Feeds:
Posts
Comments

This is the story of two intertwined families, and especially the six siblings and step-siblings. It starts at the Christening of Franny Keating and ends when she is in her forties, albeit there are three timelines and the story changes between them. (I like multiple timelines, but am are that many readers don’t, so bear this in mind if you are one of them.)

When Franny is 24, she meets acclaimed author Leon Posen and starts a relationship with him. When she tells him of her complicated upbringing and reveals the childhood experiences of herself and the other children in her blended family, he turns those events into what becomes a best selling novel, making their private lives public.

I love Ann Patchett’s writing and I enjoyed this book a lot – not as much as State of Wonder, and certainly not as much as Bel Canto, although the latter of those is one of my very favourite books so would take some beating – but it’s fair to say that although lots of things happen, in some ways, very little happens. It’s the story of several lives and how our actions can affect the future. There is tragedy and sadness, but love and togetherness as well. I liked Franny very much and I loved her father. All of the characters were believable and relatable and the events felt authentic.

I would recommend this book, and if you enjoy it, pick up Bel Canto!

There’s been so much hype around this book that before reading it, I was worried that I might be disappointed. I wasn’t! This is such an enjoyable and clever book, which was a genuine pleasure to dive into.

In a sleepy retirement village, four pensioners hold a weekly murder club, where they study past unsolved murders and try to work out who might have committed them. It’s a bit of fun and keeps their brains active, but when they suddenly find themselves very close to an actual murder, they decide to put their skills to work investigating who the killer is. Leader of the group is the indomitable Elizabeth, newest member Joyce is the reader’s portal to how their investigation is going, as part of the novel is made up of her diary excerpts. Ron, a former rebel rouser who loves to kick back against authority, and the suave pilates-obsessed Ibrahim, retired psychiatrist, make up the quartet.

I’m not going to say too much about the actual murder itself, but I will say that there were plenty of twists and turns, some genuinely funny moments, and some moments of genuine pathos. All of the people who live in the retirement village have either lost loved ones, or are faced with the prospect, and are all well aware of their own mortality. But they are all spirited, and determined to help solve a crime.

The two police officers in the story – PC Donna de Freitas, and DCI Chris Hudson – are also great characters. So often in stories featuring amateur detectives, the police can be made to look incompetent, but that is not the case here; the police themselves are diligent and resourceful and clearly good at their jobs.

Anyway – there’s a sequel in the works, and a film apparently on the way, and I am looking forward to both. Highly recommended.

Lethal White is the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series written by J K Rowling under a pseudonym. In this story, Strike and his former assistant turned business partner Robin, are trying to uncover the truth behind a mentally ill man’s assertion that he saw a child being murdered years ago, and how it ties in to the blackmailing of a government minister named Jasper Chiswell, who hires Strike to find out what the blackmailers have on him. The case takes them into the Houses of Parliament, and leads to them becoming involved in Chiswell’s family, who all have plenty of secrets of their own. Inevitably, it puts them into personal danger too, but these two determined investigators will not be put off.

Meanwhile, the fame brought about by their previous investigation (from book three) means that Strike how struggles with undercover work, as he is now publicly known and easily recognisable, while Robin’s personal life is starting to disintegrate.

This book is the longest and most labyrinthine Strike novel yet, but it’s no less enjoyable than the ones before it; in fact I believe this series improves with each instalment (and that’s coming from someone who really enjoyed the first one). There are plenty of twists and turns, but without the sensationalism that some crime/mystery novels have – it really does feel as though they are working the case and finding clues and evidence slowly but surely. I still adore the friendship and working relationship between Strike and Robin, and look forward to seeing how this pans out in future books.

The ending was a surprise, in a good way!

If you are a fan of crime thrillers or mysteries, then I do recommend the Strike series very highly, but would also suggest that it is advisable to read them in order.

Audiobook narrated by Aoife McMahon. The narration was excellent.

This is not the first Jo Spain book that I have read/listened to, but it is the first in the DCI Tom Reynolds series. I didn’t realise it was part of a series until after I had started listening to it, but it didn’t matter, as I didn’t need to be familiar with the previous books to follow this one.

17 year old Luke Connolly, dies after being pushed out of a third floor window of an abandoned house, and police quickly arrest and charge his friend Daniel Konate with raping Luke and then murdering him. Luke has a group of well-to-do friends with parents in well paid positions of power, but Daniel, being black, openly gay and from a lower socio-economic group, has never fitted in and only Luke himself really liked him.

When DCI Reynolds is asked by a colleague who also happens to be Daniel’s aunt to look into the matter, because she is convinced that her nephew is innocent, Ton agrees to do so and soon comes to the conclusion that the investigation which led to Daniel’s arrest was deeply flawed, and that there is a strong possibility that Daniel is innocent. He starts to investigate Luke’s other friends and as he does so, secrets are revealed.

I really enjoyed the book for the main part – I definitely liked Tom and his wife Louise, his friend and Chief Superintendent Shaun McGuinness (who is about to retire, and who’s position Tom is about to step into), and colleagues Ray and Laura. Luke is dead at the beginning of the story, and despite what happened to him it soon becomes clear that neither him nor his friends were particularly pleasant people. They have grown up with privileged lifestyles and believe that money and influence will allow them to get away with anything – and so far they have been correct.

I do have a slight niggle about the ending – on the one hand, it came as a complete surprise which is always welcome. On the other hand, it seemed very sensational and unbelievable compared to the rest of the book. Nonetheless the rest of the book held my attention and overall I would certainly recommend it to fans of the mystery genre, and I would definitely read/listen to more of the Tom Reynolds series.

In February 2013, journalist Del Quentin Wilbur spent a month with the Homicide Squad in Prince George’s County, which borders Washington DC. PG County (as it is referred to in the book) is in a fairly deprived area with a high crime rate, especially gun crime.

Wilbur gives details of the cases that the detectives investigate during the month of February, with maybe extra focus on the particularly heinous and apparently unmotivated murder of a young female in her own home.

I loved this book. The descriptions of the crime scenes, and how they affected the detectives was so well described, and more than just giving details of the work that these incredible people do, it also demonstrated how it affected them personally. I did feel that it must have clearly been influenced by David Simon’s ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ (which for my money is one of the best non-fiction books ever written), and indeed, Wilbur does reference this book and explains that he wanted to see how the job of homicide detective had changed since Homicide was written in the late 80s.

This book made me thankful that I live in a country where gun crime is not prevalent – in PG County it’s basically part of life, and many innocent people get caught up in it – and made me wonder what it must be like to live your life constantly in fear.

Anyway, my review cannot do this book justice, but I do highly recommend it, especially for fans of true crime. There is no sensationalism here, just an interesting narrative of the facts, showing how the detectives go about their jobs, while trying to keep their own lives and minds intact.

Audiobook narrated by Megan Hilty.

Dannie Kohan lives her life according to rules and numbers. She has a five year plan, which is all coming together nicely when her boyfriend David proposes right on schedule, and on the same day that she lands her dream job at a top lawyers firm. However, that evening she falls asleep and when she wakes up, she is five years in the future, living at an apartment in a completely different part of town – and apparently with a gorgeous boyfriend named Aaron.

Dannie again falls asleep and wakes up back in her real world with David, and dismisses her experience as a vivid dream,. But she can’t forget about Aaron, the mysterious man from the future, and when she meets him in very unexpected circumstances, things start to get complicated.

I am in two minds about this book. I really enjoyed the first part of the book, and although I am not generally into fantasy or storylines which are entirely implausible, the dream/premonition part of the story was well done and did not bother me. I loved Dannie’s relationship with her impulsive and beautiful best friend Bella, and I also really liked her fiance David. Given that the book is narrated by Dannie, she is the character who we get to know best, and at times she irritated me, as she had such a controlling nature, but overall she was a good hearted and kind person.

The story does take a tragic turn which I won’t reveal here, and although it was very sad, it was well written. Everything that happened – apart from the dream at the beginning of course – seemed believable and I did get drawn into the lives of these fictional characters and was eager to know how the beginning of the story would tie into the end. And that was the problem for me. I liked most of the ending, but I did not like how those two particular parts of the story came together and it did spoil it somewhat for me.

There’s no doubt though that Rebecca Searle can write and can draw the reader/listener in, so although the ending left me with mixed feelings, I would try another book by her and would cautiously recommend this one.

A young boy is violated and murdered in the most horrific manner, and all the DNA, eyewitness and fingerprint evidence points to the culprit being much loved sports coach Terry Maitland. But Terry has a rock solid alibi. Detective Ralph Anderson is tasked with finding out the truth behind the matter, but one huge question confounds him at every turn – how can one man be in two places at exactly the same time?

As always with Stephen King (especially his more recent books), this novel is compulsively readable and hard to put down. The first part reads more like a straightforward murder mystery, but things take an even darker turn in the second half when evil forces outside of our realm come into play.

King has a knack for making his stories flow, and also for creating a ripple effect – the horrendous crime committed in the book is shown to affect those not in it’s direct trajectory, and has a knock-on effect upon the people living in the town, who are shocked that such a despicable person could live in their midst.

This does feature characters from the Mr Mercedes trilogy, which I have not read, but you certainly don’t need to have read those to enjoy this. The socially awkward investigator Holly is one of my favourite characters from this story, as well as police officer Yune Sablo, but all of the characters are distinctive and well drawn.

This novel has very much got Stephen King’s stamp on it, so if you like previous books of his, I would certainly recommend this one too.

I listened to this in audiobook format, and it was narrated by Lucy Price-Lewis.

Four years after the death of her husband Joel and her subsequent breakdown, Darcy Hilton is finally beginning to look to the future and plan a life with her two sons, Harrison and Kane.

When Kane suffers from an accident during a day out in the park, he is helped by a handsome doctor named George, who quickly becomes Darcy’s friend, and before long, coffee and a cake has turned to dating, and then into a full blown relationship. Joel’s family are not happy as they feel that Darcy is moving too fast with George, and they worry about losing their closeness with Harrison and Kane. But it seems that someone else is trying to cause trouble. A number of sinister incidents cause Darcy to wonder who has it in for them – is it someone from her own past, or maybe the obsessed ex-girlfriend of George? And why is George’s housekeeper Maria so cold towards Darcy?

As the truth is revealed, Darcy starts to worry that she and her boys are heading towards danger.

I don’t like leaving negative reviews, but unfortunately this book did not really work for me on any level. The first problem is that the book is full of stupid women, making stupid decisions, and doing stupid things. Some of the things that happened to Darcy might as well have had flashing red lights spelling DANGER above them, but she still managed to convince herself that all was fine. And the ending was ludicrous and in no way believable – almost comically so. The writing was clunky in places with certain significant points being made, and then apparently forgotten about.

K L Slater certainly has many fans, judging by other reviews I have read of her books, so don’t let my review put you off if this book appeals to you. However, having read two of her books and reached the same conclusion with both, I am sorry to say that I don’t think she is an author I can enjoy.

This book is one of the Hogarth Shakespeare series – a set of modern retellings of some of Shakespeare’s plays, by various acclaimed authors. Hag-Seed is a modern re-telling of The Tempest, and in the capable hands of Margaret Atwood, it is a triumph.

Felix Phillips is artistic director at the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, but is usurped by his traitorous assistant Tony, just as Felix is planning a staging of The Tempest. After hiding away and licking his wounds, Felix takes up a job teaching Shakespeare in a prison, and staging plays with the prisoners as the cast, but all the time he is plotting his revenge upon Tony and others who treated him unfairly.

It’s not necessary to know The Tempest to enjoy this book – you can definitely read it as a novel in its own right – but it is interesting to see how the two stories run parallel to each other. I actually think that if you were studying The Tempest, this book might help you understand it (because The Tempest is one of the most beautiful but also one of the most difficult to understand of Shakespeare’s plays in my very humble opinion).

As always with Atwood, the writing flows beautifully and there is dark humour sprinkled throughout. I loved reading about the prisoners and who taking part in the play came to mean so much to them. It’s a quick and fairly undemanding read, and I throughout enjoyed it.

This is an audiobook narrated by Karen Cass, and is actually a collection of four books gathered into one.

The story starts with best friends Cat Garcia and Sadie Smart moving into their new business premises, Smart Cookies, in Castle Court, Chester. Castle Court is a three storey food court, where frankly I would be all the time if it were real and I lived nearby!

Sadie is recovering from a messy marriage break up and is moving on with her life, with daughter Lisa in tow. Cat meanwhile, was a top chef in a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris, but for personal reasons has moved back to England to start Smart Cookies with Sadie.

They soon become part of the community at Castle Court, making friends – and a few enemies – amongst the other business owners, and maybe a hint of romance too. As you would expect. they have ups and downs, sometimes man related, other times not, but through it all their friendship remains solid as they navigate some choppy waters.

As far as chick-lit goes, this is an enjoyable book, although it definitely left me craving a plate of biscuits every time I listened to it, as there is quite a lot about the cookie making. I do sometimes find it annoying that smart, intelligent and independent women still have to have lives revolving around men, and that sometimes these women do stupid things which are clearly written in to move the plot forward. (No, chick-lit is not my favourite genre, but it’s easy listening while I’m out running, which is why I will choose it sometimes.)

Having said that, it’s got some lovely characters, and Castle Court itself sounds like a dream. Some parts were predictable – like who would end up with who for example, which was clear from the first few pages – but it was nicely written and one of the few books to feature a small child who was actually very lovable and not irritating.

Excellent narration by Karen Cass too.