MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Book Review – The Face of a Stranger – Anne Perry — October 30, 2016

Book Review – The Face of a Stranger – Anne Perry

Book Review – The Face of a Stranger – Anne Perry



Book: The Face of a Stranger
Author: Anne Perry
Genre: Mystery
Year of Release: 1990
Read 345-page paperback edition in October 2016.

Book Description:

This detective novel by British author Anne Perry is the first William Monk book. Detective Monk wakes in the beginning of this novel to find his memory completely void due to an accident with a coach. He has no recollection of who he is, what he was working on, and any other details of his life.

He spends time recovering with his sister and her family, before he gets back to work, investigating a dangerous and highly sensitive murder of a man from high society. As Monk investigates, he realizes he needs to step carefully, given the power family of the murdered man, and the realization that failure or stepping in the wrong direction of political and family intrigue may lead to the end of his career.

Book Review:

Like many series’ of mystery books starring a detective, this first William Monk novel started out somewhat slow, with a lot of setup for the main character and the setting, Victorian London.

Although the novel started out slow, and a big reason was setting up characters and plot, unfortunately this novel really did feel a little stretched out, with it not picking up until much later in the novel. The slow pacing of the novel was almost painful for the first half to two-thirds.

The storyline itself, the murder of Mr. Grey, was an interesting one, with some complexities and political and familial intrigue that added value to the investigation by Monk. The fact he had many characters to interview, both family and otherwise, provided the reader with many suspects to consider as interviews occurred and evidence was slowly uncovered. One issue with the writing was that it sometimes felt a little repetitive, because Monk went back and interviewed people multiple times, over and over. After the first couple of interviews, a third and fourth interview, while it may sometimes uncover a new nuance for the murder investigation, felt a little bit old for the reader.

In summary, Monk was an interesting character, and perhaps in later novels the focus will be more on the investigation and less on repetition and set up and introduction of him as a character. This novel unfortunately did feel that way, and as such was not a great start to this well-known series.

Overall: 2.5 stars out of 5 stars

Book Review – Making a Break – Thursday Knight —

Book Review – Making a Break – Thursday Knight

Book Review – Making a Break – Thursday Knight



Book: Making a Break
Author: Thursday Knight
Genre: Fiction
Year of Release: 2016
Read 183-page paperback edition in September 2016.

Book Description:

This collaborative novel is written by a collection of 21 authors from a Creative Writing class in Winnipeg, Canada. The pseudonym Thursday Knight was based on the fact the creative writing class took place on Thursday evenings at the McNally Robinson bookstore classroom in summer 2016.

In the novel, two main protagonists, Stanley and Eve, are suffering through marital issues. They jointly agree to a separation of eight months, where they can reflect on the relationship but also live their own lives and adventures. After the eight months, they will then come back together and discuss whether they should get back together, or make the separation a permanent one. Along the way, amusing, surprising, and emotional moments occur for both of them.

Book Review:


Bias warning: I was one of the students who wrote this collaborative novel! Chapter 7 is my work, and I was very proud to have my first piece of work published! The class did a great job working on this project, and the outcome was terrific, with the book selling out and getting on the bestseller list for two weeks at independent bookseller McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, Canada!

The bias being noted, I can now make some comments on the novel 🙂

From reading the book, it is quite clear to the reader that there are many different authors that utilized different styles. This can sometimes be a little bit jarring, as styles and topics change suddenly from chapter to chapter. That being said, the reader knows that this is a collaborative novel and so this is expected given how this book was produced.

The main characters are interesting and are well explored by the authors. The decision to incorporate a medical condition ensures that the novel is not only about comedy and romance, but also about drama and stress. This is a great element in the novel. The adventure in the novel takes on a more intense flavour because of the medical condition that is being faced in the novel.

Although the conclusion is somewhat predictable given many of the things that occur, particularly with Stanley, the last chapter is comedic and brings everything together very nicely.

Overall, this is a fun novel that is quick to read and has real charm.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Book Review – All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr — October 29, 2016

Book Review – All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

Book Review – All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr



Book: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Genre: Fiction
Year of Release: 2014
Read 530-page paperback edition in September 2016.

Book Description:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this novel centres on two protagonists in different places of Europe who come together through radio technology. Marie-Laure grows up in Paris, a curious 12 year-old who is close to her widowed father. Marie-Laure is absorbed in the braille books her father buys for her when he can, but when the pressures of Nazi Germany push towards Paris, they evacuate to the coast of France, and to a small village to live with her reclusive uncle, who has powerful radios in his attic. Meanwhile, young Werner is a German orphan who is a talent for technology and science, and is recruited into an academy and military service in order to use his knowledge for the Nazi regime. However, he begins to feel more uncomfortable with his place in the world, as he sees how people act and are treated around him.

This powerful novel is the story of two young people whose lives intersect during the backdrop of WWII.

Book Review:

Although there are many WWII novels in existence, author Anthony Doerr has done a great job of creating something new, and also writing in a way that is fast-paced, where the reader is excited to turn every page and find out what happens next. The plot device of radio communication was a great way to explore some important settings, themes, and subject matter in fresh and new ways.

The main characters of Werner and Marie-Laure were well explored by Doerr, and his ability to probe into their minds, give us a sense of their thoughts, feelings, and fears, created a believable and harsh tale for what it was like to be a teenager in WWII, on both sides.

Doerr does an interesting job of weaving the stories ever closer together, while at the same time finding the right balance of related storylines for minor characters that are connected to Marie-Laure or Werner in some way. Everyone who appears in the novel is interesting, very well thought out by Doerr, and delivers a message of some kind.

The overall novel is a fantastic exploration of the impact of war on these teenagers, and explores themes of loss, fear, and grief. This is an emotional and powerful novel, and is written beautifully.  Well done!

Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars