Monday, 31 August 2015

Review: House of Silence

House of Silence House of Silence by Linda Gillard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first Linda Gillard novel I read, a couple of years ago, was Emotional Geology, and on the basis of that book she became a 'must-read-all-her-other-novels' author for me. Tempted as I am to read them all one after the other, I'm pacing myself, so this is the second one, so far.

Gwen is invited to spend Christmas at the stately home of her boyfriend Archie, but she quickly realises that he may not be the person she thought he was. Add in an eccentric family, a quiet, brooding cello-playing gardener, and some torn-up fragments of old family letters, and Gwen finds herself caught up in the middle of an increasingly puzzling and mysterious family drama.

I had no idea where this plot was going, but I really enjoyed uncovering all the secrets of the Donovans. There were quite a few characters to keep in mind, all very likeable, and the story was told from different viewpoints. I sometimes found this a bit confusing, but that is a reflection on me and not the book, which was very well-written. Although the subject matter had a dark side, it was dealt with sensitively, and there was actually a lot of humour in the story.

This was a very enjoyable novel, with an intriguing plot and great characterisation. I've already started reading my third Linda Gillard book (so not doing so well at 'pacing myself' after all) and look forwards to reading all the others.

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Sunday, 9 August 2015

Review: The Risk of Darkness

The Risk of Darkness The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the third installment of the Simon Serrailler novels by Susan Hill. I read the first one, The Various Haunts of Men, a few years ago, but only got around to reading the second one, The Pure In Heart, a few days ago. As I had this book on the shelf, I thought I might as well dive straight in while the story was still fresh in my mind, as this novel continues on from book two.

Quite early on in the book we find out the identity of the person who abducted a child from his garden, and that revelation in itself is a bit of a twist. By the end of the book the person in question hasn't confessed or given any reason or motive for their crime - I'm assuming it will be followed up in book #4.

I don't think it's a spoiler to say that there are a few deaths throughout this book, and although they are not all connected to each other, they are tied together in one way or another either by Simon, or his sister Cat (a local GP).

In The Pure In Heart I found Simon Serrailler to be quite an enigmatic, appealing character, but I didn't feel that as much in this book. He is an introvert, and so am I, so I can definitely relate to that side of his personality. However, he came across at times as very self-absorbed and selfish, and I hope that those attributes aren't assumed to be a normal part of introversion. I also wasn't too impressed with his treatment of his ex-'girlfriend' (if that's the right word for her), even though she came across as quite annoying.

As I mentioned in my review of The Pure In Heart, the chapters relating to the missing, presumed murdered, children, I found very hard to read. I'm not saying that I was completely immune to them before, but since I became a mother myself, I find they really affect me, and make me feel quite upset.

I thought this was a well-written story - not a straightforward crime, or detective, novel because it focuses more on the relationships of all the characters, rather than just being a straight 'whodunnit'. But I can't say that I really enjoyed it, because of the subject matter and the effect it has on me. I actually felt very down when I'd finished it, a bit like when you've watched a news bulletin full of tragic events. I think I should avoid novels like this, so I don't think I'll be reading any more of the Simon Serrailler series.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Review: The Sea Detective

The Sea Detective The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Started: 28th July
Finished: 2nd August

The 'Sea Detective' of the title is Cal McGill, a PhD student who has spent years studying ocean currents, tide charts, wind data etc in order to track oil spills, containers which have gone overboard, fishing nets... and also to determine how and why bodies (or body parts) wash up on particular shores. He started in this line of research after learning that his grandfather had been lost at sea.

The book switches between the exploits of Mr McGill, and the ordeal of two Indian girls, Preeti and Basanti, who have been sold into the sex trade by their families.

One of the girls eventually tracks down Cal, who, along with Detective Constable Helen Jamieson, helps her find out what happened to her friend.

Meanwhile, Cal is also learning more about the events that led to his grandfather's death.

I really enjoyed this book. It begins with the journey taken by Preeti and Basanti to... well, they don't know where they have been taken to, or even how long they've been travelling. It was an interesting, though harrowing, start to the novel. Then things slowed down a little, because Cal is brought in for questioning by the police due to his other little 'sideline' - a bit of political eco-activism. However, this is where we are introduced to him and find out more about his oceanography research. We also meet Helen Jamieson, who turns out to be very likeable - I imagined her being similar to Olivia Coleman's character in Broadchurch. She actually enlists Cal's help to get one up on her boss, which was one of those "yeah, you go girl!" moments.

The storyline concerning Cal's grandfather was interesting, but I got confused several times about which relative he was talking about, and there were a lot of other characters mentioned which also made it a bit hard to keep track.

Eventually, all the different strands of the story come together at the end to be solved by Cal and Helen.

I think there are two more books featuring Cal McGill, both of which are on my to-read list, as I really enjoyed this one.

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Monday, 3 August 2015

Review: The Pure in Heart (Goodreads review)

The Pure in Heart The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Started: 27th July
Finished: 2nd August

This is the second novel featuring DCI Simon Serrailler. The first - The Various Haunts Of Men - I read a few years ago, but I couldn't really remember anything about the plot, although certain significant events are referred to in this book.

There are a few different stories running through this novel: a young boy is snatched from his home, DCI Serrailler's disabled sister hovers between life and death, an ex-con struggles to go straight, despite his best intentions. By the end of the book, although there have been developments, none of these aspects of the plot have been tied up. It seems they will continue into book 3, of which I have a copy, so I will have to read it fairly soon before I forget anything.

This was a gripping novel, with some very likeable characters - the DCI is quite enigmatic.

One gripe that I had though was with some of the dialogue, as I tended to lose track of who was saying what, if the people in question had a similar speaking style.

There were a few short chapters, just a page or two, that were in the voice of the missing boy. These were particularly harrowing to read, as he pleaded to be returned to his mummy. An integral part of the story, but still unpleasant. I think things like that affect me a lot more since I became a mum myself.

On the whole, an enjoyable read, and I'm looking forwards to reading book 3 (and I think there is a fourth one after that too).

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Such beautiful animals...

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Good Reads - My Latest Obsession!

I knew that when I stopped using Facebook and Twitter for a month, I would inevitably find something else to take their place. For a while, it was Instagram, but I'm not following many people on there yet, so it doesn't take long to scroll through all the photos.

In the past week or so, I've discovered a website called goodreads and I'm a little bit obsessed with it! Basically, as you rate books (and review them, if you wish), it recommends similar titles to you. You can either add them to your 'want to read' shelf (which you can subdivide into more specific shelves), or you can click on 'not interested' so that it doesn't recommend those type of books to you.

It's free to join, and you only need to begin by rating 20 books, from 1 to 5 stars. Once you've done that, it starts making recommendations, but the more books you read, the more accurate the suggestions will be, in theory.

I think it's an American site, so there are obviously hundreds, probably thousands, of US authors on there. As my reading tastes are now quite specific, it's taken me a while to whittle down the recommendations to the kind of books I want to read, but I'm getting there. For example, there isn't a specific genre category for ghost stories. There is one for Paranormal, but that tends to bring up loads of vampire and werewolf novels. The Mystery, Suspense and Thriller categories cover a lot of the same books as the Paranormal one, as well as lots of crime fiction.

I've found the best thing was to add as many books as I could from my favourite genres, and the recommendations slowly started coming through. When I rated my first 20 books after joining, I chose the Twilight series of novels (among others), simply because they came up in the list, and I have read them. However, that led to more suggestions for vampire novels, which don't interest me, so I've since deleted them from my 'read' shelf. Instead I've added books like Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and The Woman In Black by Susan Hill - really great ghost stories, which are gradually bringing in better suggestions for similar novels. I've also added the whole Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon - you wouldn't believe how many other novels there are out there about women who find themselves transported through time to the Highlands of Scotland! I'm biased towards Outlander (maybe it wasn't the first?) but I can't help feeling Ms Gabaldon's idea is being ripped off, countless times! Needless to say, I'm sticking with Jamie and Clare!

My 'to-read' shelf (on the site, not in my house!) is growing ever larger, because I've been spending a lot of time trawling through the recommendations and finding new books that I'd like to read. I'm then adding them to my wishlist on ReadItSwapIt, which I've started using again. I've given away so many books though in the past few months, I'm finding it hard to find books that I'm willing to swap! At the time I just really wanted to have a clear-out, but now I'm wishing I'd kept them all. Oh well, I might have to start trawling the charity shops again!

Apparently, if you review books on GoodReads, you can link your review back to your blog (Blogger and WordPress only). I haven't reviewed any books yet, but I'm thinking of trying it with my next one. The trouble is, I'm nervous about my thoughts being (potentially) available to the thousands of goodreads members; my reviews are definitely not the most eloquent or in-depth, and I fear they will be quite inadequate by comparison. At least when I do my reviews on this blog, I know that hardly anyone reads them!

Anyway, that is my latest obsession! I believe this is my profile on there, so if you join, or are already a member, feel free to say hi!
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