Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Book Review: Where I End & You Begin by Preston Norton

Pages: 416
Publisher: Disney
Released: June 4, 2019
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Freaky Friday body-swap stories aren't unique, but I do have a soft spot for them. Last year I read and enjoyed Preston Norton's Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe and while that book was a hot mess of every issue and 90s reference plus the kitchen sink, it was also compulsively readable and hilarious (there's a Sermon Showdown. I'm still in love with that).

So, when I got this book, I was looking forward to it. It's big, yeah, but it's a super fast read. The over-the-top writing style and a zillion references were toned down here so now the writing was amusing without being eye-rolly. The gender-fluidity and romantic flexibility was a little too kumbaya and unbelievable, but in a book about magical body-swapping, I mostly gave it a shrug and a pass.

I guess maybe that's Preston Norton's thing. These books are zany and unbelievable (the real-life parts) and they have way too many "issues" packed into them with all the subtlety of an after-school special, but they have heart and witty banter. I feel happy and amused (and bemused) when I read them.

Plus, body swapping. All of the tropes of body swapping are here, and I love body swapping tropes.

Bottom line: I liked this book, even though none of it is my typical type of book. It made me happy, I enjoyed the time I spent read it, and I'm looking forward to reading Preston Norton's next book.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Book Review: The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine

Pages: 592
Publisher: Harper Collins
Released: March 7, 2019
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Barbara Erskine is an author on my TBR list, but not one I had read yet. As a first foray, The Ghost Tree is not bad. I didn't love it, but I liked it enough to still want to read more of her books. I'd class this book in the same company as Susanna Kearsley or Mary Stewart's Thornyhold type of books: British, a touch of the supernatural, dreamy, historical, great houses, a slow background romance, and a main character who is likable but not particularly stand out.

The Ghost Tree is probably more massive than it needed to be. It clocks in at 592 pages and it's not riveting or detailed enough to really warrant that. It felt like another editing pass through to clean things up would have tightened the story, shortened the pages, and made for a smoother book overall. As it was, the length wasn't much of a problem for me because the chapters are so teeny tiny (1-5 pages on average).

So, what's going on here? A lot. We follow Ruth's ancestor Thomas during the 18th century as he basically lives his life, gets married, has kids, and tries to avoid a man who decides to stalk and harry him. We follow Ruth as she is stalked by a brother and sister who develop a fixation on her. She's also haunted by the ghost of Thomas's stalker and she enlists the help of a charming chef and a tweedily attractive ghostbuster/historian. Ruth also house hops trying to avoid her natural and supernatural stalkers and each house she stays in is awesome.

While neither story is particularly gripping, both were interesting enough to hold my attention and the stalking aspect, especially how randomly something like that can happen, was horrifying and well done. I feel like I'm damning this book with faint praise. The thing is, objectively, there's a lot I was pretty lukewarm about. I liked it all, but that's it. As a whole experience, though, I enjoyed it. I looked forward to reading more, even if I wasn't staying up late to do so. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Book Review: The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin

Publisher: Berkley Books
Released: June 25, 2019
Received: Finished copy and e-galley from publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I wasn't convinced I actually wanted to read this book when I received an invitation to the e-galley and tour. I find this time period interesting, but it's definitely not an era I read in much. So I added it to my e-reader with bland disinterest and opened it with the intention of reading a few sentences to try to hype myself into reading it, eventually.

And I was hooked. Ravenously. I couldn't stop reading. I put aside the books I was already in the middle of reading and dove in.

There was so much that just clicked with me about this book. The sense of time and place. The fabrics, smells, and tensions were thick in the air. I felt utterly immersed. We see Schiap and Chanel from the periphery and this made them both seem larger than life, known-but-mysterious. It was captivating. Their clothing collections, their political movements, their social circles, and their bitter, invigorating rivalry...ah, I loved every minute of it.

The main character is one of those somewhat bland, somewhat sympathetic, somewhat relatable characters. We see the story through her eyes, and while I often don't like this narrative device, sometimes I really love it and this is one of those times. Her own tragic story tugged at my heartstrings and her tentative and slow burn reawakening romance was quietly engrossing. I loved how both Schiap and Coco gave her clothes. This was like the sartorial equivalent of reading a book about an old Gothic mansion and vicariously possessing it.

There are almost three stories here: Schiap and Coco's rivalry, the main character's tragedy and romance, and the onset of WWII. The latter simmers in the background in the beginning, slowly pushing its way more and more into the story until it cannot be ignored, much like I imagine the onset of the war would have felt at the time. I loved the feelings of the book, the subtle and mounting tension of the war, the crackling razor edges of the rivalry, so prominent at first and then shattering under the weight of the war, the stupor of tragedy and magical awakening of love and healing. 

Another aspect I loved were the constant references to art and color. The main character is a painter, Schiap and Coco use fabric and perfume as their canvas. I Googled many paintings referenced, immersed myself in colors, imagined the feel of different fabrics, looked up images of referenced clothing collections, smelled the referenced perfumes. This book was an unexpected sensory delight.

This is definitely a book I can see having a love or hate reaction from readers. If it clicks with you like it did with me, then you're in for a fantastic treat. If not, then I can definitely see this one boring readers. In that way it reminded me of Sally Beauman's The Visitors, which is another book I was sucked into and think about long after having finished it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book Review: The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell

Pages: 351
Publisher: Penguin
Released: June 18, 2019
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Last year I read and enjoyed Laura Purcell's creeping Gothic horror The Silent Companions and, while I didn't love it, I did enjoy it and I've been looking forward to reading more from this author.  

The Poison Thread follows a similar pattern of alternating perspectives, one character telling their story, another character learning the tragic and horrifying events of the past. The narrative device worked very well here, building tension, intrigue, and mystery. I felt for Ruth, the character telling her story as she waits in prison for her murder trial, and while I didn't love Dorothea (she's a little too naive self-righteous do-gooder for me) I was interested in the events of her life (though, I think, she picked the wrong man).

Characters and place felt real and drew me into the story. I felt for them. I felt like I was there (early Victorian England). I found myself thinking about the story when I wasn't reading it and trying to find extra time to fit in a few more pages. I ended up forgoing an earlier bedtime in order to read just a few more chapters (and given the tiny chapters, it was especially tempting to say "just one more"). Now that I'm finished, I wish I had more of the story left to read. I don't want it to be over.

The story kept twisting and turning, keeping me on my toes, and just when I thought I figured things out, we'd take another turn. There's a supernatural element, but this too is kept in question throughout the story as to whether or not it's truly supernatural or not. This was all done very well.

I like books that give me glimpses into learning about neat things. In this one we get phrenology (not my favorite subject), sewing (I did like this), and historical bits and pieces surrounding life during the early Victorian era from the perspectives of people in different classes of society (loved this).

I don't feel like my review is doing this book justice. I loved it. I can't wait to read it again (with the right reader, this would make a fantastic audiobook), and I can't wait to read Laura Purcell's next book.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...