Monday, 23 May 2011

Review: 'Evil Genius' by Patricia Rice

Date finished: 07 May 2011

Rating: 2.5 stars

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Genre: Mystery

Published: by bookviewcafe in 2011

The Synopsis (taken from LibraryThing)

Call her a petite princess or a paranoid neurotic, either way, Anastasia Devlin has the instincts of a chameleon. She can disappear into the woodwork, share tea with a queen, or flatten a thug with one swift kick, but what she really wants is to provide her dysfunctional younger siblings with the security of the home she's been denied.

Instead, she discovers her grandfather has died without the family being notified, his mansion has been usurped by a stranger who never leaves the third floor, and her grandfather's executor has absconded to the Caribbean with the proceeds of their inheritance. If murder hasn't already been committed, she might perpetrate one herself - starting with the annoying spy in the attic.

To avoid murder, she makes a pact with the devil who apparently now owns the home she is determined to win back. While she searches for the absconding lawyer and the real murderer of the senator's aide, she will help their landlord locate a mysterious Cambodian - until oddly, the threads of all three mysteries begin to twine together, and someone is intent on cutting the cord before Ana comes too close to finding the answers.

The Review

As usual with Early Reviewer books, I didn't know what to expect from 'Evil Genius' and, as usual, I found myself reading something that I probably wouldn't have picked out for myself but that I'm mostly glad I have tried.

The narrative from the start is smart and witty and the characters largely likeable. Searching for relief from her hectic family life, she is working in the virtual world as a 'virtual assistant' and hiding out in a basement apartment. Right from the moment her solitude is interrupted by the arrival of her younger half sister Elizabeth Georgiana ('EG') and half brother Nick, she slips back into her maternal role and has to fight to protect her family. The relationships between the siblings were dynamic and soon became my favourite thing about the book.

On the whole, this story is centred around Ana: her search for a solid home and family life; her efforts to overcome her aversion to society; her unusual relationship with the disembodied voice of "the spider" in the attic and her crime-solving exploits. As a means of telling the story, it works well and the reader really does get inside her head, so to speak. By the end, though, I wasn't sure that was where I wanted to be! Ana is clearly damaged by her relationship with her mother and forms a frankly unhealthy relationship with a man who she has never met in person but is quite happy to share a house with (!). The odd sexual references seemed unsettlingly out of place and even I, with very limited knowledge of the subject, felt myself analysing her like an abstract psychology study! I understand that the author was probably going for vulnerable/troubled but it became a bit muddled. Ana went from dungaree-wearing wallflower to a tottering stiletto-booted bombshell and back again just a few too many times for me.

So what of the 'mystery'? Despite some great characters, at times I felt that the plot wasn't as coherent as I like in a mystery. I like not quite knowing what is coming up and being thrown off course by an unexpected twist. I less enjoy feeling confused and as though I've missed a step that was apparently obvious to the narrator. There were a lot of elements to the gradually merging mysteries and a lot of minor characters. Towards the end, I actually found that I was more interested in what was happening to the main characters and less bothered about the conclusion of the mystery element...even after I had just finished the novel, I couldn't have explained the plot to someone even if I had wanted to.

Overall: This isn't a book to be taken too seriously - it's as feisty as its female lead and the narrative is smart and entertaining. I would recommend it to older YA readers (although that seems contradictory!). The characters and tone felt a little too young for me to want to recommend it to more 'serious' fans of the mystery genre and a little too much political intrigue for me to think a teen would enjoy it.

If nothing else, there's a lot going on and a range of characters to keep you entertained - just make sure you keep your wits about you so you don't get lost in the tangle!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Back with a hop!

Hello again fellow bloggers and fabulous readers!

I arrived back from Italy yesterday afternoon, partly sad at my holiday being over and partly glad to be home. We got through a ton of sight-seeing, lots of delicious red wine and an extremely unhealthy amount of divine food and generally had a wonderful time. Seeing as this clearly isn't a travel blog, I won't bore you with the details but I definitely recommend Venice, Florence (and Sienna and Pisa..) and Rome to you all!

I happily got through a few books too so there will be reviews up as soon as I've gathered my post-holiday thoughts :) A little bit of fantasy, a little bit of humour and a little bit of history so a bit of mixture coming up!


I thought that seeing as I was all rejuvinated from my time away, I'd take part in the Book Blogger Hop for this weekend! It's been a while since I took part, mainly because this is the first Friday I'm not at work in a while.



This week's question: If you were given the chance to spend one day in a fictional world (from a book), which book would it be from and where would that place be?


My first reaction to this post was the site of Kingsbridge Cathedral in twelfth-century England as beautifully crafted by Ken Follett in Pillars of the Earth. My head is filled with images of all the stunning Italian cathedrals and churches I have seen over the past couple of weeks and I can only imagine how inspirational and awe-inspiring it must be to see the vision and expertise it must take to turn a bunch of rocks into such a sight. Plus, I love the thought of experiencing medieval England in all its grim reality!

Although I teetered for a second towards The Seven Kingdoms of Kristin Cashore's Graceling because I'd be curious to find out what my 'Grace' would be, if I had one, I'm sticking with my gut reaction in Kingsbridge, even though I know that a day wouldn't give me long to explore!

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Even if you aren't participating in the Hop this weekend, I'd love to hear where you'd all like to travel to! If you are participating, I can't wait to read your posts :)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

LitAddictedBrit goes on a (shortish) holiday!

HURRAH!!!

It's taken a tremendously long time coming (during which time I have become increasingly poor as company because I'm too excited) but on Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 4.00am I'm going on holiday!!

The lovely boyfriend and I are off to visit the equally lovely (I hope...) Italians and doing a kind of mini tour including Venice, Florence and Rome and anywhere else that tickles our fancy while we're there! :) I am beyond looking forward to it...

Obviously, I have been trying to narrow down some book choices over the past couple of weeks and have been intermittently panic buying in case I've missed some glorious tome that will make my holiday complete!

Specimens that are among those that have made it on to the eReader "shortlist" (please don't be deceived, there is nothing short about it...) are:

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

One Day by David Nicholls

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Room by Emma Donoghue

And that's a sample of those that I have added to it this week...already gathering eDust were, by way of a very brief example:

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Fallen by Lauren Kate

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

A huge Sherlock Holmes anthology

So you see, I thought I was all big and clever for having a nifty piece of technology that allowed me to take vast amounts of literature around with me but really all I've done is defer the problem...rather than currently being sat on my bedroom floor conducting a complex ranking exercise, I've bombarded my little eReader with all kinds of stuff I might want to read until the poor little guy doesn't know what to do with himself!

If you have any recommendations from the above or, heck, any other recommendations, feel free to make them - be safe in the knowledge that you really can't make my quandry any worse than I'm making it for myself!

And on that note, I bid all of you lovely readers farewell until the 20th of May!

HAPPY READING :)

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Review: 'Ghost of a Chance' by Rhiannon Lassiter

Date finished: 27 April 2011

Rating: 3.5 stars

Format: Paperback

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Genre: YA fiction; Mystery/Thriller

Published: by Oxford University Press in January 2011

The Synopsis (taken from Waterstones.com)

Last Chance ...'You know that girl, the one in my class? The one that died. She lived here.'

Lost Chance ...'You're dead, Eva Chance. You died and nobody noticed. You died and nobody cared.'

No more Chances left ...

They said it was suicide, but Eva knows she was murdered. Now she inhabits a sinister spirit world along with the tortured and malevolent ghosts of her ancestral home. Solving the crime could end her existence - but if the killer isn't found how many more will die?

The Review

Ah, this book reminded me so much of my first reading experiences that I couldn't help but love it. When I was much younger and had read more of The Babysitters' Club and Sweet Valley High than was probably healthy, I turned to the somewhat darker Goosebumps series by R.L.Stine, including such classics as Say Cheese and Die and Monster Blood. Anyone else read this? No? Just me then...

What I loved about those books, and indeed this one, was the unashamed use of the supernatural. I'm sure I've made this point before but I respect authors who will weave the supernatural into a story so tightly that it just seems to belong, rather than wasting time on characters who don't want to believe etc or worrying about whether the book is 'realistic'. The ghosts in this book are exactly that. Eva finds herself a ghost despite having no recollection at all about how she died. Rather than spending endless pages pondering the nature of the soul or not believing her predicament, there's good balance and timing for the phasing of reluctance into acceptance.

One strong point is Lassiter's expansion on what could have been a cheesy ghost theme. The ghosts of the House are varied and unique. Some ghosts were nothing more than a single feature, like 'The Stalker' that has nothing but the desire to kill other ghosts, while others retain their personalities and 'grip' on the world, like Eva. I found myself drawn into the tangled web of the ghosts in spite of myself and felt like that made it more than normal.

Obviously I couldn't review this book without mentioning Eva. Eva Chance is a social outcast and something of a recluse. Bullied by her schoolmates, she has all but retreated to the House. Her aching loneliness tugged at even my old heartstrings and it reminded me of all the harsh points about being a teenager. Eva's family and its history (which is suitably tortured...) make for great back story too.

Outside of the Chance family are Kyle and Kyra, employed to spruce the House up in time for the tourist season. Kyle is kind of sweet and features nicely as a 'white knight' type figure. Kyra, however, was a weak link for me. She is Eva's nemesis, so much as teenagers can have nemeses and is actually rather irritating to read. She is everything a stereotypical teenage character shouldn't be - arrogant, rude, ignorant and a bully. Still, her ability to annoy is dampened by the curiosities of those around her so it's not all bad!

The mystery element plays nicely alongside the ghost story and make for a tale worthy of any teenager's time. My only real criticism was that the ending (that I obviously won't give away) was a little too convenient for my taste. I would guess, however, that that is largely as a result of it being a story for younger readers so I won't grumble too much.

A final noteworthy point:
I stayed up late because I had to read the end of this book. To anyone who knows me, this is high praise indeed. I require at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night or I am unfit for polite society. With this, I was gripped and tugged on into the darkness by that same urge that kept the teenage me huddled under a duvet turning pages feverishly. I accept that it might have been an exercise in reminiscing but golly it was fun!

Overall:
I would definitely recommend this to early-late teens looking for something a bit more mature and (I'll admit it) creepy! It's very much a 'YA' book but a great one for the genre that offers something new in a paranormal sphere dominated by vampires and werewolves - I won't be passing it on to the adults in my life but I'll almost definitely give my copy to a younger cousin at some point for her to enjoy as an introduction to something new. Read it late at night for maximum "enjoyment"!