I bloody loved this book. It put me somewhat in mind of Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal (which I also bloody loved). Alternating between the voices ofI bloody loved this book. It put me somewhat in mind of Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal (which I also bloody loved). Alternating between the voices of Olivia - successful author and TV-personality, attractive, nice houses, large family, and Vivian - bitter, jealous, lonely, plain, elderly housekeeper, The Night Visitor sucks the reader into a claustrophobic chokehold of deceit and secrets.
While Olivia Sweetman should be riding high on the massive success of her latest book, she is acting strangely fretful and on edge, and Vivian, her research assistant has mysteriously vanished at a crucial moment. With absolutely nothing in common, Olivia and Vivian's lives have become interwoven through work, but increasingly uncomfortably and obsessively so. Set mainly in East Sussex and the south of France, the story of these two very different women is filled with symbolism, usually of the creepy-crawly variety, which was a very clever way to expose many character flaws in both parties.
There were several gasp-out-loud moments for me in this book. Not the gratuitous or macabre kind, but much more subtle and a feeling of being sucked into a vortex of manipulation and deceit. It was difficult to know who to trust at times and difficult to know who the characters themselves could trust also.
Shining a light on feminism (and cleverly done, might I add), this exceptionally well-plotted book exposes our culture and how we believe things to be. But as Vivian points out: just like the dung beetle, never underestimate someone you think is below you.
Absolutely brilliant! Creepy and compelling edge-of-your-seat reading at its best. Often disturbing and unsettling but always absorbing and engrossing. Massive thumbs up from me!...more
I have long been a fan of Sharon Bolton. In fact, I’ve read every single book she’s written (which surely makes me a super-fan?). I know I’m in for aI have long been a fan of Sharon Bolton. In fact, I’ve read every single book she’s written (which surely makes me a super-fan?). I know I’m in for a treat when I settle down with on of her books, and I’m pleased to confirm that I haven’t been let down yet.
Dead Woman Walking starts in a balloon ride early one morning. A group of 13 people (which includes a couple, several hikers, a family with teenage children and two sisters, Jess and Bella, who are two of the main characters in this book) are enjoying their ride when they witness a crime on the ground below which ultimately turns their tranquil flight into the trip of nightmares. When the balloon fails to arrive back and the police are eventually called, what they find is a scene of carnage and devastation and a flight that wasn’t simply a crash, but a deliberate attempt to bring the balloon down.
Once the victims are accounted for, the Police realise they are one body short. From here, what ensues is a cat and mouse game between victim, Police and someone else who is just as determined to find her, although for entirely different reasons. I really don’t want to say any more than this as it’s best to read it and find out for yourself as you go along.
There are several plot twists in Dead Woman Walking and I did actually guess them all. I think I must read too much crime fiction as I constantly find myself playing detective and pick up on every little thing (particularly something that seems slightly out of place or almost irrelevant to the developing plot, as I often find that it is there for a reason in the end). Despite this, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book and it was still as satisfying to find out my theories had been right (although I confess, I love it when I don’t see something coming).
Verdict: Another belter from Sharon Bolton. Fantastic plot, great characters (the nuns were fantastic! – it was like watching the end of The Sound of Music when they sabotage the Nazi’s car). Short chapters, great forward momentum and a fabulous array of characters = a page-turning romp of a read.
WARNING: THIS BOOK IS A RIOT! IT WILL HAVE YOU LAUGHING OUT LOUD, SHOCK YOU AND MAKE YOU UNABLE TO PUT THE DAMN THING DOWN.
As soon as reviews startedWARNING: THIS BOOK IS A RIOT! IT WILL HAVE YOU LAUGHING OUT LOUD, SHOCK YOU AND MAKE YOU UNABLE TO PUT THE DAMN THING DOWN.
As soon as reviews started appearing on my Twitter feed about this book, I knew I had to have it. It sounded hilarious and although I have learned to be a little dubious about books that are marketed as “a cross between x and x”, in this case, it is totally warranted. Bridget Jones really does meet Dexter, and what a joyous combination they are!
Rhiannon, aka Sweetpea, writes about her life in a diary. She moans about her boyfriend, her weight, her friends who do nothing but talk about weddings and babies, her dull job and the array of off characters she has to work with. That all sounds rather normal, right? Well yes, except that Rhiannon always starts her diary entries with a list of people she would like to kill:
“People who chat at the cashier in the supermarket, even though there’s a queue behind them – I’m all for being pleasant when you’re packing your bag, but when the card’s been pulled out or the change has been given, kindly fuck off. Don’t linger and talk about your kid’s Easter play or your operation. AND DON’T THANK ME FOR WAITING. I DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE!”
The above quotation is one of the milder comments from this book. There is dark humour and then there is black-as-coal humour and this definitely falls into the latter. Even I, who can F and blind with the best of them and am not easily offended, let out a slow whistle on the odd occasion. This book is dark, it’s crude, it’s shameless, it’s but it’s utterly and absolutely freaking hilarious!
Rhiannon is a psychopath and a serial killer. She spends her life reminding herself of “The Act” – how she has learned to be normal around other people so as not to raise suspicion – when in fact most of the time she is reminiscing about one of her kills or plotting her next one. But yet, despite this, I loved Rhiannon. Loved her! She is a riot of sarcasm, profanity and grumbles about much of the same things that annoy the rest of us (or is that just me?).
“1. Cold callers – I swear a circle of Dante’s Inferno is missing some inhabitants.
2. Those self-righteous people who brag about not throwing anything away for an entire year – how do you recycle your fanny rags? Seriously?
3. Whoever sits in my office chair when I’m not there and adjusts the height.”
“Bought an iced bun on the way to lunch but it turned out to be a depressingly bad iced bun. You would think there’s no such thing – it’s just a bun and icing, right?
For a start it was stale and there was a live fruit fly stuck to one end. And if that wasn’t enough, half of my icing was stuck on the bun next to it in the window and the bitch with the tongs never even scraped it off and put it back on mine. So rude.”
And then there are gems like this:
“Believe it or not, this is not the most awkward I’ve ever been around Jim and Elaine. I had food poisoning once at their house one Christmas – I was up all night in their bathroom, Jackson Pollocking the ceramic and letting off excruciatingly loud farts. At one point Jim came in and asked me if I wanted a cup of tea. My mouth tried to answer but my arsehole beat him to it.”
I don’t normally do star ratings on my blog but as I am required to on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, I initially thought I would give this a 4-star rating, purely based on my opinion that Sweetpea ended with a whimper rather than a bang and left me wanting. However, having thought about it, I am still going to go with 5 stars, as apart from that I loved every minute of reading this book.
Sexually explicit, graphic, stabby, and not for the feint of heart. Utterly brilliant!!!...more
The Secret History meets We Need to Talk About Kevin? A bold claim, but one that had me champing at the bit to read this, nonetheless. Those books areThe Secret History meets We Need to Talk About Kevin? A bold claim, but one that had me champing at the bit to read this, nonetheless. Those books are two of my favourite of all-time and with Quicksand also laying claim to Best Swedish Crime Novel of 2016, I thought I was in for a treat and then some. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Beginning with a murder trial, I was fully prepared to love this book. I love a courtroom drama and this had the hallmarks of a good one: privileged, popular, straight A student Maja Norberg is standing trial for the murder of her boyfriend and classmates. A mass shooting has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb ad eighteen-year-old Maja is charged for her involvement in the massacre. Now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom. But how did Maja—a top student—become a cold-blooded killer? The media whips up the whole country into a frenzy and Maja becomes guilty before even tried.
Now, I don’t always have to like a cast of characters in order to be invested in their story, but frankly, Maja and her equally privileged friends were so unlikeable that I couldn’t make myself care one way or the other. What started out as a did-she-or-didn’t-she drama, quickly descended into endless flashbacks of teenage love triangles, drugs, parties and the likes. Maybe I’m just really old, but honestly, I couldn’t give a toss about any of them or their angst.
To be fair, it did start well: Maja is found in her classroom amongst a room full of dead classmates and she doesn’t have a scratch on her. I was excited to read more and find out what really happened in that room on that fateful morning. I wanted to know why Maja seemed so detached from it all. Then the book took a serious nose-dive towards the middle and I found myself bored of the to-ing and fro-ing between timeframes and lost interest.
Quicksand, for me, lacked suspense or tension: there were no surprises, twists, red herrings and no reason to keep reading on. And yet I did. Because surely an award-winning book must redeem itself, right? Wrong. I read all the way to the end and wasn’t even rewarded for my slog. That said, it is getting lots of rave reviews so definitely one to make your own mind up about....more
I have long been a fan of Paige Toon’s books. She is one of those authors whose books you just know you will love; a go-to author. Women’s Fiction, chI have long been a fan of Paige Toon’s books. She is one of those authors whose books you just know you will love; a go-to author. Women’s Fiction, chick lit, holiday reading, call it what you will – when all said and done, they are feel-good and will melt the hardest of hearts.
What I like about Paige Toon’s books is that characters from previous books quite often pop up (no plot spoilers, usually just a brief mention by way of a call or email but it always puts a smile on my face to hear from them). In The Last Piece of my Heart, Bridget re-locates to Cornwall to ghostwrite a sequel to a best-selling novel, only the widow of the author who wrote the first book is still grieving and not especially pleased to see her. I don’t want to say more than that, as I find that with these books it’s best to get swept up in the unfolding story without knowing which direction it might go in (I say that because in some of Toon’s books we’re not actually sure who the lead character will end up with).
I do like books like this in between crime and more literary reads – I consider them palate-cleansers, and I don’t mean that to sound in any way derogatory, as some have become firm favourites of mine; a respite or an escape, real comfort reading. What I especially love about Paige Toon’s books, among all of this genre that I enjoy, is that they are probably the books that make me root for the characters the most. We watch them fall slowly for each other and cheer them on towards the hoped-for conclusion.
Another belter. Feel-good, romantic, pure escapism. Big thumbs up....more
This weekend I sat in the garden, the sun shining, and read the most beautiful, lyrical and vividly written book – Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew.This weekend I sat in the garden, the sun shining, and read the most beautiful, lyrical and vividly written book – Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew. This isn’t the first book I have read by this author (more on that later) so I knew that I was in for a treat and I wasn’t let down in the slightest.
This book is a feast for the senses. From the very first sentence, I was whisked immediately away to the Provencial countryside as a new spring is dawning and I was immersed in colours and fragrances and sensations that can only be brought about by the most talented author. I was there under the lime tree, I felt the breeze lift the hem of my skirt, and heard the parched earth drink the water from the upturned pail.
The man of the book title is, in fact, Vincent van Gogh, however, he isn’t the protagonist; that is Jeanne Trabuc. Van Gogh is more of a supporting character to enable Jeanne to evolve and blossom, and the story is really hers. The year is 1889 and set in the Saint-Paul Asylum, Saint-Rémy, where Van Gogh admitted himself and was a patient for a year, painting some of his most loved paintings during that time before he became more well known. Jeanne lives with her husband Charles in a little white cottage next to the asylum in the French countryside as Charles is the Manager there. Jeanne, whose three grown up sons have all left home, lives by the rules she has become accustomed to over the years and is forbidden to enter the asylum grounds but she finds a way to meet with Vincent often and through their conversations while he paints, she learns to remember the woman (and child) she was; the playful, independent girl who grew up with just her belovèd Father and wore yellow silk dresses, wore her hair unpinned, and who did handstands in the square. It’s an incredibly moving story as Jeanne considers her life and contemplates her future. Van Gogh’s paintings awaken something in her; a desire and a longing for something more than the life of conformity and routine.
Seven years ago, I interviewed this author about her book Corrag (which is now re-published as Witch Light and is still one of the most perfect books I’ve ever read) and in this interview, she explained about spending half-an-hour of watching a bumble bee visit foxgloves, writing down how it looked and sounded, and I can completely see this. The scenes of nature in both books are exquisite; full of vibrancy and sentiment. Just stunning. When I read a book I want to believe I’m right there in the pages. Few authors make me feel this as well as Susan Fletcher. Others that have had a similar impact are Joanne Harris (particularly the Chocolat series) and more recently Sealskin by Su Bristow.
This book was a joy to read from start to finish. Susan Fletcher can write. I mean, REALLY write. If you love beautiful storytelling and pitch-perfect prose, you need to read this book. I cannot recommend highly enough....more
When two bloggers recommend the same book within the space of a couple of days (and heartily!) my interest is usually piqued enough to check it out. TWhen two bloggers recommend the same book within the space of a couple of days (and heartily!) my interest is usually piqued enough to check it out. Tall Oaks was that book. A bargain on Kindle; I downloaded, read the first page to see what the fuss was about, and kept on reading… and reading…
This isn’t your average crime novel. And while I am a massive fan of crime (probably my favourite genre) I am also a massive fan of books that make me laugh out loud. This book did both. It also contains one of my favourite ever characters – Manny, a 17-year-old wannabe gangster who is utterly hilarious and had me shaking with laughter on many an occasion. I defy you not to fall in love with Manny and his potty-mouth and hair-brained ideas and I defy you not to howl with laughter at Roger and the swimming pool scene! Genius.
So, to the plot. Three-year-old Harry Monroe is taken from his bedroom one stormy night and the book deal with the fallout of this and the impact it has on his mother Jessica and the other residents of Tall Oaks. The cast of characters is so brilliantly drawn that I felt I knew them all personally. All their quirks, flaws and insecurities were laid bare and I loved them all the more for it. The thread that runs through the book is Harry’s disappearance, but the real star of the show is Tall Oaks itself. There is humanity in this town is palpable and despite the stifling heat of that summer and the suspicion and media circus, I loved this place. I miss Manny et al now I’ve left them. Not everything is as it seems, not all people are who they say they are, and there is an almighty twist that brings Tall Oaks to its mighty conclusion.
Verdict: Honestly, I don’t know why this book isn’t better known and I’m going to do my damnedest to shout about it from the rooftops now and get people reading it. Honestly, it is such a great book – mystery, humour, humanity, the whole works. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!...more