In Spirits That Walk in Shadow, Jaimie is a young woman from a magical family off to college for the first time. There she meets Kim, a regular human...moreIn Spirits That Walk in Shadow, Jaimie is a young woman from a magical family off to college for the first time. There she meets Kim, a regular human being (aside from her ability to feel things in colors) who has unknowingly been under a magical influence for quite some time. Jaimie and her relatives resolve to help Kim fight her tormentor, all while getting the first week of college underway.
The concept was awesome, but in the end I simply couldn't attach to the characters. The story is related alternately between Jaimie and Kim, which is generally a good plot device. In this case, however, the two girls had such similar inner monologues that at times I forgot which narrator I was reading. Side characters also had similar voices - even the adults - and this didn't help garner any real attachment to the characters either.
In the end, I wish the novel had been longer. Sometimes short books allow for full character development (I've even read novellas that had such instant character development length wasn't an issue), but in this case I felt more time spent differentiating the characters and developing their time together would have made for a more complete experience.(less)
The vampire genre today has, for better or for worse, often times become an amalgamation of love stories and teen drama. Bram Stoker might be pleased...moreThe vampire genre today has, for better or for worse, often times become an amalgamation of love stories and teen drama. Bram Stoker might be pleased or puzzled to see how things have morphed since he penned Dracula all of those years ago. Given the preponderance of books surrounding vampires who doggedly fight their animal nature to love human teenagers, Lauren Owen's The Quick is a refreshing change. Here, the vampires are flawed, often not very attractive at all, and they are, more to the point, mostly monsters (monsters with periodically very human motivations, but monsters nonetheless). They are not often referred to in the book as vampires (the term only comes up two or three times in over 500 pages), which was also refreshing.
The reader follows Charlotte and her brother James through very Gothic settings - from Yorkshire to London. A chance encounter opens up a world of creatures completely outside their realm of understanding. As Charlotte endeavors to save her brother, the reader is introduced to a very diverse and well-painted cast of supporting characters who I won't say much about to avoid spoiling the surprise. I will say that the creepiest character, in my opinion, was not one of the vampires.
The novel was a bit slow at the start, but the build was definitely worth it in the end. And the ending, while it successfully brings things full circle(in a way, at any rate)left me wondering if there was a sequel planned, though it wouldn't necessarily be needed.
**As a side note, the term "quick" refers to the vampire word for humans, which inevitably made me think of the phrase "the quick and the dead" every time I picked up the book to start reading again.
"This kind of question leads to a kind of mirror-image version of intellectual history: not the history of breakthroughs and eureka moments, but instead the history of canards and false leads, the history of being wrong."
So says Steven Johnson about the miasmists during the early to mid 19th century - about those individuals who believed that "miasma," or noxious odors in the air were the cause of disease. Johnson is relating why, at the height of one of the larges outbreaks of cholera in British history, many well-respected scientists refuse to believe that the epidemic is anything other than the result of the "miasma." It was believed not only that these odors caused disease, but also those of a certain social class (low) had a greater chance of succumbing to the dreaded smells in the air.
Enter John Snow, and later Henry Whitehead, the two men who would spearhead actual research into the cause of the outbreak. Snow determined the disease was waterborne, and Whitehead - in his effort to prove him wrong - ended up proving him right. Johnson outlines how the work of these two men influenced not only the culture of the day, but also the make-up of our urban societies today.
This was just a fascinating book. Once I stopped distracting myself from the narrative by picturing John Snow as the brooding, tousle-haired man from the HBO Game of Thrones series, I was in for a great ride, and I learned some things. Highly recommended for history buffs and people who like stories that aren't generally told.
...Mind you, there is a lot of discussion of sewage, so if you are sensitive about such things you might keep a bucket close at hand.
Here is a lesson in doing research on a book that professes to help its readers in some grand way before you buy it. After carting this home to read i...moreHere is a lesson in doing research on a book that professes to help its readers in some grand way before you buy it. After carting this home to read it, I was immediately concerned when one of the main arguments Permutter had for the evils of grains was that our great-great-great-great-great-etc. forebears, AKA, nomadic hunter-gatherers, did not eat grain in large quantities. This is probably true - in a pre-agriculture society grains would be eaten only in passing, as they were found, and raw wheat is probably not that tasty. However, there is no data on the rates for dementia and Alzheimer's in those pre-written document societies. It raised a red flag, and I put down the book to look into things.
Well...apparently Perlmutter cherry-picked his research, ignoring aspects in studies that didn't jive with his hypothesis. I knew the premise was too good to be true (all you have to do is cut out grains and sugar, and you'll avoid getting degenerative brain disorders!)...sigh.(less)
I've read another retelling of Dracula from Mina's perspective Mina, by Marie Kiraly, and both efforts are well-written. In Essex's tale, Mina becomes...moreI've read another retelling of Dracula from Mina's perspective Mina, by Marie Kiraly, and both efforts are well-written. In Essex's tale, Mina becomes a character that is far, far more than the passive victim in Stoker's original story. I really rooted for her success.
Aside from an old whaler that was a bit of a bit character however, I did not root for a single male character in the book. As far as I could tell, all - supernatural or not - were subject to varying levels of douchiness. But Mina made up for this with her sheer believability and transformation. Kate Reed was also a valuable asset in the book
While the first 3/4 of the book had me absolutely hooked, I didn't like the way the plot rounded out. In the end, that is more about personal preference than any sort of real ding on Essex as a writer, so given time, I'd probably try another one of her novels.(less)
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 a...moreWhen 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.(less)
Anjelica Huston is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting actresses out there today (although that opinion could have something to do with the fa...moreAnjelica Huston is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting actresses out there today (although that opinion could have something to do with the fact that she has spent much of the recent years making Wes Anderson films). At any rate, I was excited to read this and was grateful to my sister-in-law, who gave a copy to me for Christmas.
At first, I had a reaction similar to many others here. For the first third of the book, Huston's writing is a set of somewhat jumbled rambling. Paragraphs seem like random groupings of non-connected sentences, rather than comprehensive thoughts.
And then...I started to think of the book as a kind of stream-of-consciousness à la James Joyce's Ulysses. Then it made sense, particularily as this stream-of-consciousness arises mainly during the relation of Huston's early years. Take a minute to think back to your own memories of being ages 3-10. Do you rememer long, cohesive chunks of time, or only disjointed moments and sporadic experiences of sight, sound, and touch? I, for one, remember patches of time and not full episodes. I recall my grandmother coming to visit during the summer, but I don't remember the full depth and breadth of the visit as a chronologically relatable experience. The untidy writing in the first portion of the book makes sense because that is how memories of childhood are. As she relates later memories, the writing becomes less disjointed, because her memories of later times are more comprehensive.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Huston laid bare a lot of true emotions about her past without allowing the memoir to become bogged down with them. She wasn't shy about relating episodes from her past, even if they might be considered embarrassing. I have to respct her for that; I don't know if I'd have the balls to write a memoir that boldy and completely. I'll definitely read the next one once it is released.
In Swoon, Prioleau examines what makes a Lothario tick. What are his facets? Why do women find him irresistible? Is there a magic equation for being a...moreIn Swoon, Prioleau examines what makes a Lothario tick. What are his facets? Why do women find him irresistible? Is there a magic equation for being a ladies man? The answer seems to be that instead of one set formula there are a host of ways in which a ladies man can arise. A man need not even be physically attractive, so long as he has other attributes (the gift of gab, attentiveness, intelligence, humor, etc.).
Prioleau peppers her narrative with anecdotes from history, literature, and mythology. Many men are mentioned only briefly, but are interesting despite being little-known characters. She spends a great deal of time on Casanova (understandably), notably pianist Franz Liszt, and the odd poet Gabriele D'Annunzio (I guess you really had to meet him to understand the fuss).
Almost right off the bat, Prioleau makes a distinction between the "players" of today (who use a plethora of tricks learned from other "players" merely to get into bed with as many women as possible) and the true ladies men (who use no tricks, but genuinely just love women and through some combination of characteristics are loved en masse by them). I suppose if one has to choose between the two, it would be better to be wooed for years before being dropped for the next woman, rather than being dropped the morning after an encounter a la "player" style. In the end however, while the two types may be fundamentally different, the results of encountering and falling for either seem to be the same - a string of broken hearts.
Prioleau's book is solidly researched and entertaining. I will make a point to visit Seductress the book she published some years prior, discussing the female Casanovas of the world.(less)
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 time...moreBefore 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. (less)