Thursday 5 October 2017

Tall Tales // Quarterly Book Review

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Four very different book recommendations from over the summer, but there's a certain spice to variety, right? Bit of a disappointing total but my indecisive mood continued right up until September. The amount of books I started and put back on the shelf after a chapter or two, you don't want to know, but better to save it for the right moment than push through and not enjoy it. So, we go on!

Vector by Simon de Waal 3* {96 pages}

When Alex becomes mixed up in his father's mysterious past he begins to doubt how well he knew him at all. A Russian chemical warfare scientist during the Cold War with a hidden identity and buried secrets, the past is catching up with Alex's father as several sources are on to him and are hunting down his darkest knowledge of a deadly virus. Why doesn't Alex simply as his father for an explanation? His father is a severely demented old man in a care home with no recollection of his life, let alone his very own son. Will Alex discover the truth about the virus, who can he trust to involve in this?

A brief story that reads at an enjoyable pace. Squashed within less than a hundred pages we learn of Alex's father's less than pleasant history and a thrilling tale unfolds, one of Russian spies, double crossing liars, the deadliest of chemical weapons and all played out upon the streets of Amsterdam.

Some of the story lingered upon seemingly irrelevant small detail but other than that slight observation, I enjoyed this book. A brisk read that kept my attention and allowed me to develop my knowledge of the Dutch language.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman    5* {384 pages}

As a fan of Practical Magic (both book and film), I advanced upon this recently written prequel with equal measures of excitement and doubt. It is always a gamble when faced with a new addition to a beloved world, the fear of destroying the magic that makes it special or letting down story lines or characters lies dormant in the back of my mind- but this little treasure did not disappoint!

Despite the origin of this bewitching tale harking back to 1620, our involvement in this latest offering from Alice Hoffman is set in 60s New York and shines a light on two classic characters, allowing a peek into their beginning and all that led them to becoming the elusive and mysterious aunts we know and love.

What a beautiful, heart felt novel full of whimsy and grace. This book could easily stand alone yet enhances the original tale by adding layers, depth and story to characters known but not yet explored. Fascinating, romantic and spell binding.

I would recommend this book to fans of Practical Magic and its glorious realm of adventure and alchemy, to the huge film fan base and to lovers of captivating fiction alike.

The Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan     5* {372 pages}

This is an excellent novel to pick up and dive into without having too much of the plot spoilt. That is of course, as long as you haven't seen either of the film adaptations. Either way I highly recommend avoiding synopsis or trailers, so to fully enjoy the haunting essence of this story.

We begin our tale during the height of the Civil War in Virginia, where a pupil at the Miss Martha Fernworth Seminary for Young Ladies stumbles across a wounded soldier in the woods. This poor, injured young man turns out to be seemingly charming John McBurney, an Irish immigrant fighting on the side of the Union Army. He is brought into the hands of this school for young women, to receive medical treatment and to rest and heal then be on his way. Naturally, things do not end as simply as once implied, through deception and dishonesty all hell breaks loose, leading at a deliciously slow burning pace to an ending to remember.

The story is told through shifting perspectives allowing each character their own voice and view of certain situations, making for one heck of a twisting net of information and creating a page turner of a book. As each chapter allows a different character to step forward and tell their side of events, we encounter misinterpretation, childish honesty and a building of psychological tension that makes this book a hard one to put down.

I sincerely recommend this one for an unsuspecting treat steeped in historical propriety.

Divergent (#1) by Veronica Roth     3.75* {487 pages}

This action packed little gem was one I purposefully avoided at the height of its publicity. Mostly because I'm not a fan of being told something is 'cool' and tend to push away but also for fear of spoilers whilst jumping on the band waggon. However, I have found that by avoiding these overly hyped novels I often end up missing out on something I could potentially enjoy, so these days I pick and choose my battles or just arrive to the party way late, which allows me to read the book in peace and quiet and draw my own conclusions. This is one of those occasions where I am glad to have given it a chance.

Despite being aimed at a younger audience I found this book really easy to get into and although it was a little obvious in areas, following a classic dystopian format, I still really enjoyed it and find myself eager to read the next instalment.

The story revolves around our main character Tris, who must decide at 16 which faction she chooses to dedicate her life to, affecting whether she continues to live with her family or heads out into the unknown, alone. Society is divided into five varying grounds known as factions, each devoted to the cultivation and development of a particular virtue, therefore contributing to societal life; Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful) and Dauntless (the brave). The moment has come for Tris to make her choice, personal preference or bias aside and start this next stage of her life- even if it means losing all that she knows. Amongst the trials and tests that follow, a dark and dangerous secret is revealed, one that adds to the tension and drama and could determine her safety altogether.

A fun, quick read that pulls you into its punchy world. I would certainly recommend this one for anyone searching for a pick me up, a mood lightener or in need of some good old fashioned dystopian action!

For a further nosey at other books I've picked up over the year so far be sure to check out my previous Quarterly Book Reviews and recommendations or join the gang over at Goodreads to keep up with my 2017 Reading Challenge (spoiler alert- I'm behind schedule!), either way be sure to leave any of your Autumnal favourites in the comments below, I'm in need of a suggestion or two! Happy reading!

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