REVIEW: The Ice Cap & The Rift by Marshall Chamberlain

The Ice Cap & The Rift Book Cover The Ice Cap & The Rift
Marshall Chamberlain


John Henry Morgan, ex-Marine, Director of the United Nation’s Institute for the Study of Unusual Phenomena, returns from the devastating attack on ISUP’s Mountain project in Belize only to be cast into the aftermath of the Comboquake and the dangers of the rift. Morgan and key ISUP staff mount an expedition to the rift and discover a cavern occupied one hundred and eighty thousand years ago, containing a perfectly preserved high-tech habitat and a traveling machine operated by unknown scientific principles.

The benign scientific expedition to study the cave and its contents encounters deceit and violence as nations and terrorist groups ferret out the existence and significance of the discoveries, and mount sophisticated operations to acquire technological treasures for their own purposes. ISUP finds itself at the convergence of clandestine assault from several fronts. Violence escalates. Lives become expendable -- a scenario that has plagued the human race through the chronicles of time.

Frantic action: Prague, London, New York, Washington, D.C., Libya, France, Spain, China, Iceland. Across oceans and air lanes, factions grapple for power. Survival for the ISUP scientists and preservation of new technologies for the benefit of humanity lie in choices of whom to trust.

I received an advanced reader copy of The Ice Cap & The Rift by Marshall Chamberlain in exchange for my honest opinion.

Usually, when you give me a book with an ancient mystery hidden under the ice, it will  enthral me for hours. Think Matthew Reilly’s Ice Station, Greig Beck’s Beneath the Dark Ice, or Dan Brown’s Deception Point. However, this book fell sadly flat.

Perhaps it was because it was the second book in the series; Chamberlain gave some explanation of what happened in the first book, but didn’t really give any depth to what they’d found during that adventure. Or, it could be because the team made an amazing discovery of a city buried in an ice cap, but that seemed secondary to the entire story. Maybe it was because three of the main characters had names starting with ‘M’, which made it confusing to keep everyone straight at times!

I think the success of the other books I mentioned was that, amidst the action (which, in essence, was very similar – basically different world powers fighting it out for control of the discovery), there was also significant exploration of the discovery itself! Where it came from, how it got there, and why it was there in the first place! In Ice Cap, however, the main characters really didn’t discuss the origins of the discovery at all, which was both odd, and annoying.

I felt that the majority of the book was set on a plane, with the main character flying between Prague, London, New York, Washington and Iceland – repeatedly – to talk to various officials or check in at his office. Much of the content that was drawn out over these flights could have been better developed in Iceland, which was supposedly the centre of the action.

That said, I’m yet to mention the most bizarre part of the story. For two short chapters, we’re transported to some kind of distant, alien civilisation. The ‘aliens’ are apparently a super advanced race of beings, who subtly interfere with happenings on Earth, to ensure that the human race doesn’t kill itself. It is implied that the discovery of the ancient city in the ice was made earlier than expected, and could throw everything out of balance. In itself, this is an interesting idea. However, it was BARELY a part of the story! Just a few pages of discussion between these aliens, and again, no real exploration of the depths of their involvement or plan. I’m not against the occasional addition of an alien race to a story (Again, Matthew Reilly does this brilliantly, in his debut novel Contest), but in this instance I felt that the execution was a little off.

I don’t know if I’ll continue reading this series (though I am mildly curious about how the alien thing will play out!), but if you choose to, I’d definitely suggest reading the series from the beginning, in case that helps. You can find it on Amazon here. I’ve got to say, I was disappointed in this book! I was looking forward to discovering a new series to delve into, but was instead left feeling rather flat. I’d love to know if anyone else has read this book and had a different reaction!

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REVIEW: ‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’ – Jenny Lawson

Let's Pretend This Never Happened Book Cover Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Jenny Lawson

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humour in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

There’s no doubt that Jenny Lawson has had some hilarious moments in her life – many involving various poultry or wild animals. However, instead of turning these anecdotes into a witty memoir, Lawson decided to write her biography in a jumbled, word-vomit way. For me, that really ruined it.

While I found myself smiling at the ridiculous stories, I more often found myself frustrated with endless run on sentences, and Lawson’s babbling. It seemed to me that she was insecure about where she came from, almost nervous and over-compensating with a false sense of bravado. I also found the ‘Editor’s Notes’ rather trite and forced; they didn’t add anything to the story, being included in the way they were.

From a formatting point of view, I found the footnotes frustrating, as on an e-book they all just show up in a list at the end of the text, so are fairly useless. Perhaps something for authors to keep in mind, given the ebook market is flourishing.

Overall, I think what could have been a very entertaining read was spoiled by a lack of editing, and a decision to write so loosely. I personally hadn’t heard of Lawson before reading this, and can’t say that I’ll go looking for more of her work now. That said, from other reviews I have read, many people seem to enjoy what she has to say… and if you don’t believe me, feel free to find out for yourself. Check it out here or here. If nothing else, there’s an amusing mouse in a cape and with a rapier on the front cover!


Literary-Junkies-ButtonAnd now for this month’s Literary Junkies Question Round-up!

1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it!

To be honest, I was a little late finishing Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – I only finished it this morning! So I haven’t started anything new yet.

2. What books are on your bedside table at the moment?

There are no books on my bedside table… my mother holds firm that a house isn’t clean unless it looks like nobody lives here (she doesn’t actually say that, but it’s true – our house is crazy tidy). So, no books lying lazily around!

3. Amazon recently released the 100 books to read in a lifetime. What did they miss that you would add?

I think their 100 books are a pretty good start! Having read it, I’ll be adding a few to my list of Books to Read Before I Die – and there are some on my list that Amazon missed!  Check mine out to see what I think are the must-reads.

4. Are there any books being published in 2014 that you are anxiously awaiting?  If so, what are they?

I’m looking forward to The Little Beach Street Bakery – Jenny Colgan, and  the paperback edition of Quintana of Charyn – Melina Marchetta. I’m one of those crazy types that need all of their books to match, so I have to wait for the paperback to be released! Other than these two, there are plenty of books I’m waiting for, but I have no idea when to expect them!

5. Name the next 3 books in your To Be Read List (the ones you will be reading next on your list.)

First on the list is the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth; I have to read them before the movie comes out! Then, I’ll be reading and reviewing Bangkok Transit – Eva Fejos for Fictionella. After that, I think it will possibly be Blind Spot – Terri Persons, but that’s a week or so away yet, so I may have changed my mind by then!

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Covenant – Dean Crawford

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“Covenant” tells the action packed story of a discovery in the middle east – what appear to be alien bones. Thus begins a race between factions to obtain the remains for themselves, and control the release – or suppression – of the information gleaned from them. Disillusioned former war correspondent, Ethan Warner, grudgingly joins the hunt, alongside archeologist Lucy Morgan, and Detective Nocola Lopez. Threads of information slowly emerge from amidst chunks of overly technical explanation, and result in a race to save the world.

I had high hopes for this book… but was disappointed (as perhaps you can tell from my less than exuberant plot outlineDean Crawford - Covenant above). The premise of the book was sound, and Crawford had clearly done his research. However, the story was in many parts contrived. There were pages and pages of technical scientific explanation, and long-winded description of the middle-eastern conflicts, that were beyond the comprehension of your average reader. This made some of the text pretty hard to get through. Even for people like myself, who regularly read books on similar topics, and are used to wading through law text books – the epitome of heavy reading – there was just far too complicated, and unnecessary.

Cramming so much technical information in was, despite the length of the novel, at the cost of character development. I didn’t really get a chance to ‘get to know’ any character in depth, except perhaps Ethan Warner. Even then, I usually get overly attached to characters, but there was no love lost when people tried to kill Warner – which happened often. What little character development you did get didn’t lend itself to a particularly likeable main character. It’s never a good thing when you’re not rooting for the protagonist to succeed!

Another frustration was that the three storylines didn’t really overlap and interact enough until the very end; rather, it was almost like reading three separate books. Not to mention the cliqued ending that more than paved the way for the upcoming sequel.

What had the promise to be a provoking story about the possibility of finding another species in the universe and the lengths that people would go to in protecting that information, became an overly complicated big guys with guns story.

It’s possible I’ll still pick up the sequel… Ok, I’ll be honest – I’ve actually already purchased both of the remaining books in the trilogy… But I haven’t read them, which says volumes! Don’t judge me, I’m rather OCD in my need to purchase an entire series once I have a portion of it. I’d be interested to find out the answer to the mystery that is Warner’s missing fiance, but past that I have little interest in how this story unravels. If you want to give it a try, you can get a copy here. Hopefully Crawford and his editors have learned a lesson and cut the technicalities for some character development.

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Confessions of a GP – Dr Benjamin Daniels

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Benjamin Daniels - Confessions of a GP

This book wasn’t exactly what I expected. What I had thought would be a fiction-like story encapsulating Dr. Benjamin’s experiences as a doctor in England, turned out to be more like a collection of very short essays, with no connection between them and no logical flow. These essays cover everything from mundane sniffles and imaginary stomach aches, to midnight on-call dramas. Predominantly, however, the stories are of day to day life in General Practice, and the ins and outs of working in the real world of medicine.

That said, most of the individual stories were interesting, if only for a better insight into the life of a GP. I did learn more about the workings of the NHS, and was amused by some of the patient anecdotes. I also appreciated his honesty – Dr. Daniels admitted that he’d made mistakes, and wasn’t shy about discussing his frustrations with the medical world. I was glad to see he was honest, instead of tempering his views for the sake of not upsetting anyone.

It wasn’t a bad read, and while I personally am unlikely to re-read it, I would recommend it to young doctors or medical students, as it gives an idea about what the GP life is like (in the United Kingdom, if you want to be specific, but I suspect that patients are the same everywhere!), and might give you a bit of a laugh! Get it cheaply here.

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Sophie Kinsella

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Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopoholic novel shot to fame after Isla Fisher played the role of Rebecca Bloomwood in the motion picture released in 2009. There is no doubt in my mind that the movie was fantastic. Hilarious. Isla Fisher was the perfect choice for the role, as were the supporting characters. I was excited to race out, buy the book that the movie was based on, and rip into it.

Sophia Kinsella - Confessions of a ShopaholicUnluckily for me, it was a waste of my time. In print, the characters were flat, and the scenes were dull. There was no life force in the novel that was bringing it to life in my imagination. I finished the book, as a book really has to be appalling to make me stop half way through. But I didn’t walk away with the buzz that finishing a good book usually gives you (or the sadness that comes with leaving an alternate reality behind). While there was nothing hugely wrong with the book – there were no grammatical errors or serious plot deficiencies – there was nothing outstanding.

For a long while, I attributed this to the novels’ being overshadowed by the movie. Surely, a book that was so well known that it spawned five sequels and was considered hugely popular must be good… Sophie Kinsella is a world-famous author!!

So, I read another of her books, The Undomestic Goddess. From the blurb, I was interested. Sure, it was a typical boy-meets-girl type novel (different setting, different names, different issues… you know how it is), but that is a tried and true formula for a good reason!

Sophia Kinsella - Undomestic GoddessMain character Samantha Sweeting is much more grounded and punchy than the wishy-washy Rebecca Bloomwood. Bonus points there. And I have always had a soft spot for transformation stories – and Sam’s metamorphosis from high-strung lawyer to domestic goddess definitely qualifies. More bonus points. However, the story still didn’t have the pizazz that I look for in a good chick novel. You see, what chick lit lacks in originality it is supposed to make up for with punch. This novel failed to do so.

After reading these two books, I’d have to say that Sophie Kinsella is relegated to ‘mediocre’ novelist in my mind. I won’t be re-reading these books anytime soon (although I’m sure I will be watching the movie again!), which isn’t a great sign.

Please, anyone who has jumped on the Kinsella bandwagon and found it to be the ride of their life, feel free to argue your point! And if you want to find out for yourself, you can find these books here and here.

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