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Book Review: The City by Dean Koontz

THE CITY

The City by Dean Koontz

Harpercollins (Hardback), 2014                       

400 Pages 

www.deankoontz.com 

I won this in a giveaway on www.goodreads.com

BLURB FROM THE COVER

The city changed my life and showed me that the world is deeply mysterious. I need to tell you about her and some terrible things and wonderful things and amazing things that happened . . . and how I am still haunted by them. Including one night when I died and woke and lived again.

Here is the riveting, soul-stirring story of Jonah Kirk, son of an exceptional singer, grandson of a formidable “piano man,” a musical prodigy beginning to explore his own gifts when he crosses a group of extremely dangerous people, with shattering consequences. Set in a more innocent time not so long ago, The City encompasses a lifetime but unfolds over three extraordinary, heart-racing years of tribulation and triumph, in which Jonah first grasps the electrifying power of music and art, of enduring friendship, of everyday heroes.

The unforgettable saga of a young man coming of age within a remarkable family, and a shimmering portrait of the world that shaped him, The City is a novel that speaks to everyone, a dazzling realization of the evergreen dreams we all share. Brilliantly illumined by magic dark and light, it’s a place where enchantment and malice entwine, courage and honour are found in the most unexpected quarters, and the way forward lies buried deep inside the heart.

EXTRACT 

Malcolm gives me a tape recorder.

He says, ‘You’ve got to talk about your life’.

‘I’d rather live in the now than talk about the was’

Malcolm says, ‘Not all of it. Just the… you know’.

REVIEW

I thought The City was great.

I liked the characters especially Jonah. Koontz does a great job at writing in the first person from his point of view. I liked the nasty people Jonah encounters and the revelation that his absentee father is one of them. The City is well written, fast paced and packed with tension and shocking revelations. I enjoyed every page. The City has plenty of stand-out moments. I’m a fan of first person narratives but I’ve read a lot of badly written books that use this method. Koontz is the exception and the first person point of view is spot on in The City. The past couple of Koontz books I’ve read have descended into spiritual nonsense at the end. I was relived to discover Koontz manages to avoid this in The City.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Dean Koontz, Fiction, Novel

 

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Book Review: Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

HANGING ROCK

Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Vintage Classics (Paperback), 2013, First Published In 1967

196 Pages 

Http://En.Wikipedia.Org/Wiki/Picnic_At_Hanging_Rock_(Novel)

Http://En.Wikipedia.Org/Wiki/Joan_Lindsay 

Https://Www.Princeton.Edu/~Achaney/Tmve/Wiki100k/Docs/Joan_Lindsay.Html  

BLURB FROM THE COVER

It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

EXTRACT 

Everyone agreed that the day was just right for the picnic to Hanging Rock – a shimmering summer morning warm and still, with cicadas shrilling all through breakfast from the loquat trees outside the dining-room windows and bees murmuring above the pansies bordering the drive.

REVIEW 

I enjoyed Picnic At Hanging Rock.

Lindsay’s novel is well-written, engaging and packed with tension and suspense. Picnic At Hanging Rock ticks all the boxes for a great mystery novel. What really happened to the missing girls and the governess? Are they dead or have they run away to start a new life somewhere? Why can’t Edith or Irma remember what happened? Lindsay writes in such a way, I thought I was reading a true story so I felt disappointed when I found out it was fiction. I liked reading about the impact of the disappearances on the school and the community. The ending of Picnic At Hanging Rock gets a thumbs down from me. We never learn what happened to the girls or the governess or why Irma came back. I don’t mind finishing a novel with a few unanswered questions. I just felt Picnic At Hanging Rock left too many questions. A hint at what happened so the reader could draw their own conclusions would have been better.

Picnic At Hanging Rock is a good mystery but the cliff-hanger ending doesn’t work for me. 

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Fiction, Joan Lindsay, Library, Novel

 

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Book Review: The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen

great god pan

THE GREAT GOD PAN BY ARTHUR MACHEN

PROJECT GUTENBERG (E-BOOK), 2008, FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1894

57 PAGES 

THIS WAS A FREE E-BOOK FROM HTTP://WWW.GUTENBERG.ORG/EBOOKS/389  

BLURB FROM THE COVER

A terrifying tale about the god of wild places.

The Great God Pan is a novella written by Arthur Machen. On publication it was widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content, although it has since garnered a reputation as a classic of horror. Machen’s story was only one of many at the time to focus on Pan as a useful symbol for the power of nature and paganism.

EXTRACT 

1: THE EXPERIMENT

‘I am glad you came, Clarke, very glad indeed. I was not sure you could spare the time’.

‘I was able to make arrangements for a few days; things are not very lively just now. But have you no misgivings, Raymond? Is it absolutely safe?’

The two men were slowly pacing the terrace in front of Dr. Raymond’s house. The sun still hung above the western mountain-line, but it shone with a dull grey glow that cast no shadows, and all the air was quiet; a sweet breath came from the great wood on the hillside above, and with it, at intervals, the soft murmuring call of the wild doves. Below, in the long lovely valley, the river wound in and out between the lonely hills, and, as the sun hovered and vanished into the west, a faint west, pure white, began to rise from the hills. Dr. Raymond turned sharply to his friend.

REVIEW

I really enjoyed The Great God Pan. Given the fact this created quite a scandal when it was originally published, Machen’s novella is a bit tamer than I expected. I found The Great God Pan quite chilling in places and disturbing. The Great God Pan opens with a bang with a mad man experimenting on an innocent woman by cutting into her brain to open a channel to the ‘other side’. The opening section, The Experiment ends in such a way you need to read on. I didn’t really find The Great God Pan explicit or sexual. Maybe I blinked and missed that part. The Great God Pan is well written, chilling and disturbing and revelation after revelation caused my jaw to hit off the floor. The Great God Pan is a great read but not for the faint hearted.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Arthur Machen, E-book, Fiction, Novella

 

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Book Review: The Hungry Ghosts by Anne Berry

HUNGRY GHOSTS

THE HUNGRY GHOSTS BY ANNE BERRY

BLUE DOOR (HARDBACK), 2009

389 PAGES 

WWW.HARPERCOLLINS.CO.UK/CR-101925/ANNE-BERRY 

BLURB FROM THE COVER

A tale of both broad global events and intimate lives, this dazzling debut spans 60 years from British Hong Kong to Paris, England, and postcolonial Hong Kong Alice Safford is a lost soul.

Raised in Hong Kong by a monstrous mother and high-ranking father, she is neglected by her parents and indifferent siblings. Twenty-five years later during the Japanese occupation, Lin Shui, a young Chinese girl, was raped and murdered.

Now, as a “Hungry Ghost,” she finds the perfect host from whom to feed, returning with Alice to her home on the Peak. Together, entangled in the Safford’s’ web of dark secrets and desperate lies, they unleash chaos.

Against a background of political unrest and familial breakdown, Alice’s ghostly entourage swells alarmingly. Craving peace, she flees to England, then France, only to find her mischievous “Hungry Ghosts” have accompanied her.

With its dazzling array of characters and numerous twists and turns in fortune, this remarkable tour de force of the imagination is full of instantly memorable characters whose lives intermesh and boil over in a cauldron of domestic mayhem, unleashing unworldly spirits into the troubled air.

EXTRACT 

I am dead. No, strictly speaking that is not the truth. I am neither fully alive nor fully dead. I am ‘undead’. I am unable to relinquish my present and consign to the past. I am unable to accept I have no future. Thus I am static, earthbound, my feet anchored in mud, while my essence, my Chi, is being pulled, tugged, drawn towards the ghosts of my ancestors, towards the dominion of death. Sometimes I feel like a bone being worried at by a dog. This is an appropriate image because that is exactly what happened to me. This ‘half-death’ does not make for a peaceful spirit. I am troubled and I am trouble. You see I just have to stir things up, play with the laws of physics to prove… to prove what? That I may still be the cause and have an effect. When the ancestors clamour I tell them to be patient. I am not prepared for death I say.

REVIEW

I really enjoyed The Hungry Ghosts. I liked the fact Berry uses multiple first person narrators. This style can work really well or be a complete disaster. Berry makes this work. I knew exactly what character we were with every time. I liked the different and sometimes contrasting viewpoints of the same events. A lot of the characters in The Hungry Ghosts were dysfunctional and screwed up – my favourite kind of people. Dysfunctional people are so much more interesting than normal people. There is some stand out moments in The Hungry Ghosts including the brutal opening scene depicting Lin Shui’s tragic fate and pretty much every scene featuring the ghost/Alice. I found chapters about the ghost/Alice a lot more interesting than chapters dealing with the rest of Alice’s family. Towards the end of The Hungry Ghosts, Alice vanishes with a strange woman who rescues her from her job when she’s drunk and making a show of herself and doesn’t make contact with her family for 30 years. This is the only part of The Hungry Ghosts that doesn’t sit with me. Berry sort of glosses over this and offers no real explanation for Alice’s actions. Did she disappear because she knew her mother despised her? Did Lin Shui’s ghost make her? It’s an awkward moment in an otherwise well-written, fluid novel. The Hungry Ghosts is well worth a read if you want something a bit different.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Anne Berry, Fiction, Library, Novel

 

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Book Review: Crossing The Border – Fifteen Tales by Joyce Carol Oates

CROSSING THE BORDER

CROSSING THE BORDER: FIFTEEN TALES BY JOYCE CAROL OATES

VANGUARD PRESS (HARDBACK), 1976

256 PAGES 

HTTP://WWW.USFCA.EDU/JCO

BLURB FROM THE COVER

CROSSING THE BORDER is a new collection of short stories by one of North America’s foremost literary figures. In this volume, individuals approach and sometimes cross borders – borders separating men from women, innocence from experience, one way of life from another. The scene is often set in Canada, the great land beyond the border of the United States so inadequately known by most Americans. Residing as she does in that country, Miss Oates writes with a sympathetic knowledge of people on both sides of the border whose stories she tells with her matchless artistry.

EXTRACT 

Evan, the young husband, hurries from the men’s rest room at the Sunoco station near Tiger Stadium in Detroit, pale and stricken and angry, and Renee, his wife, sits helpless in the car to wait out another session. She is miserable with the heat (CROSSING THE BORDER)

REVIEW

GENERAL IMPRESSION

I enjoyed Crossing The Border: Fifteen Tales overall. The quality of the stories was very good and only a couple didn’t quite make the mark. My favourites were Crossing The Border, Love. Friendship, Through The Looking Glass, The Transformation of Vincent Scoville and Falling In Love In Ashton, British Columbia. The weakest story was River Rising. One interesting aspect was the fact JCO uses two characters, Evan and Renee in several stories including Crossing The Border and An Incident In The Park. I thought this was unusual but interesting. I couldn’t help wonder if all the stories that used both of these characters would work as a short novel.

CROSSING THE BORDER

I really enjoyed this story though it was quite bleak.

LOVE. FRIENDSHIP

This was a good story and quite disturbing.

HELLO FINE DAY ISN’T IT

Not a lot happens in this story but it’s still unsettling.

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

This was one of the best stories in the collection.

NATURAL BOUNDARIES

I liked this story. Very thought-provoking.

DREAMS

I really liked this story. Intense.

CUSTOMS

I thought this was a great story.

THE TRANSFORMATION OF VINCENT SCOVILLE

Another great story from JCO about dysfunctional relationships.

THE GOLDEN MADONNA

I enjoyed this story but it was one of the weakest in the collection.

THE SCREAM

An enjoyable story but not as interesting as the title suggests.

AN INCIDENT IN THE PARK

Good story and sort of disturbing.

FALLING IN LOVE IN ASHTON, BRITISH COLUMBIA

There’s something really enjoyable about this story.

THE TEMPTER

This was an enjoyable read but not as good as some others in the collection.

RIVER RISING

I didn’t like this story at all. Weird layout and not very interesting.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
 

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Book Review: Dance With The Enemy by Rob Sinclair

DANCE

DANCE WITH THE ENEMY ROB SINCLAIR

CLINK STREET PUBLISHING (E-BOOK), 2014

346 PAGES 

WWW.ROBSINCLAIRAUTHOR.COM

I was given a free copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Carl Logan was the perfect agent. A loner, with no real friends or family, he was trained to deal with any situation with cold efficiency, devoid of emotion.

But Logan isn’t the man he used to be, or the asset he once was. Five months ago his life changed forever when he was captured, tortured and left for dead by Youssef Selim, one of the world’s most violent terrorists.

When Selim mysteriously reappears in Paris, linked to the kidnapping of America’s Attorney General, Logan smells his chance for revenge.

Pursuing his man relentlessly, oblivious to the growing trail of destruction that he leaves in his wake, Logan delves increasingly deep into the web of lies and deceit surrounding the kidnapping.

Finally, he comes to learn just what it means to Dance with the Enemy.

EXTRACT 

They say that before you die your whole life flashes before you. But nobody can know for sure what happens in those moments before death. If you do see your life flashing before your eyes, does that mean you’ve got no chance? And if it doesn’t, does that mean you’re going to be okay?

REVIEW

I thought Dance With The Enemy was okay. It was readable. I’ve read much worse but I’ve also read a lot better. For me, Dance With The Enemy was a middle of the road crime novel. I enjoyed reading it at the time. However, nothing about Sinclair’s novel stayed in my head and I’d be hard-pushed to remember much about it in a month’s time. One of the best aspects was the character Logan. I really liked him. He was sort of fucked up and made terrible choices which made him very real and sort of lovable. Logan was the sort of guy you could get behind. Logan was Dance With The Enemy’s saving grace. I also loved the unexpected turn of event towards the end when Logan discovers just what his love interest, FBI agent Grainger is really up to. I never saw that coming so was pleasantly surprised. Dance With The Enemy was written by a competent author and fast paced. For me, unfortunately, nothing about the novel made it really stand out.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2014 in E-book, Fiction, Novel, Rob Sinclair

 

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Book Review: Revival by Stephen King

revival

REVIVAL BY STEPHEN KING

HODDER & STOUGHTON (HARDBACK), 2014

384 PAGES 

WWW.STEPHENKING.COM

BLURB FROM THE COVER

A spectacularly dark and electrifying novel about addiction, religion, music and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.

Decades later, Jamie is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Now an addict, he sees Jacobs again – a showman on stage, creating dazzling ‘portraits in lightning’ – and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.

EXTRACT 

In one way, at least, our lives are really like movies.

REVIEW

Revival was a huge disappointment, even more so than King’s other 2014 novel, Mr Mercedes. I expected great things of this novel. Revival sounded right up my street. The first issue I have is that it takes ages to get anywhere. King waffles on for over a hundred pages telling us absolutely everything about James’s life including his rock ‘n’ roll days and drug addiction. Some of it was interesting but only a tiny amount. Most of it was tedious and unnecessary back story. Charles Jacobs is likable character at first and I felt emotional when personal tragedy makes him turn his back on God. King gives very little detail about how he became the demented madman he is at the end and I just don’t buy what is revealed. King gloss over this a little too much for my liking. And don’t even get me started on the ending. Revival goes all Lovecraftian but in an OTT and quite frankly ridiculous way. There’s absolutely no build up to what happens – King just has a severe case of Cluthou Mythos diahorrea. I wouldn’t mind if there had been hints things would veer in this direction or if the whole novel had been seeped in the world of the Great Old Ones. The way King injects this plot device is just awful. I enjoyed very little in Revival. King may be losing his touch and I’m not sure I can be bothered reading him anymore.

RATING

1 STAR

 
 
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