Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Ice Princess

Image sourced from here
Blind alleys. That is the takeaway of this book for me. If I hear about one more fucking blind alley I am going to punch a kitten. Or a sloth. Or whatever it is the internet finds cute today. Now I have that off my chest, let's continue.

The Ice Princess is my kind of junk food read. It involves murder and crime solving. It's not incredibly taxing. You know (although it's Nordic so god knows really) the good guys will (might) win by the end of the book. You can just tune out and get taken for the ride.

The benefit to this book is again the setting. It's set in a Swedish seaside village in winter, so it's pretty empty, almost deserted, except for the locals. And cold (I believe -15 was mentioned in the middle of the day!?! My Aussie body can not begin to comprehend that) and dark and ominous. People were fishing in that. Maddness! I just wanted to wrap myself up in a blanket while reading, and that included the time while I was sitting in the 22 degree sun in the garden, and really what else do you want for a murder mystery? The sense of setting and place were fantastic.

But that's kinda where the fantastic ended. The rest was okay. The writing was okay, with some bits mentioned above that just annoyed the hell out of you. I was wondering if that was the translation, but guessing from my convo with my favourite Swede the other day, the writing sounds like it was worse in the original.

Then, oh my god, the weight issues and body image in this book. The main character, who by the way, is not at all the main character you expect when you pick up the first book in the Patrik Hedström books. Patrik is introduced but our main character is Erica. Erica tells you how many weight watchers points are in every meal for the first half of the book. Erica freaks out that on the morning of a date with Patrik, a bit after her parents have died suddenly so she's had a few other things on her mind, that she as a tall, curvy Swedish woman has hit 150 pounds (68kgs) and debates calling the whole thing off. Now, I do not know her body shape or whatever of course, but to me, that sounds completely normal for what I have in my head from the descriptions. She sounds like a brainwashed moron. After the particularly bad scene she never mentions it again, which while welcome, seems in some ways like the author forgot about a part of her personality.

It was vaguely predictable. I was thinking, what it needs now, is one more murder, and blah would be a good choice. I turned the page, and blah was murdered. But I didn't pick the killer. And I don't know why. Was it because I was ill when I read the last 40pp or was it just a good twist? Unsure at this point of time.

Look, if you like murders and crime, and you want a pretty straight forward book with a great setting and a cheesy romance, pick it up. I'm umming and ahhing between 3-3.5 stars and I'm heading for the latter as it's exactly what I needed at this point in time. Apparently the series gets a lot better. It's her first book, so not entirely surprised. The promise of that has me heading towards the carrot I must say, because if she gets her shit together she could be fantastic.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


Image sourced from here 
Sticking with the gothic theme for a bit. Affinity is a book I actually hadn't heard that much about. But after loving Tipping the Velvet so much last year, the last time I was at the secondhand bookshop I picked it up. Which was fortuitous as there were a few other Sarah Waters options, but this was the one chosen as a group read for April.

The book is another Victorian London historical fiction. We meet Margaret, the eldest, single sister in her family, as she starts her first day as a Lady Visitor to the infamous Millbank prison. Millbank is not a particularly nice place. At least by this stage, the worst prisoners in England were sent to another prison in London, but this was still not a nice place to end up at all.

Inside Millbank, Margaret meets a prisoner called Selina, who is a spiritualist. We all know how fascinated the Victorians were with the occult, spirits, magic and the like, so it isn't a surprise that Margaret is fascinated with Selina and her abilities, and ends up being drawn in deeper and deeper.

Right, so, we can all guess by now that I am a skeptic. In my experience these kind of people prey on people desperate for a message from someone they throw tells and information into the medium's lap. HOWEVER, the disclaimer for this book is that I wanted it to be all true for the story. I  am never one to let facts get in the way of a good story. Unless you swear to me something is a scientific fact and it is blatantly wrong. That pisses me off. Otherwise, I'm all for a bit of fun.

And while I wouldn't describe this book as fun, and while I couldn't completely disengage my disbelief this book drew me along quicker than I would have thought. And talk about a twisty ending!! I was hanging around 3 stars until I started hitting the twists. I didn't like it as much as Tipping the Velvet. I thought it may have been her first book, but looks like it was the second. And then it struck me, that was the problem with this book. It had a lot of second album syndrome to it. It wasn't bad, just felt a bit rushed and not quite as thought through as that debut.

A short review I know, but still a fun and surprising Victorian, gothic read.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Shadow of the Wind - #51

Image sourced from here
I've been in a little bit of a reading rut lately. I'm not sure why, I just haven't really had the energy. I feel rather sad that I fell into it while reading this particular book. Luckily, this book threw me a rope or some other sort of laboured metaphor and helped me out of it. But I think unfortunately my opinion of this book suffered for it.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this book immensely. Dark, gothic, mystery with hints of sordid pasts tied to civil war, mixed in with books, libraries and bookstores. All with a pinch of Spanish passion and melodrama behind it all.

We meet Daniel at 10 years old living in Barcelona. His Mum is dead and it's just him and his Dad. His Dad owns a bookshop that they live above. One night, Daniel's Dad takes him to an amazing library/depository called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel can choose one book to take with him, as long as he does everything he can to protect the book while it's in his possession. He chooses the book The Shadow of the Wind and this choice embarks Daniel on a lifetime of obsession and discovery about the author and the book.

What I found confusing, that may be too strong a word, disorientating about the book was I kept on reading the dates, but the book itself kept on convincing me we were in a story set about 100 years earlier. 1850 say, instead of 1950. This was probably the gothic aspect to the storytelling honestly. But I was always a little surprised when they mentioned telephones or cars again. This was particularly so when at some stage in the book we visit a convalescent home. I felt I was back in Bedlam during it's not so pleasant heyday, not 1950s Spain. However, the book did make me brush up on my Spanish modern history, trying to work out who was who and who hated who and what not.

It was a great read. I think I missed some things with the 3 weeks it took for me to get through the first third of the book (yes, I took longer to read it and probably didn't pay attention. It's been that kind of month), but once I hit that point, the book took on a momentum of it's own. And I had to wake up and pay attention as I would get left behind, and also because I wanted to be swept along with it. The last third of the book was just constantly punctuated with "Oh my god!" or sharp intakes of breaths. Just when I thought it couldn't top itself, it would surprise me again.

This rating is an honest "it's not you, it's me" one. Maybe one day I will pick it up again and give it all the time, love and attention it so greatly deserves. I will definitely check out it's sequels though.