Lost & Found: Adventures in Book Hunting #1

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As some of you may know I sell antique and vintage books on Etsy. It’s a hobby that allows me to do one of my favourite things – buy old books – without feeling too guilty. It’s not really about making money (although that’s nice too), it’s about the joy of finding beautiful old / rare books, researching their history and giving them a new home. In this new feature I will be sharing some of my finds with you!

The Jewel of Kasr-Ed-Shendi (1973) by Penelope Fletcher

Found: Tiffin School Car Boot Sale, Kingston-Upon-Thames

 

 

Synopsis

Before setting out at the beginning of her first term at boarding school in Scotland, Pat is entrusted by her father with the care of a valuable diamond. Although she knew she would have to face danger, the events of that term were to become more horrifying than she thought possible. It proved to be a time she would never forget, when her character, strengthened by her Girl Guide training, was to be tested to the limit.

Although she had little in common with her room-mate Muriel when they first met, their adventures together revealed sterling qualities of unsuspected depth, and welded a bond of friendship between them. 

History

Girl Guiding has a long and rich history of empowering girls and young women, and this book is a lovely product of that history. Written by Penelope Fletcher and published in 1973, this first edition is a sought-after book for Girl Guide aficionados.

Penelope Fletcher was born in Birkenhead in 1907 and became extremely interested in the Girl Guides during her school days. She joined her School Company and the Blackbird Patrol and later became the Lieutenant in the Girl Guides Y.W.C.A Birkenhead. After her marriage, Fletcher became Captain of the 1st Hollesley Girl Guides until they disbanded in 1938.

The Jewel of Kasr-Ed-Shendi is a Girl Guide School Story full of outdoor adventure and friendship aimed at celebrating the female of the species in line with the true spirit of the Girl Guides.

Inscription

One of the main things I love about old books is finding inscriptions. This one has a lovely inscription which just adds to its rich history as far as I’m concerned. It reads ‘To dear Josie, Lambert & family, with love & best wishes for health, wealth & happiness now & always from auntie Pene. Dec 1973.’

I’ve tried to research this to no avail, but it’s quite a coincidence it’s signed auntie Pene – perhaps the author herself!?

Purchase

I can only find 3 copies of this rare, collectable book online. Sunrise Books are selling one on AbeBooks and Amazon Marketplace for £164.99. There is another copy on Amazon marketplace for £95, and one on Ebay in France for 194.99 Euros.

I’m selling my copy for £75, which you can view in full here

Does this book mean anything to you? I’d love to hear more about the history of this book and Penelope Fletcher. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick #BookReview #DiverseBooks #YA

a1Title: Saint Death
Author: Marcus Sedgewick
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 272 pages
Publication Details: October 6th 2016 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; Thriller
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border by prize-winning novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.

Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez – twenty metres outside town lies a fence – and beyond it – America – the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he’s been working for. He’s dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he’s on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they’re as good as dead. Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) – she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.

Review

I’m a big fan of British author Marcus Sedgwick but the last book I read of his, Ghosts of Heaven was a monumental disappointment. I therefore went into this with some trepidation. Saint Death also feels like a bit of a departure for him, although I’m not sure why because he’s nothing if not eclectic.

In this story, Sedgwick returns to the YA genre but takes us to a whole new place – a slum on the US/Mexico border and immerses us in a  dark, spiritual culture. 

Arturo has learnt how to survive in Anapra. He knows how to collect water in old coke cans and feed himself on scraps. He knows not to look to the men in the big black cars with the neck tattoos in the eye. He knows to never owe anyone anything. 

But, when his best friend- who disappeared a year earlier- returns with his pregnant childhood sweetheart asking for his help, Arturo can’t turn him down. But in helping him, he will be exposed to all the things he’s learnt to stay away from – gambling, guns and drug lords. The only thing he can hope for is that the white lady, Santissima Muerte, AKA Saint Death hears his prayers and grants his wishes of protection.

Gah! I’m very torn by this one. It is a story which sheds light on an enigmatic, often brutal culture, with immigration at the heart of the matter. It is a story which is perhaps even more appropriate today than it was a week ago; portraying an important message that I think is wonderful to see in a YA book. 

However, my main issue was that it wasn’t very exciting. It took too long to get to the short-lived thrilling action in which Arturo is locked in a high-stakes (not just money-wise) game of cards with a drug lord in order to save his friend’s life. 

It was a quick read, yet the action felt slow and too simple. It was written beautifully, yet it never truly amazed me. It was just one big contradiction in my mind. 

I applaud Marcus Sedgwick for putting diversity at the forefront of another of his YA books, but Saint Death didn’t have the emotional drive that She is Not Invisible did. His writing is beautiful, as always, but there was something lacking here. Maybe the ‘message’ overshadowed fully developed characters and plot!?

The jury is still out for me.

unicorn rating 3

Saint Death is available in hardback or digital versions now. 

Blood Red, White Snow by Marcus Sedgwick

bloodredsnow
Title: Blood Red, Snow White
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 304 pages
Publication Details: July 6th 2007 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Historical Fiction; Fairy-Tales
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from Dora, thanks Dora!

Goodreads // Purchase


It is 1917, and the world is tearing itself to pieces in a dreadful war, but far to the east of the trenches, another battle is breaking out – the Russian Revolution has just begun…

Blood Red, Snow White captures the mood of this huge moment in history through the adventure of one man who was in the middle of it all; Arthur Ransome, a young British journalist who had first run away to Russia to collect fairy tales.

Review


Only Marcus Sedgwick could successfully write a spy-thriller-cum-fairy-tale-cum-love story written in the Russian Revolution. I mean seriously, I don’t know how he does it.

It’s no secret that I love Sedgwick. I’m currently trying to work my way through his books that I’ve missed and Blood Red, Snow White was at the top of my agenda.

The book is told in three parts, all of which are written beautifully yet different in styles. The first, is written as a fairy-tale and depicts the early days of the revolution, using a great bear as a metaphor for Russia.

The second, is based on the real life of Arthur Ransome, a writer who went to Russia to learn more about Russian fairy-tales but who ended up working as a journalist and getting unwittingly involved in the surrounding war, and seen as a potential spy. Here, the lyrical fairy-tale style of writing gives way to a more suspenseful spy-thriller.

In the final part, Ransome falls in love with Evgenia, Trotsky’s secretary, which presents all kinds of problems, not to mention his estranged wife and daughter at home. This part of the book raises more questions as to where Ransome’s allegiances lie. Should he choose the woman he loves, and turn his back on his own country? Or should he use his position to try and keep the peace?

I’m so glad I loved this book, because I was pretty dubious about how a book could be all of these things. But it is, and the way Sedgwick adapts his writing to the different parts is what makes it a success. I’m also glad because I don’t always find historical fiction that exciting, but mix in a fairy-tale and bam! So good!

I thought Blood Red, Snow White was such a clever book; using a relatively unknown historical figure who wrote fairy-tales, and turning his life into a fairy-tale itself is a genius idea, and Marcus Sedgwick pulls it off so well.

unicorn rating

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Authors!

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

The topic for this week is: Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors

Seriously guys, why are you doing this to us!!?? Choosing ten favourite authors is just mean! But after much deliberation, I have chosen my ten. I can not put them in order though. That’s just too hard.

Click on the author pictures to view their Goodreads page, and book titles link to reviews or related posts.

Scarlett Thomas:

authors1Scarlett Thomas has taught English Literature at the University of Kent since 2004, and has previously taught at Dartmouth Community College, South East Essex College and the University of East London. She reviews books for the Literary Review, the Independent on Sunday, and Scotland on Sunday. She has written seven novels, including The End of Mr. Y and PopCo.

Books Read: Bright Young Things; Going Out; Dead Clever; PopCo; The End of Mr Y; Our Tragic Universe

Marcus Sedgwick:

authors2Marcus Sedgwick was born in Kent, England. Marcus is a British author and illustrator as well as a musician. He is the author of several books, including Witch Hill and The Book of Dead Days, both of which were nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award.

Books Read: My Swordhand is Singing; White Crow; The Book of Dead Days; She is Not Invisible; Blood Red, Snow White; Dark Satanic Mills; The Ghosts of Heaven

Darren Shan

authors3Darren Shan (born July 2, 1972 in London, England) is the pen name of the Irish author Darren O’Shaughnessy, as well as the name of the protagonist of his book series The Saga of Darren Shan, also known as The Cirque Du Freak Series in the United States. He is the author of The Demonata series, as well as some stand-alone books, and a series of books for adults under the alternative name of D.B. Shan.

Books Read: The Saga of Darren Shan 1-12; The Birth of a Killer; The City Trilogy (Procession of the Dead, Hell’s Horizon, City of Snakes); Lady of the Shades; Zom-B

James Frey

authors4James Frey is the author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. After battling with alcohol addiction and spending time in rehab, he wrote A Million Little Pieces which was published in 2003 in America and the following year in the UK to critical acclaim. He wrote the sequel, My Friend Leonard about life after rehab, which was published in 2005 in the US and the year after in the UK. He is also one of the authors that share the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, author of the Lorien Legacies.

Books Read: A Million Little Pieces; My Friend Leonard; Bright Shiny Morning; The Final Testament of the Holy Bible; Endgame

David Levithan

authors5David Levithan (born 1972) is an American children’s book editor and award-winning author. He published his first YA book, Boy Meets Boy, in 2003. Levithan is also the founding editor of PUSH, a Young Adult imprint of Scholastic Press.

Books Read: Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Hold Me Closer; Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist; Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

Marissa Meyer

authors6Marissa Meyer lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her fiancé and two cats. In addition to her slight obsession with books and writing, she’s big on road-tripping, wine-tasting, and hunting for antiques. Meyer is represented by Jill Grinberg. CINDER, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles is a futuristic re-envisioning of Cinderella in which Cinder is a cyborg mechanic

Books Read: The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder; Scarlet; Cress)

Colin Bateman

authors7Colin Bateman was a journalist in Northern Ireland before becoming a full-time writer. His first novel, Divorcing Jack, won the Betty Trask Prize, and all his novels have been critically acclaimed. He wrote the screenplays for the feature films of Divorcing Jack, Crossmaheart and Wild About Harry. He lives in Northern Ireland with his family.

Books Read: Mystery Man (Mystery Man; The Day of the Jack Russell; Dr Yes; The Prisoner of Brenda); Dan Starkey (Divorcing Jack; Shooting Sean); Murphy’s Law; Empire State

Kurt Vonnegut

authors8Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journalist before joining the U.S. Army and serving in World War II. His experiences as an advance scout in the Battle of the Bulge, and in particular his witnessing of the bombing of Dresden, Germany whilst a prisoner of war, would inform much of his work. This event would also form the core of his most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five, the book which would make him a millionaire. This acerbic 200-page book is what most people mean when they describe a work as “Vonnegutian” in scope.

Books Read: Slaughterhouse-Five; Timequake; Breakfast of Champions

Derek Landy

authors9Derek Landy is an Irish writer and screenwriter. In addition to the bestselling children’s/YA series of Skulduggery Pleasant books, a supernatural mystery series starring Skulduggery Pleasant, a skeleton detective, and Valkyrie Cain, a young female magician, he has written two screenplays that have been made into films: the IFTA award winning “Dead Bodies” and the IFTA nominated “Boy Eats Girl”. Landy himself was nominated for an IFTA for Best Script.

Books Read: Skulduggery Pleasant 1-7; The Maleficent Seven

Patrick Ness

authors10Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.

Books Read: The Chaos Walking Trilogy (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer; Monsters of Men); A Monster Calls

I’m pleasantly surprised how many British and Irish writers I have on my list, it was totally unintentional.

Looking forward to seeing who everyone else has chosen. Feel free to leave your link.

Lazy Saturday Review: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

ghosts
Title: The Ghosts of Heaven
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Series: N/A
Edition: Hardcover, 424 pages
Publication Details: October 2nd 2014 by Orion Books
Genre(s): YA; SciFi
Disclosure? Nope, it was a gift!

Goodreads // Purchase

The spiral has existed as long as time has existed.

It’s there when a girl walks through the forest, the moist green air clinging to her skin. There centuries later in a pleasant greendale, hiding the treacherous waters of Golden Beck that take Anna, who they call a witch. There on the other side of the world as a mad poet watches the waves and knows the horrors the hide, and far into the future as Keir Bowman realises his destiny.

Each takes their next step in life. None will ever go back to the same place. And so, their journeys begin…

Review


You should all know by now that Marcus Sedgwick has become one of my favourite authors in recent years. His books seem to fall into two categories; dark and foreboding, or beautifully poignant, but they all have one thing in common – they are written wonderfully.

The Ghosts of Heaven is no exception, but… sigh, I was quite disappointed. I think my main issue was the format. It was hailed as a book in which the four parts of it can be read in any order and still make sense. I thought the idea was pretty cool and wondered how he’d managed it.

Well, in my opinion, it can be read in any order because this is a book of four completely different stories. I mean sure, I get the spiral thing, and see the tenuous links between each of the stories, but they are essentially four short stories with one common element. It kind of reminded me of some of David Mitchell’s books – all of which I didn’t enjoy.

That being said, I was completely enthralled by the futuristic part involving Keir Bowman who is scheduled to wake up on a spaceship every ten years, and is journeying to a new earth-like planet to inhabit. Only every time he wakes up, more of the crew are dead…

This one was definitely my favourite of the four, it was dark and twisted and reminded me why I love Sedgwick – he can write in every genre – so I’ll try not to dwell on my disappointment of this one. You can’t win them all, right? And anyway, the book is very pretty!

unicorn rating 3

Available to buy in both paperback and hardback, from Waterstones now.

Frighteningly Festive: Dying For Christmas by Tammy Cohen

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Title: Dying For Christmas
Author: Tammy Cohen
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 274 pages
Publication Details: November 20th 2014 by Transworld Digital
Genre(s): Thriller, Crime
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads
Purchase.

I am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger. To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last. The twelfth day is getting closer. After that, there’ll be no more Christmas cheer for me. No mince pies, no carols. No way out …

…But I have a secret. No-one has guessed it. Will you?

Review

This was my first read of Tammy Cohen, who has also published books under her full name Tamar Cohen. The name stood out to me and I only realised after finishing the book that she teaches at the local university here. How weird is that?

Anyway, Dying For Christmas is a psychological thriller/Crime drama with more twists and turns than Alton Towers. And to carry on the theme park analogy, my enjoyment of it rollercoastered a lot too.

The story is told in two halves, the first detailing Jessica Gold’s kidnapping and captivity, and the second following the case after her release.

This is one of those books that is difficult to discuss without giving away spoilers and ruining the enjoyment for others, so forgive me for not going into detail here. What I can say though, is that Dying for Christmas was a quick, enjoyable read but not without its flaws.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the constant switching of perspective from Jessica and Kim, the detective leading the investigation into Jessica’s disappearance. I found myself skipping the parts about Kim and the strain her job is putting on her home life – I didn’t warm to her for some reason, and didn’t really care what was happening outside of the investigation.

I also didn’t like how cynical Kim was about the disappearance. All of the evidence suggests that the kidnapper is psychotic, but all of a sudden Kim seems to have doubts after obsessing over finding her. It didn’t ring true to me.

All of that aside, this book was full of twists and turns which makes a great read, even if I did feel a little cheated in a way. I never knew what to expect and the surprises kept on coming right through to the end. Dying for Christmas is not your average festive read, but certainly an interesting and clever one.

unicorn rating 3

Dying for Christmas is available in paperback now from Waterstones. Click here for details of 30% off!

Killer Spiders by Lex Sinclair

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Title: Killer Spiders
Author: Lex Sinclair
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 302 pages
Publication Details: January 31st 2013 by Austin MacAuley
Genre(s): Horror
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads
Purchase

Great Britain, 2005. Huge, poisonous spiders are stealthily taking over. One bite is enough to kill a grown man; there is no defense and there is no antidote. They are immune to all pesticides; the only way to kill them is by fire or blunt force.

People find it hard to believe as more reports come in from all over the country. But once the spiders make themselves known, they are in for a fight to the death. With the spiders multiplying and outnumbering the humans, taking over towns, will mankind survive?

Just looking at the cover of this book makes me shudder. I was hoping it would be a skin-crawling read for Horror October, and in parts it was, but unfortunately it was also a struggle to get through.

Britain is being overrun by gigantic, deadly spiders, and at first not many people pay attention – there are worse things happening in the world – and hey, they’re just massive spiders, right? Err no!

As someone who HATES spiders, I found it hard to get on board with this lackadaisical approach, but it’s not long until people come round to my way of thinking and realise that an invasion of killer spiders is totally not cool, and must be stopped. But y’know, easier said than done.

I can certainly see this story being played out in a Syfy channel creature-feature b-movie (which I love by the way), but as a book it didn’t quite work for me.

In the very beginning it reminded me a little of Stephen King because were are introduced to a lot of characters very early on, but none of them stood out and I found it hard to get invested in any of them. And the frequent changing of perspective was a constant annoyance.

However, there were some great action-packed gorey moments in Killer Spiders which kept me reading, and made me glad that I did.

Sinclair did a great job in detailing the spider attacks in a delightfully disgusting and gorey manner, but I think overall characterisation and lack of suspense is what let it down.

unicorn rating 2

Killer Spiders is available now in paperback from Waterstones

Trust in Me by Sophie McKenzie (Out this week!)

trust
Title: Trust in Me
Author: Sophie McKenzie
Series: N/A
Edition: ARC, 464 pages
Publication Details: September 11th 2014 by Simon & Schuster UK
Genre(s): Psychological Thriller
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy via the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads
Purchase

Julia has always been the friend that Livy turns to when life is difficult. United fifteen years ago by grief at the brutal murder of Livy’s sister, Kara, they’ve always told each other everything.

Or so Livy thought.

So when Julia is found dead in her home, Livy cannot come to terms with the news that she chose to end her own life. The Julia that Livy knew was vibrant and vivacious, a far cry from the selfish neurotic that her family seem determined to paint her as.

Troubled by doubt but alone in her suspicions, Livy sets out to prove that Julia was in fact murdered. But little does she realise that digging into her best friend’s private life will cause her to question everything she thought she knew about Julia. And the truth that Livy discovers will tear the very fabric of her own life apart.

Trust in Me was my first Sophie McKenzie read, and the first psychological thriller I’ve read for a while. I totally ate it up.

When Livy finds her vivacious, free-spirited best friend lying dead on her sofa, her life begins to spin out of control. All signs suggest that she’s killed herself, but Livy knew her too well to know for certain that she’d never do a thing like that. Or did she?

Julia’s death not only brings back the horror of Livy’s little sister’s murder years before, but also starts to turn her pre-teen daughter and husband against her. Livy only has Damian – Julia’s boyfriend whom she knows very little about- to turn to, but can she trust him?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a book that I just couldn’t put down. As the story unfolds, it’s clear that Kara and Julia’s deaths are related, and all signs are pointing to people close to Livy, or to Damian. Trust in Me was one of those books that I had to stay up reading to find out who the killer was.

McKenzie did an excellent job of creating, and building tension. I felt so sorry for Livy whose life was crumbling down around her and there was nothing she could do about it, and had no one to trust.

There were just enough characters involved to suspect, making it a compelling read.

However, I did feel like the book was too long. Some passages were drawn out, and although I liked getting a complete picture of Livy’s life and past, I found myself skipping ahead sometimes. The pacing was good in parts, in order to build tension, but sometimes I wished McKenzie got to the point a bit quicker.

As for Livy, I liked her for the most part. I felt for her being in such a difficult position, but sometimes I wanted her to pull herself together and stop worrying about what her family thought of her, and just get on with finding out what happened to her best friend.

As the title suggests, this book raised a lot of issues surrounding trust. Will, Livy’s husband had cheated on her years before, but they’d overcome it. Livy trusted him as much as she knew how, but when evidence suggests that not only has Will cheated again, but that he might also be involved with Julia, and her death, understandably, Livy doesn’t know who she can trust.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

I hated that towards the end of this book it was repeatedly thrown in Livy’s face that she didn’t trust Will, but it was never highlighted that Will didn’t trust her either. He was so quick to dismiss Livy’s belief that Julia was murdered, that he made her think she was going mad. Gah! Double standards or what!

For me, Trust in Me, was a great read with only a few flaws. It reminded me a lot of the ITV drama Broadchurch. Much like with that show, at one point I was so confused as to who the killer was, I tried too hard figure it out and ruined it for myself when I did. In this, I figured it out quite a while before the big reveal which was a bit of a disappointment, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Note to self: Stop thinking too much.

unicorn rating 4

Trust in Me is now available to Pre-order from Waterstones.

When Darkness Falls…

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

arc2On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it.

The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.

But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark…and discover the truth about their world.

Woah, was my initial reaction to this book! Not because it completely blew me away, but because it’s such an epic journey to go on. I’m just not sure how much I enjoyed that journey.

Dark Eden is a book full of questions and very little answers. It is set on what we assume is an alien planet (although it’s pretty similar to earth) where almost two hundred years ago, humans crash landed. Some attempted to get back to earth, while one man and one woman thought it was too dangerous and stayed behind, deciding to make a go of living in the blackness of Eden until they were rescued.

Fast forward a hundred years or so and Eden is inhabited only by Family, who live a simple, deprived life, in a monotonous cycle of hunting, building fires and increasing the population by ‘slipping’ with anyone who offers, and a few species of animals similar to ours but with a few extra legs and lights on their heads. Sort of.

I found everything about Dark Eden intriguing. Beckett keeps us in the dark as much as the setting itself. We’re never quite sure where or what Eden is, nor can we trust what any of the characters say or think, because they don’t actually know anything. The world-building was good, and I liked that we were left to our own devices to imagine what certain things looked like but sometimes the lack of any specific details was irritating.

History and ideas about earth have been passed from generation to generation of Family, and many things have gotten lost, which is sometimes how I felt reading the book. Family cling onto a few surviving relics such as a toy car and keyboard but they know nothing of these things. Words have also been passed down like the biggest game of Chinese Whispers, so these too have altered in time making Dark Eden a challenging read to begin with.

Family are also taught that they must stay in one patch of Eden in case Earth returns for them, because that’s what the first settlers did. No one questions it, and no one tries to make their lives better by learning new things or exploring, that is until John Redlantern does.

At the start of the book, John is respected and sought after (for his juice – eww), but his new found inquisitiveness and out-spoken nature turns people against him, and eventually he is banished, sent away from their settlement to explore Dark Eden alone.

One of the main things that prevented me from loving this book was that I found it hard to like any of the characters. John was brave and clever but came across as a bit too aloof and I never felt like I knew him. All of the women in the book were betrayed pretty badly too, and the older members of the family were all completely unlikable – probably because of their tendencies to sleep with teenagers.

But what it lacked in character, Dark Eden made up for in themes and ideas. Each chapter gave me a new outlook on life, and how we live it; how we have evolved, and how society is only as good as the people in it. Family had no forward-thinkers, no one to teach the children and no one who could use their surroundings to invent new things and evolve as race. So they were stuck but didn’t know it.

There is also the obvious ties to the Garden of Eden story. Having to rebuild humanity afresh from just two people, inevitably means incest. The original father Tommy, had sex with his children and their children, and they had sex with their brothers and sisters, which is obviously the reason why some babies are born Batfaces or Clawfeet – although that is never stated, because they are ignorant to it. There’s a lot of talk of ‘baby juice’ which is pretty gross, but it does make you think about relationships and sex in a different way.

I feel like this book could have been shorter, but it was compelling and thought provoking. I wish I liked the characters more, and at times it was infuriating but it is a science fiction story that is scarily believable.

It reminded me of a cross between The Lord of the Flies, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and even Robinson Crusoe at times. It’s quite a feat. Read it.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Yep, I recieved a copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review!
Title: Dark Eden
Author: Chris Beckett
Details: Paperback, 448 pages
Published: April 1st 2014 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2012)
My Rating: 4/5

The Medea Complex by Rachel Roberts

med1885. Anne Stanbury – Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems?

Edgar Stanbury – the grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity, and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.

Dr George Savage – the well respected psychiatrist, and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne’s future wholly in his hands.

The Medea Complex tells the story of a misunderstood woman suffering from insanity in an era when mental illnesses’ were all too often misdiagnosed and mistreated. A deep and riveting psychological thriller set within an historical context, packed full of twists and turns, The Medea Complex explores the nature of the human psyche: what possesses us, drives us, and how love, passion, and hope for the future can drive us to insanity.

The Medea Complex was different to what I was expecting, even though I’m not really sure what I was expecting.

Based on true stories and medical records from the late 1800s, it documents the time that protagonist Anne spends in an asylum.

The thing that drew me to this story was definitely the lunatic asylum setting. I find it fascinating how different things are today to the barbaric nature of those unprecedented, experimental medical practices of that time. Roberts did a great job of setting the scene, making me feel sorry for Anne despite her crime.

I was sucked in from the start.

I’m not always a huge fan of multiple first-person narratives but I thought in worked well in this book. Between Doctor Savage’s notes on Anne’s rehabilitation, Anne’s commentary on the asylum and what she goes through there, and Edgar’s grief-stricken behaviour, we are swept away into a world filled with intrigue, anticipation and mystery.

This is one of those books that is hard to review without giving away any spoilers so you’ll have to forgive me for not going into plot details. But what I will say is this, the last thing I was expecting was for The Medea Complex to turn into a court-room drama, but it did, and it was good!

I thought the second half of the book really picked up the pace, there are double-crossings, murders, missing persons, and you’re never quite sure what, or who to believe. On the whole, I enjoyed the narrative voice – especially the humour, considering the serious subject matter – but I did sometimes feel like there weren’t enough differences between each of the characters. I sometimes got confused about who was speaking (even though each chapter is named) which occasionally brought me out of the story.

Overall, I was impressed with this debut novel which kept me guessing, and I especially enjoyed the author’s notes detailing the characters and events that were based on fact, and where she found them. I think the work Roberts must have put in definitely paid off.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: I received a free copy fro the author in exchange for an HONEST review.
Title: The Medea Complex
Author: Rachel Florence Roberts
Details: Paperback, e-book, 272 pages
Published: Published November 1st 2013 by CreateSpace
My Rating: 4/5