My slackness knows no bounds

Yep, that bloody thing called life has taken over. While still reading, the ability to post up reviews diminished somewhat. So again another posting with a few thoughts on some of the books I have read in the last month or so.

Into the Water - Paula Hawkins
Hardcover, 388 pages, Published May 2nd 2017 by Riverhead Books
After the highly successful 'Girl on a Train', Paula Hawkins has released her much anticipated second novel 'Into the Water'. The story centre around the death of several women over a number of years but it is the questionable death of Nell Abbott, a single mother to Lena, that brings forth all the dark secrets of the local town.
The story is told from the viewpoint of ten characters, yes you read that right, ten characters. It could become a tangled mess but Hawkins is able to navigate the reader through with relative ease. I did find one or two of the voices were not as distinctive as they needed to be especially early on with a couple of the women but as the novel progresses the voices become stronger.
The voice that worked best for me was Nell's sister Jules. Though wracked with guilt and anger, she has the strongest character arc and you find herself drawn easily into her world.
Lena, I was not so sure about, as a 15 year old, her character traits seemed to be sullen and argumentative and it did grow a bit tiresome.
Helen had some really interesting patches as you began to see the complexity of the world she was living in.
There is a lot of topics covered in this book, domestic violence, bullying, paedophilia, murder, rape, and suicide. That and the ten character narrative is a great deal to take in. Yet Hawkins pulls it off. The plot gives moving along at a steady pace and there a some suspenseful moments along the way.
Hawkins has certainly shown she is no one hit wonder
For more on Paula Hawkins head over to her website.

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

Kindle Edition, 216 pages Published November 24th 2015 by Open Road Media (first published 1911)
A satire featuring a femme fatale who lays waste to the young men of Oxford.
There were moments of the book that are hilarious and then there were bits that just seemed to endlessly drag. I understand the brilliance of the book but I found the story just a little dull at times.
The language is wonderful, the need to use a dictionary was nice as I come across words I had not encountered for before.

Read it and decide for yourself. I found parts of the book a struggle but there are sections that are just clever and entertaining. Such as this wonderful line "He was too much concerned with his own perfection ever to think of admiring any one else".

Chaos (Kay Scarpetta #24) by Patricia Cornwell 
Hardcover, 400 pages, Published November 15th 2016 by William Morrow (first published November 1st 2016)
Over the years I have read a few of the Scarpetta novels with a varying degree of appreciation. Mostly I find the novels to be a nice interuption into that routine called life. With Chaos, I found the book to be somewhat disappointing.
In the latest offering, you are literally minute by minute with Scarpetta as she investigates a crime and the harrassment of her stalker, Tailend Charlie. Cornwell as usual is inventive and well researched when developing her crime and the charaters involved. All that works, what was disappointing was the main characters.
Scarpetta, just seems beat. In the early parts of the novel, the constant going over the past to me came across as a character who is tired, loves what they do but over the constant grind. It is not helped that everyone around Scarpetta is protective of her. There form of protection is achieved by not telling her what is going on and what is worse they do it blatantly to her face. While Scarpetta demonstrates at times frustration with the treatment, at times she seems resigned to what they do. The interaction between Scarpetta and Marino best demostrates the situation. Marino is just angry and aggressive pretty much all the time and she just lets it go, resigned to this is how he is. The fact that she can not be bothered to getting around to removing his access to the building is a strong indication of how disengaged she is. As a reader, I found the interaction between the Marino and Scarpetter tiring to read and I was over Marino's belligerent manner.
I found Lucy to be less annoying in this novel and for a while I really did think Benton was going to be a victim.
There are still legs in the Scarpetta series and this is certainly not the death knell. Where Cornwell takes the series after this book will be interesting to see.
To see what Patricia Cornwell is doing check out her website.

Ghost Towns Of Australia by George Farwell
In some ways this is a book of its time. Published back in the early 1970’s it chronicles a series of Australian towns that have either been abandoned or are in serious decline. Though the town of Clunes in Victoria may currently dispute its status in the book.
I love these books of Australian history as there is a personal element to the stories and capture of what is unique.
It is worth the read as it does make you want to travel those outback roads and try to discover what has happened to these towns.

Summerland by Michael Chabon
Paperback, 500 pages Published March 1st 2004 by Miramax (first published 2002)
A young boy who is woeful at playing baseball finds himself drawn into a game that has the survival of the world and rescuing his father as the prize.
I had never read any Chabon before and this was a nice introduction to his body of work. The first 100 pages had me drawn in to this wonderful world, the mythology was rich and the characters were really well developed. Then I felt like it stopped. For the next 150 pages or I found the work a struggle to engage in. I persisted and was richly rewarded at the end. It was for me, a prolonged section of establishing the story and I was ready to rip into the adventure. For as a reader you know that the story is about to unfold in the most adventurous way.

There is a great deal to like about the novel, it is inventive, extravagant and a fantastic journey for all ages.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

Kindle Edition, Published May 1st 2016 by Allen & Unwin (first published April 5th 2016)
A story that spans over time and links all the characters through a love of art.
There has been a plethora of postive reviews about the novel and for many it has become one of their favourite books of last year. I came to the pages with no expectations because if I had I would have been more disappointed than what I was.
Smith tells the story of the last painting over three time periods involving two sets of characters. He knows his stuff and researched the intracies of the art world really well. At times too well, as I found myself reading several pages about the construction of the packing box for a piece of artwork. We even got down to the detail of the screws that were used! Some of the information was really crucial and invoked a strong sense of place. The descriptions when Ellie are undertaking her work are absorbing but in other places (like remove a painting from case) perhaps not so much information was required. Smith can really create wonderful images with his writing and the characters are all strongly formed.
What for me was the downside was the story? I do not have any problems with stories that go back and forth through time with two different tales being woven into one. (Perhaps it should be considered its own genre.) No that was not it. I just read the story got to the end and was like okay. No surprises, no big twist, no nothing, just an ending that was, well, okay. Until the ending I was enjoying the read and thought the direction was going somewhere but no. For me it was just a bit a flat.

Smith is well researched, writes with flair and creates some strong characters. I just found the overall story not that well developed. I do understand why people love the story but it did not completely work for me.