A number of the short stories in this collection were meh...but there were a few standouts (and by standouts, I mean that it has a) made me love the aA number of the short stories in this collection were meh...but there were a few standouts (and by standouts, I mean that it has a) made me love the authors I already truly loved even more, b) made me appreciate the authors I was sort of on the fence on, and c) made me want to read more from newly discovered authors).
So, out of the collection, these are the ones that stood out, in my opinion:
What Do You Do, Gillian Flynn (B) A Year and a Day in Old Theradane, Scott Lynch (A) Tawny Petticoats, by Michael Swanwick (C) Provenance, by David W. Ball (C) Roaring Twenties, by Carrie Vaughn (C) The Meaning of Love, by Daniel Abraham (C) Diamonds from Tequila, by Walter Jon Williams (C) The Caravan to Nowhere, by Phyllis Eisenstein (C)
Was I disappointed? Yes. Particularly by Abercrombie's Tough Times All Over. Yes, he managed to tie in a network full of minor characters from his previous novels, which was great. But it was also a cheap thrill and the story didn't amount to much. Rothfuss's The Lightning Tree was sometimes fun, but there is something about Rothfuss's writing that always irritates me. The Rogue Prince, by G. R. R. Martin was good, but again, I'd rather he spent the time working on the sixth book of his actual series, rather than go back several generations into Targaryen lore. Neil Gaiman's How the Marquis Got His Coat Back was entertaining, but sometimes, so is twiddling my thumbs.
The one that annoyed me most: Connie Willis' Now Showing, which was just as annoying as Doomsday Book. 'Nuff said....more
For the first half of the book, I was very confused. Is this non-fiction? It's written almost like a biography. But it's not. But it doesn't read likeFor the first half of the book, I was very confused. Is this non-fiction? It's written almost like a biography. But it's not. But it doesn't read like fiction. At all. What am I reading??
Needless to say, while this was a fantastically written novel and I was very drawn into the story of the Opium Eater and his daughter, I was also very keenly aware that, while this is supposed to be historical fiction, the lines between fiction and history were very tenuous, indeed. And maybe it's because of these blurred lines that it's been touted as one of these year's best works.
Did that distract? Sometimes. Especially when Morrell would start a sentence with "Back in the 1850s...." He had a tendency to be didactic, almost to a fault. Then again, it was these little immersive lessons in Victorian culture that gave so much of the authenticity and flavor to the novel. I will say, however, that the use of third person omniscient, while common in most nineteenth century writing, sometimes served to pull me out of the time period because the narrator's voice was so strong and so obviously of this time period.
Nevertheless, this was a really good read. Taut and thrilling, with wonderful character development, it was certainly a fun ride. And, as Morrell points out, the real-life DeQuincey was the father of a host of things we take for granted these days (e.g., coining the term "subconscious" long before Freud, serving as inspiration to both Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle, thereby setting the path for the modern mystery and detective extraordinaire, etc.).
Definitely a solid four stars. If I hadn't been distracted by the ever present feeling of today, I'd have given it five stars....more
Egads...if I were kidnapped by a guy that I knew was a murderer, and that his main goal was to kill me again, I don't think I'd be having dinner withEgads...if I were kidnapped by a guy that I knew was a murderer, and that his main goal was to kill me again, I don't think I'd be having dinner with him (while I am his captive) or having polite nightly tête-à-têtes. Or having discussions with him about how he's developing romantic feelings about me.
There was absolutely no sense of urgency in this book. No sense of "I must escape now! I must get away from these psychos while I can, at any cost." While our intrepid little heroine, Abby, does manage to escape twice, I (as the reader) didn't really feel like a) she was going to get very far and b) didn't really feel that she really wanted to leave. If I were in her shoes, I would spend every waking moment thinking of ways to escape, of how to make contact with the outside world. I certainly wouldn't spend my time learning how to make risotto, watch hours upon hours of TV, play video games, etc. A little rain won't deter me. And I would most certainly not be quite as civil as she was with my kidnapper. Every ounce of hatred and fear and loathing I had for him would be oozing from me. He would know, unequivocally, that there was no way in hell I would ever consider having any kind of relationship with him, romantic or otherwise. He would know that I abhorred him.
Don't get me wrong. This wasn't Stockholm syndrome light. Not once did Abby identify with her kidnappers or justify what they were doing. But she empathized with him towards the end. While he wanted Abby to be part of their plans and accept her role in it (even accept her torture sessions openly), I was glad when Sinclair didn't actually go there, because she could've. Abby was such a passive kidnapping victim that it was so odd that she never railed against her captors or seemed psychologically traumatized by her experience. It all seemed so...derived. That's it --- it was very contrived and derivative. And ultimately frustrating.
Oh...and what happened to the tracker in her arm? Hmmm...will Book 4 be The Mystery of the Mysterious Missing Tracker?
Still, I read the whole thing. Cover to cover. And I will do so with the fourth book, whenever it comes out. I'm too far in it now not to finish the series. I just hope it ends soon....more
I think I understand why this book is so popular. It's written very casually, like you're listening to someone--a close friend, maybe--tell you a storI think I understand why this book is so popular. It's written very casually, like you're listening to someone--a close friend, maybe--tell you a story instead of reading it. Sinclair's prose isn't lyrical or even close to literary - instead, it's very mainstream, very much of the now: like her heroine, Abby, she lives in Bend, OR; she drops locale names and places left and right; she name drops and infuses her narrative with pop culture (Adele, Josh Ritter, Florence and the Machine, Kate Spade, iPad, Barcelona vs. Real Madrid...these are all very real props in Abby's world, just like they are for many readers) so that the reader has a point of reference. They are comfortable with Abby because they are comfortable in her world, with the things in her world, in spite of the unnatural things that are occurring within that world. Just as Abby enjoys having coffee at her favorite cafe, casually shooting the breeze with her sister or friends, the reader is drawn into Sinclair's world just as cozily as they "listen" to Abby tell her story, maybe with a cup of coffee or tea, as they sit curled up on the couch with a blanket tucked around their legs.
I understand this is a young adult novel and would likely appeal to many teenagers (and a number of adults, as well). It's popularity and consistent 4-star rating is a testament to that. However, from my point of view, while many bizarre things are happening to our intrepid heroine, there's never quite any real sense of distress, never really any real quickening of the senses, never any immediacy that she is in imminent danger, right now (or even around the corner). Yes, she sees ghosts. Yes, ghosts want something from her. Ooh, she's potentially being threatened by a ghost. And let's not forget that overarching black cloud from the first book. All of that is there, ever present. All of that is always hanging over Abby. But the whole time I read both books, there was never really any sense of "Abby could be in real danger. Abby could die. Abby has to run. Away. Now." Again, it's all very casual, like Abby is sitting right across from me and is sheepishly telling me this weird story of what happened to her last month, all the while tempering everything that's happening to her so that I don't get too needlessly freaked out and worried.
Also (and again, I'm going to fall back on the whole "this is a young adult novel geared towards young women" thing), at some point, I started thinking, "Gosh, Abby is starting to sound very much like Bella!" But instead of "Where's Edward?" from Stephenie Meyers' New Moon, it's now "Where's Jesse?" Granted, Abby did not turn into a danger-seeking lovelorn girl so that her ghost boyfriend Jesse would appear to her and warn her that her actions were going to get her into trouble. Nope. She turned into an adventure-seeking lovelorn girl because at heart, she's a jock through and through, and that's just who she is, but she did run around Bend looking for Jesse, whispering "Come back to me, Jesse...show yourself to me, Jesse...I miss you, Jesse...I love you, Jesse. I'm nothing without you, Jesse," all the while hoping against hope that he'd be by the swings or at the park, feeding the ducks, or playing basketball, maybe hiding behind a bush or under a rock...you get my drift.
There were other things that bothered me, such as how does a teenager support herself with minimum wage jobs? Where's her health insurance coming from? How will she pay for the mortgage and all that other stuff while trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. There's an easy answer for now, of course, in the form of her older sister Kate, but then what? While I'm very glad that Sinclair chose to have two very strong females be at the center of the story, it just worries me when her main heroine sees a bright future as a river-shoe wearing, white-water-rafting-in-the-summer, barista-in-the-winter, night-soccer-player. I'm glad that she's put it out there that women don't have to settle for a corporate life, that they don't need to stay where they are, and that they should do what makes them happy. But I just kept going back to "what message is she sending out to the teens out there?"
Well, at any rate, as with the first book, this was a really quick read. Entertaining enough. I'm probably going to read the third one when it comes out. I'm not expecting an earth-shattering new chapter in Abby's life. I don't really know how Sinclair will end this whole cycle, but for now, I'm hooked enough to continue on. There are worse books out there, that's for sure. ...more
Well, not bad for a free book on Amazon. The writing was not great (far from it), but the story was entertaining enough and kept me hooked. While theWell, not bad for a free book on Amazon. The writing was not great (far from it), but the story was entertaining enough and kept me hooked. While the themes were more mature, this was definitely geared towards a younger audience. And...while I didn't think Jools Sinclair was a very good writer, she was significantly better than Stephenie Meyer! Larger vocabulary, better pacing, less cringe-inducing dialogue...if the characters were more developed and the mystery not so obvious, I probably would've given this 3 stars....more