I was recommended this book by a friend, and having read the sample I was hooked immediately by the oddly discordant atmosphere evoked by a very parti...moreI was recommended this book by a friend, and having read the sample I was hooked immediately by the oddly discordant atmosphere evoked by a very particular use of language.
The intricate and clever way that Florence uses her words is always understandable but throws a nicely off-key tone into the narrative. We see everything through the lens of her language and it distorts people's actions and events just enough to make them seem strangely unnatural and stilted though the prose itself flows smoothly, having been put together with a beautifully Victorian eye for detail.
I won't go into the plot as there are plenty of reviews here that will tell you a bit about it; but this is a superbly uncanny piece with dark Gothic overtones and a finely-judged twist in the end. You might know that something is awry but the nature of the twist still comes as a surprise....
I really enjoyed this very unusual jaunt into Victorianesque unease Fans of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman should love this - and if you haven't read either, I recommend you do so! JAC (less)
Stephanie Plums fans will love this entertainingly mad thriller-romance-comedy!
Written very much in the style of Janet Evanovitch, but with a strong d...moreStephanie Plums fans will love this entertainingly mad thriller-romance-comedy!
Written very much in the style of Janet Evanovitch, but with a strong dash of the surreal, The Secret Diary is an entertaining jaunt through a mad world of Miami real estate, pill-popping neuroses, TC's "Phantom fish-flingers" and would-be English Lotharios. Alice, the heroine, is a very engaging character; a tough, sassy woman whose efforts to sort her life out go strangely wrong and yet who manages to sort herself out with none of the eyelash-fluttering, hanky-dropping ineptitude that is my main reason for avoiding romance.
She tries very hard to persuade herself that Nigel Channing is her Mr Right - and although it is very funny to read, she is written with enough humanity and truth that you might be laughing but it is with her rather than at her, and you don't think "Stupid woman!" so much as recognise the times you've done the same...
Of the other characters, Maris is entertainingly nuts; Leslie chews the furniture with great elan; Ron is pitched just nicely, supportive and low-key; and actually I rather liked the over-the-top rantings of Elizabeth, which might have been a bit too much in a different book but in the context of the whole "Alice-in-Wonderland" theme were fairly apt. The Lewis Carroll quotes were nicely placed and flavoured the text without giving too much away at the beginning of each chapter!
If I had to criticise, I would say that the ending is a little on the abrupt side and I would have liked it to go just a little slower so I could savour the downfall of - the person who ends badly (no spoilers here!), but other than that, a couple of places where the (UK) English doesn't quite flow and the odd set of stray speechmarks in places, not much I didn't like about it.
I don't really do 5 stars because it seems over the top, but in this case I did dither over it for some minutes before caving; my only criticisms are...moreI don't really do 5 stars because it seems over the top, but in this case I did dither over it for some minutes before caving; my only criticisms are very minor really.
This is the story of Caz Tallis, who makes a meagre living restoring rocking horses. She finds a man and dog asleep on her sofa and, reacting with more courtesy than you'd expect in such a situation, finds herself befriended by a legendary rock star back from the dead - and that's before the action really kicks off!
The characters are well-drawn, believeable and the type of people you do actually want to hang around with. Ric is - well, as you imagine he would be, Caz is feisty and compassionate but never tiresome, Jeff is obnoxious-but-sympathetic, and of the other characters, the eventual baddie is splendidly, unredeemably manipulative and ruthless, and at least one of the good guys has potential to develop in interesting directions in the sequels (will be buying them to find out!)
How to classify the story? Difficult until they make a tag that says "Cinderella-detective-humour with added rocking horse action" but actually, and as an aside, I was quite fascinated by the rocking horses as well....
If I had to find something to criticise in this story,it would be purely a matter of format, and a detail at that.***(see Update at bottom)*** Every new chapter follows on the same page as the old one, and in places the page-breaks are awkward. I'd prefer the new chapter to start on a new page just to avoid the formatting calling me back out of the imaginary London. Otherwise a stonking read though.
....I should probably warn you, I started reading quite late at night just to get a taste for it and finished the damn thing around 2am entirely by accident... I can recommend reading it. JAC
UPDATE: Having seen the comment re chapter-page-breaks, Lexi has now fixed this so 5* and no quibbles! JAC (less)
I downloaded the sample of this book after seeing Ali on the forums, where several of the others had praised it greatly. I dithered a bit because it r...moreI downloaded the sample of this book after seeing Ali on the forums, where several of the others had praised it greatly. I dithered a bit because it really didn't sound like my sort of thing, but downloaded the sample out of curiosity and by two paragraphs in had bought the book.
The first thing I noticed about "Girl on a Swing" is the intricate, almost poetic use of words (this was what sold me on it). If you want a taste of the writing style, definitely have a look at the sample but bear in mind that while the sample covers the beginning which is quite still and slow, the action gets more intense and exciting later in the book.
The story is told in the first person, mostly in the present; the heroine, Julia, lives a very isolated life, emotionally speaking, and this is communicated with the barest minimum of implications but permeates everything else. In some ways her life seems much less real than her remembered lives - at the beginning of the book I had a good idea of what was going to happen, and then it baffled my expectations at every turn, which is always gratifying!
It is very atmospheric; very gripping; and very unusual. The only reason for which I gave it four stars rather than five is that when the action comes to its climax, I would have liked to have heard a little more from Frank about what / how much he remembered, just to give the ending a little more symmetry and definition. (That said, you don't notice at the time because you're so into it; only when savouring the aftertaste of the book, so to speak.)
It's such an unusual book, with such a fresh use of words; it's very powerful. Julia isn't cheerful, and yet she's leavened with enough cheerfulness from other characters that you're certainly not left in a cloud of depression. The development of Julia from her grief and isolation in the beginning of the book to the better, happier, more fulfilled self as she finds relief from various sadnesses at the end works quite naturally and is ultimately rather uplifting.
Should you try it yourself? Absolutely yes. And bear in mind, if it's not your sort of thing - it's not my sort of thing either! But excellent things are, and this is excellent. JAC. (less)
Threads is a work that can be read on many levels; it is a complex and very unusual book. If you're looking for a rumbustious bodice-ripper, this may...moreThreads is a work that can be read on many levels; it is a complex and very unusual book. If you're looking for a rumbustious bodice-ripper, this may not be the book for you;the story as it deals with Anne and Henry's relationship is more an assimilation of the information from several different autobiographies, put together thoughtfully and with a real attempt to sieve through the gossip and slander and make sense of both characters in a very human and sympathetic manner.
On a separate level, Threads is about love, hate, forgiveness and betrayal, specifically between Anne and Henry in their various incarnations, but also as concepts; the effects they have and the repercussions they cause.
And lastly, this book is an intelligent, deeply-thought-through discussion of what the afterlife might be like, what it could be for, and how an entity could learn and develop through subsequent lives in different situations, times, and social positions.
I found it a very sad read, but I loved the intellectual side of it, and Nell Gavin does a wonderful job of making the relationship between Anne and Henry make sense - and then imbues it with more significance by laying it alongside their (and other characters') interactions in previous and subsequent lives.
If I have a criticism, it is simply that there is no real sense of closure. Even at the end, you're not at all sure that the eventual ending (no spoilers here!) is a good thing or not. It does leave you with a sense of things unfinished and continuing - but then as that's the point, really, I suspect that's more the author's choice than any omission.
It's a very interesting book to read, and most unusual. Don't start it when you're feeling depressed, certainly, but if you have a taste for a leisurely exploration of what love is and what it is for; what it can do to the lover and the beloved; and what might come after death, then this is the book for you. JAC (less)
I bought this book immediately after finishing Origins because I was so gripped by the storyline (though slightly vexed by the typos and formatting er...moreI bought this book immediately after finishing Origins because I was so gripped by the storyline (though slightly vexed by the typos and formatting errors). This second instalment is equally good and I would say slightly less typo-ridden - but still has a noticeable amount.
We are introduced to the Captain, Jacob Valence, who has no knowledge of his past except that he has a daughter...He is a ruthless bounty hunter, but as he interacts with his crew it is revealed that he is an excellent leader and engineer. His crew are a series of interesting and believable characters, and given that anyone who has read book 1 knows about the original Captain and the real identity of his "daughter", it is really interesting to see how the character differs in this book.
You can read about the plot above, so I won't duplicate it here, but suffice it to say that once again Lalonde has assembled a highly complex and believable cast of characters, put them in a series of exciting and suspenseful situations, and just at the end has thrown in a couple of real curve-balls. Just as the story arc appears to be coming to a conclusion, there is both a tantalising hook of new complexities, and a highly unexpected twist. So far so gripping; however on the down side,just like the first book, this superb story is once again larded with formatting issues and mistakes that let it down badly, and once again these are all that stand between it being on a par with a professionally published book.
So, that was my take on it; but should you read this book? Probably; depends on how much you care about the typos. If you won't notice them, then do so because it's a great story; but if that sort of thing knocks you out of your suspension of disbelief as badly as it does me, then be aware that the errors are plentiful. Still a good story, but it might spoil your enjoyment.
Will I go on to read book 3? Hmmm. I'll definitely download the sample and have a look, but all these typos irritate me because they break the spell of the story. If there comes a time when the series are proofed and corrected, I'll buy the lot in one go, but until that point I'm reading them and thinking how fabulous they could be, rather than are, and all for want of a little more accuracy.
Pity, really - they would be well worth the extra effort. JAC
PS Update 16/06/2011 - From the author's blog: “[New assistant] is currently assisting with proofing on Spinward Fringe: Expendable Few. She'll also be working on the rest of the books with me as we get closer to presenting final edits. The focus is on new work right now, so the earlier books will get more attention when the next two are out.” http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.com/2...