An entertaining adventure for fans of Sherlock Holmes. I have never been hugely attached to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories, so I couldn't r...moreAn entertaining adventure for fans of Sherlock Holmes. I have never been hugely attached to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories, so I couldn't really say how it compares stylistically. But it had all the right elements and made for a nice weekend diversion.(less)
It's really hard to like Nick Corey, High Sherriff of Potts County, but you almost have to admire how he maneuvers his way through life's little diffi...moreIt's really hard to like Nick Corey, High Sherriff of Potts County, but you almost have to admire how he maneuvers his way through life's little difficulties. This book was nothing like I expected, and the many unexpected turns were very entertaining. It's a dark story, though, and gets progressively darker as Nick finds himself in more and more difficult situations. I would have given 4 stars except for the end - I was really very disappointed in the ending and it turned a darkly amusing journey into something just disturbing. (less)
I think I must have been in seventh or eighth grade when I read this. I remember it being so mysterious and sad. I'm not sure how well it would transl...moreI think I must have been in seventh or eighth grade when I read this. I remember it being so mysterious and sad. I'm not sure how well it would translate if I were to read it again but at the time I was haunted and entranced by it.(less)
This review is full of spoilers. Read at your own risk.
I put off reading this book for a long time. Years, in fact. I noticed it when if first came ou...moreThis review is full of spoilers. Read at your own risk.
I put off reading this book for a long time. Years, in fact. I noticed it when if first came out, since I love historical fiction and the western NC mountains. But I did not read it then, aware that this was going to be about the realities of war in the south and all the ugliness attached thereto. I am no Pollyanna, I don't necessarily wish to be whisked away to some ideal romantic fantasy Civil War... but I did not feel like I could trust Mr. Frazier enough to invest myself in this story. So I did not read the book, did not watch the movie, until I decided earlier this year (having picked up the book for next to nothing on a whim) that I should finally give it a try.
Mr. Frazier does, indeed, write a compelling story about the reality of war and the time and place in which the novel is set. He writes vivid characters who are fully human with all the good and bad that goes along with it. He even does a fair job writing women, at least in as much as they are human beings and (mostly) not plot devices. And even among all the ugliness and horrors and evil encountered throughout the story, there is undeniable beauty and love carefully crafted into each part of it. It reminds me in this respect of Longbourn (though I suppose it should be the other way around, except that I read Longbourn first) in that the reality of life (hunger and fighting and hard work) does not overshadow the beauty of it (in this case, the mountains and the spirit of those living in them). And I am sure if I read it more closely and carefully I would surely appreciate the literary efforts Mr. Frazier took in this book: I suppose English majors all over have written papers about Cold Mountain and the Odyssey, the symbolism of crows, the comparison to Cherokee legends, etc. Yes, in all these respects it is a great book.
(view spoiler)[So why was I so angry when I finished this book last night that I nearly threw it across the room? Because I was right all those years ago not to trust Mr. Frazier, who decided to write 450 pages of longing and yearning for beauty in the midst of hell, of redemption and love alongside man's inhumanity to man, and then in the last fifteen pages he destroyed it. Shot Inman practically on the doorstep of redemption and restoration. Ruined it, probably to make a point about the randomness of existence or the impossibility of going back. Did some editor or confidante suggest that his book wouldn't be taken seriously if it had a happy ending? Or was it just some base contrariness? Is it a guy thing? (view spoiler)[Because Jo Baker pulled it off in Longbourn - Sarah and James got the chance to forge a life together, a hard one but a satisfying one. Why not Ada and Inman? Oh, that's right - because life is random, there's no promise of joy this side of glory, etc. etc. (I am tempted, after reading this, to revise my rating of Longbourn.) (hide spoiler)]
So, fine. Inman is dead. Go ahead and make that entire 400 page journey of redemption POINTLESS, because at least we still have a heroine who has taken a pretty bauble, a picturesque token of beauty and transformed it into something real and sustaining, something that has beauty and purpose (and purpose in its beauty). But wait - Mr. Frazier can still disappoint me a second time. NOW, let's get sentimental. Let's let fate throw Ada a bone, give her a baby to help her keep alive her memory of Inman and the melancholy reminder of what might have been through her daughter. Puh-leeze. Really? A little Victorian melodrama to appease the broken-hearted? Because whatever fate or destiny controls the characters in this book manages to keep Stobrod alive, pulls Inman through THREE prior shootings, not to mention Petersburg AND Fredricksburg, yet leaves him dying from a nervous, lucky trigger. AND YET leaves Ada a consolation prize - a baby, because otherwise she would surely become that bitter woman she feared greeting the new century as, because only motherhood can truly redeem a woman's pain and grief. That doesn't contradict the WHOLE REST OF THE BOOK, does it?
The world is capricious, I get that. But fiction doesn't have to be. All those fine words about life and beauty and landscape and joy and suffering and grief and love are not, in my opinion, cheapened by a little happiness. That's all I'm saying. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Very disappointed. There is great potential here in this story - who doesn't love the idea of a little magic, a little faith, to bring people together...moreVery disappointed. There is great potential here in this story - who doesn't love the idea of a little magic, a little faith, to bring people together? Who doesn't know someone who needs to grow up a little more, who needs to remember the magic of childhood, who needs to act a little more their age or who has embraced their age a little too well? All these characters are here in this book, but too often their interactions seem clumsy and contrived, and too often the author sort of clobbers us with insight into these people and situations. I very nearly didn't finish this book, but it is a sweet story if you are not particular about the telling of it.(less)
(Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway.)
I have never read Tony Earley before and I am sorry not to have d...more(Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway.)
I have never read Tony Earley before and I am sorry not to have discovered him until now. I was pre-disposed to enjoy this collection of stories because they are mostly set in the western North Carolina mountains, one of my favorite places on earth, and Earley does an excellent job of illustrating not only the landscape of this area, but the sense of what it is like to live there in stories like Mr. Tall and The Cryptozoologist. All of the stories in this collection are not what I would call strong on plot - they might be better described as character studies. Some of the stories seem to just stop, rather than end, offering little resolution to the characters' situations (or leaving it up to the reader's imagination). This is not necessarily a fault, as it is a joy just getting to know the characters, each a complex mix of both good and bad, noble and stupid in their various ways, which Earley reveals to us without belittling any of them. Even in minor, background characters we get a glimpse in each of the depth of feeling or thought that makes us all human.
If there is an exception in this group of stories I'd say it is the last one, Jack and the Mad Dog. It's more of a parable or fable which leads to a most unexpected journey through folklore and metaphor. I might feel a little differently about it since I had to put the book down for a few days before I could read this last story. It was more fantastic in the telling, and took a little more effort to follow because I kept trying to draw up in my memory all the stories and fables which are alluded to in it. I really like this story, especially the last, haunting line, but it gives you a lot to chew on if you want to.
4.5 stars. Looking forward to reading more by Mr. Earley.(less)
Mild-mannered actuary accidentally summons demon and causes the well-oiled machinery of the afterlife to grind to a halt. With this sort of premise, t...moreMild-mannered actuary accidentally summons demon and causes the well-oiled machinery of the afterlife to grind to a halt. With this sort of premise, this story could easily turn to the wacky and ridiculous (think Christopher Moore or Douglas Adams). Instead, I think of this book as more of a cross between The Shadow and The Big Bang Theory. Chesney Arnstruther's character goes beyond mere nerd-dom to a kind of social awkwardness that skirts clinical diagnosis and inspires sympathy rather than hilarity. For comic relief we have Chesney's film-noir-throwback sidekick, the demon Xaphan. As zany as all this sounds, it is a well-constructed story with a satisfying climax, which sets up well for the next in the series. If I have a complaint, it is that the secondary characters all seem a little flat (the women especially seem pretty one-dimensional). I'm not entirely sure whether or not this is the result of seeing them all through Chesney's point of view. I am hoping to see more development as the series goes on. (less)
A friend of mine recommended this book to me years ago. I only finished it because of his recommendation. He thought it would appeal to my affection f...moreA friend of mine recommended this book to me years ago. I only finished it because of his recommendation. He thought it would appeal to my affection for dark humor. I did not think it was funny, and found very little to like about it.(less)
I'm so glad I found this book based on my friend Amy's recommendation. This book crosses genres with a fascinating multi-layered story about two very...moreI'm so glad I found this book based on my friend Amy's recommendation. This book crosses genres with a fascinating multi-layered story about two very different mythical beings who both find themselves in late 1890s Manhattan. I loved that the story gave us a glimpse of two very different cultures in a place both familiar and forgotten. Every character and every story in the novel would have been a pleasure to read in their own right; together, this was a book I savored from beginning to end. (less)