fiction

Book Review: The Dollmaker

I’ve read pretty mixed reviews on this, and I must admit that it certainly wasn’t the kind of book I’d normally read. It had a very strange atmosphere to it, almost creepy at times.

Andrew recalls some of his childhood and youth, and his instant love for a doll he saw in a window. I actually felt that there was no sense of time even from the start – it took me a while to figure out how old Andrew was in particular parts of his story, let alone how old he is now. This was probably the root of my main issues with this book; I just couldn’t make sense of the timescale.

The introduction of Bramber’s letters was an interesting aspect, though I soon found similar troubles here: I did not feel the passing of time. I also had trouble keeping up with the characters. Still, the story being outlined was intriguing and quite exciting where Bramber’s past was concerned.

Bramber’s letters are included in-between Andrew’s own story, where he narrates his journey to surprise Bramber with a visit. They had never seen pictures of each other, or even spoken on the phone. It was a risk, but one Andrew felt was worth taking. Throughout this journey, Andrew tells more stories from his youth – several of which are quite – almost disturbingly – sexual.

It is also interspersed with Ewa Chaplin’s Nine Modern Fairytales, which all include a dwarf in some way. These stories were all rather creepy on their own, and Allan regularly refers to aspects from them in her writing.

NetGalley Badge

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I do not want to go into detail recapping the plot. My three main points to convey in this review are: it had a very distinct, strange aura; there seemed to be a distinct lack of time passing; I personally felt no real connection to or interest in any character. I felt very detached from this book when I read it. There were no faults with the writing that I could identify, I just simply didn’t click with it. That being said, I do appreciate the writing itself, and so am giving this book 3 stars.

Advertisements

Book Review: The Secret of the Silver Mines (Dylan Maples Adventures #2)

I didn’t know that this was part of a series when I first requested it but luckily it was perfectly fine as a standalone read. It’s a young adult adventure novel, but I definitely got the feeling that it was aimed at younger young adults than myself. The main character is 12-year-old Dylan Maples, so I assume the target audience is around that pre-teen age, too.

Dylan’s father often moves around for his work, which is as a lawyer. They’re now moving to Cobalt, in north Canada. “Hicksville”, as Dylan calls it. It’s only for a few months, but Dylan is dreading leaving his friends behind. Cobalt is bound to be so boring. How will he ever survive?

But of course, Dylan finds adventure in this seemingly sleepy town. As usual, I won’t tell too much of the plot, but I will say that Dylan finds himself in the middle of the law suit his dad is working on.

Dylan makes a friend in Cobalt, too – Wynona. He meets her almost immediately, though they don’t become acquainted until a little later on. Their relationship remains platonic, though it is fairly obvious that there are some deeper emotions.

NetGalley Badge

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

Personally, I found this to be quite a young book. It included a huge amount of similes and metaphors and what I’d consider ‘simplistic’ writing. It wasn’t bad, it just felt like it was a bit too young for me to enjoy.

For a younger audience I could see this as being quite interesting, though I found it a little slow at times. 3 stars.

Book Review: Finding Grace

Yesterday I finished Finding Grace, a short historical fiction book I was given the chance to read thanks to NetGalley. It follows Grace, a thirteen-year-old girl living in a Belgian convent in 1975. She was left on the steps as a baby, along with her disabled sister, Dotty. But Dotty recently died, and everything is changing.

Grace is moved to the girls’ boarding school dorm. She soon becomes close with Fran, but also has a few run-ins with the stuck up Deirdra. While helping Fran with a history project Grace discovers an old journal kept by one of the nuns at the convent during the war. It tells her horrific story of abandonment, rape and loss.

All the while, the girls are trying to find out more about Grace’s past, and avoid the wrath of the horrible Sister Francis. Eventually Grace does get some anwswers, but they were certainly not the ones she was looking for.

I’m not usually very interested in historical fiction but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even though it was short, the characters were well developed and the plot was exciting and intriguing. I felt immersed in the setting, and felt empathetic for Grace. I actually felt quite invested in her and her search for knowledge.

NetGalley Badge

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

There were a few typos and such, but as this is only a review copy I can’t be sure whether the final publication will include them. It was a quick, interesting read, a good introduction to historical fiction. 4 stars!

Book Review: McDowell

Thanks to OnlineBookClub.org for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this.

This was, in my opinion, a very strange book. I shall attempt to summarise the plot briefly, but I’m afraid I am going to find it quite difficult. The plot was very… all over the place, for lack of a better term.

As the title suggests, this novel follows the life of Hiram McDowell, a wealthy surgeon and father. He has been married several times, and is currently with his wife Carole, who has two daughters of her own. One of the first noteworthy happenings involves one of these daughters, Tasha, and Hiram’s son, Billie. Tasha falls pregnant with Billie’s child. Hiram refuses to accept this, denying Billie’s involvement with Tasha or his responsibility with the child. A restraining order is placed against Billie, and he falls into a depression of sorts. The next major event involves Hiram’s eleven-year-old grandson, Jeremy. His mother has known something was different about him for a while, but her husband refused to listen. Eventually, Jeremy goes on a killing spree, shooting classmates, teachers, his sister and his mother, before then shooting himself. But he is not dead – severely brain-damaged and unconscious, but alive nonetheless. Hiram’s second daughter, Sophie, tries to encourage Jeremy to communicate with them, to show that he can hear them. But McDowell does not believe he will ever recover.

Soon, Jeremy passes away. Evidence suggests McDowell’s involvement in the death; murder? Euthanasia? He is convicted and sentenced to several decades imprisonment. But before long, McDowell decides he doesn’t deserve this, and so he escapes. His past experience in hiking and mountain-climbing enables him to survive without proper human contact for weeks, months, at a time, until he believes it is safe enough for him to migrate back into society. He begins a new life, developing different identities and beginning to earn a living again. He meets a lot of people, many of which become quite attached to him. But the law soon comes after him, and he is forced to move on.

In the end, McDowell is betrayed by a woman who’s life he saved. He is shot dead, accused of resisting the arrest despite no evidence of any weapons or fighting.

Of course, there are a lot of subplots that I haven’t included. There are also a lot of characters that have gone unnamed; too many, I believe. I couldn’t keep track of all the different characters and stories in the end. I got a bit lost, and felt no emotional connection to any of them whatsoever. This was probably my biggest criticism; there was a distinct lack of emotion. At the end of the novel, it was suggested that McDowell had grown as a person since his arrest, but I didn’t see any of this character growth myself. I didn’t feel anything.

Another issue I had with this book was the repetitive nature of the writing. Several details were repeated within close proximity, removing any subtlety to the writing. I also found that the inner dialogue of characters was not particularly convincing, sounding clunky and awkward.

Throughout the book there were paragraphs in italics, supposedly a separate narrative/summary of the events. But these paragraphs sounded exactly the same as the rest of the writing, and I failed to understand why they were separated from the rest of the text by being in italics.

I know there are a lot of negatives in this review, but I didn’t actually hate the book. I can’t say I enjoyed it, either, though. There was definite room for improvement, and very little that was noteworthy in a positive way. I’m giving this book 1 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I’m a bit late to this party, but I finally read it! It was released a while ago now, and I’ve been trying to get it finished for some time, but life got in the way. Anyway, here is my review at last.

Throughout a decent chunk of the novel, I felt like there actually was no plot. Not in a bad way, but it was almost just a narration of Eleanor’s life. The writing was so interesting and Eleanor so unique as a character that I liked that, though. And then a plot did start to develop, albeit not a particularly active one. As in, it was mostly about the past, not something that actually happened during the story. Like usual, I won’t say too much about it.

Eleanor is a very strange individual, with absolutely no social skills whatsoever. It’s rather comical at first, her attempts at everyday life quite laughable. But it’s later revealed why she has such difficulty, and I found myself feeling incredibly bad for her. Her story is sad, and although I had guessed at what had happened, her personal revelation was huge. After a failed attempt at ‘fixing’ her life, Eleanor finds herself at rock bottom. But miraculously, she has someone to help her, who cares about her well-being. With his help, Eleanor learns some new coping mechanisms, and begins to rebuild her life.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I really liked this book, and the writing was great. Eleanor’s personality was conveyed through the writing perfectly. 4.5 stars.

Book Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood

I’m going to avoid discussing the plot too much so I don’t spoil any potential readers (and I do recommend you read this!).

This book is set in Dubossary, narrated alternately by Liba and Laya. Liba is the older of the two, the only children in their family. They are Jews, and while this book was hugely about their faith and discrimination against them, it is not only about that. This book was like a new fairytale. It had magic in every page, and was genuinely exciting to read. There were tragic elements, tons of romance, and even a sense of suspense.

The girls are left in their home alone when their parents rush off to Kupel in a family emergency. But just as they plan to leave, the girls’ Mami decides it’s time to tell her daughters who they really are: a bear and a swan.

As I said, I will not delve into the story too much. But I really loved the story involving Laya and the Hovlin brothers, as well as Liba’s own internal struggles. Laya’s romance at the end of the book was, in my opinion, a little rushed and unexpected, but that’s the only real downside I have.

The writing was lovely – it included Yiddish and Hebrew dialect, which was translated in the Author’s Note at the end. (A quick side note; I actually read the entire Note, which is

NetGalley Badge

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

really quite rare for me.) And Laya’s account, in particular, felt so poetic. She was definitely my favourite character, as much as I love Liba, too. And the relationship between the girls is so, so lovely. No matter how much they try to push each other away, they are always there for each other in the end.

As I enjoyed this book so much, I tried to talk about it with my boyfriend. However, I soon discovered that describing this story is really quite a feat. It was full of little details and twists that just made the story.

I really liked this book. As I only received an ARC and not a final edition, I didn’t have the official layout, which I can imagine may add to it also. Even so, I’m easily giving this 4.5 to 5 stars.

Book Review: Rosewater

After I signed up to review this book, I started seeing it everywhere. But sadly I did not really understand the hype.

This book takes a whole new perspective on ‘sensitives’ and mind-reading abilities, with the cause being an alien fungus. I liked this – I especially liked the amount of detail included, the scientific terms and explanations.

NetGalley Badge

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

But as far as the actual plot is concerned… I was completely lost. I was bored, and I had no idea who was who by the end of it. I just got too confused by it all. There were emotional moments, but I never really connected with the characters. This may all just be my own personal preference – I’m sure other people will enjoy it far more than I did. But I did not particularly enjoy it, sadly, and am giving it 2.5 – 3 stars.

Manga/Graphic Review: Seto Utsumi, Volume #1

This manga was comprised of seven chapters, each containing a separate story. Well, story is not quite accurate… Each chapter is really a new conversation between the two teens as they sit by the river after school. They talk about anything and everything, from girls to bullies to ghosts. It’s sweet at times, when the boys’ affection for one another is made apparent, even without them actually voicing it. They tease each other endlessly, argue and taunt each other, but all in good humour.

Some of the things they talk about did seem rather shallow to me, and the way they spoke was a little strange to me. I get the feeling that this is aimed more at readers who understand the culture a bit more and can relate to the characters.

Personally, I found the book a little boring overall. There was no real plot, which can be nice sometimes, but just felt a little… lost here. Sometimes the boys spoke about interesting topics, but I would have liked to hear more about their personal lives, their emotions and fears.

NetGalley Badge

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

This was a strange read, honestly. I didn’t particularly like it, though I didn’t dislike it either. I just didn’t really connect with the characters or enjoy it that much. 2.5 stars.

Manga Review: Sota’s Knife

This manga is about a young man called Sota who is working as a kitchen hand in a restaurant in Japan. He dreams of reviving his own family restaurant, and stays late most nights to practice his own cooking.

In this, Sota meets several challenges, mostly cooking-based. They all have some sort of sweet, positive answer or conclusion, and Sota uses his passion for cooking and his father’s and friends’ advice to find the answers without any external help.

NetGalley Badge

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

The grammar wasn’t perfect, which I believe may be due to translation errors. I also didn’t find it that easy to follow at times, and some of the speech bubbles weren’t placed particularly clearly. The writing itself was a little hard to go along with too, honestly, and it wasn’t the most exciting manga. But there weren’t really any overwhelming faults, so I’m giving this 3 stars.

Book Review: I Know You Know

A massive thanks to Edelweiss+ for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

Two young boys were murdered in 1996. Twenty years later, their best friend is revisiting the case in his own podcast. The man convicted of the murders has killed himself, and one reporter has published an article questioning the reliabilty of his conviction.

I would summarise the plot a bit more, but it’s really quite complicated. There are so many twists and turns, and little details that link together. The best way to understand abd appreciate these things is to read it yourself.

I really, really enjoyed this. The links that are uncovered throughout are fantastic. It was really interesting to see different sides of the story, too – we follow Detective Fletcher when he first works on the murder case, as well as twenty years later when the case is revisited. We also follow the friend of the boys, Cody Swift, as he produces his podcast, as well as one of the boys’ mother, Jess, as she struggles to hold her new family together. The different angles really made this unique and exciting. When new information is uncovered, it made me look at certain characters in a whole new way. Characters I initially liked turned out to be pretty horrible in reality.

One problem I did have was the amount of typos/grammar mistakes, but I can only assume that these are only present in my ARC and will be removed/rectified in the final publication.

I would definitely recommend reading this if you like excitement, thrillers, plot twists and crime novels. A strong 4.5 stars for I Know You Know.