Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

You Review: Lonely Graves – Britta Bolt

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Reviewed by Elysia Brenner

Lonely Graves by Britta Bolt opens with a literal splash – a body drops in the first sentence, and the rest of the tightly paced opening follows its unlikely progress through Amsterdam’s canals. It’s not a spoiler so much as a favor to warn you that this scene is a flash forward, and you won’t see this body again until you’re about one third of the way through the book. Now you can enjoy the pleasantly leisurely pace with which the book builds toward this moment. You’re welcome.

The story of Pieter Posthumus, a wannabe detective responsible for seeing unidentified bodies to dignified graves (apparently a real thing in Amsterdam), parallels an investigation into a potential terrorist cell in the Moroccan community, and characters’ plotted paths cross repeatedly – often without their knowing. The dialogue is deliciously Noir, but sometimes unconvincingly so –translated to English from the original Dutch with perhaps too much color for your average Amsterdammer. Still, the zippiness of the opening sequence is largely missing from the rest of the novel.

The plot’s steady, somewhat casual pace is actually quite suited to Amsterdam. In fact, the city is the book’s most enigmatic and deeply developed character. Every local will identify with the description of the shifting, turning map of streets that sees you go a different way to work than what you take home. Those from outside the city might, however, feel a little lost at times in the winding streets and cultural details. Plus, as the opener to a trilogy, not all the plot points are tied up by the end.

But the ultimate test of a first book in a trilogy is the question: do I want to read on? And, yes, I am curious about these characters… how their paths will continue to cross and how we might get to know them more deeply. And hopefully, as the next two novels progress (#2 has already been released in Dutch), that zippiness will creep back in. Chances are good, if the decision by UK’s Endor Productions to already snap up the English TV rights to the trilogy can be trusted.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Part 2 is out as Vastberaden in Dutch; no publication date has been set for the English-language version yet.

You Review: Edge of Eternity – Ken Follett

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Reviewed by Catarina Queiroz

If you like to learn history in context, with a dash of drama and romance, this is your kind of book. Edge of Eternity is actually the final volume of Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, so in order to fully appreciate it you should read the two previous books, Fall of Giants and Winter of the World. This last volume brings forth the powerful and passionate conclusion of the intertwined paths of the five leading families: American, Russian, German, English and Welsh. The multiple characters from the featured families put together the pieces of the historical context lived by our ancestors from the 60’s to the 80’s, forming an incredibly accurate and lively puzzle.

Love, jealousy and hatred play along with the tension of the Cold War. Families are ripped apart as the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War go on. Rock ‘n roll shakes things up, bringing free love and drug abuse to the spotlight, but also hope and redemption for those who can feel the beat of the music. Finally the fall of the Berlin wall destroys the last barriers, reuniting different generations of the same families and symbolizing the start of a new era.

The epilogue is especially moving, as old eyes and hearts, as well as their innocent offspring, witness the election of the first African American President of the USA. This moment is portrayed as the culmination of a “long story,” the story of the victory of equality, democracy and humanity over discrimination, dictatorship and brutality. In short, I would say that this book is a must-read for all historical fiction lovers.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

There is no ebook available of Edge of Eternity at this moment, but there are ebooks available of the previous books in the trilogy: Fall of Giants and Winter of the World.

You Review: 17 First Kisses – Rachael Allen

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Reviewed by Gabriëlle Linger

17 First Kisses is more than just a romance. It’s about more than just the typical Young Adult novel in which two teenage girls who fall for the same guy. It’s a story about friendship and change, about family and grief, and yes, it’s also about kissing and sex, and the author handles these subjects with both depth and nuance.

I would say the only problem I had with this book was that at times it was a little heavy-handed with the ‘slut shaming’ issues the characters both struggle with and participate in. While this does serve a purpose within the story, and Rachael Allen handles the issue fairly well, the point would not have been any less well made if we didn’t have to read about the characters calling each other every sexual and derogatory term underneath the sun on every other page. That said…..

I very much loved this book. Claire, the main character, is flawed and yet so very relatable, and the same goes for her best friend and the school’s “Queen Bee” Megan. Also thanks to brilliantly done and – more importantly – 3-dimensional characterizations, I found myself caring not just for the main but also for many of the secondary characters.

For me the best parts of the book were the stories of the kisses, which have been scattered throughout the book as vignettes, detailing what happens each time Claire kisses a particular boy for the first time. These kisses all come with different motivations and each kiss has a different flavour: some are fun, some intimate, others sad, still others embarrassing or even painful, and I admit some were even recognizable.

Provided you don’t have a problem with excessive swearing, I would definitely recommend those who love Young Adult fiction to give this book a try.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Ebook of 17 First Kisses available here.

You Review: We Are Not Ourselves – Matthew Thomas

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Reviewed by Charlotte de Heer

Matthew Thomas (debut novelist) gives the coming-of-age novel a completely different perspective and I might even go as far as calling We Are Not Ourselves THE coming-of-age novel. The book is an epic journey through the life of a woman trying to succeed in life, chronicling her years lived between 1951 and 2011. Yes, this does mean it’s a rather long book, but definitely a book worth reading if you’re up for it.

From being a daughter, Eileen Tumulty turns in to a wife and a mother. As a daughter of Irish immigrants, Eileen is trying to create her own American Dream. She decides to marry a mad scientist (who is nothing like her father) and plans to have a better life than her parents did, for herself as well as her child. When her son finds his way into adulthood, something life-changing happens that turns Eileen’s life – and the plans she made – upside down.

This book really has it all, everything that life has to offer or – actually – doesn’t have to offer. Personally I found the book book a bit too long, but in a strange way I couldn’t put it down either. You really start to know and love the characters in the book and after a while it gets hard to leave them. The book is really precise and gives you a realistic look into the life of a woman dreaming her American Dream. It’s about real life and real problems that come along and mess up your dream life.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Charlotte, together with Esmée, runs the Bored to Death Book Club.  Head on over to see if you might like to join them!

You Review: The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Reviewed by David Young

It’s late 17th century Holland, and Petronella (Nella) Oortmans’ father dies, leaving large debts which can only be paid off by marrying Nella to the 20 years older Johannes Brandt, a prosperous Amsterdam merchant.

As a wedding present Brandt gives her a doll’s house version of his magnificent Herengracht house, which Nella begins to fill with dolls from a local miniaturist. However from the dolls she receives it becomes apparent that the miniaturist knows a lot about the affairs of the Brandt household – not only that, she is able to predict its future…..

As the sexual activities and proclivities of Brandt and his mysterious and reclusive sister Marin begin to drag them down into a vortex of scandal, Nella finds herself whirled through a series of rapidly escalating crises which threaten the very existence of the Brandt family.

The Miniaturist is a fictionalised biography of actual 17th century people, and the author has done a remarkable job of recreating the atmosphere of the Dutch Golden Age, its febrile money-making, closed social and political circles and prudish mores. What begins as a gentle and intriguing mystery turns into a real high-paced thriller, both superbly handled. You can almost smell the streets.

I found this book so engrossing that while reading it on the train I missed my station – twice! A most promising debut and I look forward to Jessie Burton’s next novel.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Ebook of The Miniaturist available here.