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Ann Fairweather (England)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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The Book Collector
The Book Collector
by Alice Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Fairy Tale of horror!, 21 April 2016
This review is from: The Book Collector (Paperback)
The Book Collector is an odd one. Difficult to put into a genre, not quite a fairy tale nor really a crime novel either, it is very strange. Obviously inspired by the Fairy Tales so often mentionned in the story, it has the same aura of magic, of bizarre and a dramatic ending. Set in Edwardian times, when a woman heavily depended on her husband, financially and emotionally, Violet finds herself at the same time attracted and frightened by this charismatic book collector she meets one day in London and marry soon after. His first wife has died but seems to still haunt him...After having a baby, life should be idyllic for Violet, living carefree in a rich household. In fact shadows grow steadily around and Alice Thompson unique style conjures this odd atmosphere where the reader starts to doubt the narrator...Is Violet indeed mad and hallucinating or is her husband, allied to nanny Clara, really up to no good? Increasingly terrifying, the plot ends in a dramatic climax, leading us to believe Violet was right all along but managing to leave a nagging doubt too...
As with the equally bizarre and brilliant 'Burnt Island', reality, dream and madness have here too, porous boundaries and draw the reader into a parallel, fantastic, surreal world. Instantly engaging and easy to read, Alice Thompson's novels are a genre of their own and to be read absolutely!


Metropole
Metropole
by Ferenc Karinthy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Metropole or Hell?, 17 April 2016
This review is from: Metropole (Paperback)
Metropole is an instantly engaging story: A man, a linguistic academic on his way to a conference in Helsinki, takes a connecting flight in an airport, but obviously gets on the wrong plane and after falling asleep, arrives in an unknown city. Boarding a bus with a crowd of passengers he is taken to an hotel where he has a room but fails to understand where he is. And so begins his unfortunate adventure to try and make head or tail of what is happening. The language of the place is totally foreign with no connection to any known language, though he speaks very many, and the crowds everywhere prevent any kind of normal interraction. Nothing makes much sense and the constant overrowding in streets, shops or transport renders every move an ordeal.
It is a brilliant reflection on life in the modern City but also a kafkaesque situation where the protagonist is surrended by absurd or at least a logic he fails to grasp. He succeeds in forging the beginnjng of a relationship with the Lift operating girl at the Hotel but just when it could have been meaningful, it is cut short. Losing even his tenuous thread to normality at the Hotel, chaos arrives with a civil war and vanishes as quickly as it had spread. The ending is a slight let-down after a fantastic tale of trials and surprises, but on the other hand, it leaves the story open to further driftings or interpretations...an excellent modern classic.


The Hypnotist
The Hypnotist
by Lars Kepler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

3.0 out of 5 stars Will not put you under hypnosis!, 10 April 2016
This review is from: The Hypnotist (Paperback)
I waited a long time before reading this well known crime novel, but I don't think I will read another one by this couple-author. It started very strongly, with a teenager who had murdered his whole family (except his sister gone into hiding) and then who managed to escape the hospital where he was treated. It was some very powerful opening chapters. And then, bizarrely, the novel turns around to the past of the Hypnotist, the man who was initially asked to hypnotise the teenager to find out about the family murders. Then, for most of the novel you are brought back 10 years earlier and what happened to that Hypnotist who had sworn never to practice again. The present time is eventually re-joined much later on and by now it is an altogether different kind of plot where the killer-teenager of the beginning has become a marginal sub-plot, disposed of half-way in an unconvincing fashion. All very awkward and bizarre. The plot is so convoluted and frankly over the top, that it can be entertaining yes but also very silly. The authors seem unsure if they want to write 'crime' or plain 'horror'. The final chapters are totally grotesque and morbid. The detective is possibly the oddest detective in Nordic Fiction, very sketchy and unconvincing too. The main protagonist is obviously the Hypnotist of the title, a pill-popping tormented soul perhaps but not exactly riveting. His wife is frankly awful, and then her father is also brought in as extra detective. As the saying goes 'too many cooks spoil the broth'. So all considered I will not be drawn to read the next one in the series.


Hidden Bodies
Hidden Bodies
by Caroline Kepnes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ten stars out of Five: Brilliant!, 4 April 2016
This review is from: Hidden Bodies (Hardcover)
First it needs to be mentionned that Hidden Bodies is the sequel of the excellent You and I do believe it is required to read You first. Hidden Bodies picks up where You stopped and it would be odd to start with this one as the story refers to You all the time. And what a story!! I really thought You would be hard to surpass but it must be said, HB does it! Kepnes is amazing in never ever being predictable. You think you know what's coming but she manages to always twist it in a surprise. The other 'tour-de-force' is to create a total psychopath-stalker who is, well, nearly likeable! (Read and learn LS Hilton with sorry Maestra) -
The reader goes so deep into his mind that in fact, we do understand how he functions, we understand his needs and obsessions, we get why he 'has' to kill, sometimes happily but mostly, reluctantly...And to make a reader care for a sociopath serial killer is...quite a feast! I wouldn't say I 'like' Joe Goldberg but I found myself in this odd position of wanting him to get away with it all, rather than get caught...One of the twist towards the end, when Joe goes back to Little Compton and is in the hotel, left me with my jaw on the floor! That, I didn't see coming and found it simply pure genius. (Can't say more no spoiler)
Granted, HB is a big book and there is some tiny flaws here & there. The long meandering conversations with drunk, drugged Forty I found myself speed-read sometimes. Some sides of the plot could be said to stretch belief (all crime novels do that anyway!) but the murder in Cabo felt a little easy. The writing is done to get the story going and to say it's literary would be lying. There's a Lot of the f-word, but, to be fair, it is in character. The depiction of the Hollywood set is good and Love is totally credible (even at the end!) if you remember that Hollywood does not live by mere mortals rules. In brief, it is a total success, totally satisfying as not many thrillers manage to be, and I hope Joe will be back because yes, unbelievably you find yourself rooting for a serial killer of all people!


Maestra: The Most Shocking Thriller You'll Read This Year
Maestra: The Most Shocking Thriller You'll Read This Year
by L. S. Hilton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.00

32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Maestra? No! Full blown psychopath!, 28 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having had a free copy of this heavily promoted bestseller, I easily gave in to reading it. Marketed as 'Female James Bond meets EL James' it sounded a bit dodgy. Well let's cut through the niceties, there isn't the slightest whiff of James Bond in this dreadful, awful, nasty, narcissist character. EL James, I haven't read but the sex scenes, carefully inserted at regular intervals, are ridiculous. Never read erotica but if 'hard cock meets wet pussy' sends you into a frenzy, well...I don't know. Perhaps some people are very undemanding. Plotwise, what could I say? It's rather 'n'importe quoi' as long as the location is gorgeous enough for the upcoming film. (Bet the rights were sold before it was even written) Read that some readers found the writing 'brilliant'. Well it is written, that's something. (Total trashy books feel like talk noted down) One star for that then. Hilton, or her ghost-writer, took a week or two to actually write it. It is readable, I finished it without trouble. No the problem is everything else. Not sure if you're really supposed to root for the heroine, but you hate her in no time. James Bond always acts for Queen & country and to save the world. That Judith only want to save her skin from an ordinary, simple working life. She despises the mere mortals without her own beauty and brain obviously. Nothing is good or gold enough for her, hence top brands. And god knows we do get the brands like repeated slaps in the face. In fact they must have all sponsored the book in the first place! Wonder which luxury brand could have been omitted? None, as name after name are dropped every two lines. Awful, tacky, vulgar. Then some man of woman in your way? Kill them, so easy. After having had sex with them of course.
I love thrillers & crime novels but never have I read one promoting murder psychopathy in that crude way. Published by powerful Bonnier editions with the loaded marketing ensuing, it is pure product fabrication, definitely more a 'product' than a true novel anyway and a dreadful one. There is SO many good thrillers around I would never recommend this one, though, granted, a real female assassin with good intent is totally missing in the market. This isn't it at all.


Nod
Nod
by Adrian Barnes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good idea but a failed novel., 19 Mar. 2016
This review is from: Nod (Paperback)
Didn't think I would ever read a 'Zombie-horror-apocalypse book, but here I am, read Nod, and that's exactly what it is. Must say, the package, cover mostly, is brilliantly made so that you woud think it quite a literary post-apocalyptic novel. That, it is not alas. The author had a great idea, no denying that, but the problem comes when he tries to bring it to life. Overnight, globally, people cannot sleep anymore, apart from a tiny few, to which the narrator, Paul belongs. His girlfriend Tanya is an Awaken & in no time things fall apart. The wifi being suspected to be the main culprit, it is cut-off, hence, in the blink of an eye, all normal life stops and chaos reigns. So obviously, it wasn't just the wifi. All Vancouver natives return to primal instincts & the local tramp becomes the New Leader. Conveniently, Paul is the Prophet as he wrote an unpublished novel 'Nod' where what happens was predicted. Lucky, otherwise he would have been killed promptly by the Awaken who are full of sleep-envy. And it goes on there, from silly to even more silly, Seattle being 'nuked' in passing by a ship of drifting sailors. I mean, personally, I would have marketed the book as Young Adult, as it fits the category perfectly but for full adult...it falls short on all sides. The characters are paper-thin, don't even mention 'psychology', the plot is beyond idiotic unless you're not demanding at all, and all the grotesque belongs without a doubt to the Zombie genre. Being a short book, I read it all but 'enjoying' it, no. I still give it 3 stars because I think it would suit very well as YA or Horror. But not literary fiction in any way. There is many fantastic literary post-apocalyptic novels: the Road, Station Eleven, the Possibility of an Island, etc...but Nod does not come anywhere close, even if it wishes!


The Improbability of Love: SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
The Improbability of Love: SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
by Hannah Rothschild
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent feast for the reader., 13 Mar. 2016
You could be misled by the title into believing this story to be a light, cheerful romance in the art world. Not a bit. The romance side, as there is one of course, is kept very low-key but the main axis of the novel is a lost and found painting by the French roccoco XVIIIth century artist Watteau. The painting is the center-piece of it all and even has its own voice in some very amusing chapters. When young chef Annie happens to buy it in a bric-a-brac, little does she suspect how much this little masterpiece will affect and change her life. From then on cascade a series of events, some very dark indeed...
This novel is a pure delight to read, a firework of a story that never stops giving. Narrated with great brio, colour and panache, it skilfully covers the cynical manipulations of the Art world, the naked greed of the Russian oligarths, the torments of a gifted young chef and much more...A wonderful bouquet, a novel that inspires you to run straight after to the nearest art gallery or museum. I was, I must admit a little suspicious at first, considering that the name Rothschild is hardly unknown, but no worry, it is a genuine feast for the reader!


Le Passager
Le Passager
by Jean-Christophe Grange
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £12.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Passable Passager., 22 Feb. 2016
I had not read a Grange's novel for quite a while and perhaps I had forgotten the level of 'suspended-belief' he requires, but here I found the requirement stretched to its maximum. It is a lengthy thriller where the main protagonist keeps switching identities trying to recover his true and original one but I would say that if Grange had spared us one or two 'identities' the novel would not have suffered too much and would have avoided some fatigue. That said, it is overall very good, very readable and great fun. (But never ever forget to suspend your disbelief otherwise it will come crashing silly.) The heroine, failed detective, disappointed daughter, is a little annoying with lots of moaning, problems, headaches and frustrated sexual appetites, but you get use to her eventually. The plot is obviously ridiculous, full of incoherence and impossibilities but who read Grange for logic and rational? I found it a bit too flat and not as crazy and exciting as some other of his thrillers, and considering the bulk, that can be a downside. Also definitely a deflated, flat ending after such build-up.


Our Endless Numbered Days
Our Endless Numbered Days
by Claire Fuller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spellbinding modern fairy-tale, 4 Jan. 2016
I awaited the paperback version with impatience and was not disappointed! This is brilliant storytelling, the kind of book you feel sorry to finish. Engaging from the very beginning, the plot is simply enthralling up to the very end. I think what I enjoyed most was the spellbinding atmosphere all through, like a modern fairy tale. From London to the depth of a forest in a remote corner of Bavaria, the brothers Grimm are never far! I won't repeat the story summary, well told in other reviews, but add that yes, what is perhaps supposed to come as a 'twist' at the end is hardly one, but even if you guess what really goes on, it does not take away any of the pleasure of reading this amazing adventure. This is an absolute gem of a first novel, one I cannot recommend enough!


M Train
M Train
by Patti Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful., 13 Nov. 2015
This review is from: M Train (Hardcover)
As if I could pretend to 'review' Patti Smith! This is not a review but an appreciation. I loved the M Train. Of course I did. Can Patti Smith ever put a foot wrong? It seems not. Her music and poems have long escorted my life but, first with Just Kids and now here, she proves she really can write. Not that I ever doubted it, but there is an ease, a quality in detail, a vivid evocation of the most anecdotal or the painting/reaching of subtle thoughts and emotions, that can only transport with joy when reading it all. In the M Train, she writes as the true poet she is. She talks about all and everything. But always through the medium of her present, daily life, haunted by memories, loves, books, people and...coffee. Lots of coffee drinking. It is simply wonderful. A permanent enchantment. A book you wish would never finish. Like a friend narrating an hypnotic tale, that you never want to end. I read somewhere that she said she loved her mind. I am not surprised. It is a rare and beautiful mind, and with this book, it is a privilege for us to discover parts of it and of its mysteries. She is definitely a strange person as all true poets are. She reads the world in a very spiritual, enigmatic way, seeing links and connections where no else would see anything. You learn odd and amusing things about her, like this bizarre society dedicated to a long gone explorer, she belongs to. She travels to Japan like it's the other side of the city, to gather some inspiration. Prompted by a book by Murakami or else. She comes to London only to lock herself into an hotel and to watch non-stop itv crime shows. She is free and makes use of that freedom to the upmost. She dreams of buying a run-down bungalow by the coast, and bam, as it happens it is up for sale. Sadly a tornado soon after ravages the coast and everything along it, but the bungalow survives more or less. It is a book of surfaces and depths. A walk with a genius, a fine mind taking you along in its meandering. Not everyone will follow and be entranced, but if you are on the same wavelength, what a treat, what an extraordinary gift to readers, what a rare journey into a poet's world...Sincerely hoping that Patti Smith has more like this one up her magician's sleeve!


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