Book Review – Call After Midnight By Tess Gerritsen

This book is a stand alone novel and not part of the Rizzoli & Isles series

As always let’s begin with the Goodreads blurb…

THEY’D SAID HER HUSBAND WAS DEAD … SO WHY WAS SHE SURE HE WAS STILL ALIVE?

A ringing phone in the middle of the night shakes newlywed Sarah Fontaine awake. Expecting her husband’s call from London she hears instead an unfamiliar voice. Nick O’Hara from the US State Department is calling with devastating news: Geoffrey Fontaine, Sarah’s husband of two months, died in a hotel fire … in Berlin.

Convinced her husband is still alive, Sarah forces a confrontation with Nick that finds them crisscrossing Europe on a desperate search for Geoffrey. Trying to stay one heartbeat ahead of a dangerous killer, they become quarry in the clandestine world of international espionage, risking everything for answers that may prove fatal.

When you love a series by someone you can find their stand alone novels lacking, however I have read a couple of others which I had really enjoyed so I was optimistic about this one.  Sadly for me this book was a bit of a flop, the plot is a little implausible, well more than a little to be honest, but more than that the characters themselves just do not ring true.  Had it remained steadfastly a thriller, spy drama it might have been more engaging but the sub plot of a romance between the two main characters just makes it so hard to believe. We are asked to believe that the grieving widow, whose reaction to her husbands summons is to jump straight on a plane can fall in love with another man within a few weeks. I accept her husband is not who he pretends to be, nor does it turn out they had the happy marriage she thought they had but the reallocation of affections is too swift without the soul searching one would expect.

The pacing is fast and furious, in places a little too fast as you barely get time to get a real feel for places and situations before we are torn away to the next, I do love Tess Gerritsons books but for me this one just did not grab me the way her others have,

So time for a score and I hate having to give this score but I have to be fair so I award it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Book Review – Telling Tales By Alan Bennett

I have to say I challenge anyone who has heard his voice not to read this and hear him talking to you…

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As usual begin with the Goodreads blurb…

Ten childhood snapshots from the master of the monologue Alan Bennett recalls his childhood in a sequence of talks that are funny, touching and told in his unique style. Hampered, as he sees it, by a family that never manages to be quite like other families he recounts his early years in Leeds a place where one learned early on the quite useful lesson that life is generally something that happens elsewhere: there is hiking every Sunday, trips into town and teas in cafes. Its an ordinary childhood, Bennetts father a butcher, his mother a reader of womens magazines who dreams of coffee mornings and cocktail parties and life down south. He re-lives family crises, early pieties and the lost tradition of musical evenings round the piano, all these tales told with that wry observation and ironic understatement that has earned Alan Bennett a place in the forefront of contemporary writing.

Even though his childhood in Leeds took place decades before my own I can still relate to much of what he was saying, I grew up on the outskirts of Leeds in a mining village and to be honest it always felt like you went back a decade or two from the city centre. But the truth is that even for those who grew up in other areas there will be elements from their own childhood they recognise, after all we all have those certain characters in our childhood that make their mark one way or another. Though it is written about a specific area the language is not dialectically difficult, and as I said in the opening if you have heard Alan Bennett’s voice it is impossible to read this without your head creating the illusion of him narrating it to you.  It is also interesting reading the introduction the understand more about his reasons for choosing to use this medium to relate his personal stories. It is a slim book and can be read in one night and makes a refreshing change to some of the ‘celebrity’ memoirs that are three hundred volumes of drivel., it is a testament to Bennett’s genius that he can select out a few memories that give you such an in-depth understanding into his childhood without needing a whole book.

And for the score, well it has to be five out of five stars.

Gold star

Book Review – The Children Of Witches By Sherri Smith

I picked this book up in a charity box and confess it was the title that grabbed my attention…

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As always let’s begin with the Goodreads blurb…

When rumours of witchcraft sweep through the town, Anna’s son, Manfred, who does not communicate like other children, is seized by those who use him to pursue their own agenda. As innocent townsfolk are accused, a climate of fear prevails. No one is safe – and Manfred is at the heart of the terror.

I confess I did not really pay much attention to the blurb when I picked the book up, I had just done my shopping after finishing the day job and was having a flick through a trolley full of books we had, donations for which went to our local charity, I spotted it thought it looked interesting and grabbed it, throwing my donation into the tub. The actual blurb on the book is longer than the Goodreads one and plays a lot more on the witchcraft aspects of the story. I was really looking forward to it and it has some really good point it also has faults though.

The story is based on real events and at times I did question if it would have been better as a factual examination of the events or as taking it further and going for pure fiction. The story in some ways is reminiscent of the Salem witch trial, the way that it is the children who accuse and that they are encouraged to greater and greater accusations, the way the accusations are made and the way the villagers react to them is intriguing, as is the initial introduction of the Church into the mix however for me this was where the story became a little sluggish. There seemed, and maybe it is because I am not religious myself to be too much of the church at times and not enough of the family, I really cannot put my finger on what exactly the problem was because I understand with the plot where it was going but at times getting there felt like wading through treacle in wellies, which is a shame because the conclusion of the aspect of the story was really good. I was not really that taken by they end of the story overall, but to be fair because of the characters involved, even without having a real story it related to I do not think this was ever going to be a happily ever after story, I would like to have had more about the other characters on the periphery and how their lives were effected by the conclusion of the story. Do not get me wrong I enjoyed it and this is a good book in many ways but I do think it could have been an amazing book if it had explored the broader consequences rather than such a small character focus group.

So a score, I debated this but am going to go for three and a half stars out of five.

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Book Review – Doctor Who; Time Lord Fairy Tales By Justin Richards

I did wonder if I had already done this one but apparently not…

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Goodreads says…

WE ARE ALL STORIES, IN THE END…

Fifteen tales of ancient wonder and mystery, passed down through generations of Time Lords.

Dark, beautiful and twisted, these stories are filled with nightmarish terrors and heroic triumphs, from across all of time and space.

There are times when you get incredibly excited about a book and for me this was one of them, I thought it would be a fun read and was looking forward to some unique fairy stories, however what you actually get is mainly a twist on traditional fairy tales. Now don’t get me wrong they are well written, entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I think the problem is it was not quite what I expected. I would love them to have taken things further and made the tales more alien. I think one issue is also who the book is aimed at, while I enjoyed it I am not so sure the monster would have understood everything in it, Doctor Who is a family show and although this is certainly not an adult book it is certainly aimed at older readers. I think my favourite story was Cinderella and the Magic Box, and one other good aspect of this book is it does feature a mix of new and classic Doctors.

So it needs a score and I am going to give it 4 out of 5 stars, good but not quite great.

4stars

Book Review – Me and the Fat Man By Julie Myerson

It has been a while but I do have a pile of books waiting t be reviewed so lets start the new year with getting back to it…

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And as always we begin with the blurb taken from Goodreads…

An unlikely romance, a psychological mystery, an erotic thriller–Me and the Fat Man is all and none of the above, eluding categorization as skillfully as it limns its characters’ desperate, love-starved lives. In Julie Myerson’s third novel, Amy waits tables in a small English city and in her spare time turns tricks for reasons she can’t quite articulate, even to herself. She’s married, but without love or lust or much of anything else. “I like you because you don’t expect anything,” her husband tells her when they first meet. An orphan born in Greece, Amy grew up in a foster home that was “creepy and electric,” where she was treated with ostensible fairness but always made to feel just how lucky she was that they took her in. “What’s flesh and blood? Not blood and string and fat like on a joint of meat, but just this person smiling and smiling at the stupidest things about you,” she muses, and thinks, “I’d have given anything for that.”

Then a stranger named Harris walks into the restaurant and promises to give Amy back her past, claiming to have known her mother. Slowly he draws Amy into his life and introduces her to Gary, the gentle fat man of the title. Prompted by Harris, the two find themselves in an affair; what’s surprising is that they fall in love, the last thing either of their lives has led them to expect. But Gary has secrets of his own, and is strangely in Harris’s thrall. The key to both of their pasts lies on the Greek island of Eknos, where Amy’s life comes spiraling together in a way that seems both improbable and true–like everything else in this novel, from its offbeat eroticism to the painful physicality of its prose. Me and the Fat Man is bleak and magical in equal measure. –Mary Park

I did not actually buy this book, it was one which came free with a newspaper and if I am honest I did not have high expectations. The story is a very strange one, none of the main characters are ones you feel sympathy for, in fact it is easier to dislike them which makes sticking with the story quite hard at times. It is a very strange plot in many ways with the real interesting elements not coming in until you are over half way through the book, to be honest several times I came close to putting it down, and if you are looking for a happily ever after or even just a definite ending this is not the book for you. It is well written and some of the descriptive passages are brilliant at evoking the places and events, it really does come down to whether you feel the need to relate to characters.

I did sort of enjoy it but felt at the end I was left wanting more answers, it was a little like catching a glimpse of something happening through frosted glass, you get the gist but feel the details are lacking, without giving away spoilers I feel like there was so much more to tell at the end. Deciding on the score for this one was hard because in places it is engaging where as at others it is hard work finally I decided on 3.5 stars out of 5, maybe I would not recommend rushing out to buy it but if you come across it then it is worth picking it up and giving it a go.

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Book Review – Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone By JK Rowling

I decided to reread this series in the lead up to getting and reading the new releases so let’s see how it lived up to memory…

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So as always we will begin with the Goodreads blurb…

 

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.

First thing I have to say as a reread this was a little bit of a shock to the system. You might ask why, after all the book has been around for ages as have the films but that is exactly what the issue was. Over the years I have watched the films with the kids far more times than I have read the books, and the films are so well done gradually you forget what was left out of the films from the books or added in. First I have to say the writing style is really simple, no frills, exactly as it should be for the age group it is aimed at, it is of course now impossible unless you have been living under a stone not to visualise the characters as those portrayed by the actors in the films, this does make it harder to now regard the book as an individual entity.
There are a few things that I realise I had maybe not really noticed for example, I am now convinced Mrs Weasley was out to sabotage Ron’s Hogwort’s education from the start, when we know how important it is ‘The wand chooses the wizard Harry!” So the fact poor Ron is sent to start his wizarding education with his brothers second hand wand which was obviously faulty otherwise he would not have replaced it. My theory is she knows she cannot keep any of the others at home with her, especially her strong willed daughter and Ron seems like the best bet for her to be able to keep with her to mother.
The best thing about these books is the fact it made reading cool with kids again, it made parents who maybe didn’t bother take the time to read the stories with their kids, have to be honest no idea why people felt they needed an adult cover on the books, if you are going to read something don’t be afraid to let people see what it is. The style is fairly simple and yes you can pick out influences from other works but I feel that criticism is unfair, after all every thing we read influences us in one way or another.
So scores, what else can I give this other than 5 out of 5, my daughter loved the books as they came out, my son now enjoys them via audiobook and I am enjoying revisiting them.
Gold star

Book Review – The Legends of Ashildr By Doctor Who Authors

I confess I picked up this book with trepidation bought it I may as well pick it up and give it a go.

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We begin as always with the Goodreads blurb…

“Ten thousand hours is all it takes to master any skill. Twenty thousand, and you’re the best in the world. Over a hundred thousand, and you’re the best there’s ever been.”

Ashildr, a young Viking girl, died helping the Doctor and Clara to save the village she loved. And for her heroism, the Doctor used alien technology to bring her back to life. Ashildr is now immortal — The Woman Who Lived.

Since that day, Ashildr has kept journals to chronicle her extraordinary life. The Legends of Ashildr is a glimpse of some of those stories: the terrors she has faced, the battles she has won, and the treasures she has found.

These are the tales of a woman who lived longer than she should ever have lived — and lost more than she can even remember.

How I wish I could say I liked this book, like the character it had so much potential and fell short. I had hoped the book would provide a mix of stories from the lives lived by Ashildr in between her encounters with the Doctor and to be fair in some ways it does, but where it falls short is in providing a balance between the elements of her nature and does not expand our insight into the character.

In the TV series the Ashildr we encounter with the Doctor is hard and selfish, she talks of the loss and pain which bring her to this point, the stories contained in her journals, so this book had the opportunity to let us see how she become ME but instead it shows only the selfish nature previously displayed. From the very beginning of our on screen encounters we know she is rash and acts without thought for consequences, but we see from this she fails to learn from her actions, repeating the same patterns over and over again.

I had hoped in the third story where we see her in a more vulnerable light in some ways as she loses her children to the plague, we are told these are not the first children she has lost through the years but there is no real sense of anguish there, and I say this as a parent who has watched their baby fight for their life, the fact that she even contemplated leaving them behind to their fates alone makes it even harder to empathise with this character.

I get that years of loss would harden a person but in order for that to be balance we have to share their suffering and so how the change over the years, sadly I was disappointed by both the book and the character and feel that a real opportunity was missed.

So onto the score, and I have to be fair and cannot let me affection for the show influence me so it is 3 out of 5 stars, while there was nothing wrong exactly with any of the individual stories I was left feeling it is not a book I will pick up again.

3 stars

Book Review – Peril At End House By Agatha Christie

Another Agatha Christie novel this week, featuring my favourite detective…

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The Goodreads Blurb…

While on holiday in Cornwall, Hercule Poirot falls, turns his ankle and stumbles into pretty Nick Buckley, accident-prone heiress of a local estate and the survivor of several near-fatal mishaps. Poirot suspects more when strange connections surface between distant relatives, an absent pilot and a local gang of friends.

I have stated before I love the Agatha Christie novels and the Poirot ones are my favourites, yes he can be a little annoying in his ways but when you allow for the historical elements then much like my other favourite detective Sherlock then allowances can be made. It is well known that Agatha wrote to a formula and adapted it to each story and this one does differ a little which does help in assuring you do not work out the whodunnit until the end. As always there are a rich variety of characters but I do feel that some of them in this are less fleshed out than others however it is still a highly enjoyable mystery.

The questions of motive and gain play off against the idea of inherited evil, whether a place can be cursed or if actions are always what they seem.

Now an awkward bit because normally I avoid spoilers but want to discuss the ending, maybe that will be best discussed in another post as a theme in its own right but ties in with ideas of justice and whether what is right is the same as what is just.

Enough said onto the score, I am giving this one 4 out of 5 stars, I love Agatha but would like to have seen more character development for the other characters. But as a bonus a clip of the story from the best Poirot ever…

4stars

Book Review – The Innocent Murderer By Michael Griesbach

I should first point out that prior to reading this I had not only watched the Netflix series Making A Murderer but I had also listened to numerous crime podcasts where the case and evidence had been discussed at length by various professionals and that knowledge did impact a little upon my reading of this book.

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The Goodreads Blurb…

The story of one of America’s most notorious wrongful convictions, that of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who spent eighteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit and now the subject of the hit series Making a Murderer. But two years after he was exonerated of that crime and poised to reap millions in his wrongful conviction lawsuit, Steven Avery was arrested for the exceptionally brutal murder of Teresa Halbach, a freelance photographer who had gone missing several days earlier. The “Innocent Man” had turned into a cold blooded killer. Or had he? This is narrative non-fiction at its finest and the perfect companion read for fans of Making a Murderer.

First thing that has to be said is that the author is not a writer, he is a lawyer and occasionally it shows, but that can be forgiven in parts though you cannot help but think that occasionally he could have cut some of the repetition of facts and credit us with being able to retain information or flick back through pages to double check if we need to, I guess it is because he is used to drumming facts into jury’s.

The second thing you should know is that the first three quarters of this book focus on the crime for which Steven Avery was wrongly convicted and his subsequent appeals and exoneration, the last quarter deals with the murder trial and conviction and I have to be honest you might think the two sections had been written by different people.

The first section dealing with the wrongful conviction is full of details, it goes in depth and questions the process which led to this travesty of justice, likewise the author pulls no punches in his own part of this story where he is instrumental in the process of setting Steven Avery free. Disappointingly in the last section he acts the same way as he accuses the documentary of acting and cherry picks the facts he likes to create his version of the story.

Now I am going to say at this point I still cannot say I am sure either way if Steven Avery is guilty of the murder of Teresa Halbach, what I am sure of is the the evidence was not as cut and dried as this would have you believe, nor is the idea of the conspiracy as flimsy as this books would like to believe. I get it, the author cannot allow himself to believe the system would prove to be corrupt twice but given the same players were involved in both cases is that really such a far stretch.

Now the big question of ratings and recommendations, I would suggest reading this as part of a general interest in the case and to learn more about the wrongful conviction, but if you are looking for more information on the murder charge and trial you will not find it here, I also recommend you watch the Netflix documentary before you read this as the author does make the assumption you have seen it. So based on the overall book I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars, I knocked off half for the writing style but the rest for the last quarter which has extreme bias against the documentary which I believe clouded the authors ability to examine the evidence without prejudice. The sad thing is that there are no winners here, if Steven Avery is innocent it means the law is corrupt once more, a guilty man is walking free while an innocent one is locked up and Teresa Halbach’s family will be dragged though hell not knowing the truth. The other side of that coin is that if Steven Avery is guilty with way the investigation took place and the subsequent documentary’s and books will always raise question marks and may even one day see him walk free again on technicalities. I have my own possibly alternative theories on the case, questions that have not been satisfactorily answered, if I have them then so must others and until they are all answered it is hard to see Teresa ever being allowed to truly rest in peace.

 

3 stars

Book Review – Scar Tissue by M. C. Domovitch

We start this review with a disclaimer that I did receive a kindle version of this book for an honest review,

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Let us start as always with the Goodreads blurb…

When successful model Ciara Kelly wakes up in hospital, remembering nothing of the weeks she has been missing, her only clues are the ugly words carved into her skin. According to the police she was a victim of the Cutter, a serial killer who has already murdered three women. For her protection the police and her doctors give a press conference, announcing that because her amnesia is organically caused, her memory loss is permanent. But, whether her memory returns or not is anybody’s guess. Overnight, Ciara’s glamorous life is gone. Her scars have killed both her modelling career and her relationship with her rich boyfriend. With nothing to keep her in New York, she returns to her home town of Seattle, moves in with her sister and goes about building a new life. But when her sister lets it slip that Ciara’s memory is returning, the killer comes after her again. If Ciara is to stay alive, she must keep one step ahead of the Cutter.

Because I received this in return for a review I am going to go into things a little more than I normally do in these reviews but in this case that is not a bad thing. I am always wary of giving away too much and spoiling things for readers so if I am vague in places trust me I am doing this for your own good.

I genuinely raced through this book it is a real page turner and if you enjoy thrillers with a twist then grab yourself a copy to take on your holidays with you I promise you won’t regret it, now there were a few things that did niggle me which I will go through but overall it was a real hit.

So let’s begin with niggle number one the main character, Ciara, I didn’t like her, nope that is not fair I did not dislike her I just didn’t care about her. I know that this author is capable of creating characters that draw you in and make you invested in them but this one for me seemed very shallow. I thought maybe as the book continued I would be more interested in her but even at the end I was still not connecting with her, but that is not as big an issue in this book as it could be, there is a cast of brilliant secondary characters and an intriguing bad guy.

My second minor niggle was the time line, the nature of the story means it is necessary to skip forward in time to progress the events however in places it can be a little confusing in places you skip a day or two in the next several weeks and a few times I did find myself having to double check the times as it would not always seem obvious, not a big thing however maybe the events could have been compressed into a shorter time period and this would have not been such an issue.

So now we have got the niggle out of the way lets talk good points, it is hard without giving spoilers but I loved the premise behind this story and am really looking forward to seeing that explored more in the next book, and I hope that in the exploration of that side of Ciara she will develop more as a character in her own right.

The truth is this book was not really about her it was about her attacker and let me say the faceless monster is compelling, I changed my mind about a dozen times during the course of the book about who he was, and I did get who it was before the end however I only got half points as I was off with the accomplice. This book was a real page turner as I said earlier and I read it all in a couple of sittings, it is one where when you pick it up you won’t want to put it down but is so well crafted that when you do you will not lose your train of thought when you pick it back up, in fact you will have probably spent some time between reading sessions trying to work out who the voices on either end of those phones calls belong to.

So scores, I was a little undecided here not because I didn’t like the book but rather my own star system does not allow me the mark I would have gone with, so, because I always round up if uncertain the book gets 5 out of five however if I could I would have gone for 4.75, knocking off points for the slightly clumsy time progression and because the main character seemed lacking in a little depth, but I can say I will be buying the next book in the series which I know is out later in the year.