A superbly written novel, full of great twists and turns. You may be able to guess some of what's going on, but the author will still surprise you witA superbly written novel, full of great twists and turns. You may be able to guess some of what's going on, but the author will still surprise you with daring prose and unexpected red herrings. If you've never read the author before (as I had not) I'd recommend not reading ANY reviews about the book, not even the Amazon general description. The book jacket and this http://orangeprizeproject.blogspot.co... should whet your appetite enough. Trust in the author to do the rest....more
A well-written, twisty puzzle of a mystery, filled with fantastic clues, unforgettable characters, and countless red herrings. Turtle Wexler will alwaA well-written, twisty puzzle of a mystery, filled with fantastic clues, unforgettable characters, and countless red herrings. Turtle Wexler will always be a hero to me....more
A haunted house, a forbidding lady, a master who has gone mad, and a servant girl caught up in the middle of the whole mess. If this premise appeals tA haunted house, a forbidding lady, a master who has gone mad, and a servant girl caught up in the middle of the whole mess. If this premise appeals to you, there's no doubt you'll delight in this book. I'm a big fan of Victorian fiction, and the author does a superb job of making the era come alive and keeping the language and decorum pretty true to the period.
Abigail Tamper is a 14-year-old servant at Greave Hall, where she's lived all of her life. Her mother died under mysterious circumstances not long ago, and the troubled Master of the house seems to know more about her death than he will admit. Abi has few confidants among the other servants, and her only protector against the cruel Mrs. Cotten, who rules the household, is her childhood friend Samuel, who is the Master's son who is badly wounded from his service in the Crimean War. Abigail's terror and loneliness are palpable, and readers will feel for her as she tries to unravel the mystery and figure out whether there is more danger in the supernatural forces present in the house...or from the earthly ones.
This is an enjoyably creepy, atmospheric Victorian murder mystery with a strong heroine and wonderfully detailed, moody setting. The descriptions of Abigail's duties as a housemaid are particularly well done, as well as the hierarchal interplay between the servants. While experienced readers may guess the villain before he's revealed, this is a quick, enjoyable read and a terrific addition to the gothic genre, especially for the younger teens for whom it's intended. Plus there's an embroidered fabric Ouija...how fun is that?
I love Victorian fiction and I enjoy crime thrillers, so I thought this would be right up my alley...but I just couldn't get into it. The writing stylI love Victorian fiction and I enjoy crime thrillers, so I thought this would be right up my alley...but I just couldn't get into it. The writing style just didn't appeal to me after I read a couple of chapters and skimmed a few more. Oh, well......more
A fantastic series that I loved as a kid and still holds up for adults. Well-written, engrossing mysteries with engaging characters and just enough ofA fantastic series that I loved as a kid and still holds up for adults. Well-written, engrossing mysteries with engaging characters and just enough of Sherlock himself to whet the appetite for investigation and adventure....more
One of my favorite books growing up, and one I wish more people had read. A pervasive dread and terrible sadness permeates the story, and the characteOne of my favorite books growing up, and one I wish more people had read. A pervasive dread and terrible sadness permeates the story, and the characters are well-drawn, the plotting superb, and the emotions it evokes unforgettable. Definitely a book worth seeking out online or in secondhand bookstores, since it's sadly long out of print....more
1.5 stars Welcome to yet another teen romance masquerading as a paranormal novel. If you’re like me, you’ve been salivating to read this book for mont1.5 stars Welcome to yet another teen romance masquerading as a paranormal novel. If you’re like me, you’ve been salivating to read this book for months because of the breathtaking cover—and of course, the premise of a girl waking up in a hospital with no memory of how her friends were killed is pretty intriguing. I’m sorry to say, however, that the maddening phenomenon I’m calling “cover fraud” strikes again, since this is another book whose interior does not live up to its beautiful cover art.
Mara Dyer doesn’t know what happened to her friends the day that a building collapsed on them, nor how she somehow escaped miraculously unscathed. The family decides to pack up and move to another town to get away from intrusive attention and so that her lawyer father can take on a high-profile criminal case. Until this point, things are pretty interesting and I wanted to know what was going on just as much as Mara did. Except suddenly, a boy enters the picture, and Mara pretty much loses all common sense interest in figuring out why people around her keep dying. And that’s when I lost my interest in this book, too.
I rarely have trouble adjusting any preconceived expectations about a book’s content, which is why I’m able to go with the flow for books such as Divergent or Delirium, which weren’t quite what I expected but I liked because the authors handled certain aspects of them very well. So if this was going to turn out to be a romance book with the paranormal stuff thrown in as a bonus, well, I’d be fine with it if I was sufficiently entertained. The issue with this is that if the book isn't entertaining and the romance doesn’t work for you, the whole thing is doomed. And this romance did not work for me at all.
Noah Shaw is one of those guys you’re supposed to find charming in spite of yourself. He’s arrogant, he’s got a smart mouth, he has a “deviant grin,” and he’s slept with just about every girl he’s ever looked at. As soon as Mara sees him, she seems to be struck dumb (view spoiler)[hee hee hee, “struck dumb” (hide spoiler)] by his appeal, even if she pretends to hate him. Noah pushes the boundary of being a jerk a little too often for my comfort, however, and it isn’t until later in the book that we find out whether or not he’s actually a good guy. The problem really isn’t Noah, though; it’s Mara. While Mara is admittedly not a completely spineless, annoying heroine, she is incredibly obsessed with Noah, to the point where you’re embarrassed for her. Look, we all notice every single minute detail when we’re into a guy, right? But there’s also family and work and hopes and dreams to think about, and certainly if there are people dropping like flies, you’d think a girl would spend a little more time worrying about that instead of mooning over “the slender muscles in his arms.” (Mara really doesn’t seem to do anything outside of school and her only friend is a very politically correct bisexual black Jewish guy who pretty much functions as a Greek chorus.) The fact that there is so much attention paid to the way Noah looks and what Noah says is pretty sad—and honestly, although he has a few moments where I bordered on liking him, it never really happened. Plus he’s just not that hot.
The amount of wish fulfillment running through this book is also completely out of control. Noah has a British accent, speaks six languages, and mentions his parents’ “la vie boheme” lifestyle. He lives in a palatial house with a valet, a “Greek-inspired fountain,” a “flawless patterned marble floor,” “plush Oriental rugs,” and oil paintings, and his “startling” room has enormous windows overlooking the bay and bookcases that reach all the way up to the ceiling. He reads to her from E.M. Forster, he’s possessive and tells a random guy named Alain off in French, and he wants Mara even though he could have anyone. Although of course, he never slept with the one mean girl who keeps tormenting Mara. And despite his ludicrous wealth--he literally peels $5000 off from a wad in his pocket at one point--he drives a Prius.
There are also the clichés of a tony private school, a prerequisite dance to which Mara wears a “dark emerald green silk dress” that dips “dangerously low in the back” and someone literally goes “OHmigod!” when he sees her, a ridiculous scene in which Mara tells off a cartoonishly unpleasant teacher, and an eye-rolling occasion when Noah crashes her art class and takes off his shirt so that all the drooling girls can sketch him. The more I think about it, the more this reads like the script for a CW television show. And also, what was with (view spoiler)[the prologue? The end of the book doesn't loop events back to that point at all. (hide spoiler)]
Oh, back to the dead people thing. There are some flashbacks to the day of the accident and more people die, but it’s all done with so little interest past the first quarter of the book that it’s really difficult to stay invested in the story, particularly when random events involving alligators, dog rescues, a seminar, a kidnapping, and her father’s court case are so haphazardly strung together. I guessed what the big secret was before I’d even read the first page (view spoiler)[hint: there’s a big clue in her name (hide spoiler)], so it was an exercise in frustration to watch all the clunky pieces strain desperately to fit together into a cohesive whole.
Aside from the flat characters, uneven writing, and loose plotting, what turns me off so much about this story is that it’s all so shallow and all so meaningless. (view spoiler)[The fact that Mara’s temper is causing all of this but she doesn’t feel the appropriate amount of guilt really ticks me off. Her reactions are completely disproportionate to the sins committed against her. (hide spoiler)] I read a lot of fluff books for sheer entertainment, but there’s got to be something in them that I like—and sadly, the best things about this book are the cover and the premise. Like Elizabeth Miles’ Fury, it’s another beautifully packaged book (view spoiler)[loosely based on a myth (hide spoiler)] which is much more interested in indulging in superficial relationships than anything else.
I hesitate to weigh in this next bit as part of my rating because this is mostly a personal preference, but reviews are inherently subjective by nature, no? So I’ll go ahead and say that while I think Fury was technically the more tasteless book in terms detailing the dirty things that teenagers can get up to, there’s something about Mara Dyer that is much uglier to me. The fact that this girl is so obsessed with a boy is so wrong to begin with, but what really made me realize how much I disliked this book was the point when Noah starts jokingly quoting from The Velveteen Rabbit and Dr. Seuss and inserting fellatio jokes. I think most of my friends here know by my reading material that I’m pretty laid back and am not one to get worked up over the choices that fictional characters make that would not be my own. But I do believe strongly in the sanctity of childhood and feel a great deal of responsibility in doing my part in helping to protect that. While I know it’s all supposed to be funny and to show how clever and charming Noah is, I just find that sort of thing incredibly distasteful.
But in the end, I know there are many readers who will find this book a lot more appealing than I do. I don’t even blame anyone who still wants to check it out, because, well, look at that cover! How could it possibly be disappointing? All I can say is that I personally came away from this reading experience with an extremely bad taste in my mouth. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I’d recently read so many fantastic books that were not only entertaining, but were also beautiful and moving and actually contributed something meaningful to literature. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer may very well end up being a popular book for now, but it will never end up being one that stands the test of time. What’s most disappointing is that it doesn’t even try to be.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I really, really wanted to like this book. I'm a fan of novels set during the Victorian era, as I've always been very interested in how thinking, reasI really, really wanted to like this book. I'm a fan of novels set during the Victorian era, as I've always been very interested in how thinking, reasoning people-especially women--manage to survive in such a repressive society. It's the same reason I like Jane Austen novels, because the yearning for connection with other human beings is so often at odds with the strict customs of the day.
There's a tendency now in books for authors to just ignore those rules and just barrel forward with whatever story or agenda they may want to promote. I know that it's difficult from a modern standpoint to write about a spirited heroine without bending some rules here and there, but it's annoying that so many authors go ahead and just plain break them. Don't get me wrong--the author clearly has done a lot of research into the time period, and I believe it was also her educational specialty. But I find it tiresome that girls in historical novels keep getting put into breeches or constantly talk back at their superiors or go out and linger unattended on the streets. I know, I know, Mary is supposed to be a detective and whatnot, but girls of this time and in her position would never dream of behaving in this way. Showing courage and spirit and passion when extraordinary circumstances call for it is one thing, but to blithely move about everyday life as if expressing your wishes and opinions is commonplace is just plain wrong for this time period. If this is something an author wants to do, he/she is better off writing a steampunk novel or a story set in an alternate universe. I would argue that there must be a way for a gifted writer to make the book more true to the period of the time while keeping the spirit of adventure alive.
The writing itself is something that bothered me, too. The language of the time is fairly formal and specific, with a distinct wording and rhythm of its own. I just didn't feel convinced by the tone that was struck here, nor were the plotting or the mystery or the characters particularly unique. I happened to have the follow-up book from the library and I skimmed through that one as well to see if it was any more engaging, but for me, unfortunately, these books just don't work.
Boy did this book draaaag. It's absurdly long, was not engaging, and it's beyond annoying when characters turn to address the reader directly with winBoy did this book draaaag. It's absurdly long, was not engaging, and it's beyond annoying when characters turn to address the reader directly with winking comments, especially when it interrupts the flow/action of a supposedly moody historical piece....more
I never really got into the rest of the series (or the Monk ones), but I really like this book. Rereading it now, there's a definite modern feminist sI never really got into the rest of the series (or the Monk ones), but I really like this book. Rereading it now, there's a definite modern feminist slant, but it's never to the detriment of the plot, and is a big part of shaping Charlotte's characterization. The mystery is well-plotted and engaging, and you can practically hear the gas lamps sputtering......more
4.5 stars This book defies every just about every red flag that pops up in YA literature. Are you cautious when trying out a brand new author? Do you4.5 stars This book defies every just about every red flag that pops up in YA literature. Are you cautious when trying out a brand new author? Do you sometimes wince when girls behave in classic "mean girl" fashion towards each other? Do you get sick of brand names being dropped into casual conversation? Well, you'll find all of that and more in Shirley Marr's debut novel. And the funny thing is, because it's in the hands of a gifted author, it all works. Beautifully.
Within minutes of meeting Eliza Boans, you quickly realize that she's a spoiled, murderous brat. She's a privileged teenager living in the exclusive community of East Rivermoor, and she's just confessed to a heinous crime in an interrogation room--but exhibits not a single shred of remorse. She's far more concerned about returning to her pampered life in which she rules the roost of girls at her school, and where her absent mother indulges her with every luxury item she could possibly think of. Eliza is someone who could easily get away with murder...except that the story isn't quite that simple.
Told in darkly humorous flashbacks as Eliza alternately charms her interrogator and frustrates him with evasions and half-truths, Fury is a fast-moving mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out why a young girl, even one with such an outwardly confident attitude, would defiantly take on such a serious charge. Fury is also a brilliant character study of a girl who has everything going for her on the surface, but whose arch, careless demeanor and sarcastic observations hide an enormously complicated history and hidden emotion.
I loved the fierce friendships--as well as the fierce rivalry--between Eliza and her friends. I loved the crack in Eliza's armor when it comes to her friend Nick. I loved the many, many nods to Jane Austen. And above all, I loved the incomparable Eliza, who makes no apologies for her life or her attitude. Even when you discover the secrets seething beneath the glamorous surface of her life, she wastes no time on pity for herself. Nor for anyone else who doesn't deserve it.
This is a smart, superbly well-written book that strikes the perfect tone in balancing serious subjects with dark humor and a near-perfect teen narrative. It's a much better interpretation of the myth of the Greek Furies than Elizabeth Miles' Fury, which also featured teenagers being punished for bad behavior, but that book doesn't even come close to this one in terms of plotting, character development, humor, and emotion. It proves the point that a well-plotted story with depth can surpass all misgivings and shine brightly among all the other paranormal YA books with a beauty all its own.
I do wish there was a little more time with the characters after everything had been revealed, though you could chalk up some of that to the fact that I just didn't want this book to end. It's rare that a debut novel can knock your socks off like this--but anyone who spends time with Eliza will never forget her.
Fury is currently only available in Australia, but overseas publishers really need to snap up this author for other audiences. If you can't wait, please visit an Austrialian bookseller such as Fishpond online.
How was it fair that I had to conduct a murder investigation and do trig?
If Nancy Drew had a cheeky sense of humor, she would be Hartley Featherstone.How was it fair that I had to conduct a murder investigation and do trig?
If Nancy Drew had a cheeky sense of humor, she would be Hartley Featherstone. Hartley's boyfriend Josh has been cheating on her, and even worse, the girl turns up dead and Josh is now the prime suspect in Courtney's murder. What's a girl to do except band together with her best friend Sam and the good-looking Chase to try and solve the crime?
Reading Deadly Cool is like eating a bowl of ice cream. It's a refreshing treat following the afterburn of reading so many mopey and middling young adult novels, and it's one that goes down smoothly and will leave you craving more more more! I didn't expect for a murder mystery to keep me laughing throughout the entire story, but this one totally did. Hartley's observations are hilarious, and so are her interactions with everyone around her. At one point, an anonymous note demands a meeting with her on the football field at midnight, and she rolls her eyes and says,
"Seriously? Am I living in an episode of CSI: Silicon Valley?"
And when Josh tells her he's created a new account to chat with her, she says,
"My Space? No one is on that anymore."
"Exactly. What better way to hide out?"
This book feels very current and modern in a way that I'm not sure I've seen in any other YA novel, but the contemporary details are seamlessly interwoven and feel like a natural part of the story. There are also tons of funny pop culture references (sympathetic head tilts, etc.), Hartley's believably exasperated but loving relationship with her health-nut mom, and adults who aren't just props and actually try to help her...even if one of them does smell like Fancy Feast. I also appreciated that Hartley absolutely confirms that Josh has been cheating on her and dumps him (see the way she dresses him down in my status updates), but she decides immediately that she will help him anyway. Besides, how can you not love a girl who hides Ben & Jerry's in the back of the freezer, says "eff you" to her crappy mood by putting on sparkly flats, and admits to eating two slices of lasagna in one sitting? It's gluten-free tofu lasagna, but still.
The mystery is also pretty entertaining, with a good amount of plausible detailing, but it doesn't go overboard on the technical details. Even if you guess who the murderer is, it isn't going to spoil the experience of reading the book since the narrative voice is so bouncy and cute. The investigation, by the way, leads to a really funny scene where Hartley is trapped under a hot guy's bed who's unaware that she's there and he starts to undress. There are a number of scenarios like that might normally raise my eyebrows if they're tastelessly done, but Gemma Halliday writes with such wit and charm that they don't seem at all forced or tacky. Instead, you feel every bit of Hartley's embarrassment and anxiety, as well as her, um, inability to look away.
This book put me in such a good mood, and has a similar vibe to fresh and funny books such as Hex Hall and Flying Blind. Hartley is a lot like a cross between Sophie Mercer and Nancy Drew, actually, and she also quickly became one of my favorite YA characters. I had such a good time with this book, and I'm really looking forward to the sequel Social Suicide, which will be out soon in Spring 2012. If you enjoy non-angsty YA, Deadly Cool is a book you'll definitely want to take for a spin.
P.S. I thought it was funny that one of the secondary character's names was Cody Banks, which made me think of the movie from awhile back. The name "Hartley" reminded me of Beverly Cleary's The Luckiest Girl, however, which was a big bonus in my book. :)...more
Dear me. This book puts me in a quite a predicament, because I'm not quite sure what to make of it.
First off, the good stuff:
I liked the Victorian woDear me. This book puts me in a quite a predicament, because I'm not quite sure what to make of it.
First off, the good stuff:
I liked the Victorian world that the author created. Dress, customs, and attitudes are meticulously detailed in the beginning and the book is very well-written. I'm partial to books set in this time period, so it's always a pleasant surprise when the world-building feels authentic to me.
The not so good stuff:
* the mystery is a snooze. It's very easy to guess why Lady Julia's husband has been murdered, so it's rather tiresome that the characters aren't catching on sooner. * sometimes the turn of a page means that a whole year has passed. * there is far too much feminism presented in this book. It didn't bother me in the beginning, but after awhile, there was just too much of it, and most of it is inserted rather clumsily. * you'd think that with so much raging femininity going on, Lady Julia would play a more pivotal role in uncovering the mystery. She does eventually pursue clues (after a long period of being pretty clueless), but there is a certain lack of urgency and intellectual reasoning about the way she went about it. * Julia herself is interesting...but not quite compelling just yet. * our hero is a Nancy Drew! Nicholas Brisbane can do it all: he is a detective, a prizefighter, a violinist, a (view spoiler)[half Rom (hide spoiler)], a (view spoiler)[psychic (hide spoiler)] (for no apparent reason), and a delectable morsel of a man all in one. At one point our fair damsel actually thinks about dessert while she's looking at him.
The most important thing, however, is that there is just far too much going on in this book. There are murders, an excessive amount of siblings, interactions with prostitutes and mistresses, pretty boxes full of secret (view spoiler)[condoms (hide spoiler)], feminist agendas, gypsies, fully out lesbians, and (view spoiler)[secret homosexual affairs (hide spoiler)] all cobbled together in a rather haphazard fashion. I also didn't realize when I purchased the 3-book bundle from Amazon that this is published by Mira, which is an imprint of Harlequin--which means that there is both more swooning than I expected, but also less of it, as the romantic angle really doesn't go anywhere. I suppose this will be developed in the later books, but the tone this first book strikes for Julia and Nicholas' relationship is very confusing.
Overall, I was fairly entertained, but the enjoyment is very nearly outweighed by puzzlement and disappointment. I'm going with 3 stars because the author did do a really great job with building Victorian London--but I do hope that all the other elements, particularly the mystery, will be better presented in future installments of the series. I am very grateful, however, that Lady Julia does not don a pair of breeches in this book. Not even once. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more