Friday, 22 August 2014

Louise Penny - The Long Way Home

I was so excited to receive a review copy of this book. Louise Penny is a fantastic Canadian bestselling author and should be more well known here in the UK. I have read all her books so far and the Gamache series is fantastic. Set in Quebec they have an enormous sense of place and really make you long to visit Canada for yourself. Do read my other reviews.
In this latest novel we have the former Chief Inspector of Homicide, retired and living in the charismatic village of Three Pines. This is a reflective Gamache, a philosophical Gamache. His physical wounds may have healed but it will take time for the mental scars to heal. Surrounded by a supportive group of neighbours, (I love Ruth + duck), he begins  the long journey to full health. But then Clara Morrow the resident now famous painter asks Gamache a favour, to find her missing husband.  Unable to bring himself to refuse Gamache begins a steadily unravelling of just what Peter has been up to in the last year. With gentle skill we are drawn inexorably to the stunning and shocking climax. I once again was not disappointed, reading  late into the night to find the answer but all the while regretting the moment the book will end. Wonderful  taut writing, I am in awe.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Ian Simpson - Murder on the Second Tee

This cosy crime is great fun, and on the basis of reading this I have bought the first book in the series. having said that it does standalone as we follow the machinations and murder among a group of unscrupulous and corrupt bankers in St Andrew's in Scotland. As the location implies there is also much golfing wit and trivia to keep golf fans entertained.
I don't think there is much to interest a reading group here but as a great , non challenging accompaniment to a long flight or a holiday read it is perfect.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Heather Redding - Stealing Venice

I will read anything set in Venice it is my favourite place. So I am seldom surprised particularly with debut novels.  However  I was pleasantly surprised with this novel by Heather Redding. This is a classic time slip novel set in the 15 Century and in the recent past  working up to today. I really liked both the female characters and for once I actually engaged with the contemporary story. I have a habit of skimming the modern to get to the past. here I didn't and part of it was the wonderful descriptions of Venice and I learned a lot about new places I haven't visited. Venice has this effect on you there is always something else to discover. Very much like this author I am looking forward to reading her next novel.
 I think this would make an excellent holiday read but also for a book club I think there is much here that could be discussed not least the strong theme of sacrifice.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Karen Joy Fowler - We are all completely beside ourselves

This is an extraordinary book. Please do not be tempted to immediately read page 77 as it will spoil the suprise and what a shock it is. Well it was for me! I think this will become a Reading Group classic, if people can keep quiet about the content. However when we know the secret the book then it becomes a fascinating study of  psychology and human behaivoir. It is absolutely brilliant!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Robert Goddard The Corners of the Globe

The excellent Robert Goddard has begun a new Trilogy set during the peace negotiations after the First World War. Book one came out in paperback in June and book two in hardback  this month. They are both available as e-books. The books follow the attempts of ex WW1 flying ace James Maxted to solve his father's  death. They are both exciting edge of the seat stuff but despite James being an amateur he has astounding success in uncovering the lies and treachery that led to his father's demise. He uses his war experience to propel him into increasingly dare devil and dangerous situations. His quick thinking propels him forward. They are real page turners and a fascinating insight into the negotiations and machinations in Paris at that time.
I loved both of these books and now cannot wait for the last in the series and the final denouement. I think book one would make an excellent Reading Group Read as there is much too discuss about the Ways of the World at that time!

Monday, 14 July 2014

George R. R. Martin - Game of Thrones

Phew I have just finished the long haul though all 5 books of the Game of Thrones fantasy series. What can I say? They are totally immersive, completely  addictive edge of the seat writing. this is mainly  due to the fact that no character is safe. Unlike so much fiction and like reality random bad things happen to the nice characters, leaving you as the reader bereft but acknowledging the overall truth that life is not fair.

If you enjoyed the series on TV then this is going to be a real treat. Your really get to own the characters, hence the emotional fallout when they do. Each chapter is dedicated to a character and you see the world from their view point. This means that as the series progresses you have multiple viewpoints of events, in an intense  multi layered experience. I am in awe.

I actually felt emotionally bereft when I finished Book 5 with the realisation that I may have to wait years until book six comes out but at least we do have a title!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Clara Salaman - The Boat

This is an amazingly creepy book and a fantastic choice for a summer break. I just could not put it down.
It is very difficult to describe this book without giving away some  major spoilers.
In many ways it is a coming of age novel, a cautionary tale for young travellers, and a suspense novel wrapped into one.
There is much to discuss here and it will make an excellent reading group choice. We have bought a set to use here in Bournemouth. Also it is available as an ebook from our catalogue.
I found it online in our catalogue one weekend and had downloaded it and was reading it in minutes!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Elizabeth Speller - The Return of Captain John Emmett

I have had this book for some time but decided to read it over the Easter weekend. I could not put it down, it is beautifilly written  and I think Laurence Bartram's blundering around as an amateur investigator is really rather true to life. We have all had that experience of mentally kicking ourselves and realising what we should have asked or said. He is a wonderful character.
The plot revolves around the request of Captain John Emmett's sister to Laurence who went to school with his brother as to why having survived WW1 he then comes home and commits suicide. It is an interesting study of the period and the conclusion we reach as a reader is that non of the returned soldiers are entirely unscathed be they sound of linb or not. Indeed even those left at home are now changed in some subtle or not so subtel way, it is wonderfully captured in this book.
It would make a fantastic Reading Group book as there is so much to discuss and of course it is very topical at the moment as we commemorate the beginning of WW1

Monday, 7 April 2014

Lucy Clarke - A Single Breath

A great second novel from local author Lucy Clarke, following on from the success of The Sea Sisters.  I could not put it down and read it over 48 hours. I think it will make an excellent reading groups read as there is much in here to get your teeth into and helpfully the paperback version contain reading group notes , an interview with the author and a photo montage of Tasmania!
 The plot is around  a normally sensible midwife called Eva, who has a whirlwind romance and wedding with a Tasmanian she meets on a long haul flight  into the UK.
Tragically he is swept into the sea whilst fishing off the Dorset coast and is presumed drowned, as no body is recovered.
Consumed by grief Eva decides to go to Tasmania to see the land that Jackson, her husband ,had talked so eloquently about.

When she arrives the reaction of his father and brother is not usual and this leads to her questioning everything she thought she knew about her husband. I cannot say much without massive spoilers. Suffice to say there are major twists and turns, more than enough to keep you reading. What I love about Lucy's writing is her sense of place and also her clearly deep connection with the sea which permeates throughout her books. We will be adding this book to our reading groups list in Bournemouth Libraries.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

M J Carter - The Strangler Vine

This is a wonderful book and very accomplished for a debut. It really is my kind of book as it is set in India in 1837.
It is beautifully written and very atmospheric. I particularly liked the pairing of the embittered old hand with the young and naive young officer . I also liked the fact that there was no 'massaging' of the  language and opinions of the time, as it is all the more shocking to hear it in context.
A young officer is commissioned to accompany a hastily resigned up East Indian Officer as his guide to find a celebrated poet. Throw in treachorous Indian Princes, Thuggees, and suspicious East India Company colleagues, of and a tiger hunt and you have all the makings of a perfect thriller.
The plot is exciting and finely paced. I was up into the small hours reading the last few chapters. Do they escape are they rewarded, well that would only be spoilers.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Terry Hayes - I Am Pilgrim

Wow this was a marathon read for me. It has been a long time since I took so long to read a book. This book is huge and heavy (700 pages!) This book is very intense. It has multiple plot lines, but hard as I tried to put it down I was unable to walk away from it, something kept drawing me back ( and lengthening my arm as I carried it back and forth from work).

As a scriptwriter Terry has the skills to make this a page turner and you can see that it is crying out to be made into a film.
There are 3 plot lines, a police procedural murder mystery, a worrying terrorist plot, and a deep, deep cover spy thriller. Lots of exotic locations .It is very clever.

I suspect that Terry Hayes has done reams of research because the terrorist plot seemed frighteningly plausible. I also enjoyed us getting into the mind of the terrorist and we almost became invested in his plot, I never felt that he was the enemy, a real coup here to make a terrorist empathic to the reader. His characterisation is great which I think is why I did not want to leave them and the book stays with you.
My only very small caveate is that it there is almost enough material in this one book for two books and that  might have made it less bulky ( there was a lot of back story that could have been teased out in future books - I assume we will be reading more of  Pilgrim soon? - and yes I will be unable to resist the series if and when it comes.) On the other hand it might just be that it was that bulk of story that made it so immersive.

I suggest you buy it as an ebook add then it will occupy your entire holiday, and you will want everyone else to read it so you can discuss it.

I suspect this book is too large for most reading groups to tackle but if they can be persuaded then there are many, many themes to discuss.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Mario Reading - The Templar Prophecy

Another fast paced intelligent thriller from Mario Reading. This time it is set in three time frames. The crusades, Hitler's last few days, and the present day. the present day moves from Mexico to Germany.
The thread that is woven through the book is an ancient religious artifact that of the Holy Lance or Spear of Destiny.

What I really like about Mario's books is that they are well researched, and the situation and characters feel real. We have a flawed hero unable to resist the very flawed heroine. I cannot say too much without providing spoilers. Suffice to say it is a good writer that can make me momentarily empathise with Nazis!

A good read and an ideal book to take away on a break or a holiday.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Khaled Hosseini - And the Mountains Echoed

For those of you still morassed in the gut churning emotions of Khaled's last book, be assured this has a lighter touch. You can put your toe into the water that is Afghanistan once again. This book switched between Afghanistan, Paris, San Fransisco and Greece. It jumps  between different time frames as well. I think the ultimate feeling I came away with this book is hope.
It begins in 1952 when forced by poverty and desperation a villager sells his daughter to a rich family. We then move from character to character in each dedicated chapter. Each chapter is a story in itself revealing the enigma of Afghanistan, through the characters that are revealed to us, then and now. Like the feather we drift from one to the other each making the book more whole as we progress. This is a story about loss, resilience and how war effects everyone's lives. Another triumph.

                                                       It will make a great reading group book.