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The Book Lover's Boudoir

For people who dig books and like to read honest reviews…

Second Life by S J Watson REVIEW

Second Life by [Watson, S J]: Second Life by S J Watson
Published by Black Swan
Paperback
Published 28 July 3016
464 pages
Library book

Author website

Buy the book: UK

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WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

She loves her husband. She’s obsessed by a stranger.

She’s a devoted mother. She’s prepared to lose everything.

She’s innocent. She’s guilty as sin.

She’s living two lives. She might lose both . . .

EXTRACT 

I climb the stairs but the door is closed. I hesitate outside it. Now I’m here, I don’t want to go in. I want to turn around, go home. Try again later.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I had high hopes for Second Life after the brilliance of Before I Go To Sleep. The book did not disappoint. Second Life seemed simple at first: a married woman has an affair while looking into her sister’s murder. She’s torn between her safe, reliable husband and a dangerous stranger she live out her fantasies with. Things are much darker than they originally appear and there is a lot more going on. I loved the pace of the book, how all the twists and turns suck you in. I gradually came to realise all the story threads and twists have been misrepresentation and what’s really going on is the opposite of what you think it is. I loved the ending of Second Life. The final pages are packed with shocks and surprises I never saw coming. Second Life is great, a worthy successor to Before I Go To Sleep and highly recommended.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

The Society Of Blood (Obsidian Heart #2) by Mark Morris REVIEW

The Society of Blood (Obsidian Heart #2)The Society Of Blood (Obsidian Heart #2) by Mark Morris
Published by Titan Books
Paperback
Published 13 October 2015
400 pages
Publisher

Author website

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: USA

The publisher sent me a copy of this book after I reviewed The Wraiths of War and I voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Transported through time to the dank streets of Victorian London, Alex Locke seeks to unravel the mysteries of the Obsidian Heart, the enigmatic object to which his fate is inextricably bound. When a string of grisly murders takes place across the capital, Alex follows a trail that will lead him through the opium dens of Limehouse into the dark and twisted world of the Society of Blood, and ever closer to unlocking the secret of the Heart.

OPENING 

The little girl with the mechanical arm reached for the brightly wrapped package that was almost as big as she was. Then she paused and looked up at me.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

The Society of Blood is great and fills all the gaps I had from reading this series out of order. I still think The Wraiths of War is the best book but this was a great read. This book picks up a couple of years after the end of the first book. I really liked the fact it was set in Victorian London for some reason. This gave a delightful dark tone to the whole book. This book opens with things in a bit of a mess, Locke and Clover are trapped in Victorian London with a new daughter Hope who Locke rescued from a place of evil trying to figure things out. Locke has a lot to figure out. His daughter is still missing. His ex, who’s been in a psychiatric hospital since The Dark Man did something nefarious to her starts appearing from different time lines. The sinister Wolves of London linger in the shadows. There’s a lot going on. The Society of Blood is paced really well and is one of those books it’s hard to put down when you start to read. You can literally pick it up to read a chapter and suddenly realise seven hours have passed. I was impressed by the way the author handles the complex time travel and multi-verse of Locke’s world without being confusing or overloading you with information. There are a lot of dark and sinister things going on in Locke’s world and just as you think things have calmed down a bit spider monsters crawl out of the shadows and send you screaming again. I thoroughly enjoyed The Society of Blood and would recommend it and the whole trilogy.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Fingers In The Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham REVIEW

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A MemoirFingers In The Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham
Published by Ebury Digital
Ebook
Published 5 May 2016
288 pages
Digital library book

Author website

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: USA

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Every minute was magical, every single thing it did was fascinating and everything it didn’t do was equally wondrous, and to be sat there, with a Kestrel, a real live Kestrel, my own real live Kestrel on my wrist! I felt like I’d climbed through a hole in heaven’s fence.

An introverted, unusual young boy, isolated by his obsessions and a loner at school, Chris Packham only felt happy in the fields and woods around his suburban home. But when he stole a young Kestrel from its nest, he was about to embark on a friendship that would teach him what it meant to love, and that would change him forever. In his rich, lyrical and emotionally exposing memoir, Chris brings to life his childhood in the 70s, from his bedroom bursting with fox skulls, birds’ eggs and sweaty jam jars, to his feral adventures. But pervading his story is the search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in a world that didn’t understand him.

Beautifully wrought, this coming-of-age memoir will be unlike any you’ve ever read.

EXTRACT

‘I’M SORRY, I haven’t got change of a ladybird’.

The ice cream man had opened the matchbox expecting a sixpence but instead found a six-spotted beetle that was now scuttling manically over his counter, defiantly refusing reinterment in its crisp little cell despite crisp repositioning.

REVIEW

I thought Fingers in the Spackle Jaw was very touching. Packham was just like me growing up; odd, considered weird by peers, hard to work out and understand. He’s one of my people and everything in this memoir resonated with me. I’ve been a huge fan of his since The Really Wild Show. It was one of my favourites. Fingers in the Spackle Jar made me laugh and touched me on every level. This is a sad wonderful beautiful book that calls to everyone who’s never quite fit it. Chris’ oddness was his fascination with nature and his quiet nature which meant he found it hard to get along with others. It was books with me and my quiet nature that made the bullies swarm in droves. I loved reading about Chris’s fascination with nature and how it increased over the years until it became his life. Not a lot of detail is given about his family, just a blurry watercolour that suggests his parents weren’t very supportive or happy or understanding. My heart went out to him. My parents have always been like that. They love me very much and have my back but they just don’t get me. I liked the fact Fingers in the Sparkle Jar has first and third person narrators so you get the point of view from different people which is unusual for a memoir. For the record, I’d have been friends with Chris, the odd boy with the fawn sweater and otter obsession. I’d highly recommend this memoir.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Hystopia by David Means REVIEW

HystopiaHystopia by David Means
Published by Faber & Faber
Hardback
Published 26 May 2016
336 pages
Library book

Author Wikipedia page

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: USA

NB: I’ve decided to read all of the books long-listed for the Man Booker this year. Other book blogs do this so it seems like a good idea.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016

At the bitter end of the 1960s, after surviving multiple assassination attempts, President John F. Kennedy has created a vast federal agency, the Psych Corps, dedicated to maintaining the nation’s mental hygiene by any means necessary. Soldiers returning from Vietnam have their battlefield traumas “enfolded”-wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy-while veterans too damaged to be enfolded roam at will in Michigan, evading the Psych Corps and re-enacting atrocities on civilians.

This destabilized, alternate version of American history is the vision of the twenty-two-year-old veteran Eugene Allen, who has returned from Vietnam to write the book at the centre of Hystopia, the long-awaited first novel by David Means. In Hystopia, Means brings his full talent to bear on the crazy reality of trauma, both national and personal. Outlandish and tender, funny and violent, timely and historical, Hystopia invites us to consider whether our traumas can ever be truly overcome. The answers it offers are wildly inventive, deeply rooted in its characters, and wrung from the author’s own heart.

EXTRACT 

April’s the cruelest month, they say, but I wouldn’t go that far.

REVIEW

I really didn’t get on with Hystopia. The blurb made it sound interesting and a bit crazy but lots of fun. What a huge disappointment. I found this book long-winded, rambling nonsense for the most part. None of it made a much sense and I spent a lot of time being confused while reading this, scratching my head and starting at the book and wondering what am I reading? I’m not sure what didn’t work apart from the whole thing. Maybe the whole novel-within-a-novel thing isn’t for me? Who knows? I can’t even give specific feedback on what didn’t work. I just disliked the whole novel and the idea of it. At times Hystopia comes across as pretentious at times as if the author is sneering at us mere mortals and has a superiority complex. I’m sure fans will assume I’m not smart enough to understand Hystopia but whatever. Life is too short to read this kind of gibberish. Hystopia is a book you will either love or hate. This is not a middle ground kind of novel (i.e. I liked these bits but this part wasn’t so good), you will love it or hate it, no compromise. I hated it. I’m glad to see the back of it. I really didn’t enjoy anything about it and certainly couldn’t recommend it.

This is my last Booker novel and I’m glad the whole thing is over. I loved the first couple of titles I read but the books have gradually got less and less enjoyable. I read them in a random order. Next year, I’ll just read the shortlisted titles. 

RATING

1 STAR

Betrayal by Karin Alvtegen REVIEW

Cover image for Betrayal: Betrayal by Karin Alvtegen
Published by Canongate Books
Ebook
Published 16 June 2011
305 pages
Library book

Author website

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: USA

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

SOMEONE IS WATCHING EVA

In the trees at the edge of her garden, a figure lurks in the dark.

In the hospital, Jonas watches over his girlfriend, who is in a coma. But what, or who, has put her there?

Through a chance meeting, Eva and Jonas’s lives will become disturbingly entwined. And Eva will discover that sometimes, in order to survive, you must betray the ones you love the most . .

EXTRACT 

‘I don’t know’

Three words.

Each by itself or in some other context completely harmless. Utterly without intrinsic gravity. Merely a statement that he was not sure and therefore chose not to reply.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

My head is sore and my flesh is crawling after reading Betrayal. This is a great read full of dark undertones and twists that make your stomach hurt. Betrayal is the theme that weaves a dark line through this book, people betray the ones they love, over and over. Eva’s husband betrays her. In her quest to seek revenge she betrays him and their marriage and sets herself down a dark path. If only she’d made different choices. If only her husband had made different choices. If only whacked-out, nut-job Jonas had walked in front of a bus….. This was a quick read and I was glued from start to finish. The author knocks how to build suspense and punch you in the gut. Jonas comes across as a nice guy at first, quite a sad figure refusing to leave his comatose girlfriend’s side. Just under halfway through the novel, something happens that winded me. A dark truth is revealed and shivers crawled down my spine. My jaw actually hit the floor. Revenge is also a big theme in this novel. Eva wants revenge on her husband for his affair and acts out of anger, without thinking and makes some terrible mistakes. Jonas wants revenge for imagined wrongs and takes steps that bring Eva’s world crashing around her. I was riveted from start to finish. Betrayed is recommended as a great suspense novel.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Into The Light (The Light Series #1) by Aleatha Romig REVIEW

Into the Light (The Light, #1)Into The Light (The Light Series #1) by Aleatha Romig
Published by Thomas & Mercer
Ebook
Published 14 June 2016
354 pages
Kindle owner’s lending library

Author website

Buy the book: UK

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WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Sara Adams awakes blind, unable to remember the most basic details of her life, but her darkness seems a blessing when she discovers the terrors of The Light.

Stella Montgomery investigates the news on the mean streets of Detroit, where she’s noticed a disturbing trend: young women are vanishing. When her best friend disappears, Stella investigates—despite warnings from her police detective boyfriend—following a twisted trail that leads her through the city’s most dangerous and forsaken precincts. There she uncovers something more sinister than she could have imagined: a shadowy organization known as The Light, led by the enigmatic Father Gabriel.

As Sara struggles to understand her place in the strange world she’s awakened to—an oppressive cult demanding unquestioning obedience—and her feelings for Jacob, the husband she can’t recall and whose harsh and tender attentions confuse and beguile her, Stella risks all to discover the truth. But enlightenment always comes with a price…

OPENING 

An impenetrable fog cloaked the woman’s thoughts, seeping into her being, blinding and erasing everything she’d ever known.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

Into the Light messed with my head. Seriously. I need therapy after this and a lot of hugs and some chocolate and maybe a shotgun or two. I am extremely creeped out and unsettled after reading this book. It will stay in my head for a long time. Into the Light has all the ingredients for a brilliant read – creepy cult, brainwashing, car crash that may not be an accident, domestic violence, creepy cult, creepy cult – did I mention the creepy cult and how the wives need to obey their creepy husband’s or they need to be corrected (aka beaten up) and all the creepiness? Mixed in with all this crazy stuff is a police investigation into several missing women which seems set to have shady connections with the creepy cult. Into the Light is one twisted, brilliant book. I need to read the sequel to get all the answers. I can’t wait. The characters are well written and I liked the fact you get the story told from different viewpoints. Sara is the best character. I really felt for her, losing her memory in the possibly staged car accident, discovering just what being a member of the cult means and struggling with her conflicting emotions. I’d highly recommend Into the Light.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

The Sellout by Paul Beatty REVIEW

The SelloutThe Sellout by Paul Beatty
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Ebook
Published 3 March 2015
3024 pages
NetGalley

Author’s Wikipedia Page

Buy The Book: UK

Buy The Book: USA

NETI was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed it.

NB: I’ve decided to read all of the books long-listed for the Man Booker this year. Other book blogs do this so it seems like a good idea.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, it challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality—the black Chinese restaurant.

Born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens—on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles—the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: “I’d die in the same bedroom I’d grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that’ve been there since ’68 quake.” Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes, but when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that’s left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.

Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident—the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins—he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

OPENING 

This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I’ve never stolen anything.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I thought The Sellout was okay but found it much more disappointing than I expected. The book starts of well. I found the early scenes describing the narrator’s experiences of his slightly unhinged father’s social experiments hilarious. My particular favourite was the scene in which his father re-enacts the Little Albert experiment, by making loud noises while yelling nigger, go home to his baffled infant son. However, for me, satire aside the book felt very hollow and empty at times. Maybe satire isn’t for me? The Sellout is really funny at times, packed with tongue-in-cheek moments and digs at deserving targets. The main issue is that I found all this satire and angry humour exhausting after a while. The story of The Sellout was quite weak and simply couldn’t carry an overload of satire. I’m sure people will love The Sellout but it fell short for me. I’ve never read satire before so maybe this genre isn’t for me? I would recommend The Sellout though to anyone who like satire.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

Revenants: The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman REVIEW

Revenants: The Odyssey HomeRevenants: The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman
Published by Moonshine Cove Publishing
Ebook
Published 23 December 2015
275 pages
Review copy

Author’s Amazon page

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: USA

The author gave me a copy of this book and I voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

ONLY BETSY CAN GET HIM HOME IN TIME; ONLY HE CAN BRING HER BACK BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.

A grief-stricken candy-striper serving in a VA hospital following her brother’s death in Viet Nam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skullduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. A name if revealed would end his political ambitions and his fifty-year marriage. In its retelling of Odysseus’ journey, Revenants casts a flickering candle upon the charon toll exacted not only from the families of those who fail to return home but of those who do.

OPENING 

ACT 1

CHAPTER 1 

January 1984

Just twelve more days to Christmas and I was totally jazzed.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I thoroughly enjoyed Revenants: The Odyssey Home. Like other reviewers, I found the book slow at first. However, there was something appealing about what I was reading and I kept turning the pages. I just want to say I loved the cover and the premise of Revenants. This is not like other books I’ve read before and will stay with me for a long time. I’ve read very little fiction that deals with the horrors of war so the author deserves a round of applause for tacking this subject. Revenants is quite dark and bleak and times and I shed more than a few tears. This book is painfully real at times. War is something swept too often under the carpet because it’s unpleasant to share and talk about. We think the horror of war won’t touch us if we don’t talk about it. Revenants forces us to confront the truth about war. I’m glad I stuck with this book because in the end I couldn’t stop reading it. War affects everyone and not just those on the battlefield but the families and friends of those who come home and those who don’t. Everyone’s pain is just as valid. I’m glad I got a chance to read this and am off to eat chocolate and hug my teddy. I need some love and hugs.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

Dead Last by Rachel J. Clay REVIEW

Dead LastDead Last by Rachel J. Clay
Published by Smashwords
Ebook
Published 16 October 2016
240 pages
Review copy

Author website

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: USA

The author gave me a copy of this book and I voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Carla and Sasha are the daughters of an Olympic Champion and because of that they are expected by their family to compete in running, swimming and athletics and win. Until Sasha goes for a run on her own and disappears. No one knows what happened to her, or why she disappeared.

Carla is left to compete on her own, until she is approached by a boy she doesn’t like, who warns her to stop competing, as her life might be in danger. Carla thinks it a cruel joke… but is it?

OPENING 

Sasha took a deep breath and braced herself.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I enjoyed Dead Last. This made a refreshing change from the usual YA books featuring zombies and/or the end of the world in one ominous form or another. I liked the author’s style. This is a fine example of writing exactly what you mean without waffling around. Just enough information is given to get the old cogs in your brain working. Although at times, I found the prose a bit on the sparse side making this a very short, crisp read. I’d have preferred a bit more flesh on the bones of Dead Last. As it stand, this is a novella, not a novel. Dead Last is intriguing and unsettling at times. I found myself turning the pages rapidly to find out of what was going on my head would match what happened on the page. I thought the characters were quite written and interesting but lacked the depth and detail I like in my characters. I never got a chance to know them really well. One of the things I enjoy about a book is falling in love or hate with the characters and this was a missed opportunity with Dead Last. Overall, this is a decent read for the YA market but could have been a bit meatier. I wanted more.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

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