Review

Review: The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t tend to read all that much contemporary fiction, but what booklover could turn down ‘The Bookstore’, a novel about a quirky bookshop called The Owl? From the very beginning, Deborah Meyler’s writing really appealed to me; there were some wonderful descriptions of New York and she created a brilliant atmosphere.

In terms of characters, The Bookstore had its ups and downs. Esme, the protagonist, is an intelligent young woman: a Cambridge graduate and now a PhD student at Columbia University in New York. However, she is naive and frankly makes some rather odd decisions throughout the course of the book. I suppose with young love comes questionable actions, but she did frustrate me at times. Her boyfriend, and father of her baby, Mitchell van Leuven, is a pretentious bastard in need of a good slap and seriously needed to be brought back to earth. But he is supposed to be that way; the reader is not supposed to like this upper-class spoilt brat of a man-child, who treats women like objects and emotionally (and almost physically) abuses Esme.

Quite frankly, I hope I never have the misfortune to meet a family like the van Leuvens. Esme finally meets the parents, and they are just despicable. Rude, cold, humourless – Mitchell’s father tells Esme to her face that she will never fit in, never be part of the family, and his mother is constantly looking down her nose at Esme.

I felt that the supporting cast was quite strong, in that it was varied if not massively well developed. George, the owner of The Owl, is articulate, witty and flamboyant from the very first moment we meet him. There’s Luke, the brooding, creative and rather mysterious shop assistant, as well as a whole host of other colleagues and customers.

There’s not much of a major plotline, the book is more about Esme going through day-to-day life with this massive, life-changing decision she has made. The Owl is her rock, her place to hide and escape from the upper-class surburbia, SUVs and weekly champagne evenings that would be a life with Mitchell. And although Esme frustrated me at times, and I wanted to slap Mitchell (or kick him where it really hurts), I generally really enjoyed the book. I’d also convinced myself of what was going to happen at the end, how it was predictable etc – and then it didn’t. So kudos to the author for that!

Review

Review: The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

For the past few years, I’ve had a fascination with the southern states of the US, particularly Louisiana. Which is why, when I read the synopsis for this book, I knew I wanted to read it. Luckily for me, it was available on Netgalley and I managed to get myself a copy – and it snuck its way up to the top of my reading list, despite my extensive pile of review books.

However, it wasn’t quite what I expected – but that’s not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable. I was expecting voodoo magic, creepy scenes set in the bayous, adventure through the unknown – but actually the majority of the story takes place in the city of New Orleans itself. The setup of the story was definitely eerie, the events that cause the rest of the story to unfold – but this tone was not really kept up throughout the rest of the book, apart from one particular moment when an investigator finds the source of all the strange goings on.

The main characters comprise of Niquette, Ben, Anthem and Marshall, and of these Ben and Marshall are probably the most developed. Marshall is the antagonist, and the reasons for his actions do seem rather extreme – he was rejected by Niquette – but it is what happens just after the rejection that really drives him. I think he would have been a lot creepier if he was not seen to move and/or talk, causing the reader to question exactly how he was doing all these horrific acts. This is actually how it was done at the beginning of the story, which consequently made events a lot more eerie. I don’t feel I can really say much more about character development – the story was more focused on the mysterious forces in the bayous, and the strange goings on involving Niquette and Marshall.

It is not until roughly 75% through the book that the reader receives an explanation for the odd events of the story, and it did feel a little like there wouldn’t be enough time to resolve everything – but it was resolved, in an action-packed sequence that was a real whirlwind to read through. I thought the reveal – and the ‘results’ of the strange parasite – were pretty original, a sort of amalgamation of your worst nightmares and fears.

I generally take some time to read ebooks, as I don’t enjoy reading from a Kindle as much as I do a physical book – but I read 25% of this book in one sitting, which tells me that I was definitely pretty enthralled! The writing style flowed smoothly, and the author had some lovely descriptions of New Orleans, Louisiana, the bayous and Mardi Gras, which painted some wonderfully colourful pictures and vivid images.

Also I’m not sure why so many people on Goodreads have shelved this as Young Adult, because it’s not – the characters are in their late twenties/early thirties for the majority of the story, and it’s not like any Young Adult book I’ve ever read. Perhaps people have just come to associate the supernatural or paranormal with Young Adult fiction?

Overall, whilst it wasn’t quite the book I was expecting – I was looking for something set out in the sticks or the swamplands, away from civilisation – this was an original and fun read that I got through very quickly, which as I previously mentioned is a good sign when I’m reading an ebook! Highly recommended if you’re looking for something of the horror or paranormal variety that doesn’t involve vampires or werewolves.

Review

Review: Incarnation by Emma Cornwall

Incarnation by Emma Cornwall

5 out of 5 stars

Wow. When I requested this book from Edelweiss, I thought it looked good – pretty cover, interesting sounding plot – but I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did, particularly as it was my first steampunk novel. As it is labelled as a Young Adult book, I was expecting the writing style to be fairly basic, as it tends to be in YA fiction. Cornwall, however, goes all out and writes the novel as if she herself was writing in nineteenth century England.

 

Where YA novels tend to base most of their description around characters (particularly of the male persuasion), this book contains many beautiful descriptions of the environment: the dark, eerie Yorkshire moors; the dingy alleyways of Victorian London. I don’t know if it helped that I’ve visited Whitby and the Yorkshire moors myself, so I can imagine them more vividly, but I think even without visiting them Cornwall’s descriptions do them justice. The writing flowed so well, and I think it is the use of words and diction contemporary with the setting of the story that really lifts it above all those other paranormal YA novels out there.

 

Rather than being a straight retelling of the Dracula story by Bram Stoker, Cornwall instead chooses to directly involve Stoker himself, which works really well. I find that when historical or famous figures are included in stories, as long as they are not too out of character, it makes the story more relatable, by presenting the reader with characters they are already familiar with. For example, we also get to meet William Gladstone, former Prime Minister, and Queen Victoria.

Speaking of characters, Lucy as a character is a wonderful protagonist, particularly as a female lead in a YA paranormal novel. She is strong, and barely phased by her transformation. She just gets on with it, she doesn’t moan, whine or cry. Although there is some romance, it doesn’t completely consume her and she never gets soppy. She’s smart, quick-witted and generally a strong character all round, and manages to avoid cliches. We need more female protagonists like her.

Now as for the downsides of the book: I managed to guess one character’s secret very early on into the story, which made the big reveal much less of an impact – I feel that perhaps Cornwall left too many clues for that one. I have to say, the ending was a bit of an anti-climax and over rather soon – but I felt the rest of the story kept it up at a five-star rating. There were also quite a few spelling and grammar mistakes, but as I read an ARC I’m hoping that they’ll all be corrected in the final edition.

I highly recommend this one, even if you haven’t read Dracula! (I haven’t… better get on it.) It is beautifully written, and a fun read – especially if you want a more ‘intelligent’ feeling YA novel. If the steampunk element is putting you off, I would say don’t let it – steampunk is only a very light part of the novel.

View on Goodreads

Edit: 13/08/2013 – so apparently my review was featured on Edelweiss, and I only just noticed! Yay!