Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin Review

The amount of times I've been told by my mother to read these books is really quite unbelievable. But of course she was right, this was pretty amazing.

Detective John Rebus: His city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders...and he's tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain's elite SAS. Now he's an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn't just one cop trying to catch a killer, he's the man who's got all the pieces to the puzzle... 

Based in Edinburgh I found that I could visualize a great detail a lot of the scenes mentioned throughout the book including The Meadows and the ever busy Princes Street. 
The majority of the book was not about the crime but about the characters and who they were, particularly about Rebus's character development. Being an ex-army man I have heard of many who find it hard to adjust into normal life after leaving for what ever reason and Rankin managed to capture that very well. Rankin has a way of making his characters feel very real, however this is done in a very different way to Christie's methods as I mentioned in my previous post. Unlike Christie, Rankin's characters have a sense of pain and realism that can't be presented in Christie's "Cozy Mysteries", you feel their pain and fear, their confusion and delight at every point in the book. Whether it be Rebus's resentment of Rhona or his love for Samantha you can feel it and it feels raw. Although every moment was vital to the story their really wasn't too much about the actual crimes committed, just paragraphs and mentions and yet the murders I believe have an impact on the reader, maybe because in the midst of all the character development throughout the book, there is death and lose and that can be a shock to the system.
The clues presented by the killer were smart, as well as mind boggling. Although I must admit I did guess who did it before Gill or Micky or even Rebus knew however it was thrilling to see them get to it and pursue the killer. 
My favourite part of this book would have to be Part 4 - The Cross, chapter 22. 
Side Note: I enjoyed the book being split up into 5 separate parts, each with a theme in itself. The understanding of the characters, the development of the crime, more clues, the last piece the suddenly makes everything fit together and the PURSUIT.
Back to my favourite part, this gave the characters as much a the reader a much deeper understanding of the reasons for the crimes being committed, as well as showing us a side of Rebus that we hadn't previously seen. Altogether this was a very impactful chapter and although it certainly didn't bring me to tears it was heart wrenching in a very emotional way. 
For the first 100 pages I could not put this book down, and only did when I felt my eyes drooping (I had started to read it quite late.)

I was recommended this by someone and will recommend it to anyone who will listen.
9/10 xo
Book First Published 1987

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie Review

The first Miss Marple mystery, one which tests all her powers of observation and deduction. “Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,” declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, “would be doing the world at large a favor!” It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later—when the Colonel is found shot dead in the clergyman’s study. But as Miss Marple soon discovers, the whole village seems to have had a motive to kill Colonel Protheroe.

I find Agatha Christie to be a genius in her writings, and loved almost every Poirot book I read so far. This is the first Miss Marple I've read and I must admit it was fantastic. And although this is the first of a series the Miss Marple's, like the Poirot books for that matter can be read individually, in any order or in the right order, it's entirely up to you.

When Vicar Clements comes home to the Vicarage he finds a Colonel with a bullet through his head, him and the rest of the village set out to find out who murdered him.
As someone who has never read a Miss Marple before I truly loved her character, she saw everything, and knew everything in the village but I don't think she was actually nosy. She has a hobby and that's something that in a small village you need to have or you will go slowly crazy (and I'd know). I also loved the character who's POV it was, Vicar Clements, with a wife of 25 years of age. I am not religous and although I do recpect them, I don't have any kind of particular love for vicars, I think however that has changed to a certain extent. Clements was smart and constantly in the center of attention, which he didn't particularly seem to like very much. But I suppose when someone dies in your study, what can you do but investigate. Another character who I found to be very interesting throughout the book was a Lawrence Redding, an artist. I guessed almost at once his relationship to the Protheroe, and who he "admired", it was really quite obvious. Unlike the murder which I mention later, had me looking every which way.

Christie has a way of giving each of her characters their own unique personality, I believe it comes from being someone who has really lived life. Something that I found frustrating in this book was that all the women mentioned in this book seemed to blur together at times, making it hard for me to know who had said what at any given time. The three women that I often confused were Miss Wetherby, Miss Hartnell and Mrs Price Ridley as they were basically the three gossipers of the village along with Miss Marple but I knew precisely who she was as she was the detective of the book. Not knowing Miss Marple or confusing her with the other women in the book would be like confusing Sherlock Holmes with DI Lestrade, it just isn't to be done. If you have ever read a Christie book, you'll know that the aim of the book is not to solve the crime but make it so utterly impossible to understand and yet so simple that when you know the conclusion you are both impressed and left with the need to kick yourself for not realizing it all the moment all the facts were presented to you. I couldn't stop guessing and I am sure at one point or another I suspected every character in the book, including Colonel Protheroe...
Quite frankly I've missed reading Agatha Christie books with there smart and unexpected endings and this one was definitely in the top ones I've read along with The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None. I am really very glad that I have six more on my shelf, however no more Miss Marple's for the time being. (But Christmas is coming!!)
I would recommend this to everyone and give with a 9/10, because despite how fantastic it was I don't get confused by characters very easily but I did in this.

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Book First Published 1930

Friday, 10 November 2017

I See You by Clare Mackintosh Review

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her...
It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her, a grainy photo along with a phone number and listing for a website called findtheone.com. 

I am going to start this review by saying that the blurb of this book isn't nearly as exciting as the content. This book is about stalkers, murders, rapes and altogether things that make you scared to walk alone at night, by the time I'd finished this book it was past midnight and I needed a drink of water. I have never ran so fast or been so scared about going downstairs to my own kitchen, though by the time I woke up this morning I was fine. I am thankful that I didn't start reading this book until I was on the train leaving from London, this book is not only based in London but in the South of London where I've been staying for the past two weeks, I'd never have been able to leave the house. 
The two main characters in the book is Zoe Walker a mother with two children over 18 and a PC Kelly Swift, and although both these characters were quite something and developed a lot throughout the book neither was my favourite. My favourite character was actually Katie Walker, Zoe's 19 year old daughter, the reason she was my favourite character in this book was that I can relate to her at this point in my life, her a wannabe actor and me a wannabe technician. But this isn't about me. Both Zoe and Kelly have back stories that are necessary to the plot but seem slightly unrealistic in some of the ways Mackintosh linked the past to the present. However the characters themselves felt real, and during the climax of the story (the last few chapters where shit goes down) I felt like I was each character in turn, feeling the fear and betrayal that came with the story.
Side Note: I feel there is a certain art to making the reader feel exactly what the characters feel.
I am the type of person that enjoys working out a problem so the favourite part would have to be the conclusion, the catching of the bad guy (I'm using the word 'guy' in a gender neutral manner) but because it is the conclusion and the catching I can reveal very little. Though I can tell you that a was shaking, inches away from tears and frankly I was so caught up that my house could have burnt down and their is a very high chance that I would not have noticed, the story had twists and turns and I spent the whole time accusing every person that was mentioned. 
I will admit, it was a very slow start but once it picked up it didn't stop. And as I mentioned earlier I had some issues with how the past of the characters fitted perfectly with the events that were happening now, it just felt unrealistic. But of course I have never been a policeman or a victim of stalking, rape or murder so for all I know links between the past and the present happen all the time.
One last thing that I will mention before I finish is that I like how the chapters were set up, it would start with Zoe in first person then for the next chapter it was switch to Kelly's story but in third person, then ever five or so chapter you'd get narrative from the bad guys (again gender neutral) perspective. I will tell you know that narrative chilled me to the bone. If you are reading a book in the middle of the night and you turn the page to find the first line saying "I see you. But you don't see me. You're engrossed in your book..." Then believe me you will be chilled.
I would and will recommend this to anyone who will listen.

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Book published April 2017

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka review

Well overall this is an odd book and I have no idea how to start.

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.

From what I understand of this book when it was written it came as something of a shock to the world as nothing had ever before been written like this. The Metamorphosis seems to have no real story line, very few twists or tricks and yet I couldn't put it down. I found Gregor to be an interesting character who seemed to value family and how they felt more than anything else, he also seemed to take to the whole turning into a giant insect thing very well.
Besides Gregor I found Greta to be one of the more interesting characters as she, unlike Mr and Mrs Samsa seemed to value the idea that family is more important than anything else in most situations, she also seemed more humane than the Mr and Mrs. I had mixed feelings about Mr and Mrs Samsa, they didn't develop as characters and I could barely understand what they thought of Gregor or how they were dealing with the situation. But perhaps when your son turns into a giant bug there isn't any understandable way to deal with it.
Side Note: none of the actions of any of the characters caused me any strong emotions, I neither cried nor laughed.
I didn't enjoy the minimal amount of dialect within this story, for me that tends to slow a book down considerably however in context of The Metamorphosis that lack of dialect does make sense and Kafka may have lost what the story was meant to be if he had added more dialect.

I don't really understand what this story was about and like I didn't know how to start the review I am also pretty clueless on how to finish it. Someone I know mentioned she had studied this in uni or perhaps college, either way she told me that a theme she believe The Metamorphosis covered was whether we were human even if in physical appearance we weren't. I considered that idea throughout reading this book and when I finished it, I had my conclusion. We are, humanity is within us, it's our personalities, our thoughts and memories. If you think about that while reading The Metamorphosis you might agree or you might not.

I'd rate this 6/10 but would defiantly hand it on to a friend or foe as I still think it is something that should be read in life.

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Book Published 1915

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang Review

This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plan to escape into the wild—and to hatch an egg of her own.

This book which has been adapted into a film, comic strips and translated into 27 languages was nothing I've read in a very long time. Being a stand alone books means you can pick this up at any point and read away, personally it took me less than 24 hours. This book is about an egg laying hen who doesn't like being in a coop and wants to explore, fly and hatch her own egg. This is about motherhood, standing up for what you believe in and taking chances. I tend to avoid general fiction but this was worth the read.
I haven't picked a favourite character because every one has certain qualities that are brilliant. However I really liked Sprout the main hen in this story, she had a strong personality and apart from the fact she's a chicken she is someone I would love to grow up to be. The Hen who Dreamed was written very well, in a way that made every character feel real and like I was witnessing the story as it took place. It also had fantastic twists and didn't shy away from the theme of losing friends/family, I read somewhere this book was classed as a fairy tale however I wouldn't put it in that genre, there wasn't magic or communication between little mice and princesses it felt very much like a real story that was taking place. (So don't pick this up if you are expecting something Cinderella.)
My favourite chapter was chapter 5, "A farewell and a greeting". This chapter I found stirred up my emotions the most making me feel like crying followed by me smiling like an idiot. That chapter along with all the others kept me reading almost none stop, and constantly excited for what would happen next to Sprout.
My copy is a paperback and consists of some of the most beautiful artwork at the beginning of each chapter, it set the scene for each chapter and made me look forward to what was ahead.. (See image below, sorry about the quality)

Although I thoroughly enjoyed almost every aspect of this book, I have a certain love for stories involving crime, thrills and mystery - this story had none of those. And although I wouldn't lower any rating a make because it isn't the genre I normally read, I'm not 100% sure how to rate or judge this book. I'm used to thinking about the crime and the conclusion, neither of which I can really look at in this book.
 As an 18 year old I enjoyed this book, I would also recommend this to my 13 year old sister along with my aunt and my mother. I think I covers a lot of themes that are rarely covered in books for younger reader as they can be considered slightly taboo. These themes are lose, unconditional love and perhaps discrimination, but since the entire book is from Sprout's point of view, and looks at the relationship between the chickens and the ducks young people could very well understand the messages it could be trying to put across.
I would recommend this to a friend or family member.
4/5 simply because it didn't have the thrill of the chase that crime books often do.

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Book Published 2000