1800’s

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

BEE RIDGWAY

 

Sadly, I didn’t love The River of No Return the way I was hoping to.

So, Nick is an English dude from the 1800’s who is about to die in a nasty battle when suddenly he transports roughly 200 years into the future to 2003. Cool. An organization called the Guild picks him up, makes him spend a year learning about the modern day along with some other accidental time travellers, and then sends him off with a buttload of money to quiety live the rest of his years in the northeast of America. A decade goes by and Nick is quite accustomed to the fun things of our age – easy women, jeans, cars, watches and all that – but then he suddenly gets a summons from the Guild. They’re sending him on a mission back to his past.

Julia is a young lady in the 1800’s mourning the death of her grandfather. Her giant douche of a cousin shows up to inherit the estate, and he constantly quizzes and berates Julia while he searches for some special object that he thinks gave her grandfather his ability to manipulate time. And then Julia finds out that SHE can manipulate time as well, and must struggle to hide this from her cousin and try to escape his clutches.

So obviously when Nick goes back, he and Julia cross paths (easy enough, since they lived next door) and fall in love, yada yada yada.

Let’s start with the things I really liked about the book, kay? I liked the whole idea of time travel via feelings. Apparently you use emotions to travel along the river of time. Interesting concept. I liked the idea of a secret society (the Guild) and the idea of time travelling, being taught about the time you’re in, and then being sent on your way to just chill. I liked Nick well enough, as well as Julia. They both had spunk, which I enjoyed. I also liked Arkady, who was a grumbly Russian guy who said things like this:

“You are a man. We will save her. Why? Because it’s beautiful and romantic to do so. We will fight this maniac like the men we are – with fists. Why? Because it’s beautiful and romantic to do so.”

How can you not love that?

But now on to the things that made me not love this book…

The thing between Nick and Julia had a hint of insta-love about it. I mean really, it’s very love-at-first-sight.

My biggest complaint: It was so slooooowww. By page 160 (out of 450), the main characters hadn’t even really met yet. By page 300 I was glad that the romance factor was finally picking up but I STILL felt like I was waiting for the story to start. There was so much build-up and mystery to the secret society conspiracies that it seemed to take forever to get anywhere, and I felt just as confused and frustrated as Nick did. And I felt like the end is where things really finally started to happen, which means it ended with some unresolved issues. I’m assuming there might be a sequel, but it’s not confirmed on the Bee Ridgway’s website as far as I can tell.

Sooo yeah. The writing was enjoyable, but the storyline was just way too drawn-out for me. Even if I knew a sequel was coming, I’m not sure I’ll want to read it because it took SO LONG to be set up in this book. I’ll have to wait and see.

I am pretty sure I’m in the minority here – plenty of fellow bloggers read and loved this book, so don’t be discouraged. Give it a try. Maybe The River of No Return just wasn’t my jam.

 

Sarah Says: 2.5 stars

 

 

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

So, I finally did it! Sorry again to the October poll-voters… but hey, better late than never, right?

A few years ago, I was on my way to my mom’s house and didn’t have a book with me, so I stopped at the grocery store and bought a big chunky paperback book called Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. And I got to my mom’s house, started to read it, but after a few pages decided I wasn’t in the mood, and it has sat on my shelf ever since. And then in September I got the genius idea to put a 1000+ paged book in my October poll… I was meant to finish this late.

So, this is about two men in 1800’s England – two magicians, actually. Mr. Norrell is a quiet, reserved old man, but he is also the only practicing magician left in England. He eventually decides to come out of his giant house and bring the magic back to England. He offers his talents to England’s leaders and starts using magic to fight the French, and gains popularity and respect. Soon, another practical magician emerges – Jonathan Strange. He becomes Mr. Norrell’s pupil and they join forces in the fight against the French, but soon grow apart over their beliefs about the legendary Raven King.

So, that’s the basic gist of it – two magicians who work together but cannot agree on one critical magical argument, and it almost seriously messes stuff up. I like the idea that magic once existed in England, and then was forgotten for the most part, and then comes back. This novel is written with an Austen-like tone. I’ve also heard it compared to Dickens’ writing but I can’t really make that comparison because I’ve only read The Christmas Carol by him, whereas I’ve read five Austen novels. So I’m going to say that’s it’s written in a semi-witty Austen-esque style that I actually really liked. Here’s the thing though – Austen knew to stop at around 500 pages at least. While there were all sorts of interesting things happening and plots thickening, it was done in an extremely long way and I’m going to say that this book could have been a good 300-400 pages shorter and would have been much more enjoyable.

I also think that I’m SO LUCKY I picked up the audio version at the library so that I could have the option of listening or reading. I enjoyed the audio version much more, and I think that’s because just on the page the characters were a bit dull. I couldn’t really pin down the personalities of Strange or Norrell, but they were both much more interesting and alive in the audio version. And I don’t even really like audiobooks that much. Overall though, I think that my favorite character was “the man with the thistle-down hair”, who was kind of a baddie but as a character, he was so much bolder. I also liked Stephen Black, a black servant who Thistle-Down takes a liking too.

Soooo… I’m going to say that this was a good premise, poorly executed. I appreciated Clarke’s wit and style, but I think she definitely could have edited out a lot and could have worked at making Strange and Norrell more well-defined characters. The world she created was vivid and detailed, but the story itself wasn’t concise enough. If it wasn’t for the audiobook, I might have set this aside – I just wasn’t invested enough. I did have one favorite line in particular though, that was well-written and pretty: “She wore a gown the colour of storms, shadows, and rain and a necklace of broken promises and regrets.”

I do however want to read Susanna Clarke’s other book – The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories. It’s short stories about the same JS&Mr.N-world, but focuses more on women and magic. Also Jonathan Strange makes an appearance. I also already own this book, so I might read it this month and see if it changes my feelings on JS&Mr.N at all.

Sarah Says: 2.5 stars