Friday, 24 January 2014

Annual Review 2013 - plus chocolate

It’s New Year again already so time for a quick look back at the books we reviewed in 2013. Just a quick bonus blog as I’m very busy running and not eating chocolate (it is January)

The stand out books for me this year were without doubt Jojo Moyes – Me Before You and The Husbands Secret – Liane Moriarty. It’s hard to pick my favourite out of the 2 as they are quite different but I think for surprising me the most and teaching me never to judge a book by its cover I will choose Me Before You. It made me cry!

Must not eat chocolate

Worst book
We have had a few 5.5 looking back at the scores – Gone Girl, Sense of an Ending, Half the human Race but the lowest result from pretty much every one was Christmas Magic. Not about Christmas, too repetitive and predictable. Didn’t even give off a warm feel good Christmas glow that would have enabled us to give it higher marks.

I do not want to eat chocolate. Really. No I don’t.

Most attendance
We now have a massive 13 members and to be honest at times it can be hard to hear everyone if the pub is quite busy – wasn’t a problem this month funnily enough. If it goes on like this we may have to close doors or look at alternative venues which I really don’t want to do. Brilliant achievement though, thank you everyone for still turning up

I don’t even like chocolate. It tastes horrible.

Liked by all
The books that was probably the most well received by everyone was Tigers In Red Weather – Liza Klaussman. It’s a little cracker of a book and it’s a hard job to cater to everyone’s tastes in the Book Club.

Worth a mention
The Little Village School – Gervaise Phinn and Northanger Abbey – Jane Austin not necessarily loved by all but definitely (in the case of Northanger Abbey) by me.

Apples are SO much nicer than chocolate

And that caps a whole year of blogging – not a book missed! I have successfully completed last year’s New year’s resolution. Yeah!!!!!!!!! Told you the blog was short and sweet. Any others that stood out for you? Now must go back to avoiding chocolate.

Double Trouble!!

New Year, new book club – we had to review TWO books this time which is a first and at first a tall order (or so I thought). However even when working right up until Christmas Eve and having more Christmas parties than you could shake a stick at, by New Year I had read them both and was in fact on my second post book club book(s) read. Trueman Capote in Cold Blood and Dark Fire CJ Sansom if you must know.

The Silent Wife – ASA Harrison was first on my list as I managed to sneak it in with the weekly shop at ASDA.

I read this book super quickly as I found Harrison had an uncanny knack of getting me to read the next chapter without me even noticing. Never the less I found the book dragged and wanted the plot to move on quicker.

I didn’t like any of the characters even Jodi which confused me. On the face of it why wouldn’t I like Jodi – a badly wronged wife who was having her home taken away from her by her cheating husband who had gotten a girl half her age pregnant? I should have been cheering for Todd to die and willing Natasha/Natalie (can’t remember her name) to get her comeuppance. Yet I didn’t really care whether Todd went back to Jodi or whether Jodi tried to crush more sleeping pills into his tea.

Ironically Jodi wanted to avoid being like her mother by not marrying and not having children but she missed once crucial point - financial independence. In the end she ended up just like her mother - not saying anything, and look at damage she caused by not saying anything! Not just to her marriage but to her brother as well.

What was the whole thing with the hives/HIV? It had potential to be another twist in the tail – hurt Jodi even further, make it look as though Todd killed himself when he found out he was HIV positive instead of being murdered, even making it look like Natalie/Natasha killed him or had cheated on him and become infected yet it petered out to nothing.

I did skim read parts, thought it took a long time to come to Todds departure and then found the ending all too easily tied up.

The Group had a couple of interesting points to add to the above. One lady in particular thought that perhaps Jodi had killed Todd however the police couldn’t pin it on her and Dean who fit the bill took the cop for it. It was an interpretation I hadn’t thought of at the time but looking back it fit with Jodi backtracking from the whole situation stating she would have turned herself in and therefore she was really a good person. It was Jodi’s way of protecting herself and keeping things on a surface level that she did very successfully throughout the whole book. Her friends were seen on a rota system, her family not kept in contact with, everyone was kept at a distance including Todd. This was reiterated by the fact she only took on clients that had a certain level of mental illness – nothing that would push her or cause her emotional distress. She didn’t really seem to be close to anything. Looking at it from this point of view the book was sad in some ways as she entered into the relationship with Todd as seemingly relatively sane, he had no money, he adored her and asked her several times to marry her. Where did it go wrong?

I think I definitely got more out of the book from the book club than I did actually reading it and whereas usually I love finding different interpretations and meanings by the time of the meeting I had gone a bit past the point of caring so kept my score at a 6. The group overall gave it a 5.5. It varied massively in range from 10-4 so massively split the group.

Next on the list was Death Comes to Pemberley by PJ James a follow on from Pride and Prejudice (shock horror) that I really fancied reading. Now we have reviewed this type of thing before – Horowitz – Sherlock – House of Silk - which faired fairly so-so however P&P was legendary amongst our circle (my mum at least) so it would be interesting to see how it faired amongst diehard fans.

I liked the way it recapped over Pride and Prejudice so that at least readers who had not come across the story before (and there are some) knew who was who and what was going on. This carried on throughout the book and was required as James relied very heavily on past events to carry the story (not a criticism why wouldn’t you with P&P?)

The book is what you would expect in many ways, very English, polite society, ladies and gentleman which again I really liked. Am I a sucker for a good old English yarn? Northanger Abbey, Little Village School. Interesting hadn’t thought about that before.

I’m pleased she didn’t stray too far from where Austin left the characters – there was no killing off Jane or something equally as ludicrous, which is a good thing as nobody wanted to see Darcy dead or such like (Helen Fielding take note!) The book seemed to be quite warmly received by the group and when questioned seem to pick this as the main reason. They loved P&P and wanted a continuation of it without breaking away from the happy ending Austin had provided. The concept therefore of a murder mystery involving the characters but in no way putting them at risk was a good one.

Ignoring P&P, in terms of murder mysteries I didn’t find it the greatest, which is a surprise considering the author. I didn’t guess the killer but then how were we supposed to? (won’t comment more on this point in case you haven’t read it!). I also found there was too much going over old ground – the trial seemed to just rehash all that we had already discovered first hand. This was in addition to the substantial references to P&P. I wanted to read a new book not an edited version of the first which it sometimes felt like. I feel the word count could have been used to develop the mystery part of the book more as most of us approached the book with prior knowledge of the characters anyway.

I also found the book lacked the humour that P&P had. There were glimpses - the recap where town gossips decided that Elizabeth had set out to capture Darcy right from the moment she first clapped eyes on him but not enough for me. Yes I know it was a murder mystery and therefore humour would be short on the ground but I wanted more and I was longing for Mrs Bennett to make an appearance which she never did.

So, a very English, slightly disappointing murder mystery with one or two familiar names and faces along the way. But hats off to James she is one very brave lady to mess with Austin!

I gave it a 7 and the group gave it 7.5, quite even scores all round.

PS The group generally didn’t seem to like the TV version of the book the main reason being that the actor playing Darcy just wasn’t Darcy. Interestingly nobody picked this as a fault with the book thinking that James captured Darcy really well.

Next book The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

Question of the month – As mentioned above James isn’t the first to take on a well-loved book/author/character and give it their own spin. Bond, Sherlock, Peterpan. Are they automatically going to fail or do they have a place in their own right? Any good examples?