Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this novel after seeing the trailer for the film. I haven't read sci-fi in ages and thought it would be a refreshing change amongst the murder mysteries and romance.
From the off I pictured Matt Damon as I knew he was playing the role of Mark Watney. Not that this was a problem. Damon, to me, represents the all-American and he suited the role well.
I really enjoyed the diary-entry format used by Andy Weir. It puts you right in Watney's head. You journey with him, through his despair, through his exhaustion, through his elation. I enjoyed his sense of humour too, several times I laughed out loud. I particularly enjoyed the references to disco music and 70s TV programmes.
The narrative switched between Watney, the crew of the Hermes and the NASA team tracking his every move. It was good to have the variation. I felt like over the course of this book I have actually learnt something about space travel.
The pace of this novel was excellent too. I was hooked from the beginning and I couldn't wait to find out Watney's fate as in no way was it guaranteed that he would survive. Each obstacle he came across was believable and how Watney dealt with it was admirable.
The Martian is such a brilliant novel and I would love to read more of Weir's work.

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Friday, 25 September 2015

Book Review: Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (A St. Just Mystery #1)

Death of a Cozy Writer (A St. Just Mystery #1)Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love a good 'twee' murder mystery, set in the countryside, normally involve a plodding village policeman and often based around a feuding family. Death of a Cozy Writer ticks all the boxes. Sir Adrian Beauclerk-Fisk is a murder mystery writer who thrives on torturing his four vile children by threatening to disinherit them.
Despite their distaste for their father, when he announces a surprise engagement, all four children come running to their old family home. What follows in murder and mayhem.
For a start there were no redeemable characters. I felt sorry for his daughter, other than that everyone was very arrogant and pompous. G.M. Malliet describes every woman as being disgusting, fat or ugly. And God forbid a fat woman should have any self confidence or consider herself attractive. It surprised me to find the author was female.
The police officers in this novel are quite forgettable. I'm not expecting them to be quirky or have weird characteristics but they need to be memorable. Unfortunately they were quite cookie cutter.
I did like the fact that the murders were linked to the past but more of this needed to be made. By the end I was quite confused as to what had happened and just wanted to be shot of these horrific characters.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having recently visited Amsterdam with my friend, specifically the Van Loon Museum, reading this was a treat for my imagination.
The story follows 18-year-old Nella, recently betrothed to Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant and a pillar of his community. He lives in Amsterdam with his sister Marin and their servants Cornelia and Otto. Despite being the lady of the house, Marin makes it clear that Nella is not in charge.
From the initial awkwardness of fitting into a household, to the unravelling of the Brandt family The Miniaturist held my attention throughout and I couldn't wait to find out where the story would take me.
The reason why this is four stars and not five is because the story of the actual miniaturist seemed to fall flat. Johannes gift to Nella upon marriage is a beautiful doll's house (which can be seen in the Rijksmuseum). He gives her permission to buy whatever she likes to fill the house. Nella orders several items and the miniaturist continues to send more, often with hidden motives and telling of things yet to come. However, this story line just seems to peter out.
For me, the real strength lies in the characters Jessie Burton creates. I really sympathised with Nella, even if she was beyond her years in terms of her opinions, thoughts and knowledge. The supporting characters provide warmth and friction for Nella. Although the fact that Otto was black was touched upon and then not really mentioned.
I have come to realise that families, relationships and affairs of the heart are what keep the pages turning for me and this novel was full of them. The description of 17th Century Amsterdam was rich and detailed and I easily pictured the house and the surroundings. I look forward to reading more of Jessie Burton in the future.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Book Review: Inquisition by Alfredo Colitto

InquisitionInquisition by Alfredo Colitto
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I'm giving up on this book. It doesn't hold my attention at all and I can't keep track of all the characters because everybody's name was so similar. I've read it the last two nights and can't remember for the life of me what I've read!

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Monday, 7 September 2015

Book Review: The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah

The Orphan ChoirThe Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh my Lord! Where do I even start with The Orphan Choir! I enjoy a good horror story. Having been a fan of James Herbert and Stephen King for many a year, I like books full of thrills and jumps. The kind of books that make me scared to turn off the light. This was not one of them.
The Orphan Choir should be marked as a family drama story, as really, that is what this is about. One woman and her poor husband and son.
It begins with the neighbour, who plays his music loud at night (on a Saturday I might add) and disturbs are protagonists sleep. Within the first chapter she slags off Queen, Dolly Parton and Bon Jovi, so I can already tell we're not going to be friends.
We soon learn that Louise and her husband Stuart have a son Joseph, who boards at a local prestigious school as he is one of the specially selected choir boys.
Louise begins to hear choral music playing through the wall and concludes it must be coming from her neighbour's house in an attempt to drive her even more crazy than she already is.
From this point, Louise's mentality seems to take a downward spiral. She buys a house in a gated community, pulls her son out of said school and generally does a lot of crying and screaming.
I hated Louise, with a passion, she was whiny, a hypocrite, unbelievably selfish! Joseph was very happy in the school, and she saw him perform twice a week. I'm not a parent, so I don't know what it feels like to not have your child living with you, but she didn't take her son or husband's feelings into consideration at all. If she wasn't happy then nothing else mattered.
Other things about her irritated me too. She snapped at her husband when he woke her up one morning, but would continuously wake him up in the middle of the night so she had another witness to the music playing. Then constantly wished for a better husband to come along. She was an absolutely horrible woman through and through!
The reason why this has two stars is because it was gripping. I wanted to find out what happened, and why she kept hearing the choral music, even though the ending fell a little flat. I also wanted to know the fate of her family.
I may consider reading Sophie Hannah again if she promises not to create any more horrendous characters!

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Friday, 4 September 2015

Book Review: The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari (Balzano & Byrne #2)

The Skin Gods (Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne, #2)The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have read a number of Richard Montanari books, but as always, not in the right order. The Skin Gods is the second in the Balzano and Byrne series, and kicks off with a murder being spliced into a video tape of Psycho. Already this setup dates the book as nowadays this crime would be uploaded to YouTube and viral within minutes.
I enjoy both leads, especially when Balzano goes undercover, but for me, this novel was a bit too convoluted, a bit stretched out, with too many names to remember. It was hard to keep track of which body belonged to which victim and how they were related/knew each other.
It also really surprised me that the author was so disgusted by the fact that porn stars exist. He damned them outright. While I'm not saying that it's my cup of tea, I'm a firm believer in each to their own. People can do whatever they like in the bedroom.
Overall, a good premise, but the story line and plot didn't live up to it. I'll probably read more of Montanari's work but it would be nice, if for once it wasn't a serial killer terrorising the streets of Philadelphia. If it happened this often, nobody would live there.

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