February 2016 “Real Book” Month

All posts tagged February 2016 “Real Book” Month

Mini Pin-It Reviews #14 – Four Thriller Novels

Published September 18, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four thriller novels for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

What’s it all about?:

Until the moment he received a frantic call from his father, Daniel believed his parents were headed into a peaceful, well-deserved retirement. They had sold their home and business in London, and said “farewell to England” with a cheerful party where all their friends had gathered to wish them well on their great adventure: setting off to begin life anew on a remote, bucolic farm in rural Sweden.

But with that phone call, everything changes. Your mother’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things–terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and has been committed to a mental hospital.

Daniel prepares to rush to Sweden, on the first available flight the next day. Before he can board the plane, his father contacts him again with even more frightening news: his mother has been released from the hospital, and he doesn’t know where she is.

Then, he hears from his mother:

I’m sure your father has spoken to you. Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad. I don’t need a doctor. I need the police. I’m about to board a flight to London. Meet me at Heathrow.

Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a horrible crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

What’s it all about?:

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies, but this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams? If you’re Detective Versado’s geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe–and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.

If Lauren Beukes’s internationally bestselling The Shining Girls was a time-jumping thrill ride through the past, her Broken Monsters is a genre-redefining thriller about broken cities, broken dreams, and broken people trying to put themselves back together again.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Girl 4 (January David #1) – Will Carver

What’s it all about?:

Detective Inspector January David has always put his professional before his private life, but the two worlds are about to clash horrifically as he visits his latest crime scene. He is confronted by a lifeless figure suspended ten feet above a theatre stage, blood pouring from her face into a coffin below.
This gruesome execution is the work of an elusive serial killer. Three women from three different London suburbs, each murdered with elaborate and chilling precision. And as January stares at the most beautiful corpse he’s ever seen, he detects the killer’s hallmark. But Girl 4 is different: she is alive – barely. And January recognises her…

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) The Two (January David #2) – Will Carver

What’s it all about?:

They Kill Without Mercy. Disappear Without A Trace.

They are The Two.

And now the stakes are raised once more for Detective January David.

5 lie dead, brutally murdered – the first taken on the night of Halloween and as autumn bleeds into winter more ritualistic murders are discovered.

January must battle his demons, for in his mind lies the clue to stopping a ruthless murderer.

But his worst nightmares have literally come true when he discovers there’s not one but two twisted killers on the loose …

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT UP ON MINI-PIN IT REVIEWS: The first four books in the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher.

 

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

Published September 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The “volcanically sexy” (USA Today) bestseller about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction.

What did I think?:

I first came across the wonderful Sarah Waters in her novel Fingersmith that I read in my pre-blogging days and remains on my bookshelves as one of my favourite books. Goodness knows why it took me so long to get around to another one of her novels, I’ve had them on my TBR for ages! However, when The Paying Guests was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction in 2015 and I had heard nothing but rave reviews for it, I knew it was time to pick it up. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve come across a book for a long time that is so incredibly close to that five star, perfect read. The Paying Guests was a heady mixture of gorgeous writing, tantalising characters and a plot that shook me to my core with the unexpected nature of it all.

I’ll just briefly describe what the book is about and I’ll try to be as vague as possible as frustratingly, there’s a lot about this novel that I simply can’t tell you and I do very much hate spoilers in a review. It is the 1920’s, post war in Britain and Mrs Wray and her daughter Frances have realised that times have changed. They have lost all the men in their family – three sons to the war (their deaths having a daily, ruinous effect on the household) and Frances’ father who recently passed away and left the family in terrible debt. As a result, they are forced to take in lodgers or “paying guests” hence the title of the novel. The arrival of married couple, Lilian and Leonard Barber makes an enormous impact on both Frances and her mother and has dire consequences for the rest of their lives.

I simply can’t say anymore than that, I really want you to discover it all for yourself. There are twists and turns in the narrative that I have to say, I did not see coming and was absolutely delighted to discover a story with so much convoluted detail, both in plot and with Sarah Waters’ endlessly fascinating characters. Frances at first comes across incredibly prickly, bitter and difficult but as we get to know her better she becomes so intriguing and she still plays on my mind long after finishing the novel. Lilian too is beautifully drawn and just as captivating to read about, especially in the second half of the story where certain incidents precipitate a thrilling and tense situation where I had no idea how on earth Sarah Waters was going to wrap it up. The sheer allure of the writing, the atmosphere of post war London which the author captures to perfection, and these amazing characters means Sarah Waters is instantly pushed onto my list of favourite authors and I’ll certainly be getting to another one of her novels as soon as I can.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

Wolf Winter – Cecilia Ekbäck

Published September 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A brilliantly written and gripping historical Nordic Noir thriller with all the intrigue and atmosphere of Burial Rites, the pent-up passion of The Piano and the suspense of The Tenderness of Wolves.

There are six homesteads on Blackasen Mountain.

A day’s journey away lies the empty town. It comes to life just once, in winter, when the Church summons her people through the snows. Then, even the oldest enemies will gather.

But now it is summer, and new settlers are come.

It is their two young daughters who find the dead man, not half an hour’s walk from their cottage.

The father is away. And whether stubborn, or stupid, or scared for her girls, the mother will not let it rest.

To the wife who is not concerned when her husband does not come home for three days; to the man who laughs when he hears his brother is dead; to the priest who doesn’t care; she asks and asks her questions, digging at the secrets of the mountain.

They say a wolf made those wounds. But what wild animal cuts a body so clean?

What did I think?:

There were so many things that immediately appealed to me when I first found this book and was determined to have a hard copy for my shelves. For example, the cover is incredibly simple yet very effective and I find it quite striking and eerie – a perfect accompaniment to the story within. Secondly, the synopsis for the novel really pulled me in and made it one of those books that I instantly had to bump to the top of my teetering TBR. In the end, I really enjoyed this debut novel from Cecilia Ekbäck, it is filled with suspense, is dramatic and atmospheric and has a sort of quiet dread or menace throughout the narrative that constantly thrilled and delighted me as I made my way through the story.

Our main character is Maija who comes to settle on the foreboding Blackåsen Mountain with her husband Paavo and her two daughters, Frederika and Dorotea. In the harsh climate of Swedish Lapland in 1717, each day surviving, foraging for food and maintaining their shelter in the harshest of conditions is a bonus and there is no room for idleness or hesitation when navigating through the ice, wind and snow. There are only five other homes on the mountain, the neighbours tend to keep to themselves and it is rare to see another person out and about on the land that isn’t your own family. When Frederika makes the shocking discovery of the body of Eriksson, one of their neighbours whilst herding goats one day, her whole world is turned upside down. The attack is put down to wolves but Maija is certain that no wolf on earth could have made the marks that present themselves on Eriksson’s body. Furthermore, when she tries to voice her worries she meets a wall of silence, not only from the other surrounding neighbours but from the authorities in the village down from the mountain. Someone out there is determined that secrets should stay buried and this may not bode well for Maija if she carries on fighting in pursuit of justice.

This is such a beautiful piece of Scandinavian fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the historical setting and the mystery behind Eriksson’s death but what I loved most of all was the lyrical writing and the entire atmosphere of the novel which was set up so gorgeously I could almost feel the ice cold temperatures and the bitter wind as I was reading. Strong female characters are always an added benefit to a narrative and Cecilia Ekbäck treats us to two in the form of Maija and her daughter Frederika who were wonderfully persistent and brave and in Frederika’s case, wise beyond her years. I was also overjoyed by the superstitious elements that characterised parts of this novel which only served to make the setting bleaker, darker and infinitely more intriguing. It has an intricate plot, plenty of surprises along the way and is written so gorgeously that I could see myself reading it over and over again. I’ll certainly be watching out (with gleeful anticipation) for what this author does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Published August 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

What did I think?:

If you’ve not heard of A Little Life before now where the devil have you been? Critically acclaimed, this incredibly powerful novel was short-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction in 2015, was a finalist for the National Book Award in the same year and won the Kirkus Prize in Fiction, also in 2015. I jumped on the bandwagon a bit later (as usual!) in February of 2016 but because of my back-log in reviews I’m only getting round to reviewing it now. There is also the minor fact that I can’t seem to form any coherent thoughts about it without wanting to turn into a blubbering mess but we’ll leave that to the side for now!

A Little Life is not an easy read, far from it and as a result may not be for everyone. There are trigger warnings for physical and sexual abuse but the entire novel felt like an insanely emotional roller-coaster for me. The story follows four friends in New York and we learn a little bit about each of their lives and the bonds of friendship that tie them all together. However, we mainly hear from Willem and more specifically Jude, the latter of whom has undergone major trauma and suffering in his past – trauma that still deeply affects him in his everyday life, threatens to spoil his future happiness and has the potential to ruin relationships with those dearest to him. Throughout the novel, we learn more about what Jude’s mammoth struggles, both in the past and in the present, learn more about him as an individual and, in the end, suffer with him as it seems like his disturbing past will be a cross to carry for the rest of his life.

As I mentioned earlier this book is incredibly harrowing and deals with some intensely difficult subjects. If you find abject misery and trauma hard to read about, this book might not be for you. I hesitate to say that I “enjoyed” this book, enjoy is not quite the right word as the topics I read about were so awful at times I found it hard to keep turning the pages. It’s quite strange, by about fifty pages in, I honestly couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and was seriously considering putting it down. Yet by about one hundred pages, I was completely invested in the characters and their lives and if someone had tried to tear the book out of my hands, there might have been trouble! This might sound very silly but it’s a novel where when I finished it, I actually felt changed as a person and that feeling has stayed with me over a year later as have the characters of Willem and Jude. I can’t stop thinking about them or about the fact that I know what it feels like now to have your heart break into pieces when you read an astounding story such as this.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

The Sparrow (The Sparrow #1) – Mary Doria Russell

Published July 28, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet that will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question what it means to be human.

What did I think?:

I first found out about The Sparrow from the wonderful podcast Books On The Nightstand which is sadly no longer running. I will always be grateful for it however for introducing me to books like this which I may never have picked up in the first place. You may or may not have heard of The Sparrow, it’s not exactly a recent release being first published in 1996, but has had much critical acclaim over the years even winning the coveted Arthur C. Clarke award for science fiction in literature. To be perfectly honest, when I first started this novel, I really wasn’t feeling it. It’s definitely what you would call a slow burner but by about halfway through, I realised that both the plot and characters had got completely under my skin and I could not put it down.

If you don’t know what it’s about, you might raise your eyebrows cynically when I tell you and I only need to use three words. Jesuits in space. I knew you were going to make that face but stay with me here! Our main character is a Jesuit priest, Emilio Sandoz originally from Puerto Rico with a great talent for linguistics. He is chosen to be one of a team of people, all with individual talents of their own i.e. anthropology, medicine, science, diplomacy to go on a life-changing mission in space. Strange music has been heard and communicated to Earth and has been tracked to a particular planet, known as Rakhat. The group has been tasked with visiting the planet, meeting with the local alien lifeforms living there and researching as much as they can about their world for the purpose of science and obviously for the benefit of Earth if communication and trade between the two planets were to be an option.

However, when we first begin the novel (in the future, circa 2060 or so), we find that Emilio has returned from the mission alone with grossly mutilated hands and things that he absolutely refuses to talk about. He spent three years on Rakhat but around forty years have passed on Earth since he has been away. We switch between two different timelines, the present time where Emilio is being questioned about just what happened on the planet and the mission itself where we see the whole truth for ourselves. His story is both fascinating and terrifying and is a real emotional journey that encompass a number of themes – the different ways faith can show itself, love in all its guises, science and how we communicate with others and eventually, pure horror and hatred.

Let me just say this might not be a book for everyone, I completely understand that some people will just not gel with it and that’s okay, we can’t all like the same things, right? The slow but steady pace at the beginning might really put some people off but I think if you do manage to connect with the story, which I did when I pushed on, you could find something really astounding that will stay with you for a long time. I’m not the biggest fan of science fiction myself, I was one of those people that didn’t really love The Martian by Andy Weir but, to be honest, I haven’t read too much science fiction to be the best judge. When it’s done right, like its done here in The Sparrow, I could definitely be a convert. There’s a lot of characters to get to grips with and that can be quite overwhelming but they are all written so beautifully it didn’t take me too long to get my head round whom everyone was. The plot itself is so convoluted and intricate but so very clever, I’m in absolute awe of Mary Doria Russell’s writing ability and prose construction. It’s everything I wanted from a novel, the scientific parts are not too taxing/dry, the sad bits destroyed me and the horrific parts still play on my mind months after finishing the story. If you’ve read this, I’d love to talk about it, if you haven’t and love science fiction please, please give this a go!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Mini Pin-It Reviews #10 – Four Thriller Novels

Published July 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four thriller novels for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) Panic Attack – Jason Starr

What’s it all about?:

An intruder, a desperate struggle, a family under siege: This is Jason Starr’s most provocative and suspenseful novel to date.

Dr. Adam Bloom has the perfect life. He’s financially secure and lives in a luxurious house with his wife, Dana, and their twenty-two-year-old daughter, Marissa, a recent college graduate. Late one night, his daughter wakes him up and says, “Somebody’s downstairs.” Adam uses his gun to kill one of the unarmed intruders, but the other escapes. From that moment on, everyone’s life in the Bloom household will never be the same.

Adam doesn’t feel safe, not with the other intruder out there somewhere, knowing where he lives. Dana suggests moving, but Adam has lived in the house all his life and he doesn’t want to run away. As the family recovers from the break-in and the Blooms’ already rocky relationship rapidly falls apart, Marissa meets a young, talented artist named Xan. Adam feels that something’s not quite right with Xan, but his daughter ignores his warnings and falls deeply in love with him. When suspicious things start happening to the Blooms all over again, Adam realizes that his first instinct about Xan was probably dead on.

With Panic Attack, Jason Starr is at his best, crafting a harrowing page-turner that will blow readers away.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) The Book Of Souls (Inspector McLean #2) – James Oswald

What’s it all about?:

Each year for ten years, a young woman’s body was found in Edinburgh at Christmastime: naked, throat slit, body washed clean. The final victim, Kirsty Summers, was Detective Constable Tony McLean’s fiancée. But the Christmas Killer made a mistake, and McLean put an end to the brutal killing spree.

It’s now twelve years later. A fellow prisoner has just murdered the incarcerated Christmas Killer. But with the arrival of the festive season comes a body. A young woman: naked, washed, her throat cut.

Is this a copycat killer? Was the wrong man behind bars all this time? Or is there a more frightening explanation?

McLean must revisit the most disturbing case of his life and discover what he missed before the killer strikes again . .

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) The Good Girl – Mary Kubica

What’s it all about?:

‘A tremendous read’ – The Sun

Now optioned for a major movie by the company behind Winter’s Bone, Babel, Being John Malkovich and the TV series True Detective.

A compulsive debut that reveals how, even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems…

I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the colour of her eyes or what they look like when they’re scared. But I will.

Mia Dennett can’t resist a one-night stand with the enigmatic stranger she meets in a bar.

But going home with him might turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life…

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

4.) The Shut Eye – Belinda Bauer

What’s it all about?:

Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.

And now they are all his mother has left.

Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity.

When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it. Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…

But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable?

Or is he something far, far worse?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Author Requests.

February 2016 – Real Book Month

Published February 7, 2016 by bibliobeth

bookstack

Every other month I set myself a little challenge to complete which alternates depending on the month from Chrissi Cupboard Month and Real Book Month to Kindle/NetGalley/Review Copy Month. This February it is the turn for real books, which is one of my favourite months. I have a HUGE backlog of books just itching to be read and its a way of trying to get that pesky TBR and my own book collection down to er…more manageable levels, if at all possible! This February I shall mostly be reading : –

The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill

Wolf Winter – Cecilia Ekbäck

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

The Shut Eye – Belinda Bauer

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2) – Ransom Riggs

The Farm – Tom Rob Smith

Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

The King’s Curse (The Cousins’ War #6) – Philippa Gregory

I think this must be one of my most exciting real books months to date. I literally cannot wait to read ALL of these books. Some have been languishing on the TBR pile for far too long, like Heart-Shaped Box, the debut novel from Stephen King’s son Joe Hill. Others are relatively newer additions, like The Sparrow which was recommended to me from one of my favourite podcasts, Books On The Nightstand. I have heard so many great things (also from BOTN) about the Man Booker short-listed novel A Little Life and having loved her debut novel The People In The Trees, I’m so so excited to get to this one, hence why it’s nearer the top of the list.

Other novels I’ve been meaning to get to is Hollow City, the second in the fabulous Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series – please see my review for the first book HERE. Lauren Beukes novel, The Shining Girls was one of my top reads for 2013 and I cannot wait to read her most recent novel, Broken Monsters which has been staring at me from my bookshelves for quite a while now! The Paying Guests will be my first novel by Sarah Waters and I’ve heard amazing things. I know my blogger friend Cleo over at Cleopatra Loves Books loved it and it will be quite exciting to compare thoughts with her once I’m done. Finally, I’m looking forward to a bit of historical fiction and one of my favourite authors, Philippa Gregory with the final book in her Cousins’ War series.

This is going to be a great month, I just know it!