[Disclaimer: I received a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.]
Cross and Burn is the eighth installment in Val McDermid's Tony...more[Disclaimer: I received a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.]
Cross and Burn is the eighth installment in Val McDermid's Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, which follows a criminal psychologist, a police detective, and the crimes they solve. Except, because of the extreme events of the previous book, The Retribution, Tony and Carol become side-players here, while supporting character Paula McIntyre takes the lead. It's an interesting departure from the established format, and I really enjoyed the results.
In The Retribution, Tony and Carol's relationship and, in effect, lives were thrown into complete disarray by the actions of a serial killer. It was dark and it was painful and at the time I remember feeling that the stakes were ultimately too high, to the point that it was hard to see a road back for either of them. Cross and Burn deals with the aftermath of those events, and by minimising their roles, allows for breathing room and time for the healing process to begin. It's cathatic, realistic, and ultimately re-instilled hope for both their futures.
The case at the centre of the book is an interesting one (and unsurprisingly graphic) - a killer is bumping off blondes who look like Carol, leaving Paula to deal with the aftermath both on a personal and professional level. She's always been one of, or even the most promising supporting character, and easily shoulders the additional weight she's granted in this book. Given her recent promotion to a new firm, the characters from the MIT that have formed the focal point of many investigations from previous novels are either absent entirely, or reduced to a few walk-on scenes. I actually had no problem with this, given that I'd personally found the cast a little over-full in the past few books anyway.
Where things do get a bit weird is with Paula's new boss, DI Alex Fielding. Viewers of the Wire in the Blood TV series will know her as Simone Lahbib's character - Carol's replacement post-Hermione Norris's departure - secondary star of the show for three series. This is the first time she's popped up in a McDermid novel, and the result was puzzling. McDermid presents Fielding as the novel's secondary antagonist, second to only the bloke brutally murdering blondes in his garage. She's petty, officious, short-sighted and self-serving. Everyone who comes into contact with her actively dislikes her, and I don't understand the motivation in presenting her this way. I even went back and re-watched her first WitB episode to see if she started out that way and subsequent character growth had caused me to forget, but... not really. There are shades of her novel characterisation there - initially abrasive, by-the-book and resistant to Tony's skills - but within literal seconds of meeting him, she's also smiling at his foibles, divulging details of the case and letting him listen in on an interview. And by the end, she seeks out and is grateful for his help. I don't know if this is the start of a longer arc for her in the books, but I was a bit bewildered by her depiction.
On the whole, I found a lot of things to enjoy here. The writing was sharp as ever - in less skilled hands, Tony's pining and Carol's residual anger might have veered into melodrama, but most assuredly didn't. I enjoyed the interactions between Paula and Tony, even (maybe especially) the painful moment he accidentally called her Carol. I loved the humour that still lurked beneath the surface despite the circumstances ('He grabbed one of the sturdy reusable carrier bags that Carol - ouch, no, let her go, you can't get sentimental over a bloody carrier bag'). I particularly think keeping Carol and Tony apart for three quarters of the novel was a positive move, building towards their eventual meeting and allowing their interactions to be less raw and fraught than where The Retribution left them. Ultimately, book seven left me worried about where this series was going. Book eight has me pleasantly hopeful for the next installment.
(If there is one truly horrifying event in this novel, it's Carol leaving behind her beloved cat Nelson and getting a dog. Far more dreadful than all the murders combined, clearly.)(less)
[Disclaimer: I received a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.]
I'm going to go ahead and note upfront that I don't ordinarily r...more[Disclaimer: I received a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.]
I'm going to go ahead and note upfront that I don't ordinarily read a lot of romance, and when I do it tends to be of the sugary sweet Shopaholic variety. It would be more than fair to say that erotic BDSM is a real departure from my regular reading material, and yet ever since last year's 50 Shades explosion, I've been curious about giving it a try. Het kink doesn't hold the greatest appeal for me, so its been a case of waiting for something to pique my interest, which the blurb of Rebekah Weatherspoon's At Her Feet did. The D/s world of Mommies/little girls isn't something that was necessarily on my radar beforehand, but that in no way prevented the plot from drawing me in and carrying me along for the ride.
While I had no pre-conceived notions about what to expect, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It's certainly intensely erotic (and very ably written in that respect - realistic without ever becoming vulgar) but the two central characters, Suzy and Pilar, proved to be extremely likeable, and I was really rooting for their relationship from the off. There's a lot going on beyond sex - the development of a caring, nurturing relationship as they chart the potentially fraught waters of communication and trust issues. I genuinely didn't expect to be as moved as I was in places - Weatherspoon really has a talent for pulling at your emotions.
I finished the book quickly, in less than a day. I'd set it down after a few chapter breaks only to pick it up again within a few minutes because I was so invested in how it all panned out. If I'm completely hand-on-heart honest, I may have expected my first foray into erotica to be lacking in substance, but I'm very happy to have been proved wrong. The plot on the whole was well-rounded, and by including regular sections of Suzanne's 'straight' life and hectic work environment, it stayed firmly grounded and realistic. I'd happily recommend it to anyone comfortable with the subject matter, and would certainly be interested in reading more of Weatherspoon's work. The précis of some of Bold Strokes Books' other titles was also intriguing, so on the whole I'm glad I took the chance and dipped my toe into the water - it's always lovely to be pleasantly surprised!(less)
The mark of a successful thriller, for me, is a book that keeps you up reading until your eyes are so heavy you can barely make out the words on the p...moreThe mark of a successful thriller, for me, is a book that keeps you up reading until your eyes are so heavy you can barely make out the words on the page any more. In this respect, Beautiful Lies was definitely not a disappointment. I went into it totally unfamiliar with Lisa Unger's work, for the sole reason that I'd picked up Sliver of Truth in a charity shop and realised it was a sequel. My first inclination was just to read that one anyway and hope for the best, but sixteen pages in, our narrator Ridley Jones tells us:
If you don't know what happened to me and how it all turned out, could go back now and find out before you move ahead. I'm not saying the things that follow won't make any sense to you or that you won't get anything out of the experience of joining me on this next chapter of my vida loca. What I'm saying is that it's kind of like sleeping with someone before you know her name. But maybe you like it like that. Maybe you want to come along and figure things out as we go, like any new relationship, I guess. Either way, the choice is yours. The choice is always yours.
The tone is just so conversational and engaging that I made the choice to start from the beginning, and I'm glad I did, because it's hard to see how the drama that unfolds here could be succinctly imparted before seguing into a sequel. It's not a perfect book - the romance never really held my full attention, the twists and turns the plot took were moderately guessable - but it is a solid 3/5, and now I look forward to returning to Sliver of Truth even more.(less)
21-25 Mar 2012: I think the balance was a bit off kilter in this book. There wasn't really any need for hundreds of pages of 'woe, Peeta and Gale both...more21-25 Mar 2012: I think the balance was a bit off kilter in this book. There wasn't really any need for hundreds of pages of 'woe, Peeta and Gale both love me' when literally every single other thing about it was amazing. The Quarter Quell revelation literally made me put it down so I could go and rant about the unfairness of it all, but the repetition of the games procedure made it feels a bit formulaic, and the games themselves didn't really last very long. I think after book one, I got an idea in my head about where the series would go from there, and was a bit flummoxed by how wrong I was. A great book by all means, but my favourite is still the first.(less)
20-21 March 2012: The only reason I've given this a 4 instead of a 5 is because I don't think this is a series that needs romance at all. It's hardly...more20-21 March 2012: The only reason I've given this a 4 instead of a 5 is because I don't think this is a series that needs romance at all. It's hardly Twilight, but it felt as though they spent about six years in that cave, and the rest of it was just so damn good. So good. This one is definitely my favourite of the trilogy, but I'll probably save a lengthy review for after I've re-read it, which I intend to do pretty soon. I suspect this one will make its way to my all-time favourites shelf before too long.(less)
I'm going to be totally honest - I read over 90 issues of The Walking Dead in a single weekend, and the end of the run has all sort of blurred togethe...moreI'm going to be totally honest - I read over 90 issues of The Walking Dead in a single weekend, and the end of the run has all sort of blurred together for me now, so I can't quite remember my thoughts on these particular five. I'm still totally willing to follow whether Kirkman leads though, even if I do now have to wait an interminable month between issues. (view spoiler)[The main thing I do remember is Andrea and Rick. Last volume, I wasn't sure whether it would win me over, but man has it ever. I hope she can talk him round, I hope she doesn't get herself killed, and I hope the Carl-killed-her-kid thing doesn't screw everything up. (hide spoiler)] I would recommend that anyone who enjoys the TV series but hasn't read the comics stop reading this review immediately and head to the shop.(less)
(view spoiler)[I have such a difficult relationship with Rick Grimes. Sometimes I love him and his everything-for-my-family, talking-to-my-dead-wife-o...more(view spoiler)[I have such a difficult relationship with Rick Grimes. Sometimes I love him and his everything-for-my-family, talking-to-my-dead-wife-on-the-phone shtick... and then he pulls something like "Let's run away - it's morally justified because everyone else's kids aren't our kids!" and it's a lot harder to go on loving him. Idk, I know how desperate he is to protect Carl and I'm sure that's only natural, but I prefer Andrea punching out Spencer at the mere suggestion that they bail. Shows how far she's come - in the beginning, she was willing to ditch the group and take off with Dale in the RV if he wanted. Then they did take off at the end of the prison arc, but she turned that RV around, drove back and started sniping from the roof. And now just the suggestion of turning tail is worth punching out her paramour. I love it, and I sort of love the idea of Andrea/Rick, but right now I can't see how that would work, especially after he cut his lover's hand off to drag Carl through the herd. And then there's the fact that his kid killed her kid, which she's still unaware of... Ack. I'm getting pretty fatigued now, having read 84 issues in 2 days, but I shall plough on until I've finished the available run. (hide spoiler)](less)
I should have reviewed this right after reading, because already it's blurred into an amalgam with volume 14 for me. The special ending to issue 75 wa...moreI should have reviewed this right after reading, because already it's blurred into an amalgam with volume 14 for me. The special ending to issue 75 was just plain awesome, but it's probably not a great sign that it's not proving memorable just a couple of hours after reading it.(less)
Zombies and safe zones and domesticity, oh my! I think this arc has a lot of potential, and I like what I've read so far. It's nice to take a breather...moreZombies and safe zones and domesticity, oh my! I think this arc has a lot of potential, and I like what I've read so far. It's nice to take a breather from the constant threat of death and delve into the characters' psyche's now they're relatively safe for the time being. (view spoiler)[I feel bad for Carl, and I hope he isn't damaged beyond repair, but it must be near impossible to just segue back into being a normal kid after everything he's gone through. Andrea's chat with Rick about how fucked up they all are made me sad, but I love that they're developing a friendship between them. The strip where she told Rick she'd follow him to hell if it meant she could keep hold of who she is... ack, I love her fiercely, and that really got to me. I totally buy how difficult it is for Michonne to settle back into society too, and it definitely made me smile when Rick had Glenn scope out the armoury, but I hope they don't blow a potentially great thing because of their (albeit understandable) trust issues. (hide spoiler)] The series is in a pretty great place right now, and I can't wait to move on to the next volume.(less)
Fear the Hunters wasn't my favourite volume of The Walking Dead, but the fact I knew about the major moments beforehand really served to lessen their...moreFear the Hunters wasn't my favourite volume of The Walking Dead, but the fact I knew about the major moments beforehand really served to lessen their impact. I must try harder to keep away from Wikipedia, but it's to Kirkman's credit that I'm so damn anxious about the survivors that I need to check up on what's ahead for them. I think this volume's biggest problem for me was plausibility and emotional resonance. And I know, I know it's set in the zombie apocalypse so griping about realism is silly, but I'm going to do a little of it anyway. (view spoiler)[As Kirkman acknowledges in the letters pages, the twins have hardly even spoken throughout this series. We see them in the background stood with Andrea and Dale quite often, fair enough, but we never really see any bonding between them as a family unit. So when one murders the other and is in turn killed by Carl, it's hard for me to buy Dale and Andrea's grief. Her heartbreak over Dale's death felt believable, natural and appropriate, but it's hard to envision her as a bereaved mother, because she's never really been depicted as a mom. So there's that, and then you add in the cannibals... it's not something I really bought in McCarthy's The Road either, though Kirkman almost had me with the group's explanation for their actions. It's just really hard to imagine that so much food has been looted they need to eat their own kids. Eeesh. (hide spoiler)](less)
Another really solid volume. I'd worried that being on the road again would detract from what I enjoy most about the series - which is that it's at it...moreAnother really solid volume. I'd worried that being on the road again would detract from what I enjoy most about the series - which is that it's at its absolute best when the characters are at the forefront, rather than the emergency of the week. That hasn't been the case. Volume ten delves deep into the minds of the characters, particularly Rick, Abraham and Dale. (view spoiler)[It's interesting that early on, I struggled to agree with Rick's actions, eg with Dexter and Martinez, but here, when Dale wants to break off from the group and put down roots, I was firmly against that and glad that Andrea was reluctant too. It's great to see Morgan again, though very sad about Duane. Interesting that both he and the Governor took to feeding strangers to their zombie kids... The issue where the bandits tried to rape Carl was harrowing, as was Abraham's origins story, but it definitely made me accept and empathise with him. Maggie's suicide attempt was probably the first time I've really cared about her, but poor Sophia. I could have done with more of the other characters at camp in this volume, but there was still some interesting stuff along the way, like the fact one of the twins seems to be a budding psycho. (hide spoiler)] I'm really liking the current direction, but nervous for the upcoming arc previewed at the end of issue 60.(less)
I really liked this volume. (view spoiler)[I think it was needed, in the same way The Calm Before was - Kirkman is great at building tension, but some...moreI really liked this volume. (view spoiler)[I think it was needed, in the same way The Calm Before was - Kirkman is great at building tension, but sometimes things become so intense that I need a breather as much as the characters need to regroup. The first two issues in this volume probably have the least action of any to date. Rick and Carl stagger away from the prison to a town which offers relative temporary safety, but Rick has a raging infection, and after dispatching one biter, Carl has to fend for himself a while, and we see just how much this poor kid has grown up and how much this new world has twisted him.
In the next issue comes one of my favourite moments in the entire series. Out of the blue, Rick hears a phone ring. The woman on the other end is from a group of 14 survivors trying to make contact with others, but they need to trust him before they can meet up. So she calls, and talks to Rick for a few hours over several days, but his supplies are running low, and he and Carl either need to join them or move on. When he plans to do just that out of desperation, he realises he's never even asked this woman's name. "Rick, it's me... Lori" she tells him, and we realise this has all been in Rick's head, that he's finally cracking up. I thought this whole issue was just stunning.
It's followed by the utter joy of their regrouping - first Michonne saves Carl from a biter, then Glenn and Maggie turn up on horseback and lead the three of them to Hershel's farm, where Andrea, Dale, the twins and Sophia are sitting pretty. Just before Judy's birth, when Rick came back from his first encounter with the Governor, there was a hard-to-read scene in which he admitted to Lori that he just couldn't care about the rest of their group - that he would sacrifice them all for her and Carl if required. But here we have a Rick who's just so damned delighted by the reunion, even if he's now so mired in self-doubt that he tries to hand the leadership reigns over to Dale. Also, Sophia has gone a little cuckoo and is calling Maggie her mom now, and we finally find out who Michonne is talking to - not a schizophrenic split personality, but her dead boyfriend, in a bid to stay sane.
The last issue was my least favourite. Three strangers turn up, and it seems that the group will be following them on a quest to DC now. I've enjoyed them just sitting still for a while, fighting zombies instead of other people, but it seems we're moving on from that again now. It's a pity, because these issues have been so reminiscent of the early ones, when they were first on the road from Atlanta, and really captured the essence of what first made me love the series. I'm not overly keen on the three new characters, but that's mostly just because Abraham hit Andrea. I know she was getting trigger happy, but it didn't endear him to me. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The end of issue 48 is the closest this series has come to making me cry yet. (view spoiler)[I knew it was going to happen. I knew it before I ever be...moreThe end of issue 48 is the closest this series has come to making me cry yet. (view spoiler)[I knew it was going to happen. I knew it before I ever began reading, and yet Carl's "Where's Judy?", the tears in Rick's eyes, they had me welling up. I had my doubts about this arc before it kicked off. It's all well and good to proclaim that no-one is safe, but there was a lot of dead-weight in that prison I won't miss... Axel, Patricia, Billy - they were okay, I didn't dislike them, but their deaths didn't particularly phase me. Tyreese's murder was hideous, I felt awful for Hershel finding relief in death, and while I've never much taken to Lori... ouch. The Governor's death left me a little nonplussed. It was good to finally see his people turn on him, but I think it would have been more satisfying to have him die at Michonne's hands. I had mixed feelings about Dale, Andrea, Glenn and Maggie taking off with the kids, but the moment Andrea reappeared on the roof of the RV and resumed shooting was glorious. I felt awful for Rick when he realised how depleted their numbers were, but to give Andrea her due, she must have at least decimated the Governor's people before she took off. (hide spoiler)] I don't imagine I'll sleep well tonight, but I simply must get another volume in before bed.(less)
This volume served as much-needed respite from the on-going horror, though will, I fear, prove forgettable. It's only been a few hours since I finishe...moreThis volume served as much-needed respite from the on-going horror, though will, I fear, prove forgettable. It's only been a few hours since I finished it, and I can't find much to say about it. (view spoiler)[It's nice to see Glenn and Maggie married, it's awesome to see Andrea step up and serve as the prison's sharp-shooting guru, and Dale's jealously of Tyreese was cute. Dale losing his leg was horrifying, but it's definitely an interesting twist with the amputation saving his life. Alice wanting a Roamer to study stretched credulity a little - however apt she might be at learning, she's not a medic or a scientist - what could she possibly have hoped to achieve? Carol's suicide method was horrific and unexpected, but it felt like she'd been on borrowed time for a long time beforehand. Poor crazy Carol. (hide spoiler)] Huh, I guess I came up with a few things after all. Worried as heck about the next arc now.(less)
Whew. That was cathartic. (view spoiler)[After the last volume, I wanted Michonne to exact painful and bloody revenge on the Governor, but I really di...moreWhew. That was cathartic. (view spoiler)[After the last volume, I wanted Michonne to exact painful and bloody revenge on the Governor, but I really didn't see that coming. It was difficult to read and watch, but in a sadistic way, it was good to see the "good" characters come out of the situation on top. I like(d) the three new characters introduced, though Dr Stevens' quick, unexpected death makes me think I shouldn't get too attached to Alice. I didn't expect Martinez to turn traitor, and I don't know how to feel about Rick killing him to protect the prison's location. I can appreciate now why the TV series has elected to keep Shane alive this long. I think it's good to have a strong foil who can go to these dark places, while keeping Rick back from this precipice, because it's damn hard to read, and even harder to decide a moral position on.
Going forward, I'm not sure whether I trust Hershel's injury to be a shot rather than a bite... I badly want to know why Michonne keeps talking to herself, and I guess I'd like things to stay a little insular for a while, because there are definitely more dark days on the horizon. (I was also confused by the Christmas interlude with Morgan and Duane - was that a flashback? I guess it must have been, otherwise Lori would be over a year pregnant by now... or their calendar is really out of whack.) (hide spoiler)] I'm determined to get through these all today if possible, but I really need to take a break to let my emotions wind down a little. Kirkman is damned good at tension.["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I was so unprepared for this emotionally. While the previous volumes were full of angst to the highest degree, I feel... distraught. Nauseous. A littl...moreI was so unprepared for this emotionally. While the previous volumes were full of angst to the highest degree, I feel... distraught. Nauseous. A little like I need to cry. The turn things have taken is so dark, but at this point I truly can't say whether I think it was for the best. (view spoiler)[When the Governor cut Rick's hand off, when he raped Michonne, when he sat in front of the dozens of heads he'd collected... I wished we could just go back to the prison, and be as cosy and domestic as a zombie apocalypse possibly can be. And then that happened, and it was admittedly dull. So Hershel nearly had the generator going. Woo hoo. So Carol is pretty out and out crazy and wants a polygamous marriage to Lori and Rick. Weird but... Michonne. Rick. (Admittedly, I loved Andrea just plain forgetting she's meant to be a mom to the twins now. Ha.)
I take back what I said about not "getting" Michonne in the last volume. She's brave and fierce and badass and I hope she gets the opportunity to tear the Governor limb from limb, agonisingly slowly. I really really like the Rick-Governor parallel that the doctor drew out. You can really appreciate how the paths they started on were similar, and in a way I think this was needed after Rick shooting Dexter. I also found it interesting how Andrea seemed to tacitly approve, practising her marksmanship up on the watchtower in case anyone came along to take "their" prison. I'm so worried about them all though, and I predict that I'm going to be a wreck before the day is through (because there's now zero chance of me getting anything productive done today. I'm going to be reading until my eyes fall out.) (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>(less)
(view spoiler)[This was my least favourite collection so far - not to say it had no merit, because it did, I just didn't find it as compelling as the...more(view spoiler)[This was my least favourite collection so far - not to say it had no merit, because it did, I just didn't find it as compelling as the others. After finishing volume three, despite it being 5am, I couldn't stop reading. This one, I found easy to put down mid-way through, despite the fact Carol had just slit her wrists. I know it's a zombie apocalypse, but the angst factor really amped up here, what with Rick turning killer and defending his actions, Allen dying (impact lessened immeasurably by the fact he hasn't done anything but mope and call Andrea a cunt since Donna died), Tyreese cheating on Carol with Michonne... As for her, pretty much everything I've read about the comics tells me she's an awesome character, but I'm really not seeing it, or "getting" her so far. Plus she called Andrea a bitch, so... I did smile a little at Carol throwing herself at Rick, after earlier doing the same to Lori. Poor Sophia will likely be traumatised in a sitting-in-a-pool-of-her-mother's-blood Grey's Anatomy way. I think the best thing this collection had going for it was driving home the fact this is essentially a world without hope. The zombie problem will never ever be eradicated, because as soon as the living die, blam, more zombies. That final line of Rick's, "We are the walking dead" is truly chilling. (hide spoiler)](less)
It's 5am. I need to go to bed. I also need to keep reading and the latter state is by far the most compelling. Wow... I love this arc. (view spoiler)[...moreIt's 5am. I need to go to bed. I also need to keep reading and the latter state is by far the most compelling. Wow... I love this arc. (view spoiler)[From the suicide pact, to Carol's two-panel lesbianism, Tyreese killing all the zombies in the gym, the extreme close up on Hershel's decapitated girls, Andrea escaping that psychopath like the badass she is, Rick going back to put another bullet in Shane then half-beating Andrew to death... and goddamn, that chilling revelation that even those who aren't bitten come back as zombies. I near enough held my breath for an entire issue after that creep cornered Andrea in the laundry room. (hide spoiler)] I can see now why some comic fans thing the TV series moves way too slowly. I can appreciate how it would be frustrating to still be stuck on Hershel's farm when this could be going down instead. (I also appreciate how the new artist doesn't draw Lori like a blow-up sex doll like the old one did, and I super appreciate Rick telling her to shut the fuck up.) I really want to read another collection now, but I don't want to turn into a zombie myself.(less)
This was a tough book to rate. Little Face is part psychological thriller, part police procedural. The main character, Alice Fancourt, ventures out fo...moreThis was a tough book to rate. Little Face is part psychological thriller, part police procedural. The main character, Alice Fancourt, ventures out for the first time after the birth of her daughter Florence. When she returns home, she doesn't recognise the child in her nursery, and is adamant that Florence has been switched with another baby. Half of the book is told in first person from Alice's point of view, while the other half - in third person - follows the two detectives on her case, Simon and Charlie.
Sophie Hannah was recommended to me by a member of my reading group. I browsed through a few of her works on Goodreads, thought the premises all sounded intriguing, and started this one at around 2am, intending just to try it for a chapter before bed. Next thing I knew, it was approaching 7am, I hadn't slept, and I was nearly half-way through. The very best thing Little Face has going for it is that it's a damn good hold-your-breath-and-keep-turning-the-pages thriller. I haven't felt so tense since Tess Gerritsen's Vanish. I even left a light on that night when I eventually dragged myself to bed. (Why? Did I think someone was going to break in and steal my non-existent baby? I just don't know.)
Unfortunately, the book has a fair few problems, not least of which is that both detective characters are frankly childish to the highest degree, and I just don't know if I care to revisit them again. But by far the biggest problem is the ending. I just... wow. It's mind-boggling. Does Hannah not know that you can't do that? Or does she know and just not care? I don't know, I guess it takes guts to be that brazen, so there must be a part of me that's impressed... but it's certainly off-putting in terms of whether I'll read her again. She's doing an author event at the Waterstones near me in a few weeks, and I'm thinking of going on the strength of Little Face's thriller elements... but whether I return to this series is very much up in the air.(less)
This was my least favourite Sherlock Holmes read to date. It was the first of the novels that I've read, having stuck to the short story collections b...moreThis was my least favourite Sherlock Holmes read to date. It was the first of the novels that I've read, having stuck to the short story collections before, and while it wasn't particularly bad, I can't be any more enthusiastic than 'okay'.
Holmes and Watson are employed on behalf of Sir Henry Baskerville, who recently inherited the family estate from his uncle. Since the death of their ancestor Hugo Baskerville - commonly believed among moor-folk to have been murdered by a demonic dog - fears and superstition have surrounded the family, so when Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead with fright, yards away from the prints of a giant hound, the game is truly afoot.
I've never been a big fan of ghost stories - I like good ones well enough, but I think they're very hard to tell without rousing buckets of scepticism or descending into silliness. Given that this is Sherlock Holmes, it's pretty obvious before you even open the book that the solution isn't really going to be the work of the Devil.
I think the sheer length of it is problematic - it's not much over 200 pages, but given how much punch the short stories pack in 20 pages, it was always going to be a stretch to maintain. The clues build up and up, but the eventual solution feels anticlimactic. Everything rather falls into place, and there are few shining 'oh' moments at Holmes's cleverness. The few things that did take me somewhat by surprise had nothing to do with Sherlock at all, actually.
Holmes's presence is another puzzling thing. The Hound of the Baskervilles was written 8 years after Conan Doyle killed Holmes off in The Final Solution. This tale is set before that one, so chronologically there's no issue... it's just odd that, for his grand revival, Sherlock is hardly there. A great chunk of the book consists of Watson accompanying Henry Baskerville to Dartmoor, and keeping Holmes up-to-date through regular telegrams. To my mind, a modern day equivalent would be JK Rowling waiting eight years before writing a new Harry Potter book, then spending one to two thirds of it focussed on Ron. Not necessarily bad, but... not what you were hoping to read.
I'm sure I'll read the other Holmes novels in time, I'll just have considerably lower hopes for them when I do.(less)
- Okay, fuller review, some 24 hours or so after finishing it. Pigeon English was one of those infuriating books...moreI want to punch this book in the face.
- Okay, fuller review, some 24 hours or so after finishing it. Pigeon English was one of those infuriating books that was a fun read while it lasted, but once it was over transpired to be... well, not dreadful, but certainly not as good as it felt while in the moment. It was a quick read, and, once I became accustomed to the multitude of slang terms frequently used by the 11-year-old narrator, easy to get through. Harri was a fun character, easy to empathise with and care for. For the most part, it was a charming, amusing read, albeit one set against the backdrop of incredibly dark events. I think Kelman really pushed the gang/violence/corruption themes too far, and in retrospect it feels as though it descended into something quite patronising. And that bloody talking pigeon! Overall, it wasn't wonderfully written, and the ending left me incredibly annoyed and unsatisfied, but the central character was so beguiling that I hold out hope of Kelman maturing into a writer capable of greater nuance. I'd give this 8/10 for the majority of book, but a 2 for the ending and bitter after-taste. I think this one will really be Marmite with readers.(less)
There isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend this book to. Barbara Demick is a journalist for the LA Times, assigned to Korea. Over a number of ye...moreThere isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend this book to. Barbara Demick is a journalist for the LA Times, assigned to Korea. Over a number of years, she's interviewed a hundred people who have defected from North to South Korea. Nothing to Envy tells six of their stories, accompanied by a history of North Korea from the country's split to present day. This book is immensely readable, and those unaccustomed to non-fiction shouldn't be deterred. Given how little about North Korea is taught in our schools or reported on our news, this was an absolute eye-opener for me, and there were places where it almost read like fiction, because it was so hard to accept that this is really happening now.
My only criticisms are trivial - Demick repeats herself on minor points from time to time, and some of the biographies are more fleshed out than others. Mi-ran and Jun-sang, sweethearts who defect separately and reunite too late to have a future together are very well represented, as is Mrs Song, a housewife who for many years is loyal to the regime. Her rebellious daughter Oak-Hee receives considerably less page time, as do Dr. Kim, a doctor who eventually makes the heartbreaking discovery that Chinese dogs are fed better than North Korean doctors, and Kim Hyuck, whose father places him in an orphanage as a teenager because he can no longer care for him. The stories told here are immensely powerful and haunting. Although these people all eventually escape to South Korea, most find it difficult to adjust, and must live with the guilt of knowing that their defections have led their families to hardships or even labour camps. This has been an absolute eye-opener for me, and I hope it will only be the start of my reading on North Korea.(less)
Would I have enjoyed this more had I not spoiled major plot events for myself? Undoubtedly. Is this a King classic that will stay with me forever, lik...moreWould I have enjoyed this more had I not spoiled major plot events for myself? Undoubtedly. Is this a King classic that will stay with me forever, like The Stand? Doubtful. And is it overlong, repetitve, all-seams-on-show writing? Well, yeah.
But did I cry? Did I spend a month living with and loving Jake, Sadie, Deke, Miz Ellie, Jodie and the Land of Ago? Do I feel sick and sad and bereft now that it's done? Oh, you betcha.
Fuller review to follow once it's had a little time to settle.(less)
In an effort to introduce some variety into my reading material (Stephen King and crime fiction are fine - reading nothing but Stephen King and crime...moreIn an effort to introduce some variety into my reading material (Stephen King and crime fiction are fine - reading nothing but Stephen King and crime fiction is not so fine) I recently joined a book group through my local library. Depths is the first book I read for it, and for the first 50 pages or so, I was almost regretting joining. Almost. It's a weird book, that's for sure. It's stark, it's bleak, it's excessively detailed, and in places it's so minimalist that entire chapters are a single sentence long.
While the prologue is fantastically gripping, what follows it really wasn't, for me, until I settled into the style. The main character is obsessed with measurements, so there's a lot of intricate detail, plus an underlying tone of total despair. Yet by the final third of the book, I stopped having to force myself to read a set number of pages per day, and began racing through it of my own volition. It's a tough one to explain - the protagonist is a reprehensible excuse for a human being, there's no one and nothing to root for here, and yet it became highly compelling nonetheless. (view spoiler)[It didn't help that around the mid-way point, I read a bizarre Guardian review that said the main character is a serial killer. He isn't. I spent the rest of the book waiting for this to be revealed. It wasn't. (hide spoiler)]
All in all, I'd definitely be interested in checking out more of Mankell's work (I really must try some Wallander, resolution to read less crime fiction be damned) because there was some really beautiful prose here.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Trick of the Dark reminded me more of McDermid's early Lindsay Gordan series than her recent, gritty standalones. Although a crime novel, the spine of...moreTrick of the Dark reminded me more of McDermid's early Lindsay Gordan series than her recent, gritty standalones. Although a crime novel, the spine of the book is really its many lesbian characters and their myriad love lives. It's something that would irk me just as much if they were all straight and frequently backburner-ing a serial killer to contemplate their hetero romances and affairs. I want to read crime fiction, not romance with crime draped loosely around its shoulders. Added to that, the book kicks off with Charlie Flint, the central character, contemplating having an affair, which made her barely palatable for me throughout the entire novel. If there's one thing I hate reading about in a supposedly sympathetic protagonist, it's infidelity. I tore through the chapters where she actually deigned to get on with crime-solving without contemplating her fantasies and desires.
The mystery everything is founded on is far from stellar. There are two big twists towards the end, one of which I didn't outright guess but had a vague inkling might be coming from about the halfway point, and the other... was obvious from the beginning of the novel. Painfully obvious.
I can't say I disliked this book. I read it within a couple of days, and several times while I was out I found myself itching to get back to it. I just don't think it lived up to its potential, and am now even more desperate to get my hands on the latest Tony Hill & Carol Jordan book, to be back on familiar, dark ground.(less)