Archive for the ‘Penguin Books’ Category

Review: The Bunker Diary – Kevin Brooks

The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks

Title: The Bunker Diary
Author: Kevin Brooks
Publication date: 7 March 2013
Publisher: Penguin
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780141326122
Length: 246 pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Won
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

I can’t believe I fell for it.

It was still dark when I woke up this morning. As soon as my eyes opened I knew where I was. A low-ceilinged rectangular building made entirely of whitewashed concrete. There are six little rooms along the main corridor. There are no windows. No doors. The lift is the only way in or out. What’s he going to do to me? What am I going to do?

If I’m right, the lift will come down in five minutes.

It did. Only this time it wasn’t empty…

My thoughts

Have you ever read a book that completely broke your heart but you still loved every second of it? That’s how I felt about The Bunker Diary. It’s sad, it’s cruel, it’s chilling, but it’s so beautiful at times.

The idea behind the story reminded me a little of the Saw movies. Random people thrown into an empty building and being surrounded by security cameras everywhere they go. They’re pieces in a sick mastermind’s even sicker game and we have no idea why or what they might have done to deserve this. The Bunker Diary is something very similar. A young guy – our main character and narrator - called Linus is kidnapped and wakes up in an underground bunker. And then day by day, six other people arrive. They don’t know each other, they have nothing in common, and they have no idea why they’re held captive. All they know is that their captor’s cameras follow their every step twenty-four hours a day and their conversations are being tapped. And that’s it.

How do you get out of such a place? How do you survive? How on earth did you end up there, anyway?

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Review: Bait – J. Kent Messum

Bait by J. Kent Messum

Title: Bait
Author: J. Kent Messum
Publication date: 27 August 2013
Publisher: Penguin
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780142180259
Length: 281 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Won
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

No one is coming to your aid. We have ensured this.

Six strangers wake up on a remote island in the Florida Keys with no memory of their arrival. They soon discover their common bond: all of them are heroin addicts. As the first excruciating pangs of withdrawal make themselves felt, the six notice a yacht anchored across open water. On it lurk four shadowy figures, protected by the hungry sharks that patrol the waves.

So begins a dangerous game. The six must undertake the impossible — swim to the next island where a cache of heroin awaits, or die trying. When alliances form, betrayal is inevitable. As the fight to survive intensifies, the stakes reach terrifying heights — and their captors’ motives finally begin to emerge.

My thoughts

I’ve been dying to read this book ever since it came out for so many different reasons. I love adrenaline-drenched thrillers. I’m strangely fascinated by the Agatha Christie-esque scenario of people being stranded on a deserted island (or any remote location there’s no way they would escape from) and having to survive. Add a deathly game and mysterious enemy and that’s my perfect night-time reading sorted right there. But despite the interesting premise, I just didn’t enjoy this book.

I suppose my main problem was the fact that I didn’t feel any sympathy for the characters. None of them. The story is basically a mixture of flashback episodes from the six strangers’ past and what they’re currently going through on the island. The flashbacks give readers a bit of insight into the (wasted) lives of these people, how desperate they all were for their next kick and how they were kidnapped before they ended up in the Florida Keys – which doesn’t really help you warm to them or feel any sympathy for them at all. And reading about a bunch of unlikeable people and their messed up past for a hundred pages is, let’s just say, not very entertaining.

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Review: Mutton – India Knight

Mutton by India Knight

Title: Mutton
Author: India Knight
Publication date: 1 August 2013
Publisher: Penguin
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780241955048
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

Clara Hutt is forty-six years old, and in pretty good nick, considering. She has kick-ass underwear, a large and loving family, and a healthy sense of what matters in life. Until Gaby moves in.

Gaby’s an old school friend of Clara’s who has just returned from LA. She may be a yoga mogul who lives off kale, and speaks a made-up fantasy novel language, but Gaby’s no stranger to cosmetic surgery: she’s almost fifty, but looks thirty-six at most.

What with Gaby, and Clara’s son’s leggy girlfriend, Sky, wafting around the house in her stripy pants, Clara starts to wonder if a little Botox, a little filler, a nip and a tuck, would be so very wrong. Should she ignore the fear? Or is there another way to grow old gracefully – and how far is she prepared to go to find out?

My thoughts

Following one of Clara’s remarks from the book, namely that “bluntness is the best solution: there seems so little point in shilly-shallying about with announcements” let me get right to the point: Mutton was a huge disappointment. Being in my mid-twenties I might not be the book’s ideal target audience but that doesn’t alter the fact that the book is miles away from being hilarious (as it’s supposed to be) and if this really is an accurate portrayal of women in their forties (I highly doubt it) then it’s even more depressing than I thought.

I wasn’t familiar with Knight’s books before I picked Mutton up but I’ve always enjoyed books with a similar subject matter. I read Sue Townsend’s The Public Confessions of a Middle-Aged Woman when I was in my late teens (again, I was hardly the right target audience and yet…) and it’s been one of my favourite novels ever since. It had me crying with laughter, which was definitely not the case here.

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Review: Survive – Alex Morel

Cover of Survive by Alex Morel

Title: Survive
Author: Alex Morel
Publication date: August 2, 2012
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Books)
Format: Ebook
ASIN: B006CU9XRI
Length: 273 pages
Genre: Adventure
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Jane is on a plane on her way home to Montclair, New Jersey, from a mental hospital. She is about to kill herself. Just before she can swallow a lethal dose of pills, the plane hits turbulence and everything goes black. Jane wakes up amidst piles of wreckage and charred bodies on a snowy mountaintop. There is only one other survivor: a boy named Paul, who inspires Jane to want to fight for her life for the first time.

Jane and Paul scale icy slopes and huddle together for warmth at night, forging an intense emotional bond. But the wilderness is a vast and lethal force, and only one of them will survive.

My thoughts

I don’t know what it is about plane crash/survival stories that fascinates me but I’ve always loved these types of books. Judging by the synopsis, Survive sounded just like my cup of tea but it turned out to be even better than what I expected. There are actually no words to describe how much I enjoyed reading this book, other than… oh my goodness.

In terms of the plot itself, it’s not the most mysterious story you’ll ever read. Basically, a girl called Jane Solis, who’s been living in a mental hospital for the past 12 months or so, is on her way back home for the Christmas holidays – the problem is, she doesn’t intend to leave the plane alive. She carefully planned her own death down to the tiniest details – but things don’t go her way. Just when she’s about to hit the switch and swallow a handful of pills, the  plane hits turbulence and crashes. They landed on a snowy mountaintop in the middle of nowhere and no one seems to be alive but her. Jane, who was about to take her own life a few hours ago. Then he finds a guy called Paul and as much as they irritate each other at first, they join forces and try to figure out how to stay alive and get out of there as soon as possible. Since most of these are given in the synopsis, things don’t take you by surprise – but still, there was something about this book that made me keep on reading. I’m quite a slow reader but I devoured the first half of the book in one sitting. I think that says it all.

One of the things I loved the most about Survive is how much Jane changed during those 6 or 7 days they’ve spent on the mountain. She’s definitely come a long way from being a suicide, someone who’s constantly angry, anxious and just bored with her own life. I also loved how her relationship with Paul has changed during their adventure and how they kept motivating each other to go on and fight. I pretty much sobbed my way through the last 40 or 50 pages – it was beautifully written.

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Review: Got You Back – Jane Fallon

Cover of Got You Back by Jane Fallon

Title: Got You Back
Author: Jane Fallon
Publication date: August 15, 2008
Publisher: Penguin Books
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-141-03440-9
Length: 406 pages
Genre: Women’s fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

The husband: James never intended to lead a double life – with a wife in London and a mistress in the country, it’s exhausting. But that’s all about to change…

The wife: Stephanie isn’t really snooping when she finds a text message from a strange woman on her husband’s mobile. But now she’s found it, how can she ignore it? It’s time to track the woman down and find out what’s going on…

The mistress: Katie has no reason to believe her boyfriend, James, is cheating until someone claiming to be his wife gets in touch. Now she’s been cast in the role of mistress. Not one she’s happy with…

Once Stephanie and Katie know about each other, they must decide what to do. They could both just throw him out or they could join forces to make his life hell first… But revenge isn’t always sweet. And what happens when one woman thinks enough is enough but the other doesn’t know when to stop?

My thoughts

My love for Jane Fallon’s work started years before I even started blogging. I remember randomly picking up Getting Rid of Matthew in our local bookshop when I was 17 and instantly falling love with Fallon’s writing. I know I loved her style even then but I wasn’t really keen on how the story ended and felt that it fell a bit flat. Since I found the author’s style so absorbing and so well-written, I knew Got You Back would be another brilliant read but I was hoping the ending wouldn’t disappoint. Well, it didn’t. Got You Back turned out to be even more captivating than I thought it would be and it has quickly become one of my favourite books of the year from this genre. It’s very cleverly written, its characters are relatable and realistic and the story is definitely a unique one.

Both the story and the writing reminded me of Tamar Cohen’s A Mistress’s Revenge, a book which I reviewed only a few months ago. Both books deal with love affairs gone wrong in quite a different way but in a similarly entertaining and gripping fashion. Got You Back centres around Stephanie, a stylist working in London and James, a vet who divides his time between his rural practice in Lower Shippingham and his work in north London. While he loves his wife and his son, he feels that his life got a bit dull over the years. So when he meets Katie in Lower Shippingham and suddenly feels more alive, his fate is sealed. They move in together in Katie’s cottage, spending three nights a week together while Stephanie and their son Finn are both in London. But when James forgets to delete one of Katie’s texts and Stephanie finds it by accident, a whole new chapter begins.

Instead of the usual cheating husband scenario, Stephanie gets in touch with Katie and they come up with a plan: they join forces in order to take revenge and make James’s life as miserable as he made them feel. Fallon kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through the end and I had no clue what was going to happen. The fact that James has no clue what’s going on behind his back or even the fact that his wife and his girlfriend know each other makes the story utterly hilarious and impossible to put down. (more…)

Review: The Mystery of Mercy Close – Marian Keyes

Cover of The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

Title: The Mystery of Mercy Close
Author: Marian Keyes
Publication date: September 13, 2012
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin Books)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780718155315
Length: 528 pages
Genre: Women’s fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Helen Walsh doesn’t believe in fear – it’s just a thing invented by men to get all the money and good job – and yet she’s sinking. Her work as a Private Investigator has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and now some old demons have resurfaced.

Not least in the form of her charming but dodgy ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, who shows up with a missing persons case. Money is tight – so tight Helen’s had to move back in with her elderly parents – and Jay is awash with cash. The missing person is Wayne Diffney, the ‘Wacky One’ from boyband Laddz. He’s vanished from his house in Mercy Close and it’s vital that he’s found – Laddz have a sell-out comeback gig in five days’ time.

Things ended messily with Jay. And she’s never going back there. Besides she has a new boyfriend now, the very sexy detective Artie Devlin and it’s all going well, even though his ex-wife isn’t quite ‘ex’ enough and his teenage son hates her. But the reappearance of Jay is stirring up all kinds of stuff she thought she’d left behind.

Playing by her own rules, Helen is drawn into a dark and glamorous world, where her worst enemy is her own head and where increasingly the only person she feels connected to is Wayne, a man she’s never even met.

My thoughts

Marian Keyes has been one of my favourite authors ever since I can remember so seeing one of her books hit the shelves always fills me with excitement. The Mystery of Mercy Close is the fifth and final Walsh sister book, featuring the youngest Walsh sister, Helen. Although I was sure the book would be another fantastic read, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Helen. We already met her in her sisters’ books when she was still a teenager – she was the pretty and popular one who was known for her sharp tongue, her sarcasm and brutal honesty. She was hilarious in her own way but  for some reason I could never relate to her character as much as I could to some of her sisters’. Which was another reason why I’ve been so eagerly waiting for this book – I was really intrigued to see how her quirky character would work if she had her ‘own book’ and to see how much she’s changed throughout the years. As it turns out, she has changed a lot. So much so that a few chapters in she became my favourite Walsh sister and The Mystery of Mercy Close turned out to be my favourite book from the series.

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Review: Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family – Marian Keyes

Cover of Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family by Marian Keyes

Title: Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family
Author: Marian Keyes
Publication date: 27 August, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books
Format: Ebook
ASIN: B008PS0I6K
Length: 67 pages
Genre: Women’s fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Synopsis

For all fans eagerly awaiting Marian Keyes’ new novel The Mystery of Mercy Close – featuring Helen Walsh and out in September 2012 – here is an irresistible ebook-only guide to everyone’s favourite dysfunctional Irish family, Mammy Walsh’s A–Z of the Walshes.

My thoughts

As a huge fan of both the Walsh family and Marian herself, Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family was a definite must-read for me. With The Mystery of Mercy Close‘s release day only a fortnight away, Mammy Walsh’s book is perfect for those who – just like myself – are anxiously waiting for Helen’s story.

With only 67 pages, the book is not a long read – it’s short enough for you to read in one sitting (curled up in bed, with a cup of tea in hand) after a long and exhausting day at work. It’s exactly what the synopsis says – it’s basically an A-Z list of things that are somehow relevant to the Walsh clan, including the five daughters’ relationship with alcohol, Mammy Walsh’s take on fake tan, cooking, eejit sticks (oh, how I wish they were real!), Helen’s shovel list, G-strings, real men and false goodbyes. Mammy Walsh -who, along with Mr Walsh, is one of my favourites from the previous Walsh family books – is such an entertaining character and I’m glad she finally has her own book.

It’s quite difficult to talk about it without giving too much away but trust me when I say it’s utterly hilarious. Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family had me roaring with laughter and reminded me of why I fell in love with Marian’s stories and all the craziness that goes on in the Walsh household all those years ago. Fans of women’s fiction, brace yourselves. Marian is back!

Teaser

There’s this woman I know from bridge, Mona Hopkins, a lovely woman she is, even if I must admit I’m not that keen on her myself, and she said a great thing the other day. I was expecting her to say “Two no trumps,” but instead she comes out with a saying about her children. She says, “Boys wreck your house and girls wreck your head.” Isn’t that a marvellous bit of wisdom – “Boys wreck your house and girls wreck your head!” And God knows it’s the truest thing I’ve heard in a long time. I should know. I have five girls. Five daughters. And let me tell you, my head is wrecked from them.Although, now that I think of it, so is my house . . .”


Rating:
5 star rating