Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Book Review: A Night On The Orient Express by Veronica Henry

A Night on the Orient ExpressA Night on the Orient Express by Veronica Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After reading The Long Weekend by Veronica Henry I grabbed the next book of hers with two hands. I loved the style of her writing, the characterisation and the way all of the stories interlinked.
A Night on the Orient Express is about, unsurprisingly, the events that take place just before, during, and just after a journey on the Orient Express. This book focuses on several different characters, Imogen, off to Venice to pick up a painting that belonged to her grandmother Adele, who has a story of her own; Simon and Stephanie and his troubled children Jamie and Beth; Robert, the guard on the train; Emmie and Archie, thrown together by a match-making company; and Riley, a famous photographer and Sylvie, his muse and an actress.
Veronica Henry describes the Orient Express with exquisite detail and love. She has clearly travelled this way and I believe she talks from experience. For me, travelling on the Orient Express is nothing but a dream and to me it sounded wonderful and magical. I have been to Venice, and she described that beautifully too.
For me, these books are all about the characters, and unfortunately that's where I was let down. I enjoyed Imogen's story, but Adele's was much more intriguing. I felt like Imogen and her bad boy Danny were too caught up in what others thought and what 'kind' of people they were. I wanted to scream at her to 'just get over it'. Simon, Stephanie, Jamie and Beth had lots of interesting twists and turns, but I would have liked to know more about Simon and his ex-wife. I didn't particularly find him very sympathetic. I would have liked to know much more about Robert, like we did with Angelica in The Long Weekend, while Emmie and Archie were very predictable. Riley and Sylvie seemed to go on and on about how they were 'famous' and being recognised, although, as a keen photographer I did find his insight sometimes interesting.
I suppose the thing that irritates me, as it did with the last book, is that Veronica Henry seems to be obsessed with label, and material things. All of her characters are wealthy, upper class people (with the exception of just one) and seem to be able to throw money at everything. Staying on in Venice for a few more days, on a whim, is no problem.
But this won't stop me from reading more of her books, and I do race through them, turning each page with excitement, looking forward to the stories unfolding.

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Friday, 19 December 2014

Book Review: The Long Weekend by Veronica Henry

The Long WeekendThe Long Weekend by Veronica Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading The Girl Who Fell From The Sky I wanted something a bit more light and fluffy. My Mum had read this book ages ago and had recommended it to me and once I found it on her dusty window shelf I couldn't put it down.
The story follows several different people and their interweaving dramas as they come to stay at The Townhouse by the Sea in Pennfleet, Cornwall. The main characters are Claire and Luca, the owner and head chef of the hotel. Claire is well thought out and a sympathetic character. There were times when I wanted to shout out for her, and I winced and laughed along with her story. We also meet Nick, on his stag do; Laura and Dan, searching for her father; Angelica, the receptionist with feelings for the boss; Trevor and Monique, the couple who part-own the hotel; and Colin, with his ex-mistress and illegitimate daughter in tow. All of them have secrets and over the course of The Long Weekend everything becomes unravelled.
Veronica Henry has a great knack for describing the hotel, it's beautiful rooms and the surrounding area. I've not been to Cornwall for years but I could easily picture the boats bobbing in the marina and the colourful shop fronts.
The author is also brilliant at people, creating characters (and lots of them), without getting them confused with each other and giving them real flesh and bone. I felt like I'd known these people a long time and their stories were heartbreaking and uplifting. I found myself rooting for them and cheering them on.
My only criticism with this book, is that everyone was of the same level. And by that I mean, young, beautiful, fit. Everyone went to the gym, lived the life of luxury (except Angelica), which gave the characters as a whole only one dimension. Although I suppose at two-hundred quid a night, you would have to earn a certain amount to stay at The Townhouse by the Sea.
Saying that, I read this novel in two days and am looking to read more Veronica Henry soon. It has more depth than a chick-lit, but not so dark and depressing that when finished you need to watch five episodes of Will & Grace to cheer yourself up.

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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Book Review: The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Simon Mawer

The Girl Who Fell From The SkyThe Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Simon Mawer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was lent this book by a friend from the theatre, after cheekily eavesdropping in on their conversation and popping up at a convenient time.
Initially, I wasn't sure. I don't really read books about the war, Birdsong being one exception, but this sounded different. It was clear from the start this wasn't about the front line, this was about a woman doing her best in war torn France.
I really enjoyed reading about the processes that Marian Sutro went through in order to go undercover. I thought it went get confusing trying to remember what her name was at different points throughout the novel but I managed to keep track quite easily. Marian herself was a likeable character, easy to sympathise with, but still a woman with some gumption, definitely ahead of her time.
The novel really gets going when she is dropped into France. I can't imagine what it would have felt like, to be dropped into the dark, knowing you could be dead before your feet touched the ground, but Simon Mawer describes it with incredible detail and realism.
As we follow Marian through France and her dangerous journey, we grow to love her, care for her and wonder what is going to be her fate. I don't want to give anything away, but as things go from bad to worse I was absolutely gripped. As I held the book in my hands, my knuckles were white.
As the book came to an end I was absolutely furious! It seemed like someone had ripped the last few pages out, leaving the reader teetering. I cannot wait to read more of Simon Mawer and hope there is a follow up to this. I recommend this book highly, it is much more than a novel about the Second World War, it is about relationships, love and above all, hope.

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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Book Review: The Killing Place by Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles #8)

The Killing Place (Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles, #8)The Killing Place by Tess Gerritsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I picked this up a while back in a supermarket (if I remember correctly), I had no idea that it was one of the series that popular US TV show Rizzoli and Isles is based on. For me it was the concept that sounded interesting, twelve abandoned houses, truckloads of snow and a burnt out truck.
As I've not read any other books by Tess Gerritsen I'm not sure how they normally pan out, but this book focused on Maura Isles. After having argument with her priest boyfriend she decides to throw caution to the wind and goes off on a mini-break with her old friend Doug and his daughter Grace.
The tension soon mounts as they become stranded halfway up a mountain, stuck in the snow with no sign of rescue. Nobody even knows they've left for their little trip. They come across a dozen houses all left empty as if suddenly everybody just disappeared into thin air. This was the part of mystery that really got me excited. There is no explanation for what has happened, the small group discover clues around the community complex but nothing conclusive. Then things go from bad to worse.
The book is written really well, and grips you from the beginning, the characters are interesting and the twists come thick and fast. I don't have much experience reading about religious sects and cults so I found that interesting too. For me, the idea of where all these people had disappeared to and what had happened was thrilling and original.
The second half of the book detours somewhat but is still enjoyable and tense. However, there was a feel of 'American procedure', which comes with most of these kinds of books. I was also disappointed to find that the characters had been taken from the book but there was no adaptation of this book into an episode of Rizzoli and Isles. In the future I may read more this series.

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