Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category

Review: The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Publication date: 15 January 2015
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780857522313
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 5 Stars

You don’t know her. But she knows you.

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

With its intriguing premise and Transworld’s reputation for publishing some of the best thrillers I’ve ever read, The Girl on the Train was one of my most anticipated novels of 2015 – and it completely blew me away. Hawkins’s debut took the blogosphere by storm and it has every right to be at the top of the charts. It’s so brilliantly written, so unpredictable and so full of twists and turns that I read the second half in one sitting and would willingly give it 6 stars if I could.

One of the (many) reasons why it stood out for me is its narration. Rachel, our main character and narrator, is alcoholic. She’s had drinking problems for quite a while and she even lost her job because of it. And why it’s interesting, as far as the story is concerned, is because she’s unreliable. She often drinks herself to a state where she completely blacks out and has no memory of what she’s done when she wakes up the next morning. Add this to a story where she is the only witness and you’ll have no idea what to believe.

All the characters are brilliantly – and very cleverly – written, in a way that makes it impossible for you to know who to trust or who to believe. Not just Rachel, but everyone has their own version of events and they are all acting suspiciously in one way or another. I love books with unreliable narrators and The Girl on the Train was no exception.

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Review: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes – Anna McPartlin

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin
Publication date: 1 January 2015
Publisher: Black Swan
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780552773744
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Contemporary
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4 Stars

Here is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, life is coming to an end…

Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it. She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye.

But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she’s OK with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days left to make them happen.

Here is a truth that won’t be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life’s surprises and finding the joy in every moment.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes was my last read of 2014 and I couldn’t have found a better book to end the year with. I laughed, I cried, and it completely broke my heart at times – but it’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve read in a long time.

Anne McPartlin’s sixth novel tells the story of Rabbit, an Irish journalist and single mother to twelve-year-old Juliet, who is losing her fight against cancer. Through a series of flashback episodes we get to know Rabbit as a young girl and follow her journey throughout the years, from her early teens through adulthood. We get to know her family and friends, who have been with her every step of the way, and who are there in the hospice, holding her hand, when Rabbit’s journey comes to an end. We learn about her best friend, Marjorie, and her first – and only – love, Johnny Faye. We get a glimpse into the often chaotic, but always entertaining, days of the Hayes family and Rabbit’s relationship with her daughter.

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Review: Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Publication date: 23 April 2013
Publisher: Square Peg
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780224095372
Length: 369 pages
Genre: Humour
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 5 Stars

Hyperbole and A Half is a blog written by a 20-something American girl called Allie Brosh. She tells fantastically funny, wise stories about the mishaps of her everyday life, with titles like ‘Why Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving’ and ‘The God of Cake’. She accompanies these with naive drawings using Paint on her PC. Brosh’s website receives millions of visitors a month and hundreds of thousands of per day.

Now her full-colour debut book chronicles the many “learning experiences” Brosh has endured as a result of her own character flaws. It includes stories about her rambunctious childhood; the highs and mostly lows of owning a mentally challenged dog; and a moving and darkly comic account of her struggles with depression. Poignant and uproarious – think Cyanide and Happiness but with story-lines, cake and dogs.

Hyperbole and a Half has been on my wish list ever since I saw it on Ellie’s blog this time last year. Although I wasn’t familiar with the Hyperbole and a Half blog at the time, I love all types of humour, from books to TV comedies and everything in between, so I knew it would be right up my street. But for some reason, I never got around to buying a copy.

However, I went to Foyles a couple of weeks ago and saw the book near the counter. I picked it up and started reading the back cover. And I literally laughed out loud. Three sentences in, I knew I’d love it.

And I did.

It was just as funny as I expected it to be and it had me laughing all the way through the end. I don’t know what’s funnier, Brosh’s illustrations (drawn in Paint – which, for me, makes them even more hilarious) or her memoirs that accompany the images. The whole thing is just brilliant as it is.

Although I’m not a dog person (I’ve never been), her dog stories were definitely my favourite. This one in particular had me choking with laughter for days and it still makes me giggle if I look at it. It was a story about Helper Dog, a slightly neurotic German shepherd, who was nearly impossible to train. People suggested giving her a treat every time she does something they like or simply when she stops doing bad things. However, as Allie says, “the only thing they managed to accomplish was to teach the Helper Dog that if she starts doing something they hate, and then stops that thing very briefly, she can get a treat”. And then she went back to doing the thing again.

The Simple Dog - Hyperbole and a Half

Do you know that feeling when you’re literally crying with laughter and when, after ten minutes, you manage to stop and go ‘it’s not even that funny’ – and then it starts all over again? That’s pretty much what happened.

But Hyperbole and a Half is not just about dogs, cake and the author’s mischievous childhood. Her stories about depression and what she’s been through are just as brilliant as the funny bits, but in a completely different way. She describes the illness perfectly and without making it too depressing. She adds a bit of humour to the more serious topics as well, so they blend in with the rest of the book perfectly.

Whether you or your loved ones have been suffering from depression or you’re simply looking for an entertaining read, I simply cannot recommend this enough. Although it’s a relatively quick read due to all the drawings, I know it will stay with me for a long time and I will re-read it from time to time. It’s absolutely brilliant. 

Review: Oh Yeah, Audrey! – Tucker Shaw

Oh Yeah, Audrey! by Tucker Shaw

Oh Yeah, Audrey! by Tucker Shaw
Publication date: 14 October, 2014
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781419712234
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Contemporary
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Won
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 2.5 Stars

It’s 5:30am on Fifth Avenue and sixteen-year-old Gemma Beesley is standing in front of Tiffany & Co. wearing the perfect black dress with her pastry and coffee held tightly in a brown paper bag — just like Holly Golightly. As the co-founder of a successful Tumblr blog — Oh Yeah Audrey! — devoted to all things Audrey Hepburn, Gemma has travelled from Pennsylvania to New York in order to meet up with her fellow bloggers and friends, Bryan and Trina, for the first time. She has meticulously planned out a 24-hour adventure for the trio in homage to Breakfast at Tiffany’s; however, her plans become quickly sidetracked when a glamorous boy sweeps in and offers her the type of New York experience she’s always dreamed of. Gemma soon learns who her true friends are and that, sometimes, “no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.”

I absolutely loved the idea behind this book. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is such an iconic film and I was intrigued by how the author would turn it into a contemporary novel for young readers. Oh Yeah, Audrey! is a fun and very quick read, even for a slow reader like me – but it wasn’t memorable enough for me.

My first and biggest problem was that I couldn’t connect with the characters. At all. I didn’t really like Gemma or her “friends”. The only person I liked was the girl who used to post mean comments on the Oh Yeah, Audrey Tumblr page – at least she wasn’t fake.

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9 Days to Go! Review: The Maze Runner – James Dashner + Win a Signed Copy!

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Publication date: 4 September 2014
Publisher: Chicken House
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781909489448
Length: 371 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4 Stars

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze.

Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything – even the half-machine-half-animal Grievers that patrol the corridors – to try and find out.

The Maze Runner is another good example for books that have been on my to-be-read list for years but I never managed to pick up. With the UK premiere being only 9 days away, I thought it’d be a good time to finally sit down and read it. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly – a fast-paced, race against the clock kind of thing, perhaps? – but in all fairness, it didn’t ‘wow’ me. It’s a brilliant idea for a book and for a fictional world and I loved Thomas as a main character, but the writing didn’t captivate me as much as I hoped it would.

And with other, similar YA trilogies out there (the Hunger Games being one of them) it’s impossible not to compare them. And compared to its competition, The Maze Runner – for me – wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t as strong as it could have been. It’s still a good book and I will still read its sequel. But it could have been so much better.

The story reminded me of Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary, which I absolutely loved and which I reviewed earlier on. In fact, the way the Glade works is pretty much the same as the odd underground place in Brooks’ novel. People are taken to the Glade, one by one, in an empty elevator. They have no recollection of their past, all they remember is their name. They’re being watched all day long and the ’creators’ who put them there send them various supplies through the elevator every week. They don’t know why they’re there and who did this to them – and neither do the characters. All they know is that they need to find a way out through the maze that surrounds the compound.

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Review: An Evil Mind – Chris Carter

An Evil Mind by Chris Carter

An Evil Mind by Chris Carter
Publication date: 31 July 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781471132193
Length: 496 pages
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4.5 Stars

A freak accident in rural Wyoming leads the Sheriff’s Department to arrest a man for a possible double homicide, but further investigations suggest a much more horrifying discovery – a serial killer who has been kidnapping, torturing and mutilating victims all over the United States for at least twenty-five years. The suspect claims he is a pawn in a huge labyrinth of lies and deception – can he be believed?

The case is immediately handed over to the FBI, but this time they’re forced to ask for outside help. Ex-criminal behaviour psychologist and lead Detective with the Ultra Violent Crime Unit of the LAPD, Robert Hunter, is asked to run a series of interviews with the apprehended man. These interviews begin to reveal terrifying secrets that no one could’ve foreseen, including the real identity of a killer so elusive that no one, not even the FBI, had any idea he existed … until now.

Having read most of his books in literally one sitting, I think it’s safe to say that whatever Chris Carter writes I fall in love with within seconds. An Evil Mind wasn’t any different. Although it’s very different from anything he’s written before, it’s just as tense and captivating as his other novels – but in a completely different way.

In case you’re not familiar with his writing, his previous books were famous for being of the nail-shredder, race-against-time variety and being on the gorier side. I enjoyed every second of every story but they were not for the faint-hearted. All his books featured various serial killers on the loose and Detective Robert Hunter trying to chase them down. So how is this book different, then? In An Evil Mind, the killer is already in FBI custody. We already know who he is and the fact that he’s guilty. What we don’t know is how many people he killed, who they are, and why he did it. All we know is that he knows Robert and refuses to talk to anyone else. So, once again, it’s up to Hunter to put the pieces together and figure out if Lucien is telling the truth and whether he has any other tricks up his sleeve.

Other than the fact that Carter’s writing is brilliant, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this book. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where you know who the killer is right from the start (solving the mystery alongside the detective is part of the fun, right?) so I was intrigued by the premise of Carter’s novel. It was definitely a pleasant surprise.

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Review: Victims – Jonathan Kellerman

Victims by Jonathan Kellerman

Victims by Jonathan Kellerman
Publication date: 11 October 2012
Publisher: Headline
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780755374526
Length: 374 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 5 Stars

Not since Jack the Ripper has there been such a gruesome crime scene. One look at the victim’s apartment turned charnel house is enough for Milo Sturgis to summon The Crime Reader. But even Alex Delaware’s skills may be stymied when more slayings occur in the same ghastly fashion…with no apparent connection between them. The only clue left behind – a blank page bearing a question mark – seems to be both a menacing taunt and a cry for help from a killer baffled by his own lethal urges. This one will haunt The Crime Reader’s waking life, and his darkest dreams, long after its end.

Jonathan Kellerman is one of those authors whose work I keep seeing every time I go into a bookshop and whose books I’ve wanted to pick up for a very long time. Being an avid reader of crime fiction – and fast paced thrillers in particular – I felt they would be something I’d enjoy but somehow I never got around to actually picking them up. When Victims landed on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to get started.

There are currently 29 books in the series featuring The Crime Reader, that is, forensic psychologist Alex Delaware, out of which Victims is the 27th. As much as I was looking forward to reading the book, a small part of me was worried whether I’d miss anything by not being familiar with the previous 26 books. With long series like this, authors often cut to the chase and don’t go into details about their characters, their past, their personalities, leaving you to figure out the relationships between them and everything else yourself. Which is understandable. If you’ve read 26 books with the same couple of characters, you probably know all about them. But, being a newbie to Alex’s world, I was a tiny bit worried.

Well, I shouldn’t have been. I didn’t for one second feel as if I was missing something. A few chapters in I felt as if I’ve known Alex and his friend and work partner, Milo Sturgis, for a long time. In fact, their dialogues and  their chemistry is one of the things I think makes this book as good as it is. But characters alone don’t make an excellent book – you need a killer plot and compelling writing as well. Kellerman’s Victims ticks all these boxes. His writing draws you in at the very beginning and you won’t be able to put the book down or stop guessing right until the very end.

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