This is the third Ron Rash book that I've read, having fallen in love with him after reading Serena years ago, which was originally recommended by my good friend and fellow bookseller, Emily of As the Crowe Flies and Reads. For my extensive review of that book (and I DO recommend reading it before seeing the film), click here. For my review of the book of short stories of his that I read, Burning Bright, (which I also greatly enjoyed and recommend) click here.
Unfortunately, though Ron Rash is rightfully referred to at a "staggering talent," and though I did admire the two books I read previously, I did not see him live up to his potential in this latest novel. I'm warning you right now that this won't be a gushing review, so please move on if you're opposed to those types of things.
The book is told in somewhat alternating chapters narrated by Les, a sheriff nearing his retirement (literally weeks), and his sort-of-romantic interest, Becky, who is a local park ranger. I believe Mr. Rash was trying something new in this book by writing Becky's chapters in a type of poetic prose, with some of Becky's nature poems thrown in, while Les's chapters were written in more standard prose, though he was a man of few words. I do enjoy poetry, and thought Becky's poems were quite lovely and evocative of ee cummings, but I had difficulty settling into her chapters. They were few and far between, and mostly consumed with either flashbacks of the school shooting she experienced, her grandparents farm where she recuperated, or descriptions of the present-day North Carolina landscape. I didn't think they added much to story, and frankly, I wasn't that impressed by the plot anyway. What I enjoyed about Burning Bright was quick the slice-of-life views of Appalachian communities that the short story form supported. In Above the Waterfall, it was as if Mr. Rash took one of those stories and then dragged it out for 250 pages, which was frankly unnecessary. I also found Becky's sections difficult to follow. It was as if my brain kept trying to hold onto the words to make sense of them, and the meaning kept slipping away, just out of reach. Reading her chapters always pulled me out of the narrative, rather than forwarding the plot, which made reading the book overall more difficult than I wanted or needed it to be.
Back to the plot - Anyone who's read Elmore Leonard's books about Raylan or seen the show Justified will have a pretty decent working knowledge of the meth problem in rural towns. Mr. Rash adds nothing new to the scene. He doesn't give a particularly edgy accounting of that life nor does he push the boundaries of the heartache meth can cause and the affect it has on local communities. As a mystery aficionado, the mystery in this novel was very stale, with no gasping reveals and instead only a quiet resolution. In fact, as much as this sounds like a backhanded compliment, the best praise I can give is that this novel held really no surprises, much like the town's inhabitants, and so perhaps, in that mirroring, there lies a quiet literary genius. If so, I admit it was lost on me, and perhaps that's my shortcoming rather than the book's. I'm hoping Mr. Rash's next work will dive a little deeper into whatever story he's telling....more
As with a lot of Jennifer E. Smith’s books, this book is about the publisher description and so much more as we get to know these particular characterAs with a lot of Jennifer E. Smith’s books, this book is about the publisher description and so much more as we get to know these particular characters. Yes, Lucy moves to Edinburgh with her parents, but what this doesn’t tell you is that Lucy’s parents are frequent world travelers, leaving Lucy at home in their New York City apartment, and Lucy wants nothing more than to go somewhere. It also doesn’t tell you that Owen and his father are reeling with grief, adding a different kind of weight to their decisions and interactions. Owen is determined to travel everywhere, and his trip out west mimics a trip Owen’s mother and father took during the first two years of their marriage. As the story unfolds, it becomes a meditation on what “home” means, on communication in the 21st century, and on interpreting the ways different people make you feel when you’re with them and when you’re not. Also, the author has Lucy read a different book that is about or of or from the places she goes (Catcher in the Rye in NYC, Julius Ceaser in Rome, etc.), and I love that idea.
Beautiful. Heartbreaking. I fell in love with the language of it and the romance of it and the way my heart still hurts now that I've finished it.
It'sBeautiful. Heartbreaking. I fell in love with the language of it and the romance of it and the way my heart still hurts now that I've finished it.
It's brilliant but terrible in its lack of traditional happy ending. Both parties end up with - as harsh as this sounds - what they deserve, but God it still hurts.
I never expected to find myself enjoying a book that spoke so much about Catholic God and faith, but they speak of it in a way that's palpable to an agnostic Jew, which I think really says a lot. I don't shy away from conversations about faith, and in fact, find belief and adherence to those beliefs and searching for those beliefs to be a very real and human and admirable thing. The way the author intertwined the search for faith and the belief in religion with the search and belief in love was, for lack of a better description, done incredibly well. It didn't feel too didactic or heavy-handed, probably because Frances was so pragmatic about the whole thing. To say I enjoyed it doesn't pay homage to the way my heart feels torn apart, but throughout 3/4ths of this book, I did absolutely enjoy reading about Frances and Bernard falling in like and then in love and then I had to figure out what to do about how very much I respected Frances for her convictions and living up to them while I also very much believe in Bernard's declarations of love and try to live my own life believing in it.
*Spoiler alert in the next paragraph!
The one tiny glitch that I am still thinking about is how Bernard's character was framed after his marriage to Susan - all his infidelities. We are absolutely influenced by those we love most, and so though it is possible that Frances might have been influenced for the worse by Bernard's character, was it not also possible that in marrying Bernard, Frances could have been the making of him instead? Was Bernard's character allowed to run out of check because of Susan's character, herself?
That aside, it's going to take me a little while to build back up from all that again. Some books are supposed to make you feel like that.
I feel like I underlined half the book, but here are some particular favorites:
"I thought I had been growing up by unleashing my strength and mind onto the world, by imposing myself and not being afraid of it, but this suddenly began to seem like a lifetime of tantrums. I'd gotten used to having too much, at having whatever I willed become real, which had made my will promiscuous. Not strong at all." (19)
"She is a girl, but she is also an old man, and I see that there is intractability in her heart that may never be shattered. Perhaps that is because she grew up among women who love harder than they think, and she has strengthened her innate intractability in order to keep tunneling toward a place where she could write undisturbed by the demands of conventional femininity. So she may always think harder than she loves." (48)
"My life without you would certainly be less. That is one think I know." (77)
"'Bernard,' I said, and took his hand. 'No, no, that's not enough,' he said. He took the package out of my other hand, put it down on a chair, and then pulled me to him. He was right. That wasn't enough." (81)
"I wonder what of your mother was encoded in you without your knowing; what of your life is a letter she wrote you that you have just opened and will take your whole life to read." (85)
"...people who made a point to weave themselves together because they had poured out their blood among one another. They may be annoyed with each other, but they do not hate each other. They understand that annoyance is a fair price to pay for the strange protective love of family." (132)
"You rely on your books for things the rest of us search for in people... 'Your books need no help from me. They are for you alone. When you don't want to be alone, then here I am.'" (177)...more
This book has been described as of interest to fans of the movie Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. While it's true that there areThis book has been described as of interest to fans of the movie Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. While it's true that there are similarities - romance among two people brought together by new findings that shed light upon a piece of British history - the pacing of this novel would have been much better served as a movie. While I am glad I read it, I can't say I simply enjoyed it.
The story got lost for me in the emphasis placed on everything from the detailed descriptions of the British and Welsh countrysides to ancient historical events and genealogies to dreamscapes (which really seemed most out of place) to almost everything but the forward momentum of the story itself. I could see how the sweeping vistas would be gorgeous in a movie, or how the impeccably researched historical elements might appeal to history buffs, but I wanted more meat to the story itself. The very writing itself seemed to contain a kind of stereotypical British constraint that was occasionally swept aside by a fanciful phrase that almost did more to distract than add, it being so out of place.
All of that said, something about it kept me reading, maybe because the pacing was just enough to hook me in as I was about to give up with some new piece of the mystery or new development in a character's relationship. I did like the characters: Donald Gladstone is the co-main character along with Julia Llewelyn. He's an archaeologist; she's a researcher for the OED. Her husband, Hugh Mortimer, I thought was the least realized character, despite his rather central role in the end. Some intriguing minor characters come in, with Donald's American ex-wife being my least favorite, mostly because she either put on airs as a character or the author genuinely believes American women act like this (either one being of extreme annoyance to me).
A slow build for sure, I was almost most disappointed in the ending, for right as there is a final build-up to the actual find that brings all the various pieces of the historical mystery together, the author prefers to write something prosaic and leave it all to our imagination, what happens next, as opposed to giving the reader some closure - which, ironically I felt, was something several of characters throughout the novel were looking for (closure). Overall, I'd recommend less historical reference, more character development....more
Meet Hyde, Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle. By day, they are assistants to three powerful men in Edwardian London. By night, they are the masked heroinMeet Hyde, Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle. By day, they are assistants to three powerful men in Edwardian London. By night, they are the masked heroines that make up the Friday Society.
When flower girls start being murdered, men of science turn up dead, and bits of London start blowing up, it is up to these three to use their unique talents to put it all together and save London from permanent destruction. Cora (Hyde) uses her brilliant scientific mind and her knowledge of the streets from her time spent living on them as a child. Nora (Lady Sparkle) uses her beautiful face and flexible body to escape any trap and scale any wall. Michiko (Silver Heart) uses her formidable fighting skills as a trained samurai to defeat any foe. Together they have the brains, beauty, and brawn to save London.
Irreverent, funny, full of steampunk costumes and inventions, these three ladies are set to take London by storm - as long as they can ditch their bumbling male handlers and be back in time by morning, of course.
"How shocking. Truly. One simply doesn't do such things in polite society."...more
**spoiler alert** Having enjoyed Kresley Cole's adult novels, I was interested to see what her YA would be like. It's definitely smoldering, in more w**spoiler alert** Having enjoyed Kresley Cole's adult novels, I was interested to see what her YA would be like. It's definitely smoldering, in more ways than one. The heat between Evangeline (Evie) Greene and Jackson (Jack) Deveaux sizzles on the page, while the real burning fire of the Flash - the end of the world event that has killed almost everyone on Earth, turning the survivors into evil creatures called Bagmen who eat anything with liquid, or plain ole cannibals, or power-hungry militants - is gruesome enough to give you nightmares. Among the few non-evil survivors are 16-year-old Evie and the motorcycle-riding, whiskey-drinking, bad-ass bad boy Jack.
**SPOILER ALERT. PLOT DISCUSSED**
Former schoolmates from opposite sides of the bayou in Louisiana, the book opens with Evie talking about what happened in the week leading up to the Flash, the end of the world as everyone knew it. It's the first week of school and as one of the most popular and richest girls in the county (cheerleader dating the hot quarterback, etc.), Evie is trying her hardest to pretend it's business as usual. What she's concealing is the summer she spent in a mental institution, drugged and brainwashed into denying her psychotic episodes. She sees things - burning skies, plants that come alive - and often sleepwalks while having nightmares. Her mother sends her away, denying everything, and Evie is forced to play along. Everything is okay at first, but despite taking her meds, the hallucinations begin to happen all the time, and the voices in her head - voices of other teenagers - just won't stop. She also can't stop the fleeting flashbacks to a memory of her grandmother who used to tell her about Tarot; the characters were real in her grandmother's stories, not just symbols on cards. Add to all that the pressure her boyfriend is putting on her to have sex, the intense attraction and dislike she feels for new kid Jack Deveaux, and Evie is a hot mess.
Then the Flash happens, the scorching sun burning everyone and everything exposed. Evie and her mother were able to hide in their basement, but almost everyone else they know wasn't so lucky. With supplies running low, Evie makes a desperate discovery - her blood brings plants to life. Secretly tending a garden in her barn, Evie tries to not feel desperate at her mother's weakening condition, the rumors of the military and cannibals heading her way (not sure which is worse - to be repeatedly raped or murdered and eaten?), and she has no way out. Until Jack Deveaux rides up on his motorcycle one day, just ahead of the approaching army. When her mother dies in the night, Evie agrees to go with Jack on one condition - he take her to find her grandmother who Evie secretly thinks may have some of the answers to her hallucinations.
Evie has begun to realize that Tarot is real, that the voices in her head are really the voices of other teenagers who represent other Tarot characters, and that Evie herself is one of them. Along the way, Evie & Jack pick up other teenage survivors - Matthew, Selena, and Finneas - who Evie recognizes as other Tarot characters. It seems each Tarot character has a choice, whether to fight on the side of good or evil, though Evie has a hard time recognizing this battle within herself. As Evie, Jack, and the crew continue on their dangerous cross-country journey, they are fighting an uphill battle against almost everything - limited food and water, the Bagmen, the cannibals, the army they have to avoid, and most of all, their attraction to each other. Jack and Evie have an undeniable connection, Matthew loves Evie but like a brother, Selena wants Jack, while Finn wants Selena. It's all raging battles and raging hormones as the crew tries to adjust to each other, their powers, and what to do next. Both Jack and Evie have secrets to hide, and despite all they've been through, both don't quite trust each other. As Evie gets closer to realizing just who and what she really is, she realizes one of the things that scares her the most is that Jack will reject who she may turn out to be - she's not just the Poison Princess, she is the Empress, the one who will win over the other Arcana, the other members of the Tarot, by seeing them all dead with their glyphs written on her body....more
**spoiler alert** Melissa Marr hits it out of the park again in this book that took everyone – herself, her publisher, and her fans, as she was not sc**spoiler alert** Melissa Marr hits it out of the park again in this book that took everyone – herself, her publisher, and her fans, as she was not scheduled to release this year – by great surprise. What’s not so surprising is that if this book had any amount of graphic sex in it, it would be shelved in the paranormal adult romance section. It doesn’t, making it both appropriate and perhaps a tad disappointing for readers 16+. What it doesn’t have in sex, it makes up for in spades with magic and witchcraft, casual and purposeful violence, harsh emotional realities, and that romantic and sexual tension that can only be created by two people destined to be on opposing teams while being together. When you’re introduced to a centuries-old battle between witches and daimons, what else can you expect?
**Spoiler alert! Plot discussed!**
Mallory is, unknown to her, the missing daughter of Marchosias, ruler of the daimon world. Hidden for 17 years by her birth mother, Selah, a daimon Watcher, and her adopted father, Adam, a very powerful witch, in the Earth realm, Mallory was raised to hate and fight against daimons. Adam has used his magic to keep her from knowing her true daimon self, and that she is why they keep moving so often. He also uses magic to erase her memory of fighting the daimons Marchosias has sent looking for her, and that the new boy, the first boy, she has ever liked, is in fact Kaleb, a cur from the daimon realm, a part-time assassin hired to discover Mallory’s whereabouts, and one of the final contestants in the fight-to-the-death competition held at the Carnival of Souls. Once he does meet Mallory, the game changes, as they are both unprepared for the connection they have.
Kaleb recognizes Mallory as his mate, and when Adam goes missing in the daimon realm, Kaleb will stop at nothing – even aligning himself with Aya, the half-witch, half-daimon child of Evelyn, head of the Council of Witches, and Aya’s familiar, the daimon Belias – to help Mallory travel to the daimon realm, explore her daimon nature, stand up to her birth father Marchosias, and save her adopted father Adam.
I can’t help but be reminded of the machinations of the ruling families during the bloodiest years of European history, and half expect to see these twisted plot lines in a Showtime series like The Tudors someday. Earth vs. daimon realm, witches vs. daimons, parents vs. children, love vs. hate – all face off in Melissa Marr’s newest book, first in what is sure to be a trilogy or series....more
My friend asked me why I gave it only two stars, and this was my response. It's masquerading as a review:
I really wanted to like it! It was on my TBRMy friend asked me why I gave it only two stars, and this was my response. It's masquerading as a review:
I really wanted to like it! It was on my TBR list, and then a book group I'm in chose it, so I was excited to pick it up. But it just annoyed the crap out of me almost from the beginning. I think it has a lot to do with the place I'm at in my own life right now, but everyone was SO whiny and self-centered and dishonorable that I had a lot of trouble feeling comfortable with any of the characters. Everyone was just so f-ing PASSIVE! "Wah, this all happens TO me. I'm in these situations I don't like but will continue to go along with because someone else is steamrolling right over my (mostly internal) weak protests." Pasquale was the only one I actually LIKED (though I get you don't have to like a character to connect with a book), and it wasn't just because I was proud of him for doing the right thing, but because he did something - anything - at all to change his life. Even Dee said at one point that being with her husband was like being on an island - like she was just waiting with him in this middle period, waiting for her life to begin (which was a HUGE theme throughout the course of the book). But she doesn't consciously DO anything to change her life, or her son's life, until Pasquale re-enters (I'm being vague to avoid spoilers in case anyone else reads this rant). In terms of the writing style, again that was something I really wanted to like, because in theory, I'm super supportive of multiple POVs and various narrative styles to move plot forward, but the way it was executed made me feel uncomfortable (again) and disjointed and vaguely annoyed almost the entire time. Then there's the writing itself, which I thought was a little rambly and whiny and self-congratulatory and cliched on the existential bits (and there was a part where the author consciously used a big metaphor and chose El Dorado when Don Quixote would have been a much better and more relatable choice). Also, I didn't like the last chapter, except for the very last Pasquale/Dee part. I suppose some argument could be made that wrapping up their story was given greater context by wrapping up the other loose ends of secondary and even tertiary characters, but the wrap-ups seemed too pat for me. There were two beautiful lines in the entire book that gave me pause, and other than that, the writing didn't knock my socks off. So, all of that combined, two stars....more