Review: A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh

lovely way to burn

This book sounded right up my alley – pandemic wipes out the city of London, everyones dying AND there’s a murder.  Yes.

Turns out this is a quick, easy read with nothing too taxing for the brain to handle – and just what I was in the mood for, but nothing mind-blowing.  The tension promises to build and sizzle, but ultimately it just fizzles.  The descriptions of London falling apart in the wake of ‘the sweats’ are interesting and scarily believable – it really feels like this is a thing that could happen, people.  But much of it was just a bit too convenient to be truly exciting.  This won’t scratch your apocalyptic itch but it may just hit the spot if you’re looking for an easy mysterious read.  The first of a trilogy, and as I have the second book already, I may as well continue and see how it goes … when the mood strikes.  3 stars.

3stars.jpg

 

 

Review: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

signs preceding

Translated by Lisa Dillman

I have to admit, booktube made me buy this one.  A couple of months ago, just about every booktuber I follow (a blog post about which will be coming soon …) had read this book, and the vast majority of them were raving about it.  And second confession … I adore this cover.  So with those two things combined, I had no hope of resisting buying this book.

Maybe I’m just not clever enough, because unfortunately I just didn’t get it.  I mean, it’s an engaging story, and the writing/translating is interesting. The main character has some struggles to overcome (I guess that’s putting it mildly!) and I did feel for her.  Herrera creates a vivid picture of the grim life of Mexican immigrants crossing the border into the USA, and he sure knows how to write a beautiful sentence.  But the whole way through this (very short!) book, I felt like I was missing something … it was almost there but I just couldn’t grab it, and this saddens me because I think I have missed something great.  Perhaps this is one for the ‘re-read’ shelf as I think I would get a lot more out of it on a second read.

All this is not to say I hated the book – I didn’t.  I enjoyed the story, the characters were well drawn and the writing almost poetic.  The translator’s note at the end of the book was very interesting and insightful, and it is clear that Lisa Dillman was diligent in her translation, and did a wonderful job.  An author to watch, I think.  3 stars.

3stars.jpg

 

 

Review: Good as Dead by Mark Billingham

good as dead

On a fairly regular basis, the mood strikes for a crime spree.  Crime fiction used to be my favourite genre and it is still one I delve into often.  I love a great police procedural, and have been a long time fan of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series.  I like to spread the books in this series out to make them last.  The 9th book in the series  (From the Dead) didn’t float my boat quite as much and I was a little disappointed, but I was confident that number 10 would see Billingham and Thorne back on top form.

Good as Dead is certainly a faced paced read.  The action unfolds over three days and Thorne needs to work quickly due to the hostage situation.  The plot is thoughtfully composed with all the requisite red herrings, clues and garden paths, and the tension is palpable.  But for all its’ pace and tension, I was left disappointed again.  Things seemed to tail off towards the middle-end and I feel this one could’ve done with a bit more editing.  I found the ‘love interest’ aspects quite boring and tedious and there was not enough of the great relationship between Thorne and Hendricks.  Sadly, I was left with the feeling that I may have outgrown Tom Thorne.  But this is by no means a terrible book – it is suspenseful, there is tension, and a good mystery … it just didn’t quite meet my high exceptions.  3 stars.

3stars.jpg

 

 

 

Review: The Book Collector by Alice Thompson

bokcollector

From the summary on the back of the book, I was looking forward to a dark, creepy, gothic read, and while this was delivered to a degree, I was not wholly satisfied.  There are certainly some dark and creepy elements within the covers of this book, along with some odd and quirky characters.  In places it is an uncomfortable read, with the feeling that something is prickling at you throughout the story.  But the outcome was fairly obvious from early on in the story, and because of this there was a distinct lack of suspense.

The writing is by turn simple and beautiful, but I also found it a teeny bit pretentious at points.  There are some gorgeous passages, however, and some astute observations of life in the Edwardian era which are just as relevant today …

Many years later, looking back, she was amazed at the capacity we have for not wanting to confront the truth. How the humdrum of our own lives, the security of habit and comfort, prevent us from questioning the clues and hints that the truth gives us.  We can ignore them, make excuses and forget whatever we want.

Although unsettling and fascinating at times, with some very dark moments, this book was ultimately unsatisfying and a bit of a disappointment.  I initially gave this 3 1/2 stars, but on reflection, it’s a 3.

3stars.jpg

 

 

 

Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino

Book Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino

I haven’t come across a great many crime novels written by Japanese women, so I was intrigued by this book.  Having said that, I bought this book in Borders, Oxford Street which closed down years ago, so it’s been sitting on my shelf, unread and gathering dust, for quite some time.

Out is a grim, gritty and grimy look at life in urban Japan.  It follows a small group of women who work the gruelling night shift in a bento factory.  They manage to get themselves into a bit of a pickle, shall we say.  The characters fall into a dirty world with no thought to the consequences of their actions, no questions and no qualms.  Just one simple idea – “what’s in it for me?”.  I think this book is a great example of a ‘horrible character/good plot’ story (as opposed to the ‘horrible character/horrible plot’ that is Gone Girl).  The characters are selfish, desperate human beings who engender no sympathy from the reader, but the complicated and intricate plot keeps you reading.  You need to know what happens to these despicable characters.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It didn’t quite grip me in the way I hoped it would, and one scene sticks in my mind for being so jarring and out of kilter with the rest of the writing – one scene that we see from two different perspectives; the only scene in the book that we see in this way.  It just didn’t sit right with me.  But it was interesting to read about the underbelly of Tokyo, where things are not so peaceful, tranquil and calm.  A good read, but nothing to blow your mind.  3 stars.

3stars

The Month That Was: August

August has passed us by and summer is drawing to an end.  I’ve had 6 weeks off work, probably the last time I’ll be able to do this as the kids are now teenagers and don’t need me around as much.  Thank goodness I found my reading groove again!  I managed to read 10 books in August, watched 4 films and 1 TV series 🙂  Here’s a quick roundup.

The Books

I managed to squeeze in10 books for August, the last one ending up  my highlight of the month!

24485858

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale was an impulse buy.  I went into town to get my haircut at this place where you just turn up without an appointment, but even though I got there 10 minutes before opening I was already 4th in the queue.  So I bought books instead, of course!  I got home and started reading this straight away, and then I pretty much didn’t put it down until I’d finished.  Beautiful writing; I wish everyone would read this book.  This one gets a rare 5 stars from me (my third of the year).

Other books read this month (reviews will be coming … if I ever get my act together!):IMG_7424

  • You by Caroline Kepnes – there’s been a lot of buzz around this book and I had high hopes, but I really didn’t like it very much at all and it was just a 2 star read for me.
  • Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell – I listened to this on audio through Scribd.  I liked it, it was a bit of fluff, easy to listen to with a few chuckles along the way.  3 stars
  • The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler – I feel like this one could’ve been so much better with a little more editing!  Swedish husband/wife duo author, so it fits with my global reading challenge. 2 stars
  • The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (who I keep wanting to call Ron Jonson!) – this was a fun non-fiction read.  His writing style is very conversational and this was an interesting look at the topic.  3 stars
  • The Reader by Bernhard Schlink – A German author, so another one for my global reading challenge.  I really enjoyed this story.  4 stars
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – Australian author, another for my global reading challenge.  A quick, easy read with a great plot.  4 stars
  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay – I’d been waiting for this one to come out in paperback.  Wow.  This one gets you right in the heart.  4 stars
  • Blue Is The Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh – French author, and also my first graphic novel! I read this on my kindle through Scribd.  A quick easy read was just what I needed after An Untamed State and this fit the bill perfectly, though of course the subject matter is quite serious.  I really enjoyed this.  4 stars
  • Little Face by Sophie Hannah – I think this was my dud of the month.  I’ve heard good things about Sophie Hannah and was really looking forward to this, but sadly it did nothing for me.  2 stars

What we watched:

IMG_7440

 

  • First up this month was The Enemy starring Jake Gyllenhaal … Oh my god this movie was awful.  Slow, boring, tedious, confusing – the ending had us both looking at each other with WTF looks on our faces.  3/10 from Dave and 2/10 from me.  Afterwards I read some reviews and most people are of the opinion that it’s better the second time around and has some deep and meaningful message that you’ll only understand if you research the film.  Well, I’m afraid I watch a film to be entertained – if I learn something while I’m watching that’s dandy, but I’m not going to go and do a load of research so I can understand what I’ve just watched, and then waste another 2 hours of my life watching it again!  No thank you 🙂
  • We then watched The Conjuring and holy moly was this film scary!  It really freaked me out.  Thoroughly enjoyable in that way only scary films can be!  7.5/10 from Dave, 8/10 from me.
  • Next was Dog Day Afternoon.  I’m ashamed to say I don’t think I’ve seen any Al Pacino films!  This film was really good – he is such a great actor.  It was a little dated, obviously, but it was fun to see the 70s portrayed authentically and we both really enjoyed this.  8/10 from both of us.
  • Gladiator with Russell Crowe was next.  I’d seen bits of it before and Dave had seen all of it before.  It was enjoyable, but it kind of dipped a little for me in the middle, and could’ve been 30 minutes shorter.  8.5/10 from Dave, 7.5/10 from me.
  • And finally we watched the first series of Peaky Blinders.  I had heard many many good things about this series and Dave bought me the box set for my birthday in January, so I was looking forward to finally sitting down to watch it.  We were hooked straight away and watched the first series over three nights.  Good story and great acting.  7.5/10 from Dave and originally I gave this 9/10, but if I compare it to Breaking Bad, our series barometer, I think I should probably downgrade it to 8/10 – it’s good, but not BB good!

Elsewhere in August:

  • Natasha received her GCSE results and did amazingly well with 7 A*s and 4As.  Her place at 6th Form College is all confirmed and she starts next week
  • A lot of lounging around was completed – outside in the sunshine when possible, or curled up indoors when it was raining (most of the time!)
  • Here’s the rest of August in a nutshell:
http://www.cookcreateread.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/august-flip.mov

And now I’m looking forward to September!

What was the highlight of your month?