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book review

What Day 21 Of #NaNoWriMo Has Taught Me, About Me.

Posted on 21st November 2012 in #NaNoWriMo

On day 21 of National Novel Writing Month, I have a day off work. Yesterday I told myself that I would use this day off to catch up and write approximately 10,000 words. It seemed sensible, wise and infinitely doable.

Today, however, this is actually the first time I have sat at my keyboard. Not a good start to the 10,000 words bearing in mind that it is already 11:43.

I haven’t done anything of great import with my morning, I’ve read a book, The Reader, I’ve had tea and toast and played with Tilly, I’ve had a shower and I am now sitting here with wet hair.

In the shower the thoughts behind this post came to me and it is purely to write this post (and not the 10,000 words which I will, of course, somehow find time for…later) that I am sitting here. It was during these thoughts that I acknowledged the following:

* I have no idea if I will be able to finish #NaNoWriMo

* I am determined to finish it because I am too stubborn for my own good, sometimes

* What I have written so far is mostly amateurish tripe

* I huge new-found huge and deep respect for anyone who writes an entire book, not just ones I deem to be good but anyone, anywhere who can devote the time and motivation to writing an entire book – you are awesome

* When I cannot access my keyboard, my brain floods with flowing and articulate prose; paragraph after paragraph of plot twists, witty lines, exciting new angles and beautifully constructed sentences

* When I can access my keyboard it is as though those thoughts and words have to take such a convoluted path to reach the page that by the time they come out they have lost half of themselves along the way and mostly end up as jumbled, meaningless, uninspiring and excruciatingly  amateurish tripe

Now, I will no doubt find some un-urgent chores to attend to thus increasing the pressure upon myself to complete the word count. In the meantime, I hope you have hit your stride and are writing the new bestseller.

Best of luck all.

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling #bookreview

Posted on 16th November 2012 in #bookreview/ book review/ books


The Casual Vacancy

by J K Rowling

Have to confess I actually had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it. The only press I’d seen regarding it was negative comments owing to it not being a children’s book. Which I personally thought was a bit odd – what gives anyone the right to dictate to an author which genre they ‘must’ write in?

So, I was actually under the impression that this was to be a shag-fest, swear-fest of a book, possibly about temporary office workers, (insert suitable reference not judging a book by its cover here 😉 ) and was therefore a little surprised to find myself reading a book about a vacancy at a Parish Council.

Not at all what I expected but a charming little (massive) book which leads you an a journey through the lives of the villagers of Pagford. This is a gentle read with lots of characters and intricately woven story threads which all pull together as you read on.

Overall it lacks the punch of the Harry Potter novels but as a standalone book it is a good, if bitter-sweet, read.



Moonlight Mile #bookreview

Posted on 20th September 2012 in #bookreview/ Crime Fiction


By Dennis Lehane

The official blurb: Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from her blue-collar Boston neighborhood. Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro risked everything to find her—only to orchestrate her return to a neglectful mother and broken home.

Twelve years later, Amanda, now sixteen, is gone again.

The disappearance of little Amanda was the case that troubled Kenzie and Gennaro more than any other. Still haunted by their consciences, they must now revisit the nightmare that once tore them apart—following the trail of a lost teenager into a world of identity thieves, methamphetamine dealers, and Russian gangsters, right up to the doorstep of a dangerously unstable crime boss and his demented wife. Once again Patrick and Angie will be putting everything that matters to them on the line in pursuit of the answer to the burning question: Is it possible to do the right thing and still be dead wrong?

I had no idea what to expect of this book as it was written by the guy who wrote Shutter Island. If you’ve seen the film you”ll no doubt recall that it was slippery than a big of snakes!

With that knowledge, Moonlight Mile was more conventional that I expected. It fide have lots of clever layers and tiny subplots which all built up to create a well thought out story.

Brilliant characterisation, if a little stereotypical in places, but I have to confess I liked that.

If you are a crime thriller fan like myself I’ve no doubt that you’d enjoy this book.

For more reviews see my book review page.

Cold Kill #BookReview

Posted on 16th September 2012 in #bookreview


by Neil White

The blurb: Every breath you take, he’ll be watching you…

When Jane Roberts is found dead in a woodland area Detective Sergeant Laura McGanity is first on the scene. The body bears a chilling similarity to a woman – Deborah Corley –murdered three weeks earlier. Both have been stripped,strangled and defiled.

When reporter Jack Garrett starts digging for dirt on the notorious Whitcroft estate, he finds himself face-to-face with Jane’s father and gangland boss Don who will stop at nothing until justice is done. It seems that the two murdered women were linked in more ways than one and a dirty secret is about to surface that some would prefer stay buried.

As the killer circles once more, Jack and Laura must get to him before he strikes again. But his sights are set on his next victim and he’s watching Laura’s every move…

I enjoyed this book, it had engaging characters and a horrible storyline!

I really liked the dynamics between DS McGanity and her reporter boyfriend. That is until I read the blurb for the next book and realised that yet again it is she who solves the case after he somehow receives exclusive clues. That means it will be the exact same book but with slightly different suspects. Hmmm.

And yes, I know that there are other series out there which I love and therefore it’s the same DS who continually solves the crimes, but, I think it’s the fact that it’s a cop/reporter relationship and the reporter ALWAYS happens across very vital information and is brave enough to dive in headfirst to solve things.

I loved that about this book (hey, no one said I wasn’t a contrary Mary) but I just don’t know if it would be insulting for it to keep happening? Maybe I just need to read another one and find out.

Anyway, this book, well woven story with lots of little bits and pieces that kept you guessing. If you like crime thrillers then you’ll like it. Simples.

Notting Hell #BookReview

Posted on 14th September 2012 in #bookreview



Notting Hell

by Rachel Johnson

What can I say about this book….. it certainly does sound like hell, I’d hate to live there!

Intelligent, witty and well observed – it offers a tale of the ‘idyllic’ lives of the rich and/or famous.

I think the most worrying aspect is that it is probably a perfectly good example of some real lives in that area. How draining to have to be so fake and pretentious all the time; while shagging your neighbour’s husband and being blissfully unaware that she is shagging yours.

That about sums it up really.



Birthdays for the Dead #BookReview

Posted on 13th September 2012 in #bookreview/ Crime Fiction

Birthdays for the Dead

by Stuart MacBride

The synopsis bit: Five years ago his daughter, Rebecca, went missing on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. A year later the first card arrived: homemade, with a Polaroid picture stuck to the front – Rebecca, strapped to a chair, gagged and terrified. Every year another card: each one worse than the last.

The tabloids call him The Birthday Boy. He’s been snatching girls for twelve years, always in the run-up to their thirteenth birthday, sending the families his home-made cards showing their daughters being slowly tortured to death.

But Ash hasn’t told anyone about Rebecca’s birthday cards – they all think she’s just run away from home – because if anyone finds out, he’ll be taken off the investigation. And he’s sacrificed too much to give up before his daughter’s killer gets what he deserves. 

I have given this book 5 starts (out of 5) on Good Reads because, frankly, it kicks butt! I think it would make for brilliant TV.

DC Ash Henderson is policeman on the edge and he makes for a fantastic character. I started off missing Logan McRae and the well-known, well trodden streets of Aberdeen but was soon sucked into the downright murky world Ash and his faithful sidekick Rhona. I didn’t like the Dr McFruitloop character when she was first introduced, felt she was a little too contrived, but I grew to love her after a couple of chapters. 

I should add that before anyone reads this book they need to be fully aware that the subject matter is grim beyond all measure. It is painful to read and certainly not for the feint hearted. It goes WAY beyond the usual line in the sand for describing atrocities and if you look directly at it you’ll struggle to read on! I tend to read the words but ignore the content when he’s talking about the girls.

OK so why did I give it 5 stars?

This book doesn’t confirm to the norm. It doesn’t do as you expect it to. MacBride has been brave enough (bored enough?) to throw the crime writers rule book out of the window and he has written an outstanding standalone book which is like no other.

DC Ash Henderson is a ridiculous yet fantastic character. He does not abide by the rules – most similar characters fly close to the wind, or bend the rules but he does not have any boundaries not a single one. It is exhilarating to read about someone who just does want he wants/needs in order to get what he wants.

This book seems to have been somewhat slated on Amazon and I think a lot of its critics were expecting a fluffy crime book that follows the crime-by-numbers format of some other writers. It is hard reading in places. The pace does move so quickly that you literally feel your head spinning. It is down right gritty, grim and unbelievable; yet FABULOUS.

I loved it.

Having said that, I’ve gone from this to the slightly more frothy Notting Hell as I felt I needed to wash all of the macabre grimness out of my system!

The Silence by Alison Bruce #BookReview

Posted on 4th September 2012 in #bookreview/ alison bruce/ cambridge/ Crime Fiction


by Alison Bruce

I have so looked forward to this book!

I even queued for it during the launch at Heffer’s in Cambridge where I finally got to meet the lovely @Alison_Bruce in person :)

The official blurb: Joey McCarthy is stabbed to death in a pub car park in a random act of violence. Shortly afterwards Charlotte Stone’s terminally ill mother dies and then, within weeks, two of her teenage friends commit suicide. With her home life disintegrating and both her father and brother racing towards self-destruction Charlotte realises that her own personal nightmare may not be over yet.

When DC Gary Goodhew finds the body of another suicide victim he is forced to recall some deeply buried memories of an earlier death; memories which lead him to Charlotte Stone and the events in her life.

From their individual points of view they both begin to wonder whether all these tragedies are somehow linked to a bigger picture.

And if they are right, then who will be the next victim?

After reading only a few pages of The Silence I remarked to my partner that this was “her [Alison Bruce’s] best book yet!”. I’ve been hooked on this series since book one but it seemed to me that in this book Alison’s writing has taken on new a depth; it seems more confident, more accomplished and the book seemed (to me) to move at a different pace to its predecessors. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the pace and direction, hold on tight as half-way through it seems to go up a gear and bursts forward shifting the whole focus of the story and racing towards its conclusion.

It offers a more complex plot than the previous books and immediately draws you in to the story which then leads you down more dark alleys and dead ends than a maize maze… Ok so that’s not the best analogy in the world but you get the idea 😉

I thought Goodhew seemed a more sensitive soul in this book and his memories of an earlier car crash showed us a new side to him and helped (in my head at least) to further define his enigmatic but oh so likable personality.

There were a couple of things in the book which I felt were ‘left hanging': DI Marks was very thoughtful and brooding throughout the book and although a brief explanation was proffered, it felt to me as though there was more to it; also, I was expecting fireworks between Goodhew and (the deeply unpleasant) Kincaide especially after Kincaide sinks to a new low with his malicious lies but Goodhew seemed to let it go. I wonder if both of these are being saved up for the next book?

The Silence very quickly had me hooked and, as usual, attempting to guess the outcome! I thought it was very clever the way the story constantly seemed to circle the central characters from the student house and I enjoyed the dynamics and differing personalities within the group. Except for Oslo, one word, ewwww!

I thoroughly enjoyed The Silence and can’t wait for book 5!

The Calling #BookReview

Posted on 16th August 2012 in #bookreview/ alison bruce/ book review/ books/ Crime Fiction

The Calling

by Alison Bruce

Synopsis: Kaye Whiting went to buy a birthday present and didn’t come back. Fifty miles away in Cambridge town centre a deeply disturbed young woman is standing by a payphone. She often feels compelled to do harmful things and is driven by a desire to make a call. When Kaye’s body is discovered, the only clue DC Gary Goodhew has to go on is a woman’s voice on his voicemail saying, “Kaye isn’t the first and won’t be the last…”

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am reading my way through the Alison Bruce books after discovering and loving Cambridge Blue.

I have one negative comment and I’ll get it out of the way first (Alison already knows this anyway!) I’m really sad that the cover has been changed from the original one which was:

I personally love the original style of the jacket covers and think it’s a real shame that they’ve been made more generic by the publishers.

Anyway, the book!

I know from my Q&A session with Alison that The Calling, although being the third in the Cambridge Blue series, is actually the first one that she wrote and I read the book with that knowledge to see if I could ‘tell’. I certainly don’t think it is screamingly obvious, but there were a few subtle differences about DC Gary Goodhew’s personality?

I love it when I get to start a new DC Gary Goodhew book, it’s great to settle down with a book knowing that you love the characters and that you love the writing style. The Calling did not disappoint. It is fast paced (as all of the series have been so far) and you get drawn into the story very quickly, making it hard to put the book down.

Poor Kaye, I was willing her to hang on and was quite shocked when she didn’t! That was totally unexpected for me but it was a great way to be thrown straight into the book. I thought that the pain portrayed by Kaye’s mother was excellently observed.

I kept changing my mind about who my chief suspect was as the story progressed and I enjoyed being kept on my toes as new developments arose. I liked the way that the crime was solved between DC Goodhew and the enigmatic character ‘Marlowe’ and thought the relationship between their, equally untraditional, personalities felt very plausable.

As ever I have no intention of giving away the ending to this book, except to say that I one point I did think Alison had taken leave of her senses with the way the story was heading but it was of course just another cleverly woven red herring!

Great book – if you are new to the Cambridge Blue series, please pick up a copy of Cambridge Blue first and fall in love with enigmatic DC Gary Goodhew!

The Price Of Redemption #BookReview

Posted on 29th June 2012 in #bookreview

The Price Of Redemption

by Gavin R Dobson

I wasn’t especially looking forward to this book but I am so glad that I’ve read it as it was really gripping!

It seems to have been pitched very much towards the thrusting stock broker world because the main characters in the book work for Capital Management firm in London and yes the book is littered with financial facts and figures but only because they are relevant to the story.

I thought I would find the financial side of things overpowering but that wasn’t the case, I really enjoyed a little insight into the trading world. The book is founded upon a great storyline, it has strong characters; some you love, some you hate and some you are suspicious of!

I read the book very quickly because I had a hunch about how it was going to turn out and I had to see if I was right……I wasn’t!


The Siren #BookReview

Posted on 21st June 2012 in #bookreview/ alison bruce

The Siren

by Alison Bruce

I searched high and low for this book after being completely blown away by Cambridge Blue. I wanted to read more about Gary Goodhew, as with all great characters, I missed him!

In The Siren I found a Gary Goodhew who seemed a bit more comfortable in his own skin and in his role within the police force. He seemed to have gained more trust and respect from his senior officer and at least some of the team. The ever unlikable Kincaide is also back with his snide comments general air of slime bucket; personally I think I would’ve liked to have seen Kincaide become even more vile in this book and play up the part of the villain thus creating more of an element of risk.

The storyline, as I have come to expect from Alison Bruce, is innovative, it’s different, it doesn’t follow your standard crime by numbers style of book writing and I enjoy her books all the more for that spark of diversity which sets her apart from other writers.

I had to laugh when I read a review of Cambridge Blue on Amazon, it said something like “My biggest problem with the book, though, was that I found the character of the main protagonist, DC Gary Goodhew, increasingly implausible. I suspect that Ms Bruce is more than half in love with her creation – she makes him attractive but unaware of it, fabulously empathetic and non-sexist, far more intelligent and intuitive than any of his colleagues, and so bursting with integrity and the desire to do good that it’s a wonder it doesn’t give him a nose bleed….The author’s infatuation with her creation means that he is allowed to get away with frankly ridiculous behaviour.”

HA! I bet you that review was written by a man! 

Goodhew is all of the things that he has said but they are also all the things that make him so likeable, so engaging and so readable! It is caring about Goodhew that makes the books work so well in my opinion. I sort of want him to have a love interest (and I can smell one coming in the next book!) but I sort of don’t too.

One teeny negative for this book, if I may, not enough of his grandma. I loved her character in Cambridge Blue and she only makes a fleeting visit or two to the pages of The Siren.

Being a resident of Cambridgeshire I just love being able to picture places that are mentioned, I’ve walked across Parker’s Piece for example and shopped in the Grafton Centre. And, having just googled it like a complete saddo, I now know that The Cambridge Blue is a real bar!

Learn more about Alison Bruce in this interview.

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