Review | Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi

An intriguing collection of murder mysteries in a clever frame. 4/5 stars.

Eight Detectives Alex Pavesi book cover

Thank you to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

All murder mysteries follow a simple set of rules. Grant McAllister, an author of crime fiction and professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out.

But that was thirty years ago. Now he’s living a life of seclusion on a quiet Mediterranean island – until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor, knocks on his door. His early work is being republished and together the two of them must revisit those old stories: an author, hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.

But as she reads, Julia is unsettled to realise that there are things in the stories that don’t make sense. Intricate clues that seem to reference a real murder, one that’s remained unsolved for thirty years.

If Julia wants answers, she must triumph in a battle of wits with a dangerously clever adversary. But she must tread carefully: she knows there’s a mystery, but she doesn’t yet realise there’s already been a murder…

My take:

In Eight Detectives we are given a series of seven short murder mystery stories strung together by a unifiying narrative device.

And I liked the unifying device, as Julia and Grant talk about the book he wrote years ago, very much. It was clever and intriguing, including the use of mathematics to explain the various permutations of the plots. When the final twists are revealed (and there are quite a few!), I was impressed by just how much work had gone into the small details needed to set them all up.

Continue reading…

Review | Knife Edge by Simon Mayo

Perfect mini-series material. 4/5 stars.

Knife Edge by Simon Mayo book cover

Thank you to Random House UK for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

My take:

Knife Edge has a great premise for a contemporary political thriller. The protagonist arrives at work one morning to find that 7 of her colleagues have been murdered and no-one in the office knows why or whether they’ll also be targetted. In fact, one of the tensest scenes in the book is early on when the main character – Famie – and two of her colleagues are using London public transport to get home and don’t know whether anyone/everyone around them might be planning to kill them.

Continue reading…

Review | The Girl You Forgot by Giselle Green

A great set-up leads to an emotional rollercoaster. 4/5 stars.

The Girl You Forgot by Giselle Green cover image

Thank you to Boldwood Books and the author for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

When Ava’s partner Will is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour, the doctors give Will one chance to survive – an operation which means he will lose his recent memory. Ava begs him to take the chance, sure that she can cope with Will forgetting her. After all, they have something very special to live for.

But they are also keeping a heart-breaking secret, and if Will loses his memory, Ava will have to carry that secret alone.

Can they rebuild their love from scratch or will their secrets and past come between them? Will Ava really be a stranger when Will wakes up – or does the heart never really forget…

Giselle Green returns with a heart-breaking, deeply moving story of love, loss, and what it really means to be alive.

My take:

I read and enjoyed Dear Dad by Giselle Green back in 2016, so was delighted to have the opportunity to read her latest book, The Girl You Forgot.

The set-up here – explained without spoilers in the blurb above – is terrific. The heroine, Ava, has an almost impossible dilemma: can she continue to lie to the man she loves while regaining his love and trust?

I will apologise at this point for my review being fairly brief, but I do think your enjoyment of this book will be much greater the less you know about the secrets to be revealed throughout the story, so I’m going to do my best to avoid any and all spoilers. I’m following my usual policy: if it’s in the blurb, it’s fair game. Otherwise I’m keeping quiet!

Continue reading…

Review | The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven

Unbelievably charming. 5 shining Hollywood stars.

The Moon's a Balloon by David Niven - autobiography cover

The blurb:

One of the bestselling memoirs of all time, David Niven’s The Moon’s a Balloon is an account of one of the most remarkable lives Hollywood has ever seen.

Beginning with the tragic early loss of his aristocratic father, then regaling us with tales of school, army and wartime hi-jinx, Niven shows how, even as an unknown young man, he knew how to live the good life.

But it is his astonishing stories of life in Hollywood and his accounts of working and partying with the legends of the silver screen – Lawrence Oliver, Vivien Leigh, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward and dozens of others, while making some of the most acclaimed films of the last century – which turn David Niven’s memoir into an outright masterpiece.

An intimate, gossipy, heartfelt and above all charming account of life inside Hollywood’s dream factory, The Moon’s a Balloon is a classic to be read and enjoyed time and again.

My take:

I don’t read as much non-fiction as I feel I should, particularly biography and autobiography. So I was stepping outside my comfort zone when I picked up David Niven’s autobiography, taking a chance on it mostly because I’ve always found him charming in films (A Matter of Life and Death is one of my favourites).

And I’m very glad I made the effort because The Moon’s a Balloon is absolutely cracking. “Gossipy” doesn’t do this wonderful series of tales justice. Niven does apologise in the introduction for the name dropping that is to follow and he is not building up false expectations. Every time you think he can’t possibly name a bigger star, he does. Then when he can’t name anyone further up the pecking order of Hollywood royalty he’s rubbed shoulders with, he drops in real royalty and chats with Winston Churchill just for fun.

Continue reading…

Review | Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen by Greg Jenner

As meticulously researched as it is entertaining. Top stuff! 5 stars.

Dead Famous by Greg Jenner book cover

The (much shortened by me for the sake of brevity) blurb:

In this ambitious history, that spans the Bronze Age to the coming of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Greg Jenner assembles a vibrant cast of over 125 actors, singers, dancers, sportspeople, freaks, demigods, ruffians, and more, in search of celebrity’s historical roots. He reveals why celebrity burst into life in the early eighteenth century, how it differs to ancient ideas of fame, the techniques through which it was acquired, how it was maintained, the effect it had on public tastes, and the psychological burden stardom could place on those in the glaring limelight. DEAD FAMOUS is a surprising, funny, and fascinating exploration of both a bygone age and how we came to inhabit our modern, fame obsessed society.

My take:

I don’t read anywhere near as much non-fiction as fiction. This is simply because I can never read it as quickly and I often find my attention sliding away from the page. However, I really wanted to read Dead Famous because I’m a fan of Greg Jenner, particularly his BBC Podcast, You’re Dead to Me (it’s on BBC Sounds, please check it out, you won’t be sorry).

Jenner excels at making history accessible, entertaining and often funny. I chuckled many times while reading Dead Famous and once laughed out loud at such volume I made my kids jump! (It was at a particularly hilarious pun, if you’re wondering).

Continue reading…

Review | The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

An entertaining office romance. 3/5 stars.

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

Thank you to Headline for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Samiah Brooks never thought she would be ‘that’ girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date reveals the painful truth: she’s been catfished by her three-timing jerk of a boyfriend.

Suddenly Samiah – along with the two other ‘girlfriends’, London and Taylor – have gone viral. Now the three new besties are making a six-month pact: no men, no dating, just time to focus on themselves.

This means Samiah can finally focus on her exciting career in app development – so having the deliciously sexy and distracting Daniel Collins walk into her office definitely isn’t part of her plan…

But is Daniel really boyfriend material – or is he simply too good to be true?

My take:

I must say first off that 3 stars is a good rating from me! I know some reviewers and authors see it as negative, but I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of the genre.

Now that’s out of the way, The Boyfriend Project is a fun contemporary romance that has a lot going for it. I loved the opening which is described in the blurb above. I was particularly delighted that when the three women find they’ve been dating the same man they join forces and turn on him, rather than turning on each other. And then that they go on to become great friends and a mini support network for each other is wonderful.

Continue reading…

Review | A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

We don’t need another hero.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes book cover

Thank you to Picador/Pan Macmillan for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

My take:

It’s interesting that the blurb mentions Madeline Miller and Pat Barker. I’ve read The Song of Achilles and Circe (both by Miller) and The Silence of the Girls by Barker. I enjoyed A Thousand Ships more than the Barker but didn’t love it as much as either of Miller’s books.

Barker’s The Silence of the Girls disappointed me because I’d hoped it would retell events from The Iliad from the perspective of the female characters. But halfway through the narrative we switch from the female characters’ viewpoints to Achilles’, and I didn’t think we needed yet another male view on events. Thankfully, Haynes doesn’t do this in A Thousand Ships. Instead, we get an entirely female perspective as we skip between the stories of various characters featured in The Iliad (and, to a lesser extent, The Odyssey), including goddesses.

Continue reading…

Review | The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael

A great romantic short story.

The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael

The blurb:

My take:

Having taken his long-suffering girlfriend for granted one too many times, Kurt finds himself dumped. When the usual heartfelt apologies and begging fail to win her back he decides to make a grand gesture. And that’s how he ends up reading from Wuthering Heights every day outside the local train station. But will it work?

This is a terrific, romantic short story. It’s something you could download and read on your lunchbreak or even in your tea break for you speed-readers out there. It’s well-written, flows beautifully and is peppered with some lovely comedic touches.

Continue reading…

Review | The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

An entertaining tale about the kindess of strangers. 4/5 stars.

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley book cover

Thank you to Random House UK for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

One green notebook. Six strangers. The chance to start being honest…

Six strangers with one universal thing in common: their lives aren’t always what they make them out to be.

But what would happen if they told the truth instead?

Desperate to confess the deep loneliness he feels, Julian begins The Authenticity Project – a small green notebook containing the truth about his life – to pass on and encourage others to share their own.

Leaving it on a table in Monica’s café, a warm, friendly place where Julian escapes at his most lonely moments, he never expects Monica to find it and track him down. Or that his small act of honesty will impact all those who come into contact with the book, and lead to a life-changing world of friendship and forgiveness…

My take:

In The Authenticity Project the intersecting tales of six people come together in an entertaining story about the impact getting to know those we see every day can have on our lives. In this sense, I thought it was a good idea to base the narrative in London, as in a large town or city it’s easier to be constantly surrounded by people but know none of them and be left feeling lonely and adrift even though you may interact with hundreds of others on a daily basis.

Continue reading…

Review | Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

An entertaining puzzle mystery tailor-made for bookworms. 4/5 stars.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson book cover

Thank you to Faber & Faber for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?

My take:

This is such a hard book to review without giving anything about the plot away… but I’ll do my best!

Firstly and most importantly, take a look at the list of books on the main character’s ‘Eight Favourite Murders’ list. If you haven’t read any of the titles and would like to read them at some point without having the endings spoiled, please read them before you read this book! The story here pulls no punches and reveals exactly who did it and how for each of the books on the list.

Rules for Perfect Murders is an entertaining puzzle mystery which plays with a lot of the most popular tropes of the murder mystery genre. It will instantly be of particular interest to bookworms: the main character is a book seller, a lot of the story takes place in a specialist bookshop and the plot revolves around the plots of other books. You’re sure to find this an interesting read if you are a fan of classic whodunnits in the vein of And Then There Were None.

Continue reading…