Review: The Lonely Tree ~ Yael Politis

The lonely treeTonia Shulman does not share her father’s dream – forging a Jewish State out of the chaos of British Mandate Palestine. She hates the hardships of life in Kfar Etzion – an isolated kibbutz south of Jerusalem – clearing rocky hillsides, bathing in rationed cups of trucked-in water, and being confined behind barbed wire. Her own dreams have nothing to do with national self-realization; she longs for steaming bubble baths and down comforters, but most of all for a place on earth where she can feel safe. She is in love with Amos, but refuses to acknowledge these feelings. She knows he will never leave his homeland and Tonia plans to emigrate to America. But can she really begin a new life there?

4 Thumbs-UpI was initially going to review a later work by this Author (Olivia, Mourning), but decided against that in favour of a review of their debut novel; a review of Olivia will now appear later in the year.  Given the current climate between Israel and Palestine, this is a book that anyone who is not familiar with Israel and its turbulent history should read.

Through the lives and words of the two main protagonists, this Author brings to life the history of Israel/British Palestine dating from the 1930’s up to the Six Day War in 1967.  With great care the Author uses their characters to describe the impact historical events had on both fictional and actual people.  The female protagonist was portrayed as being unhappy with her lot in life and wanting out, going to any means to achieve her dream.  While I did not agree with a lot of the decisions this character made, it did not make me like her any less as it brought into the light the hardships and uncertainty that she and those around her were feeling in this time of change.  This character is nothing if not determined but, as the novel progresses she develops a better understanding of the pitfalls this determination can bring, and also the power it can instil in a person.  The male protagonist is a complete opposite to the female lead; he comes from a totally different background and has a belief structure that is at total odds to hers.  However, despite this and the carnage of war that is exploding around them they develop a relationship.  To say more about this would spoil their part in the story, and to find out how this progresses this book has to be read.

The Author’s writing style throughout this novel is excellent, they are eloquent without being boorish and this leads to a story that flows well and pulls the reader in from the very first page.  Pulling on their links with Israel the Author adds an authenticity to their book that would otherwise have been missing if it had been based on purely research.  If you have never been to Israel, this book will take you there and, if you have been as I have back in the late 1970’s, reading it will bring to mind all the places seen right down to the rusted military vehicles at the side of the road.  As I read this book I was made to think of works by Leon Uris several times, as this Author captures the region with just as much clarity.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good well-paced and well written book, who also enjoys a historical novel based on fact and experience that shows through on every page.  Surprisingly for me, as I’m not a lover of the romance genre, I did enjoy this part of the book too and was not the reason I rated this as 4 thumbs; that was because I did not want it to end.

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Review: Asylum (Asylum #1) ~ Madeleine Roux

AsylumFor sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux’s teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

1 Thumbs-UpOh dear.  I could leave this review at that, but it really doesn’t express what I found so disappointing in this book and, as it is only possibly the third time in my blog history I can remember giving out a one thumb rating, maybe I should elaborate, I’m sure if I’m wrong in this someone will correct me.

I had such high expectations for this based on not only the synopsis but the cover image, and none of those expectations were filled.  As I read through this I got the uncomfortable feeling that, not only was this Author aiming to produce a novel with the calibre of Miss Peregrine’s House for Peculiar Children but somewhere in the mix the Author had actually submitted a draft copy to the publishers instead of their final edited copy.

The characters are supposed to be 16 years old, so unless the baseline for all 16 years old has now changed, these were not in that age group.  The protagonist is not the kind I was expecting in a book of this genre; he was whiny, possessive and had a superiority complex bigger than any I have seen in a novel.  Throughout the novel he is constantly telling the readers about how much better he is than anyone else, and after a time this becomes tedious to the point where I wanted to ground him in his room at home without any outside contact;  yes I wanted to put him in solitary confinement.  Despite him gradually losing some of these traits as the book progressed, the damage had been done and I found myself being unable to like or even care about him or what happened to him.  Too many of the characters were written in a stereotypical manner, or how the Author visualized teenagers to be; the female character who the Author felt they had to reminder the reader every few sentences how beautiful they were, the cookie cutter girls’ gay best friend.  This may have been acceptable in this book had the Author only taken time to give the characters depth and something interesting that the reader could catch hold off, unfortunately I found them all to rather too one-dimensional for my tastes.

Abandoned asylum, strange happenings.  All the workings of what could’ve have been a very good horror tale were buried so deeply in this book that they were gasping for air.  I’m also not sure what yardstick the Author used to decide this would be scary reading for the intended audience but, in my experience of teenagers I think only those with a very weak constitution would have found this remotely disturbing compared to the daily horrors they are subject to in the media.  The book does contain some very stunning photographs, unfortunately these are not the Authors original works, which led me to believe that they couldn’t even be bothered to take the time to discover original locations for inclusion.

With good editing and maybe a little more plot and character development this could have been a better book than it actually was; the one thumb rating is purely because I finished it.  I’m not going to be reading any other books by this Author and I understand this is the beginning of a series, which will also go unread.  However if you looking for a book that doesn’t contain a taxing plotline and deep meaningful characters that you can connect with, this may be the one for you.

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Review: The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone‘When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else’

The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel’s household is above suspicion. Hailed by T. S. Eliot as ‘the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels’, The Moonstone is a marvellously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear.

4 Thumbs-UpAs those who have read my ‘About Me’ section will know I’m a Military Spouse and, with that said we are in the throes of moving season for the Military.  Even though our move is a way off yet I decided to get ahead of the game by sorting through my books, and came across this in a box.  Needless to say, once I opened the cover everything else was forgotten.

Wilkie Collins, for those who may not be aware, was a friend of Charles Dickens and a reader may think that because of this their writing styles would be somewhat similar; this is not the case they have drastically different writing styles and because of this I thoroughly enjoy Wilkie Collins novels as much as I despise anything penned by his friend who is just too long-winded and maudlin for my taste.

The storyline in this book is narrated from the perspective of each member of the unique cast of characters that the Author brings to life on his pages.  They are entertaining, smart and funny, bringing out a lot of the social norms of the period in their narratives, whilst at the same time showing that things were changing much to the annoyance of one particular chauvinistic male.  Because the Author is able to convince the reader that the plot is being revealed to them on a personal level, rather than them being a spectator in the unfolding mystery, the characters become ones you can love or hate as you would people you meet in real life.  The characters in this novel are societies ‘Gods of the Universe’; they are privileged, pampered but definitely human, a trait that is often lacking in more modern novels in this genre.  There was not one character I preferred over another, as each brings their unique perspective of the world around them into the tale, and through this the reader is able to experience more of what is happening behind the main storyline.

As in most novels written in this time period, the location description are vast, sweeping and very detailed; it is verbose to the extreme and a reader that is new to its pages may wonder how anything ever was accomplished in Victorian times when they used 20 words to convey something we use 4 words for today.  Despite this it is still an excellent read, no matter how many times I open this book, or listen to it on audio book.  It is not fast-paced by any means, and those readers that enjoy this in a mystery book may find that aspect off-putting, but regardless of whether you solve the mystery before the reveal or a thrown off the scent by the varying twists and turns, there is still plenty in the novel to keep you turning the pages to the very end.

I would highly recommend this as a good engrossing read for anyone who likes mystery novels, those books set in the Victorian era or who is curious about the book purported to be ‘the first mystery novel’.  I’ve read Wilkie Collins novel the Woman in White, and will no doubt continue to revisit both of his works in the years to come.

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Guest Article: Adventures In Crime ~ Anthony Boucher

Over 50 years ago, on January 5th 1964 to be exact, the following article appeared in The New York Times and, as can be seen by reading it the mystery novel was a big thing back then.  I have shared this with you as I found it interesting, but it also made me wonder how much the article would differ from the original if Mr. Boucher were to write it today.

Anthony Boucher

Anthony Boucher

“The past few years have seen something of a revolution in the publishing of paperback mystery novels. From the very beginnings of the paperback industry; murder has been a trade staple, but the emphasis used to rest almost exclusively upon fast‐action novels of violence and sex, with only a very few of the most famous practi­tioners of more reasoned and contemplative detection represented on the newsstands.

Violence‐and‐sex has not disappeared: it will always (and quite rightfully) have its market. But now the paperback repertory cones to embrace more and more of the serious novels of murder and deduction which were once assumed, on no particular evidence, to be com­mercial poison in paperback. This trend is evident not merely in the more expensive “quality” paperbacks (Dolphin, Collier)

Berkley has published, and kept in print, the entire work of the subtly perceptive Josephine Tey. Lancer is well launched on a project of the complete works of the versatile and rewarding Andrew Garve. Ace’s “giant double‐books” each contains two novels by female writers of the enviable stature of Ursula Curtiss, Charlotte Arm­strong and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. And both Ballantine and Pyramid have established carefully edited lines of mysteries for connoisseurs.

Indeed, if any university were so wise as to offer a course in the mystery novel as a branch of literary history, a more than adequate reading list could be built up from paperbacks cur­rently in print—including the obvious major textbook for the course, Howard Haycraft’s splendid critical anthology

Such a reading list would start with any one of the 11 available story collections of the founding master, Edgar Allan Poe. and go on through Wilkie Collins—with the complete text of the “The Moonstone” (Dolphin), and not its truncated form (Pyramid), plus the less detectival “The Woman in White” (Dolphin, Everyman) as collateral reading—to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since most of the Sherlock Holmes stories are now in the public domain, they are to be found in innumerable editions, none of them textually ideal; but the nod should go to the Berkley edition (now almost complete) because it is legitimately authorized and royalty‐paying, and because its jackets, by W. Teason, are the most tasteful that I have yet seen on any Doyle books. And with the stories themselves should go William S. Baring­Gould’s definitive biography, “Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street” (Popular), the one significant work of Baker Street Irregularity to appear in a newsstand paperback.

The first third of this century is not copiously represented in today’s paperbacks; but our imaginary course could get on adequately with R. Austin Free­man’s “Mr. Pottermack’s Over­sight” (Collier), E. C. Bentley’s “Trent’s Last Case” (Ballan­tine), Anthony Berkeley’s “The Poisoned Chocolates Case” (Dolphin) and Dorothy L. Sayers’s “Strong Poison” (Harper)—classics all, though these authors need more representation on the lists—plus two colIections of superb short stories, G. K. Chesterton’s “Ten Adventures of Father Brown” (Dell) and Melville Davisson Post’s “Uncle Abner” (Collier).

From there on, the problem becomes one of selection from stores of treasures. In the classic formal detective story, there are any number of books in print by Ellery Queen (Pocket Books), Rex Stout (Bantam), Elizabeth Daly (Berkley), Ngaio Marsh (Berkley) Mar­gery Allingham (Penguin, Mac­fadden) and Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr, each of whom appears on the lists of many publishers. Each of these authors has produced so many of the best works in the genre that the choice would be up to the individual taste of the instructor. Oddly though Carr is everywhere, his alter ego Carter Dickson is rare in paperback: but Berkley is starting to remedy that deficiency. The superlative Michael Innes has not had quite his due in reprints as yet; but he can be well represented, in his Collinsian detectival manner by ”Lament for a Maker” (Collier) and, in his vein of romantic adventure, by “The Case of the Journeying Boy” (Berkley).

It will consider the feminine­gothic novel of romantic terror, from the work of the Brontes (many editions) through Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca” (Pocket Books) to Victoria Holt’s “Mistress of Mellyn” (Crest). It will at least touch upon the spy novel, from John Buchan’s still incomparable “The 39 Steps” (Popular) to the contemporary contrast between Ian Fleming and William Haggard (both Signet).

It will look into the exotic of detection: the fine Australian regional novels of Arthur W. Upfield (Berkley), the work of Georges Simenon, especially the revolutionary early Maigret novels (Penguin); the Argentine “Ficciones” of Jorge Luis Borges (Evergreen); the glori­ous Chinoiserie of Robert Van Gulik, whose Judge Dee novels both Dell and Avon begin re­printing in the same week

It will notice the occasional isolated masterpiece by an author who wrote nothing else in the field—such important ice­breaking detective stories as Helen Eustic’s “The Horizontal Man (Dolphin) or Leo Perutz’s “The Master of the Day of Judgment” (Collier).

And it will not overlook, among all these reprints, the original paperback novels, the legitimate heirs to the dead pulps in which Hammett and Chandler flourished—their serious and substantial authors, such as John D. MacDonald, Charles Williams, Donald Hamilton and Vin Packer (all Gold Medal), and their highly competent purveyors of light amusement, like Carter Brown (Signet), Richard S. Prather (Gold Medal) and Henry Kane (many publishers).

Starting as paperback originals and later as reprints from hard‐cover are the 87th Precinct novels of Ed McBain (Permabooks). all still in print and invaluable for the course as prime specimens of the modern novel of police procedure—to which should be added J. J. Marric’s novels of Commander Gideon of Scotland Yard (Berkley).

Only on fifth Thursdays of the month will the lecturer regret that he is unable to make a point by reference to current paperbacks. There is, for instance, no novel in print by Freeman Willis Croft, the great master of the perfect timetable alibi, or by Craig Rice, the most warmly humorous personality ever to communicate with her readers through murder.

The more I talk about this hypothetical course the more I hope you might enjoy enrolling in it. And why not? It’s available at your nearest bookstore.”

Anthony Boucher, August 21, 1911 – April 29, 1968

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Review: Clockwork Angels: The Novel ~ Kevin J. Anderson, Neil Peart

Clockwork AngelsIn a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels through a lavish and colourful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.

For more than two centuries, the land of Albion has been ruled by the supposedly benevolent Watchmaker, who imposes precision on every aspect of life. Young Owen Hardy from the village of Barrel Arbor dreams of seeing the big city and the breathtaking Clockwork Angels that dispense wisdom to the people, maybe even catching a glimpse of the Watchmaker himself.

He watched the steamliners drift by, powered by alchemical energy, as they head towards the Crown City — never dreaming that he is already caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos, between the Watchmaker and his nemesis, the Anarchist. Owen’s journeys begin at a fabulous carnival with clockwork wonders beyond his imagination, and take him aboard airships, far into the Redrock Desert to seek lost cities, through storms at sea to encounters with pirates … and give him a chance at love

4 Thumbs-UpBefore I review this book, I need to point out that I haven’t heard the album of the same name by Rush, so this review is based solely on my thoughts about this book. This is a book that I may have picked up in a store because the cover intrigued me but may not have actually purchased, so it being a free gift from Emerald City ComicCon was a plus.

From the first page the reader is introduced to the main protagonist, and it is through his journey into adulthood that we are introduced to the world he inhabits.  Initially I was under the impression that, because of his naiveté, this character could not possibly be the one who the storyline would centre around; I was sure he would be chewed up and spit out like so many broken watch parts, but this was not the case.  This character is not a complex or multifaceted one in anyway, but he is written with traits and questions in his mind that will make the reader think; order or chaos, life and death, freedom of choice and success or failure, are all covered and encountered by the main character as he journeys through this book.  I enjoyed travelling with this character and joining in his adventures so much that, by the time I finished this book I felt I would miss  our time together and I hoped his future would hold good things for him.  As much as I liked this character, I did feel that the Author would have done this book a great service by providing an equally despicable and thoroughly unlikeable villain as a counterpart but, despite there not being such a character it really did not pull away from my liking of this book as a whole.

Steampunk is always a great genre to find action and adventure set in semi-quasi historical settings, and this book was no different in this respect.  However, if you pick this up and read it purely as a steampunk fantasy you will, in my opinion be missing out on so much more and possibly some of the best pieces of this book.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in French literature (parts of it carry a strong resemblance to Voltaire’s work) and also those with an interest in philosophy.  This is a book that needs to be read slowly and savoured with time given over to the thinking it will provoke.

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It’s Finally Friday ~ Paul Orshoski

friday

It’s Finally Friday

It’s finally Friday—I’m so glad.
It’s been a crazy week.
I got chewed out on Monday, 
and since then it’s all been bleak.

I lost my lunch on Tuesday,
and a parent went insane,
which shocked me so completely
that I almost popped a vein.

I poked my eye on Wednesday,
and the nurse gave me a shot.
She sent me to the doctor
when I fainted on the spot.

On Thursday I was tardy
’cause I kinda overslept.
And the snack that I was craving 
came up missing in a theft.

And so it’s finally Friday.
No more pencils, no more books.
No more sitting in detention, 
no more teachers’ dirty looks.

By Friday I’m exhausted, 
out of energy and breath.
But that’s the day you’ll hear me shout,
“Rejoice, TGIF!”

And twice a month on Friday,
I remember why I stay:
You see, I am the principal—
that’s when I get my pay.

 

© Paul Orshoski, reprinted from My Teacher’s in Detention

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Review: The Quick ~ Lauren Owen

the quickLondon, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

5 Thumbs-UpSo, what can I say about this book?  Three things really, a) it is a debut novel for this Author b) I really didn’t see that coming and c) Noooooo!!!

I found this book by chance on a rummage through my local lending library the other day, and was intrigued both by the cover and the synopsis, so home with me it came and I’m glad I took a chance on something so unknown to me.  If other readers have already heard of this novel they may think I live under some rock and rarely venture out; that is not the case, I never read reviews on books and choose them purely on their own merit when out and about and this was the case with this one.

From a character point of view they are plentiful in this novel, and they are morose, they are arrogant; you may love them or you may hate them, but each of them will bring about a reaction in the reader of some description.  In my opinion it was hard to pinpoint one main character in the whole of this novel, as so many come and take centre stage in a way that will impact all those around them; and once they step away from the limelight they do not fade out of the plotline entirely as many Authors have their lesser characters doing.  Despite the time period in which this novel was set, there was one particular character I really connected with and I was rooting for her every time she appeared in the story; there were also others that no matter how hard I tried I could not find anything redeeming in their character and found myself chuckling when rough things happened to them.

Because of the way in which this book is written it is hard to write an in-depth review without giving away the plot.  It is written from a multi-perspective point of view , as each character comes to the front and also includes journal entries; all the good stuff that combine together to make an exceptional Victorian gothic novel.  It is very apparent from the way in which the Author addresses class issues and gender expectations that they have done an extensive amount of research into this period of history; the shock one woman expresses at seeing another wearing trousers is a good example.  The location descriptions are the best I have read in a long time, and in this area put me in mind of Dickens and Conan-Doyle in the way the Author uses the surroundings to propel the storyline along.  The grandeur of some buildings is, in the next paragraph startling contrasted against the poorer areas of London; along with smells and attire I could almost feel I was back in this time with the characters.

This is a moody, dark and gritty novel which really doesn’t show London at its best, but this is what adds to the novel.  There is no sugar coating of the privations some suffered and the excesses others enjoyed.  Because of its abrupt ending however, I am hoping that this may be the start of a series, one that I will definitely be following.  If not, and the Author decided to leave the reader with a cliff-hanger, I don’t really mind as I will definitely be reading this Author again.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, and those who enjoy a good gothic novel.  Also those who enjoy Victorian crime fiction may find this to their liking.

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Vive la révolution!

 

bastille-day-450x3372

Today is Bastille Day, or as the French call it, la Fête Nationale or le quatorze juillet, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the flashpoint of the French Revolution that symbolizes the birth of the modern nation. So basically the French version of the fourth of July, only slightly bloodier and with more presidential garden parties. In honour of the French’s national holiday, I’ve put together a list of three French novels that will get anyone in the spirit.

ptitprinceTitle – Le Petit Prince
Author – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
ISBN 13– 978-0156013987
Pub Date – September 4, 2001 (first published 1940)
Publisher – Harcourt, Inc.; French language edition

Description – Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.  Seeing as it’s the most read and most translated book in the French language, not to mention one of the best-selling books of all time, you’ve probably already read the gorgeous, absurdist, heartbreaking novella The Little Prince. But you should probably read it again.

musketeersTitle – The Three Musketeers
Author – Alexandre Dumas
ISBN 13– 978-0451530035
Pub Date – January 3rd 2006 (first published 1844)
Publisher – Signet Classics

Description – One of the most celebrated & popular historical romances ever written. The Three Musketeers tell the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman d’Artagnan & his three friends from the regiment of the King’s Musketeers-Athos, Porthos & Aramis.

Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honour of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, & the honor of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of 17th-century France are vividly played out in the background.

But their most dangerous encounter is with the Cardinal’s spy. Milady, one of literature’s most memorable female villains, & Alexandre Dumas employs all his fast-paced narrative skills to bring this enthralling novel to a breathtakingly gripping & dramatic conclusion

gigiTitle – Gigi
Author – Colette
ISBN 13– 978-2253109341
Pub Date – June 1st, 2004 (first published 1942)
Publisher – Livre de Poche

Description – A story of burgeoning womanhood and blossoming love, Colette’s masterpiece reveals the author’s grasp of the politics of relationships. With music, drama, and the charm of French-inflected English, this unabridged novella follows Gigi’s training as a courtesan. Leslie Caron, the star of the best-loved film based on Gigi brings to life the Paris of 1899 in all its sensuous detail.

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Review: The Devil’s Workshop (The Murder Squad #3) ~ Alex Grecian

The Devil's WorkshopThey thought he was gone, but they were wrong. Jack the Ripper is loose in London once more.

Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad faces the most shocking case of its existence, in the extraordinary new historical thriller from the author of the acclaimed national bestsellers The Yard and The Black Country.

London, 1890. A small group of the city’s elite, fed up with the murder rate, have made it their business to capture violent criminals and mete out their own terrible brand of retribution. Now they are taking it a step further: They have arranged for four murderers to escape from prison, and into the group’s hands.

But the plan goes wrong. The killers elude them, and now it is up to Walter Day, Nevil Hammersmith, and the rest of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad to hunt the convicts down before they can resume their bloody spree. But the Murder Squad may already be too late. The killers have retribution in mind, and one of them is heading straight toward a member of the Murder Squad, and his family.

And that isn’t even the worst of it. During the escape, one of the killers has stumbled upon the location of another notorious murderer, one thought gone for good, but who is now prepared to join forces with them.

And Saucy Jack has learned some new tricks while he’s been away.

2 Thumbs-UpI thought this was going to be a gripping historical police procedure, but the only thing gripping about it were my hands on the cover to stop me throwing it across the room unfinished.  Yes, I was disappointed in this book, and have read far better thriller/mysteries from Authors who are releasing their works to the reading public for the first time.  However, this really isn’t just one book as there is the main story that centres around the Scotland Yard Murder Squad shortly after the Ripper killings, and then there is the secondary, and in my mind much more enjoyable story, about the criminals the squad are pursuing.

The main character was not at all likeable, and in fact came across as a bit of a wimp at times.  The Author apparently wanted him to appear as a stalwart of Scotland Yard but in the end he appeared to be nothing more than a self-righteous man.  He was very much in awe of his mentor, even though this man had left the force under a cloud, he deferred to him at every turn even when he had made it clear it was not the right thing to do.  His indecisiveness was definitely at odds to the character I had expected in one of his importance when embarking on this book.  On the flip side, I found his ‘sidekick’ to be a lot more interesting and likeable, and found myself wanting to read more about him than his Inspector.  He was full of energy and stuck to a single course once his mind was made up, even if this meant going against the wishes of his superiors; the Author gifted this character will the kind of mind I had expected in the main protagonist and, rather than it being annoying to find in a secondary player, I found it one of two things that kept me reading to the end.  As to the villains their story made the hair on the back of my neck stand up in places.  Through a great deal of imagination and maybe some psychological research, the Author was able to bring these criminals to life in all their shocking and violent glory, while at the same time showing that you can never truly spot evil when it walks among us.  It was the tale of the criminals that produced the second reason I kept reading.

From a historical point of view there was obviously a great deal of research done into the time period in which the novel is set, although at times the descriptiveness of locations did have a tendency to take over the page and pull my attention away from what was actually happening.  I’m not sure if it is just me, and there may be readers out there who enjoy this, but I do like sentences in a novel to be more than a few words long, and flow in a manner that does not make me feel as if I were on a tiny boat on a choppy sea.  Not all the sentences were written in this way, and it was a relief to come across those that had a nice flow and rhythm to them; only to have this taken away shortly after and be back in my storm-tossed boat.

I now know this is the third book in the Murder Squad series, but to be quite honest that doesn’t really matter to me as I doubt that I will read anymore by this Author.  I’m also slightly hesitant in recommending this book to anyone, but if you do like a police procedural mixed in with some history you might want to take a look at this book.  If this novel had been written purely about the criminals, from their point of view of themselves and the world they walked through, this book would definitely have rated more thumbs than it did.

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Books, Boobies and Beheadings… Oh My!!

Unless you are a hermit living on a small rock in the Outer Hebrides, Game of Thrones will be a part of your life whether or not you like it.  Since being adapted as a series by HBO this tale of murder, intrigue and politics is being discussed at the water cooler everywhere.  But winter is definitely coming, if it hasn’t already arrived for these fans, as the show is now taking a ten month break before the next instalment.  So, to prevent withdrawal symptoms in GOT fans becoming so severe they turn into White Walkers, below is my suggestion of reads that will keep you going through the break:

Wheel of timeTitle – The Wheel of Time Series
Author – Robert Jordan
There are fourteen books in the series, all of which continue the same story, weaving towards the ultimate climax. Books 12 through 14 were completed by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, who was chosen by Robert Jordan’s widow after he passed away. Robert Jordan left behind an abundance of notes and audio recordings, which allowed his family and Mr. Sanderson to tie up the series in a way that very closely matches his original vision.

The first book, The Eye of the World was published in 1990 by Tor Books and has been in continuous print ever since. It is published in the United Kingdom by Orbit Books. Each book the series has appeared on the New York Times best-seller list, and each one since the eighth (The Path of Daggers) debuted as #1.

Description ~ Wheel of Time is a story that takes place both in our past and our future. In his fantasy world, the Dark One, the embodiment of pure evil, is breaking free from his prison. The overall plot is about a man who learns that he is the reincarnation of the world’s messiah and is once again destined to save the world from the Dark One — but possibly destroy it in the process. This saga is not only his story, but the story of an entire world’s struggle to deal with war and change, destruction and hope.

memory sorrow and thornTitle – The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn Trilogy
Author – Tad Williams
Description ~ In Osten Ard, a land once ruled by an elvishlike race known as the Sithi, the human High King is dying. And with his death, a long-dormant evil is unleashed on the land as the undead Sithi ruler, the Storm King, seeks to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood. Driven by spell-inspired jealousy and fear, prince fights prince, while around them the very land begins to die, poisoned by a sorcerous force sworn to annihilate the humans whose ancestors had driven the Sithi from their rightful home long ages ago.

Only a small, scattered group, the League of the Scroll, recognizes the true danger faced by Osten Ard, only they hold the knowledge of times past, of threats fulfilled, and of a riddle of swords, which holds out the one small hope of salvation. And to Simon — unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, and unwittingly touched by magic both good and ill — will go the task of spearheading the search for the solution to this riddle of long-lost swords of power, a quest that will see him fleeing and facing enemies straight out of a legend-maker’s worst nightmare!

ElderlingsTitle – The Realm of the Elderlings Series
Author – Robin Hobb
This series currently includes 13 books, which should be read in order to make the story more logical and cohesive; The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders Series, The Tawny Man Trilogy and The Rain Wild Chronicles.  Also coming out in August 2014 will be the next trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings, The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy.

Description ~The first in this series of books, the Farseer trilogy, takes place in a part of the Realm of the Elderlings known as the Six Duchies. It is the tale of Fitz, son of Prince Chivalry, a royal bastard born on the wrong side of the sheets then cast out into the world, friendless and alone. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility. So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and learn a new life: one of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners… and lessons in how to kill a man secretly as he trains to become a royal assassin.

mistbornTitle – The Mistborn Series
Author – Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn is the name of Brandon’s epic fantasy trilogy. The first book is technically Mistborn: The Final Empire, though people just tend to call it Mistborn or Mistborn 1. The entire series consists of The Final Empire (2006), The well of Ascension (2007), and The Hero of Ages (2008).

Description ~ A thousand years ago, the prophesied hero from lore rose up to overthrow a great and terrible evil. Only, he lost, and the Dark Lord took over and has been ruling with an iron fist for a thousand years. Ash falls from the sky in this barren land, and mists come every night, deep and mysterious. In this setting, a gang of thieves decides that the prophecies were all lies and that they can’t trust in some fabled hero to save them. They decide to take matters into their own hands, and plan a daring heist of the dark lord himself, planning to use the emperor’s own wealth to bribe his armies away from him and take over the empire.

And finally a novel (excuse the pun) suggestion:

GOT Title – Game of Thrones Series
Author – George R.R. Martin
Calling this the Game of Thrones series is a lie really, the actual title of the series is A Song of Ice and Fire, with Game of Thrones being the first of five books to date.  The other four are;  A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons.

The story of A Song of Ice and Fire takes place in a fictional world, primarily upon a continent called Westeros but also on a large landmass to the east, known as Essos. Most of the characters are human but as the series progresses other races are introduced, such as the cold and menacing ‘Others’ from the far North and fire-breathing dragons from the East, both races thought to be extinct. There are three principal storylines in the series: the chronicling of a dynastic civil war for control of Westeros between several competing families; the rising threat of the Others who dwell beyond an immense wall of ice that forms Westeros’ northern border; and the journey of Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled daughter of a king who was murdered in another civil war fifteen years previously and now seeks to return to Westeros and claim her rightful throne. As the series progresses, all three storylines become increasingly interwoven and dependent on each other.

So, here you are.  I hope something in the above list may be able to carry you through until you can once again feast your eyes on Westeros.

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