**spoiler alert** This book was fantastic. I loved the structure of it, and how the story unfolded. One of my favorite aspects of the structure was ho**spoiler alert** This book was fantastic. I loved the structure of it, and how the story unfolded. One of my favorite aspects of the structure was how it forced me to reevaluate each character as I learned more about them: Near the beginning when the characters were being introduced, I often thought, "what a terrible person" or "what a spoiled brat." Then later in the book, as I read about each character's backstory, I reconsidered them in light of their difficult pasts and really felt a lot of empathy for the ones I'd judged early on.
Despite my enjoyment of the book as a whole, I had to take one star off for the last 1/4 of the story. I was not really interested in Lord Merridith's descent into opium abuse or his brothel escapades. That whole section, in contrast with the rest of the book, felt very cliched and predictable. By the time he was diagnosed with syphilis I didn't really care about him any more (and I thought that plot point showed the author getting a little heavy-handed and obvious with the "blight in the aristocracy/social system" theme.) I also felt the wrap-up chapters and epilogue dragged on a bit, as the narrative lost momentum and got bogged down in the miscellaneous, sometimes purely conjectured fates of each character.
Also (perhaps I missed something here), I never really understood why Grantley killed Merridith, and if they were working in collusion in that event. Did Merridith ask Grantley to kill him (after all, it seemed as if Merridith had created his own death note)? If so, why did Grantley at the end confess that he'd killed because he hated Merridith? I also didn't think Grantley would be capable of killing anyone. It was a little disappointing to conclude such a good book and feel so confused -- I wanted an "a-ha!" moment when the murderer's identity clicked into place, and instead I just felt stupid that I didn't get it. :p
Overall, though, I enjoyed "Star of the Sea" very much. I'll be adding O'Connor's other books to my to-be-read list....more
**spoiler alert** This was sloooow to start but picked up in the middle, and had a good pace to the end from there. I enjoyed the history and the Cali**spoiler alert** This was sloooow to start but picked up in the middle, and had a good pace to the end from there. I enjoyed the history and the Californio sections. Strangely, what made the biggest impression on me was the totally weird sex scene in the middle of the book. :(
Why on earth would Holland refer to a penis as an "alien spike" in a romantic scene? Terrifying! And then an 1844 Californian, who for the rest of the book speaks in a quainter way, says: "You have really pretty tits." What?
Anyway, apart from having to take a break and laugh about those bizarre pages, I thought this was a decent read. Next up: Holland's Pacific Street! ...more
This was a fun read. It takes place in the same time period as Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels (which are probably my favorite books ever). O'This was a fun read. It takes place in the same time period as Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels (which are probably my favorite books ever). O'Brian's books give us a naval viewpoint; McGee's book is land-centered, following a London cop (but there's plenty of nautical intrigue in McGee's story, too, which I enjoyed). The descriptions of all the city urchins and criminals and the various ways they scrape out a living were great; I especially liked learning the names for different unlawful occupations (mudlarks, light horsemen, etc.).
Of course, comparisons to the great O'Brian's works end with the shared time period. McGee is a fine writer, but as other reviewers have noted, he has a fondness for info-dumps and character cliches. Anyone who's not a fan of Napoleonic-era naval warfare might get bored/lost during some very long explanations in the middle section of the book. The villains are appropriately villainous; the mystery not terribly hard to solve. Hawkwood is true to his namesake in that he might as well be made of wood, for all the emotion/inner depth he is given.
All told, however, I will check out the rest of the books in the series because I love reading about early 19th century London. The books about resurrection men and prison hulks sound the most interesting. I'm hopeful that, in the later novels, McGee will give Hawkwood some personality. A book-jacket reviewer on my copy calls Hawkwood "ruthless, mysterious and sexy." Maybe in future volumes he'll live up to that description....more
Fantastic storytelling. Krakauer recounts the terrible events on the mountain with beautiful prose while maintaining an urgent narrative pace. INTO THFantastic storytelling. Krakauer recounts the terrible events on the mountain with beautiful prose while maintaining an urgent narrative pace. INTO THIN AIR is the definition of a page-turner! ...more
**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed TIPPING THE VELVET, so I was excited to read FINGERSMITH ... And I am sorry to say I was disappointed! Sarah Waters**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed TIPPING THE VELVET, so I was excited to read FINGERSMITH ... And I am sorry to say I was disappointed! Sarah Waters is a talented writer, with lovely prose and world-building. But the plot of this book was at once improbable and predictable. I could buy the convoluted story of Susan and Maud's upbringings ... but not also buy that they later meet as teenagers and fall in love. And I could believe that they fell in love even while deceiving each other ... but not also believe that their (very new) attraction could survive all the subsequent torment and captivity they both suffer.
Unfortunately, too, the big plot twist at the end of part one was totally ruined for me by the back-jacket review copy (which is certainly not the author's fault). It reads: "The plot twists ... until one girl is in a terrifying insane asylum and the another held captive." Well, gee, if you don't say "Sue is held captive" and "Maud is in an asylum," it's pretty obvious their places have been switched.
Some things in the book just weren't my cup of tea. The dog-coat thing and the cruelty to dog at the Lant Street house were really off-putting. (Yes, I know animals were treated badly in Victorian times -- so were people! -- but that doesn't mean I want to read about it.) I didn't like Maud as a narrator; she had lived through a terrible upbringing, but she was so cold and vicious to her maids. I found her entirely unsympathetic. The uncle's library plot was shockingly boring for a storyline about rare pornographic books! And Sue's stay in the asylum was just disturbing and awful. I haven't read many novels about 1800s asylums because what the people there suffered terrifies me.
Some bright spots: The Gentleman's death scene was *fantastically* written. Really vivid and strong prose and images, great dialogue, great scene-setting. And I loved Sue's wry narration, when she had the chance to be funny. Unfortunately the book was so damn grim that she didn't have much to joke about.
I think my reading of FINGERSMITH was negatively affected by my high expectations. After TIPPING THE VELVET, which was funny, and sexy, and followed a very moving love story at the end, I was hoping for those qualities in FINGERSMITH, too....more
This was a page-turner; I was drawn in by the mysteries that drove the plot, and finished the book quickly. The pacing and atmosphere were great. ButThis was a page-turner; I was drawn in by the mysteries that drove the plot, and finished the book quickly. The pacing and atmosphere were great. But there were some other things that didn't work as well for me.
Good stuff: - The setting was well illustrated, conveying the claustrophobia of a small, rural town. - The shifting POVs provided an interesting way to build tension.
Not-so-good stuff: - I could never get a handle on how old the kids were. Especially Daniel: He often acted like a 12-year old (sometimes younger, even), yet he was supposedly almost as tall as his dad (6', at least)? But his mother's "he's nearly a man" thoughts (repeated way too many times, in my opinion) put him more at 14-15. Evie was confusing, too. Was she 5? 10? I couldn't tell. - I was really taken out of the story by descriptions of women as tiny, childlike, fragile, tender, crying all the damn time, etc. The women in this story basically stood around wringing their (little! delicate!) hands and waiting for their (big, tall, broad, strong, manly [yep, these descriptions were also used ad nauseam for the men]) husbands/brothers/fathers to "do something." Ugh. I wasn't expecting an Amazon warrior to show up and lay down the law, but a woman with some backbone who was described as an adult would be nice. - Random errors ("steam" instead of "stream," "coup" instead of [chicken] "coop") came up a few times. Not so good.
Overall, BENT ROAD was an interesting portrayal of a family's collision with the past. Even though I didn't like most of the main characters, I still cared enough about what happened to them to read to the end....more