Very interesting for its atmospheric historical setting and its more mature YA tone. A bit too slow to get going for me, but still a perfect read forVery interesting for its atmospheric historical setting and its more mature YA tone. A bit too slow to get going for me, but still a perfect read for the season!...more
If you have read Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, then you already know gorgeous and evocative her writing is! When I heard of Bellman & BIf you have read Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, then you already know gorgeous and evocative her writing is! When I heard of Bellman & Black, the one thing I had high expectations for was her beautiful prose, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Her writing even more engaging than I remembered, and it was a pleasure to follow her through the dark and gothic tale of William Bellman.
The setting was rich and the atmosphere really gripping. From the start, I was pulled into William’s life and I love how we followed him from childhood to his career to his own adult life. As readers, we got to witness most of William’s important life events, and even though it was quick, it was just the right pace. There’s an air of mystery that envelops his whole life, and while it does take a little while before we get to the heart of it (this isn’t a instant-adventure kind of book), it is absolutely worth the trip.
I did enjoyed this book a little less than The Thirteenth Tale though, and I think there were two reasons for this. First, I found there was a lot of details about his work, which didn’t bring anything to the story or the feel of it. While I admire the research the author must have put into it, it was at times a little too technical, almost jarringly so compared to her beautiful writing.
I also found it difficult to relate to William or any of the characters. There was a constant distance between me and them I felt, a distance the narration didn’t manage to diminish. So while I was absolutely in love with the gothic atmosphere and the writing, I was a little disappointed I didn’t feel strong love or hate or anything passionate for the characters.
All in all though, I really liked this one. Diane Setterfield has been part of my two participations to the R.I.P. challenge, and I’m a little sad there isn’t more from her waiting for me. Even with its little flaws, this book has some gorgeous qualities, and I’ll be happy to recommend it to readers looking for a dark, enigmatic tale....more
I hadn't realized, until reading A Murder at Rosamund's Gate, how much I had missed reading historical mysteries. There's an unpredictable nature to tI hadn't realized, until reading A Murder at Rosamund's Gate, how much I had missed reading historical mysteries. There's an unpredictable nature to them that can't be replicated except maybe in speculative fiction, in the fact that I am never familiar enough with the times past to fully know what to expect. The characters, the technology, the daily life activities are all coated in a sort of fog that I can only pierce through with the author's help.
Susanna Calkins definitely succeeded here in taking me back to the 17th century, and making it real to me. While the novel isn't overflowing with details about the period, it was just enough to create a vivid picture in my mind without slowing the story. The political and religious setting was done well, too, I felt. I was transported in time and pushed to imagine what it would have been living then and there.
I immediately warmed up to Lucy, even though she was at times stupidly brave (but then, most heroines are!) There was also a great cast of characters around her, and though I sometimes felt that we didn't really get to know them, I enjoyed the diversity in class, age, and all.
I also appreciated that the drama was light; the novel wasn't about numerous ohmygod-twists and ridiculous misunderstandings, but rather straightforward without being boring or too predictable. Also, not very heavy on romance, which was surprising in a nice way. There's just a glimpse of it to make the story more pleasant and human, but it wasn't overwhelming the story.
All in all, I quite enjoyed Susanna Calkins' first novel. Her writing was smooth and easy, and her decision to modernize the language (which doesn't always worked) helped me believe the story and the characters. I will be looking out for her next novel, which for now seems to be coming out next April....more
In The Shadow of Blackbirds was what I would call a very pleasant bookish surprise. It didn't receive as much attention at the time of its release asIn The Shadow of Blackbirds was what I would call a very pleasant bookish surprise. It didn't receive as much attention at the time of its release as some other books did (none that I saw, anyway), but the few reviews I read of it were enough to intrigue me. Early 20th century, war time, spirit photographers; everything was there to make a compelling story!
And compelling, it was. The setting was rich and I immediately felt transported to another era. The author seemed to know just which detail to insist on to create the perfect atmosphere, incorporating history, mystery and unexplained (paranormal) events. The way the story combines the romantic aspects and the paranormal ones felt gothic, yet the whole book came off as very realistic despite its spiritual immersions. If anything, this realistic tone amplified the book's scariness.
The book also had a few monochrome pictures in between the chapters. These photographs didn't relate specifically to moments of the story, but instead helped my imagination by giving me a hint of the world as it was in 1918. Loved that, and it certainly made it worth getting a paper copy of the book!
The writing was good and I liked how it felt a tad more adult than most young adult novels. Mary was a character like I love them; with faults and strengths, and a real personal growth through the story.
So despite a start that I felt was a bit unsure of its feet, I absolutely enjoyed my time reading Cat Winters' first novel. The horrors of the spiritual world and the horrors of the real world created a unique atmosphere that I found very unsettling - all of which gave me an amazing reading experience. Despite what little detail I have of it, I am already super excited by the author's new book coming in 2014, The Cure for Dreaming!...more
I went into The Aviator's Wife knowing very little about the Lindberghs. I knew of the name, and that it related to the beginnings of aviation. I wasI went into The Aviator's Wife knowing very little about the Lindberghs. I knew of the name, and that it related to the beginnings of aviation. I was excited to discover an era I didn't know so well, a part of history I normally wouldn't have investigated on my own, and to be reading more from Melanie Benjamin, who's novel Alice I Have Been I had loved.
Anne's life was certainly unique and eventful, and I can see why the author picked her as the object of her new novel. I had no idea the Lindberghs had been such a fascination for the people at the time, with paparazzi and crazies following them everywhere. The kidnapping was a shock for me, and I immediately went to wikipedia to find out if this was truth, or an imagining of the author (I'll let those who know as little as I did discover it by themselves!)
Anne was definitely a character made of strengths and weaknesses (a positive point for me). Benjamin didn't gloss over some of Anne's less glorious traits, to a point where it was frustrating to read at times. From the beginning and almost to the end, Anne stands idly by her husband, nodding along everything he says or does because he's her husband, and of all men, he is Charles Lindbergh. I couldn't help but want to shake some sense into her. Anne does write books and end up living a more independent life towards the end, but it is a much smaller part of the novel.
Still, it would be hard not to feel for Anne, for despite her occasional passivity, she appears as a character with great sensibility. Benjamin's talent shines through Anne's emotional journey. She is such a contrast to her husband's cold attitude! Anne is a wife, yes, but she's also an aviator herself, a mother, a sister, an author. She's a complex woman, and as she struggles to define herself out of her husband's shadow, I was all the more intrigued by her. This had me planning on discovering more of her writing and life.
There were some aspects I enjoyed less of the book; mainly, I felt as if I was going through a list of events which didn't follow each other seamlessly. I understand the author's desire to follow these historical characters through some of the most important historical events; however, I sometimes felt as if these were forced into the story. Chapters jumped years, with Anne offering a little summary of what had happened in between, and it unsettled my reader's mind a little every time.
There is very little negative to be said about Melanie Benjamin's newest historical novel. Anne Lindbergh's life was a fascinating one, a tragic one, a complex one. Discovering these important historical figures through Benjamin's soft and sensitive prose made it an even greater reading experience. For readers who enjoy historical fiction which focuses more on the internal life of the characters than on the historical details, The Aviator's Wife is a perfect pick....more
To be honest, I went into this book expecting the worst: I had read plenty of not so positive reviews of Changeling, and I feared I would be tremendouTo be honest, I went into this book expecting the worst: I had read plenty of not so positive reviews of Changeling, and I feared I would be tremendously disappointed. Maybe because I had such low expectations, I ended up thinking Changeling was quite an entertaining novel. Not without faults, but still a book I enjoyed.
I mentioned faults, and I feel like getting them out of the way right away. The main one, for me, was the lack of depth of the main characters. We get to know enough about their past and what led them each to this particular place at this particular time, but that’s pretty much it. We don’t learn much about their personalities, and so both Isolde and Luca feel quite bland and predictable. And while each of their best friend/slave seem to have more personality, the villains are very one-dimensional.
There’s another flaw I noticed while reading Changeling and it is a fault I see many authors of adult fiction do when they switch to YA : rather than writing with passion an eloquent story about two young characters, I felt like the author mostly “simplified” her usual writing. I’ve read Gregory only twice before (The Other Boleyn Girl and Wideacre) so my sample for comparison is limited, but that’s a feeling I had many times while reading the book. She does mention in her afterword that she wanted to make something more fun, less based on facts, so that may have played into it. I felt the book could have had more depth and detail while retaining it’s entertaining quality, but that’s just me.
Enough about the bad, let’s talk about the good! I love books set in Italy and I love historical fiction, and the experience I had of reading this one was exactly what I was looking for when I cracked it open : something historical and fun, that wouldn’t take itself too seriously without being about parties and dresses (even though I do enjoy those from time to time!), with a good mystery and some supernatural elements. Here I should write a warning of some sort; if you read the publisher’s summary thinking there’ll be witches and werewolves all around, you’ll be disappointed. But if you think of Luca as an investigator solving mysteries that appear to be supernatural, then you’ll know what you’re in for. I’m not saying whether or not there’s magic and all, just saying that it’s not a central element.
What Gregory excels at, in my opinion, is writing with enough detail that I never forgot it all took place some 500 years ago. Sometimes it’s in the little details (a piece of clothing, a certain vocabulary) and sometimes it’s little things in the scenes (like Isolde using, gasp! a fork!). The heavy presence of religion is also very indicative of the time and setting. It really felt medieval, and while the author chose to give herself some creative freedom by using fictional characters, her knowledge of history really showed.
The interior of Changeling is filled with gorgeous detailing (click on the picture for a better view).
I also appreciated that Luca and Isolde didn’t immediately fell in love and renounced to their personal quests for each other. Oh, there are definitely signs of a romance, and more of them as the story progresses. But the two keep their heads on their shoulders, and I liked that. I appreciated even more how they confided in and trusted their best friends/acolytes/slaves. I felt that the secondary characters weren’t there just to quip some funny lines (although Freize certainly does that a lot!), but to play each their own part in the story. And I liked Ishraq a lot; I would gladly read a novel all about her!
The book really had two small stories that worked themselves into the bigger adventure; the one that brought Luca and Isolde together, and the one they encounter later on their way to their next destination. Was I able to foresee what happened and who did it? Somewhat. I had a few surprises, which is always pleasant, but it is not written to be a puzzling book, so you can really sit, read it, and enjoy.
In the end, I really liked Changeling. The book itself is gorgeous and it is quick enough to be read in one sitting. The book is supposedly the first in a series, but I have no idea when the sequel will be published; I only know that, had I had said sequel on my shelves, I would have read it right after finishing this one!...more
I liked this one. I really wish there was more YA historical fiction (maybe when the trend of dystopia calms down?) and I am always on the lookout forI liked this one. I really wish there was more YA historical fiction (maybe when the trend of dystopia calms down?) and I am always on the lookout for more. This one combined many things I like; the historical part of course, but also the mystery. Romance can be good, but a great mystery will always have my preference.
I had two problems with The Musician’s Daughter that kept me from completely loving it; the predictability of the story, and the disconnect I had with Theresa. Through her tragedy and her adventures, I didn’t really get a sense of who she was. I wanted to know her and root for her, and I did to a certain extent, but not enough to deeply care for her.
It was still a good book I would not hesitate to recommend for readers wanting to read some historical fiction. I already plan on reading more by Susanne Dunlap. The setting was great and I could feel the author had put time into her research, something I will always appreciate! ...more
I’ll admit it; I got myself a copy of Something Strange and Deadly for the pretty cover and the promise of steampunk zombies, but I wasn’t expecting tI’ll admit it; I got myself a copy of Something Strange and Deadly for the pretty cover and the promise of steampunk zombies, but I wasn’t expecting to be enjoying it as much as I did!
Probably because I was expecting it to be the main focus of the novel (as is often the case in YA paranormal novels), my biggest surprise was how little romance we actually see in the book. There’s no love at first sight, no continuous daydreaming about the gorgeous boy, no constant scenes of kissing and flirting. Instead, the romance sets in naturally, slowly, and ends up on a question rather than a blatant answer, which I found immensely refreshing! It left me wanting more, in a good way.
Another pleasant surprise was how true the historical setting felt. Through her detailing of fashion, architecture but also social characteristics, the author transported me to another time, another place. For a paranormal novel, I felt much more like I was reading an historical fiction one; the Dead and the steampunk elements were very present, but in a very subtle, realistic manner. It felt to me that the author achieved a great balance between history and imaginary.
I also greatly appreciated the characters, the good ones like the less good ones. There was a great variety, and I felt that even the ones we saw less of had some depth. I was intrigued by them all, but also to see how they interacted with each other. The Spirit-Hunters definitely won in the likability department though! I loved their chemistry together, and I would have spent a whole novel with them! As for Eleanor, I couldn’t ask more from a main character : she was fierce, curious, intelligent, independent, all qualities that do cause her some more troubles of course!
The writing was fluid and, with the constant action and mystery, kept me reading until the end. I do think the conclusion was very obvious, and I would have loved for it to have a bit more complexity; but in the end I was left satisfied, with just a few more hooks to bring me back for the next book!
It’s a great day when a book you expected ordinary turns out to be anything but; Something Strange and Deadly was just the entertainment I needed and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other fans of historical fiction, zombies and parasols!...more