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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

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The world is burning, civilisation is collapsing and the human race is in danger of being wiped out…a mysterious disease known as Dragonscale is sweeping the planet – nobody knows how it started, but everyone thinks it will end with the destruction of mankind. The disease starts out as swirling patterns on the sufferer’s skin, and eventually those with it burst into fire and are literally burnt to death. It doesn’t take long before vigilantes roam the streets killing those affected in an attempt to rid the world of the disease.

Harper Grayson finds out that she has Dragonscale at roughly the same time as she discovers that she is pregnant. Her husband Jakob abandons her, and in fear of her life, Harper flees to try and find a place of safety. She is taken under the collective wing of a group of fellow sufferers who have set up their own community known as Camp Wyndham, where they believe they have found a way to, if not cure Dragonscale, at least control it and even use it to their advantage. One of the group is John Rookwood, known as The Fireman. Enigmatic and single-minded, John protects the group and has special skills of his own for using Dragonscale to defend his community. But danger and hysteria lurk within the camp…

I had previously only read one book by Joe Hill – Heart Shaped Box – which I thought was okay but not brilliant. I would probably not have bothered with any more of his novels except that dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels always intrigue me, so I gave this one a try. And wow! am I glad that I did!!

It’s a big brick of a book, at just shy of 750 pages. Sometimes I can get a bit impatient with such long books, but I seem to have got lucky with a couple this year (earlier in the year I read Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ which I also loved), including this one. The writing is engaging and there’s always something to tease you into reading just one more chapter, and oh go on there, just one more…

Some scenes were particularly poignant – crazy as it sounds, one of the scenes that sticks in my head is when Harper gets brief access to the internet after weeks of having none. She goes to Google only to find that it is no longer there.

There’s a lot of characters in the book – some I loved, and some I absolutely detested, as I am sure was the intention of the author. Harper was a feisty heroine – the best sort actually, as she only realised her own strength of character when the chips were down.  found her obsession with the film Mary Poppins a bit odd but I’ll let it go!! The Fireman was exasperating and antagonistic, but fiercely protective of those he cared about, and his bravery knew no bounds.

The story seemed to move quite quickly for me – that is there was always something happening and it didn’t lag at all. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I liked it although I know some reviewers were disappointed.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian novels. It’s well worth your time reading!

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This instalment of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series opens with the elderly lady detective’s friends Colonel and Mrs Bantry awakening to the distressing news that there is a body in their library. And indeed there is – a young lady who neither of them have ever seen before.

After calling the police, Mrs Bantry calls upon Miss Marple to help with the investigation and that wily old lady picks through the various clues and red herrings, to get to the truth of the matter…

The first thing I would note about this story is that, as in The Murder at the Vicarage, Miss Marple is little more than a background character for most of this book. Indeed, the majority of the detective work is done by the police, who have numerous potential murderers to investigate.

The second thing I would note is that…this does not matter one jot! I enjoyed the book and I thought the mystery was very well put together. I am not going to give anything away, but I will say that I did not guess the culprit, and there were other twists – one in particular – which I also did not see coming.

Another solid instalment in the Marple series – I look forward to reading more!

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In Amsterdam in the late 17th century, 18 year old Nella has been promised as a wife to successful merchant Johannes Brandt, but when she arrives at her new home, he is still away on business. Instead, she is met by his prickly sister Marin and staff Otto and Cornelia.

When Johannes does arrive home weeks later, things do not improve – he seems uninterested in being a husband to Nella, and there is constant tension simmering under the surface between all members of the household. Johannes presents Nella with a gift – a cabinet sized version of their house and instructions to furnish it. For the task, Nella engages a miniaturist to supply furniture for the small house, but the miniaturist sends much more – models of the inhabitants which seem to predict events in the future.

Who is the mysterious miniaturist, and how does she know so much about the Brandts? And what secrets lie within the walls of Nella’s new home?

It is difficult to say much more about the plot without giving away significant plot points. I will say however that I did really enjoy this book and can certainly understand the hype surrounding it’s release. The characters all seemed well drawn and believable, and if some of the events took me by surprise, with hindsight they were perhaps obvious and inevitable. Such is the skill of Jessie Burton’s writing however, that they only became so obvious once they had happened (if that makes sense).

Burton does have a lovely turn of phrase and a beautiful way of describing events and scenes, without being overly verbose. The story flowed well, even with the tense atmosphere throughout. The prologue was perfect once I reached the end of the book, and unlike many reviewers I was not disappointed in the ending at all.

Overall, this book gets a definite thumbs up from me and I have already bought Burton’s follow up novel, ‘The Muse’ on the strength of this.

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Emma O’Donovan is the girl every girl wants to be. She is clever, beautiful and the envy of her friends. Until the night that she goes to a party and her life takes a downhill turn. All of a sudden everyone hates her, she is classed as a whore and there are lurid photos of her all over Facebook. It’s made clear to the reader that what her friends and schoolmates initially consider to be her sleeping consensually with a group of men, was actually a group rape; however this doesn’t stop people taunting her and calling her all sorts of names.

Emma’s life falls apart when the case becomes public knowledge, her family start to split at the seams and people still blame her for what happened, and the book shows the aftermath of the terrible event.

I am in two minds about this book. I think it’s an important subject, and I quite like that O’Neill does not wrap everything up in a neat bow at the end, although I didn’t actually like the ending she chose to write. However, Emma is (I suspect intentionally) in the beginning at least, a deeply unpleasant young woman. She tries to get her friend’s boyfriend to fancy her, she is jealous of any girl who may be approaching being as pretty as Emma herself is and is unnecessarily unkind to people. None of this matters a jot – or at least none of it should matter a jot – of course when she is horrifically violated. What happened was wrong, full stop. The reaction of others was almost as horrific as the violation itself.

The first half of the book lays out Emma’s character and shows events leading up to the night of the party, while the second half deals with the aftermath. I did not like Emma’s mother at all, and felt that she was at least partly to blame for Emma’s obsession with her looks. Her father was not a likeable character too, although I suspect that his treatment of Emma after the rape was for some, all too accurate. I did however like her brother Bryan.

I feel that this is a book that people should read, and it is certainly one I raced through due to the flow of the writing, but can I say that I loved it? No – it’s hard to love a book with this subject. But I would probably recommend it.

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I picked up this book because I had heard lots of good things about it, and because despite the fact that fantasy is not, and never has been a favourite genre of mine, the premise intrigued me.

The story is set in London and is narrated by Peter Jones, a young PC in the Metropolitan Police Service. This strange tale starts when he is trying to glean information about a vicious and unprovoked murder, only to find himself interviewing a witness who died more than a hundred years ago…

More murders follow and Jones and his partner Lesley and mentor Thomas Nightingale quickly work out that they are all linked, and something strange and unusual is causing them.

As if that weren’t enough, Peter and Nightingale also find themselves caught up in a feud between Mother Thames and Father Thames, who are arguing over who has jurisdiction of their River Thames; as a result, Peter meets the exotic and alluring Beverley Brook.

I enjoyed this book a lot – but not quite as much as I had hoped to, or indeed quite as much as the first fifty pages or so led me to think I might. I really liked the characters of Peter and Nightingale, and as narrators go, Peter is witty, likeable and extremely engaging. However, I think the plot got a bit too convoluted, mainly because the feud over the River Thames seemed pointless and really added nothing whatsoever to the main mystery, which was that of the murders. The  murders themselves were quite interesting and I liked that Peter had a foot in both the mortal world and the underworld of London where he could learn magic and make deals with ghosts.

So despite feeling that it was something of an anti-climax, the main two characters are enough for me to want to try the next book in the series. I also find that generally with series such as this one, the first book is never the strongest. This book has had very strong reviews elsewhere, so if you are thinking of reading it – and especially if fantasy is a genre you enjoy (bearing in mind that it is not one I usually choose to read) I would recommend giving this a try.

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I honestly can’t remember whether I actually read these books – more commonly known as Alice in Wonderland, I guess due to the 1951 Disney film, which is an amalgamation of both of the Alice books – or whether the stories and characters are just so well known that I feel like I’ve read them.

Either way, I recently bought the dark retelling and continuation ‘Alice’ by Christina Henry, and decided to read the originals before reading this newer release. For anyone who has lived under a rock for their whole lives, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland tells the story of the strange encounters a young girl called Alice has when she falls down a rabbit hole and ends up in Wonderland. There she meets such characters as the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice steps through a mirror and ends up in a strange world where she meets the Red Queen and the White Queen, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and many other characters.

I have mixed feelings about these stories. On the one hand, I am not really the target audience anyway and I feel I should take that into account. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Carroll was both imaginative and intelligent. The stories are quite fantastical, and Through the Looking Glass includes several clever verses, one of which is the famous Jabberwocky poem.

For all that though…I can’t say I really enjoyed reading the book (I read one book which contained both stories). I definitely preferred the first one, but I got a little bored with Through the Looking Glass, and consequently took far longer to read it than I would have expected. Maybe it’s because fantasy – which I guess this book probably could be classed as – is not a favourite genre of mine; maybe it’s because as I say, I am not the target audience; maybe it’s just that no book can resonate with every reader.

I would not want to put anyone else off reading the book – it is after all a much-loved classic, so really what does my opinion matter? – but on a personal level, I felt a little disappointed by it. I still look forward to reading the Christina Henry book though!

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The third instalment of the Miss Fisher series starts with Phryne Fisher waking up on a train to discover that she and her fellow passengers have been chloroformed. After raising the alarm it is discovered that an elderly lady, Mrs Henderson, is missing from the train and is subsequently found dead. The honorable Miss Fisher is soon on the case, but the plot thickens when a young girl who was on the train is brought to her having lost her memory. Now Phryne is not only trying to discover who killed Mrs Henderson, but also where the girl has come from and what has happened to her to cause her to forget everything…

As with the previous two Miss Fisher novels, there is a great sense of fun in this book. However, there is a sinister undercurrent, which deals with the trafficking of young girls and a gruesome murder. The author does traverse this tightrope well though – conveying the characters’ (and by extension the readers’) disgust at the treatment of the girls, while still allowing Phryne’s sense of adventure and her liberated attitude towards sex to come through.

An enjoyable and for the most part undemanding and enjoyable read – if you like ‘cosy’ murder mysteries I would recommend the Phryne Fisher series. However, if complex character studies and intricate plots are more your thing, this series may well annoy you. I like these books very much, reading them as I do, sandwiched between other books.

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