Sunday, July 25, 2010

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Don't really have anything to say about this one. Plot and characters were boring and I couldn't wait for it to be over so I could move on to something else. Will not be reading anymore of her books.

1 star

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

20year old Violet Hayes has just come home from finishing school to find out that her father is set to remarry and the mother she had been told was ill and in a sanatorium is actually alive and well in Chicago, and has just formally divorced her father. Under the pretense of seeing the Chicago World's Fair, Violet talks her father into letting her spend a month in Chicago so she can look for her mother. While there she will stay with her grandmother, who knows the secret about Violet's mother and refuses to tell her and has secrets of her own, her Aunt Matilda, or Aunt Matt, who is involved in the suffragist movement, her Aunt Agnes, who puts all of the lessons Violet learned in finishing school to use courting her around the city to visit all of her well-to-do friends and hoping to find Violet a husband and her Aunt Birdie, who's husband died in the Civil War but she thinks he is still alive and fighting it. Violet's search for her mother and the truth is sidetracked when she begins being courted by different men, from different walks of life, for different reasons. There is Herman Beckett, who is from her hometown, bores Violet silly, and has no imagination whatsoever; Nelson Kent, heir to a banking empire who Violet likes but doesn't get the love story feelings she has always read about that she longs for; Louis Decker, an evangelist who works Violet's grandmother in helping the poor and immigrant families in the slums of Chicago and believes everything is God's will and part of God's plan; and Silas McClure, a stranger Violet meets on her train ride to Chicago who is everything she has dreamed of, but is he a thief? Through all of this Violet works diligently to answer burring questions about her family, find her mother, see the Chicago World's Fair in all its magnificent glory, and hopefully, fall in love.

I loved this book. Violet is a very likable character, her aunts are too funny, Aunt Birdie had me laughing out loud at some points, and the story is very engaging and keeps you reading. I slowed down my pace during the last 3/4 of the book because I didn't want it to end. I found out after I had read this that it is Christian fiction, which I never, ever read, but I loved this. It wasn't preachy, didn't shove God down your throat, and was incredibly enjoyable. This is the first book in a long time where I was rooting for some characters, and wincing at others. One of the best I have read in quite awhile.

5 stars

Friday, July 16, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Mirror twins Julia and Valentina Poole inherit the flat in London belonging to their aunt, who is their mother's twin, after her death. The stipulation is that they both move to London and live in the flat for a year before anything can be sold or any other changes made. Living in the building is Robert Fanshaw, their aunt Elspeth's lover, and Martin, a man who's wife has left him and suffers from OCD and cannot leave the building. The building itself backs up to Highgate Cemetery, where Robert works as a tour guide. After the twins move in strange things start to happen and they realize they are being haunted by the ghost of their dead aunt. Each trying to create a life for themselves in London, one of the twins longs for being free of her twin sister. They do everything together and she wants to break free of this routine that she feels is blocking her life and what she wants to do. Through conversations with their dead aunt through a Ouija board and automatic writing, one of the twins comes up with a plan that will give her a life of her own, but the cost is one that she never could have imagined.

This was very weird, very creepy, very Gothic. Reminded me a little of The Virgin Suicides. It kept me reading, but when certain secrets were revealed I had to reread them about 4 times and I am still not sure I understand what happened. The ending I did not understand at all, but I was pulled through this book by the story of these twins, and was just waiting for the tragedy to hit them that I felt was inevitable, and the betrayal that I did not see coming and would change every one's lives forever. Valentina is an incredibly likable character, her sister Julia is very annoying, and the ghost of her aunt Elspeth made me cringe when I realized what was going to happen. More character driven than anything else, this is one story that will stay with you, haunt you, for quite awhile.

4 stars

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

15 year old John Wayne Cleaver feels he is predestined to become a serial killer. His parents named him John Wayne after the iconic actor, but he sees it as being named after John Wayne Gacy. His last name, Cleaver, is a murder weapon. And his father's name is Sam, making him, the Son of Sam. Then their is his obsession with serial killers. It doesn't help matters that his mom and sister run a funeral home, where he gets to help prepare bodies for their final resting place, embalming, etc. His mother is worried about his preoccupation with serial killers, especially after for a school project, he does an in depth report on Jeffrey Dahmer so disturbing his teacher calls his mom and it puts him in therapy, where he is diagnosed as being a sociopath, unable to feel empathy. Then his dream comes true, a serial killer starts to stalk the residents of his small town. He tries to keep himself under control, but he sees patterns the police and FBI don't and unravels the mystery of who is committing these violent acts. But in that knowledge comes the problem of deciding what to do about it. He has watched this person kill 4 people without trying to stop it. He can't talk to his family, and the authorities won't believe him if he did tell them. All the while The Monster inside him that he has kept locked up for a long time by following strict set of rules he set for himself is begging to be let out finally. All of this culminates into an outstanding debut, and the first in a trilogy of books that will leave you begging for more.

I have been in a major book funk, and this has to be one the most incredible stories I have ever read. As disturbing and creepy as John Wayne is, you can't help but root for him, to stop the murders and to save himself. Fast paced plot that reveals the murderer early on in the book, but that just adds to the grab you by the throat tension of it. I cannot wait for the other books to come out to see what happens. Strong character study, beautifully written, and grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go until the final breathless page.

5 stars

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

This is the story of Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's classic, Dracula. In this novel, she tells her side of the story as to what happened involving the Count and defines the role she played. Dark, Gothic, and sexual, the story leads you from London, where Mina is a teacher at a School of Accomplishment for Girls, to an insane asylum where women are committed for their sexual desires and "treated" in ways that cause their death. From mist filled cemeteries to stories from her childhood in Ireland, Mina is forced to make a decision that she has been avoiding for centuries.

I finished this yesterday and have been trying to figure out how I feel about this book. The story didn't hold my attention, the first 250 to 300 pages were very boring to me and I didn't really see where the story was going. It picked up from there but was so highly sexual and erotic that I didn't enjoy it. The last 50 pages or so seemed incredibly rushed, and the story was wrapped up so quickly it left me feeling nothing for any of the characters. At times while reading I was thinking of the Phantom of the Opera, just for Dracula's obsession with Mina, how they are tied together, and their fate. But this story held none of the splendour that Phantom of the Opera has captivated me with for years. Maybe if I had read Dracula more recently than 18 years ago, I would have appreciated the story more, but it jumped all over the place and at times made no sense to me whatsoever. If you like romance, especially the dark, erotic, Gothic kind, than this is for you. I enjoy Gothic stories, but that is where it ended. I spent my weekend reading this when realistically it should have taken me a day and a half. I had to force myself to finish it. I appreciate what the author was trying to do, but I was not impressed.

2 stars
Release date August 10, 2010