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review 2018-03-30 21:12
An intense psychological thriller about a disturbing topic.
The Fear - C.L. Taylor

Thanks to NetGalley and to the Publishers (Avon) for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

After reading this novel, which is a page-turner and moves at a fast pace, I checked the reviews, and it is one of these odd cases when I agreed both with the positive and with the negative reviews about the book. Some of them compared it to other novels by C.L. Taylor, an author who has a big following (this novel is a bestseller Amazon UK), but as I had not read anything by her before, I cannot comment on that. But I agreed with some of the other opinions.

The novel revolves around three females, two grown women, and a thirteen-year-old girl. In fact, they are three generations, with Wendy the oldest and Chloe the youngest. We follow the points of view of the three women for most of the novel, although there is more of the story told from Lou’s point of view. Her part of the story is narrated in the first person, while the rest are in the third person, and, at least at the beginning, she is the most active of the three. Due to her father’s death she has to go back to the town where she grew up, to deal with her father’s house, and her past comes back to haunt her, both figuratively and literally, when she sees the man who had abused her (Mike) when she was a teenager and worries that he is at it again. The three women have been affected by what Mike did, and the novel is very good at focusing on the emotions of the characters, that go from love to denial, and to absolute fear. Lou’s account is interspersed with fragments from her diary as a teenager, where we get to fully understand the background of the story and how dangerous this man truly is. The combination of charm, manipulation, and his skill at picking up girls lacking in confidence and easy targets for his advances is well portrayed. The subject matter reminded me of an Australian novel I’ve really enjoyed, The Silent Kookaburra.

The subject remains as relevant (if not more) as ever, unfortunately, and this book offers a good perspective of the psychological damage such abuse can have, not only on the direct victims (that might never get over it) but also on those around them (family, wives, friends…). Should they have believed the abuser’s excuses? Are they guilty by association? What is their responsibility? The book is set in the UK and it refers specifically to changes in Criminal Law (like the introduction of the sex offenders register) but although it does not discuss those issues in detail, I don’t think that would cause difficulty to readers from other places.

The three characters fall (or have fallen) prey to Mike and find themselves in very vulnerable positions. It is impossible not to wonder what one would do faced with their dilemma, particularly that of Lou. Her impulsive actions are extreme and I agree with the readers who have commented that at times the book is over the top, although Lou’s doubts, her continuous hesitation, and her fear feel real. She is not alone in being pushed to the edge, and this is a book where characters do not play safe, rather the opposite.

The writing is fluid, and brings to life the three female characters, whose only connection is through Mike, perhaps with more immediacy in the case of Lou —this is helped by the first person narration and her diary— but it manages to make us empathise and feel for the three by the end of the story. And no, not all of them are likeable, to begin with.  I know some readers worry about head-hopping, but each chapter states clearly which character’s point of view we are following and there’s no possible confusion. Although there are brief moments of relief when things seem to be about to take a turn for the better, this is only to lure us into a false sense of security, and the tension and the pressure keep increasing and so does the pace. The ending is satisfying and will have most readers cheering on.

If you’re wondering what are the negative comments I agreed with, well, I was not necessarily talking about the degree of suspension of disbelief (yes, readers will need a fair deal of this, but as we are engaged with the characters and their plight, this is not difficult to maintain), but about some anachronisms, some details that seemed incongruent to the time when the story is set. I felt that the emphasis on Facebook messages, fake accounts, hacking, etc. seemed excessive for a story set in 2007. Other readers, who decided to research in more detail, discovered that indeed, some of the things mentioned, Apps, songs, etc., were not available yet. One reader noted that she could not understand why the story wasn’t set in the present, as that would have avoided these issues, but another pointed out that some aspects of the plot would only make sense if the story was set up in the recent past (including some of the legal issues). I wonder (as a writer) if the story was originally set in the present but somebody spotted the plot issues and came up with the solution of moving it back in time (without changing some of the modern references).

This novel does a good job of creating believable characters and making readers think about the plight of the victims of paedophiles. Although it might be less satisfactory to die-hard lovers of police procedural books, I think it is difficult to read it without empathising with the female characters and having to pause to reflect on this serious issue. And the questions at the end will further engage book club readers and encourage meaningful discussion. I don’t think this will be the last novel by C.L. Taylor I’ll read and I can easily understand why she is popular. (Ah, and she calls book bloggers book fairies. I like that!)


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review 2015-08-30 03:41
The Napkins... I mean Eyes of the Dragon
The Eyes of the Dragon - Stephen King

The passage through the castle is dim, sensed by few and walked by only one. Flagg knows the way well. In four hundred years, he has walked it many times, in many guises, but now the passage serves its true purpose. Through the spyhole it conceals, the court magician observes King Roland -- old, weak, yet still a king. Roland's time is nearly over, though, and young Prince Peter, tall and handsome, the measure of a king in all ways, stands to inherit the realm.


Yet a tiny mouse is enough to bring him down, a mouse that chances upon a grain of Dragon Sand behind Peter's shelves and dies crying tears of fire and belching gray smoke. A mouse that dies as King Roland does. Flagg saw it all and smiled, for now Prince Thomas, a young boy easily swayed to Flagg's own purposes, would rule the kingdom. But Thomas has a secret that has turned his days into nightmares and his nights into prayed-for oblivion. The last bastion of hope lies at the top of the Needle, the royal prison where Peter plans a daring escape...


This book is a departure from Stephen King's typical horror writing. He wrote this story so his 13-year old daughter could read one of his books. I think he succeeded in writing a delightful fantasy story that can be enjoyed by both young and older readers. There is strong theme of Good versus Evil and a struggle to "do the right thing". As the story progressed, there really weren't any surprises, but while not unexpected, the ending was satisfying.


I listened to the audiobook and thought the narrator did a great job. Flagg's evil was palpable, including a hissing speaking voice. I liked the way the "storyteller" spoke to the reader and hinted at things to come. And as the story came towards the end and the suspense amped up, the chapters were very short. It was like we couldn't waste any time; it made the end come very quickly.


Recommended to:

Fans of fantasy stories with distinctly good & evil characters. It can be read by middle school students and above. (Note that many fans of Stephen King did not like this book.)



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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-03-28 03:58
Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

Holy crap is this a tear jerker.  My head hurts, my nose is stuffy, and emotionally I am all over the place.  Fantastic characters, great story telling and a wonderfully engaging story. 


May be an issue if sensitive to right to life issues, and I won't comment on my personal view; however, the arguments are all presented here.


Something light and fluffy needed after reading this, but so glad I read it.

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text 2013-12-11 04:57
Reading progress update: I've read 54%.
The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien

I have been working on this book for forever. I'm part of a reading club with some of my friends that I met first on xanga and then we moved over to tumblr. I really love being a part of the group - there's only four of us, but we all absolutely adore reading and it's been great to discuss that with friends. The really great part is that we all have pretty different tastes, so we get to introduce one another to books that we probably wouldn't even attempt otherwise. 


Unfortunately, 3 out of 4 of us are still in college (after Saturday, only 2!), so we're restricted by our demanding school schedules and this semester, we were so busy that we had to put reading club on halt. We're coming back on Sunday - that's the plan, anyway - and I CANNOT WAIT!!! So tonight I finally finished what we've designated as section two of Fellowship and I'll be ready to move on to section 3 of Fellowship for our longer reads list and start Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, which is on our normal list, on Sunday. Yes, we do have several different reading lists. We're that obsessed with books. I'm sure you all can relate :) 


Anyway, so far, I like this book much better than I thought! I was always a Harry Potter kid growing up and for some reason, for the longest time I thought that you couldn't like both series. Which is stupid, but that's the way I felt, so for the longest time, I refused to attempt LOTR and by the time I got over it, I just didn't care enough to start the series on my own. So thankfully, my good friend Lizzy is a huge fan of the series and she put it on our longer reads list. Sometimes, Tolkein's a bit wordy, but at least he's clever writer and at times he's actually pretty funny! I watched the movie about a year ago and I'm really glad that Frodo et al. have finally gotten to Rivendell - I remember that being my favorite part of the movie, even though I don't really remember many details as to why that was. I just finished the part where Frodo had some problems crossing the Ford. But apparently, all is well and hopefully the next section will be full of the Elves! I think it's safe to say that they're my favorite - or at least, they were in the movie!

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review 2012-06-22 00:00
The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time And Fighting Wars - Patrick Hennessey Despite being a pacifist who doesn't really get why anyone would want to be a soldier, I am interested in war and books about war. I have read some great books on the subject (some that come to mind include `Despatches' by Michael Kerr, `Stalingrad' by Antony Beevor, even `Bravo Two Zero' is a rip-roaring read that gave me some helpful insights). I am sorry to report that - despite the gushing praise all over the cover of this book - that, in comparison this book is pretty dull.

In essence, a man - whose grandfathers were, on one side of the family a pacifist, and on the other a soldier - decides to join the army as a graduate trainee officer. After a very predictable description of his training that I've seen, and read about, many times before, he is finally rewarded with the chance to engage in some real fighting in Afghanistan. The book does pick up a bit at this point, but it is still pretty turgid. I was particularly frustrated by the army jargon that peppers every page (although there is a glossary for those that can be bothered).

Sadly, if very predictably, colleagues get injured and killed, although, despite this, the author repeatedly comes back to his love of skirmishes, action, fighting, call it what you will, and how this is what he loves about being a soldier. This seemed to be the heart of the book. Yet I came away not really sure what it was that appealed to such an apparently intelligent person. Is he just an adrenaline junkie who needs a regular fix of danger? He acknowledges the effect of his being a soldier on his family but doesn't go on to explore this. This is my main complaint - the lack of reflection on what he has experienced.

The book offered me some insights. For example, how the modern British soldier creates films of their war exploits and, after editing the footage, adds a suitable rock or rap soundtrack. The author acknowledges how current British soldiers are now part of the MTV generation. I was also interested in the way the anti-Taliban soldiers influenced their British allies through their more laissez-faire approach.

Ultimately though, this book is less a "War Is Hell" tome, and more "War Is Fun" that frequently bored me and offered me very few new insights. The book is partly redeemed by some of the sections on Afghanistan but I thought, overall, it was a missed opportunity.
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