Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized

The Widow, Fiona Barton: Review

MURDER. SUSPICIONS. MYSTERY. thriller?

I was not made aware of this novel until I mentioned to my longest  closest best friend (and book buddy) that I had no book to read at the moment (SHOCK HORROR!!!).

The Widow is a Sunday Times Bestseller and has been pitted as the next BIG thriller after Girl On The Train (according to the Glamour quotation on the front of the book, although I don’t think I will take that for gospel). So it is safe to say my expectations were high. Warning, this review deals with heavy themes and nothing should be taken to deeply, in particular my references to crime cases from British History.

The story had a plot that follows the tragic story of a young girl, Bella Eliott who goes missing from her front garden and the aftermath that surrounds the investigation. The story follows different people’s views who are somehow connected  to the plot. Th leading investigating officer. A reporter. The Mother, the wife of the accused. Interestingly the narration jumps from past and present tense. In the present Bella Elliot’s ‘kidnapper’ Glen Taylor has just been run over by a bus. Starting from this point captures the readers interest and was pleasantly unexpected, which led me to believe that this novel was going to be different from the typical ‘Find Who Did It’ crime stories.

What struck me about this novel is Fiona Barton’s focus on telling the story from the view of not just the grieving mother or police officer who is on the case: but focus’s on the view of the reporter who befriends the accused’s wife and the accused’s wife herself. By exploring how the press can influence, and sometimes hinder, a crime investigation takes this story to a deeper and more darker level than I expected. This theme is one that  I believe resonates particularly with a British reader and echos big crime stories such as, dare I say it, The Madeline Mcann case. This case was heavily media covered with wild theories being  slung around which some would caused trouble for the investigation. It won’t be the first and it won’t be the last. Kate the reporter’s main objective is to get this story on the front page and treats the investigation is an extremely clinical manner. Kate’s dialogue is very matter of fact and rarely uses emotive language and does not seem to recognise Bella’s mother, as a grieving woman but as a 2D subject. There is rarely a chapter that goes by that she does not relate to characters in the framework of her news story. To me this is a clever technique by the author and reflects a negative view on how the press deal with personal and shocking stories seeing them as a selling tool instead of an event that destroys people’s lives.

So far so good, right? Wrong.

This novel was built up to me compared to Gone Girl, a deep and physiological detailed thriller which grips the reader page after page. All the ingredients were there. A mystery of a missing girl. A suspect, all be it dead, and his strange wife who is obsessed with having a family. Differing perspectives and the BIG issues of kidnap: a potential paedophile, surely this is a recipe for a great novel?

The only problem. I HAD GUESSED THE STORY WITHIN ABOUT FOUR CHAPTERS OF READING IT.

Now that’s not to say the plot is not a good one. The strong headed reporter who is interviewing Jean Taylor who is the killer’s wife. What could be wring with that?

*spoilers ahead*

Usually throughout mystery novels clues to the story’s twist are released slowly and skillfully so that a reader almost has to look back to see how they possibly missed a particular twist. However in Widow, the readers are meant to sympathise with Jean Taylor the wife of a murder, how could she have not known. The only problem with this is I knew she had some involvement almost the second that I started reading. Mainly due to the fact that the murder was dead, what I thought was a good twist at the beginning, a mystery where the perpetrator is not directly involved but that only left Jean. Yes, other suspects were presented but they were not fleshed out fully enough to be even considered.

FINAL VERDICT

This story has all the right elements a gripping and challenging plot line, exploring issues that many writers would not dare to tackle. Potential for greatness if it was not compared to such great novels. Classed as adult fiction the writing was far to simple, almost seems like it is more fitting for teens. 

Worth a read but I doubt I will be reading it again.

Out of ten? 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Harry Potter: And The Cursed Child, Review.

In my opinion when reviewing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child it is important to review it as a separate entity to the Harry Potter franchise. Although, it is not completely possible to do this: as the play itself revisits many key aspects of the original novels, it is important to consider the different forms and realise that the difference between a play and a novel is vital to consider.

This has been a big issue as many people who are huge fans of the novels perhaps would expect the same level of detail in the play. When going to purchase the play myself I was wondering through Waterstones, when I saw a man with two young boys put a copy of the play back. He then asked me if I had seen the ‘book version’ of the play and became confused when I explained that there is not one. This struck a chord with me and made me worry that those who did not expect a play, would not enjoy or give it a go.

To read in a play format is very different to reading a novel, it is mostly set out in speech and has short scenes instead of long paragraphs. This to me is effective in Harry Potter as readers were immediately transported back into the land of wizards. “A busy and crowded station, full of people trying to get somewhere. Amongst the hustle and bustle, two large cages rattle on top of two laden trolleys.” For those seasoned Harry Potter fans we are instantly transported to platform nine and three quarters, and in terms of the play the scene is set in an effective way, as it creates the scene of a busy train station.

Focusing on Albus, the son of Harry Potter, the young boy struggles with living up to his fathers heroic reputation, the fact that he has been sorted into Slytherin, and feels like the outsider of his family.He struggles to fit in at Hogwarts and quickly becomes best friends with Scorpius; a Malfoy and rumoured son of the notorious Voldermort. Upon hearing that his dad let Cedric Diggory die, Albus convinces Scorpius to help him use a stolen Time Turner, which creates disastrous consequences and endangers everyone’s life as they know it, threatening to wipe it out completely.

The great elements about the play was the way that magic was written into the play. Something that would be fascinating to see when the play comes to life on stage. Several spells are used, such as the patronus charm, which creates real life animals on stage. There are talking books, characters jumping from one place to another, charms and epic fights between wizards. Although the stage directions did not say how these spells would be performed on stage it is made clear that this would be done and it would be eye-catching. This has transcended in the live stage play with reviews describing the on stage magic. Susannah Clap from The Guardian states: “Under Tiffany’s direction the spell-binding is utterly theatrical, drawing on sleight of hand and Victorian iions. There are engulfing transformations but also small moments of complete simplicity: Halloween lanterns propel themselves through the darkness; in one brilliantly quick flip of costume, kids in mufti become Hogwarts pupils.”

One captivating theme, and what the majority of act one seems to focus on is the growth sand strength of the friendship between Albus and Scorpius. To me, their friendship drives the play. According to the outside world the two should not get along because of who they are: a Potter and a Malfoy, but their innocence and the way they ignore the stigma attached to their names highlights a key theme of the play which i believe to be, the innocence of children and their views of the outside world.  What is also comforting about the boys friendship is that it echoes the strength of the friendship which Ron, Hermione and Harry built throughout the original series of books. As many people reading the play, this could perhaps give them the same feelings as they had when remembering reading the original Harry Potter series and create the same sense of magic and atmosphere to the reader.

Simple child-like language is used to discuss major problems with each other and they help each other through and it is clear that they address the world from a untainted view, and believe that situations can be fixed simply. One instance of this proves to be a major catalyst for the rest of the play. When Albus overhears that a Time Turner still exists  he resolves to fix it and states: “my father couldn’t save him-we can. We’re going to use a Time-Turner. We’re going to bring it back.” In this sentence it is clear that Albus believes that a situation can be fixed clearly and is a clear expression of a theme that runs throughout the play,which is children trying to live in their parent’s shadows, and struggling to create their own identity.

Overall, the play script is a fast-paced monumental success, as long as readers remember that they are reading a play and try to separate it from the original novels, which to me cannot be beaten! I look forward to one day to see the magic live on stage myself and can’t wait to see the next instalments!

 

Posted in Book Reviews

The Book Exchange

Quite often on Facebook there are lot of links such as ‘copy and paste this link otherwise…’ with some warning indicating that you will have seven years of bad luck if you don’t share. Due to this, I usually pass them without a second glance. Until yesterday.

One of my University friends put this up: “Calling all book lovers! We need at least 6 people to participate in a book exchange! You can be anywhere in the world. All you have to do is buy a book you love and send it to one person. You will receive approximately 36 books back. If you are interested, like this status and I will message you all the details. This is a really great project, please help to continue the chain 🙂‪#‎savetheculture‬.”

So I thought, why not. It sounded like an interesting challenge and if it can spread  awareness of reading then even better.

However, half of me thought that it wouldn’t actually work. This was until today until I received the modern classic The Shining by Stephen King. I sent the novel I love to the address I was given and I hope they enjoy it as much as I do. I can’t wait to start reading!

Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Me Before You: A Discussion.

Instead of doing a typical review for this wonderful novel by JoJo Moyes I thought I would approach this differently by discussing questions that were raised. To anyone that has read this novel, and to those who haven’t, this is not your typical romance book but explores how to deal with life and love under the most extreme circumstances.

Louisa Clarke is a girl who is content with her simple, quiet life. She works in the local cafe, has athletic boyfriend and lives with her parents, but she is content with her life and does not have many ambitions. That is until her normal life is turned upside down when she looses her job, and begins to work for a quadriplegic man, somewhat reluctantly.

Will Traynor had it all, a top job in the city, the perfect model girlfriend, pretty with a good job and wealthy.  Rushing to work one day Will Traynor is caught up in an accident that leaves him in a wheelchair and changes the cause of his life forever.  The once thrill seeking Will finds himself in a wheelchair. He now feels joyless and can’t see any reason to continue to live in this world.

However  Lou Clarke bursts into his life like a burst of colour and the two people, who should have nothing in common soon change each other’s loves irrevocably.

download

The quote above to me defines the essence of the novel and encapsulates what the author JoJo Moyes intends the reader to take from this novel.

There are several issues raised within the novel, the most important being the issue of euthanasia and the effects that it has on those who surround the individual who has decided to take this path to end their life.

In the novel Lou is unaware that she has been employed to effectively change Will’s mind on his impending trip to commit suicide in a clinic. The novel explores his family’s reactions to Will’s decision. His mother seems to be in a state of denial, and is adamant that Lou will be able to change his mind. Meanwhile, his father seems to distance himself in order to deal with it.

When she finds out that Will has decided to end is life Lou comes up with a plan to try change his mind and does this through planning different activities in order to show Will that life is worth living again.

It is clear that JoJo Moyes intended us to think deeply about the issues raised in the novel as she lists a set of reading group topics at the end of the novel, I will address one here:

Will’s right to die, and Lou’s determination to change his mind about exercising this right, is a theme that runs throughout the novel. How did you feel about Will’s decision in the end? Was it what you expected? Do you think the novel should have ended differently?- JoJo Moyes,

To me, as the novel unfolded it was clear that Will was suffering a lot of pain and had his mind set on ending his life. This may be controversial to say but the hopeless romantic in me was somewhat disappointed that Will went through with going to Switzerland. Perhaps this was because I was so caught up in Lou’s unrelenting will to succeed in keeping Will Traynor alive and the growing love between the two characters, that selfishly I wanted the two to have their ‘happily ever after’ and have a long lifetime of love and happiness together. However, in terms of the novel as a whole if this was to be the ending I think I would regard it as just another simple tale of romance and not value it as highly as I do now. As well as being about love Moyes deals with the difficult reality of living with quadriplegia and explores how for some living this way is not enough. Although perhaps because of how much I love the characters and their opposing, mis-matched personalities I could not think of a more suitable way to end the novel.

To view the trailer for the upcoming movie Me Before You please click below:

 

This movie is not to be missed and I can’t wait to see and write about how this compares to the book!

Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized

The Girl On The Train-Book Review

Most novels that suddenly gain a surge of attention are not worth reading. However, it is glaringly obvious that sometimes a novel CAN live up to the hype it causes. I tested this theory on The Girl On The Train. The Girl On The Train was a hit last summer, seemingly coming out of nowhere. This the first Thriller by the author Paula Hawkins.

Rachel takes the same 8:04 train every day, commuting to and from London, sipping her gin and tonic out of a can. Along the way she passes a line of cosy suburban homes. Glancing out the window at the stop sign, each day she glimpses into the lives of a couple, who she has named “Jess and Jason”. They have a picture perfect life-or so she imagines- and she likes to watch them, partly because she cannot bare to look a couple doors down to Number 23 Blenheim Road. The road where she used to live. Where her ex-husband and new girlfriend, new child now live. This is where the novels plot gets interesting. On a Friday morning Rachel sees another man “kissing” Jess and the next evening she is reported missing.

On the same Saturday Rachel drunkenly arrives at Bleheim Road and the next morning can not remember a thing. Has she played a vital role in the disappearance of her ‘Jess’ who is later identified as Megan Hipwell. The novel follows Rachel trying to establish what happened the night she was blacked out and quickly becomes a thriller which explores strained and dark relationships, jealousy, betrayal and flawed personalities.

The biggest intrigue that sustains you throughout this novel is the main narrator, Rachel. She is an alcoholic, a flawed narrator who suffers from blackouts. To be frank she is not the nicest person, obsessively calling her ex husband drunk and constantly lying to those around her like her Mom and in particular, her flatmate Cathy. However as the novel progresses, in spite of all this, as a reader, you want her to find out the truth. Perhaps this is because the majority of the narrative stems from her point of view: or the fact that her character is so cleverly written by Hawkins that for all Rachel’s flaws we can not help but believe her intuition when she feels something is not right. Or perhaps it is because Hawkins thriller focuses on five main characters, all of whom have lied at some point and have deep rooted issues, which act as a predominate character feature. There is Rachel, the seemingly mad alcoholic: No job, no real friends or ties with the outside world. Anna, the woman who gets thrills from having an affair and Megan who is unstable, with a hidden past which triggers the events of the novel.

Though perhaps the most terrifying focus of the novel is the portrayal of the male characters. Unlike the women, who Hawkins makes clear that are flawed from the start, the men are treated differently. When the novel begins, we are given the impression that Tom (other than having an affair) is a sympathetic man who put up with all the harassment a drunken Rachel gives him. Right until almost the very end I was convinced that he was the only character in the novel with some sort of a ‘normal’ life. That is what made the shock that *SPOILER ALERT* Tom was the murderer even more terrifying. He seems to be the only one I was rooting to have a happy ending throughout the novel. Which perhaps illustrates the genius of Hawkins’s writing. At the beginning Scott’s character seemed to be that of a mournful husband. However throughout the novel cracks in his personality started to appear, commencing in his attack on Rachel and locks her in a room.

One of the major themes running throughout the novel is betrayal. Betrayal which is conducted at some point by almost all the characters. Rachel’s ex husband’s betrayal of cheating on her with Anna. Tom’s betrayal of Rachel, as it is revealed that unlike the perfect husband that is portrayed at the beginning of the novel, he is eventually found out to be a sociopathic liar, using  Rachel’s alcoholism to cover his disturbing nature.

The Girl On The Train gripped me from the beginning, and once I thought I had figured out who was guilty, or who I did not like, the pace of the narrative along with my conclusions quickly changed. Non of the characters are particularly likeable, but somehow the story is still emotionally gripping. I cannot wait to read Hawkins’s next novel, and this time I won’t wait until the fuss has died down to read it!