June | 2012 | Best Books Reviews
Archive from June, 2012
Jun 12, 2012 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Hurting Distance

Reviewed by Kathryn Moss
I have just put this book down and was so impressed that I felt compelled to promote it! It’s been a while since I’ve read such an original, disturbing, and superbly choreographed psychological thriller. The character development is brilliant, with ‘baddies’ who are chillingly understated, and ‘goodies’ who are, quite frankly, a bit of a mess! You would be too if you’d been in their shoes! The complexity of the plot makes the book fascinating and difficult to put down, as you’re constantly wondering where it will take you next. I’m usually quite good at guessing the ending, however I couldn’t see through this one! Even if you got the main thread there are so many layers to the story that the fallout was just as interesting. I also found the concept that created the title thought-provoking… you’ll have to read the book to find out why.

The story starts with a survivor’s story on a rape web site, a survivor’s story with a difference! Fundamentally it is about a vulnerable woman being deceived by a truly evil man with motives that are unbelievably warped. The character Naomi is cleverly developed, as she isn’t that likeable and it’s hard to find sympathy for her until you realise the full extent of what’s happened to her. There is a great twist involving one of the main police characters too, one that leaves her reeling and demonstrates how people in authority can be just as vulnerable as the rest of us.

I don’t want to say too much more as I don’t want to risk giving away the plot, all readers should experience a plot that’s so hard to see through! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves thrillers: well written, extremely clever and deeply chilling. It still makes my skin crawl when I think about the dark characters involved.

Jun 12, 2012 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Sepulchre

Reviewed by Kathryn Moss
A stunning novel about obsession and revenge, this book is extremely hard to put down once you’ve started it. As with her previous book ‘Labyrinth’ the story switches between the past and the present with ease, establishing connections that make the story complete. I often find with books that do this that there is one era I prefer, and whilst reading about the other era I’m itching to get back to my favourite. However, not so with Sepulchre, the story in both eras is equally gripping, and the characters in both eras are fundamental to developing the reader’s understanding of the characters in the tarot cards. The characters are cleverly and beautifully developed, and I grew very fond of some of them so was seen to be shedding a few tears at the events that befell them.

The story starts in Paris in March 1891, where an innocent teenage girl attends a funeral that never was, knowing little about the series of events she was about to become embroiled in. Her only crime is concern for her brother. Little does she know that a truly evil man, charismatic as such men often are, is about to threaten everyone and everything she holds dear. These players and more soon develop into the tarot characters discovered by our heroine in the present day, who embarks on a mission that enables her to discover her ancestry and face her demons (literally!). Knowing how the Victor Constant character had been built up throughout the book I found his reincarnation in the final chapters utterly spine chilling.

The historical and geographical detail in this book is tremendous, so evocative that I could often imagine myself there, exploring the French Pyrenean foothills for example, or walking the streets of the medieval city of Carcassonne. Kate Mosse puts so much effort into researching her books, so that there is a thread of reality running through them that gives the story credibility, even though at times events are truly supernatural. Creepy!! Another fascinating aspect to the story is the musical connection, which pulls in the French composer, Claude Debussy.

Another touch I love is the way pictures of the fictional Vernier Tarot have been painted specifically for this book and illustrated beautifully inside the cover of the hardback. Apart from being very attractive they added an extra dimension in terms of living the main characters. I loved the idea of the lovers being chained by the devil and how that related to ‘real’ events. The wonderfully illustrated map of the area is great too.

If you enjoy tales about the mysticism and the supernatural you’ll love this book. More than that however it’s an extremely rich, entertaining, and well-written novel – enjoy!

Jun 12, 2012 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Working Wonders

Reviewed by Kathryn Moss
I read avidly and my taste is eclectic, “chick lit” being one of the genres I read for a bit of light relief (and all too often boredom). That is exactly why I picked this book and I have to say I got a bit of a surprise. Far from being a predictable modern-day romance this book is funny and clever, and at times quite moving, with characters that are well developed and a plot that crosses over into the realms of fantasy – well, why not?!

The book centres round a group of unlikely people teaming up to bid for an unlikely city to be the European city of culture. Generally the central male characters grow more engaging as the book progresses, although the female characters had less of an impact on me. I really like the main male character Arthur, however my favourite is Sven with his droll sense of humour and attachment to his dog Sandwiches, who goes everywhere with him and becomes an integral part of the team. I love the way the team comes up with wacky ideas to win the bid, which aren’t necessarily based on commercial value or kudos, but are purely designed to raise the spirits of a city long maligned. I realise that in today’s world they are completely unrealistic but that’s part of the beauty of this book, we can dream can’t we? Far too often we just accept the constraints the oppressive world we live places on us, and this book is refreshing in that it disregards many of them. The lengths to which the team go to make their ideas happen are both admirable and hilarious, my favourite being the trip to the far north of Denmark to meet with ice making experts, where fantasy scenes of the frozen north abound and Arthur and Sandwiches take on heroic roles.

The book culminates in a final battle between the remaining two contenders, our unlikely team and their rivals, who have of course tried to thwart our heroes throughout with their evil interventions. This takes the form of an outward-bound exercise in the wilds of Wales, where (of course) good triumphs over evil, kind of anyway.

Quirky. Great fun. Touching. Imaginative. Fantastical. Read it if those adjectives appeal to you. I have read a few other reviews of this book, some of which slate Jenny Colgan for breaking away from her usual style, however I applaud her for it.

Jun 12, 2012 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Tell It To The Skies

Reviewed by Kathryn Moss
As is often the case where an established author writes something a bit different “Tell It To The Skies” has received mixed reviews, however I found it to be a gripping novel that deals with dark subjects such as child abuse in a way that gives us hope. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Our heroine Lydia is courageous and sensitive as all good heroines should be and her story begins in Venice, where at the age of 40 she is content with her home, work, friends, and the company of her stepdaughter Chiara, whose father had died several years before. However, her life gets turned upside-down at the chance sighting of a young man who is the spitting image of Lydia’s childhood sweetheart Noah, long since lost to her. The shock of it causes her to fall and badly sprain her ankle, and whilst convalescing her extraordinary story starts to emerge. It is a rather contrived coincidence that Noah’s clone becomes Chiara’s new boyfriend, however it does create a platform for the past to catch up with the present, providing resolution for those still alive.

Back we go to 1968, where in the aftermath of Lydia’s father’s death her mother’s mental state deteriorates rapidly, resulting in her tragic suicide, which Lydia saw as her fault. Having already been more of a mother to her younger sister Valerie, Lydia now became fiercely protective but could not stop social services from arranging for them both to go and live in Yorkshire with grandparents they had never met.

The book now describes at length a grim childhood for both sisters, who survive and cope as best they can. Their grandfather is cruel and violent and their grandmother lives in fear of him. They belong to a strict religious sect full of dubious individuals with the occasional shining light such as Sister Lottie. The way that this environment affects the two sisters differently is really intriguing and well developed, making the reader eager to know what happens to them. As time goes by Lydia finds first friendship and then love with Noah, another misfit who comes to live in Swallowsdale. She is first bullied by and then forms an unlikely friendship with Donna, loud and uncouth but fundamentally good-hearted.

Time moves on and events unfold that will change everything. The book progresses towards a disturbing crescendo, after which misunderstandings occur that force Lydia and Noah apart, not to be reunited until decades later. In fact Lydia is forced to leave everything behind and start a new life in Italy, where for some time she waits to hear from Noah little realising that the scene she left hadn’t worked out quite as she planned. So eventually she picks herself up and gets on with her life, hurt but not defeated.

You might think it romantic idealism that Noah comes back into Lydia’s life, a nice contrived happy ending, but hey why not, these things do happen!! Plus of course it’s not quite that simple…

Jun 12, 2012 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Inspire: Courageous People of Our Time

Reviewed by Kathryn Moss
The title says a lot about this book, it is indeed inspirational. Inspire tells twelve stories about twelve remarkable British people, all of whom have overcome great obstacles to achieve what they have to date. What drives them? Courage, dedication, a passionate belief in what they do, and in some cases not a small amount of risk-taking! Oliver Chittenden gives us a glimpse into the minds of these people through face to face interviews, insightful background information, and wonderful portrait photographs by Sam Pelly.
One of the things that make this book so fascinating is the variety of inspirational people included. They range from Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE (World’s greatest living explorer), to Tim Smit (Co-founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall), to Terry Waite CBE (former Beirut hostage), to Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE (eleven times Paralympic gold medallist), to name but a few! Each chapter is both fascinating and easy to read, giving the reader just the right amount of information to realise just how amazing these people are. There are plenty of words of wisdom from the individuals concerned, and I particularly like a quote from John Simpson CBE: “Perhaps the point of living is not to be placid and happy and untouched by the world, but to be deeply painfully sensitive to it, to see its cruelty and savagery for what they are, and accept all this as readily as we accept its beauty. To be touched by it, moved by it, hurt by it even, but not to be indifferent to it.” Another great snippet from Tim Smit: “The closer you get to the obstacle blocking your dream, the longer you hold your nerve, the sooner you will find an opening that makes your dream a reality.” The book is full of such inspiring gems, great to write on pieces of paper and stick on the walls around you when life is tough.

Another good touch is the inclusion of charities that are dear to the heart of the people involved in the book, and the fact that a proportion of the income generated from the sales of this book will go to the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a charity that aims to help people suffering from depression.

In addition to the twelve stories the book includes a foreword by Sir Richard Branson, and a tribute at the end to Jayne Tomlinson, whose incredible fight against cancer epitomises what the book is about. Inspire is the best kind of Coffee Table book, it looks good but once perused has the power to literally transform your day in a few moments. It would make a great gift at a time when there is a lot of despondency around, demonstrating as it does how ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.