Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Provincial Lady Goes Further

The Provincial Lady Goes Further
by E.M. Delafield

This is the second in the Provincial Lady series and takes up where Diary of a Provincial Lady left off. The Provincial Lady takes a flat in London where she meets assorted literati and other types, goes to cabarets and casinos and writes about new and memorable characters even as she continues to cope with Robin, Vicky, Robert, Mademoiselle and Lady B.

My Reaction (with mild SPOILERS):
(Shared read-aloud.)

The Provincial Lady is just as amusing here as in the first book.  Mademoiselle's (almost complete) departure from the family means that there is less French to stumble through, which is an improvement.  The Provincial Lady's time in London feels like an endless round of not-quite-pleasant evenings at parties.  There are also references to more cosmopolitan (i.e. scandalous) doings than I recall from the first book, which was set in the country (...thus the "Provincial" Lady).  Some of the topical references flew right over our heads, I'm afraid, but more often than not, there was a cozy recognition of the universal human experience-- that comfortable sensation of "the more things change, the more they stay the same". 

While reading these first two Provincial Lady books, we've repeatedly commented on the odd financial circumstances of the Lady and her family.  They seem always to be worried about a shortness of funds.  It's practically a hobby of the Lady's to hold the bankers at bay-- and yet they employ a cook and a maid.  Then there's Mademoiselle and Casabianca, boarding school for both children, and a vacation in France-- to say nothing of the London flat!  Clearly the Lady and her family are fairly well off (certainly not starving)-- but she's consistently stressed about money!  I know it's meant to be funny-- and the Lady likely considers Cook an absolute necessity--  but the family's strange relationship with money is the one aspect of the books that is hardest for a modern, middle-class reader to completely grasp (much less sympathize with).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Thursday Evenings"

"Thursday Evenings"
by E.F. Benson

In this amusing ghost story, a persistent spirit keeps the Victorian Golden Age alive from beyond the grave.

My Reaction:
I found this little ghost story a pleasant read.  The touches of humor were a reminder that this is the same author who penned the Lucia series. 

I looked up "The Lost Chord" on YouTube out of curiosity.  I guess it's okay, but I don't hear anything in it that would inspire someone to make it her "calling card" song.  (I prefer a stronger, more repetitive melody.  This hymn kind of wanders all over the place.)

This is the first thing I read from start to finish on my new Kindle Paperwhite!  (I'm also reading The Provincial Lady Goes Further on it, but I'd already read over 70% of that one before switching devices.) 

Sunday, November 30, 2014


by E.F. Benson

A professional medium who frequently supplements his genuine psychic abilities with trickery has an eye-opening experience.

My Reaction:
Eh, it was ok.  Predictable, but ok.  Beyond that, I haven't much to say. 

Well, here's one thing:
When you have a story that's so predictable and completely lacking in creepiness, there's not much to recommend it.  I mean, it's a story.  There's not even an illusion of "this really happened, and the implications are startling!"  That can be ok, if the story is presented with the right atmosphere and shiver-inducing details or presentation.  Without either verisimilitude or spookiness, it's pretty bland.

Here's another thing:
The medium at one point says, "There is a D; I see a D.  Not Dick, not David.  There is a Y.  It is Denys."  I am very strongly reminded of John Edward.  Only he probably wouldn't have suggested the Y or anything so specific as "Denys".  (Is my skepticism coming through?)

Incidentally, just the other day I came across a reference to E.F. Benson in one of E.M. Delafield's Provincial Lady books.  She didn't say much about him-- just that the Provincial Lady and someone else discussed his writing, among a couple of other topics-- but I always enjoy it when I know something about the author or book referenced.  It was a reminder, too, that the two were contemporaries.  "Their time" (the late 1800s up until WWII)-- particularly in England, Canada, and the U.S.-- has become my favorite setting for literature, lately. 

Friday, November 28, 2014


by Sarah Rees Brennan

Powerful love comes with a price. Who will be the sacrifice?

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.

My Reaction:
This series wasn't really for me, I guess.  I liked the first book the best of the three.  The second was disappointing, but I decided to stick with it through the third installation for the sake of the  conclusion.  Sometimes I had to talk myself into continuing with this third book.  I'm glad it's the last in the series, because if there had been a fourth, maybe I would've just made up my own conclusion and saved some time.

My usual damning-with-faint-praise reaction applies here: This wasn't an absolutely awful book, but I don't feel persuaded to sing praises.  The "teen romance" element was ok, but it's repetitive, with plenty of forced drama/misunderstanding/angst.  (Have you read any romance novels ever?  Then you know the sort of thing.)  Then there's this whole big Magic Plot that, honestly, I could hardly have cared less about, by the end.  I was interested to see if the "shocking end" would turn out better than expected.  ...It didn't. 

When the best thing the book has going for it is the romance-- and the romance is torturously drawn out, interspersed with so much "other stuff" that falls flat-- it's not the most satisfying or engaging read ever, that's all. 

Specific Tidbits (with SPOILERS):
--  I'd forgotten much of the Magic Plot from the first two books, but the beginning does a pretty good job of filling you in.  I still would never recommend reading this one if you hadn't already read the first two.

--  I still don't find the characters' jokes funny.  They're always laughing and grinning at one another, apparently enchanted by their own witty banter, but I can't quite feel like joining in. 

--  Kami wears a skirt with frills when she goes on her "rescue Jared" mission.  Yes, I know that Kami loves skirts and dresses and feminine clothes, and that's fine, but who wears a frilly skirt on a rescue mission?!

--  "She felt the shape of his mouth against her hair and was amazed by how crazy he was: he was smiling."  ...How can she feel a smile on her head, through her hair?  That seems unlikely.  Hear a smile in his voice, sure, but feel a smile against your scalp?  I'm doubtful.

--  The one thing I find most appealing about this whole series is the concept of Kami and Jared's psychic bond.  It's one of those things that could never work out well in real life, but in fiction, it's so cozy!  "He had been closer to her than if they slept cheek to cheek on the same pillow every night, closer than her own thoughts, for their whole lives."  In a fantasy/romance novel, that's pretty swoon-worthy stuff.  In real life?  Um, no.  I'll keep (some of) the contents of my mind private, please.

--  At some point, it becomes completely unbelievable to me that Jared wouldn't understand how Kami feels about him (and vice versa).  That point, for me, came fairly early in this book.

--  The "blood brothers" spell scene?  Yuck.

--  Kami's weird obsession with grabbing handfuls of Jared's shirt(s) continues into this book.  (Seriously.  Just about any time they kiss, she's grabbing up a handful of the dude's shirt.  She's going to stretch them out!!)

--  I'll confess:  I did some eye-rolling during the scene in which Kami's dad shoots Rob.  Kami's excessive shock that Daddy Dearest has actually fired a gun!  Jon's inability to aim the first shot at Rob's head instead of his leg, which would've solved so many problems!  Oh, and when Jon laments the fact that he messed up, Kami replies that he didn't mess up.  "'Not being ready to kill someone isn't screwing up.'" ...Well.  When the someone in question is an evil sorcerer who has already killed people and is demanding human sacrifices and kind of terrorizing your whole family... :o/ It's fine to comfort your father in those circumstances, since blaming him will only make him feel worse, but how is killing Rob with magic (which-- spoiler alert!-- Kami does herself at the end of the book) any different from killing him with a bullet to the head?  (Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I get the distinct impression that the author would not have been okay with Kami killing Rob with a gun.  Guns are bad, you know.  Killing with magic is... Well, it's different, okay?!)

--  Jon (Kami's dad) to Kami: "I didn't achieve you.  You are the greatest achievement of your own life."  Okay...  True, parents can't take full credit for how a high-school-age child has turned out-- and I'm all for teens understanding that who they are is not entirely dependent on their parents (particularly in cases where maybe the parents aren't setting the greatest examples)-- but this rubbed me the wrong way.  Maybe because it undervalues the contribution that good parents have made in getting their kids to the point that they are good, decent young adults.

--  After Kami's mom gives the evil/bad/"wrong side of history" (to use a phrase that I really, really hate) sorcerers food poisoning, they all sneak out of Aurimere and sort of meander home.  Like, to their own home.  Which is weird.  Where's the sense of urgency with these people?  It's a perfect example of one of my pet peeves with this series.  It's a very strange story where people are supposedly in grave danger, but nothing feels remotely important (most of the time) in comparison with the teen romances.  "Whelp, we've just escaped from the not-very-friendly sorcerers led by that one guy who kinda wants to kill us.  But they've got a case of food poisoning, so we can totally for sure go home (where everyone knows we live) and sleep safe and sound in our own beds.  I'm pretty sure they'll be sick for the rest of the night.  We should be fine until tomorrow.  Lights out! Nighty-night, John-boy!"  (Later that night, their house is set ablaze with Magic Fire™.  The family narrowly escape with their lives.)

--  "The first thing to do was slip away from her father, who might have questions about why she kept insisting on going back to the lair of ultimate evil.  Kami saw why so many teenagers who had adventures in books were interestingly tragic orphans.  Parents were a real buzzkill, adventure-wise."  Heh.  Yeah, but that didn't seem to be as much of an issue in the first two books.

--  I think I might have forgotten something from the first or second book, but is there something keeping Kami and her friends and family from just leaving this cursed town?  Once her mother's turned into a statue, sure, it may be too late, but it seems kind of silly to stay in a town where your life and the lives of your young siblings are at risk.  Why?  Because Kami wants to be a Heroine and save the whole town?  Why can't they all leave, in that case?

--  Rusty's death seems so utterly pointless.  Manipulative.  Also, did Rusty not realize that giving Rob a willing sacrifice would make him more powerful?  I know he thought he was buying time/protecting the others until the equinox ritual with the twin pools, but why couldn't they have just left town for a few days, instead?

--  The stunning revelation that Rob planned to destroy the whole town wasn't quite so shocking as it was meant to be, I think.

--  "Kami read the article aloud to her family and friends as they stood all together in Room 31B, Kami's newspaper office."  ...How embarrassing.  Captive audience, huh?

--  When Holly and Angela have their first kiss, there's this description of how their respective lipsticks/lip glosses "interact"/taste/whatever.  And I think it's supposed to be edgy or something, because, ooh, "girl kiss" and they're both wearing lipstick/gloss which is so interesting because guys don't wear make-up, and it's all so new and exciting-- but... Why are they even wearing lipstick/gloss on a day like this?  They're preparing to battle for their lives and the survival of their entire town.  I certainly wouldn't be bothering to put on lipstick.  Maybe I'm not girly enough to understand these things.  I often put on a modest/safe/non-clashy shade of lipstick if I'm going out in public, but that's on a normal day.  I feel pretty confident that if I'm ever getting dressed for battle with sorcerers, make-up won't be a priority.  (But that's just me.)

--  Angered by Lillian (if I recall correctly), Rob announces, "If you're not with me, you're against me."  ...Is that supposed to be a super-subtle political jibe?  Or is it more in reference to the Bible?  Or what?

--  Poor Ash seems badly treated all through these books (though at least he gets to live to see the end of the trilogy).  In this book, he loses his father.  Now, admittedly, his father's not a good person, and he's known that for a while, by the end, but that's still not an easy thing to come to terms with.  He learns that his father wanted to murder and lay ruin to a town full of people.  Then Kami disintegrates the man.  And now, a few months later, Ash is perfectly fine with everything, I guess.  It's too easy.  (Like a lot of things in these books.)

--  I feel a bit patronized at times, reading this trilogy.  Maybe that was just me.

--  The very end?  Predictable, but right.  Though I still feel like Kami and Jared are a bit too dense to be believed-- at least as far as each other are concerned.  They should've figured that whole thing out long before the end.  Of course, since this is a romance, the romantic leads have to be bull-headed, star-crossed, blinded, confused, or whatever else it takes to keep them apart until the final page.  It's understood.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
by Agatha Christie

Poirot, a Belgian refugee of the Great War, is settling in England near the home of Emily Inglethorp, who helped him to his new life. His friend Hastings arrives as a guest at her home. When the woman is killed, Poirot uses his detective skills to solve the mystery.

My Reaction:
I listened to the audiobook version read by David Suchet (the actor who portrays Poirot in the recently concluded series of adaptations).

I've seen the TV adaptation of this novel multiple times-- once not that long ago-- but I'd forgotten enough to be uncertain of the exact solution to the mystery.  Because I listened in dribs and drabs, I found it difficult to remember who some of the characters were, by the end of the book.  The two young women-- Mary and Cynthia-- and the two brothers were particularly indistinguishable, at times.

What with one thing or another, I don't feel up to writing a real review of/reaction to this book-- not at all.  It was interesting enough to listen to while I worked on a string quilt, cooked, or planted daylilies, but I clearly wasn't fully engaged while listening.  (Apparently I need to see things-- like character names-- in order to remember them.)

I've listened to another audiobook version of an Agatha Christie mystery.  That one was read by Hugh Fraser, the actor who plays Hastings.  I remember thinking that his Poirot was very good but his female voices a little tiring.  His Hastings, of course, was perfect.  ;o)  If nothing else, it was interesting to compare that reading with this.  As you might expect, Suchet was spot-on as Poirot. (Amazing, huh?)  The female voices I again found tiring at times.  (I'm sorry, but it hurts my ears to listen to men trying to sound like women.)  The narrator of the novel is Hastings, and while Suchet's reading was excellent, with good inflection that very rarely took me out of the story, I really prefer Hugh Fraser's version of Hastings. 

...Anyway... I might consider listening to audiobooks of more mysteries, but I think I get more of out of almost all genres if I read the old-fashioned way.  Still, it's a nice alternative to music, talk radio, or TV background noise.  I'd definitely be happy to listen to more readings by Suchet, though I think I'll always like him best as Poirot.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Vanishment

The Vanishment
by Jonathan Aycliffe

Publisher's Blurb:
Writer Peter Clare has bright hopes that a summer by the sea in Cornwall will renew his faltering marriage. But when his wife becomes the next victim of "the vanishments" of Petherick House, Peter is plunged into a battle with unspeakable evil.

My Reaction:
I'm going to have a hard time rating this one.  It lacked a completely satisfying conclusion-- but on the other hand, I found it really, really creepy.  Was most of it a hodge-podge of "creepy stuff" we've seen or read before?  Yes, but it was still creepy!  I'd rather an author use tried and true eerie elements than attempt to make something entirely original that simply falls flat.  (Or in other words, there's a reason these things seem familiar.  They work, so no wonder they're kept in constant rotation.)

I recommend this book for readers more interested in the journey than the destination-- anyone in the mood for shivers.  Prepare to think twice about walking through the house in the dark, and don't be surprised if you get the feeling that something's looking over your shoulder as you read...

In Greater Detail (with SPOILERS):
--  Some things (like the fact that the Clares were never meant to have been allowed to rent Petherick House) were immediately obvious.  Others should have been obvious, but for some reason I missed them.  (Witness the location of Catherine's body, hinted at early on by the clue in Sarah's painting.)

-- This is the second book I've read (in recent memory) with a coin-fed meter box for electricity in a rented building/room.  (The other was Stella Gibbons' Starlight, incidentally.)  I don't know if that was/is a "British thing"-- or just not an American thing... or if it's (been) done in the U.S., too, and I only happen never to have seen or heard about it.

I guess it makes sense for a rented place, but it strikes me as odd.  I can't imagine living somewhere where I'd have to put coins in a box to keep the lights on, as opposed to paying a monthly bill through the mail.  On the positive side(?), I guess it would serve to make you more immediately conscious of your electricity usage. 

(...Okay, looked it up.  It seems they were used in at least parts of the U.S. in the early fifties.  They were installed as a "penalty" if you had a history of not paying your bill!  The person I found discussing it called it a quarter meter.)

--  I was uncertain for a while of when the book took place.  I guess it was meant to be present-day (published in the mid-90s, with most of the action taking place about ten years prior to that).  Eventually, there is enough information given (Peter's age, year of conviction, etc.) that you could narrow it down to almost the exact time, if you were that interested.  (I'm not.)

--  I liked how quickly things started happening.  None of this "everything seemed fine for several days/weeks" business.  Sarah knows right away that something's wrong.

--  I've read several other reader reviews, already, and some of the points others have made echoed my own thoughts.  First, Peter is an unsympathetic character.  Early in the book, he admits to himself (and us) that his wife doesn't mean "everything" to him.  Then we have his casual reaction to her fears.  He emotionally blackmails her into staying at Petherick House, even though he knows there's something "off" about the place and that it's troubling her.  Why is he so determined that they stay?  Then when she goes missing, he doesn't seem especially bothered.  Even taking into consideration the fact that they've had problems in the past, it's not the behavior of a loving husband.  ("The devil of it was that I loved her very much.  We had been married thirteen years." ...Yes, I can really sense the great love you felt toward her.)  Later, when we learn more about Peter's history, it's even more difficult to sympathize with him.

--  Speaking of Peter's history, it's awfully suspicious that the reader doesn't learn the particulars of his past (his drunken accidental killing of his own daughter, his time in prison, and the subject of his early works) until so late in the book.  It lends credence to one reader/reviewer's suggestion that Peter is an unreliable narrator who may be even less innocent than he would have us believe.  How much of this narrative can we trust? 

--  It seems unlikely that Sarah would stay with Peter, given the way their daughter died.  Even if you can accept that she manages to forgive him, why would Susan and Tim leave their own young daughter in Peter's care while Susan's off at work?  Maybe he's stopped drinking, but I can't imagine entrusting my child to someone with that kind of history.  Not worth the risk.

-- The bleak insertions of the "present-day Peter" into the narrative removes all hope for a happy resolution and darkens an already dark tale.  From those "present-day" comments, I think we're meant to infer that Peter has concluded that his efforts to "lay the ghosts" haven't been entirely successful.  The mother and child are at peace, yes, but Agnes is as bitter and malevolent as ever.  In killing Susannah Adderstone, he saved Rachel, but Agnes is still there, haunting Petherick House.  When Peter gets out of prison and has nowhere to go but there, she will be waiting to torment him in his final days.

--  There were so many parallels that they got a little bit silly.  The death/disappearance dates all falling on July 16th.  Sarah's resemblance to Susannah Trevorrow.  Sarah (according to her sister) just happening to have bought a bracelet that looks exactly like the one belonging to Susannah Trevorrow.  Susannah Adderstone's resemblance to Agnes.  The inspectors both dying of TB within a few months of taking on the cases of "vanishment".  Both Peter's and S. Trevorrow's daughters being named "Catherine".  Some of it is explained away by the blood link-- but apparently several young women and children in the community have gone missing or been affected without any family connection.  Rachel, too, is profoundly affected, but there's no reason to suspect that she was related to the Trevorrows.

-- Speaking of Rachel... Are we meant to believe that she's being temporarily possessed by Catherine Trevorrow's spirit?  Or is she supposed to be remembering a past life?  I really hope it's the former, because the latter is just too much of a coincidence, don't you think?  The fact that it's even a question (for me, at least) is a testament to the fact that things are rather in a jumble in this book.  The author's method seems to have been to take a little of this, a little of that, and a touch of something else, then swirl it all together and hope that it makes sense in the end.  All (or most) of the individual elements are good (creepy) on their own, but somehow there's a little less coherent adhesion than one might have hoped.  The sum of the parts?  Not greater than the whole, I'm afraid.

--  That said, some of those parts are super creepy.  When we finally learn exactly what happened in the house... Agnes calmly making herself a meal after locking away her sister and niece... Then the terrible discovery she makes when she opens the door again... The image of Susannah standing, staring out that window... ~shudder~  And then Agnes covering the window and leaving Susannah to die in the dark.  Yeah, that's scary.

--  The legal system seems to let Peter off fairly lightly for his crimes.  For the conviction of manslaughter (the accidental, drunken killing of his daughter), he spent five years in prison.  Then the incident with Susannah Adderstone took place.  We're told that he was only acting to save Rachel's young life, but to the outside world, it looks like he's just taken an axe to the neck of an innocent young woman, with no provocation.  (She'd have no reason for wanting to harm Rachel.  No violent past and hardly any connection to Peter.  Also, this happened in a house her father owns, whereas Peter is hiding out after having "abducted" Rachel.)  For this offense, he's spent ten years in prison.  He tells us, "in a few years I shall be a free man again." Good grief!  He's literally an axe murderer, in the eyes of the law.  At what point do they decide to just keep you away from other people for the rest of your life?

--  Thinking over the book, there's one thing that happens toward the end that I just can't completely figure out.  I've tried reading reviews, but I've only found other readers equally as confused.  This is the problem:  After killing Susannah A. (possessed by Agnes), he's recounting the two things he had to do.  One was burying Catherine T.'s remains with her mother's in the graveyard.  (He discovered those remains hidden in one of the walls of the room where she died.)  The other task "was to go downstairs and break open the old cupboard that Agnes had boarded up, the one between the kitchen and the study.  What I found there I wrapped in sheets the next morning, after the mist had cleared.  I took the bundles down to the cliff and threw them into the sea.  It was better no one knew.  Tredannack and its inhabitants would not rest any easier for being told."

The question is, what was in the cupboard?  The best solution I can come up with is that it's the rest of the physical evidence of what Agnes did to her sister and niece.  She threw her sister into the ocean, and she hid what was left of her niece behind a wall, but there had also been a lot of other "stuff" in her sister's room.  Mr. Adderstone told Peter, "The room had been ripped to shreds.  Driven mad with thirst and hunger, Susannah had torn the bedclothes to pieces.  She had stripped the paper from the walls.  Her own clothes had been shredded. ... There was a lot of blood."  And after Susannah finally died, Agnes had to get rid of the evidence: "All I know is that somehow she cleared the room."  My guess is that the cupboard/closet was stuffed with all of the ripped fabric and wallpaper-- and whatever Agnes had to use to clean all traces of blood.  She put them in there, then sealed them in, never to be seen again.  Only Rachel-as-Catherine remembered that there used to be a door, and mentioned it to Peter, who apparently put two and two together.

Throwing the stained, befouled shreds of fabric and wallpaper into the sea would've been unwise, because someone might have found them and linked them to Petherick House.  Why she wouldn't have burned or buried them, I can't say.  I'm also not sure how long those kinds of things would last, hidden away in a closet-- but it's the only explanation I can come up with, so until something better comes along...

--  Certain aspects of this book remind me of The Uninvited (a.k.a. Uneasy Freehold)-- only this story is about 100 times darker.

--  Quibbles aside, it was an absorbing read, and I'd like to try another of the author's books, sometime. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Uncle Fred in the Springtime

Uncle Fred in the Springtime
by P.G. Wodehouse

Publisher's Blurb:
Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Fifth Earl of Ickenham, better known as Uncle Fred, is back “to spread sweetness and light” wherever he goes. At the request of Lord Emsworth, Uncle Fred journeys to Blandings Castle to steal the Empress of Blandings before the ill-tempered, egg-throwing Duke of Dunstable can lay claim to her. Disguised as the eminent nerve specialist Sir Roderick Glossop, and with his distressed nephew Pongo in tow, Uncle Fred must not only steal a pig but also reunite a young couple and diagnose various members of the upper class with imaginary mental illnesses, all before his domineering wife realizes he’s escaped their country estate.

My Reaction:
(This was a shared read with Donald.  No specific notes.)

Plenty of laughs, as always!

We agreed that some of the relationships/characters in this book were a bit confusing.  So many dukes, lords, and earls!  (And for us-- simple, modern folk from the U.S. and Sweden-- the distinction between an earl and a duke is negligible, at best.)  So many nieces, nephews, and sons!  We could have used some sort of diagram or chart to keep them sorted.  Of course, keeping track of exact relationships isn't necessary to enjoyment of the wit and humor, and we managed to work things out even without a helpful character list.  ;o)

I think I found this slightly less sparkling and hilarious than some of Wodehouse's other books.  I'm not sure why... It just struck me as less laugh-out-loud and glowing than I remember some of the others being... But still a nice read!

Recommended to Wodehouse fans, but I wouldn't suggest it as an introduction to the author.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Be Buried in the Rain

Be Buried in the Rain
by Barbara Michaels

Publisher's Blurb:
The Past Holds Terrors... 
That Can't Be Forgotten

There are secrets buried at Maidenwood--dark secrets that span generations. Medical student Julie Newcomb, who once spent four miserable childhood years at this rundown Virginia plantation, would rather not resurrect ancient memories, or face her own fears.

Yet Julie cannot refuse her relatives' plea that she spend her summer caring for the bedridden--but still malevolent--family patriarch. Reluctantly, Julie agrees, praying that life at Maidenwood will not be as bleak as before. From the first, though, Julie finds Maidenwood a haunted place, not merely echoing with grim reminders, but filled with dark secrets that will become part of her life even today.

My Reaction:
For the genre, this was pretty good reading.  A lightweight distraction from everyday life.

It seems I can't get through a single Barbara Michaels book without being irritated by something-- this time it was mostly some characters cast from the "stereotypically ignorant, backward, religious Southerner" mold (or maybe more the protagonist's tiresome stereotyping of so many fellow characters)-- but perhaps a little irritation isn't such a bad thing in a book.  It keeps me on my toes.  Besides, if I don't have something to gripe about, what can I put in these book reviews?!  ;o)

But to return to seriousness-- Maybe I was just in the right mood, but I enjoyed the book.  Very readable.  The mystery's not the strongest.  I had most of it figured out and get the feeling that I should've guessed the rest, too.  This was an entertaining read that I'd happily recommend to fellow fans of modern(ish) gothic romance/mystery.

Specifics (with SPOILERS):
-- Published in 1985.  I wonder if younger readers of this book-- the ones who don't remember life without cell phones-- would have a different reading experience than someone my age... I was a kid in 1985.  I never experienced the 80s as a teen, much less as an adult, but I very clearly remember a time when cell phones were not ubiquitous-- before "Internet" was a household word.  I don't know that such a slight variance in age makes as much difference as countless other factors (gender, personality, etc.).  After all, I read and enjoy books published a century or two before I was born.  Still, my experience of those books must be very different from that of contemporary readers.  ...Just an interesting thing to ponder, every once in a while...

--  Joe Danner.  Should I find him an offensive stereotype (ignorant, not-very-bright, former wife-beater turned religious nut)?  I'm not sure if I should, but... I kinda do.  Not that there aren't people like that... (Everywhere, one might add.  Not just in Virginia or the South as a region.)

--  This author's typical heroine seems to have a chip on her shoulder about "women's rights".  This one wasn't the worst case I've seen, but it's still a whiny old song that grinds on my nerves with every chorus.  Julie doesn't want to take care of her horrible grandmother.  She resents the fact that she's expected to fall into line, while her cousin (who will inherit the whole shebang, apparently) is exempt from unpleasant family tasks because he's a man, and men don't have to do that sort of thing.  Well... Don't do it, then.  But no, she "has" to, because her mother will do it, if she doesn't... Ugh.  That's your mother's choice.  (Julie's mother isn't a particularly sympathetic character.  Let her take care of her awful mother, if she feels a female relative must be there.  Fairly heartless to send her daughter to do the job she herself can't stomach...)

--  Julie doesn't win any points by suggesting that the people in the area wouldn't be in favor of women's rights, because they're "rednecks".  *eyeroll*

--  You can count on Barbara Michaels to sneak a little Egyptology into the book.  (It had to be a little game she played with her most faithful readers.  There's something in every book!)  This time it was pathologists who "were able to perform histological sections" on Egyptian mummies.  (They found that the mummies had parasitic worms, back when they weren't quite so mummified. Yuck.)  Oh!  There was also something about someone at the age of eighty seeming "older than the Pyramids" to an eighteen-year-old.

--  "The decay of the house was something they couldn't blame on the damn Yankees.  It had survived the 'War Between the States', as they called it in these parts."  *more eyerolling*

--  When Julie's trying to figure out how she can get a ride home from town:  "Mrs Danner squeaked, 'There's Will Smith, Mr. Danner.  He obliges for some of the ladies.'  'Be quiet, woman.  Will's a drunk and a fornicator.  No decent female would get in that car of his.'"  Ha ha ha... I know "Will Smith" isn't that unusual of a name, but it still gave me a laugh.

--  Julie offers Alan a McDonald's french fry, but he declines.  "'That stuff is poison to your system.  I'd rather starve.'" Have some people always been obnoxious about fast food?  I guess so... 

--  I gather that despite the four years she spent on the old homestead, Julie's supposed to be a city girl.  She carries a stick to ward off rabid possums and rabbits.  Yes, Virginia is crawling with rabid possums, I'm sure.  Based on my own experience in the wilds of the American South, Julie needs to be more concerned about snakes than rabies, of all things.

--  People gave Alan trouble about working on Saturday and Sunday, because one or the other (depending on who's asked) is the Sabbath?  I find that doubtful.  Even if some people didn't exactly approve of people working on the Sabbath, how many would be kooky enough confront a stranger who was working in a field in the middle of nowhere?  Especially in the mid-1980s.  (Did Barbara Michaels have any actual experience in the South?  Did she believe all this crap?)

--  Someone sends Alan a letter: "'You are sinning against God's Holy Word when you dig up dead bodies.  If you don't stop you will be struck by His Rath.'"  *SIGH*  (Reading through my notes is making me wonder if I liked this book so much, after all... I wish the author would've eased up on the "religious nutcase" stereotyping!)

--  "I had wondered how a woman veterinarian could establish a practice in an area like this, where macho traditions prevailed and most of a vet's practice involved farm animals."  (Ouch!  I sprained an eye with all that rolling!)

--  For all her "pro-woman"/"ooh, I'm soooo enlightened" talk, Julie doesn't treat Mrs. Danner very kindly.  (After the incident with the attempted poisoning of the dog, I don't blame her, but this was before that.)  She talks down to her.  Mrs. Danner is not very intelligent.  She's also poor, low-class, bullied by her husband, and (because of that husband) estranged from her children.  Basically, she's not in a very good position, any way you look at it.  Taking all that into consideration, Julie's way of addressing her is not only insulting but at least bordering on cruel.  So much for Julie's being such an open-minded social radical, I guess!

--  I found it amusing that Julie turned out to be so great at "reconstruction" (think Bones), without any serious training or experience.  Maybe we're supposed to gather that her success was really just Melissa's spirit guiding her hands...

--  Martha has people reading to her for hours every day.  It's the mid-1980s.  Why not get her a TV-- a radio-- a set of books-on-tape?!  I'm sure it was addressed early on, but I don't recall.  Probably Martha just doesn't want those things.  Well, I'm a meanie, because if I was cursed with an evil witch who hated me instead of normal, affectionate grandmothers, I'd probably just refuse to read to her every day.  She could make do with TV, radio, etc.  ~shrug~  I must be an awful person.

--  "It's funny how defenseless you feel in your bare feet."  So true!

--  Ok.  My credulity is stretched.  Not by the ghosty parts of the book.  (Well, ok, those aren't realistic, either, of course...)  Julie's mother is too proud to have Julie live with her while she's getting back on her feet after Julie's father leaves them.  Instead, she sends Julie home to the mother she herself can't stand.  Julie is emotionally and physically abused.  Julie blocks out most of those memories-- four years of her youth!-- and it only comes back (in chunks) once she's back in the old house.  Is it possible?  I guess.  But what kind of mother would send her daughter to a place she must have known was awful?  I find it unlikely that Julie would've blocked out all those memories, too.  But whatever...

--  Similarly, Alan is a grown man by the time he meets Martha-- completely in love with Julie (and in a physical relationship with her, no less)-- and yet Martha somehow convinces him that he's essentially worthless and that Julie doesn't really want anything to do with him because of his lowly origins.  ...Yeah.  I'm skeptical.  Martha must've had magical powers...

--  I have to admit that I'd kind of forgotten who Melissa was, until the "exciting conclusion".  The part of the story where she was mentioned didn't make much of an impression, I guess.

--  I'd figured out that Matt was the one intent on destroying the reconstruction.  That was pretty obvious, from the way he reacted to it-- plus it was clear from the beginning that something was up with him.  What I was wrong about, though, was the identity of the skeleton.  I was sure it would turn out to be either the Danner girl or some other girl that Matt had fooled around with and gotten pregnant.  She would've been imprisoned in that little room and eventually she and the infant would've been murdered-- either by Matt or by Martha.  Martha was clearly in on the secret, too.  Well, it wasn't that far off, I guess.

--  The explanation of how Ms. Hornbeak found the Maydon's Hundred graveyard because she was so dim-witted-- just like Julie's ancestor, which meant they were on the same wavelength-- while Alan was just so darned brilliant that he over-complicated things... Hm.

--  The twist at the end is creeeeeepy!  Martha's been going out, burning the clothes and reburying the bodies/skeletal remains every year, on the anniversary of the murders-- every since she killed her sister and niece/nephew?  And the only reason they were found at all, this time, was that Martha had suffered her stroke and as a consequence was unable to go and put them back out of sight before someone else stumbled across them?  Oooooooooh... ~shiver~

--  So, for the sake of that ending... and Elvis the dog... and Alan (whom I liked better than many of the author's romantic heroes)... I guess I can forgive the annoying stereotypes.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"The Ape"

"The Ape"
by E.F. Benson


An Englishman on a tour of Egypt purchases an ancient fragment of sculpture, never guessing that in so doing, he has just taken the first step down a dark and frightening road.

My Reaction:
I liked it!  Maybe waiting so long between Benson's creepy stories has whetted my appetite, but in any case, I enjoyed it.  

Tidbits (with SPOILERS):
--  The story opens with a long description of the setting-- in particular, a detailed rendering of an Egyptian sunset and twilight.  It took me a minute to get into the right mode, but once I did, I found it very effectively written.  I could see it.  I get the impression that readers are "supposed" to be bored by descriptions of nature in fiction-- especially sunsets.  If they're done well, though, I love them.  (L.M. Montgomery is a great author for those fond of beautifully rendered settings.)

--  There are a few stereotypes that probably won't sit well with modern sensibilities. 

--  Early in the story, the little scrap of pottery shaped like a monkey puts me in mind of "The Monkey's Paw", but the similarities are limited.  "The Monkey's Paw" is more intimately horrible-- and a better story, to be honest-- but the sense of evil in "The Ape" is on a much larger scale.

--  Fun Fact:  If you do a web-search for "Tahumet" (the name of the ape demon), "Tagamet" (the heartburn medicine) is suggested.  Safe to say that "Tahumet" was Benson's own creation, then, I guess, and not a real part of Egyptian mythology.

--  Possibly the strangest part of the story for me (even stranger than the AMAZING coincidence of Hugh finding one half of the extremely rare ape talisman, then purchasing the second half from a vendor that same day) is the thing that reminds him of his humanity and saves his soul. 

...So, he has this mended talisman.  He's decided to use it against the woman who has so cruelly led him along and the man that she actually loves.  The apes have brought the two people before him.  All sorts of terrible ideas are dancing through his mind-- but then the woman looks toward him, and her hair has fallen loose during the struggle-- "fallen down and streamed over her shoulders".  "And at that, the sight of a woman's hair unbound, the remnant of his manhood, all that was not submerged in the foulness of his supreme apehood, made one tremendous appeal to him, like some final convulsion of the dying"-- and he decides to have mercy and break the talisman and the spell.  I had no idea that the sight of a woman's hair unbound was so powerful...  I doubt it would prove as effective, these days, when we walk around with it unbound all the time.  ;o)  (It reminds me of old-school Church of God-type stuff.  One of my great-grandmothers believed that women should keep their hair long.  She always did, and wore it up in a bun.  Of course, if I'm not mistaken, she also believed that women shouldn't wear pants...  It was a different time, as they say!)

--  When Hugh breaks the talisman, the couple he's just released seem to be aware only of the "earthquake" and the fact that the horses have fled.  They don't appear to remember being herded by the apes or seeing Hugh on his throne, leaving the reader to puzzle out for him or herself exactly what has just happened.  How much was real?  How much imagined?

Right before this story, there was a "title page" for a short story titled "The Passenger", but no story... I'm not sure if it was a mistake in the e-book or not.  Possibly "The Passenger" is included later in the e-book, and the editor(s) neglected to remove the extra title page.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Silk Vendetta

The Silk Vendetta
by Victoria Holt

Publisher's Blurb:
As long as she can remember, the exquisite Lenore Cleremont has lived at The Silk House, the luxurious English country estate of the wealthy Sallonger family. Neither a slave nor a servant, she has grown into a young woman who has shown promise as a dress designer. But she has also won the heart of the two charismatic Sallonger sons. Then tragedy strikes. And Lenore finds herself playing a central role in a drama that threatens to destroy everything she holds dear...

My Reaction:
This was my first experience reading Victoria Holt.  Growing up, I somehow got the impression that her novels fell into the category of "trashy romance"-- but then I saw her listed with other "gothic romance" authors I enjoy, so it seemed worth a try.  My verdict, based on this one book, is that it's definitely not "trashy" romance.  Most of the time, innuendo is as far as things go.  There's one scene that may shock some readers-- but in general, very little happens "on screen".

That said, I wasn't especially impressed.  I'll read some reviews and try to determine whether this book is representative of the bulk of her work before I decide if I'll try another, at some point.  I wish I'd liked it better, because Holt was such a prolific author; this could've added dozens of books to my "Sounds Interesting" list.

It's not that the book was bad... (Here we go again!  It's my standard damning with faint praise...)  It was readable, but aside from a few parts, it wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped.  Very predictable, with weak "mysteries" dragged out over the whole book.  A couple of times, characters made annoying and illogical choices that just don't make sense.  As a whole, it was fairly bland and repetitive.  The book felt long, and that's the sign of either a bad book or (at least) a bad pairing of book and reader.  I suspect that Victoria Holt simply may not be for me.

Specifics (with SPOILERS):
--  I can never decide whether or not I like Lenore!  I think I liked her in the beginning, but once she became an adult, I was ambivalent.  Well, it's often tiresome when a heroine has every man lusting after her...

--  As if it wasn't predictable enough when something big was going to happen, the narrator frequently felt the need to "warn" the reader.  "Little did I dream that my happiness was soon to come to an end" kind of thing.  (Not a direct quote, but you get the point.)

--  Oh boy.  One of Lenore's suitors has a career in politics.  *YAWN*  "At a by-election I recently became Member of Parliament for Swaddingham," he tells her.  She responds, "How interesting."  Ha ha ha.  Yeah, it's so interesting.  Lenore actually does find it interesting, as we are told again and again.  A life as a politician (or politician's wife)?  Oh, that sounds so "interesting"!  We're supposed to believe that Lenore takes an interest in Drake's conversation of politics, but she rarely has anything more to say about it than that it's "interesting" or "fascinating".  *eyeroll*  She doesn't seem to know any more about politics than Julia, who very obviously pretends to find it "interesting" in a bid to ensnare Drake in her charms. 

--  "'This happy pair will soon be going off to their honeymoon in Florence.  Why does everyone go to Italy for their honeymoon?'"  Well, I kind of agree with Julia on this one.  I guess Florence was a popular place at the time for honeymooning.  I'm sure it has its attractions, but it does seem dull and unimaginative to go where everyone else (of a certain station) goes for a honeymoon...

--  Katie comments that someone they've met in a park (who turns out to be her French grandfather, of course) talks "funny".  Lenore replies that "that was because he was a foreigner".  Only... Katie's great-grandmother lives with them, and she has the same French accent.  It seems unlikely that such a child would say that a Frenchman "talked funny".  Wouldn't she comment instead on the fact that he sounds like her great-grandmother?  A little thing, but it irritated me.  (Maybe I was just in a grumpy mood that night. (g))

--  "That was such a happy morning."  ...And so we the readers prepare for more trouble!

--  So, Lenore's wealthy, successful father who abandoned her mother (who died in childbirth) and never made an effort to find his orphaned child until now, when she's a widow with a child of her own, offers to assist her with the financial aspect of opening a Paris branch of her salon.  Lenore's first response is to look at him "in astonishment".  No!  What a startling idea!  Whoever could have predicted such a thing?!  She then has to be talked (and talked, and guilt-tripped) into accepting his help, even though she is now on friendly terms with him.  Because Lenore is a saint or something.  I don't know.  What I do know is that she's getting on my nerves.

--  Ok, here's one of those irritating, irrational decisions.  Drake cares for Lenore and has every reason to suppose that she returns his affection.  Then Julia hints/lies that Lenore's mysterious French benefactor (i.e. her long-lost father) is some sort of lover, and that she's fooling around with him in exchange for his investment in the Paris salon.  And so this supposedly calm, intelligent, level-headed man is so distraught that he dines with Julia and allows himself to become so drunk that he wakes up in her bed (after which she of course pretends she's pregnant to force him into marriage).  Yes, that makes sense.  It wouldn't be more normal for him to ask Lenore what's going on-- or ask anyone other than Julia, who has blatantly butted in multiple times during his courtship of Lenore.

--  What purpose did the Aldringham ghost serve?  It was patently obvious that Julia was behind her convenient "appearance", so it lent no spookiness.  Are we supposed to believe that that is why Drake decided to put off his proposal?  He never mentions it as a motivating factor...  It seems fairly pointless.  

--  If it weren't for that whole mess with Julia, I'd infinitely prefer Drake to the Compte.  I mean, yes, he's a politician, but no-one's perfect... ;o)  I was disappointed by that twist in the plot.  ...Also by the existence of Katie, since she seemed to add so little to the story, imho.  I don't love romances in which the heroine (or hero, for that matter) has a child. 

--  Speaking of Katie, we're told that she's an observant, intelligent child, but I don't see it.  I recall being eleven (Katie's age toward the end of the book), and some of the things she says don't ring true for a bright child of that age.

For instance, after joking with the Compte about his being a giant or an ogre or a cannibal, Katie is discussing him with Lenore: "'He's not a giant,' said Katie.  'But he's better than a giant.  He makes me laugh.  I like him, don't you, Mama?'  I was silent.  She looked disappointed.  'He doesn't really eat people.  That was only a joke.'" 

Then later on, Katie tells the Countess about the oubliette in the castle, and the Countess jokingly wishes that the salon had one so that she could lock away a particularly difficult customer.  Katie very helpfully explains, "If you leave them there they will die."   ...Um, yep.  Very astute, Katie.

After Julia makes her absurd drunken scene at her party, "Katie was too observant not to have noticed that something was wrong.  'What did Aunt Julia do?' she asked.  I pretended to look puzzled.  'It was something,' she went on.  'People's mouths go straight when they talk about it as though they think it was wrong and are rather pleased about it.'"  ...Their mouths go straight?  *eyeroll*

I think the problem is that Holt wanted to make Katie adorable, but eleven-year-olds just don't say things like that, and I doubt that eleven-year-olds of the past did, either.  Possibly Holt hadn't spent much time around children, when she wrote this novel. (And had forgotten what it was like to be eleven, too, apparently.)

--  Some of the descriptions of the Compte ("ironic, amused and sardonic eyes", "dark, rather saturnine good looks") make me think he was meant to be a version of Mr. Rochester.  ...However, there is no comparison.

--  Oh my gosh!  The repetition!  Ugh.  I hate repetition.  If the story's very complicated-- if it's been twenty long chapters since something happened-- ok, maybe you need to remind us of it.  But it should be done as lightly and elegantly as possible, not just repeated almost word-for-word.  And no offense, but this book was not that convoluted.  It's pretty obvious what's going on-- not that much to sidetrack you.  It was not necessary to repeat parts of it again and again. 

--  At one point late in the book, Lenore tell us that she "did not trust Charles.  There were secrets in his eyes.  I knew that he would have no compunction in destroying me."  Well, duh!  Have you met Charles before?!  Oh, wait.  That's right.  You grew up in the same house with him.  He tried to force unwanted attentions on you at that party, and when you refused him, he was so angry that he later locked you in a cold, scary mausoleum.  Then he seemed like he was about to rape you on the spot where your husband (his brother) had died... Oh, and then there was the time that he tried to blackmail you into sleeping with him, threatening to destroy your reputation (and Drake's) and hurt your daughter with lies, if you refused.  Yeah, it's certainly a new and frightening development that Charles (of all people) might stoop so low as to try to implicate you and Drake in the murder of his sister.  *eyeroll-to-end-all-eyerolls*

--  Though I found most of the "mystery" elements of the book sadly lacking, I have to admit that I hadn't completely worked out the "main mystery".  I knew that Charles had stolen the method for Sallon Silk.  (Obviously.)  I knew that someone had murdered Phillip.  But I mistakenly suspected that Charles had had Phillip killed in order to prevent Phillip from revealing the theft (assuming he'd discovered it or was about to do so).  Not quite right (as became clear when Lenore's uncle seemed so shocked to discover that it was not Phillip who had "invented" Sallon Silk). 

--  The second character decision that makes no sense to me relates to that mystery.  When it became obvious that one of the brothers had stolen the "formula" for Sallon Silk, why did the St. Allengdre family not pursue legal action against him-- Phillip, since that's who they suspected of the theft?  Maybe it wouldn't be a simple thing to do, but why not try?!  It was certainly worth the investment of time and money, since Sallon Silk was so revolutionary.  If it (along with the seduction and suicide of Heloise) was worth murdering for, why would it not be worth legal action?

...Maybe that's the answer, right there.  If they brought legal action, they couldn't as easily take blood revenge.  The legal proceedings would reveal motive, and maybe people would think twice about Phillip's death... Anyway, it still strikes me as a very odd course of action to choose, even aside from the moral question.

--Well, that's it.  I'll be interested to see how Victoria Holt fans rank this novel against the others.  Is it worth trying another, at some point?

Edited to Add:
I've read a few reviews, now, and some even go so far as to say that this is one of her better books.  Hm... Not encouraging.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan

(Edited) Publisher's Blurb:
In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. Her world is thrown into chaos, and she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

My Reaction:
It was alright.  The book was very readable, as evidenced by the fact that I flew through it in a few days (which is fast for me, because these days, I don't often like to sit and read for hours at a time).  I just didn't really like it.  The protagonist lost me somewhere along the way, and at that point, I stopped caring what happened to her.

I originally thought that I might try to read the second book in the trilogy, at some point, in the hope of finding more resolution for some of the remaining characters-- but since it looks like the protagonist of the second book is a totally different character, I doubt it's worth the effort.  I feel like the return on my investment of time in the characters in this first book didn't reach my expectations, so it's difficult to jump into the next one with the same level of enthusiasm.

Complaints aside, it was a decent read.  I'd recommend it to die-hard fans of YA (emphasis on the A) fiction with a taste for zombies and bittersweet romance. 

Particulars (with SPOILERS):
--  As always, it's interesting to see what the characters in a given zombie novel call the zombies (since it's rarely "zombies").  This time, we have "the Unconsecrated" who inhabit "the Forest of Hands and Teeth" (thus the title).  Toward the end of the book, someone refers to them as "Mudo", which apparently is Spanish for "speechless" (or mute).

--  The story starts off promisingly enough, though I'm not crazy about the present tense.  At least the setting is interesting-- a village that believes itself to be the last human settlement in the world.  On the other hand, I was less than thrilled that the village is run by "the Sisterhood".  A handful of all-powerful, possibly cray-cray religious folks bossing everybody around.  Now, that's original.

--  Have you seen M. Night Shyamalan's The Village?  Prepare for flashbacks.

--  "I know that in my life there have been breaches but I also know that I am very good at blocking out the memories that serve me no purpose."

--  "Who we are and why we are here has been lost to history, lost because our ancestors were too busy trying to survive to remember and pass on what they knew.  What little remnants we once had-- like my mother's picture of my many-greats-grandmother standing in the ocean-- were destroyed in the fire when I was a child.  We know of nothing beyond our village except the Forest, and nothing beyond the Forest at all."

Now, that's extremely convenient for this type of story, and I suppose it's possible, but I never cease to find it very unlikely.  Unless the first generation or two of survivors were totally devoid of interest in personal history, there must be at least oral traditions passed down... And I guess there are, in this story.  (All those stories that become Mary's obsession.)  Still, I persist in thinking that more history would exist.  Survival would come first, yes, but there would be time to tell the children and grandchildren about the past-- and in a place like this, where everyone can read and write, someone would probably have written down some things.

--  Early in the book, I sympathize with Mary's difficult (and melodramatic) situation.  Father and mother recently (un)dead... Cast off by her only sibling...  Ignored by the boy she'd planned to marry (in the absence of a better offer)... Homeless and left with no real option but to make a lifelong commitment to a religious group in which she feels no interest.  I don't blame her for snatching at every chance for happiness-- every stolen moment with Travis.  But at some point that changes, and I lose sympathy for her.  And by the time she finally has Travis, only to realize that he's "not enough", I'm frustrated and nearly lose all interest in what happens to her, from that point on.  ...I'm not saying that such paradoxes and confusions don't happen in real life.  There's plenty of waste and misunderstanding, but that doesn't mean I enjoy reading about it. 

--  In its relatively lighter moments, this book reminds me of The Witch of Blackbird Pond with zombies and more desperation.

--  Ah, the classic love triangle-- or love trapezoid?  Meh.  All the swapping (or supposed swapping) of affections is a bit too convenient.  Also, how do we go from "woe is me, nobody loves Mary" to "everybody loves Mary, nobody loves Cass"?  If Harry has always loved Mary-- in his way-- why does he not speak for her after her mother dies?  (Did I miss/forget an explanation?)  He does eventually-- but why not right away?  It's strange.

--  I was kind of hoping that Cass would end up with Jed (and their adopted son, Jacob) and Mary would eventually realize that she loved poor old Harry (after he proved himself to her in some way, if only by sticking with her through adversity).  But no, that would've been too easy.  Mary had to be obsessed with the ocean instead.  *sigh*  (What can I say?  I'm a terribly boring person who likes happy endings.)

--  While they wait outside the first village, after the breach, someone (Cass or Mary?) says/thinks, "Everyone we have ever known, the only place we have ever been, every possession: gone."  ...But how is that possible?  Many were on platforms.  Shouldn't most of those people still be alive?

--  Whoever was in charge of the safety platform system didn't do much of a job!  Sounds like there may not have been sufficient room-- and then there's the whole issue of people pulling up the ladders too soon, leaving neighbors behind to die.  Some of that would happen, I'm sure, but this seems excessive, what with all their so-called planning and drilling.

--  We learn that the children of the village are trained in the use of weapons, but it doesn't seem like many of the villagers knew how to defend themselves.  Harry can barely aim an arrow.  All those villagers should have had weapons in their homes-- or at least on the platforms-- and begun killing the Unconsecrated at once.

For that matter, it doesn't seem like the village's defense team was working hard enough at killing the zombies around the fence.  Ok, it's an endless job, but good grief!  You make an effort.  That's a problem I had throughout this book.  It felt like the author saw potential "issues" with the world she'd built and tried to explain why this or that was as it was-- the lack of knowledge of their own history, for instance-- but the explanations just didn't satisfy me.  Maybe this is more a problem with me than with the book.  

--  A flawed protagonist is supposed to be a good thing, but Mary is so frustrating!  She's downright obnoxious, at times.  (Bluntly announcing that Beth is dying, for instance, instead of finding a humane way to address the problem.) Then there are the times when she's just borderline psychotic.  (Swaddling and holding a zombie baby.  Rolling around in the mud and screaming at the zombies.  Blathering on and on and ON about the ocean.) 

--  There is a lot of chin-grabbing in this book.  It's kind of funny after a while.

--  While they're in Village XIV, why don't they at least try to kill off the zombies?  (They have tons of weapons, including bows and arrows.  And don't tell me there are too many zombies for it to make a difference.  Good grief, people!  One dead zombie is one zombie less to eat your brains!  Come on!  It's worth a try!)  Why don't they at least try to figure out a way to get everyone in the same place (and then a way to leave the village, if necessary) before it's so urgent that there's no choice but to act immediately?  Why don't they fortify the door with furniture or something?  Oh my gosh!  It's just so, so, SO annoying.  (These characters are too passive to survive the zombocalypse.)

--  When Travis is dead, Mary "whimpers" that she loooooved him.  "He was everything.  Why couldn't I see that he was everything?"  ARGHLGRRHGLE!!! *sigh*

--  How are these fenced paths still clear enough for them to easily walk?  Most of them have not been "kept up" by people for years and years, right?  Maybe in some places it would be fine and passable for generations.  Other places, I think it wouldn't be so simple.  There would be significant brush in the way, if nothing else.

--  "I wonder for a moment what my life would have been like if I had never held Harry's hand under the water that day.  If I had finished the laundry on time, joined my mother on the hill while she looked for my father.  Kept her from straying too close to the fences and getting infected.  I never would have joined the Sisters, I never would have fallen in love with Travis or met Gabrielle.  I never would have learned their secrets and pined for a life outside the fences.  I would have married Harry; our children would have grown up knowing Cass and Travis' children, Jed and Beth's."

...Well, not really.  Gabrielle still would've come.  The Sisters probably would still have sent her out to the zombies, and so the breach still would've happened.  If we're supposed to believe that everyone in the village confines is died, then Mary and her pals all would've died, too.  So, no.  No happily ever after that way, either.

--  Mary considers that if she'd gone with Harry, she "could have been content.  Maybe even happy.  But fulfilled?"  Is Mary supposed to be some sort of post-apocalyptic feminist heroine, seeking some mythical, probably non-existent "fulfillment"?  I'm not a fan.  I mean, don't get me wrong-- I think women have as much right as men to choose their lot in life.  It's just... How will finding the ocean "fulfill" Mary more than building a "content", "even happy", normal life with Harry?  (Well, as normal as it can be when he's the brother of her now-dead lover-boy... So, not very normal.)  Anyway, it's just... utterly annoying that Mary's driving passion throughout the entire book-- oh, except for that part when all she wants is Travis, which ends as soon as she has him-- is THE OCEAN.  What does she plan to do when she gets there?  No clue.  But she has to see it.  And it can't wait until her companions are safely settled somewhere, or something.  Nope.  She's gonna see that darn ocean, no matter what happens to her brother, her best friend from childhood, and the boy who has loved her forever.  *eyeroll*  What a wonderful, strong person. 

--  So is Jed dead?  I guess so?

--  "For a while I let the water push and pull me, lift me, hold me as I fall.  I watch the sky, the clouds, the sun, the birds darting overhead.  I wait for peace and happiness but can only think of Travis and Harry and Cass and Jacob.  About how I have lost everything but this place.  I try to think about Jed, shame holding me back from remembering how he came after me.  How he died saving me.  But a part of me also thinks he could be proud that I made it, that I survived.  That he knew what he was doing when he stormed into that Forest after me."  ...Well, it's alright, then.

--  So.  Mary goes swimming in water that is soon becoming littered with chopped up zombies.  (Yuck.)  And then she goes back to the lighthouse home of the new guy (unknown name and age).  ...Hm.  Well, it was certainly worth the journey!  ;oP

-- And with that... blah. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pat of Silver Bush

Pat of Silver Bush
by L.M. Montgomery

Publisher's Blurb:
Patricia Gardiner loved Silver Bush more than anything else in the world. She was born and raised in the beautiful old-fashioned house on Prince Edward Island, "where things always seemed the same" and good things never changed. But things do change at Silver Bush--from her first day at school to the arrival of her new own first romance. Through it all, Pat shares her experiences with her beloved friends and discovers the one thing that truly never changes: the beauty and peace she will always find at Silver Bush--the house that remembers her whole life.

My Reaction:
It's been years since my last re-read of Pat of Silver Bush.  (I'm not sure when that was, exactly...)  I clearly remembered certain episodes and aspects of the book, but others had grown dim.  As for the book as a whole... I think I sympathize less with Pat now than I did as a teenager.  Her obsession with Silver Bush and the intensity of her hatred of all change-- always a bit strange-- seemed even stranger on this read-through.  The book still holds a place in my heart-- particularly Jingle/Hilary and McGinty and Judy-- but it's not quite the same...

I'd still recommend it, but only after the Anne and Emily series.   If you love those, Pat is worth reading-- but if not, I doubt Pat will be to your liking, either.

Specific Reactions (with LOTS of SPOILERS):
--  This was published in 1933.

--  "'The girls in school are nice but I don't love any of them.  I don't want to love any one or anything but my own family and Silver Bush.'"  To say that Pat is insular doesn't put it strongly enough.  That level of desire for isolation feels strange in a child, imho.  I understand shyness-- but such a young person not wanting to "love any one or anything" but your own family and family home... It's just weird!  I can understand older characters being sad about the passage of time and some of the less pleasant changes that time brings-- but it feels wrong for a child to be afraid of "happy" changes, like the marriage of an aunt or the impending arrival of a baby. 

--  Pat and Jingle "build a bridge of stones" over Jordan (a brook) for ease of crossing.  It can't have taken them long, because they've just had lunch (if I remember correctly) and afterward still have time for "an afternoon of prowling and rambling"-- and yet it's still standing ten years later!  (Unless they rebuilt it, at some point...)  Anyway, I've always wondered how one goes about building a bridge of that sort-- and what the bridge would have looked like.  Admittedly, I don't know much about engineering, but it seems tricky.  Two kids building a sturdy little footbridge is amazing.

--  Though his early obsession with houses is perhaps a bit too precocious, Jingle/Hilary is one of Montgomery's best, most loveable heroes (not that that's saying much).  ...Which makes it all the more frustrating that Pat suffers the typical, stubborn blindness where he's concerned. 

--  "'Uncle Lawrence doesn't mind McGinty but he laughs at him and McGinty can't bear to be laughed at.'  'Dog's don't,' said Pat knowingly, out of her extensive acquaintance of three dogs."  ...Well, I've never noticed dogs not liking to be laughed at, in general... Maybe if you laugh particularly rudely or cruelly, the smarter dogs might notice, but just a friendly laugh at their antics?  They're more likely to get excited and happy than to seem hurt.  (And I've known more than three dogs, so I'm an expert.)

--  I don't care for Sid (including his name).

--  "Judy began to talk of getting ready to hook a big crumb-cloth for the dining room, a bigger one than Aunt Judith's of which she was so proud."  Sounds like a crumb-cloth is just a rug that goes under the table.  I wish we had pictures of some of the things mentioned in these old books... Judy's rugs, for instance...

--  The ethereal quality of Pat's nearly-always-absent Mother has been discussed-- but it's still striking.  Pat is the only of Montgomery's "big 3" heroines to not be an orphan.  Both parents are living-- and they are present in the book-- but I so much prefer Judy to Pat's mother that it comes as a shock when some Great Tragedy sends Pat running home from school:  "Oh, to get home to mother... mother now, not Judy.  Judy did for little griefs but for this, only mother..."  ...It's just that Judy feels more like Pat's mother than her mother does!

-- On that topic... I know some people hate Judy's bizarre dialect, but I actually love it.  It may not be remotely realistic, but I can hear her in my head when I read-- I'm even coming to be comfortable with the the "oh, oh"-- and... she's cozy.

--  When Pat comes home from a visit and discovers that her father has shaved off his moustache, he has to promise to let it grow back before she'll stop crying.  Eventually she gets used to his new look and doesn't hold him to the promise, but that's still simply ridiculous.  What a terribly spoiled child!

--  A cat falls down the well.  He survives and is rescued-- but Judy says they'll have to drag water from Jordan (the nearby stream) until they can have the well cleaned.  Which leads me to wonder a couple of things.  First, how does one clean a well?  Second, would brook water really be safer than water from a well that a cat merely fell into?  It's not like the cat was dead in the well.... Just wondering.

--  At one point, Pat's mother waits for word from Mr. Gardiner regarding his decision to either move the family out west or stay where they are.  She clearly wants very much to stay on P.E.I., but intends to follow her husband's decision-- whatever it might be-- without demur.  The situation reminded me of Mrs. Ingalls and the girls following Pa out further and further onto the unpopulated prairies.  Ma would rather have stayed closer to home and family, I'm sure, but she went wherever Pa wanted, because he was the Head of the Family.  Talk about different times!  I'm fairly traditional, but I'm glad there's more a of a partnership, these days.  I want to have some say in where I live.  Shockingly modern.  ;o)

--  "Jingle was always on the lookout for windows.  They had a peculiar fascination for him.  He averred that the windows of a house made or marred it."   Well, windows are the eyes of a house-- and the eyes are the windows to the soul-- so obviously they're vital to the expression and attitude of a building.

--  "Mr. Gordon Keys at the bridge keeps his wife in order by crocheting lace whenever she won't do as he says.  She hates to see him do it and so she gives in."  ...Have to agree with the wife on that one...  Sorry, male crocheters of lace!

-- "'I'm clane missing me guess if he don't be in Parliamint be the time he's a bit bald.  Ye're not nading inny great intilligence for that.'"  So true. 

--  Judy and Pat discuss what Pat remembers of "the Great War"-- and at the end of the conversation, Judy says "it's all over now, and I'm hoping the world will have more sinse than iver to get in a mess like the same agin, more be token that the women can be voting"--  because of course LMM didn't know in 1933 that WWII was less than a decade away...  The conversation made me wonder what age Pat and Hilary would be at the beginning and end of WWII.  Pat was 5 when the armistice was signed (1918), so that would make her about 26 in 1939 and 32 in 1945.  Hilary is two years older than Pat, so he'd be 28 and 34...

--  "'They don't call them billets-doux now, Judy,' she said, gravely.  'They call them mash notes.'  'They would that.  The uglier the better nowadays.'"  Amen to that.  Only, can you imagine what poor Judy (or my own great-grandmother) would've thought of "sexting" and the like?  ...Probably best not to imagine!

--  By the time I was the age Pat is when Bets dies (not sure of the exact number), I don't think I had a "best friend" anymore.  Certainly not a friend as close as that.  It would've shaken and pained me to lose any of my high school friends, but I wouldn't have been so utterly devastated, because we simply weren't that close...  My best-friendships with other girls were mostly an elementary-school thing, fading during the middle-school years.  Is that a sign of changing times or more just a difference in personality and circumstance?

--  "'As for me poor Lester, they tell me he's rale down-hearted now that his temper fit do be over.  I'm afraid it's ye that do be the deluthering cratur, Patsy.  He did be thinking ye were rale fond av him.'"  I can usually understand Judy perfectly, but "deluthering" has me stumped!

--  There's a reference to "Victorian monstrosities with towers and cupolas"-- and we learn that young Pat hates bay windows.  Hmph.  I like bay windows-- and I would be so excited to live in a Victorian monstrosity with a tower and cupola! 

-- "Children ran about the grounds like small roses."  ...Okay...  Odd turn of phrase!

--  Some of the things those elderly "uncles" and "cousins" (not really relatives) say to Pat!  It's bad enough when her elderly great-great aunts criticize her looks to her face, when she's a child-- but Pat's eighteen by the end of the book, and these old men are still vocally appraising her beauty or lack thereof-- or saying they'll "take her if she liked".  Yuck.  Talk of dirty old men!

-- I love the beautiful descriptions of the landscape and home life.  Though there are charming descriptions of all seasons in this book, Pat and "her" books always feel like autumn to me-- and seeing as autumn is my very, very favorite, that's a compliment.  ;o) 

--  I don't think I'll be reading Mistress Pat soon.  I remember that it's much darker than Pat of Silver Bush-- and that's dark enough!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Queen Lucia

Queen Lucia 
by E.F. Benson

Blurb (from Kirkus):
Queen Lucia, the first in the series, follows Mrs. Lucas (Lucia to her most intimate friends) through a lengthy and often hilarious campaign to derail the career of a would-be rival to the throne of cultural arbiter. The plot, however, is less important than the pratfalls.

My Reaction:
(This was a shared read with Donald, so there aren't any specific notes.)

This was my first time re-reading a Lucia book since my first read-through, several years ago.  I had (have) only vague memories of "what happened when" in the series-- and apparently I've forgotten at least some of it almost entirely-- so it was next-best-thing to reading it for the first time.  Also, there was the extra fun of sharing the laughs with someone, which is the best way to enjoy humorous novels, I think.

Altogether, I think it was a success.  I certainly enjoyed the re-reading (even more than the first time around, I think), and Donald was laughing, too-- always a good sign.  Benson excels at comedy of manners.  The characters and their silly (usually petty) human behavior are the book.  The plot is episodic and is merely there to showcase the stars-- Lucia and company. 

I've seen the Lucia books compared to the works of P.G. Wodehouse, which is perhaps setting readers up for disappointment.  True, they're both British humor, but in atmosphere, they're very different.

Wodehouse's worlds always seem sparkling and happy to me.  His strength is glittering, brilliant delivery and convoluted plots that you just know will work out (amazingly, unrealistically) in the end.  Lucia's world is more grounded in reality, though the characters' foibles are exaggerated and put on proud display.  Oftentimes, you may not particularly like Lucia and her "friends", but you love reading about them.  On the other hand, you always sympathize with poor Wooster. (Yes, I'm reducing Wodehouse's canon to Wooster.  See if you can stop me!) While Wooster's aunts insult him (outrageously and hilariously) to his very face, Benson's crew is more likely to smile disingenuously and give a back-handed compliment-- or gossip wickedly behind your back.  They're rather cut-throat, in a very restrained, respectable way.  Both are wonderful reads, but not that similar in tone and style.

...Well, anyway, as I was saying...
A thoroughly enjoyable read!   I'm looking forward to the next one (whenever we get around to it).

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Dead Room

The Dead Room
by Robert Ellis

Publisher's Blurb:
A young woman has been found, brutally murdered and left on gruesome display in the "safety" of her own home. The atrocity kicks off an investigation into a bizarre string of increasingly disturbing murders, all believed to be perpetrated by someone of unprecedented savagery and cunning.

As the city's panic rises, civil attorney Teddy Mack is thrown headlong into the grisly homicide case—and into a world of dirty politics and corrupt justice, where deceptions are as deadly as a killer's twisted secrets. Now, another woman is about to meet the same horrific fate as the others. To end a madman's reign, Teddy must enter his maze—a place of unimaginable terror…and shocking revelations.

With his second thriller, and more than 375 FIVE STAR Amazon reviews, L.A. Times bestselling author Robert Ellis delivers an explosive read with full-blown characters, a world stacked with twists and turns, and an emotional intensity that burns white hot.

My Reaction: 

This is one of those books that I find difficult to judge.  On one hand, it certainly wasn't one of the worst books I'd ever read.  Competently written.  Not a ton of typos.  Everything more or less makes sense-- or, well, is explained-- by the end of the book.  It even goes beyond the "usual fare" of the genre and tries to make you think.  But... I simply didn't really enjoy the reading-- not to the point that I'd recommend it to a random reader.  (For someone who can't get enough of legal thrillers, yes, I'd recommend it.)  For whatever reason, I never particularly liked the main character, and it felt like it took me forever to make any progress in the book.  I wanted to finish it, but I didn't want to read it, if you know what I mean.

Specific Comments (with SPOILERS):
--In his foreword, the author indicates that he selected Philadelphia as his setting because it's just sooo schmancy-- "the style of the city, its relationship with art and history and its European feel"-- even though (according to him), "of all the cities that could have been chosen, Philadelphia is perhaps the least likely place this story could have occurred".    ...Now, my question is this: What, exactly, is so unlikely to have happened in Philadelphia?  I assume he means the corruption in the DA's office/law enforcement/politicians?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  Is Philadelphia supposed to be especially uncorrupted?  No offense, but I doubt it's entirely without corruption, just like any other place.  In any case, the foreword felt odd.

--Our "hero's" name is Teddy Mack.  Teddy?  I always feel obliged to make excuses for myself when I-- of all people-- dare to nit-pick over character names, but "Teddy"?  The only other Teddy I can think of at the moment (beyond Teddy Ruxpin) is Teddy Kent (from L.M. Montgomery's Emily series).  Teddy Kent is one of the milquetoastiest, wishy-washiest, unheroic romantic heroes ever.  Such a disappointment.

--And the serial killer's name is Eddie Trisco!  Incidentally, Eddie is another name I dislike.  (I knew an Eddie in school.  The less said about him, the better.)  But the odd part (imho) is "Trisco".  Is that an actual surname? (Looked it up.  It's rare, but there are "dozens" in the U.S.)  Anyway, the name makes me think of Nabisco Triscuits.  ...Probably just me.

--For 2002, Teddy Mack does an awful lot of smoking.  Which, I mean, that's his business, but it's mentioned very frequently.  Also, on at least a few occasions, he flicks a cigarette butt out into his surroundings.  As I understand it, that's littering.  And yet this is a character who is so obnoxiously self-righteous regarding suburban sprawl and the destruction of the natural beauty of the landscape.  An odd contradiction, imho.

--"He looked across the street [from the farmhouse home he shares with his mother] where the open fields had been eaten up by one housing development after the next just as his father had said they would.  The big houses were set down in haphazard clusters as if the result of a tornado, the architecture cheap and grotesque.  Even worse, none of the people who lived in these homes believed in planting trees.  Instead they preferred the open look, marring the once pastoral setting with a show of money and turning the rolling hills into a garish eyesore.  To Teddy, the layout reminded him of a graveyard."

...Oh, come on.  I don't love housing developments, either-- and I do love trees and natural beauty-- but Teddy rubs me the wrong way.  What does he propose should happen instead?  (Seriously, what is the alternative he would suggest?)  Have people live in apartment buildings?  Spread out the dwellings, so that the view is preserved, but some people have an even longer commute?  What? 

...And as for the "cheap" and "grotesque" architecture-- sorry, Teddy, but you don't get to choose what people's houses look like.  Good grief!  I don't like the way a lot of buildings look, either, but it's just a fact of life.  I also don't like the way some people dress, but in the end, as long as they're within the realm of decency, there's nothing I can do about it-- and that's as it should be.  Besides, who should get to decide the architecture of someone's home if not the person building/buying that home?! 

--There were a few technical errors.  This one was especially egregious:  "grunt and grown"!  Ha ha ha!  Yeah, that one really made me "grown".  Then someone "glanced at the Trisco's house".  No, there's not someone known as "the Trisco", so it should've been "the Triscos' house", because multiple Triscos live there.  (Multiple little animated Nabisco Triscuits with faces and stick-figure arms and legs drawn on them... Only they're EVIL Triscuits, and one of them is a serial killer.)

--"Mace had never bothered Eddie particularly.  For the life of him, he didn't know why."  Well, that's weird. 

--Nash and Teddy discover that there's a serial killer with a definite "type".  So the police haven't noticed 10+ young women going missing-- over the course of about a year-- who look similar enough to be sisters?  Seems doubtful.  Even in a large city, don't they keep photos of the missing on a wall or something where you'd see them all at one time?  If they were really so similar, it seems strange that someone wouldn't have noticed-- maybe a family member of one of the missing women.

--"Teddy had wondered why fifty works of art were on display in the main meeting room at Curran-Fromhold Prison and asked the assistant warden about it on his way out the other night.  They were part of the one percent rule maintained by the city.  ... If you were planning to build within the city limits, then one percent of your construction budget had to be designated for public art no matter what the amount.  The one percent rule had transformed the city.  Apparently, there weren't any exceptions."  ...Yay, more ugly modern sculptures plopped down in front of buildings.  Seriously, though, how many people like those things?  Forcing people to commission art... hm.

--At one point, Teddy (lawyer for the defense) and the DA/ADA observe an autopsy.  Does this really happen?  I thought the Medical Examiner (or whatever the title is) did that alone, then submitted a report-- or the lawyers/investigators could come talk with the ME after the autopsy.  But that's probably based on what I've seen in TV shows and movies; I don't know how it works in Real Life.

--Teddy's little romance/fling with Carolyn Powell... is pointless, really.  Why was it even in the book, since we learn at the end that the relationship doesn't last?  Just there to complicate things?  To add another layer?  To sex up the story, because that's how things are done?  I can't respect a character who hops into bed with someone s/he barely knows for a one-time thing.  (Or maybe it's just that I don't like Teddy...)

--Twice (I think) Teddy refers to the "scent of Carolyn Powell's sex".  I loathe that turn of phrase.  There has to be a better way to get the point across, if it must be mentioned at all.  It's just-- yuck.

--"It settled in with the subtlety of a death ray."  ...Um, what?  I didn't know that "death rays" were particularly subtle... In the old sci-fi movies, didn't death rays usually make a humming noise and look like a giant, glowing laser beam?  Never heard of a silent, invisible, or otherwise subtle death ray before.

--Good grief, author!  Yes!  YES, we GET IT!  You named the shady detective "Michael Jackson"!  So very clever and humorous of you!  And yes, we know that's who you mean when you re-introduce the character into the story.  You don't have to point out that it's Michael Jackson the detective you mean-- "not the dancer".  Augh!  ...At least three or four times we get something like this: "Michael Jackson got out, not the dancer but the detective with tired legs and an old gun who'd worked with the DA since Andrews got rolling."  Is the author trying to be funny with this whole thing? Because if so, I suggest that in future he stay away from comedy.  Also, who would define Michael Jackson as a dancer rather than a singer?  Sure, he danced, too, but wouldn't you describe him as a singer first?  Weird.

--Someone describes the effect of an overdose of some drug (Ecstasy? Speed? can't recall) upon a person's body: "Steam would have been venting from her body.  Her internal organs would've felt hot to the touch."  Is that true?  I can easily believe that internal organs might feel hot, but steam venting from the body?

--So... Eddie Trisco is described by the profiler as an animal.  He's whacked-out on drugs half the time.  He has extreme mental illness.  A delusional druggie.  And yet he reads the papers closely and well enough that he recognizes the ADA on sight and remembers the name of the DA.  He even remembers the law firm of the attorney representing Holmes!  I guess it's possible, but it seems unlikely.  (Of course, he's also an independently wealthy artiste.  I don't think the author was going for ultimate realism, here.)

--The Crazy Glue murder?  Horrific.  The most terrifying thing in the book, I think.

--"As Eddie dug into his pocket for his wallet, he noticed the Tootsie Pops stuffed into a jar beside a cigarette display.  Even better, they weren't out of grape pops.  Eddie had read somewhere that grapes were good for the cardiovascular system.  He tried to eat at least one grape flavored Tootsie Pop a day, but they were hard to find.  The word must have gotten out, he figured."  I had to laugh.  Does that mean I have a sick sense of humor, laughing at the bizarre logic of a deranged murderer?  (See, author?  This was much more amusing than the Michael Jackson bit.)

--Trisco's family: "Most of their individual contributions went to conservative candidates running for every type of office in the nation.  But the big money, some checks written for a million dollars or more, went directly to the national committee in Washington."  Well, of course the murderer's family is conservative.  Duh!

--At one point, both Trisco and Teddy, observing Teddy's mother, think of her as resembling an angel.  Ooooh, so deep.  So meaningful.  ...What are we supposed to get from that?

--More than once, Teddy thinks about the smell of Carolyn Powell's skin.  Ick.  Skin doesn't have much of a smell, on its own, in my experience.  Unless she's been using perfume or scented lotion-- or hasn't been using deodorant-- you'd need to have your nose shoved right up against her skin to smell anything, even if she does exude some sort of mystical Woman Smell.

--Twice Eddie Trisco's father is described as having "fangs".  *eyeroll*  I can't help but think of fangs popping out à la True Blood.

--When Teddy's car sinks through the ice and descends into the lake (man-made from a dam), he sees houses still standing on the lake's bottom.  Not only that, but he can see clearly enough to observe faces at the windows.  (Trisco has arranged the bodies of his victims down there, treating them as life-size dolls.)  Teddy even recognizes the faces of a couple of the women from missing persons posters!  Aside from the horror of the scene, all I could think was... Would you really be able to see that clearly at the bottom of a lake?  I recently read Westlake's Drowned Hopes, where lake turbidity plays a major role.  Maybe this particular lake, in this particular season is crystal clear, but I find it doubtful.  Convenient, though, since Teddy needs to discover those bodies.

--So Teddy sees Eddie Trisco's initials (E.T.) and starts thinking of him as "the extraterrestrial".  *violent eyeroll*  Worse, someone in the media catches onto the same idea, and soon that's Trisco's ridiculous nickname in the news.  (Everyone knows that serial killers need a catchy nickname in the news.  Ya know... Something spooky but also a little cute-- like "the Veggie Butcher". Helps sell papers.)

--While he's creeping around ol' E.T.'s house, Teddy repeatedly listens for the sirens of approaching police (because he told someone to call it in).  If the police know they're headed for the home of a suspected serial killer, would they really go in with sirens blaring?  I thought they'd try a sneak attack-- not give him advance warning so he could escape while they're still a few minutes down the road.

--Teddy (or maybe the author speaking through Teddy) seems to have little use for the female reporters he sees, cattily judging them without knowing anything about them other than how they dress and how they have their hair and makeup done.  "Maybe life was more important than reading what she was told to read before the cameras just for the money."  ..."Just for the money"?  What does that mean?  Lots of people do their jobs "just for the money".  Ideally you also get fulfillment in the job-- take a genuine interest in the work-- but there's nothing wrong with doing an honest job just for money, Teddy.  ...Ugh, Teddy.  Can't stand that guy...

--And then there's the end...  I don't know... I guess I give the author credit for really trying, in the plot and twist department, but what was with that ending?  Eddie Trisco was a psychotic murderer.  The DA was a total jerk who'd do practically anything to advance his political career.  And now Teddy discovers that his beloved mentor, Nash, who has just offered to make him a partner with his own cool office and everything, was pulling the strings behind the scenes-- and worse still, was responsible (in a roundabout way) for Teddy's father's murder in prison.  And then... What?  "Nash eased Teddy's wine glass across the table as an offering to their partnership.  Teddy spotted his cigarettes beside the glass.  They seemed so far away.  He wasn't sure he could move, really.  He wasn't sure he could reach them..."  And... What happens next?  Does he sell his soul to the Devil and continue working with Nash?  Does he quit?  If he quits, does Nash let him quit, or is that not an option?

*SIGH*  Are we supposed to make up an ending ourselves?  Is this an open ending?  I've always hated those...

--Not a bad book.  Just not my favorite type.