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review 2016-07-31 20:07
Mysteries, fairy tales, false identities and an unlikely couple.
Trust Me I Lie - Louise Marley

I am writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to the author for providing me a free copy of the novel in exchange for an unbiased review and to Rosie for the opportunity.

I try to read in a variety of genres (it’s good to keep the brain on its toes, so to speak, and since I joined Rosie’s team I’ve been tempted by the varied offerings of titles I might not have come across otherwise). But whilst for some genres I have to prepare myself and be in the mood, mysteries and thrillers I am able to read in most circumstances.

I liked the title of the novel (I don’t like liars, but an honest liar… well, I prefer that to people who swear blindly they’re telling the truth when it’s obvious they are not) and when I read it was set in the UK and it involved a family whose business was to publish books (and pretty fancy fairy tales editions at that) I knew I had to try it. And it does deliver in spades.

The story is told in the third person from the two main characters’ points of view, Milla Graham (although if she’s really Camilla Graham or her cousin, or somebody else entirely is a big part of the puzzle), a reporter who writes features about musicians and musical events, and Ben Taylor, a detective, divorced, father of a young daughter, and a man always on a mission to rescue somebody (especially damsels in distress, even if they don’t want to be rescued). There are other fragments, in italics, also in the third person, that narrate the event at the heart of the mystery (the night when the Graham’s old house burned down and three children and their mother died), that took place eighteen years before the rest of the novel. The point of view these other fragments are narrated from is not clear as we read them (other than it is somebody who witnessed what happened) but by the end of the novel we have a clear picture of what really happened (although we will have been tripped and wronged in our assumptions many times along the way).

Both main characters are likeable in different ways. Ben is handsome, honest and a good guy, who, as many female characters tell him, seems to suffer from rescue fantasies. He lives in a chocolate box cottage and he meets the other protagonist in a traumatic manner (he runs her over) in the first chapter. His car ends up in a ditch and as he has no other option he invites the stranger, a young woman, to his house. She disappears with some of his money early next morning but she does not disappear from his life. At first sight Ben appears to be a type of character we’re very familiar with (a handsome detective somewhat disillusioned by his job and with his family life in tatters) but his immediate attraction and sympathy for Milla makes him do out of character things that surprise others around him as much as himself. And we get to discover some surprising things about him too.

Milla is, without discussion, quite unique. She lives hand to mouth, has adopted the identity of the dead daughter of a very rich family (it made me think of the stories about Anastasia, the Romanov tsarina who was supposedly still alive), and it’s difficult to know what her real motivations are. Does she really believe she’s Camilla Graham? Is it all part of a hoax to get money? Is she trying to help Patrick Graham, the man who was sent to prison for the murder of his wife (and the real Camilla’s mother)? Is she the cousin of the family now trying to create confusion? Or is she a fantasist who does not know what the truth is any longer? She is determined, resourceful and will stop at nothing to reach her goal. Whatever that might be. And she is open about her lies (and does surprise herself when she doesn’t lie).

The novel features charming English towns, an old mansion that has become a gothic castle in ruins, murders staged to imitate the illustrations of famous fairy tales (with designer clothing and four poster beds also thrown in), a murderer dressed and made-up like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, mysterious bracelets, and a world of fairy tales that turns very dark.

The main characters are fascinating and likeable and you can’t help but root for them, no matter how outrageous their behaviours. If you stopped to think about it, some of their actions definitely stretch one’s belief, but the pace is so dynamic and the story so intriguing and surprising, that you keep trying to guess what will happen next and enjoy the ride. The writing is descriptive and vivid and one feels a part of the story, or at least a very close witness of the events. Although the crimes described are horrendous, there is no gross attention to the details of the violence, no CSI-style descriptions, and although not a cozy novel, it’s not a hard-edged thriller either. Ah, and there is romance but no explicit sex scenes (or implicit even).

I had a great time reading the novel, enjoyed the satisfying ending and my only disappointment is that being a big fairy tale fan I would have loved to get my hands on the wonderful illustrated volumes of fairy tales described in the novel but unfortunately it won’t be possible. I recommend it to readers of mysteries that prefer an involved story rather than a hard-edged scientific investigation in dark, urban and grittily realistic settings. If you love quirky characters, do not hesitate and give it a try. And I’ll be keeping an eye on Louise Marley’s work for sure.

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review 2016-05-21 00:00
Identities 1: The Aquarius Gambit
Identities 1: The Aquarius Gambit - Char... Identities 1: The Aquarius Gambit - Charles F. Millhouse I really wanted to like this book, but maybe I've just grown too old for this genre.
I passed it on to my twenty-something son who will write his own review.
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review 2016-04-11 09:43
A genderbending fairytale reimagination has spoken...
The Duke of Snow and Apples (Entangled Select) - Elizabeth Vail

...but not to me.


This is one of those books where the characters are good, the story is decent—as decent as is possible with any simple fairytale—the worldbuilding is quite interesting and it's original enough to make anew something old. Sure the writing is a bit too descriptive for my taste but that's often the case with fantasy books. The ending is engaging enough that I practically devoured the last 25% mostly because I'd become to care about the characters by then.


And yet, I'm not moved beyond three stars.


There was too much slogging through in the beginning and too many times I stopped to wonder why Frederick and Charlotte hadn't been caught yet. I just couldn't connect.


Maybe if this had been a fantasy novel with romantic elements instead of a genre romance with fantasy elements the rating would be higher.

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text 2015-05-29 02:26
As I read: Shatter me
Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi

After watching the View this morning and the ghastly thought of one person wanting to do a revolution that enforces the idea of say that a person is 'whatever' is astounding.  To deny a person's identity of who they are to be a 'whatever' leaves such an open door for a 'whatever' to occur. 


One person can say labels.. don't label me.  But is it labeling?   Then  I read, Shatter Me which surprises me and grips me.  A young girl, who I thought was on a verge of a break down, instead has much resilience and understanding for one who has been through so much in a society who wants to strip down all labels, identity, and reestablish society in its own concept of what was good and right.


Traditional homes of our old world have been abandoned, windows shattered, roofs collapsing, red and green and blue paint scrubbed into muted shades to better match our bright future.  Now I see the compounds carelessly constructed on the ravaged land and I begin to remember.  I remember how these were supposed to be temporary.  I remember the few months before I was locked up when they'd begun building them.  These small, cold quarters would suffice just until they figured out all the details of this new plan, is what The Reestablishment had said.  Just until everyone was subdued.  Just until people stopped protesting and realized that this change was good for them, good for their children, good for their future.


I remember there were rules.

No more dangerous imaginations, no more prescription medications.  A new generation comprised of only healthy individuals would sustain us.  The sick must be locked away.  The old must be discarded.  The troubled must be given up to the asylums. Only the strong should survive.


Of course.

No more stupid languages and stupid stories and stupid paintings placed above stupid mantels.  No more Christmas, no more Hanukkah, no more Ramadan and Diwali.  No talk of religion, of belief, of personal convictions. Personal convictions were what nearly killed us all, is what they said.


Having a conviction, having priorities are what make us all beautifully unique individual humans.  Not ravaging beasts.  This is why we have brains, vocal cords and different color skin, because we are beautifully crafted people with hearts, souls, and spirits.  


I love how Mafi crafts this world and so eloquently speaks of things that even hit so close home with what is even going on today, even though it is Juliette's world with the Reestablishment. 


I go back to the word, 'labelling'.  Is it labelling?  Or are these celebrities ashamed of who they are?   People have committed suicide because the lack of knowing who they are or are ashamed of who they are.  Why be ashamed of who you are?   Know who you are, own it.  Never be ashamed of who you are.. your identity.  


Believe me it took me years to finally learn and understand this myself.  And I am a more better healed up, and healthy person for having done so.


Thank you, Tahereh Mafi, for Shatter Me.


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review 2012-10-10 00:00
Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities
Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities - Mike Jung,Mike Maihack A great, fun ride that does some playful stuff with superhero-ing. Polly and Vincent make for the most interesting duo of the cast. I love the complex use of Vincent's mom and dad (especially since the plot doesn't involve any silly twists -- I won't say more to avoid spoilers.)

I'm curious to see if Jung explores this world more.

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