Thursday, 16 August 2012

Criminal Karin Slaughter

From the doyenne of crime fiction comes the latest in the Will Trent series. This has got to be the soap opera series of crime fiction. Lots of people from malfunctioning backgrounds and lots of interchangeable relationships.
Great characters in the series include Will who has dyslexia, carefully hidden, his wife who is the product of the US "care" system and their colleagues and families. With a fair proportion of the book set in the 1970's it's also great for setting the scene, giving examples of socioeconomic issues of the time.
This is the one that tells the background of the mothers in the series. It's a great read and still leaves it open for the characters to continue- good news for us.
Here Will revisits the past uncovering secrets he couldn't even have imagined while trying to solve a crime and we get to learn more about his mentor through his police career as well as his wife and family.
Carefully interweaving the characters the story builds to a climax with surpises all around and a great one liner ending.

The acknowledgements are also worth a read, maybe a day later to enjoy the end of the story. Here is an author who cares enough about the library systems both in the US and UK to put her money where her mouth is. Long may she reign.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend Matthew Green

With trepidation I picked this one up. It could so easily have failed as a concept. It also had a byline from Jodi Picoult on the front who has, imho, had her style overcopied badly. Published in the UK by Sphere it's a largish print easy read.

Written from the perspective of the imaginary friend we get to meet Max, the real person who created the friend. One of the novelties of the book is the description of the imaginary friends, what would yours look like? Would you remember to put eyebrows on your imagery?

Despite the above this also runs into the crime thriller category with the disappearance of a child taking centre stage. Is it possible for an imaginary friend to manage to make others aware of his knowledge?

Although this is an unlikely book it's also one that has the capacity to allow you to be part of this world as you read. It romps along neatly employing all kinds of friends along the way with a fair bit of angst thrown in.

The decider-would I read another book by this author? Yes

If you would like to read the book next tweet me @nneerraakk and it's yours

Alif the Unseen G Willow Wilson

Published by Corvus Books in the UK this is a magical mystery book with wow factor.

Alif the Unseen is a computer hacker working for anyone who doesn't work for the government enabling freedom of speech. He's also quite nifty as a programmer.

Because of the programming I found it quite handy that I understood the bulk of the terminology surrounding the computing side of the story. However this book is much more than this taking us on a rollercoaster ride through an alternate world- think Never Ending Story meets Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones. Got it?

With unusual beings, unusual skills and a love story or two thrown into the mix this one provides something for just about everyone. Suitable for adults and teenagers alike the descriptive skills are excellent when dealing with the parallel world. Personally I loved the dry humour of the religious leader :)

As well as the entertainment of the book there's an element of "this is what it's really like under censorship and for women" running through it, illustrating choice as being freedom to choose burqah or not.

Well worth a read even if it doesn't sound like your usual type of read.

The decider- would I read another book by this author? Yes

If you want to read this one next, tweet me @nneerraakk

The Registrars Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages Sophie Hardach

Published by Simon and Schuster this is another from my wishlist following a review or six. It's also been languishing on the shelf for a while- so long that I ended up with the hardback and the paperback. More money for a struggling author.....

Starting brutally with a refugee's experience of crossing into Europe this has a very powerful scene that comes along beside you and hits hard across your consciousness as you read, and then backtrack and make sure that you read that right. You did.

Following arrival in Europe the refugee has to somehow remain and the way to do that is to get married to someone with a passport. This is not achieved by going to a local nightclub and being suitably sultry and handsome and therefore an irresistible proposition for the local population. Here the marriage is loosely "arranged".

The novel then tells the stories of both the husband and wife, crossing borders on occasion, as they move away from each other and take entirely different life paths. One becoming a registrar and the other a part time cycle shop assistant.

This is not a heavy book to read, nor is it chick lit. It tells the effect of the marriage on both parties, and the importance attached to it by them. Overall it's an enjoyable afternoon or two of reading and a good debut. If the author thinks as diversely as this each time she writes we will be in for a treat.

The decider- would I buy another book by this author? Yes

If you would like to read it next tweet me @nneerraakk and it's yours!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Testament of Jessie Lamb Jane Rogers

From the latest clutch of dystopian novels comes The Testament of Jessie Lamb published by Sandstone Press.

Several reviews prompted me to buy the book, including one which mentioned the possibility of a YA version as well as adult. I'm pretty sure I got the adult version.
Written in the first person voice the book tells the tale of a young girl growing up in a future where all women die when pregnant. Usually this means death for the baby as well. A doctor/scientist has started a new programme whereby the babies are delivered at a cost to the mother's life before the illness takes hold. The lead character in the book decides that this is an option she would like to take to ensure the life of a baby- a decision made when she is not yet pregnant or even adult.
The book enters the realm of political dissent with various groups springing up in protest against leadership doctrine and in fear of the world they now inhabit,one of which the teenager joins. Alongside her family's concerns about her future there are a whole lot of different strands running through this book.
Overall, to me, it seemed quite a disjointed book with the teenage voice not quite ringing true. Some authors manage to give voice to a much younger person successfully, this one rang as an adult playing a teenager.
Altogther the book made itself a struggle for me to totally enjoy because of this.
That said it has won the Arthur C Clarke 2012 award and was long listed for the Man Booker in 2011.
As is common prize winners and me didn't mix.
The decider- would I buy another book by this author? I'm afraid not.

If you would like to read it next tweet me on @nneerraakk First person to tweet gets it posted to them.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Painter of Silence Georgina Harding
An Orange short listed book of 2012. This one is written by an author I had heard of but not read and was recommended by my local bookseller at Red Lion Books
Usually I shy away from books which may or may not get awards so this was a step outside my comfort zone.

Based in Romania in the 1950's it tells the story of a deaf and mute man's life through his attempts to interact with those around him, be they those who have known him for his entire life of those who have recently met him following the war.

With his skills as an artist he attempts to portray the major incidents of his personal life throughout the war, in the field and at his home.

It takes concentration, mainly because of the need to imagine a lack of words. Once you get as far as the shift involved to achieve this it's a magical book for it's pure skill. I'm not even an artist so the drawings had to be pictured as well.

The emotions of the lead character as frustration in some periods set in, the lack of understanding of the person he was trying to explain to, even this is worked in without words or even necessarily rage.

The subtleties of the restraint shown when the soldiers came to stay at his house and the shame evinced by one of the soldiers after a wordless interaction is genuinely moving.

A difficult read, but a worthwhile one.

The decider- would I buy another book by this author? Yes if there is diverse subject matter

This now becomes a bookcrossing book, if you'd like it next simply tweet me on twitter @nneerraakk first one to tweet gets the book

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Kills Linda Fairstein

My first outing with Linda Fairstein despite the impressively long list of titles published.
The draw was the fact that she is/was a highly succesful prosecutor in the US specialising in sex crimes.
I'm a fan of a decent court thriller and decided this author may fit the bill. So it was off on a hunt around the local charity shops to find any of her books. In 17, yes 17, such shops in my home town this was the only one I found. Are they being preserved for prosperity somewhere?

We start with an alleged rape case where the attacker is known to the victim. It's not as straight forward as that though as the victim is "persuaded" to participate using emotional rather than physical abuse and the perpertrators 10 year old son is in the room when the abuse takes place.

Then it's over to a murder that may or may not be connected of an old lady who was once a glamour model back in the days when feathers were in the picture strategically placed.

So we now have two cases, two lots of witnesses, several investigators, a journalist, a judge, a few solicitors, more than a couple of locations and a lot of history to catch up on.

All in all this was a hard book to enjoy for me. The very reason I bought it was the court case and this paled into insignificance against the detail history of a coin, or two coins. Aside from the coin story, the noticeable difference between this court appearance and some others was the apparently dispassionate approach to it from the litigators. I appreciate that this must be necessary to do the job for any length of time but it doesn't add to the novel.
The decider- Would I buy another book by this author? No

Friday, 3 August 2012

Fallen Karin Slaughter
For a prolific author Karin Slaughter shows no signs of resting on her laurels and assuming her faithfuls will continue to buy.
From the Will Trent series comes Fallen which details some of the back story of two of the main characters from the series.
As well as being a crime thriller the book is part of a series whereby the characters form a consistent's a bit like watching The Bill....on acid.
With a variety of backgrounds to the detectives and coroner the interest is sustained throughout as the inter-relationships build, dissipate and rebuild.
Will Trent has had a childhood no-one would envy although the full story is yet to come out. He also has dyslexia which he tries to hide in various ways. He's married, allbeit only technically so. Sara Linton is the coroner of the piece and Faith Mitchell the detective who just happens to be a single mother of an older child and a very young child.
The story opens with Faith returning home to relieve her own mother of babysitting duties to find the baby in the garage, her mother missing and, later on, her mother's finger under her pillow.
Tautly written the story speeds through the whys and wherefores of the disappearance, introducing us along the way to an ex police photographer who conveniently lives next door.... The Bill, on acid, with Neighbours.
It's an advantage with these books to have read the preceding ones, if only to place some of the relationships. That doesn't mean Fallen couldn't stand alone. It could.
It's an ideal crime thriller of the popular crime thriller nature, it doesn't require as much concentration as some and provides a whole heap of entertainment.
It's clear at the end that there's more to come of the individuals even if this particular crime has been solved, not neatly, but solved.

As note the dedication reads
"To all the librarians in the world on behalf of all the kids y'all helped grow up to be writers"

As usual, the decider- would I buy another book by this author?
See a more recent review-I didn't even wait for the paperback.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Split Second Cath Staincliffe
The first issue with this book is where to categorise it.
It seems to be in the crime thriller bracket but I'm not convinced that's where it belongs.
The beginning of the book introduces us to a group of unrelated people going about their usual lives. Very quickly everything is drastically altered by one incident.
A stabbing occurs and the remainder of the book deals with the fallout one such incident can cause.
It is incredibly well written. The impact on the families, the shock is almost tangible, the despair of a witness who had the chance to intervene and didn't, all of these emotions are played out.
There is nothing chick lit about it and yet as far as it's category- yes, there's a crime but there's no real mystery and no thrill. But this doesn't mean it's not a good book- it is, to my mind it's exceptional.
The very real thoughts of the father as he tries to deal with the loss of a son while still being a husband and trying to help his wife, the struggle to do so, the glimpses of a person who his logical mind knows cannot be there. The kick of realisation as the void left by his son is brought home on a regular basis. None of the emotions are frilly, they are very simply there.
The identity of the culprits doesn't remain unknown for very long and before long we are privy to each characters's way of dealing with knowing who did this to their families. It ranges from the primeval wish to retaliate through to the blind faith that justice will out.
Through to the court case and the uncomfortably real questions that are asked of each witness and the blow is almost felt as the slam dunk of what could possibly be happening on the stand falls into consciousness.
Yes, this is how it works. Any tiny inkling of possibility will be magnified again and again to try and make sure that a person stays out of jail. This is what the defence is for.
The book opens eyes cruelly to what could possibly happen. The thoughts of the family in the court as some family members are allowed to step outside for part of the evidence whilst others have to stay to have some of their memories mauled by the legal system are described in a taut way and lay bare the raw disbelief in the process.
Some of the best characters I have come across in a while with a broad variety of them. One that stayed with me.

The decider- would I buy another book by this author?
Hell, yes!

Plague Child Peter Ransley

Historical fiction has appealed since my early twenties when I discovered Barbara Erskine. Set in Oxford in 1625 just as the plague was virulent this book is the first in a trilogy.
The main character,Tom, is introduced to us as a baby born out of wedlock and needing to be hidden. From there we are privy to his story following his relocation by plague cart.
The wide cast of characters and occupations maintain interest through the book as we meet printers, ladies maids, commoners, gentry and warriors, feminists amongst others.
For me the character that stood out most was Eaton whose tale was told by firelight one night relating his missed opportunities and letting down the fearsome guard, revealing the true romantic within.
As Tom wends his way cross country he gradually learns the detail of his birth and the intricate plot surrounding it. At the conclusion Tom is still only a young man leaving plenty of scope for the second and third books although this book does not feel incomplete.
The decider-would I read another by the same author? Yes in this trilogy as I now know Tom. In another series, possibly not, the competition is very strong.