I read this book mainly because I went to see the play at the Fortune Theatre in London a few weeks ago. The play was really good. It wasn't the scari...moreI read this book mainly because I went to see the play at the Fortune Theatre in London a few weeks ago. The play was really good. It wasn't the scariest thing I have ever experienced, as some reviews claim, but it did make me jump and it was a fantastic performance carried entirely by two actors, with most of the fear factor delivered through good old fashioned darkness, sudden noises, closeness of the atmosphere (it was the smallest theatre I have ever been in) and the audience interaction (there were very frequent shrieks), rather than any advanced technology or complicated props. The play has been performed in London for the last 23 years and remains hugely popular, so I would thouroughly recommended it if you are ever in London and are theatrically inclined.
The Woman in Black is a short novella written by Susan Hill in the 1980s which tells the story of a young solicitor Arthur Kipps and his terrifying encounter with a ghost in a small market town on the East coast of England where he is sent to settle the affairs of Alice Drablow, an old lady recently deceased. The novella is a pastiche on the Victorian gothic literature and it certainly read very authentic with its languorous pace, isolated gloomy manorhouse setting and extensive descriptions of fog and other kinds of dreary weather. But therein also lies the main problem I had with this book. I can well understand the need to set the mood and the scene with some description of nature and the surroundings, but when I am faced with paragraph after paragraph describing the colour of mud and the dripping sky, my eyes soon start to glaze over. The intro and the build-up to the actual story were also far too long, given the overall length of the book (it is 30-odd pages before the hero even gets to the place in a book that's only 138 pages long) and the ending was too rushed and abrupt in comparison. Also, the comic relief, which was very well done in the play, was sadly missing from the book.
Overall, however, this was an interesting story and a quick read and I look forward to seeing what they have done with it in the film.(less)
Ghosts, haunted houses, tragic heroines and but-kicking heroes. This was supposed to be my perfect Halloween read. Just look at that cover. And that t...moreGhosts, haunted houses, tragic heroines and but-kicking heroes. This was supposed to be my perfect Halloween read. Just look at that cover. And that title. Unfortunately, it simply wasn't meant to be.
Theseus Cassio Lowood, or Cas for short, is a 17 year old ghost hunter extraordinaire who drags his white witch mum and their cat Tybalt all over the country hunting and killing ghosts with a magic knife he inherited from his father, who was killed and part eaten by a nasty vodoo ghost when Cas was 7.
Yes, in Cas' world ghosts are not just flickering spectres that make you feel a bit chilly in the dark and make moaning noses. They are very corporeal and can kill people. Some of them kill dozens of people, for years, without anyone catching on or the existence of ghosts being widely acknowledged or special army units being dispatched to deal with the ghost menace.
Next on Cas' list of homicidal ghosts to rid the world of is Anna Korlov, aka Anna Dressed in Blood, a ghost of a girl killed at 16 while on her way to a school dance who rips apart anyone who dares to cross the threshold of the house that used to be her home. As you would expect, Cas and Anna are simply made for each other and destined to fall in love. After all, Anna is so very different from any other ghost Cas has ever come across and she inexplicably fails to kill Cas when he is conveniently deposited unconsious in her house.
I don't know what is wrong with me, and I am clearly in the minority here, as most readers seem to have enjoyed the book, but Anna's tragic murder and hard hard life failed to invoke much sympathy in me. Mainly because her story seemed like one that I have read numerous times before, but also, I think, the way her backstory was delivered made it difficult to connect to her emotionally. What we see is, essentially, a video montage of a few hours leading up to her death and that's just not enough to get any real sense of the kind of person that she was and the horror of her death. Or maybe I am just desensitized. The bottom line is (and I can't believe I am saying this) it wasn't shocking enough and the character was not developed enough for her story to have any sort of emotional impact on me.
The main character, Cas instantly and intensely irritated me with his lonelier than the lone woolf I work alone and I have seen it all affectations. The mum and her docilely letting her 17 year old son to decide the course of their lives was incomprehensible to me as a parent. The way Cas didn't seem to do very much of his own research and had most of the action plans worked out for him by other people was disappointing because the reader than misses out on those aspects (the whole encircling Anna to reveal her story ritual made no sense at all to me because of that). The present tense narration didn't really work for me. I thought most of the characters were cliche (a popular Barbie, a nerdy sidekick, some not very nice jocks etc) and cardboard-y and I just didn't really care about what happened to them. The plot felt uncomplicated and predictable. It was a shame, really, because it could have been a brilliant story, if more thought had been given to the details and a bit more depth given to the characters. However, I don't think I will be tempted to read the sequels.
If I had to sum up this book in one word, that word would be fun. This is not a message book or a portrayal of anything. It is just an exceptionally e...moreIf I had to sum up this book in one word, that word would be fun. This is not a message book or a portrayal of anything. It is just an exceptionally entertaining urban fantasy with a feisty queen of witty come backs heroine and a dark mysterious sex god of a hero with tortured past, no thinking required. It was precisely what I was looking for.
The heroine, Charley Davidson ("There's a certain responsibility that comes with having a name like Charley Davidson. It brooks no opposition. It takes shit from no one. And it lends a sense of familiarity when I meet clients. They feel like they know me already. Sort of like if my name was Martha Washington or Ted Bundy.") is a grim reaper. Or rather, she is the grim reaper. She sees the dead, the dead see her (apparently, she is very bright) and she helps them to cross to the other side by passing through her:
"...my job was to lead people into the light. Aka, the portal. Aka, me. But it didn't always go smoothly. Kind of like leading a horse to water and whatnot."
Charley works as a private investigator and also helps the police (namely, her Uncle Bob and her dad before him) to solve crimes (it is much easier to do that if you can ask the deceased who killed them) and every night for the past month she has been having wet dreams featuring a dark stranger who materialized out of smoke and shadows.
At the start of the book, Charley is woken up from one of those dreams and is thrust directly into a murder mystery which will lead her to several near death experiences, some discoveries about the world and her purpose in it and Reyes Farrow, a man she has only met once before but who has left quite an impression.
Charley's character is what made this book for me. She posesses that rare gift of which I am eternally jealous and appreciative. And that is humour. Charley is a hoot. And while Darynda Jones does go too far at times (Charley telling Garrett Swopes, aka Mr. tall, dark and skeptic, the names of her breasts was funny, until you realise that she is actually serious and she has named her own breasts and refers to them by their names during sex) but overall, I loved Charley and her witticisms. And I am totally looking forward to reading the other two books in the series.(less)
I must have read this for school as a kid. I have definitely read it a very long time ago and I can't imagine I would have done so off my own back.
An...moreI must have read this for school as a kid. I have definitely read it a very long time ago and I can't imagine I would have done so off my own back.
Anyway. It is a fantastic piece of work, widely acknowledged to be one of the best Russian short stories ever written, if not The Best. I would highly recommend it whether you are already a lover of Russian literature or are just starting to explore it. The idea is simple enough, that every person, no matter how unattractive and inconsequential, deserves some compassion and understanding. Yet there is so much in the measly 50 odd pages of this story. Comedy, tragedy, social satire and even a ghost story. It is one of the very very few books which has managed to make me laugh and cry. The influence that it had on later writers such as Dostoyevsky (who famously stated that "We all come out of Gogol's Overcoat"), Turgenev, Tolstoy, Kafka and many others is undeniable.
It is a story about a "small person", a poor civil cervant who does not have any outstanding abilities, is not clever or ambitious, who is made fun of by his co-workers, but who is, essentially, harmless and who enjoys his mindless repetitive work. And it is a story about the stark impersonal casual cruelty with which the world treats such a person, about "...how much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage coarseness is concealed beneath refined, cultured, worldly civility...".
This is a story of Sethe, a former slave at Sweet Home in Kentucky. Sethe lives at 124 Bluestone Road in Cincinnati with her daughter Denver. Having e...moreThis is a story of Sethe, a former slave at Sweet Home in Kentucky. Sethe lives at 124 Bluestone Road in Cincinnati with her daughter Denver. Having escaped from Sweet Home while heavily pregnant with Denver, Sethe knows nothing about the fate of her husband, Halle. Halle's mother, Baby Suggs, holy, who was Sethe's destination during the escape, is dead, having, effectively, given up on life. Sethe's two sons have run away and 124 is haunted by the ghost of Sethe's baby daughter. Unnamed. Whose gravestone merely reads "Beloved".
I can see why this won the Pulitzer prize. I really do. This book was horrific in so many different ways. And beautiful. Heartbreakingly so at several points, though it is certainly not pretty. Based on real events, there was not even a hint of a sob story or emotional manipulation. As horrific as the events in the book are, I don't feel like this was written to elicit horrified gasps.
There is an underlying sadness, almost numbness, to the narrative. It is vague and unclear and confusing with its erratic spotlight approach to plot development, dizzyingly abrupt changes in narrative perspective (to the point that at times you are not sure who is talking or that the perspective has changed) and magical realism elements. All of these distance the reader from the characters and their reality. At least, for me, this wasn't quite the visceral experience I was expecting. After all, Morrison is writing about one of the most heinous crimes human beings have ever committed against other human beings. So, perhaps, it should be visceral and raw and devastating. Intellectually, this was there. It asked all the right questions and said all the right things. I had a number of little lightbulb moments of thinking this is it, this is exactly it. But on the emotional level I found it very hard to connect to.
I also wish we found out what happened to Amy. (less)
I'm not, I'm afraid, a huge fan of steampunk. It's not that I mind it, so much. I find some of the ideas quite intiguing. I like steampunk drawings an...more
I'm not, I'm afraid, a huge fan of steampunk. It's not that I mind it, so much. I find some of the ideas quite intiguing. I like steampunk drawings and artwork, I used to enjoy Jules Verne as an adolescent and Brazil is one of my favourite films of all time. It just doesn't rock my world, I suppose. Or, to put it another way, it's not of itself enough to have some dirigibles and goggles to make a book for me.
I am also beginning to get slightly fed up with vampires and werewolves. Pure oversaturation. So it is, perhaps, no surprise that this one took me forever to finish. To be fair, I have been manically busy, had family visiting and have been away some of the time but still, it has taken me over three weeks to finish this book, an it is not particularly long.
I loved how the book is written and the characters are still all larger than life with some new exciting members added to the cast but there was absolutely no spark between Alexia and Connal and the story line lacked momentum to really draw me in. I couldn't care less about the mystery and what the cause of the "plague" was, to be honest. Until the very few last pages the only thing keeping my attention was watching the characters and listening to the way they talk. And then... this is the astonishing part... there was a slight twist, a few words and, just like that, I was hooked and couldn't wait to get through the next book in the series. (less)
I was a bit apprehensive starting this, having seen lots of negative reviews on GR. Now that I have read the book, I can certainly see why lots of peo...moreI was a bit apprehensive starting this, having seen lots of negative reviews on GR. Now that I have read the book, I can certainly see why lots of people would dislike it. However, this book's particular brand of quirky silly charm and no nonsense taking heroine worked for me.
Alexia Tarabotti is a parasol wielding fashion consious 26 year old spinster of unfortunate half Italian parentage and a rather large personality living in Victorian London. She is also a preternatural, i.e. does not have a soul.
So, the premise is a bit ridiculous and one of those things that you just need to swallow without thinking too much about it and, I'm sorry to say, Ms. Carriger dose not have a particular talent for the romantic parts, the story was also extremely predictable and a bit too farcical in places.
Despite all these flaws, and once I decided not to look at this as a romance, I did find that I was enjoying myself quite tremendously and constantly breaking into smile. The main charm of the book for me is that it is just full of Characters. The vast majority of them with a decidedly capital "C". Miss Tarabotti herself, the flamboyantly camp vampire Lord Akeldama, the vampire queen Countess Nadasdy who looks like a shepherdess, the BFF with a taste for hideous hats, the Beta werewolf Lord Lyall with a penchant for meddling and even the self-absorbed shallow mother were all quite delicious and made for a great read.
On the romance, I was at first disappointed that things were progressing quite so swiftly. I like the suspense to remain for a while and things to stay unresolved between the protagonists (I'm afraid I'm one of those people for whom the romance between Sookie and Eric started to fizzle after she boinked him while he couldn't remember himself and died an untimely death round about the part where they get married). In this instance, however, because the steam was quite underwhelming and the romantic suspense not that suspenseful to begin with, I'm thinking it will almost be better to have them married so that they can skip over those parts and plunge straight into the sardonically indulgent marriage part.