From Afar

38824387

I was hoping to stumble across something different that would take me outside of my comfort zone, which after much searching I eventually did. From its synopsis, ‘From Afar’ came across as being an untypical romantic novel. Generally I tend to go out my way to avoid romance novels – not because I’m unromantic or anything; a good handful of my favourite movies come from Bollywood. After all, it’s insanely hard not to fall in love with the likes of ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, ‘Rab Ne Bana di Jodi’ and ‘Hum Apke Hai Kaun’ (just to name a few) – What could possibly top a good choreographed song and dance alongside a few clichés that never fail to tug on your heart strings? Oh, I seem to have strayed off the topic at hand… Anywho, this book seemed like a way to tentatively step outside my comfort zone.

The protagonist, Morgan, throughout the book comes across as cynical, condescending and shallow. There’s a constant undertone of skepticism about the existence of love that develops to cynicism. I honestly think Morgan was a confused chap who did not understand or even know what he wanted, all the while having contradicting thoughts. But this was not even the worst part – not by a long shot. Morgan is clearly one of those characters that have the audacity to whine and complain about situations that are perpetuated by their own blend of ignorance and stupidity. Moreover, he sneered at people for having faith in certain things (i.e. believing that if you light a candle, and it burns all the way down without the flame going out, your wish will come true) but then went along and did those things – what an utter hypocrite. A character full of flaws that underwent next to none development and became what can be termed as ‘a stalker’.

After reading it, plot wise it felt like nothing of significance had actually happened despite the book being more than 200 pages in length. Upon his journey, hardly anything (if anything at all) of significance had occurred – the book felt empty in that respect.

From the synopsis, it seemed like Morgan would meet some varied characters along the way, which to be fair he did. However, these encounters were pointless and led to nothing. All the characters were bland, possessing perhaps a teaspoon worth of personality collectively. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) it would have been far more enjoyable to encounter a variety of different characters that perhaps bestowed some sort of knowledge upon Morgan or had some impact, which would naturally lead somewhere. With respect to secondary characters, the only redeeming aspect was the presence of Sergey and Edgar.

“… what a conundrum Russia is. It’s a myriad of paradoxes really. It’s war and it’s love…”

Speaking of redeeming qualities of the book, another one was that the vivid descriptions of Russia intermingled with the historic element. Culture was also lighted alluded to in part. In doing so, an emerging contrast between the West and the East could be clearly seen which was amazing. It gave the illusion of actually being there in Russia. Some of the lines penned had a nice quality to them even though they had been penned in a very simplistic manner. Regardless there were quite a few errors in terms of spelling and spacing. The writing overall could have been slightly better. The origins of the title ‘From Afar’ was delightful to read about and probably one of the best bits of the whole book.

In a nutshell, ironically, much like the dating/bridal sites featured in this story, what I was promised and what I received, were somewhat two different things. The story had a lot of potential that was far from fulfilled; the author could have done so much more with the plot and the characters.

From London, With Love (see what I did there 😉)

Saz

A Warm Place to Call Home

18900303

After finishing ‘The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp’, I was very much eager to delve right back in to the world of demons. So without further ado, I snuggled up in bed, switched my phone to ‘do not disturb’ and promptly started reading ‘A Warm Place to Call Home’.

Just like ‘The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp’, this one did not fail to impress. The writing style was kept very much the same; the tone was light and again it felt more like a conversation rather than reading a book. Humor was thrown in, which would often make me snigger out loud.

The themes explored questioned the morality of Frederick’s choices, giving the book a much darker, thought-provoking element, which became more apparent in the later chapters. It was intriguing to see the different stances taken and the justifications provided for each. The whole story questions any preconceived ideas of demons and their connection to ‘evil’, compelling the reader to think outside the box.

“Ethos anthropos daimon. It means ‘character is fate’ or ‘your character is your daimon’… angel and demon! They meant the same thing before being translated: messenger of God…”

The plot progressed at a fast pace; the story was captivating all the way through. I honestly did not for a second see that twist coming towards the end, which was perhaps the best aspect of the book. For me, that was the true turning point. Whereas before, I had been turning the pages in a normal way, after coming across that specific part, I started to turn the pages in a somewhat frenzied manner, gulping down each word.

Frederick and Samuel’s personality were at complete polar ends to one another. Frederick was more the amoral, carefree, ‘don’t give a crap’ kind of demon. I’m not going to lie – at first Frederick came off as being downright creepy – something he later acknowledged himself (much to my surprise). Nonetheless, it became increasingly hard not to feel sympathetic and root for Frederick. He certainly was a loveable demon, with his blasé attitude. Frederick’s character development was simply astounding to say the least; it was a delight to uncover all his layers whilst seeing things from his point of view.

Basically, a brilliantly written book that is fresh and original, playing around with preconceived ideas, challenging the reader to leave their comfort zone entirely. Easily read this in one sitting. Looking forward to reading the next book in the series – ‘Frederick & Samuel’. 

Merry Christmas Eve!

Until next time folks,

Saz

The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp

18522635After having encountered bad luck in choosing my books the last couple of times, I was ecstatic to pick up and start reading this one. How could I possibly resist the concept of an entity placing themselves in someone else’s body, especially after loving ‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ and ‘The Lives of Tao’ series? This book could not have sounded more perfect and it certainly did not disappoint.

The writing style combined with the plot and overall characterization did not fail to impress in the slightest. Let’s start with the former and go from there. The book had been written in such a way that it felt like Samuel was literally sitting beside me, recounting his story over a mug of scrumptious hot chocolate. The tone was kept light and the writing flowed, entwining the past and present in an effortless manner.

The concept of demons was deliciously dark – one that was both intriguing in of itself and brought to light thought provoking questions through philosophy. The idea of demons was played around with, quickly forcing any previous conceptions to be erased. It was explored in detail but also left an air of mystery, making it rather obvious that the whole concept had been carefully thought out.

“…Or did the sin even need to occur beforehand? What if time is only visible to us, and God sees all time – past, present and future? Could one be punished for decisions they would later make?”

Despite the plot progressing at a somewhat slow pace, it was incredibly fascinating to have brief glimpses of Samuel’s past lives, adding more depth to Samuel himself. When the plot reached the main arc, the pace started to pick up and a sense of eminent danger was thrown in, providing an exhilarating adventure. Having said that, there were a couple of instances where I tentatively questioned the story. The first one was the number of sex scenes coupled with the abundant mentions of Samuel’s ‘manhood’. Call me a prude, but I honestly questioned whether every instance was all that necessary. The other issue was the way Samuel handled his relationship with Eileen. To me, I just could not understand the decisions (or lack of) he took.

Frankly, it took me quite a while to wrap my head around Gregor’s motives. Even now thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure I fully understand; it feels like I may just be clutching at straws trying to make sense of it. Perhaps this was left slightly ambiguous on purpose? Despite my confusion, I was literally holding my breath as I read the climax, rereading each sentence and actually gasping in shock.

“You are in the middle of the situation and therefore yet have to obtain hindsight. And, in your case, foresight does not appear to be well-honed. You’re in the middle.”

Samuel was an extremely likeable protagonist – he was thoughtful, caring and moral. Ironically, there were a handful of instances where Samuel was very much human in his emotions and relationships. The way Samuel’s voice came through the narrative and his complex nature was skillfully handled. The other main characters and their respective relationships were nicely portrayed.

In a nutshell, this was an amazing book that captivated me. Everything was on point, despite a couple of minor hiccups. Although the narrative voice was kept light, there were some darker undertones present, making it all the more an intriguing read.

Laters Alligator,

Saz

The pessimist sees a tunnel. The optimist sees a light at the end of the tunnel. The realist sees a train… The train engineer sees three idiots on the railway track.

The Innocent Wife

A1jT79LLawLSo after the sister had ditched ‘The Key’, she merrily announced that she had the next book for us to read together lined up and waiting. Of course, at this point I was still reading the fore mentioned book due to that compulsive feeling of not leaving a book after investing so much time in to it. Fast forward a couple of days later and there I was, lamenting over my disappointment. However this only fuelled my desire to find a satisfying read. After reading the synopsis of ‘The Innocent Wife’. I was definitely intrigued and therefore agreed to read it. Amusingly (more so for her than me) she once again ditched having calculated the (yeah you guessed it) opportunity cost. To be completely honest, it crossed my mind several times to just leave it and move on. Unfortunately, by the time I had steeled myself to abandon the book, I realised with a sinking feeling that I was already more than half way through whereby the need to finish it took over, shoving the extortionate opportunity cost out the window alongside all reason. Upon finishing this book, disappointment mingled with chagrin came in floods.

The glacial pace of the plot coupled with a bunch of two-dimensional unlikable characters failed to thrill me. Let’s start with the former. More than half the book was a complete snoozefest. I understand taking it slow to build up the setting and atmosphere but this just took the cake. Being optimistic to the point of foolishness, I kept thinking that it would soon pick up, or at least something would happen. Alas, this was not the case until about just over two thirds of the book where everything seemed to happen all at once. To be fair, small suggestions of doubt over Dennis’ innocence were dropped throughout, however these were far off from being tantalising enough to compensate for the sluggish pace. While we’re on the topic of the plot, I would just like to point out that the multiple animal cruelty scenes were somewhat unnecessary; their absence would not have made a shadow of a difference to the main plot. Additionally, there were no real twists or even surprises even though I had heard otherwise. Finally we come to the ending. It was left rather open, and there seemed to be a chapter missing in between the last one and the epilogue. Ambiguous is probably the best word to encapsulate the ending perfectly.

You know, a slow plot I could have easily dealt with if it wasn’t for Samantha’s incessant whinging. Samantha was perhaps the most passive protagonist I’ve ever come across. Her internal monologues started to get mind numbingly repetitive. The other characters were no better. The lack of complexity and development was downright shocking. The relationships between the characters were rather strange and at times forced. I never did really understand why Samantha was attracted to Dennis in the first place. But maybe that’s just me being dense. And then there was Dennis – his character felt like it was all over the place. I can’t really say much else about the characters without giving away spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that. The writing as well was nothing to rave about, so you can’t even say that perhaps that redeemed the book.

So basically, I should have just left this book when I first started to question whether it was worth continuing. Instead, I foolishly doubted myself and continued along the road of disappointment. I have only myself to blame. But to summarise, an extremely bland characters amidst a slow moving plot to say the least. Personally, I would steer well clear of this one.

Happy Reading,

Saz

P.S. My friend and I often laugh about how competitive we are. But I laugh more.

The Key

51s2qol25ql-_sx325_bo1204203200_

Once again the sister asked if I was game to do a book read along together. I must admit, I was rather intrigued by the book she had chosen and so without further ado, I acquiesced. For the record, she ditched the book approximately 40% of the way through (apparently the opportunity cost was far too high, nor was the book worth it). I, on the other hand managed to finish it, which could very possibly be attributed to my compulsive inability to leave a book unfinished. (A book really has to be a pile of utter drivel for me to up and ditch). Anyhow, getting back to the main point at hand – here is what I thought of it.

The concept of duel timelines that ultimately come together has always captivated me. This book by all means was no different. The shifting between past and present worked very nicely as did the different point of views that were presented throughout. Nonetheless there was something lacking in the writing. The narrative would suddenly jump with no explanation, which seemed a little sloppy. Take this short exchange as an example – ‘… save for a stray strand that hung down the middle of her forehead. She attempted to blow it out of the way as she wiped her hands down her apron. “I’m Doctor Lambourn and you are Student Nurse Crosby, I believe.” He held onto her sweaty palm, amused…’ See what I mean?! It’s jumped straight from her wiping her hands, to him suddenly holding  them. In that sense, the writing was a little odd. There were a few instances of this throughout the book.

I felt no connection with any of characters at all. The only feeling I had was a strong dislike towards Sister Atkins. Due to the plot plodding along, I soon lost all interest in the mystery aspect as well as caring what would become of the protagonists. Sadly it came to a point where I was reading for the sake of being finished with the book (and able to move on to my next read) rather than for the pure undiluted enjoyment of reading. The ‘twists’ and surprises were predictable, all of which I was able to guess.

In all fairness, there were a couple of rather emotional moments. This book did raise the question of when exactly does someone cross the line between sanity and insanity; is the line even as clear-cut as we imagine? It was devastating to read about how mental health was treated within society back then. Admittedly, at times it got too much for me; the so-called treatment was downright inhumane; the way they were spoken to and generally treated was just barbaric.

Overall, objectively it was a good book. However due to the plot moving at an incredibly slow pace, with nothing happening except day-to-day events, coupled with the absence of forming a connection with the characters, the pleasure of reading was completely lost. As a result, finishing the story became a cumbersome task. Reflecting back, I can honestly say if it weren’t for the need I have to finish books, I too would have ended up ditching.

Happy Reading,

Saz

Pasta, Pinot & Murder

51nuuurqmmlMore than anything, it was the title that captured my attention; it had combined two of my favourite things together – food and a murder mystery (unfortunately I’m not sophisticated enough to drink wine – I’m more of a vodka shots kind of girl 😋) . Besides, after finishing all the ‘Poirot’ books penned both by Agatha Christie and Sophie Hannah, a new cozy murder mystery was exactly what I was after.

Something about Willa just didn’t gel well with me. The way Willa’s voice came across was a tad irritating and seemed to grate on me. Moreover, rather than actually investigating anything, she was practically snooping around, being a nosy busybody. Moreover, she literally jumped from suspect to suspect just because they had come in to contact with the victim. There was no proper in depth reasoning; it was all rather superficial in a sense.

For example, Willa’s reasoning went something like this “Oh Hattie had an argument with Alice the morning she was killed. Hattie has quite a temper (which is just my opinion) so therefore may have killed her in a fit of rage. I’m gonna totally disregard the fact that they’ve been friends for years and it is quite unlikely that she would have killed her. Yes she’s going to be my number one suspect for the time being, despite all this until someone else comes in to the picture”. It just didn’t make sense – it was literally having suspects for the sake of it.

Plus, I felt like the majority of the book was unrealistic to a high degree. Firstly, I doubt a sheriff would be inclined to share information regarding an ongoing murder investigation with a member of the public. Secondly, why are people actually answering the inappropriate questions Willa is asking when she has barely anything to do with these people? It just didn’t seem plausible that someone would divulge intimate details of their life to someone who is not even close to you.

There was something missing in terms of the characters; they were not properly developed. Yet, this may not have been surprising due to the length of the novel. The plot moved at an extremely fast pace, with the mystery being rather straightforward with less than a handful of ‘real’ suspects.

Having said that, the location and the whole food theme was a brilliant touch. It made the mystery more enjoyable and at times reminded me slightly of ‘Monsieur Pamplemousse’. Attaching a couple of recipes at the end was delightful – I have to say, I’m quite excited to try them out.

Overall, I was disappointed. The mystery was too straightforward with a disappointing number of suspects. Despite this, it was the portrayal of Willa’s character that took out the enjoyment of reading this particular book. Due to this, I highly doubt I’ll be continuing on with the series.

Happy Reading,

Saz