Tag Archives: review

Review Wednesday – The Girl With All The Gifts by M R Carey

img_1971If anyone had told me that one of my first reads of 2017 would be a Zombie novel I would have said, ‘Nah! You’ve got to be joking!’

So how come?

The truth is I went into this book having read one two-line review and the blurb. I was just looking for something ‘different’ and that is exactly what I got.

It starts with Melanie, a young girl, in her cell. She is strapped into a wheelchair every day and taken to her class for lessons by Miss Justineu. We don’t know why she is being held but the routine is clearly draconian. Then we discover Melanie and the other children have a once -a-week shower and are fed on bowls of maggots. Something is very wrong.

What follows is a story with a lot of very human qualities. Not only is Miss Justineu very concerned for the wellbeing of her charges, especially Melanie, but Melanie cares deeply for her. Questions of ‘the future’ begin to arise; after all the children are research subjects and some of the children seem to be taken away and never come back. Then the ‘base’ is attacked and a small group including Melanie and Miss Justineu are thrust out into a nightmare world of Hungries and Junkers.

I loved that this book was not just a scenario of Us against Them. The little group fighting for survival have problems within their ranks as well as without but the relationships and moral dilemmas seemed real.

The author does a great job of describing the cause and progression of the ‘outbreak’ and whilst the ending was probably the only one that could have worked I loved that there was no cop-out at the end of a very original story and that the conclusion was as it should be.

 

Review Wednesday – The Girl Before by J P Delaney

img_1970It’s always great to read an intriguing premise, one that tells you that you have to read this book and that was how I felt when I first read the blurb for The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney.

A perfect house built by an architect who will accept nothing short of perfection, or at least his version of it. The house is available to rent but not just to anyone with the cash ( and this house is a bargain), applicants must fill in a lengthy questionnaire and be approved personally by the owner/designer Edward Monkford. And it doesn’t stop there, rules (over 200 of them) must be adhered to; no clutter, no pets, no children, very few possessions. The list goes on.

This concept sets up the initial intrigue of the story. Why would anyone agree to live under such rigid conditions? But then, Edward is an unusual and intriguing man and Jane, the latest applicant has fallen under his spell as well as that of the beautiful, minimalist house.

The story is told from two points of view and in two time-frames. As Jane moves into One Folgate Street and learns more about Edward, whose wife and son tragically died, she also begins to learn something about a former tenant, Emma. So the action Goes back and forth and we see the house with Emma and boyfriend Simon in occupancy and with Jane.

As jane delves deeper into Emma’s life (and death) it becomes apparent that there are a lot of parallels between the two women. What really happened to Emma and, Jane wonders increasingly, was Edward responsible?

The story is complex. Both women have relationships with the Ice-cold Edward, both have suffered some trauma in their past. At some point I felt that the author introduced too many angles and that maybe the creepiness of the perfect house and it’s strange owner were in danger of becoming swamped by a whole gamut of other findings and revelations that made it hard to like any of the characters.

However, the book is certainly a page turner. The narrative flows easily and the short, sharp changes in viewpoint made it a fast and satisfying read. I would usually say that I love a convoluted plot with many twists and turns but, in this case, just for once, maybe a little less would have been more, just as with the house that features so prominently in the story.

Wednesday Review – Cast Iron by Peter May

img_1969*Many thanks go to Quercus books and Netgalley for an advanced review copy of this book*

The ‘Cast Iron’ of the title refers to the term often used for an alibi when it is deemed to be beyond question. But can an alibi ever be considered so, until the case is solved?

Enzo Macleaod, forensic expert, has been involved in a bet to unravel the details of a series of cold cases that have thus far baffled investigators. The sixth case is the mystery of what happened to young Lucie Martin, who goes missing from her home one evening, her remains discovered some years later, after a long, hot summer, in the bottom of a dried up lake. The modus operandi indicates the work of a killer already behind bars but he denies involvement.

In the course of the investigation to try to identify Lucie’s killer, Enzo soon realises that there is more than one person who would prefer that  the truth never come out. His life is in danger and his family are at risk.

In the past couple of years I have read and reviewed several books by Peter May. I thought I knew his style but found this book, set in France, a little different and, to be honest, a little difficult, at first. Enzo’s complex family life had probably developed over the previous books and so, coming new to the series I found myself backtracking at first to keep the threads of his convoluted relationships clear in my mind. However, the story is a good one, well worth the effort and the investigation a solid standalone that requires no previous knowledge.

For me at least, endings are so often a bit of a let-down even after a very enjoyable rest-of-the-book, so I would also say bravo to Peter May for bringing the elements together in an ending that did not rely on sheer luck or a happy coincidence or a massive and unbelievable hunch. The twist that brings the main characters together in the crucial scene did not disappoint and left a very satisfying aftertaste to an enjoyable read.

 

 

Review – The Reading Group:December by Della Parker

img_1954Continuing my hunt for some nice, short reads over Christmas, I came upon this story by Della Parker. It is apparently an opener to a series of books but this is just a brief tale to introduce the characters.

I immediately liked the idea. In this story the group of six friends meet to discuss the month’s reading choice A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Fiction mirrors life as I guess it will in all the books and in this one Grace is the Girl in trouble, with the prospect of her Christmas looking decidedly unrosy. Through the course of the short story, friends rally, worries are prioritised and blessings are counted.

This is a simple, very quick read but a sweet story that made me want to know more about The Reading Group.

Free at the time of writing this review.

 

Review -The Snow Globe by Kristin Harmel

img_1951A poignant short story set in Paris in 1942. On Christmas Eve a young, Jewish boy meets a girl and it is love at first sight. They meet again and he gives her a snow globe; a precious family item passed on to him from his grandfather.

One year later the boy is in Auschwitz, surrounded by death and despair and  only the memory of his love and the possibility of seeing her again gives him hope.

This was a free download, a prequel to a novel, The Sweetness of Forgetting. It is beautifully and tenderly told.

Review Wednesday – The Journal of Reginald Perigar by David Haynes

img_1943I downloaded this book when I saw it on a free promotion because it looked interesting but it was only after it arrived on my Kindle that I realised it was by David Haynes, an author I have read and enjoyed in the past.

This short book did not disappoint. Basil Jenkins is the collector of ‘intriguing objects’ so when he acquires a boxed chess set along with a journal recording matches played by Reginald Perigar, clearly a master of the game, he immediately begins to re-enact the matches one by one.

This Victorian Gothic story is perfectly pitched; the icy streets of London so apt. That the story was fairly predictable didn’t matter at all. Tales such as these are to be savoured in the telling. The twist at the very end is a really nice touch.

Best enjoyed on a cold winter’s night, along with a glass of rich mulled wine.

Review – Killing Jane by Stacy Green

img_1942The story starts with a killing so brutal that the attic where the body is discovered is reminiscent of a Jack The Ripper murder scene. And so it starts…

Called in as lead investigator for the first time is Erin Prince. It soon becomes clear that Erin has a whole bucket full of issues to deal with in her private life, most prominent of them the rich and privileged upbringing she has rejected, choosing not to work in the family firm but to make her own way in life. Even so she is given the nickname Princess by some, including unwanted attention from the media where the handle can be twisted anyway they need it to fit. There are also underlying, but mercifully, less well known reasons for Erin’s insecurities.

I didn’t find Erin very easy to connect with at first, she tends to whine and moan and her attitude is only made worse when compared to the solid and likeable figure of Todd Beckett, her new partner. Todd is a winning character, not afraid to say when he thinks Erin is wrong but sensitive to her lack of experience and willing to protect her public image.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this story, connections are everywhere and more grisly murders follow. The identity of the killer was fairly obvious as the book came to around the half way mark but more exciting for me than the identity was how the author was going to explain so many loose ends and if there could be a plausible link to the murders in Whitechapel so long ago. It could have been a huge letdown.

This for me was the strength of Killing Jane. The author did a very good job of tying up all aspects of quite a large cast of characters, all with something to hide, and what I thought might become a messy or unsatisfactory end was actually quite perfect, if horrific.

Hopefully Erin will move on from the tragedy and trauma of the past and in subsequent books we will see a more affable character. Whilst she has so obviously suffered there was some resolution in this first book; in my opinion, a nice touch.

Final note – what a superb cover; it really stood out for me.

To be published in January 2017

*Many thanks to Netgalley for providing an ARC of this book*

Review – Write to Be Heard by Aaron D Gansky and Diane Sherlock

img_1940Write To Be Heard is a straightforward no-nonsense read for writers wanting to improve their skills and, I imagine, that is most writers. There is nothing fancy and I think that is probably the intention, to make the book accessible to all writers.

The book begins with the subject of its title, the narrative voice, and how to achieve something natural and fluid in the prose we write. It goes on to characters and how to get to know them, their backgrounds, quirks, foibles, motivations. Plot, structure and dialogue are also discussed.

There are exercises to follow and to apply to a piece of work or a WIP.

I don’t believe anyone interested in writing can ever read enough of these kind of books, even if the reader doesn’t necessarily agree with every point made; there can be something to learn in that too.

A solid read that disappointed me a little just in that I would have liked more on that narrative voice, the subject of the book (although the subtitle does include … ‘and more.’..). But for anyone looking for a good overview of the creative writing process plus a few nice nuggets of motivation this will hit the spot.

Review- A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

img_1939Wow! This is a great book. An autobiography that I didn’t want to end; that’s an unusual situation for me.

I don’t go much for celebrity reads or celebrity anything really but I downloaded this audiobook because I so admired Cranston’s role in Breaking Bad, ( where he played the amazing character Walter White) that I wanted to know more about this actor.

The book isn’t just about Breaking Bad, not at all. It begins at the beginning; family problems, divorce, hard times though always told with humour and a sense that optimism was a non-negotiable attitude for the Cranston children.

Bryan and his brother take on all manner of jobs to keep the wolf from the door. There are some very surprising accounts of boyhood in an era when you could lose a job one day and walk into another the next and when CV’s and an interview process for minor and summer jobs hadn’t yet been invented. He tells of early no-holes-barred training for a career in the police force, including time in the morgue and a life-defining road trip before the serious work of acting began.

As far as his acting career goes, Cranston’s account seems honest and straightforward. He believes in hard work and is willing to walk the walk. He speaks of his great career boost with his role in Breaking Bad, the camaraderie on and off set and the relationships that didn’t work out so well. Fans of the series will appreciate some of the insight into this great show but beware, anyone about to begin watching there are some spoilers. Maybe watch first, read later.

A very interesting and enjoyable book. I listened to this on Audiible and Bryan Cranston with his warm, just-sitting-across-the-table-from-you, voice is a very good narrator too.

Review – The Monster That Ate My Socks by AJ Cosmo

img_1937This is a really fun story to explain where all the odd socks disappear to.

Max is in trouble with his mum because he loses too many socks and he is determined to track them down. Lying in wait at night he realises the three-eyed sock monster is the culprit.

This is a cute story. The monster is actually a very friendly creature with a family to feed and between them they get through quite a few socks. Some highly imaginative children are very sensitive to monster stories at bedtime; what seems like fun when a parent is still in the room quickly changes when the light goes out. However this monster family are very friendly and sweet. A lovely story for the end of the day.