After all, tomorrow is another day.” –Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind.
Book endings. Firstly, a question – do you flip to the end of a book out of impatience?? I used to do this for some reason – not sure why and I don’t do it any more – what about you?
So last week I took a look at opening sentences. This was prompted by a question brought up by the Classics Club and it got me to thinking. The results are here. I think that what this made me see is that whilst some books really hook you from the first sentence it’s not always necessary, you still continue to read and the book speaks for itself. That’s not to say that openings are not important – sometimes they provide a great hook or serve to demonstrate what you can expect for the rest of the story. What I think personally is that if you really enjoy the book remembering the ending will give you an extra sense of nostalgia.
Anyway, moving swiftly on this got me to thinking I should give endings a look at. Let’s face it endings are pretty damned important. I’m not sure I’ve reached a conclusion with this topic. It feels to me that if I’ve really enjoyed the book a disappointing ending might not necessarily spoil it but I think if I was only so/so about the book and the ending was naff the book stands no chance. On the other hand, if I’m a bit so/so about a book but the ending is terrific it definitely raises the status because the ending is what provides you with the feeling you finish with when you put the book down. Basically I’m sitting on the fence and looking at it from all angles!
I must admit that picking endings was more difficult. It’s tricky talking openly about book endings because you’ll be giving away spoilers. This is what I’ve come up with and I’ve kept my discussion to a minimum to avoid giving away the plots.
- I am Legend by Richard Matheson – the ending of this book is bloody brilliant. I mean, I can’t really say too much without giving it away for those who haven’t read it. This is only a short read, it’s a bit grim and I don’t think you’ll always like the main character, plus a lot of the technical elements wouldn’t stand up to a great deal of scrutiny. But the ending is perfect. And, in case you’re thinking ‘I’ve seen the film’ – it’s different in the book and much more poignant.
- A Wonderful Year by Geraldine Brooks. This is a great book that I loved, but, I didn’t like the ending. I won’t go into the reasons why because I don’t want to spoil it for others. Just that the ending of the book seemed surreal and out of place. I would however still very much recommend this book – it’s just so good. The voice and historical detail are brilliant and it’s based on actual events. It’s set in a small town where the inhabitants decided to impose a quarantine during the plague. It’s a compelling read.
- Room by Emma Donaghue. A good book. Well written. Intriguing concept but I was disappointed slightly with the end because I would have preferred for the second half to split between the mother and boy’s voice – I think the ending spoiled this book for me a little.
- The Midwife by Chris Bohjalian - a shock ending. That’s all I will say. And, yes, I recommend this book.
- The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian – I was really looking forward to this one. I like the author and it’s a horror/ghost story. It starts off really strong but then for me it became unsatisfactory. Plus I really didn’t enjoy the ending and it just spoiled the book for me which was a shame.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy – a very respected book. Talk about your grimdark! I liked the fact that it doesn’t delve too deeply into the whys and wherefores but makes the story one about survival. Would I have liked a different ending. Yes. Do I still think it’s worth reading – yes. Is it a light read – nope.
- Sister by Rosamund Lupton. This story is a murder mystery. I think that, unless you’ve read spoilers, the ending will be a surprise. It’s the sort of ending where you have to go back and rethink virtually everything you’ve read.
- One Day by Dave Nicholls – this is actually one book where for me the ending spoiled the book a bit. Sorry, but there it is. Why Dave Nicholls? Just Why?
- Game of Thrones by George Martin- This is a great book but as I was reading I couldn’t help but wonder where the fantasy element came into the story. It felt more like a fictitious historical novel – right up until the ending. Made me finish the story with a bit of a cheesy grin.
- Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer – yes, I read all these books and I admit it here quite openly so break out the pitchforks and torches right now. Breaking Dawn has got to be the strangest ending to a series that I’ve ever read. The tone of the book was completely different to the rest of the series. The ending was a none event and there was far too much ‘trying to please everyone’ which never really works. The whole book felt like it had been written by someone else!
‘More ending in death, but this time it sounds like a solace after life. I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.’ Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
*** THE END ***
Just finished reading the Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. The Shining Girls is a story of time travel and murder! It’s a great concept and I was excited to pick it up.
The story contains two main characters. Harper, a drifter who has a natural proclivity towards violence which finds him at the beginning of the book being chased by a pack of angry men intent on teaching him a lesson. Kirby, survivor of a brutal murder attempt whose world has been turned upside down as a result and who believes her would be murderer to be a serial killer.
At the start of the story Harper unwittingly comes across the key to a house that enables him to travel through time. The shabby exterior of the house belies the interior which provides a more than comfortable home for Harper as he jumps between time seeking the ‘shining’ girls that have been chosen for him by the house. Harper is indeed a serial killer and with the discovery of time travel he has found the way to be a perfect killer.
Kirby is a good character to read. In spite of the horrendous attack she survived she is determined to remain strong. Of course it’s difficult to lead a normal life as most people now view her as something as a freak show at worst and curiosity at best. Kirby joins a newspaper team as an intern. She is obsessed with finding her would-be murderer and the newspaper archives provide a wealth of material about past stabbing victims.
This story has huge scope and I really do think it’s an intriguing premise. Fortunately the author made the choice to restrict the time travel to a certain period jumping mainly between the 1930s to the 1990s otherwise this would have become to wide to be interesting in the way intended.
In terms of characters. Harper is a ruthless character. He really is quite vile and the way he jumps back and forth stalking his victims and giving them mementos before he jumps ahead to perpetrate his crime is really quite chilling. In fact it takes stalking to a whole other level and I confess here and now that this book made me rethink certain walking routes on my way home! I think what adds to the level of horror in this story is that in spite of the supernatural element brought by a time travelling house the whole serial killer storyline feels real. You sort of read it with a growing but gripping horror. It’s like watching a disaster or a train wreck. You can’t watch it but you also can’t ‘not’ watch it (double negative I know but I just had to!)
The girls that Harper kills are chosen by the house. You could say that these are randomly chosen but I don’t particularly think that’s the case. All of them seem to have something to offer to society and it seems to be this that makes them ‘shine’ with potential. Other than that it’s a mystery why the house chooses these particular girls. I wondered if the whole concept of the house was determined by the character of the person who found it’s secret. Certainly the previous occupant seems to give an indication that that might be the case. It’s almost like the author has taken the phrase ’be careful what you wish for’ and manipulated it. I remember reading in another story about an object that grants wishes but the wishes were always distorted and never failed but to bring misery. And similarly in this case the house takes your desires or inner secrets and character and twists them to a horrible extent, magnifying them and almost making the inhabitant insane in the process. Harper’s was already a violent character with little respect for human life even before he came across the House. The House merely picked this trait and used it to satisfy Harper’s own desires but in a way that created more of a monster than he was previously capable of being.
On top of that is the whole time travel theme. I wouldn’t say this is greatly delved into but nevertheless you can’t help but be sucked into the whole ‘chicken or egg’ first dilemma. If you read the book you’ll understand what I mean. Did Harper find the house as a result of blind luck or did he himself, as a future version, lay the tracks for finding the house! It’s one of those little niggles that will keep you thinking long after you put the book down with a whole series of ‘what ifs’.
I think Beukes has quite a compelling writing style. She manages in just a few short pages to give you the essence of the girls that have been chosen and to provide them with their own identity and character. None of them are similar. They seem to come from all walks of life.
Kirby and Dan, the reporter who takes her on as intern, are likeable characters. Dan, I suppose could be seen as a bit of a cliche. A bit bitter. Divorced, formerly a homicide reporter but now travelling the country and reporting on baseball as his health and family life was too greatly affected by his former duties. He develops feelings for Kirby which in a way I was glad of. There isn’t really a romance although the ending leaves that open but I was glad that Kirby seemed to finally find someone who didn’t want to look into the goldfish bowl of her life and was actually interested in her as a person.
Now, I will just warn you that if you’re a bit squeamish then this might not be for you. The murders are a bit shocking and grisly to say the least and you read them with one eye shut – if I hadn’t been reading in my lunch break or during travel to and from work I probably would have been holding a cushion in front of my face as well.
In terms of criticisms well there is of course the fact that as you read about each of these characters you have the inevitable feeling of doom as you know what’s coming their way. So, yes, not exactly cheerful or upbeat. I also experienced a slight lull about half way through which I think was as a result of the above – it’s difficult to be drawn into liking a character or having interest and sympathy with their life if you know already what their ending will be. You experience this whole thing of ‘what’s the point in liking her’. It’s not the way you start off of course. You start off liking the girls but as the story progresses rather than actually liking them you’re reading ahead with a sense of impending doom and you start to view them all as dead before you started. You’re almost reading just to witness their ending which is a bit uncomfortable in a way, and definitely if you’ve developed a liking for them. What does bring this around however is the way Kirby pursues Harper. Part of you has a feeling of ‘no way can she find him’. Yet you have to read on to find out. More to the point, is she still safe? She may have survived but the murderer can of course travel back and forth. I think some people may want more detail about the nature of the house but I didn’t particularly feel that the lack of detail detracted. I had my own views about what was happening and why. And on top of this I appreciated the simplicity of the ideas and the fact that the author doesn’t overload the story with complicated notions about what’s happening. I have an imagination and I’m not afraid to use it!
On the whole I thought this was a good story, a really original concept and a compelling read and as a result I will definitely look back at other works by this author.
I bought this book but also received a copy from Net Galley in exchange for a honest review.
Just finished reading Immortal Rules by Julia Kagawa as part of her Blood of Eden series. I actually liked this more than I anticipated. Now, I realise that seems a negative thing to say but there has been rather a flush of vampire/dystopia books on the market for quite some time and so whilst part of me thought I’d give it a go, another part was a bit reluctant so this book had a bit of work to win me over and it succeeded.
Basically, the premise for the book is fairly simple. Set about 60 years into the future a disease has spread through the world killing off many people – a bit like a plague, Red Lung, struck fast and laid cities and towns to waste. At this point the vampires, who have always secretly lived amongst us, became exposed. Their meals on legs were diminishing rapidly and the threat of human extinction forced them into the open! Action was needed and the vampire overlords set up cities, cities, with humans working for them and also acting as donors. Supposedly a peaceful arrangement although given the predatory nature of vampires people still mysteriously disappeared from the streets. The vampires therefore found a way to survive. What of the humans, why would they live in this way? Well, not only vampires came out of the woodwork when the strange plague hit. Rabids also became abundant. Not quite vampire, not quite human and any human bitten by one will themselves succumb to the disease. And so, Rabids seem to have become the majority shareholder! There’s a lot of them and like vampires they’re strong, fast and lethal. They move only in the night and constantly crave blood – unlike vampires however they have no restraint and are driven into a frenzy at the sight of humans.
At the start of the story we are introduced to Allison. An orphan, Allison refuses to be one of the masses donating blood. She lives unregistered in the outer limits of the city. Life as an unregistered is hard. Always hungry, begging for food and constantly scared of being caught and punished, sometimes driven to the extreme of going beyond the city walls to scavenge for left overs. Outside the walls live the rabids. They can smell the humans and their desire for blood drives them to cities where their prey is more abundant. On one such occasion when the pangs of hunger are unbearable Allison discovers a secret cache of food outside the walls perimeters. The following day she returns with her small gang to retrieve the food but disaster strikes when the rabids attack. Near to death, salvation for Allison comes in the form of a vampire who gives her the choice of immortality. Will she choose to become one of the monsters that she’s always loathed or will she instead choose death? Well, it would have been a fairly short story if Allison had made the latter choice!
I’m not going to go into the rest of the plot too much. Allison goes from vampire in training, to travelling in a pack of homeless people trying to find ‘Eden’ to a daring rescue attempt from a cruel city run by a powerful overlord and populated by bandits.
What I liked about this book was that the author gives us a strong likeable character. Allison is no simpering female. She’s lived a harsh life and as a consequence she’s tough. As a vampire though she’s beset by internal conflict, a little like Louis in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. I don’t suppose we’re introduced to anything new or revolutionary here. Vampires need blood to survive, they sleep in the day and would die if exposed to sunlight. A stake in the heart and decapitation are the best ways of extermination. I suppose what is different is Allison’s attempt to cling to her humanity and not to let her inner demons take control.
In terms of the rest of the characters not a lot really stand out so far. Allison narrates the story and some of the other characters pale a little bit in comparison. I certainly thought the overlord baddie could have been worked on a little more.
Of course I did have a few criticisms. There is a little bit of repetitiveness in the story where you have a feeling of deja vu when reading. There was also the consideration of whether the author would fall into the human/vampire love ‘thing’ and whilst she didn’t totally succumb there is the start of a romance developing at the end of the story. I’m not really a big fan of this scenario. My other little niggle was the cover – I know I shouldn’t bang on about it but the cover of this book doesn’t seem to me to portray an asian girl.
Other than that I thought this was a good start to the series and I will definitely continue. I look forward to seeing how Allison develops.
I received a copy of this book through the publishers via NetGalley in return for a honest opinion.
Great opening lines.
As part of a monthly meme by the Classics Club we were asked about what are our favourite or most memorable opening lines. I must admit that I immediately thought of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca: ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ Of course this line is really memorable and the lovely Jessica from Bookwork Chronicles had bagged it! No surprise that this would make the list. This got me to thinking about great opening lines and how much of an impact they have. I certainly don’t think I would be put off reading a book if the opening line didn’t pack a punch but I wonder if it does make a difference to how you think about the book. My choice for the classics has to be:
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. Spot on if you ask me!
In terms of other great openers Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book grabs your attention immediately. ‘There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife’. You couldn’t stop reading after that could you?
I’ve picked ten openers, or more to the point I’ve thought about ten books that I love and taken a look at how they start:
- ‘My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.’ Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. This is a favourite. Is this opener fantastic. Probably not. Does it make me like the book less. Definitely not.
- ”My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie.’ The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I really loved this book and I think this is a great opener – ‘my name was Salmon’ – ‘was’ being the word that immediately draws your attention!
- ‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day’. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This is another one of my favourite books and yet I wouldn’t say the opening line really grabs me having taken a fresh look. Did it stop me reading or picking up and reading again. No.
- ‘It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.’ I had to cheat again here. This is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I think this is a good opener – it makes me want to know what the three parts of silence are. You? Course I do love this book so my judgement might be a bit skewed!
- ‘At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-Seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy.’ The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Another great book – that opening line is a bit of a mouthful (or a mindful). You pretty much know that you’re into the world of fantasy straight from the get go.
- ‘Ravens! Always the ravens. They settled on the gables of the church even before the injured became the dead.’ Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. I cheated again (this is becoming a habit). Fantastic book. I think I detect a theme of liking sentences that are short and punchy.
- ‘On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.’ I am Legend by Richard Matheson. This is a great opener I think – who are ‘they’ – you have to read on and find out!
- ‘When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.’ Needs no introduction. No really! If you don’t know what this book is then (1) WTF (2) Are you serious; and (c) get out of that black hole and read LoTR now! Ok it’s probably not got the same hook as some but Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is such a great book it couldn’t miss the list. You straight away get the feeling of a story well told. Put on your slippers and settle down in a comfy chair to read (a glass of nice red wouldn’t go amiss either).
- ‘Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day.’ A beautiful and whimsical opening by Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making.
- ‘The Children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do.’ This has a definite hook. Did it make you want to read? if so – Wool by Hugh Howie
I’ve told you mine now tell me yours – just your favourite (you don’t have to go all out and find 10)
Fall of Night is the 14th instalment in the Morganville Vampires series – I think No.15 is the final book but I’ve been known to be wrong so don’t quote me. Fall of Night continues with the battle to stay alive as Claire finally leaves Morganville when she’s accepted into MIT. Of course this is a dream come true but is bitter sweet as she’ll be leaving behind her friends, her boyfriend and Myrnin. Before I go any further with this review I will warn you that there could be spoilers for earlier books in the series contained below so if you haven’t already read up to this point – BEWARE! (You were warned). Also, I think these books should be read as a series – I dare say you could pick up one of these and quickly grasp the story and run with it – but I think it would be better to have a bit of background to the characters not to mention the trials and tribulations they’ve been through already – it gives a bit more meaning to the betrayals and guilt in this particular instalment.
Anyway. Off Claire sets with her spotted hanky. Once again she’s staying off campus and is sharing with an old school friend (who’s name I seem to have forgotten at breakneck speed! Think it was Liz???). However, when she arrives things pretty quickly go off kilter. At first you could be forgiven for thinking that finally Claire looks set to live her dream. She’s more confident in this instalment, easily making friends. She’s introduced to Professor Anderson who she will be working with in a very impressive lab. She has a place to stay and whilst she’s going to miss everyone (almost everyone) back at Morganville it feels as though she’s going to make friends here very easily. Of course, as you’ll know if you’ve read previous MV stories nothing is ever that simple. A would-be stalker seems to be taking up permanent residence outside of her new apartment – and he’s intensely creepy. On top of that Shane doesn’t seem to quite grasp the concept of this whole break thing/giving Claire some space and has basically followed her to town where he’s found himself a job and residence and is casually keeping an eye on her – no, he’s not the creepy stalker. And, lastly, Claire’s invention, that she’s brought to MIT to continue working on with the Prof seems to be getting a lot of unwanted attention. Men in dark suits also seem to be tailing Claire, checking out her apartment (without an invitation), watching her movements (this is like a book of stalkers!)
Basically, the invention that Claire was working on to try and temper vampire emotions has come to the attention of a secret organisation. They want to get their hands on VLAD (Claire’s invention) and they’re not overly fussy about taking prisoners. As history will teach us, great inventions can usually be turned around to suit a different purpose for that which they were originally intended and Claire’s invention is no exception.
That’s about all I’m going to say here in terms of plot so you’ll just have to go and read the book if you want to know more.
The story takes on a fairly sinister feel quite quickly with abductions and the like and the tension is ramped up for the grand finale.
As in the latter books the POV in this novel extends to take on board Shane’s voice and I really quite welcome this addition as it expands the story for readers.
In terms of criticisms – well, if you’re hoping for all the usual characters to be playing their regular roles then you may be disappointed. Eve and Shane only become involved in the story in the last third of the book – as does Myrnin and Oliver – although this isn’t really a surprise. It would be a bit odd if we had a full Morganville cast involved now that Claire has moved away! I can’t say I ever really ‘got along’ with the new cast and a few of the characters felt thrown in there for very little purpose.
On the whole I thought this was another enjoyable instalment by RC. She never fails to come up with a new theme which always amazes me and in spite of the fact that this is No.14 she keeps things fairly fresh – I think what helps with this is that the time period covered in each book is relatively short (I don’t think this instalment can have covered much more than a fortnight period in total from start to end – although, again, I could be wrong so don’t beat me over the head with a verbal stick please.
If you’re looking for somethings suave and sophisticated then this might not fit the bill but if you’d enjoy a series where plenty goes on, there’s a bit of fun and snark in spite of the constant life threatening situations and a cast of characters that you can’t fail to like at least some of (my favourite being Myrnin) then give this a go. In terms of some of the similar series that are around I think this one compares very well. Plus – Myrnin and his vampire bunny slippers! I’m intrigued to know how Ms Caine is going to wrap this up. Will it be possible to have a happy ending? It’s a tricky one and given the cliff hanger ending it’s going to feel like a long 6 months before I get to read the conclusion .
Patience is a virtue…