The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Synopsis from Amazon:

The Moonstone, a priceless Indian diamond which had been brought to England as spoils of war, is given to Rachel Verrinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night, the stone is stolen. Suspicion then falls on a hunchbacked housemaid, on Rachel’s cousin Franklin Blake, on a troupe of mysterious Indian jugglers, and on Rachel herself. The phlegmatic Sergeant Cuff is called in, and with the help of Betteredge, the Robinson Crusoe-reading loquacious steward, the mystery of the missing stone is ingeniously solved.

This was a very good crime novel. The Moonstone is an expensive diamond that is left to Rachel Verrinder. After receiving it she puts it into a cabinet in her bedroom. During the night the Moonstone is stolen. Everyone is suspected. The story is narrated by different people who all give accounts of events that unfolded since the robbery. Suspects frequently change and there are some very clever detective tricks used to solve the crime.

I enjoyed this book but I did think it was a bit long at times. I found it interesting how Collins viewed women – as lesser than men and how he uses religion – as a lifestyle that dominates some and irritates others. I really enjoyed the narrators changing – I found it influenced who I thought did it, and as it turns out, I was wrong. I found this style of writing threw me off the scent.

I was not particularly fond of any of the characters. All of them had flaws which I found a little annoying, such as Betteredge and his obsession with Robinson Crusoe. However I still enjoyed this book because I was eager to find out who did it, and how they pulled it off. This book had me gripped.

I thought this was a great crime novel. I think it is just as sophisticated as modern crime novels, even though the police did not have modern technologies to help them. There was still the element of who-done-it and there was all the aspects of a crime book, with death, mystery and suspicion.

This is well worth reading.

8/10

PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

ps i love you

Synopsis:

A wonderfully warm and heartfelt debut from a stunning new talent. Everyone needs a guardian angel! Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mates. But not Holly and Gerry. Childhood sweethearts, they could finish each other’s sentences and even when they fought, they laughed. No one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other. Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry’s death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Gerry comes back to her. He’s left her a bundle of notes, one for each of the months after his death, gently guiding Holly into her new life without him, each note signed ‘PS, I Love You’. As the notes are gradually opened, and as the year unfolds, Holly is both cheered up and challenged. The man who knows her better than anyone sets out to teach her that life goes on. With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing — and being braver than ever before. Life is for living, she realises — but it always helps if there’s an angel watching over you.

Holly is lucky; she found her soul mate when she was young. Except she is unlucky – he dies young of a brain tumour. Her life is ripped apart. What is she going to do? Her husband has dead. Yet her mother is holding a letter for her, one from Gerry. There is a note for every month of the rest of the year, which will help her carrying on living.

This is a well written, touching book. To lose your u at a young age must be horrendous, and that is how Ahern writes it. It is so sad, very heartbreaking. Ahern looks at what losing your spouse does to you, how relationships change, who are your real friends, and how you can keep going. I loved the idea of notes, and everything Gerry set up for her to help her. What a lovely thing to do. It was so beautiful that he was there supporting her through these few lines a few. Ahern’s writing is gripping and draws you into the story. I felt the emotions Holly was feeling, and could have cried along with her.

I don’t think I have a favourite character in this book. Everyone was well written and I liked how they developed over the year. It was interesting to see how Gerry’s death affected everyone. It was good to see how Ahern remembered the other characters and incorporated their grief in the book too.

It is important to note that not all the book is sad, and there are moments of joy, fun and laughter. Ahern looks at a range of emotions and the rollercoaster of grief.

I really enjoyed this book. It is chick-lit, but it explores a hard issue. It did not take long to read this book – it was just a good novel.

9/10

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by by Mitch Albom

the five people you meet in heaven

Synopsis from Amazon:

From the author of the phenomenal number one bestseller TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, comes this enchanting, beautifully written novel that explores a mystery only heaven can unfold. Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in the toil of his father before him, fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. Then he dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people who were in it. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie desperately seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life. Was it a heroic success or a devastating failure? The answer is as magical and inspirational as a glimpse of heaven itself.

Eddie dies on his birthday attempting to save a girl when part of a pier ride malfunctions. When he gets to heaven he meets five different people who explain life and parts of Eddie’s life which lead him to rethink hi anger and bitterness. This is a journey that will release him for heaven.

I read this book in a day – it is really good. It is not a long book, only 208 pages, but is a wonderful read. Albom draws you in and it really feels like you are going through these memories with Eddie. You feel pain, hurt and happiness as you read.

Because Eddie died on his birthday there are several chapters that are birthday memories. Ranging from the age of five up to his sixties. I really liked these. They showed tenderness and a glimpse into how Eddie’s life was changing.

There are many issues discussed in this book – such as the war and how that affected life and parent issues, particularly violence from his father. Albom deals with these wonderfully and shows that with help things can be forgiven.

I liked all the characters. It was lovely how some of the people Eddie met in heaven he had only briefly met in life, or not met at all, but how they played a part in his life. I particularly liked Tala, a little girl. She had died young in the war but she was sweet and forgiving, and loving. I felt for Eddie too. He lost his wife young and the war had left him maimed, leaving him sad and stuck in a rut. I loved being there as he sorted out his life in heaven.

I highly recommend this book. I loved it. I can think of no complaints.

10/10

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

the-reader-jpg

Synopsis from Amazon:

For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does – Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.

This is a brave book. It follows Michael, who after a long period of illness goes to thank the women who helped him when he was sick in the street. This second encounter leads to a love affair that will haunt Michael for the rest of his life. Suddenly Hanna disappears and Michael thinks that is the end – until he sees her in court answering to crimes committed under Hitler’s reign. Yet as the trail proceeds Michael discovers something about Hanna that she is hiding, and which leads her to punishment.

This books looks at Germany, the aftermath of the war, the Holocaust and the guilt of a generation. It also looks at love and sex, and books. I thought this book was a good read. It isn’t a long book and it didn’t take me long to read. I did find the philosophy in the second part hard to grasp, and found it difficult to concentrate whilst reading those bits, but they are really my only complaints.

I liked Michael – he was a simple 15 year old who hadn’t been in a proper relationship, then a man trying to work out how to condemn those who had been involved with the Holocaust, and ultimately he proved himself a good friend. I felt sorry for Hanna and the secret she felt she needed to keep however she had a mean streak that I didn’t like.

As already said, this is a brave book. I think it addresses these sensitive issues well – I don’t think people will be offended when reading this book. I would recommend this as a good book.

8/10

Savage Tide by Glen Chandler

savage tide

Synopsis from Amazon:

This is a Steven Madden mystery. For Steve Madden, Brighton is no longer beaches, fish and chips and amusement arcades. It’s also a place of murder. Estranged from his son and grappling with the jealousy that comes from watching your ex-wife getting closer to another man, his world is thrown into turmoil when he is called to investigate a particularly savage murder. But there is something else, something that will change his life forever. Dragged into the twilight world of nightclubs, drugs and prostitution, Steve is about to realise that being a Detective Inspector in a seaside town is far more dangerous than he could ever have imagined.

Steve Maddon is called is called to a murder scene in Kemp Town, Brighton – the place notorious for where the homosexual community live. What he finds in the flat is a shock – and will completely rock his world. The murder is sex fueled and gruesome, and personal. Maddon is taken off the investigation, but unsatisfied with the police work, investigates himself, where he makes some shocking discoveries.

This book is not for faint hearted. The description of the murder was graphic, and horrific. The is a lot of violence, drugs and sex in this book, which aren’t really my cup of tea. That said; it was a good read, with a few twists and an interesting portrayal of the seedier side of Brighton.

Chandler wrote well – it flowed easily, I was able to keep up with the story and remember who all the characters were. It didn’t take me long to read and I was quite surprised by the revealing of the murderer. If you like crime novels, or a good murder book, this is for you.

7/10

No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

no time for goodbye

Synopsis from Amazon:

On the morning she will never forget, suburban teenager Cynthia Archer awakes with a nasty hangover and a feeling she is going to have an even nastier confrontation with her mom and dad. But when she leaves her bedroom, she discovers the house is empty, with no sign of her parents or younger brother Todd. In the blink of an eye, without any explanation, her family has simply disappeared. Twenty-five years later Cynthia is still haunted by unanswered questions. Were her family murdered? If so, why was she spared? And if they’re alive, why did they abandon her in such a cruel way? Now married with a daughter of her own, Cynthia fears that her new family will be taken from her just as her first one was. And so she agrees to take part in a TV documentary revisiting the case, in the hope that somebody somewhere will remember something – or even that her father, mother or brother might finally reach out to her… Then a letter arrives which makes no sense and yet chills Cynthia to the core. And soon she begins to realise that stirring up the past could be the worst mistake she has ever made…

Meet Cynthia – she is teenager out with her older boyfriend getting drunk in his car. Her Dad finds her, pulls her out of the car and drags her home. After a row she hits the sack to sleep off the alcohol. The following morning she wakes to a silent house. At first she finds plausible reasons for everyone being out, but once at school quickly discovers they are indeed missing.

Twenty-five years later she still doesn’t know what has happened to her family. And with a family of her own, it is starting to threaten her comfortable home. Still wanting answers, she is shocked when a letter arrives. Her past and what happened on that night is about to catch up with her, and it won’t be pretty….

What an exciting book. I couldn’t put it down. There were many twists and turns, and outcomes I did not see coming. Barclay leads you down one path, and suddenly flips it over and reveals your suspicions and guesses to be wrong. I was gripped by this adventure. So much happens, a lot of which you won’t predict. Barclay manipulates what you think, then corrects your wrong views. Just excellent. His characters were great – I especially liked the thugs who grabbed Cynthia’s husband off the street and then sat listening to the Carpenters. Quite funny! This is just a really good book.

My one complaint is the swearing. There is a lot of it. I managed to ignore most of it, but there is too much, and that is what stops me giving this book the highest rating. Overall, this is a must-read thriller, and I highly recommend it.

9/10

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

brighton rock

Synopsis from Amazon:

A gang war is raging through the dark underworld of Brighton. Seventeen-year-old Pinkie, malign and ruthless, has killed a man. Believing he can escape retribution, he is unprepared for the courageous, life-embracing Ida Arnold. Greene’s gripping thriller, exposes a world of loneliness and fear, of life lived on the ‘dangerous edge of things’.

I picked up this book for part of my dissertation reading (the portrayal of Brighton in fiction) and wow, it certainly portrays life in the town in a dark, horrific way. Brighton Rock follows Pinkie, a heartless man as he tries to become a gang leader. He kills a journalist without any remorse. Just as he thinks this is the start of big things, he starts to be hunted down by Ida Arnold, who wants justice for Hale’s death. As events unfold Pinkie takes all sorts of measures to remain safe and in control, including more death, but he may just have underestimated Ida…

I didn’t know what to expect when starting this book, especially as the opening line is:

“Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.”

I actually enjoyed this book. It was a slow read, and sometimes I got a little bored but overall it was exciting, with murder, fear, love and suspicion. The book shows a dark side of Brighton, with gang wars and dingy hide-outs. The ending was not what I expected either – and probably not how I would have written it, but a good way to end the book.

I liked Ida best. Pinkie was too arrogant and moody for me – he had lots of mood swings, which although fitting for his character, did annoy me somewhat after a while. Ida on the other hand, she was big and brave. She was clever and determined – and not easily scared. I think she was the most courageous character in the book.

Although written in the 1930s, this is a good crime novel, and just as exciting as modern-day thrillers. If you like suspense, and adventure, this book is worth reading.

8/10