Rosie Reviews: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson by Richard Patterson

Jack the Ripper

Title: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson

Author: Richard Patterson

Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Goodreads First Reads

Review

Most of us have heard of Jack the Ripper – the almost demonic presence which haunted London in 1888. Jack the Ripper was someone who was never caught, but speculation over their identity remains to this day, capturing the attention of countless, some even devoting their lives to the mystery. In this book, Richard Patterson introduces a new suspect into the fold, building on an article published by Dr. Rupp who first suggested this person in an article on the centenary of the murders in 1988.

Francis Thompson was born into a Catholic family, the son of a doctor, who failed to get into priesthood and went through Medical school 3 times, but failed to be become a doctor himself. Before long, he was addicted to laudanum and living on the streets of London. He was destitute, living with a prostitute. That is, until he came to the attention of the Meynells, publishers to whom he had submitted some essays and poetry. Mid-1888, on discovering Francis’ work published by them, the prostitute ended their relationship and disappeared. In the period of the Jack the Ripper murders, Francis is living in Whitechapel, searching for this prostitute. A few days after the final murder, he is admitted to hospital before being sent to an all-male hospice.

In Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson, the author examines each piece of evidence, from aspects of Francis Thompson’s life to the words in his poetry. The case he presents is commendable and compelling, although relies heavily on circumstantial evidence. While the who and the opportunity is heavily explored and fairly convincing, where the book falls flat is the motive. Patterson does try to explore why Thompson might have become the Ripper, but none of the possible motives felt particularly convincing to me.

That being said, the book is thorough in what it contains, examining different facets of the theory and backing up hypotheses with evidence, albeit that evidence mostly coming in the form of poetry. Regular summaries are provided, so you gradually get a build-up of the various layers in the tale that Patterson is trying to get across. It is an interesting read and, while I was note entirely convinced, it is certainly a book for anyone interested in the mystery that is Jack the Ripper.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34385855-jack-the-ripper-the-works-of-francis-thompson

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Jack-the-Ripper-the-Works-of-Francis-Thompson-Richard–Patterson/9781786934499?a_aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: Godblind by Anna Stephens

Godblind

Title: Godblind

Author: Anna Stephens

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

Intense, captivating and powerful; Godblind is the fantastic debut fantasy from author Anna Stephens. It is a novel that is filled to the brim with war, political intrigue and gods, capturing a number of different themes from free will to feminism, but all within the threads of the novel. It is set in a world where the Red Gods have been exiled and their people cast out, but now revenge is on the horizon and no-one can escape the call of the Gods.

Plot

I will admit, I really was not sure about this book when I began. The contents page told me that it would be told from a large number of character perspectives. The first page was full of so much world-building, it was near-impossible to take in. Yet, once the book got going, the daunting beginning turned into something which took you elsewhere, to the world within the pages. The multiple points of view worked well in creating a rounded narrative which both increased the intensity of the story and showed how a war can be fought on multiple fronts, with multiple perspectives.

My main gripe with the novel was the pacing, or rather the effect the pacing had on my reading experience. The pacing itself was perfect – it kept the novel moving and successfully navigated the balance between action and breathers. However, it also convinced me that I was reading a stand-alone novel. So much happened and it felt like Godblind was rounding up to a brilliant conclusion, and then the cliff-hangers began. This novel is not, as I first thought, a stand-alone fantasy novel, but rather the first in a series. The series, I have no doubt, will be brilliant, but it was such a frustrating ending to have gone through so much with the characters and then not have any conclusion at the end.

Characters

As I mentioned, this book features a lot of characters, both POV and secondary characters. This did concern me when I first started as I find that having too many character perspectives can be confusing and a bit of a turn off but Anna Stephens handles this beautifully. Each one has their own story-line, but at no point does it ever feel like the characters are there for no reason. Everything is inter-connected and every character feels integral to the plot. I also particularly enjoyed how even the more villainous characters got their own perspective, showing their motivations and how there are not just two sides to the war.

The Gods themselves are particularly intriguing. We only really see the Dark Lady in close detail, but it was fascinating to see her bring all her pieces into play, in her attempt to achieve her goals. The Gods’ interactions with the other characters was interesting to read, particularly as it made you question who really was in control at times.

World/Setting

The world in this book is phenomenal. Despite a rough start of intense world-building, it settles down quite quickly and the world begins to gradually rise around you as you read. The different character perspectives allow you to see a large number of different places and lifestyles of the world Anna Stephens has created and it is a fascinating one.

The cultures for both the Rilporians and the Mireces are well established, especially how their cultures have been built up around the traits of their gods. The interaction between the Gods and the mortals also added another layer to the novel, particularly with the similarities and differences between the worship of the Red Gods and the Rilporian Gods. I just wish I’d had a map, just to be able to better picture the distances and where the towns and cities were in relation to one another.

Final Thoughts

If you are to read any fantasy novel this year, this should be near the top of your list. It was unlike any fantasy book I’ve read recently and stood out to me both in story and writing. I do wish I had known it was the first in a series when I was reading it as the ended was a bit disappointing for me, especially since I’m going to have to wait so long for the sequel, but everything else worked brilliantly. Godblind is a fantastic novel and a remarkable debut.

Godblind will be released on the 15th June 2017.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32072924-godblind

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Godblind-Ann-Stephens/9781945863066?a=aidrosienreads

The Books I Read in May 2017

May was a pretty dreadful reading month for me – I found myself in one of the largest reading slumps I have been in for a while and just not in the mood to read. As a result, I only managed to read three books in May.

There are two reasons for this slump and both of them are the books I read. The first of these, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, as the one that was particularly instrumental in removing my desire to read. It took all my power to actually finish reading this book and is the one book that has actually made me really question my resolve to finish every book I pick up, regardless of quality. Essentially, I just found this book insanely dull and could not see the point of it. The book itself alternates between incredibly materialistic descriptions which exemplify Bateman’s obsession with wealth and status, and very vivid descriptions of the torture and murders of all Bateman’s victims. While the latter should have, at least, held some interest, there was no substance to it at all and just came across as an attempt to shock. It did not help that I actually listened to it as an audiobook and, while the narrator was part of the reason I was able to keep going with this novel, it is unlikely to be a book I will ever read again. That being said, I am tempted to watch the film and see how that takes the book and converts to a visual format.

The second book which contributed to the slump was How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott. It is slightly ironic that a book about productivity stopped me being as productive with my reading, but there are, again, to reasons for this. This first is that this book is non-fiction. It always takes me longer to read non-fiction and this book, in particular, took about three weeks to read. The second is that this book contains exercises and methods to include productivity so, while reading, I found myself more interested in putting the methods into practice and working through the book than reading other books as well. That being said, while it did get in the way of my reading, I do highly recommend this book if you want to get on top of work and life and reduce any related stress. It is easy to read and reads as something that is just there to help and guide rather than instruct.

Towards the end of the month, I started to get out of the reading slump and started and finished my favourite book of the month. Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh is a young adult fantasy novel about the daughter of a samurai who, undercover, joins the people who tried to kill her in order to find out why and restore honour to her family (there are a lot of Mulan parallels as well). In the end, I finished this book and instantly wanted to pick it up again (I still do). For a longer review of this book, click here.

It was a fairly mixed month of reading, although I am feeling a little bit more confident about this month’s reading – not least because I have started reading Godblind by Anna Stephens and am loving it so far. Fingers crossed I will be able to read and enjoy a lot more books in June!

In summary, the books I did read in May are below with their ratings. For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – 2/5

How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott- 4/5

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh – 4.5/5

Rosie Reviews: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist

Title: Flame in the Mist

Author: Renée Ahdieh

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

Flame in the Mist is the story of Mariko, a girl who wants more than the role society has given her, who wants to do things on her own terms while still being honourable. She is also a girl who, in order to defend her family’s honour, goes running into deep, magical forest in search of the people who tried to kill her. Her path is one of confusion, both of the heart and mind, as well as one of magic, warriors and identity.

Plot

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It bares many similarities to Mulan, with its own twist on the tale (predictably so, since it’s set in Japan). The plot is one of surprises and, while there was the odd twist I could guess, there were plenty that left me surprised and ready for more. While the prologue was amazing and really drew me in, I found Mariko’s story-line slow to start off with. That being said, once it got going, it really got going. The only part which didn’t work for me was the big romance scene – this just came out of nowhere and felt like it was only in the book for the sake of being in the book.

Characters

Mariko is a phenomenal lead in this novel – she is cleaver, stubborn, conflicted and endearing. She makes plenty of mistakes and, no matter whose side you happen to be on at various points in the novel, above all, you want her to come out on top. Unfortunately, the other characters did not have quite the same impact. We’re only introduced to a small number of other characters, which does fit with the tones of the novel nicely. However, of them only Okami and Kenshin makes any real impact, and that’s only towards the end. This does work in the sense of them slowly developing as characters and becoming more complex than Mariko’s initial opinions of them, however it did make them difficult to connect to at the beginning of the novel.

I also feel like, as interesting as the other characters are, I did not get to see enough of them for them to make a lingering impression. This was particularly so with Ranmaru – we got hints of a fun, intriguing character, but not enough to make him feel real. I also wish we could have seen more of the Black Clan members as, aside from Okami, we only really get to know three of the others which reduced the idea of the clan being akin to a family for me.

World/Setting

Characters aside, this world is amazing. Set in feudal Japan, it incorporates Japanese history and custom with fantasy elements, creating a world that completely draws you in. Some of my favourite parts where when we really get to see the magical elements in action and Ahdieh describes these all beautifully. My only wish was to have seen more of it towards the beginning of the novel as, when we do start seeing the magic later on, it does feel a little out of nowhere.

Final Thoughts

While there were parts of the novel that did not quite work for me, the rest of it more than made up for any issues I did have. The book was simply an incredibly enjoyable read – it required no effort on my part and I was just drawn into the story. Ahdieh has a writing style that is perfect for weaving images in your head and getting to read a novel with strong feminist themes and a brilliant female lead just made me enjoy the book more. I cannot wait for the second book in this duology – Flame in the Mist has raised a few questions which I would really like answered and ended on a couple of cliff-hangers. I would really recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of Mulan, or just want a stunning cover on your book case.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23308087-flame-in-the-mist

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Flame-in-the-Mist-Renee-Ahdieh/9781473664425?aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

Dunstan

Title: Dunstan

Author: Conn Iggulden

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

Dunstan is a historical novel which demonstrates Conn Iggulden’s mastery of words. It takes a saint and makes him human and weaves an intriguing tale from the threads of history.

Plot

This novel follows Dunstan from childhood all the way to being an old man who had seen seven kings on the throne in his lifetime. As records from the time period are sparse, the novel does take some artistic license in what it describes; each addition or change really helps build the character of Dunstan that Iggulden wants to portray as well as moving the story along.

While it does take a while for the story to get going at the start, as we’re still being introduced to the characters, getting used to the world through the pages and watching Dunstan grow into adulthood, it is once Dunstan gets his first taste of power that this novel really takes off. The second half is so full of political intrigue, scheming and changes in kings that it made for quite gripping reading.

Characters

The strangest part of this book for me was that I both enjoyed reading about the main character, Dunstan, while also disliking him as a person. He is extremely misogynistic, manipulative and arrogant, caring mostly for his own personal advancement. Yet, there are glimpses of kindness in him, of guilt and sorrow that take the edge off of that hatred; it also helps that those he surrounds himself with are really likable. How Conn Iggulden has written Dunstan here is a lesson in writing complex characters and it helped make me see this figurehead as simply human.

Dunstan is the only character which remains throughout the novel; even his brother Wulfric dips in and out, so we only see glimpses of him from time to time. The other characters are there for such fleeting moments, yet each one stands solid and present in my mind’s eye. Despite their short presence in the novel, you really get the sense of how each one impacted Dunstan and of their own characters as well.

World/Setting

The world-building also added an extra layer of depth to the novel. By the end of the novel I was convinced that I could simply step back through history and understand what awaited me there. The only times where I struggled were at the abbey when Dunstan was a child and whenever the novel moved around the country. I really could have done with a map during those latter sections as I found it really difficult to picture how far or how close these places were. That being said, I was reading on my kindle so I’m not entirely sure a map would have been much help at all.

Final Thoughts

The more I think about it, the more I enjoyed Dunstan. I will admit, I was worried in the first half – I found Dunstan dislikable and there was little else for me to grab onto then; everything else was still setting up and I had not got to know the other characters yet. But, after having read the rest, that first section is really important for making sure future events make sense and it all takes on a lot more meaning. Conn Iggulden’s writing is beautiful; it’s a novel which I think would be a delight to listen to as an audiobook, if simply just from the writing. In all fairness, I would probably buy this book just for the writing ability, but the story within the pages really helps make it shine.

Dunstan is out now.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32510568-dunstan

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Dunstan-Conn-Iggulden/9780718181444/?aid=rosienreads

 

 

Rosie Reviews: Knights of the Borrowed Dark / The Forever Court by Dave Rudden

Title: Knights of the Borrowed Dark / The Forever Court

Author: Dave Rudden

Publisher: Puffin

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

The Knights of the Borrowed Dark

Knights of the Borrowed Dark is a novel which constantly takes you by surprise. It takes a storyline we’ve all heard before – an orphan boy discovers he’s part of a secret, magical world – and turns it inside out. Rather than being met with wonder, Denizen is thrown into a magical war that is unforgiving, dangerous and deadly.

Denizen discovers the world is plagued by shadowy monsters, Tenebrous, who thrive on fear and chaos. Only a small group of people have the power to push against these creatures, and it comes with a Cost, one that cannot be undone. Rudden is incredibly creative with how he depicts this, particularly in the Tenebrous themselves; each one is unique and, with that, they step up from being a two-dimensional enemy to a very much present and complex one.

The writing is the perfect balance for a middle grade novel. It captures the world that Denizen finds himself in perfectly, yet in a way that is easy to read and absorb. There were so many twists and turns while the pacing kept me griped to the novel. That being said, it does get dark in places so younger children (and some older ones too, for that matter) may find it a little bit scary.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark kicks off this series with a bang and, with what this book demonstrates of Rudden’s creativity and writing skill, the sequels are going to be equally as thrilling, if not more so. This book wraps up well but leaves plenty more for us readers to get our noses into later on; and it’s a book which will keep you thinking about it even when you’re not reading.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34844398-knights-of-the-borrowed-dark

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Knights-of-the-Borrowed-Dark-Dave-Rudden/9780141356600/?a_aid=rosienreads

The Forever Court

I am not sure what I was expecting when I started the sequel to Knights of the Borrowed Dark, but after reading The Forever Court, whatever I was expecting was surpassed, trodden on and forgotten.

The Forever Court takes what we learnt in the first book and expands it, twists it into something deeper and more complex. I cannot say too much about the plot, for fear of spoiling previous events, but this book sees a new villain arise, one more terrifying than the Tenebrous we see in Knights of the Borrowed Dark and all the more human. Denizen also continues his ventures into the world of the Knights and, in the process, opens it up to the reader.

Where Knights of the Borrowed Dark works as a set up to the series, The Forever Court takes that foundation and steadily builds upon it. Everything we see is developed in an organic manner – nothing felt forced and the more fantastical elements were nicely integrated into the realistic aspects of the story.

I really liked the addition of the Croits; they were easily my favourite part of the book and I could barely tear my nose away from the page during their chapters. They expanded what we knew of the Knights and Tenebrous while also introducing a sinister cult family element. The Croits’ storyline paralleled nicely with Denizen’s and this kept the pace of the book going while keeping my own interest firmly in place.

If you enjoyed the first book, you will love The Forever Court. It does everything a sequel is supposed to and steps far away from the dangers second novels usually come up against. I am very much looking forward to what the next book has to offer and am only disappointed that I will have to wait so long to read it

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30287713-the-forever-court

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Forever-Court-Dave-Rudden/9780141356617/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

 

Tome Topple April 2017 – Wrap Up

The last two weeks have played host to the Tome Topple Readathon. This is a readathon in which readers take on the big books, the long books and the all-round daunting books on their book cases. Any book goes, so long as it’s over 500 page and isn’t a bind-up.

As someone with over 150 books on my to-read list, 106 of which are physical copies, this was a chance for me to actually clear some space on my to-read bookcase, and take on the books that do take longer to read.

I posted my TBR for the readathon back when it first started, so now I’m going to talk about the books I managed to read in my two weeks of dedicated big-book reading, and a bit about the experience of it.

So, to start off with, the two weeks turned out to not be as dedicated to big books as I would have liked. I started and completed only one book which was over 500 pages in the course of those two weeks, completed two other previously-started books (only one of which was 500+ pages), started and finished a 200-odd page book, while also starting and getting most of the way through a 700-page book.

In clearer form, the two weeks started off with a bang. I decided to start with Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor as it was top of my list with regards to anticipated books of 2017, and just sounded amazing. It did not disappoint. From the beginning I was captivated, the words flowed and the pages seemed to turn themselves. I read most of this book in the first few days then, unfortunately, work and Easter happened, and I only managed to finish it at the beginning of the second week. Still, slipping back into the story was incredibly easy and I finished the book in one sitting. It received a resounding 5/5 stars from me.

As Strange the Dreamer was not only a tome, but a hard-back as well, I ended up reading two other books while travelling on both the work commute and also on the train home for Easter. The first of these was The Forever Court by Dave Rudden, which I had started reading before the readathon began and is the sequel the Knights of the Borrowed Dark. I did not have much of the book left to read (much to my disappointment) and finished it in the first few days of the readathon, giving it 4.5/5 stars.

After finishing The Forever Court, I moved onto New Boy by Tracy Chevalier (the review for which you can find here). New Boy provided a nice break for the fantasy theme of the week and was a very enjoyable read, even if it was retelling of a Shakespearean tragedy – 4/5.  Both of these were read on my kindle and neither of which met the criteria for the readathon as they were both under 500 pages long.

The next book I finished, however, did meet the criteria and so became my second tome to topple. This was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Admittedly, I did start this book before the readathon began and I was listening to it as an audiobook, but I’m going to say it counts. I was determined to finish this book before the television adaption was released and finish it I did. As with New Boy, this received 4/5 stars.

The majority of the books mentioned above were completed in the first week of the readathon and, for those that weren’t, most of the reading was still done in that first week. After Easter weekend, I found myself in a bit of a reading slump with little energy to read. It was in this period that I read my final book of the readathon The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. I did start it at the beginning of Easter weekend and tore through the pages. On returning to my house, however, with 200 pages to go until the end, I found I was just too tired or not in the mood to read it. And so, in the final week of Tome Topple, I only read 100 of those pages, and I’m still working through the rest today. This was particularly disappointing, not just because I didn’t complete Tome Topple on a high, but also because I really enjoy the Scott Lynch’s books and have adored the previous two in this particular series. Unfortunately, I just ended up reading this book at the wrong time which has hampered my enjoyment a little.

So, that’s it for my Tome Topple wrap up. It started strongly, but I couldn’t keep the pace throughout the whole two weeks, not even with a bank holiday to read through. I did enjoy it for the most part, particularly having that little bit of extra incentive to read some of my larger books, especially as I have a few.  Hopefully, next time I will have a little more success!