Thursday, 26 August 2010

Esther Verhoef – Close-up

Margot has recently split up with her long term partner after he had an affair with her best friend. She is bored in her job and her self esteem is at an all time low. When she meets Leon and starts a relationship with him everything changes. He brings her confidence back and helps her to leave her job and go after her dream of doing daring interior design projects. But Leon has secrets that he doesn’t want to talk about. His previous girlfriend died in his bath. The police believe she committed suicide, but in fact she was murdered.

I picked this book up in The Works a while back as it sounded intriguing. I’m so glad I did!
The book is well written, the translation was well done (the book was originally written in Dutch) and the characters are believable and on the whole likeable. The plot is engaging and suspenseful, I hated having to stop reading to do such things as go to work or sleep!

Most of the book is written following Margot but every so often there are chapters that are written in the first person perspective from the point of view of the killer. I really liked that and thought it really enhanced the book. I also loved the ending. It was not what I had expected but it worked perfectly.

I will definitely be looking out for more books by Esther Verhoef in future. I believe Close-up is currently the only one that has been translated into English so far but another is due out later in the year. Close-up is one of my favourite books that I have read so far this year and I am excited to see what else Esther Verhoef can offer.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Carol Smith – Fatal Attraction

Rose is a mathematical genius and talented musician. In her first year at Oxford University she sees Joe playing jazz in a local bar. He is in his final year studying physics. His musical talent and strong intellect appeal to Rose and she rapidly becomes obsessed with him. Even after he marries her sister, Rose will not give up. She will do anything to make him hers, even murder.

This book was not really what I had expected. I thought it would be based around the planning and committing of a murder (or murders) and to some degree it was, but this was only a small part of the overall story. The story is set over approx. a twenty year period following Rose’s life and her obsession with Joe.

I found the story quite enjoyable, although it was a little slow in places and did feel repetitive at times. It reminded me a lot of Barbara Vine in many ways (although less complex and not as well written), and I would recommend anyone that enjoyed this book to try a Barbara Vine. Fans of Barbara Vine might enjoy this as long as they don’t set out with expectations too high, whilst the style is similar Carol Smith’s storytelling and writing is much less sophisticated.

This book was a quick read, taking me just a few days. There was a twist at the end but I saw that coming from a long way off. It was so obvious in fact that I thought maybe it wasn’t going to happen and it was a red herring, but sadly not. That said I will still read another Carol Smith book in the future. There is plenty of room for improvement so will try another to see if that improvement is forthcoming.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Imogen Edwards-Jones & Anonymous –Fashion Babylon

Tales (supposedly all true) from fashion industry insiders set around a fictional designer and her team over a six month period.

I have read Air, Hotel and Beach Babylon and enjoyed them all so decided to read Fashion as I managed to get a cheap copy. The fashion industry is not something that really interests me but I thought the book would be entertaining anyway. It was but not hugely so. Perhaps someone more interested in fashion would get more out of it but I found it pretty slow going and quite repetitive in places.

Also, as I said before I don’t know much about the fashion industry but the book didn’t really tell me anything new. It’s fairly obvious that there is going to be partying with lots of drinking and drug taking, that ideas are going to be stolen and that models get funny if they expect to be first on but end up being moved down the running order.

That said, it was still a fairly entertaining read. It just didn’t live up to the other Babylon books, but I think that had more to do with me and than the book itself. I am still looking to get Pop and Wedding Babylon to read in due course (and as these are subjects that interest me more than fashion I have higher hopes for those).

Monday, 16 August 2010

Alexandra Sokoloff – The Harrowing

Its Thanksgiving holiday and most of the students from Baird College have left to spend the long weekend with their families. In the old Mendenhall building just five students remain. They find an old ouija board and start using it one stormy night. Strange occurrences start and the students have to work out what is going on and how to stop it.

OK, so it’s not the most original story line but it was entertaining. I liked the characters and I enjoyed the storyline even though it was a little predictable. I really liked the way it was written as it was pretty much a film in book format if that makes sense. I could picture it all and I could easily see it as a low budget horror film.

I didn’t find it at all scary but then I’ve read and watched a lot of horror over the years and may be a little de-sensitised to it. I can’t even remember the last time a book scared me (or a film for that matter) so if you do scare easily then you may find this scary, I can’t really say as it’s all subjective.

If you like horror and fancy a quick entertaining read then you should enjoy this book. If you want deep and meaningful or new and different then this is not the book for you.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Dean Koontz – Breathless

Grady Adams is out walking his dog when he witnesses two strange creatures running in the meadow. He contacts his vet friend Cammy Rivers to see if she can shed any light on what they might be. She too is amazed by the creatures and emails photos to some contacts for their opinion. Before they know what is happening Homeland Security have sealed off the area and taken the creatures for testing. Grady and Cammy are horrified by this and set about trying to do something about it.

This book is a little slower paced than Dean Koontz’s usual offerings but it is still unmistakeably Koontz. I’m sure that I could identify writing by Dean Koontz in a “blind” reading as he has a very distinctive style. Plus in his more recent novels the main character is pretty much the same person, just repackaged a little. That’s more of an observation than a criticism, I’ve read most of Dean Koontz’s books and enjoy them very much.

Breathless seemed to me to take a while to get going and to be honest, whilst it did pick up the pace a little towards the end it never really took off. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. I just feel that perhaps something was missing. I really liked the ending, I think it was apt and worked well, but the journey to get there could have been better.

There were lots of separate sub-plots that at first seem to have no connection to one another but all linked together cleverly at the end. I particularly enjoyed the stories of the man in the Vegas casinos and Tom Bigger, a homeless man. There was one sub-plot that had almost no bearing on the story whatsoever and could easily have been left out with no detriment to the book at all, although it would have left the book considerably shorter as it was one of the more in depth sub-plots, but to me it didn’t add anything to the story and was the one I enjoyed the least.

I did quite enjoy this book but it’s certainly not one of my favourite Den Koontz offerings. If you like Dean Koontz then you should like this book. However, if you have never read anything by Dean Koontz I would suggest starting elsewhere in order to see what he is truly capable of.