Monday, 15 December 2008
Monday, 8 December 2008
Friday, 28 November 2008
I had high hopes for this book, a murder mystery set in the 1930's. Unusually the heroine of the book is a real person the crime writer Josephine Tey. However although promising to be a richly atmospheric novel, I am afraid I found it rather dull. The characters were too thinly drawn to be of interest, perhaps because the book runs to a little under 300 pages and there are so many of them. Disappointing.
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Here we have mystery, serial killing and once again the opportunity to put our detecting skills into practice. I shall be looking out for the second in the series with anticipation
In this one, the village of Ledwardine prepares itself for flooding just as Christmas is arriving. Merrily Watkins our Diocesan exorcist and resident vicar is battling religious fundamentalists of various extremities, while also supporting her daughter Jane and lover Lol.
Throw into the mix a famous TV archaeologist intent on capitalising on Jane's find, and over enthusiastic developers intent on building over the site and we are all set for an engrossing read.
These are rich, intelligent crime novels with a bit of the supernatural thrown in. When I pick one up I know that I will be unable to put it down and will be reading late into the night. This book lived up to my expectations and now I have to wait another year for the next.......... :(
For a complete contrast, a gentle , funny crime novel written by the author of the famous Hamish Macbeth series. Agatha is still pursuing love, still picking on the wrong type with hilarious results. Still she always solves the crime but not perhaps in ways she intended. These books are set in the picturesque Cotswolds. they are completely unchallenging, light , witty and have a real, feel good, fuzzy, warmth about them......
In this book, heaven fore fend, someone spikes the village jam making competition with LSD, the resulting fatal trips(!!!) have Agatha hot on the trail of the perpetrator!
These books have passed me by. Thank you Gill for mentioning them. I am a big fan of Susan Hill's ghost stories, see below and wondered what a crime novel written by her would be like. This is excellent. Susan quickly sets the scene and her writing is so skilled that we are quickly immersed in the characters. I particularly liked the device in this novel in that the murderer is recording an audio commentary and so we are also drawn into detecting whom it might be. as well as the police.
Is a serial killer on the loose? Women are going missing but there seems no discernible pattern. However Detective Sergeant Freya Graffham is determined to solve these disappearances and prevent more. The ending is a real surprise!
I am looking forward to reading the next in the series.
Saturday, 11 October 2008
In this story we have a group of movie stars arriving at Burford Hall and of course, what ho, there is a murder. There are wonderful allusions to other famous literary detectives, Inspector Appleby of Michael Innes fame , Inspector Alleyn of Ngaio Marsh fame and here Inspector Allgood of no fame whatsoever! He makes such a hash of it that dear old Inspector Wilkins has to come to the rescue, with his stock in trade answer as to his abilities to solve the murder " I doubt it, I'm not sanguine, not sanguine at all."!
Can you solve it before him, I doubt it!
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
I have been a fan of Philippa Gregory's since the Other Boleyn Girl. I have also read The Boleyn Inheritance and The Queen's Fool all of which I enjoyed. I was therefore very excited when I received advance notice of this title I have always thought that Mary Queen of Scots was one of the most enigmatic and tragic queens. However, I was so disappointed in this novel. It is told through three voices, that of Mary herself, one of her em prisoners in England the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife the Countess, who is also known as Bess of Hardwick. I can't decide as to whether Philippa Gregory has decided to dumb down, or whether, it is that using the narrative device of 3 characters in the first person, that causes that feeling. Gone are the rich historical details that immerse us in the history of the period. We are left with 3 not very sympathetic characters and frankly I was bored. With the characterisation, although we hear what they think and say, we never seem to scratch the surface. I can find no sympathy for George who just comes across as a fool. Mary comes over as a lying, sulky, manipulative young woman and Bess comes over as only thinking of her silver and gold plate stolen from the Catholic Church and her household finances. We are told why they act this way but we never feel it, we are somehow disengaged.
It has made me reserve Mary S Lovell's biography of Bess of Hardwick as I am sure she must be a more interesting character than portrayed in The Other Queen. Watch out for a review soon.
This is an absolutely great book that I have been lucky enough to have been sent an advanced proof copy. Look our for it! It comes out on 1st January 2009.
This is a fast paced English thriller, very much in the genre of No Time for Goodbye ( see below) that won Richard and Judy's Summer Read.
A young women walks into a massacre in a small country village in East Sussex. She survives the terrifying ordeal, but the police discount her evidence and so she joins up with one of the victim's son's to try and solve the discrepancy. This then becomes a terrifying race against time, the body count rises and I guarantee that this is a book you will not be able to put down! I spent the whole time on the edge of my seat, willing her to survive. It is also great to have a really strong female character in the lead!
Friday, 3 October 2008
I have read all of Kate Atkinson's books and I love her quirky style of writing and unusual plots. This is the third novel that features Jackson Brodie , private detective. However this is much more than a detective novel, it attempts to examine human resilience to tragedy. As usual we have several apparent disparate strands that gradually move towards a collision course. We have Reggie a 16 year old attempting to cope on her own, working as a nanny, when mother and child disappear she is the only one that appears to be worried. Poor Jackson Brodie really is in the wars in this novel, he survives barely a journey from hell, and shock, horror we discover he has married since the last novel. We also have the release from prison of a killer who 30 years previously murdered a mother and nearly all her children..............I enjoyed this once again and many of the themes would make this an excellent Book Group reading choice...........
This is very light reading and great fun. It is a pastiche on the country house murder mystery. All whodunnit fans will love it. Set in 1930's it is filled with extraordinary characters; ridiculous members of the British Aristocracy, dapper foreign agents, the rich Americans and a bumbling police inspector called Wilkens. So refer to the room plan, work out where everyone was and what ho, you will never get it. The solution had me howling with laughter!
Friday, 22 August 2008
I have read all of David Wishart books and found them great fun. This book is no exception. If you want a quick fun murder mystery set in Ancient Rome then this book is for you. I really enjoyed this one, although, I have preferred some of the others better. The off the wall humour seems to be increasing, in a very Terry Pratchett way. I loved the reference to celebrity chefs!
I am a big fan of Jason Goodwin's. This is his third novel featuring Yashim the Eunuch. See my reviews of the others below. In this novel he goes to Venice. The main thrust of the story centres around his friend the Polish Ambassador, Palewski. The old emperor has died and Yashim is engaged to find a missing painting. Again we have delicious cooking to make our mouths water, wonderful travel descriptions, and hilarious episodes as we watch Palewski enmesh himself in more and more trouble in Venice. A charming and enjoyable read!
It would be great if ther were some maps inside the covers, then we can plot the journeys and murders!!
This is a great reading group book. I am amazed that I knew nothing of this war that took place in 1991 in Bougainville. This book made me look it up.
Here we have book is a true indictment of war and the inhumanity that comes from it. It is almost a book within a book as we follow Mathilda and her school being taught by the only white person left on the Island. They are taught unconventionally and rather surreally through Great Expectation by Dickens. I think it certainly helps if you have read that book as it makes much more sense of what is happening.
A recurring theme in this book is about prejudice, and this is expertly handled by Lloyd as the novel progresses.
It is also a novel about empowerment. When the mothers come to class to give their lectures on, gutting fish, the colour blue or mat weaving you can see the strength of story telling and a shared experience. Mr Watts through his telling of Great Expectations empowers them all, including himself and inspires Matilda to academic heights and ultimately knowledge of who she truly is. A very simple but powerful little book.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
I read this in a couple of days, I always know I will have a good read with one of Christopher's books.. This is the 6th outing for elderly detectives Bryant and May.These are such interesting books, quirky , clever, off the wall and fascinating. I love the humour that pops up and bites you, there were several real laugh out loud moments, many other wry smiles. This humour is black, wicked and thoroughly engaging.
Above all for anyone who has lived or worked in London they are a total education. I lived and worked in London for 8 years and I have learnt things I absolutely never knew about the city. After this book I wonder how many organised pub crawls there will be around London!
I love the idea that crimes can be solved by lateral thinking, by arcane knowledge, by instinct, rather than by the book, the host of characters Christopher produces are wonderful, even down to Crippen the cat! Oh and as for our lamented, departed pathologist's ashes! You will just have to read it, even better start at the first and read the lot!
The book ends on an enigmatic note, I can't say more without spoilers, is this the last book? Please no!!!!!!
Christopher Fowler has his own BLOG on http://www.christopherfowler.co.uk/blog/
Monday, 4 August 2008
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
An extraordinary book. This is quirky Canadian writing at its best. If this is not nominated for an award, I will be very suprised.
Take a strange group of "women", join them up to the Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Woman's Book Club, a book club that like to, really live, the books they read, throw in The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Bhagdad Blogger, death, sexuality and group politics and you get the idea.
Wonderful, challenging and engaging! I will be buying copies for our Book Groups!
Friday, 18 July 2008
I really enjoyed Innocent Traitor, see below, but did wonder when I picked this up whether there really was room for another book on Queen Elizabeth. However, Alsison Weir is a distinguished historian so I gava it a go. I pleased I did, I really found myself totally emersed in the Tudor period due to the skill of the writing, the rich historical descriptions just take you there, it is a fabulous way to understand the live and times of that era. The characterisations rang true as well, I particularly like the time when Elizabeth was very young, and even though the story is well known it had enough suspense to keep me reading to find out what happened next. I would highly recommend this book, and await the next with enthusiasm.
I only have a small observation, Alison states at the back that is a work of fiction and she has taken liberties, I do wonder though whether this will be ignored and how soon Elizabeth 1st will cease to be the Virgin Queen! At least this was more realistic in that there were consequences and it did explain her aversion to marriage!
Thursday, 10 July 2008
This is superb. Kate has really moved up a notch since The House at Riverton which won the Richard and Judy Summer Read last year.
Once again we have a time slip novel, 1900's, 1970's and 2005. The novel moves, on the whole, between Brisbane and Cornwall. The settings in 1900 -1913 are deliciously Gothic, well fleshed and convincing. The fact that we follow Nell through all time periods, makes an interesting link. Her writing has acquired a depth, as I really felt I came to know the major players in this novel and even the minor characters were drawn in such a way as to be very real. Also,the resolution of the mystery was not so far fetched as to be unconvincing.
The time changes and characters are all handled deftly, and the mystery keeps you reading to the last pages to find out what happened.
I read the first half of this book very quickly but then found myself slowing down, always a good sign, as I did not want to finish it . Yes, and at the end I cried!
This is quite a large book running to 645 pages, it would make a brilliant and engrossing read for a holiday. I also think that many of the themes running through it would make it an excellent reading group book and I will be buying extra copies here in Bournemouth for that purpose!
See also interview below with Kate Morton!
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
This makes a great holiday read. Suspend believe and just go with it. I guarantee that you will want to keep reading and find out what happened. A great fast paced thriller that requires no investment from you, easy to read and be entertained.
It really is very difficult to review this without spoilers. The only thing I would say is that with the propensity for all characters to wield a gun, I sincerely hope the UK does not go the same way as the US!
Thursday, 3 July 2008
Well Richard and Judy are running to form. This is the second book I have read from this summer's list and again it is great. This is an ideal escapist summer read. It does not have the depth of The Outcast ( see below) but it is a good romantic read. Set in India in the late 1920's it captures the fading of the Raj and the plight of the Indians, and their generosity,to those that ruled them at the time. We have three very different young women who travel to India, one to marry, one to find a husband and the third to explore the demons that have haunted her since childhood. Do stick with it as after halfway I found it very hard to put down. Having travelled in India myself she captures the atmosphere and the life changing ability of this amazing country brilliantly!
Monday, 30 June 2008
I absolutely loved The Island and have looked forward to reading this book since its publishing was announced. Having had a family home in Spain both under Franco and since, and adoring flamenco,( if you can get to see Joaquin Cortes do) I was convinced I was going to love this book too. And I did up until about half way. When flamenco was involved there was passion but otherwise it just lacked something. I think that once we got into the civil war it read more like a history book. We did not learn any more about the characters, their motivation and feelings other than what we were told,it became a passive experience, in fact I just did not become invested in them as charcters. Yes I wanted to know what happened and it is a non demanding light read, but it lacks the depth of The Island. I also thought that the Ramirez family pushed credibility, one son a socialist teacher, one a fascist bull fighter, one a homosexual flamenco guitarist and the daughter an outstanding flamenco dancer hmm........
This book is a cross between Sleuth and The talented Mr Ripley. It was only half way through that intrigued I read the inside cover and realised that Andrew Wilson is a biographer of Patricia Highsmith. As such I assume that this is a "homage" to her. I enjoyed it, indeed read it non- stop Saturday to Sunday. The ending of the book is absolutely great and it is very difficult to review this book without spoilers. Best to say, think present day Venice, a crumbling Palace, a mysterious hermit like novelist, an amoral young man, oh, and murder, and you get the picture. It clearly is not in the same league as Highsmith but it is close. There in though lies the question is there value in imitating anothers work? It would make a good reading group read if say one of the Ripleys were read with this. I await to see what Andrew writes next with interest.
Monday, 23 June 2008
This book is stunning. It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel, the calibre of writing and plotting is so mature. She captures the claustrophobic, smug world of 1950's middle England so well. The issues that she deals with, self - harming, wife beating, child abuse are downplayed in a subtle manner, they are heart breaking but never sensationalised. It is a telling reminder that we never know what happens behind closed doors, but thank goodness these issues are out in the open today. This will make a fantastic reading group book, there is just so much to talk about. If you have the feeling from the review that this is a dark book, far be it, there is a strong message of hope and resilience, and that young people far from being victims can show us the way forward. Her characterisation particularly of Lewis is deft and carries depth, you really feel you get to know him, and above all can identify with him. Even when he spirals out of control , you never lose that empathy with him, this is the skill of an excellent writer.
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
I enjoyed Michael's Mamur Zapt series but the books I have read of this series have left me cold. I really cannot find much about Seymour to like or dislike his character is so thinly drawn. It is the same for all the characters in this book. Frankly I was bored, it did not even have the advantage of having a travelogue aspect, there was no exploitation of the setting to help, and as for the whodunnit aspect, I just didn't care.
This book would have no interest for a reading group, in my opinion.
Monday, 16 June 2008
I love the sense of humour in these books, there are genuine laugh out load moments amid the murder and many wry smiles. You will also find your mouth watering, for, as well as being a eunuch, Yashim is also an excellent cook. I now want to make pilaf like him!
Having been to Istanbul, like Leon before him, Jason Goodwin also expertly weaves the sites of the city into the plots, his writing is so good that one can nearly smell as well as taste and hear the atmosphere of this great historic city.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
We were very lucky last year to have an author event with Ann at Boscombe Library, she does a marvellous 'murder' evening - highly recommended, if one is coming to a library near you, do not miss it!
Monday, 9 June 2008
Saturday, 7 June 2008
I need to nail my colours here, I am a huge fan of Cleopatra, and have a rather rosy and romantic image of her. To me the ideal potrait was in Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. I do not really approve of the demonising that is currentlyoccuring around this most inspirational female figure from history. That said, it is always difficult to write about such famous characters in history especially when you know the ending.........howver, I thought this book was brilliant! For me it was more about Octavian and one really felt one got inside his head, for anyone who has read Robert Graves or seen the excellent BBC series we can really see where Octavian is going to go, how his character may have been formed. I loved her portrayal of Antony too, it really rang true. I cannot find Livia a sympathetic character as portrayed by Colleen but then so much prejudice has gone before ( a bit like me and Cleopatra!) that maybe it is good to see another side to her character. If like me you love historical fiction and Rome and Egypt in particular this book is for you.
Monday, 2 June 2008
This is a sequel to In the shadow of Lady Jane ( see below). In this book Richard truly comes of age. He ends up maturing, getting married and finally deciding on his career. All this takes place through a journey across Europe to Venice and all that befalls him there. I have read many books on Venice, one of my passions, see below, and it is rare that I learn anything new but in this novel I did. It was absolutely fascinating, from the art of painting to the treatment of the Daughters of the Doge, I was not disappointed and thoroughly engrossed.
I can say that as Richard matures, so does his character and I really thought this was a real skill of Edward's to take us along with this rather prigish young man into early adulthood at such a fascinating time in history. I sincerely hope that this is going to turn into a series................
Perhaps because of his condition, I found this and life in the palace absolutely fascinating. The murders were unusual and innovative. Jason is a historian, and I found the accounts of the Ottoman empire detailed and fascinating. I also found myself researching certain medical conditions............
This would make a good book to read with the Sultans Seal, (see below) similar time in history but completly different in style.
I have ordered the second title in the series so look for a review soon.
I read this recently and can say it really was spooky. I had forgotten how good it can be reading the classics. This is a small book, and will not take long to read. It is a classic gothic tale , read it late at night and it will be guranteed to have you shivering. is the Countess a wicked fortune seeker or is an she innocent pawn, how far can we endorse the supernatural elements. How does the setting of Venice contribute to the sense of suspense? I think this would make a good book club choice especially if perhaps contrasted to a modern gothic novel, and I supspect that it will not be found wanting.........
Monday, 19 May 2008
This was a strange experience of Deja Vu, having recently read the Alison Weir book, Innocent Traitor, see review below. This is a more male centric novel as our protagonist is male, and very young. I found this rather endearing as we followed his confusion and innocence at court. I also enjoyed it as it fleshed out more of the story and characters and they did not jar with Alison's novel but complemented it. As a critic I would have said that Alison Weir's novel is more literary, weighty and historical but Edward's is more fun. I think it might be interesting for reading groups to read the two together and compare them!
I already have ready to read the second outing of Richard Stocker our protagonist , in The Doges Daughters, so watch this space. I think this series may have promise.
Thursday, 15 May 2008
Friday, 9 May 2008
This is the first of a new series published by Pan Macmillan . I was lucky to receive a proof copy. Thanks Ellen.
Very much in the Manfredi/Iggulden genre, this is a reworking of the story of Odysseus, this book covers his winning of Penelope, something that I was not familiar with. I found it utterly fascinating, the historic detail was excellent. This was an easy and enjoyable read, and I am looking forward to the next instalments to see how he handles the more famous parts of the story.
As a personal read I can absolutely recommend it, I am not sure there would be much to discuss for a reading group.
This book is published in June.
Thursday, 8 May 2008
This is a great book and I am buying copies for our reading groups. It is a murder mystery based in Istanbul in 1886. It comes with reading group questions at the back as well.
I read this virtually in one sitting, reading late into the night. I just had to find out how it was resolved. It is very clever because it is fairly obvious on the whole what is going on to us the reader. To the protagonists it is not and the mistakes they make have you constantly reading with a wry smile on your face. The history of the time is interesting and handled I thought sensitively, Istanbul is of course exotic and oriental. There is much here that can be discussed........
It has been made into 2 films The Omega Man with Charlton Heston and the more recent excellent Will Smith version.
In my view this deservedly rates cult status, the sense of desolation, isolation and at times desperation remain with you after the novel has finished. The scenes with the dog are just heart rending - there may be tears.........
Finally why not read the book and then rent the movie, available both from a library near you!
I thought this was a fantastic novel. It is totally absorbing and although I already knew the history and the outcome, the fact that you became totally immersed in the characters and the period meant that you were still reading on the edge of your seat until the last chapter. The scenes in the tower were heart rending. Alison Weir is a historian and has written non-fiction books about this period and this really shows in the quality of the detail and in her writing. I cannot wait to read her next fiction novel on the young Elizabeth.
Having read Philppa Gregory with reading groups , I think this too would make a good reading group read.
Monday, 7 April 2008
In this novel she looks at the position of the Rom. It makes very uncomfortable reading, but the varying reactions of all the protagonists make it a very honest and "real" plot. I certainly found it believable and very sad.
Luckily we still have the travalogue aspects and the food and wine. I positively salivated at the meal Paola produced, fusilli with spinach and mozzarella followed by calamari.......yum!
Donna has an excellent website, with an indepth plot summary so I will not repeat it here, but it is a must for all those Venetianophiles like me!