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Something to Hide
Something to Hide
by Deborah Moggach
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.69

4.0 out of 5 stars A book about love and lies, 3 July 2015
This review is from: Something to Hide (Hardcover)
The beginning of this book introduces three characters who seem ordinary people, living everyday lives, facing challenges which we or our family/friends/neighbours are facing every day. What is there about them that could possibly be of interest to me? But Deborah Moggach draws me into their stories until I read late into the night.
The Prologue is set in Africa, the plot revolves around Africa though not always in an obvious way. Don’t read the ‘Dear Reader’ letter from Moggach at the front of the book, save it until you’ve finished reading. That way, you will turn the page, drawn into the story of each woman - Lorrie in the USA, Jing and her husband in China, Petra in London – wondering how they can possibly be connected. Their situations are universal and Moggach demonstrates how globally connected we are these days, globally similar despite our assumptions and generalizations about things we know nothing about. But at the end of the day, it is a book about those universal things: love and lies.
This is a thoughtful book, with dramatic settings. I can certainly see it as a film.
Read more of my book reviews at my blog http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


The Girls
The Girls
Price: £6.02

4.0 out of 5 stars I finished this in two sittings, 3 July 2015
This review is from: The Girls (Kindle Edition)
It’s a long time since I read a Lisa Jewell novel. I loved her first, ‘Ralph’s Party’, which still sits on my bookshelf along with four of her other books. I gave up reading somewhere about ‘Vince and Joy’, turned off by the pink chick lit branding and feeling that I had grown-up beyond the subject matter.
Then I heard that ‘The Girls’ was ‘something different’, and it is. Satisfying dark, mysterious, unspoken danger lurks above the heads of the girls – Grace and Pip. The setting is outwardly comforting: a communal garden surrounded by houses and apartments, where residents mingle and have barbecues together, where children roam safe from roads and strangers. But are they safe? And what is the threat?
The two girls and their mother move to an empty apartment after the family home is burnt down by their father. He is now in psychiatric care, they lost all their belongings and walk cautiously into this cliquey community where everyone seems to know everyone else. Grace and Pip unknowingly trample onto secrets and the dynamics of teenage relationships, their mother Clare stumbles around the edge of tangled adult relationships, struggling to be there for her daughters while dealing with the betrayal of her husband. And at the centre of daily life is the garden, the hub of the wheel around which this community turns.
Then one hot summer’s day, Grace’s 13th birthday, it all comes to a head.
I finished this in two sittings, reading late into the night. A satisfying family thriller with hints of the truth and plenty of dodgy things to be suspicious about.
Read more of my book reviews at my blog http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


Snow White Must Die
Snow White Must Die
Price: £3.59

3.0 out of 5 stars A potent mixture of past and present, lies and threats, 3 July 2015
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A tight-knit community where everyone looks out for each other, bound together by past tragedy. Into this walks Tobias, released from prison after serving his sentence for murdering two teenage girls. In the village where he grew up, where the two girls died. This is a potent mixture of past and present, lies and threats, the truth never went away but there will be more deaths before the full story is known.
This is the first German thriller I have read, and Nele Neuhaus is a new author for me. This was no more difficult to adjust to than reading a Swedish thriller, yes the names are different but the story pulled me along and I cared about what happened to Tobias, Amelie and Thies. Nothing is what it seems.
Detectives Pia Kirchoff and Oliver von Bodenstein bring their own personal hang-ups to the investigation, as is always the case with modern detectives. For me, it was the line-up of characters in the village which was fascinating. Lie is layered on lie: the doctor, the actress, the businessman, the politician, and twenty-somethings who were all teenagers when the murders happened.
The village closes ranks so Kirchoff and van Bodenstein must figure out a way to break down the barriers.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


All My Puny Sorrows
All My Puny Sorrows
by Miriam Toews
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Do not ignore this book because you think it will be depressing, 22 Jun. 2015
This review is from: All My Puny Sorrows (Paperback)
This is a novel about depression, suicide, death, broken families, love and music. Yes, it is sad, but it is also laugh-out-loud in places. Canadian writer Mirian Toews drew heavily on her own experiences in the writing of All My Puny Sorrows, and that depth of empathy shines from every page. Do not ignore this book because you think it will be depressing: it is uplifting, and you will feel sad to finish it.
The story centres on sisters Yolandi and Elfrieda von Riesen. Elf, the elder, is a concert pianist. Yoli writes the Rodeo Rhonda teen novels. Elf’s story – and that of the family of women surrounding the two sisters, their mother, their aunt, Yoli’s daughter, their friends - is told by Yoli. “When we were kids she would occasionally let me be her page-turner for the fast pieces that she hadn’t memorized. Page turning is a particular art. I had to be just ahead of her in the music and move like a snake when I turned the page so there was no crinkling and no sticking and no thwapping. Her words.”
We do not hear Elf’s inner voice except in excerpts from letters and poems. What we do have is Yoli’s contemplation of Elf’s request to be taken to Switzerland to end her own life. No judgements are made although Yoli runs through every gamut of emotion from sorrow to guilt to anger to exasperation to despair. She loves her sister and does not want to lose her, but if her sister is so unhappy then how can she not help her? Is Elf's wish not hugely selfish, does she not care for the feelings of those she will leave behind? Anyone who has been close to someone with a long-term illness will recognise many of the healthcare situations and Yoli’s many meltdowns with medical authority.
It is a sad, poignant book which made me laugh out loud.
All My Puny Sorrows was shortlisted for The Folio Prize 2015 and I totally understand why.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


Shroud for a Nightingale (Inspector Adam Dalgliesh Mystery)
Shroud for a Nightingale (Inspector Adam Dalgliesh Mystery)
by P. D. James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars An atmospheric setting for a murder story involving young emotional women, 22 Jun. 2015
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This is the fourth Adam Dalgliesh book, published in 1971, and the first I read. It was the beginning of a love affair with PD James and following her recent death, I decided to re-read them all.
The Nightingale in question is not Florence but Nightingale House, a nursing school at John Carpendar Hospital, Heatheringfield. At a student demonstration of patient feeding by intra-gastric tube, the nurse who substitutes as the patient dies a ghastly death. It is assumed to be an accident. When a second student nurse is found dead in her bed, her whisky nightcap the assumed culprit, Adam Dalgliesh is called in from Scotland Yard.
Like all James detective books, this is a complex mixture of observation of human behaviour, intricate plotting, detailed description, and totally believable characters. This is how Alderman Kealey is introduced, he, “looked as perky as a terrier. He was a ginger-haired, foxy little man, bandy as a jockey and wearing a plaid suit, the awfulness of its pattern emphasized by the excellence of its cut. It gave him an anthropomorphic appearance, like an animal in a children’s comic; and Dalgliesh almost expected to find himself shaking a paw.”
The brooding Victorian pile which is Nightingale House, set amongst woods which are rumoured to be haunted, is an atmospheric setting for a murder story involving young emotional women. So when there are more attacks and a fire, it somehow seems inevitable given the setting.
Did I work out the identity of the murderer? I had an early suspicion which I then forgot as I became involved in the various possibilities which Dalgliesh explores. PD James’s books are not formula whodunits, this story incorporates medical procedure, World War Two, ballroom dancing, blackmail. The story twists and turns as we see events unfold through different points of view though whether the truth is being withheld we do not know until the end.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
by Karen Joy Fowler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars An irritating unreliable narrator, 15 Jun. 2015
If you can, read this book without reading any reviews or comments beforehand. There is a mammoth twist, which is best avoided. I am one of the lucky few who didn’t read a spoiler before I started reading, I knew only that it was about sibling love. But even so, I did spot the surprise way before it happened, and consequently then read on waiting for the ‘twist’ promised on the cover. Which left me a little deflated. I don’t know why, I expected the twist to be near the end.
This is a very clever story, packed with philosophy, contemporary references such as Star Wars to Korean vocabulary. Rose is a student, looking back at her childhood and the disappearances, at different times, of her sister Fern and her brother Lowell. The story darts around the timeline and Rose tells different versions of her life story as she comes to terms with her life so far. Mostly this method of storytelling worked for me, but on a few occasions I admit to losing patience with Rose who I found an irritating unreliable narrator. I kept reading because the story is unusual, but my incredulity was stretched at times.
The best bit? The very last paragraph makes it worthwhile reading on, but I can’t say it’s a book I enjoyed.
Read more of my book reviews at my blog http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


Wilderness (Arbogast trilogy Book 1)
Wilderness (Arbogast trilogy Book 1)
Price: £0.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Explores the world of trafficking and paedophilia, 5 Jun. 2015
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A blizzard, wild Scottish countryside, bleak landscape. A disappearance. Old rumours.

This is an accomplished debut crime novel by an experienced journalist. Campbell Hart has written a novel set in Glasgow, a place he obviously knows well as it comes alive off the page. His policeman, Detective Inspector John J Arbogast, fits the profile of detectives in crime novels today: he drinks, is politically incorrect but has his soft side. When he goes to a lap dancing joint, little does he realize he will be back there shortly. On duty.

The story opens with a bitter winter, -14 degrees, Celsius and a snow storm. A bus is diverted off the motorway. The last two passengers on board – a woman and young girl – and the bus driver, go missing in the blizzard. And then a local farmer and his son, clearing the road with their tractor, trying to help the stranded bus, find something they didn’t expect. Wilderness explores the world of trafficking and paedophilia as the story traverses from Glasgow to a remote farm and to Turkey, in 2010 and back in time when three young Turkish teenagers are on the cusp of adulthood.

An accomplished debut. If I am being a bit nit-picky, I would suggest another copy-edit is needed – just a few punctuation errors, but nothing that stopped me enjoying the story. Pleased to see this will be a series.

The second book in the series featuring DI John J Arbogast, The Nationalist is coming soon.

Read more of my book reviews at my blog http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


A Mind to Murder (Inspector Adam Dalgliesh Mystery)
A Mind to Murder (Inspector Adam Dalgliesh Mystery)
by P. D. James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars A trifle slow-moving at times, 3 Jun. 2015
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A private clinic, psychiatrists and their patients: potent territory for a crime novelist. The clinic administrator is found murdered in the basement archive, a chisel through her heart. The potential murderer must be within the clinic’s staff and as they set about analysing each other’s alibis and motives, Commander Adam Dalgliesh arrives from a literary party.
A classic PD James, although for me a trifle slow-moving at times as the layout and routines of the clinic are necessarily explored. The culprit? An early suspect I had barely considered. Dalgliesh’s task is complicated by office politics, blackmail, love affairs and ambition.
Read more of my book reviews at my blog http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


Marking Time: Cazalet Chronicles Book 2 (The Cazalet Chronicle)
Marking Time: Cazalet Chronicles Book 2 (The Cazalet Chronicle)
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Balancing on the edge of war, 1 Jun. 2015
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September 2, 1939: Germany has invaded Poland and, for the Cazalet family in London and Sussex, war seems imminent. The story is told from 1939 to 1941 from the viewpoints of three Cazalet cousins, teenagers Polly, Louise and Clary. Marking Time is second in the five-book series The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
We see them growing up quickly, forced to face war and death before their time, watch their parents struggle with ordinary life and relationships and health crises which continue despite the fighting. One day a German bomber crashes into a nearby field and Christopher, a pacifist, runs out to prevent the local men from shooting the injured Germans. Afterwards, Polly and Christopher go for a walk. Polly thinks “how odd it was that when one wanted everything to be good with somebody, one started not telling them everything.” They come to understand that their parents are not just parents, but people too with their own feelings and worries. Polly wonders if “concealment and deceit were a necessary part of human relationships. Because if they were, she was going to be pretty bad at them.”
Louise is at acting school but struggles to play a character ‘in lust’ as she’s a virgin and unsure of the finer details. Then she meets a painter. Clary continues in Sussex, having lessons with Polly and growing to like and respect their tutor Miss Milliment, but she worries about her younger brother Neville who runs away from prep school. And all the time, the adults keep secrets.
Read more of my book reviews at my blog http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


Homeland (Pb)
Homeland (Pb)
by Clare Francis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars This is a quiet tale with a slow burn, 24 May 2015
This review is from: Homeland (Pb) (Paperback)
No, not the American TV series about Carrie Mathison and Nicholas Brody, the thriller by British author Clare Francis. Francis is a proficient thriller writer, but it is some years since I last read one of her books: until I picked one at random off my shelf one day.
Homeland is set after World War Two in the quiet rural corner of England that is the Somerset Levels. A land of rising and ebbing water levels, and unworldly place of withies and willows. Into this walks Billy Greer on his return from the war, going back to the house of his uncle and aunt where he spent the difficult teenage years before the war. There, he finds the house and farm in disarray, his uncle dramatically aged, and his aunt upstairs confined to bed after a stroke. And he meets again the woman who made his spine tingle when they were both teenagers.
Will he stay to rebuild the farm, or will he go to the promised job in London. And what of Annie, the local girl he could not forget while he fought his way around Europe?
Underlying the telling of Billy’s story is that of the Polish soldiers, in a holding camp while they await either return to Poland or settlement in the UK. It is a difficult decision: their beloved country is unrecognizable and run by the Soviet Union, but they do not feel 100% welcome in England. Wladyslaw, a literature student who left university to join the Polish army, is an intellectual and a dreamer. But he takes a job working for Billy Greer, helping to set the rundown farm to rights. And there he meets local schoolteacher Stella who agrees to give him English lessons.
This feels like a quiet tale - and it is not a thriller in the ‘spy story’ definition – but it is a story which kept me turning the pages. There are many uncertainties: the future of the Poles, the various love triangles, locals and immigrants living alongside each other without a common language with inevitable arguments and misunderstandings. The denouement is not what I expected.
Having loved this, I now want to re-read Clare Francis’ other books.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/


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