2012 Thriller

The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

The Uninvited

Five words from the blurb: child, violence, Asperger’s, psychological, connect

As you may know, I make an effort to read as many books as possible that contain characters with Asperger’s syndrome. On Autism Awareness Day Hannah pointed out that The Uninvited fitted my criteria and so I added it to the top of my wish-list. By a strange twist of fate I was offered a review copy just a week later and so I accepted, keen to try one of Liz Jensen’s books for the first time.

The Uninvited is a psychological thriller in which children start attacking adults for no known reason. The central character, Hesketh, is an anthropologist. He is sent to Taiwan to investigate fraud within the timber industry, but quickly finds himself involved in the global child violence crisis.

The book begins well, with a vivid scene in which a seven-year-old girl kills her grandmother with a nail gun, but unfortunately that level of tension failed to re-appear later in the book. The scenes of violence were too fragmented and the explanations for the attacks were too far fetched for me to become fearful.

Hesketh has Asperger’s and I found him to be well developed, with realistic traits for someone on the spectrum. I liked the way Asperger’s was portrayed in a positive light, but I found mentions of the condition too frequent. The reader is made aware of the Asperger’s early on, but I found the continual reference back to it burdensome. If you don’t know much about the condition then you will find it useful, but I wish it hadn’t had such a dominant role.

One of my chief coping mechanisms, in mental emergencies, involves origami: I carry an imaginary sheaf of delicate rice paper in my head, in a range of shades, to fold into classical shapes. When the image of Freddy shooting Kaitlin first reared up I swiftly folded eleven of the Japanese cranes known as ozuru, but I couldn’t banish it.

The Uninvited has a lot to recommend it. It is a fast paced, entertaining read that treats Asperger’s with sensitivity, but I’m afraid the plot lacked the realism required to give it real impact.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

…one of the most genius and bizarre pieces of literature I’ve read in a very long time. A Bookish Libraria

…everything was bogged down in tedious and ultimately tiring details… Judging Covers

 While the book showed lots of promise, ultimately the ending ruined it for me. Book Addiction


The Engagement by Chloe Hooper

The Engagement

Five words from the blurb: weekend, handsome, man, property, trap

Chloe Hooper was shortlisted for the Orange Prize her debut novel, A Child’s Book of True Crime. Her new book, The Engagement, is getting a lot of positive press in Australia and since I had an unsolicited review copy sitting on my shelf I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

The Engagement is psychological thriller with a Gothic atmosphere. The book is set in Melbourne, Australia, where Liese is working for her uncle’s estate agency. She agrees to show Alexander around a range of properties and they end up having sex in each of them. Alexander then offers to rent Liese for the weekend, leading to the strange situation where Liese is locked, voluntarily, in his house.

The writing in this book is fantastic. I loved the atmospheric descriptions of the Australian landscape and the Gothic feel of narrative.

As we drew closer the house was all windows, reflecting the blankness of the darkening sky. Grey clouds rolled over the glass, camouflaging whatever waited behind it. This building sat in the dust, expectant and watchful, emitting a low piercing sound. Every nearby tree was alive with bird-din. Hundreds, thousands of them were seething in the branches. They signalled to each other, the garden vibrating with their calls – although more truly the sound seemed to come from the stone walls of the house, from deep inside one of its rooms.

Unfortunately the plot wasn’t of the same standard as the writing. Liese and Alexander were both well developed characters, but their actions were unrealistic. I couldn’t understand their motivations, several of the plot twists were bizarre, and the ending left me feeling particularly unsatisfied.

If you enjoy reading books just for their brooding atmosphere then this is a must, just don’t expect any realism from the plot. 


The thoughts of other bloggers:

…a strange mixture of banality, naivety and menace… Euro Crime

…a brilliant novel that disturbed and enthralled simultaneously… Write Note Reviews

 …if you loved Gone Girl then this is it’s grown-up cousin. The Writes of Woman

1990s Recommended books Science Fiction

Encounter with Tiber by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes

Encounter with Tiber

Five words from the blurb: Earth, species, starfaring, space, future

I hadn’t heard of this book until I read about it in Moondust a few weeks ago. Intrigued by the idea of an astronaut writing a scientifically accurate sci-fi novel, I ordered a copy from my library. I’m pleased that I did because this is one of the best pieces of science fiction I’ve ever read.

Encounter with Tiber is a fantastic story that travels through time and space. I was gripped throughout the 500+ pages; thrown from moral dilemmas to heart stopping scenes of disaster. It predicts how human space travel will increase over the next few decades, explaining how technology will evolve to enable us to travel increasingly large distances. It also shows the problems faced when alien life is detected, giving thought-provoking insights into our society.

The wonderful thing about this book is the way everything is based on scientific fact.  The plot is firmly rooted to the first moon landings and the science behind everything is clearly explained. Some people may find that it gets a bit technical in places, but I loved the detail and enjoyed Aldrin’s predictions for the future.

“We’re going to the Moon, but only to go treasure hunting, and once we’re there it probably won’t be long before we’re taking soil that hasn’t been disturbed for four billion years, bulldozing it up in carloads, and pumping it through helium extractors. I wonder when they’ll open the first casino up there and the first Swfplay online casino. Probably within my lifetime.” Many people are playing casino games on

Buzz Alrdrin also used his experiences in space to give realistic descriptions of the thoughts, feelings and fears of those leaving our planet. This added a unique spark to the story and is the main reason this book should be considered a modern classic.

There are several things I should probably criticise (for example, the writing wasn’t perfect and the characters all had the same voice) but these problems didn’t seem to matter – I was far too engaged in the story. The only real issue is that this book was published in 1996 and so many of the events in the 1990-2010 section had already happened/not happened. Had I read this book on publication it would have had a far greater impact.

If you think you don’t like science fiction you should give this a try – it effortlessly blends historical events with predictions for the future and the scary thing is just how possible it all seems.

Highly recommended.



Two Board Game Reviews: Asara and Indigo

At the beginning of the year I wrote about my favourite board games. Many of you came up with some wonderful suggestions and I’d like to thank those who recommended Ticket to Ride Europe – it is as good as you said it would be!

Since then I have been lucky enough to have been approached by Ravensburger Games. They asked if I would be willing to review two of their new games, they told me I could get bonus: Indigo and Asara. As a massive fan of board games I jumped at the chance and am pleased to report that they are both fantastic games.

Ravensburger Indigo


The basic idea of this game is to collect gems by moving them into your ‘gate’. This is done by placing hexagonal tiles on the board in order to create a path. Each tile has a random pathway, crossing and curving in three different directions. The clever layout of the board means that it is easy to divert gems from other players at the last minute and all players must keep an eye on the entire board, not just the gems they expect to be theirs.

Age range

Indigo is aimed at the family market. The box recommends it for children over 8-years-old, but my 6-year-old and his friends loved playing it. They may not have completely grasped the best strategies, but when playing with others at the same level they enjoyed themselves. It relies too much on luck to be an enjoyable strategy game for adults, but it is a great family game.



The game is beautifully designed and the glass ‘gems’ give it a real feeling of quality.  The set up is quick and the tiles are made from a thick card, giving it durability. The box is manufactured perfectly, enabling all the pieces to be put away tidily.

Number of Players: 2-4

The game is easier with two players, as each gets more gates to pass their gems through. With four players it gets more competitive, something the adults enjoyed, but the children found a little frustrating. The unpredictability of the four player game (it is easy to ‘steal’ gems that players assume are theirs) means that it tends to work better when adults are also playing as *whispers* they can help the younger players by deliberately making bad moves!


This is a beautifully designed family game and is one we’ll be playing on a regular basis – at least until my boys are old enough to play more complex strategy games.

Recommended to families.



.Asara Tactical Board Game


Asara is card placement strategy game in which players compete to build towers. Players are awarded points for building the tallest towers of each colour, the most towers overall, and for building towers containing gold. Players must think carefully about the best way to use their limited supply of money and the increasingly small number of available spaces on the board.

Age range

Asara is an adult strategy game. The box recommends it for children over 9, but I might suggest a slightly higher starting age as it is quite complex initially.



The art work is beautiful and all the pieces are of high quality, but because there are a large number of small pieces it can be fiddly to set up. The inside of the box is poorly designed, so packing it away is a messy nightmare.

Number of Players: 2-4

Asara is the best board game I’ve come across for two players. My husband and I have spent many happy evenings playing against each other and I can’t see us getting bored anytime soon. The game changes with the addition of more players as spaces on the board become even more challenging to occupy. The strategy required to win changes subtly with each additional player, but once mastered the game is still interesting as the scoring tends to be very close.


This is my favourite game at the moment. I’ve played it many nights in a row and am still enjoying it. I’m sure that the passion will fade eventually, but this is a keeper and all my friends and relatives will soon know about it!

Highly recommended.


Have you played either of these games?




April Summary and Plans for May

April has been a month of two halves for me. I read some amazing books (including two five star reads that I’ll tell you about soon), but I also abandoned a greater number than usual. I think the outstanding books helped to make everything else seem poor in comparison. The number of abandoned books also accounts for the low number of reviews this month. Hopefully I’ll complete more books in May.

Book of the Month

At the beginning of the month I gave Honour by Elif Shafak 4.5 stars. I loved reading it, but I have to admit that it hasn’t had the lasting impact I expected it to. For this reason Magda becomes my book of the month. It isn’t a happy read, but I loved its power and encourage you to try it if you like darker reads.


Reviews posted in April:

Magda by Meike Ziervogel 

Honour by Elif Shafak 

The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow 

Soufflé by Asli Perker 

Moondust by Andrew Smith 

First Novel by Nicholas Royle 

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver 

DNF: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight by Gina Ochsner, Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel, Marks of Identity by Juan Goytisolo, The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu, How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti and The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Plans for May

I’m in the unusual position of having no plans for May. I plan to read randomly from my shelves, but the books calling to me at the moment include:

The Uninvited by Liz Jensen
The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
The Son by Michel Rostain
Encounter with Tiber by Buzz Aldrin
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The Dinner by Herman Koch

I hope you have a great month!