Paige is a clairvoyant, with the ability to leave her body and break into the minds of others. This skill makes her hunted by Scion, who rule a dystop...morePaige is a clairvoyant, with the ability to leave her body and break into the minds of others. This skill makes her hunted by Scion, who rule a dystopian version of London in 2059. Clairvoyance is seen as unnatural and is punishable by death, forcing Paige and others like her to hide their abilities or join the mob-ruled criminal underworld. Paige is working for underground leader Jaxon Hall when she is captured and detained. She is sure she will be punished by the Scion authorities, but instead she is transferred to Oxford, a city that has been kept secret for over two hundred years. There she learns that Scion has kept it's own secrets from it's citizens and that a whole other race exists. Kept in the control of Warden, Paige yearns to escape but the only person who can help her may be the person who is imprisoning her in the first place.
The Bone Season certainly has had a lot of hype surrounding it. Shannon has famously signed a seven book deal with Bloomsbury and this title has been everywhere, with the inevitable comparisons to J.K. Rowling. I was keen to try it for myself and see if it lived up to expectations.
One thing that certainly impressed me was the world building. Reading The Bone Season is an immersive experience, as Shannon throws you straight in there with the characters, leaving you to work out how the society works for yourself. This is how I like my fantasy/sci-fi and I was impressed at the amount of detail and thought that had gone into the set up of Scion London and Oxford, as well as the creation of an entirely new race/type of creature, the Rephaim. The world hung together well and it's clear that the author knows it inside out. For example, there are over fifty different types of clairvoyant listed in beginning of the book.
Although Paige was an interesting main character, The Bone Season is all about the plot. It's an action packed novel and one that will have you turning the pages quickly. This is the kind of book I would happily have stayed up all night to read, as it's utterly engrossing. I was pleased that the romance in the novel was of the slow-burning kind and it never overwhelmed the main plots at all. As Shannon allowed the romance to develop slowly, it felt plausible for Paige's character.
On the whole, reading The Bone Season was certainly a lot of fun and I'm glad I picked it up. I simply rushed through it but having finished it, I've realised that it hasn't had much of an impact on me. The ideas are clever and the story well written, but it's not a book I will remember or want to reread. For this reason, it's not going to be a favourite.(less)
As much as I love cats, I'm not normally a fan of books about cats. They tend to be way too cosy for my taste, and too full of home-spun wisdom, which...moreAs much as I love cats, I'm not normally a fan of books about cats. They tend to be way too cosy for my taste, and too full of home-spun wisdom, which I am not a fan of at all. But I was excited to read Cat Sense as it promised to be a scientific portrayal of cats, written by author who works in feline science and based on proper research. Divided into three parts, Cat Sense covers the history of cats and their domestication, scientific explanations for their behaviour and challenges faced by cats as they live in great numbers alongside humans.
The first part of the book, which was a history of cats and their relationship with humans, was completely fascinating. There was quite a lot of information on genetics, the ancestors of modern day pet cats and the genetic relationship between domestic and wild cats (not as far apart as you would think!). I genuinely found this interesting, especially when Bradshaw discussed the genes responsible for cat colouring and markings. I had no idea that blotched tabbies (like Joseph, but you can't see his blotches in the picture above), which are so common in the UK, are rare in other parts of the world. It's also interesting how some features, such as white paws, have survived because we like them, even though they are counter-productive to the cat's role as a hunter.
After the history, Bradshaw moved on to the science behind cat behaviour, which took up the bulk of the book. A lot of the information won't be new to anyone who has owned a cat or even observed one, but it was interesting to read about the studies that scientists have carried out. The section I most enjoyed dealt with the way cats think, their emotions and their personalities. The idea that animals have distinct personalities and can experience emotion in a similar way to humans is a modern one in science, so I was glad to see Bradshaw outlining the research in this area so far. As much as this section on cat behaviour was interesting, I felt like it was overly long and too heavily skewed towards the author's own work.
Finally, Bradshaw covers several issues facing cats and their owners, such as what the rising numbers of neutered cats will mean for future kittens. My cat was neutered at six months and I have always assumed this was the right and responsible thing to do, but Bradshaw argues that this narrows the choice of available males to part feral ones, meaning that the most domesticated, docile cats do not breed, and this could have consequences for the future. He also discusses the way wildlife campaigners have targeted cats and campaigned for things like cat curfews, and whether this actually has any impact on the population of wild animals in the area.
On the whole, Cat Sense was an enjoyable book if not a mind-blowing one. It was full of interesting information but tended to be over-long and wasn't always written in the most engaging style. However, if you like cats and want to find out more about them, Cat Sense won't disappoint.(less)
Tampa is certainly a controversial book. New English teacher Celeste Price is young, attractive and married to a rich and handsome man. But her life i...moreTampa is certainly a controversial book. New English teacher Celeste Price is young, attractive and married to a rich and handsome man. But her life is consumed by her desire to have sex with fourteen year old boys. Every single decision she makes is designed to bring this closer to reality; she accepts a run-down classroom because it has a lockable door, she drugs her husband because the idea of sex with him repulses her and she spends a small fortune on anti-ageing treatments that she doesn't need in order to look as young as possible. When the first term of the academic year begins, Celeste begins to search for a teenage boy that fits her criteria, so that her years of preparation will not have been in vain.
I wasn't expecting to, but I found Tampa to be a disturbing book. It's narrated in the first person and takes you right inside the head of Celeste, which isn't a happy place to be. Her whole life is based on sex and the possibility of sex with teenage boys, literally every single decision she makes comes down to this. Her sexual fantasies and later experiences are related in detail in a graphic way. It wasn't this detail about sex that bothered me, more how all-encompassing, intense and yet clinical it was, and how disturbing some of her fantasies were (and not just because they were about teenage boys, even if it was about men this book would be disturbing). Nutting isn't pulling any punches in Tampa and you can tell that from the cover alone. She picks you up, drops you in Celeste's head and although it's a fascinating, authentic and excellent character study, it leaves you feeling grimy afterwards, like you need to wash out your brain. There is a lot of sex in this book, but there is absolutely nothing sexy about it. I admire what Nutting has done in creating the character of Celeste and shining a spotlight on female sex offenders, but Tampa isn't a book that you can enjoy reading.
What I most appreciated about Tampa was the way it highlights the sexual double standard in society when it comes to cases of this kind. When Celeste is eventually caught and taken to trial, her crime isn't taken seriously by some of the commentators, because doesn't every 'hot blooded' teenage male want to bed an attractive teacher? This double standard is everywhere and it really bothers me. Her defence lawyer even argues that Celeste is too beautiful to go to prison, as she would be in danger of being raped by other inmates. No one would ever make this argument to defend a male sex offender! So although Tampa is difficult to read and extremely graphic, it definitely shines a light on the way we think of male and female sex offenders as a society, and that alone makes it worth reading.
As Tampa is basically an in-depth character study of a female psychopath, the secondary characters aren't developed properly and there's no real character development for Celeste herself. This began to bother me in the latter half of the novel, as I would loved to have found out what Celeste's husband and victims were really feeling, but we only get to see them through Celeste's distorted eyes. Celeste really has no empathy for the boys she abuses and even when some disturbing things (aside from her abuse) happen in the later stages of the book, she's unable to show any remorse or think about anything apart from her sex drive. This gets wearying for the reader by the end of the novel.
This is one of the longest reviews I've written in a while because if nothing else, Tampa is a book that you will have opinions about. I am of the opinion that the graphic nature of the novel is needed in order to really shine a light on female sexual predators and the double standard our society has towards them. I didn't enjoy reading it, but I thought it was an excellent character study and Nutting certainly is capable of putting you in Celeste's head.(less)
The Innocents opens with the engagement of Adam to long-term girlfriend Rachel. They both live in the Hampstead Garden suburb of London, home to an in...moreThe Innocents opens with the engagement of Adam to long-term girlfriend Rachel. They both live in the Hampstead Garden suburb of London, home to an insular Jewish community in which everyone knows each other, family is paramount and life follows a pre-destined route. Adam is finally ready to settle down until the arrival of Rachel's tearaway cousin, Ellie, prompts him to question how sheltered his life has been. Although Ellie has had her scrapes (like being kicked out of university for starring in a risque film), her worldliness makes Adam realise how little of life he has seen or experienced. Is he prepared to settle for someone as insular as him, with no desire to broaden her horizons?
I've seen some mixed reviews of The Innocents, but I simply loved everything about this book. I loved the dry, slightly sarcastic tone, the way the characters kept you guessing but most of all I loved how it addressed something that we all experience at some point in our lives - when do you decide to be happy with your lot, and when is it right to break away and experience the world? Adam's struggle between the everyday contentedness he knows he can experience with Rachel and the more exciting but risky life that Ellie offers is surely something that we've all been through, even if not related to our romantic lives. It goes right down to the small level, for example, when do we decide to leave a job we are comfortable in, in order to take a chance on something potentially better but also potentially worse?
All three of the central characters were interesting, although Ellie was perhaps the least interesting of the bunch. Her rebellion against her family's lifestyle mixed with her yearning for their acceptance made her motivation easy to understand. At first I thought Rachel was easy to read too, someone completely sheltered and naive, but she surprised me at certain points in the book. Her innocence, her lifestyle, is a deliberate choice and it's something that she is prepared to defend. Even though Adam arguably acted wrongly throughout the novel, I felt sorry for him at the end. Everyday contentedness comes at a cost, after all. I liked how the morality of the book was open to interpretation all the way through, and the ambiguity of the actions of the main characters.
I've not read Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, so I can't comment on how it relates to the original. All I can say that reading Age of Innocence isn't essential to understanding and appreciating The Innocents. I read a digital review copy of this book, but I'll definitely be purchasing a physical copy to add to my own collection.(less)
Father Thomas Kelly, a Jesuit priest, is happily based at a university when he is called to Rome by his former mentor. A mysterious yet important docu...moreFather Thomas Kelly, a Jesuit priest, is happily based at a university when he is called to Rome by his former mentor. A mysterious yet important document, the Concordant, has gone missing from the Vatican Library and must be recovered at all costs. Kelly sets to work alongside an art historian, Livia, who claims to be representing a group who are just as interested in recovering the Concordant as the Vatican are. But Livia has her own secrets, and the contents of the document are powerful enough to shake Kelly's faith to it's foundations.
Blood of the Lamb is marketed as The Historian meets The Da Vinci Code, so I was keen to get my hands on it as soon as possible! There are certainly massive similarities with The Da Vinci Code; in both a male lead uncovers a deeply buried religious secret with the help of a female sidekick, but happily I found Cabot's writing much better than Brown's. Despite there being a supernatural element to the story (the comparison to The Historian is a big clue), the mythology of the supernatural community felt authentic enough for the book to somehow pull off being realistic.
In addition to this, Cabot weaves in enough twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes. I don't read many thrillers but I love intelligent, well written ones like this. In fact, until about 97% of the way through the book, I was convinced that I had found a new favourite. I loved everything about it, from the plot to the characters and the writing. But then something happens in the end that stretches the credulity of the reader to breaking point and consequently, the whole story feels false. The ending just went too far and unfortunately it ruined the book for me. Honestly, it felt a bit silly.
The ending makes Blood of the Lamb hard to review and rate. I do think the book had many, many positive features but they were ultimately over-shadowed by a bad ending.(less)
I'm not exactly an organic food goddess, but I do try to eat home-cooked meals, even if they aren't always the healthiest! I've really discovered cook...moreI'm not exactly an organic food goddess, but I do try to eat home-cooked meals, even if they aren't always the healthiest! I've really discovered cooking over the last few years, and my repertoire of meals that I can successfully make is gradually expanding. I cook a dinner from scratch every night. One thing I've noticed is that the more I eat meals I have made myself, the more that ready meals or sauces from a jar taste wrong. My taste buds must have acclimatized because ready made pasta and chilli con carne sauces now taste overly sweet and ready meals just taste salty, missing the range of different tastes that come when you cook the meal for yourself.
I was interested to read Salt, Sugar, Fat to find out more about processed foods and the way ingredients are used to create combinations that leave us craving more. With a section devoted to salt, sugar and fat separately, Moss covers the history of the use of these ingredient in processed foods, and how the major (mainly US-based) food manufacturers use them to cultivate dependency, heavy use and therefore large profits.
That salt, sugar and fat are bad for you is hardly going to be news for the majority of readers and indeed, Salt, Sugar, Fat contains lots of information that I've heard before, from lots of different sources. Some of the familiar facts included; fizzy drinks make you more hungry, cheese is chock-full of fat and too much salt can lead to heart conditions. A book like this always runs the risk of preaching to the choir but luckily Moss also includes information about newer research findings, such as the way sugar lights up the same pleasure centres in our brains as hard drugs, or that it can be so addictive that rats will willingly undergo electric shocks in order to get another slice of cheesecake. There is no 'stop signal' in our bodies when it comes to eating fatty foods, and it becomes invisible to consumers as soon as sugar is also added.
The most interesting part of the book for me was when Moss interviewed industry insiders and looked at the social implications of their product development and marketing. Poorer families and districts are deliberately and explicitly targeted. I teach in a socially deprived area of inner London and the majority of children in my class eat processed, fatty, fast foods every single day. According to Moss, this is a deliberate move, presumably as chaotic families lack the skills or budget needed to resist. At one point, Moss interviews a food executive who was in charge of opening up a new market in Brazil. As he tours the slums, the exec realises that whilst the children and families there need a lot of things, they don't need a can of Coke. The morality of such marketing campaigns deserves to be questioned.
Reading Salt, Sugar, Fat was fascinating, but it was all heavily US-based. I think the problem of processed foods is larger than that, it's a problem the whole Western world faces, so it would have been interesting to see some acknowledgement of this in the text. Apart from that, I found it engaging and well written, one I would definitely recommend.
You will enjoy Salt, Sugar, Fat if:
You are interested in the politics of big corporations and their effect on society. You enjoy social history. You are interested in where your food comes from or in trying to eat healthily. You simply like well written, engaging non-fiction.(less)