Confessions of a Reader

'Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.' – Mason Cooley


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Book Review // The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

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Format: Paperback
Published: 12th March 2015
Publisher: Phoenix (Orion Publishing Group Ltd)
Pages: 238

This is a non-spoiler review.

Blurb:

A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.

“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do.”

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.

First Sentence:
This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it but I do.

My Thoughts:
I just absolutely adored this book. It was – for me – absolutely beautiful. Dark, poetic, intense and thought-provoking. I’ve not read a book quite like this in a long time, if ever.

Firstly, this is Rene Denfeld’s non fiction debut – which astounds me. The way this book is written suggests an author with many, many previous works. I didn’t know what to expect when starting this book, it took me a few pages to really get sucked into the story. It has a writing style that I’m not used to, you need to savour the words. The prose is so beautifully written, every single word flowed with such ease. It is truly stunning.

The Enchanted explores many different themes. Here are just a few that I picked up on whilst reading – identity, loss, love, crime, reality of prison and death row, imagination, redemption, longing, understanding and being accepted. 

I really enjoyed the POV the story is told from. Choosing a death row inmate to tell the story, as opposed to an outsider, was a brave and brilliant decision. It is unlike anything I’ve read before. I found my feelings and values completely contrasting throughout the book because of this narrator. I felt absolutely horrified in some respects, and then I found myself feeling sorry for him – even though I knew that morally he had done something wrong. This, in my eyes, is the work of a great author.

The character ‘stories’ were so intriguing. Each of them were like real people, they have been created and moulded into people that I felt I knew. The pain, heartache and suffering in all of them was so heartbreakingly raw – it mustered up so many different emotions in me.  

I researched Rene Denfeld and found out that she is in fact a death-penalty investigator herself. What an amazing insight into the world of crime, death row and the people who are considered monsters. It really gave the book that extra ‘edge’ for me.

A deep and beautifully written book, that has so many underlying messages. Raw, real and edgy. I will definitely be adding this to my favourites shelf.

StarRating5 out of 5 stars

Website: renedenfeld.com
Twitter: @renedenfeld


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Book Review // Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

OnlyEverYours

Format: Paperback
Published: 3rd July 2014
Publisher: Quercus Books
Pages: 400

BUY: Amazon | Book Depository

This book will count towards my 2015 Reading Challenge.

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Synopsis taken from Goodreads:

In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.

For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.

Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.

But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.

Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known.

My Thoughts:

OMG! My poor, poor heart. I am so cut up about this book. It was utterly, utterly heart-wrenching. It is definitely my favourite book of 2015 so far, and has made it on to my favourites list for sure. I am not going to do a lengthy review because words are just not enough, you have to read this for yourself.

The concept of this novel is scary, really scary. Girls are created to become one of three things; companions, concubines or chastities. They compete to become the top ranking eve, bringing a flair of ‘mean girls’ to the mix. Men rule in this world, women are completely inferior – they even have uncapitalised names, mostly referred to as numbers. They are trained to be good, happy, submissive and controllable. Brainwashed and treated like dirt, beauty is everything. Their aim is to please.

The shocking thing about this novel for me was how close to home it felt. Being a secondary school teacher I see the effects of celebrities, media and the need to ‘fit in’ amongst young girls on a daily basis. This book is obviously an extreme case. It is dark, very dark and some of the underlying issues are so prevalent in teenage girls (and many women) today.

I was completely intrigued by isabel and her story, her story becomes rather obvious towards the end. I can honestly say that I didn’t ever expect to be as devastated as I was by frieda’s story, it completely broke me.

I am definitely going to re-read this, I applaud Louise O’Neill for her fantastic debut novel. A truly astonishing read that ripped my heart completely in two.

StarRating5 out of 5 stars

Website: www.louiseoneillauthor.com
Twitter: @oneillo

 

 


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Book Review // Vendetta – Catherine Doyle

Vendetta

Format: Paperback
Published: 1st January 2015
Publisher: Chicken House Ltd
Pages: 384
Series/Standalone?: Series (Blood for Blood)
Genre: YA Contemporary

BUY: Amazon | Book Depository

This book is counting towards my 2015 Reading Challenge.

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Synopsis taken from Amazon:

When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion next door, Sophie Gracewell’s life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nic, Sophie finds herself falling into an underworld governed by powerful families. When Sophie’s own family skeletons come to life, she must choose between two warring dynasties – the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break…

My Thoughts:

After hearing so many great reviews about this book I was really looking forward to it. I was so excited when I saw it in the library! I enjoyed it, but I have to say I didn’t love it as much as other people have – I can’t really put my finger on why.

The premise of this novel is exciting – a kind of modern twist on the classic Romeo & Juliet tale, warring families, dark secrets and lots of action. I did get a sense of the Romeo & Juliet vibe throughout the novel – Sophie & Nic’s relationship is definitely turbulent! I loved that they were completely different yet very similar, if that makes sense.

The brothers themselves were rather dreamy. The mystery surrounding them makes them even more appealing in my eyes, I was left wondering about them the whole time. I will say that the author did a very good job at keeping me on my toes, I didn’t guess the plot twist towards the end at all. The imagery and description within the novel is brilliant. The author does a really good job at describing every image, scene and emotion so vividly – you do feel like you are really there.

I felt like the last third of the book was certainly the best. It was the bit that I sped through, wanting to know what happened next. The novel itself – for me anyway – felt like more of a ‘setting the scene’ book. Being the first in the series I can see that the second instalment may provide us with lots more action and the idea of the ‘family legacy’.

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Parts of the story did feel a little unrealistic to me. Towards the end Sophie finds herself in a very sticky situation. I would be very surprised if a girl of 17 was able to react in the way that she did – adrenalin kick or not. I also preferred Luca to Nicoli. Nic’s reactions irritated me – I felt he blew hot and cold all the time, Luca was true to himself throughout.

I think the series will definitely improve as the series moves forward. I am curious as to what Catherine Doyle will bring us in book 2.

StarRating3 out of 5 stars

Website: www.catherinedoylebooks.com
Twitter: @doyle_cat