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

Pretty Baby – Mary Kubica

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

When the lovely Cara from Harlequin offered me a proof copy of this book many months ago I nearly bit her hand off as I loved this author’s debut novel The Good Girl. Determined to save it until nearer to the publication date I duly added it to the spreadsheet and hid it at the back of the TBR cupboard so I wouldn’t be tempted… then the doubt set in, could it possibly live up to that first novel? Rest assured if anything I enjoyed it even more! The author has produced a book that is totally different but in many ways even more engaging. The writing style is more straightforward, we have chapters and the characters actions, if extreme at times, have a clear link to the people they are which are based upon the effects of the life they have led. This clear character progression means that this book feels like it has more depth but loses none of the tension that made The Good Girl such an enjoyable read.

Heidi is a mother to pre-teen Zoe, wife to hot-shot financier Chris and fervent defender of those marginalised by society. She works with refugees and at times Chris feels she puts her client’s needs above those of her family while at the same time not losing sight of the fact that this was what attracted him to her in the first place. When she spots a young girl with a baby one April morning she is moved to help but I’m sure many readers will share Chris’s reticence that moving the girl into their apartment is really a good idea! She knows nothing about Willow and the girl doesn’t appear to want to share anything with Heidi although she allows her to help with baby Ruby who has suffered from life on the streets of Fullerton in the state of Illinois.

Heidi and Chris both narrate their version of events in the present tense however this is actually in the past in relation to Willow’s tale as told to Louise Flores. The direction her story takes quickly casts a dark shadow on the everyday happenings, well as everyday as things can be with a homeless girl and baby, in the Wood household. The three characters narrate the whole tale, each one heading up a new chapter.

This was one of those books that I knew more or less instantly that I would enjoy despite finding Heidi a little bit too sanctimonious for my tastes. As well having three-dimensional characters the storyline moves at a brisk pace with the tension ever-present in my mind from the first time we hear from Willow as I desperately tried to predict what events had caused her to be being questioned by Louise Flores. In another much-loved device, Willow is a fan of books so we have glimpses of her reading Anne of Green Gables to baby Lily, a quote from Peter Pan and some fun facts about all sorts of things which have been gleaned from non-fiction books. These touches whilst never truly relieving the tension, did temper my distrust of Willow, after all someone who loves Anne of Green Gables can’t possibly be all bad!

This was one of those books where I simply had to keep turning the pages, I needed to know what had happened and why and I’m pleased to say as the pace quickened towards the denouement it didn’t end up feeling rushed, and in my opinion the ending was a fitting one.

I highly recommend this book for lovers of crime fiction with a strong leaning towards the psychological, particularly those who enjoy complex characters and narration from different perspectives. Another definite winner from Mary Kubica; I can’t give more than the five stars I awarded to The Good Girl, but if I could, I would!

You can read my review of The Good Girl here

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

Teatime for the Firefly – Shona Patel

Historical Fiction 4*'s
Historical Fiction
4*’s

Having been born under an inauspicious horoscope Layla is sure her future lies in taking over from her beloved Dadamoshai, her Grandfather, at the English school. One day a visitor opens her eyes to a different life within a changing India. The drive for independence from British rule is gathering momentum and combined with the Second World War this means that life will never be quite the same again.

I really enjoyed this gentle and thoughtful book with some delightful characters who bring this historical novel to life. Learning what the war meant to Indians was a revelation; I didn’t realise that food was rationed there too. Inevitably given the setting in the tea gardens of Assam there was lots to absorb about how this famous tea was planted, pruned and harvested along with the management and rituals employed by the English managers with their own customs to uphold.

To be honest I was unsure whether I had chosen a book that I wouldn’t be able to finish not being a great lover of boy meets girl novels but turning the first page I immediately knew that this book was so much more than the romance.
I have to admit I was becoming a little worried about how this book was going to end but it managed a dramatic conclusion after the tender beginning.

If like me you are drawn by the beautiful book cover then rest assured this is one book that can be judged by it.If you like a book with a difference, love historical novels, reading about different cultures and meeting some fantastic characters I’m sure you will enjoy this book which is due to be published 24 September 2013
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book from the publisher in return for my honest review.