Monday, 19 December 2016

Review: Seduction of a Highland Lass by Maya Banks

If you read my review of In Bed with a Highlander I'm pretty sure you can guess what I am going to say about this book. This time round the focus is on Ewan's brother Alaric and his love interest Keeley, both are much better characters than Ewan and Mairin from the first book (although they continued to feature heavily in this book as well). I did feel like Alaric and Keeley were actually in love and Keeley is easily my favourite character of the series so far. The plot was also less stupid and far fetched, although the resolution at the end could have been arrived at much earlier and halved the amount of angst and forbidden love involved.

One thing that really annoyed me throughout this book and the first book was the constant use of the words "Twas", "Twill" and "Twould", I know this is a historical romance there is no need to use these words at the beginning of every sentence to emphasise the point, it's just a lazy way of reminding your reader that they are in olden times. What would have been better is maybe a small bit of historical context or even a date at the beginning of a chapter.

Once again what really made this book disappointing was the sex, it was way too much for a historical romance (bordering on erotica at times) and it was not romantic at all. There was still the really uneven gender divide of the first book and the male characters constant need to guard their women like prisoners. I will read the final book but only because I can't leave a series unfinished, I'm going to need a bit of a break first though.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Review: The Killing Doll by Ruth Rendell


"I kill, therefore I am."

This is one of those books I feel I shouldn't give too much away about, suffice to say it is about a teenage boy who sells his soul to the devil and how that decision affects his sister's life. When I say devil I do not mean a literal character, this is not a fantasy, rather a suspenseful study of the occult and mental illness, touching on alcoholism and with a bit of murder thrown in for good measure. Sounds cheery doesn't it?

I honestly had no idea where this was going until I was about 70% through it, Rendell builds the tension very well throughout and kept me interested enough to carry on while I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. The characters are some of the more interesting I have read about (maybe because this would not be my go to choice of genre) and the narration was constantly switching between them which I really enjoyed. By the end I could tell who's mind I was in even if it wasn't made clear for a couple of sentences.

This is a book where the small things matter, you notice the routines of the characters and their little quirks. There is no travelling and the whole book revolves around one house in a London suburb. I think the small scope completely absorbed me and I emerged from the last page a little stunned at having been dumped back into reality.

If you like a little bit of darkness and a slow burn then this is the book for you.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Review: In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks


“... I firmly believe that a woman can be whatever she wants to be if she sets her mind to it.”

If only this was an idea explored in the rest of the book. Where to begin ...

I am a fan of a historical romance and am perfectly capable of accepting some seriously sappy scenes and implausible plot points but this book stretched even my limits. The first and in my eyes most major problem is the female lead Mairin, putting it bluntly she is a complete and utter idiot. It's a shame as she started out very likeable, a bit feisty and gave off the impression that she could take care of herself. We meet her during her abduction from a nunnery where she bravely sacrifices herself to save the nuns and then a few more pages in she puts her safety before that of a young child who is also captured, so far so good. Where it all goes horribly wrong is after she is rescued and meets Ewan McCabe, she just becomes a simpering, blubbering wreck. One minute she is crying her eyes out because he's shouted at her and the next she is so unbelievably in love with him. She looses all of her character and just becomes this female object with the most insane mood swings. Don't even get me started on how she tries to "help" her new husband by resolving a dispute over a horse, quite honestly I would have shouted at her too! She decides that neither man deserves the horse so takes/steals it for herself and then sacks the stable master, because of course that is the best way to solve a problem! By far her most annoying trait is her constant blurting out of whatever outraged thought has just crossed her mind, I think this is supposed to make her look cute, it didn't, it annoyed the hell out of me.

So the female lead is a dud what about the male lead Ewan? The word possessive does not do this man justice, he insists on his wife being followed by his men at all times for "protection", and I'm not just talking following at a discreet distance and stepping in if there is danger, no these bodyguards are forever looming over her and catching her whenever she trips over (which she does, frequently). Whenever Mairin takes it in to her head to escape her overly zealous bodyguards he gets angry and starts yelling at her about obeying him at all times, I am your Lord and Master blah blah blah ... honestly this is not attractive at all, I get that an alpha male is sexy but this is just emotional abuse.

Next problem, the love scenes (or loving as they call it in this book, I NEVER want to read that word used in this context again). I have read some seriously graphic sex scenes in my time in some seriously questionable books but at least the characters in them liked each other and didn't call each other "sweeting" all the time (it makes me feel sick just thinking about that word). These two are the mismatched couple from hell and the sex was seriously uncomfortable to read. The first time it is just rape so why she goes back for more I will never know. Bearing in mind she has lived her whole life in a nunnery and her birds and the bees talk came from a nun she seems to think she knows better than him what should be happening and keeps telling him he is doing it wrong! She then of course has the necessary fifteen orgasms in one go (give that cliche box a big tick) and decides he is very good at "loving" (shudder) after all.

Final problem, the plain stupidity of some of the plot points. She escapes from Cameron twice without any effort on her part (this man has some serious security issues), for some reason she is not allowed to speak at the trial (she was in the room she just didn't shout over everyone), if she's a princess how is she this naive and of course the characters in this book go hunting in the evening ... in Scotland ... in autumn, safety first and all that. I could go on but it would be cruel to further inflict this stupidity upon you.

So why did I give this 2 stars and not just 1? Well I got to the end of it (trust me a couple of times I nearly hurled it across the room, the only thing that saved it was the love I have for my kindle). Despite my ranting I did want to know how it ended (predictably) and I am going to read the rest of the series in the hope of some improvement but I wouldn't recommend this unless you are a die hard historical romance fan in search of pure escapism.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Review: The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera


"Man might carve his mark on the earth but unless he's vigilant, Nature will take it all back"

A slightly surreal story about a young Maori girl, some whales and the battle between the modern and ancient traditions of her culture all in just over 150 pages. I feel like I should have enjoyed this more than I did, it was written well and there were quite a few quotes I picked out as I read that I thought were beautiful, it just didn't grab me.

I'll start with the positive, I really enjoyed reading about the culture and mythology in this book, I know nothing about Maori culture so that was nice. That being said I think the inclusion of so much of the language might by why I struggled a bit, my European brain couldn't wrap itself around the pronunciation and I did spend a lot of time rereading sections with no idea if I was correct or murdering the language horribly. In the end I just skipped those parts.

I liked the narrator Rawiri, he was a nice bridge between the elders and Kahu herself, always understanding of both sides. I did find it a bit strange that a significant section was given over to his travels abroad, it felt a bit like that should have been in a separate book and could have been cut without affecting the story at all.

Overall I think that this is perhaps too short a story for me to grasp the context properly and this did affect my enjoyment. It wouldn't put me off reading more by Witi Ihimaera but I won't be rushing back.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skill is their capacity to escalate.

For me this quote sums up this wonderful book brilliantly. Darkly humorous and at the same time wonderfully poetic, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is a beautifully touching tale that everyone should read at least once.

Set in a small town outside Munich during WW2, this book follows the story of a young German girl called Liesel Meminger during the war all told from the perspective of Death himself.

The narration by Death is the masterstroke of this book. Not only does it allow Zusak to introduce a broader historical context that wouldn't be possible from the perspective of a young girl, but it also allows him to use some rather wonderful descriptions. Death is not a cold and unfeeling narrator, he is someone who really empathises with humanity and who tries so hard to not get involved in the lives of the souls he collects. Sometimes, however, a certain person takes his attention and Liesel is that person. Death is not your typical narrator, he sees things in colours, he is not a physical presence, he is a feeling and he feels things far more acutely than the human characters. Being a collector of souls he can also see into them which makes him a very insightful narrator. Everything he says is tinged with sadness and as I read the book I often found myself struggling between smiling at the wonderful descriptions and then being smacked in the face by the reality of the situation.

“A small but noteworthy note.
I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.”

Not only is the book beautifully narrated it is also beautifully laid out. I am a complete sucker for authors naming their chapters and I can tell you I have not seen another book with better named chapters than this one. Zusak has also used different font styles for Death’s little asides throughout which I just loved, it draws the eye and made me read faster to get to that section on the next page. At over 500 pages is isn’t a light read but I was so absorbed in the story I found it very hard to put it down.

This was a reread for me and surprisingly I remember not being that struck by it the first time I read it. I must have been having an off day because this is such a beautiful book I can’t imagine how it didn’t move me. I cried (and not just a little sniffle, proper tears) at the end of this, in fact I took it home to finish it because I knew I would not be able to read it at work and leave the office with my dignity intact. It’s very rare that a book like this comes along, a truly unique, touching and poetic story that is now on my favourites shelf. If you haven’t read it, you should.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Full disclosure, I wanted to read this because of the cover, it spoke to my inner historian. As it turns out it's a great book and I've been thinking about it all morning, if only I didn't have to go to work I am convinced I would still be in bed reading it!

My thanks to the kind publishers who granted my wish on NetGalley and sent me a copy to review, I can't wait to read books 2 and 3 of this wonderful series :)


Friday, 11 November 2016

Armistice Day

It seems quite ironic that I am reading The Book Thief on Armistice Day, it wasn't planned, just one of the quirks of fate. This beautifully written book has put me in a very reflective mood and made the traditional two minute silence all the more important.

Image result for poppy armistice day

Recent Updates

Hello and welcome to my first ever blog! I am still figuring out how everything works on here so please bear with me.

I hope to bring you some of my personal book reviews soon.