Search

The Book Lover's Boudoir

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

Undying: A Love Story by Michel Faber REVIEW

Undying: A Love Story

Undying: A Love Story by Michel Faber
Published by Canongate Books
Ebook
Published 7 July 2016
145 pages
Digital library book

Author Website

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

How can you say goodbye to the love of your life?

In Undying Michel Faber honours the memory of his wife, who died after a six-year battle with cancer. Bright, tragic, candid and true, these poems are an exceptional chronicle of what it means to find the love of your life. And what it is like to have to say goodbye.

All I can do, in what remains of my brief time,
Is mention, to whoever cares to listen,
That a woman once existed, who was kind
And beautiful and brave, and I will not forget
How the world was altered, beyond recognition,
When we met.

OPENING

From Of Old Age, In Our Sleep

Although there is no God, let us not leave off praying
For words solemn order may yet prove to be a charm
Sickness swarms around us, scheming harm
Plotting our ruin behind our back
Let us pray we may escape attack…

WHAT I THOUGHT  

One of the things I love about poetry is how therapeutic it is – both reading and writing it. Poetry is therapy for a lot of things including grief, sorrow, getting over a lost love or just a way of coping with everyday troubles that are getting on top of you. I’ve used writing poetry as a form of therapy for years. In Undying: A Love Story, Faber writes poetry to cope with grief over the death of his wife and to express the anger he feels at being cheated out of spending his life with her. These poems are raw and full of dark and light. The pain and rage and sense of helpless literally leap off the page. I had a lump in my throat the whole time. I was moved to tears several times. I loved every poem in Undying: A Love Story. I really enjoyed Old Bird Not Very Well, Right There on the Floor, Cute and Such a Simple Thing I Could Have Fixed. I enjoyed part 2 the most. Most of the poems deal with the aftermath of his wife’s death and they are raw and painful to read. My First Date After You is particularly heart-breaking. Undying: A Love Story is a striking collection of poems that explore grief, sorrow and loss and I’d highly recommend it.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

Associates of Sherlock Holmes ARC REVIEW

Associates of Sherlock Holmes

Associates of Sherlock Holmes
Published by Titan Books
Paperback ARC
Expected to be published on the 23 August 2016
304 pages

Book Page: Publisher’s Website

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

A brand new Sherlock Holmes anthology to sit alongside George Mann’s successful Encounters of Sherlock Holmes anthologies, and Titan’s Further Adventures and New Adventures series.

A brand-new collection of Sherlock Holmes stories from a variety of exciting voices in modern horror and steampunk, edited by respected anthologist George Mann. Stories are told from the point of view of famous associates of the great detective, including Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, Sherlock himself, Irene Adler, Langdale Pike, and of course, Professor Moriarty…

OPENING 

From The River of Silence by Lyndsay Faye

Dearest Mum,

Thank you for the new muffler and fingerless gloves – you’re dead to rights in supposing a promotion calls for a fellow to look smart, and right to consider that I should have my hands free to boot!

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve seen most of the various TV adaptions including movies based on Conan Doyle’s own stories and more recent versions including Sherlock. I’ve read a huge amount of Conan Doyle’s stories. The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of my favourite books of all times. I leapt at the chance to read an ARC of Associates of Sherlock Holmes.

I really enjoyed Associates of Sherlock Holmes. I liked the fact the stories are told by various characters that have played minor parts in various Sherlock Holmes adventures. I thought this was an original idea. The stories in this collection are quite varied and diverse. Some of the stories such as The River of Silence by Lyndsay Faye are quite traditional and what you’d expect from a Sherlock Holmes adventure and others offer something different. My favourite stories were The River of Silence by Lyndsay Faye, A Dormitory Haunting by Jaine Fenn, Nor Hell A Fury by Cavan Scott, A Flash in the Pan by William Meikle and The Vanishing Snake by Jeffrey Thomas. Associates of Sherlock Holmes is a treat for fans of the great detective.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith REVIEW

The Price of Salt

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Published by She Winked Press
Ebook
Published 1 March 2011 (First published in 1952)
296 pages
Digital library book

Biography.Com Author Page

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Therese is nineteen and working in a department store during the Christmas shopping season. She dates men, although not with real enthusiasm. One day a beautiful older woman comes over to her counter and buys a doll. As the purchase is a C.O.D. order, Therese makes a mental note of the customer’s address. She is intrigued and drawn to the woman. Although young, inexperienced and shy, she writes a note to the customer, Carol, and is elated and surprised when Carol invites her to meet.

Therese realizes she has strong feelings for Carol, but is unsure of what they represent. Carol, in the process of a bitter separation and divorce, is also quite lonely. Soon the two women begin spending a great deal of time together. Before long, they are madly and hopelessly in love. The path is not easy for them, however. Carol also has a child and a very suspicious husband—dangerous ground for the lovers. When the women leave New York and travel west together, they discover the choices they’ve made to be together will have lasting effects on both their lives.

Considered to be the first lesbian pulp novel to break the pulp publishing industry-enforced pattern of tragic consequences for its lesbian heroines, The Price of Salt was written pseudonymously by Patricia Highsmith—the author of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

As one reviewer wrote in 1952, “Claire Morgan is completely natural. She has a story to tell and she tells it with an almost conversational ease. Her people are neither degenerate monsters nor fragile victims of the social order. They must—and do—pay a price for thinking, feeling and loving ‘differently,’ but they are courageous and true to themselves throughout.”

OPENING

The lunch hour in the co-worker’s cafeteria at Frankenberg’s had reached its peak.

WHAT I THOUGHT  

I’ve never read Patricia Highsmith before. I know. Shocking isn’t it? I saw the movie version of this recently called Carol starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and loved it so had to read the book.

The movie Carol sticks pretty close to the plot of The Price of Salt so there weren’t many surprises. I still enjoyed the book a lot more though. The Price of Salt is an important book, first published in the 50’s when two women being in love would have been considered freakish and unnatural. It still is for some people and in some places. The Price of Salt is the first lesbian pulp novel to have a reasonably happy ending. I didn’t read it for any of these reasons though. I read it for pleasure. Therese and Carol are hugely likable and hugely relatable characters. They are nothing like stereotypical lesbians portrayed in the media. I’m not butch or masculine so I instantly related to them. Even though the book is set in the 50’s the experiences of the two women still resonate now and probably always will. I remember how I felt the first time I thought I loved another woman. I felt exactly like Therese. I like how normal Therese and Carol are in The Price of Salt, as if the fact they are both women in love with each other is neither here nor there. The Price of Salt is hugely enjoyable and moved me deeply.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Sixes by Kate White REVIEW

The Sixes

 

The Sixes by Kate White
Published by HarperCollins
Ebook
First published 2 August 2011
579 pages
Digital library book

AUTHOR WEBSITE

AMAZON.UK

AMAZON.COM

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Kate White rises to the pinnacle of modern suspense with The Sixes, a page-turning stand-alone thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Hush, and the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. With taught prose evocative of Laura Lippman’s Life Sentences and Dennis Lehane’s Moonlight Mile, White paints the sinister picture of a quiet Pennsylvania college town left shaken after a mysterious death precipitates a cascade of evil events on campus. When new teacher Phoebe Hall undertakes the dangerous quest of uncovering the truth behind the ghastly recent happenings, her investigation will send her into the clutches of a deadly secret society—the Sixes—and unearth the dark relics of her own long-buried past.

OPENING

SOMETHING WASN’T RIGHT. She sensed it as soon as she began to walk across the quad that night. The weather was practically balmy, weird for Late October, and yet the air carried the pungent smell of wood smoke. But that wasn’t the reason things seemed strange to her. It was the deserted pathways. Though Phoebe wasn’t really used to the place yet, she expected to find more than just a few people crossing campus at eight o’clock at night.

WHAT I THOUGHT  

This is my second novel by the author and I’ve decided she really isn’t for me. The Sixes has an interesting premise but is rather dull, bland and run of the mill. I found the book the opposite of a thriller. Certain plot elements make no sense. I doubt any respectable college would hire someone accused of plagiarism and I doubt even less that the woman in charge would ask the same person to investigate a murder. Maybe I’m being cynical? I’m sure disgraced celebrity biographers investigate crimes all the time. Oh, wait – they don’t. The characters are bland and forgettable, little more than ink scratchings on the page. We’re treated to pages and pages describing what they look like, what everyone is wearing, what they think and what colour their pee is (well, maybe not that last one) but are given nothing deeper, no real insight into what makes them tick. They never become real and that’s a big failing for me. Phoebe is bland and incredibly naïve. Glena is career-driven and doesn’t see what a prat her husband is and is oblivious to his nefarious activities. Duncan is a stereotypical handsome and brooding love interest – he may as well have it stamped on his head. The Sixes are not a threat in any way shape or form. They’re almost laughable. They break into Phoebe’s house and leave six apples and then six spoons – time to run in terror. Or not. It’s weird the novel is called The Sixes because they aren’t even involved in the murder. There is very little suspense in the novel. The novel is fast paced but a fast pace doesn’t quality automatically as suspense. Phoebe and Duncan’s relationship make me cringe as did the bad sex scenes. The writing is also quite poor, bland and repetitive. Everything is described and explained in ridiculous detail but nothing has any real depth. I wouldn’t recommend The Sixes to anyone. It did nothing for me.

RATING

1 STAR

Best-Loved Poems REVIEW

Best-Loved Poems

TITLE & AUTHOR: Best-Loved Poems
PUBLISHER: Little Brown
EDITION: Paperback
RELEASE DATE: 5 December 2002 (first published 2000)
PAGES: 224
SOURCE: Owned

EDITOR’S WEBSITE

ILLUSTRATOR’S GOOD READS PAGE

AMAZON.UK

AMAZON.COM

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

This highly accessible collection gathers together the best-loved gems of English language verse, from the deeply moving to the hilariously silly. The poems span the entire range of verse from high drama to stuff-and-nonsense and are presented in nine sections: Poems of Childhood and Youth; Poems of Love and Marriage; Poems of Life; Poems of Loss and Comfort; Poems of War and Peace; Poems to Read Aloud; Poems to Read Quietly; Poems of Animals and Nature and Poems of Magic and Mystery.

The anthology includes works by William Blake, Dylan Thomas, Seamus Heaney, Robert Burns, T S Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, W B Yeats and many, many more. The poems have all been chosen and arranged by Neil Philip and the volume is illustrated throughout with watercolour borders and decorative motifs by Isabelle Brent, glowing with her trademark gold leaf.

EXTRACT

From Infant Joy by William Blake

I have no name
I am but two days old
What shall I call thee?
I happy am
Joy is my name
Sweet joy befall thee!

WHAT I THOUGHT 

Best Loved Poems is a very enjoyable collection of poetry. Many of the poems within the collection are more traditional in format and subject including the work of William Blake, Robert Browning, Edna St Vincent Millay, A.E. Houseman and W.B Yeats. The title fits the collection well as these are poems many of us will have grown up with and heard recited by our parents or studied in school. Best Loved Poems is a gorgeous collection, fully illustrated and each page has gold edging. The collection is the perfect shape and size for reading to children at night. Some of my favourite poems include Girl, Boy, Flower, Bicycle by M.K. Joseph, A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns, I like My Body When It Is with Your Body by E.E Cummings, This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin and Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith. I’d highly recommend Best Love Poems for poetry fans.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

False Memory by Dean Koontz REVIEW

False Memory

TITLE & AUTHOR: False Memory by Dean Koontz
PUBLISHER: Bantam
EDITION: Ebook
RELEASE DATE: 20 July 2007 (first published 1999)
PAGES: 573
SOURCE: Digital Library

AUTHOR WEBSITE

AMAZON.UK

AMAZON.COM

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

The spectre of mental illness is frightening enough on its own. In the hands of the master of suspense, Dean Koontz, it’s both epidemic and horrifying. Never has the saying “There is nothing to fear but fear itself” been more true. And never has fear been so, well, frightening.

In False Memory, a bone-chilling tale of fantasies, phobias, and false memories, Koontz has crafted yet another masterpiece of subtle terror, an all-too-plausible tale with the most powerful and devious of enemies — one’s own mind.

Martie Rhodes is married to a man she adores and has a successful career as a video-game designer and a life many would envy. But there are a few hitches. Once a week, Martie escorts her best friend, Susan, to a psychiatrist’s office, where Susan receives treatment for the severe case of agoraphobia that suddenly took over her life 18 months before. And Martie’s husband, Dusty, has a younger brother who is sweet, naive, and addicted to drugs.

Still, Martie’s life is relatively stable until the morning she awakens with a sudden and inexplicable fear of her own. It is a fear unlike any she has ever encountered or even considered. It is a fear she may not be able to control. It is a fear of the one thing she should be able to master but can’t. It is a fear of herself.

It begins innocently enough with a sense of disquiet that Martie experiences while walking the dog, an odd feeling of fright when she sees her own shadow. But things quickly escalate, and within hours, horrifying images fill Martie’s mind, images of blood and violence committed by her own hands, committed against herself and the one person she loves most: her husband, Dusty.

Martie soon learns that her condition has a name: autophobia. When she shares her fears with her husband, Dusty finds himself torn. On the one hand he is desperate to be there for Martie, to learn the cause of her mental condition and try to find a way to fight it. On the other hand there is his brother, Skeet, whose recent backslide has led to a suicide attempt — a harrowing scene that nearly costs Dusty his life as well.

It’s while caring for his poor, drug-addled brother that Dusty accidentally stumbles upon a quirk, a quirk that suggests Skeet’s problems may not all be of his own making. When Dusty discovers that the same quirk may be behind Martie’s mental illness, he is thrown into a nightmare of astonishing proportions. To save those he loves, Dusty must confront a monster whose power over him, Skeet, and Martie is unthinkable, a monster who has already destroyed dozens of lives and thinks nothing of racking up a few more.

OPENING 

On that Tuesday in January, when her life changed forever, Martie Rhodes woke with a headache, developed a sour stomach after washing down two aspirin with grapefruit juice, guaranteed herself an epic bad-hair day by mistakenly using Dustin’s shampoo instead of her own, broke a fingernail, burnt her toast, discovered ants swarming through the cabinet under the kitchen sink, eradicated the pests by firing a spray can of insecticide as ferociously as Sigourney Weaver wielded a flamethrower in one of those old extra-terrestrial bug movies, cleaned up the resilient carnage with paper towels, hummed Bach’s Requiem as she solemnly consigned the tiny bodies to the trash can, and took a telephone call from her mother, Sabrina, who still prayed for the collapse of Marie’s marriage three years after the wedding.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I enjoyed False Memory. I wasn’t sure what to think for the first few chapters as events were a bit confusing but I soon settled into the rhythm of what was going on. False Memory has a great concept – exploring how phobias can affect even the most rational, in control people. Some unpleasant things happen to the characters. Susan has been crippled with agoraphobia since her marriage fell apart. Martie inexplicably develops a phobia of herself and what she might be capable of. Martie’s brother-in-law also has a strange phobia and is suicidal. Koontz gradually reveals how these things are linked and what sinister puppeteer is pulling the strings. I liked the fact that Dusty (what an awful name) and Martie set out to get their own back on their tormentor instead of hunkering in the shadows. I didn’t like the fact the title of the book gives away a huge plot element. Many writers do the same thing. The villain is incredibly creepy and terrifyingly real – I bet there someone just like him in the world somewhere. False Memory unsettled me because I could imagine how terrifying it would be to discover someone has got inside your head and turned you into a puppet. I do think the novel was over-long and started to run out of steam during the last fifty or so pages and the ending wasn’t the best. One of the best scenes is when Martie and Dusty start to put the pieces together and realise how the strange things that have happened recently are linked. Talk about giving me the chills. I’d recommend False Memory if you want to read an original thriller.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Age of Magic by Ben Okri REVIEW

The Age of Magic

TITLE & AUTHOR: The Age of Magic by Ben Okri
PUBLISHER: Head of Zeus
EDITION: Hardback
RELEASE DATE: 6 November 2014 (first published 9 October 2014)
PAGES: 288
SOURCE: Library

AUTHOR TWITTER PAGE

AMAZON.UK

AMAZON.COM

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

This novel takes us on a journey, a magical, and a literal one. A tightly knit group of filmmakers travel from Paris together to make a documentary. Unknown to themselves they carry a lot of unwanted baggage – fear, anger, jealousy, love.

When they arrive in an idyllic Swiss village ringed by mountains and reflected in a lake, they discover a haunted world that will compel them to confront the demons they have been trying to escape.

A mind-blowingly beautiful book, full of unexpected, poetic and metaphysical revelations.

EXTRACT 

Some things only become clear much later.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

This is my first time reading the author. I don’t know if I would read him again.

I was drawn to the book because of its size; a cute little pocket-sized hardback with a lovely cover. The blurb intrigued me so I decided to dive in. I read the book, every word on every page but I’m left with only the vaguest idea what it was about and a sad, empty feeling. The Age of Magic is clearly not for me. I feel like this book has no depth or substance, rather like an empty husk or a corpse picked clean. Don’t get me wrong the writing is beautiful at times but ultimately flat and empty. The characters are all two-dimensional, flat, cardboard cut outs that made me feel nothing. There are also a lot of sections containing nothing but dialogue for pages which is a bit heavy-handed and pretty awful. The Age of Magic is just very cold and abstract and didn’t do much for me. I really wouldn’t recommend The Age of Magic to anyone and this has put me off reading more by this author.

RATING

1 STAR

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva REVIEW

29776976

TITLE & AUTHOR: The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
PUBLISHER: Penguin
EDITION: Kindle
RELEASE DATE: 12 July 2016
PAGES: 400

AUTHOR WEBSITE

AMAZON.UK

AMAZON.COM

NET

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

TWELVE CONTESTANTS

When Zoo agrees to take part in a new reality TV show, In the Dark, she knows that she will be tested to the limits of her endurance. Beating eleven competitors in a series of survival tasks deep in the forest, living on camera at the extremes of her comfort zone, will be the ultimate challenge before she returns home to start a family.

A GAME WITH NO END

As the contestants are overcome by hunger, injury and psychological breakdown, the mind games, tricks and hazards to which Zoo is subjected grow dark beyond belief. This isn’t what she signed up for: the deserted towns and gruesome props, the empty loneliness. Is this a game with no end? And what is happening away from the cameras’ gaze? Discovering the truth will be just the beginning…

AN ALTERED REALITY

OPENING 

The first one on the production team to die will be the editor. He doesn’t yet feel ill, and he’s no longer out in the field. He went out only once, before filming started, to see the woods and to shake the hands of the men whose footage he’d been shaping; asymptomatic transmission. He’s been back for more than a week now and is sitting alone in the editing studio, feeling perfectly well. His t-shirt reads: COFFEE IN, GENIUS OUT. He taps a key and images flicker across the thirty-two-inch screen dominating his cluttered workstation.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

It took ages for me to get into The Last One and I almost gave up but the book gradually grew on me. I thought the premise was original – the reality show turned into an episode of scenes from hell. I really liked the extracts from Reddit forums discussing the show. This was a nice touch. There is a moment when things really take a dark turn when a pandemic breaks out in the world outside the game and suddenly the survival game is survival in real life. I really loved this idea. I was shocked, in a good way when I realised the increasingly disturbing things happened were real. Only one thing, one major thing stopped me from loving this book – the character development or lack of it. I didn’t feel any real emotional connection to anyone. I didn’t care what happened to them and whether they lived or died. This killed the book a little for me. I don’t need to love characters but I need to believe in them and be invested in them even if I hope they die a horrible death. The characters in the book were flat and unremarkable. The characters are described and get a lot of screen time but they are just never flesh and blood. I couldn’t have cared less what happened to them. The Last One has a great premise and an interesting plotline but the characters are too weak to do these justice.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

The Man without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates REVIEW

The Man Without a Shadow

TITLE & AUTHOR: The Man without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates
PUBLISHER: Fourth Estate
EDITION: Ebook
RELEASED: 19 January 2016
SOURCE: Owned

AUTHOR WEBSITE

AMAZON.UK

AMAZON.COM

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

From bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates, a taut and fascinating novel that examines the mysteries of human memory and personality.

In 1965, a young research scientist named Margot Sharpe meets Elihu Hoopes, the subject of her study, a handsome amnesiac who cannot remember anything beyond the last seventy seconds. Over the course of thirty years, the two embark on mirroring journeys of self-discovery. Margot, enthralled by her charming, mysterious, and deeply lonely patient, as well as her officious supervisor, attempts to unlock Eli’s shuttered memories of a childhood trauma without losing her own sense of identity in the process. And Eli, haunted by memories of an unknown girl’s body underneath the surface of a lake, pushes to finally know himself once again, despite potentially devastating consequences. As Margot and Eli meet over and over again, Joyce Carol Oates’ tightly written, nearly clinical prose propels the lives of these two characters forwards, both suspended in a dream-like, shadowy present, and seemingly balanced on the thinnest, sharpest of lines between past and future. Made vivid by Oates’ eye for detail and searing insight into the human psyche, The Man without a Shadow is an eerie, ambitious, and structurally complex novel, as poignant as it is thrilling.

OPENING

She meets him, she falls in love. He forgets her.
She meets him, she falls in love. He forgets her.
She meets him, she falls in love. He forgets her.
At last she says good-bye to him, thirty-one years after they’ve first met. On his deathbed, he has forgotten her.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

The Man without a Shadow is complex, deep and incredibly moving. I was fascinated by E.H’s story, based I believe on the famous Phineas Gage case. I’ve studied psychology on and off for seven years and the subject that always interests me the most is perception and memory. JCO’s novel was right up my street. I was completely engrossed in the scenes and chapters that focused on Margot’s research. Some of the tests are repeated due to the nature of E.H’s amnesia and JCO gives you the same information several times. This never bothered me because the nature of the research fascinated me. I kept imagining what it would be like to be E.H or know someone like him. The characters are complex and painfully real at time. Margot is fascinating and extremely disturbing at times. Her obsession with E.H. borders on stalking and is quite unsettling. She acts irrationally and takes action this is unprofessional and even dangerous. If anyone knew the things she did she’d have lost her job. I found her very flawed for a neurologist but painfully human. I also felt a little sad for her, loving someone who couldn’t remember her from one minute to the next (literally). I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,303 other followers