Book Review: Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker

What’s it about?

Captain Tom Barnes is leading British troops in a war zone. Two boys are growing up there, sharing a prized bicycle and flying kites, before finding themselves separated once the soldiers appear in their countryside. On all sides of this conflict, people are about to be caught up in the violence, from the man who trains one boy to fight the infidel invaders to Barnes’s family waiting for him to return home.

We see them not as they see themselves, but as all the objects surrounding them do: shoes and boots, a helmet, a trove of dollars, a drone, that bike, weaponry, a bag of fertilizer, a medal, a beer glass, a snowflake, dog tags, an exploding IED and the medical implements that are subsequently employed.

My thoughts

Every so often a book crops up on your radar that you really makes you think and puts everything else in to perspective for you and after a run of ok meh reads this one really made me sit up and take notice and realise that, actually, my life isn’t so bad.

The book acknowledges that it is loosely based on a true story but you only have to watch your local news, or read a paper, etc to realise that this book could have been written about a number of wounded-in-action servicemen and women and therefore every chapter, every page rings true.

Each chapter is told from the perspective of various inanimate objects and on the whole it’s a very impressive way of telling the story.  I can’t remember the last time a book made me feel as emotional as this: tearful, sympathy, anger to name a few.  It even made me feel sad when a piece of bandage was thrown in the bin!

There’s a lot of this book that isn’t easy to read; there are scenes of an IED explosion,  amputation and bomb preparation so will not be to everyone’s taste.  Some lines will really take your breath away.

“I had changed the body’s proportions forever.  It no longer filled the space it should.”

This line really choked me up – I could clearly visualise the scene! 😦

I just had one small issue with the way the book was written and that was that the objects would often comment on the feelings of the people around them.  Whilst I was totally on board with how everything was else was described,  an object describing a scene around it and recounting stories told etc, it couldn’t possibly comment on a person’s feelings (I know how daft this sounds given the way the whole book is told!) but there we have it, deduct one star AND it really wasn’t needed, there was so much raw emotion in all the other lines.  Overall, an impressive read.

Book Review: The Long Call by Ann Cleeves 

What’s it about?

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.

 

 

My thoughts

Having not read any of Ann Cleeves’ novels before but very much enjoying the Vera TV series I was delighted to be sent 10 advanced copies of The Long Call to share with my book group.

I found it quite an easy book to get into although there are a lot of diverse characters to follow and being the first in a series there’s also a lot of back story to take in.

As you’d expect from such an accomplished author her writing is excellent; she certainly knows how to weave her plot and conjure a setting.  The book is a police procedural and I am a fan of this style as I like to know the mechanics of an investigation and in that respect this book doesn’t disappoint, however it does feel a little sluggish in places with the pace not really picking up until the last few chapters.

Although I enjoyed the book and will look forward to watching the tv adaptation I do think that the plot could have been written for any of Ann Cleeves’ characters; the plot would have worked just as well with either Shetland or Vera as lead detective which makes me wonder if this manuscript was just hanging around in a drawer waiting for a new main character to emerge from the depths of Ann Cleeves’ mind.

Overall the group felt it to be an okay and enjoyable read although not without flaws.  Whilst I wouldn’t want to dwell on those too much I feel it only fair to pass on some of their thoughts:

“Read The Long Call and felt it was OK. It didn’t really grip me and felt main character, Matthew Venn was quite dull. No idea why he had to be gay – felt it was a ploy to meet ‘inclusion’ policies to attract a TV adaptation (which it obviously was)! Especially with the addition of ‘learning disabled’ characters. I just hope the TV series actually casts these characters from the gay and learning disabled communities.”

“As a whole I felt that the book was setting the scene for a series as it didn’t feel like a standalone thriller with a beginning, a middle and an end. The first fifty pages contained descriptions of a gay couple, suicide, homelessness, disabled adults, domestic violence, a hippy, a born again Christian plus a vicar. Every single person is a problem waiting to be figured out. Perhaps it would have been better to leave some description to books 2 or 3? The ending was also quite abrupt and a bit flat.”

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

Author Links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Publisher – ARC
No of pages: 384
Publisher: Macmillan

Book Review: The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding

What’s it about?

In 2013, Thomas Harding returned to his grandmother’s house on the outskirts of Berlin which she had been forced to leave when the Nazis swept to power. What was once her ‘soul place’ now stood empty and derelict. A concrete footpath cut through the garden, marking where the Berlin Wall had stood for nearly three decades.

In a bid to save the house from demolition, Thomas began to unearth the history of the five families who had lived there: a nobleman farmer, a prosperous Jewish family, a renowned Nazi composer, a widow and her children and a Stasi informant. Discovering stories of domestic joy and contentment, of terrible grief and tragedy, and of a hatred handed down through the generations, a history of twentieth century Germany and the story of a nation emerged.

 

 

My thoughts

When I was handed this book as our next book club read I had this sinking feeling in my stomach that I was going to be bored to death by it and would neither finish or enjoy it.  Well, I did finish it and whilst enjoy is probably not quite the right word, it is very interesting and surprisingly easy book to read.  The author has cleverly made it read like a fictional novel rather than a non-fiction text book.

The book follows the house and the its inhabitants through WW1 and WW2, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and the separation and reunification of Germany and the lives that these events affect.  For me, my take away from this book, the most surprising thing was the systematic presecution of the Jews prior to the start of WW2: I’d thought it all happened at the start of the war but is was so much earlier, some 7 or 8 years earlier which I just found incredulous.  I didn’t study history at school past compulsory education and this book is a fascinating read for seeing WW2 from the ordinary German peoples’ perspective.

Not a book I’d ever choose for myself but a perfect read if you’re interested in Germany and German history.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author Links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Library
No of pages: 464
Publisher: Windmill Books

Book Review: Our House by Louise Candlish

What’s it about?

On a bright morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My thoughts

I really enjoy Louise Candlish’s writing and therefore, despite my already over-flowing TBR book shelf, couldn’t resist this charity shop bargain.

I liked the contrasting stories told by way of a journalist’s interview and a confession; it was certainly a different way of drip feeding the story.  I found the characters to be relatable, particularly Fiona, imagine everything you know to be true, however, you find it to be completely unproveable!

You’d think that by now, given all the books I’ve read like this, I would see the twists coming.  But oh wow, one particular twist in this book I didn’t see coming – where was my brain?!?  Nice work Louise! 🙂

However, I did have a somewhat small issue with a small part of the book.  As I work for a solicitor, in conveyancing, I know that a purchase transaction is not registered with HM Land Registry on the same day.  Paperwork is sent between each solicitor that is needed for the registration process and once this is received by HMLR it can take a couple of days for the registration to be effective.  And, in the case where there is a mortgage to repaid (as was the case here) it can take even longer as the bank needs to notifiy the Land Reg to remove the charge against the property however I appreciate that taking a certain ‘poetic licence’ is required to make the plot work.

I get the end, I understand what I’m supposed to assume has happened but it’s still open-ended – I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying, did he or didn’t he?  Given everything else that happened I’m going with I suspect not!!

Although this book offers plenty of tension and twists, my favourite of Louise’s books is still The Disappearance of Emily Marr.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author Links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Second-hand purchase
No of pages: 448
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Book Review: Our Song by Dani Atkins

What’s it about?

This is the story of Ally and Charlotte, whose paths have intersected over the years though they’ve never really been close friends. Charlotte married Ally’s ex and first true love, David. Fate is about to bring them together one last, dramatic time and change their lives forever. Full of Dani’s signature warmth and emotion, this is a gripping and emotional family drama. With breath-taking plot twists, Dani explores themes of serendipity, friendship and love. She fully engages the reader in the dilemmas faced by her characters. What would you do if your husband was the love of somebody else’s life? And when faced with an agonising decision, could you put the past behind you and do the right thing?

 

 

 

My thoughts

As regular readers of my blog will know, I hardly ever read romantic novels or watch romantic films but as it so happens I was going through my book shelf after crying my eyes out at Nights in Rodanthe and just fancied something a little lighter to my usual kind of read.

I enjoyed the book although I found the storyline quite predictable and I saw all the twists coming and I wasn’t really a fan of the chapters being mixed up between the characters, having said that I appreciated the dual narrative and different perspectives – two sides to every story and all that.  I found it hard to engage with Charlotte, both as a teenager and as an adult, I didn’t find her to be a nice person.  Whereas I felt Ally was a more warmer character and much more likeable.

There’s a particular scene which reminded me of the Athena posters of the 80s with the man naked from the chest up holding a newborn – this was how I pictured Joe 🙂

I felt the book was about 50 odd pages too long and therefore I found myself getting a little bored but I’m glad I carried on as my god I read the last 20 pages with tears streaming down my face, I was a mess!  I haven’t read a book that’s had that effect on me since Me Before You so this book is perfect if you need a good cry!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Won
No of pages: 500
Publisher: Simon & Schuster