Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

Published December 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows, a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

What did I think?:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years or so, you cannot have failed to witness the phenomenon that was Gillian Flynn’s third novel, Gone Girl. When I read it, I was completely blown away, particularly with all the intricate twists and turns that made the narrative so blinking exciting to read. I finished it determined to explore the rest of the author’s back catalogue, to satisfy my impatience in waiting for her to write something else, like RIGHT NOW. Sharp Objects was actually her debut novel and I thought, a great place to start. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed. It didn’t have the “ka-pow” of Gone Girl unfortunately (perhaps I had unrealistic expectations anyway) but it was still a rollicking good read and incredibly dark, definitely not one for those of you sensitive and triggered by certain issues i.e. self harm.

Most of the characters in this novel are disturbed, damaged or broken in some way, shape or form including our main female protagonist, Camille Preaker who returns to her home town as a reporter investigating the murder of two young girls. However, in attempting to unravel the mystery surrounding the tragic deaths, she becomes embroiled in confronting her own demons. This includes trying to repair a fragile relationship with a distant mother and endeavouring to forge some kind of connection with her thirteen year old half sister, Amma. Camille finds out very quickly that her past trials and tribulations are still very much a part of her present and that the toughest and most frightening test of her life may be still to come.

This is another one of those novels that you really can’t say too much about the plot for fear of ruining everything so I’m going to stop there. I will just say that even though I was familiar with Gillian Flynn’s style of story-telling, I was still woefully unprepared for the twisty darkness that lies within this novel. Every single character here has a murky past, is troubled in some way and a lot of the times, is entirely unreliable. Yet this is what made it such a fascinating read, even if I had to muffle exclamations of horror at some points! Personally, I particularly love to hate an unlikeable character and there are plenty of them in this novel to shake your head at, get frustrated and perhaps in some cases, feel a little frightened of. Even Camille herself is far from perfect and had me screaming at her internally quite a few times with the decisions that she made. No, it’s not Gone Girl, that’s true so if you’re expecting that you might be a bit disappointed. However, if you’re in the mood for something deliciously sinister and raw, this should be right up your street.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Advertisements

Dreamwalker (The Ballad Of Sir Benfo #1) – James Oswald

Published December 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The dragons of Glwad are dying. Persecuted for over two millennia, they’re a shrunken echo of the proud creatures they once were. And yet in new life springs hope: Benfro, son of Morgwm the Green, the first male kitling in a thousand years. Long ago dragons wrought a terrible wrong to the land, and now is the time for redemption.

Every young boy in the Twin Kingdoms dreams of being chosen for one of the great orders, and Errol Ramsbottom is no different. He longs to be a Warrior Priest of the High Ffrydd, riding to glorious victory in battle. But you should be careful what you wish for; it might just come to pass.

For almost a century there has been an uneasy truce between the Twin Kingdoms and the godless Llanwennogs to the north, but as King Diseverin descends ever further into drunken madness, his ruthless daughter Beulah takes up the reins of power. A time of war looks set to descend upon Gwlad, and it will surely draw everyone, man and dragon both, into its cruel game.

What did I think?:

Dreamwalker, the first book in The Ballad of Sir Benfro series is a high fantasy novel which appears to be marketed at the young adult population although can easily be read by adults. Written by James Oswald (yes, he of the Inspector McLean thriller/crime fiction series) this was a recommendation by one of my favourite bookshops, Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights when I went there for a reading spa with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. I have to say, when the bookseller sold it to me, I was initially unsure as I’m not a huge dragon fanatic but as with all the reads we ended up choosing, she made it sound so fantastic that any misgivings I did have were thoroughly quashed. Generally, I found it to be an interesting story although I wasn’t as enamoured by it as I might have hoped…more on this later.

Encompassing multiple story-lines and characters, Dreamwalker is the story of a world where intelligent dragons exist but are constantly threatened by a minority of the human population that are determined to hunt them to extinction. This means that the small community that has survived have secluded themselves in a forest, protected from human eyes and those that would wish them harm by a magical spell. It is also the tale of three characters – the first, a young dragon called Benfro, the first male dragon to be born for a thousand years and destined for great things. The second and third of our protagonists are human, the first, a merciless princess called Beulah who has recently ascended the throne and will stop at nothing to get exactly what she wants. Then there is Errol, a young boy who has had a humble upbringing but unknown to himself possesses a royal bloodline that could shake everything up irrevocably. Finally, we have Inquisitor Melyn, the villain of the piece who is thirsty for dragon blood, the elimination of the species and hell-bent on using the magic system in this world for his own diabolical purposes.

This novel combines all these complex and intertwining elements to form a story that is highly convoluted at times but also incredibly imaginative. For me, there were good things and bad things about it and I have quite mixed feelings which I have to admit, does make me hesitate in continuing with the series. First of all, the intricate nature of the multiple plots mean that the novel is at times a bit of a slog to get through so if you’re a fan of fast paced narratives, this might not be the book for you. On the other hand, I did fall in love with many of the characters, including the endearing Benfro the dragon, sweet Errol and our “bad guy” Melyn who was wonderfully wicked. The magic system is also intriguing but I have to say, took me a little while to get my head round. However, if you’re looking at this purely as a fantasy novel, it’s got everything you could want so I think fans of the genre will be satisfied. Personally, I’m really torn over whether I’m going to carry on to book two. I’m interested  and care enough about the characters to wonder how it’s all going to pan out but on the other hand, the pacing does put me off slightly. If anyone has read the second book and can tell me if this is still the case I would really appreciate it! Otherwise, I’m not sure if I’ll be rushing to read it – there’s too many other brilliant books out there.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Published December 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet all about?:

The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet follows a man who comes to Holmes and Watson for help when a precious beryl coronet he is tasked with looking after is damaged and some of the jewels are stolen.

What did I think?:

As I’ve made my way through the short stories in The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has regularly managed to stump me over what exactly is going on in his mysteries. So I was quite delighted (but at the same time strangely disappointed) when I could instantly identify our perpetrator in The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet. Mind you, he still managed to stun me with the more intricate details of the crime i.e. the reasons behind it and for that reason, it was again a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. I don’t think anyone has managed to write a detective as intriguing and as famous as Mr Holmes and I’m sure his stories will continue to entertain for many years to come.

This story follows a banker called Alexander Holder who is given an incredibly valuable and very well known beryl coronet to hold as security when he gives a client a loan of £50,000. Not trusting the safe at his office he keeps the item at home, believing his family and staff trustworthy despite the current disappointment he has in the character of his son, Arthur. Of course, you might have seen it coming, the coronet is damaged one night and some of the jewels are nowhere to be found. Even worse, when Alexander hears the disruption at night, he comes to the room where the coronet is stored to find it in the hands of his son, Arthur who he presumes to have been involved in the crime and calls for him to be arrested. He is now begging Holmes and Watson to discover what really happened that night so he can come to terms with his son being guilty or innocent.

This is a great little mystery to get your teeth into and although I had guessed what had happened and who was responsible, I loved all the minute details that went into how Holmes deduced exactly what had occurred. There’s not that much interaction between Holmes and Watson in this story sadly but I still enjoyed him as a background presence and the narrator of our tale. Holmes is his usual genius self divulging to the reader all the random, tiny little things that you might never pick up on but turn out to be a crucial piece of evidence in solving the mystery – ah, imagine if our police detectives today had his skills?! The next story in this collection is actually the last one I believe and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering Sherlock Holmes for the very first time.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Freaks: A Rizzoli & Isles Short Story by Tess Gerritsen (stand-alone).

Book Tag – Shelfie By Shelfie #3

Published December 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image edited from: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame image created by Jannoon028 – Freepik.com</a>

Hi everyone and welcome to a brand new tag – Shelfie by Shelfie that I was inspired to create late one night when I couldn’t sleep. If you want to join in, you share a picture (or “shelfie”) of one of your shelves i.e. favourites, TBR, however you like to organise them, and then answer ten questions that are based around that particular shelf. I have quite a large collection and am going to do every single bookshelf which comprises both my huge TBR and the books I’ve read and kept but please, don’t feel obliged to do every shelf yourself if you fancy doing this tag. I’d love to see anything and just a snapshot of your collection would be terrific and I’m sure, really interesting for other people to see!

For my very first Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

For my second Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

Anyway – on with the tag, here is the third shelf of my first bookshelf (I’ve chosen to split it up into two separate shelfies because of the sheer number of books (oops!) so here is the back shelf):

And here are the questions!:

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Yes! For once there is some proper organisation on my bookshelves! This back shelf consists of some of my favourite books, (usually five stars) some I can’t bear to throw away but weren’t necessarily five star reads and the Throne Of Glass series so far which I adore.

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

I’m going to mention a book you can hardly see, the lighting is quite bad (sorry!) and it’s quite a slim little thing. It’s Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. This book is so special to me, it was one of my favourite reads from childhood and I read it again a few years ago as part of my Kid Lit challenge with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. I’m quite the arachnophobic so you would think a book with a spider as one of its main characters would be hideous for me but I adored Charlotte and of course, the entire story. Super nostalgic!

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

I bet my sister is laughing at me right now. When she did her Shelfie by Shelfie (check out her post HERE) she decided to do her favourites shelf and I had a chuckle at her when she told me off for this question! Ugh – okay I have to answer it….I made her answer it. It would be The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. It’s such a brilliant non-fiction science book but I’m honestly not sure if I would read it cover to cover again in the near future.

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

Easy peasy for this one (although I was torn for a second between two). It would be A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I’m a bit of a Ness fangirl and this copy of the illustrated edition is actually signed by the great man himself when I met him at YALC. It’s very precious to me!

How lucky am I?!

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

That would be Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I’ve had this exact copy ever since I first read it when I was about fifteen I think? This is one of my all time favourite books and although it’s a bit of a beast at just over 1000 pages, I think I’m definitely due a re-read!

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

The White Road by Sarah Lotz. I read it this year and it automatically went to the favourites shelf as a definite five star read. This is a proof copy but I’m planning to buy a final paperback version soon as it’s one I’m going to be keeping and re-reading in the future.

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

I think I’d really like to re-read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger quite soon. I read it in my pre-blogging days and thought the intricacies of the story were absolutely beautiful. I’d love to write a review on it after reading it for the second time – hopefully I’ll love it just as much!

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There isn’t any object on this shelf, there’s no room for anything else apart from books (and even then, not enough room for some of them, eek!).

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

It tells you some of my favourite books of all time and again, probably says something about the eclectic taste I have as a reader. There are so many genres up there – YA, romance, classics, thrillers, science fiction and historical fiction. I like to push the boat out in terms of what I read and don’t like to chain myself to a particular genre.

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

Anyone who wants to do this, please feel free, I’d be delighted but please tag me in your post so I can see your shelfie in all its glory. This time round I’m going to choose a question for myself:

Is there any book on this shelf that you’ve had a strong emotional response to?

As this is a favourites shelf, there’s been quite a few. I tend to want to keep books that elicit any emotion from me whether that’s sadness or happiness. I’m going to choose The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It was a recommendation from a podcast I used to listen to, sadly no longer running called Books On The Nightstand. When I first started reading it, I found it a little slow but I wasn’t prepared for how much I became invested in the story and some of the events of the novel were incredibly harrowing.

COMING SOON on bibliobeth : Shelfie by Shelfie #4

 

 

The Heart Of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2) – Mary E. Pearson

Published December 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia’s life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar’s interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There’s Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country… and her own destiny.

What did I think?:

The first book in the Remnant Chronicles, The Kiss of Deception, was a huge surprise for me a couple of years ago in that I was shocked how much I enjoyed a novel quite heavy on the romance side of things. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you might remember I tend to roll my eyes/turn my nose up a little bit when things get a bit romantic. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy love in novels, I do of course but it has to be done in just the right way otherwise things can get a little bit cringey. The Kiss Of Deception really spoke to my cynical little heart and I kid you not, I was practically swooning at the sweetness of it all. My worry with The Heart Of Betrayal is that it wold suffer from the dreaded second book syndrome and my expectations for the series were already sky high. Whilst it was not a five star read like its predecessor, it was still a brilliant read and I’m excited to see how the story is going to conclude in the final novel, The Beauty Of Darkness.

So, trying to avoid major spoilers, Lia has become a prisoner in Venda, under the rule of the dangerous Komizar, taken there by a man she thought she trusted. Her magical gift has been discovered and the people of Venda begin to revere her and are delighted by her presence. Meanwhile, Rafe hot-foots it to Venda too in an attempt to rescue Lia, in disguise as the Royal Emissary of Dalbreck to disguise who he really is. Both struggle to maintain their relationship when the memories of their mutual deception threaten to overwhelm them. Lia is also wrestling with her opinion of Kaden who she feels has betrayed her but ultimately, the real test of her strength lies in pacifying and fooling the Komizar of Venda, who develops a rather particular and obsessive interest for her. Set against war, major political upheaval and dastardly plans, Lia must draw on all her resources and make some questionable allies if she is to have any hope of escape.

A lot of people have expressed their thoughts on the love triangle in this series and I’d like to throw my own opinions into the mix. I honestly don’t believe there actually is a love triangle to speak of in this novel – in that the main female protagonist has feelings for both of the male leads in love with her. It is pretty clear to me where Lia’s heart lies and I think she deals with the situation very well. Kaden as a character I have to admit I’m not warming towards and indeed at times I was a little bit frustrated with his thoughts and actions. However, I adore Lia for her determination, pig-headed stubbornness and kindness of heart and there were a number of other secondary characters introduced that I also enjoyed. The Komizar was a fantastic “love to hate him,” villain with such darkness and brutality behind his character that he made for a tantalising reading experience. The world-building as with the first novel was top notch although I would have liked a little more political intrigue and a little more action, rather than all the thrills being concentrated in the final moments of the story. This made for a jaw dropping ending, that’s undeniable but I felt it kind of threw the pace of the entire book off slightly. Saying that, this was a wonderful sequel to The Kiss Of Deception and I’m now one hundred percent invested in this world, the characters and their future, however tenuous that might seem.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Year One (Chronicles Of The One #1) – Nora Roberts

Published December 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It began on New Year’s Eve.

The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Clara Diaz and Little Brown publishers who approached me to read a copy of Year One, the first book in The Chronicles of The One series in exchange for an honest review. I’ve now read a couple of things by this author – the first I came to very late and that’s the forty-fourth (!!) book in the In Death series called Echoes In Death which she writes under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. The second was under her own name called Come Sundown and was a romantic yet very surprising read for me. When I read the synopsis of Year One, I accepted a digital copy very willingly, I’ve recently had a bit of a hankering for apocalyptic type fiction and with the added fantastical elements I was intrigued to see what Nora Roberts would do with the narrative. By and large, this is definitely a series I want to continue with. The vast myriad of characters, a fast paced plot and of course, the magical components held my attention throughout and I can’t wait to see how the story develops in future books.

So, as with many other stories in this vein, the substance that wipes out almost an entire population of humans is a virus, at first thought to come from birds after the first victim is traced back to a farm in Scotland. However, doubts are rising about where exactly this virus has come from and why it seems to enhance magical abilities in a chosen few. Trying to survive in the world becomes a dangerous prospect with raiders hell-bent on looting and violence, mindless of the hurt they cause to others in their efforts. There is also one strain of the magical folk (elves, fairies, shapeshifters, telekenetics etc) that have embraced the dark side and cause murder and mayhem when they attack both regular humans and the “good” magical people. Especially when one of the individuals that they are hunting becomes very special to them for something she carries with her.

As I mentioned there are a multitude of characters to get to grips with in this novel and on one hand, I loved this and embraced all the different personalities but there were occasions when I had to think to myself: “Okay, who’s this again?.” My favourites were probably the ones we hear most from – Lana, Max, Eddie and his dog Joe, Arlys, Fred, Rachel and Jonah and I enjoyed how they all had definitive roles in the story, from a paramedic and a doctor to a journalist, witches and a fairy – there was a real mishmash and variety of individuals that kept me intrigued throughout the novel. The world-building is pretty fantastic, I especially loved the scenes when our characters were on the run and when they had to face difficult situations (physical or emotional) as I felt I could really see their personalities come across more vividly during their struggles.

I may have had to suspend my disbelief occasionally as at points, some wonderful things like land, animals, gas, food etc just almost fell into their laps and in a real apocalyptic situation I doubt it would be that easy to be honest. There’s also a situation near the end of the book that I can’t really talk about for fear of spoilers but it took me a little while to come round to the idea, I felt it all happened a little too quickly considering what the character involved had been through. Apart from these very slight things, I hugely enjoyed this novel. I’m still so curious to discover more about the virus, about the magical qualities of the chosen few and what’s going to happen to the characters I’ve become quite attached to in the next book in the series. Looking forward to it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

Published December 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Seeing Double all about?:

Seeing Double is the story of a young boy who lives with his father and is looked after by a nanny. He seldom sees anyone else and there is a terrible reason why he is being kept away from other people.

What did I think?:

Although I’ve never read any of Sara Maitland’s work before, I’m very familiar with her name and have her non-fiction book, Gossip From The Forest as a priority read on my Kindle that now I’ve finally read some of her fiction, I simply must make time for in the New Year. For this short story, all I can say is wow. This little tale really floored me, it was so powerful in its nature and the clever reveals throughout which led up to an explosive ending were simply stunning. I’ve heard that Sara Maitland has a bit of a talent for short story writing (that’s putting it lightly!) but I wasn’t prepared at all for how marvellous her writing actually was and I’m delighted to finally have discovered her.

Now, the only annoying thing about Seeing Double is that I’m going to have to be incredibly careful what I tell you about it! I really don’t want to ruin anything and if I reveal the “big secret,” that our young male protagonist has, I’ll be doing exactly that. Let’s just say that we have a young boy born whose mother sadly dies when she gives birth to him. The midwife who assisted at the birth ends up being employed by the boy’s father as a permanent nanny to look after him and they are ensconced in a large house in the country with his father who becomes increasingly distant as he indulges his passion for nature, although they do have some tender moments playing together with a train set. Our protagonist doesn’t see anyone else apart from Nanny and his father, this includes the various servants that help out in the house until one day a maid enters his room. Both her and the boy find out the reason why he has been secluded and because of this, his life is changed forever:

“Grown-ups, he learned far too suddenly, spoke with double voices, cunningly, so that true and not true weren’t like white and black, like either-or, like plus and minus, they were like the bogs on the hill side, shifty, invisible and dangerous.”

As you can tell from the above quote, the writing is absolutely glorious and I felt just the utmost happiness when I was reading this dark little tale, purely for the gorgeous lyrical style and the way that the author uses her words to beautiful effect. Yes, this story has murky depths and goes to some strange and fascinating places so if you’re not into twisted tales, this might not be the story for you BUT I urge you to give it a chance because I’m now desperate to talk to anyone who has read this before and hear all their thoughts on it. I immediately felt so sorry for our protagonist when we learn what he has to deal with but I certainly wasn’t expecting the direction in which Sara Maitland took it in one of the most dramatic conclusions I think I’ve ever read in a short story. Have I convinced you yet? I’ve undeniably convinced myself that I need to read something else by this author ASAP.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.