This book is a very tidy little world; we begin in the confines of a boy's school and despite some adventures in the world outside, barely leave it. IThis book is a very tidy little world; we begin in the confines of a boy's school and despite some adventures in the world outside, barely leave it. I think Mitchell writes children and schools in general very well, and that confining comforting sense that school is the whole of existence - when you're young - really permeates the book. Even the murder isn't very horrible; it ranks about as high as other disturbances that go on at the school. Meaning, all these things really only matter in that they disrupt the routine. When we briefly step out and see the situation through Mrs B's eyes, in some ways the school disappears entirely. When we step back, we are re-enveloped.
I doubt Mitchell was trying to do anything very complex, but the thing is, she did it. It's a nice little piece of world-building, with the school as the whole of the world.
It's funny too, how precise she is when laying out a scene; in one, Laura and Mrs B sit down in two chairs to await an interview, and when it becomes obvious that no one else is coming, move their chairs up to the table. That serves no purpose and could easily be left out, but was put in. At the same time, Bradley almost never describes anyone in this book; a brief word picture here and there, usually a couple of adjectives. She writes like someone laying out a real scene that lies actually before her eyes, with just enough words to make it plain.
The mystery is slight and not elevated above any other part of the story, and Laura and Mrs B make only brief appearances. I guess I find it restful? Like a visit with friendly acquaintances....more
So I veered from being really annoyed by these stories to really enjoying them, in the course of the same story, I thought about why; some of it's jusSo I veered from being really annoyed by these stories to really enjoying them, in the course of the same story, I thought about why; some of it's just that I'm not at all familiar with the pagan lifestyle and the overwhelming detail was a little tiresome. I guess it might be similar to reading a story about a mechanic and having to walk through the entire process of fixing a car, part by part, or even, say, a devout Catholic and having to read through prayer after prayer.
I think someone IN the lifestyle probably would keep recognizing little elements and really enjoy that part. I didnt.
Too, everyone in the book - some more than others - is constantly RIGHT. I mean to say, they lay down the law, in that very offensive way that people do when they are sure that they know what's right for you, and that they have the right to tell you so. If these were people I actually knew I'd avoid them. In a book it became very hard to like to read about them. I'd get disarmed, because you do see their inner life, and they weren't quite as offensively cast iron in their own heads, but then they'd open their mouths again.
BUT. The actual stories were imaginative and well told, and very patiently crafted. And there were places where all that detail which I just said was so tiresome, was very interesting.
I'd recomend this as a read. If you get tired of it, power through; it gets better and in the end it's worthwhile....more
a mix of MR James pastiches and some original work. The quality is pretty uneven, and so far as the pastiches go, there are phrases and ghosts lifteda mix of MR James pastiches and some original work. The quality is pretty uneven, and so far as the pastiches go, there are phrases and ghosts lifted entire from James stories. I assume that's done with full acknowledgement, with a nod and a wink to other James fans, but it felt recycled.
Some of the original stories though, I enjoyed very much and overall I think she's worth reading if you're looking for an old-fashioned kind of ghost story....more
a lot of these are weird stories, in the original meaning of the phrase. They're strange, unsettling and original. I'll eventually have to read this aa lot of these are weird stories, in the original meaning of the phrase. They're strange, unsettling and original. I'll eventually have to read this again, to decide how I feel about it; I didn't enjoy the read, exactly, but I was able to appreciate the originality....more
This is a collection of short stories and poetry, inspired by Norse folklore and legend. It's incredibly packed - there are 33 separate pieces and ofThis is a collection of short stories and poetry, inspired by Norse folklore and legend. It's incredibly packed - there are 33 separate pieces and of course there's a lot of variation in quality, but some are very good.
It's the first anthology of Norse fairytales that I've ever come across, so it's worth picking up for that reason alone....more
I'm giving this one four stars for the sake of one story.
If I were reading this as an anthology, I'd be happy with just one or two good stories, sinceI'm giving this one four stars for the sake of one story.
If I were reading this as an anthology, I'd be happy with just one or two good stories, since most entries in a collection are mediocre at best; from a single author of proven ability, I'd expect more. But in this case it doesn't matter, since that one story - "Frontier Guards" - is well worth the price of the book. I understand it's been anthologized several times, but I've never come across it before.
Ghost stories have a strange attraction for me. I scare myself with them, and I don't enjoy being scared, so this perverse desire is puzzling. But I want specifically to read ghost stories, not horror, and most ghost stories are as overdone as the early Gothics, with entrails and demons and insanity everywhere you look.
I prefer stories in the mannered school of M.R. James, which limits the field severely. In fact, I've searched for an inheritor in vein, certainly among modern writers. I think that Sarah Monette's recent collection of ghost stories comes very close, primarily due to her choice of a similar sort of colorless, learned protagonist in a setting of museums and manuscripts. Wakefield's choice of character and venue is precisely the opposite, and yet the overall effect of helpless, dismayed horror is the same.
Wakefield has a nasty mind, quite honestly, and a very nasty mouth sometimes, but he's endlessly inventive and his implacable, personal hauntings are as powerful as James' impersonally murderous spirits. Maybe moreso. Maybe the fact that usually Wakefield's protagonists are being haunted by a sin of commission is what makes his stories so powerful. James' antiquaries have so often committed no crime save that of curiosity; it's some comfort to know that Wakefield's victims usually did this to themselves.
Of course, in cases where their only sin was to walk into a strange house, as in 'Frontier Guards,' one can only prickle with a delightful little scary thrill, and close the book, and try to think about other things til one falls asleep.
Because anyone could be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Even you.
Enjoyed it immensely. I think the world building was detailed enough to hold together; I could believe in a world beyond the palace, which mattered siEnjoyed it immensely. I think the world building was detailed enough to hold together; I could believe in a world beyond the palace, which mattered since history and politics inform the main character's actions and the plot. Speaking of the main character, normally I'd be wearied by yet another small town girl who's brought to court and turns out to be the Second Coming, but in this case I didn't mind. I liked it! I was rooting for her.
Easy to see what the second book will be about, and I'm not sure I care to follow on with that particular character, but it would be interesting to see the other characters from that viewpoint.
Recommend! Not a complex read but very good....more
What a good writer Sarah Waters is. She has a way of elevating the mundane to beauty, and the extraordinary or horrible to the commonplace. I mean toWhat a good writer Sarah Waters is. She has a way of elevating the mundane to beauty, and the extraordinary or horrible to the commonplace. I mean to say, the things that happen in this story are quite shocking, taken out of context, and yet in the course of the story they seem completely inevitable, and what comes after, the soul searching, regret and second-guessing, doesn't weigh the story on because the action is going on and sweeping the characters along.
Waters knows when to tell the story moment by moment and when to stride ahead by days and weeks. And the small details of this world are so vivid, both the actions and the furnishings - Lilian 'taking the wall,' which is a phrase I'd never heard but which was instantly evocative; the details of the shabby house, the constant cleaning, the knick-knacks on the shelves. I can picture it.
The ending comes so suddenly, in a way; Waters wrote it well, you don't suddenly come down with a thump, and I actually appreciate the way that it DID end. But I think one does have a bit of a reaction. I did, anyway.
A very good story. I won't read it again any time soon, but I enjoyed it....more
This thing is all over the place. It starts with a beautiful if slightly trip along the Thames, detailing the history and geography - drawn from literThis thing is all over the place. It starts with a beautiful if slightly trip along the Thames, detailing the history and geography - drawn from literary sources mainly - because the Thames is where most of the body pieces are discovered. What makes it confusing initially is that the writer starts in the middle, instead of with the first body, in order to emphasize how the murderer overlapped Jack the Ripper.
After going forward for a while, then, we jump back in time and look at the first murder.
There are also chapters on other killers and advances in forensic medicine that just seem irrelevant when we're talking about a Victorian murder. They COULD be relevant, but as written they aren't.
All in all, I just don't think it's organized very well. I can't speak to the research involved, but as a layman I definitely found it hard to follow in places....more
this is what serious research looks like. An easy read? No. But a completely engrossing analysis of the men who could have been the original flesh andthis is what serious research looks like. An easy read? No. But a completely engrossing analysis of the men who could have been the original flesh and blood Robin Hood and the myths, history, and oral tradition that made him the man we know today,...more
I'm experiencing a bit of sensory overload; she's a good writer, flamboyantly so, with the result that this is one of the least relaxing reads I've evI'm experiencing a bit of sensory overload; she's a good writer, flamboyantly so, with the result that this is one of the least relaxing reads I've ever had. Like watching a man juggle kittens, knives, and armed bombs while dancing on a tightrope.
It's quite a show! But I can only take so much at a time. And there have been some pieces, the poetry particularly, that I just skipped. They looked like too much work....more
Or more accurately, maybe, this is like a movie treatment. No real feeling in it anywhere, but that's okay becauseJohn Grisham as written by a robot.
Or more accurately, maybe, this is like a movie treatment. No real feeling in it anywhere, but that's okay because the actors will provide that.
The book began fine; there was humor and originality up through the protagonist's arrival in Appalachia. Soon after she accepted her internship there though, it just bled away and it increasingly became a dry recital of events rather than a living, feeling book. I remember liking The Client; I'll have to go back and reread that, because this was DREADFUL. The characters don't connect with me, and they don't much seem to connect with each other either. ...more
I have never read any of Christopher Buckley's other books, but I intend to seek them out. He did something really hard with this, which was to be conI have never read any of Christopher Buckley's other books, but I intend to seek them out. He did something really hard with this, which was to be consistently funny and wry without ever over-extending and becoming tiresome. He didn't degenerate into 'that guy' whose every comment is a one-liner.
Even harder, he was writing a book about his parents' deaths - and by extension, their lives - and his humor could have seemed out of place but I don't think it did. I have a friend whose father died, and her family was able to laugh about it even the next day; black humor is their shield against the world as well as their pleasure, and I knew their father wouldn't have minded, so why should I?
It can be jarring for the tender-hearted, but take it in context. Christopher obviously loved his parents.
WF Buckley once said (paraphrased) that the best Christian he ever found turned out to be a non-practicing Jew. This is the best book about death that I've found, and it turns out to be by an atheist. It makes no pretense at being a "how to" or "what comes next" sort of book; it's a celebration of two well-lived lives and an unblinkered look at the death of the physical body. As such, it was a real pleasure to read. It didn't so much inure me to death as make me want to live more loudly.
So, you can actually read this book as a stand alone; I did. The author tells the story by alternating between five different characters' viewpoints,So, you can actually read this book as a stand alone; I did. The author tells the story by alternating between five different characters' viewpoints, and I can't say that any particular character got any more weight than the others, so I didn't realize that two of them were recurring characters in a series.
I don't even think that reading the preceding books would have made that much difference to my enjoyment of this one. It wasn't particularly scary or creepy, despite being billed as a horror; no lie, the creepiest thing about it is the cover, which is BIZARRELY creepy. I'm still not sure what bothers me so much about it, but I kept flipping the book shut to look at it.
If you're looking for a quick and reasonably well written thriller, recommend. I found it engaging right up til the last minute, when the two plotlines were wrapped up with possibly too neat of a bow, particularly in the case of the secondary male character; I feel like trauma would tend toward people being less able to connect easily and honestly with, you know, random strangers they meet in the woods - but who knows.
Anyway, it's a minor quibble. More entertaining than the general run of thrillers, I believe....more