This book was a pleasure to read. The atmosphere is so classic Victorian and Gothic, the humor hit the mark, and while I wasn't sure about how success...moreThis book was a pleasure to read. The atmosphere is so classic Victorian and Gothic, the humor hit the mark, and while I wasn't sure about how successful using real-life writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and playwright Oscar Wilde as a crime-solving duo would be, it turns out to be perfect. Wilde's wit was exactly what I expected and Doyle is just as lovable as his creation. I definitely recommend this book to those who are Victoriana-inclined, and who like classic/Gothic horror.
Three Parts Dead is a fantasy novel that teases at the senses and perceptions of the reader. Gladstone takes some fantasy concepts and weaves them int...moreThree Parts Dead is a fantasy novel that teases at the senses and perceptions of the reader. Gladstone takes some fantasy concepts and weaves them into a creation that has its own flavor and feel. It's not urban fantasy in the common sense. It's not epic fantasy, either. It's a novel that forges its own path.
Gladstone takes the sticky territory of faith and belief in a deity and asks the reader to trust him and to follow where he's going. For those readers who are believers in God and who consider themselves religious, it will take some trust not to assume that Gladstone is attacking the system of belief and devaluing it. In fact, he gives the reader something to ponder and does not do this at all. While I don't believe that my God needs my faith to keep him alive, I did like how Gladstone examines the intrinsic relationship aspect of faith. Faith requires trust in your God. Faith requires a commitment to keep believing despite what circumstances may show. In the case of this book, the character of Abelard acts as a stand-in for a person who lives a life of faith. The struggle that is inherent in living in a world in which belief in God is steadily becoming an oddity and many have rejected such an idea and consider it irrelevant. With Abelard, he faces that crisis of faith and that anguish of being confronted with the idea that his god doesn't live anymore, and the hole within that comes from that lack of communion with him. At the crux of faith is that understanding that what one believes does benefit that person, even when others lack an understanding of how this happens.
Tara represents the skeptic. The person who has trained herself not to subscribe to a faith-based way of life. Tara feels that she has it together, and has all the power within to make prescribing to faith in God unnecessary to her life. She feels with her education and her life, she is above having faith in a deity, and almost has a smug way of looking at Abelard because she sees things on a higher intellectual level and outside of his faith-based worldview. While Tara treats Abelard kindly, underneath there is a smug attitude that she'll show him that he doesn't need God. That the concept of a deity is just something that can be used to achieve some sort of end-goal. Look how well she's done. I'm not picking on Tara here. I'm just commenting on how her character acts initially in this book.
Both Abelard and Tara are younger people, who have a ways to go in their life experiences, although what they have experienced is not to be dismissed. Both have a lot to bring to the table, and I feel they learn a lot from each other, and working together, they can achieve an important purpose in this novel.
And then there is Cat. Cat's character is not as well developed as Abelard and Tara. I felt that she is in transition and hasn't learned who she is as a person, what her identity is. But in that, she is a stand-in for that person who is searching for something to ground them in their lives. Who they are and what they stand for in this life. How does faith or lack thereof tie into this?
The world-building is its own character. Gladstone doesn't give much of a frame of reference, because Alt Coulomb, the home of Kos The Everburning feels modern and ancient. The city's very machinery is powered by the god they pay homage to. You have touches of modernity, and even with Tara's agrarian origins, it feels as though the story is set in the present, but in a different world. The idea of Justice and the Blacksuits was another concept that was both alluring and unsettling. I have to say that with the teasing touches that I get in this book, I end up with more questions and wanting more of this world-building. This world that Gladstone created could easily sustain several books.
I absolutely loved the idea of the gargoyles. How they had made their mark both literally and figuratively on the city. The buildings were scarred by their talons. The descriptions of their unworldly and intimidating beauty spoke to me as a visual artist.
The concept of craft and magic was also alluring in this story. The manner in which Tara used her powers. The concept of altering reality through the use of craft. The idea of the God Wars, a background piece of history which proves integral to the plot, but is not described in great detail. This is another area that could easily be picked up if the author chooses to write more stories in this world.
It's so hard to condense my thoughts into a review because this book had my mind running. Some aspects lost me a bit and I would find my mind wondering. But then another scene or concept would grab my attention and refuse to let go of it. I guess that's why I couldn't give this five stars. Part of me wasn't fully satisfied with the story. I felt like there were two many goals with this story and the author wasn't sure what kind of novel he wanted to write. Part mythical fiction, part occult detective novel, with some probing insights into human psychology and the power of belief. What I was glad about was that he didn't take this opportunity to attack organized religion. That just gets old. I think that there is so much more to probe into when it comes to matters of faith than just beating the drum about how the church manipulates and takes advantage of believers. I think we know that this is possible and happens more than any believer would like. Let's put that aside and explore other aspects of belief and how this can clash with other worldviews, or how belief is not as foreign and unfruitful as we might assume. While Gladstone only scratches the surface here (since this book isn't 1000 pages), he delivers something thought-provoking that I could appreciate.
Three Parts Dead has something to offer the genre of Fantasy. I would recommend it.(less)
This is actually the first book in the series that I've read, but it was fairly smooth sailing despite that fact. It did take me a while to get used t...moreThis is actually the first book in the series that I've read, but it was fairly smooth sailing despite that fact. It did take me a while to get used to the quirky/corny humor. But I have to say, I enjoyed the time I spent with Charley, Reyes, Cookie, Garrett and the others. Don't let the silly humor fool you. Darynda Jones writes a good quality mystery story.
I confess I have already read book three, Third Grave Dead Ahead. It's a great thing that I liked that one enough to go back and start the series from...moreI confess I have already read book three, Third Grave Dead Ahead. It's a great thing that I liked that one enough to go back and start the series from the beginning. I am glad I did.
This was a fun book on audio. The narrator clearly had fun with her job too. She dives in headfirst into the puns and verbal wordplay, imbuing Charley's voice with all the sassiness and spunk that is so much a part of her personality. At times, her cadence was a bit strange, but overall, I thought she was a good narrator. She narrates characters of various ages, sexes and ethnicity very well.
First Grave on the Right has an interesting concept, although a main character seeing ghosts isn't novel for urban fantasy. In this case, Charley is a portal in herself, a conduit for the spirits of those who have passed on to go through in order to leave this plane and to go to their final destination. She has had this ability since she was born. Charley is a Grim Reaper. No, she doesn't carry a scythe and doesn't wear a cape. Instead, she looks like a bright light to spirits, irresistibly bright. At twenty-six years of age, she has come to terms with her identity. It wasn't easy, and still isn't. But she has developed coping mechanisms, and she has embraced her ability to help spirits move on. Just this idea is great fodder for a series. On top of that, Charley is a private eye who helps her police detective uncle solve crimes. Yes, some of the cops thinks she's weird, but she has her snark to fend them off. But how about The Big Bad? The mysterious, caped entity who has watched over her since she was a baby just born. What role does he play and how is he related to a young man she knew a long time ago who called her "Dutch?" That's a mystery you have to read the book to find out about.
I can't speak too much about Reyes, because there are too many spoilers involving him. But what I will say is that he has won me over. Reyes is smoking hot, no pun intended! He's a good foil for Charley. I also like Garrett Swopes, who has a frenemies type relationship with Charley. It's clear to me that he has a crush on her. Charley's friend and secretary, Cookie, is a lot of fun too. One thing I couldn't get past was Charley's evil stepmonster. No excuse for how she treats Charley and treated her as a very young girl with a strange ability that she couldn't help possessing. I wonder why her dad lets her get away with that.
First Grave on the Right is one of those books that will have you laughing a lot. Jones is not above a bad pun or too, but they are too endearing to be annoying. And the humor is needed, because it can be quite sad to see these specters whose lives ended in various ways, many not from natural causes. The reader cannot help but feel for Charley, since she has no buffer against the dead. It would be enough to drive a person crazy, but not Charley. It's who she is and she doesn't know any different.
On top of the humor, there are some good mystery components, and the supernatural elements are well done. Darynda Jones lays a foundation for a very good urban fantasy/paranormal mystery with this book that teases me into coming back for more.
The Name of the Star was a hit with me. Maureen Johnson got my attention as an author with her short story, "The Law of Suspects." It was utterly chil...moreThe Name of the Star was a hit with me. Maureen Johnson got my attention as an author with her short story, "The Law of Suspects." It was utterly chilling and fantastic suspense. I appreciated how she writes with a respect for the intelligence of her readership, even though they are the YA audience. Like CS Lewis, I believe the best children's book is one that an adult can enjoy. I knew I was going to follow her after reading this brilliant short story. So when I saw this book was coming out, I was excited to read another full-length suspense novel by her. Let's just say that she's now two for two.
Are you into Jack the Ripper? I mean that in the best way. Meaning, do you have an interest in the mythos and story of Jack the Ripper? Many people do, so don't be ashamed if the answer is yes. The only reason I ask is because this is a book to check out if you do.
While this book is very thrilling suspense with a supernatural twist, it's also a funny coming of age story. Our heroine Rory is from Louisiana, and she has that sparkling Southern woman vibe that I find irresistible. I love her character's voice, the down to earth way she looks at life, and how she manages to find the wry humor in her situation. Johnson engaged me as a reader by giving me a protagonist that I started caring about on the first page of the story. She also pulled the British card, which will get me almost every time. Through in a modern story with a Gothic atmosphere and it makes for an irresistible read. She goes with a "Sixth Sense" theme, and like that movie, you don't quite catch on immediately, but when you do, it's a natural process. I can't say much more about that, because as River Song from Doctor Who says, "Spoilers!"
So yes, this was a hit for me. Such a marvelous concoction of suspense, humor, young adult emotions and situations, and yes, out and out terror in some parts of the book. Suspense builds wonderfully, adding to that gothic atmosphere until I was anxiously waiting for the next aspect of the story to be revealed. The villain is layered and complex, gradually revealed in a way that showed a lot more was going on than I thought. I really appreciated that, that wonderful feeling of finding I didn't have the answers all figured out until the very end when I was supposed to know all those things.
Well, I think I talked myself into giving this book five stars, even though I told myself I was going to be more rigorous about reviewing books and giving five stars.
People I recommend this book to:
*Ripperologists or Folks who are 'into' Jack the Ripper *Anglophiles *People who have an obsession with boarding school (like myself) *People who like Southerners and Southern philosophy on life *People who like sausage (you have to read to know where I am going with this) *People who like ghost stories *People who like 80s new wave like The Smiths and The Cure *People who like a good, well-written suspense novel *People who like fish out of water books, specifically Americans in Britain
If any of these things sound like you, read this book! I recommend it!(less)
I have to give it to Libba Bray. She captured the Roaring 20s in full color. I can tell she put some serious research into this book, but also endowed...moreI have to give it to Libba Bray. She captured the Roaring 20s in full color. I can tell she put some serious research into this book, but also endowed this period with her own spark and brought it to life for this reader.
This was an odyssey in some ways. A long read, and a long listen. Thinking about this book gives me an ambivalent feeling. The subject matter is very dark. The tone quite pessimistic. I realize that this is the authentic feeling of youngsters of this period. How can you believe in the fairy tales your parents tell you about God and country, about safety and peace when your older brothers and friends went to die in the Great War that seemed to have nothing to do with you in America? Especially when things aren't exactly fixed on the home-front? All that the old timers say seems to be hypocritical and designed to suck the life out of you. That they are selling you a dream you can afford to buy.
With this novel, Libba Bray captures that feeling of doubt and despair of this period, and how the Bright Young Things, the Flappers and their male counterparts, threw themselves into the party, the Now, instead of focusing on a future that didn't seem to belong to them anyway. I think my feeling of almost depression when this ended also related to the fact that I watched a documentary on Sunday night about the black American experience and how by and large most blacks never really had a chance at the ever-elusive American Dream, far from it. So I can feel that sense of disillusionment that some of the characters felt in this book, knowing how bad it must have been for many blacks during the 20s, and having false promises about how great America was rubbed in their faces because of their skin color and race, despite being born and raised in this great country.
She also shows the constant party atmosphere that was going on during Prohibition, bought at a hefty price, with the rise of gangster-related crimes in the cities. Immigrants who came to America to get a better life, find themselves living in falling down tenements and preyed upon and despised because they can't afford any better (or to buy into the American Dream). Doors slammed in their faces because of their ethnic origins. The rise of xenophobia and racial hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and espousing of racial purity through eugenics. I imagine it was a scary time indeed for youngsters like Evie, Jericho, Mabel, Theta, Memphis, Sam, and Henry. Much better to drown your sorrows in gin, constant partying, and watching movies on the Silver Screen, than to face the scary present and an uncertain future.
On top of that is a very real and very frightening supernatural peril, at a time where Modernism and self-determinism seems to counter beliefs in a supernatural God, must less anything like ghosts or even spiritual beliefs. How does one protect oneself against a ghost resurrected to continue his blasphemous work, when one doesn't even believe in that sort of thing, not as a Modern person? How can you conceal the fact that you have abilities that you are not able to explain in a rational sense?
Yes, combined together, this makes The Diviners not a fun read. At least most of the time. But it's very good. The characters were very vividly realized and I felt much sympathy for them even when I didn't agree with the choices they made. Evie, particularly, challenged me at times. Her reliance on drinking and her self-absorbed, questionable moral compass chafed at me. However, Bray shows the pain that lurks beneath her careless facade. Being the child who lived when her mother wanted her brother to come back from the War instead. Losing her only sibling to a war that didn't make any sense to her, and not even having a close relationship with her parents to console her. On top of that, her ability to read objects, and its effect on both her body (horrible dreams and headaches) and her reputation when she makes enemies by telling the truth, making her known as the weirdo who doesn't fit in. While Modernism seems the solution to the problems that she and many youngsters face, they run into the brick walls of establishment and parental authority, which is always telling them to follow rules that make no sense or have no personal relevance. Her dream to go to New York is a way to start her Real Life. She belongs there, where the party is, where she will fit in. However, she finds that many of her problems exist in New York as well, since she is answerable to her uncle, William Fitzgerald, and she's still considered a young girl to the establishment. When she gets involved in the case to find a ritualistic killer, her abilities give her a purpose and validation that she lacked before.
I appreciated how Bray uses each young character in this book as a frame of reference, across racial and social barriers, which the youth believe are artificial anyway. I sometimes questioned Bray's modern, almost Rainbow Coalition voice as I read, but with research into the era and the Modernist movement, it is clear that this voice was authentic to this era. I liked that she taught me a lot about the social politics of the time in the context of this fictional work. While I feel that this book has some very mature themes and dark themes and subject matter, I feel that it teaches important history lessons that a mature teen could benefit from. If I were a parent, I would suggest reading it first though.
The supernatural storyline was quite unnerving and disturbing. The tie into religious fanaticism made me uncomfortable, particularly in light of the fact that this was the major representation of modern belief in God in this story. I am not saying that Bray attacked religion, but perhaps these times were not as friendly overall to a positive view of Christianity not related to unpalatable social movements such as racial purity and isolationist xenophobia (keeping America pure). In the context of Memphis' journey as a young black man, Christianity doesn't seem to offer him much, since it has done little to improve either his life or the station of life for many people of his race. In the case of Evie, her parents' Episcopalian worship is strictly a social convention with little life or emotion. From that frame of reference, it's easy to see why this has no major influence on her own beliefs. Her friend Mabel's parents are atheistic social reformers, her father of Jewish background, and her mother a runaway socialite. In the case of Jericho, he renounced belief in a God who would abandon him to a life-threatening illness that changed his whole life. So when you have a killer who has grandiose beliefs of himself as the Beast who will bring about the end of the world, a very heretical corruption of Christian eschatology, it comes off as a very negative view of Christianity in general.
While Bray doesn't describe the murders in detail, she does show us the fear and the hopelessness of the victims of the killer, which was hard reading. Although society might consider them undesirable, to me, they were innocent human beings who didn't deserve what happened to them. I found it disturbing, although not gratuitous. Perhaps some readers wouldn't be as bothered. I admit I am a wimp when it comes to serial killers and psychopathic killers. It especially bothers me when religious imagery is mixed in with it.
While Evie's uncle Will is not a focus, I liked his character a lot. His scholarly bent and carefully disguised soft heart were a good foil for the younger characters. He is Old Guard, but the more time Evie spends with him, maybe he can show her that not all the values of the older generation are worthless. And maybe she can teach that it's okay to enjoy life and have a sense of emotional connection instead of viewing everything through a divorced and academic lens.
While I found the serial killer aspect disturbing, I like how this story sets up the series for a larger supernatural threat. I can definitely see this series building into something quite interesting and worthy of following.
Just a note about the narrator. She was excellent. She conveyed the characters very distinctly. I liked how she sang as well as speaking some of the parts. I felt like I was there in this period with her lively rendition on this audiobook.
The Diviners is a very good example of what young adult fiction has to offer to both teens and older readers who enjoy young adult books. I'd recommend it for the vivid and very faithful rendering of this intriguing time in history, the Roaring 20s, with an intriguing cast of characters that will bring me back to future books in this series.
The Fairy-Tale Detectives is a pleasant audiobook read that fans of fairy tales (young and those who are young at heart) will probably enjoy. I liked...moreThe Fairy-Tale Detectives is a pleasant audiobook read that fans of fairy tales (young and those who are young at heart) will probably enjoy. I liked the idea that the Grimms were actually a real family of chroniclers whose legacy continues into the present. Sisters Sabrina and Daphne make for likeable, fun protagonists. I felt for them in that they had lost their parents and were adrift and lacking family and a home. Their grandmother is the kind of gramps you dream of. Although Sabrina was very argumentative and hard to deal with at first, it's understandable why. She's acting out because of what she's dealing with. She feels betrayed at her parents' disappearance, and a series of bad foster homes, not to mention the burden of having to protect her younger sister. Daphne was far more likable, but then, she is still in that stage where she's more resilient against the cold, cruel world. I liked Granny Relda and Mr. Canis and of course, their dog Elvis.
I liked the inside jokes of the fairy tale characters that are very familiar to those who enjoy the subject. Puck was a lot of fun, and so were the three piggies who are now the law enforcement in town. The author surprised me at the twist on the storyline. I did not expect the direction the story went. It's interesting that I had also read the first graphic novel in the Fables series: Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile, so I saw some of the same characters with storylines that overlapped in interesting ways. While this is a kids series, I think it has enough nuances that an older reader can enjoy it.
Why didn't I rate it higher? I think the narrator and I didn't click very well. I also felt like the story took a while to develop and get interesting, and it never got to that "I have to hear what happens next" phase. Now that doesn't mean I won't continue this series. I'm definitely interested enough to keep going, but this isn't a series I have to read back to back. I'm happy to fill it in amongst other reading adventures. But still, The Fairy Tale Detectives has an interesting concept and appealing characters that do make me want to come back to revisit them in the future.