I admit historical romance is not something you’d expect me to read but I’m all for literary exploration, so I thought I would give this Australian novel a go. Love in the Years of Lunacy is a typical story of forbidden love, set in war time Sydney. Eighteen year old Pearl is an alto sax player in an all girl jazz band that one day meets African American and jazz legend James Washington and quickly fall in love. While Australia didn’t have any laws to prevent them from falling in love or marrying, like America did, their love was taboo. While there is a lot more that I could probably say to summarise this book, you get the picture and probably can predict what happens. What I want to do is vent all my frustrations about this book (potential spoilers from here on out).
1. Historically Inaccurate
I’d probably enjoy this book a lot more if it wasn’t for the huge inaccuracy that happens in the book. The scene happens while the two love birds are at Luna Park, air raids sound and Sydney is under attack; but wait, there were no bombing in Sydney during World War 2, there was the submarine attack but this book made it sound like Sydney was getting bombed. Why? Most likely wanting to use this as an excuse for the two characters to have sex.
So when the two are inevitably separated, Pearl tries to commit suicide; she says she doesn’t want live in a world without him. The Master of Lunacy (this title is government appointed to act as the authority in civil commitment proceedings) diagnoses her of having a fear of dying but when he talked to her and asked her, she told him that she was afraid of dying.
3. Faking it
You know the typical ‘fake that you’ve gotten better’ to stop having to be constantly under supervision? Pearl does this to stop herself from being bored but she did it so well that I think even the writer forgot about her depression after that paragraph ended.
4. The Marriage Proposal
Pearl fakes her recovery so well, she ends up dating the Master of Lunacy; what? Does this not seem like an issue, an irresponsible doctor/patient relationship? Let alone the fact that Pearl was faking being over her depression and over James, so much so she falls in love with the doctor.
5. Cross Dressing Soldier
I get that a woman can fake being a man but faking being a solder in a war zone seems like a huge stretch. Especially when the writer likes to remind the reader just how beautiful Pearl is through the book. But tuck your hair under a hat and bandage her breasts up to make herself look flatter; that would work. How about when she got her period and the blood stained her pants? No one noticed that?
There is so much more I can think of that didn’t sit write with me in this book. I think there was a point I only found out Pearl was a blonde when she showed off her pubic hair to prove she wasn’t a male soldier. I did like the way this book was told in a way that a fictional Indigenous crime writer was listening to the tape recordings of his mother (who he thought was his aunt and also thought he was indigenous at the same time). But apart from that, I have too much I disliked about the book to really enjoy the story. I’ve had my rage about this book now; I can finally get it out of my mind.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is often considered one of the greatest novels of all time; the story of proud William Darcy and the prejudices of Elizabeth Bennett. From Lizzie’s perspective their spirited courtship plays out on the page; in this witty comedy of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in early 19th century society.
Most of you would already know this story; you’ve probably seen an adaptation or two in your time. For me, I was never interested in reading this book, I knew what it was about but I never knew what to expect. Eventually I had to read this book, in part for university and because it’s a classic that will always remain on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List. This is the novel that just will not die; 200 years later since this was published the book still sits very often in the top ten in a lot of bookstores and other literary lists. It’s been adapted multiple times as well as been retold many times (highlights include Lost in Austen & The Lizzie Bennett Diaries). The novel has also inspired a range of other books including books by Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie and Helen Fielding.
First of all I want to look at Jane Austen’s attempt to play with the traditional quest format to offer us this rather clever novel. Let’s look at the novel from a traditional storytelling point of view. The potential princes in this novel; Darcy was considered clever and cold, Mr Wickham was too hot, then there was Mr Collins, the one that could save the ‘castle’ who should be just right, but he was not warm but tepid and boring. The pattern is reshaped and slowly the princess’ heart has been won, even if she doesn’t know it straight away. Then Austen needs to make the suitor eligible to win over the heroine; so she sends him on a quest to win Lizzie’s heart. Then like all quest stories, the story ends abruptly, with a marriage and a happy ending. This ancient pattern only provided the basic story structure for Jane Austen to weave her story into.
The interesting thing about this novel is the fact that this book has no physical action in the entire book; the novel rather concerns itself with the complexity of courtship and marriage in the landowning classes in provincial England. Austen writes about the people she knows, doing the activities we would expect them to do. Yet she manages to write it with such wit and skill that the novel refreshing and remained so popular.
Elizabeth Bennett is clearly Austen’s favourite in the book; the character is stronger and smarter than even the men in the book. Yet she goes to great lengths to make sure that this is believable. While she is clever, Lizzie still has romance/the sublime on her mind; her references to the Lake Distracts could be considered evidence of this. I feel like Jane Austen is trying to show that a woman like Lizzie should be deserving of the family home more than someone like Mr Collins. The Bennett’s are not middle class in this novel; Mr Bennett doesn’t work, he is a man of leisure, landowners but without a son their property will be inherited by Mr Collins. So we have this impending doom (according to Mrs Bennett) with only one hope of saving the family, marriage. When Lizzie Bennett rejects Mr Collins and eventually marries Darcy, Austen tries to tell us that character matters more than rank when it comes to romance, but then there is still a whole lot to do with rank and class that remains within the novel.
At the start of the novel Lizzie and Darcy hate each other but by the end they are the perfect couple. So what is Austen trying to tell us with this change in momentum? To do this let’s look at the other relationships; First off there is some evidence that Mr and Mrs Bennett got married at a very young age, lust had brought the two together and there might have been a pregnancy. Now that the lust has cooled they find they have nothing in common. Mr Collins and Charlotte are almost the opposite; there is no passion in their marriage, it was more of a business arrangement, no kids and unhappy in their marriage. Mr Bingley and Jane are just smitten with each other; there is no real evidence that there is anything more than just an infatuation. So when it comes to Lizzie and Darcy, they are written as the opposite, they are not smitten, they have to make their way there. They develop a healthy respect and admiration as well as love. All the details are focused on Lizzie and Darcy; all the other characters are rather underdeveloped, they feel more like caricatures, yet we still need to look at the other couples to see what Austen was trying to achieve.
Now I want to look more at the writing and style rather than character and plot. Pride and Prejudice started off as an epistolary novel, it has been said that this was originally written as a series of letters; this is why there is a huge lack of character description. This is also a novel of wit so let’s focus more on how Jane Austen achieves that.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Looking at the very first line we get a sense of Austen’s ironical attacks; Bingley and Darcy both have women lined up but both don’t seem too keen to marry. Single men with large fortunes have the luxury of doing what they want. It is only Mrs Bennett that is trying to convince the reader that the opening line is indeed true. Just in the first few lines we can see the subtlety of Austen’s language. This book is full of other slight digs at society and it took me a second read through to really see them, but they are there and I suspect that is why this book continues to remain popular; no matter how many times you read this book there is still something to discover.
Jane Austen likes to dig at the concepts at Class and Courtship, but more so towards love and marriage. It is interesting to see that many people read this book at face value and just gloss over any attempt at irony in this book. This book is riddled with discursive and dramatic irony but to Jane Austen’s credit she was able to do it in such a subtle way that it can be easily overlooked or missed. For a cynical person like me, it was this irony that I respect the most. I love that you can read this book as a great romance or as an ironic look at love and marriage. While the irony plays out in the book, Jane Austen’s fundamental optimism makes sure no damage was done and the outcome is a happy one.
I expected Pride and Prejudice to be a romance, exploring the courtship of Lizzie and Darcy, which it is, but I was so pleased that there was so much more in this novel to explore. I read this novel and then went back and reread this novel right away; this was mainly because I needed to for Uni but I found this deliciously cynical voice come through the second time that changed my opinion of this book. I’m not sure if Jane Austen’s novels are always so ironic but if they are, she has found herself a new fan.
While this was only an average sequel, the major issue I've got with this book is the fact that I brought this thinking it was unabridged as advertised but turns out it is abridged.
One of the worst books I read. Reminds me of one of the stories I wrote at 14. I only finished it on the off chance it made sense in the end. It didn't.
Most people know my obsession with Frankenstein so I wanted to give This Dark Endeavour a go; since the author Kenneth Oppel calls this a prequel. Victor’s brother, Konrad, has fallen ill and no doctor has been able to cure him. Victor’s determination to save his brother has turned to alchemy to find the forbidden Elixir of Life and save his twin brother. With the help of his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry, Victor pushes the boundaries of nature and science in a treacherous search for the ingredients to help Konrad.
This is book one in The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series which I believe is being made into a trilogy. My first thoughts were that a YA novel about Victor Frankenstein was never going to work, but then after a bit of a look at the book I decided to give it a go anyway. I thought maybe if his research of Frankenstein is in-depth enough and he keeps to the dark and gothic elements of the original classic it might work. I really should have stuck to my first thoughts because from the very start I hated this book.
First of all this book follows the same old paranormal young adult formula which means not so much dark and gothic elements but lots and lots to do with a love triangle. I really hate love triangles in books and this novel felt like the entire plot was centred around the love triangle. Sure, they search for the Elixir of Life but there was more to do with Victor’s feelings toward Elizabeth than the actual alchemy.
Personally I wish I never read this book, it really did nothing for the Frankenstein story and love triangles are always annoying. There is a small steampunk element in this book but that felt like the author was jumping on the bandwagon to help market this book to the readers that want Steampunk, Paranormal, Love Triangle filled Young Adult romance. If you want gothic and dark YA like I do, then this book is not for you. But if you like the idea of a romance with paranormal elements in it, then maybe give this book a go.
I’ve never read a John D. MacDonald book before and I’ve read a lot of good things about his Travis McGee novels, so I thought I might start at the beginning for this series. This is the first in what is now a 21 book series and the first time we meet Travis McGee, a self-described “salvage consultant”, almost like a treasure hunter but instead he recovers the property of his clients for a fee; half. He is hired and has to go up against the pathologically evil antagonist Junior Allen, who may seem friendly but has a very sinister agenda.
For a hard-boiled style “salvage consultant” McGee seems to be very ordinary; I felt like all the guys liked him (except the antagonist) and all the girls wanted him. There wasn’t much depth in the character at all except in one scene where he was ready to torture someone for information and I saw a glimpse of a sociopath in McGee. This just made me want to read a book with a sociopath hard-boiled detective, so if you have any recommendations let me know.
The story felt very predictable, it was more of a quick enjoyable story being told to me. I think, while this series might work well as filler reading to help recover from something heavy, there are much better books out there to read instead of this series. The sex and violence that was in this book was pretty intense for a book written in 1964 so I really don’t want to just write off the entire series because of predictability; so if you share a different opinion or can recommend me one of the Travis McGee books that could change my mind, please let me know.
Lacey Flint is a young detective constable in London with a secret past. When she finds a woman stabbed right by her car everything changes for her. The killer has a special interest in Lacey and with her special knowledge on serial killers she finds herself a part of the terrifying murder hunt to catch this copy cat killer. Is this killer’s interest in Lacey personal or professional? Can Lacey continue to keep her past hidden when she is pushed further and further into the spot light? Read Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton to find out.
I found it interesting that the struggles of Lacey Flint seemed to be the main focus of this novel while the Jack the Ripper copy cat killer serves as a way to build the characters. It is a fine balance to get right but I tend to feel like Bolton didn’t focus on catching the killer as I would like. I love the idea of a Ripper copy cat and the killer known as Joesbury went to great lengths to attack Lacey, but in the end I never really felt like it was a balanced novel. Lacey is a great character and everything felt like an attack on her,; both from the killer and the other detectives, which in the end helped give us a better perspective of this character. However the hunt and the killer side of this book just become formulaic back story. I just think it never really seemed to come together in the end; sure there is closure in the book but it felt a little messy.
One of my major problems with Crime novels like this is the fact that everything all feels predictable and everyone writing bestseller novels are following the same outline and formula. I would have loved something a bit more dark and gritty. There were some good elements in this novel but as I said before the balance wasn’t there. I think Bolton really let the reader down in that aspect; especially in the end of the book where it all felt rushed and never ended neatly. I know it was an attempt to setup the second book in the series but it never really worked.
During the last great superhero fight, a blast of energy rips a hole in reality, the result is Empire State; a twisted parallel prohibition-era New York City. But now the rift is starting to close and both parallel worlds have to fight for the right to exist. Adam Christopher’s Empire State tells the story of Rad Bradley a private detective investigating the disappearance for Sam Saturn which leads him to uncover something a whole lot bigger. This book is everything you expect in a pulp style superhero novel; you have the super villains, airships, robots, organised crime and prohibition (to make it feel more like a pulp novel). This is all a brilliant back drop for the main plot; the case the gets Rad Bradley tangled in a complex web of robotic killers, inter-dimensional doppelgangers and science.
The whole tone of this book feels very much like a superhero novel but never loses sight of the noir style narrative. The whole story cast is wonderfully unique and mystery that will keep the readers on the edge of their seats while reading this book. There are some things that didn’t quite work within the story and the constant world shifting can get the reader lost. I think in the end there turns out to be at least three different worlds; Prohibition New York, Empire State and New York 1950’s. The world, the crime and the characters show potential for a lot of great stories to follow.
Adam Christopher and publisher Angry Robot Books have invited others to create works based in the world of Empire State. Writer, artist, musician, sculptor, puppeteer, interpretive dance major, or poet, are invited to create their own stories with what they are calling WorldBuilder as long as you stick to their Guidelines and Instructions. They are authorising fan-created content to be created under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License which means content can be posted on the internet or beyond as long as it’s in a non-commercial way; publication rights of the stories are still in the hands of the publisher. There are plans for an eBook or Print-on-Demand anthology of the best stories which is pretty exciting; I’ve never seen a novel do anything like this, making for some interesting stories to follow. I think this world is capable of millions of other great stories whether superhero, science fiction, alternate history, organised crime or even pulp stories.
I’m curious to see what the results of this creative common might lead to but as for this book, if you want a fun, exciting novel with twists and mystery, then you really should give Empire State ago. There’s a certain uniqueness within this book while remaining familiar with the writing style. I feel nostalgic towards a good pulp novel and this blends that with science fiction elements with such ease. This genre is often called Neo-Noir (a genre that blends pulp with updated themes, content, or style, often blended with Science Fiction) and there have been some great books that have come out in this style, but Empire State is definitely one of the better ones.
I picked up this novel because I got an email from Amazon recommending this book because I liked Drive by James Sallis. While I didn’t believe it would be anything like Drive the synopsis did intrigue me. Terrier Rand grew up in a household of thieves and grifters; from a very young age Terry had been engaging in theft. He left his family and life of crime to go straight but five years later he has been dragged back in when his brother is claiming to be innocent of one of the victims of his killing spree. His brother is only days away from execution and has asked his brother to look into one of the murders. He has pleaded guilty for all the other murders but the police won’t listen. Collie doesn’t want to the real killer to remain on the loose and even though Terry hates his brother and what he did, he finds himself investigating.
Terrier finds himself being sucked into a life he has tried really hard to escape. As the story slowly unfolds Terry begins to find out that maybe his grandfather was right when he told him; “We’re born thieves, it’s our nature, handed down to me, handed down from me. This is our way.” Can Terry really escape a life of crime? Is Collie really guilty of this crime? Can Terry save his teenage sister from falling into a life of crime?
The Last Kind Words has some interesting family elements throughout this novel; each member of the family is unique and interesting; even if they are all named after dogs. His father, Pinsch is a retired cat burglar, his uncles Mal and Grey are in trouble with the local mob and his Grandfather Old Shep may be suffering from Alzheimer’s but still proving time and time again that he is a master pickpocket. Throughout the book, the reader is left wondering if Terry should help his family or try and save himself; always questioning the importance of family, when your family can be so self destructive.
From the start I was hooked, this novel had a nice pace to it, mixing elements of crime and mystery with an interesting character driven story about love and family. While Tom Piccirilli did a wonderful job in writing a novel of suspense, guilt, justice and redemption, I never really understood Terry’s motivations. I get that he wanted to help his family and I get that the book is meant to question the reader but I just felt that the characters motivation never felt clear to begin with, he didn’t want to be there, he didn’t want to help his brother, in fact he hated his brother and never believed him, so it felt like obligation was the only reason to return, even though I thought that reason didn’t fit this character too well.
The Last Kind Words is an interesting book and well worth reading. Crime lovers will love the suspense and mystery throughout this book and literary lovers will love the character building and family turmoil in this novel. The narrative is atmospheric with a slight noir feel to it; personally I would have loved more of a noir narrative but Tom Piccirilli did a brilliant job writing this book anyway. One of the better books I’ve read this year; I just had so much fun reading The Last Kind Words.
I’ve been trying to review this book for a while now and it has become a real struggle. I don’t want to give any spoilers for this brilliant book so I will try my best. Advanced warning: this review may have spoilers or turn out incredible vague. When I first saw this book I kept thinking this was just another YA novel but then I noticed this book kept popping up everywhere so I thought I better read what this is about and when I did, I had to read it right away.
When Amy disappears in suspicious circumstances all eyes fall to her husband as the primary suspect. Nick claims he is innocent but the evidence is not in his favour. Did Nick kill his wife? As this novel progressed any ideas of what happened will be shattered, any presumptions you’ve made about the characters will be wrong. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a dark and twisted journey with so much unpredictability that you will be up all night trying to find out what really happened to Amy.
What I loved about this book was that you never really know what to expect. The book is told from the perspective of Nick and Amy, the diary of Amy tells the back story of their lives while the alternative chapters told from Nick takes the story from the disappearance. Slowly the pieces start to fall into place but there is always another curve ball just around the corner. The dark and psychological aspects of this novel remind me of something Jim Thompson would write but then the thriller and suspense of this book reminds me a lot of books like Before I Go to Sleep or Into the Darkest Corner.
Flynn did a brilliant job with this novel, it kept me up at night, made me want to skip work to read this book and in the end any spare time I had I was back in this book trying to find out what really happened to Amy. I wasn’t sure what I was in for and I didn’t know who to believe but in the end I enjoyed the ride. On reflection this book seemed incredibly basic with its plot but writing in a brilliant way that while reading you never have enough pieces to solve this puzzle. Highly recommend this book to any lovers of mystery and suspense.
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