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review 2018-10-02 15:36
Thoughts: The Splendour Falls
The Splendour Falls - Susanna Kearsley,Barbara Rosenblat

The Splendour Falls

by Susanna Kearsley
narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

 

An ancient castle, a tragic love, and a web of secrets begins to unravel....

Emily Braden has stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings.  When her fascinating but unreliable cousin Harry invites her on a holiday to explore the legendary town of Chinon, and promptly disappears - well, that's Harry for you.

As Emily makes the acquaintance of Chinon and its people, she begins to uncover dark secrets beneath the charm.  Legend has it that during a 13th-century siege of the castle that looms over the city, Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, hid a "treasure of great price".  And in the last days of the German occupation during World War II, there was another Isabelle living in Chinon, a girl whose love for an enemy soldier went tragically awry.

As the dangers of the past become disastrously real, Emily is drawn ever more deeply into a labyrinth of mystery as twisted as the streets and tunnels of the ancient town itself.



Upon finishing this book, as I had stated in my Pre-Review Thoughts, I've been enjoying Susanna Kearsley as far as the first couple books I've read of hers.  I know two books isn't a lot to go on, but it's enough that I enjoyed both to make my radar perk up at anything else written by Kearsley.  In fact, having been told that the first Susanna Kearsley book I read, The Shadowy Horses, was actually not one of her better books gave me something to look forward to as I did enjoy that one quite well.  In this, I'm hoping that the next book I pick up by Susanna Kearsley will prove much more interesting and less boring than The Splendour Falls.

Because the truth is, boring is exactly what The Splendour Falls turned out to be.

As Kearsley is wont to do, the writing was beautiful and the characters were all interesting in their own way.  She has a way with imagery and atmosphere, which is what had drawn me to continue reading her work in the first place.  There was even a veil of mystery to... well, to something at the beginning of the book, which continued to tingle in the background as the book progressed.

But that veil of mystery seemed to get forgotten at each new turn, or each new day that our heroine, Emily Braden, spends simply wandering Chinon... pretty much aimlessly.  As I'd mentioned before, this book's conflict doesn't even really surface until about eight hours into the audio book.  Eight hours out of a twelve hour audio book is when there's suddenly a change of tone in the book's narrative.  The previous eight hours kept hinting that something might be going on, but this was very much overshadowed by Emily's banal musings as she spends time vacationing in Chinon with her new band of friends.

For eight hours--that I listened to at random intervals--of audio book, I had no idea where this book was supposed to be going.  When I started suspecting that we'd jump back and forth in time, like she did in Every Secret Thing, between Emily's time and the historical King John and Isabelle, that tangent suddenly disappeared.  When I thought there might be a more sinister mystery of sorts involving Martine and Christian and Neil... well, that got cut off as well.  Then I thought maybe there'd be some sort of supernatural happening in the Hotel de France... but that was wishful thinking on my part.

I'm not even entirely sure the book itself knew where it was going.

Then something tragic happens after eight hours of audio book, and everything just starts falling together to create a plot.  And truth be told, I DID find myself getting extremely sad about the event that finally got the book picking up, and might have gotten a bit teary-eyed... So, kudos for that, Ms. Kearsley.  Well played.

Except that I'm not sure the build-up--or lack thereof--really got you prepared for that particular incident.  It was quite sudden, and I'm not sure whether or not for the better.

Meanwhile, before that pivotal point in the book, I pretty much just found myself both bored and frustrated.

Moreso, I found myself a bit frustrated with Emily, and not only because she's such a boring narrator.  I started getting a "reverse harem" and "speshul snowflake" vibe from her and her new band of friends after a while.  Apparently all the men she started meeting in Chinon ended up adoring her, and there's even a direct dialogue near the end that pretty much professes that if it weren't for Emily, a lot of the more wonderful things that happened wouldn't have happened.  I might have rolled my eyes out of my head at that.

It doesn't help that the only other two females in the book who feature prominently are both maligned, either as part of their character (Garland) or because Emily is jealous (Martine).  Martine is narrated as if she's a selfish, shallow, hateful person, but upon interaction with her, you quickly realize that it's really only Emily's pre-judgements coming into play.  Martine seems quite nice and bubbly--but you stop seeing her in the book as much after Emily's revelation.  Garland definitely comes off hateful, but at best she's really just crass, ignorant, and entitled.

I don't like that there are no good female friendships in this book.  And I've come to find Reverse Harems a little tacky.

I'm not sure what role Paul and Simon were supposed to play in this story.  I found Armand creepy, and Neil's existence almost, well... non-existent.  I thought Christian would have more of a role, but he's merely always in the background.  I was a bit surprised by Jim's twist in this story.  And Harry... I'm not even sure if he's really all that significant outside of giving Emily a reason to think that something sinister is going on when he never shows up at their appointed meeting time and place for vacation.

And there you have it that there might be way too many characters to follow in this book--even if they're all quite interesting in their own way.

On a side note, I have had a good experience with Barbara Rosenblat's narrations before, so had been looking forward to this particular audio book.  Somehow, her narration doesn't really do anything for me this time around, and I'm not entirely sure I can pinpoint why.  She does a great job differentiating all the characters, and wonderfully portrays accents.

I think it was the voice she gives Emily... I'm not sure.

 

 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance)

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/thoughts-splendour-falls.html
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text 2018-09-28 14:45
Reading progress update: I've listened to 172 out of 943 minutes.
A Desperate Fortune - Susanna Kearsley,Katherine Kellgren

23 squares down, 2 to go.

 

So far it's mostly enjoyable -- let's hope it's going to stay that way.  Turns out I could also have included that in my "Summer of Spies" reading ...

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review 2018-09-25 15:47
Pre-Review Thoughts: The Splendour Falls
The Splendour Falls - Susanna Kearsley,Barbara Rosenblat

The Splendour Falls

by Susanna Kearsley
narrated by Barbara Rosenblat


I have been enjoying Susanna Kearsley as far as the only couple other books I've read by her, so it was probably inevitable that I'd come across a disappointment--I just hadn't expected it so early on.  The Splendour Falls dragged something awful, and the truth is, the actual story's conflict doesn't even quite surface until about 8 hours into the audio book; 8 hours out of a 12 hour audio book.

As I had had a good impression of Kearsley since the first book I'd read, I'm hoping the next one will be a bit better.  I've noted that The Splendour Falls is apparently NOT her best work, and there's a general consensus that it might even be one of her lesser novels.  The book is still beautifully written, with lovely characters whom, while abundant and sometimes hard to keep track of, sort of came alive.  Except for our main heroine, Emily... she continued to be the boring speshul snowflake and I had a hard time relating to her.

I will have a full review out soon.

 

 



 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance)

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/09/pre-review-thoughts-splendour-falls.html
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text 2017-09-28 01:50
Halloween Bingo 2017 | Short Book Rambles at Mid-game
Garden of Lies - Amanda Quick
Every Secret Thing - Susanna Kearsley,Emma Cole,Katherine Kellgren
On the Night of the Seventh Moon - Victoria Holt
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman

 


 


It's closing in on the end of September and our Bingo game is at it's midmark!

For the sake of my own sanity, I've come to a compromise with myself.  I would like to write a review for every book I read for bingo... but we know that sometimes that just doesn't happen.  So I've settled for a short compilation of all the books I didn't get around to formatting a review for.

Instead, you get some random ramblings... which, if we know me by now, always end up becoming short reviews anyway.  But I had this vision of wanting to throw a few books together in one post, make it Halloween Bingo specific, had it all formatted and ready to fill in my opinions for each book I come across that I don't know how to review... and I'm not changing my mind.

Here it is!

 

Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick
audio book narrated by Louisa Jane Underwood
Rating:  3.5 Stars


I love Amanda Quick books, if only because they follow a specific formula, so you always know what you're going to get out of them.  Garden of Lies is the usual Amanda Quick historical mystery and romance, with great characters and fast-paced progression.  And I never have any idea how to review these books, because they are simply just as enjoyable as the last Amanda Quick book I read: witty, fun, entertaining... standard.

It's always a good bet I will enjoy them; though also a greater bet that the story line is the same as others by this author.  Garden of Lies was no different:  Feisty, non-standard, too-modern-for-her-own-good heroine; broody, intensely passionate alpha with some tragic history.  They meet for reasons, they fall in lust at first sight, they fight the lust whilst working together to uncover a mystery, sex happens, feelings happen, cue some kind of last minute danger scene... Happily Ever After™.

Though the overall details of the mystery weren't the usual, the main culprits were fairly predictable, as were a lot of events.  There might have been entirely too much going on in this book... but that's about it.

 Louisa Jane Underwood is a lovely narrator and gave the "reading" experience a nice boost!

I read this book for Halloween Bingo 2017, for the 'Darkest London' square, since the story is set in Victorian London.

This book could also count for:

  • Murder most foul
  • Amateur Sleuth
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Terrifying Women

 


 

audio book narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Rating:  4.0 Stars


This is one of the books that, after beginning, I started having doubts whether or not it would fit the Halloween Bingo square I chose it for.  While there are several deaths, as well as the MC wandering around trying to investigate the chaos that suddenly befalls her life, Every Secret Thing ended up reading more like an espionage thriller than a murder mystery.  I could classify it as suspense, I suppose, and the entire ordeal DOES start with the mention of an old murder, one still deserving justice.

Every Secret Thing wasn't what I'd been expecting when I started listening to the audio, if only because maybe I'd been expecting something a bit darker, or grittier.  Instead, this book gave me an almost old-timey type of story, as we follow Kate Murray's investigations, while simultaneously following some snippets of the now deceased Andrew Deacon's espionage lifestyle.  It was... charming... the entire experience.  At first it felt a bit dragged out, but once you get into the rhythm of it, the flashbacks to Andrew Deacon's story lines aren't so strange, and in fact, kind of intriguing.

I can't say that I one hundred percent enjoyed this book, and the truth is, while I loved Katherine Kellgren's narration, I'm almost wondering if this story wouldn't have been better experienced as a print book.

One thing is for certain though:  Every Secret Thing is beautifully atmospheric, and I loved the descriptions of many of Kate's scenic travels, even as we were constantly moving forward at a rather fast paced stride.  There's an obligatory bittersweet ending when you come to the end of Andrew Deacon's tale, and even though we kind of already know how his life ended up playing out, it still plucks at the heart.

So the truth is, this was more a book about learning Andrew Deacon's story rather than following Kate Murray's investigations.

I may or may not swap this book out for another better suited book for the 'Murder Most Foul' square.  For now, this is just a tentative completion.  I'm seriously contemplating moving this book to either of the following squares:

 


This book could also count for:  Terrifying Women

 


 

Rating:  2.5 Stars


This is my first foray into Victoria Holt, and keeping in mind a few cautions from fellow readers, I read this book with a bit of trepidation.  Certainly, the story and the characters--especially our main heroine--is as I'd been warned.  But even as I became frustrated with the insta-love, the over-dramatics of our heroine, and the fact that none of the characters are very likable, On the Night of the Seventh Moon ended up being somehow addictively engrossing.  Even the frustratingly over-dramatic romance didn't put me off too badly.

For one reason or another, I just couldn't make myself put the book down.  It's got a nice mysterious twist to it that makes you want to keep reading to find out what's going on, even while the story was fairly predictable.  What happened to Helena?  Was it really just a dream, induced by drugs?  Was it real?  If it were real, then why all the theatrics by her cousins?  Why did Maximilian never come back for her?  And what of the baby?

It's hard to say what truly kept me hooked on this book--certainly it wasn't the characters, whom I disliked for many reasons, especially Frau Graben's blasé attitude towards the disgusting behavior exhibited by all the nobility.  She talks about how it's their given right, when either a count or a duke ravishes a girl and then tosses her aside; that the attempted murder or even the deaths were simply a matter of "state affair"; the deceptions of mock marriages, the lies, the betrayals--all simply part of their country's culture...

I get that it's probably part of the culture, which lends some authenticity to a more historical aspect of life... but I don't have to like it.

As I've already said, I didn't find any of the characters likable, except maybe the boy, Fritz.  Or Aunt Matilda--she was amusing, for sure.

It's also kind of irked me that the conclusion wrapped up too easily, in a very tidy, non-confrontational, and unrealistic way.  I like my HEA's, but we should at least follow through the world's logic.  All the concerns and the possible backlash and the possible war scenario that Maxi and Helena worried about if the two of them were to announce their relationship and marriage didn't even surface.  Everything just settled, all was forgiven, Happily Ever After™.

Really, the only amazingly wonderful thing going for this book was the beautiful writing, the imagery, the description, and a lot of the lore and history laid within the book's world.  For this alone, I will definitely give Victoria Holt another read when I get the chance.

(Ahem.  So much for a short ramble, but I'm not changing this, and I regret nothing...)

This book could also count for:

  • Gothic
  • Terrifying Women

 


 

Rating:  3.5 Stars


I felt like Halloween Bingo wouldn't be complete without reading something by Neil Gaiman--last year I read The Graveyard Book and Coraline, both of which were very enjoyable, and one of them ended up being one of my favorites of the year.  Initially, I didn't have a book of his chosen for any of my Bingo squares (Yes, yes, I did; I just forgot I did).  I had originally only chosen a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman for the 'Genre: Horror' square, which I've been putting off listening to the audio... well, because Horror.

And I was hesitant about starting The Ocean at the End of the Lane... well, because Horror.  But I'm glad I decided to give it a go--if only because you get to revel in Gaiman's wonderful, magical descriptions... and because I found a different book other than Amy Tan's Saving Fish From Drowning for this particular bingo square, because I just wasn't feeling Amy Tan at the moment.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a little difficult for me to get into at first; and it is equally difficult for me to figure out how I feel about it.  Outside of that magical, whimsical feel you get from reading a particularly good child's fantasy/adventure, I really can't pinpoint exactly what to say about it.  I've got a sort of bittersweet, wistful void after completing the book, but to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I know what the book was really about.

Certainly, there were a lot of though provoking lines and dialogue.  In the end, it's one of those books  you found enjoyment in, and it stays with you for some time, even as you can't quite pinpoint why.

This book could also count towards:

  • Genre: Horror -- the book is tagged as 'horror' on GR, and certainly, there were a lot of horror elements involved
  • Modern Masters of Horror -- published in 2013
  • Supernatural -- which goes hand in hand with Magical Realism
  • Chilling Children (?) -- I don't think I saw this tagged as YA or MG, but the main time frame of the book takes place when the protagonist is only seven years old
  • Monsters

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/09/halloween-bingo-2017-short-book-rambles.html
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text 2017-09-12 09:39
Starting: Every Secret Thing
Every Secret Thing - Susanna Kearsley,Emma Cole,Katherine Kellgren

Every Secret Thing
by Susanna Kearsley
Book 1 of Kate Murray
audio book narrated by Katherine Kellgren


Susanna Kearsley and Katherine Kellgren!

This HAS to be a most excellent combination, right?  Right?

Also, I didn't realize that Katherine Kellgren was American.  I thought she was British since I've only heard her narrations in a British accent.  So far, it's quite fascinating listening to her switching back and forth from American English to British English.

As for the book, so far there is only a mention of an old murder mystery from a long time ago by an old man who dies soon after, getting hit by a car.  He mentions it to Kate because he believes this murder mystery may be old, but still deserves justice.

I'm hoping that this is enough to count towards the 'Murder Most Foul' square, but if not, then I'm almost hoping that the old man's death was actually a murder, which will be what leads Kate onto this mission to investigate some past truth of that old murder mystery the old man had mentioned to her.  Y'know, not that I'm deranged or anything, hoping for a murder in the first five minutes of a book... but I've got squares to complete, right?


***

 

Halloween Bingo 2017

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/09/starting-every-secret-thing.html
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