Book Review: The Final Correction by Alec Birri

Ok, let’s get right into today’s review!

The Final Correction by Alec Birri is the third and final part of the dystopian Condition trilogy. I am finding it hard to describe the book in my own words so, for your sanity, I am going to allow Goodreads do the talking:

What if all brain disorders were treatable? No one would lament the passing of dementia or autism, but what if the twisted mind of a sex-offender or murderer could be cured too? Or how about a terrorist or maybe a political extremist? What if we could all be ‘corrected’?

So, Professor Savage has been unmasked as the monster Alex Salib always knew he was. But what was their agreement and why is she still determined to see it through? The war on terror appears to be back on track but why does President Kalten seem hell bent on ramping it up – are the Americans seriously intent on starting World War Three?

And what of the treatment itself? Despite Savage’s arrest, the ‘corrections’ go on but to what end? The laws of unintended consequences are about to cause a seismic shift in the very nature of our existence. But then our new masters know that and won’t let it happen until we’re ready…

I guess the fact that I couldn’t summarise the story myself automatically tells you that I didn’t get along too well with this book. It wasn’t that I necessarily hated it, I read every page, it was just that I found myself confused half of the time. When I finally thought I was grasping what was happening, I was thrown back into the dark again. I think there are two reasons for this: this was really scientific based and without a doubt, that is not my strong point. What might have been easy for others to understand went right over my head. Secondly, although I can’t say this for sure, The Final Condition is not to be read as a standalone book.

But, if you feel that this type of book would be very much up your street, there are some good points I need to mention. For one, Birri creates an amazing new world. His imagination is top notch and my hat goes off to him for producing something so great. However, not everything is entirely new. Throughout the book, there are references toward America as a superpower and saving Europe, the fight against terrorism and genetic cleansing. I think these nods to the past help the reader to engage more and they also serve as a warning that such horrid events could happen again, making The Final Condition a creepy and chilling read.

What I found really interesting, though, is that Alec Birri – who was a commander of a top secret unit in the Military – so actually he’s a real life ‘M’ from the James Bond films. Therefore, while I didn’t exactly understand everything going on, trying to guess what could be based on real life made me curious enough to enjoy the story on some level. I mean, who wouldn’t be interested in technology conspiracy theories, psychological warfare and phones controlling humans?

So, yeah, this book wasn’t for me, unfortunately, as I was really drawn in by the idea of it. Nevertheless, it is not a lost cause. I would love to chat in the comments with anyone who has read the entire trilogy.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Last Condition by Alec Birri

The Last Condition by Alec Birri

Book Review: The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff

Do you remember the wonderful character of Kate from City of Ghosts? Well, I have good news! She is back and leading the way in the new offering from J.H. Moncrieff, The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts.

Kate finds herself on Poveglia, the world’s most haunted isle, to save stranger Lily whose soul has been captured by a deranged doctor who took great joy in torturing his patients in the past. But of course, the paranormal world is not all it seems to be and soon Kate is uncovering some shocking truths about the evil that lurks on Poveglia.

I love that Kate takes the lead in this book. No doubt she is a strong female but she is also a quirky one. While very few of us may have the gifts of a medium, we all have quirks of our own and Kate really exemplifies how important it is to embrace those quirks and use them to our advantage, or the advantage of others.

I feel the reader learns a lot more about the paranormal world in this book. Besides gaining a deep understanding of Kate’s gift, we are provided with explanations of certain phenomena and terms. Anyone who has an interest in spirits will only be inspired to learn more about this alternative world, while those who don’t believe will still find themselves with a pretty amazing story to enjoy.

And that is exactly what I liked about this book, it was a story. Unfortunately, many books I have recently read just have a whole bunch of ideas thrown down on paper, which has the end result of confusion rather than a literary escape for the reader. Moncrieff has an excellent flow to her writing. She releases information when it is needed most by the reader and she keeps it necessary and to the point. And she isn’t afraid of a good ol’ plot twist (the one in the middle of this book just blew my mind).

Finally, Moncrieff includes a comedic twist to The Girl Who Talks To Ghosts, ensuring that the story is not as dark as it could be (decide for yourself if this is a good or bad thing). And there was no better way to do this than by bringing back Jackson from City of Ghosts. I am a big Jackson fan. His character is so well-written, allowing a more down-to-earth (no pun intended) element to the story which opens the book up to a much wider fan base. Good thinking, Moncrieff!

If you haven’t gathered by now, I am totally pushing you to add The Girl Who Talks To Ghosts to your reading list. Today! It can be read as a standalone, but to have a true Moncrieff experience, get your hands on City of Ghosts first!

Have fun reading and maybe keep the light on 🙂

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

Ghosts

 

 

Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

So, I’m not actually sure how this review is going to go for one simple reason: weeks later, I still don’t know how I feel about this book. Maybe you can help me figure it out in the comments?

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton tells the story of 18-year-old Nella Oortman from the moment she joins her new husband, merchant Johannes Brandt, in Amsterdam. Eager to begin married life, Nella finds that her new circumstances are full of secrets and less than welcoming. Things become particularly strange when Johannes presents Nella with a cabinet-sized replica of their home and she gets in touch with a miniaturist to help her furnish it.

OK, let’s start with what I know for certain about this book. Placed in the 17th century, and in Amsterdam, I really liked the setting. It showcased the city for what it was back then and I enjoy learning snippets of history by reading fiction. However, what I especially liked about all this was that the story was modern despite the time it was set in. Nella was a symbol of this modernism.

None of the characters was overly likeable. In fact, they all had certain characteristics about them which placed the reader more on the side of dislike rather than like. But what they did have was mystery. As the book progresses, it peels back a layer of Nella, Johannes and the rest of the household but we never really discover their true selves. It is these secrets, their greed, and the themes of gender, race and sexuality which keep us gripped and often appalled.

However, I do fear that this book was overhyped just a tad. Like I already said, I just didn’t get it. Especially the character of the miniaturist. There was no point to this character and the story would have done well enough without them. Overall, the story was interesting but I felt let down at the end and I probably wouldn’t recommend it to others.

Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Barton

Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Barton

Book Review: Russian Tattoos: Criminal (Russian Tattoos #3) by Kat Shehata

Another week, another book review, another Mafia story – my favourite kinda theme. Except, I am moving away from the Italian influence to Russian, something a bit different for me.

Russian Tattoos: Criminal (Russian Tattoos #3) by Kat Shehata opens with the kidnapping of Russian mob boss Vladimir Ivanov’s wife, Carter. Carter is held up in London by rival mob boss, Maksim Ovechkin, and won’t be released until Vladimir pays the ultimate price, his life. What Maksim doesn’t know is that Carter is pregnant with Vladimir’s child and she will do anything to protect her family.

OK, I just want to put one thing out there before we begin: Criminal can be read as a standalone book but I recommend reading the first two books in the series before starting this. Why? Like me, who did read this book independently, you may end up a little lost. While the storyline of Criminal will still be easy to follow, you will find yourself asking many questions about how the characters came to this point and, unlike others who have read all three books, you won’t have developed a strong tie to Vladimir and Carter which, from what I have read, is a disappointment.

Whatever order you choose to read Criminal in, I can promise you plenty of action. Plenty of hard-core violence and backstabbing, the kind you can only find in the gangster genre. Consequently, this leads to a deep and sinister story with the most sinister part, for me at least, being Carter’s love for Vladimir. Don’t get me wrong, I can see how she fell for her husband, the girl-next-door falling for the bad boy is nothing new to this world, but it didn’t stop me thinking “what the hell are you doing?!” as she continued to stay with him and also defend the relationship. And this was the frustrating part of the book for me; Carter was too weak. I really couldn’t connect with her as a person and I certainly didn’t understand her marriage (although a quick Google search gave me more of an idea of the background).

In terms of the other characters, none were exactly likeable, except maybe Dmitri (Carter’s bodyguard), but all were interesting, especially Vladimir. I think if you were a fan of Christian Grey of the Fifty Shades series, Vladimir will have a certain appeal to you.

Overall, I did enjoy the story. Although there were times I wished I hadn’t begun the series at number three, it was still somewhat of a page turner for me and I just needed to know how it ended. I would love to read your comments below about the series; I need some people to discuss further with!

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Russian Tattoos: Criminal (Russian Tattoos #3) by Kat Shehata

Russian Tattoos: Criminal (Russian Tattoos #3) by Kat Shehata

Book Review: Subject Verb Object: An Anthology of New Writing by Dane Cobain

There is something new and exciting on Joyful Antidotes today – a collection of short stories!

Subject Verb Object: An Anthology of New Writing comprises eighteen short stories compiled by Dane Cobain. Each author provided a short writing prompt (a subject, verb and object in a short sentence) which were randomised and distributed until each contributor received something different from what they submitted. The magic recipe for a collection of really great stories!

I usually tend to shy away from short stories because they just don’t give me the enjoyment that a fully blown novel does. But this was different. It brought me a new appreciation for the craft. It fascinated me just how much the authors were able to say in such a short amount of space, and how relatable the stories were considering their beginning as one abstract sentence. I think what really attracted me, though, was the different writing styles of the authors (I had only read short story collections from one author previously, which often led to dull reading).

Of course, there will be some stories which you won’t like. I found myself skimming through a couple but, overall, there is something for everyone. He swallowed the world by Alex Kimmel was skillfully told by bouncing between two characters, while When the mirror clouds by Dane Cobain was chilling. But, my favourite story just had to be The goat ate the world by Oli Jacobs. Jacobs really grasped not only the desperation of depression but also what it feels like to be the person on the outside, the one looking on at someone in pain and not being able to help.

This book took me just 3 days to read – a sure-fire way to know you are onto a good thing! If you are looking for something a bit different, something that will keep yourself on your toes, you have to check this out. Short story lovers won’t be disappointed.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

An Anthology of New Writing by Dane Cobain

An Anthology of New Writing by Dane Cobain

Book Review: Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett

Guys, I am back with a new YA series that you might just become obsessed with.

Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett brings readers to a new world. Fear is a 14-year-old girl who learns she was a parachute baby, dumped over the edge of the Gliding Lands as an infant. Since then, Fear has lived a hard life under the hands of her adopted “family”. Just as she is about to find happiness for the second time, her life is thrown into turmoil again when 8-year-old Happy is kidnapped by the Uppers and Fear vows to rescue her.

Even though it immediately opens with tension and hatred, this is overwhelmingly a story of hope. This is mostly presented through the strong presence of religion. Although religion is forbidden by the Uppers, many Downers still continue to believe in Abba and practice his ways. I have to admit that there is a lot of religious reference in this story and at times it feels like the author is laying it on a bit too think. However, it also made me reflect on my own Catholic upbringing and reminded me to embrace more the positive sides of religion, like forgiveness and kindness, and I guess that can’t be a bad thing.

The inclusion of religion will certainly be a breath of fresh air for younger readers who may have lived a similar life to Fear. We learn early on in the story that Fear was physically, mentally and sexually abused by her adopted family, which led her to believe she was worthless and any kindness must be repaid by unsavoury acts. But as the story goes on, we see her accepting genuine love and friendships and she is able to live her life more as the child she is than an adult and this is wonderful.

The theme of oppression also features in Ending Fear, with the Downers just living to serve the Uppers and becoming more and more void of any individuality or independent thought. Yet, we meet characters who rise above this in non-violent ways and win; another good message set forward by Fugett.

In the next books, I would like to learn more about the Uppers; I am quite curious to see how they will be developed. I would also like to have a more steadily paced read as I felt nothing happened in the first 60% of the book and then the story was just rushed. Anyway, I do recommend this book to anyone in search of hope – Ending Fear will certainly give it to you.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett

PS. For all of you on the scavenger hunt, here is your last clue!

goo.gl/forms/eW7LLrUW22BVGX332

14.fear

Book Review: The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

I always struggle to find something witty and fascinating to say when writing the introduction for a book review. So, I am going to open this review with just one sentence: if you like Dan Brown, you are going to love Glen Craney.

The Virgin of the Wind Rose is a Christopher Columbus mystery-thriller which tells the story of State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane who must unlock the infamous Templar Word Square to thwart a global conspiracy that reaches across five centuries. In parallel, it also recounts Portugal’s Order of Christ back in the 15th century and the conspiracy theory of the real identity and mission of Christopher Columbus.

I was completely drawn in as the book opens in Ethiopia and I was introduced to various religious elements which were new and interesting to me. By the time the themes of Christianity and Judaism were brought into play, I was hooked. Religious mystery and the Templar Word Square are slowly unravelled to the reader through each chapter, as the story jumps back and forth between Portugal and the present day. Now, I have to admit that this complicated things for me as I really couldn’t distinguish very well what the connection was and how the two stories would combine until the very end. However, upon reading other reviews, I realise that I was probably the only person who didn’t know that the story in Portugal was the story of Christopher Columbus and his voyages to the New World. If that light bulb was switched on earlier I might have enjoyed this book a lot more.

Nevertheless, excluding whatever information I did and didn’t know from the beginning, I do think that this book dragged out a bit. While reading the last chapters, I found myself skimming a lot, just wanting to come an end and find out what happened. The ending did bring clarity and one shocking event I did not expect to happen.

Returning again to the positive, I do have to praise Craney’s writing. Whether or not the story was too long for me, he has a good way of presenting detail to the reader which allows them to paint a wonderful picture in their head,. There is also a superb knack for unravelling a story. Additionally, one cannot fault just how well-researched this book was. I absolutely love secrets from the past!

While certainly not a quick read, I have to put my personal preferences aside and recommend this book to you all. Delve into The Virgin of the Wind Rose when you have the time to read it slowly and carefully and savour every well-thought out element of the story. Like I already said, if you love Dan Brown, then this really is one for you.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

Book Review: Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

You might think this to be a running theme on Joyful Antidotes if you are a newcomer: “this is a great holiday read”. But many of my recent reads have been – and Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther is no different.

Every Secret Thing tells the story of 5 choral scholars and their strong friendship over 3 years of studying at Cambridge. Just before graduation, they travel to the Lake District for a weekend, where everything changes forever. Twenty years later, the friends are brought together again, summoned by a mysterious bequest. What follows is an unravelling of the past and emotions they thought were buried forever.

This book is full of mystery. The story is a complete mystery and the characters are a mystery. Let’s start with the story. Be prepared for lots of detail throughout this book. Crowther certainly knows how to describe places and events. I have read previous reviews which stated there was too much detail but I disagree. There can never be too much detail when everything the author writes seems essential on your journey through the book. Plus, Crowther has a great way of writing which keeps you turning pages, keeps you wondering about the characters and what could be the conclusion of the story.

The conclusion. Hmm. That wasn’t the strongest part of the story, for me. I was actually  left with an unsatisfactory feeling that there was no conclusion. Yes, some answers were provided but for my inquisitive mind, they were not enough. Especially when it came to answers and explanations about characters which felt like they were just thrown in in passing.

Finally, we have the characters. We find out a lot about each character throughout the 384 pages but, like I just mentioned, their story didn’t feel like it was concluded. Nevertheless, I have to admire Crowther’s ability to develop completely individual characters and bring them together in a way that the reader can believe in the relationship they had. And this was important as the main premise of Every Secret Thing was not the mystery element, but the theme of friendship and complex relationships.

Overall, I have to admit it was not the best book I have read, but it was by no means the worst either. I would recommend this as a story to pick up every now and again, or while on holiday, and as a book for aspiring writers who want to learn more about character development.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

 

Book Review: Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Despite the fact that there are millions (probably even billions) of books in this world, an absolute page turner does not lie between the every cover. Therefore, when I find a rare gem, I just have to share it.

Although I am relatively late to the bandwagon on this one, I have been pushing Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent down the throats of everyone since I read it a few weeks ago. Unravelling Oliver tells the story of charming, successful author Oliver Ryan who is admired by everyone, that is until he viciously beats his wife Alice into a coma. The book tells Oliver’s story from his point of view, but also from the point of view of several other characters who try to make sense of what has happened.

I absolutely loved how Oliver’s character unfolded, but it also left me with a plethora of mixed feelings. The opening sentence – “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.” – just screams monster. And for a lot of the book, Oliver does appear to be just that, a monster. However, as the story progresses and we learn more and more of his back story, a certain softening happens, an almost understanding. This makes our opinion of Oliver less harsh than it was in the beginning and, to be honest, I didn’t like feeling this way. It was an insight to the real world when we see people forgiven, and even supported, following terrible acts as they are usually a “person of good standing”. 

The other characters are not as interesting. Although we do catch a glimpse of their personalities, I do believe that their main purpose is for us to learn more about Oliver. Nevertheless, while they don’t stand solidly on their own, having the different characters really gives the reader a rounded perspective of Oliver.

What I most liked about this book was that it was a crime story with a difference. Admittedly, since I read Gone Girl, very few books have stood up against it in terms of originality and surprise. Beyond this being a unique story, I believe Nugent’s writing style made it stand out. It is simplistic but informative and captive. There is no big build up, I feel, which makes the twists come as an even bigger surprise. 

Overall, I absolutely loved this book and can’t recommend it enough. I have already laid my hands on Nugent’s Lying in Wait and hope to be back with another glowing review soon.

Book Review: Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Book Review: Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Book Review: The Courage of a Samurai: Seven Sword-Sharp Principles for Success by Lori Tsugawa

I am an advocate of the self-help book. They might seem cheesy, and they won’t change your entire life, but you always finish up one having learned a thing or two. You may also think that they are all the same, but you are wrong.

The Courage of a Samurai: Seven Sword-Sharp Principles for Success by Lori Tsugawa Whaley is a self-help book with a difference. It is broken into several chapters which focus on the samurai’s code of ethics, and each chapter tells the stories Japanese and Japanese Americans who applied the principles of courage, integrity, benevolence, respect, honesty, honour, and loyalty to their own lives.

Why did I like this book? Maybe because it wasn’t condescending. Every piece of advice was offered as a suggestion rather than something considered a “must-do” and forced down your throat. I wasn’t left feeling overwhelmed. This was helped by the examples given, the stories of people who stuck to one or more of these ethics and made a positive change in life. Therefore, Tsugawa offered more so approaches to life rather than a hard set of guidelines which just had to be followed. I was able to take from the information of the page and interpret it to fit my own needs. The recollection of these stories left me really believing in this ethics and making a conscious effort to live by them more.

I babble a lot about learning about points of history from books and this review will be no different. Even without the self-help aspects, I enjoyed the information this book offered me from a new culture. My samurai knowledge was zero before this book; I hadn’t even seen The Last Samurai! But now I feel compelled to learn more about their culture, as well as that of Japanese Americans, especially their treatment during WWII. If I book leaves you wanting to learn more, then I think it is a winner.

So, if you want a self-help book with a difference, The Courage of a Samurai is for you.

I was sent a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Samurai