I read this mystery a month ago but I forgot to post a review, so if I'm a little fuzzy on the details, I apologize. On a literary level, it's about aI read this mystery a month ago but I forgot to post a review, so if I'm a little fuzzy on the details, I apologize. On a literary level, it's about art, perception, illusion and memory and other polysyllabic words. It's about thinking you know somebody and finding out how terribly wrong you are, and conversely, it's also about finding that thankfully, some people are exactly the beautiful people you needed them to be. This is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Quebec inspector, Armand Gamache. I like him, and so does everybody else in his life. I really liked the gay couple in it (okay, okay, I forget their names) because like most confident gay guys they didn't take their sexuality too seriously. And they had the best lines. Well, them and Ruth, the old woman who is All That Represents Memory. But the story lost a full mark because of one character: Yvette Nichols, Armand Gamache's very junior associate. See, I remember that twit's name. She was too poorly drawn, too inconsistent, and extraneous. And stupid, really stupid. I wanted to finger-flick out of the story. Still, lots of good going on and I can see why each of her novels have become more and more popular. Sure, I'd read her again. BTW, is it just me or does anyone else find the term 'cozy mystery' a kind of oxymoron? As in, Still Life is a mystery about murder in a small town. What the bleep is so cozy about that?...more
Farting through silk dresses. That's what the uncle of the heroine says she'll be doing if she marries the rich man. Isn't that a great expression? AnFarting through silk dresses. That's what the uncle of the heroine says she'll be doing if she marries the rich man. Isn't that a great expression? And sadly, I've got nowhere to use it. Not unless I want even more bewildered looks than usual. This novel has been out for a decade now, and the fact that it's the choice of the History Fictionistas series read right now, speaks to its sticking power. And the centre of it is Fiona Finnegan, a feisty female fond of flavorful tea and fighting for family and friends. Her story begins in Whitechapel in the late 19th century, sails over to New York and then ten years later, returns to the shores of her homeland. It's got your star-crossed romance, your gay best friend, a serial killer, Dickensian lowlifes and a grand finale. A Winter Rose, the second in the series, is up next, and I'll be all over it. It features another tough heroine. I'm weak for strong women....more
Sorry if I get any story facts wrong here, because the day after I finished Grave Mercy, I lent it out. It’s meant to be shared. A lot of others haveSorry if I get any story facts wrong here, because the day after I finished Grave Mercy, I lent it out. It’s meant to be shared. A lot of others have talked about how cool it is to have an assassin novitiate as a heroine, and I think that’s because Ismae’s paradoxical profession gets to the crux of it all. How do you serve Mortain, god of Death and still remain a decent human being? Ismae is trained at a convent in the deadly arts and excels, except for the womanly arts of seduction which are—as we all know—also considered lethal. All the girls there are misfits, and are happy to have a place to call home, even if it means offing whoever the God of Death messages to the seeress who then passes the message along to the abbess who then sends out one of her trainees. Ismae completes two missions when she’s assigned to become the mistress of Gavril Duval, whom the abbess suspects of playing double agent. But when Gavril Duval proves his loyalty time and time again, Ismae must question the authenticity of her calling. What’s the right thing to do? What is the price of following your heart? And can the heart be trusted? Of course, Robin LaFevers does all the right things in her debut novel. She writes a superbly paced novel, creates a sense of place and enlivens all her characters without making them overlap and make me flip unduely to the front to remind myself who is what. Some have complained that the romance angle is flat but this isn’t a romance, unless you define it as LaFevers did, in the way that medieval romances were tales of loyalty, intrigue and love, too. This is about making up your own mind, and deciding how best to use our God-given talents, even if they’re from the God of Death. ...more
I don't think I can add more glory to this book than it has already received, so I'll just say I felt almost honored to have read it. It's about big tI don't think I can add more glory to this book than it has already received, so I'll just say I felt almost honored to have read it. It's about big themes: loss, redemption, sacrifice, memory. It's also a tale about The Other in whatever form it takes. Twins figure large in the tale, and to go into it to any degree might spoil it, so suffice to say, it is about bonds that can go beyond the grave. But for me, and I'm sure for everyone else here at Goodreads, the most intriguing connection to The Other (Okay, this capitalization makes it sound like I'm talking about aliens!) is with books. I can't imagine my existence without them; a great story can transform me on the almost cellular level. As the great dame novelist said in this tale, "...nothing is more telling than a story."
And what The Thirteenth Tale told me was that a story is the place where the storymaker and the storytaker are prepared to be changed. Vida Winter's cathartic tale brought peace to her and Margaret Lea. It also changed me, though I'm sure that's not what Diane Setterfield had in mind. Still I was inspired and gratified, riveted and restored.
Now before this review spins off into rhapsodic nebulae, let me ground it by saying that the Tale is a ripping good yarn. There's a crumbling mansion, old books, a dead body or two, a handsome man, a ghost or two, and a madwoman. So you can read it and not fear being changed. Just don't be surprised if you are....more
I don’t know about you but when a novelist is compared to Umberto Eco, Charles Dickens, Jorges Luis Borges, Charles Palliser, Gabriel Garcia Marquez,I don’t know about you but when a novelist is compared to Umberto Eco, Charles Dickens, Jorges Luis Borges, Charles Palliser, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Arturo Perez-Reverte, A. S. Byatt , Victor Hugo (I could go on), I can’t resist giving it a go. The Shadow of the Wind is the first in a trilogy by Zafon who, on his website, is committed to telling stories readers want. I suppose it’s because he’s committed to keeping himself housed and fed. I can’t be bothered to summarize the plot because I want to get on with what interested me about it , so here’s a quick tagline: In post-WWII Barcelona, a young man, Daniel Sempere, seeks to restore the memory of his mother by tracking down the author of a novel in his safekeeping. I didn’t buy into Sempere’s line of reasoning; it’s like scouring the pope’s speeches for instructions on condom use. No matter: the how more than covered for the why. Zafon takes a twisted shadowy journey among crumbling mansions and cracked souls in his tale of remembrance and redemption. There are other big thematic words I could unroll but, because of my current writerly obsessions, I’ve settled on sacrifice and her dark twin, self-destruction. I was also distracted by Daniel Sempere, who is fictional proof for why narrators make poor heroes; and Fermin Romero de Torres who—bless you, Carlos Ruiz Zafon—gets his own book in The Prisoner of Heaven and is proof-fictional and otherwise—that good looks are over-rated. Fermin is a secondary character, and as such, ought to know his place. It is for him to support the hero’s journey, to deliver a few zingers that speak to the hero’s plight or to the controlling themes, and perhaps to spin out a thin subplot of his own. Fermin does all that, and is one thing more: butt-ugly. It’s hard to feel attached to, as Daniel puts it, “the little man with scruffy looks and the tongue of a barker.” He steps into the story when Daniel is left bloodied on the street. “Are you all right?” asked a voice in the shadow. It was the beggar I had refused to help a short time before. Feeling ashamed, I nodded, avoiding his eyes. I started to walk away. “Wait a minute, at least until the rain eases off,” the beggar suggested. He took me by the arm and led me to a corner under the arches where he kept a bundle of possessions and a bag with old, dirty clothes. “I have a bit of wine. It’s not too bad. Drink a little. It will help you warm up….” By offering what little he has to one who has scorned him, Fermin becomes a hero in a shabby suit. Again and again, he’s larger-than-life by way of the small gesture: he consoles a dying woman, keeps vigil over a tortured neighbor, rustles up leads when all others have failed, and appears when needed. Now that doesn’t make for a character hero. That honor goes to the one who achieves the greatest arc or greatest change in their character, and Fermin remains steadfast and big-nosed to the end. By rights, it’s Daniel Sempere, then. He’s the one with the journey to find the story of Julian Carax, thereby catching up himself and others in his haphazard investigations. The problem is Daniel ends up telling the stories of people more interesting than him. By doing so he’s practically admitting that whatever was happening to him isn’t nearly as fascinating as what happened to someone else. Three-quarters of the way through the story, Zafon has Daniel lay out the full contents of a long letter (written in an unbelievable 24 hours) by the reclusive Nuria Montfort, a letter which lifts the veil on much of the mystery. Daniel goes from narrator to reader; he essentially walks off the stage and joins the audience. Does he still have a character arc? Yes, he takes a bullet for the man he believes in. But so does Daniel’s elusive author, Julian Carax. And so does Nuria Montfort (actually she takes another deadly instrument). And no, I’ve spoiled nothing. Trust me. It is Nuria that I found the most haunting because of her fifteen years of sacrifice for a man who didn’t try to return her love. Part of me shrieks, “Forget him! Move on!” Yet haven’t we all had situations and people we couldn’t walk away from? So she accepted the sacrifice and its dark twin, self-destruction. Self-destruction ends in death or, if intervention occurs , resurrection. You’d have to be illiterate not to pick up on the allusions to death, more populous than headstones in a cemetery, the most obvious one being the library called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Apparently books, like people, are only dead if forgotten. This whole thing about memories supporting life is a well-worn Homeric sentiment, one that I wish Zafon hadn’t felt the need to push into the mouths of his characters. Fortunately, it didn’t matter: I’ll remember the novel more for its scruffy virtues than any good-hearted flaws. ...more