May 21, 2019

Short & Sweet: The Fever and Alias Grace

The Fever by Megan Abbott

About halfway through this book became pretty hard to put down! As the mysterious events unfold, the writing becomes more and more unsettling, with the style being sort of reminiscent of magical realism at times, making you question what is real and what isn't. I do wish that the ending had explored more of the purported cause of the events (spoiler, highlight to read: I feel like it would have been helpful for there to have been more details about the theory that the symptoms were due to mass psychogenic illness). Things feel like they get wrapped up awfully fast, and not as satisfyingly as they could have been. Nevertheless, Abbott adeptly conveys the mood of panic and paranoia that the community is swept up in as more and more young girls start showing alarming symptoms.                                                                                                                                                                   4 shooting stars. 

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

A fascinating re-imagining of the real-life Kinnear-Montgomery murders. It's a bit slow-moving as Grace begins relating her tale to Dr. Jordan, but soon picks up, and I easily became sucked into the story that Atwood weaves.

4 shooting stars.  

Beatrice and Benedick: A Rambling Review

Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato

As a story I found it quite rich and immersive; as a retelling/expansion of Much Ado I found it less satisfying. Benedick’s voice was believable as the original character, but this version of Beatrice did not capture the wit and energy of Shakespeare’s heroine. I also did not get the same sort of humour from it as the original play; there is far more tragedy than comedy here, and although both protagonists kept mentioning their “witty banter” I didn’t feel like we actually saw it. Their relationship starts and proceeds rather oddly, with an initial attraction on both sides which quickly becomes somewhat antagonistic for no clear reason. The misunderstandings that serve to separate the couple are truly Shakespearean in style, though.

That said, I liked how elements of Othello and Romeo & Juliet were woven into the story, enriching it with characters and plot points from these other Shakespearean works, which lent this expansion some authenticity. The writing allows the reader to easily visualize the settings, from the dunes of Messina to the despair-filled days on the open ocean. The hints in Shakespeare’s original play about Beatrice and Benedick’s history make this a storyline just waiting to be explored; however, this realization of that mystery is not what I had expected (or probably would have chosen, to be honest.) 

The afterword sheds some light on one of the side characters and informs the reader of an intriguing theory about Shakespeare that I had never heard of! This also helps to clarify some of the choices made in this retelling.

4 shooting stars.


March 31, 2019

The Ring and the Crown: A Rambling Review

The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
I actually enjoyed this one more than I was expecting to! Which is not to say that it’s without its flaws -- the pacing is uneven, with a slow build through at least three-quarters and then a rush of action and reveals and explanations (many of which were confusing and not satisfactory) at the end. I’m still left puzzling about some things that were crammed in to try to wrap things up. I liked the connection to Arthurian myth, but I think it could have been executed better; the author seemed to use the magical elements when it was convenient, but not really have them as a truly cohesive part of the story. 

That said, there was just something entertaining and easy about this read. I liked escaping to this world of shallow social climbers and court drama and people falling rapidly in (what they think is) love and plotting desperately to be together. Fluff, definitely, but it was mindless fun (which was needed given that I am sick at the moment!) I did have some trouble keeping the different narratives straight in my mind -- it hops around between five -- but the characters were not all nauseatingly shallow or selfish, and I particularly ended up rooting for Marie to get her happily ever after. 

3.5 shooting stars.

March 19, 2019

Amy Snow: A Rambling Review

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

The mystery in this story was predictable, but I enjoyed seeing Amy Snow's character develop. The writing style had a formal, old-fashioned sort of vibe, which suited the era that the novel is set in. I also liked the set-up of the "treasure hunt", which worked well to keep the story progressing (and it was interesting to see how Amy came to quite resent the hunt at one point). 

I do wish we'd gotten to know some of the minor characters better (such as Henry). However, the book is called Amy Snow, and it certainly shows us how Amy grows into herself, becoming a more confident and sure-footed young woman by the end. 

An added bonus for me was that the section set in Bath brought back memories of my time spent in that city -- apparently I had a much more favourable impression of it than Amy did! (Seriously, Amy, how could you not like Bath? It is delightful.)

4 shooting stars.  


Strange Sweet Song: A Rambling Review

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

I ended up really enjoying this read! I think it's titled very aptly -- it is both strange and sweet in measure. A bit sad, too, at times. In an interesting way, Rule manages to combine a folkloric style with a contemporary setting, and it works. Even though I am a fan of neither cats nor opera, nevertheless, I liked the story here. I did find Sing to be rather self-centered and annoying sometimes, and she made one stunningly poor decision (spoiler, highlight to read: asking her dad to get her the lead role of Angelique), but I felt like her genuine self was a good person. It was neat to get the perspective of the Felix, and I felt those chapters were very intriguing, if a bit vague and not explored as much as I might have liked. The ending did leave me with some questions (spoilers: how come the Felix was able to go back to the sky? And why did the Maestro want to keep Nathan close to him so badly? Was it because he wanted the immortality from the tear? Or did he want to keep everyone from discovering Nathan's talent, because he was jealous? The Maestro's motivations were not clearly explained...)

The feel of this story puts me in mind of Mechthild Glaser's The Forgotten Book, so if you enjoyed that one, you might like Strange Sweet Song (and vice versa).

4 shooting stars. 

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