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.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I was a little apprehensive in picking this one up after reading some mediocre (and less than mediocre) reviews – and I only had a few days to read it before it was due back the library, and I was worried I’d slog through it.  Perhaps my low expectations had something to do with it, but I was pleasantly surprised, and really enjoyed this.

I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the whole thing.  Niffenegger does a wonderful job of setting the stage for the novel.  It starts out with a realistic depiction of our world, with a slight creepy factor due to Highgate Cemetery neighboring the flat.  And then, of course, there’s the haunting.  From the summaries I’d read, I wasn’t sure how literal this haunting would be – just an overbearing sense that Elspeth still “owned” the flat?  Her belongings and what she left behind keeping the twins from feeling like it was their home?  The hold her memory still has on Robert and the others she knew?  Or the actual presence of a ghost?  It turned out to be the latter, and I thought the “haunting” factor was very well done.  It’s gradually built up so that it’s almost believable, with Elspeth beginning as a weak, vaporous spirit and eventually becoming capable of moving small objects, etc., and the atmosphere is a big help in allowing the reader to suspend disbelief.

Speaking of which, the reader’s ability to do just that is important for this one, I think.  A lot of other reviews I read said the ending took it too far, pushing it past the point of believability.  I can see how; there are several twists at the end, some more far-fetched than others, and one that I saw coming from early on in the book.  Nonetheless, I think she ended it the only way she could, if that one big twist (if you’ve read it, you know which one I’m talking about – I don’t want to give anything away!) is something she was aiming for through the whole novel, and I get the impression that she was.   One the whole, it was beautifully written, and with great characterization (I especially liked Martin, and it was interesting to see how his journey – or lack thereof – paralleled Elspeth’s).  There were a couple of things that bothered me about the ending, but on the whole I really enjoyed this once I allowed myself to get lost in it.