24 May 2016

Review: London's Strangest Tales - Historic Palaces Extraordinary But True Stories by Iain Spragg

London's Strangest Tales, Historic Palaces - Extraordinary But True Stories by Iain Spragg is just that, a collection of short but true stories from history. Told in chronological order, the tales come from London's five historic palaces: the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kew Palace and Kensington Palace.

Commencing in 1078, the tales take us through history up until 2013, but in my opinion didn't really live up to the title claiming they were 'extraordinary'. Don't get me wrong, some of the stories were interesting - cardinal spiders at Hampton Court Palace - however many I'd read before (or learned about in documentaries) and others were clearly hyped up for inclusion in this collection.

I'd recommend London's Strangest Tales - Historic Palaces by Iain Spragg for younger readers as an easy introduction to history in London, and to perhaps ignite a desire to learn more.

For devotees of documentaries, and readers of history and historical fiction, you may want to give this one a miss.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

22 May 2016

Review: Panic Button by Kylie Logan

You can tell by the illustrated cover alone that Panic Button by Kylie Logan is a cozy mystery. Technically, a cozy mystery is a crime novel without the gore (think Miss Marple) and they usually have an artist's impression of an idyllic setting on the front.

Panic Button is centred around a charm string and in the Victorian era, young girls collected and traded buttons and threaded them onto a charm string. It was said that when they'd collected their 1000th button, they would meet their Prince Charming. 

The main character of the series runs a button shop, and given I like buttons and was moderately interested in the creation of charm strings, I thought this would make a fun and easy-going read on the plane home from Hawaii. 

It did, but it also confirmed that cozy mysteries just aren't enough to keep my interest. The main character investigating the crime was just too much for me, but very indicative of the genre. 

Do you like cozy mysteries?

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

18 May 2016

Review: Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler

Nyctophobia is a fear of the dark (or darkness) and is the perfect title for a novel, don't you think? Paired with an appropriately dark and spooky cover, Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler ticks the box in a number of genres, including: science fiction, urban fantasy, supernatural and mystery of the highest order.

I'm still reeling from this book. I adored it, it was a five star read..... right up until the ending. This book had me in its grip, but it ended one sentence too soon, argh!!

I haven't stopped thinking about it, and the premise was brilliant. The new owner of Hyperion House in Spain moves in with her husband and agrees to keep on the old housekeeper and gardner. The housekeeper tells her the servants quarters of the grand house never see sunshine and are always locked, refusing to give her the keys. 

Callie won't let it go and wants to know more. Having suffered from nyctophobia as a child, Callie's old fears threaten to resurface when she finally learns what - or who - is occupying the servants quarters.

I won't say anything more, you really need to experience this book for yourself. I wanted a particular ending and my reading experience was scarred when I didn't get it, but Nyctophobia will be up there as one of my favourite reads of the year, I'm sure of it.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

16 May 2016

Review: Lonely Planet Hawaii by Sara Benson and Amy Balfour

Earlier this year, I waited to purchase the latest copy (2016 version) of Lonely Planet Hawaii by Sara Benson and Amy Balfour in preparation for my holiday and first-time visit to the country.

Reading zealously with sticky notes and flags over the course of a few months, it took me a while to understand the layout and approach to this travel guide. 

My first impressions were that the layout was a little haphazard, until coming to the realisation that the book was organised by island, not by activity. This means if you're interested in sea turtles, you have to look at references for sea turtles on every island. 

Finally, the free map at the end of the book was a complete waste of paper. The free maps in the Waikiki Trolley brochure were a much better resource when out and about in Honolulu and Waikiki.

Lonely Planet Hawaii was a logical place to begin my research, but in the end, I found my online research to be more useful this time around.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

12 May 2016

Review: Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier

Set in Edwardian London, Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier takes place from January 1901 to May 1910 and was a joy to read. 

This historical novel confidently covers themes of mourning, mourning etiquette, class and the suffragette movement with an engaging and natural writing style.

The chapters are narrated in the first person by several of the main characters, although each character picks up the thread of the story and continues with it, rather than re-living the same events from their point of view. 

Each of the voices are unique, making it impossible to confuse the characters. 

My favourite character by far was Simon Field, the gravedigger's son and the conversations that take place in the cemetery were some of my favourite parts of the book.

I recommend Falling Angels for those interested in the mourning etiquette of the Victorian and Edwardian periods and readers looking for something a little different.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

25 April 2016

Review: The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell

* Copy courtesy of NetGalley *

The Silent Twin is my first Caroline Mitchell novel and features one of my favourite tropes, a detective (in this case DC Knight) who uses their supernatural abilities to solve crime. Add to that the case of a missing nine year old twin and a suitably creepy cover, and I was ready to fall in love with The Silent Twin. Unfortunately this was just an okay read for me.

DC Knight's abilities weren't explained well enough for my liking, although to be fair, this is the third in the Detective Jennifer Knight series by Mitchell. It should be noted then that if character development is important to you, you'll want to start at the beginning of the series, however the novel can be read as a standalone.

Blackwater Farm was a great setting, but the 'whodunnit reveal' came from left field and to be honest I felt a little jibbed. Unless I'm the dumbest reader on NetGalley, I didn't pick the person responsible for the twin's disappearance although thankfully wasn't fooled by the red herrings thrown in. Oh well, it happens.

Overall, The Silent Twin was an okay read that had stacks of potential but fell short for me. I believe the author/publisher opted for the safe road here instead of making more of the supernatural elements and the entities at Blackwater Farm.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

I've flagged Caroline Mitchell's Paranormal Intruder as a book I think I'll enjoy a lot more; being a personal account of paranormal activity in her home.

20 April 2016

Review: Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke

Sour Candy is contemporary horror, and at only 67 pages, this novella is a quick and easy read. Don't be fooled though, author Kealan Patrick Burke manages to pack a punch from the very first page.

How's this for an opening sentence:
Four months to the day he first encountered the boy at Walmart, the last of Phil Pendleton's teeth fell out.
I was hooked from the start, and the concept is brilliant: Phil sees a strange boy in a grocery store who later turns up at his house calling him Daddy. Phil has no idea where the boy came from, but everyone around him believes Adam is his son. The other-worldly child wears odd clothes and will only eat sour candy, hence the title of the book.

If you like the feeling when the hairs on the back of your neck start marching towards the top of your skull, then Sour Candy is definitely for you. Also recommended for fans of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!