22gigantes.com - A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night--her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?Stephen Lloyd Jones's debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion--a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.
Most helpful customer reviews 18 of 19 people found the following review helpful. The String Diaries By S Riaz This fast moving novel straddles many different genres - it is part thriller, part supernatural fantasy and also touches on historical fiction. What is certain is that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. We are immediately thrown into the action, meeting Hannah Wilde, her injured husband Nate and nine year old daughter Leah when they are fleeing for their life. For some time we are unsure about why they are on the run and, more to the point, who (or what) they are trying to escape from. However, their sense of urgency and fear is palpable and you find yourself being swept along into the story.There are three timelines by which we learn about what is going on. One storyline, concerning Hannah and her family, is set in the present. There is also the tale of Hannah's parents, which largely takes place in 1970's Oxford. Lastly, there is a third, which takes place in Hungary in the 1870's. It is difficult to discuss these various strands of the novel without giving away the plot, so suffice to say that gradually the mystery of why Hannah is running is revealed. A tragedy, beginning in Hungary, so long ago, has followed Hannah's family through the ages. For generations, Hannah's family has relied on escape; but now she faces the final outcome, as events conspire on a collision course which will end in either disaster or freedom from the curse which she has lived with all her life.There are moments while reading this, when you do need to suspend disbelief and simply go with the flow of the book. What is without doubt is that this is a huge novel which I found almost unputdownable. It really would be a fantastic holiday read, or on a long plane journey. This is an extremely self assured debut novel and I look forward to reading more from this author. 9 of 9 people found the following review helpful. A narrative spread over three time lines By Sussman This book is very easy to get into and rather difficult to put down.The narrative is spread over three time periods; the wide scope of the story spread does converge together later on. I liked Hannah's character she seemed well rounded, we see her struggles to balance the danger from her families past with her almost matriarch responsibility to her husband and daughter. Readers who like this novel will be willing her on despite the difficulties she was facing. The end of the book was very edgy and yet satisfying. What was refreshing here, is that this is a stand-alone novel without the need for you to be invested sequels, which makes a pleasant change. 9 of 10 people found the following review helpful. Good but leaves you asking questions By Rubik The idea here, a long-lived shapeshifting psychopath terrorizing a family through the years, is solid. However, the execution of the book itself needs some tweaking. One, a glossary. Lots of hungarian words are peppered into the text without clear explanation leaving only context clues for the reader. Some seem to be Male Leader, Female Leader, Disavowed, Gifted, and the like, but I'm not sure of what they actually mean since there is no glossary anywhere and I wasn't going to stop reading to go and look up the translations.Second, and probably the bigger issue, there is a pretty major deus ex machina thrown in the story that doesn't really serve any purpose. It's glaring, and worse, comes directly after one of the characters explicitly states how that option has been tried over the years and never, ever works. It's thrown in the story, everybody just accepts it, but it's never fully fleshed out as to "why" it's possible after the book took the time to state how much it isn't possible, and has already been experimented with over the years.Third, the pacing. The first half takes its time getting going, telling three stories set in different time periods and locales. I had to keep plowing through and making myself read it. It just wasn't that engaging. Now, when the action picks up about halfway through I was all in. Mr. Jones writes action really well. And by the last fifth of the book I couldn't put it down, since it was rapid fire (even oddly introducing new characters- however, to me, this made sense as up until that point there wouldn't have been anything for them to do and I'm not a fan of just having all the characters in the book but not needed). Plus, at one point a character describes something from the past and it's adequately explained. Then later, we read that scene as if in real time. But since we know how it turns out, even though horrible, it's not surprising in the least. Seemed like it could have been cut entirely, or the the first description of it edited out to leave a sense of surprise while reading it.Fourth, and maybe I just missed something, but I didn't get why everybody had such a hard time with the protagonist. Shapeshifter, I get it, tough to spot. But beyond that he's basically just a regular human who lives a long time. He's not an X-man or anything (he does have a sort of "power" but it takes concentration and the target needs to be restrained). Others of his kind are killed throughout the book, and he's not shown to be particularly cunning or smart. He's a torturing psycho, so I get why people would be scared of him initially, but not how over generations someone doesn't connive to catch and kill him. They always just run. It's alluded to that it was tried at points in the past to do just that, but it's never shown to the reader. There were some close calls, but never was a trap set. To me, he just reads as a whiny nut job, obsessed with lost love. Again, maybe I missed it, but he didn't seem like he'd be that tough to pin down. Like if you're unsure of three people in a room, shoot all of them in the leg or something, then tie them up and start questioning each. I can see where it would be tough in the short term, but over decades you'd think somebody in the family would have thought of a trap.So I liked it, the story was good, but overall I put it down with some questions. See all 63 customer reviews...
From Booklist *Starred * Hannah is on the run, her young daughter and her grievously wounded husband depending on her for their own survival. Her destination: a remote farmhouse in Wales, a place where she hopes no one will think to look for her. But, rather than a safe haven, the farmhouse could be her last stand against an evil that has pursued her family for nearly 200 years, an evil that can change its shape and take on the appearance of anyone it chooses . . . like someone Hannah might trust with her life. Told in alternating chapters set in the present day, in the late 1970s (when Hannah’s father met her mother), and in the late 1870s, this is a scary and exciting horror novel that keeps us off-kilter, as we try to figure out what’s going on until we’re so involved in the story that we couldn’t look away even if we tried. Rather than tell us everything we need to know about the history of Hannah’s family at the very beginning of the book, as many writers might have, Jones doles out information a bit at a time, asking us to glean knowledge from dialogue and subtext. This is Jones’ first novel, and you don’t see many debuts more ambitious and memorable than this one. --David Pitt "The String Diaries is terrifying, and deliciously so . . . A sophisticated horror story that induces elemental terror. It's perfect for the beach, particularly since you don't want to be alone with it in the dark."Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News"This is a book of authorial wizardry, as Jones hopscotches among three time periods and locales (late 1800s Hungary; 1970s France and England; and present-day Snowdonia, in northern Wales) with grace, wit and dexterity."Joy Tipping, Dallas Morning News"[A] globe-trotting, time-traveling page-turner . . . An elegant and exotic neo-Gothic horror story . . . May bring to mind Elizabeth Kostova's [book] The Historian. . . . Jones's descriptions [are] fabulous . . . Like the best Gothic storytellers, Jones's characters feel things deeply and dramatically. . . . An exciting ride."Margie Romero, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette"Jones doles out his narrative revelations with patience, turning over his cards deliberately like a well-trained casino dealer."Entertainment Weekly"The String Diaries is an engrossing, mind-bending supernatural tale, and Stephen Lloyd Jones is as exciting a new voice as I've come across in some time, a writer who understands what makes the pulse race."Michael Koryta, author of Those Who Wish Me Dead"I have never read a book with such frenzied impatience. The String Diaries is unputdownable. Stephen Lloyd Jones has written a debut novel as frightening and layered as Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian and as clever and riveting as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code."Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon, The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh"Reading The String Diaries made me feel, in the best sense, like a child again. Nothing was more important than the fate of Stephen Lloyd Jones's courageous and very human heroine Hannah Wilde. Meals went uncooked, bills went unpaid, as I waited to find out if she would win freedom for herself and her daughter against the forces of darkness. I was scared, enthralled and amazed by this stunning debut."Margot Livesey, author of the New York Times bestselling The Flight of Gemma Hardy"I loved this book."Marcus Sakey, author of Brilliance About the Author Stephen Jones studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London and is the director of a major London media agency. This is his first novel.
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