vendredi 12 décembre 2014

Revival by Stephen King
A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs -- including Jamie's mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family's horrific loss. In his mid-thirties -- addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate -- Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil's devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It's a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Stephen King is an immediate buy for me, one of those authors who embody the phrase "would read their shopping lists". I understand that this far from the case for everybody, though I don't think anyone could claim that a writer whose career spans such classics as The Stand, The Shawshank Redemption or Misery is a hack. His "retirement" has ended up being one of his most prolific periods and it is clear from his recent novels that King is now just having fun - he is writing what he wants how he wants it, knowing full well that no matter what he writes it will sell, and sell well. 

Revival is far from being his best work, but it is a great read nevertheless. Though less gripping than Mr. Mercedes, Revival is King's take on the Frankenstein story, in the same way that Salem's Lot was his take on Dracula. Dealing with such a classic of the horror genre would be risky for a less accomplished writer, but King is good enough to pull it off. Though the homage to Frankenstein (the mad scientist, the link between electricity and life) are clear, they are twisted and changed enough for it not to matter. Throughout, King takes the story on unexplored paths, turning Revival into a relatively epic tale for such a short book (compared to The Stand or It - Revival is by no means a short book!)

As usual, King shines in the conclusion of the book - everything comes together into an extremely thrilling end, with characters forced into collision. This final section contains some of the most horrific imagery King has used in his more recent work, providing a chilling ideal of the afterlife that I would imagine will stay with readers for a long time. Throughout, King never loses sight of the key - the characters. We see Jamie and Charles go through some terrible experiences and it is interesting to see how both men take those experiences and use them in very different ways. 

Though not a classic King, Revival is a great horror novel, combining King's interest in Americana and rock and roll with a Frankensteinesque plot. 

I gave Revival 4 stars. 

jeudi 11 décembre 2014

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
Internationally bestselling author Anthony Horowitz's nail-biting new novel plunges us back into the dark and complex world of Detective Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty--dubbed "the Napoleon of crime"--in the aftermath of their fateful struggle at the Reichenbach Falls.

Days after Holmes and Moriarty disappear into the waterfall's churning depths, Frederick Chase, a senior investigator at New York's infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency, arrives in Switzerland. Chase brings with him a dire warning: Moriarty's death has left a convenient vacancy in London's criminal underworld. There is no shortage of candidates to take his place--including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.

Chase is assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones, a Scotland Yard detective and devoted student of Holmes's methods of deduction, whom Conan Doyle introduced in The Sign of Four. The two men join forces and fight their way through the sinuous streets of Victorian London--from the elegant squares of Mayfair to the shadowy wharfs and alleyways of the Docks--in pursuit of this sinister figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, who is determined to stake his claim as Moriarty's successor.

Riveting and deeply atmospheric, Moriarty is the first Sherlock Holmes novel sanctioned by the author's estate since Horowitz's House of Silk. This tale of murder and menace breathes life into Holmes's fascinating world, again proving that once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however im- probable, must be the truth.

A summer read two years ago, Anthony Horowitz' The House of Silk was an interesting, if not particularly ground breaking, addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon, an authorised continuation of the adventures of the great detective and his 'assistant' Watson. Set somewhere within the latter part of Holmes' adventures, The House of Silk was well written, exciting and faithful homage to Conan Doyle, which boded well for any more novels Horowitz might write in this world. 

Which brings us to Moriarty, Horowitz' new novel set in the Victorian London of Doyle's hero. Where in The House of Silk Horowitz played things safe, giving us an adventure clearly meant to slot neatly into canon, in Moriarty he has broken the mold, giving us instead an enthralling look at the world that existed between Holmes and Moriarty fateful fall at the Reichenbach and the reappearance of Holmes a few years later. With Holmes and Watson off the stage, Horowitz turns his attention to two new characters. One, Athelney Jones, is actually a character from Doyle's work, a Scotland Yard detective who appeared in The Sign of Four. Here, Horowitz is able to develop the character much further, using what Doyle wrote about him to give the man a clever backstory that explains his devotion to Holmes' methods. Jones becomes our Sherlock Holmes surrogate, but instead of just creating a cliché, Horowitz breathes life into the detective by giving him a family, something that Holmes obviously lacks. 

The second character is Frederick Chase, an investigator for Pinkertons, the legendary American detective force, sent to Europe to pursue an American crimelord determined to step into the gulf left behind by Moriarty's death. This investigation brings the two men together and from  there the story escalates, from Reichenbach to London, through the darkest corners of the criminal underworld. Brutality and terror stalk the streets of the capital and it seems that only Chase and Jones will be able to bring the true culprit to justice. 

What was already an enthralling, exciting, gripping mystery tale takes on a much greater dimension, though, in the last third of the novel. Horowitz pulls off a fantastic coup, setting up and delivering on an absolutely terrific twist that caught me totally by surprise but made perfect sense once it was revealed. I won't give anything about this twist away, but suffice it to say, I personally found it totally unexpected. Horowitz really delivers with Moriarty, showing that there are still interesting and surprising tales to be told in the Holmes universe. I hope he gets the opportunity to do so in the future. 

I gave Moriarty 4 stars.

mercredi 10 décembre 2014

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

Class is back in session...
Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style--with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what--or who--they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all.

Gather your poison, steel tipped quill, and the rest of your school supplies and join Mademoiselle Geraldine's proper young killing machines in the third rousing installment in the New York Times bestselling Finishing School Series by steampunk author, Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger burst onto the fantasy scene a few years ago with her Parasol Protectorate series, a fantastic historical urban fantasy, full of great characters, humourous dialogue and exciting action scenes. A kind-of-prequel - set earlier than the first series though initially seemingly without any of the same characters -  the Finishing School Series continues in the steampunk vein of the first series, adding the setting of a floating espionage school masquerading as a finishing school. While the first book did not blow me away, I enjoyed it enough to carry on. The series has got steadily better and this, the third book, is fantastic.

Following Sophronia and her friends once again, Waistcoats and Weaponry sees major changes in the status quo, as werewolves plot rebellion and vampires strike at mechanicals. Forced to take possession of a runaway train, Sophronia and her friends go up once again against the Picklemen. There are major changes in store before the book reaches its end, all of which Carriger handles with her usual humour. Her writing continues to be a delight, full of wit and funny turns of phrase, and Sophronia really grows as a character, willing to go once more against the prevailing societal pressures of her time. Her relationship with Soap is especially well handled here 

Setting up the final book in the series nicely, Waistcoats and Weaponry finally begins to bring the Finishing School Series up to the same level as the Parasol Protectorate. 

I gave Waistcoats and Weaponry 4 stars.

mardi 9 décembre 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2014

This week's theme: Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2014. I've tried to put together a mix of debut authors and older writers I encountered for the first time for this one. Was difficult to get it down to ten - I have started to read some fantastic writers this year! :)

Brian Staveley

First book I read:  The Emperor's Blades

The Emperor's Blades was one of my fantasy debuts of the year, a classy epic with great characters and some wonderful world building.

Looking forward to: The Providence of Fire, Book Two of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, expected next February

Seanan McGuire
First book I read:  Sparrow Hill Road

Sparrow Hill Road was a real coup-de-coeur read for me, a perfect ghost story. I have since gone back to catch up on the rest of her books.

Looking forward to: Getting to Discount Armageddon, which I have heard a lot about

Conn Iggulden

First book I read: War of the Roses: Stormbird

Stormbird was the first in a series that will chart the eponymous War of the Roses. I had heard a lot about Iggulden, who has also written series' on Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan

Looking forward to: The follow up to Stormbird, Trinity, on my TBR list for later this month!

Maurice Druon

First book I read: Le roi de fer, first book in the Cursed Kings series

I came across Druon through Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. The Cursed Kings is one of George R.R. Martin's influences for Game of Thrones and quite popular over here in France (it has spawned two well received TV series').

Looking forward to: Completing the series next year, four books left!

Marie Lu

First book I read: The Young Elites

I read The Young Elites as part of my Goodreads catch-up, but Lu has been on my radar for a little while.

Looking forward to: You guessed it, the follow up to The Young Elites, due next year

Elizabeth Bear

First book I read: Range of Ghosts

This is probably the name I'm the most ashamed of having on the list - Bear has written a lot of books and they are all right up my alley. It's a crime that I haven't gotten to her before this, especially considering how good Range of Ghosts was.

Looking forward to: The other books in the Eternal Sky trilogy and then, hopefully, the rest of her backlist

Sally Green

First book I read: Half Bad

An obvious Harry Potter homage, Half Bad distinguishes itself by its sheer guts and darkness. I was enthralled by this book and can't wait for the follow up!

Looking forward to: See above! :) Half Wild, due in March

Gilles Legardinier

First book I read: Demain j'arrete

This is probably the favourite new author I discovered this year - Legardinier's mix of humour, crazy situations and fantastic writing have made him a must read for me!

Looking forward to: His new book, Ca peut pas rater, is on my TBR list for this month!

Rene Denfeld

First book I read: The Enchanted

The Enchanted was a heart-breaking novel, reminiscent of Stephen King at his best, but with a voice all of its own.

Looking forward to: Nothing yet! :( As far as I can tell, Denfeld does not have any book coming next year.

T.E Woods

First book I read: The Fixer

Woods' story of a damaged young woman working as a 'fixer', basically an assassin who only goes after people she deems necessary, may at first have seemed a one-book wonder, what with the fantastic twist hidden in the tail-end of the novel. Luckily, Woods has proven not with the follow-up.

Looking forward to: The Unforgivable Fix, which I am reading right now! :)

So there we go. Ten authors I've discovered for the first time in 2014
What about you guys? Who are your top New-To-You authors this year?
Share in the comments!

lundi 8 décembre 2014

The Buried Life by Carrie Patel
The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Recoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.
When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…

The Buried Life is one of those books that I had to read at the right time to get into - I had tried to read it a few months ago and it didn't quite gel for me - that may be due to the fact that I had read a few similar books around that time. Whatever the reason, I put it aside but it had interested me enough for me to want to pick it back up again, which I did back in October (yes, I know, bad blogger, bad! :))

A fantasy murder mystery to start with, The Buried Life could be termed science fantasy - while not made obvious, there are clear indications that the underground world of the book is our future, with books and cultural references serving as clear nods to our own world. This makes for a nice twist on the Victorian-esque, gaslight ambiance the book is set in. While the worldbuilding was good, where The Buried Life excelled was in the characters. I really enjoyed getting to know Liesl, Rafe and Jane: a washer-woman who is not mentioned in the blurb but who I would say is probably more important to the plot and more interesting as a character than the other two. Her Relationship with Roman proves to be a hinge for the story and her actions have major effects on the future of Recoletta.

While the murder mystery is tied up nicely, providing a pleasant sense of closure to that part of the book, there are larger events that take over towards the end and set up the stage nicely for the follow-up (due out in February). I for one will be eagerly waiting to download it to my Kindle on the day of release!

I gave The Buried Life 4 stars.

dimanche 7 décembre 2014

New on the Library Shelves 07 12 14

AKA Showcase Sunday

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.
Hello all! How was your week? Last night was the Fete des Lumières (or Festival of Lights) here in Lyon. A huge event that brings people from all over the world, with some pretty amazing light shows using the beautiful architecture of this city. I'll try and share some photos tomorrow.  

In terms of books read, received and bought this month, looking forward to getting to the two graphic novels I received from Netgalley, as well as delving into the All Souls Trilogy after the third book won at the Goodreads Choice Awards.  


New Rules (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 Volume 1) by Christos Gage
A nice start to the new season, with some old friends and some movement in long term story lines.

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
A great addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon with two interesting characters and a fantastic twist ending.

The Midas Touch (Green Arrow New 52 Volume 1) by Dan Jurgens
A 'meh' graphic novel, never really caught my attention. If you like Green Arrow, you're better off with the TV series.

What books have you read, received or purchased this week?

samedi 6 décembre 2014

The X-Files - Season 10: Volume 2 by Joe Harris

As Scully and Mulder try to deal with the fallout from the actions of a mysterious group that has been targeting anyone associated with the X-Files and causing their return to the Bureau, reports that a creature from their past has returned sends Mulder heading to Martha's Vineyard and Scully to Quantico.

Follow-ups to television series in the form of comic books have become de rigeur nowadays (especially if said television series has the name of Joss Whedon attached to it).The X-Files - a seminal show of the 90s if ever there was one, tapping into government paranoia and conspiracy fears - is only one of those to receive the comic book continuation treatment. This second volume, following on from the introductory graphic novel that reintroduced the world of the X-Files through a classic alien-conspiracy story, picks up where the show left off, reintroducing the concept of monsters-of-the-week, while also providing us with an update on some beloved characters. 

Volume 2 is a definite love letter to the fans, bringing back one of the greatest monsters ever to appear in the series, Season 2's Flukeman, developing its origin and ending with a classic X-Files fake out. Beyond that, Volume 2 resurrects two key characters: Mr. X, chiefly appearing in flashback, and the Cigarette Smoking Man. While it was nice to see both of these characters again, the stories themselves were weak, with the Cigarette Smoking Man story especially being let down by some extremely confusing art work. 

Overall, Season 10 is a fun read, a love letter to fans, but very far from being a must read. I'll be continuing to read, but I was a rabid X-Files fan. For the occasional viewer - or someone who has never watched the show - this may be one to miss. 

I gave The X-Files - Season 10: Volume II 3 stars.