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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is one of the few books ever that managed to fill my mind even when I wasn't reading. It started innocently enough, and - while intrigued from the very beginning - I could very much take it or leave it after chapter one. I mean, the writing was beautiful in its stark austerity, the concepts original, the protagonist likeable... but it was just a book. Somehow, though, somewhere towards the middle, the book's setting became a reality I very much wanted to visit. Its magical pull on me was not unlike the one that the House in the novel could exert. And when I finished the book - that's when my obsession started. I wanted to discuss the relevance of the title, the symbolism of the statues and the albatrosses, the relevance of the text to other texts, and the relevance of the text to real life. Literature teachers worldwide would be proud. 

Most reviews will tell you that it's impossible to review what the book is about without spoiling it, so I'll stop right here.



Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham

This is not your usual Mark Billingham. Yes, there are a few murders. Yes, there is a mystery to solve. And yet the setting (a mental health institution) gives this book a totally different flavour and feel. Very realistic, very well done. 

Oh, and PS: I really like Tom Thorne makes an appearance in person, even if his name isn't mentioned. 

PS2: Alice down the rabbit hole, Mad Hatter's tea party yep, got it.

Blurb:
    Alice Armitage is a police officer. 
    Or she was.
    Following a debilitating bout of PTSD, self-medication with drink and drugs, and a psychotic breakdown, Alice is now a long-term patient in an acute psychiatric ward. Though convinced that she doesn’t really belong there, she finds companionship with the other patients in the ward despite their challenging and often intimidating issues.
    So when one of her fellow patients is murdered, Alice feels personally compelled to launch an investigation from within the ward. Soon, she becomes convinced that she has identified the killer and that she can catch them. Ignored by the police, she must gather proof on her own, relying on the few contacts she has on the outside that still take her calls. But Alice’s life begins to unravel as she realizes that she cannot trust anyone in the ward, least of all herself. Having lost her conviction and with her investigative confidence shattered, she comes dangerously close to a psychological point of no return.






Monday, July 05, 2021

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh just keeps getting better and better. I read "Hostage" in one go, simultaneously eager to find out what happens at the end and reluctant for the book to finish. "Hostage" has everything, from characters you care about to deep issues. 5/5 stars for sure.

Blurb:

Mina is trying to focus on her job as a flight attendant, not the problems of her five-year-old daughter back home, or the fissures in her marriage. But the plane has barely taken off when Mina receives a chilling note from an anonymous passenger, someone intent on ensuring the plane never reaches its destination. Someone who needs Mina's assistance and who knows exactly how to make her comply.

It's twenty hours to landing. A lot can happen in twenty hours.



Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

You know what? Instead of my usual review, here are a few random thoughts and feelings about Anxious People by Fredrik Backman:

  • Oh, wow.
  • This is different.
  • Good different.
  • Like, extremely good.
  • The voice and writing style is like that of Jonas Jonasson (The Hundred Year Old Man Who...).
  • Easy to read, yet with chewy issues to sleep on.
  • I keep wanting to quote from it:
    • “Anyone can nurture a myth about their life if they have enough manure, so if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, that’s probably because it’s full of shit.”
    • “Parents are defined by their mistakes.”
    • “Because the people we argue with hardest of all are not the ones who are completely different from us, but the ones who are almost no different at all.”
    • “Parenthood can lead to a sequence of years when the children's feelings suck all the oxygen out of a family, and that can be so emotionally intense that some adults go for years without having an opportunity to tell anyone about their own feelings, and if you don't get a chance for long enough, sometimes you simply forget how to do it.”
  • Oh, you want to know about the story line? It's about a bank robbery and a hostage situation, but it's a comedy, not a drama. It's fantastic. And then it gets better.


Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Fifty-fifty by Steve Cavanagh

Fifty-fifty by Steve Cavanagh features the much-anticipated return of Eddie Flynn (Book 5 in the series). Eddie is an ex con artist who is now a lawyer, so not much change of a profession there (with apologies to my aunt, uncle, brother in law, sister in law, and potentially my children). Paired up with judge Harry Ford, they constitute one of my favorite crime fiction duos. 

The Eddie Flynn books just get better and better. This one is a perfect combination of plot, character development, topical issues and plain good old storytelling. 

Read it. Even if this is to be your first Steve Cavanagh, read it now. You can catch up in reverse order. 

Blurb:

Two sisters on trial for murder. Both accuse each other.
Whom do YOU believe?

Alexandra Avellino has just found her father's mutilated body, and needs the police right away. She believes her sister killed him, and that she is still in the house with a knife.

Sofia Avellino has just found her father's mutilated body and needs the police right away. She believes her sister, Alexandra did it, and that she is still in the house, locked in the bathroom.

Both women are to go on trial at the same time. A joint trial in front of one jury.

**** SPOILER ALERT ****

*** SPOILERS BELOW ***




















But one of these women is lying. One of them is a murderer. Sitting in a jail cell, about to go on trial with her sister for murder, you might think that this is the last place she expected to be.

You'd be wrong.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Mother May I

Another riveting read from my favourite author, Joshilyn Jackson. Although a stand-alone with brand-new characters, "Mother May I" continues the themes found in "Never Have I Ever". So, transgressions from the past. So, is the adult-you with children a different person from the teenage-you who committed said transgressions. And so, therefore, should you disclose everything about your history to your prospective spouse, and if you don't, is their love for you less genuine because they don't know the real you? And you - can you wrap up your wild university adventures in layers of adult life and can you store them in the past forever?

Yeah, sounds like a lot, but it's all background thinking. At the foreground we have a fast-paced domestic suspense thriller, with a missing child and a mother determined to do anything and everything to get her baby back safely.

Written in the uniquely Joshilyn voice, with her beautiful turns of phrase.

Can't wait to read it again.



Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Before She Disappeared - Lisa Gardner

"Before She Disappeared" by Lisa Gardner features a brand new main character, Frankie Elkin. Frankie spends her life working menial jobs and searching for missing people the police has given up on and the public forgotten. I love Frankie and I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful new series.

The book itself is an emotional roller coaster, with several important themes (families, immigration, BIPOC, LGBQT+), a fast moving plot and a homicidal feline. Tightly written, it's a read that's impossible to put down.


The blurb:

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim's wary family tells Frankie she's on her own--and she soon learns she's asking questions someone doesn't want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

This is a book of longings indeed: the longing of a young woman to write down her words, her longing for a man to love her, and an almost ironically opposite longing for a woman's lot in society to be more than her husband's vessel to have children. It's a book of her brother's longing for his country to be rid of the Roman oppression. And it's a book of her husband's longing for God.

At this point it's pertinent to mention that I'm a Catholic. When I first heard about this book, I wasn't sure I'd be able to read it, because the heroine of the story is Ana, the wife of Jesus (wait, what? bristled quite a large part of me); and her brother just happens to be Judas Iscariot. 

The author handles the topic with skill. The copious historical research that must have gone into the making of this novel is woven so skilfully into the fabric of the plot, I felt like I'd travelled back in time two thousand years and in space all the way to Nazareth. It was an emotional rife and well worth it. The Book of Longings is one of the best books I've read in years.




Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I fell in love with Kristin Hannah's voice in The Great Alone, and in her latest novel - The Four Winds - the author employs the same beautiful prose to draw us into the world of farming, dust winds and the Great Depression.

It looks like a big book, but because it's so immensely readable, you'll plough through it all too quickly. Plot-wise, the beats resemble the story arc of The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck), but that doesn't detract from this book's appeal. You fall in love with the characters on page one, and on page 448 you can't wait for the sequel. Sadly, the author indicated in her post-release interview that a sequel wasn't on the cards.

Issues that you will think about while reading include the love of he land (think Gone with the Wind), the role of women in the early-20th century society, thirst for knowledge (Educated?), American patriotism and politics, man-induced ecological disasters, parental love as a shaping force... there is a lot to choose from, and it's all good.




Thursday, February 25, 2021

"Win" by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is the master of the pun, so I'm sure when he created the character of Windsor Horne Lockwood III, aka Win, he had a good chuckle. Seems like he's decided to continue the joke by making it the title of his latest novel.

He was right on both accounts: Win is a winning sidekick in the Myron Bolitar series, and a winning protagonist in the latest thriller. I will stop here, but you get the drift: Win-The-Book is a top read.

Apart from the obvious: the character, the plot, the twists, what I valued was the food for thought. The book made me re-evaluate ideas such as revenge and forgiveness. I love it when a book is both worthy and immensely enjoyable. 




Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Where the Crowdads Sing

 As I was reading Where the Crowdads Sing by Delia Owens, I kept thinking:

  • not quite Crow Lake
  • not The Marsh King's Daughter
  • wait, is this To Kill a Mickingbird in disguise?
When I finished, I still wasn't sure what to make of it. Goodreads compares it to Educated, but apart from a very obvious parallel, it didn't give me that vibe.

A week later, I'm still thinking about the book, and that means it's very good. Sometimes you fly through a novel, enjoy it at the time, then three days later you can't even remember what it's about. Where the Crowdads Sing is the opposite: a slow read and an even slower burn, but it stays with you for sure.

The protagonist is super-likeable and relatable. You care from page one.

Give it a chance.

My favourite quote:

“(...) lot of times love doesn’t work out. Yet even when it fails, it connects you to others and, in the end, that is all you have, the connections.”
― Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing




Thursday, January 07, 2021

The Dry - the movie

 As a fan of Jane Harper, I waited not even a day to see the movie of her debut thriller, The Dry. I wasn't disappointed. The script is good, the cinematography breathtaking, and the acting superb.

Read the book first, of course. But definitely see the movie.



Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

Twisted by Steve Cavanagh is different from his usual fast-paced Eddie Flynn books, both because it doesn't feature Eddie Flynn and because the narrating voice seems different: not as suspenseful, not as engaging.

Don't get me wrong, the premise is good, and the multiple twists twisty. It's just that the writing style didn't land with me.

I'm not going to include any details, because the less you know about the plot, the more enjoyable the experience.