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C. Bones "surreyman"
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Burial Rites
Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific first novel, 24 Sep 2013
This review is from: Burial Rites (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a remarkable debut novel that captures the atmosphere and hardship of life in Iceland 200 years ago, or at least it feels so authentic that one can only imagine that it must be so. Based on a true story of the murders of Natan Ketilsson and Petur Jonsson that took place in 1828 we are now a year later and three people are accused of the murder, one of whom is Natan's mistress Agnes Magnusdottir. The novel focuses on Agnes who is sent to await her execution on a farm with the family of the District Officer. Whilst there her story is revealed.

Hannah Kent's skill is to bring to life the harsh conditions of life on a farm at that time and in that place. The characters earn our sympathy and I found myself rooting for Agnes. Everything about this book is unusual and the author deserves great credit for pulling it off so well. I see from the other reviews that not everyone has enjoyed the experience and I can sort of understand that. This is a book which asks the reader to accept a lack of pace that will not suit everyone.

But I very much enjoyed it and look forward to reading Hannah Kent's next novel.


The Golem and the Djinni
The Golem and the Djinni
by Helene Wecker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

4.0 out of 5 stars a great achievement, 11 Sep 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If my review is a little less glowing than some others its because a) I think this book is a little too long and b) because too much of my reading experience was enjoyable enough but without without me perhaps getting as emotionally involved as the author might have hoped.

Having said that, this is a hugely ambitious and inventive debut novel which is also by a way of a bonus, beautifully written. And in many ways it is the human characters that make Helene Wecker's story so impressive. It is by creating such a caste of humans who are so well drawn that she makes the fantasy aspects so believable. And in the same way that the Golem and the Djinni are instantly real so too New York at the beginning of the 20th Century. We are transported there to see it, smell it and feel it, and in particular to understand much of the immigrant story of the time. The bringing together Jewish and Arab myth is done cleverly and elegantly.

So really I have nothing but good things to say about this book and even if I give it 4 stars rather than 5, I am in no doubt that Helene Wicker is hugely talented and that this book will (if it hasn't already) become a fantasy classic.


Mouse and the Cossacks
Mouse and the Cossacks
by Paul Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book, 17 Aug 2013
This review is from: Mouse and the Cossacks (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I seem to have read a number of books recently that are written in the first person as if narrated by a child or a young teenager and I have to say that my experiences are a bit mixed. When it is done well it is fascinating and as a 64 year old bloke I find having a window into the mind of a very young person adds an extraordinary dimension. On the other hand if the "voice" is too knowing or just too cute it can make the book unreadable (for me).

Here, the author does extremely well and finds a very nice balance between the effectiveness of Mouse's voice and the twin story being unfolded. Others have described that story so I won't but I think this is an author with a lot of promise. I will certainly look out for his next book.


Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Wars of the Roses 1)
Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Wars of the Roses 1)
by Conn Iggulden
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Left me wanting more, 17 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm not a particular fan of historical fiction and I hadn't read anything else by this author. I came to this book rather out of an interest in the period covered and I have to say it was an excellent read.

This book begins with the death of King Edward III in 1377 and then immediately transports us 66 years forward to the reign of King Henry V1 in 1443. Henry is a weak king and his reign is beset with problems both at home and in France. A fracture is appearing between the Royal Houses of York and Lancaster and the scene is set for the thirty years of civil war that is about to follow, popularly known as the Wars of the Roses. This was a brutal and bloodthirsty time and Conn Iggulden manages to describe what life must have been like in medieval England, weaving his characters into the vast tapestry of events that were unfolding. These characters are brought to life in a way that made me care about their destinies despite my already being aware of some of the historical facts.

This episode finishes at the time of one of the rebellions that were erupting in the 1450's, led by Jack Cade. The description of his army fighting its way across London Bridge is truly harrowing.

Conn Iggulden has definitely left me wanting to read more.


Lion Heart
Lion Heart
by Justin Cartwright
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a rather disappointing quest, 25 July 2013
This review is from: Lion Heart (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book started off just fine and I was intrigued by the young Richard Cathar's modern day search for crusader treasure. Once in Jerusalem he meets and falls in love with a Canadian journalist which itself develops into a tale of spies and terrorists. So we have a twin storyline and I expect most readers will imagine that that are embarked on a sort of literary The Da Vinci Code as Cathar an Oxford graduate pursues an obsession with Richard the Lionheart that had also dominated his father's (now dead) life.

He is basically hunting for the "true cross", not necessarily the actual cross that Jesus was crucified on, but the cross that those battling it out in the Holy Land in the twelfth century thought was the true cross. This holy relic allegedly went missing once Richard recovered it from Saladin but then himself was captured by enemies in Europe on his way home. So where is it now ?

Initially I thought I had discovered solid gold with this book and that I was in for a rare treat but slowly the problems developed. The twin narratives only serve to drag each other down as the fragmented style of the book kills the pace and quite soon neither story-line is interesting enough to carry the novel along. The story of the hunt for the cross develops into a curious mixture of history lesson and Richard Cathar's progress with uncovering clues which is simply too matter-of-fact to be exciting. As a character. Cathar feels a bit unreal in that by his thoughts (this is told in the first person) he often comes across as shallow and selfish and yet wherever he goes people fall over themselves to tell him what a wonderful chap he is. And not only does everyone love him for some reason but he just keeps on bumping into people who more or less hand over the next piece of the jigsaw in his quest. It just happens too easily for there to be any real tension or intrigue,

And the modern day story involving his Canadian lover just becomes improbable and again lacks the intrigue that the author probably intends.

On the plus side I had no problem reading this book in 3 days and I certainly now know a lot more about the life of Richard the Lionheart than when I started but in all it feels like a bit of a lost opportunity. There were moments early on, such as when the author tells us the story of a battle that took place in 1187 at a place called Hattin when Saladin led the crusaders into a trap, that were truly gripping, but too much of this novel lacked that sort of energy. I could easily have scored it as 2 stars but decided to be generous.


Precious Thing
Precious Thing
by Colette Mcbeth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit dopey really, 13 July 2013
This review is from: Precious Thing (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The plot to this book unfolds in the form of a letter from Rachel to her best friend Clara, who has mysteriously disappeared after an arrangement to meet up with some old school friends in Brighton. Right from the outset I didn't understand why Clara's disappearance was given such high profile news coverage, or what the reason was for the bond between Clara and Rachel. These and many other things were a puzzle of the wrong kind despite all the descriptive prose which I found overblown. In fact the whole book is rather over-written, perhaps in an attempt to disguise the somewhat dopey plot.

There are some clever ideas to the storyline but they weren't good enough to carry it off. The relationships between Clara, Rachel and mother Niamh turn out to be ludicrous, especially the coincidences that tie them together.

Even though I was initially intrigued by some elements of the plot, I became more and more irritated by the characters. In fact, it was a relief to get to the end of the book. Even the final twist left me feeling annoyed rather than shocked.

Despite the hype don't bother with this one.


The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)
The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)
by Robert Galbraith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.95

37 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bit more plot next time ?, 19 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I must say that I am surprising myself by going along with most other reviewers and giving 5 stars to a book which for the most part is a long procedural as our hero, Cormoran Strike, interviews one suspect after another. This book should not work. We know about the suspected murder right from the off and the rest should be a plod, rather dull. The fact that it isn't shows that a writer of real quality can make just about anything interesting.

Robert Galbraith has a rare gift of being able to bring locations and people to life without appearing to strive that hard. The whole book is of the same quality but after I had finished it my mind kept returning to a scene where Strike meets a couple of hard-baked society rich girls for lunch in order to question them about their involvement with the dead girl. With superbly controlled writing Galbraith managers to deftly bring them to live as both comical and yet chilling. But as I have said, the whole book is like this. Whether we are in the streets of Tin Pan Alley or on the move through London itself it is all there for us to see and feel.

And Strike is an interesting character. When a debut author plans a crime novel and tries to decide what defects of character and skeletons in the cupboard his/her hero will have it is all to easy, as we know, to slip into cliche. After all it all been done before, hasn't it ? And yet Strike really is different. As a wounded war veteran who carries a permanent disability, just the thing of him being in pain as he tramps the streets of London adds something we don't normally see. It certainly makes a change from a hangover. And there is a lot more to Strike than his war wound.

So all in all this is very different and very successful first novel. Obviously meant to be the first of a series I await the next with great interest. My one caveat is that if the lack of a more involving plot is indicative that Mr Galbraith struggles in that area, the next book may a bit of a disappointment. After all, he couldn't write the same book again and still make it fascinating could he?

But that thought apart, this book is a triumph.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 15, 2013 3:28 PM BST


Fallen Land
Fallen Land
by Patrick Flanery
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 31 May 2013
This review is from: Fallen Land (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Is this the "great American novel" that others have claimed it to be. I don't know, I haven't read enough of the other contenders but it is certainly a fascinating novel in many ways. There are so many elements to the story and all of them seem marvellously conceived and marvellously written. The sheer oddness of Nathaniel and his family moving into a house with the previous occupant still ...... well I'll try not to get into plot spoilers but this episode was almost like a ghost story. And the weirdness of Paul's version of the American dream and how it proves unsustainable and his life compared with Nathathiel who is just being morally chewed up by "big business", it is all very powerfully written. And then we have Louise, the widow who just wants to enjoy the world that she once knew but is just trampled by the need for her town to "develop". Its all a nightmare really and I can see why so many readers love this book. If I mark it down a point its because I did find it fascinating rather than truly involving. Its was rather like watching insects battle it out under a microscope and in the end I probably didn't care enough about the characters. But if its a powerful disenchantment with the American dream that you want, then this is your book. As perceived here, the dream is heartless and dehumanising.


No Through Road
No Through Road
by Martin Russell
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An author worth trying, 22 May 2013
This review is from: No Through Road (Hardcover)
This is the first Martin Russell that I have read and as it happens its also the author's first book. Its a classic unreliable narrator story which Russell does very well. Arthur Whitlock is driving up the A1 from London (contemporary at the time I suppose but now a surprising reminder of driving conditions in the 1960s). We know something awful has probably happened but we have no idea what it is as Whitlock takes us on a road journey where stressful and then terrible things start to happen.

I pick up older crime novels just to try them out and am usually disappointed with the writing. Its usually clumsy if not leaden, which is not to say that most modern crime novels don't suffer just as badly. But here the writing is surprisingly good so the author manages to not only keep us fascinated while we try and work out what the heck is going on but also manages to make it all seem plausible. Finally Whitlock reaches Scotland and we get the last third of the book playing out inside an Edinburgh police station and these chapters are probably even better written than what has gone before, although that may be because we get introduced to Inspector Kirk who is shrewd and funny at the same time and gets some great lines.

In the end this is a "did he or didn't he" type of crime novel and we are kept guessing right up until the final page. I was hoping that Russell was going to pull off some amazing twist since the "yes he did do it" or "no he didn't do it" options seemed a bit limited. There was no amazing twist but the author does pretty well I think. Certainly I finished this book with the firm intention of looking out for another by Martin Russell.


Red Moon
Red Moon
by Benjamin Percy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A werewolf epic, 6 May 2013
This review is from: Red Moon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There is one small problem with being a Vine reviewer; it leads me into sometimes choosing books which are outside my normal reading zones on the basis that I can try something new now and again. Sometimes this works very well and I make a pleasant discovery. Of course when I don't, when the book in hand reminds me why I tend not to read a particular sort of genre, I then feel mean if I score it low. After all, it wasn't written for me in the first place was it ?

And so it is with Red Moon. I was drawn in by the reviews claiming literary qualities for it and to some extent I can see what they mean. This book is long and generally well written. As I have said, I am no expert on this genre but its seems to be an attempt to write the Werewolf Epic as in plot terms everything bar the kitchen sink is thrown in. Because this novel is well written and the characters are well drawn I found the early parts of the book were the best for me, before I got bogged down in too many of the plot threads. Because it does become very wordy at times.

So in the end it was OK, I got through it, but it didn't make me want to read another Werewolf (or Vampire) novel. I think I'd better leave this sort of book alone !


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