Kilmeny of the Orchard is the tale of Eric Marshall, who as a favor to a sick friend comes to the small town of Lindsay on Prince Edward Island to tea...moreKilmeny of the Orchard is the tale of Eric Marshall, who as a favor to a sick friend comes to the small town of Lindsay on Prince Edward Island to teach at the school. While walking one day, he wanders into a long forgotten orchard and hears beautiful violin music being played by a beguiling young lady, the book's namesake, Kilmeny. Frightened, Kilmeny flees the orchard and though Eric comes back the next night and then the next, she doesn't return. Disappointed and intrigued, he asks his landlady about the girl he has seen, not yet knowing her name, and in doing so learns the story of Kilmeny. Mute since birth, she lives sequestered at home with her aunt and uncle who the town considers odd because they keep to themselves, so no one in the town has ever laid eyes on her. Soon after that first meeting, she comes back to the orchard and a friendship between the two begins to bloom towards love.
I went into Kilmeny of the Orchard expecting a sweet love story, which is basically what I got, but I wanted to love the book and unfortunately only ended up finding it so-so. The writing was as lovely as you would expect from L.M. Montgomery and the descriptions brought a certain life to most scenes. However, while I enjoyed the story for the most part, I didn't become immersed into either it or the characters. This may have to due with how perfect both Eric and Kilmeny were and there was really no "impossible obstacles" to overcome (as the book put it). While I expected a slight fairy tale feel to the book, I was disappointed that there really wasn't depth to the overall story or the characters, especially whenever Eric thought about Kilmeny it was mostly to mention her looks or how innocent and without guile she was. Okay, so it's a new love and his first true love, but a little more interaction rather than rhapsodizing over her perfections would have been preferable. Because the book is a product of a different time and place, a few remarks about "foreigners", such as Neil Gordon who was born in Lindsay to Italian peddlers, Kilmeny's "defect", and other mindsets stood out. I wouldn't say they alienated me from the book but they occasionally took me out of the story. Even though I understand those views in context to the time this was written, it can still be a hard adjustment for a modern reader. So while this was at times a nice read, it's hardly something I'll remember back upon.(less)
That was my initial thought after turning the final page of Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later.
As a pre-teen, I was addi...more"What a stupid book."
That was my initial thought after turning the final page of Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later.
As a pre-teen, I was addicted to the Sweet Valley High series, and then later, the Sweet Valley University series as well. Before that even, I had read some of the Twins and Kids series, so when I heard this was coming out last year, I just knew I had to read it. I was excited beyond compare and went into full geek-out mode. Where are the perfect size-six Wakefield twins, and their friends and enemies, now? What are their occupations? Who are they dating or who'd they marry? And my questions kept going on and on. What has inspired this obsession? It's not like these books were high literature, but somehow they became ingrained into my life to this very day and I cannot help but remember SVH fondly.
It is nearly impossible to review the story within the covers without spoilers, but I am going to try my darnedest. Some cursing may or may not be involved.
Short synopsis (snarky comments in parentheses ;P): Jessica has betrayed Elizabeth. (Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what she did. Anyone who's read the books could make an accurate guess.) The Ultimate Betrayal. (Oooooh!) Elizabeth flees to New York. Elizabeth is a slightly sympathetic bitter victim/martyr who craves revenge throughout the book. Jessica is supposed to be a sympathetic betrayer/victim who's heartsick at destroying her sister. (I don't buy it.) Tons of reminiscing flashbacks ensue throughout the book, sometimes the same ones told by different characters, and take up about half of it, so there's barely any plot. Book ends with a thirteen-page Where Are They Now?-type epilogue that tells old fans what has happened to many major supporting characters from the original high school series. (Apparently no one is allowed to be happy. And anyone you may have originally liked from SVH has turned into a big dick. WTF?)
I expected to enjoy this as the usual over-the-top, soap opera stories I remember, but revamped a bit. Sadly, I was left feeling underwhelmed, disappointed, annoyed, and rather pissed off. For one thing, I could not buy the main betrayal -- (view spoiler)[Jessica and Todd?! In love!!?? Really? In what surreal dimension does that make any kind of sense? This broke the book for me. How can I believe anything else if this doesn't ring true. A passionate affair, sure. A one-night stand, why not? But actual 'til death do us part nonsense? Bull. Not when it's almost always been the Elizabeth and Todd, "made-for-each-other" type of thing. I actually wouldn't have minded if E & T hadn't ended up together, but for Todd to be with Jessica, that's just madness, plain and simple. (hide spoiler)] -- it was just so unbelievable. And I mean that in a Sweet Valley way, which we all know is not steeped in any form of actual reality, so my standards are quite low and I expect the extraordinary and overwrought. So from this point on, which is within the first two chapters, I struggled, but somehow managed to read on. I admit, I gagged more than few times throughout the book. Who wouldn't when faced with passages such as this one,
"And what faces they were.
Gorgeous. Absolutely amazing. The kind you couldn't stop looking at. Their eyes were shades of aqua that danced in the light like shards of precious stones, oval and fringed with thick, light brown lashes long enough to cast a shadow on their cheeks. Their silky blond hair, the cascading kind, fell just below their shoulders. And to complete the perfection, their rosy lips looked as if they were penciled on. There wasn't a thing wrong with their figures, either. It was if billions of possibilities all fell together perfectly.
Twice." -page 9/10
I hope you managed to hold onto your last meal. I barely did. I also had to endure "his beloved," "his love," and other similar nauseating descriptions.
This is not the PG-rated books from the past, the word "orgasm" is actually used. So is the F-bomb and other expletives. *gasp* Seriously, it does push the boundaries more than the innocent SVH series, but it's not very shocking by today's standards. Except that it does involve the Wakefield Twins, which was strange at first. Of course, current trends had to pop up, like Twitter and Facebook, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce, which always makes a book better and doesn't date it in the least. (That was heavy sarcasm in case you weren't sure.) The book does refer to some incidents and people from the SVU series, but only certain elements, otherwise it's mainly a continuation of high school and no one from the university days actually appears in the book.
Neither Elizabeth nor Jessica felt true to form, especially Jessica, and in fact, none of the characters, whether seen or just talked about, were right. Sure, some people change and some don't, but not a one was recognizable. Where did these strangers with the same names come from? Why couldn't there have been some semblance of the original shining through? Again, I have a hard time with the basis of the book, so that has severely colored my view of the entire thing, but as it stands, it was a complete waste of a good idea. I'd be willing to bet that any fan of SVH could come up with something a million times better than this dreck. Wasn't there an original ghostwriter available? You know, someone who might actually know the world and characters, and have the skill to develop them both in a believable manner?
The writing is rather clunky and purple-ly, often managing both at the same time. Redundancy abounds, editing mistakes, including wrong names and inconsistencies to previous events in SVH-iverse, and lots of use of the words "like" and "so", more-so in Jessica's narrative than anywhere else, which was really, really, so, like, irritating. Like, really. Ms. Pascal must have had a thesaurus at the ready, because there were big words awkwardly thrown into the narrative. While I appreciate authors utilizing lesser known or used words, some just don't blend well with the rest of the text and they pop-out unflatteringly. The structure needed fine-tuning and tenses were oddly used to differentiate the flashbacks from present day.
To put it succinctly, the writing isn't great and neither is the storyline, what there is of it. This was a bizarre read even by Sweet Valley standards and an insult to fans. Seriously, does Francine Pascal hate this universe and its readers? I think I'll stick to the Sweet Valley High series and make up my own stories about what happened afterward.
Second lesson learned: Everything always turns up fucking sunshine and roses and unicorns and lollipops for the worst person (or people) in the end.
I'd like to leave you with another winning description,
"There were no tears, but her mouth was twisted in a silent sob." -page 17
A thought a few hours after having finished this book: Maybe another "sequel" will eventually come out and it'll begin with Elizabeth waking up from the nightmare that is this book and we'll get the real ten years later story. Ahh, sweet dreams.
Update: April 26, 2011: Oh yes, always good to blame the fans/readers for not liking their terrible book. By pointing out minor, petty reasons, I might add. Warning: book spoilers in article. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/bus...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I took a chance on The Revenge of Radioactive Lady, it's not my usual read, but the cover and synopsis caught my eye and decided to give it a try. I w...moreI took a chance on The Revenge of Radioactive Lady, it's not my usual read, but the cover and synopsis caught my eye and decided to give it a try. I was rewarded by a quirky story with neurotic, yet realistic, characters that was compulsively readable. Each chapter is told by a different person, Marylou/Nance and everyone in the Witherspoon family.
Though not as humorous as led to believe by the various quotes on the cover, the most amusing of it happened in the first chapter and nearer the end, the rest of the book is filled with many dramas that had unusual, and not quite so grim, outlooks to them. The book flows nicely and the descriptions were easy to visualize, so I could clearly picture the settings. The characters each have their individual voices that make it easy to separate each of them from the others; I found everyone to be interesting in how they acted, reacted and dealt with the situations that popped up in the story. I both sympathized and hoped they could better themselves by the end. The author tackles some tough subjects (pedophilia, murder, adultery, creating a model nuclear reactor) in a light, yet respectful manner, and who also incorporates some Cold War history into the story too. I had no idea that around 800 unsuspecting pregnant women were given radioactive 'cocktails' (iron) to see how it would effect their fetus. Further information can be found in The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War, which I am now interested in finding out more about this and other unethical testing, thanks to the author. Overall, the book is a quick and easy read, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.(less)
If you're going into this book thinking you'll find an action-packed, zombie-mauling good-time, you're in for a surprise. THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS i...moreIf you're going into this book thinking you'll find an action-packed, zombie-mauling good-time, you're in for a surprise. THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS is literary zombie fiction (yes, you read that right), although it's not too literary it feels pretentious and stuffy, but it's not a totally light read either. There's violence chock full of blood and gore, a semi-solitary road trip, and God. Does it work? Yeah, in a way. The book was serious but there wasn't much depth and it didn't impact me as much as it probably should have. The plot is basically an odyssey, in which many diverse characters appear and we see how the main character, Temple, relates with them. One of these struck me as odd and took me out of the story. Before, the book showed realism and grit, then it came to giant mutants and turned into a sci-fi horror show. Frankly, it was just weird and didn't correlate with the rest of the story. Temple was an interesting character who told the tale well but was a contradiction; she's illiterate but knows words that few people do. Since she's always lived with "meatskins" and has never known the world before, her background doesn't support this and I found it didn't fit with her character at all. I got her but didn't care about her.
Honestly, I don't have much feeling for this book, I liked it but that's all, and while it's a good read, it's not great. If you like a thinking zombie story with philosophy and a stream of Christianity running through it, although it's not too deep, than you just might enjoy this book.(less)
One word to describe The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: Engrossing.
My interest in this book was piqued when I saw it described as a "charming horror...moreOne word to describe The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: Engrossing.
My interest in this book was piqued when I saw it described as a "charming horror novel," and while that isn't totally accurate, charming it is, horror it isn't, I very much enjoyed the book. Helen Grant has such an ease about her writing that I find it hard to believe this is her first novel. Her descriptions of Bad Münstereifel and its inhabitants are key to the book and provided most of the atmosphere; I could quite easily visualize everything and everyone in this little town. Pia was a realistic and relatable narrator who kept the story going at a fairly brisk pace. Sometimes she used words that I don't think an eleven-year-old would, but since the book is told by adult Pia reminiscing back, I'm willing to let that pass. The legends of this small town are wonderfully interwoven through the story and add an extra element of childhood innocence to the book. Some may find the mystery obvious or weak, but I don't think the mystery is reason for this book, it's Pia at a major point in her life, with major events happening that affect her and in turn, how she deals with them. Parts of the book are chilling, light, quiet, humorous, thoughtful, predictable, surprising, absorbing, and more, but altogether it is a book that impressed me. 4.5 stars
Received for review through the Amazon Vine program.
THE TALE OF HALCYON CRANE is an interesting, easy Gothic read. It wasn't a book that held my interest in one sitting, but was enjoyable whenever I pic...moreTHE TALE OF HALCYON CRANE is an interesting, easy Gothic read. It wasn't a book that held my interest in one sitting, but was enjoyable whenever I picked it up. A bit slow to start, it didn't really pick up until halfway, maybe two-thirds of the way through. The end was a bit anti-climatic but it fit the book, so that's fine. The author has a wonderful imagination and usually brought that through life, mainly through the island setting and the Hill history, which was enthralling. I loved the inclusion of two Alaskan Malamutes, which are one of my favorite dogs. So, if you like Gothics, and like a more modern setting with a heroine who isn't helpless, give it a go. It's a good book that's very easy to read. 3.5 stars(less)
Poor Lucy Fisher. Just when she thinks she can go home and relax from a crummy vacation, she finds all her belongings tossed out onto the lawn of the...morePoor Lucy Fisher. Just when she thinks she can go home and relax from a crummy vacation, she finds all her belongings tossed out onto the lawn of the house she shares with her fiance, and to top that off, she then loses her job. The last thing she needs is to be hit by a bus and left to be scraped up by an over-sized spatula (I don't envy whoever has to do that!).
After a slow build-up, the book finally came alive (so to speak) for me at the half-way point, along with the help of her grandmother, Naunie. Told in third-person, Lucy is a slightly flaky, but completely sympathetic character who goes through many moods as she deals with her death and how to become a proper ghost. Along with other clever touches, the idea of having untimely deaths go to a ghost school before arriving in "The State" is utterly fantastic. I wouldn't mind seeing that more fleshed out for another book, although I don't know how that would work. Lucy is helped in her haunting assignment by Naunie, whose exploits in "The State" are hilarious and she really livens up the book and provides many laughs. All the other characters add to the book without either being unnecessary or overused. Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Tulip, Lucy's dog before her death, who is the most adorable and sweetest thing ever. No, there aren't really any surprises plot-wise, but it's the journey that matters, and I enjoyed it.
So, even though it started slow, SPOOKY LITTLE GIRL picked up pace and ended up being a cute, funny, charming, thoughtful, and heartwarming little book. I'm glad I got a chance to read this and learn about how this book came to be in the author's note at the end.(less)
Very well-written, mesmerizing, fantastic. I could go on but I won't, and really can't think of words to describe my thoughts accurately. My only grip...moreVery well-written, mesmerizing, fantastic. I could go on but I won't, and really can't think of words to describe my thoughts accurately. My only gripe was Part III; it was a bit weird and not completely satisfying, but still an absorbing finish to a compelling read. 4.5 stars(less)
In the ways of mystery, intrigue, and espionage in both the past and present narrative, I thought that The Intelligencer was better (only brought up b...moreIn the ways of mystery, intrigue, and espionage in both the past and present narrative, I thought that The Intelligencer was better (only brought up because I read it recently). I am a bit disappointed that there wasn't more of those in it and less romance, but not much. While predictible and not always original, it still has a charm of its own and, at times, was impossible to put down. The characters were great and I enjoyed Amy's spirited ways and the banter between her and Richard. All the secondary characters, epecially Jane and Richard's family and friends, were interesting and added to the story. I really liked Eloise, and even though she's not in it much, I really got a sense of knowing her and I can't wait to find out what happens with her next. That intrigues me as much as finding out what happens next with the Pink Carnation!
I haven't come across many books with the past/present espionage storyline and would be interested in reading more, so I'm glad that the author has decided to write more of these novels. I hope the sequels are equally as engaging and fun! And some more mystery might be nice too.
Mini-kinda-spoiler: (view spoiler)[ The one thing that kind of bothered me was that the title implies it is about the Pink Carnation when there really isn't much about ol' Pinkie. And the one major mission isn't really described at all! Probably because it didn't really involve the central characters or story, I imagine. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)