Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Lace Reader

All the book buzz this past summer seemed to be about The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry. I sure tried my best to get my hands on an advance copy. That was fruitless so I wound up buying a hardcover copy, something I rarely do. But the question here, is did The Lace Reader live up to those high expectations I had going in? Hmmm.

The Lace Reader opens with Towner (Sophya) Whitney, a self-professed liar, who returns to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts because her Aunt Eva is missing. It becomes obvious right away that Towner has suffered from psychological illness in the past. We then meet a host of eccentric and unusual characters, family and friends alike. There are witches, people who read fortunes in lace, and religious zealots. Towner reminisces about the past, about her relationship with her twin sister, who is now dead, about old boyfriends, and family secrets. This leads to a quite dramatic ending, full of action and revealed secrets.

I really liked the first half of this book, the setting of the stage if you will. I've found it interesting that many of the reviews I've read cite the opening of the novel as their least favorite part. What does that say about me? The latter part of the book felt so frenetic to me, people running around, being chased and then hiding, there is a fire, and finally secrets are revealed. Now I like a good twist, one that turns the story on its head. But I have a problem with twists that make me feel as though I've been had, and that's how this twist felt to me. Yes, I know Towner said she was a liar. But still. Despite this, I liked this book. I thought it was a page-turner and I always looked forward to getting back to it. It just wasn't the book-of-the-year that I was expecting based on so many great reviews. Have you felt that way about any books lately?


In other may seem as though I haven't visited you lately. The reason may be twofold. 1. I have on and off problems with my right hand and since they're on right now, the only relief is to rest, so I'm trying to type less. 2. I really, REALLY rely on bloglines and I just noticed in the past few days that some blogs have not been updated by them since October 1 so I've been missing lots of posts. This is so frustrating and I cannot find any way to contact them to find out what is going on.

Also, how are you using bloggers new 'followers' feature? Is this meant to replace the blog roll?


Anonymous said...

Sorry about your hand - hope it's better soon. I may be the last person to read Lace Reader. I won it in a blog contest and expect it any day, though.

Ti said...

I liked The Lace Reader because it was a made-up art... Lace reading did not exist when it was written so I was fascinated with the idea of it. Since there are so few plots really to read about I felt this was unique enough to stand out.

I can appreciate your comments on "being had" though. I didn't feel that way. I just considered it part of the ride but I can see how someone could feel that way.

As for the following feature. Yeah, I think it is meant to replace the blog roll. The difference is that when you add someone to follow, they are told how many followers they have.

Jena said...

I don't know about the following blogs features, but I know two people follow mine using the feature. But I think I'll check it out, probably today; Sage is getting weirder with every Firefox update--I get more parsing errors and it gets "stuck" on some feeds and won't move on to the next on the list. Argh.

And I disagree--I think I may be the last one out there to read The Lace Reader; I'm not even expecting a copy (yet), though it's on my wish list.

Shana said...

I haven't read The Lace Reader either Tara. Nor do I own a copy.

I enjoyed your review. I always approach books like this, the ones that have gotten a huge ammount of buzz, with great trepidation.

Good luck with your hand. Hope it feels better soon!

Chrisbookarama said...

Sorry about your hand.

I've had The Lace Reader for over a year now and still haven't got to it. I'm not sure why.

I'm unsure about Following. I signed up right away and it messed up my Google Reader. Then I had to remove each blog one by one. It was such a hassle. I'm holding off on trying it again.

nutmeg said...

I was in a bookshop yesterday with The Lace Reader in one hand and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle in the other (both big "buzz" books at the moment) and opted for the latter! I'll tell you how it goes when I get to it ;-)

p.s. I am still behind on the emails (one sad sorry apology after another!) We have school holidays on at the moment and have been preoccupied - I want to do justice to Resistance and am hanging off emailing until I have a bigger chunk of time to think about it and then email you :-) Please don't let my delay put you off blogging about it, should you so wish.

Wendy said...

Hi Tara - I largely agree with your assessment of this novel - I read it as an ARC and wasn't blown away (although I liked it). Here is my review if you are interested in reading one from a reader who didn't think it was the book of the year! The Lace Reader had a very aggressive marketing campaign and I think that helped in getting readers to think it was a must read. If you like gothic style novels with family dysfunction, a better read (in my opinion) was the much less marketed The Sister, by Poppy Adams (here is my review of that one).

Nan said...

Geez, it sounds just terrible to me! As for reading blogs, have you thought of doing the new blog thing on your sidebar, Tara? I just love it. I can glance through and see when someone last posted, the name of it, and even a snippet if I wish. I think it is wonderful.

Tara said...

bermudaonion, thanks! Lucky you, winning a copy. Let me know what you think.

Ti, The lace reading aspect of the book was one of my favorite parts, actually. It definitely stood out. Good point about the followers.

Jena, well, it looks like quite a few haven't read The Lace Reader! Thanks for the blog reading info.

Shana, I have a history of staying away from buzzed about books, but I was really drawn to this one for whatever reason. Thank you!

Chris, thanks. Hmm. Interesting that you had problems with the following -thanks for telling me that.

Nutmeg, yes, let me know! Funny that the same books are buzzing on opposite sides of the world - do people there pay attention to the books Oprah has chosen? I think that's a big part of it here..

I totally understand! I may blog about it soon before I forget everything!

Wendy, I re-read your review - it's a great review! I should have just referred people over there. You know, I picked up The Sister a few months ago from the library and by the time I was finished with the first chapter I decided, no thanks. I'm not sure why, since it sounds exactly like something I would like. Maybe it was bad timing.

Nan, it is so frustrating! I can see the benefits of using the following....I just feel completely, and beyond overwhelmed at the thought of opening all the sites and copy and pasting them into the thing since I've already established the bloglines thing. All the clicking drives me nuts! And I have tendonitis in my first finger! I may have to bite the bullet and do it one of these days though. Thanks for the suggestion.

melanie said...

No worries, hope your hand feels better. And this is on my to-read list, but I don't think I'm going to rush. :) Thanks for this honest review.

Carrie K said...

I just use Bloglines. Other than being really slow sometimes to update and inexplicably dropping people, it's not too bad.

Hope your hand feels better! One good thing about the net is that you can always catch up.

I try never to have high expectations for books or movies because they are invariably dashed. I do not want to know what that says about me. :)

And I would still like to read The Lace Reader, but possibly forewarned now.

eclectic_reader said...

I loved your review, I have to admit taht I will probably be the last person to read the book however since I have so many books that I have yet to read...sigh

I hope your hand gets feeling better soon!!

Danielle said...

I hope your hand is better! I thought I was getting a review copy of this, but Harpercollins never followed through. So, like you I went out and bought it in hardcover, but now I haven't gotten to it. I like a really good twist, but if they don't pull it off well, I can see what you mean by feeling like you've been had. I wonder what I'll think of it when I get to it. I'm mostly just expecting a good, entertaining read.

Bookfool said...

I recently read a book with a plot twist that made me feel a little used, but I decided to give the author a break. The book was gripping enough that I didn't care. Had it been a so-so book otherwise, I migh have been annoyed.

Hope your hand heals quickly!

Iliana said...

Hope your hand is feeling much better Tara! And, yes, I've had some issues with Bloglines this week too. I think it seems to be fixed now - hopefully!

Really enjoyed your review of this book. That's the only problem with books that seem to get a lot of buzz... Sometimes by the time I finally get to the book I feel a bit underwhelmed. Same thing happens to me with movies :) I hope to get to The Lace Reader one of these days.

raych said...

I've had that problem with bloglines too! One regular poster hadn't peeped in a week, so I went to her blog to send an email asking if she was sick. Imagine my surprise when I saw she had A WHOLE WEEK OF POSTS I'D MISSED!! Still, it beats checking all somethinghundred of my blogs individually.

I've heard buckets about The Lace Reader, and I'm trying to get my expectations lower because I want it to be good. *sigh* So hard to do.

Tara said...

Hi Melanie, Thanks and you're welcome!

Carrie K, thank you! I definitely liked The Lace Reader, and think it's a book that generally people will like. I tend to be a bit of a pessimist myself, by the way.

Eclectic reader, thanks for saying that and thanks for stopping by.

Danielle, I had the exact same thing happen with Harpercollins. I'll be interested to see what you think, and yes, it was definitely entertaining.

Bookfool, There is one book that really made me feel I'd been had - The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve. I like her work otherwise so I didn't hold it against her!

Iliana, underwhelmed, yep that's the word I was looking for. It's a good read despite my complaints.

Raych, that's exactly it! Sheesh, and it's still going on, I wonder if this handful of blogs will ever update on bloglines again. It's so convenient, though as you say. Will be interested to hear your thoughts on The Lace Reader.

Maw Books said...

I missed the whole buzz about The Lace Reader I've never even heard of it! Honestly, I think I'll skip this one for now.

As far as "followers" isn't that something that only features blogs using blogger? Personally, it feels kind of elitist to me.

Andi said...

I have this one, but I haven't managed to get into it yet. I tried it a few times, but it just hasn't grabbed me. Wish me luck! I need to know what this twist business is all about.

Tara said...

Natasha, followers is for blogger users but you can follow anyone you want. I think.

Andi, good luck with The Lace Reader! I actually had no trouble getting into it.. I guess it was the ending I had trouble with. Would love to know your thoughts someday on 'the twist'!

Melissa said...

I have just started using followers and haven't had a problem with it, but I also didn't really use my google reader before.

I try to stay away from really hyped books too, but this one does look good. One of these days I'll have to track down a copy.