Review of ‘Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble’ by Alexis Hall

Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown for the ARC of this book.

I enjoyed this feel good romance between a couple of contestants on a cooking show which is basically The Great British Bake Off. It is the second book in a series set in this world. I have not read the first book and I don’t think you need to have to enjoy this book. Other than a couple of passing mentions of characters from the previous book, it seems to be a standalone story.

The main character, Paris, has severe anxiety issues. I did think it was unlikely that someone with such clear mental health issues would be allowed to participate in a reality TV programme, but maybe I am just naive. I believe Nadiya Hussain, who actually won bake-off, had a history of panic attacks and agoraphobia.

Paris has a romance with another competitor called Tariq. Tariq is a genuinely lovely character to the extent that I wasn’t sure that you should route for their relationship because he deserves someone perfect for him who doesn’t have the sort of issues that Paris has. Paris is very self-absorbed and barely able to function as a human being sometimes. However, I think the author allows for enough realistic personal growth in both characters to just about pull off the required feel good happy ending.

The romance is very clean, because Tariq does not believe in sex before marriage, so there is nothing more graphic than kissing. This, combined, with the baking show setting makes for a sweet and cosy read in spite of the exploration of severe mental health issues.

Review of ‘Part of Your World’ by Abby Jimenez

Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown for the ARC of this book.

This is an enjoyable romance with a very familiar premise; big town career lady falls for hunky, impossibly perfect, small town carpenter, but how can they have a future when they come from two such different worlds?

It’s very predictable and the resolution to the couple’s issues is obvious throughout the book. However, the journey to the inevitable conclusion is fun. I especially enjoyed the depiction of the the lead male, Daniel, who is considerate, forgiving, cooks, cleans and is perfect in every way. It’s amusing the impossible standards for men who romance novels set. The book also benefits from covering the more serious topic of abusive relationships in a sensitive way which adds depth to the basic narrative.

Review of ‘A Fatal Crossing’ by Tom Hindle

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for the ARC of this book.

The first 90% of this book reads like a very standard and derivative Golden Age crime novel in the vein of Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, where a slightly hapless person follows a detective trying to solve a crime in a fixed location. In this case, an art dealer has been killed on board a transatlantic ship voyage from England to America in the 1920s and his murder is investigated by a policeman from Scotland Yard followed around by a ship’s officer.

Despite feeling derivative, it’s very readable, familiar and comfortable . The last 10% has a very modern twist, which I was not completely convinced by. It’s probably necessary in order for the book to not solely be Golden Age pastiche, but I found the ending a little frustrating because it does not completely resolve whether the actions which happen in the twist were effective in what the character involved was trying to achieve.

All in all, it’s an easy, fun read but doesn’t really have anything to raise it above any of the other 1920s murder mysteries out there.

Review of ‘A Twist of the Knife’ by Anthony Horowitz

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC of this book.

This is the fourth installment in Horowitz’s detective series where he places himself as one of the lead characters and writes as though he is the author following around and reporting on detective Daniel Hawthorne as he solves crimes. I really enjoy this series, it’s such a clever concept and works well to draw you into the narrative.

I think this is an excellent addition to the series. There’s less focus on Horowitz trying to figure out Hawthorne’s backstory and more on the action surrounding Horowitz, who in this book is the main murder suspect, after a theatre critic who gives him a bad review is murdered. I find that more fun as I’m not as invested as Horowitz is in knowing Hawthorne’s story.

The conclusion is purposely mimicking a Poirot book with limited suspects gathered together while the detective explains who did it and goes through all the clues you should have spotted in the course of reading the book.

It’s a delightfully fun and easy read which touches upon a couple of more serious issues such as cultural appropriation and the use of young offender’s institutions in the UK. I highly recommend this series and eagerly await the next offering.

Review of “You’ll Be the Death of Me” by Karen M McManus

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

I’ve really enjoyed Karen McManus’s other books, but this one didn’t quite live up to the others. The action basically takes place in a single day, which should give it pace and action, but it felt meandering and inconsequential.

It’s hard to care about characters who make such terrible decisions. For example they discover a dead body and rather than calling an ambulance/the police, they run away leading themselves into all sorts of unnecessary trouble.

The ending is also very strange, it ends very abruptly, so I imagine it is setting up a sequel, but there didn’t seem to be enough meat on the bones of the original story to warrant drawing it out any further.

Review of “Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell

Thanks to NetGalley and Pan MacMillan for the ARC of this book.

I have been trying to read this book for 6 years. I found it really hard to get into. The beginning reads like it’s picking up in the middle of a series and you haven’t started with the first book. You have to read about 40% of the book before the lead character even has a conversation with his love interest.

It was easier to read once Baz, the love interest, turned up. His point of view is more interesting than the lead, Simon. He is more self-aware and there is more action once he arrives.

It’s a shame because I thought ‘Eleanor and Park’ by the same author was perfection, so I know Rowell can write a beautiful, well contained, sublime love story but this book felt self-indulgent and rambling by comparison. I don’t think fantasy is her forte.

Review of “The Match” by Harlan Coben

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC of this book.

This is the second in Harlan Coben’s series featuring lead character Wilde and supporting characters from his other series. I love Coben’s writing but I don’t think Wilde is his best protagonist, his backstory is a bit ridiculous.

I was pleased that the book gives us some resolution as to how Wilde ended up abandoned in the woods as a child, even if didn’t entirely make sense.

As usual, this book featured some interesting current hot topics, such as DNA matching sites and online fame. Parts of the story were fun and intriguing and parts were a bit far-fetched.

I really enjoy Hester Crimstein’s no nonsense attorney character. The other supporting characters also help to make Wilde more relatable.

Review of ‘Her Every Fear’ but Peter Swanson

Thanks to NetGalley and Faber & Faber for the ARC of this book.

The book follow Kate an anxious English woman with a traumatic past who does a house swap with her American cousin, Corbin, and goes to stay in his expensive Boston apartment. Soon one of her neighbours turns up dead things take a dark turn.

I found this book a bit more difficult to get into than other Peter Swanson books, but once I got past the beginning few chapters, I managed to get into it. I’m not overly fond of neurotic protagonists and they tend to make stupid decisions. However, Kates neurosis was validated as pretty much every man in this book turns out to be a psychopath.

The story is fairly far-fetched, but I did enjoy the setting. This felt like one of Peter Swanson’s more pedestrian efforts and lacked his usual twists and surprises.

Review of ‘The Man who Died Twice’ by Richard Osman

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

I didn’t think Richard Osman’s first book in his Thursday Murder Club was great, but I thought I’d give the second book a chance because the first book was so popular, I thought maybe I’d missed something. Unfortunately, I found the second book suffered from all the same issues as the first.

Osman writes with some beautiful touches of gentle observational humour which make you smile; he is clearly infatuated with his characters, his characterisation is strong and you get a really good sense of them, especially the old ladies. The problem, however, is the plot. I felt both books lacked a compelling narrative. There is nothing propulsive about the plot, it meanders along and in both books I just didn’t care about the outcome. This really is an issue in a mystery book.

There doesn’t ever feel like there are consequences to any of the events. I think five people are shot dead in this book and their deaths are largely met with a shrug of the shoulders or the other characters feeling it’s jolly good fun to be surrounded by all this death. The heroes of the book commit crimes left, right and centre; framing someone, withholding evidence, stealing evidence, lying to the authorities, purchasing drugs etc. and it seems we are supposed to find this endearing. Why should we care about who has committed one crime, if the people investigating it are perpetually committing other crimes? They are no better than the villains.

Judging by the hype around this book, I am in the minority in being underwhelmed by these books. I’m sure this will continue to be a wildly popular and successful series, I’m just not sure why. It probably has something to do with the excellent marketing. The books are beautiful and very current. The titles are catchy, although the title of this book has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, it’s just a throwaway line from what is essentially the epilogue. I wonder if this series would have been published if it were not written by a celebrity.

Review of ‘My Sweet Revenge’ by Jane Fallon

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

I’m not entirely sure about how I feel about this book. On the one hand it’s a very readable, twisty, fun book. On the other hand all the characters are awful to each other and behave in utterly unbelievable ways. It’s very hard to suspend your disbelief and fully immerse yourself in the story when the characters’ actions are so unlikely.

The book follows Paula, an overweight, depressed woman who discovers her husband is cheating on her. Rather than confronting him, she concocts a ridiculous revenge plan to lose weight, make her husband love her again and then break his heart. Therefore, she pretends for months that she does not know the affair is going on. Who does that?

I could just about accept that as a plot but then a huge twist happens and turns out she’s not the only one manipulating the situation and it was all too much.

However, Jane Fallon, has a viciously humorous voice, so I’ll definitely try another of her books.

EDIT: Since then I’ve read ‘Faking Friends’ by Jane Fallon which has almost exactly the same premise, of a woman enacting revenge on her partner and his mistress by lying to them for months. It made me wonder if all Jane Fallon books are convoluted revenge fantasies? Turns out, I don’t really like the idea of revenge, I just want to tell these poor, vengeful women to cut their losses and move on with their lives.

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