On reading a book that gets 5* from everyone else, and you didn’t like it…

What are they seeing that I’m not? What am I missing? What’s wrong with me?

I’m actually not one for sticking to books I don’t get on with, and I’m usually the first to tell people to “move on” when they’re not feeling it. As every bibliophile knows, life’s too short to read all the books we’ve already got our beady eyes on (or are currently stacked sky high on our bookshelves) never mind all the shiny new ones that will distract and entice us in the process.

But then sometimes there is that one book that everyone is raving about and giving 5-stars to. And you keep reading for a while, scratching your head and wondering what it is that you’re not seeing. This has happened to me recently with Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent. It looks great, it sounds right up my street, people with similar book tastes to me are singing its praises, it’s been picked as a Richard and Judy book… so why can I not get past 50%?

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To be fair, it’s not a bad book at all. I didn’t hate it, I just got bored. I thought Lydia (the mother) was a good character and at the start of the book I really thought I was going to love her (as a character, not a person) but she was the only one that I didn’t feel was a bit two dimensional. I couldn’t get to grips with Laurence at all.

So, I have some questions for you:

  1. Do you give up on books that aren’t working for you or do you plough through to the end?
  2. Have you every gone to the end and been really glad you did or do you wish you’d listened to your gut?
  3. Do you find that you feel more obliged to read something through to the end if it’s a review copy?
  4. And finally: have you read this and if so, do you think I should give it another go?

I would love to know what you think.

 

 

Dead Scared by S J Bolton

In three words:

Cambridge, nightmares, scared

 

 

What I thought:

Just over a year ago I discovered S J Bolton’s books, starting with Sacrife which I absolutely loved. Since then I have gone on to read three more of her books and this latest book is every bit as good as all the others.

Dead Scared is the second book featuring Detectives Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury and this time they are in Cambridge investigating an unusually high number of student suicides at the University over the last 5 years. Lacey is sent undercover to live as student Laura Farrow at the Universtity and only days into her “new life” she discovers that the suicides aren’t quite what they first seem. The students, usually female and pretty, are killing themselves in increasingly violent ways after complaing of nightmares and being terrified for weeks  beforehand. Lacey/Laura delves deeper into the lives and histories of the student deaths with the help of University Psychiatrist Evi Oliver (who is apparantly a character from Blood Harvest which is the only obe of Boltons books that I haven’t read yet – to be rectified VERY soon!). Evi is the person who alerted the police to her concerns about the high suicide rate in Cambridge and soon finds that  not only is she suffering from nightmares herself but strange and very scary things are starting to happen to her in her own home too.

Despite this being the second book to star Flint and Joesbury, I don’t think that it is at all necessary to have read the first in the series, Now You See Me. There are a few references to things that happened in that first book but I was really pleased to note that Bolton didn’t give away any of the plot that would spoil it for readers who haven’t picked that one up yet. Also, the way that this book ends means that surely there is a next in the series to come. YES!

Verdict: Highly recommended. I found this book absolutely fantastic and had trouble putting it down. It had me hooked from page one (which has been something pretty rare recently as I have struggled to get into a few books), and it was an intelligent and fast-paced thriller with genuinely creepy moments and if you are of a nervous disposition I would heartily recommend that you don’t read this book alone in the dark….

 

  Have you read any of S J Bolton’s books. If not, are you going to?

 

(Source: I received a copy of this book for review from Netgalley)

Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

In three words:

Gripping, exciting, thrilling

 

 

What I thought:

I have been a huge fan of Lisa Gardner after discovering her books about 2 years ago, and I particularly like the Detective D.D. Warren series of which Catch Me is the latest. Her books always start with an intriguing prologue that grabs you by the throat but actually gives away very little meaning that the rest of the book is up to you to work out. I still have a lot of Gardners’ books to read (yay!) so I can only speak for the ones that I have read so far, but what I have found (and liked) is that there is usually an ureliable narrator at the helm. In some cases this is deliberate (for reasons that become apparant later on) and in some cases (i.e. Catch Me) it is because the narrator can’t actually remember any more than she’s telling us so we are muddling through in the same way that she is.

Charlie Grant (or Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant as she insists upon being called) tracks down Boston Detective D.D. Warren on 17th January to ask for help: she thinks she only has 4 days left until she will be murdered. On the last two January 21sts her two best friends, Randi and Jackie, were murdered a year apart and Charlie thinks she will be next. As well as working on what appears to be a serial killer of paedophiles , D.D. is intrigued enough to check out Charlie’s story at the same time, and becomes more so when it appears that the two cases may be linked…

You don’t have to have read all (or indeed any) of this series to be able to get full enjoyment out of this book (I have read only the latest 4 which means I can now go back to D.D’s roots and see where she started out) but I do like the fact that I have seen her character develop. Once hard-nut workaholic D.D. is now mother to 10 week old Jack and living with partner Alex and for once actually looking forward to getting home after a shift. Old habbits die hard though and D.D. ins’t one to let a case go cold and her spidey-senses start tingling like mad towards the end of this one.

What I also liked about this particular book was that characters from some of her other series’ had cameos too; in fact quite a few of them did. Again, if you’re not familiar with Gardner’s books you wouldn’t even notice (and it wouldn’t spoil the book in any way) but for fans this was actually a real treat.

Verdict: One of my favourites. I ripped through it in no time at all and enjoyed every page. Highly recommended for crime fiction fans.

 

(Source: I recieved this book from NetGalley)

 

The Retribution by Val McDermid

In three words:

Revenge, murder, pyschopath

 

What I thought:

I first discovered Val McDermid’s Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series about 7 or 8 years ago and I have been a dedicated fan ever since. The Retribution is not only the latest in the series of seven books but it also reintroduces one of the serial killers from a much earlier book The Wire in the Blood – the evil and twisted Jacko Vance. To be honest, I could barely remember a thing about that book so it wouldn’t make any difference to reading this book out of sequence if you haven’t read McDermid’s earlier ones yet.

Jacko Vance is clever – brillianlty clever and charming to boot. He has spent the last 16 year behind bars for the murder of a teenage girl (although he murdered many, many more but the prosecution couldn’t prove it). In The Retribution, Vance escapes from jail (no spoiler – it’s in the blurb) and is hell bent on payback to those who landed him in prison in the first place, including both Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. At the same time, another serial killer is on the lose in Bradfield killing prostitutes and Detective Carol Jordan’s team set out to track him down.

The fact that both these stories are running in tandem with each other means that not enough time was devoted to either. The prostitute killer felt almost like an afterthought and his ultimate capture was bordering on eye-rolling. The sotry of Jacko Vance’s escape and revenge would have been more than enough to keep us on the edge of our seats and, at times, I was. Waiting to see who would feed Carol Jordan’s cat (it will make sense when you have read it, I promise) had my pulse racing overtime and trying to figure out who was next on his hit-list was great stuff. Jacko Vance is such a brilliantly evil character that despite his psychopathic nature, I wanted to spend more and more time in his company in the book; I had to know what he was thinking and planning on doing next and loved seeing how he doesn’t see anything wrong with himself, just everyone else. However – and it’s with a heavy heart that I write this, being such a fan – I felt that this book wasn’t on a par with others in the series. In fact,  Beneeth the Bleeding (two books earlier) was also somewhat lacking and I wonder if Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are finally running out of steam….. or maybe McDermid is?

Despite my overall enjoyment of the book, I was left with a feeling that the ending was rushed and that the prostitute killer had almost been forgotten and that Hill and Jordan were not acting completely in character. As for the end….it felt so implausable that I almost saw the character involved as a charicature of themselves, complete with moustache-twirling “mwahahahahaaa”. The book also ends very abruptly, almost like the end of a chapter than the end of a book and it left me with a feeling of “now what?” rather than satisfaction.

Verdict: A really good read, just not a great one. I felt a little short-changed which is disappointing as I always look forward to the latest book in the series so much. Will I read the next? Absolutely!

 

(Source: I recieved my copy of this book for review from both Little, Brown and also Netgalley – thank you)

 

Day 39 – A book I expected to hate but loved

Love me, love me not, love me…

When I was younger I read and loved Agatha Christie books but that was probably as near as I got to crime fiction until James Patterson which I used to read in a single sitting on holiday. Then back in about 2004, our chosen book club book was layed out on the table and I remember picking it up tentitively and wrinkling my nose at the title. That book was The Torment of Others by Val McDermid.

I remember being almost so sure that I wouldn’t enjoy it (it sounded gory and hardcore and the cover wasn’t as nice as the new one shown below) that I nearly didn’t even buy it that night. Once home, however, curiosity got the better of me and I ended up flying through the chapters, completely enthralled by the twisted tale before me. It was brilliant!

The Torment of Others wasn’t the first book in McDermid’s Tony Hill & Carol Jordan (it’s the fourth I think) but it didn’t matter. Once I had read that book, I went right back to the beginning and read them all in order, pretty much back to back (just like I did when I discovered Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series). McDermid is one very clever author – I love the twists and turns, not just of the stories themselves but of the killers minds; I loved being alongside Tony Hill as he tries to fathom out their motives and what they’ll do next.

 

  Have you ever expected to dislike a book and had a pleasant surprise?

 

Day 36 – A favourite book recommended by another book blogger

What does “need” have to do with it?…

Where to even begin! Since I began blogging my shelves have more than quadrupled in size, my floorboards are creaking under the weight and my husband nearly has a stroke every time he comes near my office and sees piles of books all over the floor! I keep trying to tell him it’s not my fault – it’s all the other book bloggers who keep reading things that make me need to read them too to which he tried to argue that I don’t “need” them. Oh but I do!!!!!

Anyhoo, after much deliberation I have chosen The Likeness by Tana French which ended up in my top 10 of last year. I saw a review of this book written by Sakura of Chasing Bawa book blog and just knew I would love it and I did. If you haven’t been over to Sakuras blog yet, make sure you do – she has a fantastic blog (one of my favourites). If you haven’t been acquainted with this book yet then take a look at my review here and then buy or borrow it! 🙂

 

  Have you ever been recommended a book by another blogger and loved it?

 

Day 35 – The longest book I have ever read

Count how many pages…

I’m not really one for long books. I wish I was – there are so many I want to read! It’s the size that puts me off even picking most of them up: what if it takes too long to read when there are so many other books out there waiting to be read? I am easily distracted by things that drop through my letter box and books that have been on my shelf for a long time can be overlooked.

I would love to read more though including Charles Dickens (David Copperfield, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend to name just a few), Gone With the Wind, The Passage, The Crimson Petal and the White, Quincunx, Shantaram, Shogun and A Suitable Boy are all on my shelves, staring sadly at me every time I pass them.

Despite saying that, I have read some long books and I almost always love them when I do (although part of me wonders if I love them so much becasue I am so rapturous of  having got through them!). The longest book I have read so far is The Count of Monte Cristo which I loved. Swashbuckling, dramatic and thrilling!

 

  Which is the longest book you have read and was it worth it?