Target: Alex Cross – James Patterson

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TITLE: TARGET: ALEX CROSS

AUTHOR:  JAMES PATTERSON

PUBLISHER: CENTURY

ISBN: 978-1780895178

 

Target: Alex Cross tells of a series of co-ordinated, daring assassinations which lead to unprecedented political events in America. Alex Cross is part of the team trying to identify and stop those who are responsible. Unfortunately, I did not care who was behind the assassinations and I wasn’t bothered who was next on the list.

I know James Patterson is a very popular author and I know Alex Cross is a very popular character, both on paper and in film, so I was happy and eager to read this; apparently it is the 26th Alex Cross novel, so it must be good. But I’m sorry Century, this just did not grab me in any way though I don’t doubt others will be gripped.

The writing is not wordy nor crafted but the story is told in a simple “this, then this, then that and then this” way, which I know some readers love. However, it is not trashy, nor is it poorly written but for me, it felt like a list of events and even seeing Morgan Freeman in my mind’s eye didn’t help.

There was a side plot which seemed to be leading somewhere slowly but when it did conclude it was irrelevant and disappointing. There was an interesting character introduced who then left and of whom no more was heard. I’m not sure why she appeared, unless it helped with the word count but I would not have thought such a prolific author would need to do this; perhaps she’ll reappear in a later novel.

But, but, but…this is only my opinion, albeit an honest one. The genre is not one I lean towards but I know many of you do and many of you will probably wonder how I did not love it. We all have different tastes which allows many divers authors a readership and bookstores full of books for everyone.

I think the fault with Target is simply that it is not my preferred genre and it did not convert me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Century for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

 

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Eggshells – Catriona Lally

Eggshells

TITLE: EGGSHELLS

AUTHOR:  CATRIONA LALLY

PUBLISHER: HARPER COLLINS

ISBN: 978-0008324407

NO SPOILERS

 

In 2018 Eggshells by Catriona Lally won The Rooney Prize; a prize for Irish writers under the age of 40, writing in Irish or English. I’m not familiar with the prize and have no idea of the shortlist but Eggshells would get my vote regardless.

Socially inept Vivian, who has an almost estranged sister also named Vivian (yep!), lives in the house of her late aunt. Her parents are both dead but not missed. She spends her days trying to do as little harm as possible and trying to be like other people. But she is not like other people; she is a changeling and frequently searches for the portal which will take her back to fairy land. Yet this is not a frivolous fairy tale and she, of course, not a changeling.

Who Vivian is, is someone who sees the world differently from the accepted norm and her observations and insight will make you see things from a different perspective, too; sometimes, a better perspective. She is obsessed with lists (butterfly names, plants, old cities, favourite food, conversation topics) and the visual aspect of speech. If her name is shortened, she prefers to “hear” VIV or viv, because it is symmetrical. Such quirks certainly made me think about words as more than a means of communication but an entity in their own right.

Vivian’s attempt at a dinner party, her attempts at conversation, her frequent bus journeys, befriending mice and one particular taxi ride had me questioning how we perceive those who do not conform and had me laughing, often out loud.

Eggshells is a quick, very entertaining and fairly easy read but it is also a complex comment on how difficult life can be for some and the ways they find to cope.  It is funny, it is sad, it is rather brilliant.

And why doesn’t Penelope rhyme with antelope?

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

Bridge of Clay – Markus Zusak

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TITLE: BRIDGE OF CLAY

AUTHOR: MARKUS ZUSAK

PUBLISHER: DOUBLEDAY

ISBN: 978-0857525956

NO SPOILERS

Bridge of Clay is the story of the Dunbars, Michael and Penelope and their five sons, told by the oldest, Matthew. Well, that sounds dull, doesn’t it? But this is such an overwhelmingly insightful novel, so beautifully written with pathos, humour and love that it is as far from dull as it could be. The loves, the losses (heartbreaking at times), the anger, the hanging on, the resolution, the absolution…and all without any sickly sentimentality.

I loved Zusak’s The Book Thief for his non-patronising understanding and recounting of a difficult subject. Bridge of Clay has that same empathetic assuredness. The writing is that of Matthew but the perspective is from all, collectively and individually…even the mule. The story runs backwards and forwards and sideways, always revealing a little more of the hows and whys of the now. A quarter of the way through I literally lost the plot and had to start again but then I hardly put it down. I feel I know every character, they are so heartbreakingly real. The intimate detail is perfectly told and no observation is throwaway…all is important and will stay with me for a very long time.

This book was long time coming and is a masterpiece…I don’t say that lightly. Part of me wishes I had not read it so I still had it to read.

I think if a Dunbar boy has got your back then all is well…you really do have to love them.

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

The Little Snake – A L Kennedy

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TITLE: THE LITTLE SNAKE

AUTHOR:  A. L. KENNEDY

PUBLISHER: CANONGATE BOOKS

ISBN: 978-1786893864

NO SPOILERS

 

Having not read anything by A L Kennedy before, I was not sure if this was going to be a book for children or adults but I know now that it is wonderful for all.

Mary (I like that the name is simple and classic) is befriended by a beautiful, mysterious, golden snake whom she chooses to call Lenmo…she has a choice from several names. It is a friendship which lasts a lifetime in spite of the snake’s purpose.

The writing is simple yet detailed, rhythmic, beautiful, magical and charming…not unlike the snake. The allusions are strong, giving this delightful story the air of a fable.

But, and for me there is a but, this book deserves a better written final chapter as it feels rushed and careless. The magic is missing and compared to the rest it reads like a quick draft. Don’t let this put you off though…the rest more than makes up for it.

But, (here’s another but) I read this in one afternoon and was totally absorbed. This book would be ideal for a reading group; it is short but exceptionally sweet and Lenmo asks many questions we should perhaps all ask ourselves. There is much here to inspire discussion,  of both the style and the comment. (It also has a gorgeous cover, which is somewhat rare these days!)

So, do take an afternoon to put the kettle on or open a bottle and sit undisturbed with The Little Snake. It will leave a smile on your lips and questions on your mind. (Snakes have no lips…)

Thank you to NetGalley and Canongate for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

Love is Blind – William Boyd

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TITLE: LOVE IS BLIND

AUTHOR: WILLIAM BOYD

PUBLISHER: VIKING

ISBN: 978-0241295939

NO SPOILERS

 

Whilst always being aware of William Boyd and thinking I knew what type of writer he is, Love is Blind is the first novel of his which I have read. I had assumed (I have no idea why) he was similar to Graham Greene, a contemporary author writing intelligently, with insight and comment. I was not too far off the mark although for me Boyd does not match up, but who does? However, I did like this book…very much.

Set at the turn of the twentieth century, Love is Blind is the story of Brodie Moncur, an unassuming, dependable, loyal piano tuner/repairer/customizer whose skills take him on an improbable yet wholly believable journey. He falls for Lika, head over heels, utterly consumed by his love for her. I found her manipulative and self-serving but love is blind indeed.

Having expected Mr Greene (why?) it took me a couple of chapters to pick up on the rhythm of Boyd’s writing but once I did it flowed at just the right pace. It is not a page turner but I was willing the plot to go my way and was eager to reach each conclusion, of which there are many before the final end.

Written in thethird person, there is a great deal of detail, none of which is superfluous, all of which is fascinating. Boyd’s characterisation is well observed and non-judgemental, allowing the characters to judge each other and the reader to do likewise. It is very much a comment on the human condition, good and bad, love, loyalty, greed, envy, revenge, desire…it’s all there!

I would happily read more of Boyd’s novels, although there may always be other authors higher up my “To Be Read” list and there are so many books and so little time…

Thank you to NetGalley and Viking for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

The Water Cure

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TITLE: THE WATER CURE

AUTHOR:  SOPHIE MACKINTOSH

PUBLISHER: PENGUIN

ISBN: 978-0-24198301-0

NO SPOILERS

 

The Water Cure is the debut novel of Sophie Mackintosh and has, at the time of my writing, been long listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, and deservedly so.

It is the story of…I don’t know. A sect? Refuge? Retreat? Cult? Fantasy? A failed utopia in a supposedly dystopian world? All of the above and then some…I think. I do not know what genre fits it…mystery mixed with philosophy perhaps. It is definitely the story of three sisters raised in isolation from the toxic outside world with rituals to protect, cleanse and heal. Anymore detail and I will spoil it for you.

Told in the voices of Grace, Lia and Sky (a device I especially love), it is written in the present tense, which I find always heightens the reader’s awareness of a character’s emotions and creates a sense of urgency. It also makes the reader feel involved.

This is not a quick “beach book” though I did read it quickly as I did not want to be away from it. The prose is beautiful, atmospheric with not a single word wasted. It is highly evocative; I held my breath at times to be silent.  Light, ethereal, ghostly yet oh, so dark and menacing. Beautiful yet violent. Calm yet seething.  Ms Mackintosh’s writing will hold you spellbound and leave you bereft, hopeful, defeated…just as the sisters felt. She is a skilled wordsmith indeed.

A small aside…after reading the book and then re-reading the publisher’s blurb I wondered if they had read the same book!

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

Don’t You Cry

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TITLE: DON’T YOU CRY

AUTHOR:  CASS GREEN

PUBLISHER: HARPER COLLINS

ISBN: 978-0-00-828721-4

NO SPOILERS

 

This book is not one I would usually choose to read, not being my preferred genre and the cover not appealing to me. However, I often want something quick, entertaining and not too taxing…a beach or plane book, the thread of which will not be lost when I summon the poolside waiter or flight attendant! Don’t You Cry by Cass Green certainly fits the bill and I did enjoy it.

The action begins early and the pace never slows. The Who, What and Why questions are there from the start and little by little the answers and back stories of Angel and Lucas are revealed.

Cass Green is no literary wordsmith, there are no passages to savour, no beautifully crafted phrases but the simply told plot moves at a good pace with plenty, and I mean PLENTY, of twists which kept me reading.

It is written in the present tense which I find always increases suspense and heightens emotions. Each very short chapter is written from a single point of view; I like this, especially as the main character Nina’s chapters are written in the first person. Strangely though, the break between chapters felt very much like breaks for advertisements on television…perhaps this has been written with that in mind or perhaps as an audio book?

Talking of television, something which annoyed me was that every character referred to it as “telly”. It’s a minor irritation, I know, but it seems wrong, as if it had been missed by the editor. Surely some of us use the full word or say TV? Likewise the sudden shifting of location in one scene.  In some parts the book reads like a not quite final draft.

All that said, I read this book in a day, not because I could not put it down, but because it is easy to read and yes, I did want to know the outcome.

If crime/thriller is your genre, then Don’t You Cry will give you a very good, no frills, fast moving tale but may not satisfy your literary cravings.

 

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.

The Forgotten Guide to Happiness

 

37488835_267433683861123_7165325250228387840_nTHE FORGOTTEN GUIDE TO HAPPINESS – SOPHIE JENKINS

PUBLISHER: AVON/HARPER COLLINS    ISBN: 978-0-00-828180-9

NO SPOILERS

More than a book about a book but written as if writing a book. Trust me, that will make sense when you read this delightful, easy, entertaining book. It is predictable but nicely so. It is full of gentle humour and laughs at itself in a charming way. It is not literary nor “wordy” but is perfect for filling a few hours on a train or the beach, being easy to put down (for a loo/sandwich/selfie break) and pick up again without losing the thread. I would not seek out this author but I would be happy to find her books under my Christmas tree while someone else clears up the kitchen. And people, be more like Nancy, wear whatever hat you like!

 

My late father suffered with dementia so this book rang some loud bells. It does not explore the dark side of dementia but I thought the gentle humour was the perfect approach. Dementia is now a part of so many lives we have to learn to see the person who remains, not the person who has gone.

How Hard Can it Be?

39196672_453778388461750_6125263473136893952_nHOW HARD CAN IT BE – Allison Pearson

PUBLISHER: HARPER COLLINS    ISBN: 978-0-00-815055-6

NO SPOILERS

 

This is a very short review as for the first time ever, I am unable to find anything good in this book. Usually, even if a book is not to my taste it is still worthy of a fair review…but not this one!

I have never disliked a protagonist as much as I dislike Kate Reddy, a lady in crisis as she approaches fifty. There is no humour in this book, only a selfish. oblivious, self-pitying, mean whinger.

Ladies, at the age of 57 I can dance till dawn, 30 year olds flirt with me, I am not invisible and life has never been better, so let me assure you, in spite of what Ms Reddy says, hitting the five-o is wonderful.

Last Letter from Istanbul

IMG_6085LAST LETTER FROM INSTANBUL – Lucy Foley

PUBLISHER: HARPER COLLINS    ISBN:978-0-00-816907-7

NO SPOILERS

Last night over dinner, I found myself retelling small incidents and observations from this book to my husband, so clearly, in spite of my initial reservations and prejudged dislike, Last Letter from Istanbul has made an impression on me.

During the first world war, Istanbul is occupied by allied forces.  Nur, an Ottoman woman, has taken into her care an orphaned Armenian boy and when he becomes dangerously ill she takes him to the military hospital. The hospital is in her former family home, where George, an English doctor treats him for malaria.  And of course, as with all good tales they reluctantly fall in love…but their people are enemies.

That is enough plot outline as any more will become a spoiler but there is plenty in the back stories of the characters to provide more insight and interest.  It is a tale of gradual respect which grows to become a love that cannot be,  but is not a soppy romance.  It touches a little on the horrors of war and the damage caused to people and the reasons why the love affair is impossible.

The author’s writing style takes a little getting used to. A large amount of very short chapters, each from a specific character’s perspective, skipping back and forth in time and place.  A vast amount of incredibly short sentences, some only four or five words long and the most prolific use of the colon I have ever come across!  At times it reads like a play, with stage direction and the setting of scenes but once you overlook the awkward, erratic punctuation there are moments of absolute beauty and the use of the present tense is, as always, very evocative. Pomegranate sales will soar!

Why Lucy Foley chose this setting, this city in particular, I do not know. The book displays no personal affection nor knowledge of the city and its depiction lacks intimacy.  As a reader, I did not feel I was there and I did not feel any sense of shared experience.  I would have liked more journalistic detail about the culture and more about how the occupation impacted on the citizens on a personal level and the country as a whole; I like to learn as I read and this book did not tell me anything I did not already know…but then that would be a whole different book.  There is just enough here to make sense of the plot, and if that is all you seek, then this book will please and possibly delight you. There are a couple of “Heart in mouth”, “Hold your breath” and  “Quick, quick turn the page…” moments.

One big problem for me is the cover and the prejudice it elicited in me.  I would never normally pick up a book with such a jacket picture and had already decided I would not enjoy it and I think this clouded my opinion for the first half; I believe I looked for reasons to dislike it.  I did think, in these days of marketing genius, that we really can judge a book by its cover. I was wrong.

Whilst it is not a book I would have chosen for myself, I am glad to have read it. I love The Boy and the man he becomes in spite of or because of the situation. It is not the last letter which remains me but his last act.