Category Archives: Book Review

Mary Shelley

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

With Halloween casting its spooky spell over us on October 31st, it’s the perfect time to revisit a classic horror favourite – Frankenstein.

9780199537167 book review“The merest mention of that name conjures up images of lurching, green-skinned, bolt-necked giants – but those familiar images are largely products of decades of Hollywood re-imagining. The original (and best, in my opinion!) tale of Frankenstein is found in Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus.

Obsessed with discovering the secrets of existence, ambitious young scientist Victor Frankenstein builds a creature out of stolen corpses. But once he brings his creature to life, Frankenstein is horrified by what he has made. Unable to cope, he flees, abandoning his creation entirely. Helpless, confused, and lonely, the creature seeks out love and comfort. But his grotesque look and giant size scares people, and instead of finding any kindness in the world, the creature meets with only fear, hatred, and violence. The creature’s hope turns to sadness, then to rage, and finally to an obsessive need for revenge.

Even though Frankenstein was first published in 1818, nearly 200 years ago, the themes and dilemmas raised by the book are more relevant today than ever. What does it mean to be human? What limits should be placed on scientific experiments? Why do we fear those who look different from us? Is evil a natural state, or is it created by circumstance?

It’s not the kind of gory horror story that will make you jump at every turn; the horror in this book is all too human. A dark, tense, and unsettling novel, Frankenstein is the perfect read to set your nerves on edge this Halloween.”

A big thank you to Anne-Marie from the Co-op at Griffith University’s Logan Campus for this special Halloween edition book review of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus.

Interested in reading Frankenstein? You can get it here.

Patricia Cornwell

Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

Cornwell is the master of mystery and her ability to weave such an intricate and detailed plot is astounding.

9780732299149The 22nd novel in the ‘Kay Scarpetta’ series by Patricia Cornwell, ‘Flesh and Blood’ will have you guessing until the very end to find out who the elusive Copperhead is.

Rather than celebrating her birthday, Dr Kay Scarpetta discovers seven pennies on the wall of her yard, all polished and dating from 1981, just before getting called out to attend a homicide five minutes away from her home.

A high school music teacher has been shot in his front yard.

With an astonishingly perfect shot, no witnesses and little to no evidence left at the scene, Kay and the team are going up against what could be the most calculating murderer they have ever faced.

As the case progresses and more victims are discovered, it becomes clear that the killer- dubbed Copperhead- is playing one ruthlessly dangerous game.

When Kay realizes that – even distantly – she is the common denominator linking the victims it leads her to the question, could Copperhead be someone she knows?

I found it a bit difficult to get into ‘Flesh and Blood’, mostly due to the fact that Cornwell has written in Stream of Consciousness. This decision is a double edged sword; the constant observations running through Kays mind make the novel appear to drag on, however it does allow fantastic insight into how Kay thinks

and the mind of an investigator- fitting for a crime novel- and the originally lethargy quickly passes once you get further into the plot.

One of my favourite things about Cornwell is her attention to detail and the authenticity she is able to bring to her novels. It is clear that Cornwell has had experience in the forensic field, with her time working in the office of the Virginian Chief Medical Examiner, and in-depth research into forensic technologies allowing her to create novels that ooze realism.

Despite being the 22nd novel in the series, ‘Flesh and Blood’ can be read as a stand-alone novel. However I would encourage you to start at the beginning so you can truly appreciate the dynamics between the characters as well as experience the apprehension and foreboding Cornwell creates as the team try to uncover who the murderer is before one of them becomes the next victim.

Ending with a cliff hanger, ’Flesh and Blood’ was a compelling and anticipative read. ‘Flesh and Blood’ is an undeniably brilliant edition to an enthralling series.

the-wrath-and-the-dawn

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, with a slight fantasy twist and a few delicious romantic moments.

the-wrath-and-the-dawnI am a huge admirer of anything with an ancient Arabian flavour, and especially A Thousand and One Nights. I’m not sure why, but I possibly owe it to Bugs Bunny, perhaps to Rimsky-Korsakov, or just to the romance of it all, although it’s not so romantic to be forced to tell stories all night to forestall your own execution!

In a close retelling of the original tale, the Caliph of Khorasan found out that his first wife was unfaithful to him, so afterwards he takes a new bride each night, then has her killed at dawn. Shahrzad volunteers as the Caliph Khalid Ibn al-Rashid’s next wife, telling him a story each night with a vague plan to get revenge on him for the murder of her friend Shiva. But what if Khalid wasn’t the monster he appears to be, but is forced to carry out the murders for some other reason?

I think what I loved the most about this story was the richness of the setting. The palace and its marble rooms, the descriptions of the clothes and the food – oh my god, the food. It’s all beautifully written, and while occasionally felt almost too descriptive, the story never slowed down at all. The characters are also excellent, with Shahrzad being a fearless and determined fighter and secondary characters like the handmaiden Despina and the Captain of the Guard Jalal having important roles as well. There’s also a touch of magic outside of the tales, although it doesn’t play much of a role just yet.

In the original Thousand and One Nights, the Caliph eventually falls in love with Shahrzad and spares her life after her stories are finished. This retelling speeds things up so that Khalid and Shahrzad fall in love with hardly any development in their relationship. Khalid is still a “monster” who killed all those women, but she just can’t help herself from falling for him. That, plus the fact that there is hardly any actual story-telling from Shahrzad within this book, means that I only went for four stars instead of five – I would have loved more of that. I really did enjoy Renée Ahdieh’s writing though, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The Wrath and the Dawn would actually work as a rather tragic stand-alone novel, but the fact that there is a sequel coming (The Rose and the Dagger, May 2016) means that the story is not over – there is hope for a happy ending after all

For more epic & sumptuous stories like The Wrath and The Dawn, check out the Coop’s range of romance novels

sacred-lives-of-minnow-bly-high-res

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

It’s been a while since I’ve read a YA book that grabs you by the shoulders, sits you down, puts a big mug of tea in your hand and very clearly says “You are staying here for HOURS to read this book”.sacred-lives-of-minnow-bly-high-resThe Sacred

Lies of Minnow Bly is that book. It’s a debut YA novel from Stephanie Oakes and it is really quite a tour de force. The writing is so beautiful, descriptive and evocative. Oakes muses on the concept of justice (both poetic and legal), free will, religion (evidence for, corruption of, finding and losing) while presenting a heroine who learns to claim back her identity and freedom.

Minnow Bly is 17, the only survivor of a religious cult that has burned to the ground in the woods of Montana. Minnow has grown up, confined to the “Kevinian’ cult led by a cruel and insane ‘Prophet’ who takes her identity and, when she refuses to marry him, her hands. Isolated, uneducated, but with a thirst for freedom, Minnow has always questioned her world and longed to return to the real world outside of the cult. When she tries to escape, she is punished cruelly. But there is nothing that will stop Minnow from surviving.

This book is dark. Like any fairy-tale, the darkness at it’s core, and the way it breaks to the surface will give you chills. The writing is amazing, but the story is brutal. From the first page we learn the Minnow has had her hands chopped off as punishment, that she escaped a cult, that she hurt a stranger so badly she is thrown into juvenile detention. The story shifts between Minnow’s current life in prison, where she is adjusting to the odd ‘freedom’,  her friendship with her cellmate Angel, her exploration of religion and education; and the past, which she relates to the FBI agent investigating the murder of the prophet and destruction of the community and the loss of her friend Jude. The agent investigating the fire slowly draws the truth of her life out of Minnow and we slowly piece together the events that led to the explosive end of the cult and Minnow’s break for freedom.

I was so amazed by this book and by the author’s talent! The strength of the writing, the mastery of language is something that keeps that the suspense high and the pages turning. This book was so hard to put down! There was some pretty horrific, gory bits in the first half of the book though, definitely launching it into the thriller genre. But when the horror is countered against the almost dead-pan, wry commentary of prison life, and Minnow’s inimitable voice, it just adds to all the reasons you won’t be able to put this book down.

This story is brutal and heart breaking but you will be recommending it to everyone. Minnow is an amazing new heroine for the YA genre and Stephanie Oakes is certainly a new author to watch. Her next novel, The Arsonist is due for 2016.

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