Friday, February 17, 2017

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton: a book of two halves

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office--leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist--an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand--and fear--the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Review:

This is an interesting and brave book but it doesn't quite work; it's definitely a book of two halves, which don't hang together. The Nella of the first half is dull and weak, whereas the Nella of the second half is very feisty and gripping. I think there should have been more of the hint of feistiness in the first half to try to hold the book together. It's also fair to say that the writing of the first half is very long-winded, but suddenly when the plot actually begins half way through, this is when the story starts to sing.

I did have to say that I guessed about the baby issue long before Nella realised, so it was no surprise and really something of a cliche. Strangely, the story about the miniaturist is rather out of place and tends to slow the book down - we didn't need this and it all fades out into something nonsensical in the end anyway. Still, the portrait of a new and challenging marriage and the fabulous writing in the last few chapters of the book make this worth reading, but probably best to start halfway through.

3 out of 5 stars

Anne Brooke Books

Friday, February 03, 2017

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: no 'Mockingbird" alas ...

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father. 
What the nurse Ruth, her lawyer Kennedy, and Turk the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.
My review:

On the whole, this book is a disappointment especially as usually I really love Picoult's books. This is definitely not her best and not even her most far-reaching work. The trouble is that the author has been so taken up by the nobility of her cause (campaigning against racism) that she has forgotten to write a novel. Most of the first three-quarters of the book could have been better expressed by means of non-fiction, and I felt that the material was being forced into a novelistic form which it definitely did not fit. As a result, Ruth is very dull and irritating and needs a good shaking every now and again - she repeats herself constantly and I ended up skipping her sections in order to read the sections on Turk or Kennedy, which were better written by far.

It's a great relief when the court scenes finally arrive in the last quarter of the book, and Picoult actually starts writing the novel rather than beating us over our heads with her cause. From then on in, I enjoyed the story, and it raced through to the dramatic (and, yes, a wee bit laughable) end. Ruth of course remains unbearably smug, but I loved the way things turn out for Turk. He at least is a great character.

I hope Picoult will remember to let the story and the characters (not the cause, please!) take centre stage for her next novel - a return to form would be appreciated!

Anne Brooke Books

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz: interesting but unsatisfying thriller

Sherlock Holmes is dead. 
Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind.
Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones, a devoted student of Holmes's methods of investigation and deduction, Chase must hunt down this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace. 
The game is afoot . . .


My review:

Having loved the first book in this series, The House of Silk (well worth a read if you've not done so already), I was really looking forward to this follow up and read the whole story very quickly as a result. It's not entirely what I expected - yes, the description is fabulous and you do really feel as if you're walking through Victorian London with all the sights, sounds and smells that entails. The plot is also first-rate.

However, neither Holmes nor Watson appear in the novel until the very end (via a curious short story addendum) and there is therefore a great sense of frustration. The level of violence is also more than is necessary to my mind and I didn't need to have such detailed descriptions of it. The ultimate twist is good, but not what I hoped for and the end is ultimately very unsatisfying indeed. If there's a third book, then we do really need to have Holmes and Watson in it! Please?...

Anne Brooke Books

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Girl You Lost by Kathryn Croft: psychological page-turner

Eighteen years ago, Simone Porter’s six-month-old daughter, Helena, was abducted. Simone and husband, Matt, have slowly rebuilt their shattered lives, but the pain at losing their child has never left them. Then a young woman, Grace, appears out of the blue and tells Simone she has information about her stolen baby. But just who is Grace – and can Simone trust her?

When Grace herself disappears, Simone becomes embroiled in a desperate search for her baby and the woman who has vital clues about her whereabouts. Simone is inching closer to the truth but it’ll take her into dangerous and disturbing territory. 

My review:

A good page-turning read and I very much liked the main character, Simone. However, as other reviews have said, there are so many books like this now that the 'female in jeopardy' novel is probably rather old-fashioned. Also, I worked out the twist a third of the way through so the ending was no surprise, and on a really picky note, I don't think you can draw blood from trying to stab someone with car keys but I'm not prepared to put this to the test, LOL!

However, still a good quick read and I will probably try this author again.

Anne Brooke Books

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Amazon Paperback Bonanza!

All my Kindle ebooks are now available as paperbacks at Amazon at very good prices - the link is this one and is also as below:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0034PAO0Y

This is the range of books you can find on Amazon in paperback (as well as Kindle versions):

London thrillers (A Dangerous Man, Maloney's Law and The Bones of Summer)

Romantic fiction (Pink Champagne and Apple Juice, The Old Bags' Sex Club, How To Marry Your Husband)

Crime fiction (Thorn in The Flesh, The Gangster's Wife)

Literary fiction (The Apple Picker's Daughter)

Fantasy fiction (The Gifting, Hallsfoot's Battle, The Executioner's Cane - AKA The Gathandrian Trilogy - and The Taming of The Hawk)

Gay fiction (The Hit List, The Dangerous Delaneys and Me, The Beginning of Knowledge, The Paranormal Detection Agency, Where You Hurt The Most, and a host of others)

Religious fiction (The Prayer Seeker)

Short story collections (Dancing with Lions, The Singing Road)

Prayer book (Dear God It's All Gone Horribly Wrong)

Poetry collections (A Stranger's Table, Salt and Gold)

Non-fiction (A Year in The Allotment, Tales from The Typeface)

Children's fiction (The Origami Nun, Queen of the Fluffy Pens - both under my pseudonym, Lori Olding)

Happy browsing!

Anne Brooke Books
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Trilogy Site
Biblical Fiction Site
Lori Olding


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Holding by Graham Norton: old-fashioned charm in a page-turning read

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn't always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn't always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn't always felt that her life was a total waste.
So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke - a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn - the village's dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community's worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.
Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore - with searing honesty - the complexities and contradictions that make us human.
My review:

A well written and interesting debut novel from Graham Norton. The characters are well portrayed and very sympathetic, and the small village setting is beautifully described. There's an old-fashioned feel about it - particularly in the way that setting tends to be described before we get to the character in each chapter - but that itself has charm and doesn't negate the page-turning quality of the story. The ending was very satisfying indeed.

Anne Brooke Books

Monday, December 26, 2016

Clariel by Garth Nix: one for the children

Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid to the sinister Guildmaster Kilip. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her - and it is herself she must question most of all.

My review:

This is the first (and I think only) book by Garth Nix that I've read, or will read. It came across very much as a children's fantasy book and not really that engaging for adults. That's absolutely fine of course, but I wish I'd known this before I started. The beginning is very slow so it was a relief to get to the middle where the plot started to kick in.

Then a lot of things (murder! journeys! danger!) happen all at once which is great, but then it got a bit out of hand and there was way too much happening by the end so I lost interest and started skipping. It was odd because I started off really liking Clariel, but when she began to actually do something, I couldn't work out her reasoning so found her rather facile. Oh, and I hated the pesky cat. We really didn't need it - a bit of a 'MacGuffin". So, all in all, an okay read for the young, but not for me.

Anne Brooke Books