Book Reviews

The Dry by Jane Harper

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What Da Cover Says:  In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier.

But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds bleed into new ones.

What I Says:  An award winning crime story?  Can’t see that myself, there is nothing special about this that makes it stand out more than any other crime mystery.  It isn’t terrible though, fantastic setting and when reading this the Aussie accent was coming through really well in my head.  The heat was the best part, the book is based in the middle of a very long drought and the terrible heat and lethargy comes across big time.  The characters were ok,  Falk and Raco make a brilliant team, nice to see for once that the local cop wasn’t portrayed as an idiot.

The main reason that this book doesn’t stand above other run-of-the-mill crime novels is the end result was really limp, the book flows nicely and deserved an outrageous ending, the bad guy should have been nobody you could have expected….instead I was left going “Is that it?  All this for something so silly?”  Probably too much like real life for me.

This was an ok story, I might give Falk’s second case a go just to see if things become more inventive.  Looking on google it looks like there is gonna be a movie released  Jan 2020,  could be worth a view.

3_stars

 

Book Reviews

The Lady’s Champion (The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy 3) by M.F. Sullivan

48493570What Da Cover Says: Come home to this final volume of a brutal sci-fi trilogy. What does forgiveness mean to you?

One year has passed since General Dominia di Mephitoli defected from the cannibalistic martyr army of her Father, the Hierophant. One year has passed since she began training an army of her own. But with one year standing between her and her escape from home, the General sees her Family’s situation with new clarity. Unable to turn back time or repent to the dead, she can only help the living. A whole planet lives beneath her Father’s looming shadow, and Jerusalem is under siege in an effort to claim the woman the world now believes to be a terrorist.

Worst of all, her sister, the princess Lavinia, still rests beneath the Hierophant’s thumb. An army can do the General no good if a siege against the family home at Old Elsinore will put her sister’s life at stake; liberation can do Lavinia no good if she still thinks their Father infallible. There is only one person who can reach Europa’s favorite princess– one person who can penetrate Kronborg castle and speak reason. On the bright side, with a mysterious goddess inhabiting the body of her friend, THE LADY’S CHAMPION can do anything.

Anything, that is, except face her past.

What I Says:  I have read some great books in my time and in my opinion this trilogy surpasses the lot of them, it is as close to art as I’ve ever seen a book get.  The final book in the trilogy brings home to the reader just what a spiritual journey this has been, it takes you beyond death and leaves you hoping that this is what the afterlife would be like.  It also contains some of the most mind bending plot twists ever, I actually said “HOLY F*CK!!!” out loud at one point, there was no chance of predicting that scene, never have I ever been side-swiped like that before.

The writing is faultless, every possible loose end gets tied up nicely, every character that was still hanging around had their part to play in the story, Miki Soto also gets her back story told, a much needed addition and it was great to read about her life.  As for the final scenes, I think I must have held my breath the whole time, it was pure chaos (as all good battles are), so many things happening at once, a battle jumping between reality and the Ergosphere and back again, it so easily could have become too chaotic but M. F. Sullivan is such a skilled writer, she keeps it all together and keeps hold of the reader’s attention so that at the end I flopped back completely knackered.

I’m gonna miss these characters, Dominia is somebody who is gonna stick with me for a while and will probably set the standard for all future feminine heroes.  Gonna miss Miki, Lavinia, The Lamb, The Hierophant and even Teddy, the little twerp.  🙂  Those conversations between Dominia, The Hierophant and The Magician about God and what life means, gonna miss them too,  I’m still craving their wisdom.

Easily the best trilogy I’ve ever read….and probably ever will.

5_stars

My Reviews of the previous books in the trilogy:

The Hierophant’s Daughter by M.F. Sullivan

The General’s Bride by M. F. Sullivan

Interview with Miki Soto from the book.

Fake Interview: Miki Soto

Book Reviews

How to Draw a Map by Malcolm and Alex Swanston

36589628What Da Cover Says:  How to Draw a Map is a fascinating meditation on the centuries-old art of map-making, from the first astronomical maps to the sophisticated GPS guides of today.

Maps have influenced humanity in many unexpected ways: life, death, sexual reproduction, espionage, war and peace. How to Draw a Map traces the story of mapmaking – cartography – from the first scratchings on the cave wall to the detailed high-tech ‘navigator’. This is the story of human conceptions, often misconceptions, of our world. It is also a very personal story about a mapmaker’s journey through life – the exciting new perspectives and the occasional misadventures.

Over the last 5,000 years societies and empires have risen and fallen; most, if not all, attempt to record their own visions of our world. In the 15th century, Europeans developed a global reach with their oceanic ships, exploring outward into the world, revealing new possibilities, peoples and opportunities. Mapmakers recorded this journey, revealing to us a window into past triumphs and disasters. The story continues into our own day when diplomats carve up our globe, presenting what we now see as the ‘modern’ world.

In How to Draw a Map, father and son cartographers Alexander and Malcolm Swanston demonstrate the skill, creativity and care involved in the timeless art of creating maps – and what these artefacts reveal about the legion of mapmakers who went before us.

What I Says:  This is a tough one to review, I can see a lot of low ratings for this in the future.  The reason for this is the misleading title “How to draw a map”, I was looking forward to using the skills learnt in the book to create my own little map, alas there is nothing about creating a map, not even the basics, that is not what this book is about. Very disappointed.

Once you get over that issue you’ll find this to be a very interesting book on “the history of mapmakers”.  The Swanston’s are pretty witty too, some of their comments will give you a chuckle, especially the one about being unable to skip anymore.  I love a book with a map at the beginning and this one is crammed full of wonderful maps, full of so many details, from the journeys undertaken by explorers to battle plans and maps of cities. You could spend hours pouring over them.

Map 2This book covers a huge amount of history all brief glimpses, which gives it the advantage of not smothering the reader in dates and facts.  The adventures of explorers finding trade new trade routes, discovering new lands and eventually dying in barbaric scenes was the highlight for me.  A lot of the darker sides of humanity are the reasons why so much effort was put into mapmaking, genocide, slavery, war, increasing an empire’s territory, the better map always gave somebody the advantage in the end.

map 1

What this book could have done with was more about the work the writers do, they make historical maps, it would have been a nice ending to find out how they go about that, where do they get their information and how do they go about putting that down in map format.  This book does have it’s faults but is still a good learning experience.

4_stars

Book Reviews

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

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What Da Cover Says:  Thomas McNulty, aged barely seventeen and having fled the Great Famine in Ireland, signs up for the U.S. Army in the 1850s. With his brother in arms, John Cole, Thomas goes on to fight in the Indian Wars—against the Sioux and the Yurok—and, ultimately, the Civil War. Orphans of terrible hardships themselves, the men find these days to be vivid and alive, despite the horrors they see and are complicit in.

Moving from the plains of Wyoming to Tennessee, Sebastian Barry’s latest work is a masterpiece of atmosphere and language. An intensely poignant story of two men and the makeshift family they create with a young Sioux girl, Winona, Days Without End is a fresh and haunting portrait of the most fateful years in American history and is a novel never to be forgotten.

What I Says:  Holy Baboons this was a brilliant book!  If you are a fan of The Brothers Sisters or Blood Meridian then give this a go, it has similar atmosphere, an amazing sense of adventure and some brilliant characters.  Set during the “Indian Wars” and the Civil War, it shows the brutality of war and the cruelness of man.  As a reader you know that both of these wars were awful and very one-sided, but you still get shocked by scenes as Indians get slaughtered, men, women and children, Thomas McNulty our narrator is not happy doing these things but he has his orders and must carry them out, there is no chance of questioning why he was doing these things.

As a young man Thomas meets up with John Cole who soon becomes his soulmate/brother-in-arms they experience so much together and survive so much that instantly you are cheering them on hoping that they survive each scene.  Sebastian Barry is very critical of war and the things these men did, he does a great job using the wise Thomas and John to voice some truly great lines, I’d repeat them here but they wouldn’t be as effective as when used in the flow of the story.

I read this as part of an award winners reading challenge, I am 100% certain I would have bypassed this book as it is not my normal reading fare.  I’m so glad I took up the challenge and that this book met the challenge criteria.  It should come with a warning though….”Breathe”….I found myself holding my breathe during the battles, gasping for air when a scene ended.  Top stuff.

5_stars

 

Book Reviews

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

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What Da Cover Says:  Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home and livelihood is taken away. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

What I Says:  Never has a book filled me with as much rage as the beginning of this book did, the injustice of it all is heart-breaking.  Ray starts off explaining how a friend for years invests some of their money, it goes wrong and he leaves them as the fall guys.  A disinterested judge working with a failed justice system will not accept a piece of evidence clearing them as it wasn’t submitted correctly…absolutely ridiculous…they lose the farm they lived on that was their life.  To make things impossibly bad Moth, her husband gets diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Whilst hiding from the bailiffs they get inspired to walk the South West Coast Path, even though Moth has been told to take it easy and to not walk too far….it’s only 630miles long.

The Salt Path…which I would have called “Old People Walking” :-)…is one of the most riveting books on walking I have ever had the pleasure to read, I found every excuse I could find to pick it up to read a few more pages.  It is a spiritual journey, a trial to see how much the human body can endure, it raises awareness of homelessness which is far more prevalent than our lovely Government would have you believe.  Ray and Moth experience first hand the reaction of people when they learn that they aren’t backpackers but are in fact homeless, the fear in their eyes is instant.  There are shocking scenes, there is a desperation that almost makes you cry and there is a sense of humour that is charming.  They meet some brilliant characters on their walk, a favourite of mine was the man so happy to see a Peregrine Falcon.

This is the best book I’ve read in 2019, the writing is wonderful and the hope it gives the reader feels really profound.  It hasn’t inspired me to camp wild though, I’ll have to walk between B&Bs on walks of this length.  Pick this book up and check it out.

5_stars

Book Reviews

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

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What Da Cover Says:  Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle-aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.

Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more unbelievable it seems.

What I Says:  One of my favourite movies, top 10, is Memento, it’s a cracking story, about somebody who wakes up every morning with no new memories and to make things crazy they’ve gotta solve a crime, the main character does this by tattooing clues on himself.  So obviously when starting this my opinion was of it being a rip-off of the movie.  It doesn’t take that long for this story to find its own feet….and when you come to think of it a journal you write in seems more sensible than tattooing yourself.

Christine has suffered from trauma and since then can create no new memories, she is living at home with her husband and has a few techniques set up to help her get through the day without having a breakdown.  She then meets a doctor who convinces her to write a journal about her day which she can read each morning, gradually she starts to remember glimpses of her past which starts to get darker and darker.

The writing is very good, there were a few times where the plot slows down too much for my liking, but the more Christine writes in her diary the more plot there is, so it just gets better and better.  One very interesting thing was how much I got caught up in the story,  the paranoia was contagious, I started finding myself not trusting any of the characters.

This was a great debut novel, I’m definitely gonna check out what else S. J. Watson has written.

4_stars

Book Reviews

Milton In Purgatory by Edward Vass

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What The Cover Says:  Milton Pitt leads an uneventful life, with a dull job and a secret longing for adventure. One morning, after he is hit by a speeding car, he suffers an out-of-body experience and awakens back in his bedroom. Everything is just the same – that is, except for the bloody footprints leading to the chimney…

Is this his chance to lead a better life? Was it just a dream? Or is he
simply dead?

In this richly inventive and humorous novella, Edward Vass brings the themes of Dante’s Divine Comedy 700 years into the future.

What I Says:  What a fantastic story, a proper adventure through the afterlife.  Milton is our main character, he wakes up one morning after a night out drinking and fighting, incredibly hungover….he even threw up on a book….shocking!  His journey to work is like any other day, except for the dying part that is.

Edward Vass then creates a wonderful series of events as Milton works his way through Purgatory, meeting some great characters on the way.  If one day a cult is built around this book then count me in, it makes life and death more fun than most religions around at the moment.

The writing is very good, it draws you in very quickly and doesn’t let go until the end, it’s one of those books that sticks with you when you put it down.  This is my first book by Fairlight Books and I love it,  brilliant cover and small enough to fit in your pocket….I’m gonna have to start collecting these.

5_stars