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One of the things I love about James Patterson's books is that they're really hard to put down, making you change your mind about just reading until the next page, natural break or chapter. S J Bolton does the same in Awakening, the first of her books that I have read. It's a fast moving thriller about a small Dorset village that is plagued by dangerous snakes. We follow the heroine, local vet and wildlife expert Clara Benning, as everyone turns to her for advice, being an expert. However, Clara is a recluse, and someone who just wants to be left alone. Maybe it would just be easier for her to work out where the snakes are coming from, then everyone will leave her alone?
Oh, if only it were that simple. You see, beneath it all there's quite an impressive twisting thriller at work here, one that is riddled deep down with religious rituals and historical events, strange locals and a family of brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts that all seem to rear their heads when Clara starts digging. At the heart of the tale is something that could be related to an Agatha Christie style novel, although it never goes as deep as she did. It's all easy to read surface text, and although there's an underlying bunch of twists, the main capture of the book is in the tension and the 'thriller' aspect of it.
Bolton's writing doesn't slack in pace at all, other than the descriptive elements where the book almost seems 'padded out' in order to extend its length. She goes into great detail about snakes through Benning, and although this does serve to extend the character perception we get of the heroine, it also ends up being off kilter when compared to the often fast paced nature of the story. The detail is impressive, but you just want to find out what happened straight after the last scene.
As with most books, the clues are all there as to who is who, where the snakes are coming from, and why there's a relevance to an events that happened many years into the village's past when the majority of its elder residents were all young adults. Bolton does break the story up into events and natural breaks quite well, piecing together the action without too much of a stutter for the most part. It's told from a narrative perspective with Clara as the storyteller, and while this heightens the tension and is easy to visualise yourself with her wherever she is, it also means that there are certain things you just have to take for granted.
We follow the tale very much just from Clara's point of view, and as such, there are other elements to the tale. Bolton tries to bring hints of romance into the tale, with a worldwide TV wildlife heartthrob and a local high ranking policeman, but this is never dwelled upon too much. I liked the fact that this was thrown in for good measure, as it brought out the private nature of Clara very well indeed. Bolton also hints at some awful facial scarring that must have happened when Clara was much younger. This is approached in the same manner as the story - keep us guessing, don't reveal too much. but it makes her vulnerable and I like this. Too often you get over confident heroes and heroines and it's just not realistic. Here though, the vulnerability and reluctance of Clara is the biggest asset to the book, and it makes it more believable.
Overall then, a recommendable book. It lacks a certain sense of depth, but the twists and turns and suggestions in the plot make up for this for the most part. At times there is a confusion with the pace and content, flicking between heavy detail and flitting events, and perhaps I'd have enjoyed it more had there not been quite so much detail about snakes. Some important details would have been necessary to get the gravity of the situation, but the extent to which she goes to is a bit too much.
However, this didn't prevent me from enjoying it. I'll definitely give some of her other work a go, as she's easy to read, and the twists and turns got me. Tension and intrigue made this hard to put down, and was thoroughly impressed. Recommended.
The book I will now review is - Awakening by S.J Bolton".
The story begins with Clara, a shy and quite woman who endeavours to live within her own company and solace, though it isn't made clear as to why a little further on in the book.
When the reason is revealed you suddenly understand why she seeks the company of a chosen few and all of them sharing her passion for animal care, with her being one of the best veterinarians around.
She has ensconced herself in the smallest and quietest village she could find, thus preventing herself from having to talk or communicate with anyone else who lives there, and this is how she exists for some time, until the snakes come!
Her first brush with the snakes comes when a distraught mother phones for her services when she finds a snake curled up asleep on her newborn daughters chest, seeking her warmth, though it is soon apparent this is no native living snake, but one that someone has obviously lost from their personal collection.
This said however she soon finds herself part of a very strange case, where snakes are turning up everywhere, some that could kill within minutes of a bite.
Things soon take a turn for the worse and Clara finds herself embroiled in an age old ritual, one that could quite possibly kill her........
This really is a fantastic book, that, though not my normal type of read, I couldn't read quick enough.
The story is told from the first person perspective, this being by Clara, the wonderful yet emotionally damaged woman, the story is told from her point of view, with many snippets of her childhood and her "accident" being added, though tantalisingly slow, only giving you a brief overview and drawing you in to the tale.
There are fantastic selection of characters, from the two love interests, that you really want to believe are innocent bystanders, but you tend to feel that every character is on the village "secret", so you find yourself reading the book and trying to work out the villains and the innocents, this being the case I was completely thrown when the real storyline emerged, I was well and truly thrown off the scent, very Agatha Christie!
Price wise this is available from www.amazon.co.uk for around the price of £4.00 (paperback).
This really is a great read for someone like me especially, this is not the normal type of book I read but found myself drawn into the web of lies and deceit, with age old rituals thrown in for good measure, recommended!
Thanks for reading x
Awakening - S.J. Bolton
No More than a Information Book
I had just read The Time Travellers Wife and was so astounded by it that I was finding it difficult to get into any other book though when visiting the local library I picked up three books in the hope that one of them may grab my attention. One of these books was; 'Awakening' by S.J. Bolton.
It is always difficult not to give too much away in a synopsis of a book as if you are like me, you will hate a book being ruined before you have even bought it, so I will give away nothing and only outline as much as the back of the book gives away.
A small, idyllic village is thrown into turmoil when a man dies following a supposed snake bite and further snakes are found in many unexpected places.
Clara Benning, the local veterinary surgeon in charge of the wildlife hospital, is practically a recluse and lives on her own, shying away from human contact whenever she can though when she is pulled in to help with the rogue snakes that have suddenly appeared from nowhere, she is chilled to learn that the killer of the man may not in fact be a snake. The killer may just be human.
Assisted by her neighbour and an eccentric reptile expert, Clara begins to unravel sinister links to a barbaric ancient ritual, an abandoned house and a fifty-year-old tragedy which left the survivors fiercely secretive.
Soon, the killer strikes again and Clara's own existence is brutally invaded. For someone, the truth is better of staying hidden in the past, and they will do anything to keep it that way.
(Nothing written above is anything more than what is on the back cover - just in my own words!)
SNAKES, SNAKES AND MORE SNAKES
As mentioned above, after reading such an amazing book before this, I was struggling to get into any book, though after putting my daughter to bed one night, I decided to curl up and open the pages with a hot chocolate and my husband banished out of the room. This, though, could perhaps be one of the reasons that the beginning seemed so slow to me, though I do think it is more to do with the fact that it read like a factual reptile book rather than a fiction book. After the first few pages I felt ready to throw the book away and try another one, though I thought I would give it a try as I have read a few books which are poor starters though once into the story, they become very exciting. I just hoped this book was one of them.
The pace began so slowly with nothing really happening to spark my interest. I did learn quite a bit about snakes, though! I felt that the long explanations of what snakes do what, whether the orange striped snake was more venomous than the sea snake, and how long certain snakes could get would have been best suited within a factual reptilian dictionary. Do we really need to know the ins and outs to follow the story? In my opinion, no. A brief description in character conversation would have been suffice. This is perhaps the biggest thing that started putting me off to begin with.
Where the author exceeds in factual, unnecessary information, she seems to lack the basic of backgrounds and characterisations of many characters in the beginning. Whilst it is true that certain characters personalities did start to shine through a little better as the story went on, the main character was more static and cold and not the sort of character that interested me a great deal for a main character. I just simply carried on hoping that perhaps the characterisations would get better as time went on.
Another factual side to this author is place names, descriptions of what roads to take to get there and references to other real places in England and other countries. The book is based in England and the author seems to feel the need to mention as many places, road names and other true-life information as she can, perhaps in her mind to make it seem as though the action is truly happening in the real world, though really I feel this is unnecessary. Do we really need to know what motorway we need to take and junction we need to turn off at in order to find the place she has set the scene?
Due to all the unnecessary (in my opinion) descriptions, the flow and pace of the story starts off very slow and bitty which in possibly another reason why I simply could not get into the story to begin with. One of the reviews on the back of the book states that the book 'Grabs from the very beginning and holds on tight'. This, in my opinion, certainly did not happen at all. I was not grabbed into the story in the slightest and only continued to read to give it a chance in the hope that at some point it would grab my attention.
It took about 150 pages approximately before I suddenly found myself wanting to read more. There was no real turning point as such, though as the book continued, the descriptions became less annoying and the flow of the story was easier to read. It still was not the most exciting read even at this point, though some small parts did keep my attention.
The characters within the story were still very sparsely written. You might have thought that as the author seems to like long unnecessary descriptions of places (which still did continue though not as bad as the beginning of the book), we might find more history and characterisations in the main characters, though as I reached the middle of the book I still found that I knew nearly nothing about the main character let alone the supporting characters. With some characters, I know that many things left out are for a reason. There are a few secrets within the mystery of the storyline, and reasons for leaving certain things out of the characters history, thoughts and backgrounds become apparent even at the centre point of the story, though a little more characterisations would have been useful with some of the characters as I did not really get a feel for any of them. I could not at this point feel sympathetic or empathic to any character even though I did feel that perhaps I should. This was, I believe, due to the lack of well rounded characterisations.
The storyline, although still very slow paced with not much really happening in any quick succession, did become slightly more interesting after those first hundred and so pages. If you are expecting any real action or surprises, though, you may want to stay clear of this book as the story is as relaxed as the village it is set in. Sometimes this works well, other times it simply makes it a very very long and tedious read.
Throughout the book I felt as though I was pushing against a large rock, struggling to read the slow low action flow, not being able to connect with any of the characters. To be honest, I had thought about giving up many times though as I was seriously considering putting the book don for good, I suddenly found that I couldn't. Things began to heat up in the last third of the book and although I still felt that the whole flow and characterisations could seriously have had an improvement, I felt that suddenly, everything was rapping up in the story and I needed to know the end. It was the first time in the whole book that I felt more than simply compelled to keep reading.
Apart from the actual story line and partly the flow strengthening and moving faster, the rest of the book did not change. There were still large holes in the characters histories and backgrounds and the large descriptive parts were still in tact (although these had lessened and some were even useful to the storyline!). Many parts of the main characters story came to a well rounded close though nothing mind-blowing and it certainly did not suddenly create a full well-rounded character as this, I felt, should have and needed to have been made through the rest of the book. By the ending, it was too late to connect to the character.
I found a few nice surprises that I had not figured out (generally I seem to always figure out the end before I read it so this was nice, though this could possibly be due to the fact that the storyline lost my attention more than once) and the story line was well wrapped up by the end, though possibly not the best of endings at all. It did not leave me wanting more and I felt a little disappointed in how it all ended.
From the critics praise on the back cover of the book, I had hoped that this would be an astounding story, though to be honest, in my opinion, it barely passed the readable stage at a lot of points.
Am I glad that I read it?
I am always glad to have read to the end of any book, even ones which do not thrill me, though would I read the book again? The answer to that is no, Im afraid.
The story takes place over a very short period of time, possibly a matter of a few weeks though the date is not stamped at all throughout the story. There are also a few parts which reminisce into the past though these are merely done through memories and do not complete the actual flow of the storyline.
The flow of the story in the main is extremely slow paced and often goes off in a tangent with large descriptive parts which read straight out of a factual book. These parts slow the flow immensely and I often found myself skimming over these parts just to get back to the main story line.
Apart from the descriptive parts which happen a lot in the beginning and stand out from the rest of the story by its formative informative writings and style, the rest of the book is simple to read in the language department.
Overall, the structure in my opinion has a lot to be desired.
There is one main person within this book with two smaller characters who tend to run occasionally alongside the main character, their storylines intermingling and overlapping a lot as they work together. There are also a large amount of smaller characters, each with their own part in the story either in the present or the past or both.
For the main part of the story I felt a real let down with the characterisations. You would think that with the story being told in the first person narrative that we would get to know more about the main character though so much is left out. Some things are left out for a reason and this is cleared up at the end, though we do not get any sense of connection to these characters until too late and then it is a matter of too little too late. I felt no connection, no sympathy and no empathy with the main character at all until near the end where I felt a little sympathy though as I didn't really know the character like I felt I should have, this feeling was small and through this I felt very disappointed.
The other two characters mentioned above are not in-your-face main characters as such though the main character revolves around them more than anyone else. Neither character has a real background story and with one of the characters I found unusual surprises entering in near the end which did not fit at all with the storyline and threw the character too far off balance in my opinion. The other character is a little more interesting though I still did not feel that I knew enough about him to relate to him or have any other feelings towards him.
There are a wide range of minor characters and in some way, they do seem to have more depth to them than the main characters though in the style of the rest of this book, a lot of the history is unnecessary. Saying this, though, important characters from the past do have a more substantial background which was more relevant to the story and did end up helping the storyline and understanding.
Overall, I felt the characters really needed to be enhanced a lot more than what they were to completely relate to them.
As you have probably guessed from the review, I do not rate this book very highly. Near the end it did manage to pick up my interest though only a third of a book if that being interesting is not enough in my mind to make a story worth reading.
The RRP of the book is £12.99 for the hardback version though can be picked up for a little over £1.00 on Amazon. Personally I wouldn't spend more than £1.00 on this book and as I borrowed it from the library, I was lucky enough not to even spend that.
Do I recommend this book?
Obviously everyone has their own views and I am sure many out there may love the book, though from my personal experience I would not recommend this book at all.
(Adapted from my ciao review)