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Only for the Holidays by Abiola Bello - Review

Sunday, December 31, 2023

I saw a recommendation for this book on Twitter and bought it when it was 99p. I saved it to read over Christmas but it took me absolutely forever because I just really didn't enjoy it. I'm trying to work out whether it's just me and whether the book just wasn't a good fit for me, or whether it is actually bad. I read a few of the two and one star reviews to see if people agreed with me and actually I think that this is just somewhat of a bad book. 

The book is dual narrative, from the points of view of Quincy and Tia. Quincy lives on a farm in a rural town where his family is basically the only Black family in the area. They run the farm with several holiday cottages and have a fancy restaurant and stuff. Quincy is the youngest of three - his sister Drew is an internet sensation and his brother Cam is a DJ. Quincy is still at college. He had a girlfriend, Kali, but before the beginning of the book he found out that she slept with his best friend Simon and he hasn't spoken to either of them since. He's still heartbroken and concentrating on the horses and working and stuff, but he's pretty miserable. 

Tia lives in Peckham with her mum and sisters. Her older sister Willow and she have the same dad, who now lives in America. Their little sister, Banks, is only four. Her dad, Paul, is still around, but their Mum, Tope, and he are no longer together. Tope lost her job and the family had to move and it's all been a lot of upheaval for Tia. Tia has a boyfriend, Mike, who is a bit of a dickhead. Her best friend is called Remi and I wish we had seen more of her, to be honest. Mike is about to turn eighteen and Tia has been organising all of his party and is going to take the cake. However, Tia is feeling a bit underappreciated by him - he has never told her that he loves her and he's just a bit of a loser. He asks her for some space but she isn't really sure what that is supposed to mean. 

Then Tope announces that she's been given a two week (or even more?) trip to Quincy's farm to stay in one of the cottages. She needs the break so she takes her kids down there. But there's a mix up with the booking and the cottages are all full. Instead, Tia's family ends up staying in Quincy's house itself. Tia is not happy about the holiday and is determined to not enjoy herself - especially as she definitely doesn't like horses or sheep or the lack of internet. 

Quincy's family is holding a ball this Christmas, and it's a big deal because they're the first Black family to do so. Quincy doesn't have a date so he makes up a girl called Leah, but then of course he asks Tia for a favour. She says she will goes as his date if he will help her get back to London for Mike's party to sort everything out. They have to fake it in front of his friends and it nearly all goes wrong, but the two of them find themselves falling for each other anyway... 

I just felt like there were too many tropes in the book, including the fact that Tia loves baking and that they go ice skating and blah blah blah. It needed about half of it cutting out, I swear. 

One of my main criticisms was that this book felt like an American novel that had somehow been transported to the south of England. Some American things seemed to remain, like that every teenager had a fancy car (maybe they were just rich?) and just some other weird stuff. I also didn't get why Tia and her family had to go to the farm like at the beginning of December. Would a mum really take her kids out of school and college for so long? It did give Tia and Quincy time to get to know each other, which is why I suspect it was done, but it just didn't seem real. Maybe I needed to suspend my disbelief for the whole book, though! 

I'm giving this two out of five, unfortunately. Sorry, just not for me. 

The Winter Visitor by James Henry - Review

Thursday, December 28, 2023

I was contacted by a lovely person at Quercus Books who offered this book to me to review as they thought it would be up my street. They were right! I was provided with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

So a man called Bruce Hopkins reappears in Essex after several years in exile in Spain, due to his part in an armed robbery. He has received a letter from his ex wife, Chloe, and he wants to see her. He visits her mum, first, who lives in this fancy mansion type of place. It's all a bit confusing and then Bruce is found dead in the boot of a stolen car that has been pushed into a reservoir. The police quickly find out that a man called Roland nicked the car for money; he was told exactly where to steal the car from at an out of the way motel, but has no idea who by. He's very recently out of prison and living with his sister Mandy. 

Also, one of the police duo who star in the book, Kenton, was bird watching when he saw a fire across the estuary and set off to it. It turns out a church roof has gone up in flames, deliberately set fire to. The vicar, Soames, immediately puts pressure on the police to solve his terrible crime. It doesn't seem like these two things are linked but then it becomes obvious they are and that they are linked to a boys school, and a pupil there in the distant past. There are parts with Roland's sister and with Bruce's ex, which become clear at the end, but they are a bit confusing in the middle. 

The book is set in 1991 which is so longer ago now that it felt like ancient history. Policing seems so  different now! The technology has come a really long way in that time, I think. There were a couple of anachronisms in my opinion but nothing too jarring. I really liked the detectives, Kenton and Brazier, and I would definitely read another book about them. I liked the WPC too, and treatment of her felt very real for the time period. 

If I have to give some criticisms it's that there are really a lot of characters in this book and it was quite hard to keep them all straight in my head which is probably why it took me so long to read. I also thought there were some parts that stretched the boundaries of coincidence just a bit too much for me. In all I'm giving this four out of five and thank you to Quercus Books for letting me read it!

Where the Heart Should Be by Sarah Crossan - Review

Saturday, December 23, 2023

I saw a tweet way back in October where the publisher was offering proofs of this book to anyone who asked, so I sent an email and was thrilled when a few weeks later I was asked for my address, and then this gorgeous book arrived later that week! I love Sarah Crossan and have read everything she's written, so was really pleased to be gifted this as well. I was provided with a copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Like Sarah's other books, this is written in verse. It is set in 1846 in Ireland, in the middle of the potato famine. At the beginning of the book, things aren't so bad. Nell has left school and got a job at the Big House, working as a scullery maid for Lord Wicken. He is a ruthless and harsh landlord of the land that Nell's father works. She lives with her parents and her little brother Owen in a small cottage. Their potato crops are failing and they must sell the oats in order to pay their rent. People are leaving for America or Canada or even Dublin all the time. Nell's friend Rose is falling in love with Eamon. Nell's boss, Maggie, is harsh and cruel to her, and rarely gives her enough to eat. Her family is relying on Nell's wages to pay themselves, but things are getting worse and worse. 

Lord Wicken's nephew, Johnny, is new to Ireland. Little by little, he and Nell get to know each other. She wants to avoid him, but she finds him quite irresistible. Other staff are suspicious and Nell knows what her family and neighbours would think if she and Johnny actually fell in love. But the famine is getting worse and people are getting desperate. 

I did feel that the bits where Nell and Johnny are actually together were a little confusing in parts and I wasn't sure exactly what had occurred between them as the poetry was quite vague. But that's really my only critcism. Thank you Bloomsbury for the book! 

Anchored in Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash by John Carter Cash - Review

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

One thing you might not know about me is that I really love Johnny Cash's music. I've been a fan for a long time now, and so is my mum. I also like quite a lot of June Carter's music, and the music of The Carter Family, too. I could probably stand to learn more of her music, but I do like her. Also, if you don't know, she wrote some of Johnny's biggest hits, like Ring of Fire! That's an absolute classic! I know a bit about their lives but not loads, so I wanted to read this book when I heard about it a few months ago. It was published in 2007, only four years after June and then Johnny died in 2003, but I hadn't heard of it until recently. I don't even remember how. But it was expensive to buy so I decided to not bother.

And then Spotify started doing audiobooks on Premium, which I have. And this was on there! So I started listening to it while on car drives by myself, and I finished it in only a few weeks. It's narrated by another country singer, who had a good and engaging voice and who really sounded like Johnny Cash at times!

It was really interesting to hear about June's early life and her place in the Carter family. The book doesn't focus too much on her previous marriages, but does talk about her daughters Carlene and Rosie and their places in the family. John Carter remembers Rosie living with them when he was little, but he also recounts her addiction and the pain that she put upon her family and especially her mother when she was ill. He talks about how all Johnny's four daughters had their place in the family too and that June pretty much accepted them all as hers. John Carter talks about being the spoilt youngest child - and only son - in the family and what that meant; I actually felt he was quite self aware here on what privileges that had given him that maybe his sisters didn't benefit from. I also think that John Carter clearly only focussed on his own parents and not on their previous spouses, because that really just didn't interest him. 

I of course knew about Johnny's addiction problems, but hearing about them through John Carter was absolutely heartbreaking. He talks about sharing a hotel room on tour with his dad when he was really quite a small child and listening to his dad's laboured breathing and that John Carter would worry that his dad had died. I feel like there was a lot of unpacked trauma here but because John Carter was just talking about his mother for the most part, he just talked about how she acted and the huge love she had for her family. It was interesting to hear about the family as a whole - their homes, their staff, their touring - as well as the bad parts. 

John Carter also suffered from addiction and he isn't quite as open about that as you would perhaps like, but it was still interesting and it still added to the story of June. I didn't know that she herself had problems with drugs towards the end of her life. The stories about her last recordings are pretty sad, actually. The part about her death was really sad, too - and then of course Johnny died just a few months later. 

I generally liked the book and I particularly liked John Carter talking about the funny things June used to say and the 'klediments' (treasures) she had in each of their houses. It was cute to hear about how his second wife made him listen to the Carter Family more - his own legacy! It's quite funny. I didn't like that there was quite a lot of fat shaming of his mother towards the end, and I do think that some of the talk of addiction and god was a bit much. But maybe that's because I'm not a believer. I'm giving this four out of five as I did like it for the most part. 

The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett - Review

Sunday, December 17, 2023

I got this book - which is a sequel to The Appeal - on Kindle and wanted to read it close to Christmas, as it's about a Christmas pantomime so it's definitely festive! It's a novella, so didn't take me too long to read at all. It's been described as The Appeal 1.5 which makes a lot of sense. If you like that book you would definitely like this, I think, but also if you hadn't read the appeal you would probably understand everything in this book and would still enjoy it. 

The book is told in emails and text messages, like the first one. We're back with the Fairway Players as in the first book. The Haywards have clearly gone, and the land their house was on is now a fancy new housing estate. There is also a new council housing estate on the other side of town, which not all the Players are happy about. Sarah-Jane and her husband Kevin have been voted the co chairs of the theatre group, but Celia and Joel Halliday wish they were top dogs and Celia has passive aggession down to a fine art. The Walfords - Joyce and her sons, since her husband's death - are still around, as are the Paynes. I actually don't remember too much about the Paynes but it feels like everyone looks down on them because Karen 'only' works in Sainsburys. There are a few other people I recognised, but there's some new players too. There's a youngish single man who joins, and a couple who auditioned for the play but who never turn up. They live in one of the new posh houses and everyone seems to think it's a bit of a coup that they've joined. 

Every time Sarah-Jane sends an email it's immediately followed up by one from Celia, to undermine her. Then Sarah-Jane announces that she's procurred an actual beanstalk for the pantomime, which was last used thirty years ago and at one point by the Players themselves, but which has been in storage. It needs some upkeep, but then there's a rumour that it contains asbestos! The whole thing becomes a bit of a farce at this point, and it all comes to a head on the night of the panto itself, the 23rd of December. 

As in the book before, a KC has sent information about the case to his students, Femi and Charlotte, to see what they think and what conclusion they would come to about the 'crime' - if there is a crime at all. We see their discussions between themselves and with Roger, too. It's interesting, but I'm not sure their discussions really went far enough for me. 

I did enjoy the story but I felt there were too many red herrings and random stuff shoved in, and not really enough resolution. In all I'm giving this three out of five. 

The Brewery Murders by J R Ellis - Review

Thursday, December 14, 2023

You know I love J R Ellis and have read everything his written. He writes a series focussing on DCI Jim Oldroyd and his two sergeants, Andy and Steph. Oldroyd is now living with a woman, Deborah, in Harrogate, and Andy and Steph are a couple and live together in Leeds. I love the series because of its North Yorkshire setting, which is a place very dear to me, and I love to read about it. This is the ninth book in the series, and takes place in lower Wensleydale which I visited recently! It's a lovely part of the world. 

So in this book there's a beer festival to begin with and there are two breweries present who both brew in Markham and who are rivals. The older, traditional one is run by Richard Foster, who took over from his father. His father made a beer called Wensley Glory back in the nineties which won many awards, but the recipe was lost upon his death and so Richard can't remake it. The other brewery is run by Richard's sister, Emily, and she employs mainly women. Her partner Janice works there too. The women's brewery is subjected to a lot of abuse and harassment from Richard's brewery, mainly because a lot of the men who work there don't think women should be brewing beer. A man called Brendan Scholes turns up to talk to both Richard and Emily. He used to work at Richard's brewery and his dad Wilf was the only other person who knew the missing recipe other than Foster Sr. He has recently died and Brendan says he has a copy of the recipe. He wants either Richard or Emily to pay him for it. 

However, he is then found dead in a vat of beer in the older brewery. There are any number of people who might have wanted Brendan dead, including of course Richard and Emily, who may have both wanted the recipe, if it exists, the husband of a woman that Brendan had an affair with, and any number of people who just disliked him. Oldroyd and Andy are put on the case and are helped by a young and enthusiastic DC who I think we'll see more of in future books. One of my only criticisms of this book is that there's very little Steph in it and I like her, I always want to see more of her! 

I did guess one of the major twists before Oldroyd got there, which pleased me. I found the mystery a good one and in all I'm giving it four out of five. 

The Skylight by Louise Candlish - Review

Monday, December 11, 2023

I got this Quick Reads book in a charity shop in Amble for just a pound when Lee and I were there over his birthday in August. I've enjoyed other books by Louise Candlish so thought I would give this a go. It's a novella, a short story really, and I picked it up after I made it through the slog that was Silas Marner. It was a very quick read and I really liked it! As with all short stories it left me wanting more, which I think is a mark of an excellent short story! 

Simone lives in the top half of a converted house, in a flat with two floors. Her boyfriend Jake has recently moved in with her. She has a secret - she's the only one allowed to use the top bathroom, and from there she can see the dining table of her downstairs neighbours because of the skylight in their extension. Jake has to use the shower room on the main floor so he doesn't know she can see into the skylight, and neither do the neighbours. And Simone absolutely HATES them.

They are a bit younger than her, and married, and successful, all of which are things which seem to trigger her. They are Alina and Gus and they are young professionals. They put the extension on which Simone didn't like, but now obsessed by what she can see. Simone hates Alina in particular, and starts stealing mail from the communal hall and other stuff like that, just to wind her up. 

Simone has a dark past - she only speaks to her cousin Paula from her family, and no one else. It's heavily hinted that she harmed someone when she was a child, but at the beginning the reader doesn't know what she did. Then she sees something through the skylight that sends her even more off the rails and she wants to get revenge, which has tragic consequences. I won't give spoilers but this is a twisty and delicious short story. I especially liked how it was told from Simone's point of view, as she's a very unreliable narrator. I'm giving this four out of five. 

The Haunting Scent of Poppies by Victoria Williamson - Review and Blog Tour

Friday, December 8, 2023

Hello and welcome to my post for this tour for Victoria Williamson's brilliant new ghost story, The Haunting Scent of Poppies. I signed up for this tour because I've really enjoyed everything I've previously read by Victoria and also because I really like ghost stories! This novella is less than a hundred pages long, but it fits a lot in in that time! It's set at Christmas too so it helped get me into a festive mood. 

The book is set the first Christmas after World War One ended, which had ended obviously just a few weeks earlier. Charlie didn't serve as a soldier and in fact is very scathing of those who did. He is a small time thief who has had to escape London due to his crimes, and has arrived in Petersfield just a few days before Christmas. He needs to lie low to escape the heat, but he also doesn't have a lot of spare cash. He plans on robbing a few shops or something, and he finds a book shop that is barely open. He talks to the owner and the assistant, and happens to notice that the owner is reading a very rare book. Stealing the book and selling it on would set Charlie up for quite a while, so he manages to make that happen. He takes it back to his hotel, where he has several other of his ill gotten gains - a fancy watch, a sharp suit, a bag. And then of course the book. He falls asleep, and when he wakes up all the stolen stuff is gone, except for the book. Charlie assumes he has been robbed, and possibly that he was sedated, as he's suffering some weird effects.

He has to leave the hotel suddenly and ends up in a downtrodden B&B. It turns out that the book belonged to the nephew of the owner there and that he died in the trenches. Charlie begins to see flashbacks of this, and is haunted by something very, very weird. The ghost in this story is all too real and believable. I really liked it. I'm giving this four out of five, and I'm so glad I was on this tour! Victoria Williamson just keeps writing amazing stuff! 

Jiddy Vardy by Ruth Estevez - Review and Blog Tour

Monday, December 4, 2023

Hello and welcome to my stop on the tour for Jiddy Vardy by Ruth Estevez. My post was supposed to go up yesterday but unfortunately something happened in my personal life and I didn't get round to it. I'm very sorry, but I really did enjoy this book and am glad to be on the tour!

The book is sat in the late 1700s and starts on a ship where a baby has just been born, to Maria, who is only sixteen herself. Pirates board the ship and the baby is put in a cupboard to hide her, and the captain, Captain Pinkney, takes over the ship. Maria is terrified, of course... 

Then we meet up with the baby, Jiddy, first of all when she is eight years old, when she is bullied by some other girls for being different, and then when she is sixteen. She was adopted by Mary and her husband, who are poor people who live in Robin Hood's Bay on the north coast of Yorkshire. They are also involved in the local smuggling ring, and Jiddy gets involved too. She is darker skinned and haired than everyone else in Robin Hood's Bay and is bullied for that, especially by one local girl, Nellie. She gets the chance to work for the local lady of the manor and has to go up against Nellie for the chance. 

She knows smuggling is wrong but she also resents the local military who are trying to stop it. They are preventives (I don't know a lot of the military history but it was interesting) but then they get replaced by dragoons who, it seems, are meaner, nastier, and just a lot worse. But Jiddy's life crashes up against one in particular... 

She has been half in love with a local farm boy, Jonas, since she was very little, but the two start getting a lot closer over the course of the book. 

I liked the story a lot. I liked Jiddy and how full of life she was. I loved the setting as I know Robin Hood's Bay and think it's a beautiful part of the world. My only critique is that a LOT happened in the pages, but I do get it. I am giving this four out of five and really recommend it!

The third book in this series came out on the 2nd of December, and I would utterly recommend it. Here's the blurb for it:

When the sea can’t be put on trial for murder, who must pay the price?


A smuggler with a conscience, the defiant and contradictory Jiddy Vardy sets out to find choices and freedom for local girls worn thin by poverty.


Caught in the net that is Robin Hood’s Bay, Jiddy looks to majestic York, little realising that even loved ones can cage you when they think they are offering the chance of a lifetime.

Head inland to the promise of work, out to sea to the unknown, or stay in a close-knit community of smugglers and familiar faces?

What’s it to be for our endlessly curious, yet ultimately open-hearted Jiddy Vardy?

Silas Marner by George Eliot - Review

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

My heart sank when I realised this book had been chosen for December for my book club, because I really don't read classics, like, ever. My main problem with them is when sentences are just so long that I forget what the beginning was by the time I get to the end. Just a few full stops here and there would be so useful! But I am really glad I persevered with this book because I ended up really enjoying it and I think the rest of my book club will have, too. I bought it for just 99p on Kindle which was an excellent way to read it.

So, Silas Marner is an incomer to Raveloe, a village in the Midlands. He is a weaver, and he lives in a tiny cottage on land belonging to the local squire, Squire Cass. The book is set at the beginning of the 1800s. Silas came from the north, but was excluded from his religious community after he was framed for robbery. He has been in Raveloe for well over a decade by the time the book starts, but he's still regarded with suspicion. Locals think he is a bit of a miser. Silas has been saving up his guineas for years and has quite a stash which he keeps under the floor under his loom. He is a strange sort of fellow, betrayed by his community, and doesn't have many friends. 

Meanwhile, there are the Cass brothers. Sons of the Squire, they are all quite lazy and spoilt. The eldest, Godfrey, has a secret he is keeping from his father - that he is married to a working class woman, who is also an addict, and that they have a child. His brother Dunstan knows this secret and threatens to expose it unless Godfrey pays him money. Godfrey has stolen some money from a tenant of the land, and the whole thing is in a whole mess. He eventually agrees that Dunstan can sell his horse in order that he can get enough money to pay his father the missing rent. Dunstan takes off with the horse but comes a cropper... Meanwhile, Godfrey can't do what he really wants, which is to marry Nancy Lampeter, with whom he is in love. 

I wasn't sure how the two parts of the book were going to intertwine, but I was really amazed at how this played out so I don't really want to give too many spoilers. I really liked the book and the narration. Silas is a likeable character even when he is miserable. Godfrey is too, even though he is a weak man who does many stupid tihngs throughout the book. I couldn't quite get a grip on Nancy and I'll be interested to see what others thought of her. In all I really liked this and am glad I got to read it. I'm giving it five out of five! 

Rizzio by Denise Mina - Review

Saturday, November 25, 2023

I got this book from the library because it caught my eye on a shelf end as I was walking in one day! I've met Denise Mina but have never read anything by her so I thought I would change that. This book is historical fiction and tells some real events that happened in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. I don't know too much about her life at all, although I have read another book which looks at the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, but I can't for the life in me remember what book that is, right now. I had forgotten about him, entirely, though. But anyway he is her husband and she is pregnant. They live in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, but the country is changing. There are Protestants who want power, and there's Elizabeth on the throne in England. Mary's child will have just as much a claim to the English throne as Elizabeth because Mary and Darnley share a grandmother (and in fact he did inherit the throne and unified England and Scotland - he was James VI of Scotland and James I of England, if you're not familiar with him). Darnley is a total rotter though and he has sold Mary out. He is jealous of her friend, Rizzio, who is Italian, so conspires with other noblemen to murder him.

Mary is in her apartments eating when the conspirators break in. They hold her at gunpoint and murder Rizzio. He ends up with so many stab wounds that no one is sure exactly which killed him. Mary is obviously hugely betrayed by Darnley but knows she has to escape with her life and the life of her baby, so she knows she has to keep Darnley on side. The other nobles turn on him, next, and they are also interrupted by the city's keepers, who turn up asking what's going on at the palace. Mary has to escape to people who are loyal to her, and she is helped in this by one of her ladies in waiting, whose husband she had recently executed. Aren't old royals absolutely bonkers? I'm not sure exactly what was true and what wasn't in this book and that's aboslutely fine because I liked it and was entertained by it anyway!

The book is a novella, so only short, and the writing is rich, and you can imagine exactly the palace and everything inside it. Denise also writes poetry and I tihnk that shows. The narrative is meta in parts, where the chapter titles tell the reader what is going to happen, and where the prose sometimes says things like 'this will happen later'. I think it's really effective and especially when portraying something that really happened in the past. The book is part of a 'dark tales' series about Scottish history so I think it's really effective in getting that across to the reader. In all I'm giving this five out of five and I would read other things in the same series! 

The Great Deceiver by Elly Griffiths - Review

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

You know I love Elly Griffiths, so I was excited to hear there was another book in her Brighton Mysteries series. As a reminder, these centre on two members of the Magic Men, who were a secret group of magicians and others working on fooling the enemy in World War Two. Max Mephisto is still a magician, but also a film star, and also a lord. He has a daughter, Ruby, who at the beginning of this book has a baby. Edgar is now a policeman and in fact is superintendent by the time of this book, which is set in the summer of 1966. He is married to Emma and they have three children. Emma used to be a policewoman but gave it up after getting married (it was the mid 50s, after all). She is now running a private investigation agency with her friend Sam. Sam is now seeing Max, but no one knows about that. 

There are other police officers around - Bob, who actually doesn't really get a look in in this book, which is a shame, DI Barker, a proper badhead, and DI Clark, who is young and a bit of a dish I think. Then there's Meg Connolly. She's a WPC and in a previous book she had showed how good of a detective she was. She's only young so I did think that some of the stuff she did and that happened to her in this book strectched the bounds of credibility a bit, but no matter. She's from an Irish family and I did also feel like they were a bit stereotypical in this book too which annoyed me. 

So, there's a variety show in town and the magician's assistant is murdered in her lodging house. There are plenty of others from the show staying in the house, but all have alibis. The magician, Ted, is a prime suspect, but he swears he didn't do it. He turns up at Max's house in London pleading for his help. Then Emma and Sam get involved because the assistant's parents ask them to look into her death. Everyone goes to interview several old magicians, including a guy called Palgrave who is now on the telly. He sort of inhabits a Jimmy Savile role in that it's 'known' that he likes young girls and stuff like that. I didn't feel like this part of the story was done in a particularly good way, actually. It felt a bit like everyone was on the 'right' side in it in that they were condemning this person's actions... but did they do anything?

There's a similar thing that happens between DI Barker and Meg. Meg doesn't report it to her superiors which is entirely what would really have happened, especially in the sixties - even now women don't feel safe to report sexual harassment in the workplace! But everyone who learns about it is outraged and I just didn't buy how true that was. 

I did generally like the mystery surrounding the deaths in this book, but the whole thing felt a bit too pat in the end, and a bit too rushed off. For that reason I'm giving it three out of five. 

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna - Review

Friday, November 17, 2023


This was the November choice for my book club so I bought it on eBay for just a few quid and picked it up in early November. I found it quite hard to read so it took me a while. It is partly the subject matter, but it is also because it's told in a complex way. I thought the telling was actually too complex which I found annoying, but I am interested to see what everyone else thinks of it.  We had a special lunch for my book club at the beginning of the month because we were celebrating our tenth anniversary, and it sounded like a few people were struggling with this book. So we will see!

The hero of the book is Duro. The book is set in rural Croatia and the main part of it takes place in the current time, around 2013. Duro lives a pretty ordinary life, living in a shack he made himself, in the village where he grew up. He lives close to a house he calls 'the blue house', where his childhood friends Kresimir and Anka grew up. One day, he sees that some new people have moved in. They are Laura, a woman in her forties, around the same age as Duro, and her children Matthew and Grace. They are English and Laura's husband Connor has bought the house, hoping to renovate it and make a profit from reselling it or from tourism in the area. This does seem a bit bonkers because it's obvious that the area is not a huge tourist draw. 

Duro is alarmed that the house has been sold, but it isn't obvious why. He spends some evenings in the local bar, where he sees Kresimir but avoids him. He also isn't a fan of the bar's owners, Fabjan and another guy. Duro does want to hear the gossip, though. He spends a lot of his free time hunting with his dogs, mother and son (in my head they were Huskies but I actually can't remember haha). Duro goes to meet Laura and offers his services to help renovate the house. He has a lot of skills, and he becomes friendly with Laura and Grace. Matthew is more of an unknown quantity, but I feel like he reminds duro of himself a bit. 

This part of the book is told in the past tense, but then there are bits told in the present tense, which actually took place in the past. This is quite confusing and I wish it had been done differently. Anyway we go back to Duro's childhood with Kresimir and Anka (who are brother and sister). He and Kresimir had a massive rivalry going on and now no longer speak. 

Duro also served in the army in the Croatian war of independence in the early 90s, which is a conflict I don't know too much about actually as I was only young at the time. But it was the break up of Yugoslavia and I did know that it included ethnic cleansing of Serbs living in the area. What happened to Duro and to the families involved are horrendous and were, I thought, told in a brilliant way that really brought it home to me. I didn't quite understand what motivated Duro in some of the stuff with Laura, especially at the end, so I'll be interested to see what my book club thinks about it!

I did think that the book was overly complex and confusing, and for that reason my score is a bit lower than it otherwise would have been. I'm giving this three out of five. 

Unorthodox Love by Heidi Shertok - Review

Monday, November 13, 2023

(Can you see where I broke my tablet? I dropped it about 5am in the tiled bathroom on holiday and it cracked all over - this photo doesn't show the spread of the crack in the bottom left all over the read of the screen. It's still usable but a bit weird, and I was really annoyed!)

I saw an author I follow recommend this book on Twitter (I will never call it X) a while back, and then they did it again when it was 99pm so I took a gamble and bought it for that. I don't generally read romance but I was intrigued by this because of the Orthodox Jewish characters. I might have mentioned before that my undergraduate degree was in Theology and Religious Studies and I'm interested in all sorts of religions. I don't like fundamentalists of any stripe, but Penina in this book is more modern Orthodox so that was fine. I have read my fair share of fanfiction in my time (and written it!) and I think there were a bunch of tropes in this book that seemed really fanficcy, but that just made me really gleeful! I would like to read more romances in this ilk, so definitely recommend some if you know any!

Penina is twenty nine years old and she works in a jewellery store with her coworkers, Maya and Gina. She and Maya are friends, but Gina is awful. Their boss, Joe, is ill, so he is having some time off. Penina volunteers in the NICU of her local hospital, and their she meets Sam, a hospital benefactor. He then turns out to be Joe's son, and he is taking over the running of the shop. Penina thinks he's hot, but lots of misunderstandings occur and they get on each other's nerves, but this is a romance! There'll be a happily ever after! I very much went in knowing that, but I loved how we got there!

Because there are complications. Penina can't have children, which explains why she's not married at twenty nine. In Orthodox Jewish culture girls generally marry young and have several children. Penina's sister Libby is just a bit older than her and she has four children and is married. Their younger sister Fraydie is a bit of a livewire and is mischievous. Penina has been using a matchmaker (very usual in the culture) to try to find a husband. But because of her infertility, she is matched with some proper weirdos and some men a lot older than her. She's about to give up when she meets Zevi, but I won't say anymore about that bit of the book.

And then there's Sam. The two of them do obviously really like each other, but there's a lot of confusion between them. Sam is Jewish but he's not Orthodox, which is kind of a deal breaker for Penina. But she can't keep away from him! 

Penina also dresses modestly and is an influencer on social media with her outfits. She's really into fashion and I liked this and how it was portrayed, and how she had other people who dress modestly who followed her, like Mormons and Muslims. I loved this crossover! I liked the look at modesty within the Jewish culture. Penina didn't ever really judge how other women were dressed, though, which I also liked. 

I also liked the look at Jewish culture in the form of shabbat dinners and stuff like that. It's really nicely done and well explained if it's a culture that is totally new to the reader. I really liked Penina too - she feels like she can fix anyone and anything because she's got a really kind heart, and also because it stops her thinking of her own problems. I so wanted everything to work out for her!

I'm giving this five out of five because I really liked it. 

Lessins in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus - Review

Friday, November 10, 2023

I have heard a bunch of people raving about this book and I sort of had it in my head to buy it, but then I got sent it in a book swap! So random but so fortuitous as I wanted to read it! I picked it up not too long after I received it. I am glad I read it but I didn't love it, so I would like to know what other people thought of it. 

Let me get into the story of it first: Elizabeth Zott is a chemist. At the beginning of the book she has a small child, Madeline, who is around six. Madeline is having some problems with a girl at school, so Elizabeth goes to confront Amanda's dad about it. Walter Pine is a TV executive, and he ends up getting Elizabeth to front a cooking show, which uses chemistry to explain how to cook. Elizabeth is not a natural presenter, but her show starts a movement among the women of the time. This part of the book is set in around 1960, just as the feminism movement was getting off the ground. 

We then go back in time to Elizabeth's earlier life as a chemist at Hastings University. She met Calvin Evans, also a chemist, and who the university pins a lot of its hopes on. The two didn't get on at first but then began a relationship. She moved in with him and began rowing with him; he had rowed at Cambridge and had carried on. He had grown up in a boys home where he received gifts from a mysterious benefactor which included microscopes and other scientific equipment. Elizabeth had grown up in a cold household and no longer had any contact with her family. 

Calvin wanted Elizabeth to marry him but she refused, rightly knowing that it would mean the end to her career. She is protected at the university by her relationship with Calvin, but the men in her department steal her work and there are forces at work within the university that are conspiring to get rid of her.

I don't want to say anymore about the plot, because I didn't know anything else and there were parts of the book that genuinely shocked me. I will say that I did guess a few of the twists towards the end; I thought they were a bit predictable and a bit tropey, if I'm honest. 

My main criticism of the book is that it's told in quite a meta way. There are parts which are really short - just a paragraph or so - and which are sort of removed from the narrative. They tend to tell the reader what is to come, like "X character found out Y thing because Z", and then the parts afterwards tell you exactly how X found out Y. I'm not sure I liked this approach. I found it really jarring. But maybe it's just a narrative device and maybe it's fine. I found it was too much telling and not enough showing, though, which annoyed me. 

I also felt like the chemistry stuff was overdone slightly, like it was just all rammed in when it didn't need to be. 

A few people at book club had read this and one person mentioned that she didn't like the end, and I do sort of agree with that. It felt a bit trite. 

Interesting book and I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't run out to read anything else by the same author. I'm giving this three out of five. 

The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman - Review

Monday, November 6, 2023

So I read the newest book by Richard Osman because as I've said previously, my mum really likes them and wants me to read them so I got to it quickly just for her. I did actually like the mystery and found the book compelling, but I still think it has a lot of issues and I'm not sure if 'cosy' mysteries are really my kind of thing or not. But I read it!

To recap, the Thursday Murder Club are four people that all live in a retirement village and have become friends through events in previous books. There's Elizabeth, who is formidable, and who is an ex MI5 spy or whatever. Her husband Stephen is suffering from dementia, a storyline which comes to a head in this book in what I thought was a brilliant and compassionate way. There's Joyce, who lives alone and misses her husband Gerry, and finds her daughter absolutely baffling. Part of the book is told through Joyce's journal which I do like. There's Roy, a Cockney who's always there for his friends and ready to pitch in when needed, although we didn't get as much of him in this book as previous. Then there's Ibrahim, who is a clinical psychologist although now retired except for Connie Johnson, a drug dealer who the four helped catch and who is now living a cushy life in prison. There's stuff about Ibrahim's personal life in this book which I really liked and thought really fitted in as well as giving us more insight into Ibrahim's life.

Peripheral characters are Donna and Chris, two local police officers who have both helped and been helped by the foursome in previous books. Chris is seeing Donna's mum Patrice; Donna's boyfriend is Bogdan, who works at the retirement village. He's Polish and has a lot of tattoos and plays chess with Stephen. I love Bogdan and I would have liked more of him in this book but maybe next time. There's also a new character, Computer Bob, who is new in the village. 

The main story is about two drug dealers who have smuggled a hundred grand's worth of heroin in to the country and who are using a man called Kuldesh as a go between. Kuldesh is an antiques dealer and he knows Stephen. He turns up dead, shot through the head. The heroin and the box it came in are nowhere to be found. The Thursday Murder Club is on the case, but there are plenty of other people who would like to get their hands on the goods. 

As I said, I did like the story and the mystery, and I feel like I need to spell that out before I get into my criticisms. I had a lot of criticisms of the writing of previous books and I do think a lot of those things have been ironed it - maybe Richard's just got a better editor now or maybe he's just improved as a writer. However, my main issue in this book was the stuff between the drug dealers and other bad guys. They just don't ring as true - those people speak to each other in a twee cosy way that really grates on me. I wish this was just a bit more realistic. Plus there's stuff when the foursome get bunches of bad guys together and just.... bad things don't happen. It's not real! I wish it was. For that reason I can only give this book three out of five... but you know I'll read the next thing Richard writes too! 

Charlotte Bronte Revisited by Sophie Franklin - Review

Thursday, November 2, 2023

You may remember that I read the book about Emily Bronte in this series back in January, and I mentioned then that I had used a voucher to buy the books about Charlotte and Anne. They have been by the side of my bed ever since then but in mid October just after my holiday I picked up the one about Charlotte and read it quite quickly. I liked it a lot but I'm not sure if it told me much new information about Charlotte. As I said in my review of the book about Emily, I do know a bit about the Brontes already. 

However, there was some new information that I did like - such as Charlotte's politics. She was a Tory and believed passionately in a lot of things, informed by the papers that her father read daily in the parsonage. Jane Eyre is often said to be a proto-feminist book but this book makes the argument that it isn't really, because of Charlotte's politics. I found that really interesting. 

I also liked the part about Charlotte's looks and how she wasn't particularly pretty, and how even the picture on the front of the book has been colourised and 'prettified' and isn't thought to particularly resemble Charlotte. I thought this was interesting, especially given how she has been portrayed in films and TV for example. This book also mentions Branwell much less, which I'm glad about, but it did look in some depth at the years after he, Emily, and Anne all died, and what Charlotte did then. 

This is definitely a book for fans of the Brontes, but I think it's good and I'm looking forward to reading the one about Anne, too. I'm giving this four out of five. 

The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid - Review

Sunday, October 29, 2023

I saw this book in paperback when I was on holiday in the Lake District in July, as it is set in the area and was on one of those 'local interest' tables. I couldn't justify buying it but then it was reduced on Kindle a few weeks later and was in a set of three with two other books for just £1.99 I think, so I bought it. I was really looking forward to it so I read it when on holiday when I really had chance to savour it. It was really good and I'm glad I read it, and now I'm looking forward to the other two books in the collection. 

So the main protagonist is a woman called Jane. She is from the Lake District and her family still lives up there, including her parents, her brother Matthew, who is often nasty to her, Matthew's wife and child. She lives in London in a tiny flat on a bit of a grotty estate. She is a lecturer at a university, an English lecturer with a particular expertise in William Wordsworth (who was of course from Cumbria himself and made his home in the Lake District). 

A body has been found in a peat bog, perfectly preserved. It becomes known that it has some distinctive tattoos that are similar to those found on people who travelled in the South Pacific. Jane wonders if it could be the body of Fletcher Christian, known for the mutiny on the Bounty and the consequent settling on Pitcairn Island. You see, she is a proponent of a theory that says that Fletcher managed to return to England and met with Wordsworth (who he went to school with) and told the real story of what happened on the Bounty. Jane has seen a fragment of a letter from Wordsworth's wife to one of his sons which makes reference to a 'document' and which Jane therefore thinks has been passed down to some relatives, etc etc. She gets a leave of absence from work and heads home to investigate, via many elderly people in the close area of where she's from. She doesn't seem to live an unhappy life in London, just a bit of a lonely one. She also works in a bar and has a couple of friends from work and the bar. 

There is also Tenille. Tenille is black and lives near to Jane. She is bright but permanently bunks of school. She does love poetry like Jane, though. She has lost her mum and lives with her aunt. Recently, her aunt's boyfriend has been paying her a creepy amount of attention and she confides in Jane that she is worried he will abuse her. Jane is about to leave for Cumbria and she is worried, so she asks Tenille's dad (who isn't in her life) for help. Things happen that I won't spoil and Tenille has to go on the run. Police question Jane about her in Cumbria, but surely Tenille won't get that far... 

Then there is also Jake. Jake is Jane's ex boyfriend and at the beginning of the book he is in Greece with his new girlfriend, Caroline. He is an antiquities dealer and Caroline is his boss. They are both ruthless people and when they get wind of what Jane is on the trail of, they want it, so they can make money off it. Jake heads back to England to try to make up with Jane and work out what she knows. 

There's the pathologist who is looking at the body, too. I liked her and Jane a lot and hope they pop up in other books too. The pathologist, River, also starts a relationship with one of the Cumbria police who I also likeds and would read something else with him in it. At first the book has no crimes in it and everyone is just sort of going about their business, but then... 

One of my only criticisms was the way that sometimes Jane's housing estate and its inhabitants were portrayed, as well as how Tenille was portrayed. I will say that this book is over fifteen years old and I think that shows in some of these outdated stereotypes. I feel like if McDermid was writing this book now, these perceptions wouldn't be present or would be portrayed differently. I hope so, anyway. 

All in all I really liked this and am glad I read it. I'm giving it five out of five. 

The Body in the Blitz by Robin Stevens - Review

Thursday, October 26, 2023

As you know, I'm a huge fan of Robin Stevens and everything she's ever written, so I was pleased to hear that there was going to be a second book in the Ministry of Unladylike Activity series. You can read my review of the first book here, and you can read all my Robin Stevens reviews here. I was provided with an electronic copy of this book for review purposes, so thank you to Penguin Random House Children's for granting me access to it. I was not otherwise compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

So, the whole book is narrated by Nuala, unlike the first book which has parts narrated by May too. I do think this works better, because May is easily distracted and I really like Nuala. As you may remember from the first book, Nuala, May (Hazel's sister) and Eric are being trained as spies by the Ministry that Hazel, Daisy, George, Alexander and others now work for. The rationale is that no one pays attention to children so they're perfect to use as spies. Nuala and May are at school but they get a message in code telling them to leave immediately. They give their excuses and go. I will say that I was a bit sad to not be at Deepdean for longer, but I get that Robin probably wants the books to be entirely different from Hazel and Daisy's series. 

The three kids arrive in London and Eric is staying with George and Alexander and the girls are staying with friends of Hazel's. One of them, Anna, has gone missing when on a mission, and everyone is a bit worried about her. Daisy is AWOL too, and Hazel is getting increasingly worried. George has been invalided out of the war and has lost a leg; I loved how this was portrayed. 

The war, of course, is raging. I think the book is set in 1941, in the middle of the blitz. Nuala gets across the distress that she and the others are going through, with bombs coming over every night and them having to go into shelters (which May hates) and carry their gas masks about everywhere. The kids are staying in a close with quite a number of odd people living in it. One night, in the bombings, one of the houses is destroyed. The three kids go investigating and discover a body in the basement. 

The body is that of Miss Fig, a resident of the street. She was the local warden and had no shortage of enemies, it seems. Nearly everyone in the mews had a reason to want her dead. May, Nuala, and Eric start unravelling who exactly did kill her, and why. 

I quite enjoyed the mystery of the book, but the book as a whole fell a little flat for me. I can't really explain why, but I just didn't love it and didn't gel with it. May is infuriating a lot of the time (I realise that Robin has said she has ADHD which I think does go towards explaining SOME of that, but maybe it's just her maturity too and maybe we'll see her grow over the series). There's very little of Eric whatsoever. Sometimes I felt like Nuala was a little bit too stereotypical as someone who has some Irish heritage, too. In all, I can only give this three out of five because I just didn't love it. I found this to be a shame because I was really looking forward to reading this on holiday but it just wasn't too good in my opinion. However, I know I will definitely read the rest of the series just because I know what I'm like!

Don't Believe A Word by David Shariatmadari - Review

Monday, October 23, 2023

I came across this book when I was searching for something else on my local library system (I'm not even sure what, now) and it intrigued me, so I requested it and picked it up when it came in. I ended up taking it on holiday and finished it while I was on the plane to Mallorca, haha. 

So something you might not know about me is that I did English Language A level way back in 2002, and a big part of that was about child language acquisition and how that happens. I found it fascinating. I find language in general fascinating - as I said, I was in Mallorca and I don't speak any Spanish but liked looking at the signs to see what parts of words I did know (thank you French and Latin) and also looking at the differences between the Spanish and the Catalan. So this was a perfect book for me, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in language and how it works, too. I also think it is written in a really accessible way and even if you haven't ever studied anything about this, you would still understand it all. 

Each chapter looks at a different myth about language and deconstructs it. I really liked how I didn't feel like the author was judging anyone, whatever their linguistic traits or otherwise. If there's one thing I felt was missing, it was that there wasn't a lot on dialect words which are a particular interest of mine being that I'm from Yorkshire. But in all I'm giving this four out of five and would recommend it!

Kerrang! Living Loud by Nick Ruskell - Review

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

So one thing you might not know about me is that I love music. I'm a big fan of indie music, punk music, Irish music, some metal, some pop, some country. I've been into music ever since I was a small child, and when I was thirteen I got really into Placebo and the Manic Street Preachers. I then got really into metal for a bit (while still loving the Manics) and then punk when I met Lee, and then I fell out of music for a bit until I got really into The Libertines when I was twenty one. Then I got into 3rd generation emo in my mid 20s, and the Gaslight Anthem, and now I just listen to what I want to and while I don't really keep an eye on music, I did see that this book came out and wanted to read it. I first of all read NME and Melody Maker, but when I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, I bought Kerrang religiously. I used to buy it from a newsagent on the way home from school, and the owner would keep a copy for me especially. I scoured every page of it weekly, looking for stuff about my favourite bands but reading all of it. I kept articles and stuff cut out from it for years. In fact, I probably still have them somewhere. There's definitely some issues of Kerrang hidden under my desk right now. I bought it again for a few years in my 20s, and I know it has remained important to some of my friends. 

The book is a pretty straightforward history of the magazine from its inception in 1981 to now, from when it was weekly in the 90s to the rise of its website and its own TV channel through to the present day when it's published quarterly. I learnt a lot about the history which was interesting, as well as the type of bands it would cover to those it wouldn't, and those it got criticised for covering (for example Muse). I will say that one of my only criticisms is that there is too much about the band Metallica, who were instrumental in the magazine's success I guess, but I really don't care about them and there was a LOT. I also think there's a lack of women (both in bands and in the writing team) featured, but metal music has always had that problem so it isn't surprising that the magazine reflected this. From my own memories I do remember them looking at some women, but often in a really sexualised way - and I do think they piled on the hate of Courtney Love in the years after Kurt Cobain's suicide. That's not a failing of this author or this book, of course, but it could maybe have been looked at. 

There are pages inserted throughout the book from different musicians that have feature a lot in the magazine and are particular faves, like Dani from Cradle of Filth, Muse, Ozzy Osbourne - a wide va\riety of people I think. I liked these and it really made me feel as a reader that the writers and the bands had had a lot of fun together and that there was a lot of mutual respect in most cases (although I utterly don't understand what the hell happened with Axl Rose...) I liked mentions of some of the high profile deaths that have happened, like Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, Kurt Cobain of course, and more recent deaths like those of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. 

It was a really nostalgic look for me at the past and at my teen years when I knew all the writers (and had my faves, of course) and the bands by glance if not more. I kept reading bits out to Lee and I really want him to read it. He is a secret Metallica fanboy so he'll probably love it! I am giving this four KKKKs out of five - thanks lads, for all the music. 

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo - Review

Saturday, October 7, 2023

I've read other books by Elizabeth Acevedo and really enjoyed them, so when I discovered she had written a book for adults I was excited to read it and I requested it at the library. I was the first person to loan out the book! I picked it up just after I brought it home. 

However, it took me a week to read it as I just couldn't get into it. I can't explain why I didn't like it and why it just didn't gel, but by 4/5ths of the way through I was just bored and wanted to give the book two out of five. I did feel like the end did redeem the book somewhat so I am ending up giving it three out of five, but for me that's quite sad and I just wish I liked this book more. 

The book concerns the Marte family, who are from the Dominican Republic originally, but all the siblings end up living in New York City. Flor, the middle of the five children, has a magical gift - she has the gift of dreaming when people will die. Knowing this, the rest of the family is worried when she announces she will be holding a living wake for herself. What has she seen? Is she about to die? She engages her niece Yadi to cater the event, and the whole book is taken up by the time between her announcement and the wake itself.

It does go backwards and forwards in time, though, and sometimes it's not clear who or what every piece of story belongs to. The matriarch of the family was Mama Silvia, who ruled over her children strictly on the campo in the Dominican Republic. The eldest child was Samuel, who is barely mentioned in the book (somewhat thankfully as there are a lot of characters). The eldest sister is Matilde. She is married to Rafa, who is a philanderer and who left her at the hotel on their wedding night to go sleep with someone else. They have never had any children, which is painful for Matilde. She knows her husband has affairs but seems unwilling to do anything about it. She loves dancing, salsa dancing, and is very good at it. She meets a new instructor in the book and it seems like she might have an affair with him. She's around seventy and she doesn't have any magical gifts like her sisters. Dancing is her magical gift, though! 

The next child is Flor who as I said has the gift of seeing death. She was married to Pedro, who has died. She seems to have found childhood difficult but I didn't really pick up why, but she came up against Mama Silvia a lot. She wanted to join the nunnery (there is also a nun aunt) but ended up getting married and having Ona. 

Pastora is the next sister - she is married to Manuelito and they seem to have a genuinely good marriage. They have a daughter, Yadi. Pastora works in a clothes shop. She also sees Matilde's husband Rafa and a younger woman who is heavily pregnant and wants to tell Matilde about it, but Matilde doesn't want to hear it. Pastora has the gift of being able to discern who is telling the truth and how. She was disgraced as a child and sent to Mama Silvia's sister, whose name still cannot be mentioned within the family, and seems to have suffered trauma because of that. I probably liked her best. 

The youngest sister is Camila, born at least ten years after everyone else and who was perhaps least badly treated by Mama Silvia. There's very little about her in the book, but her magical gift is that she can heal with herbs. She is married to Washington, and there's a bit about their wedding/marriage which shows that it's a sexless marriage. 

Ona's magical gift is a magical vagina. She lives with her boyfriend Jeremiah and they're trying for a baby, but Ona had surgery not too long ago and isn't sure if she can conceive. Ona is sort of the overviewer of the entire narrative, but her aunts do keep their secrets from her. 

The book is told kind of from an anthropological point of view, supposedly in interviews that Ona has conducted (she interjects history and opinion into the narrative at many points). She is studying anthropology and has turned to her own family as a subject. I did like this aspect and I did like the look at DR history and emmigration. 

Finally there's Yadi, who owns a cafeteria and is a vegan. Right at the beginning of the book her childhood friend Ant appears back in her life. He has been in prison for like fifteen years and is now out. They were in love as teens and there's still a spark between them but Yadi isn't sure what she wants. 

Seriously there are so many strands to this book and I just didn't feel like they were all needed and while an expansive narrative can be amazing, it just didn't work for me here. 

I felt there were too many people for me to keep track of, and I definitely lost which man belonged to which sister. I also didn't understand some of the Spanish - at times it was clear in context what it meant, but at times I had to google a word or phrase that I didn't understand. I'm still not sure what was meant about the water that Rafa's mistress asked Pastora for and feel like that did affect my enjoyment of that arc and what came afterwards. The phrasing didn't seem to be able to be translated fully. 

I'm sad I didn't like this very much; onwards and upwards to Elizabeth's next book!

The Trial by Rob Rinder - Review

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

I was intrigued when I was in the Lake District back in July and I saw this book in every book shop I went in (which was a lot. I like books). Because you know Rob Rinder, right? Also known as Judge Rinder. I never saw his TV show but I've seen him on Celebrity Gogglebox and I also liked his documentary about his family and the Holocaust. I'm also quite interested in the phenomenon of celebrities turning to writing books, which I've talked about before. So I was intrigued enough to give this a go. 

First off I have to say that Rob is actually a decent writer. The writing flows perfectly well for me. There's a sprinkling of humour throughout. The plot flows really well; one of my only criticisms is that I feel like the end all came together a bit quickly. I also think that this reads a lot like the first in a trilogy or a series, and I wouldn't be sad about that because the writing is good. Better than some writers for sure! 

Secondly, I know that Rob was a barrister and judge so it's no surprise that the main character, Adam, is also a barrister. There are bits in the book that I think "Oh that definitely must have happened" whether it's something in court or something in chambers, and whether it's something good or something bad. 

So, Adam is a trainee barrister. He's twenty five. He's on a tenancy year (I think that's the name) alongside another trainee, Georgina, and at the end of the year he or she will be taken on permanently. So it's a big deal. And Adam feels like he's been failing the whole time. Georgina is much more outgoing, much more social, and she has the backing of her pupil master. Adam doesn't fully get how to play the game, and his master is Jonathan. Jonathan is a serial adulterer, and he's quite lazy as a lawyer and gets Adam to do a bunch of donkey work. They have one case with a guy called Kavanagh, who has been accused of fraud, and who Jonathan is trying to keep on the good side of because he has a lot of money. Then Adam's mum is always on the phone to him trying to set him up with young (Jewish) girls his age and he's trying to fob her off. So that's where we find Adam at the beginning of the book. 

Right at the beginning of the book a police officer is giving evidence in a trial. He is Grant Cliveden and he's somewhat of a celebrity - he used to be a bodyguard for the Queen and once saved her from an assassination attempt, and then he's brought down a bunch of big time drug rings, and he's been on TV a lot. He's known. He is in the Old Bailey giving evidence when he has a funny turn and ultimately ends up dying. At first they think he's had a stroke, but then it turns out he's been poisoned. 

There's one suspect: Jimmy Knight. Jimmy had a few convictions for petty crimes in his youth, and was then banged up ten years ago for armed robbery of the post office he was working in. He swears he didn't do it and that Cliveden framed him. He's been out for two weeks and met up with Cliveden in a nearby pub on the day of his death. Plus his laptop shows that he was googling Cliveden when released, and there's a phone found in his flat which had sent messages to Cliveden. Jimmy maintains that the phone isn't his, and says he didn't do it. He can't really explain himself but is adamant he didn't do it. 

The case is on a legal aid basis so Jonathan wants to spend as little time on it as possible. But Adam kind of believes that Jimmy didn't do it. He starts investigating - but that threatens his own life because he has secrets in his past that he doesn't want to come to light in his current profession.

I liked Adam a lot and I liked the story. I did guess some of the twists, but didn't mind it. I'm giving this four out of five. 

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