Tag Archives: Book reviews

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 ‘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.

Review of ‘The Baltimore Boys’ by Joel Dicker

image.pngThanks to NetGalley and Quercus Books for the ARC of this book.

Boy, this book is loooooong and dull. I should have enjoyed it; it features much of what I love in novels: contemporary American setting, teen romance, coming of age story, cute dog. I should have loved it, but it was so long and repetitive and the story is so drawn out that the final reveal is utterly underwhelming.

‘The Baltimore Boys’ is the story of Marcus Goldman, who incidentally is also the narrator of Dicker’s previous book ‘The Harry Quebert Affair’, and his obsession with his richer cousins and the tragedies which befall the Goldman family. It’s a thorough exploration of the dynamics of male jealously between cousins, brothers, friends etc. etc. We get it; even successful, rich, popular people can feel jealous of other people, even people they love. I found everyone pretty unlikable and found it quite hard to empathise with the rich spoiled white people and their problems

We know from the beginning of the book that something bad happens to the cousins who Marcus adores. It seems they are probably dead. I thought I would care what happens to them, that it would be some dreadful tragedy. However, when I got to the reveal at the end I was shocked we were supposed empathise with these characters who have done horrible things to each other and ruined their own lives. I definitely don’t think that was how the book wanted me to feel.

I’m afraid, I can’t recommend this book. I think Dicker’s first book was better but also found that one long, contemplative and overly drawn out, so I guess that’s just his style. They’re originally written in French or German, I think, so maybe something is lost in translation.

Review of ‘What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday’ by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

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

My 2 year old daughter loves Julia Donaldson books, the What the Ladybird Heard series is not her favourite but she does like reading them especially making the animal noises which feature. I read her the new book today, she was quite excited to see Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len again and asked to read it again straight after we’d finished but got bored a few pages into the second read.

I don’t think this is the best in the series. The action is transplanted from farm to zoo and the animal noises aren’t quite as appealing, although my daughter enjoyed the hyena laughing then crying. The initial set-up to the story is similar to the previous two books; the ladybird overhears Len and Hugh plotting to steal an animal and deploys the other animals to help her foil the criminals. I thought the plot in the second half of the book was a bit weaker, less clever, interesting and funny than the other two books and it probably won’t engage children as much as they do, but I imagine kids who like those books will like this. It’s definitely not as successful as Donaldson’s most popular other books like The Gruffalo and Stick Man.

Lydia Monks’s illustrations are colourful and appealing and my daughter enjoyed spotting the little ladybird on each page. The use of mixed media is interesting and a bit different.

Review of ‘Before the Fall’ by Noah Hawley

imageThanks to Hodder and Stoughton, Bookbridgr and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

I was really excited to get the opportunity to read this book as I’ve enjoyed Noah Hawley’s TV work on Fargo and Legion. I think he’s a really talented storyteller and how on Earth does he find the time to work on so many quality projects?

This book did not disappoint. It’s a really well-written suspenseful story with strong treatises on wealth and how the media covers certain news stories. It’s rare for a page turner to take such strong standpoints on social issues and this brings depth to what could be a quite a lightweight story.

The novel starts with a private plane crashing into the sea with two survivors, a painter who hitched a lift at the last minute and the 4 year old son of the plane’s millionaire owner. The book follows these two characters, both of whom I really liked,  in the aftermath of the crash and highlights how they are treated by the investigating authorities and the media. It also relates the lead up to the crash from the perspective of each of passengers and crew members who died in the crash.

It’s very cleverly written let down only slightly by the final reveal of the reason why the plane crashed being a bit trivial and underwhelming. However, I may also have found it marred if it had revealed some big dramatic conspiratorial reason why the plane crashed. There was probably no completely satisfying ending to this kind of book. It’s often the case with whodunnit style books, the pleasure is in the reading rather than the ending which can never live up to all the possible conclusions you’ve imagined along the way.

I’d totally recommend reading this book and I’m looking forward to reading more of Hawley’s books in the future. I think I have The Good Father in my Audible library.

Review of ‘Leaving Time’ by Jodi Picoult

Leaving TimeThanks to Bookbridgr and Hodder and Stoughton for the ARC of this book.

Warning – this review may spoil the book!

I used to read a lot of Jodi Picoult and then I took a break because they were starting to get a bit repetitive and less impactful. I really enjoyed the first half of this book; it didn’t feel like Picoult’s usual style (moral dilemma, big twist that reveals different person is to blame than you would expect); it was more like a Harlan Coben style mystery – missing people, family secrets, hidden past etc. Then came the enormous supernatural Sixth Sense style big twist which I hated and which ruined the book for me.

What made me want to read this book is that I’d heard it had quite a lot of elephant behavioural science in it which I thought would be interesting. In fact, I found these sections the least interesting bit of the book. The bit I enjoyed was the sections set in the present where a 13 year girl called Jenna employs a psychic and a PI to investigate what happened to her mother Alice, the elephant behavioural scientist, who went missing 13 years earlier. I was willing to suspend my disbelief while the psychic stuff was just a bit of a character background gimmick, but the last third of the book goes full on with the psychic stuff and I lost all interest. Usually Picoult’s big twists are quite clever but the one in this book is just ridiculous. It spoilt the book which would have been much more engaging if it had been routed in reality.

What a shame, I was ready to give Jodi Picoult a second chance but on the strength of this book I won’t be reading any more of her books any time soon.

Review of ‘All Our Wrong Todays’ by Elan Mastai

cover97841-mediumThanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for the ARC of this book.

I absolutely love this book! It is without doubt the best book I have read in ages. I loved it from the first page and the rest of the book did not let me down.

The book follows Tom, a time traveller from an alternate reality who ends up in our timeline and needs to find a way to fix the world despite the fact that his life is much better in our world. It’s sounds silly and hokey when I describe it but it’s really not. It’s thrilling and exciting, complex, layered and just so much fun.

The writing is wonderful, it’s so easy to read. Mastai manages to take complicated time-travel related concepts and makes them make clear sense.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough; I’m certain it’s destined to be a modern classic.

Blog Tour: ‘Relativity’ by Antonia Hayes

My first blog tour! I’m not entirely certain how they work, so I’m sorry if I’ve missed anything I’m supposed to include.

Thanks to Little, Brown for giving me the opportunity to read ‘Relativity’ by Antonia Hayes and take part in the book tour. It’s a unique and interesting read and a great choice for my first blog tour!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blogs on the tour. Today’s stops on the tour are listed in the image above.


9781472151704Book details

Title: Relativity
Author: Antonia Hayes
Publisher: Corsair
Publication date: 17 January 2017
Price: £8.99 paperback


Synopsis

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life.  When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.


hayes-antonia-credit-angelo-sgambatiAbout the author

Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, currently lives in London with her husband and son. Relativity is her first novel.

Author website
Antonia Hayes on Twitter


Review (includes vague spoilers)

I almost didn’t read this book. A baby stops breathing on the first page and as a mum of a nearly 2-year-old I didn’t think I could take reading about a child being hurt. However, I’m really glad that I picked it back up and kept reading. It’s a well written and thought-provoking book and it treats its subject matter and characters with compassion and empathy.

Luckily we find out on the second page that the baby, Ethan, didn’t die and has grown into an intelligent and thoughtful 12-year-old. It’s not until the near the end of the book that we have to read the description of Ethan being hurt and by then you know how his story turns out, so it’s easier to read that section even though I still found it very disturbing.

The book is about Ethan a 12-year-old boy who was shaken by his father, Mark, when he was a baby. His father went to jail and Ethan was brought up by his mother, Claire, with no knowledge of what happened to him as a baby and no contact with his father. Mark comes back into Ethan and Claire’s life and the family have to deal with the aftermath of what happened 12 years earlier and the different types of scars it has left on the three of them.

Ethan is a very clever boy with a love and understanding of and ability to ‘see’ physics. Much of the book uses the language and terminology of physics as a backdrop to the story. My brain glazes over a bit when it comes to physics so I found this was a little barrier to full absorption in the book while at the same time I admired how intelligently it was written.

At one point I worried that the book was going to veer wildly off course. Ethan appears to be a genius with superhuman powers and is on the verge of building a time machine. I was incredibly worried that the book was going to lose its grounding in reality but luckily it gets back on track. I was also worried that the story was going to be tied up in an unrealistic ‘happily ever after’, ‘tied in a bow’ neat ending, but thankfully Hayes avoids this and goes for a more realistic possibly less satisfying ending.

I googled Hayes when I finished the book and found out that the book was based on her own personal experience of her boyfriend shaking her 6 week old son. When I read this I was amazed that she had been able to write such a thoughtful and generous book which treats all its characters so fairly. We are able to understand how and why Mark shook the baby and how he behaved afterwards and we witness his family treating him kindly despite his indiscretion. I found this element of the story really thought-provoking. As a mum it’s both incredibly easy to understand how someone could snap and hurt a small child and at the same time completely unthinkable. It made me question whether prison is an appropriate punishment for a momentary lapse but then consider that maybe it is if the culprit won’t admit to what they’ve done and show remorse.

I’m really glad I read this book. It seems incredibly brave that Hayes would choose to absorb herself in the traumatic events of her past in order to write this book. Due to the subject matter I can’t exactly say I enjoyed it; however I did like getting to know all the characters each of whom is a well-rounded and interesting person and it left me with a lot to think about. I don’t think I’ve ever read another book quite like this and it’s always refreshing to encounter something new.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book. It has some great support including quotes from Graeme Simsion and SJ Watson on the cover!