Friday Five Challenge

Rosie Amber’s Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier,

2) Randomly choose a category,

3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appealed to your eye,

4) Read the book Bio/ Description for this book, and any other details.

5) If there are reviews, check out a couple,

6) Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?

This week I decided to look at books for children aged 9 to 11 as this is the age group I most enjoyed buying for when I ran a school Library.  At first I was quite disappointed as there seemed to be nothing new.  Roald Dahl, David Walliams, Wimpy Kid & Jacqueline Wilson still predominate. Then this one caught my eye.

Murder unladylike

Although I think the cover might seem too childlike to the average 10 year old, it’s bold and intriguing.  It’s definitely a girls’ book which I don’t totally approve of.  Most girls would much rather read Anthony Horowitz “Stormbreaker” spy books or the Percy Jackson Roman detective series.

The book is described as an old fashioned school story first published last year.  It is 1930 and two schoolgirl detectives  Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong discover the body of their Science teacher in the gym but then the body disappears.  The Financial Times criic says, “The novel works both as an affectionate satire and an effective murder mystery.”

The reviews are mainly 5 star with a few 4 star & 3 star comments.  Most reviewers like the characterisation of the girls and their teachers’ relationships and it obviously really appeals to adults too.

At £3.32 for a kindle and £3.49 for a paperback I would definitely choose the latter.  I won’t purchase it now but I might choose it for my grand-daughter at some point (and read it first myself!)

You can read Rosie’s choice for this week here

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Death in a Dacron Sail by N A Granger

Dacron

Rhe Brewster is a sassy lady.  Not content with working part time in ER and looking after her hyperactive son, she is also a consultant with the local police department.  I first met her in the murder mystery Death in a Red Canvas Chair and now she has returned, brave and intelligent as ever, to discover a serial killer.

Although her son Jack suffers from ADHD he seems to be coping better in this novel but Rhe’s unlikeable husband Will is going from bad to worse.  Luckily she has the sympathetic support of her brother-in-law, Police Chief, Sam Brewster and the best friend ever, neighbour Paulette.  I’d love to have a friend like Paulette living nearby with coffee always ready and superb meals provided at the drop of a hat!

Rhe’s ability to cope with family drama and unpleasant murder details is sorely strained when she is attacked by a drunk at the hospital.  There are repercussions effecting her employment and she begins to feel threatened.  However she continues to investigate the disappearance of four young girls, over the years, in the area of her small town, Pequod in Maine.

Working with Federal Agent Bowers she discovers what has happened to the missing girls but finding out who is responsible is more difficult.  Unwittingly, Rhe lures the perpetrator into further action putting herself in danger of losing her life.

The fate of the victims in the story is very unpleasant but following the investigation and trying to guess who the murderer might be is intriguing.  Rhe and the other characters are well rounded people whom you might meet in any small town and I felt really involved in this exciting tale.  N A Granger writes knowledgeably about the fishing industry and also about hospital life, giving the book complete authority.  I am now looking forward to her next mystery and also following the events in Rhe’s personal life.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Favourite Opening Lines #book related #reading

This made me want to open the first page of so many books,

Between the Lines ~ Books’n’Stuff

The selections below are a few of my favourites, which  invited, pulled or hauled me into the story. I’d love to read opening lines that draw you into a book, so please feel free to leave any favourites in the comments.

The best trick I ever pulled off was watching myself die. I did a respectable job of it too – the dying, I mean, not the watching.

 Tricked by Kevin Hearne

~~~

She thought of Chaos, and the original confusion, and felt as if she were part of that tumult. Earth and sea and heaven and hell were mixed up, and everything inside her was a whirligig. The Greek chorus was screaming in her head, all of them wanting out.

 Multiple Wounds by Alan Russell

~~~

London, 1860. Dream world of pain and pleasure, of fantasy and phantom. It is midnight, a full moon and a cold mist rising…

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Holding Back by Helen Pollard

Costa Verde

It should have been instant attraction for Laura when she met tall, suntanned Daniel Stone at Porto airport but they both behaved rudely over a misunderstanding involving luggage and seeing him arrive at the hotel she was helping to run, was not good news.

Every year, language teacher Laura used part of her summer holiday to help out at Quinta Maria, a country Hotel in the Costa Verde region of northern Portugal.  While her friends Rachel and Paulo visited family in England, Laura helped Paulo’s mother to run the hotel.  But who was this evasive man, who wore suits while on holiday and asked so many questions?

 viana do castelo Costa verde

Despite many disagreements, Laura and Daniel find themselves drawn together.  We see the situation through both their perspectives and we enjoy the beautiful countryside and beaches of the Viana do Castelo area via Helen Pollard’s vivid descriptions.

Both Laura and Daniel are likeable but frustrating characters.  Kind and considerate to others, they demonstrate the classic refusal to admit their feelings for each other, knowing that their personal circumstances are too complicated.

I read this book while staying in southern Portugal and wanted to jump in the car and head north to explore the setting of the story.  A really enjoyable holiday romance with depth and credibility.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

The Case of the Bullets at the Ballet by C S Boag

C S Boag

Rainbow is a Private Eye based in Sydney.  In retro “pulp fiction” style, C S Boag takes the reader on a hectic, dangerous journey, the clues piling up but the solution elusive.  In this fourth book about Rainbow, his daughter, Imogene, has gone missing leaving hints which lead him to Paris via a succession of mysterious deaths.  Accompanied by Hélène Damnation, a “sloe-eyed” attractive blonde who is probably not to be trusted, he travels under an assumed name, shadowed by members of a crime syndicate.  They search for a male ballet dancer from the Ukraine and a mysterious French man who according to Rainbow’s estranged wife is “the perfect man.”

Everyone is suspect.  Rainbow’s Aunt Rube had warned him, “You’ll keep coming across familiar faces.  It doesn’t mean you’re being followed.  They’re just people on the same journey,” but why do the old Australian couple Harold and Madge keep turning up when dramatic events take place such as a death in the Louvre?

Without giving anything else away, the plot is complex and full of action.  Rainbow is brave but also has a wry sense of humour.  It took me a while to get used to the writing style but the adventure is an enjoyable read, peopled with fascinating characters.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Lost by Gregory Maguire

Lost

Talking about a friend’s visit to see Wicked in London reminded me that it was written by Gregory Maguire, who also wrote Lost which was set in an old London house.  I found the review I wrote about Lost written for an online bookclub and here it is…

The perpetual theme of this book is spelt out from the first to the last page.  And at times I became lost in the plot; not because Winnie moves into the story she is writing, which in fact works well, but because the structure of the story, particularly towards the end, is weak.

In spite of my disappointment, both in the denouement and in the inconclusive finale, I found this book enjoyable to read because of the variety in writing style, the literary references and the clever use of vocabulary.   There are so many carefully chosen words which Maguire uses effectively to explain the setting.  When the Forever Families meeting first assembles he describes how “ Winnie and the other supplicants hung back”.  He moves from sloppy American everyday language to describe the accident on the freeway to purple prose to build up the tension such as “Throughout the night, the house shuddered, the furnace gasping emphysematously(!), the windows bucking in their casings”.   I also appreciate his acerbic wit in comments like “the pursuit of Happy meals”.

There seem to be two parallel threads running through the book; the loss of a child even referred to in metaphors such as “The window shattered spraying glassy baby teeth”, and the suspension and intermingling of time.  The phrase “Time no longer” kept occurring to me and I finally identified it as coming from “Tom’s Midnight Garden” by Philippa Pearce where two lonely children from different eras meet during troubled dreams at the time when the clock strikes 13.  As an aficionado of children’s fiction, I wonder if Maguire was consciously or unconsciously using this plot as yet another form of inspiration for his book.  I found the references to classic children’s books an interesting facet of the story, but it does presuppose that the reader is almost as familiar as he is with the other stories.

I did wonder early in the book whether Winnie was actually dead, as the haunting seemed to follow her, but gradually the suspense and fear created by Maguire was replaced by so much psychology about Winnie’s feelings of guilt and despair.  Had I been the publisher of the book I would have returned it to Maguire so that he could tighten up the story structure and improved his characterisation to match his skill with language.

Obviously names are carefully chosen to match the characters, but I found this irritating.  It is as if he doesn’t trust the reader to decide on a character’s motivation and purpose in the book.  I kept wishing that Winifred Rudge had a flowing romantic name like Winona Ryder.  Then perhaps she might have been a more sympathetic character.

So, an unusual book which was worth reading, but somehow it fails to achieve- whatever it was trying to do?  I do, however want to read “Wicked” and “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister” since they sound much more my cup of tea.

The Real Sherlock Holmes, the hidden history of Jerome Caminada by Angela Buckley

Jerome

I have never visited Manchester, let alone 19th century Manchester but via Angela Buckley’s book I have been plunged into the noisy, boisterous life of crime, drink and gambling in that crowded city in 1867.  It was in that year that Jerome Caminada first became a police constable.  Grandson of an Italian immigrant, his life had been hard work and struggle after the death of his father at the age of 37.  After 6 years in the Royal Lancs. Militia and a short time as a brass fitter, Caminada turned to the police force where he was to have a successful career and gain fame throughout the country.

This biography was written using Caminada’s own accounts, newspaper articles of the day and social commentary on the crime and poverty in Manchester in Victorian Britain.  Each chapter has an inviting title such as, “A hot-bed of social iniquity and vice,” “Rascality, rapacity and Roguery,” and “Gin Palaces, Gambling Dens and a Cross-Dressing Ball.”  Who could resist reading on?

Jerome Caminada’s first days of 14 hours on the beat, tested his stamina and toughness as he received punches just for being a police constable and among the poverty of the crowded rookeries he was often in danger of losing his life.  But he also quickly proved his skill and intelligence by following up clues, shadowing suspects and using his knowledge of the criminal underworld to bring culprits to justice.

We join him at Aintree race course where dippers or pick-pockets have profitable days and illegal gambling games are set up.  We learn about Scuttlers, frightening gangs of street fighters and we meet sophisticated swindlers and seducers.  Caminada had his own Moriarty, a career criminal called Bob Horridge who hated Jerome and was a constant threat until he was finally given penal servitude for life.

If you want to read more about quack doctors, poisoning and Caminada’s secret government missions I can highly recommend this thrilling, eventful biography of a colourful figure who solved far more crimes than Sherlock ever encountered.