Well as the eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted there has been another break in the blogging and reviewing here at acrimereadersblog. Unfortunately this time it wasn’t due to anything exciting or involving sunshine. I can however say that I’ve found somewhere that provides even more opportunity to read than a delayed East Coast train, a hospital waiting room.
I’ve recently had the dubious pleasure of a hospital trip. Now obviously that’s never going to be seen as a good thing but looking on the plus side it does provide the gift of time due to the endless waiting around.
As everyone reading this knows I’m a huge book fan. I’ve always thought there is no situation that can’t be improved by ignoring it and reading instead. Well it turns out I was wrong. Despite the saying ‘lose yourself in a book’ no matter how good a story you are reading, it’s not possible to completely disregard the surroundings you are in. This was especially true of the hours I had to spend waiting around for my operation. As if sitting around in paper pants and a back to front gown wasn’t bad enough things went rapidly downhill when across the room came the cry of ‘Can we watch Jeremy Kyle?’ Sadly the nurses refused my request to knock me out then and there.
Unfortunately things didn’t improve much after the actual operation either. I’m sure I’d been cast as a silent extra in ‘Carry on nursing’ When the nurses weren’t discussing whose turn it was to make the tea, they were pushing people round the wards in beds seemingly trying to recreate the Olympics Opening Ceremony with little success. Hearing nurses wandering round in the middle of the night asking if anyone has seen patient x does not fill one with complete confidence. In fact at some point in the middle of the night when I was accused of stealing my own notes (technically even if I had moved them they were surely mine anyway) I was convinced that I was actually taking part in some brand new reality tv show and any minute now I was going to be asked to vote off whichever non-celebrity was pretending to be my nurse (Simon Cowell – if you are reading this and want to buy the rights to Nurse Factor then do get in touch)
Of course it wasn’t all bad. I should be grateful that the hospital stay coincided with the winter Olympics. At least I was saved from the slippery slope that is day time tv by a new found interest in housework on ice. Who knew that watching people sweeping the ice whilst their friends played marbles, or a woman hurtling down a slope on a rather small tea tray would be so fascinating.
Luckily my stay in hospital was short lived and I’m now enjoying a few weeks of recuperation surrounded by piles of books to read and enough flowers to make Kew gardens jealous. Fingers crossed therefore that normal service has now been resumed and I can use this unexpected spare time to catch up on my book reviews (although a trip somewhere sunny also wouldn’t go down badly!)
I was very pleased to be sent a kindle copy of this book by Bianca after I’d read her first one ( a review of that is available here) and was looking forward to reading it. I was not disappointed.
Kelly and Mark seem to be the perfect couple. She is a model who now runs her own very successful cosmetics company, and he is a highly successful sports lawyer. Everything goes downhill when she comes home one day to find a condom in their bed and immediately assumes that her husband has been having an affair. Rather than sit down and talk it through she then stabs him before panicking and going on the run. Whilst trying to work out what to do next, she starts her own investigation into her husband and gets deeper into his secret life.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. The story was gripping and kept me hooked until the end. Certainly bits of it seemed a little far fetched but then its fiction and often in novels realism has to be balanced with ensuring the story moves along. It wouldn’t have been much of a story if the police had caught up with Kelly in the first hotel she went to. There were some little bits that annoyed me and I suspect the novel could potentially have done with firmer editing, for example in one of the scenes Mark walks into the bathroom and comes out before walking back in (of course potentially he could just have wanted to go into the bathroom twice rather than it being a continuity error)
However these minor issues did not detract from the story. The main character was likeable (apart from the minor issue of her murdering her husband) and you wanted her to win. The book switches viewpoints throughout which once I got used to I really enjoyed and gave a different dimension to the story. It was interesting to follow the story through and see how it all intertwines. The ending was a bit of a surprise although with hindsight its probably the only way to have tied up all the ends. I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more from Bianca.
So just in case you missed it, last week saw the start of 2014. This year on New Year’s Eve I did something I haven’t done for about 10 years and headed to York Minster for midnight. We stood with a few hundred other people all looking slightly bemused as there was no countdown or fireworks or party to acknowledge the date change. There were of course chimes at midnight and it was a lovely evening nonetheless.
So 2014 begins and it’s time for everyone to start making their New Year resolutions. As those of you who were reading this blog last year will know, I’m not a fan of the New Year resolution (and for the rest of you if you want to know you can find it here) but that doesn’t seem to stop the rest of the human race. Once again people are vowing to lose weight, get fit, save money and start doing fun things.
Giving up chocolate seems to be a big one this year (well at least til February when people can then devour the hundreds of half price selection boxes they’ve bought in the sales, before announcing to everyone that they’ll be giving it up again for lent) Chocolate may have been the death of many in crime novels as Margot Kinberg eloquently puts here. Yet whilst I’d hope there are not too many poisoned chocolates floating around. I’m not sure the whole feast and famine approach is a particularly healthy way to go either.
Apparently the latest craze in resolutions is having a dry January. Now this is one I was all in favour of when someone told me about it. I hate getting wet, and rain really makes my hair go frizzy. However further investigation shows they apparently meant they were giving up alcohol for a month. That soon put a dampener (no pun intended) on that plan. We are in a recession you know and pubs rely on the likes of me to keep their businesses ticking over. Even more ridiculous is the idea that you can get sponsored for not drinking for a month in a dryathlon. Are people seriously trying to say that giving up their favourite beverage is on a par with running a marathon or hiking across the Himalayas? Maybe it would be if you were Harry Hole or Homer Simpson, but otherwise surely it’s not really much of an achievement.
Apparently coming in at number ten of the top ten resolutions people make is the wish to read more books. I read this on a website that had asked people to fill in a survey on what resolutions they were going to make. Well there’s one of the problems straight away, rather than filling in the survey people should just have picked up a book and read that instead. That way rather than have to make a resolution saying they are going to do something, they can actually do something.
I, of course, don’t need to make a resolution to read more, I just pick up one of the numerous books I have hanging around. I haven’t yet had a tally up of the number of books I read last year which I should do. I do know however, that I’ve read many more than I’ve had time to review. Therefore maybe my resolution should be to write more reviews. I’m not calling it a New Year one though, that’s just asking to fail.
Anyway Happy New Year All.
This book is the first of a series of novels about the womens murder club. It is written by James Patterson (probably best known for his Alex Cross novels)
1st to Die starts with Inspector Lindsay Boxer who is chasing the murderer of young couples on their wedding day. Lindsay’s best friend is medical examiner Claire and along the way she meets journalist Cindy, and lawyer Jill. They decide to join forces to fight crime, save the world and wear their underwear as outerwear (or something along those lines anyway)
The main suspect in the story is author Jenks who’s first novel was about a man who also killed newlyweds in the same gruesome fashion. He says he was set up, the murder club think otherwise.
This is definitely going to be a review of two parts. On the one hand I enjoyed this book. It was a fun quick read. The story itself, whilst not hugely original nowadays, had enough twists and turns to keep you hooked, and I couldn’t wait to get to the end (in a good way)
However on the other hand there were some bits that let it down, mainly how the women were portrayed. The main character Lindsay was a bit annoying, she spent a lot of time crying which I found a bit ridiculous. Anyone who knows me knows I can cry at anything, but I really don’t think that an established Inspector would walk into a crime scene and burst into tears, no matter what else she might be dealing with behind the scenes.
Equally the dialogue between the characters seemed a bit stilted, and unnatural. It would certainly take more than a chance meeting in the toilets for me to suddenly become best friends with someone. There also seemed to be no real explanation as to why they felt the need to club together in the first place and work outside the normal investigation.
I did think this was disappointing, as I’ve read some James Patterson before and always enjoyed them. I felt that this book was a bit rushed and almost as though it was an afterthought. Perhaps it was written purely to give an excuse for the characters getting together. Therefore despite my perceived flaws within 1st to Die I will give the second in this series a go and hopefully the womens murder club improves with age.
Its Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. A classic line sung first by Paul Young and then latterly on the much ignored Band Aid II by Kylie Minogue. However judging by my trip into town yesterday I would disagree and say there is much to be scared of, and not just the fact I seem to have been forced to listen to that song every time I’ve set foot inside a shop since mid September.
Never mind the fact that at this time of the year the world goes mad and suddenly everyone is buying up brandy snaps as though their life depended on it. There is another recently discovered scary issue around. Namely the tragedy that is the complete destruction of the humble colouring book. I braced the mad rush of final shoppers yesterday to try and find two colouring books for presents. A simple task you might think? Well you’d be wrong.
Firstly all I wanted was a normal standard picture book for young children to colour in. Just the normal colouring books I had as a child with pictures of dogs and cats and houses. I didn’t want stickers or activities or doodles (that must be the cleverest money making idea since the shampoo companies started putting the words rince and repeat on the bottles, just put some blank paper together, call it a doodle book on the cover and charge twenty times the cost of the paper)
Secondly and most scary of all, when did colouring become a gender specific activity? Everywhere I looked the only colouring books I could find were labelled either girls colouring books and were full of pictures of princesses and castles, or boys colouring books full of cars and tractors. Talk about pushing gender stereotyping. Why do simple activities such as colouring need to be ruined? I realise it is a money making scam and people will unconsciously fall for it. I also know that in the scheme of things it’s quite a minor issue but it really bugged me. It is as stupid as the pink lego thing (read about them here) Well it didn’t work on me, and I walked away without purchasing any of them.
I realise that people have to try and reinvent the wheel. Essentially that’s what crime writers do all the time. There are a finite number of ways to kill someone and also motives for doing so, yet writers are able to take this idea and revamp it thousands and thousands of times. That’s a good thing for someone like me, who wants to read this revamped idea over and over again. Yet surely this revamping wasn’t needed for colouring books, to a six year old a picture to colour is about the actual act of colouring rather than the picture itself. I don’t think they really care how it is packaged. I bought a gift for a friend’s daughter this weekend and she was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the actual gift. (It was very nice wrapping paper though) There is certainly no need to give children different pictures to colour depending on whether they are a boy or girl.
Anyway despite my mini strop with the woman in Waterstones who asked if I’d found everything I wanted. All is not lost and the receivers of the colouring books are not to miss out. Luckily the sister works for a large retail brand (in the interest of not advertising let’s just say, think of a posh pound shop where you can buy a full size dancing Father Christmas and you’ll know where I mean) and she saved the day with some nice general colouring books with no stickers or activities in sight. She can therefore now be known as the Sister who saved Christmas. Of course is she could also work out a way of banning shops from playing Christmas music before the 23rd December then she really would be a superhero.
I should start this review by saying that I’ve previously read both of Gillian Flynn’s novels after seeing her at the festival in 2012. The reviews of Dark Places and Gone Girl can be read by following the links, but for those of you too busy with all your last minute Christmas shopping, its suffice to say I really enjoyed both those books. Therefore I was looking forward to reading Sharp Objects, which was actually the authors debut novel.
Camille is now a reporter in Chicago. She is told to return to her home town of Windy Gap where one young girl has been murdered and another recently disappeared. When the bodies turn up their teeth have been removed. Camille’s mother still lives in the small town and has a teenage daughter called Amma who she dotes on, almost to the point of obsession. She had a third daughter that both she and Camille adored, but Marian was a sickly child who died when young.
This story explores not only Camille’s relationship with her mother, but also her return to a small town where she was very unhappy. Alongside this it becomes obvious that Amma is not quite the sweet little girl that the family seem to think.
As mentioned earlier this was Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, but actually the third one of hers that I’d read. Unfortunately I didn’t think it was as good as the previous ones, but that’s probably to be expected. I imagine writing is like any skill it gets better with practice. The story itself is quite good, and the ending was sufficiently unpredictable, but I just felt it maybe wasn’t written as well as it could have been. The characters were all a bit unpleasant and I struggled to warm to any of them, especially Camille.
The portrayal of the small southern town was interesting. I felt it gave a good impression of the claustrophobia surrounding a small community. You could imagine how hard it would have been to grow up in that kind of place, especially if you didn’t particularly fit into any of the main groups. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to feel any sympathy for Camille. Her drinking seemed to sometimes be about to become a real issue, then it would be forgotten. Equally her habit involving words just annoyed me, plus some bits were downright silly, such as her having a drug fuelled evening with a bunch of 13 year olds. Yet other bits were very clever, and I didn’t guess the ending. I enjoyed the story and would recommend it although ideally read this first and then continue with her others.
Well this week acrimereadersblog has been on tour (that sounds better than admitting to another holiday) and has spent the past few days in Rome. As always a trip away no matter where to or for how long is always a good opportunity for reading, and thanks to the joy of the kindle I have no shortage of books to choose from. My choice for the flight this time being Lynda LaPlante, who it has recently been announced will be attending the festival next year.
With a bit of creative licence the P of Plante also continues the theme of the holiday which turned out to be things beginning with P. We saw Putin, the Pope, a political rally, a police museum and paid preposterous prices.
Of course we covered the usual well known sites. We walked round the Vatican, we saw the Sistine chapel with all the artwork and it’s amazing ceiling (I bet Michelangelo was gutted he couldn’t just have nipped to B&Q for a tin of magnolia) we admired the Coliseum and we forgot to throw coins into the Trevi Fountain.
However alongside the many stunning sites of historic significance we also covered the aforementioned 5 P’s. We caught Putin arriving at the Vatican surrounded by armed police. We waved at Pope Francis as he travelled round in his little popemobile before he made his regular address to the crowds. We then accidently got caught up in a Furza Italia political rally, with lots of flag waving and coloured flares. Of course not understanding any Italian we weren’t aware that had we waited for a bit longer we would actually have seen Berlusconi himself talking to his supporters. We visited the Police museum (otherwise known as the Museum of criminology) which was essentially a storage area for all the torture devices and murder weapons collected by the police force over the past few hundred years. Then to round off our 5Ps we also paid preposterous prices. Two cakes and two coffees cost us 39 euro’s, luckily they were very nice but you’d hope so for that price.
Rome was a lovely place, although one thing that seemed strange was the lack of seats in coffee shops. It seems that most Italians simply neck their espressos stood at the counter. I don’t think we saw anyone just sitting down leisurely in a coffee shop and reading a book. That did seem a bit sad, the coffee was lovely and therefore its a shame to not be able to enjoy it. Then again maybe different cultures enjoy books in different ways. We certainly saw a lot of bookshops during our visit and so I don’t doubt that the Italians love to read. Maybe they just keep it for travelling, certainly the Italian next to me on the plane was very interested in my kindle and how ‘esoteric’ (his word not mine) the range of books available were. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that mine doesn’t really contain anything but crime novels!