29 November 2010

Review: The Library of Shadows - Mikkel Birkegaard

The Library of Shadows was written by Mikkel Birkegaard and translated from Danish into English by Tiina Nunnally.

The author has conceptualized people who have the ability to influence your thoughts and feelings through reading. This concept is highly original as far as I'm aware and I was gripped by the idea immediately.

Set in Copenhagen, Luca Campelli is the owner of an antiquarian bookshop containing many old and rare texts as well as new releases. He and his son Jon have been estranged for many years, until Luca's sudden and unexpected death interrupts Jon's career as a highly successful lawyer. After his funeral, Jon finds himself inheriting the bookshop and becoming curious about the secrets his Father kept from him.

Jon soon learns about the secret society of gifted bibliophiles who possess powers as either transmitters or receivers. This subtle supernatural theme continues throughout the novel, as Birkegaard attributes these society members with the ability to influence, manipulate and brainwash people with their powers.

This is an exciting read and you'll find mystery, intrigue, action and danger along the way. I feel compelled to add that the translation contains several flaws which disrupted the natural pace of the novel. The romance between Jon and a supporting character was ridiculous, and the seduction scene in the shower was laughable and completely unrealistic - making me shout "as if" out loud while I was reading.

However; connections in the book to the great Library in Alexandria were absolutely tantalising and I thoroughly enjoyed these snippets. All in all, The Library of Shadows is a book with a great deal of promise, however in my opinion it failed to live up to its potential.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
21 November 2010

Review: Angel Time by Anne Rice

Angel Time was written by one of my all-time favourite authors Anne Rice. Published in October 2009; a copy found its way under the Christmas tree last year thanks to a thoughtful relative. Since then I've been admiring it on my bookshelf and trying to prolong the gratification for as long as I can.

However; with the release of the second book in this new series, I thought I had waited long enough and plunged into this long awaited novel with high hopes and expectation.

The book opens with the character of Toby, a hired assassin who has a painful past. The reader is given a glimpse into this past, and we are shown how Toby reached the point of becoming a killer for hire. One night - after another assassination by needle - Toby is approached by an Angel named Malchiah, and given a chance to redeem himself and leave evil behind for good. Toby agrees to help Malchiah in his duties on earth, and is taken by Angel Time to 13th Century England where he must protect the lives of two Jewish people under threat from an angry mob.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it met all of my expectations. The book contains her much loved themes of love, hate, good and evil, as well as faith, religion and God. Having read Anne Rice's book Called out of Darkness - A Spiritual Confession, I can see the themes of faith and religion echoed quite closely in the character Toby. She has obviously drawn on her own experiences and life journey when plotting the series.

The series is called The Songs of the Seraphim, and the next book is called Of Love and Evil, and continues with Toby and Malchiah as they head to Rome for his next 'assignment'. Fortunately I've just purchased this one, and it's waiting expectantly on my bookshelf just waiting to be seized.

I thoroughly enjoyed it!

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
19 November 2010

Review: Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris book cover
Grave Sight is the first book in the Harper Connelly series written by Charlaine Harris. I picked this up for a bit of fun, and a so-called 'trashy' read and it didn't disappoint. Main character Harper has the ability to find dead bodies, as well as being able to determine how they died. I thought this concept was interesting enough to pursue for a light read.

The book had a very promising start with Harper and her brother taking on paying jobs for clients who need her services. However; the entire novel focussed on one job for a client situated in a smallish USA town (albeit with multiple bodies), and contained too much romance for my liking.

I would have enjoyed Grave Sight so much more if I was able to follow Harper working for many different clients over a greater period of time. It certainly would have provided more scope for the author and more variety for the reader. Having said that, it was an entertaining read and is probably best suited for Young Adult readers.

My rating = **1/2

Carpe Librum!
15 November 2010

Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay book coverThis is Jeff Lindsay's first book introducing the serial killer Dexter - a blood spatter expert who only kills those who fit 'the code' taught to him by Harry, his adoptive father.

As we know, the books have been made into the well known US TV series called Dexter and I've enjoyed watching all the seasons to date. So, when I decided to read the first book, I wasn't sure what to expect.

It was quite a shock to find that series one of the TV show follows the book so closely. On several occasions I found myself chuckling while reading the character descriptions of Deb, Doakes and Masuka. They're exactly like that on the big screen! In fact, this is the closest book-to-screen adaptation I can think of. So much so, that it became a little predictable in parts, so I was in for a swift shock at the end of the book when one of the key characters dies in an ending that couldn't be further from the TV show.

All in all, I enjoyed reading Darkly Dreaming Dexter and I can safely say that Michael C. Hall has been cast exceptionally well, playing the role of Dexter on the show. I could really hear his voice in the book, and it easily carried me along. I have the next two to read in the series, however, they're going to have to wait a while - I have 45 books on my TBR (to be read) pile at the moment. Unfortunately, this wasn't good enough for the next two to jump to the top of the pile, but I'll enjoy coming back to Jeff Lindsay's characters when I can.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
12 November 2010

Review: The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

This is a unique piece of non-fiction and claims to be 'A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century' and that's exactly what it is. With chapters on: the people, what to wear, what to eat and drink, health and hygiene, where to stay, what to do and more it's a comprehensive guide to the times. The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England was illuminating, fascinating, shocking and at times even funny.

I'd like to share with you the medicinal remedy for quinsy, which is an abscess in the throat developed after untreated tonsillitis:
Take a fat cat, flay it well, and draw out the guts. Take the grease of a hedgehog, the fat of a bear, resins, fenugreek, sage, honeysuckle gum and virgin wax, and crumble this and stuff the cat with it. Then roast the cat and gather the dripping, and anoint the sufferer with it.
Such a shocking remedy, it's hard to believe how they thought this could possible heal the patient. It was interesting to learn that the milling process to create flour often left small pieces of the mill stone behind which would be baked into the loaves of bread. These small pieces of gravel and stone dust naturally took their toll on the teeth of the people consuming the bread.

I didn't realise that the clothing people were permitted to wear was strictly regulated according to their annual income and land holding. For example:
Yeomen and their families weren't able to wear jewels, gold, silver, embroidery, enamelware or silk; no fur except lamb, rabbit, cat or fox; and women were not permitted to wear a silk veil.
It was also quite interesting to read about how the simple button would come to transform the clothes of this era enabling a movement away from the tunic that had to be placed over one's head to what we now know as a jacket or coat.

The author had me laughing at several points and in particular his description of a brook 400 yards from the city gate:
Along the banks you see piles of refuse, broken crockery, animal bones, entrails, human faeces, and rotting meat strewn in and around the bushes. A small brown pig roots around on the garbage. It is not called Shitbrook for nothing.
An extremely entertaining and informative read, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about what life was like 600 years ago.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
10 November 2010

Review: Red Queen by H. M. Brown

Red Queen by H. M. Brown book coverRed Queen is the debut novel for this author - a woman living in country Victoria. Her novel begins with two brothers living in isolation in a self contained cabin in the Australian bush. Their survival depends on their isolation from the populace as a deadly virus is killing people in cities and towns and is highly contagious. But don't worry, the book isn't about the virus, it solely focusses on the the two boys, Shannon and Rohan.

The brothers have been living together for so long the dynamic between them is fascinating but also claustrophobically close. They have developed a designated routine for gathering food, 'keeping watch' and even sleeping. However; when a lone woman tries to seek shelter with them in their cabin, their whole world is threatened and loyalties are put to the test.

The book was an interesting foray into the power play between the brothers and this was the aspect I enjoyed the most, especially close to the end. Red Queen is a gripping psychological thriller and a very quick read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have been recommending it widely, especially given it was written by an Australian author.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!