Let me just say this: honestly, I didn't think that this book was great, but I did think it was good. The topic certainly appealed -- this book gets tLet me just say this: honestly, I didn't think that this book was great, but I did think it was good. The topic certainly appealed -- this book gets to the darkness of the human mind in a great way, sort of teasing the reader as things unfold. Sadly, what killed it for me is that I figured it all out very early on, so to be perfectly honest, I don't quite understand why so many people were left so confused with this novel, because the author basically gives you more than enough clues as to what's going on that it should have been pretty easy to put together and to understand. While it may have something to do with my long tenure as a mystery/crime reader where I'm used to picking up on certain things that tend to stick in my head, what I really think is that the author made things way too easy here. And in fact, that is my biggest complaint about this book. Having an inkling of what was coming sort of made the big wow not as big for me as it may have been at the end.
On the other hand, even though I sort of knew how things were going to turn out, my guts still churned moving toward the last page. Frankly, I think Mr. Reid is a writer with much potential, and considering that this is his first novel, I think he's done a pretty good job here. I will look forward to his future work. ...more
Another beautiful book by Yuri Herrera, the second of a planned trilogy. I hope the third is translated and published very soon -- I love this writer'Another beautiful book by Yuri Herrera, the second of a planned trilogy. I hope the third is translated and published very soon -- I love this writer's work.
In The Transmigration of Bodies, a man known as The Redeemer acts a go-between to ensure the safe exchange of the bodies of two young people, in order to return them to their families. His other task while doing so is to try to fix things so that there is little if any blowback from either side because of these deaths. This is what he does: the Redeemer has over a number of years gathered a reputation as someone who fixes people's situations, someone who has helped others who were thus able to keep "their hands clean of certain matters." Once again, as in his Signs Preceding the End of the World, he begins with an opening that takes the reader right where he/she should be -- this time we're in an unnamed town in the middle of a plague, a perfect beginning for a book that examines ongoing violence, crime and death in Mexico. The focus on the "bodies" of the title is also very, very interesting, but I'll leave it for others to see how. There is so much more to glean from this book and from Signs Preceding the End of the World, both short books that pack a big wallop, and both books that highlight an amazing writer's mastery of his craft. Again, highly, highly recommended. ...more
Very good book -- compelling, disturbing and very nicely written. Add this one to the backlog of books I'll come back to soon when time is once againVery good book -- compelling, disturbing and very nicely written. Add this one to the backlog of books I'll come back to soon when time is once again my friend. ...more
While a very tough book to read in terms of the human factor, the relevance of this story to our own time cannot be understated. As the author notes aWhile a very tough book to read in terms of the human factor, the relevance of this story to our own time cannot be understated. As the author notes at the end of this book,
"Today black women are still afflicted by the social, political and economic vices that predisposed them to arrest, conviction and incarceration in the past...In order to better understand the modern carceral state and the complex relationship black women have with it, we must confront the past and listen even when it seems to be silent."
There are at least four main issues that permeate this book and which continue to resonate over more than a century: gender, race, crime, and punishment; add resistance and you get a good feel for where this book will take you. In this study, the author also looks at African-American women in the "carceral state" and how as bound women they were affected by the ongoing assertion of white supremacy and control in the post-emancipation "New South." This book reveals, analyzes and most thoroughly discusses the above-mentioned contemporary "social, political and economic" factors while allowing some of these women's voices to be heard after more than a century of silence. As the author notes, her work is "chiefly invested in rebuilding the historical viewpoint of the unwaged, bound black female worker."
Don't expect a history for the masses sort of thing here. Chained in Silence is an academic monograph and a solid work of history in which the author offers her arguments, supports them with personal accounts, recorded data, and other research in the field. She then provides in-depth analysis to make her case. In some areas her work is hampered by lack of data, but she makes this very clear in the telling. She also realizes that there is much more work to be done and offers topics for future researchers. At the same time, she makes this book very approachable for readers like myself who believe that the best history is told from the perspective of those whose voices never quite seem to make it into the historical record. This book, for lack of a better way to say it, is just brilliant and deserves widespread attention.
Let's just get this out of the way -- anyone expecting a redo of the Charlie Manson family story won't find it here, althougLiked it, didn't love it.
Let's just get this out of the way -- anyone expecting a redo of the Charlie Manson family story won't find it here, although there are certainly a number of striking parallels. No, at its heart, this book is a teenage girl's coming of age story as well as an examination of just how easy it can be for disaffected, immature, and vulnerable adolescent girls to become victims of others who offer them what they're lacking and who are ready and willing to take advantage of them, usually at great cost.
Now in middle age, Evie Boyd lives a secluded life taking live-in aide jobs when they come up. As the novel opens, she is in between jobs and staying at a friend's Northern California vacation home where the nearby beach is unpopular, rarely seeing anyone. One night, though, she hears what she thinks are intruders in the house, and ready for her fate, decides she'll wait it out in her room. That is the plan, until she hears "the girl." As it turns out, the people in the house are the owner's son Julian and a very young girl named Sasha; it doesn't take Evie long to realize that theirs is a relationship very much dominated by Julian. What she feels for Sasha is sorrow, but more importantly, she sees in her something of herself as a young teen, a time on which she now reflects. The story that follows is revealed retrospectively by middle-aged Evie, looking back on her own fourteenth year in the summer of 1969, when she finds herself as part of the group under the sway of the charismatic Russell Hadrick, who sadly, Evie fails to recognize as the predator he really is. And while there are some things about the place and the people there that give Evie pause, she is too into her newly-found taste of freedom and her devotion to one of the girls to recognize them as warning signs to be heeded.
Considering that I normally cannot stand coming-of-age, adolescent-centered stories, I have to give the author a lot of credit here. I was caught up in this book, but quite honestly I think it is because of the bold move the author makes with the Manson-like cult setting where Evie first gets to spread her wings and, even more importantly, because of the author's incredible writing talent. I was blown away knowing that this was her first novel. I marked and mulled over a huge number of passages that were, for lack of a better word, simply dazzling. But to me, and let's get real here, if you remove the cult setting with its Manson-like people, you really are really in very familiar and (pardon me for saying so, overworked) territory here -- the teenage girl who feels alone, isolated and who senses she's being constantly being judged by and measured against others, the mom who is too busy with her own life to pay attention, the ineffective dad with his younger wife, the desire to overcome limits and taste a measure of true freedom when given the chance, etc. -- and for me, that's the thing that kept me from enjoying this book as much as I might have otherwise.
3.7 rounded up. Bottom line: good book, really good look at South African history since 1901, and suspension of disbelief is definitely a requirement3.7 rounded up. Bottom line: good book, really good look at South African history since 1901, and suspension of disbelief is definitely a requirement here. This ain't your average murder mystery, folks. If that's what you're expecting, move along. Plot without spoilers can be found here, or just read on.
There are three different things going on in this novel : first, one of the two main narrative threads has its roots in science/speculative fiction; second, the other thread follows a police investigation into a murder, and third, when the two come together, the book serves as a vehicle for exploring a century of South Africa's troubled past and its repercussions in the present. It's this third aspect, I think, that made this book so incredibly interesting to me -- what a great way to take on such a difficult topic. So what you get in The Monster's Daughter is a sort of hybrid mix of sci-fi, crime and history, and if that's not original, well, I don't know what is.
I have to admit that when I first came across the more scifi-ish parts I did a major eyeroll since this is soooo not my thing, but as things turned out, I just decided to suspend any disbelief, relax, and roll with it and The Monster's Daughter turned out to be pretty darned good. I will say that it tends to get a bit boggy because there are so many things going on here -- for example, the author throws in some conspiratorial subplots that while germane to both present and past (and to the novel's title), received (imo) way too much attention and time. Then again, I'm not a big conspiracy fiction person, so that may just be a matter of personal taste. However, as I am so fond of saying, less is more, and this one could have been pared down some without any major damage. Other than that, though, as I said, this book is definitely original, and would be well suited for historical fiction and crime readers who don't mind suspending disbelief (and let's get real here -- we do that in most cases anyway), and I'd also say for readers who are interested in the very human costs of racism. Given the direction of today's politics, it might very well be worth taking a look at the past as so well presented in this novel. ...more
The thing I enjoy most about locked-room mysteries is, of course, waiting for the solution to materialize. Up until that point, I am mentally3.5 stars
The thing I enjoy most about locked-room mysteries is, of course, waiting for the solution to materialize. Up until that point, I am mentally watching for anything that might be a clue as to how a locked-room murder was pulled off. This time, there was nothing to give it away, and I had to wait until the last few pages for the answer. Clever it was, indeed; I never would have guessed. Yet not all action takes place within the confines of a single locked room -- two other equally puzzling murders happen right under everyone's noses with no suspect in sight. So here you've got a bonus: a locked-room mystery and an impossible-crime story.
While the locked-room/impossible-crime components will probably be enough to please any vintage-mystery reader, I always go right to the human element in crime novels, and the dynamics at work in this household are perfect for examining what's in the minds of the people who live there. As the quotation with which I started my journal entry for this book states, "there's something wrong with this house," and Wynne gets to the dark heart of exactly what that something is. It takes a while to get there, but it is definitely worth the read time. ...more
once again, you can scoot over to the reading journal clicking here, or just read the short version.
Returning to short-story form once again, last nonce again, you can scoot over to the reading journal clicking here, or just read the short version.
Returning to short-story form once again, last night I finished Night-Pieces, a lovely little book of eighteen tales by Thomas Burke. Burke is quite well known for his Limehouse Nights, but Night-Pieces is my introduction to this author. This book was definitely aaahh inspiring -- it's a mix of stories that include crime and the supernatural -- I mean, really. It's me on a plate.
I was drawn in right off the bat with the first story, "Miracle in Suburbia," a tale with a great twist, one that set the tone for the good things that were about to come my way. And come my way they did. One thing really sticks out here -- in every single story that's in this book, somehow landscape, be it urban or rural, has some sort of role to play either actively or passively, with most of these stories taking place on London streets. It's very clear that Burke has some sort of affinity with and love for this city; a brief look at other books by this author reveals titles that include The Streets of London, Rambles in Remote London, Nights in London, etc. And as I read through each and every story that played out on these streets, I found myself visualizing them, which is a sign of a good writer. A second and very important thing is that Burke seems to know the darker side of human nature quite well, and this also becomes very obvious in pretty much every story in this book.
It depends on what you like, of course, but all in all, I found Night-Pieces to be a fantastic collection that any lover of older British dark tales should read. While it's definitely a mixed bag where genre is concerned, it ends up not mattering one whit since they all seem to blend nicely together here because of Burke's atmospheric writing style.
Highly recommended for fans of older, dark fiction. ...more
After a shaky start and then a couple of hours of research prompting a restart, this book turned out to be an amazing read. And those of you who markeAfter a shaky start and then a couple of hours of research prompting a restart, this book turned out to be an amazing read. And those of you who marked this book as "fantasy" may be disappointed to discover that it is nothing of the sort. It's a work of historical fiction, narrated by a fictional fifth-century monk during a time of crisis for the early Catholic church. And quite frankly, in light of what's happening in our world today, it is a very timely read. You can read more at my reading journal where i am embarrassed to say I posted the author's last name incorrectly, (ouch) or just continue on here.
The author begins this tale with a first-person narrative revealing that the story that the reader is about to experience had been found in 1997 during an archaeological excavation of ruins to the northwest of the city of Aleppo in Syria; more specifically, a set of scrolls were found that tell the story of an "anonymous monk" who had later given himself the name of Hypa, and who, during a forty-day period of seclusion in the year 431 AD, had written this story. It is an uneasy time in the Christian world -- as Hypa notes, 431 was an "unfortunate year, in which the venerable bishop Nestorius was excommunicated and burnt to death."
While I'm not going to go too much into plot here, the story (aka this novel) handed to us by the anonymous translator of Hypa's chronicle interweaves Hypa's personal account of his journeys, both spiritual and physical, his doubts and "constant uncertainty," along with the known history of the early Catholic church of this period. Hypa writes his narrative urged on by the titular Azazeel, who is best known as the tempter causing Adam and Eve to be exiled forever from the Garden of Eden; he is also, as Hypa comes to understand in a feverish delirium, an inner alter ego, "another me." Hypa's story takes him from childhood, where he first became a victim of Christian intolerance toward nonbelievers, into Alexandria to medical school. It is also in Alexandria under the auspices of Bishop Cyril (called Pope there), who lives by the words of Christ
"Think not I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword,"
that Hypa hears his fellow Christians proposing the most inhumane treatment of Jews and other non-Christians in their zeal to "cleanse the land of the Lord." However, as appalled as he is and while he gets the hypocrisy all around him, one particular event begins to challenge his faith, and he leaves, never to return. From Alexandria he wanders through the Sinai desert, making his way into Jerusalem, where he meets Nestorius; from there he makes his way to the monastery from which he is writing the account of "everything which has happened in my life." It is also a novel that just begs the question of how heresy can exist when truth/orthodoxy seems to be an elusive concept.
To be very honest, I got to about page 112 or so and really wasn't getting much out of this novel. However, I turned back to all of the blurb raves about it at the beginning of the book and decided I must have missed something, so I started it completely over again. First, though, I spent some time doing some research on early Christian history, theological debates etc., to make myself familiar with the Cyril/Nestorius issues as well as Arian and other heresies before returning, this time much more confident. It's not necessary, really, but it's just a personal thing -- I want to know what I'm reading, especially since I was not too familiar with the theological issues at stake here. My point is that it seems to start out slowly but it does pick up, so for Pete's sake, don't apply that silly 50-page rule here, or the best parts of this novel will be lost. I can certainly and without hesitation recommend this book. ...more
That decadent vibe -- I just love it and this book is filled with it. Alraune brings together a bit of the grotesque, the perverse, and all manner ofThat decadent vibe -- I just love it and this book is filled with it. Alraune brings together a bit of the grotesque, the perverse, and all manner of weirdness that appeals, but when all is said and done, it's the German style of decadence that resonates. It is Ewers' second entry in his Frank Braun trilogy, between The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Vampire, neither of which I've read. Alraune is another word for mandrake, the legends of which go way back in history, but for our purposes, it's the German version told in this book that's relevant:
"The criminal stripped naked as a pair of tongs and hanged at the crossroads, lost, so the story goes, his final seed, the moment his neck was broken. This seed falls to the ground and there germinates. Thence resonates an alraune, either a little man or a little woman."
To understand how this old legend fits here, you can take a peek at my reading journal entry; otherwise, what I'll say here is that Alraune is downright weird, and its sheer weirdness is augmented by the original drawings by Mahlon Blaine. By now everyone knows I have a thing for really strange books and that I love old books -- Alraune is a lovely but bizarre blend of both. Try at your own risk -- it is certainly meant more for readers who appreciate the decadent aesthetic and frankly, it's just plain odd, but it definitely crawled under my skin and hasn't left. ...more