29 May 2010

Review: Others by James Herbert

Others by James Herbert book coverThis is my second novel by James Herbert, and I'm proud to say this one gave me a nightmare. Why am I proud to say this? I read a lot of Koontz and King and love a good thriller and naturally enjoy a bit of a fright! It's hard for a writer to make the reader 'jump' or 'get the creeps' and for me it's the mark of a great author and an excellent book! It certainly gets the adrenalin pumping and the mind racing into the wee hours.

It follows that there is a skill in making a reader cry but first and foremost, I don't really enjoy deeply depressing stories, or stories that are going to upset me for days and days afterwards. Secondly, it's rare for me to cry during a movie, so for a book, this state is almost unattainable. Besides, I'd rather be scared out of my wits, or contemplating the dark side of human nature in a way that is removed from my daily life and therefore 'safe'.

Okay, now onto the book. Dismas is a private investigator in the Others and is born into the world disfigured. The character development and insight here is phenomenal and a little painful at times which deepens the story even further. Dismas is asked to investigate a missing baby supposedly declared dead following the birth, and thus begins a course of events involving babies born with hideous deformities. Without ruining the story-line, I was really creeped out one night reading about the hospital at 'Perfect Rest' although it sounds completely harmless, doesn't it?

The theme of redemption is echoed throughout the novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed following the character's journey and learning about the fate of the Others.

I recommend Others to anyone who enjoys a good fright, or is a fan of either Stephen King or Dean Koontz.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
27 May 2010

Review: The Minutes of the Lazarus Club by Tony Pollard

The Minutes of the Lazarus Club by Tony Pollard book coverI picked up this little gem for $8 and I think I got more than my money's worth on this one. Set in London in the 1850s, this is a period piece, with the main character being Dr Phillips, a surgeon in a hospital. Dr Phillips is soon befriended by Brunel, the Engineer behind the building of the 'Great Eastern' steam ship, and a connection to the secret society of the Lazarus Club begins to emerge.

Interestingly enough, Pollard takes several well-known historical figures and weaves them into his story, e.g. Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale. More interesting than that though was the concept of the Lazarus Club, where like minded genius' and great thinkers gather to discuss science, innovation and share their expertise. At each meeting, a guest is invited or chosen from a different field of expertise to make a speech to the members present. Minutes are kept from these meetings, hence the name of the book, however the minutes themselves didn't play a large role in the novel. The concept of the Lazarus Club alone could have kept my attention, learning about the content and nature of the different speeches and how they were received by the members at the time and why they had to remain so secretive.

The building of the massive steam ship 'SS Great Eastern' and its launch into the Thames was equally fascinating throughout the book. I guess when I think of giant ships, I don't imagine a ship with sails, funnels and paddle wheels! Amazing! The mystery of the murdered prostitutes introduced a minor crime thread into the novel, although I didn't think this was necessary to the plot development.

Without giving too much away, an additional sub-plot involving the design of an artificial organ for the body was very interesting for it's time, and who doesn't like a little grave robbery thrown into the mix? I admire the precision with which Pollard brought London alive for this period, and I was completely taken by the sights and smells of the river and the streets and the daily minutiae of the era.

The Minutes of the Lazarus Club is Tony Pollard's first novel, and I'll certainly be on the look out for his next. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a little historical fiction, science, anatomy, ship building and a good river chase!

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
22 May 2010

Review: Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland book coverGiven to me by a friend, this book has been on my shelf for a couple of months now, just waiting for the right time to be read. Oddly enough, straight after finishing Great Expectations I decided it was time. I think I was in the mood for something light and a significant departure from the classics after spending time with Dickens.

The main character in Mark of the Demon is Kara, who happens to be a Detective and a conjurer of demons. The demons in this urban fantasy novel are beings from another realm, who live according to a strict honour code and can provide information that can assist Kara solve her crimes.

A number of murders attributed to the Symbol Man start piling up, and Kara is made lead Detective on the case. She receives some help from a FBI Agent who believes in the arcane, and finds herself unexpectedly involved in a complicated relationship with a Demon Lord during the investigation.

This was an enjoyable and quick read, and I enjoyed the mix of crime/police procedural with the paranormal. I wanted to give it 3 stars, but after having given Great Expectations this rating, I just couldn't bring myself to rate them as equals. Ridiculous I know, but there you have it.

My rating = **1/2

Carpe Librum!
15 May 2010

Review: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens book coverAs long as I can remember, I've always felt guilty about never having read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I started this book as a youngster, but never really got beyond the first chapter, then failed to pick it up again..... until now.

It's a cliche of course, but I had great expectations of this book given its status as a classic and the fact that it's always included in various Top 100 lists. So, how did I like it? Well, I really enjoyed the writing style and enjoyed a few chuckle-worthy moments and also a few poignant lines which made me want to flag them on the page (despite my aversion to writing in books).

I wanted to fall in love with this book, but unfortunately I couldn't. The language was a pleasure, and I could certainly recognise the quality on the page, but overall, the greater plot and story line just didn't lure me all the way in.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!