Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2-in-1: The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor & Matched by Ally Condie

1. The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

The book's synopsis from the author's website:

The Anatomy of Ghosts1786, Jerusalem College, Cambridge

They say Jerusalem is haunted by Mrs Whichcote's ghost. Frank Oldershaw claims he saw her in the garden, where she drowned. Now he's under the care of a physician.
Desperate to salvage her son's reputation and restore him to health, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs her own agent - John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts, a controversial attack on the existence of ghostly phenomena. But his arrival in Cambridge disrupts the uneasy status quo. He glimpses a world of privilege and abuse, where the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs life at Jerusalem more effectively than the Master, Dr Carbury, ever could.

But Holdsworth's powers of reason and his knowledge of natural philosophy have other challenges. He dreams of his dead wife, Maria, who roams the borders of death. Now there's Elinor, the very-much-alive Master's wife, to haunt him in life. And at the heart of it all is the mystery of what really happened to Sylvia Whichcote in the claustrophobic confines of Jerusalem.

Why was Sylvia found lying dead in the Long Pond just before a February dawn? And how did she die? Indeed, why was she at Jerusalem, living or dead, in the first place?

It was an okay book for me. It took too long to get into the whole murder mystery and despite there being more than one secret to reveal, I just couldn't get myself very interested. The Anatomy of Ghosts is considered a literary thriller and maybe I'm just not that big of a fan of this particular genre. There is definitely a lot more to the story than simply solving the murder case. The whole little society of scholars living on the grounds of Jerusalem College (a fictitious part of Cambridge University) seems to be almost drowning in secrets. The characterization is not bad really. No one's character seems to be really spotless and the ones that do, turn out quite the opposite at some point in the story.

I actually liked the ending quite a lot and this is what redeemed the whole novel for me. The action picked up as the mysteries started to get revealed, one by one and I didn't see the outcome of the murder coming at all. Fans of literary thrillers will probably like The Anatomy of Ghosts a lot, as well as history fans since it was interesting to read about the life in Cambridge in the 18th century. But if you're just looking for the swift plot and quick action, it's probably not a book for you.

2. Matched by Ally Condie

The book's synopsis from the book's website:

MatchedIn the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one… until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow — between perfection and passion.
It was a nice read, very quick, it can be easily read in one day, if the time allows. The concept of the dystopian society where everything is controlled, including the nutritional content of the food one eats, and no one stands out is interesting and scary. I hope it will never come to that in real life (I think that teenagers, if no one else, would rebel sooner or later, unless there's something in the food that makes them docile and not interested in asking questions and seeking answers). Ms. Condie did create a convincing, if frightening, reality.

What I didn't like was the love triangle. I think this part of the plot is what usually keeps me away from the YA books. Call me a bitter cynic or something, but the sappiness of it all just put me off and was the barrier keeping me from fully enjoying the story. And Cassie was another problem. Her cowardice throughout most of the book was annoying and I'm just glad she showed some guts in the end. All and all, it was an all right book and young readers will definitely enjoy it.