Thursday, 20 July 2017

Mount by Jilly Cooper #inbetweeny

I'll start this blog with a warning, this post does contain spoilers. So if you haven't read the book then please don't read this blog, yet. Of course you should read this post just wait a little while until you've read the latest installment of Rupert Campbell Black (RCB).

Warnings out of the way I'll begin.

I was massively looking forward to reading this book having hugely enjoyed the previous ones. RCB is my (not so) secret trashy pleasure and has been for many years. This book had all the ingredients of a classic, pages of wonderfully named characters, a few tortured souls and of course RCB with all his horses, dogs and now grandchildren.

The book got off to a good start full of characters from old but also plenty of new ones to mix it up a bit. The horse's really played a starring role in this book but I also really loved Gav and at first Gala.

Yep only at first as she went strongly down hill and I bet you can guess why. RCB. Here is where I fell out with Cooper, why oh why after all these books would she allow RCB to cheat on Taggie? In these books bad guys cheat, get their comeuppence and the hard done to other half gets the hero. Here RCB was a complete shit to everyone throughout the book, Taggie got cancer and RCB lived happily ever after. How does that work?

The book was very repetitive at times,  Taggie was so overworked, Jan was always being a God send, and RCB either jetted off to China or shouted at everyone. I didn't get why RCB was attracted to Gala, after all the women who have crossed his path during the years and once Taggies cancer came to light the affair just seemed to be brushed under the carpet by everyone. Yes Gav got his happy ending but it was with Gala who we didn't like. For the first time I was dissapointed in an ending and if I'm honest the book which I haven't been before with any of the books in the series.

It was nice to see old faces reappear and Cooper has set it up brilliantly for another book - football just fits with this series but RCB really needs to buck his ideas up and Taggie needs to be given more of a role other than sticking moussakas in the freezer. My least favourite of my favourites. Which somehow makes it worse.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

A Long Finish by Michael Dibdin #inbetweeny

SPOILERS

I have to say this is the first crime book I have read where the detective didn't solve the murder. Not only that but in the end it was the rats who did the job.

I was interested to read this book having watched the television series a while ago. This was a story not turned into tv (or if it was I missed it) and I loved the food, Zens flu, the wine and the eccentric doctor.

It was quite funny in parts. Zen was certainly a strange one, definitely a councelling session or two needed there but the book lost me in parts and I think the title was laboured. Minot's character was particularly good, an excellent murderer but as I said at the start I found it very strange to read a book where the detective doesn't deliver the goods.

It was book number 6 in the series and I didn't struggle joining so late in the day however you glimpsed there was content in the earlier books that would have added to Zens character.

I won't rush out to buy all previous 5 books but if one landed on my lap I would give it a go. Easy to read, not too long and lovely setting.

Their Finest Lissa Evans

Another book another film deal making me think immediately of our recently reviewed Nocturnal Animals where a book that has been around for a while and has undergone a few name changes reaches a wider audience as the film hits the big screen.

The book had an original topic - England's film industry during World War 2 and I did really enjoy reading about the advertisements, Madam Tussauds and script writing.

There were quite a few characters and the book did skip around a bit between them all (a trait I am finding happening more often at the moment). A few of the group struggled with this and I must admit it did take me a while to remember who was who.

Evans characters were very likeable, particularly Ambrose however I love Bill Nighy (who plays Ambrose in the film) and I do question whether I liked Ambrose so much because I could envisage Nighy.

I found Edith and Arthurs story to be strange, the random proposal and the sudden 'Edie' moment. I also didn't believe in Catrin and Buckley and was pleased in a way with their ending.

It was predictable in parts, there were moments of humour, generally nice characters and some interesting insights into wartime London. It was also easy to read. I have to say though that the book just didn't do it for me. I can't put my finger on why, it was a bit bland, a bit slow but nothing that really justified me not liking it. A few of the group also felt this way with one person taking a particular dislike and marking it a zero. I think this was unfairly harsh but also don't think it justified the 10 another of the group awarded it.

The book ended up with a 6 overall which I think was probably about right. I won't be keeping it but if you are after a light hearted read this could comfortably help you pass an hour or two.

Next book is The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen #inbetweeny

Another weekend in the countryside, another book about rearing sheep! This was purchased from Sedburgh, England's book town apparently. I had wanted to read it for a while but high pricing on Amazon had put me off.  A trip to a cheap bookshop in Sedburgh later and I was filling the holiday houses roll top bath and diving in to both book and bath.

I was a little disappointed given the books strap line 'how I left city life behind to raise a family and a flock' to find that Owens previous life took place in Huddersfield where she left at an early age to gain experience farming. I expected a solicitor or an accountant who gave up living in London not a trainee farmer who met her farm owning husband and moved into a ready made farm. I did however enjoy the early stories of her farming experiences.

Those of you following the blog will be aware I recently read the excellent Shepherds Life by James Rebanks and where this book primarily differed was with Owens birthing stories. In the book she gives birth to 7 children non without event and I enjoyed reading them all.

In the book she clearly references the fact that her and her husband speak broad Yorkshire and I did wonder reading the book how much of the writing was her own words. There were a lot of occasions where a sentence would be said following three dots "clearly he wasn't as memorable to as she was to him..." which was quite distinctive throughout the book but equally the writing was very incongruous with the various "whoa, don't throw any more of these on t'fire till I've looked in 'em,"

I didn't necessarily agree with every aspect of Owens outlook on life and the book certainly didn't encompass the total devotion that Rebanks book oozed from every sentence. But if you're after a more light hearted, generic book about farming this is worth a browse (especially if you're in a roll top bath on holiday).

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

This was described as Dickens meets Bram Stoker and liking both of these authors I had high hopes.

The book was primarily chosen for its cover - especially nice in hard back, and whereas we hit gold with the Axemans Jazz chosen solely for its excellent cover The Essex Serpent didn't live up to expectations.

I liked the Dickensian parts, there were some excellent very Dickens like characters - Charles Ambrose, the man who lost his leg (was it Tom?) and the man who lived down by the marsh with his two goats (sorry can't remember his name either). Yet parts of the book were superfluous (Naomi and her disappearance) and the book seemed quite bitty at times - going to great pains to describe the ground breaking heart surgery despite it not being a book about medicine. Perry never really delved in to Cora's backstory with her husband other than to refer to her scar and how she envied how dogs were treated. It would have been an obvious point to expand and yet again illustrated how the book didn't flow quite right. It was put out there for the reader but not fleshed out enough.

I think my main problem with the book (and I appreciate I am on my own here) was the whole Cora/Will love affair. I strongly disagreed with this right from the get go. Will was a deeply committed vicar who by his own admission was deeply in love with his wife. When meeting Cora his wife was not ill (or at least not noticeably) (not that that would make an affair ok) and he had no reason at all to look elsewhere. Its something I've found I really don't like reading about (the affair in a previous book of the month, The Versions of Us really spoilt that book for me as well) so really the book was doomed to fail from my perspective.

I also was really disappointed with the serpent, all the little shadows here and the dark mists there (SPOILER ALERT) for it to turn out to be a big old fish and a rotting boat!!! Was I the only one who thought this?

I missed the meeting but apparently those of us who read it (and there weren't many) gave it an 8 out of 10 which is quite at odds with my take on the book. I can see why the group liked it, its old fashioned, gentile and a bit different to what's out there at present which on paper ticks all the boxes for me. However not even this or the attractive cover could rescue it for me.

I forced myself to finish reading it whilst on holiday and left it on the shelf of the holiday home we were staying in as it wasn't returning to my shelf!

Next book is Their Finest by Lissa Evans who tweeted me the best tweet ever about a goldfish named Seaton Deleval, long story.

Exile - Richard North Patterson #inbetweeny

Ok I'm a couple of books behind on my blog so this is an effort to bash a couple of posts out before bedtime.

This book had been on my bookshelf for literally years and I can't remember whether it was purchased for me or whether I actually picked it up. The topic - the conflict in the middle east was something I, to my shame, only knew snippets about. The book provided a vivid portrait of Israel and its complicated politics, along with the West Bank and the Palestinian movement. I must admit I did struggle getting to grips with who was on which side but Patterson spelled it out as clearly as he could.

I guessed the twist very early on and was disappointed it took the lead character, David, some 600 pages to work it out (I won't spoil it for you) but that does lead to my other criticism of the book, it was VERY long. At times it felt like the page count (nearly 800) was needed - the trip to the middle east (although totally pointless for the trial) was really interesting to read about and the chapters involving the suicide bombers had me gripped. Yet other parts of the story dragged and I found myself having to force myself to just 'get it read' which is never a good sign.

Surprisingly despite the page count there were a number of sections that were not covered in enough detail. Carol disappeared far too quickly, she sighted that David had always been holding back from her emotionally yet we didn't witness this and as soon as things turned slightly un-rosy she legged it despite having been thrilled to have set a wedding date only days before. David and Hana's back storey didn't cut it for me, if she was the love of his life this wasn't conveyed in the few pages that covered it and we were never really informed how David survived money wise despite having no paying clients for months on end as a result of representing a 'terrorist'. This coupled with David's casting aside of his political ambitions, condensed to a paragraph or two, could all have done with more words which wouldn't have worked as the book would then have been unmanageable as opposed to just VERY long.

I couldn't warm to Hana, I understand why she was quite self-contained but her interaction with David began to annoy me and the ending overall was a bit of a damp squib. I hated Hana's husband though, yet his ending too was a bit disappointing.

Overall it was a very difficult topic to write about, Patterson had obviously spent a lot of time researching and did offer up a picture of just how deep rooted and insurmountable the situation is. I would like to understand more on the topic but the book was too long, the twist too early given away and the lead characters just didn't get under your skin like they needed to.

Its already been removed from my book shelf!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Nocturnal Animals by Austin Wright

I had heard of the film Nocturnal Animals as it was nominated for at least one Oscar earlier this year. I hadn't seen the film however and wasn't aware there even was a book. There are in fact two books, one called Tony and Susan and one then re-released under the more eye catching name Nocturnal Animals.

It was this name coupled with the tense confrontation and kidnapping at the beginning of the book that made me instantly think there was going to be vampires. Maybe it was because I had just watched From Dusk Till Dawn but I have to confess I was excited when I thought a bit of blood sucking was going to be done. Unfortunately to my disappointment no vampires stepped forward. I wasn't the only one of the group though to initially think an american Dracula (Ray) v Van Helsing (Tony) was on the cards.

The beginning of the book (Tonys part at least) made me think of Stephen King. The family were heading to Maine, they were driving through endlessly open America and it looked like something horrible (and possibly supernatural) was going to happen to them. It was brilliantly tense and I loved it. A few people in the group found it so worrying that they either didn't read past this section or struggled through it as it made them feel uncomfortable.

It was after the fate of Tony's wife and daughter was decided that I feel the book started to fall apart. I found the police investigation ridiculous, as though it was brushed under the carpet by all except one cop who would randomly demand Tony to drop everything on no notice and travel cross country at his whim. I found the way Tony carried on afterwards to be quite, clinical? empty? I'm not sure how to describe it but it just seemed to be a series of robot motions, go stay with sister, eat, sleep, go back to work now, go attend a party. One of the group argued this was because Tony was a maths professor so his mind was very clinical and organised however his lack of emotion at any point really started to grind on me. I went with it during the car jack and when he randomly walked through the night before asking very politely if he could use the telephone but as time went on he appeared more spineless than anything and you just couldn't side with him or want him to win. A few of the group also didn't agree with Tony's affair with the student, I say affair but it wasn't really as he was of course a widow at this point. Again it just seemed cold, and unrealistic. Why were so many women attracted to him? I just didn't get it.

All the above is about Tony and there were of course two parts to the book. I found Susans family very confusing (was it the dog or her daughter who was sat on the Monopoly board?) and initially I thought there was going to be some sort of big reveal. Had Susan been in a similar situation to the car jack with Edward? Was the daughter in Tony's story really Susan and Edwards who Susan had blanked out for her sanity and Edward was trying to resurrect? Again I wasn't he only one in thinking the book could have gone down this path and a few of us thought it would have been better if it had.

The book had a very defined writing style, it was very naturalistic following the random thoughts of the particular character however I found it hard to follow and thought Wright made a mistake by having both Tony and Susan written in this style. I could understand Susan being this particular way but for Wright to make us believe we were reading a book written by Edward and then reading Susan's internal thoughts the writing style should have been more different between the two.

The ending to Tony's part of the story was also a let down. The end 'gathering scene' was just bizarre and almost comical where random women kept turning up (one conveniently called Susan just for Susan and the reader to think 'oh is this meant to be Susan?'). It was almost as though Wright wanted to create his very own Columbo/Poirot 'get them all in the room and reveal the killer but not before dissecting everyones character first' scene which just wasn't pulled off. A few of us also struggled to follow what actually happened to Tony and I confess by this point I didn't really much care.

Susan's ending was also a let down as nothing happened! Certain members pointed out that it was all about Edward getting revenge. Flatter Susan in to reading the book and then totally ignore her, leaving her stewing as he knew so well she would. On reflection I think this probably was Edwards intention however I didn't realise this at the time of reading. I will say that the book did prompt some good group discussion which always gains a point from me when it comes to marks out of 10.

There were some quite wide ranging scores (1-9) with an average of 5. I don't think I do the book an injustice by saying on the balance the group didn't really enjoy it. It was one of those books that it you don't like any of the characters (and who was there to like?) you are going to struggle as very little (apart from the really good beginning) happens.

Next book is The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. Sorry The Shepherd's Life I nominated you for book of the month but failed. Sad face.