Mad Gentlemen

I finished two completely opposite books this week. Enjoyed them both immensely.

15102GENTLEMEN AND PLAYERS by Joanne Harris (CHOCOLAT and others) was a fantastic novel about a boarding school, a murder, and being on the outside looking into a world you’ll never get to be a part of-

My stepfather recommended it. He plays chess, though regrettably, there is actually very little chess in it, other than some puns on names, and a few allusions in the theme. The cover probably grabbed him, and though a little dull, it’s symbolic and suits the story well enough.

It’s a mystery, so I won’t tell too much, and even though I guessed much of the outcome quite early, I still enjoyed the ride, and how everything is revealed at the end. I read a lot of mysteries, so I caught on quick; my stepdad didn’t. I think it’s a matter of perspective.

The book is perfectly edited, and though it jumps around in time, it still reads smooth, seamlessly. There is something so refined about it, like looking at a sculpture in a museum- this book is a work of art. The voices are distinct, one can pick it up anywhere and know which PoV one is reading instantly. The descriptions of the school grounds are gorgeous, and the characters, both the protagonist and the antagonist, get inside your head and stay there.

I’d rate it four pawns and a queen-side castling.

Death of the Mad Hatter

The other book, DEATH OF THE MAD HATTER by Sarah J. Pepper, I picked up at the Georgia Indie Author Event, purely on cover lust. The author chatted me up, so I bought it. Got it signed, too!

I love indie books the way I love street art exhibits and coffeehouse musicians; I get excited by grand ideas and raw talent. The execution doesn’t have to be flawless, in fact, it shouldn’t be. This book’s rough edges scrape a bit in the boy’s PoV; a little to much recognition of Alice Mae’s clothes, and not what is inside them, and the voice swings purple and flowery. I felt too much of the author’s femininity in Ryley’s voice.

The book itself is clever, perfect cover, front and back, with tiny Mad Hatter motifs in the corners, and chapters are clearly subtitled so the reader knows who and when they are.

But the plot is twisted and absurdly complicated and “wondrous,” and I adored it. In this mashup, our protags must escape prophesies and Hearts’ evil orders, and solve mysteries in both this world and the one “down the rabbit hole,” and the reader is sucked along for the ride, willing or not. Alice Mae is a Luna Lovegood on a sugar high, and I loved her.

I rate it 4 chipped china teacups and one missing button eye.


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