Archive for the ‘HarperCollins’ Category

Review: Mother, Mother – Koren Zailckas

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

Title: Mother, Mother
Author: Koren Zailckas
Publication date: 16 January 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780007547388
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Psychological thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

All is not well with the Hurst family.

There is gentle teenage daughter Violet, whose experiments with fasting and drugs land her in a psychiatric ward; eight-year-old Will who is smart, funny and caring but has already been labelled autistic and is being home-schooled; and mother Josephine, whose subtly controlling and seemingly innocent manoeuvres may just be the source of everyone else’s despair.

And then there’s Rose, the sister who got away. Tired of Josephine’s interferences, Rose ran away from home years earlier and hasn’t been heard from since. But as her mother’s intentions become more terrifyingly clear, Violet begins to wonder whether something far, far worse happened to her older sister…

My thoughts

Mother, Mother is typically one of those books which left such a great impression on me that I have no idea where to even begin. I’ve always been a big fan of psychological thrillers and suspense – both in terms of films and books – so even though I went into this book not knowing what to expect, I was secretly hoping it would render me speechless. And render me speechless it did. I finished reading it in late December and, without exaggeration, it’s been on my mind ever since.

There’s something very disturbing about the story, something which makes it impossible for you to put it down. You get a sense that there’s something very, very wrong with Josephine. You don’t know what she’s capable of, why she’s acting the way she does and this sense of unease, uncertainty is one of the reasons why it’s such a compelling story and why it has such an impact. Zailckas manages to keep you in constant suspense and make you feel a deep sense of unease until the very end. You keep wondering how far it could go, how far Josephine (who really is the master of manipulation) could take things before the unthinkable happens and whether anyone realises how powerful she is before it’s too late.

(more…)

Review: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe – Agatha Christie

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Agatha Christie

Title: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: 14 October 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780007120895
Length: 294 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | AwesomeBooks | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Even the great detective Hercule Poirot harboured a deep and abiding fear of the dentist, so it was with some trepidation that he arrived at the celebrated Mr Morley’s surgery for a dental examination. But what neither of them knew was that, only hours later, Poirot would be back to examine the dentist – found dead in his own surgery.

Turning to the other patients for answers, all Poirot finds are darker questions…

My thoughts

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe is another gripping story from the Queen of Crime and one I really enjoyed. I have to admit, it wasn’t one of my all time favourite Christie books (although I still think that it would be near impossible to write anything better than And Then There Were None), but the ending – or rather the way the murder has been planned and carried out –  was genius and it still blew me away.

The set-up might be familiar to avid readers of Christie’s books: we’re in a dentist’s office, in a completely average house in central London. A house from which there is only one exit. There are no other entrances or hidden passages. None. And since no one could have entered the house without a key or being let in by the doorman (who was a hilarious character, by the way), we have a limited number of possible suspects. We’re sure right from the beginning that the murder must have been committed by either Mr Morley himself, or someone who had an appointment for that day. Including, of course, Hercule Poirot. The police seem to think it was suicide but Poirot can’t help wondering: why would a successful and relatively happy man like Mr Morley kill himself? Not only that but why would he do it during working hours? Why not wait until all her patients are gone? But if it was murder… who would want to kill him?

The reason why I’m a tiny bit disappointed by the killer’s identity is that I think we’ve had something like this in another story of Christie’s. I won’t say which one in case someone figures it out but yes, I’m pretty sure there was something similar in another book. When Poirot and Japp started talking to the suspects and visited this particular person, I was almost entirely sure they were looking at the murderer. Purely because it would have been so typical of Christie to give her murderer such characteristics and because, as I said, we’ve had something similar before. However, it wouldn’t be a regular Agatha Christie book if she didn’t make each and every character behave in a rather suspicious way, thus making us suspect each and every one of them in turn, so thank God it’s not that predictable. I also think that the mystery of how and particularly why s/he committed the murder would be  quite difficult to solve so even if you manage to guess who the killer would be, the ending will still take you by surprise. All in all, I think it was definitely worth a read and the surprising ending made up for the murderer’s predictability.

(more…)

Review: A Murder is Announced – Agatha Christie

Cover of A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

Title: A Murder is Announced
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: January 3, 2005
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780007191024
Length: 415 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn are agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which reads: ‘A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.’

A childish practical joke? Or a hoax intended to scare poor Letitia Blacklock? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, the crowd begins to gather at Little Paddocks at the appointed time when, without warning, the lights go out…

My thoughts

A Murder is Announced was the very first Agatha Christie book I’ve ever read and also the reason why I fell in love with Dame Agatha’s writing all those years ago and why I’ve been a huge fan of hers ever since. It must have been about five years ago when I read this book but I remember it almost as if it were yesterday. I keep saying that I don’t think I’ll ever find a book as atmospheric and as flawless and well-plotted as And Then There Were None, which I literally read in one sitting, holding the book with shaking fingers (no, I’m not exaggerating here), but A Murder is Announced is no doubt my favourite Marple story.

I suppose one of the reasons why I loved this book so much was the fact that I had a feeling who the murderer might be from quite early on in the story (while the usual scenario would involve me guessing right until the end and suspecting every single one of them) and it gave me a certain amount of satisfaction to see that indeed, I was right. Oh yes. And the murderer happened to be my favourite character, which made it even more interesting.

(more…)

Review: The Murder on the Links – Agatha Christie

Cover of The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

Title: The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot #2)
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: 3 March, 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-00-711928-8
Length: 319 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

An urgent cry for help brings Poirot to France. But he arrives too late to save his client, whose brutally stabbed body now lies face downwards in a shallow grave on a golf course.

But why is the dead man wearing his son’s overcoat? And who was the impassioned love-letter in the pocket for? Before Poirot can answer these questions, the case is turned upside down by the discovery of a second, identically murdered corpse…

My thoughts

The Murder on the Links is Christie’s third novel and the second Hercule Poirot mystery. I had some vague memory of watching the film adaptation on telly a few years ago but funnily enough, the story was completely new to me and apart from the fact that it’s set somewhere in France and there’s a golf course involved, I didn’t remember a thing. And how grateful I am for that! Had I remembered anything else, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. And in spite of the fact that I don’t think any of her books can top And Then There Were None, it was definitely one of the best mysteries she’s ever written.

(more…)

Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie

Cover of The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Title: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: September 3, 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-00-711927-1
Length: 297 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased for Book Club
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Recently, there had been some strange goings on at Styles St Mary. Evelyn, constant companion to old Mrs Inglethorp, had stormed out of the house muttering something about ‘a lot of sharks’. And with her, something indefinable had gone from the atmosphere. Her presence had spelt security; now the air seemed rife with suspicion and impending evil A shattered coffee cup, a splash of candle grease, a bed of begonias – all Poirot required to display his now legendary powers of detection…

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is Christie’s very first novel and thus our very first book club read as well. Even though I’ve read more than twenty of Christie’s books so far, I’ve never read them in order of the original publication date, I just picked up whichever book I could find at the time.

Picking up this book my initial expectations were the following: since it was written 30-40 years before her last publications and it was her very first novel, surely there must be some sort of a difference. I’ve read some of her novels which have been written much later than this one so I expected to find The Mysterious Affair at Styles less detailed or slightly more predictable than those books. Here, I was both right and wrong. While you can feel that she was still trying to find her footing, it was already a very detailed and very well plotted book with great twists and turns.

What made this book different from all the other Christie books I’ve read so far was the fact that this one is narrated by Arthur Hastings, Poirot’s friend. At first I found Hastings narrative a bit monotonous and dry so it took me a little while before I got into it and got used to his style. The Hastings – Poirot duo definitely adds a bit of fun to the book, however. Hastings is a bit naive, and absolutely clueless about what’s going on which makes him even more likeable. In a way, he represents us readers: Poirot is the mastermind and Hastings is just like us: he tries to put the puzzle pieces together and figure out who did what and what their motive was – in vain. I also love the fact that Poirot seems to treat him like his pupil – he tries to explain things to him and teach him how to think logically and methodically – they really are an entertaining pair.

All in all, I think The Mysterious Affair at Styles was a great start to Poirot’s “long and successful career” – it’s definitely much better than what I initially expected and it’s actually one of those stories that left me completely and utterly baffled. Even though I’m usually quite good at predicting who’s the guilty one, I had no clue who the murderer might be here. Another thing I really enjoyed was the fact that Poirot was dealing with a very intelligent criminal here, which always makes things a bit more complicated. Christie really builds up the tension towards the end of the story and believe me, you won’t be able to put it down. Another fantastic page-turner from the Queen of Crime!

Rating:

Review: Divergent – Veronica Roth

Cover of Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publication date: April 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-00-742041-4
Length: 487 pages
Genre: Dystopian
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Gift
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

The first thought that came into my mind when I put this book down was, ‘I can’t believe I waited for so long to read this’. Veronica Roth’s Divergent is without a doubt one of those books that will grow on you in a heartbeat. I had high expectations about this one and it didn’t disappoint. I am completely and utterly in love.

Dystopian is still a new genre to me because I’ve never really read any dystopian books before I started blogging but after reading some really outstanding novels, such as Susanne Winnacker’s The Other Life or Divergent, it quickly became one of my favourite genres. Roth’s story is so unique, but at the same time so believable that you won’t be able to put it down.

On top of everything else, I love the world she describes in this book. This whole dystopian Chicago is divided into five factions and just like in real life, there’s some tension and rivalry among them. I love the fact that even though it’s a completely fictional world and it feels so different from what we’re used to now, it’s still similar to our world in a way. As for the characters, Roth did a fantastic job. Divergent is narrated by Beatrice (or Tris) who is a tough and very brave girl behind the fragile exterior. Her bravery is just astonishing and you can’t help rooting for her to survive throughout the story and to come out on top in this crazy world.

Character-wise, I think Four was -and I’m sure most female readers will agree with me here- my favourite in this book. Even though I’m actually 4 years older than he was in the story, I totally understand why thousands of readers will fall in love with him in a second. I love how tough he is but how there is a vulnerable side to him as well. What’s not to love?

If you’re looking for a fast paced dystopian book and you haven’t read Divergent yet, do pick it up as soon as you can. Don’t let its length put you off, you’ll breeze through the story in a day. It’s definitely one of my favourite reads this year. Brilliant!

Rating:
*Thank you to Kayleigh from K-Books for sending me a copy of this book*

Review: Ordeal by Innocence – Agatha Christie

Title: Ordeal by Innocence
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: 2003
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-00-715491-3
Genre: Mystery

According to the courts, Jacko Argyle bludgeoned his mother to death with a poker. The sentence was life imprisonment.

But when Dr Arthur Calgary arrives with the proof that confirms Jacko’s innocence, it is too late – Jacko died behind bars following a bout of pneumonia. Worse still, the doctor’s revelations re-open old wounds in the family, increasing the likelihood that the real murderer could strike again…..

Reading these few lines was enough for me to know that it’s going to be a great read – I fell in love with it in an instant, picked it up and came home, eager to start reading it. At two in the morning, exhausted from sleep deprivation and reading for such a long time, I simply couldn’t put it down. And I was right – Ordeal by Innocence is pure brilliance.

I don’t usually like books that don’t feature either Poirot or Marple but it was an exception. What’s more, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much if it featured one of them. It was just perfect the way it was written, without any detectives.

It’s quite hard to talk about Christie’s novels without giving too much away but believe me, it’s a marvellously written story. It’s similar to some of her other books in that there’s a house full of suspects and they all know one of them did it but still, this time it’s a bit different. Mainly because it’s not a real family – the five children were all adopted, therefore they’re all different. As Mr. Argyle put it, you can’t predict what’s going on in their minds because they’re not your own, they’re not like you. In addition to this, Ordeal by Innocence is said to be one of Christie’s darkest novels for a reason – it focuses very strongly on psychology. One of the most powerful lines for me was “It’s not the guilty who matter. It’s the innocent.

The characters aren’t particularly likeable but there’s no doubt about them being a queer lot. My personal favourite was Philip Durrant – an ex-pilot who was afflicted with polio of the paralytic type and became an invalid. Even though he can’t move around as much as he’d like to, I think he played an important part in the novel – he was an invalid, but he was very strong mentally.

Ordeal by Innocence is another masterpiece from the Queen of Crime. It doesn’t matter how many whodunnits you’ve read before, Christie will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole story and keeps you guessing until the very end. I’d definitely recommend it to everyone who likes a good mystery.

Rating: