Bibliomaniac's Bookshelves: Summer Reading Round Up
19th August 2017
And so the holidays continue and so too, my mini reviews! Here's what has been going on in the book world of Bibliomaniac!
99 RED BALLOONS by ELISABETH CARPENTER
This book came with some impressive reviews from authors who I admire and whose books I devour so I was intrigued to read this new thriller.
The novel starts with a child being abducted. It's not violent or shocking abduction under cover of darkness - it's more chilling than that. It's premeditated and calculated as the child is coerced by an adult at school pick up. This is not a new or unexpected set up for a crime thriller novel but it is one that sent shivers down my spine and immediately put me on edge. I am forever telling my children not to go off with anyone - and it's not the cliched image of a stranger that I warn them about, it's the person claiming to know them, throwing a few details about me or them into conversation, or claiming that I'm waiting around the corner or running five minutes late, so reading this was like reading my worst nightmare. There was no way I could put this book down once I had started it.
The story continues with several narrative viewpoints including the child who has been abducted. These chapters were well handled as using the child's point of view and the fact that she is unaware of what is really happening to her ensured that the description wasn't too emotionally overwhelming. The reader was able to interpret the child's naive observations and although recognise the seriousness and danger of the situation, perhaps kept one step removed from it which considering the subject matter, was something I was grateful for.
Multiple narratives also allows the author to explore the situation from various points of view which is always a great device to create tension and drama. Carpenter uses this device to great effect when it quickly becomes clear that each character has something to hide. I like a book where the reader has to begin to see through what the characters are saying and look for hints, clues and revelations that will help to solve the mystery.
Initially I thought this novel would be relatively straightforward and the hook of a missing child was enough for me - I was actually gripped by the storyline following the abductors and watching them as they cover their tracks and try to disappear which surprised me but reflects the author's talent for characterisation. However, this book is actually multilayered and complex as a second storyline about another missing girl is introduced and from here on things become full of suspense, excitement and are woven together in way that is impressively accomplished for a debut author!
99 Red Balloons is published by 24th August 2017 by Avon.
THE WORD IS MURDER by ANTHONY HOROWTIZ
I heard Anthony Horowitz talking at Crime Fest in May and have been desperate to read this ever since! Horowitz has a magnetic personality, he is very charismatic and a fantastic speaker - and with this new fiction novel, he is the actual narrator (as himself, the real live Horowitz) so it is no surprise - just a huge relief - that his writing reflects his personality and presence. It really is like listening to him tell the story as if he were reading it just to you. I would love to hear this as an audio book recorded by Horowitz - it would be great fun!
The Word is Murder has an unusual premise. Horowitz, already working away on novels and scripts which he is contracted to do, is approached by an ex-detective, Hawthorne, who is now consulting on a murder case and would like Horowitz to accompany him and record it all in a book. And so begins an unusual, sometimes strained, slightly mismatched relationship which ultimately results in a partnership that is rather special and very entertaining.
Horowitz is a highly accomplished author and his writing is immediately engaging and very commercial. It's easy to relax into the story -although it might take a short while to get used to what is going on! The book starts with Diane Cowper entering a funeral parlour and arranging her funeral. Six hours later and she is dead. There is a slight digression as Horowitz recounts where he is in his career and all his achievements but there is an underlying sense of self depreciation throughout so it is charming rather than egocentric.
Anyway, the main reason this story is so appealing is because as Horowitz says, usually the hardest part of writing a murder story is thinking up the plot, but he doesn't need to do that here! Instead the intrigue comes from whether Horowitz and Hawthorne can actually solve the murder and secondly, how will Horowitz overcome all the challenges this writing project brings. There are some highly entertaining scenes - one involving Spielberg and the mysterious music playing from inside Ms Cowper's coffin at her funeral. There are also numerous passages that will amuse any crime fiction fan as Horowtiz muses on Hawthorne, the process of writing, selling his idea to his agent and subtle (or perhaps not so subtle!) references to other crime partnerships and legends in detective fiction.
Hawthorne is a captivating character - a great contrast to Horowitz and as astute and intelligent as Sherlock himself, yet direct, blunt and humourless which leads to several altercations and perhaps more drama, tension and excitement for the reader. It is difficult to tell whether you are reading fact or fiction, whether you are reading about real people or imagined characters, but all I know is that I couldn't put it down. Although the book starts in a slightly more unusual way and mixes up observations on being a writer, reflecting on the reader's expectations and the author's back catalogue alongside the discovery of a dead body, as it progresses it becomes more traditional in its execution. There is urgency, twists, revelations, complications, red herrings and a dramatic grand finale! The relationships and dynamics between all the characters are very well crafted and the whole book is exceptionally well executed.
The Word is Murder is an appreciation of the crime fiction genre and all the greatest crime fiction writers. It's a homage to our favourite detectives and our favourite side kicks. The Word is Murder follows the conventions of the thriller genre but it also feels new and original. I found this book refreshing, incredibly readable and actually, the word I want to use is delightful!
The Word is Murder is published by Century on the 24th August 2017.
THE PLEASURE OF READING by ANTONIA FRASER
This week I read an interesting blog post from @Pamreader called 7 Tips To Improve Your Reading Experience . I'm always interested in advice and suggestions for readers and always nosy about how people read and about people's reading habits. I think my reading experience is pretty sorted (1. Do it all the time whatever else is going on around you & 2. Read anything, everything, this, that and the other) but after reading Pam's article I followed two bits of her advice! The first was to look up this book she recommended and the second was to download it as a free sample first to see if it was my cup of tea or not.
So I can't really claim to review this book as I have only read the sample but it does look good! Antonia Fraser has complied chapters from 43 writers all talking about their reading experiences, how their reading has changed over time and which books have influenced them. There are chapters from Margaret Atwood, Melvyn Bragg, Carol Ann Duffy, Ruth Rendell and Sue Townsend to name a few. I think this would be a book I would enjoy dipping in and out of and would probably lead to me buying another hoard of books I have missed or forgotten about! I'm going to add it to my Christmas list as it would make a great gift for any book lover.
And don't forget to check out Pam's post if you want some sound suggestions about how to challenge your reading or get more out the time you spend reading!
The Pleasure of Reading by Antonia Fraser was published by Bloomsbury in 2015.
The Queen of New Beginnings
I was thrilled to be on the Blog Tour for Therese Loreskar's new book The Queen of New Beginnings as I was a big fan of her first novel, The Queen of Blogging. Loreskar's books are perfect summer reads - quick, fast paced, full of dialogue, written in diary like form and full of humour, entertainment, chaos and disasters as Kajsa tries to negotiate her way through her haphazard life with three children. A mixture of Bridget Jones and Miranda, I enjoyed this and the little bit of escapism and romance it brought with it!
Read my full review here.
THE JOINED UP WRITING PODCAST
As if it wasn't bad enough that you have to read my reviews and look at photos of all my latest books, this week you could hear me raving about books too! I was absolutely thrilled (and a quite a bit nervous!!) to be invited on to The Joined Up Writing Podcast to talk about one of my recent reads for their regular feature "BookBlogger's Corner". I hope you'll have a listen and I highly recommend subscribing to the podcast as well as it features some great interviews - and each episode has a different book blogger reviewing their latest favourite read!
You can listen to the podcast here: