Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Other Us – Fiona Harper

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

I think like everyone the world over I occasionally have those ‘what if?’ moments and that’s exactly what Fiona Harper has tapped into in The Other Us. Maggie is a forty-something woman whose only daughter is preparing to fly the nest so when Maggie and her best friend Becca have been invited to university reunion, her first thought is will Jude be there? Jude invited Maggie to run away with him the night she accepted Dan’s proposal and at the back of her mind, with Dan being secretive, she wonders if she should have done so.

When Maggie is hurtled back through time to 1992 when she was twenty-one, she wakes up in her student digs which she shared with Becca. Back to the time before she decided which man to plump for. Maggie now has the chance to make different choices, and of course the question is will they make her happier?

This fun read doesn’t just focus on Maggie and her love life though, I’m happy to report that it also focusses on bigger life choices such as the careers that Maggie and Dan choose along with a meaningful look at the nature of friendship. How does it work if you don’t like your friend’s partner? And of course it’s harder to like them if you know how they are going to act in the future. Yes, Maggie is conscious that she is in the past, unlike many ‘time-travelling’ novels, so her actions are taken with that knowledge in mind, and the big question is what does Maggie in her forties really want her life to look like? What is important? Only when she is able to answer those questions can she really make the choice she needs to.

My first thought when Maggie wakes up in 1992 was the more benign truth is that youth is wasted on the young. Imagine waking up and shaving a good twenty years off your age – those wrinkles and grey hairs banished to reveal a younger and perkier you – I think I’d embrace that too!! Maggie does, choosing a wardrobe she would have shunned as the old Maggie and revelling in her youthful appearance.

This is a well-constructed novel; it needs to be with three different time lines to follow all involving the same set of characters, the potential for getting confused is high. I’m happy to say I didn’t once wonder where we were I the story though as the author has given us enough pointers – including Jude using Meg as his name for Maggie to keep the storylines straight.

This is perfect beach reading, it’s light and fluffy but with enough oomph to keep you turning those pages to find out what choices Maggie makes and what adjustments she makes to turn her life around in all three story-lines. All of this is helped by the fact that Maggie is someone you’d like to have as a friend and so I was rooting for her even when she seemed incapable of seeing what was really important to her and so meandered way off track. There are plenty of funny scenes to keep you chuckling and this uplifting book may just well convince you that perhaps hurtling back through time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to MidasPR who sent me a copy of this book on behalf of the publishers HQ. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author Fiona Harper for brightening up my day with a humorous look at life.

First Published UK: 4 May 2017
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Fiona’s first book was published in 2006 and she now has twenty-four published books under her belt. She started her career writing heartfelt but humorous romances for Mills & Boon, but now writes romantic comedies and feel-good women’s fiction for Harper Collins, as part of their HQ imprint.
She is a previous winner of the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Scheme Award, has had five books shortlisted for an RNA Award and won the ‘Best Short Romance’ at the Festival of Romance three years’ running.
Fiona lives in London with her husband and two teenage daughters,

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Day That Never Comes – Caimh McDonnell

Crime Fiction 3*s
Crime Fiction
3*s

This is the second in the Dublin Trilogy written by stand-up comedian Caimh McDonnell and carries on his unique brand of crime fiction and humour from A Man With One of Those Faces onto the next part of Paul, Brigit and Bunny’s journey to see what happens after they form a private detective agency together.

The story doesn’t begin well though as Bunny is missing, Brigit and Paul have had a massive falling out and aren’t speaking and it looks as if their new venture is going to fail before it has even started. Due to the split with Brigit, Paul is holed up in their new office with Maggie, a German Shepherd dog for company. Despite appearances though there is plenty to laugh about from the start, in that ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ kind of way. And then a woman in a red dress makes an appointment requesting information on one of the men who has made money in a building venture, to the detriment of taxpayers and investors alike. What she wants to know is who he is seeing behind her back and has chosen the MCM Agency to help her. Paul has to rely on his friend Phil to act as driver as he trails the man while Brigit is busy looking for Bunny who has gone completely to ground.

Once again we have multiple story-lines to follow and plenty of intrigue with absolutely brilliant characters this book has a far more political feel to it. Even those of us who don’t live in Ireland know about the Celtic Tiger and the rapid downturn during the crash in 2007 where the money that had been pumped into Ireland, most specifically Dublin, which left the country with debts and empty offices. In The Day That Never Comes, one such fancy building has become home to political campaigners and the homeless making a stand against those few who made millions through dodgy dealings leaving their investors with nothing, but it all turns particularly nasty when the fraud trial of Hartigan, Blake and Maloney, the three big names in this venture, collapses.

Despite the introduction of some new characters, especially those in the Gardaí I missed the rapport created when the three characters worked together. In this book although they all appear and so  we see their individual investigations moving at a pace, the humour has a slightly different feel to it, so while it’s still very much in evidence, it has a slightly more sardonic comedy – not so much slapstick and far more blackness.

As for the plot well that’s fast and furious and very well executed with the different strands of story winding closer together. If you haven’t read A Man With One of Those Faces you might equate the mentions of humour within this story with a cosy mystery; please don’t. There are some brutal killings in this book which have no place in that genre. This is not a book for those with delicate sensibilities at all.

In many ways this book could serve as a warning to politicians and police forces alike as to what happens when the community you serve gets really fed-up with the decisions made on their behalf.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers McFori Ink for allowing me to enjoy another outing with these brilliant, and funny characters. The Day That Never Comes was published on 23 January 2017

First Published UK: 23 January 2017
Publisher: McFori Ink
No of Pages:  344
Genre: Crime Fiction – Humour
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Man With One of Those Faces – Caimh McDonnell

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

Paul Muchrone is a ‘granny whisperer’ – a what? I hear you say? What he does is visit the elderly in hospital and sits with them as if he is a relative. This all came about when he was visiting an old lady on the ward and he discovered his talent.

“While I was there, another lady on the ward – late stages of Alzheimer’s amongst other things – mistook me for her brother. They knew he wasn’t coming back from America and she had some things she needed to say, so – ”
“You did your trick,” she finished.

Paul goes onto explain that he helps out where needed, aided by just having one of those faces:

He had nothing that came close to qualifying as a distinguishing anything. His every facial attribute was a masterpiece of bloody-minded unoriginality, an aesthetic tribute to the forgettably average. Collectively they formed an orchestra designed to produce the facial muzak of the gods.

which is what brings him to St Kilda’s hospice where nurse Brigit Conroy asking him to visit one last patient – this time for some grandpa whispering for a change, but things don’t turn out quite as expected and Paul ends up in hospital. From here on in, things just get worse as the pair realise that they have somehow blundered into something neither had bargained for, and it soon looks like Paul’s life might be at stake.

I get that this all sounds rather farcical but the crime element of the story soon develops complete with a true-crime writer, the police and some terrifying gangsters making up the fantastic assortment of characters.

Much of the humour originates from Paul with his observational humour adding a cutting edge rather than detracting from the crime spree spreading across the pages of this surprisingly action packed thriller. Not only that we are treated to Paul’s backstory from a life in care to his stint on the hurling squad under the watchful eye of Detective Sergeant Bunny McGarry to his Great-Aunt Fidelma who was now controlling his life from beyond the grave. All of that sounds quite sedate compared to the situation he finds himself in where the only person he can trust is Brigit, and she’s a bit of a character too!

Her mam had often said that Brigit’s problem was she thought she was too good for an ordinary life, but she didn’t think that was fair. Brigit just felt that an ordinary life wasn’t good enough for anybody. It felt like she had been born in the safest and most boring time in human history. Everywhere the world had been discovered. Even outer space, it seemed, was full of, well just boring old space. There had to be more. There had to be some adventure, some magic, left in the world.

And then we have Detective Inspector Jimmy Stewart is just about to retire and he’s showing the ropes to and simultaneously trying to increase Detective Wilson’s film knowledge, to no avail. While on duty charged with Paul’s protection they come across something dodgy…

It surely wasn’t some kind of coincidence What were the odds that he and Wilson had stumbled upon an unrelated ambush? This was Dublin: assassination wasn’t that common a pastime.

With such a bunch of enterprising and entertaining characters this book was an exceptionally good read. The plot was well-thought out with the links to a past crime woven seamlessly into the present while the novel moves at a real pace, flipping easily between humour and terror so that I spent most of the book sat on the edge of my seat while chuckling. All the while there was an authentic (in my head anyway) Irish accent narrating the book to me. I really appreciated this lighter style of crime fiction which made a refreshing change. For those of you who read Caimh’s entertaining post  on my blog yesterday, only you can decide if this is too Irish and too funny – I say when is the next book going to be published?

I’d like to thank McFori Ink who gave me the opportunity to read this book. This unbiased review is my thanks to them for a riotous read.

Published UK: 30 August 2016
Publisher: McFori Ink
No of Pages 328
Genre: Humorous Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Normal – Graeme Cameron

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

Written in the poorest possible taste Normal follows the life of an unnamed serial killer as he hunts and brings down his prey. Don’t read this book unless you have a black sense of humour, which I fully admit to possessing but even despite this there were parts of this book that had me wincing.

I must confess I’ve read lots of books about serial killers, watched the entire eight seasons of Dexter so consider myself saturated in the horror and in some ways this book read like a pastiche of all these elements. Enter the super-intelligent, forensically aware killer outwitting the local police with his finely honed skills. We are given the barest whiff of an unhappy childhood that has accentuated his lack of compassion for his fellow human-beings although this reader suspects the seeds were already sown and then the killer finds someone who makes him feel things he has never felt before.

The enjoyment of this book is down to the humour which when directed towards the less-gruesome parts of the plot had me chuckling out loud:

It was with trepidation, then, that after a long afternoon on the road I found myself in something called “New Look”, uncomfortably unsure of what I was looking for and, indeed, at…

…The Staff was no help – two girls of around school-leaving age, preoccupied with inspecting their nails. They were big on teamwork where the customers were concerned; it took one of them to ring up each sale, and the other to fold and bag the merchandise. A single trained chimpanzee would perhaps have been more cost-effective. Needless to say, neither saw fit to offer me assistance, and I was left alone in my bewilderment.

“Like I said,” somewhat less convincingly,” I’m not going to do anything you wouldn’t approve of.” It was probably a lie, but on the other hand, I knew Annie only marginally better than she knew me, so there was always a chance that she was perfectly open-minded. One can always hope.

However I was far more disconcerted by the humour that appeared when our narrator was stalking women or deciding what to do about his latest catch, for me it felt like a step (or two) too far. To be fair there isn’t too much gruesome violence although this is far from a tame book, the author’s intention appears to be to push the reader far outside their comfort zone whilst simultaneously providing entertainment, for me this worked for the most part but did leave me feeling a little uncomfortable. To keep the story moving the author allows us to see our killer at his most vulnerable as he starts to develop feelings for a woman, this in turn causes him to see the futility of his lifestyle and he, almost, wants to change but will life conspire against him?

With an open-ended finale I wonder whether this may spawn a sequel which to be honest I will just have to read or perhaps it will be made into a TV drama?

I’d like to say a big thank the publishers Mira who sent me a copy of this unique book for review purposes. Having finished this book I find that Graeme Cameron’s sense of humour extends to his amazon profile which states that he has never worked as a police detective, ER doctor, crime reporter or forensic anthropologist, so now you know!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Hello From The Gillespies – Monica McInerney

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s
Contemporary Fiction
4*’s

I think we’ve all had the misfortune at some time to receive one of those cheery Christmas missives which inform us what a successful, enviable life their writer has enjoyed over the last year, often appended by photographs of the family looking suitably satisfied with themselves. Angela had written such a missive for each of the thirty-three years of her marriage, proclaiming her love of the Australian outback to those she left behind in England, her blissfully happy marriage and of course information regarding her four children’s equally happy and successful lives, to her neighbours, friends, doctor and a myriad of other recipients from near and far.

All those bright, happy letters, putting the best possible spin on their lives, making it sound as though the Gillespies were the luckiest, loveliest, most successful, well-balanced, supportive family in all Australia, and possibly even the world. She had always skipped over any troubles. Avoided mention of any tensions. Edited out any sticky subjects. It had felt like the right thing to do, even if she knew they sometimes sounded too good to be true.

This year Angela sits down at the family computer and can’t think of a word to say beyond the subject line ‘Hello From The Gillespies’ and instead writes a stream of consciousness about her children’s faults which include the delights of an affair, living a fake life, weight problems, over-dramatic and plain weird. She then moves onto her husband Nick who no longer talks to her, has become obsessed with family research and is planning a trip to meet Gillespies from all over the world in Ireland without her. With these details plus a toe-curling fantasy of another life in London, the path she might have taken if she hadn’t met Nick Gillespie, Angela has to abandon the letter to deal with a medical crisis. Little did she know that Nick having seen the Christmas letter had decided to be helpful and forward it to the 100 people on the distribution list.

At over 600 pages long I did wonder how the author was going to spin the fall-out of the letter laced with truth-serum, but she has cleverly added a twist that keeps the momentum moving and adding more warm-hearted details of a family under all kinds pressure. Monica McInereny manages to avoid the saccharine sweetness by keeping her characters real, especially those of her elder daughters who although pretty immature for their ages (early thirties) all come across as individuals with their own personalities, problems and sometimes novel solutions. The story spans the best part of a year in the life of the Gillespie family and although the ending was somewhat predictable it kept my spirits up as I battled the first virus of the winter season.

I received my copy of Hello From The Gillespies from the publishers Penguin Books (UK) ahead of the publication date of 6 November 2014 in return for this honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

Published by Penguin May 2010

Having read and loved The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, earlier this year I decided to pack one of her previous books for my holiday onto my trusty kindle. This book was chosen for light relief on the beach after lots of murderous crimes, and I’m so grateful for my sunglasses as there were, I hate to admit, a few teary moments.

Imagine how it would feel to have lost ten years of your live, particularly if those ten years included the birth of a child that you think you are pregnant with. This is what happened to Alice Love following an accident at the gym.

When Alice comes round she soon realises that she is no longer the same person she was back in 1998. Her friends, her sister, her mother and her husband have all changed and so has she. The premise to Liane Moriarty’s book is an interesting one, which leads Alice to remember who she was and confront the woman she has become. Alice turns to her sister to fill in the missing gaps but Elizabeth has suffered in the previous ten years and the book is punctuated with her homework for Dr Hodges. The third great woman that populates these pages is Alice’s adopted Grandmother Frannie. Unmarried Frannie stepped in and helped Alice’s mother when the loss of her husband meant that she was unable to care for her two young daughters. These fantastic, yet far from saintly, women add some special layer’s to Alice’s story.

This is a light read with lots of humour on the pages disguising a book which tackles the challenge of how to grow without losing sight of who you really are and what really matters to you. There are some incredibly touching moments as Alice struggles to mend the bonds in numerous relationships that over the years have stretched out of shape. Liane Moriarty is a master at writing about the domestic details of life which might sound boring but when illuminated with her humorous take on life creates a cosy feeling of familiarity so that I was rooting for everything to work out for Alice.

“Ben told me that Tom had just spoken on the mobile to Alice and according to Tom she didn’t say anything about falling over at the gym and she sounded “Just like Mum except maybe ten to fifteen percent grumpier than usual.” I think he’s learning percentages at school right now. ”

A wonderful read which caused laughter and tears to this reader, one which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to others.

Read my review of The Husband’s Secret by clicking on the cover
The Husband's Secret

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Dot – Araminta Hall

Women's Fiction 5*
Women’s Fiction
5*

Everything and Nothing was one of those books I didn’t simply love at the time of reading it, I still remember it now over two years later. Why did I love it so much? Because it was written so skilfully that I felt like I was actually viewing the story as it was revealed so I put Dot on my wish list, and kept my fingers crossed that after the long wait the next offering would be just as good. In my opinion it is. Reading this book gave me that magical feeling that I really knew the characters I was reading about.

Dot is a young girl, playing hide and seek in her Grandmother’s house with her best friend Mavis, when we first meet her. This is not just Dot’s story though. Araminta Hall expertly weaves many stories into a satisfying read with each one narrating their own part in an everyday if often tragic drama of family life. Dot, her beautiful mother Alice and her Grandmother Clarice all struggle to communicate with each other which is not the same as not loving each other. Mavis’s mother Sandra is trapped in a life of endless cleaning to stop her life falling apart and Dot’s absent father also has his own story to tell.

This is fundamentally a story about female relationships and how it can be hardest to reveal our secrets to those closest to us all told with an undertone of humour; `his lungs felt useless, as if he’d got them cheap in the Primark sale.’ The girls take on life had me smiling as I read the tragedy of lives not lived to the full.

This is such a beautiful story that I had tears rolling down my cheeks when I turned the last page.

My review of Everything and Nothing on Goodreads
Everything and NothingEverything and Nothing by Araminta Hall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came across this book as recommended by Amazon, one of those I was glad I looked into this psychological novel is even more eerie for the way the story slowly increases in tension.

It all begins when Agatha attends an interview for a position of Nanny in a chaotic household where both parents work.

She is determined to become indispensible and takes over the running of the household and managing the children wonderfully. Ruth (the mother) feels she is strugggling with motherhood, work and wonders if she was right to take her husband Christian back after he had an affair whilst she was pregnant, and life goes on with Agatha managing everything perfectly…. so what could possibly go wrong?

The book is so well written, the characterisation is brilliant, you feel like you are looking through the window at a real family as you read this.

This is not a book I will forget in a hurry!

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Water Clock – Jim Kelly

Crime 4*'s
Crime
4*’s

In the Water Clock Jim Kelly has produced a `comfortable’ crime story which implies that any murder happens out of sight with no violence…. Not true, but the style of writing and the wry sense of humour that accompanies it somehow gives a warmer feel . Philip Dryden a newspaper writer whose wife Laura in a coma drives around the fens using his personal cabbie, Humphrey Holt, gathering copy to phone through to the partially deaf copywriter at The Crow.

One of the trips leads him to a body in the boot of a car. Local policeman Andy Stubbs has something Philip Dryden wants so he investigates the murder. There are links to a robbery in 1966 on World Cup day which Dryden is determined to unpick.

This book was written over a decade ago that adds to the slightly old-fashioned feel. I loved the descriptions of the office workers at The Crow, the long memories of those who live on the Fens and the great writing. A good plot and likable characters has definitely put Jim Kelly as an author for me to read more of. I received this book through Amazon Vine.

Other books in the Philip Dryden Series

The Water Clock 2003
The Fire Baby 2005
The Moon Tunnel 2005
The Coldest Blood 2006
The Skeleton Man 2007
Nightrise 2012
The Funeral Owl 2013

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

The Rosie Project takes is a book full of comedy. Don Tillman, a Geneticist, has Asperger Syndrome but doesn’t realise it; cue many funny situations starting with him delivering a talk for his friend Gene. Don decides he’d like a girlfriend and after failing to come up with a solution to finding the perfect woman, hits upon the idea of producing a survey to weed out incompatible women. During the project he meets Rosie. Rosie fails to pass the survey but despite this he decides to help her in a quest of her own. The Wife Project is put aside to help Rosie.

Both Don and Rosie are lovely characters and there are plenty of laughs throughout the book as Rosie takes Don out of his comfort zone. This is a light-hearted read which is vastly different to my usual reading matter but I’m so glad I chose it as what I found was a funny, original and uplifting read. Although there is an element of romance I think this book will appeal to both men and women as the well-executed humour provides the foundation to this tale.

I’m sure it won’t be too long before Graeme Simsion’s debut novel is turned into a screenplay.

I received a copy of this book to review from Amazon Vine.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

When Lou Clark loses her job in a cafe she ends up working for Wil Traynor a quadriplegic and this is the story of how the experience changed her outlook on life. Describing this book is difficult as the subject matter sounds grim, but the writing and the humour, particularly between the lead characters, lifts the story and makes this a truly memorable read. That said there are some sad parts and I certainly had a lump in my throat more than once.

I chose this book having read Jojo Moyes latest book The Girl You Left Behind which was also brilliant.
I really enjoyed this book, Jojo Moyes has a real flair for writing with great characterisation including the minor characters. As well as the central tale there are themes of family relationships, education and living life to the full potential. A perfect book in every respect.