Jan/Feb book haul

Less of a haul, more just a few books I managed to squeeze in around ‘sitting on my arse all day’ ...

as my husband likes to say!

I confess – I purchased The Last Kingdom solely because I watched the Netflix series and was so hooked I couldn’t bear to wait for the next season. ‘I am Uhtred of Bebbanburg‘ I would cry (with a shocking accent – whilst washing the dishes, cooking the tea, or first thing in the morning to my husband’s delight) for many, many, many weeks, still bleary-eyed from binging several episodes per night. Then it ended and I was lost! Lucky for me Book Depository came to the rescue and hurriedly (crawled actually) sent the first three books all the way around the world to land on my doorstep in little ole New Zealand. But alas, I am not the fan I thought I was, for I have read but one of these darling books.

I enjoyed the book immensely, but whether I would have enjoyed it had I not watched the series first, developed a small crush on Alexander Dreymon, and learned how to pronounce a bunch of unusual names, I couldn’t say. The whole Aethelred, Aethelfled, Aethelrod and Aetheltod thing got a wee bit confusing, even in the TV series, but I managed to muddle through, though I suspect had I not watched the TV series, I may well have given up. Which is a damn shame, because it’s a great story, and Uhtred is ruddy great character.

3 stars out of 5 with a promise to continue reading the series.

A hubby bought book, but unfortunately, not up to his usual standards.

To be fair, Lucinda Riley has been popping up on my radar for some time now, so when The Olive Tree was gifted to me at Christmas I was super excited to jump straight in.

First, the good.

Alex is a 13yr old boy with a highly functioning brain that is far too advanced for his years, but he still has the same emotional outlook on life that you would expect from a teenage boy.

And I absolutely loved him.

Lucinda Riley has created such a relatable, likable, loveable, and sometimes downright funny character in Alex that I could have read the entire book from his viewpoint – even though it was written in diary form – and happily given the book five stars.

But she didn’t.

The main character, Helena, fell flat as a cheesecake dropped from a penthouse balcony for me, as did pretty much all of the other characters, with the slight exception of Sadie. But that’s OK, because I get it. I get that Helena is supposed to be this perfectly heavenly creature on the outside, whilst enduring the guilt trip from hell on the inside. I get her motivations and her truckload of anxiety, and I certainly get her desperate need to protect all those that she loves. But her self-loathing was just too much to take, and if she gracefully glided from one more room being perfectly perfect and stunningly beautiful, I may very well have thrown up.

All I wanted was for Helena to totally lose her shit – just one time – go bat-shit crazy on the whole lot em – throw a few ‘F’ bombs in there and get off her face on all the Champagne lying around, because any sane person in her situation would. But she didn’t. She just floated from the kitchen to the terrace to the pool to the garden in angelic perfection, smiling at everyone, sucking up their misplaced anger like a sponge, and believing everything was her fault.

And it pissed me off!

Alex, on the other hand, actually was perfect. I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed his ‘voice’, even towards the end of the book when he was no longer a teen, but an early-twenty-something. If not for Alex this would have been a very drab read indeed. But because of Alex, I know that Ms Riley is a great writer, and because of Alex I will pursue Ms. Riley’s other books and give them a fair chance.

Perhaps The Olive Tree should be re-titled Because of Alex?

Just a thought.

3.5 stars out of 5

This book was not what I expected. The blurb promised witchcraft, but witchcraft I did not get. The book focuses more on how women were persecuted in the 1600s for nothing more than having good instincts and a gift for empathy. That alone was enough to make my blood boil, but I was frustrated with the slow-moving story, disappointed by the writing style, and bored with most of the characters.

Still. I persevered. And was glad I did.

The book is about Alinor, a single parent (difficult in modern times, nightmare in the 1600’s) and how she struggles to raise her children amongst prejudice, stupidity, and unprovoked hatred. There’s a little witchyness thrown into the mix, but not even close to being enough for my liking. The book finally picks up pace when Alinor kicks her lover into touch (if she hadn’t, I was about to!) and it becomes evident she can no longer convince the tribe of backstabbing villagers that she’s as pure as the driven snow. ‘At last!’ I cried, ‘the shit is well and truly about to hit the fan.’ And then the book ended. (*angry face angry face angry face*)

Fortunately, there’s a book two, because now (believe it or not) I want to know more, and how very clever of Ms Gregory’s publisher to insert the first chapter of Dark Tides into the final pages of Tidelands because now I HAVE to buy it!

Verdict – 3 very generous stars out of five only because Dark Tides looks much more promising than its predecessor, and you can’t read one without the other.

Thankyou to Freiling Publishing and Shelley Nolden for providing this copy of The Vines via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Vines, The Vines, The Vines … what to say about The Vines?

I wanted to like this book.

I wanted to LOVE this book.

I really, really did.

Great cover. Great idea. Great execution.

It’s just that … well … nothing really happened!

I don’t want to give anything away, but I so desperately wanted this book to go places, to give me more of the main character, Cora. More of who she was and what she could do, of the island and the history/mystery that surrounded it. But the book didn’t deliver, it just sat on its bony arse and barely moved a muscle (much like my dog, except her arse is far from bony).

I kept telling myself the problem lay with my choice of reading platform. This was my very first kindle read rather than an actual real-life book-in-hand read, but I don’t believe that’s it. Or perhaps it’s because the prose was a little on the purple side for me, but then the book I’m reading now is also a little too flowery, but I’m enjoying it just fine.

So what WAS the problem with The Vines? The characters were likable enough (except for Ullrich, the bastard) and though the story jumped back and forth faster than one of those bats with a ball on elastic, it didn’t in any way ruin the story. So I guess, in truth, I honestly don’t know why The Vines didn’t do it for me. But it didn’t (*shrug*).

What I will say though, is perhaps you should read it for yourself because it’s not a bad book. Far from it. I’m just completely and hopelessly stuck in the middle with this one, and because of that my review is essentially next to useless.

3 bemused stars out of five

Thankyou to The Book Guild and Benjamin Cross for providing this copy of Colony in exchange for an honest review.

Ah, now this one I was super looking forward to.

Colony is about the discovery of something ancient and deadly on a remote island in the Arctic.  The writer is an archaeologist.  I was expecting a cross between The Mummy and The Thing.  I got neither.

What I did get was more of an action type thriller rather than horror.  Horror was what I had hoped for, but that’s not to say I was disappointed.

To be fair, the book is tagged as an action thriller, but the blurb would suggest otherwise. ‘Potaytoes, potartoes,’ you might say, and maybe you’re right, but part of me still wishes there had been more of a The Thing vibe about the place.

However, on with the review …

The book is well written, easy to read, and the story interesting enough to make it one of my faster reads (I don’t do speed reading at all), and the cover suggests there will be more books to come featuring the lovely Dr Callum Ross.  I won’t give away what was ancient and deadly (though other reviewers may have already done so), but I will say that this was the only (and only slightly) disappointing part of the book for me.  I had trouble visualising the creature that was laying waste to those who dared to step foot on the island of Harmsworth, and what I did manage to piece together in my tiny brain, came out just plain weird and not that terrifying – though I’ll admit, I wouldn’t want to bump into one whilst out for a late-night stroll (or anytime for that matter).  But that’s just me, and as I noted earlier, I had hoped for more horror than thriller.

The book is reasonably fast paced, a little too much jargon (aka shit I don’t know about) for my taste, but not enough to send me off to sleep (as has happened too many times to mention – is Simply Red singing Money’s Too Tight to Mention in your head now?).

All-in-all Colony is a book I would recommend, and I for one will definitely be looking out for more Dr Callum Ross stories.

4 stars out of 5

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