Book Reviews: July 2014

July Book Reviews
Another sorry state of books to review this month since I seem to be stuck in a rut of books that I get “stuck” on (like last month) – I can report that I only really enjoyed reading one out of these three which was very disappointing, especially as the two I couldn’t get into seemed to have very interesting storylines and good reviews – must just be me!
In real life, I’ve been pretty busy recently and my spare time has either been spent on my new sewing hobby, which takes longer than expected due to cats who like to eat fabric. I’m pleased to report that the dress I talked about in that post is finally finished as of last weekend! Only….4 months later! I sort of put it off because of the bad memory of Belle ingesting my lining, made a few more skirts and half a playsuit (this is becoming a theme…) in the meantime, then thought I should probably just get on with it and finish it. I stocked up on about a thousand zips since Jaycotts had a sale on them, plus a few bits and pieces such as seam rippers that were necessary (and another pattern, which was not…), so I had a zip ready to go for it, and finished the dress within the day. Although that seam ripper certainly did come in handy when I attached the skirt inside out to start with, but we won’t talk about that right now.
Work life is also busy in that my role has changed slightly, meaning a very busy start of the month for me, and so home time has generally meant down time not¬†spent in front of a computer screen. I promise, I am still wearing clothes though (obviously…just not photographing them!), and I’m also reading, although getting “stuck” on certain ones, as we are about to find out…One of Us by Tawni O’Dell – 5/10 (Kindle version)
As with many of the books I read and review, this one came from NetGalley where I was promised it was a “masterfully told thriller in the vein of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl”. As you know, anything described that way is usually a winner for me (I reviewed it here), and have chosen other books in the past due to their parallels to it (such as Dear Daughter which I reviewed and loved here). This, however, did not live up to the claims at all for me. Sheridan “Danny” Doyle, a famous forensic psychologist, returns to his hometown, a mining town, where many years ago a band of rebellious Irish miners, the Nellies, were executed, as his grandfather is ill. He arrives to the scene of a murder at the infamous gallows where the Nellies were killed, and is drawn into solving the mystery. I did almost understand where the parallel was being drawn to Gone Girl, with the back end of nowhere town feel and some twisted creepy characters, but to me it wasn’t the same. I occasionally felt a bit like scenes and details were unnecessary to the overall plot, and I’d figured everything out by the time I reached the end which was annoying as I like a surprise. It was the type of book I ended up having to push through to reach the end of, sort of enjoyed the ending, then promptly forgot about. The mystery itself might have been good had there not been too much unnecessary stuff going on (more than just red herrings). Not a bad storyline, and there was some well executed writing in it, but not for me in the end.A Song For Ella Grey by David Almond – 9/10 (available 2nd October)
From the moment I read that this was a story based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, I knew I was going to like this book (if you don’t remember, Classicist over here!). It’s a tale I know well, with my dissertation based around Persephone, Demeter and the Eleusinian Mysteries, so I’m well versed in everything Persephone. Then I realised it was set in the North East, and I was sold. The story follows Claire and her best friend Ella Grey in their final years of school in Newcastle. Their friendship group heads to the sands of Northumberland to camp for a few nights where they meet Orpheus, a strange boy who seems to wander the countryside with his music. They are all enthralled, but none so deeply as Ella, who, unable to be there, hears his voice over the phone, and falls in love. Yes, a cheesy love story of teenagers, but told so beautifully. We know from the start, not just from the well known tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, that something tragic will happen, so all the reader needs to do is wait until Ella is taken away from him, and he makes the treacherous journey to the Underworld to find her.
While this is sold as a book for children, I would definitely go more towards YA and would definitely recommend it to adults too. I’ve read criticisms of the writing, but I feel like it fitted perfectly with the dreamy quality the story had and was reminiscent of the writing style of my familiar Greek myths. Of course, I loved reading about familiar places of the North East, even names of places a couple of minutes walk from where I lived in Newcastle, and the group camping on the sands below Bamburgh Castle. The descriptions were fitting and beautiful; one especially that stuck with me was “the transfigured North” as they wish the North to become the Greece of their dreams. The book flits the line between real and mythical, which is a combination I’m never going to say no to. Basically, I really enjoyed this book – the writing, the story, the setting all came together perfectly to give me what I’m looking for in a book.

Dead Men’s Bones by James Oswald – 4.5/10 (Kindle version)
I was promised great things again with this book, and thought it would be a good quick read, as I tend to get through detective and mystery thrillers quite quickly, but I found this to be fairly disappointing in the end. This is part of the Inspector McLean series (#4 to be precise), but reading reviews, I was ensured I wouldn’t feel lost by not having read the others. I didn’t exactly feel lost, but I felt I would have had a bit of a deeper connection with the characters had I read the other novels first.
Inspector Tony McLean, returning to work after an injury, is put onto two cases – that of a prominent MSP (Scottish MP – took me a while to figure that one out!) who has murdered his wife and two little girls before turning the gun on himself, and that of the naked body of a man, covered head to toe in recently done tattoos. The pressure on him to reveal the truth behind both cases becomes heavier as the book goes on, but unfortunately I found there were an excess of unnecessary things going on, conversations, for example, that just made me forget what exactly was happening before they started talking. It took me ages to get to a part of the book that started to interest me, but still, there was a lot of back and forth going on. In the end, I never even got the answers I really wanted, and felt a disappointed that not everything was properly explained – there were a lot of factors that could have been explored in a lot more depth rather than focusing on trivial things.
This book had excellent reviews on Goodreads, and I definitely feel in the minority that it didn’t speak to me. The storyline had promise, but didn’t resolve well enough for my liking or for the style of the book which was along the lines of one which usually gives a good explanation at the end. There were some good characters, but I have to say, the most interesting bit of the mysteries going on in the book that I wanted to find out about was the mystery illness that had struck McLean’s colleague. I probably wouldn’t recommend this on, but I would be interested in trying another James Oswald book in future to see why the reviews were so positive.

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