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I listened to this audiobook over the course of a week. It’s narrated by Lisa Coleman, who did an excellent job. This psychological crime thriller is apparently the eighth in a series featuring DCI Tom Douglas, and had I known that going in, I may well have skipped it; I have always felt that book series needed to be read in order from the beginning. However, it didn’t matter one iota – clearly there is a backstory to Tom’s personal life but it’s all explained clearly enough, and this book could actually serve as a standalone novel.

The story centres, and is largely narrated by, Anna Franklyn – mother, wife, headteacher, and a respected member of the community. As she is driving to work one day, Anna hears a voice from her past on a phone in radio show – that of her ex-boyfriend Scott, who says he is going to phone back in a weeks time and tell the story of himself and his lost love ‘Spike’ and their tragic relationship. The only problem is….Scott died 14 years earlier, taking Anna’s most guarded secrets with him…and now it seems he is here and ready to expose her past. Anna has a week to find out what happened to Scott, and to stop him ruining her life.

The narrative jumps forwards and backwards between Then (14 years earlier) and Now, and also includes chapters written in the third person which focus on the police investigation.

I actually really enjoyed this book. Yes, it is fairly implausible, and I did guess the twist about halfway through, but it was a well told story which did a good job of illustrating how a young naive woman found herself in such a predicament all those years ago. I HATED the character of Scott, but he was far from the worst character in the story. I felt sorry for Anna, but also wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip! I’m not going to reveal any spoilers because the ending, although partly predictable, was still written well, and there was in fact one final twist which I didn’t expect.

My only niggle is that sometimes things were over explained. For example, there is a poker game that happens at one point where every play seems to be explained in detail. Unless you play / understand poker, this bit is all unnecessary filler – it would be enough to explain who won and who lost. But still – a minor niggle.

Overall, excellent narration and an enjoyable storyline (kept me listening for the most part anyway) made me give this a thumbs up, and I would definitely read / listen to moron this series.

 

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This is author and screenwriter William Goldman’s classic spoof fairy tale, which tells the story of Buttercup (the most beautiful girl in the world) and Westley (former farm boy turned swashbuckling hero) and their eternal love. Except that it is SO much more than that. There are pirates, kidnappings, death, swords, giants, princes, heroic escapes, magic and more besides. Apart from Buttercup and Westley, the main characters are Inigo Montoya and Fezzik the Giant, not to mention the numerous others, all of whom were highly entertaining in their own right.

It is framed in an unusual way – in the edition which I read, there is first of all a proper introduction by Goldman (I often skip introductions, but this is worth reading), and then a part where Goldman himself reminisces about being a young boy who had the story read to him by his father. The conceit is that Goldman claims that The Princess Bride was written by S. Morgenstern – who is in actuality entirely fictional – and he (Goldman) has merely edited it to get rid of the boring bits, and only tell the entertaining parts. Throughout the story itself, Goldman often interrupts the narrative to explain that he has cut part of the story and gives a brief synopsis of what happened in the part that he has cut. It sounds complicated, but all makes sense when you are reading it.

I actually didn’t realise quite how accomplished Goldman was – he wrote screenplays for such incredible and successful films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Misery. He also wrote several novels including Marathon Man, which was turned into an excellent film. His talent is undeniable, and his originality shines through in The Princess Bride. I am not normally a lover of fantasy fiction, which is why it took me so long to get around to reading this, but I would recommend this whether it is a genre you enjoy or not.

Truly deserving of it’s classic status.

 

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The Body in the Lake is the seventh episode/novella/installment – whichever you want to call it – in the Cherringham Cosy Crime Series. Laurent Bourdain, the mayor of a French village has been invited to Cherringham to pave the way for the twinning of the two small villages. A celebration party at Repton Hall (a large manor house owned by Lady Repton, who has appeared in a previous Cherringham mystery) turns to debauchery and ends with Monsieur Bourdain’s body being found floating in the lake at the manor.

Naturally there are plenty of suspects and an arrest is soon made, but our amateur detectives Sarah and Jack think that the wrong person is in custody and set out to solve the crime for themselves.

As with all the Cherringham series, Neil Dudgeon excellently narrates this episode and the story is enjoyable, although not the best so far but they can’t all be the best. Another fun slice of life in the sleepy Cotswold village with all sorts of secrets lurking below the surface…

 

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This audiobook was narrated by Colleen Prendergast, who I have previously enjoyed listening to as a narrator. She did a great job here too, but unfortunately I did not particularly enjoy listening to this book.

The story is narrated by Nina Penhaligon, an actress on the brink of making it big in television. After making a massive blunder and embarrassing her agent, she decides to get away from it all and goes to stay with her brother in Devon. There she meets up with an old friend named Theo, who has problems of his own. Theo and his wife Kate’s marriage is floundering after they struggle to get over a traffic loss. Nina gets involved with helping Theo set up his holiday let business and falls for the quieter pace of life in Devon, as opposed to the hustle and bustle of London.

In between trying to help Theo and Kate mend their marriage, Nina also has to find out the truth about her own family history, help her brother see that too much work is not good for him, get involved with trying to save a local landmark, and of course, there’s a big dollop of romance in there too.

I’ve long ago come to the conclusion that chicklit is not a genre which really works for me, but when listening to audiobooks, I can sometimes enjoy it. This one started out fairly well, but it went on for so SO long. I felt that a few of the storylines could have been cut out completely and the book would have been better for it (I’m not going to be too specific here, as I don’t want to give away spoilers). It seemed to be about twice as long as it needed to be. The other thing was that the way the holiday let business got set up was just unrealistic. Nina basically happens upon Theo’s rundown, unkempt and completely unfurnished holiday cottages, and transforms them in ONE AFTERNOON!!

I appreciate that we are meant to be rooting for Nina, but I found her quite annoying by the end of it. They should have just called her a fairy godmother, given her a magic wand and have done with it. She managed to solve the problems of practically everyone in the village, and it felt like she was going around sprinkling her fairy dust everywhere. The other problem was that some of the plot points were so obviously signposted that it seemed incredible that Nina didn’t spot what was coming herself.

On the positive side (yes, there is one!) I thought the Devon setting was lovely and it did  make me think that I too would love to live in a place like that.

I should mention again that this is not really a genre I read a lot, because I generally find it very predictable, which was one of my niggles with this book. I’ve read several other reviews of this book, most of which rate it really highly, so if you do enjoy chicklit, then don’t be put off giving it a go. Unfortunately it just wasn’t really for me.

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Described as Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day, by way of Agatha Christie, this is a twisty, confusing book with a brilliant premise.

The formerly grand Blackheath House is hosting a party, and the hosts’ daughter Evelyn is going to die at 11.00pm. It’s murder, but it won’t look like murder and until the culprit is brought to justice by Aiden, a young man who is visiting the house, the day is going to repeat itself over and over. But as if that wasn’t enough of a mystery, every day Aiden will wake up in the body of a different party guest, seeing the party and the crime through a new set of eyes. He will have to use the clues that he picks up in each persona to piece together what happens and work out who kills Evelyn. Only then will be free to leave Blackheath.

Right, so I have very mixed feelings about this book. I was very much looking forward to reading it; I like the whole Groundhog Day scenario, as well as the idea of seeing the same day through different eyes and perspectives. The writing itself was eloquent and often quite poetic – there were occasions when a sentence really caught my attention just by how beautifully it was phrased. But my goodness this book is confusing and I can’t help feeling the author got a little bit too clever with the idea, and tried to cram almost too much in. (I am in awe at the planning he must have made to get the timeline in order!) With every day starting over, every ‘host’ was somewhat affected by the actions of the previous host, and the times and locations of certain events became quite hard to follow. I would genuinely recommend keeping a notebook nearby and jotting down when key events happened, because it gets very convoluted, with most characters literally not being who they seem.

Despite all this, I still found myself drawn in and didn’t feel like giving up – this is partly due to the aforementioned writing style. I will say that the ending when it came was excellent, very clever and to my mind unpredictable.

I’m not sure if I would read another book by this author. Possibly, but I’ll be sure to keep that notebook handy next time!

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I’ve been a fan of Dave Gorman for a long time – his tv shows and stage shows (I’m lucky enough to have been him live) are always witty and entertaining, and his books are always a good source of amusement. In this book, he basically travels around England playing games with strangers. He plays traditional games such as Cluedo, Ping Pong, Darts and Poker, and some other games which were – to me at least – unknown, such as Khett, Kubb, Smite and erm…Rod Hull’s Emu Game (I know who Rod Hull and Emu are obviously. I did not know that there was such a game. And neither did Dave!)

Gorman is an affable and engaging narrator and while the book is not constantly hilarious, it is amusing and made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions. There is at least one episode which took both myself and Dave Gorman himself by complete surprise, and when you’ve finished the book I am sure you will know which one I mean.

Overall, a lovely read which I would definitely recommend. Also, I now would love to find a local Smite team to join!

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I think I may have found a new favourite author. After listening to and loving her novella Evidence of the Affair, this was my next audiobook of hers (I have also bought Daisy Jones and the Six, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as physical books). This was narrated by Julia Whelan, who I think did a great job (tiny niggle: all the men sounded exactly the same, but that didn’t bother me).

The story centres on Hannah Martin, who has moved back to Los Angeles where she grew up, following a bad break up in New York. She moves in temporarily with her best friend Gabby and Gabby’s husband Mark. On Hannah’s first weekend back home, they go out to a club and Hannah meets her former and first love, Ethan. At the end of the night she has to decide whether to go home with Gabby, or to stay out with Ethan…and this is where the story splits in two, Sliding Doors style.

In the first scenario, Hannah leaves with Gabby and Mark, and is involved in a road accident which lands her in hospital. In the second scenario, she stays at the club with Ethan, and their relationship starts to develop. The two stories are told in alternate chapters, which show the differing paths that Hannah chooses and how they both unfold.

I loved the way it was told; it never got confusing, and it perfectly illustrated how the choices we make affect the courses of our lives. I liked both stories, but on balance I slightly preferred the scenario which started with her leaving the club with Gabby.

It’s difficult to say more without revealing spoilers, but I definitely enjoyed this, and if you like ‘what if’ scenarios, I think you might enjoy it too!

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Nick Hornby has always been what I would call a reliable author, by which I mean that I might not have loved everything he has written, but I have found some enjoyment in everything of his that I have ever read. But actually I did love this book, and think it is his best yet.

Set in the 1960s, it tells of Barbara Parker from Blackpool, who wins the title of Miss Blackpool, promptly decides she doesn’t want it, and heads off to London to realise her dream of becoming a comedienne like her heroine, Lucille Ball.

Before long, Barbara has become Sophie Straw, landed a lead role in a new, successful tv sitcom, and the world – or the UK at least – is at her feet. She becomes part of a close-knit team, with her co-star, writers and director and life is wonderful for a while. But as they grow older and wiser and real life starts to get in the way, they have to rethink just how long the show can continue.

As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed this book. I liked Sophie so much – she was quick-witted, intelligent and full of fun – and I also liked the team she worked with. The writers, Tony and Bill, both gay men at a time when homosexuality was illegal and both dealing with it in very different ways; the director Dennis, gentle, kind, cuckolded by his awful wife Edith; and co-star Clive, who should have been easy to dislike with his womanising, his unfaithfulness and his professional jealousy, but who nonetheless was charismatic and made me laugh.

Hornby weaves real people in and out of the narrative, and I liked this; the prime minister and Lucille Ball both make an appearance amongst others. The tone is light and humorous, but never superficial. I felt as though 1960s London was brought to life.

Definitely a thumbs up from me for this one – I highly recommend.

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This was John Grisham’s first novel, and also the first of his which I have read, although I have seen a number of films based on his works (including the adaptation of this book).

Carl Lee Hailey – a black man living in Clanton, Ford County, Mississippi – finds out that his daughter has been raped by two white men, and murders the rapists in revenge. He stands trial for murder and is represented by young lawyer Jake Brigance. The county is fiercely divided between those who think Carl Lee’s actions were justified and he should be acquitted, and those who think he should face capital punishment for what he did. The Ku Klux Klan are determined that Carl Lee must hang and embark on a campaign of harassment and intimidation. Soon the sleepy Ford County is divided into two sides, both willing to go to any lengths to win this war.

I can see why Grisham is such a popular writer – his story flows easily and this is one of those books where you pick it up with the intention of reading a few pages and hours later you’re still reading. I am unsure of my feelings regarding Jake – I was ‘on his side’ re Carl Lee, but his politics in general put me off him somewhat. I did however like the characters of Lucien Wilbanks – Jake’s mentor, an alcoholic but a smart man, and Harry Rex, another lawyer who helps Jake.

Some of the scenes were disturbing, especially those regarding the KKK, and there is prolific use of the n word, which I found extremely jarring. But the story itself was gripping, and I would definitely read more by John Grisham.

Ghost Town (2008)

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Ghost Town stars Ricky Gervais – in his first Hollywood role – as Bertram Pincus, an irascible, antisocial dentist, who has little interest in other people. However, after a standard hospital operation he suddenly finds that he is able to see ghosts. Everywhere. And they all want something from him. Recently deceased Frank (Greg Kinnear) is desperate to stop his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) remarrying, and begs Pincus to help break up her relationship. Pincus agrees merely to get Frank off his back, but starts to realise that not only is Gwen’s finance a decent man, but that Bertram himself is developing feelings for her.

Whether or not you enjoy this film is going to depend largely on whether or not you enjoy watching Ricky Gervais. For my money, he is a superb comedian and I’ve never watched anything he has done without thoroughly enjoying it. He’s irritable but also very relatable and brings pathos to the role of Pincus, especially towards the end of the film. Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear are also both excellent in their roles. There is a lot of humour to be found here, and when the film ended I had a big smile on my face.