All posts tagged: Review

Book Review – ‘Seven Skeletons’

Title: Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils Author: Lydia Pyne Genre: Non-fiction (science, history) Rating: ★★★★ “Over the last century, the search for human ancestors has spanned four continents and resulted in the discovery of hundreds of fossils. While most of these discoveries live quietly in museum collections, there are a few that have become world-renowned celebrity personas—ambassadors of science that speak to public audiences. In Seven Skeletons, historian of science Lydia Pyne explores how seven such famous fossils of our ancestors have the social cachet they enjoy today. Drawing from archives, museums, and interviews, Pyne builds a cultural history for each celebrity fossil—from its discovery to its afterlife in museum exhibits to its legacy in popular culture. These seven include the three-foot tall “hobbit” from Flores, the Neanderthal of La Chapelle, the Taung Child, the Piltdown Man hoax, Peking Man, Australopithecus sediba, and Lucy—each embraced and celebrated by generations, and vivid examples of how discoveries of how our ancestors have been received, remembered, and immortalized.” (Penguin Random House) After reading …

Book Review – ‘The Gentleman’

Title: The Gentleman Author: Forrest Leo Genre: Fiction (mystery/humour) Release Date: 16th August, 2016 Rating: ★★★★ [Goodreads] “When Lionel Savage, a popular poet in Victorian London, learns from his butler that they’re broke, he marries the beautiful Vivien Lancaster for her money, only to find that his muse has abandoned him. Distraught and contemplating suicide, Savage accidentally conjures the Devil — the polite “Gentleman” of the title — who appears at one of the society parties Savage abhors. The two hit it off: the Devil talks about his home, where he employs Dante as a gardener; Savage lends him a volume of Tennyson. But when the party’s over and Vivien has disappeared, the poet concludes in horror that he must have inadvertently sold his wife to the dark lord. Newly in love with Vivien, Savage plans a rescue mission to Hell that includes Simmons, the butler; Tompkins, the bookseller; Ashley Lancaster, swashbuckling Buddhist; Will Kensington, inventor of a flying machine; and Savage’s spirited kid sister, Lizzie, freshly booted from boarding school for a “dalliance.” Throughout, his …

Little reviews // July 2016

I’ve got three little reviews for this month and all of them are about books I borrowed from the library. The Man Who Was Thursday Author: G.K. Chesterton Genre: Fiction (classic/mystery) Release Date: First published in 1908; this edition published July 24th, 2013 Rating: ★★★ [Goodreads] I picked this up from the library so that I could mark off a bingo square (I had to read a book with a day of the week in the title), and having never read Chesterton before, I was pretty excited. The opening pages and chapters hooked me right away and I thought, “this is going to be an amazing reading experience”. It was so ridiculous and had me laughing out loud too much on the train, and I swear it has the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever read: “All the heaven seemed covered with quite a vivid and palpable plumage; you could only say that the sky was full of feathers, and of feathers that almost brushed the face”. There’s a whole paragraph of this sunset but, you get it …

Book Review – ‘A Robot in the Garden’

Title: A Robot in the Garden Author: Deborah Install Genre: Science fiction Release date: 10th May, 2016 Rating: ★★★★ “Ben’s really great at failing at things—his job, being a husband, taking the garbage out. But then he finds a battered robot named Tang in his garden. And Tang needs Ben. More ornery and prone to tantrums than one would expect from something made of gears and springs, Tang desperately must be fixed—and he just might be the thing to fix what’s broken in Ben. Together they will discover that friendship can rise up under the strangest of circumstances, and what it really means to be human.” (Sourcebooks Landmark) I love to read and I’ll read just about anything once. But sometimes I tend to read a bunch of heavy (in terms of content, not weight) (ok, sometimes weight too) books in a row and the reading just all gets a bit much. Sometimes I need a palate cleanser. That’s what A Robot in the Garden was for me – a palate cleanser. It was delightful, funny, …

Book Review – ‘GodPretty in the Tobacco Field’

Title: GodPretty in the Tobacco Field Author: Kim Michele Richardson Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult) Release date: 26th April, 2016 Rating: ★★★★ “Nameless, Kentucky, in 1969 is a hardscrabble community where jobs are few and poverty is a simple fact—just like the hot Appalachian breeze or the pests that can wipe out a tobacco field in days. RubyLyn Bishop is luckier than some. Her God-fearing uncle, Gunnar, has a short fuse and high expectations, but he’s given her a good home ever since she was orphaned at the age of five. Yet now, a month shy of her sixteenth birthday, RubyLyn itches for more. Maybe it’s something to do with the paper fortunetellers RubyLyn has been making for townsfolk, each covered with beautifully wrought, prophetic drawings. Or perhaps it’s because of Rainey Ford, an African-American neighbor who works alongside her in the tobacco field, and with whom she has a kinship, despite her uncle’s worrisome shadow and the town’s disapproval. RubyLyn’s predictions are just wishful thinking, not magic at all, but through them she’s imagining life as it …

Book Review – ‘Before the Fall’

Title: Before the Fall Author: Noah Hawley Genre: Fiction (mystery) Release Date: 31st May, 2016 Rating: ★★★★ “On a foggy summer night, eleven people-ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter-depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs-the painter-and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family. With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members-including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot-the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while …

Little reviews // May 2016

I’ve got three little reviews for this month – one is an ARC I enjoyed a lot less than I thought I would, one is a ghost story set in the Arctic, and the last is a modern retelling of a Shakespeare play. The Butchers of Berlin Author: Chris Petit Genre: Fiction (historical/thriller) Release Date: May 1st 2016. Rating: ★★★ I was 100% convinced that I’d enjoy this, basically because of this line from the blurb: “Corpses, dressed with fake money, bodies flayed beyond recognition: are these routine murders committed out of rage or is someone trying to tell them something…” [Simon & Schuster]. Ok, so maybe ‘enjoy’ isn’t an appropriate word to use in the context of this book, but you get what I mean. Unfortunately I was left pretty disappointed. The biggest problem I had, was trillions of plot threads and characters to keep track of. I spent the vast majority of the book trying to understand what was happening, which resulted in me not enjoying it and I would have abandoned it had I …

Book Review – ‘Sleeping Giants’

Title: Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) Author: Sylvain Neuvel Genre: Science Fiction Release Date: 26th April, 2016 Rating: ★★★☆ “A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected. But some can never stop searching for answers. Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of …

Book Review – ‘Fever at Dawn’

Title: Fever at Dawn Author: Péter Gárdos (translated by Liz Szász) Genre: Fiction (historical/literary) Release Date: 12th April, 2016 Rating: ★★★★ “July 1945. Miklos is a twenty-five-year-old Hungarian who has survived the camps and has been brought to Sweden to convalesce. His doctor has just given him a death sentence — his lungs are filled with fluid and in six months he will be gone. But Miklos has other plans. He didn’t survive the war only to drown from within, and so he wages war on his own fate. He acquires the names of the 117 Hungarian women also recovering in Sweden, and he writes a letter to each of them in his beautiful cursive hand. One of these women, he is sure, will become his wife.   In another part of the country, Lili reads his letter and decides to write back. For the next few months, the two engage in a funny, absurd, hopeful epistolary dance. Eventually, they find a way to meet.   Based on the true story of Péter Gárdos’s parents, and drawn from their letters, Fever at Dawn is a …

Book Review – ‘Ice Diaries’

Title: Ice Diaries Author: Jean McNeil Genre: Non-fiction (biography/memoir) Release date: March 2016 Rating: ★★★★ “A decade ago, novelist and short story writer Jean McNeil spent a year as writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, and four months on the world’s most enigmatic continent — Antarctica. Access to the Antarctic remains largely reserved for scientists, and it is the only piece of earth that is nobody’s country. Ice Diaries is the story of McNeil’s years spent in ice, not only in the Antarctic but her subsequent travels to Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard, culminating in a strange event in Cape Town, South Africa, where she journeyed to make what was to be her final trip to the southernmost continent.“ (ECW Press) Antarctica is probably my most favourite place to read about, but up to this point my reading has been largely confined to the books by/about the Antarctic explorers of the early 1900s (like Shackleton, Mawson, Scott, and Amundsen) and I was quite keen to read a contemporary take on the continent. So when I saw Jean …