22 June 2010

Review: Beach Road by James Patterson

Beach Road by James Patterson book coverJames Patterson has teamed up with Peter De Jonge to write this crime novel Beach Road and it was a good quick read. I used to really enjoy books by James Patterson, but over the years his writing has evolved into mass production on a grand scale, churning out books almost every month with different co-authors. It's impossible to keep up, and I believe it dilutes the quality of the author's work. But I'm sure many would disagree, and of course he's enormously successful.

This particular book has been on my TBR (to be read) pile for a long time, and it was a relatively interesting story with a twist at the end definitely worthy of a mention. I definitely didn't see it coming, and I'm of the opinion that it was the work of Peter De Jonge, but of course we'll never know.

This book is essentially about a man arrested for a triple homicide at a basketball court located at a mansion in East Hampton. The main character Tom is convinced the defendant Dante is innocent and agrees to represent the young man in the trial of the century. The story is narrated by different characters and is constantly switching which takes time to get used to. The narrator's name appears at the top of each chapter though, so it's easy to keep up.

I enjoyed the twist at the end and I love that in a book. This is an easy and non-complex crime novel, recommended for any James Patterson fans out there. Just don't expect too much.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
20 June 2010

Review: The Shack by William Paul Young

Set near Oregon in America, Mack's daughter Missy is abducted during a family camping trip, and evidence of her murder is later found in an abandoned shack in the woods (hence the title for this book). Years later, Mack finds a note in his letterbox, inviting him back out to the shack. Not knowing if the note is from Missy's killer or directly from God, he decides he must go and find out.

What happens next is a moving account of Mack's time spent with God in the form of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They each teach Mack lessons about the 'great sadness' he feels at the death of his daughter, and each lesson brings him closer to restoring his faith.

I found this book quite profound, and it certainly had an impact on me as I was reading it. Mack's story is told by his friend, who says at the beginning that he's just telling the story as Mack told it to him, and leaves it to the reader to decide whether it really happened or not, or was just a dream. I think this is an excellent tactic, as it means Young is not forcing this tale onto the reader and calling it fact. You can just allow yourself to fall into the story and decide for yourself later.

It reminded me of The Celestine Prophecy and The Alchemist and I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Shack. I believe the primary theme of the book is Love, as well as Faith. The popularity of the book has grown with a dedicated website www.theshackbook.com and has topped many best seller lists, including occupying the Number 1 spot on the New York Times best seller list for 70 weeks.

Regardless of your beliefs, I believe there is a personal, spiritual message in this book for everyone, and I think the enjoyment of this book will come from re-reading it and picking up more each time, as well as reflecting on the life lessons.

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered about God and how He can allow so much pain in the world. Alternatively, anyone who would like a different perspective on suffering and self growth.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
19 June 2010

Review: I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti

I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti book cover
I'd been looking forward to reading this book for quite a while. Knowing it was about a young child who discovers a boy being kept hostage/prisoner in a hole and and what unfolds next was enough to significantly grab my attention.

Reading it however was a completely different experience and a major disappointment. Set in Italy, the translation from Italian to English is extremely noticeable and often interrupts the natural flow of the descriptive sections of the novel. The setting and location felt isolated to me and not well developed. The discovery of the kidnapped boy in the beginning of the book was the most exciting part, and then it was all down hill from there.

The middle of the book was frustrating as I struggled with the direction the 9 year old boy was taking with his new found knowledge. There was a slight surprise in the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping which I thought was building to an exciting big 'reveal' at the end which unfortunately didn't happen. The ending was very predictable and reminiscent of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, although I'm happy to report that it appears this novel was published first.

In fact the ending was so lacking an explanation for the kidnapping that I thought I must be missing a page or two. Perhaps it had fallen out of the library book. This idea kept me going for a few minutes, and led me to the ever faithful Amazon and Google.

I guess you could say this is proof of a terrible ending and a great disappointment. The ending went beyond ambiguous to just plain lacking.

This was a terrible read, and I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!
14 June 2010

Another change

I thought it was time for another change to the format and layout of my blog, hope you like it!

Let me know your thoughts.

Review: At Day's Close - A History of Nighttime by A. Roger Ekirch

At Day's Close - A History of Nighttime by A. Roger Ekirch cover
This is a non-fiction book about nighttime in the period 1500 - 1750. Impeccably researched, Ekirch regularly quotes from poems, diaries, court transcripts, news articles and other records to illustrate his point. Covering Europe and early colonial America, the book is divided into 'themes,' which makes it easy to read about the topics that interest the reader (but of course I read it all).

It would be obvious to most that danger increased after the sun went down as did the number and the nature of crimes which are described in the book. A common term of 'shutting in' described how people in towns and rural areas would shut themselves in their homes at the same time each day, closing shutters, barring doors etc. Superstitions and fears were rife and included witches, demons, faeries, monsters and satan amongst fear of burglary. People even feared the damp night air, which gave birth to the night cap, to keep the damp night air from settling on the head.

Most households would light a rush light, tallow candle, (made from animal fat) or a lantern for light, at least an hour after shut in to save on costs (candles and other methods of producing light were expensive). In fact, it was very common to move furniture back against the wall at night so as to remove obstacles while moving around in the dark.

These fears kept many shut in at night, but social activities and gatherings did occur at night, especially during a full moon or a clear night, where the light from the night sky was at its brightest. Ekirch informs the reader about many of the activities men and women of all backgrounds indulged in at night time.

It is believed that most people went to bed between 9pm and 10pm when all forms of light were extinguished and the fire was raked over. The most interesting revelation in this book is that during this period, sleep patterns were drastically different to today. This fact is relatively unknown today, but hundreds of years ago, people enjoyed two sleeps in one night! Ekirch provided many quotes from plays, diaries etc to support his research and I was quite astonished to say the least. After the 'first sleep', a person would wake up for anywhere up to 2 hours or more. This time was generally used to ponder their dreams and 'visions' and for quiet contemplation and prayer. This is the time most lovemaking took place given that most laborers were too tired when they went to bed. It was also considered to be the best time for conception!

The second sleep then took place, followed by the 'cock crow' (roosters crowing) and dawn. These marked the time of night for most people living during this time. In London and Paris, it was interesting to learn about the 'night watch' whose job it was to patrol the streets, apprehending criminals or thieves, watching for signs of fire (a serious danger in any city or town) as well as calling out the time. They usually called out the time accompanied by a rhyme or catch cry. Ironically, many residents often complained that they were continually woken up by the nightwatch who were on duty primarily to keep people safe from fire and burglary.

With the introduction of artificial light, this sleep pattern slowly dissolved and Ekirch claims that our connection to our dreams (an extremely important practice during these times) has been lost as has our time for peaceful inner reflection.

It was interesting to learn that the Churches across Europe were not in favour of the introduction of artificial light, as they viewed night time the time for prayer and worship.

Did you know that when walking at night in a town or city, it was best to walk as close as you could to the wall, so as not to be showered with the contents of chamber pots being emptied from above? In fact, if two men were walking towards each other, the poorer man would always give the 'gentleman' the wall and walk on the side closest to the street. Walking close to the wall wasn't without it's own perils though, and falling down into cellars and coal shutes was common.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this book, because it was so fascinating and such a great read! Did you know that men used to urinate into the fireplace at night time, if they didn't have a chamber pot? Gross!

I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history and especially an interest in 'night in times past'.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
09 June 2010

Review: A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne

A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne book coverAnother of my favourite authors, Sarah Rayne has a unique style of writing that is evident in every book I've read so far (four in total). I'm drawn to the way in which she always includes an old, menacing, scary building to feature in the centre of each of her novels. The building is always creepy and contains a lot of history, pain and secrets from the past. Terrific concept that always draws me in.

Secondly, her writing style always flicks between the past and the present, and often 3 different periods, as in this book A Dark Dividing. There's always a number of shocking secrets revealed throughout the plot and each book builds to a climax revealing how all of the characters are connected in some way.

I love this formula, however it does make her books instantly familiar on the one hand and a little predictable on the other. I'd love to see her take a risk and write in a different style, but perhaps I'm yet to find and read these books, given she's written 20 in her writing career so far.

Anyway, Dark Dividing followed the format mentioned above and this time was about conjoined twins. The creepy building was Mortmain House, which was suitably scary. Historically it was used as a workhouse for men and women to live who were so poor they would otherwise die of starvation. The work was incredibly gruelling and the conditions horrendous. Children abandoned at birth or born to families to poor to care for them ended up here and suffered terrible treatment.

I don't want to spoil the story about the conjoined twins born 100 years apart and how they're connected, however I thoroughly enjoyed the story line and was gripped by the some of the characters.

I must admit that in previous book reviews, I think I claimed Sarah Rayne was an Australian author, however after recently visiting her website, I found out I've been wrong all this time!! She's from the UK!

In summary, this is another great psychological thriller from a great author.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
05 June 2010

Bookalicio.us is a great blog

This is a great blog, puts mine to shame a little, but there you are. I wanted to support it so here is the link:

Bookalicio.us - YA, Paranormal and Historical Fiction Book Reviews