Wednesday, 30 September 2015

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I was given a review copy of this book by the publisher, 4th Estate, in return for an honest review.

I think I'm struggling to find the words to describe just how good this book is! The simple fact is I LOVED IT! I can't stress those words strongly enough.

Right from the beginning, I was hooked on the characters. The story follows, primarily, the young lives of two very different people - Marie-Laure,a blind Parisian girl, and Werner, a highly intelligent German boy who has a love for wireless radios. I felt an immediate connection, despite having absolutely nothing in common with either character. Earlier in the book, I was more interested in Werner's story, but as the book developed, Marie-Laure became much more interesting. There is a cast of other characters, of course, and I don't think this review could be complete without mentioning the wonderfully calm, and seriously dangerous von Rumpel.

The plot is wonderfully intricate, turning all the time towards the end of the Second World War when it is based. The landscapes of both France and Germany are clearly written and the dangers are written appropriately atmospherically. There were a few tears (and this coming from someone who finds it impossible to cry!), and certainly some shocks to the system. Every bump of the road from Berlin into Russia was felt as vividly as the smells and sounds of the coast at St Malo, France.

If this book had one flaw it was a mild predictability about one part of the fates of the two main characters. Also, I would have liked a little more about some of the lesser characters who were most intriguing.

Star rating: 5 from 5 - One of the best war stories I've ever read!

All the Light We Cannot See

You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18143977-all-the-light-we-cannot-see

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind

I was given a copy of this book by the independent publisher, Head of Zeus, in return for an honest review.

Terry Goodkind has taken a huge step. He is the first well-known fantasy author to take his books out of the hands of the big publishers and agents and decided to publish the book independently. As he states in his Manifesto, which is at the back of the version of the book I was sent, this is a big risk. I admire him greatly for having the guts to take this step.

Before this book, I had never read anything by Terry Goodkind. I had heard good things about his series The Sword Of Truth, for which The First Confessor is a prequel. When I saw that this book was available to review from Netgalley.com, I jumped at the chance and requested it. Quite surprisingly, Head of Zeus agreed and I had my first opportunity to delve into this world. What I found there was truly remarkable.

Magda Searus is a most unfortunate woman. Her husband has committed suicide and strange things start to happen around her. Only a mysterious note from her dead husband gives her any hope for the future. She has to find truth, but what that truth is, she has no idea. Racing from danger to danger, from lies and deceit all around her, Magda constantly puts her life on the line to help those around her.

The background cast for this novel are very varied - from scheming men to servant women, from those who create new magic to those who communicate with the dead. Some of the characters I immediately liked, others I loathed with a passion from the first time I met them. Each person has been carefully crafted into the person Terry Goodkind wants us to believe them to be.

If I have one criticism of this book is that sometimes it can be a little predictable, but on the whole I loved it. For a newbie to this series it isn't a bad starting point and has left me wanting to explore what happens in the rest of this series.

Star rating: 5 from 5 - a magical introduction to this epic fantasy world!

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You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25773005-the-first-confessor

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Last Seen Wearing by Colin Dexter

I was holidaying in London last weekend with my wife, and on a day trip to Bishop's Stortford to visit my family and some friends, I found this book in a charity shop for just £1. Having enjoyed reading the first book in the Inspector Morse series, I decided to buy it. It was not a bad decision!

Firstly, this is very similar to the TV show, just slightly different in terms of the decade. The writing style is fluid, which I find helps with a detective novel and it almost felt like I was watching the series instead of reading the book. It was a real pleasure to read.

I find myself strangely drawn by Morse's character. Yes, he is a middle-aged, alcoholic, womanising sod, but he is strangely endearing. I definitely found myself sympathising with him over a lost "chance" or two. In this book, his mind is clearly all over the place, not the clear precision of Poirot or Holmes, and yet he is still a relative genius in his field.

As for the plot of this book, it flows very nicely, and quickly, towards a conclusion. I really struggled to work out "whodunnit", but it was worth it in the end.

Star rating: 4 from 5 - not quite a 5 simply because there were times when I got too confused over who was who. That was probably just me, however!



You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1987686.Last_Seen_Wearing

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Zombie Stories of H. P. Lovecraft by H. P. Lovecraft

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher, Dover Publications, in return for an honest review.

A lot of people I admire have referenced the works of H. P. Lovecraft over the years, talking about some of his great creations. Even one of my favourite Sci-Fi shows, Warehouse 13, had an episode based on him. I was in two minds about trying him, however, as I am not the biggest fan of horror. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

The Zombie Stories of H. P. Lovecraft, as a title, may leave something to be desired, but in fairness it tells you exactly what the book is about. It is a series of short stories all linked to the theme of zombies. From the first story onwards, I was hooked on them. The way Lovecraft writes is reminiscent of a lot of great Science Fiction writers from the 19th Century, like H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. The characters, although relative undeveloped, are believable and it is easy to feel what each is going through.

I was genuinely chilled while reading this anthology. Somehow, Lovecraft grabs the reader and drags him into this nightmare. Of the main characters, it is difficult to say who I felt the strongest connection to. However, the one I feared for most was the undertaker. Although that particular story is quite predictable, the fear generated reaches right into my heart. 

Would I read H. P. Lovecraft again? Quite probably. Next time, however, I won't read it so late at night!

Star rating: 4 from 5 - a horror collect, but by no means horrible!

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You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23743394-the-zombie-stories-of-h-p-lovecraft

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

I picked up this book from Amazon Kindle a few months ago for just 99p. I had heard only good things about it, but I was in for a real treat!

I had to contain my laughter at times, just to keep control of myself. The humour throughout the book is sublime! I've read a few detective novels in the past, even some with a fantasy twist (such as Jasper Fforde and Malcolm Pryce) but this book is much more detailed about the locations. The plot is also brilliant. I really had no clue how this amazing read would end. Not even when it got to the climax could I predict how it would all pan out

Set in London, the story follows a young policeman, Peter Grant who has just discovered that his traditional view of policing also has a magical side when he meets Chief Inspector Nightingale as a series of bizarre murders spreads around the city. It's the kind of story that really makes you sit up and pay attention and never want to put the book back down again afterwards. 

I'm already saving my money so I can buy the rest of this series, although I think I may want these books physically as well! The covers are as stunning as the story. This is a must read for all fans of detectives and fantasy.

Star rating: 5 from 5 - a cracking fantasy detective story - well done Mr Aaronovitch!

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You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9317452-rivers-of-london?ac=1

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Returned, Part III (Star Trek: New Frontier) by Peter David

I was given an advance readers copy of this book by the publisher, Pocket Books, in return for an honest review.

Now, I've never read any of the Star Trek: New Frontier books before, but I have been impressed by what I read here. It keeps the feel of the television show, using humour as well as having some familiar faces (Q for instance). There is a mixture of action, a little Sci-Fi romance and plenty of surprises thrown in, mostly by Q.

The book is the third and final part of a novel, so I did miss some of the references in the plot and it took me a little while to get used to all the characters, but I was hooked on the story. Peter Daved's writing style is a pleasure to read as the story flows along.

I would recommend this book to Star Trek fans, but maybe not a starting point if you have never read any of the books before in this particular series. I, for one, will at some tie go back to the beginning and read this series all the way through.

Star rating: 4 from 5 - a stellar read, but not the best starting point for a newbie.

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You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25295136-the-returned-part-iii

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Undays of Aralias Lyons by K.L. Horvath

I was given an advance readers copy of this book through Netgalley.com in return for an honest review.

This book has, quite literally, thrown me into a time loop. Sometimes when I was reading it, I felt like time was rushing past without thinking of stopping. Other times, however, I felt like it was passing me by at the same speed as treacle. I cannot put my finger on exactly what made it feel this way. After all, the characters were engaging enough, the story was pretty good too, and it had a good amount of dry humour, which is something I do enjoy. The writing style is maybe a little simplistic for my liking, but it's not a major fault with a book which feels like it should be in the young adult genre.

Aralias Lyons, the main character of the story, is, in himself, a real conundrum for me to explain in few words. I liked him for sure, but when he was around Clara Heartwell he turned into a sickening bore in my opinion. The two of them clearly have no chemistry that shines from the pages so it is a mystery to me how they could possibly want to be together. In fact, the last line of the story was more cheesy than gorgonzola!

If I had to compare this book with any others, I would say it is a bit like Percy Jackson with time travel, only not as well written. However, if a sequel were to be written, I think I would give it a try too, simply because I like the idea of the story.

Star rating: 3 from 5 - not bad, but needs more work.

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You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26043206-the-undays-of-aralias-lyons

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Field of Mars: Complete Edition by David Rollins

I was given a review copy of this book through Netgalley.com in return for an honest review.

Expected publication: October 8th 2015 by Momentum (Pan Macmillan)

David Rollins has written a very readable novel about a Roman army going to war with the Parthians and the aftermath for the remaining soldiers. Introduced by Appias, a Roman historian and one of the characters, the story tells of how he got to where he is now. A whole plethora of Centurions, Legates, and Legionaries help to make the story flow, seeing them through the eyes of the historian looking back on his life.

The characters are intriguing, the plot is easy to follow and the writing flows wonderfully. I would recommend this book to fans of Conn Iggulden and anyone with an interest in ancient civilisations. I, for one, am looking forward to a sequel!

Star rating: 4 from 5 - an excellent read

This is my first Netgalley.com review and, if this book is anything to go by, I shall look forward to many more in the future.

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You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26177964-field-of-mars