The Deep written by Nick Cutter [Review]

The Deep Nick Cutter

 

Title: The Deep
Author: Nick Cutter
Publisher: Headline
Date of Publication: 13 January 2015
Number of Pages: 394
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

Rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:  A plague is destroying the world’s population. The ‘Gets makes people forget. First it’s the small things, like where you left your keys … then the not-so-small things, like how to drive. And finally your body forgets how to live.

But now an unknown substance with extraordinary power to heal has been discovered in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Nicknamed ambrosia, it might just be the miracle cure the world has been praying for.

A research lab has been established eight miles below the sea’s surface, but all contact with the team has been lost. Dr Luke Nelson’s brother is down there and as desperation for a cure outweighs common sense, he agrees to descend through the lightless fathoms … perhaps to face an evil blacker than anything he could have imagined.


Review:
 This is incredible! I almost don’t know where to start nor how to review without spoiling anything. This is old school horror and relies on the real tricks of memory, light, sound etc to achieve the creeping effect. The noises you hear in the darkness that convince you of a cockroach or a mouse. The noises you hear that remind you of something terrible. The glimpse of something moving. The memories of the things that scared you as a child. If you allow yourself to remember all these visceral elements, you will get the most out of this novel.

At the 80% mark I was starting to wonder how Cutter would wrap up this novel. I won’t reveal anything but I was satisfied.

I would recommend this to horror lovers, people who have mild claustrophobia or don’t like water.

Casting Anthony Quinn’s “Curtain Call”

Curtain Call by Anthony Quinn

Title: Curtain Call
Author: Anthony Quinn
Publisher: Random House UK, Vintage Publishing, Jonathan Cape
Date of Publication: 08 January 2015
Number of Pages: 326
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

Rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:  On a sultry afternoon in the summer of 1936 a woman accidentally interrupts an attempted murder in a London hotel room. Nina Land, a West End actress, faces a dilemma: she’s not supposed to be at the hotel in the first place, and certainly not with a married man. But once it becomes apparent that she may have seen the face of the man the newspapers have dubbed ‘the Tie-Pin Killer’ she realises that another woman’s life could be at stake.

Jimmy Erskine is the raffish doyen of theatre critics who fears that his star is fading: age and drink are catching up with him, and in his late-night escapades with young men he walks a tightrope that may snap at any moment. He has depended for years on his loyal and longsuffering secretary Tom, who has a secret of his own to protect. Tom’s chance encounter with Madeleine Farewell, a lost young woman haunted by premonitions of catastrophe, closes the circle: it was Madeleine who narrowly escaped the killer’s stranglehold that afternoon, and now walks the streets in terror of his finding her again.

 
Review:  Anthony Quinn has delivered a book with style, class, strong characters and strong writing. I enjoyed Curtain Call enormously but I imagine this has something to do with the story taking place in the areas of London I frequent the most, Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia, Soho, Marylebone and the West End. Nina Land even lives in the street I walk along most afternoons to reach Baker Street Station. Trust me, I’ve been trying to decide which building she is most likely to have lived in but I’m yet to make a decision.

It is impossible to peg this novel into any one specific genre. The underlying premise of the novel is the ‘Tie-Pin Murderer’ but there is also comedy and political intrigue. This is not to leave out prostitution and homosexuality. Curtain Call does well at including a vast cross section of life without sermonising or demonising anyone.

There isn’t really a great deal I can write about Curtain Call because it was a fun, easy read. From the first page I was aware of how well this would translate into a three or four part series for the BBC (where they could spend tv license money on something decent). There were a few, rather obvious, twists but the plotting was remarkable. Each section flowed into the next without pause or irrelevance. All the characters were necessary, all the dialogue was necessary, all the developments were necessary. It is so rare to read a book that is so smooth.

I just don’t want to leave this novel so let’s have some fun. Presenting to readers and the BBC, here is my cast list for Curtain Call.

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The Undertaker’s Daughter written by Kate Mayfield [Review]

The Undertakers Daughter by Kate Mayfield

 

Title: The Undertaker’s Daughter
Author: Kate Mayfield
Publisher: Gallery Books
Date of Publication: 13 January 2015
Number of Pages: 350
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Rating: 3 stars

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: What if the place you called “home” happened to be a funeral home? Kate Mayfield explores what it meant to be the daughter of a small-town undertaker in this fascinating memoir… 

After Kate Mayfield was born, she was taken directly to a funeral home. Her father was an undertaker, and for thirteen years the family resided in a place nearly synonymous with death. A place where the living and the dead entered their house like a vapor. The place where Kate would spend the entirety of her childhood. In a memoir that reads like a Harper Lee novel, Mayfield draws the reader into a world of Southern mystique and ghosts.

In The Undertaker’s Daughter, Kate has written a triumph of a memoir. This vivid and stranger-than-fiction true story ultimately teaches us how living in a house of death can prepare one for life.

Review: My review is going to be the polar opposite to many of those already available to read. I don’t wonder if I missed the point as I don’t know there was much of a point to be made.

This book is strangely unsettling and not simply because Mayfield was raised in a funeral home. What unnerved me was the way she wrote about her family. Mayfield is very open when describing her relationship with her parents and her sisters and this is to be expected in a memoir, however, there came a point, a point I can’t put my finger on, when this moved into the realm of expose and tabloidism. The other part of this that made me uncomfortable was the writing style. In creating a memoir that reads as fiction, it raised the question of how much of this am I supposed to believe? If I wrote a book in this style my family would string me up. I can guarantee you, I would be disowned. Obviously, every family dynamic is different but the style doesn’t sit well with me.

Some reviewers have arguably felt the same as me when they write Mayfield’s work reminds them of Harper Lee ‘s To Kill A Mockingbird. They recognise the fictional overtones but ignore the dishonesty. To see how many other fictional books The Undertaker’s Daughter is likened to is a worry for me because it really does spark an element of mistrust.

Mayfield’s description of her sister Evelyn is cold. This is not to suggest it isn’t anything other than accurate, merely my observation.

Mayfield neglects for the majority of the book to reveal her age so working out whether she is a clever 6 year old or a struggling 15 year old is difficult. On the odd occasion when an age is given, I found myself thinking ‘really?’

Some of the “villains” in the book are not convincing just as some of the “heroes” are just regular people. This is very much a perspective point. The reader is never truly given enough context to decide on the character of a person.

Nothing really happens to Mayfield that makes her book extraordinary. Remove the funeral home and the inheritance and you have the stock standard story of millions of families around the world. Alcoholic, cheating spouse, struggling children, the sale of a business, familial deaths – all fairly standard.

The standout element of The Undertaker’s Daughter is the eyewitness account of southern America at the end of segregation and even then, I have misgivings. I never really believed Mayfield had any feelings for the boys she dated – it felt as though she were being deliberately contrary and provocative but that to, I guess, is the point of being 15.

Initially, I did try to read every word and given the book the attention it deserves because regardless of whether I liked the end product, a lot of time and effort has been spent on the final product. At the 60% mark, I must admit, I began to skim read and jump large portions. At 80% I nearly gave up completely.

It is very important that you, the reader of this blog, understand I am not in anyway trying to make less of Mayfield’s life. What started off as an interesting memoir has been let down by a lack of focus and an inaccurate promotional circuit which has to be laid at the door of the publisher. The only part I do hold Mayfield accountable for is not reporting the teacher who was molesting girls. It doesn’t matter what age or era or context, there is no excuse for letting people like this get away with their proclivities.

I’ve given this book 3 stars but only because I want some wriggle room for the other 10.5 months left in 2016. If I were reading this in November I wouldn’t have been so generous.

In Which I Read The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber and Had Some OPINIONS About It

These Little Words

My sister gave me this book for my birthday, so I really really wanted to like it. I’d heard a lot of good things. I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it. I went in with hope.

Some basic premise for those who don’t know: our main character is Peter the priest, who is recruited by an anonymous corportation called USIC to be a pastor for some aliens on a planet where they have a base, as the last pastor disappeared/possibly died.

Peter’s wife Bea wants to come too, but she doesn’t pass USIC’s tests. So, they are separated by a gazillion miles and can only communicate via intergalactic email. It’s pretty rubbish for them, but they are filled with sweet hope and God’s love. They think it’s going to be ok.

IMG_7535 2015 Canongate paperback

First of all, having now finished the book, I still can’t work out why a…

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The Fall of Language in the Age of English written by Minae Mizumura [Review]

The Fall of Language in the Age of English


Title:
The Fall of Language in the Age of English
Author: Minae Mizumura (translators – Mari Yoshihara & Juliet Winters Carpenter)
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Date of Publication: 6 January 2015
Number of Pages: 240
Genre: Non-Fiction (Adult)

Rating: 2 stars

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Universal languages have always played a pivotal role in advancing human societies, Mizumura shows, but in the globalized world of the Internet, English is fast becoming the sole common language of humanity. The process is unstoppable, and striving for total language equality is delusional–and yet, particular kinds of knowledge can be gained only through writings in specific languages.


Review:
After a positive start this book quickly displayed how insular, insecure and racist Mizumura is. To make comments that imply anyone tall and blond(e) is Aryan, to call a German man a Nazi because of his bone structure, to be scared of a black man because he is black and to state that the Irish man, PADDY(!!!) had an Irish accent (duh!)  is simply unacceptable. Mizumura also complains about spending ten hours in coach on a flight but seems nonplussed by the thousands upon thousands of Australians (and Americans) who spend that length of time, sometimes to only reach the opposite end of their own country.

I realise this is a very personal account of Mizumura’s time at a writers retreat in America but it does not place the author in a positive light and it does nothing to explain why she thinks language is being diminished. This lack of explanation is hindered by faults within the translation.

The Fall of Language in the Age of English book does not work cross culturally and should have been reviewed by an anthropologist before being sent out into the wide world. Overall, this has been a big disappointment as I did not receive what the blurb promised. Perhaps I missed the point of the argument but neither am I wrong.

Recommended for – no one.