Friday, 14 February 2014

The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Rachel Myerson led an idyllic life; loving husband, beautiful daughter, great job, friends and family, until the day an unknown heart defect cruelly cut her life short. But Rachel finds that after she has passed away, she still has access to the world of the living. 

Caught between the world of the living and the dead, she is randomly afforded view of the life she left behind, unbeknownst to her grieving family. She thinks that things couldn’t be worse than being separated from her husband Max and her daughter Ellie, but when Max meets a new woman, she finds that her heart can break all over again. 

We see the world from Rachel’s viewpoint, and as she continues to be a voyeur to the world she left behind, she begins to learn more about her old life and how to cope with her death.

I have to admit, that when I first started reading this book, I found it a little depressing and I couldn't see myself liking it. But the further I got in, I was curious as to what Rachel would next see, as much in the dark as she was. Then, as all the characters continue their journey, you can’t help but get a little emotionally invested. I won’t lie, I did have a little cry towards the end! 

My favourite character was Rachel’s best friend Harriet, I found her to something of a voice of reason, even if she was a little bolshie or tactless at times. The subject of the afterlife is a theme that has endless possibilities and this interpretation was leaning towards the realism side of things. I like to think that when we do leave this world, maybe we will have the chance to see loved ones, if even one last time. 

It’s a strong subject, and I think that the characters within this story were well developed in order to tell the story. There were also lots of other emotionally strong subjects such as marriage, child rearing, loss and fertility, scattered throughout to make you think and tug at your heartstrings. 

Emotionally charged, thoughtful and eloquent, this is a book that will make you think, that may make you cry, but will also leave you hopeful too.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Miami Requiem by J.B. Turner

It seems like I haven’t sunk my bookworm teeth into a crime fiction novel for a while, so I was very happy to get a hold of Miami Requiem by J B Turner. 

It tells of rookie journalist Deborah Jones who strives for a chance to tell the story of William Craig, an 82 year old, WW2 hero on death row for the murder of the man that raped his granddaughter. The man he murdered was also the son of a high profile senator. 

When Deborah starts her story and meets William Craig for herself, she is determined to fight for his name and get him moved from death row. Her investigations draw lots of unwanted attention to herself, as the senator gets his legal team and other powerful friends to try and stop her, but she carries on regardless, even when her own life is put on the line. 

As she meets more innocent people affected by or involved in the case, she also finds that her own personal history makes the difference between giving up and fighting for justice. The deeper you get into the story, the web of secrets, lies and cover ups and their reveals builds tension and adds drama. 

I really liked the character of Deborah as female lead; a headstrong, determined young woman who uses her wits and courage to achieve her goals. I also enjoyed how the story goes into different character’s lives which made it even more interesting. 

The humid Miami setting was a slick backdrop for the story; filled with legal loopholes and power struggles between politics and the media which provided a compelling assault course for Deborah to traverse, which made for exciting reading. There is a lot of strong subject matter; rape, race, political and social injustice, but the story presents these issues tactfully and intelligently. 

The prose was clever and gripping, whilst also being easy to read. It didn’t take me long to read this book at all, and I think it would be a great addition to any crime fiction fans bookshelves. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

Fairytales for me are a magic in themselves that have such a wide scope for elaboration and interpretation for whatever sort of writer you are. 

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville sees a number of fairytales woven throughout the main narratives in what is an enchantingly dark tale. 

In 1899 Vienna, renowned psychoanalyst Josef Breuer is faced with an unusual patient; a beautiful young girl who claims to be a machine. He finds that his growing attraction to her interferes with not only his professional duty of care towards her, but also affects his household as well. 

As well as Josef’s story, we also have the story of Krysta. Set years later in Germany, unruly Krysta is living a lonely childhood while her father works in an infirmary for “animal people”. Her behaviour never seems to improve and tragic events lead her imagination to take her to unbelievable places. 

The fairy tale element was very cleverly used in this story.  Some of the stories were interpretations or exaggerations of the events faced by the characters. Some seemed to be coping mechanisms employed by some characters to explain the situations they had to deal with, and there were many crossovers of the two uses. I liked how a lot of the fairytale references in this story were the harsher, more brutal versions which gave the story its dark side.

As a psychology graduate, I found the psychological aspects of the story interesting as well. The prose as a whole is very intelligent with references to history, literature and other culture which I really enjoyed. I did find Krysta as a lead character very hard to empathize with at first, but by the end of her journey, I definitely felt for her. 

Gretel and the Dark is a very grown up fairytale read with strong themes and clever story telling set to fascinate from start to finish.  

Below is the animated trailer for the book produced for Penguin Books by David Horsburgh and narrated by the author herself, to whet your appetite for this darkly compelling novel.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Burn by Julianna Baggott

I was so excited for this book. Too excited really! Burn is the third and final book in the epic Pure trilogy, Julianna Baggott’s epic dystopian series that has set the YA scene ablaze with glowing reviews! 

Pure introduces us to a post-apocalyptic world that has been devastated by Detonations and divided the population into two main groups: Pures and Wretches. Pures are a select elite community, unharmed by the Detonations who live safely in a protective Dome. Wretches are everybody else who survived outside the dome, fused to whatever (or whoever) they were closest too at the time, struggling to survive daily dangers in the ruined outside world.

We meet Pressia, a wretch, and Partridge, a Pure who lives in the Dome, whose lives so distant from each other are about to become forever intertwined, after Partridge escapes from the Dome. 

The second book, Fuse, takes us deeper into the ruined landscape, and we get deeper into the characters’ individual stories. As Pressia and Partridge discover more about their shared past, present and possible future, it seems as if more secrets and riddles present themselves at every turn, and those secrets are potentially life changing. 

Now, Burn sees Partridge back in the Dome and seemingly in the seat of power, but he struggles to come to terms with his new status and who to trust. Meanwhile, back outside the Dome, Pressia and her loyal companions are returning from their own adventure, with a miraculous cure for wretches as well as the means to destroy the Dome forever. 

Friendships and relationships are tested and pushed to the limits in this whirlwind last installment. I've said it before but I’ll say it again; the world that Julianna Baggott has built between these novels is astoundingly inventive and utterly unforgettable. 

I especially love the tribe know as the Mothers; hardy, warrior women fused to their children who have adapted to be unforgiving and strong in such a harsh environment. I've ended up becoming attached to all the characters and you almost feel their pain as they struggle to live and just survive. I loved the convoluted web of characters both in and out of the Dome that you don’t know are goodies or baddies, which made it so exciting and a complete page turner! 

I’m glad that I've finally read the last book but also sad that it has come to an end. The whole Pure trilogy is an absolute must read for not just YA fans, its compelling for all readers, and now I think I’ll have to read them all back to back and enjoy them all over again!