Category Archives: Hodder & Stoughton

Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde

It could be quite difficult to write my book thoughts on ‘Shades of Grey’ by Jasper Fforde. I should instantly clear up the fact that this is not because it’s a difficult book to read, it’s just got such a huge scope. I hadn’t read any Jasper Fforde before I read this novel (although I have wanted too for ages and tried to have ‘The Eyre Affair’ as a choice for an old book group) and so in some ways I didn’t really know what to expect. I did get a whole lot of something that I wasn’t expecting.

In Shades of Grey we meet Eddie Russett who is stuck inside a carnivorous plant that a girl he shouldn’t have fallen in love with, because she is a Grey, has pushed him in. As he contemplates a highly likely death he tells us of the story of how he got there from leaving his home and his “possibly” fiancée Constance and heading away with his father to the Outer Fringes and East Carmine in a dystopian future where people are put in a social order by the colours that they can see, the Russett’s being Reds. However things start to go very strange when Eddie’s father saves a Grey who has disguised himself as a purple and another Grey, Jane, suddenly turns up in his life bringing along a whole heap of adventure that takes us through an amazing landscape and a host of unusual characters and creatures. That sums up the start of the story but there is so much more to the book than just a great premise.

The book is utterly compelling; it’s also bizarre in a brilliant way. It was some of these bizarre things such as the fact that people go to the Emerald City to reboot (too long to explain) that both made me more interested and slightly concerned at the beginning that maybe this wasn’t going to be for me. I was also slightly worried that this was going to just be a rewriting of Nineteen Eighty-Four, but then won’t that happen to any dystopian book initially. Fortunately I soon realised this was nothing like Nineteen Eighty-Four, not because it isn’t as good but because you simply cannot compare the two other than they are both set in a future. Have I mentioned that the book is very, very funny? I wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud and I did quite a lot which only added to my enjoyment. I was happily lost in Jasper Fforde’s world and didn’t want to leave; I am very much looking forward to going back there when the next in the series comes out.

I am still left feeling like I haven’t explained the book enough, but it’s a tough job. As I mentioned this doesn’t mean it’s a tough book and the fact that I was hooked reading it through a bout of lurgy shows that. It was a wonderful and very witty escapist read. It has also left me wanting to read lots more of Jasper Fforde’s work which has been described by Books On The Nightstand (who I might be quoting non stop for while) as ‘literary science fiction’ and sums up Shades of Grey, though if you aren’t a fan of science fiction still give this wonderful book a whirl.

So who else has had a read of this or who really wants to? What other books by Jasper Fforde have you read and would recommend? Finally, which Fforde should I try next the Tuesday Next or the Nursery Crimes series?

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Filed under Books of 2010, Hodder & Stoughton, Jasper Fforde, Review

The Gates – John Connolly

Though I have never read any of John Connolly’s crime and mystery fiction but I am a huge fan of ‘The Book of Lost Things’ which a friend recommended to me for being a wonderfully warped adult fairytale and it was. This was during pre-blogging days which is a shame as I could rave about that until the cows come home; maybe it’s another book to add to my never ending list of re-reads? So when I saw that ‘The Gates’ was another slightly fantasy and supernatural based book I simply had to read it. I probably would have if I hadn’t read any Connolly as the cover is a delight to behold.

Imagine you are just out walking your dog at the end of your street and there is some huge bang coming from number 666. You go to investigate and find that some of your neighbours have been a little bit bored one afternoon and decided to open up another dimension and the gates of hell? What on earth do you do? This is the situation that school boy Samuel Johnson finds himself in three days before Halloween when he goes out ‘showing initiative’ to do some early trick or treating with his sausage dog Boswell.

As no one believes him it seems that only Samuel can save the world from the evil Mrs Abernathy, or what has possessed the body of the originally not too nice Mrs Abernathy, and her mission to bring ‘The Great Malevolence’ and all his followers to turn earth to ash and dust. Fortunately the portal also brings up the demon called Nurd, who has been banished from several parts of hell for not joining in with evil doings, who becomes an unlikely comrade for Samuel and a very funny one.  

The book is a gripping adventurous romp from start to finish with heaps and heaps of funny moments, I laughed out loud twice and giggled at several points. I thought Mrs Abernathy was a brilliant villain and all the demons where brilliantly described you could just envisage them. I was slightly concerned when I started reading as there were footnotes in the book. I have to say footnotes annoy me normally but these ones make you laugh. In parts the book can be quite scientific and so through these humorous footnotes certain parts of physics and chemistry seem to become really easy to understand and I do not have a chemist/physicist mind as my science teaching step-father would happily vouch for, he taught me these at school. 

Whereas John Connolly’s previous fantasy (I use that term loosely) novel ‘The Book of Lost Things’ was an adult book that teenagers could enjoy ‘The Gates’ is very much a book aimed at teenagers that will love it and adults who will love it even more so. It seems some kind of serendipity or blogendipity if you will (or maybe just timely) that after writing about my favourite children’s books yesterday I should be posting about a book that very much appealed to the inner child in me.

If you like a very well written escapist thrill then you will love this book as I did. I am quite pleased to know that I still have more of Connolly’s supernatural and scary tales to go as there is a seven story collection called Nocturnes which I am now absolutely desperate to read (is that a big enough hint?) I am intrigued about his crime mysteries and may look at those in the future too. Would you recommend his crime what is it like? Have you read any of Connolly’s work? If you haven’t do give this a whirl.

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Filed under Books of 2009, Hodder & Stoughton, John Connolly, Review

Simon’s Bookish Bits #1

So it’s already Saturday once more and I thought I would do another Simon’s Bookish Bits (thanks for all your votes and comments last week) featuring all things bookish that has caught my eye this week. I have to admit I haven’t really been whizzing around the blogs too much over the last week and I blame Gran for that completely, ha, that will get me in trouble.

I have created a new blog though! After having a chat with Kimbofo, who I founded a book group with, we decided that a separate site for The Riverside Readers would be good (my page is looking a bit barer now) and you can pop here and check it out, do feel free to leave feedback over there. I think its nice giving it its own space as it’s out there for everyone in its own right rather than a page on Savidge Reads.

What I have seen on the blogs that have caught my eye are delights such as the link which Thomas at My Porch put up so you can create your own blue plaque and waste a good few hours, lovely! I also thoroughly enjoyed Simon Stuck-in-a-Book’s post on children’s books which I will be doing my own special post about on Tuesday. That doesn’t seem much to report but I do have some serious blog reading catching up today.

I have once more managed to go to a book shop and spend absolutely no money at all. This week it was quite worrying and also shameful as it was at Persephone Books on Lambs Conduit Street. I think I was overwhelmed by all the titles and just being there. I wish I had known of this shop when I worked on Gray’s Inn Road even though it would have meant I would never have had any money. I did manage to get a couple of pics though I didn’t introduce myself as they seemed to be in the middle of a huge mail out or something exciting. Gran loved it; she is now an official Persephone convert.

  

Podcast of the week has to be The Dog Who Came in from the Cold which is the serialised sequel to Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith. I save them for a binge of six in one long listen over the weekend. There’s only ten episodes to go so if you want to download the series you don’t have long left, you can pop here and it’s easy as pie.

Finally, though I have still not bought a book since November (which I will have to break for the next book group choice) somehow several have arrived in the post from lovely publishers. Parcels from Profile, Canongate, Hodder and Headline brought some joys.

  • A Life Like Other Peoples – Alan Bennett
  • Perfumes: The A-Z – Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez
  • The Bird Room – Chris Killen
  • Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde
  • The Gates – John Connolly
  • Hell’s Belles – Paul Magrs

However Random House seemed to go crazy, in a good way, with all there imprints (Vintage etc) sending me joys in the post. Some of these parcels did date from the 11th of November though, so it seems all is not well in my sorting office, not impressed at least they are arriving now though. Sorry I digressed…

  • Sunday Daffodil & Other Happy Endings – P. Robert Smith (what a fab title)
  • Once on a Moonless Night – Dai Sijie
  • The Mayor’s Tongue – Nathaniel Rich
  • Voluntary Madness – Norah Vincent
  • The Last Dickens – Matthew Pearl
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
  • Get Me Out of Here – Henry Sutton
  • February – Lisa Moore
  • The Convent – Panos Karnezis

Have you read any of these books or authors? What has been going on for you that’s bookish this week?

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Filed under Alan Bennett, Canongate Publishing, Headline Review, Hodder & Stoughton, Jasper Fforde, John Connolly, Paul Magrs, Persephone Books, Profile Books, Random House Publishing, Simon's Bookish Bits, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics

The Other Hand – Chris Cleave

This definitely wasn’t in my bag of books to read on the train this weekend but after finishing ‘The Bookseller of Kabul’ I didn’t fancy any of the three I had in my bag and as I didn’t do much reading over the weekend I came back on Sunday night and couldn’t decide what to read next. Now near in mind I am reading Ulysses along in the background, you might understand why big heavy tomes aren’t ideal to read along side that. So in the end I decided to follow the latest reading trend on the tubes, which thankfully seems to be less and less Twilight Saga novels, Chris Cleave’s ‘The Other Hand’. 

Now the blurb on this book has always puzzled me. “We don’t want to tell you what happens in this story. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it so we will just say this: This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice. Two years later, they meet again — the story starts there… Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.” Which not only makes you puzzled when you pick it up (though is also quite clever PR), but now makes it a nightmare for me to review. But here goes… 

The story is told from the alternating aspects of two wonderfully written female characters. One is Little Bee, who I think is a brilliant creation and could read books and books told through her eyes, the book also has the title ‘Little Bee’ in other countries. The other woman is Sarah. Through their eyes we look at sometimes shocking, sometimes saddening and sometimes incredibly funny times whwre both their lives meet. Through both of them we watch humans doing what humans do best, making mistakes, enduring hardship and building and breaking relationships through two polar opposite opinions. That is all I can say about the plot. 

If you are thinking ‘well that sounds a little dull” I promise you that its not. There is a great plot in there I just don’t want to be one of the reviewers, I am sure there have been some out there in the ether, who give the story away as I don’t think it would work if you knew more. I will say that it’s rare a book can shock me, this one managed. It’s rare a book can move me to tears, this one managed. It’s also rare a book makes me laugh out loud on public transport, this one managed. Which all in all is incredibly well done I think if one book manages all of those in less than 400 pages. In fact I think I had moved through these emotions by page 80 and continued from there on afterwards. I won’t dumb it down I thought it was brilliant. 

I will agree with a few critics on one thing not that its prose is badly written or that it’s ‘just good’ as I don’t agree with either of those statements. I do agree that whoever thought that including a letter to the ‘Dear Reader’ from the Editor at the publishing house was a very bad move. It was so patronizing and cheesy it almost stopped me from reading the book. The fact that the editor compared it to ‘Schindlers Ark’ was ridiculous as you just can’t. Then the fact that she went on to compare it to ‘Cloud Atlas’ (which I hated) and therefore compare that with ‘Schindlers Ark’ was not only incorrect but very misleading and alienating if you didn’t like either of those books. That really, really bothered me. The blurb was mysterious enough and the hype has been just about enough without a saccharine lecture added for good measure. 

Other than that it was a great read, I would recommend everyone give it ago. Don’t expect a book that will change your life, it might make you look at things differently though. You’ll enjoy yourself either way. If you have read the book do let me know just don’t give the ending away in comments for anyone who hasn’t please, thank you.

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Filed under Books of 2009, Chris Cleave, Hodder & Stoughton, Review

After The Fire – Karen Campbell

I do love a good crime book, I haven’t always in fact I think it’s a fairly recent thing bar my teenage obsession with Sherlock Holmes. A while back on this blog, after reading the first Scarpetta book by Patricia Cornwell, I mentioned that I would love to know of any other great thriller/crime series that you thought I should give a go. I have already tried and loved Susan Hill, Kate Atkinson, Stella Duffy and of course the proper old school favourites like Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. Now I think that I have found a new author in this genre… Although technically Karen Campbell found me, and my blog, and asked very nicely if I would read her second novel After The Fire. She did also mention that, one of my favourite authors, Kate Atkinson had “really enjoyed the book” (Kate actually said “I loved this book”) and that, plus Karen’s lovely email, was the deal done.

After The Fire is all about recently convicted police officer Jamie Worth who, not long after having qualified as a firearms officer, shoots and kills a young girl who appears to have no gun on her. The press and indeed the police force are looking for blood and blame and soon enough Jamie is imprisoned for murder. What follows is not just a gripping and twisting tale of what happened that night and why, it is also a tale of how the people involved come to terms with what has gone on.

Jamie himself is a policeman in prison, which I don’t think is a perspective that I have read in a novel before, and this was an incredibly interesting storyline for me. Not only seeing how prisons run and the state of them but how someone who might have put some of his cell mates in jail deals with them when he is in there too. At the same time Jamie is coming to terms with his own guilt about what happened to the young girl Sarah and what will happen to his family and all the people he loves in the world outside the prison. Outside the prison we see how Jamie’s wife, who herself was once a cop until she had children, comes to terms with what her husband has done. Though she believes he did what he thought was best she still has to deal with the fact that her husband has killed a girl the same age as their daughter. It doesn’t help when Anna, the woman Jamie had an affair with, appears on the scene wanting to help Jamie and his family. This all makes for an engrossing domestic dynamic alongside the thrilling plot of what happened the night of the shooting.

I loved Karen Campbell’s writing style. It’s punchy, fast paced and most importantly real. I don’t know if this comes from the fact that Campbell was herself a police officer before she started writing which might have something to do with how direct the book is. There is, in what is a very dark book, some real wit (I laughed a fair few times) though which really reminded me of Kate Atkinson in her Broadie books and yet at the same time you really feel for all the characters even if they aren’t people you would like one bit in the real world. Most importantly for me though was that I could believe it all (this goes for all genre’s of books from crime to sci-fi and all in between) all the voices are real nothing is done simply for effect. There is also the history between the characters also makes for great ‘domestic drama’ as well as reading about a man living on his nerves and trying to stay alive in prison.

I only have one very small gripe with this book and that is that in reading After The Fire before reading Karen’s debut novel The Twilight Time I have inadvertently broken one of my cardinal rules… always read a series in the right order. The Twilight Time is technically a prequel to After The Fire and features some of the same characters. The fact that this book was so good, and stood firmly so well all by itself, has made all rule breaking forgiven. I do kind of wish that I had read The Twilight Time first as though at no point whatsoever do you feel you should know the characters back stories and also their history relating to one another you wish that you did know it all first. Though now of course I am incredibly excited about finding it out when I manage to get my mitts on The Twilight Time which I will be doing very, very soon.

Now this is a real cliché but I am going to say it anyway… it would be a crime not to read this book. I dont rave about books that often but this is one I will be I promise! I hope there will be more in this series as I was hooked from start to finish. Campbell is definitely an author to watch out for and I am very excited as she is doing an interview with me for the blog tomorrow, so make sure you pop by then!

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Filed under Books of 2009, Hodder & Stoughton, Karen Campbell, Review

December – Elizabeth H Winthrop

…And so onto the penultimate of the Richard and Judy Reads 2009. I knew very little about December or its author Elizabeth H Winthrop before this book was placed on the list and when the lovely people at Sceptre sent me a copy. I looked and saw that it has received slightly mediocre reviews on Amazon and in some ways I can see why and in others I can’t.

December tells the tale of a winter and in particular the lead up to Christmas Day for the Carter family. Husband and wife Wilson and Ruth are concerned with their daughter Isabelle who has not spoken for over nine months. There seems to be no reason as to why Isabelle has put herself under a self imposed silence that they can see. They have tried many different psychiatrists who have been unable to work out what is wrong and now Isabelle’s school are thinking of letting her go.

It is interesting for the reader to see this from all three parties’ sides. Winthrop looks into the minds of all three and how they each cope very differently with the situation and really gets into each of these peoples heads without melodrama which could have been quite easily done. The pressure put on the marriage and how it affects Wilson and Ruth is an interesting subject as they both have moments of denial, anger and unbound love about the whole situation. The voice I didn’t feel I quite got as much as I would have liked was Isabelle herself which was slightly frustrating as the story does in essence evolve around her.

I agree whole heartedly with two comments made by Farmlanebooks One was that it is a ‘gentle’ novel and that is an absolutely spot on word for this novel. This is a very delicately written novel that doesn’t pull out all the stops to dramatise or go over the top. The writing takes you a long without it ever being a page turner. That style leads me to another review that said it was in some ways very ‘like Anne Tyler’ and that is also spot on. In fact after reading Breathing Lessons and Anne’s writing about family issues earlier this year I was reminded of it again with this book. Winthrop looks at real life and writes about real people and situations and maybe that is why some people have found this a slightly underwhelming read.

I didn’t personally find it underwhelming, I actually quite enjoyed it without being blown away. In fact overall I would say it was an ‘enjoyable gentle’ read, even though really very little happens I still wanted to know more. For those who love a book with a punch and want to get lost in a great tale this is possibly not for you. Those of you who like books that looks into families and how they deal with things, observations of people and how they behave or just love Anne Tyler like I do then you will enjoy this I would imagine.

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Filed under Anne Tyler, Elizabeth H. Winthrop, Hodder & Stoughton, Review, Richard and Judy

Hurting Distance – Sophie Hannah

I first found out about Sophie Hannah thanks to Novel Insights who bought her book of short stories The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets which we both read separately and couldn’t stop talking to each other about. We then found out that not only was Sophie a poet but she also wrote crime fiction. Now I can’t speak for Novel Insights (bar I know that she secretly loves Tess Gerritsen novels like I do) but I do like a good crime novel. I like the cosy Marple crimes, the detective series crimes and also the literary crimes by the likes of my favourite author Kate Atkinson (well she is one of my favourite authors). Sophie Hannah falls in to a mixture of all of these, well maybe not the cosy crime so much with subjects like babies being swapped in Little Face, the excellent first novel in the series though they can be read as stand alone novels.

The subject of Hurting Distance is rape, not an easy subject for any author. But then isn’t the whole point of fiction to deal with the good and the bad? At the start of the novel we are shown an email, written by N.J a victim of rape, on the Speak Out and Survive website telling not of her story of rape but of her dislike for people who have been raped speaking out and attention seeking and how she is jealous of the other people on the site with their ‘demanding boyfriends’. Instantly I felt like this could be awkward territory a rape victim who both disliked and was jealous of other rape victims, could Hannah deal with this unusual look at rape in a delicate way and yet make a hard hitting crime story out of it? The answer was of course yes.

N.J it turns out, in the next chapter so I am not spoiling anything, is Naomi Jenkins a sundial maker. From the outside she is a professional successful young business woman deep down she harbours a terrible secret from her past. Every Thursday night like clockwork Naomi meets her married lover Robert Haworth at the Traveltel they check into the same room, number eleven and spend the same amount of hours together and have done so for over a year. One day Robert doesn’t turn up, in fact it appears he has vanished. Naomi reports it to the police but they think she has simply dumped him and ignore her. After going to his house and seeing something so shocking it both scares her and blanks her memory Naomi is sure something dreadful has happened and realises if she wants the police to find him she will have to convince them that he is a dangerous criminal.

I found Naomi an incredibly complex character. She goes through several different character traits in the book from powerful professional, victim, obsessive lover, jealous lover, calculating liar to vengeful woman. Hannah has created a very unlikely sort of anti-hero, how can I put that better? Though I didn’t really like Naomi or her ethics I couldn’t stop reading her and I also could see why she did what she did even though really it wasn’t right. Puzzled? Read the book and you won’t be.

Amongst the incredibly tight and twist laden story Hannah also continues the story of Detectives Charlie and Simon as Charlie is still fawning over Simon even after he rejected her advances at a party and after the last infatuation he had with the victim of Little Face in the previous novel. So amongst the already complex plotting is another one that adds its own tensions and complexities and you get to know them and their colleagues further.

I had wondered if Hannah would be able to better Little Face as it was just so good. With Hurting Distance she has bettered it (though that doesn’t take anything away from its predecessor) and come up with an incredibly complex plot and some incredibly complex characters. There is suspense and a lot of twists without it being over complicated and though I cottoned on to one of links before it was announced I would never have guessed the four or more twists that then followed on. Superb! 5/5

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Filed under Hodder & Stoughton, Review, Sophie Hannah

Ghost Hunters – Yvette Fielding & Ciaran O’Keefe

Now I am sure people would think that I should be reading a book like this closer to Halloween, however I am actually going ghost hunting at Peterborough Museum tomorrow. Therefore I thought that brushing up on my ghost hunting knowledge (which is limited) I thought it was time to read this book. Ghost Hunters is written by Most Haunted’s Yvette Fielding and Ciaran O’Keeffe so you know that the information you are soaking up is coming from a good source, they have now done well over 100 ghost hunts themselves. Plus I admit it I am a huge fan of the show.

The book itself is set in two parts, the first looks at the theories behind ghosts. This looks at famous ghost stories and discusses the many theories behind them; such as are they faked are they real and why. Chapters look both at the types of ghosts that have been reported from poltergeists to your friendly helpful ghost who means no harm, other chapters look at evidence (photos etc) and the tools used to capture proof of ghosts meaning you know an EMF Reader from a Scrying Mirror.

The second part of the book is documentation of several new ghost hunts that Yvette and Ciaran go on that haven’t been on most haunted looking at witness statements and the methods they used to try and find out what was going on in these haunted locations leaving you to take the evidence they find and make of it what you will.

The style is very basic making it easy for anyone who is fresh to ghost hunting able to dip in and out and not feel alienated by long scientific words. I also liked the ‘chatty’ style that they both used so you actually felt you were alongside them on the journey of ghost hunting. Also at no point are you pressurised to believe or not to believe as Ciaran as a doctor of Parapsychology doesn’t believe and Yvette does.

All in all I really enjoyed this and found it incredibly insightful and have picked up some great tips for tomorrow. If you aren’t a believer of the paranormal or just think Most Haunted is a pile of rubbish this isn’t for you. If you are open minded or you believe in ghosts and love Most Haunted (like I do) then this is the perfect book for you.

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Filed under Hodder & Stoughton, Review, Yvette Fielding

In The Woods – Tana French

I have had this on my to read pile a while. I originally wanted the hardback (which is very rare for me as for some reason hardbacks make my hands ache) but it was one of those ones with the coloured edges of the pages and would just look wonderful on a bookshelf. However the ‘tight’ me refused to pay silly hardback prices. So finally after noticing that Sophie Hannah recommends it as a ‘near perfect read’ on the back and re-reading the blurb that sounded fascinating and gripping I went for it.

The story centres around Detective Rob Ryan who twenty years ago was Adam Ryan, a boy who went into the woods near their estate and Adam was the only one they found, with no memory backed against a tree with some else’s blood filling his shoes. Ryan after being sent away to England has changed his name and has come back and has worked his way up to the Murder Squad. His first big case, with best friend and co-worker Cassie Maddox, happens to be a girl who is found on the outskirts of the very wood that haunts him now, could the two cases be connected?

I can’t answer that because I don’t want to give anything away for those poor souls of you who do take this book on. I hate to slate a book, I honestly do but I haven’t felt this let down in a long time. Tana French starts ‘In The Woods’ wonderfully and for the first hundred pages of the book I was hooked. It then felt like someone else had taken over, what was an intriguing and mysterious book became stilted. The book centred on Cassie and Ryan’s relationship and how ‘everyone felt excluded by them’ including their partner, oh and including the reader. It was like it was trying to be a romance or some clever cliché which then gets broken and you’re supposed to care.

Not only that, but bar a very creepy scene where noises are heard in and around the woods, the woods are barely mentioned which defeats the whole idea behind the book – without giving anything away. It’s hard not to when the ending is so disappointing it’s untrue. It felt like it lost its momentum, mystery and soul. Also a small point that really bugged me, the use of people listening to the Scissors Sisters and other bands randomly dates the book even though it’s modern but also sort of detracts you from the story, I can’t explain it exactly so I hope you know what I mean.

Sadly I was let down by this book and a little by Sophie Hannah’s recommendation, but I wont hold that against her. I have seen some people loved it on Amazon and others hated it. Maybe it’s a bit like Murder Marmite. I think the cover (though this isnt the one on the copy I had) is absolutely brilliant though, very creep. Do they have book cover awards?

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Filed under Hodder & Stoughton, Review, Tana French

Little Face – Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah is an author that I was introduced to this year whilst competing with Polly in our favourite game in Borders/Waterstones/Foyles (delete as appropriate) where we compete with who has read the most on each table of books. I am sure I have blogged about this somewhere at some point. So anyway we found her collection of short stories called ‘The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets’ which was right up our alley as we are both complete nosey parkers. Once I had devoured that I looked into what else Hannah had written and saw that she had written crime (as well as poetry) and as soon as I knew there was a crime series well I was on readitswapit before you can say readitswapit.

Little Face is the first of a series of three (so far) crime novels. Now I have to say I wouldn’t totally put this book in the crime section, I love the fact that crime and fiction are in some ways merging in some ways I would compare Hannah to Kate Atkinson with her crime; however this is more of a psychological thriller more than anything and not your stereotypical detective crime story. It’s a refreshing modern thriller that creeps (and in some places becomes extremely creepy) up on you and has a slight gothic feel to it.

Alice Fancourt comes home from a day checking out a spa as a treat from her mother-in-law Vivienne not long after giving birth. When she comes home she finds the door open and her husband asleep, she runs upstairs and screams, not because the baby is gone but because the baby in the crib is not the baby Florence that she gave birth to.

The story is told in two parts. There is the story of Alice and the disappearance (or swapping) of her daughter, is she mad, will anyone believe her? Why has her husband David suddenly become cruel and possessive and why cant his mother Vivienne (a fantastic character who reminded of me oddly enough of Mrs Danvers from ‘Rebecca’) decide who she should believe. The other side is told from the Detectives on the case Simon and Charlie who get the case, they have personal issues to contend with as Charlie is in love with her number two Simon, they also wonder if there is more than meets the eye with the Fancourt’s as David’s wife was murdered outside their picturesque house ‘The Elms’ did they get the right killer?

Hannah makes quite a complex clever story a breeze to read. It’s really original, I didn’t guess the ending at all, bar one bit, and you find you’re trying to solve more than the one mystery you thought that you were originally getting. This is a brilliant book for crime fans, people who like a page turner, people who like good writing and those who gently want to ease into crime. Really it’s a book for anyone and everyone.

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Filed under Books of 2008, Hodder & Stoughton, Review, Sophie Hannah

On Writing – Stephen King

Its funny how sometimes you get recommended a book and this is one that I was recommended by Stella Duffy when we met recently. Now I love it when you get authors recommendations in the book sections of all the broadsheets, being given a recommendation by an author in the flesh I would have been stupid not to have read this book as someone who wants to write. I admit I have never yet read a Stephen King novel so it might seem odd reading one of his non fiction books. I have seen all the movies made from his novels though, does that count?

‘On Writing’ is a delightful mix of memoir and hints and tips of how King feels he writes and as a million selling author how could you not want to hear his story? He gives you his rules, and that’s the important bit, this is his story and his rules he at no point preaches to you at all and that is rare in books on ‘how to write’. Its not just his techniques he discusses, what makes this such an original and interesting read is he tells you how the ideas form and where he gets his inspiration. I haven’t read any books where an author will go into that much detail and it makes it so much more insightful to writers and none writers alike.

Amongst all this King gives a personal, honest and detailed insight into the horrific accident where he was nearly killed by a drunk driver. So in the end you are getting three books, a book of ‘how you can write’, a book of funny memoirs, and the writings of a man who has been close to death and wants to live. He deals with this in a factual manner, no high drama, the facts his real feelings and nothing more or less.

It’s not a mammoth book but is fairly long, you will through it. King writes with such humour and with such an honest unpretentious voice that you feel like a friend is having a nice chat with you. Nothing is over done or over dramatised or over exaggerated its sharp and snappy.

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Filed under Hodder & Stoughton, Review, Stephen King