoptive bIn The Cuckoo's Calling, down-on-his luck PI Cormoran Strike - a character reminiscent of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie - is tapped by the adoptive brother of supermodel Lula Landry, who plummeted to her death some months earlier. Though the death was ruled a suicide, the victim's brother is convinced otherwise. Also entering on the scene is Robin, a temporary assistant to Strike, who becomes integral to his daily operations and solving the case itself.
As is the norm with J.K. Rowling (as I'm sure everyone knows by now, Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for the popular author), the characters make the book. Each is given a distinct personality, and even side characters seem realistic enough to be someone you've known or seen. Even so, it took me a while to finish this, not because it was bad, but because I was not in the mood for a murder mystery when I started it. I started it anyway, because Rowling is such an amazing author, I figured that would nullify any disinterest on my part.
Which just goes to show, if you're not in the mood for a book, don't force yourself (unless it is assigned).
At any rate, after putting this off for weeks to read other things, I finally really got into the plot. And by the last 1/4 of the book I was waiting with bated breath to find out how things would end (I had guessed the outcome at one point, but the plot was by no means predictable...I mean, I had a guess, but later I thought I was wrong).
Despite that, I'm not sure if I'll read the next Strike novel. It was definitely worth it in the end, but I'm just not usually a murder mystery novel person (with the notable recent exception of Christopher Fowler's Full Dark House, which I found fascinating, if for no other reason than it's kookiness). And it is terrible to have a half-read book mocking you from the bed stand, especially when it was written by one of your favorite authors.
I will definitely read more by Fowler. It has been quite some time since I experienced a mystery this well written - with enjoyable characters, a plotI will definitely read more by Fowler. It has been quite some time since I experienced a mystery this well written - with enjoyable characters, a plot that was intricate but avoided becoming so twisty-turny that it became nonsensical, and a sense of fun in spite of serious subject matter. I care about May and Bryant, and want to see what other shenanigans they get into....more
John Connolly has one of the craziest literary minds out there....several of these stories (The Cancer Cowboy Rides, The Inkpot Monkey, The Inn at ShiJohn Connolly has one of the craziest literary minds out there....several of these stories (The Cancer Cowboy Rides, The Inkpot Monkey, The Inn at Shillingford) disturbed me to no end. However, it is a good batch of thriller-chiller stories, extremely well-suited for reading during gathering storms, curled on a sofa, scaring the wits out of yourself as you drink something warm. Keep this one around and re-read it when you need a good "X-Files" sort of feeling....more
I picked this one up at a huge annual book sale for a dollar. After finishing it, I realized it was signed by the author - a fun little moment in my dI picked this one up at a huge annual book sale for a dollar. After finishing it, I realized it was signed by the author - a fun little moment in my day.
First things first. This is not a "board book." It was released by Pocket Books and is billed as "pocket horror." I debate that it is truly horror as well, but it would make a truly disturbing board book nonetheless. I would imagine that kids reading a board book based on this novel would have some particularly bad nightmares.
Second things second, the book is missing a synopsis, so in brief-
Best friends Lisa (young widow) and Casey (recent divorcee) decide to pair up on their second cookbook - one based on Medieval English recipes. To make sure their research is authentic, they decide to buy a place in England for two years while they complete it. Casey has some projects of her own to take care of, so Lisa goes to England to find a place for them. She ends up enamored of a fairly creepy old English house/priory rumored to be cursed and the "horror" unfolds.
And third things third, my thoughts.
If this had been billed as mystery rather than horror, I would have liked it better. My expectations were leaning towards the spine-tingling, so the mild creepiness that ensued was a bit underwhelming. Also, there were several subplots knitted into the story for unknown reasons. That said, I did not dislike the way Wasser wrote the majority of the characters, her description was excellent, and I really enjoyed the fact that she included bits of medieval recipes and herb lore at the beginning of each chapter. I think if I had been expecting something different to begin with, this would have been a more satisfying novel to me. For anyone pondering the possibility of reading of this, think cozy English mystery, not crazy, jaw-dropping horror. ...more
One of the things that has always annoyed me about authors is when they start every sentence in with the same thing (i.e., "She_____." She_____" She__One of the things that has always annoyed me about authors is when they start every sentence in with the same thing (i.e., "She_____." She_____" She____."). It appears that this sort of thing irritates Morton as well. In order to avoid this, she has decided to instead simply truncate the pronoun from the sentence entirely. So far, this has led to quite a few incomplete sentences (which is OK in the case of a character speaking, but we are talking basic narration here), and it is driving me batty.
I will soldier on anyway....
...and I am exceedingly glad that I did. The incomplete sentences notwithstanding, I really enjoyed this novel.
The basic crux of the novel is this:
Nell is found at age four on a pier in Australia with only a child's suitcase containing a few personal items including book of fairy tales. She is taken in and raised by loving parents, and forgets the truth of her early childhood until years later when her father tells her how she was found. This prompts her(and later her granddaughter) to search for the truth of what happened. Morton does a first class job of spinning an intensely complicated tale - in fact, I imagine she probably had to finish this book with an outline sitting directly next to her computer - and I found myself staying up late and arriving early at bus-stops simply to have more reading time at my disposal. The narration is peppered with lyrical descriptions and broken up by periodic fairy tales (which makes absolute sense in the context of the novel).
From a personal standpoint, it took me some time to get into the novel. Aside from the sentence issue, I found it hard to believe that a girl who grew up in a completely loving, wonderful family would be unable to function as a young adult because she finds out that she is not their biological child. I have known too many happily adopted children who have no interest in finding their birth parents. But without this inner drive, there would be no story, so I let it slide and found myself able to really relate to the main characters.
My one caveat here for other readers is that if you dislike novels that jump back and forth through time, skip this. The Forgotten Garden bounds around in time more than any other book I have encountered (see my comment about the necessary outline above). ...more
Stewart's writing here is as poetic as ever as far as setting, but in the end that seemed to be the only point of reading the novel. I would only loosStewart's writing here is as poetic as ever as far as setting, but in the end that seemed to be the only point of reading the novel. I would only loosely call this one a mystery, as there is very little of it to be found, and what there is requires no effort, on the part of the characters or the part of the reader, to figure out....more
I love Kate Atkinson. If I ever meet her, I will squeal like a school girl at a Beatles concert and proceed to make a general fool out of myself askinI love Kate Atkinson. If I ever meet her, I will squeal like a school girl at a Beatles concert and proceed to make a general fool out of myself asking for an autograph. This still can't quite touch my personal favorites (Emotionally Weird and Human Croquet), but anything Atkinson touches is still worth every word on its pages. Bravo, and for the sake of all that is good in this world, encore....more
The premise of Labyrinth is not bad: Alice Tanner volunteers on an archaeological dig in France and finds a cave with a grave, a labyrinth that looksThe premise of Labyrinth is not bad: Alice Tanner volunteers on an archaeological dig in France and finds a cave with a grave, a labyrinth that looks "wrong," a leather bag, and a ring. It takes a long time for the significance of these objects to be explained, and even longer for any sort of resolution begins to show a glimmering face. The other main character, Alais, is learning the truth of these same objects in the early 13th century (both women are monumentally annoying in their blind trust of people and their inability to help themselves in any situation).
This basic premise is riddled with inane details (the waking habits of characters on repeated occasions, for example), and similies. After dozens of chapters outlining everything at a crawling pace, it seems as though Mosse realized how long her book was getting and threw in a huge chunk of exposition that spans a good twenty-plus years of the life of Alais. The last part of the book is almost frenzied with the amount of action being crammed in, and the resolution leaves holes in the reader's understanding (plenty is spelled out for you, but what isn't comes entirely to the reader's own supposition).
And yet Mosse is not a horrible author. Her descriptions are exceedingly well-written, and the basic plot is well researched. It is almost as if she had this idea and began writing--and then The DaVinci Code was released--it is the same fate that awaits anyone writing a novel about wizards in a post-Harry Potter world. The comparisons are bound to be drawn, and I can feel for Mosse in that respect.
It is often said that all stories have already been written, and that all we have now are reproductions and twists on old themes. I think that is what went on here, and again I feel for Mosse. Common traditional themes will inevitably give rise to similar plots, and in the end, it comes down to who you think wrote it the best. My opinion? I honestly don't know anymore. I just recently finished The Eight by Katherine Neville (which was similar in plot), and have a sneaking suspicion that I would have rated this higher if my memory of that book was not so fresh.
So leaving aside all comparisons, to summarize I will say this. Mosse writes vivid and engaging description, her research is well done, but is slightly marred so many similies....more