Best Characters

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Best Adventure – Matthew Reilly

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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.

Most Beautiful – Billy Coffey

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Allie Granderson, 12 years old, and her best friend Zach go in search of her mother who disappeared during a tornado five hundred and forty three days ago. The first thing you learn about Allie is she’s independent, head strong and in some ways, older than her years.

It is actually quite difficult to write a review for this book because it so different from what I usually find myself reading and because it was nice. Nice is also an inadequate word because whatIn the Heart of the Dark Woods proves is that there are writers who can tell a story that is reliant on skill and talent rather than built on shocks and vulgarity. Do not misunderstand me, I also like these books but occasionally, it is a pleasure to step away from them.

The strength of the characters in this book and the imagery used to portray them are so stark and vivid. Coffey describes the desolation and the cold and the pains of the children’s bodies and all of the elements feel so real. There are moment in the book where I sighed aloud in frustration and disappointment as something went wrong for Allie and Zach.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to reset the reading button in their heart and soul.

There’s so much you can know and so much more you can’t and that’s why God has sharp edges. Hug Him anyway. A life with pain means more than a life without it.

Best Horror

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It is almost instantaneous that a reader understands this book will be different from others. We have the semblance of normal, working father in a mobile library, a bored kid who, through a series of events, turns into a passive, agreeable angel where once she had been a rude little shit. What makes this unique? The simple fact that the father, Oliver Gooch, doesn’t really like his daughter very much and quite easily sees the flaws in her. So refreshing from the gushing parent in fiction who thinks their child is perfect and how dare you not agree with them.

Our narrator, Oliver Gooch, isn’t terribly likeable but there is something addictive about him. Who of us hasn’t wanted a cozy job where you could virtually do whatever you wanted as the whim took you. Until Chloe’s accident, this is almost the life Gooch was living. When all this changes, Gooch decides to open a bookshop. The bookshop isn’t anything special, Gooch himself admits you could buy most of his stock in high street or charity shops but he has the alleged milk tooth of the great Edgar Allan Poe. Along the way, he inherits a crow and all strange things begin to happen. All of the strange things are entirely plausible and I found myself jumping at noises in my flat as I read them in the book. Graham has taken a mundane series of events and turned them into something other. There is a feeling throughout the book of a Stephen King influence. Even though I say there is a King style influence, I do not want anyone to think I am taking away from Graham because there is also a very English feeling to Wakening the Crow.

This isn’t your typical, cheap shocks, horror novel. It plays on your mind. You can imagine every moment of this book and it worms itself into your subconscious. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the horror genre who wants to scare themselves with their own imaginations.Wakening the Crow allows for your imagination to go into overdrive as the words are incredibly visual while not being overwhelmingly descriptive.

Wakening the Crow does feel as though it runs out of momentum towards the end as Gooch becomes increasingly haphazard. Some reviewers have seen this as a negative, however, I feel it works and completes the narrative because it shows the characters mind after a stressful twelve months.

I acknowledge I’m reading an ARC copy of this book but I hope it was given another once over by an editor as there are some glaringly obvious mistakes throughout this copy. My local library doesn’t have a final copy in their stock for me to check. (Sorry). Don’t let this deter you though. The book is so much better than a couple of mistakes!

Most Disappointing 2016

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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.

Most Horrible 2016

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I’ve read some terrible books. I’ve read some horribly messed up books but this…
This makes me want to peel my skin off & vomit.

I really didn’t like this book and I never want to see or hear of it again. There isn’t one single redeeming feature to give praise and I always look for that no matter how bad I think a book is.

This isn’t my only one star review of 2016 but it’s definitely the front runner for being the worst book. Yuck.