I took awhile to read this book, breaking off and reading other books in between chapters. The central character was engaging enough, the central concI took awhile to read this book, breaking off and reading other books in between chapters. The central character was engaging enough, the central concept fascinating. And when I passed the halfway point, I couldn't put it down.
What slowed me down as I started out, though, was the level of explanation of the real history and culture around the more fantastic elements. It probably didn't help that one of the books I read while trying to get into this one was Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon, which plunges the reader straight into Lagos culture and expects one to keep up because there's a story to get to. The Ghost Bride, in contrast, strives to leave no reader behind while introducing the Malaya of 1893. It's not the wrong choice for all readers, by any means - I'm honestly trying to figure out the best way to get this book to my mom, because she'll probably love it. But too much hand-holding throws me out of a story. Also, the singular footnote. One. Footnote. Why.
But overall? An intriguing story, lots of family drama - including figurative skeletons come to light - and interesting takes on Chinese and Malaysian mythology. A good summer read....more
A lovely read told in a unique voice. I fell hard for Jade immediately and loved following her adventures in London. My one complaint (if I can call iA lovely read told in a unique voice. I fell hard for Jade immediately and loved following her adventures in London. My one complaint (if I can call it that) is that it is so short - I would have loved to stay immersed in her world for a longer stretch. But every storyline is sufficiently fleshed out and resolved, so don't let the length alone steer you away.
Recommended to fans of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries....more
I wanted to like this book! I just never quite did. I've read a few books in recent years set in turn-of-the-(previous)-century New York, and I find tI wanted to like this book! I just never quite did. I've read a few books in recent years set in turn-of-the-(previous)-century New York, and I find the era fascinating. And I've read The Ghost Map, which is a surprisingly page-turning tale of tracking down the source of a cholera epidemic in London fifty years earlier. But I don't think it was too much prior knowledge that distanced me from the book.
No, I think it was the choice of narration. The story is told in the form of a journal kept by a Jewish teen named Prudence. Prudence's entries range from slightly overwrought ponderings on the nature of death to extremely prosaic "I went here and did this" dictation of events. I honestly preferred the overwrought natural philosophy entries, because they captured some actual emotion. (Also, I may have been a slightly overwrought teen writer myself.) And while I do love a cleverly constructed sentence, I've certainly also enjoyed books where the language is strictly a vehicle to move the plot forward. But Prudence's tempered emotional connection to the events and the people around her - with one notable exception - makes it hard for me to connect in turn with her. The world-building is also somewhat hampered by the choice to tell the story entirely via a journal - the world Prudence moves through is painted in the broadest strokes, often just briefly at the start of a scene. Character-wise, this makes sense, as it is largely a world she's been familiar with all her life and she has a very inward orientation. Reader-wise, I was sometimes left with a rather stark stage for the characters to act upon.
The aforementioned notable exception to Prudence's emotional distance is not 'the science fellow' who has a crush on (or at least takes an inappropriate interest in) her, nor the female doctor who offers a role model, nor her direct boss, (view spoiler)[though she does announce a crush of her own on him (hide spoiler)]. It's Mary Mallon herself. Her interactions with Mary - her fear and her sympathy both - and her imaginings of what Mary's life had been and how Mary might feel about the accusations subsequent quarantine are some of the best moments of the book.
The ending is satisfying, and the book is a quick read, one that actual teens may enjoy more than I did. But I don't expect to pick it up a second time.
(Also, and this is a complete quibble, I found the description of an uncle "who ran an oyster bar that wasn't very kosher" odd, given that oysters are by definition not kosher - the presumably figurative use of the word in that time period knocked me for a loop, even though I don't know if it's actually as anachronistic as it felt.)...more
Wow. Beautifully written, brought me to the verge of tears repeatedly, yet also made me laugh out loud on a couple occasions. The author misled me twiWow. Beautifully written, brought me to the verge of tears repeatedly, yet also made me laugh out loud on a couple occasions. The author misled me twice without ever using an unreliable narrator - letting my own expectations get in the way, allowing the reader build on false assumptions until casually revealing the truth behind certain passages. I adore that. This book deserves a real review, which hopefully I will find time to come back and write, but I couldn't put it down without taking a moment to say, at least, "Wow."...more
A quick, fun read. I was very engaged with both characters, and the breaks between letters were well-handled (I never wanted the authors to go back anA quick, fun read. I was very engaged with both characters, and the breaks between letters were well-handled (I never wanted the authors to go back and finish telling me about the other character first).
I love epistolary novels. I love Regency novels. And I love plots resolved by girls who are cleverer than those around them. Clearly, I was meant to enjoy this book....more
me: UNRELATED IN ANY WAY I read the best book. But it is VERY SAD. Like, I cried for 60 pages sad. (view spoiler)[But it's been marketed to teens and it'me: UNRELATED IN ANY WAY I read the best book. But it is VERY SAD. Like, I cried for 60 pages sad. (view spoiler)[But it's been marketed to teens and it's about best friends and there is NO ROMANCE (yay!) (hide spoiler)]
Alice: awww and yaaaaay best friends BOOO SAD
me: 60 pages of tears
Alice: so many tears
me: and then, THEN, I looked at the blurbs on the back and they TOTALLY TRIED TO WARN ME
Alice: you ignored them at your peril
me: I did, I did. also? every review on goodreads is a variation of "I don't want to spoil anything of this book for anybody, but I cried so hard!!!eleventy!!" So good though.
Alice: what is book? in case I wish to wallow in feelings
me: Code Name Verity YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED but so good. sorry. You've been warned and tempted.
Alice: haha I have indeed i'mma read it and feel SO SAD
me: you will TEARS I think I might just copypaste this conversation into my goodreads review. Because I want to review, but seriously, I will write the same thing everyone else did.
I think I may stick with the tv series after this one. Love the character, find certain aspects of both the books and the adaptation troubling - and bI think I may stick with the tv series after this one. Love the character, find certain aspects of both the books and the adaptation troubling - and books are a greater investment of time and attention for me....more
I can see why everyone fell in love with this book this summer. It's gorgeously written, for one. The main character is a reader, and I love reading aI can see why everyone fell in love with this book this summer. It's gorgeously written, for one. The main character is a reader, and I love reading about other readers. The quotes and allusions are like hidden gems waiting for the initiated. The book also feels historically accurate, though I'm hardly an expert on the thirties -- all my knowledge comes filtered through Marjorie Hillis's self-improvement guides and Dorothy Sayers's novels. (This historical accuracy extends to racial terms since fallen out of favor, jarring to me as a modern reader even while reading those books actually written during the time. On the positive side, this fictional New York has not been whitewashed, but it would have been even more impressive if some of the nonwhite characters moved out of the background. Class lines were crossed, recrossed and blurred. Racial lines, not so much. At least, not by our POV character.)
Rules of Civility is not my usual book pick - I don't read very much non-genre fiction without a book club pushing me along. This book contains no magic, no mystery to solve, and, despite being relationships-focused, is not a romance. If I had to describe it in a few words, "introverted reader turns social climber" might feature prominently. Or "a non-love story." Or perhaps, "a story of reinvention and the intersection of metropolitan anonymity and glamour." Maybe mostly that.
But you don't have to own a railroad to shorten or lengthen your name.
Teddy to Tinker.
Eve to Evelyn.
Katya to Kate.
In New York City, these sorts of alterations come free of charge.
Kate feels very real, authentic even when she's crashing high society parties or when she's making life-changing decisions almost on a whim. Some of those sudden direction changes were embarrassingly relate-able - that sudden realization that one simply cannot endure [a job, a relationship, a living situation] for even one more day. She's likeable, even when she's behaving terribly. Her friendships, business relationships, and romances are all very well-developed and not at the expense of each other.
She's a character I would love to spend more time with, even though the ending was perfectly satisfactory, with the framing story wrapping up the few loose ends remaining. ...more
A lovely book with the kind of terrific visuals that make me both long for and fear a film adaptation. (Oh, an animated version! Pardon me while I dayA lovely book with the kind of terrific visuals that make me both long for and fear a film adaptation. (Oh, an animated version! Pardon me while I daydream.) ...more
Basically, I agree with the_antichris's review. Three stars seems low, because it was a fun read -- but it simply wasn't gripping. A Regency novel witBasically, I agree with the_antichris's review. Three stars seems low, because it was a fun read -- but it simply wasn't gripping. A Regency novel with an interesting magic system. ...more
Despite both the title and the cover copy (the blurb on this site is much better), Alice is not the main character. She shares that honor equally withDespite both the title and the cover copy (the blurb on this site is much better), Alice is not the main character. She shares that honor equally with her two brothers, William and Henry James. What William, Alice, and Henry combined knew eventually adds up to a solution to Jack the Ripper's identity. (I don't know enough about current scholarship to know if this solution holds actual water, but it hangs together well enough for the purposes of the narrative.)
Unfortunately, there are hurdles for the reader in reaching that solution, not just for the characters, starting with Henry's introduction. When readers first meet him, he has overindulged in a couple ways at a dinner party and is unable to comprehend much of what is going on around him. So he decides to walk home, naturally gets lost, and then loses control of multiple bodily functions. Ew and ugh. This is decidedly not my favorite way to introduce a character ever, and it made it very difficult to relate to him in later chapters, because I just kept thinking about -- well, I'll leave it at 'ew.'
But I had borrowed this book from a friend to whom I'd mentioned that it looked interesting, so I kept going. Then I met Alice, the convalescent woman who would solve the mystery! Only.... her convalescence is portrayed as more the result of personality quirk than physical affliction and possibly even a weakness of character. Even Alice herself acknowledged that keeping to her bed was in part affectation - though the headaches seemed real enough. So while the cover hinted at a capable yet disabled character, I'm not sure that's what the text provided (there may be an argument to be made that she had a real albeit undiagnosed psychological disorder -- however, one might expect her brother William, an early psychologist, to suggest the possibility). Also, I just plain didn't like Alice very much for the first half of the book. My opinion started to change when she started having people other than her brothers and Katherine to interact with, particularly Jane. I liked Jane.
Which brings me to William, the brother who was still living in America. (Both Alice and Henry had moved to London well before the novel begins.) William was invited to assist in the Jack the Ripper investigation -- and the other Jameses invited themselves along for the ride. William has an odd interlude of exoticising/eroticising a young Jewish woman whom he met during his investigation which I found uncomfortable to read but understandable, I suppose, for a man of his time even if he is being written in the modern day. Speaking of uncomfortable, that brings me to the weird push-pull between Anglophilia and American Exceptionalism that ran throughout the book. I think that tension was most pronounced in William's chapters -- I am hoping so, because as a character trait it's slightly interesting, because then that makes it intentional.
I did enjoy the revelation, climax, and epilogue. But I found too much of the book wordy* and uninteresting** to recommend.
* William's visit to one of the Ripper's crime scenes includes paragraphs of reverie on the mind's inability/unwillingness to accept the horror of what the eyes see. (The squeamish will probably appreciate the relative paucity of descriptions for the other senses in the scene.)
** Dinner parties, interesting. Dinner party planning (with discussion of characters the readers don't know and won't really get to know), uninteresting....more
My sister's been talking this particular classic up to me for literally years. Frankly, there was no way it could measure up! I finally made time forMy sister's been talking this particular classic up to me for literally years. Frankly, there was no way it could measure up! I finally made time for it due to plans to see the recent theatrical version. Nice descriptions of mountains?...more
A fairly entertaining read, set in an interesting alternate centennial U.S. The magic is interesting, especially the local witches' struggle to competA fairly entertaining read, set in an interesting alternate centennial U.S. The magic is interesting, especially the local witches' struggle to compete against 'patent magic' from mail order companies. And there's at least a nod to Native American magic users. (Though I feel that the holy woman Kome singling out Emily as essentially the heir to her powers (view spoiler)[and giving her life to aid this newly met witch, especially when she has a daughter/apprentice within the Miwok, (hide spoiler)] is sketchy.)
Unfortunately, there's a dislike-turns-to-love romantic storyline which didn't work for me. Stanton never wins me over -- and I'm not the one he's belittling -- so I don't understand why Emily should fall for him. Reasons of plot, I guess. Although this is very clearly the first book of a series, I don't think I'll be continuing on....more
I put off reading Half a Crown for ages. I loved the first two books of the series, Farthing and Ha'penny, but the world established within them is soI put off reading Half a Crown for ages. I loved the first two books of the series, Farthing and Ha'penny, but the world established within them is so dark that engaging with it a third time required some gearing up. I'm so glad I did -- the final chapter of the Small Change series does not pull its punches nor does it disappoint....more
On the one hand, it's another book from the Parasol Protectorate series, and it in most ways lives up toI had trouble choosing a rating for this book.
On the one hand, it's another book from the Parasol Protectorate series, and it in most ways lives up to my anticipation. Alexia remains a delightful heroine; I enjoyed the expansion of the story into the world beyond Great Britain.
On the other, there's a joke about Kosher rules in there which, while appropriate to the setting, is perhaps less than appropriate in a modern book. It is seriously just a tiny, throw-away joke... but it jarred me out of the story....more