Originality is something that should be noticed and rewarded. When it seems like every idea has been reRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Originality is something that should be noticed and rewarded. When it seems like every idea has been recycled, redone, or revamped to try and tempt it into a new shape, the few books that try for something truly new stand out. That ingenuity is one of the reasons behind the hype and hoopla building behind Beukes' newest novel, The Shining Girls. The other is this: a time-traveling serial killer. I didn't really need to hear anything after that - I was hooked on the synopsis alone. Happily for me, Lauren Beukes delivers with this mashup of genres.
The Shining Girls is fairly straightforward story, told in unadorned prose. It's an enterprising mix of several genres, but it works -- all to the credit of the author's talent. Beukes dispenses her tale in a third person narration, sharing out narration amongst several disparate POVS. There is Harper Curtis, the killer, Kirby the girl who lived, Dan Velazquez, a washed up homicide reporter, and Mal, a streetkid who sees more than others want. Some POVs are stronger than others (twisted as he is, Harper's chapters are easily the most engrossing), but all add something to the story of the shining girls. I found Mal's additions the most ill-fitting, but even he has a bigger role to play than immediately apparent.
There's no explanation, technologically or otherwise, for how/why Harper can do what he does. It just is. That's it. There is a magical House that allows Harper to go sometime else, in order to target his victims. He closes "the circle" and jaunts back and forth, from the depths of the Depression-era Chicago to the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Either the reader can buy into the premise of a time-traveling house or you can't. Suspension of disbelief is key to enjoying this tale. If you go looking for concrete answers or why, you'll be disappointed. Beukes focuses tightly on the plot, and the characters to a lesser degree. The plot holds up as long as you can accept the otherwordlyness of the plot devices.
Despite its good aspects, there are issues within The Shining Girls. A large portion of the plot, i.e. Kirby's major addition the story, ends up... less important than the time spent developing it would have you think. And for a novel centered on an unhinged time-traveling serial killer there is a surprising lack of suspense. Partly derived from knowing ahead of time which girls are doomed takes away some of the tension, but there is a lack in Beukes' depiction. That isn't to say the murder scenes aren't horrifying (and horrifyingly graphic) - they can be and often are. There are many horrible things in this novel, and reading them from Curtis's POV can be a chilling experience. However, the dearth of any real atmosphere around his actions is a big miss.
If a time-traveling serial killer piques your interest, The Shining Girls is definitely worth a read. A cut-and-dried style works well for Beukes' obvious talents and for crafting a uniquely appealing story. If a plot-driven thriller novel, with slight sci-fi elements and with fairly well-realized characters is your thing, this also is a book for you. Be warned: when I say there are some hard scenes to read, I mean it. This book isn't afraid to rack up a body count, and get gory. All that said, this is a taut thriller with an interesting hook. It's unlike anything else I've read and that, combined with Harper Curtis's maniacal agenda, will make it memorable long into the future. ...more
Inspired by real-life caged-in graves found across the country, Dianne K. Salerni weaves a tale of lust, desperation, and hidden motives set during the 1860's Pennsylvania. The Caged Graves is an evocative and atmospheric young adult historical fiction read, but it's also one that sadly fails to execute the plot with complete satisfaction for the audience. The suspense and mystery that is built up over the course of the novel's three hundred thirty pages is enveloping and interesting, but the reveal and final twist fail to live up to the standard set by the rest of the book.
Verity Boone is the main character for The Caged Graves, and she is a good one. One of the strongest aspects of the novel is this main character. She's likeable, smart, fallible, and complicated. Away from home for the fifteen years since her mother died, Verity comes home to an engagement, an unknown place, and her mother and aunt's caged graves. Unsatisfied with the answers the town offers, kept apart from their secrets and history, Verity begins to dig into what happened to Sarah and Asenath's deaths. Amid whispers of witchcraft and unnatural happenings, Verity begins to understand the horrible truth that lead up to the loss of two young mothers so long ago.
The romance(s) is where The Caged Graves really began to falter from me. Before the introduction of a second love interest and an obvious (and very unnecessary love triangle), this had been coasting along; an engrossing and dense read based on Revolutionary lore. However, once the two boys Hadley and Nate emerge as rivals for Verity's affections, it became much less fun to read. Far too much time and too many pages are devoted to Verity trying to decide between the two love interests. The book is far more original when concerned with unraveling the caged graves mystery and far too reminiscent of so many other YA novels when it comes to the tepid romances. Uneven courtship and confusion aside, Nate is a more rounded character than his counterpart, but there is still not a lot to recommend either.
A fictional story inspired from minor historical facts, Salerni's debut has some originality, a three-dimensional lead character, and some suspense to recommend it. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with how the author chose to conclude her story. The mystery that had been so carefully laid out ended up being rather ordinary (and even slightly laughable) when all is said and done. The Caged Graves moves along nicely, and is well plotted and paced but I felt very ambivalent upon finishing it. I wouldn't go so far to not recommend it to a friend, but I would suggest that they would borrow from a library rather than buy it outright....more
Fun, fast, clever, amusing. This was a quick read, but I had a few genuine lol moments and the inclusion of classic monsters with modern New York is fFun, fast, clever, amusing. This was a quick read, but I had a few genuine lol moments and the inclusion of classic monsters with modern New York is fresh and creative.
With Blood Between Queens, the fifth book in her Tudor-era series centered on the fictionalRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
With Blood Between Queens, the fifth book in her Tudor-era series centered on the fictional Thornleigh family, Barbara Kyle again shows she is no newcomer to the historical fiction genre. Her grasp on the history, on the characters and historical figures involved and on plotting are top notch and ably showcase a well-developed and thought-out novel. Though it is far from the first in the popular and long-running Thornleigh series, Blood Between Queens works well as a standalone novel;one that readers who have not read the first four can still easily pick up and immerse themselves in. A strong novel, with an invented but intelligent main character, this latest Thornleigh adventure ties in action, pirates, secret love affairs, family feuds, treason and rebellion all neatly into a detailed plot that never really lets up.
Justine Thornleigh, née Grenville, is young, smart, secretive and conflicted young noblewoman with a secret past she fears being revealed. Caught between her adopted family and the father who abandoned her eight years before, her life winds up being a key element in a far more dangerous struggle than the deadly family feud that has entrenched her birth family and her adoptive one since before her birth and later illicit adoption. Between two strong-willed cousins, who both happen to be Queens, Justine finds herself with an expected sympathy for the plight of the thrice married and twice widowed Queen of Scots. At odds with her upbringing and family belief in the rightful rule of Queen Elizabeth, Justine's actions complicate more than just her own life, but the fate of England itself. Deftly handled, the maneuvering and manipulation of Justine from several sides keeps tension high and the outcome, even for those familiar with the history, interesting.
Barbara Kyle is also adept at intermixing fact with fiction, period details with key plot elements. The mixing of fictional and real, both characters and events, adds a fresh element to a story that has been told dozens of times before. Her ability to create a vibrant world, in which her characters operate, provides a well-realized and described version of the Tudor court. It, and these characters, may be well-trod territory, but Kyle keeps it interesting with new developments and some slight twists on the mythos of the Virgin Queen. Under this author's pen, the conflicts of Justine to find the right path, of Elizabeth to do right by her fellow monarch without sacrificing her sovereignty, of Mary to be treated as she wishes, are universally well-written and fresh, despite the familiar ground.
There are several side plotlines that help to propel the novel - there's the missing seafarer Adam Thornleigh, the murder of a friend of Justine's - but the main focus of the novel is on Justine, as she is caught between her past and her future, her Queen and the woman she feels an unanticipated kinship for, her birth father and the man who raised her. A fast, adventure-filled read, with Blood Between Queens, Barbara Kyle will not disappoint longtime fans of her Thornleigh series, and managed to create a new one. The first four are also fairly cheap for ebook, so this is one series I will continue, due to how much I enjoyed the latest offering.