Book Reviews





Kate Mosse's, Labyrinth - On your TV NOW!

Hey everyone, did you know Channel 4 are currently showing an adaptation of Kate Mosse's dual time-frame novel, Labyrinth?

It's a brilliant mystery about secret societies and hidden treasures that spans from Medieval France to the present day. If you've read about any of Carcassonne's violent  history, you will know it is a great setting for such a story - much of which is true to historical events (embellished, of course, with bits of narrative). I urge you to get on your Catch Up service and watch the first episode, which was wonderful, and then settle down tonight to watch it's conclusion - with a big chocolate egg and a tea, of course!

Produced by Ridley Scott, and starring Downton Abbey's Jessica Brown Findlay, this two part series is off to a great start - and I'll give you Mab Points for recognising Tom Felton ;) 

See you there?

The Telling - review

The Telling by Jo Baker seemed to promise an interesting story: The modern day narrative of a bereaved daughter clearing away her dead mother's house, twinned with an early 19th century story of a basket-maker's daughter learning the world she read about in books wasn't always true, having been given a church education that had her believing all written word to be the "gospel truth".
These character journeys were set against themes of growing apart and the Chartist political movement respectively.

I do love a good bit of historical fiction, so I am sad to have been so disappointed by the book.

My greatest issue with it was the modern day narrative. I simply found no pace, intrigue or endearment in it. I hated Rachel, the contemporary narrator - hated her, and didn't warm to her a bit, despite being told of all her hardships. She was cold, unfairly mean to her supportive husband, detached, aloof, selfish and generally not a "nice" person, in my opinion. It mostly felt like she was dying to have a teenage strop the whole time, and to be honest, if she did it would have been welcome. This storyline needed some excitement.

I was frustrated to the point of skipping pages at the writing style of this narrative. It felt desperate on account of its boring-ness. Between dreary Rachel-monologues of woe and her weird trips to interrogate her poor neighbours/wonder aimlessly around church grounds, the reader is drip fed minute, mildly tantalising, morsels of intrigue - as if to say "hey guys, come on, stick with me because I have history - but err, you can't know it": allusions to mental illness, family breakdown and hallucinations - does this explain her behaviour? Is she still suffering postnatal depression? Is she imagining is there a presence in the house with her? Do I even care?... Ultimately, however, these pieces of information are left cold and unexplored. Very unsatisfying. And as such, I still hate Rachel.

Moving on....
The second narrative, by comparison, was far pacier and weightier, with fleshed out characters I felt I knew and felt "on-side" with. I loved Lizzie, the narrator for this part, and found her innocence believable and charming. I often wondered if it was even the same author, so different was the style! The narrative was full of great issues that were widely explored and evidently well researched: control of the church over a small village parish, women's rights, church education, revolution, class systems, betrothal, Chartists... I enjoyed it so much more. There was good mystery created with the introduction of a Mr Moore - a symbolic Satan in the garden of Eden - who lead astray our "Eve" with his books that were not the words of God, and which were not, she was surprised to learn, all truth.

Unfortunately another disappointment lay ahead in this book - although perhaps this time it was of my own making. The two stories did not come to a neat, or linked, conclusion. I had hoped my struggles with the Rachel storyline would be rewarded with a nice denouement that brought the two women together across time somehow, but alas, I was not. Although we knew the way the two women's lives would continue I did think the endings both felt a bit hollow, as if they had ended too soon.

It is hard for me to recommend this book - there are just too many frustrations with the modern narrative. However, I think you could skip Rachel's story line completely and have a lovely novella of chartists and English village life... Perhaps worth considering if you find the ebook cheap somewhere :)

5/10 for The Telling.

Guest Post at Orisi's Blah Blah Blah - Let The Right One In

It's Sweden vs. America over on Orisi B's blog today! I have written a guest post on the two movie versions of the vampire novel, Let The Right One In - go have a read!

"It is only very recently (this weekend, in fact) that I have ventured to watch the American adaptation. I watched the Swedish film in the cinema as soon as it was released, and loved every second. This was closely followed by reading the (very brilliant) book by John Ajvide Lindqvist. When it came to Let Me In being released, I felt that the Americans had made this film too soon. It was barely a year since the Swedish release, and my enjoyment of it wasn't ready to be eclipsed either positively or negatively by the English speaking version. The reviews had also been a little unconvincing, so, I sat back and watched other things. God help me I actually watched Jennifer’s Body on the quest for vampire visual consumption..."

Read mores here!

Reading spaces and cosy places

Where do you read? Does it have any effect on your enjoyment, relaxation or concentration? Do you like to be snuggled up with your book, or free to stretch out and roam with it?

My favourite way to read is surrounded by half a dozen cushions on the sofa, with a scented candle burning away on the coffee table - a steaming hot cup of tea never goes amiss either!

I've known others to read their books while walking to and from work. Their ability to concentrate on a narrative while navigating is something of a marvel to me - I could never dream of having that kind of multitasking ability!

Some of my friends read in the gym. This is also something I couldn't imagine doing... The mixture of sweaty-ness, constant movement while focusing on tiny words and the hot, humid atmosphere isn't appealing to my love of literary escapism at all!

It just goes to show how different we all are, and how one story can be enjoyed and interpreted in so many different ways.

So go on, spill! What's your favourite way to read a book?


World Poetry Day was last week. I had this post ready to go on Friday, but couldn't post it. I needed to Umm and Ahh about it over the weekend. In many ways, I think it's too personal to be on the blog, but then I think what is World Poetry Day about, if not sharing a love of poems?

I'm taking you back to a time when poetry was the quintessential right of passage for the lonely teenager. Days when you honestly believed no-one gazed upon the sky and saw its true depth as you did. The moments when you felt you were the only one to witness the small things, and believe in them. The minutes you contemplated the universe and felt your miniscule heartbeat in the grander scheme of things. A selfish time, no doubt, but possibly the most creative.

Teenage years were for bucking authority, trends and "the way of things", and I took it quite to heart. I went to rock gigs because the rest of my classmates went dancing. I wore corsets and platforms because I thought I liked the discomfort. (That sounds ridiculous but, looking back, I feel it's probably the only thing that kept me awake through class readings of As You Like It, and therefore my corset got me my grades - ha!) I took art because I was good at science. I read books because I would rather spend my time dreaming about a better world in the library than experiencing the goodness of the one in front of me every day. I wrote poetry because in the world I had created to live in, nobody "understood".

Oh teenage years, how I regret, but would never change you.

I did a great many things I now wish I hadn't as a teenager. I'm a little embarrassed of the hole I backed myself into. But, ultimately, they were the best years of my life. I explored so much of my creativity in that time, and I thought I would share a part of it with you in honour of World Poetry Day.

Sometimes I find scraps of paper between the pages of a book I'm reading, and I realise it is a remnant of a time long past. When I read what is written on the scrap, I am transported to a version of myself so long gone it's like reading about someone else. A lot of the time it makes me sad for how I was. Most of the time, I'm sad because I don't think I can write the way I used to any more.

Looking beyond the dark days that lead to such states, an appreciation of those lonely moments in life genuinely aid something creative in the soul. Do you need to be unhappy to be creative? No, but I think it has its own certain type of poetry.

This is something I found hidden between pages recently:

An elaborate scribble
At the bottom of a page
Lost in an era
And fallen to fiction.
Whether a legend in life,
As much as in myth,
Is as much of a character
In novels, on screens,
Than it is to the thousands
Of hopefuls that sleep
Just to dream.

I tried writing a poem at the weekend too, and proved the point to myself that I am unable to write so abstractly any more. It was so full of cliches and rhyming couplets and fake attempts at insight that there's no way my pride can let me put it here.

Strange isn't it? I'm most proud of what I did when I was least proud of who I was... But at the same time, it's what keeps me writing. If I can do it at my worst, what lies ahead at my best?

Feature and Follow Friday

I'm back again answering another her question hosted by Parajunkie and Alison Can Read! This week's question is:

What is your guilty pleasure as far as reading? Is it a genre, or is it a certain type of book?

Guilty pleasures in books is one of the things I've probably blogged about the most aside from reviews! My go-to genre is usually something gothic, ghostly and dark, so it often comes as a surprise to people that I simply love to settle down with a good Jodi Picoult book! If you want to know why it's explained in bloggy details here (Please excuse the repeated content. I changed my blog template and it's a bug I've not worked out how to fix yet!)

Aside from that, I guess my other guilty pleasure would be my Buffy novels. I bought them when I was in uber-fan mode as a teenager, and now I go back to them for a bit of a light hearted nostalgia fest.

Easter themed book matches

Let's get a little silly for a moment, shall we? If you could match the last 5 books you read to an Easter Egg/ chocolate product, what would you choose, and why?

Think of it like matching your wine to your meal... but, you know, stupider ;)

If you give it a go tweet me or use the hashtag #EasterBookMatch - I would love to see what you choose! (And mentally note how many of you have far too much time on your hands haha)

Here's my list:

Theo: A Novella

Well this had creepy kids and a Vicar in it, so it would have to be matched with something child-themed with a "true-meaning-of-Easter" edge... How about this:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

An indulgence for the lonely souls in the audience - Big enough to share, but you don't have to feel guilty that you wont!

The Seance

Set in the Victorian era, this atmospheric mystery can only be paired to one thing. A chocolate institution from the time period, Cadbury's:

The Man in the Picture

The picture of significance in this sinister tale depicted a dark Venetian scene, so Italian dark chocolate can be it's only partner:

The Reapers are the Angels

I actually think this book was far too beautiful to be lowered to the ridiculousness of this post, but hey ho! Zombies and violence litter the pages, and so any food you eat may not stay there for long - let's instead pair this to a luxurious hot chocolate drink with a kick of chilli. Seems fitting for a book of beautiful prose with a smattering of bloodlust.

So, go on, you know you want to! Give it a go and share your results :)

It's International Happiness Day! What makes you happy?

For me, there's nothing like a good book and a satisfying ending, even if it's not a happily-ever-after, the feeling of everything being "as they should have been" really makes me feel happy at the end of a novel. Add that to a cosy, warm hole to curl up in (be it in bed, covered in blankets on the sofa, or make-shift squishy places in front of the radiator!) and I am in book happiness heaven.

Here are my top recommendations for bringing some Feel-Good into your reading endeavors. Because what defines happiness for a book geek more than words on a page, and a snuggly place to enjoy them?

Some zen-bringing scents:

Rituals Yin bed and body mist

A spritz or two of this on your sofa cushions, and you are transported to a world of calm.

John Lewis scented candle

I love the Crisp Linen fragrance - and candles are especially happy-making when indulging in a ghost story!

Getting touchy-feely

Well-read pages

Kindle, love you as I do, tactile happiness is not your forte.

Soft and warm Snuggies

Judge me if you will, but these things are MADE for reading!

The Feel Good Factors

And of course, the books to give you the happiez:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Lush, sweeping happy

Touching The Void by Joe Simpson -
Inspiring, life affirming happy

Starter for Ten by David Nicholls -
Endearing, giggley happy

Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaimon -
Unashamed, ridiculous happy

So guys, what makes you all warm and gushy inside? Share and share alike!


Top Ten - bought but not read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish asking a weekly question about books. I'm not a regular, but sometimes a question seems to stir up some answers in me, and today's is no exception:

What book did you just HAVE to have, but have never read (yet)?

Here are my answers:

1. Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Heard - I read reviews for this for ages, and when my boyfriend showed an interest too, I bought him it for his birthday with the intention of reading it after him. He has since completed the entire 5 book series... whereas I am still looking at the front cover of book one.

2. The entire works of Jane Austen - Separately, I have read all but Emma. This collection, however, has never had it's spine cracked...

3. The Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson - This whole series has been on my to-read and my bookshelf for ever. My boyfriend raves about it. Bloggers rave about it. I want to rave about it! I'm just too cautious of dipping my toes into fantasy...

4. Fall Of Giants by Ken Follet - I loved Pillars Of The Earth and World Without End, but this mammoth sized book has yet to give my arms a workout.

5. Citadel and Sepulchre by Kate Mosse - Again, I loved Labyrinth but just haven't gotten around to the next two!

6. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux - I bought my own copy of this after getting half way through my nanna's copy while staying with her once. I haven't finished it :(

7. The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell - I wanted this book so much, and my boyfriend bought me it for Christmas, and it's March....

8. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - A completely out-of-my-comfort-zone-genre purchase, but I had been totally swayed by reviews. However, a ghost story always beats it to being opened!

9. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult - I bought this soon as it was released! And, haven't yet been in the mood :p

10. The Strain and The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan - I can't even explain why I haven't read these yet. I must!

Wow, that list has just demonstrated how eclectic my reading can be, eh?! haha. Which books have you got but not read?


New for 2013

Mab is Mab has a new look! (Again...)

I like to keep things exciting, and give my design skills a bit of a work out now and then. I had been using a pretty default template look on the blog for a while and felt it needed sprucing up. So this weekend I made it my mission to inject a little bit of life into it. I hope you like the makeover! You'll also notice a few new...err... vintage-y pics of yours truely. These are a result of a Groupon purchase - can't beat a vanity bargain, eh?!

Truth be told, Blogger gave me something of a headache with its "interesting" code/css tricks in the course of this redesign. It cetrainly kept me (and my boyfriend) on our toes - and on the edge of sanity! I hope you feel it's paid off :)

Thankfully it's all over now, and I'm more than happy with what I've ended up with.

Now then...
Bring on the books!


The last time I was in Venice, I was on a photography trip with college. It was fun, but we didn't get to spend much time photographing anything that wasn't a main viewpoint. When I returned last week with my boyfriend, we indulged in lengthy strolls (getting happily lost more than actually finding our way anywhere!) glasses of wine in the many small piazzas and taking in the Catholic architecture of the many churches.

Unfortunately for my photos, the weather was very misty for a large portion of the time. This added to the mystic feeling of the walks, but didn't make for much more than "we were here" tourist snaps. When the sun did manage to break through towards the end of our stay, it was glorious. We enjoyed posh coffee on the grand canal for my boyfriend's birthday and ate much too much gelato! (You will subsequently find me in the gym for the next few months at weekends!)

As I have been away from the blog for the past few days, I thought I would share some images with you, to catch you up on my endeavors. Check out the amazing copy of Alice In Wonderland I found in a quirky bookshop (a bargain at only 2000 euros!)




So there you have it! If you haven't been to Venice you must go if you can! It's such a lovely, relaxing break. The Italians call is "Serenessima" for it's peacefulness and I am inclined to do the same.

I have my head in a couple of books at the moment, so I will be back with a review shortly. Stay tuned!

It's not you, it's me...

Rifling through the back of my wardrobe at the weekend on the hunt for shoes, I found something I wasn't expecting to find there: a copy of The Blue Book - a novel so pretty, so blue (!) and so critically heralded, but ultimately, to me, unfinished. It's one of the very few books I just could not reach the end of.

It's rare that I do not finish a book, and there have been plenty of books I wouldn't recommend in a lifetime that have had my eyes scour their final chapters. The Blue Book, however, is not one of them. Others that I have given up on include some high profile titles: The Life of Pi,The Alchemist, Rebecca, The Island and Sacred Hearts.

So what makes these books different?

On the face of it, these books are things I should like - escapist surrealism, spooky settings, historical fiction, confined environments and deep character study.

I have had a little think about it and I have come up with a few things that don't suit me personally as a reader. As  bloggers, readers, consumers, markets and peers we spend a lot of time defining ourselves by what we are, but what about the things we are not?

Wouldn't knowing what to avoid in our quest for entertainment, education and fulfillment help us just as much?

Here are some of the things I have come to realise I do not like as a reader, and have each in some way contributed to my giving up on the afforementioned books:

  • Tenous tangents that last for pages
  • An assumption that the reader is just like your character. That they have an "understanding", so actions are missing motives.
  • Using the physical book as some sort of symbol for it's fictitious self
  • Free-flowing thought as a conversational style

If I told people those four points, as well as the usual "ghosts, dark, gothic, historical" definitions of taste, would my recommendations be more relevant? Would the number of "not recommended" reviews diminish? Would, dare I say it, authors get to stop chasing bad reviews because they disagree with one star ratings based on style over substance?

We all know what we like, and what we turn to for the comfort of reading, but perhaps we might start needing to look at the reverse of this as more and more content is commissioned, published and publicised. There will soon be so much out there, that finding the perfect read will become a much harder task (if it's not already!) We know our "pull factors" but what are the "push factors"?

What books have you not been able to complete? Have you ever asked yourself "why"?


Theo: A Novella - review

Theo: A Novella by Paul Torday is the second of two books I read on my recent break. It is a short pre-story to Torday's new release, Light Shining in the Forest, which uses characters from this novella.

I was attracted to this story initially because is has a theme of stigmata - a manifestation of the five wounds of Christ, believed by Catholics to be displayed by martyrs. I am not a religious person, but the idea of stigmata has always intrigued me, and made for good reading in other books such as Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult. I wondered what route this book would take on the subject, and was even more interested when I found out the main character was a vicar going mad and experiencing supernatural nightmares, after his predecessor was institutionalized in a mental hospital for becoming "too holy".

There is a lot of religion in this book, as you would expect, but it is perhaps not in the way you expect it. John Elliott, the new vicar of St Joseph's, is a man questioning his faith. He is struggling with his inability to raise the number of his congregation to more than 16 people, and his wife makes no pretense at encouraging him to give up his vocation for a life elsewhere. He is in turmoil, and finds himself defeated in every effort he makes to enliven his parish.

Elsewhere, John Elliott's wife is teaching at the local school. John helps out now and then but is under very strict orders from the headmistress that there is no faith to be favoured over any other in her multi-cultural, and politically correct, school. This is put to the test when one of the children, Theo, starts displaying the wounds recognised by John as stigmata.

When the police are involved, they assume the boy has been subject to child abuse, despite the wounds no longer being visible when they arrive - and who is John to say otherwise? He seeks council with his peers who convince him he must have been mistaken in his assumption, but he is left wondering how Theo's wounds had disappeared so quickly.

It is then that the reader is thrown into a story of uncertainty - John goes to see his "mad" predecessor who seems to know about some disturbing - demonic even - events and dreams that John, too, has been experiencing. The madman tells John to protect Theo. That it is his duty. Then, Theo disappears.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short and exciting novella. It felt very British in it's portrayal of John's village life as a vicar in a place where faith has run dry, and I liked that when all else was a bit crazy, there were still conversations over the breakfast table and daily troubles of getting a car up a snowy hill.

I do, however, feel a little short changed! There we so many great insinuations in this book, so many allusions to things that never materialized, so many characters that had back stories that amounted to nothing! I want to know more about George! Why did he think he wasn't coming back? Why did he show up for a last sermon? I also want to know about that truck - why was it there? who was driving? I have sooo many questions. Was John mad?Was what he saw real? Was he just depressed? Hallucinating? Desperate? ARGH!

I will be buying Light Shining in the Forest in the hope of gleaning some answers, but I definitely like the idea of a novella preluding a larger piece of work. I only hope the full novel is as brilliant as this.

Highly recommended! 8/10 - perhaps higher if I didn't feel there were so many loose ends.

PS. This book is currently 99p on Amazon for Kindle users. A definite bargain!

And the winner is...

Claire of Claireabellemakes! has come up with your number :)


Here's what Claire wins:

Look out for more giveaways coming to the blog soon!