Tag Archive | mystery

Review : Glimmer

Glimmer by JPhoebe Kitanidis
Pages : 352
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

A girl and a boy wake up together in bed. Both are confused and lost; neither of them know who they are, where they are or why they are there. They remember how to talk, walk and use objects, but they have lost any memory that could give them information about their personal life.

After some suspicion on both parts, they decide to work together to solve the mystery that is their lives. Soon they discover that Summer Falls is no usual town, and that their memory loss might be only one of many mysteries…

My Thoughts :

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I cracked open Glimmer; fantasy, paranormal, science-fiction, aliens? Or what? I was kind of in a “meh, whatever” mood and Glimmer looked intriguing enough to pull me out of that bored state of mind. I am happy to report that it did, and with great success!

From the start, the story is intriguing. We do not know the main characters’ names (we learn later that they are Elyse and Marshall), and both are terrified and suspicious of each other. I often complain about dual narratives, but in this case, I felt it worked well enough : it gives us a better insight into each of their story than a third person narration would have. You can see how they react to each other, and though their voices are similar, their personalities are different enough.

Elyse and Marshall quickly bond over their peculiar situation (maybe a tad too quicly?) and as a team, they start to investigate. And then things become even more interesting : not only the two of them have lost any memory related to their identities, but the town where they find themselves is weird. Elyse sees some people where Marshall sees no one – until these people connect to Marshall and blue sparks fly. Summer Falls’ residents are also all a bit too cheery and distracted – so much so that, despite their condition, Elyse and Marshall almost feel like they are the only normal people left.

The beauty of Glimmer is that it mixes a little of everything; paranormal, magic, the town’s strange history, heatnaps, creepy characters, and a mystery that keeps you reading past your bed time. Elyse and Marshall’s quest for truth gets even more interesting when they have to face who they were before losing their memories, their qualities and, most importantly, their faults. And while they both have a complicate family situation, I have to say that Elyse’s broke my heart a little.

In the end, I really enjoyed Glimmer. Though I found the ending a little too rushed and filled with too much information, it had a strong conclusion that answered all important questions. I am also thrilled that Glimmer is a stand alone novel! I read enough series as it is. But I do hope I get to read more stories coming from Kitanidis’ fabulous imagination.

2 Reviews : The Musician’s Daughter and Two Moon Princess

Two short reviews today, of two books I enjoyed 🙂

* * *

Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Fantasy
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

As a princess, Andrea grew up in a castle with her sisters. Even though she has always dreamed of being a warrior, her family has more “ladylike” plans for her. When she steps through a portal and accidentally lands in modern California, her life is forever changed. Now torn between two worlds, she must face the consequences of her actions – and the war she may very well have started.

My Thoughts : 

Fantasy can be really good or really bad for me; books rarely fall in between and I tend to prefer those that aren’t too inspired by the medieval times. I also really enjoy books with characters randomly landing into a different world, whether it’s time-travel, parallel universe or some other magical mechanic. I was really curious to see where this novel would fall and I am glad to say I enjoyed it.

I have read more stories of characters from “our world” traveling to magical places than the opposite, so I found it interesting to have Andrea land here from a medieval-like world. Her observation of our world was one of my favorite parts, and I liked how the author depicted both places with their strengths and weaknesses; it gave weight to Andrea’s difficult decisions and to their impact.

I only wish I could have connected to Andrea more. I read how she felt, but I can’t say I “felt” it too. However, she was a strong young woman with a lot of determination, and I admired that. She also had a sense of humor, which is always good for someone in her situation (I would think it’s a good defense mechanism when landing into a weird place like ours)! She balanced other less likable characters, mostly people of her family, and it was enough for me to carry through the novel.

* * *

The Musician’s Daughter by Susanne Dunlap
Pages : 323
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about : 

In 18th century Vienna, Theresa is facing the most difficult time of her life; her father has been found dead on Christmas Eve, and all points out to the cause being murder. With her pregnant mom in shock and a younger brother to worry for, Theresa takes on the mission of finding the truth, and it all begins with a missing violin and a mysterious gold pendant…

My Thoughts :

I liked this one. I really wish there was more YA historical fiction (maybe when the trend of dystopia calms down?) and I am always on the lookout for more. This one combined many things I like; the historical part of course, but also the mystery. Romance can be good, but a great mystery will always have my preference.

I had two problems with The Musician’s Daughter that kept me from completely loving it; the predictability of the story, and the disconnect I had with Theresa. Through her tragedy and her adventure, I didn’t really get a sense of who she was. I wanted to know her and root for her, and I did to a certain extent, but not enough to deeply care for her.

It was still a good book I would not hesitate to recommend for readers wanting to read some historical fiction. The setting was great and I could feel the author had put time into her research, something I will always appreciate!

Review : Think of a Number

Think of a Number by John Verson
Pages : 497
Genre : Mystery
Series : Dave Gurney, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Think of any number… picture it… now see how well I know your secrets.

These simple letters seem to have the power to see their reader’s mind, and predict the exact number they’ll think of. And then, the murders being.

As a former cop who personally knew the first victim, Dave Gurney is immediately drawn into the investigation, one of the most puzzling of his career.

My Thoughts :

The book promises you one of the most inventive and entertaining novel of the genre. It was quite hyped when it came out, and I couldn’t go to the bookstore without facing full shelves of the hardcover copy. I love mysteries so I was quite anxious to read this one, hoping maybe this would be a series I could get on board before there are 18 books already published.

I did like the book. At 497 pages it’s not a quick read, but I did finish it in a short weekend. I was fully entertained, I will admit, and I was curious to discover who the murderer was. As a character, I didn’t exactly liked Gurney, but the mystery itself was enough to keep me reading. Even though the writing was sometimes heavy in clichés and a little unpolished, the great pacing and the pages full of action kept me interested.

So, it wasn’t a perfect read, but these are all little faults that can be easily forgiven when balanced with other strong points. However, one aspect really bothered me, and an important one : the ending. And this is going to be just a tad spoilery, so you might want to stop reading here but : how come they never suspected the murderer? When he was right under their nose and I kept thinking “why are they not interviewing him more”? It doesn’t make a surprising ending for me : it’s either stupid characters or lazy writing. One way or the other, for me, it made Think of a Number just an ordinary mystery, when it had all the ingredients to be a captivating read.

While it was a bit disappointing, I believe those who enjoy mysteries filled with actions and puzzling investigations could enjoy this one. As for myself, I’ll probably give the next book a chance.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Think of a Number
  2. Shut your eyes tight

Review : Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Pages : 348
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Series : Yes
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Jacob’s grandfather told him many stories about the kids he grew up with, unbelievable ones about children with superpowers and monsters.  Jacob has always thought there was no truth to the old man’s tales, until he travels to Wales and explores Miss Peregrine’s Home, the house where his grandfather spent his younger years. What is there was some truth to it, after all?

My Thoughts :

When Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children first started to appear on blogs last spring, I was, like many other readers, immediately drawn to its creepy cover and intriguing title. The summary begged you to read the book : “A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.” It felt useless to try resisting, so I got myself a copy very early after its release.

Did Miss Peregrine delivered on all of its promises? Not for me, I have to say. Though it was an enjoyable read, it also sent me into one of those states where I felt like I had a split-personality disorder : “I love it! No, no I don’t, I just like it. But I love the pictures! No I don’t. And I don’t enjoy the book at all. Yes I do! And those pictures are a fantastic touch!”

There were two problems for me with this book, that kept me from loving it instead of just liking it. The first was the fact that there are two distinct parts in the book : the first one reads like a dark, almost gothic mystery, that could with a few tweaks end up on the adult literature shelves. The second part reads like a fantasy/historical fiction that would belong on the Young Adult shelves (which is where I have seen this book so far). While I enjoy both genres, it was a strange shift between the two. It wasn’t badly done and I enjoy books that mix genres in a unique, new way, but for a reader who would enjoy gothic novels but not YA fantasy, I’m thinking the change might be disconcerting.

My second problem was the fact that the pictures sometimes felt forced into the story. There are a few instances where I really felt that the author had added a few lines to the story just so he could justify including a picture he found interesting.

That being said, I love, love, love having pictures alongside a story like this, and some did feel like effortless additions that enriched the story. I love the idea of using old photographs that are clearly “photoshopped” the old way, and then turning around and saying “Wait, there’s no trick! These pictures are true!” It brings back that feeling of being a kid, when fiction and reality were one and you felt like magic was there, right under your fingertips. It’s a beautiful feeling!

In the end – wait.

There is no end.

There is NO end!

Because Miss Peregrine’s last pages gives you a few answers, only to tell you “see ya in the next book if you want to know more!”. A book that is planned for 2013. Or something like that. I’m definitely looking forward to it though!

So, I did enjoy the book. It won’t make my 2011 best-of list, but I liked it enough to at least recommend that, if you think you might enjoy part 1 or 2 (and especially 2), you should give it a try! 🙂

The R.I.P. challenge and 3 Reviews : The Thirteenth Tale, Virals and Prophecy of the Sisters

Hello hello, all!

First of all, I missed you. It’s crazy how blogging has become such a part of my life that, when  I don’t do it for a while, I feel like there’s a little something missing in my life!

So October came and went (that was a while ago, I know!), and despite a huge blogging slump that has made this space a lot quieter, I did complete my R.I.P. challenge before October ended! I read 4 books, as I had planned, 2 of which had been on my initial list. Not bad!

I reviewed The Lace Reader previously, and it was definitely my favorite of the four. Now is the time to review the three other books I read for the occasion, and I thought it would be fun to review them all together. While I did really enjoy one of them, and thought the other two were okay, I found that I took very few notes and had little to say about them – hence the shorter reviews. Hopefully I’ll be back on top of this blogging thing before the end of the year!

* * *

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Pages : 406
Genre : Mystery, Gothic
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about : When Margaret gets hired to write the biography of one of Britain’s most popular novelists, she does it mostly out of curiosity. Vida Winter has had a prolific writing life, but the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale is one she has never shared before. Margaret soons find herself captivated by Vida’s tales, as well as facing the missing parts of her own story.

My Thoughts : The Thirteenth Tale was much more intriguing, and much more intricate that I expected it to be – but in a good way! The story within a story is a fascinating one, it’s also one that leaves you wondering; is this true, or not? How reliable is this woman’s narrative, really?

The pace was really slow at times but I didn’t mind, at all. It gave the book time to develop gently, and there were a lot of details to these little pieces of the story, so I was never bored. I enjoyed Setterfield’s writing, and while I never completely connected to Margaret, I loved her as a character. It was definitely a great read for October, and for the R.I.P. challenge.

* * *

Virals by Kathy Reichs
Pages : 452
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Series : Virals, Book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about : Tory and her friends are the first surprised when, after rescuing a dog from a laboratory, they witness their bodies reacting differently to the world around them. Now not only do they have to deal with their new abilities, they also got involved in an unresolved murder case.

My Thoughts : In theory, this one had everything to grab my interest : secret laboratory experiments, an almost secluded island, a cold case, etc. But I just couldn’t get into it.

Now, I know that Reichs is quite the popular author, her Bones novels being in every bookstore and the TV series being quite popular, too. But I didn’t like the writing, at all. I didn’t get Tory and worse, I didn’t really want to get to know her more than I already did. So I pushed through the novel and to be honest, I did skim a little. I don’t know whether this is a good sample of Reichs’ writing but based on Virals, it really isn’t for me.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Fallen
  2. Seizure

* * *

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Pages : 340
Genre : YA
Series : Prophecy of the Sisters, Book 1
My Rating :

From Goodreads : Twin sister Lia and Alice Milthorpe are yoked together in an ancient prophecy that makes them enemies and could destroy them both. If Lia can break this familial curse, she can not only save her relationship with her beloved boyfriend; she can finally resolve the mystery behind her parents’ death.

My Thoughts : Heh. I guess that’s what happens when you get lured by the pretty covers : you take a chance and, sometimes, you get disappointed. While Prophecy of the Sisters wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, either. For me it fell in the forgettable category. I’m not going to follow up on this one, sadly, even though the next covers are equally pretty.

One of the thing that really kept me from enjoying this one was the writing. What I felt was that the author, having set the story at the end of the 19th century, was trying to write in a way that would imitate writers of this time, or what one would think sounds like a 19th century character’s voice. Sadly, the narration was way too modern, and I didn’t buy it at all. It’s a quick read though, so for those who enjoy the genre, I say give it a try!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Prophecy of the Sisters
  2. Guardian of the Gate
  3. Circle of Fire

Review : The Lace Reader

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
Pages : 390
Genre : Fiction, Magical Realism
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Towner Whitney comes from a family of lace readers, women who can make lace and read one’s future through it. Twoner hasn’t been practicing lace reading ever since she left Salem, over fifteen years ago. When her great-aunt Eva disappears suddenly, Whitney finds herself forced to move back to the place where she grew up. As the disappearance gets resolved and the disappearance of a young woman comes shaking the community of Salem, Towner is faced with memories from her past, a past she had almost forgotten everything about.

My Thoughts :

Let met tell you, it’s really hard to summarize this book without spoiling any of it. Sadly I feel like the Goodreads’ summary spoils way too much of the story, unlike the really short one at the back of my book, but the great news is, there is still much more to surprise the reader in this atmospheric, mysterious novel.

The first thing Towner lets you know as the novel starts is that she is an unreliable narrator. She will tell you that she lies all the time, then move on with her story and almost never mention it again. This creates a certain uneasiness as you read, constantly wondering “What is she lying about? Is she lying about anything at all?”

The Lace Reader is also a story of grief. In Salem more than anywhere else, Towner lives with constant reminders of her twin sister’s death when they were teens. As she revisits the past she has forgotten after the shock of the event, she pieces back together the good and the bad, about her sister but also about the women of her family and the residents of Salem. The novel is, indeed, filled with a colorful cast of characters that are sometimes quirky, sometimes strange and sometimes just scary. This might lead you to believe that “normal” takes very little space in this book, but rest assured that every bit of craziness is added in moderation, giving it the depth of some of the most realistic contemporary fiction.

If I had to hold one thing against this novel, it would be the sudden shift in narration. To say it simply, The Lace Reader is told in a first person narration until it isn’t. And then it is again. But then it’s not. I don’t mind alternating different types of narrations in one novel, but the fact that the first change happens after the first 150 pages was really weird to me. I would guess this was done to add to the construction of the mystery, but I would have preferred to have the whole novel in third person, with smalls chapters in first person when, for instance, we are reading Towner’s journal.

There is a final twist that was really interesting, too. I think if you pay attention to detail you will see it coming, but what I loved was that even though I did, I hadn’t guessed some of the specifics and so it still made for an amazing ending. Reading it changed my perspective on some aspects of the book and I immediately had to go back and re-read some parts after that. Because even though I did pay attention to detail, I was amazed by Barry’s skill to add them in very subtle ways through the narration. You’ll read some of them innocently and then realize later that they were in fact important clues. Loved that!

The Lace Reader was a beautifully craft mystery that I enjoyed immensely. Its slow pace and dark atmosphere made it a perfect read at this time of the year, and I’m really glad I picked it as my first read for this year’s R.I.P. challenge. It has a lot to offer for discussions, too, and I know I have to let it sit on my shelves for a while to make a final decision on its rating. It might be higher, and if it doesn’t become one of this year’s favorites, and will definitely be close to.