The Devil in the White City – A Review

For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a macabre fascination with serial killers, especially ones from the past. I went through a phase of reading anything and everything I could about Jack the Ripper and still find the whole subject surrounding, probably the most infamous murderer of all time, fascinating.

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So when I stumbled across the name H.H.Holmes and did some digging I was super intrigued. A charismatic doctor who moved to Chicago and built a hotel as a way to lure women to him and kill them. I managed to pick up the copy of this book fairly cheap (I got it second hand off Amazon) The book flits between the story of Daniel Burnham (a man given the task to oversee the building of the World’s Fair Exposition in Chicago) and H.H.Holmes a charming and smooth talking doctor with amazing powers of manipulation and someone who was also incredibly dangerous and sick.

As I went to Chicago last year, I actually enjoyed reading about the building of the fair and learning more about it’s history, some of the most well known things came about there (Shredded Wheat and the Ferris Wheel to name a couple) When it got to the chapters talking about the crimes Holmes executed in his strangely built hotel, it made the hairs on my arm stand on end. The ease with which he would like to neighbours and family members asking about their missing daughters (who he had murdered and disposed of) makes for some unsettling reading.

However as the book progressed, I couldn’t help but think that I would have liked to have heard more about the crimes in depth, more about Holmes’ time incarcerated as well as more about his victims. Whilst the parts of the book following Daniel Burnham and the World’s Fair appealed to the history buff in me (and the lover of Chicago) I felt that it took away from the whom the book was actually about, America’s First Serial Killer.
That being said, Erik Larson wrote it in a way that the information wasn’t too heavy and you can tell he’s really done his research and has a true passion for the subject, and that came across in his writing. I got through it fairly quickly, but I would have liked the ending to have been as detailed as the rest of the book.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

Happy reading.

G.
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The Sleepwalker – A Review

The Sleepwalker is the third in the Aidan Waits series of books by Joseph Knox. You may have seen that I have posted about Joseph Knox and his incredibly captivating protagonist in previous posts, a character who has so much hidden in his past but we know very little about. He makes you want to go back for more.

The Sleepwalker

And this book is no exception.  I honestly have to say that the way the book starts, very much sets the whole tone for the rest of the book. There’s a sense of tension building throughout, a feeling that whilst reading, settles in the stomach and makes you on edge about what is to come. Aidan is once again catapulted into an investigation that is complex and has connections to some old familiar faces.  The relationship between Aidan and his new partner, Naomi Black, could have easily have fallen flat but somehow Joseph manages to introduce enough intrigue and tension that makes the dynamic between the two believable. In this book we find Aidan very much looking over his shoulder at enemies from his past, work colleagues, suspects and his new partner.

It’s hard to talk about the plot line of this book without giving away too much but it is much grittier than Knox’s previous work, and dare I say, his best one yet. Once again we see softer aspects to the otherwise mysterious Waits and the way Knox highlights the issue of the Spice epidemic in Manchester and its impact upon homeless people and those incarcerated is particularly hard to read, but incredibly important. It is the moments that take place within Strangeways and an inmate there that made me particularly emotional.  Once again Joseph has penned a masterpiece in Crime Fiction/Crime Noir.  Giving us plenty of drama, intrigue, twists and turns and also moments that will make you wince. This book is not for the faint hearted and the best thing is how he ends it. There’s no way of knowing what will come next, and that is why you should read it.

A rip roaring, page turner and one I highly recommend to those who love a good detective novel, trust me, there are things you will not see coming and they will leave you reeling.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have read it, so comment below. Happy reading!

G.
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Everything I Know About Love – A Review

I’ve had this book sat on my shelf for a good few months; it came onto my radar when I overheard some female colleagues discussing it. I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. Dolly Alderton talks us through her teenage years and her first realisation of boys/men. Instantly I found the content relatable when she discussed MSN Messenger and the way you’d sign out and then back in again to get your crushes attention. I was guilty of this, I was also guilty of having the courage of being hidden behind a computer screen to say to a guy “You’re so cute, I really fancy you!” and then having the instant panic a second after hitting send of being rejected or laughed at so covering my back with a “Omg sorry, my cousin wrote that!” which when I think about it, was the worst excuse ever.

As the book goes on we learn about Dolly’s adult life, her early 20’s, nights out where she drank until the early hours of the morning (and still went to work) and the whirlwind relationships with men. There are moments of the book that are laugh out loud funny and some that really struck a chord with me. Especially when talking about her anxiety and relationship with drink. She looks at the power of female friendship and dissects how, as women; a lot of us tend to put what we think a man wants ahead of what we actually want. It’s these moments that I found myself nodding my head in agreement and feeling so happy to see someone being so open and candid about these things.

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It’s not a book that men should avoid either, Dolly hasn’t written this as some feminist manifesto or celebration of sisterhood, but actually takes ownership that there are no bad men or bad women, just some bad timings, decisions and ways of dealing with things. As she says later on in the book, and I’m paraphrasing here, no break up happens because you did nothing wrong, on some level you were responsible for the relationship breaking down, no matter how small. So don’t lay the blame on the man. You have to take responsibility and courage to look at what you did wrong too.  She also talks about dating in your 30’s (something I had some experience with) and once again I found her words to be incredibly true. Everyone has a history, especially if they’re single in their 30’s! One line particularly jumped out at me.

“If you lose respect for someone, you won’t be able to fall back in love with them.”

This made me think of my ex and our marriage breaking down, but it also made me think of myself. For many years I had no respect for myself and consequently found it hard to love myself and see anything worthy in me. It’s taken time for me to get where I am, and I still have days where I long to be that 17 year old girl with no worries or loss or heartbreak and that unshakable confidence I had at such a young age, but I’m getting there. I’m learning to know who I am, faults and all, and respect who I am, even love who I am. This book is more about friendship and the power of the “mundane” aspects of love that often get overlooked for not being particularly awe inspiring. But they’re actually the moments that mean the most (and the ones you should cherish) they’re the moments I know I long to share with my mum since her passing. The moments that seemed insignificant at the time but actually they were perfect moments between me and her. Dolly puts it more beautifully than I ever could.

“…it also happens when you’re lying on blow-up air beds in a childhood bedroom, sitting in A&E or in the queue for a passport or in a traffic jam. Love is a quiet, reassuring, relaxing, pottering, pedantic, harmonious hum of a thing; something you can easily forget is there, even though its palms are outstretched beneath you in case you fall.”

It’s hard not to read and finish this book without taking stock of your life, thanking the world silently for all the good it gives you and enjoying the sun on your skin. It’s more than a book; it’s a hug and an awakening.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

Have you read it? What were your thoughts? Comment below, happy reading beauts.

G.
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Love in the Time of Cholera – A Review

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I worked a lot during February, I was even working on Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind work at all, I happen to really love my job, nor did I mind working on Valentine’s Day. I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s just another day and if you love someone that much you shouldn’t need that one day to validate it or say it. Anyway, I digress, I went to Waterstone’s (other book shops available) a few days before and saw that they was doing a “Blind Date with a Book” and I figured as I’d be working and alone that I should play along.

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All the books were packaged in red paper and tied with brown string, a slight synopsis of the book inside, written elegantly on a brown tag with the price. I spent lots of time mulling over the choices but picked one out that I kept going back to. When I got home, I put it to one side and promised that after my 16 hour day in studio I’d open it up. Sure enough Tuesday 14th February arrived, the penultimate day of filming, it had been a long week, but I was trying to stay positive, just a few more days and then I had some time off to catch up on sleep and let my hair down. As luck would have it, it ended up being a really great day…I spent most of the day laughing, largely down to the company I was in that day. I went home feeling good, a smile on my face and after taking a quick shower I pulled the book onto my lap and tore the paper off. It was like Christmas, only with a gift I’d bought myself. And there it was. A book I had picked up MANY times previously but never bought, I smiled again.

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I have mentioned previously how passion is important, passion ignites the soul, makes your eyes shine brighter, and puts a fire in your belly. I ended up having a conversation with an amazing person about books in April and they mentioned this one specifically. Their passion came across to me so clearly that it was tangible, even though the conversation took place via WhatsApp. I swore to myself that when I got home that evening I would start reading the book, and that’s exactly what I did.

The style of writing was so accessible and beautiful that it was hard not to fall in love with it very early on, with Marquez using language so perfectly that was easy to envisage the people, the surroundings, the feelings. I felt myself following Florentino and urging him on, holding my breath and feeling his anguish as he waited for Fermina to reply. I melted at the romance, the declarations of love making me sigh and press my head against the tram window on my commute to work. The book spoke to my hopelessly, romantic soul and I was hooked.

My heart broke when Fermina returned and rejected Florentino and yet I remained hopeful that all would be okay, it had to be okay. Learning how the two lived over the years, separately yet still tied to one another, Florentino in his promise to never let go of his love for Fermina, Fermina with the ghosts of memories of Florentino sat in the park. Gabriel Garcia Marquez penned something so honest about the anguish of unrequited love, but also about the power of the human spirit, to withstand pain and heartbreak and still remain so vehemently hopeful. He writes of the passion of life and love and loss and does it so lyrically that there were times I forgot to breathe.

Even the more sensual aspects of the book, where Florentino takes various lovers, were written with an understanding that most modern writers tend to lack. I am a stupid, hopeless romantic and this book touched me. Entirely quotable passages that made me dog ear pages so that I could re-read them, tracing my fingers over the page to make sure I hadn’t dreamed them. This book is more than about love, it’s about the power of love, passion, the power of the human spirit, the courage to keep on going and to always keep hope. It’s made me crave for a simpler time, for more open communication and for less negative stigma attached to matters of the heart. Love is frowned upon and given negative connotations, like the advancement of technology, the world has become cold and demanding. Everything has to be instant. But sincerely why isn’t it ok to pen a love letter and post it? The excitement of receiving something you wasn’t expecting, a letter written in ink by the very hand you long to hold. I’ve never personally received a love letter, but the idea is so romantic to me.

This book awoken my soul and stoked the fire in my heart. A truly beautiful novel that will make you realise the importance of happiness and taking chances.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

“Sometimes their letters were soaked by rain, soiled by mud, torn by adversity, and some were lost for a variety of reasons, but they always found a way to be in touch with each other again.”

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Happy reading.

G.
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Splinter – A Review

I’m slowly getting back into blogging again, apologies I’ve been a little quiet, I lost my reading funk for a while, but I’ve got it back now, thankfully.

Splinter by Sebastian Fitzek.

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In theory this book sounded great, almost like a more intense and ‘gripping’ version of the 2004 film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ sadly it didn’t deliver and live up to the hype.

It follows the story of Marc Lucas who has been wracked with grief since the car accident that killed his wife and unborn child. He’s approached one day by a Dr from a clinic who claims that they have the answer to his problems, the ability to permanently erase painful memories. Intrigued Marc goes to the clinic to find out more, only to leave and go home and find his wife alive and the locks to his apartment changed. Like I said, intriguing and a potentially a gripping storyline, however the writing style and characters never felt fully formed for me. I didn’t feel any kind of empathy with Marc as he struggled to find out what had happened and why his wife was alive.

In fact I’d go as far as to say, that although I could see what the author wanted to achieve there were entire sections of the book that felt incredibly convoluted and by the end I felt more confused and relieved than anything else. Not ‘gripping’ just lots of unnecessary running around and not even half formed characters, the only saving grace was that the chapters are quite short so it’s easy to pick up and put down without losing where you’re up to.

Star Rating out of 5: 1.5

Has anyone else out there read it? Please feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below.

Happy reading!

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An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – A Review.

An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth (Life Lessons from Space) by Chris Hadfield.

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I’m not going to lie folks, I enjoyed ‘The Martian’ so much that I went on a space hype. I spent a good couple of weeks watching various documentaries about Space missions and numerous Ted talks on all things space related. And I even cried a few times, that’s right, I’m one of those people that gets emotional about how beautiful the planet is. The incredibly awesome Chris Hadfield came to my attention around the time he popped up on everyone else’s radar (well their YouTube page at least) when he became an internet sensation for his performance of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ on board the International Space Station.

The great thing about this book is it follows Chris’ journey from the moment he made the decision as a child to become an astronaut. But he doesn’t disillusion us into thinking it was easy, like many people in other careers have done, and he had the opportunity to. He writes about the long, hard hours of work, training, learning, spending time away from his wife and children in order to take one step closer to his dream job. But what’s even more refreshing is how ‘down to earth’ Chris Hadfield is, he never once felt that if he didn’t become an astronaut that he would have failed at life, but instead felt that there’s always something else and that every opportunity you are given is to be grasped and cherished.

‘In my next line of work, it wasn’t even optional. An astronaut who doesn’t sweat the small stuff is a dead astronaut.’

I don’t feel whilst reading this book that there was ever a section that was negative or uninspiring. But it’s when he realised his dream and describes seeing the world from outside the ISS clearly for the first time that for me, really captured the beauty of his hard work.

‘Of course I’d peered out of the Shuttle windows at the world, but I understood now that I hadn’t seen it, not really. Holding onto the side of a spaceship that’s moving around the Earth at 17,500 miles an hour, I could truly see the astonishing beauty of our planet, the infinite textures and colours. On the other side of me, the black velvet bucket of space, brimming with stars. It’s vast and overwhelming, this visual immersion, and I could drink it in forever – only here’s Scott, out of the airlock, floating over toward me. We get to work.’

Regardless of your career goals, this book is inspirational and will teach you the importance of enjoying every moment, learning what you can and taking pleasure in everything you experience, instead of only celebrating the ‘big’ moments. This book is a testament, not only of what human beings have achieved to gain a clearer understanding of our existence, but also what any human being is capable of with the right attitude and by aiming to be a zero.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

‘It’s every science fiction book come true, every little kid’s dream realized: a large, capable, fully human creation orbiting the universe.’

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An incredibly enjoyable and immersive read, it’s hard not to look up in wonder after reading this. If any of you have read it, please do let me know in the comment section below.

Happy reading.

Georgina

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From Book to Film – The Martian – A Review

The Martian by Andy Weir.

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I’ve always loved space, since I was a young girl one of my favourite things would be to go outside with my dad as he held my hand and explained the constellations to me and pointed things out. As much as I love reading and writing, I’ve often been known to say that I wish I would have been better at mathematics and sciences in general because being an astrophysicist actually sounds quite appealing to me. So it’s no surprise that this book has been on my radar for quite some time now.

It kicks off with the crew of Hermes abandoning the Ares 3 mission after a catastrophic sandstorm hits Mars. With the MAV in danger of being compromised Commander Lewis makes the decision to leave behind Mark Watney, who after being hit by debris is believed to be dead by his fellow crewmates. But as daylight breaks on Mars during Sol 6 it turns out that Watney is very much alive. Of course his crew are now on a four month journey back to earth and it’s safe to say that Mark is in a terrifying situation which the book can articulate much better than I.

‘So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.

If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches. I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m fucked.’

But of course this is Mark’s first log, the day after it’s pretty clear he isn’t going to let these things stand in his way. Currently the next Ares mission is due to land in the Schiaparelli Crater of Mars, but the issue is this isn’t going to be for four years. So it is down to Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer to find a way to survive. He’s such a great character, clearly intelligent with a brilliant sense of humour that instantly I was rooting for him.

Back on earth NASA have held a funeral for Mark and it seems that he has been forgotten, that is until Mindy Park who monitors the status of the satellites around Mars notices images that show movement of the Rover. Pretty soon the whole of NASA is aware that Watney is alive and instantly set out to try and find a way to not only communicate with him but find a way to keep him alive until they can send another mission. This is all easier said than done and there’s lots of inner and outer politics as well as money and time constraints. And the book pretty much follows this pattern throughout, flitting between Mark on Mars trying to find a way to survive and the folks at NASA trying to do the same.

Despite having a lot of science and technology speak the book is pretty easy reading because Andy Weir found a great way for Watney to narrate and simplify the tasks he is carrying out. What’s great about the story though is the humour, the way Mark always seems to stay positive even in the face of adversity, and trust me he faces all that Mars has to throw at him and more.

This book had me gripped so much so that I was actually annoyed upon reaching work as it meant I had to go 8+ hours without being able to read it. The chapters were so intense that I swear I held my breath during the flyover, and I was sat on the edge of my seat. I became a reading cliché and I’m not afraid to admit it. This is one book that you really SHOULD read. Amazing!

Star Rating out of 5: 5

‘But now there was nothing. I never realized how utterly silent Mars is. It’s a desert world with practically no atmosphere to convey sound. I could hear my own heartbeat.’

And the film? 

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Well yes, I did go and see the film. I had to after enjoying the book so much. I always try and read the book beforehand so I can imagine everything in my own mind and I have to say the film was pretty spot on. Yes they glossed over some of the earlier parts and didn’t fully explain the ways Mark Watney modified things and built things to help his survival and they changed the ending slightly BUT all in all it was really enjoyable. My husband hadn’t read the book and came out of the cinema gushing about how gripping and intense it was.

Also I loved the casting, Matt Damon was the perfect choice for Watney. His comedic timing of Watney’s smart mouthed comebacks to NASA and one liners were impeccable. Equally there were great performances from Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover. It was visually stunning and if you’re not a bookworm or don’t think the book is for you then I implore you to check out the film because it’s just as good.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have read the book, or seen the film…Or both. Get in touch by commenting below, and until next time, happy reading.

Georgina

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