Saturday, October 30, 2010


Pages: 273
Date: 30/10/2010
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 2 Hector's Journeys
            Translated by Lorenza Garcia

I was send this book by Bookhugger, as part of their Real Readers Programme, for the purpose of reading and reviewing this title prior to its release in January 2011.
This is the Second "Hector" title by Francois Lelord, who is a psychiatrist (maybe even the psychiatrist named Francois, mentioned in the story?). The first book is "Hector and the Search of Happiness", which I haven't read but hope to get my hands on in the not too distant future.
The story in this book is charmingly simple.
Hector is a psychiatrist who is hired by the pharmaceutical company where his girlfriend works, to find Professor Cormorant. The brilliant scientist has disappeared together with his research for the company; a modern day love potion.
Leaving behind his troubled relationship with his girlfriend Clara, Hector travels to the far east, where he finds the trail of Cormorant as well as the beautiful Vayla, with whom he falls in love.
Together with Vayla, Hector travels to find and subsequently join the professor, discovering more about the love potion while at the same time trying to make sense of his own feelings as well as love and heartbreak in general.
Supervisually this is a charming and undemanding little fable about love and the emotions that assault us when we fall in and out of love or a relationship. On a deeper level though this is a very insightful work about all the conflicting feelings and emotions we go through, and try to deal with, when faced with love in all its aspects. What makes this book so special is that it teaches the reader a lot about emotions (s)he will have been confronted with in the past and will probably face again in the future without ever giving the reader the feeling that (s)he is being lectured to.
In fact, the story is written with what appears to be such a detached attitude that I didn't realize how much I had started to care about the characters and their emotional well-being, until I had finished the book.
This is a charming book, filled with wisdom that all of us could do with. Read it to be delighted, or read it to be enlightened. Either way you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Pages: 495
Date: 28/10/2010
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 1 The Strain Trilogy

I suppose that end of the world/end of humanity stories have been around for a long, long time. I think it's a recent phenomena though to have humanity killed off through a vamparic virus. I first encountered that idea in "The Passage", and came across it again in this novel. And, coincidentally or not, both books are the first instalment in a trilogy. But, that's where the similarities end. 
Whereas in "The Passage" the virus more or less wins, leaving very little humans alive to try and find a way to live very early on in the first book, "The Strain" takes us through the destruction of the humans at a slow pace, initially almost one human at a time.
A plane from Germany lands in New York City only to completely shut down immediately after landing. When Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, an investigator of biological threats, enters the plane with a colleague he finds all the passengers and crew bar four dead, having died apparently peacefully.
However, they soon discover that these are anything but normal corpses. They stay warm, they don't decompose as they should and they appear to contain no blood.
By the time Eph realizes that he's dealing with something contagious, three of the four survivors have checked themselves out of hospital and returned home, free to spread whatever it is they were exposed to.
Meanwhile, holocaust survivor and New York pawnbroker Abraham Setrakian knows that the evil he's been hunting all his life has now arrived in his home town.
Setrakian and Goodweather and a few others have to unite in an effort to stop this spread of evil before it is too late. But with the vamparic virus multiplying rapidly, and most of the authorities still refusing to believe there even is a problem, they face an impossible fight.
This book didn't quite work for me. It had a rather slow start, involving too many different characters for my liking. I got confused trying to figure out what was happening to whom and irritated by the repetition in the story when it came to describing the symptoms of the victims and the attacks they would inflict upon others.
The pace of the story does pick up about half way through the nearly 500 pages, but because there were still too many characters involved for me I found it hard to get involved in the story or even care what was happening to whom. 
On the other hand, the story was interesting enough to keep me reading right up to the end, although I have to admit to skimming over the pages when I was nearing the end. 
I haven't made up my mind about reading the rest of this trilogy. Right now I don't think I will, but it is possible that once a bit of time has passed I'll be curious enough to try the second book.

Celine Kiernan meets Bailieborough Book Club

For over two years now I've been running a monthly book club in Bailieborough Library in Co. Cavan. As a club we've read a wide variety of books and have always enjoyed interesting and lively discussions of those titles.
Yesterdays meeting was no exception. It was however different and more exciting than those previous meetings since we had the opportunity to discuss the book we had read, "The Poison Throne", with its author, Celine Kiernan
The Poison Throne is the first book in The Moorhawke Trilogy which meant that my book club members came up with a few questions that really couldn't be answered by the author without spoiling the storylines of "The Crowded Shadows" and "The Rebel Prince". That didn't stop the conversation from flowing effortlessly though. There was a lot of curiosity about the setting of the book, the reasoning behind the talking cats and ghosts and the horrors of torture. As Celine pointed out, all of these had an important function in the book, either to show how much the once tolerant kingdom had changed or to illustrate that in a violent situation there is no such thing as pure good or pure bad characters. 
That in fact is one of the things I most admired in this trilogy; the way in which it realistically shows that when faced with danger, violence or war everybody has to make choices and decisions they wouldn't even consider under peaceful circumstances.
As always the talk did stray away from the book under discussion at times, and we found ourselves talking about the merits of a good story as opposed to books that just seem to want to impress with words, and originality versus formulaic stories. The merits of authors such as Beckett, Joyce on one side and Nora Roberts and James Patterson on the other crossed the table. 
What was supposed to be a one hour long meeting effortlessly stretched out and when, after about 1 1/2 hours I did had to end the event it really was a shame. I think we could easily have talked on for the rest of the afternoon.
Celine & Me
I feel that this was a wonderful opportunity and experience for the book club. You rarely get a chance to find out what an author really set out to do when they wrote a story, where the idea came from and what may be coming next. And, what may be coming in the future is what excites me most personally. Celine let slip that she's tempted to write a prequel to the Trilogy at some point. At the moment she's working on other, unrelated, books, but I really hope that she will write the story of Jonathan and Lorcan. And when she does you can be sure that I will be one of the first to post a review of the book, right here.
I can't thank Celine Kiernan enough for taking the time to meet with us and give us such a fascinating afternoon. I can only hope it was as satisfying an occasion for her as it was for us.
Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to Kay Curley for bringing in the lovely homemade cake. I only wish I had thought to take a picture of it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Pages: 368
Date: 23/10/2010
Grade: 5
Details: no. 1 The Moorhawke Trilogy
Re-read for Bookclub discussion

I'm not usually a fan of re-reading books. When you read a book for the second time there are no surprises and therefore, usually there's less tension. But, that wasn't how it felt this time. I enjoyed this book and story even more this time around than I did in September of 2008 (click here for my review at that time).
If that is because I just rushed my way through the story the first time around, or because I know the characters better now that I've finished the trilogy I don't know. All I know is that I was just as eager to keep on reading and stay in the story as I was two years ago, that my heart was breaking for Wynter Moorhawke once again, as she saw her life changed beyond imagination and was forced to make impossible decisions.
Wynter Moorhawke is 15 years old when she and her father, Lorcan, return to King Jonathan's court after an absence of five years. But, what should have been a happy homecoming soon turns sour as they discover that nothing is as it used to be. Crown Prince Alberon has disappeared and his father is busy erasing all signs that he ever existed from the kingdom while forcing his bastard son Razi to accept the role of crown prince. 
Razi doesn't have any desire to ever become king, and knows he will never be accepted as such, but when the king threatens to kill his friend Christopher if he doesn't cooperate, Razi is left without a choice.
And before too long all are left without options.Tolerance and good will which used to characterize the kingdom have been replaced by mistrust, violence and torture. In order to stay free and alive Wynter, Christopher and Razi will have to make impossible decisions and leave behind all they love. Risking their young lives to safe a kingdom on the brink of destruction.
This book is so beautifully written. The reader experiences the story through Wynter's eyes, discovering and learning to understand what's happening around her as she does. In doing so the reader is also part of her dilemma's and the heartbreak her chosen path brings her. 
I can't recommend this book enough!!

Friday, October 22, 2010


Pages: 374
Date: 22/10/2010
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 1 Crowther & Westerman Historical Mystery

Set in 1780 this stories start when reclusive Gabriel Crowther,a student of Anatomy, is raised from his bed by Harriet Westerman. The body of a man has been discovered on Westerman lands in rural England, and Harriet recruits Crowther to help her discover the manner and reasons for the man's death.
At more or less the same time a man named Alexander Adams, a seller of sheet music, is killed in London in front of this two young children. The murderer is about to kill the children too when he's interrupted and flees.
Harriet Westerman is not a typical lady of her times, her husband is a sea captian and away and she is fiercely independent, and is determined to find out why the man was killed on her land, who he was and who killed him. Gabriel Crowther is a man who has his reasons for not mixing with society and knows better than most that it may be best to keep his own council, but still finds himself persuaded by Harriet to get involved.
As they delve deeper into the mystery, and more deaths follow it becomes clear that they are dealing with a ruthless opponent, and decades old secrets which somebody is desperate to keep. 
This was an intriguing story and rather dark. The description of the times was very interesting and made the story come alive.
I did have the guilty party identified long before the main characters did, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment of the story since I didn't quite guess at the motives and it was fun to see how the mystery was solved in a time before fingerprints and other forensic evidence. I will definitely read more by this author.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Pages: 424
Date: 15/10/2010
Grade: 4.5

There was a time when I couldn't wait for a new book by Maeve Binchy, and would rush out to buy a copy as soon as a new title was published. Then, more recently I was a bit disappointed with her books either because it wasn't really a novel, more a collection of short stories, or because the sole purpose of the book appeared to be giving earlier characters another outing.
This book has a good few characters from earlier books making a reappearance once again, but this time it worked for me because they showed up in a completely new story with enough new characters to give the book a fresh feel.
This is the story of Frankie, a little girl whose mother dies the moment she is born. Because Stella, Frankie's mother, knew this would happen she's made a point of contacting Noel, a troubled young man with a problem with alcohol and a life that is going nowhere, and told him that he's the baby's father.
Suddenly Noel finds himself in a position where he has to change himself and his life completely if he's going to be a dependable father. With the help of his American cousin, Emily, who has recently arrived in Ireland, and Lisa, a girl with several issues of her own and a lot of other people in his community, Noel manages to kick his dependency on alcohol, improve his job prospects and be a loving, good and reliable father. All of this notwithstanding attempts by Moira, Frankie's social worker, who is convinced that it's only a matter of time before Noel will mess up and Frankie will have to be placed elsewhere.
This is definitely a feel good book, although there are a few very sad moments as well. It's life in a community where we would all love to live, filled with people we would all love to call our friends. This is an easy, comfortable and comforting read. This is Binchy almost completely back to her old writing powers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Pages: 357
Date: 12/10/2010
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 4 Shetland Quartet

Shetland Detective Jimmy Perez travels to the Fair Isle with his fiancée Fran to introduce her to his parents. He expects the days there to be difficult, and they are, but not for the reasons he feared.
Fran and his parents get on very well from the start. However, shortly after the couple arrive on the island the woman who runs the local bird observatory is murdered, her body left with bird feathers decorating her hair.
With the Fair Isles being ravaged by violent storms and isolated from the rest of Shetland, Jimmy has to start the investigation into the murder on his own. And from the start he can’t help fearing that more deaths might follow. A fear that is soon proved right. Jimmy faces a difficult investigation that he has to solve before more victims fall.
I love the way Ann Cleeves makes the setting of her books a character in her mysteries. The surroundings are almost as important to the stories as the characters are, and described in such a vivid way that you can see the view, feel the cold and wind and experience the isolation of the place.
The mystery in this book is well plotted, the clues are there and the solution makes perfect sense when presented.
The only thing in this book that I didn’t like was the climax at the end. For obvious reasons I can’t say what that climax entailed, but I do feel that it wasn’t necessary for the story to end the way it did. I would have felt better after finishing the book if it had ended differently. But maybe that’s just me.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Pages: 335
Date: 09/10/2010
Grade: 4-
Details: Historical Fiction

Set in England in 1672, a generation after the civil war, this book tells the story of Jonathan Dymond, a young cider maker. When the book starts, Jonathan's father is called from their home to the deathbed of his brother, Robin. He arrives too late though, Robin has already died and when he returns home, Jonathan's father is obviously burdened by something.
Jonathan finds a fragment of a letter from his uncle to his father in the latter's coat pocket which hints at an injustice to be put right and an inheritance. Curious and haunted by nightmares about his uncle, Jonathan travels to his aunts house, and under the guise of helping her with her apple harvest and cider making starts investigating what his uncle may have meant. A decision that will reveal family secrets and puts both Jonathan's future happiness and life in danger.
Even though Jonathan is in his twenties when the story starts, this is a sort of coming of age story. Jonathan, who has lead a sheltered life with his loving parents, suddenly finds himself exposed to hatred, cruelty and deceit, things he is ill equipped to deal with. By the end of the story, little will be left of Jonathan's innocence and although he's certainly wiser, he doesn't appear any happier for all he has learned along the way.
This was an interesting story, but it failed to captivate me. Although I didn't find it hard to read this book, I also found it very easy to put the book down and never really felt a need to go back to it. I could have done with less of the detailed descriptions of cider making.
On the other hand, I think this story was very true to the time it was set in. Nowhere did the author try to romanticise the period or the events taking place. My overall conclusion has to be that this is a well written, solid story that will probably be enjoyed by anyone who likes historical fiction.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Pages: 222
Date: 06/10/2010
Grade: 4.5
Details: Juvenile Fiction (9-12)

Very early one morning, 8 year old Noah runs away from home. There are things happening in his life that he doesn't understand and scare him. Going out into the world, looking for adventure seems a far easier prospect than staying at home and facing whatever it is that has him so scared.
Almost as soon as his old home is out of sight the world through which he travels changes a bit. Strange things are happening, but Noah doesn't question them and just moves on.
When he finds an old toy shop next to a slightly strange tree he goes inside and finds himself walking into a wonderful world filled with wooden toys and magic. Here he also finds the old toymaker.
The boy and the old man spend the day talking. The old man shares stories of his life as a young man with Noah, and Noah starts talking about his own past and the place and people he left behind.
There are two secrets in this book: the reason Noah ran away and the identity of the old man. Both secrets are slowly revealed as the story moves along, and by the time Noah leaves the old man again, everything has been made clear to the reader. Or has it?
This is a charming story. It deals with a very real issue that some children have to face in a sensitive but not sentimental manner.
I've got a feeling that adults will have the two secrets worked out a while before children do, but I don't think that matters.
In fact, I think it would be wonderful to read this book with a child and to witness understanding reaching them. To watch as they figure out what exactly is going on and then see their reaction to it. I highly recommend this book by the author of "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas". 
John Boyne really knows how to tell a good story well.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Pages: 400
Date: 05/10/2010
Grade: 4.5

A ghost writer is asked to finish the job of writing the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister. His predecessor was close to finishing the job when he died in what could have been an accident, a suicide or even a murder.
Although the "ghost" has reservations about taking the job, his curiosity and pride soon take over. And with the fee offered being a multiple of what he usually demands, he finds it hard to refuse what should be an easy job.
Adam Lang, the former Prime Minister, is staying in Martha's Vineyard, and that's where the ghost joins him and his entourage. At the same time the PM is accused of war crimes during the war on terror, which pushes the tension in the household up.
It soon turns out that the already existing version of the memoirs is uninteresting and very badly written. But, as the ghost starts his interviews with Lang and his own research he finds that what should be a rather routine job of rewriting someone elses work turns into an investigation into his predecessor's death and the truth about Adam Lang's political past and possible CIA connections. And the deeper he looks, the more danger the ghost finds himself in.
This was a good thriller. From the very first page I got that feeling of danger coming of the book, and that feeling only increased as I got on with the story.
A nice little twist by the end, when I thought that all had already been revealed was a welcome surprise.
Of course the fact that it was so very easy to replace the fictional Lang with a well known real ex Prime Minister made the story that much more interesting. And I couldn't help wondering if there might be any truth in the conspiracy theories in the book.
A book that was thrilling, fun and very interesting all at the same time, what more can a reader ask for.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Pages: 373
Date: 02/10/2010
Grade: 3.5

Detective Inspector Mike Mulcahy has recently returned from an assignment with Europol in Spain and has not yet been assigned to new post when he’s temporarily posted with the sex crimes squad after a young Spanish girl is brutally mutilated in Dublin.
Because the girl is the daughter of a Spanish minister, the case is kept quiet, but it’s only a matter of time before reporter Siobhan Fallon, an old friend of Mulcahy’s, picks up hints about it and starts an investigation on her own.
Soon a second girl, Irish this time, is found with similar, religious, mutilations and the case becomes more open and more frantic. Someone in Dublin is using a metal cross to burn marks on young girls, and initially there don’t appear to be any clear clues.
As the attacks continue, eventually leading to the death of a girl, and it seems that the police have captured the man the press have started calling The Priest, Mulcahy can’t help having doubts about the guilt of man arrested. And Siobhan keeps on getting strange, religious phone calls from an unknown caller.
Only a frantic showdown brings The Priest down, only barely saving the life of the last female captured.
This was a story with a very interesting idea, and had all the hallmarks of a great thriller. It didn’t quite work for me though. The writing was just that little bit off for me, the characters a bit too stereotypical. I never got caught up in the urgency of the story, never really felt that thrill that normally hits me when I read a thriller like this.
Having said that, this was O’Donovan’s debut novel, and as such he shows great promise. If he writes a second thriller, either featuring Mulcahy again or not, I will definitely give him another go. I’ve got a feeling that his stories can only get better.