Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 30 March 2015

Station Eleven - Emily St John Mandel


Synopsis



DAY ONE
The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.
News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.

WEEK TWO
Civilization has crumbled.

YEAR TWENTY
A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.
But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan - warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'.
Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything - even the end of the world. 





Review

'We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all.'


What an amazing read. 

I absolutely loved this novel, it is incredibly thought-provoking, shocking, sad, yet also strangely uplifting at times. It's clever, inventive, impressive, at times chilling and haunting, at times heartwarming, and quite unlike anything I think I have ever read before really. I think I was unsure whether it would be a book for me, and I'm so glad I started reading it because I would have missed out on such a captivating, important book if I hadn't. 

The narrative is so beautifully knitted together over the course of the book. I was absorbed by this story, it deserves all the praise and plaudits it has received. 

I loved each of the characters - I think my favourites were Jeevan, Kirsten and Clark though - and I just loved how the author brought their stories together. Her evident storytelling skills and marvellous imagination bring us a frighteningly vivid and conceivable scenario for our planet's future, her understanding of the best and worst of human behaviour gives us an insight into a strange, unfamiliar version of our world, yet with common bonds of friendship and love, appreciation of music and theatre - most of all Shakespeare, cleverly woven into the story - , families and beauty, living on. 

By sharing these catastrophic times with the reader through poignant details of several individuals' lives, we can identify with them, and the momentous changes are almost given more impact through the small yet devastating details we learn (I hope that makes sense). So when I read 'Jeevan was standing by the window when the lights went out. There was a stupid moment or two when he stood near the front door, flipping the light switches. On/off, on/off', I knew that this small thing, an action we all do so many times per day, was actually huge, life-changing, now, because that was the last time, because the power was gone, full stop. 

It’s an extremely memorable book. The characters and some of the circumstances are still vividly in my mind now and it feels like they'll be there for some time to come. For me it was a page-turner yet I did actually sometimes put it down because I wanted to savour it, and to save some of it a bit longer; I didn't want the experience of reading it to be over too quickly.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the book even when I wasn't reading it though; I was either thinking about the situations one or the other of the characters were in, or thinking about how I might feel if I actually was one of them. I don't want to say much about what happens or how things change because you need to discover that as you read, but I was particularly fascinated by the airport and life there after the pandemic, as well as life on the road for the Travelling Symphony, and for Jeevan. 

It's beyond hard to comprehend the level of devastation that has occurred in the world of this story, to image a life continuing without so very many of the people and things that we treasure. 

It really made me think about our lives and our world, it made me appreciate a lot of things in the world anew - definitely a good thing - and it beautifully highlights what is most important to humanity. 

I don't think I can get anywhere near doing it justice, please do try it though and don't be put off by the 'dystopian' tag - I am not a reader of post-apocalyptic fiction, or anything particularly futuristic, but I thought this was amazingly good. If this review comes off as overly enthusiastic it's because that's how I feel about this book. 

I love the cover design too. It was really hard to know what to read next after this book because it was superlative in so many ways, everything else seemed not quite right for a while afterwards.

Just a superb, brilliant book and one of my absolute favourite reads this year so far. 

~~~~~


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

My 4th Blogiversary & Giveaway

The blog has been going for four years now which seems amazing to me. Thank you to everyone who has visited and been part of it over that time. 

I'm holding a giveaway to celebrate!




The prize is a brand new copy of Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer, bought by myself. 
(You can read my review of this book here.)The giveaway is open until Thursday 2nd April 2015. 
The giveaway is open internationally.
Please enter using the rafflecopter form below.
The winner will be chosen at random and contacted - if I don't hear from them within 48 hours another winner may be chosen at random. 
Good luck and thanks very much for visiting.

~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 23 March 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?




It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. 

I finished reading Station Eleven  and I have to say I thought it was utterly brilliant and incredibly thought provoking. I really have been thinking about it a lot of the time when I was out walking the dog etc. It's definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far, and it surprised me because I wouldn't have expected to necessarily enjoy 'this kind of book' if that makes sense!  


I'm just started reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, another one from my tbr pile. I enjoyed The Cuckoo's Calling a lot, and this second book in the series feature private investigator Cormoran Strike has gotten off to an intriguing start too. 


I'm also currently dipping in and out of reading Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie on my kindle; this one is the third in the series I believe and it is short stories rather than a whole novel.


~~~~~

What are you reading this week? 

As always, I hope you have a great week of wonderful reading, and thank you for visiting.

~~~~~

Friday, 20 March 2015

Disclaimer - Renee Knight


Synopsis

Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day she became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day . . . even if the shocking truth might destroy her.


Review

‘Catherine had unwittingly stumbled across herself tucked into the pages of the book.’

Disclaimer is a really compelling debut novel from Renee Knight. The narrative has a clever structure and the premise of the story is a real cracker – starting to read a novel and discovering the story is about you, hence the title ‘disclaimer’ – in the novel Catherine Ravenscroft picks up, The Perfect Stranger, there is a line crossing the usual disclaimer out, because although it appears to be fiction, in fact it very much does resemble ‘actual persons’ and events. Not only is the story all about an episode in Catherine’s past, with accurate details, but it also reveals a deep, dark and painful secret that she believed she had successfully buried long ago, kept from everyone including her husband and son, never to be uncovered. The other main character we are introduced to is widower and former teacher Stephen Brigstocke, and chapters alternate between his story in the first-person, and Catherine’s in the third. I was intrigued to see how their lives, and initially seemingly unconnected worlds, would intersect as the novel progressed.

With a page-turning, tense plot, boasting twists and revelations as secrets and lies come to light bit by bit, the past comes back to haunt Catherine and as a reader it was a book I kept wanting to get back to, wondering where the story would take me next. The author does a great job of keeping the reader guessing and wondering about the true nature of what occurred in the past, challenging our assumptions and maintaining suspense, depicting her characters in such a way as to make us unsure as to where our true sympathies should lie. 

The story is thought-provoking, questioning the wisdom of the secrets people keep, and the novel deals with loneliness, love, intimidation, obsession and revenge, violence and trust – I won’t say more because the story must be discovered without spoilers. I would have liked perhaps a bit more detail about Robert, Catherine’s husband, to flesh him out a little more clearly. Overall though I thought this was a gripping story. Sometimes psychological thrillers such as this are very strong plot-wise for part of the book but then waver or tail off; for me, in this one the storyline stayed strong until the end. 

Review copy received via amazon vine
~

Monday, 16 March 2015

My book blog is in Newbooks Magazine!


I've really looked forward to the moment each time a new edition of Newbooks Magazine  - for readers and reading groups - arrives in the post over the past few years since I have been subscribing to it, and I have had the chance to read and review some lovely books for them too, as well as attend a brilliant 'Readers Day' that they put on. 

If you haven't given it a read as yet, I'd definitely recommend it, it's a great way to find out about new books, I've discovered quite a few debut authors over the years through reading about them in the magazine, and there's also lots of book reviews and other bookish articles of interest, as well as some extracts from new books. It has a compact new look and the presentation looks better than ever too. I love having a magazine all about books! Last year, Newbooks teamed up with nudge books which offers a great selection of online content about books, including reviews and news. This has enabled Newbooks to continue offering their lovely paper magazine in tandem with all the online content on the nudge website  Do have a look at both if you can! 

Warning: beware the inevitable numerous additions to the to be read pile though....!

So, it was an honour for me when I was invited to feature in the magazine, spotlighting this very blog The Little Reader Library

The new issue nb84 Spring 2015 is just out and I was really excited and proud and happy  and nervous to be featured. 

Thank you very much to Guy Pringle at newbooks for the opportunity and thank you to Claire King for permission to feature parts of an interview with her. 

Josie at the lovely JaffaReadsToo book blog was featured in the previous issue, do check out her blog too. 


It's Monday! What Are You Reading?




It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. 

Last week I read a graphic novel, Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, and I finished reading How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. That's two more off my tbr pile as part of the challenge I'm doing this month.

I'm currently reading The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty, and Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, both from my tbr pile too. I loved the other Liane Moriarty novel that I read, The Husband's Secret, and I am three quarters of the way through this one and finding it an enjoyable and intriguing easy read. I feel like Station Eleven is a book just about everyone else has read, and I am glad to finally be reading it and discovering what it's all about. I am a third of the way through and enjoying the development of the story. I thought the beginning was very good too.




On the blog, I posted a review of Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. 
Thank you to everyone who commented on this post or read it. 


We had a lovely day in the New Forest at the weekend, it was still a bit cool but bright and clear and dry and it feels like Spring is breaking through. Then we discovered a new walk not far from where we live on Sunday, and Daisy made some new four-legged friends. 

I also received the latest copy of Newbooks Magazine in the post, and it was an honour to see my blog featured in there. I've written a post about it here.

~~~~~

What are you reading? 

I hope you have a great week of wonderful reading, and thank you for visiting.

~~~~~

Friday, 13 March 2015

Stranger Child - Rachel Abbott - Guest Post

I'm very pleased to welcome author Rachel Abbott to the blog today! 

Rachel is the author of four novels, her new book is called Stranger Child, and she is here to tell us about the kind of research that goes into her writing. 

I've read and reviewed two of Rachel's novels so far, Only the Innocent and The Back Road, and enjoyed them both very much (click the titles to read my reviews).


A thrilling line of research
by Rachel Abbott


One of the aspects of writing that I have always thoroughly enjoyed is the research. My husband has said frequently that a police raid must be imminent as I scour the Internet to discover methods of killing people, and learn about money laundering, drug distribution and people trafficking. Fortunately I can prove – through my books – that it really has all been in the line of research.

I don’t know how writers managed before the Internet came along. I know there is much you can do in libraries, but when you are researching a thriller it’s hard to know where in any respectable library you might find out how to manufacture liquid nicotine, and where best to inject it to cause death.

When I sit down with an idea for a book, I usually start with a ‘what if?’ question. ‘What if a woman had no choice but to murder a man?’; ‘What if a man is so obsessed with his wife that he has to…’ (I’m not going to finish that sentence – it gives the game away in one of my books.)

From that initial question, I start to develop the plot. What has happened to these people to bring them to where they are now? As the ideas develop, I start to build character profiles and a timeline of events.

Even these first steps, which I believe are crucial to forming a picture in readers’ minds, require research. When I develop a character profile, I have an idea of what a character might look like. But that’s not enough. I want an actual picture so I don’t lose sight of them. I scour web images, looking for anybody – a star, a model or just somebody’s mum – that fits the bill. That image is pasted into the character profile, and I find other items to add to their portfolio – where they live, what clothes they wear, what they like to drink, and so on.

The timeline creates its own research list. In Stranger Child, Tom – the main detective in all my books – is reminiscing about his youth with older brother, Jack. I check the timeline to confirm when they were both born. What music would they have been listening to in their teens? I trawl through the charts for that year, and decide which brother would have liked which tracks.

All of this is valuable research, but for Stranger Child I had to go one step further – although I actually bottled it when it came to one part of the investigation. But I’ll come to that shortly.
In Stranger Child one character has to go into a safe deposit vault buried deep under the streets of Manchester in the middle of the night – with no light other than a head torch. For me, this would be a terrifying experience, but to make it as realistic as possible I needed to know how it might feel. So I phoned up a company (they wish to remain anonymous) and asked if I could have a tour.

Of course, I went during the day when the lights were on and it was full of people. But I stood in the centre of the room and tried to imagine I was there on my own, and it was pitch black. As it’s underground, there would be no ambient light, and the sounds from outside would be muffled.

There’s a viewing room where people take their boxes to add or remove items, and I imagined how it would feel to know that somebody might be hiding in there, waiting for me. I had to make others feel how I knew I would have felt, with an authenticity that couldn’t have been achieved without a site visit.

And now for the bit where I have to admit to being a wimp! Stranger Child references the Dark Web. For those who may not know much about the Dark Web it’s part of the Deep Web (an area of the internet that cannot be found through search engines). There are several reasons why websites and other content might legitimately not want to be accessed via search engines, but the Dark Web is the part of the Deep Web associated with the buying and selling of anything from guns and drugs to credit card details. Some use the terms Deep and Dark interchangeably, but my research suggests that there is a subtle difference. Neither, though, is readily accessible.

This was a vital part of my story, so I researched how to penetrate the Dark Web. It must be possible, or there would be no market for the illegal goods sold there! And I managed it. I actually know how to get into the Dark Web. But the truth is, I didn’t have the guts to try it.

Given the amount of attention being given to cyber crime by Europol and other agencies, for the first time since I started writing I was actually afraid of completing my research by visiting any of the sites. What if I stumbled across some seriously illegal activities? What if, entirely by mistake, I bought a gun, or found I had inadvertently bought a stack of bitcoin?

So unlike my quest for creating the realism of the vault, I relied on the fact that I knew a lot about the dark web without, thankfully, ever having visited it. And I assumed most of my readers would know no more than me.

Research for Stranger Child was fascinating, but with each book, I seem to have to delve deeper into dark worlds. So if you hear I’ve been arrested, it was all in the interests of authentic research.


About 'Stranger Child'


One Dark Secret. One act of revenge. 

When Emma Joseph met her husband David, he was a man shattered by grief. His first wife had been killed outright when her car veered off the road. Just as tragically, their six-year-old daughter mysteriously vanished from the scene of the accident. 

Now, six years later, Emma believes the painful years are behind them. She and David have built a new life together and have a beautiful baby son, Ollie. 
Then a stranger walks into their lives, and their world tilts on its axis. 
Emma’s life no longer feels secure. Does she know what really happened all those years ago? And why does she feel so frightened for herself and for her baby? 

When a desperate Emma reaches out to her old friend DCI Tom Douglas for help, she puts all their lives in jeopardy. Before long, a web of deceit is revealed that shocks both Emma and Tom to the core. 



They say you should never trust a stranger. Maybe they’re right. 



About Rachel


Rachel Abbott was born just outside Manchester, England. She spent most of her working life as the Managing Director of an interactive media company, developing software and websites for the education market. The sale of that business enabled her to take early retirement and fulfil one of her lifelong ambitions - to buy and restore a property in Italy. 

But even in Italy the winters can be cold and wet, and so Rachel decided to fill those dismal days by fulfilling another ambition - writing a psychological thriller! ONLY THE INNOCENT, her first novel, was more successful than she could ever have imagined, and it enabled her to change her life yet again, and become a full time writer. Her third novel, SLEEP TIGHT, was released on 24th February 2014 and was her third number one. Stranger Child, Rachel's latest book, was released on 24th February 2015.



Links

Web :         rachel-abbott.com
Blog:          rachelabbottwriter.com 
Twitter:     @Rachel__Abbott