Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

Dark Matter Cover

January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely, and desperate to change his life, so when he’s offered the chance to join an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it.

Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year, Gruhuken, but the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice: stay or go.

Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return–when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible.

Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark.

My Review of Dark Matter

Dark MatterDark Matter by Michelle Paver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of the expedition to the Arctic is interesting and the descriptions are brilliantly done. The characters felt real to me, and I cared about what happened to them.

But I didn’t get enough of a feel for the the isolation or the darkness. Jack is never alone for long, then when he is he’s busy. I liked the journal format and I think it worked, but when Jack writes in it he condenses his day to the interesting bits and the long lonely hours aren’t included.

I did read it in the middle of summer, which didn’t help the atmosphere. I think this book would benefit from being read on a cold, dark evening. If you’re on your own, even better.

The important question: was I scared? Well, sort of, but not really. There was a nice build up, but it went on for too long. The reveal of how the ghost was created was creepy and very dark but felt a bit rushed and crammed in at the end. It feels like the book ends just as the scary things get going.

As a ghost story it falls a bit flat, but as a story about an Artic expedition with some dark, creepy elements then it works really well.

Dark Matter
Michelle Paver
Horror
September 1st 2011
Paperback
288

Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood

Queen of the Flowers Cover

With more than a dash of glamour and serious helpings of style, the witty and courageous Miss Fisher returns.

In 1928 St Kilda’s streets hang with fairy lights. Magic shows, marionettes, tea dances, tango competitions, lifesaving demonstrations, lantern shows, and picnics on the beach are all part of the Flower Parade.

And who else should be chosen to be Queen of the Flowers but the gorgeous, charming and terribly fashionable Hon Phryne Fisher? Phryne needs a new dress and a swimming costume but she also needs a lot of courage to confront her problems: a missing daughter, the return of an old lover, and a young woman found drowned at the beach at Elwood.

‘Kerry Greenwood is one of Australia’s leading writers of mystery fiction . . . Miss Fisher is a remarkable and engaging creature who can solve whodunnits as easily as if she were the naughty niece of Miss Marple’ – Sydney Morning Herald

‘Greenwood’s prose has a dagger in its garter; her hero is raunchy and promiscuous in the best sense’ – Weekend Australian

‘Fisher, a feisty sophisticate of the 1920s whose honour lies with the greater good. She’s all class and intelligence: a seductive creature with a great wardrobe.’ Australian Style

My review of Queen of the Flowers

Queen of the FlowersQueen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I requested this through Netgalley as soon as I saw it because I am a big fan of the TV series!

I was a bit worried before I started reading that it wouldn’t live up to the TV version and would just end up ruining it for me. As soon as I started reading I realised my fears were groundless. The book version of Phryne Fisher is smarter, bubblier, sharper, just more than the TV version.

The characters are very likeable and I just love the descriptions of them. Phryne is an absolute delight to read. I love her independence and her outlook on life.

One of my favourite things about the TV series is the banter between Phryne and Inspector Jack Robinson. I thought I would miss it in the book but I actually like that’s it not there because it seemed to give the character of Phryne more room to breathe.

The tone stays light but the mystery ended up going in a quite dark direction, and Phryne does some decent investigating. I feel it does get a bit convoluted with two different stories going on and a few dips into the past thrown in. There were a few too many coincidences in Ruth’s story and it didn’t make sense why some of the people did the things they did.

I liked the main mystery though, and I found that once I read the first chapter I couldn’t put it down.

This is just like a glass of wine in book format. It’s all bubbles and lightness and the story fizzes along. I love the world the author has created and I will definitely be reading more of the series!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Queen of the Flowers
Phryne Fisher
Kerry Greenwood
Mystery
2004
Kindle
287

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple Cover

The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name.

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of colour in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. The novel has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 at number seventeen because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence.

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t even know how to start reviewing this, but I will say that it’s heartbreaking, eye opening, harrowing and uplifting. I’ve never actually cried reading a book before, but I came closer at the end of this than I ever have before.

Books on lists of classics, or those lists of 100 books you must read, are books that I normally stay away from. I expect them to be dry, preachy, pretentious, or all three and generally just dull. But this, this book deserves its place on all of those lists.

Alice Walker is a skilled story teller, and The Colour Purple is accessible and interesting. It works first and foremost as a story about a poor black woman living in deep south America in the 1930’s. Celie narrates her life through journal entries and letters, a literary device that I’ve rarely seen done well but here it works brilliantly to bring her world to life for us.

In this world, the book uncovers issues of race, misogyny, religion and feminism. It manages not to beat us over the head, or preach to us, but just shows us that they are there and how they affect people’s lives. In this subtle way, we can’t ignore them because they are a vital part of Celie’s story.

It’s sad to think that these issues are just as relevant today as they were in the 30’s. These prejudices haven’t gone away, not even here in the UK where we like to think we’re more tolerant than the Americans. They are just as internalised as they ever were, but, until recently anyway, better hidden.

My favourite thing about this book is the women working together to support and help each other.

I recommend this to everyone. It’s an interesting story, and while it’s hard to read at first it has an uplifting ending.

The Color Purple
Alice Walker
Fiction
1982
Paperback
295

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

the lonely hearts hotel

Book Description

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true.

My Review of The Lonely Hearts Hotel

The Lonely Hearts Hotel has an unusual writing style, it’s almost like a fairy tale style of explaining what is happening. Little things are described in great detail like the food that they’re eating, or a girl that has so many holes in her stockings “they looked like oil paint on water”. 

It’s a magical, almost childlike style but at first I felt disconnected from the characters and their emotions. It did take me a bit of effort to keep going but after the first few chapters I got used to it, and I ended up really enjoying it.

It’s a very adult book though, it starts with Rose and Pierrot as children in an orphanage where they suffer physical and sexual abuse. It’s set during the great depression and a lot of the book is about the things people have to do to survive poverty. There’s a lot of sex in it and heroin addiction plays a large part in the book. 

The fairy tale style story telling sometimes felt to me like it was at odds with the darkness in the book. It did stop it from being too depressing and brought a much needed lightness to the story, but at the same time it softened the impact of the abuse and maybe glossed over it a bit.

But the magical style brings the city of Montreal to life, I could almost feel the cold and the poverty, I could see the girls on the streets and picture them in their outfits they were described so well. The story is full of nightclubs, theatres, clowns, make believe and show girls and it sucked me in to it’s world. 

I cared about the characters, and the end of the book was hard for me to read because it’s hopeful but so bittersweet. I got that sad feeling I get when I really love a book and I feel like I’ve lost friends when it ends. It’s not one I would want to read if I was already feeling sad!

I received a free copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Heather O'Neill
Fiction
February 7th 2017
400