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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

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The Silkworm is the second book in the Cormoran Strike detective series, by Robert Galbraith – who everybody and his wife knows is J K Rowling writing under a pseudonym.

I really enjoyed the first book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, despite having seen the excellent television adaptation, and therefore knowing ‘whodunnit’. I was determined to read the rest of the books available before watching their respective adaptations, and as the adaptation of this particular novel has been sitting in my recorded items for some time, I felt I should probably get around to reading it.

The plot here revolves around a writer named Owen Quine, who has written a provocative novel, which casts aspersions about many other people in the literary and wider world. It has given several people reason to detest Quine, so when he is found murdered in extraordinary circumstances, there is no shortage of suspects. With the police choosing the most convenient suspect, it is left to Strike and his assistant Robin to try to get to the truth.

If anything, I enjoyed this book much more that the first one in the series; the writing seemed much more pulled together somehow and the mystery was more satisfying. As I say, I did actually really enjoy The Cuckoo’s Calling, but it did have a convoluted plot, which meant that knowing the outcome from the start probably helped. With The Silkworm, I had no idea of the outcome, and while the plot was tightly woven, I was able to follow it and found myself getting pulled in. It’s wonderful when you find a book that you actually look forward to coming back to, as I did with this one. They mystery kept me guessing and there was a twist at the end, which I did not predict but which was not so out of left field as to be completely unbelievable.

Also the characters of Strike and his assistant Robin were much more fleshed out in this novel. I continue to adore Robin, who is intelligent, compassionate and a good foil for the gruff and imposing Strike.

All in all, I can’t find anything to complain about with this one, and I look forward to reading more in the series.

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Another audiobook to accompany me while running.

Emma is six months away from her 30th birthday when she finds the wish list she made with her friends at the age of 15 (actually I’d call it more of a bucket list than a wish list) showing all the things they hope to achieve by the time they were 30. To her disappointment, Emma realises that she has not managed to even achieve one item – not even grow her hair long!

So with half a year to go, she decides to complete the list, and along the way she discovers a few things about herself and a few things about her closest friends. It’s typical chick-lit, so of course there is a heavy emphasis on romance and female friendships, with her closest friends Cally and Asha playing fairly large roles in the book.

On the good side, Jane Costello does throw in some good one-liners; it’s an undemanding read/listen  and it kept my attention – I certainly did not find myself drifting off. On the bad side, it’s very predictable – there are sub-plots and I correctly guessed the outcome of all of them (as well as the outcome of the main plot). This is a fairly common thing with chick-lit though, and you always know what to expect when you read a book like this – for a lot of readers, that’s the attraction which is absolutely understandable – so maybe my gripe is not entirely fair.

I felt that Alex Tregear did a reasonable job of narrating the story, even if some of the accents were a bit over the top. I preferred Girl On The Run by the same author, but I would probably listen to another book by Jane Costello and would recommend her to chick-lit fans.

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David Hepworth – music journalist and writer, who has won numerous awards for his work, here presents a book which – as the subtitle suggests – catalogues the rise and fall of the rock star. Hepworth believes that there are no more bona fide rock stars; there are pop stars and other music stars, but rock stars were something else entirely (with the ‘rock’ part of the term not necessarily referring to that genre of music). And that something is a mystique, an allure that celebrities can no longer have in this age of social media, where nothing is secret and the smallest details of a star’s life becomes public knowledge almost immediately.

He charts this journey from 1955 to 1994, in an unusual and extremely readable way. Every year he takes a significant day from one rock star’s life, that had an effect not only on the person in question but on the world as a whole.

There are far too many to list, but all the major stars you would expect appear here: Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones, Bowie, Springsteen, Prince, Michael Jackson. And there are others – Bob Geldof (his day being Live Aid), Freddie Mercury (the day he died), Duran Duran (the making of the controversial Girls On Film video), Buddy Holly (also the day he died). Each chapter is short – less than 10 pages – and ends with a list of significant singles and albums from that particular year.

I found the book absolutely fascinating, and even when a chapter featured someone I am not particularly interested in, such is the writing that it made me interested. This book can either be read in huge chunks, or you can dip in and out of it, but whichever way you choose to read it, I highly recommend it to anybody interested in music and stardom.

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In this first book in the series set in Southampton, and featuring DI Helen Grace, a sadistic killer is on the loose – one who gets her victims to do the dirty work for her. Two people are kidnapped, and trapped in a remote location with no chance of escape. There is a gun – and a deadly choice. One of them will have to either kill the other or kill themselves, and whoever survives is released. Grace and her team are on a race against time to find the connection between the victims and the person behind them all.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it did keep me fairly hooked throughout. I thought the narrator Elizabeth Gower did an excellent job – one of the best narrators out of all the audiobooks I have listened to so far. Under close examination, the story itself is quite preposterous – the level of planning that would have had to be done to effect some of the kidnappings would be virtually impossible, and I am honestly not sure how long someone could get away with it the amount of times that the perpetrator here did. Nonetheless as a piece of sheer entertainment, it certainly did it’s job.

I am unsure what I think about Helen Grace – she is not an easy character to warm to, but I think that that is probably deliberate. Her team respect her, but don’t necessarily like her, and the things that make her hard for her colleagues to like are the same things that make it hard for the reader/listener to like. She is interesting though, which is my main requirement for a lead character. Out of the rest of her team, only two are really fleshed out but maybe we will get to know others better later in the series.

I would certainly listen to more books in this series; having said that, this book took the reader/listener to some dark places and I do feel that I need to cleanse my palate with something a bit lighter first.

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This book is the second one in the Cape Bay murder mystery series. I listened to the audiobook while out running, just as I did with the first one. Here, Francesca is still running Alexandra’s coffee shop, still dancing around the edges of romance with her old friend Matty, and still getting involved in mysteries that don’t concern her! In this book, while Franny is preoccupied with learning how to make a good cup of tea – after some English visitors to her coffee shop weren’t impressed with her efforts – she learns of a murder in town. It’s the second in as many months and is very unsettling to the residents of the sleepy little town.

The victim, Joe Davis, was murdered in the parking lot of Todd’s Gym, which is run by Franny’s school crush Todd Caruthers. The police think Todd is guilty, and Franny is determined to prove his innocence. However, Matt is not so sure that Todd didn’t do it. The two of them work together to solve the mystery, all while trying to navigate their own relationship…

I did enjoy this book. Marguerite Gavin does a good job of narrating the story, told in the first person by Franny, and I really like both Franny and Matt. I do think the editing could be a bit tighter – several times the same phrasing is used twice in a sentence, which is slightly grating, but nonetheless it’s undemanding fluff. A lot of time is given over to the running of the cafe, which I quite enjoyed, but if it’s a solid murder mystery that you’re looking for, then this might not be the book for you, as the murder is just one facet of the story rather than necessarily the main part. The only thing that annoyed me a bit is that – for reasons I can’t explain because it would mean providing spoilers – the reader/listener doesn’t really get a fair chance to solve the mystery. I believe it was Agatha Christie who said that she always wanted to give readers the fair chance to solve the mystery themselves if they just put the clues together; in this case, some very pertinent information was withheld. But as stated before, the murder is one of the focusses of this book, rather than the only focus, so that did not really detract too much.

If you like cozy murder mysteries, you might want to give this series a try.

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Listened to as an audiobook narrated by Napoleon Ryan.

Andrew Sumner is having a run of bad luck, but he believes that it is at an end when he meets the beautiful and captivating Charlie. The two of them begin a very intense relationship and are smitten with each other, but Charlie’s irrational jealousy causes problems between them. When things start going missing from Andrew’s flat, and his friends start being attacked – or worse – he starts to wonder if Charlie could be behind it…could the woman he loves really be a murderer….?

I am really in two minds about this book. There was a LOT that annoyed me, and that was before I even got to the ridiculous ending. First of all, there were continuity errors (I guess that is what you would call them; certainly if this was a film that is what they would be). For example near the beginning of the story, two characters go into a cafe in a railway station to have a chat, but halfway through it becomes a pub. In another part, two characters decide to get drunk on two bottles of gin which somehow turn into vodka. Okay, these things don’t impact on the story, but they annoy me and I feel that if I noticed them without looking, any half decent editor should have done as well.

Additionally, Andrew as a protagonist was just…blah. I couldn’t understand why any woman would become obsessed with him, although there’s no accounting for taste. More than anything he just seemed unbelievably stupid for putting up with so much of Charlie’s irrational behaviour, and largely (it seemed) because she was adventurous in bed. The ending was the biggest let-down. I don’t mind a good twist, but this was so mad as to be just plain stupid, and asked the reader to discount everything that had gone beforehand.

As a narrator Napoleon Ryan was fine when he was being Andrew – and as the book is narrated by Andrew, that was most of the time. But female voices are NOT his forte. In particular, Charlie’s voice just made her sound like a caricature out of a bad sitcom.

Yet – despite all this, I did find that the story rattled along at a good pace, and at one point I even found myself wanting to extend a long run so I could see how one particular subplot played out. So I do believe that Mark Edwards is capable of creating solid tension and mystery, even if his way of resolving things seemed to have come completely out of left field.

Would I listen to or read another book by this author? Well yes, I probably would. But I liken this one to eating junk food. It’s pretty enjoyable at the time but even while you’re consuming it, you know it’s not really that great, so it’s not something I would probably recommend to a friend.

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This is the fourth book in the Miss Marple series – although I think it is a bit of a stretch to call it a Miss Marple mystery, as Marple herself only appears towards the end of the story and utters a few words of wisdom. However, the book itself is still an interesting and intriguing read.

Jerry and his sister Joanna arrive in the village of Lymstock for a visit while Jerry recovers from an undisclosed accident. Fairly soon they, along with several other villagers, receive an unpleasant anonymous letter. When Mrs Symmington, the recipient of another such letter, commits suicide, the whole village starts to suspect one another…

As always with Agatha Christie, I enjoyed the book and was pleasantly surprised by the ending – I won’t give away any spoilers, but I thought I had sussed the mystery only to be surprised when the truth was revealed. This is what I love about Agatha Christie books – she is always able to surprise me, but she is fair in the way she does it. Not for her is there a sudden antagonist who has not appeared before in the book. Not for her is there a unforeseeable twist – the reader is given ample opportunity to work it out if they only look hard enough, but she is such a clever writer that she usually ends up outwitting her audience.

In any event, and as mentioned before, this is almost a stand-alone mystery – the appearance of Miss Marple is so brief that she is in fact an unnecessary addition to the plot (this is probably why I prefer Poirot, who is such a central character in the novels), but it is no less enjoyable for all that. There are some entirely unbelievable parts – for example, the police officer investigating the crime is more than happy to share his findings with Jerry, despite Jerry being nothing more than a visitor to the village – but for the sake of moving the story along, I am happy to ignore such things.

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, this one will not disappoint.

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