13 Feb 2016

THE SIN EATER'S DAUGHTER - MELINDA SALISBURY

SUMMARY
I am the perfect weapon.
I kill with a single touch.

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it's price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla's fatal touch.

Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla's chilling role to the girls she truly is.

Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen's, some truths should not be told...

REVIEW
When I first mentioned to a book group that I hadn't exactly been overwhelmed by The Sin-Eater's Daughter there were gasps and exchanged glances that made me instantly feel that I hadn't understood the book and was a complete moron. As I began to explain my reasoning, though, I think I earned back a little of my bookish respect.

I firmly believe that, whether we want it to or not, our enjoyment of a book can be skewed by things we have just read, thing's people have told you about it, and how much hype it has had. The problem for me is that the day before I started it I had been involved in hosting the lovely Melinda Salisbury for an event and had heard quite a lot about the The Sleeping Prince, the new and second book in the series, which sounds pretty awesome by the way.

I found myself loving the event, getting all excited and thinking, 'it's been sat on the bookshelf for a good year now, let's give it a go'. So I did. And I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy it exactly, just not a lot happens. Salisbury herself has admitted that it is primarily a set up for the rest of the series and I can understand why it is the way it is, but that doesn't mean I enjoyed it more for knowing. I have a stupidly short attention span so prefer my books to have constant twists.

The gist of the the story is this: Twylla can survive the intake of poison but it sits in her skin, meaning that she poisons everyone that she touches. This makes her a fantastic pawn for a maniacal Queen who enjoys using Twylla to execute court traitors. It feels like Grimdark with your standard YA tropes: a bit of romance and the obligatory love triangle, secrests and lies, and a good bit of vicious murder (even though you don't get to actually witness nearly enough of it).

So, nothing really happens until the end of the book. Twylla is protected from everyone in her court on the off chance that she might touch and kill them, so you don't really get much multiple character interaction. Also, because her destiny is well and truly mapped out for her, Twylla has no reason to be an actual person; to have dreams or ambition, or to say anything remotely interesting. There was no room in the storyline for her development early on so I just didn't care about her. I didn't care that she was a pawn in a courtly game. I didn't care about any of the romances. Lief and Merek, her love interests were ok, but they were also rather undeveloped because of Twylla's inability to ask questions or leave the immediate vicinity so I didn't really care about them either, and when the twists did come I'd reached a deep level of disinterest.

This review isn't all doom and gloom, however. Salisbury has created a fantastic world in The Sin-Eater's Daughter but in this book you will only be tantalised with it. You'll be staring at it longingly from behind the window in Twylla's tower until at least the second book.  It is also swathed in Magic and Folklore, and if you love myths and legends then you'll love where she's going with it. There are some great little stories in it, some of her own creation and some with hints of existant myths, such as The Pied Piper

I didn't think this book was bad, just boring. And that isn't to say it has put me off the second book, because it hasn't, but the second will be the deal breaker in our book relationship. I don't give many second chances.

FELLSIDE - M. R. CAREY

SUMMARY
Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. 

But it's where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life. It's a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess. Will she listen?

REVIEW
I went into Fellside with incredibly high hopes. I absolutely adored The Girl With All The Gifts and I could not wait to get my hands on the new book. It started really promisingly; Jess Moulton is on trial for accidentally killing a young boy, Alex, whilst high and without realising. However, when the story moves toward her time in the prison it becomes increasingly more dull. I kept waiting and waiting for it to get more exciting or intense but, no.

The narration moves from Jess to the other inmates in the prison. There seemed to be more about their drug running and violence than Jess's story. Even the supernatural elements fell flat for me. I was so disappointed. 

On the plus side it is a huge book (the proof I have is over 400 pages, which is big for my reading tastes) and it somehow held my attention quite well. There is a real lack of cliffhangers, or of any events at all, and the whole plot seems to be pushed forward on the promise of something happening. But keep reading I did. I still felt like giving it the benefit of the doubt until the very end. Perhaps I was curious as to what really did happen on the night of the fire, what it was that Jess couldn't remember. 

All the same I couldn't have cared less what happened to any of the other characters in the prison system. Neither was I all too bothered about the 'apparition' of Alex, following/helping Jess push forward with her own investigations and repentance for his death.

All in all I felt this was a bit of a waste of time for me and every time I think that about a book it comes with a massive sense of guilt because I know how much dedication and time the author must have put in. I didn't gain much from it, I didn't want to go and shout about it from the rooftops like I did with The Girl With All The Gifts. 

3 Feb 2016

BLACK-EYED SUSANS - JULIA HEABERLIN

SUMMARY
This is a chilling new thriller that gets into the heart and mind of the killer, and the victim...Seventeen-year-old Tessa, dubbed a 'Black-Eyed Susan' by the media, became famous for being the only victim to survive the vicious attack of a serial killer. Her testimony helped to put a dangerous criminal behind bars - or so she thought. 

Now, decades later the black-eyed susans planted outside Tessa's bedroom window seem to be a message from a killer who should be safely in prison. Haunted by fragmented memories of the night she was attacked and terrified for her own teenage daughter's safety, can Tessa uncover the truth about the killer before it's too late?

REVIEW
Oh Black-Eyed Susans, where have you been all my life?? I absolutely adored this book.

When Tessie was a child she was abducted along with several other women by a serial killer and was later found, half dead and with no memory, buried in the ground. Her testimony led to the arrest of a man, but when Black-Eyed Susan's are left planted in various locations she begins to wonder if she had got the right man.

The story is shown both through Tessa's struggles to live a normal life in the present as an adult, and flashed back to just after the incident and before the trial, with her best friend Lydia. It so infuriatingly good; like being on a fairground ride where you're slowed down and think the ride is about to end until you're flung in a completely different direction. For so much of the book I was certain that I knew who had done it. I was sadly wrong, time and time again.

The narrative voice of both Tessie as a child dealing with a trauma and as an adult trying to protect her own child is so strong. You know her, you feel for her, but more than anything you want to know what the bloody hell went on and who did it.

It will frighten you and make you feel uncomfortable, it was make you excited at every twist and turn. But mostly it will infuriate you in the most glorious way.

There's not much I can say about this book, because the story is so tightly woven that I don't want to give too much away. Go away, read it and get back to me so I can be smug when you love it too.

17 Jan 2016

LAMB - BONNIE NADZAM

SUMMARY
'She was coming toward him in a crooked purple tube top and baggy shorts and brassy sandals studded with rhinestones. She carried a huge pink patent-leather purse and was possibly the worst thing he'd seen all day. 'Hi.' She had a little gap between her teeth, and her eyes were wide set, and she had one of those noses with perfectly round nostrils. She was a pale little freckled pig with eyelashes. 'I'm supposed to ask you for a cigarette.' This ugly kid before Lamb was obviously the brunt of a joke. Stupid. And reckless. Had they any idea who he was? Why he was standing alone in a black suit? What kind of heart, if any, hung inside him? And how was this not a joke on him? He took a pull on his own cigarette and put it out on the bottom of his beautifully polished shoe.' 

Tommie is eleven. Lamb is a middle-aged man. He is convinced that he can help her avoid a destiny of apathy and emptiness. He even comes to believe that his devotion is in her best interest.

REVIEW
Having previously read the like of Lolita, The End of Alice and Tiger Tiger, I thought that Lamb would be another of that genre, and to an extent it is, but it's more than that. It starts out more more innocently.

When David first befriends Tommy is seems that he connects with her on a more simplistic level. He has recently lot his father, his marriage is over and he's reaching a midlife crisis. Tommy is fun. She is the child he has never had. He helps her with her troubled home life by making her imagine something better. He want to help her as a father would, doesn't he?

New Additions - January 2016

  
  

13 Jan 2016

TARGETED AND TROLLED - ROSALYN WARREN

SUMMARY
A feminist campaigner is sent death threats online at a rate of over fifty-per-hour. A woman who shares on social media her experience of rape, so that others might feel brave enough to speak out, is bombarded with abusive messages. More than a hundred female celebrities have their personal nude photographs stolen and published by hackers. The victims of these stories of trolling and internet crimes have just one thing in common: their gender. 

Most of us use the internet every day, but we rarely stop and think about the way we are received there and whether the treatment of women online differs from the treatment of men. As a Buzzfeed journalist, Rossalyn Warren has first-hand experience of the sexism and misogyny targeted at women online – the insults about their appearance, the rape threats, and in some instances even stalking.
In Targeted and Trolled, Warren exposes the true extent of the global problem. Informative, empowering and inspiring, this book is both a shocking revelation of the scale of the problem and a message of hope about how men and women are working together to fight back against the trolls.

REVIEW
As a woman I have been very fortunate. I currently work in an environment (bookselling) that is possibly the most liberal workplace on the high street. At the end of 2015 we were lucky enough to have our giant shop refitted and I was one of the few booksellers on the building site to help stock my Children's floor. 

During the refit we were overrun by builders, as you can imagine, who in the name of being Gentlemen felt they should ask me if I need help even if I was carrying a small cardboard box. hey found this hilariously funny. You might think Bookselling is a a delicate, intellectual job. Most of the time it is the complete opposite. I get grubby, injured and I carry boxes that are full of hardbacks and incredibly heavy. And even though I'm a woman and I'm small, I can do it. I don't need a man to move a paint can because he thinks being a lady I shouldn't have to. I don't see this as being a gentleman, it is being a d*ck.

7 Jan 2016

PROPERTY - VALERIE MARTIN

SUMMARY
Manon Gaudet is unhappily married to the owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation. She misses her family and longs for the vibrant lifestyle of her native New Orleans, but most of all, she longs to be free of the suffocating domestic situation. The tension revolves around Sarah, a slave girl who may have been given to Manon as a wedding present from her aunt, whose young son Walter is living proof of where Manon's husband's inclinations lie. 

This private drama is being played out against a brooding atmosphere of slave unrest and bloody uprisings. And if the attacks reach Manon's house, no one can be sure which way Sarah will turn ...Beautifully written, Property is an intricately told tale of both individual stories and of a country in a time of change, where ownership is at once everything and nothing, and where belonging, by contrast, is all.

REVIEW
I've read quite a few narratives dealing with salvery and its effects over the years, so I was really interested to read Property, a novel from a 19th century creole perspective. The cover promises that it is a "book that dared to tell a different story" so I was really intrigued to see what this was going to add to the wealth of amazing literature already out there.

To be honest I felt that there was almost no depth to it. There was nothing I didn't already know, no shock or abuse or strong feeling of 'wrongness'. It was quiet. I felt that not much happened in terms of a storyline, and it didn't fill in those gaps with a moral sentiment. 

But perhaps that's the point. If the novel is a depiction of the life of a plantation master's wife then it is only about her concerns, and the morality of slavery doesn't seem to be one of them. It is not supposed to be an expose, but more a story of blind ignorance. The society of the time put restrictions on everyone and bred misery in different ways for everyone involved. No one is immune, as Manon finds out. There are secrets and lies that surround everyone in Property, and its real concern is how the individual survives.


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