book review: bellman & black

Bellman & Black: A Ghost StoryBellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, I read an ARC of this book while at the cottage this summer, and was waiting to post my review until closer to the publication date. I saw it in the bookstore last week, so I figure it’s about time.

The only thing is, I can’t actually remember what I wanted to say. Oops.

Okay, here’s what I do remember: for the first 3/4 of this book, yawn. Seriously, I kept flipping pages (well, I read this electronically, so I was actually pressing buttons but still) and thinking to myself “when is some action going to take place??”

For some reason I had it in my mind that this was a story about magicians. The title just made me think of magic, and also the cover. I thought the raven pictured there might be a magician’s aid or something. Anyways, I think that they added the “: A Ghost Story” portion to the title after I had already read it. But even if I’d known it was a ghost story, for the first major part of the book, no ghosts!

So it was leaning towards being a 2 star read for me. When Bellman opened the store, and all the stuff with his daughter being ill was going on, the book did take a turn for me and became more interesting. By the end, I did enjoy it. I especially liked the little blurbs about birds, and the collective nouns for them. But I’m weird and like knowing collective nouns. The last segment from the perspective of the bird was cool.

Overall, I can’t quite remember why I gave this 3.5 stars, so a more accurate rating would probably be 3. Because if it didn’t have staying power since I read it in August, it’s obviously not one of my favourites.

If you’re wondering whether to read this book, as long as you don’t mind a really slow pace and not much action, I’d say give it a try. You might like it!

Thank you to the publishers, who via NetGalley provided me with this advance copy for review!

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book review: golden

GoldenGolden by Jessi Kirby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars! This book had a pretty mediocre descriptive blurb, and I was more than pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it.

Parker Frost is graduating high school, and as the TA for an english teacher (who sounds pretty awesome) she is helping with an an assignment where they mail out journals to students from ten years back – they get the journals as a sort of time-capsule of their lives as seniors in high school. Anyways, Parker discovers the journal of a girl who died right after graduation – Julianna, the golden girl of their town.

It’s Julianna’s story, and her answer to the question: what will you do with your one wild and precious life? that inspire Parker to take control of her own fate and confront reality head-on.

The beauty of this story, for me, was the writing. The language was lovely. In fact, Julianna’s journal you have to sort of suspend belief while reading, because it’s quite well written for someone so young. Each chapter of the book begins with a quote from Robert Frost, and each quote was carefully selected to appropriately introduce the chapter. I also really love the overall message of the story, the lessons Parker learns about destiny, fate, love, and life itself.

Without getting into too much plot detail, there are some nice twists and turns to the mystery of Julianna and her boyfriend Shane. The end was lovely. Go ahead and read this as soon as you can!

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book review: a fatal likeness (a treacherous likeness)

A Fatal Likeness: A NovelA Fatal Likeness: A Novel by Lynn Shepherd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, which is based on the relationship between Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Claire Clairmont. It’s a work of fiction, but at the end in the author’s notes, she explains what parts were based on actual facts and real letters in existence.

Not having much familiarity with any of the history relating to these characters, I went into this book looking for a mystery, and hoping for some good writing. I found both, and I have to say that the writing in this book was extremely well-done. This was a story that required a lot of thought, and a lot of careful plotting. It switches between past and present as Charles Maddox– the detective– reads letters, diary entries, and speaks with other characters about their past. What we presume is the mystery at the start of the book unfolds into enigmas of all sorts, and every time Charles thinks he’s discovered something, it opens up a bevy of new mysteries.

The pacing of the book was quite slow, with a lot of descriptive language and passages that recount past events. It’s not a page-turner in the sense that the plot is action-packed, but it did grip me and I would never have been able to leave off in the middle, once having begun.

The characters themselves are all extremely well-written and have a lot of depth. How much of the characters is based on fact I don’t really know, but most of them turn out to be quite evil, in their own ways (and not the ones you initially suspect, or not only them).

I really liked the way things unfolded at the very end, and how the mystery took a few surprising turns even as Charles thought he had everything figured out at last.

I’d recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, perhaps fans of the Shelleys (although if you dislike the insinuation that either of them may have been horrible people, you may want to pass), and fans of literary mysteries with atmosphere and chills.

Thank you to the publishers, who via NetGalley provided me with this e-book for review

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arc book review: below

BelowBelow by Meg McKinlay (publication date May 14, 2013)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful story! I read it all in one sitting; once having started, I wasn’t able to stop reading until I got to the end. It was extremely easy to settle into the charming narrative; I loved the way Meg McKinlay wrote. The writing was so readable- descriptive parts, dialogue and the thoughts of the narrator were all done well.

The little blurb about this book hooked me for reasons I don’t really know. I was promised some mystery from the past that would be uncovered, but I wasn’t quite sure if I would even enjoy the story. However, I soon found that Cassandra (Cassie) Romano, the twelve-year-old narrator of this book, was a really interesting character.

She was born “too early”, and as a result suffers from breathing problems, due to her lungs not having fully developed before she was born. The day she was born, the town of Old Lower Grange was drowned – flooded purposefully with water and dammed up, turning what was the town into a lake. Cassie doesn’t remember much about the Old town, but she has always been fascinated by it, and likens it to a modern-day Atlantis.

Liam, a classmate of Cassie’s, also has some shadows in his past. His twin brother died in a car accident when they were babies, and he was deemed the “miracle baby” as a result of surviving. His father, driving the car when it crashed, has never been the same since.

Together, Cassie and Liam dig into their town’s past, and discover the secrets that lie beneath its surface.

I have to admit that I did manage to figure out the big secret a bit before Cassie did, but that didn’t really lessen my enjoyment of the story, since part of the interest came from watching how Cassie puts things together. I don’t remember a lot about being twelve, but Cassie seems like a pretty smart kid! I’d have liked to hang out with her, separating leaves carefully along the middle seam (I actually remember doing this as a kid, too).

So yeah. I really loved this whole book. I’d read it again, as the writing style is so enjoyable I know I’d get more out of a re-read.

Favourite lines of the book: “”he was that kind of guy – always smiling and joking and popping up anywhere, anytime, especially if there was a chance of a party or a ceremonial sausage or two.” I know people who fit this exact desciption. There’s something enjoyable about reading a book and constantly being able to identify with it, which is probably what made me like this one so much.

Thank you to the publishers, who via NetGalley provided me with this advance e-copy for review!

PS- this book was previously published under the title “Surface Tension”.

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