Monday, 14 September 2015

Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb

A new Eve Dallas story is always something to look forward to. I have read all of them and really look forward to a new title which I then read as quickly as possible because I can't put it down!

This story follows two lovers whose devotion to each other has unleashed a dark side in each of their characters and which Dallas and her murder team aided and abetted by her husband race against the clock to save the next potential victims. There is a dark sadistic element to the killers which is a counterbalance to the love stories of Eve and Roarke and McNab and Peabody. I have to admit I found the plot of this story much darker than some of the other ones.

The other characters in this futuristic series add to the overall story and show how Eve and Roarke have evolved over the last  41 books (yes 41!) from solitary, lonely people to having a large extended family of police, scientists, musicians and many more to call friends. New York in the future is a great setting as is the possibilities of what police work could involve in the not too distant future.

At the heart of the story though is the love story of Eve & Roarke and their desire to care for one another and any others, especially the victims of crime, who cross their path in need of help.

A great read!

This title was free from Netaglley in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Summer reading

A week in Spain has given me a chance to catch up on my reading especially the pre-pub books that I have on my e-reader from Netgalley. The only problem being that most have now been published! Apologies for this but work and home life have got in the way of my reading. As things appear to be settling down on those fronts now (wait for A levels now over - and one child off to uni, just the wait for GCSEs now) I have an opportunity to catch up on my reviews.

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

The latest addition to the Princess Diaries  series and Mia is now a fully fledged adult balancing work commitments, royal duties, boyfriend, stalker and friend issues. Her father appears to be having a mid-life crisis, her mother is coming to terms with bereavement and a family secret is about to be unearthed - how is a princess supposed to cope? Coupled with this there is a wedding to plan.
The book races along and there is not much chance to develop some of the plot lines or characters. I was expecting more humour and the stalker plotline was never really developed properly or explained in my view.
 This book is apparently aimed at the readers who grew up reading Princess Diaries and I wouldn't recommend it to younger readers (11 or younger) as there are plenty of references to sex in the story. I think the readers who grew up on these books would want a book with more depth and development of plot and character.

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

I was really excited to get this as The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society which the author co-wrote is one of my favourite books.
Set in 1930s America, Layla Beck arrives in a sleepy Virginia town to write a history of the town for its 150 anniversary. Layla has been cut-off by her wealthy family due to her refusal to marry the 'right sort of man' picked out by her family. Arriving penniless she is taken in by the Romeyn family a once noted family in the town. As Layla begins her investigation in the history of the town secrets start to become unearthed and many in the town would prefer to remain hidden.

Willa the 12 year daughter is drawn to Layla and the stories she unearths, but her childlike view of her family puts everything she holds dear at risk, The story is very much about a child starting to realise that the world is far more complicated  than you first realise. Growing up means recognising that those you love are not always as perfect as you think. The Romeyn family in all their southern eccentricity are a great comic element in the story but there is a tragic side to them as well.

I enjoyed this book but I have to admit I think The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society is better


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

 As a Librarian how could I not be drawn to a book about the power of books and reading?
 I enjoyed this book about Sara arriving in Iowa from Sweden to visit her penfriend on the day of her funeral. The small town almost as broken as it's name take pity on her and takes her in whilst she works out what to do next. The next involves opening a bookshop and so the transformation of the town and its residents begins.

I know it sounds stereotypical and it is - small town characters that have appeared in other books, I can definitely see the influence of Fannie Flagg in this book but it is an enjoyable read. You may have to suspend belief at times but the author's love of books and reading comes across in this story.

It is true finding the right book for the right person at the right time can change a life, it is hard to believe that that is true but I've seen it myself. The right book at the right time can turn a non-reader into a reader or help someone through a difficult time .

This is a summer read that you never know may change your life!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Netgalley challenge

Going to try the Netgalley challenge so hoping this is going to post correctly! As a librarian I recommend books to users. My friends ask me to recommend titles all the time.

Monday, 20 July 2015


Something to Hide by Deborah Moggach explores the theme of betrayal in its many forms: adultery, friendship, trust, hope.

Petra & Bev have been friends since their youth in London. Bev's annual round robins of life with her husband Jeremy in exotic parts of the world have been winging their way into Petra's life for years - but is everything Bev writes to be trusted?

Lorrie is married to her soldier husband in Texas with two children, battling obesity, loneliness and
wanting that perfect dream home; she falls for one of the oldest tricks in the online world and tries to achieve her dream through one last desperate throw of the dice. Is she prepared to risk her marriage?

Jing is married in China but how much does she really know about the r husband and where his money comes from.

The lives of these disparate people from across the globe are woven together by fate and technology,

Petra & Bev's story is explored in greater depth, whilst that of Jing and Lorrie felt like an add-on although Jing's husband is caught up in Jeremy's life whose death has consequences for all these characters. Some of the aspects of the story stretched credibility and seemed too contrived to be believed - they were simply there to move the story on our illustrate a point.

I don't believe this is one of the author's best novels but would be a good novel for discussion in a book group due to its themes, setting and depiction of life

This copy was provided by Netgalley free in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, 21 May 2015

War, Identity & loss in Croatia

Sara' Novics's tale of loss, identity, family set during and in the aftermath of the breakdown of the Yugoslavian state in the 1990s is excellent.

Told through the eyes of Ana we first meet an all-American girl who seems to have it all but her self-containment, studies of authors whose writings deal with loss and identity as well as her unwillingness to commit to her boyfriend hint at  deeper concerns.

We then meet Ana more than a decade earlier, living in Croatia with her parents and her sick baby sister and it is this sick child which will lead this compact loving little family to a terrible end. Ana the child, doesn't understand the sudden breakdown of relations between people who were neighbours one day and sworn enemies the next depending on which ethnic group you belonged to.

Novic captures the initial exhilaration felt by the children, Ana and her school friends when war breaks out and they listen for the air raid warnings, which eventually turns to fear and dread. As her sister gets sicker and requires specialist medical help her family take the decision to evacuate her to America but tragedy occurs on the journey home, leaving Ana alone and fending for herself in a war-zone. Taken in a by some villagers she ends up a child-soldier and it is this experience that takes her to the UN a decade later to speak about her experiences. This unleashes the memories she has kept hidden for so long, having been evacuated to America and taken in by the family who fostered her sister her experiences in Croatia had made people uncomfortable and she learnt it was easier to hide what happened, but in doing that she started to lose part of herself. Years later she is trying to work who she is, where she came from and returning to Croatia starts to lay to rest some of these ghosts. An engaging, thought-provoking story with a believable heroine. An excellent read that would do well for book groups and as a way into to explaining some of the history of the Balkans in the 1990s.

This book was provided for free by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

When Mr Dog bites by Brian Conaghan

When Mr Dog Bites has been nominated for the Carnegie Award and compared to Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, both of these create a level of expectation for this book and does it live up to it?

I think so,
The author has created an engaging hero in Dylan Mint who is battling with Tourettes and trying to be a normal teenager in a school for children with special educational needs. He idealises his father who has suddenly disappeared, has an engaging and loving relationship with his mother who is trying to manage a son with whom the world views at best as strange and at worse as offensive. The relationship between Dylan and his best friend 'the bold Amir' is positive as they battle the careless racism prevalent in their area. Dylan is also starting to become interested in girls and one in particular, the scenes between Dylan & Michelle, especially when he his trying to keep the dog (his Tourettes), from appearing are funny. She doesn't bat an eyelid at his language but accepts him for who he is.
The novel follows a year in Dylan's life as he tries to complete his own particular bucket list, having overheard a conversation between his mother and  doctor. He wants to have sex with Michelle, find a new best friend for Amir and see his Dad one last time. Nothing quite goes to plan and Dylan starts to have an understanding of the world especially of his relationship with his Dad.
I really enjoyed this book - laughed, cried and like Curious Incident it gives you an insight into a condition that is little understood and creates little sympathy. Dylan is a great character who will make you laugh and cry.
It has created some controversy for being included in the Carnegie short-list but does deserve its place there. I would say that you need to exercise caution when recommending this book to younger Key Sage 3 students (11/12 year old) but older students would enjoy it.

I received this title for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Operatic crime!

Brunetti returns again in the latest in the series set in Venice. Donna Leon combines the Ventian setting, opera and crime in a wonderful and dramatic way. Flavia Petrelli, who has been seen in previous titles,  now a world renowned opera star, returns to Venice  to sing in Tosca but a series of events combine to frighten her and she turns to Commisario Brunetti for help. Brunetti thinks it is an over-enthusiastic fan but when a young girl is attacked and an old friend of both Flavia & Brunetti almost killed. Guido looks at the case again.

Donna Leon captures Venice in all its architectural glory but there is also a sinister edge to the canals. The wonderful character of Signora Elettra who always finds a way to round an obstacle be it a procedure, IT system or a senior officer whilst all the time exuding that quintessential Italian glamour,  adds to the storytelling of this beautifully crafted novel.

There is a strong sense of family in the Brunetti novels with Guido's wife Paola and their children re-appearing again and as usual there is the obligatory family meal or two! The family life is a good counterpoint to the machinations of the Italian policing and political system. Paola's aristocratic parents also make an appearance this time. Family is important in Italian life and Leon is keen to stress this, Guido's life is a counterbalanced with Flavia's more frenetic and slightly chaotic existence as an opera diva.

A wonderful novel that you can slip into and really get the sence of Venice and the ending like the opera is dramatic!

I received this titles free form Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Could do better

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger follows Bianca as she weaves her way through life at a typical American High School, dealing with family issues, friends and boys including one in particular who calls her the DUFF (designated ugly fat friends). The relationship starts off sparky and positive as Bianca puts Wesley down until they fall into bed and keep falling into bed with one another in secret and this is where I start to have a few issues with the book.
What is the message that is being given to teens about relationships - it is ok to insult and be cruel to one another as long as you are a good kisser? It is acceptable to describe someone as ugly and fat (even if they are not - this is high school!) but it is ok to go to bed with them as it doesn't mean anything - it is just sex? Girls (and boys)  have enough issues around self-image, self worth and building good relationships without this being held up as an example that they should follow. The book was recently adapted in to a film which is rated 12A in the UK and though I haven't seen it  I think it must have a lot less sex in the film than in the book to get that rating.

There are a lot better teen novels out there which deal with relationships, families and getting to know yourself in a more positive and constructive way than this one. I would recommend that you try one of those!

I received a copy of this for free from Net galley in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Liar by Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts is on top from with the latest title. Shelby's life falls apart after the sudden death of her husband reveals the life that she has come to expect has been built on a tissue of lies.Trying to rebuild a life for herself and her daughter she returns to her home in the Smoky Mountains, In usual Roberts style not everything is what it seems and soon unexplained and suspicious events start to happen impacting on Shelby, her family & her new love interest.  Shelby starts to dig into her husband's past to try and find out people are being murdered around her she discovers a man she never knew, he is in stark contrast to the new man in Shelby's life. Roberts seems to equate good men with those who are hardworking and practical, something Shelby discovers her late husband was anything but.

Nora Roberts romantic thrillers are pure escapism and do follow a predictable formula but that doesn't stop them from being a good read. The premise of this novel is much better than the previous one The Collector which was slightly questionable as the heroine enjoyed spying on other people with her binoculars.

Nora Roberts depiction of strong women is a particular strength of hers and there a three generations of them in this novel - all Southern women - all steel magnolias. She doesn't equate being strong with being mean though; kindness, good manners respect and  loyalty are all important elements of strength and all lauded by Roberts.

The only negative I have is not directed at this book in particular. I have read most of Nora Roberts books over the years and really enjoyed them but I have to admit I am starting to find her use of one particular word is starting to grate - how many times can pretty be used as an adjective? Apart from that one small gripe this is Nora Roberts on top form - a great escapist read!

I received this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, 2 April 2015

A book apothecary sails into view

The Little Paris Bookshop is a must for all those who love books, reading and France.  a story that is told in 2 parts from the perspective of Jean and the diary of  Manon.

Jean stopped living 20 years ago when his lover, Manon,  walked out without explanation, his grief though has made him attuned to the needs of others and in his bookshop on a barge on the Seine he offers readers a book apothecary .Believing strongly in the power of books and stories to offer healing and respite to those with troubles Jean can heal many but not himself. He exists in his small world but even as he has shut himself away from human contact he has been forming relationships. Catherine a new resident in his apartment block sparks his interest as he recognises someone else who is also dealing with grief and opens the door to the part of his life that he has shut away.

This connection sparks a radical response as he casts his barge off and sets off down the Seine with 2 cats, a troubled author,a vague idea to really find out what happened to Manon and a quest to find the mystery author behind his favourite book set Jean on a course to reconnect with the world and start living again.

As they sail through France heading South the book apothecary continues to offer solace to those who need it along the way. Jean starts to learn that grief and anger has stopped him from living, we also see what happened to Manon as we read the diary and discover the secrets she kept and the things that drove her to make the choices she did.

The description of food is important in the novel - and Nina George has included some of the recipes that are mentioned in the novel. Jean Perdu's emergency library apothecary is also included so if you want to know which titles to read to deal with a sense of humour failure, pessimism and many more ailments - take a look!

An engaging read and you really can feel the heat of France in high summer (even in the depths of an English winter!)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler is one of my favourite author's and no one does family stories like Tyler. A spool of blue thread explores three generations of the the Whitshank family and the house that they have lived in. 
We spool back and forth through the history of the family and the house, picking up the stories and seeing what has made the them the people they are. We see snapshots of their lives over the years - key moments that don't seem to be that at the time but shape their lives. Those lives are directed down particular paths because of a small decision and isn't that true of all our lives? 
The story begins with Abby & Red, who are growing older, and the impact that this starts to have on their own children and grandchildren. They struggle to understand their youngest child, Denny,  who drops in and out of their lives with no warning and the impact that this has on his siblings. Abby worries about her children and especially Denny - whilst Red says it is possible to care too much - isn't this what parents do though?

Junior, or Junie, and Linnie Mae, Red's parents form the middle part of the novel, Junior built the house for another family but it his ideal home - but like all ideals when it becomes his real home, it never quite lives up to his expectations - in fact in typical Tyler fashion, Junior's life never really lives up to his dreams.

Abby & Red's children Amanda, Jeannie, Stem & in particular Denny have to work out what to do as their parents get older. Tyler explores the reality that all children face when they realise that they are going to have to take on responsibility for parents as well as children.

The Whitshanks are believable characters with faults and failings, there are moments of great sadness but also laugh out loud moments in this book. It is sad to think that Anne Tyler has said that this is going to be her final novel - but it is a wonderful one to leave on.

If you have never read any Anne Tyler this would be a great one to begin with - and then go and explore all her other wonderful books.

I really cannot  recommend this book highly enough - it is a gem!

I received a copy of this from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review

Monday, 26 January 2015

Of Irish Blood

Of Irish Blood by Mary Pat Kelly has a long story arc starting in early 20th century Chicago and moving to pre-WW1 Paris, on through the trenches and hospitals of war-torn France, and then on to Ireland and the stormy period after the Easter Rising, through the Anglo-Irish War and then the Civil War.

The book is based on the life of the author's aunt and it was certainly eventful. Nora Kelly is a strong believable character who sees the best in people and this often leads her down difficult and dangerous paths. She is swept along on the romance of Ireland painted by Yeats and Maud Gonne amongst others but doesn't always understand the nuances of politics. .

Nora discovers a whole hidden part of Paris when she stumbles across the Irish College and meets the students, priest and lecturers. One in particular shapes her life and future direction and the romance and tragedy of their relationship frames the plot.

The main drawback I felt was that the author was trying to show off her knowledge of famous characters who lived in Paris during the early 20th century: Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scot Fitzgerald, Matisse and many more pass fleetingly across the story without really moving it on. Other historical figures are key: Maud Gonne in particular, and these add to the flavour and plot.

If you like big sagas grounded in history this is the book for you!

I received this copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

War of Flowers

War of Flowers by Jane Thynne

This is the third title in the series with Clara Vine, the actress come spy living in pre-war Nazi Germany.

I really enjoy this series of books which offers a fascinating insight in to the day-to-day life of those living in Germany just before the outbreak of WW2, as the Nazi regime was strengthening its grip on the daily life of its citizens.

The book opens with the murder of a young woman on a cruise ship but then quickly moves to Paris and then wends its way back to Berlin, on to Munich and then on to the Bergdorf, Hitler's mountain retreat. It is now 1938, the Anschluss with Austria , the so-called War of Flowers, has just taken place and the world is trying to understand Hitler and his sabre -rattling. The plot revolves around the lead-up to the annexation of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia and the appeasement politics of the rest of Europe and Britain.

The murder is actually an unnecessary element to the story - Clara does not really get involved in solving the crime and this thread re-appears occasionally at opportune moments and then comes back to tie the plot of the novel about the resistance and failed Oster coup together in an untidy bow. The actual premise of the novel - life in Nazi Germany, the German film industry and the famous real-life cast of characters does not need this plot device to tell a good story or to create suspense. It is all their in the real-life events.

Clara is a fascinating character, constantly walking a fine line of balancing her increasing fame as an actress with the secret life of feeding information on the Nazi elite back to her spymasters. The real-life events of the Oster plot which highlights the resistance movement that existed in Germany offer an interesting view of Germany and its people at this time.

At the end of the novel Clara is left in an increasingly precarious situation and the reader is left to wonder where Thynne will take her next, especially as war is now looming on the horizon. The major figures from the Nazi elite and their wives all make appearances in this series - but the main character of  Hitler himself is never seen, only spoken about. You are left to wonder if and when Clara will meet Hitler himself and what will happen when they do.

I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who likes their historical novels well grounded in fact. This series casts a light on a little known aspect of Nazi Germany - the impact on the people themselves. I would say though that the murder element is not needed to move the story forward and would ask the author to only include this device if the plot really needs it!

I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.