Room – Emma Donoghue

Rating: 4/5

Review:

I love seeing the weird and wacky parts of life. I love reading about things that I will never (hopefully never) experience. I love looking through the eyes of horrible, deranged people and going along for the rollercoaster ride that are their thoughts.

However, I’ve never read from the perspective of such a young child. Of someone so inexperienced in the world. Someone who wants to ask questions but doesn’t know what they are. 

Jack is the one who asks the questions. He asks about the walls, the rug, the plant and the skylight. Ma tells him the answers. But then suddenly the answers change. He is five now so Ma is telling him about Outside and that the TV is real and that Room is not the whole world. And that Room is a cage and that the keeper of the keys is Old Nick.

Room is a disturbing look at kidnapping and confinement. With so many horrible stories coming to light and being ingrained in the minds of people, stories like this offer a chance at voyeurism that simply aren’t appropriate when real people are involved. 

How could we possibly forget events like those of Fritzl’s dungeon? Even while reading about the release of the innocent victims, I couldn’t stop my nosy brain from trying to visualise just how that dungeon logistically worked.

And part of those curiosities was wondering how the victims retained their sanity. How could they hold onto hope for so long?

“I used to dream about being rescued,” she says. “I wrote notes and hid them in the trash bags, but nobody ever found them.”

“You should have sent them down Toilet.”

“And when we scream, nobody hears us,” she says, “I was flashing the light on and off half the night last night, then I thought, nobody’s looking.”

“But-”

“Nobody’s going to rescue us.”

I don’t say anything. And then I say, “You don’t know everything there is.”

But Room isn’t an indulgent and perverse look at captivity. The author never gives more information than is needed for precisely that moment. True to the age bracket of her narrator, she stays in the present and only focuses on something when it becomes part of Jack’s world. Due to this, the disturbing nature of the setting is lessened and the book becomes more readable and manageable as a result. The horrific nature of the book is less from violence or gore but more from the complexity of Jack’s thoughts, as he struggles with both hating and loving the only life he has ever known. That’s where Old Nick’s depravity really becomes clear, as the true extent of Jack’s naivety about the world is uncovered.

I do wish that I had more of a chance to read about Old Nick. I understand why he wasn’t featured as the book truly is through Jack’s eyes. Old Nick is like a boogeyman to Jack so until the fear sets in, he isn’t often a thought to the boy. But I did enjoy the glimpses of him I caught and I’d be very intrigued to see an additional book published from his point-of-view.

At times I did feel limited by having the book only from Jack’s perspective. While this was fine when the world was only in the Room, this became sometimes frustrating when Outside was explored. I would have preferred if the perspective had shifted to Ma when this transition was made, as by halfway I was craving more detail and depth.

I think this is an important read. At times I was keenly aware of how poorly the media and public deals with the victims of these traumatic experiences. The privacy and rehabilitation they needed were constantly being overwhelmed by prying eyes and a constant need for information. This made me reflect past the pages of the book and solidified my thoughts on the value of space and serenity. In many ways, I’ve withdrawn from the information overload of present day. My Facebook remains unopened for days and sometimes weeks and my interests lean once more towards books. It’s easy to shrug off the actions of paparazzi as being silly but sometimes it’s important to remember that real people are at the other end of those lenses. People who didn’t choose acting or modeling and never wanted to be famous. My favorite example of information overload would be with the Making a Murderer series, which has become world famous and thrust the individuals into global recognition. In some cases, more information is better, for there are some instances of corrupti0n or mishandling where the result benefits from public awareness. But that isn’t always the case and often times I’m keenly aware of the powerful sway of public opinion. Of what limits the law and morals can sometimes bend to keep readers happy. 

The ending is also kept very mysterious and to me this feels like an ironic way of keeping us in the dark when so many other parts of their captivity was exposed. While this can be frustrating, it does let me use my imagination and construct the ending that I want them to have. While information, facts and realities are often important, sometimes we need some open ends to fill up on our own.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on modern media. Do you think we recieve too much or too little information? Do you think images should be included in newspapers at all? Tell me your thoughts, I am keen to hear them!

Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

Rating: 7/10

Review

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I have a confession to make.

*Cough*

This…. this was my first Stephen King novel.

I know. I KNOW. It’s embarrassing to admit it.

The strange thing about Stephen King novels are that the blurbs just don’t seem to capture me. They’re written as if people know what to expect and so there isn’t this pull to them. This novel however had something different with it. It was cheap. Very cheap indeed. So of course I bought it immediately!

From the get go, I was absorbed. I have been on a bit of a crime binge with my entertainment choices lately so this really tickled me pink. After reading The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly I was hoping to encounter suspense done well (without the usage of excessive exclamation points or ellipses). King is truly a master at suspense. You can feel the trouble brewing, like some awful anvil shaped cloud looming on the horizon that you just know is bad news.

The killer is infamously named after he plows a Mercedes into a line of waiting job seekers at a convention centre. The case is never solved, a fact that still bothers Bill Hodges in his retirement. An anonymous and taunting letter in the mail opens up the case once more in an unofficial capacity. Bill is on the killer’s scent and he will have to accept that his own biases and poor police work could have been the reason he escaped. Time is running out and the killer may just strike again.

Bill was an okay main character, although he came across as being rather white bread. I believe that this book was published around 2014. For me, this publishing date means that I judge King harshly for including so many stereotypes and for creating a character that was so typical of the crime genre. An old, white, rough cop who is retired, haunted by his past and subconsciously looking for the thrill of the chase and of love. Seem familiar?

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Well, that’s because it’s been done a million times. For a writer who is so promoted as being imaginative and unapologetic, I found his creation of Bill to be extremely disappointing. The events had a sense of predictability to them due to the usage of such a trope. As soon as they introduced the sassy black teen, anyone could tell that he’d become the sidekick with a heart of gold. And don’t get me started on the introduction of the hot and large breasted woman…. Despite this, Bill was a fine main character. He wasn’t awful and he wasn’t excellent. But he was okay. You could argue that King wasn’t looking to redefine the genre, but instead create a book that does all of these tropes right. That is something that I would agree with. Despite how stereotypical some characters or events are, they are at least written into the story well.

The antagonist, Brady Hartsfield, was the character that I enjoyed the most. I love reading novels where the narrators are a bit disturbed or demented. While I don’t agree with his thoughts or actions, it is interesting to see his logic justified and to understand why he thinks the way that he does. I really enjoyed reading about the relationship dynamic between Brady and his mother as it was filled with constant twists and turns. I feel quite confident that King’s other books will be excellent if the antagonists are given their chance to narrate.

The side characters were probably my least liked parts of the books. Janey, Bill’s sudden lover, seemed very contrived and more like a doll than a real person. She felt like the kind of perfectly crafter woman that a writer would imagine for a guy like Bill. So, in other words, she was forgettable. She felt like a way to bring emotion out of Bill, instead of a fully fledged individual with her own wants, needs and drives. As soon as she entered the picture, she did little more than enable Bill. I understand that her motives come from personal revenge but for someone with so little of an understanding of the justice system, she seemed awfully quick to forget about the potential repercussions.

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Blonde character is blonde.

Holly was frustrating but different enough to at least be intriguing, although I found myself a bit annoyed with King when she suddenly became ‘better’ because she joined his hunt. That… isn’t how mental illness works… Jerome was probably my favourite out of the three. He acts as a modern window for Bill and is young enough that he infuses some positivity and energy into the hunt (I was starting to get sick of hearing about being overweight and behind the times, Bill).

Something that I perhaps didn’t enjoy was the way that King dealt with technology. I do understand that for much of the book, he was writing from the technologically incompetent point-of-view of Bill. This meant that some explanations had to be dumbed down or explained in a very basic manner. However, I found this rather jarring as this didn’t seem to change overly much when the perspective switched to Brady who is a computer whiz. I was particularly conscious of the exposition that Jerome did whenever something even slightly technological arose. I understand that the book needs to be accessible but to a certain point. Brady’s genius was definitely undermined by how clunky the writing was around these areas, as the need to slow down and explain his actions or how something work detracted from the suspense.

Overall I did enjoy this book. I found it to be fast and a solid crime novel. For me, it didn’t astonish or break new grounds and I was disappointed that my first foray into the world of King was so PC. I would love to read more of his shocking and disturbing books and learn why he actually earned such a reputation.

A Man Called Ove – Frederik Backman

Rating: 4/5

Review:

Sometimes a book just makes your heart hurt. This was one of those books.

Ove has lived his life a certain way. He believes that you do things because it’s the right thing to do. Not because someone is watching. Not because you were asked to. But because it is the right thing to do. So every morning, he makes his rounds. He checks the garage doors, writes down the registration numbers of the cars on the street (even though the sign clearly says NO CARS)  and he makes his coffee like it should be (in a percolator, thank you very much). But pregnant women, children and cats seem to not understand the importance of doing things the right way (as in, his way). And he has a very important matter to attend to and he really doesn’t appreciate the constant interruptions. But if it’ll get them off his back, he’ll grudgingly lend a hand.

Although this seems a simple plot, the book has more to offer than you think. In a way, Ove reminds me of Shrek. He is the typical grumpy old man. You do things the right way, you live simply and you don’t ask too many questions And like in Shrek, there is an onion metaphor to reflect on. As each page is turned, the otherwise simple man increases in depth. His motives, needs, wants and personality are fleshed out so much more. Inside the dirt covered exterior, there is a delicious juicy interior.

Shrek: Ogres are like onions.

Donkey: They stink?

Shrek: Yes. No.

Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.

Shrek: No.

Donkey: Oh, you leave em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.

Shrek: No. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.

Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.

Despite this depth, I don’t think I like him as a person. Regardless of how kindly he is represented, I can’t deny that I would hate to live next to a person like Ove. Despite the positive results of his actions, I don’t think his way of treating people can be excused. He makes people’s lives uncomfortable due to often his own lack of knowledge and ignorance. And in the end, perhaps it is to produce a lovely and heart warming result. But that doesn’t make it right. 

I’m not convinced that the author ever intended to make Ove likeable. Loveable, yes. I can appreciate an unpolished gem when I see one. But I don’t want to catch up with him for tea or watch a movie with him. Instead, I think Backman does something better. He makes him a real person. A person who isn’t perfect, who isn’t someone you may be able to relate to but a person all the same. This is due to the exceptional writing skills of Backman, who writes as if he is staring at Ove and journalling his actions as they happen. It’s engaging from the get go and it had me enthralled. It’s the kind of book you pick up while the microwave is on just to catch a few more minutes for reading.

There is a heartbreaking element to this story. The kind of heartbreak that can only come from a lonely man and a companion pet. My own nana who outlived her soulmate was very similar in some ways to Ove. So for me, there was a personal element to the story that rang true. She was lucky to have us kids and grandkids to bug her. For others, I can’t imagine the pain.

Due to my enjoyment of the book, I gave this a very high rating. However, it isn’t my usual kind of book so it doesn’t feature in as my favourite of all time. This is just personal taste so I’d be sure that many would give tit a solid five. It really is that good!

Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith

Rating: 7.5/10

Review:

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On 14 February 1994, Andrei Chikatilo was escorted from his prison cell to a soundproof room  and executed by a single shot behind his right ear.

What had this man done to warrant such a punishment?

We have all heard of “Jack the Ripper’, but there was another ripper in history that has a far more bloody and horrifying trail than even him. Chikatilo was the famous ‘Red Ripper.’ A man responsible for the deaths of an estimated 52 women and children.

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How could this man get away with murder for so long? What society would allow such a person to slip through their hands?

Leo Demidov is a feared man. He’s the man who shines a torch on you at 4am; the man who squints at you when you make an off-colored joke; the man that pleasantly asks you to confess because your death is certain regardless. He is an MGB Agent operating from the famous KGB headquarters in Moscow, the Lubyanka, where prisoners enter but never exit. He believes in his cause. He believes in it with his entire heart and soul. He has to believe in it because even a stray moment of doubt would mean that all the acts of terror and violence he has had to commit have been for nothing. So he does whatever it takes to find the answers he wants.

And then a child dies. It’s the child of his colleague and the family needs to understand that crime simply doesn’t exist in the Russia. Even if it did, it is always connected to the West. They must understand this because if they don’t, they are traitors to the state. They are accusing their efficient and well-oiled government of being incompetent.

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But the stone is already thrown and the glass window now broken. Leo’s doubts are starting to surface and everything in his life is about to change. And if he’s to catch this killer for the sake of the country’s citizens, he may have to betray the state in the process.

Leo, as a character, has been extremely well developed. The author takes extreme care to make his transition realistic from an indoctrinated soldier into a rogue. To a degree, a certain amount of the book will always be unbelievable to me. I simply can not grasp the degree of death, suffering and persecution that the characters face. However, the real skill of Smith is in making the actions of the characters understandable. Smith starts Leo off as the perfect tool of the state, so when he does start to ‘wake up’ I couldn’t help but almost cheer him on. With each moment of truth, I felt like he was truly having his life turned upside down and that his decisions were immense struggles for him.

His transition into a rebel is helped along by his wife, Raisa, who offers a stubborn and strong position against the state. In a way, she embodies the modern reader. Compassionate but also disapproving. Fallible but judgmental of the extreme horrors she has seen committed. However, she felt frustrating at times. Her backstory was interesting but I never truly understood why she married Leo. When she and Leo bond over their rebellion to the state, she reveals a personality that is so strong. And yet, to have been so passive for so many years doesn’t ring true. Leo shows such surprise that it’s clear she has never shown this side before. Her perfect act as a doting, simpering wife just doesn’t hit the mark. Leo does need a ‘sidekick’ and someone to push him into full blown treason. But perhaps that role would have been better filled by a mistress, girlfriend or even child. While Raisa interested me, I don’t think she was as well developed as Leo.

I wont comment too much on the main antagonist, Andrea Chikatilo, as the true crimes he committed were so extreme that justification can’t ever occur. Smith himself admits that he can’t ever truly understand the reasons for such horror. However, the reason that he did pick, just didn’t seem plausible. It relied on a connection so coincidental that I just didn’t buy into it. His lack of justification, if anything, made more sense to me. Some humans just commit violence for the sake of it. To connect his motives to such a distant event, in some ways, didn’t give Leo the credit that he deserves as an investigator and a good human. Personally, I think it reduces Leo’s fight for humanity into a personal conflict and for the context of the setting, this didn’t fit well.

Another area that I think needed some development was the progression of the main plot. It takes around about half of the book for the actual murder case to take off. This isn’t too bad as a reader as there is so much context for Smith to set up. However, upon reflecting on the pace of the novel, this seems a bit excessive. Smith perhaps had to make a firmer choice about whether he was writing a crime and investigation novel or a revolution novel. Both are intriguing but the two entwined in one book is a bit hard for pacing and context building.

I do have to commend Smith on his research and for his ability to find such an interesting piece of history and create a solid, strong novel from so many complicated events. I felt at times transported by the horror, romance and intrigue of the plot and the setting. My points above do still stand, so I have reduced my initial score of 8.5 down. However, this is an excellent book and well worth the read!

 

 

 

The Great Zoo of China – Matthew Reilly

Rating: 4/10

Review: 

The novel starts off with an introduction by the author himself. In this section, Reilly does a superb job of showcasing his utter lack of knowledge about Chinese history, it’s modern influence and it’s cultural significance. And it’s not short either. It’s a chapter long rant.

China wants to rule the world. But without the soft diplomacy of  culture, China will always play second fiddle to the United States.

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Ah yes, the American culture. Let me preface this review by stating that I am not American. I love America. I have been to America around six times and for living around ten thousand miles away, that is no small feat. America does have a culture that in many ways it should be proud of.

But to suggest that China doesn’t have a substantial and/or influential culture of its own is just… hilarious. It is clearly a Western way of looking at China. We place value on commercial items and flashy, in-your-face gimmicks like (to extract examples from Reilly) Coca-Cola, Disney Land and Ford. But culture isn’t just about consumer products and amusement parks.

If Reilly had done one lick of research on what culture is, he’d stumble on these concepts called material and non-material culture. The idea that culture can be within language, food, religion or social norms.

But nah, they don’t have Disney Land so they’re basically uncivilized.

And if you’re uncivilized, you’ll either fall into four main categories: innocent children, a token hero, token villans, or robotic NPC’s (Non-Player Characters, AKA, the person in the back drop of a game or movie who sweeps the floor for ten hours while the heroes are talking).

So, token hero Dr Cassandra Jane Cameron (CJ) has been invited to the unveiling of a new zoo in China. She’s a reptile -or more importantly- an alligator expert and one of the top experts in her field. With her brother, Hamish, she is escorted in a private jet (with blacked out windows) to the top secret park location. Not even her wildest dreams could prepare her for what she is about to discover. For the high tech zoo houses living, breathing dragons.

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Concept art for CJ and Hamish

Yes… dragons! One minute you’re reading the book and then suddenly you turn the page and –

– there’s a dragon!

Even writing the above section made me irritated. But that’s the entire book. Literally every paragraph is a cliff hanger. I would love to do a word search of the book to find out how many times Reilly used the word ‘suddenly.’

It banks on the same anticipation that occurs when a movie character is startled by a hand on the shoulder, only to find out that it was a twig or their friend. It’s a cheap way of mustering up some excitement. Truly, this is to the detriment of the book because the thing about Reilly’s dragons are that they are really, really cool. They are apex predators that are intelligent and as intelligent as you’d hope no creature except humans could be. Instead of showcasing their smarts and stealth, he instead shows off their power. In many instances this is fine but overall, it doesn’t do them justice. Often they seem clumsy and their intelligence seems inconsistent across characters. Physically, however, the dragons are very well done. Reilly has created a hierarchy and tribal system that not only makes sense but is also very imaginative. Throughout the entire novel, I had a very clear mental image of what they looked like and this really assisted with increasing my enjoyment.

One huge flaw with Reilly’s character creation is that when people are ‘bad’ or ‘evil,’ they aren’t fleshed out. A superficial reason is often given to justify their actions, such as greed or vanity. But compared to the hero, the reasonings are weak and make them simply look pathetic. Unfortunately, all of the Chinese characters (excluding Li and the little girl) are evil and so it makes Reilly look as if he’s cast all of China as being barbaric. Personally, my life has never been short of Chinese friends and at times I found this quite demeaning to the wonderful, friendly and generous people I have encountered in my life.

Let’s be clear though, this book was a blockbuster. It is meant to be devoured and then forgotten. CJ could be a character worth writing about again but she will never have the substance that comes with realism. She escapes too many scrapes and knows too much to be a ‘real’ person. Instead, she is the Lara Croft of the book world. She’s the kind of person that jumps from a ledge, two pistols in her hand, a witty comeback emerging from her mouth as she executes a perfect headshot.

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These people aren’t real but they are fun to read about. When you see Bond escape yet another scrape or Liam Neeson in Taken make yet another perfect shot, you don’t think about the realism, you think about how damn cool that scene was. Sometimes, after you’ve put down a heavy, philosophical book, you don’t want to have another existential crisis. You just want to read some cool stuff and have a laugh. Reilly is under no pretence about the style of novels that he writes. In the Q & A section at the back, he sincerely seems to want to just impart some joy to the reader and that’s a really lovely wish. It’s nice that he just wants us to have fun and forget about the real world for a time. I can’t fault him on that attitude.

That’s what makes his randomly inserted negative comments about the Chinese so weird. It’d be like watching Step Brothers and having them turn to the camera and mention their disdain for Indians. Okay, sure, freedom of speech and all that. But a book, especially one so superficial and devoid of depth, isn’t the place to insert these types of comments. Blog about it but don’t publish it. If anything, you risk alienating a portion of your audience by doing so.

But to clarify, it’s not the worst book in the world. I mean, it’s not great but it certainly isn’t boring. It can be frustrating, cliched and incredibly unrealistic but it’s fun.

And that’s got to count for something.

P.S. blah blah blah *insert rant about similarities to Jurassic Park* blah blah blah.

Nod – Adrian Barnes

Rating: 8/10

Review:

I found out last night that my brother’s baby boy was about to arrive. You can’t even imagine my excitement. The first of a new generation. Another little person in the family to mix things up.

As luck would have it, I found this out at about 10:30pm and the excitement of this decimated any chance of sleep from occurring. I spent the night staring at the dark ceiling and hoping that I wouldn’t miss a message or a call. I had asked everyone to knock on my door if they heard any news. But what if we fell so deeply into sleep that we ALL missed the update? What if we slept through the birth of my little nephew?

Young woman in bed with eyes opened suffering insomnia. Sleeping concept and nightmare issues

Tick tock, tick tock….

Fourteen hours later and he finally came into the world. Fourteen hours later I knew that my sleep could have been deep and long and nothing would have changed. At the time, of course, I didn’t know this.

You see, I didn’t have to worry about that being my last sleep ever. I can make up the lost time tonight or tomorrow.

But what if it was my last chance at sleep?

Nod, a novel by Adrian Barnes, explores this concept. What if suddenly, you couldn’t sleep? How long would it take for your body to crumble and, more importantly, for your mind?

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Paul, a writer and his girlfriend Tanya, a corporate warrior, are in this predicament. Tanya can’t sleep but Paul can.

Paul is forced to watch his girlfriend succumb to the effects of insomnia and to navigate a world where hysteria is the norm. A systematic chaos has usurped rational thinking and he’s forced to dance to the tune of those who are at their literal wits end. The world is permanently awake, except for a few random individuals.

The old world is gone and the new world, Nod, has arrived.

And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden

It takes four weeks for the body to die if sleep is withheld.

Four weeks that Paul needs to survive.

This novel was relatively short but for it made a big impact. It’s a new, interesting concept and I was intrigued from the get go. Despite the flaws of the characters, you can’t help but feel immense sympathy for their struggles. After all, Nod sounds like a hell hole.

The author did a wonderful job of transitioning the book from normalcy into full blow chaos. He presents beautiful contrasts that fully realize themselves as the book progresses. The relatively short length of the novel means that these moments are vivid, real and very much remembered.

Sometimes she claimed to be an alien spy, her human disguise flawed only in the earlobe department. She’d confess this to me, then wink. – page 18, Day 1

When it was over, her earlobes, the ones she’d told me marked her as alien, marked her as mine. I bowed my head and kissed each one in turn. – page 212, Day 13

It’s these moments that show the skill of Barnes. He has clearly thought deeply about how to showcase the characters developing mental states. Little moments like these, easy to miss, are what make your eyes slightly water at the bittersweet emotion.

The names we give gatherings of birds are telling; murders of crows, sieges of herons, unkindnesses of ravens. They must have made our ancestors nervous. – page 12, Day 18 (prelude)

No blood just yet, just a little clear liquid running down one cheek like a tear. Soon ravens would come and be unkind to her. – page 76, Day 5

The ending of the book gave me goosebumps. The last paragraph of ramblings that cuts off mid sentence has a profound effect when coupled with the authors afterword. After going on this intense journey with the character, to realize that the struggles were real for Adrian made my heart twist. For the first time in a very long time, I put the book down and actually said ‘wow.’

However, this isn’t to say that the book was a ten star rating.

There are definite areas that Barnes overreaches himself. His writing has a wonderful flow to it when it isn’t prettied up. It feels at times that parts of the book were edited to sound impressive. Some words were too big, too complex and too clunky for the sentences they were stuffed into. This made Paul sound pretentious and difficult to connect with. Fortunately this is mostly contained to the start of the book and Barnes lightens the language up a bit by the end.

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I think that Barnes could have let go of the flowery language and instead focused on some more interesting parts. I wanted to know more about the dogs, more about the struggle to find fresh water and food and about the eeriness of the city now deserted of sanity.

The book is written as a series of diary entries but this doesn’t really seem consistent and doesn’t add anything to the telling of the story. Barnes should have ditched this slightly detached and sometimes pretentious way of story telling and focused in on the gritty reality of the situation. Paul shines as a narrative figure when he is delving into the gruesome and horrifying situations he encounters. His way of describing scenes kept me engaged but I wanted more of it. I don’t want his thoughtful descriptions of Tanya. Nor do I care about his pessimistic poetic ramblings about her as a concept. I want to know what she smells like, what sound her footsteps make or what Paul thinks when there is no filter; when there is no time to stop and revise the words that arise in his head. Moments of gritty, horrifying reality slip through but they are brief and often pushed to the side in favor of long soliloquies.

Despite these negative aspects, the book was fantastic.

I wasn’t expecting the impact that it had but it will stay with me for a long time. I hope there is more from this author because if he refines a few elements of his writing, the sky is the limit!

 

Fool Moon – Jim Butcher

Foreword: To all of my readers, I hope that you have a wonderful holiday period. No matter where you are in the world, I hope you take some time to relax and focus on yourself.

Rating: 5/10

Review:

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Do you ever have that uncanny feeling that you have done something before?

I get it often. I’ll be walking somewhere or having a conversation and I’ll just get this overwhelming feeling that this has been done.

Déjà vu they call it. A French phrase that translates literally into the phrase “already seen.”

And this is exactly the experience I got while reading this second novel from Jim Butcher in The Dresden Files series.

The book first starts with Harry Dresden being again, down on his luck. His work has dried up and things with Murphy are on the rocks. That is until a new crime scene arises; one that is covered in blood, debris and wolfish paw prints. His intuition tells him that he’s dealing with a werewolf but it’s what type of werewolf it is that is the mystery. Soon, an entire underworld of secret packs and clubs arise and all of it seems to point back towards Johnny Marcone. Murphy might harbor a grudge for Dresden but he’s all she’s got and time is running out to solve the mystery.

The first book was an exciting and new read.

My favourite parts of the Harry Potter series had been when the muggles would interact with the wizarding world. I loved being exposed to that sense of wonder, amazement and fear. This was one of the reasons why the first book so enthralled me. It was new. It was exciting.

But Fool Moon was exactly the same experience, but without the freshness.

This isn’t to say that it was bad. After all, Dresden is still an interesting character and his back story hasn’t been revealed in its entirety yet. So I still have questions about his past and how he became so proficient and comfortable with magic.

I also do enjoy the female characters. Murphy can be infuriating but she is also between a rock and a hard place. She’s juggling the pressures of her job and those of a magical world she doesn’t understand. Her education into this weird new realm is interesting to read and when the focus is on this, I do enjoy her character immensely.

Susan has also won me over. She is torn between getting a good story and her newly blooming feelings for Harry. Butcher drops some intriguing hints about her motivations and I find her acceptance of her newspaper’s headline fakery and sometimes surprising true stories to be funny. She is a character that pursues the truth with a vengeance and there is clearly a reason in her past for this happening. The subtle hints dropped about this make me feel that there is a lot more this character has to offer.

One of my favourite parts of the book would be when all hell breaks loose at the station. The visual descriptions of the gore are fantastic and I really felt caught up in the fear and dread that the characters must have been experiencing.

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Good doggy!

However, to reiterate my point above, the book did unfortunately feel very similar to the first. Some descriptions (usually surrounding Dresden’s le gentleman approach to females) seemed copied exactly from the first novel. At a certain point in the series, Butcher will have to assume that if you are reading, for example, the fourth book in a large series, you know and understand the characters. I truly hope he doesn’t persist with explaining everything from the ground up again and again and again. Instead, the focus should be on character growth and development.

One of the biggest assets of the series is its play on magical clichés. And yet, at times, it’s usage of real clichés can be its downfall. The way that he has presented the FBI, the police and especially the underworld seems so superficial and without the level of complexity that he has given the magical world. Butcher almost relies on the reader to have their own preconceived ideas about how these agencies work and so doesn’t provide the depth and information that would make them seem real. This is a big problem in a book like Fool Moon when the main antagonist is part of an agency that has simply been brushed over.

An area that I also really struggled with is his explanation regarding the types of werewolves. These four types were mentioned once, relatively early on in the book and that knowledge did not really stick with me. This mean that parts of the book were slightly confusing as I couldn’t remember what type of creature he was dealing with.

As a result of this feedback, I can’t rave about this book. I enjoyed it on a simple level and it didn’t take overly long to read but it didn’t give me that same thrill that the previous book did.

At this point, I am torn about whether I should read the next in the series. It could improve as I do see a lot of potential. But if it doesn’t, I’ll probably finish my experience of the series with a bad taste in my mouth and if I can avoid that, I will.