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26th April 2017 Rachel Brazil
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

You would think that I would learn a lesson or two from reading terrible YA books wouldn't you? After the hugely disappointing Empire of Storms you would think that I would have cut my losses and not bothered with a Sarah J.Maas book again wouldn't you? Well, clearly I need extra lessons! Despite my rage at how dreadful Empire of Storms was, I decided to read the first installment in her new series A Court of Thorns and Roses. I think my reasoning was sound- It was the book she was writing in the same year as Empire and I wondered if her energy was poured into this book instead; one of her strengths is world-building and so I was interested to see what she would do with a blank canvas; and it was billed as a retelling of Beauty and The Beast, one of my favourite stories! So yeah, I thought it was worth a chance! Sadly, it was not. On the surface, it had enough potential to be interesting. Take the synopsis for instance...

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to CTRdemand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world. As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
Seems like it could have a lot to explore. Yes it gave away the romance 'twist' of Feyre falling for Tamlin but since it's already billed as a Beauty and The Beast retelling, that's kind of a given! What it doesn't indicate is that the 'ancient, wicked shadow' aspect of the plot doesn't kick in until  three quarters of the way through and in the meantime we have to put up with the stupidest plot ever with truly unlikeable characters and some problematic moments. Let's start with Feyre- She's built up to be a kickass female heroine, clearly modelled in part on Katniss Everdeen. She hunts to feed her family, has a realistic view of the future, is practical and strong for others. Except she isn't really. She's mopey and whingey and makes god-awful choices based on nothing of any intelligence. Yes, she has a pretty crappy life, and her father and sisters are useless, ungrateful wastes of space but she is such a martyr about it all that it's difficult to have any sympathy for her whatsoever. And that's even before Tamlin swoops in to claim her life for killing one of his Fae friends as laid down by the fae/Human treaty. After he whisks her away to her life of luxury (after promising to take care of her family), which by the way is the most inadequate punishment for killing someone and breaking an international treaty ever, her character becomes even more irritating. Tamlin isn't much better- despite his beastly appearance, there is nothing remotely beast like about him. In his normal form, he's clearly an attractive man but with a mask on. Hardly the material for a Beauty and The Beast retelling. And yes, his personality needs a bit of refining but he's pretty nice to Feyre so it's not even like she needs to overcome that aspect of him to fall in love. As the icing on the cake, we had some very problematic scenes with Tamlin acting 'beastlike' while under the influence of Fae magic- but we were apparently supposed to find his abusive and violent behaviour sexy?? The other characters are in equal parts bland or textbook villain, no real depth to them and therefore not even serving as a distraction from the turgid plot. It is SO BORING. Honestly, we get that they are going to fall in instalove- it's practically a requirement of the retelling- but why spend so much time on it? The last quarter of the book was more pacey and interesting but relied far too heavily on information dumps that retroactively explained large parts of the previous story lines. I did understand in some ways that the secrecy was necessary but it just all felt a little like she'd run out of time to plot the story properly. Ah well, one day I'll have learnt my lesson!! 1 bite. I did finish it I suppose...    

23rd April 2017 Tamara Thomas
Dead Cold by Louise Penny

Whale oil beef hooked! [caption id="attachment_5293" align="alignleft" width="191"]Click here for Waterstones link Click here for Waterstones link[/caption] How do you electrocute a person without electricity, out on a frozen lake, in front of a whole crowd of people without anyone seeing you? As Gamache muses “You used to be able to electrocute someone in a bathtub ...but toss a toaster into your spouse’s bath these days and all you’ll get is a blown fuse, a ruined appliance and a very pissed off sweetheart” this is the conundrum that pulls him and his team back to the tiny township village of Three Pines. The village of Three Pines is isolated and safe, tucked deep in a valley, so much so that mobile phones and much of modern technology are unreliable and this enables an atmosphere of otherworldliness to exist that in part protects the residents. Contemplation, community and friendship take precedence over social media and the modern world. Here in the second of her novels Penny starts to reveal the sadness, the fears and the joys that lie hidden in the depths of her characters. Snippets of poetry by Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen and Marylynn Plessner enhance the story and are skilfully and concisely used to express emotions. Weaving together beautiful prose and occasional humour the author brings the village to sparkling life. Grumpy old Ruth and Gabri the delightfully camp bistro owner have slanging matches that prove that the best insults are traded between friends and that love comes in many forms. The deep and gentle love between poetry quoting Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie is but one form. So – to the plot….. An extremely uptight and self-centred woman by the name of CC de Poitiers has decided to enlighten the world by launching a book on her theory of divinity and peace through the colour White. Colours are bad, emotions are colours run wild and they need to be controlled and balanced because White can only be produced through the perfect blending of the other colours. But CC is the extreme opposite of calm, her hen-pecked and cuckolded husband and grotesquely fat and bullied daughter Crie are testament to CC’s belittling nature. CC cannot bear to see potential in others and is the antipathy of the kindness that Three Pines engenders in many of its residents. Electrocuted in public on the day of the annual curling match the trail of clues leads back to a group of elderly women bound by time and love and secrets. However CC was not the only resident to enjoy a book launch, the village's long time resident and grouchy poet Ruth has released upon the world a slender volume entitled "I'm FINE" which readers gradually come to understand as meaning fucked-up, insecure, neurotic and egotistical. Yet oddly no-one has thought to murder her -yet... Great new characters such as Billy Williams who speaks in a dialect quite unintelligible to Gamache (see first line) are a source of humour and local colour. The behaviours of people who we have not yet met such as the senior Mrs Morrow (Clara’s fearsome and spiteful mother-in-law) are introduced. The old cow has sent Clara a Christmas present of herbal bath soak – only for Clara to discover while using it that it is really dried vegetable soup. But then Clara makes big mistakes - after all she mistook a stinking old bum curled on a street for God. Penny starts to reveal snippets of the backstory to Gamache. Why has the career of a skilled and intelligent Surete officer stalled when his record of solving crimes is so good? Gamache brought a senior officer to justice and restored honour to the Surete - but now he and his team are the pariahs. Penny gives no real answers in this novel instead allowing this backstory to run through the whole series and gradually build to a crescendo – in my opinion this is what sets these detective stories apart. Hard for me to rate these books objectively when I know the series inside out but I think it would rate 4 bites from many fellow Book Eaters.

22nd April 2017 Rachel Brazil
Hello, Is This Planet Earth? By Tim Peake

'It's impossible to look down on Earth from space and not be mesmerised by the fragile beauty of our planet.'

tpI'm pretty sure in this day and age that everyone has heard of Tim Peake- first British astronaut to complete a spacewalk, first astronaut to run the London Marathon, most distant person to read the CBeebies bedtime story... the list goes on! This book of photographs was released In November of last year, a few months after Peake landed in Kazakhstan after having completed 185 days in space! Consisting of over 150 photographs that Peake took during his time on the ISS, the book also contains his personal commentary which elevates this onto a different level than the usual 'coffee table' tomes you can find. Split into five chapters of images and a decent introduction, this gives a good insight into Tim Peake's time up there. The images themselves are frequently stunning, often breathtaking and always awe-inspiring. The accompanying text adds context and a decent amount of education without being patronising or jargon-filled. The inclusion of little maps to show where over the world Peake was is a nice touch, particularly if you're sharing the experience of this book with youngsters. The thing I loved the most about this book was that Tim Peake declared on the back cover that despite being 400kn up, he had never felt such a connection to this planet. And this sentiment shines through every page and every comment. Whether it be the largest iceberg ever captured by an astronaut (the size of London... LONDON), or the bright lights of a teeming metropolis, or even the hushed glow of the fishing fleets so numerous they defy expectations, the sheer wonder and beauty of this world is obvious and apparent to everyone who cracks open this book. I defy anyone to look at this book and not be stunned by the world in which we live. It is perhaps apt then that I review this book on Earth Day. What better time to appreciate the magnificence of this world than on a day dedicated to saving it from ourselves. The contrast between the untouched natural word, and the encroachment of mankind is not hard to discern in Peake's photos. 5 bites. A marvellous, thought-provoking book!

21st April 2017 GemBookEater
Brilliant Book Nooks!

You all know that all of us here at the BookEaters are obsessed with books ... and that obsession spills over into book storage! I mean you have to house your darlings appropriately don't you? I've long been collecting pictures of gorgeous home libraries, cool book shelves and everything in between on Pinterest and I thought I'd start a series of features to share the inspiration with you! Today let's dive into the beautiful world of Book Nooks! Here's a variety of cosy corners for curling up in - some are colourful, some are classical, some contemporary and some just plain cosy! Cosy Book Nooks! IMG_2455     IMG_2453     IMG_2449 IMG_2466     IMG_2477 IMG_2468     Colourful Book Nooks! IMG_2451     IMG_2463      IMG_2469     IMG_2456 Contemporary BookNooks! IMG_2480     IMG_2478 IMG_2461   IMG_2476    IMG_2462 Classical BookNooks! IMG_2474IMG_2475IMG_2470IMG_2458   IMG_2460 For more P-inspiration click the link in my bio to my Pinterest account and check out my Home Libraries board!  

20th April 2017 Kelly Turner
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

IMG_1614In a not too distant future, America has fallen. A coup has led to the overthrow of the government and the suspension of the Constitution. Democracy is replaced with theocracy, and America has become The Republic of Gilead. This is now a land governed completely by men, and in which women's rights have been stripped away completely. Forbidden to read, to go out alone, women have few roles in society. With increasing sterility in this new world, the Republic have introduced a biblical way to increase the population. Women known as Handmaid's are introduced to the households of high ranking officials and their wifes. Their role is to take part in a sexual ceremony with the official and his wife. A Handmaid who has a child is protected from being sent to the Colonies where "unwomen" are exiled. However, any child born is the property of the official and his wife. Our protagonist is Offred, handmaid to a man known only as The Commander, and his wife who Offred believes to once have been a singer known as Serena Joy. Through Offred we learn about the new regime, it's practices and punishments. We also get flashbacks to Offred's past: to her previous life with her husband and daughter, through to life in the Handmaid's training programme and her friendship with fellow Handmaid, Moira. Sales in Atwood's modern classic have soared in the months since the election of Donald Trump, and it's easy to see why. The premise has become ever more believable, as has the insidious way in which women's rights are eroded within Gilead. At the start of the revolution, on finding her bank account frozen. Offred's husband doesn't rage or take to the streets with her. Instead he promises to look after her, seemingly happy to be the knight in shining armour protecting his woman. In Gilead, men have complete control over women's bodies, their reproductive rights and lives in general. Executive orders signed by Trump show how easy it is for this to happen in this world too. It is an uncomfortable read, and so it should be. It deals with an uncomfortable subject. However, it's flawlessly written. Offred's voice is intentionally clumsy to start with, a side effect of being forced into silence for so long. But it becomes more fluent as the book progresses. This is an essential book, and can be found in the 'current affairs' section of your local bookshop! 5 bites PS- If you love The Handmaid's Tale, you might be interested to know that a new TV adaptation starring Elisabeth Moss as Offred will be released on US streaming service, Hulu on 26th April. Keep an eye on our page for a UK release date!

19th April 2017 GemBookEater
The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble

TheDarkFloodRisesFran Stubbs is getting closer to death and so is everyone around her. She's not giving in to old age though, rushing around the country as she investigates housing options for the elderly, supplies suppers for fading ex-husband Claude, visits her daughter, Poppet, holed up as the waters rise in a sodden West Country, as well as texting her son Christopher in Tenerife who is dealing with the estate of his shockingly deceased girlfriend. The novel examines what constitutes a good death and whether, if we're lucky enough to age, we should age gracefully or disgracefully. It looks at what it means to live well enough to die satisfied. This is a beautiful novel, the characters are deep and flawed and loveable. Margaret Drabble writes with wit and honesty. But it is not a firecracker of a novel. It is one to sit with and enjoy slowly when you have plenty of time. Great for a long weekend in winter. I imagine it would also make a good audio book and I would be happy to have it keep me company on a long journey. In fact I've just nipped over to Audible and listened to a quick sample and the reader is good so definitely a contender. The only problem with this book is that nothing obvious really happens. Because of that it is unlikely you'll be 'hooked' and staying up late to finish it to see what happens. Nonetheless it is worth reading. 4 Bites NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

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