#bookreview

‘Jane in St. Pete’ by Cynthia Harrison @CynthiaHarriso1 #RBRT#TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

I read ‘Jane in St. Pete’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Widowed art lecturer Jane Chasen is not an impulsive woman. Why, then, does the formerly methodical workaholic quit her job, sell her house, and move from Detroit to Florida? Instead of pondering her atypical behavior, she takes a closer look at a neighbor’s intriguing outdoor art installation. Days later, Detective Jesse Singer discovers the murdered artist in his studio. With Jane’s help, Singer finds the victim’s bloody shirt, inexplicably located within Jane’s gated community. Singer knows nothing about art, and as he closely questions Jane, she offers to help with the art angle of the case. Singer soon takes Jane up on her offer. Then, Jane begins to receive anonymous threats. Singer, determined to protect Jane, keeps her closer to his side than ever—she’s not complaining.

As a woman of fifty-one, it’s nice to read a novel now and then where the female protagonist is someone I can really relate to. Jane is an experienced, intelligent woman, looking to finally live life for herself, to be herself. While I’m not on the verge of leaving my husband and living alone, it’s always good to see woman of a certain age portrayed as having a lot to live for, and with a lot going for them.

This is an entertaining mystery, well-plotted, with an interesting murder case moving the narrative forward. But while the case was important, well-written and held my interest, for me the real story here was Jane and her gradual settling in to her new life and what it could offer her. She’s a fabulous character and I look forward to reading more about her.

I enjoyed the descriptions of Florida too – they made me long for some sunshine!

Well-written, and thoroughly enjoyable. 

‘Miracle Creek’ by Angie Kim #BookReview

In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine – a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for “dives”, used as an alternative therapy for conditions including autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.

Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night: trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges, as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.

Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. Both a compelling page-turner and an excavation of identity and the desire for connection, Miracle Creek is a brilliant, empathetic debut from an exciting new voice.

This is such a good book – one of those rare novels that you can become completely immersed in, that you look forward to getting back to, a novel you want to finish because you’re desperate to know the truth, but also one you don’t want to end because you’re enjoying it so much.

I do enjoy courtroom dramas, and while ‘Miracle Creek’ is technically part of this genre, there’s a whole other layer (and more) here. The difficulties, the joys, the guilt of parenthood, the complicated feelings around motherhood, fertility, making the right choices for your child, starting a new life in another country, prejudice and racism, all these issues and more are explored through the lives of several well-drawn, authentic and compelling characters.

The multiple viewpoints add to the confusion and mystery and I genuinely didn’t guess who was responsible for the fire until it was revealed.

A fabulous debut novel and an author I’ll definitely look out for in the future.

‘In at the Deep End’ by Kate Davies #BookReview

Until recently, Julia hadn’t had sex in three years.

But now:
• a one-night stand is accusing her of breaking his penis;

• a sexually confident lesbian is making eyes at her over confrontational modern art;

• and she’s wondering whether trimming her pubes makes her a bad feminist.

Julia’s about to learn that she’s been looking for love – and satisfaction – in all the wrong places…

Frank, filthy and very, very funny, In at the Deep End is a brilliant debut from a major new talent.

There were things about this book that I really loved and things that really irritated me.

It’s well-written, and very funny at times, and I certainly learned a few things! Julia is complicated, misunderstood, confused, and sometimes I really felt sorry for her, and at other times I didn’t like her at all.

There are lots of side characters – a few of which were very interesting and I wanted to know more about them, but they didn’t feel fully realised.

Some of the situations seemed really far-fetched, and didn’t seem at all in character.

I think what annoyed me most though was that this did seem to be a white, middle-class, privileged woman dabbling in lesbianism. It felt a bit like she was trying it on for size, as if it was a bit of a ‘lark’ and she had none of the issues to deal with that others in the community might face – a lesbian version of Pulp’s ‘Common People’ almost! I appreciate it isn’t meant to be gritty, but it just felt a bit irritating.

Definitely worth a read, and perhaps I’m being a little harsh, because the writing is good, but a novel like this needs to have more depth. 

‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo #BookReview

This is Britain as you’ve never read it.
This is Britain as it has never been told.

From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years. They’re each looking for something – a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope . . .

I’m a bit late to this one – have been meaning to read it for ages, and finally got round to it over Christmas. I really wish I’d read it sooner. 

Unconventional, thought-provoking, pertinent, this is like a breath of fresh air. 

Following twelve women in the UK, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ explores the nature of relationships, with others and with ourselves. The twelve women are connected, their stories weaving around each other’s, each one warm, human, real. 

There is no punctuation, but this is fundamental to the story-telling. The stories almost crash into one another, rolling like waves, giving the whole thing a rhythm that carries the narrative forward. 

Impressive, important and well-deserving of the Booker Prize, this is a novel I’ll remember for a long time.

A week of book reviews – ‘Shaking Hands With Death’ by Terry Pratchett #BookReview #FridayReads

I have been absolutely snowed under with work over the last few weeks – not that I’m complaining – and although I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t got round to reviewing. So this week I’m determined to catch up with a review a day.

Why we all deserve a life worth living and a death worth dying for

‘Most men don’t fear death. They fear those things – the knife, the shipwreck, the illness, the bomb – which precede, by microseconds if you’re lucky, and many years if you’re not, the moment of death.’

When Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his fifties he was angry – not with death but with the disease that would take him there, and with the suffering disease can cause when we are not allowed to put an end to it. In this essay, broadcast to millions as the BBC Richard Dimblebly Lecture 2010 and previously only available as part of A Slip of the Keyboard, he argues for our right to choose – our right to a good life, and a good death too.

It never ceases to amaze me that we deny people the right to choose their own death, that, as with so many things here in the UK and the USA, the opinions and religious beliefs of the minority are allowed to dictate the way others must live and die. It’s an absolute disgrace that people are forced to suffer – and for no reason at all.

The debate about assisted dying has been rumbling on for years, the same tired arguments trotted out by the same people. Terry Pratchett, with his customary warmth, intelligence and humour, takes those arguments apart one by one. How anyone can read this and still think their beliefs trump his wishes and those wishes of many like him beggars belief.

Worth reading too simply because, as expected, the writing is beautiful.

Available from Hive.

A week of book reviews – ‘In Safe Hands’ by J.P. Carter #BookReview

I have been absolutely snowed under with work over the last few weeks – not that I’m complaining – and although I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t got round to reviewing. So this week I’m determined to catch up with a review a day.

How far would you go to save the ones you love?

The first book in a gripping new crime series featuring DCI Anna Tate.

When nine children are snatched from a nursery school in South London, their distressed parents have no idea if they will ever see them again. The community in the surrounding area is in shock. How could this happen right under their noses? No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying.

But DCI Anna Tate knows that nothing is impossible, and she also knows that time is quickly running out. It’s unclear if the kidnappers are desperate for money or set on revenge, but the ransom is going up by £1million daily. And they know that one little boy in particular is fighting for his life.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DCI Anna Tate has ever worked on – not only because nine children are being held hostage, but because she’s pretty sure that someone close to them is lying…

The blurb made this sound so exciting – and what an intriguing premise. Nine vulnerable, very small children kidnapped. No one knows why or where they are. The potential here for drama, emotion and tension is huge.

So I was disappointed at the execution. The pace is very ploddy, not a lot actually happens, there is no real sense of urgency, no real portrayal of the raw emotion that the parents would surely feel. There’s a huge amount of repetition of detail, lots of telling, a lack of dialogue – I was surprised to say the least that this was by a successful and prolific crime writer.

If you’re really into police procedurals then this might be for you.

But it definitely wasn’t for me.

Available from Hive.

A week of book reviews – ‘Notes to Self’ by Emilie Pine #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

I have been absolutely snowed under with work over the last few weeks – not that I’m complaining – and although I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t got round to reviewing. So this week I’m determined to catch up with a review a day.

‘I am afraid of being the disruptive woman. And of not being disruptive enough. I am afraid. But I am doing it anyway.’

In this dazzling debut, Emilie Pine speaks to the business of living as a woman in the 21st century – its extraordinary pain and its extraordinary joy. Courageous, humane and uncompromising, she writes with radical honesty on birth and death, on the grief of infertility, on caring for her alcoholic father, on taboos around female bodies and female pain, on sexual violence and violence against the self. Devastatingly poignant and profoundly wise – and joyful against the odds – Notes to Self offers a portrait not just of its author but of a whole generation.

I have to say the blurb makes this sound like a misery fest, but that is very far from the truth. This is a brilliant book – emotional, insightful, intelligent, terribly sad in places but a joy to read. In a world where there are so many bad books, so much badly written TV, endless remakes of mediocre films, it’s easy to sometimes forget that there is still real talent out there, and Ms Pine’s voice is like a breath of fresh air. 

There were things here that really resonated with me, but even those experiences I didn’t identify with were still so beautifully written, so informative, so honest and real.

One of my favourite books of the year.

Available from Hive.

A week of book reviews – ‘The Rumour’ by Lesley Kara #BookReview

I have been absolutely snowed under with work over the last few weeks – not that I’m complaining – and although I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t got round to reviewing. So this week I’m determined to catch up with a review a day.

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

Anyone who has had to spend a few years at the school gates to drop off and pick up a child will know that it can feel very much like being back at school yourself – the gossip, the cliques, trying to fit in, feeling pathetic because no one talks to you, the mums who smile and wave one day and ignore you the next… it can be quite a traumatic experience.

And when your child finds it hard to make friends, it can feel like the most important thing in the world to make sure you fit in, to make life easier for them.

Which is exactly what tempts Joanna to get involved in spreading a rumour – one that will have far reaching consequences.

This is a really interesting premise, and one that is very pertinent at the moment, particularly in the way Twitter is used to show how things can get out of hand. It shows how easy it is for things to go too far, for things to run away from you. Joanna is relatable, and it’s refreshing to have a character that has all those little insecurities lots of parents feel. And the story behind the rumour is really interesting too – can little Sally McGowan really be held responsible for her crime?

A good read, well-paced, well-written, with a good twist at the end. Well worth a read.

Available from Hive

‘Generation W’ by Urban Kingdom #BookReview #RBRT #FridayReads

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘Generation W’ forRosie’s Book Review Team.

Generation w

Amazon

Generation W is a collection of 100 uncensored interviews with 100 unapologetic and leading British women from all generation who answer the same ten questions about what it was like to live through the 100 years since women began to receive the vote.
Including:
Dr Averil Mansfield – The first British female professor of surgery.
Sally Gunnell – The only female athlete to win Gold at Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth level.
Laura London – At 16 years old Laura was homeless, at 18 years old she was the youngest female magician to be inducted into the Magic Circle.
Alice Powell – on the centenary of women receiving the vote, Alice Powell became the first female racing driver to win a race in Saudi Arabia, in the same year it was finally made legal for women to drive in the country.
Stacey Copeland – growing up, boxing was illegal for women to compete in, in 2018 Stacey Copeland would become the first British woman to win a Commonwealth Title.
ALSO INCLUDING:
The great-granddaughter of legendary suffragette Emmeline Pankurst, HELEN PANKHURST
The first Black leader of a British political party MANDU REID
Former Vogue cover model, leading actress and environmentalist LILY COLE
Beyonce ‘Freedom’ and ‘Runnin’ songwriter CARLA-MARIE WILLIAMS
The first mainstream celebrated female of rock music SUZI QUATRO
Ten times European Gold Medallist Speed Skater ELISE CHRISTIE
BBC Radio 1 DJ JAMZ SUPERNOVAM
PR legend and activist LYNNE FRANKS OBE
Elusive grafitti artist BAMBI
Former Chair of British Library and principal at Newnham College, Cambridge University DAME CAROL BLACK
And many more.
Reading within you will find inspiring stories and truths on how remarkable women have overcome their toughest moments and be able to discover what makes them truly happy, beyond the accolades and legacy. Generation W is one of the most intimate and inspiring books of the 21st century. Now that is on Ebook you can read it anywhere and any time. Perfect for when you need a reminder what you can achieve when you fight for what you want in life. 

There’s so much inspiration to be found in this book, that asks one hundred women the same questions, resulting in some very different answers.

The interviewees come from so many diverse walks of life and all have their own very individual stories to tell. Each woman featured has their own take on what it is like to be a woman in the modern world, what has inspired them, what advice they would give to other women, and how they feel women are portrayed.

It’s lovely to have the voices of so many different women showcased and the interviews provide a varied and inspiring look at just what women are capable of and can achieve.

I do feel that things became a little repetitive and formulaic with the same questions being asked, but I can really appreciate why the authors chose to do this. I think that, because of this structure, this is really a book to dip into, to read two or three interviews and then to dip into again on another day.

I liked that the women were given the freedom to use their own voices and that their replies were included exactly as they were given. That said, the introductions to the interviews and the other sections of the book could have done with a bit of tidying up – the book would really benefit from an edit and proofread, which is a shame, because it does detract somewhat from the interviews.

That said, this is a very thought-provoking book that’s most definitely worth a read.

4 stars

‘The Hunger’ by Alma Katsu #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #HistoricalFiction #Supernatural

hunger

Hive   The Big Green Bookshop

 

After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

Based on the true story of The Donner Party, The Hunger is an eerie, shiver-inducing exploration of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.

Combining historical fiction with the supernatural, the author cleverly blends the actual horrors of the pioneer wagon trail with something even more terrifying and deadly. It all adds up to a novel that is so interesting in so many different ways.

The hardships the families face are bleak enough and they are told unflinchingly in a narrative that is full of historical detail that never overwhelms. The characters are authentic, honest and engaging – some you hate, some you love, every one of them is three-dimensional.

The portrayal of their journey would be interesting enough, but the addition of something lurking in the woods, ready to pounce, adds to the claustrophobia that surrounds the travellers. And the author uses restraint so well, biding her time, building the suspense slowly, racking up the tension, making this a true page turner.

Accomplished, unusual, and a truly thrilling read.

5 stars