Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Origin by J.T. Brannan

Deep under the ice caps of the Antarctic, research scientist Lynn Edwards and her colleagues make the discovery of a 40,000 year old body. Lynn and her team are both astounded and excited by their discovery but this is short-lived, as they are swiftly targeted for execution and Lynn just about manages to escape.  

Scientist, now turned fugitive, Lynn seeks out help from her ex-husband Matt Adams; a former government operative with a unique skill set of his own. The reunited couple find themselves on the run from very powerful people, as they try and solve the secret of the body that is valuable enough to warrant not only their deaths, but potentially millions more. 

This is not only a fast paced, action packed adventure; it is also an intelligent exploration of the origins of mankind. So much research has clearly gone into this and is well written into the storyline. Places of note visited in the book include Area 51 in America and the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. There was also The Nazca Lines in Peru which I had personally never heard of until reading this – so maybe you might learn something new in reading this too! Lynn and Matt make a great couple; Lynn the clever and resilient heroine and Matt her loyal and strong hero. I found myself willing them to make it through every hurdle that was put in front of them which I thought helped move the story forwards and made it quite exciting. 

This is a great mix of adventure, conspiracy theory, science fiction with even a bit of religion and mythology thrown in. Origin is a cleverly satisfying read that will set your mind and your pulse racing!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I find myself writing a lot on this blog that I have read a book due to some kind of media or social networking hype. The buzz surrounding this novel was really not one to ignore, coming from all manner of sources. 

Once again I haven’t been disappointed. On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne finds himself the prime suspect in the disappearance of his beautiful wife Amy. Nick persists that he has no involvement, but odd searches on his computer, entries from Amy’s diary and the testimony of others suggest otherwise. Whilst the police conduct their official investigations, Nick does some of his own to try and get to the truth behind his wife Amy.

This is the sort of story that gets you hooked from the start. We see Nick’s side of things first and then the excerpts from Amy’s diary gives the other perspective. The alternation between the couple’s voices and getting the two sides of the same picture adds to the mystery. The change in language marking the differences between the character’s inner thoughts and what they actually say is deeply unsettling. 

The story is thought provoking and I found it to be devious and disturbing making it all the more compelling to read. It is no surprise that there is already a movie in the planning, although it will have to be exceptional to do justice to this brilliant book. Gone Girl is a compulsive thriller and definitely not to be missed. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Devoured by D.E. Meredith

I love a good historical crime novel and I devoured this book in a day (unoriginal but true pun wholly intended – sorry!).

In London, 1856, a wealthy science collector and benefactor is murdered. Professor Adolphus Hatton and his morgue assistant Albert Roumande are called upon to examine the body and the crime scene. Their work of conducting autopsies and using new forensic practices to solve crimes was seen as barbaric and unnatural by many in Victorian society, but through their pioneering techniques, Hatton and Roumande uncover a series of grisly murders linked to some letters that are set to shake up the city. 

The letters take us upon a journey through far flung locations such as the jungles of Borneo, and have significant consequences for members of the scientific community, as well as patrons of religion. Hatton and Roumande, under the watch of seasoned officer Inspector Adams, must follow the evidence to find the prolific letters and the person that is killing for their contents. 

Elegantly gory, this is not only a great story but also supremely interesting in regards to the exploration of early forensics and their role in police investigations. After every glimpse of the missing letters and after every appearance of a new corpse, another piece of the puzzle is formed, leaving you hungry for its conclusion. The characters are clever and a wintry London makes for an atmospheric setting for the grim murders described. Devoured is a compelling thriller for crime, science and history readers alike. 

This is the first in the series of Hatton and Roumande mysteries and I can’t wait to see what gruesome crimes D.E. Meredith has in store for these cleverly written characters. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Killer Heels by Rebecca Chance

A bitchy boss, ambitious underlings and a magazine magnate to rule them all! The players that make up this fabulous story are all larger than life and their antics make for sizzling reading.

Clever Luton girl Coco Raeburn has worked and starved her way into a glittering fashion career taking her from London to Manhattan in record time, but she is now a mere shadow of her former self. Her ruthless boss Victoria Glossop is used to getting her own way in everything, especially when it comes to her career, until an unexpected liaison threatens everything she has worked so insistently for. Then there is King of the Castle, media mogul Jacob Dupleix, who dangerously mixes business with pleasure.

I've never read a Rebecca Chance before but this certainly won’t be my last! She writes so convincingly about the fashion industry and the dog-eat-dog hierarchy of the magazine world. I was also surprised by the scorching sex scenes – much hotter and varied than Fifty Shades! I would think that a lot of comparisons have been made with The Devil Wears Prada, which I have also read. I have to admit that although I like both, I would say Killer Heels is better; being more dramatic and sassy, bitchier and sexier than DWP.

With a brilliant front cover (Killer Heels indeed!); this book is full of lust, sex, and revenge with a host of glamorous and colourful characters that I really wasn't expecting. The story is told from a different perspective chapter by chapter so you are kept in the loop from all sides and I was shocked to see how it all played out in the end. I can’t wait to see what other Rebecca Chance novels have in store.

Some of my own Killer Heels!

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child was yet another book that I’d noticed everybody was raving about. Lots of reviews were posted around Christmas time but I hadn't got a chance to read it until this month when it finally snowed. Check me out coordinating my reads with the weather! 

Ageing couple Jack and Mabel have moved away from their family to make a new life for themselves in the harsh wilds of Alaska. However Jack is struggling with the manual labour for their farm and Mabel is lost in grief for a baby she sadly lost some years ago. Then, after fresh snow falls marking the start of winter, the couple break their monotony and build a snow girl, complete with a scarf and mittens. The next morning the snow girl has disappeared but the couple start to catch glimpses of a little girl running through the forest in the scarf and mittens and find her small footprints in the snow around their secluded house. 

And so begins the start of a magical relationship, as this mysterious girl enters the couple’s lives and changes them forever. The imagery of the Alaskan scenery sounds absolutely stunning but there are also descriptions of animal hunting and farm labour which highlight the hardships of agricultural living in the 1920s against the dramatic backdrop of wintery wilderness. But Jack and Mabel are a hardy pair and I’m not ashamed to admit I got a bit teary-eyed as they forge strong relationships with new friends, with each other and with their wondrous snow child. 

The Snow Child is a great read any time, but a perfect read for winter. This is a bewitching story based on a Russian fairytale that will stay with you long after you have finished. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“The circus arrives without warning.  No announcements precede it... It is simply there when yesterday it was not.”

Under tents of black and white, after the sun has set, The Night Circus invites you to come and explore the selection of shows and wonders it has to offer. After a tantalising first glimpse of the circus, the story starts with the introduction of two children. In New York, 1873, Celia Bowen finds herself packed off to live with her magician father after her mother commits suicide. A year later in London, orphan Marco leaves the orphanage with a mysterious man who has big plans for him. 

Throughout the book we learn how the circus is started and meet the eccentric group behind it. Once the circus is established, it is a huge success around the world, appearing unexpectedly and disappearing again just as mysteriously. We become privy to the lives of some of the performers, details of the unique acts and also visitors’ experiences of the circus. 

The story also travels backwards and forwards in time, detailing the lives of Celia and Marco, and other characters as they all become involved in the circus. The magical circus is highly popular but as we learn more about Celia and Marco’s linked destinies, it seems future events threaten not only the remarkable couple but the entire circus itself. 

Hopefully I haven’t given too much away. I really enjoyed everything about this book. I thought it was hugely imaginative and beautifully written, even when parts of the story get quite dark. I would really recommend this to anyone who likes to lose themselves in a good story, as The Night Circus is truly enchanting. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

After seeing the trailer for the recent film adaptation of this, I decided I would rather read the book first. I was unsure whether or not this was a novel I would like but I was actually pleasantly surprised.

The title character Piscine Molitor Patel, or Pi, is born and raised in India where he lives at the family zoo. The first part of the book is where Pi reminisces about his education, his life at the zoo and his explorations of different religions; all of which are the underpinnings of his character. His life is then changed forever when his father sells their land and moves what is left of the zoo to Canada. Unfortunately, the family does not complete the move, as the Japanese cargo ship carrying them and all of the animals is caught in a storm and capsizes.

Only Pi survives, escaping death in a lifeboat along with a hyena, a zebra, an orang-utan and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Pi lasts 227 days in his lifeboat by utilising the on-board supplies, learning to fish in the open ocean and adapting to live with an adult tiger. Part way through his journey at sea, Pi comes across a strange algae island inhabited by meerkats but soon returns to the ocean when he learns the island’s secret.

After his arduous ordeal at sea, Pi washes up in Mexico, where Japanese officials come to visit him to try and ascertain what happened to the ill-fated cargo ship. Pi tells them his extraordinary story which the officials are dubious to believe. So he tells them a second story of savage human brutality, changing animal characters for human ones. It is still unclear which of the stories is true as there is no tangible proof for either, so it is up to the officials and also the reader to come to their own conclusions. Unexpectedly gruesome in parts this is a wildly unique and imaginative tale. Colourful and philosophical, Life of Pi is a fantastical amalgamation of zoology and religion skilfully encapsulated in a lifeboat. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Elijah's Mermaid by Essie Fox

I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but the engraved turquoise hardback edition of this book is so stunning, I just had to have it. I love mermaid related things anyway, being something of a water baby myself. I knew instinctively that I would like this novel and I really wasn't wrong. 

In gritty Victorian London, a web-toed baby girl, Pearl, is fished out of the Thames and raised in a brothel called House of Mermaids. Meanwhile, two orphaned twins, Elijah and Lily, are enjoying a comfortable childhood in the countryside with their grandfather. As teenagers the twins visit London and encounter Pearl in a chance meeting that will change all their lives forever. Not long after their encounter, naive Pearl learns that she is to be sold by a woman she trusted and loved as a mother. 

The story is told from Pearl and Lily’s perspectives, illustrating the differences between the girls’ upbringings and experiences. I liked Lily’s character best; I found her to be innocent, brave and excitable, and I loved her relationship with Elijah. At the other end of the scale there is the vile Tip Thomas, who is a strange mix of psychopath and dandy and makes for a fabulous villain you’ll love to hate. Each chapter is preceded by a quote which I enjoyed; especially as some were from The Water Baby by Charles Kingsley which was a book I enjoyed as a child. 

This is a dark Gothic fairytale, laced up with Victorian art and literature and the more the sinister aspects of 19th Century life such as brothels and asylums. If you’re already a fan of Essie Fox (her first novel The Somnambulist is already on my to-be-read list!) or you love Victoriana in general, check out her blog. Elijah’s mermaid is dark and decadent and truly a delight to read.