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The Carrier (Culver Valley Crime)
The Carrier (Culver Valley Crime)
by Sophie Hannah
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Life is Just too Short!, 27 Jun 2013
I have read all of Sophie Hannah's books and thought her debut novel, Little Face, a gripping read; however,I only ploughed through her last two efforts because I received them as gifts from a friend. I found her last book Kind of Cruel completely implausible and needlessly and pointlessly convoluted but I persisted to the last page and regretted wasting the time and effort once I had finished reading it.

This book was also given to me and I tried valiantly to persevere with the ridiculous plot and unengaging characters but had to abandon it more than halfway through since life is too short.

I am normally of the view that those who fail to finish a book should not comment on it but I now see that this is precisely what is needed here as I rarely fail to stick with a book even if only to see how it ends. In this case I was beyond caring.

It is not that the plots are beyond belief that has ruined most of Sophie Hannah's books for me but that her novels are peopled by the most vile and loathsome characters ever to have graced the pages of a book.

Caveat emptor!


Reconstructing Amelia
Reconstructing Amelia
by Kimberly McCreight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Young Adult Fiction., 21 Jun 2013
This review is from: Reconstructing Amelia (Paperback)
I picked this book up in the airport when flying away to a week in the sun as I thought it would make for a good holiday read and in that sense I was not disappointed. Yet by the time I had finished the novel, and here I must say it is a very easy book to get through quickly, I was a bit fed up with one character after another being lined up as the prime suspect. There were many twists and turns but I prefer one, possibly two, subtle yet shocking twists. A lot of the characters had very little depth and few were really likeable which is surprising given the subject matter.

Kate Baron is a single mother and successful lawyer with a leading New York law firm. She is in an important meeting when she receives a call to say her daughter, Amelia, is being suspended from school for cheating on an exam. She dashes to the school and learns that her daughter has fallen from the roof of the school. It is ruled a suicide by the investigating police officers. Then Kate receives a text saying that Amelia did not jump. From that point the whole thrust of the story is concerned with whether Amelia jumped or was pushed.

This book is really more suited to teenagers and young adults as it does manage to get across very effectively the trials and tribulations, but also the huge hope and promise of being an adolescent and the tragic and devastating effects of bullying. It also manages to show how bullies can sometimes be caught up in an atmosphere of intimidation from which they themselves are too fearful to break free.

I was a bit surprised when Kate visits the house of one of Amelia's friends and the door is answered by a maid/housekeeper who speaks (English) with a "thick European accent". Given the wealth of languages and accents in Europe, I wonder just what exactly is a "thick European accent"? Is it the Queen's English or perhaps English spoken with a Scottish, Welsh or Irish brogue. It might even be English spoken with a French, Spanish or Italian accent. Then again, there is English spoken with a Scandinavian, German,Dutch or Russian accent. In fairness, Ms. MCCreight probably meant "a thick East European accent" and this was merely a typographical oversight; I should know that this can happen very easily.

I would like to give this book two and a half stars but my vote should really reflect personal enjoyment of the the story.

A novel most suited to young adults.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 24, 2013 4:05 PM BST


The Lifeboat
The Lifeboat
by Charlotte Rogan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading., 18 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Lifeboat (Paperback)
The story opens with Grace Winter and two other females on trial for murder, all three of whom, have survived being set adrift on an overcrowded lifeboat, following the foundering of a transatlantic liner.

Grace Winter, a recently married young woman and now a widow is the narrator and is I suspect, for many reasons an unreliable one, not least perhaps due to having spent so long adrift on the high seas in appalling circumstances. We learn her rich banker husband was engaged to another young woman when he met Grace but this in no way deterred Grace from tempting him away; not that this is of itself important but it does show a streak of determination and perhaps ruthlessness in Grace.

I will not go into what transpires while Grace and her companions are adrift in lifeboat 14 but the real question is what would one do in order to survive? It brought to mind the dilemma faced by the Andes survivors after their plane crashed, when they resorted to cannibalism; although in that case it was corpses that were cannibalized.

There is also the ethical question of who should live and who should die; should the weaker elements be encouraged to sacrifice themselves, so as to save others with a better chance of ultimate survival. But life is precious and where no volunteers are forthcoming is it ever morally acceptable to kill a few, who will most likely die anyway, in order to save many. The survival of the fittest!

This is a powerful and gripping debut novel by Charlotte Rogan who tackles extremely contentious themes with great imagination and frankness.

There are some ambiguities in the book and the story of Grace's husband remains a bit of an enigma but perhaps that is no bad thing. Grace herself comes across as a complicated lady and, since she is the narrator, we only ever get her view of her character and her life.

Read this book and enjoy!


Innocent Blood
Innocent Blood
by P. D. James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ms. James' Finest Moment!, 17 Jun 2013
This review is from: Innocent Blood (Paperback)
I have read most, if not all, of P. D. James' novels, including the Inspector Dalgliesh and Cordelia Grey detective stories and Children of Men, a dystopian novel concerning the end of the human race due to infertility.

Innocent Blood was written in 1980 and is a stand alone novel and, while not a detective story, is an excellent psychological thriller dealing with the usual themes of love, loss, quest for identity, adaptation and redemption but the overriding question of nature versus nurture must be in the minds of most people while reading this book.

Philippa Palfrey was adopted as an eight year-old by an affluent couple, Maurice and Hilda. When she is eighteen she exercises her right under The Children's Act of 1975, which allowed for adopted children, once they reached the age of eighteen, to know the identity of their biological parents. What Philippa discovers about her parents, Martin and Mary Ducton, is truly shocking i.e. her father was a child rapist and her mother a child murderer. While her father has since died her mother is still alive and due to be released from prison.

Philippa finds a flat to rent in London and sets about refurbishing it with a view to providing a place for her mother to come to on her release and where they both can live, on a temporary basis and get to know each other.

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book was reading of Phillipa's efforts to do up the flat on a shoestring and then the accounts of the trips she and her mother take around the capital to reintroduce Mary to London; I also enjoyed the comraderie that seemed to develop between them as they performed the low paid work they took to subsist.

All the time Phillipa and her mother are getting to know each other, the father of the murdered child is also aware that Mary Ducton has been released from prison and is stalking her.

I found it hard to like any of the characters while still having great compassion for Norman whose child was so brutally violated and murdered, but also for Phillipa who though well cared for in the material sense grew up in a rather cold and academic atmosphere. I found Phillipa's adoptive mother, Hilda, the most sympathetic character in the book; she married a man who never loved her, adopted a daughter who could never love her and being a gifted cook, prepared the most delicious but largely unappreciated meals for her family. Hilda obviously had love to give and I was pleased to see she finally found a focus for that love in the puppy Scamp, who comes into her life towards the end of the novel.

Quite simply, I think this novel is extremely well crafted and beautifully written as one has come to expect of the inimitable Ms. James. I would highly recommend this book.


Close My Eyes
Close My Eyes
by Sophie McKenzie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Suspend Disbelief., 12 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Close My Eyes (Paperback)
I ordered this book on impulse because it was £2.99 on Amazon. The plot may be summarized briefly as follows: Geniver Loxley lost her daughter, Beth, at birth eight years ago and since then she has struggled but never managed to come to terms with her loss. Her husband, Art, by contrast continues to build his business. The first pages of the book also deal with the couple's, so far, unsuccessful attempte at IVF, and it is clear that while Art is most anxious to attempt more pioneering treatment, Geniver appears reluctant to continue with treatment that is arduous and does not seem to hold out much hope of success.

Then one day a strange lady turns up on Geniver's doorstep and tells her that her (Geniver's) child never died and is still alive yet this stranger has no idea where the child might now be. This is an interesting and potentially exciting premise on which to base a story and I enjoyed the first half of the book - particularly as the style was easy and unpretentious.

The second half of the book descends into what I would call farce and it is essential to suspend disbelief if one is to finish the story, which I did. I only award the book two stars even though I enjoyed it in part, as I did not feel I could pass it on to friends as I usually do, and I certainly did not wish to keep it.

Having said that, it could well make for a diverting holiday read and it showed promise in the beginning.


Children of the Revolution
Children of the Revolution
by Dinaw Mengestu
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Evocative., 11 Jun 2013
The narrator of this beautifully written and evocative story, Sepha Stephanos, fled Ethiopia following the death of his father at the hands of the Red Terror. The story opens 17 years following Sepha's immigration to the US, in Washington DC where he now runs his own rundown store in a fairly rough neighbourhood. He has two staunch friends i.e. Kenneth from Kenya"the engineer" and Joe "the poet" from the Congo; all three were full of hope and optimism about their futures when they first arrived in the US but are now all disillusioned with the American Dream.

These three lonely African exiles endeavour to sustain each other as they try to break with their native country's violent past and attempt to build new lives in their adopted country.

Joe's suburb is being cleaned up and rebuilt to accommodate middle-class people with dire consquences for some of the locals and when the well-off Judith moves into the neighbourhood with her daughter, Naomi, Joe begins to make friends with them and is especially taken with Naomi, a very intelligent but troubled child.

Mengistu's prose is mellifluous and beautiful and perfectly conveys what it must mean to be an exile and his characters are finely drawn; I came to care about all three exiles but especially Sepha, a gentle and engaging man facing trials we can only imagine with quiet dignity and strength.

I enjoyed every word in this novel and was terribly reluctant to let Sepha go as I wanted to continue to see how his life and the lives of his two friends evolved.

I highly recommend this thought-provoking book.


My Oedipus Complex: and Other Stories (Penguin Classics)
My Oedipus Complex: and Other Stories (Penguin Classics)
by Frank O'Connor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile Stories., 10 Jun 2013
I remembered some of theses stories from my schooldays and Frank O'Connor is a master of that particularly difficult genre, the short story. A bit like the proverbial parson's egg, these stories are good in part but not just good as some are excellent and only a couple are somewhat disappointing.

My personal favourite is Guests of the Nation which is set during the Irish War of Independence and tells the story of two Englishmen who are being held captive by the IRA and who are subsequently executed by the two IRA men charged with guarding them. The earlier part of the story shows the comraderie that develops between the Englishmen, who are decent and gentlemanly, and their IRA captors.

Having carried out the executions both killers are very much affected and one of them, a man called Noble, "saw everything ten times the size, as though there were nothing in the whole world but that little patch of bog with the two Englishmen stiffening into it" but the other killer, the narrator Bonaparte, felt "as if the patch of bog where the Englishmen were was a million miles away ..... and I was somehow very small and very lost and lonely like a child astray in the snow".

But it is the last line of this story that is the most powerful and it is as chilling as it is revealing "And anything that happened to me afterwards, I never felt the same about".

There are many other gems in this collection and some very memorable characters who will stay with the reader long after the stories have been put away.


Memory-Aids and Useful Rules Flipper (Master Bridge)
Memory-Aids and Useful Rules Flipper (Master Bridge)
by Ron Klinger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful bridge tool., 19 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This handy little flipper by Ron Klinger delivers what it promises on the cover i.e. some very useful bridge rules and tips. While more seasoned players might have less use for this little booklet it is nevertheless, an efficient aide memoire particularly for beginners. For me it was of limited interest but I would certainly recommend it to beginners.


The Killing 1
The Killing 1
by David Hewson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hewson's Triumph!, 19 April 2013
This review is from: The Killing 1 (Paperback)
When I read that David Hewson had written a novel based on the Danish TV series The Killing, and despite Hewson being an established and respected author of detective crime fiction (set in Italy) I nevertheless had no intention of purchasing the book. Fortunately, I read very favourable reviews of The Killing in the media and the novel was also highly recommended in several book stores, so I decided to invest.

It is unusual for a book to be based on a TV series but Hewson has risen to the challenge remarkably well. The writing is concise and clear and the plot is almost identical to the TV series; the atmosphere of the series is masterfully reproduced and the dialogue more or less follows the TV script. The characters, although more developed in the book are essentially true to the series.

Hewson has changed the ending and while some readers may favour the original ending, I much preferred Hewson's twist which I found far more plausible. I would like to elaborate but this review would then contain spoilers. Indeed, I found the ending in the TV series very disappointing and flat but fully accept others may have a different view. However, it is worth mentioning that the book has been translated into Danish for publication in Denmark and the producers of the TV series were, apparently, very pleased with Hewson's novel.

This book is more than capable of standing alone and readers who have not watched the TV series will be hooked while those who have seen the series should still enjoy the atmospheric writing, deeper development of the characters and the alternative (better!) ending.

The novel comprises some 700 pages which, in my opinion, is normally too long for a detective novel but in this case I was totally absorbed and enjoyed every word.

I have already purchased The Killing 11 - keep up the good work David Hewson!


The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.27

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raise a glass!, 18 April 2013
This review is from: The Glass Castle (Paperback)
Jeanette Walls' true account of an impoverished childhood at the hands of loving but neglectful parents is beautifully told in this inspiring book. Jeanette's father Rex is an alcoholic and her mother an aspiring artist who is completely disinterested in domestic routine; both parents have an aversion to organized settled life which leads to an early nomadic life for Jeanette and her siblings. The Walls children are mainly left to fend for themselves and at the age of three, Jeanette seriously injures herself while cooking hot dogs - an accident which leaves her with life-long scars. Due chiefly to alcoholism, Rex never manages to hold down a job for any length of time and often ends up on the wrong side of the law due to petty crime which leads to the family sometimes having to leave town in a hurry.

When Jeanette is seventeen she and her elder sister, Lori leave home for New York to pursue careers in the Big Apple. There is so much more to this story and it was very hard to put down.

What struck me most of all about the book is Jeanette Walls' complete lack of self-pity and her deep love and affection for both parents, which never wavers and which shines through her narrative. I could not help but compare this book most favourably with Angela's Ashes, which was one long self-pitying whine from start to finish and the hatchet job the author carried out on his already deceased mother (Angela) was an open sore for her surviving children - you cannot libel the dead. Fortunately, the same is not true of the living as it transpired that certain events recounted by McCourt and involving people who were still around to refute the allegations, were in fact untrue. Frank McCourt later attempted to justify this by claiming the book was not meant to be strictly autobiographical - but he marketed the book, particularly in the US, as his autobiography.

By contrast, The Glass Castle is, despite the subject matter, an upbeat tale of survival and achievement and deserves to be read.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2014 2:44 PM GMT


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