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Catrin Williams "catwilliams7" (Stoke on Trent)
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The Secret Scripture
The Secret Scripture
by Sebastian Barry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but still niggling issues!, 29 April 2009
This review is from: The Secret Scripture (Paperback)
First off this is one of the `meatiest' modern books I have read in a while. Barry's writing is really lovely and manages to create the location and situation beautifully well so that both feel very `real' most of the time.

The main plot idea was something that intrigued me when I read the back, and it works well throughout the novel. Essentially Roseanne McNulty is spending her older years (she is possibly nearly 100 by this point but no one really knows for sure) reflecting on her life and how she ended up spending most of her life incarcerated in a mental asylum in Ireland. She keeps this reflection hidden from everyone else, hence the title `The Secret Scripture.' Her narrative is interspersed with the reflections of her psychologist, Dr Grene, who reflects both upon Roseanne's situation and that of his own. Unlike other reviewers I did find both these voices `distinct' from each other and thought that the structure worked well. The plot line itself was also enjoyable, with the story being built up slowly and effectively throughout right through until the conclusion of the novel. I really liked the ending, I thought it was both appropriate and a surprise-although judging by the other reviews on here I must have been the only person in the world who didn't see the final `twist' coming from a mile off!

However, despite all the above I still haven't felt able to give this book five stars and this is solely because Barry's representation of women I found to be two dimensional and patronising at times. First off, there are hardly any women in this book and those that are in it are either dead, marginalised or so lacking in backbone it makes their character essentially unbelievable. I am thinking mainly of Roseanne here, but all other women (her mother, mother in law, sister in law, Dr Grene's wife) fall into the same void of obscureness. This is a real shame when the novel is primarily concerned with women! This point hit me at full force when I was reading and wished for Roseanne to do some disturbing things, if only to make her more interesting!

So all in all a good read, and definitely one of the stronger books out there at the moment-but if you like your women `rounded' and strong then this book is going to probably infuriate you beyond belief!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 14, 2009 10:08 AM BST


The Brutal Art
The Brutal Art
by Jesse Kellerman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was all going so well....until the ending!, 18 April 2009
This review is from: The Brutal Art (Paperback)
Unlike his parents, Faye and John Kellerman, Jesse shows that he has no need for blood, guns and fights to write an effective mystery plot. Instead, Jesse writes a psychological drama that is really original. Ethan Muller, a New York Gallery art owner discovers a series of brilliant, but very disturbing painters in an abandoned apartment. Ethan becomes intrigued by these paintings and sells them for large amounts of money. However, it soon becomes apparent that the artist who painted them may have been involved in a gruesome series of child murders and rapes that took place over forty years previously, and the paintings themselves may be evidence of this. The rest of the novel tracks Ethan's developing obsession with the artist, the case itself, and of course the paintings. As his journey progresses we also learn about the peculiar history of the paintings, and how their past has a link to Ethan's own.

I really enjoyed the story, and up until about halfway I wouldn't have said a word against this book. It is well written, pacy, and has an intriguing plot- everything that this sort of book should have to be a success.

Here comes the big BUT- despite the publisher blurb on the back of the novel this book is nothing like the Interpretation of Murder. Kellerman's work is far more superficial, badly plotted and the characters far more two dimensional. This doesn't make Kellerman's work bad as such, just a disappointment after the publisher's hype on the back. However, the main let down for me with this book was the ending, in that it was rushed, badly plotted and seemed to go nowhere to be honest! It could be argued that Kellerman was indulging in some post-modern detective fiction style at this point, but to be honest I'm not sure that he deserves that much credit. As many other reviewers have pointed out, Kellerman chose to write this novel in the first person, yet it is sporadically interjected with `interludes' from the past. I realise that Kellerman included these to give the story it's final `twist' as such, but instead they just come across as odd in a first person narrative. Seemingly illustrating that Kellerman couldn't figure out ( or couldn't be bothered to write) how Ethan would have discovered this for himself along the way. These two narratives of old and new, instead of being effective, instead come across as jarring and at odds with each other. This is a real shame.

So overall a unique story, that is worth reading. However, probably could have been far better if it was plotted differently and not advertised as something it is not!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 27, 2010 9:26 AM BST


The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House
by Kate Summerscale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant to give you `Detective Fever'.', 18 April 2009
Although the blurb on the back of this book says it is about the murder of a middle class child in Nineteenth Century Britain it is actually about far more than that. Instead, this book also provides a detailed overview of life in Britain at this time, also focusing upon the early development of the police force and, in particular, the detective. Summerscale has obviously worked very hard on this book and it shows through her using original police papers from the National Archives, newspaper extracts etc to detail the story of the Kent household, whose son has been murdered, and the Scotland Yard detective Jack Whicher who is sent to investigate.

The ramifications of this investigation are shown to be extreme, with the Kent family being effectively destroyed, both by themselves and by other people. The effects of the case upon Jack Whicher are also intense. This book is nothing like a `typical' murder mystery book-and this is no bad thing! Although Summerscale does try to create suspense, and there are moments of brief tension, the identity of the killer is made pretty clear from the beginning and the rest of what follows is essentially Whicher's progress in gathering the evidence to prove this person is the murderer. I didn't necessarily think this was a bad thing, as instead Summerscale pads out the characters by providing other details of their life in a way that a more typical detective story would not. However, many other people disagree so it really does depend on what you are looking for. Despite a lack of suspense this book is still surprisingly difficult to put down, and despite it being highly based on historical documents it still comes across as an entertaining read, and not at all dry or difficult to read as you may expect.

A Brilliant read overall that's really different to most of what's out there at the moment!


The 19th Wife
The 19th Wife
by David Ebershoff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but not a murder mystery!, 7 April 2009
This review is from: The 19th Wife (Paperback)
I was really looking forward to reading this book as polygamy is a subject that I've always thought would be fascinating to show in a novel. As other reviewers have pointed out the subject matter of this book is far more about polygamy than it is about a murder mystery, to be honest this seems a bit of an incidental!

There are two `stories' interwoven in this book, that of Ann Eliza who set out to abolish polygamy in the Nineteenth Century by leaving her `prophet' husband Bingham Young and speaking out about her experiences. As I understand from the epilogue this narrative is also based on a true story, something which I never knew before. Interwoven with this is the story of Jordan, a child who has fled from a `first' polygamous community. Upon realising that his mother has been arrested for his father's murder he returns to Utah to prove his mother's innocence. This story is a bit shallow to be honest, and like other reviewers I thought this book might have worked better as two separate stories. Jordan is also a gay character which I have no problem with, and I understand why the author made him so in terms of his freedom from his religious childhood. But the portrayal of Jordan was a bit `stereotypical' with a lot of `honeys' and catty remarks, this began to grate after a while as he didn't come across as rounded which is a shame.

All in all though a really good book that is worth reading, but don't expect a solid `murder mystery' as ,despite what the back says, the book is not really about this. But still a really interesting insight into a subject that fascinates us all!


Wetlands
Wetlands
by Charlotte Roche
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but disgusting!, 7 April 2009
This review is from: Wetlands (Hardcover)
First thing to say about this book is that it is truly disgusting, and every body fluid imaginable is discussed in detail, usually ending up in it being eaten and ingested back into the body in some way.

The graphic `sex' side of it didn't really bother me, and is nowhere near as shocking as I was expecting from the hype this book has received. As another reviewer has pointed out this sort of thing may be mo shocking in Germany, but a load of sexual exhibitionists isn't really new news here.

Unlike other reviewers however I did quite like the character of Helen and I found the motivations of her behaviour (i.e. her parents' divorce) to be believable, and quite sad. The bit regarding her mother and brother (don't want to give spoilers away) was really sad and seems to have been a bit overlooked by reviewers as motivation for her somewhat strange behaviour. Although before you read it is important to remember that the whole point of this novel is to shock, rather than sustain a steady plot and believable characters, so if you are looking for a good `story' as such, stay well clear!


Holes
Holes
by Louis Sachar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 30 Mar 2009
This review is from: Holes (Paperback)
Although this book was published ages ago, I have only recently got round to reading it after finding a second hand copy. I really enjoyed this book, and wish I'd got round to reading it ages ago! The style of writing is very simple, allowing you to get into the story quickly, but it still keeps your attention throughout the book. The plot is basically about Stanley, a downtrodden teenager who gets sent to a juvenile detention centre for stealing a pair of sneakers. Every day the inmates have to dig `holes' in the dry lake bed, five feet wide and five feet deep. The warden says this is to build character, but Stanley figures out that there are actually other reasons and pieces these clues together to give a really exciting story (not wanting to give it away!) Despite this plot line it is actually a really uplifting story, and the characters of Zero and Stanley are really likeable, and well drawn. As well as Stanley's plot line, two other plot lines intertwine with it, making it a really satisfying but simple read.

This book is squarely aimed at 10-13 years olds, but adults will enjoy it to! All in all a really interesting, fast paced story with a really uplifting feel to it that many older children will enjoy.


Coraline
Coraline
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Creepy!, 30 Mar 2009
This review is from: Coraline (Paperback)
I discovered this book only recently and it is the first piece of Gaiman's work that I have read.

His style is very clear and precise and this allows for all the details of his story to shine through and be communicated clearly to the child reading. Due to this style and his weird subject matter there is a chilly, ghostly feel that is throughout the whole book. Gaiman also tends just to let things happen, without feeling the need to justify or explain, in this respect he does resemble Lewis Carroll's style in Alice in Wonderland, a style that has appealed to children for generations.

I know many people have compared Coraline (not Caroline!) to Carroll's Alice in Wonderland book, but it is actually far creepier than that. It is actually far more similar to the Victorian writer Lucy Clifford, particularly her tale `The Happy Mother.' The idea of there being an `other mother' who is far more sinister than your own is a fascinating idea, and one which many kids will surely enjoy for the creepiness alone! I can't look at black buttons in the same way!


Lyra's Oxford (His Dark Materials)
Lyra's Oxford (His Dark Materials)
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.89

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but sweet!, 30 Mar 2009
As other people have pointed out this is a very short book, and is almost better described as a tale than a book. However, it is still a really nice story, and will go down well with all who need a Northern Lights fix!
The story follows our much loved heroine Lyra, and Pan of course, in their efforts to help a witch within the setting of `their' Oxford. Despite it being so short I couldn't get the feeling that the things Pullman refers to in this tale may be important at a later stage in his works, as he does set up new characters and situations which could easily be followed up.
What I particularly like nice about this book is the postcards and maps that you can pull out and have a good look at; they definitely help to make the book more interactive and enjoyable for some children. So all in all a really nice little book, that would make a lovely birthday present or stocking filler- but make sure they have read the Northern Lights series first otherwise they won't enjoy it as much!


Breaking Dawn: Twilight, Book 4 (Twilight Saga)
Breaking Dawn: Twilight, Book 4 (Twilight Saga)
by Stephenie Meyer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I am really disappointed!, 27 Mar 2009
I'm going to go against the vast majority (again) and say that I am really disappointed with this book, it was nowhere near as good as I was expecting it to be, especially after the build up the previous three books have given us.

So many people on this site have already talked about how certain things happen in this book where Meyer contradicts herself-and this is true so I won't waste time by repeating them. The whole `Renesmee' thing didn't annoy me as much as I thought it would, the final straw was in her middle name being `Carlie' because of Charlie and Carlisle- couldn't work out if she was being totally serious with that! `Little nudger' was also a real low point for me!

The plot was very poor in this book, and the things the Bella goes through could easily have been done in 350 pages. No way does the plot deserve the 750 pages that Meyer has managed to string it out over. The ending didn't bother me, I thought it was almost appropriate, but it just could have been a damn sight quicker!
For me there also wasn't enough about the emotional connection between Bella and Edward, and Bella and Jacob and this was what made the first few books so engrossing. Instead, Bella and Edward just became sex crazed and Bella and Jacob's complex relationship was solved through Renesmee, which was highly irritating considering you've followed their relationship for over 1500 pages by this point in the series! The way Bella becomes `part' of the Cullens was also superficially described, and I think Meyer could have made it far more interesting if she'd spent more time focusing on that and it's difficulties-rather than everything just being perfect for Bella, as always!

So, all in all a disappointing end to the series and my conclusion seems to echo that of a school report `Good try but could have done better if less rushed and better thought through.'


Eclipse: 3 (Twilight Saga)
Eclipse: 3 (Twilight Saga)
by Stephenie Meyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.03

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm disappointed :(, 23 Mar 2009
I'm going to go against the grain in saying this but I don't think this is as good as the two previous books.

I did enjoy Eclipse, but it took more motivation from me to finish it than the other two books did. I'm not really sure why this is to be honest with you as the plotting and writing is better than it is in the other two books.

Possible spoilers:

Although the plot was interesting it was incredibly predictable, and could have done with being a few hundred pages shorter without anything vital being missed. Although I liked the idea of a love triangle between Jacob, Edward and Bella it did get a bit tedious and repetitive after the millionth time of it being mentioned. As many other people have pointed out Bella is incredibly irritating in this book, her treatment of Jacob and Edward I just could not get my head round, and their acceptance of her behaviour I just couldn't justify or believe. I also found her continuous refusal to marry Edward a bit contradicting- you're willing to turn yourself into a vampire, and spend literally eternity with someone but not marry them?-ummmmm hello? Her continuous references to the love she felt for the Cullen family also got a bit nauseating at times.

On the plus side I really enjoyed the new characters that were introduced, and the idea about a `vampire army' and `newborns' I found really interesting to read about, it was just a pity there wasn't more about this to flesh the book out a bit. Alice was also even more wonderful in this book than in previous ones and I loved reading about her. I just wish there had been more of the `real' Edward and Bella in this book, to make reading it more enjoyable.

I have now just started Breaking Dawn, so it's not as if Eclipse has ruined the saga completely for me. But I'm definitely not as enthusiastic about reading it as I once was.


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