Zi71bFS9nQHnivtvUJquhejTHIQ The Story Factory Reading Zone

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Cassie Scott: Paranormal Detective by Christine Amdsen

Promo blurb:

Cassie Scott is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a lace for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family's reputation isn't easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

My review

From the start I could see that I was going to enjoy this book. Something about the way it was written truly spoke to me.
I loved the character of Cassie, who appeared as a realistically strong young lady. Evan was an intriguing character, which fitted his role in the story well. 
The plot was a good mystery-style story, and I found myself truly wanting to work out 'who-dunnit' for myself, however I did feel that the outcome was a little too predictable.
The only thing I really didn't enjoy about this book was the form of paranormal investigation. I can't go into more details without ruining the plot, but suffice to say that it was one of my personal dislikes. If you enjoy all forms of paranormal then this book will be fine for you.
I would also have liked it to have finished on more of a cliff-hanger as had ending felt a little too resolved for my liking (in the middle of the final chapter would have been perfect).
Overall, an enjoyable book which had me reading the quickest I have for a long time.


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Review: The Ghosts of Nagasaki by Daniel Clausen

One night a foreign business analysis in Tokyo sits down in his spacious high rise apartment and begins typing something. The words pour out and exhaust him. He soon realises that the words appearing on his laptop are memories of his first days in Nagasaki four years ago. 
Nagasaki was a place full of spirits, a garrulous Welsh roommate, and a lingering mystery.
Somehow he must finish the story of four years ago- a story that involves a young Japanese girl, the ghost of a dead Japanese writer, and a mysterious island. He must solve this mystery while manoeuvring the hazards of middle management, a cruel Japanese samurai, and his own knowledge that if he doesn't solve this mystery soon his heart will transform into a ball of steel, crushing his soul forever. Though he wants to give up his writing, though he wants to let the past rest, within his compulsive writing lies the key to his salvation.

My review
At first appearance this book is a collection of adolescent goings on from the point of view of an intoxicated man living in Japan. It jumps back and forth between points of time and is quite hard to follow. For this reason it took me a long time to recognise any real story.
Then, slowly, I began to get into the book. It began to make sense and become something more spiritual and meaningful. By the end the protagonist no longer felt like a jerk, but more like an understandable human being. 
This is a story of growing up and discovering yourself. I only wish it had started from half way through.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Review: The Testament of Mary by Colman Toibin



Provocative, haunting, and indelible, Colm Tóibín’s portrait of Mary presents her as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity.

In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel—her keepers, who provide her with food and shelter and visit her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it;” nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and is equally harsh on her judgment of others. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes, in Toibin’s searing evocation, a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. This tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.(less)

My review:

A very well-written and captivating book full of emotion, The Testament of Mary would do very well as an account of a grieving mother focusing on how depression can affect memory. Unfortunately for a Christian reader, such as myself, it is supposedly about the mother of Christ.

Or rather, it's about the mother of a man who claimed to be The Christ. A man who made up miracles, as if they were magic tricks. A man whose followers would do anything to fulfil prophecy.

For me this book is useful as an alternative viewpoint to challenge and help me think about my faith. If you're someone who likes this sort of challenge then go ahead and read it, but I would not advise this book for newer believers. 

Rated:4/5 stars

Monday, 3 February 2014

Music Out of the Pages: Studying music

He spent as much time as he could studying the drum records, tapping his fingers on his fur even as he was falling asleep to memorize the times and rhythms of the most complicated measures.
Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey

What's your most extreme way of studying?

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (a review)


To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork - a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it's soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work - as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital... but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don't always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse...

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi' t'flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he's going to stop it all going off the rails...

My review:

Perfect for adults, young adults and older children alike, Terry Pratchett's latest novel takes us into the world of the railway. Moist van Lipwig is faced with the challenge of promoting this new invention whilst simply trying to stay alive. And, is it just him, or is it somehow taking on a life of it's own?

The seasoned Discworld reader will recognise many familiar characters in this tale. But there are also some brand new ones storming their way into the story. My favourite of these is Of a The Twilight The Darkness, a goblin who has a unique outlook on dealing with humans and the world in general. 

In this book Discworld continues to embrace the rise of science, clearly not the same as magic (otherwise the wizards would be involved) but yet somehow different from that we're used to. This story seems to take a more everyday approach to this compared to earlier books where it would be quite usual for mythical creatures to replace cogs and lights. I think that this does, unfortunately, detract slightly from the mystical nature of the telling.

Whilst the writing lacks a certain quality in places at first, it soon takes off and it's easy to become enthralled in the adventures of Mr Lipwig. I think this is because I personally found his exploits much more interesting than those of Mr Simnel the engineer. One of the fantastic things about The Discworld (and particularly Mr Lipwig's life) is that you can never be sure what is going to happen next. When The Patrician threatens to dispatch a key character then it could just happen, and yet the story would still go on.

I really enjoyed experiencing the railway through Moist van Lipwig's eyes, my interested heightening as I got further and further into the story. The last third of the book was particularly exciting. Having said that, this certainly wasn't my favourite of Terry Pratchett's novels. I think Raising Cities will particularly appeal to those who are familiar with the Discworld universe, although those with an interest in both fantasy and railways may also enjoy it.


Monday, 20 January 2014

Music Out of the Pages: Mourning

He heard her moans then, rising to a keen of grief, a death song she had been too weak to sing when they had placed that girl-child in the grave.
 from A Name of Her Own by Jane Kirkpatrick

Monday, 13 January 2014

Music Out of the Pages: Bedtime Songs

"She could hear Toupin singing in French, songs that put the engages to sleep each night. She hoped they'd keep singing when they left their boats behind, sing on their horses."

from A Name of Her Own by Jane Kirkpatrick
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