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review 2020-06-11 20:45
The Holdout
The Holdout - Graham Moore

[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

A mystery where the “detective” is not actually with the police, but a lawyer. Ten years before the beginning of the novel, Maya Seal was drafted as juror in a high-visibility abduction-possible-murder case where a guilty verdict seemed the obvious result… only Maya wasn’t convinced, and managed to bring the whole jury to vote not guilty.

I really enjoyed this novel. As the prime suspect in the murder, and after the controversy that followed the trial from 10 years ago, Maya is well aware that no one is going to cut her some slack—on the contrary!—and that if she doesn’t do something, she may very well be found guilty. And so, she embarks on her own investigation, trying to root out the truth from her former fellow jurors as well as from the previous trial’s defendant. And all along, things are never truly certain, for there are in fact two mysteries, not just one. Was that man actually guilty, or not? And, of course, who’s the culprit in the recent murder?

It’s difficult to write much about this novel, for fear of accidental spoilers, but I can at least say that overall, I liked the characters (they all had their good sides and their darker little secrets), and I found the pacing appropriate.

One thing that I deeply regretted, though: one of the chapters completely spoils the endings to several Agatha Christie novels. Yes, I know, I know, by now the whole world is supposed to have read them, but I guarantee this is not the case (so now, I need to wait a few more years until I forget the spoilers to read those Christie stories…). I don’t know why authors do that, but please don’t. Seriously, don’t. I’d have made it a 4* book, but this kind of stunt makes me feel obligated to dock a half star just on principle.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars.

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review 2020-05-24 14:37
The Canterville Ghost
The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde,Inga Moore

by Oscar Wilde

 

This is one of those Classic stories I've meant to read for years and have finally got to it. Oscar Wilde comes from an era when characters were written bigger than life, even when they are dead. Many clichés of ghost story writing, like blood stains that reappear after being cleaned up, are to be found in this one, but the reader should remember that Wilde probably wrote them first! His sometimes humorous take on ghostly activity set the tone for many stories that came after.

 

My only complaint would be that sometimes the ghost had too much physicality. The antics of the children who chose to torment him instead of fearing him might have had greater limitations if he couldn't slip on floors or have his dignity damaged by projectiles.

 

Later in the story, humour gives way to a poignant encounter with the little girl in the family who feels sorry for the ghost and his plight. The gamut of emotions that are woven through the tale make me want to read more of Oscar Wilde to discover his full potential as a writer.

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review 2020-04-21 05:12
Let Me Stay (425 Madison #17) by: M.K. Moore
Let Me Stay (425 Madison #17) - M.K. Moore

 

 

 

Multi-layered. Complicated. Intriguing. Emotional. There is no one word that can describe Let Me Stay. Brendan and Brynn are drowning in depth. Moore dives deep into the tragic side of love. Family betrayal, dangerous enemies and yearning so deep that the heart may never recover. Although the emotions cut deep, Moore doesn't write victims. She writes characters with the courage to fight back and find the hero/heroine within themselves. Let Me Stay packs a mighty punch.

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review 2020-02-17 12:02
Creature horror with a nostalgic feel
Highway Twenty - Michael J. Moore

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is the first book by this author I’ve read (no, he is not “the” Michael Moore we have all heard about), and I was attracted by the description and the genre. It reminded me of TV series and movies I’d enjoyed, and it delivered on its promise.

I think the description shares enough information for most readers to get a good sense of what the story is about. I guess readers of horror would classify it as “creature” horror, and as I read it, quite a number of titles, mostly of movies and TV series, came to my mind: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, V, Slither, Star Trek’s The Borg, The Blob, and a novella I read a while back that I thoroughly enjoyed, Broken Shells. Although I love horror, the more I read in this genre, the more I realise I haven’t read yet, and I must admit not having read many in this subgenre, so I am not sure what its usual fans would think, or how original they would find it. As I said, for me it brought to mind some aspects of many movies and TV series I had watched, and it grabbed my attention and kept me reading. Is it scary? It’s creepy, and rather than making one jump or scream, imagining what it would be like to fall victim to these creatures is the stuff of nightmares and it will keep playing in one’s mind.

This book is pretty action driven, with short scenes that keep the story moving, and although like many stories about alien invasion they can be read in a variety of ways, and they seem to pick up on underlying fears (issues of identity, what is true and what is not, what makes us what we are, illnesses and epidemics, the end of the world…), the book does not delve too deep into any of those and it never makes openly acknowledges such connections, or veers into conspiracy theory terrain. It is just what it is, and that’s pretty refreshing.

Although the book follows a number of characters, the two main characters are Conor Mitchell —a man in his early twenties, who loves his car, enjoys his job as a mechanic, has a sort of girlfriend, some family issues, and does not appear to be hero material—, and Percly, the town’s homeless man, who sleeps in a disused train and does not bother anybody. The figure of the reluctant hero is a common trope in literature, and particularly prominent in American Literature, and these two are prime examples of it. They are thrown into a critical situation, and by a fluke of fate, both of them seem to be in a better position than most to fight the creatures. We learn more about them both as the story progresses, and they are fairly likeable, although, as I said, not standard heroes. We get snippets of other characters during the story, but due to the nature of the story, we don’t get a chance to learn much about them, and other than because many of them end up being victims of the events, we hardly have time to feel attached or even sorry for them.

The story is narrated in the third person, from alternating points of view. In fact, this is what most made me think of movies and TV series in this genre when I was reading this novel, because suddenly there would be a chapter where a new character would be introduced, and we would follow them for a while, learning how they feel about things, and perhaps thinking they would become a major player in the story, only for the rug to be pulled from under our feet. Yes, nobody is safe, and like in movies where a murderer picks at characters and kills them one by one, here although some of the characters keep “returning”, and we even peep into the minds of the creatures, we are not allowed to get comfortable in our seats. Readers need to be attentive, as the changes in point of view, although clearly marked, can be quite sudden. Ah, and I must admit the prologue is fantastic. For all the advice on writing books against including a prologue, Moore here clearly demonstrates that when used well, they can drag readers into the story, kicking and screaming, and keep them firmly hooked.

I’ve mentioned the short scenes and the cinematic style of writing. There are no long descriptions, and although there is plenty of creepy moments, and some explicit content, in my opinion the author plays more with the psychological aspects of fear, the fact that we don’t know who anybody is and what is real and what is not, and he is excellent at making readers share in the confusion of the main characters, and in their uncertainty about what to do next. Run, fight, hide? Although there is the odd moment of reflection, that allows readers to catch their breath a bit and also helps  fill in some background details about the characters, mostly the book moves at a fast pace, and it will keep lovers of the genre turning the pages.

The ending is particularly interesting. I enjoyed it, and it ends with a bang, as it should, but there is also an epilogue that puts things into perspective, and it works in two ways: on the one hand, it fills in the gaps for readers who prefer a closed ending with everything settled; on the other, it qualifies the ending of the story, putting an ambiguous twist on it. (And yes, I liked the epilogue as well).

All in all, this is an action book, with fairly solid characters who although are not by-the-book heroes are easy to warm to, with a somewhat disorienting and peculiar style of narration that enhances the effect of the story on the reader. I’d recommend it to those who love creature horror, and to people not too squeamish, who enjoy B-series movies, and who love to be kept on their toes. An author to watch.

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review 2020-02-04 22:25
The Knife Man by Wendy Moore
The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery - Wendy Moore

A very engaging biography of a fascinating figure: despite being largely self-educated, John Hunter was an intellectual giant who pioneered experimental surgery and applied the scientific method to medicine in a time when most doctors put more stock in ancient texts than verifiable observations. Hunter extensively studied the anatomy of humans and animals through thousands of dissections, and even seems to have been moving toward his own theory of evolution, though his writings on the subject were not published during his lifetime (1728-1793).

By modern standards Hunter seems both enlightened (advocating restraint in surgery, and letting the body heal itself instead if it could; battlefield surgery in particular was so primitive it often made conditions worse) and cruel (animal vivisection, and seeking out unusual bodies of people who definitely did not want to be dissected – which, unfortunately for medicine at the time, was almost everyone). By the standards of his own time, too, he was polarizing: wildly popular among the hundreds of students whose educations he made a priority, but hated by many of his colleagues for being brusque and dismissive.

All-around, Hunter was a colorful figure with an interesting life, and he's given very sympathetic treatment here. I do wonder, as sometimes happens in biographies, if the author overstates the importance of her subject to history, or the prescience of some of his speculations. But her facts seem very well supported, in which case Hunter's contributions have been sadly under-discussed. Overall I found this book very readable, engaging and informative, and it paints a vivid picture of the times.

A note for the squeamish: I am squeamish and was a little concerned to read this based on comments in a few reviews, but I actually didn’t find it that bad. Early on a couple of surgical procedures are described somewhat explicitly, but the book is much more about Hunter’s life than about surgical methods. Where his work is described I didn’t find it overly gory, but then I did go in expecting the worst.

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