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Book Review: A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

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A SONG OF SHADOWS BY JOHN CONNOLLY
HODDER & STOUGHTON (HARDBACK), 2015
460 PAGES

Author Website

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Grievously wounded private detective Charlie Parker investigates a case that has its origins in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.

Broken, but undeterred, private detective Charlie Parker faces the darkest of dark forces in a case with its roots in the Second World War, and a concentration camp unlike any other . . .

Recovering from a near-fatal shooting and tormented by memories of a world beyond this one, Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to recover. There he befriends a widow named Ruth Winter and her young daughter, Amanda. But Ruth has her secrets. She is hiding from the past, and the forces that threaten her have their origins in the Second World War, in a town called Lubko and a concentration camp unlike any other. Old atrocities are about to be unearthed, and old sinners will kill to hide their sins. Now Parker is about to risk his life to defend a woman he barely knows, one who fears him almost as much as she fears those who are coming for her.

His enemies believe him to be vulnerable. Fearful. Solitary.

But they are wrong. Parker is far from afraid, and far from alone.

For something is emerging from the shadows . . .

EXTRACT

Winter dead, spring dying, and summer waiting in the wings.

REVIEW

A Song of Shadows was brilliant. I read a couple of chapters on Friday and the rest in one sitting yesterday because I couldn’t put Charlie Parker’s latest adventure down. Connolly is one of my favourite writers and I’ve been a huge fan since Parker’s first novel, Every Dead Thing. Like the last novel, The Wolf in Winter, Parker is different in A Song of Shadows. He’s more mature. The Wolf in Winter and A Song of Shadows is less grisly than other novels in the series. I was delighted to see Angel and Louis back in the spotlight. I have a soft spot for them. There are revelations in A Song of Shadows that I didn’t see coming. Parker is protected which explains why his behaviour and actions and the behaviour and actions of Angel and Louis hasn’t seen them all thrown in jail long before now. I’m glad Parker is still alive. It was touch and go at the end of The Wolf in Winter. I really enjoyed the fact that Parker’s daughter Sam puts in an appearance. She’s a gifted psychic who among other things can see the spirit of Parker’s dead daughter Jennifer and also seems able to control objects in some way. A sand dune opens and sucks a man in to his death who killed Ruth Winter and is trying to kill Parker. Parker’s sees his daughter Sam’s face twisted with hatred like an ancient hag and believes she willed the man dead and it happened. I look forward to seeing where Connolly goes with this.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
 

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Book Review: A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) by George R.R. Martin

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A CLASH OF KINGS (A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE #2) BY GEORGE R.R. MARTIN
HARPER VOYAGER (PAPERBACK), 1998
911 PAGES

Author Website

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Throughout Westeros, the cold winds are rising.

From the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding lands of Winterfell, chaos reigns as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms stake their claims through tempest, turmoil and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky – a comet the colour of blood and flame – five factions struggle for control of a divided land. Brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night.

Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory is measured in blood.

EXTRACT

The comet’s tail spread across the dawn, a red slash that bled above the crags of Dragonstone like a wound in the pink and purple sky.

REVIEW

I loved Clash of Kings even though I feel like I’ve been reading it for about a year and a half. I’ve now officially joined the ranks of A Song of Ice and Fire fans. The second part of George R.R. Martin’s epic series is only a hundred odd pages longer that the first volume but as I read it seemed hundreds of pages longer. I feel quite worn out. And hopelessly in love. The only disappointment is that Danys appears so little and I really wanted to know more about her and her dragons. She’s one of my favourite characters. I cried when I thought Bran was dead and cried again when I realised he wasn’t. I hope Jaime and his incestuous whore of a sister Ceresei are torn to pieces. And I felt very happy when someone tried to kill Tyrion. It’s a pity they didn’t succeed and left him with a ravaged face instead. I look forward to the end of his life. A Clash of Kings was a brilliant second installment of a brilliant series.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Fiction, George R. R. Martin, Novel

 

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Book Review: The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

GIFTS

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS BY M.R. CAREY
ORBIT (PAPERBACK), 2014
460 PAGES

Author Website

This book is part of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015. The category for this book is ‘a book you own but have never read’.  

BLURB FROM THE COVER
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

EXTRACT
Her name is Melanie. It means ‘the black girl’, from an ancient Greek word, but her skin is actually very fair so she thinks maybe it’s not such a good name for her. She likes the name Pandora a whole lot, but you don’t get to choose. Miss Justineau assigns names from a big list; new children get the top name on the boys’ list or the top name on the girls’ list, and that, Miss Justineau says, is that.

REVIEW
This was my first time reading M.R. Carey.

I thought The Girl with All the Gifts was okay. I really enjoyed some elements of the novel. I thought the ending was great and events too me by surprise. I also loved the overall concept of The Girl with All the Gifts (great title by the way). However, the novel does not live up to all the hype. The words ‘the most original thriller you will read this year’ on the front cover aren’t quite accurate. The novel opens very well and the novel is excellent until the junkers attack the base forcing Melanie and some key adults to flee. However, it drags badly after this until the last 50 pages or so which to be honest is unforgivable. There are pages and pages in the middle where nothing remotely thrilling happens and it becomes tedious. The Girl with All the Gifts would have worked better as a novella if 200 pages were cut. The Girl with All the Gifts was a good but far from wonderful book.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 

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BOOK REVIEW: THE WELL OF LONELINESS BY RADCLYFFE HALL

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THE WELL OF LONELINESS BY RADCLYFFE HALL
VIRAGO PRESS (PAPERBACK), 2008, FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1928
496 PAGES

Radclyffe Hall Wikipedia Entry

The Well Of Loneliness Wikipedia Entry

This book is part of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015. The category for this book is ‘a classic romance’. I could also have used this for a banned book but I didn’t know it had been banned until I got it out of the library.

I choose this book because it deals with two women in love which is my territory. I also didn’t want to read a more common classic romance like Emma or something that I would probably hate and would make me want to puke with its OTT lovey-doviness.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Stephen Gordon, named by a father desperate for a son, is not like other girls: she hunts, she fences, she reads books, wears trousers and longs to cut her hair. As she grows up amidst the stifling grandeur of Morton Hall, the locals begin to draw away from her, aware of some indefinable thing that sets her apart. Stephen experiences her first taste of real happiness when she meets Mary, but can their love survive in a world of prejudice?

EXTRACT

Not very far from Upton-on-Severn – between it, in fact, and the Malvern Hills – stands the country seat of the Gordons of Bramley; well-timbered, well-cottaged, well-fenced and well-watered, having in this latter respect, a stream that forks in exactly the right position to seed two large lakes in the grounds.

REVIEW

This was my first time reading Radclyffe Hall.

I thought The Well of Loneliness was great. I get why it’s such an important book. To some extent I felt like Radclyffe Hall was reflecting aspects of my own life. Some of the things Stephen experiences are very common for most lesbians growing up, coming out and coping with their first relationships. I really felt for Stephen as I was reading The Well of Loneliness. I thought her childhood crush on Collins was adorable and familiar. My heart ached for her when her mother banishes her from the family home, disgusted and ashamed when Stephen confesses her true nature. I really like Sir Phillip, Stephen’s father. He understand what Stephen was and completely accepted it even though this isn’t stated in black and white. The Well of Loneliness is a great book.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 

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FIVE ON A TREASURE ISLAND (FAMOUS FIVE #1) BY ENID BLYTON

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FIVE ON A TREASURE ISLAND (FAMOUS FIVE #1) BY ENID BLYTON
HODDER CHILDREN’S BOOKS (PAPERBACK), 2012, FIRST PUBLISHED 1942
192 PAGES

The Enid Blyton Society

This book is part of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015. The category for this book is ‘a book from your childhood’.   

I choose this book because Enid Blyton’s books are the first books I remember reading. I was very young when I started to read her books. My favourites were The Famous Five, the Mallory Towers books, the St. Claire’s books, Secret Seven and the Five Find-Outers. I also loved the book about the Enchanted Wood / Faraway Tree. Enid Blyton was my childhood so I had to re-read one for this challenge. I was 4 the first time read Five on a Treasure Island so it’s been 30 years.   

BLURB FROM THE COVER

To celebrate 70 years of the Famous Five, Quentin Blake has created brand-new cover artwork for the original book in the series – and is joined by Helen Oxenbury, Oliver Jeffers, Chris Riddell and Emma Chichester Clark, who have reimagined the Five on the next four titles.

These anniversary editions of the classic text of Enid Blyton’s most beloved series benefit the House of Illustration, the world’s first dedicated home for the art of illustration.

There’s a shipwreck off Kirrin Island! But where is the treasure? The Famous Five are on the trail – looking for clues – but they’re not alone! Someone else has got the same idea. Time is running out for the Famous Five, who will follow the clues and get to the treasure first?

EXTRACT

‘Mum, have you decided about our summer holidays yet? Said Julian, at the breakfast-table. ‘Can we go to Polseath as usual?’

‘I’m afraid not,’ said his mother. ‘They’re full up this year’.

The three children at the breakfast table looked at one another in great disappointment. They did so love the house at Polseath. The beach was so lovely there too, and the bathing was fine.

REVIEW

I loved Five on a Treasure Island. Absolutely loved it. As I read about Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy’s first adventure I fell in love all over again and remembered why I loved these books as a child. The first couple of chapters were quite awkward and clumsily written. Blyton quickly got into her stride and the rest of the book was engaging, fun and really enjoyable. I felt like a kid again, remembering how I used to curl up on the couch in my parent’s house with a pile of Enid Blyton books beside me. School holidays were the best. I could spend days lost in the world’s Enid Blyton created. It was a treat to read this old favourite again. I’ve been browsing the Enid Blyton society website and catching up with some and beloved friends. Five on a Treasure Island is perfect escapism for children. I thought it was a treat.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

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Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

WATER

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS BY SARA GRUEN
TWO ROADS (PAPERBACK), 2008
448 PAGES

Author Website

This book is part of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015. The category for this book is ‘a book with bad reviews’.

I choose this book at random by looking at books on Good Reads that had the lowest ratings. I had no idea what the book was about when I chose it. I liked the title which for some reason reminded me of the rhyme I was taught in school to learn compass points – Naughty Elephants Squirt Water (N, E, S, W). The book has nothing to do with this by the way.

BLURB FROM THE COVER
When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth a second-rate travelling circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town.
Jacob, a veterinary student who almost earned his degree, is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.

EXTRACT

I am ninety. Or ninety three. One or the other.

REVIEW

I really enjoyed Water for Elephants. I didn’t love Gruen’s novel but my feelings were far from loathing. I really don’t understand why this novel is slated so much. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read but nowhere near the worst. There are some things about Water for Elephants that I thought were great. I loved the Circus setting. I love books set in the Circus or a carnival of come sorts. Three of my favourite books are set in such places, Joyland by Stephen King, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter. Gruen gets the whole Circus thing spot on. I liked the fact the novel is set in the USA during the depression era. I’ve not read a lot about this era so I found some of the detail interesting. I liked most of the characters. They were all very real. I loved the frame story with Jacob in his nineties in a care home haunted by memories of the most important events of his life. Gruen perfectly captures what’s it’s like to be old, sad, alone and struggling to hold on to the few things you have left. I really liked the dramatic events towards the end of Water for Elephants that allowed Jacob and Marlene to be together. The only bit of Water for Elephants that didn’t work for me was the whole Jacob/ Marlene / August love triangle. I found this irritating at times. Water for Elephants is a decent read.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 

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Hamilton by Catherine Cookson

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Hamilton by Catherine Cookson
Headline (paperback), 1983
298 Pages

Wikipedia Entry

This book is part of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015. The category for this book is ‘a book your mum loves’.

Catherine Cookson is my mum’s favourite writer. She’s encouraged me to read her for years. One birthday I bought her the complete set of DVD’s that have been adapted for the screen by the BBC. Nothing I’ve bought her since has even come close. I borrowed them once and decided to watch a few. I watched them in the order they were shown on TV. I was disturbed my how many featured women who were raped and in one case the woman fell in love with her rapist. That put me off reading Catherine Cookson. I decided to read Hamilton for this challenge because I know it’s one of my mum’s favourites.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Maisie doesn’t understand why her mother can’t love her, but she knows that her life is hard, and deeply unhappy. When the only person she trusts, her stepfather George, leaves, Maisie has no protector, until she begins to escape into her own imagination. She first meets Hamilton as a lonely seven year old, but he has to remain a secret, for what would people think if she reveals her only friend is an imaginary horse?

A childhood of neglect leaves her naïve and insecure – and people will always prey on the innocent. But Hamilton lives on in her mind, and perhaps he will be the one to save her.

EXTRACT

I’VE DONE IT! I have really done it. After thirteen years I’ve done it. How long have I wanted to do it? Oh, for the whole of the thirteen years. Yes, all of that time. Now I don’t care what happens to me. I don’t. I don’t.

REVIEW

This was my first time reading Catherine Cookson.

I thought Hamilton was great, really great. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. Hamilton ticks all the boxes for a great read in my book: great characters, interesting plot and a good setting. I liked the fact Hamilton was written in the first person. First person is my favourite narrative point of view when it works. A writer needs to pull it off though and Cookson makes it work beautifully with Maisie’s voice. I could have read her voice for hundreds of more pages. Masie is the type of heroine you can really get behind and root for. Who could read Hamilton and not want Howard to fall down the stairs and break his neck? The happy ending was a little twee though and made the novel a fraction less enjoyable. Maisie could have gotten away from Howard and started a new life without it being nauseating. I’m glad I finally listened to my Mum after all these years.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 

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