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The First Wife
The First Wife

3.0 out of 5 stars Oddly dated, September 23, 2014
This review is from: The First Wife (Kindle Edition)
Lily Button is 20, and has lived a very sheltered life, raised by her grandparents. When they die she finds work as a cleaner and is employed by local celebrity couple, Harry and Sarah Summer. After the death of Mrs Summer, Lily grows closer to Harry, but gradually she starts to have suspicions that Harry is not being entirely truthful with her about events in his marriage.

This is a strange book to get into. It feels reminiscent of Victoria Holt's novels (even the Cornish setting) about innocent young women straying into the path of widowers with secrets. It could equally be a Hitchcock film, with Cary Grant as the handsome Harry and perhaps a young Katherine Ross as Lily. It doesn't feel like a book written in 2011, even though it is indisputably set in the present day. Lily's innocence and naivety is also hard to believe in - although really, there isn't a character in the book that feels like a real person.

So I spent the first half of the book being vaguely irritated by it and really, just continuing because I was curious to see what was going to happen. In the second half things start to come together and the final hundred pages are genuinely "can't put down" reading. So an intriguing plot, but a less than compelling narrative.


The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2)
The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2)

3.0 out of 5 stars Liked it, respected it, didn't love it., September 22, 2014
Cormoran Strike is back, with a higher profile now after solving of the Lula Landry murder. He has a waitlist of clients and is making noises about taking on a third staff member. He is approached by Leonora Quine, whose husband the writer Owen Quine has gone missing. Leonora assumes that he has gone to a writers' retreat, but wants him home. When Cormoran discovers Owen's body and it becomes evident that the police's leading suspect is his wife, Cormoran determines to find the true killer and clear his client's name.

Like The Cuckoo's Calling, this is a very well written book. It's not a thriller - no gun fights, no chase scenes - and Cormoran doesn't exhibit any superhuman powers (quite the opposite in fact). It's about the slow and steady process of investigation, uncovering clues and closing down red herrings. The relationship between Cormoran and his assistant Robin is also a key and satisfying part of the story. I really like Robin and I want more of her please in the next installment. (Al is very welcome to come back too.)

But I liked this book less than its predecessor and much of that was because it felt like an inside joke - a book written by someone who knows the publishing industry well, for others who also know the publishing industry well. Also, the nature of the crime - and the extended synopsis of the book that inspired it - were, for want of a more eloquent term, icky. I felt like washing my hands everytime I put the book down. Liked it, respected it, didn't love it.


Personal (Jack Reacher 19)
Personal (Jack Reacher 19)

4.0 out of 5 stars Shake up in formula left me scratching my head, September 22, 2014
There have been many reviews already that have covered the plot of this book. It is a departure in pace and I liked seeing Reacher team up with an accomplice. The story takes Reacher to both Paris and London, which I enjoyed. I especially liked having Lee Child - an Englishman - describing London to us through American eyes. I liked the fact that Reacher didn't get the girl, as it would have felt inappropriate given their age difference. And I also liked the humor that came through.

And yet. I can't put a finger on it, but it didn't feel like a book that had been penned by the same hand as the others in the series. The writing style did, it has the same relentless go forward momentum that all the books in the series do, but there were so many changes in plot formula that it felt somewhat...off. Reacher's humor felt different, his approach to women felt different (was there a sub-plot perhaps with the older FBI woman which got chopped?), his deductive powers were sluggish and his reaction to travel felt unlikely - though now that he has a fresh new passport it would be fun if this marks the start of him traveling around the world instead of just the US.

I devoured this book as I have all the others in the series. It's not one of the greats, but nor is it the lamest.


Those Who Wish Me Dead
Those Who Wish Me Dead

3.0 out of 5 stars Fast and mindless, September 22, 2014
Jace Wilson is thirteen and accidentally witnesses a murder. To protect him, his family arrange for him to be hidden in rural Montana, among a group of troubled teens from all over the US who learn wilderness skills as a form of rehabilitation. The program is run by Ethan and his wife Allison. When the murderers - a particularly unpleasant pair of brothers - learn where Jace is, they descend on the scene and it is apparent that they will stop at nothing to find and silence Jace forever.

The first half of this book is a little slow, but once the brothers have arrived in Montana the pace - and tension - pick up immediately. It's a genuinely nerve-wracking read with some great twists. To me, however, it is let down by an absence of credibility. Would the brothers really be willing to leave a trail of dead bodies behind them in a bid to eliminate one person? Moreover, some of their actions simply don't add up once all the pieces have fallen into place.

A good holiday read, fast and mindless, but nothing that you'll remember down the track.


Cobra
Cobra
by Deon Meyer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.08
34 used & new from $12.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, September 22, 2014
This review is from: Cobra (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is the fourth novel featuring South African detective Benny Griessel to be translated into English. The author, Deon Meyer, writes in his native Afrikaans. It's a fast paced and gripping thriller, peopled with fully fleshed characters and incorporating many of the issues facing South Africa today.

There are twin storylines. One concerns a massacre at a luxurious retreat in the Wine District. Three men have been killed (two of them bodyguards) and one, their employer, is missing. The shell casings left behind identify the hit as the work of a professional assassin known as "The Cobra". Detective Benny Griessel is called to the scene and quickly realises that there are far flung implications from the crime. Meanwhile, in Capetown, Tyrone is a young pickpocket trying to support his sister. When he chooses the wrong pocket to pick, a rapid chain of events are set in motion.

Benny Griessel is a terrific character and one of the things that I like so much about Meyer's books are the way that he and his team are so nuanced and complex. South Africa is also a key part of this book, with its racial tensions, political bureaucracy and corruption.


Soy Sauce for Beginners
Soy Sauce for Beginners
Price: $4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Stick with it, August 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Gretchen is the daughter of a artisanal soy sauce "empire". Her grandfather founded the company, where her father, uncle and cousin all work. Gretchen left Singapore some tens years ago and has been living in San Francisco, pursuing a career in music. When her marriage breaks up, she returns to Singapore, intending to spend the summer working at the family business before returning to the US to continue her studies. Being in Singapore will force her to face up to family issues that she has been in denial about as well as giving her fresh perspective on her marriage and her chosen career.

There are a lot of things that I really liked about this book. I loved the Singapore setting - I was in the city not so long ago and really enjoyed revisiting it. I also found the information about artisanal soy sauce genuinely fascinating. Initially my impression was that the writing was kind of amateurish. Uneven pacing, lots of telling us how people feel, stereotypical characters (yes, I'm talking to you Cal). However as I read on, I found myself increasingly caught up in Gretchen's story and thinking about it when I wasn't reading the book. I also liked the way that the story kept taking little twists that I didn't see coming - everytime I thought something was going to be very predictable, I was wrong.

Gretchen's personality is somewhat annoying. I felt like shaking her sometimes and saying "grow up! You're thirty!" But the more I think about it, the more that's a sign that the author had delivered a real, nuanced person to me. So despite its flaws - or maybe because of them - I did enjoy this book.


Better Off Dead: (Victor the Assassin 4)
Better Off Dead: (Victor the Assassin 4)

3.0 out of 5 stars A weak link in the series, August 13, 2014
Victor is an assassin at the top of his game. He's clinical, calculating, aloof. This is the fourth book in the series about him and they are very, very good - but this is the weakest in the series to date. I was quite disappointed by it.

The plot has Victor travelling to London to find and protect the step-daughter of a former friend. When he does find her, he discovers that some very powerful people want her dead. They are reporting to a woman who is every bit as cool and cunning as Victor is and who even outwits him on occasion.

I didn't think this was a terrible book but I didn't love it as I have the others in the series. Partly, I felt that Victor being teamed up with another person meant that he didn't get the opportunity to be as cool as he usually is. I was also very annoyed by a couple of sequences that happened for NO reason other than to keep the action going fast and furious. They didn't fit with risks that Victor would take and they didn't even get explained. (MINOR SPOILER: One of these is halfway through when Victor announces that he needs to talk to Norimov - no he doesn't! And if he does, then why doesn't he do so? It's just an excuse for another action sequence). Even the reason for Victor being sent to London in the first place gets disproven. There are just too many plot developments that don't add up, and this annoyed me greatly.

Much as Zero Day (John Puller Series) read like Baldacci trying to mimic Lee Child, this book reads like someone trying to mimic Tom Wood rather than delivering the quality of the real thing.


What Came Before
What Came Before

2.0 out of 5 stars Hard going, August 1, 2014
This review is from: What Came Before (Kindle Edition)
This is the story of a dysfunctional, abusive relationship which opens with the statement: "My name is David James Forrester. I'm a solicitor. Tonight, at 6.10, I killed my wife." The story then moves in two directions simultaneously: exploring the story of how David and his wife Elle met and how their relationship evolved and at the same time moving forwards on the night of the crime as David deals with the ramifications of what he has done.

This is a well written, book but I have to say that I really disliked it. David is such an unpleasant character and the details of their relationship are not easy to read. I didn't like spending time with these people and seeing the chances that Elle kept giving this man, knowing what we were leading towards. There are also some graphic sex scenes which felt quite uncomfortable to read.

I also felt that the structure of the book let it down. I didn't feel any tension because I knew what was going to happen (there is a slight twist towards the end, but it's insufficient).

I will say that the characters are very rounded and feel real - as I've said above, the book is well written - but I did not enjoy it and I wouldn't recommend it.


The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry
The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry

4.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves, July 30, 2014
AJ Fikry runs a bookstore on a small island off Hyannis Port. His beloved wife died some 18 months earlier and he has become increasingly rude, bitter and stick in his ways. Amelia is a book rep who visits him to present her company's new book releases. Their initial meeting is a disaster and they will retain a polite but not very friendly relationship for some time afterwards. But then AJ finds a toddler abandoned in his bookstore and gradually his outlook on life changes as he starts finding things to live for.

I adored the first half of this book. It is light hearted and occasionally laugh out loud funny - similar in style to A Man Called Ove: A Novel. I did notice that the author had a tendency of resolving plot issues by just fast forwarding in time, which was somewhat irritating, but overall the charm carried the book along nicely. I particularly liked Lambiase, the local policeman who becomes a reader.

But then, around the halfway mark, things seem to come to a natural conclusion and somehow the second half of the book doesn't work so well. It starts with the death of a (minor) character - a twist that somehow feels out of step with the book thus far. Some more serious issues start to be presented, but they feel out of step with the frothy tone and characters that we have become familiar with. I could tell that I was meant to be crying but I only felt mildly moved.

I still liked this book but for me it was a book of two halves and I much preferred the first half to the second.

In the US this book is published under the title "The Storied Life of AJ Fikry"


The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel
by Gabrielle Zevin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.76
87 used & new from $11.65

4.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves, July 30, 2014
AJ Fikry runs a bookstore on a small island off Hyannis Port. His beloved wife died some 18 months earlier and he has become increasingly rude, bitter and stick in his ways. Amelia is a book rep who visits him to present her company's new book releases. Their initial meeting is a disaster and they will retain a polite but not very friendly relationship for some time afterwards. But then AJ finds a toddler abandoned in his bookstore and gradually his outlook on life changes as he starts finding things to live for.

I adored the first half of this book. It is light hearted and occasionally laugh out loud funny - similar in style to A Man Called Ove: A Novel. I did notice that the author had a tendency of resolving plot issues by just fast forwarding in time, which was somewhat irritating, but overall the charm carried the book along nicely. I particularly liked Lambiase, the local policeman who becomes a reader.

But then, around the halfway mark, things seem to come to a natural conclusion and somehow the second half of the book doesn't work so well. It starts with the death of a (minor) character - a twist that somehow feels out of step with the book thus far. Some more serious issues start to be presented, but they feel out of step with the frothy tone and characters that we have become familiar with. I could tell that I was meant to be crying but I only felt mildly moved.

I still liked this book but for me it was a book of two halves and I much preferred the first half to the second.

In the UK this book is published under the title "The Collected Works of AJ Fikry"


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