Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Pages: 399
Date: 29/08/2012
Grade: 4+

On the day of Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary Amy disappears. There are signs of a struggle in their house and no sign or sighting of Amy.
While Nick calls the police as soon as he finds his house with the front door still open and his living-room turned upside down he doesn’t appear as shocked or worried as you might expect. And he is lying to the police. Half way through the day of his wife’s disappearance Nick says: “It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just starting.”
It isn’t long before Nick becomes the main suspect in Amy’s disappearance and his actions in the subsequent days do nothing to take that suspicion away. In fact, the longer Amy is gone the guiltier Nick appears to be.
As in alternating chapters we are told Nick’s story during the days following his wife’s disappearance, in his own words, as well as the story of Amy and Nick’s relationship through years worth of diary entries by Amy, the picture of a troubled and rather unbalanced relationship emerges. And as the police investigates, Nick is discovering things about his wife and her life that are completely new to him and as far as he is concerned, completely out of character for the Amy he knows. By the time the first part of the story ends Nick is up to his neck in trouble with hardly anybody on his side and an increasing number of clues pointing at his guilt.

And that is all I can say about this story without spoiling it for other readers. Because this is a book in which nothing is what it seems. A story in which shock follows shock and the reader is constantly second guessing events and revelations.

It is amazing how hard it is to write a positive review about a story in which I distinctly dislike both the main characters. Even though I know the book is exceptionally well written and the story is compelling and addictive in the same way a natural disaster can be, the descriptions and actions of Amy and Nick still make me want to slam the book. And that would be so unfair. Because this is an absolutely fascinating story. The tension is palatable, the undercurrents treacherous and it very soon becomes clear to the reader that nothing either Nick or Amy shares with them can be trusted.
Yes, I did want to throw the book at the wall on several occasions and just stop reading it. As I’ve said in previous reviews, I have an issue with books in which I can’t relate to any of the main characters (think The Corrections by Jonathan Frenzen) and tend to give up on them rather than struggle on. Giving up on this book was never an option though. I had to know what exactly was going on, what had happened to Amy and why. I couldn’t stop reading until I found out how the story would end.

Gillian Flynn is very good at grabbing her readers and keeping them hooked. Nick and Amy may not be sympathetic characters but they are fascinating in a scary sort of way. And Flynn is a very good writer. The sentences flow, the tension is built up at a steady pace and questions are introduced and answered at exactly the right time.

This is a good thriller, although certain aspects of the book made it feel more like a horror story. This is a book for anyone who likes their stories well plotted, dark and memorable.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Date: 27/08/2012
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 1 Inside Out Trilogy
            Received from Lisa Renee Jones
            Through NetGalley

When the story starts Sara McMillan is a woman on a quest. Her friend has left her with the contents of a storage unit she has bought at an auction. The unit belongs to a woman named Rebecca, a woman who, among other things, left behind detailed and enticing journals describing her seduction by an unnamed man. A man who makes her experience sex and submission in a way she had never considered; a man who scares her as much as she wants and needs him.
But the journals end unexpectedly and Rebecca seems to have disappeared, leaving behind all her earthly possessions. Sara finds herself deeply interested in Rebecca, disturbed by her journals and worried about what might have happened to her and decides to use her school teacher’s summer holiday to find the mystery woman and reunite her with her stuff.
When Sara discovers Rebecca worked at a local art gallery before she disappeared, she goes there on the night of the unveiling of a painting by a famous artist, hoping to find out more about Rebecca.
While she doesn’t manage to get any information about Rebecca or where she might be, Sara does leave the gallery with a job offer. She is given the opportunity to take over from Rebecca until the girl returns. This is an opportunity Sara can’t refuse. Art has always been her first love. Teaching is the job she does because she needs a steady income, something the art-world can’t guarantee. And now she has a chance to do the work she’s been yearning for without jeopardising the security she needs. It appears to be a dream come true.
But, it soon becomes clear that her new employer, Mark Compton, is anything but easy to work for. He is a control freak, demanding total obedience from his employees and known for punishing those working for him when they don’t meet his high expectations.
And then there is Chris Merit, famous painter and incredibly handsome, Sara is soon fascinated with him.
But, as she and Chris become closer it soon becomes clear to Sara that both of them are damaged individuals who could easily hurt each other. And although sexual tension and a strong attraction are pulling Sara and Chris together, the darkness inside Chris may yet tear them apart. And all the while Rebecca’s disappearance and continued absence hang like a dark shadow over everything Sara does.

This was a good read. This book comes with a good back story which brings both Sara and the reader into the circumstances that allow the author to introduce some very steamy sex scenes in a natural and believable way. And although the sex definitely is very hot, this is much more than “just” a work of erotica. There is a thriller element to this story that leads to the book ending on a massive –frustratingly so – cliff-hanger. The reader is given the opportunity to get to know the characters away from the bedroom scenes and to slowly learn more about them as the story unfolds.
On the other hand, a lot of things are left uncertain in these pages. Both Chris and Sara have issues resulting from their pasts, but we’re only given glimpses of what exactly happened in that past and so far, none of it explains the sudden shifts in Chris’ moods or his apparent darkness nor Sara’s claim that she is damaged. With this book being the first in a trilogy it is of course very possible that this is one of the themes that will be further developed in the later books. I certainly hope so because the credibility of the story seems to depend on that being the case.
I did really enjoy reading about Chris and Sara, and liked the way they are slowly getting closer, against their better judgment and their fears that the other one won’t be able to stay with them.

This book has been described (by the author) as Fifty Shades of Grey meets Basic Instinct. I really can’t comment on the Basic Instinct part of that statement so far, but maybe that too is an aspect that will enter the story at a later stage. As for Fifty Shades; this book reminded me more of Bared to You then the books by Mrs. James. But I do understand why FSOG is THE way to market any book of erotic fiction these days, so I guess I can forgive the author for that.

Overall I enjoyed this book, found myself caught up in the mystery surrounding Rebecca’s disappearance and intrigued by the reluctant romance between Chris and Sara. I find myself curious as to what might happen next in this story and will more then likely read the sequel when it becomes available. If for no other reason than to get past that cruel and toe-curling cliff-hanger.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Pages: 324
Date: 22/08/2012
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 1 Eighty Days
            Received from Orion Books
            Through Book Geeks

Summer Zahova is a violinist from New Zealand, living in London where she is in a frustrating relationship with a man who can’t meet her needs and struggling to make ends meets.
While busking in the underground, Summer gets caught up in a scuffle between rival football supporters which damages her violin beyond repair.
Dominik is a university professor who found himself enthralled by Summer and the way she loses herself while playing the violin on the one occasion he saw and heard her play. Unable to find her again and with no idea who the beautiful redhead is, he has almost given up the hope of ever meeting her when he reads an article about a violinist whose violin was broken. Now that he has a name, Dominik can contact Summer and he sets her a challenge:
I am willing to gift you with a new violin. Do you accept my challenge and my terms?”
Unable to resist Summer contacts Dominik and agrees to play for him in a location and under circumstances to be determined by him.
And so starts a strange, but initially, fascinating relationship. Summer discovers that submitting to Dominik’s requests satisfies her in a way she didn’t know was possible, while Dominik’s need for Summer only grows.
Things don’t progress smoothly though. With their relationship being anything but exclusive Summer feels free to explore this newly discovered sexuality of hers with others as well. And when third parties become involved in the interactions between Dominik and his musician feelings get hurt and the two are torn apart.
With Summer delving deeper into the BDSM scene in New York, and Dominik left behind in London with no idea where the girl he needs is, both find themselves delving into relationships that don’t begin to meet their needs. Is there any chance of these two people ever staying together long enough to discover that they actually need each other?

I’m not at all sure how I feel about this book.
I have, by now, read a few books about people discovering their not quite vanilla taste for sex and up until now it has been a case of a novice meeting someone who likes to dominate, discovering his/her submissive side and while the couple explore this BDSM relationship they fall in love and live happily ever after.
Nothing is quite that simple in this book. Summer and Dominik, while attracted to each other and enjoying the antics they get up to while together are not on path towards everlasting happiness. They are not even exclusive when it comes to sexual experiences. They come together only to be thrown apart again because they fail to communicate and don’t recognise their own feelings and needs until it is (almost?) too late.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about this development. While it makes the story far more realistic – I mean, what are the chances that the first person with whom you indulge in a certain experience is also the person you want to spend the rest of your life with – it also makes the story more disturbing and liking the main characters more difficult.
In fact, I’m not at all sure I did like Summer and Dominic – or any of the other characters in the book.
I’m not sure how I feel about the shifting perspective in this book either. Sometimes it is Summer herself telling the story, then it is a narrator telling the reader about Summer’s experiences and at yet other times we see things from Dominic’s perspective. These shifts seemed to take the flow out of the story as I had to stop and think about who exactly was telling me what. I can’t help wondering if this shifting perspective is the result of two authors having written this book together, and if that is the case, why an editor didn’t make them change it.
Finally, this book comes with a "If you liked Fifty Shades, you'll love..." sticker. Don't be fooled by that. This book is only similar to Fifty Shades in that it deals with unconventional sexual relations. But whereas Fifty Shades was above all a love story, Eighty Days Yellow doesn't read like a love story at all. This is the story of a voyage of sexual self-discovery more then anything else and will probably appeal to a different sort of reader than the Fifty Shades books did.

So, there was a lot to question and even dislike about this book. On the other hand, it was also an intriguing story especially because it was so very unpredictable. At no point in this story did I feel as if I knew what would happen next. Events and characters kept on surprising me. And, now that I’ve finished this book I’m still wondering where the story will take the characters and if they will ever figure out what it is they want, individually or together. And that curiosity means that even though I wasn’t crazy about this book I will probably read the next book in this trilogy before too long. The need to know what will happen next is far greater than my “dislike” of this story.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Pages: 284
Date: 20/08/2012
Grade: 4+
Details: A Sherlock Holmes story
            Received from Titan Books
            Through Book Geeks

Just when Sherlock Holmes is convinced that there are no interesting cases for him to investigate, he and Dr. Watson are visited by Holmes’ brother Mycroft. Bodies have been turning up around London. Bodies which show signs of having been attacked and murdered by ferocious creatures that don’t belong in London.
Mycroft is sure that the creatures involved in the attacks are somehow related to the top-secret and very controversial experiments with animals that had been conducted by Dr. Moreau. And although the doctor is supposed to have died at the hands of the creatures he created, it seems clear that either he is still alive or someone else is continuing his work, with deadly consequences. It will be up to Holmes and Watson to end the mad scientist’s work before he succeeds in his plan to overthrow government with the aid of his bestial army. A plan that is far more advanced than anyone could have guessed.
Holmes and Watson dive into the investigation only to find themselves up against nightmare-like opponents and collaborating with a motley crew of characters.

This is probably not a book for Sherlock Holmes purists. If the attraction to these stories lies in the great detective solving seemingly impossible or even supernatural mysteries in a completely logical way Guy Adams’ books may be a bit too fantastical.
I like what the author has done though. He remains very true to the originals when it comes to the characters of Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, the latter being his usual irritating, arrogant, vague, but also brilliant and charming self. Adams has just added an extra twist to the mysteries Holmes is asked to solve. While in Adams' previous book "The Breath of God" the story had a supernatural feel, this story gives the reader a mad scientist scenario. Both are twists I happen to enjoy.

Another thing I really liked in this book is that when, at some point in the story, Watson is no longer in a position to give the details of the investigation, the perspective shifts. Starting with Sherlock Holmes we suddenly have several different narrators, all with their own distinctive voice and perspective, filling in the details the chief narrator missed out on. A development that allows Holmes to make fun of Watson and his editors and made me smile.

This is a very clever book. While being a Victorian mystery, Holmes’ musings on ethical questions, such as men experimenting to enhance human qualities, brings some aspects of the story nicely into our present time.

It is very clear that Guy Adams is having great fun while writing these books. He freely and openly borrows characters from other books – H. G. Wells’ Dr. Moreau being the obvious example here - and either pits them against Holmes or has them assisting him. I enjoy these visitors in Adams’ stories although I’m sure I would have enjoyed them more if I had actually read any, if not all, of the works he borrowed from. Readers better versed in the classical works then I am, are sure to have fun re-acquainting themselves with these characters and placing them in their original stories.

These books are very well written and smooth to read. The pages almost turn themselves as the story shifts between investigation, deduction and action. It is easy for the reader to get drawn into this story, get immersed in Victorian London and the sewers underneath it. And, as always, the readers will find themselves, like Watson, trailing behind the great detective when it comes to solving the mystery.
This is a fun reading experience all round.

Friday, August 17, 2012


AUTHOR: ANNE RICE, writing as 
              A.N. Roquelaure
Pages: 256
Date: 17/08/2012
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 Sleeping Beauty
            Received from the 
            Penguin Group
            Through NetGalley

After Beauty has willfully caused her own expulsion from the Castle at the end of “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty” she finds herself with the irresistible prince Tristan and other naked slaves on a cart heading towards the dreaded Village. Once on the market square, Beauty, Tristan and the others are auctioned of to the highest bidder, with Tristan being purchased by Master Nicolas, the Queen’s chronicler and Beauty by Mistress Lockley, the owner of an inn. It soon becomes clear to both of them that while they were used, ordered around and punished in the Queens castle, their treatment there was child’s play compared to what they are about to encounter in the Village. In the castle they were the playthings of the Lords and Ladies, but here they truly are slaves. And although their masters are still not allowed to do any real harm, there are no other restrictions on the ways in which they may be used.
Tristan finds himself put to work as a human pony, complete with tail and harness when he’s not being punished in a public spectacle while Beauty is handed over the handsome Captain of the Guard for his pleasure as well as that of his men.
Both slaves at first experience deep fear as well as humiliation but neither can deny the pleasure even these feelings bring them. And slowly the realisation dawns that this is the treatment they prefer. The submission they are brought to under the cruel villagers brings them deeper satisfaction then the games played in the castle ever did.
When Master Nicolas allows Tristan and Beauty to spend an unexpected night together, what should have been a heavenly experience turns into a nightmare and the start of a whole new, but not very different, experience.

It is hard to figure out what to say about this book.
A lot of people will say that they don’t mind, and even like, sexual content in their books provided it is backed-up by a good story, and in general I agree with that sentiment.
That of course does raise the question; what about books in which the sexual content is the story? What standard do you judge a book by if that is the case, as it is in Beauty’s Punishment?
This is a story about discovering the pleasures of sex as well as the truth about yourself. The characters discover that those things they are made to do and endure, which they know are humiliating, are also the experiences that bring them most pleasure. Everything they thought they knew about themselves, their needs and their feelings turns out to be wrong. As they discover what really brings them pleasure they have to overcome their old believes and values as well as truly surrender both to their own feelings and to those who bring those feelings to life inside them.
In many ways this book is as much a psychological examination of the characters needs and true feelings and their acknowledgment of those as it is a very explicit erotic fairy-tale.
And yes, this is very much a fairy-tale even if it is one that is aimed only at adults. It takes a familiar theme to extreme heights, on to a level that couldn’t be possible in the real world. And I found that because I was constantly aware that I was reading a fairy-tale I had no problem accepting what I encountered on the page. Nothing was too extreme or too unbelievable because in a fairy-tale anything is possible and everything is acceptable.

Anne Rice is a good author who has a way with words and knows how to draw her readers into her stories, and this book was no exception. I enjoyed my visit with Beauty and was fascinated by the world created around her. It won’t be long before I read the third and final part in this trilogy because I can’t wait to find out what else Mrs. Rice has in store for her characters.


Pages: 245
Date: 16/08/2012
Grade: 4-

Alexander Cleave is an actor who thinks he has retired and spends a lot of his time in his tiny attic office, writing about the past and remembering his first love.

Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother.”

Alex Cleave was only fifteen years old when his unlikely five month long affair with Mrs Gray started. Now in his sixties he thinks back on the stolen moments, the illicit meetings, his jealousies and the way it all ended. But even as he is writing down his memories he is aware that he is not recalling the affair the way it actually happened. Why does he place the affair during autumn when he knows for sure that it took place over the course of a very hot summer in 1950’s Ireland? In fact, is anything he remembers about this passionate time true to what actually happened or is most of it the product of his imagination and the lapse of time?
And these are not the only memories coming back to him. Thrown in with the recollections of his teenage sexual awakening are the heartbreaking memories of his daughter’s suicide, ten years ago. A suicide that was never properly explained for him and his wife and took place in a location they didn’t even know there daughter had travelled to.
When Alex is offered a role in a biopic movie his present and his daughter’s suicide appear to collide, leading to a sort of pilgrimage that won’t resolve anything.

This is a book written in the most beautiful language and filled with deep reflections and philosophies. This is also a most fascinating story. The descriptions of fifteen year old Alex and his feelings when he is in the middle of his affair with the mother of his best friend are so life-like that the reader can almost experience them with the boy.
This is a story about love; discovering love, enjoying it, losing it and coping with the aftermath. This is also a story about memory and how unreliable it is.

“I cannot tell whether they are memories or inventions. Not that there is much difference between the two, if indeed there is any difference at all. Some say that without realising it we make it all up as we go along, embroidering and embellishing, and I am inclined to credit it, for Madam Memory is a great and subtle dissembler.”

However, this is a very literary novel in so far that it deals with thoughts, feelings and perceptions more than with action. And for me this kept the story at arms-length. I never really got into the story, never felt any connection to any of the characters and always felt like a distant observer to some vague, not fully illuminated, drama.
And that is part of the reason I can’t say I loved this book. Another reason is that there were quite a few unanswered questions by the time the book ends. And while that is completely realistic measured against real life, I do prefer my fiction to come to a more straight-forward conclusion.
I enjoyed this book, and greatly admire the writing skills of John Banville, but I just couldn’t love the story.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Pages: 446
Date: 14/08/2012
Grade: 3.5
Details: Received from Simon & Schuster
            Through NetGalley

Boy, what a story.
Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She is 19 years old and in her first year at Eastern University with her friend America, determined to leave her past behind her and create a promising and peaceful future for herself. The last thing she needs in her life is someone like Travis Maddox.
Travis is the ultimate bad-boy. Covered in tattoos, he makes money in a floating fight ring while having numerous one-night stands with all sorts of girls who can’t seem to get enough of him.
No, if Abby is going to make her dream of a peaceful life come true, she wants to stay well clear of this fighting machine.
But, when Abby goes to see Travis fight something between the two young people connects. And Abby trying to keep her distance only seems to increase Travis’ interest in her.
Because he is determined to get what he apparently can’t have, Travis proposes a bet. He claims that he always allows his opponents to hit him once before finishing the fight and that he can make it through his next fight without being hit at all. If he does take a punch he must remain abstinent for a month, but if he exits the ring untouched, Abby must spend a month with him.
Unable to resist, Abby accepts the bet and soon finds herself moving in with Travis. And so starts an affair that is as passionate as it is dysfunctional, a relationship that Abby knows can’t have a future. Or can it…?

I’m not entirely sure what to say about this book.
It is a love story but a very disturbing one. We are reading about two people who should never be or stay together. Two young persons, both dysfunctional in their own way and while they appear to feel happy when they are together, their relationship is one of co-dependency. This could, in theory, be a very interesting premise for a story, especially if it was followed by both characters overcoming their issues because they are together. But, that doesn’t appear to be the case in this story. At no point while reading this book did I get to feeling comfortable about this relationship or where it might lead. In fact, my discomfort grew even while the story headed for what I guess is supposed to be a happy ending.
I’m talking about violence, obsessive behaviour, more violence and lots of issues that never got resolved.
When I finished the book I couldn’t help feeling that if the author were to ever write a sequel about these characters it would be a horror story filled with pain and despair.

Having said all that, I couldn’t put the book down. I guess it was a bit like watching a car-wreck, I just couldn’t look away.
The writing is smooth, the dialogue sparkles and the story, while at times horrific, is compelling.
I’ve seen other reviews of this book and it seems that for most readers this is a book that they either love or hate. As my rating shows, it wasn’t either of those for me. I found this an easy read, but one that left me feeling slightly uncomfortable by the time I finished the story.


Sometimes writing my reviews in this blog leads to wonderful developments. After I posted my thoughts on Conor Brady's "A June of Ordinary Murders" he contacted me to thank me for the review and let me know that he would be visiting libraries in September and would be happy to visit the branch in Bailieborough where I work. I'm very happy that I can now announce that it has all been arranged and Conor Brady will be visiting us on Thursday September 6. Below is a press-statement as written jointly by Fiona Burke and me:

"Cavan County Library Service is delighted to welcome journalist & author, Conor Brady, who will visit Bailieborough Library for a reading from his new novel, “A June of Ordinary Murders”. He will also answer questions and sign copies of his books.
“A June of Ordinary Murders” is an historical mystery set in Dublin during the great heat-wave of 1887. The city is getting ready for a royal visit as part of the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. Political unrest sweeps through the city and the police force is apprehensive about a possible assassination attempt.
In the midst of all this activity the bodies of a man and young boy are found in The Phoenix Park and it is up to Detective Joe Swallow to investigate these ordinary (not politically motivated) murders.

“A June of Ordinary Murders” is a well plotted and beautifully written mystery as well as a fascinating portrait of Dublin in times gone by. It deals with all facets of life in Dublin at the time, touching on political and social issues.

Conor Brady has worked for RTE, was editor of the Sunday Tribune, and also editor of the Irish Times from 1986-2002. Brady was a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission from 2006-2011. He has published two other non-fiction books.

“Up With the Times” deals with the way in which The Irish Times both managed and made the news during the years 1986 – 2002 when Brady worked for the paper as its editor.
This account of editing “The Irish Times” is a frank and engaging journey to the heart of a great Irish institution.

“Guardians of the Peace” is a political history of the Irish Police or Garda Síochána from its formation in the early 1920’s and as such gives both an insight into the development of this organisation and a wider look at Ireland since independence.

All three books mentioned above are available from Cavan Libraries.

Conor Brady will be in Bailieborough Library on Thursday September 6, from 7PM – 8.30PM. Admission will be free and all are welcome. For further information please call the library at 042 9665779"

Monday, August 13, 2012


Pages: 313
Date: 13/08/2012
Grade: 4+
Details: Received from Headline Review
            Through Book Geeks

It has been nine years since the flu wiped out most of humanity, nine years since Hig lost his wife and unborn baby. Ever since then Hig has been living in a hangar on a small abandoned airport with only his old dog Jasper for company. He shares the airport compound with Bangley, a gun-tooting tough guy who lives by a “shoot first ask questions later” motto and scares Hig a little. The two men depend on each other but Hig is never comfortable in Bangley’s presence and Bangley appears to only tolerate Hig because of his usefulness.

“I have the plane, I am the eyes, he has the guns, he is the muscle. He knows, I know he knows: he can’t fly. I don’t have the stomach for killing. Any other way, probably just be one of us. Or none.”

But also: “We really have become like a married couple.”

There are very few humans left and even fewer who are healthy, the earth is heating up and a lot of animals have disappeared and/or died-out.
Between the two of them Bangley and Hig have devised a system to secure their surroundings and keep themselves safe. While Bangley keeps an eye on one side of their compound from his house, Hig surveys the area further out in his beloved Cessna aeroplane. His regular flights also give Hig the opportunity to visit a Mennonite community near by. With most if not all of the members ill, the Mennonites need all the help they can get and while Hig makes sure to keep his distance he can’t ignore the families there.
During one of his flights, three years earlier, Hig received a message from someone at an airport just out of his range. Flying out of fuel range to follow a disembodied voice belonging to a stranger who may or may not be ill or dead would be madness and Hig tries to put the experience out of his mind. But every now and again the radio exchange resurfaces in his thoughts and the what-ifs make him wonder.
When what should have been a routine fishing and hunting trip leaves Hig devastated and rattled he does leave behind his relatively secure surroundings in order to explore the voice he heard years ago. What follows is frightening, fascinating, uplifting and not at all what Hig expected when he flew off.

This is not a run-of-the-mill work of fiction.
The story is imaginative; dark, funny, deeply sad and uplifting.
It isn’t told in Standard English either.
The story is told by Hig, the main character, and the language he uses ignores most grammatical rules. As can be seen in the two quotes above, the narrator goes out of his way to use the minimal amount of words absolutely necessary to say what he has to say. In the context of the story this actually makes a lot of sense. A man living with a dog and one other, not very communicative, man probably does start speaking, thinking and writing in a shorter, more efficient way. The fact that the narrator also has a affinity for poetry may well be a further explanation for the way language is used in this book.
For me, as a reader, it made the book a bit hard to read at times. The words didn’t flow naturally; I found myself having to re-read sentences and paragraphs, sometimes more than once just to be sure I understood what I was reading. Having said that, the sentence structure (or lack thereof) did become easier as I got further into the book and more used to it and the consistency with which it was applied was admirable.
The dystopian world described in this book is shockingly realistic. The loneliness, the constant sense of loss and the ever present danger were palatable and made this a tense read. The fact that all the tension was interspersed with mundane worries and domestic descriptions made the story all the more realistic and therefore more hard-hitting.
This story manages to blend a bleak and violent world with small acts of charity. This is Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” with a sense of hope. This is indeed the end of the world as we know it, but not necessarily the end of humanity.
In short, this is a fascinating, highly original and ultimately uplifting description of the human ability to survive.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Pages: 150 (approx)
Date: 11/08/2012
Grade: 4
Details: no. 1 Masters of Shadowlands

This is a work of pure erotica, and this review should be read or ignored with that firmly in mind.

When Jessica Randall’s car ends up in a ditch during a tropical storm the nearest house is long, wet mile away. Once she arrives at the front door of the isolated house she’s wet, shivering and miserable.
When the door is opened, Jessica finds herself face-to-face with a doorman reluctant to let her in. It is only after he has summoned someone he calls Master Z that Jessica is given the choice to either enter the club on the premises or spend the rest of the night in the cold lobby with the grumpy doorman. If she decides to enter the club though, she will have to sign a contract.
Faced with a choice between the cold lobby and the potentially warm club Jessica doesn’t have to think long and, crucially, neglects to read the full contract before signing it.
Once inside and accompanied by the very handsome, very unsettling and very mysterious Z Jessica discovers that she has signed herself into a private club on bondage night. And while Jessica is shocked by the interactions between the Doms and their subs she can’t deny that she also finds in arousing. But Jessica is an accountant, independent and has never found sex particularly exciting or satisfying. Surely she doesn’t have a submissive bone inside her body.

Zachary, better known as Master Z is fascinated by the young woman who has stumbled into his club. And while he soon has reasons to question the wisdom of his decision to allow Jessica inside, he is happily surprised when he sees her interest in and arousal from the scenes around her. And surely there can’t be any harm in introducing the woman to the delights she has obviously been missing out on so far?

As stated above, this is a work of pure erotica. Although there is a story-line here and some character development, most if not all the action is of a sexual nature.
There were some parts of this story that I really appreciated.
I liked that Jessica is a woman with body-issues who has trouble believing that anyone could find her really attractive because she “knows” she’s just not slim enough. I also liked the independent and protective streak in her, even if it constantly ended her up in trouble.
I’m a bit more dubious about Master Z. Initially I thought he was charming and considerate and it was only upon reflection, after finishing the book, that I started to have doubts about his apparent ability to read people’s minds and know what they really want, even if they haven’t admitted it to themselves yet.
I also have my doubts about how realistic the speed with which Jessica’s conversion took place actually is.

Having said all that, the story is well written and very easy to read. And no matter my issues with the characters I did find them and the interactions between them intriguing. Intriguing enough, in fact, to have already wish-listed the second book in this series.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Pages: 288
Date: 08/08/2012
Grade: 4+
Details: Received from Corvus
            Through Book Geeks

Rome in 1605 is a place where powerful families are in competition with each other and not even the Pope has enough power to control everybody and everything. In a world where the mighty live in grand palazzos, surrounded by wealth, Caravaggio is a painter and as such considered a lowly craftsman.
Although Caravaggio’s work is starting to attract attention he lives in a place called “the Evil Garden”. A place called home by prostitutes, beggars and others on the lowest rungs of society. In this world Caravaggio’s days are divided between his art and drink, gambling and knife-fights. It is a world in which is easy to make enemies and Caravaggio finds himself on the wrong side of Ranuccio Tomassoni, the son of a powerful family.
But, when Caravaggio is invited to paint the new Pope it seems his luck has changed. And meeting and falling for Lena, a low-born fruit-seller seems to even give him a fleeting chance at happiness.
But Caravaggio is not the sort of person who can accept his blessings and be happy. Haunted by ghosts from his past and a determination to create his paintings according to his own vision, without concern for the conventions of the day, he constantly balances between acceptance and condemnation.
When he finally kills his rival, not even Caravaggio’s powerful friends can protect him from the dead-sentence now hanging over his head.
Leaving behind the woman he loves, the painter flees to Malta in the hope that acceptance into the Order of Malta may save his life. But even that far away from home his past as well as new enemies continue to make his life a delicate balancing act.

This is a fascinating book.
The descriptions of Caravaggio’s paintings, his passion for his work and the turmoil in his private life all come together to create a very vivid picture.
The historical setting comes alive on the pages of this book. You can see and smell the rot in the Evil Garden and picture the grandeur of the palazzos and cathedrals.
Caravaggio is clearly a very troubled man and while initially I found myself wondering why he seemed so determined to put himself in danger and risk the success that appeared to be within his reach, by the end of the book I felt I understood the man and his need to protect what he considered to be his honour.
Matt Rees has a clever way with words. I’m not very familiar with Caravaggio’s work, but I imagine that the darkness and shadows that appear in the painter’s work had a great deal to do with the way in which this story was told. I always had the feeling that there were things hiding in the background; things I couldn’t quite see but could feel under the surface, threatening to catch up with the main character.

Caravaggio, of course, disappeared in July 1610 and although it was rumoured that he died of a fever, his body was never found.
Matt Rees, in this book, presents the reader with a cause of death and a reason for the painter’s demise that for me, after reading the whole book, is both believable and heartbreaking.

The story in this book captured me, although I can’t escape the feeling that I might have gotten to a greater understanding for the story and Caravaggio’s character if I had a better knowledge of his work.
I think this is a book that would be greatly enjoyed by those who enjoy a good historical thriller as well as those who love art, especially Caravaggio’s work.

Monday, August 6, 2012


AUTHOR: ANNE RICE (writing as A.N.
Pages: 272
Date: 06/08/2012
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 1 Sleeping Beauty

This review comes with a “for adults only” warning.

Few people will be unfamiliar with the fairytale in which a beautiful princess has to sleep for 100 years before a handsome prince will come to awaken her.
And that is pretty much how this story starts, except that the handsome prince doesn’t awaken the beautiful princess with a kiss but by taking her virginity.
The next day the prince tells Beauty and her parents that he is claiming the princess and will take her to his mother’s kingdom for training. Although the king and queen object initially, they allow the prince to take their daughter with him after they are reminded how they themselves had been trained there and how they had benefitted from it.
For Beauty this is the start of an ordeal. She is stripped naked and made to travel with the prince like that, on full view of everybody they encounter. She is also often and ferociously spanked and slapped, both in private and in public.
Once in the castle this “training” of Beauty is continued and not just by the prince. This is the start of a period during which Beauty will discover things about her self she could never have guessed at; a period that will end with a wilful and unexpected act of rebellion.

I’m not quite sure what to say about this book.
It is a very well written story, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from Anne Rice. It also seems to be lacking in imagination though. The endless spanking became quite tedious after the first 150 pages or so.
On the other hand I did like the way the sexual awakening of Beauty is described. The way in which her confusion, despair and shame were conveyed was convincing. I also like that Anne Rice doesn’t over-explain Beauty’s thoughts and emotions; the reader gets her confused thoughts as they pop into Beauty’s head and has to work with her in order to discover exactly what it is she’s experiencing. This creates a certain tension in the story because the reader is as unsure of what Beauty is really feeling as the girl herself is.

This book also has me wondering if the author gets away with things I might not have accepted in another story because this book is basically a fairytale. And fairytales have always been allowed to depict horrific scenes (wicked step-mothers, children abandoned by their parents, cannibalism) provided there is a happy ending.
I also wonder if that might be one of the reasons the author used the form of a fairytale for this story?

Of course I’ve no idea whether or not this story will have a happy ending, since this is the first book in a trilogy. And I guess I will read all of them because the author has made me curious about Beauty and her princes, and I can’t help wondering where she might take this story next.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Pages: 269 (Paperback)
Date: 05/08/2012
Grade: 4
Details: Edition contains two novellas
            Received from Hydra Publications
            Through NetGalley

This book consists of two stories:

Tempt Me’ is a story about Rocki Monroe, young widow, designer of lingerie and owner of a lingerie shop. It has been five years since she lost her police officer husband and during all that time she’s never met a man who could interest her. That changes when Cole Stanton walks into her shop with his rather nasty fiancée Mara. One look at this man has Rocki unsettled, but he is not a free man and therefore out-of-bounds.
Cole Stanton knows his relationship with Mara is not what it used to be and not what he wants for the rest of his life. It takes meeting the very sexy Rocki Monroe though to fully open his eyes, recognise what sort of a person Mara really is and end his engagement.
When Cole and Rocki get together sparks fly and the heat is palatable, but with Rocki’s violent stalker returning after an absence of years and Mara not so easily disregarded, the two will need more than just the attraction between them to get and stay together.

Beg Me’ is Tania Sinclair’s story. Three years ago her husband and soul-mate died in an accident, an event that left her heartbroken. A year later her former husband’s twin-brother broke into her house in the middle of the night and used her sexual fantasies, the memories she still had of her husband, against her during a violent attack. Now, two years later, on the anniversary of that attack Tania is still broken. She used to love being made to beg for sex, now she can’t even fantasize about her husband anymore without the memory turning him into his evil twin. But Tania is ready to take back her life and her sexual fantasies and the only person she trusts enough to make this happen is Drake Bennett, her husband’s best friend.
What Tania doesn’t know is that Drake has loved her and lusted for her for as long as he’s known her. And while he’d do anything for her, giving her the help she needs might just break him.

These were two enjoyable and well written stories. Although neither story is long – in fact, I wouldn’t have complained if especially ‘Trust Me’ had been longer – they do provide the reader with a good background story and enough character description to make the reader connect with the main protagonists.
Although both these stories are examples of erotic fiction, there are clear differences between them. ‘Trust Me’ has relative little and rather run of the mill sexual relations between its two main characters. Their relationship is steamy and hot but not anything you wouldn’t find a lot of modern romances.
‘Beg Me’ on the other hand is far more risqué and explicit. Because the main character’s fantasies centre around rape-scenarios this is the sort of story that could leave some readers feeling a bit uncomfortable.
On the other hand, both stories put the sexual scenes in enough plausible contexts to make it easy for the reader to believe in what’s happening on the page. The only reservation I have in that regard is that due to the relative shortness of the stories things developed a bit too fast for me.

Overall I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed these two stories and that I will definitely have a look at other novels/stories by this author. She writes a good story with interesting characters and exciting descriptions; what’s not to like?

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Pages: 262
Date: 04/08/2012
Grade: 3-
Details: Read for Dialogues Through

When Andrew Echlin’s wife dies, leaving behind Andrew and two grown sons, the man realises how important the woman was for the smooth running of his farm on the coast of Northern Ireland. Needing someone to take over the tasks his wife used to take care of, Echlin invites Martha Gormartin and her 30 year old daughter Sarah to come and live and work on his farm.
It isn’t long before both of Echlin’s sons, Frank and Hamilton take an interest in Sarah, an interest that is mutual.
When Sarah falls pregnant and gives birth to a son she refuses to name either of the brothers as the father and declines to marry either of them. This decision sends Sarah’s mother to an early grave and leads to the Echlin farm and its inhabitants being more or less shunned by the puritan Ulster community they live in.
It is only twenty years later, when there is only one brother left and Sarah’s second child, a daughter, wants to get married, that Sarah can be persuaded to marry the remaining brother.

This is a very grim and equally bare story.
What the author offers the reader are snapshots of a life in a time in the past during which horse drawn carts were still the normal form of transport in Ulster. What we get are glimpses at people and their surroundings without every finding out enough about either to feel any attachment to them. Motivations are hinted at but rarely clarified, feelings, when mentioned are suppressed and rarely, if ever, shared.
I read somewhere that a good author shows but doesn’t tell his audience what is going on with the characters in his story. If that is true, this author went about conveying his message in completely the wrong way. Nothing is shown in these pages, everything is told and despite that, or maybe because of that, I never really got a feeling for any of the characters in the book. I think it is quite possible that I could have felt sympathy for Sarah or any of the other characters in the book if I had been given a better insight into their emotions and motivations. But, since the author was cryptic at best when it came to revealing his characters inner lives, I really didn’t care about them or their fate at all.
I think this is a book that I would not have finished if it had not been a book for the “Dialogues Through Literature” programme and one that I will be discussing with my reading group at the end of the month. It doesn’t happen very often that I have to force myself to get back to a book, but with this one I found myself looking for excuses to do something else instead of reading.
I do understand why this book may have been picked for this reading programme; the story touches on the separation between Catholics and protestants and on the fact that although they had to cooperate occasionally to keep the community going, any conflict could and would be excused through that difference in faith and background.

The best I can say about this book is that it will make me appreciate future reads that much more than I might otherwise have. I guess that every now and again I need to be reminded that some books just aren’t for me and how lucky I am to read so many that I do truly love.