When I was little the doctors called me a hermaphrodite. It's got a lot of stigma, but as a word on its own I like it better. It's a thing. It's not between things. It's an ancient Greek word. It makes me sound old, like we were always around. I like that.
The Walkers are a perfect family. Steve and Karen are both highly successful in their fields, 15-year old Max is a straight-A student who would never dream of talking back to his parents or getting into fights, and 10-year old Daniel is perfect in that he isn't perfect. On the outside, the Walkers have it all; they're media darlings and everyone in town knows their names. Behind closed doors, however, the Walkers are hiding a secret.
Max Walker is the star of the football team. All the girls flock to him and he's just a few tests away from the top schools. No one would assume Max is anything other than a normal teenage boy. Sure he's a bit smaller than the other boys in his class, but his two best friends only just recently started shaving, and football has done wonders for Max's muscles. He goes on dates with girls and leads a normal life.
Max's secret never bothered him; it was who he was. After one of his closest friends does the unthinkable, however, Max suddenly becomes well aware of just how different he is. Max isn't like the other boys - Max is intersex. He has both male and female organs. Until now, he's managed to keep it hidden from the world; his dates with girls never went farther than kissing and while it's not what Max wants, it's worked so far. He's earned a reputation at school as being a Love-Them-And-Leave-Them type and he does nothing to refute the claims.
With Hunter's betrayal, Max is left in a whirlwind of questions, confusion, and anger. His father's recent campaign announcement only adds to his distress. The Walkers are supposed to be the perfect family; how could they possibly explain their son's pregnancy?
You hear about things going wrong during a birth, but when you're pregnant and in labor, you never think it will happen to you. No one thinks theirs will be the baby with the problem. And then it was my baby, and it made me worry all the more acutely for the rest of his life, because I had been right to worry at the birth, because when it had been time to give birth, to do the most important thing I could do for Max, something had gone wrong.
Oh, wow. WOW. Guys, I was so not prepared for Golden Boy. I'm always up for a good - and tough! - read, but I wasn't expecting this. That's definitely not a bad thing though; the author tackled an extremely sensitive subject and I thought she did a fantastic job. Also: SHE'S ONLY A YEAR OLDER THAN ME WHAT.
I don't get squeamish while reading and I rarely cringe at descriptions, so be warned: within the first few pages there is a VERY graphic rape scene. That alone could be enough to turn away many readers. Other triggers of note: attempted suicide, drug abuse, and abortions. So, yes, decidedly not a sunny day, sitting-on-the-porch kind of read. Despite this, however, I found myself absolutely captivated.
Hunter's betrayal was one I had not seen coming. I took the summary to mean he leaked information to the media, not that he would rape Max and get him pregnant! Max and Hunter grew up together, their parents were best friends. The boys considered themselves cousins in a way. For Hunter to do such a horrible thing to Max was appalling. He took advantage of Max and his trust and left Max a shell of a boy. This happens very early on in Golden Boy and the novel is spent with Max - and his family - dealing with the repercussions.
Golden Boy alternates between a number of perspectives. We see the events through the eyes of Max, his parents, his brother, his doctor, and his girlfriend. Each one had a distinct voice and felt authentic. Max is understandably terrified and ashamed, his brother is worried and angry. Sylvie doesn't know why Max's moods have changed so abruptly or why he's avoiding her. Karen blames herself for her son's 'illness' and tries to make it go away. Every character felt raw and open and real.
Golden Boy is definitely not a book for everyone, but I greatly enjoyed it. It was tough and thought-provoking and powerful. I have a feeling both the characters and issues the story raised will stick with me for months to come. If you're looking to step outside your comfort zone, Golden Boy is worth a read.(less)
Determined to save her family from impending doom, Katherine Ann Stephenson - Kat - chops her hair, dresses as a boy, and runs away from home. Unfortunately for Kat, she makes it as far as the garden before she's discovered and hauled back inside.
Kat's oldest sister, prim and proper Elissa (who has a penchant for dramatics - mostly given her love of gothic romances), is set to wed Sir Neville, an enormously wealthy man who would not only raise the family's status but also settle a bit of gambling debt. Stepmama outdid herself with this one: she managed to arrange this marriage and she will not let anything stop it. While Elissa is determined to do her duty to the family, she can't help but worry about the rumors that surround Sir Neville. His first wife had died and he's the main suspect.
Elissa isn't the only one with troubles, though. Angeline has been going through Mama's magic books (their mother was a powerful witch) and created a love spell with disastrous results. Now the boy won't leave her alone, proclaiming his love night-and-day and proposing at every available moment.
Kat has her own share of problems too: in an attempt to try her hand at a bit of magic, she mistakenly discovers a secret Order that her mother belonged to and learns she's more powerful than any mere witch: Katherine Ann Stephenson is a Guardian.
Kat, Incorrigible was delightful. Kat is gutsy and fearless, full of nothing but love for her family - though perhaps not Stepmama. Her running commentary was hilarious and more than once I laughed out loud. Kat is the kind of girl I would have loved to be at 12 and would have loved to be friends with.
The Stephenson family had once been fairly respectable in Society's eyes. Papa was a member of the clergy and was liked by the townspeople. His marriage to Mama raised more than a few eyebrows. Although Mama came from a good family herself, she made no secret of her powers and that ultimately led to her undoing. She died shortly after Kat was born and when Stepmama moved in, she hid all of Mama's portraits and books in a cupboard never to be seen again.
That is, until Angeline decided to work some magic, which led to Kat finding an enchanted mirror, which led to discovering the Golden Hall, which led to Kat learning she was her mother's heir and Guardian, which led to... It was a never-ending spiral and I loved it. The best part though had nothing to do with magic. Kat's bond with her sisters was incredible. Though they may fight and argue and annoy each other to death, they fiercely love one another and would stop at nothing to save the others. When Kat hears about Elissa's engagement to Sir Neville, she makes up her mind then and there to save her no matter what. No matter how much trouble she'll get into nor how many lectures Stepmama will give her.
Kat, Incorrigible was a brilliant, lovely novel full of charm and fantastic characters. Each had a distinct voice and it was magnificent. Between the funny commentary (seriously, read Kat's thoughts on Elissa's obsession with becoming a gothic heroine and try not to giggle!) and the non-stop action, this book kept me entertained the entire time I was reading and I will most definitely be back for more.(less)
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three girls and is, by order of birth, doomed to be a failure. Lettie, the middle girl, is breathtakingly beautiful while Martha, the youngest, is certain to find fortune and a happy life. The girls' father runs a successful hat shop and upon his death, their stepmother takes over and begins making arrangements for the girls to take up apprenticeships. Sophie will stay at home and inherit the hat shop one day, while Lettie will train under a highly skilled witch and Martha will learn all there is about cakes and pastries.
At first, Sophie was comfortable. As the months go by however, she feels a longing to do more and be more than a hatter apprentice in drab grey dresses. Unfortunately for Sophie, she crosses paths with the evil Witch of the Waste and soon discovers she has been aged 70+ years. She's now a 90-year old woman, cursed to be old - for she can't tell anyone about the spell - until the day someone comes along to release her.
Because her stepmother obviously would be a bit shocked to discover an old woman in her shop, Sophie makes the decision to leave. She leaves Market Chipping, the town she has known her entire life, and heads off in search of her own fortune. All the while the large, floating castle - home to the evil Wizard Howl - looms overhead.
"That's magic I admire, using something that exists anyway and turning it round into a curse."
It's when Sophie enters the moving castle that things really get going. She meets Michael, Howl's young apprentice, and Calcifer, a fire demon trapped in the fireplace. She quickly strikes a bargain with Calcifer: if she lifts his curse, he'll find a way to change her back. All the while Howl is nowhere to be seen.
When he finally does appear, Sophie is more than surprised. Instead of the fearsome wizard who steals girls and eats their hearts, there stands before her a young man not much older than she is (was?). Over time they become something of a very dysfunctional family: Sophie cleans the castle and cooks the food, Howl and Michael supply spells and potions for the surrounding towns and villages, and Calcifer...well. He's Calcifer.
Unbeknownst to Sophie, Howl is also cursed. The Witch of the Waste has been hunting him down and now she's finally found him.
Howl's Moving Castle is short, y'all. We're taking barely over 200 pages here (my copy is 212). Going into this book I knew about Sophie and Howl, but everything else was completely new to me and not at all what I had expected!
These are the kind of books I love. That lazy Sunday feel is super strong in this book and I love it. Apart from the big battle at the end, not a whole lot happens and I know that's where the book can lose some people. Luckily for me, I'm all about easygoing stories and gobbled this one up.
Over the course of her travels, Sophie meets an enchanted scarecrow, a teacher who might not be all she says she is, and discovers a strange new world: Wales. I was right there with Sophie, taking in every night sight, sound, and emotion.
The ending wrapped up a little too well, but I can easily look past that. It's no wonder Howl's Moving Castle is so beloved and I know it'll be a book I'll revisit time and time again.(less)
Dead flesh and sharpened scalpels didn't bother me. I was my father's daughter, after all. My nightmares were made of darker things.
After a fairly lackluster start, I'm thrilled to say that 2013's books are picking up very nicely. I've said it before and I'll say it again (and again and again): I love retellings. I don't know what it is about them, but I can't get enough. Luckily for me, it seems the rest of the reading world feels the same way; retellings aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
The Madman's Daughter is a new take on The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. The original brought the subject of vivisection - dissection on a living animal - to the attention of the public, and this new tale expands on it flawlessly.
An older gentleman came by once a week like clockwork, and Mother would send me out for chocolate biscuits in the cafe downstairs. He wore strong cologne that masked a pungent, stale smell, but Mother never said anything about it. That's how I knew he must be rich - no one ever says the rich stink.
Juliet Moreau is sixteen and one scolding away from living on the streets. Her childhood had been a lavish one: her father was the best surgeon in all of England until the scandal struck. Once Dr. Moreau left his family, Juliet's mother sold everything she could - including her body - in order to keep up with their lifestyle.
Once death took Mrs. Moreau, Juliet had nowhere to go. Thankfully there was still one of her father's friends who hadn't turned his back on the family and found Juliet a job at the university. Scrubbing bloodstains was far from the life Juliet knew, but it was far better than the alternative.
It is a nighttime dare that changes Juliet's life and spreads whispers through her mind that maybe, just maybe, her father might still be alive. England has nothing left for her, and with Montgomery - the former servant of the family - and Balthasar - a sweet, but horribly disfigured man - Juliet leaves the continent and sails to Australia in search of the truth.
Memories of my father flooded me. As a surgeon, blood had been his medium like ink to a writer. Our fortune had been built on blood, the acrid odor infused into the very bricks of our house, the clothes that we wore.
To me, blood smelled like home.
The Madman's Daughter was everything I hoped and then some. It's creepy and horrifying. Countless passages were so expertly written that I read them multiple times. There was one downfall to the story however: the love triangle.
I've been reading YA for quite some time, so love triangles aren't new to me. That said, I'm still not a fan of the romance taking over the story. I wanted more monsters, not moments behind waterfalls!
The two love interests were like night and day. Montgomery grew up with Juliet and was the family's servant. When Dr. Moreau disappeared, so did Montgomery. Now he's back and Juliet's childhood crush is back in full-force. Edward Prince is clearly of high society. He's found stranded at sea and from the moment the two meet there's a strange (yet undeniable) attraction.
Juliet bounces between the two and can't figure out her feelings. One paragraph she's thinking of one boy and in the next the other boy takes hold of her thoughts. Personally, I could have done without the romance.
The horrors that await Juliet on the island are unimaginable. Dr. Moreau had been experimenting with animals in an attempt to develop a creature that could walk, talk, and think like a human. Balthasar, one of the doctor's creatures, was easily my favorite and toward the end I truly felt for him and his fate. Ajax is Balthasar's polar opposite: while Balthasar is sweet and shy, Ajax is cold and calculating. He was the doctor's greatest success. Until the day Ajax became too smart. Now that blood has been shed, the islanders' animal senses are being awakened.
Maybe we weren't wicked, but there was something stained, something torn, in the fabric of our beings.
The Madman's Daughter is truly unforgettable. There was a twist at the end that I wasn't expecting at all and I'm definitely excited to see how it'll play out in the next book! This is one you definitely do not want to miss!(less)
Prudence craned her neck and her heart sank. Slender Italianate spires seemed to reach for the sky, rising from an imposing structure so massive it took up more than a London city block. The grounds around it were so immaculate and severe that Prudence couldn't imagine a leaf or stone daring to shift out of place. This was no comfortable home where little girls played hide-and-seek in cozy alcoves, or giggled while they devoured savory meat pies. Poets and artists wouldn't dare argue over their ale while lounging in front of the fire in this household. At this castle, for it was far more of a castle than a manor, everyone knew his place and stuck to it.
Although her mother was but a maid-turned-governess, Prudence Tate never felt different from the two Buxton girls, Rowena and Victoria. Sir Phillip treated the girls equally and raised them to be independent, forward-thinking women. However, with Sir Phillip's death, the girls are sent to live with their relatives at Summerset Abbey and their world is suddenly turned upside-down. Now, instead of living as sisters, Prudence is sent to stay in the servants' quarters and unable to find her place among either class.
Downton Abbey is massive right now and that should come as a surprise to no one. The sudden surge of interest in this time period has led to countless novels and I'm pleased to say Summerset Abbey surpassed my expectations.
The servants' stairway had inconspicuous doors that opened up on each floor, so they could move about the house without their presence being known. It seemed odd to Prudence to have a small army of silent, invisible workers keeping the house running in tip-top shape and not even be aware of them.
Summerset Abbey takes place in 1911 on the cusp of the Suffragette movement and WWI. Rowena, Prudence, and Victoria consider themselves suffragettes and are far more interested in learning skills (Victoria had been taking typing lessons, for example) with which to earn their own money and, particularly in Victoria's case, shun all plans of even getting married.
When their father dies, Uncle Conrad and Aunt Charlotte descend upon Rowena and Victoria and whisk them away to Summerset Abbey. With Rowena being the oldest, Conrad discusses the business side of things: their house didn't belong to Sir Phillip, but instead was the property of the family's estate; he has plans to sell the house; the girls will stay with the family until they're married. Victoria, however, believes they're merely visiting for the winter season. In the beginning she's fine with this - as a child she loved stayed at the manor for the summer - but once she discovers how her beloved Pru is treated, she takes it upon herself to make things right.
"Our sainted mother could flirt with our dearly departed King, outwit Confucius, and make the pope cry, all before breakfast. A most formidable woman."
Summerset Abbey is told through the eyes of all three girls and I'm a sucker for a good multi-narrative. I especially loved Prudence's POV. She knew from the start that she wasn't as highbrow as her sisters, but Sir Phillip never gave it a second thought. Once she reaches the abbey, however, she realizes just how different she truly is. In an attempt to keep all three girls together, Rowena pleads for Prudence to be kept on as their maid. Conrad agrees and Prudence is told about her new position when they arrive at the manor and she's refused entrance through the front door. Instead, she has to go through the servants' door and it's a downward spiral from there.
The servants view her speech, dress, and manners as too 'above' them and hate her for it. Conrad, Charlotte, and their class see Prudence as the daughter of a maid and treat her as such.
It broke my heart to see what Prudence went through and she put up with everything because she knew it was the only way to stay with Rowena and Victoria.
Victoria is the youngest at 18 and is still seen as a child due to her frailty and health issues. Despite her constant asthma attacks, she's prepared to fight for Prudence and when she happens upon an old family photo, Victoria becomes determined to find out just how Prudence is and who her mysterious father was.
Rowena, Rowena, Rowena.. In the beginning I enjoyed her. As time went on and her true colors showed, my fondness for her lessened and by the time the book was over, I was appalled and hurt by her actions.
He reminded her of a man in a fairy tale - not the hero who won the princess, but the sidekick who made it all possible.
There is a massive cast of characters in Summerset Abbey and I'm so glad there are two more books. Hopefully the secondary characters will get their chance to shine. The boys were so very lovely - Sebastian and Andrew being my favorite. I'm eager to see more of everyone in the next book, especially with the coming war.
Lady Summerset could hire extra servants from town to serve dinner, but no one could take the places of those three. In fact, Lady Summerset was certain that if Cairns, Mrs. Harper, and Hortense had been in charge of the Boer War, it would ave come to a much speedier conclusion.
While I saw the plot twist from the beginning, I adored the ride. My only disappointment was with the lack of war, oddly enough. In every summary I've read, I got the sense that WWI was a key plot. Perhaps in the following books?? I hope so!
My only other gripe was the ending and who Prudence ended up with. I so did not expect that! No lies: my jaw actually dropped and I sat there staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the page.
If you're looking for a fun, quick read to get you through the week until the next Downton Abbey episode, or if you're looking for a wonderful new historical fiction series, Summerset Abbey is the book for you. I loved it and absolutely cannot wait for more! (less)
I who had never been haunted, who had been skeptical of visitations, suddenly accepted all possibilities. Or as a priest would say, in that moment, I allowed the devil into my life. But the priest would be wrong. I did more than allow him in. I gave the devil a warm hearth and a hospitable place to rest for as long as he wanted one. I gave him access to my very soul.
Prior to receiving Seduction, I was unaware it was the fifth book in a series. While I was able to follow along with little difficulty, I feel I would have understood much more had I read the other books first. Also, from the summary I had expected a book along the lines of Katherine Howe's The House of Velvet and Glass (read my 5-star review here!). THoVaG deals with seances and reconnecting with loved ones who drowned during Titanic's sinking. It was one of my top picks of 2012 and Sedeuction sounded as though it was going to have a similar feel. Also: Victor Hugo!
Unfortunately I got another City of Dark Magic (read my 3-star review here) - strange obsession with noses and smells included!
Jac L’Etoile comes from a line of French perfumers. She also comes from a family with a firm belief in reincarnation - and that certain smells could evoke memories of past lives. After discovering her mother's corpse when she was fourteen, Jac was sent to a very New Age-y school where she met a boy named Theo. Over time the two came to be close until the night of Jac's accident. When she came to, she had no memories of the event and no explanation as to why Theo was sent away.
Seventeen years later she's reunited with Theo after receiving a letter about the discovering of a possible Druid site. Again the better judgment of those around her, Jac accepts Theo's invitation and heads for the UK where she will not only put her mythological studies to use, but finally find some answers.
150 years earlier, Victor Hugo walked along the beaches in exile. After the devastating loss of his daughter, he partakes in a seance - hoping to communicate with his daughter - and falls into obsession. He's received messages from a number of spirits, but one night a mysterious Shadow of the Sepulcher comes through and his offer to restore Victor's daughter is too tempting to ignore.
Seduction. Where to begin? I think this is a case of each individual part being great, but the combined whole is lackluster. The main components of this novel: reincarnation, Druids, Victor Hugo, seances, these are completely suited to my interests. This should be a good I can't put down. Sadly, it just didn't work for me and I struggled to finish. More than once I was tempted to set it down once and for all, but I kept going, hoping there would be that AH-HA! moment when everything would come together and suck me in.
I don't know if it's because I hadn't read the previous books in the series. Perhaps if I had I would have come to better understand and care about these characters and what they're doing. Instead I'm left with nearly 400 pages of so. much. telling. and confusing decisions. One thing the book had going for it was its dual narrative. I love me some dual narration. Late in the novel a third storyline was introduced - this one taking place millennia ago and focused on a Druid priest and his family. Interesting, yes, but it came far too late in the book to have much of an impression.
It was no surprise Jac's hallucinations were actually past life memories, but when it was revealed they weren't her memories, I had to roll my eyes. The novel had been steadily declining and that scene was where I had had enough. It was a struggle to continue, but continue I did and when I finally finished it was as though a weight had been lifted. The strange love-square-that-went-nowhere frustrated me as well.
In the end, Seduction didn't turn out to be the novel I had hoped. It appears I'm in the minority though, as it's been receiving quite a bit of praise. I had been curious about this series for a while and even had the books on my To Read list. Sadly, I'll be removing them and won't be reading anymore of this series.(less)
They had triumphed over death this night. Sylvie wondered when death would seek his revenge.
Unbeknownst to Sylvie, death already has sought his revenge - had already claimed his prize long before she was born and long after her children have gone. On a cold, snowy February night in 1910, Sylvie gave birth to a baby girl. The snow had closed the roads and the midwife couldn't reach Fox Corner in time so Sylvie had to make do with the help of the 14-year old maid. The baby had been strangled by her umbilical cord, swiftly ending a life that had barely begun.
On a cold, snowy February night in 1910, Sylvie gave birth to a baby girl. The snow had closed the roads and the midwife couldn't reach Fox Corner in time so Sylvie had to make do with the help of the 14-year old maid. This time, however, the baby lived. The doctor was able to reach the house and Ursula Todd made her way into the world.
Growing up, Ursula knew she was different. She'd occasionally get glimpses of memories or feelings of dread, sparks of recognition that would leave her confused and cautious. Over time, she accepted these moments and it was through the help of Dr. Kellet that Ursula learned her déjà vu might be something more.
Throughout her lives Ursula saw multiple wars, married, remained single, took on various lovers, became a mother, died childless, drowned at the beach when she was 4, joined a team of ARP wardens during the Blitz when she was 30, became friends with Eva Braun and hatched a plan to become close to Hitler.
On a cold, snow February night in 1910, a baby girl was born.
It's time, she thought. A clock struck somewhere in sympathy. She thought of Teddy and Miss Woolf, of Roland and little Angela, of Nancy and Sylvie. She thought of Dr. Kellet and Pindar. Become such as you are, having learned what that is. She knew what that was now. She was Ursula Beresford Todd and she was a witness.
Life After Life is like a onion with its numerous layers, many of which aren't clear until halfway (or more) through the novel. Prior to this book, I had never read Kate Atkinson but had always heard wonderful things. As soon as I heard about this book, I was intrigued: going around again and again through a life? Who hasn't wished to revisit a past experience, thought 'if only I would have...' Ursula's lives aren't always picture-perfect and more than once I felt a sense of dread when her path crossed with a man who - in one life - became her abusive husband or one of her brother's friends who brought shame upon the family after Ursula wound up pregnant at 16. Although she was unsure as to why, Ursula's instincts kicked in and she altered the course of her (current) life.
The majority of Life After Life deals with both World Wars: Ursula was born just before the first and did her part, along with the rest of England, during the second. While I've read many books set during these wars, Ms. Atkinson's writing really hit home for me. Not once did she gloss over the gruesome and horrifying details. As an Air Raid Warden, Ursula had to enforce the Blackout and after bombings, she would go through the rubble in an attempt to uncover survivors.
War isn't pretty and Ms. Atkinson captured it perfectly. Soldiers weren't the only ones to see death and Ursula saw her fair share: burns, blood, scattered limbs, and bodies blown in half were, sadly, her norm.
Teddy had faith in poetry. As if merely quoting from Shakespeare would mollify a situation.
Life After Life isn't completely bleak. Ursula grew up in an extremely loving family and I came to care for her siblings just as much as I cared for Ursula. Her older sister Pamela was a joy - funny and no-nonsense. While he wasn't the youngest, Teddy always remained the baby of the family, always the favorite. Ursula's Aunt Izzie was wonderful; she was undeniably selfish and crass with extremely loose morals: she was rarely without a lover (usually a man in a position of power - especially during Blitz) and had quite the affinity for wine.
One day, of course, all this would be consigned to that same history, even the mountains - sand, after all, was the future of rocks. Most people muddled through events and only in retrospect realized their significance. The Führer was different, he was consciously making history for the future. Only a true narcissist could do that. And Speer was designing buildings for Berlin so that they would look good when they were in ruins a thousand years from now, his gift to the Führer.
Life After Life is not a lazy Sunday read. Though there are many witty and humorous scenes, this is not a fluffy, easy-going novel. After closing the book, I sat still, very much overwhelmed, and let the full weight of the story wash over me. As I watched each layer slowly unfold I was hit by the realization of just how deep this novel reached. Every little detail has a purpose, every single decision was made for a reason and carried a particular consequence.
Life After Life is a novel that will stick with me long after I've moved on to other books and I wouldn't be surprised if it winds up on multiple bestsellers lists. If you're looking for a lighthearted, quick read, head elsewhere. However, if you're interested in a book that will enchant and ensnare you - and, ultimately, make you think - look no further.(less)
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but little girls usually fared much better.
The Secret Keeper is one of those wonderful - and rare - books that latches on tight and stays with you long after you've turned the last page. I'm a relative newbie to Kate Morton; I've only read one other book (The Forgotten Garden) and I've been aching to read more ever since.
Despite its length - nearly 500 pages - The Secret Keeper is a fairly fast-paced novel. Told with dual-narratives (which seems to be a thing with Morton), the book travels through time (2011 and WWII-era England) as a daughter tries to uncover a mystery that has haunted her for fifty years and a mother makes peace with her actions as a young woman.
Fifty years ago, Laurel told a distant patch of stars, my mother killed a man. She called it self-defense, but I saw it. She raised the knife and brought it down and the man fell backwards onto the ground where the grass was worn and the violets were flowering. She knew him, she was frightened, and I've no idea why.
Within the opening chapters a man is murdered and young Laurel - sixteen at the time - witnessed the entire episode. On the day of her brother's 2nd birthday Laurel hid in her treehouse and watched her mother stab a man, ultimately killing him.
Fifty years later, Laurel is a world-renowned actress and, along with her sisters and brother, has returned to Greenacres for her mother's ninetieth birthday. Dorothy's healthy is rapidly declining and Laurel is eager to finally find out who the man was and what he could have possibly done to make her mother react in such a violent manner.
It was strange indeed, to find herself within this place of childhood memories and see her grown-up wrinkled face staring back at her. Like Alice falling through the rabbit hole; or else falling through it again, fifty years on, only to find herself the only thing changed.
Again, The Secret Keeper is told through a dual-narrative (though, technically, I suppose it's more of a dual-era). If you're not a fan of more than one POV, Kate Morton will definitely change your perspective. She's absolutely brilliant when it comes to dual-narratives and executes this technique flawlessly. The only complaint is that, just when you're this close to uncovering a clue, the chapter ends and suddenly you find yourself back in 1940s.
Normally I'm all about spoilers in my reviews. I'm someone who loves spoilers and they naturally come out in my discussions of books. However, The Secret Keeper's final chapters were so shocking and unexpected that I'm determined not to ruin it for anyone. Everything falls so smoothly into place - it all makes sense why Dorothy was the way she was as a child and why the change was so drastic as an adult and her reasoning for killing a man is understandable.
Laurel found him on the Internet, though. Opposite problem there - one couldn't disentangle oneself from that net for all the love and money in England. Henry Jenkins was one of millions of ghosts who lived inside it, milling wraithlike until the right combination of letters was entered and they were briefly resurrected.
Writing multiple POVs isn't Kate Morton's only area of expertise. Countless sentences were so beautifully written I got chills reading them. Whether it was a sentence about trying to track down an author online or a chapter about air raids, Ms. Morton's writing never lets up. I felt myself sitting beside Laurel in her treehouse, I felt the fear coursing through the veins of everyone running for the safety of fallout shelters. Morton's writing will never cease to amaze me.
One of the things I have come to know most surely in my work is that the belief system acquired in childhood is never fully escaped; it may submerge itself for a while, but it always returns in times of need to lay claim to the soul it shaped.
After having read two Kate Morton books now, I'm confident enough to say she's among my favorite writers. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm someone who can recognize a plot twist coming from a mile away. That said, The Secret Keeper's reveal came out of nowhere and it hit me like a truck. I was not expecting it in the slightest, yet it worked. Lesser authors would have failed, but it was an entirely believable situation in Morton's hands.
If you haven't read Kate Morton before, I highly recommend doing so and The Secret Keeper is a wonderful starting point.(less)
They said it when they were wishing for crops not to fail and storms to pass, but she realized now she'd heard her mother say it when something happened to scare her, as if to reassure herself: The Lynburns are gone.
Kami Glass has lived in the tiny English village of Sorry-in-the-Vale her entire life and has grown up hearing tales of the Lynburns. One family loomed over the town, creating laws - and enforcing them. Though Aurimere Manor now stands silent and empty on the hill, the family's presence can still be felt and the family is just as feared.
Apart from hearing these stories since childhood, Kami has also heard a voice. A boy's voice. Jared has been her imaginary friend for as long as she can recall and she still continues to speak to him even though she's well past the age where having an imaginary friend is acceptable.
Her world turns upside-down the day the Lynburns return. Regal Lillian Lynburn is the heir to the legacy and she's brought her family with her: her husband Rob and son Ash, and her sister Rosalind and Rosalind's son Jared. Suddenly Kami isn't so sure her imaginary friend is only in her head.
Sorry-in-the-Vale's records date back to the 1400s. Six hundred years do not go by without someone doing something nefarious.
I couldn't wait to jump right in and adore Unspoken. Everyone seems to be obsessing over it and it definitely has all the makings of a book I'd love: ancient family, dark secrets, a quiet town.
I tore through the first half of this book. I loved everything about it! The premise was phenomenal, the writing is stunning, the local legends gave me chills, and the characters - with the exception of Angela - were wonderfully done. Even the backstory was done in a way that didn't feel like a massive infodump.
Jared's appearance came as no surprise, though I still have no idea what his issue was with touching. Even when he was protecting Kami he would barely touch her and his avoidance of contact was never explained. That said, save for a few minor problems, Kami & Jared's dynamic was great. It was an interesting, new take on the genre and I ate it up.
"Put the jerk in the south wing, you won't see him for weeks at a time. Or lock him in the attic. The law will not be on your side, but literary precedent will."
A lot of reviews have mentioned the humor in Unspoken and while I enjoyed it, I felt it could have been toned down a lot. Particularly Kami's father. I liked his character, but did he ever say anything that wasn't a witty one-liner? Even when he walked into Kami's bedroom one morning and found both Kami and Jared asleep in bed, the only thing he had to say was some wisecrack.
Unfortunately, around the halfway mark, Unspoken really started to lose steam. Oddly enough this was right around the time when Things Started Happening. A classmate was murdered (and was never really brought up again), and the secret of the Lynburns' is finally revealed. All of this should have kept me on the edge of me seat. Although I still plowed though, I definitely did not do so with the same fervor I had in the beginning.
The other families say, 'My way or the highway.' The Lynburns said, "I am unfamiliar with the concept of the highway, so that leaves you with only one choice.'
So much was happening by the end: the will-they-or-won't-they angle, a huge fight scene, Kami's life-altering decision, Angela's secret. Everything was happening so fast and the sudden stop at the end - and I do mean sudden (that was so NOT a cliffhanger, that was right in the middle of the scene!) - that it got to be a little jarring. There were so many questions left unanswered, particularly in regards to Kami and Jared, that I feel a little cheated. I want that sense of closure. Yes, there's another book coming out, but even in a series novels should wrap up nicely enough that reads aren't left in a state of confusion and frustration.
I hate that I'm in the minority with this one, guys. I really, really do. I loved the idea for Unspoken and the beginning was FANTASTIC. I'll be reading the next book when it comes out, but I don't think I'll be giving in to the hype next time.(less)
"Okay, I've decided to start simple and work back. So, I am, now formally telling you, as your mother, that I want you never to become a smoker, never to own your own motorbike, never to get a chess board tattooed onto your face - and never ever to write to an imaginary friend in a parking meter again."
Three hundred years ago gaps bridging our world with another were closed. Deadly plagues were wiping out millions of people in our world and Cello's citizens decided it was for the best if the cracks between the two worlds were wiped out as well. Since then any cracks discovered must be reported to authorities immediately and anyone discovered communicating with anyone in our world is sentenced to death.
Madeleine Tully and her mother have recently set up house in Cambridge after having run away from their lavish lifestyle. Now they live in a tiny apartment with leaking ceilings and patches of mold on the walls. Instead of skipping off to various countries and spending all day at the spa, Madeleine's mother now sits inside all day sewing and watching game shows while Madeleine receives schooling lessons from a few neighbors. A far cry from what they're used to.
Elliot lives in the town of Bonfire, a farming community. He goes to school, hangs out with his friends, and is a star athlete. The Kingdom of Cello is a mirror image of our world save for one difference: Cello is victim to deadly Color attacks. A warning system alerts citizens to incoming attacks of Yellows or Purples and each color is deadlier than the last. A Purple is to blame for the death of Elliot's uncle and he's convinced the Purple then carried off his father. There have been rumors throughout town that his dad ran off with a teacher, but Elliot refuses to believe it. He's convinced his dad is still alive and is willing to risk his life to bring him back.
One day Madeleine notices a tiny slip of paper sticking out of a parking meter and allows her curiosity to get the better of her. It's a cry for help. Someone is trapped and they want to be rescued. Madeleine decides to play along and writes back. With each note her world turns upside down and she begins to suspect there is more to this world than she realized.
"I didn't have to become Byron," Jack added, "because I already am him, or anyway exactly like him. But without the poetry. Also, girls are not falling over themselves to have my children. As far as I know. If they are, they need to do it more loudly. Apart from all that, I'm just like Byron."
Before reading A Corner of White I had heard amazing things about this book. Much to my surprise - and delight! - I received a review copy and couldn't wait to sit down with it. A good portion of the novel deals with Newton and Byron. As part of their history lesson, Madeleine, Jack, and Belle each chose a name out of a hat and had to research that figure. As the story progresses - and as Madeleine and Elliot communicate further - Isaac Newton comes more into focus and I was pleasantly surprised by how large of a role he wound up playing.
Jack and Belle are Madeleine's neighbors and her only friends in Cambridge. I personally didn't care for Belle much at all - especially once she started her bullying. Jack, on the other hand, was great. He was a good guy with a huge crush on Madeleine. In a bout of frustration and homesickness she winds up hurting him deeply and that was a painful scene for me to read. While I enjoyed Madeleine's character, in the end, I came to know Jack better and saw him as the sympathetic character.
"Cut it out now," said her mother. "I'm trying to think. I need to get my thoughts in order and present them in an incisive, persuasive way. Because I'm the one with the answers today, which won't always be the case - for instance, if you were weeping about a mathematics problems, well, I'd be clueless and we'd both end up weeping. Not that you were weeping, of course."
Elliot's world, well, confused me at times. I never got a real feel for the Colors and their attacks. I kept reading passages about their waves of destruction and how there have been times where these colors would take hostages, but I just couldn't picture these scenes. Other than that, however, Cello was a lovely world.
Interwoven with Madeleine's & Elliot's stories was that of the Butterfly Child. Every twenty years, a Butterfly Child appears somewhere in Cello. She has amazing powers, capable of growing crops and healing sickness. At first I wasn't too impressed, but she grew on me.
Between the Butterfly Child, family problems in both worlds, and multiple mysteries, it felt like there was a lot going on, but it worked. I never felt overwhelmed and enjoyed A Corner of White an awful lot. The ending was perfectly set up for the next book and I'm looking forward to it!(less)
Although I finished the book last week I sat on this review for a few days. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is the type of book that needs to be digested slowly and given careful thought. Personally, I adore those kinds of books and am absolutely ecstatic I found this one.
My misery is a woman's misery, and it will speak - here, rather than nowhere; to my second self, in this book, if I have no one else to hear me.
Wilkie Collins; Armadale
The book opens in 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland and introduces Isabella Robinson, the 36-year old wife of Henry Oliver Robinson. Isabella had remarried after the death of her first husband and was left with no inheritance as he willed everything to a son from an earlier marriage.
Isabella's life with Henry was not a happy one (her only joy came from her three sons) and it was her unhappiness that led to her infamous diary.
'Dreaming all night of absent friends, romantic situations, and Mr. Lane,' ran another entry. 'Oh! Why are dreams more blest than waking life?'
Edward Lane had been a family friend for quite some time before becoming the target of Mrs. Robinson's affections. He and his wife are very close with Isabella and on multiple occasions their children stayed with Isabella and her own sons while the Lanes were away.
Over time, however, Isabella's marriage rapidly weakened and her friendship with Edward developed into something more - at least on her part. The two would spend countless hours discussing philosophy or literature and, from what Isabella mentions in her diary entries, the two seemed very compatible.
One thing I loved about Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace was that the book doesn't waste any time getting to the story. Things start happening from the very start and I think that would certainly help in keeping the attention of a reader who typically doesn't go for non-fiction. Many times I've picked up a non-fiction book (although fiction definitely applies as well!) that sounded absolutely fascinating, only to be bogged down with technical jargon the average reader wouldn't understand or to have the story start so slowly I've had to force myself to continue. I'm extremely pleased that this isn't the case with Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace.
Oh, thought I, each of these roofs conceals human life with all its mysterious joys and sorrows. Doubtless, many a sojourner in these dwellings has a private history, thrilling, exciting, strange.
Not only does the book have a wonderful pace, but the writing is simply remarkable. At times I completely forgot I was reading non-fiction. Despite the lack of dialogue, I never once felt the story lacking. In fact, I feel I got to know the characters extremely well!
George argued that in women, as in men, 'strong sexual appetites are a very great virtue...If chastity must continue to be regarded as the highest female virtue, it is impossible to give any woman real liberty.'
While Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is Isabella's story, there were a few other story lines woven in and it all came together beautifully. After struggling with his own issues, George Drysdale published a rather radical-minded book on sexuality. Phrenology and hydropathy were two courses of medicine very much in vogue. A new divorce court had made it much easier for couples to end their marriages. Each story line had its center-stage moments without losing focus of the main story and it was great.
All the guests were encouraged to walk in the park. 'I strolled a little beyond the glade for an hour & half & enjoyed myself,' reported Charles Darwin in a letter to his wife, '-the fresh yet dark green of the grand Scotch firs, the brown of the catkins of the old Birches with their white stems & a fringe of distant green from the larches, made an excessively pretty view. At last I fell fast asleep on the grass & awoke with a chorus of birds singing around me, & squirrels running up the trees & some Woodpeckers laughing, & it was as pleasant a rural scene as ever I saw, & I did not care one penny how any of the beasts or birds has been formed.'
One thing I was extremely surprised to discover was that Isabella was an acquaintance of Charles Darwin! I really enjoyed reading the chapters where he played a role. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace largely took place before and during his theories on evolution and reading his thoughts through letters was interesting.
The above quote was from Darwin's time spent at Moor Park, a hydropathy spa opened by Edward Lane. Isabella also spent time there and it was at Moor Park, after years of spurned advances, that Edward Lane finally returned Isabella's affections and the two shared a kiss.
'All day,' she wrote, 'this dream haunted my brain. "I never loved any one as I did thee, both mind and body," I had said in my dream, and in my waking moments the same idea was breathed still in my ear.'
While Isabella doesn't go into detail (and it is this lack of detail that ultimately leads to the court's decision at trial), she does mention multiple trysts until Edward ended things one day.
At his sudden rejection, Isabella fell ill and it was while she was bedridden that Henry discovered the diary. That scene was easily one of the most exciting in the whole novel. And how it ended! The moment Henry came across Isabella's diary and realized what it was, the first part of the novel ends. Such a fantastic finish to book one. Loved it!
'We can colonise the remotest ends of the Earth...we can spread our name, and our fame, and our fructifying wealth to every part of the world, but we cannot clean the River Thames.'
The second part of Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace focuses on the trial. The divorce court was still in its infancy and in cases of adultery, the odds were definitely stacked against the wives. Multiple witnesses and evidence were required in accusing a husband of adultery, while husbands accusing wives had hardly any opposition at all. Also, accused wives were not permitted to attend the trial, so Isabella's diary had to speak for her.
The summer of Isabella's trial saw record temperatures and with the heat came the stink. I can't even begin to imagine what that must have been like!
Though the journal contained elements of melodrama and sentimental fiction, the judges considered that as a whole it told a nuanced story, rendered credible by its self-recrimination, disappointment and doubt. Its exaggerations and excesses were those familiar to any diarist, to any desperately unhappy person or to anyone in love. It was ultimately not a work of madness, but of realism, an account of the limits of romantic dreams.
In the end Isabella won her case, although she lost custody of her children along with any inheritance. She also found her reputation in tatters and her own mother disowned her. As her children came of age however, they chose to break ties with Henry and live with their mother.
While Isabella's story doesn't end on a particularly high note, her trial certainly made waves. Numerous books were published afterwards depicting unhappy wives taking on secret lovers. Diaries saw a surge in popularity. Laws changed to enable incompatible couples (as well as abused wives) ways to separate.
Ms. Summerscale definitely did her research. I was shocked when I reached the end of the book: there were still nearly 100 pages left! Those pages were notes and references and a bibliography! Almost 100 pages!
I was so excited to read Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace and it didn't disappoint at all. I absolutely loved it. (less)
This book sounded so cool when I first read the summary! James, a gifted sorcerer at the ripe old age of 17, is convicted of a terrible crime and exiled to The Never - a place from which no one has escaped - and loses his powers. I couldn't wait to read Exiled!
Unfortunately, this ended up being a case where the idea was far more impressive than the execution. Wagner's writing was fine, and there were even a few moments of truly lovely wording and imagery; however, his main downfall was through the flashbacks.
Exiled takes place in Europe in the late 1800s. James Stuart is convicted of murder and as punishment, he is sent to The Never where he is stripped of his powers. Just as you're getting a feel for The Never, there's a flashback - and these were more often than not, not told from James's perspective. I usually enjoy flashbacks, but these ones had nothing to do with the chapter they preceded/followed. ...it was just a random point in the story.
The other issue I had was with the characters themselves. It would appear that many interactions happened off-screen so to speak, because you'd come to a chapter and suddenly these characters would truly care for one another despite having showed no signs of affection previously. It felt as though Wagner was forcing me to have some sort of emotion regarding the characters - particularly when Bad Things Happen, but that simply wasn't the case. The only thing I felt was a hearty meh.
There was a distinct lack of consistency that bothered me to no end. I get that James is a super awesome sorcerer, but he lost his powers once he was sent to The Never. No one is supposed to have any magical ability there whatsoever. ...yet nearly every character James runs into can do magic with ease, and after a while James regains his abilities.
When it comes to fantasy novels, a proper explanation of the magical system/world is absolutely dire. I was left confused by Exiled. There are the faithful and the unfaithful - those who believe in magic (??) are the faithful and obviously the unfaithful are those who did not. James's parents converted and it's apparently as simple as that to gain magical powers. Who'da thunk.
Also left unexplained were reasons regarding why James was the Anointed One. Again, this didn't get more than a 'meh' from me. I just couldn't care. I didn't feel connected enough to root for James in his struggle to find his way home. The Epoch Terminus confused me as well. I'm still not entirely sure what this was. A magical apocalypse of some sort? From what I understand, it was badbadbad for the magical people, but I'm not sure why. And how were these people able to live and work alongside the rest of the world without their abilities becoming known? IT'S A MYSTERY.
And, guys, since this is a young adult novel, let's discuss the romance! James is 17, remember? His love interest is 27. Yep. Seriously (I kid you not), there's a "love triangle" with a man who is over 100. Honest-to-goodness, James is JEALOUS that a man well over 100 is ~close~ to his near-30 girlfriend. I...I don't get it.
Exiled's ending seemed more like the ending of a chapter, than the ending of the book. The last chapter discusses something that happened to a random character and James isn't even mentioned. ..you know, the main character.
Oddly enough, despite all my griping, I actually looked forward to continuing after coming home from work, doing laundry, etc. A LOT happened in this book and I truly can't remember half of it (even though I just finished this morning!), but for some strange reason I liked it.(less)
After my disaster of a first experience with chick-lit I was a little hesitant to make another attempt. However, Gentlemen Prefer Nerds sounded like a book that would be right up my alley. Maddie is a gemologist and works at her aunt's jewelry store. While working on her PhD Maddie happened to discover a whopping 28 carat pink diamond and it set the gem world on fire.
The Rose (named after Maddie - Rose being her middle name) is first unveiled to the world at the jewelry store since Maddie was the one to find it then it's to be sent to a sultan who was more than happy to pay the hefty $20 million to add it to her personal collection. Unfortunately, there are others who also wish to own the diamond who aren't willing to pay such a large sum. Or any sum at all, for that matter.
While working at the store one day, Maddie is surprised when a complete stranger manages to break in and tell her the Chameleon has his eye on the diamond and will be around at some point to steal it. No big deal.
Naturally Maddie doesn't believe a word of it. However, on the day of the unveiling, the real diamond has been replaced with a near identical replica and Maddie is the number one suspect.
Gentlemen Prefer Nerds reads a LOT like a cozy mystery (and you know I'm all about cozies!). There wasn't any point in the story where I was bored or felt the pace had slowed. This is a short, fun novel that can easily be read in an afternoon.
I'm normally not a big fan of dual narratives, but I enjoyed it in this book. I knew Fabian wasn't being entirely true with Maddie and I wanted to know what was really going on. The "big reveal" had me eye-rolling a bit unfortunately.
The author definitely took the time to do her research and it shows. There are multiple points throughout the novel where Maddie starts spouting gem jargon, but not once did I feel overwhelmed.
Keep in mind: this is a makeover book and yes, there's the token 'getting-rid-of-the-glasses' moment (just once I'd like to see the girl keep her glasses! GLASSES ARE COOL, GUYS!).
The end felt a bit rushed, but overall Gentlemen Prefer Nerds was fun and a lovely little summer read.(less)
I’m a big fan of serial killer novels (it’s probably best I don’t run around blurting that out in public…) and the method in which these girls were ki...moreI’m a big fan of serial killer novels (it’s probably best I don’t run around blurting that out in public…) and the method in which these girls were killed & displayed was completely unlike anything I’ve read before.
The Pleasures of Men is a classic case of a great plot but a terrible execution (aka Matthew Pearl syndrome). I recently discovered Kate Williams has written multiple non-fiction books and I’m open to trying those. The writing in The Pleasures of Men is definitely not suitable for fiction; it really shouldn’t have surprised me that Williams is a notable historian.
I gave up with this one early on after a few attempts at starting it. Even though I desperately wanted to enjoy this book, it just didn’t work for me. I was thoroughly confused at times. The story is told through Catherine’s eyes, yet there were many times where I wasn’t sure who the narrator was or just what was going on.
Despite my best efforts, The Pleasures of Men & I just weren’t meant to be.(less)
It was just a single word that was completely unknown to Nick: Erebos.
The students in Nick Dunmore's school have started behaving very strangely. They aren't showing up for school and on the rare occasion they do, their eyes are glazed over as though they haven't slept in weeks. No one will say a word about it and there are mysterious packages being exchanged. Nick's determined to get his hands on one and see what all the fuss is about.
He gets his wish: one day a girl named Brynne hands him a CD. She refuses to say anything more apart from telling Nick he must never tell anyone about it and that it's a really, really, REALLY awesome game. Nick excitedly rushes home to discover just what makes Erebos so great.
The whole time I was reading this I kept getting a distinct 90s vibe despite all the mentioned of ipods, etc. I'm thinking it was because there was a movie that had a very similar premise (and, of course, for the life of me I can't remember the title).
Erebos is on the longer side, particularly for a YA novel (my ARC was 440 pages), but the story is so fast-paced it feels like it's half that length. I was able to knock out hundreds of pages in a sitting - something that I normally don't do - with ease.
At first, the computer game seemed awesome! It really knew everything about Nick and could tell when he was lying. At first it would send him on little quests in the real world - find a box here and take it across town and leave it hidden, take a few pictures of a particular car - and at first it seemed completely harmless. However, as Nick progressed throughout the game these quests became more and more violent and ultimately resulted in Nick being kicked out of the game for good when he refused to completely one of the quests.
People are getting hurt in the real world and no one can say anything about it. Nick's best friend Jamie is the voice of reason: he refused to accept the game from day one and insists that something needs to be done to stop it. One of their teachers notices that something dangerous is going on and the pair team up and attempt to find out what's going on.
I won't spoil the Big Reveal, but I'll admit I'm a little disappointed. That goes for the big showdown at the end as well. It seemed too convenient.
The one thing I didn't like about this book was the translation. Overall, it was great: the sentences seemed natural and flowed really well. Unfortunately, there were a few that were so horrible that I had to read and re-read them multiple times before finally giving up ("Actually," he said, "it's the logo of Vay too far." for example). Also, these are sixteen year-old teenagers. The expressions they used just didn't work for me: Emily swore in an unladylike fashion. "It's all double Dutch to me." While I understand the expression, I have never heard a teenager use it before.
Overall, Erebos was great! It had a male protagonist - something that seems pretty rare in YA, a really interesting premise, and an amazingly quick pace. However, it's stilted translation was a bit difficult to read at times and took me out of the story.
Nick took advantage of his friend's change of mood and asked one last question. "Has the game ever actually crashed on you?" Now Colin laughed. "Crashed? No. But I know what you mean." He lowered his voice, as though he feared someone might be listening in. "Sometimes...it just doesn't want to work. It waits. It tests you. Know what, Nick? Sometimes I think it's alive."
His software learned, it could read, and it could make use of what it had read. It analyzed the computer user and gave him what he really wanted, deep down inside. Amazing. No wonder none of them had been able to drag themselves away from Erebos.
I had a nasty cold earlier in the week and wanted something fun and fluffy to keep me entertained. Improper English caught my eye and I couldn't wait to dive right in! It seemed perfect: reviews (particularly from some Big Names) declared it hilarious and a ton of fun; it was just the right length for a few days on the couch (369 pages); Sexy Scottish Lead! What more needs to be said?
Unfortunately, this book just didn't live up to expectations. The main character and the love interest have the same name... yeah. Alexandra "Alix" Freemar is from Seattle and for some reason her rich mother decided to pay for her to live in London for three months (I'm actually not sure how long she was there - the book at times said three months, yet other times it said two). There's a catch, though: Alix must write a novel while she is in London.
Alix leaps at the opportunity and winds up with a flat and some very lovely neighbors (seriously, the neighbors were my favorite characters and this book's saving grace). Isabella is the house...manager(??) type person (she wasn't the landlord, but she seemed to be in charge of everyone there). In the beginning she seemed like she was going to be the token BFF and I immediately took a liking to her. Then, after about 20 pages, she just vanished and wasn't mentioned again until toward the end of the book when she became one of the most irritating characters I've ever read.
Alexander "Alex" Black is another neighbor of Alix's and there's definitely instalove when they first meet. It's actually pretty...ick as their relationship progresses. Alix's constant descriptions of the ~fires~ Alex's touch starts within her caused much eye rolling on my part.
Ray & Bert are the awesome lesbian couple and I absolutely adored them. I want a Ray & Bert in my life. Even though they irked me a tiiiiny bit in one scene - more to come on that - they were great and without a doubt the most level-headed characters of the novel.
So Alix has settled down in London to write a best-selling romance novel (at the beginning of each chapter there's a little excerpt from her book and it's hilarious). You'd think she's actually, you know, work on writing a book. At first she does! But then Isabella decides to hook her up with someone (she actually says it's her lover...). Alix isn't looking for anything more than a casual hook-up every now and then. Alex, however, is all about serious relationships. Yet there's something that keeps bringing these two together (of course).
The biggest issue for me was Isabella. She had dated Alex at one point, but their relationship has been over for years by the time Alix comes along. Yet Isabella still refers to Alex as her lover, her dear friend, she cares about him very deeply, etc etc. I don't like that one bit. She's always discussing ~secrets~ with him and it's very odd. Isabella and Alex live on the same floor in the house and are neighbors. Just...no. I didn't like the situation at all. Isabella, strangely enough, practically forces Alex & Alix to get together and I was so confused.
The biggest gripe I had with Alix was that she was a typical chick-lit heroine: oblivious to the point of moronic, utterly selfish, rude, irritating, everything I can't stand about this type of character went into creating her. The scene that nearly caused me to fling the book across the room dealt with Alix. Her manuscript was rejected and she's feeling down, so she calls Alex. Understandable and I know I'd definitely want my boyfriend to console me if I had the same thing happen. However. HOWEVER. Alex is Detective Inspector Black, head of a unit of Scotland Yard. At that moment, he and his men are conducting a raid after planning it out for months. When he tries to explain this to Alix, she goes berserk and accuses him of betraying her, states that not only does he not care for her anymore, but it's painfully clear that she never meant anything to him in the first place. Is this woman for real?! I couldn't wrap my mind around her logic at all and instead, felt nothing but fury for her.
Later on that night Alix stays in her flat and just wants to be left alone. Her dreams of becoming a writer were crushed, and I sympathized with her for once. I could see why she wanted to be left alone and I wanted that for her. Unfortunately, none of the other characters in the book could take a hint. They bang on her door multiple times, practically blow up her phone, and even go so far as to get random tenants in the building to call her as well. Leave the poor girl alone!
Obviously the book was going to have a happy ending, but I wasn't left feeling very satisfied. I wish I could say otherwise, but Alex and Alix declaring love for one another (plus a random proposal???) didn't feel natural. I didn't buy their chemistry for a second. So many characters say they're perfect for each other, but that didn't come across in their actions at all. Sure, they've got great physical chemistry, but a long-term relationship? Eh.(less)
This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as nontraditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank . . . If that’s the sort of thing you think you might enjoy, then you have happened upon the perfect story!
The world is a better place for having Christopher Moore in it. I could end this review with that one lone sentence and it would sum up my feelings perfectly.
Unfortunately - and I hate myself for this! - I wasn't able to finish Fool before it was due back at the library. A nasty cold found me earlier this week and I wasn't able to do much of anything. However, as I've mentioned before I work at a bookstore and one of our perks is being able to borrow anything from the store. :) So I have no doubts I'll be finishing this one shortly.
Christopher Moore definitely is not an author for everyone. His humor is pretty off-the-wall and is something a person will either adore or absolutely detest. Fortunately I'm in the "OMG I LUV U" group. I first fell in love with him through Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (♥ I have the leather-bound cover and it's so, so gorgeous!!) and have been on a quest to gobble up everything else he's released.
Fool is a retelling of King Lear, one of the many Shakespeare plays I have never read. I don't feel that hinders my understanding - or enjoyment - of the novel in any way, however.
I only managed to get halfway through the novel, but there were so many passages and lines that made me snort and laugh to the point of crying.
Despite not being able to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed what I did read. That said, if someone is reading Moore for the first time, I'd definitely recommend Lamb instead.(less)
Drop what you're doing and read this now! I've been raving about this book for the past week and am finally able to sit down and put all my flailing into words.
"For heaven's sake, boy, put your mask on," Mr. Socrates snapped. "No one should see your face."
Mr. Alan Socrates hears about an odd little child and buys him. It sounds remarkably cruel - and it is - but it's as simple as that. He takes Modo (a terribly sweet but horribly deformed boy) to his estate, Ravenscroft, and there the child is raised.
While Modo views Mr. Socrates as his father figure, the man is hardly around. He's always off traveling and on the rare occasions that he does decide to drop by, he quizzes Modo in order to see how his studies are going.
Modo is raised by a wonderful woman, the caretaker of the estate. Whereas Mr. Socrates only allows Modo to read "approved" material (certain articles from the newspaper, for example), Mrs. Finchley will go out of her way to sneak in a picture book or two, something fun and light-hearted. She was the first person to truly care about Modo and it broke my heart when Modo had to leave Ravenscroft.
Modo undid the knots and removed the mask, setting it on a table. He felt naked. This was not a face for the world to see, Mr. Socrates had told him so.
The masks are vital. Until Mr. Socrates decided Modo was to leave to estate, Modo had no idea what he looked like. All of the mirrors and anything remotely reflective were to be removed. I wanted to rush to Modo's side the day Mr. Socrates forced him to see himself for the first time.
Modo has a wonderful gift: shape-shifting. He's able to see a portrait or merely use his imagination and his entire body will change and take on the features of another person. Mr. Socrates is determined to use Modo's ability to his advantage.
Mr. Socrates is the head of a secret organization that employs agents to do various tasks. From the time he was bought, Modo had been trained to become Mr. Socrates' ultimate agent.
When Modo is 14, Mr. Socrates takes him to London - the very first time Modo has ever been outside - and leaves him there. ...just leaves him. He tells Modo he'll check back soon and that Modo should put his training to use and fend for himself.
At various times throughout the book I wanted to throttle Mr. Socrates. This scene was one of those times. Here was Modo, a terrified boy who has never been outside before, suddenly dropped off in the middle of London and told to have a nice life. Throughout it all, Modo was such a sweetheart, I wanted to reach into the book and give him a huge hug. :( Don't let the jerks get you down, Modo. ♥
Modo only nodded, but smiled idiotically under his handkerchief.
Oh man. Modo's crush on Octavia (another agent employed by Mr. Socrates) is so, so, so insanely adorable. They were just too cute. I was really hoping their romance storyline would have been given a bit more attention, but there are other books, so yay! So cute.
Dr. Hyde is a mad scientist who took orphaned children (and Prince Albert), surgically enhanced them by placing large bolts into their shoulders, and fed them all a tincture, rendering them fully conscious, yet completely unable to control their bodies. There was a fascinating chapter where a character was under the influence of the tincture. He was aware, yet could not move a limb. Instead, his body moved on its own with its own purpose.
The action was fantastic! The Iron Giant-type machine was so cool and the fact that a prince and little children were all connected to it - literally - and forced to pilot it was neat.
Mr. Socrates gathered up the paper. "As a rule, I prefer no descriptions of my agents to appear in print." "It won't happen again, sir," Modo said. "Next time I'll just let myself burn up in the blaze."
I adored watching Modo grow. In the beginning, he was a tiny, timid boy who had no idea what the real world was like. After Mr. Socrates comes back into Modo's life, Modo is different - but in a good way. He's no longer scared and naive. He's a character you get to know and come to care about and multiple times I was honestly worried for him. I wanted things to work out for him, I was rooting for Modo the entire journey. When his transformations began to wear off or his masks slipped, I was scared for him. When he started having flutter feelings whenever he was around Octavia, I squealed in delight.
"Marvelously boring. Though there is a good sword fight at the end."
♥ One of my favorite scenes in the book was an Octavia/Modo scene. Modo is reading Hamlet and Octavia walks in on him. She immediately begins to mock Modo for reading not just Hamlet, but Shakespeare in general. Modo unsuccessfully attempts to defend himself, but Octavia isn't having it, although in the end she gives in and mentions the one part of the play she enjoyed.
This book was so, so, SO wonderful! I can't wait to tear into the next!(less)