The subtitle "a Victorian Novel"--along with the lovely cover--were enough to ensnare me. I lugged this darling home from England in my suitcase and t...moreThe subtitle "a Victorian Novel"--along with the lovely cover--were enough to ensnare me. I lugged this darling home from England in my suitcase and thankfully it did not disappoint! (Yes, I often buy books for covers alone…)
This book is told in a series of narratives from three different character perspectives and I will say it's a wee bit slow to start, but what mystery isn't as the foundations need to be set? I also loved the historical references, especially as I love the Victorian's predilection with death and the afterlife. But when the setting has haunted houses/houses with a tragic past, top hats and tailcoats, stormy nights, séances and ghosts.... what more could I ask for really? I'm trying not to spoil anything but I will note that I found the ending predictable, but I don't think I would've wanted it any other way. I am definitely going to keep an eye out for more works from this author.(less)
Couldn't finish this. Couldn't goad myself into finishing this. I felt like the author was trying too hard to maintain a lyrical style but it wasn't w...moreCouldn't finish this. Couldn't goad myself into finishing this. I felt like the author was trying too hard to maintain a lyrical style but it wasn't working for me (how many times can one say palimpsest? Silk threads? Stop repeating the same imagery in the same chapter over and over again) Too much time spent on the modern day and I wasn't able to arrive at the 16th century quick enough--which for me was the sole reason I was reading this. Maybe I'll try again later in the year but for now..... Going to skip.(less)
This one started off very slowly, so much so in fact that I feared I would run screaming from all the financial journal investigating figures that wer...moreThis one started off very slowly, so much so in fact that I feared I would run screaming from all the financial journal investigating figures that were frankly doing my head in. Once the story and the characters start to come together though, boy does it roll like a snowball down a mountain. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting at the end but even a few days later I feel...dissatisfied somehow with one of the more minor aspects of the store. Okay, maybe two aspects but I don't want to spoil anyone.
Having said all that, I still really enjoyed the mystery aspect, especially towards the last quarter of the book. Now I've got to go find the Swedish film and watch it before I see the American remake. (less)
Having only read one of her mysteries before, I must say I was pleased with this one too (though it is certainly a slower boil than Behold, Here's Poi...moreHaving only read one of her mysteries before, I must say I was pleased with this one too (though it is certainly a slower boil than Behold, Here's Poison) as her characters are always delightful, the dialogue/banter witty and engaging and one can't help but feel very sorry for the Inspectors having to deal with this particular set of melodramatic country gentry. The one bad thing about reading this mystery however is that I spent the first part of the book waiting for one of the character's to die in order for the mystery to begin. I'm also impressed that the inspectors of the time where able to accomplish anything in (or around the 1920s-30s) when one considers how they would have to circumvent the social class biases and the hurdles that come with it in order to get anything done. Occasionally the phrase "obstruction of justice" came to mind whilst reading some of the interactions.
As for the characters... While she tried to disclaim Wally as ineffectual rather than an awful human being, I was rather relieved when he kicked the can. It took me a while to warm to Vicky but I found her amusing in the end, very much the dramatic teenager just out of school (though she does take her drama to quite appalling levels and I shouldn't like to know anyone like her personally). Finally, when I was glancing at some other reviews, I was surprised that some of the other readers were shocked by some of the eventual pairings. Maybe it was just me being hopeful throughout but I was quite pleased with how things ended up for the characters.(less)
I finished reading this a while ago, just kept forgetting to update this over here. I actually saw this as a movie first when I was about seven years...moreI finished reading this a while ago, just kept forgetting to update this over here. I actually saw this as a movie first when I was about seven years old and it scared the pants off of me and gave me nightmares for weeks. I saw it again when I was nine years old and loved it (as I was really into ghosts at the time) but when I was eleven, while I still loved it, it gave me a nightmare of the woman in black flying through my bedroom door screaming.
Woman in Black, you are one scary lady to stay with me this long.
I saw the movie recently (which inspired me to find and read the book) and I couldn't help but laugh at the effects that awed and terrified me as a child though the basic plot is very evocative--it sort of stays with you in a way that keeps one laying awake at night, replaying the images again and again of the mirror like marshes reflecting the moon on their glass like surfaces before the impenetrable fog and mist rolls in, the clatter of the pony and cart, the screaming of a child and the woman in black watching. Possibly even, watching you.
As for the book itself it was a little slow to start, perhaps because I was anxiously waiting for the Woman, but I was rewarded because it is a slow build, stacking the creepiness of the surroundings, the isolation and the malevolence of the haunting into one overwhelming, if inevitable, finish. A very good ghost story, in my opinion, but again I may be a little biased as I have loved the movie for a very long time.(less)
I don't know if I'll be able to convey just how badly written/edited/constructed this book is but boy will I make a valiant effort.
If I could give th...moreI don't know if I'll be able to convey just how badly written/edited/constructed this book is but boy will I make a valiant effort.
If I could give this a negative star-rating I would choose a -10 for "don't-bother-save-yourself-the-trouble/money-and-just-say-NO-before-you-start-banging-your-head-on-the-wall-after-every-chapter". I even had a dream (before I finished the book) about writing a review giving it a negative-star review because, yes, it IS that bad. If I hadn't been participating in a book reading challenge I would've tossed this book into a bonfire after chapter 2 and not persevered with this rubbish.
Which, honestly is a shame. I naively thought, "Hmm, lighthouses, I like lighthouses". Goodbye lighthouse after Chapter 2 (I don't really count the nonsense with Josephine because at that point it became, "Oh, she's not been angsting for five sentences LET'S GIVE HER A REASON TO MOAN ABOUT HER LIFE AGAIN").
Was it necessary for the author to vomit Addie's back-story/mystery/Mary-Sue-character-introduction at us within the first two chapters? Oh, sorry, I guess it WAS necessary to neglect writing a proper mystery set-up when clearly all the author cares about (God aside which I'll get to later), was the ridiculous romance between John and Addie where, naturally, the first moment they lay eyes upon one another they're in love. Does the author, at least, show us how these two people could fall in love? Does the author bother to show us how and why the reader should like her characters? The answers are no and no. Most of the cast are two-dimensional at best and I'm sorry to say we are generally told what to think about the main characters. Addie is an "angel in skirts" but are we truly shown any outstandingly angelic behavior on her part? No and no, I do not count the arbitrary/unnecessary mother-of-five-has-consumption-woe-child-labor-in-1907 episode on the grounds that it was so obviously contrived (and utterly left-field in its bizarre placement). Is John really anything beyond the physical impulses Addie stirs in him (and what's the point of giving him a dead wife if all she does is serve as a point of comparison, oh, did we mention his wife is Addie's half-sister/cousin, daughter of her mother's half-sister and therefore her half-aunt/step-mother)?
Anyway, before I derail any further into churlish commentary, the author neglects developing her characters in favor galloping into the lack-luster arms of the romance. In fact, EVERYTHING she set up in those first two horrifically convoluted chapters takes a back-burner. Epileptic child is neglected in favor of the romance, pony and horse are neglected in the random horseback riding scene (Oh yes, let's not forget the "thankyousomuch for almost killing my child on a run away pony, it taught him to be brave" scene because clearly someone's not read Gone With the Wind and seen how that pony scene goes down) and estranged Dad, well, sorry Mr Eaton, you just get systematically turned into a stereotypical petty villain.
That aside, I still thought, "Hmm, she's got some nice minute detail in here about the historical period".
Does it make up for her glaring and sometimes contradictory continuity errors? Does it make up for her grammatical errors? Does it make up for the terrible transitions that make me wonder "what was the point of you writing out that scene if each interaction was a sentence long and you just breezed through three different people"? Is that worth wanting to gouge my eyeballs out every time John/Addie decide to talk about how wonderful/attractive/insert-syrupy-adjective-here the other is? I honestly started feeling like I was reading Twilight at times with all the ridiculous mooning.
Also the God-issue. Was it really-truly-ABSOLUTELY necessary to throw in God and her Faith every five seconds? I've read plenty of Victorian novels written by preachers' daughters and other Christian authors that have managed to get across the moral-point and not had to resort to flaunting weirdly and jarringly placed God-conversations/observations/questions-to-God. Or the mind-boggling fact that one of the characters then started saying "God might be punishing someone so, don't intervene".... Excuse me, WHAT? Are we now manipulating Faith for plot-points, to justify the characters bizarre behavior? She keeps going on and on about her faith but I'm still questioning the ramifications of her STEALING PROPERTY, DECEIVING, oh, sorry, God's on her side (because she asked him five seconds ago, dontcha know) so it's okay that the characters just committed the time-period equivalent of grand-theft-auto.
I could go on. Seriously. But I won't. Please, save yourself from this grandiose waste of time and just don't bother with this book.(less)
I pretty much reviewed each short story in my updates as I finished them, excepting Sand which was the last of stories in this collection so I guess I...moreI pretty much reviewed each short story in my updates as I finished them, excepting Sand which was the last of stories in this collection so I guess I'll start there. I didn't like it so much, found it terribly difficult to get into, the characters seeming very vague and indistinct to me. I suppose I was also (unfairly) expecting some blockbuster-esque sand dramatics whereas Blackwood is a little bit more subtle/metaphysical/spiritual than what I was hoping for.
Overall, I liked some of the stories (Glamour of the Snow, Ancient Sorceries and Man Who Found Out) and was bored to tears by other of the stories (the Man Whom the Trees Loved and Sand). Mostly (oddly?) I quite liked the footnotes which in some cases afforded a more in-depth look about each piece. (less)
Butterfly Effect and emotionally dysfunctional family is all I could think, where someone has a Big Secret and it eats at the character throughout the...moreButterfly Effect and emotionally dysfunctional family is all I could think, where someone has a Big Secret and it eats at the character throughout the novel but somehow this secret touches everyone beyond the person it directly effects, basically ruining their lives. One must wait until the end to get the Big Reveal, in regards to the drowning. Both Ruth and Amanda (the two quasi-narrators, when the text isn't busy jumping back and forth between third person perspective and the first person perspective) are seriously emotionally constipated but also clingy to the point of smothering. On the one hand I'm inclined to blame the grandmother (yes I'm still looking for that insanity bit, passing on through the generations) but all she wanted was a bit of peace and quiet whereas the other two had major issues of letting go. Well, and maybe they were a little neurotic too.
I guess I'm just disappointed because I was simply hoping for a book about a woman who went crazy, tried to drown her daughter and drowned instead. I was hoping that's where it was going in the first couple of chapters but then it went somewhere else completely. Ah well. Maybe next time.(less)
What fun this one was! Perhaps the fact I was so tickled was due in part to the setting taking place in Transylvania, in ol' Vlad the Impaler's castle...moreWhat fun this one was! Perhaps the fact I was so tickled was due in part to the setting taking place in Transylvania, in ol' Vlad the Impaler's castle, no less... Poor Georgiana, getting into the thick of mischief and mayhem wherever she goes, when all she wants is a good meal (oh and Darcy, but who can blame her). She really ought to become Queen Mary's personal SS what with all the problems she's been left to solve. Queenie, the hapless maid, also grew on me as the book progressed.
As a mystery I have to say that it's easy light reading and not anything one has to think too long or hard about but still enjoyable nonetheless. Just sit back and enjoy the humor. (less)
**spoiler alert** My rating for this book hovered somewhere between a 3 and a 4 star. On the one hand it comes to the predictable and, in many ways, i...more**spoiler alert** My rating for this book hovered somewhere between a 3 and a 4 star. On the one hand it comes to the predictable and, in many ways, inevitable conclusion but on the other, I liked that third layer created by the narrator who (rather than being passive in the telling of someone else's story) in many ways orchestrates the entire fiasco, what with his god-complex and obsessions. I suppose, at the end of the day, there wasn't anything redeeming about the narrative, it was simply a snapshot of lives being torn asunder by passion and apathy (yes, Stella, I am looking at YOU). People like her should not have children... And Peter, Mr Narrator sir, at the end of the day, despite the psychopaths you "treat" in the hopes of "rehabilitation", you were, by far, the creepiest. I can understand why people sometimes call the psychiatric trade a sham business.
In terms of style and the way the story was laid out... yes, I do appreciate the neatness of the ending, the coming full circle.(less)
While the Her Royal Spyness have a sort of sweeping tongue-in-cheek and yes, ridiculous but still cutely charming in its own right story lines (who ca...moreWhile the Her Royal Spyness have a sort of sweeping tongue-in-cheek and yes, ridiculous but still cutely charming in its own right story lines (who can say no to Darcy O'Mara?) I'd say the Constable Evans series (though this is the first one I've read) is a little bit more grounded rather than theatrical.
Taking place in modern day Wales (oh Welsh words, I don't even know where to start with you lot) we get a look at the idyllic village life. There's mt. Snowdon, there's a town that knows everything about everyone and perhaps a (Welsh?) custom of addressing the duplicate names in the society by their trade (Evans-the-Meat made me snicker). What could go wrong? Well, being a mystery series, something has to. Deaths on the mountain! Murdering pedophile on the loose! All of this, of course, woven into the small-town life (with one of the minister's wives adamant that the rival minister wife is sabotaging her show tomatoes/apple pie/etc). I think my only complaint is with Evan Evans (yes, that's his name and he hates it too) being a bit wishy-washy in the face of the female race. Stand up for yourself, man! Tell them to shove off! Make sure its known no means no. But then again, he's a nice guy so I guess he'll never do that (and of course we'd lose the romantic intrigue side of it all)
All in all a fun and easy read. Even made me want to go hiking in Wales. (less)