Archive

Posts Tagged ‘charlotte’

Book Review: Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer (Series, #3) (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

A girl in old-fashioned clothes looks at hersself in a mirror.Summary:
When Charlotte goes away to boarding school for the first time, she’s very excited to get the bed with the particularly pretty wheels right next to the window.  When she wakes up, though, the view from the window looks different, and people are calling her Clare!  She discovers she’s traveled back in time to the same bed in the same boarding school, but during World War I.  The next morning, though, she wakes up in the present again as Charlotte.  This pattern continues, meaning both she and Clare are Charlotte….sometimes.

Review:
I picked this book up because I have an affinity for both boarding school books and time-travel books.  This looked like the best of both worlds to me.  A fun middle grade book that introduces to the reader to two different past time periods–the 1970s of Charlotte’s present and the nineteen-teens of Clare’s present.

This book is the third in a series, but it is completely possible to read it as a standalone.  No mention is made of the events in the first book, and the second book is actually about what Charlotte’s little sister does while she’s away at boarding school.

The concept is intriguing, because instead of time-travel happening once and landing the person stuck in the past (or future), Charlotte keeps switching, spending every other day in the 70s and every other day in the teens.  In addition to the usual issues time-travel books bring up, such as what stays the same and what is actually different throughout time, it also brings up the key question of identity.  What makes Charlotte Charlotte?  Is she still Charlotte when she’s being called Clare?  Why does hardly anyone notice that Clare has changed? Or Charlotte for that matter?  The book thus addresses identity issues that middle grade readers might be going through, but in a subtle way through the time-travel trope.

Were you some particular person only because people recognized you as that? (page 66)

The time-travel itself is left as a fantastical mystery, rather than being given a scientific explanation.  There’s something magical about the bed that only makes Charlotte and Clare switch places, but no one else.  This works without an explanation because the young girls being subjected to the time-travel just accept it without explanation.  This is their reality, and it doesn’t matter why it’s happening, they just have to deal with it.  Some readers, though, might struggle with the fact that the time-travel itself is never explained.

The one thing that disappointed me about the book, and that I think would have made it a classic and a five star read, is that the book only explores what happens to Charlotte when the girls switch places.  Clare, her experiences, and her perspective are only heard about through third parties.  The book, while in third person, is entirely Charlotte’s perspective.  Clare, a reserved, proper girl from the nineteen-teens must have been shocked by both the technology and the mores of the 1970s she suddenly found herself in.  So much more could have been explored by telling both Charlotte’s and Clare’s story.  The book misses an opportunity by only focusing on the modern day girl going back in time.  The girl being thrust into the future, a future where she finds out Britain wins the war, and there is suddenly no food rationing or flu epidemic, that is such a cool story in and of itself, and Farmer just never ventures out to tell it.

Overall, this is a book that sets up a fantastical world of time-travel within a boarding school.  It utilizes the switching of two girls with each other in time to explore questions of identity in a way that surely will appeal to many middle grade readers.  The book does not fully explore the story the way it possibly should have, but the young reader will probably enjoy filling in those gaps themselves.  Recommended to all fans of boarding school, time-travel, or historic fiction set during World War I’s homefront.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Better World Books

Buy It

Previous Books In Series:
The Summer Birds
Emma in Winter

Advertisements

Book Review: The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames (Series, #1) (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

February 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Artistic drawing of a cheese shop.Summary:
Charlotte Bessette is ecstatic that her slightly eccentric French grandfather and grandmother have handed over the running of their small town cheese shop to her and her cousin, Matt.  She and Matt have redecorated the place for the 21st century and have added a wine annex.  Everyone is excited for the grand re-opening but when their landlord turns up dead on their doorstep stabbed with one of their cheese knives and Charlotte’s grandmother standing over him, both the shop and the family are at risk.

Review:
Cozies are, by their very nature, absolutely ridiculous and difficult to explain. I generally default to an explanation like, “It’s murder! With arts and crafts and cooking! But not too much blood and no sex! And the titles are puns!” At this point the person I’m talking to generally looks at me like I’m nuts and wanders off.  But even though the cozy genre is ridiculous and tough to explain, there are things that work for it and things that don’t.  This book is definitely a cozy but it combines the cozy elements oddly, making it fall short of awesome into the decidedly meh category.

Most cozies have a moderately ridiculous plot involving a dead body being found and a woman ultimately amateur investigating the crime.  The crime in this one was odd.  A landlord who nobody likes is stabbed directly in front of the cheese shop on grand reopening night. Oh, and he’s stabbed with a cheese knife.  Sometimes I think authors just don’t research and realize how hard it actually is to stab someone in the chest.  A cheese knife wouldn’t cut it. (See what I did there?)  So that had me rolling my eyes from the start.  The ultimate whodunit was also a bit bizarre and had me scratching my head.  It made some sense but it also sort of felt a bit like the author just chose whoever would be the most surprising as the killer, instead of really thinking through the logic and motivation.  It’s also a bit problematic to have the murder victim be some sleaze everybody in town hates.  This felt like a choice to give the mystery more easy suspects rather than, again, based on thinking through logic, motivation, and real crimes.

Then there’s the issue of the main character, Charlotte, who ultimately investigates.  She doesn’t really have the get up and go gumption necessary for someone to start investigating something on her own.  She’s….kind of snooty and prissy.  A good cozy main character should be into her arts and crafts but also possess a lot of independent spirit and gumption.  Charlotte is surrounded by people like that–her grandmother, her shop employee–but she herself isn’t like that at all.  Yes, her grandmother is accused of a crime she didn’t commit and that’s a big impetus to do something, but it just feels out of character for Charlotte to do investigation.  Similarly, Charlotte’s romantic interest felt forced and fake, which was awkward.  In a genre where we get no sex scenes, the romance should be very well done, which it was there, but it wasn’t truly engaging.

The quirky characters in the town, besides Charlotte and her love interest, were interesting and just the right blend of quirks and reality to suit a cozy.  Similarly, I was glad to see some cheese-heavy recipes in the back.  I also thought the pun title was great and played in well to the mystery without giving too much away.

Personally, I think there are better, more engaging and funny cozy series out there to invest my time in.  However, if you are a huge cozy fan and don’t mind the oddly snooty, timid main character and a slightly silly mystery plot, then you should give it a go.  The cheese angle is certainly unique.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

Buy It

Book Review: The Value of Rain by Brandon Shire

June 13, 2012 2 comments

Road during a rainstorm.Summary:
Charles hasn’t been home since his mother and uncle sent him away to an insane asylum at the age of fourteen after he was found in the embrace of his first love–Robert.  Now, ten years later, his mother, Charlotte, is dying, and he comes back to take his revenge.

Review:
This is one of those genre-defying books.  Although classified as GLBTQ, it is so much more than a genre.  Shire explores the devastating effects of prejudice, hate, secrets, and lies throughout family generations, and that is something that is simultaneously universal and tragic.

The book constantly takes the reader by surprise.  At first it seems an expected my-family-didn’t-love-me-because-I’m-gay story, but Charles does *not* get a free pass simply because he is hurt by his family.  He is given chances at new life and redemption from a hate-enshrouded existence, but he doesn’t choose that path.  It is painful to watch, and yet simultaneously understandable.  I applaud Shire for not taking the easy way and by making Charles an easy hero.

The writing is particularly eloquent and strong in description, especially when describing painful topics.  For instance:

She had lived in the maze of Charlotte’s thumbprint and she had not survived. (location 1349)

On the other hand, the dialogue sometimes struggles in comparison to the lyrical descriptions.  For instance, characters often say people’s names more frequently than is natural.  This is a kink that I am sure will be ironed out with time and experience.

I also loved and was totally shocked by the ending.  That is not an easy thing to do to this reader.

Overall this book represents all that can be great about indie publishing.  It is a deep, dark story with a minority, tragic hero that most likely would not be told at a traditional publishing house due to the fact that it does not easily fit into any one genre or marketing scheme.  Of course, that is also why I love it.

Recommended to those with an interest in GLBTQ main characters and multi-generational family dramas.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

Buy It

Note: Half of all proceeds donated to LGBT Youth Charities.

Book Review: The Craigslist Murders by Brenda Cullerton

August 9, 2011 12 comments

Woman holding bloody item behind back.Summary:
Charlotte works as an interior designer to the wealthiest of the wealthy in NYC.  She thus has a window into their world and attends their parties, but is not actually a part of it.  The wealthy women annoy the crap out of Charlotte as they remind her entirely too much of her cruel, social ladder climbing mother, yet she simultaneously needs the income to stay afloat in notoriously expensive NYC.  One day when attempting to purchase a designer item cheap off of craigslist, she finds the solution to her pent-up rage.  Periodic murders of the wealthy elite women via responding to craigslist ads.

Review:
I view Charlotte as the female and decidedly less insane version of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.  Both characters are a part of the wealthy, elite world that they simultaneously hate.  Both obviously have antisocial personality disorder.  Both murder people to deal with it.  The similarities end there, though, as Charlotte is decidedly less far gone than Patrick so there are no chapters of non-sensical rants.  Also this book is far less violent.  Charlotte murders by whapping women in the back of the head with a fire poker.  Her murders are about killing the women, not torturing them.

Honestly, this book reads as delicious fantasy to anyone who has ever lived in a city and bumped elbows with the craziness that is the world of the 1% (the wealthy elite).  Charlotte’s rage is our rage, and she deals with it in a way no civilized person would, but as Charlotte herself says when discussing the news of a murdered wealthy woman:

She’d been killed by her own personal assistant, news that Charlotte believed had come as a terrible shock to everyone in the city except the thousands of other personal assistants who dreamed, daily, of doing the same thing. (location 1101)

Yes, exactly.  This book rages against the privileged in a way most of us can only dream of doing.  And it works.

Charlotte is more than a murderer, though.  She’s a well-rounded character.  The reasons behind her murders and state of mental health are gradually revealed in a skilled manner throughout the book.  First we know Charlotte as a frustrated worker.  Then we see her murder.  Then we gradually start to see the real Charlotte beneath the facade.  A woman who was a little girl whose spirit was broken by her mother.  No one in her world, not even her therapist, offers her any real help, so Charlotte deals with her issues the only way she knows how.  It’s an excellent commentary on why quality mental health care and loving communities are so necessary.

The one issue I had with the book itself is the ending.  I won’t spoil it, but basically I’m not sure exactly why Cullerton went there with this narrative.  I can’t help but wonder if she’s planning a sequel.  I sort of wish she would write one to address some lingering questions I have, but perhaps that’s her point.  Perhaps she chose that ending to make the reader continue to think about the situation even after finishing the book.  If so, then it definitely worked.

I also find the cover infuriating, because the weapon the woman is holding looks nothing like the weapon used in the book, and that sort of thing that is mentioned repeatedly in the story shouldn’t be messed up on the cover.  Obviously that’s not the author’s fault, though.

Overall this contemporary fiction with a twist is a delightful read.  If American Psycho intrigued you but the graphic violence and sex turned you off, definitely give this book a read.  It features similar themes with less violence and more well-rounded characters.

4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Amazon

Buy It

Counts For: