Sunday, July 31, 2011


Pages: 375
Date: 30/07/2011
Grade: 5
Details: no. 32 Eve Dallas & Roarke

When Eve's trusted side-kick Peabody overhears a discussion between two police officers it's almost immediately clear that she's listening to tales of corruption. Peabody is scared but doesn't have a choice but to stay hidden and listen to them while they argue and mention that a troublesome informer has been taken care of. As soon as the coast is clear Peabody reports what and who she has overheard to Eve Dallas and soon Eve has discovered the remains of the mentioned informer and started a murder investigation.
Eve and her team find themselves up against Lieutenant Renee Oberman, in charge of the Illegals Division and daughter of a much revered NYPSD legend. In order to stop Oberman Eve will need cast iron proof of the corruption and the murders resulting from it. But Oberman has so far been above suspicion, is hard as nails and leads a team that follows her every order.
And so begins a game of cat and mouse between the two Lieutenants, a game in which one participant will do anything to keep her scheme going regardless of whom she has to kill.

J.D. Robb hardly every disappoints. This is the 32nd book in this series and as always the story gripped me from the first page. I'm usually not a big fan of mysteries in which the guilty party is known from the start, but in this book that didn't matter. In fact, this book was not about who done it, but about how do you stop someone who appears to have everything completely under control.
As always it was fun reconnecting with Eve, Roarke, Peabody and all the other familiar faces, and I can't help wondering if there will ever come a time when I'll get bored with this series. At the moment, I can't see that happening. I'm already looking forward to getting my hands on the next book, when it comes out.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Pages: 224
Date: 29/07/2011
Grade: 3.5
Details: Read for discussion in The Loft Bookshop Book Club

This book has such a cute cover and such an innocent and magical title that I was expecting a fairy-tale between the covers. Since this is a book for grown-ups I didn't think it was all going to be lovely and happy ever after, but I definitely wasn't ready for the rather horrific tale I encountered.

Melanie is 15 when her world shatters. Both her parents die in an airplane accident and she and her younger brother and sister have to go and live with their uncle, his wife and her two younger brothers.
From the start it's clear that things are not right. Instead of their uncle picking them up from the train station, it is the two brothers of his wife who are waiting for them there. Irish and unclean they are like nothing Melanie is used to. When they get to the house where they will be living from now on, over their uncle's toyshop, they discover that their aunt doesn't speak and apparently hasn't spoken since the day she married.
It soon turns out that their uncle is a brute who terrorises his family and lives for the toys he makes and the shows he puts on for the family with his life-size puppets.
In this atmosphere of fear and deprivation, Melanie has to grow up quickly. She takes her first steps towards love, which turns out to be nothing like her fantasies and her eyes are opened to some of the more horrific realities of life. This is a situation that can only end in disaster, and so it does.

Sometimes I read a book and think that it is just not good. Other times I read a book and feel that it is probably very well written, but that it is just not for me. This is one of those books that leave me feeling as if I'm missing something.
The story read as if I was looking at a picture through dirty glasses. I could see the outlines but not any depth or colour. Everything that happened, good or, mostly, bad just washed of me. I found myself indifferent to the fate of Melanie and any of the other characters.
The writing in this book was too descriptive for me and seemed to lack feeling, and as a result it didn't evoke any emotions in me.
I also wonder about the author's feelings about men in general. None of the men in this book seemed to have any redeeming qualities. The brutish uncle being the clearest example, but Melanie's distant brother, and the two young in-laws didn't have a lot going for them either.
This is not a happy or uplifting story, and Melanie's resignation to her fate even before her 16th birthday is devastating. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Pages: 594
Date: 27/07/2011
Grade: 5-
Details: no. 1 All Souls Trilogy

Historian Diana Bishop is a witch, but a reluctant one. Ever since her parents died when she was 7 she has been determined to live life without magic and for all intends and purposes it appears that she is successfully doing just that.
When Diana requests an alchemical manuscript from the stacks of the Bodleian Library she knows it contains magic as soon as she touches it. Almost against her better judgment she opens it anyway and discovers that there are pages missing, and that those remaining appear to contain hidden texts. Still determined to have nothing to do with anything magical she returns the manuscript to the library stacks and wants to forget she ever saw it.
However, the damage is already done. From that moment forward Diana finds herself under close scrutiny from vampires, other witches and daemons, all of whom want to get their hands on the manuscript for their own, secret, reasons.
One vampire, Matthew Clairmont, suddenly seems to be around her all the time, and it isn't long before Diana and Matthew get closer.
Relationships between the various creatures however are forbidden, and as Matthew and Diana get closer, they also put themselves into ever more danger. They are now center-stage in a age old battle between the various groups of creatures a battle Matthew may be well used to but is new to Diana. And for Diana denying her heritage is no longer an option. If she's going to have any chance at survival she will have to learn everything she possibly can about witchcraft and her own powers.

When I got this book from the library I wasn't sure what to expect, or if this would be a book for me. And the book did surprise me. Although there is tension and violence in this story there is also a lot of history and insight into relationships. This is the sort of story that makes me think, what if..... and just imagine if ..... and I always enjoy stories like that.
What I also enjoyed is the matter-of-fact way in which the witches, vampires and daemons were introduced. The story is told from the point of view of a witch who has always known that these creatures roam the world and therefore the reader is introduced to them as if they were everyday occurrences rather than fantastical creatures. For me this made the story more realistic.

I didn't realize this book is the first part in a trilogy and only slowly came to the conclusion that there would have to be a sequel as I neared the end of the book. And although I yearn to find out how this story will continue and conclude, I'm very happy in the knowledge that I have two more instalments to look forward to. I just wish I didn't have to wait until next year before I can read the second book. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Pages: 351
Date: 23/07/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: Non-Fiction
            Winner of the 2010 Costa Biography Award

The Hare mentioned in the title is one of 264 netsuke; tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings which Edmund De Waal inherits when his great uncle Iggie dies in Japan.
The little carvings fascinate Edmund and he decides to look into their history. What was supposed to be a project taking no more than a few months turns into two years of research into his family’s history, from before the netsuke were first acquired until the moment he installs them in a glass vitrine in his own home.
The story starts in when Edmund’s ancestors, the Ephussi’s still live in Odessa where they are successful grain merchants. Building on their success, the family spread out to Vienna, Paris and London establishing a bank which soon became very successful as well.
It is in Paris in the 1870’s, where all things Japanese are highly fashionable, that Victor Ephussi buys the 264 Netsuke and displays them in a glass vitrine.
When a cousin of Victor’s, Charles gets married in Vienna in 1899 Victor sends the carvings as a wedding present. They stay in Vienna until after the Second World War. They manage to stay out of Nazi hands thanks to a faithful servant, and travel to Edmund’s uncle Iggie in Tokyo via England, only to end up back in England when Edmund inherits them.

The story of the netsuke in itself is fascinating, but this book gives the reader a whole lot more than that. This is also the story of the rise and fall of a Jewish family, of anti-Semitism in Europe and a story about art and fashion.
Parts of the story are charming and unexpected, like the fact that Victor Ephussi can be seen in the background of Renoir’s famous “Luncheon of the Boating Party” painting.
Other parts are more shocking, especially those relating to the hate of Jews which was very prevalent in Europe and evident in Paris during Victor’s time and in Vienna long before Hitler’s rise to power and the Anschluss.
This may be a non-fiction book, but I had to remind myself of that at times. I got completely caught up in the Ephussi family history and at times turned the pages as if I were reading a thriller, wanting to make sure that the family would be alright.
The reason the book scored 4.5 stars is that at some points the descriptions of art work went a bit too deep for me, who has no real knowledge of or interest in art history. Other than that I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story and is interested in history. This is a fascinating read!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Pages: 427
Date: 20/07/2011
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 1 Simon Ziele

After suffering a personal tragedy in 1905, Detective Simon Ziele has transferred from New York City to a country town north of Manhattan where he expects his life and work to be less violent.
Within months of starting his new position he has to reassess this assumption when he’s called to the scene of a brutal murder. A young girl has been killed and severely beaten in her own bedroom. Nobody appears to have seen anything and Ziele and his boss appear to be facing an impossible investigation.
The following day Ziele is approached by Professor Alistair Sinclair, a criminologist, who claims to know who killed the girl. He suspects a young man he has been observing and researching, a young man with violent fantasies which closely mirror the scene Ziele confronted in the bedroom.  However, Sinclair has lost track of his study object some time earlier, and now the hunt is on to find this dangerous man before he has a chance to act out his fantasies again. That is of course, provided Sinclair’s man actually committed the murder…

This was a good mystery and a very interesting setting. Criminology and profiling are in their very early stages and still facing a lot of suspicions and scepticism by most involved in law-enforcement, a view also held by Ziele who, although intrigued by the professor and his studies and theories, firmly believes that old fashioned detecting and looking for concrete proof and motives should be the main basis for any investigation.

This story strikes the right balance between murder, investigation, personal stories and historical description. The characters are realistic and interesting and the solution makes sense and provided a satisfactory ending to an intriguing story. The only, minor, complaint I have is that I had the murderer pinpointed the moment he was introduced into the story.
I’ll be looking for further books by Pintoff. This was her first published work and as such shows a lot of promise for what may follow.


Pages: 472
Date: 18/07/2011
Grade: 5

Grace Covey is at her eight year old son Adam school’s sports day when she sees smoke coming from the school building. In a panic she runs towards the school, afraid for her children. She finds her son outside the school building being minded by the daughter of a friend. Her daughter, 17 year old Jenny, is still inside though and Grace runs into the building in a desperate attempt to rescue her little girl. She manages to reach Jenny and to drag her downstairs, but she collapses before she can get the both of them out of the building.
Mother and daughter are admitted into hospital, both of them fighting for their lives. However, the real fight is yet to begin. Because the deliberate fire is only the start of it. Somebody is out to destroy Grace’s children and Grace has to do what she can to stop that person, who-ever it is.
Before life was beautiful and easy. Afterwards is a time for fighting. Afterwards is also the time to appreciate the things that are truly important in life,  to discover the depths of love and the strength of the bond between a mother and her children. Afterwards is the time when everything changes, forever.

This was a wonderful story. It is a well written mystery with a lot of possible villains and a very credible solution.
The book is much more than that though. It is also a story about love, about having to rethink a lot of what you thought you knew for sure and about sacrifice.
I’m very impressed with Rosamund Lupton. In her books she creates characters that captivate me.  She gives the reader a gripping story, that drives you on to find out just what is going on, while also taking the time to go beyond the mystery to feelings and emotions that ring true.
As an author, Rosamund Lupton is among my big discoveries this year. I’m looking forward to reading future books by her.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Pages: 552
Date: 16/07/2011
Grade: 5+
Details: Received from and reviewed for Bookgeeks

“Three lives. One purpose. Save what’s left of paradise before all hell breaks lose”

Three unlikely individuals are fated to fight an unimaginable evil. If they succeed they’ll safe the world as we know it, if they fail, literally all will be lost.
Marc Rochat is a young man living in the bell tower of the cathedral in Lausanne where he guards the bells and inhabits a world not quite like ours while he waits for the angel he was told would come. An angel he will have to save and send home.
Katherine, a beautiful high-class prostitute is convinced that her life is as good as it can get and completely unaware that she is in mortal danger.
Jay Michael Harper is a private investigator who has no memories prior to the moment when he woke up in London and was summoned to Lausanne to find a disgraced Russian Olympic athlete.
When these three individuals get together in the cathedral the final showdown is about to begin, and their chances are not looking good.

This was an amazing story. Imaginative and completely original it blew me away.
The story is slow to start and it takes a long time before the characters, and therefore the reader, discover what is going on. It takes even longer to figure out who or what the good and the bad characters are. But the tension is there, underneath the apparently casual words of the story. And almost without the reader being aware of it, the tension builds and builds, until you find yourself in the middle of a nightmare which doesn’t seem to have the possibility of a happy ending.
I would love to say a lot more about this book and this story, but I don’t feel I can without giving away parts of the story that readers should discover as they move from page to page. So I will have to settle for mentioning that this book touched me, intrigued me, followed me in my dreams and refuses get out of my head even now, hours after reading the final page.
The writing is beautiful, the setting memorable and the story unforgettable. This book more than deserves the 5+ stars I’ve rated it.

I should probably add that both my husband and my mother in law got their hands on this book before I did, and both of them loved it at least as much as I do.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Pages: 454
Date: 14/07/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: Young Adult
             No. 1 Tory Brennan

Tory Brennan is living on a secluded island off Charleston in South Carolina with her father, Kit. A father she didn’t know anything about until her mother died 6 months previously. She has also only recently discovered that she’s related to Temperance Brennan, the famous forensic anthropologist, something she delights in and is very proud of.
When she and her three friends break into a laboratory to clean some dog-tags they’ve found they stumble upon a puppy that obviously is being experimented upon. Enraged the four teenagers rescue the puppy and set out to nurse it back to good health. Little do they know that the little dog will change their lives for ever.
And being infected with an unknown virus that changes their DNA is not the only problem they’re facing. They also need to solve a murder and try not to get themselves killed in the process. However, staying alive is not easy when you don’t know who you’re up against and how you’re body is going to react to stress.

I’m a big fan of Reichs’ Temperance Brennan stories and started this book with mixed feelings. On the one hand I was delighted to be able to try something completely new by this author, on the other hand I was scared that I would be disappointed. I shouldn’t have worried.
Although this book is obviously written for a younger audience then the Temperance mysteries, the story is equally well written. There is the same balance between science and action that I enjoy so much Reichs’ books and she has again created characters that are interesting and life-like.
It seems that I now have two series by this author that I have to keep an eye out for.


Pages: 303
Date: 12/07/2011
Grade: 4-
Details: 10 Short stories
             Read for The Loft Bookshop Book club

I rarely read short stories. They don’t really work for me. I always end up feeling short-changed. I’m only getting into a story and it is over. I want more from my reading than short stories seem to be able to give me. More character development, more background information and more time to get used to the tone and flow of the story.
In fact, after I finished the first story in this collection I wrote the following down: To me short stories are a bit like poems; often beautiful and fascinating, but leaving me feeling as if I’m missing something, as if I’m just not getting it. I guess I need the extra words a novel provides, the extra room for explanations.

The stories in this collection are unlike anything I’ve read before. They deal with subjects such as the killing of three young children, divorce, warped friendship, death and violence. Yet they are written in such a way that it all appears to be perfectly normal. I found myself reading about horrific events without feeling a whole lot of emotion.
Yet, the writing is beautiful and gripping. I never felt the urge to stop reading. Quite the opposite in fact, I kept on turning the pages, fascinated by what I was reading, but in the sort of detached way that makes people stop and stare at horrible accidents.
Would I be tempted to read anything else by Munro? Yes, I would. But I would want my next book by her to be a novel. It would be nice to see where this author would go if she had 300 pages to focus on one story.

I want to share one quote from this book because I thought it a funny one to find in a collection of short stories. It is taken from the second story called Fiction:
“A collection of short stories, not a novel. This in itself is a disappointment. It seems to diminish the books authority, making the author seem like somebody who is just hanging on to the gates of literature rather than safely settled inside.”

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Pages: 477
Date: 10/07/2011
Grade: 4-

Sarah Finch, English teacher, is about to start teaching her class of 12 year old girls when the father of Jenny Shepherd, one of the girls, talks to the class about his daughter who has gone missing. The man is clearly worried and distraught but the other girls have no idea where little Jenny could be.
Later that day, when Sarah is out running she finds Jenny's body in local woods.
This is not the first time Sarah has to deal with a missing child. 16 years earlier her older brother Charlie disappeared and not a trace of him has been found since then. The disappearance has led to the emotional breakdown her mother still hasn't recovered from, the break-up of her Sarah's parents marriage and to Sarah feeling an obligation to look after her mother, although the woman is impossible to live with.
The new disappearance and subsequent discovery lead to Sarah reliving her memories of the years since her brother's disappearance and she finds herself trying to find out what exactly happened to Jenny while also figuring out more about her brother's disappearance.
Her curiosity will make her a suspect as well as put her in danger. Could it also bring her a chance to live her own life at last?

This was a well plotted thriller with quite a few twists and heartstopping moments. The story is well written with a nice build up of tension and I found myself compulsively turning the pages.
However, I found Sarah to be something of a frustrating heroine. She kept on making the same mistakes again and again, putting herself in dangerous situations as well as throwing suspicion on herself. The tolerance the police showed towards Sarah and her antics was way beyond realistic if you ask me, and I also felt that the book could probably have been a bit shorter.

Overall though, I think this was a very promising first novel and I will be checking Casey's second book, The Burning, out of the library soon.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Pages: 543
Date: 07/07/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 3 Leo Demidov
            Reviewed for Bookdagger's Real Readers    Programme

Book reviewed for Book Dagger's Real Readers programme. I received a beautiful limited edition bound proof copy which was both signed and numbered.

Before I start on my thoughts on this book I have to stress that although I did read Child 44 I never got around to reading The Secret Script, therefore I read Agent 6 out of order which may or may not have influenced the reading experience.

The story in Agent 6 starts in 1950 with a visit from a Black American singer, Jesse Austin, a big supporter of communism, to Moscow. It is also the time when Leo Demidov meets the love of his life and wife to be, Raisa.
The story then jumps ahead 15 years to 1965 when we find Leo no longer working as a secret agent and living quietly and happily with his wife and two daughters. But, although Leo is happy to have left politics and conspiracies behind him, it seems that politics are not done with him and his family yet.
When is wife and two daughters travel to the United States as part of an orchestra organised as an effort to relax relations between the USA and the USSR, Leo has his suspicions. But even in his worst nightmares Leo could not have foreseen the disastrous outcome of the trip. An outcome that will leave him heartbroken. Unable to investigate what happened in America and not believing the official version of events, Leo descends into despair.
Seven years later we find Leo in Afghanistan, managing to stay alive against the odds and addicted to opium. When he finds an opportunity to at last investigate the events that destroyed his life he takes it, but the question is, will the answers he finds set him free?

Tom Rob Smith is a wonderful writer. His words flow with an ease that makes his stories an almost effortless read. The pages are virtually turning themselves as the reader shares Leo's pain, despair and need for answers.
Having said that, the subject matter is definitely not an easy one. The horrors of the Soviet regime in the USSR and the subsequent horrors in Afghanistan make for bleak reading, all the more so because they sound so very authentic. I found myself on several occasions wondering how anyone could possibly live under such circumstances, how I would deal with life if forced to live under such a regime, consequently making me very aware how lucky I am to live where I do, taking all my liberties for granted.
Although I did find the whole section in the book set in Afghanistan fascinating in a gruesome sort of way, I do feel that the story could have done with that part being shorter. While it did give a good insight into the level of Leo's pain, it didn't add a lot if anything to the solving of the mystery at the centre of the story other than provide a means for Leo to get to America.

Overall I thought this a fascinating and very well written book that could have done with being a little bit shorter. Therefore I rate this book 4.5 stars.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Pages 309
Date: 02/07/2011
Grade: 4.5

This is not a happy or an uplifting story. It is however beautifully written and heartbreakingly human.
The story in this book is narrated by Tristan Sadler.
In September 1919 he travels from London to Norwich to deliver letters to Marian Bancroft. During the First World War Tristan trained and fought alongside her brother, Will and during that time they became friends.
From the start it is clear that Tristan is troubled about meeting Marian and unsure how much he will end up tell her about what preceded Will's decision to lay down his arms in 1917 which ultimately lead to him being shot as a traitor.
The story goes back and forth between Tristan's meeting with Marian and the time when he was training to be send to the front and the subsequent horror in the trenches, all the time leading up to the dramatic climax of Will's execution.
This is a story of the horrors of war. But it is also the story of friendship, an unacceptable love, betrayal and guilt. It is a beautiful tale of what it means to be human and the price we pay for giving in to our emotions.
I don't want to say too much because I don't want to give away the plot. I will say though that this story stayed with me after I finished reading the book. I even found myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about the story.
The reason this book rates 4.5 stars rather than 5 has less to do with the quality of the writing or the depth of the story than it has with my need for a happier ending. This is a very memorable novel.