Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And the point was?

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes left me saying "umm, what just happened and what was the point?" So it won my "wtf" award this month.

Well, it's British, so maybe that explains it. (Sorry, lame joke.) I read this book for 1) the gorgeous and gothic and suck-you-in cover, 2) decent-sounding plot and 3) mixed reviews on Amazon. I wanted to see why people hated it or loved it. Also, numerous reviewers mentioned A HUGE TWIST and I was curious. (For the record, it wasn't a huge twist and it didn't impact the plot much.)

Ok, honestly, I don't even know how to sum up the plot. It's set in late Victorian England. The story basically involves an aging magician/detective named Edward Moon and his silent assistant, The Somnambulist. They are presented with a mystery...first two odd murders, bizarre assassins and warnings about something bad that's going to happen to London in a certain amount of days. Stuff happens; people randomly show up/disappear; and Edward gets lucky in solving the mystery...but that doesn't prevent the bad thing from happening.

Let me be upfront: the book is weird. It could've been weird-yet-enchanting but as the book progressed, it just became um-I-feel-slightly-uncomfortable-weird. The late one-fourth of the book spirals into a bizarre, end-of-the-world fight that just doesn't make sense. Seriously, characters suddenly showcase the ability to disappear into thin air and I won't even get into details about who the sleeping person is and what happens to his body...bleh. Also, the ending itself is so unclear. I have no idea if it actually happened, and to be honest, it's basically a "yeah, who cares?" ending.

I didn't really gain much by reading it. Maybe if it hadn't spiraled into a crack-fueled world, it could've been better.

Rating: 5.5/10

Monday, February 23, 2009

Yeah, definitely going to re-read this one a few times...

Last January I fell in love with Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series. So let me just say, after a year of waiting, I was EX-CI-TED that the third book, Silent on the Moor, finally came out. So excited I read it in one day.

Let me just air this tiny complaint: the cover! It's eye-catching but is a commmmmplete change from the earlier books in the series. The previous covers were tasteful, gorgeous and accurately reflected the mood of the books. This cover makes Silent on the Moor look like a bodice-ripper, which it isn't at all. Why, publishers, why? Why do you do this?

Ok, now on to the book: just as good as the others. Moor focused less on the various mysteries, or at least on solving them, and more on Julia and Brisbane's relationship.

In some ways, their relationship concerns me. Brisbane won't let anything happen between them until he can support her financially but at the same time, he seems so willingly to let her just walk out of his life--he doesn't contact her and after she shows up at his new manor, he consistently tells her to leave. At one point, Julia is told by a wise woman to ignore his words and just read his body language; once she does that, his feelings are pretty darn clear. After I re-read the book, maybe I'll understand his motives better. I know "if it's love, it will wait" but he just seemed so okay with waiting while Julia wasn't content with that at all.

Anyway, the mystery tied nicely to the other books and helped clear up Brisbane's character even more. However, the ending completely surprised me. I knew from the author's blog that this wasn't the last Julia Grey novel, so I wasn't expecting the ending that did happen--but I am so happy with it. I'm thinking book four may be a sort of Busman's Honeymoon-esque book.

I love Raybourn's style of writing. It's the kind that should be savoured, sitting in front of a warm fire, sipping hot tea. Seriously, go read this series.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A love song to reading

I've been in a re-reading mood this week...first Rites of Spring (Break) and then M. M. Kaye's Death in Cyprus. Kaye's writing is so familiar and comforting. Seriously, there is such a joy to re-reading a book, knowing exactly what is going to happen and yet noticing new details or reinterpreting a phrase or a character's action. Anyway, after I finished Death, I wanted something sweet and short to occupy my time until I could get to Borders to buy Silent on the Moor. I found the perfect little read at my library.

Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader is truly an ode to reading. I had heard excellent reviews of this book in many different places and can see why Reader is earning acclaim.

The novella is about the Queen of England, who toward the end of her life, discovers she loves reading. She really, realy LOVES reading. She begins to ignore all her duties in favor of reading--much to the dismay of her subjects. The novella is sprinkled with all sorts of observations about reading and those who love books. The ending was perfect and I may have even laughed out loud. If you love reading, you'll probably enjoy this short story.

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I had to return Rites of Spring (Break) to the library yesterday...but first, I had to re-read it. Glad to report it was just as enjoyable the second time around. You know it's a good book if you want to immediately re-read it!

In other news, Deanna Raybourn's Silent on the Moor has been released early--at least, it appears to be available on Amazon and Borders.com. I placed a hold on it at my local Borders but can't get to there until Friday. Sigh. At least I'll have all weekend to devour it. And if it's anything like Silent in the Sanctuary, it'll be an immediate re-read, too.

Monday, February 16, 2009


This winter is my Carol Goodman season, where I'm going to devour everything she's ever written. Yay for favorite new authors. Up next is the one that made her name: The Lake of Dead Languages.

The reviews for this book are accurate: it is fast-paced, with creepy atmosphere and secret after secret being revealed. Honestly, I was a bit surprised because I was able to pretty much figure everything out before Jane, the main character, did. Perhaps Goodman wanted us to know before Jane did? Because I'm honestly not that clever at mysteries.

Here's the summary, from Goodman's website: "Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson fled the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. The week before her graduation, in that sheltered wonderland, three lives were taken, all victims of suicide. Only Jane was left to carry the burden of a mystery that has stayed hidden in the depths of Heart Lake for more than two decades. Now Jane has returned to the school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories. And young, troubled girls are beginning to die again--as piece by piece the shattering truth slowly floats to the surface..."

Seriously, the atmosphere just drips in the this story. I had the shivers by page 10 or so, when Jane starts discovering literal pieces of her past showing up, haunting and taunting her. While I think Goodman's writing has improved and I still like The Night Villa the best, The Lake is definitely a good read.

In good English major fashion, I've noticed a few trends in Goodman's writing. These includes: water as a major player, myths/fairy tales, a slightly older woman (think early 30s or so) and a younger woman who generally turns out to be trouble. And yet she manages to create a completely different story each time with these favorite themes. I'm intrigued to see if her other three books do, too.

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I now know where Kiev is

The last geography class I remember taking was in fourth grade. Scary. Well, thanks to Conspiracy in Kiev by Noel Hynd, I now know where Kiev is (Ukraine!).

I picked up this book because it was about Russia and Ukraine. It's a thriller--think Robert Ludlum or someone along those lines. As such, the characters tend to be a little flat, with more telling than showing. Sure, there's action, but I think I'm more of a character girl. The book is also a bit long and since I wasn't in love with like Rites of Spring (Break), it took me several days to finish off.

Alex is an agent with the Treasury...but somehow gets involved with the CIA. Anyway, she's sent over to Kiev to act as an emissary/bodyguard to a major Ukrainian mobster, because the U.S. president is coming over for a visit and the CIA doesn't want any trouble. Well, there's trouble and people die and Alex's mobster disappears. Everyone thinks he's behind the shootings.

So...about that mobster...Alex is repeatedly told to STICK LIKE GLUE to the mobster, Yuri FedersomethingRussian. It's repeated numerous times; one CIA guy basically tells her to seduce him so she can spend even more time with him. So what does she do? She spends like three hours a day with the mobster, if that. How is that like GLUE, Alex??? And why did no one call her out on that?

Anyway, fast forward a few months and Alex is randomly off to South America for a totally different job. SUPPOSEDLY these two jobs end up tying together but I literally was thinking "what is this? this plotline is weak!" while reading it. Yeah, more shootings happen and then she's taken back to Europe where more shootings occur because she's a target or something. People want her dead. And since there's more books in the series (yet to come out), my guess is that they'll keep after her.

***Spoiler alert***
Can I just say that I knew her fiance was going to be knocked off? I knew it! I kept on waiting for him to die at any moment. And why did Alex almost die at the end? The bullet evidently didn't even really penetrate that far.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Up too late

I stayed up too late to finish Diana Peterfreund's Rites of Spring (Break) because it was so freaking delicious. Seriously, it just made me happy. And after I finished it, I may have gone back and re-read certain parts. Rites is definitely my favorite book of the series so far and not just because of one certain character (Poe!!).

After a winter semester filled with pranks against other secert societies, the Rose & Grave class of D177 is going on vacation. They're off to their own secret island, where a few members of past classes are there, too, including Amy's nemesis-turned-maybe-friend Poe. Trouble follows the class to the island, where pranks begin to spiral out of control....and a certain romance starts brewing.

The last book in the series, Tap & Gown, comes out in May. Yay!

Rating: 9/10

Friday, February 6, 2009

Entertaining enough

Perhaps Ally Carter has ruined me for other teen spy series. That could be why I found Shannon Greenland's Model Spy entertaining but not that plausible. (Which I fully accept as a ridiculous statement. Any book about a 15- or 16-year-old person being a spy is going to be somewhat hard to swallow. Still, Carter did such a good job of making me believe in her world.)

Here's the basic gist: Little orphan Kelly is a computer genius but don't worry, she's not geeky--she's so beautiful she could be a model (which may come in handy later on...). She's about to finish college, having skipped years and years of schooling. A cute boy asks her to break into a government site and Kelly, like a sap, does it for him. And then she winds up arrested and forced to make a decision: join an elite group of teenage spies or go to jail. She becomes a spy--and surprise, surprise, that cute boy who asked her to break the law is also a spy, too! Basically, he set up her up to be recruited. I do have some issues with that, since they didn't really give her a choice (be a spy or die!!! ok, just kidding), but whatever.

So Kelly thinks she's going to be a a stay-at-home spy, tapping away at a keyboard but suddenly she has to pose as a model in order to complete this mission that I don't feel like going into detail about. Oh, and one of her partners is the cute boy.

It's not like this was a bad book. It was short and tiny. (Seriously, the book was oddly small-sized.) I just didn't love it. I'm sure there's some teen girls out there who love, love, love this book. But I just like Ally Carter's spy series better.

In a positive note, deleting this book off of my TBR list on Amazon now means I only have 25 books on the list! And six of those books haven't even been released yet.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It seduced me

Carol Goodman's The Seduction of Water sucked me in within the first few pages. The story's atmosphere, the lyrical quality of the writing, the simple story that slowly expands...I'm not sure what it is, but I just really, really like Goodman's writing. Her books are the sort that I'd be proud to be caught reading, one that I'd recommend to my mom.

The plot goes along these lines: Iris Greenfeder is in her mid-30s. She's a teacher, sometimes writer and almost has her Ph.D.--she just needs to write her disseration. Actually, everything in her life is an "almost." She has a boyfriend (of 10 years) but they have no plans to marry. She's a writer, with just a few publications. Basically, she hasn't accomplished all that much. While thinking about her mother, a famous writer herself, Iris writes a small story that ends up spinning itself into a book offer. All she has to do is go back to her childhood home--a hotel in the Catskill Mountains--and solve a few mysteries.

The story is a bit slow in parts but that allows you to savor it, too. It's a mystery but the action doesn't pick up until the last third of the book or so. However, compared to The Night Villa, there was more romance. I really liked the male lead--from the first instance of his mention, I was hoping he'd be involved in the book. (And I may have peeked ahead just to see if he was.)

Basically, I'm a Carol Goodman fangirl. And I've yet to read her most popular book, The Lake of Dead Languages. So perhaps the best is yet to come...

Rating: 9/10