With all these vampire books about, and now the start of a clutch of angels books, it’s great to get back to some honest to goodness witches. The slan...moreWith all these vampire books about, and now the start of a clutch of angels books, it’s great to get back to some honest to goodness witches. The slant in 666 Park Avenue, however, is that ancient families of witches have duelled, killed each other and stolen each other’s magic and now prosper all over the world. A hotbed of these witches is modern day Manhattan, where witches fill the ranks of the rich and famous.
Enter Jane Boyle, a young architect living in Paris who, after being orphaned as a baby, has finally got her dream job and a perfect relationship with Malcolm Doran. Malcolm is everything Jane ever wanted so, after the death of her Grandmother, she decides to accept Malcolm’s marriage proposal and move with him to New York. The only shadow on this otherwise perfect relationship is Malcolm’s overbearing mother. Oh, and the fact that Jane is actually a witch, but she has no idea.
666 Park Avenue is the first of three novels, of which two have already been released in the US, but the UK will have to wait until July and it’s certainly worth the wait. Jane Boyle is a likeable character, so it’s easy to root for this ‘good’ witch as she tries to get a handle on her magical abilities while dealing with her mother-in-law to be. The bad witches are suitably nasty and there are a loveable collection of supporting characters to help Jane figure out how to use her magic before it’s stolen by a more powerful witch – ooh…
The book starts quite sedately, with much of the action happening towards the end, but when things start to hot up, they really do and quickly. I enjoyed this book, so much so that I went and bought the second, The Dark Glamour, immediately. The world that Gabriella Pierce has created is glamorous and intriguing and I’m really excited to find out what happens to the characters after they were left quite dramatically at the end of book one. It’s well worth reading even if you’re not particularly into your witches and I think it’d be a good one to take on holiday.(less)
I did it, I finally went with the crowd and read The Hunger Games. Although I had heard of the series and been told how good it was, I had so many thi...moreI did it, I finally went with the crowd and read The Hunger Games. Although I had heard of the series and been told how good it was, I had so many things to read I didn’t think I’d get to it for a while. But, when the film of the first book came out I thought I’d give it a go so bought all three books for my lovely Kindle.
If you’ve been under a rock, you’ll need to know that The Hunger Games is about Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in Panem, a country that was built on the ashes of the USA. Once split into 13 districts and The Capital, a rebellion seventy years before wiped out District 13 and every year since two children from each of the twelve districts has been chosen to compete in a televised fight-to-the-death to remind each district that The Capital is in charge. In this particular year, Katniss Everdeen’s twleve-year-old sister, Prim, is chosen to compete, so she volunteers to take her place.
The bulk of the novel takes us through Katniss’s experiences in being taken from her home in District 12, along with Peeta Mellark, her co-tribute from District 12 and shows how she competes in the Games. I’m not spoiling it to say that she survives the Games – there are two other books after all – but HOW she survives the Games is exciting and fascinating. Katniss has been supporting her family by hunting in the woods near District 12 and so she uses all of her skills to outwit her competitors and survive and some of the alliances she makes are really compelling.
I’ll finish this review now, as I’ll review the other two books too, so there’s plenty to say but I thought The Hunger Games was an excellent taste of what was to come. Utterly gripping, I raced through it and couldn’t wait to read more.(less)
Alert! Alert! Alert! There may be spoilers in this review for all three of The Hunger Games books. DO NOT read this if you don’t want to be spoiled!!
A...moreAlert! Alert! Alert! There may be spoilers in this review for all three of The Hunger Games books. DO NOT read this if you don’t want to be spoiled!!
As you may remembered, I reviewed The Hunger Games and Catching Fire recently and, as with the first two books, I really did enjoy Mockingjay. Since reading the book I’ve read many a review saying that this book ruined the series and was lazy writing and was too dark, but I’ll admit I thought it was a really strong book and, perhaps it did take a darker turn but, given events in the the first two books, I’d certainly make the argument that there was not really another way for the characters to be. Katniss and Peeta’s experiences in the arena and their inadvertant involvement in politics and revolution afterwards can’t help but change them. Add to this the damage done to Peeta under torture and how Katniss witnesses friends dying in horrific ways, then to expect them to be their old selves from th first book is a bit unrealistic.
So, following on from the end of Catching Fire, Katniss has been rescued from the second Hunger Games arena, but is devastated to find that Peeta has been captured by The Capital. Plans are made in District 13 – which has been in uneasy truce with the Capital since the first attempt at rebellion – to support the overthrow of the Government and assist the districts. Katniss is told that she has become the face of the rebellion, she is the Mockingjay, a symbol of defiance, so she tries to put aside her fears to visit some of the rebellious Districts and be filmed tending the sick, but never putting herself in danger. Katniss being as she is, she defies this order and in her first visit manages to shoot down an enemy hovercraft during an assault.
I don’t really want to spoil any more, but this episode is near the beginning of the book and after that, the action just piles on. I’ll grant you, there were some deaths that I did wonder if they were entirely necessary, but on the whole, even though this third book was much darker than the previous two, it didn’t feel out of place for me and I really enjoyed the writing in all three books. I was more taken with this book than the second in the series and even given the criticism this book has received, it is definitely beneficial to read it.
I was quite sad to finish The Huger Games trilogy as I really did enjoy it very much. At least though I can look forward to the films!(less)
I am an avid reader of the Temperence Brennan books by Kathy Reichs (I’ve already pre-ordered to next one), so when her new YA series, Virals, popped...moreI am an avid reader of the Temperence Brennan books by Kathy Reichs (I’ve already pre-ordered to next one), so when her new YA series, Virals, popped up last year I wanted to try it out. As you can see from my review of Virals (Book One), I really enjoyed this new set of characters. Now, the second book, Seizure, is here and the Virals are back for a new adventure, but this time there’s pirate treasure to find (arrrr! etc).
As the book begins the Virals Tory, Ben, Shelton and Hiram are struggling to make sense of the wolf-like ‘flares’ that they started having after contracting a mutated virus in book one. At the same time, budget cuts mean that their parents may have to find new jobs, thus splitting the friends up – if they are scattered then they will have to deal with their strange new powers alone and may never make sense of them, so when Tory hears the strange tale of Anne Bonny, a renowned 18th Century pirate, she resolves to find Bonny’s lost treasure. This, obviously, sounds easier than it turns out to be for the gang.
Although it contains a science fiction element of having the Virals exhibit ‘superpowers’ this novel in very much in the spirit of Enid Blyton’s adventure books – the gang solve mysteries, get into peril, outwit the authorities while pulling the wool over their parents’ eyes. This novel in particular does so very much as the addition of pirate treasure, ‘x marks the spot’ and such makes it supremely exciting. Again, the book contains all of the mystery solving you’d expect from a Kathy Reichs novel and Temperence Brennan even makes a cameo appearance, which suited me.
I think – hope – that there will be more books following Seizure, as Tory Brennan is a great character for younger readers and any books that get youngsters interested in science and history are really to be encouraged.(less)
I’ve been a fan of Kathy Reichs for a good while now and have read all of her fiction books, except the new Tory Brennan book, Seizure, which is looki...moreI’ve been a fan of Kathy Reichs for a good while now and have read all of her fiction books, except the new Tory Brennan book, Seizure, which is looking at me from the bookshelf, so you’ll be unsurprised to learn that I really enjoyed Flash and Bones, Temperence Brennan’s latest adventure. This book is Brennan’s 14th outing and it is a fast-paced mystery that I read far too fast!
Flash and Bones focuses on the world of NASCAR when a body is found buried in a rubbish dump adjoining the Charlotte speedway track. When a young mechanic approaches Brennan, asking if the body might be that of his sister, a promising junior driver who had dreams of driving NASCAR, it reopens an old case that might have ties to domestic terrorism. Things take a nasty turn when the mechanic is found dead – who was determined to silence him and why?
Some of Brennan’s old compadres are back in this book, including Erskine ‘Skinny’ Slidell and ex-husband Pete and his fiancee are the flies in Tempe’s ointment! The only thing that did disappoint me a bit was the fleeting appearance of Detective Andrew Ryan, Tempe’s old flame. I would very much like it if he became her current flame, thank you very much! In all other ways, this is a great addition to the Temperence Brennan series which is, as always, impeccably researched, informative without being boring and very difficult to put down.
I’ll be reading Seizure shortly, but am already eagerly awaiting Temperence Brennan 15!(less)
I’m quite a fan of the really big, American novels. Lonesome Dove, Gone With the Wind, North and South, you get the idea, so West of Here by Jonathan...moreI’m quite a fan of the really big, American novels. Lonesome Dove, Gone With the Wind, North and South, you get the idea, so West of Here by Jonathan Evison is right up my street. I don’t know why, but I find Americans fascinating, particular those early pioneers who set out to tame the wilderness and the desperate search for land at all costs and this book perfectly captures that spirit in the fictional town of Port Bonita. But not only does Jonathan Evison craft a town on the rise during the 1890s, he also looks at Port Bonita in the 2000s, when those early glory days are far behind and the descendants of his original characters are living their lives very differently to their forebears.
In the 19th Century, Native Americans and whites co-exist uncomfortably in what will become Washington State when young Chicagoan Ethan Thornburgh arrives in Port Bonita and has the idea of building a Hydro-electric Dam. At the same time Explorer Jim Mather embarks on an expedition to follow the Elwha river through the interior of the Olympic Peninsula to better establish a trading route. Both these men encounter difficulties and tragedies on their journeys, surrounded by a full cast of plucky townsfolk including a big-hearted prostitute, an unmarried and pregnant woman who is determined to write important stories for the local paper, crooked bar owner selling spirits to the Native Americans and a mysterious Indian boy who listens but never speaks.
Fast forward to 2006 when the Thornburgh Dam is at the end of its life and about to be demolished. Port Bonita is past its best and those living there have to be plucky in their own way to live their day to day lives. Ethan Thornburgh’s descendants rub shoulders with a former High School sports hero turned Bigfoot enthusiast, a recently released convict who just can’t mix with people and his parole officer who is determined that he’ll keep him honest.
Initially I did find the style of this book disconcerting, as it flicks back and forth between 1890 and 2006 but it didn’t take long to get used to it and the fully fleshed out characters do make this book, ultimately, a rewarding read. There are many layers to the novel which combines gentle comedy, environmental concern, terrible tragedy and real heroism and although there are very broad issues in the book they are addressed in an accessible way by looking at the individuals and their reactions to the environment. West of Here is a thoroughly enjoyable, but sometimes challenging read and what makes it memorable is this brilliant cast of characters and their personal and sometimes very public troubles are told with great affection and depth.(less)
I’ve read all of Dan Brown’s books, but sort of missed out on the hype surrounding the release of The Lost Symbol and have only just read it recently....moreI’ve read all of Dan Brown’s books, but sort of missed out on the hype surrounding the release of The Lost Symbol and have only just read it recently. Like Angels And Demons and The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol focuses on Professor Robert Langdon, the Harvard symbologist who becomes an unlikely ‘action hero’ after his friend, Peter Solomon, a prominent Washington Freemason is kidnapped. Robert must join forces with Peter’s Scientist sister, Katherine, and decode an ancient pyramid to find the key to the Ancient Mysteries, a secret kept by Freemasons for hundreds of years. It’s a race against time to find Peter and evade the CIA who, thanks to their modern technology and methods, are only a few steps behind!
As I said, I have read Dan Brown’s previous Robert Langdon books and this book is no less exciting and packed full of symbols, codes and intriguing puzzles, all of which seem to be in plain view if you know where to look for them. Alongside the plot, it’s also a potted tour of Washington DC and its Masonic history in architectural, artistic and cultural terms so, from that point of view, it’s a good read for a history buff!
The book is very easy to read – the pace skips along as Langdon and Katherine Solomon try to outrun the CIA and, despite quite detailed descriptions and histories of the puzzles they have to solve, it never gets dry and dull but rather Brown manages to make it all seem so immediate and reveals the different plot points in such a way as to keep you reading just the next chapter, ooh, maybe just one more… all the way through.
Dan Brown does get a lot of criticism for not producing the most literary of novels and not, perhaps, being the the best writer, but I wonder if those criticisms are relevant when his books are interesting, exciting and obviously appeal to a great many people. I certainly have enjoyed all of his novels as they appeal to my interest in history, while being exciting, pacy and always mysterious and The Lost Symbol is certainly an excellent addition to Brown’s catalogue.(less)
Cool Hand Luke might be familiar to you as the movie where Paul Newman eats fifty eggs for a bet, and this was certainly all I knew about it when I wa...moreCool Hand Luke might be familiar to you as the movie where Paul Newman eats fifty eggs for a bet, and this was certainly all I knew about it when I was asked to review the novel a little while ago. In actuality, the egg eating is only a very small part of the novel which is semi-autobiographical and describes Donn Pearce’s experiences on a Florida chain gang. I believe that this new edition has been brought out to coincide with a new play of the book which played last year in London starring Mark Warren as Luke.
The novel begins in the time after the man that would become known as Cool Hand Luke has gone from the chain gang, so the tale is told, one prisoner to another, in flashback and with a certain sense of awe in the narrative. We first hear of Luke as he is brought to carry out hard labour after repeated escape attempts and as the story unfolds we discover that he is a decorated WW2 veteran whose life after the war has been far from easy. Luke is a very sympathetic character – it seems like he’s ended up on the chain gang though a series of unfortunate events, rather than through concerted law breaking. It’s this that makes Luke’s treatment at the hands of some of the guards, mostly Boss Godfrey, a little hard to stomach and by the end of the novel it’s a bit sketchy as to who is exactly in the wrong.
According to the foreword by Antonia Quirke, who Donn Pearce himself was sent to prison, he had only a basic education but, thanks to sharing a cell with a man who read constantly, he was introduced to literature and improved his own writing enough to complete this novel. Some of the imagery in the novel is evocative and where Pearce has used vernacular and dialect it allows the reader to associate more with the characters, although it was hard to read at first.
I won’t say that this was an enjoyable book as some of the experiences of the prisoners are quite harsh and upsetting, but it is well worth reading.(less)
I read a lot of crime books, and am starting to read a few more true crime books recently, so when I saw Lizzie Didn’t Do It; Emma Did! advertised, I...moreI read a lot of crime books, and am starting to read a few more true crime books recently, so when I saw Lizzie Didn’t Do It; Emma Did! advertised, I was interested to read it.
If you don’t know, the Lizzie Borden case is very famous in the US, often mentioned in TV shows and Films, and even spawning a childrens’ rhyme. The crimes took place in Fall River, Massachussetts, in 1892, where Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murdered with a hatchet in their home. Andrew Borden’s youngest daughter, Lizzie was accused of murdering her father and step-mother and was tried for the crimes in 1893. Although Lizzie was acquitted of the murders, rumours of her involvement still continue to this day.
As the title of this book indicates, author and historian E. Elaine Watson puts forward the idea that Lizzie was involved in the murders, but that the instigator was her sister, Emma Borden, a figure who is little mentioned in accounts of the crimes and who remains a very shadowy figure – in fact, as the book points out, a photograph of Emma on the cover of the book is one of very few images that survive.
Watson gives a thorough account of what happened on the fateful morning of August 4th 1892 and the subsequent trial, but in the final chapters puts forward her theory and describes how the crime might have occurred – I won’t spoil it by telling you what those chapters contain, but the theory is quite reasonable and should please any number of armchair detectives!
This book is a slim volume, but gives sufficient details of the crimes and background information, without getting lost in legal details or wordy descriptions and the text is excellently supported by photos and diagrams of the crime scenes.
Due to the passage of time, it is unlikely that the true perpetrator of these crimes will ever be revealed, but this book certainly puts forward an excellent and intriguing theory.
Lizzie Didn’t Do It; Emma Did! is available priced at £13.50 from Amazon and other good suppliers, which is fairly pricey for such a slim volume, but the Kindle edition is available for only £6.50, which is much more like it…(less)