3.5 stars. It is a very good book that deserves the praise it is getting. The mediocre star rating reflects my personal feeling that it didn't spark w3.5 stars. It is a very good book that deserves the praise it is getting. The mediocre star rating reflects my personal feeling that it didn't spark with me the way my favorite books do. But you can read my very positive review on my blog, if you're interested: http://effusionsofwitandhumour.wordpr...
After enjoying the debut mystery in J.K. Rowling’s new Cormoran Strike* detective books, I of course wondered whether the books to come wou3.5 stars.
After enjoying the debut mystery in J.K. Rowling’s new Cormoran Strike* detective books, I of course wondered whether the books to come would be as enjoyable. I’m glad to report that at least this second installment is even better than the first, having a more interesting plot, deeper character development, and a surer handling of the elements pertaining to its genre: the clues, the red herrings, and the inevitable denouement.
This book was given to me free of charge for advance review as a popmatters.com reviewer.
Zee and her husband, Doug, move into the former ca4.5 stars.
This book was given to me free of charge for advance review as a popmatters.com reviewer.
Zee and her husband, Doug, move into the former carriage house on her mother’s estate in Illinois. It is 1999. The estate, Laurelfield, was formerly an artists’ colony that housed various writers and artists, among them the deceased poet Edwin Parfitt, about whom Doug is writing a book.
Zee, a Marxist scholar, is somewhat embarrassed by her family’s wealth and stature. The Devohrs of Toronto “sat firmly in the second tier of the great families of the last century, not with the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts of the world but certainly shoulder-to-shoulder with the Astors…” Even her mother, Grace Breen neé Devohr, never uses her maiden name, though she bequeaths it to her daughter as a middle name, a fact Zee conceals fervently. But Zee is not without class-consciousness, of a sort: her embarrassment at Doug’s lack of progress in his writing makes her increasingly anxious to push his career forward by any means possible.
After the first half of the book, the narrative goes back in time, first to 1955, then to 1929, and finally to 1900, when the house was built.
In describing the book’s considered structure and myriad moving parts, it would be easy to inadvertently make The Hundred Year House sound a bit intimidating. Never think it. The book is rich and complicated, yes, but also light and funny and in love with its characters, in their good and bad moments.
This book was given to me free of charge for advance review as a popmatters.com writer.
Fans of the first two books will be well satisfied with the finThis book was given to me free of charge for advance review as a popmatters.com writer.
Fans of the first two books will be well satisfied with the final installment. It has most everything they might expect, and enough of what they won’t to keep them as vested in the action as ever Quentin hoped to be.
Atmospheric page turner that stays with you after you finish. Well written mystery, good characters, and dark themes that are thought-provoking but neAtmospheric page turner that stays with you after you finish. Well written mystery, good characters, and dark themes that are thought-provoking but never heavy-handed. I will definitely be reading more Dennis Lehane in the near future....more
3.5 stars. Intensely engrossing. Tore through it in a day, good writing, but nothing world-changing. Preferred the later Gone, Baby, Gone, which takes3.5 stars. Intensely engrossing. Tore through it in a day, good writing, but nothing world-changing. Preferred the later Gone, Baby, Gone, which takes the themes of universal evil and complicity and takes them further....more
Barraclough’s YA horror novel has an ineffective multiple POV structure and ends too abruptly, leaving several points of interest unresolved after a lBarraclough’s YA horror novel has an ineffective multiple POV structure and ends too abruptly, leaving several points of interest unresolved after a lengthy build-up. But if you can get past all this, there’s a lot of wonderfully creepy stuff, and a highly visual and atmospheric setting.
That setting would be the English countryside in 1958, where Cora and her little sister, Mimi, have been sent by their father following their mother’s unexplained disappearance. They are to live with their great-aunt Ida, who has let herself and her ancient family home fall into disrepair. She warns Cora and Mimi not to ask questions and to stay away from the old church, but, being children, they disobey her and awaken Long Lankin, who has preyed on the youth of their family for generations.
The book’s main material is great. Any evil thing that has a creepy rhyme associated with it is going to have some allure for the horror fan, no? And the old rotting mansion in the English countryside has been done many times, but for a good reason. Barraclough uses the trope well, describing the house with visuals, smells, and textures. Cora interacts with the house as if it were a living thing, moving in and around and through it, discovering it. The vastness of the house underscores her solitariness despite the presence of her aunt and sister. The horror scenes are so perfectly scary that I wanted the rest of the book to match their excellence, but my desire to read more about Cora’s family and its curse was dampened by POV chapters from Aunt Ida and Cora’s friend Roger. Ida has a backstory, but she never really comes to life as a character, and it would have made the book better if her personality had been merely sketched out with plenty of space for the reader to infer more intricate shading. As it is, the book reads as if it tried to give her a voice and failed. Cora’s friend Roger is a completely irrelevant distraction. It’s hard to tell whether Barraclough was trying to use him to further the plot (he doesn’t), or to create a larger sense of atmosphere in a small town of superstitious people (he doesn’t). These missteps add to the sense that the book is somehow unfinished, or at least not well-edited. There’s a great book in here, chopped up by some material that is trying to make it into something else. http://effusionsofwitandhumour.wordpr......more
This was my first encounter with Sophie Hannah. It may be my last. Not that the book was bad; there are just better, tighter thrillers out there. CertThis was my first encounter with Sophie Hannah. It may be my last. Not that the book was bad; there are just better, tighter thrillers out there. Certainly it starts out well: recovering from a difficult birthing, Alice Fancourt returns from her first post-op outing to find that the child in her baby’s crib is not her child. They look alike, but not the same, and Alice swears the new baby’s cry is different. Her vacuous and controlling husband David insists it is their baby, and driven nearly insane through exhaustion, worry, and frustration that the police don’t seem to believe her, Alice attempts to investigate her daughter’s disappearance on her own. She must also contend with her domineering mother-in-law, who oversees nearly every aspect of her son’s life and Alice’s. The chapters from Alice’s point of view alternate with third-person omniscient chapters about Simon Waterhouse, the detective assigned to her case. Waterhouse is not sure what to believe, other than that he is extremely suspicious of David, whose first wife was murdered in an apparent mugging.
Hannah does an excellent job of keeping the reader in suspense as to the state of Alice’s mental health. Since David also appears to be somewhat unhinged, we don’t know whose word to take. But this is one of the book’s only strengths. Intersplicing first-person chapters with third-person sections could have increased the tension, if it weren’t for the fact that the Waterhouse sub-plot is a drag. It would be of little interest even as a separate story, but it shares no thematic links to the main plot and barely moves the story forward. When the stories do begin to tie together a bit more closely towards the end, the pace gets pulled up short by a lengthy denouement. By this time, the reader is too exhausted and disappointed to even analyze for continuity errors. I know Hannah is a fairly popular author; perhaps her subsequent novels are more tightly plotted and structured than her first. http://effusionsofwitandhumour.wordpr......more
Giving this a four not because it's a life-changing work of literature, but because it's just extremely well-done horror by someone who can actually wGiving this a four not because it's a life-changing work of literature, but because it's just extremely well-done horror by someone who can actually write. It's effing scary, you can't put it down, and the characters actually have recognizable voices and motivations! If you've heard of Matheson, you know he's one of the masters of this genre, so material that in anyone else's hands would come off tired-- haunted houses, possession, "deviant" sexual practices-- instead just reminds you why everyone tries to use this stuff in the first place. It's so over the top it borders on campy, but he makes it work. Fun as hell, and just as scary....more
4.5 stars, for being as awesome as a book can be without being profoundly life-changing to me. I wrote a full review of it on the ol' blog. http://effu4.5 stars, for being as awesome as a book can be without being profoundly life-changing to me. I wrote a full review of it on the ol' blog. http://effusionsofwitandhumour.wordpr......more
It’s been out since last year, so you may have already read some reviews for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. But if you haven’t– don’t. AlmostIt’s been out since last year, so you may have already read some reviews for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. But if you haven’t– don’t. Almost all the reviews I saw contained spoilers, and though none of them ruined the book for me (it is really too good to be ruined), I envy the reader who picks it up completely ignorant of its treasures. I’ll say only that it’s narrated by Rosemary Cooke, who as a child had her sister taken away from her for reasons she did not understand.
The story of what happened to her sister and why is interesting enough, but on top of that, Fowler is a thoughtful writer who creates in Rosemary a character who is aware of the discrepancy between memory and fact– and who is also aware that there is as much truth to be found in one as in the other. It’s also the rare book with a nifty premise that doesn’t fall apart at the end. The premise isn’t merely a trick– it informs and enhances the meaning of the book. Read at least the first 100 pages. You’ll be hooked. http://effusionsofwitandhumour.wordpr......more