Mr Haddon is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors, thanks to ‘The Curious Incident…’ and this brilliant offering.
‘A Spot of Bother’ is a wonde...moreMr Haddon is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors, thanks to ‘The Curious Incident…’ and this brilliant offering.
‘A Spot of Bother’ is a wonderfully original, modern family saga. Fifty-seven-year-old George is meant to be enjoying his retirement, building a studio so he can spend time painting and relaxing. However, there’s one problem: he’s found a sinister mark on his hip and he fears it may be the end of the road. In amongst all this, his erratic daughter Katie announces she’s marrying her live-in lover Ray, much to the disappointment of George, his wife Jean and Katie’s brother Jamie. Katie isn’t really sure if she’s in love with Ray or if she just likes how good he is with her son, Jacob. Jean’s too busy to help with the wedding due to her affair and Jamie is watching his life disintegrate after a falling out with his boyfriend Tony.
The characters in this book are really well-written and believable. It’s easy to believe that these people could be your neighbours. Outwardly, they are a normal family but as everyone knows, there is no such thing.
The way Haddon writes is so delectable and I raced through this book as I was desperate to know what was going to happen next. The writing is so light that it makes reading utterly effortless.
His descriptions and set-twos are beautifully written with emotion and humour. This understanding of how life can contain both humour and sadness at often the same time makes Haddon a really wonderful writer. His understanding of family life is really insightful and makes the book so enjoyable. One thing I take away from this book is to remember how lucky we are – it’s easy to forget all the things you do have in life and take those you love for granted.
It’s laugh-out-loud funny, so insightful and really poignant. Haddon’s writing is intricately written with deep understanding of the messiness of family life. His innate ability to find humour in the most mundane settings makes this a brilliant read.
So, ‘A Spot of Bother’ has a well-drawn world, believable characters who are easy to empathise with, plenty of action and lots of wit. What more could you want from a book? I would gladly read it all over again. (less)
'The Reiki Man' is the first novel in a trilogy by Dominic C James who, after being made redundant two years ago, decided to become a full-time writer...more'The Reiki Man' is the first novel in a trilogy by Dominic C James who, after being made redundant two years ago, decided to become a full-time writer. James is a Reiki Master and from this novel it is plain to see he knows a great deal about the subject. James states on his website that he wants to bring Reiki and other practices to a wider audience. This book is not only entertaining but informative.
When a billionaire is murdered, the police are left with no clues however all is not it seems - whoever murdered Henry Mulholland passed by several guards and a sophisticated security system - the only clue left behind is a mysterious symbol. Mulholland's head of security recognises the symbol and tracks down a face from the past to assist her. What follows next is a story of ancient power and the supernatural. 'The Reiki Man' combines the spiritual world with the physical and tests both to the limit.
James creates a believable narrative and I felt totally drawn into the mystery of Reiki however what is clever about this story is that it is a murder mystery with more to it than the usual 'whodunnit'.
My only criticism of this book is that there is too much description of the food the characters are eating, it seemed somewhat irrelevant.
The ending made me desperate to read the second part of the trilogy! Fans of Dan Brown will love this book. (less)
After being unemployed for months, Alice Humphrey gets an offer she can’t refuse – to become the manager of a new art gallery in Manhattan’s Meatpacki...moreAfter being unemployed for months, Alice Humphrey gets an offer she can’t refuse – to become the manager of a new art gallery in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Alice is recruited by charismatic go-between Drew Campbell who won’t reveal the reclusive rich owner’s identity. Before long, Alice’s dream job turns into a nightmare – fanatical Christians are demonstrating outside the gallery, the gallery is getting publicity for all of the wrong reasons and then she finds Drew dead in the gallery early one morning. Could it get any worse? For Alice, yes – it looks like she is going to be charged with crimes she didn’t commit.
Alice is convinced she didn’t do anything wrong but all of the evidence leads back to her – so how can she prove her innocence? And how does a seemingly innocuous job offer turn into a potential life sentence?
Having never read Alafair Burke before, I didn’t know what to expect but ‘Long Gone’ is a can’t-put-down novel with a great plot and well-drawn characters. As a former prosecutor, Burke has all of the knowledge at her disposal and uses it to devastating effect.
Initially, I found the number of characters difficult to follow but as each one came into their own, the narrative flowed and each character became an important piece in this well-crafted jigsaw.
Burke provides enough information about the characters for you to actually care about them – without ever really being sure who is friend or foe. They’re all flawed, proving that Burke has a great understanding of the human condition – no-one is entirely good or entirely bad and her characters reflect this.
There are no weak moments in this novel, it’s a pacey thriller from start to finish. It will have your pulse racing just as fast as your mind. Just when you think all of the loose ends are tied up, Burke delivers another killer blow – leaving you guessing until the very last page.
‘Long Gone’ is a well thought-out thriller with believable characters and a relevant storyline. I will definitely be seeking out some more Alafair Burke books. (less)
Following on from one of last year’s biggest selling novels (and the fastest selling debut from a British author), Rosamund Lupton continued her succe...moreFollowing on from one of last year’s biggest selling novels (and the fastest selling debut from a British author), Rosamund Lupton continued her success with second novel ‘Afterwards’ which went straight into the Top 10 on its release and, within a month of its release, became the fastest selling e-book ever.
‘Afterwards’ is the story of Grace, a mother of two, who runs into a burning school building to save her daughter Jenny. Afterwards, Grace needs to find out the identity of the arsonist and try to put her family back together while protecting them from an unknown threat. Not only does Grace have to contend with these issues but she has to accept the fact that no-one but Jenny can hear her – and that they may never wake up.
Lupton is really carving herself a niche in the thriller genre. The only other book I can think of written in this style in ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold but ‘Afterwards’ leaves it looking simplistic.
As with ‘Sister’, there are many red herrings thrown in for good measure, so much so that you suspect someone, dismiss them and then suspect them again which makes this novel seem all the more realistic. It is cleverly plotted and the prose is almost lyrical. Not only is this an intelligent thriller but it is, yet again, an honest portrayal of family life and relationships.
My one bugbear with Lupton is that she often writes in the second person – “I said to you….” – which can be distracting at times although I know she does it to make the reader feel entirely involved.
Think Jodi Picoult meets Audrey Niffnegger. This is a unique novel that is eloquently written, you will be blown away by it. (less)
Having read ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ by Jonathan Safran Foer, I found out that he is married to Nicole Krauss and many criticisms levelle...moreHaving read ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ by Jonathan Safran Foer, I found out that he is married to Nicole Krauss and many criticisms levelled at his book were that his story was incredibly similar in themes and technique. I decided to read ‘The History of Love’ so that I could compare the two.
True, both stories feature an intelligent youth who sets out on a quest in New York City – both having lost their fathers. In Foer’s story, Oskar encounters a survivor of the Dresden firebombing and in Krauss’s Alma meets a Holocaust survivor. Both of the elderly men in the stories are mourning the loss of their estranged sons. However, for me, that’s where the similarities end.
Yes, Krauss and Foer may have lived together when writing these novels but there are thousands of books that feature people who lived during World War II. If you have a shared history, as partners often do, it is possible you could write about similar things. For me, Krauss’s novel is far more confusing in its attempts to weave a mystery. I enjoyed Foer’s novel immensely and found the characters easy to empathise with but with Krauss’s, I found the characters as confusing as the plot. Perhaps I just wasn’t concentrating.
I think Krauss was determined to use this novel as a vehicle to demonstrate her intellect and knowledge of writers but it just didn’t appeal to me. For a book called ‘The History of Love’, it lacked heart. I didn’t care enough about the characters and the disjointed narrative only distanced me further.
This book is meant to be about love, loss and friendship but it seemed to me to be about betrayal, confusion and insanity.
There are some genuine moments in the book where I had to stifle a giggle but all in all this book did not come close to ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’. (less)
I had never heard of this book, or author, until watching BBC2′s ‘My Life in Books’. It was given such a glowing recommendation that I felt compelled...moreI had never heard of this book, or author, until watching BBC2′s ‘My Life in Books’. It was given such a glowing recommendation that I felt compelled to read it.
Nine-year old Oskar Schell discovers a key in a vase that belonged to his father. He doesn’t know what the key means or where it’s for and he can’t ask his dad as his dad died in the 9/11 attacks. Oskar is desperate to find out what the key is for and so goes on a quest to find out. During his search, Oskar encounters lots of different people and finds out a lot more than he ever expected.
This novel is so original, it was a joy to read. Oskar’s voice is so believable and compelling that it is hard to put the book down. Even when I did stop reading, I found myself wondering about Oskar and what would happen next. The characters in the book are so rich and human that they could be standing in front of you. Oskar is such a loveable boy, he’s clever, curious but perhaps a bit too independent for a nine-year-old. His story is also told alongside that of his grandmother and her, possibly imaginary, lodger.
Although I wanted to believe that no parent allows their child to roam around New York City alone, Oskar’s sheer confidence meant that this particular detail didn’t strike me as completely impossible. He’s just so fearless and desperate to find out what this key holds for him.
Foer uses unusual techniques in the book, from photography to overlapping typing. It all adds to the uniqueness of this story, it brings Oskar to life.
I was disappointed in the ending however I feel this was realistic considering the circumstances. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who may read this book but once you have read it, what I’ve just said may make sense.
I’ve just found out that this book is being made into a movie. I hope the movie is half as good. It’s being directed by Stephen Daldry (‘The Hours’) and stars Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, and John Goodman. It has a fighting chance, then. (less)
Winner of the 2005 Northern Promise Award, Dan Smith follows up his debut novel, ‘Dry Season’, and transports readers to yet another far-flung destina...moreWinner of the 2005 Northern Promise Award, Dan Smith follows up his debut novel, ‘Dry Season’, and transports readers to yet another far-flung destination with this startling tale about drugs, betrayal and death.
Dark Horizons tells the story of Alex, who put his life on hold to nurse his terminally ill mother. After her death, Alex finds himself with no ties and sets off to find himself in Indonesia.
No sooner has Alex arrived at his destination, he’s involved in a near-fatal bus crash on a mountainside and, after then being robbed at the roadside whilst critically injured, ends up in a hospital, unable to speak the language. Luckily, he meets a beautiful girl, Domino, who saves him from a run-in with the local police.
Exciting and exotic, Alex’s love affair with Domino takes him off the beaten track and away from any of the sights recommended in the guide books. Domino leads Alex to Lake Toba and to her ‘home’ on the island. A simple life, a million miles away from what he’s left behind, Alex embraces the idea at first but questions keep nagging at him. Why does danger seem to follow Domino? Why are there tensions between the campers and the locals? And where do people keep disappearing to?
Having lived in Indonesia during his childhood, Smith paints a beautiful picture with his vivid descriptions and powerful metaphors. His descriptions conjure up such striking imagery that the reader will have no trouble imagining the stunning landscapes of Sumatra. The description was so vivid that I could see the action happening in my mind’s eye; it was as though I was watching a film, not reading a book.
The stunning scenery is, at times, a complete contrast to the behaviour of the campers, somehow making the actions of some of the characters even more deplorable.
The characters are well constructed and Smith manages to, very subtly, lull you into making assumptions and then, just as you think you know what’s going to happen, sneaks in yet another twist to surprise you. The plot is really well worked and although there seems to be a lot of violence at times, it never seems exaggerated or out-of-place and only serves to heighten the tension further. The final four chapters were really unexpected but intelligently constructed.
Smith’s second offering is like a cross between Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ and ‘Lord of the Flies’. The narrative, intertwined with some really evocative prose, carries you away with it, drawing you deeper and deeper into this mystery.
Yet another pacey thriller from Dan Smith – I couldn’t put it down. (less)
I didn’t know what to expect from this book but bought it to see what all the fuss was about. Whoever is promoting Rosamund Lupton is doing a fine job...moreI didn’t know what to expect from this book but bought it to see what all the fuss was about. Whoever is promoting Rosamund Lupton is doing a fine job; she’s been featured in lots of magazines in the last few months – telling readers how she completed this novel with the help of her school-run mum friends who helped her with childcare and other mummy-esque duties of costumes for the school play and so on while she wrote the story. Endorsements from Richard and Judy and Radio 4 followed, making this one of last year’s bestsellers.
‘Sister’ is the story of uptight Beatrice’s frantic search for her younger sister Tess after she gets a phone call on a quiet Sunday telling her she’s disappeared. Boarding the first flight to London from New York, Beatrice leaves behind her neat life and enters Tess’s, totally unaware of how little she knew about her sister. This story is not only about the bond between sisters but also Beatrice’s journey as she struggles to reconcile her need for order with her sister’s messy disappearance.
I was so impressed with this novel. It’s crime fiction combined with something else – beautiful prose. It’s easy to read and difficult to put down. The narrative, although written as a non-linear letter from Beatrice to Tess, flows beautifully and the ending is a real surprise. I did work out the perpetrator but I didn’t expect what was coming. This novel deals with a lot of difficult issues, it is so much more than a fluffy chick lit novel.
I have to admit to crying through some parts of the book, so strong is Lupton’s ability to create a convincing story. The relationships she creates between Beatrice, Tess and their mother are so realistic, there’s no idealisation or sense of perfection – it is what it is and that’s so refreshing. Many novelists, particularly when writing crime, fall into the trap of making the missing person a saint, with no flaws but Lupton avoids this pitfall.
The only author I can think to compare her to is Jodi Picoult but in fairness, Lupton’s style is far beyond the formulaic prose of JP. (less)
I bought this book simply due to the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007 ‘Winner’ sticker on the front cover. Initially, I couldn’t understand wha...moreI bought this book simply due to the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007 ‘Winner’ sticker on the front cover. Initially, I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was over but after completing the book, I realised what a life-changing, inspirational read this book is.
‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ is set in 1960s Nigeria during the Civil War. A village boy, Ugwu, is taken to work as a houseboy for a bourgeois university lecturer. Olanna, the lecturer’s lover, has abandoned a life of privilege to live with ‘her revolutionary’. Olanna’s twin sister embarks upon a relationship with a shy Englishman, Richard, who has come to live in Nigeria to write. When the reality of war finally hits them, their allegiances are tested to the limit. When the independent state of Biafra is declared, the characters are relieved but they have no idea how this independence will negatively affect them.
I found Part 1 quite laborious but after reading more of the book, I realised that Part 1 was important to set the scene and make the reader understand the lives of those involved before war changed them forever. The reader is treated to beautiful, flowing descriptions of the house in which Ugwu works and the people who pass through. Part 1 is full of privileged people talking about theories regarding war and liberty and I found that quite boring at times but what Adichie is doing is demonstrating that the intelligentsia may have theories and ideas but when it comes down to it, war is indiscriminate. It affects everyone.
Some of the scenes in this book are massively difficult to stomach – forced conscription, rape, violence and starvation are some of the themes – but Adichie has based this book on real events that happened. Adichie lost both grandfathers in the Nigeria-Biafra war. This book is not only a story about love and loss but it is also a coming-of-age story and the reader will learn a lot about history too.
Adichie captures the shades of grey perfectly. Her characters demonstrate that there is no such thing as an all-good or all-bad person only good and bad actions. I feel like I learned a lot about Nigerian culture, particularly their belief in spirits and spells which was really interesting.
Olanna and her sister Kainene represent a particularly honest account of sisterhood which I really appreciated.
This story is not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination but I feel it is an important story. There is a great deal of brutality but what you must remember is that these things happened – and continue to happen – in war zones. They may not be easy to read but that’s what adds the power to this novel. Adichie isn’t afraid of shocking the reader and her fearlessness is admirable. Her knack for noticing the little details and making them significant is incredible.
Half of a Yellow Sun is an incredible, honest account of life before, during and after war. It’s so moving and awe-inspiring, I felt so much compassion towards the characters and all of the people caught up in this terrible conflict. (less)
‘The Weight of Silence’ is a tense thriller which focuses on two little girls being discovered missing one summer morning. Seven-year-old Calli has se...more‘The Weight of Silence’ is a tense thriller which focuses on two little girls being discovered missing one summer morning. Seven-year-old Calli has selective mutism brought on by a tragedy in her early years. Petra is Calli’s best friend and also works as her voice. But no-one knows where either of the girls are.
This non-linear narrative tells the story from various character’s points of view as well as revisiting the past to reveal family secrets. The book follows Calli and Petra’s parents, as well as the sheriff involved in the search and Calli’s older brother Ben.
I found this book a real page-turner with a compelling narrative. For a debut novel, this is quite a feat. Intelligently and sensitively written, Gudenkauf manages to explore the intricacies of family life as well as the effect secrets have on people.
The prose is almost lyrical in places and Gudenkauf manages to make you desperate to reach the conclusion of this tale. (less)