Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Pages: 506
Date: 31/08/2011
Grade: 4+
Details: Received from and reviewed for Transworld Books

When Anil and Lina meet in London as students, they are immediately attracted to each other, and very slowly they get closer and start a relationship. From the start though their love affair is plagued with trouble. Lina is a Muslim from a religious family, whereas Anil is a non-practising Sikh, originally from Kenya.
Because Lina expects strong objections from her family, she keeps the relationship a secret, but even once they are found out and her family forbids her to continue, Lina can’t give Anil up, and the pair keep on finding ways to be together, despite the opposition.
It is not just Lina’s family complicating the relationship though. Anil comes from a different world. Rich and spoilt, his is a world where money talks and corruptions rules.
Eventually Lina will have to make a heartbreaking decision between her family and the love of her life. But are decisions always irreversible?

This is a powerful love story. But it is so much more than that too. Dealing with cultural differences, religion, famine, and illegal trading in weapons the reader is brought to a world where answers are never simple and every decision has heartbreaking consequences.
I really enjoyed this book. I couldn’t help rooting for Anil and Lina although both of them exasperated me at times too. In fact at more than one occasion I couldn’t help feeling that if ever two people were unsuited to each other, it was this pair.
I do think the book could probably have been a bit shorter without losing any of its power. There did seem to be a bit of repetition which I could have done without.
However, this book was also a learning experience for me, opening my eyes to lots of issues I had never really thought about before.
Overall, this was a powerful and well told story and one I’m very glad I read.

Transworld Book Group

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Pages: 408
Date: 27/08/2011
Grade: 3

Kevin Thunder is a young boy, growing up on the Northside of Dublin next door to Bram Stoker’s house, when he discovers he has a double. A double with whom he doesn’t only share his looks but it seems also a certain smell and maybe even his soul.
And before long he starts taking advantage of this resemblance especially when it comes to girls.
When Kevin and his double, Gerald Spain, meet up, the exchanging identities for various purposes is at first almost a game, something to make their lives easier, to achieve things they feel they can’t do as themselves.
But, what starts out as a bit of fun, a way of making life easier or more interesting, turns very dark once they’re grown up and exchange identities one more time.

The premise of this story is interesting and this could have been a fascinating book. Unfortunately it wasn’t.
This book irritated me on many levels. I didn’t like the way Kevin’s walks through Dublin are described almost street by street. And if that didn’t work for someone like me, who is somewhat familiar with those streets, I can’t help wondering what it must be like for someone who doesn’t know Dublin at all. Those descriptions almost made me wonder if maybe Jordan is hoping that someone, in the future, will start walking tours through Dublin based on this book like we have them for Joyce’s Ulysses.
If there is a deeper significance to the vampire part of the story-line it was lost on me and I don’t think the story would have lost anything if it had been left out.
The revelation later on in the book didn’t come as any sort of a surprise to me either.
Overall I was rather disappointed with this book that seemed to promise so much more than it delivered. It felt contrived and rather self-indulgent.
This was my first book by Jordan, and after this experience I rather doubt if I will try anything else by him anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Pages: 618
Date: 24/08/2011
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 1 Harry Hole

Detective Harry Hole is transferred away from Oslo’s crime squad after he almost causes a diplomatic disaster. In his new position he is expected to keep members of the national socialists under surveillance. Although he is convinced that the new job and the accompanying promotion are just a way to keep him out of sight, he doesn’t object too much. He likes working on his own anyway.
Soon he stumbles across information indicating that a rare and very powerful riffle has been smuggled into the country and subsequently disappeared without a trace. Convinced that such a riffle must have been purchased to accommodate a high profile assassination, Hole investigates but can’t find any real leads.
When soon after a WW2 Nazi sympathiser is found murdered, Hole is sure that the murder is somehow related to the riffle. And soon the murder count starts rising, with one murder cutting very close to the heart for Hole. But still clues are view and far between.
Somehow Norway’s past during World War 2 is connected to the present day murders, but it is almost too late by the time Hole discovers exactly what has been going on, who is behind it all and what the ultimate goal is.

This book was a slow starter. It was quite a while before I had any idea what the investigation was about, how the individual story parts related to each other and what could possibly be going on.
On the other hand, I did figure out which of the WW 2 characters was the threat, even if I couldn’t identify him in the present-day part of story-line.
The whole story about the Second World War and Norway’s reaction to the invasion, and those who had fought with and for the Germans made for fascinating reading since I knew absolutely nothing about Norway during those years.
I did have a hard time keeping the characters separate, but that was probably a result of the Norwegian and therefore foreign names.
And, while the story may have started slow, it did pick up pace in the last part of the book to such an extent that it was hard not to rush through to the end.

Overall this was a good, but not a great thriller. More than good enough though for me to want to read more books in this series. Which is just as well since I had already bought several more titles in this series.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Pages: 353
Date: 19/08/2011
Grade: 5+

Dr. Annick Swenson is working in the Brazilian jungle on a drug that could change the lives of women beyond imagination. She is a difficult woman to deal with though and refuses to communicate with the pharmaceutical company financing her research, doesn’t share any of her findings and stays silent about any progress she might be making. Frustrated, the company sends out one of its researchers, Anders Eckman, to find doctor Swenson and get answers from her. Months later a short, uninformative letter reports that Eckman has died of a fever and has been buried.

Marina Singh was Eckman’s colleague and used to be a student of Dr. Swenson. Both the pharmaceutical company and Eckman’s wife are leaning on her to go to Brazil and find answers for them. The company still wants to know about the research they’re funding while the wife needs answers about her husband's death and funeral.
Reluctantly Marina, who is fighting her own demons, starts what will turn out to be a long journey, first to find her way to Dr. Swenson and then to find the answers she needs.
But once she finds herself in the jungle things start changing for Marina. Her loyalties shift, her priorities change and if she does make it out of in the jungle in one piece she will be a different woman.

This is a fascinating book. I was intrigued by the characters and what they were facing from the very first page. Ann Patchett has a way with words that pushes me forward through the story. At several times I found myself torn between wanting to rush along in order to find out what was going to happen, where the story was leading, and wanting to take it slow so that I could give the wonderful words, sentences and constructions all the attention they deserve.
All sorts of questions are raised in this book; questions about motivation, about the rights and wrongs in living with and interfering in a different, less advanced community. We’re left wondering about obsession and whether the end always justifies the means.
This story and the issues it raises will stay for a long time, and I can see myself reading it again at some point in the future because I feel that in the end I did read it faster than I should have.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Pages: 370
Date: 17/08/2011
Grade: 5-
Details: no. 1 Shades of London
                     Young Adult
                    Received from and reviewed for Book Geeks

When teenager Aurora (Rory) Deveaux flies from Louisiana to London to start life at a boarding school she’s entering a new, and much cooler world.
All her worries about fitting in and having to play hockey are soon overshadowed by a real threat though. Horrific murders are being committed in London. Murders that copy those committed by Jack the Ripper more than a century ago. Murders that bring panic and excitement, Rippermania, to London and which the police are at a loss to solve since the perpetrator manages to remain invisible from the many security cameras in the city.
After one such murder Rory sees a man who may well be new Ripper, but her friend Jazza, who is with her at the time doesn’t see anybody at all. After taking her statement the police appear to lose interest in Rory and what she saw, but she does find herself with a new and rather strange roommate and before long Rory discovers some disturbing facts about herself, about the world around her and finds herself up to her neck in a potentially very dangerous murder investigation.

This book was a very pleasant surprise. I knew absolutely nothing about Maureen Johnson before reading this book, although my daughter had been telling me she wanted to read books by this author for ages.
It turns out that Johnson is an inspired story-teller. This book is imaginative, original and fascinating. While it deals with a lot of teenage issues you’ll find in most young adult fiction, it seamlessly includes supernatural elements as well as a bone chilling mystery. I found myself compulsively turning the pages, rooting for Rory and her friends while also laughing at loud on several occasions.
I am delighted that this is the first Shades of London book, although it is a bit frustrating that, since I read this book before its publishing date, it looks like I’ll have a long wait before I’ll be able to read the next one. A sequel for which Johnson created the perfect cliff-hanger in the last chapter.
And if you're interested in what my daughter thought about this book, please have a look here at her wonderful review.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Pages: 212
Date: 15/08/2011
Grade: 4-
Details: Bailieborough Book Club read

It is during a funeral in the quiet little town of Rathmoye that Ellie  first meets the stranger. A young man who has come there to take pictures of the burned out cinema.
Ellie is an orphan, married to Dillahan, a farmer who is still struggling with the death of his first wife, seven years earlier.
When Ellie meets the young man, Florian Kilderry, again they strike up a conversation and over subsequent meetings the two young people start spending more time together and getting closer. While the meetings are for Ellie a first encounter with love, Florian is too attached to the past to feel more than a mild interest for Ellie and he’s also about to emigrate.
A summer love affair starts, observed from a distance by Miss Connulty, for whom it brings back memories of a disaster in the past which makes her determined to put a stop to the madness, although she is powerless to interfere.
The summer will awaken feelings in Ellie she didn’t know existed and will force her to make a difficult decision.

I’m not quite sure what I think about this story. I liked the small town setting, the spinster observing all that is happening and the confused old man interfering in what he doesn’t quite understand.
I also liked the awakening of Ellie’s feelings and how she deals with them.
I wasn’t so fond of the very detached descriptions in the story though. The narrator is just observing what is going on, and describing it in the most neutral of terms, which means that although everybody feelings are described they don’t seem to be attached to emotions, and as such didn’t evoke any feelings in me.
Having said that, I was curious about what decision Ellie would come to and never felt like not finishing the book.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Pages: 427
Date: 14/08/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 1 Black Swan Rising
            Received from Transworld Publishers

This book was a very pleasant surprise for at least two reasons.
I had not realised this, but Lee Carroll is a pseudonym for Carol Goodman and her husband, Lee Slonimsky.
I have been a fan of Goodman’s books for years, ever since I read The Lake of Dead Languages in 2002 and was delighted to discover that she has (co-) written books I never knew existed.
The second surprise was that this book was more literary than most urban fantasies/vampire novels I’ve read so far. I guess that is probably because Goodman is the author she is and can’t help herself but write beautiful and well worded descriptions that somehow float off the page and become visible to me.
She has, with Black Swan Rising, written a book that has far more supernatural elements than the previous books I’ve read by her, but her characters are as real and well-rounded as I would expect from this author and the story has several levels and few, if any, simple black and white contrasts.

This story is about Garet James, a fairly successful jeweller, who is worrying about the financial difficulties she and her father find themselves in when she stumbles upon an antiques store she didn’t know existed. When she enters she meets the old shopkeeper who asks her to use her soldering knowledge to open a silver box for him, which she does the same evening.
Although Garet doesn’t realise it opening that box has set in motion a chain reaction that will change her life and the world around her forever. Darkness is slowly descending on the world around her. She will meet creatures she thought only existed in fairy-tales, fall in love with a creature she should fear, learns secrets about her heritage and be burdened with the task of saving New York from a horrible fate.
Garet and the reader are about to start a rollercoaster ride through emotions and action that will push both of them forward through the pages of this book.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Pages: 255
Date: 11/08/2011
Grade: 5-
Details: Uncorrected Proof Copy
            Junior Fiction 13 – 16
            To be published (in Ireland) in September

Set in Dublin in 1974, Patrick and Dominick are 15 year old twins when their granny burns down the house where they live with her, their parents and little sister.
After the fire in which they lose everything they own, the family moves to the house near the sea where they usually spend their holidays. Almost immediately after arrival things start changing for Pat and Dom. Initially the changes are almost imperceptible; strange dreams followed by hunger attacks, an old man who nearly drowns in the sea and is saved by the boys and sightings of a ghostly little boy, or goblin as Pat says, and a man in a soldiers uniform.
When the little boy seems to attach himself to Dom it scares Pat for reasons he can’t quite explain, but that is only the beginning. It isn’t long before Pat has to fight to save his twin’s life, up against forces he doesn’t understand in a fight he has little chance of winning.

I am so impressed with Celine Kiernan’s imagination and writing. I loved how the tension in the story slowly builds up until the reader suddenly finds themselves in the middle of a full blown nightmare, without being quite sure how they ended up there.
The characters in this book are well drawn. Especially Pat’s frustrated anger is so recognisable for anyone who has ever been in contact with a 15 year old boy.
The way in which the past of the first world war and the present of 1974 tie in together works very well, makes for fascinating reading and gives a wonderful little bit of insight into Irish history and sentiments. Especially for youngsters, with no memory of their own of the 1970’s this will be an eye-opener.
This may be a ghost story, but ultimately it is a book about love and the lengths one boy will go to in order to save his twin from a horrible fate.
Without wanting to give anything away I also have to add that I’m impressed with the way in which Kiernan didn’t opt for a miracle ending to the book and in doing so created a very realistic finale.

I would like to add that I prefer the Irish title, Into the Grey, over Taken Away, the title on my copy from Allen & Unwin.

I can honestly say that I love Celine Kiernan’s writing. I feel privileged that I have once again been allowed to read a work by her before its actual publication and hope that she never stops writing. As long as she keeps on putting words on paper, she will have a faithful follower in me.

(Note: the cover pictured above is of the Irish version of the book to be published by O’Brien’s Press in September, 2011).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Date: 08/08/2011
Grade: 4
Details: No 1 Detective Inspector Joona Linna

I had seen many good to very good reviews for this book before I bought it, so my expectations were high. Maybe too high?

This thriller starts with the discovery of the brutal murder of a family. The father, mother and young daughter have all been horrifically killed in what must have been a frantic knife-attack. Their son, 15 year old Josef is the only survivor and only barely hanging on to life. There is an older sister as well, who was living away from the family home, and Detective Inspector Joona Linna is afraid that the murderer may go after her next, so he needs Josef to reveal what he knows about the attacker. In order to get the answers he needs Linna turns to Erik Maria Bark a hypnotist who is a specialist but has promised never to use hypnotism again after something went horribly wrong 10 years ago.
Under pressure Bark does hypnotise Josef, and Linna gets the shocking answers he is looking for, but the price everybody will end up paying for this action is very high.

As thrillers go, this was a very gruesome one. The murders are all rather horrific and the perpetrators far from sane.
Throw in the mix a boy with a rare but potentially lethal disease, a marriage on the verge of breaking down, bullying and old mistakes coming back to haunt those who made them, there is a lot going on in this book. And that is probably one of the things that didn’t really work for me. It was all a bit too much, and at times the side issues distracted me from the actual mystery.
I didn’t really like the several points of view from which the story was told either. At times it led to repetition and at other times story-lines were left hanging for what seemed to be a very long time.
Having said all of that, I did find myself compulsively turning the pages, because I was fascinated enough to want to know what exactly was going on and how it would all end.

I think I will probably read the next Joona Linna title and reacquaint myself with “I was right, wasn’t I?” I may just wait for the library to get a copy though, because I’m not sure I need to own the rest of this series.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Pages: 257
Date: 05/08/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: Magical Realism

Emily Benedict moves to Mullaby, North Carolina, to live with the grandfather she never knew she had after her mother dies. She has no idea why her mother never talked about her past or her family and is determined to find out.
As soon as she enters her grandfather’s house she knows she has entered a slightly different world. Her grandfather turns out to be an eight feet tall giant, there are ghostly lights in the garden at night and the wallpaper in her bedroom changes according to her mood. She also discovers that the mother she only knew as selfless and dedicated to others, had a reputation for being selfish and spoiled as a teenager. She was very popular until something happened that made the town turn on her. And people are still upset about whatever her mother did, some going so far as to make Emily feel distinctly unwelcome.
Emily’s nearest neighbour, Julia, has issues of her own. Only back in Mullaby, after years away, to save enough money to sell her father’s restaurant at a profit, she’s counting the days until she can go away again. Or is there something or somebody who could make her want to stay?

This is a charming story. Sarah Addison Allen presents the magical elements in her stories in such a way that it feels all too possible. It is easy to believe that wall paper would adjust its patterns according to a person’s moods or that baking a cake could draw a loved one closer. Her characters are charming and easy to like, despite whatever faults they may have and the reader really wants everything to work out well for them.
The only reason this book didn’t score five stars is that it felt a bit too simple. I couldn’t help feeling that the story, the tensions and the resolution of the issues could have been fleshed out bit more.
It’s not always easy to find books by this author in Ireland, but whenever I do it is always a delight.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Pages: 678
Date: 02/08/2011
Grade: 4
Details: Reviewed for Book Hugger through the Real Readers Programme
            Uncorrected Manuscripts Proof Copy

The book starts with the murder of a young girl.

Six months later Anna Kennedy, a young associate with a media law firm, finds herself in deep trouble when a story she was supposed to suppress is splashed all over the front pages despite her best efforts. She knows somebody must have leaked the story, but has no idea who or why. Now she has been sacked by Sam Charles, the Hollywood superstar she was representing, and in danger of losing her job with the firm.
Then she is approached by a 16 year old girl who asks her to look into her sister's death which officials are happy to treat as accidental, but the girl is sure was murder. The inquest into the unfortunate girl's death was on the same day as Anna's disaster with Sam Charles case and Anna can't help wondering if maybe there is a link between the two stories.
Initially reluctantly Anna starts looking into the young girl's death but soon, as she discovers more, her reluctance turns into dogged determination. However, Anna doesn't know who she's dealing with or how dangerous this investigation could turn out to be for her.

The above is the main story line of this book, but there is a lot more going on. The reader is taken into the world of wealth, fame, and injunctions. We're given a glimpse at the ruthless selfishness of the rich, powerful and famous, the games they play with each other and the lengths they will go to in order to retain their status.
In fact there is a lot going on in this book, with multiple story-lines and lots of action, love, and broken relationships and hearts.

I should be honest and say that I probably would not have picked up this book if it hadn't been send to me for this review. However, as my four star rating shows, that would have been my loss.
I did enjoy this book. The story is very fast paced and intriguing and I couldn't stop myself from turning the pages.
Yes, I had the source of the leaked story figured out fairly early on, but that didn't make the rest of the story any less enjoyable. I guess there is some satisfaction to be found in reading about the not so happy or perfect lives of the rich and famous. Just as it is nice to have the decent characters coming out on top while the nastier ones get what they deserve. The fact that the book feels very current thanks to mentions of phone-hacking scandals and super-injunctions doesn't hurt either.
Having said that, the way the story ends is a little bit too perfect to be believable, but it did make me feel good and close the book with a smile on my face.
In a way it's a shame this book is published in August, which is rather late in summer, since it would make the perfect beach read.