Book review: The Corners of the Globe

the corners of the globe by robert goddard 10-7-14Very fast-moving sequel with a Scotland to London train chase complete with spies, a captured German warship, murder, kidnapping, secret codes and jumping on and off trains which would rival The 39 Steps [which Goddard playfully has one of his characters read in the restaurant car of one of the trains].

The first book in The Wide World series by Robert Goddard [below] left me wanting more, and I turned straight to The Corners of the Globe to continue the story. A plane flight from Spain to the UK and a stint in the doctor’s waiting room ensured that I flew through it. You really do need to read book one first [see the link below for my review], although there is a little exposition at the beginning in the form of a Secret Service report, but to be honest it functions more as a recap for the reader who has read the first book than as an introduction for a newcomer.

[:photo Graham Jepson]

[:photo Graham Jepson]

Goddard is a consummate storyteller and sells millions of books worldwide, the majority of his books have made the UK’s Sunday Times Top 10 Bestsellers lists.

I failed to guess the ending of the first book, did I guess the ending of this one correctly? No. And there’s no date yet for the release of the final book of the trilogy. I for one am waiting eagerly.

To read my review of the first book in the series, The Ways of the World, click here.
For more information about Scottish novelist John Buchan, who wrote The 39 Steps, click here.
To watch the original 1935 BW film of The 39 Steps, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, click here.
Click here for Robert Goddard’s official Facebook page.

‘The Corners of the Globe: The Wide World #James Maxted 2’ by Robert Goddard [pub in the UK by Bantam Press]

Book Review: The Milk of Female Kindness, an Anthology of Honest Motherhood, contributing editor Kasia James

sandradan1:

A sensitive review of ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ by author Gwen Wilson who appreciates the difficult balance handled by editor Kasia James. This anthology is a collection of honest writing about motherhood: not the pink fluffy version. And Gwen is right, when I asked her to review the anthology I didn’t know the subject of her novel ‘I Belong to No One’!

Originally posted on The Reluctant Retiree:

Many months ago, fellow blogger Sandra Danby, asked if I would like to review The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood by Kasia James (Contributing Editor). Sandra has two entries in the anthology, and arranged for me to receive a soft copy.

First of all, I should mention that my manuscript, now titled I Belong to No One, did at one stage, have the working title of Where Have all the Mothers Gone? Also, it is now broken into two parts: Motherless Daughter, and Childless Mother. Had she known that, Sandra might have thought twice about my suitability to give an unbiased review of the anthology :-)

Well, this is the first time I have ever done a review, so here goes.

The first thing to say is that I skimmed over the title “HONEST” motherhood. However, if I was expecting a white-washed…

View original 459 more words

I agree with… Val McDermid

[photo: valmcdermid.com]

[photo: valmcdermid.com]

“If I published my first three novels now, I wouldn’t have a career because no-one would publish my fourth novel based on the sales of my first three… Back in the day when I started you were still allowed to make mistakes, you got to make your mistakes in public, in a way. I think the world was a more forgiving place when I started my career [in 1987], in the sense that we got time and space to develop as a writer. That is definitely something that wouldn’t happen now. No-one will say, ‘Write half a dozen novels and find yourself’… If you don’t make the best-seller list, if you don’t get shortlisted for any prizes, it’s goodbye.”

Val McDermid has sold 10 million books. Her first crime novel, Report for Murder, was published by Women’s Press in 1987 and was to be the first of a series about freelance journalist Lindsay Gordon. She wrote a crime novel, because she enjoyed reading them. McDermid went on to write the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, the latest of which, Cross and Burn, was published in 2013. She is a highly-decorated and respected author. So for her to say she doesn’t think she would make it today as a new writer, should make everyone in the book business stop and think. Report for Murder by val mcdermid 1-7-14Authors need time to develop their craft, it always used to be that publishers signed up authors knowing this, priding themselves on ‘developing talent’. Now it seems publishers expect every book to be an international bestseller but are less willing to take the risks to find one. That a small press such as Women’s Press signed up McDermid, we should all be grateful. The argument may be that another publisher may have picked her up, and Tony Hill would not have been lost. Perhaps if Val was starting today, she would be an indie author instead. cross and burn by val mcdermid 1-7-14To read the Daily Telegraph’s article about McDermid’s speech, click here.
For Val McDermid’s website, click here.
To watch the book trailer for Cross and Burn on You Tube, click here.

Book review: The Hidden Assassins

The pace of this thriller does not stop. The setting: Seville, Spain. The beginning: a mutilated corpse is found on a rubbish dump. The first turning point: an explosion at a block of flats turns out to be a terrorism attack on the mosque in the basement. Or is it? Detective Javier Falcón is swept along by the media circus and political panic as fear of a widescale attack on Andalucía grips Spain.

Javier Falcón played by Marton Csokas [photo: Sky]

Javier Falcón played by Marton Csokas [photo: Sky]

This is the third of Robert Wilson’s four-book series about Falcón and the story twists and turns relentlessly. The plotting is excellent, I challenge you to work out the answers. As Javier unravels the knots you don’t know what to believe and neither does he.

I am fascinated by the insight into Falcón’s life provided by glimpses of his cooking. His housekeeper leaves his food in the fridge for him to prepare in the evening. He is something of a cook. “Encarnación had left him some fresh pork fillet. He made a salad and sliced up some potatoes and the meat. He smashed up some cloves of garlic, threw them into the frying pan with the pork fillet and chips. He dashed some cheap whisky on top and let it catch fire from the gas flame. He ate without thinking about the food and drank a glass of red rioja to loosen up his mind.” And then he goes out to work again. It is 10pm.

I will not give away the plot details, but there are sub-plots too involving characters who featured in books one and two: Javier’s ex-wife Inés and her husband the judge Esteban Calderón, his ex-girlfriend Consuelo, his sister Manuela.

As always, Seville is an additional character. Its streets, the heat, the lifestyle. It makes me want to go there now.

For my review of The Blind Man of Seville, the first of the Javier Falcón series, click here.
Click here to read my review of The Silent and the Damned, the second in the series.
To see the study where Robert Wilson writes at home in Portugal, click here.
To watch the trailer ‘Behind the Scenes: Made in Seville’ for the Sky Atlantic Falcón television series, click here.
For information about visiting Seville including the city, hotels, events, and the surrounding countryside, click here.

The fourth and final book in the Javier Falcón series is The Ignorance of Blood, will be reviewed here soon.

the hidden assassins by robert wilson 3-5-14

 

‘The Hidden Assassins’ by Robert Wilson [pub by Harper]

Book review: The Good Girl

the good girl by mary kubica 24-7-14The story starts with a missing girl, woman really, though we first hear the news of the disappearance of Mia Dennett from her mother’s point of view. And to her mother, Mia is still a girl though she is a schoolteacher. Detective Gabe Hoffman is bemused that Mia’s parents don’t seem to visit their daughter’s apartment. And then, the time shifts and it is after Mia’s return and we are with Mia and her parents on the way to psychiatrist. Amnesia. Mia cannot remember what happened.

And so the story is pieced together. Mia’s kidnap is told from multiple viewpoints; before, during and after the event over a winter in Chicago. Everyone in this dysfunctional family seems to have their own agenda. But Mia cannot remember what happened in that cabin where she was held captive by a man called Owen for three months.

The setting of the Minnesota cabin in winter is so clearly drawn I could be there, a mixture of beautiful, intimidating and claustrophobic. The eerie quiet, the ice fishing, the extreme cold. The feeling of being trapped, in more ways than one. Mary Kubica handles the transition of the kidnap relationship so well, two people sharing an intimate space for so long, and how the emotions and stresses play out.

[photo: wxtalk.wordpress.com]

[photo: wxtalk.wordpress.com]

One hiccup for me and I hesitate to mention it as I’m not sure if it’s because I got an advance e-book to review and the formatting was not correct. There were no chapters, no section dividers with datelines, hardly any asterix to denote a change of section and I found this disorientating. The point of view changed quickly so one paragraph it was pre-kidnap, the next during the kidnap, then after the kidnap, and it took a few moments to work out the timing, which was long enough to upset the rhythm of the story. I hate unclear viewpoint/timeline swapping, so I thought I’d better mention it. [NB. Mary Kubica has reassured me that this formatting issue will be corrected in the final edition of the e-book].

But the ending is worth it.

Kubica [below] has plotted a page-turning story, sort of a kidnap version of Gone Girl, though she may hate the comparison.

[photo: Megan Bearder]

[photo: Megan Bearder]

To watch the book trailer for The Good Girl, click here.
For Mary Kubica’s website, click here.
Watch an interview with Mary Kubica, talking about The Good Girl, by clicking here.

‘The Good Girl’ by Mary Kubica [pub. in the UK on July 29, 2014 by MIRA]

Great opening paragraph… 57

iris murdoch - the philosopher's pupil 10-6-13“A few minutes before his brainstorm, or whatever it was, took place, George McCaffrey was having a quarrel with his wife. It was eleven o’clock on a rainy March evening. They had been visiting George’s mother. Now George was driving along the quayside, taking the short-cut along the canal past the iron foot-bridge. It was raining hard. The malignant rain rattled on the car like shot. Propelled in oblique flurries, it assaulted the windscreen, obliterating in a second the frenetic strivings of the windscreen wipers. Little demonic faces composed of racing raindrops appeared and vanished. The intermittent yellow light of the street lamps, illuminating the grey atoms of the storm, fractured in sudden stars upon the rain-swarmed glass. Bumping on cobbles the car hummed and drummed.”
‘The Philosopher’s Pupil’ by Iris Murdoch

Book review: The Beekeeper’s Daughter

the beekeeper's daughter by santa montefiore 20-7-14I haven’t read any of Santa Montefiore’s books before, and if I’d seen the cover in a shop I doubt I would have picked it up: flowers, soft focus woman in a flowing dress. A bit twee for me. But I didn’t see the cover, I downloaded it from Net Galley. And it just goes to show how a cover can deter as well as attract, because I enjoyed the book. In a ‘I need an unchallenging read for a hot summer day when my brain isn’t fully-functioning’ kind of way.

I was 75% of the way through the book before I worked out why I was slightly dissatisfied, and I emphasize the ‘slightly’. Something was missing: context. The bees are drawn beautifully, the description of bees, the beekeeping, their role in Grace’s life. I could not say the same for the World War Two strand, in which war was a distant event: the women take over work at the Hall, and they have plenty of vegetables to eat. Likewise the Seventies, lightly drawn with sweeping pencil strokes. That’s why for me, the book is a lightweight read although it examines heavyweight topics and the characterization is strong. So I guess this will be labelled as Romance Genre.

Will I read another Montefiore novel? Maybe, it would be immensely comforting if I was ill or was facing an endless plane flight. If you hate romance, this is not for you. There’s lots of youthful longing, love won and lost, sad adultery and mature longing of long lost loves. I can see why her novels sell by the bucket-load. Santa Montefiore and Musket - photo santamontefiore.co.uk 20-7-14Santa Montefiore [above, with her dog Musket] is a prolific author. To find out more about her other novels, click here for her website.
I am not sure if there is a connection with this novel, but click here to read Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘The Beekeeper’s Daughter’, written in 1959.

‘The Beekeeper’s Daughter’ by Santa Montefiore [pub in the UK by Simon & Schuster]