Tag Archives: Book Review 2015

Book Review: The Memory Game by Nicci French

Hello Readers,

Last week I finished reading the psychological-thriller, The Memory Game, by Nicci French.

The following review focuses on the book from a writing perspective, with less focus on the sequence of events/plot. Please note, there will be spoilers.

Before I begin the review, I’d like to mention that one of the first books that really moved me as a reader (and actually made me want to write my own novel) was the psychological-thriller called Beneath the Skin, by Nicci French. I had immediately been drawn to the dark and frightening ‘stalker’ plot, the closeness of the first-person point of view, and the ‘zoomed-in’ attention to detail in description – it had me gripped! This book had inspired me to read more Nicci French books, such as Safe House and The Red Room. However, although I enjoyed reading these books, they never did have that packing punch that Beneath the Skin had delivered to me.

This led my mind to think about something completely different – why does a book become a bestselling book or even a classic? May be there is some kind of universal magic that bonds us all. For me, Beneath the Skin would have to be a Nicci French classic – but then is it a universal book, would it speak out to us all? This is something we can all consider in our own writing if we are aiming for the bestseller lists. We have to dream big!

The Memory Game is Nicci French’s first novel, which was released in 1998 – and this is clearly evident from the writing. It is full of old-fashioned dialogue and slow-paced writing which I found rather author-lazy and off-putting to read. When we think of thrillers we think of fast-paced, edge-of-our-seat, twisting plot-lines – but this book was very much the opposite. The beginning was long-drawn out, and introduced too many characters at once, leaving me confused, annoyed and foot-tappingly anxious. I understand that the practice of introducing characters can be a useful tool when we want to create a murder-mystery set-up (such as in Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie) but it does not work in this book. The big cast of characters caused me to focus on the ‘family tree’, which is one of my big pet hates in fiction. The character’s should be weaved in effortlessly, and introduced to us in a way in which we will remember them and how they are related. In this book it was a case of ‘who is this character again?’ It was made even more irritating due to the fact that some of the characters did not play any real part in the plot – they could have been axed without any real effect – this is a big flaw in novel writing. Writing books constantly tell us to axe characters that are merely just extras or side props with no purpose. Even a minor character needs to push the plot forward in some way – whether it’s by them prompting a plot action, or through dialogue with the main character (to show another side to the main character) etc. There is also a big risk of losing a reader for good when the author does not set up an emotional lead character bond early on. I find that readers do not want numerous characters that we only get to know on a superficial level. You will find that the only time this method works best is in the plot-driven ‘who-dunnit’ mystery or suspense novel – where the big question is raised, and our intrigue is held. I have come to learn that we must fall in love with our characters early on – we must have an emotional attachment, or a similarity with which we can relate in order for us to care and read on. Unfortunately, this book and it’s characters left me bored. So why did I finish it? Well I have gathered that you can learn a lot from books you dislike and learn all of the sins and bad habits that you would never want to include in your own writing.

Nicci French has a terrible habit of giving her characters food and drink addictions – and she throws these over us like confetti when it is really of no importance. In this book it tends to happen in those moments when we are plot focused, wanting answers and actions – and all we are given is a character’s burning desire for a skinny mocha or latte, whilst they suck on a yellowing Marlboro. The character habits are repeated too much in this book, and the habits only really needed to be hinted at once or twice to give us an idea of the lead character’s personality. Readers are intelligent and will remember the habit the first time around. Repetition such as this can also show us that a book may have surpassed several, crucial, editing stages. If any one happened to re-read this book, then these flaws would have been clearly evident and likely been removed.

Personally, I love psychological fiction and traumatised characters, because it is in these types of characters that we learn about the darker sides of humanity; we learn how the weakest of characters can pull through a nightmare situation. The most interesting part of the book happened to hit on the area of psychology – with the psychotherapist and the lead character undertaking sessions, in an attempt to get the character to face her problems (the trauma of her missing school friend – who is later found dead – and the murderer having been a family member – ending spoiler!). The psychotherapist prompts the main character to talk out her feelings while all along we are wondering if she is hiding something that is the bigger answer to the bigger question in the book – what happened to Natalie?

I was very disappointed with this book and found it boring to read. I don’t like to put works of fiction down, because I do admire any one who manages to write even one novel in their lifetime, however this book just wasn’t cutting it for me. However, there are some good reviews of this book on Goodreads, and one person’s hate is another person’s love! So please don’t let my judgement put you off reading the book. Nicci French (wife/husband pseudonym) is an excellent writer, and we must consider the fact that this is their first novel.

Ironically, even though this is one of the worst books I have read, one of my favourite books (as mentioned above) happens to be ‘Beneath the Skin’, and I highly recommend this book to readers who love a psychological-thriller. It takes pride of place on my bookshelf.

Until next time,

Thanks for reading,
Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review: Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz

Hello Readers,

This week, I finished reading the suspense-thriller/horror novel, ‘Life Expectancy’, by Dean Koontz.

The following review is written from a writing perspective. Rather than describe the plot-line in detail, I will be highlighting key areas of the book that particularly drew my attention as a writer. Please note that there will be spoilers.

A brief blurb of the book goes something like this; Jimmy Tock is born on the same night (in the same hospital) that his Grandfather dies. In his dying words (over a thunder and lightning storm) the Grandfather leaves his own son (Jimmy’s Father) five bad predictions that will occur on particular dates in Jimmy’s life.

When we read the blurb on the back of the book, we are told that there will be five predictions, but not what they are. This is a perfect example of ‘the power of a hook in a blurb’. When we discover that there are five predictions but not what they are, our curiosity is sparked and we are held in a grip wanting to know more. The main reason for a hook is to raise questions inside a readers mind (the what, where, why) and to push them on to read further. The blurb’s hook leaves us asking several questions that we want answers to, for instance; What are the five predictions? Where do these predictions occur? Why does it happen, and why does it happen to Jimmy Tock? And ultimately, will Jimmy survive these five terrible predictions?

The book is written in first person, from the viewpoint of Jimmy Tock. The first person tense has an immediate connection with the reader; enabling us to step into the protagonist’s shoes and experience their world through the five senses. I personally loved the ‘voice’ of Jimmy – a guy who has a slight complex about his physical appearance (and talks about it to us) yet is strong-minded – in general. I have often read that a main character (hero or villain) should be capable of dealing with all of the obstacles that you place in his path – that they should be able to fight all conflicts to the bitter end – even if in the end they win or lose. I have also read that a main character should not be completely perfect and that they should have at least one flaw – one that he has to face and fight on a more personal level. If we analyse the profile of Jimmy Tock, we get a real-life, everyday guy with an unusual, personal flaw -but one that is used for a very different reason in this book (I won’t give the flaw away!).

Jimmy is capable of battling out his conflicts both internally and externally, and he changes and gets strongers as the book progresses. Of course, although he ultimately gets stronger, we do have to see his efforts waver along the plot line in order to keep the reader tense – and guessing. It is essential that we see him fall and rise at his own efforts – and that he used all he had to reach the end. We should adopt this process with every character we design.

I also think that Jimmy ‘shined’ as a character because of his impeccable sense of humour. When I look more closely at the entire chemistry of the book, I see a strong fusion of horror and humour. This dark/light is a fantastic combination because it ensures that we are not trodden down in darkness and depression for pages on end. The humour brings us to laugh (even in the darkness moments) with the characters.

It is often said that it is a crime for the author to ‘step into a narrative with his own opinions’, and I agree. But should an author want to air an opinion in their novel (politics, religion, law etc) then they can learn a lot from Dean Koontz and his method. I am not saying that all of the views in his books are ones that he believes and airs, but as a reader I have analysed that it often seems to be the case in places. I think that this can be a good thing when done correctly because it adds a personal touch without spelling it out. So how does Dean do this? Well his views get injected through his characters and their dialogue. The dialogue of one character may contain an author’s personal view of something happening in the world – or it may contain a humorous line that the author has always told in his own life. This is where we get into the territory of ‘how real or fictional are your characters?’ I believe that most authors, when sketching out characters, will use a mixture of both real and imagined personalities in order to create new and unique characters. I have often wondered how much of the author is in a character – in the many of the characters I have come to meet in books. In the case of Jimmy Tock, I believe that he contains a lot of Dean Koontz’s sense of humour – which I must say is impeccable!

I am not sure if any of you have heard of the quote ‘all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl’ by Jean Luc-Godard (a French Film Director) but I believe this quote rings true for almost any film and any horror/thriller book. It certainly rings true for this book, where there are numerous guns and gunshots – which also occur around an attractive female character, that later becomes the wife of Jimmy Tock. I suppose what the gun and girl quote is really saying to us is that a story isn’t a story without a gun (symbol for conflict) and a girl (symbol of romance) as such. That without conflict we have no story, that without love we are missing a key part of our souls – that together they fuse a Universal idea. Both these elements combine love, excitement, danger and romance – and what is more exciting than that? Nothing. Knowing that this book contains what I consider to be two essential themes in fiction, tells me that Dean is a master of his craft – that he has studied and mastered the mechanics of writing and his specific genres. This allows him to go that extra mile with his trade-mark sense of humour.

Lastly, even though this book was made up of many pages, the tightness and suspense of plot, the interesting characters, and those five predictions made me read on to the end! I am usually a medium-paced reader, but with this book I was flying through! That’s a good sign.

I recommend this book to readers who love a fast-paced suspense thriller/horror – and those who like a dry and wicked sense of humour mixed in. When I read the last page I was sad that I would never live with these characters again – that their journey’s had ended. If a writer can inject a character or two into a reader for life then they have done their job well. That’s why we remember and love the classics – it’s all about the characters. I still find myself repeating some of Dean’s creative character names from this book, just because they sound so good on the tongue! Punchinello, Konrad Beezo… Amazing!

Until next time,

Thanks for reading!

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Hello Readers,

This week, I finished reading ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’, by Maggie O’Farrell.

The review below contains my thoughts on the book from a writing perspective. Please note that there will be spoilers.

The title of the book ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’, and its cover design, were the first things that made me pull the book off the shelf (in a charity shop in my home town). I admit that sometimes I am guilty of judging a book by it’s cover, but I do believe that a book title and cover design, which have both evolved together beautifully in modern times, play a powerful part in informing us of the genre of a book and what we are to expect from it. I believe the cover design should be a big bay-window into the world of a story; illuminating theme, plot, mood and feeling. For instance, a key chain hanging from the back of a chair, might indicate to the reader that there is a deep-set mystery in a house that needs to be unlocked. A bridge over stormy waters might indicate that there is a dangerous, suspenseful adventure to endure, across continents. I have always been intrigued by cover design. When I finally finish writing my first novel, I will hope to have had some input into the cover design – to ensure that it is giving the reader a precise visual story into the world of my novel.

The cover for Instructions for a Heatwave depicts a still-life table setting situated in front of a window; with a light fabric curtain blowing in the breeze. Through the open window we see white clouds on a backdrop of light blue sky. Words that summarize this setting are pastel-stripes, sun, summer, heat, domestic setting and home. This cover summarizes the book perfectly because the setting takes place in London, in 1976, when a very long and uncomfortable heatwave had occurred. Having read this on the back of the cover, I have a very good reason to believe that I might not have actually chosen the book after all; but that the book had chosen me! The very reason for this, is that my Mum had been pregnant with me in that very summer of 1976, and she has often recounted how tiring and uncomfortable that very summer was carrying me around, under her cotton Seventie’s dresses! This book had an immediate personal affect on me, even if it was only because of the time and setting. I was intrigued to know more – to get insight into a time and a world, when I had not yet seen daylight.

Throughout the book, the reader is placed amidst the tremendous heat, beside the characters, inside their houses. To summarize the story, it is one of family, and the chemistry between that family, through a moving event in their lives.

The story begins with a Mother, a Wife, carrying out a domestic action in the kitchen. We are then introduced to a Father, the Husband, who decides to go to the shop that morning (as he usually does) but doesn’t return. The author then holds the suspense of the disappearance, by introducing us to the three siblings and their worlds. We enter their homes, their lives, meet their partners and their children. And here we learn how siblings can turn out to be very different; even when they have derived from the same close-knit family such as this one. The Mother and Father, unsurprisingly, have had a powerful impact on their children, throughout their lives. The author writes so authentically about this family’s chemistry, that at times it mirrored my own family! We see the arguments, the psychological mind-games, the care, the ‘not-talking’, the laughs, the bonds, the knowing of each other inside-and-out. This book is family-drama writing at it’s best.

In this story, we have siblings that embrace the Irish Catholic family traditions – such as wanting a loving and caring family of their own. And we have siblings that tend to knock the tradition sideways and tell us that we live in modern times and old beliefs are no longer valid – as in when we see the younger sibling ‘Aoife’ (Eve) moving away from her family and home. I had a strong sense of the Mother psychologically struggling to try to keep the Irish traditions valid in her children – whilst they are up against a new, evolving, modern world in which they are living.

You could say that although the theme of this book is about a missing person, it doesn’t entirely focus on this part at all. It is not really an investigation into how the Father disappeared, or where he is; but it is how a family are brought together and how they deal with such an awful event in their lives (and how they are going to solve it). We have the characters search their homes for clues of his disappearance, but there is no sense of urgency, no police or search teams.

As the book goes on, we learn that the Mother had told her children lies and had held the lie for many years. And these lies were (from my perspective) an attempt to keep the Irish tradition alive – for a Mother and Father to set a perfect example for their children.

But in all of this, we realise that lies cause damage and although humans are capable of forgiving, it is in the forgetting that we have trouble. There is no doubt that these lies had a negative affect on the children, but at the same time, we understand why the Mother may have hidden the truth through the pressure of religion and tradition at that time. We understand that there may have never been a right moment for her to speak the truth – and so the lie had festered – until one fine day it had been revealed to all. At the same time that these lies are revealed, so are other family-related issues in the past that appear on the Father’s side; and this leads us to the very reason as to why the Father had disappeared.

I found myself tearful at times when I read certain paragraphs in the book; that spoke of the childhood memories. It reminded me of my own family – my Uncles, Aunts, Nans, Grandads, Mum, Dad, and my three Sisters – and all the great times we have enjoyed and still speak about to this day. Isn’t it ironic that sadness exists in happy memories? I think that there is a certain sadness in time moving forward – and this story is very powerful in bringing that concept to light.

This story shows us how parents and our own childhood have a profound impact on our adult lives, in our thought processes, in our beliefs, and in our actions. On a darker note, we also learn how we are all capable of lying to protect loved ones; sometimes even to set good examples, become good role models.

At the end of the book, we learn that even after the character’s became aware of the lies, they were still able to forgive each other – because they are family. Learning to forgive, might possibly be one of the most important things that we can all learn in life.

At the end of the book, the Father returns – having dealt with certain problems in his life that happened long before he had met his Wife. It appears that it may have been important for the author to have the Father deal with his own problems away from his family, and for the Mother and siblings to deal with theirs, together. May be the separation was a powerful contrast to the pulling together of family in the end.

Looking at the book, as a whole, we feel like we have dropped in on this family’s life for a short but important moment in time; just like we would with a soap opera. We have confidence that when the Father walks through the door again, that their lives will continue – even though the chemistry and opinions between them may have changed. This tells a perfect story of life-continuing and getting through it’s ups and downs. We have faith that this family will stick together through thick and thin.

This was a great book to read about family. I must admit that this review was a huge challenge to write – partly because it is far from the genres I know well, partly because it was so tightly woven and cleverly written, and partly because I had to think more deeply about the life-themes in this book.

This book was unlike any other book I have read; where I could pick out certain obvious plot points, clever twist workings, character changes etc. Everything in this book seemed to meld into one fine, natural, roll of fabric that was hard to pucker. This is why I had no choice but to focus on the themes.

I do hope I have given the book justice. If there are any elements of the book that you would like me to discuss or dig into further then please ask. Thank you for reading.

The next book review will be on a horror novel called ‘Life Expectancy’, by Dean Koontz; which I am three-quarters of the way through reading.

Until next time, happy reading, happy writing!

Love,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Hello Readers,

Today, I finished reading the haunting, magical and suspenseful novel, ‘The Miniaturist’, by Jessie Burton (her debut novel). The review below contains my thoughts of the book from a writing perspective. Please be warned, this may contain spoilers! This review was originally posted on Goodreads.com.

In the first chapter we are introduced to Petronella, the book’s main protagonist, who is entering a new house, a new world, to be with her new husband; Johannes. I find this to be an interesting beginning in novel writing; usually, plots in novels will begin with a character living out there daily lives, when suddenly, they are thrown off path for whatever reason. Here the author has placed the trigger in the past, and has planted Nella in the result of the trigger. In the beginning we want and need to know where Nella is, why she is there, and what she will be facing – this creates that essential initial suspense in writing.

On the title header of the chapter, the author states the place and date (seventeenth century) of where the book begins. This helps the reader visualise the period. This method is also good when we don’t want to place the time, date and era in the actual story for whatever reason – it allows the author to focus on description and story of that time period – which also hints at the ‘show’ don’t ‘tell’ rule in the narrative.

We meet some of the other character’s of the Brandt household in the hallway. This is a perfect setting and stage for their interaction. The setting helps to build the claustrophobic and haunting overtones and themes of the story to come – in fact the setting is a character in itself!

The characters are given clear physical descriptions and unique traits from the outset – which are all essential elements in ensuring the reader gets an instant ‘early’ image in their mind of the characters; which will stay with them throughout the book. It is also through physical description, action and dialogue that we begin to understand the relationships and chemistry between the characters – the differences in the character’s personalities helps to build the conflict in the story.

The author had undertaken considersble research of Amsterdam and it’s history in order to write the book. After I finished reading it, I felt I had come away with a good understanding of Amsterdam’s history – and it is always great to learn something new through fiction! I learned about seventeenth century Dutch houses, Churches, laws, trials, religions, food, currency and professions. I loved how the author had initally visited The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; where she had viewed real-life Petronella Oortman’s miniature house. She had walked away inspired, wondering who would have owned such a beautiful thing. I guess this really does tell us that some of the best inspirations come to us when we question something,  and want to know more about it. It’s the ever magical why, what, where and when of fiction – and that wonderful trigger of when research begins.

I can only guess that the author wanted to keep the miniaturist character as mysterious as possible, because this mirrored the author’s mysterious feeling’s towards the miniature cabinet. I felt that the miniaturist character did have her own story to tell far away from this book – I would still love to know what she looked like, how she acquired these foretelling skills, and (in more detail than this book explained) why she chose to impact other’s lives by using these skills. A new book from this character’s viewpoint would also be amazing.

There are some strong themes in the book; love, obsession, jealousy, secrets, lies, superstitions, violence, fear, regret, death, decay, among many other’s – and they all entwine into a fantastic carefully woven plot – which has several twists!

I thought the ending was carefully wrapped up with all of the loose ends tied. Although the very last event was inevitable, I still wondered whether something magical was going to happen to save the day – and that process is ‘suspense working the reader’ at it’s best. The fact that no magic happened in the end made the story very raw and real.

Finally, one thing that really blew me away was when I visited the author’s Pinterest page (a collection of research images that she used as inspiration for the novel). I had clear visions in my mind of the character images, based on the author’s descriptions; but it was only when I visited the author’s Pinterest page that my visions were confirmed to be almost identical! This itself was a magical experience, and can only highlight the author’s excellent eye for detail. I also recommend creating storyboards for your writing’s – they become great inspiration and prompts when needed.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy a haunting, suspense-thriller. This book is a truly amazing read by a brilliant debut writer. I will look forward to Jessie’s next book called ‘Belonging’ – set in Spain and London in the 1960’s.

Until next time,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie

Hello readers!

This weekend, I finished reading the crime novel, ‘Death on the Nile’ by Agatha Christie. Below is my review of the novel from a writing perspective, which was originally posted on Goodreads. I must add, that the analysis of this novel was a huge challenge, because of the pure excellence in its creation. Please be warned, this will contain spoilers!

From the outset, I loved how Agatha introduces us to the large cast of characters. Introducing a large cast of characters is not an easy task in writing; especially when the cast is in a detective plot. But Agatha uses wonderful methods without compromising the plot. We meet some of the characters through the eyes and movements of Hercule Poirot, the detective. We meet related characters through their own ‘dialogued’ scenes. And we meet characters for the first time through the dialogue of other characters (where these characters have met in the past). These are effective methods in which to introduce an array of characters that know, or will come to know, each other. These varied methods also ensure that the process of each character introduction does not become repetitive and mundane to the reader.

I was slightly concerned during the beginning of the book whether I would remember all of the characters, and whether this would distract from the plot. But thankfully Agatha seemed to have already thought this through by ensuring that some of the traits and actions of the characters were repeated just in the right places later in the novel. This process triggered my memory (and no doubt other reader’s memories) of past scenes in the novel. Moments such as these remind us of how quickly a reader can forget a scene and quickly be brought back to it when systems such as these are used.

As the characters embark on their journey, we get to know them, and their relationship with each other, in more detail. And each detail builds towards a perfectly woven crime plot – where any of the characters can end up being the culprit. Every possible story that Hercule pulls together has us believe that he is correct – until he makes us aware that this is not the full story and that there is a hole! Hercule is such a wonderfully clever detective, that he unravels everything for us slowly (also holding us back, leaving us itching at times!). In the end we wish we had his detective solving skills, because we just didn’t see what was coming.

What is interesting about this book is that the first half is a suspense story that builds through tension, and the second half of the book becomes a who-dunnit mystery. I found that this switch made the read very exciting.

There are many great things to say about this novel. I loved how Agatha addressed some clear themes in the book – social class, love, envy – and how she pushed the morals within these themes into the story through dialogue. i.e. ‘all that is gold does not glitter’ – Hercule Poirot.

We are introduced to some beautiful words of the era, such as HON and fey (I will leave them for you to research). This tells us that Agatha absolutely adored language, and that she wanted to teach us, her readers, new words; teachings that go beyond the story and novel. I believe that if you can teach a reader something new (a word, a fact, a new subject) then you have done a wonderful thing as a writer.

In my view, Agatha was not only one of the finest novel plotters, but she was an exceptional detective! To have concocted these plots without any flaws is truly genius. I love how she once quoted that she did most of her plotting whilst doing the dishes. I believe that it would definitely take more than sitting at a desk and writing to formulate finely woven plots such as these.

I would recommend this book to any reader and writer, just for the pure excellence of her plotting. This book was a truly enjoyable read, and I hope to fork out more of her novels (and hopefully read them just as fast as Agatha wrote them!)

Until next time.

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – The Book of You, by Claire Kendal

Hello Readers,

This week, I finished reading my fifth book of 2015 – the psychological-supense thriller, The Book of You, by Claire Kendal; and I must say what an exciting read it was. I flicked through the pages, eager to know what would happen.

The following paragraphs detail elements of the book that I liked from a writing perspective. Please be warned, there are spoilers! This review was originally posted on Goodreads.com.

The opening scene began in the first person, as a diary entry, written by the protagonist, and this diary-entry-pattern is continued throughout the book. I instantly loved how the novel began this way, because I knew there would always be a specific date and time as I read on; I didn’t have to think too much about time moving through the narrative in methods such as season changes etc. I also believe this gave Claire more room to focus on the conflicts of the characters, rather than outside conflicts of weather, which often appear in novels.

The opening scene / diary entry introduces us to the two main characters; via the protagonist writing of her problematic encounter with the antagonist, through an action that has happened in the past. I instantly knew that their encounter was not the first, and that this scene pinpointed a moment in time when their conficts were mid-climax, and both characters were already suffering for their own very different reasons. By throwing the reader into the mid-action, we feel like we have joined the heroine on her journey as though we have collided with her on the street. Claire manages to capture all of the important elements of a novel introduction; from the hook, style and voice, main characters, conflict, themes, mood, and goals. All these things, among other elements, are a magical combination with which to grip and keep a reader.

The best part of the novel for me, besides the stalker theme (which always seems to fascinate me) was the strength in the protagonist’s voice. I was drawn into her claustrophobic and troubled mind, and I felt her fear of her stalker in my bones. Claire created a very rounded and very real protagonist, and placed her in a court case that contained shocking happenings which were parallel to ones she was experiencing, or about to experience – and this powerful combination added to the frightening suspense and build-up of the novel.

Although the novel had a fairly conventional ending for this genre, I had not predicted it’s final outcome on any of the build-up pages. I honestly did not know if she would win or lose. Claire is such a clever writer, who offers us surprise and shock in her work – she is a woman brave enough to approach some awkward subjects and themes, and I salute her. Finally, I also believe she could turn any normal scene into something mesmerizing, and that is why I shall look forward to her forthcoming books.

Tomorrow, I will be choosing my sixth book of the year, and will be placing my review here when done and dusted.

Wishing you all a happy Easter!

Best Wishes,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – Daughter by Jane Shemilt

Hi Readers,

Today, I finished reading the thriller, Daughter by Jane Shemilt. I must say that this has been my least favourite book I’ve read this year, and I have explained the reasons in my review below (originally posted on Goodreads.com).

I love mystery books, and I was particularly drawn to the beautiful pastel-coloured cover, and the ‘missing-plot’ synopsis. I enjoyed the first chapter; however, as the story unfolded, I grew frustrated, and eventually bored with the entire book, for various reasons.

Firstly, I didn’t find the characters real or well rounded, and I certainly never loved them enough at the start to really care what happened to them. However, I did read on, purely out of curiousity; to see if the author would apply a twist, and to see how early on the villain (if there was one) had been introduced to us. You could say that I was analysing the book from a writing perspective; and the actual story became secondary! I must mention the dog ‘Bertie’ too; because he frustrated me enormously. This dog was a minor character that seemed to be used in the story only as a means of adding a red-herring to the plot – by digging up bones that were not Naomi’s – honestly, why so many paragraphs about him running around fields and twitching his nose!

Even though some of the author’s poetic description was good, I felt that it was detached from the story; beginning solitary at the start of almost every chapter, but never weaving itself into action or dialogue. This is a big flaw in writing; and one that will distract the reader away from the storyline. I also felt the author had used art (the main characters hobby) as an excuse to play on her poetic visions – because in the end the art had played no role whatsoever in the outcome of the story.

My review is harsh; but I have to admit that everything about this book annoyed me – from the characters, the empty and poorly weaved plot, the ambiguous outcome, and the written style. Very disappointed, but I have learned much from a writing pespective.

Well on a more positive note, it’s time to start reading my fifth book of 2015! But rather than decide on the book tonight, I will let tomorrow’s morning mood guide me. Will it be a thriller or something more lighthearted, I wonder? I just love the mystery of a new day…

Oh readers, I must also let you into a little secret! This week I sent off my first assignment to the college – the first step in completing my Novel Writing Diploma. I submitted a 1000 word novel manuscript, and a brief account of the type of novel that I want to write. If I pass this assignment, then the next one will be about characters. Exciting!

Well March is finally with us, and the stems of the Daffodils are piercing the ground! I am very much looking forward to Spring and the birth of new writings.

May inspiration be with you all,

Best Wishes,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sunderberg

Hello Readers.

Today I finished reading my third book of 2015, The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules, by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg.

This book certainly made a lighthearted change from the first two books that I read this year – the first being The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, followed by the suspense thriller, Never Tell by Claire Seeber. I am making a wholehearted attempt to rotate the fiction genres that I read; as I feel that a writer and reader can become stuck-in-a-rut if they stick with the same genre of books for too long – and the same genres over again can certainly limit your visions. I think it was Stephen King who said to ‘read great books and awful books’ – because you can learn just as much from the awful ones, as you can the great ones, as a reader and a writer.

I must say that I have learned some interesting elements of writing by analysing the work of the wonderful author that is, Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. Here is my review, originally posted on Goodreads.com.

This book was an enjoyable, humorous and inspiring novel. The group of characters known as ‘The League of Pensioners’ were well-rounded, and were certainly not stereotypical pensioners; although in places, Catharina did capture hints of their age very well, through the use of their zimmer-frame mobility, actions, tastes in food and drink, and their oldie dialogue. Martha was the leading role in the story, but she could never have existed as boldly without her colourful companions, Anna-Greta, Christina, Rake and Brains; who all brought their own skills and personalities into the story. This novel is a perfect example of how two controversial ‘news/tabloid’ stories can be merged into a unique plot. Here we have the controversial story of poor care-homes vs. the not-so-badly-kempt prisons. It could end up being a very depressing story, but with the brilliant skills of humour that Catharina infuses, the idea becomes very lighthearted, and quite often, comical. Catharina is a bestselling children’s author, and this shined through in her writing style; the simplicity of the words left us pause-free, creating a good and steady pace for the exciting adventure plot. After finishing the book, it left me feeling positive about the strength of human nature. I will certainly be thinking differently about the next pensioner I see with a zimmer-frame! We are all unique and are capable of the most amazing things if we put our minds to it, and age is not a barrier. The author has mentioned that she likes British humour – and this humour certainly brought a smile to my face – even on the train!

So what is the fourth book I am going to read this year? Well I have decided to return to the suspense thriller by reading ‘Daughter’ by Jane Shemilt. A daughter goes missing and the story unravels…nothing more needed to prompt me to turn those pages!

Until next time, happy reading, happy writing!

Donna x

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Book Review – The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Hello Readers,

I have decided to add the reviews that I write on Goodreads.com to my blog. I think it will be a great way to keep my blog more active!

Today, I finished reading The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was a completely new genre for me, and I was thoroughly immersed throughout. Here is my short review;
‘In a world of uneasy and troubled times, it is more than a pleasure to escape into the fantasy world of ‘The Hobbit’. This book escorted me from the train (my real setting during most of the reading) into the wonderful and magical world of mountains, woods, rivers and caves. The settings were immaculately designed, and the characters were fully rounded, lovable and intriguing, which are assets that make a reader always remember them. This is a truly exceptional novel, and a remarkable piece of art – no wonder it was adapted into movies (all of which are next on my list!)’

Lastly, I must say, that Friday is my favourite day in which to finish reading a book. I shall definitely be looking forward to Monday, if only for the chance to meet some new characters and follow a new journey!

Until next time 🙂

Donna x

 

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