Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dreams and Shadows

C. Robert Cargill

The back of the book touted it as a 'modern American tale' and promised faerie, which was enough for me to give it a go.  Definitely not a book for children, it had far more myth, violence and complexity than I was expecting - in short, it was the story I didn't know I'd been looking for.

Beginning with two boys: Ewan, stolen from his parents and promised a future as a fairy, and Colby, who meets a genie and starts on an adventure.  Neither has any idea just how important they are to each other, in spite of the warning signs.

By the time these two are grown, the world is a far less exciting place than it had been when they were children - but that's about to change, and sometimes excitement is the last thing you want.

I really struggled with the first hundred pages or so.  It was a bit frustrating, not really knowing what was happening or why, but the moment Book Two began, when the boys are grown, everything clicked into place and I couldn't put this down.

This is no rose-tinted tale of magic and beauty, this is balls-out terror and violence, and it's brilliant.  Everything is brought together both painfully and seamlessly, the way it needs to be, leaving you with the feeling you've been well and truly educated about the ways of the world.

This is exactly the kind of book you finish and immediately want to start again, because this time you know just a little more about why.

The ending surprised me, although it shouldn't have, and I found myself sympathising with Gossamer about the fact he'd never get home again.  This book managed to strip away any expectations I had, and replaced them with a sort of fascinated dread.

Finished 22/10/14
Rated 4.5 / 5

Saturday, December 28, 2013

City of Sins

Daniel Blake
ISBN 9780007384501

Contains spoilers for Soul Murder, the first book in the series.

Soul Murder

Daniel Blake
ISBN 9781439197486

Opening with a stock-standard raid in a bad neighbourhood, this book holds nothing back. Patrese and Beradino begin with a murder, an arrest, and a shooting, but are quickly catapulted into a whole different league: high profile men of the city are being burned alive.

With few clues and personal issues clouding the way, this book starts relatively slowly but quickly builds into a gripping, tension-filled ride of double-guessing and double-dealings.

I was kept guessing until the very end, and was taken by surprise, without feeling like I'd missed something obvious. The hints were in place, but presented in such a way that I don't know if anyone could have picked it.

Religion features heavily in this story. The fundamentals of both Christianity and Islam are explored more than I'd expected, and I found the casual way the Bible was quoted and God was referenced became a little distracting. Still, it was important to the story, and Patrese's reluctance to engage religion in any form helped to counterbalance the fervour of everyone else.

I really enjoyed this. Not being the usual kind of book I read, I wasn't sure how I'd go with it, but it was a refreshing change, and the heaviness of some of the details weren't so strong as to put me off reading.

Date finished: 08/12/13
Rating: 4/5

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman

When you're 7, the world is huge, adults are to be trusted, and magic exists in that but-not-really kind of way.

And then all of a sudden you find a hole in your foot and you learn that the world is a much bigger - and smaller - place than you could ever have imagined.

This is the story of a boy who finds himself a new friend and a dreadful new enemy, and how he does his best to stay safe.  It's an interesting tale, but it didn't draw me in the way Gaiman's books usually do.

I couldn't quite find enough sympathy for the young narrator, and was more interested in the rest of the story.  So many things were alluded to that held so much promise, but the main story crowded them out.

This is the first Gaiman book I've read that I haven't quite connected with, and I have a feeling that a re-read in a year or two might yield a different result - once the hype has died down some, and I can read it without expectation.

Date finished: 18.11.13
Rating: 3/5

Monday, November 18, 2013

Red Lily

Nora Roberts

I’m not one for romance novels.  I fell into this trilogy as a club read, and while the romance side of it seemed contrived and over the top, the ghost story drew me in enough to read the second book, and now the third.

Hayley is the last woman left of the three, so it’s her turn to give in to all sorts of hot flushes, fantasies and knee-buckling kisses.  Her man, the son and heir of the house, is the usual perfect blend of masculinity and endearing irritating traits that all of the other men in the trilogy had, and they skirt around each other with no real obstacles, except for the insane ghost.

Amelia, the ghost, is the real star of this story.  Hardened and unbalanced, her story is finally exposed, and the truth about what happened over a hundred years before comes to light.

The happy ending (for everyone, naturally) came too quickly, after an entire book devoted to building the tension.  Everything was tidily wrapped up within three pages, and it seemed like a bit of an anti-climax.  Even a last look at Amelia, being at peace, would have brought more closure.  Instead, there was an extract from the next book that Roberts released.

I left this series with a feeling of dissatisfaction, and I’m a bit mystified at how she’s such a popular writer.

Finished 17.11.13
Rated 2/5

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Book Thief

Markus Zusak

Liesel meminger is the daughter of a communist - a precarious thing to be in 1939 Germany.  She is given to a foster family in a new town, and she is taught to read from a gravedigger's manual - the first book she steals.

Words become her life, along with her new papa and Max, the Jewish fighter who is living in their basement.  Max, who depends on Liesel to be his eyes in a terrifying, hateful world.  There is also Rudy, the boy next door, her best friend and partner in crime, who can't understand why she steals books and not food.

Liesel is watched by the narrator, the busiest narrator during one of his busiest periods, and he shares her story in her own words.

Exquisitely crafted, this story lures you in to a life of everyday poverty, the spectre of war and of battles with bullies.  There is humour to be found here, and love.  And heartbreak.

This is a story that will stick with me for a long time to come.  It is haunting and chilling, intense in dark moments and endearing in lighter ones.

This is a story that I'm immensely grateful to have found.

Finished 16/11/13.
Read for Online Book Club December group read

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Dark

James Herbert
ISBN 0330376209 

Bishop, paranormal investigator and skeptic, finds himself confronting an idea that goes against every scientific theory he has - that evil has managed to become a physical force, invading the minds of Londoners.  The evidence - and the bodies - pile up, but how can it be stopped?

Written in 1980, this book easily translates to the present day.  The medical and scientific terminology still fits, and serves to deepen the disquiet this book brings to the reader.

The tension builds smoothly, and I did find myself how any kind of ending could fit within the remaining pages and still do justice to everything that preceded it - and with the resolution presenting itself in the final few sentences, I was a little disappointed at the sudden, rushed climax.

The afterword tempered that slightly, but I would have liked it to be a bit more detailed.  Even so, this was a solid horror based on the scariest of ideas - that of man indulging in his darkest thoughts.

Finished 06.10.13