I wanted to love The Thursday Murder Club. I really did.
Like most people, I was drawn to it because of the author. I love Richard Osman; he’s smart, witty, and possibly one of the most pleasant people on television.
So I’m sorry to say that I found The Thursday Murder Club to be a very poor novel.
The idea of a group of elderly people coming together to get to the bottom of unsolved crimes is a brilliant idea. It should be funny and perhaps even a little moving. And very occasionally, it is.
However, the plot is plodding and disinteresting and the characters are, on the whole, thinly-veiled stereotypes. We have the fraudulent priest; the supercapitalist property mogul; the socialist rabble-rouser; the hardworking Polish builder; the mid-life crisis policeman… I could go on.
If The Thursday Murder Club was a pastiche of sorts, you could maybe forgive the characterisation as a nod to the genre. But it isn’t, and whilst it’s probably unfair to say that it’s lazy, I think the characters needed to have something more original about them....more
The Sound Mirror is a first-rate piece of fiction.
If you haven't yet read it, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy.
The novel is about three centralThe Sound Mirror is a first-rate piece of fiction.
If you haven't yet read it, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy.
The novel is about three central characters – all women – with distinct histories and voices. Spanning 20th and 21st century Britain, The Sound Mirror is a multi-generational examination of the female experience.
This might sound like a bit of a heavy read, but James is a very talented writer. It's not at all complicated, just thought-provoking.
These three female perspectives are interwoven with stunning prose. It’s a tessellation of the fall of the Indian Raj, gender politics of post-WW2 Britain, and, lastly, a glimpse into the contemporary female experience.
It's a dizzying, disorientating piece of absurdist fiction that’s harder to REVIEW (read the full review on Tales from Absurdia)
In Absurdia is a trip.
It's a dizzying, disorientating piece of absurdist fiction that’s harder to pin down than an otter coated in vaseline. After finishing it, I needed a lie down.
Conveniently, it was bed time.
At times it’s touching, sometimes hilarious, and other times, it’s really quite bizarre. I’m not entirely sure what just happened.
And yet, I enjoyed the time I spent with Glenn Whalan’s debut novel. I'll definitely be checking out his work in the future.
*Copy was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review*
Finished reading In Absurdia a short while ago.
Interesting ideas & well written. It's very esoteric, so In Absurdia may have limited mainstream appeal, but I enjoyed it. I'll probably give it a second read at some point for a different perspective!
Full review & rating due shortly on TalesfromAbsurdia.com.
*Massive thanks to the author for providing an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review....more
Ringlander: The Path and the Way – the debut fantasy novel from Michael S. Jackson – is an absolute riot.
Set in Rengas, a continent dominated by conflict, the occupying & brutish Bohr seek to quash an ongoing rebellion from the native human population. Meanwhile, an astral war engulfs the cosmos above, with the world torn apart by competing realities.
Sound complex? At first, it does come across a little abstract.
However, Jackson’s brilliant writing guides the reader deftly, navigating the various factions of Rengas, from the Tsiorc rebels to the Pathfinders of the North.
This is a fantasy novel with a truly original lore – and that’s a really exciting prospect for future entries in the series....more
Leave any assumptions about Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel firmly in the foyer.
Bearded Badger Publishing's debut publication is hilarious, tragic, and downright bizarre - all at the same time.
And for the most part, it works. I can't remember the last time I laughed, cocked an eyebrow, and experienced such solemnity within a single page or two.
Author Drew Gummerson has created a truly unique piece of literature, though not without its issues.
Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel is written almost exclusively through a stream of consciousness, which makes for a manic and scatty narrative. This isn’t a bad thing - in fact, it’s what makes Seven Nights such an interesting piece of literature.
However, it's prone to repetition. Our main character (you) is placed in similar predicaments with similar outcomes. It can be a little 'one note', despite said anecdotal scenarios being (mostly) very funny. I've elaborated on this in my full review.
If you're looking for a unique piece of fiction, delightfully strange and quite amusing, but very crude, then Seven Nights is definitely for you.
However, the squeamish need not apply. It's pretty crude....more
It has a well-realised world with a good supporting cast, but the quality of writing is very inconsistent.
It's a mostly an enjoyable tale and whilst Janes's novella tends to be a bit tropey (chosen one / absent parents / Eurik doing lots of things ‘grimly’), it's very much the book equivalent of a popcorn ‘flick.
The Living Sword is fun, a little wacky at times, and worth the price of admission.
However, it needs much better editing – the writing is clumsy throughout.
It's also quite jarring thematically. It's a fantasy world, but immersion is broken every now and then with contemporary references.
Other times, characters will 'charge up' their attacks as if it's a videogame or anime. It's clear where the author's influences come from, but they don't translate well to prose.
In fantasy fiction, immersion is so important, and little things like this can fracture a reader’s belief in the fictional world.
And that’s a shame, because there is some semi-decent world-building here.
Nonetheless, it's an enjoyable read and an earnest effort for a debut piece of writing....more
Inside Story, Martin Amis’s latest autobiographical novel*, is brilliant at times.
It’s well written and a sombre ennui pervades his entries on late faInside Story, Martin Amis’s latest autobiographical novel*, is brilliant at times.
It’s well written and a sombre ennui pervades his entries on late father-figure Saul Bellow and now-departed best friend Christopher Hitchens. I particularly enjoyed the 'how to write' sections. They somewhat reminded me of George Orwell's Politics and the English Language (a massive plus in my view) in terms of the precision of the analysis of language.
Other times, the novel* falters with frustratingly smug and self-indulgent meanderings.
Such is the nature of autofiction, I suppose.
*It's not really a novel, despite Amis's insistence. It's a memoir with details filled in, and a few (very interesting!) meandering thoughts on certain topics.
Winterset Hollow is a novel about a novel called Winterset Hollow.
Sound confusing? Don’t worry – it isn’t.
Jonathan Edward Durham’s debut novel is, however, a fascinating blend of genres.
Dark fantasy meets metafiction, whilst whimsical children’s fiction meets slasher. The result of this rather outlandish experiment is a remarkable piece of fiction that sticks long in the memory.
A lot of love and attention has gone into Winterset Hollow, and it shows. It’s a fantastic debut effort, and I’d strongly encourage my readers to add this to their TBR lists – especially with it being available on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited programme....more
The Girl in the Attic is a charming tale, but I think it probably should have been a short story.
There's a decent narrative here, and Octagon House isThe Girl in the Attic is a charming tale, but I think it probably should have been a short story.
There's a decent narrative here, and Octagon House is a wonderful setting. I have a clear image of the house in my mind.
The illustrations at the beginning of the book were very neat additions, and I spent some time poring over these. In fact, the illustrations throughout the text were lovely, and really added to the charm.
On the other hand, this story takes a while to get going and it feels like there's a bit too much padding throughout. I wasn't hugely invested until Maddy met Clare.
However, the ending was tied up nicely and left me feeling satisfied.
I liked The Girl in the Attic - it's definitely unique - but I cannot help thinking that it would have benefitted by being written a short story....more
Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of those timeless novels and a testament to the power of language.
Such is its influence, adaptations have spanned film, television, radio, the theatre, and even ballet! Not to mention the numerous pop culture nods to the novel.
Penguin’s latest edition is an audiobook, narrated by the incredibly charismatic Peter Capaldi – the second ‘doctor’ of Dr Who fame to be involved in a production, following Christopher Ecclestone’s 2013 dramatisation.
Capaldi’s a perfect fit for the role. His austere narration captures the solemnity of Orwell’s dystopian classic. It’s bleak, atmospheric, and terrifying – mirroring the novel itself.
The novel translates to audiobook almost flawlessly, thanks to the high quality audio you expect from Penguin Random House UK Audio, not to mention Peter Capaldi’s impeccable performance.
If you enjoy dystopian fiction, this is the novel for you.
And yet, this is to be somewhat reductive – Nineteen Eighty-Four audiobook (or paperback) is essential reading for anyone who values democracy and free expression....more
A Tale of Two Cities indeed! The first two parts of this three-part text, located in England for the most part are a slow read. The book has a very stA Tale of Two Cities indeed! The first two parts of this three-part text, located in England for the most part are a slow read. The book has a very strange pacing to it. It threatens to be interesting only to peter out, and its narrative simmers but never quite gets going until the final third, when the narrative focus switches primarily to Paris. And what a final third it is.
My early impressions of this book, which continued well into the second segment, were that although the characters were memorable, they appeared a little two-dimensional, although the plot was potentially very interesting, it wasn't quite going anywhere, and that the writing actually got in the way of these two strengths. The book simply felt overwritten; it was bloated with extraneous detail of menial events (The mail chiefly comes to mind, amongst other affairs), and my cynicism was drawn to the fact that Dickens was paid accordingly as each instalment was made available.
Having said that, these criticisms cannot be levelled at the final segment of the text, and the sparse flourishes of beautiful prose which just about kept me going through the middle of the text are much more regular; one suddenly understands why this is a 'classic'. Furthermore, the characters possess more clarity, more of an identity in fact, and the plot quickens to make up for the earlier slack. It reads like a much more refined book.
A Tale of Two Cities is an inconsistent novel capable of menial and delectable prose in equal excess, but persevere. It is more than worth your time. The closing pages are some of the best you will read. ...more
I was cautiously optimistic about ICO: Castle in the Mist, with a strong emphasis on 'cautiously'.
On the one hand, ICO is one of the more memorable viI was cautiously optimistic about ICO: Castle in the Mist, with a strong emphasis on 'cautiously'.
On the one hand, ICO is one of the more memorable videogames I've ever played. A haunting, ethereal experience, but one that could only really be expressed through its medium.
On the other hand, the relationship between the protagonists is (unusually) enhanced due to the language barrier between the two of them. Would adding dialogue ruin this?
Simply put, the book is not the videogame - a point that Miyabe labours in the foreword. And it's much stronger for it.
If the book had simply been a retread of the game, it would be, frankly, quite boring. ICO is an interactive experience based on climbing, problem solving, and the mystery of the interactive world.
At times, ICO: Castle in the Mist falls into the trap of describing platforming sections of the game, but I was pleasantly surprised by how infrequently this happened.
Instead, the Miyabe's adaptation of the game does a marvellous job of fleshing out historical context and characters' backgrounds, withing stealing the magic of the game's rather implied narrative.
ICO: Castle in the Mist is not perfect. It's very clearly a translation, and a little clumsy in parts as a result, but it's a charming fairytale that shows it can appeal to those unfamiliar with the videogame, whilst also offering additional lore for longtime fans. ...more
Estelle – the wizened old character of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – warns forebodingly.
So naturally, Adeline (Addie) prays to a god who answers at night.
To be fair to Addie, she was peering into the abyss of an arranged marriage in 1713 France.
Fearing being caged by domesticity, she barters with the devil for freedom. But there’s a hitch. Because of course there is. It’s the devil. Addie will live forever. And yet no-one she meets will ever remember her. Once she falls out of their sight, she’s forever forgotten.
And thus begins our tale.
This is my first experience of Victoria Schwab's writing, but it's a fantastic first impression. Addie LaRue is truly immersive; from people’s mannerisms, their appearance, and especially Schwab’s outlining of setting – it’s all dripping with detail. It’s a genuine pleasure to read.
I was especially impressed by how unpredictable the plot was. About 10% into the novel, I was fairly sure I knew where it was going. So, I was pleasantly surprised as the twists revealed themselves and proved me wrong.
This is not a straightforward boy-meets-girl, star-crossed lovers affair. There is some of that, however, Addie’s tale is far more nuanced than that. It’s a powerful exploration of thought and memory.
For someone who has lived for over 300 years, she lacks hobbies, interests, social awareness, and possesses a bizarre historical indifference.
This is a person who has lived through some of the most seminal moments in Western history. As a French woman, she’ll have experienced the French Revolution but only makes passing references to it, such as meeting Rousseau in a café.
Addie’s lived through multiple World Wars and has seemingly little to say about it, bar some interludes with Luc about death. She’s witnessed the rise of the civil rights movement in America and, again, has nothing to say about it.
Despite a couple of shortcomings, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a beautifully written book that is absolutely worth your time. I’d strongly recommend it....more
Published by Aconyte Books, Rogue: Untouched is part of the ongoing ‘Marvel Heroines’ novel series. This particular entry focuses on Rogue – a mutant and member of the X-Men.
If you’re unfamiliar with the X-Men, it’s a Marvel superhero franchise about members of society known as mutants living in plain sight with regular civilians. Mutants are seemingly ordinary people who possess extraordinary abilities.
Rogue: Untouched brings together X-Men fan-favourites Rogue and Gambit. If you’ve ever followed the comics, movies, or the excellent X-Men Evolution TV show of the late ’90s, this is written for you.
‘But does the novel still appeal to non-comic book readers?’ I hear you ask.
In a word, yes.
It’s worth mentioning that the book is non-canon but to be fair, the so-called X-Men canon is all over the place anyway. Still, Rogue: Untouched is a great novel and worthy of any entry in the X-Men universe.
Without prior knowledge of X-Men, it’s still a very good novel. The characters are well drawn (well, Remy and Anna Marie are), and makes for a decent origin story. If you enjoy character-driven YA novels, Rogue: Untouched should appeal – regardless of your experience with X-Men....more
Except in Boys Don’t Cry, there’s no Grafton Street or Temple Bar. This is real, lived-in Dublin.
We’re transported to a block of flats named ‘The Jax,’ – after the famed Mother Teresa Bojaxhiu – where Joe and Finn O’Reilly live, along with their parents.
Under a bleak backdrop, Boys Don’t Cry navigates the often complex landscapes of adolescence and grief. It’s masterfully done – a real standout novel.
I do wish it was slightly longer, however.
The novel is well paced for the most part, but a major incident that occurs in the final few chapters of the novel raises a host of questions about the fate of certain characters - questions I was desperate for answers to.
On the whole though, Boys Don’t Cry is an emotionally-driven, sometimes dark, but overall endearing examination of adolescence, grief, and the pressures faced by young men in a hyper-masculine environment.
Sheltered: When a Boy Becomes a Legend is a strange book. Not bad, nor particularly great.
It’s a coming-of-age novel(la) framed through the prism of an invasion of the United States. Sinister forces, including those from within, enable a country-wide shutdown, with only the major cities protected. This leaves James, his sister, and a handful of younger kids to protect their town.
It’s a potentially interesting idea, if a little cliché.
But there is a major issue with the book – much of the content isn’t suitable for its supposed target audience.
Bearing in mind, this is aimed at middle-grade kids, a dog is shot – its spasms of death detailed as the shooter proceeds to kick it repeatedly and rape is referenced on at least two occasions.
Which raises the question – who is Sheltered really for?
I’m not sure.
It falls into a problematic limbo where it’s too simplistic a read for the YA audience and too violent for the younger demographic. The subject matter is incredibly serious, so the reader expects a serious examination of the invasion. Why did it happen? What are the actual motives of these invaders? Are there any moral quandaries the characters face?
Sheltered offers little detail – bar graphic detail – which leaves the reader confused. Is this a middle-grade novel? Certainly not. Is it a YA novel? Not really, no. Is it for adult readers? No.
Sheltered is not without its merits, however.
There is a clear passion in the writing. Jacob Paul Patchen writes with genuine heart and honesty. The novel's focus on family and comradeship is touching, and there’s an authenticity to James and his father’s relationship.
But this unfortunately isn't enough. The plot is vague, the characters a little one-dimensional, and the novel's tone is way off of the audience it's written for.
With these factors in mind, I cannot in good faith recommend Sheltered....more
Blighted by the effects of climate change, humanity looks to the stars.
The Rings of Mars, a ‘spy-fi’ thriller, sees mankind begin a mass migration to Mars in an endeavour to preserve the future of the species.
However, not everyone supports the evacuation. The journey aboard the shuttle Sleipnir sees cracks begin to emerge amongst the crew, revealing the fragility of social cohesion in a high pressure environment.
It’s a great concept, though the novel isn’t without its issues. Pacing is a problem, characters feel undeveloped, and frequent grammatical errors threaten to undermine the reading experience.
And yet in spite of this, Rachel Foucar’s debut novel is an undeniably exciting journey with some very good sci-fi elements....more
Mrs Death Misses Death is a tremendous book and the best book I read in 2021. It’s a modern masterpiece that transcends form and genre.
At times, the narrative unfolds as prose. Other times, it manifests itself into Godden’s more familiar form of poetry. The tale of Mrs Death even transforms into a screenplay/radio drama of sorts for a brief period. There’s a fluidity to the writing that refuses to be pinned down and categorised by a mere review.
But don’t be mistaken – there is no pretense to Godden’s novel, nor is this an overly complicated book, requiring only ‘high brow’ tastes in order to read. This kind of exclusivity is what Mrs Death Misses Death rails against.
Godden is merely inventive and explorative in the way that she imparts her tale. It’s clever, thrilling, and never gets in the way of the novel itself....more
Set against the backdrop of the 1978/9 Iranian Revolution, Winter in Tabriz by Sheila Llewllyn is a truly remarkable novel.
It's passionate, packed with beautifully written prose, and possesses a gut-punching ennui that lasts for quite some time once the final page has been turned.
The amount of research that has gone into this novel – which Llewellyn reveals in the appendices – is simply staggering. Llewellyn even draws upon her own experiences as a Westerner abroad in Iran during this exact period.
And it shows – this is a novel that is highly authentic. It rewards its reader with a rich understanding of the cultural politics of a nation.
It is, in a single word, remarkable.
Seriously – do not sleep on this book. It’s fantastic....more
Hitchens is no doubt motivated by his antagonism towards organised religion, but the sources included in An excellent piece of investigate journalism.
Hitchens is no doubt motivated by his antagonism towards organised religion, but the sources included in this brief analysis of Mother Teresa support a view that - at the very least - we should all judge people on their actions and not their reputation.
Paris Lees is a journalist, model, and now a published author.
Known for being the first transgender columnist for Vogue, What if Feels Like for a Girl is a memoir of her formative years in Hucknall, Nottingham. It’s even written in a Hucknall dialect!
Paris Lees’ book is remarkable. It’s an uplifting and empowering memoir of self-identity. It’s smart, witty, and authentic. However, it’s also filled with immense sadness, including stories of physical & emotional abuse.
There are very few books that make you want to laugh, cry, despair, cringe, and shout out for joy all in one chapter, but What It Feels Like for a Girl is one of them....more
T is for Time Travel is a curious collection of short stories by Stanlei Bellan that spans the fullness of space and time.
Included are a colourful array of stories that range from the abstract to the profound. And for a book that stands at circa 120 pages, Bellan is able to extract a bevy of interesting time travel-related hijinks and present them in a concise manner.
It’s thought-provoking without being complex – its simplicity belies the genius contained within.
If you’re remotely interested in time travel-related speculative fiction, then definitely give it a go.
In any case, it’s only just over 120 pages – what have you got to lose?...more