I know the reader is meant to find this book super suspenseful and be amazed by all the twists and turns, but I mostly found it tedious. It was disappI know the reader is meant to find this book super suspenseful and be amazed by all the twists and turns, but I mostly found it tedious. It was disappointing really, because I think the author had a great concept here; I just didn't like the execution of it. The story dragged in many places, and the constant retelling of events from different characters' points of view felt clumsy and poorly executed. Maybe the real problem was just that there's no one in the story to root for. All the characters are appalling people, and I ultimately didn't care too much what happened to any of them....more
This book ended up far from where I expected it to go. For one thing, the cover says it is a Prologue Crime book. This led me to expect a book with, yThis book ended up far from where I expected it to go. For one thing, the cover says it is a Prologue Crime book. This led me to expect a book with, you know, crime in it. Unless you count felony alcohol abuse, there is no crime in this novel. Although I suppose some would consider the occasional use of words and epithets that are offensive now but were common in the sixties (when this book was written) to be a crime. This book is definitely not for those readers who blame authors of the past for not anticipating today's tender sensibilities.
My second mistake was taking the noirish cover and the louche hero presented in the opening chapter at face value. Alas, that patina of sophistication eventually wore away to reveal a rather adolescent portrayal of vice with a layer of cheap sentiment and too-easy romance underneath. Add in boring sex scenes and you've got a recipe for why-should-I-care-about-these-people boredom. I kept reading, so it wasn't too awful, but the misunderstandings and bedroom shenanigans occasionally reminded me of a Love, American Style episode--and not in a good way....more
I enjoyed this book--I can usually appreciate a re-imagined classic if it's done well--but ultimately found it a little disappointing. I liked how theI enjoyed this book--I can usually appreciate a re-imagined classic if it's done well--but ultimately found it a little disappointing. I liked how the author kept the framework of Rebecca but added a fresh twist to it; I liked that the story is set in the contemporary art world and the amount of insight the author gives into that world; and I appreciated the settings of the story, Venice and Nauquasset, and how the author brought them to life. What I didn't like was the ending. It felt unfinished and anticlimactic and was very disappointing after the excellent setup that had come before. I'm sorry not to give this book a higher rating--much of it was very good--but the ending was just too jarring. ...more
A nicely constructed mystery. I was kept guessing until the end, and enjoyed spending time with the protagonist, Mrs. Pargeter. I appreciate how the aA nicely constructed mystery. I was kept guessing until the end, and enjoyed spending time with the protagonist, Mrs. Pargeter. I appreciate how the author never tells us exactly what the late Mr. Pargeter did for a living, but manages to give a fairly complete picture. I'm not big on reading series, but I might be tempted to pick up the next Mrs. Pargeter novel, just to see if the author can match the quality of this one....more
**spoiler alert** This had the potential to be a good story, but ultimately it collapsed under the weight of its own implausibility. The author's occa**spoiler alert** This had the potential to be a good story, but ultimately it collapsed under the weight of its own implausibility. The author's occasional insights or moments of truth (I thought my lack of wholeness was somehow my fault. I had no idea everyone feels this way--that the most essential part of growing up is figuring out where your empty places are and learning how to fill them by, and for, yourself) were undermined by the silliness at the heart of the mystery.
The heroine is invited to spend the summer with her rich, beautiful college roommate. The reader suspects from the beginning that the roommate, Ev, is merely using the heroine, Mabel, for reasons to be revealed later. Mabel suspects it too, to a certain extent, but she is quickly overcome with so much love for the Winslows and their vacation paradise, Winloch, that she stops caring about being friends with Ev and starts concentrating on keeping her place at Winloch no matter what. This is not an attractive characteristic, but it's only one of many unattractive characteristics that Mabel displays. To say she's difficult to sympathize with is an understatement.
Not long after Mabel arrives at Winloch, an elderly aunt asks her to find some papers/uncover some mystery/destroy the Winslow family by delving into the family archives. Why she does this, or what exactly the aunt is after, we're never told. The aunt seems like a sweet old lady, but everyone else in the family hates her. Why? We're never told. Mabel begins her quest and is soon joined by Galway, Ev's brother, whom Mabel meets in the least cute meet-cute ever. It was probably this scene, as much as anything, that began my dissatisfaction with this novel. It felt contrived to create a source of romantic conflict between them and made Galway seem like a half-witted voyeur. His character does a 180 from that point, which just made their meeting seem even more tacked on.
Eventually, Mabel uncovers evidence that there have been some financial shenanigans in the family history. One head of the family was unseated in favor of his second son, an unprecedented move that she thinks might be tied to the mystery of the family's recovering fortunes. Why did it happen? We're never told. We eventually find out that the family coffers were replenished through looting from Jews during the Holocaust. How exactly did they do that from America (seems like the Germans might have been pretty exclusive about that)? We're never told. The family is also meant to have been looting throughout the rest of the 20th century, wherever there was conflict around the world. How? We're never told. (You dial 1-800-CONFLICT and they hook you up with unscrupulous types who will funnel money and goods your way?)
The other deep, dark secret Mabel uncovers is that the current head of the family is a monster. But he isn't just your garden-variety monster. He's an incestuous, murdering, Nazi-sympathizing, rapist monster. And for no real reason that the author felt called upon to give. It was apparently justification enough that he was from a wealthy family that had profited from ill-gotten gains. Boom: instant monster. Oh, and he's omniscient too. He's able to track anyone, find out any secret, foil any plot. The head of SPECTRE isn't as plugged in as this guy. Why does his family cover up for him year after year, crime after crime? We're never told. I guess it's supposed to be enough that eventually the wife reaches her limit and takes care of him. And we know she takes care of him because she gives Mabel a flinty look at the funeral that clearly shows she took care of him, and because of course: heart attack pill!
There was a good story to be told here, and I really appreciated the world the author creates with Winloch, but in the end, the silliness of it was too much. Too bad, really....more
I enjoyed this book and thought it was an intriguing addition to the vampire genre. I appreciated its Victorian setting, and especially appreciate thaI enjoyed this book and thought it was an intriguing addition to the vampire genre. I appreciated its Victorian setting, and especially appreciate that I never rolled my eyes at any blatant anachronisms as I do with most other historical fiction these days. I also liked how my perspective on Edmund Bier and Augustus Mould shifted as the story went on. The author did a good job of showing that there are different kinds and degrees of monsters. I will say that the novel sometime had a feeling of too much going on at once, but for the most part it was an absorbing read. I feared that as the book came to a close it was headed for a cliffhanger ending, and I was prepared to be very unhappy with that. But by the time the ending came, the author had done a good job of wrapping the story just enough to satisfy me. There's clearly room for a sequel, which I would be interested to read, but I don't feel as if I need a sequel to understand this book. Well done....more
Wow, this book is an absorbing thriller that I gobbled in just a few bites. I know people are comparing it to Gone Girl, but I can't say it particularWow, this book is an absorbing thriller that I gobbled in just a few bites. I know people are comparing it to Gone Girl, but I can't say it particularly reminded me of it. I think this novel stands on its own. I loved the way the story unfolded and how the author presented it from such varying points of view. I loved how my understanding of the characters changed as the story went on and how I rooted for Rachel even as she repeatedly disappointed me. It's been a long time since I found a book that held my attention the way this one did. Very well done. ...more
**spoiler alert** Overall, this book was disappointing. It started out strong, and I was intrigued by the premise. I loved the idea of a journal that**spoiler alert** Overall, this book was disappointing. It started out strong, and I was intrigued by the premise. I loved the idea of a journal that showed Thoreau had someone else with him at Walden Pond, and I especially loved that the heroine had risen from such a difficult background to achieve what she had. Unfortunately, things started going south somewhere around the halfway point. My sympathy for the heroine began to wane about the time she had sex with a teenage boy. Yes, he was nineteen, and yes he came after her, and yes he seemed to understand the game. But...big BUT...he was nineteen and she was twenty-eight and that nine-year difference can better be represented in dog years. Not to mention that she was already involved in a sexual relationship with the man she really cared about. To jump into bed with a teenager because she was hurt and lonely was so not OK. Especially given Patrick's subsequent obsession with her--which any thinking adult could have anticipated--and his statement that made it seem like he'd been a virgin at the time. Maybe the author was trying to make a point about the Cahill clan always making bad decisions, but this decision didn't hurt the heroine as much as it did a young man she should have cared for enough to turn away.
More importantly, I didn't think the story arc was all it could have been. There was too much recapping of information that had already been presented. It seemed like the author told us 150 times that Aine was from Kentucky, that her family was cursed, that they sold hillbilly heroine, that her granny got her out of there, etc., over and over. By contrast, information that should have been presented was withheld until far too late in the story (I'm sorry, she was accused of what toward her little brother? How does that not warrant a mention before the final act of the story?) I understand that Aine was an unreliable narrator (actually, she was a certifiable narrator) but why keep presenting the same information over and over? And at such odd times. At one point, Aine is in the middle of a haunting episode and starts thinking about how Thoreau should have married her aunt. Really? Is that what you're thinking of as a malevolent spirit tries to destroy you and everyone you love? Then came the end of the story when the author seemed to be pointing the reader to the conclusion that Aine, rather than the victim of a haunting, was the delusional victim of severe mental illness, leaving me to wonder why I spent so much time listening to the story.
Nor did I think the writing quality was all it could have been. I understand that this is not an offering from a major publishing house, but surely there's someone there who knows what "belie" means? "But the dread that wedged heavy in my breast belied my fears." Yeah, no. There were also numerous problems with verb tenses. Why authors struggle with this, I will never understand. How can writers be so uninformed about their own language? Regardless, sentences that should have been in past progressive or past perfect were in simple past. Annoying. And not the sort of thing I want to encounter in the books I read. Unfortunately, the audio recording was not great either. The narrator's southern accent seemed to come and go, and there was one section of the book where it seemed like every other sentence was re-dubbed, making for an inconsistent listening experience.
Overall, this book had potential, and I was intrigued enough by Aine's story to stick with it, but it could have been much better. The cliffhanger ending would seem to indicate that there will be a sequel, but I'm sure I will have forgotten about this book long before the next one comes out....more
This novel was occasionally difficult to listen to, but it was never the fault of the narrator. Sneha Mathan has an incredibly beautiful voice and canThis novel was occasionally difficult to listen to, but it was never the fault of the narrator. Sneha Mathan has an incredibly beautiful voice and can handle any accent with seeming ease. I loved listening to her. What I didn't love listening to were the terrible things that happen to the heroine. Kamala's journey is often a hellish one, and even when good things happened to her, I found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. I never found her story less than believable--unfortunately!--but there were times when I almost couldn't continue. I'm glad I stuck with her, though. Kamala's story is compelling, and Sujata Massey brings late-colonial India to stunning life. ...more
When I first discovered Ethel M. Dell, I enjoyed her romances quite a bit. They're seriously over the top, of course, but that can make for a fun guilWhen I first discovered Ethel M. Dell, I enjoyed her romances quite a bit. They're seriously over the top, of course, but that can make for a fun guilty-read (especially on a snowy winter's day). With this novel, however, I think I have reached the point of diminishing returns.
Wikipedia describes Dell's typical novel as containing: "a very feminine woman, an alpha male, a setting in India, passion galore liberally mixed with some surprisingly shocking violence and religious sentiments sprinkled throughout." The Hundredth Chance is not set in India, but it does contain every other element in that list, with an emphasis on surprisingly shocking violence. Every other chapter seems to contain a beating or assault: a man beating his twenty-five-year-old step-daughter because he thinks she needs a good spanking (appalling enough on its own, but Dell adds a sexual component to make it even worse); the hero beating various animals and stable workers and threatening others (he takes alpha male to a new level); and long before the invention of roofies, a man slipping a drug into a woman's drink for nefarious purposes. All very disturbing.
Even more disturbing was the hero and heroine's relationship in the novel. I'm no fan of modern romances where the heroes are always impossibly handsome, impossibly muscular, etc., but I'm also not a fan of heroes who are described as unattractive physically with even more unattractive personalities (amusingly, the frontispiece to the Grosset & Dunlap edition scanned into Google shows a handsome, stalwart hero who is as unlike the book's description as possible). In this instance, the hero takes advantage of the heroine's desperate situation to manipulate her into what she expects will be a marriage of convenience. He wants more and eventually gets it, more or less against her will. She submits--because she has no choice--and that makes for a very unpleasant story line. Maybe Dell didn't mean to portray him as a rapist, but that's essentially what he is (or, given the sexualized violence earlier in the story, maybe she did). (view spoiler)[He eventually comes to see that "insisting on his rights" doesn't make for happiness on either side, but this revelation--which should have been obvious from the start--comes a little late. (hide spoiler)]
The heroine is not much better. She doesn't want to marry the hero, but has no other option for escaping her psychotic stepfather. Once married, she becomes distraught over ridiculous things like hearing the hero cuss or seeing him drunk. The latter instance (which turns out to be a mistake, he's actually reeling from a head wound) was truly bizarre. She has a major meltdown over his supposed drunkenness: "this thing had raised up a barrier between them that could never be broken down" and refuses to let him explain what really happened. Her inflexible attitude--Carrie Nation would have been less judgmental--was baffling and made it hard to sympathize with her. Worse still, she seems to spend the second half of the book doing little but weeping, trembling or fainting. Very tedious and especially disappointing after the beginning when she seemed made of sterner stuff.
Ultimately the story ends as a romance must, but since I spent the whole novel unreconciled to that end, I really can't consider it anything close to a success. Not the worst I've read by any stretch, but far from as enjoyable as I would have liked.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's been so long since I read this book that I was surprised all over again at how amazing it is. I love the mood du Maurier creates and the depth ofIt's been so long since I read this book that I was surprised all over again at how amazing it is. I love the mood du Maurier creates and the depth of her writing. I love how Manderley comes alive on the page and how we cringe along with the heroine as she tries to fit in there. I was sometimes impatient with the second Mrs. de Winter, but I think that's because I know she behaves exactly as I would have behaved at her time of life and in her situation: diffident, awkward and painfully shy. But I love how she changes throughout the story and how she comes to see Maxim in a completely different light--even though he himself is not too excited about that.
I enjoy the movie version of this book, but it can't compare to the novel. And to listen to the wonderful Anna Massey's reading of it added an extra layer of enjoyment. Her voice and characterizations were perfect. I know I will enjoy this over and over again.
Favorite quote: Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind....more
Maybe I should have realized from the title, The Blue Bistro, that the restaurant isn't just the setting of the story, it is actually the main charactMaybe I should have realized from the title, The Blue Bistro, that the restaurant isn't just the setting of the story, it is actually the main character. But it never occurred to me. Or at least not until I waded through lengthy descriptions of the food served in the restaurant, the super-fun atmosphere of the restaurant, the super-efficient staff of the restaurant, and even what the restaurant's bus boys and bar-back wear. At that point, I realized that the characters were only window-dressing for the real star of the show--the food and the restaurant. My interest in such details as to whether or not the lamb lollipops can be cooked to the customer's temperature is nil. No doubt there is an interesting story buried underneath all this extraneous detail, but I really couldn't stick with it long enough to find out. Compounding it all, the narrator in an audiobook is compelled to render every word no matter how annoying/pointless. So things a reader can skim over--such as email headings, and the entire menu of the all-important restaurant--are given in scream-inducing detail. No thanks....more
I'm not a fan of short stories generally, but these were easily the least enjoyable I've ever encountered. Peopled with unpleasant characters, full ofI'm not a fan of short stories generally, but these were easily the least enjoyable I've ever encountered. Peopled with unpleasant characters, full of horrifying situations and depressing conclusions, the stories were often painful to listen to (especially the last one, "Split Second," which went on forever and made no sense at all). I've enjoyed many of Daphne du Maurier's novels, but I never realized before listening to these stories, what an incredibly bleak outlook on life she had. Two of the stories were designed to show her contempt for religion ("La Sainte-Vierge" was especially ungenerous toward its main character and her faith), and most of the rest seemed designed to show the author's contempt for people in general. The only story that could remotely be considered upbeat was "Escort," and it was silly. I'm not sure why I didn't abandon the book after the first few stories--I could have saved myself a thoroughly dismal experience....more
Perhaps not one of Heyer's best--it wasn't too difficult to figure out who the villain was--but still an entertaining mystery filled with charming chaPerhaps not one of Heyer's best--it wasn't too difficult to figure out who the villain was--but still an entertaining mystery filled with charming characters....more
Overall I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it as much as I have other titles by Jojo Moyes. I think it's because of the (necessarily) fractured stOverall I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it as much as I have other titles by Jojo Moyes. I think it's because of the (necessarily) fractured structure of the book. The first half had me completely absorbed, but as soon as the novel switched to present day--and present tense, which I hate--I became less absorbed. Ellie was not a sympathetic character to me. The way she was pissing away her career and wasting her life over some manipulative loser had me rolling my eyes more than empathizing with her. I liked the twist of what really became of Boot and Jennifer, but I often struggle when novels present characters at one age and then pick them up again many decades later. The older characters never seem to ring true. That's probably just me, but it interfered with my ability to appreciate the ending of this story. Not a bad book, but nowhere near as satisfying as Me Before You or The Girl You Left Behind....more