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The Sisters by Claire Douglas - Review

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

I'm writing this review three weeks after I read this book and it was quite forgettable, so I'm struggling to remember what it was about. That's a shame, because I enjoyed the other two books I've read by Claire Douglas much more than I enjoyed this one. I'm writing this a few weeks after finishing the book and I'm struggling to remember much about it. 

Abi is a twin, who used to live with her sister and their friend. But her twin was killed in a car accident and Abi had a breakdown shortly afterwards and is only now managing to live independently. She has moved from London to Bath, near to where her parents are, and is living in a small flat by herself. She sees her sister everywhere, thinking she sees her all over town. But then she meets Bea, who really does have a resemblance to Abi and her twin. Bea invites Abi to an open house at the huge house Bea owns, and when she goes, Abi finds herself getting drawn into Bea's world. She also has a twin, Ben, and the two tell the story of how they tragically lost their parents when they were young, which is how they can afford such a huge house. 

Bea is a jewellery maker and the house has three other residents who are artists too. One moves out, and Bea asks Abi to move in. Abi's friend thinks it's a very bad idea, but Abi is desperate to prove that she's fine, and desperate to be liked, so she does. However, she has only been there a few days when strange things start to happen. Precious things of Abi's go missing, an expensive piece of jewellery that Bea made is stolen, and a dead bird appears on Abi's bed. The immediate suspect is Cass, who is a photographer, who is jealous of Abi and Bea's friendship. Or is it Bea, made jealous by Abi's flirting with her brother, Ben? Or is it Abi herself, trying to get everyone to pay attention to her?

I felt like the premise of this was good but it just wasn't quite pulled off for me. I'm giving this three out of five.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins-Reid - Review

Saturday, December 17, 2022

I had heard people raving about this after I read Daisy Jones & The Six recently, so I requested it at the library. As you can see, this is a Readers Group Item so the librarian had to override the system to allow me to borrow it, and I had to faithfully promise to take it back just a week or two later if at all possible. That was fine, I took it back a week later when I went to my weekly craft club at Penistone library. This is the good thing about cultivating a relationship with your local librarians though - they're willing to do stuff like this for you!

So in this book a young journalist called Monique is called to her boss's office to say that Evelyn Hugo wants to to give them an exclusive interview. Evelyn is a reclusive film star, and her stipulation is that Monique must do the interview. Monique is very much a junior so her boss is surprised, but wants the story so much that she's prepared to send Monique. So Monique ends up in Evelyn's Manhattan apartment to listen to her story. Evelyn has decided to auction off some of her world famous dresses for charity, so Monique assumes the interview will be about this. 

However, Evelyn tells Monique that instead, she wants to give Monique her entire life story, which Monique will then auction off to the highest bidder as a book, which will obviously make her millions. Monique isn't sure how to make this fly with her employers, but the two start talking anyway. 

Evelyn has indeed been married seven times. She was born in New York and lost her mother as a child, and married her first husband in order to escape her abusive father. She made her way to Hollywood and made friends with someone at a studio, Harry. With him, she became a star in the 1950s, and became world famous. She had an abusive relationship with a costar, Don. I can't remember all seven of her husbands but I was so intrigued by all of them and their stories. But then it turns out that the real love of Evelyn's life was someone entirely unexpected, and someone who she hurt very badly, without ever really meaning to. 

I loved this book, I thought it was so compelling and interestingly written. I'm giving it four out of five.

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie - Review

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

I have seen so many people read this book, and then two of my friends did it for their work book club, so I thought I would finally get around to it. I requested it at the library and picked it up soon after. It's a really strange book and I'm not entirely if I liked it,  but I did find it very compelling. 

So the unlikely heroine of the book is Grace. At the beginning of the book she is in prison, serving time for a murder she didn't commit. However, she has committed six murders, so there's some irony that she's serving time for something she actually didn't do. She has started writing the story of what happened with the six murders she did commit, keeping her paper concealed from her cellmate Kelly. Grace is definitely not likeable, but she is captivating. 

She was brought up by her single mother, who then died when she was only around twelve, I think. (I'm writing this review quite a while after I read this book as I just haven't been able to get my brain into gear!) She first of all goes to live with her mum's friend, Helene, but then Helene wants to move back to France so Grace moves in with her friend Jimmy's family. She is loved and accepted there, but she's already decided that she needs to kill several members of her dad's family. 

She knows who her dad is - a self made millionaire called Simon. He is married and has a daughter just a little bit younger than Grace. He knows that Grace exists and has for her whole life, but wants nothing to do with her life. Grace's plan is to kill her cousin, her uncle, Simon's wife and daughter, and then Simon himself. She will be sure to make them all look like accidents, and then when everything has died down a bit, she will reveal herself as a biological relative and demand some of the money. She wants to set herself up for a better life than how she grew up. 

It's a brilliant plan, until she's accused of a murder she didn't commit and ends up inside. She's got an appeal pending, though, and a very good lawyer. It's obvious that there's a twist coming but I didn't at all see what it was. It was a good twist, but I felt the end of the book was a little bit rushed. I also think that it's obvious that Bella Mackie is a journalist primarily - while this doesn't make her a bad writer, it does make her write in a certain way. 

I'm giving this four out of five though, and I would read something else by her! 

The Railway Murders by J R Ellis - Review

Sunday, December 11, 2022

You know I love J R Ellis' series focussing on DCI Oldroyd, based in Harrogate, but which take place all over North Yorkshire. You can read my previous reviews here. I like crime fiction anyway, and I especially like these as they're set in places I know and love. I've read all the previous books so I had this one on pre-order on Kindle, meaning it arrived on my device the moment it was released! Perfect! My mum really likes this series and she reckons she liked this one as one of the best of the series. I enjoyed it enough. 

So the book takes places in Skipton, on a heritage railway a bit like the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway that exists in real life. It is being used for the filming of a film, and on the day of the murder, a heritage engine and train reverses up the track for around a mile, then comes back down the track, passing through a tunnel, so that it can be filmed arriving at the station. Daniel Hayward, one of the stars of the film, will then get out of the train compartment to greet his family on the platform. The film is Edwardian, so everyone is dressed up in period costume. The train goes up the track, pauses in the tunnel, and the crew start filming for it coming back. They are waiting for Daniel to get off the train, but when he doesn't, the crew realise that he has been murdered in the compartment. Thanks to the set up of the train, there's little chance that someone could have got in or out of the compartment while the train was moving, meaning it's a bit of a locked room mystery. 

The officer in charge in Skipton, Bob Craven, calls Oldroyd over from Harrogate to help him with the case. Most of the actors are staying in a posh hotel, with a spa and outdoor pool, so Oldroyd decides to stay there too and take his girlfriend Deborah with him. That way they can have food together in the evenings and he'll have someone to talk to. However, this may end up putting Deborah in danger...!

I liked the book, although there was less of Oldroyd's underlings Steph and Andy than I'd have liked. I did feel like the end came a bit quickly, but all in all this kept me reading. I'm giving it four out of five. 

Forever Home by Graham Norton - Review

Thursday, December 8, 2022

You know that I like Graham Norton's books - I've read all his previous ones, which you can find reviews for here - so I keep an eye on new books by him. I saw this one was coming out so I requested it from the library. I am so thankful for my library and the easy system and the friendly librarians! I am trying to not buy as many books so using the library is perfect for me. 

So in this book Carol is a fifty something year old teacher. She has one son, an adult, who lives in London I think? She herself lives in a small town in Cork. She is divorced and for the past ten years or so she's been in a relationship with Declan. He's quite a bit older than her and has two children, Killian and Sally. Carol started off as Sally's tutor, which is how she met Declan. His wife disappeared several years before Declan and Carol got together. No one quite sees what Carol saw in Declan, but they have had quite a happy relationship.

But Declan has developed dementia, and over a few years it has become clear that Carol can no longer look after him in their home. Carol loves the house - three storeys, with worn oak floors - and knows that Declan didn't want it ever to be sold. But when Declan goes into a home, Killian and Sally reveal that they own the home, under a power of attorney made by a friend of Carol's who's a lawyer. They have always disapproved of Carol's relationship with their father, but she is shocked. She then has to move back in with her aging parents. Her father is the owner of a chain of coffee shops, meaning the family has a lot of money. So when Killian and Sally put Declan's house up for sale, Carol's dad sets out to buy it for her. Her mum is deeply suspicious of the family as a whole and of Declan's ex wife also, so when Carol gets the house she joins Carol in starting to sort it out. 

Meanwhile Killian and his husband Colin have a comfortable but dull life. Killian is quite a terrible person so I felt like he got everything he deserved, but he's such a snot about everything. They are expecting a baby but Killian's heart isn't in it. 

Sally is thirty-something and lives a somewhat dull life. But with the sale of the house, opportunities are opening up to her as she now has money. She isn't sure what she wants to do, but she knows working as a canteen cook isn't it. I felt sorry for Sally - she has been a bit forgotten by everyone in her life. I also really liked Carol - she seemed very resilient. I don't think we got to know Declan very well, but that might have been intentional thanks to his illness. 

I liked the book and think Graham is really good at spinning a whole yarn. However, this didn't hit as well as some of his other books for me. I can't fully explain why. But I'm giving it four out of five anyway! 

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Review

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

I have heard so many people raving about this book, so when I saw it in a charity shop on a recent trip to Holmfirth for just £1.50 I snatched it up. Then I had a conversation with the woman in the baker's who said she had loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and that I should read that! I'm on it - I have reserved it at the library after a bit of a kerfuffle. 

Anyway I picked this up in mid November. People on Instragram raved about it, but a couple said that they had found the structure weird to get into. It's not told in typical narrative structure. Instead it's told in oral excerpts, in interviews with Daisy and the six members of the Six. It's a brilliant way to tell a novel, and even though I found it quite difficult to get into, once I had then I definitely liked it. It's interesting because you get different people's points of view straight away, and you get differing versions of what happened. That's always true in life - people have different versions of the truth, especially when recollecting events that happened years and years ago. I liked picking up on the inconsistencies between what people said.

So Daisy Jones is from LA, child to two parents who don't really care about her. She is a singer and has a friend who is also a singer, Simone. As she gets older Daisy gets a recording contract, but she's stuck doing covers. It's the early 70s and Daisy is fashionable and cool. She wants to sing her own songs, though. She is also a drug addict. She undeniably has talent, but as the book goes on she is losing it due to her addictions. 

The Six are a band headed by brothers Billy and Graham. I'm writing this a few weeks later and I can't remember the names of the rest of the band, sorry, but there's Karen who plays keyboards and two more brothers, one of whom is called Eddie. He gets more and more displeased with the band as the years pass. He and Billy often fight with each other. Billy has a girlfriend, Camila, who he later marries. As The Six start their first tour Camila is pregnant, and with that pressure, Billy goes a bit off the rails. 

Daisy and the band get put together by their label, and while Billy doesn't want her anywhere near his band, even he can't deny that together they make brilliant music. Their fame escalates, and Daisy joins the band. They have one brilliant album and then split up - but why? Here is why. Daisy and Billy are drawn together, even while they desperately try not to be. 

I enjoyed the book - I'm a big music fan so I love stories like this full of drama and intrigue. I know that the book was inspired by the interpersonal lives of Fleetwood Mac, and I think that shows. I am giving this four out of five.

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce - Review

Saturday, December 3, 2022

I feel like this was was everywhere in 2019 when it came out, so I bought it but then immediately forgot about it. But then I was looking for something else on my shelves and remembered how much I wanted to read this, so pulled it out. I'm really glad I did - it's utterly compelling and full of twists, and I now want everyone I know to read it.

The main character is Alison, who is a lawyer in London (I don't fully understand the difference between a barrister and a solicitor - I think she's a barrister and works under solicitors). She is married to Carl, who lost hus job a few years ago and has retrained as a therapist. They have a little girl called Matilda, who's about six. Carl does most of the childcare as Alison works long hours. 

Part of this is the culture of law firms, which expect everyone to be out at night drinking a lot. Alison basically does have a problem with alcohol - she often drinks more than she intends to and ends up doing things she doesn't really want to do. She is having an affair with Patrick, who works for a different law firm to her. But he has also just given Alison her first murder case. She does worry about what exactly she has had to do to get the case, but she's excited for her first murder. She and Patrick go to meet the defendant, Madeline. She insists that she is guilty of murdering her husband, Edwin, but Alison feels there's more to the story and advises that Madeline doesn't plead guilty immediately. Alison manages to unearth abuse by Edwin, and Madeline's story becomes clearer.

Meanwhile, Alison is determined to be at home more and be a better mother. She realises there are massive problems within her and Carl's marriage, and she is trying to mend things. But then she's late to pick Matilda up - but didn't Carl say he was picking her up? Carl insists he said he had a late client, but Alison isn't sure... 

She's also determined to break things off with Patrick, but that's easier said than done because Patrick has a knack of getting his own way. She keeps getting drawn back into his web, until something shocking about him comes out...

I really liked the book, I liked Alison and wanted her to succeed. I reckoned Carl was a wrong 'un right from the beginning - he has such a creepy vibe! I loved the look at law firm culture and how easy it was to get carried away in that. I would definitely read something else by the same author and am giving this five out of five.

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