These days there are not many writers with a truly distinctive style of their own. Annie Proulx is one of them. I think Rickstad may be another. I'llThese days there are not many writers with a truly distinctive style of their own. Annie Proulx is one of them. I think Rickstad may be another. I'll have to read the rest of his work to get a better fix on it. The prose ranges from lyrical:
"But peril pressed in at the edges of a girl’s life, and worry planted roots in Rath’s heart and bloomed wild and reckless."
"Gale Duffy had the gaping eyes of a frog. Her cheeks were peppered with moles, her lips plump and bunched like a guppy’s. She wore a pink Gronkowski Patriots jersey draped over a belly that suggested her idea of home cooking was frozen pizza and Eggos. The jersey fell to her knees. Barefoot, she seemed to be wearing nothing but the jersey, her toenails painted Patriots’ red and blue. She leaned against the doorjamb, hugging herself, her cleavage deepening. She seemed oblivious to it."
Rickstad can put together a truly disturbing image and matching character in very short order.
The story itself is all angles, sharp and jarring and engrossing. The subject matter is rough and borders now and then on the grotesque. There are multiple story lines, some going back years, others new, layered together in unexpected ways. So: not a particularly easy read, but a very good one.
The earlier tragedy that divide Frank Rath's life into before and after, his loneliness, his dry humor and leaning toward alcohol, his ferocious affection for his daughter, the guilt that drives him, all these things add up to a tremendously interesting character, one you can be irritated by but still must empathize with. Because the author is not kind.
Somebody -- exactly who escapes me at the moment -- said that an author's job is to chase a character up a tree and then lob stones at him. A few people who write thrillers have graduated to lobbing grenades. Mo Hayder and Karin Slaughter are two of them, and I think Rickstad is another. The epilogue doesn't leave Rath (or the reader) with even an uneasy resolution: it delivers a horrific adrenaline burst. I can only hope Rickstad doesn't leave this hanging.
Historical fiction is my first love. I read widely and I'm always looking for new authors. I would like to say that The Guardian of Secrets has won meHistorical fiction is my first love. I read widely and I'm always looking for new authors. I would like to say that The Guardian of Secrets has won me over, but I can't. My first problem with it was that it could have been set in the present day. To write historical fiction you have to evoke the past, but I got not one bit of that here. Even the war struck me as off key.
I don't know if this novel was self published, but I'm guessing it was. A good editor would have worked with Petken to carve this novel down to a reasonable size and that would have helped enormously with what I can only call a terribly plodding, overwrought plot.
It's really important in a novel of this length to generate some tension -- and repeatedly-- but here everything is laid out in painful detail when telling less would have engaged the reader more. The characterizations are shallow; the terrible abusive husband is all bad, black as sin, murderous. The wife is blindly in love, frustrating in her extreme naive view of the world, and truly -- the only word I can come up with -- boring.
Generally I just don't review novels that don't work for me, because often I recognize that a particular novel is well put together, but not my cup of tea. That's not the case here. I suppose I felt compelled to write a review because of the absolutely glowing reviews. I'm at a loss, I confess. I just don't get it.
I wish Lisa Kleypas would write more contemporaries, because she's very good at it. This series is wonderful as a whole, but I'm a little disappointedI wish Lisa Kleypas would write more contemporaries, because she's very good at it. This series is wonderful as a whole, but I'm a little disappointed with this final installment.
It's my sense that the author's heart wasn't in this novel, given the many push-backs on the pub date and the feeling that the story was very rushed, especially in the second half.
There were secondary story lines that were never really resolved, or insufficiently resolved. We get nice glimpses of the couples from the first three books, but the family crisis -- and it is a real crisis -- is left hanging. We never really see if mother and child have fully survived. The very-rich-and-very-bad-bride's mother disappeared just when we were about to find out how she coped with being thwarted. And that's something I personally always look forward to. Schadenfreude I can allow myself with fictional characters.
Maybe most disappointing was the abrupt resolution of the conflict that brought Avery and Joe together.
Despite these problems, this novel reads better than 90 percent of the contemporary romances out there. I would recommend Smooth-Talking Stranger and Blue-Eyed Devil first, though, if you want to see what Kleypas can do with strong Texans. ...more
I have a tbr pile that I worry about. First, because if it falls over it will crush one of my dogs and second, because I make so little progress. TherI have a tbr pile that I worry about. First, because if it falls over it will crush one of my dogs and second, because I make so little progress. There are novels I have been trying to read for months. My lack of success has nothing to do with the novels themselves -- hiding in the stack may be the best novel I'll ever come across. It's just life. And I will not bore you with the details.
The way I came to read The Turncoat is: it fell in my lap. Somebody handed it to me and said, read the first chapter. And sat down to stare at me until I had done just that.
I think I am hesitant to pick up historical novels because I am usually disappointed. I can be more disappointed in a historical than in a contemporary, because a historical novel makes bigger demands of the writer, and many writers don't take that challenge seriously. But Donna Thorland does. Donna Thorland can write. She can tell a story, and she has mastered the art of establishing time and place without hitting the reader over the head with it.
So once I started, I had to finish, and not once along the way did I look at the time. The biggest compliment I can pay a writer is to say that I forgot to read like a writer. There was no room in my head for noticing plot structure, because it was solid, balanced and quick moving, and the characters had all my attention.
Another unusual point about this novel is that Thorland doesn't pull punches. Most novels about the Revolutionary War -- especially love stories -- are sanitized. Violence toward women is generally not considered in any depth. She doesn't do this: she looks the facts straight in the face, and so the reader must, too.
There are some wonderful characters here. I haven't read any other novels by Thorland (yet) but I'm hoping I'll run into some of them again. Just a peek would do.
Thus: five stars. And I'm looking forward to more novels in the series. ...more
Historical fiction is my natural habitat. I write it for a living, and I read it constantly. I know what went into the writing of this novel and I admHistorical fiction is my natural habitat. I write it for a living, and I read it constantly. I know what went into the writing of this novel and I admire the way the author brought Charleston to life. The history itself, the story of the Grimke sisters and their dedication to abolition and women's rights, is enthralling stuff.
Sue Monk Kidd can write a beautiful sentence, she can construct a paragraph and a scene and put it all together. So all the pieces are there, but the novel failed to come together for me. The problem for me was mostly about mechanics, pacing and focus.
Kidd seems to never really decide what this novel is about. If it's about the Grimke sisters and their mission to educate the country and bring about justice, then it takes far too long to get off the ground. A full half of the novel takes place before they really get started. If it's about Handful, then her story is unbalanced and piecemeal. Pacing is crucial to a story like this, and the pacing was off.
My strong impression is that Kidd would have been better able to find a rhythm if she had written this in third person. She never really gets her feet on the ground writing as Sarah or as Handful; approaching the story in third person would have given her more perspective and focused the narrative.
A number of times I felt as if we were finally shifting up out of first gear only to fall back again into a putter. It's unfortunate, because the material is very rich and full of promise....more
Jason was a student in one of my creative writing classes in 1998, and I can say without reservation that he is the most talented undergraduate I everJason was a student in one of my creative writing classes in 1998, and I can say without reservation that he is the most talented undergraduate I ever worked with. I have followed his writing ever since -- through his (now defunct, and much missed) weblog, short stories, a beautifully written novel, and finally this memoir.
There are very basic things children should be able to take for granted, whether rich or poor: food, someplace to sleep, a watchful and nurturing adult. Kids who don't have those things have to fight every day to survive on the fringe, and harder still, to move beyond the experiences that shaped them. The only weapons available are the ones they can find within themselves. A person who fights that very long and difficult battle and comes out a whole human being has grown a kind of armor. The problem is that you can't make other people understand that journey unless you're able and willing to take off that armor and let them see the scars. Jason did that, but a careful reader will come away with more than an understanding of how he survived.
There are thousands of kids out there right now who are experiencing life the way Jason did. Too many of them won't survive, or will come into adulthood unable to do anything else but follow the pattern they've internalized. After reading this memoir it will be harder for the more fortunate not to see those kids. And that's exactly as it should be....more