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Hurting Distance: Culver Valley Crime Book 2
Hurting Distance: Culver Valley Crime Book 2
Price: 5.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging story, till it got bonkers, 12 Aug 2012
This is an interesting novel and my first by Sophie Hannah, which was given to me by a friend.

The female characters are well drawn and believable but she doesn't quite pull off the male characters. My biggest gripe is the central relationship between Naomi and Robert. We're told Naomi is a successful, intelligent, independent businesswoman, but are then expected to believe she'd be head over heels with Robert, a dull, predictable lorry driver, who admits he's too spineless to leave his wife and only sees Naomi for three hours a week in a grotty motorway hotel. He even folds his clothes before they have sex. It doesn't convince.

It's a brave move to make the main female character so disagreeable. I didn't like Naomi and found the opening chapter, narrated by her, to be stilted. Had I read it in a bookshop, I'd have put it back without buying. It warmed up as it went on and as the story progressed I found Naomi interesting, if a little annoying but I didn't really care about any of the characters.

The central mystery kept me going but once the secrets began getting revealed and the motives became clearer, it got more and more far-fetched. Particularly Zailer's wildly unprofessional behaviour, her cavalier and unethical treatment of a rape victim and the reasoning for the crimes. Conveniently, there was never a solicitor present during their Life on Mars style interrogations of the victims/suspects and anyway, the suspects would never spill the beans so comprehensively while barely being prompted. They might as well have said 'It's a fair cop, guv' and held out their wrists for the handcuffs.

It didn't ring true on many levels, especially the way the victims were targeted - from a criminal's viewpoint, it just didn't add up. Zailer said there were no coincidences but there were, particularly with her personal involvement with the case, which I won't spell out as it would spoil the story. To quote Naomi, `There are too many connections, too many links that are wrong.' I couldn't agree more. The story collapsed because it wan't believable and it was as if the main character was being put in perilous situations for the sake of making it a thriller, which is a shame when the writing is good.

I don't usually read police detective novels so maybe I'm not your standard reader of this sort of novel, but I found the will-they-won't-they storyline about Zailer and her male colleague decidedly clichéd and unoriginal. I assume the other novels in the series follow the same style and spin out the non-existent romance, but I was already tired of it after one book in the series.

I admire Sophie Hannah's writing, this book had a page turning quality and the psychology is interesting but the plot is ludicrous. I'll check reviews of her other novels and see if she's written anything more grounded in reality.

The Wicked Girls
The Wicked Girls
by Alex Marwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.43

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fantastic book, if a little flawed, 26 July 2012
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This review is from: The Wicked Girls (Paperback)
It's been a while since I've read a book this good. I've read a few that were supposed to be this good, but they turned out over-rated, not this one though. It's that rare thing: fantastic storytelling, believable characters, dialogue you can almost hear, all wrapped up in a cracking good plot.

Alex Marwood is a talented writer who has a way with words, so no surprise she is a journalist, writing under a pen name. I never lost track of where we were and where we were being taken, despite the story switching between the lives of two different characters, who are inextricably linked, and flicking between past and present. It's expertly handled.

The story is set up nicely from the start. There's been a murder way back, now there's a serial killer on the loose, and the paths of the two so-called wicked girls of the title cross again. Two or three potential murderers are presented to us early on, and I guessed who it was a few chapters in (which isn't like me), and their motivation not long after that, but even so, it was cleverly done and didn't spoil my enjoyment.

A book hasn't moved me to tears for a long time, but this one did, with a heart-wrenching scene that I won't give away. The author is very good at creating tension, then cranking it up. It's scattered with ironies, some cruel, others bittersweet. Some of the gritty reality is hard to take, especially the dynamic of Amber and Vile Vic, but before it gets uber-dark towards the end, the humour carries it through, along with the humanity of the more likeable characters in a cast that came straight from real life. The only exception is the snobbish mother of one of the two girls who is a caricature.

Great that it's so current, with references to riots, phone hacking and News of the World reporters being out of work. Given the author's profession, it's surprising the facts weren't better researched and this was one of a few downsides that niggled and took it down a notch from a 5 star rating:

* The way the female nightworkers seemed unperturbed about a young woman being murdered and her body dumped at their workplace - no fear for their own safety, even though one of them had a stalker. Even more unrealistic, the female reporter walks the streets alone late at night after doing research on the murder story at a nightclub, straight after attracting the attention of two creeps, one of whom had been following her. And she sets off without a thought for her safety. It was done for dramatic tension, but even so. A drunk teenager might have done that but not a professional, married, mother of two children.
* No mention of either of the child murderers having had CRB checks done on them for their jobs, even though both are working with the public and particularly as one starts off working day shifts at a funfair. And strange that their partners weren't informed of their past by the authorities, seeing as they were out on licence. And at least one of them should have been granted anonymity to protect her own children.
* There are quite a few howlers in terms of legal issues and police procedures but to list them would need a spoiler alert.

Despite all that, it drips with authenticity. It's a great read that draws you in and grabs hold of your interest. I hope the author keeps up the standard and writes more of this calibre. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View
Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View
Price: 2.72

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's only 64 pages!, 22 Jun 2012
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I was a bit miffed after reading the first few pages on my Kindle and noticing I was already 12% through. It's the fastest book I've ever read, except it's not really a book, it's only a fifth of the length, which is reflected in the price.

- It's a useful POV how-to, particularly in relation to fixing show/tell mistakes, and goes into more detail than I've seen in other writing books.
- The author expertly brings the subject to life with lots of examples.
- The exercises are helpful, especially ones for changing passages of text from shallow POV (bad) to deep (good).

- The formatting issues and typos make it harder to accept the writing advice on offer.
- I'd have preferred a few examples from authors we might have heard of, instead of passages from her own writing, which illustrate the point but aren't inspiring.

Niggles aside, I recommend it if you struggle with `show don't tell': the advice is sound, well delivered and easy to apply. Plus you can read it in one sitting!

by Rosamund Lupton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.86

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing follow up to Sister, 28 April 2012
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This review is from: Afterwards (Paperback)
I loved Sister, RL's first novel, so was keen to give this one a go. unfortunately it struck me as contrived and unrealistic from the start. The main character's oldest daughter was the first aider at the school sports day. As such, she was required to sit in the first aid room on the second floor of the school, so plot-wise, she was conveniently trapped when fire broke out. Really? Why would the first aider be waiting on the second floor? She'd be by the side of the sports field. And one wonders why a school first aid room wouldn't be more conveniently located.

When thriller plots don't ring true, the whole novel loses credibility, that said, there are lots of rave reviews so plenty of readers don't mind. I'd recommend Sister, but not this one.

Pet Step Light
Pet Step Light

3.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, if a little flimsy, 20 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Pet Step Light (Misc.)
I got this for my Jack Russell who isn't as springy as he once was. It's fine for getting him where he wants to go but the steps have to be firmly wedged against the piece of furniture he's climbing onto otherwise it would tip over. I'd hoped to have it sideways on to take up less room, but that isn't possible for the sake of keeping it stabilised. It's handy and lightweight though.

Before I Go To Sleep
Before I Go To Sleep
by S J Watson
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant plot, shame it wasn't better written, 20 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Before I Go To Sleep (Hardcover)
I was really taken by the premise of the novel and the intrigue surrounding Christine's 'Don't trust Ben' note in her journal. The first chapter did a brilliant job of setting the scene and pulling the reader in to the story.

Further in, I found it too claustrophobic and repetitive, like Groundhog Day but worse. Maybe it was the lack of characters, since mostly there's just Christine, Ben and the doctor. Still, I wanted to know why Ben was being so saintly about her condition yet withholding treatment that might allow her memory to return.

Towards the end I did something I've never done before with a novel - I got fed up and flicked through to the ending as soon as it became clear 'whodunit'. Had the writing been better I would have read it avidly, but I felt the characterisation was weak and not much was done to endear Christine to the reader. I didn't care much about her. I was also irritated by the lack of realism: the way Dr Nash seemed to have so much spare time and could drop everything to pop over for coffee and chats, and how she managed to write all those journal entries in the evenings without her husband noticing. It just didn't ring true.

Overall, it's a clever plot and a great (if contrived) ending, but the novel is let down by the mediocre writing. It's a long way from being the best debut novel ever - as has been said on the cover and elsewhere - but if you like page turners and you're not one to let realism get in the way of a good yarn then give it a go. For much better novel debuts in a similar genre, try Sister by Rosamund Lupton or After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell.
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