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BOOK REVIEW: THE WOLF IN WINTER BY JOHN CONNOLLY

WOLF WINTER

The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

Hodder & Stoughton (hardback), 2014           

352 Pages

www.johnconnollybooks.com

BLURB FROM THE COVER

The community of Prosperous, Maine has always thrived when others have suffered. Its inhabitants are wealthy, its children’s future secure. It shuns outsiders. It guards its own. And at the heart of the Prosperous lie the ruins of an ancient church, transported stone by stone from England centuries earlier by the founders of the town . . .

But the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of his daughter draw the haunted, lethal private investigator Charlie Parker to Prosperous. Parker is a dangerous man, driven by compassion, by rage, and by the desire for vengeance. In him the town and its protectors sense a threat graver than any they have faced in their long history, and in the comfortable, sheltered inhabitants of a small Maine town, Parker will encounter his most vicious opponents yet.

Charlie Parker has been marked to die so that Prosperous may survive. 

EXTRACT 

The house was studiedly anonymous: not too large or too small, and neither particularly well kept nor in any sense dilapidated. Situated on a small patch of land not far from the outskirts of the city of Newark, Delaware, in the densely populated county of New Castle, the town had taken a hit when the Chrysler Newark assembly plant closed in 2008, along with the nearby Mopar distribution centre. However, it was still the home of the University of Delaware, and 20,000 students can spend a lot of money if they put their minds to it.

REVIEW 

Connolly is one of my favourite writers. His Charlie Parker novels are among my favourites. I loved The Wolf in Winter. Connolly offers something a bit different than other Charlie Parker novels. Park has matured a bit and this is a good thing. I really loved the town of Prosperous. Connolly makes the town sinister from the start and I just knew bad shit was going to go down inside the town’s borders. I found Prosperous and the people who lived there very creepy and unsettling. I loved the way Connolly gradually revealed the dark heart of the town and the reason behind their wealth and success and even the name of the town. I was disappointed Angel and Louis didn’t appear in The Wolf in Winter until much later. They are my favourite characters from the Charlie Parker novels. However, Connolly makes them worth the wait and more than half of The Wolf in Winter is shown through their eyes as they avenge an attempt on Parker’s life by those lovely people in that nice little town Prosperous. I was hooked from page one of The Wolf in Winter and Connolly held my breathless attention until the very end. The ending of The Wolf in Winter makes me wonder if there will be another Charlie Parker novel. I hope there is and can’t wait to see where Connolly takes Parker next. Overall, The Wolf in Winter is a great read. I loved every word.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Fiction, John Connolly, Novel

 

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BOOK REVIEW: CARNIVAL OF SHADOWS BY R.J ELLORY

CARNIVAL

Carnival of Shadows by R.J Ellory

Orion (hardback), 2014         

448 Pages

www.rjellory.com

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Kansas, 1959. A travelling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man’s body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michal Travis is sent to investigate. Led by the elusive Edgar Doyle, the carnival folk range from the enigmatic to the bizarre, but none of them will give Travis a straight answer to his questions.

With each new turn of the investigation, Doyle and his companions challenge Travis’s once unshakeable faith in solid facts and hard evidence. As the consequences of what has happened become ever more disturbing, Travis struggles to open his mind to a truth that defies comprehension. Will he be able to convince himself that things are not what they seem? Or will he finally reconcile himself to a new reality – one that threatens to undermine everything in which he has ever placed his trust?

In his powerful, atmospheric new thriller, bestselling author R.J. Ellory introduces the weird and wonderful world of the Carnival Diablo and reveals the dark secrets that lurk at its heart. 

EXTRACT 

‘This is an unusual case, Agent Travis, and we don’t quite know what we’re dealing with to be honest’.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Tom Bishop stood just inside the doorway of his office. He leaned against the frame, an unlit cigarette in one hand, a plain manila folder in the other.

REVIEW 

I thought Carnival of Shadows was really slow to get started. I was bored for the first fifty or so pages. Ellory finds his stride in the end and Carnival of Shadows picks up the pace and turns out to be a pretty decent crime novel. I really liked the elements of magic in Carnival of Shadows and thought the Carnival people were well written, interesting characters. Ellory uses a story-within-a-story method to explore Agent Travis’s past from the murder of his father at the hands of his beaten and abused mother right up until he ends up in the FBI. I found some of this interesting but a lot was unnecessary and felt like a page filler. The reason for these time shifts is supposed to be memories triggered during Agent Travis’s psychiatric evaluation to determine if he was suitable to take on the case of a man found murdered beneath the carousel at the carnival. Carnival of Shadows is a conspiracy theory story and Ellory wants us to believe the FBI ran at that time by J Edgar Hoover were up to some dodgy stuff. I’ve never actually read a conspiracy theory story so found this interesting but largely over the top. I would have found Carnival of Shadows more realistic if the man, a gang member had simply been bumped off by one of the carnival people. Carnival of Shadows was a bit of a mixed bag. I liked some elements but some stuff just didn’t work for me.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Fiction, Novel, R.J Ellory

 

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BOOK REVIEW: AESOP’S FABLES

Aesop's+Fables

Aesop’s Fables

Kobo (e-book), 2009

96 Pages  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesop’s_Fables

This was a free e-book I downloaded from www.kobo.com.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Aesop’s Fables or the Aesopica is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and story-teller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE. Of diverse origins, the stories associated with Aesop’s name have descended to modern times through a number of sources. They continue to be reinterpreted in different verbal registers and in popular as well as artistic mediums. 

EXTRACT 

WOLF, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some please to justify to the Lamb the Wolf’s right to eat him.

THE WOLF AND THE LAMB

REVIEW 

I enjoyed Aesop’s Fables. I read some of these when I was a kid but don’t think I read them all until now. I found some of the fables quite amusing. I remember enjoying them much more as a child before I realised how big and bad the world can be. There is something timeless about Aesop’s Fables even though they were written so long ago. I liked how each story had a moral attached. Aesop’s Fables was a fun way to pass a few hours. I doubt if I’d read them again but it was fun to read all of Aesop’s Fables.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2014 in Aesop, E-book, Fiction, Short Fiction

 

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BOOK REVIEW: THE LANGUAGE OF DYING BY SARAH PINBOROUGH

DYING

The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

Jo Fletcher Books (hardback), 2009 

131 Pages  

http://sarahpinborough.com

This is a library book, borrowed from The Mitchell.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Tonight is a special, terrible night.

A woman sits at her father’s bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters – all broken, their bonds fragile – have been there for the past week, but now she is alone.

And that’s always when it comes.

The clock ticks, the darkness beckons.

If it comes at all. 

EXTRACT 

There is a language to dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and the taste of it hides in the corners of our mouths. It finds us whether we are sick or healthy. It is a secret hushed thing that lives in the whisper of the nurses’ skirts as they rustle up and down our stairs. They’ve taught me to face the language one syllable at a time, slowly creating an unwilling meaning.

REVIEW 

The Language of Dying was brilliant. I read it in half an hour or so. I got sucked in from the first page and could not stop reading until I’d reached the end. The Language of Dying is a simple story of a man nearing the end of his life who children gather around him. However, The Language of Dying is much more than the sum of its parts. Pinborough offers something very real and brutally honest with The Language of Dying. Pinborough’s novel is beautifully written and some scenes are truly haunting. I loved the way the story effortlessly weaves back and forth in time from the present to the narrator’s past including her marriage to an abuser and various memories of her father’s last illness and her experiences growing up. I found her memories of her marriage extremely painful to read and her ordeal actually brought me to tears. I really like the subtle way The Language of Dying explores the relationships between the narrator and her siblings and their drunken parents. The family is not a happy one and bring a whole new meaning to the word dysfunction. Even when the last glue holding their fragile sibling bond together is breaking away they can’t quite pull themselves together. I found the ending of The Language of Dying quite shocking and unexpected. Overall, this was a beautiful and heart-breaking novella.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
 

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BOOK REVIEW: THE QUARRY BY JOHAN THEORIN

quarry

The Quarry by Johan Theorin

Doubleday (paperback), 2011 

409 Pages  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johan_Theorin

http://www.johantheorin.co.uk

BLURB FROM THE COVER

As the last snow melts on the Swedish island of Öland, Per Morner is preparing for his children’s Easter visit. But his plans are disrupted when he receives a phone call from his estranged father, Jerry, begging for help.

Per finds Jerry close to death in his blazing woodland studio. He’s been stabbed, and two dead bodies are later discovered in the burnt-out building.

The only suspect, Jerry’s work partner, is confirmed as one of the dead. But why does Jerry insist his colleague is still alive? And why does he think he’s still a threat to his life?

When Jerry dies in hospital a few days later, Per becomes determined to find out what really happened. But the closer he gets to the truth, the more danger he finds himself in.

And nowhere is more dangerous than the nearby quarry… 

EXTRACT 

It was March in northern Oland, and the sun was shining on small, dirty-white snowdrifts as they slowly melted on the lawns at the residential homes for senior citizens in Marnas. Two blue flags fluttered in the breeze by the car-park – the Swedish flag with its yellow cross, and the flag of Oland with its golden stag. Both were flying at half-mast.

REVIEW 

I enjoyed The Quarry. I read Theorin’s novel The Darkest Room a few months ago and really enjoyed it so I wanted to check out more of his work. The Quarry takes a while to get going and that’s the only real failing. I found the first fifty or so pages a bit of a drag. The pace eventually picks up and The Quarry develops into a pretty decent crime novel. The Quarry is nowhere near as good as The Darkest Room which was much creepier. The Quarry is one of those in-between novels where it’s not brilliant but not quite bad enough to be shit. The pacing is off at first and meanders all over the place and the characters took a while to get used because displayed weird reactions to series events. I liked the way Theorin combines elves, trolls and porn (not as weird as it sounds). I really liked the Swedish setting. Theorin really brings Oland to life. The Quarry may be the first novel I’ve read that deals with the porn industry. Theorin manages not to make this sleazy. I liked the twists and turns The Quarry took. Overall The Quarry is a decent Swedish crime mystery novel.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Fiction, Johan Theorin, Novel

 

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BOOK REVIEW: CATHERINE DICKENS OUTSIDE THE MAGIC CIRCLE BY HEERA DATTA

magic circle

Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle by Heera Datta

Smashwords (e-book), 2014 

195 Pages  

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8156678.Heera_Datta

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

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Outside the Magic Circle is part fiction and part fact; less fiction and more fact.

Charles Dickens married Catherine Hogarth on 2nd April, 1836, when he was an upcoming writer and reporter. Soon after marriage, he tasted spectacular success with The Pickwick Papers and in ten years, was the foremost writer of his time.

Catherine was the mother of his ten children, his hostess; she accompanied him on his American tour.

Yet, twenty-one years after they wed, Charles Dickens very publicly separated from her, denouncing her as an unfit mother and wife. He removed her from his home, his life, and the lives of his children. He never saw her again, not even when their son, Walter, died at the age of twenty-three in faraway India.

His allegations about his wife and his unhappy marriage were works of fiction, as successful and enduring as the rest of his works. The real cause of the separation was an eighteen-year-old actress, Ellen Ternan, who later became his mistress.

On her deathbed, Catherine gave her daughter letters Charles had written to her and said, “Give these to the British Museum, that the world may know he loved me once.”

Outside the Magic Circle is a fictionalized account of Catherine’s life after she was plucked out of her familiar world and thrown to the wolves, as it were, by the exemplary Charles Dickens. It is told in her voice; sometimes reminiscing, at other times baffled, confused, hurt, and angry. It has her tears, her love, and her quest for the meaning of her life, and marriage. 

EXTRACT 

I stand alone in this monstrously huge mansion, Tavistock House. Charles acquired it seven years ago for our large family, and meant it to be our London home for the rest of our lives. Three floors, numerous bedrooms, a schoolroom so large that it was converted into a theatre; the house is now empty except for the servants, who are somewhere unseen, my son Charley, my mother, and me.

REVIEW 

I really enjoyed Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle. I found the novel incredibly sad at times. My heart really went out of Catherine Dickens. Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle showed Charles Dickens in a whole new light. I’m not a huge Dickens fan but I’ve read a few things. My partner is a huge fan. I found his behaviour towards Catherine shocking. What a b****** he was. I find it staggering he was allowed to force Catherine out of his life and home after more than twenty years, keep her from her children and publish letters and declarations in papers about how unfit a mother she was and how she cared nothing for the children and mentally unstable. I’d have liked to punch him in the face. Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle made me feel very emotional. I cried a lot as I read. I didn’t realise what a horrible person Charles Dickens was. I found his relationship with Catherine’s sisters, Mary and Georgina very odd and a bit creepy to be honest. When Mary died he mourned like a grief-stricken lover. He behaved in a similar way over Georgina and I can’t believe she took his side against her own sister. Datta isn’t the best writer in the world or the worst. Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle isn’t a stunning work of literary perfection but it is a great, emotional read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in E-book, Fiction, Heera Datta, Novel

 

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BOOK REVIEW: THE INVISBLE ONES BY STEF PENNEY

inviible ones

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

Quercus (paperback), 2011

525 pages  

www.stefpenney.co.uk

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

Rose Janko has been missing for seven years. Her family has made no attempt to find her. Why?

Ray Lovell, private investigator, has been hired to discover Rose’s fate. But he must first win the trust of the secretive, deceptive, dangerous Janko family, whose son Ivo became Rose’s husband.

If Ray can get to the Jankos, he knows he can find the truth. If he fails, his life – and Rose’s – hangs in the balance.. 

EXTRACT 

When I woke up, I remembered nothing—apart from one thing. And little enough of that: I remember that I was lying on my back while the woman was straddling me, grinding her hips against mine. I have a feeling it was embarrassingly quick; but then, it had been a while. The thing is, I remember how it felt, but not what anything looked like. When I try to picture her face, I can’t. When I try to picture the surroundings, I can’t. I can’t picture anything at all. I try; I try really hard, because I’m worried.

REVIEW 

I loved The Invisible Ones. Penney’s debut novel, The Tenderness of Wolves is amazing so I couldn’t wait to read what she came up with next. The Invisible Ones is very different in a good way. The Invisible Ones alternates between two first person narrators, Ray, a PI hired to find Rose and JJ, a teenage gypsy boy who is part of Rose’s family. Penny makes this work very well. I like the different perspectives offered. Ray is an outsider who gradually finds out about the Jankos during his investigating. JJ offers an insider’s perspective. I liked this. The Invisible Ones is one of the few novels I’ve read that deals with Gypsy lifestyles. It was strange to read this at the same time as Thinner by Stephen King. I really enjoyed reading about the Jankos and their way of life through JJ’s eyes. I thought it was interesting that Ray was a half gypsy which made the Janko family trust him more than if he had just been a PI with no Romany blood. The characters in The Invisible Ones were all very well-written. I liked Ray a lot. I also liked the Jankos. The Invisible Ones kept me guessing right until the end. I had no clue what was really going on. Did Rose really leave because she was horrified that her son Christo had the mysterious family disease which caused him to be severely underdeveloped? Did she run off with a non-Romany? Did the Jankos kill her? Why did no-one report her missing for seven years? Penny’s revelation about what really happened to Rose surprised me. The Invisible Ones opens with Ray in hospital after being mysteriously poisoned. This event takes place during the course of his investigation and the truth of what happened to him is not revealed until much later. I liked the fact The Invisible Ones doesn’t end when Ray find out what happened to Rose. I found the further revelations about Ivo and the bones found on the site where Rose went missing completely surprising. The Invisible Ones is an intriguing, well-written and interesting mystery. Penney is working on her third novel and I look forward to it.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Fiction, Novel, Stef Penney

 

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