Archive for the ‘4.5 stars’ Category

Review: The A to Z of You and Me – James Hannah

The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah

The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah
Publication date: 12 March 2015
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780857522641
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Contemporary
Age group: Adult
Source: Curtis Brown Book Group
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4.5 Stars

Ivo fell for her.
He fell for a girl he can’t get back.
Now he’s hoping for something.
While he waits he plays a game:

He chooses a body part and tells us its link to the past he threw away.
He tells us the story of how she found him, and how he lost her.
But he doesn’t have long.
And he still has one thing left to do…

The A to Z of You and Me has been on my wish list ever since I first read about it in the publisher’s catalogue last year and it was, understandably, one of my most anticipated books of 2015. The synopsis doesn’t give away too much and, for some reason, I always thought it was a young adult novel – but with so many YA cancer stories out there,  finding out that Ivo is, in fact, an adult was definitely a pleasant surprise.

The A to Z of You and Me centres around Ivo, a forty-year old man slowly dying of kidney disease. Ivo is lying in bed, on his own, in his local hospice and is waiting for death. To keep his mind occupied and take his mind off his increasing pain, his nurse Sheila (lovely Sheila, possibly my favourite character in this book) comes up with a game. She challenges Ivo to name a body part for each letter of the alphabet and think about a story or a memory he associates with each of these words. It is through these memories that we get to know Ivo and who he really is. It is through these flashbacks that we first hear about his friends, his girlfriend – and only love – Mia, his illness and all those events that lead to the present day.

I loved the fact that the author didn’t want to create a perfect, flawless character. It’s clear that Ivo has made some wrong decisions in his life which might have lead to where he is now, but he’s not looking for sympathy. The book doesn’t try to be sentimental – and that’s what makes it different.

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Review: Paris for One by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes
Publication date: 5 February 2015
Publisher: Penguin UK
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781405918930
Length: 95 pages
Genre: Chick lit
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4.5 Stars

Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She has never even been on a weekend away with her boyfriend. Everyone knows she is just not the adventurous type.

But, when her boyfriend doesn’t turn up for their romantic mini-break, Nell has the chance to prove everyone wrong.

Alone in Paris, Nell meets the mysterious moped-riding Fabien and his group of carefree friends. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life?

Although I’ve read hundreds of amazing reviews of Jojo Moyes’s books and everyone I know adores her stories, I’ve never had the chance – or the time – to pick them up myself. So when Paris for One was released as part of the Quick Reads initiative, I jumped at the opportunity and decided to give it a go.

With only 95 pages, Moyes’s novel is a super quick read. Just like the rest of the Quick Reads titles, Paris for One is aimed at those who, for whatever reason, find reading a difficult and daunting task. However, it doesn’t mean that you, as a bookworm who can easily devour a book in a day, won’t enjoy it. In fact, it’s perfect for days when you’re running errands and you know there will be some waiting time here and there. Whether you need to pop into the post office, do the school run or you’re about to go on a quick lunch break, it’s a perfect companion. I loved the fact that I could read during my lunch break without having to carry a 400-page long hardback with me, like I did the week before.

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Review: A Dark and Twisted Tide – Sharon Bolton

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton


A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton
Publication date: 8 May 2014
Publisher: Bantam Press
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780593069189
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4.5 Stars

Former detective Lacey Flint quit the force for a safer, quieter life. Or that’s what she thought.

Now living alone on her houseboat, she is trying to get over the man she loves, undercover detective Mark Joesbury. But Mark is missing in action and impossible to forget. And danger won’t leave Lacey alone.

When she finds a body floating in the river near her home, wrapped in burial cloths, she can’t resist asking questions. Who is this woman, and why was she hidden in the fast-flowing depths? And who has been delivering unwanted gifts to Lacey?

Someone is watching Lacey Flint closely. Someone who knows exactly what makes her tick…

There are only a handful of crime writers whose new books instantly go to the very top of my wish list, and Sharon Bolton is one of them. After reading all three books in the Lacey Flint series, as well as an e-book short story, I’m convinced that no matter what she writes about or how she does it, I’m going to end up loving it. All of her books are so well-researched, so twisted and mind-boggling and so well-written that it’s impossible not to be captivated by them. A Dark and Twisted Tide is no exception.

Bolton’s ability to grab your attention within seconds and to keep up this suspense, this tension throughout the book is one of the reasons why I love her work as much as I do. As our killer and his/her soon-to-be victim make their appearance at the very beginning of the first chapter, the reader cannot help but wonder what is about to happen, why is s/he doing it. And of course Lacey can’t stay out of it either. A Dark and Twisted Tide pretty much continues from where the previous book ended, with Lacey leaving her team and joining the Marine Unit in the hope of a quieter, less stressful life. But someone has other plans. After discovering the first victim during her early morning swim in the Thames and a handful of (seemingly) practical jokes it becomes obvious that someone is keeping a close watch on her. And, once again, the killer will make sure that Lacey is very much part of his/her twisted game.

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Review: A Tap on the Window – Linwood Barclay

A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay

Title: A Tap on the Window
Author: Linwood Barclay
Publication date: 10 October 2013
Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781409115052
Length: 512 pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

It’s been two months since private investigator Cal Weaver’s teenage son Scott died in a tragic accident. Ever since, he and his wife have drifted apart, fracturing a once normal life. Cal is mired in grief, a grief he can’t move past. And maybe his grief has clouded his judgement. Because driving home one night, he makes his first big mistake.

A girl drenched in rain taps on his car window and asks for a ride as he sits at a stop light. Even though he knows a forty-something man picking up a teenage hitch-hiker is a fool, he lets her in. She’s the same age as Scott, and maybe she can help Cal find the dealer who sold his son the drugs that killed him. After a brief stop at a roadside diner, Cal senses that something’s not right with the girl or the situation. But it’s too late. He’s already involved.

Now Cal is drawn into a nightmare of pain and suspicion. Something is horribly wrong in the small town of Griffon in upstate New York. There are too many secrets there, too many lies and cover-ups. And Cal has decided to expose those secrets one by one.

That’s his second big mistake.

My thoughts

I fell in love with Linwood Barclay’s writing about a year ago, so seeing A Tap on the Window among bookshops’ ‘soon to be released’ titles was almost like an early Christmas present. Although I’ve yet to read the majority of his previous books, I simply cannot recommend him enough.

Having read No Time for Goodbye earlier I already knew I was in for one hell of a ride but the author’s ability to grab you within the first few pages of the book still managed to take me by surprise. If you think you can read this before going to bed, one chapter a day, think again. Barclay’s books are as addictive as chocolate – once you start reading them it’s literally impossible to stop. I’ve always considered myself a slow reader but I probably read the first half in one sitting.

Initially I was a bit worried about the plot because, as it turns out, the girl who goes missing and who seems to be at the centre of things is the local mayor’s daughter and politics in crime fiction has never been my thing. At all. Luckily, I shouldn’t have worried – the book doesn’t really feature any power struggles or political scandals, after all. Phew.

One of the things I love about Barclay’s books and the way he builds up his stories the most is that they’re like puzzles. You end up reading four hundred pages desperately looking for clues and answers, not having the faintest idea what’s going on and getting more clueless by the second. And then a small piece of the puzzle clicks into place and you go…

Oh my God. No way. NO WAY.

Which is also the time when things start to get interesting. Secrets are revealed, guns are drawn and a mad race against the clock begins. Brilliant set-up and such a strong ending. I absolutely loved it.

Rating:
4.5 star review
*Many thanks to Orion Books for sending me a copy for review*

Review: The Never List – Koethi Zan

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: The Never List
Author: Koethi Zan
Publication date: 1 August 2013
Publisher: Vintage Digital (Random House)
Format: E-book
ISBN: 9781448129744
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: NetGalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism. Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unravelling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

My thoughts

Wow, wow, and wow. It’s been a few weeks since I finished this book and to tell you the truth, I’m still speechless. Based on what people were saying about it when the first proof copies came out and how many times I saw it being mentioned on social media, I knew it would be a memorable story, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as powerful and mind-blowing as it was. Saying that it was perfect wouldn’t completely be true because there were a few minor details I wasn’t particularly keen on but I found it unputdownable all the same and it’s definitely one of my favourite books this year.

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Audiobook Review: Sleeping Murder – Agatha Christie

Sleeping Murder Audiobook by Agatha Christie

Title: Sleeping Murder
Author: Agatha Christie
Narrator: BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisation
Publication date: 9 January 2006
Publisher: AudioGO
ISBN: 9781408482001
Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: AudioGO

Synopsis

A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation starring June Whitfield as Miss Marple, the sharp-witted spinster sleuth.

Gwenda Reed arrives from New Zealand, travelling ahead of her husband with the task of finding the perfect place to make their base. In the quiet village of Dilmouth, she finds a house with immediate appeal. A few renovations will convert it into her ideal home.

Then things get very strange indeed. Wanting porch stairs, Gwenda hires a builder to put them in – only to find some old steps, covered up by bushes. She decides on a connecting doorway between the drawing-room and the dining-room, but discovers one already there, now plastered over. When she opens the painted-over doors of an old cupboard to find wallpaper exactly the same as she had imagined, she begins to wonder if she is going mad.

It takes Miss Marple to realise that an unsolved murder is behind Gwenda’s apparent intuition – but even she does not suspect the murderer will strike again…

My thoughts

Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder was the very first radio drama I’ve ever listened to but it definitely won’t be the last. I’m still quite new to audiobooks and even though I see why they’re so practical and why so many people love them, I’m still not entirely sure I could ever get used to them or listen to them on a daily basis. Radio dramas, however, are right up my street.

If you’ve ever tried audiobooks or at least listened to an audiobook sample before then you’ll understand my problem. Namely that regular, unabridged audiobooks can be… well, they can be a bit dull, can’t they? A good narrator makes them a lot enjoyable but still, one person reading the lines of a dozen different characters gets a little monotone after a while. Well, this was not the case here.

A few minutes after starting the tape I realized something. Do you know what radio dramas remind me of? Going to the theatre or the cinema without all the fuss of actually getting there or having to worry about not being late or finding your seat. It lets you listen to a complete performance with at least half a dozen different characters from the comfort of your own home. And if that wasn’t good enough, I love the fact that it’s not just a bunch of actors reading out their lines either. There’s music and all sorts of sound effects which make it easier for you to imagine what the setting’s like or what the characters are doing at that particular time. It’s almost like watching a film without actually seeing it, if that makes any sense. For example, when Gwenda and Miss Marple bump into each other in town during a heavy rainstorm, you can actually hear the rain pouring down and how they must have been in a hurry to find a shelter from the rain. When Gwenda and her fiancé arrive at someone’s house and are about to get out of the car, you can hear the brakes and the car keys turning. When someone’s walking down the stairs, you can literally hear their steps and the stairs creaking. It’s just brilliant. And it’s very, very far from being dull.

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Review: The Wish List – Jane Costello

 The Wish List by Jane Costello

Title: The Wish List
Author: Jane Costello
Publication date: 11 April 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-85720-556-8
Length: 481 pages
Genre: Chick lit
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository

Synopsis

There are six months left of Emma Reiss’s twenties. . . and she has some unfinished business.

Her career is all wrong, her love life is a desert and that penthouse apartment she pictured herself in simply never materialised. Moreover, she’s never jumped out of a plane, hasn’t met the man she’s going to marry, has never slept under the stars, or snogged anyone famous – just some of the aspirations on a list she and her friends compiled fifteen years ago.

So, as Emma hurtles towards her thirtieth birthday, she sets about addressing these issues. But, as she discovers with hilarious consequences, some of them are trickier to achieve than she’d thought…

My thoughts

The first thing that came to my mind when I read the first few chapters is why on earth have I not read any of Jane Costello’s books before? After several cringe-worthily predictable and dull chick lit books I read in the past few months, I was starting to wonder whether I’d ever find one which is genuinely entertaining and impossible to put down. Well, considering the fact that it’s been four days since I finished reading the book and some of the jokes (Mr Matt Itchypants Taylor, to name my favourite one) still make me laugh, and the fact that it was so gripping that I just had to stay up until half past one in the morning two nights in a row, I guess we can say The Wish List ticks both these boxes.

Possibly the main reasons why I loved this book so much is the main character’s personality. I just loved Emma. If I had to describe her, I would say she’s a bit like Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood from Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, two characters I absolutely adore, by the way. She’s just as clumsy as Bridget and just as sarcastic and funny as Becky, the combination of which makes for a brilliant and entertaining story. Another thing that makes it as good as it is is the fact that Emma’s friends are so relatable and well-written. They’re not shallow or two-dimensional at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s not just about Emma either. They all have their own little sub-plots within the story and you actually do feel for them and want them to succeed and be happy. Or at least that’s how I felt, especially about Asha.

And if being hilarious and making me laugh out loud God knows how many times throughout the story wasn’t enough, I should also add what both Hannah and myself found great about the book: short chapters. Oh, how I love them. I’m quite a slow reader so long chapters always make me feel as if I’m not making any progress. Short ones, however, result in me not being able to put the book down and staying up until the crack of dawn with a stupid grin on my face, congratulating myself for reading so much. Big thumbs up for short chapters!

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