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Posts Tagged ‘secrets’

This is an audiobook narrated by Patience Tomlinson.

Siblings Robert (62) and Phoebe (60) are concerned about their 85 year old father James. After a fall renders the upstairs of his house out of bounds to him, they decide they need to hire a carer for him. After a few carers come and go for various reasons, they hire Mandy – hard-working, down to earth and plain speaking (sometimes too much so). Although Mandy’s outdated and somewhat questionable views are completely at odds with those of their father, Robert and Phoebe are grateful to her for her hard work, and pleased that Mandy and James seem to hit it off, with her presence lending him a new lease of life. But then they start to get jealous of her, and suspicious of her motives. Why is she going through their father’s private papers. And why did a previous client of hers leave her a flat in his Will? Is there more to Mandy than meets the eye?

I have mixed feelings about this book. First the narration – no complaints there; Patience Tomlinson did a great job with all characters. The first part of the book – with alternating chapters told from the points of view of Phoebe and Robert – was enjoyable with some amusing moments, and some believable insights into their situation, watching their once distinguished father grow older and frailer, and seeing him much closer to his carer than he often was with them when they were growing up. There is a twist which I genuinely did not see coming, but which set up the change of direction and narrative for the next part of the book, which is told from the points of view of James and other characters (unnamed here for fear of spoilers). I did not enjoy this part of the book anywhere near as much as the first part, and the conclusion when it came was something of an anti-climax.

I don’t doubt that Deborah Moggach can write believable scenarios and characters, and her prose is very engaging but I did feel a slight dissatisfaction with this book in the end. However, I would certainly try something else by this author.

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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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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 listened to this audiobook, very well narrated by Emma Spurgin Hussey, over a few days. After a brief opening chapter by an unnamed character (all is revealed later), the story properly starts with a young woman named Vicky – who also narrates the story – going to Corfu after graduation, and deciding to stay there. She loses touch with her mother, with whom she has had a fractious relationship ever since her mother remarried and had children with her second husband. In Corfu she meets the charismatic William and falls madly in love. Before long their son comes along. But when real life and big responsibilities kick in, the bliss fades from their relationship and Vicky makes a shocking decision.

At this point the story switches abruptly to narration by a lady named Caro, who runs a holiday cottage business on a farm with her husband Gilbert and their son Fergus. She has a daughter named India, but there is clearly friction between India and her parents. I’m wary of giving away too much of the story, so I’ll just say that Vicky’s and Caro’s stories do converge, and their individual histories come to have great bearing on their current lives, and both end up fighting for their own families.

I actually really enjoyed this book. I definitely did not like all of the characters; Barbara was an awful woman, although not entirely unbelievable. I also intensely disliked India and really wanted to have someone give her some home truths. However, I loved Caro and Fergus, and felt for Vicky.

The ending was very good as it gave closure, but resisted tying everything up in a neat bow; I was expecting something different, and was pleasantly surprised.

If you like human dramas, I’d recommend giving this one a try.

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In Margaret Atwood’s tenth novel, published in 2000, she tells the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase.

The book opens with a report of Laura’s death by possible suicide, shortly after the ending of World War II. An older Iris, writing from the tail end of the 20th century, tells the story of her current life, and also the story of her and Laura’s lives. There is a second narrative – that of Laura’s posthumously published novel The Blind Assassin, which is about two unnamed lovers and their clandestine meetings, during which the man entertains the woman with a rather macabre and violent sci-fi story set on the planet of Zycron.

Margaret Atwood is one of those authors who I love, even when I don’t love her. The Handmaid’s Tale was a solid 5/5 for me, whereas Oryx and Crake was something of a disappointment. But generally speaking I always get something from her books and rarely forget them.

The Blind Assassin was not at all what I expected and for the first part, I was not sure I was going to like it. But it kind of crept up on me and I realised that I was enjoying it. In all honesty I never really felt as though I got a handle on Iris despite her narrating much of the book. In fact, Laura was more of a rounded character – sure she was an enigma, but she was meant to be, even to those closest to her – despite being dead before the story started.

As always with Atwood, the language is intelligent and luscious, and often at times quite cutting. Nobody quite comes out of her books without some sort of mark by their name! I didn’t like the direction that Iris’ life took, but neither did she, so I imagine that was deliberate.

I would recommend this book to any fans of Margaret Atwood – although I probably don’t need to because they will have already read it. I felt always slightly detached from it; it was always a story with me on the outside looking in, instead of one of those books that you find yourself completely immersed in, but I liked it a lot for the writing and for never quite knowing where and how it was going to end.

 

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I have thoroughly enjoyed previous novels by Sarah Waters, and had high hopes for this one. The story is set in the early 1920s, and Frances Wray and her mother have fallen on hard times, and are forced to take in lodgers. When Leonard and Lilian Barber arrive, Frances is shaken out of her small world, and drawn into their lives. However, when passion mounts, the consequences are shocking and everlasting.

This is a strange book in that it starts off being fairly slow moving – in keeping with the pace of Frances’s life. Every day is the same for her – housework and spending time with her mother, before retiring to bed. But as her new lodgers arouse her interest and she gets drawn into their lifestyle, the pace picks up. The last third of the book is a very different tone and I did get very absorbed, staying up late to find out how the story ends (without revealing any spoilers, I would have to say that I found the ending surprising, but in a weirdly anticlimactic way).

I cannot say I didn’t enjoy the book, but whereas with Waters’ previous novels Fingersmith, Affinity and The Night Watch, I couldn’t put them down, with this one I found myself not really engaging until the last part. The characters were not particularly likeable, which was not a problem, as I don’t believe they were written to be. They were believable though and the idea of Frances, being an intelligent woman trapped in claustrophobic lifestyle, was convincing.

Overall, not one of Sarah Waters’ best, but still worth the read and I will continue to read anything that she writes.

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In the late 80s, the Thunder Girls were the biggest girl band on the planet. Chrissie, Carly, Roxanne and Anita had the world at their feet, until it came to an abrupt end. Three of their careers were destroyed and the friendship was in tatters.

Thirty years later, they are invited to get back together for a reunion gig, but after all the backstabbing, betrayals and recriminations, can they even bear to be in the same room?

This book follows the girls throughout their separate lives, which include divorce, children, addiction, and bankruptcy. Not to mention that while they are planning the huge comeback which will see them back on the pedestals, someone else is plotting to bring them down…

I wanted a book that was undemanding and light hearted, and this book fitted the bill. It wasn’t always light hearted, but it also wasn’t ever to be taken too seriously. There’s a fairly healthy dollop of Jackie Collins-esque storylines here (although without the X-rating), mixed in with The Bold and the Beautiful type scenes and some of the events require a suspension of disbelief, while others were were predictable.

This is not the kind of book that wins literary prizes and nor is it meant to be. But if you want some pure escapism, this might do the trick.

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1947: Tommy Elliot, widowed when her husband was killed during WWII, runs the family seat Kings Harcourt. Life is tough for Tommy and her family and when a particularly harsh winter cuts them off from the rest of the world, things only get tougher. Her brother Roger has returned from the war with his friend Fred, who stirs long forgotten feelings in Tommy. And then there is Barbara, an old acquaintance of Tommy’s who causes trouble when she comes to stay.

Present day: Caitlyn and Patrick have a happy marriage albeit is on his terms. But they love each other, and Patrick is the one person in Caitlyn’s life who has always been immune to the charms of her best friend Sara. But when tragedy strikes, she starts to uncover hidden truths which lead her to question whether she ever really knew her husband at all. Seeking solace in an old manor house, Caitlyn tries to piece together the truth.

I am in two minds about this book. There were plenty of things I liked about it – I always enjoy a dual timeline, because I like seeing the two threads come together. The writing flowed and it was on the whole an undemanding read.

On reflection I think I preferred Tommy’s story, probably because I really liked Tommy and her sister Gerry. They were both intelligent and resourceful and battling against the conventions of the day.

Caitlyn’s story initially really intrigued me. However, I thought it was stretched out – Caitlyn could have got the answers she wanted a lot more easily and quickly, but she seemed to choose the most circuitous route. Also the denouement of her story when it came was ludicrous. Not only was the truth she was searching for completely unbelievable, but the method of her finding it was also ridiculous. I actually didn’t like Caitlyn much – she was pleasant, but such so subservient to everyone around her.

Overall this is the first book that I’ve read by this author, and I rattled through it, so I must have enjoyed it somewhat – I really struggle to pick up books that I am not liking. Would I read another one by this author? Yes, probably but it won’t be next on my list.

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27 year old Elvira Carr, lives a very sheltered with her overbearing mother; due to Elvira’s ‘condition’ (Autism, although this is never specified), her mother does not allow Elvira out on her own, other than to the local Asda, and relationships with other people are non-existent, as Elvira takes people at face value and believes what they say to be absolutely literal. Consequently her life revolves around her beloved Mills and Boon novels, and eating, learning about and collecting packets from various types of biscuits.

However, when her mother has a stroke and has to live in a care home, Elvira is forced to look after herself and engage with the world. With the help of a neighbour, she compiles a list of seven rules to help her navigate a scary world she learns that while some people are kind and willing to help, others can be cruel and ready to take advantage.

She also finds out secrets about her past which her mother had kept hidden – I don’t want to say more on this aspect as it is a fairly important part of the plot, so I am wary of revealing spoilers.

I enjoyed the book a lot. I think comparisons with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine are inevitable. Both are about young women who have domineering mothers, and who have trouble fitting into society. So there are some basic similarities. Both both Eleanor and Elvira are very much their own people. I really enjoyed reading about Elvira, and as it is written in the first person, I felt that I got to know her well. There are moments of humour in the book but also some very poignant parts. I would definitely recommend this novel and will look out for more by Frances Maynard.

 

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This under-the-radar British film delivered far more than I expected, largely due to the (always excellent) Maxine Peake in the lead role.

Peake is Charlotte, for whom a bad day – where she gets passed over for promotion – turns into an absolutely disastrous and terrifying one, when she arrives home and finds her cleaner smoking in Charlotte’s apartment. This leads to a confrontation with tragic consequences.

Things go from disastrous to even more disastrous as Charlotte desperately tries to cover her tracks, and finds herself in situations she could never have imagined, and looking after a young child – something she clearly has no experience with and no clue what she is doing. Eventually she calls her estranged sister Sarah (Christine Bottomley) to help, but things get (even more) worse with the arrival of shifty security guard Roger (Blake Harrison).

I really enjoyed this film – if enjoyed is the right word. It was certainly compelling; it shocked me right from the off, and although Charlotte was initially a deeply unsympathetic character, Peake’s performance was exemplary, and showed just how an ordinary person can end up in a horrific situation.

With a small main cast (the only other major character was the baby!) and a claustrophobic atmosphere, as well as tight pacing, this film had a lot of elements that I  really like in a movie. It is undoubtedly bleak (I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls afterwards to put me back into a lighter mood!), but it is definitely worth a watch.

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