The Naturalist (The Naturalist #1) by Andrew Mayne

naturalistAlthough I do like to read some murder/mystery stories they’re not my usual ‘go to’ books and I admit I would have completely overlooked The Naturalist if not for such a glowing review over at The Bibliosanctum.  I’m so glad that I read this.  It’s a fast paced, thrilling story with a very unusual and prolific serial killer and a lot of forensic amateur detecting.  I just loved it.  It held me rapt from the prologue to the straight-out-of-the-stalls action that commenced from Chapter 1 and didn’t let up until the finale.  What a great read.  Okay, maybe you could pick holes in it if you really wanted, there are certainly some very over the top scenes, but for me it was fascinating, it was thrilling, I loved the concept and in fact the whole notion of the serial killer here is seriously a little (okay a lot) scary.

The story begins with the death of a young woman.  Professor Theo Cray is paid a visit by the police to ‘help with their enquiries’.  The fact that he knew the victim (she was a former student) and was randomly in the same part of the country at the same time doesn’t sit to well with them and things are going badly for the Professor until the cause of death is confirmed as an animal attack.  Feeling terrible guilt at not having prepared his former student better for such forays into the wild the professor begins to examine the details a bit more thoroughly, initially to assuage his own misplaced feelings, but then to dig deeper when he starts to find things that just don’t add up.

I won’t go further into the plot because I think that if you’re anything like me you should go into this with as few clues as possible as this will allow the story to take you down the route of red herrings and jumped-to-conclusions.  I think at the end of the day, when you’re reading a mystery story you’re always trying to second guess the outcome, it’s just natural isn’t it?  You want to be able to pat yourself on the back and gloat (even if just to yourself) at how clever you are for guessing correctly.  Well, there was no back patting for me here.  I was constantly kept on my toes, I had the wrong end of the stick more than once and I’m pleased to say that this story jumped about in directions that I would never have anticipated.

So, if I’m not going to tell you about the plot what am I going to tell you about, you might well ask? All about Professor Theo Cray who is a very entertaining protagonist indeed.  Cray is  a computational biologist.  Yeah, I had no idea what that was to be frank.  Basically let’s just say he’s a clever cookie.  I’m sure he spends a lot of his time looking at microbes and other things that would be meaningless to me but that really play a big part in this story.  The real thing with Cray is that he’s not a people person.  He doesn’t really relate well to others and is missing that particular ‘gene’ that gives him the ability to socialise, mingle or make small talk.  He’s this incredibly straight forward, no nonsense, look at the facts and follow the clues type of guy and more than that he’s like a dog with a bone once he’s onto something.  Tenacious and almost Holmes like in his ability to come up with the most random things to analyse.  He’s not always his own best friend.  He walks right into dangerous situations and sometimes seems to be talking his way into a prison cell and a life sentence and to be honest, his sometimes cold and analytical way of looking at things definitely makes you look at him askew, it certainly seemed to make him into a prime suspect in the eyes of the police.

Cray is a great character to read about.  Even if some of his deductions are a little bit of a stretch of the imagination he makes for entertaining reading as he takes you on an obsessive chase across America looking for bodies.  The scientific theories that he comes up with seem so plausible that you can’t help wondering why some of them aren’t seriously adopted, particularly the way that he analyses data to make predictions.  And he takes us to some interesting places indeed.  Small backwater towns that have suffered decline and the rise of crime as a result.  Places where you feel that the professor is in danger just because he’s so naive about people and lets be honest, he’s turning stones over here and when you turn over stones, you sometimes find things that creep about.

I can’t really tell you much more.  I don’t suppose this is the most eloquent of reviews because I seem to become tongue tied when I really want to praise something.  Why does it feel so much easier to be critical.  Anyway, I don’t have any criticisms for the Naturalist.  It was, simply, a book that I couldn’t put down.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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November : My Month in Review

Posted On 3 December 2017

Filed under Book Reviews
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Tonight is a supermoon.  Tried to get a good shot of it but it didn’t work out too well so apologies.  This month has been good.  I’m speeding ahead with my SPFBO books – I should have my winner picked out very soon.  I’ve managed to read 9 books this month.  Currently reading Cruel Prince by Holly Black which has started very well.  And, in other news I seem to have suddenly become addicted to Pokemon Go – why? Just why – I resisted it all this time but then….

Books read: 

  1. The Nine by Tracy Townsend
  2. Artemis by Andy Weir
  3. The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty
  4. The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne
  5. Kill Creek by Scott Thomas
  6. The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen
  7. The Saga of Dirt and Poncho
  8. Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
  9. War Witch by Layla Nash

As you can see, a few reviews yet to follow.

What’ve you been reading??

My covers are here.

Backlist books

None this month.

Unfinished series completed:

None this month.

Books Bought: (I may have gone a little bit over the top again this month, but in my defence these books were, mostly, in a too-good-to-be-true sale – never look a gift horse in the mouth and anyway, no need to defend buying books I always think):

  1. Runemarks by Joanne Harris
  2. Horns by Joe Hill
  3. Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
  4. Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
  5. Red Queen by Christina Henry
  6. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  7. The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley
  8. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
  9. The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
  10. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
  11. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King

Okay – so I do feel a bit sheepish looking at all those books – but I couldn’t help it and the last two were audio credits.  Feast your eyes on these lovelies.

Review Books:

  1. The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan
  2. The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) by Holly Black
  3. Paris Adrift by E J Swift
  4. The Crow Road by Iain Banks (Anniversary Edition)
  5. Kill Creek by Scott Thomas
  6. The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson
  7. Mister Tender’s Girl by Carter Wilson
  8. The Feed by Nick Clark Windo
  9. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Follow the spiders? Follow the spiders?

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It’s time once again to go Tough Travelling with Fantasy Faction,  On the first day of each month, with a pre arranged theme in mind, we will all come up with out own individual selection of books that take us travelling through the tropes of fantasy.  This month’s theme:

 

SNARKY SIDEKICKS.

Why is everyone so serious all the time?  Perhaps they need a friend that is there with a quick bit of wit to liven up the day… even if the day is looking to quickly turn to blood.

Oberon – from The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.  I love Oberon and the element of fun that he brings to these stories.

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Dog – Poison City (Delphic Division #1) by Paul Crilley.  Dog is a spiritual advisor to London (Gideon Tau) who works for the Delphic Division police force – they specialise in the supernatural.  Dog is a snarky sidekick indeed.  Rude and usually a little drunk -he has a penchant for sherry.

poison city

Reiches – a squirrel cat from Sebastien de Castell’s Spellslinger series – I love this critter.  Not everybody understands him but he’s definitely snarky and it turns out he loves a hot bath with buttery biscuits on the side.

Samwise Gamgee – I will not explain this one.  If you don’t know then I can’t even look at you right now – ‘a promise is a promise Mr Frodo’.

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Derrick – a honey loving fae type character who plays the snarky sidekick to Aileana in The Falconer (The Falconer #1) by Elizabeth May.

Next month’s topic will be : ELVES  (Please note that from January 2018 The Fantasy Hive will be hosting this meme).

 

 

‘You would like to go to the ball, is that not so?’

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Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:

The pen is mightier than the sword – a cover featuring a fancy font

This week I’ve chosen : Charm (Tales from the Kingdoms #2) by Sarah Pinborough.  There are three books in this series and they’re just an unexpected delight, a mash up of more than one fairy tale and three independent stories from the same world.  Be warned though, these books are adult retellings:

Most of these have a lovely font and I’m torn for a winner with the bottom two covers – I think overall I’d go with:

charm

I love this cover – it has a sense of mischief and fun and the Tiffany Aching books are certainly a whole lot of fun.

Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover featuring the night

Future themes:

8th December 2017 – ‘Do not go gentle’ – a cover featuring the night…

15th December 2017 – Hubble bubble toil and trouble – a cover featuring a portion/perfume bottle

22nd December – ‘Oh, we loves games! Doesn’t we, precious?’ – a cover featuring a Puzzle or Game

29th December – If music be the food of love, play on – a cover featuring a Musical Instrument

5th January – ‘The seaweed is always greener, in somebody else’s lake.’ – Under the Sea

12th January – ‘More than one meaning have I’ – a cover featuring a Knot/knots

19th January – You know your A, B, Cs – a cover made up only of letters/words

26th January – “The grass is always greener on the other side of personal extinction” – a cover featuring grass

2nd February – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – a Psychedelic cover

9th February – ‘My what big teeth you have’ – a cover featuring a cloaked figure 

16th February – ‘Groovy baby’ – a cover that is: Retro

23rd February – “There are too many steps in this castle, and it seems to me they add a few every night, just to vex me”  – a cover featuring a staircase

2nd March – ‘The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing’ – a cover featuring something from Greek mythology

9th March – ‘…but Icarus flew too close’ – a cover featuring the Sun

16th March – ‘I got no strings to hold me down’ – a cover featuring a doll or puppet

23rd March – “When she was a child, the witch locked her away in a tower that had neither doors nor stairs.” – a cover featuring a Tower

30th March – ‘A little soil to make it grow’ – a cover featuring seeds/spores

6th April –  “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” – a cover featuring a family

13th April – ‘lawns and rocks and heather and different sorts of trees, lay spread out below them, the river winding through it’ –  a cover featuring a panorama

20th April – Where there’s fire there’s… – a cover featuring smoke

27th April – ‘Those darling byegone times… with their delicious fortresses, and their dear old dungeons, and their delightful places of torture’ – a cover that is positively mediaeval 

4th May-  ‘A Hand without a hand? A bad jape, sister.’ – a cover featuring a hand/hands

11th May – ‘Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth’ – a cover featuring a dinosaur/s

18th May – ‘Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;’ – a cover featuring a gravestone

25th May – Trip trap, trip trap, trip trap – a cover featuring footsteps

1st June – clinging and invasive – a cover featuring creeping vines

8th June – Raining Cats and Dogs – a cover featuring a stormy sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

Posted On 30 November 2017

Filed under Book Reviews
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emeraldI don’t make a secret of the fact that short stories don’t always work for me and in fact I usually avoid collections but the promise of retellings based on old favourites such as Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz and the mention of tales that bring into play Robin Hood, Merlin and King Arthur, definitely intrigued me and I couldn’t resist picking up a copy of this one.

Did Jane Yolen manage to spin her magic in this collection, yes, for me she did.  I’m not going to pretend that I was equally gripped by all the tales, in a collection like this it’s inevitable that you’ll have favourites, just like in a box of chocolates, but the writing was lovely and the feeling of reading a story before going to sleep all added to the sense of whimsy and nostalgia and made this collection enjoyable to pick up last thing of an evening.  And, thankfully, unlike a box of chocolates – there were no coffee ones.

I’m not going to go into all the offerings but will highlight briefly the ones that worked well for me.

The first tale looks at the life of Hans Christian Anderson.  Famous the world over for his wonderful stories this particular offering has a lovely fairytale feel that combines elements that for me brought to mind Pinocchio, The Snow Queen and even, a little, the Elves and the Shoemaker – which isn’t to say that those are Anderson stories (apart from the Snow Queen that is).  This is a story that has a sad feeling to it although the ending is a little bit more upbeat.  It brought to mind the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ and also the fae nature of wishes and more to the point making sure that they’re very specifically worded.

Lost Girls was a story that shines a different light on Peter Pan and perhaps looks at the changing role of women – or maybe I’m just reading too much into it – there’s this whole element here of why did Peter really bring Wendy to Neverland?  She didn’t really take part in his adventures but was brought there more to fulfil the role of ‘mother’.  For me, Lost Girls adds another level to the story.  Girls want to take part in the adventure not just facilitate the adventures of others while they stand by with a cup of tea and a hanky.

My absolute favourite of the book was A Knot of Toads.  I just really enjoyed this story.  Based in Scotland it’s a tale that invokes long shadows, whispers in corners and witchcraft.  A young woman who returns to her childhood home to lay her father to rest.  Estranged for many years the two of them shared a love of books and a misunderstanding of each other.  This story just really appealed to me and on top of that who knew that toads were sometimes known as puddocks.  That’s a keeper.

Our Lady of the Greenwood was another of my favourites.  It takes the myth of Robin Hood, adds a hint of fae and comes up with a story of how Robin was named.  I’m a bit of a sucker for all things fae and so the scene in the woods with the fae dancing beneath the trees, coupled with the sometimes dangerous side to their nature really appealed to me.  The naming scene in the woods had a lovely element of the fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty.  I could certainly have read more of this tale – Robin Hood and his adventures – brings fond memories of my gran who used to recount tales to me and my sister.  I loved her storytelling – she had a way of telling us stories that on reflection could be quite dark.  Robin Hood’s tales were the lighter ones and it was lovely to go back to a story about how he possible received his name.  My gran would have liked this one I think.

The last two stories that I will mention are:

Evian Steel which is a beautifully written story that could be a very early start to the legend of Merlin, King Arthur and his queen .  It revolves around the forging of swords, Excalibur, and also brought to mind the Lady in the Lake.  I loved this one.  The island came to life in my imagination, the life of the girls sent to learn how to forge steel and the fears they had of what was to come.  It had a mysteriously dark side and was so well executed.

Sister Emily’s Lightship was the final tale and was very quirky and different in nature than the other stories in this book.  A look at Emily Dickinson and her, perhaps, out of this world inspirational experience.

This was a lovely collection of stories.  Some of them will undoubtedly appeal more than others but if you fancy a book that you can pick up randomly to read a story in one sitting this could be just what you’re looking for.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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