The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I stumbled across this book!  I was in the mood to go searching for some new Victorian historical fiction, and came across it.  I was aware that there was a paranormal element to it, which was ok with me.  When I started reading, I was a little surprised by just how prominent the paranormal/fantasy aspect was – and with a stack of library books due back shortly, I briefly considered putting it down in favor of something else.  Boy, am I glad I stuck with it instead.

Percy Parker is a young girl in Victorian London, and very unique.  Brought up in a convent, shy and timid Percy is an albino with the ability to see and communicate with ghosts.  Add in her extraordinary language abilities and the visions that come to her a night, and Percy knows she is anything but normal.

When she enrolls at Athens Academy in London, she meets the brooding and mysterious Professor Rychman.  Although she finds him intimidating, she is very much drawn to him – but he has  a secret of his own.  Since childhood, Alexi Rychman and five others have made up The Guard, a group of six who protect London from the spirits that inhabit it.  With a Prophecy that they will soon find a seventh, and Alexi’s belief that she will also be the woman he is meant to love, tensions in The Guard are high.  Percy is a great new character, and I found her very easy to relate to – maybe having always been a bit shy myself helped with that.

I loved Hieber’s style, and while cross-genre novels like this may not work for everybody, this one combined all of my favorites and it absolutely worked for me!  Victorian historical fiction with a Gothic edge, fantasy, and a romance with great characters (who also have great chemistry!) made such a great combination.  The first half was a little on the slow side, but once I hit around page 150, I was hooked and didn’t want to put it down!  I’m very much looking forward to the sequel due out in May, and I’ll be on the lookout for more from Hieber in the future.

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, and more!

Before I get into my review of Peter Ackroyd’s newest novel, I wanted to mention that Karin’s Book Nook is having a contest for a signed copy of Linger, the upcoming sequel to Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver!!  Shiver was just so good, and I don’t know about you, but I would love to win this one!  Here’s her post about the contest. I’m really looking forward to reading this one either way…loving the cover, too!

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, so on to the The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.  I love neo-Victorian novels.  And Victorian novels.  And anything to do with that era.  I really do.  So I really wanted to like this, but, well, I didn’t.

It was rather slow to start for me. That may partially be because this has been a stressful week for me, but it finally picked up about 150 pages in.

Ackroyd has a great style – I didn’t feel so much like I was reading a neo-Victorian novel as I was the real thing at times. His settings and descriptions were wonderful, and the overall atmosphere of this was great.

As far as story and plot go, however, I wasn’t all that impressed by this one. It has an interesting take on the tale, with Frankenstein being a friend of the Shelleys rather than merely the subject of Mary’s tale (which does make an appearance, by the way), but something in the execution was lacking for me. The “twist” was obvious to me well before I got to the end, so I was disappointed by that as well.

This one gets three stars from me…I considered giving it two, but it gets an extra one for style.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

2537053A fantastic novel.  I don’t know how I missed reading this one years ago, but I’m glad I picked it up when I did.  It was exactly the kind of book I needed this week – well written, engaging, at times dark and mysterious and at others a look at how lost a “silly” young girl can be when out of her element.  I’d seen bits and pieces of the movie version(s) on TV, so while I knew the premise of the story going into this, I didn’t know the twist – and it was a good one!  And who knew a housekeeper could be so terribly creepy?

Although the narrator was naive, needy, and sometimes not the sharpest tool in the shed, I found myself sympathizing with her.  She’s thrown into a world she knows nothing about, knowing that she will always be compared to her beloved predecessor.  Her main concern seems to be what others will think of her – she constantly imagines the conversations that the household staff or the town gossips will be having about her, and admits freely that it’s one of these imagined conversations that push her to go downstairs to the fancy dress party.  When she loses this towards the end of the novel, and gains some confidence in her position as mistress of Manderley, I think she lost a little personality as well; even Maxim bemoans the loss of her innocence and youth.

The way du Maurier can set a mood is wonderful, though.  It could be supremely creepy, have an underlying sense of danger, or, as it did for the last few chapters, make me a nervous wreck, right along with the narrator.  Loved it!

The Sister by Poppy Adams

41-O8RenE4LThis novel is a fascinating exploration of the ways in which the mind can work, distort, and deteriorate. At the outset, this seems to be a fairly simple story of estranged sisters reuniting in their old age. While I could tell from reading the jacket that the real story would probably come in the possible scandal or heartbreak of their estrangement, I wasn’t expecting the instability of the narrator.

It’s the little things that tip you off gradually to what is happening here. Once you realize that Adams is using the classic technique of the unreliable narrator, it’s impossible not to look beneath the surface of everything that she sees and remembers for the truth. It’s also amazing how easily you can understand or sympathize with Ginny’s logic, as twisted as it is – almost frightening once you realize how easily a mind can warp the truth.

The novel is a little slow to start out, but the story really picks up fairly soon. The descriptions of the moths and the processes that come with studying them may seem a little tedious, but I think they are necessary to completely immerse the reader in Ginny’s mind – especially at the end of the novel. Adams includes little details in all the right places.

This is definitely a novel worth reading. Adams does a fantastic job of mapping the way Ginny’s mind works, and also of manipulating the story. It’s fascinating to see things from Ginny’s point of view, all the while trying to figure out what’s truly happening outside of her comfort zone and under the surface. This really is an impressive first novel – Adams certainly did her research, and knows what she’s doing when it comes to her narrative.

*Review of ARC