Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

Dear Mr. M – Herman Koch #20booksofsummer

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

The words that come to my mind when I think about Herman Koch’s writing are despicable characters, sardonic humour and very, very dark. Dear Mr. M without a doubt, lived up to this assessment, easily matching these ingredients first met in The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool.

In this book we have a neighbour obsessed with a writer, aging M who lives in the same block of apartments as he does in Amsterdam.

Dear Mr. M,
I’d like to start by telling you that I’m doing better now. I do so because you probably have no idea that I was ever doing worse. Much worse, in fact, but I’ll get to that later on….

Yes, I have certain plans for you, Mr. M  You may think you’re alone, but as of today I’m here too…

Right from the off, even if you have picked this book up blind, there is a real sense of creepiness, and this persists right through the novel.

Our narrator, the neighbour gives us a full picture of just the kind of man is; a writer who had one hit book, Payback, a writer who although he has written other books now has his greatest hit quite far in the past. He is pompous and scathing of everyone he knows and seemingly incapable without his young wife to tend to him. We don’t however have a name for the narrator, or what he does, but we do know he stalks the author in the most insidious manner, and we have a feeling that there is a purpose, just what, is the mystery.

“By using the word ‘tolerance,’ you’re simply placing yourself on a higher plane than those you tolerate. Tolerance is only possible when one fosters a deep rooted sense of superiority.”

The subject matter for Mr. M’s best-seller was based on the mysterious disappearance forty years before of a trendy school-teacher. The last known sighting of the teacher, Mr Landzaat, was at the holiday home of his pupil Laura who was staying for the Christmas holiday with her classmate Herman. Laura had been the teacher’s lover, but by the time he disappeared their liaison was over and Mr Landzaat was on his way to Paris to welcome in the New Year with friends, but he disappeared one snowy day never to be seen again.

This book is, as might be expected, full of contradictions and spikiness. We attend literary events courtesy of our famous author and see his take on the behind the scenes one-upmanship which it’s only too easy to believe might just exist between literary authors. We also have a sense that his younger wife has been chosen just to get up the nose of those authors who are somewhat higher up the bestseller list than our subject, who churns out war stories, Payback being a one-off foray into a different kind of writing. The signings and the publisher events are marred not just by the lack of his current success but the belt-tightening of the industry with lavish dinners of the past giving way to buffets in the present day.

The seemingly unrelated storylines that make up this book are cleverly combined as the book progresses but even when I was unsure quite how this was going to work, each individual strand is a delight in itself, an insight into the most unattractive people you would probably wish to spend time with. Please don’t read this book if you need to like at least one of the characters, I can guarantee you won’t enjoy this bunch at all! But if like me, you enjoy a clever book, one that is quite unlike anything else you are likely to read, Dear Mr. M will both delight and horrify you in equal measure.

Dear Mr. M was my nineteenth read in my 20 Books of Summer Challenge.

First Published UK: 25 August 2016
Publisher: Picador
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (August 23)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am currently reading the last in my 20 Books of Summer 2017 Challenge; The Summer House by Santa Montefiore. So I’ve just got to catch up with all the reviews after this one…

Blurb

Antoinette’s world has fallen apart: her husband, the man she has loved for as long as she can remember, has died tragically in an accident. He was her rock, the man she turned to for love and support, the man she knew better than she knew herself. Or at least so she thought…

For as she arrives at the familiar old stone church for George’s funeral, she sees a woman she has never met before.
Phaedra loved George too, and she could not bear to stay away from his funeral. But as she sits before his wife, she knows that what she is about to reveal will change all their lives forever.

This book is published in the US under the title The Girl From Paris Amazon

I have just finished Dear Mr M by Herman Koch, another book by this author which has the kind of darkness that makes you feel like you shouldn’t be reading… but I couldn’t help myself!

Blurb

Dear Mr. M,
I’d like to start by telling you that I’m doing better now. I do so because you probably have no idea that I was ever doing worse. Much worse, in fact, but I’ll get to that later on.

Mr. M is being watched. As a famous writer, he is no stranger to the limelight, although interest in his work has been dwindling of late. His print runs are smaller than they used to be, as are the crowds at his bookshop signings . . . Our narrator clearly takes a keen interest in M.’s work, and indeed in every aspect of his life. But what exactly are his intentions? And to what does Mr. M owe the honour of his undivided attention?

Our narrator seems to be no stranger to murder, while his own story appears to bear more than a passing resemblance to the plot of Mr. M’s most famous novel: a teacher has an affair with a student, only to be brutally murdered by the girl and her teenage boyfriend. The body is never found.

That’s the problem with fiction: in real life, bodies have an awkward habit of turning up. Mr. M has used some artistic licence, and our narrator is not pleased, not pleased at all. And just before he fades into obscurity, he’s prepared to give Mr. M one last review. And it’s unlikely to be a rave. Amazon

Next I am planning on reading Lost in the Lake by A.J. Waines which will be published on 7 September 2017.

Blurb

She came at first for answers…now she’s back for you

Amateur viola player Rosie Chandler is the sole survivor of a crash which sends members of a string quartet plunging into a lake. Convinced the ‘accident’ was deliberate, but unable to recall what happened, she is determined to recover her lost memories and seeks out clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby.

But Rosie is hiding something…

Sam is immediately drawn to the tragic Rosie and as she helps her piece the fragments together, the police find disturbing new evidence which raises further questions. Why is Rosie so desperate to recover her worthless viola? And what happened to the violin lost in the crash, worth over £2m?

When Rosie insists they return to the lake to relive the fatal incident, the truth about Rosie finally creeps up on Sam – but by now, she’s seriously out of her depth…

A stand alone novel (and the second book in the Dr Samantha Willerby series), Lost in the Lake is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat Psychological Thriller that will leave you glancing over your shoulder. Amazon

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.</strong

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017

20 Books of Summer 2017 – Part 2 #20booksofsummer

Cathy at Cathy 746 has a yearly challenge to read twenty books over the summer months starting on 1 June 2017 and running until 3 September 2017, and once again I’ve decided to join her.

My aim this year was to read all twenty books in the allotted time span but the plan has been somewhat disrupted, however despite only posting reviews for books 1 – 5 of the challenge (you can see the original list the master page here) I have actually finished reading the first set of 10 with reviews to follow,  and so it’s time to choose the next set in the hope I will magically get these read before the cut-off date!

The links below will take you to the Goodreads description

The Ripper of Waterloo Road by Jan Bondeson

The Spider and the Fly by Claudia Rowe

Dear Mr M by Herman Koch

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Stranger in the House by Julie Summers

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

The Summer House by Santa Montefiore

The Judges Wife by Ann O’Loughlin

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie

My original second list looked a wee bit on the bleak side so I chose some cheerier books to break it up but never fear there is plenty of murder to get me through August!


I will continue to tweet my way through the challenge using the hashtag #20booksofsummer to demonstrate when one of my reads is part of this challenge!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I seem to have a big pile of books to read!

Any of these take your fancy?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (January 8)

Weekly Wrap Up

Well it seems like an age since I have done one of these weekly wrap-up posts. I hope you all had a good time over the holiday period and I wish you all the best for 2017.

I do like starting up new pages for each year and I have decided to post the reviews written in 2017 onto their own page, even those I read in 2016. I know this is going to confuse my counting later on in the year when my reads will be lower than the number of reviews, but believe me when I say I’ve deliberated long and hard before coming to a conclusion!!

deliberating

On The Blog

My first post of the year was aptly titled the First Book of the Year 2017 and featured a book very close to my heart, the one I chose to read over the New Year; A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys. I have to say this post was phenomenally popular completely smashing my previous views for a day by nearly double! I am not sure that Owen would have been quite so pleased to have his photo all over social media, especially with his slightly tipsy mother!

On Monday I posted my first review of the year, Painkiller by N.J. Fountain, a psychological thriller about a woman who lives with chronic pain since an accident five years before, which proved to be far more enjoyable than I expected.

My excerpt choice this week came from Relativity by Antonia Hayes which I thought got off to a strong start.

On Wednesday in This Week in Books, I emphasised my plan to read more of my own books with one of the books that has been on my TBR since 2015; Redemption by Jill McGown

Thursday’s review was another psychological thriller, bear with me, I’m reading an awful lot of review copies at the moment to be able to achieve the reduction in the TBR – no laughing at the back! What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin didn’t work as well as it might have for me, but there are elements that I’m sure others will love

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land has already received a lot of attention in the book world, and it’s not published until 12 January! With it’s intriguing premise of a teenager who shopped her mother for being a serial killer, this proved to be an unsettling and well-executed read.

Yesterday with my fourth review of the week, and another psychological thriller; Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson was written by a writer I admire through his previous work. Complex and yet easy to read this creepy thriller certainly got under my skin.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Lake House by Kate Morton. I love dual time line stories when they are done well, and Kate Morton has a reputation for doing them really well. This tale had me entranced over the first few days of January 2016 with a number of different pasts being featured. I especially liked the fact that there were books within the book which added appeal to this incredibly readable novel. You can read my full review here

The Lake House

Blurb

A missing child . . .
June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Alice Edevane, sixteen years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.
An abandoned house . . .
Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, Sadie stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.
An unsolved mystery . . .
Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape… Amazon

Stacking The Shelves

I had an unprecedented influx of books (yes even for me!) in the week before Christmas and of course, I received few books for presents. Some have already appeared on the blog so I’ve decided to spotlight a few this week.

I have a copy of Quieter Thank Killing by the wonderful Sarah Hilary, the fourth in the Marcie Rome series which will be published on 9 March 2017.

quieter-than-killing

Blurb

‘You only ever ask that. Why did I do it? You never ask what they did.’
The winter cold is biting, and a series of assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out into the frosty, mean streets of London far more than they’d like. The attacks seem random, but when Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by a child – and someone who knows all about her. It will take a prison visit to her foster brother, Stephen, to help Marnie see the connections – and to force both her and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. For how can a damaged child really leave their past behind them? Amazon

I have a copy of The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer which is set in the Forest of Dean in 1983. I simply had to read this one because that’s where I lived in 1983, and like the protagonist Ruby, I was thirteen that year too, so I was delighted when the kind people at Faber & Faber sent me a copy.

the-doll-funeral

Blurb

My name is Ruby. I live with Barbara and Mick. They’re not my real parents, but they tell me what to do, and what to say. I’m supposed to say that the bruises on my arms and the black eye came from falling down the stairs.
But there are things I won’t say. I won’t tell them I’m going to hunt for my real parents. I don’t say a word about Shadow, who sits on the stairs, or the Wasp Lady I saw on the way to bed.
I did tell Mick that I saw the woman in the buttercup dress, hanging upside down from her seat belt deep in the forest at the back of our house. I told him I saw death crawl out of her. He said he’d give me a medal for lying.
I wasn’t lying. I’m a hunter for lost souls and I’m going to be with my real family. And I’m not going to let Mick stop me. Amazon

I got given a copy of Herman Koch’s Dear Mr M by my brother for Christmas – I think he likes that I have a large selection to chose from on my wishlist! This one added because I admired both The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool

dear-mr-m

Blurb

Dear Mr. M,
I’d like to start by telling you that I’m doing better now. I do so because you probably have no idea that I was ever doing worse. Much worse, in fact, but I’ll get to that later on.

Mr. M is being watched. As a famous writer, he is no stranger to the limelight, although interest in his work has been dwindling of late. His print runs are smaller than they used to be, as are the crowds at his bookshop signings . . . Our narrator clearly takes a keen interest in M.’s work, and indeed in every aspect of his life. But what exactly are his intentions? And to what does Mr. M owe the honour of his undivided attention?
Our narrator seems to be no stranger to murder, while his own story appears to bear more than a passing resemblance to the plot of Mr. M’s most famous novel: a teacher has an affair with a student, only to be brutally murdered by the girl and her teenage boyfriend. The body is never found.
That’s the problem with fiction: in real life, bodies have an awkward habit of turning up. Mr. M has used some artistic licence, and our narrator is not pleased, not pleased at all. And just before he fades into obscurity, he’s prepared to give Mr. M one last review. And it’s unlikely to be a rave.  Amazon

My daughter went with a far less subtle choice of Talking With Serial Killers by Christopher Berry-Dee as my Christmas book.

talking-with-serial-killers

Blurb

An investigative criminologist, Christopher Berry-Dee is a man who talks to serial killers. Their pursuit of horror and violence is described in their own words, transcribed from audio and videotape interviews conducted deep inside some of the toughest prisons in the world. Berry-Dee describes the circumstances of his meetings with some of the world’s most evil men and reproduces, verbatim, their very words as they describe their crimes and discuss their remorse – or lack of it. This work offers a penetrating insight into the workings of the criminal mind. Amazon

And lastly from NetGalley I have a late entry of a book I’ve been longing to read; The Good People by Hannah Kent. Burial Rites was one of those books that I’d had on my kindle for a long time and I didn’t get around to reading it until early last year – I loved it, definitely one of my favourite reads of the year so I have high hopes for The Good People

the-good-people

Blurb

County Kerry, Ireland, 1825.
NÓRA, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheál. Micheál cannot speak and cannot walk and Nóra is desperate to know what is wrong with him. What happened to the healthy, happy grandson she met when her daughter was still alive?

MARY arrives in the valley to help Nóra just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley.

NANCE’s knowledge keeps her apart. To the new priest, she is a threat, but to the valley people she is a wanderer, a healer. Nance knows how to use the plants and berries of the woodland; she understands the magic in the old ways. And she might be able to help Micheál.

As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.

Based on true events and set in a lost world bound by its own laws, The Good People is Hannah Kent’s startling new novel about absolute belief and devoted love. Terrifying, thrilling and moving in equal measure, this long-awaited follow-up to Burial Rites shows an author at the height of her powers. NetGalley

TBR Watch

I’m going to say it really quickly the first count in 2016 came to 171 books, so lets see how this has worked shall we?
tbr-watch

As the books have been flooding in I’m just going to stand up and say – since my last post I’ve read lots of books but gained even more!
Physical Books – 103
Kindle Books – 70
NetGalley Books – 11

Giving a grand total for the first week of 2017 of 184 books.

If you didn’t manage to catch my post of my Top Ten Books Published in 2016 you can see it here, or check out the page on the tabs – Now I have my favourite reads for four years, I feel like a proper blogger!

What have you found to read this week?