Thursday, 29 January 2015

Book Review: River of Destiny by Barbara Erskine

River of DestinyRiver of Destiny by Barbara Erskine
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh my Goodness! This book took me a long time to read, I thought it would never end!
River of Destiny by Barbara Erskine is set across three periods in time and jumps back and forth between each period. The first period is set during the Anglo-Saxon times, based around sword maker Eric and his wife Edith. The second period is based during Victorian times. Lady Emily is married to the lord of the house but having relations with the blacksmith Dan. And the last period is based in present day around Zoe and Ken who live in one of three converted barns. All of these three interweaving stories are set by the river, where a ghost Viking ship is seen on a regular basis.
My Mum, was absolutely in love with this book and couldn't wait for me to read it. Unfortunately, I didn't love it as much as she did. The concept of this novel is a great idea, the different periods of times and the mystery but for me the main thing that let it down was the characters. I didn't like Lady Emily, but you're really not supposed to, so that wasn't a problem. The problem was everybody else.
I feel like Zoe is the main character throughout the whole novel and you're supposed to sympathise with her, but I didn't feel that connection. Her relationship with her husband is debatable at best and the way their marriage comes to an end seems to me inconsequential. There is no bang, just a dull fizzle. Dan the blacksmith is originally seen in a positive light, claiming how much he loves his wife, but Lady Emily only has to click her fingers and he succumbs. I didn't enjoy the Anglo-Saxon sections at all, felt no sympathy towards the characters. Nobody is very likeable and I really struggle to enjoy books where I don't like the characters.
The dialogue was also quite unrealistic and shoddy at times, and the culmination of the book was odd and seemed out of the place with the rest of the novel. I think it's fair to say I will give Barbara Erskine a miss for a bit.

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Monday, 5 January 2015

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman (#25) by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman (Agatha Raisin, #25)Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's amazing how after twenty five novels and a fair few short stories, Agatha Raisin is still going strong. M.C. Beaton is like your favourite pair of jeans. As you put them on you feel the comfort and reassurance. Then, you find a surprise fiver in the pocket.
Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman is based in a local amateur theatre. Agatha and Mrs Bloxby are enduring the pantomime ogre, when he disappears through the trap door and is impaled on a spike. My initial feeling was jealousy of the theatre having a trap door. The Attfield, sadly, lacks one. But I was soon caught up in all the eccentric characters that Beaton describes so well. Being involved in amateur theatre, I can vouch that this was a very true to life interpretation of Am-Dram.
Agatha seems just as much focused on her love life as she is on the case. But I tore through this book at break neck speed, intrigued by every suspect and every twist and turn. I didn't guess who the murderer was, which is an extra ten points for me, and I enjoyed the ride. Also, the extra Christmas story at the end was a pleasant surprise. I always enjoy any books from the Agatha Raisin series, but I must add that whoever cast Ashley Jensen as Agatha should be locked into a room with the books and not released until they've read them all again!

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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Book Review: The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next #3)

The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3)The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn't read any Jasper Fforde books in a while, and after reading lots of books based in real life, I wanted something to take me away from it all. The Well of Lost Plots is as far from real life as you can get. In fact, it brings books into the everyday with such clarity and detail, it makes me want to read and write differently.
These books follow Thursday Next, Jurisfiction Apprentice, working with Miss Havisham to solve problems in books, this includes Anger Management classes for the characters in Wuthering Heights and ensuring books are safe from grammasites.
Jasper Fforde's mind is pure genius. I don't know how on earth he keeps track of all of the little nuances. I've never read a book with a world so fully realised. I only wish that I'd read some of the classics that he refers to, so that I could understand more of the 'in-jokes'. My only complaint, is that having stage-managed Much Ado About Nothing not long ago, I can safely correct him in that the character is named Benedick, not Benedict. But the sparring between him and Beatrice was brilliant.
Thursday Next is a lovely character, a female with gumption but still likeable, with real life situations as well as some not-so-real-life. For example, she's pregnant by a husband who has been eradicated and a Goddess has wormed her way into her memories. Because of her predicament, Thursday is on holiday in a book called Cavendish Heights, a crime story set in Reading, which is held in the The Well of Lost Plots, which is where all books live until their published or sold for salvage. Not only does she have her own issues to deal with, but the book characters want her to help them save the book which is due for demolishing.
It's hard for me to describe how brilliantly clever this is, as it's so complicated and so detailed, all I can say is, read this series, start at the beginning, and for those who are a fan of Jasper Fforde's other series, Nursery Crime, they will enjoy this even more.

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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Book Review: Unseen by Mari Jungstedt (Anders Knutas #1)

Unseen (Anders Knutas, #1)Unseen by Mari Jungstedt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My Mum has been banging on about these novels for while now and I eventually caved in and picked up the first in the Anders Knutas series.
I'm a big fan of Nordic Noir, but one thing I struggle with is the Scandinavian names. A lot of them seem very similar and occasionally I get confused with who is who.
I really enjoyed the description of the island of Gotland. Mari Jungstedt is brilliant at portraying the surrounding countryside and gives great depth and atmosphere to each scene.
Unseen had a really good plot. It may not be the most original idea, but the story kept me interested and kept me guessing. I had no idea who the murderer was right until the end, which was filled with tension and excitement.
I generally liked the majority of the characters too, Knutas was strong, friendly and sympathetic. The only character I didn't like was Emma, but I will leave that up to the reader to discover why.
Overall, a good, stable read and I look forward to reading more Mari Jungstedt in the future.

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