REVIEW: The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern

I wasn’t really into circuses when I was growing up. I can’t remember ever going to one – something about the combination of animals being made to perform weird feats, creepy looking clowns and too many sweaty, loud people in one small space didn’t appeal to the quiet, odd bookworm kid that I was and so I never even asked to go when they came to town. As I got older I showed some interest in the new generation of circuses ala Cirque du Solei, but due to finances enjoyed it only on television, and I also grew to love old carnivals as portrayed in shows like Carnivàle, but alas these don’t really exist any more. However, if the Le Cirque des Rêves (the magical circus that is at the heart of The Night Circus) did exist I would gladly be amongst its loyal followers, the Rêveurs.

The Night Circus is one of those rare books where the setting has been developed into a vivid character in its own right, one to be loved or hated; one to fear or one to fear for; one to follow until the very end of the story, whatever that may hold. Because of the way the story progressed my feelings for the circus changed, just as they would with a complicated protagonist but throughout our tumultuous relationship I never lost my sense of wonder at what lay beyond its gates and I doubt that I would if I could actually walk its grounds.

The Night Circus begins long before Le Cirque des Rêves’ conception, in New York, 1873 when Prospero the Enchanter (or Hector Bowen when he’s off stage) receives an unexpected visitor – a child called Celia who is in fact his daughter left by her mother for him to raise. It becomes apparent quite quickly that Celia possesses magic just like her father, for though he pretends to be simply an illusionist on stage he in fact performs real magical acts masquerading as parlour magic. Early on in his paternal and mentoring relationship with Celia (which is at times cruel and often cold and emotionless) an old rival who he addresses as Alexander, pays him a visit and upon seeing the child’s abilities the two strike up a mysterious wager. Alexander (also known as Mr A.H- and “the man in the gray suit” throughout the book) then goes about choosing his own protegé by scouring orphanages and testing potential children. His choice is a young boy who is uncertain why he has been adopted by the mysterious stranger who barely speaks to him and instructs him to choose a name for himself.  The boy names himself Marco Alisdair and begins a long apprenticeship with his master which mainly consists of travel and reading, a far cry from Celia’s demanding and increasingly violent training under her father.

It is not until the  two children reach adulthood that the circus is dreamed up, seemingly by theatrical producer and eccentric Chandresh Christophe Lefevre who takes Marco as an assistant once he’s of work age. Chandresh, who is fond of lavish and unusual events, invites a collection of friends and acquaintances to a midnight dinner to discuss his idea for a unique circus and enlist their skills to make it a reality. His guests are an ex Prima Ballerina and fashion designer Mme. Padva, who will design the intricate costumes worn by the performers; period fashionistas Tara and Lainie Burgess, who will design details of the circus such as the material of the tents and general atmosphere; architect and engineer Ethan W. Barris who will take care of the circus’ structural elements; and the mysterious Mr A.H- who appears to have little impact on the circus’ creation but whose true involvement is revealed as the story unfolds. The concept  is simple but innovative: a circus which appears at its destination without warning; only opens at sunset and closes when the sun rises;  is decked out in a colour scheme of black and white rather than the usual bright circus colours; and which will feature acts never seen or scarcely imagined before. This circus will be called Le Cirque des Rêves – The Circus of Dreams.

As the circus is constructed and the performers hired (starting with the alluring tattooed contortionist, Tsukiko) the true purpose of it becomes clear – it is arena in which the protegés of Prospero and Mr A.H- will play “the game”, the mysterious event that their training has been leading to. Neither Celia or Marco  know what “the game” is meant to consist of, the outcome they are playing toward or initially who their opponent is, but they have both been told (albeit in a rather cryptic manner) that the circus is the setting and that they must both showcase their skills. Celia performs for Chandresh and his associates and is promptly hired as Le Cirque des Rêves’ Illusionist, but in doing so attracts the attention of Marco who recognises that her magic is no illusion and thus she must be his opponent. Marco is unable to conceive a reason for him to travel with the circus and so enlists his lover Isobel Martin to work as the circus’ Tarot reader and spy on Miss Bowen for him.

Thus begins a mystical back and forth between the magicians akin to a grand game of chess, in which they take turns in creating wondrous feats of imagination to showcase at the circus. In one move a tent of origami animals that fly around the tent including a paper dragon that breathes fire; in the next a beautiful forest where every detail is crafted out of delicate ice crystals. On and on the opponents try to out-do each other and along the way create a circus of mythical proportions which attracts crowds of wide-eyed visitors every night. When one devoted circus-goer by the name of Herr Fredrick Thiessen (who also helped create the circus by designing and making the extravagant clock that stands at its gates) begins to write about his treasured experiences at Le Cirque des Rêves he receives correspondence from other like-minded individuals around the world and The Rêveurs are born, a group of Le Cirque des Rêves devotees who distinguish themselves but wearing the circus’ palette of black and white with one accessory of bright scarlet, such as a scarf of handkerchief.

Unbeknownst to the circus folk and their loyal Rêveurs, the artisans of the circus, Celia and Marco are not creating the wonders for them, and as time has gone by they are no longer making them as moves of “the game” – they are creating for each other. Along the way Celia has also discovered the identity of her opponent and while the two of them should be competing, they can not fight the attraction between them and soon the exhibits transform from pieces on a chess board to secret tokens of love. But the lovers are unaware of the insidious intricacies of “the game” and how entwined everyone involved in Le Cirque des Rêves has become. No longer is the circus simply a magical wonderland where they can create to their heart’s content, there are countless lives at stake and one day “the game” will come to its deadly conclusion.

The Night Circus is a stunning creation on a very grand scale and I can barely fathom that it’s a debut novel. Every moment of it was an absolute delight, even the scenes that were heartbreaking. Even though the subject matter is in the realms of fantasy there is some themes that carry on into the realm of reality: how every war has innocent victims; the duality of life; natural talent (as shown in Celia) versus learnt skills (as shown by Marco); and of course the tried and true star-crossed lovers archetype (although it is told quite uniquely here). It also is a very sound historical novel, leading us from 1873 to 1903 and through England, America, Germany, France, Vienna, Spain and other steps in between with beautifully described fashions, buildings and social occasions and fabulous dialogue. Each character is crafted to perfection, especially the main ones, and they elicit an emotional response and connection very early on. But the real triumph of this novel is Morgenstern’s explosive, expansive, breathtaking imagination. The fact that she could come up with even one or two of the features of the circus is impressive enough, but the novel is fit to bursting with so many wonders, each one more magical than the one before it. I found myself gasping aloud at many moments as well as crying at some (I’m a sap!) and constantly longing that the circus was real. Plus it has the most stunning cover art, both inside and out and you know how I’m a sucker for a pretty cover 🙂

In researching this book online I have seen it being compared to Harry Potter and Twilight which I think is frankly ridiculous, but I guess that is because there has been a lot of hype and when you think literary hype those two series come to mind. If I was to compare it to anything it would be the movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus as they both involve a dangerous wager and a travelling troupe which offers a unique and magical experience, but beyond that I have never encountered anything quite like it. I have kept my synopsis brief (…ish) because there is so much in this story and so much that can be spoilt, so if I have piqued your interest, just go read it – it is truly amazing.

Also when I was researching I found that there is a game online where you can explore the circus (kind of like a ‘choose your own adventure’ story) and I will certainly have a play there as it’s as close as I’ll ever get to experiencing Le Cirque des Rêves….besides reading it again ;P Oh! AND I also found that there has been some buzz about a movie being made!! Apparently it is in development by Summit Entertainment and according to IMDb its due to be released next year – I hope they do it justice.

I give The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern:

4 ½ / 5 Stars

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REVIEW: City Of Bones By Cassandra Clare

 

I have made it quite clear before that I am often guilty of judging a book by its cover – If I like the cover art I am more likely to read the blurb and if the cover art annoys me I will likely not give the book a second glance – but I have not admitted that I also judge a book by the quoted people on its cover. If an author I like or admire has said something glowing about the book I am much more likely to read it, and likewise if an author I dislike is quoted I am more hesitant.

This was the case with City of Bones. On the front and back covers as well as in the page of praise inside, Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame raved about the series, and the cover and blurb have been fashioned to appeal to the same demographic (teenage girls who like girl meets supernatural being styled romances). Now, I have been quite open with my disdain for the Twilight Saga in this blog so it will come as no surprise that I had a few worries about this book, and the series in general. However my brother (who has no interest in Twilight-esque novels and whose taste in YA is similar to my own) greatly recommended The Mortal Instruments series, and I have heard great things about them in general so I suspended my doubts and dove in.

What I found pleasantly surprised me. Yes, there was an element of Forbidden Love that has become such a cliché in YA literature lately, but it was not of the breed that really irks me, and was more true to the reality of puberty so it could easily be forgiven. Besides the Forbidden Love (which was less prevalent than the very brief blurb insinuated) I was quite impressed with what Clare has created. Her world is a clever combination of the real urban environment of New York paired with the hidden world of Downworlders (Werewolves, Vampires, Warlocks and a fascinating array of demons and half-demons) and the Shadowhunters that are trained to kill any Downworlders that break the Accords (a treaty between Downworlders and Shadowhunters). Her descriptions of the  physicality of different demons and locations hidden by glamour were evocative and fit perfectly into the urban setting. The settings are clever with a certain cheeky logic to them: from a diner that serves such delights as locusts with honey, whole raw fish and blood of various beasts, but then had a perfectly normal human menu on the back; to an abandoned building adopted by werewolves as a makeshift hideout with a glamour proclaiming it Jade Wolf Chinese Cuisine that is so complete that sometimes fledgling lycanthropes even deliver the occasional order of mu shu pork.

The plot moves very quickly from the set-up into the full-on action sequences. Clary Fray is the book’s leading lady, an ordinary teenager who knows nothing of the city’s secret underworld until she follows a couple of suspicious looking teens into a back room of the Pandemonium Club because she sees one of them draw a knife. Upon following them she sees a very strange altercation between the group and a blue-haired boy their companion (a gorgeous girl) lured into the room and subsequently witnesses the boy’s murder. When she tries to alert someone she discovers that no one besides her can see the mysterious trio, and at least one of the apparent murderers (a gorgeous boy with tawny hair and golden eyes called Jace) is very interested in her ability to see him. Meanwhile Clary’s mother has been acting cagey and after forbidding her to go out the next night (which she disobeys) calls her in distress, warning her away from their apartment before the line is cut short. When Clary, accompanied by Jace reaches the apartment it has been ransacked, her mother is missing and a monstrous beast attacks her.

From that point onward Clary is thrust into the world of the Shadowhunters (or Nephilim) a race of humans with angel blood that use runes inscribed into their skin and enchanted weapons to fight malevolent demons and other Downworlders. From Jace, his companions Alec and Isabelle and their tutor Hodge, Clary learns about the way of the Shadowhunters and her ingrained but forgotten connection to them while they try to uncover the whereabouts of her mother and the evil actions of a rebel Shadowhunter thought to be long dead.

There is plenty to like in this book (and hopefully the rest of the series), especially for teens and lovers of supernatural action, but unlike some tales in the same vein it isn’t simply love and action scenes with some filler masquerading as plot. The characters are well-developed, with true-to-life teen issues of identity, friendship and hormones making them seem more than just attractive teen warriors. The relationships and interactive dialogue between the characters are believable and there are some great witty one liners.

ultimately it’s not an intricate piece of literature, but it is a very well-constructed example of a genre that is growing from strength to strength, and it is highly enjoyable. I hope I enjoy the continuing installments just as much 🙂

I give City of Bones by Cassandra Clare:

4/5 Stars

REVIEW: The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

Imagine you’re a noble in 18th Century Europe, a time when concepts like computers, the Internet, and smart phones were as foreign as alien technology. A time of powdered wigs, white faces, corsets and carefully placed beauty spots (and not just for the ladies!) where the height of human invention was the automatons, clockwork machinery that performed tasks previously only achievable by people, such as writing and playing music. And imagine that in this world an automaton is revealed that can think for itself and play a game of chess against real opponents. This is the world in which The Secrets of the Chess Machine flourishes, illuminating the sordid secrets of Europe’s nobility and the depths they would stoop to, to be in the limelight.

The plot is based on the true story of an unbeatable chess-playing automaton named The Turk that toured Europe from 1770 to 1854, but was revealed to be a hoax in the late 1820s. In the book (as well as in real life) the creator of this “machine” is Wolfgang von Kempelen a civil servant of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria and Hungary. After seeing a magician perform at the palace, Kempelen boasts to the Empress that he could come up with a more impressive experiment, even without the former training, and she calls his bluff, giving him 6 months off to develop his invention. Kempelen has ambitions to build a speaking machine, but he soon realises that it is not achievable in the time and so he comes up with the fiendish idea of the chess machine – a contraption that appears to think and play chess but in fact will house a man controlling its actions from the inside.

To find the perfect “brain” for the chess machine Kempelen travels to Venice, and approaches a dwarf called Tibor Scardanelli, who is a gifted chess-player and is in prison for a bar fight. Tibor, a devout catholic, doesn’t initially want to be involved in the hoax but when his circumstances take a turn for the worse he approaches Kempelen and secretly travels with him to his home in Pressburg. So starts an intricate tale of deception and sin where Tibor must be kept secret but is constantly being coerced into breaking Kempelen’s rules by his assistant Jacob. The trio tour with The Turk, exhibiting it and playing against nobility and the common man alike, with relative ease, until the Countess Ibolya Jesenák – Kempelen’s former mistress – dies under suspicious circumstances in the company of The Turk. At this point the novel shifts genre from a strictly historical saga to a mystery/thriller as Kempelen and Tibor’s professional relationship shifts into ugly territory, rife with blackmail and accusations.

Löhr has a very interesting writing style, which I’m sure would have been even better in its native tongue, but as I can’t read German I am thankful for Anthea Bell‘s expert translation. His style mixes traditional story-telling devices such as conflict/resolution with unexpected metaphorical battles, such as a game of chess being described like an epic war, and a debate between Kempelen and a church representative (who believes the automaton is an unholy abomination) described as a retelling of Zeus’ punishment of Prometheus. The detailed descriptions of the chess games and various automatons were fascinating, and Löhr certainly painted a vivid picture of 18th Century Vienna, Hungary, Italy and France with his cast of over-fluffed ladies and powder-wigged dandies. Overall it was a really enjoyable read with a solid historical basis, with an addition of author notes at the end where Löhr explains the truth behind his fiction and makes clear the parts he made up. A recommendation for lovers of good historical fiction with a dash of murder and intrigue.

I give The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr:

4 / 5 Stars

REVIEW: Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook

I’m gonna keep this review short and sweet, because that’s what the book was like….well maybe not sweet.

Alice in Zombieland pretty much explains itself – in essence it is the full text of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (which is why he shares authorship) but altered so that Wonderland is actually Zombieland and is infested by flesh-eating Zombies. The other changes include:

  1. Instead of Alice following a white rabbit down a rabbit hole she follows a black rat down an open grave
  2. Instead of the pool of tears that Alice creates when she is stuck in the room with the tiny door, she bleeds a pool of blood from a head wound she received falling down the grave tunnel
  3. Well known characters like the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter are all dead and in stages of decay
  4. The Red Queen controls a Zombie army through jewelled collars and a mysterious box that she keeps on her person
  5. Alice herself is turning into the undead and has unsettling thoughts of chowing down on everyone she encounters

I was really impressed with how Cook integrated the horror element of zombies into this classic tale, and was a bit unnerved by how well it fit. Cook changes enough to make it a new story but not enough to drastically alter the feel of the original tale, which in my opinion was pretty freaky already! Another nice touch was the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter – they’re the original drawings by Sir John Tenniel artfully changed by comic artist Brent Cardillo into grotesque etchings.

One of the illustrations

This newfound genre of horror/classics mash-ups is huge at the moment what with the highly popular Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith being released in 2009, which was quickly followed by Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters by Ben H. Winters and an avalanche of others since. I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters because I’m not really a Jane Austen fan, but I am intrigued by the concept of these mash-ups and I certainly enjoyed Alice in Zombieland, so much so that I finished it within a week of borrowing it from the library. A fun, gross read but not one to give to your kid because they like the original!

I give Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook:

4 / 5 stars

REVIEW: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I finished this novel nearly a month ago, but have been too busy to give it the full review that it deserves – before now. Before I start it should be known that it took me nearly 4 months to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a book of a mere 359 pages, and in fact I have started and finished 5 books in that time. The main reason for this is I didn’t really like The Elegance of the Hedgehog in the beginning and found it a bit grueling to read, especially compared to the others I was reading at the same time. The reason I found it grueling is that it is a very intellectual book with many literary references and words that were unfamiliar to me. Now, if you have been reading my blog for a while, or you know me, you will know that while I do enjoy a great work of literature I also enjoy a variety of more low-brow fiction and so am not as widely read as I would like (I try plus I’m still young! plenty of time yet to get to all those classics!), so at the start of this book I was forever stopping to refer to my trusty dictionary, or google something which left me feeling quite the dunce 😦

I don’t really enjoy feeling stupid while reading (who does?) , so I often found myself putting this one aside for days or weeks on end after one session. This was until I started to take it in my bag to classes and prac, a strategy I use on books I’m avoiding because the time on the bus and train forces me to give them a try. This strategy certainly worked on this little number and I found my feelings toward it quickly changed.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a french book that was originally published in 2006 under the title L’élégance du hérisson then translated into English in 2008. The book revolves around a central location – 7 Rue de Grenelle, a swanky apartment building in Paris – and only a handful of events happen anywhere else. The narrative is told through two main characters and narrators: Madame Renee Michel, the middle-aged concierge; and Paloma Josse, the 12-year-old daughter of one of the wealthy families that resides in the building. Madame Michel is a 54-year-old widow who has worked at 7 Rue de Grenelle for 27 years, and she is a self-confessed autodidact (yes this was one of the words I had to look up :S) in areas of literature (namely Tolstoy), art, music and film. However, she has kept the secret of her cultured self for all these years and played the part of the simple concierge as she fears loosing her job or being condemned by the uppity residents of the building. On the other hand Paloma Josse is disgusted by the bourgeois lifestyle of her family and others in the building and feels there is nothing to look forward to in adulthood. Therefore she has decided to kill herself and set fire to the building on her 13th birthday to avoid the future of the adults around her. However, Paloma is an incredibly intelligent and  logical young lady, so in the time leading up to her suicide she has decided to keep records of things in the world around her that may be worth living for – titled “Journal of the Movement of the World” and “Profound Thoughts” – and it is through these journal entries that her sections are narrated.

The story starts out kind of bleak, with both main characters feeling pretty melancholy about their lives, but everything changes when a distinguished Japanese gentleman moves into the building. It was at this point that my interest accelerated because the plot really started to develop when previously the chapters were mainly character development. The groundwork that Barbery had laid down in the earlier chapters meant that I was emotionally attached to Renee and Paloma by the time their stories and characters grew and I wanted to know more. The addition of the Japanese gentleman – Kakuro Ozu – also lightened the story a fair bit because he is a very kind and deep person that appreciates the same art and culture as Renee. Ultimately this book explores a lot of themes, but mainly it explores the philosophies of life and how people find comfort in the world and people arround them, and that really appealed to me. However, it wasn’t all serious cultural references and philosophy, in fact there was some real laugh out loud moments, especially the times when Renee is having tea with Manuela, a maid who cleans many of the building’s apartments and always brings delicious pastries.

I became so entrenched in the story and characters of The Elegance of the Hedgehog that by the end (when an event happens that I won’t spoil) I was struggling not to burst into tears on the train, and I failed a tad. This is a real gem of french literature and would make a great book club book for a group that isn’t afraid to read something so peppered with references, because it provides a lot of fuel for discussions. Despite the fact that it took me forever to read, I’m glad I persevered with The Elegance of the Hedgehog and it is sure to be on the list of my favourite reads of 2011. I also have borrowed the film that was based on the book – The Hedgehog – and look forward to watching it soon. Who knows, it may even make an appearance in a future Top 10 on book to screen adaptations 😉

I give The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery:

4 ½ / 5 stars

REVIEW: Equinox By Michael White

Possibly even done better than Dan Brown

Do you secretly relish fiendish murders where organs are removed and ancient coins put in their place? Does your heart sing whenever you hear the words “occult”, “secret society”, “ancient rituals” or  “alchemy”? Are you intrigued by historical figures such as Issac Newton? Do you like short exciting chapters that make you want to read on? Do you enjoy Dan Brown?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions then Equinox by Michael White is the book for you!

Equinox is about a series of murders that happen in Oxford and starts strong with the stalking and murder of the first victim (a young woman) being told in the voice of the mysterious and meticulous killer. You are then introduced to the two main protagonists: Philip Bainbridge who is a crime-scene photographer; and his ex and mother of his child, Laura Niven who changed career from crime journalist to crime author. The investigation of the mystery is mainly done by the two, with a bit of help from their mathematics student daughter, Jo and her boyfriend Tom who has an interest in Astrology, and they actually find out more than the investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Monroe. From the first murder Philip and Laura become involved. Philip is called to photograph the scene but as he was giving Laura a lift he stops in with her and tells her to wait in the car until he is finished. Laura, of course, doesn’t wait in the car but instead goes snooping behind the flaps of the crime scene tent and sees the gristly murder close-up: the young woman’s throat has been slit and her chest cavity opened to remove her heart. She then finds out that in place of the heart there is an ancient gold coin which looks Egyptian. The next day a similar murder is discovered, but this time a young woman’s brain has been removed and the coin is silver. From then on Laura is determined to find out more about the ancient coins and to use the murders as a starting point for a new novel, but when she starts her research she finds that the murders go back much further then she thought and follow a specific pattern.

When Laura finds out about the coins she discovers something that leads her to believe that there will be more deaths very soon and the whole business becomes much more serious than a good idea for a best-seller. The first murder was committed on the vernal equinox (one of the two days a year when the day and night are equal) at the point when the sun entered the astrological sign of Aries, a planet that is associated with the heart and gold, and Laura thinks the other murder will also coincide with a planetary alignment. When her daughter’s boyfriend goes onto an astrology website they work out that the second murder happened when the moon (which is associated with the brain and silver) entered Aries and  that three planets are due to enter the same sign over the next week forming a five-body conjunction, an event that has only happened a handful of times over the past thousand years.

The mystery progresses quickly from there, with pieces coming together in a very satisfying Ah! moment kinda way.  Through most of the book there are also chapters that are set in 1690 following Alchemist Issac Newton and they give good historical context to the whole mystery. Plus there is a “truth behind the fiction” section at the end of the book, that really shows the extensive research the author has done and is just pretty interesting 🙂 I recommend it to anyone who likes secret societies and ritual murder mysteries….especially if you like Dan Brown 😛

I give Equinox by Michael White:

4 / 5 Stars

REVIEW: Devil’s Food By Kerry Greenwood

Regular readers (or Bookbaggers as I affectionately call y’all 🙂 ) will be well aware of my love for Corinna Chapman and the series so far, so I’ll keep this short and sweet 🙂

Mmmmm Devil's food cake 🙂

Devil’s Food is the third Corinna Chapman mystery and revolves around a few mysteries all involving a similar problem: dangerous weight-loss. The first one starts when Corinna’s shop assistants, Kylie and Gossamer (who are typical weight/image obsessed teens) lash out at each other then dissolve into hysterics. Upon investigation Corinna finds a mysterious weight-loss tea in the girls apartment and resident witch Meroe confirms that the tea contains deadly ingredients and the girls strange behaviour was due to a slight overdose. Soon other residents of Insula (the Ancient Roman themed apartment the books are set in) Jon and Kepler hold a meeting to discuss a similar issue – suspicious herbs have been found in free trade products that Jon imports. Corinna and her detective boyfriend Daniel follow a couple of leads – a late-night club called Cade Vlad Tepes where Kylie and Goss say they got the tea; and the creepy Discarnate Brotherhood which have recently commissioned Corinna to make their ‘Famine Bread’ an unpalatable loaf made from lentil flour. On top of all this Corinna’s judgemental hippie mother, Starshine arrives out of the blue and demands Corinna helps her find her father, Sunlight, who is in Melbourne ‘finding himself’ and has been uncontactable.

Corinna somehow manages to balance all these dramas and still bakes fabulous bread, enjoys a G&T or two and a warm cat on her lap, and has romantic interludes with her hunky man (good on her!). This book is my favourite of the series so far, for a few reasons:

  1. Corinna and Daniel’s relationship has progressed and they’re so sweet that I feel really happy for them (even tho they’re not real :P)
  2. The residents of Insula came together like a real family in this book – helping Kylie and Goss recover; helping Jon and Kepler with the mystery of the herb-filled urns; looking after Jason (Corinna’s former-junkie-turned-master-muffin-creator baker’s assistant) when he is sick; and lastly celebrating Jason’s 16th birthday.
  3. The mysteries’ conclusions were actually surprising! usually I guess whodunnit at least with one or two mysteries In a many layered mystery, but with both conclusions in Devil’s Food, the guilty parties didn’t even cross my mind until all was almost revealed 🙂 It’s much more fun that way.
  4. At the end of most chapters was a creepy little snippet which starts with “the man who was not yet a murderer” and became more and more chilling as they went on. It was a very mysterious touch that made me want to read another chapter…and another.
  5. At the beginning of the book is a diagram showing all the apartments of Insula and who lives in them, which I found very useful as it’s a series with a wonderful host of characters which are sometimes tricky to keep track of. A similar diagram can be found on the official Corinna Chapman website if you’re interested.

Overall It was a very enjoyable book – a fun, warming winter read perfect for holidays (which I’m currently on :D). I can’t wait til I get my hands on the next Corinna Chapman book – Trick or Treat – and the last one (so far!) – Forbidden Fruit.

I give Devil’s Food by Kerry Greenwood:

4/5 Stars