"Oh, what a tangled web we weave" -Sir Walter Scott, Canto VI Marmion
Though, I didn't know the exact origins of the Scott quote above, it kept running"Oh, what a tangled web we weave" -Sir Walter Scott, Canto VI Marmion
Though, I didn't know the exact origins of the Scott quote above, it kept running through my head as I read Lynn Shepherd's A Fatal Likeness (published earlier this year in the UK as A Treacherous Likeness.)
I've been curious about the story of the Shelleys since seeing some program on, I believe, Frankenstein and its creation several years ago. It also talked about Mary Shelly, Percy Bysshe Shelley, his first wife, those that were their with them when Frankenstein was thought to have been started -- and what complicated inter-workings all of their relationships had.
After knowing some of the potential scandal that was possible if what that version presented as fact was true, I wanted to see how it all could work together as a story. (It's why historical fiction can be more fun than just historical sometimes, you get it as a story.)
I found exactly what I was looking for in Shepherd's novel: a closer examination of the relationships between the characters -- so much more than I knew happened between them. While I knew, whilst reading it, that some of it wouldn't be true in the end, it was very difficult to tell just what. With so many characters (true, at times I did almost wish for some sort of a family tree somewhere due to the similar names) and attention to detail, both the fact and fiction felt equally real.
With so much developing, unfolding and coming together and apart, while I was completely drawn into the story -- unsure if the characters were quite as bad as the others seemed to be painting them -- at the end I felt I'd missed some things. I read them and I caught them all while reading, but so much happened and they were such big things that the way it came together at the end, with a few quite big events added in quickly and others ended almost suddenly, that after finishing it, I couldn't remember how some significant things concluded.
Charles Maddox is the completely invented detective character, back here in his second of Shepherd's novels, but he fits in with all of the characters who have 'true' backstories as if he were one of them. Though it is a follow-up novel and the second appearance for Maddox there was only one glaring time that I, having not read, The Solitary House (Tom-All-Alone) felt not fully abreast of the story. (You don't need to have read the first book to read this one.)
The writing style of A Fatal Likeness was not quite for me; or, rather, one particular part. The narration - which uses some second person plural (we, you) - pulled me out of the story sometimes with its mentions of modern day. The story is set in the 19th Century but there would be statements like, "What we know but Charles can't," or, "In the 21st Century, of course..." It may be a quirk of mine, but when I'm reading about 1850 London, I don't like the book itself, purposely, reminding me that I'm here in 2013 reading it. Whether it's to tell me I maybe should know of a character being mentioned, know about something medically or whatever. I like to be 'in' the story.
The Solitary House despite any small faults I found with it, was a very enjoyable read. One that if you're at all interested in the subjects, time period, or mysteries where characters' character is at the heart, is not to miss. It's one I will recommend.
It may seem easy to just say, "I didn't sleep last night." Yet, when Parker says it, he really - literally - means it. And every night.
It seems like IIt may seem easy to just say, "I didn't sleep last night." Yet, when Parker says it, he really - literally - means it. And every night.
It seems like I have read quite a few books recently where the main character(s) were somehow experiencing some form of sleep loss beyond the norm. What made Insomnia different - and one of the things I really liked about it - was that it's main character, Parker also experienced the effects of that sleep deprivation.
Parker's extreme sleep deprivation wasn't just a plot element used to make his character more interesting or make things quirky. In a lot of ways, his 'insomnia' and its repercussions were the plot of Insomnia. We see the full toll it has taken and continues to take on Parker's life.
Though it's been four years of sleepless nights, the book is set at really the perfect time. Insomnia introduces us to Parker at two turning or, perhaps, tipping points. He seems to be reaching that point where it's all becoming too much (or not enough) and it's also when he meets Mia who promises a possible salvation.
A possible salvation she may not be willing to offer.
The closer Parker gets to that ultimate tipping point (where his lack of sleep will kill him), the more desperate he is for the real sleep Mia can provide. It's also the more unsure he becomes of his own actions.
The struggle present within Parker -- both physically and mentally/emotionally -- is incredibly well portrayed. What he's feeling physically and the mental effects it produces fuel his actions as the story progresses. It's also enough motivation that it, along with the turmoil we see him experiencing, would stop even the most unsympathetic action from alienating him as a character. We can understand why he's doing what he's doing.
Or at least why he thinks he needs to.
I will say that the way one character was written made them seem more villainous than they were and so I kept waiting for some nefarious twist or turn involving them. It may have been a purposeful red herring deal or they may just have come across that way (to me).
How everything wrapped up though was fantastic and I am really happy that I didn't see it all coming together that way. (Although, I am happy that one of the minor characters was there for the reason I suspected and I am, thus, looking forward to Book 2.) ...more
This is one book where I needed to use the publisher's synopsis because, with the way the plot progressed, I cou(first posted to Book Sp(l)ot Reviews)
This is one book where I needed to use the publisher's synopsis because, with the way the plot progressed, I couldn't figure out one of my own. At least, not one that wouldn't be spoilery in some way.
I remembered really enjoying the first Raven Cycle book, The Raven Boys when I read it last year, but knew I'd forgotten some things. Thankfully, the first book was one of the titles SYNC offered for download this summer so I listened to it again before starting Book 2 and I'm really glad I did. There were some smaller things, both plot and character-wise that I'd forgotten and knowing/remembering made The Dream Thieves better. The more of The Raven Boys you know, remember the better but having read it at all is almost necessary. (Check out a recap here.)
The Dream Thieves is definitely a second book in a series. Things from the first book are built on, without those things always being revisited enough for someone unfamiliar with them to understand the significance.
I expected more of the Cabeswater search to unfold in The Dream Thieves than did. While, what did happen, will likely impact Gansey and the others' search in the next book(s), it felt almost removed here. There were sections where it was as consuming for Gansey as it was in The Raven Boys but the story involving other characters, including new characters, was more of the tale this time.
I did love that we learned so much more about the different characters, Ronan in particular. They didn't just stay secondary characters to Gansey and Blue and her family They became fuller characters in this novel, with information about not only their past but more about their present and what it s that makes them special.
One new character, who was a pretty big part of the story, fit in a bit oddly with the other characters. I think I was expecting something more on the part of the other characters who he told who he was, or at least what he did.
Though it's easy to point out several big events that happened, I think I was expecting more progress in the Cabeswater search. Possibly, with so much transpiring in the first novel, it felt more stagnant here. Despite that, it was obvious that everything that did occur, needed to and will also make the rest of the series better.
The Dream Thieves was more of a character book than an action book and while I was expecting more action or, possibly, more results, I really enjoyed this story. It set things up very well for the rest of The Raven Cycle.
thanks to Scholastic & NetGalley for my review copy...more
Reese, her debate partner David and their chaperone are in the Phoenix airport when the news comes on: a plane in New Jersey has crashed, killing allReese, her debate partner David and their chaperone are in the Phoenix airport when the news comes on: a plane in New Jersey has crashed, killing all aboard and witnesses say it happened after the plane collided with a flock of Canada geese.
The news sends shock through the airport - but not as much as the subsequent news announced in the next few moments. It is not just one plane that has crashed. Multiple planes have been brought down, seemingly by groups of birds and the FAA has grounded all planes.
With no other way to get home - and sensing that the crashes are more than some flukes of nature, they begin the drive home.
David and Reese somewhere in Nevada when the crash happens. A bird flies into the headlights and the car flips over.
When Reese wakes up, they're in some kind of military hospital. She can't remember what's happened since the crash - despite being told it's been almost thirty days. The doctors won't tell them where they are, how they were treated or how they're suddenly, so surely feeling so much better. Nor are they allowed to tell anyone else they little they do know.
Upon returning home, things are even different than she expected: military enforced curfew, men in hazmat suits picking up the dead birds before speeding off, the feelings she has for Amber, the girl who literally crashed into her, someone who may be following her . . . and her own recovery.
Reese may be the most different thing of all.
Adaptation has one of my favorite opening sections of really any book I've read lately. It builds the tension, the fear and, also, the fear of what's to come incredibly well. While it does involve planes crashing and does, ever so briefly, mention September 11th, it still feels separate from that. The events of Adaptation's opening are so clearly encapsulated in Adaptation that you don't feel like it's a rehash of anything.
It introduces us well to not only the present characters but also to Reese's friend Julian and his love of conspiracy theories - which are a big part of Adaptation and also help push things along.
As much as I loved the beginning, I did feel as if there was a bit of a disconnect between the first group of chapters, the first five or six and the latter parts of the story. They built up the tension and this anxiety . . . and then it didn't quite play out.
San Francisco, a month after all of these events, didn't need to be massively effected, but it felt more like there was a curfew which influenced maybe one or two scenes. Then they picked up birds. Both things are in the synopsis. Maybe that was part of the point, that everything was made to see fine - but if so, then the curfew seems odd.
I liked Reese's struggle with how she was feeling about Amber and what those feelings meant about who she, Reese, was all while she was trying to figure out just what they'd done to her at the hospital. It's nice when characters aren't completely taken over by one side of the story (either their intrapersonal conflicts or figuring out the 'other' aspect).
The story as a whole did lack a bit of tension or drama or anxiety for me. Whether that was due to the stellar opening that seemed to promise a different type of day to day life (not necessarily drastically so) or because the outcome or 'what' for several characters was really quite clear from about midway through, I'm not sure.
The way the ending itself actually played out, was not obvious so I'm looking forward to the second book in this series for where things go.
(egalley provided by the publisher through NetGalley)...more
Starting from Ginger's life as a puppy, with her littermates and mother and following her through all of her different residences and humans, Ginger (Starting from Ginger's life as a puppy, with her littermates and mother and following her through all of her different residences and humans, Ginger (Dog Diaries #1) is told from Ginger's point of view. Seeing things through a puppy's eyes - and then a dog's as Ginger grows - is a unique way to look at things that we've likely either not looked twice at or never paid any attention to in the first place.
It's a great way to get the, sometimes heavy handed, message that Ginger has across. While it's definitely easier for readers to connect with Ginger with her telling the story than if it were told in the third person (or dog?), a few places felt like they were pushing a point just a bit more than necessary. A conversation one character has with a veterinarian, for example, seemed not very realistic but did make a point.
There is great information in Ginger on how to care for a puppy. As it's not the basic step-by-step how-to book, it may appeal to a different set of readers, as well. There are things in the novel that I think some adults even don't always consider when adding a new dog (a puppy, especially) to the family and it's great that they're included here.
The situation that the 'escape' in the synopsis refers to was a good point to have in the story - a good what 'not' to do. It's too bad there wasn't a what 'to' do either in the story or in the appendix (for reference, reassurance, etc).
Ginger and her story do well in telling what really owning a dog is like - that it takes responsibility, know how, patience, and forethought. Klimo's book isn't one that's going to glorify owning a dog and make everyone want to rush out and get a golden retriever, but it also shows the joys of having a pet, a true best friend.
While absolutely applaud Ginger for having the message that adoption of pets is better than from a breeder or, in Ginger's case, a puppy mill and pet store situation, but I felt it could have been done with a bit more grace, especially given the target age of the book. It seems possible to convince elementary readers that they should adopt their first/next dog without making them feel bad if the family pet they currently have was bought. It's possible the author and I just differ on how to get a message across.
Jessell's illustrations are fun and it's nice to be able to actually see Ginger at the different stages in her life. The black and white works very well within the book and the art contributes to the story.
Emily Kessler feels more than the usual pressures upon starting high school. Not only does she heave a new school to navigate, all honors classes to mEmily Kessler feels more than the usual pressures upon starting high school. Not only does she heave a new school to navigate, all honors classes to manage, a new social world to maneuver through, and cute boys to crush on, she also has her swimming.
Emily is all about swimming and has been for as long as she can remember. It's going to take everything she has - all her focus, a deeply regimented sleep schedule and diet - to be her best, the best and live up to the standards left behind by her older sister Sara.
But will even all of that be enough to make it against everything high school has to throw at her? Against Dominique, not only Emily's toughest competition in the pool but also her all-around mean girl and toughest competition for the boy who just might distract Emily from swimming?
That boy, adorable and popular Ben Kale, is everything Emily's been told to steer clear of. With Ben in the picture, Emily thinks being not all about swimming might not be such a bad thing.
Can Emily find out what it is she really wants, what makes her happy - and survive high school?
M. Doty's Surviving High School is a fun and cute contemporary that adds in just enough drama and seriousness to keep the characters real and the action compelling. Emily Kessler is starting high school as the novel opens. She's not, though, that worried about the new school year - at least not for the obvious reason.
With only one real friend, Emily isn't worried about who she has classes with or even which classes she does have. She's more concerned with avoiding the boy who was involved with her sister's recent death and keeping her swimming above par.
The added elements of Emily's swimming - and the need for it to be top notch - and her need to live up to her sister (whilst also missing her), gave the book some depth. As did Emily's relationship with her father who was also her swimming coach. Their relationship was contentious and trying, but the author kept it from being flat - you could see there was more there.
In the beginning of the novel, Emily did almost feel like a different character from one section to the next - or at least in alternating parts she felt like two different characters. When she was with her friend, Kimi, she felt like a freshman but when she was swimming or with her family, she felt like and older, almost upperclassman character.
Once I got into things - or connected with Emily more, she didn't seem as divergent. More like a young girl who wanted to have fun but also took her swimming incredibly seriously. I'm not sure if it takes time to connect with Emily and her personality or if she becomes more settled as the book progresses.
The progression of both Emily's character and her different relationships did feel very real. They sometimes left me wanting her to make different decisions, be more responsible or think things through a little more-slash-better-slash-differently, but that's what made it feel real in the end. If she'd made perfect choices, done everything right and come through unscathed, she wouldn't have felt like a ninth grader.
Surviving High School is a fun, contemporary read that is light but not too light.
egalley received from LBYR through NetGalley...more
Juliet Moreau has gone from being a proper young lady, the daughter of London's best surgeon to being a maid, barely getting by, an orphan. She also hJuliet Moreau has gone from being a proper young lady, the daughter of London's best surgeon to being a maid, barely getting by, an orphan. She also has to live with knowing that her father, the man no presumed dead, ruined not only his reputation but their family's when he was accused of horrible crimes in his role as doctor.
Presumed dead, Juliet's father disappeared never standing trial for his crimes. Filled with her childhood memories of a caring father, Juliet has never entirely believed the tales of his crimes. Despite his absence and the hardship it has caused her, when possible evidence of not only the doctor's mortality, but nearness appears, Juliet has no choice to follow-up.
Who and what she finds is more than shocking.
More than a little timely, as well.
When the meager life Juliet has managed to scrape together for herself threatens to fall apart, knocking her even farther down the social ladder, there is an option for her.
To find her answers, Juliet will travel to a remote island and learn more about herself, her father, his supposed crimes, and the actual island than she ever could have expected.
I did not know all of what The Madman's Daughter was about before I started reading. I knew it was a Gothic set in the nineteenth century. Then it started with these two lines: "The basement hallways in King's College of Medical Research were dark, even in the daytime. At night they were like a grave."
While I'm sure you can find better opening lines, I'm particularly fond of these. Pair them with the title and the cover and knowing that Juliet is the daughter of a man who used to be England's top surgeon and now, presumed dead, is accused of horrible crimes -- and she's a cleaning the Medical College?
It makes for a story that I really, really enjoyed discovering as I read it. I loved not knowing the twists and turns as they came. Even not knowing the big plot points ahead of time was really fantastic. (Which is why there are less in my synopsis than the publisher one, but it is available on Goodreads.)
One of the things that made this such an absolute stand-out novel for me was the way author Megan Shepherd is able to transport a reader to the world she has created. Yes, a lot of novels do use more descriptors, are more elaborate in the way they set up scenes, but not for a better end result.
It has been a long, long, long time (if ever) since I have read something that so fully draws you into the story that when you stop reading, it's a surprise to see your own surroundings and not those of which you were just reading. It feels like you should look up and see the island all around you.
Not only that, other scenes between characters feel so real, so charged that it draws you in and you can picture it -- a bunch of adjectives or no.
It's also great that the 'Victorian sensibilities' aren't forgotten. Little things come up at different points i the story that seem to keep it in the time period and not only because of their clothing and lack of electricity. I really appreciated the way the era effected the story and characters.
While some of the revelations towards the end were not wholly unexpected, others were more surprising and they, along with the character development, character interactions and tension made the last third of the book my favorite.
I'm excited to read numbers two and three in this series. (I am also now interested in The Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells which inspired this novel, a story I hadn't given much thought to before, honestly.)