"The Woman in Cabin 10" by Ruth Ware follows Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, and she has been given an assignment to travel aboard the Aurora, a luxury cruise ship bound for the fjords of Norway. At first, Lo's stay is going well, until one night she wakes up to an unsettling sound, the sound of someone being tossed overboard and a smear of blood on the railing. The only problem is that all passengers and crew are accounted for and no one was occupying the room next to Lo. Lo's nightmare continues as she struggles to find support, and she sinks deeper and deeper into desperation and paranoia with nowhere to escape.
An excellent psychological thriller with all the twists and turns you'd desire in a mystery, very reminiscent of Agatha Christie. I was left on the edge of my seat at the end of every chapter break, and I just couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. At first, I assumed the book would simply open and Lo Blacklock would be coming on board the Aurora and the mystery would get going immediately, but Ruth Ware starts the story a few days before the departure date, and we witness Lo getting robbed in her own home. This in turn provides some interesting development for later to set up Lo as someone who is overly paranoid, someone facing extreme anxiety attacks, and someone who can't be seen as a reliable witness. Lo, at first, sees this trip as a means to escape from the horrors of what happened to her in her own home, but once aboard the Aurora she faces a whole new set of obstacles that only further her self-consciousness and anxiety, escalating to the first night on board when she thinks she hears a body being tossed overboard and then sees blood on the railing. But no one believes her and she even starts to doubt herself along the way.
Ruth Ware delivers a very complex mystery. There's many moving factors to the story and you have to keep in mind everything you are seeing and hearing among all the passengers and crew. Red herrings are obviously everywhere, and it was fun to try and figure out the mystery alongside Lo, because as the reader, you want to believe her too. Overall, the mystery was incredibly compelling, very well done. And as with any good mystery, you need a network of great supporting characters to pull it all off. The cast of characters is pretty large if you take into account all the passengers on board this very small ship, plus the ship's crew and staff. Most characters Ruth Ware doesn't take the time to explore in much depth. But Ware does do a great job with characters who do serve a larger purpose. I think the one frustrating thing about this book is that you don't really get all the answers, especially to a lot of minor things. I think, as the reader, you are supposed to just infer some things and make your own conclusions along the way. Either that, or Ware forgot.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was entertained and terrified the whole way. I think Ruth Ware did a fantastic job building up the suspense and claustrophobia at sea. Where can you go if you are surrounded by miles of water? Great cast of characters, great heroine with Lo, and definitely a mystery that will have you guessing until the very end....more
"And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie follows ten strangers as they make their way to an isolated island mansion under mysterious circumstances. The night of their arrival a recorded message plays, accusing each of them of a terrible crime. Stranded during a storm, haunted by their own pasts, the guests start dying one by one. Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?
I guess it should be noted that before picking up this book I watched the latest miniseries adaptation starring Aidan Turner, Maeve Dermody, and Charles Dance. It's because of the miniseries that I finally decided to pick this book up. The miniseries was so good! Stunning and suspenseful. I've been wanting to read "And Then There Were None" for the longest time, so I'm glad the miniseries helped pushed me to finally pick the book up.
Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery. How does she do it? I've read 5 Christie novels and each and every time I never know what to expect. She is that good at twists and turns. Now I wish I hadn't seen the miniseries adaptation of "And Then There Were None" because I'm curious what my reading experience would have been like not knowing the ending (by the way, the adaptation is spot on near perfection). But having seen the adaptation, I was able to go into this book and pick up on all those hidden clues that I might not have picked up on otherwise.
"And Then There Were None" is a well crafted piece from start to finish. The four Poirot novels that I've read were fun, silly, and whimsical, and "And Then There Were None" is definitely none of that. There is genuine suspense and terror as each of these characters die off one my one. Christie does such a fantastic job of creating the atmosphere and creating the tension and paranoia of the characters. In some ways, this isolated island is a human experiment. Who collapses under the pressure? Who has regret and remorse? Who is all out for self-preservation? How do you form trust, knowing that one among you is the killer? I think the one flaw of this book is the lack of character development. But that's to be expected with a mystery novel. The most that we get from these characters is their past crime and how they feel about that crime afterwards, but that's as far as it goes with character growth. And I don't think that's a bad thing. This is a plot driven story more than anything. You are here for the mystery. I would still find myself on occasion going, "I want to know more about that person." Christie sets up each of these characters so wonderfully that you have that desire to know a bit more, but you won't get to. And maybe it's because I watched the latest adaptation first, but I do feel like a lot of the ending action wasn't as exciting or thrilling as I was hoping. Either way though, this novel is brilliant. Super fast paced. I found myself flipping page after page.
So if any of this sounds good to you, I highly recommend picking this book up. Probably one of the best and most iconic mysteries. ...more
"The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins follows Rachel Watson who takes the commuter train to London every morning and evening. And everyday when the train makes a stop, Rachel is able to watch a suburban couple sitting on their deck. Rachel doesn't know the couple, but she makes up a story for them, makes up a fantasy of what their life is like, and calls them Jess and Jason. But one day, Rachel witnesses something out of the ordinary, realizing that this couple isn't as perfect as she has always imagined. Rachel is consumed by what she has seen, even going to the police to tell her story, but in doing so she upsets the balance of everyone involved. Can Rachel's story be trusted, or is her story a product of her over productive imagination?
This novel has often been compared to Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl," and I think the comparisons are apt. "Gone Girl" explored truth and lies and the human condition, and "The Girl on the Train" most certainly explores the same themes. And both rely heavily on unreliable narrators which push the limits of the story and cause you to question everything. Obviously, the two novels are two completely different things, but if you enjoyed "Gone Girl," you'll probably want to pick up "The Girl on the Train" next.
There's a certain monotony to this novel that draws you deeper and deeper into the story. It takes quite a while for the big mystery to surface, but when it does, it comes at the perfect point in the narrative. What Paula Hawkins does so well is introduce you to Rachel Watson bit by bit. You don't get her backstory in one go in one paragraph. It's given to you slowly over the first 100 pages or so. We find out that Rachel is in her thirties, she's an ex-wife, and she's an alcoholic. We are introduced to her biases, her weaknesses, and we learn that she has a history of blacking out and losing complete memory. So of course, this provides a perfect unreliable narrator to the story. The other great thing about Rachel as a character is that she's not particularly likable. She can be rather off-putting, annoying, clingy, but you do have reason to sympathize with her, and if you have lived the type of life Rachel has lead, you will also have reason to relate to her.
The novel over all is a slow burn. Paula Hawkins takes her time filling in all the missing gaps. It can be a bit frustrating waiting for the pieces to fall into place. And at first it's hard to understand what the connecting dots are that connect all these characters to one another and how that ties in to the mystery. You as the reader have to figure out what the important clues are and what the red herrings are. And there's one particular red herring in this novel that was driving me nuts, until I realized it for what it was, and once I figured that out, the rest of the mystery fixed itself into my head and I was able to figure out what the reveal was before Paula Hawkins revealed it. The story itself is nothing new once all the pieces to come together, but it's the way Paula Hawkins delivers and crafts the story that makes the story new and refreshing.
Overall, really enjoyed this, glad I finally got around to picking it up because there's been such immense hype for this book. Certainly didn't let me down. Recommend it for lovers of a good mystery and if you're willing to put up with some annoying characters. And can't wait for the movie! Should be good. ...more
In "The Last Templar" by Raymond Khoury, four masked horseman dressed as Templar knights storm into the Metropolitan Museum of Art to steal a valuable object. Attending the event at the museum is Tess, an archeologist, who hears one of the horsemen utter something in Latin. Tess becomes a prime witness and she teams up with an FBI agent to uncover the mysteries of Templar legend.
This was a relatively good read. I don't think the book brought anything new to Templar fiction, but still, a fast-paced, fun read. If I had to compare it to anything else I've read, it's a cross between Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and Kate Mosse's "Labyrinth." So just judging from those those two, you can probably automatically guess that the book has something to do with Jesus Christ and the mysteries of the Bible. If you don't enjoy speculative research on the Bible and Jesus, don't pick this book up if you think it will bother you. I personally enjoyed the research and speculation.
As far as the writing goes, I thought it was well done. Very precise and to the point, with occasional flowery descriptions every now and then. Just enough description to set a scene. Having read "Da Vinci Code" I do think some of Khoury's writing verges into the "I-already-know-this" realm, which isn't necessarily his fault. A lot of Templar history is well know and in books like this, the same information tends to be rehashed. So some of the Templar backstory can start to sound monotonous. My one complaint about the writing would have to be that I felt like the ending was super predictable. Once the big secret is revealed, you can pretty much guess how the final pages will conclude.
I thought the characters were pretty basic, but interesting in their own ways. FBI agent Reilly was probably one of my favorite characters. I liked Tess at first, but I thought she started getting a bit annoying halfway through. She just seemed so insensitive to other people's opinions. I did start to like her again by the final chapters though. Reilly and Tess are great opposing forces throughout the book. Tess is a woman of science and fact. Reilly is a man of faith and belief. So those two sides are often in conflict, but at the same time there's the whole "opposites attract" vibe going on between them. As for the villains...not sure what to say. I feel like they were rather one-dimensional and typical in this sort of genre.
The book also has a few flashback chapters with some Templar knights. The book could have done perfectly well without any of those chapters. Those chapters were spaced out quite far between each other, so I often forgot what had happened previously and who was who. Overall, I don't think they really added much to the story. When I read books with both a present day story and a historical flashback story, I like the flashback story to have an equal amount of page time as the present day story.
Overall, an okay read. If you are looking for a fun and fast paced treasure hunt sort of book, then you'd probably like this. I recommend getting it used or at the library though. It's not that spectacular and unique for full price. ...more
"The Little House" by Philippa Gregory tells the story of two very different women. There's Ruth, a young, career-driven woman, new to motherhood. Then there's Elizabeth, Ruth's mother-in-law, who is the epitome of a perfect housewife. The two women clash in their opinions on how a child is to be raised and Ruth's sanity is put to the test as she feels more and more threatened by the interference of her mother-in-law. "The Little House" is a riveting psychological thriller about isolation, traditional conventions, and deals with the depths of what every woman fears.
Wow! A stunning novel. This is the type of novel that, in the hands of another author, could have turned out to be slow and boring. Philippa Gregory's narrative is suspenseful and well put together. This novel deals primarily with domestic issues involving the way a home should be run and the way a child should be raised. Gregory picks no sides. We see the way Ruth does things and we see the way Elizabeth does things. Neither way is looked upon as being better or the right way. The ways in which these two different women clash are the highlight and focus in this novel.
Pick up this book if you have any interest in the following:
1. Women's issues, such as child-rearing and the running of a household. 2. Modern women vs. traditional women. Career-driven vs. homemaking. 3. Mental heath, postpartum depression, and the stigma put on mental illness.
If you think any of the above sounds interesting, pick this book up. This might even be a great book for book clubs. There's so much to discuss.
I've referenced this book as being a psychological thriller. Ruth's sanity is put to the test after she has her son, Thomas, and her in-laws interfere in the way she runs her home and raises her child. Her husband, Patrick, is of absolutely no help. Patrick is a spoiled momma's boy who gets everything his way and he is never contradicted by his parents. It doesn't help matters that Ruth initially doesn't have strong maternal instincts. That's where mental illness is placed in the story and no ones bothers to understand Ruth's feelings and Ruth's needs. Instead, a stigma is placed on Ruth as being an incapable mother and that she has to get psychological help. Ruth is looked at as being "unnatural" because of her mental illness. The psychological thriller aspect of the novel comes into play as the reader has to read between the lines of what's actually going on. Is Ruth incapable as a mother? Is Ruth overly paranoid? Is Elizabeth purposely being manipulative to get rid of Ruth so she has her son and grandson all to herself? Or does Elizabeth truly want to help? It's these scenes that provide for some of the most dramatic parts of the novel.
Overall, a fantastic read. Such a page turner, too. I had a hard time putting it down every night. This book deals with so many great issues and certainly had me thinking and dissecting every event long after I read the final page....more
"Sepulchre" by Kate Mosse tells the story of two women---Leonie Vernier and Meredith Martin---born a century apart but united in their destiny to discover the secrets of a magical set of Tarot cards, rumored to hold the power of life and death.
I initially wasn't going to bother reading this book. I had a lot of issues with Mosse's other book "Labyrinth." "Sepulchre" is actually book two in the series known as the "Languedoc" series. To make a note of that, I don't think it necessary to read the books in any particular order. "Labyrinth" and "Sepulchre" can both be read as standalone books (and I'm assuming the same cane be said for "Citadel," the third book in the series, which I have yet to read as of the date of this review). There are a few returning characters, or mentions of other characters, from "Labyrinth," but it's in no way confusing or out of place. If you do decide to read "Sepulchre" first, one particular character may be a bit mysterious and you never get the full story---so if you want the full story, you do need to read "Labyrinth," but again, the order of the books isn't necessary. "Sepulchre" does hit some of the same beats like "Labyrinth" as far as the storytelling goes: two women, some villains, all after the same object, all in the same general area of France, and the discovery of how the characters from the past and the present connect with one another. In some ways, if you've read "Labyrinth," "Sepulchre" might come across as predictable, but I don't think that necessarily a bad thing. The story and characters of "Sepulchre" were far more entertaining, that's for sure.
My primary issues with "Labyrinth" was that I thought it badly written, kind of bland, overly descriptive, and no character development. With "Sepulchre" I feel like Mosse's writing improved immensely. I thought both past and present storylines moved along at a good pace and that there was actual character development. I felt for these characters, I sympathized with them, compared to the characters of "Labyrinth." I will say that the final 10% of this novel got a bit hectic and confusing for me, but overall, I find the storytelling quite captivating. And no overabundance of description! With "Labyrinth" I felt like Mosse got overly into telling about the landscape and history of France. With "Sepulchre," there is description, but not so much that it's distracting and takes away from the characters and plot.
I guess my only complaint with this novel had to do with the magical Tarot cards. The main characters, Leonie and Meredith, come across the Tarot deck in different ways, and the deck means different things to both of them. What I didn't quite understand was the purpose of the Tarot cards. The synopsis of the book makes mention that the deck holds the mysteries of life and death...but I never felt like the storytelling stressed that enough. All I knew was that Leonie, Meredith, and the villains were all after the deck...but why exactly? You are never given a reason why.
Overall, my enjoyment of this book far exceeded that of "Labyrinth." If you are someone who did love "Labyrinth," then I think you'll really love this. If you didn't like "Labyrinth," like me, I do suggest at least giving this a try and see if you like it....more
Approved by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate as part of the "Sherlock Holmes" canon, "The House of Silk" by Anthony Horowitz follow Homes and Watson as they help an art dealer who says he is being followed by a wanted criminal from America. The case takes the two detectives through the criminal underground of London and they learn about the House of Silk---a secretive group that involves many in the highest positions of government.
What intrigued me the most about picking up this book was the fact that the Arthur Conan Doyle estate approved this book as part of the "Sherlock Homes" canon. My first thought was obviously, "how can this compare?" I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was flawlessly crafted and it certainly felt like I was reading the original stories. My fears going into this book were that I thought Anthony Horowitz was going to turn Holmes and Watson into this macho action heroes and that none of Doyle's characterizations of these characters would show through. I was highly mistaken and, overall, pleasantly surprised how much I liked this story. "House of Silk" read like a traditional "Sherlock Holmes" story. Horowitz managed to not only have his own style of writing flowing through the pages, but also managed to incorporate Doyle's style into the narrative structure. Horowitz was able to take those subtle nuances of Doyle's and craft a story that felt old fashioned, but at the same time modern.
As for the plot itself, it does start off a bit slow, which is how I always felt about the Doyle stories anyway, but once it gets going, it really gets going and it's hard to put down. Horowitz came up with an excellent story that had me intrigued from start to finish. My only complaint is that I had a hard time remembering all the characters involved. Some characters would show up briefly and then be important somewhere near the middle or end, but I could never remember who they were exactly when first introduced earlier on. I don't know how Horowitz did it, but he managed to die up every single loose end, even ones that I had forgotten from earlier. Every character has some sort of major role to play over the course of the narrative.
Overall, I highly recommend this book, especially if you are in love with Doyle's original stories. I don't think you'll be disappointed with this book. If you've never read Doyle, I actually suggest maybe giving this book a go and see how you like it before you get into Doyle's stories. I think this might be a nice, easy place to start. Sometimes Doyle's stories can drag, get boring, or even get confusing, and I never felt that way with this book. So glad I picked this book up. I loved all the shoutouts to other Holmes and Watson adventures. The references were cleverly done and never out of place. ...more
In "Target Churchill" by Warren Adler, it's the end of World War II. The United States and Great Britain are victorious, but the Soviet Union still has it's own agendas involving world domination. Churchill is preparing his Iron Curtain speech, and it's going to be during this speech that an American Nazi, a mole for the Soviets, will complete his mission to assassinate Churchill.
This book was so good. I immensely enjoyed it. It had everything that I look for in a political thriller: quick pace, lots of action, and interesting characters. Plus there's the added bonus that this is a work of historical fiction taking place after World War II.
It's amusing to me that I just happened to read this book because during Memorial Day (of 2014 as this review is going up), the History Channel aired a three part mini-series called "The World Wars" which was about World War I and II and the leaders who influenced events---Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and Hitler. I highly suggest watching this mini-series before going into this book, especially if you aren't familiar with a lot of the details that make up Churchill's life and his connections with Roosevelt and Stalin during those wars. I found the mini-series extremely helpful because Churchill (though I knew exactly who he was), is a figure that I oddly enough never really learned about. The mini-series helped me navigate this book and I didn't feel overwhelmed with the history I wasn't familiar with previously.
So on to the book itself. Wonderfully written. The writing is rather simplistic. It's very easy to follow, and the book isn't overloaded with countless paragraphs of description. Like I said, this book is a political thriller and I look for quick pace when I read these sorts of books---not books with tons of description that weigh down the action. And the historical detail is just enough to help set the mood and immerse you into that period. World War II is such a fascinating topic. There was so much going on. Adler does a great job of telling this one tiny story, but he's able to place it on this larger global scale by using Churchill's Iron Curtain speech as a sort of frame and how this speech influences all the various countries and their own agendas. I felt like Adler had great control of his plot, especially how he managed to interweave all these various characters and somehow make everyone's plots connect in interesting ways to one another.
As I concluded this novel I was quite surprised with how much character development there ended up being. With thrillers you don't typically get that level of development. I really felt like I got to know these characters, their quirks, and the things that make them tick. This book has quite a few narrators as they switch out each chapter. There's Churchill who is rather depressed that he was voted out of office and he needs his confidence back. There's W.H. Thompson, Churchill's loyal friend and bodyguard (totally loved the Churchill/Thompson bromance by the way). There's the intelligent Victoria Stewart who finds herself in the midst of events she didn't see coming. There's the conniving Donald Maclean, the First Secretary of the British embassy. As well as a host of various other characters that have a few chapters here and there. But my favorite chapters have got to be from Franz Mueller, the American turned Nazi turned Soviet spy. Anyone who knows me knows that I love villains, even the truly despicable ones that utterly disgust you. Mueller is that sort of villain. It was fascinating to see the inner workings of his mind and see him plan things out and discover why he is the way he is. He even goes through some inner crisis halfway through the book that begins to crumble his ideology. His chapters were easily my favorite, even though he's obviously the bad guy and you don't want him to succeed. But it was his psychology that was causing me to flip the pages to find out the rest of his story.
The only negative things I have to say with this book are just minor and may only be things that I personally didn't like. I generally liked the women in this book. I liked that they were all intelligent and independent. The one thing that bugged me was some of the female dialogue on occasion. The dialogue didn't seem realistic sometimes, and sometimes the women verged a bit on the whiny side when things would start to go wrong. I would say some of their dialogue out loud and it just wouldn't sound right for whatever reason. There was also the issue of the ending being a tad bit anticlimatic, especially for one specific character (view spoiler)[And that would be Franz Mueller. Remember, I said I liked his chapters. The fight sequence with Thompson got a little confusing and blurry and then all of a sudden, Mueller dies. I say his ending is anticlimatic mostly because of the fact that his chapters dominate a good portion of the book and we really get to learn about him as a vile human being and his death was just too quick for me personally. (hide spoiler)]. Some other issues, that didn't bother me, but might bother other readers, is that this book is quite gritty and graphic. There's lots of profanity, sex, and violence in general that might make some people uncomfortable.
Overall, I highly enjoyed this book. I was pleasantly surprised. I recommend this book for lovers of World War II historical fiction and lovers of political thrillers. The one thing that often came to mind while reading this was the TV series "The Americans." The show and this book take place a few decades apart, but there was still something familiar about the overall style and themes which I connected. I guess it's that element of spies and the Soviet Union that I'm connecting. I can definitely see myself re-reading this one in the future....more
"The Secret Daughter of the Tsar" by Jennifer Laam tells the story of three women who share a secret that relates to the last Tsar of Russia. In the present is Victoria. She meets a man who may be the heir to the Russian throne. In 1940s Nazi occupied France is Charlotte. She is on the run with her son and husband from a German soldier who seeks knowledge about the Russian family. In the 1902 Russian imperial court is Lena, a servant and confidant to Empress Alexandra. These three women and their stories collide in the most unexpected of ways and the future of Russia is in their hands.
This story suffered from three things: too quick a pace, predictability, and a certain lack of Romanovs. Other than those three things, this book had massive potential to be excellent. Before I get to those three points, I will say that I vastly enjoyed this book. There was constant action from start to finish, the characters were interesting, and the overall story was riveting. This story is about these three women who connect in the most insane of ways and it all has to do with a supposed fifth daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra. That alone is why I wanted to read this book. I've read a lot of Romanov historical fiction, but I haven't read anything inserting a mysterious fifth daughter. I think Jennifer Laam's writing was beautiful and well done as far as descriptions and historical research went. Historically, in 1902, Empress Alexandra supposedly had a miscarriage, and that miscarriage is the centerpiece of this book. So on to my three points:
1. Too Fast Paced: Like I said, this book had action from start to finish, and the plot was constantly flowing, but I think the character development and some aspects of the plot suffered because of that. This book is almost 350 pages, plus the narrative of three women is weaved throughout. That doesn't leave much time to fully flesh out all these women and the individuals in their lives. The book probably needed an additional 100 pages, if not a bit more, to really bring these characters to life. Some of my issues as far as pacing goes, one deals with the relationship between Veronica and Michael, the man who might be the Russian heir. They are kind of just thrown together and they have an instant attraction, that has nothing more to do with other than the fact that they have a fascination for Russian history. I really liked the interaction between Charlotte and her husband, Luc, but we don't get much of their history, just simply that Luc didn't want children and that's the cause of their estrangement. And then Lena has a great story, but we are just told about her history more than anything. Plus her relationship with Pavel seems rushed, just like Veronica and Michael. A lot of rush, rush, rush through these stories.
2. Predictability: This novel is about a fifth daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra who was born between Anastasia and Alexei. You can probably already form the frame of this story from that alone and how that weaves into Veronica, Charlotte, and Lena's stories, especially once you see the time frames that each woman is existing in. I predicted what Lena's involvement was going to be. I knew immediately who Charlotte was. And then I made a wild, insane guess about Veronica. That fact that I got the end of the book correct still didn't really upset me, because it was the journey I needed to make and to make all the connections and see if I was right about my guesses. But if you are someone who doesn't like to guess correctly, you may hate this book and it may dampen your enjoyment of the story.
3. Where are the Romanovs?: For a novel based on the Romanov family, they aren't really in it. Empress Alexandra and the Dowager Duchess Marie are in here the most, which was actually refreshing. Nicolas makes a cameo and one of the grand duchesses makes a cameo. Other figures from this history have quite larger roles than the Romanovs themselves. Nicolas' mistress, the ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya, plays a pivotal role in Charlotte's story. And the Romanovs did have an African American guardsman (who I think did go by Pavel), who features heavily in Lena's story. Lack of Romanovs is just a minor, silly complaint from me. I would have liked to have seen Nicholas play a more active role, and seen the Romanov sisters, but that's just me.
Overall, I did really enjoy this book, but it was just the three things above that drew me out of the story a bit. An additional 100 pages for more character and plot development would have been perfect. And I think some more creative twists to the story would have been nice to constantly keep the reader guessing. If you love Romanov historical fiction, I do highly recommend this one. It's fun and action packed, and the interweaving of three women is extremely well done....more
In "The Ghost" by Robert Harris, a ghost writer is hired to write the memoirs of Adam Lang, one of Great Britain's most controversial prime minister's, after the previous ghost writer mysteriously died. The ghost writer is flown to Martha's Vineyard and has a month to complete the memoirs. But during his stay, he begins to discover some disturbing information and finds out a deeper conspiracy is at play.
In 2010 a fantastic movie based off of this book (called "The Ghost Writer") came out starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, and Olivia Williams, and I've finally gotten around to reading the book. The best way to describe this book is that it's a political/psychological mystery thriller following a ghost writer who finds himself deep into a political conspiracy involving a past British prime minister. I really enjoyed this book. I think it moved along at a nice pace and kept me intrigued to find out what was going on. It's definitely a book all about the plot, more so than any real character development. And certainly a commentary on the war on terror following the attacks of 9/11. I think perhaps one of the most interesting things about this book is the fact that our narrator, the ghost writer, is never mentioned by name. The characters never call him by name and he himself never tells us his name, which is a nice way to have the title of this book have a dual meaning. He is a ghost writer, but yet is absolutely foreign to us because we know nothing about him, and he drifts along the plot listening, writing, and unraveling the conspiracy almost as if he too is a ghost. The characters themselves are rather one dimensional, which I think is the intent of Robert Harris. Every character is a mystery, including Adam Lang himself, the former prime minister. The ghost writer has a difficult time writing from the point of view of Adam Lang, realizing he has no idea who this guy is because of the inconsistencies in his background.
Overall, if political thrillers are your sort of thing, I highly recommend this book. Fast paced and a nice look into the world of ghost writing....more
In "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn, it's the fifth anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne's wedding. But that morning, Amy mysteriously vanishes. Nick is suddenly thrown in the spotlight and people are unsure whether or not he is innocent or guilty of his wife's disappearance. "Gone Girl" is an intense thrill ride that constantly leaves you guessing and leaves you wondering what secrets your spouse keeps from you.
5-stars...yeah...I freaking love this! The movie is coming out in October (2014 as of this review) and I was determined to pick up this book. I'm not even sure how to review this book, because I feel any tiny thing I say might be almost spoiler-ish. But let me give it a try:
1. The writing is outstanding. There's something refreshing about Gillian Flynn's writing. She really has a way with words and making dialogue sound real, not forced. The writing often feels crisp and fresh, every word matters, and there's just the right amount of detail to set a scene.
2. Nick and Amy feel like real people. I can imagine myself running into them on the streets---they seem that real. Once again, the power of Flynn's writing. Even though this book deals with some dark subjects, I still found myself laughing on occasion because of Nick and Amy's dry sense of humor and their pop culture know-all.
3. The book is told as a dual narrative. We have Nick's narrative and then Amy's narrative through her diary. Very well done and never confusing. Nick and Amy have very distinctive voices that you can immediately go back and forth between their narratives.
4. This is one of the most manipulative books I've ever read. Nick and Amy are both unreliable narrators---you never quite know what's the truth and what's fabrication. One moment you adore Nick, the next you adore Amy. But then later, you despise Nick, but then you might also despise Amy. There's a constant back and forth between liking and hating Nick and Amy. This book constantly plays with your emotions and constantly questions what it is you're seeing and hearing. The book also flips these gender stereotypes we have in regards to missing persons cases likes this. Never take things at face value in this book.
Overall, amazing book! I highly recommend it to just about everyone, even if this is a genre you don't typically read. I think it's incredibly griping from start to finish and reads quickly. Once you finish this book, it's the type of book you immediately want to read a second time now that you know the end....more
"Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James is a sequel to Jane Austen's classic "Pride and Prejudice." Elizabeth and Darcy have been happily married for six years. But on the eve of the annual autumn ball, Elizabeth's sister Lydia arrives at Pemberley in hysterics, screaming that her husband, Wickham, has been murdered. What proceeds is a murder trial that puts the lives of those at Pemberley in danger.
The reason for this 2-star rating is the fault of the miniseries that aired in 2013 starring Matthew Rhys, Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Goode, and Jenna Louise Coleman. That miniseries was fantastic! I immensely enjoyed it and my love of it is the reason why I wanted to pick up this book. The book and the miniseries, in some ways, are two separate things. The one thing they have in common is the murder mystery. But this is not going to turn into a book-to-screen review---if you want to hear my thoughts on the miniseries check out the link above. I'm going to try and stay as focused on the book as much as possible.
It takes about 50 pages for this book to get anywhere. So, yeah, a slow start. The first 50 pages are practically backstory and summarizing "Pride and Prejudice." Not only this, but we just get a sense of what Elizabeth and Darcy's life has been like for the last six years and what various characters have been up to. Plus, there's all this planning going on for the annual autumn ball. It's all a bit dull and you find yourself going "I've already read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I don't need this." The first 50 pages read almost like a traditional novel that you'd find from the nineteenth century. If you have a hard time reading literature like that, you may find the beginning hard to get through.
After the first fifty pages, that's when the action of the story finally happens. Lydia arrives at Pemberley in hysterics, screaming that her husband, Wickham, has been murdered. She and Wickham were traveling with Captain Denny when all of a sudden Denny bolts from the carriage and Wickham goes after him. A few minutes later shots are fired. That's all that the reader and the guests at Pemberley are given. Sounds like an intriguing story, right? Unfortunately, the writing lacks that intensity considering that this is a murder mystery. You never really feel invested and you never really connect with the characters. This novel is mostly plot driven rather than character driven. You are just tagging along for the ride, and it's not even that enjoyable of the ride. The novel turns into "CSI: Pemberley," and you'd think this would be the best part of the book. Like I said, there's no intensity in the writing, no urgency. It's all very lackluster and bland. Even when the trial happens halfway through the book, you'd think this would be interesting, but again, no. It's all too technical rather than interesting.
Overall, this book was a massive disappointment, which is a shame. The miniseries was brilliant, so well told, and the character development and intensity that was lacking in this book was totally present in the miniseries. If you do have an interest in reading this book, I'd suggest getting it either used or at the library. This book isn't necessarily bad, but it's just uninteresting the majority of the time. Also, don't go into this book expecting a lot of beautiful Elizabeth/Darcy moments. They seriously only spend a few chapters which each other....more
"Codename: Chimera" by J.K. Persy is a mystery/thriller that starts off with the death of a wealthy antiques dealer. The only item found on the dead man is a book on ancient Greek mythological creatures. Private detective Kevin Kris is on the case, along with his assistant Penny and his billionaire friend, Michael. Together, they have to discover the contents of Codename: Chimera.
I received a PDF file of this short story from the authors for an honest review. The story was a quick and easy read---just a little over 100 pages. I thought the overall premise was good and intriguing. But there were quite a few things that I found distracting with the story and the writing.
1. This did not seem like a completed story in it's final format. It felt like a 2nd or 3rd draft of a story. There were quite a lot of grammar and editing errors and leaps in how characters would figure things out. The narrative wasn't smooth and felt jumpy on occasion. And I hated the dialogue! The majority of the dialogue didn't sound like how real people would speak.
2. The characters had a lot of promise, but like I said, they felt like 2nd/3rd draft characters without much life to them. And I'm not going to lie, Kevin Kris seemed an awful lot like Sherlock Holmes, especially in personality, hobbies, and how Holmes speaks (I've been reading "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" for half the year now, so maybe my head is just full of Sherlock Holmes). Penny seemed too much like a Mary-Sue. I did like Michael---probably one of my favorite characters. As far as the reveal of the murderer, I guess who that was immediately way back at the beginning of the story.
I feel bad for writing negatively about this story since the authors were the ones who contacted me to read it, but I'm giving my honest opinions and I don't think it's fair for other readers and the writers themselves if I give a phony review. This story needs a lot of work. It does have massive potential, but characters, dialogue, and writing need to be vastly improved. And I hate to say it, but this read like a creative writing piece (I took two classes of creative writing in college, trust me, I know what good and bad creative writing sounds like)....more
"Death of a Schoolgirl" by Joanna Campbell Slan is a sequel to CharlotteI will also do a video review here at my channel: www.youtube.com/magicofbooks
"Death of a Schoolgirl" by Joanna Campbell Slan is a sequel to Charlotte Bronte's beloved classic "Jane Eyre." When a strange letter arrives from Adele, Jane and Rochester fear for the girl's safety. Jane travels to London to find out what is going on, and when she arrives at Adele's boarding school, she discovers that one of the students has been murdered. Jane poses as a teacher, and it's up to her to figure out who the murderer is before Adele becomes the next victim.
If you are a fan of "Jane Eyre," you might want to check this one out. Such a fantastic sequel to what we are already familiar with. Joanna Campbell Slan captures perfectly what you love about the original story and just expands upon that. And having Jane be an amateur slueth seems like such a logical place to take her character. Slan captures Bronte's tone, atmosphere, time period, and characters wonderfully. All I can really say about this book is how fun it is. I had a great time from start to finish. And Slan has a pretty captivating mystery with the murder of one of Adele's classmates. And even though Jane and Rochester's angst-ridden love story is what I enjoy the most about the original, I love that they have such a beautiful, healthy relationship in this book, and I appreciate that Slan gives Jane plenty of time to shine without Rochester and she is still just as clever and self reliant.
All I can tell you is that this is quite a worthy successor to "Jane Eyre." If you want to see your favorite heroine solving a murder mystery, this may be of high interest to you. Super fun and very well written....more
In "The Beggar King" by Oliver Potzsch, book 3 in the "Hangman's Daughter" series, hangman Jakob Kuisl finds himself on the receiving end of being tortured after he is accused of murdering his sister and her husband. It's up to his daughter, Magdalena, and the town physician, Simon, to figure out who is framing Kuisl, which leads them to a network of beggars and encountering a flamboyant Venetian. They end up discovering a conspiracy that could threaten the entire German empire. But will they solve all the clues in time to save Kuisl before he, in turn, becomes the hanged?
Loved this book! Easily my favorite of these first three books. A compelling story, some great mysteries, and once again, Potzsch manages to weave together such an intricate plot that comes together by the very end. Potzsch must have detailed journals to figure out his plots because at the start of every book you can never quite figure out how all the different stories will connect.
Just to touch on the couple things that I liked in particular in this book, and why they set this book apart from the first two in the series: first, the setting moves to Regensburg, away from Schongau. I liked that shift. Made things a bit more interesting taking place in a larger city and introducing new, unfamiliar characters. Second, I liked seeing Kuisl in danger. Each book he has been the hero and in control of how to solve the cases. This time, Kuisl can't do anything and needs the help of everyone else around him. Just a great ironic twist that he is the one being accused of murder and being tortured, not the other way around. And third, I loved seeing Simon and Magdalena interact with one another. Finally! Thank God! My big problem with the first two books is that I had a difficult time understanding the relationship between Simon/Magdalena. It never made sense. Plus, in the first two books they would only share a small amount of page time with one another, off on their own missions. So this time they are working together full time and we get to see more of their relationship and the insecurities and jealousies they have. This series is called the "Hangman's Daughter" series and I always found it a shame that Magdalena is a minor character. Now she gets to be the lead and she gets to be the one calling the shots and trying to save her father.
Overall, loved this book. So, so good. Definitely can't wait to continue reading the next books in the series....more
"The Sherlockian" by Graham Moore follows the story of Harold White who is a devout Sherlockian. Ever since he was a boy, he's been in love with the s"The Sherlockian" by Graham Moore follows the story of Harold White who is a devout Sherlockian. Ever since he was a boy, he's been in love with the stories of Sherlock Holmes. So when the day comes that he is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes society, the Baker Street Irregulars, it's a dream come true for Harold. It's at this gathering of Sherlockians that Alex Cale is going to announce that he has found the missing diary of Arthur Conan Doyle. But the very next morning, Alex is found dead in his hotel room. And what's more, there's no diary to be found. Harold quickly searches the room before the police arrive and he immediately notices that several clues in the room are mimicking events in the Holmes story, "A Study in Scarlet." Wanting to put his Sherlockian skills to the test, Harold departs for England. A reporter, Sarah Lindsay, joins him on his quest, and becomes his version of Watson. It's in England where Harold and Sarah search Alex Cale's home and places of research to gather clues as to where Alex found the missing diary. Harold is determined to find this missing diary, even if it means risking his own life in the process.
Interspersed throughout Harold's story is also flashbacks to Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle has had enough of Sherlock Holmes. It's gotten to the point that when people ask him for autographs, they want him to sign Holmes' name. Doyle feels like his readers have become too obsessed with Holmes, so he decides to finally kill Holmes. The killing of Holmes results in a tremendous backlash that Doyle had not anticipated. People are in mourning for this fictional character. Doyle is fixed on the idea of Holmes staying dead so he can have peace back in his life. Eight years later, Doyle is helping to investigate the murders of some young women. Helping him investigate through all of this is his good friend, Bram Stoker. Doyle and Stoker get involved in events that they could have never imagined and their friendship is put to the test as the murders continue to climb and their own lives put in danger. And as much as Doyle wants Holmes to stay dead, Sherlock Holmes still wants to live.
I really loved this book. The story moved along at such a perfect pace and I loved the interweaving of Harold and Doyle's stories. Nice little parallels throughout. I don't know much about Arthur Conan Doyle, but Moore made me feel as though I'd known Doyle all my life. There's basically two versions of Doyle in this book: first there's the true, historic version of the man. Then there's the more fictional version, which is actually the most interesting by the time you reach the novel's conclusion. Moore basically wants the reader to question everything they've every learned about Doyle and contemplate the what-ifs that are introduced in the story. The reader has to be open to suggestion while reading the Doyle parts of the story. If you are easily offended by a writer changing elements and history of a real-life figure, you might end up being disgusted by the ending of the novel. But if you a reader who enjoys the what-ifs or the plausibility of events that could have possibly occurred, then you'll really love the liberties the author takes with Doyle.
It's not so much the characters in this book that make the novel interesting. It's this theme of progress and nostalgia, and the feeling of loss and the loss of romantic idealism. And there's also the theme of one not being able to escape what is a part of you. To set the picture for trying to explain these themes, I'll start here: Doyle and Stoker have just heard about the death of Oscar Wilde. As they discuss his death, they are also noticing the fact that the world is quickly progressing around them. For instance, the use of gaslight is being replaced with electric light. So what do the death of Wilde and the progress of humanity have to do with each other? I'll quote this bit from the book:
"It's the end of an age," said Bram. "And the beginning of a new one. The twentieth century. It sounds odd on the tongue, doesn't it? The calendars have already changed. And now we've lost Oscar. Not even Victoria can last forever, though she's certainly of a mind to try."
"Perhaps," said Arthur, "what saddens me is not the passing of time but the curious sensation of being aware of it as it happens. We're used to demarcating our histories in hindsight---we draw the lines afterward. It's the scholars who separate one period from another. And moreover, did anyone else perceive the change in the air around them? Were they 'self-aware,' as we are? I don't know how any man could feel his eyes burn in the electric light and not also feel the sudden palpability of history."
The conversation between Doyle and Stoker eventually broaches the topic of Sherlock Holmes. Stoker suggests Doyle bring Holmes back from the dead, and Doyle is infuriated with the idea, saying he will never write another Holmes story. It continues as follows:
I don't care whether you do or not," said Bram. "But you will, eventually. He's yours, till death do you part. Did you really think he was dead and gone when you wrote 'The Final Problem'? I don't think you did. I think you always knew he'd be back. But whenever you take up your pen and continue, heed my advice. Don't bring him here. Don't bring Sherlock Holmes into the electric light. Leave him in the mysterious and romantic flicker of the gas lamp. He won't stand next to this, do you see? The glare would melt him away. He was more the man of our time than Oscar was. Leave him where he belongs, in the last days of our bygone century. Because in a hundred years, no one will care about me. Or you. Or Oscar. We stopped caring about Oscar years ago, we were were his bloody friends. No, what they'll remember are the stories. They'll remember Holmes. And Watson. And Dorian Gray."
After Stoker has finished speaking, Doyle replies, "The man is nothing. The work is everything." To which Stoker later responds, "Realism, I think, is fleeting. It's the romance that will live forever."
I really loved this message in the book. In some ways, it's incredibly sad, but also incredibly true. Often times, it's not so much the authors we will remember, but their characters and the places they inhabit. All of this ties in perfectly with Harold's story as well. Harold has been in love with the Sherlock Holmes stories since he was a child. It's Holmes he's always wanted to imitate and become. It's always been this romanticism of the world and persona of Holmes that Harold has always loved. It's the search for this missing diary that forces Harold to question his life and his views and the very essence of the subject and figure he loves.
Overall, such a fantastic book from start to finish. It's actually very thought provoking, and I have to admit, I did get teary eyed in a few places. I highly recommend this for fellow Sherlockians, and anyone who loves a good mystery. I think you'll be very surprised with the conclusion of the novel....more
In "The Malice of Fortune" by Michael Ennis, Vatican courtesan, Damiata, is ordered by Pope Alexander VI to discover the truth about the murder of his son Juan Borgia. Damiata becomes a pawn in the political intrigues of the pope's surviving son, Cesare Borgia, also known as Duke Valentino, whose own life is threatened by mercenary warlords. Damiata suspects Juan's murderer is one of these warlords. As her mission grows urgent, Damiata finds the help of two of Renaissance Italy's most prolific figures: Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo Da Vinci. What the trio discovers will shake the very foundation of Western civilization, ultimately becoming the basis for Machiavelli's "The Prince."
I was really looking forward to reading this book because I love all things Borgias related. Plus it had the additional element of being a mystery/thriller involving Machiavelli and Da Vinci. I found myself not enjoying this as much as I was hoping. Let's get this out of the way: this is not a bad book by any means. I think it suffered a bit from information density. I often found myself being a little bored, slogging through pages, sometimes not entirely understanding what's going on. And maybe it was just me, but I felt like scene transitions were really abrupt to the point that I got confused. What I enjoyed the most was definitely the murder mystery involving the pope's son, Juan Borgia, and the characters realizing they are on the search for a serial killer as they find more and more bodies mutilated in similar fashions. I think another big problem with the book was simply the characters. They aren't as fleshed out as I would have liked, they are all rather one dimensional in there way. You have Damiata who shows promise, but she's wrapped in mystery and intrigue. I think Michael Ennis had some great things going on with Da Vinci, but Da Vinci was more of a supporting character. I did also like Machiavelli, but again, one dimensional. The big theme of this book is about this whole idea of Fortuna versus the ability to control your own fate. Do you control your fate or does some greater power guide your fate? Also the idea of nature versus nuture. Are you a product of your DNA or a product of your surroundings? And I liked how Machiavelli and Da Vinci, though both intelligent men, they each had their own "sciences" in trying to figure out how to hunt the serial killer. Da Vinci is of the opinion that things can be scientifically explained by examination and experimentation, but Machiavelli believes things can be explained by learning from history, looking at those who have come before to figure out the psychology of somebody. It should have all been quite compelling, but it was often a little meandering and lengthy, sometimes repetitive. And another thing that bugged me, Michael Ennis throws in a relationship between Machiavelli and Damiata, exploring this idea of soul mates, which quite honestly, felt forced into the narrative. Why did there have to be a sexual relationship? Why couldn't they have a relationship built of respect and admiration only? The novel was already exploring another as it was, a relationship didn't need to be there. And I've gone this whole time not mentioned Cesare Borgia, Duke Valentino. I loved Michael Ennis' interpretation of Valentino, easily one of the most captivating characters in the novel. If you know anything about "The Prince," you know that Machiavelli based a lot of what he was talking about on of the successes of Valentino, and that if others wanted to be successful, they needed to follow him as an example. And I loved Michael Ennis' paving stones of setting up Machiavelli getting his inspiration and why.
Overall, maybe this book wasn't entirely for me. Maybe I was missing the points of some of the things going on. I feel like Michael Ennis had great historical material to go off of, but he was trying to balance a little too much. I do recommend this if you are looking for a good mystery/thriller and if you are a fan of the Borgia era....more
In "The Dark Monk" by Oliver Potzsch, book two in the "Hangman's Daughter" series, Jakob Kuisel, his daughter Magdalena, and the town physician, Simon, investigate the mysterious death of a local priest. Before his death, the priest was able to scratch a cryptic message into the snow, the first riddle of many that sends these characters on a chase for a hidden Templar treasure. But close on their trail is a group of mysterious monks who are after the treasure as well. Who will solve the riddle first?
Really enjoyed book two to this series. I continue to be impressed by Oliver Potzsch's intense historical research and his personal devotion to these characters. Once again, an action-packed story full of mystery and intrigue and held together by these flawed and quirky characters. If I had to pick out some flaws with this second book, it would be that I found myself not enjoying this one as much as the first book. Not that it's a bad book. I think I just personally loved the story in "The Hangman's Daughter" being wrapped around the children. With "The Dark Monk," there is a heavy focus on church politics and the hunt for a Templar treasure. There's nothing particularly unique about that concept. I was able to figure out what the treasure was fairly immediately. There were a few occasions that I found myself a bit confused and sometimes it felt like the characters were able to solve all the riddles quickly without any prolonged problems. That all being said though, I can't repeat how much I still enjoyed this book. I still enjoyed going from one clue to the next, seeing all the mischief these characters got up to, and seeing how everything got solved by the end.
Something I'd like to comment on: Magdalena. In these first two books of the series, Magdalena and Simon like each other. But I never really get a sense of the two of them being in love and being soul mates. More than anything, they argue and belittle each other more than praise and compliment. Maybe this is the more realistic approach for the time period. As far as Magdalena goes as an individual, I often feel like Potzsch doesn't quite know what to do with her character. In both books she is the "damsel in distress." Maybe this is a wee bit of a spoiler, but in both books she finds herself in the clutches of the antagonists. At least Potzsch makes her a strong willed, determined woman, capable of saving herself, but still, he has her in peril in both books. I'm hoping the third book fixes my problems with Magdalena as a character, but also her relationship with Simon, because right now, I wouldn't say I'm totally shipping the two of them.
Overall, the series continues to be good, and can't wait to get started on book three....more
This was a rather strange book for me, and I'm still trying to figure out why exactly. I love mystery/thrillers. Especially if they have a bit of a suThis was a rather strange book for me, and I'm still trying to figure out why exactly. I love mystery/thrillers. Especially if they have a bit of a supernatural twist to them.
The basic plot of the book is that Julia Alvarez's husband has been kidnapped, and she in turn gets kidnapped by this group of people who claim to be descendants of the fallen Biblical angels. Julia apparently has supernatural powers and the "angels" need her to communicate to God so they can return to Heaven. What results is an international manhunt to track down the kidnappers and rescue Julia. So bring in the NSA, the president of the USA, Spanish cops, some spies, and on top of that, climatologists. The "angels" tell Julia that the end of the world is fast approaching. What this really turns out to be is a solar flare that the sun ejects. Julia must use her "powers" to stop "the end of the world." All of this involves Noah's lost ark as well. Trust me, there's a lot of information in this book that's tossed out left and right. This should make for a good thriller, right? Well, it ends up being a lot, and sometimes I couldn't quite grasp how one thing was leading to another. I didn't have a problem suspending my belief that Julia truly had powers and that those around her were angels. My problem was really just the flow of the narrative and I realized that the plot actually all occurred in pretty much 1 to 2 days. And so many characters! And some were very interesting that I wanted to know more about them. Julia, who is supposed to be our protagonist comes across as rather stupid at times, and I found her to be whiny. I don't know...maybe I was expecting her to be more kick-ass rather than...typical. The story didn't really get going until probably over the halfway mark. There was more talking than doing. Plus, the book didn't have a good villain. We are lead to believe certain people are villains, but then they turn out not to be. So was the sun the villain in the end?
Despite the flow of the narrative, Javier Sierra really did his research and made a lot of the subject matter in the book interesting. But at the same time, I can almost count this against him. He had so much interesting material that I don't think he focused too well on the characters or the plot.
It seems like I've trashed this book, but I still oddly liked the book in a weird way. I just needed more from it. Such an excellent premise with the fallen angels....more
I received this book through the Goodreads First-Reads giveaway.
Well, this was certainly a cute book. I wasn't jumping up and down in my sit thinkingI received this book through the Goodreads First-Reads giveaway.
Well, this was certainly a cute book. I wasn't jumping up and down in my sit thinking that this was the greatest book in the world, but it was still really cute and had a great little mystery to it that I think kids and teens would enjoy.
I don't know how I feel about the protagonist Hannah Price, though. I mean, I didn't dislike her---she wasn't an idiot and she put two-and-two together through the course of the story. I saw another review from someone about Hannah in the first book of this series, and that person described Hannah as a Mary-Sue, which I actually agree with. Hannah had no flaws and everyone loved her. It seemed like every person she came in contact with easily gave up information and never once questioned, "who the hell is this girl?" To be honest, I was more interested in Hannah's friend, Sam. He had flaws and an interesting story. The whole story could have easily been told from his POV.
Not sure how I feel about the final big reveal of the mystery either. It seemed to come together too easily and too quickly. And it sort of felt anti-climatic to some degree. I think I was expecting more.
I think Rebecca Wade did a fantastic job of describing the house and it's mutation from the present into the past. I certainly would not want to live in that house! It seemed a character in it's own right.
Overall, a cute book, and very fast and easy to read. ...more
I received this book through the Goodreads First-Reads giveaway.
This was a really enjoyable book. I think I was quite surprised. So who exactly wouldI received this book through the Goodreads First-Reads giveaway.
This was a really enjoyable book. I think I was quite surprised. So who exactly would I recommend this book to: if you like British intelligence thrillers and love the British TV show Spooks (MI-5 for us Americans) then this is the book for you.
The book starts with an ex-MI6 agent Thomas Kell being hired to search for the new head of MI6's (Amelia Levene) son. The book takes place mostly in France, but returns to England briefly in the middle.
I think the book overall had a great pacing. I really flew through it and sometimes wished I didn't have to put it down for the evening. There's constant action, and even when there are moments of dialogue, even that moves quickly.
Lots of great twists and turns, especially concerning the identity of Francois Malot, Amelia's son. Was not expecting who the first Francois was.
The only thing I was a bit confused by was why exactly French intelligence were after Francois. Either I am an idiot or I just totally missed the point of the kidnapping. Was it the fact that Amelia and her husband had money? I'm still not sure. Maybe another reading is due.
A fun and quick read, though. And Thomas Kell was a great protagonist. I can see Cumming starting up a whole series of books for this character....more
**spoiler alert** I received this book through the Goodreads First-Reads giveaways.
I actually really quite liked this. But first, my problems: About t**spoiler alert** I received this book through the Goodreads First-Reads giveaways.
I actually really quite liked this. But first, my problems: About the first half of the book, I had trouble following the story. Too many characters. Character overload I should say. How does Charles even know what he's doing half the time? Sometimes I couldn't understand his sudden logic or understanding and how he reached some of his conclusions. So for the first half of the book I found myself zoning out a bit. Also, way too much dialect. It drove me insane after a while. A little dialect is okay, but again, Shepherd went a little overboard. I also had issues at first with the use of third person present tense. I'm used to reading past tense the majority of times when I'm reading. I did get used to the tense use after a while, but at first it distracted me. I also found the unknown narrator a tad bit weird at times because he/she would reference things in the future, and it was all just very...odd. Like he/she mentions something about a modern day "geek." I kind of wanted to laugh there because it felt so odd in a Victorian era novel.
But my issues aside, once the story reached the part where the attacker, uh, attacks Charles and cuts off his finger...now that's when things started getting interesting. After his ordeal Charles really feels like a character---he has a personal motive now. Even with the second half of the book I was still getting that sense of character/information overload, but at least I felt that the plot was finally getting somewhere once Charles is attacked. And what a shocking ending too! We are given an explanation as to the title of the novel and what exactly the "Solitary House" is. Throughout the whole novel, though I did love Hester's narration, I kept thinking, "what does this have to do with anything?" But Hester's narration brilliantly comes together by the end (and I had a bit of a "Sucker Punch" nerd moment, haha! If you've seen "Sucker Punch," you'll get my conclusions with that to this novel.). Just some really great twists and turns as the novel draws to a close, plus it appears as if Shepherd plans on revisiting Charles and his uncle in a future novel.
Do the publishers really read these reviews on Goodreads? I hope they do, because I have something to say to the editor: there is a massive spelling error in this book that really threw me off. The doctor who Charles meets on about page 241 on my edition, his name is spelled "Woodcot." But then later in the novel when Charles runs back into him (page 303 to the end of the novel) the doctor's name is spelled "Woodcourt." So which is it? The editor really needs to fix that.
Anyway, I thought this was an overall good story. Despite my issues with the first half, I think it all concludes quite nicely. I really want to re-read it again now that I fully know what's going on and what characters to focus on now. Shepherd did a really great job with making me feel like I was in Victorian London. A very atmospheric novel. ...more
I received this book through the Goodreads First-Reads giveaway.
Let me begin by saying that I initially won this book from Goodreads back in January (I received this book through the Goodreads First-Reads giveaway.
Let me begin by saying that I initially won this book from Goodreads back in January (if I remember correctly), and I just got it sometime last month. So thanks to Atria Books for giving me my copy (finally, haha!), plus an additional book which I shall read at a later point. On to my thoughts now...
This book was very intriguing. I'm not much a perfume/fragrance girl, so a lot of the information and history about perfume was very new and interesting to me. M.J. Rose clearly did her research not just on the history of fragrance, but on France, China, and the reincarnation theory. The book was beautifully crafted together and sometimes I wished I could really haves those scents directly in front of me. Some of the sentence structure was weird at times, and even some of the dialogue didn't feel right, but overall, wonderfully wrote, and an easy, quick read.
I think what I loved best about the novel was the reincarnation theory. It's truly something fascinating to think about. The main character, Jac, has a history of psychotic breaks, but comes to wonder if those breaks were her actually having "flashbacks" of her past lives. Her main flashbacks include a man and woman in Cleopatra's Egypt, and a man and woman in 1800's France. In current day France, Jac reunites with former boyfriend, Griffin North, while they search for her mysteriously disappeared brother, Robbie. So basically, the novel questions whether or not Jac and Griffin are soul mates---constantly reuniting with each other through time and trying to fix the wrongs between them.
The beginning and the end of the book are well mapped. I think what the book lacks lies in the middle of the book and the nonthreatening villains. The villains don't do much until Jac and Griffin travel into the catacombs under France. What occurs is all very anticlimatic. I excepted a bigger showdown between the heroes and villains. And the villains just don't seem that menacing to me. The main villain has an interesting history, but other than that, we don't really get to know her or her motives. She simply just works for the Chinese Mafia who are trying to lessen the reincarnation theory. The catacombs scenes had the potential to be rather epic, but I don't think they ultimately did much in terms of setting up action. The plot picks up again when Jac, Griffin, and Robbie try to reach the Dalai Lama and give him that evidence that reincarnation is real.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book---something a bit new for me in the mystery/thriller genre. Great characters and great story. Plus, I loved the whole idea of Jac/Griffin being soul mates destined to find each other again and again through time....more
"Agent 6" by Tom Rob Smith is the final book in the "Leo Demidov" trilogy. Taking place on multiple continents over a span of several decades, Leo Demidov struggles to unravel a conspiracy that tests the limits of everything he thought he knew. Not allowed to go on a Peace Tour to America, Leo says goodbye to his family as they head to New York. What unfolds is an intense political conspiracy that takes Leo to both Afghanistan and America as he seeks to uncover the identity of Agent 6.
So sad this trilogy has come to an end. Even though I had some rocky issues with "The Secret Speech," and even this final novel, I still enjoyed the experience and being on this ride with Leo Demidov. With "Agent 6," I had the same problems like I did "The Secret Speech." With both novels I loved the beginning, found the middle boring, and then liked the ending. Whereas with "Child 44" I enjoyed from start to finish. I find myself comparing this trilogy to that of the "Millennium" trilogy by Stieg Larsson. With that series I freaking loved "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," just as I freaking loved "Child 44." With both of those books what I particularly enjoyed was the murder mystery going on, with the political intrigue going on in the background. But with books 2 and 3 of both series, they turned entirely into political thrillers, which honestly, I found incredibly boring. So I guess what I'm saying is that, in a way, "Agent 6" wasn't my cup of tea. I preferred the element of murder going on in "Child 44." By no means is "Agent 6" a horribly written book. If anything, Tom Rob Smith is a fantastic author. I love his descriptions, I love that he's done his historical research, and by far, I love his characters. But I just don't like the direction of his novels and that they are more political thrillers than murder thrillers. And that's not his fault at all, it's my fault for not particularly enjoying the subject matter.
Just a few notes of spoilers for anyone who has read the novel:
1. (view spoiler)[I can't believe Raisa died at the beginning of this book! NOOOO!!! My favorite parts of the previous two books were the interactions between Raisa and Leo and how they fell back in love with each other after everything they'd been through. Seriously, I was devastated by the death of Raisa.
2. What the hell happened to Leo's parents? Remember those two? Remember the events of "Child 44?" I hated that Tom Rob Smith just totally forgot about them. I don't know if it was intentional or accidental, but their absence was very noticeable.
3. Speaking of "Child 44," a loose end I felt was never fully tied up was Leo's niece. His brother was the murderer in that book who also had a wife and daughter, and I always found it interesting that in the final two books in the series, there was no mention of Leo's past involving his brother. Before going into this book, I actually started theorizing that Leo's niece was going to turn out to be Agent 6. Guess not. That would have been a fantastic twist, and something to have the trilogy come full circle. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, I think "Agent 6" was probably more enjoyable that "The Secret Speech." There were some dull moments in this book around the middle, but I was never bored like I was during the middle section of "The Secret Speech." But "Child 44" remains above and beyond my favorite in the trilogy for sure. I did get emotional by the final pages. It's hard not to get emotional when you've been with a character for a number of books. I appreciated Smith's historic research and his commentary on Communism and how Leo was wrapped up into all of that. I think if you've read all three books, you'll appreciate how the book starts and how it ends, and really appreciate all the themes Smith set up over the course of the trilogy....more