It's the The Gashlycrumb Tinies for the Trump era. Not a bedtime book for little kids, but more for their parents to set on the coffee table when compIt's the The Gashlycrumb Tinies for the Trump era. Not a bedtime book for little kids, but more for their parents to set on the coffee table when company comes over.
E is for extraterritorial invaders who will "probe you from your bu**hole/On up to your face." F is for Fracking, I is for Isis, and T is for Trump who will paint your bedroom his signature orange and then nuke you.
This is my kind of humor along with excellent apocalyptic illustrations and humorous rhyming stanzas. I read it to my 11-year-old daughter who was a bit disturbed. I'm still trying to teach her to recognize when something is supposed to be funny rather than scary. She also hated the The Gashlycrumb Tinies when we read it to her a couple of years ago.
The book starts out with a father finding this book and reading it to his son for a bedtime story. I really enjoyed the father's increasingly ghastly faces as he reads each page.
Five stars. This would be a good one to get in hardcover.
I received an advance reader's copy from NetGalley....more
I really enjoyed this fast-paced fun mystery with a supernatural twist. After struggling through the last mystery novel I rRelease Date: June 27, 2017
I really enjoyed this fast-paced fun mystery with a supernatural twist. After struggling through the last mystery novel I read, it was a nice change of pace to read a story I actually looked forward to picking up again.
The House of Memory is the second and most recent of the Pluto's Snitch series, the name of the 1920s private detectives who investigate the paranormal. I would normally have read the series in order, but because I was given a review copy, I decided to see if this second book could stand on its own. I'm happy to say that it can, though I sacrificed character development that I assume was covered in the first novel.
Though there are a few obvious references to the first story—Raissa's uncle, the "world-famous medium Madam Madelyn Petalungro", Caoin House (the setting of the first story)—they are minimal and the current story isn't affected too much.
The first-person writing was flawless and the narrator and protagonist, Raissa James, has a good voice and is likable. On the other hand, I learned very little about her partner, Reginald Proctor, other than he's good at cards, can read people well, is handsome with a mustache, isn't—ahem—interested in "the ladies", and cannot see spirits. I would have liked more about Reginald, as he was a very peripheral character in this novel.
The House of Memory is also a clean book. There’s no profanity or gratuitous sex, and I’m thankful there are no obligatory romantic relationships for the protagonists. That said, it’s not a book for children, as it does reference murder, prostitution (without showing either), and the ghosts would be quite scary if on a movie screen:
I looked back at Roswell House and felt a trill of fear. The two girls, heads in place, stood on the porch. Above them, in a second-story window, loomed a dar-haired woman. The atmosphere around her was thick with what looked like buzzing insects. Flies.
The use of Zelda Fitzgerald, Tallulah Bankhead, and the Sayre family (Zelda’s parents) in the 1920s flapper-era is entertaining and may come to life more for those of us who watched the first season of Amazon's Z: The Beginning of Everything. Yet as much as this era makes a colorful setting for the story, author Carolyn Haines doesn’t shy away from the plight of women and non-whites, both nationally and in conservative Alabama.
The House of Memory was a fast read that I never found dull or slow and contained multiple mysteries—both of the supernatural variety and the real. In one sense, Raissa and Reginald are hired by Zelda Fitzgerald to investigate whether Zelda’s friend, Camilla, has been possessed by a malevolent spirit. While investigating this mystery, the detectives discover that several young women have gone missing locally and in other Alabama towns.
Using her “I see dead people” gift, Raissa is able to find clues to solving the non-supernatural disappearances. It’s this bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds that makes this character and this mystery so enjoyable.
If you like light mysteries, the supernatural, and period books, The House of Memory is for you. I definitely plan to pick up a copy of the first book in this series.
Thoughts on the ending/resolution:
The ending was almost the typical movie scene in which a person is possessed and, supported by loved ones urging her to fight, summons up the strength and the spirit is expelled. It’s so common it’s cliche. This scene did occur at the end, but I liked the twist when David, Camilla’s fiancé, began choking her once she was possessed and threatened to kill her and burn down the haunted house rather than let the spirit take possession. Overall, a satisfying enough ending.
I received an advanced reader's copy from the publisher. 4.5 out of 5 stars...more
**spoiler alert** Magic. Wouldn't it be great if the world really were like Harry Potter and we Muggles just had to tap into an unseen mystery world w**spoiler alert** Magic. Wouldn't it be great if the world really were like Harry Potter and we Muggles just had to tap into an unseen mystery world with the secrets to life? Isn’t this ultimately what drives pseudoscience and religion? Traditional religion calls it “God.” New-Agers have replaced it with “the universe”, although if they’re imagining some intelligent being that conspires to make our dreams come true, may as well call it God. But—maybe God has gotten a bad rap these days. The Alchemist uses God, Allah, omens, intuition, and “the universe” with a few cameos from Biblical characters to turn what could be a decent self-help inspirational story into The Secret.
I remember taking a literature course in college called "Altered States of Reality". We learned to meditate (a good thing—still do it) and read Carlos Castenada's Don Juan. Maybe there was magic in the world! Impressionable college students faced with a future in a cubicle, daily gridlock, and a house in the burbs want to believe. The Alchemist reminds me of this type of book.
Now in my early 40s, I'm wary of magic. If we are to believe the fable of this book and its message, then we should trust our intuitions, look for omens, and realize that “beginner’s luck” is “the universe” [God?] conspiring to help us reach our dreams or our “personal legends”. This is what other reviewers have labeled as “The Secret” in story form.
It’s important to follow our dreams; the lone quote I highlighted was “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting. . .” Personally, I have had a lot of my dreams come true, but I did it with hard work, good choices, and some good circumstances. I don’t think any “universe” was trying to help me out. But this idea of believing in magic, omens, and mystery visits from Biblical characters and alchemists is the stuff of starry-eyed college students and new-agers. The 20-something me would have loved it.
If, on the other hand, you read it as just a story and not some life-altering secret manual, it’s a decent young-adult short story....more
I was given a signed copy of this book by a Hungarian ESL student. As an ESL teacher in the suburbs of Chicago whoStrong on History, Light on Mystery
I was given a signed copy of this book by a Hungarian ESL student. As an ESL teacher in the suburbs of Chicago who likes mysteries, I hoped this would be right up my alley. My student also told me that I would learn a lot about her country.
This was true, as I knew nothing about the communist occupation of Hungary, and the history lesson was one of the pros I take away from this story. The depictions of the Hungarian uprising of '56 are very detailed, and I actually enjoyed the flashbacks to 1956 more than the present day story of Ildikó.
Liesche has mastered the art of showing rather than telling, and I can tell that she's done her research and traveled to the places she describes in Hungary, as well as the way she describes photographs, people, and the triptych needlepoint that serves as the basis of one of the story's mysteries.
But this book was also a difficult read for me. It's chock full of difficult-to-pronounce character names and phrases, and a pronunciation guide at the front or back of the book would have been helpful.
Nearly every character in the book has an accent in the form of broken English:
“My father, he say the look of terror on mother’s face when she tell this, he never can forget. After, his will to live is gone. A man who never before has taken a drink, now he cannot stop. Then, January 1956, he die also. Maybe alcohol it played a part but, yes, his heart it was broke.”
As an ESL teacher myself, you would think I'd be used to accents, omitted articles, and a lack of contractions, but reading poor grammar and syntax for a whole book is too much, especially when the characters can't use simple past tense in one sentence but then switch to past perfect tense the next. Sometimes, it seemed that even the main American character, Idilkó, began speaking in an accent. Boy—I really appreciate contractions after reading a whole book with so few of them. Ironically, when Ildikó teaches her ESL clsss, she is constantly correcting her students' English when they make little mistakes as if it grates on her nerves, and yet we readers are subjected to non-stop broken English.
This got me thinking: Is there another way the author could have written in proper English while letting the reader know that their English was poor and accented? For example, the flashback chapters in 1956 Hungary are told in the third person rather than the first-person narrative of present day 1980s Chicago. It's assumed all of the characters are speaking Hungarian, so the writing is in proper English. Perhaps, the author could have used a line or two in broken English and then say, "He continued in his broken English to explain. . ."
The triptych needlepoint as a secret mystery message from Ildikó's mother seems far-fetched and didn't capture my interest. If you have an interest in needlepoint, you may differ. In fact, the real mystery of the book doesn't really begin until the 60% mark.
The majority of the story is a rather slow telling of Ildikó's day-to-day life, discussions with the Hungarian women at the bookstore, impossible-to-pronounce Hungarian words, needlepoint, teaching an English conversation group at a library, needlepoint, dating a married man in an open relationship, needlepoint, and a drawn-out romance with a Marty Stu Hungarian photographer who loves to cook, grow flowers, take photos for gallery showings, and slow dance to Abba records. I so did not care about this romance. I don't need to like a character in order to connect with her, but I found Ildikó boring.
The strength of this book is the Hungarian history lesson told through the eyes of 11-year-old Évike rather than the romance/mystery told in modern day. In the author's notes, it's evident that Liesche stitched a lot of her own family's story into this fictional tapestry, and that is to be appreciated.
Yet, this was not a book I looked forward to picking up, and because I wanted to tell my student I read her book, I actually broke down and bought the Kindle/Audible combo so I could finish faster and have a reader pronounce the many Hungarian names and words properly.
The book is strong on history and the lives of American immigrants and light on mystery. I feel this book would most appeal to women who are children of American immigrants (especially Hungarian or from Soviet-occupied countries) and, yes, those who love needlepoint....more
First page-turner I've read in a long time. I know it's good if I sit down at odd times to read a few more pages. Hopefully they won't muck up the movFirst page-turner I've read in a long time. I know it's good if I sit down at odd times to read a few more pages. Hopefully they won't muck up the movie. I know they've changed the setting from England to upstate New York. ...more
**spoiler alert** A real page turner. Small spoiler follows: I thought this American character had a lot of problems and even made a few notes as to w**spoiler alert** A real page turner. Small spoiler follows: I thought this American character had a lot of problems and even made a few notes as to what I thought were errors: calling a baby buggy a "pram"; using "whilst" instead of "while". Now I understand why.
I enjoyed how the author wove many elements from the old stories into this one. I reread "The Final Problem" in the Sherlock Holmes canon before reading this and I highly recommend would-be readers of Moriarty to do the same. ...more