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VINE VOICEon 13 May 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was a very strange book, completely different to the usual kind of stuff I read, and the usual stuff that is published too. It was almost like a Grimms fairy story or an old Norse legend although it was very unspecific about the time and place where it was set. The writing was very beautiful and compelling - intriguing enough to make me want to read on and find out where it was going. However it confused me slightly and even having finished it I am still not sure what was going on exactly, especially in the Thrashing Room! The story was a bit too fantastical and abstract for my tastes which is why I only give it three stars. Well written but not really my cup of tea. However an author to watch out for.
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on 12 October 2014
This is not the style of book that I usually read, however, I thought I would give it a go as I have recently become quite bored with my usual reads.
Although I found the dialect a bit difficult in the beginning, I very quickly became Mary (the main character).

It is an intriguing and compelling story full of strong women, whether their strengths be for good or malice.
I particularly like the main character's relationship with inanimate objects from which she drew her strengths and resolve.

An excellent read. Try it. It is where myth meets reality.
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on 14 August 2014
I found the story very confusing. It was often difficult to know who was speaking. I was a long way through the book before I could be sure Morgan was a girl. Surely Morgan is a boy's name?
I was puzzled for a time about why only a few words were in dialect - "dun"for instance, but then I realised that if everything was in dialect it would be unintelligible, so a clever device.
Many of the characters were very unpleasant. I could not recommend the book.
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on 10 December 2012
This debut novel grabs the reader from the first page. Jess then takes you on a whirlwind journey through dreams and tragedy on an alien off shore island.She has the ability to reach into your fantasies and fears and spin tales from them that seem rooted in the real world.
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on 13 June 2012
Snake Ropes is unlike anything I've ever read before. Just as I thought I'd got it sussed, the story would change before my eyes. In that respect it was a little like the TV series Lost in written form! The ending was unpredictable and I'd love to find out what happens to the characters next. Unlike a previous character, I found the written dialect to be credible, and it added to the atmosphere of the story. I've found myself thinking about the book a lot since I finished it, and I'm looking forward to reading Jess Richards' future novels.
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on 8 June 2012
Snake Ropes is one of the best books I have read for a long time. The characters were fascinating and the setting evocative. The way the story unfolded even made the bizarre believable. I heard Jess Richards being interviewed on Radio 2 which prompted me buying the novel, so glad I did. I hope Jess Richards is publishing more very soon.
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VINE VOICEon 26 June 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This impressive debut novel about islands, keys, embroidery, women and the sea takes inspiration from two very different fairytale traditions, personified in its two narrators. Mary has lived her life on an isolated island that bears more than a passing resemblance to St Kilda, despite the talk of the bewitched 'Thrashing House' where those who transgress the rules of this matriarchal community are sent, and ideas about enchanted, poisonous snake ropes left by the 'tall men' who come to trade for handicrafts and fish. Her references are those of Norse or Celtic folklore; harsh and unreasoning, and consistently peculiar. Morgan, confined to a house on the same island after her family fled from the mainland, inhabits a fairer (in both sense of the word) world of the Brothers Grimm or Perrault's tales, where virtue is rewarded and things come in threes, and retains this same expectation herself as she hopes for escape. Her twin sisters, meanwhile, are straight out of Hans Christian Anderson. Among this jumble of storytelling traditions, Jess Richards has fashioned something striking and fresh; she is certainly a writer to watch.

There are faults to this novel. Richards' command of pace at the beginning of Mary's story, as she searches for her kidnapped brother, Barney, and uncovers family secrets, only makes it more obvious when this novel sags somewhat in the middle. It takes a little too long for Mary and Morgan to meet, as they inevitably must, but after they do, the narrative picks up again. I loved Mary's voice, which took me a few pages to read easily, but after that, added to the strength and depth of her character. However, at the weakest points, I felt that Richards was creating a mishmash of ideas just because she could. This can be exhilarating, but also a little shallow, as when Morgan muses, 'I'm not hungry for an oven-baked witch, I'm not laughing at an empress who wears the skin of her fattened emperor as her brand new clothes... I'm so tired, but I don't want to sleep for decades to give anyone a kiss they've wanted for only a moment'. I also wanted the world of the island to be more sufficiently fleshed out, although I appreciate that was probably not Richards' intention. The narrative is continuously and deliberately disorientating, as when Mary listens to voices in metal and Morgan drinks forgetting liquid, and this creates an incredible sense of atmosphere, but I wanted to feel a little more grounded in the rhythms of daily life in this world; the traditions of the Thrashing House and how the women govern this community. This is a book I could admire, but not fully inhabit, and hence, I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have done.

Nevertheless, Richards has set herself a formidable challenge with this novel, and on the whole, she rises to it. I'm looking forward to whatever she writes next.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is strange - intentionally so. There's an island off the edge of the map where women do craftwork and men fish, and once a month the tall men come to trade. That's the way the island works. Until boys start disappearing.

Mary is an islander who narrates half the tale. When her little brother is taken, she's willing to do whatever it takes to get him back. After all she's the one who looks after him - he's hers. Fevers, secrets, memory-keeping keys and mysterious folklore accompany Mary as she discovers there's more to Barney's disappearance than she ever feared. And truth can be so much more dangerous than lies.

The rest of the story is told by Morgan, a mainlander whose parents fled to the island to hide behind a thirteen foot pink fence. Her main quest is to escape her mother's domain, and is full of delusions, fairytales, ghosts, half-remembered memories and dangerous empathy.

The imaginative, dreamy feel to the book is what it made it both so compelling and enjoyable for me. It's often difficult to tell what's real or imagined, and the dark, malevolent Thrashing House looms over all. Sadly, though, I felt the underlying secrets to Mary's plot were too obvious and commonly told, while Morgan's role tails off with a whimper. After everything that had gone before, the end left me with too many questions - not least about those Snake Ropes of the title.

A clever debut, full of atmosphere, menace and imagination. A good read.
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on 30 June 2014
Great read - Love Jess Richards - waiting for the next book
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on 8 July 2012
Snake Ropes really is an exceptional novel, both in its stylistic uniqueness, but also in managing to successfully combine narrative and myth - real or imagined - while at the same time dealing with some really intense issues. It's unusual , but beautiful language grips you from the first page.The fact that it ostensibly starts as a relatively "simple tale of simple folk", & then turns out to be anything but, makes the reveal of its brutal events have such an impact. I was really impressed how the author managed to subtly, but consistently, keep up the tension all the way through the second half, encompassing lots of fantastic plot twists towards the end. Truly a stunning debut novel.
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