Category: book reviews

Book Review: Beowulf

It has been an incredibly long time since I have read poetry.

When I requested this book from Netgalley, the logic was that I would be reading something a little different.

Beowulf

Goodreads – Beowulf

Beowulf tells the story of a Scandinavian hero who defeats three evil creatures—a huge, cannibalistic ogre named Grendel, Grendel’s monstrous mother, and a dragon—and then dies, mortally wounded during his last encounter. If the definition of a superhero is “someone who uses his special powers to fight evil,” then Beowulf is our first English superhero story, and arguably our best. It is also a deeply pious poem, so bold in its reverence for a virtuous pagan past that it teeters on the edge of heresy. From beginning to end, we feel we are in the hands of a master storyteller.
 
Stephen Mitchell’s marvelously clear and vivid rendering re-creates the robust masculine music of the original. It both hews closely to the meaning of the Old English and captures its wild energy and vitality, not just as a deep “work of literature” but also as a rousing entertainment that can still stir our feelings and rivet our attention today, after more than a thousand years. This new translation—spare, sinuous, vigorous in its narration, and translucent in its poetry—makes a masterpiece accessible to everyone.

 

My Thoughts…

Beowulf is an incredibly old text; the original manuscripts are thought to date back somewhere between the 10th and 11th century, a period in which there is a lot of Scandinavian influence in Britain as a result of the Vikings, uh… permanent, self-imposed visitation rights. Invasion – yes, that’s a good word too!

I have a Danish work colleague, and I think it is funny to compare ideas on these things. From the British perspective, the Vikings invaded, pillaged, murdered… eventually settling with us. From the Danish view, men and women were seeking a better life for their families. Farming was near impossible in the Scandinavian climate and life was harsh. British soil offered security.

Anyway, that’s a bit of background for you. Back to Beowulf!

I imagine (and am assured by other reviews) that any physical editions are presented so that the original text is on one page, with Stephen Mitchell’s translation on the other page. Sadly, as I was reading an ebook version, this did not translate (pardon the pun) at all. The readable, English paragraphs were broken up with Olde English, so the text lost it’s flow.

I wanted to read this epic poem for two reasons – one, because I am hugely interested in the historical period it is believed to have stemmed from; two, poetry is not an everyday read for me. Reading Beowulf reminded me of just why that is. Turns out, my competency of poetry extends about as far as mastering Green Eggs and Ham – but that’s all. Other reviews gush over how Mitchell maintains some alliteration, which structures the poem, but I’ll admit it passed me by.

Cat in the hat.gif
So whilst I enjoyed the historical context and the story in it’s own right, I couldn’t fully appreciate the poem and it’s construction for what it is. I just don’t get it. I rated the book three stars, because I still enjoyed reading it. Anyone with a better eye or ear for poetics will probably have a better time of appreciating this than me – but all the same, Beowulf’s acts of strength and heroism were an intriguing read.
Rebecca mono

Audiobook Review: The Stand – Stephen King

Getting into an audiobook was a huge change for me.
I had tried some free ones before as a means to experiment with whether I liked them or not. I was still hugely undecided, but after much insistence from a very good friend who loves them, I signed up to a free trial on Audible.
When you sign up, you get a free credit to spend on any book you would like. I thought that was pretty reasonable – even the bestsellers are available! I half expected you to only be able to choose from a limited library, but I am glad I was wrong.
I deliberated long and hard about what to download for a while. I wanted my credit to be worthwhile, so I purposely chose a long book.
 
The Stand

Goodreads – The Stand

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.
And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the Dark Man.

By the time I had downloaded and began to listen to this, I had read a few of Stephen King’s books: The Green Mile, Pet Sematary, IT and the first book of The Dark Tower series. I love how King’s interpretation of the horror genre is very much based around the psychology of fear. I have to say it has almost become something of a fascination in me. Not being a lover of horror otherwise, the realisation came to be a pleasant surprise.

Do not get me started on budget horror films, unless you want to take an unconventional exit from the spotlight, (unlike all the highly stereotyped characters typically involved), by being bored to death by my incessant ramblings. I really could go on about it all day *sigh*

My point is this – King has contradicted every stereotype and shown me that not all horror is just a cheap shot at giving you an adrenaline rush. There is far more sophistication to his writing… and his in-depth understanding of people and the way they think is a scary thing in itself! It is almost as if King can see into your soul and just know your every thought, feeling and fear just by looking at you.
You must have gathered just how high he has risen in my expectations by now. I love his writing and the characters he creates. Although all of his stories are wildly different, they are all enjoyable in their own ways. The Stand explores how society rebuilds after a catastrophic event and the struggles it experiences with the forces of Good and Evil, embodied by Mother Abigail and The Walking Dude. All the while trouble stirs the pot from within, and things blow up in quite spectacular fashion.
This audiobook was an astounding 47hrs and 47mins long. The narrator, Grover Gardener was brilliantly consistent throughout. From the first minute to the last, there was no compromise in the narration or how well he brought each of the characters to life.
If I wasn’t sure about audiobooks before, I can assure you there is no doubt now. I am choosy about what I download and thankfully the sample option allows you to be. The next two books I have downloaded are ones that I was unsure as to whether I would actually pick up the physical book. Some stories are best told I think.
This however is definitely an exception, and I feel sure the next time I read this book, it will be a physical copy.
Rebecca mono

Book Review: The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

I can only apologise if you were expecting a review out of me yesterday.
I had every intention of writing this on Monday night – I was home early and had plenty of time on my hands… but WordPress had no plans to do ANYTHING for me. Reluctantly, I signed off.
I knew I wasn’t going to get anything written on Tuesday, and that is why in my Sunday Summary I commented that I may be late posting this. Why? It was my birthday! I had plans to be out for the evening – and I enjoyed every minute of it!
 
The Miniaturist
Goodreads – The Miniaturist

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam–a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion–a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.
“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .”
On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.
But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .
Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand–and fear–the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

I feel like I have spoken about this book a lot – and to my mind it deserves all the attention it gets.
I added this book to the TBR last year – but after watching the recent TV adaptation between Christmas and New Year… I knew I had to read this sooner rather than later. I love books and TV shows set in historic time periods, along with the social issues and differences to modern day life that come along with that.
Nella marries a rich merchant and travels to Amsterdam to start her new life in a position of power. The atmosphere of Amsterdam is extremely oppressive in comparison to today’s standards, with the oppression coming from the church and religion itself. Power is a double sided coin though – and there are many that would like to see her new husband Johannes Brandt fall from grace.
The dynamic of the city and the relationship Nella has with Johannes’ sister, Marin, go hand in hand with each other. Marin is distant and untrusting of Nella, but as the narrative, the lies and deceit gradually unfold, these two women have to join forces to withstand the storm. Marin would have many believe she paupers herself in humility to God, but she is far from virtuous in reality, which Nella soon discovers.
But within this city built on lies and corruption, resides the Miniaturist, who has a startling ability to see the details many would love to keep hidden…
Nella, and the perspective of the story from this naïve, young woman is written in an extraordinary way. Throughout we see how Nella develops from the innocent young girl, who thinks longingly of marriage and children, to a woman who is able to deal with hardship and finally take her role and accompanying responsibilities as Johannes Brandt’s wife. Whilst she always retains a glimmer of hope, something I attribute to her youth, her understanding of her new world and the corruption rife within it blossoms.
The characters and relationships are complex yet consistent, built within the web of society laced with prejudice and discrimination, a lack of gender rights and racial inequality. All of these issues are touched on beautifully, in such a way as to make you sympathise with each character and the difficulties they face in this oppressive life they lead.
I completely loved this book, and I cannot recommend this highly enough to anyone! Even if you cannot bear to read the book – watch the TV adaptation, please.
You won’t regret it.
Rebecca mono

Book Review: Snobbity Snowman – Maria Bardyukova & Quiet Riley

Good morning everybody!

My first review request of the month and 2018 gives me the opportunity to look back at the type of books I would have been reading as a child.

Back in my day – so, so long ago (joking!) the most memorable series of books that springs to mind was The Magic Key series! Weren’t they fun?! Well, I thought they were, and being encouraged to read from such a young age, I wouldn’t be surprised if I read all of them. I think all children should be encouraged to read – not only is it an essential skill, but for us bookworms, it is a pleasure as well.

Snobbity Snowman
Goodreads – Snobbity Snowman

Snobbity Snowman has everything a snowman could possibly want: a shiny hat, freshly-picked noses and enough pride to last a lifetime. In fact, he is so selfish and shortsighted that he fails to see the instance his life starts falling apart.

What disasters must take place to open his charcoal eyes? To help him see that pride and possessions cannot bring true happiness? Will he defrost his ego and embrace the warmth of companionship?
Only Snobbity can tell.

Depicting winter in rich and whimsical tones, Snobbity Snowman’s quirky characters and unexpected twists promise to leave a lasting impression on all its snobbulous readers.

 

My Thoughts…

Snobbity Snowman really captures the essence of Christmas. It is easy to become caught up in the presents, the food and the inevitable cost. Who got the better present, and who had the most moey spent on them? It is a selfish side of Christmas, and sometimes it can feel like it has turned into a competition. How many small children have internet capable smartphones nowadays?! I think it’s ludicrous – I got my first Nokia brick (with everyone’s favourite game of snake on it) when I was about nine or ten, I think, but it was only for emergencies.

Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked. My point is, the focus of Christmas is no longer about giving, or more importantly appreciating what you have – family. The current social attitude is symbolised by Snobbity Snowman; he has anything he could “possibly ever want”, and anything less than satisfactory makes him angry.

Only when he is stripped of his possessions (and associated pride) does he open his eyes to such meagre items making the world of difference to the family that acquired them. In that, he finds happiness himself. To give is the best thing that you can do. Once he has learned this he is made new again and becomes part of the family.

The message behind Snobbity Snowman is an important one for children to learn, and this has been carefully portrayed. Also expected within books aimed at this audience are gradual introductions to new words – roiled and rancorous, for example. Alliteration is also a device used in the book to draw the reader to these words, to make them fun, yet prominent.

Bearing the target audience in mind, probably the most contributing factor to the book and the audience’s understanding of the story are the illustrations accompanying the text. Snobbity is portrayed perfectly; the vivid images help move the story along and throw in some humour along the way!

All in all, this is a lovely book to read with the kids, to introduce them to new words and ideas and more importantly, to convey the message that material possessions are not what is important, but family and happiness.

Thank you to Quiet Riley for approaching me with the request to read this book in an exchange for a review.
Rebecca mono

Review: Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein

Hi everyone! Today I am very excited to be bringing you a review of Code Name Verity!

It was the last book that I read in 2017 – and if I hadn’t published my Top Ten Tuesday – Books of the Year post so early, this would have made the list for sure!

Code Name Verity
Goodreads – Code Name Verity

Oct. 11th, 1943 – A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

 

Verity is such a captivating character – from the first page, you are sucked into her narrative, intimate in such personal and genuine feeling. As “Verity” writes her confession and surrenders details of about the British, we learn how she became best friends with Maddie and got involved in the war effort. Whilst cooped up in her cell, subjected to watching the torture and execution of other resisting captives, she scrawls her tale on any form of paper available to her – music scores, recipe cards and Jewish prescription sheets to name but some examples. She grieves for her losses and for Maddie, whose plane crash-landed after delivering her safely for her mission.

Code Name Verity stirs a variety of emotions throughout the book – horror at the atrocities experienced at the hands of the Gestapo; fear for our protagonist’s life as she struggles on in her meagre existence; and humour… somehow, a small spark of resistance lies deep in her heart despite all her suffering. And a small spark can ignite a flame… The details of Verity’s mission unfold, and all may not be lost.

It is easy to consider the overall events of the war in hindsight, losing the personal touch – the men, women and children that died as a result of the war were mother’s, fathers, brothers and sisters. They were families. The narrative of Code Name Verity puts that right back into perspective.

Somehow I feel that anything I can say about how brilliant, beautiful and cleverly written the narrative is, I feel my comments can never do the book justice. Instead, let actions speak louder than words: Much as one may do with a classic or beloved favourite, this is a book I am going to pick up and read again. And again. I’ll probably get my hands on a physical copy to adorn my bookshelf too, because it has earned it’s place in my library. I hope it earns a place in yours too!
Rebecca mono

Blog Tour: Triple Cross Killer – Rosemarie Aquilina

Today I am excited to be taking part in a Blog Tour for Triple Cross Killer, by Rosemarie Aquilina, organised by Fiery Seas Publishing.
This is the first time I have written a review as a part of a tour, and I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you all!
Triple Cross Killer
 
Triple Cross Killer
By Rosemarie Aquilina
Fiery Seas Publishing
December 5, 2017   
Thriller
Buy Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Kobo  iTunes
Book Trailer: here
 
 

Have you ever wondered what really happens to Santa Claus letters?  In Detroit and Sarasota some children’s letters are diverted and reviewed by Nick Archer, a religiously obsessed, narcissist. Nick responds, leaving a trail of devastation in the two cities.
In Detroit, co-ed partners and wise-cracking lovers, detectives Jaq McSween and David Maxwell, team up with Sarasota detectives Abel Mendoza and his partner, Rabbit, to find this daunting killer.
When Jaq’s friend, the lovely nurse, Rita Rose, takes a chance on love again, she gets caught in Nick’s web. Working with the ME, she joins in, adding her perspective when events take a sinister turn.
Can this diverse team of characters pool their insights, barbs, and taste for bad food to save Rita when she discovers the final clues or will she become the next victim?

Christmas is a time when children get to ask the man in the big red suit for their greatest desires… a new bike, toys and such. Some children end up getting a whole lot more than they bargained for…
When murder victims start turning up in two cities, it is a race against time to catch the killer before he escalates any further. Leaving distinctive marks on his victim, though no other trace as to his identity, will Jaq and David, with the help of Abel and Rabbit catch the killer before Christmas?
I love how we know the killer’s identity from the start; it makes a refreshing change from a typical “who dunnit” crime/thriller story. I would argue that this is more difficult to achieve, yet is executed flawlessly here. Rosemarie’s background is obviously a huge contributor to developing each and every character and exposure to such personalities is what makes both the plot and the characters feel so genuine.
God bless Rita – I feel so sorry that she ends up being involved with Nick. After her first marriage deteriorated she avoided the complications of another relationship for so long… and then when she finally does take the plunge, she ends up with this narcissist. Could she be this unlucky twice in a row by chance? Perhaps not…
Nick experienced a rough childhood. Being brought up in a family with an abusive father left it’s scars. As an adult, Nick adopts his extreme religious views and strives to protect children and their innocence from similar domestic issues. If I had to describe Nick to you three words, I wouldsay he is cold, calculated and clinical. No detail is missed. His planning is meticulous.
I think the book was also well paced – information is fed to you at the right points to keep intrigue peaked but not to give the whole game away. Naturally as the puzzle pieces fit together the full picture is unraveled, but there are a few surprises along the way! Just when you think you have everything sussed out there is a plot twist to pull the carpet out from underneath your feet!
Rita is a fantastic character. Maybe I relate to her more as she is a compassionate woman, who has unfortuntely been trodden into the dirt by so many people that she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Whilst there are times I really wanted to shake her and make her see past Nick’s charm and understand what a controlling man he really is, I can see why she acted the way she did. Wanting someone to love and to be loved is not a crime, and when she decides to take a chance on Nick, she falls for him hard. Love is blind, so they say. There are a number of small sections in which I was praying nobody was looking over my shoulder at work (thankfully nobody did), but I do think they were essential to the story in conveying the control Nick has over Rita – physically and emotionally.
Personally, I am very picky about books around the crime or thriller genre. They have to be written very well and have developed plots in order to compete within a large market. I can proudly say I loved Triple Cross Killer, and I have no doubt that it will hold its own. I wish Rosemarie every success with the book, because I think all the praise is deserved.
Congratulations on the book release, and thank you for the opprtunity to read and review Triple Cross Killer!
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Rosemarie Aquilina

About the Author:

Rosemarie Aquilina is the mother of five children. Elected as a 30th Circuit Court Judge serving in the General Trial Division, after having served as a 55th District Court Judge in Mason, Michigan, she takes pride in public serve.
In 1986, Judge Aquilina became the first female JAG Officer in the history of the Michigan Army National Guard, she retired in 2006 with twenty years Honorable Service.  She is an adjunct law professor at both Western Michigan University—Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Michigan State University College of Law and has earned teaching awards at both institutions. Judge Aquilina is the former owner of Aquilina Law Firm, PLC, and former host of a syndicated radio talk show called Ask the Family Lawyer.

The Black Prism – Brent Weeks

Finally, I get to bring you a review of The Black Prism by Brent Weeks!
Life has been conspiring against me lately, it seems. Firstly I didn’t get around to reading this in October as originally planned. I then made this the last book on my list for November, so it just feels like it has taken FOREVER and a day to get around to.
 
The Black Prism
The Black Prism – Goodreads

Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. Yet Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live.
When Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

As I am sure I have already mentioned when reviewing other fantasy books (particularly works by Brandon Sanderson), I love it when “magic” is integrated into a story in such a way that it has some kind of physical element. For example, in the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, the superhuman abilities such as being able to “fly” or have enhanced vision are obtained by ingesting and burning metals; they “fly” by pulling or pushing on other objects in their environment. Brent Weeks has used a similar idea of grounding his magic into reality by dependency on light. Personally, I think I like this aspect as it creates moments of weakness and if planned well, this conflict can really add to the plot.
Kip is devastated when his hometown ends up embroiled in war. To make an example to other rebel towns, the town is destroyed by the newly anointed King Garadul of Tyrea. Kip barely escapes with his life, but it is not just the burning of his home that turns his world upside down. Kip is a drafter, and when he makes a last stand against the King’s men he is saved by his father, the most powerful man in the world. Kip is dragged into his new life as the Prism’s… ahem… “nephew” and he begins to learn how to channel his abilities in a world rapidly descending into war once again.
I think the book had the right amount of action to keep things moving forward at an appropriate pace. If anything, the narrative around points in which battles are fought is drawn out longer than the rest of the book, but given that the conflict is a major part of the story, this is understandable. It is here that a lot of the magic is used so ample description of how it works is required. Given that each colour has it’s own properties/abilities, this does need explaining.
Kip is a young man… a teenager really. He is the son of a single mother with a drug addiction, physically unfit and has spent the majority of his life being taken advantage of. In theory, this should have made him a likeable character for me; he is far from perfect and frankly has low self-esteem… I’ve been there. There was just something missing with Kip for me. It isn’t that disliked him… I just didn’t like him either. I can’t say I felt attached to any of the characters in this book, if I’m honest, and I think this is where I feel somewhat let down.
The plot and concept of magic are interesting and whilst I can talk about what I like about these, as a whole, I can’t say I really enjoyed the book. It was readable but lacked the necessary spark. I may pick up the next book at some stage if I’m bored… but I won’t be gutted if I don’t finish the series either. It’s rare that I finish a book and find myself sat on the fence… which is where I find myself now.
I by far prefer the NightAngel series, which I read years ago now.
Apologies this is so short and sweet, but I am having a hard time writing about something in which I have very little feeling towards. I’m frustrated if anything that I didn’t love it having waited so long to read it… but never mind. We can’t like everything.
Have you read any books by Brent Weeks? Do you agree with any of the points I’ve made? Do you disagree?
Rebecca mono
 

Book Review: Aaru – David Meredith

Imagine a world in which death becomes a thing of the past. Does that excite you, or scare you?

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

 

Aaru
Goodreads

Rose is dying. Her body is wasted and skeletal. She is too sick and weak to move. Every day is an agony and her only hope is that death will find her swiftly before the pain grows too great to bear.
She is sixteen years old.


Rose has made peace with her fate, but her younger sister, Koren, certainly has not. Though all hope appears lost Koren convinces Rose to make one final attempt at saving her life after a mysterious man in a white lab coat approaches their family about an unorthodox and experimental procedure. A copy of Rose’s radiant mind is uploaded to a massive super computer called Aaru – a virtual paradise where the great and the righteous might live forever in an arcadian world free from pain, illness, and death. Elysian Industries is set to begin offering the service to those who can afford it and hires Koren to be their spokes-model.


Within a matter of weeks, the sisters’ faces are nationally ubiquitous, but they soon discover that neither celebrity nor immortality is as utopian as they think. Not everyone is pleased with the idea of life everlasting for sale.


What unfolds is a whirlwind of controversy, sabotage, obsession, and danger. Rose and Koren must struggle to find meaning in their chaotic new lives and at the same time hold true to each other as Aaru challenges all they ever knew about life, love, and death and everything they thought they really believed.

 

My Thoughts…

Death is a powerful and sensitive subject, and it is one that ought to be treated with dignity and respect.
When David approached me about his book, I was excited to read something that challenged our current beliefs about death. With our ever-advancing technology, is a system like Aaru possible in the future?

Quite so, I think, but I am not sure it could ever come to fruition as a result of the moral and religious arguments. I say this as a person, having grown up as part of a society still fighting for reform of anti-abortion laws. Yes, it is still illegal to terminate a pregnancy here. That isn’t for discussion here, albeit topical discussion locally at the moment.

Naturally, we are all going to have our own opinions about these subjects and I am glad the book touched on them all. Told mostly from the perspective of Rose and Koren, the narrative explores how the lives of the two teenage girls are affected. Rose, having suffered for years with Leukaemia, is offered a second chance at life through Aaru once her body succumbs to the disease. As an early resident, she becomes a part of both highlighting and ironing out the flaws in the system whilst her sister Koren becomes an overnight celebrity, marketing it to the world.

Not only does the book bring about the discussion of the social attitudes towards such a “solution” to death, it also highlights a number of practical problems that could arise, including security and data manipulation. Who should decide who gets to “live” after death? Think of the number of people that live seemingly good lives, yet after they are gone, we begin to hear more sinister things about their past. Would these people be let into Aaru? The concept of the system is that initially, it would be a chargeable service, becoming free and widely available later on. In my opinion, are not the people that have the wealth to afford such a service usually in a position or power and influence? Nobody is truly virtuous so some complaint would be made to their admission into eternal life.

For altogether different reasons, the book does take a sinister turn, and the element of danger greatly added to the plot. I love the concept of the book, even though I don’t feel it is a feasible option in reality.

I struggled to relate to Koren a bit, I will admit here. A thirteen-year-old girl at the time of Rose’s death, she really struggled to come to terms with the loss of her sister. She is then thrown mercilessly into the limelight by advertising this new service available, experiencing a maelstrom of emotions. Perhaps being the rebellious teenager she is, she intentionally pushes people away (including the reader, a tad). I was glad to see Koren’s parents step up to the mark as well. I felt they were a little absent from the beginning, before and just after Rose’s death, which doesn’t have a ring of realism to me. Every family is different though, I suppose.

The book is well written and I love how bold a subject it covers. Be aware though, it has mature themes so is probably not for the faint-hearted! Otherwise, it is a definite recommend to read.

Review and GIVEAWAY : My Life as Steve Keller – Zach Baynes

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

First of all, a massive thank you to Zach. I am grateful to have been given the chance to work with you.

If you haven’t taken a look already, I posted an author interview with him yesterday, in which he tells us about his inspirations for his debut book, My Life As Steve Keller.

Not only do I have a review for you today, but check out the end of my post for details on the GIVEAWAY of a copy of the book!
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Goodreads        Amazon        Website

“My Life as Steve Keller” is one man’s journey through twelve cities, three decades, and four lovers, all while living with the realities of climate change and technology. The stories about food and history will make you want to travel and the charming dialogue will make you smile. The book depicts two of the most basic needs in life that neither technology nor the passing of time can erase: the need to be loved and the need to be protected.

Steve tells his story in three parts. In Part One, he tries to figure out what’s best for him, ending a long distance ending a long distance relationship and wondering if he should start another one. Over the course of 6 years, he travels to different cities – Hong Kong, Paris, Argentina, Tuscany and Dublin. He finds the answer to his questions through the help of his sister while on vacation in Tuscany.

From losing people he loves through missed opportunities, to being let go from his job due to increasing automation, Steve is forced into a self-analysis of his life and the choices he has made, while coming to terms with an addiction to Virtual Reality.

“My Life as Steve Keller” reads in places like a travel journal and is a fascinating and unusual coming-of-age book, which is set partly in the future and deals with the issues of romance, love, climate change, technology and loss through a traveler’s perspective.

This fictionalized memoir spans three decades of one man’s life, it is a look at what the world may look like as we hurtle towards near full automation and the way people’s lives change as a result of choices they make or fail to make, with recurring themes of family, friends and love throughout.

 

My Thoughts…

I firmly believe that as a reader, you can take away as much as you like from this book.

If you are looking for a casual read, exploring places all over the world and the fabulous food and drink on offer, then this is for you. Steve is fortunate to have spent a lot of his life travelling; he visits new cities, meets new people and gets to enjoy many diverse cultures and culinary delicacies along the way. Now I am not much of a traveller when all is said and done. In comparison to Steve, I am so unadventurous! Up until this point, I haven’t considered myself to be the travelling type. Since reading the book, I’m seriously considering visiting a few places that I hadn’t taken much interest in before. If I had to pick one place out of the whole book, it would have to be Amsterdam. The excitement of the busy markets, the tourism, and the ability to tour the city via canal appeals to me. It has nothing to do with the library with a bar in it… but that’s not to be turned down either, right?

Steve is a really likeable guy. As our main character, you really get under his skin and find that he is very much like you or me. He makes mistakes and takes pride in great achievements; he loves, is loved, and falls apart from time to time. He is a victim of circumstance and is on a journey to find himself as much as we are.

There is a more serious topic addressed by the book, should you wish to consider it. I would like to stress that it is not written in a way that makes it unapproachable, or heavy reading.

We see a lot of advancement in technology throughout the novel, and with constant development today, some of the future “tech” created is not that far off reality, in my humble yet uneducated opinion. We watch diesel cars become electric, then driverless, and robots take over jobs previously laboured by humans. We see the population of the Earth continuing to increase and all the while, the impact of production continues to take its toll on the planet. Climate change triggers drought; cattle numbers decline. Endangered animal species become extinct and the ice caps melt. Natural disasters become commonplace and life as we know it ceases to exist.

This all seems very dramatic when you summarise it like that in a couple of sentences. Let us not forget that the timeframe of the book spans three decades. When you put it like that, such significant changes happen gradually and it could be all too late before we realise it.

Here is why I am more than happy to defer to Zach’s idea of things. He draws on a lot of personal experience and takes interest in these subjects. As I have already admitted, I know very little about this subject. True, the book dabbles in a lot of “ifs”, “buts” and “maybe’s”, but they are worthy of consideration, I think. It COULD happen, after all.

Going back to Steve, I think this book resonates with me because I genuinely believe I could one day end up in Steve’s shoes. Whilst the book is undeniably fiction, could it become our potential reality? I hope not, but anything is possible.
Divider monoNow – for the details of the giveaway!!

Zach has very kindly agreed to provide the winner of this giveaway, chosen by me, with a free copy of his book! All you have to do is:-

  • Check out and follow my Twitter account @fantasyst95
  • Retweet my review post!

It really is that simple!!

The competition is officially live and will run until 11:59pm on Sunday; please get your entries in and I’ll be randomly selecting and announcing the winner on Monday.

Happy tweeting!
Rebecca mono

Review: Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

Following my post on Thursday, written in all haste in the last ten minutes of my lunch hour, I announced that to celebrate reaching 100 followers I was going to post an extra review this week!

I was fishing for an excuse really. It had already crossed my mind that I was going to be falling behind if I didn’t throw some extras in. Nevertheless, today I am posting the review, as promised!

Dunstan
GoodReads – Dunstan

The year is 937. England is a nation divided, ruled by minor kings and Viking lords. Each vies for land and power. The Wessex king Æthelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, readies himself to throw a spear into the north.

As would-be kings line up to claim the throne, one man stands in their way.

Dunstan, a fatherless child raised by monks on the moors of Glastonbury Tor, has learned that real power comes not from God, but from discovering one’s true place on Earth. Fearless in pursuit of his own interests, his ambition will take him from the courts of princes to the fields of battle, from exile to exaltation.

For if you cannot be born a king, or made a king, you can still anoint a king.

Under Dunstan’s hand, England may come together as one country – or fall apart in anarchy . . .

From Conn Iggulden, one of our finest historical writers, Dunstan is an intimate portrait of a priest and murderer, liar and visionary, traitor and kingmaker – the man who changed the fate of England.

 

I originally decided I was going to read this book as I was introduced to this particular period of history by a work colleague, in the form of another series of books by Bernard Cornwell. Maybe this particular period of history is new to you. Perhaps you had the opportunity to watch “The Last Kingdom”, which aired on BBC Two here in the UK. I am also assured by other sources on the world-wide-web that it was shown on BBC America and the first season is also available on Netflix. If historical dramas are of interest to you – I really recommend it!

Dunstan picks up a little after the reign of Alfred the Great, whose reign and resistance to the Viking invasion features in the aforementioned series. Having loved this particular set of books so far I wanted to see how history panned out after the invasion.

Turns out, whilst England was under one rule, much of the struggles faced by King Alfred the Great live on past his reign.

Some slaves are kings and some kings, slaves, but that is because the world is corrupt and in ruins, no matter how high we build. – Dunstan

The history and turbulence within the monarchy following King Æthelstan’s death is narrated by Dunstan, who dedicated his life to the restoration of the Abbey at Glastonbury. You would expect a man in this position to be a humble one, serving God through his position as Abbot. Think again. He is far from honest: he cheats, he lies and he is a murderer. He’s a manipulator. At one point he saves his brother from death by performing a risky surgical procedure on him and succeeds. The fact that he then later emotionally blackmails Wulfric and puts him in the position of committing treason for his own gain, well, I think that tells you everything about our MC. There is only one person Dunstan will truly look out for, and that’s Dunstan.

Naturally, I didn’t like our far from humble and backstabbing narrator, but the narration from his perspective was not completely spoiled by this brat of a human being. We get to experience first hand the repelling of the Scots and the Danes in Ireland, as well as the reformation of the Royal Mint.

Dunstan finds himself serving many Kings following Æthelstan’s death. He had very clear ideas about who he liked and who he disliked. Of course, those in his favour were either his friends or people he felt he could influence with his affiliation to God. I found it laughable at Dunstan’s distaste for Prince Edwy. In my humble opinion, he was very much like Dunstan and their clash is probably as a result of having similar personalities!! Dunstan favoured Edwy’s younger brother to be King, voted for at a Witten (a meeting of influential lords, landowners etc).

I am not going to turn this review into a history lesson. In my experience, you are either interested or you are not, so I’m not going to be that person to throw facts and figures at you. If you are interested, I would recommend the book to you. Whilst exploring the history of the English monarchy, it is still an entertaining read. Please note that my opinions are my own – let them cloud your judgement. You may have a different opinion. The only way you will know is if you find out for yourself. If anyone has read this book – I would love to hear your thoughts!!
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