I was sent a copy of this by Bianca and it was one of the first books I read on my holiday.
The story starts with the murder of Tracey. She gets killed whilst out jogging, and her body is discovered a few days later. She leaves behind her husband, her film maker sister Sondra, and her parents. The story follows Sondra a year after her sister’s death. She is still trying to come to terms with it and decides to make a documentary about the differences between the way black and white woman are treated when reported missing. This leads her to start to uncover what actually happend to Tracey in the months leading up to her death.
The other side of this story follows couple Philip and Paula. They are an odd couple, and you soon get the feeling that something is not right. Philip is hugely controlling, and Paula keeps herself to herself, not even mixing with the neighbours. However its not long before the cracks show and things start to get out of hand.
This was a really good book. What starts out as being a simple murder mystery and seemingly a bit run of the mill soon becomes a cross between ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’ and an superb murder mystery. This was a story that kept me turning the pages to the end (well pressing the arrow button as it was on my kindle) The first part of the mystery is actually solved pretty early on in the book, however at every step just as you think things are beginning to tidy themselves up something else will happen.
The story is well written and with hindsight you can see that despite all the numerous twists and turns everything is tied up at the end which I do like in a story. I did find the main character a little annoying and wooden right at the start, however this didn’t last long and I was soon urging her to keep digging around.
I thoroughly enjoyed Bianca Sloane’s debut novel and look forward to reading her next one.
Susan Hill is appearing at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writers Festival this July. Although I’ve seen the film of Woman in Black, I’ve never read any of her books so picked this as one of her earliest.
Hooper lives with his Father in a big house they moved into after the death of his Grandfather. His father then employs a housekeeper who brings her son Kingshaw with her. The two boys are expected to become friends and are left to their own devices by two parents who are more interested in their own relationship than how their offspring are getting on. Hooper is a bully, and he makes Kingshaw his target.
This was a disturbing tale of children’s relationships. It’s often the case that people think just because children are the same age they should be friends without any thought to their own individual personalities. As this book shows that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I found that this book seemed a little slow to start with as the writing is quite descriptive but with hindsight this made the story even more evocative. The story gave a good portrayal of how children can act with one another. It’s not about violence as much as the taunting and the name calling. The fear of bullying often comes from what might happen rather than what actually happens. Although Hooper is the bully, and Kingshaw the victim you get a sense of loneliness and desperation from both of them. This is exacerbated by the fact their parents barely acknowledge them other than to try and force them to be friends. Throughout the book there is a sense of doom that builds up until the very last explosive scene.
I enjoyed this book, and found it quite thought provoking especially after the last scene. Susan Hill is special guest on the Friday night at the festival and it will be interesting to hear her talk. I’d definitely like to try and read some of her crime novels before the event to see how they differ from her stand alone works.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to sample the delights of afternoon tea in Bettys in York. It was all very civilised. We bypassed the usual never ending queue into the main café, and were led straight to our table in the previously unseen upstairs. We then spent a very nice afternoon eating salmon sandwiches, scones, cakes and drinking tea. Well ok, as a coffee drinking vegetarian I’d already put my special request in so I had Betty’s posh coffee and very nice avocado sandwiches.
The first Betty’s cafe was opened in the home of the ‘Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival’ The lovely spa town of Harrogate back in 1919 and still remains its most popular café. Me and the Sister went in last year for coffee and cake and were surrounded by people excitedly discussing the festival and carrying goody bags. I’ve no doubt this year will be no exception.
The programme for the event has recently been released and once again it looks a fantastic few days. There are some great special guests, including Ruth Rendell being interviewed by Jeanette Winterson which I’m especially looking forward to. I’ve always been a big fan of Ruth Rendell. Although I’ve not read any of Jeanette Winterson’s books apart from ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ which as a child I had to keep hidden under my bed as it would most definitely not have been classed as suitable reading.
I’ve not yet been through the entire programme in detail, or indeed planned my reading list for the next few months but at first glance it looks an excellent programme. Some of the speakers are old favourites from last year, whilst some are brand new such as William McIlvanney who I hadn’t even heard of until I saw he was being interviewed by Ian Rankin so will be looking out his novels.
This year’s TV tie in panel is Vera. Ann Cleaves (star of last year’s murder mystery themed dinner) is going to be joined by those who are responsible for bringing her novels to tv, including actor Brenda Blethyn. Another interesting sounding session features forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black OBE. I’m always fascinated by how far fiction actually mirrors real life, and how much artistic license authors have to employ to keep the story moving.
One of the special guests this year is Lee Child, I have to confess that I’ve never actually read any of his books, so he will definitely be an author I put on the top of my list. He’s being interviewed by Comedian Sarah Millican so that should be an excellent session. Special guest on Saturday evening is York born Kate Atkinson, whose Jackson Brodie novels have recently been turned into a tv series. As a York dweller myself I’m always happy to hear from local people.
The one thing that really did stand out of the programme was that there was not one session I would want to miss. Last year me and the Sister did skip a couple, mainly to give us time for food and of course Betty’s cake. This time Betty’s will definitely have to wait until the show is over!
I ordered this book as part of my holiday kindle book buying bonanza. Belinda was one of the first authors to be announced as appearing at the festival. She was a new author for me and so I decided to start with her first novel, Blacklands. The story revolves around young boy Steven who lives with his Gran and Mum. His uncle Billy was murdered and the body was never found. It’s assumed that he was a victim of serial killer paedophile Avery who is now in prison. The book is based in Exmoor (drawing obvious comparisons with the Moors Murderers) Billy begins writing to Avery in the hope that he can get Avery to tell him where his uncle’s body is buried as he believes this will make his Gran happy.
I thought this was an excellent book. The story is told from two points of view. That of young Steven who spends his time digging holes in the hope of finding his uncle’s body, and killer Avery who enjoys the ‘cat and mouse’ game he starts playing with the young boy.
This was a really compelling read which dealt with a difficult subject. At times it was quite uncomfortable as it places you looking through the eyes of a serial killer, yet this is balanced by the naive viewpoint of a 12 year old child. The writing itself I thought was very good, and whilst at first it seemed a bit slow the descriptions set the scene very well and soon have you hooked. At one point I thought that there was a certain prison scene that was completely unrealistic but having got to the end and reading the authors notes, even that was actually based on a real event.
I would say its not a traditional ‘who dunnit’ type crime novel. You know who the killer is, and the victim may or may not already be buried on the moor. However the crimes it deals with are some of the most horrific in society. This novel seems to be a realistic portrayal of a family who years later are still trying to deal with the after affects of a murder. The idea of the Gran sitting for ages staring out the window waiting for her son to come home years after he went missing whilst her remaining family falls to pieces around her is very moving. Comparing this to the callous and unfeeling Avery, with his excitement at finding out that he is writing to a child really makes this book stand out.
This book was a real page turner, and dealt with an incredibly hard subject. However I felt it was done in a sympathetic manner and was an excellent read.
On my recent mammoth holiday reading session, this was one of the first books I picked up. I had read Cuckoo for the TOPCWFC 2012 and enjoyed it, so was looking forward to this one.
Lara moves to New York with her actor husband, twins and toddler. Whilst there, they meet up with old friend Stephen who is now a famous film star but currently in hiding having had a run in with a stalker. Strange things then start happening, and it seems the stalker may have returned.
I thought that ‘Every vow you break’ was an interesting story although I did feel the end was slightly predictable. The book starts quite slowly, and is very descriptive. The atmosphere is built up with descriptions of the area as well as the day to day minutia of family life such as supermarket shopping that was a feature of Cuckoo. Yet there was enough of interest to keep you turning the pages.
I did however find some of the characters and the stories around them completely frustrating. The twins relationship is quite central but their interaction seems as though it was included for shock value rather than because it was a necessary plot device. I also felt that the relationship between Lara and Stephen didn’t ring true and seemed to come out of the blue. Of course that’s not helped by the fact I thought that central character Lara is one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever read.
I think that we are supposed to feel a bit sorry for her, she is married to a completely selfish older man with a failing career, she is struggling bringing up three children whilst being the main breadwinner and feeling guilty about a recent abortion that she was forced into having by her husband. However I’m afraid I completely failed to feel any sympathy for her at all. She is either incredibly stupid or so self absorbed she can’t see anything else around her. She could leave her husband as she has her own income but chooses to stay, she completely misses the screwed up relationship her twins have, and fails to notice that the brother is completely mad.
The other problem I had with this book was the ending. It all seemed to be wrapped up too cleanly, and meant that what had been a good story ended a bit flatly. Sometimes stories work best if there isn’t an easy tie up and if things are left hanging a little. Overall though I enjoyed this read and it was a perfect beach read.
Now for those of you who have been living in some kind of bookless filmless world, you may not know the general basis of the Hunger Games. In which case, essentially its a reality show where the winner is the last one standing. A kind of souped up big brother where they win by killing the others (which actually sounds quite a good idea based on the bits of big brother I’ve seen) The two main protagonists are Katniss and Peeta who are both from district 12 and get chosen to be the tributes in that years hunger games. There are 2 tributes from each district and the winner is whoever is still alive at the end of the games.
Now I hesitate to call this post a review, because I’m afraid I am completely in a minority of one here, in that I did not think it was the best thing I have ever read. I realise that people have been raving about it, and I thought it was ok but nothing special. I should point out here that this is a book for teenagers, and I am not one, therefore I am not the target audience by any means. I had the same issue with the Twilight series, I’ve read them and they were ok but I prefer a good Charlaine Harris for my vampire fix.
I think it was reasonably well written, especially when compared to some of the other most popular books of last year but alongside 50 shades of grey, and the twilight series I think this is probably a book loved by non readers. As I’ve often said before, anything that gets people reading is a good thing, 50 shades of grey whilst I’ve not read it myself is a phemonenon that has got people (women mostly I imagine) out buying books, but I’d love to know how many of those actually bought anything else? I have no problem with adults reading either ‘mummy porn’ or childrens books, but I just hope these people venture outside of that bubble.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Hunger Games, it was a quick read on a train and I will no doubt read the rest of the trilogy if I saw them on offer, but I wouldn’t rush to read them. I also think that when I was a teenager I wouldn’t have wanted the adults taking over all my good teenage reads so maybe we should just let them have it. There are after all a few billion good adult books ready to be picked up. As I saw on a shop front in Brighton a few weeks ago, the most avid reader can never get to the end of a good bookshop.
The eagle eyed amongst you may have realised that the blog has been pretty quiet over the past few weeks. Sadly life does often have a habit of getting in the way of the blog and with so many other pressures on us things that you really enjoy doing sometimes have to be put on the back burner. In my case those pressures involved two weeks on all inclusive in the Caribbean with friends, and then a rather extended birthday celebration (I sense I may have lost any vague sympathy I was garnering at this point)
Whilst the writing may have been rather quiet, the same certainly can’t be said for the reading. In fact on the two week holiday I managed to get through 13 and a half books (yes I’m annoyed I didn’t make it a complete 14. I blame being introduced to electronic Sudoku on my phone which became highly addictive)
It just goes to show that if there is a desire to read then the time will always be found. It wasn’t as though there wasn’t a lot of swimming, kayaking, chatting, eating and drinking to be done. Not to mention the nightly rounds of tequila shots, vodka and cocktails. Still I somehow went through a book a day almost. Of course sitting on a beach is much different to real life, it’s the first time I’ve ever spent Easter Sunday on a beach reading a book, drinking champagne surrounded by men dressed in easter bunny suits, but as I’ve said before if you want to find the time to read then you will do.
Holidays are often the only time that people do read and this is where the kindle really does come into its own. The luggage allowance on our flights was tiny. There was barely enough allowed to carry my shoes and sun tan lotion (plus cardigans) so had I had to include 13 books I would have needed to buy an extra seat just to be allowed to take them with me.
It is not just the weight or the space, having to have picked just 13 books to take with me would have been impossible. At the last count my kindle had around 60 books I’ve read and another 50 waiting to be read, the only way to carry them would have been to travel round in my own mobile library. Whilst I think that would have been great fun it wouldn’t be quite so easy to get the Caribbean in.
This does obviously now mean that I am very behind in my review writing, and to top it all off I’ve just heard that the full programme for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival 2013 is being released on Friday. So although the blog may have been a bit quiet whilst I was topping up my tan (yes ok hiding under an umbrella covered in factor 50) It’s about to get a lot noisier, with the start of the TOPCWFC 2013!