Review of Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz

Thanks the NetGalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for the ARC of this book.

This is the third book in the Orphan X trilogy. I’m not sure why I keep reading these books. The first one was ridiculous, the second was even more ridiculous and it’s clear from the end of this book that the series is heading into beyond ridiculous high-level conspiracy territory.

I picked up this book hoping to discover the fate of Jack which was left dangling at the end of the last book, fortunately this is disclosed almost immediately. I was also hoping this book might tie up the series and that Evan and Mia could finally settle down and be happy together and I could stop reading this series, alas this did not happen; this is clearly one of those series which is going to drag on and on and milk its premise (a silly Jason Bourne rip-off) for all it is worth.

I think I should probably stop reading the series anyway. It’s not that these books are bad; they are standard by numbers thrillers with overblown repetitive descriptions (do I really need to know the make of every gun and car?) and unsubtle emotional language; but I’m sure they meet the needs of their target audience, I’m just pretty positive that’s not me.

What’s puts me off the most is the way this book revels in its descriptions of violence, the main character Evan is basically a killing machine and in this book is responsible for at least 50 deaths and the glee the book feels when describing these is just wrong. I also really object to the awful leery language used to describe the female character Candy, she is the sum of all her physical parts and I feel queasy whenever I read a passage describing her. I really think contemporary books, even with a male focus, should do better with this.

Farewell Orphan X, may I reread this review if I’m ever tempted to pick up another book in this series.

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Review of ‘One Of Us is Lying’ by Karen M. McManus

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

This book is a blast! I had so much fun reading it. I was so worried when it started with 5 stereotyped teens entering detention that it would be a dismal, unnecessary retelling of ‘The Breakfast Club’; but then one of the kids dies and immediately I knew I was in safe hands.

It’s a teen murder mystery set in an American high school with really likeable characters and a sweet unbelievable romance. My favourite element was the transformation of the character Addy from clingy girlfriend to independent girl who realises it’s better to be alone that be with a man who won’t let you be yourself.

I guessed two thirds of the solution to the crime but there was one element I didn’t see coming. I really enjoyed the whole book and would love to read more by this author. 

Review of ‘Force of Nature’ by Jane Harper

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

I read ‘The Dry’, Jane Harper’s first book in this series, earlier this year and really enjoyed it and found it an easy and engaging read, so I was excited to get the opportunity to read the next book in this series.

I found it had the same good and bad points as ‘The Dry’. 

Plus points: I think the rural Australian setting is a really great backdrop for a crime novel; it’s a refreshing change from the standard crime tropes such as gritty urban underworld or 1920s manor house. The writing in both books is very fluid and easy to read, short chapters and well paced. The books are written without gimmicks, in third person past tense, which nowadays is actually also surprisingly refreshing. I don’t know why so many contemporary books stray from this formula, it makes for such a satisfying way to read.

Negative points: both books suffer from same major flaw which is that there is one storyline/character which feels totally irrelevant to the rest of the story and therefore it’s obvious that that plot point/character must be central to the solution otherwise why would the author include it?

This major flaw didn’t stop my enjoyment of the books but it does mean that you don’t feel quite so satisfied when your prediction proves to be correct, as it was so easy the reach that conclusion.

I’ll definitely read any more books that appear in this series, they start with really interesting premises and are fun to read. I liked the premise of ‘Force of Nature’ which is ‘5 went into the bush only 4 came out, what happened?’ as a starting point, just as I liked the ‘did this crime that clearly happened one way really happen that way’ premise from ‘The Dry’, but ‘Force of Nature’ never managed to be quite so intriguing as this premise promised.

I’m not sure about the main detective character, Aaron Falk. His character didn’t feel entirely consistent with the previous book and his relationship with his new partner Carmen seems a bit forced. I think I would have been happier had there been a bit more crossover with characters from the first book to give his character’s personal life a bit more depth.

Overall I think both books are great and I look forward to reading any future instalments. 

Review of ‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ by Stuart Turton

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

This is going to be a very brief review because I really don’t want to spoil this book for anyone who might want to read it and pretty much anything I say about this book will be a spoiler.

I will just say that this is an incredibly complicated, intricately plotted and astonishingly detailed novel. I found it really difficult to get into because it throws you right into the action with an amnesiac unreliable narrator and it takes a while to get to grips with what is going on; but I’m glad I persisted because it is a thoroughly rewarding and unique read. I was not entirely satisfied with the ending but the journey was very interesting. 

I think the title is a bit misleading, I was expecting the book to be about a woman called Evelyn; however, she’s a fairly secondary character. Instead, it is told from a very buttoned-up traditional male perspective, which I found a bit off-putting to start off with. 

I’d definitely recommend this book to fans of golden age crime looking for thoroughly modern and mind-bending interpretation of the traditional 1920s crime novel.

Top Ten Tuesday – great books not to reread

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is ‘books I loved but will never reread’. As far as I’m concerned, there’s too many books and too little time in this life to reread books unless they are truly exceptional, so I could fill this list with almost every adult book I’ve ever enjoyed. Therefore, I’ve tried to think of books I love but wouldn’t want to reread for a particular reason.

  1. Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson – creepy subject matter and probably less of a thrill when you know the twists ahead.
  2. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – not really a subject matter I want to revisit, though it’s beautifully told.
  3. The Cider House Rules by John Irving – just in case I didn’t love it as much the second time around because it was perfect the first time.
  4. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – disturbing subject matter.
  5. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger – I enjoyed it but it was weird.
  6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – loooong and if I really wanted to revisit it I could watch the TV series.
  7. The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson – I know how it ends now.
  8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – not sure I could take being that destroyed by a book again.
  9. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – in case I didn’t love it as much knowing that I found the very end slightly disappointing.
  10. Eragon by Christopher Paolini – it would probably be marred by how boring I found the subsequent books in the series.

Top Ten Tuesday – Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books on my Spring to be read list. These are my NetGalley ARCs I’m planning to read this Spring.

  1. Mad Blood Stirring by Simon Mayo
  2. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  3. White Houses by Amy Bloom
  4. How I Lose You by Kate McNaughton
  5. Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
  6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  7. Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Annie Buist
  8. The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd
  9. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
  10. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

What I read on Mother’s Day

imageEvery Mother’s Day my husband takes our daughter out for the day so I can settle down and try to read a book in a day. The perfect Mother’s Day treat, peace and quiet and a good book! Yesterday I read Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple. It was the perfect Mother’s Day read; light, funny, quick and featuring a really close mother daughter relationship. A lovely relaxing day.

Top Ten Tuesday – Favourite book quotes

It’s been a while but I really want to get back into Top Ten Tuesdays which I discover is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Favourite Book Quotes which is a difficult one as I don’t have good recall for quotes from books. So I’ve looked up some of my favourite books and tried to find good quotes from them.

1. amberFrom The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. This was one of the readings at my wedding so it was the only quote that came instantly to mind for this topic.

“I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they wont’ just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…”

2.husband From The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. This quote jumped out at me so much, it struck such a bell with me. I thought that not working would give me the opportunity to stop having to talk to people all the time and found that as a mother you’re required to talk to even more people than you do at work!

“The other mothers, the teachers, the people. I didn’t realize that having a child was so social. You’re always talking to people.”

3. operaFrom The Rainbow Opera by Elizabeth Knox. This sums me up perfectly!

“I have no particular plan in life – and that’s something I rather like. Most things that people do seem to me to be rather dull and silly. In my ideal life I’d be left alone to read”

A Fraction of the Whole

4. From A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

“Sometimes not talking is effortless, and other times it’s more exhausting than lifting pianos.”

5. ciderFrom The Cider House Rules by John Irving

“What is hardest to accept about the passage of time is that the people who once mattered the most to us wind up in parentheses.”

A spool of blue thread6. From A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. I could have picked a million Anne Tyler quotes, she writes so brilliantly about life, love, death and family.

“You know how you just have to touch your child, sometimes? How you drink him in with your eyes and you could stare at him for hours and you marvel at how dear and impossibly perfect he is?”

7.kevin From We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

“I realize it’s commonplace for parents to say to their child sternly, ‘I love you, but I don’t always like you.’ But what kind of love is that? It seems to me that comes down to, ‘I’m not oblivious to you – that is, you can still hurt my feelings – but I can’t stand having you around.’ Who wants to be loved like that? Given a choice, I might skip the deep blood tie and settle for being liked. I wonder if wouldn’t have been more moved if my own mother had taken me in her arms and said, ‘I like you.’ I wonder if just enjoying your kid’s company isn’t more important.”

8Atonement. From Atonement by Ian McEwan

“The cost of oblivious daydreaming was always this moment of return, the realignment with what had been before and now seemed a little worse. ”

The Family Fang9. From The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

“What you’ll find, I think, is that the things you most want to avoid are the things that make you feel the greatest when you actually do them.”

10. remainsFrom The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Sums up the beauty of British landscapes beautifully.

“I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart. What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it.”

Review of ‘A Maigret Christmas’ by Georges Simenon

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

The title of this book is a bit misleading, it comprises three short stories set at Christmas, but Maigret only actually features in one of the stories. The Christmas settings are also fairly incidental, there is nothing cozy or festive about this book, it mostly dwells on how often people commit suicide on Christmas Eve.

I’ve never read a Maigret book before and on the basis of this book, I don’t think I’ll be reading any again. I found the stories strange and stilted. The first two stories which are sort of police procedurals mostly take place in one or two rooms with the main policeman mostly just using a telephone to solve the crime rather than getting into any action.

Lots of things didn’t make sense, just one example is that department stores are open at 11pm on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day morning. This is key to the plots of two of the stories. I find it really hard to believe that a Catholic country would have such lax opening hours rules in the 1950s. Despite it being Christmas everything seems to go on as usual, except Maigret solves the crime from home rather than the office.

The first story is the Maigret story. He wakes up on Christmas Day with Madame Maigret and is visited by two ladies because a man dressed as Father Christmas has broken into one of their houses overnight. This was a really interesting, exciting premise which devolved into a mixed up, weird, detached story which I can’t even begin to explain and which was incredibly unsatisfying. I also really didn’t like the way poor lonely, childless Madame Maigret doesn’t even warrant a first name.

The second story was my favourite. It features a likeable police switchboard operator solving a crime which involves his family. It was an interesting way to tell a police story and had a sweet ending.

The third story begins with a totally incidental suicide and then follows a prostitute as she tries to look out for a drunk young woman on Christmas Eve. It was strange and bitter and fairly pointless and not at all what I was expecting from the cover of this book.

I was hoping for a festive exciting read but found this book cold and baffling.