Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.” 

When we first meet Oliver, he has just assaulted his wife. It starts with one hit. Then he attacks her so badly she may never recover. 

Following this terrible act, we read accounts from people close to Oliver who are shocked by his behaviour and, from the different perspectives, including Oliver’s own narrative; we piece together the life and times of Oliver Ryan. 

We learn about his childhood, his “gap year” of sorts as a young man, his relationships and his marriage, and his career as a famous children’s author. I loved the alternation between Oliver’s monologues and his acquaintances. 

The differences in characters and all the different perspectives was incredibly interesting. The accounts are not told in chronological order, but the story as a whole is very easy to follow. 

Written by an Irish author, the story itself is mostly set in Ireland, and I enjoyed how much the setting comes across in the way the characters speak and the style of writing. It explores many strong themes; marriage, infidelity, domestic abuse to name but a few, and are well delivered in this absorbing story. 

This novel put me in mind of a darker version of This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. If you agree or disagree with that statement I would love to know your thoughts! 

I didn't like the character of Oliver, even after uncovering the reasoning behind his behaviour, although I guess you’re not really supposed to. His story, which stretches from Ireland, to France, to even further afield, is definitely worth a read. 

Full of psychological suspense, Unravelling Oliver is a fascinating novel that reveals layers upon layers of secrets and lies that unravels as the story progresses and keeps you engaged throughout. I thought that Unravelling Oliver is an insightful accomplishment and is my favourite Irish read of the year so far. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Stalk Me by Richard Parker

After reading crime thriller Scare Me by Richard Parker last year, I was stoked to get the chance to read new book Stalk Me before wide release. 

Stalk Me begins with a car crash in France. Married couple Luc and Beth are involved in a terrible collision and Beth wakes up amidst the chaos to find a party of school students filming their ordeal. She tries to attack them before falling into a coma. 

When she regains consciousness and learns of the tragedy that has befallen her, she is also shocked to learn that the students’ footage has gone viral and she is the talk of the internet. 

There seems to be no trace of the driver that they collided with, and Beth uses the internet clips to try and piece together what happens. But as she starts her investigations, someone else is also interested in the clips, and is brutally murdering those that uploaded the material.

Beth is drawn into a web of secrets and cover-ups where she uncovers not only the truth of the accident, but things about her life that she never knew. Her mission takes her back to the crash site, home to England and even to America, where a fight for answers soon becomes a fight for her life. 

I always like how Richard Parker tells the story from the main character’s view, but also from the killer’s. The difference in perspective makes it more exciting and interesting to read. The murders are always brutal and different which is a great feature for a crime novel. 

Beth is a solid, realistic lead; she is strong but real, she makes mistakes and is sometimes lead by her heart rather than her head. I also liked how the action takes place in several locations which makes it more compelling and gives more dimensions to the story. 

This didn't hook me in as quickly as Scare Me did (Scare Me really did blow me away in the crime thriller stakes) but by the second half of the story, as all the bits started coming together, I couldn't wait to see how it all wrapped up. 

This is an action packed, cleverly exciting story that will twist and turn its way to the end. Crime fiction readers definitely need to add Richard Parker to their reading lists if they haven’t already. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

There are many fantastical creatures in mythology and folklore but I think that the dragon is one of the most well known and well used beast as a focus in literature.

In this story, Marie Brennan creates a world in which dragons are very real, and a symbol of scientific and popular interest as any exotic animal would be today.

A Natural History of Dragons is told from the point of view of Lady Isabella Trent, who as a young girl had an avid interest in science and the study of living creatures, with her first love being dragons. Despite pressure for her family to conform to feminine ideals, she follows her passions and embarks on her first expedition to study dragons in their natural habitat. 

As well as narrating her findings and theories about the dragon species, she also tells her own personal story; her childhood, her family, her husband and the start of her travels that would both kick start her career and also change her life forever. 

Isabella’s narrative is easy to read and her character is full of spirit and intelligence that makes you really care about her journey. The references to dragons with the scientific slant made for fascinating reading, and there are some illustrations included as well so it reads like a real memoir. It makes you really want to believe in the existence of dragons. 

The time period suggests an age similar to the Victorian era. I liked that she defied the conventions of her time to follow her dreams; a veritable female role model with an interesting life story to tell. All the characters well written and the landscape and action were eloquently described. 

Award winning author Marie Brennan has a background in archaeology, anthropology and folklore, and this really shows in her writing. The front cover is genius and along with the illustrations inside, compliments to the story perfectly. A must read for dragon fans and definitely one to try for readers of fantasy.