Feeds:
Posts
Comments

a-distant-echo

I listened to this audiobook, narrated by Tom Kotcher, over the course of several days. it is billed as the first in the Karen Pirie series, but Officer Pirie is very much on the periphery of this story (I suspect it was to ‘test the waters’ before writing a series based around a particular character).

It’s a book of two halves; the first half is set in 1978, when four students – who are known by their nicknames, Ziggy, Gilly, Weird and Mondo – in St Andrews stable across the body of a young woman named Rosie Duff, who is vaguely known to them. She has been attacked and left for dead. The police launch an investigation which fails to find the killer, but suspicion falls upon the four lads, and follows them around for the rest of their time at the university.

25 years later, the police reopen the cold case, but things take a strange turn when two of the former students are murdered and the remaining two decide that someone is taking revenge on them for the murder of Rosie. With the police not seeming to get anywhere, the two men decide to do some sleuthing of their own.

This is the first Val McDermid book I have ever read or listened to, and I have to say that I did enjoy it. Tom Kotcher did a good job narrating, with the exception of his American accent, which was pretty atrocious. Fortunately there are only a couple of American characters and neither of them feature very heavily, so that was not really an issue.

McDermid describes the tension and atmosphere extremely well, and I did feel that the four young men were all very distinctive; their relationships with each other were also well portrayed and formed a large part of the story. As for the mystery itself – I did actually figure out who the killer was when I was about a third of the way through, but nonetheless I still liked listening to the novel.

Based on this book, I would definitely try more by this author.

522fe9fe6500651efb6b8d6d5928d2a470dfb1fd

I recorded this film months and months ago, because something about it intrigued me. I’m not sure what and it took ages for me to get around to watching it – somehow whenever I was trying to pick a film I fancied, I passed this one by. But finally I settled down to watch it, and wow! It FAR exceeded my expectations (and if you will allow me to be shallow for a moment, it also awakened me to the fact that Viggo Mortensen is a beautiful man!)

The story revolves around Chester McFarland and his wife Colette (Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst), who are holidaying in Athens. They meet up with Rydal (Oscar Isaac), an American tour guide, and hire him to show them around. Rydal is something of a con artist, but as the audience quickly learns, so is Chester. This fact catches up with Chester when some disgruntled victims of his hire a private detective to track him down and Chester accidentally kills him. Rydal stumbles upon Chester trying to hide the body (don’t worry, this all happens very early on, so there are no spoilers here) and not realising the other man is actually dead, helps Chester.

The two men are then inextricably bound to one another – both has the means to get the other into trouble, and also the motive – Rydal is clearly attracted to Colette, and the feeling seems mutual.

An uneasy alliance forms as the three of them are forced to stay together – I won’t say more as there are lots of twists and turns and the storyline deserves not to be spoiled for first time viewers.

I really liked this film – it’s basically an old fashioned thriller, done extremely well, with great actors. The main three are all excellent, with Mortensen and Isaac competing for who steals each scene (Dunst is also fantastic, but I think she was given less to work with). Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will like this; I feel sure that if Hitchcock were making movies today, this is the kind of thing he would come up with. It also looks stunning, the locations and the lighting were beautiful, and the music was reminiscent of thrillers from the 50s and 60s.

I was entirely unsurprised to discover after I had finished the film that it is based on a  book by Patricia Highsmith. It is undershot with just the right amount of tension, and you are never quite sure who if anyone will come out on top.

I highly recommend this film, and will also add the book to my reading list.

 

Mr Right (2015)

image

After her boyfriend cheats on her, Martha (Anna Kendrick) is devastated – until she meets Francis (Sam Rockwell), a man who seems perfect for her in every way. Well…in almost every way. Because Francis is a hit-man. But he’s a charismatic hit-man who is bored with the lifestyle, believes murder is wrong and now has a penchant for killing those people who hire him.

Unfortunately, Hooper (Tim Roth), an old colleague of Francis, is determined to kill our hero, and things are further complicated by a mob family who want to hire Francis to kill the leader so that the stupid younger brother can take over.

Reading the above synopsis, you would be forgiven for thinking that this film is a drama, or a thriller. You probably wouldn’t expect it to be a rom-com, but that’s what it is. There is a lot of violence, so if thats off-putting to you, then you might want to give it a miss. But there’s an equal amount of comedy to balance it out, and I did genuinely laugh out loud several times.

I love Tim Roth – he is just electrifying to watch – and his role here was extremely funny, and he sets the precedent for this in the first scene. Sam Rockwell is also brilliant, and ideal for the role of Francis. We can understand why Martha is so drawn to him, even after she realises what he does for a living. And Anna Kendrick was a delight too. I won’t mention all of the supporting cast, but there was not a bad performance among them.

I really enjoyed this film and would definitely recommend it. (Special shout out to the excellent use of the song ‘My Type’ by Saint Motel – great track used to great effect).

 

0062282719.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by American writer Roxanne Gay, all of which are more or less related to feminism. It is split into sections and I would say my favourite section was where she discusses various films from the point of view of a black woman. I love it when someone makes me look at something from an entirely different angle. An example is her anger about the film The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett’s book. I also enjoyed the part about crime and racial stereotypes.

I read it over a period of more than two years because I would read an essay or two between other books. However, I read the last quarter of the book in a couple of days and I actually found it more enjoyable than just dipping in or out.

The last essay, where she talks about being a bad feminist – essentially she, like pretty much all of us, is a mass of contradictions – resonated the most, because it’s a struggle that a lot of us can identify with, to a greater or lesser degree.

Overall, this was an interesting and enjoyable read. I would like to try more works by Roxanne Gay.

b00hpmw9f0.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

A serial killer is terrorising the small Spanish village of Elizondo, targeting young girls. Inspector Amaia Salazar heads up the investigation, and returns to Elizondo where she grew up. People there are superstitious and believe that there are evil forces at work, and additionally Amaia has to deal with difficult childhood memories, and an uneasy relationship with her sister Flora.

I really enjoyed this book, although there was a lot going on – possibly a little too much – but somehow it worked. It was originally published in Spanish and I find that translations can sometimes feel a bit clunky; however, that was not the case here. Apart from the Basque setting, and the Spanish characters, you would not know that this was a translation. I liked Amaia a lot and thought she was a good main character. The mystery itself did get a bit convoluted, but not so much so that I couldn’t follow it easily. I enjoyed reading about the superstitious nature of the small village, and thought it was an interesting setting.

If you like crime fiction and enjoy an unusual setting, give this one a try – you could well enjoy it.

b00ffaxukc.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

I listened to this audiobook over the course of two runs, on 23rd and 24th December. I wanted something Christmassy, but nothing too long, so this fit the bill. It’s narrated by Rebecca Courtney, who did a fine job.

Milly Arnold has always loved Christmas, but when she is dumped just before December, she loses enthusiasm and the last thing she feels like doing is the yearly tradition of helping her young nephews write their Christmas list. But she does so anyway and writes one of her own, asking for flowers, chocolates and shoes. When all of these things come her way, she wonders if she has tapped into a way of making all her dreams come true…

What can I say about this? It’s a bit fantastical, a bit humorous and an enjoyable enough listen, peppered with likeable characters. It’s not the most groundbreaking book, and neither is it meant to be – but if you want something short, festive and a bit chicklit-ty (but with an unusual twist) then maybe give this one a whirl.

b07ff7gqyw.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

This was an audiobook from Audible, which I listened to over a number of runs during one week. It is narrated by Juanita McMahon, who did a great job overall. There were seven main characters, and she did give voice to them all.

The story concerns three couples – Chris and Beth, Tony and Sarah, and Marie and Duncan. The women have been friends for years, and the men are therefore friends by default, and all six of them meet up once a month at each other’s houses, for a dinner party. Then one night, Chris invites his friend Simon along; Simon is gorgeous – and heartbroken because his wife has just left him for another man.

Having another person in the mix soon changes up the dynamic of the group, as the men feel their territory threatened (with the exception of Chris) and the women are intrigued by the new face.

Throughout the year and the various dinner parties, Simon’s role in their lives means new alliances and new animosities are forged and created and eventually everything culminates in one unforgettable dinner party at his house…

On paper, there is a lot going for this book, and I would say I enjoyed it – for the most part. For the first 45 minutes I had severe doubts though, and considered giving up on it. Repetition can be quite funny, but at times throughout the book, and especially in the first part, it seemed as though Bloom had had some kind of bet to see how many times she could shoehorn a particular word in. In the first part for example, we see just how obsessed with dips Chris is. He loves his dips, and we are hit over the head with this fact as the word dips is trotted out too many times to count. Later on the same thing happens when Beth laments that people find her cuddly. How many times do we need to hear the word cuddly to realise that it annoys her? (It annoyed me too!)

The characters are a mish-mash, and for the most part, not particularly likeable. Chris is so relentlessly cheerful, but yet completely oblivious to what is going on around him (and his failure to pick up on social cues is annoying) that he just comes across as shallow and stupid. I did love him for one scene though, which I won’t reveals here as it would be a potential spoiler.

Tony is pompous and chauvinistic and goodness knows why Sarah put up with him!

Marie is the worst of all. Vacuous, self-absorbed, vain and insensitive, I couldn’t stand her and was amazed that she had managed to find two friends and a nice man who wanted to marry her (I liked Duncan most of all).

What I would say is that the writing flowed well, and it was an undemanding listen/read. I’d give it a  middling score which is to say that I didn’t think it was brilliant, but it kept me entertained enough while I pounded the streets.