Monday, 21 January 2013

My Soul To Take

Title: My Soul to Take

Author: Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Number of pages: 456

Started: 17 January 2013

Finished: 21 January 2013

Opening words:

February 1945

The child felt the cold creeping up her legs and back, and she tried to sit up straight in the front seat to get a better view. She peered into the white snow surrounding the car, but could not make out any farm animals. It’s too cold for the animals outside, she thought, wishing she could leave the car and go back inside the house, but she didn’t dare say a word. A tear crept down her cheek as the man beside her struggled to start the engine. Pursing her lips, she turned her face away from him so that he wouldn’t notice. He’d be so angry. She looked at the house where the car was parked and looked for the other girl, but the only living creature in sight was the farm dog, Rover, sleeping on the front steps. Suddenly he lifted his head and stared at her. She sent him a weak smile, but he stretched out again and closed his eyes.

Plot summary:

If I die before I wake . . .

A grisly murder is committed at a health resort situated in a recently renovated farmhouse, which turns out to be notorious for being haunted. Attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir is called upon by the owner of the resort -  the prime suspect in the case -  to represent him. Her investigations uncover some very disturbing occurrences at the farm decades earlier - things that have never before seen the light of day . . .

What I thought:

Yet another book where the jury is out.  This book was perfectly readable, and in some ways I enjoyed it, although that was probably partly influenced by reading immediately after returning from Iceland, where the book is set.

It was a book that relied rather on a supernatural element, which might seem odd to some, but actually having learned a bit about Iceland while I was there, it actually didn’t seem very strange.  The “little people” are a part of their lives.  But ultimately the resolution to the crime, which clearly I can’t really comment on here, was somewhat crude and relied on coincidence that was somewhat annoying.  I would read another book in the series though, in the hope that it picks up. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Title: Stonemouth

Author: Iain Banks

Number of pages: 368

Started: 22 December 2012

Finished: 16 January 2013

Opening words:

That would have been good.
Instead, a cold, clinging mist. Not even mist; just a chill haze, drifting up the estuary. I’m standing fifty metres above the Firth of Stoun, in the middle of the road bridge, at the summit of the long, shallow trajectory it describes above the waters. Below, wind-stroked lines of breakers track up the firth, ragged creases of thin foam moving east to west under the steady push of the breeze; each wave forming, breaking, widening, then collapsing again before new crests start to rise amongst their pale, streaked remains, the whole doomed army of them vanishing like ghosts into the upriver blur.

Plot summary:

Stewart Gilmour is back in Stonemouth. After five years in exile his presence is required at the funeral of patriarch Joe Murston, and even though the last time Stu saw the Murstons he was running for his life, staying away might be even more dangerous than turning up.
An estuary town north of Aberdeen, Stonemouth, with it's five mile beach, can be beautiful on a sunny day. On a bleak one it can seem to offer little more than seafog, gangsters, cheap drugs and a suspension bridge irresistible to suicides. And although there's supposed to be a temporary truce between Stewart and the town's biggest crime family, it's soon clear that only Stewart is taking this promise of peace seriously. Before long a quick drop into the cold grey Stoun begins to look like the soft option, and as he steps back into the minefield of his past to confront his guilt and all that it has lost him, Stu uncovers ever darker stories, and his homecoming takes a more lethal turn than even he had anticipated.
Tough, funny, fast-paced and touching, Stonemouth cracks open adolescence, love, brotherhood and vengeance in a rite of passage novel like no other.
What I thought:

Stonemouth was the tale of Stewart Gilmour on his return to small town Scotland following his sudden departure a few years before.  As the story unfolds, it becomes clear why he had to leave in such a hurry (being engaged to the daughter of the local drug baron not being an insignificant factor).

In some ways I found the book a bit slow in places, but it also had some really great parts to it – the part where we are told of when Stewart and his school friends play paintball is a particularly good but sobering part and well worth a read.

I think this book is best read with a Scottish accent.  If you can’t do a good Scottish accent in your head then find a friendly Scot to read it to you.  It will enhance your experience greatly.