30 June 2011

Review: House of the Lost by Sarah Rayne

House of the Lost by Sarah Rayne book coverAuthor Sarah Rayne features regularly on my reading list, so you could rightly say I'm a fan. I've read 4 of her novels so far, and I've been looking forward to reading House of the Lost since its publication last year.

In past reviews, I've commented on Rayne's repeated use of an old, derelict, and menacing building - which contains secrets from the past - to form the focus of each of her novels. This plot style always makes for a great read, and in my review of A Dark Dividing, I made the following comment: "I love this formula, however it does make her books instantly familiar on the one hand and a little predictable on the other".

Well, this time the author blew me away! She swept aside her old plot style and developed a complex narrative, weaving together a mystery that was a delight to unravel. There were many threads, some taking me to very dark places, much darker than any of her other books I've read (The Death Chamber, Tower of Silence, Spider Light and A Dark Dividing).

Rayne was able to plunge deep into the psyche of several characters and reveal their many layers. We also see how both human suffering and love drives and shapes characters throughout the course of their lives.

I always know Rayne is going to bring all the threads together in the end, and I enjoyed watching how each of the stories began to intersect and I certainly wasn't disappointed. (On a lighter note, there was one point in the book that I was reminded of Flowers in the Attic, and flooded with pleasant reading memories).

I must say, House of the Lost is less of the horror/thriller that initially attracted me to the author, and more mystery/drama. Having said that, Rayne seems more serious about her writing, and I'm looking forward to reading her next book, What Lies Beneath.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
22 June 2011

Review: The Economics of Ego Surplus, A Novel of Economic Terrorism by Paul McDonnold

The Economics of Ego Surplus, A Novel of Economic Terrorism by Paul McDonnold book cover* From author for review *

This novel is about terrorism, but not the bloody terrorism we've come to know in the last 10 years or so. This time the terrorists are in suits and execute their attack from a conference room; this time they're not going to kill people, they're going to bring down an entire economy.

The US is the target, and Kyle Linwood is the main character - an economics lecturer at University recruited by the FBI to provide insight on a case. Kyle had a lucky escape 6 years ago in North Africa as a journo, and the FBI bring him on as a consultant. (Let me state here that the author doesn't place the entire success or failure of the case on Kyle's shoulders, which happens too often in action novels for my taste).

The threat to the US stock market and financial markets was frighteningly realistic and definitely got me thinking. I wonder if the US is prepared for an attack of this magnitude and what - if anything - they could do to prevent an attack of this nature from taking place. The flow on effect was convincingly real too. Interesting food for thought and I hope it never happens.

At some point reading the novel, I couldn't help but give some thought to the title. We all know the old adage 'don't judge a book by it's cover' but I'm often guilty of this one. Looking at the cover and title of this book, I must admit it looks like an economic text book to me rather than a thriller novel. I remembered the book covers of Black Market and Black Friday, both early financial thrillers by James Patterson, and a small part of me wished this novel had a different title or cover. Something to convey to the reader the suspense and action that it contains.

I loved the short, easy to read chapters and the information cleverly weaved into the narrative. Definitely a stand out feature of this novel for me. I realised I was learning about economics along the way, but in a method that was seamless and very easy to digest. (You don't need to have any previous knowledge of economics to enjoy this book). Reading the novel, I also learned more about the United Arab Emirates, the history of Dubai (which I found very interesting), and of course a little about Dallas too, Kyle's hometown.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic action thriller for the thinker who would like to take a look at what economic terrorism could do to the global economy.

(Click here for my interview with author Paul McDonnold published on 4 August 2011).

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
17 June 2011

Review: Cross Fire by James Patterson

Cross Fire by James Patterson book coverI've been following the Alex Cross series by James Patterson for years now, although I certainly wouldn't call myself a die hard fan. Readers who follow this crime series will know that Kyle Craig was a mentor to Alex until he became his ultimate enemy and was eventually captured and incarcerated. Kyle is always referred to in the series but returns in Cross Fire in a very big way.

Instead of being exciting, I found Cross Fire to be a real let down. I knew from the beginning that Kyle Craig wasn't going to get his man, Alex Cross, in the same way that when you're watching a James Bond movie, you know he's not going to come to any serious harm.

There were also a few cringe-worthy attempts at sexy scenes and one just made me put the book down so I could roll my eyes right back into my skull and groan out loud in disgust! Let me set the scene for you: Alex takes his love interest to a swanky hotel suite, they are in the huge jacuzzi /spa together, drinking champagne. He gets out and makes a faux bear skin rug out of the thick hotel room towels on the bathroom floor and lays her down on them and they make love there for hours. I mean, c'mon!!!! If you you're staying in a luxurious hotel suite, you're not going to pile the towels up on the bathroom floor to make love!!! Ugh! And for hours??? Who is he trying to kid here?

The only saving grace in this book is that this time he allocates enough security detail for his family - in my opinion - and there was one part of the sub-plot that did not follow the predictable path I had been expecting. I think Patterson still has it as an author, but I think he's trying (or has been forced) to spread himself to thinly over too many books and his writing is suffering as a result. That's just my humble opinion, what do you think?

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!
14 June 2011

Review: Walking in Light by Kelvin Cruickshank

For those that don't know, Kelvin Cruickshank is a psychic medium from the TV show Sensing Murder hosted by Rebecca Gibney. Born and raised in New Zealand, Walking In Light is his first book and it was a quick and easy read.

In the beginning, Kelvin takes us back to his childhood and I was surprised to read about the Maori influences in his upbringing. His gift frightened him as a child and it was interesting to find out he is a chef by trade and did this for many years, changing jobs quite often.

I was shocked to read about the negative influence of a particular person in Kelvin's life, although I'm glad he included this in his autobiography. It was clearly an important turning point in his life, contributing to his family breakdown and I admire his decision to include it.

I love watching Sensing Murder and I enjoyed learning more about Kelvin and his past, although this book isn't for everyone. His second book, Bridging the Gap was published in April 2011, and I'd definitely like to read it in the future.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
10 June 2011

Review: Just My Type, A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield

Just My Type, A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield book cover
This non-fiction delight is for all the nerds, stationery lovers, trivia fiends and those who just love absorbing minutiae.

Just as the title declares, Just My Type is a book all about fonts. Author Simon Garfield has successfully made the world of fonts and typefaces quite fascinating and I've begun looking at font in all mediums of print and advertising in an entirely new light; and of course trying to identify the different types.

The book briefly explains the printing press, the technology of carving individual letters from different materials and the advances in technology since then. I found it fascinating to read about the creation of particular fonts, and learning some fonts took years to complete was a real eye-opener.

Garfield also explains why some fonts are difficult to read, how some fonts rose to fame, which fonts are currently dominating the world of print and why.

When Garfield described the differences in the letter 'g' or the humble '&' in different fonts, I was engrossed. There were also plenty of snippets of trivia to maintain interest. If you're the sort of person who enjoyed the 2007 documentary entitled Helvetica, then Just My Type: A Book About Fonts is definitely the book for you!

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. After sending an email to the author telling him how much I enjoyed his book, he responded with the following:

Thanks a lot Tracey - that's very kind.
Best wishes,

Great stuff!
06 June 2011

Review: What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz book coverIn his latest novel, Dean Koontz has infused his signature ghostly touch with elements of the crime genre to create What the Night Knows.

John Calvino is a Detective with three children living in a luxurious house courtesy of his wife's successful art career. When a murderer leaves specific items on each of the bodies after killing an entire family, John tries to butt in on the case. The case is remarkably similar to the slaying of his own family members when he was just a teenager. The more he investigates, the more John begins to fear for the safety of his family, and rightly so.

My favourite parts of the thriller were the chapters following the three children and their reactions to the first signs something weird was going on in the house.

Those who enjoy a thriller with a supernatural element will enjoy What the Night Knows. I always enjoy reading books by this author and can't hide the fact that I'm a fan of his writing and the thrill and shiver they often give me.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!