Archive for the ‘3 stars’ Category

Review: Wedding Night – Sophie Kinsella

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
Publication date: 23 April 2013
Publisher: Dial Press
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780812993844
Length: 446 pages
Genre: Chick lit
Age group: Adult
Source: Won
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 3 Stars

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose, but then his big question involves a trip abroad—not a trip down the aisle. Completely crushed, Lottie reconnects with an old flame, and they decide to take drastic action. No dates, no moving in together, they’ll just get married… right now. Her sister, Fliss, thinks Lottie is making a terrible mistake, and will do anything to stop her. But Lottie is determined to say “I do,” for better, or for worse.

I adore Sophie Kinsella. She’s one of those very few people whose work I’ve loved since my early teens and whose books go to the very top of my reading list the minute they are published. I’ve read every single one of her novels and, with the exception of one, I loved every one of them. She has a great sense of humour which is there in all of her books, and her characters always manage to grow on me. Needless to say, my expectations for this book were very high. But I didn’t love it. In fact, I was a little bit disappointed.

As I just mentioned, one of the reasons why I love her books so much is the fact that they’re unbelievably funny. And not just ‘make you smile’ funny, but ‘laugh-out-loud and silently choke to death on public transport while trying not to snort with laughter’ funny. Her main characters always remind me a little bit of Bridget Jones. Sometimes they’re a bit clumsy, in some ways we can all relate to them – and they’re all hilarious. Some of her stories are a bit far-fetched but that’s part of the package and it never really bothered me before.

But what I realised after reading one of her previous books, Remember Me? (the other one I didn’t really like) is that far-fetched stories like these can easily turn into ones that are over-the-top. I think – for me, at least – there’s a very fine line between the two and Wedding Night happened to fall into the latter category. It’s similar to how I feel about movies. You know comedies that are absolutely hilarious and make you literally cry with laughter? And then there are the ones that start out brilliantly but after a while the plot becomes a bit… forced and instead of being hilarious, the characters’ clumsiness and/or general behaviour just becomes unrealistic and off-putting? I’m pretty sure I’m not explaining this very well but that’s how I felt about this book. There’s only so much far-fetched plot you can take before you realise that a) it’s not even funny anymore and b) the reason why everything is so unrealistic and exaggerated is to make the book funnier but it’s not working.

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Review: The Dark Inside – Rupert Wallis

The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis

Title: The Dark Inside
Author: Rupert Wallis
Publication date: 30 January 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781471118913
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Paranormal
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

The House on the Hill has been abandoned for as long as James can remember. So when he discovers Webster, a drifter, hiding there, he’s instantly curious about the story behind the homeless man. What is he running from?

Afflicted by a dark curse, Webster is no longer who he used to be. But there is said to be a cure and it might just be that by helping Webster, James will find some solace of his own. Together they embark on a journey, not knowing that what they discover will impact them both in ways they never imagined…

My thoughts

Although the synopsis doesn’t reveal too much about the story, I was intrigued by the mysterious premise of the book. What is Webster running from? What is this dark curse? Will they find a cure before it’s too late? It sounded like an action-packed story full of twists and turns but in the end, it turned out to be quite different from what I expected. It’s not a bad book. Far from it. It just didn’t really work for me.

The first thing that took me a while to get used to is the fact that The Dark Inside is a mixture of fantasy and reality. It’s a very fairytale-like novel. There’s a bad witch and her loyal son, potions, curses, magic, you name it. Yet, the novel is set in an everyday place, somewhere in a small English village. Magical elements are mixed with real problems, real characters throughout the book. I kept wondering what to think: is this a magical tale? Is this real? What’s going on? This clash of two different worlds shouldn’t be a bad thing. But, again, it didn’t work for me.

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Review: Talking to the Dead – Harry Bingham

Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

Title: Talking to the Dead
Author: Harry Bingham
Publication date: 28 March 2013
Publisher: Orion
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-4091-3722-1
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis

It’s DC Fiona Griffiths’ first murder case – and she’s in at the deep end. A woman and her six-year-old daughter killed with chilling brutality in a dingy flat. The only clue: the platinum bank card of a long-dead tycoon, found amidst the squalor.

DC Griffiths has already proved herself dedicated to the job, but there’s another side to her she is less keen to reveal. Something to do with a mysterious two-year gap in her CV, her strange inability to cry – and a disconcerting familiarity with corpses.

Fiona is desperate to put the past behind her but as more gruesome killings follow, the case leads her inexorably back into those dark places in her own mind where another dead girl is waiting to be found…

My thoughts

It’s been a few weeks since I finished Talking to the Dead but I’m still in two minds about it. On the one hand, I do like the idea behind the novel. Bingham managed to create a realistic setting and a plausible crime which isn’t far-fetched and could easily happen in today’s Britain. Which is great. I’ve never been a big fan of fantastic plots so his ability to create a world which is so similar to our own is something I definitely enjoyed about the book.

The fact that he doesn’t try to be violent, sensationalist and gory just to make his story more popular is also something to be appreciated. There is no torture, no detailed description of corpses and bloody crime scenes in the book, nothing that more imaginative readers couldn’t handle. Which, again, is great.

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Review: Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: Life As We Knew It
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publication date: 1 May 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-15-206154-8
Length: 337 pages
Genre: Post-apocalyptic fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | AwesomeBooks | The Book Depository

Synopsis

High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, the way “one marble hits another.” The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintry in north-eastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in a year’s worth of journal entries, this heart-pounding story chronicles Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

My thoughts

Have you ever read a book which was so annoying at times that you knew you were not supposed to like it, but for some weird reason you still did? That pretty much sums up how I felt about Life As We Knew It. While the first half of the book really vexed me, I ended up falling in love with the second half and not being able to put the book down.

What put me off and annoyed me the most in the first half was characterization. My God, it’s bad. The main character, a girl called Miranda, is supposed to be sixteen years old. She has two siblings: a younger brother called Jonny, aged 13, and an older brother called Matt, who is 18 (19 by the time the story ends). It’s been quite a while since I was sixteen years old myself but I’m pretty sure neither me, nor any of my classmates behaved or talked the way Miranda does throughout the story. To say that she’s immature and childish would be the understatement of the year. So much so that I found Jonny (just a reminder: he’s only thirteen) a lot more mature than her and that’s never a good sign. And if that wasn’t frustrating enough, their older brother was, unlike Mirandaa, too mature for his age. There was even a scene where, after listening to their mother’s suggestion, he  actually says something like “that’s not what we’re going to do”. And that’s where I got beyond irritated. You’re only eighteen, for the love of God! You’re not supposed to be the one to your mother what to do, not even in a situation like this. I don’t know if the author has any children or not but real teenagers aren’t like this, that’s for sure.

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Audiobook Review: Portrait of a Killer – Patricia Cornwell

Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell

Title: Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Narrator: Lorelei King
Publication date: 1 May 2012
Publisher: AudioGO
ISBN: 9781445848297
Length: 12 hours 44 minutes
Genre: True Crime / Non-fiction
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: AudioGO

Synopsis

Between August and November 1888 at least seven women were murdered in Whitechapel. The gruesome nature of their deaths caused panic and fear for months in the east end, and gave rise to the sobriquet which was to become shorthand for a serial killer – Jack the Ripper.

For over a hundred years the identity of the murders have remained among one of the world’s greatest unsolved crimes, and a wealth of theories have been posited which have pointed the finger at royalty, a barber, a doctor, a woman and an artist. Using her formidable range of forensic and technical skills, Patricia Cornwell has applied the rigorous discipline of twenty-first-century police investigation to the extant material, and here presents the hard evidence that the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders was the world-famous artist, Walter Sickert.

By using techniques unknown in the late Victorian era, Patricia Cornwell has exposed Sickert as the author of the infamous Ripper letters to the Metropolitan Police. Her detailed analysis of his paintings shows how his art continually depicted his horrific mutilation of his victims, and her examination of this man’s birth defects, the consequent genital surgical interventions and their effects on his upbringing present a casebook example of how a psychopathic killer is created.

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Review: The Terrace – Maria Duffy

Cover of The Terrace by Maria Duffy

Title: The Terrace
Author: Maria Duffy
Publication date: August 1, 2012
Publisher: Hachette Ireland
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781444726084
Length: 394 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Nestled in the heart of Dublin city, St Enda’s Terrace is like any other close-knit community: warm, colourful, looks after its own. But behind closed doors lie secrets . . .

In Number Eight he wants a baby, she doesn’t. The guy a few doors down just wants to find love. Across the street a single mum struggles to cope. While the people next door might appear to have it all, their mortgage holder knows different.

When the street syndicate wins the National Lottery, it seems that things are looking up. Enter a New York production company on a mission to document a ‘quintessential’ Dublin community – just as it becomes clear that the winning ticket is nowhere to be found. Facades begin to crumble in the scramble to uncover the missing ticket and, as the gloves come off for the once unremarkable residents of St Enda’s, it’s game on with everything to play for

My thoughts

I’ve known Maria from Twitter for almost a year so when she asked me if I wanted to read her book, I was over the moon. She’s absolutely lovely and hilarious and I couldn’t wait to read The Terrace. But – and saying it makes me cringe so bad I want to hide behind my desk in utter embarrassment – no matter how much I wanted to love this book, I just didn’t. I couldn’t. I loved the idea of the missing ticket and this mystery element in the story but the book as a whole just wasn’t for me.

What I did like about the novel, apart from the story of the missing lottery ticket, is its characters. I love the fact that they’re ordinary people just like us, which makes them easily relatable for us readers. I found Marco in particular really adorable and someone who actually reminded me of a friend of mine – he was definitely my favourite character and he put a smile on my face every time I picked the book up.

What really bugged me, though, and what eventually put me off – as ridiculous as it will sound – was the author’s overuse of names and exclamation marks. I know it’s important to differentiate the two – or more – speakers in a dialogue but when it’s clear who is speaking to whom I don’t think it’s necessary to use people’s names in every single sentence. I know there are people who do talk like that in real life but most of us don’t and it’s both unnecessary and slightly annoying after a while. As for exclamation marks, I’ve seen this overuse in a few other books and I just don’t get it. I mean, using them in a dialogue or at the end of a sentence which expresses enthusiasm or surprise is one thing and it’s totally fine. But closing almost every chapter with it and using it in sentences where you don’t need them at all makes the text – at least for a weird grammar freak like me – a bit awkward. And as much as I didn’t want to let it affect me or bother me and as much as I tried to concentrate on the plot only, this false enthusiasm (or bad editing?) was starting to give me a headache. Mind you, I’ve checked every single review on Amazon and Goodreads and no one mentioned it (or the overuse of names) so it might be just me, I don’t know. But it did put me off and this is why, despite the fact that the story was interesting, I’m only giving this book 3 stars.

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Review: The Library of Unrequited Love – Sophie Divry

Cover of The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

Title: The Library of Unrequited Love
Author: Sophie Divry
Publication date: February 14, 2013
Publisher: Maclehose Press (Quercus)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-85705-141-7
Length: 91 pages
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight. She begins to talk to him, a one-way conversation full of sharp insight and quiet outrage.

As she rails against snobbish senior colleagues, an ungrateful and ignorant public, the strictures of the Dewey Decimal System and the sinister expansionist conspiracies of the books themselves, two things shine through: her unrequited passion for a researcher named Martin, and an ardent and absolute love for the arts.

A delightful divertissement for the discerning bookworm…

My thoughts

Sophie Divry’s The Library of Unrequited Love is very a short story you can easily devour, from cover to cover, in one sitting. I’ll be totally honest here: it’s been a while since I finished reading it and I still don’t know what to make of this book. What I know for certain is that it’s unlike anything I’ve read before.

Firstly, the book doesn’t have any chapters or any kind of divisions at all. None. Nada. I know it’s a short book but if you don’t have enough time to read it in one sitting and you also happen to have a weird habit of reading to the end of a chapter before setting your book aside (like me), it might make you feel a bit uneasy. Another thing that was completely new for me is narration. It’s basically a one-way conversation between the librarian and a reader who has been locked in the library’s basement overnight.  We know nothing about the reader – not even his or her name or whether s/he’s a man or a woman. Everything we know comes from the librarian’s monologue, which is definitely one of the things that make this book unique and unlike any other. But again, I still wasn’t a hundred percent sure what to make of it. I love how we gradually get to know our narrator and what type of person she is and I found myself smirking (or occasionally nodding) at some of her remarks. Perhaps one of the things I loved the most about this book is how the narrator talks about reading and how she describes what it means to her. She says, “I prefer the company of books. When I’m reading, I’m never alone, I have a conversation with the book. It can be very intimate. Perhaps you know this feeling yourself? […] When I’m reading, I can forget everything, sometimes I don’t even hear the phone.” And I’m sure it’s something all of us bookworms can agree with, something we all go through on a daily basis. At the same time, I would’ve liked to know a bit more about the reader and see what s/he makes of all this or how s/he reacts to some of our librarian’s observations.

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