Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (3)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.

Top Ten Things on My Bookish Bucket List
Okay, so I couldn't actually think of ten. I'm not big on setting myself goals, because I think the need to achieve said goal spoils my enjoyment of it. Take the Goodreads yearly reading challenge, for example. Last year, I set myself a goal of reading 75 books and ended up reading 90. This year, I set myself the same goal of 75, because I didn't want to feel under any pressure to read lots of books. I know myself, I'd race through them to make sure I stayed on track and I wouldn't enjoy any of the books. What's the point of that? So, anyway, not a goal person, but there are a few things I'd like to achieve before I kick it.

1. Get Published
I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. I write, YA novels mostly, and I'd love to see one (or several!) on bookshelves one day. Preferably soon, but I can be patient. Part of getting published involves letting other people read your work, and I'm not so good at that. Like, I hate it. But I'm working on it. My current project, Only the Guilty, is just days away from finding itself in other people's hands. And I'm definitely not having a panic attack every time I think about that!

2. Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
I doubt there's a single fan in the world who doesn't want to go to this magical place, except for those that have already been, and I bet a lot of them would go back again. It's just so damned expensive. But I love Harry Potter so much and I've been to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London twice now and would definitely go again. I will go to the theme park in Orlando before I die, I will. I was actually going to go this week (I have some time off work that needed to be used up before April) but decided against it because they're opening a new section this summer - Diagon Alley. And you apparently get to ride the Hogwarts Express between the existing Hogsmeade part and the new Diagon Alley part. How awesome is that?

3. Have Matching Sets of All My Books
Anyone who's visited this blog before, or seen me ranting on twitter/other people's blogs, will know how much I hate it when covers change halfway through a series. Or when I bought the paperback of the first book and then could only get the hardback of the second one. I hate it. With every fibre of my being. It upsets me greatly that there are sets on my shelves that don't match. The most important to me is the Pure Dead series by Debi Gliori. The covers of those books are beautiful - jewel-coloured velvet. Velvet. I have five books that match and one that's the regular paperback edition. It bugs me every time I walk past my bookshelves and I can't, I simply can't get my hands on the missing volume.

4. Get More Involved in Blogging
You might have seen the earlier version of this post that said I wanted to make the blog more popular and also interact more with other bloggers. On reflection, I'm worried it kind of implied that I was only interested in interacting with other bloggers in order to direct more traffic to my own blog, which wasn't what I meant. I would like the blog to be more popular, sure, but so that I can interact with more people. And I also want to dedicate more time to interacting with other bloggers on their blogs. I want to interact with this world and it's something I find quite intimidating. I guess I see people coming to my blog as a sign that they want to interact with me, which makes it less scary to talk back. So, yeah, that's what I meant. 

5. Find a Series to Love as Much as Harry Potter
I know, I know, it's a tall order. Part of me thinks that there'll never be any series I love as much as Harry Potter, but that thought actually kind of depresses me. Sure, it's an amazing series and it was a huge phenomenon and I doubt anything will have the same kind of success. At least, not in my lifetime. But I want to find something that I love as much, if not more, because otherwise what's the point? I have to believe that there's something out there that will captivate and enthrall me as much, that will earn another lifelong stay in my heart, because the alternative is just too depressing to contemplate. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo came close, closer than anything else ever has, which gives me a huge amount of hope. (Also, can we hurry up and get Ruin and Rising right now, please? I don't know how much longer I can wait.)

What about you? Are there any book-related goals you want to achieve?



Saturday, 22 March 2014

THE SPECTACULAR NOW

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Sutter's the guy you want at your party. Aimee's not. She needs help and it's up to Sutter to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee's not like other girls and before long he's over his head. For the first time in his life he has the power to make a difference in someone else's life - or ruin it forever.
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Aaaaand the March reading slump continues. Perhaps I'm being mean.

This book wasn't terrible. It wasn't great. It was a bit average. It started out pretty well, I was happy to go along with it, but it never sucked me all the way in and eventually I started to get bored. I also spent a lot of time wondering when it was set - or, perhaps more accurately, when it was written. It doesn't feel like a modern book. A not-especially-quick Google search tells me it was released in 2008, but I would have put it ten years before that. It has a similar feel, I think, to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I'm pretty sure was 90s. This book feels like it's set in the 90s. Maybe it is, maybe there was a specific, dating reference that I missed, but I don't think there was. It just feels odd. 

I didn't realise it was also a film when I bought it - I hadn't looked closely enough at the people on the cover to realise they're actually Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller - and that big yellow circle saying NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE was covered up by a sneaky sticker. Well played, Waterstones. Well played. But anyway, my point it, once I peeled that sticker off and discovered it was also a film starring Shailene Woodley as Aimee, I was thrown. She is not right for Aimee. Not right at all. And that jarring image sat in my brain the whole way through the book. It didn't help that Sutter reminded me very strongly of a friend of mine, and I couldn't get that image out of my head either, which made the reading experience kind of uncomfortable in places.

All in all, I didn't find this book especially spectacular. I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.

Also, spectacular is actually a very difficult word to type. If I missed one of my misspellings, I do not want to hear it.


Friday, 21 March 2014

THE BOY IN THE SMOKE

The Boy in the Smoke by Maureen Johnson

On a cold night, Stephen Dene went to the Eton boathouse to perform a desperate act. But someone stopped him along the way, sending his life in a new and decidedly strange direction–leading him to London, to two new friends, and to a world of shadows and mystery.
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Boy, has March been unkind to me reading-wise. This book is a special release for World Book Day, and is a short companion to Maureen Johnson's Shades of London books. A series that I love and am dying to get the next instalment of. I expected this book to fuel that desperation, to really punch me in the heart and make me blub over Stephen.

                                                      It did not do that.

Honestly, I was never a huge Stephen fan. And I am now ducking under my desk to avoid being hit by projectiles thrown by 90% of the internet. Yes, I was several emotionally impacted by the ending to book two, The Madness Underneath, but I had never really warmed to Stephen. I hoped this book would help, it would build up his character, break beneath the surface and let me in. I don't think it did. In fact, I found the whole thing, dare I say it, kind of dull. I love Maureen's writing, I do, but this book was lacking her usual spark. She has such a way with words - as you'd expect from a writer, of course, but her writing has always struck me as particularly fresh and interesting and vivid. This didn't line up with her other work and that's a real shame. 

Obviously, if you're a fan of the series, you'll want to read this book (or will have already done so.) If you haven't read the series - though I have no idea why that is - I can't understand why you'd have any interest in this at all. So, read the series, and try not to be too disappointed by this one. 



Thursday, 20 March 2014

ALL YOU NEVER WANTED

All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin

Alex has it all—brains, beauty, popularity, and a dangerously hot boyfriend. Her little sister Thea wants it all, and she's stepped up her game to get it. Even if it means spinning the truth to win the attention she deserves. Even if it means uncovering a shocking secret her older sister never wanted to share. Even if it means crying wolf.
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This synopsis rang a particular bell with me - it reminded me very strongly of one of my favourite books of all time, In Sarah's Shadow by Karen McCombie. So I couldn't resist it. I had to get it  as soon as I'd heard about it. Now, the problem with buying books that remind you of one of your favourite books of all time is that comparisons are inevitable and you will undoubtedly end up disappointed. I ended up disappointed.

It's a strange little book, not what I was expecting at all. Let's look at the synopsis in pieces, shall we? First of all, Alex doesn't have it all. She did, but she gave it up for no apparent reason. Of course there is a reason and that reason is the shocking secret that Thea wants to uncover. Except, it's not all that shocking, not really, and if I remember correctly, Thea never actually does uncover it. I have no idea what part of the book involved anyone crying wolf. The other two sentences, the ones in the middle, I can't complain about.

I didn't relate well to either of the characters, honestly. Alex was a bit of a drip - she had her reasons for that, I know, but I wasn't particularly interested in her. I think if we'd known her before IT happened, I might have felt some more compassion for her, but as it was, I didn't care one jot. Thea, on the other hand, I expected to engage with very well because she's a compulsive liar. And I am absolutely not one of those. Not at all. I never spin the truth or make up stories without even realising I'm doing it. I definitely do not do that. Moving on. Thea was annoying and whiny and just kind of dreary to read about.

Their chapters alternate, which could have worked really well if I liked either of the characters or the writing style. See, Thea's chapters are written in first-person past tense. Alex's chapters are written in third-person present tense. For no good reason that I could see. It annoyed me so much I almost gave up after about chapter five. The actual writing, however, I liked. Quite a bit, in fact. If we could have just stuck to one style of writing and, you know, had some characters I found interesting, it probably would have been a very good read.

Again, I might be judging this book more critically because of my love for In Sarah's Shadow, (which you should absolutely read if you haven't, especially if you have a sister you don't exactly get along with, for whatever reason), but the fact is that I didn't really enjoy it. And I have a niggling feeling I'm about to receive a second copy, as I ordered it with several other books, one of which was a pre-order, and I've just had an email saying it's on its way, with this book pictured beneath it. So maybe I'll have a copy to giveaway in the near future, if you still fancy reading it!



Wednesday, 19 March 2014

THIRTEEN

Thirteen by Tom Hoyle

Born at midnight in London, on the stroke of the new millennium, Adam is the target of a cult that believes boys born on this date must die before the end of their thirteenth year. Twelve boys have been killed so far. Coron, the crazy cult leader, will stop at nothing to bring in his new kingdom. And now he is planning a bombing spectacular across London to celebrate the sacrifice of his final victim: Adam.

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Eh. That pretty much says it all really, doesn't it? I didn't have particularly high expectations of this book. In fact, I didn't really have any expectations of it at all. I was walking through a shop, that vivid cover caught my eye and made me go ooooh, so I bought it. I finished the book I was currently reading later that day and so I got stuck in straightaway, without reading anything about it online. I think, perhaps, if I had, I wouldn't have bought it. I'm not saying it was a bad book, it just wasn't really for me. I have this deep love of cults and books about cults, but this was different. It wasn't sinister, it was just crazy. I think the most accurate way for me to describe this book is melodramatic. Because it's insane and over the top and I didn't like that.

It's also set in the UK. Now, I know it sounds stupid, but right now I have a real thing against books set in the UK. It's probably because I live there and for me books have always been about escapism, to a certain extent. I don't have to read a full-on fantasy or sci-fi to get there, but there needs to be something that takes me away from my small life. Right now, books set in the UK just make me sigh. This one was no exception to that rule.

Then there's the characters. It's been a little while since I was a teenager, sure, but I work with a lot of them and I'm actually not that old. The kids here don't sound like real teenagers, they barely sound human. I've compared teens in books to the foreign surfer guys in Family Guy before, and it's true once again here. I wanted to curl up into a ball and die at numerous points because the way they talk is just so cringeworthy.


So, overall, not a great read for me. Not even an okay read. It reminded me of Gone by Michael Grant, another book that I didn't particularly like, but which features a similar protagonist. If you liked that one, which a huge number of people did, then you might enjoy this one. If you thought Gone was a bit bleh, maybe give this one a miss. 



Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (2)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.

Top Ten Books on my Spring To-Be-Read List
(in no particular order)


The List by Siobhan Vivian - I have been trying to get my hands on this book forever. Seriously, I just couldn't seem to get it in the UK. Then I could but it was a hardback and I hate hardbacks (I sense this will be a recurring theme in this particular post) and so I waited for a paperback edition to appear on the internet.  And waited. And waited some more. Finally it appeared and just today I got an email from the Book Depository telling me it's on its way. It's not actually on its way, but I haven't had time to explain to them the difference between a book being on its way and a book sitting in their warehouse for several days between arriving there and being dispatched to me. (I get that these things take time, but I wouldn't be mad if they hadn't sent me an email saying it was on its way, only to tell me that it's actually not.) But still. Soon I will have this book in my grumpy little hands.

Taken by Erin Bowman - You remember how I mentioned hardbacks? I was waiting for the paperback of this one, and then something happened when I read Pivot Point by Kasie West a few weeks ago. I waited for the paperback, loved it, and then couldn't bring myself to buy the sequel, no matter how much I need it. I don't want to risk the same thing happening with this series - I keep seeing buzz about the sequel online - so I had to buy it. It's actually next up on my to-read list, sitting next to my TV in all it's pretty cover glory.

The Assassin's Blade by S.J. Maas - A similar but different problem with this book of prequel novellas. I wanted them when they appeared as e-books last year. I didn't buy them. I waited for a hard copy, then heard rumours of - shock horror! - a hardback edition. Hardback. The two actual books in the series were only released in paperback. I was livid. Seething. I like to seethe. Then I spotted the paperback in Waterstones and grabbed it so fast a small child gave me a funny look.

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr - Aha! A book that doesn't have a woeful story of stupid hardbacks or e-books behind it. Simply put, I really liked Once Was Lost, so I had a look to see if Zarr had written any other books. She had, and I chose this one to read next. Hopefully it's as good, if not better.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - Yeeeeah, I need this book. Like, right now. I don't really know what it's about, I've never read anything else by the author, but if the buzz I've been hearing on twitter is anything to go by, we all need this book. Right now. Why isn't it out yet? Oh, God, I'm going to have to wait forever for it to come out in the UK, aren't I? (And it's going to be a hardback, too, isn't it? I shall cry, but I will have to buy it as soon as I can.)

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis - By the time this post actually goes up, I'll probably have started this book, actually. It's next on my pile, it has a beautiful cover, and it's a hardback. I know, I know. I'm undercutting my hatred for the damn things by buying them, aren't I? I was pushed into buying this one by the release of the beautiful cover of the sequel. Because I'm incredibly shallow like that.

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard - I have come to the conclusion that this book does not actually exist in the physical world. Once a month or so, I'll do a sweep of the usual - Amazon, Book Depository, Waterstones, even Foyles - and I swear, it doesn't actually exist. Seriously. Most of the websites don't have a listing for it - though, oddly, they know about the sequel - and those that do recognise it as a thing that exists in the universe always list it as currently unavailable. This book will remain high on my TBR list until I can get it. I hope I like it after all this hassle.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han - I didn't really like The Summer I Turned Pretty, but I am a huge fan of the Burn for Burn books. Or I was until they changed the covers. I'm looking forward to reading this and seeing which of the two camps of Jenny Han's books it falls into. I'm hoping it's as good as Burn for Burn. Even if it isn't, it has a lovely cover.

The Outside by Laura Bickle - Okay, if you haven't read The Hallowed Ones yet, you need to sort out your life priorities. Amish people and vampires. Frankly, you need this book. And this is the sequel. Yet again, it's a hardback issue - I'm getting pretty sick of books that weren't released in hardback getting sequels that are - but I may have to bite the bullet and just get it. It's about Amish people and vampires. Amish people and vampires. Can't stress that enough.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens - This one's been lurking somewhere in the middle of my TBR list for a few months. I liked the cover, I'd been hearing good reviews, but it wasn't especially high on my list. Then a website posted the first few chapters as a sample and I had some time to kill on a Sunday afternoon, so I had a read and I was hooked. I need to know what happened. I'm just waiting for the paperback!

What books are you looking forward to at the moment? I never say no to a few more suggestions to add to my own list!



Wednesday, 5 March 2014

FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

How would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?

Eighteen-year-old Leonard Peacock knows exactly what he'll do. He'll say goodbye.

Not to his mum - who he calls Linda because it annoys her - who's moved out and left him to fend for himself. Nor to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing the unthinkable. But to his four friends: a Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour, a teenage violin virtuoso, a pastor's daughter and a teacher.

Most of the time, Leonard believes he's weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he's not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye.
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Just a quick review for this one, because I'm not totally sure what I want to say about it. Leonard Peacock is a struggling teenager with lousy parents and no friends at school who decides to kill himself on his eighteenth birthday, but not before he's said goodbye to the few people that actually matter to him. Essentially, he's giving them a chance to save his life, which was problematic for me, because it sort of gave away the ending. I mean, this guy clearly didn't really want to kill himself. The whole book was his cry for help. Being pretty sure what was going to happen at the end didn't keep me interested or engaged in the story, it had me skimming pages and skipping over whole chunks because I was getting bored.

I hated the letters from the future and found it hard not to skip them entirely after suffering through the first.

I didn't enjoy the footnotes either. These would have been great if used sparingly, but I was sick of them after the first chapter. There was just so much crammed into them. A great example of these kind of footnotes working really well is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This book is an example of what happens when you take a cool, quirky idea and use it to death.

All that being said, there were still a couple of passages that stuck with me, that really resonated, and that's holding me back from giving the book a star rating on Goodreads. I just don't know what to do with it. I didn't like or enjoy the book, but I think that there are a few fragments I'll carry with me for a long time, and I don't know if that affects my opinion of the book overall. If it should affect my rating. The only thing I know for sure is that this book pales in comparison to Silver Linings Playbook, the only other of Quick's novels I've read.



Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (1)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.

Top Ten Popular Authors I've Never Read
(in no particular order)

George RR Martin - I resisted the Game of Thrones TV series for over three years, but finally watched it and loved it. I still won't read the books, no matter how many people tell me that I absolutely have to. Part of the problem is the tiny font, part of the problem is the sheer size of the damn books. The other part of the problem is that I'm super lazy and also don't like to read anything people tell me I should (which may well be a recurring theme on this list). Maybe one day, when people stop raving about the books, I'll give them a go, but until then, I'll stick with the show.

Laurie Halse Anderson - Seeing as I read and write YA almost exclusively, this is a name that comes up a lot when I'm reading blogs and looking for book recommendations. People rave about Laurie Halse Anderson, but I can't bring myself to read any of her books because they are always described as being 'lyrical.' That word, to me, says it's a verse novel, even when it's not, and that turns me right off.

Daphne Du Maurier - So a couple of years ago, my mum very kindly bought me a set of her books for Christmas. It's a set of five. And it's still wrapped in cellophane. Sorry, Mum!

Kate Atkinson - Another author whose books I actually own. I'm sitting in a room that contains at least one of them at this very moment. After enjoying the Case Histories TV series, I decided to buy the first book when I spotted it in a shop. And then I never read it. Then I bought a gigantic tome of a book called Life After Life, on a complete whim, and never read that one either. It's won a bunch of awards - which puts me off a little - and then I found out at least some of it takes place during a war. No thank you.

Terry Pratchett - Okay, so I have technically read a little of his work, but I don't think Good Omens, the book he and Neil Gaiman wrote together, really counts. For the longest time, I've wanted to read his books but had no idea where to start, because I was under the impression that the Discworld series was actually several series that all took place in the same universe. Apparently this is not true, and, as a colleague replied when I said I didn't know where to start, I should just start with book one. 

John Green - Nope. Can't do it. I just can't. Again, this is another instance where something is massively hyped, everyone tells me I need to read John Green's books. And I tried. Well, I browsed the blurbs on a few occasions, but none of the stories interest me. They may be the greatest YA books ever written - at least one person a month says this to me - but they just don't interest me one bit. I'm not necessarily opposed to ever reading a John Green book, just not any of the currently published ones.

E. Lockhart - Until fairly recently, I'd never actually heard of E. Lockhart. Until I started hearing buzz about her upcoming novel, We Were Liars (which, for the record, I would kill to get my hands on already), I had no idea who she was. Now I see people raving about this particular book and her back-catalogue on a regular basis. She's definitely on my to-read list, though.

Stephen King - Yeah, this one I'm actually a little bit ashamed of. I mean, seriously, is there actually anyone in the world that hasn't read a single book by Stephen King? I must be the only one. I'm not the greatest fan of horror, but I know of his stories and some of them interest me. Particularly Misery, which I meant to read after watching the film and before writing an essay on it. I got a really good mark for the essay, though, even though I never got around to reading the book. (For the record, I didn't have to read the book for the essay, it was for a scriptwriting class and we were only looking at films, I just wanted to read it and never did.)

Nicholas Sparks - I have seen more adaptations of these books than I care to admit. Okay, I'll admit it, I've seen two. And I was forced to watch one. And peer-pressured into the other one. Everyone was talking about The Notebook, so I watched The Notebook. I've never been interested in reading any of the books, or seeing any of the other films (I still have not forgiven the friend who dragged me along to Dear John) but I have to admit I'm intrigued by just how many books this guy has written and how many copies they've sold.

And finally, Rick Riordan - I have been meaning to read the Percy Jackson series forever. They had me at the words greek mythology. And yet, I've never managed to get around to them. I don't own them, either, though I frequently pick up the first on in bookshops and then put it down in favour of getting something else. I enjoyed the first film, though I didn't see the second, and it reinforced my wanting to read the books. They've just redesigned the covers, so I'm once again thinking about diving in, but I can't commit. Maybe this series and I are just not meant to be.


Which popular authors have you never read? Are you ashamed or proud or completely indifferent about it?



Monday, 3 March 2014

IF YOU FIND ME

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Carey is keeping a terrible secret. If she tells, it could destroy her future. If she doesn't, will she ever be free?

For almost as long as she can remember, Carey has lived in the heart of the woods with her drug-addicted mother and six-year-old sister, Jenessa.

Their mother routinely disappears for weeks at a time, leaving the girls to cope alone. Survival is Carey's only priority - until strangers arrive and everything changes...
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A word I never expected to use in reference to this book is beautiful, but that's exactly what it was. It is stunning and haunting and just beautiful. 

It's a simple story, really. Two girls are left to fend for themselves in the forest when their mother disappears, often for weeks at a time. Carey, the older girl, looks after her little sister and struggles to escape the bleakness of their lives by getting lost in the few books they have, until their father turns up to take them home. There isn't much of a plot to get tangled up in, but I actually appreciated that here. It gives you space to focus on the characters and the difficult relationships that exist between them. It gives you space to really appreciate the beauty of Emily Murdoch's writing.

As much as I enjoyed this book, and I really did, I had a couple of concerns about it as well. I read the version pictured above - published this year by Indigo - and there were several moments while reading when I wondered if it had been edited for a UK audience. I don't have my copy to hand to quote page numbers because I'm already lending it out to people, but the words crisps and trainers were both used. I found this jarring, because it's set in Tennessee. Now, maybe people in Tennessee use crisps and trainers, but I think it's a lot more likely they use chips and sneakers (or tennis shoes, more likely. Hey, if you're interested in words you should check out these dialect maps, I found them genuinely very interesting) My point is, I found these words incredibly jarring. I don't know if they were in the original edition of the book (or any US version, if you happen to have a copy and could let me know in the comments that would be great. Crisps is used in the car when Mrs Haskell gives a packet to Carey, who says that sour cream and onion are her favourite flavour). I don't like the idea of published texts being edited at all, but especially in cases such as these when the changes are tiny but very distracting. I mean, is there anyone in the UK who really would have read this book and been confused about what Carey was eating/wearing in these scenes?

My other issue with the book was the revelation at the end about the white-star night. Now, I'm not going to spoil it for anyone, because that's just mean, but I have something I'd like to say about it. The revelation was really built up, I thought. We all knew that something terrible had happened and I dreaded finding out what it was. Unfortunately, my brain started whirring away, coming up with ideas about what could have happened, and several of them were quite a lot worse - in my opinion - than what actually happened. This left me feeling a little disappointed by the ending, feeling a little that's it? but other than that, I thought this book was truly excellent. It really was. I highly recommend it and I look forward to seeing what Murdoch comes out with next.