Book Review: Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton

tattletale.jpg

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Favourite quotes:

Whatever you may have read in the tabloid press, those suffering from mental health difficulties are far more likely to be a danger to themselves than others”.

“This is why I don’t have relationships. Even if you’re lucky enough to meet someone you genuinely care about, someone who feels the same and isn’t a complete asshole, as soon as you let your guard down and start to rely on them, bang! Some deus ex machina comes down and blows them up or gives them a tumour or pushes them over a stairwell. It’s not worth it. You can’t miss it if it was never there”.

“A whole industry based on schadenfreude, making their inadequate readers feel smug about their drab little lives and relationships. Celebreties break up because their egos are solid enough not to put up with other people’s bullshit. The rest of us don’t have the balls, because we’re too insecure to be alone”.

 

What happens when two women with troubled pasts are connected by death of someone they both loved at one point? How far will one go to prove the other did it? And how much the other can take before she finally breaks?

A hotshot Vegas lawyer Mags receives news from London that her brother Abe tried to kill himself and is in a coma. When she flies up to England to see him, she meets his fiancee Jody and a cast of characters who were Abe’s neighbours. As a lawyer, Mags knows that nothing is ever what it seems. As she gets to know Jody and the neighbours, a lot of facts about her brother come to light. And little by little, they begin to make sense. But nobody is prepared to learn the full truth about their family, and to confront their past. Least of all Mags and Jody.

The paths of the two women would have never crossed if not for Abe. Neither of them trusts the other. Can they build a relationship based on lies, delusions and madness? Or will their histories destroy them completely?

 

 

“Tattletale” is a multiple PoV story, and no narrator is a reliable one. We don’t know which of the women we should trust – in fact, we don’t know until we’re well into the book who the devastating flashbacks are all about. That, admittedly, made the narrative a little harder to follow, but after a few chapters, everything became much clearer and I was able to enjoy this book for what it is. A decent pscyhological thriller that keeps you guessing until the very last page.

Psychological thrillers aren’t “light”, and “Tattletale” certainly wasn’t. It dealt with very heavy topics like rape, depression and suicide, addiction and bigotry. The book features a couple of graphic descriptions of sexual assault (trigger warning), and some scenes make the reader’s skin crawl. Mental illness was a very important plot point in “Tattletale”, as was victim-blaming, but I thought that the author dealt with the topics quite well. We do see through other characters’ eyes that there is still a big stigma surrounding people with mental illnesses and sexual assault survivors. I am glad that it wasn’t swept under the rug but was addressed and explored. Although I could’ve done without usage of death of a marginalized person as a central plot point.

“Tattletale” is a debut novel, and it’s written in a simple language with very little purple prose. It does show a lot of promise and gives us a glimpse into the author’s writing talent. I’m sure we’ll see several new good thrillers in the future from Sarah J. Naughton. “Tattletale” certainly made train journeys to and from work a lot more interesting!

 

Recommendations

You might like “Tattletale” if you liked:

“The Good Lawyer” by Thomas Benigno

“Disclaimer” by Renee Knight

“Last Seen Leaving” by Caleb Roehrig

 

Have you read “Tattletale”? What are your favourite psychological thrillers? Tell me in the comments and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop!

Book Review: The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

lace-reader

Favourite quotes:

“Old houses catch threads of the people who have lived them in the same way a piece of lace does. For the most part, those threads stay quietly in place until someone disturbs them. An old cleaning woman reaching for cobwebs reveals the dreamy dance of a girl home from a first cotillion. Dance card still dangling from her wrist, the girl closes her eyes and twirls, trying to hold the moment, the memory of first love. The old cleaning woman knows the vision better than the girl herself does. It’s the one she has longed for but never lived”.

“There is a point where the life force overcomes the will and the body simply breathes itself. It just happens. It hurts like hell when you take a breath of seawater, but the hurt goes away quickly, and then you feel the flow of water and hear the music of the spheres”.

“And we are back in history in the days whern they came to get you because you were a woman alone in the world, or because you were different, because your hair was red, or because you had no children of your own and no husband to protect you. Or maybe even because you owned property that one f them wanted”.

 

Towner Whitney doesn’t remember why she left Salem all those years ago, when her name was still Sophya. Accordingto her, she’s crazy. Indeed, in Salem, the Whitneys are known as “quirky”. Especially Towner’s great-aunt Eva, who runs a tearoom and is a renowned lace reader. Lace reading is a form of fortune-telling – a gift that most Whitney women have, to an excent. But Towner is back now. Her great-aunt Eva is missing.

Forced to confront the memories she’s suppressed all those years ago and faced with the possibility that her great-aunt might be dead, Towner tries to get answers from Eva’s friends and the rest of her family. When Detective Rafferty appears in Towner’s life, things get even murkier. He is determined to get the answers as to Eva’s disappearance, and to put away the leader of the Calvinists. The Calvinists are an ultraconservative Christian cult named after their leader Cal Boynton who used to be part of Towner’s family. Rafferty believes Cal to be behind Eva’s disappearance, and also behind the murder of Angela Rickey, a former member of his cult who is also missing.

As Towner’s relationship with Rafferty develops, he grows increasingly concerned about her and the town and digs deeper into Towner’s past that she’s forgotten. Or tried to bury deep down. Will his findings confirm what he’s suspected a long time ago? Or will his perception of reality be completely shattered, destroying himself and Towner in the process?

 

When I read a mystery novel, I like to be engaged from the beginning until the very end. And I like to not be able to guess the ending until the last page. “The Lace Reader” definitely delivered on the latter. The plot twists were quite unexpected, and not in a “plot holey, out of nowhere” way at all. However, I can’t say that this novel has kept my attention the whole time. This is primarily because of the narration.

Towner is the primary narrator, and an extremely unreliable one, who narrates in first-person present tense. However, we also have another narrator – Detective Rafferty. His narration is third-person past tense. I honestly didn’t get why that plot device was necessary. Towner’s unreliability as a narrator could’ve been done just as well in the past tense. Perhaps the narration of what was happening presently was done in the present tense to distinguish it from Towner’s journals written when she was 17 in the past tense. That didn’t help though – I kept forgetting what was happening when through most of the second half of the book. Unless that was the intended effect, it wasn’t the best mystery novel technique.

Confusing the reader can work, to an extent. It worked in “Gone Girl”, somewhat worked in “Pretty Little Liars”, and it was done really well in the Dublin Murder Squad mysteries. However, it was very over-the-top in “The Lae Reader”. I finished the book two days ago and I’m just now putting the pieces together. And not all of them, even – I still have so many questions. I’m still unclear as to what really had happened to Towner during the times she wrote about in her journals. I still don’t get whether she knew that what she was writing about didn’t really happen or whether she really was as mentally unstable as she claimed. And – perhaps that’s just me – but I’m still figuring out what actually happened to Eva. Perhaps I’ll understand the book better once I read the companion novel. There is one thing I am certain of – Cal Boynton deserved what he got.

My other issue is that how sexual assault and its aftermath were handled in the book. It’s not glorified – quite the contrary. But it is made into a plot point that’s never fully explored and a lot is left up to the reader’s interpretation. It was also used for shock value. If one chooses to tackle such an intense subject, I believe that they should deal with it fully and thoroughly. “The Lace Reader” doesn’t exactly brush off over the mental anguish that follows sexual assault. However, the mental health issues are also used as a plot point and a trigger for many things. I for one felt that it wasn’t done as well as it could have been.

Towner says she is a liar at the start. The book seemed to heavily imply that she couldn’t be trusted because of what had happened to her in the past. I, for one, was quite bemused by that. Maybe that’s because my interpretation is incorrect – and I do encourage readers of this blog to send me theirs in the comments! Nevertheless, it wasn’t my favourite aspect of an otherwise very atmospheric and unique novel. My rating for “The Lace Reader” is 7/10.

 

Recommendations:

You might like “The Lace Reader” if you enjoyed:

“The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield

“The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly” by Stephanie Oakes

“The Returned” TV series

 

Have you read “The Lace Reader”? Do you have different interpretations of the events that transpired in the book? I look forward to reading your comments! 🙂

Thanks for reading this review and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop before you go!

Book Review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

far from you.jpg

This is a review of a re-read.

 

Favourite quotes:

“But my heart isn’t simple or straightforward. It’s a complicated mess of wants and needs, boys and girls: soft, rough, and everything in between, an ever-shifting precipice from which to fall”.

“But this is the thing about struggling out of that hole you’ve put yourself in: the higher you climb, the farther you have to fall”.

“I want to keep my memory of her untainted, not polished by death nor shredded to pieces by words she meant only for herself. I want her to stay with me as she always was: strong and sure in everything but the one thing that mattered most, beautifully cruel and wonderfully sweet, too smart and inquisitive for her own good, and loving me like she didn’t want to believe it was a sin”.

 

Sophie Winters is an addict. She got hooked on painkillers after a car accident two years ago which wrecked her leg forever. But contrary to what her family, what the entire town believes, she’s been clean for over nine months now. And there was no relapse of any kind. Her best friend Mina wasn’t murdered because of a drug deal Sophie’s orchestrated. There was no drug deal at all, actually. But Sophie’s parents don’t believe her and send her to rehab anyway. Once she comes back four months later, she’s determined to find out who killed Mina and why.

However, very few people are keen to help her. The only one who seems to believe her is Rachel, the girl who found Sophie the night Mina died. Mina’s brother Trev has been in love with Sophie for the longest time, but he won’t speak to her. Her parents won’t believe her. And it goes without saying that Sophie’s time in rehab has done absolutely nothing to help her move on. Mina was her best friend – her other half, even. But some things, some secrets are buried so deep that unraveling them would send Sophie down a rabbit hole  which she has little chance of climbing out of. Can Sophie solve Mina’s murder and stay clean in the process? Or will the secrets they shared with each other, and things that Mina kept to herself and herself alone, wreck Sophie to the point of no return?

 

I first read “Far From You” in January 2015. I remember loving it and being heartbroken by it, and recently, I decided to re-read it. However, I was quite surprised by the fact that I haven’t written a review of this wonderful novel two years ago. So this review is based on both my initial impressions and what I’ve experienced during the re-read.

“Far From You” is both mystery-centric and protagonist-centric. Sophie Winters is a first-person narrator, so the story is shown from her perspective entirely. However, her voice is the kind that makes it clear for the reader the things that she doesn’t state explicitly. This is particularly true when she talks about Mina – Sophie’s pespective of the latter is skewed by many things revealed during the course of the story. However, the reader figures out several things about Mina that venture beyond Sophie’s somewhat romanticised notion of her. This is helped further by the “before” and “after” structure of the novel – flashbacks make up about 50% of the book, which worked brilliantly, even though they were slightly difficult to follow at first. Mostly because they weren’t in the order that you would expect. To reveal more about what the reader learns about Mina through Sophie’s narration and the things left unsaid by Sophie would be quite spoilery, though, so I’ll just say this – nothing in this book as it seems.

One would even argue that the mystery of Mina’s murder is as much of a core of “Far From You”, as it is a plot device. A lot of the book focuses on Sophie’s investigation, but just as much is centered around her relationship with Mina. Even her relationships with other people – Mina’s brother Trev, Mina’s boyfriend Kyle, the subjects of Mina’s newspaper article – they’re all somewhat related to what Sophie had had with Mina. And the way “Far From You” is written doesn’t let the reader forget that. It is also written in a way that makes the reader genuinely feel for both girls, and the words used by the author are weaved into sentences that made me weep both times I read the book. “Far From You” is definitely a story that got to me, made me truly care about the characters, despite their numerous flaws. These flaws are indeed what made them real – the author doesn’t skirt around them but turns them into character traits that make the actors genuinely relatable. And I’m not just referring to the LGBT+ aspects of the book, although books with LGBT+ protagonists are incredibly important today. The author doesn’t make the characters all about their sexual orientations – Far From It (sorry for the pun). All the characters – not just the protagonists – feel like real people, real teenagers with real struggles, their sexuality being one of them, but hardly overshadowing all of their other defining traits. I love books like that. And if they make me cry – well, that’s just a bonus, isn’t it? All stories matter, and stories featuring diverse characters especially. And if they get to the reader, if they make the reader experience strong emotions, that just makes them even more important. “Far From You” is one such story.

When I found out that “Far From You” was a debut novel, I was stunned. The author is incredibly talented with words and story-weaving, and I cannot wait for her next book! My rating for “Far From You” is 8/10.

 

Dreamcast

Sophie Winters – Eliza Taylor

Mina Bishop – Luisa D’Oliveira

 

Recommendations

You might like “Far From You” if you liked:

“Cam Girl” by Leah Raeder/Elliot Wake

“Complicit” by Stephanie Kuehn

“Pretty Little Liars” – Mina was no Alison DiLaurentis, yet one can’t help but draw Emison parallels.

 

Have you read “Far From You”? What is your favourite book with a bisexual protagonist? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Thanks for reading this review and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop!

Book Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

leaving

“Rape was violence, not sex”

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Favourite quotes:

“Nobody look at me, I’m a fucking mess! I’m going to sue Sarah Jessica Parker. Sex and the City did not prepare me to be a single woman in her thirties without designer heels and amazing sex!”

“Having a crappy job means having money that’s just mine, that I can spend on whatever I want to. I can’t tell you how good that feels”.

“Would everyone remember the times they’d said stuff like ‘that’s so gay’ and ‘don’t be a fag’ in my presence, and suddenly be unable to look me in the eye anymore? Would they even care how it made me feel? Just how different would my life be if the truth got out?”

 

Flynn Doherty’s girlfriend January broke up with him and a few days later, the police are at his house. January hasn’t been seen since then. As the ex-boyfriend, Flynn is naturally the first person of interest for the police of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Of course, it can’t be January’s stepfather – future State Senator Jonathan Walker. Or any of the dumb rich kids at her new prestigious school. Or her pervy stepbrother. Or Kaz – January’s coworker and the guy who’s so much cooler and more handsome than Flynn. Well, that’s what the police thinks. Flynn is shocked by the news but is he really as innocent as he claims? Or are his own secrets something a lot more sinister than the reader initially believes?

As the search for January continues, the situation becomes much more puzzling for the townspeople. And for Flynn. Apparently, he was quite blind to his ex’s relationships with other people. People like her mother and stepfather. And her new classmates whom she made fun of relentlessly to him. And of course, with Kaz. Kaz turns out to be a whole new mystery entirely. Can Flynn handle juggling January’s disappearance, his own secrets and the changing relationships in his life? Or will the story end completely differently from what the reader is expecting?

 

“Last Seen Leaving” is a book that’s been described as “Gone Girl” for teens. Aside from my personal issues with that description (are teens not smart enough for “Gone Girl”?), it is to an extent true. Indeed, you get the “Gone Girl” vibes from the very first chapter – a missing girl, a narrator with a secret who lies to the police, and revelations that don’t exactly cast him in a favourable light. However, “Last Seen Leaving” is more than capable of standing on its own pages, without any comparisons to any bestsellers (no matter how much we all love Gillian Flynn, there are other mystery writers out there!).

Our narrator is Flynn Doherty, a 15-year-old skater who’s quite smart for his age. A little too smart in fact – at one point, he makes a reference to Torquemada. It is my understanding that in America, there is little focus on non-American history until the last two years of school, so I was quite puzzled by the idea that a sophomore would know who Torquemada was. And for a smart kid, Flynn makes a few very dumb decisions – breaking into an apartment of a potential murderer being one of them. However, he is struggling with some very difficult things during the course of the novel. Being fifteen is hard enough, and when you are in the closet with an ex-girlfriend who is probably dead and a strange crush on a dude whom you thought to be after that very ex-girlfriend – well, it’s no surprise that Flynn’s decision-making process is not in top shape. And January McConville is another story entirely. I do think that Flynn somewhat idealised her, which led to him being an unreliable narrator and such a viable suspect for the police and January’s acquiantances.

Tana French has said it best – “teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods”. I’ve already pointed out the novel’s similarities to “Gone Girl”, but I will tell you one thing – that is not a spoiler. The mysteries may have a few things in common, but I was still quite engaged in “Last Seen Leaving” because I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen until the very last page of the epilogue. I’ve suspected several things that came to be, but I was quite surprised (and devastated) by many other revelations.

“Last Seen Leaving” is a very strong debut and an interesting YA mystery. Caleb Roehrig is certainly one author to keep an eye out for! Plus his Instagram pictures are beautiful! My rating of “Last Seen Leaving” is 7/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Last Seen Leaving” if you liked:

“As I Descended” by Robin Talley

“The Secret Place” by Tana French

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

 

Have you read “Last Seen Leaving”? What are your favourite YA mysteries and thrillers? Drop me a line in the comments, I love them! 🙂

Thanks for reading this review and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop before you go!

Book Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

charlotte

Favourite quotes:

“I’m bad with words. Too imprecise. Too many shades of meaning. And people use them to lie. Have you ever heard someone lie to you on the violin? Well. I suppose it can be done, but it would take far more skill”.

“At best, our friendship made me feel as though I was a part of something larger, something grander; that, with her, I’d been given access to a world whose unseen currents ran parallel to ours. But at our friendship’s worst, I wasn’t sure I was her friend at all. Maybe some human echo chamber or a conductor for her brilliant light”.

“We weren’t Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I was okay that, I thought. We had things they didn’t, too. Like electricity, and refrigerators. And Mario Kart”.

 

Happy Sherlock Season, everybody! Who is excited for episode 2?

I love Sherlock Holmes and I love the many adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories – whether they’re literary, cinematic, or television. I’ve enjoyed Andy Lane’s Young Sherlock Holmes stories and was quite keen for more like this, which is what led me to “A Study in Charlotte” that came out last year.

Jamie Watson is a descendant of Dr. John Watson – best friend to the Great Detective. His family is quite keen to preserve the legacy, but nowhere near the level of the Holmes’ family. He only suspects it, but his life and Charlotte Holmes’ were entwined from birth. Like his ancestor, he dreams of solving cases in London with a Holmes. So it comes as a major disappointment when he is awarded a full rugby scholarship to a boarding school in Connecticut. Sherringford – the school – is close to the home of his estranged father and his new family. It is also the new home of none other than Charlotte Holmes – a genius, aloof girl who hosts weekly poker nights and doesn’t seem to have many friends. Could Watson’s dreams actually be coming true and could he actually form a friendship with someone he’s idolised all his life?

However, his efforts prove fruitless. At least until their classmate is murdered. Holmes seems quite keen to solve the murder, but soon, both she and Watson are painted as prime suspects.

As one disaster after another, shakes Sherringford to its core, Holmes’ and Watson’s lives are in more danger than ever. Who is trying to frame them by using the Sherlock Holmes stories for inspiration? Or is it not a frame-up at all and Charlotte Holmes is a murderess? Did she start killing at 14 and was August Moriarty her first victim? Or is he the one behind everything? Watson’s mind is riddled with questions that can make or break his fragile friendship with Charlotte Holmes. Can the two manage to stay alive, stay friends and find the villain in the process? Or is the friendship doomed, just like them?

 

“A Study in Charlotte” is the kind of novel about which one has very mixed feelings. I can’t say I loved it, but I did enjoy certain aspects of it. I have to say that while the concept of Holmes’ and Watson’s descendants is interesting in theory, I could never get on board with The Great Detective Sherlock Holmes having a child. The Holmes’ dynasty in the novel and their obsession with deduction, as well as the need to ingrain it in every generation, were very strange to read about. What the parents were doing to their children in the Holmes family was abuse, plain and simple. If that happened to every generation, I don’t believe that all the Holmes’ could have possibly been “on the side of the angels” and wanted to assist law enforcement. Abused kids don’t tend to trust the authority, and I really don’t see how a teenage descendant of Sherlock would be keen to assist Scotland Yard. So I really wasn’t too crazy about the idea of almost  every generation of Holmes’ being “the good guys”. I also didn’t like how the Holmes and the Moriarty families seem to have a rivalry that spans centuries and how most Moriartys were evil. That’s simply unrealistic – almost as unrealistic as the idea of Sherlock Holmes reproducing.

Another thing that bothered me was the pacing and the narration. I think that despite being a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, the book would have been much better if it were written in third person, not from Watson’s first-person POV. It seemed to me that the author was struggling to find Watson’s voice for 3/4 of the novel. True, he is an unreliable narrator, and if that was the author’s goal, it was achieved. However, the narration seemed to be all over the place for the majority of the novel. It was quite hard to follow at times who was saying what, and sometimes even what was happening and where. It almost made me not enjoy the book at all, but in the last quarter of “A Study in Charlotte”, the author seemed to have figured out where to take the narration and the events and it flowed really well. It was fast-paced, like the rest of the book, but with little distraction and the scenes were clearly set.

I’d also like to point out that Watson as an unreliable narrator worked really well in some ways, but not so well in others. If the author was trying to make Charlotte seem “perfectly flawed” through Watson’s eyes, then that’s what happened. But I don’t like my characters to be perfect and I especially dislike it when one character is so smart or attractive they make everyone else around them look stupid or inadequate in some other ways. Charlotte is a sixteen-year-old girl – and she is hardly perfect. Yet Watson keeps trying to make the reader believe that she is, and the police and other adults look terrible in comparison. This is another reason why “The Study in Charlotte” would’ve worked much better in third person. Watson is too subjective – and to be honest, his weird attraction to Charlotte was really distracting. The book could’ve done without it and would have flown much better.

The third-person POV would have also made all the Sherlock Holmes references much more fun to read about. The book is riddled with them, which I really liked. I also liked the nods to the original stories and the detailed descriptions of Charlotte’s investigative activities. And I do wish that Watson’s biased narration didn’t distract from the fact that she is still a teenager with issues typical teens face. Despite the negative points I’ve elaborated on in this review, I still thought that “A Study in Charlotte” was an OK book. My rating is 6.5/10.

 

Recommendations:

You might like “A Study in Charlotte” if you liked:

“Lock & Mori” by Heather W. Petty

“Young Sherlock Holmes” series by Andy Lane

“Velvet Undercover” by Teri Brown

“Elementary” TV series

 

Have you read “A Study in Charlotte”? What are your favourite Sherlock Holmes adaptations? Tell me in the comments! 🙂

Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

armada

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Favourite quotes

“I was staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure when I spotted the flying saucer”.

“Extraterrestial visitors had permeated pop culture for so long that they were now embedded in humanity’s collective unconscious, preparing us to deal with the real thing, now that it was actually happening”.

“My heart was rocked by waves of unbridled joy. It occurred to me that up until this moment I’d only ever experienced the bridled kind. Having the reins slipped off my heart after a lifetime of wearing them was a bit overwhelming – in the best possible way”.

 

Ernest Cline’s sophomore novel is a story of Zack Lightman (his name is more superhero-y than Peter Parker), a teenage video game enthusiast who comes from a family of gaming enthusiasts, is surrounded by gaming enthusiasts, and obsessed with the idea of life being more like science fiction. In Zack’s mind, his dull life needs to turn around by virtue of a fantastic, straight-outta-his-favourite-video-game-called-Armada, event.

And one day, Zack’s wishes come true. He spots a UFO during a school day that is an exact replica of a battleship from Armada. The idea of the game is that the player has to protect the Earth from alien invaders. Zack is one of the best players there is – in fact, his handle IronBeagle is in the top ten. Number one is the mysterious RedJive, whom nobody has ever managed to beat. But everyone knows Armada is pure fiction, right? And Zack’s late father’s journals that tell a crazy tale of videogames being some sort of a battle camp that prepare you for a real war are just that – crazy. Right?

Wrong.

Zack’s excellent video gaming skills are, after all, going to be valuable in the real world. Turns out his father wasn’t that far off, and now the world needs Zack and everyone else in the top ten to defend the Earth from extraterrestial intelligence, as seen in Armada. But can Zack save the humanity from an interplanetary war? And even if a gang of plucky gamer geeks can somehow manage to “play their way” out of it, how do they know that Armada isn’t more dangerous than anyone realises?

 

I loved Ready Player One. Ernest Cline’s debut novel was one of the scariest, most interesting and most “fanboyish” books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. So needless to say, I had quite high expectations for “Armada” and have been waiting for it to come out. And while it wasn’t exactly a masterpiece like RPO, it didn’t let me down. In some ways, the reader can sense the elements RPO is riddled with – references to numerous sci-fi and fantasy things (I knew a lot more about stuff referenced in “Armada” than in “RPO” – I’m a 90s kid), young lad with a superhero name dreaming to save the world, a badass female love interest, and villain-y authority figures. In other words, “Armada” is quite tropey. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad sci-fi – just that it contains quite a few tropes from many other well-known science fiction works.

The writing in “Armada” was slightly less atmospheric than in Ready Player One, but then again, “Armada’s” overall plot is not the same as in “RPO”, despite all the similarities between the two books I just listed. In his debut novel, Cline has built an amazing world inspired by video games and 80s pop-culture, whereas in “Armada”, these elements serve more as MacGuffins, backdrops and props to move the story along, and thereby, less descriptive writing was required. The action sequences were quite decent, as was the witty banter and emotional relationships between the characters.

Essentially, “Armada” is a love letter to everything fictional and “geek things”. I have in mind a close friend of mine who would love it and would probably smile at all the references, especially since some of his favourite people make a cameo at one point. However, I am more of a fantasy geek/nerd than a sci-fi fan, even though I love me some aliens, so I didn’t fangirl as much as some people probably have upon seeing the references. I’m not much of a gamer, I didn’t like “Ender’s Game”, I didn’t like “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, and I’ve never seen “Star Wars” (yes I am that person), so I am probably the wrong audience for “Armada”.

It sounds as though I’m basing this review on how different/similar “Armada” is to “RPO”. Unfortunately, in this case it was inevitable, and given how much I loved “RPO”, all I can say is that I’m hoping to read more of Cline in the future, but I don’t know how well it’ll measure against the gem that is “Ready Player One” that’s arguably already becoming a cult classic. My rating of “Armada” is 6.5/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Armada” if you liked:

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

“Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke

 

Have you read any of Ernest Cline’s books? Which one did you like better? Do let me know in the comments! 🙂

Book Review: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

case histories

Favourite quotes:

“Novels gave you a completely false idea about life, they told lies and they implied there were endings when in reality there were no endings, everything just went on and on and on”.

“The possibility of a meteor colliding with the earth doesn’t mean that we should embrace the Americanization of our language and culture”.

 

I was looking for more books like the Cormoran Strike series when I stumbled upon the Jackson Brodie series. This is my first Kate Atkinson.

In 1970, four-year-old Olivia Land, youngest of the four Land siblings, goes missing from her family home where things aren’t as picture perfect as they appear. In 1994 Laura, a beautiful office worker is murdered in cold blood in her office. In 1979 Michelle, a young mother seemingly kills her husband in a fit of rage. And a retired police officer turned private detective Jackson Brodie is tasked with investigating all three cases. At first glance, there seems to be no link between them, but once Jackson survives several attacks on his life and deals with his cat lady neighbour, he begins to suspect that not everything is what it seems. Soon, his own life isn’t the only thing that stops making sense and starts taking a dangerous turn. The players of all three cases become an integral part of his day-to-day life. Can Brodie deal with the Land sisters paying all kinds of attention to him, the grief of Laura’s father, and the deceptively sweet demeanour of Michelle’s sister? His life is changed forever, but how far does the change extend?

When I read a mystery novel, I like to be hooked – perhaps not right away, but within the first quarter of the book or so. I like my mysteries to be gripping, haunting, and I like to be unable to pull away from the book. I also like to have a resolution at the end of my mystery novels or at least an ending that leaves the reader longing for Book 2 right away. Unfortunately, “Case Histories” failed to satisfy my expectations in that regard. It started off with a large chapter of info-dump about one of the three cases that make up the essence of the “mystery” in the book, and halfway through the chapter, I was really bored with the picture I was seeing. However, I kept on reading and as I did, I was met with a cast of frustratingly unreliable narrators, including Jackson Brodie himself, several confusing time jumps and narrative jumps that made it hard to tell when, and where exactly each character was at that time. I wouldn’t have a problem with the latter if it were used as an integral element of the mystery, but I didn’t see any evidence of that in the novel.

A good murder mystery doesn’t have to be fast-paced at all, but I do believe that there has to be some action with a certain degree of build-up. “Case Histories” had several instances of “present-day” action like murder attempts, but there was no build-up to them. It felt as though they just came out of the blue – for me they were “blink-and-you-miss-it” moments. And with the constantly changing narrators that described the aftermaths of these plot advancements, I had a really hard time understanding what actually happened. It was the same with revelations. I like to have at least some hints to the resolution of a mystery added throughout the course of a novel (like in “Gone Girl”), and I’m sure my fellow mystery lovers would agree that a reader would prefer to be on track to figuring out the main mystery, or mysteries. However, in “Case Histories”, these revelations were just thrown at you casually, and you had no chance to figure them out prior to their appearance. It was, quite frankly, frustrating.

Going back to my earlier point about my preferred ways to end a mystery novel, “Case Histories” once again didn’t satisfy my expectations. SPOILER I did receive some answers, but I wasn’t satisfied with them – they were either coincidental or completely random. Perhaps the rest of the answers is provided in Book 2 in the Jackson Brodie series, but with the way the first book frustrated me, I don’t have any desire to get the second one END SPOILER. An open-ended mystery novel can work really well – “In the Woods” by Tana French is a terrific example of that. This wasn’t the case, however, with “Case Histories”. Not only did the writing style didn’t appeal to me, but not a single character stood out to me, and there was really no-one I could root for. Don’t get me wrong – I love a villain or an anti-hero, but in order for me to enjoy them, they have to be interesting and I have to have at least some understanding of their motives. “Case Histories” did not provide me with clear motivations for the parties in the cases, and these parties were really, really bland. This isn’t due to the writing, but it’s due to who they were written to be. If the author’s intention was for the reader to not care about anyone, she has succeeded.

I am sorry to sound so negative – the book wasn’t the kind of book I’d DNF, and the narrators did manage, albeit barely, to keep me engaged enough to make it through to the end. However, there are a lot of mystery novels out there that are a lot better, and I recommend that you go for them instead of the Jackson Brodie series. My rating of “Case Histories” is 6/10.

 

Recommendations

You might just enjoy “Case Histories” if you liked:

“The Cormoran Strike series” by Robert Galbraith

“Dublin Murder Squad series” by Tana French

“State of Play” TV series

 

Have you read the Jackson Brodie series? Have you seen the adaptation with everyone’s favourite blond Death Eater Jason Isaacs? What are your favourite mystery novels? Drop me a comment! 🙂