February 10, 2015

The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith

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Title: The Silkworm, Cormoran Strike #2
Author: Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Publisher: Sphere
Release date: 2014
Pages: 455


* Writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want life-long friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels*

  When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days - as he has done before - and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel is published it will ruin lives - so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.
And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...
 * Strike was used to standing for hours in the cold, watching darkened windows, following faceless strangers; to unanswered phones and doors, blank faces, clueless bystanders; to enforced, frustrated inaction. What was different and distracting on this occasion was the small whine of anxiety that formed a backdrop to everything he did.*

After the Cuckoo’s calling, we are back in London, this time in the world of publishers. When Leonora Quine asks Strike to look for her husband, author Owen Quine, everything tells him to refuse. Despite other people’s advice and his own doubts, he starts looking for him and soon finds out that there is more to the story than the childish tantrum of a temperamental novelist. Everything seems to revolve around Owen’s unpublished manuscript, in which he attacks about anybody he knew. As the police get interested in the case, Strike understands he needs to solve the case in order to prove Leonora innocent. Fortunately, he can count on Robin more than ever.
As you can expect with the second book of a series, the writing style remains the same and the main characters too. Some time has elapsed since Robin and Strike solved Lula Landry’s murder and it is a pleasure to find them unchanged. However, their relationship will evolve a lot with the Quine case and take a welcome unexpected turn. These two unconventional and original detective characters are no doubt the greatest strength of the book!
The plot itself is well thought and the author paid attention to every detail, which make the complicated story realistic in the point of view of the reader. However, I found the first part of the book rather complicated to follow. It might have been due to the many new characters introduced to us without much background information (which made it difficult for me to distinguish between them at first), to the numerous leads that Strike or the police have to follow or to the often changing point of view. This resulted in a great confusion, which fortunately disappeared as the story went on.
In The Silkworm, the author gives a harsh description of the publishing milieu which, given her background, can probably be rather accurate and maybe even personal. Nobody seems sincere and most characters are self-centred and opportunistic. There is no doubt that this contributes to building suspense because it is impossible to know which characters are telling the truth and which ones are trying to keep their secrets. For Strike, who does not know a lot about this world, it is also difficult to understand the relation between Owen’s unpublished work and his death.
The Silkworm is a good crime novel which will live up to the expectations of the fans of the Cormoran Strike’s series. I personally did not like is as much as the first book, because the beginning was too confusing, but we find our beloved characters again and the familiar writing style of the author!



February 04, 2015

The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman

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Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M.L. Stedman
Publisher: Black Swan
Release date: 2012
Pages: 461


* You could kill a bloke with rules, Tom knew that. And yet sometimes they were what stood between man and savagery, between man and monsters. The rules that said you took a prisoner rather than killed a man. The rule that said you let the stretchers cart the enemy off from no man's land as well as your own men.*

A boat washes up on the shores of a remote lighthouse keeper's island. It holds a dead man and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision.
 * And Janus Rock, linked only by the store boat four times a year, dangled off the edge of the cloth like a loose button that might easily plummet to Antartica.*

In the Australian post-war world, life goes on. People who experienced the Great War directly or indirectly try and go on with their life although nothing will ever be the same. In Point Partageuse, situated on the western part of the continent, there are few men and the prospects are rather dull for young girls. However, when Isabel meets Tom Sherbourne, a young and handsome young man who has just come back from the battlefield, she is convinced that everything is about to change. She decides to marry him and they begin a new life together for the better and for the worse. The first part sets the background for the story and the characters relationship. It is a good introduction including historical facts, geographical details and personal information about the characters.
Tom is lighthouse keeper on Janus, so Isabel follows him, but life on Janus is lonely and harsh. Like the characters, the reader will experience mixed feelings about this place, at the same time beautiful and threatening, magical and oppressive. Page after page, we discover what it means to be a lighthouse keeper and live outside the world all year round, apart from a yearly visit on the continent. Isabel and Tom live for the Light and for their mutual love, but things do not always go as expected… and people sometimes make bad decisions. When they find a boat holding a baby and a dead man, Tom and Isabel have to make a decision which is about to change their lives forever… and that of many other people as well.
The second part of the book takes place on Janus. The rhythm is rather slow and we can feel the loneliness and the repetitiveness of the life on the small island. We also get to know the characters and the developments of their relationships, which slowly deteriorates until the ‘day of the miracle’: the day on which the boat was washed up on the shore. The moment is miraculous in Isabel’s eyes, but wretched in Tom’s eyes. They have to make a decision, but no option seems right. M.L. Stedman describes beautifully the dilemma they face and their existential thoughts: what is right? What has to be done in the baby’s interest? How to respect one’s duty without destroying someone else?
The third part takes place back on the continent after everything collapsed. Although we felt something would eventually go wrong, it is heart-rending to see it happen. The characters are kept apart and each of them has got its own way of responding to grief. For their part, the readers are torn between two sides. We want to hate the characters who caused so much harm, but we understand them so well all the same that we end up confused. Like we knew that Tom and Isabel’s decision was a bad decision, we know the story cannot have a happy-ending, but cannot help hoping for one.
The Light Between Oceans is a very moving novel which you will either love or hate. There is no in between. The plot might seem too predictable and the characters too stereotypical to be realistic, but it raises important questions which can touch just about anybody. The author’s style is fluid and precise and we can see it evolve along the pages. The first part is rather factual and descriptive and it is rather difficult to know what the characters really feel, which creates a little suspense. In the third part, however, we discover the whole range of emotions felt by the various characters… and it will be difficult not to shed a tear. I recommend this novel to those who like beautiful if sad stories and want to discover a different kind of life.

European Reading Challenge 2015

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European Reading Challenge 2015
Hosted by: Rose City Reader
From January 1st 2015 to January 31st 2016


As my first challenge for 2015, I decided to take part in this one again, as I really enjoyed it the last two years and still have many books set in European countries on my TBR shelf. 

The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it's supposed to be a tour. 

There are five different levels: I chose the five-star one (Deluxe Entourage) again - Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

Ideas :
1) France : Flic ou caillera, de Rachid Santaki
2) United Kingdom :
   2.1) England : The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
3) Sweden : La Reine de la Baltique, de Viveca Sten
4) Greece : The Thread, by Victoria Hislop
5) Spain : Soudain trop tard, de Carlos Zanon

And many others...

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