Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Die Again

Die Again is the 11th book in the Rizzoli and Isles series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

Six years ago, a group of tourists head into the Botswana bush to experience the “real Africa”. One death can be discounted as a tragic accident, but when the bodies start to pile up, the group turn against one another. Who can be trusted and will anyone return alive? Back in Boston, a man is found murdered, hung and gutted like a piece of meat. What could possibly connect these murders?

The bush is not merely a holiday destination; it's where you learn how insignificant you truly are.

Tess Gerritsen’s books are such easy, page-turning reads whilst dealing with grizzly crimes. I have grown tired of many formulaic crime series but I keep coming back to Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles. The characters’ lives are as much a draw as the mysteries they solve.

I enjoyed the tension of the chapters in Botswana, told in first person by Millie, a woman dragged into the wilderness by her boyfriend who has already grown tired of her. At first, she seems like a bit of a wet blanket, being rough ridden over by a man more interested in nature and the two attractive blondes that are part of their group. But she soon comes to prove herself resilient and the key to the whole thing.

Tonight might be date night, the one evening a month where they vowed not to talk about work, but it always came back to murder. How could it not, when this was what they both lived and breathed?

Without too much of a spoiler, cats large and small are a big part of the story. The Boston victim’s cats are taken in, one by Maura who doesn’t adjust well to the life of a cat owner. It doesn't quite fill the gap left by Father Brody. There’s ever present danger of the big cats in Botswana and the less obvious danger of those in captivity. The story also touches on hunting and the ethics, whether for food or for sport.

Die Again is published by Transworld and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights | Savidge Reads



Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Win Bird Box!

Don't open your eyes.


Bird Box by Josh Malerman is one of the best horror books I've read (though admittedly, I'm too much of a wimp to read many). You can read my review here. I picked up a spare copy at a recent HarperCollins event so I am giving it away to one of you lot. Open to Europe only and entry is via Rafflecopter below.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Invisible Library

The Library’s purpose is to collect and store books from all realities. Irene is a Librarian, whose job it is to venture into different alternates and retrieve books for the collection. They may be those which only exist in one world or which circumstances in that dimension has changed the book. These missions are often dangerous, but when she is instructed to take an apprentice into an alternate with a chaos infestation, things are going to get much worse.

There was nothing wrong in being curious about how a story turned out, after all. She was a Librarian. It went with the job.

The Invisible Library was such a fun read, something I often think we need more of in our lives. Irene is loyal to her profession, and she is determined to do a good job, not sit around brooding about things. Books are her life. She is particularly fond of detective novels, so meeting and working with a Great Detective is a distraction for her but, ultimately, won’t get in the way of the mission.

There is a definite steampunkesque, Victorian vibe about the alternate she visits in this adventure. However the Library does have email so it’s not necessarily set in the past. Perhaps the Library is outside time, though there are plenty of mentions of long-distance communication devices in other alternates, so I think this one may just be one that hasn’t advanced so much. But they do have airships and clockwork alligators.

The Language always worked well when it was instructing things to be what they naturally were, or to do what they naturally wanted to do.

Once initiated into the Library, Librarians have the power to use the Language, which is pretty much telling things to do things but with the use of properly defined words and grammar. You have to be careful not to be sloppy with vocabulary and verb choice, as Irene often finds out. The idea is that something must be properly defined for it all to work; a bit like in stories where genies grant wishes but not in the way the wisher intended.

I liked the idea that chaos was what made some alternates more like fiction. The chaos infestation gives worlds things like fae, vampires and werewolves, but also means they have narratives and tropes that aren’t always logical in the real world. Although what exactly is the real world in this universe, who knows. Strangely enough dragons aren’t chaotic, quite the opposite…

The love child of Thursday Next and Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate books, I highly recommend this to readers who love bookish books with a big dollop of adventurous escapism. It’s a bit silly in places but it’s half the charm. I definitely want to read more if this is going to be a series. Please, let it be!

The Invisible Library is published by Tor and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ A Fantastical Librarian

Shelve next to: Soulless by Gail Carriger + Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde



Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Trouble

When 15 year old Hannah Shepherd discovers she’s pregnant, she doesn’t know who to tell. She does know that she wants to keep it. She pretends she doesn’t know who the father is, and with her reputation, it’s not hard to convince people. After her ex-best-friend blabs to the whole school, Hannah receives an offer of help from an unexpected source. New boy Aaron will pretend to be the baby’s father.

This has got to be why marriage was invented, so that when you're pregnant there's someone to have sex with.

Non Pratt does an amazing job of presenting a character who isn’t particularly likable and making her more human at every turn. From the start, Hannah spends her weekends getting tarted up to get drunk, chat up boys in the park and have sex. Or that’s the picture that is painted. There’s no sudden reveal of a different life, but slowly things are put into place. It just highlights how easy we make presumptions about teenagers.

Hannah herself has a lot to answer for her reputation. It’s a mask she puts on at school, a place that is a minefield. The characters are all convincing, from the bitchiness and immaturity to the moments of kindness and comfort. They feel real. Hannah’s snarky but fragile narrative is full of humour and the sense of loneliness her situation lands her in.

It's too much to be forgiven when all you want is to be blamed.

I have been pondering how subjects I wouldn’t usually be drawn to become more appealing when told through young adult eyes. I’m not fond of reading about pregnancy, as a rule, but the story of a teen pregnancy is a world of difference to an adult with their own independence, whether the baby was planned or not.

You shouldn't turn up to a funeral crying - it's like turning up to a date masturbating.

The narrative switches between Hannah and Aaron so we get to see both sides of the story, although he does have plenty of things going on unrelated to Hannah, but they explain why he has offered such a big thing. He does seem a bit too good to be true, yet you can’t help but like him. He does offer out of a sense of guilt yet is a good person. I loved that Aaron is a friend more than a love interest. Yes girls and boys can get along without there being sex, or romance, involved.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ prettybooks | Queen of Contemporary| Winged Reviews



Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Weathering

Pearl doesn’t know how she came to be in the river behind her house. Soon her daughter and granddaughter arrive to sort through her things, get the house on the market. Ada and Pepper have moved around so much, Ada never holding down a job or home for long. She doesn’t intend to stay at her mother’s house long, but the country has a way of drawing her in.

Pearl endured the rain all night. The kind that wore away at her bones. Battered, huddled on her rock, each drop seeping in until she was doused.

Parts of the story could easily fit amongst the tales of Diving Belles. For those who are fans of her writing style, Weathering is definitely worth a read. It has maybe lost a little of the magic of the short stories but her writing is beautiful. Evocative of the landscape, the river, the slow decay of the house and, as the title suggests, an awful lot of weather. It's a tale of belonging.

The house is central to the story, a character in itself and one that starts off being a burden and slowly becomes loved. Life in a remote rural location is quiet in pace but full of its own particular challenges, as Ada and Pepper soon learn. I’m guessing it’s in Devon, where Lucy Wood lives. The landscape definitely fits for anyone that knows the woods and moorland.

Thin feathers of ice had grown in the water around her feet. Suddenly reminded all over again how well her mother knew the place, how she'd belonged: the weather not difficult and unexpected, the river not strange, the valley not lonely or trapping.

As someone who has had a stray cat decide to live with them, I loved Captain. His behaviour is spot on, right down to the grudging acceptance of a young child. Pepper’s disappointment in finding a pet but not one that wanted to be petted reminded me of the whirling dervish of our cat when he first came to live with us.

The grandmother’s story is probably the part that most reflects the tales in Diving Belles. She doesn’t know how she got in to the river, we assume she fell, but slowly the link between her and the place and her family become clearer. I loved the ending, it made me smile in the same way her short stories did.

Weathering is published by Bloomsbury and is available now in hardback and ebooks editons. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Fleur in her World



Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Mime Order - Official Blog Tour Stop

The Mime Order is the second book in The Bone Season series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

Having escaped the penal colony of Sheol I, Paige Maloney returns to her life as part of the Seven Seals gang; her powers being used for the advantage of Jaxon Hall. She wants to reveal the secrets of the Rephaim to the world but it appear the voyant community have just as many secrets of their own. Soon Paige in the most wanted person in London.

Whilst The Bone Season was full of fast paced action, The Mime Order feels a lot more likea story settling in for the long game. There’s a sense of a lot of information being set up for the future, which is not a bad thing if you’re invested in the series. I do have that dilemma of wishing I could just read the whole thing in one go but unable to wait to read the new book as it arrives. So yeah, I really like where this series is going, it just can’t come fast enough.

We’re drawn into the underworld of the mime lords, the people who really control Paige’s life. Whilst she comes to realise she doesn’t want to live in the shadow of Jax all her life, breaking free can be dangerous. She needs the protection of a gang to survive but she doesn’t want it.

The Rephaim seem to have vanished into the shadows. Paige thinks people need to know about them, but who would believe her. And what has happened to Warden? They parted at the end of the last book leaving us on tenterhooks and you might need even more patience to continue their story.

This time the whole story is set in London and I love the reimagining of the capital. It feels a lot more Victorian but with the juxtaposition of the Scion and their technological advancements. And they are cracking down on voyants, giving Paige few choices. Everyone seems to be after her, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere down amongst the seedy alleys. They’re not even aware of her growing powers but Jax is getting suspicious.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

I've been eyeing up the Waterstones edition of The Miniaturist for a while now, but of course wasn't allowed to buy books before Christmas. So last week I treated myself to a copy as well as a couple of other titles that had failed to appear under the tree.


For review:
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (Tor)
Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levine (Hodder)
The Ice King by M.K. Hume (Headline)
Die Again by Tess Gerritsen (Transworld)

Bought:
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Do No Harm by Henry Marsh
Saga Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan + Fiona Staples
Trouble by Non Pratt
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Rosemary Cooke was once part of a happy, if not normal, family. She delighted in words and one-upping her sister. Now her brother and sister are gone. As a young woman she is quiet, keeping her past hidden. What happened to her family that keeps her memories locked up tight?

When there is an invisible elephant in the room, one is from time to time bound to trip over a trunk.

It’s a hard book for me to review. I want to talk about so many things that could reveal the surprise. It was a book group pick and I picked it up knowing absolutely nothing other than its presence amongst book awards last year. I don’t think I would have read it based on the descriptions generally given. It sounds like a story about a broken family, but it has something so much more special at the heart of it.

The fact that details about Fern aren’t revealed until page 77, means you don’t start with preconceptions about her. Rosemary introduces her in the way she wants you to think about her. I still think it’s worth reading if someone has told you about Fern, but it is certainly written with the intent that you don’t know until she chooses to tell you.

Language does this to our memories - simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.

The story unfolds in a non-linear narrative. It feels conversational and bounces around Rosemary’s memories. This is how memory works, we don’t think of our past in chronological order. She is an unreliable narrator; admitting that she remembered events wrong or chooses to edit depending on her audience. Memories lie, covering their own tracks.

So often psychologist parents come across as clichéd or ridiculous in their analysing of their family. The fact that Karen Joy Fowler was raised by a psychologist father means that she gets this spot on. It came across as natural. The story also explores the consequences in involving families with scientific research; the collateral damage that no one considers.

I am the daughter of a psychologist. I know that the thing ostensibly being studied is rarely the thing being studied.

I recognised a few of the studies mentioned throughout the text, so I am assuming all of them are from real life. The stories of “what happened next” were heart-breaking knowing this. They were just little snippets but now I want to read more. It’s a thoroughly researched novel as well as having some wonderful pieces of writing.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ ireadnovels | Random Things Through My Letterbox



Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Red Rising

Darrow mines the minerals deep below the surface of Mars. He is a Red, a race sent ahead to make the planet inhabitable for the rest of mankind. Or that is what he believes. When the ruling class take away the one thing he loves most, he sacrifices himself, though it turns out not in the way he was expecting. For the rebels have plans for him.

It’s always with some trepidation that I pick up a book that’s already loved by so many. I should really trust my spidey-sense, as Red Rising didn’t hit the spot (and I doubt I would have read it if not for the free copy I got at Nine Worlds). For me, it loses its way amongst the war games, not something I am particularly enamoured with in the first place. Has Darrow himself forgotten his purpose? It’s hinted at, at times. It is brutal, something that I'm sure many find refreshing in young adult.

Red Rising has borrowed concepts from a lot of different sources. Now, I’m quite aware that those sources my brain jumped to were not necessarily original themselves, but with some of them being such successful franchises, I do wonder if it was a book written specifically to appeal to their fans. Apart from the obvious, the battlefields reminded me so much of Dan Simmons’ Ilium; with the gods that are not gods sneaking down to help their favourites with technology and intelligence.

I think the use of the Roman names for the gods was a bit distracting for my brain in particular. I am so familiar with the Greek names that I kept trying to match them up. And then trying to analyse the houses, which I don’t think had too much in common with their gods’ traits after all. Overall, there’s a lot going on and the aspects of the plot I was most interested in didn’t get the focus I wanted.

Are we meant to like the Golds by the end of the book? Is the message really that colour doesn’t define these people and there is good and bad in every race? Because the start of the book is all about how Darrow has a chance to bring the Golds down. How they are oppressing his people and represent all that is wrong with the society. Instead, the bulk of the story is about his friendships and allies with the Golds at the institute, which don’t come across as faked. Perhaps this is setting up for some complex decisions later on in the series. I’m starting to crave standalone novels more and more these days, or at least reading trilogies when they’re compete.

The back story was far too wishy-washy for my liking. The tale of how earth colonised the planets with genetically engineered humans sounds like a good one to me. But it’s all a bit rushed, we’re not expected to question the eugenics behind all these different “colours”. I’d rather the back story is left to the imagination if it’s going to be that vague.

I’ve been told Golden Son is better but I’m not sure I care enough about these characters to give it a second chance… I do like the world though, so I won’t say I won’t read it, just definitely not straight away.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Uncorked Thoughts | For Winter Nights



Book Source: Con Freebie

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Paying Guests

The year is 1922 and the widowed Mrs Wray and her daughter Frances face an echoing house and mounting bills. Enter Mr and Mrs Barber, a young couple of the “clerk class”, to rent their spare rooms. The lines between landlady and lodgers start to blur when Frances and Lilian strike up a friendship to fill the hours.

We pass each other on the stairs. We meet on the landing. Everything happens on the landing. I had no idea landings could be so thrilling.

Set between the wars, the period is a fascinating one. So many of the young men were lost, with the women left behind. Frances and her mother have been left with a big house and bills to pay in a time where women were only just coming round to the idea of financial independence. Many of the men who returned from war, struggling to find employment, were bitter that the women had things better than them.

One things families like Frances’ could do was rent out rooms to lodgers; or paying guests as they called them to make them sound posher. I loved the chapters where they are getting used to the sounds upstairs, the invasion of privacy of having strangers in yours home but also the balance of allowing them to make the place their home too.

The minutiae of everyday life in the twenties is intricately described. It really wasn’t that long ago when all household chores were done by hand. The upkeep of a large house takes a lot of work, something families who had lost their staff during the war were coming to realise. We think of the twenties as a glamourous time but this book shows the other side of the coin.

The writing is maybe too descriptive, especially in places where it should be faster paced. It also means the book is too long in my opinion. The story drags out and loses some of its impact. The crime aspect of the story is also one that I’ve heard so many times before. Maybe the period and the people involved were different, but I just didn’t feel like I was reading anything new.

Was this, she thought, what happened when one made friends with a married woman? One automatically got the husband too? -like a crochet pattern, coming free with a magazine?

I was also disappointed it didn’t explore more about the political changes for women at the time. It was a period of great change and it hints at some things. At least Christina is living out a more modern life. Instead it is an intimate story of two people who become embroiled by fate but, I admit, I was expecting more from Sarah Waters.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Fleur in her World



Book Source: Purchased