The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China

Title: The Great Zoo of China
Author: Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
Date of Publication: 27 January 2015
Number of Pages: 417
Genre: General Fiction (adult)

Rating: 4.5 star

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

Summary:  It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world.

Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed.

A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.

The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.

Of course it can’t…

Review: What a wild ride! This book is so much fun. Anyone who has read Reilly’s earlier work will have an idea of what to expect. For anyone reading Reilly for the first time, you’re in for a blast. Think Hollywood blockbuster for the page.

What surprises me is how many negative reviews for The Great Zoo of China appear on Goodreads. Seriously, what do people want? Most of the criticisms are shallow and snobby and I’m really shocked. Reilly even says, to paraphrase, he wants readers to enjoy his books and have a good time, which I did. I can understand people might find some of the elements cliched but so are a lot of books – think stereotypical Mills and Boon, half the fantasy I see being published or the young adult, I need to have a boyfriend to be a real girl, garbage, Walking Dead or half the dreck out of Hollywood lately. If these are the dominating books on your shelves, you will never convince me your argument is valid. Never. Ever.

Suspend your disbelief, go with the flow and enjoy yourself.


The Girl in the Photograph written by Kate Riordan [Review]

The Girl in the Photograph

Title: The Girl in the Photograph
Author: Kate Riordan
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
Date of Publication: 15 January 2015
Number of Pages: 448
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), History

Rating: 3 stars

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

Summary:  In the summer of 1933, Alice Eveleigh has arrived at Fiercombe Manor in disgrace. The beautiful house becomes her sanctuary, a place to hide her shame from society in the care of the housekeeper, Mrs Jelphs. But the manor also becomes a place of suspicion, one of secrecy.

Something isn’t right.

Someone is watching.

There are secrets that the manor house seems determined to keep. Tragedy haunts the empty rooms and foreboding hangs heavy in the stifling heat. Traces of the previous occupant, Elizabeth Stanton, are everywhere and soon Alice discovers Elizabeth’s life eerily mirrors the path she herself is on.

Review:  The Girl in the Photograph is a nice, easy going read but one I feel, will be easily forgotten. I cannot pick a standout moment but I also cannot pick a weak moment. The story is well told and flows in a logical way, however, there are moments where it seems Riordan has played it safe both in the phrasing of her sentences and also in direction she wants the story to go. There isn’t really any part that takes a risk or makes you think wow. It all seems terribly pedestrian. The slowness of the story, however, in some ways, mimics the boredom of a long hot summer and the nine months spent waiting for a child to arrive.

By no means am I saying this is a bad book. If you enjoy Kate Morton you will like this novel. Think of it as Morton light. I cannot agree though, that this is in any way similar  to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. I can see why they use this as a promotional line but other than the main character, Alice attempting to learn more about the previous mistress of Fiercombe Manor, there is no comparison.

The book suffers from being a little long winded. There is a lot of repetition that doesn’t progress the story. Alice is slightly one dimensional and dim. Elizabeth is far more interesting but isn’t given sufficient voice. The Girl in the Photograph may have worked better had the two women had their positions reversed. The opposing decades are also played down. The two women could have had their stories told at nearly any point during the the mid to late 19th century. There is also the question of the ending which is exactly what was expected and exactly what wasn’t wanted.

What The Girl in the Photograph does well though, is communicate the relationships between mothers and daughters – the things unspoken, the misunderstandings and the reconciliations. There is also a believability in the dialogue that a lot of historical novels miss. No modern linguistic phrases worked their way in.

In sum. An okay read but ultimately one I was glad to finish.