Book review: From the Shadows by Neil White


Book Cover

Title: From the Shadows

Author: Neil White

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publisher: Zaffre

Publication date: 9th March 2017

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .
Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.
When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.
But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.
Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost . . .”

My review:

After having stumbled upon many reviews praising Neil White’s work, I decided to start with the first book in the Dan Grant series on a rainy day when I was looking to get lost into a complex court drama. I must admit that this book had me hooked right from the beginning; the third person point of view of the stalker was striking and mysterious and the murder revealed in the first few chapters showed a lot of promise. Similarly, the introduction of Dan Grant as an up-and-coming criminal defense lawyer keen to support his client and simultaneously win his case was a bold start to what appeared to be an intriguing murder mystery.

It was from this point when I found myself struggling to stay interested in the rest of the story. The writing felt disjointed and strained as the plot jumped from the past to the present and suddenly left behind the mysterious third person narrative of the stalker, something which really attracted me in the beginning. I was also not keen on the intent to establish a love interest for Dan as I felt that his character was bright enough without this added element and the sudden attraction to Jayne with barely any foreshadowing. Most of all, the pace during the middle of the plot was too slow without many developments on the murder case. It often felt like Dan and Jayne were following the same leads with no success which eventually became frustrating.

Unlike the middle of the story line, the ending was completely sudden and significantly more fast-paced as Dan and Jayne worked together on the final lead to solve the mystery and defend the client in court as best as they could. I was especially disappointed to find out who the stalker is because this character felt redundant to the story line from the start. Nevertheless, the strong ending had a huge impact on the plot and storytelling and I have to praise the author on these final tense chapters. From the Shadows may not have been the fast-paced and thrilling read I was seeking but I think that others who are looking for a character-driven court drama may find much to love here.

Studious Saturday: Mystery Blogger Award

THE AWARD
“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion. – Okoto Enigma

THE RULES
• Put the award logo/image on your blog
• List the rules.
• Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
• Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
• Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
• You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
• Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
• Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
• Share a link to your best post(s)

studious saturdays

I have been nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award by Darinda and Molly. Many thanks to both of you for thinking of me and for anyone who hasn’t yet come across their blogs I encourage you to visit and follow them because they both publish great content!

THREE THINGS ABOUT MYSELF

  1. I always struggle when answering the question “Where are you from?” because I consider myself a citizen of the world after having lived in various countries. I have friends from all around the world and am constantly changing between languages and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
  2. My biggest dream in life since I was eight years old is to have a dog and I am slowly getting closer to making that dream come true.
  3. Apart from reading, my biggest passion is ballroom dancing which I started when I was seven and hope to never give up.

MY TOP POSTS

Exploring bookshops in London

Book review: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Disappointing books and managing high expectations

MY ANSWERS TO DARINDA’S QUESTIONS:

  1. How many books are on your TBR, and how long will it take you to read them? – I currently have 99 books on my TBR list, which I know for many isn’t a lot but it’s the most I’ve ever had! I usually read around 50 books per year on average so it would probably take me around 2 years to read them but unfortunately the list keeps growing so I don’t know when I’ll ever finish them!
  2. Who is an author you will read without reading the book blurb first? – Jodi Picoult
  3. Name a fictional character you love to read about, but would find insufferable in real life. – Robert Langdon because I can just imagine how technical our discussions would be!
  4. What are three things on your bucket list? – Have a dog, travel the world, start my own business
  5. Funny: If you could have a superpower, what would it be? – Teleport so I could visit my family who are scattered around the world all in one day

MY ANSWERS TO MOLLY’S QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you have any favourite festive reads? if so, what are they? – I don’t unfortunately but I have seen some great reviews for Josie Silver’s One Day in December so I am planning on making it my festive read for this year!
  2. Who is your all time favourite book character? – Lisbeth Salander
  3. Are you planning on posting Christmassy content in December? – I sure am!
  4. What is the one book you would recommend to anyone? – The Great Gatsby
  5. Do you have any Christmas traditions? – Oh, so many! We still have a Bulgarian Christmas on the 24th where we make an odd number of dishes as tradition calls for and on Christmas Day we tend to have a leisurely morning with cake (it’s my mum’s birthday) before we open the presents and start preparing our usual lunchtime roast.

NOMINATIONS

Asha

TheBookReader

Mani

Reyna

Nikola

Naty

Kelly

(As always there is no pressure to do this tag at all!)

MY QUESTIONS:

  1. Which is your favourite ever book series?
  2. Do you ever go to the cinema more than once to watch a movie you really loved?
  3. Where is the most unusual place you have fallen asleep? *weird/funny question
  4. Which is the best birthday/Christmas gift you have received to date?
  5. Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which, and if not would you like to learn?

Book review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

 

Book Cover

Title: A Spark of Light

Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 30th October 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.
After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

My review:

I recently attended one of the events during Jodi Picoult’s book tour where she spoke about this book with a lot of passion and I understandingly rushed home and immediately started reading my signed copy. It has taken me a significantly long time since finishing A Spark of Light to put my thoughts together. As with any other Picoult book, the undoubtedly controversial topic and multifaceted characters provoke a mixture of emotions which are often hard-hitting and too complex to put into words. This is by far my favourite aspect of her writing and this novel definitely did not disappoint in this regard. I was especially impressed with her ability to explore abortion through the eyes of several characters who each have completely different views. The great detail in her research shines on every page as small but very significant facts on abortion and the opportunity to seek reproductive care are revealed. Some of the statistics are astounding and really help to understand each character’s position on this complicated topic.

On a more negative note, I have to express my disapproval of the structure which I don’t think benefited the plot or character development. A Spark of Light is written in reverse chronological order to explain how and why everyone arrives at the clinic on the day of the hostage. During her book tour, Jodi disclosed that she had been waiting for the right book to come along so she could use this writing method. Thinking back to all her previous works, I agree with her choice to write this book from all others in reverse order as all the events occur on the same day, however the execution felt weak to me at times because there were simply too many characters involved. I found it more difficult than usual to connect to each character because each chapter jumps from one character to another so we only see snippets of their thoughts. In spite of this, they all had a place and were important to the story line and I wouldn’t be able to discard any of them.

Perhaps I have been too critical of this book; when I read the blurb it immediately jumped up to the top of my TBR list and as soon as I heard Jodi discuss how she wrote it I dropped everything so I could read it. I already knew that it would be extremely difficult to surpass Small Great Things, which still remains my favourite book of hers, however I was still hoping to be completely absorbed by the story. Unfortunately I found myself stopping and re-starting again several times and it took me an unusually long time to finish. Nevertheless, the subject matter is intense and the writing still brilliant, just not as slick as her usual. I would highly recommend A Spark of Light to any fans of Jodi Picoult and anyone hoping to read a thought-provoking book. I would also love to hear your thoughts on it and I am especially looking for recommendations of similar style books/authors so please let me know if you can think of any.

 

Book review: List of 13 by E.A. Comiskey

Book Cover

Title: List of 13

Author: E.A. Comiskey

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

Publisher: Nuff Said Publishing

Publication date: 16th December 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

If Jim C. Hines wrote about Gilmore Girls taking a journey through the underworld, it might be a little something like A LIST OF 13.
Death sucks, but there’s good beer in Purgatory.
Alice and her adult daughter, Claire, created a “bucket list” of thirteen experiences they would seek out before Alice died from cancer. They never expected to die in a plane crash attempting to cross off number three. Now, mother and daughter are stuck in the underworld, unable to move on to their ultimate destiny until they finish the list, but finding an Irish Pub near the Fields of Asphodel, or swimming naked in the ocean while being pursued by bloodthirsty Aztecs and a smitten Egyptian god is as hard as it sounds. When everything they ever thought they knew is challenged, will faith be enough to carry them through?
A LIST OF 13 moves between the time after Alice’s death and the time before, allowing the reader to explore the way her relationships evolve and intertwine throughout her life and beyond.

My review:

This was a light and fun book which I read in only a few sittings. I enjoyed following Claire and Alice on their adventures in the Underworld as they completed their list of 13 experiences they would like to pursue. Both characters were likable and unique despite their differences. Their relationship, although often strained, really developed in marvellous ways and I was happy to see that they managed to put aside their differences and past mistakes in order to focus and conquer the challenges they faced in the Underworld. Rory’s involvement was also gratifying, especially during the difficult stages in the Underworld where he supported his wife and daughter from afar.

The small details linked to each part of the Underworld made for a very vivid and striking setting. The mythological elements of the book were well integrated into the story line and the plot developed with a steady pace and without too much focus on the mythology but rather a greater emphasis on Claire and Alice’s journey. However, the story jumped a lot between the past and present and it was sometimes difficult to follow the time jumps and points of view. Despite this small shortcoming, the execution of the writing and character development was still excellent.

Overall, this book offers something for everyone, whether you love the thrill of an adventure, prefer to delve into the challenges of a mother-daughter relationship or even enjoy a mix of fantasy and mythology.

List of 13 is soon to be published on 16th December!

Many thanks to the author, E.A. Comiskey, for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge: Day 3

Three Days Three Quotes Challenge

RULES:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post one quote per day for three days.
  • Nominate three blogs per day to take part in this challenge.

Today is the last day in this challenge and I wanted to thank Stephen one more time for tagging me! For the final day I chose a quote which describes the magic of books perfectly:

“Cada libro, cada tomo que ves, tiene alma. El alma de quién lo escribió, y el alma de quiénes lo leyeron y vivieron y soñaron con él. Cada vez que un libro cambia de manos, cada vez que alguien desliza la mirada por sus páginas, su espíritu crece y se hace fuerte.”

-La Sombra del Viento de Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”

-The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I adore this quote and I think it’s the perfect one to end this challenge.

Here are my nominations for the final day:

Simant

Evelina

Raya

There is no need to do this challenge if you have done so already or if you don’t feel like it but if you decide to do it please link back to me so I can read your chosen quotes. Thanks to all who read my posts during these past three days!

 

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge: Day 2

Three Days Three Quotes Challenge

RULES:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post one quote per day for three days.
  • Nominate three blogs per day to take part in this challenge.

Hi and welcome to Day Two of the Three Days, Three Quotes challenge! I would like to thank Stephen once again for the tag, it’s definitely challenging but also a lot of fun. Today’s quote was one I had thought about for days after finishing this book and I wanted to share it with you and find out your thoughts on it.

“What if the puzzle of the world was a shape you didn’t fit into? And the only way to survive was to mutilate yourself, carve away your corners, sand yourself down, modify yourself to fit? How come we haven’t been able to change the puzzle instead?”

– Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult often explores complex themes and I think that this one rings true in many ways. Do you agree with what she says here?

My nominations are:

Darinda

Mandy

Christina

Tomorrow is the final day in this challenge and I have just the perfect quote for bookworms. Stay tuned!

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge: Day 1

Three Days Three Quotes Challenge

RULES:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post one quote per day for three days.
  • Nominate three blogs per day to take part in this challenge.

I am stepping away from my usual posting schedule of Wednesdays and Saturdays as I have been tagged by Stephen in the “Three Days Three Quotes” Challenge. Thank you for tagging me, Stephen! This definitely looks like a fun challenge although I must admit that it has been difficult to narrow down my favourite quotes to only three.

For day one I decided to share a moving quote from one of my favourite books:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

– Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

I still remember highlighting this quote in my Year 10 English Literature class as our teacher explained the meaning behind Atticus’ words. There are so many things I have forgotten about school since then but I still remember this minor moment, it’s strange how our mind works.

Today I have decided to nominate (as always, no pressure to do this tag if you don’t feel like it):

Jenny

India

Roxanne

See you all tomorrow for Day Two of the Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge.