Jane Eyre has always been an absolute favorite of mine, and I was so ready to dislike this, thinking it was just like one of the hundreds of "continuaJane Eyre has always been an absolute favorite of mine, and I was so ready to dislike this, thinking it was just like one of the hundreds of "continuations" or "retellings" of Pride and Prejudice.
So glad I was mistaken, even happier that I decided to take a chance on this book. What a marvelous gem. A nuanced heroine--very much in the mold of Jane Eyre--who was neither good nor bad, engaging characters, great use of language, wonderful writing, solid pacing, and an introduction to a religion or war I didn't know much about.
Highly entertaining read. Thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend to those who enjoy 18th and 19th century lit....more
Second read, after almost two decades. I've always been a fan of the epistolary, and Lady Susan, to me, is a perfect example of how well one can tellSecond read, after almost two decades. I've always been a fan of the epistolary, and Lady Susan, to me, is a perfect example of how well one can tell a tale using such a simple (and in this case, short) form. However, this is certainly not one of my Austen favorites. The wittiness, the social manners, the humor--all the trademark Austen standards are present in this novella. I can honestly say I enjoyed it now as much as I did years ago, but in the end, I'm still not a fan of Lady Susan herself. As a character, she is rich and deeply nuanced, and the lady can certainly justify everything she does with no qualms whatsoever.
But where I've loved almost all the other Austen heroines--Fanny Price, Elizabeth Bennett, Elinor Dashwood, Anne Elliot, Emma Woodhouse, heck, even naïve and annoying Catherine Morland had an endearing quality about her--there is something about Susan Vernon that leaves me cold.
Yes, I know she was written to be unlikable and manipulative. Yes, I know she was meant to be unscrupulous, an anti-hero(ine). By today's standards, she'd fit in quite well in certain circles. And I personally believe Austen had tons of fun writing Lady Susan, especially since she goes unpunished at the end.
Still, it is largely because of my reaction to her that I'm giving this 3-stars. I like liking my protagonists. So in the end, it's not her. It's me. ...more
If you like Harlequin romances, but only the PG-13 versions, then this book is for you.
If you like Columbo, or Murder She Wrote, thenHmmm, let's see.
If you like Harlequin romances, but only the PG-13 versions, then this book is for you.
If you like Columbo, or Murder She Wrote, then this book is for you.
If you like characters like Mr. Rochester or Mr. Darcy, but are willing to settle for their third cousins, twice removed, then this book is for you.
And if you loved The Lovely Bones, and totally fell for 14-year old Susie Salmon, well, you may not quite be drawn to 16-year old Lucrezia de Medici Este.
I guess that's what got to me. It's a second- (maybe even third-) rate mystery. You have a plucky heroine asking all the wrong questions and bumbling about a new place, raising all sorts of trouble, for herself and others. You have her husband, a prickly, vain, arrogant snoot who reminds me of the sods 80s romantic heroines always fell in love with. You know the type: tall, dark and handsome; made with equal parts brash conceit and barely hidden misogyny; excessively rich; great in bed (despite that PG-13 rating). The guy you love to hate. Yet deep down inside is a soft and squidgy center, and really, we all know he's just looking for the right partner to bring out the ooey-gooey in him. And that heroic side of his comes out once the heroine is in danger, and guess who comes to her rescue! (Yeah, not a huge surprise at all...)
Then don't forget the dead girl. Because the dead girl always has to give her side of the story. Except that unlike Susie Salmon, this dead girl is not very likable. She's all vitriol and spite and everything not nice. She swears like a sailor, and has a libido like one, too. But that's not why she's unlikable - she's unlikable because she's completely unapologetic, she's vindictive, and is a bit of a psychopath.
I don't know. The mystery wasn't that great. There were too many coinky-dinks. However, it was well-written, and I appreciated that Elizabeth Loupas used Browning's My Last Duchess as a jumping-off point. But even the most well-written narrative can't be saved by a weak plot and fairly unlikable characters.
One good thing that came out of it? I now know a tad bit more about Italian history. It got me interested enough to do some research into the Estes. And I truly did find Barbara of Austria a fascinating historical figure; I just wish more was written about her in the histories. ...more
I'm just going to put this out there: I'm neither a big reader of vampire lit nor of mobster lit. While I enjoy movies and TV shows about both genres,I'm just going to put this out there: I'm neither a big reader of vampire lit nor of mobster lit. While I enjoy movies and TV shows about both genres, for whatever reason, I've never been that interested in reading about either. It just wasn't my cup of tea.
I think that's what surprised me about this book. Because it is about Vampires. And it is about mobsters, and while it could've been very easy for this to devolve into two very tired cliches, it didn't. And here I was, thoroughly enjoying the ride.
A large part of that enjoyment was because it's a character-driven piece. New York City in the 30s is as much a character in this novel as Faolan, our hero, is. He's got his sidekicks, Frank and Rod and Miranda and all the other guys, all loyal and all fairly well-drawn. He's got his enemies--Killian and Rothstein, both of whom are nuanced and not just evil for the sake of being evil. No, they can pretty much justify their actions so that you, as a reader, feel conflicted.
And really, when it comes down to it, Faolan's an anti-hero. This guy is not a good guy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Deep down, I always thought that he was trying to hold onto his humanity even after he'd been turned. Part of me always thought that this was, to a certain degree, a story about redemption. I don't think the author would agree with me on that, but that's what I got out of it.
Equally violent (because what would a vampire/mobster novel be, without violence?), romantic, funny, haunting and chilling in turns, this narrative has pretty much everything going for it. One of my favorite parts is when Frank brings Faolan back to his place, and Faolan realizes just how messed up Frank is, with his collection of spiders. Definitely one of the funniest scenes in the entire book. Faolan's romance with Stephanie is beautiful, almost as beautiful as his remorse over his wife, Colleen. And chilling? A scene early on in the book, involving Frank, Faolan and a young boy, is still with me.
The pacing is good -- it slows down when it needs to, but when it amps up, it's all action all the time. Very much like Faolan's killing groove.
And the writing: Brian McKinley can write. He has an easy way with words. He knows when to use it sparingly, he knows when to give it a bit more. The writing is solid, the narrative is tight, the characterization is on point.
My main reason for not giving it 5-stars is because there were parts where I thought some foreknowledge of this Vampyr world was required. It's a fairly complex world, and all the terms --- reeve, adjutor, etc. --- weren't immediately transparent. But in the grand scheme of things, that's a small thing.
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