Saturday, 8 August 2015

Divergent by Veronica Roth : Review

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Synopsis:  "In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves... or it might destroy her."

My Review:  It has been a long time since I have picked up a book (an e-book in this instance) and been hooked by the story line so quickly. In fact, I was so engrossed by the characters and the story that I finished the book in 2 days.

Although the story is based in Chicago, it is cleverly written so that the reader need no previous knowledge of the city and is therefore able to place the story into a city or time they believe in, making the story and characters all the more believable.

The story focuses on Beatrice and the faction she belongs too, her family and the Abnegation's   traditions. Once children reach 16 years old they have to decide which of the five factions they want to belong to for the rest of their life. This decision is then followed by weeks of initiation. I found the initiation with their chosen faction, fascinating and well thought out. The author had clearly researched the human aspects relating to each of the five virtues:- Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite. How these personality traits effect the way the different factions interacted, including their prejudices. The book even had me thinking how I would fit into the world? Which of the factions would I choose? Would I even survive!

I did not find any of the storyline difficult or hard to follow, I thought the author described the city and initiation process clearly and thoroughly. The relationships that Beatrice/Tris develops with her fellow initiates is interesting. Are they friends or enemies, are they there to help or hinder.  Does Four the initiations instructor see something special about Tris, does he know her secret, can he be trusted.

I enjoyed following Tris in her efforts to discover more about her secret and others like her, it is clear there is more to uncover about this part of her in the additional books in the series.

I used to regularly read science fiction books, and absolutely loved being transported to another time and place. I think this gap in reading this genre could be one of the reasons why I really enjoyed Divergent,  along with it being the first dystopian style book I have read. Which is probably why I scored it so high. I have already reserved the follow up novel Insurgent from my local library.

I gave this book 5 stars out of 5 on Goodreads where it currently has an average of 4.3 stars.

To find out more about the book or the author visit the following links.
Goodreads ~  Amazon


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Friday, 27 March 2015

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin : Review

Book Review -
The Fortune Hunter
by Daisy Goodwin
The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin 

Synopsis:  "In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies.

Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything - except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Josephs."

My Review: At the start of the book we are introduced to Charlotte, a young lady who will shortly become financial independent when she reaches age and inherits her mothers estate. We also meet Captain Bay Middleton, a young and handsome accomplished horseman with a dream of winning the Grand National. 

Charlotte has no plans to marry a Lord or an Earl like most young ladies her age. She is more interested in the new invention of photography and the opportunity of exhibiting her photographs, much to her aunt and her soon to be sister in law's annoyance. That is until she meets Captain Middleton, both drawn to each other, yet they are unable to act on there wish to marry until Charlotte reaches age. But with neither money or a title the dashing army captain in reality has little to offer young Charlotte, 

But then Captain Middleton one of the best horsemen in the country is asked to ride alongside the beautiful Sissi. Introduce her to the ways of an English Hunt,which she demonstrates great skill as a horse rider, Sissi clearly finds Captain Middleton's lack of  etiquette rather enticing.

The story then follows how these two women battle for the affection of the dashing Bay Middleton. As a reader this story had me alternating as to whether the character Bay deserved their affections, to sympathising for him and the situation he found himself in. For Bay to be even moving in Royal circles presented him with opportunities he would scarcely have imagined. By the end of the book I even empathised with the constraints faced by Sissi. It is easy to take for granted all the opportunities available to young ladies today, yet Charlotte faces caution and disapproval just for being in a room alone with an eligible man. Never mind her plan to travel and explore America being accepted by her half brother and aunt. 

I enjoyed this book it was well written and clearly well researched, I found it an easy read just under 500 pages, it took me about a week to read on and off during the evenings. If this book were a film (who knows maybe one day it will) it would be a Sunday afternoon film, perfect to settle down and enjoy along with your favourite tipple and box of chocolates.

I gave this book 4 stars out of 5 on Goodreads where it currently has an average of 3.41 stars.

To find out more about the book or the author visit the following links.
Goodreads ~  Amazon


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Monday, 2 March 2015

Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon : Review

Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon (uk version) also known as Outlander

Synopsis: Originally set in the 1945 Claire Randall and her husband are on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Whilst her husband is discovering more about his family ancestors, Claire explores the area including a stone circle. It is from here Claire finds herself transported back to 1743, where she crosses paths with her husband’s ancestor Jack Randall whom she soon discovers is a brutal man. What follows is a story that will leave not only Claire Randall shocked by the brutality of the time but also the reader. 

My Review: At the heart of this book is a story based in the Scottish Highlands the hierarchy of the clans and their battle with the English, as seen from Claire the intruder. What follows is a story that will leave not only Claire Randall shocked by the brutality of the time but also the reader. Claire’s skills as an ex battlefield nurse may see her survive with the clan but can she find a place within it, whilst still trying to find a way back to 1945. Having treated an injured Jamie Fraser, a young burly red haired Scot, will then see Claire entangled with his past and his clans future.

This book has an excessive amount of violence, torture and sexual violence. Claire and Jamie’s lives are forced together in order to save Claire's life from the hands of Jack Randall. The story then proceeds to see Jamie and Claire spend every other page romping around the highlands trying to avoid clashes with the English, only to end up having sex, more sex and more sex. Quite frankly I got rather fed up with it, along with Jamie’s not stop need to address Claire as ‘Sassenach’. 

Elements of the book are quite honestly unbelievable and some quite frankly repetitive and unnecessary. At over 800 pages long this book could of easily have been halved to 400. I was disappointed with this book as I love historically based book and did so want to enjoy it and the first 190 pages were good, but I soon tired of it.  This book is the first of the Outlander series, and at its core had the potential to be something amazing however I will not be reading the next. 

I gave this book 2 stars out of 5 on Goodreads where it currently has an average of 4.1 stars.

To find out more about the book or the author visit the following links.
Goodreads ~ Amazon


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Monday, 19 January 2015

Murder at the Maples by Joanne Phillips : Review

Murder at the Maples by Joanne Phillips (Flora Lively Investigates #1)

Synopsis: A tragic death. A reluctant sleuth. A childhood prank that went horribly wrong.
When Flora Lively inherits her father’s business she’s totally out of her depth. Shakers Removals is in trouble, and manager Marshall isn’t helping one bit – the ex-pat American delights only in winding her up. But Flora has other things on her mind, like Joy: surrogate grandmother and resident of the Maples Retirement Village. When Joy’s pet pug has a brush with death, Flora is pulled into a series of bizarre incidents at the Maples, where fear is starting to take hold.

My Review: I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it was a delightful, intriguing mystery. The main character Flora Lively reminded me of a young Jean Brodie and Miss Marple. Flora is desperate to do the right thing and continue to successfully run the family home removals business 'Shakers' since the death of her parents.  She refuses to accept the help of Marshall the manger who her father trusted.  Flora's lack of decision making around the family business had me virtually shouting at her, just let Marshall get on with the job and stop getting in the way of his ideas!  I loved the relationship between these two characters, everyone but Flora seemed notice there is something between the two.

Whilst Joy a surrogate grandmother to Flora has settled into life at The Maples Retirement Home, things are not as they appear. Are the residents of The Maples safe, is Joy safe, is the dog safe? I liked the relationship Flora built with the older characters at the retirement home, it showed a caring, thoughtful and kind side in such a young person. I must admit that Joy did remind me of my aunt, who can be rather stubborn and cantankerous if people get in her way. I really felt for Flora when she was faced with the dilemma of trusting and believing what Joy was telling her, or doubting whether Joy was getting herself confused. 

Flora with the help of Marshall, her Uncle, Joy and Otto the dog dig into the past of Felix a new resident at the Maples. Or do the answers lie with the manager of the Maples and a local corrupt solicitor.   I was a little surprised by Joy's past that sweet old lady has something of a dark secret.

It was such a delight reading this book as it is based in Shropshire, which is where I live, it really did add to my enjoyment having visited many of the locations particularly the Cliff Railway at Bridgnorth. A thoroughly enjoyable cosy mystery read, I can not wait to read the next in the Flora Lively Investigates series, which according to Joanne Phillips will be out soon.

I gave this book 4 stars out of 5 on Goodreads where it currently has an average of 3.52 stars.

To find out more about the book or the author Joanne Phillips visit the following links.
Goodreads   ~  Amazon


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Friday, 16 January 2015

How I Wonder What You Are by Jane Lovering

When Molly first meets Phinn, he's drunk, naked, and unconscious. Both are running away from heartbreak, and have found themselves in a small Yorkshire village. When they realise that they are the only ones who seem to be witnessing a strange night-sky phenomenon, the investigation into what it might be draws them closer together.

When reading a romance novel, I find it important to manage my expectations. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I don't expect to be shocked by plot twists; ultimately, readers go in knowing what they are going to get. As soon as a male and female character are introduced, it's easy to quickly assess whether or not they are 'meant to be', and once you have decided that they are, you are under no illusions as to the culmination of events.

The fun in reading a romance, therefore, is not found in the basic plot journey between girl meets boy and girl gets boy. It's found in all of the ephemera; the central conceit of the story, the supporting characters, and what happens to the girl and boy before they manage to end up together.

Unfortunately, How I Wonder What You Are didn't really provide me with too much fun in that ephemera. I liked Molly and Phinn well enough, and it was fun to watch them slowly realise that they like each other, only to have various obstacles thrown into their path. But at the centre of the story are the mysterious lights that they see in the sky, and which nobody else seems to be able to see. For me, it just seemed as though it was a heavy handed way to throw the couple together, and it didn't really work.

It wasn't a total failure; I engaged with the characters, and cared about their ultimate fate, but it's not a book that I'd rush to recommend to anyone else. Ultimately it was just a perfectly acceptable way to step away from the reality of my own life for a couple of hours.

How I Wonder What You Are
First published: December 2014
Choc Lit
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, 12 January 2015

Never Marry a Politician by Sarah Waights

The unusually named Emily Pemily has spent many years becoming the model wife. Married to a junior politician, she has allowed a political party to shape the way she lives her life, and now, as her husband's profile grows, she finds that she is having to make bigger changes, and sacrifice more and more, in order to remain the wife she is expected to be.

I can't say that I am ordinarily a fan of out and out romance novels. I prefer my romance to come as a side to adventure, or comedy, or history. So when I am presented with the chance to read a book like this, I sometimes have to think twice, but it does present the possibility for me to be pleasantly surprised, and that's what happened with Never Marry a Politician.

The story was engaging, and the characters easy to identify with. Emily is a heroine that the reader can quickly empathise with; she married Ralph (pronounced 'Raph') after a whirlwind romance, and as the book progresses, it becomes clear that she was on the rebound from a love affair that she never quite gets over, despite settling down to a happy life with Ralph. For his part, her husband is quickly established as the villain of the piece, but he's not a one-note antagonist. He's an ambitious man, who, through a series of events, progresses through the ranks of his party very quickly. His ambition doesn't leave room for Emily's doubts, so she is left to deal with the whirlwind changes on her own.

Part of the fun of reading a story like this, is knowing where it is going. I don't read books like this to be surprised by the twists and turns of the story. I enjoy reading a story where I know the eventual outcome within a couple of chapters, and the fun comes from seeing how the characters reach that point.

I read Never Marry a Politician in one sitting, last month, when I was trying to reach my yearly goal. A lazy afternoon between Christmas and New Year is the perfect time to read a book like this; without expectation that it is a literary masterpiece, it is able to pleasantly surprise.

Never Marry a Politician
First published: November 2014
Choc Lit
Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Cleaner of Chartres by Sally Vickers : Review

Sally Vickers The Cleaner of Chartres Review
The Cleaner of Chartres by Sally Vickers

I was inspired to read this novel following a talk given by the author Sally Vickers at Wellington Literary Festival in October 2014. Sally talked about her time as a psychoanalyst and how her travels to France and Italy inspired her writing.  It was an interesting talk and as a result I felt encouraged to read one of her novels. Her novel The Cleaner of Chartres was part of the Literary Festival display in my local library.

"There is something very special about Agnès Morel. A quiet presence in the small French town of Chartres, she can be found cleaning the famed medieval cathedral each morning and doing odd jobs for the townspeople. No one knows where she came from or why. Not Abbé Paul, who discovered her one morning twenty years ago, sleeping on the north porch, and not Alain Fleury, the irreverent young restorer who works alongside her each day and whose attention she catches with her tawny eyes and elusive manner. She has transformed each of their lives in her own subtle way, yet no one suspects the dark secret Agnès is hiding.

When an accidental encounter dredges up a series of tragic incidents from Agnès’s youth, the nasty meddling of town gossips threatens to upend the woman’s simple, peaceful life. Her story reveals a terrible loss, a case of mistaken identity, and a cruel and violent act that haunts her past. Agnès wrestles with her own sense of guilt and enduring heartbreak while the citizens piece together the truth about her life."

My review
I really struggled to get into this book, I was just not hooked by the story. The book is only 296 pages, which for me is a short read and for that I was grateful. I found the first 200 pages slow going, and a number of the characters unlikeable, and as such I was not interested in their story. The pace picked up in the final 90 pages, when I did start to enjoy it. In fact I was almost surprised by the slight twist of discovery at the end of the story.  Though nothing is confirmed by the author it is left with the reader to interpret the evidence. On a positive note, I did enjoy the interaction between Alain and Agnes, and found their exchanges of knowledge and wisdom endearing.The history behind the architecture of the cathedral was fascinating, and cleverly told through Alain.

I do not like to give up on a book, hence the reason why I continued to read this book to the end, and the story did improve towards the end.  I am just grateful  though that I borrowed this book from my local library and did not buy it.

I gave this book 2 stars out of 5 on Goodreads where it had an average of 3.7 stars.

To find out more about the book or the author Sally Vickers visit the following links.

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