Sunday, 20 March 2011

You're Next

A very good thriller. If you enjoy a fast paced plot and convincing characterization give this a go – I have already ordered another title by this author.

Mike was abandoned by his father when he was 4 years old and spends his childhood in foster care. He beats the odds and builds a good life for himself and his wife and child, but is never able to trace his birth family. Life is good, and then suddenly he is the target of some extremely ruthless people out to destroy him and his family. These people have killed and the police appear to be in on ‘it’ too. Why? We find out in the end and for me the conclusion was pretty satisfying.

Friday, 18 March 2011


A short but powerful and well written novel with a surprising amount of depth for just over 200 pages. Susan’s relationship with her father has damaged her life and she only begins to come to terms with his treatment of her and her sisters after his suicide. This ‘tragedy’ happens while she is pregnant with her first child and as she is ‘sleepwalking’ through life. Susan’s relationships with her birth family, her husband, with her unborn child and with her lover (she embarks on a love affair while she is pregnant) are explored. Other pivotal characters include Queenie, her father’s abusive mother and a ghostly child, a little boy who is haunting her. 

Thursday, 17 March 2011


What a very good book this is. There are many reviews out there and most are full of praise for this novel. It is an extraordinary story that is told in the voice of Jack, a precocious but also unworldly five year old whose development has been shaped from being locked in a small room with his mother for the first five years of his life. She was kidnapped before Jack's birth and kept as a prisoner by a man with motives of the worst kind. The book is, of course, quite horrifying, but also ultimately uplifting as Jack and his mother discover how to live with their situation and their pasts.  It’s a story I will remember for a long time.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


I read Chess following a recommendation from Jackie over at Farm Lane Books Blog. She is a great reviewer and I have tried a lot of her suggestion: book blogs are great way to find and enjoy new titles. Chess is a novella and a probably not something I would usually pick up but what a little gem it is. It is the story of an encounter between a morose and reclusive world chess champion and a stranger, who meet aboard an ocean liner and engage in a chess tournament at the behest of the narrator of the tale. The stranger has a past which has allowed him to play the game at a level to match the champion and the main part of the story is the revelation of his history to the narrator. The book is a powerful and moving commentary on the strength of the human spirit and mind and is a beautifully written observation..

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Midnight Fugue

A new Reginald Hill is always a treat and Midnight Fugue is no exception. Dalziel and Pascoe feature again and their relationship takes on a new twist. This story takes place over 24 hours and the mystery is thoroughly entertaining and absorbing. The book is shorter than recent novels but this suits the timeframe of the story. Corruption is rife and the interplay between the characters is cleverly done.  

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Another re-read of a book I first came across over 20 years ago. This is a fictional interpretation written by Anya Seton, of Katherine Swynford’s story as mistress and then wife of John O’Gaunt. In my opinion Seton is an underrated writer of fiction and as well as being well written this book appears to be based on very thorough research and many sources are cited. Katherine’s story is fascinating and as well as being a direct ancestor to the Tudors and therefore the current royals she was also sister-in-law to Geoffrey Chaucer. Some artistic license and a considerable amount of 'romanticising' has been employed in the writing however, and it is worth reading Alison Weirs biography of Katherine to redress this. But if you enjoy good writing, interesting and memorable characters and historical fiction give this story a go – it is well worth it.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Birth of Venus

I really enjoyed Sarah Dunant’s Mapping the Edge (review here) and went on to read The Birth of Venus with great expectations. It didn’t disappoint although, for me, the thriller genre always has the edge.

This story evokes 15th century Florence wonderfully well, with the uncertainty and horror of life there appearing to be admirably researched. Alessandra, the central character, is a teenage girl growing up in the city. She is very bright and artistically talented and is born into a wealthy family but there are few opportunities for women in these times. Her merchant father brings a young painter of frescos into the family home and she becomes fascinated by him and his artistic ability. But who is he, and what is he doing during his nightime ‘walks’? 
Alessandra marries an older man, (a ‘friend’ of her hated brother), in haste to gain the freedom she desires, but, as Florence is taken over by Savonrola, the ‘Mad Monk’and becomes a city full of people to be feared she discovers family secrets and lies that have consequences for her for the rest of her life.

I learned a great deal reading this novel and would recommend it to any one who appreciates good writing, characters that remain in your head – Alessandra is wonderful – and historical interest.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Handmaids Tale

I recently reread The Handmaids Tale after around 20 years and was just as impressed this time as I was then. Margaret Atwood is a suberb writer and this book set in a future where infertility is threatening the survival of the human race is wonderfully imagined. It is a very dark tale with a gripping storyline and believable characters. The story is many layered questioning the way we live our lives and commenting on power, gender, rebellion, sexuality, friendship and betrayal (really these are just a few of the themes that run through this book). It is a horrifying account of ‘what could happen’ and is definitely a 5 star read.

Monday, 31 January 2011

The Moving Finger

I have always had a soft spot for Agatha Christie, ever since 'devouring' most of her books in my teens. This remains one of my favourite stories - I'm not sure why - it could be the ugly duckling love story that lurks amongst the murder and mayhem. It is far from her best mystery but somehow the main characters are (for me anyway) very ‘real’. The back story is a lovely little romance and there is one chapter near the end that is nothing to do with the crime but is extremely appealing (if a little cliched!). The denouement is as satisfying as usual and I like this book a lot.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

D is for Deadbeat

My favourite genre is crime/mystery/thriller and I love the alphabet series by Sue Grafton. The characters appeal and Kinsey Millhone (the 30 something PI and solver of crimes) is a feisty single woman with strong morals, a sense of humour and a penchant for trouble. I enjoy the predictability of her lifestyle and the details of the lives of those closest to her. The series is now 21 books strong so if you enjoy her you have a lot to look forward to. I had somehow missed D so when I saw it recently in a second hand bookshop it was a must. Her later books have become more complex, but going back to one near the beginning was very refreshing. Good story, brilliant characters and a satisfying ending – what more can you ask. I can’t wait to read book 22 – and there should still be 4 more to go!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011



Trouble was a charity shop buy. I haven’t read his parents novels (Joanathan and Faye Kellerman) but had read a reasonable review somewhere of this story. Unfortunately this book wasn’t for me. The writing style was too terse for my taste and I didn’t engage with the characters at all. I did get to the end but found this as unsatisfying as the rest of the book.

Monday, 24 January 2011


I have enjoyed a number of Michaels Crichton’s thrillers although not enough to buy them new (this was another charity shop purchase) but, sadly, this book was a bit of a let down. The author was obviously passionate about his subject – the unethical use of genetic material by large corporations and the patenting of individual genes – but this novel was unfocused with characters I had little interest in. The plot began to seem non-existent and about two thirds of the way I had had enough. I did skip read to the end but couldn’t really tell you what happened.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Behaviour of Moths

I loved this book. It is the story of two sisters who have been apart for all their adult lives. One sister has stayed reclusively (autistically?) in the family mansion to continue her father’s ‘work’ studying the habits of moths and the other returns after 47 years. Why did she leave? The book concentrates on how these two lived together as children and young women and how their relationships with their parents ‘worked’. It looks at their differing views on events in those childhoods and through their lives; how these have affected them and how their personalities and characters affect their memories and views on events. The family is a little creepy and very dysfunctional. The main outcome after the 47 years is quite easy to guess but this didn’t distract from the story for me and there are plenty of surprises – I loved the details about moths too.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Mapping The Edge

Sarah Dunant is a relatively new author to me and I am very glad to have found her. I have seen reviews of ‘The Birth of Venus’ trilogy but not really considered reading it despite enjoying historical fiction from time to time. I recently read an interview with Sarah Dunant that was interesting so when I saw a copy of ‘Mapping the Edge’ in a charity shop I bought it and started it almost straight away. It is very, very good.

It’s the story of Anna who goes missing on a trip to Italy; of what happens to her (or may have happened to her); and of the ‘family’ she leaves behind. The structure of the book is fascinating and was a bit strange to start with but just a few chapters in I could not put this book down. It works as a tense thriller (at times I was almost literally on the edge of my seat), and as a story of intricate relationships. I loved it and can’t wait to read her other thrillers and the historical trilogy.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

Set in the early 50′s this is the story of Penelope and Charlotte, impoverished society girls who are looking for love and adventure but are seemingly hampered by their families, their decaying homes and their height! This is, of course, far from the truth and these two create a stir wherever they go. This is a simple story that evokes the era beautifully (my mother’s era though not mine!). For me, however, the writing was a little laboured at times and the story a bit too frivolous and I found myself skipping bits towards the end. The ‘secret’ was all too obvious and not really very interesting. A pleasant read nonetheless.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Mr Pip

Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones is an extraordinary book. I didn’t really know what to expect from it after seeing it reviewed on several blogs, except knowing it is used as an exam text in schools I did expect good writing and some kind of ‘message’. Both were evident in a powerful and shocking story which is very hard to leave behind. I find myself still thinking about it several days later.
The story concerns Matilda, a girl living on a tropical island and how the conflict in the civil war going on in the area affects her and the other people in her village. This includes Mr Watts, the only white man in the village, who uses Dickens’ Great Expectations to ‘teach’ in the village school. Unforgettable and definitely one to be re-read.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Devil's Feather


If I had to choose one crime writer to read it would be Minette Walters. I think she is a brilliant story teller and inventor of really appealing characters - and some not so appealing - but all fascinating. I love all her books but The Devil's Feather would probably be my first choice … only 'probably' though.

This one introduces Connie, a hard hitting journalist working in war torn Sierra Leone and other war ravaged countries. She is kidnapped and humiliated while working for Reuters after she has tried to expose a suspected serial killer. Connie returns to the UK, terrified and suffering from panic and anxiety. How she confronts her fears and the help she receives from new ‘friends’ makes for a tension filled thriller with a wonderful ending (in my opinion anyway). For me this book is compulsively readable and sits firmly on my ‘favourite’s’ shelf.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Little Stranger

I expected The Little Stranger to be better than it was. I enjoyed the first half of the book very much but felt it ‘tailed off’ quite drearily in the end with no real surprises. The book felt too long and as though Sarah Waters didn’t quite know what to do with her story. I am surprised that this was in last years Booker shortlist. I need to read some more Sarah Waters. Fingersmith and The Night Watch are on my ‘to be read pile’ so hopefully will get to them soon.


I make things - see here - and I read - a lot. I like to read book blogs and I like to discuss books I've read so I thought maybe my own book blog would be fun - so here it is with brief reviews of the books I read ...