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I have always enjoyed Ben Elton’s books, so I’m not sure quite why it took me so long to get around to reading this one. But I’m glad I finally did. Scotland Yard Detetice Inspector Ed Newson investigates the brutal murder of an equally brutal man who was killed in a most unusual manner. With the aid of his Detective Sergeant Natasha, who Ed is secretly in love with, he starts to connect the dots between this murder and others that have happened – and which continue to happen. Essentially someone is going round murdering bullies and is using the same methods that the bullies themselves used on their victims.

This novel was written in 2004, and the now defunct website Friends Reunited features as a prominent part of the story. Ed himself joins the site as a way of connecting with his old classmates which leads to him meeting a number of them again – some reunions being very welcome (the school beauty Christine) and others not so much.

I did work out who the killer was before the reveal, but I jumped about between a few of the characters beforehand, so although it was guessable, I wouldn’t say it was so obvious that it would mar enjoyment of the story.

It’s not out and out comedy, and there is a serious issue within the story about how bullying in youth can lead to severe problems later in life – but you can always rely on Ben Elton to make you smile and some of the dialogue exchanges between Ed and Natasha were very funny.

Just a warning to anyone who doesn’t like gore or sex – some of the murders are particularly unpleasant, and there is one fairly lengthy sex scene which is eye-poppingly excruciating, revolting and hilarious all at once.

Overall, if you have read and enjoyed Ben Elton before, I would imagine you would definitely enjoy this book. If you haven’t read anything by him before, why not give it a try?

The Love Letter (1998)

This is a sweet little movie from the late 1990s, elevated by two lovely central performances from Campbell Scott (always under-appreciated) and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Scott plays Scott Corrigan, a computer games designer, engaged to be married to Debra (Daphne Ashbrook). When he buys an antique writing desk and discovers a old letter written by a lady named Lizzie Whitcomb during the American Civil War, he jokingly writes a reply. He is stunned to receive a another letter back from Lizzie and realises that the desk must be some kind of portal between their lives, despite being separated by more than 100 years.

Scott tries to find out more about Lizzie and grows increasingly preoccupied with her, while Lizzie has her own issues to contend with, as her parents wish to marry her off to a man for whom she has no feelings. She is more attracted to the man who is somehow sending her letters from the future.

It is clear that Scott and Lizzie are meant to be together, but how can they ever be? Will either of them ever find happiness in their own times?

Now lets be honest – if realism is what you’re after, then you’re not going to find it in this movie. The premise itself is, on paper, ridiculous. However, if you are happy to just go along with it, there’s actually a lot to like here. As mentioned before, the two main actors both do a great job, and it’s a very sweet and inoffensive film. It reminded me quite a lot of the 2006 film The Lake House, which I have always loved, although The Love Letter is a made for TV film and obviously on a fairly low budget. But it’s charming, so if you like romance and don’t mind a bit of time travel, why not give this a try?

London 1831. Hester White is the daughter of educated and reasonably wealthy parents, both sadly deceased. She is taken in by their gardener and his wife, but their lack of good fortune causes them to end up living in the slums of London. At this time, people are going missing all round London and rumours abound as to whst might be happening. When Hester is injured in an accident she ends up living in teh stately home of brother and sister Calder and Rebekah Brock, who believe her to be an uneducated young woman from the dregs of society. Calder tasks Rebekah wiht the job of educating Hester and while Rebekah is initially resistant to the idea, eventually she and Hester become very close.

However, when they start to uncover the truth about the people going missing, they both find themselves in great danger and have to use all of their wits and cunning to stay safe – and alive.

I had high high hopes for this book, and at first I thought I was going to love it. However, just as the story should have really got going – when Hester went to live with the Brocks – it seemed to start to drag somewhat. I could never get invested in Hester and Rebekah’s relationship because Rebekah didn’t seem very well developed; I did however find the mystery part more interesting, but the ending was drawn out a little too much for me. That said, some of the writing was very eloquent and I didn’t feel at any point as though I didn’t want to read on. If you like gothic mysteries you might like this book but – for my money – there are better novels in the genre.

This was an audiobook narrated by Fenella Woolgar. It’s less than seven hours long and I listened to it over the course of about a week while out on my daily run. I did try listening to this book a few years ago but had to give up because I just found it so bleak and frankly boring; but tastes change and I thought I would give it another go.

The narrator is a woman called Marta, who certainly comes under the category of unreliable narrator. Set in an unnamed (but feels Scandinavian) country, Marta is married to the much older Hector and they have a grown son called Kylan. She is on medication – or supposed to be, but as we learn early on, she is not taking it despite Hector physically giving her her pills each day.

When Marta starts to have hallucinations about a young girl which develop into memories? or imaginings? (we are never quite sure), she starts to doubt her marriage to Hector. She tells Kylan, but he, like the reader, is never sure what to believe. Is Marta finally remembering buried past events now that her medication is not blurring her recall, or has her stopping medication caused her to think things that aren’t true?

In any event, I’m sorry to say that I did not enjoy this book and almost gave up on it a second time. It was relentlessly bleak and unfortunately I found myself bored by it. The first two thirds of the book seemed to consist of Marta wondering around in her own little world, describing the most mundane things. This may well have been deliberate, to illustrate the mundane life which Marta led, but I just couldn’t get bothered about it. Hector and his mother are incredibly overbearing and have obviously dominated Marta throughout her marriage. (The title of the novel comes from a book that his mother gave to Marta when they got married and it’s full of sexist and complete out of date advice about how a woman should please her husband.)

In the last third of the book, things actually started happening and it did pick up a bit. However, for me it was too little, too late. Ultimately I found Marta to be a more frustrating character than a sympathetic one, and the only characters who really seemed halfway nice people were Kylan and his girlfriend Katya (my advice to Katya – remove yourself from this family immediately!)

Expertly narrated, which is one thing going for it. Fairly short, which I was relieved about. Many people have clearly read and enjoyed this according to the many online reviews I have read. I was not one of them though, and I don’t think I’ll be seeking out anything else by this author.

This book has been sitting on my to-read shelf for years – fourteen to be precise!! I finally decided it was about time I read it, and I kind of wish I had picked it up earlier because it was much more enjoyable than I expected. You would be forgiven for looking at the cover and assuming that it was standard chick-lit fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but there’s more to this book than that.

The book is narrated by Sophie Applebaum, who is 12 years old in the first chapter, and the middle child in a loving family. Each chapter jumps on a few years from the one before it and the reader therefore has to fill in the gaps themselves. Additionally each chapter could be read as a standalone short story, which is the same format as Melissa Bank’s previous book ‘ A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing’.

Sophie focusses a lot on her romantic relationships, but there are also other themes at play – death, illness, lost friendships, job worries and other factors are all part of the story.

I liked Sophie very much. She was very funny, and as she narrates in the first person I have to assume that Melissa Bank is also very funny with a quick sense of humour. The character was identifiable, as were her relationships with her friends and family, especially her two brothers. The story doesn’t really build up to one event, but rather it is slices of life. The somewhat disjointed storytelling might not appeal to everyone, but I really enjoyed it and will look for more by Melissa Bank – and new time I won’t leave it fourteen years to read them!

Well well. After over a year of being deprived of live theatre, I was absolutely thrilled to be able to go back to the RSC to see this production of Shakespeare’s shortest and arguably most farcical play. This was set in the newly erected outdoor Garden Theatre, which is just about the sweetest theatre I have been in. It has a capacity of 500, but ticket sales were topped at 310, to allow for social distancing. The weather is always a risk with outdoor performances, but regular groundling visitors to The Globe Theatre are used to coping; in any event we were lucky enough to have glorious sunshine on this particular visit.

In essence, The Comedy of Errors features two sets of identical twins – one pair of whom work for the other pair. As children the pairs get separated and one twin from each set ends up with one twin from the other set. When they meet up again as adults – with none of them knowing of the existence of their twin brother, mayhem ensues as they get mistaken for each other. One man’s wife is convinced he has gone off her, one of them is accused of owing money, and there are all sorts of opportunities for both verbal and physical comedy.

The play was updated to give a 1980s feel and look, with scene changes taking place accompanied by a group of four a capella singers, also dressed in 80s clothes.

Part of the challenge must have been to find actors who were sufficiently alike to make the mistaken identities believable, while being different enough for the audience to tell the actors apart. I thought this was achieved perfectly with the two Antiphulos characters (yes, to confuse things further each man has the same name as his twin) being played by Guy Lewis and Rowan Polonski, and the two Dromio characters being played by Jonathan Broadbent and Greg Haiste.

I loved the show, and found myself laughing all the way through – as did the rest of the audience who all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. I hope the cast had as good a time as we did. I have missed live theatre so much during the Covid-19 pandemic and this was the perfect way to celebrate being able to see a show again.

Gosh, where to start with this?! The Eighth Life is an epic in every sense of the word. Coming in at over 900 pages of relatively small print, I knew I was either going to lose myself in this one or find it a chore to read. And I lost myself. I loved this historical saga, which takes the reader through an obviously well researched history of Georgia and Russia in the 20th century. It includes WW1 and WW2, the Russian Revolution, Stalin’s regime, independence for Georgia, Gorbachev and so much more.

On a much more personal level however, it is a story of multi generations of one family starting at the beginning of the 20th century and ending in 2007. There are seven sections of the book, each focusing on one particular character, but all with interweaving stories. There are divisions within the family as characters disagree on politics and lives take very different paths.

There is tragedy and heartbreak, but also love and togetherness. It also serves as a love letter to Georgia. In truth, there’s too much in the book to describe in this review, but I loved it and would highly recommend it.

This was an audiobook narrated by Laura Brattan, with three narrators: Lisa Kallisto, who is a harassed but loving mother and wife, devastated when the 13 year old daughter of her friend goes missing – when Lisa was supposed to be looking after her; an unnamed narrator who, it quickly becomes obvious, is a paedophile; and a third person narrator who concentrates mainly on the police investigation into the missing girl.

Lisa is understandably wracked with guilt when Lucinda Rivety disappears, and more so when it is believed that she was taken by a man who had already taken one girl and subjected her to a brutal rape. As Lisa’s world falls apart, the race is on to find Lucinda, but in so doing, secrets and lies become known and it seems that people are not always what they seem.

I don’t want to give too much away about the story, but I will say that I liked Lisa a lot. I also liked Joanne, the Detective Constable investigating the disappearance. However, there was a side story featuring Joanne wanting to get a breast reduction and I felt this served no purpose in the story and could easily have been edited out.

There was one twist which I didn’t predict and which I thought was well done, but the final denouement seemed rushed, as though the author had just tacked the ending on to get it finished quickly. Having said that, I did enjoy the book for the majority of the time, although most of the characters were not particularly likeable (the aunt of the missing girl was particularly unbearable). There was also another twist which seemed ludicrous to me, and spoiled the book somewhat. Nonetheless, I would read or listen to more by Paula Daly.

On a final note, the narration was excellent.

This was an audiobook narrated by Lucy Price-Lewis, who did an excellent job.

The story revolves around Rose Tinsley, whose 8 year old brother Billy was murder 16 years earlier and as a result, Rose has severe psychological problems. Rose, and her whole village were convinced of who murdered Billy and that the right person is in prison for the offence, but her belief is shaken to the core when she finds something shocking in her elderly next door neighbour’s house. Could it be that the person serving time for the murder is in fact innocent? To find out the truth, Rose must face her fears and examine the past.

The book has two timelines – 16 years earlier which is narrated in the third person, and the present day, which is narrated by Rose. In the earlier timeline, an 18 year old Rose meets Gareth, who is ten years older than her. At first he seems like the perfect charming boyfriend but as times goes on, it becomes clear that he is not all he appears.

This is the third book I have read by K L Slater, and unfortunately I have yet to find one that I really enjoy. As mentioned earlier, I did think the narration was done well by Lucy Price-Lewis, but the storyline itself seemed very repetitive. The main issue I have with this author is that in all her books (at least the ones I’ve read) the women are very weak, and quite frankly spineless and not able to see what is staring them in the face. Meanwhile the males are generally so awful that they are almost like a caricature and just serves to heighten the issue with the women not able to see through them.

The one positive thing I will say was that I liked the resolution to the mystery and I did enjoy Rose’s last scene in the book. Other than that, I found it fairly annoying with dialogue that seemed to go round in circles. There are LOADS of positive reviews for this book online, so it may be that this author is just not for me, but I think I’ll be giving her other books a miss.

This was an audiobook, narrated by Olivia Dowd, Aiofe McMahon, Chloe Massey, Sarah Owens, Rich Keeble and Jot Davies.

Jules, editor of a popular online magazine, and Will, host and hero of a reality tv show called ‘Survive The Night’ are getting married after a whirlwind romance. The destination is a remote Irish island, which is subject to high winds and rough weather. The narration switches between characters, including Jules herself, her half-sister and bridesmaid Olivia, the ‘plus one’ Hannah, best man Jonno and the wedding planner Aiofe.

It becomes clear that all of the guests have a secret from their past and there is a lot of tension simmering beneath the glittering surface. The timeline switches between ‘now’ – the wedding day and evening, and the day before when guests were arriving.

I liked the premise of the book and I generally do enjoy multiple narrators as it can be interesting seeing the same events from different perspectives. But while this started off well, it slipped into ridiculousness with too many coincidences being revealed towards the end. Also, almost all of the characters were just horrible people. I did like Hannah, but pretty much everyone else was awful.

I had high hopes for this one, but came away feeling disappointed.