Book Review – The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox

The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox (Orion Books, 2013)

The Goddess and the Thief was a book I’d put on my Christmas list last year because, as a book worm, a book is the perfect present.

I can’t remember how this book had come to my attention; whether it was a recommendation from friends on Goodreads, or whether it was from one of the many Facebook pages I have liked.

The blurb sounded promising. A girl, called Alice, is uprooted from her life in India and is made to live with her spiritual medium aunt in Windsor, in Victorian England. “Alice,” says the blurb, “is drawn into a plot to steal a sacred Indian diamond.”

After reading the novel The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (which I absolutely loved) I thought The Goddess and the Thief would be right up my street.

Except, it really wasn’t.

Unlike The Lie Tree, the heroine of The Goddess and the Thief doesn’t really do much. She spends most of the novel in her bedroom, or locked in bedrooms, or completely in the dark. She is always reacting to things and not being proactive at all.

I get it. That’s her story arc – from someone who reacts to events to someone taking control – but it’s so boring! And annoying. And, SPOILER (so if you don’t want to know, please don’t read on) at one point she is sexually assaulted and she swoons after the man who raped her. Not cool, not cool at all. Very, very damaging stuff that. Very troubling to read and I’m not easily troubled by stuff.

The blurb on Goodreads tells says that The Goddess and the Thief is “A beguiling and sensual Victorian novel of theft and obsession.”

No.

It may be a novel of theft and obsession but it really isn’t sensual. Creepy? Yes. Sensual…? Hell no!

And for that person at the back who is saying, “blimey, everyone is so easily offended these days!” F*#k off.

Only joking 🙂

I’m not easily offended, and, I’m not offended by this work. I just find things like this are so unhelpful.

Anyway, I give this book one out of five stars.

Many people on Amazon and Goodreads loved it. You might love it. It just didn’t float my boat.

Great for those who like beautiful prose (the first few chapters are beautifully written). Not great for those who like a pro-active heroine.

 

 

My Faves – Book Review – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Black Swan Books, 2014)

This book is simply amazing.

At the heart of the book is the question; What if?

The blurb asks:
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

Ursula Todd, born on a snowy February night in 1910, gets to relive her life over and over again, with glimpses of past lives (and futures) guiding her to make changes – sometimes for the good, sometimes the bad – as she re-takes her journey.

BEWARE SOME SPOILERS LURK BELOW!!!

At times this book had me in tears (in Germany where she gives her sick child a “glass capsule”, before taking one herself so that they might die together and avoid the invading Russian army (I run to death, and death meets me fast, And all my pleasures are like yesterday) or when she dies with her beloved brother at home when still young after contracting flu).

This is, at times a hard book to read, but there is beauty in its sadness. As one reviewer said, “Life hurts like this”. And it does.

Life After Life is a bleak look at what makes us human and the choices we make. This book is wonderfully written and totally immersive. It’s a fantastic work of historical fiction that will be in your thoughts for weeks and weeks afterwards.

Great for those who want to read something beautiful and deep. Not so great for those who dislike gimmicks and find it boring going over the same territory again and again.

Book Review – Different Seasons by Stephen King

Different Seasons by Stephen King (Hodder Paperback, 2012)

This book is a collection of four Stephen King Novels; Hope Springs Eternal (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption), Summer of Corruption (Apt Pupil), Fall from Innocence (The Body), and A Winter’s Tale (The Breathing Method).

Hope Springs Eternal

This is my favourite of the four stories. It’s a beautifully written novella that first came to my attention through the film, Shawshank Redemption.

Hope Springs Eternal is the story of Andy Dufresne’s stint in Shawshank Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover, told through the eyes of Red, a fellow inmate. At times, Hope Springs Eternal is horrific to read as we see Dufresne attacked by The Sister’s, a gang of prisoners who prey on the vulnerable, and his treatment at the hands of the guards and the Governor, especially when Dufresne uncovers evidence to prove his innocence. Essentially though, Hope Springs Eternal is a story about hope as Dufresne clings to his innocence and the idea that, one day, he will get out of prison.

Summer of Corruption.

This has also been made into a film called Apt Pupil starring Sir Ian McKellen.

Apt Pupil begins as thirteen-year-old Todd Bowden uncovers evidence to suggest a neighbour, Kurt Dussander, is actually a fugitive Nazi war criminal. Instead of turning Dussander into the authorities, Bowden manipulates and blackmails him into sharing stories about the horrors and atrocities he committed in the Second World War.

As the story progresses, the pair form a sort of friendship or bond that brings the worst out in each other. Being reminded of his past reignites Dussander’s dark side. In turn, Bowden’s destructive bond with the Nazi encourages and grows Bowden’s own dark side. The result is horrific.

Summer of Corruption is horrific, but also strangely absorbing.

Fall From Innocence

This was my least favourite of the four novellas. As with the above two stories, this novella has also been made into a famous film called Stand By Me.

Fall From Innocence is set in 1960 in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, and follows a group of boys as they set out to find the body of a twelve-year-old boy, Ray Brower, who went missing and is presumed dead. The story is narrated by the adult Gordon Lachance and is told from his point of view.

This is a coming of age tale. A story of boys from dysfunctional families coming to terms with where they come from and the harsh realities of life and death.

Personally, I found this story a little bit boring (sorry, not sorry) but I know many of you will disagree.

A Winter’s Tale

Now, this little story tucked at the back of this large novella is a bit of a strange one to review as it seemed to be vastly different from the three preceding stories.

The Breathing Method follows David, a Manhattan lawyer who is invited by a senior partner of the law firm to join a mysterious Gentlemen’s club where the participants are encouraged to tell stories.

On one such occasion, Dr Emlyn McCarron tells the horrific story of a woman who is determined to give birth to and raise the illegitimate child she is carrying, whatever the cost. The Breathing Method refers to the technique that McCarron teaches her to keep her calm during childbirth and which has an unintended and gruesome consequence when the woman is involved in an accident.

A Winter’s Tale is very atmospheric, a chilling tale which really is a story within a story. I just wish it had been longer!

Conclusion

This anthology collection is well worth delving into. I would give it 4 1/2 stars out of five simply because I found The Body a little boring (however, I know many of you will disagree!)

Great for those who love to read about real-life horror. Not so great for those wanting some of that supernatural horror King writes so well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Sceptre, 2014)

David Mitchell’s Bone Clocks has been a difficult book to read and review. I think this is partly to do with the fact that it’s actually a series of six interconnected novellas that vary a great deal in terms of tone and genre.

The first novella, A Hot Spell 1984, is, in my opinion, the strongest. It focuses on Holly Sykes, a very likeable character, who decides to leave home after an argument with her mother. I think if David Mitchell had stayed with Holly Sykes’ story I would have loved this book right until the very end.

That’s not to say I didn’t fall in love with some of his other characters – Ed Brubeck, and Crispin Hershey (despite their flaws) were favourites of mine – but I would have preferred more on each of them.

I found myself completely lost in The Horologist’s Labyrinth, but not in a good way. The science fiction and concepts in that novella went completely over my head, although this is probably more to do with my lack of knowledge in this area rather than anything lacking in Mitchell’s writing.

I felt overwhelmed by all the different words and ideas in this section but continued reading anyway because of Mitchell’s talent.

I felt that the last novella, Sheep’s Head, was a little too preachy about the environment and man’s destructive side, although I did enjoy the fact that it was told from Holly Sykes’ perspective as she was my favourite character. I didn’t like seeing her grow old though; I would have preferred the book to end on The Horologist’s Labyrinth, whilst Holly was still in her prime rather than having her face the Apocalypse scenario as well. Not that I don’t like reading about older characters, but it was just a step too far for me in this particular novel. Too much had happened to Holly and I just wanted Mitchell to give her a break!

I did like this book (I must have because I read it quite quickly) but I didn’t love it. It was too much of a genre-bending novel for my taste. Therefore I would probably give it 3 ½ stars out of five.

Great for those who like genre-bending thoughtful and provocative novels. It’s certainly a great adventure!

Not so great for those who like a little bit of light reading that doesn’t take too much thought. Be warned – you may end up with a headache! Also not a good read if you don’t like to be introduced to too many characters.

Book Review – Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno by Dan Brown (Doubleday Books, 2013)

As a huge Dan Brown fan (love The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons) I was really excited to get my copy of Inferno.

However, for me, Inferno was a big disappointment, and reading it, at times, felt like I was descending into the bowels of Hell myself.

I get the impression that whoever edited the book was just too much in awe of him to say “Dan, very pretty prose but you really need to cut it”. I get his passion for architecture and history – I love it myself and find his passion contagious – but there is just too much description which only serves to jar the flow of the narrative. For example, Langdon is racing to find the place that the virus is stashed before its too late and we are given a page and a half description of the Hagia Sophia before the chase resumes.

The architecture is stunning, Dan’s description is beautiful but this is the wrong place for so much description – it’s not a travel guide! Dan get back to basics, put the pace back into your novels and remember, sometimes, less is more.

2 out of 5 stars

Not sure it’s a great book for anyone (sorry Dan :() but if I had to push myself, it’s great if you like beautiful descriptions of places and architecture and don’t mind it slowing the pace of the novel down to the point where it practically stops. Not so great for those who like pacy novels.

 

Book Review – The Green Mile by Stephen King

The Green Mile by Stephen King (Orion Books, 1998)

I’ve very late to the party with this book! I must also say that I have watched the movie loads of times and it happens to be one of my favourites.

The Green Mile is narrated by Paul Edgecombe, the superintendent in charge of the death row section of Cold Mountain Penitentiary – known as the Green Mile – in 1932. The book is a recount of his days on E-block and the strange events that took place in that year.

In particular, the arrival of John Coffey, condemned to die on ‘Old Sparky’ for the rape and murder of two young girls. But, it soon transpires that everything isn’t quite what it seems with this gentle giant who cries a lot and is deeply afraid of the dark. Paul soon comes to question whether Coffey is innocent of the crimes he’s been convicted of especially when it seems that Coffey has been gifted the powers of healing.

This book is beautifully written and, at times, heartbreaking. I can’t remember the last time I cried reading a book but The Green Mile managed to break me. It’s easy to see why Stephen King is hailed as a master of writing.

This is a weighty book filled with themes such as damnation, salvation, racism and atonement. It’s an exploration of power, or lack of it, and the illusion of superiority. It’s a book about death, morality and death used as a punishment. But, it’s also a story about love, compassion and healing.

It goes straight into my list of favourites. I would give it five out of five stars,

Great for those who like deep, unsettling and dark narratives. Not so great for those who don’t like magical realism and want a light read.