Saturday, November 7, 2015

J by Howard Jacobson

JSet in the future - a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited - J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying.

Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn't know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It wasn't then, and isn't now, the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. He doesn't ask who hurt her. Brutality has grown commonplace. They aren't sure if they have fallen in love of their own accord, or whether they've been pushed into each other's arms. But who would have pushed them, and why?

Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe - a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened.

The problem with this novel is that it is dull. Quite dull. It took me a long time to get through it because of its rambling passages, which though beautifully written, could have easily been cut out of the novel without any serious effect. The veiled references to the Holocaust start off interesting enough but soon grow tiresome and somehow get even vaguer. 

If the characters had been more engaging, perhaps the whole thing could have worked, but neither of the protagonists made much of an impact. The entire cop storyline felt disjointed and forced, and was never really resolved, as the murder of an irrelevant character in the middle of the book. 

There are many dystopian novels out there much more interesting and less boring than this one. It tried to be and say too much and got bogged down by its ambition.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

The Demonologist A stolen child.

An ancient evil.

A father’s descent.

And the literary masterpiece that holds the key to his daughter’s salvation.

This novel has all the elements that I love: horror, demons, psychological terror, and an interesting main character. The execution of it, however, is what really keeps me from recommending it. 

The pacing could have been better throughout the last half of the book. It starts off well, with enough momentum to keep us reading but without overwhelming us, either, but it veers off into a race somewhere at the half-way mark. It is well written for the most part, but the plot is thin. Very thin. There is no real reason why any of it truly happens, why the protagonist goes to Venice, why he returns, or why he goes off into an endless cross-country road trip. This weakens the plot substantially. Most of the turning points in the story also come about my almost random guessing on the part of the protagonist, which takes away from the reader’s enjoyment. 

The ending, too, leaves a lot to be desired. It is wholly expected and bordering on the cliché. All of this makes the novel a pretty strong disappointment.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Brother by Ania Ahlborn

Deep in the heart of Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it’s served them well so far. When girls go missing off the side of the highway, the cops don’t knock on their door. Which is a good thing, seeing as to what’s buried in the Morrows’ backyard.

But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn’t like the rest of his family. He doesn’t take pleasure in the screams that echo through the trees. Michael pines for normalcy, and he’s sure that someday he’ll see the world beyond West Virginia. When he meets Alice, a pretty girl working at a record shop in the small nearby town of Dahlia, he’s immediately smitten. For a moment, he nearly forgets about the monster he’s become. But his brother, Rebel, is all too eager to remind Michael of his place…
This is a perfect read for the Halloween season. It has lots of horror (more Saw than The Exorcist) and psychological mystery, making it a great choice for those of you like me who love a bit of depth with their gore. 

The two main characters are fully fledged, and very real. As the story progresses and we learn more about the background of the Morrows and what Michael and Rebel’s relationship is like, the terror truly starts. There is a delicious sense of uncertainty throughout the pages which heighten the fear. 

Although the climactic revelation is foreshadowed much too early and takes away some of the surprise the author meant to give us, the very end, the last couple of lines, will leave you reeling. If you want scares and psychological terror, this is the one to choose this year.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark

Plumdog  The irresistible illustrated diary of one very special London dog--the perfect gift book for dog lovers of all stripes (and spots!)
Hello. My name is Plum and I'm a whoosell--a whippet mixed with Jack Russell and poodle. I especially like swimming, leaping, and croissants, and my favorite fragrance is fox poop. I live with Emma, an illustrator, and Rupert in London.

Over the last year, I've been keeping a diary. Emma helped with the pictures, but the words are all mine.

Since 2012 Emma Chichester Clark has been delighting followers with her blog Plumdog, which records the adventures, discoveries, wry observations, and social engagements of her dog, Plum. Now Plum's best pages are collected in this beautiful little storybook volume, which will delight anyone who has ever loved a dog.

This is an entertaining “picture book” for adults told in diary for from the viewpoint of a dog, Plum. It can be easily read in one sitting and features beautiful drawings and delightful observations from the canine world as well as from the human world. Although most of diary entries are suitable to read to kids, some of them have a curse word or two, which is why this is a book best suited for adults looking for a different, fun read before bed.