My mum bought this book and read it first. We often share books and in the vast majority of cases her thoughts on how much I'll enjoy it are spot on....moreMy mum bought this book and read it first. We often share books and in the vast majority of cases her thoughts on how much I'll enjoy it are spot on. So when she handed me Trespass and said, "I'll be interested to see what you think...", I was intrigued. Usually, it's something along the lines of "Read this, you'll love it!" or "The story in this is superb". So I kind of felt like I was being experimented on before I even started...
I've obviously heard of Tremain before, if only because I've noticed a sizeable line of her books in a book shop every now and then. I knew about the volume of work but I couldn't have told you anything about the subject matter. Onto that subject matter...
Audrun and Aramon Lunel are brother and sister that are destroying each other. Perhaps even have already succeeded. They live almost in utter isolation at the Mas Lunel and their proximity torments each of them daily. I really felt for Audrun as a woman struggling with an unimaginable burden but was slightly repelled by her twisted focus. Equally, Aramon is a sorry man drinking himself into oblivion but, again, I found his history abhorrent and almost couldn't bear to read about his sordid view of the world.
Anthony Verey is struggling in obscurity; running an antique shop with very few customers and a shadow of the former famous man he once was. He no longer connects with people and identifies only with the objects under his care: his "beloveds", as he calls them. In his youth, Anthony was a respected valuer and noted expert - in his own mind, he is still the Anthony Verey. Needless to say, he is tormented and all but broken and looks to his older sister to save him.
Veronica Verey lives in France and has an overly-maternal attitude towards Anthony. Her partner, Kitty, is somewhat less enthused. The problem I had with 'V' is an almost complete disregard for anyone other than the Verey family. She claims to love Kitty but when Anthony arrives and starts taking over their lives, V turns her back on Kitty with an utter disregard for the pain she is causing. That said, I couldn't find it in myself to feel too bad for Kitty because her hatred for Anthony seems solely borne out of jealousy and she has such a lack of personal identity that I found myself just willing her to stand up for herself!
As you can see, this is a book that is all about its characters, these five predominantly. I believe that one of my texts to my mum when I was about half way through read "What is up with the people in this book?!" Unusually, I managed to enjoy the book despite not identifying with any of the characters or even liking any of them! I wouldn't want to know any of them and I certainly wouldn't want to intrude on their painful world but they are disturbingly captivating.
The story, equally, isn't an easy one to read. The subject matter can be tough and the relationships are destructive and harrowing. My A-Level English Literature teacher loved a bit of pathetic fallacy and I suppose it's ingrained in my psyche somewhere that I should be looking out for it. This book has it in spades. As the heat builds in the story, so it builds in the Mas Lunel and the surrounding area. It was that that kept me reading. It might not always be pleasant but it is certainly compelling.
I'm not exactly clamouring to read more of Tremain's writing straight away - I'm pretty sure my perception of humanity has been damaged enough for this month! However, I'm not completely put off and would possibly pick up another in the future. A mixed reaction, I suppose.
Overall: This is a strange book with some tough subject matter but the tension is engineered brilliantly and the story is a blend of heartache, memories and, of course, trespass. - this is a good read for a hot summer's day and will stay with you for a while after you finish it. (less)
Without wanting to appear negative, I didn’t like this book much at all.
The story starts with the abandoned young boy and quickly moves to the death o...moreWithout wanting to appear negative, I didn’t like this book much at all.
The story starts with the abandoned young boy and quickly moves to the death of Gerda Persson. The books of Nobel Prize winner Axel Ragnerfeldt are found in the freezer and so we begin.
Straight away, the characters are really difficult to like - we have a recovering alcoholic prone to wandering off into rambling social commentary (which has no relevance to the story and seems to be a way for the author to vent her views), a privileged but completely ungrateful misogynist and his worn down wife. I couldn’t find sympathy for any of them - Gerda Persson sums it up perfectly: “…I’m content and you’re not. You’re always chasing after what you imagine you could become”. She is addressing the famous Axel himself but it could apply to all of the key characters here.
As you might have guessed, Alvtegen splits her narrative between the past and the present. I actually liked this to some extent - for example, Louise is the long-suffering wife of the borderline alcoholic and general philanderer, Jan-Erik. Through her eyes, we see general confusion at his behaviour and then we witness the actions as they happen and understand their relationship that little bit better.
However, as events pan out, this technique becomes a little worn and the story flits all over in an attempt to hastily rap everything up. And herein lies my biggest problem with this book. The “revelations” at the end of this book come thick and fast and they become rapidly more shocking. Unfortunately, not in a good way. It really is difficult to explain why I disliked this so much without massive spoilers. Let me say this: I have no problem with ‘dark’ themes in my books. What I do have a problem with are events which are so abhorrent that I can’t help but feel the story is cheapened and the author is simply employing shock tactics.
And why were the books in the freezer? I still have no idea whatsoever…
Overall: This really isn’t a “crime novel” as I would imagine them. Yes, there are crimes, but the book is more about the effects of the crimes than the acts themselves. I would only recommend this to adults who aren’t too sensitive and aren’t opposed to reading about the darker side of humanity.(less)
The book blogosphere seems to be lighting up with apocalyptic explosions and revelling in the aftermath at the moment. After reading the amazing Diver...moreThe book blogosphere seems to be lighting up with apocalyptic explosions and revelling in the aftermath at the moment. After reading the amazing Divergent by Veronica Roth, I started keeping one eye on the many emerging dystopian tales, in case something equally amazing that I could devour and then rave about.
Along came Pure; dystopian fiction the adult way. I've seen whisperings that this book is intended to straddle the YA/Adult divide. For me, this was well and truly in the grown-up camp. The world is bleak and the story is tragic and barbaric, not to mention gory.
Most of the survivors of the Detonations have horrific burn scars or have been 'fused' with items or creatures that they were holding or near at the time. Pressia was holding her doll at the time of the Detonation and now lives with her doll's head for a hand while Bradwell (who was running through a field) has birds embedded in his back. Seriously dark stuff but morbidly clever. There are a whole army of novels that focus on the cleaner side of world-changing disasters, whether its years down the line after the dust has settled and society re-established or by looking inside the Dome at how that society should be rebuilt. The idea that society might still exist, albeit damaged almost beyond recognition, is original and chilling. Maybe that's why I resented the chapters where I was forced to follow Lyra (a Pure) in the Dome. The sterilised world interrupted the atmosphere that had gradually been built and, despite being a remarkable contrast, slowed the pace even further.
The images that were so unique at the beginning soon became laboured. Every time a new character or set of characters are introduced, they are accompanied by a graphic account of their various mutations. Objectively, I could see that the survivors are defined by their scars and 'wear them' as badges of honour, marks of their will to endure. Subjectively, I started to see it as gratuitous. The descriptions are increasingly terrible and have a whiff of shock tactics lingering about them. One particular group of women are fused to the babies that they were trying to protect during the Detonations. So, yes, it's clever but it's also emotionally draining and hard to read. A job well done for Ms Baggott, I suppose.
The characters are strange. Pressia is determined, strong, intelligent and fiercely loyal. I should have adored her. Similarly Partridge, running from the Dome and in search of family, is disarmingly innocent and charming and I wanted to like him. The problem is that the characters are lost in the midst of the horror and dirt of the world they inhabit and it's hard to bond with them and, ultimately, care about their fates. The constantly switching narrative is probably also partly to blame for the general feeling of detachment. Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective, including Pressia, Partridge and Lyra to name but a few. It's good to see the world from a number of views but it's hard to build a relationship with a narrator that you might not hear from for another 100 pages.
Despite not enjoying reading Pure that much, I can appreciate that it was beautifully written. Baggott's ability to design and describe a broken world is immense and her descriptions are stunning. Devastatingly so. If you do read this and are feeling resilient, there are some great passages.
After a dramatic start, this book became a serious slog. It's crazy that a book so arguably action-packed could seem so slow and be such terribly hard work. And yet, after 100 pages or so, every time I picked it up it was just to get it read, rather than to enjoy reading it. I kept hoping that I would pass a point where I would be swept into the story and get carried through to the end. Sadly, I never found that point. For that reason, and despite all of its virtues, I would only really recommend this to someone with the time to amble their way through a horrifying vision of a world almost without humanity. If you're looking for a fast-paced read, this one certainly isn't for you.
Overall: This seems to be a book that you either love or hate and I've read as many positive reviews as I have negative. For me, it was a brilliant idea executed in a style that didn't seem to fit its subject matter. Elegantly told but somewhat excruciating to read (for more than one reason) and part of a series I can't see myself reading any more of.(less)
There is no way that I will be able to convey how beautifully and devilishly complex The Secret History is in this...moreFirst published atLit Addicted Brit
There is no way that I will be able to convey how beautifully and devilishly complex The Secret History is in this review. Instead, just trust me when I say that whatever positive impression you take away from reading this, the book is better. Much better.
The opening chapter sets out pretty clearly where Richard Papen's story is heading. There are some surprises along the way but this book is mostly about the journey. Tartt's writing is elegant, verging upon the poetic. Every turn in the weather and every shift in the atmosphere is perfectly evoked, to the extent that getting wrapped up in the story actually had the power to affect my own temperament. The pace varies wildly but the writing is such a pleasure to read that I was as happy when I was tangled up in pages of descriptions dedicated to one day as I was when weeks were flying by in the same space.
When I read the first few chapters, I just couldn't see how the story could move convincingly from Richard's first shy days at college to murder. By the time the narrative spiralled around to the crucial moment, I was almost disturbed to find that I wasn't as repulsed as I probably should have been. Bunny isn't a character that inspires affection, true, but does that really mean that his murder is acceptable? Ordinarily, I'd say absolutely not. It's further testament to the strength of Tartt as an author that I wasn't shocked and appalled but teetering upon understanding, submerged as I was in Richard's concepts of morality and justice and wanton disregard for much beyond his idolatry of Henry and his fellow Greek scholars.
Points that I might have criticised as oversights in other works here just added to the intrigue. Take Richard's parents, for example. Richard seems to harbour an irrational almost-hatred of them, to the extent that freezing to death is more appealing than spending winter with them. There isn't any real reason given for the disdain, beyond a difference in outlook and priorities for life. My initial reaction was that, for all of the time that I spent in Richard's mind, there were still parts of his character that were under-developed. On reflection, however, I am more inclined to think that this is owing instead to the framing of the novel as Richard's recollection of his past. Since it seems that Richard's character is determined more by the events of his college career than his earlier childhood, it actually starts to make a twisted sort of sense that his parents pale into insignificance.
As an extension of the same idea, I suppose, it also makes sense that Henry, Francis and Camilla and Charles are hard to get a handle on, viewed as they are from Richard's sycophantic viewpoint. Although I will admit to wanting to know more about Henry's Machiavellian genius and being a little disappointed that Camilla remained almost entirely a mystery, it's clear that the story isn't really about them; their mystique is what Richard just can't let go of and what pulls him beyond his comfort zone and into the sinister. I alternated between wanting to hug him and help him through his pervasive feelings of inferiority and wanting to punch him for being so malleable. There are some of his actions that can still infuriate me over a week after reading the closing paragraphs. This is just that haunting a book. Read it.
"Some things are too terrible to grasp at once. Other things - naked, spluttering, indelible in their horror - are too terrible to really ever grasp at all. It is only later, in solitude, in memory, that the realization dawns: when the ashes are cold; when the mourners have departed; when one looks around and finds oneself - quite to one's surprise - in an entirely different world" [Page 312]
Overall: Don't go into this expecting a short, sharp hit; be ready to spend some of the long dark evenings that seem so plentiful at the moment curled up, absorbed in some delicious writing. I borrowed the copy that I read from the local library and will be buying my own copy very soon so that I can be reminded on a regular basis of what truly great fiction is all about. Take a trip to the dark side with this book and I promise that you won't regret it.(less)
I'm a huge fan of Michael McIntyre as a comedian; I adore his stand-up and it always seems to make me laugh no matter how many times I've seen it! But...moreI'm a huge fan of Michael McIntyre as a comedian; I adore his stand-up and it always seems to make me laugh no matter how many times I've seen it! But, going into reading this, I was trying to balance that against my innate dislike of autobiographies. That's unfair, actually. Make that my innate dislike of modern autobiographies by celebrities. I've never read one and would still maintain that it isn't a habit. I wanted something funny to read; I know I find Michael McIntyre funny SO I spotted this available on the library's site and decided to go for it.
It is, as I hoped, really very entertaining! Laugh-out-loud type funny, which is, as you can imagine, not ideal for public transport. The tone was exactly like that of his stand-up and that was perfect.
What I wasn't prepared for though was that it wouldn't just be funny. The parts of the story where life isn't all rosy feel very genuine and are fascinating. I never knew how much comedians go through before they are 'recognised' and I do now, so that's a bonus.
There isn't really a great deal I can offer more than that, I don't think: the writing is superb, the tone alternates between amused/self-depracating and touchingly honest and it's a great insight into the work required to be in any comedic profession.
Overall: As far as my experience goes, this is a great autobiography - it doesn't take itself too seriously and is humble but, most of all, it's a witty and light read that will keep you giggling until Christmas. I'd recommend it to fans of McIntyre's stand-up. To those who haven't heard of him - head on over to YouTube - the guy's awesome!(less)
I don't normally read thrillers or 'proper' mysteries because, like I've said a lot, I'm a wimp. This was recommended to me, though, as "something a b...moreI don't normally read thrillers or 'proper' mysteries because, like I've said a lot, I'm a wimp. This was recommended to me, though, as "something a bit different" so I gave it a try one unpleasant and windy afternoo...and was unexpectedly hooked! And it was dark and tempestuous without being too scary - winner!
As I think I might have said when I started reading this book, everything about it is raw and jagged. The novel is told exclusively from the perspective of Beatrice in the form of a letter to her younger sister, Tess, peppered with memories of shared moments and conversations. The tone is impeccable - every moment of guilt, breath of horror and feeling utter devastation is portrayed painfully realistically and it imbues the story with a unique sense of perpetual anguish, completely unlike other novels of this genre I have read.
Even through all of the emotion and the pain, this book manages to also be a celebration of the relationship between sisters and it was this that made it for me. In places, the memories and illustrations of this bond are beautiful and are used both to soften the tone and provide hope or to strengthen the sense of loss. I have a younger sister myself and am extremely protective towards her, much like Beatrice - identifying with the narrator in that way made for very compelling reading! I'm sure that enjoyment of the story doesn't depend on that but it certainly heightened it for me.
The only real negative for me was that the story dawdled slightly through the middle and could have done with being wriggled on a touch. From the point where one of the twists becomes a little bit apparent, it takes marginally too long for our narrator to twig. I know, I'm being picky. This is probably in large part due to my lack of experience in this genre. It also touches on some of the same themes (for example, the girls' relationships with their mother) just a couple of times too many which can feel a bit repetitive.
Finally, there are a couple of great twists in the plot towards the end (one I kind of saw coming and one I didn't) which keep you guessing and hopelessly engrossed until the last page.
And yes, I did cry. As per usual.
Overall: Not everything about this book is easy to read but it's quite the emotional journey and I would recommend it to fans of thrillers/mysteries with a not too sensitive disposition! It's a great and moving read for a blustery, moody day (suiting the current season perfectly, if you're in the ever-autumnal north of England that is...)!(less)
I love historical fiction and usually I at least have an idea of the background which can work to the good (I know some of the surrounding details) or...moreI love historical fiction and usually I at least have an idea of the background which can work to the good (I know some of the surrounding details) or to the bad (when said details are deviated from). Roman Britain and Celtic traditions, however, were new to me so that was an ace right from the start!
The best thing about this book for me were the characters, both past and present. Cartimandua is an amazing woman and if half of what was in the book is actual history, I'd love to know more about her. She is commanding and strong but with a tragically soft side. I found the idea that before the Roman's invaded England women were leaders and as strong, if not stronger, than their male counterparts really interesting. The Roman characters later on in the novel are surprised that the "barbarians" allow themselves to be ruled by a Queen and hints at the patriarchal society that was to come. The other "past" characters are as richly exotic: Venutios is a chauvanist and devilishly primitive and Medb (apparently pronounced as 'Maeve') dabbles in the black arts and is a constant source of power and evil.
This trio are the source of much concern for our modern day characters, which is where the novel touches on fantasy - possession amongst other things. Although some of the ideas about the nature of the soul hint that actually it's more touching on spirituality but that could lead to an essay so enough said there! Viv starts 'hearing' Cartimanda and is haunted by her 'memory', who wants nothing more than for her story to be told. The tension that builds between the Viv, Hugh and Pat compliments the Celtic story perfectly and I was hooked!
If I had one criticism, it would be that I would have preferred more consistent tellings of the 'past' storyline - the present day characters were brilliant but a little one-dimensional when compared with the Brigantians. Sometimes the momentum was lost a little bit and I was wrenched away from a heart-breaking moment at just the wrong time - but I suppose the fact that I cared so shows how great those moments were...
Overall: This book is tragic, atmospheric, chilling, exciting and romantic and I would recommend it to fans of historical fiction looking for something a little left of the field or a complete change of time period - it's haunting and exotic and stunning for it!(less)
This book has been languishing on my boyfriend's half-shelf in our study for ages. The reason he only takes up half a shelf, and the reason it's sat t...moreThis book has been languishing on my boyfriend's half-shelf in our study for ages. The reason he only takes up half a shelf, and the reason it's sat there for so long, is because he isn't what you would call a reader. In fact, the last time he read a work of fiction was when he was 15 and compelled to do so by school. He is now 25. I long ago gave up on attempting to persuade him to read anything but his mother never has. So, pretty much every Christmas, she buys another book that she thinks he'll like.
I dawdle along with that back story by way of explanation as to how I came to read such a clearly male-driven novel. When, after giggling all the way through it, he finished it on a train to Sienna, he turned to me with his eyes all welled up and said 'I liked that...please will you read it?", I had no choice really!
I was surprised to find myself chuckling away after just the first couple of pages! Michael, although dilluded and selfish, is a very wry and amusing narrator. I often find with books that are intended to be amusing that they fall flat and end up sounding false. (The one exception I can think of at the moment being Terry Pratchett's novels). Michael's tale reads like a series of anecdotes told by a friend in the pub and his voice is so authentic that I couldn't help giggling along!
There really isn't a great deal more to say about this book - the characters aren't particularly complex but they are like the supporting actors in any good comedy and serve to highlight the traits of the leads. Michael's father was a particular favourite of mine and pops up occasionally with some brilliant lines.
The plot is simply and not particularly suprising. In fact, I imagine this is the male equivalent of 'chick lit'. There's a few laughs, a few tears, a few embarassing exploits and a not wholly unexpected but thoroughly satisfying ending.
Overall: Despite what you'd expect from a book whose title is a slogan from an advertising campaign, this is a genuinely funny book and a quick read. Ever fancied a sneaky peek into what your husband/boyfriend might have been like if you weren't around or possibly even what he's like when he's hanging out with his friends? This book is a hilarious glimpse into an immature man's psyche.(less)
As will become evident, no doubt, books like this are a major weakness of mine. I try to intersperse what I read with more "worthy" novels (more accur...moreAs will become evident, no doubt, books like this are a major weakness of mine. I try to intersperse what I read with more "worthy" novels (more accurately, those I feel like I should be reading) but I can't help but drift back towards a good old fantasy trilogy!
Yelena is awaiting her execution in a dungeon after having murdered her former benefactor's son. The legal system in Ixia provides that the penalty for taking a life is to lose your own, accident or self-defence not relevant. Call me a law dork, but that was a really interesting start for me. Instead, however, of being executed, Yelena chooses to become the Commander's food taster. To avoid her plotting an escape, the (delicious) Valek delivers a dose of Butterfly's Dust, a deadly poison, which means Yelena must take an antidote every day just to stay alive.
Yelena is a fantastic female lead and I loved her contemplation of her soul and whether or not she has chased it away by killing a man. Rather than recovering from her past almost instantaneously, I liked that Yelena seemed to struggle with relationships and trust as a result of her damaging past and I enjoyed the fact that the reasons were gradually revealed, rather than spilled at the end of the book in a more unrealistic fashion because I kept reading in the hope of finding out more.
This was a light read which flowed brilliantly, alternating between the present and Yelena's tortured past. There were fight scenes, sexual tension, assassination attempts and an underlying threat of dormant magic and I loved it. By light, I often mean that it was suitable for younger readers too. This one had a uniquely dark feeling and I liked that the "bad guys" were Bad. Properly bad.
Overall: Plenty of magic, plenty of double-crossing and plenty of twists, this is a great, light fantasy tale with a darker edge than the more common YA affair. I will definitely be following up with #2: 'The Magic Study'.(less)
The beginning of this book is incredibly moving and very reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. David tries...moreThe beginning of this book is incredibly moving and very reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. David tries to help his mother's fight against cancer by performing "rituals" that he hopes will save her - if everything he does is in even numbers, his mother will be fine and that's that. The child's perspective is exceptionally poignant and an incredible start to the book.
After his father remarries and he and his new wife have another son, David resents his new family and seeks solace in his attic bedroom with the books that whisper to him, begging for their stories to be told. When a German bomber plane crashes into his garden, David jumps through a hole and lands in a fairytale world.
Now, when I hear 'fairytale' I think Disney. Disney this book is not. Think more the Brothers Grimm and you're there! Snow White has succumbed to morbid obesity and Prince Charming didn't stick around with the communist dwarves, Red Riding Hood had an affair with a wolf to produce some just lovely wolf-human half breeds and the trolls are sharing their bridge with harpies.
Oddly though, despite all the gore (of which there is plenty), it is like a coming-of-age fairytale and David faces foes very familiar to him (and the reader) from the stories he loved. David is a fantastic character and the development from child to adult left me feeling very involved in the story. The range of supporting characters make the book and it feels genuinely magical. It can be harrowing but that only makes the release of tension all the better and I swear, at times, physical.
John Connolly is best known as a crime writer and, being a self-confessed pansy in that department, so this was my first experience of his writing and I was very pleasantly surprised! The version of this book that I read had an interview with Connolly after the story in which he said, "I've written the best book that I could possibly write, being the person and writer that I am". And it is one remarkable book!
Overall: This novel is fantastically unique - I would recommend it to someone looking for a dark twist on old favourites but with a health warning - there is violence and there is gore and it definitely isn't suitable for the younger readers out there! (less)
I haven't ever read anything by Agatha Christie before because I had always associated her books with Miss Marple. I strongly disliked the TV adaptati...moreI haven't ever read anything by Agatha Christie before because I had always associated her books with Miss Marple. I strongly disliked the TV adaptations of this interfering non-detective and, I'm sorry to say, tarred all of Christie's many books with the same brush. I came across this when I was looking on my local library's eBook site for something quick and light to read on a blustery day. What compelled me to actually download it was the haunting nursery rhyme from which the book used to take its name ("Ten Little N**gers/Indians", depending upon the decade):
"Ten little Indian boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine. Nine little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight..."
And so on. I'm one of those people that finds kids (particularly those that hum creepy tunes) in scary films extremely creepy so this was a hook that worked for me...
So here we have ten people travel to an island expecting a whole host of different things only to realise that they are part of a mysterious stranger's scheme to expose an indiscretion from their past. Soon, they realise that the stranger is looking for more than just an opportunity to watch them squirm and members of the group start dying in odd circumstances.
The first couple of chapters are full of snippets of information and background on each of the ten characters which I worried would detract from the development of the story but that settled down quickly and I didn't look back.
One reason I guess this story is so unique is because there isn't a detective pointing out clues for you and musing on alternative theories. All you have are snatches of random characters' thoughts and accounts of their occasional 'meetings' where they bandy about some ideas in an effort to stop themselves going bonkers. Contrary to what you might expect, getting a glimpse into characters' heads from time to time is actually more confusing; sometimes I didn't know who was thinking a particularly incriminating thought or something ambiguous would come from someone that I'd started to think might be wrongly caught up in things and I'd be right back to square one. It was brilliant.
Despite not spending much time on anything but the characters' backgrounds/thoughts and, obviously, the action, the story has a brilliant atmosphere in a classic trapped-in-a-huge-mansion-in-a-storm kind of way. On top of that, as the characters become more suspicious of their remaining companions and more nervous (sleep deprivation and a sense of impending death is no good for a happy group dynamic), the tension becomes almost palpable and is hard to escape from. I barely put the book down and pretty much read it in two sittings. That is extremely rare for me and a testament to how completely sucked in to the story I was.
There isn't much more I can say without giving too much away. At only 172 ePages/224 pages in paperback, this is an extremely quick read that is packed full on suspense, intrigue, murder and secrets. If it's gloomy and you have a couple of hours to kill, read this - it's perfect autumn fodder!
Overall: The beauty of this book lies in never knowing what is going to happen next or, more specifically, when something is going to happen. It's a brilliant thriller with a twist every couple of chapters and an ending that I genuinely never saw coming which, I suppose, is all you can really ask for from a mystery!(less)
Looking back, I find myself thinking of this book in two distinct halves: one that had me rueing the day I ever met the friend that recommended the se...moreLooking back, I find myself thinking of this book in two distinct halves: one that had me rueing the day I ever met the friend that recommended the series to me and one that had me wanting to have her come and live with me.
In the year that we worked together, we shared books constantly and prattled on and on about them. One series that had her practically kicking the poor Waterstones staff was this one, mainly because of how long it seemed to be taking for the release of the fourth (and final) instalment. Back then, I wouldn't start the series because I was still honouring my ban on not starting fantasy series until they were completed and so I ignored her pleas and didn't pick this up.
Having read it, I'm both surprised and not that she ever made it through this story (not being known for her patience...). The start of the story is promising, with Eragon finding the dragon egg and realising how much danger that puts him and his family in, characters not quite being what they seem and some mortal peril and dragon-related shenanigans. I whipped through the first 100 or so pages grateful, as ever, for the recommendation.
And then began the walking.
When I was younger, I struggled with Lord of the Rings because of the amount of time spent walking between places. My experience was much the same with Eragon. I loved the parts where Eragon and Brom were in towns, encountering ambushes or learning more about Saphira. I found the parts where Eragon and Brom were wandering around and where Brom was dumping information on Eragon and, consequently, me quite tedious. For me, the writing wasn't quite strong enough to sustain the lack of action and the descriptions and dialogue were a little bit lacking.
The legends and history surrounding dragons and their Riders is great background for a series but it was introduced rather heavily by Brom at various points while he is in lecture mode. Despite not relishing the delivery, the substance did suggest that there are great things to come in the remainder of the series. I hope, in a way, that I've got the learning part of the series out of the way and that the remainder of the books are snappier and develop more naturally.
It took me six hours worth of travelling by train to break through the more sedate half of the story into one that had me hooked. It was almost as though Paolini thought I was now adequately briefed in the finer points of history and magic and that it was time to move on and shake things up with some fighting. There was a noticeable shift in pace and I finally started to really enjoy the book. There are elves, magic, cryptic advice from a werecat, a mysterious fortune-telling witch, a city underground and huge roving bands of freaky orc-type baddies. Plus a huge great battle for a finale, which again reminded me of Lord of the Rings, this time favourably, though.
Eragon himself is a tolerable lead but can be a touch self-pitying from time to time. Although maybe being on a quest to avenge your dead family will do that to a person...His relationship with Saphira is endearing but on the sickly-sweet side at times. For a person who is extremely (maybe even overly sensitive), I am very much not an animal person. Something about the human-dragon bond was lost on me, I think, but I did enjoy Saphira's stubbornness and loyalty. She is a kick-a*s female, dragon or not!
Overall: I'd recommend this to more patient readers at the older end of the YA spectrum. There's a lot of waiting around (or, more accurately, walking around) and the story takes quite a while to get going. I will probably read the next in the series (Eldest) but I'm not in any great rush and will only stretch to borrowing it from my local library. That is, unless someone can promise me that the next one is more action, less trekking...? (less)
I've dawdled terribly over this review but I couldn't tell you the reason why. Actually, I did enjoy this book. It didn't set my world on fire and I w...moreI've dawdled terribly over this review but I couldn't tell you the reason why. Actually, I did enjoy this book. It didn't set my world on fire and I will be returning the copy to my mum but it was a nice read.
The story is a modern take on the mythical changelings, the offspring of magical creatures who secretly replace human children with their own. It's a reasonable attempt at modernisation that doesn't sacrifice all of the traditional elements, for example, the characters hang iron scissors over their childrens cradles to deter those that would steal their children. Add in some allergies to iron and hallowed ground, a rock club and some kooky friends and you've got yourself some passable YA!
Mackie, however, didn't always endear himself to me - he's dying in the human world and I'm sure that's very unpleasant for him but does he really have to go on about it so much? He also has a tendency to mention how alone he is and how there's nobody he can talk about his situation with all the time. At the beginning of the book, this kind of introspective narration that helped set up the characters and a tone for the mysterious town of Gentry.
I really enjoyed the first third of the book and the last third of the book but in the middle my attention waned slightly as it became a little too teen-angsty for my tastes. I know that's a risk with any YA but there was less story progression and more and more teens with issues. Once the true underworld of Gentry revealed itself, however, the plot really picked up and I ploughed on at a much faster pace.
Some of the more "sinister" members of the cast reminded me a little of The Morrigan from Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job (that I reviewed here) - all flaily limbs and decomposition! After all, how frightened can you be of a half-decayed maniacal child in a frilly dress?! It was, I hope, tongue-in-cheek because the answer? Not very...
Overall: A creepy story with a hefty dose of people cavorting around graveyards that is worth spending a gloomy night reading. I wouldn't necessarily urge you all to rush off right this very second and find a copy but, if you see one in a library one rainy morning, it'll suit you just fine! (less)
When I was younger, I had a beautifully illustrated hardback book of Greek myths that I begged my Mum for ages to buy. My memories of the reasons why...moreWhen I was younger, I had a beautifully illustrated hardback book of Greek myths that I begged my Mum for ages to buy. My memories of the reasons why (aside from the obvious beauty of the book itself) are hazy but I'm fairly sure my imagination had been stirred by studying the history of Ancient Greece at school. Regardless of the reason why I wanted it in the first place, when I finally had it, I loved it dearly.
The Lightning Thief reminded me of a lot of the reasons why I loved that book; exciting tales of valiant heroes that mixed with all-powerful Gods and went questing about recovering artefacts and rescuing their women folk. The Lightning Thief combines the mystique and history that charmed me then against a modern backdrop more or less completely successfully. From the moment Percy finds out the truth about his identity (and actually a little bit before that), a whole host of mystical creatures descend on the book and I was totally caught up in the "Spot the Myth" game that I was playing with myself.
There were odd snippets and conversations that referred to the Greek Gods' general disgruntlement at being ignored by modern society and how they dealt with their marginalisation that were subtle and made the story flow a heck of a lot better than it otherwise might have done. Their physical manifestations are also a quirky new dimension. Because obviously Ares, the God of War, would be a huge angry motorcycle-riding thug. As with so many of the things I liked about this book, it was just plain fun!
The characters range from fully-fledged Gods through Demi-Gods to descendants of Gods that are now not much more than disassociated teens hanging out in a specially designed camp but are all very likeable. My favourite was actually Hades (yep, the same Hades that's the God of the Underworld). He had less of a sanctimonious edge (obviously...) than a lot of the other characters and was 'bad' in a kind of endearing, grouchy way that was spot on.
The only minor down side was that it took me a while to get used to Percy's 'voice'. He can be a little petulant and "woe is me". Even though I knew I was being a grumpy old person, I still found myself frustrated at the self-pitying tone. This was either resolved by the appearance of a minotaur (See?! Brilliance!) and the picking up in pace that will always result or by Percy facing up to the truth about his identity and generally being a lot more likeable. Whichever is the case, Percy's teenage wit grew on me and I barely noticed what had bothered me early on (note: 'barely', not 'never').
For quite a short book, a lot happens. In short, I admit it, I'm a fan. So now I can watch the film. Lovely stuff.
Overall: A brilliant start to a series! Light-hearted and fast-paced with twists and turns around every corner, this book genuinely is extremely difficult to put down. I'd recommend it to anyone that has ever indulged in a little Greek mythology as a way to rekindle the love and anyone that hasn't as just a tiny hint at how awesome they are. (less)
When the final book in this series came out, it seemed as though my Google Reader was filled with glowing reviews. Since I was intrigued enough by the...moreWhen the final book in this series came out, it seemed as though my Google Reader was filled with glowing reviews. Since I was intrigued enough by the idea of a dark take on the fae, I requested the first in the series from the library and settled in to start at the beginning.
Mac in the first few chapters of the book reminded me a heck of a lot of Sookie Stackhouse from Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series. She goes to great lengths to explain how wonderfully happy-go-lucky she is, she's blonde and thin and more concerned with maintaining a tan and perfect manicure than doing anything meaningful and works in a bar for the love of it. Moning does a great job of creating an image that's completely at odds with the darkness of Dublin's back streets. I suppose you could say that she does too good a job. So intent does she seem on maintaining it that Mac wastes no opportunity to describe her pretty outfits (right down to the name of her nail varnish!), frilly underwear, luscious blonde hair, lithe young body etc...I get it, you're attractive, please move on.
For a start to a series, it's alright but that's probably the best I'd say. I've not read of books about the fae so I was interested in the associated mythology and history. I didn't feel dumped upon as the artefacts and key fae characters and monsters are introduced only as fast as Mac can learn about them and note them in her journal. Every now and then I felt a bit confused but I'd rather feel muddled for a short-time than read page after page of misplaced history lessons.
Aside from Mac, the main other character is the apparently brash Jerricho Barrons. Often described with the attention to detail that Mac lavishes upon herself but still a much more intriguing cast member. There's a lot that isn't known about Jerricho and I'm still not clear on whether I'm supposed to like him or whether he has a bad streak hidden away. He made up a lot for the Mac's in-your-face.
The duo's adventures are showered with encounters with vampires (that may or may not actually be vampires), gangsters, a fae prince that inflicts some kind of death-by-orgasm torture (pretty weird!) and plenty of other sinister beings haunting Dublin's alleys. The atmosphere is gloomy and appropriately malignant. So you see, there were points that I liked amongst the bits I didn't so hopefully this whole review won't come across as horribly negative.
Ultimately though, I couldn't find the love that a lot of people seem to for this book/series becauase there were a few things that let it down that seemed fundamental to Moning's style. They bothered me while I was reading it but bother me even more in retrospect. Aside from Mac's obsession with her appearance, there are far too many lines of the "If only I'd known that..."/"Little did I know then that..."/"That was all about to change" ilk for my liking. The first couple of times it was a little annoying but since Mac still wasn't aware of the impending disaster, I could forgive it. Anyway, it happens for the whole book and, rather than create tension (which I assume was the idea), managed to disrupt it. Part of the joy of reading books like this should be never knowing what is coming next or which corner the nasties are hiding behind. Hints from the narrator are bothersome. At least to me.
This is also one of those books that is very much part of a series. If I'm reading the first book in a series, I like it to work reasonably well as a stand-alone in that the particular focus or plot of that book is rounded of but leave enough mystery in general to spur me on to the next book. That sounds really picky! Hopefully you know what I mean...the main plot of this one is Mac's pursuit of the her sister's murderer. As the story hastens to an end, that's dealt with swiftly so that the remainder of the series (I'm guessing) can be set up. Disappointing.
Overall: A fair pass at a start to a series. This review sounds as though I hated the book and I didn't. It was annoying in places but it was a quick, easy read that did hold my attention. I'm not exactly clamouring to get hold of Bloodfever but if I happen across it at a library, I'd possibly pick it up. Bottom line: I wouldn't part with actual money to read the rest of the series but I'd probably carry on if a free opportunity came up.(less)
Before I'd read City of Bones, I don't remember having read a bad review of either it or the other books in the Mo...moreFirst published atLit Addicted Brit
Before I'd read City of Bones, I don't remember having read a bad review of either it or the other books in the Mortal Instruments series. At the time of my writing this, it has over 150,000 ratings and an average rating of 4.15 out of 5. Also, I would have to be blind and deaf not to have noticed the excitement sounding the release of City of Lost Souls recently. What I'm saying is, clearly there are a lot of people out there that love this book. I am, sadly, not one of those people.
Clarissa "Clary" Fray stumbles into the world of the Shadowhunters one night when she's out at a rather strange sounding night club with her best friend Simon. (Let's leave the fact that there are two 15-year-olds spending an evening in a night club to one side, shall we?) Clary isn't too bad as far as teenage protagonists go. That is, aside from being remarkably slow on the uptake, rather selfish (particularly when it comes to her friendship with Simon) and naive. On the plus side, Jace and her do share some passably witty exchanges and she can be quite brave. I fell out with her at the end of the book but that's a rant for later!
After meeting Jace and his Shadowhunter companions, Clary eventually finds her way into the inner sanctum of their world, cryptically referred to as "the Institute". At first, the Institute is cool; it's a secret hide-out for all kinds of demon-hunting folk, has an enormous library and has plenty of gothic potential. It kind of seemed to me, however, that the only characters residing there were Jace, Clary, lurking historian/curator Hodge and brother-sister duo, Isabelle and Alec and came across as kind of...sad.
With all the bouncing around between Shadowhunter history (doled out in rather cumbersome and disruptive chunks by a mysterious chap that lurks around the Institute with his pet raven), spurts of vampire/werewolf/zombie-demon fighting by impetuous teenagers and angsty romance, the book felt very muddled indeed. There's almost too much going on and the plot just seemed to get lost amongst the red herrings and history lessons. I fully appreciate that trying to balance setting up your characters' backgrounds and world while maintaining a degree of action is a tough job. I can't help but feel, though, that plonking one of your characters in a library every now and then to effectively listen to a lecture is not the best way to go about it...
Anyway, so far, so average. But then Clare threw a curve ball into the plot that made me want to throw my eReader at the wall. Hard. I realise that to those of you that haven't read the book, this will seem like a lot of raving nonsense. But it isn't just the twist itself; it's the responses of the characters to the twist. I expected revulsion but would have tolerated disquiet/anxiety/mild remorse. To get what was tantamount to acceptance was just...infuriating. From a series where countless readers have praised the characterisation, I was extremely disappointed. Well, actually, at the time of reading it I was extremely angry. Retrospectively, I'm disappointed.
Also, as an annoying aside, I bought the first three in the series in a cute boxed set for my younger sister for Christmas. She pretty much never reads (I know, weird...) but she has read and enjoyed a lot of The Morganville Vampire series so I figured I'd force help her to branch out. I'm actually now contemplating taking the set away from her in case her opinion of books in general is damaged for good. Or at least splatting a disclaimer sticker on them that means she can't blame me if she throws City of Bones through her TV...
Overall: I didn't hate this as much as it probably sounds as though I did. It had some good points that were at the very least partially over-shadowed. Maybe I've reached my YA urban fantasy series limit or maybe this series simply isn't just as good as I'd been led to expect; either way, I would struggle to recommend this to any but the most die-hard fans of YA. And those with much higher levels of patience than me, obviously.(less)
When I read the first in this series, I liked it but didn't love it. Since everyone else does seem to love it, tho...moreFirst published atLit Addicted Brit
When I read the first in this series, I liked it but didn't love it. Since everyone else does seem to love it, though, when I found the second instalment tucked away in the Mystery section of my local library, I decided to give it another go. I imagine that it being sat in the Mystery section causes a lot of disappointment. This is not a great mystery. More specifically, the first half of the book isn't any kind of mystery. That's in no way a criticism because what it is is fantastic historical fiction.
One of Raybourn's major talents is clearly creating characters that are easy to love and fun to spend time with. As this is the second in the series, there's that feeling of familiarity right from the first few pages and it quickly becomes apparent that none of the characters' strengths have diminished. Lady Julia is still wonderfully eccentric - I didn't really appreciate her in the first book because she was a bit too reckless for my liking. This time around, she seemed to be a lot...calmer. The more I think about it, the more I like to think that this is intentional. Silent in the Grave has her looking to avenge her late husband's murder; Silent in the Sanctuary sees her a little more settled in her own skin and using her fledgling detective skills to investigate something not so close to home. It stands to reason that she'd be more considered and less erratic in her choices. She's also a lot stronger around Nicholas Brisbane and I loved her for keeping the delicious man on his toes.
The rest of the Lady Julia's family are as rich and colourful. It makes absolute sense that the first half of the book is spent focussing on them and developing them. Even through the bitterest exchanges and most acerbic banter, there's a warmth that's almost impossible not to smile at and it sets a solid base for the rest of the series. The resolution of the mystery (when it finally comes along...) even manages to be kind of endearing. There are some gruesome(ish) moments, some darkness and some twists but mostly there's a Christmas jauntiness to proceedings that helps take the edge off. For a book that's nearly 600 pages, the plot does bumble along at a fairly slow pace but the people and story are so much fun that I just didn't care.
The only downside is the occasional excess of Lady Julia-Brisbane tension. Their barbed exchanges and witty frankness, I like. Their refusal to be honest or considerate with each other, I don't like as much (even though I would reluctantly admit that it's sort in character for both!). Still, I suppose that this is but one novel out of five so far and it would actually be disappointing if all the characters did end up right where I wanted them so early on.
Overall: If you're in the mood for some feisty and entertaining historical fiction, this story is an accomplished follow-up to Silent in the Grave. If you haven't yet read the first instalment, get hold of a copy so that you'll be all caught up and ready to love Silent in the Sanctuary with all of its snow, mischief and tinsel at the perfect time.(less)
I figured that it was about time I got acquainted with at least one of Christie's long-standing characters. Since...moreFirst published atLit Addicted Brit
I figured that it was about time I got acquainted with at least one of Christie's long-standing characters. Since I've never been that keen on the idea of a superior and nosy older lady (Miss Marple, that means you...), I went with Hercule Poirot.
What I had failed to appreciate was that Poirot doesn't narrate his own stories. Or at least, he doesn't narrate this particular story. Instead of spending time in the mind of a quirky Belgian detective, I was instead subjected to the narrow-minded and jealous musings of Captain Arthur Hastings. Early on in the novel, the strange blend of first/third person narrative works quite well but before too long, I just wanted Hastings to shut up and go away.
I wanted to be charmed and beguiled by a moustached, suave European. It turns out that I didn't really want to be "on the side" of an amateur investigator who spends a large time going through the same thought process: "Poirot has noticed something that I haven't - how annoying...Ha - he might have found a clue but he's clearly gone doo-lally and is interpreting it all wrong...Oh gosh! He was right! How foolish I am..." Rinse and repeat.
Narration aside, the plot is a good old classic mystery. Locked rooms, mysterious poisons, shifty characters and plenty of misdirection. Something is lost because you miss out on Poirot's thought processes - every now and then, he'll find a clue and rush off before coming back for a Big Reveal, which was interesting but didn't have quite the same mystique.
If you're already a fan of Christie's mysteries, there's plenty here for you to recognise and appreciate. If you're just starting out (which, seeing as I've only read three, probably includes me!), you might want to start with a stand-alone like the FABULOUS And Then There Were None. If you're desperate to be introduced to Hercule Poirot, just bear in mind that this isn't Christie's best.
Oh, and also, I starting out reading the eBook version of this and had to abandon it because it kept referring to pictures, plans and notes that just weren't there in the eBook. In this case, traditional paper will serve you better.
Overall: I'm happy to put my time on this one down as investment in future books. Poirot is everything that I wanted him to be - a kooky, eccentric genius (of sorts). The story isn't particularly unique and I was disappointed that I didn't get as much Poirot as I wanted to but it's a passable way to spend a couple of hours.(less)