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Talking About Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore with Chrissi Reads

Published August 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

From the bestselling author of A Week in Paris, and the Richard & Judy Bookclub pick A Place of Secrets, comes a gripping and moving story spanning 70 years, set in Italy and in Norfolk. 

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Andrewsbecomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey.

In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Hartmann, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen.

When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your initial impressions of this book? Did it hook you from the start or did it take you a while to get stuck into the story?
BETH: I have to admit, like a lot of books in the past (and very recently!) I judged this book by the cover again. WHY do I keep doing that?! I thought it looked like a bit of a fluffy, contemporary romance which is a genre I’m not really into but I was willing to give it a chance, especially when you told me that you thought I would enjoy it and that it had a historical edge that reminded you of one of my favourite ever books, The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. However, I do have to be honest and say I wasn’t initially hooked by the beginning. When a narrative flows across two time periods, I often find myself preferring the historical tale and this was the same initially speaking, for Last Letter Home too.
BETH: In one of the very first scenes, Briony in contemporary times is trolled for some remarks she makes on feminism on a TV show. How do you think this affects her self esteem initially in trying to find information out about her mysterious grandfather?
CHRISSI: I think initially, Briony was really knocked by the after effects of the TV show. It takes her a while to get over how she was treated in the aftermath. Trolls are evil and can totally affect your self-esteem and self-worth, so this was utterly relatable. I feel like Briony was quite unstable at the start of the story and deeply affected. However, getting stuck into finding out more information about her grandfather draws Briony out of her shell and begins to give her some self belief. She has determination, that’s for sure.
CHRISSI: Do you think the dual timeline worked for this story?
BETH: At the beginning, it took a little while for me to get into it. I kept getting the main character in the contemporary time period, Briony messed up with Sarah in the historical period and it took me a little while to get their stories and who they’re involved with in the present time straight in my mind. However, once I had got this sorted, I really enjoyed how the dual time periods told such a fascinating story (from BOTH women’s points of view) and there were certainly secrets revealed that I wasn’t anticipating.
BETH: Were you aware at any points of the men “not to trust” and the men “who could be trusted,” in the narrative? Was it interesting to see the parallels between Briony and Sarah’s own lives?
CHRISSI: I’m always wary of characters in books which might say something about me. I was sure that Paul could be trusted as he seemed to be such a sweetheart. I loved reading about his interactions with Sarah. I really enjoyed the dual narrative of this story. It was interesting to see how Briony and Sarah shared many qualities with one another. They were both persistent, driven characters in their own time. I also liked how both story lines had elements of betrayal and deceit within them.
CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite narrative?
BETH: The historical narrative was hands down my favourite narrative. Although its not as overtly romantic as The Bronze Horseman, I can really see why you made that connection. I felt so awful for Sarah and her love interest in the novel, the strange triangle she found herself in and how other people’s attitudes at the time affected how she should be behaving/where she should be looking for a husband. I only wish we had heard more about her younger sister, who I found an incredibly intriguing character.
BETH: Sarah and her younger sister both have to deal with death at quite a young age – how do you think they cope with this as individuals?
CHRISSI: Good question! Sarah definitely dealt with the death in the family better than her younger sister. Sarah became really supportive towards her family. Sarah’s sister very much closes herself off from talking about death. She appears to be coping less well but I can’t say too much without spoilers! 🙂
CHRISSI: Did you feel like the chapters based during WWII were realistic?

BETH: I did. It wasn’t overtly graphic but it felt really authentic. It was simply the story of how normal people cope in extraordinary circumstances when food is reduced, danger is prominent and they are forced to live their lives they may not necessarily have imagined living them. One of the stand on scenes in the entire novel for me has to be when Paul is sent away to Italy as part of the war effort and has to witness a very difficult event, something that ends up changing his life forever.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I think it would depend on the subject matter. I did really enjoy Rachel Hore’s writing and the story was interesting, but she wasn’t an author that I’d read automatically when her book released.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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Talking About The Party by Elizabeth Day with Chrissi Reads

Published July 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A gripping story of obsession and betrayal, privilege and hypocrisy, set in the unassailable heart of the British establishment.

As the train pressed on, I realised that my life was in the process of taking a different direction, plotted according to a new constellation. Because, although I didn’t know it yet, I was about to meet Ben and nothing would ever be the same again.

Martin Gilmour is an outsider. When he wins a scholarship to Burtonbury School, he doesn’t wear the right clothes or speak with the right kind of accent. But then he meets the dazzling, popular and wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice, and gains admission to an exclusive world. Soon Martin is enjoying tennis parties and Easter egg hunts at the Fitzmaurice family’s estate, as Ben becomes the brother he never had.

But Martin has a secret. He knows something about Ben, something he will never tell. It is a secret that will bind the two of them together for the best part of 25 years.

At Ben’s 40th birthday party, the great and the good of British society are gathering to celebrate in a haze of champagne, drugs and glamour. Amid the hundreds of guests–the politicians, the celebrities, the old-money and newly rich–Martin once again feels that disturbing pang of not-quite belonging. His wife, Lucy, has her reservations too. There is disquiet in the air. But Ben wouldn’t do anything to damage their friendship. Would he?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but what were your initial impressions of this book from its cover?

BETH: I have a confession to make. I do that judgey thing and judge a book by its cover. I have been proved wrong in the past – for example, I really didn’t like the cover of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and as you know Chrissi, I adore that book. What can I say? I think a cover really sells a book and if you can market it “prettily,” you’re onto a winner (with me at least!) I have to admit for this cover? I just found it a little bit dull and unfortunately, it didn’t inspire me to read the book at all. In fact, if I saw it in a bookshop I wouldn’t pick it up on the basis of this cover alone. Luckily what was inside proved to be much more fascinating in the outside so time and time again, I must not judge!!

BETH: What did you make of Martin’s relationship with his wife, Lucy?

CHRISSI: Oh good question! I felt a bit sorry for Lucy actually. I feel like she always came second for him. He was far more concerned with his friendship with Ben than his relationship with his wife. She must have seen his neediness for his friend and wondered why that wasn’t there in their relationship. I felt like she was so loyal to him despite him constantly pushing her boundaries.

CHRISSI: How can we tell Martin is an unreliable narrator?

BETH: From the very beginning. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that when we first meet Martin, he is being questioned in a police station. That isn’t to say he’s done anything wrong, there was an “incident” at a party and he is being asked what he knows. We soon find out what’s gone on in due course. As a reader, it does make you think what could have happened though, especially with the evasive way he is answering some of the questions…..
Then we get more information about his childhood and his relationship with the host of the party and the way he talks to and reacts to certain people makes him all the more intriguing.

BETH: Can money buy you happiness? Does being part of a wealthy elite change the way the Fitzmaurices behave to others not in their circle?

CHRISSI: I don’t think money can buy you happiness. I think it can help your life and help to reach the goals you may have for yourself. I definitely felt like the Fitzmaurices behaved in an incredibly entitled manner. They were obsessed with the power money held over others. Martin certainly enjoyed the high life when he was with Ben. I don’t think they were very kind to others in a lower class than themselves.

CHRISSI: To what extent did the narrative structure (where the bulk of the plot takes place over the course of one evening with flashbacks to the past) heighten the tension?

BETH: I love narratives like this. We hear about the present time, where as I mention, Martin is being questioned about what happened on that night, then it flits back and forward from the present day, to episodes where Martin is at school and as a young adult. As a reader, I wanted to get back to the questioning parts to try and get a clue about what exactly had happened but at the same time I wanted to get back to Martin’s past too as there’s definite clues there about his relationships and the reasons why they end up the way that they do.

BETH: Did you anticipate where this story would lead? Were you surprised by the outcome?

CHRISSI: I wasn’t really sure where this book was going to go. I did love the element of mystery. I also loved how I thought I was steps ahead and knew what was going on, but I wasn’t always right. For me, the ending was a little abrupt and it left me wondering what was going on or going to happen.

CHRISSI: Does this book fit into a genre?

BETH: This is such a hard question! On Goodreads it’s defined into quite a few categories – mystery, thriller and contemporary to name a few but I think it falls quite nicely into literary fiction too. It certainly has aspects of all of these genres, the intrigue where we don’t know what’s going on, a modern setting and a thrilling plot where we’re never quite sure of our characters’ motives.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I did enjoy reading it, even if it felt a little slow in places for me.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Talking About Persons Unknown (DS Manon #2) by Susie Steiner with Chrissi Reads

Published July 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The sequel to Susie Steiner’s bestselling MISSING, PRESUMED

Manon has settled back into life in Cambridgeshire with her adopted son Fly. She’s perfectly happy working on cold cases until a man is stabbed to death just yards from the police station, and both the victim and the prime suspect turn out to be much closer to home than she would like. How well does Manon know her loved ones, and are they capable of murder?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: We read Missing, Presumed, the first book to feature Manon. Do you think you needed to, in order to read and enjoy Persons Unknown? Why/why not?

BETH: Hmmm, interesting question. Normally I’m a stickler for reading series in order but I know other people aren’t that precious, especially if the book in question can easily be read as a stand-alone. I think Persons Unknown is definitely one of these books and I don’t think you need to read the first novel in the series necessarily as they are both completely different cases that Manon is involved with. However, if you’re anything like me, you like the background of the character and how they’ve got to this point in their lives. Also, I do think that Manon’s experiences with her adopted son Fly will be better understood if you read Missing, Presumed.

BETH: How did you find the relationship between Manon and her adopted son, Fly? Do you think this is threatened at all by her pregnancy?

CHRISSI: I think Manon and Fly’s relationship was difficult. He had come from a troubled, prejudiced background and needed time to adapt to his new surroundings and family environment. I felt that Fly did feel threatened by her pregnancy. Fly had come from a difficult background and probably felt like his adoptive’s mum pregnancy would affect his relationship with her. After all, the unborn baby was biologically hers. No matter how much she adored Fly, which I truly think she did, it has to have an affect on him.

CHRISSI: There are links to corruption in high finance and the exploitation of young women. Does the way Susie Steiner addresses these very contemporary concerns shed new light on them for you?

BETH: I have to admit, I don’t have too much knowledge on these subjects in general except what I see in the news. So, it was refreshing to get this perspective in a novel, especially with all the Cambridge Analytica horrors that have been exposed in the media recently. I did feel after reading it that I had a better understanding of corruption and the forms it can take and obviously, felt complete abhorrence at what happens to the young women that are exploited in this story.

BETH: Manon moved Fly from London to Cambridgeshire in order to keep him safe from prejudice and violence. Was she right to do this?

CHRISSI: I think Manon’s intentions were honourable. She didn’t want Fly to suffer from prejudice and be around violence. Part of me thinks that she should have stayed in London to teach Fly how to deal with such things. Prejudice and violence can be seen anywhere in the country, let alone anywhere in the world. I’m not so sure she wasn’t teaching him to run away from his problems.

CHRISSI: Does this book stand out in its genre?

BETH: For me, it does. There’s something quite refreshing and unique about Susie Steiner’s writing and characterisation that always makes her novels interesting to read. I love the slow pace of the plot, the development of Manon and the gradual reveal of secrets where you can never quite predict what’s going to happen.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I think I would. She’s not one of my favourite writers, but I think her books are interesting and I’m certainly not turned off by her books or her writing. Actually, it’s credit to her that I do enjoy her books. I’m not a fan of crime-led fiction!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Sapphire Widow – Dinah Jefferies

Published June 29, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A sweeping, breath-taking story of love and betrayal from the Number One Sunday Times bestselling author of The Tea Planter’s Wife.

Ceylon, 1935. Louisa Reeve, the daughter of a successful British gem trader, and her husband Elliot, a charming, thrill-seeking businessman, seem like the couple who have it all. Except what they long for more than anything: a child.

While Louisa struggles with miscarriages, Elliot is increasingly absent, spending much of his time at a nearby cinnamon plantation, overlooking the Indian ocean. After his sudden death, Louisa is left alone to solve the mystery he left behind. Revisiting the plantation at Cinnamon Hills, she finds herself unexpectedly drawn towards the owner Leo, a rugged outdoors man with a chequered past. The plantation casts a spell, but all is not as it seems. And when Elliot’s shocking betrayal is revealed, Louisa has only Leo to turn to…

What did I think?:

The Sapphire Widow is one of the books picked by Richard and Judy for their Summer Book Club list this year and I was delighted to see it there having thoroughly enjoyed one of Dinah Jefferies’ previous novels, The Teaplanter’s Wife which I read and reviewed with my sister, Chrissi Reads. However, I finished this book feeling generally disappointed and a bit deflated, despite the number of very positive reviews it has on Goodreads and from my fellow bloggers. There are some wonderfully positive things about this novel, I hasten to add (and will mention them later) but for me, it was ultimately far too predictable. I hate to say but it was almost as if I didn’t need to read until the end, I could have told you what was going to happen much earlier than that.

Dinah Jefferies, author of The Sapphire Widow.

This novel is a work of historical fiction set in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in the mid 1930’s. We follow a young woman called Louisa Reeve in the early years of her marriage to Elliot as they struggle with devastating multiple miscarriages. When Elliott meets an untimely end, Louisa is forced to forge through life on her own, all her previous dreams and wishes appearing to be null and void. She must also grapple with the huge and life-changing secrets that Elliott has left behind after his death and wonders if she ever really knew her husband at all.

I think that synopsis says pretty much everything I’d like to say – I don’t think it’s a spoiler to talk about Elliot’s death to be fair, I mean shouldn’t the title of the book give a little bit of a clue? Anyway, first I want to talk about the positives because there were some very pleasing things about this novel that I enjoyed and has led to me giving it the eventual rating that I have. First of all, Dinah Jefferies is a wonder with creating a setting. The beautiful Ceylon scenery, the animals, the weather, everything is written so evocatively that you can almost imagine yourself there, the heat bearing down, the strong smell of the spices and the sound of the exotic creatures that call Ceylon their home.

Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where The Sapphire Widow is set.

This is an author who has been there, done that and can create a sense of place in such vivid historical detail that you are right there with our characters, seeing what they see and feeling what they feel. It’s one of the reasons why I feel so bad for having ANY criticism of this novel at all, there’s an obvious audience out there that it would resonate much more with than myself and who might enjoy the whole romance and predictability of the situation! Sadly, that just wasn’t me. I have to admit, I was initially wary when I began this novel as you are immediately told the nature of our female lead’s multiple miscarriages. As something I’ve struggled with myself, I was concerned that it would be too hard to read but luckily, I ended up coping well.

Louisa was a perfectly likeable character and I enjoyed how her nature developed into something much more independent and stoic, despite her major hardships in life when she is forced to confront her darkest fears. However, one of my pet peeves in any novel is predictability and that has a huge effect on how much I enjoy a novel as a whole. I’m certainly not going to go into any spoiler territory at all but I was so disappointed that I could literally predict every single little thing that was going to happen to Louisa many chapters before it happened. Unfortunately, this meant that when these events did occur, the whole surprise and spontaneity of the narrative was completely lost and in turn, it lost me as a reader because of this. I’d have loved it if the author turned things around, threw us some red herrings, took the story in a direction we weren’t expecting, surprised us a little bit?

And yes, yes I know, this isn’t a thriller or even a work of crime. It’s a beautifully descriptive historical fiction that plonks the reader straight into 1930’s Ceylon. I get that. It’s just a shame as I mentioned before, to read a story where you already know the story before you’ve finished it, if that makes any sense? However, if you’re looking for a gorgeously detailed love story with a pleasant female lead and some interesting character development, look no further. I’m sure Dinah Jefferies will continue to delight her current fans and manage to amass many more. If you’ve read it, I’d love to know what you think!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Talking About The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans with Chrissi Reads

Published May 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans is the spellbinding new novel from the Top 5 Sunday Times bestselling author of A Place for Usand The Butterfly Summer. Fans of Kate Morton’s The Lake House or Santa Montefiore will delight in this book. 

Harriet Evans is ‘perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Maeve Binchy’ Best

Tony and Althea Wilde. Glamorous, argumentative … adulterous to the core.

They were my parents, actors known by everyone. They gave our lives love and colour in a house by the sea – the house that sheltered my orphaned father when he was a boy.

But the summer Mads arrived changed everything. She too had been abandoned and my father understood why. We Wildflowers took her in.

My father was my hero, he gave us a golden childhood, but the past was always going to catch up with him … it comes for us all, sooner or later.

This is my story. I am Cordelia Wilde. A singer without a voice. A daughter without a father. Let me take you inside.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your initial impressions when you looked at the cover of this book?

BETH: I thought it was pretty, I liked the night sky and the hint of wild flowers (which are mentioned quite a lot in the novel as well as being the surname of the family). However, I don’t think it gave you much idea of what the story within contained. Sometimes this can be a good thing and you are pleasantly surprised by what you find but generally speaking, I like my covers to have a tiny hint of connection with the narrative.

BETH: This novel is told from multiple perspectives. How did you find this worked for the story?

CHRISSI: I have to admit that I often struggle with multiple perspectives. It can be really hard for a writer to engage every reader with every perspective. I did find it hard to enjoy one particular perspective. I do think this somewhat hampered my enjoyment of the book, because I found myself skimming the parts of the perspective that I didn’t enjoy that much. That’s not a reflection on the author’s writing, it’s just that one perspective didn’t work for me… tricky! However, I do think it worked to have multiple perspectives for this story to really delve into the plot.

BETH: What did you make of Madeline’s relationship with the Wilde children, Ben and Cordelia?

CHRISSI: Ooh, I thought Madeline’s relationship with them was fascinating. Madeline made such an impact in their lives right from the get go. I thought her relationship was particularly obsessive, bordering on stalker-like. It was interesting to read her diary entries to see just how much she picked up on about Ben and Cordelia. It did leave me feeling a little uneasy though. I feel like we really got to know who Madeline really was through her diary entries.

CHRISSI: To be born with exceptional talent can be a blessing and a curse. How are the characters in The Wildflowers affected and afflicted by theirs?

BETH: Good question. The Wildes are an infamous family in the small town on the Dorset coast where they have a country home. Both Tony and Althea, the mother and father in the equation are both actors. Tony, at first is the most popular and incredibly sought after for work in London but Althea comes into her own during the story. The daughter, Cordelia is at times, transfixed by her parents success and in the end, she becomes a famous singer and the brother, Ben a respected director. For all parties concerned, their fame and fortune has a detrimental effect on family life, their health, their relationships with each other and with people outside the family circle and leads to multiple secrets and betrayals.

BETH: There are unlikeable characters in this novel. How did you enjoy reading about them?

CHRISSI: Some unlikeable characters are awesome to read about. I love it when I hate an unlikeable character. It means the author has really got under my skin and I think that’s quite a talent. I wasn’t a fan of Ben and Cordelia’s parents. I thought they were incredibly self-obsessed. This is one of those stories though, that as it progresses, you begin to somewhat understand why the characters have behaved in the way that they did. Madeline, however obsessed she was, fascinated me!

CHRISSI: If Aunt Dinah’s letter had been found when it was written, how would it have impacted Tony’s life? Which events might have played out differently? And why?

BETH: It would have completely turned Tony’s life upside down – in a good way. Unfortunately it is not found until a long time later when Tony is unable to do anything about what Aunt Dinah says in the letter. By then, he has made countless mistakes, wrecked his close relationships which has led to certain members of the family becoming estranged. He would have been comforted by what he found in the letter I think and his whole life, including his relationship with his wife would have been very, very different.

CHRISSI: Did this book surprise you in any way?

BETH:  A little bit, yes. I anticipated some big twists and turns and there were certainly plenty of those. Unfortunately, I did have a little inkling of what was to come so I wasn’t completely surprised with one of the big reveals. My biggest surprise was probably an incident with Tony as a young man and his Aunt Dinah’s friend Daphne. I couldn’t quite work out why this event was in the novel and I wondered if it was entirely necessary?

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I have read a few books by Harriet Evans before and I would do again in the future. I used to be quite the fan but my reading tastes have changed over time. It was nice to go back to her writing after quite a break from it!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH:  Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

 

The Midnight Line (Jack Reacher #22) – Lee Child

Published May 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Reacher takes a stroll through a small Wisconsin town and sees a class ring in a pawn shop window: West Point 2005. A tough year to graduate: Iraq, then Afghanistan. The ring is tiny, for a woman, and it has her initials engraved on the inside. Reacher wonders what unlucky circumstance made her give up something she earned over four hard years. He decides to find out. And find the woman. And return her ring. Why not?

So begins a harrowing journey that takes Reacher through the upper Midwest, from a lowlife bar on the sad side of small town to a dirt-blown crossroads in the middle of nowhere, encountering bikers, cops, crooks, muscle, and a missing persons PI who wears a suit and a tie in the Wyoming wilderness.

The deeper Reacher digs, and the more he learns, the more dangerous the terrain becomes. Turns out the ring was just a small link in a far darker chain. Powerful forces are guarding a vast criminal enterprise. Some lines should never be crossed. But then, neither should Reacher.

What did I think?:

Oh dear, here we go. Unpopular opinion time. Before I get into it though, I have a little story about my experience with Lee Child and the Jack Reacher series. In that I have no experience at all! I actually had the first seven Jack Reacher books on my shelves to read before my boyfriend and I moved from London and to make moving a little easier, I had a giant cull of my books. I had the above mentioned Lee Child’s for years, languishing at the back of my bookshelves and just never getting round to them. Then I had to be brutal with myself. I have a huge amount of books as some of you might know and I had to be real – firstly, was I excited about these books? Secondly, when was I ever going to read them? So I decided I obviously wasn’t excited if they had been on my shelves that long and I probably wasn’t going to read them anytime in the next decade so off to the charity shop they went.

Any Lee Child’s here? Probably.

Now, you might know that I follow the Richard and Judy book club here in the UK quite religiously with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. Any books that we do read on each seasonal list, we usually discuss in a “Talking About” feature and if she doesn’t fancy reading any of them, I will read and review them on my own. I was kind of surprised to be honest when I saw the latest Jack Reacher novel on the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club list. I don’t think any of the author’s books have been featured before and it was interesting that they chose the twenty-second book in the series as one of their “must reads.” Initially, I was quite pleased to see it there. Finally, I could read a Lee Child book and see what all the fuss was about! It didn’t matter that it was quite far on in the series, I was pretty sure each novel could be read as a stand-alone and on finishing it, I can confirm this is the case.

Lee Child, author of the popular Jack Reacher series.

I read The Midnight Line on a trip home to see my parents and sister and I’m so sorry to admit that I was bitterly disappointed. I quite literally had to force myself to pick it up and read it and am kind of kicking myself that I just didn’t give it up when I realised I wasn’t enjoying it. No, no I MADE myself continue, even though I was barely concentrating on the story anymore, there were entire passages that I confess to skim reading, just to get to the end a bit sooner. Sadly, as my sister can probably confirm, I was finding other distractions, like looking at social media on my phone or checking train times (when I already knew the train times) just to avoid picking up the book again.

I won’t talk too much about what the book is about as the synopsis does that pretty well. In a nutshell, it’s about Jack Reacher, former military officer, freakishly tall and incredibly badass with morals and a heart of gold. He finds a small ring in a pawn shop one day that foxes him as he recognises the brand from a school he used to be part of. He starts to worry what has happened to the woman who once earned this ring as it’s something he doesn’t believe anyone would give up lightly. Therefore, he vows to find out the story behind the ring’s owner and try to help wherever he can.

So yes I was quite intrigued by this synopsis initially, especially as to what exactly had happened to the woman who owned the ring. Unfortunately, the story that unfolded wasn’t half as interesting as I had anticipated. I won’t give anything away for anybody who hasn’t read it but perhaps my main problem with the plot (and occasionally the male lead) was that I just found it somewhat unbelievable. If you’re a Jack Reacher fan, you might know that he gets compared to Bigfoot and The Hulk, something I struggle to comprehend with Tom Cruise being cast in the role but that’s besides the point. In one particular scene in the book, he faces off with a number of big biker men surrounding him (I think there are five, but I can’t quite remember). Now, I understand that Jack is a huge ape of a man and has had military training which obviously makes him quite handy in a fight but he manages to kick these guys asses by himself with barely a scratch on him at the end. Sorry, just don’t believe that would happen!

Theatrical release poster for the Jack Reacher film starring Tom Cruise. Image from: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37219725

There’s also various scenes involving drugs, the possession and use of drugs and Jack threatening and even following through with his threats to the “baddies,” in the narrative. Some of these things are carried out either right in front of law enforcement individuals or with their knowledge and nothing ever happens/or is said to Jack about his part in breaking the law. He just seems to get away with everything. Again….don’t believe it! I do understand that sometimes you have to suspend your disbelief in a novel and personally, I’m fine with that in magical realism or fantasy. If it’s a thriller/crime/mystery novel, I like to have an element of authenticity and if this goes beyond the realms of what I particularly believe in, I apologise but you’ve lost me as a reader.

I do want to end with positives as I really don’t want this review to be one long rant. If I’m writing a more critical review, I really like to say nice things too, there’s no sense in being rude. Lee Child has written a very popular series which is famous world-wide and obviously, a lot of readers are invested in it and thoroughly enjoy Reacher’s adventures. Perhaps the problem with this novel for me was that it was the twenty-second book in the series. Therefore, I haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know Jack Reacher from the beginning. I’m being quite judgemental about his character but maybe if I HAD read the series from the start, I would have connected a lot more with both his background, personality and his way of going about things. I just want to assure Lee Child fans that this is just my personal opinion, it may have not been the best book to start the series with and I’d love to hear from you about the books you’ve read and why you enjoy them. Are all the books in the series similar? Should I give Jack Reacher another shot?

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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Talking About Close To Home (DI Adam Fawley #1) by Cara Hunter with Chrissi Reads

Published April 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone YOU KNOW.

Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents’ summer party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out…

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, CLOSE TO HOME is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions about this book before you started it?

BETH: I really try not to have preconceptions about any book before I read it but I think it’s human nature, you do make a snap judgement depending on how the book looks and what you’ve heard about it. Luckily, I had heard only good things and if anything, the preconceptions were basically high expectations based on the number of positive reviews I’ve read and the fact it was picked for the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club list this year. Always a good sign! However, we do know there have been books that have been chosen that we haven’t particularly loved – would this be one of them? No chance. I adored this book and believe it’s the start of a hugely promising crime series that I’m now desperate to follow.

BETH: Our lead detective, DI Adam Fawley is reported in this novel as also experiencing tragedy in his life. Were you as eager as me to know his back story?

CHRISSI: So very desperate. I loved how it was teased throughout. That sounds like I mean that I was happy he experienced tragedy, not at all, I just loved the way the details were drip fed to us. Anticipation. I really wanted to know what had happened to DI Adam Fawley. I was intrigued throughout and wanted to know what had happened to him. I grew to love him as a character and felt like I could feel his pain through the pages of the book. He’s not real, Chrissi, he’s not real!

CHRISSI: What does this novel say about children and the world they’re growing up in now?

BETH: Interesting and very tough question! And I’m going to try and do this without spoilers….One of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the use of different media to tell the story. For example, we have Twitter feeds, news articles, interview transcripts etc. and not only did this give an alternative look at the story from a number of points of view, it broke up the narrative in a really fun-to-read way. However, I think it illustrated perfectly how powerful and dangerous social media can be in distorting views, inciting hatred, giving false information and potentially endangering lives. We already know from the very start of the novel that Daisy has disappeared with someone “close to home,” and it makes you wonder if you can really trust anyone – a terrifying thought.

BETH: Who do you think is a better parent to Daisy, Barry or Sharon?

CHRISSI: Well this is an evil question, Beth! They both have their flaws. Definitely. I have to say that I doubted them all the way through at different points in the story. Cara Hunter is awesome at keeping you guessing, I have to say. If I had to choose it would be Barry. I think. Argh! I don’t know. I don’t like this question, Beth. I don’t know if I’m picking Barry because I intensely disliked Sharon!

CHRISSI: Cara Hunter sets her novel in Oxford, a place that’s been portrayed many times in crime fiction. What do you think of her version of the city?

BETH: I’ve visited Oxford a couple of times now (once with you fairly recently!) and I loved Cara’s version of this beloved and well-known city. I enjoyed that we got to hear about a few staples of the city, like the spires but it generally felt much more focused on an ordinary street with very ordinary people living there but where an extraordinary and very traumatic thing has occurred. I liked how the author focused on the community around the Mason family, what they saw, how they connected with the Masons and how they reacted to the event.

BETH: Without spoilers, did you see this ending coming and what did you think of it?

CHRISSI: That ending! Oh my goodness. I don’t want to spoil it at all, so I’m going to be very careful around discussing it. It deserves to be read without knowing what’s going to happen. If you manage to get it without spoilers (like I did!) then your mouth might drop open…a bit like mine did. I definitely didn’t see it coming. As I mentioned before, Cara Hunter totally kept me guessing. The ending that happened never, ever crossed my mind. Mind blown.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in the (heavily) populated genre?

BETH: It’s up there with the best in my opinion. As I mentioned, I loved the way in which Cara Hunter styled this novel and used a vast array of other media to tell this tale. It felt unique, different and was a clever little break from a cliffhanger in the narrative that just made you want to read as fast as you could to get back to the main crux of the novel and find out what happened next! These parts were ever so important however as they brought vital information into the case of Daisy Mason that you wouldn’t want to miss by glossing over these sections. There was not only a stellar plot (and THAT ending) but I absolutely adored all the characters, even those you love to hate. They were frank, authentic, fully formed and I felt just as interested in them as I did in what happened to Daisy. Can’t say enough good things, it was brilliant.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes, yes I would. I have automatically downloaded the next book in the series on NetGalley, which I’m super excited about. I tend to find crime fiction a bit overpopulated and a little bit samey, but I’m happy to say that I found Cara Hunter’s book to be incredibly unique and well worth reading. It kept me captivated throughout. I’m excited to see where this series goes.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

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Close To Home by Cara Hunter was the twenty-seventh book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!