I won a copy, or rather a download, of this audio e-book from Booklikes in exchange for my brutally honest opinion. I’ve been listening to this over the course of the past four months, so you’ll have to forgive me if some parts don’t make sense, despite my pages of notes.
Forever takes at its premise the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe, and investigates it as a murder. The story starts with a prologue on October 3, 1849, four days before Poe’s death. Poe takes a train to Balltimore, and is aware that he is being followed. As he is walking from the station, he is knocked out. He wakes up on a bench in front of a tavern, drenched in alcohol and in different clothes and his pistol missing, making it look like a robbery. He has a knot on his head and hallucinates, thinking he sees people with cat heads.
Fast forward to 1865. The body of our story is narrated by the main character, Patrick O’Malley, a Civil War veteran and now a detective, who has rented the cottage in the Bronx where Poe lived with his wife Virginia. O’Malley is a big Poe fan – you might say he’s obsessed – and he knew him a little when he was alive. O’Malley finds a note in the bed (did they really have the same mattress after 16 years? Eww.) referring to a girl in a tobacconist’s shop who needs to be avenged. O’Malley realizes she is Mary Cecelia Rogers, a.k.a. Marie Rogêt of Poe’s short story. O’Malley begins investigating the circumstances surrounding Poe’s death, starting with the doctor who attended Poe until he died. The doctor confirms that Poe was not drunk, which tallies with the fact that Poe had given up drinking, but he was confused and didn’t know where he was right before he died.
O’Malley investigates a series of unlikely suspects, including poets Longfellow and William Ross Wallace, and finds a strange ally in New Jersey crime boss Walter Mackenzie, leader of the Plug Uglies. Mrs. Anderson, wife of Tom Anderson, the owner of the tobacco shop where Mary worked, had contacted Mackenzie twice about getting Mary an abortion. If you say so, Musgrave; those two don’t seem like they would have exactly moved in the same social circles. O’Malley visits most of the suspects several times each, using the Columbo method of always coming up with “just one more thing,” but the pretenses are weak here – the follow up questions are usually ones he should have come up with at the time.
O’Malley visits Tom Anderson, now widowed, who is a millionaire and employs armed guards. He claims Poe killed Mary because she haunts him and her ghosts tells him so.
O’Malley is a thirty-five-year-old virgin, and this detail will bizarrely be important in helping him get in touch with his feminine side and solve the murder at the end. Yeah, whatever. He is friends with a woman who is improbably named Rebecca Charming, who is a college-educated daughter of a senator who became a prostitute, and now runs a brothel. She and O’Malley are just friends; she’s a sort of confidential informant, and he reads her poetry. He has an irrational fear of women, and of becoming powerless through sex.
Next O’Malley learns through Mackenzie that a hit has been put out on him. O’Malley has a bad habit of running out of ideas and says several times, this is my last chance to solve the mystery of Poe’s death, or, I only need one more clue. He makes another round of his suspect list; James Fennimore Cooper gets dragged in this time around.
O’Malley finally figures out, or more like guesses, who the killer is, and sets not one but two traps, both of which don’t work out in his favor. The second time, O’Malley just decided to sit in house and wait for the killer to come to him. After three days of this, a stranger comes to the front door as a decoy, while the real killer has already slipped in another way, and knocks him unconscious. He wakes up in a torture chamber on a device that sounds like the rack. The killer appears with Becky, whom he has kidnapped and dosed with laughing gas. He puts her in an Iron Maiden, but Mackenzie and his men arrive and save them just in the nick of time. Reynolds, of course, gets away.
The next-to-last chapter begins with O’Malley and Becky having breakfast together at his cottage the next morning. O’Malley is discussing the case with her again, again employing the old standby, I only need one more clue. . . She tells him again that he needs to tap into his feminine side (is she ahead of her time, or what?) in order to solve the case, and in order to do that he needs to be really relaxed, and that can only happen post-coitus. Terrific logic, right? Sexual frustration = diminished detective’s intuition. Which leads to the most bizarre introduction to a sex scene that I’ve ever read. I don’t have a lot of reading experience in that area, but I still know this is absurd. “Becky [already seated on O’Malley’s lap] reached over to her silk sleeve and brought it down over her heart. There it was, staring me right in the face. It was a pleasantly rotund mound of pinkish flesh with a lump of paradise at its center. ‘Now, just imagine this is a pancake, Patrick [which they just finished eating]. I put a cherry on the top for you to enjoy. Please, take your pleasure. We can proceed from there.’” I mean, LOL, right? Who doesn’t go crazy over pleasantly rotund mounds? And then for some reason O’Malley starts seeing war scenes in his head, followed by thinking again about how he’s resisted Becky’s feminine charms for four years, but then they’re having sex soon enough. Thankfully, there’s not much more graphic language. But, sure enough, O’Malley has a dream, and wakes up, knowing who arranged for Poe to be killed. Which he turns out to be right about, but still doesn’t make sense.
I might have rated this a little higher in print form, but just listening to it was torture. The narrator has an Irish accent, which makes sense for O’Malley, but every character sounds so much alike, I sometimes forgot who was talking. Even Becky’s voice is sometimes hard to distinguish; the narrator does this breathy falsetto voice like men often do when they’re trying to sound like women. But the worst was Reynolds’ southern accent. The prose is really bad in parts, and unnatural and stiff in others. It gets overly technical for a while when O’Malley is talking about his guns. I thought the premise of a mystery of Poe’s “murder” sounded great – too bad I didn’t read Randee’s review first. Painful narration plus bad detective plus confusing solution plus a man eating cats to keep the ghosties away plus a diary detailing the crimes being destroyed by a lightning strike equals train wreck. I am sorry to say that I cannot recommend this book, and I wish I’d passed on requesting it.
If anyone is a member on woot.com, please vote for this shirt, because I totally want to buy one, and I'm sure a lot of you do too!
Howard North was a one-time-use pseudonym of Elleston Trevor, who is probably best known for his Quiller series, written under the name Adam Hall. This is my first time reading any of his novels, so I had no real expectations going in.
This book is distinctive in that it does not have a single main character, or even a couple or a small group of main characters; instead, it has about 21 characters whose thoughts we get to hear, and who mainly appear in pairs, and a lot more who may only appear in a single scene, or infrequently. This is a style choice that may not appeal to everyone, and it does take some getting used to. It made for a slower than usual read for me, since sometimes you only stay with a character or group for a paragraph or two, and almost never longer than a few pages at a time, and the narration is also interspersed with snatches from car radios and police scanners.
I thought this was a good novel, but not necessarily great, because I didn’t have much of an emotional reaction to most of the characters until near the end, and in varying degrees; to some of them I still had almost no connection at the end. We get a sort of play-by-play of these characters’ Fourth of July weekend, and it is one that most of them will never forget, and in many cases has led them to grow and change how they interact with those close to them.
I guess you could call this a slice of life piece, and now, more than 40 years after its publication, it serves as a representation of what American life was like in the early 70s. Examples: in every case where there is a married couple in a car, the man is always driving, and this is never questioned or remarked on; seat belts still did not come standard in all cars; you could actually get arrested for cross-dressing; and of course the obvious, no cell phones, but all you had to do was turn around to find a pay phone.
I was a little afraid going in that this book would disappoint, which is sometime the case when an author tries writing in a new genre, or in this case is genre-less, or what the bookstores call “literature,” but I was pleasantly surprised. The only think that bothered me was when, a couple times, the writing got, I thought, unnecessarily technical, like talking about a post-op patient’s vital signs, or discussing legal technicalities, but luckily these were few and far between, and it wasn’t enough to bog the narrative down too much with details. You do get the feeling that he was anything but lazy when it came to research, though. Trevor was born in the UK, and while he moved to the US at age 26, it still seems an odd choice to write a novel set in New Jersey, and during the 4th of July weekend, but I couldn’t tell from the writing that he was British. Now I just hope that the rest of his books live up to the standard set by this one.
I know this is not book related, but I thought I'd throw it out there :)
My writing partner and would deeply appreciate any responses to our initial survey for our bachelor thesis. So if you are
This link http://goo.gl/AZaTvM will take you to our google docs survey page.
Please feel free to reblog this, or pass it on to anyone you know who might be in a helpful mood. All responses are anonymous, any contact info provided is optional and will be divorced from the data, and the original data collection will be available only to my partner and I.
We're only asking for any contact info at all because we need to do some follow-up interviews, but given the quite real privacy concerns around here, I can say we already have enough contacts sorted for that part, so it's fine to NOT provide any identifying information at all.
I received a copy of this book and audio book package free through a giveaway on Booklikes. I have no idea why this book was being given away now (or then, I should say, since I received it back in November), since it was originally published in the 1930s, and this particular edition is for 2008. So it’s not exactly an ARC. I also didn’t know there would be an audio book, plus a swell 30-page catalog of possibly every non-religious book L. Ron Hubbard ever wrote.
I didn’t know what to expect going into this. I know of Hubbard, of course, as the founder of the Church of Scientology, and was aware that he had written other books, but that was about it. Would it be weird and religious? I decided to find out, since the giveaway was for 50 copies, and I ended up being only one of 10 people who requested it. I tried to go into it with an open mind. Unfortunately I was already rolling my eyes at the foreword. Hubbard “could write on any subject, in any genre, from jungle explorers to deep-sea divers, from G-men and gangsters, cowboys and flying aces to mountain climbers, hard-boiled detectives and spies,” (ix). Naturally, I thought, anyone who tries to write in every popular genre is probably not great at any of them. Just listen to the categories his books are listed under in the catalog: Air Adventure, Far-Flung Adventure, Tales from the Orient, Sea Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy, Science Fiction and Western.
This is a novel about the secretaries of rich men who die, and a few weeks later, return to murder their bosses by strangling them. Shortly before each rich man is killed, he receives a demand for a large sum of money. If he doesn’t pay up, he dies. Naturally, the police are baffled. How can dead men kill? From this point on there will probably be spoilers, as I will largely be quoting passages from the book and offering my comments on both the audio and physical books.
I never “read” audio books. The only experience I have with them was listening to Hamlet and Macbeth on tape in class when I read them in high school. My teacher would play a bit, then stop to explain parts as needed. This was over ten years ago and I don’t remember how they actually sounded. Being plays, they are nearly all dialog, so I think they sounded okay. I don’t think the stage directions were read.
The audio is read by “a multicast performance with music and sound effects featuring John Mariano,” it says on the back of the CD case. Mariano has won Emmys, it says, and it lists five other readers, none of whom I’ve heard of. I thought the whole thing was pretty cheesy, not that it could hardly be otherwise. My first observation, listening and reading along at the same time, was that most dialog tags are read, while a few are skipped. And I know I just quoted the part about sound effects, but I hadn’t read that before I started listening, and I didn’t expect them. Maybe someone with more audio book experience can tell me if they are common or not.
Page 7: we have our first dead body, and a very complicated bit of medical jargon from Coroner Reynolds. “ ‘I don’t need my stethoscope to tell that bird’s stone dead.’ He knelt quickly beside Gordon. ‘Deader’n hell. Strangled. The fellow that did that must have been a maniac.’ ” Thank you, doctor, for that brilliant analysis.
Page 10: Aaaaand I already guessed the identity of the killer, which turned out to be correct. Or, technically the zombie handler. Poor Detective Lane won’t figure it out until page 80 (out of only 95 pages).
Lane “walked quickly to the entrance of the room and then stopped as though he had been smashed in the face. His eyes opened wide and his jaw sagged. / There, on the inside of the door, where he could not have seen it before, was a note,” (11-12). I just don’t physically don’t understand what happened here. How can he see the note now? There was no mention of anyone closing the door.
“Terry Lane stood in the hushed night and rattled the padlock on the gates. With the key he had taken from Reynolds, he gained entrance,” (17). Why would the coroner have a key to the cemetery gates?
Page 23, 44: Loup-garou keeps trying to get the original of the Haitian pharmacy bill, a piece of evidence discovered in the room with Gordon’s dead body, from Lane. Chain of evidence 80 years ago certainly wasn’t what it is today, but why would Lane need to carry the bill around with him, especially to visit the cemetery and dig up a grave in the middle of the night. Stupid.
Page 32: What was the point of Loup-garou having Janey Lou (unfortunately for both of them, a criminal known to the police) pretend to be Cramer’s aunt? Just to frustrate Lane’s efforts to examine the body? As coroner, Reynolds is the one to do it, anyway.
Page 39: awkward writing makes Lane sound like he’s moving around like Sonic the Hedgehog. “Like a shot Lane was out of the car once more. He walked up to a policeman who hung on the outskirts of the crowd. [Several lines of dialog] The detective was again inside the gray sedan.” Apparently he moves, but his feet never seem to touch the ground.
Page 41, etc.: cars are referred to as machines probably at least half the time, a writing tic that got on my nerves. “The burly individual of past experience [srsly?] slipped in under the wheel. The car door swung open and a man with a black coat and hat stepped in from the machine which had come up beside them.”
Page 47: “Leroux grunted and placed the gum in his hip pocket. He stooped and gathered up Lane’s limp form. In an instant, the detective lay once more on the operating table.” Dr. Reynolds, for that’s who the villain of the piece really is, aka Leroux aka Loup-garou, sure is strong for an old guy, for the description of him, as well as his picture near the front of the book, made me think he was about 60 or 70. His voice on the audio sounds rather old, too.
Page 48 – 49: Hubbard tries to throw Reynolds-suspecting readers off the scent when Leroux tells Lane he’ll zombiefy him and have him kill Reynolds as well as his boss Leonard. This seems to be purely for the sake of the reader rather than the story, since if Lane seems to be incapable of escaping, Reynolds/Leroux/Loup-garou shouldn’t care if Lane knows who’s the real mastermind behind the zombie killings, and in fact should be gloating as all good criminals usually do before they get caught in detective novels.
Page 55: Every waiter in the Club Haitian seems to be in on the plot, unless the club is an illegal speakeasy and they’re told to shoot at anyone suspicious, and they all are armed. “A doorman in a welter of gold braid crouched and whipped out a revolver. Lane saw him and skipped to one side. The doorman’s weapon belched smoke. The detective cracked down, shooting from the hip. His automatic snapped back into his palm.” That whole paragraph is awkward, but especially the last sentence. How does his gun SNAP into his palm? It is attached to his hand with a rubber band, or a Slinky?
Page 58: Another one bites the dust. Morton asks Lane for police to watch his house, after he receives the death threat if he doesn’t pay up, so why wouldn’t he call the police when his security detail doesn’t show up by bedtime? He should be scared shitless by then. Dun, dun, DUN!
Page 64 – 65: more bad writing. Really, the whole book of so full of it, it’s hard to narrow down the best examples. “ ‘Look out!’ cried Dawn. / Lane was looking out. He made a flying tackle from where he stood. Before the guard’s weapon came up to firing position, the detective struck a paralyzing [obviously not] blow to the man’s face. With another bellow the guard sidestepped, and tried again to bring the shotgun into play. / The detective measured the distance to the guard’s chin [with what?]. He drew back his fist and sent a terrific blow to the man’s face. With a gasp, the man folded up like an accordion and lay still.”
Page 74: “Unable immediately to free himself, Lane took the next best course. He thrust his arm out and began to hitch his narrow prison off the road.” Do coffins come with wheels? How else can he move himself, locked inside a heavy box, with one arm sticking out the hold in the lid?
Page 77: “But he paid little attention to his own well-being. He didn’t notice that his head throbbed agonizingly, that the punctured palm of his hand left a red trail behind him.” A variation on the if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forrest-and-no-one-is-there-to-hear-it-does-it-make-a-sound question; if your head hurts, but you’re too busy to realize it, does it really hurt?
Page 85: Lane has finally figured out who the criminal is behind the murderous zombies, and he’s waiting for Reynolds to do something that he will be able to arrest him for. Let me repeat, he is waiting for a murderer to make his move, and what happens? “So silent had been the passage of the walking dead man that lane had not seen it until it was halfway across the room.” He’s too busy reading one of the doctor’s books about the Haitian penal code that he fails to observe a zombie walking into the room. Are you freaking kidding me?
Finally, it all turns out happily ever after, except for the millionaires who’ve already been killed, and there’s even a hint of romance at the end. Ack. This whole brilliant scheme was just a money-making scheme for Doctor Reynolds, so he can have a fancy apartment that takes up an entire floor of the Van Menton Apartments. Admittedly, this is the only time I’ve ever heard of zombies being used in an extortion scheme. However, the reason seems rather lame when we learn what it is. I guess the police never heard of back-up in those days; Lane should be kicked off the police force rather than promoted, for all the times he allows himself to be caught by Loup-garou, even if he does manage to get away, a little more beat up, each time. I give Hubbard an A for an interesting idea, and an F for execution. My curiosity has been more than satisfied, and now I’ll never have to read any of his stuff again.
There's a petition going around asking Amazon to force customers to post/review with their real names. It was started by Anne Rice/Todd Barselow, because she claims there are roving bands of gangster bullies intent on destroying authors (no mention of authors who attack reviewers who write reviews the authors don't like or reader stalking done by the bully site that Anne Rice aligns herself with).
If you want Amazon to know that you support keeping your right to privacy, please sign SPA Rick Gualtieri's opposing petition. (If you want to retain your anonymity on this petition, uncheck the box that says your signature will be displayed.) Feel free to reblog this post or start your own.
This petition was written by Todd Barselow, but the whole idea behind it was Anne Rice's. I believe Anne instigated it because of a thread on Amazon where she ranted about careerist reviewers and bully packs intent on destroying authors. And because she can't stand criticism.
The petition is getting lots of media attention, because Ms. Rice is using the clout of her name to send out press packages and the media is lapping it up without any research.
Fun fact about Todd Barselow's relationship to Anne Rice.
1:Favorite children's book: When I was younger, anything from the Berenstain Bears series, later the Green Knowe series when I started reading chapter books.
This is not really a review, but these are some of the observations I made while reading Clarissa (the longest book I’ve ever read!).
It is ironic how Clarissa continues to encourage Miss Howe to obey her mother by marrying Mr. Hickman, and as quickly as possible, throughout the novel, while she continues to disobey her own parent by refusing to marry Mr. Solmes. Granted, Mr. Hickman doesn’t sound nearly as bad as Solmes, just a bit boring. Solmes’s letter to Clarissa (L59.1), with all of its misspellings, is one of the funnier moments in the novel.
The novel is incredible repetitive, especially in the first few hundred pages. How many times do we need to see Clarissa crying to her mother, basically saying the same things every time? Later, Lovelace takes his turn, telling Belford over and over how Clarissa is an angel and how wonderful she is.
It is so hard to hate Lovelace, despite knowing how badly things will end, which the blurb on the back of the book hints at, and the introduction completely gives away, because he is capable of being so witty and charming. He manages to win over every woman he comes into contact with, except maybe the glove shop owner, whose name I can’t remember now.
I found it very difficult to believe, at any point in the novel, that Clarissa’s brother James could really be the unofficial head of the Harlowe family, and that his father and both uncles all defer to him completely regarding who Clarissa is to marry. I also refuse to believe that the family would ever have relented and allowed Clarissa to refuse to marry Solmes in the end. They were all just too adamant about never being moved by all of her pleas and tears.
Clarissa drove me nuts, asking Miss Howe several times for advice, and always rejecting it. Miss Howe gives her a number of ways of escaping her situation, both before and after Lovelace runs away with her. However, Miss Howe isn’t always the most helpful; she started sounding rather wishy-washy, telling Clarissa to either run away from Lovelace or marry him, then, later, either marry him or prosecute him for rape. I do think, though, that Clarissa’s indecisiveness saves her from being completely two-dimensional, since she is apparently perfect in every other way.
If the family, led by brother James, was really so set on finding Clarissa someone to marry instead of the unacceptable Lovelace, couldn’t they have found someone more attractive as a replacement? Clarissa, we are told, is admired by everyone who sets eyes on her, or even just hears about her, so I would think they could have found a more attractive man to tempt her. If she is as admired as we’re led to believe, surely there must be a lot of young men in the neighborhood who would jump at the chance to marry Clarissa, unless she’s already refused them all!
Clarissa’s writings while she is feverish following the rape reminded me of Ophelia’s mad scene in Hamlet, before she is found dead (Letter 261, especially Paper X). She even quotes Hamlet here, along with other scraps of poetry and songs.
Letter 281 – Why didn’t Clarissa take the opportunity to escape Mrs. Sinclair’s house while she had the chance? She has the knife in her hand; she could have run out of the house, but she just goes back and locks herself in her room again. To my relief, it’s not much later that she does actually get away.
I actually found it funny when Clarissa was arrested. If you’re reading along, thinking what else could possibly happen, well that was not something I expected.
It seems like Lovelace might reform for driving Clarissa to her death . . .for all of about two seconds. He is already defending his deplorable actions, and asking how he could be expected to know that she would react as she did, and die as a result, within two weeks of his death.
Today, Lovelace would be labeled a sociopath. Not only in his conduct to Clarissa, thinking he can rape her into submission, but he also plots the rapes of Mrs. And Miss Howe, and the three ladies from Hampstead. Thankfully, those were never carried out.
Letter 523 – we finally get Miss Howe’s account of her treatment of Mr. Hickman. I really thought she hated him and was determined not to marry him in the beginning, and later I thought she was just being coy, and I think she says at some point that once they’re married, he probably won’t be nearly as devoted to her as he is now, and she doesn’t want to have an unhappy marriage. Look for more of that theme in Jude the Obscure.
People in Clarissa’s day must have been simply drowning in paper, if this book is anything to judge by. Not only does Clarissa keep copies, and in some cases, rough drafts, of all the letters she writes, she has the ones she receives, too. No one ever seems to throw letters away.
Despite the immense length of Clarissa, and the six weeks it took me to read it, I am not at all sorry, and I even missed it for a few days after finishing. I liked it a lot better than Pamela, which I barely remember, but I know I didn’t care for it much.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night :)
I received an e-mail notification from Goodreads today letting me know that Hild is now available for sale. Interestingly, there is no link to buy it on Amazon. Curious. I wonder what's up with that.
Can't Catch Me"
Rereading this book was incredibly nostalgic for me. I read this when I was probably about 10, or around 20 years ago. I remembered it very fondly, and had been trying to remember the name of the book for the past few years. With the help of the Goodreads group What's The Name of That Book???, I finally found it again! The cover on the library book was even the same one I had as a kid.
I can't begin to describe how much I loved this book. Granny Oldknowe sounds like the grandmother (or great-grandmother) every kid wishes for, and Tolly is a great kid with a very active imagination, although perhaps a little naïve. Boston really captures the wonder and excitement of childhood. Granny Oldknowe is a marvelous story-teller. Part of the joy in reading was from half-remembering the characters and events, and anticipating what was to come. I really enjoyed the ghost children, Toby, Alexander and Linnet, and I hope we see them again.
I just can't do justice to how wonderful and magical this book is, the first time I read it as well as this time around. The whole time I was reading, I felt all warm and fuzzy, and like I had hearts, stars and unicorns orbiting my brain. The only reason the rating isn't 5 stars is because of questions I had reading that I probably didn't when I was 9 or 10. Granny Oldknowe is Tolly's great-grandmother: where are his grandparents, both sets of them? How does the old lady afford to live in the big old house, on a large estate, with no income, and she has to pay the gardener, too? (That one will be somewhat answered in the next book). If she is a descendant of the Oldknowes, and indeed grew up in Green Knowe, but she's married, how come her name is still Oldknowe? It wouldn't be surprising if she married a distant cousin, and indeed, in the movie version of book 2, called From Time to Time, Tolly asks her this very question, and she actually says that she married her second cousin.
Those little quibbles kept me from fully enjoying this long-anticipated reread by tugging at my thoughts throughout, but I'm happy that it stood up so well to my childish memories. There's not much else I can say without using the word "love" again, or several more exclamation points. Read this book - I don't think you'll be sorry.
Off-Topic: The Story of an Internet Revolt
Vote for Off-Topic in the Nonfiction category of the Goodreads Choice Awards!
I also voted it for GR debut author work.
Obviously you will have to vote it as a write-in, but it's easy - you start typing "off-topic" and it will autocomplete.
This was from Lobstergirl in the monster thread.
Reblog at will!