Mini Book Reviews – A Catch Up

In a feeble attempt to go into the New Year with a clean slate and no outstanding book reviews, I’ve rounded up my most recently read books:

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

The third instalment in the Cormoran Strike detective series is a cracking read despite the often gruesome scenes, being a tad bit too long and scattered with what I’d call pompous words that I just felt were not needed in this kind of novel.  I know this sounds like I didn’t enjoy it but I really did – particularly the developing relationship between Strike and Robin.  Having inadvertently read the last sentence I thought I knew what was going to happen but yet again I still got it all wrong!  Am looking forward to the next instalment of the BBC drama as it should be the best one yet in this much more personal case.

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon 


The Dying Game by Asa Avdic

This was our latest book club read which promised us a mix of The Hunger Games meets And Then There Were None with some Big Brother thrown in for good measure – therefore mahoosive expectations….what a let down!  This book had so much promise even though it felt somewhat a rip off of those previously mentioned books but unfortunately just didn’t deliver.  I, and the group, felt that there were too many unanswered questions and that none of the characters were really that likeable so we didn’t give two hoots when things happened to them.  There were also issues with the writing; whether that be the translation or the actual text, who knows.  What a shame…

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

An unusual quick Christmas re-read for me in that I very rarely re-read books as there’s so many others to read but I was given this edition last Christmas.  I actually enjoyed reading this more the second time around as I felt I understood the story better.  This really is a lovely version with black inside papers and a gorgeous cover.

 

 

 

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon


Last Breath by Robert Bryndza

Along with catching up on reviews, I’m also trying to reduce the backlog of advanced reader copies I have outstanding and here’s one from that list – the fourth instalment in the DCI Erika Foster series.  This is the only series that I’ve read from the start and would recommend to anyone who’s not yet started them.  Fast paced, gripping with thoroughly vile villains and a team of realistic likeable detectives on the hunt for them.  These books should be on every crime thriller fan’s reading list and this one doesn’t disappoint either.  Onwards to number 5 which is also waiting on my Kindle!

 

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon


So that’s me all caught up for now.  Have you read any of these books or are they are on your reading list? Do let me know.

I’m hoping to get back into my blogging properly next year and make a real effort.

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Book Review: A Maigret Christmas by Georges Simenon

 What’s it about?

Three seasonal stories set in Paris at Christmas, from the celebrated creator of Inspector Maigret. It is Christmas in Paris, but beneath the sparkling lights and glittering decorations lie sinister deeds and dark secrets… This collection brings together three of Simenon’s most enjoyable Christmas tales, newly translated, featuring Inspector Maigret and other characters from the Maigret novels. In ‘A Maigret Christmas’, the Inspector receives two unexpected visitors on Christmas Day, who lead him on the trail of a mysterious intruder dressed in red and white. In ‘Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook’, the sound of alarms over Paris send the police on a cat and mouse chase across the city. And ‘The Little Restaurant in Les Ternes (A Christmas Story for Grown-Ups)’ tells of a cynical woman who is moved to an unexpected act of festive charity in a nightclub – one that surprises even her…

My thoughts

As an intro I’m just going to say that I’ve never read Maigret before or watched any of the TV drama adaptations.  I was drawn to this book by its cover and because I was looking for a Christmassy crime mystery novel so this seemed to fit the bill.

Unfortunately I only received one story as part of the advanced reader copy which was the title story ‘A Maigret Christmas’ so I have little to comment on.  I enjoyed the 1950s Parisian setting and the glimpse into a French Christmas Day…the bakeries being open to buy fresh croissants etc  (wonder if this is still the same).  Given the era and lack of technology all you have is basic good old-fashioned police work; questioning and intuition.  However, there were no deductions or explanations as to where Maigret’s suspicions lay or how he had worked out what had happened (its no Columbo!).  Given that there were  only had a handful of characters to choose from it was all a little too cut and dried.  Having said that I didn’t quite work out all that was going on….nothing new there!

Overall I enjoyed what I read and would have liked to have been able to read the other two stories in the collection to see if they were of a similar style and to be able to give a more rounded view.  Just this one didn’t massively inspire me to read more of the series.

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author link: Penguin Books

Small print for info
Source: Netgalley – ARC
No of pages:  224
Publisher:  Penguin Classics

Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

What’s it about?

Just after 11am on 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered. He’s found on the sitting room sofa, she upstairs on the bedroom floor, both murdered with an axe.

It is younger daughter Lizzie who is first on the scene, so it is Lizzie who the police first question, but there are others in the household with stories to tell: older sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls’ Uncle John, and a boy who knows more than anyone realises.

In a dazzlingly original and chilling reimagining of this most notorious of unsolved mysteries, Sarah Schmidt opens the door to the Borden home and leads us into its murkiest corners, where jealousies, slow-brewed rivalries and the darkest of thoughts reside.

My thoughts

This was my book club choice for our November read. I picked it as I was looking for a book in a similar vein to Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites as I’d loved that book club choice.

I rated the book as a 4* read but do have mixed feelings about it.  As interesting as the subject is the book is really very slow and quite repetitive.  From the outset Lizzie and her father are painted as not very nice people but I actually got to more than half way though Schmidt’s version of events thinking there were several contenders of the who the murderer could be.  I have a real respect for books that intermingle fact and fiction and as a reader you can’t tell where those lines are blurred and because of this I went one star higher with my rating.

The relationship between Lizzie and her sister Emma was a very strange and strained.  Lizzie treated Emma like her maid and Emma let her do it.  I just wanted Emma to make a break from the family and live her the life the way she wanted.  I don’t know if this was how they really were but the sections of both their Wills at the end of the book make for interesting reading and would suggest it was.

I thought there were too many pear and mutton references and I wasn’t crazy about some of the writing style i.e. referring to the clock on the mantelpiece or time which was then followed by ticked.ticked.ticked.  I get we were supposed to be in Lizzie’s head but I felt it was odd.

Ultimately I wanted to know did Lizzie do it or didn’t she, which we’ll never know, however based on this book I’d said she most definitely did.

Do you remember the childhood rhyme?

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Library
No of pages: 336
Publisher: Tinder Press

It was with sadness that we learned on the morning following this meeting that a member of our book group had passed away. RIP Sue – forever now reading!

Book Review: Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst

What’s it about?

Karen is meant to be the one who fixes problems.

It’s her job, as a psychiatrist – and it’s always been her role as a friend.

But Jessica is different. She should be the patient, the one that Karen helps.

But she knows things about Karen. Her friends, her personal life. Things no patient should know.

And Karen is starting to wonder if she should have let her in . . .

My thoughts

I do love a good psychological thriller and Jenny’s books have been on my radar for some time now, but when I knew my local library was arranging An Evening With Jenny Blackhurst for Libraries Week I knew I needed to get up to date and pick up her books.

From the first few pages I was totally drawn into the three women’s lives and the friendship between them will certainly have you sucked into a false sense to security because nothing is ever quite as it seems is it?  The short chapters (I do love a short chapter) drip feed tension and drama at practically every page so of course…just one more chapter!  Some of the chapters are from the points of view of the three friends and these are then interspersed with chapters from two unnamed questionable characters…just to add to those red herrings that kept me guessing right till the end.

I do love books that are set in places I know, it does help with the overall visualisation, and I was particularly delighted there was a reference to my home town of Bridgnorth 🙂

Overall, a thoroughly disturbing thriller and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into more of Jenny’s books.

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author links: Twitter | Facebook

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages:  368
Publisher:  Headline

Book Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

What’s it about?

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?

I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.

Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t, and the next day she remembers it. It’s the first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.

But the boy is gone. She thinks he’s moved to the Arctic.

Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?

My thoughts

Loved it, loved it, loved it – please tell me they’ll be a sequel!!!

I bought this book based on the recommendation of another trusted book blogger (see..it does happen!) and I’m not going to lie when I knew it was a targeted YA I was sceptical but I went with it anyway. Oh blimey, I absolutely loved everything about this book, including the sparkly cover and its design and adore Flora.

Not gonna lie the whole first person narrative takes adjustment to especially when little things are repeated but actually given the situation and Flora’s condition it’s totally appropriate and eventually I thought it endearing but so very heartbreaking.  There was a point where I very nearly shed a tear (that takes some doing I’ll tell you).

Don’t think, as I may have done initially, that this book will be light and fluffy and not hard-hitting.  This book is very unsettling  and I think because it’s written from a 17-year-old girl’s perspective most adult women will relate to her emotions which I did but on more than one occasion I wanted, needed to mother and protect her.  Without wanting to give too much away I sensed throughout that all wouldn’t turn out as Flora hopes but I certainly wasn’t expecting what actually did.

Those of you that have read and enjoyed SJ Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep would like this, please don’t dismiss because it’s found in the teen section.  You’d really be missing out.  Overall, a totally unexpected pleasure, I’m just desperate now to find out what happens to her! 100% recommended for ALL ages!

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 320
Publisher:  Penguin