The Quick by Lauren Owen
(Random House, 2014, 544 pages)
I heard about this book from a podcast I recently started listening to called Books on the Nightstand. At the end of each episode book recommendations are given and this was a title I’d just recently heard highlighted when I was on the search for my next eBook so I went for it without so much as reading a book summary. The recommendation given on the podcast was pretty vague, but I found out as I was reading that it was for a good reason so I’ll do what I can to offer up a summary here without giving anything away…
The novel is set in late 19th century England and we are introduced to brother and sister, James and Charlotte. The siblings take different paths to adulthood – James is sent away to school and tries to make a go of it as an author in London; Charlotte stays in the countryside taking care of her aunt and living vicariously through her brother. Then James goes off the grid and Charlotte heads to London to try and figure out what is going on with him. Charlotte’s search for James leads to her getting wrapped up in a dangerous secret society and finding herself immersed in a world she never knew existed.
All I’ll say is that I was not expecting this book to go in the direction it did and I almost found it off-putting, but I kept going and enjoyed the ride. It was entertaining and even though it was a long book, it didn’t feel that way at all. If you feel like giving it a try the Amazon summary offers up a little more information – or you can go in blind like I did (an approach to books I’m not sure I’ll try again) 😉
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
(Crown, 2014, 400 pages)
Mabel Dagmar has never really felt like she belonged some place. After a shaky childhood, she decided to move across the country and go to college on the east coast. For most of her first year, her roommate Ev Winslow ignored her and continued to smoke in their room despite Mabel’s asthma protests. But after a family tragedy strikes the Winslow family, Ev start to befriend Mabel and invite her to stay at her family’s estate for the summer. As happy as Mabel is to finally feel as if she belongs somewhere, she is immediately pulled into the Winslow mystery and discovers family secrets that have kept the Winslow name intact. The more Mabel discovers, the less safe she feels around the family she so badly wanted to be a part of.
This is another family drama that was a little dark and sickly. The Winslows do not give off a good vibe when they start to arrive that summer and things only get creepy the longer Mabel stays. I liked Mabel’s character but it was sad to see just how much she’ll put up with so she can feel like part of a family, even a crazy family like this one. There were multiple times I just wanted to tell her to get out of there and to forget the whole thing. This was a good read to have in-between some stranger titles and I enjoyed Mabel’s character, even if I didn’t agree with all her decisions.
The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
(Ecco, 2013, 688 pages)
This was a tough book to get through, not because it wasn’t good but because the narrative jumps around often going off on tangents that, while interesting, have little to do with the story at hand. The story of what happened when the “curse” came to Princeton in the early 1900s is told by a historian who is a descendant of one of those affected. Real life characters like Woodrow Wilson and Upton Sinclair inhabit the fictional story. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the book but I can say that it could have been much shorter with less side stories and I wouldn’t have minded a bit.
“Princeton, New Jersey, at the turn of the twentieth century: a genteel town for genteel souls. But something dark and dangerous lurks at its edges, corrupting and infecting its residents. Vampires and ghosts haunt the dreams of the innocent and a powerful curse besets the families of the elite–their daughters begin disappearing. And in the Pine Barrens that border the town, a lush and terrifying underworld opens up.
When a shape-shifting, vaguely European prince, who might just be the devil, abducts a young bride on the verge of the altar, her brother sets out against all odds to find her. His path will cross those of Princeton’s most formidable people, including Grover Cleveland, fresh out of his second term in the White House, soon-to-be commander in chief Woodrow Wilson, a complex individual obsessed to the point of madness with his need to retain power, the young idealist Upton Sinclair and his charismatic comrade Jack London, and the most famous writer of the era, Mark Twain–all of whom are plagued by “accursed” visions.”—Amazon.com