Book Review

Recent Reads: The Diviner’s Tale by Bradford Morrow and Temptation Island by Victoria Fox.

A round up of some of the books I’ve recently read.

imageThe Diviner’s Tale by Bradford Morrow. Corvus.
Walking a lonely forested valley on a spring morning in upstate New York, having been hired by a developer to dowse the land, Cassandra Brooks comes upon the shocking vision of a young girl hanged from a tree. When she returns with authorities to the site, the body has vanished, leaving in question Cassandra’s credibility if not her sanity. The next day, on a return visit with the sheriff to have another look, a dazed, mute missing girl emerges from the woods, alive and the very picture of Cassandra’s hanged girl.

What follows is the narrative of ever-deepening and increasingly bizarre divinations that will lead this gifted young woman, the struggling single mother of twin boys, hurtling toward a past she’d long since thought was behind her. The Diviner’s Tale is at once a journey of self-discovery and an unorthodox murder mystery, a tale of the fantastic and a family chronicle told by an otherwise ordinary woman.

When Cassandra’s dark forebodings take on tangible form, she is forced to confront a life spiraling out of control. And soon she is locked in a mortal chess match with a real-life killer who has haunted her since before she can remember.

This book doesn’t fit neatly into any pigeon hole, and I think this is one of the reasons I loved reading it so much. It is a blend of thriller, mystery, and family orientated women’s fiction – sitting wonderfully in its own space carved out somewhere between them all, with Cassandra’s divination, and ability to see the future adding an air of the supernatural to the mix.

This book is quiet, and peaceful, despite its sometimes difficult subject matter it is a beautiful and most satisfying read. The characters are well developed and interesting, I particularly loved the dynamic between Cass and her sons, at times it made my heart ache in the best possible way.

Whilst the book is a quiet read, this doesn’t mean the mystery element is any less gripping – there is a genuine sense of puzzlement as you read the book, Cass is very unsure about what is going on at times and the reader is in the same position. A couple of times I thought I’d worked out the mystery element and then very quickly realised I’d got it completely wrong.

imageTemptation Island by Victoria Fox. Mira.
Welcome to Paradise. Only the rich are invited…only the strongest survive. But is it heaven on earth or a devil’s playground? Fame. Money. Success. Lori wants them Aurora is being destroyed by them, and Stevie’s got them at her best friend’s expense. These three women are all drawn unwittingly to the shores of Temptation Island, all looking for their own truth. But they discover a secret so shocking there’s no turning back. It’s wicked, it’s sensational. Are you ready to be told? The island promises the one thing money can’t buy – but the glittering waters drown dark secrets… The price is devastating.

I loved Victoria Fox’s debut novel, Hollywood Sinners, so had pretty high expectations when I sat down to read this, her second book. It has a quick, pacy opening that has you wondering what happened to cause this incident – the book then jumps back in time a few years and steadily works forward to the opening incident. Needless to say, as you read the book you draw your own conclusions about the opening – I wonder how many readers got it as wrong as I did.

There are three women at the heart of this book, they are all clearly defined characters whose lives appear completely unconnected but naturally over time you start to see their plot threads twisting around each other’s. There’s a really sinister side to this story, I found that the more I read the less sure I became the I actually wanted to know what was going on (though of course I only read faster to discover it).

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot, it ticks all the key boxes and does so in style. I did have one major quibble with how one of the main character’s storyline was resolved, for me it was really unsatisfactory. This didn’t detract from the overall experience of the book, but did leave me wishing that things had gone the way I’d wanted them too – but then that’s not real life is it.

Book Review

My Week In Books. [2]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in drabble form – exactly 100 words excluding title and publishing details.

Kill All Enemies by Melvin Burgess. Puffin Books.
This book tells the stories of three troubled teens, the sort of kids a lot of society just dismiss and look down on, and gives them a voice to tell their side of the story. Burgess doesn’t try to excuse the things they do but instead offers an explanation for their behaviour and shows that people aren’t simply good or bad. The teenagers feel very authentic, I could relate their behaviour to a couple of teens I know. This book is funny, poignant and thought provoking and a real page turner, I will be certainly be reading more by Burgess.

Big Change For Stuart by Lissa Evans. Doubleday Children’s.
I loved Small Change For Stuart and was looking forward to reading about Stuart’s next adventure. I wasn’t disappointed, this book is full of magic and mystery as he and April search for his Great-Uncle’s will to prove Stuart is the rightful owner of the magician’s workshop. I liked the way some of the minor characters got a bigger part to play in this book, particularly the other two triplets and Stuart’s dad. I really enjoyed the tasks Stuart had to complete and the worlds they were set in, Evans clearly has a wonderful imagination. A lovely middle grade read.

A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean. Katherine Tegen Books
This book, aimed at the 8-12 market, is a deceptive read. Its title suggests it’s going to be a sweet animal story (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but it’s so much more. It focuses on how Cally and her family are adjusting to life without her mother but with the introduction of other characters shows how important it is to look beneath the surface of people. There are some lovely characters, I particularly liked the sensitive way Cally’s grieving father was portrayed and the friendship developed between Cally and Sam. This is definitely a book I’ll be recommending.

Cracks by Caroline Green. Piccadilly Press.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it combines dystopia with thriller really well, both aspects of the plot feel very well balanced. For me the best dystopias are those that you can imagine happening, where you can see how our society could disintegrate to that point, and Cracks definitely ticks this box. This is a fast-paced read, I couldn’t hit the page forward button on my Kindle quickly enough at times. I didn’t always buy how Cal who’d missed the last 12 years and the changes in society accepted this new world, but that was my only niggle with the book.

The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown. Corvus.
I’d put off reading this book for ages, I’d heard it was a beautiful and emotional read and I needed to be in the right frame of mind (and have a good supply of tissues) and it never felt like the right time. I’m really glad I waited, a book like this deserves some proper indulgent reading time. It’s a truly wonderful read, I’m not sure I have the superlatives for it. Steeped in history, filled with the wonderful women of the ATA this book has it all – hard work, friendship, laughter, tears and love. An absolute must read.

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I did also read a few picture books this week but I’ve decided I’ll do a monthly round up of picture books or these posts will end up ridiculously long!

Book Review

Book Review : “Hollywood Hills” by Joseph Wambaugh.

The legendary Hollywood Hills are home to wealth, fame, and power – passing through the neighbourhood, it’s hard not to get a little greedy.

LAPD veteran ‘Hollywood Nate’ Weiss could take or leave the opulence, but he wouldn’t say no to a shot at celluloid immortality. And it looks like he may get his chance when he catches the eye of a B-list director or – more to the point – the appreciative eye of the B-list director’s predatory fiancée. Nate knows the Hollywood maxim – you don’t pet the boss’s cougar – but he’s got to keep his silver screen dream alive, so he agrees to add her hillside mansion to his beat.
It really shouldn’t be a problem, but this is Hollywood and although the air may be a little more rarefied in the hills, when night falls, just like in the city, anything can happen…

Up here, an ex-con-cum-butler is trying to go straight, a nattily-dressed-but-destitute art dealer has his eye on an opportunity that just might save his floundering business, a drug-addled pair of petty thieves are about to get very lucky… and Nate’s flirtation in the Hills is going to leave the crew at Hollywood Station with a deadly situation on their hands.

I love a good police story, and I love a bit of Hollywood glitz and glamour so when I read the synopsis of this book I thought it sounded like something I’d enjoy. After reading the first chapter that came complete with a pair of surfer dude cops known to the rest of their team as Flotsam and Jetsam and I thought I’d made the right choice. Over the next few chapters however new characters and plot threads were brought in and I found myself becoming less sure about what the plot of the story actually was – there were so many things going on. I stuck with it though and was glad I did as bit by bit Wambaugh wove the seemingly unrelated threads together to tell a thoroughly engaging tale. I found at times that it reminded me a lot of the tv programme Southland, a definite positive for me as I’ve been missing it for some time now.

There are plenty of interesting characters to be found within the pages of Hollywood Hills. I did find initially that I confused a couple from time to time but pretty quickly I got them all sorted and separated. Some of the characters did at times feel a bit caricaturish, for example the experienced female cop who spends all her time explaining to her female trainee the ways her male colleagues will act badly towards her. Flotsam and Jetsam remained firm favourites with me, their bromance was written so well that I would have happily read a spin off novel featuring them as the main characters.

As I’ve said after a slightly shaky start I got really wrapped up in this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I shall certainly add Joseph Wambaugh to my list of authors to look out for in the future.