Review – The End of Mr. Y

The End of Mr. Y was the start of my reviewing slump. I finished this book and decided to sit on it for a few days before writing. My thoughts needed to percolate. OK, so, I had no idea what this book was about and no idea what I thought of it. I didn’t know what to write. I still don’t know how to describe this book or what I think of it. Be patient. I plan to get there.

Ariel Manto is a woman with no plan. She’s a columnist for an obscure magazine and has made the bold choice of returning to academia to study even more obscure concepts than the ones she writes about. During her research, she comes across a book titled, The End of Mr. Y. This book is supposedly cursed and all who read it mysteriously disappear, including her advisor, who, before he went missing, told her abruptly to stop researching the book and forget the topic. Ignoring his advice, Ariel tracks down a copy of the strange book anyway and using a formula she finds outlined in the pages of the book, brews a drink that will take her into the troposphere — a strange dimension where she can enter the consciousness of others. Incidentally, this is where all the missing people are and it may be too late for Ariel to be saved.

So, the troposphere. I. Don’t. Get. It. First, it’s a mind experiment. Then a government conspiracy involved with what I think is some rouge version of the CIA involving autistic children. And there are all these mice involved. It’s confusing. As. All. Hell.

There’s so much going on in this book. At times, it feels like a mystery. Other times it feels like an academic paper on physics gone wrong. And all the mice — what was with the mice?

At one point, as Ariel is entering the troposphere, she ends up in the mind of a mouse. It’s entertaining for a bit but then it keeps going and we end up finding out that there’s a mouse god. Well, he’s not really a mouse, but he is to Ariel and no amount of explaining fixed that he was still a mouse. For me or for Ariel.

There’s a love story here as well. And, Ariel, well, she’s not a good candidate to be part of a love story. She sleeps with anyone, for almost any reason. Model of a happy, healthy relationship she is not. I couldn’t buy into her suddenly being in a semi-normal relationship, especially when her new partner is a former priest with lots of issues.

Here’s what got me with this book — it didn’t feel accessible. Physics is not something I know much about but I’m a curious person and I will read almost anything that promises science of some sort. That’s what drew me to this book. Unfortunately, for me, it didn’t work. I felt disconnected from the story. I wanted the characters to bring me in, but they didn’t. All of the characters are such a strange mismatch of people. I had high hopes for them since I do tend to like characters on the weird side, but they didn’t have any harmony. Every character felt separate and didn’t mesh for me.

This wasn’t the book for me but I will say that it hasn’t turned me off of Scarlett Thomas’s writing. She’s incredibly, so incredibly creative. In fact, this is a very smart book. Plot wise, it’s crazy but even though I was struggling with it, I never wanted to stop reading. I just wasn’t getting it. Maybe that says more about me than the book. Who knows.

Have you read this one? Thoughts? Opinions?

The End of Mr. Y
By Scarlett Thomas
ISBN: 9780156031615
2.5 stars


Review – The Name of the Wind

Kote is a man of secrets but you wouldn’t know it. For as much as anyone knows, he’s a quiet tavern owner who doesn’t get involved in the lives of his patrons. When Chronicler, a man who collects stories and is after the story of a man named Kvothe, stops at Kote’s Waystone Inn, he finds not only the story but the man. Kvothe — who now goes by the name of Kote and is enjoying life as a tavern owner — begins his story with his happy childhood being cruelly taken from him, his years living alone with his sadness, his survival on the streets, and years at university. As his life story unfolds, as do many questions — who exactly is Kvothe and what kind of power does he hold?

The book started a little slow for me and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it even though I had very high hopes for it. It came highly recommended and I didn’t want to give up before I found the goodness I was promised. In the end, my worries disappeared and I got caught up in the story Kvothe was telling wondering how his young self would handle the next problem. He’s immature and incredibly smart (he gets into university years before he should have even been considered) and because of this, he gets into one problem after the other. Somehow, this didn’t bother me at all because at this point I was too caught up in the story he was telling to care. I was also entranced with the magical world he was becoming a part of. The university itself is an interesting place and seeing Kvothe trying to fit in was a story in itself but that’s not all. He quickly becomes a part of the university but sees more of the underground than most and he refuses to let go of one subject — the Chandrain. He must find out how and why the Chandrain killed his parents. I wanted these answers too and was glad to see it didn’t fade into the background of the story.

What I really liked about this book, besides the world building which is top grade, is the way it’s told. It’s Kvothe’s own words. He tells you his life story and it has a very personal feel. Because of this I didn’t want to stop reading once I got into the story.

This is the first book in a series followed by A Wise Man’s Fear. I will be reading the next book in the series. It’s my first Rothfuss and I’m looking forward to more. His writing style is quiet, much like his character Kvothe, but he has a way of bringing you into a story and making you feel as if you can’t leave until it’s finished. It’s addictive writing. It’s addictive storytelling.

This review feels so inadequate. Here’s the thing, if you like fantasy, you should read this book. That’s all you need to know.

The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss

Daw Books, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-7564-0474-1

4.25 stars

What I’m Reading Today

I started Among Others by Jo Walton the other day. It took me a few pages to get into but I’m really enjoying it now. At first, I had trouble with the tone and the fact that I have no history on the characters with the exception of what Mori, the narrator and main character, offers up, which isn’t much. Somewhere in those first few chapters, more accurately dairy entries, I started to admire her for her reading choices — J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula La Guin— and her love of the library. For a story I wasn’t sure I was going to finish, this book is ending stronger than it started for me.

Have you read this book? Thoughts?

Today’s Book – The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton

You know all those newsletters you get?  Well, the other day I decided to go through them all, skimming here and there, trying to get through as many as possible before my self-allotted time gave out.  That’s when I came across this little tidbit.  It’s a book trailer for The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton which is coming out this September.

It takes place in Victorian London, a favorite time period of mine, and involves faeries.  Faeries are not a staple of my fantasy reading but why can’t they be?  Also, the trailer looks gothic and foreboding — love that combination.

If you’re interested, more info about the book is here.

Review – Fathom


By Cherie Priest


ISBN: 0-7653-1840-7

3.5 stars

Over the past months and probably years if I’m honest, I’ve read some good things about Cherie Priest’s books (Boneshaker and Four and Twenty Blackbirds come to mind) so when browsing the library for something new, I stumbled upon Priest’s Fathom and decided immediately it should come home with me.  I liked this book well enough but I don’t know how to classify it — it was surely fantasy, felt a little like a fairy-tale re-telling of a few mashed up stories, and then a story about sleeping gods.

Arahab waits in the water for the right moment.  Waiting for a foot to dip in or a body to be thrown overboard so she can find her next pet child to mold into the beast she needs to wake the Leviathan.  She finds her next child in Beatrice a spoiled teenager, murderer, and genuinely wicked person.  Her cousin Nia would have been a better capture for Arahab but it was Beatrice she caught.  Nia, lured into the water as a means of escaping Beatrice on a murderous rampage, runs from Arahab and believes she has escaped until she realizes she’s been turned to stone.  While the beast that made Nia waits for her to awaken, the gods begin to play their own games.

Priest created a strange little world to drop Nia and Beatrice into.  Toyed with by gods in the hope these two mortals will do their bidding, they are surprised by the strength the mere humans possess.  Nia and Beatrice defy both gods that created them in ways the gods never imagined.  The roles they played were interesting even if they were being used as a means to show how the gods have fallen.  What I really wanted though was background.  In some books I’m good with nothing — drop me in and I’ll learn as I go.  Other times, I want ropes.  This time I wanted ropes.  Not because the story was hard to follow, it wasn’t at all, but because I felt I was missing vital information that would have made me love it more.  We know no more of the gods than Nia and Beatrice which is fine and understandable, but I wanted more and that I think is my hang-up.

Would I recommend it?  Yes, to someone who is OK with being dropped in to a story.  If you are, then all good.  Read it because it’s a good book.  I was slightly disappointed with it though but still found it well done.  I’ve been seeing a lot of talk (or maybe it’s only me looking for something specific) about Four and Twenty Blackbirds.  When I get through the stack of towering books threatening to fall off my desk and dent my floor, I’ll be on a hunt for it.

Review – Garden Spells

Garden Spells

By Sarah Addison Allen

A Bantam Book

eISBN: 9780553904123

5 stars

Sarah Addison Allen is a new to me author but I don’t foresee that being the case for very long.  Her style is lyrical, almost poetic, and her characters are amazing creatures of habit that make you love their ways.

Claire Waverly enjoys her quiet life in her family’s old Victorian house in North Carolina, she loves even more the garden out back which produces flowers and herbs and when incorporated into family recipes, can bring about certain feelings in people.  A caterer in town, she’s happy to live her quiet life but when her long lost sister Sydney shows up with her five year old daughter, Bay, her life is thrown into a new orbit.  She’s no longer the sole keeper of the house, her sister is keeping some secret she won’t share, and Bay shows budding family traits of the Waverly women — magical powers of a sort with flowers and an ability to know where everything and everyone belongs.  Sydney keeps fighting her Waverly roots but soon starts to realize that she’s going to need to embrace who she is.

I don’t want to gush all over this book but I’m going to.  Claire and Sydney are sisters who don’t act like it but there is a love between them and when it grows it’s almost as lovely as the garden.  Next door, a new neighbor, Tyler, brings love to Claire and she’s a woman whose life is sorely in need of human contact, even if he is a little bit too pushy for my taste.  Sydney is a woman hurting from an abusive relationship and she doesn’t want to share anything for fear that she and her daughter might be found.  It’s a story of family, love, strength, and learning to embrace life and who you are.  It doesn’t feel odd even for all of its magical elements.  Addison Allen infuses just enough to make it work but she doesn’t make it overbearing or the focus of the story.  It all works.  Magical realism can sometimes over compensate for other story elements but here is all feels right; just life with a little extra.

This is one I highly recommend.  If Sarah Addison Allen is a new to you author, read this one.

Review – The Woman in Black

The Women in Black

By Susan Hill

Illustrations by John Lawrence

David R. Godine

ISBN: 0879235764

4.5 stars

Arthur Krupps is an ambitious, young lawyer looking forward to providing a secure future for his fiancé.  When his employer sends him to a small, isolated town in the north of England, he looks at it as an opportunity to make a name for himself in his firm.  On the long train ride north, he meets a man named Samuel Daily of the town of Crythin Gifford who becomes rather secretive when Arthur reveals the reason for his visit.  Arthur thinks nothing of Samuel’s odd behavior and, in fact, he finds the town a quiet, peaceful place and expects to enjoy his short stay.  He soon finds out that everyone in town is unwilling to talk about a woman named Alice Drablow, a recluse who lived at Eel Marsh House and the woman whose estate Arthur’s come to settle.  Arthur thinks it odd but brushes it off as nothing more than small town politics and just wants to get through the formalities of his work and return to London.  While attending the funeral of Mrs. Drablow, Arthur spots a woman in black but she disappears before he’s able to speak with her.  He spots her again while walking around Eel Marsh House later that afternoon but she’s much more intimidating on the marshes around the house than at the church.  Thoroughly spooked, he returns to town but is determined to return and finish his work.  When he does return, he finds a house full of sinister secrets and a ghost bent on revenge.

This story, while very short, is full of long, lush sentences that cast a creepy spell.  Arthur wants to believe what’s going on is in his mind but there are too many things happening that make him wonder, in some cases about his own sanity and well-being.  The town’s people won’t talk about the house on the marsh or what happened there and it adds a strange coldness to the story setting Arthur apart from everyone in town.  His search for answers only causes more distress and in the end, all he wants to do is run.  While Arthur’s story begins on a bright cheery note, you know his story won’t end happily.

It’s a good little Victorian story.  Angst, guilt, and anguish with a tad of soul searching thrown in make it a story you don’t want to put down.  If you like ghost stories this is it.  If you don’t, I think it will still hold some value as a story about a man coming to terms with a particular time in his life that he would prefer to forget.  If you don’t like ghost stories, consider it a story about a man and his past with a haunting element that adds atmosphere.

I came across this book while hunting for a dark ghost story.  Susan Hill has several other books, many of which seem to be well-known in England where she lives.  I plan to see what else my library has as she’s definitely a writer I want to read more of.  She has a wonderful style that is lulling but not in the way that puts you to sleep but in the way that pulls you into the story and traps you there until she’s ready to release you.


Review – Time Travelers Never Die

Time Travelers Never Die

By Jack McDevitt

Ace Books

ISBN: 9780441017638

3 stars

Science fiction is a genre I’ve fall out with, not intentionally, it somehow just happened over the years.  Lately I’ve wanted to get reacquainted and this was my first foray back into science fiction.

After Michael Shelbourne, a well-known physicist, goes missing, his son Shel finds out he developed and successfully used a time machine.  Concerned his father may be stuck in another time without means to get home, he convinces his friend Dave Dryden, to help him search for his father.

The story was good enough but it felt sort of, well, it was a lot less complicated than I thought the story would be especially for a time travel story.  His father goes missing and Shel, rightfully distraught, goes to find him and along the way there are several interesting adventures but it felt like there was no urgency to the story.  Shel and Dave do land in a few messes which is expected when time traveling but they all too easily get out of it simply by setting one of the devices to go back and put together a rescue.  Poof, they get out of trouble, no harm done.  There is a time paradox that comes into play but neither Shel nor Dave seemed all that concerned about it so I wasn’t either.  However, I wanted the whole time travel aspect to be more complicated but all of it started to feel a little vacationy to me — the two take trips to party with Voltaire and watch plays in Ancient Greece and while it’s fun, there just doesn’t feel like there’s enough conflict.

This isn’t a negative review though.  McDevitt is a fun writer and while this book wasn’t a total score for me, it made me wonder about some of his other books so I think I’ll be giving him another opportunity to impress me.