Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls
Riley Sager
projected publication date: July 2017
4/5 stars

Quinn was the only victim to survive a brutal mass murder ten years ago, though she remembers none of it.  The press refers to her as a "Final Girl".  Two other women have survived such ordeals: Lisa and Sam.  Lisa has reached out to Quinn, and they have talked a few times about how to live after such a tragedy.  When Lisa is found dead, apparently a suicide, Sam seeks out Quinn.  Lisa forms a tentative friendship with Sam, but as Sam pushes her to remember and encourages unsafe behaviors, Lisa begins to wonder what Sam's motives are.

On the face of it, this thriller seemed easy to solve.  Twice I was certain I knew exactly what direction it was headed, and both times the plot took a twist and I was wrong.  While not an outstanding novel, Final Girls kept me interested throughout, and I was eager to reach the conclusion.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder

Captain Sir
Richard Francis Burton
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack
Mark Hodder
5/5 stars

Nineteenth century Great Britain is in the throes of a steampunk industrial revolution, and the past (as we know it) isn't shaping up the way it should have.  Into this, comes a mysterious creature, Spring Heeled Jack, who is accosting women and wreaking havoc.  Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (whose real life reads like fiction--look him up!) becomes an agent for the Crown, assigned to solve the case.

This incredibly detailed and richly imagined alternate universe is amazing.  Hodder has created realistic literature, political movements, and technology.  He has taken one of the great Victorian heroes, Burton, and given him a role that is believable based on his real-life personality.  The plot is dense, and requires thought to follow, and is not fully predictable.

This first-of-a-series is a strong piece of steampunk fantasy that is enjoyable, entertaining, and thought-provoking.  I highly recommend it!

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King
Tricia Levenseller
3/5 stars

Alosa, a teen-aged pirate captain, is sent on a secret mission by her father, the Pirate King.  She is to get captured by another pirate captain and while there, find a hidden map.  The job turns out to be more difficult than she expected.

This is a YA novel, and it is filled with the fantasy elements so often found in YA books.  Alosa--captain of an all teen-aged female crew--is not only above average in everything, able to defeat multiple male pirates at one time, and strikingly beautiful, she also has hidden powers.  (I honestly groaned out loud when the mystical abilities were revealed.)  The plot was interesting, though, and so much could have been made of this book if Levenseller hadn't made Alosa into a Mary Jane instead of a believable character.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Long Black Veil  
Jennifer Finney Boylan
expected publication date: 11 April 2017
3/5 stars

In 1980, six friends enter the ruins of a state prison, but only five leave.  The mystery of what happened to the sixth is finally solved 35 years later when bones are found in the ruins.  When one of her friends is accused of murder, Judith knows she can prove his innocence, but to do so would be to reveal secrets of her own.

This book is not a mystery--the answer of "who dunnit" is given half way through the book--but is supposed to be a character study of how events shape us.  The focus is on Judith, who made the biggest change, but her changes were not made because of the events of that night.  The other friends really don't seem to have been propelled on trajectories as a result of the incident, either.  In fact, they seemed much the same as when they were college students.  On the whole, I didn't feel this novel fulfilled it's role as a character study.

The plot was interesting, but not compelling.  The writing was good, but not outstanding.  Judith's character was well fleshed and I enjoyed the parts of the story told from her first-person perspective.  The rest of the story, told from third-person about the other characters, just didn't feel as alive or even connected.  In addition, the switches between point-of-view, time, and/or place were not always smooth.

Long Black Veil is easy and quick to read, and brings up some interesting discussion points, but overall does not meet it's full potential and, as a result, is an average novel instead of a great one.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities by J.C. McKeown

A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprsigning Facts from the Healing Arts of Greece and Rome
J.C. McKeown
3/5 Stars
did not finish reading

A Cabinet of Ancient Medical Curiosities is a collection of quotes about Greek and Roman medicine and doctors from Greek and Roman sources.  I was disappointed in this book, as there is little annotation, explanation, or context given for any of the quotes.  I had expected more detailed information; instead, it is 247 pages of interesting, but not particularly useful, quotations.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer
Laini Taylor
expected publication date: 28 March 2017
4/5 stars

The plot of Strange the Dreamer is complicated, and to summarize much of it would be to spoil it.  In brief, it revolves around the lost city of Weep, which has become un-lost (for lack of a better term).  The story shifts between Lazlo Strange (our dreamer) who is on his way to see Weep, and Sarai, child of a goddess, who lives in a citadel above Weep.

Taylor has developed a richly imagined world, a complex plot, and believable characters to create an epic story. The alternating points-of-view move seamlessly.  The story is well-written, nearly lyrical, and descriptions of this world are vivid.

Despite the excellent of this novel, I did not find myself engrossed or compelled to read.  For me, it lacked soul.  However, I expect it will be a major hit in the YA fantasy genre this year, and that most readers will find it exceptional.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Celebrity at Home by Violet Hunt

The Celebrity at Home
Violet Hunt
4/5 stars

Violet Hunt
This 1904 semi-autobiographical novel is narrated by a 14 year old girl, the daughter of a famous author.  In it, she exposes her father, George, in a naive way, not fully understanding all she reports. George, charming but unprincipled, is terrible to his family, and yet Hunt writes it in a manner that one can't help but laugh, even while eagerly anticipating his comeuppance. Tempe, the narrator, is a delight, and the whole absurdity of the family drama amusing.

Hunt writes well, depicting a young teenage girl excellently.  I enjoyed the plot, the story-telling, and experiencing Edwardian life.  I look forward to reading more of her works.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February Wrap Up

I'm not quick to give a book a 5 star rating, so this has been exceptional month!

Books Read:
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo 5/5 stars (my review here)

The Gilded Cage by Vic James 5/5 stars (my review here)

Mad Richard by Lesley Krueger 5/5 stars (my review here)

The Brandons by Angela Thrikell 4/5 stars (my review here)

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey 5/5 stars (my review here)

Death of a Hussy by M.C. Beaton 3/5 stars
A quick, light read, not particularly satisfying or memorable, but fun.  In a way, I wonder why I continue this series, but on the other hand, Hamish is so likable.

Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn by Hugo Pratt 3/5 stars (my review here)

Audio Books Completed:
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson 5/5 stars
My review is here, but I'll take a minute to say that the author reads the audio book and does an awesome job!

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux 2/5 stars  (my review here.)

A Suitable Vengeance by Elizabeth George 3/5 stars
Despite this being an enjoyable and mostly satisfying novel, a chance encounter led to the solution, lessening the quality of the mystery.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 5/5 stars  (my review here)

Death of the Perfect Wife by M.C. Beaton 3/5 stars
Another light, easy to solve MacBeth mystery.  Enjoyable, but not memorable.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James 4/5 stars  (my discussion here)

The Summons by Peter Lovesey 4/5 stars
Sometimes improbable, but thoroughly enjoyable.  Diamond is an engaging character and I'm loving the series.

Did Not Finish
Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, or, Leaves from the Diary of an Officer's Wife by D.E. Stevenson
I generally love light British novels from the 1930s, so I was excited when I discovered Stevenson, a best selling Scottish author.  This one just didn't interest me, though; Mrs. Tim writing in her diary about regimental life just wasn't as fun as I thought it would be.  That doesn't mean I won't try another of Stevenson's novels in the future, just not the Mrs. Tim series.

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
This came in my January OwlCrate, and is a retelling of the Phantom of the Opera story.  It is simply dreadful, full of tropes and cliches.  I made it roughly half way through and couldn't stand the thought of opening it again.  Avoid this one at all costs.

The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton
I made it 27% through, but since I felt I never fully understood what was going on, I gave up.  It's not that it was bad, by any means, I just didn't seem to be able to follow what Chesterton was trying to say.  I might try it again sometime, though, since it's a classic.