Monday, October 31, 2011


Pages: 431
Date: 31/10/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 1 in series
            ARC read for BookGeeks
            To be published February 2012

Ever since the detonations the world has been split in two.
There are those who were singled out for safety before disaster struck. They were taken to the Dome where they still live, safe, secluded and Pure; unblemished by the devastation that destroyed the rest of the world.
Outside live those who weren’t deemed good enough to be saved. They were out in the open when the detonations shook the world and those that didn’t die are now maimed and fused with objects they happened to be holding or were close to at the time of the blasts.

Pressia is one of those who live outside, struggling to stay alive and fearing her sixteenth birthday. Once she’s 16 she will have to leave her grandfather, her only surviving relative, and report for duty. Either she’ll be trained to be a soldier, or if she’s deemed too weak, she’ll be turned into prey, to be hunted down and killed. Although life is bleak and dangerous Pressia hangs on to vague memories and stories about life before the destruction and believes the message that came from the Dome at the time: “We know you are here, our brothers and sisters. We will, one day emerge from the Dome to join you in peace. For now we watch from afar, benevolently.” Others are not so sure that the Dome has any benevolent intentions.
Inside the Dome Partridge has lived a life of privilege. With his father being a very powerful figure in the Dome’s organization, he has had little to worry about, except that his mother is dead and his brother has recently killed himself. And Partridge knows he’s different from the other kids in the Dome. Somehow the programmes that exist to enhance male teenagers in the Dome don’t work on Partridge, and this may be the result of something her mother did before he was moved into the Dome.
When Partridge discovers that his mother may still be alive he decides to escape the Dome, find his mother and maybe also the truth.
Soon Pressia and Partridge meet each other in the dangerous world outside the Dome and both of them will have to face truths that upset everything they ever held true and stare death in the face on more than one occasion, because both of them are central to the future of the world they live in.

This is an imaginative dystopian novel. The Post-apocalyptic world described sounds extremely realistic and is portrait in vivid pictures that are all too easy to imagine.
Both Pressia and Partridge are fully formed characters. They aren’t super-human heroes rather than scared youngsters trying to figure out what is going on around them and how to best deal with it. The same is true for the characters they interact with, all are well-rounded and multi-facetted which makes them real to the reader and fascinating to read about.
The same can be said for the story as a whole. There are multiple layers to the story, only a few of which are actually revealed in this first installment. Other discoveries, still to be made, are only hinted at, and I’m sure there are more that are still completely hidden from the reader.
Julianna Baggott succeeds in drawing the reader into her frightening world and make them care about those who live there, their well-being and future. Some writers have it in them to create a new reality on the pages of a book, and Baggott is one of those. She has created a world and characters I care about and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel to this book in the future, although I’m well aware that I will have a long wait ahead of me.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Pages: 115
Date: 28/10/2011
Grade: 4
Details: Read for discussion with
            The Loft Bookshop Book Club

This novel tells the story of an unnamed, old and not very successful reporter who, on the eve of his 90th birthday decides that he wants to spend the night making love to an adolescent and virgin whore.
When he enters the room where the 14 year old girl is waiting for him she is fast asleep and he doesn’t disturb her. He spends the night looking at her and sleeping beside her, and when he leaves the next morning he is deeply in love, for the first time in his life.
All his experiences with women in the past have been with women he had to pay and his encounters with this young girl bring memories of those occasions back to mind.
Filled with love for the girl, who he names Delgadina, he continues to visit her regularly, getting ever more attached to and obsessive about her, although the intimacy he thought he wanted never comes to pass and he and the girl never talk to each other or learn anything about the other’s life. Just sleeping in the same bed is enough because “sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love”.
Feeling the need to share this new emotion he has discovered so late in life he writes about his love in his weekly columns and suddenly finds his career taking off.
As the first year of his 10th decade passes the narrator finds himself subject to emotions he has never felt before and never expected to feel, culminating in the wish to completely change his life and living arrangements.

This is a remarkable book. The whole idea of an adult man wanting to spend the night with a teenager is totally abhorrent to me. However, the fact that, although they do spend nights together, they never actually have sex makes this story readable.
The story of this old man falling in love for the very first time, witnessing him reacting as you would expect the average teenager to do, was charming, sad and uplifting. The thought that it is never too late to experience love, either for the first time or again, is wonderful.
This book is both a love story and a swansong and as such works very well. On the other hand I do find the premise of the very old man and the very young girl quite disturbing. In fact, I had issues with the way women in general were viewed by the narrator in this book. Having said that, it could easily been seen as a weakness in the main character since the two women who play a bigger part in this story, his mother and the lady providing him with Delgadina, can both be viewed as strong and self-sufficient.
All in all this was an interesting read and beautifully written book that should provide lots of material for a very good discussion and gave me quite a few interesting quotes to hold on to.

(on aging) "The truth is that the first changes are so slow they pass almost unnoticed, and you go on seeing yourself as you always were, from the inside, but others observe you from the outside."

"By then I had a mental list of faces I knew and another list of the names that went with each one, but at the moment of greeting I didn't always succeed in matching the faces to the names."
"By now I felt so accustomed to this kind of domestic life that I no longer slept naked but wore the Chinese silk pajamas I had stopped using because I hadn't had anyone to take them off for."

"I began to read her The Little Prince by Saint-Exupery, a French author whom the entire world admires more than the French do."
"(...)and once again I confirmed with horror that one ages more and with more intensity in pictures than in reality."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Pages: 305
Date: 26/10/2011
Grade: 5

Amanda O’Toole has been killed, and after she died four of her fingers were surgically removed by someone who obviously knew what they were doing.
The police investigating the killing are convinced that Jennifer White has killed Amanda, who was her neighbour and best friend.
Jennifer White is a retired orthopaedic surgeon who used to specialise in hands. And Jennifer has Alzheimer’s, which makes her a very unreliable suspect and almost impossible to interrogate.
As her Alzheimer’s gets steadily worse, Jennifer moves backwards and forwards through her memories throwing light on her life, her marriage her children and her, at times volatile, relationship with Amanda.
Did she kill and/or mutilate Amanda? Even Jennifer isn’t sure about the answer to that question, and when the solution to the mystery is revealed to her, all we know for sure is that she won’t be able to remember it.

This was a chilling read on several levels.
There is of course Amanda’s death and what was done to her afterwards, which in and off itself would be scary enough. But in many ways, for me, that was the least chilling part of the story.
The relationships in the book affected me more. The relationships between Jennifer and those around her, her deceased husband, her children and her friend Amanda all seemed to have dark aspects. Jealousies, rivalries and power struggles seemed to be below (and at times in the forefront of) a lot of her interactions with others.
However, by far the most chilling aspect of this book was the disease, Alzheimer’s.
This has been the second book I read about a person slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And as I did when I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova I found myself scared by the disease and by what it does to the person suffering from it and those who have to watch the slow but unrelentless deterioration.
This is a very well written book. I could picture Jennifer, and although I didn’t like her very much, I was able to feel and understand her despair and anger.
Alice LaPlante made Jennifer’s shrinking world very real for me which means that this is a story that will stay with me for a long time.
I’m not sure what other people will make of this review. While my rating shows that I think this is a good book, I can’t help feeling that what I’ve written about it could well put people of reading it. I hope that isn’t the case though, since this is an original and fascinating, if at times disturbing, read.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Pages: 199
Date: 23/10/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett
            Copy received from and reviewed for

Set in the 1970’s in Norway, this is the story of Audun Sletton.
When the book starts Audun is 13 years old and facing his first day in a new school where insists on keeping his sunglasses on all day and refuses to talk about where he came from and his past.
Five years later Audun is the only one of his siblings still living with his mother in a working-class district of Oslo. He is in his last year of school but not sure if that is the place for him. Audun has one good friend, Arvid and shares with him a love of reading and socialist political ideas.
Slowly Audun shares some memories of his life so far with the reader, if not with those around him. We learn about his violent father who disappeared five years ago but could be anywhere, even on his way back to his family. We also find out about Audun’s younger brother and older sister and slowly start to understand Audun’s problems with his life and the world around him.

This is a very good coming-of-age novel. In many ways Audun is a typical teenager, trying to find his place in the world and to understand the actions of those around him. But there are issues in Audun’s life that make him a far from average teenager. The violence that were a dominant feature in his early life, and a devastating loss make him feel more alone in an incomprehensible world than the average teenager does.
The reader won’t always be able to understand or approve of his actions and decisions, but will at all times sympathise with him and will him on, hoping that he will come out at the other side to a brighter future.
At times violent and at other times tender, this is a powerful story, both heartbreaking and uplifting.
I feel this would make a wonderful book for discussion since not everything is explained in detail and several issues are left open to interpretation by the reader.
This is a story that will stay with the reader for some time after finishing the book, with a main character that will provoke all sorts of emotions.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Pages: 338
Date: 20/10/2011
Grade: 5
Details: no. 7 Maisie Dobbs

Michael Clifton was a young American cartographer with an English father who had just finished surveying and buying a plot of land in California when he read about World War 1 breaking out in Europe and decided to sail to Britain to offer his services. Three years later Michael and others on his team were listed as missing.
In 1932 Maisie Dobbs is hired by Michael’s parents. Their son’s body has finally been discovered and with it a bunch of love letters from a British nurse as well as other personal papers. They hope Maisie will be able to discover who the nurse was and find out more about those final years of their son’s life.
Reading the post mortem report proves to Maisie that Michael was murdered rather than a victim of the war and when soon
after talking to Maisie and giving her the letters, the elderly couple is attacked in their hotel room and left for dead it becomes very clear that the investigation is about more than just finding the young but elusive nurse.
Maisie finds herself once again looking at the events of the First World War and her own painful memories of that time. But at the same time her own life is going through drastic changes. Her mentor, Maurice is very ill and Maisie has to prepare herself for life without the man who taught her everything she knows about investigating. She also finds herself taking tentative steps towards loving again. This investigation will be an emotional rollercoaster for a lot of the characters in this book.

I’m not quite sure what exactly it is about these Maisie Dobbs stories, but I love them. I adore the gentle pace in which the stories are told. I’m in awe of Maisie’s way of approaching the people she deals with and feel inspired by the philosophies which underlie her investigative methods.
The book also gives a great and realistic view of life in Britain in the 1930’s as well as the horrors of World War One.
These stories flow softly even though they are murder mysteries and don’t shy away from the horrors of war and death and the pain people will cause each other. And the mysteries are well plotted with solutions that make sense without being obvious.
I can only hope that Mrs. Winspear will continue writing these books for a long time.

“Life is a riddle, my dear. It is filled with clues along the way, with messages we struggle to understand. (…) you should know that all maps are drawn in hindsight. And hindsight, if interpreted with care, is what brings us wisdom.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Pages: 349
Date: 18/10/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: Stand-alone

When, after months of unemployment, Alice Humphrey is offered the opportunity to manage an art gallery in New York it seems like a dream come true, even if she does have her doubt about the art she’s expected to display and sell, the artist who can’t be contacted and the anonymous person financing this opportunity.
Four weeks later, the dream turns into a nightmare when she walks into the gallery early one morning to find all the artwork gone and the man who hired her dead on the floor. And the nightmare becomes darker when all the evidence the police stumble across appears to point at her being the person who murdered him.
Certain of her innocence but unclear about who might want to frame her or why, Alice has little choice but to start investigating the man who hired her, and everything else involved with the gallery.
She soon discovers that absolutely nothing is as it seemed such a short time ago, but nothing could have prepared her for the shocks that are still to come and the consequences they will have for the way she looks at herself, her family and her life.

This was a fascinating thriller.
I’m not usually a fan of stories in which you know from the start that the main character is innocent and has to find a way to prove that to the rest of the world, but in this book it really worked.
Alice is a realistic and lifelike character almost from the first page, and although I did at some times question how sensible her actions were, she never did anything blatantly stupid or dangerous.
The story in this book has several angles and quite a few important characters besides Alice which means that the reader has to pay attention to the story and to who is doing what. But again, this is a positive because the author seems to assume that her readers have a certain level of intelligence.
The way the story unfolds makes sense, and yet I didn’t see any of the revelations coming, or when I did have some idea, didn’t see the full extent of them.
I really enjoyed this book, and am delighted that I already have another of Alafair Burke’s books ordered from the library.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Pages: 223
Date: 12/10/2011
Grade: 5-
Details: #6 Alan Grant

When Inspector Alan Grant finds himself battling claustrophobia and panic attacks as a result of overwork, he takes himself on a fishing holiday to Scotland.
At the end of his overnight train-ride he stumbles on the body of a young man who has died during the night. Because he is on his holidays he doesn’t get involved in the recovery of the body or the subsequent inquest. While in the dead man’s compartment he accidentally picks up a newspaper on which he discovers the handwritten lines of an unknown poem. Lines that speak of “the stones that walk” and “the singing sands”.
Intrigued Grant decides to try and find out where the poem comes from and what the mysterious lines mean. Initially though his enquiries only lead to more questions. Who exactly was the young man on the train and did the papers found with him actually belong to him? And most importantly, did he die as a result of an accident, as the inquest concluded, or was this in fact a case of a very diabolical murder?

This was a wonderful mystery. It starts of very leisurely and had me, for a long time, wondering if there actually was a mystery to be solved in this book. However, once it becomes clear that there is more to be discovered than the origins of a poem, the story takes off and suddenly the pace picks up.
Josephine Tey in this book has written an intriguing mystery in the most beautiful language. Her descriptions of people and places are vivid and clear while her view of people and their characteristics are to the point, if not always kind.
I found myself reading this book with a constant smile on my face, something that doesn’t happen very often and am very glad that there are three more Alan Grant mysteries that I’ve yet to find and read.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Pages: 238
Date: 10/10/2011
Grade: 4-

Wow! I know I’ve said it before, but this is most definitely a book unlike any I’ve read in the past. I’m not even sure if I will be able to describe the plot in a way that makes sense to those who haven’t read the book, but I will try.

An author, on a retreat to finish a book he is working on finds himself confronted by Billy Karlsson, a character from a previous, unfinished novel. In that story Billy is a hospital porter who occasionally helps people who wish to die, but finds himself in trouble when his girlfriend finds out. For five years now Billy’s story has been on hold and as a result, so has Billy’s life.
Now Billy is taken things into his own hands. He has meetings with his creator, offers to write parts of the story himself and introduces a massive twist to the old plot. Just killing sick old people who wish to die isn’t enough anymore. A bigger statement is needed and therefore Billy plans to blow up the hospital where he works.
As the author and his character start to work together on reviving the old story the question is; can the creator stop his creation from inflicting death and destruction, or is he somehow complicit in the planned attack.

This is a truly original story. The lines between the stories told by the author and those narrated by his character become ever more blurred as the drama unfolds. Who is leading who? Who is the actual creator and who is the one following along? What is real, and what is fiction? All questions the reader is faced with, and for a very long time there doesn’t appear to be any clear cut answers.

All the blurbs about this book describe it as being “laugh-out-loud funny”, “full of the blackest humour” and “outrageously funny”. I however, didn’t get the humour in this book. I found the story to be original, disturbing, thought-provoking and inventive. I also think the book would make a wonderful subject for a book club discussion since there are so many angles to this story. I just don’t think my Dutch sense of humour was up to this Irish form of black comedy.
I was thoroughly impressed by the writing style though, the use of words and themes in this story and the way in which the author kept me hooked to a story I wasn’t entirely sure I liked.
All in all a very intriguing reading experience.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Pages: 506
Date: 08/10/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: Received from and reviewed for Transworld Books

This is the fictionalised story of Dr. Hawley Crippen who, in 1910 killed his wife, dissected her body and hid the parts under the floor in his cellar.
The book starts in July 1910 with passengers boarding the SS Montrose before she sets of for her passage from Antwerp to Canada. Two of the people boarding are Mr. John Robinson and his seventeen year old son Edmund who soon arouse suspicions in the cantankerous captain of the Montrose.
Also on board are Antonia Drake, an overbearing snob and her flirtatious and spoiled daughter Victoria as well as Matthieu Zola who some readers may recognise from The Thief of Time, another wonderful book by John Boyne.
The story then alternates between the back-story of Hawley Crippen’s life and his voyage towards Canada.  Crippen’s history covers an unhappy childhood in America, a short marriage, his deep wish to become a doctor, his second marriage to Cora Crippen and their life in London.
In London Hawley Crippen meets Ethel Le Neve who he grows very close to while his marriage to Cora moves from bad to worse. When Cora disappears friends of hers alert Scotland Yard who reluctantly investigate. By the time Inspector Dew starts to take Cora Crippen’s disappearance seriously and makes his horrific discovery in the cellar, Hawley Crippen and Ethel have disappeared. It is only thanks to the observant captain of the Montrose and the recently installed telegraph machine that Dew manages to catch up with Crippen and bring him back to England and his ultimate fate.

This was a fascinating book. Most people will have at least heard about Dr. Crippen and his actions, although I also think that many, like me, will only know the faint outlines of the sorry saga.
While I knew, from the start, how this book was going to end, the story still gripped me and I found myself compulsively turning the pages to find out what would happen next.
The fact that most of this story is fiction only makes the book more interesting. I like the theory about the murder, thrown up by the author, especially since I had not seen it coming at all. I also enjoyed being reunited with Matthieu Zola, a character I really enjoyed reading about in The Thief of Time.
I’m tempted to find myself a non-fiction book about Dr. Crippen now. I’m curious how much of the story told in this book is fact and which parts, apart from the obvious ones, have sprung from John Boyne’s impressive imagination.

This was the fourth and final book I read and reviewed for Transworld Books and I would like to thank the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read four wonderful books, some of which I might not have picked up if it hadn’t been for this challenge.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Pages: 389
Date: 04/10/2011
Grade: 4+
Details: no.3 Flavia de Luce Mystery

When Flavia is having her fortune told by a gypsy woman, she is chilled by the fortune teller’s references to her deceased mother. When she subsequently causes the woman’s tent to burn down, Flavia feels compelled to offer her the opportunity to camp her caravan on a secluded part of Flavia’s father’s land.
The next day Flavia finds the gypsy beat to within an inch of her life, and our eleven year old is determined to find out what exactly happened and why. A further body, found hanging from a fountain, complicates matters further, and there’s also a missing baby to take into consideration.
It isn’t long before Flavia is up to her young neck into investigations, looking into murder, theft, and obscure religions while also trying to keep the upper hand with her two older sisters who seem determined to make her life a misery.

This is a charming mystery series. Flavia is a fascinating character, precocious and endearing. Wise beyond her years and unashamedly curious she can’t help herself but get involved with matters that should be way beyond her years.
I enjoy her way of looking at the world and at her older siblings, although I do find some of her thoughts and actions a bit too advanced for her eleven years.
It is hard to read the books in this series without a smile on my face, and I’m looking forward to reading any future adventures and mysteries involving Flavia.