Sunday, 30 August 2015

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #1)

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Knife of Never Letting Go is classified as a children's, or young-adult book. That is not the case at all. This book is dark, disturbing and full of bad language.
The main character is Todd, who is just shy of becoming a man. Living in Prentisstown he is not particularly well educated, struggling to read and write. As Todd is the main narrator in this story initially this was an issue for me. I understand that the author is providing authenticity, but reading through spelt at 'thro' really grated on me. However, as I became more involved in the story, this issue went away and I was so engrossed I didn't care about the spelling mistakes.
Since arriving on the New World, humanity has caught a disease known as Noise. This enables everyone to hear everyone else's thoughts, although is fatal for women (which we later learn not to be true).
The Noise is dealt with superbly, in my opinion. It doesn't become distracting but adds to each characters nuances. It can also change colour, like an aura. Not only are humans infected, but so are animals, which allows Todd to communicate with Manchee, his pet pooch. However, despite females being immune to the noise, female animals are infected. It's one of the things you probably shouldn't think about too much.
Todd lives at home with Ben and Cillian, his adoptive parents. Upon returning from the swamp one afternoon, he is packed with a bag and told to run as far away from Prentisstown as soon and as quickly as possible. Cue adventures.
Todd meets Viola on the outskirts of Pretisstown. Patrick Ness handles Todd and Viola's cautious teenage relationship very well. There's no inkling of romance but a strong sense that one can't live without the other.
The plot itself is quite 'samey', lots of running, lots of fighting. This can get a bit repetitive, but the desire to know and make sense of everything really kept me going.
The main villain of the piece, Aaron, a preacher of course, is quite one dimensional. Maybe that's the point? But the amount of times he 'returns from the dead' is ridiculous, bordering on comical! Actually, having finished this book, I'm not entirely sure he's dead now!
Although not an entirely original idea I felt that Ness executed it well. I cared for the characters. When Todd killed the Spackle I experienced his guilt and horror. When he was ill I could put myself in his shoes.
The section with the singing cows I felt was written beautifully. It was like I could hear them, and that the sound was so pure.
The collection of smaller characters that popped up along the way were all well realised and served their purpose. Todd's encounters with anyone outside Prentisstown were enlightening and made me even more intrigued.
Now, the big moment. In fact the defining moment of the book. The death of Manchee. I can count the number of times I have cried at novels on my left hand. But that short moment left me sobbing and longing to cuddle my two dogs who were fast asleep downstairs. I had to stop reading, put the book aside and give myself a moment. The fact that Ness can produce that feeling in me is a whole star just on it's own. 'Todd?' will have a whole new meaning for me from now onwards.
This unique book took me on a roller coaster of emotions and feelings (not to mention the MASSIVE cliffhanger at the end of the novel, although I thought Haven would be completely abandoned) and I'm intrigued to find out where the story will go. So very strong 4.5 for me. It would have been five if Aaron hadn't turned up quite so many times.

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Monday, 24 August 2015

Book Review: And She Was by Alison Gaylin

And She WasAnd She Was by Alison Gaylin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I took to this book, preparing for a challenge. It had been recommended to me by a friend, who couldn't even finish it. So I gladly took it upon myself to prove him wrong.
And She Was is essentially a mystery. Our protagonist is Brenna Spector (spelt incorrectly as Brenda in the blurb, which immediately put me off). Brenna is a private investigator specialising in missing people. She also has a condition which means that she can remember every little detail that has occurred in her life since the disappearance of her sister Clea.
The main arc of the story follows the disappearance of Carol Wentz, who in turn is investigating the case of Iris Neff, a five year old who hasn't been seen in eleven years. A mystery wrapped in an enigma.
The main reason for the three stars is because I found it completely intriguing. I read the novel in a matter of days and had a hunger to find out what happened. It was definitely one of those 'just another chapter' books. Without giving anything away, the ending was a little disappointing. I was expecting it to be, more. I don't know how else to describe it. The timeline was also a little confusing, especially at the beginning.
The characters were all quite unlikable. I found Brenna's assistant Trent to be so annoying and unrealistic. Brenna herself didn't seem to like anyone at all and was very judgemental. Her daughter Maya was a complete brat and her ex-husband Jim seemed very, unforgiving. Jim's new wife Faith was just so picture perfect that she didn't seem real to me.
By the time I'd raced through this, I was left feeling empty and unsatisfied. The ending was not worth the journey. I may attempt another Alison Gaylin in the future. But not anytime soon.

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Friday, 21 August 2015

Book Review: Where Evil Lies by Jørgen Brekke

Where Evil LiesWhere Evil Lies by Jørgen Brekke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where Evil Lies by Jørgen Brekke follows the brutal murder and flaying of two victims. The catch is that both murders, virtually identical, occurred in two different continents, in Norway and Richmond, Virginia. One victim is female, one a man. One found in the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, the other found in a locked vault in a library. But the manner in which they are killed is so strikingly similar that it must have been committed by the same person.
The investigator in Norway is Odd Singsaker, who is recently recovering from brain surgery and therefore his memory is a little on the dodgy side. He is by the by, your typical Scandinavian detective, likes to take things slow and steady.
Felicia Stone has her own dark secrets and is a strong female character. The author has not made her into some manly 'one of the boys'. I didn't find her stereotypical and warmed to her. Even more so when I read about the issues that led her to be the person she is now.
Both detectives compliment each other and there is no bravado to be seen which can occur in many detective novels of this kind.
From the beginning we know there is some connection between the murders and the abduction of a mother and child. The author also takes us back to the 1500s, where the barber is busy helping out the local physician.
I really enjoyed the main bulk of the story. I'm never one to shy away from gore, and the descriptions and action that took place created a vivid picture. The pace was quick, enough to keep you intrigued but not enough so that you had no idea what was going on. I didn't enjoy the historic sections. I found that they slowed the book down completely. I found myself skimming them just to get back to modern day Norway.
There weren't too many supporting characters, which I find a good thing. I do enjoy Scandinavian novels but I sometimes struggle to remember all of the names. Only once did I have to double check a character and that was because there was one called Jens and one called Jensen. The only character I wasn't particularly fond of was a girl named Siri Holm. She literally seemed to jump anything that moved, which I don't thing added to the character at all.
Overall I enjoyed the book, and Brekke's characters. I am looking forward to reading more of his novels in the future.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Book Review: Strangers by Dean Koontz

StrangersStrangers by Dean Koontz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My mum has been going on about Dean Koontz's Strangers for as long as I can remember. I tried to read it a couple of years ago, but got bogged down. So I put it aside promising to come back to it later.
This time around I managed to finish it although it was slow going! The story revolves around a number of strangers, all living in different parts of America. Several of the individuals have experienced nightmares or new phobias since the summer before last. But none of them can remember what occurred over those few days.
I think the number of main characters was just enough for the reader to follow and remain interested, but not too many that they become mixed up. I enjoyed that each character had a very different background and that they all reacted differently to whatever happened.
I particularly enjoyed reading about Brendan Cronin. Faith and religion is always something that interests me and Brendan's struggle was really intriguing to me.
I also enjoyed Jorja's character, especially her relationship with her parents, who were frankly, horrible people. I think Koontz is really good at detailing relationships and understanding how people communicate with each other.
There are also a range of supporting characters that provide great humour and balance with the main characters. Although I was a bit disappointed with Colonel Leland and how stereotypical he was.
I enjoyed the first half of the book. Each clue was revealed slowly and for the most part left the reader in the dark. Then as things start to come together it actually seems to go downhill. I felt it lost it's intrigue. I also found the last one hundred and fifty pages very predictable. Once I'd worked out what the mystery was, the whole thing lost it's magic. Plus the introduction of the military disappointed me a little too.
I just felt that the mystery had so much potential, and by the end it was all a bit of a let down. I felt like Koontz was trying to make a point about the human race as a whole, and it became very sentimental.

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