The Woman in Cabin 10 ~ Ruth Ware

woman-in-cabin-10ISBN ~ 9781501132933
Publisher ~ Gallery/Scout Press
No. Of Pages ~ 352 pages
Links ~ Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster, Target

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

2 Thumbs-UpThis is the first book I have read written by this Author.

I have to start out by saying that I found the main protagonist the least likeable character I’ve read in a very long time, and despite the traumatic events she experiences at the beginning of this book does not improve as the storyline progresses.  I have no insight into why an Author would write a character in this manner; she is blatantly rude to everyone she comes across, including the man she is supposed to love, and then shocked and surprised when they refuse to give credence to her claims.  The supporting characters are dealt with less harshly, and some of them are far more likeable than the main, who seems to find a reason not to like or trust anyone.  I can only assume that the Author including a drink and mental health problem to the main character is their way of trying to explain away the bad behaviour.  She is not a strong woman in any sense of the word, and rather than showing an empowered woman who is holding her own in her chosen profession, the reader is subject to a woman who falls apart at the slightest noise, and sees dangers lurking in every shadow and corner.

The book itself is nothing new plot wise, in fact it read pretty much as a modern-day rehash of the old Agatha Christie ‘locked room’ cosy mystery; just not as well penned or suspenseful.  It is also full of implausible moments and bad dialogue to boot; after all how many times does the reader need reminding that the main character did not read the press package?  This book could have been so much more given the setting and its starting out well-paced and somewhat suspenseful, it is a shame that the Author could not have kept this tone throughout the novel.

If you enjoyed this Author’s debut novel, you may well enjoy this offering; as for myself I can’t, in all conscience recommend this book and will not be reading anything else by this Author.

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The Secret History of Wonder Woman ~ Jill Lepore

secret-history-of-wonder-womanThe Secret History of Wonder Woman ~ Jill Lepore 2 thumbs
ISBN ~ 9780385354042
Publisher ~ Knopf
No. Of Pages ~432 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Audible

A riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origin of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story—and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism

Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman no superhero has lasted as long, or commanded so vast and wildly passionate a following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike every other superhero, she has also has a secret history.

Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has uncovered an astonishing trove of documents, including the never-before-seen private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator. Beginning in his undergraduate years at Harvard, Marston was influenced by early suffragists and feminists, starting with Emmeline Pankhurst, who was banned from speaking on campus in 1911, when Marston was a freshman. In the 1920s, Marston and his wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, brought into their home Olive Byrne, the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century. The Marston family story is a tale of drama, intrigue, and irony. In the 1930s, Marston and Byrne wrote a regular column for Family Circle celebrating conventional family life, even as they themselves pursued lives of extraordinary nonconformity. Marston, internationally known as an expert on truth—he invented the lie detector test—lived a life of secrets, only to spill them on the pages of Wonder Woman.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman 
is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights—a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.

2 Thumbs-UpI actually picked up this book to read as I was intrigued by what made this character a friend of mine so passionate about; after reading it though I must confess I am still as intrigued.

Although the material in the book is very interesting, and definitely a worthwhile read for those interested in Wonder Woman, it wasn’t as I expected and was definitely lacking in the visual art side of the character as well as acknowledging those who had visually brought her into being; her artist only getting a few scant lines.  With this being said there really is very little I can comment on the secret history of Wonder Woman herself.  However, if I wanted to read and review a book about the life of William Marsden Moulton, this would have been the one to read.

If you are looking for something new and great about Wonder Woman, I would give this a miss.  It takes entirely too long to read, and this wasn’t helped in the slightest by a dry writing style.  Another black mark against the book was the way in which it was edited with too many repeated paragraphs and chunks of information; with a decent editor this could have been a cleaner, tighter read making it not seem as tedious.

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Review: The Bones of Paris (Harris Stuyvesant #2) ~ Laurie R. King

Bones of ParisISBN ~ 978-0345531766
Publisher ~ Bantam
No. Of Pages ~ 432 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Penguin Random House

Paris, France: September 1929. For Harris Stuyvesant, the assignment is a private investigator’s dream—he’s getting paid to troll the cafés and bars of Montparnasse, looking for a pretty young woman. The American agent has a healthy appreciation for la vie de bohème, despite having worked for years at the U.S. Bureau of Investigation. The missing person in question is Philippa Crosby, a twenty-two year old from Boston who has been living in Paris, modeling and acting. Her family became alarmed when she stopped all communications, and Stuyvesant agreed to track her down. He wholly expects to find her in the arms of some up-and-coming artist, perhaps experimenting with the decadent lifestyle that is suddenly available on every rue and boulevard.

As Stuyvesant follows Philippa’s trail through the expatriate community of artists and writers, he finds that she is known to many of its famous—and infamous—inhabitants, from Shakespeare and Company’s Sylvia Beach to Ernest Hemingway to the Surrealist photographer Man Ray. But when the evidence leads Stuyvesant to the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre, his investigation takes a sharp, disturbing turn. At the Grand-Guignol, murder, insanity, and sexual perversion are all staged to shocking, brutal effect: depravity as art, savage human nature on stage.

Soon it becomes clear that one missing girl is a drop in the bucket. Here, amid the glittering lights of the cabarets, hides a monster whose artistic coup de grâce is to be rendered in blood. And Stuyvesant will have to descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find a killer . . . sifting through The Bones of Paris.

2 Thumbs-UpIf the macabre and gruesome are not what you enjoy in your reading material this is a book that you may want to pass over; it’s also the second book in a series, which I didn’t realise when I started reading and I feel that by not reading book one I may have missed some important details that would have raised the rating of this book higher.  However, with that said, this novel is a stand alone with a few grey areas.

The main protagonist is a private investigator, not the usual sort but a man who follows the money and goes where he is needed.  I found him to be unlikable and lacking in the kind of judgement I would have hoped to see in a man of this kind, and despite his being on retainer he seems to spend his time throughout the book living from hand to mouth and making bad decisions about most aspects of his life and the case the book centres around.  There is no real depth to him, or any of the other characters mentioned in the book, and this made it a slow and plodding read for me.

Location wise though I could not fault the book; Paris at the tail end of the 1920’s and featuring some of its more famous residents, was well written and researched.  I particularly enjoyed the references to the Paris catacombs, and the way in which they came about.  I seem to be reading a lot of books that feature places I have visited, and this one was no different; because of this the visual elements of the story, such as the aforementioned catacombs came vividly to life.  I did find, however, that the lack of pages given over to solving the crime was rather disconcerting and that when the culprit was revealed it was rather an anti-climax.

For anyone who has read the first book in this series, they may enjoy this one; as for me I doubt if I will go back and read book one as this book was a disappointment that would be hard to recover from.  I also doubt that I will read anything else by this Author.

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Review: Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson ~ Lyndsay Faye

Dust and ShadowISBN ~ 978-1416583301
Publisher ~Simon & Schuster
No. Of Pages ~325 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster

From the gritty streets of nineteenth century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of its own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpFor a debut novel, this book was OK.  Yes, I said OK as I had a love hate relationship with this book from the very first chapter.

For anyone to take on writing about the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson takes guts, but if it is pulled off well as in the case of the House of Silk (reviewed here) it can be a glorious thing, that was not the case here.  Despite a valiant effort, this Author was unable to capture all the character nuances that combine to make the detective readers of other Holmes missives have come to know and expect.  By writing the book from the perspective of Dr. Watson a lot of the internal debates and musings Holmes has with himself are lost along with a lot of his eccentric qualities.  In this book Holmes comes across as an arrogant, pretentious ass that has no lovable qualities to his name at all.  Unfortunately, Dr. Watson does not come out of this novel unscathed; as a character I’ve always seen as being the stable and steadying force behind Holmes, here he is depicted as bumbling fool who would be well pressed to dress himself in the morning.  The portrayal of Jack the Ripper was also flimsy, and would have benefitted greatly with a lot more fleshing out and back story.

The novel is extremely dry, the language at times definitely at odds with the era in which it is set.  The Author does a good job of portraying Whitechapel at the time of the murders but apart from that there was very little to keep me interested, and this was definitely not the page turner that had been promised.  For me there was not enough tension, and the discovery of who the Ripper was became obvious about partway through the book; surely not a mystery worthy of calling in Holmes to solve.

If you like Sherlock Holmes, you may enjoy this book; as for me I don’t think I will be reading anymore by this Author despite their valiant attempts to recreate the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Review: The Abhorsen Chronicles (The Abhorsen Trilogy, #1-3) ~ Garth Nix

AbhorsenISBN ~ 978-0061441820
Publisher ~ HarperTeen
No. Of Pages ~ 1232 pages
Links ~ Abe Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sabriel
Every step brings Sabriel closer to a battle that will pit her against the true forces of life and death—and bring her face-to-face with her own destiny.

Lirael
With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, Lirael must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil, which threatens the fate of the Old Kingdom.

Abhorsen
The Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone are missing, and Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the evil Destroyer—before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpThis is a huge book even by my standards, and to add to the confusion it is one of those that, by some strange reason is known under a different title depending on where in the world you live; for example in the Authors native Australia this book is entitled The Old Kingdom Chronicles.  It is also a trilogy that not many fantasy readers appear to know about.  As for me it took me some time to actually finish reading this, and that was not due to its size.

The characters in all three of the books, in my opinion, could have benefitted from a lot more time spent in their development.  None of them really gripped me and made me want to invest more of my time in getting to know them.  I really was expecting to like the characters, but they were flat and very one-dimensional people who seemed to enjoy a lot of walking.  You would have to read the books to understand that reference.  Having said this, the character of Sabriel in the first book of the three was, by far, the most interesting of any in the Chronicles; she is a determined young woman with a definite plan for her life.  When curve balls are thrown at her she is able to adapt and think on her feet making her the most impressionable of all the characters in these books.  What really would have  helped the characters come into their own in these books would have been more background and explanation into how they learned their skills and came to be in the place they are when the books open.

The world in which these books are set could have been so much more.  It was a wonderful concept but I felt that the Author really did not do it justice and, like his character development, it would have benefitted from more time being spent in the descriptive aspects.   At no time did I feel as if I had actually been transported into this world and was experiencing the events occurring; in a good fantasy novel a reader should feel themselves transported to the alternate world, as that is part of the pull of this genre.

After buying this trilogy on the recommendation of a friend, I now wish that I had kept my money in my pocket and will be donating my copy to the local library.  If long and plodding fantasy books are something you enjoy, this is probably the book series for you; if not I would recommend you give this a miss.

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Review: All the Light We Cannot See ~ Anthony Doerr

All the light we cannot seeISBN ~ 978-1476746586
Publisher ~ Scribner
No. Of Pages ~ 531 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great-uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

2 Thumbs-UpWhat a confusing book, flipping backward and forward between time periods and not being what I was expecting at all from the synopsis; and it’s not as if the Author gradually leads the reader into all this mayhem, he throws them right into it from the very first chapter.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am not against the multiple thread novel, as I have reviewed other Authors that use this tactic, and use it well; it was just not the case in the book and, in my opinion did nothing to improve or help the novel in any way.

The book has two main protagonists from different sides of the conflict that book is set partly in, World War II.  I’m not sure if it was me, or I am losing my touch but I really found nothing that make me connect to either of these characters; I didn’t like them at all.  In fact the only emotion I had for them was pity that they had been placed in a novel such as this.  Yes, it was sad that the female main lead was blind, but did we have to be reminded of it every few pages; and given the amount of miles her fingers walked they must have been nothing but nubs by the end of the book.  As to the male lead, given he was an orphan he lacked the zeal and love for the Nazi party that many orphans felt, as they found a ‘family’ at last that needed them.

Thinking that this was a historical novel was the reason I picked it up in the first place, so imagine my surprise when it seemed to turn on its heels and become a fantasy mystery; very strange.  In my mind it would have been better if the object of the mystery had been connected with Nazi thefts during the war, rather than some magical and mysterious properties it was supposed to possess.  This added to the tediousness I was beginning to feel over the flipping between eras, and just added to my lack of overall enjoyment of this book.

The saving grace for this novel and the reason for the two thumbs rating was the prose.  With an elegant pen the descriptions of objects, places, sensations encountered by the senses was just beautiful; it brought to the front of the reader’s mind how much we take for granted the sense of touch and smell and results in making them experience the mundane on different level in their own lives.

I’m sure there are some readers out there who will totally disagree with my review, but that is the nature of the world and both sides of a coin have to be seen to get a well-rounded picture.  If you enjoy fantasy, mystery and WWII historical fiction all in one book, this may be a good read for you.  If you like to keep your genres separate unless they are skilfully blended together, I would give this a miss.  I doubt I will be reading anything else by this Author.

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Review: The Water Rat of Wanchai (Ava Lee #1) ~ Ian Hamilton

water ratISBN ~ 978-1250032270
Publisher ~ Picador
No. Of Pages ~ 400 pages
Links ~ House of Anansi, Amazon, Indigo

In Ian Hamilton’s The Water Rat of Wanchai, we meet forensic accountant and martial arts expert Ava Lee in her early days working for the mysterious businessman Uncle as they track down large sums of money that have disappeared. One of Uncle’s longtime friends has requested help for his nephew, who needs to recover five million dollars from a business deal that went sideways. Ava steps in and immediately is off on a global hunt for the missing money that has her dodging shady characters.

On a journey that takes her from Seattle to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana, and the British Virgin Islands, Ava encounters everything from the Thai katoey culture to corrupt government officials. In Guyana she meets her match: Captain Robbins, a godfather-like figure who controls the police, politicians, and criminals alike. In exchange for his help, Robbins decides he wants a piece of Ava’s five million dollars and will do whatever it takes to get his fair share.

2 Thumbs-UpI started to read this book because I couldn’t recall ever having read a crime series that had a forensic accountant as the main protagonist, and a female one at that.

This character just grated on my nerves from the very first, and I’m not sure if it was the intention of the Author to make her dislikeable or was just the way things turned out in the end.  She is rich, as we are constantly reminded whenever possible, only likes the best of everything and was an avid coffee drinker, like all the other characters in this novel.  As a female lead character she is not the strong independent woman I was hoping for; the kind that inspires other women to reach their full potential.  In fact she is quite the opposite, she comes out of the page as being some sort of superwoman that can do anything, have anyone and anything she likes.  This in itself is not a bad thing, but the way in which she is written could possibly make her an intimidating character to those women readers who are not supremely confident in their own skin and lives and, in my opinion this is something no Author should do to their readers, make them feel less than they are.  In an effort to make her interesting she is Chinese-Canadian, although how this could redeem her flaws I am still not sure.

The coffee company Starbucks was mentioned so many times in this book that I broke off to look and see if it had been published through some program they funded.  Another disappointment, apart from the obviously brand push, was that there is actually very little forensic accounting in this book, and what small amount there is takes place in a whole 5 or 6 pages. Combine these points with flat and uninteresting language and you have a book that really does not deliver for me, and this is the reason behind by 2 thumbs rating.

Given that this is marketed as an international thriller, I failed to get the thrill from the book that was hinted at and, although a taste of each country visited in the storyline was given, it just wasn’t enough to make this a series I would want to read anymore of.

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