Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin

Dead Man's Prayer4 Stars from me!

I really enjoyed Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin, it is a fab debut. I found DI Frank Farrell to be an intriguing character who really grew on me as the book progressed and by the time it was over I found myself hoping that book 2 will be out soon!

I thought it was an inventive plot, with original ideas and some unexpected twists and turns. It had the obligatory love mix, of course, and a strong lead character with a very troubled past.

After about chapter 8 I found this book hard to put down and look forward to reading more by Jackie Baldwin.

Synopsis: Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood eighteen years earlier.

With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inexorably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when a pair of twin boys go missing. The Dumfries police force recover one in an abandoned church, unharmed. But where is his brother?

As Farrell investigates the two cases, he can’t help but feel targeted. Is someone playing a sinister game, or is he seeing patterns that don’t exist? Either way, it’s a game Farrell needs to win before he loses his grip on his sanity, or someone else turns up dead.

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The Leibster Award – ReadandRated

Liebster AwardHow lovely to have been tagged in the Liebster Award by Whimsical Words of Whit!

I believe it to be a way getting to know other book review bloggers and helping to get to know each other better and build a stronger community, never a bad thing so here are my answers to the questions drafted by whimsical Whitney:

1. If you could be any character in a novel, regardless of gender, who would it be and why?

I can’t think of an answer for this. I’m struggling to pin down a character, sorry.

2. Which character would you want to be your mentor? Why’d you choose them?

Probably Gary Goodhew’s grandmother from the Cambridge Blue series – because I’d love someone like her in my life.

3. What book do you always find yourself going back to?

I don’t like to re-read books, unless I can count children’s books, if so, I rather enjoyed a book called Magoosey!

4. If you became an author, what genre would you write?

Murder murder murder all day long. Although with a black humour undercurrent I suspect.

5. You’re in a ‘Hunger Games’ situation, but you get to have two other teammates. Who are they, and why are they valuable in this situation? (Please don’t think I’m encouraging the slaughter of innocents.)

Edward from Twilight as he could (be all dreamy and lovely) whisk me away from the path of danger. And Jack Reacher although not the Tom Cruise version, it would have to be the Jack Reacher who is described in the books!

6. What is your dream occupation? (Yes, being a wizard does count.)

Being an eccentric author who runs a cattery/rescue centre.

7. What is one food or beverage that you could never give up?

Water I guess… Although I am partial to proper coffee and prosecco.

8. If you could alter one book’s ending, which one would it be and why?

One Day by David Nicholls – I literally threw it across the room and was angry and felt cheated after reading it!

9. What is something you’ve always wanted to do?

See question 6!

10. Which movie adaptation of a novel is your favourite?

I don’t know, sorry! I’m hoping that WOOL by Hugh Howey will be brilliant, I quite enjoyed Gone Girl, Titanic made me cry, the Harry Potter films were mostly good although the books were better. I’ve never watched the Twilight movies as I fear they cannot capture the magic of the books. (Twilight style books are SO not my usual genre!)

11. Lastly, who is your fictional soulmate?

Hmmm so many to chose from but I’m going to go with DC Simon Waterhouse.

 

The rules are, answer my 11 questions at your own discretion, link back to me, nominate (or try to nominate) 11 other blogs, and provide them with your own 11 questions. Feel free to post your answers to my Facebook page too.

I couldn’t find 11 people to tag, but I’ve chosen to pass this on to:

@gilbster1000

@Da_Book_Queen

My questions are:

1. How long have you been blogging?

2. What inspired you to start?

3. Where do you dream that your blog will one day lead you?

4. Which fictional character do you wish you could be friends with?

5. If you could change the ending to a book, which one would it be and what changes would you make?

6. Is there a book that you wish you could read forever?

7. What was your favourite book as a child?

8. Do you think reading fiction influences your every day life – how you behave and interact with others?

9. Where is your favourite place to read?

10. If you had a friend who says they don’t enjoy reading, which book would you recommend to them knowing that it would ignite the flame?

11. What question do you wish I’d asked you and why?

Have fun! x

The Fate of the Novelist: A Positivity Check – in response to Warren Adler

I’ve read and re-read Warren Adler’s article in The Huffington Post and now I feel moved to respond.

Mr Adler has clearly enjoyed great wealth, accolades, applause and pleasure from his career as a talented and distinguished writer and I find it puzzling that he would choose to offer a post of such negativity about his craft.

I love books. I love holding them, reading them, talking about them, sharing them, urging other people to read them and I love the images, emotions and feelings that they stir up.

Without authors, none of these things would exist.

Without readers, none of these things would exist.

I agree with several things that Mr Adler says:

1. ‘The print industry is dying out and that regrettably books stores could ultimately follow suit’ – In my own town, book giant Waterstones has been priced out of the high street! Personally I hope that books stores will find a way to stay, that they’ll find a new way to attract customers and bring books to the masses. Book signings, book launches, even just simply browsing a row of jacket covers – could that be lost forever? I hope not. I have dreams of books shops that offer more of a reading experience, that have writing areas, review corners and of course freshly ground coffee and large sinky sofas.

2. ‘Advances are drying up’ – I don’t have first hand knowledge of this but I believe it to be true, it would make sense that with a market continually flooded with new authors the advances can only become smaller. The amazing, coveted, successes of the likes of JK Rowling are few and far between. However isn’t that the case for a lot of industries these days? Back in the days of the classics there were far fewer penman vying for space and far fewer opportunities, it goes without saying that the more competition then the less money there will be, on average, per head. A few outstanding individuals will always command more and so they should. It may be harder to earn your living solely from being a novelist but ultimately that could sort the wheat from the chaff on it’s own, leaving only the most resolute writers in the game. I’d much rather read a book written by someone who loves to write irrespective of payment, than I would a book written by someone who churns out 5 books a year with their eye purely on their pay packet.

3. ‘There is no end to people who want to write novels’ – I completely agree with this too, but I think it’s a wonderful thing not a negative.

4. ‘There is still great personal satisfaction in self-publishing’ – absolutely, go for it! I recently did a book review of Sealed With A Kiss by Rachel Lucas who had astonishing success after self-publishing.

I disagree with several things he says too:

1. ‘The quality of content is diminishing’ – I don’t agree with this. Mr Adler speaks of drifting back to the classics in search of ‘a really great book’; now this is of course an excellent way to find a wonderful read but there are some amazing authors alive and well today penning their words for our very enjoyment. As with everything in life it is simply a case of find the ones that resonate with you.

2. ‘There are simply too many books being published’ – I don’t agree with this. More books equals more choice, equals more creativity and more inspiration; how can that be a bad thing?

3. ‘While books are being digitally published like popcorn, I do not believe that readers are keeping apace. Brevity and speed seem to be the order of the day for our young readers, who will sustain the publishing future’ – massively disagree with this one, the world changes and adapts and who are we to judge the medium and methods of enjoyment for new readers?

It was the following point that has played in my head since reading his article and the one that has prompted this post in response from me:

“There are simply too many books being published, especially in fiction. Among them are probably some really wonderful ones, but they are hard to find. The filters have become clogged. Book bloggers try their best to become taste filters. Some succeed in attracting a following, but one wonders if they affect sales.”

As a relatively new book blogger I felt the need to justify my existence in cyberspace and my place within the publishing world.

I am lucky as I can say that I know I have affected sales for some authors, maybe only a few sales but I know that I have written reviews or tweeted comments about books that have directly resulted in other people buying or downloading those books.

Among others, I know that other people have bought, read and commented upon: Whisky From Small Glasses, The Judas Scar, Cambridge Blue and Never Saw It Coming – directly as a result of my reviews. I think that’s amazing. I like to think of it as my way of thanking the authors for their hard work and efforts, for creating the book in the first place for me to read.

Generally speaking I don’t get these books for free, I do sometimes, but more often than not the books that I review are books that I’ve chosen and paid for. The only free one mentioned above was The Judas Scar and that was as a result of me loving the author’s first book and chatting to her about it on twitter. It being free doesn’t change the fact it was a brilliant book and I recommended it whole heartedly for that reason. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Exactly, but I often prefer to review books I’ve paid for so that I don’t have any feeling of ‘owing’ the author a good review. I like to give my honest opinion, good or bad.

I also know that as a direct result of recommendations from other people, I have gone out and bought books and discovered new authors and new characters who I have then gone on to follow and enjoy – and tell other people about – encouraging them to buy too. Recently I have bought Sealed With A Kiss, WOOL and The Shock Of The Fall based upon recommendations from other people.

I think that’s kinda cool.

Personally, I hope that the current negativity around the publishing world doesn’t put off the next generation of writers and novelists. I hope they continue to have the passion and drive needed to create new stories, worlds and characters for us to enjoy. Whether they self publish, find an agent, write a blog or come up with a completely new way for us to read and fall in love with their books is irrelevant; without those words on a page (in whatever format) we won’t discover the next JK Rowling, the next Simon Kernick or indeed the next Charlotte Brontë.

 

 

A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah

A Room Swept White

A Room Swept White

by Sophie Hannah

The synopsis: TV producer Fliss Benson receives an anonymous card at work. The card has sixteen numbers on it, arranged in four rows of four – numbers that mean nothing to her.

On the same day, Fliss finds out she’s going to be working on a documentary about miscarriages of justice involving cot-death mothers wrongly accused of murder. The documentary will focus on three women: Helen Yardley, Sarah Jaggard and Rachel Hines. All three women are now free, and the doctor who did her best to send them to prison for life, child protection zealot Dr Judith Duffy, is under investigation for misconduct. 

For reasons she has shared with nobody, this is the last project Fliss wants to be working on. And then Helen Yardley is found dead at her home, and in her pocket is a card with sixteen numbers on it, arranged in four rows of four . . .

I find Sophie Hannah to be an outstanding writer, her plots are often brave and touch upon subjects that most authors would leave well alone. A Room Swept White is a classic example of this as all the way through the book you have the much deeper unspoken subplot of whether or not you, the reader, believes that the three women killed their babies.

Sadly for me the book was lacking key characters to carry such an amazing storyline.

The Simon Waterhouse, Charlie Zailer and Proust relationship has become farcical. Such a shame as a few books back it was brilliant. Now Zailer is basically kept in a box until the author needs her for something, Waterhouse has become borderline psychotic but with none of the charisma which would normally accompany such a role and as for Proust, well, I’m a bit lost for words.

The worst thing for me was the way that the story seemed to jog along with lots of ‘is it this person, is it that person’ and then all of a sudden it felt as though the allocated number of words had been completed therefore, like a magician pulling a rabbit out from a tatty hat, the murderer is revealed and a few other loose ends are randomly and unbelievably tied up all in the space of about 4 pages.

Insulting.

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy

by J K Rowling

Have to confess I actually had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it. The only press I’d seen regarding it was negative comments owing to it not being a children’s book. Which I personally thought was a bit odd – what gives anyone the right to dictate to an author which genre they ‘must’ write in?

So, I was actually under the impression that this was to be a shag-fest, swear-fest of a book, possibly about temporary office workers, (insert suitable reference about not judging a book by its cover here ;) ) and was therefore a little surprised to find myself reading a book about a vacancy at a Parish Council.

Not at all what I expected but a charming little (massive) book which leads you an a journey through the lives of the villagers of Pagford. This is a gentle read with lots of characters and intricately woven story threads which all pull together as you read on.

Overall it lacks the punch of the Harry Potter novels but as a standalone book it is a good, if bitter-sweet, read.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader

The Reader

by Bernhard Schlink

 

The synopsis: For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does – Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.

I read this for a book group and I have to say first off that the fact this book begins with a child being groomed by and adult and they referring to it as an erotic love affair made it incredibly hard for me to read the rest of the book.

He was fifteen she was in her thirties. All obvious and disappointing jokes to one side, if this were a fifteen year old girl and a man in his mid thirties would it be ok?

How about if it were a fourteen year old boy and woman in her early thirties or a thirteen year old boy and woman in her late twenties.

Or a fifteen year old boy and a man in his mid thirties – not so funny or erotic now huh.

However.

I did read the rest of the book as was required and with the exception of the above noted scenes it was a good, though provoking book.

It left a lot of things unanswered and, for me, it had some pretty huge plot holes which I’m told are conveyed better in the film.

I don’t feel as though I can offer any more of a review than that; for me the book was tainted by its opening scenes.