Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Book Review- Under A Pole Star

Title: Under A Pole Star
Author: Stef Penney
Published: November 3rd 2016
Pages: 608
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3/5

Flora Mackie was twelve when she first crossed the Arctic Circle on her father's whaling ship. Now she is returning to the frozen seas as the head of her own exploration expedition. Jakob de Beyn was raised in Manhattan, but his yearning for new horizons leads him to the Arctic as part of a rival expedition. When he and Flora meet, all thoughts of science and exploration give way before a sudden, all-consuming love.
The affair survives the growing tensions between the two groups, but then, after one more glorious summer on the Greenland coast, Jakob joins his leader on an extended trip into the interior, with devastating results.
The stark beauty of the Arctic ocean, where pack ice can crush a ship like an eggshell, and the empty sweep of the tundra, alternately a snow-muffled wasteland and an unexpectedly gentle meadow, are vividly evoked. Against this backdrop Penney weaves an irresistible love story, a compelling look at the dark side of the golden age of exploration, and a mystery that Flora, returning one last time to the North Pole as an old woman, will finally lay to rest. -Goodreads
A short version of this review was completed for the LoveReading Reader Review Panel. My thanks to them for the copy of the novel. 

This is the story of Flora, she was a Scottish scientist and explorer. She spent a large part of her childhood in the Arctic onboard her father's whaling boat, and as such she had developed a love of the Arctic and the native people that lived there. We follow Flora as she returned to the Arctic as an adult, and met the romantic interest in the novel; Jakob.
I gave this novel 3 stars, I thought it was ok. There were aspects of the novel I enjoyed, the author's descriptions of the Arctic were particularly impressive in this novel. Penney's use of emotive language very successfully conveyed the beauty of the landscape she was describing, but also the inherent danger of the place. There were whole passages that painted detailed pictures of the sun rising or the starry night sky.
I also really enjoyed the exploration aspect of this novel, I was intrigued by the idea of a female explorer at that time, and the struggles she would inevitably face. I also enjoyed learning how an expedition would be carried out in the late 19th century, just how much planning was involved etc. Many of the struggles Flora faced were tied up in her femininity, she faced a lot of prejudice as she tried to plan and lead her own expedition in a world filled with misogyny, and I enjoyed how the author described these, and how Flora battled past them all.
However, this novel is 600+ pages long, and it did not contain enough action or gripping enough characters to keep me intrigued throughout, and I found I had very little desire to pick the book up. 
I thought the characters had lots of promise, but unfortunately the author failed to shape them into fully developed characters, or in Flora's case she made her so cold and aloof that it was impossible to get to know her, and thus to care about her at all. Jakob and the whole cast of minor characters were so poorly developed that I wasn't invested in any of them, and at times I actually struggled to tell them apart. 
A large portion of the beginning of the novel was taken up with explaining Flora and Jakob's childhood and university experiences respectively. It added very little to the story, didn't really develop the underdeveloped characters, and was a serious struggle to wade through. I believe that this novel could have been improved by a bit of culling, removal of extra scenes that added very little to the story but took up far too much time to get through. This would have made the novel quicker to read, which may have allowed me to get more involved with the characters, and so enjoy the novel more.
The latter half of the novel is mostly about the romantic relationship between Flora and Jakob. There are quite a lot of graphic sex scenes in this novel, so if that is something that bothers you then I would be cautious about reading this novel. This didn't bother me, but due to the high number of sex scenes there was little else written about their relationship other than this. We weren't given an insight into their relationship in any way other than physically, which I find disappointing, as a relationship is built on a multitude of things, and for it to be believable to the reader it must have this evidence behind it.
Overall, this novel contains many beautiful descriptions of the Arctic, and is an ok story of the first explorers of the Arctic, but is sadly let down by poorly developed characters and limp and lifeless romance.

Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, 3 November 2016

Quick Book Review- Rivers of London

Title: Rivers of London
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Published: January 10th 2011
Pages: 392
Series: Peter Grant/ Rivers of London
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

My name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - We do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And that, as they say, is where the story begins.
Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated. I'm dealing with nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden - and that's just routine. There's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.
The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying. Which, I don't mind telling you, would involve a hell of a lot of paperwork. -Goodreads

This is just going to be a very quick review of this novel, I read it about a month ago, so I don't remember too much about it!!
One thing I do remember however is how much I enjoyed this novel, it was entertaining and very funny, there were some laugh out loud moments!
One of the quotes on the cover likened this novel to Harry Potter, and although I'm normally sceptical of these kind of comparisons, I have to admit that this quote is bang on. The narrator and main character reads like a slightly more grown up Harry. He's as sarcastic and grounded as Harry, and the novel features magic which is a happy coincidence!!
Quite a few reviews on Goodreads said that this novel has been written for TV, and I can see where these reviewers are coming from, it has the perfect mix of British crime drama with comedy, and a bit of magic mixed in! However I disagree that this novel has been written solely for tv, I think it stands securely as a novel in its own right. I do however, wholeheartedly support any petition/push to get this novel made into a tv series!!
I don't know London very well, so location wise I wasn't always sure where the characters were, but I enjoyed the London setting, and I particularly enjoyed the British/London slang that the author had included. I will admit that I didn't get all of it, I guessed some, but it added to the setting of the novel, and to the appeal of the characters!
I also appreciated the diverse range of characters in this novel, depicting the diverse nature of Britain through the ages very well, and with some particularly strong women which I always appreciate!!
Overall I really enjoyed this novel, it was very funny, with the right amount of wit and sarcasm for me! I definitely recommend this novel, and I'm looking forward to picking up the next book soon!!!

Thanks for reading!

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