Tag Archives: review

Pines by Blake Crouch

I am always attracted by those kind of blurbs that offer an intriguing dilemma and lately that has caused me to dip my toes into the world of Sci-if on more than one occasion.
The pines by Blake Crouch is such a book. Just after I purchased the audiobook, but before I started listening, someone told me they had watched the TV series and it was pretty bad. That put me off and I delayed. But honestly, I have enjoyed so many books that, in my personal opinion, have not been adapted well for the screen, that I knew I wanted to give the book a fair chance.
On the whole, I am glad I did, though, as with much of the science fiction genre, I think it is relatively easy for a good writer to come up with that killer scenario and much harder for him/her to explain all the mysterious goings on and come to a satisfying conclusion.

First though, I would like to say that, though this is the first in a trilogy, I didn’t feel cheated at the end of the book with a no-resolution type ending. Answers are given, a handful of loose ends tied.
Ethan Burke wakes by a river, he is hurt, has been in some kind of accident but he has no memory of it, or how he got there. He has no keys, wallet ID or anything else to identify himself.

He is told he was involved in a car accident, his companion killed and that he staggered out of the medical centre when staff were trying to help him. His belongings are with paramedic staff. So far, so believable, but Ethan is already beginning to worry that something is off kilter with the explanations he is being given.

He asks for the use of a telephone to contact his wife and son, his efforts to reach her are thwarted. As time goes on, Ethan is witness to violence and coercion and the definite knowledge that he and everyone else in the town are not at liberty to leave.

*Warning ! Spoiler alert from this point*

I usually prefer to skirt around the story and make my points without giving anything away but, with this one, I find it impossible to comment on, without touching on the issues that surround the reason for this isolated-town-with-no-way-out.

The basics are that Homo sapiens have died out beyond the confines of the town of Wayward Pines. In fact, everyone who lives there is an import, brought in, unknown to them, to continue the species before the disaster which will befall their fellow humans and see the end of their race.

One man in the 1980’s has had the foresight to see what will happen to the human race, through pollution of the planet. He took it upon himself to embark on the massive project of buying up a town and planning to repopulate it with people he kidnapped along the way and put into stasis until the right time came to introduce them to their new life. This is what has happened to Ethan.

Beyond the town evolution-gone-mad (in thirty generations) has transformed what remains of life into huge, jaw-snapping creatures, intelligent, hungry for human blood and impossible to communicate with. Towns and cities are overgrown and in ruins.

Of course the reader has to accept this crazy, evolutionary fast-forward that produced these creatures in under two thousand years, but this is science fiction, so… so far so good.

What didn’t work for me so well, was that the people were ‘kidnapped’ with such secrecy into the survival programme that even they were not told they were part of it. But more than that, the environmental changes that have been so profound as to wipe out humanity and send life on Earth on a completely different path, doesn’t appear to have affected the plant life. The town of Wayward Pines does not exist in a bubble of pre-disaster air and yet the town looks just like any ordinary old town of 2015, (two thousand years ago). And the surviving humans seem quite able to cope with the changes.

Science fiction is often a disappointment for me and maybe that’s not entirely science fiction’s fault, maybe I just think it out too much. However this kind of fiction is for pure entertainment and I was definitely entertained, I really wanted to know, as much as Ethan did, if he could break out of this weird village where he was being held captive and if he could find out why. I just wish the town had been isolated in some kind of dome, Logan’s Run style, where the environmental changes ‘outside’ could not affect them.

Then again, maybe the environment hasn’t changed? Maybe the Jaw Snappers are the result of some other mad experiment?

I may well have to read the second instalment!

Advertisements

A First Review for Dirty Work

So very pleased with this review for Dirty Work. It really can’t be said enough, reviews really do make an author’s day. Go on, readers,  write about the books you love and make an author happy!

Unsworth’s first novel – The Palaver Tree – will always be my favorite, because I too lived in Africa.

Her novel – Dirty Work – is another must read. The deceptively simple story of two couples morphs into a mystery with a number of surprising twists that kept me turning the pages. On the surface it would seem that Nathan, with all his money, his beautiful wife and stunning home, has the upper hand. Below the surface, however, things are churning – nasty things, that lead Nathan, his brother and his sister-in-law into a web they never could have imagined.

Well written with strong characterizations, great descriptions, and lots of action, Dirty Work is a story not to be missed if you like mysteries and even if you don’t.’

Review Wednesday – Last Breath by Robert Bryndza

Robert Bryndza continues with his winning formula in this latest in the Erika Foster series. Last Breath is a breathtaking read, fast and furious as the race is on to find a serial killer who disposes of his victims in the town’s dumpsters.

This is a difficult one to say much about without spoilers but what I can say without giving anything away is that I enjoyed knowing the identity of the killer before the end of the book, seeing the twisted logic and also the costly mistakes. For me, this is a very effective way of story telling when I can see both sides and ultimately observe as the world’s of the killer and police collide.

If anything I think this is my favourite of the series so far. Erika is becoming a little more human after her past tragedy and her relationships within the force continue to develop. I particularly like Moss who is an intelligent and loyal member of the team. Erika is in conflict with her superiors as usual, but then she wouldn’t be Erika without a little bit of her headstrong, the rules don’t apply to me, style.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Review Wednesday – The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill

The Woodcutter is quite an epic story and not what I was expecting at all.

Wolf Hadda is raised in humble surroundings as a woodcutter’s son but he is destined for success and a visit to the ‘Big House’ on the Cumbrian estate where he lives is the catalyst for his new aspirations.

Wolf achieves everything he sets out for. He becomes a wealthy businessman, marries well and has a beautiful daughter. Then one dreadful morning everything comes to an end with a police raid. Wolf is accused of the most heinous of crimes; he is committed to jail and deserted by family and friends.

Then into the story come Alva, a pyschaitrist who is determined to help Wolf to face his wrongdoing and come to terms with it but his overriding reason to continue living is to find those responsible for his predicament and see that real justice is done.

Wolf is the most likeable of characters even though he can be ruthless when crossed. He has a wealth of down-to-earthiness that made me feel that if he was on your side he would never let you down. As in real life, other characters in the book are drawn to Wolf, despite his reputation, by what they find to be, a very genuine man,

This is a really great story, with a bit of everything thrown in and the treachery of those around him made me root for Wolf all the more.

I have to mention that I listened to this title on Audible and the narration by Jonathan Keeble was outstanding. I felt as if a whole cast of actors were involved in the performance.

Review Wednesday – To Hunt a Sub by Jacqui Murray

To Hunt a Sub gets off to a great start with the disabling of a nuclear submarine. The vessel is lost to the authorities who control its movements and the consequences for the crew are dire. Being able to locate and control the American fleet of subs would be a devastating terrorist weapon and this is what one group are attempting.

It’s been a while since I have read a book in this genre but I have read enough to know the format and was expecting a lone deniable agent out there tracking down the terrorists or a team from special ops. However To Hunt a Sub takes a different and surprising slant on this scenario into the world of academia.

Kali Delemagente (you do have to get your tongue around some unusual names in this book) is a research student who has developed an amazing programme to track the progress of early man out of Africa. I won’t pretend to understand all the tech science behind this story but it felt well researched and feasible, if not actually possible. When the true power of her research becomes evident to those who would use it for nefarious purposes Kali and her loved ones are suddenly in danger.

There are plenty of good supporting characters, good and bad and as the action hots up each must decide who to trust

This is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller, a great adventure and, a bonus for me, the first in a series.( I often seem to come into them half way through)

The next book in the series, 24 Hours, has just been published and I am looking forward to reading more about Kali and the adorable Zeke Rowe.

Review Wednesday – Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I was drawn to this fictional account based around the last months in the life of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland.

Recently there seem to have been a number of excellent books whose narrative is set in snowy wastes and that can add great atmosphere to the story. Burial Rites is no exception.

After being convicted and sentenced for her part in the murder of two men, the authorities send Agnes to a remote farm to await her fate. The year is 1829. The family are horrified by this enforced proximity to a convicted murderer and, at first, avoid contact with Agnes as much as possible. But when the summer months give way to the harsh Icelandic winter sheer survival compels all members of the household to work together and the farmer’s wife and daughters, along with Tóti,  a young priest charged with the task of ministering to Agnes during her final days, begin to see that the story of Agnes is not as straightforward as it first may have seemed.

The ending is, of course, already known. It is shocking as is some of the background detail, like the sourcing of the axe and who should pay for the execution.

I have to say that, for me, the beautiful writing failed to bring me closer to Agnes and though I felt a deep sorrow for her she remained a shadowy figure. In contrast that bleak, Icelandic countryside was ever present. Being turned out of an isolated farmstead was nothing short of a death sentence in itself. There was literally nowhere to go, no one to turn to and only the bitter landscape for company. No wonder, in such circumstances, women found themselves bound to their home, no matter what the conditions.

Burial Rites is a good story set around true events and a memorial to Agnes whose true part in the murders is not known. I listened to the audio book and mention must be made of the narrator Morven Christie who did an absolutely outstanding job of switching between English and Icelandic pronunciation. In less capable hands the audiobook would not have had the haunting impact that it did.

 

 

 

 

Review Wednesday – Whisky From Small Glasses by D.A. Meyrick

This is the first book in the series about Scottish policeman   DCI Jim Daley and is a great start. I read several reviews prior to purchasing the book that refer to the way the Scottish accents are written phonetically and that it made the story a little more difficult to get into. I listened to the book on Audible and can highly recommend the excellent narrator who brought the characters to life for me.

As for the story, Jim Daley is sent away to the remote Scottish town (fictional) of Kinloch where a body has been found in the water. At first it seems that the case will be straightforward and Jim’s biggest headache is the grumpy local police chief. That’s not his only problem though, simmering in the background is his shaky relationship with his wayward wife who, in the midst of everything decides to pay Jim a visit at Kinloch and whilst trying to deal with this development the case suddenly becomes more complex and nasty.

I was lulled at first by the narrator’s dulcet tones and the descriptions of Scottish life into a kind of cosy mystery feel where the murderer would be the last person anyone expected; the vicar or the librarian but actually this turned out to be quite a red herring in itself. The story becomes very dark with more murder, drugs and smuggling at its heart and though not peppered with violence when it does come it is quite graphic and shocking.

This was a good introduction to Jim Daley, his personal life and I really loved the ending!