Monday, December 26, 2011

THE NIGHT CIRCUS


TITLE: THE NIGHT CIRCUS
AUTHOR: ERIN MORGENSTERN
Pages: 387
Date: 26/12/2011
Grade: 5++
Own

This appears to be the year for me to be reading books I don’t quite know how to summarize. The story in this book is amazing, fantastical and engrossing, yet very hard to describe.

The Night Circus; it is an amazing place. It appears overnight without any warning and disappears just as suddenly.
It is a place of magical wonders, where the impossible is visible and beauty surrounds you. What the visitors of the Night Circus don’t know is that it is also the place where a magical contest takes place.
Two youngsters, Celia and Marco, have, without being aware of it or having any say in the matter, been entered in this deadly contest by their shadowy masters. In Celia’s case it’s her father who volunteered her, while Marco was selected from an orphanage just for this purpose.
While they know they are in a contest and that the Circus is their battle ground, they initially don’t know who their opponent is or how they might win or end their battle.
What the two instigators haven’t counted on though, is that Celia and Marco fall deeply in love. And although they are told that the contest can only be won when one of them gives up, they are determined to not give up on themselves, each other or the Circus.

This is one wonderful story. It succeeds in making the magical appear normal, it makes us believe that the Night Circus will indeed one day show up in a field not too far away, to share it’s magic with the rest of us.
The book is filled with wonderful characters. It is so easy to sympathise with Celia, thrown into a battle not of her own choosing without an obvious escape route and to will her on as she tries to find ways to make the Circus a safe place while not losing in the contest.
Marco may be a little bit harder to identify with at first, but between the lines you just know that his heart is in the right place, even if that doesn’t always lead to the right actions. Together they are a wonderful sight though.
My favourite characters were probably Poppet and Widget, very much children of the Circus and pivotal to its survival.
The way this story is told makes the reader feel that it is all real. The wondrous is normal and the normal is exceptional. However, the author makes sure to indicate how having to live in a world where things are different is not easy for all those involved, which makes the story more realistic again.
This is a story I know I will be thinking about for quite a while. It is also a story I hope to be revisiting in my dreams. This is a book I will be reading again and again, and most of all, this is one of my favourite books of this year.

On a side-note; those who have read the book will understand why the title above is red rather than my usual blue.

Friday, December 23, 2011

CITY OF LIES


TITLE: CITY OF LIES
AUTHOR: ALAFAIR BURKE
Pages: 433
Date: 23/12/2011
Grade: 5
Details: no. 3 Ellie Hatcher
            Published as "212" in the USA
Library

Detective Ellie Hatcher and her partner J.J. Rogan are told to put the investigation into the murder of one of the bodyguards of a celebrity entrepreneur more or less on the backburner after Ellie finds herself getting on the wrong side of both the entrepreneur and a judge. Although Ellie resents this action by her superior officer, her mind is soon on other matters as they are called to the scene of the murder of a young student. An attack during which the girl’s house-mate was seriously injured.
It turns out that the student had been the victim of cyber-stalking prior to her murder and our investigators seem to have a choice of possible scenarios to investigate.
When soon afterwards a young estate agent is murdered and a link is discovered between her and the student, the investigation hits yet another direction. And when the injured woman disappears from hospital and vanishes, the race is on to discover the reason behind the murders in order to prevent further bloodshed. When the estate agent is also linked to the celebrity entrepreneur it seems that all cases are connected, if only Ellie could figure out how exactly.

This was one fabulous thriller.
Ellie is an interesting and likeable character who really came to live for me on the pages of this book. The mysteries in this book were well plotted and anything but obvious while the solution was credible and completely consistent with the clues given in the story.
Often a mystery author tries to set you on the wrong track with hints that are so obvious that the reader knows they have to be false. In this book there were several occasions when I did draw the wrong conclusions, but they were down to my own line of reasoning, and not to clear attempts by the author to throw me off scent.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Alafair Burke put those red-herrings in on purpose. I just appreciate the fact she wasn’t obvious about it.
I do wonder if I would have figured the solution out sooner if I had been familiar with the real-life cases Burke based this story on. Since I don’t live in the US and have only minor knowledge of the news there, that is a question I can’t answer though.
What I do know is that I want to read more about Ellie Hatcher and the cases she solves and that I’m delighted that there is a fourth instalment in this series on the way next year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

THE MAGICIANS


TITLE: THE MAGICIANS
AUTHOR: LEV GROSSMAN
Pages: 488
Date: 19/12/2011
Grade: 4-
Details: Magician no. 1
Library

Quentin Coldwater is an unhappy but highly intelligent teenager about to sit an interview for a college place when he finds his interviewer dead. When he leaves the office, he has been handed an envelope with his name on it which leads him to a place he never knew existed, where the seasons are out of sync with his normal world and where he finds himself sitting an entrance exam for Brakebills College, a school for magicians.
For Quentin, who has been attracted to the mythical and fantastical all his life, this seems to be a dream come true. And his life only gets better while he learns magic, makes friends and finds a girlfriend.
Things are never this easy though, and Quentin and his friends soon discover that while being able to perform magic may be great fun and a powerful experience most of the time, this new world is much like the one they left behind. There are dangers, responsibilities, people who would use you, and powers that corrupt. And once the idyll ends the young magicians find themselves facing dangers they couldn’t have imagined in an adventure not all of them will get out of in one piece.

Occasionally I finish a book not knowing exactly what I think or how I feel about it, and this is one of those books.
The story has all the elements to make for a fascinating tale and yet it failed to grip me. The book contains some descriptions which make it clear that this is a book aimed at adults, yet the story-line felt more young-adultish to me.
Quentin is a hard character to like. He is very self-obsessed, quick to feel sorry for himself and reluctant to take responsibility for himself and his actions. And although that could be explained by the fact that he is a teenager for most of the book, he doesn’t appear to grow out of these tendencies.
I also felt that the story was told in a very detached fashion. I never really felt drawn into the story or connecting with any of the characters. Although the story was intriguing enough to keep me turning the pages I never felt any emotional attachment to any of the characters and didn’t really care a whole lot about their fates.
On the other hand, I do find myself curious about what could possibly come next in this story. So despite my ambivalent feelings towards this book I think it is very likely that I’ll read the sequel in the not too distant future.

Friday, December 16, 2011

THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING


TITLE: THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING
AUTHOR: AGATHA CHRISTIE
Pages: 224
Date: 16/12/2011
Grade: 4
Details: Short Stories
Library

I wanted to read at least one seasonal book during this Christmas time, and this seemed a nice choice. Christie’s books seem appropriate for this season due to their tone and settings alone, regardless of the time of year they take place in.
As it turned out, in this collection of stories only the first is set during Christmas celebrations, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all.
In “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding” Hercule Poirot is invited to join a traditional countryside Christmas in order to find a missing ruby.
A body found in a chest, an irresistible woman and a murder that could only have been committed by one of two men (or could it?) give Poirot a fascinating investigation in “The Mystery of the Spanish Chest”.
“The Under Dog” has Poirot investigation when a widow suspects that her nephew is not the one who killed her husband, despite all the evidence saying he is.
In “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” it is a solitary man’s eating habits which explain his apparently accidental death for Poirot.
An eccentric millionaire tells Poirot of a recurring dream in which he kills himself only to be found shot a few days later. It appears the man has acted out his dream, but our detective proves otherwise.
“Greenshaw’s Folly” is the only story featuring Miss Marple in this book and has her untangling a confusion of identities and family relations.

I always enjoy Agatha Christie’s mysteries. Yes, she does cheat a bit at times in that she doesn’t give the reader all the information which is available to the detectives in her stories. But she makes up for that with the wonderful characters she has created for us. Her descriptions of people and places are wonderful, sharp and not always nice, which makes them all the more enjoyable for the reader.
Now that my library has quite a few Agatha Christie books on its shelves, I can see myself bringing one home with me regularly for moments of nostalgic and relaxing reading pleasure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

THE THIRTEEN HALLOWS


TITLE: THE THIRTEEN HALLOWS
AUTHOR: MICHAEL SCOTT & COLETTE FREEDMAN
Pages: 349
Date: 13/12/2011
Grade: 4+
Details: First in series
Own

Sarah Miller is an unremarkable young woman, working a job she doesn’t like and continuously held back by her domineering mother.
When she sees an elderly woman being attacked by two junkies she does the unthinkable and intervenes. For reasons she doesn’t quite understand herself Sarah accompanies the woman, Judith Walker to her home and when they find the place ransacked, Sarah offers Judith a bed for the night in her own house. An offer which has devastating consequences for both Sarah and Judith.
With her dying breath, Judith asks Sarah to deliver a bag containing a broken sword and papers to her cousin, Owen.
For Sarah the nightmare has only begun though. People are desperate to get their hands on the sword, and will do anything to get it, and soon Sarah finds herself having to kill just to stay alive.
Because what Sarah has been asked to look after is one of the Thirteen Hallows, ancient artifacts which protect the human world from demons who would destroy it.
For centuries the Hallows have been kept and protected by keepers whose duty it was to always keep them separate from each other. Now somebody is determined to reunite the Hallows and unleash devastation on the earth, and he’s getting close. He has killed nearly all the keepers, has collected nearly all the Hallows and will stop at nothing to complete his deadly collection.
Sarah and Owen find themselves in charge of a power they don’t understand and can’t quite believe in and facing an enemy far stronger and more ruthless than they are.
As they slowly learn more about the Hallows, about their heritage and their destinies it becomes clear that their lives will never again be what they used to be or what they expected.

This is a thrilling story. With short chapters, lots of action and even more cliff-hangers, this is a true page turner.
The book is rather full of, at times rather descriptive, violence. However, since we are dealing with demons and those who would consort with them, it makes sense for the story to be dark.
I was fascinated by the story of the Hallows, their history and the characters playing a role in that past and liked the way it was revealed slowly, both to the reader and to the main characters in the book.
I would have liked to learn a bit more about Sarah and Owen. They were described in so little detail that they stayed a bit vague for me and I still can’t quite picture them.
However, this is the first book in a series, and it had a lot of other background information to share, so I hope that our two heroes will be further developed in subsequent books.
I would add one warning to this review though.
A lot of people may be familiar with or even a fan of Michael Scott because of his “Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” series, which is aimed at teenagers. This is on the other hand is very much a book for adults. If you are, like me, one of those adults who couldn’t wait for the teenager in your life to finish their copy of "The Alchemyst" and its sequels so that you could read it yourself, this is definitely a book for you.
Finally I would like to remark on the physical beauty of this book. The cover is gorgeous and tactile while the pages of the book are printed in a beautiful and story-fitting font.

Friday, December 9, 2011

ALL THESE LITTLE WORLDS


TITLE: ALL THESE LITTLE WORLDS
AUTHOR: VARIOUS
Pages: 167
Date: 09/12/2011
Grade: 4
Details: no. 2 Fiction Desk Anthology
Own

A copy of this book was send to me by the Fiction Desk at the request of Charles Lambert, whose story is one of 9 featured in this anthology.

I don’t read a lot of short fiction and am a bit at a loss as to how to review this book.
The stories in this book are by nine different authors and although three of them are set in a school environment, the content and style of these writings are all very different and individual.
In “Jaggers & Crown” James Benmore tells the story of Kevin Crown who, when seeing his somewhat premature obituary in a newspaper reflects, on his past as part of a comedy duo.
Jennifer Moore’s “Swimming with the Fishes” tells of a family buying a rather unusual addition to their aquarium and is a story in which the fantastical appears to make perfect sense.
“Pretty Vacant” by Charles Lambert is by far the longest story in this collection. It tells of a fifteen year old girl who is send from Italy to a summer school in England against her wishes where she embarks on a rather dark and potentially disastrous scheme with a local boy.
Mischa Hiller’s “Room 307” shows us how a man being seduced by a beautiful woman while away from home for work is not quite what it seems.
The second story set in a school is “Dress Code” by Halimah Marcus. Here a young male teacher in an all girl school falls foul of the newly introduced casual Friday.
“The Romantic” by Colin Corrigan is set in Connemara in Ireland and sees a one-armed poet determined to live only in the present suddenly confronted by painful memories after a drinking session with a younger woman.
In “After All the Fun We Had” by Ryan Shoemaker the attempts made by a high school to make going to and staying in class more fun get completely out of hand.
“Glenda” by Andrew Jury describes the somewhat strange relationship between a man and his mother in law after he has been left by his wife.
“Get on the Green” by Jason Atkinson is the last story in this book and describes a day in school as experienced by a four year old girl while she gets to grips with issues such as being good, the importance of college and race.

I really can’t say anymore about these stories without spoiling them for anybody else who will read them, so I won’t.
I will say that none of these stories disappointed and that reading them has left me with a few names of authors I will have to take a closer look at. I will also say that if I had to pick favourites from these nine, they would be “Swimming with the Fishes” and “Pretty Vacant”.
Finally I would like to thank Charles Lambert and the Fiction Desk for giving me the opportunity to read this collection. I enjoyed the experience.

IRELAND READING CHALLENGE 2012


Well, there you have it. 
Only last week I decided that although I had enjoyed participating in the Ireland Reading Challenge 2011, I would not participate again. I live in Ireland, and although I still feel that I have lots of catching up to do when it comes to Irish authors and books, I did manage to read more Irish-related books than I thought I would and found myself exceeding the amount of books I was challenged to read by a huge margin.
But then I saw a link to the 2012 Challenge, decided to have a look and suddenly found myself interested in participating again since there now is far more to the challenge. 

The Challenge levels are now as follows:

Shamrock level: 4 books
Luck o’ the Irish level: 6 books
Kiss the Blarney Stone level: 8 books
Ceilidh level: 10+ books

And a twist  has been added: 

" Now for the twist: you can earn extra entries in the giveaway by diversifying your reading. You will earn one extra entry for reading from these genres – one entry per genre represented in your challenge list:"
 
Contemporary fiction
Historical fiction
Science fiction or fantasy
Young Adult fiction
Romance
Horror
Children’s fiction
Non-fiction – history
Non-fiction – memoir or biography
Non-fiction – essays
Poetry

 
Needless to say, I'll be aiming to read more than 10 books - lets have that Ceilidh - but I also want to read at least one book in each of the categories named. And that is where it becomes a real challenge for me. I haven't read poetry since I left secondary school and know little or nothing about Irish poets or what I might like. All the more reason to try at least one work of poetry next year then. 
I won't be counting the various genres as extra entries though. I would be deeply disappointed if I didn't read at least 20 Irish books next year without counting any book twice. I just want to make sure I learn more about Irish authors and their works.
I can't wait to see how I'll get on with the challenge this year and will of course be keeping a record of my Irish (as well as all other) readings here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

LEFT NEGLECTED


TITLE: LEFT NEGLECTED
AUTHOR: LISA GENOVA
Pages: 400
Date: 05/12/2011
Grade: 5+
Library

Be warned: This review contains one possible (minor) spoiler near the end.

Sarah Nickerson is in her thirties and leading a very busy life. Between her high-powered, demanding and stressful job, her husband and her three young children she doesn’t have time to stop and think and has to schedule every activity in her own and her children’s lives to the last second. It is the life she and her equally busy husband have always dreamed of though, so most of the time Sarah is proud of and happy with her juggling act.
All activity comes to a complete stop when one morning while driving in to work Sarah glances at her phone for a second too long and ends up crashing her car and severely injuring herself.
When she wakes up she finds herself in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital with half her head shaven but, as far as she can tell, otherwise fine. Except that she is completely unaware of anything on her left. She is diagnosed with Left Neglected, a neurological condition where the patient’s brain forgets that the left exists. Not only can she not see anything on the left of her, she’s also blind to the left-hand side of most things she can see and unable to use either her left hand or left leg.
Rehabilitation is a slow and frustrating process and when the insurance money runs out Sarah is nowhere near recovered.
Back home, being cared for by the mother she’s been estranged from for most of her life, Sarah has to begin the slow process of picking up the pieces of her life, adjusting to her new reality and finding new goals.

This is a wonderful book as well as a horrifying story. No matter how hard I try I can’t begin to understand how a person’s mind could just decide half of it isn’t there, how that person could possible be unaware of missing half of themselves as well as their surroundings or imagine how someone would even begin to come to terms with that fact.
Genova does a great job of explaining this disorder and how it affects a person. She describes how Sarah goes through a whole range of emotions without making her character look either too blasé or over-emotional. This makes the story, the disorder and the character both believable and accessible to the reader.

As I did with ‘Still Alice’, I find myself thinking about the condition and trying to imagine how I would deal with it. I love it when books bring me more then just reading joy.
One objection, on page 201 Heidi points out to Sarah that she’s lucky compared to others in the rehabilitation clinic. And although that is undoubtedly true it’s not something I feel you can ever say to a patient. Any of us can only deal with our own health issues. Comparing them to the issues of others doesn’t make our own easier or better, it just helps to make us feel bad about feeling bad about our own situation.
On the other hand, I love the optimistic but not miraculous ending to the story, signified through the following words: “Because while I still hope for a full recovery, I’ve learned that my life can be fully lived with less.” A sentiment I had to work my own way towards a decade ago.
This is a book that will grip you, keep you turning the pages and stay with you for a long time after you’ve read the final words. In short it comes highly recommended.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

DIVERGENT


TITLE: DIVERGENT
AUTHOR: VERONICA ROTH
Pages: 487
Date: 02/12/2011
Grade: 4+
Details: No. 1 in series / Young Adult
Own

It is a new society. After a devastating war people have been divided into five factions which each specialise in one human quality. The factions are Amity for people who abhor violence, Erudite for those who yearn for knowledge, Candor for those who believe the truth should always be told, Abnegation for the selfless and Dauntless for the fearless.
Tris has lived in the selfless community of Abnegation for the first 16 years of her life with her parents and her brother. Now that her brother, Caleb, and she are sixteen they have to choose which faction they want to align themselves with. While most young adults will choose to stay with the faction they were born to, both Tris and Caleb choose differently. Caleb hunger for knowledge makes him move to Erudite while Tris leaves Abnegation for Dauntless.
This one choice will change their lives because factions come before blood. The choice decides your friends, defines your beliefs and determines your loyalties… for ever.
Tris is aware of the consequences of her choice, but still the actual change shocks her. There is still a chance that she won’t make it through the initiation period and find herself among the factionless and the competition is very tough and not always fair. And Tris caries a secret that she must keep hidden, a secret so dangerous it could end up killing her. Because the world of factions is not as ideal as the leaders would like to pretend. There is dissatisfaction among the factions and it won’t be long before Tris and her one ally will have to make tough choices, not just to survive but also to safe those they care about.

This was a fascinating, though at times disturbing book. While I was intrigued by the society described and the choices the youngsters have to make the rather graphic descriptions of violence shocked me at times.
I completely understand why the violence was in the book, and am not suggesting that it was unnecessary in the story, but that didn’t make the reading of it any easier.
On the other hand, I was very impressed by Tris’ thought-processes, her struggles with her decisions and the way she evolved over the course of the story. Put the violence aside for a moment and what you’re reading about are teenage rivalries as we all know them, especially in situations where coming first or not coming last is very important.
The love story was nice and believable and the identity of the male love subject was a nice surprise, although it was hinted at throughout the story.
Yes, I did have to put the book down once or twice because the violence was just too much for me. On the other hand, I couldn’t put it down for long because I had to know how the story would progress and end. And I know that I won’t be able to resist any sequels to this story when they are published.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WRAPPING UP THE IRELAND CHALLENGE

When I decided to take part in this challenge I had no idea how many Irish books I usually read over 11 months. I knew it was more than the six books that would take me to the "Kiss the Blarney Stone" level, but not how many more. Well, it turns out I read a total of 28 books that were either by an Irish author, set in Ireland or in any other way related to Ireland.
Of course, I live in Ireland and work in an Irish library. Therefore it wouldn't be fair to compare my list of books with anybody elses. I'm exposed to Irish writing so much more than most other people that any comparison would be unfair.
In fact, I've decided that if this challenge takes place again next year, I won't be participating again. Not because I didn't enjoy the process, I did. Rather because I now know that I read quite a lot of Irish books and really don't need to encourage myself to do so.
I want to thank Books and Movies for hosting this challenge. I would never have given a second thought to my reading of Irish books if it hadn't been for her. 
And now of course I've got a new goal for next year. I want to improve on this years effort, so in 2112 I want to read at least 30 Irish books.

STOLEN SOULS


TITLE: STOLEN SOULS
AUTHOR: STUART NEVILLE
Pages: 312
Date: 30/11/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 3 Belfast Thriller
Library

Galya is a girl from Ukraine, tricked into coming to Ireland with promises of a good job, she found herself slaving on a mushroom farm before she was taken into Belfast to be groomed into becoming a hooker.
When a Lithuanian gangster tries to force himself on her in order to “break her in”, she kills him and shortly afterwards finds herself on the run from his friends who want their revenge. Afraid and in a city where she knows nothing and no-one her only hope is the man with the cross, who gave her his phone number. Little does Galya know that her only hope is to turn into her worst nightmare.
Detective Inspector Jack Lennon was hoping to have a quiet Christmas with his daughter when he’s put in charge of the case of a murdered Lithuanian man. When three other men are also murdered, it seems that Jack may have a war between rival gangs on his hands. However, it isn’t long before Jack finds himself looking for the girl who is rumoured to have murdered the first man, unaware that others are looking for her too and that forces very close to him are determined to stop him from solving his case at all cost.

This is a more conventional thriller than its two predecessors in so far that the political issues connected with Northern Ireland play only a background role at best. In this book we are firmly in the territory of the sex-trade, a serial killer and powerful enemies.
In this book there is never a question as to who he bad guys are. The big thriller is how both the girl and Jack will manage to overcome those out to get them. With the odds firmly stacked against both of them, it appears that it will take a miracle for either or both of them to survive.

I enjoyed this thriller. Galya was a wonderful character, easy to identify and sympathise with. Jack Lennon is a flawed man, but also a man well aware of his flaws and doing his best to overcome them in order to be a good father to the daughter he denied for so long and maybe even find a chance at love.
Stuart Neville appears to have no illusions when it comes to the lengths people are prepared to go to when it comes to protecting their own interests and lifestyles, and although I would like to think that he is wrong in that respect, I can’t help thinking that it is probably true for a lot of people.
As with the previous books by this author, I read it with mixed emotions. The story is great, well plotted and a true page-turner. On the other hand, the selfishness, cruelty and indifference of a lot of characters in the books sound so true to life that it makes them hard to stomach at times. Having said that, I am by this stage well and truly hooked on this series, and am already looking forward to my next outing with Jack Lennon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ON CANAAN'S SIDE


TITLE: ON CANAAN’S SIDE
AUTHOR: SEBASTIAN BARRY
Pages: 256
Date: 28/11/2011
Grade: 4.5
Own

On the first day after her grandson Billy dies, Lilly Bere, eighty-nine years old, starts writing down the story of her life before she intends to put an end to it.
Over the next seventeen days she writes in her accounts book a story that starts in Ireland before World War I and ends in America during the gulf war.
Before Lilly was twenty years old she had to flee Ireland with the man she loved when the violence let loose in the country is threatening her and Tadg Bere’s lives.
Once in America life is anything but straightforward as the violence from home follows the young pair across the Atlantic.
Lilly soon finds herself alone and trying to make a life for herself. A life that will be filled with love, loss, friendships and betrayals. A life that will somehow forever be touched by the wars men find themselves caught up in.
I could give a lot more detail about this story, but I don’t think I should. One of the pleasures in reading this book is discovering how Lilly finds her way through life. How she ends up where she is, mourning the loss of her grandson.
Lilly tells her story with great detachment. She rarely dwells on emotions and I found myself reading between the lines to get to feelings that lay below the apparently dispassionate narration.
Because of this detachment it took me a while to get really involved in the story. I think I was about a quarter into the book before I found myself caring about Lilly and what was happening to her. But once I did I found it increasingly hard to put the book down. From not really being interested at all I had gone to being completely invested in Lilly’s life and the resilience of this character.
As Barry takes the reader on a journey through almost a century of history and changes in the world, he also shows the reader how little some things change. History repeats itself time and again until, at last, it’s just too much for even the strongest human spirit to endure.
This is a book I needed to reflect upon for a while once I finished it. Its beautiful and understated tone almost hides the poignancy in its words. Almost, but not quite.

“That they wouldn’t allow us to cross into Canaan, but would follow us over the river and kill him on Canaan’s side. The land of refuge itself.”

“We may be immune to typhoid, tetanus, chickenpox, diphtheria, but never memory. There is no inoculation against that.”

“It is possible that no one can tell you anything that you don’t already know. The brain, some part of the brain has picked up the information already, but not the ‘top’ brain, not the bit that thinks it knows things.”

Friday, November 25, 2011

DUBLIN DEAD

TITLE: DUBLIN DEAD
AUTHOR: GERARD O’DONOVAN
Pages: 418
Date: 25/11/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 DI Mike Mulcahy & Siobhan Fallon
            Reviewed for BookGeeks
Own


“A drug deal gone bad.
A daughter gone missing.
A hitman on the loose.
And five days to find the answers.”


Journalist Siobhan Fallon is still recovering from the events in The Priest, when she’s send to Cork to cover the funeral of a formally successful estate agent who has committed suicide in England.
What at first appears to be a complete non-story becomes more interesting when she is approached by a woman who is worried about her missing daughter who was supposed to be with the deceased man in England.
At the same time, in Dublin, DI Mike Mulcahy and his team are gathering information about a known gangster and drug dealer on behalf of the Spanish police, who are trying to solve the man’s murder in Spain. The team is also looking into a massive drugs haul on a yacht off the coast of Cork.
Curious, Siobhan travels to Bristol to find out more about the estate agent’s suicide and the missing woman, only to find no trace of the later as well as discrepancies in the travel documents of the man.
At the same time more underworld figures are being killed, both in England and in Ireland.
When Mulcahy and Fallon get together and compare notes, strange coincidences soon turn into a sinister plot.
With a gunman on the loose, determined to kill anybody who knows his secret, the detective and the journalist have only five days to tie all the lose ends together and prevent more deaths.

This is an enjoyable thriller, with an intriguing plot and connections where you wouldn’t expect any.
In books like this you just know that what appear to be unconnected events will in all likelihood turn out to be connected. However, in this book it was completely unclear how that could possibly be the case for quite a while. In fact I found myself wondering once or twice whether the author would succeed in delivering believable connections, and was delighted to find that he did.
I did however find the book a bit slow to start. I think it took me to about half way through the book to pick up on any sense of urgency. Once I did get that sensation though, I couldn’t stop turning the pages, and found myself racing through the second part of the book to find out how it would all link up, who the killer actually was and how it was all going to end.
Parts of the final solution came as a complete surprise to me, which is always good in a thriller, and turned this book into a more satisfying read than I thought it was going to be.
I do have a bit of a problem believing that any policeman would ever co-operate with a journalist in the way described in this book. Since this plot device does work very well, I’m prepared to dispel my disbelieve on that front though.
I feel that this book flowed better than its prequel did and think that O’Donovan is hitting his stride. If there is going to be a third book in this series, and I hope there will be, I will definitely get myself a copy. I’ve got a feeling that these books will only get better and better.

Monday, November 21, 2011

HEAVEN'S SHADOW

TITLE: HEAVEN’S SHADOW
AUTHORS: DAVID S. GOYER & MICHAEL CASSUTT
Pages: 567
Date: 21/11/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: No. 1 Heaven’s Trilogy
            ARC received from BookGeeks
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In 2016 an object is spotted in the sky over the South Pole. It is one hundred kilometres across and heading for earth.
In 2019 two manned space crafts are racing towards the Near Earth Object, dubbed Keanu, one from the USA and one from a Brazilian-Russian-Indian coalition. Both crews want to be the first to set foot on this unknown object.
The NASA team is lead by Zack Stewart who has lost his wife three years previously and has left his teenage daughter, Rachel, behind on Earth to follow developments from NASA headquarters.
Zack’s team manages to land first, but the coalition craft is close behind, and shortly after both landings explosions on the “NEO” injure one astronaut and push the object directly into Earth’s orbit.
Close inspection shows that the explosions were no accident. The object was pushed into Earth’s orbit on purpose, but by whom and why.
And this is not the last surprise the two crews have to face. As they start the explore Keanu they come face to face with wonder upon wonder. Some of these are delightful, while others are horrific while all of them are mysterious and inexplicable.
As the two crews find themselves having to work together, tough decisions will have to be made and survival is far from certain.

I am not, and never have been, very good at or very interested in science. And that is probably the reason I haven’t read a lot of Science-Fiction either, although I do enjoy the occasional Fantasy.
I therefore don’t think I’m qualified to judge this book on its scientific content or to compare it with other books in this genre.
I am however a reader and like to think I’m capable of recognising a good story when I read one. And this was a thrilling reading experience from the first to the last page.
Fast-paced, action packed and full of twists and turns, this book had me turning the pages at a frantic pace, desperate to find out what was going on, and how it could possibly end in anything other than disaster.
I liked the way a lot of chapters start with “quotes” from online message boards on which the public reacts to what they are told about what is going on during this mission. And although I have my doubts as to whether strict adherence to rules would be disregarded with an ease as described in this book, it did make the story a lot more interesting. And to be fair, it is impossible to know how anyone would react if the events described in this book actually did happen.

I am not surprised to learn that both authors of this book are script-writers and film-producers. The chapters in this book felt a bit like scenes and the pace of the story did not leave a lot of room for in-depth character development. However, neither of these “issues” spoilt the story for me, or my reading enjoyment.
I find myself slightly surprised to say that I will be keeping an eye out for parts two and three in this trilogy. I may not be a huge fan of Science-Fiction but I certainly want to read them and find out how it is all going to end.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

THE DROP

TITLE: THE DROP
AUTHOR: MICHAEL CONNELLY
Pages: 388
Date: 19/11/2011
Grade: 5+
Details: No. 17 Harry Bosch
Library

Harry Bosch is working in the Open-Unsolved Unit, where cases dating back up to 50 years are re-examined whenever new evidence warrants such action.
When a DNA hit comes back giving the name of a possible suspect to an unsolved rape-murder of a young girl more than 20 years ago, it appears to be a slam-dunk at first glance. However, a closer look at the evidence shows that, although Clayton Pell, the person identified, is a convicted rapist and seems to fit the crime quite well, something has to be wrong. At the time of the crime, Pell was only eight years old, which makes it unlikely if not impossible, that he committed the crime.
Bosch and his partner David Chu have only started trying to figure out how the DNA evidence could point to a juvenile when they are handed a second case.
They are to investigate the death of a man who fell from a hotel window. This should be a straight-forward investigation were it not for the fact that Bosch was asked to conduct it by his long-time nemesis Irvin Irving. It was council man Irving’s son who fell to his death and Irving insists that he only trusts Bosch to conduct a fair investigation.
Bosch knows that this second investigation is more about politics than about policing and can’t understand why a man who has spend years trying to undermine him now wants him to investigate his son’s death. But because “everybody counts or nobody counts” he takes on the case and gives it his best.
Facing both a serial killer who may have gone undetected for over 30 years on the one case and a political mine-field where it is unclear who is manipulating who on the other, Harry finds himself questioning his wish to stay in the police force for as long as he possibly can.

This is Michael Connelly at his best. While I enjoy all of his books, I have to admit that Harry Bosch is my favourite character of his. Bosch’s integrity equals his disregard for rules and politics and his “lone wolf” approach to investigations is as understandable as it is infuriating. The mysteries in this book are as well plotted as any in Connelly’s books, with twists and turns that leave the reader guessing and solutions that are both credible and infuriating. Connelly doesn’t give the reader an idealised version of police work. He shows us a harsh reality where the best intentions won’t always lead to the right outcomes through a character who is well aware of the faults in the system but still prepared to give it the best he’s got.
Connelly is steering Harry Bosch towards a retirement date in the not too distant future, and this reader will be shedding a few tears when the moment comes for her favourite detective to hand in his badge.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

THE BREATH OF GOD

TITLE: THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BREATH OF GOD
AUTHOR: GUY ADAMS
Pages: 245
Date: 18/11/2011
Grade: 4+
Details: Received from and reviewed for BookGeeks
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The book starts with Hilary De Montfort, leaving his club after a lucky evening gambling, on to be seen a short while later, desperately running away from something only he can see. When his crushed body is discovered in the middle of a London square it is unclear who or what may have killed him.
Shortly afterwards Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are visited by Dr. John Silence who tells them a strange story about a possessed little girl. A story that fails to convince Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes is fascinated by De Montfort’s death though and when soon afterwards another man, who belonged to the same occult society, also dies under very mysterious circumstances, Holmes interest is peaked.
Soon Silence, Watson and Holmes find themselves on a train to Inverness to consult with Aleister Crowley. While on the train Watson finds himself witnessing a very distressing supernatural phenomenon which turns out to be the first of many.
Once in Inverness, Holmes goes of to conduct investigations on his own, while Watson travels with Silence and Thomas Carnacki, supernatural investigator, to Crowley’s house where they are also joined by Julian karswell, a runic expert. Crowley seems to be under nightly attacks from supernatural forces and Watson soon finds himself not only converted into believing in the supernatural, but also joining forces with the other men to fight the horrors they face.
When Holmes joins the men in Crowley’s estate they decide that the real threat lies in London, which may face a supernatural attack on the very start of the twentieth century. Will these 6 men be able to stop the forces of evil, or is there, after all, a logical explanation for everything Watson has been experiencing?

This was a fascinating excursion into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Guy Adams has stayed close enough to Conan Doyle’s original way of telling the stories to make this a very plausible addition. At the same time, he takes things one step further than the creator of Sherlock Holmes used to do. This is one mystery where logic will not explain all, where even Holmes has to admit that there may be things even he can’t quite rationalise, or can he? Watson and the reader are left wondering what exactly did and did not happen, although Holmes does supply an explanation even for that.
I think I might have enjoyed this book more if I had been familiar with the stories in which Silence, Carnacki and Karswell originated. I probably missed out on some references that would have been obvious to people with such familiarity. That lack in background information didn’t lessen my reading enjoyment though. I read this story in a single day and almost in a single sitting in what was a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.

THE NEXT ALWAYS

TITLE: THE NEXT ALWAYS
AUTHOR: NORA ROBERTS
Pages: 324
Date: 15/11/2011
Grade: 5-
Details: no. 1 The Inn at Boonsboro Trilogy
Library

The Montgomery family of Boonsboro is in the middle of restoring the historic hotel there into a bed & breakfast. The three brothers together with their mother have great plans for the place, modernising the place while keeping and restoring all its historical features.
Beckett Montgomery is the architect in the family and the hotel is the major project in his life. It’s not the only one though. He also has his eye on a woman he has had feelings for since he was a teenager.
Clare Brewster is a young army widow with three young sons, who runs the bookshop across the street from the hotel. With her life filled to over-flowing with home, work and her young family, a new relationship is the last thing on her mind. But her curiosity about the restoration project soon brings her closer to Beckett, and the possibility of a new and unimagined future. But the path to happiness isn’t a smooth one, and Clare and Beckett will have to overcome some obstacles before their future together can be secured.

This is Nora Roberts as I love her. A story filled with interesting and strong characters, romance, danger and even a ghost; what’s not to love?
Considering that Roberts books are in fact highly predictable and closely resembling each other, it seems amazing that I continue to love her books as much as I do. I can only contribute that to the fact that Robert’s romances always feature characters I would love to know in real life. She has a way of drawing the reader in with clever conversation and interesting surroundings.
And this book has an added attraction.
Although all the characters in this book are fictional, the setting is real, as is the Inn which has indeed been restored and opened by Nora Roberts herself and a friend. The love the author has for this place is obvious on the pages of this book, and gives an added depth to this story.
As always, I really want to read the rest of this trilogy as soon as possible, and resent the fact that I’ll have to wait about a year before the next one will be out.