**spoiler alert** This is one of those book that, for the first half of the book, was leaning towards 4 or more stars, but that, because of the last 3**spoiler alert** This is one of those book that, for the first half of the book, was leaning towards 4 or more stars, but that, because of the last 3/4 fell to about 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the epistolary style, as well as trying to figure out, in the beginning half, how all the pieces fit together and why notes and emails were relevant to Bernadette's missing status.
I guess I was expecting more from this novel, or wasn't expecting things to "work out" the way they did. The events, both current and past, seemed way too fantastical for a novel of this type: Russian Mafia, a stealthy disappearance in Antarctica, Bernadette's seeming descent into further craziness or artistic frustration. I mean, sure, some of these things could be plausible:
1) the destruction of the "Twenty Mile House" causes Bernadette to flee L.A. for Seattle—but not telling her husband for twenty fucking years?! And her husband not suspecting a thing?
2) Elgie burying himself at work so as not having to "deal" with Bernadette's constant frightening mood swings and rants—yet really never once considering if there was a reason other than her, say, four miscarriages before finally having a daughter who was born blue and thus had five years of surgeries in order to survive . . . because all of that isn't enough to send Bernadette on a downward spiral? Why didn't he suggest, I don't know, family therapy then?
3) Bernadette making the promise that she will never build anything again as long as Bee, her daughter, survives, yet again, not telling Elgie her intentions. All Bernadette seems to do with this promise is doom herself to a life of artistic frustration—frustration she takes out on her environment and the people within it, as well as herself.
4) Identity theft. Okay, I could buy this, but what was harder to swallow was Bernadette's crazy decision to hire a "virtual assistant" from India (supposedly) and give said assistant access to all her personal information, including bank account numbers, social security numbers, etc., and then have it turn out that the whole thing is a scam and "Manjula", the "assistant", is actually the Russian Mafia who send someone from Moscow to Seattle to kill Bernadette (supposedly). It was all a little too much.
5) Elgie deciding to have Bernadette involuntarily committed. There seemed to be zero communication in that family—which is probably part or most of the reason much of the novel is told in the epistolary style: a way to demonstrate that all the information this family seems to get is second-or-third-hand. And if there is actually direct person-to-person contact, it's during a period of misunderstanding, or when other people are present, so it makes whatever's being discussed less intimate.
6) The subplots with Audrey and Kyle Griffin and Soo-Lin. Again, these characters participated in events that seemed fantastical or blown way out of proportion. Audrey's abrupt "I can't let Bernadette be committed because of ME!" seemed so out of character, as well as her also abrupt "My son is a drug addict!!!" 180. Soo-Lin and Elgie's one night stand was so stupid and cliche.
7) Bernadette's 180. One of things I thought the novel lacked was more about this character, which may seem strange since the book is essentially about her, but I couldn't help but feel that we didn't really see enough about her to watch her make the decisions she made. Perhaps her letter wasn't "sudden", since she was apparently gone for six weeks or more, and in that time she was working and living at the Palmer Station in Antarctica, and during that time she had the time to reflect. Still, it seemed sudden that she "changed". Or perhaps, tried to make amends.
8) The end was messy and lacked satisfying closure. Possibly this was a statement on the fact that life is messy and not everything (if anything) is ever resolved properly or to any satisfaction. Okay, so Elgie still loves Bernadette . . . but he's having a child with Soo-Lin. Bernadette perhaps forgives Elgie, and decides they are going to move out of their fun-house home and into a Craftsman, which she hates, and decides Bee isn't going to an East Coast boarding school. But, then what? Do they just live "happily ever after" or is the next minor or major crisis lying in wait?
I could go on but maybe I shouldn't.
Overall, it wasn't a bad read, but I didn't love it. ...more
**spoiler alert** Ugh. I absolutely despised the "writing style" of this book, though I can't really say if that's the author's fault or the translato**spoiler alert** Ugh. I absolutely despised the "writing style" of this book, though I can't really say if that's the author's fault or the translators' faults, or both. The writing style is very simplistic, as is the dialogue, and the plot itself is very roundabout. The plot itself was boring, the characters flat and unrealistic.
A young woman, Noriko, marries into a large, close-knit family of eight, the Shito family, several generations who all live together in a big house in Tokyo. The family is well off, owning their own businesses and having properties with tenets. Everyone in the family is overly nice and kind to Noriko, calling her "the treasure of the family". Noriko is happy enough with her situation and new family until an accident—an explosion—occurs while she is away, visiting her parents. Noriko becomes suspicious when her new family fails to have any emotional reaction to the explosion, which caused the death of a tenet, an ice vendor and his family. The family offers no real answers to any of Noriko's endless questions, and Noriko's suspicions turn into delusions after she talks things over with an old friend, Tomomi. At first, Tomomi thinks Noriko is crazy with her suspicions, but then she encourages Noriko to not give in so easily and just trust the family when they continue to lie to Noriko.
I read to about page 124 and then I was just couldn't stand it any more. Noriko basically gets upset and more suspicious and more and more delusional and cries a ton and then the family apologizes to her and praises her endlessly, all of which makes Noriko more upset and uneasy. Everything that was already mentioned—the death/murder of the ice vendor and his family, the "Crazy Eggplant" the family grows in their garden, the mysterious nightly goings-on of the family which excludes Noriko, the mysterious Ei, the elderly matriarch of the Shito family and her neighborly visitors, Ei's ability to walk and Mastuzo's (a great-grandfather in the family who has had a stroke) ability to talk normally, etc. At one point, Noriko is hysterical, crying and screaming and threatens to leave the family. She runs upstairs to pack a suitcase and her husband and father-in-law corner her and make her drink drugged tea. Shortly after this, I skimmed the rest of the book.
I'm not quite sure what happened, all the details, but apparently the family has been selling psychotropic mushrooms or something for centuries to all the neighbors in their community. The family has been feeding Noriko these mushrooms to keep her disoriented and calm. Eventually Noriko's accusations of the family's untrustworthiness and possible murderous tendencies and tell her off, and then shortly after that, Ei tells Noriko the "true story" of the Shito family (I have no idea what this is because I skimmed it) and then the whole family undresses and has an orgy which each other. EWWWWWW. GROSS. WTF was this book?! ...more
**spoiler alert** Excellent installment in the series. Interesting, well-fleshed out new characters, fascinating storyline and subplots, great twist a**spoiler alert** Excellent installment in the series. Interesting, well-fleshed out new characters, fascinating storyline and subplots, great twist at the end of the novel. Hoping to see more of Detective Tam again in future books, as well as hoping to see (though it might not be possible for the show) to see a similar plot and characters on the TV show.
This book had more of a female empowerment story than previous books, such as "Keepsake" or even "The Mephisto Club", because the women in this story weren't running away from a scary, faceless demon of a man who was always chasing them, one step ahead of their every move; the women, Iris Fang, Bella Li, in this novel were fighters, warriors, constantly training their bodies and minds to eventually come face to face with this ghost-man and pay him back 100-fold for what he had done to their lives, 19 years prior. The payoff was very satisfying and I also liked the "spooky" twist with the third warrior, seen only to Barry Frost and Jane Rizzoli as "The Monkey King". I'm glad Jane got suspicious enough of Detective Tam at near the end of the novel to realize that she wasn't really witness to the appearance of a supernatural figure—but decided in the end not to tell him that she knew who he really was.
I also enjoyed Maura getting to spend some time with "Rat" (from "Ice Cold") in a more normal setting—her home—rather than out in the cold, fighting for their lives. It would have been nice to see another chapter with just the two of them, trying to do some of the normal, touristy activities Maura had planned for them.
**spoiler alert** Definitely a good read. It was a mystery, well-written and in the Regency style (via the blurb on the back of the book), and had a g**spoiler alert** Definitely a good read. It was a mystery, well-written and in the Regency style (via the blurb on the back of the book), and had a good buildup of suspense and drama (plenty of drama!), as well as the key elements first introduced in Pride and Prejudice: the importance of family and finding a good match.
I actually enjoyed reading this much more than the original Pride and Prejudice. This book was sort of a "sequel" in which Elizabeth and Darcy have been married a year, are Mistress and Master of Pemberley and are very, very, very much in love. An unexpected winter storm strands a diverse group of people at Pemberley, a few of which the Darcys know, including Elizabeth's sister Lydia (sans husband), viscount Stafford (who apparently knew Darcy's cousin colonel Edward) and Nigel Worth, a lawyer who knows Darcy because of his dealings with paying of Mr. Wickham's gambling debts, and Darcy's cousin Anne de Bough and his estranged Aunt, Lady Catherine. There's also the viscount's mistress and a naval widow, and Anne's maid, Mrs. Jenkinson. Elizabeth and Darcy were only supposed to host Lydia and Darcy's cousin and aunt, but took pity on those he knew stranded at the station where they picked up Lydia.
Meanwhile, just before taking home so many guests, Elizabeth and Darcy (and Darcy's sister Georgiana) started noticing strange figures lurking around the Pemberley grounds and in the house, hearing strange sounds, noticing objects like candle holders and bedding and food disappearing. With all the guests, the strange events slowly began to escalate, from petty theft to acts of vandalism and mischief and then to murder.
It's sort of a detective story, but not really, but Darcy and Elizabeth are hardly amateur sleuths, but they do their best. They are still baffled by the occurrences, and have no idea how the "phantom(s)" are getting around the house and how he/she/it/they is/are not being noticed by anyone other than Darcy's staff.
In between the mystery parts matches are being made, and love is being declared (sometimes over and over and over and over again), honors and reputations are being tested, and the plot of Pride and Prejudice is being rehashed (again, sometimes over and over and over and over). Some of this dragged for me; I kept putting the book down and coming back to it, and I was happy to get to the end of the book. The idea of this particular plot (with all its twists and turns) was interesting enough, and at first, it was sort of page turner where I wanted to know what would happen next, but there were too many subplots and the above mentioned for it to keep the good momentum from the beginning. I don't regret buying it or reading it though, it was fun and interesting, and there were solid resolutions to all the subplots and for the characters left in "limbo" in at the end of Pride and Prejudice, like Anne, Georgiana, and even Lady Catherine. The only one who made out terribly was Lydia, but the resolution for her was probably for the best, given the situation.
At the end of the book, there's a few pages of some history regarding mental illness and split personalities in the Victorian area—how there were mental illnesses documented, but without the names that we have today to label them with. I kind of skimmed it, but it was nice to have a touch of history to make a plot point more relevant. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is definitely a different—yet kind of cool, especially if you like vampires—take on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" novel,**spoiler alert** This is definitely a different—yet kind of cool, especially if you like vampires—take on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" novel, at least, the continuation of it. (And if you haven't read Jane Austen's novel, don't fear, since Amanda Grange summarizes quite a bit key plot points from "Pride and Prejudice". After a while, you might just wish Elizabeth would stop whining about missing Longbourn and Jane so much!) It's almost a "modern" Gothic novel (at least, modernly written)—it has all the hallmarks of a Gothic novel: romance, supernatural occurrences, ancient evil villains, love conquering all, a curse, and a mystery nearly kept entirely from the heroine—Elizabeth—till just about the climax.
I enjoyed reading this more than "Pride and Prejudice" because I like vampires, and I also like retellings of stories and fairy tales and mythologies. I sort of loved how parts of "Pride and Prejudice" were retold to incorporate the vampire mythology, as well as the near extreme measures taken to keep Elizabeth Bennett out of the Darcy family, and why Darcy behaved "really" in such a cold manner towards Elizabeth. I wasn't ever completely comfortable with the author's style of writing, which was sort of "detached" (but this could also be because the story dealt more with the plot, especially the heavy descriptions of traveling from place to place to place, and parties and new characters, rather than divulging the characters' innermost thoughts), but I did think it suited the story overall.
I was expecting Elizabeth to be turned into a vampire and was surprised when it didn't happen—even more surprised when it turned out there was a way to reverse Darcy's "curse". I also kept expecting Elizabeth and Darcy to sleep together, but each time a dramatic moment arose when it might occur, it just as quickly stopped. After Elizabeth finally found out about Darcy's curse, I was almost a little bored—thinking the story could only end one of two ways—Elizabeth turning into a vampire, or Elizabeth somehow managing to kill Darcy, but my boredom didn't last more than a few pages. I liked the journey into the ancient, buried temple to attempt the ordeal of un-making Darcy a vampire. Overall, the novel was a lot of fun. ...more
**spoiler alert** Beautiful prose, beautifully told, the story of Kitty, a false, frivolous woman who, over the course of the novel, awakens her spiri**spoiler alert** Beautiful prose, beautifully told, the story of Kitty, a false, frivolous woman who, over the course of the novel, awakens her spiritual consciousness and becomes a woman of substance. Or at least, strives to be one and hopes to raise her (presumed) daughter as a woman of substance too.
Really loved reading this. I had seen the beginning of this as a black and white movie a while back and was intrigued: a flaky, self-absorbed, heartsick married woman has an affair with a married man, and then when her husband finds out, he makes her go with him into a cholera-stricken region of Hong Kong. Her married lover refuses to divorce his wife and marry his lover, so she has no choice but to go with her husband. That was all I saw, but I was intrigued and decided I wanted to read the book.
I think that I was sort of expecting the plot to be a love story, a rekindling romance between Kitty and Walter, so I was more than surprised when Kitty found herself pregnant and unsure of who the father was, and then when Walter died. I was even more surprised by Kitty's return to Hong Kong found herself falling back into the arms of Charles Townsend, the man with whom she had the affair (after swearing to herself she was no longer in love with him).
These surprises, however unexpected, added such dimension to Kitty and to the plot that made me realize I was glad not to see another "cliched" romantic plot. The novel is all about Kitty and her transformation from the selfish woman she was all her life to the self-reliant, self-aware, thoughtful woman she becomes, just, at the ending, learning how to love and how to ask for real love, and redemption. ...more