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review 2017-05-15 18:03
Knots not worth untangling
The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry

Copy obtained through local public library.  I don't know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.

 

I began reading the book a couple of weeks ago, but only got a few pages into it before being interrupted.  I set it aside, then went back and started over when I was sure I would have more time.  By page 103 of 385, I knew the struggle wasn't going to be worth it.  I always think it's my fault that a book isn't working, so I checked out some of the other reviews -- I almost never read reviews before I read the book -- and found I wasn't alone.

 

No spoilers here, because I didn't finish the book and I'm not likely to.

 

Towner Whitney, whose real name is Sophya, comes back to Salem, Massachusetts, after 15 years in California.  Her grandmother/great-aunt Eva has disappeared.  I think Towner was raised by Eva, but I'm not sure.  Towner admits she lies a lot, and also that she doesn't remember things well because she had a nervous breakdown after her sister Lyndley died.

 

I think Towner's mother is May, who lives on a little island and rescues abused women and their children, but the family relationships aren't really clear.  Auntie Emma is Eva's daughter, I think, but again I'm not sure.  Beezer is Towner's brother.

 

Quirky characters are great if you can keep them straight and each becomes a real person.  None of these people did, not even Towner.  Her quirks were too inconsistent, too unexplained.  She can read people's minds and she hears voices -- especially Eva's and Lyndley's -- and she can read lace (it's kind of like reading tea leaves or some such) but there doesn't seem to be any purpose to it.

 

Towner dwells on her mental illness but doesn't really seem to care very much about it.  She doesn't have any direction or motivation or even any emotion.  And yet I got the impression that she wanted people around her to care about her.  I'm not sure that that's the impression author Brunonia Barry intended to convey, but it's the one I got.

 

As a result, I just didn't like Towner, and it's difficult for me to continue to read a book when I don't give a shit about the main character.

 

The book is well written in the technical sense, and I'm assuming the details of Salem and its environs are accurate, but everything fell flat for me.  It's like a book that a bunch of ladies read for their Tuesday afternoon book club, and they all think it's wonderful and deep and literary and quirky, but they really don't understand it and aren't sure they even like it.  They read it to impress their friends.  The sexy parts embarrass them -- though to be honest, I hadn't encountered any really sexy parts in the first 103 pages -- or horrify them, but for the most part they really don't understand the sexy parts.  They read books like this because it makes them feel somehow superior, even though as soon as they reach the end and move on to the next book, this one is forgotten.

 

I'll probably forget it, too.

 

Also posted at

https://fearlesslyintelligent.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-lace-reader-by-brunonia-barry.html

and I may expand it there.

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review 2017-04-06 04:01
Breathe: A Ghost Story - Cliff McNish

This is a story about 3 ghost children who met an untimely death in different places in the world but are all stuck ina house together while being bullied by the ghost of an old woman. The old ghost uses the children to help keep herself in the human world by draining the children's energy. One day, a woman and her teenage son move in to the old house. The ghost children try to keep them away but their efforts are unsuccessful. The old ghost possesses the woman in order to get close to her son because she missed having a child of her own. The 3 ghost children and the teenage boy work together to save the woman and send the old ghost into the afterlife. This is a book I would give to advanced readers depending on their maturity level. It is not a difficult book to read but some parts can become complicated. 

 

Lexile Measure: 680L

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review 2017-01-19 12:35
#Audiobook Review: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, #13) - Jim Butcher,John Glover

Having been shot and killed at the end of the previous book, Changes, Dresden finds out he's in the Between, not quite dead, but not alive. Discovering that the “bad guys” somehow cheated when they killed him, he cannot move on until he finds out who killed him and why. So Dresden heads back to Earth as a ghost to solve his own murder; however, he gets caught up trying to save his friends in the process. With his own soul and eternal rest on the line, Dresden must learn the rules of his new existence before his time runs out.

 

After that somewhat scary ending to Changes, and the gap novella, Aftermath (found in the anthology, Side Jobs), I knew two things: Dresden was apparently dead, and Chicago was being overrun by some bad paranormals due to the power vacuum Dresden created in his battle with the Red Court. I was a bit leery to start this one out of fear I would get some lame ghost story (let’s face it, there have been some big letdowns in favorite series involving the death of a main character), but what I was treated to was a beautifully detailed, complex story that brought together many aspects of the series thus far.

 

Mr. Butcher successful sold me on not only the mythology behind ghosts in this world, but that Dresden is able to remain a productive investigator and crimefighter. The author creates a whole new set of rules for Dresden that govern spirits, including their use of magic, ability to manifest, and how they interact with both mortals and paranormals. The fact that it was relayed to listeners through Dresden’s own experiences, trials, and errors, made the additional information feel natural, like it was a given all along.

 

Ghost Story is emotionally difficult in a few ways. First, we witness what has happened to Dresden’s friends, family, and Chicago since his death six months prior. It’s not pretty, especially Karen and Molly. They are changed, and the state of the world is hard and dark. Things are messed up, and it hurts me as it hurts Dresden. Additionally, Harry must come to terms with the choices he made prior to his death. I really enjoyed Harry's introspections as he contemplated his actions and how he realizes the wrongness and excepts blame, knowing he'd do it all again. I've come to love Harry as a friend, and these moments of self-reflection allow listeners to learn more and grow closer; to accept Harry for all his dark and light. It also generally leads to a clue to help propel him forward. 

 

The mystery of Dresden’s murder, together with his attempts to save his friends from some fiendish spirits, is an excellent storyline. More so than ever, Mr. Butcher weaves all the aspects of Harry’s actions into one cohesive life lesson. I love how all the parts tied together by the end, reaching back several books in the process. I just adored the overall ending.

 

Once again, James Marsters works his magic with the narration. The book was originally released with a different narrator, but due to requests from fans, Audible rerecorded it with Mr. Marsters. I’m so glad they did. Marsters is Dresden, and to change it this late in the game would have been a shock to the system. There were some new nuances to the different characters, most notably Bob, as the characters have all changed in the aftermath of Harry’s death.

 

In the end, Ghost Story is yet another amazing tale from the Dresden Files, which should NOT be read out of order! Ghost Story was well written, if not a bit long and wordy. There is definitely an air of closure near the end, which gave it the feel of a final book in the series. But fear not, there is more Dresden to come, and I truly look forward to see how everything shakes out in the next title. 

 

My Rating: B+

Narration: A 

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review 2017-01-12 12:05
Music, mystery, beautiful writing and a story that proves reality is weirder than fiction
Ghost Variations: The Strangest Detective Story In Music - Jessica Duchen

I’m writing this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was given an ARC copy of this book and I voluntarily chose to review it.

I enjoy reading in a variety of genres but have recently realised that I really enjoy historical fiction, as it offers me both, great stories and a background that’s interesting in its own right and that often offers me insight into eras and situations I know little about.

When I read the description of this novel I thought it sounded very different to what I usually read, but fascinating at the same time. A mystery surrounding a piece of music (a violin concerto) by a famous composer (Robert Schuman) that has been hidden for a long time. I love music but I’m not a deep connoisseur, and I didn’t realise when I read about the novel that the story was based on facts (it follows quite closely the events that took place in the 1930s, involving Hungarian (later nationalised British) violinist Jelly d’Arányi, and a concert Schuman wrote whilst already interned in an asylum) and included an element of the paranormal. It’s one of those cases when reality upstages fiction.

Despite the incredible story, that’s fascinating in its own right, Jessica Duchen does a great job of bringing all the characters to life. The story is told in the third person mostly from Jelly’s point of view, although later in the book we also get to hear about Ully, a character that although not based on a real person brings much to the equation, as it offers us a German perspective on the story. Jelly, who lives with her sister, brother-in-law, niece and their dog, despite her many admirers and some failed romances, is single and dedicated heart and soul to her music. I easily identified with Jelly, although our vocations and personal circumstances are very different, but I appreciated her dedication and love for music and for her family, her horror at the social and historical circumstances she was living through, her difficulties fitting in, as a foreigner living abroad, and her awareness of the challenges and limitations she was facing due to her age. There are very touching moments, for example when Jelly goes to visit her secretary and friend at the hospital and gives an impromptu concert there, when she organises a tour of concerts in cathedrals, free for everybody, not matter their social class, to collect funds for the poor, and when she becomes plagued by self-doubt, due to her personal circumstances and to her failing health. Jelly is not perfect, and she appears naïve at times, showing little understanding of issues like race or politics, limited insight into her own beliefs about the spirit world, her feelings and hesitating about what to do in her personal life, but she is a credible and passionate human being, and she gets to confront many of her fears by the end of the book.

Apart from the gripping story and the background behind the discovery of the concert, there is the historical context of the 1930s. As Schuman was a German composer, somehow it became a matter of national importance to recover the concert and claim it as a German work. The changes in Germany, the atmosphere of menace and threat, the rise of dangerous nationalism, and how that was also reflected in Britain, where the sisters lived, was well reflected and built into the book, especially when, at first sight, it seems to be only marginally relevant to the central mystery. As several characters observe in the novel, a piece of music is not ‘just a piece of music’ any longer and everything becomes vested with particular significance, thanks to manipulation and propaganda, no matter what the original intention of the composer might have been. I suspect most people who read this book won’t be able to resist comparing the historical situation then to our current times and worry.

This novel is a joy to read, one of these cases when the story and the writing style are perfectly matched and one can almost hear the music flowing from the pages. A wonderful novel that I recommend to anybody interested in the period and in good writing. I’ll be closely watching this author in the future.

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text 2017-01-02 18:23
TBR List, or 7 Owned Books to Read in 2017
Collected Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges,Andrew Hurley
Twilight of the Empire - Simon R. Green
Little, Big - John Crowley
The Book of Lost Things - John Connolly
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
Ghost Story - Peter Straub
Carrion Comfort - Dan Simmons

Like most readers, I have a boatload of books I own that I have yet to read. This year, I will read 25 of them. Here are the musts.

 

1. Collected Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges,Andrew Hurley   Collected Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges  

    I've read a bit of Borges, and have deeply enjoyed it. That's why this is here.

 

2. Twilight of the Empire - Simon R. Green    Twilight of the Empire - Simon R. Green  

 

   The Deathstalker series is the only one I have yet to read by Green, and these are the novellas that introduce that universe. I own the whole series, so I should maybe get started, yeah? Besides, Space Opera rocks!

 

3. Little, Big - John Crowley  Little, Big - John Crowley  

   I've started this a couple of times, and got distracted. Not this year! It's la lyrical beauty that can't be rushed, but I will make the time.

 

4. The Book of Lost Things - John Connolly  The Book of Lost Things - John Connolly  

 

    I've read and loved the Gates series, as well as Connolly's second collection, Night Music. I started this one years ago, and will actually follow through this time.

 

5.  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke  

 

    Another one I got distracted during (are we sensing a theme?), this is a serious beast of a book, but I've loved what I've read, and the depiction of Faerie is unique, to say the least.

 

6.  Ghost Story - Peter Straub  Ghost Story - Peter Straub  

 

   A genuine horror classic that I've been threatening to read for about a decade. There is no reason I haven't read this yet.

 

7.  Carrion Comfort - Dan Simmons  Carrion Comfort - Dan Simmons  

 

   Another big mother(shut yo mouth), this fell into the must list after I read The Terror last year. That one started slow, but was frigging awesome. I'm hoping this one kicks in a little quicker.

 

There's my seven must-reads from my ridiculous TBR pile, but there's a lot more where those came from. At least 18, some even more imposing.

As imposing, anyway.

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