Monday, 28 December 2015

Book Review: The Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

The Beach HutThe Beach Hut by Veronica Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love Veronica Henry with a passion! She creates novels teeming with characters, intrigue, humour and real-life situations and The Beach Hut is no exception.
This time the action is centred around a beach hut on Everdene Sands. The story spans decades as we grow old with the characters and the twists and turns throughout their life.
The reason why this is 3 instead of 5 is for two reasons. This novel has too many characters. One of the threads could be lost easily and it would still be an enjoyable read. There was one character called Jane and another called Janet. The names are too similar on the page. The second reason is that there is a lack of variety in their story lines. There were too many cheating spouses for my liking. I understand that this is a part of real life, but to have it be the centre of so many story arcs was confusing and boring. It hasn't put me off Veronica Henry at all, but it isn't my favourite of her novels.

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Saturday, 26 December 2015

Book Review: No More Heroes by Stephen Thompson

No More HeroesNo More Heroes by Stephen Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No More Heroes by Stephen Thompson is not the kind of book I would normally pick up. Having been 13 years old when the 7/7 attacks occurred, it's an event that will always be cemented in my memory. Reading Simon Weekes' account of what happened to him on that day was interesting and harrowing. But really, these moments are only the start of Simon's story and his past has much deeper secrets.
This is by no means an easy read, but the pace is thick and fast and keeps you turning the pages to find out what happened to Simon. Simon himself is a complex character and the author does not paint him in an honourable light. Despite this, he is still likeable and you sympathise with the route his life has taken.
I would definitely read more of Stephen Thompson in the future.

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Monday, 21 December 2015

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was recommended to me by my friend Helen and she is usually very good at recommendations. I would say that this book started with five stars and the more I read it, the more fed up I became. Although it was a very accessible book, I read it in two days.
Rainbow Rowell creates two likeable characters in Eleanor and Park. The story of them falling in love is sweet and full of those little moments you cherish when you start a relationship. For me, the pitfall of this book is the ending. I wanted to know what happened to Eleanor's family and the whole thing was just left without a conclusion, like the author gave up. Maybe there will be a second novel about them?
Even though I was born in the nineties the cultural references in this book are not lost on me and Rowell paints a perfect picture of the school, the neighbourhood in which they live and the supporting characters. I particularly liked Park's Mum.
Overall, an entertaining book, which ultimately left me unsatisfied.

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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Book Review: Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next #4)

Something Rotten (Thursday Next, #4)Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always been a fan of Jasper Fforde eclectic style of writing, even if I do prefer his Nursery Crime work. The Thursday Next novels are always a joy to read, full of mad cap ideas, literary characters and outlandish notions. In Something Rotten Thursday is babysitting Hamlet while political conspiracy rages around her, yet she is closer than ever to getting her husband returned to her. To top it all off, she needs to win a game of croquet to prevent the end of the world as she knows it.
The characters are complex and unique and Fforde creates such a fully realised world it's hard to believe it isn't real. The eye for detail is phenomenal and this is what really makes these books come to life. I cannot wait to delve into the next one!

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Monday, 30 November 2015

Book Review: Bridges Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary (Bridget Jones, #1)Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having been familiar with the Bridget Jones films for a number of years I thought it was about time I got round to reading the book that started it all. It's fair to say I consumed this book, I read it in two days flat. It was like I inhaled the words and I loved every page. Helen Fielding creates a fantastically realistic character. I think it's fair to say that every woman has had one or two 'Bridget Jones' moments. Her diary entries and the ups and downs of her life make for a funny, witty novel and the reader is behind her 100%, egging her on from beyond the page. Of course, having seen the film I knew how the events would unfold but that did not stop me enjoying the ride. I'm yet to read the other books in the series but I'm sure I well enjoy them as much as I did Bridget Jones' Diary.
The only reason this is four stars instead of five is because there are certain things that are handed to her on a plate, like her job. I felt that the character could be a tad more realistic in real life situations, however maybe this is just a sign of when the book was written as opposed to today's economic climate.

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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Book Review: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

David Mitchell is one of the greatest writers of this generation. He manages to create complex scenes and heartfelt characters. The Bone Clocks is no exception.
Our main protagonist is Holly and we follow her and her family and friends through their lives and different eras of time. As with Cloud Atlas, there are certain sections that will resonate more than others. I particularly enjoyed Ed's section, as we followed him in Iraq and the futuristic section with Holly and her grand children.
It was a great read, although some of it was hard to get your head round. I could have done with some more explanation. I also felt it lost pace around three quarters of the way though. But managed to regain it by the end. And although it was a big book I relished reading it, delving into every word. I can't wait to read more of David Mitchell.

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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Book Review: The Titanic Enigma by Tom West

The Titanic EnigmaThe Titanic Enigma by Tom West
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This kind of novel is something I might have written in my late teens. It's full of conspiracy, vaguely ridiculous and the characters are all young and beautiful.
I love the idea and the action is interesting and fast paced. There are plenty of twists and turns, although not completely unpredictable.
The characters are a bit one dimensional but not unlikeable. Overall a decent, entertaining read which I will forget in a few weeks.

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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Book Review: Us by David Nicholls

UsUs by David Nicholls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

David Nicholls is brilliant at creating living and breathing characters.
The story of Us follows Doug, a scientist with a quirky sense of humour; his wife, Connie, the artiste; and their son Albie, a grumpy and surly teenager.
One day in their twenty year relationship, Connie wakes up and out of the blue asks Doug for a divorce. They decide as a family to continue with their summer trip around Europe.
Nicholls describes Paris and Amsterdam with poetic detail. It's a great advertisement for inter-railing and makes me want to pack my bag and jet off for a city break.
Doug is the perfect protagonist. He's got a 'dad' sense of humour and completely adores Connie.
Connie, unfortunately, was a character I could not warm too. I'm not sure if Nicholls intended for the reader to like her, but she came across as pretentious and 'above' Doug.
Albie, is the character who develops most over the course of the novel. He transforms from the introverted teen to realising he has responsibility.
The events that unfold in the story left me angry, in love and moved. But I was always on Doug's side. Connie's decisions seemed selfish and ungrateful. She always took Albie's side even when his behaviour was unreasonable.
I've never been more emotionally invested in a book, particularly the anger I felt at Connie and the way she treated Doug. But it was a compelling read and I felt like the characters could walk out the book. I'll definitely read more David Nicholls in the future!!

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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Book Review: The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles #1)

The Surgeon (Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles, #1)The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having been familiar with the Rizolli and Isles series, I already had characters in the head when I started reading this. This is the first of the books, but I'm glad I didn't start with it otherwise I may not have read any others!!
It has a good pace, a sadistic murderer and suspects a-plenty. But it was all a bit too procedural for me. Not to mention that Isles wasn't even in it!! It was exactly the kind of story you'd expect on Criminal Minds or Law & Order, nothing that made me sit up or take notice. Plus Rizolli goes on and on about 'the job being a way of life', and I'm sure that is the case, but it just got dull!!
I'm sure I will read more in the future, but I'll get my mum to read them for me first!!

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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Book Review: Cape Fear by John D. MacDonald

Cape FearCape Fear by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Considering the size of this book, it felt like it took an AGE to read! I'm not familiar with the film, other than the fact that it's a thriller, so I went in with a blank mind.
The book is very dated. It's odd that I can read Sherlock Holmes and that not seem dated, yet reading this seemed out of touch. The main couple did not share a bed and some of the terminology and language used was strange.
Although I recognise that MacDonald writes well, I wasn't particularly enthralled by the novel. Not a lot happened until the final third of the novel, which was exciting and made by pulse race. I felt Sam's injuries with every step he took and needed to know what had happened.
The other characters were a bit confusing, apart from Sam's daughter Nancy who I related to the most. I couldn't remember how old each of the children were and there were lots of people that were mentioned once (given a name) that we never met again.
Nevertheless, this novel really highlighted that one single man can be very scary. A threat does not need to be a bomb, or a warlord. I felt that MacDonald portrayed the feelings of the family well, especially Sam's wife Carol and how she coped with the strain put on their family.
I'm really intrigued to watch both versions of the film to see how well the terror translates to the movies.

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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this novel after seeing the trailer for the film. I haven't read sci-fi in ages and thought it would be a refreshing change amongst the murder mysteries and romance.
From the off I pictured Matt Damon as I knew he was playing the role of Mark Watney. Not that this was a problem. Damon, to me, represents the all-American and he suited the role well.
I really enjoyed the diary-entry format used by Andy Weir. It puts you right in Watney's head. You journey with him, through his despair, through his exhaustion, through his elation. I enjoyed his sense of humour too, several times I laughed out loud. I particularly enjoyed the references to disco music and 70s TV programmes.
The narrative switched between Watney, the crew of the Hermes and the NASA team tracking his every move. It was good to have the variation. I felt like over the course of this book I have actually learnt something about space travel.
The pace of this novel was excellent too. I was hooked from the beginning and I couldn't wait to find out Watney's fate as in no way was it guaranteed that he would survive. Each obstacle he came across was believable and how Watney dealt with it was admirable.
The Martian is such a brilliant novel and I would love to read more of Weir's work.

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Friday, 25 September 2015

Book Review: Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (A St. Just Mystery #1)

Death of a Cozy Writer (A St. Just Mystery #1)Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love a good 'twee' murder mystery, set in the countryside, normally involve a plodding village policeman and often based around a feuding family. Death of a Cozy Writer ticks all the boxes. Sir Adrian Beauclerk-Fisk is a murder mystery writer who thrives on torturing his four vile children by threatening to disinherit them.
Despite their distaste for their father, when he announces a surprise engagement, all four children come running to their old family home. What follows in murder and mayhem.
For a start there were no redeemable characters. I felt sorry for his daughter, other than that everyone was very arrogant and pompous. G.M. Malliet describes every woman as being disgusting, fat or ugly. And God forbid a fat woman should have any self confidence or consider herself attractive. It surprised me to find the author was female.
The police officers in this novel are quite forgettable. I'm not expecting them to be quirky or have weird characteristics but they need to be memorable. Unfortunately they were quite cookie cutter.
I did like the fact that the murders were linked to the past but more of this needed to be made. By the end I was quite confused as to what had happened and just wanted to be shot of these horrific characters.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having recently visited Amsterdam with my friend, specifically the Van Loon Museum, reading this was a treat for my imagination.
The story follows 18-year-old Nella, recently betrothed to Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant and a pillar of his community. He lives in Amsterdam with his sister Marin and their servants Cornelia and Otto. Despite being the lady of the house, Marin makes it clear that Nella is not in charge.
From the initial awkwardness of fitting into a household, to the unravelling of the Brandt family The Miniaturist held my attention throughout and I couldn't wait to find out where the story would take me.
The reason why this is four stars and not five is because the story of the actual miniaturist seemed to fall flat. Johannes gift to Nella upon marriage is a beautiful doll's house (which can be seen in the Rijksmuseum). He gives her permission to buy whatever she likes to fill the house. Nella orders several items and the miniaturist continues to send more, often with hidden motives and telling of things yet to come. However, this story line just seems to peter out.
For me, the real strength lies in the characters Jessie Burton creates. I really sympathised with Nella, even if she was beyond her years in terms of her opinions, thoughts and knowledge. The supporting characters provide warmth and friction for Nella. Although the fact that Otto was black was touched upon and then not really mentioned.
I have come to realise that families, relationships and affairs of the heart are what keep the pages turning for me and this novel was full of them. The description of 17th Century Amsterdam was rich and detailed and I easily pictured the house and the surroundings. I look forward to reading more of Jessie Burton in the future.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Book Review: Inquisition by Alfredo Colitto

InquisitionInquisition by Alfredo Colitto
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I'm giving up on this book. It doesn't hold my attention at all and I can't keep track of all the characters because everybody's name was so similar. I've read it the last two nights and can't remember for the life of me what I've read!

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Monday, 7 September 2015

Book Review: The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah

The Orphan ChoirThe Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh my Lord! Where do I even start with The Orphan Choir! I enjoy a good horror story. Having been a fan of James Herbert and Stephen King for many a year, I like books full of thrills and jumps. The kind of books that make me scared to turn off the light. This was not one of them.
The Orphan Choir should be marked as a family drama story, as really, that is what this is about. One woman and her poor husband and son.
It begins with the neighbour, who plays his music loud at night (on a Saturday I might add) and disturbs are protagonists sleep. Within the first chapter she slags off Queen, Dolly Parton and Bon Jovi, so I can already tell we're not going to be friends.
We soon learn that Louise and her husband Stuart have a son Joseph, who boards at a local prestigious school as he is one of the specially selected choir boys.
Louise begins to hear choral music playing through the wall and concludes it must be coming from her neighbour's house in an attempt to drive her even more crazy than she already is.
From this point, Louise's mentality seems to take a downward spiral. She buys a house in a gated community, pulls her son out of said school and generally does a lot of crying and screaming.
I hated Louise, with a passion, she was whiny, a hypocrite, unbelievably selfish! Joseph was very happy in the school, and she saw him perform twice a week. I'm not a parent, so I don't know what it feels like to not have your child living with you, but she didn't take her son or husband's feelings into consideration at all. If she wasn't happy then nothing else mattered.
Other things about her irritated me too. She snapped at her husband when he woke her up one morning, but would continuously wake him up in the middle of the night so she had another witness to the music playing. Then constantly wished for a better husband to come along. She was an absolutely horrible woman through and through!
The reason why this has two stars is because it was gripping. I wanted to find out what happened, and why she kept hearing the choral music, even though the ending fell a little flat. I also wanted to know the fate of her family.
I may consider reading Sophie Hannah again if she promises not to create any more horrendous characters!

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Friday, 4 September 2015

Book Review: The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari (Balzano & Byrne #2)

The Skin Gods (Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne, #2)The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have read a number of Richard Montanari books, but as always, not in the right order. The Skin Gods is the second in the Balzano and Byrne series, and kicks off with a murder being spliced into a video tape of Psycho. Already this setup dates the book as nowadays this crime would be uploaded to YouTube and viral within minutes.
I enjoy both leads, especially when Balzano goes undercover, but for me, this novel was a bit too convoluted, a bit stretched out, with too many names to remember. It was hard to keep track of which body belonged to which victim and how they were related/knew each other.
It also really surprised me that the author was so disgusted by the fact that porn stars exist. He damned them outright. While I'm not saying that it's my cup of tea, I'm a firm believer in each to their own. People can do whatever they like in the bedroom.
Overall, a good premise, but the story line and plot didn't live up to it. I'll probably read more of Montanari's work but it would be nice, if for once it wasn't a serial killer terrorising the streets of Philadelphia. If it happened this often, nobody would live there.

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Sunday, 30 August 2015

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #1)

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Knife of Never Letting Go is classified as a children's, or young-adult book. That is not the case at all. This book is dark, disturbing and full of bad language.
The main character is Todd, who is just shy of becoming a man. Living in Prentisstown he is not particularly well educated, struggling to read and write. As Todd is the main narrator in this story initially this was an issue for me. I understand that the author is providing authenticity, but reading through spelt at 'thro' really grated on me. However, as I became more involved in the story, this issue went away and I was so engrossed I didn't care about the spelling mistakes.
Since arriving on the New World, humanity has caught a disease known as Noise. This enables everyone to hear everyone else's thoughts, although is fatal for women (which we later learn not to be true).
The Noise is dealt with superbly, in my opinion. It doesn't become distracting but adds to each characters nuances. It can also change colour, like an aura. Not only are humans infected, but so are animals, which allows Todd to communicate with Manchee, his pet pooch. However, despite females being immune to the noise, female animals are infected. It's one of the things you probably shouldn't think about too much.
Todd lives at home with Ben and Cillian, his adoptive parents. Upon returning from the swamp one afternoon, he is packed with a bag and told to run as far away from Prentisstown as soon and as quickly as possible. Cue adventures.
Todd meets Viola on the outskirts of Pretisstown. Patrick Ness handles Todd and Viola's cautious teenage relationship very well. There's no inkling of romance but a strong sense that one can't live without the other.
The plot itself is quite 'samey', lots of running, lots of fighting. This can get a bit repetitive, but the desire to know and make sense of everything really kept me going.
The main villain of the piece, Aaron, a preacher of course, is quite one dimensional. Maybe that's the point? But the amount of times he 'returns from the dead' is ridiculous, bordering on comical! Actually, having finished this book, I'm not entirely sure he's dead now!
Although not an entirely original idea I felt that Ness executed it well. I cared for the characters. When Todd killed the Spackle I experienced his guilt and horror. When he was ill I could put myself in his shoes.
The section with the singing cows I felt was written beautifully. It was like I could hear them, and that the sound was so pure.
The collection of smaller characters that popped up along the way were all well realised and served their purpose. Todd's encounters with anyone outside Prentisstown were enlightening and made me even more intrigued.
Now, the big moment. In fact the defining moment of the book. The death of Manchee. I can count the number of times I have cried at novels on my left hand. But that short moment left me sobbing and longing to cuddle my two dogs who were fast asleep downstairs. I had to stop reading, put the book aside and give myself a moment. The fact that Ness can produce that feeling in me is a whole star just on it's own. 'Todd?' will have a whole new meaning for me from now onwards.
This unique book took me on a roller coaster of emotions and feelings (not to mention the MASSIVE cliffhanger at the end of the novel, although I thought Haven would be completely abandoned) and I'm intrigued to find out where the story will go. So very strong 4.5 for me. It would have been five if Aaron hadn't turned up quite so many times.

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Monday, 24 August 2015

Book Review: And She Was by Alison Gaylin

And She WasAnd She Was by Alison Gaylin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I took to this book, preparing for a challenge. It had been recommended to me by a friend, who couldn't even finish it. So I gladly took it upon myself to prove him wrong.
And She Was is essentially a mystery. Our protagonist is Brenna Spector (spelt incorrectly as Brenda in the blurb, which immediately put me off). Brenna is a private investigator specialising in missing people. She also has a condition which means that she can remember every little detail that has occurred in her life since the disappearance of her sister Clea.
The main arc of the story follows the disappearance of Carol Wentz, who in turn is investigating the case of Iris Neff, a five year old who hasn't been seen in eleven years. A mystery wrapped in an enigma.
The main reason for the three stars is because I found it completely intriguing. I read the novel in a matter of days and had a hunger to find out what happened. It was definitely one of those 'just another chapter' books. Without giving anything away, the ending was a little disappointing. I was expecting it to be, more. I don't know how else to describe it. The timeline was also a little confusing, especially at the beginning.
The characters were all quite unlikable. I found Brenna's assistant Trent to be so annoying and unrealistic. Brenna herself didn't seem to like anyone at all and was very judgemental. Her daughter Maya was a complete brat and her ex-husband Jim seemed very, unforgiving. Jim's new wife Faith was just so picture perfect that she didn't seem real to me.
By the time I'd raced through this, I was left feeling empty and unsatisfied. The ending was not worth the journey. I may attempt another Alison Gaylin in the future. But not anytime soon.

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Friday, 21 August 2015

Book Review: Where Evil Lies by Jørgen Brekke

Where Evil LiesWhere Evil Lies by Jørgen Brekke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where Evil Lies by Jørgen Brekke follows the brutal murder and flaying of two victims. The catch is that both murders, virtually identical, occurred in two different continents, in Norway and Richmond, Virginia. One victim is female, one a man. One found in the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, the other found in a locked vault in a library. But the manner in which they are killed is so strikingly similar that it must have been committed by the same person.
The investigator in Norway is Odd Singsaker, who is recently recovering from brain surgery and therefore his memory is a little on the dodgy side. He is by the by, your typical Scandinavian detective, likes to take things slow and steady.
Felicia Stone has her own dark secrets and is a strong female character. The author has not made her into some manly 'one of the boys'. I didn't find her stereotypical and warmed to her. Even more so when I read about the issues that led her to be the person she is now.
Both detectives compliment each other and there is no bravado to be seen which can occur in many detective novels of this kind.
From the beginning we know there is some connection between the murders and the abduction of a mother and child. The author also takes us back to the 1500s, where the barber is busy helping out the local physician.
I really enjoyed the main bulk of the story. I'm never one to shy away from gore, and the descriptions and action that took place created a vivid picture. The pace was quick, enough to keep you intrigued but not enough so that you had no idea what was going on. I didn't enjoy the historic sections. I found that they slowed the book down completely. I found myself skimming them just to get back to modern day Norway.
There weren't too many supporting characters, which I find a good thing. I do enjoy Scandinavian novels but I sometimes struggle to remember all of the names. Only once did I have to double check a character and that was because there was one called Jens and one called Jensen. The only character I wasn't particularly fond of was a girl named Siri Holm. She literally seemed to jump anything that moved, which I don't thing added to the character at all.
Overall I enjoyed the book, and Brekke's characters. I am looking forward to reading more of his novels in the future.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Book Review: Strangers by Dean Koontz

StrangersStrangers by Dean Koontz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My mum has been going on about Dean Koontz's Strangers for as long as I can remember. I tried to read it a couple of years ago, but got bogged down. So I put it aside promising to come back to it later.
This time around I managed to finish it although it was slow going! The story revolves around a number of strangers, all living in different parts of America. Several of the individuals have experienced nightmares or new phobias since the summer before last. But none of them can remember what occurred over those few days.
I think the number of main characters was just enough for the reader to follow and remain interested, but not too many that they become mixed up. I enjoyed that each character had a very different background and that they all reacted differently to whatever happened.
I particularly enjoyed reading about Brendan Cronin. Faith and religion is always something that interests me and Brendan's struggle was really intriguing to me.
I also enjoyed Jorja's character, especially her relationship with her parents, who were frankly, horrible people. I think Koontz is really good at detailing relationships and understanding how people communicate with each other.
There are also a range of supporting characters that provide great humour and balance with the main characters. Although I was a bit disappointed with Colonel Leland and how stereotypical he was.
I enjoyed the first half of the book. Each clue was revealed slowly and for the most part left the reader in the dark. Then as things start to come together it actually seems to go downhill. I felt it lost it's intrigue. I also found the last one hundred and fifty pages very predictable. Once I'd worked out what the mystery was, the whole thing lost it's magic. Plus the introduction of the military disappointed me a little too.
I just felt that the mystery had so much potential, and by the end it was all a bit of a let down. I felt like Koontz was trying to make a point about the human race as a whole, and it became very sentimental.

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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Book Review: They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie (Miss Marple #6)

They Do It With MirrorsThey Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always been a fan of Agatha Christie, ever since I watched the incomparable David Suchet don his little moustache and Belgian accent. I love Christie's style of writing and find it quite easy to follow. The language she uses is descriptive but not difficult to read and her characters spring right off the page.
They Do It With Mirrors is set in a home for juvenile delinquents. On the insistence of her friend, Miss Marple heads off to visit Carrie Louise, her old school chum. The house is a busy place and relationships are rather complicated. Lewis is Carrie Louise's third husband and runs the programme for young boys. With her first husband she adopted a daughter, called Pippa. Her daughter, Gina and her American husband Wally are two that are residing in the household. Carrie Louise's natural born daughter Mildred, recently widowed also lives with her mother. Carrie's second husband already had two sons and they regularly frequent the house as well, alongside Carrie's helper Jolly. The arrival of Christian, the son of Carrie's first husband is the trigger to the dark events that follow.
I always enjoy Miss Marple's deductions and Inspector Curry provides an impartial view of the family. As always, events are not what they seem and bit by bit the picture falls into place.
I only have two main criticisms. The first is the number of characters, there were far too many and trying to remember how they were all related was quite confusing and took a lot of effort. I was also disappointed by the ending. I know it's not Agatha Christie's fault, but I don't like to work out who the murderer is. I want to be shocked and surprised. Unfortunately I worked out not only who it was, but how they had done it. So, this isn't my favourite book of hers, but I look forward to exploring more of her work, maybe with a Tommy and Tuppence.

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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Book Review: The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller #1)

The Lincoln Lawyer (Mickey Haller, #1)The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had seen the trailer for The Lincoln Lawyer some four years ago and then proceeded to buy the book. It has taken me FOUR YEARS to get around to reading it, but I can tell you, it was totally worth the wait.
I've always been a fan of law, in books, programmes, films, real life. I find it interesting that while detective or police procedurals focus on whodunnit, law features focus on presenting the best case, whether that person is actually guilty or not.
Our main character is Mickey Haller, generally likeable and obviously doing his best for his clients. But he deserves to get paid like everyone else. Not long into the novel, Haller is assigned to the case of Louis Roulet. The victim, Reggie Campos, had her home broken into and has been brutally beaten. Roulet claims that he is completely innocent.
As the case progresses and details emerge from the woodwork, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems and nobody can be trusted. Haller is trying to trust his instincts, but is bound by lawyer-client confidentiality. Michael Connelly provides a variety of supporting characters: private detective Frank Levin, ex-wife and DA Maggie McPherson, ex-con and Haller's driver Earl. All of them and weaved into this story with twists and turns galore. You never quite know who is telling the truth and that's what makes this story so gripping. I blasted through it in four days and loved every minute of it. The legal terms aren't confusing, but Connelly doesn't treat the audience like an idiot either. He trusts his reader to keep up and hold on as the story rollercoasters to its conclusion. I can't wait to read more of Michael Connelly and explore more of his seedy LA underbelly.

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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Book Review: The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas (Commissaire Adamsberg #1)

The Chalk Circle Man (Commissaire Adamsberg, #1)The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me ten days to read this book. This book is less than 250 pages. That should not have happened.
For a start, I liked the majority of the characters in this book, particularly Adamsberg. He's different to other police detectives, he likes to draw and takes time to figure things out rather than making any rash decisions. Maybe this is what effects the pace of the novel as I found it rather slow going. At no point was I compelled to read to the next chapter to find out what was going on, this story was very much slow and steady. I really enjoyed Danglard's character too and the way that he was opposite to Adamsberg. He would get infuriated by how long it would take him to come to any conclusion or decision.
I liked the concept too. What are these chalk circles, why are they popping up around Paris and what is the significance of the items inside of them?
The reason why I gave this three stars was because they spent a long time avoiding the obvious. To begin with Mathilde gave them two clues: the chalk circle man lifts up his coat like a skirt and that his wife has a lover. Yet upon meeting a man whose wife has moved out to be with her lover, they don't make any sort of connection at all! Secondly, the smell of fruit was a big factor in identifying the culprit. Yet in the end, the reason why he smelled of fruit was never explained and just waved away, like it wasn't important.
Also, upon realising that the culprit wasn't the culprit, instead of moving further in the case, they went backwards. I seemed to spend the whole time waiting for the twist to come, and then it never happened.
On the other hand, I did enjoy reading about Adamsberg's ex-partner Camille. I was really interested in their story and I would really like to find more about what happened between them in the past.
I think I will continue to read novels in the Adamsberg series, I just hope the plot picks up and it makes a more interesting read.

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Saturday, 4 July 2015

Book Review: The Humans by Matt Haig

The HumansThe Humans by Matt Haig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a slow starter for me, but once I got into it I must have devoured it in about two days.
The premise it quite unusual, an alien is sent to Earth to inhabit the body of Andrew Martin in order to prevent the leak of his ground breaking prime number theory.
I must admit, the majority of the maths stuff went over my head, but that's fine, maths doesn't interest me greatly but I gather that it's important.
What I did enjoy was the alien trying to assimilate to human life, learning about clothes and social etiquette and realising that there is more to the language than spoken word.
This book essentially sums up what it is like to be human, the things we enjoy, the actions we take to enjoy, being loved, being taken care of, belonging. All of those things that we take for granted as every day flies past. It also puts into perspective how short life is. 30,000 days is all we have to make our stamp on the world.
The reason it isn't five stars is because for me it took too long to get to the interesting bits. We spent a great deal of time 'faffing' and yes, that is a technical term. Also, the alien went from 'I must kill these people' to 'I want to be part of this family' a little too quickly for me. I feel like there needed to be more internal conflict. And finally, as great as this book is at highlighting the wonderfulness of humans, by the end it did feel a little preachy. Although I will take some things from this novel, such as the greatness of peanut butter sandwiches and white wine.
At the end Haig said he was working on a script for a film which I think will be really interesting.

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Book Review: Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

Mr MercedesMr Mercedes by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been a massive fan of Stephen King ever since I picked up a collection of his short stories. His novels can be epic, small, focused on two characters or feature a town full of people. Every single one is different and he seems to write them quicker than I can read them!
Mr Mercedes is a break from his normal supernatural and fantasy stories. This one is pure crime/cop caper and we are introduced to two main characters, retired Detective Bill Hodges and Brady Hartsfield. No attempt is made to disguise the fact that Hartsfield committed the horrific crime in the novel, instead this story is more cat and mouse.
King is a solid writer. It normally takes me a couple of chapters and I'm in. This book was a little different. It took me a lot longer to get going. I think the problem with this book is that the characters were so predictable. Detective Hodges is overweight, contemplates suicide, watches tonnes of day time TV, eats too much fried food and even wears a fedora. Since retiring he's blatantly bored and a letter from the killer is just what he's been waiting for.
Hartsield obviously took Psychopath 101. He is a loner, hates everyone, lives in his basement and has a dysfunctional relationship with his mother. These are characters we have seen before countless times before. I expected more from King.
There are several sidekicks who all have roles to play in catching Hartsfield, namely Jerome, a black seventeen year old who runs errands for Hodges and Holly, a forty year old who lives off cigarettes and medication.
Once the plot picked up I had no problem getting engrossed in the novel but the characters just seemed to leap to conclusions with no obvious way of reaching it and the ending was just as I expected. I gather that this was about the journey, not the conclusion but it was a bit of a let down compared to King's other works.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb for Station Eleven had me hooked, Shakespeare, apocalypse, deadly disease. What's not to love?
The story spans approximately fifty years and focuses on five key people. Arthur Leander, an actor playing King Lear who dies on stage; his first wife Miranda, an artist and businesswoman; Jeevan, a trainee paramedic who tries to save him; Kirsten, a child in Leander's King Lear; and Clark, Arthur's oldest friend.
The storyline jumps to before, during and after the onset of the dangerous Georgia Flu which claims it's victims in a mere couple of weeks. As Arthur collapses on stage, the virus is spreading around the world.
The timeline is all over the place but I enjoyed the sporadic nature of it. For some characters we find out what has happened to them from Day One (of the flu), for others, such as Miranda, Arthur and Clark we get more of a back story, a history into their relationships. The next time we meet Kirsten is Year 20, when she is travelling with the Symphony, a band of actors and musicians who travel and perform in small towns.
What I really loved about this was that there wasn't focus on the vomiting and disease, the focus was on civilization. The things that people missed. How society has changed and developed. Kirsten and her friends are interesting and well developed characters. Each of them has a back story and individual flaws. We only see glimpses into Kirsten's past but it doesn't feel like anything is missing. The Symphony is a lovely touch, a highlight in a bleak world. It's nice to believe that there are those that carry on when there is nothing else left. As the Symphony travel it gives us a great insight into how towns have been formed. During their travels they meet The Prophet. A head strong, all believing 'saviour' who thinks it's necessary to have several teenage brides.
After being introduced to Jeevan at the beginning we don't hear about his character until at least halfway into the novel. As he our first narrator I warmed to him and wanted to find out his fate.
Clark's story is also interesting. We meet him through Arthur and Miranda but he really comes into his own in the last quarter of the book when left stranded at an airport with other passengers. Rather than looking at the bigger picture, this story focuses on the individuals, the humans, how they are coping with life as it is now and how everybody is linked.
I recommend this novel to everyone, it is pure brilliance and not only did it have me hooked from the start but I found the characters and stories compelling. Emily St. John Mandel didn't wrap everything into a nice neat bow so I would like another novel just to see how the characters progress. However, I can't wait for anything that she writes, I'll be grabbing it with both hands.

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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Book Review: Shatter The Bones by Stuart MacBride (Logan McRae #7)

Shatter The Bones (Logan McRae, #7)Shatter The Bones by Stuart MacBride
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've always been a massive fan of Stuart MacBride but when reading the blurb for this novel I wasn't as excited as I normally am diving into Logan McRae's Aberdeen.
In Shatter the Bones Alison and Jenny McGregor, the main attraction of the latest reality show 'Britain's Next Big Star', have been kidnapped. McRae and team are doing their best to find out who did it but they keep meeting dead ends. Meanwhile Trisha Brown and her partner Shuggie Webster keep getting into all kinds of trouble.
There are several things I loved about Shatter the Bones. The characters are always brilliant, the most well rounded, well loved bunch of fictional people I've ever come across and the dialogue between them zings. I particularly enjoyed the introduction of Green, in fact I found myself infuriated with him most of the time and that proves to me just how excellent the author is at creating characters with depth and all sort of different nuances.
MacBride also keeps up a speedy pace ensuring the reader never gets bored and there's always something new to be revealed. I also enjoyed the take on reality television and the lengths people will go to for fame and fortune. With every weekend being taken over by The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and The Voice, this book illustrated the madness of it all, being plucked from obscurity and plunged into the limelight with no safety net.
What I struggled with in this particular novel is the amount of suspects and characters. At points I wasn't entirely sure who they were talking about and would have to skip back a couple of pages and check. There were also some unnecessary characters. I understand that MacBride wants to portray a realistic police service and therefore certain officers would be used for certain roles, but it got a bit much for me. I was also a bit disappointed with the ending. It wasn't the huge twist I was hoping for (and normally expect) and it all seemed a bit hurried.
So overall, three out of five stars for Shatter the Bones. I will definitely read more of MacBride's work in the future. This one just wasn't my cup of tea.

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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Book Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr NorrellJonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before I'd even heard of the book I saw the enigmatic trailer for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I heard Vincent Franklin's grand introduction of 'MR NORRELLLLLLLL!' before I even laid one eye on the novel.
It wasn't long before I purchased the book and dived in head first. The main error I made was trying to read it while on a sightseeing holiday in Amsterdam. I was so tired that I couldn't really concentrate and this is what this book requires. But that's not a bad thing.
The first characters you meet are Segundus and Honeyfoot, two theoretical magicians who live in York and want to know why magic isn't performed any more. Introduce the suspicious little man that is Mr Norrell.
The first third of the book centres around Norrell, his developments as a magician and his progress in London with the government. Then enters Jonathan Strange and their relationship soon blossoms.
One of the first things any reader realises is that this is not simply a story, or a novel, it is a world. Susanna Clarke has created this wonderful environment, with intertwining, exciting lands all closely linked with British history. It's almost as if this book is real, with its footnotes and explanations and that somehow the magic has been hidden from us.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is an epic, sprawling book, full of eccentric characters, including the titular ones. In the Author's Note Susanna Clarke said that she didn't particularly like either of her main characters. Although I found Norrell awkward and grumpy, there were moments when I found him endearing. And I particularly liked Strange, although in the third quarter of the book I did find myself rolling my eyes at some of his antics.
The gentlemen is a particularly interesting character, as is Stephen Black. All of the narrative surrounding them was gripping as their relationship changed and developed throughout the story. The women also play a vital role with Arabella and Lady Pole providing strong females in a time dominated by men. Without giving too much away, Lady Pole's degeneration throughout the novel is astounding and again, another thing to keep you hooked.
I felt that when Strange goes to Venice, the book loses momentum a little bit. I wasn't as gripped as I had been before and the Greysteels turned up, characters that I found a little pointless if I'm honest. However in the last two hundred pages the action picked back up again.
To sum it all up, this novel took me almost a month to read, but I enjoyed dipping into the pages, I relished it and enjoyed the fact that it was a slow read for me. This is like nothing I have ever read before and while Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is still on TV, I don't feel like I've finished it. In fact, there could have been another novel to follow this one, to explore what has happened since. I'll have a breather from novels over 600 pages, but I definitely want to explore Susanna Clarke's other works.

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Friday, 15 May 2015

Book Review: The Missing and the Dead by Stuart MacBride (Logan MacRae #9)

The Missing and the DeadThe Missing and the Dead by Stuart MacBride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I've always said, Stuart MacBride's novels are like returning home to a warm, comforting bed after a long, arduous trip. The Missing and the Dead plunges you head first into an on-foot police chase with our hero Logan McRae. It's that instant excitement of not entirely knowing what is going on but being very excited at the same time!
Fast forward, after the successful arrest of Graham Stirling. Logan is given an 'opportunity', to lead his own force as a Sergeant but the catch is he's back in uniform.
This is a very different kind of novel that we normally expect from Stuart MacBride. There is a murder, and it is a mystery, but the focus this time is on a much bigger picture. Logan and his new team, including the plucky 'Calamity Janet', are now pounding the streets, arresting drug dealers, herding cows back into their fields and keeping an eye on various stag do's and hen do's. In fact it seems completely unfair that as soon as a case grows to a certain size, it is taken off them and handed to someone else. Of course, this does give us the opportunity to be reunited with the rude, callous, chain smoking Steel. One of my favourite characters in all of literature, let alone Stuart MacBride's novels. When the body of a six year old girl is found in a disused swimming pool Steel and Co. are called in to take the case of their hands. She would love for 'Laz' to join her case but he refuses, choosing to focus on his own cases and own work. And in true Stuart MacBride style, details that seem irrelevant or disconnected are actually all linked together.
What I really found interesting about this book was the day-to-day life of a uniformed policemen. I know what I live in a sleepy Shropshire village, but I'd never appreciated the amount of crap they have to put up with, for the reigns to be handed over before any credit is really given. Although there was a case and it was the main thread of the story, at the end of the day, it wasn't really relevant. I was quite happy to read about the characters, the interactions and the daily goings on.
I look forward to the next novel of Stuart MacBride and I still can't believe that no one has snapped up TV or film rights yet!

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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Book Review: Murder on the Brighton Express by Edward Marston (Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck #5)

Murder on the Brighton Express (Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck, #5)Murder on the Brighton Express by Edward Marston
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My Mum recommended the Railway Detective books to me. They were a bit different and set in the 1800s. I quite enjoy historical novels, especially with a murder mystery twist.
Murder on the Brighton Express begins from the point of view of the driver of the fated Brighton Express just before it crashes with a goods locomotive. From this we follow DI Colbeck and DS Leeming as they solve what appears to be just a tragic accident.
To begin with I really enjoyed reading about long ago Brighton. Edward Marston spent a great deal of time describing the train station and the pavilion and it was easy to imagine what it would have been like.
The main problem I have with this book is that everything seems a bit one dimensional. The characters didn't really leap off of the page and the story itself was a bit flat. It took me a long time to read for the length of the actual book and I wasn't exactly gripped.
On the other hand there were sparks. I enjoyed reading about Rev. Ezra Follis and his going on, as well as Dick Chiffney and his girlfriend Josie Murlow. Those sections seemed to come to life much more than any of the police force. Maybe if I'd started with book one I would feel more for the characters, but all in all they were rather forgetful.
I'm afraid Edward Marston isn't on my wish list and I won't be reading anything of his any time soon. Maybe I'll revisit him in the future.

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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Book Review: The Body On The Beach by Simon Brett (Fethering #1)

The Body on the Beach (Fethering, #1)The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes it's nice to just kick back and relax with a cup of tea and a nice little murder mystery set in a little village based in my home county and enjoy the ride. For the most part, this is one of those books. It's set in Fethering, not far from Brighton (where I was born), so it was nice to be able to picture the country side. Simon Brett did a great job of setting the scene and describing the area. He did a great job of describing the eccentric range of characters that live in Fethering (many of which I'm sure are based on real life people) and the mystery itself was full of twists and turns (although sadly I managed to work out the ending before I got there).
The main problem that I had with this book is the main character, Carole. Jude is lovely, funny and very down-to-earth and I know that Carole is a kind of opposite to Jude but she was mostly just annoying. As a firm fan of M.C. Beaton and her Agatha Raisin series I know it's possible to create a character in their mid fifties who is a bit 'different' shall we say. But Carole was not even likeable. She went on and on about 'the Fethering way' and was so concerned about how people saw her and what was the socially acceptable thing to do that she became thoroughly irritating. If Jude's narration hadn't taken over at the time that it did I might have stopped reading. However, with Jude, Carole become a lot more relatable. That problem of meeting a new friend and wanting to know everything about them but not appear nosey. I suffer with that problem on a daily basis! And by the end of the book she was far more mellowed out. I suppose I find it hard to believe that Carole was only in her mid-fifties. My Mum is 53 this year, she does not have grey hair, dresses with style and is not so old fashioned in her views and opinions. God forbid anyone should not see her going into a pub! And I believe you'll have to search very hard for a woman of Carole's age who is anything like her. If you add another twenty years maybe you'll be in luck.
So overall a quaint little read and I think I will read more in the future hoping that Carole grows on me.

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Book Review: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules by Catharina Ingleman-Sundberg

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The RulesThe Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having worked in a care home for three years just the idea of this book tickled me. I wasn't initially aware that it was set in Sweden, not that it really matters this book could be set anywhere.
The story follows Martha and her friends Brains, Rake, Anna-Greta and Christina. The group are singers and have been living in misery for a while. Their once beloved retirement home is becoming more and more stingy. They're only allowed two cups of coffee a day, no pastries and certainly no Christmas decorations. Martha reckons that they'll be better off in prison, the chance to better themselves and actual freedom to go outside. So with a song in their heart and crime in their minds they go to the most expensive hotel in Stockholm with plans to start their new career.
What follows is danger, excitement and lots of giggles. All of the characters are distinctive and likeable and once the action gets going the book really speeds along.
The first half is a bit 'ploddy' for lack of a better word but once they steal the paintings everything kicks off and events just seem to unravel. Before you know it you're racing to the conclusion.
The only thing I struggled with was what they would actually be capable of doing at their age. From my experiences, people of that age would struggle to walk 100 yards let alone steal and commit crime. Although I am aware that some people have a better quality of life in different countries and this was set in a retirement home not a care home. Nevertheless I look forward to reading more by Catharina Ingleman-Sundberg.

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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Book Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I devoured this book. That is the only word I can think of to describe it. When I finished Gone Girl a while back I knew I had to read more by Gillian Flynn I picked up the first book of hers I could find in a book shop and was eager to get into it as soon as possible.
It's fair to say that Gillian Flynn has a dark streak. If you thought Amy Dunne was messed up, wait until you meet Camille Preaker. She has different emotional issues to Amy but she's still not quite a reliable narrator.
Sharp Objects has an eclectic mix of characters and not very many of them likeable. When Camille is sent back to her home town to investigate the disappearance of local girl, following the murder of one the previous year, she is thrown back into her dysfunctional family.
Camille's mother Adora is an abomination. I've not read many characters that I hate with some venom but she goes to the top of the list. The way she treats her daughter and people in general is disgraceful. Her wet fish of a husband isn't much better. Camille's younger sister, almost twenty years her junior is everything that is horrible about the teens of today.
But Camille herself is far from flawless. She's generally sympathetic and likeable to a degree. With a mother like Adora it's a miracle that she's even a decent human being. Camille's boss Curry is the only person that seems a hundred percent stable.
Once she returns home to Wind Gap, events unravel revealing the mystery behind the lost girls that keep the reader engaged and enthralled. Nothing is ever as clear as it seems and just when you think you've got a handle on what's going on and who's done it the rug is pulled from under you yet again.
Although not exactly a happy read, it was definitely exciting, full of twists and turns and I can't wait to read more of Gillian Flynn.

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Monday, 30 March 2015

Book Review: From A Buick 8 by Stephen King

From a Buick 8From a Buick 8 by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have always been a massive fan of Stephen King but I had read many negative reviews about From a Buick 8. It seems to be a Marmite of a book, people either love it or hate it. The concept intrigued me, but it took me a while to get into it. While reading this I was on placement at a primary school, had lots of friends' birthdays and house sitting a menagerie of animals, so I think tiredness overcame my interest in the book. If I was lucky, I read a chapter a night.
Eventually once I got started I couldn't wait to read every page. I wanted to know what would come through next and how the police force would react to it.
One thing Stephen King does exceptionally is write characters. The whole team seem to come to life right off the page, from the naive Ned to the eccentric caretaker. Everybody's voice was clear in my head and distinctive.
I can understand the point that many people make, which is that nothing happens in this book. And to a degree that's true. But this book just demonstrates that it's the story that counts, the reader is on a journey with these characters, feeling their emotions, their sufferings, their joy. I was quite happy with the ending, there was a little twist and some kind of conclusion although everything wasn't wrapped up in a neat bow. I have become used to King's elusive endings.
What I think this book is really about, is grief. Ned needs the members of Troop D to tell him about everything that happened and his Dad's obsession in order for him to move on and put the past behind him.
As always, Stephen King didn't let me down and I will always read anything he writes. I already have a long list. I would also really enjoy this as a film. But I can't see anything on the horizon.

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Thursday, 12 March 2015

Book Review: The Floating Lady Murder by Daniel Stashower (Harry Houdini Mysteries #2)

Harry Houdini Mysteries: The Floating Lady MurderHarry Houdini Mysteries: The Floating Lady Murder by Daniel Stashower
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up for under a fiver at The Works. I enjoy historical novels, especially the era that this is set in. My knowledge of Harry Houdini is limited, all I know is that he an iconic magician. It doesn't matter if you know anything at all about Houdini, this book is perfectly enjoyable all on it's own.
The narrator is Dash, Houdini's brother and manager. The story begins with him as an old man but soon transports us back to 19th century America.
It's clear that Houdini is eccentric and without his brother and wife he would end up getting himself into a lot of trouble. Telling the story from the secondary character reminded me a little of Sherlock Holmes and Houdini is certainly as odd as Conan Doyle's infamous character.
The other characters certainly balance out Houdini although be prepared there is a lot of them! Generally it is easy to keep track of who is who, but there are some difficulties.
The murder mystery centres around a trick called The Floating Lady. This insight into magic has always been something of interest for me having watched Jonathan Creek for years. I was intrigued as to how the trick worked and found the backstage descriptions particularly fascinating.
I must admit, I had no idea who the murderer was and really enjoyed the ride to discovering the culprit. I found myself smiling and laughing at the characters and what they said. I can envisage this as a great BBC1 period drama and look forward to reading more novels bu Daniel Stashower.

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Monday, 2 March 2015

Book Review: The Collector of Lost Things by Jeremy Page

The Collector of Lost ThingsThe Collector of Lost Things by Jeremy Page
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book intrigued me a while ago and it's taken some time for me to get round to reading it. Although the characters are interesting and mysterious, and it is well written, I've just finished reading a passage where a group of seals are massacred, in great detail and I will not be reading any more.

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Book Review: Love On The Rocks by Veronica Henry

Love On The RocksLove On The Rocks by Veronica Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since I discovered Veronica Henry I have been a big fan of her works. She creates stories that aren't overtly feminine with characters and plot lines that are strong and familiar. Of all her books I didn't particularly enjoy A Night On The Orient Express but with this one I felt on much safer ground. There are a variety of characters with different backgrounds and abilities, some you love and some you love to hate. Of all of them I really warmed to Lisa. She was down to earth, a sympathetic main character. Whereas George and Victoria less so. But I didn't think you were supposed to like them, they were steal very real. Some characters, like George's friend, I found a bit superfluous.
The interweaving stories were much better and varied, ranging from how to deal with a death in the family to starting up a business and Henry switched between the different stories enough to keep in interesting but not so much that it became irritating.
The setting of Mariscombe I also found to be pleasant and charming, a place I could easily picture, made up from different parts of the British seaside that I visited during family holidays.
As always Love On The Rocks was a great read, I equal her books to getting into a bed made with fresh bed sheets and look forward to reading her next.

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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Book Review: In The Woods by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #1)

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)In the Woods by Tana French
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book had been recommended to me by my Mum a while back and I really fancied a book that was gritty, surprising and a page turner. I must admit, upon reading the prologue I was disappointed. The author used lots of flowery language and fluff about summertime in Ireland and I like my murder mysteries to open with a body on page one. But, after the prologue the story soon got going. We are introduced to Rob/Adam Ryan and instantly he informs us that he lies. It is clear he is far from a reliable narrator.
He details us on the case of his missing friends, and the events that took place around the time. The situation is really intriguing and it's clear that the police officers at the time hadn't got a clue.
Then we are brought up to the date, Rob had relinquished his first name as a child and has now become a policeman on the Murder Squad. He and his 'more than friends, but not quite lovers' partner Cassie get the case of a murdered twelve year old in the same location as where his friends went missing.
The case is slow going, with different leads and suspects. The family are certainly interesting and not everything is as it seems. But could the two cases be related?
Tana French is an excellent writer, her characters seem full and thought out and she sets the scene beautifully. As I read I felt my feelings change, felt tense and hatred which is exactly the kind of reaction I want when reading a novel. Rob Ryan for me personally went from a character that I put up with to a character that I hated after one single event. His behaviour infuriated me, so I must admit I did rush the last portion of the book, just to finish it.
The case itself had plenty of twists and turns and I didn't figure out who the murderer was, but I was disappointed by the result. After everything that had happened it seemed a bit of an anti-climax. But what irritated me more was that the original case, of Adam's lost friends was never resolved! And it doesn't appear to be resolved in any follow-up books.
I originally gave this four stars when finishing it, but since I've delegated it to three. The ending was so unsatisfying, and the behaviour between Cassie and Rob seemed odd to me. I have a male best friend and you couldn't pay me a million pounds to touch his feet!
Overall, a solid novel, with so much promise. I really enjoyed French's style of writing, so I'm likely to pick up another of her books. As long as you can promise me that there is a conclusion!

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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Book Review: A Trip to Jerusalem by Edward Marston (Elizabethan Theatre #3)

The Trip to Jerusalem (Elizabethan Theater, #3)The Trip to Jerusalem by Edward Marston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I picked this up in the bookshop I couldn't wait to get home and start reading it. The plague, a touring band of players, murder and mystery and all narrated by their stage manager. As a stage manager myself it was interesting to read about what my role would have been like if I had been alive during that time period (and had been a man).
Initially the style of writing took me aback. I had expected it to be of the period, and am accustomed to reading Shakespeare but some phrases took two readings for me to understand what was being said or going on. However, as the book progressed I became more used to the language and the book flowed well.
The characters were an eclectic mix which I enjoyed reading about, especially the magnificent Lawrence Firethorn! Dubious in character, but an excellent actor. The other players were also interesting, all distinctive enough to keep separate in my head. Although it did annoy me when Martson constantly referred to them by their full name but actually this became useful as were introduced to more people within the novel.
The story itself of Westfield's Players, their travels on the road and their running feud with Barnaby's players was enough to keep me enthralled. In fact, I found the two running stories alongside a bit boring, especially the one about the traitors. The woman who had abandoned her husband for God was a bit more interesting but it's conclusion was a bit bland, and it had no tie into the main story.
Overall an excellent book, a quick read and a very original idea. I hope to discover the first two of these novels and enjoy them just as much as I have this one.

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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Book Review: Poppet by Mo Hayder (Jack Caffery #6)

Poppet (Jack Caffery, #6)Poppet by Mo Hayder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have always been a fan of Mo Hayder's books, especially the Jack Caffery series. As an author, she does a fantastic job of transporting you into her world. Whilst reading, you are lost amongst the pages, turning them at a frantic pace, awaiting every twist and turn. I once described a book of hers as feeling like you were underwater you were so engrossed in the story, and closing the book was like a breath of air. The same applies to Poppet.
I love the character of Jack Caffery, although I always picture him looking somewhat like Paul Bettany despite the fact that he has dark hair. This book followed three characters, Flea Marley, a thirty year old diver, Jack and AJ LeGrande, who is a nurse at Beechway High Security Unit. AJ is likeable, but human, and he's a character easy to sympathise with and relate to.
The story itself focuses on the deaths of patients at the unit, and 'The Maude', a dwarf ghost who supposedly sits on the chests of her victims. The patients are terrified of her, but so are the staff.
Jack and Flea's storyline also follows the case of Mitsy Kitson, which was featured in the book 'Skin'. I didn't remember all of the details but Hayder helps you along, so for those who haven't read that novel, it isn't a complete drop in the ocean.
Unfortunately, the prevention of this getting five stars is the fact that I managed to work out who the murderer was before the end of the book. I hate that. I really like being surprised and in most cases I am.
Overall, this is a great novel, which is just what I expect from Mo Hayder. Great characters, great ideas, great location and totally gives you chills!

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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Book Review: River of Destiny by Barbara Erskine

River of DestinyRiver of Destiny by Barbara Erskine
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh my Goodness! This book took me a long time to read, I thought it would never end!
River of Destiny by Barbara Erskine is set across three periods in time and jumps back and forth between each period. The first period is set during the Anglo-Saxon times, based around sword maker Eric and his wife Edith. The second period is based during Victorian times. Lady Emily is married to the lord of the house but having relations with the blacksmith Dan. And the last period is based in present day around Zoe and Ken who live in one of three converted barns. All of these three interweaving stories are set by the river, where a ghost Viking ship is seen on a regular basis.
My Mum, was absolutely in love with this book and couldn't wait for me to read it. Unfortunately, I didn't love it as much as she did. The concept of this novel is a great idea, the different periods of times and the mystery but for me the main thing that let it down was the characters. I didn't like Lady Emily, but you're really not supposed to, so that wasn't a problem. The problem was everybody else.
I feel like Zoe is the main character throughout the whole novel and you're supposed to sympathise with her, but I didn't feel that connection. Her relationship with her husband is debatable at best and the way their marriage comes to an end seems to me inconsequential. There is no bang, just a dull fizzle. Dan the blacksmith is originally seen in a positive light, claiming how much he loves his wife, but Lady Emily only has to click her fingers and he succumbs. I didn't enjoy the Anglo-Saxon sections at all, felt no sympathy towards the characters. Nobody is very likeable and I really struggle to enjoy books where I don't like the characters.
The dialogue was also quite unrealistic and shoddy at times, and the culmination of the book was odd and seemed out of the place with the rest of the novel. I think it's fair to say I will give Barbara Erskine a miss for a bit.

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Monday, 5 January 2015

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman (#25) by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman (Agatha Raisin, #25)Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's amazing how after twenty five novels and a fair few short stories, Agatha Raisin is still going strong. M.C. Beaton is like your favourite pair of jeans. As you put them on you feel the comfort and reassurance. Then, you find a surprise fiver in the pocket.
Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman is based in a local amateur theatre. Agatha and Mrs Bloxby are enduring the pantomime ogre, when he disappears through the trap door and is impaled on a spike. My initial feeling was jealousy of the theatre having a trap door. The Attfield, sadly, lacks one. But I was soon caught up in all the eccentric characters that Beaton describes so well. Being involved in amateur theatre, I can vouch that this was a very true to life interpretation of Am-Dram.
Agatha seems just as much focused on her love life as she is on the case. But I tore through this book at break neck speed, intrigued by every suspect and every twist and turn. I didn't guess who the murderer was, which is an extra ten points for me, and I enjoyed the ride. Also, the extra Christmas story at the end was a pleasant surprise. I always enjoy any books from the Agatha Raisin series, but I must add that whoever cast Ashley Jensen as Agatha should be locked into a room with the books and not released until they've read them all again!

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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Book Review: The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next #3)

The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3)The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn't read any Jasper Fforde books in a while, and after reading lots of books based in real life, I wanted something to take me away from it all. The Well of Lost Plots is as far from real life as you can get. In fact, it brings books into the everyday with such clarity and detail, it makes me want to read and write differently.
These books follow Thursday Next, Jurisfiction Apprentice, working with Miss Havisham to solve problems in books, this includes Anger Management classes for the characters in Wuthering Heights and ensuring books are safe from grammasites.
Jasper Fforde's mind is pure genius. I don't know how on earth he keeps track of all of the little nuances. I've never read a book with a world so fully realised. I only wish that I'd read some of the classics that he refers to, so that I could understand more of the 'in-jokes'. My only complaint, is that having stage-managed Much Ado About Nothing not long ago, I can safely correct him in that the character is named Benedick, not Benedict. But the sparring between him and Beatrice was brilliant.
Thursday Next is a lovely character, a female with gumption but still likeable, with real life situations as well as some not-so-real-life. For example, she's pregnant by a husband who has been eradicated and a Goddess has wormed her way into her memories. Because of her predicament, Thursday is on holiday in a book called Cavendish Heights, a crime story set in Reading, which is held in the The Well of Lost Plots, which is where all books live until their published or sold for salvage. Not only does she have her own issues to deal with, but the book characters want her to help them save the book which is due for demolishing.
It's hard for me to describe how brilliantly clever this is, as it's so complicated and so detailed, all I can say is, read this series, start at the beginning, and for those who are a fan of Jasper Fforde's other series, Nursery Crime, they will enjoy this even more.

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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Book Review: Unseen by Mari Jungstedt (Anders Knutas #1)

Unseen (Anders Knutas, #1)Unseen by Mari Jungstedt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My Mum has been banging on about these novels for while now and I eventually caved in and picked up the first in the Anders Knutas series.
I'm a big fan of Nordic Noir, but one thing I struggle with is the Scandinavian names. A lot of them seem very similar and occasionally I get confused with who is who.
I really enjoyed the description of the island of Gotland. Mari Jungstedt is brilliant at portraying the surrounding countryside and gives great depth and atmosphere to each scene.
Unseen had a really good plot. It may not be the most original idea, but the story kept me interested and kept me guessing. I had no idea who the murderer was right until the end, which was filled with tension and excitement.
I generally liked the majority of the characters too, Knutas was strong, friendly and sympathetic. The only character I didn't like was Emma, but I will leave that up to the reader to discover why.
Overall, a good, stable read and I look forward to reading more Mari Jungstedt in the future.

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