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The Reader #BookReview

Posted on 27th November 2012 in #bookreview

The Reader

by Bernhard Schlink

The synopsis: For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does – Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.

I read this for a book group and I have to say first off that the fact this book begins with a child being groomed by and adult and they referring to it as an erotic love affair made it incredibly hard for me to read the rest of the book.

He was fifteen she was in her thirties. All obvious and disappointing jokes to one side, if this were a fifteen year old girl and a man in his mid thirties would it be ok?

How about if it were a fourteen year old boy and woman in her early thirties or a thirteen year old boy and woman in her late twenties.

Or a fifteen year old boy and a man in his mid thirties – not so funny or erotic now huh.

However.

I did read the rest of the book as was required and with the exception of the above noted scenes it was a good, though provoking book.

It left a lot of things unanswered and, for me, it had some pretty huge plot holes which I’m told are conveyed better in the film.

I don’t feel as though I can offer any more of a review than that; for me the book was tainted by its opening scenes.

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.

 

 

Lasting Damage #BookReview

Posted on 11th October 2012 in #bookreview

LASTING DAMAGE

by Sophie Hannah

The official blurb: Sophie’s sixth psychological crime novel to feature Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer.

It’s 1.15 a.m. Connie Bowskill should be asleep. Instead, she’s logging on to a property website in search of a particular house: 11 Bentley Grove, Cambridge. She knows it’s for sale; she saw the estate agent’s board in the front garden less than six hours ago.

Soon Connie is clicking on the ‘Virtual Tour’ button, keen to see the inside of 11 Bentley Grove and put her mind at rest once and for all. She finds herself looking at a scene from a nightmare: in the living room there’s a woman lying face down in a huge pool of blood. In shock, Connie wakes her husband Kit. But when Kit sits down at the computer to take a look, he sees no dead body, only a pristine beige carpet in a perfectly ordinary room…

——————————

I didn’t give the last Sophie Hannah book that I read a great review, so I am all the happier to say that this one was actually really good!

The Zailer/Waterhouse relationship side of the book was still weak however and I can’t help thinking that Sophie Hannah started something several books ago that she was then compelled to continue with; I wonder if she regrets it?

Putting that to one side, the storyline was excellent and forgiving a few elements that slightly stretch plausibility (but then don’t all books?) it was a really good and well put together story.

As ever, Sophie Hannah’s observational skills when it comes to recording relationships is simply excellent she manages to capture that familiarity of the routines that families have which are disliked by so many of the family yet which continue year after year, just because. The unspoken words between Connie, her sister and her parents are all there loud and clear.

There was one little thread through the story of which the purpose eluded me but that’s not to say that it spoilt the book. Maybe I’m just not on the right wavelength for these novels some of the time.

Sorry if this sounds like a negative review, I think my experience of the previous book has possibly prevented me from reviewing this book on an impartial basis; it had something to prove from page one!

For me, this was Sophie Hannah back on form and I would recommend it.

Halfhead #BookReview

Posted on 8th October 2012 in #bookreview

Halfhead

by Stuart B. MacBride

The blurb: Terrifying serial killer thriller set in the gritty Glasgow of the near future, from the bestselling author of the Logan McRae series. There are worse things than the death penalty… They call them halfheads: convicted criminals, surgically mutilated and lobotomized by the State, then sent out to do menial jobs in the community so everyone will know what happens when you break the law. There are no appeals, no reprieves, and no one ever comes back. Until now. Dr Fiona Westfield, one of the most prolific serial killers Glasgow has ever seen, is waking up. Surrounded by blood and death and darkness. William Hunter has risen through the ranks since putting Westfield away; now he’s Assistant Network Director, in charge of police actions. But a routine murder investigation is about to embroil him in an appalling conspiracy. The vast connurb blocks on Glasgow’s deprived south side are ready to explode. Eleven years ago the VR riots killed millions – now someone wants to start them all over again. And Will is being dragged back into a past he desperately wants to forget…

 

Halfhead offers a scary view into the future of our world.

I really enjoyed the escapism created by the story being set in the future, yet not so far into the future that the was unimaginable. It’s the very concept that this monstrous way of living isn’t too much of a stretch of the imagination that makes it so great. It is easy to believe that the world could head that way.

As always, in my opinion, with Stuart MacBride’s books, the characterisation is superb; the Dr Fiona Westfield character is just fantastic. Despite her being a sick, perverse serial killer you end up feeling such empathy for her wanting her life back.

Very engaging, fast paced and an all round great read.

Brilliant book! Brilliant concept and if you are a fan of his other books then this is a ‘must read’! In fact, as this book is not part of a series, but is a ‘stand alone’ book you can feel free to read and enjoy whether you’ve read any of Mr MacBride’s other books or not. And if you really haven’t read any of his other books then you need to find yourself a copy of the sensational Cold Granite and get acquainted with Ds Logan McRae.

 

 

A Room Swept White #BookReview

Posted on 25th September 2012 in #bookreview

 

A Room Swept White

by Sophie Hannah

TV producer Fliss Benson receives an anonymous card at work. The card has sixteen numbers on it, arranged in four rows of four – numbers that mean nothing to her.

On the same day, Fliss finds out she’s going to be working on a documentary about miscarriages of justice involving cot-death mothers wrongly accused of murder. The documentary will focus on three women: Helen Yardley, Sarah Jaggard and Rachel Hines. All three women are now free, and the doctor who did her best to send them to prison for life, child protection zealot Dr Judith Duffy, is under investigation for misconduct. 

For reasons she has shared with nobody, this is the last project Fliss wants to be working on. And then Helen Yardley is found dead at her home, and in her pocket is a card with sixteen numbers on it, arranged in four rows of four . . .

I find Sophie Hannah to be an outstanding writer, her plots are often brave and touch upon subjects that most authors would leave well alone. A Room Swept White is a classic example of this as all the way through the book you have the much deeper unspoken subplot of whether or not you, the reader, believes that the three women killed their babies.

Sadly for me the book was lacking key characters to carry such an amazing storyline.

The Simon Waterhouse, Charlie Zailer and Proust relationship has become farcical. Such a shame as a few books back it was brilliant. Now Zailer is basically kept in a box until the author needs her for something, Waterhouse has become borderline psychotic but with none of the charisma which would normally accompany such a role and as for Proust, well, I’m a bit lost for words.

The worst thing for me was the way that the story seemed to jog along with lots of ‘is it this person, is it that person’ and then all of a sudden it felt as though the allocated number of words had been completed therefore, like a magician pulling a rabbit out from a tatty hat, the murderer is revealed and a few other loose ends are randomly and unbelievably tied up all in the space of about 4 pages.

Insulting.

 

Cold Kill #BookReview

Posted on 16th September 2012 in #bookreview

COLD KILL

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.

 

 

The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year #BookReview

Posted on 9th September 2012 in #bookreview

The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year

by Sue Townsend

As I am currently experiencing a bit of enforced bed rest, this seemed an apt book to read!

It is billed as ‘laugh out loud’ and ‘wonderfully funny’, according to the back of the book Jeremy Paxman said “The publishers could offer a money-back guarantee if you don’t laugh and be sure they wouldn’t have to write a single cheque” – I am not so sure that I agree. It is certainly sharp and well-observed, with humorous descriptions in places, but is it a comedy? I think not.

Beautifully and intelligently written as you would expect from Sue Townsend, it is in places briefly uplifting yet on the whole seemed to be a slightly melancholy, cautionary tale which serves as a reminder that we are all the same underneath all of our learnings and affectations and that we all seek that one person who understands us and accepts us for who we really are.

The overall message that came across was that we all hold on to things (careless insults, preconceptions, embarrassing memories, feelings of inadequacy) that we should have left behind years ago and yet, conversely/perversely, we fail to retain things which we should hold dear (compliments, friendships, self esteem/respect and kindness).

The End Of All Worlds #BookReivew

Posted on 17th August 2012 in #bookreview

The End Of All Worlds

by T E Shepherd

The author’s blurb reads:

Eleanor, a literature graduate with a passion for the old legends, is lost and feared dead when she becomes separated from her group on an expedition in the Icelandic Highlands, but emerges out of the wilds nine days later with stories of the huldufolk.

Ódinn, who has committed crimes in his own world and has been cast out to walk the world of men for all eternity, desires to return home. He enlists the help of Charles Ancell, a young, ambitious, aluminum developer to build a revolutionary new factory in the Icelandic Highlands to provide cheap metal. The techniques used will break apart the fragile bridge between the worlds. As a consequence of this our world and its climate is set to change irrecoverably.

Having finished The End Of All Worlds by TE Shepherd, I am now struggling a little with how to review it as it isn’t like anything I’ve ever read before which I think will probably come across in the review! It isn’t the type of story that I would generally choose to read and feel I owe TE Shepherd and apology as I’m sure someone who had read and loved Lord of The Rings, for example, would be better placed to give this review.

The story follows several ‘clusters’ of characters and often jumps between them to show different things happening simultaneously which is unusual and felt at times like it was possibly written a little in style of a film script?

Not a book to be dipped into and definitely not a light read. This is an in depth read that needs to be given your full attention if you are to keep track of everything that is happening as the story dips between present time and other times as well as differing simultaneous activities. It describes Iceland beautifully and has opened my mind to world of ‘hidden folk’ of which I would otherwise probably never have heard of.

The ending seemed to rush up upon me and the actions of some of the characters surprised me greatly. Personally though I think it’s always good for a story not to be predictable.

I think I got a little muddled with events in places but there is a handy guide to the characters at the start of the book. It always worries me when I see those in books though as it tells me that I am going to need my wits about me!

The little illustrations throughout the book are delightful and show that Mr Shepherd is clearly a very talented man.

I’ve read the book wondering if it is based on real Icelandic folklore and have just visited google and discovered that it is. The Huldulfolk and Alfar are alive and well in Icelandic legend – how cool is that: http://www.octavia.net/vikings/hulduf…

I found it difficult to gauge the age range that the book is aimed at and am still not 100% sure which makes it difficult to know who I would recommend it to. However, I think anyone who enjoys mythology and folklore would get a lot out of this book and I’d love to read a review from someone who regularly reads this genre.

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!

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