Book Reviews

Review Notes: The Broken Teaglass, Ash

Continuing with my “short reviews = happy holidays” plan of action.

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault
Publication: Delacorte Press; 1 edition (September 29, 2009), Hardcover, 384pp / ISBN 0553807331
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4 birds
Read: December 16, 2009
Source: Library

The dusty files of a venerable dictionary publisher . . . a hidden cache of coded clues . . . a story written by a phantom author . . . an unsolved murder in a gritty urban park–all collide memorably in Emily Arsenault’s magnificent debut, at once a teasing literary puzzle, an ingenious suspense novel, and an exploration of definitions: of words, of who we are, and of the stories we choose to define us.
In the maze of cubicles at Samuelson Company, editors toil away in silence, studying the English language, poring over new expressions and freshly coined words–all in preparation for the next new edition of the Samuelson Dictionary. Among them is editorial assistant Billy Webb, just out of college, struggling to stay awake and appear competent. But there are a few distractions. His intriguing coworker Mona Minot may or may not be flirting with him. And he’s starting to sense something suspicious going on beneath this company’s academic facade.
Mona has just made a startling discovery: a trove of puzzling citations, all taken from the same book, The Broken Teaglass. Billy and Mona soon learn that no such book exists. And the quotations from it are far too long, twisting, and bizarre for any dictionary. They read like a confessional, coyly hinting at a hidden identity, a secret liaison, a crime. As Billy and Mona ransack the office files, a chilling story begins to emerge: a story about a lonely young woman, a long-unsolved mystery, a moment of shattering violence. And as they piece together its fragments, the puzzle begins to take on bigger personal meaning for both of them, compelling them to redefine their notions of themselves and each other.

– The mystery is nicely tied into the lives of the protagonist(s), but it’s not the sole thing that defines them. They have other problems than trying to solve the mystery, and that was nice. It reminded me of Behind the Curtain in that way.
– The mystery is also very interesting, especially since I’m such a book worm and being a lexicographer seems interesting to me. So a lexicographic mystery is exciting! Even if it IS almost stereotypically bookish.
– I didn’t always like the characters, but I did understand them. Billy was almost too bland in the beginning but then something about him was revealed that made him more interesting and complicated, luckily.
– Somehow it got very intense near the end! Kind of a quiet mystery, overall, but very, very intense in some places. Not in a gory way, or anything like that, but emotionally. It was very good! I really enjoyed this book a lot.

Ash by Malinda Lo
Publication: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (September 1, 2009), Hardcover, 272pp / ISBN 0316040096
Genre: Fantasy, YA/Teen
Rating: 3.5 birds
Read: December 16, 2009
Source: Library

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

– I wasn’t sure what to make of the beginning. It was kind of interesting, but kind of boring? About 40 pages in I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue, but I was sure the payoff would be worth it (and it’s a short book), so I stuck with it.
– I only made it through the depressing parts because I knew there’d be a payoff at the end, though!
– But at the end– Ash gets her lover but the stepsisters/stepmother don’t get punished?? That’s one of the best parts of the original story!
– Didn’t like the fairy thing– I didn’t see the point or else I just didn’t understand it completely. I know Ash needed a “fairy godmother” kind of thing but outside of that what purpose did they serve in the story?
– Didn’t really feel anything for Ash except maybe pity.
– I always feel bad for the “nice” stepsister.
– Some parts went too quickly, other parts went too slowly. Not that it needed more detail, necessarily, since it was easy to see Ash fall in love, but wtf about the fairy thing? THAT needed more explanation, I think.
– It’s not bad, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been. I enjoyed the development of the story/characters, but felt let down about certain plot points.
– If Malinda Lo ever writes something else I’ll definitely check it out, though! She’s got potential.
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  • Jenny

    Yay, I’m glad you didn’t say The Broken Teaglass was dull. It sounds like a lot of fun, but I’ve read one or two negative reviews of it, and I wasn’t sure whether it was worth reading. Now I have decided that YES. It IS.

    • Anastasia

      lol, I think it depends on whether or not you’re a bookish/word nerd sort of person and what sort of mysteries you like. I am, and I also don’t mind mysteries that aren’t full of chills and thrills (or serial killers), so I really enjoyed it.

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