Well, this was utterly delightful! Tricky cannibals, a ball of nightmares that follows you around, and many more strange and wonderful inhabitants. ThWell, this was utterly delightful! Tricky cannibals, a ball of nightmares that follows you around, and many more strange and wonderful inhabitants. This short but rich book is written with masterful style, and manages to make its characters endearing without being maudlin--and without trying too hard for sentimentality and quirkiness. And it's funny! In a very sly, deadpan way, particularly in the first story which cleverly implies the origins of the phrase "an arm and a leg."
Closest thing I've read in modern lit to Grimm's fairy tales--complete with macabre events and the occasional thoughtful morality tale. This is an author whose writing style is sophisticated and shows great restraint, and one who trusts in his readers--no matter their age--to follow along.
Audio Notes: LOVED the audio version narrated by the incomparable Simon Callow, whose plummy voice pronounces the delicious words with utmost care. I very much liked his different voices as well, and special applause for voicing young female characters with sympathy and appreciation.
Those who enjoyed the Harry Potter audio versions (Jim Dale or Stephen Fry) should definitely pick this one up, as I think the stories are similarly appealing and this voice performance is even better.
An audio version was provided by the publisher for review. ...more
1.5 stars Uninspired writing, loose plotting, unconvincing leaps in "intuitive" investigative work, reliance on coincidences to further hero's success1.5 stars Uninspired writing, loose plotting, unconvincing leaps in "intuitive" investigative work, reliance on coincidences to further hero's success, cliche interdepartmental strife, insulting portrayals of most of the police force in order to prop up the savant psychological profiler, half-hearted characters, thoroughly uninteresting romantic relationships, mildly annoying sexist and anti-LGBT comments (without payoff/nuance (view spoiler)[and yes, I'm aware of the author's orientation, which makes this doubly surprising. I'm sure the inclusion was meant to show what prejudices people have to face, but this wasn't conveyed well in the way the characters were written (hide spoiler)]), and violence that's somewhat graphic/meant to be shocking, but fails to punch you in the emotional gut.
I admit fully that this book suffers the unfortunate timing of being read a day after I reread the first two books in the Jack Caffery series, which are incredibly violent and sadistic, but also contain well-plotted, well-written mysteries, expertly detailed police and medical examiner work, layered but restrained character development, and some of the most genuinely sad and haunting story arcs I've ever read.
That series is also filled with crazy tension, unlike this limp thing. No surprises here at all.
I also don't really care about anyone in this book, except the one victim POV, but only in the most abstract sense because she's relegated to a teen character that seems written by marking off checkboxes. Also, portraying all the cartoonish sicko's victims as virgins ripe for sex and fame leaves a bad taste in my mouth, since they don't get any more developed than that. They--and we--deserved better.
Second book I've tried from this author, I don't even remember the first from several years back. That's it for me.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Fact and fiction are woven together in the infamous Whitechapel murders, ghosts, and the peculiar case of London H4.5 stars Love love love love love.
Fact and fiction are woven together in the infamous Whitechapel murders, ghosts, and the peculiar case of London Hospital's The Elephant Man, all from the perspective of a girl who has been severely disfigured by phosphorous necrosis. This story doesn't shy away from the gruesome nature of the crimes nor the rough realities faced by a woman without position, or a man who was put on display as a sideshow attraction. And yet it is imbued with a transcendent awareness of human dignity, and the beauty of soul and intellect.
Writing is textured and sharp, yet exquisitely restrained, the setting is vivid, and the historical details are seamlessly integrated. (I had such a good time looking up various figures and events referenced in the story!) I hope this author writes more historical fiction, because he has a knack for storytelling, an ear for dialogue, and an empathy for his characters that gives readers the rare sense of being completely immersed in the world he created. I felt the same level of excitement when reading this book as I did when reading my first Marcus Sedgwick and Sarah Waters novels, and I don't say that lightly.
Review to come. If you liked certain elements of THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER or THIS MONSTROUS THING, you'll love this. ...more
This is somehow a magical blend of adult Sarra Manning + Sarah Mayberry + Jennifer Crusie. It's funny and sharp and serious, with seething workplace rThis is somehow a magical blend of adult Sarra Manning + Sarah Mayberry + Jennifer Crusie. It's funny and sharp and serious, with seething workplace rivalry and career drama coupled with crazy great chemistry and delicious banter. It also has unbelievably sweet and tender moments (view spoiler)[one of my favorite parts is them simply holding hands (hide spoiler)], though you'll easily laugh a minute after that! It captures that weird obsessive behavior you can't help when you first fall in love, and also convinces you that after a hard-won relationship, these two won't ever stop being endearingly, ridiculously fussy over each other. Hate-to-love relationships are so fun when they're done well, and this is the best one I've read, in no small part because the "hate" part is pretty convincing in the beginning. It hits all the tropes and scenarios you've read before, but the way they're done here is just irresistible.
Katy's review also talks a lot about the heroine's feelings of loneliness and failure, as well as the way a big argument between them is resolved: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I feel so much affection for them both--it's one of those things where you come out so pleased that they found each other.
In short, it's basically everything you could possibly want out of a romance, with the added benefit of having so many cute and quirky details in it. I felt giddy with happiness reading this book, and I kept trying to prolong the experience because I know it's the author's only book...so far! I can't wait until the next one. <3 Hurry up, Thorne #2.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
3.5 stars Lose the tedious Greg bookends and this would be rounded up in a stars.
One of the "career romances" of the fifties, this one is the surpris3.5 stars Lose the tedious Greg bookends and this would be rounded up in a stars.
One of the "career romances" of the fifties, this one is the surprisingly engaging story of a girl who wants to be a sculptor and her various trials and tribulations in getting there. A slight but enjoyable story, though one that's light on the romance and characterization.
It was fun reading about Debra working with clay and sculpting animals, however--and I'm always going to read chapters with fried chicken and ice cream with great interest!...more
This is...fine. But it's too pedestrian to be a literary thriller and it's too slow/not exciting enough to be a fun paperback. I don't mind2.5 stars
This is...fine. But it's too pedestrian to be a literary thriller and it's too slow/not exciting enough to be a fun paperback. I don't mind slow books, but the characters have to be interesting or the writing has to intrigue me, and sadly, this did neither. None of the characters are really remarkable, and Arden in particular felt very removed; she doesn't really engage you in her story, whether it's her past, present, or future.
The mystery also never felt that well sketched-out to me. I went through most of this thinking it'd be three stars, and then perked up near the end when it appeared the culprit was going to be a somewhat interesting choice. (view spoiler)[After searching for the answers to "who took/killed my little twin sisters?" all her life and lots of red herrings, the protagonist is told that she herself was responsible--because as a child, she wasn't watching them when she should've. (hide spoiler)] It got exciting for a minute! But then I was annoyed when that was somewhat negated, whether by protagonist's desire or the author's unwillingness to commit. I took off half a star for that. :/
-- tonally, this also felt like rather young--nearly YA, or non-angsty NA, and less like adult fiction or thriller. The mid-twenties protagonist seems inexperienced and uncertain, and her thinking process/actions/etc (and those of everyone around her) aren't very complex. The details of her day to day life and the period of adult life lived away from home aren't very deeply rooted, and there's a single subplot involving a past relationship that goes nowhere. With very minor tweaking, this could've easily been YA.
-- "Arrowood" is the name of the family house and the family, which got a little bit on my nerves because it's referenced a fair amount. Though the family is supposed to be somewhat moneyed/connected/well known, there's not a lot of convincing detail there to make you feel as though you're stepping into the world of a privileged family. I didn't buy that this girl came from money or position at all.
I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by the reference to the Katie John house, because I had no idea it existed! The Katie John series is one of my favorites, and it's been sadly out of print for a long time and not very well known. It gave me, briefly, a sense of what the town of Keokuk must be like since Katie John's old Victorian home-turned-boarding house is so vivid in my memory. But it's disappointing that the book didn't create more of a sense of time and place on its own.
An audio review copy was provided the publisher.
About the audio production: the narration by Sarah Scott is nice to listen to. Her voice and style is very young, which admittedly contributed to the youthful feeling of the book, but I think the project director really just did a good job of matching the reader to the content. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
ETA: apparently Booklist recommended this to fans of LIVING DEAD GIRL? Oh hell no. That book was fantastic, and this one makes a moSo, so, so, so bad.
ETA: apparently Booklist recommended this to fans of LIVING DEAD GIRL? Oh hell no. That book was fantastic, and this one makes a mockery of the subject matter.
This is a ridiculous sham of a thriller (pervert bad! He has mommy issues! He must kill! He must keep all the pretty flowers/girls in his basement!) and has neither the intellectual nor the emotional capacity to explore the psychology of captor or captive, let alone make you feel anything for either. And the writing is awful. Truly awful.
The first 75% of the book was terrific--lots of twists and turns, well-paced, interesting character developments and relationships, I was eag3.5 stars
The first 75% of the book was terrific--lots of twists and turns, well-paced, interesting character developments and relationships, I was eager to return to my audiobook every time I was away from it. I also loved that contrary to most thrillers that save the big reveal for the end, in this book, you find out who kidnapped the baby halfway through the book--so you get to watch everyone scramble and unravel from there on out. I liked it so much that I was mentally composing my 4 star review while I listened.
Towards the end, things get a little messy, however, and there were a few too many convenient connections and red herrings to make it as satisfying as it should have been. The story and plotting is was so good, but the impulse to make it "and THEN there's THIS part to make you even MORE surprised!" kind of ruined it. Okay, not ruined it, but it took some of the joy out of it.
I really did like the first three quarters of the book so far, though. In a year of mostly disappointing thrillers, this is one of the best of the bunch. It's a shame that it got a bit too convoluted towards the end, but I'll still look forward to her next thriller.
I'll come back to finish off this review later....more
2.5 stars Quickie airplane read-type thriller that's sort of compulsively readable, even though the heroine is pretty hopeless, every aspect is underd2.5 stars Quickie airplane read-type thriller that's sort of compulsively readable, even though the heroine is pretty hopeless, every aspect is underdeveloped, and the writing style leans towards being excitable and annoying.
The first half is pretty standard thriller fare setup; then things get more interesting for the remainder of the story. It gets too convoluted at the end, but it did keep me reading all the way through and there were plenty of red herrings (some of them ridiculous, but so is much of this premise, so...) to entertain. I might check out another book by this author if I need another quick, mindless palate cleanser. ...more
3.5 stars This 1916 locked room mystery is dated, mostly predictable, and rather forcefully prejudiced, but still so very charming because of the surp3.5 stars This 1916 locked room mystery is dated, mostly predictable, and rather forcefully prejudiced, but still so very charming because of the surprisingly witty dialogue, appealing characters, and fun cliffhangers.
Fun facts I learned:
1. vitriol actually is a sulfuric acid, something of which I was vaguely aware but never heard referred to in its literal/physical iteration until this story. (And it's used in a quite exciting manner, I must say.)
2. The author was a prolific crime writer with many films made from his books, but is best known for inventing King Kong, though he didn't live to see it on the big screen.
This is another book I read through the Serial Reader app, btw! This time I read half the book as I waited for a friend to arrive for dinner, and was so eager to finish that I couldn't wait for the rest of the issues, so I downloaded the Kindle freebie. The next time this happens, I'm going to pony up the $2.99 to contribute towards the premium upgrade, since I appreciate the fact that this app has gotten me to try out books I otherwise wouldn't have time to. (And yes, they're working on an Android version.)...more
Intriguing opening chapters (view spoiler)[this is how much: I downloaded the Serial Reader app and liked the first chapter so much I couldn't wait foIntriguing opening chapters (view spoiler)[this is how much: I downloaded the Serial Reader app and liked the first chapter so much I couldn't wait for the rest, so I downloaded the free Kindle copy (hide spoiler)] dreadfully dull middle, and suspenseful and exciting horror towards the end. In some ways the writing feels very dated, in others, it still manages to shock and titillate.
I really like Serial Reader, though! It's a new free app that delivers a new "issue," or section of a classic, to your phone every day, with the idea that it allows you to read books in short increments of no more than 20 minutes. Clean, pleasurable interface and reading experience, and it definitely makes tackling old classics you've been meaning to read feel less daunting and more manageable. Small selection so far, but they've just gotten started.
I downloaded the app because I posted a photo of A Tale of Two Cities to Litsy, and a couple of people told me they were reading it via SR. I love the idea of people doing that, since Dickens (and Wilkie Collins too) was so well known for having stories published via serials in newspapers. It's a modern day Victorian reading app! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Good thrillers are few and far between--and they're even scarcer in YA. This one has the heroine lying in a hospital bed for almost the entire book, aGood thrillers are few and far between--and they're even scarcer in YA. This one has the heroine lying in a hospital bed for almost the entire book, and yet it manages to be full of suspense.
It features: characters who reveal their true natures gradually, a slower but well-paced plot, and methodical police/legal/medical procedures. (Obviously it takes some liberties, but enough ground work is laid to satisfy the inexpert reader.) These elements all fit neatly together into an entertaining puzzle of a story that touches on the dark underbelly of friendships and the uncertainty of new passion, as well as the terrible things that can happen when we're pushed to our limits. It also accurately portrays the culture of internet trial by jury, as well as skillfully rendered records of court transcripts and interviews.
I really liked the (view spoiler)[somewhat ambiguous, but knowing (hide spoiler)] ending. I can also relate to (view spoiler)[ the betrayal of discovering a longtime blog troll is someone you know. I couldn't explain to you why I continued to talk to this person for a long time afterwards even though I had proof of who she was. And though the contact has mostly worn off, I'm still friends with her on GoodReads. Go figure. (hide spoiler)]
All in all, a really well-crafted book that I liked immensely; even if you guess the ending, it's an enjoyable experience. I was surprised to find that I've actually read two of the author's previous books, both of which I was lukewarm about. I hope she writes more thrillers in the future, though! She has a rare talent for it.
3.5 stars Fun! Reminded me of old-fashioned isolated house mysteries, except of course this one's on a boat. Not terribly complex in terms of writing3.5 stars Fun! Reminded me of old-fashioned isolated house mysteries, except of course this one's on a boat. Not terribly complex in terms of writing or character work, which is why I side-eye that this isn't a mass market paperback, but it's a quick, enjoyable read that keeps you guessing. Better than her previous book, too. ...more