Showing posts with label Thriller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thriller. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

And here it is!  The long-awaited latest Flavia de Luce mystery.  It was eminently confusing, thrilling, shocking, and very strange.  I loved it.

(I recommend reading this post before you read this if you haven't read these books)

Flavia has been sent from her beloved Buckshaw (the name of her home) in England to the Canadian girls' boarding school that her mother attended.  Feeling rejected and lonely, Flavia sets off with the awful Rainsmiths, members of the school board, to her new school, Miss Bodycote's Female Academy.  However, there may still be hope for Flavia when, on her first night at school, a mummified body wrapped in a Union Jack falls out of the chimney.  Rather than the expected child's response of fear, she pockets some pieces of evidence to examine and sets to work solving the case.  But there's more-along with all of this runs the mystery of three missing girls who are never discussed.  In addition to this, she's making friends, constantly having run-ins with the strict headmistress, and taking private Chemistry lessons from the Chemistry teacher.  And Flavia is determined that she will be the one to solve both mysteries.

Parallel to all of this is an overarching mystery that has been growing throughout this entire series.  Flavia's mother, who died in Himalayas on a mission, was in some sort of secret spy organization, or so we gather, which Flavia is now expected to join.  It is only hinted at and pretty much all we know about it is its name-the Nide.  It begins to be revealed in this book that Miss Bodycote's is a cover for all sorts of work done by the Nide, something that some of the girls and teachers are in on.  Even in this book, things just grow more cloudy and confusing, but this just gives me hope of another book in the series.

Reading through this summary, I am struck by how ridiculous and formulaic these books could be. It's my own opinion that mysteries can veer off in that direction very easily and everything about these books could, if given the chance, scream "unbelievable and cheesy".  But, Alan Bradley never for a second even considers allowing that to happen.  The books are crisp and funny and exciting and, yes, even believable.  Flavia is a gem of a character, brilliantly written, and even made me interested in Chemistry (her specialty).  The supporting characters are no cardboard props, but 3-dimensional characters with interesting stories and unique personalities.  Even the villains aren't formulaic!

In reading people's reviews, I discovered that a lot of people objected to this book on the grounds that it was too confusing and that Flavia didn't end up with a clear ending or even direction.  I will agree with this objectors that this book did feel a bit like just setting the stage for the next book.  However, what I disagree with is the objection that Flavia didn't end up with a clear direction.  She is told that she "passed with flying colors" and, though we don't know what this means yet, we can understand that she clearly accomplished something.

If you've been reading the Flavia series, you really need to get your hands on a copy of this one.  If you haven't read any of them, well, you are in for a big treat, I think.  And if you have read this book, please chime in and let me know what you thought of it!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Her Royal Spyness Book 3- Royal Flush

I read something on the definitely light-ish side this weekend-the 3rd in the Her Royal Spyness series.  The Her Royal Spyness series is absolute fluff, but everybody needs some fluffy, no-brain-work-involved reading every once in a while, right?  I read the first two books but, when I went to find them to link, I couldn't find them.  So, all this to say, I am quite positive that I wrote reviews of the first two, but I can't find them anywhere.

I thought that this book was the best of all of them.  It was funny, it didn't have some of that awkward, trying-to-be-royal thing that I encountered in the other two books, and it was well-written, in a fluffy kind of way.

In this book, Lady Georgiana, Georgie for short, has gotten into a bit of a sticky situation.  It is a hot London summer and, with her on-the-sly cleaning business over for the time being, she searches around for a suitable job.  She tries hiring herself out as a theater and dinner companion and puts and ad in the paper and uses rather unfortunate terms.  As the editor of the paper tells her the next morning, "You might as well have just written 'Call Fifi for a good time'".  Mortified at her naive mistake, Georgie allows herself to be shipped home to castle Rannoch, which includes tracking the disreputable Prince of Wales, who is still flirting with the not-yet-divorcee, Mrs. Simpson at the castle down the road, Castle Balmoral.

While on the train, Georgie is coerced into helping Scotland Yard.  It appears as though somebody is trying to kill off members in line to the throne and Scotland Yard suspects that it is somebody "on the inside".  While there, Georgie comes across the dashing Darcy O'Mara who still seems to be in pursuit of her in the odd moments when he isn't running around the countery.

Of course, the book was no end amusing.  I spent the majority of the last few evenings curled up on the sofa with a huge horse-blanket quilt over my knees, reading Royal Flush.  It was a lovely way to spend those evenings and I even caught myself being thankful for the dratted Daylight Savings.

While these books are definitely fun to read, I wonder if I'll read through the whole series.  The books do have pretty much the same characters doing the same things, with no progression whatsoever, which gets kind of annoying.  And I get the feeling that nothing much is going to change in the future.  Maybe I'll just space the books so that I'm reading one every 6 months, so they don't get on my nerves.

This book was definitely faster paced with more intrigue and dashing here and there.  In the end, there's this section where Georgie is trapped up in an airplane with the murderer…talk about thrilling!  Of course Darcy O'Mara comes to save the day and everything ends alright, but the book is full of these kind of settings and adventures, something that was lacking in the previous two books.  It definitely kept the book from being totally repetitive and dry.

If you're in the mood for a light read with absolutely nothing that's going to make you have to seriously pay attention and if you like a good period mystery, then this is a good book for you.  Overall, I enjoyed it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Code Name Verity

For some reason, it's taken me forever to write this post.  It's not like I couldn't think of things to say, I just kept forgetting about it.  Anyway, here is the post.

Code Name Verity is about a young spy, "Verity", who is captured by the Gestapo in 1943.  She is given the option to reveal her mission or die a horrible, torturous death.  Verity chooses the first option and is given paper and pencils to write out her mission.  As Verity writes out her story, she weaves in the story of how she met her friend, a pilot named Maddie, who flew the plane she was in when it wrecked.  Verity writes with a desperate passion that comes through beautifully.

So here were the things I liked about the novel:

  • It is seriously the most well-written YA novel I have ever read.  I have mentioned before that I usually scoff at young adult fiction.  In my opinion, it's usually poorly written and shallow and very formulaic (sorry, young adult readers).  However, Code Name Verity defies every one of these stereotypes and manages to produce a gripping, moving, nail-biting book.  
  • The German characters are thrillingly evil.  They are bad, bad, bad, but believably bad.
  • This beautiful story of a friendship.  Maddie and Verity have a close friendship that is beautifully portrayed, simply through a confessional.
Okay, and here was the problem:
  • I didn't finish the book.  I know, I know (blush).  I read about halfway through and the extreme brutality (I won't go into details for those who haven't read the book) just was too much.  I don't usually like brutality in books and I would have stopped a lot sooner in a less well-written book.   But, see, I couldn't stop.  However, it finally got to be too much.  I just couldn't handle it and I shut the book.  I wouldn't say that I'll never finish it, but for now, I need a break and I'm going on to something lighter.  There will probably be a point where I'll be in the mood for a deep thrill and I'll wade through the gory brutality to find out the ending, but for now it's put away.  
So now I want to hear anybody's thoughts on this book.   Did you like it?  Was it too much?  I can't wait to hear about it.