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review 2017-11-02 13:49
V.C. Andrews - the Dollanganger Series
Flowers in the Attic - V.C. Andrews
Petals on the Wind - V.C. Andrews
If There Be Thorns - V.C. Andrews
Seeds of Yesterday (Dollanganger Series) - V.C. Andrews
Garden of Shadows (Dollanganger Series) - V.C. Andrews

Sadly, this wasn't the first VCA book I ever read (I started off with the Cutler family series) but when I finally got around to Flowers in the Attic, I was not disappointed. It is easily one of the best books I have ever read. The drama, the intrigue, the suspense... I have read this book several times and never get tired of it.

You can't help but feel bad for the poor kids, especially with their harsh treatment by their grandmother and the blatant selfishness of their mother. One might wonder why the events in this book have transpired as they have, but this book is simply the first in a fascinating five-book series, and the rest of the series explains why this book was the way it was, especially the fifth, which serves as a prequel. The entire saga is riveting!


After reading Flowers in the Attic, I was happy to continue the story with Petals on the Wind. If I were Cathy, I'd be supremely pissed off at my own mother, and want to plot revenge. It was sad in some parts, but a satisfying read overall.

The trio that managed to escape the Foxworth mansion after the death of their brother are forever scarred by their traumatic experience, especially Carrie, who constantly struggles with the physical and mental scars that are left on her. Despite being adopted by a man who treats them well, the children can't quite get over what happened, though Chris is more quick to move on and start a productive life in medicine. Cathy desires revenge - perfectly justified - but makes some stupid decisions along the way. However, her thirst for revenge comes to fruiton as she lashes against the evil grandmother and her mother.

All in all, this is a worthy continuation of Flowers in the Attic, with things coming full circle, so to speak (at least in some aspects, since this series still has 3 more books to go)


If There Be Thorns doesn't have the same feel as FitA or PotW, but is still a wonderful book. People wonder why Malcolm was the way he was, and Bart's reading of his journal helps to shed some light in why the Foxworth bloodline became so twisted and why Malcolm treated/saw women the way he did. The storyline focuses on Jory and Bart, and how they come to know the old lady next door - and her dark secret, and how Malcolm's madness continued to live on. A definite must-read for any VCA fan.


Seeds of Yesterday doesn't have so much to do with the first three Dollanganger books, as it's now 1997 (over a decade set after the actual date VCA published this, in the mid-80's) but still stands as a decent story in its own right, with the surprising reappearance of a character long thought dead. And religion comes back with this character, reminding Chris and Cathy all too well why they didn't want anything to do with religion. As a part of a series, Seeds of Yesterday doesn't contribute overmuch to the Foxworth saga, which is sad, because it'd have been nice to learn more about the Foxworths.

Just one plothole - in SoY, it's 1997, but in the next book 'Garden of Shadows' (prequel to Flowers in the Attic), Olivia Foxworth's will included a letter to be opened 20 years after her death (which was the story of GoS) and her death was in 1972, so Chris and Cathy should have read GoS by now, five years before SOY, and already be aware of what happened between Malcolm and Olivia.
After reading the rest of the Dollanganger series, I was naturally eager to start Garden of Shadows. It is stunning how a woman that you end up feeling sorry for turns into such a horrible person in FitA. Yes, Olivia went through a bad transformation, but here you see who the REAL villain is.

Tempting hints of Malcolm and Olivia's turbulent relationship with one another and their children and grandchildren were hinted at in previous books, but here, from Olivia's own viewpoint, we see why she has suffered. Mind you, this doesn't absolve her of the bad things she did, but you can see how she became the kind of person she did, and what led Chris and Corrine to run away from home. It is sad that V.C. Andrews died before she could complete this book, as the ghostwriter wrote much of this, and one can not help but wonder how the book would have been had VCA been able to complete it.
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review 2017-10-28 03:35
Things get dark and personal for Rebus
The Hanging Garden - Ian Rankin
Rebus couldn't get so excited. The whole enterprise had shown him a simple truth: no vacuum. Where you had society, you had criminals. No belly without an underbelly.

It's just that kind of chipper optimism that keeps readers coming back to the Rebus books, isn't it? The events in The Hanging Garden sure aren't going to change his mind. There are three investigations at the core of this book (although another is referred to repeatedly) -- but far more than 3 crimes.


The first is an investigation into an older gentleman who is suspected to be a former Nazi officer who was involved in the slaughter of an entire town in the waning days of WWII. Because of Rebus' penchant for taking historical deep-dives when most police officers wouldn't, he's assigned to investigate this man. There are individuals from various organizations, governmental entities, and the press who are pressuring the accused and Rebus on this front.


The second involves an up and coming gangster -- Tommy Telford's smarter, quicker, and crueler than Rebus and the rest are used to dealing with -- he's also a genuine rival to Big Ger Cafferty (especially since Cafferty's in prison). There's a prostitute, a victim of human trafficking, that Rebus focuses on, trying to get her out of Telford's control while using her to take him down. This becomes laden with some personal baggage (see below) and Rebus takes some risky moves that have some devastating consequences.


Lastly, Rebus' daughter, Sammy is struck by a car in a hit and run and spends days in a coma. Based on a witness' statement, Rebus becomes convinced that she was targeted thanks to her involvement with the prostitute and/or being his daughter. Either way, Rebus is out for blood -- if only he knew who he was after. He strikes a deal to get criminals looking for the perpetrator while he's helping/prodding the official police investigation. It really doesn't matter which side of the law finds the driver, as far as he's concerned, the end is the only important thing.


I'm not sure we needed the Nazi storyline -- which by the way, is based on a real atrocity -- but it serves to muddy the waters for Rebus and distract him. So it did play its part, and was good enough that I'm not complaining. Telford is a wonderful (fictional) criminal -- I don't want this guy walking around in my world, but in a novel? Love him. And the Sammy story -- obviously, this is the emotional core to the book and is really well done.


When you have that many plates spinning, it's hard to keep them going -- and to do so in a way that balances the story telling to keep the reader engaged and not confused. Throwing in the personal aspects make it all the harder for Rankin -- Clarke and Templar are involved with the police actions, and Jack Morton plays a significant role, too (and I finally liked him). Plus you have Sammy (mostly seen in flashbacks), Rhona (her mother) who comes to look after her comatose daughter. Patience Aitken is around as well -- what she ever sees in Rebus, I'll never know, it's clearly a horrible match.


The way that Rankin has put this one together made it very difficult for me to talk about (I've tried to get this post written at least a dozen times). But that doesn't mean it was hard to read -- once I was in 10 pages or so in, there was no stopping. It's a heckuva read, and I really can't express more than that.


Rebus -- mostly sober throughout, for a change -- has some strong moments of self-assessment and self-examination, and is able to see/express things about himself and his approach to his work that many readers probably have intuited but it's nice to have the man himself realize. Including one insight into himself that enabled me to finally figure out what makes Rebus and Harry Bosch different -- something I'll hopefully return to soon.


I didn't expect that this would live up to Black and Blue, and it didn't. But it wasn't a let-down in any sense -- it was a different kind of story, a different kind of crime, and different motivations for John Rebus. Still, the essentials are there: Rebus, his outlook, his tenacity, his humor, and his demons. Crime fiction doesn't get much better than this.


2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/10/26/the-hanging-garden-by-ian-rankin
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text 2017-10-23 21:12
Reading progress update: I've read 98 out of 530 pages. . . . and the ending
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

It wasn't a bad ending like The Thorn Birds, so I might actually have enjoyed reading the rest of the book.


BUT . . . if I can't get into the story and cheer for at least one character after almost 100 pages, why should I invest my time in another 430?


And there was something about the ending that didn't make sense, to the extent that it made me suspicious of how the author would have pulled it all together.


So I'm going to DNF

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text 2017-10-23 04:10
Reading progress update: I've read 98 out of 530 pages.
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

This is well on its way to being a DNF.  I've just reached the point where Cassandra is going to read the fairy tale on the airplane, and I'm like WTF?


(Shades of Marguerite Henry's Born to Trot.)


There are two things bothering me to the point of wanting to quit.


First, Cassandra is almost 40 years old, but she acts like a lovelorn teenager.  Something happened to her marriage, so she went back to live with her grandmother and sell antiques, and she forgot all about art history, yada yada.  Um, no.  Not believable. 


Second, and far more important -- I can't stand Nell.  I know she's already dead at this point, other than in the incessant flashbacks, but I still can't stand her.


I have several people in my real life who have had experiences somewhat similar to Nell's, in that they were raised by people not their natural birth parents.  With only one exception, they are grateful to have been raised with love.  They acknowledge what sacrifices were made by all parties, and they know that whether they know who their birth parents are or not, they are still complete and whole individuals. 


The one who is an exception remains bitter and resentful and not a very nice person.  I don't like him, and I don't like Nell, for the same reasons.


And when it comes to HEA endings, yes, damn it, I DO expect that the characters who have earned happiness get it.  I have enough "life's a bitch" in real life, and I'm not going to pay good money and spend hours of my time to get more of the same.


I'm skipping to the end of this book, and if it's another Thorn Birds, that's it.  I'm done. DNF, no stars.

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text 2017-10-22 22:38
Reading progress update: I've read 74 out of 530 pages.
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

I sincerely hope I'm not supposed to like Nell, because I don't like her at all.

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