Last Bus to Woodstock – Colin Dexter

Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse, #1)Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book in Oxford whilst visiting on holiday. After taking in the Morse sights (even seeing Morse’s MkI Jag used in Endeavour ready for filming), I decided it was finally time to read the books.

This is a great introduction to Morse. The character is clear as crystal and you can see the relationship between Morse and Lewis start developing. Not quite the friendship that is there in the series but it’s coming along nicely.

The mystery was intriguing and as a book it was very difficult to put down. I sat down for a quick read and before I knew it – forty pages had passed!

I know some people have complained about how the women are portrayed in the book but it was written in 1975 – what would you have authors do? Rewrite their works to keep up with an ever-changing modern audience? Be realistic people.

Overall, a very entertaining book that was engaging and very much a ‘page-turner’.

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How Much for a Little Screw by Graham Higson

How Much For A Little Screw?How Much For A Little Screw? by Graham Higson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ever wondered what it’s like to run a small, independent hardware shop in a little town? Ever thought about what challenges that would throw up? Like when the main competitor is an absolute idiot and the council is intent on ruining what little trade there might be? The look no further than this book.

Anecdotes that are all amusing with a strong plot that takes you through the banks vying for your head and the changing demands of the high street. Characters who are real and interesting.

A great read and quite impossible to put down! I just wish there were more DIY shops like this still.

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If Only it Were True by Marc Levy

If Only It Were TrueIf Only It Were True by Marc Levy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by my husband after he read it in French. Unable to speak/read or write the language, he bought me the translated version.

There are some areas where the translation isn’t spot on (I am sure my husband will tell me how off it is when he reads the English version) but overall is has good flow and reads well.

The story is about Lauren and Arthur. Lauren is involved in a serious car accident and ends up in a coma. Arthur leases her apartment in San Francisco a few months after Lauren’s accident and one evening he finds her in the closet.

Lauren’s soul or consciousness has been separated from her body and she is visiting the places she knows best. Up until Arthur, no one has seen her or been able to communicate with her. It’s up to Arthur to make sure that Lauren’s physical body stays alive when everyone starts talking of euthanasia.

Some people might not like the sentimentality of this book but I enjoyed the exploration of what happens between life and death or when in a coma. It’s an original take and explores human spirit and emotional connection with those that are no longer with us.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable read and got the five stars because I simply couldn’t put it down. Every spare moment I wanted to spend with Arthur and Lauren.

An excellent debut novel. Like this, read The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.

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The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

The Shock of the FallThe Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit it: I bought this book because I liked the front cover. It happens. Publishers still rely on this to work. Some of the best books I have ever read I bought because they looked nice. Needless to say, with so much success, why should I ever change my book buying strategy?

That being said, this book is brilliant. It follows the first person narrative of Matthew Homes, a 19 year-old schizophrenic who hears the voice of his dead brother, Simon. The blurb on the back really gives nothing away but it does make you want to start reading.

It’s very easy to read in the language used but because of the mental illness suffered by Matthew, it does wander around quite convincingly. It takes you a couple of seconds to realise where in the story you are and this might put some people off. I thought it was excellent because of the very realistic way the ideas tumbled out of Matthew’s head.

It’s a story of sadness, guilt and life. It did make me cry because this is a story of trying to move on. Poignant, witty and well written, this is great book that will live with you for a long time.

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The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

The FarmThe Farm by Tom Rob Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a fan of Child 44 and the rest of the Demidov trilogy, I had to have this book as soon as it came out last week. Tom Rob Smith is quite simply one of my favourite authors.

This is a complete departure from Communist Russia. Set partly in London but mainly in very rural Sweden, The Farm is a story of trust. How can you choose between trusting your father or trusting your mother? Daniel has to choose when his mother shows up in London asking him to believe her when his father has just rung to say she’s gone mad and been locked in an Asylum. What comes next has you questioning the sanity of the people involved and it really leaves you guessing.

As will all Tom Rob Smith’s novels, this is a book that is very easy to read and the pace is extraordinary. He has a way of writing that pulls you through at such speed that it requires immense willpower to put the book down and leave some until later. You have to get to the end to know what happens. It reveals the story fragments at a time, a delicious unveiling of the twists and turns that lead you to a wonderful conclusion.

A great book.

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One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore

One Night in WinterOne Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love a thriller set in communist Russia. Denunciations, threat of death or being sent to the Gulags. The tension and horror of the situation makes for excellent, dramatic novels. This is a superb example of a book set in this situation.

The novel follows the events that follow a strange game that several students play. All but one of these children belong to the people at the top of the government and they all attend the best school in Moscow – School 801. They are members of the Fatal Romantics Club who re-enact famous scenes from Pushkin’s Onegin. It’s whilst they are playing this ‘game’ that events spiral out of control. Before you know it, all the children’s lives are at stake as they are taken to the Lubianka for questioning.

Montefiore handles the development of all the characters well and really does an excellent job of bringing them to life. The whole situation is almost farcical but very true as to what it was like in Russia at the time. It is loosely based on a real investigation that took place.

Great book – looking forward to reading some more novels by this author.

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The Grim by Eleanor Piper

The GrimThe Grim by Eleanor Piper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Grim is a gripping, fast paced horror novel set in the wonderful Dartmoor National Park. It follows a small group of specially trained people as they attempt to hunt down the mysterious animal that has been killing people on the moors. With a atmospheric opening scene to introduce the story, it leads you right into the world of The Grim.

Not for the faint-hearted, this book is one you just can’t put down. At 110 pages, it’s easy enough to pick up and read right through the end as I did. Once started, you simply have to know what happens next!

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The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters

The True and Splendid History of The Harristown SistersThe True and Splendid History of The Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a Michelle Lovric fan from the moment I started reading ‘The Book of Human Skin’. Amazing book that lives with me still – years after I first read it! So when I saw this book, I had to read it.

Was I disappointed? Not at all. The Swiney Godivas are quite simply wonderful.

Michelle Lovric really does do characters well. Seven sisters, all completely different in personality, simply jump off the page. You love Manticory, despise Darcy, feel strangely in the middle regards Berenice and Enda. Pertilly, Oona and Ida all have their roles to play and have very different if slightly strange mannerisms. You care what happens to them as they traverse this enforced world of show business.

The setting is incredibly vivid as it was in The Book of Human Skin. You can see the slow-crows of Harristown, hear the Grand Canal lapping at the buildings in Venice.

Quite simply, I loved this book. So much so, that today I was disappointed when I realised I didn’t have any more to read.

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Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris

Peaches for Monsieur le Curé (Chocolat, #3)Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great sequel to Lollipop Shoes. It follows Vianne as she returns to Lansquenet after receiving a letter from beyond the grave. Filled with the familiar characters from Chocolat such as Joesphine, Reynaud and Luc Clairmont, Harris also introduces a wealth of new characters with the settling of Moroccan Muslims in the small town.

As always, Harris manages to capture the sound, smell and atmosphere so that when you open the book all senses are alert as you read the wonderful descriptions. Of course, there is the dark and mysterious side of the book with the appearance of Karim and Ines Bencharki. Vianne finds more than she bargained for on her return and this threatens to pull apart the life she has created in Paris.

An excellent read and a wonderful continuation. I have loved reading about Vianne since Chocolat, and this book did not disappoint. The only bad thing is when it’s all over.

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To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield

To Serve Them All My DaysTo Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful story of how a man suffering from shell shock finds himself at a private school in Devon on the advice of his psychiatric doctor. It follows David Powlett-Jones through from the Great War to the Second World War. It accounts for his struggles with some of the boys (ones who later become great friends and call him ‘Pow-Wow’), to his rise of power through the school to the tragedies that befall his private life.

A very well written account that pulls you through and leaves you at the end hoping that the boys make it through the Second World War safely but knowing that many wouldn’t have done. A heart-warming tale of determination and the development of character after suffering in the Trenches of 1917.

I read this because of the TV series which aired in England in the ’80s I think. A very good adaptation but the book is different enough to make it not just reading a book of the series. I would definitely recommend this book.

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