I could rate this book a lot higher if it had ended on page 227 after the first part of Nick's first chapter in the second section. Everything seemedI could rate this book a lot higher if it had ended on page 227 after the first part of Nick's first chapter in the second section. Everything seemed self-indulgent and watered down what had been a perfectly plotted suspense story. Instead I was subjected to 200 more pages of unlikeable characters that made me hate humanity....more
This book has made me stupid giddy and reignited within me a long thought dead passion for both tales of World War II and historical fiction. BlankmanThis book has made me stupid giddy and reignited within me a long thought dead passion for both tales of World War II and historical fiction. Blankman's prose is riveting and Gretchen's story is full of danger, intrigue and of course star-crossed romance....more
This is a really unique take on storytelling that could have failed horribly, but doesn't. It left me a little broken by the end and that surprised meThis is a really unique take on storytelling that could have failed horribly, but doesn't. It left me a little broken by the end and that surprised me. More on WFTM.com soon....more
These books are so much fun. Larkin is pretty obsessed with the clothes and describes them a little too much, but it's like a giant fun soap opera thaThese books are so much fun. Larkin is pretty obsessed with the clothes and describes them a little too much, but it's like a giant fun soap opera that isn't full of annoying people....more
I think most would be familiar with the basic idea behind The Phantom of the Opera, either through exposure to the musical, the 2004 movie adaptation with Gerard Butler or through general cultural osmosis. There’s this disfigured guy who wears a mask and lives under the Paris opera house, obsessing over a rising star who he has taken under his wing to train as a singer. Disfigured guy gets posessive, steals rising star away, rising star’s boyfriend gets involved, they all break out into song, and things get messy. All the while the managers and staff of the opera house believe they’re being haunted by a mischievous and violent ghost, which is really the disfigured guy.
Four elements of the book version surprised me: It’s told in the form of a case study of a journalist researching the mysterious happenings at the opera house many decades later. Christine – the previously mentioned rising star – and her obsessive (and drama queen) boyfriend Raoul are only around 18. All the men in this story cry a lot. And most surprisingly the “Opera Ghost” (otherwise known as Eric) gets a full and complete background story.
By framing the story as a case study or research project, it became difficult to fully immerse myself into the story initially. The method worked very well as the author could tell disconnected bits of information and leave holes in the story for the sake of mystery without it seeming like bad storytelling (he just didn't find something in his research to fill that particular hole). Despite this structure there are chapters of content told as the recollections of one character or another, and those sections read like a normal story without the interruption of an outside narrator.
I really enjoyed hearing about Eric’s back story and how he was able to do the things that he does. He’s much more malicious in the book than I remember him being in the musical, but then again, this version of Raul is such a wuss that it just makes everything look worse. Eric turned out to be an incredibly complex character that definitely fell into a shade of gray. All the other characters remained pretty flat, mostly being reactionary to Eric’s actions rather than doing something of their own initiative. This should have bothered me, but it didn’t. Eric is such a fascinating character and causes such odd interactions amongst the rest of the cast that it didn’t matter to me that Christine was just the love interest or that Raul was the biggest drama queen in France....more
The Hermetica of Elysium is about Nadira, a servant girl in 1494 Barcelona, who is incredibly educatedRead the full review on Working for the Mandroid
The Hermetica of Elysium is about Nadira, a servant girl in 1494 Barcelona, who is incredibly educated and can read multiple languages. This makes her a hot commodity at a time when most people can’t write or read a single language. The story is set in a time period of religious persecution, where anything and anyone can be deemed heretical and killed accordingly. The fantastical piece of the book comes in the guise of the Hermetica of Elysium, an old manuscript that is said to have mystical powers and able to give the person who reads the book awesome powers. Because the hermetica is written in a number of languages, Nadira becomes even more sought after and everyone from various Lords to the Pope himself want her in possession to help them have the power.
That last sentence should give you a hint about what most of this book consists of – people stealing Nadira, locking her up somewhere, having her read them things and then her being stolen by somebody else. That is generally the plot of most of the book. Nadira is kidnapped by at least three different parties with various levels of nefarious intentions. About the time she started accomplishing something for her capturers, somebody else took her away. It became pretty predictable.
As a character, Nadira is pretty interesting – she’s highly educated for her station, she takes everything in stride, and she passionately pursues knowledge. That she became friends and sometimes confidants with the very men who kidnapped her was her downfall in my eyes. Perhaps it’s Stockholm syndrome or the perspective of making the best of a bad situation, but I couldn’t quite understand how easily she fell in with each of her new masters.
The central romance between Nadira and her first kidnapper, Lord Montrose, left my head spinning a little bit. During their initial journey together (before she got kidnapped by someone else), I didn’t see even a spark of interest between the two, but by the time he catches up with her, having himself been kidnapped, they’re apparently madly in love. It didn’t feel believable, and I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.
In between the kidnappings and the conniving, a lot of philosophical talk took place that stopped whatever crawl of a pace the story had going for it in its tracks. Many passages seemed needless or repetitive, particularly in Nadira’s second prison in the tower home of a scholar and his scribe. To put it bluntly, I got really bored and it became somewhat of a chore to pick up my Kindle....more
The drama and action start from the very first page of the prologue when a nameless, faceless female character gets instructions to kill the three main male players of the previous book – wealthy banker Sebastian (Gloria’s former fiancée), creepy mobster Carlito (whose man Gloria killed) and Jerome (who used to work in Carlito’s club in Chicago). In Vixen the mysterious female in the prologue ended up being one of our main characters. In Ingenue the mystery and suspense of the prologue doesn’t really play out in quite as an exciting way; it just sets all the pieces into motion when our fourth protagonist Vera, Jerome’s younger sister, sees the unnamed assassin kill Sebastian and rushes to New York to warn her brother.
The entire book is told in chapters alternating between the adventures of the four girls, staying in the same order throughout, so that the pacing still feels constant even though you as the reader are jumping between plotlines and stories that stopped on cliffhangers three chapters before. This is always where Larkin has impressed me the most. It takes some talent to weave that many stories, telling them in spurts and it still all flow seamlessly together. Yes, some of the stories of the four girls do cross, but more often than not, they’re leading four separate adventures that only involve the other characters in the peripheral.
All these characters have naturally grown, some even learning from the mistakes of the previous book. All are compelling narrators and I can believe the choices they choose to make. Clara is the girl I wish I was at 18. She’s the girl I wish I was now. She’s confident, outgoing and willing to make sacrifices to get what she wants. She’s the type of protagonist I like to read. Gloria, on the other hand, is love sick and grumpy from entering poverty after growing up with a silver spoon yet I still enjoy her character too. She has goals, but above all, she loves Jerome in a world where that isn’t allowed and she doesn’t care. Then there’s dopey, airheaded Lorraine. I hated her much less in this novel than the last, but she still comes across as self-centered and oblivious to how the world actually works. I felt some satisfaction at watching all her plans fall apart.
Vera is the least developed, probably because she didn’t have her own story in Vixen, but she still comes alive as the worried little sister, whose ingenuity and gumption probably save everyone in the end. The gentlemen in the story are minor roles compared to the girls, but even then, they’re realistic and nice, boys worthy of the attention given them. I want to be friends with all of these people (maybe even Lorraine) and go to swanky illegal bars and dance like a crazy person. That’s the genius in this series. It’s so real that I want to crawl inside this book and take a vacation there. Larkin did her research and she puts it to great use....more
All signs pointed to me not liking this book, but I found myself at least intrigued. It's a first person narrative told from the perspective of a mathAll signs pointed to me not liking this book, but I found myself at least intrigued. It's a first person narrative told from the perspective of a math obsessed autistic teenager, who finds his neighbor's dog dead in her yard and decides to be Sherlock Holmes and discover who killed it. Deep dark secrets are revealed, things go wrong, and the boy does his best to find a place to fit in a world that just cannot comprehend him. It's not a complex story by any means, but it's heartfelt and the writing from the first person perspective is wonderful at getting inside of what it must be like to have autism without ever becoming a parody or feeling like the author is making fun of the condition.
My biggest complaint about this book is that the blurbs about it kept mentioning how funny it was. I don't think I found any part of this book funny. Interesting, yes. Intriguing in places, absolutely. But funny? Not even close. At times it made me a little sad, reading about how misunderstood this boy was and the mistreatment he received from both strangers and people he knew alike.
It's an incredibly fast read. The auxiliary characters aren't really fleshed out, but considering the narrator, that makes complete sense. He lives in an insular world unlike the world of the people around him. I'd be curious to read something else written by Haddon to see if his narrative voice remains strong without such a unique character to carry the story along. ...more
Stieg Larsson was in desperate need of a harsher editor with this one. There were entire plot lines that had absolutely nothing to do with the main stStieg Larsson was in desperate need of a harsher editor with this one. There were entire plot lines that had absolutely nothing to do with the main story, particularly anything involving Erika Berger. The whole stalker thing didn't make any sense or come into play in the main storyline at all.
Larsson also made the mistake of forgetting his most interesting character was Lisbeth Salander. She's barely in the book and when she is, it's in a reactionary, silent role. It's not until the end that she gets to show off the badass that she was in the previous books.
The last 100 pages or so were awesome. If it wasn't for the smackdown that Salander's lawyer gave during the trial, I don't think this book could have been saved. I actually cheered out loud during that part.
Larsson has never met a boring detail that he didn't include. That's been a problem with all three books, but it was more obvious in this one because of all the nonessential story lines and the fact that I just can't buy that every woman in the world wants to fall into bed with Blomkist upon meeting him. Author insertion at its very worse.
Not a suiting end to the series at all and I really hope the supposed "fourth" book that's lying around doesn't ever get published....more