Book review 21 – Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney


It is an exercise in trust reading a book called ‘Sometimes I Lie’. You never quite know what not to believe. Mind you, mid-way through the book something happened to make me believe the protagonist and, like the total rookie I am, I completely forgot the books title.

‘Sometimes I Lie’ is a brilliantly tense debut novel by Alice Feeney. Feeney has designed such a web of twisted relationships and manipulation that by the end of the book you wind up believing that up is left, and right is behind you. I must confess myself totally bamboozled by the time I turned over the last page. I didn’t really know what was going on and ending up Googling “Sometimes I Lie ending” to see what other people had to say. I found some explanations and an awful lot of very confused people out there. Some people were hacked off that they had to go to these extremes to work out what was happening. If you like straightforward answers then this book is not for you and I must say that there was a level of closure that I didn’t really achieve. It’s as if I’ve just put the book aside while I hang about in limbo. On the other hand if you enjoy a rollercoaster ride and don’t mind some question marks hanging over the end of a story then this will be right up your street.

‘Sometimes I Lie’ centres around Amber who is in a coma and drifting in and out of a level of consciousness whereby she can hear the people around her. Alongside this and Amber delving into her past we begin to piece together the events that have brought her here. But nothing is straightforward, no-one is as they seem and everything is open to interpretation.

I spent marathon sessions reading this book. I just couldn’t wrench myself away from it. The twists and turns are mind boggling and it is definitely one of those books that if you are so inclined you may wish to read again as soon as you have finished it. Personally I have a 52 book challenge to get on with so I will just allow my mind to draw its own conclusions or not as the case might be…

Next week I’m reading ‘A Less Boring History of the World,’ by Dave Rear. It definitely is NOT boring so come by next Monday and see what I have to say for myself!

Book Review 20 – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I read a blurb for this book somewhere and was determined to read it. It sounded like it was full of adventure, emotion and human determination. There was one other thing it should have sounded like if I hadn’t fallen prey to my fallible memory. It should have sounded like the film that I had watched a couple of years ago… Sigh!

It was around page 32 that I remembered the film and, honestly, my heart plunged. I felt like the joy of the book had been stolen away from me by watching the film beforehand. Luckily I decided it was too late to go back now and that I would just have to see this book through. I’m glad that this is the course of action I chose because the book was delightful. The detail, the imagery, the spirited young protagonist had me reaching for the book at all hours of the day. And the experience of reading the story was different to that of watching it. Having said that, the film really set the imagery of the place and the characters for me so that in many ways having watched it beforehand became a sneaky little bonus. I know – I’m so contradictory!

Growing up in the UK, we are used to hearing stories of wartime Britain. Air raids and bomb shelters, rations and nights spent on underground train platforms. Of course similar events were playing out for ordinary Germans while the Nazi’s had their grip on power during the war. Many of these events have made their way into fiction. ‘The Book Thief’ plays out against this political backdrop.

Leisel Meminger is a German girl who has been sent to live with foster parents in the small town of Molching. Her foster father, the kindly Hans nurtures her and helps her along with her reading, whilst her formidable foster mother provides her with equal doses of beatings with a wooden spoon and unwavering affection. On the whole it’s not such a bad life, but Nazi Germany is not a good place for those who sympathise with Jews, like Leisel’s foster parents. A treacherous path lies ahead.

As to the title of the book. Leisel is a book thief. Not a particularly prolific one, it must be added, but a book thief all the same. In amongst the poverty of wartime Germany, for people like Leisel and her family books are not easy to come by, but Leisel manages to get her hands on them and each book she owns, whether pilfered or gifted shapes Leisel in some way.

The book is narrated by a surprisingly affable Grim Reaper. You get the sense that the poor guy is just doing a job and that he gets rather a bad wrap in general. He sees people as they really are. The community he depicts is haunted by war, scarred by their experiences and yet there is so much affection and solidarity amongst them that it makes him see the best in us. In the words of Death himself ‘I am haunted by humans.’ The Book Thief is a beautiful, magical book and one that I am very glad I took the time to read.

Next Monday I will be reviewing ‘Sometimes I Lie’ by Alice Feeney. Do come by to check it out!

Book Review 19 – Winter by Ali Smith

Early on in the 52 week challenge I reviewed ‘Autumn’ by Ali Smith. ‘Winter’ is the second book in the four part series and it was a pleasure to return to this brilliant author to get some more of what she has to offer.

Having not only read Autumn but also seen Ali Smith read an excerpt of it at the Man Booker Prize Readings last year, I have begun to feel a sense of familiarity with Smith. Through her interview and reading, her sense of humour really came through. While reading Winter I could hear Smith’s voice. Her wry sense of humour was woven right through the book.

Winter, like Autumn before it is not so much a book where things happen but where thoughts are chewed upon. If a poem were a novel how would it look? It would look like this. Ideas floating through paragraphs. Thoughts cascading through chapters and before you know it you have traversed an entire book and are left wondering what you are doing here at the end. Perhaps you could go back and start again?!

That said, it is not all abstract ideas. There is always some kind of story to hang everything on. In this instance Smith introduces Art (short for Arthur) who is dreading taking his girlfriend to his neurotic mother Sophia’s home for Christmas. The situation is compounded by the fact that he has recently argued with his girlfriend and now doesn’t want to go alone. So he takes Lux, a girl he meets entirely by chance. And it is Lux who ends up placating and pacifying family members and steering potentially explosive situations. To add to this Christmas melee they end up calling Sophia’s long estranged sister Iris to come and stay.

There is a message here about families and coming together at Christmas. It was evident that whilst there was a lot of animosity in the various relationships, here were three people who had a genuine bond. There was real affection lurking under the argumentative facade of family life. It was touching to see Sophia and Iris reunited in their own prickly ways.

Art also came in for a bit of self realisation as the story progressed. He had a tendency to take himself a bit too seriously in the beginning which thankfully waned a little over time. Call me finickity, but I don’t have much time for characters that have too much time for themselves. They tend to monopolise situations. In real life you can just walk away from these sorts of people, but in a book you are forced to listen to their diatribes. I was glad that Smith didn’t allow him to take centre stage for too long.

Reading Winter was also one of those experiences when you say to yourself ‘well you learn something new every day’! In Autumn the focus was on pop art. This time there is discussion of the nuclear arms race, a continuation of the conversation on Brexit and some discussion of literature. At one point Lux begins to describe a Shakespearean play that sounds rather like the plot of Snow White and I, like Art, was thinking that she was about to make a fool out of herself. How wrong we both were (now who’s taking themselves too seriously!) But you can forgive us both for our misdemeanour, has anyone reading this ever heard of Cymbeline? This was the play that Lux was describing and as I happen to be the owner of a barely thumbed Compilation of all of Shakespeare’s works, I went and hoisted this book off the shelf to find the play – and there it was: Cymbeline, who’d have thunk it?! The plot sounds great by the way. I don’t know why this play isn’t more well known.

All in all I came to the end of Winter thoroughly satisfied. I felt like I’d experienced these characters’ Christmas with them. We’d mulled over things together, we had become one disjointed, dysfunctional, but loving family. I can’t help but like Smith, I can’t help but marvel at her skill and the warmth her books exude. I won’t be reviewing many series on this blog, but Ali Smith’s will be one of them so look out for ‘Spring’ later on in the year!

In the meantime, closer to hand look out for next week’s book review. It’s one you may have already read, or indeed watched. ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak will be coming your way next Monday.

Book review 18 – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Cristie

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you’ve all started the year with renewed enthusiasm to tackle those resolutions. I have to admit to feeling a tad smug in this regard. Having started my own 52 week reading challenge back in September, I am now 18 weeks in and going strong. This is all smoke and mirrors of course. Come April everyone else will also be 18 weeks into their resolutions (by which time I will be a further 18 weeks in 😉) but it does feel good to get past the initial few tentative weeks.

So my fellow bookworms, I wonder how many of you may have turned out the following phrase:

If you are one of these purists you will appreciate my determination to read ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ by Agatha Christie before watching the film. The only slight snag was that since the film came out all the libraries that I frequent seemed to be remarkably bereft of copies of this particular book and so it has taken till now for me to read it. I believe the Curzon in Victoria is still showing the film… I’d better hot-foot it down there before even they stop!

Not having read any of Agatha Christie’s work before, I was tickled to discover that Hercule Poirot is a character of hers. I remember the almost comical, moustached little man with a black top hat that appeared on films on TV. I never really took much notice, but I must say I am inclined to now go and hunt down some of those old films and watch them in a new context.

Murder on the Orient Express is a delightfully put together book. The story takes place on a train making its way from Istanbul to Calais. The journey is set to take three nights but a snowdrift grounds the train mid-route and a gruesome murder is discovered. The conundrum is who killed this man in his sleeper compartment and then managed to escape whilst locking the door from the inside? The legendary detective Poirot happens to be travelling on the train and he is tasked with getting to the bottom of the mystery.

Every good detective has to have a side-kick or two to bounce off and Poirot finds these in the form of the Director of the train company who is an old friend of his and a Doctor. Together the trio question the passengers and sift through the evidence. I think I was lulled into a false sense of security by the two hapless sidekicks, one of whom suspected a man of being the killer for no other reason than the fact he was Italian and so it suited his Latin temperament… I mean seriously?! 

This put it into my head that everything about this book was going to be a bit dumbed down and in no way comparable to sophisticated modern day mysteries such as Jonathon Creek which I have never yet been able to work out. But it was foolish of me to think this or perhaps I just fell into the trap that Christie had set for me. The end was jaw droppingly unexpected. I simply did not see it coming and I never even had a theory as to whodunnit. In fact just like the Jonathan Creek’s of this world, I’m pretty sure no-one would be able to work this one out other than Poirot, Jonathon Creek, Sherlock Holmes etc. themselves. 

All in all this was a fantastic page turner that I devoured within a few short days. Age has not diminished the appeal of this fantastic murder mystery, so whether you are holding off the film like me or whether you have already seen it, I think there is something here for everyone.

I hope you’ll join me next Monday. I’ll be returning to Ali Smith to review her latest book ‘Winter’.

Book Review 17 – The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman

Merry Christmas my web hopping, crimble celebrating readers! I hope you and yours are having a wonderful day and that Santa left you something super special under the christmas tree. Thank you for stopping by in-between the Queens speech and EastEnders, it is most appreciated. If you are joining me later in the week, I hope you had a good one and have been sleeping off the egg-nog!

This week’s post is a super special one. Firstly because it is published on Christmas Day and secondly because I was approached directly by Ellis Shuman to write it. He is the first author to provide me a free copy of his book in return for an honest and unbiased review (this is what all the other book bloggers write so I thought I had better put this important bit of information in also!) So thanks to Ellis Shuman for an important Christmassy first! 😊

So to the book then. The Burgas Affair is a fictional account of the police investigation that took place after the real life bombing of an Israeli tourist bus in the Belgian city of Burgas. The story centres around two police officers. Boyko is a prickly officer who has been brought in from another unit to work with old colleagues and finds himself partnered with the Israeli Ayala. For her part, Ayala is aloof and mistrustful of Boyko and the other Bulgarians.

The Burgas Affair houses a well structured story. The dialogue was at times a little stilted. I also felt that a lot was spelled out for the reader and the narrator’s voice comes through a lot to describe the backstory, it would have been nice to come to some of this information in a more natural way such as through naturally flowing dialogue. However the stars of the show were  undoubtedly Boyko and Alaya themselves. Shuman had clearly given a lot of thought  to both these characters histories and the baggage that they would bring to this particular case. Boyko and Alaya effected and in turn were affected by the case and were both intriguing characters from the start. Shuman also possesses a talent for description. One of the nice things about this novel was that you saw Bulgaria through his eyes. Kind of like a city break, but much cheaper!

Towards the end of the book I was turning pages at a feverish page to see how our guy was going to get out of his predicament. Whether he does or doesn’t escape I’ll leave for you to discover yourself, but the story races on to the finale without a conclusive ending, which either paves the way for a sequel or is intended to portray the real-life outcomes of many crimes. I think I have mentioned before, I do actually like endings that don’t sew everything up into neat little pockets. Life isn’t like that and I like the books I read to reflect that too.

Having not read much crime before and whilst I thought the narrative could have been improved, the plot and central characters of The Burgas Affair kept me reading. I’m very glad to have had Shuman introduce me to crime fiction and I’ll definitely be returning to the genre to see what else is out there.

Which brings me nicely onto next week’s book. I’ll be reading something old that has had something of a new lease of life recently. Come and take a look at my review of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ by the legendary Agatha Christie next Monday. What better way to start the year than with a murder mystery?!

 

Book Review 16 – The Boy Made of Snow by Chloe Mayer

nce upon a time there was a book mired in fairy tales. Each chapter started with a quote, many of them from ‘The Snow Queen’ by Hans Christen-Anderson. 

Chloe Mayer has tuned into a winning formula with her debut novel ‘The Boy Made of Snow’. There is something about fairy tales that touches our hearts. These stories have been passed from generation to generation for centuries and their inclusion here lent this book a magical quality.

The story is set in 1940’s wartime Britain and alternates between chapters told from Anabel’s point of view and those from the point of view of her nine year old son Daniel. Annabel ostensibly started out motherhood with post natal depression and as she never appeared to get any help with it uses the crutch of alcohol to get her through the day. With her husband away at war she is in sole charge of ‘the boy’ as she calls him. Initially I thought this reference was indicative of the time period,  but as time went on I began to suspect  that it was further evidence  of her lack of a bond with her son. Daniel, for his part, has an extremely active imagination. He views the world around him through the lens of the fairy tales his mother tells him each night before bed. These stories seem to be the only authentic point of confluence the two of them have and Daniel clings onto them with everything he has. His reliance on fairy tales threatens his grip on reality. As he is allowed to continue unchecked his imagination spirals out of control with disastrous consequences.

The Boy Made of Snow reminded me of ‘The Go-between’ by L.P. Hartley. Like Leo in The Go-between, Daniel is involved in adult matters that he doesn’t understand. His innocent meddling is at times endearing and at times infuriating. But either way you know from the beginning that he is in over his head and there will be consequences.

I found it particularly effective that Mayer chose to tell Annabel’s story in the third person and Daniel’s in the first person. Being allowed into Daniel’s head was like being let into a secret. It also helped to make the point about Anabel’s depression. It distances her further from the reader and those around her whilst at the same time bringing us closer to Daniel.

The issues this book deals with (depression, war, neglect, alcoholism) are serious, but Mayer’s clever writing tinges this bleak outlook with fairy tales and lets us look through a child’s eyes. It reminds us that the world isn’t black and white. The Boy Made of Snow pulls out every shade of grey you can think of and it is this that keeps you coming back for more. I sped through the entire story in three days. Unfortunately life gets in the way of reading, but I was picking this book up every spare minute I had. Putting something in the microwave for two minutes? Get your book out. Waiting in the queue at Starbucks? Get your book out. Brushing your teeth…? You get the idea. But whether you have several queues to stand in or hours at your disposal, The Boy Made of Snow is a magical way to fill those moments. Think of it as a Christmas present from Mayer to us all!

Next Monday, perhaps between opening your Christmas stocking and waiting for the turkey to cook, come and have a little Christmas Day peek at my blog (I’ll think of it as your Christmas present to me!) I’ll be reviewing ‘The Burgas Affair’ by Ellis Shuman. See you all on the big day!

 

Book Review 15 – The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I may, in the course of the past 14 weeks, have mentioned, once or twice, that I am a tad obsessed with Harry Potter. I’m not just obsessed, I am Obsessed (capital ‘O’ you see.) I don’t care if it’s unseemly for a woman in her late 30’s to take such delight in children’s fiction. A world without Harry Potter would be a much worse place as far as I’m concerned!

So considering my fandom. It may come as a surprise that I have as yet never read any of J.K Rowling’s adult fiction. The reason for this is that I am aware it is the world of Harry Potter I am particularly in love with. The peripheral books and films, whilst interesting, don’t speak to me in the way that Hogwarts and The Burrow do. So I have always worried that Rowling’s adult fiction wouldn’t hit the spot for me either. I’ve been in fear of toppling Rowling from the dizzying pedestal that I have put her on.

But this week I decided to take the plunge nevertheless. When better than during the 52 week challenge? What I found when I opened the book was unmistakeably Rowling. Short, punchy chapters and strong characterisations. Her voice came through very clearly. It was familiar and comforting. What I also found after a few pages was that I had watched the TV dramatisation of the book a couple of years ago and forgotten all about it. Till now. As the storyline started to shape up I began to remember. Annoying! I hated the fact that I knew how some of it ended. Luckily I couldn’t remember it all and the detail of the book seemed to be slightly different to the programme, so I whole heartedly enjoyed reading it even with the big spoiler swirling through my mind.

There are also some that say whilst ol’ J.K. is a master page turner her writing style lacks something. To those people I say this:

I shall illustrate my point by giving you an example of the antithesis of Rowling’s apparent flaw. My favourite book of all time is ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy. Roy’s writing is sheer genius. No-one can hold a candle to it. I am getting déjà vu so I think I’ll keep this brief in case I have mentioned it before, but after twenty years of waiting for her to write another novel I finally got my hands on ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ a few months ago and there she was, Roy in all her glory. Sentences so delicately hewn and crafted that you were scared to breathe too heavily lest you pollute them with your presence. Prose so mind numbingly good that it made you want to weep. The only problem was she forgot about the flipping storyline! She got right up on her activist stage and clean forgot that she was writing a novel. If you’re going to be an activist then, by all means, be an activist, but don’t come here telling me you’ve written a story when you’ve done nothing of the sort. In short (or actually, I’ve now gone on about it for rather a long time) she failed to grasp my attention. That is not what I am looking for in a book. Rowling however knows how to tell a story. She knows how to create strong characters, to engineer plotlines that keep you hooked, she knows how to draw her reader in. I’m afraid that when it comes to the tug of war between prose and plot, I would go with the latter… I’d rather have both of course, but if I had to make a choice then Rowling gets my vote every time.

Back to the book then. ‘The Casual Vacancy’ revolves around the fictional village of Pagford and the events that unfold after the sitting councillor dies mid-term. Elections are called and rival factions get behind their candidates, but the focus of the story is not political. It is the carefully crafted characters that steal the show. The prickly neglected child, the self-aggrandising old man, the brute of a father, the jaded wife, the non-committal boyfriend, the vulnerable teenage girl, the village gossip; and more besides. They are all here. All brought to life with Rowling’s crystal clear precision.

This book doesn’t shy away from gritty realities. So if you are looking for happy-ever-afters then I would suggest you look elsewhere. I recently mentioned to a colleague that I was reading The Casual Vacancy. ‘I had that book,’ he replied. ‘But I watched it on TV and it was so sad that it put me off reading it.’ I totally get this. Sometimes you think, I could just do without that enormous injection of melancholy into my life thank you very much. And honestly if you thought the TV version was sad, it left out further horrors that you do actually have to wade through in the book. The toughest part was there weren’t really happy endings for most people. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It provided a sense of realism and the feeling that the end of the book wasn’t the end for these characters. I’m kind of wondering what they’re all up to these days, continuing their fictitious lives in Pagford. A few years have passed, some will have moved, some will have changed jobs, the kids will have grown… Some things will be better, others will be worse. That’s life. And that’s how J.K Rowling turned from a children’s author to an adults one and stayed right up on the pedestal that I rightly put her on.

Next Monday I’m going to be reviewing a book by debut author Chloe Mayer. ‘The Boy Made of Snow’. Come back next week and check out out more of my literary ramblings then!

Book Review 14 – The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

The first thing that jumps out at you about this book is the extra-long title. At 58 characters ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson, is the longest title that I have come across. It got me wondering what the longest title ever was. So I turned to my old friend Google. However the outcome wasn’t entirely clear. There were some indications that it could be a whopping 4805 characters and others saying it was as many as 5820 characters for a badly edited book about Daniel Radcliff. Needless to say, and for reasons of pure untweetability, I will forgo reviewing that particular book.

For those of you who haven’t guessed, this week’s book is about a hundred year old man who climbs out of a window and disappears. (I know, my skills of perception are unparralleled.) This particular centenarian is called Allan Karlsson and our story begins by him escaping from the retirement home that he lives in, where the rest of the gathered chumps are about to celebrate his hundredth birthday, or so they think. Allan has no intention of hanging around for another day in that dreary place and makes his escape even while the mayor and local press are arriving for his party. Then follows a man hunt involving the police, some gangsters and the press. Every scenario that unfolds is more unlikely than the last and yet the chase keeps going.

Whilst we don’t meet Allan till he is one hundred, the story oscillates between the scrapes he now gets into and his colourful past. Allan’s life has been jam packed with adventure. The irony of the book was that whilst Allan himself was as apolitical as a goldfish, his lifeline took us on a political romp through history. Allan met national leaders the way you or I meet acquaintances. In passing, nonchalantly and without the slightest sense of awe.

Allan had a laissez-faire approach to life which I sincerely wish I could emulate. No matter how grave the situation he just thought “Oh well there’s nothing to be gained by worrying about it. What will be will be.” Not that he ever needed to worry. His luck was so remarkable that he always managed to work his way out of a difficult situation in the end. More than once had he been in the jaws of death to find himself delivered by luck or his own keen wits. This repeated good luck lasted him a hundred years.

The Hundred Year Old man who blah, blah… is at its heart a comedy. By this I don’t mean daft chuckle-brothers-esque to me, to you, type of slap stick. But a more subtle, almost Shakespearean sense of comedy. Nothing is too morose. No-one is too desolate though some of the situations are pretty dire. There are of course bad things that happen. It couldn’t be possible to live for a hundred years (particularly with a life as varied as Allan’s) and not have anything bad happen, but if anyone can deal with bad stuff it is Allan.

This is fiction at its best. Fantastical, fun and with a sense of being on a roaring rollercoaster where you wonder whether every abrupt turn is going to send you crashing. It never does of course. You’re picked up again and thrust in a new direction and you hold on for dear life, marvelling at the force making this happen. Never, ever wanting it to end.

But end it did of course as all good things do. Mind you that’s not so bad because it means I get to move on to something that has been on my TBR (to be read) list for a ridiculously long time. Next Monday’s review will be on ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by a little known author called J.K. Rowling. In the words of Tinie Tempah please do go ahead and tell J.K I’m still rolling… Till next Monday anyway!

 

Book Review 13 – The Daily Struggles of Archie Adams (Aged 2 1/4) by Katie Kirby

Are you human? Then you’ll like this book. No further comment needed. End of review.

Oh OK, you want me to sell it to you. Well to do that I need to start with a story. There is a point to this so bear with me… Once upon a time, back when the movie The Hangover came out a friend of ours told me and hubby that it was the funniest film she had seen in her entire life. She had been rolling on the floor laughing, she had tears of mirth drenching her face. Her cheeks ached from laughing, her sides ached from laughing, she very nearly hyperventilated and died from laughing. The stage was set. The expectations were insanely high. We watched The Hangover. We giggled at parts and then we declared that *whispers* ‘it wasn’t that funny.’

It was so funny I literally died!

So what happened? Did our friend get it wrong? Did she just have some quirky sense of humour that we didn’t share? No. We genuinely enjoyed it. It was just that the bar had been set too high. When someone tells you that you are in for the most rip rollicking  time of your life then you expect dancing flamingos to leap out of the screen. You expect maltesers to rain down on you while you watch. You expect £50 notes to start growing out of your carpet. You expect, quite frankly, too much. No-one and nothing can meet those kinds of expectations.  Not The Hangover and not ‘The Daily Struggles of Archie Adams Aged 2 1/4’. Since then hubby and I refer to anything where the expectations are set too high as “being Hangovered” and I am wary of “Hangovering” you because I loved this book so much. I just loved it.

The story is told in diary format through the eyes of the precocious toddler himself. Archie is your typical put-upon child. His parents expect him to do unreasonable things such as not wake up at an hour which begins with a 4 or a 5 and eat vegetables. Archie has to go to all sorts of lengths everyday to assert his authority over them. Then these awful parents go and throw him a curveball and tell him he is going to have to share them with some weird alien thing growing in Mummy’s tummy. All hell is about to break loose, so prepare yourselves!

Katie Kirby illustrates the entries with cute stick man pictures depicting things such as Archie’s rage when the baby dares to look in the general direction of “his” television. As I started off this post saying, if you are human you will enjoy this book. If you are fortunate enough to have well behaved children you will chuckle smugly at Archie’s tantrums. If your children behave like Archie then you may find some light relief within these pages. If you have no children at all, you may be sorely tempted to keep it that way after reading this. And if your children are long since over these phases then you will laugh manically at the misfortune of others. Schadenfreude. It’s a real thing.

Kirby has a genuine talent for injecting humour to the situations that bring people to the end of their tether. This book is jam packed with moments of hilarity. Get a copy for yourself and then dole them out to everyone you know for Christmas. They’ll love them! While you’re at it check out Kirby’s blog at www.hurrahforgin.com She has expanded her repertoire to include humorous greeting cards that include her stick man pictures.

Oh, there is one warning that I might put on this book. Archie is a teeny-weeny bit sweary. Well, actually his mouth was fouler than a sumo-wrestler’s armpit, so if you are sensitive to that kind of thing then this may not be the book for you. For the rest of you, read it, laugh, then come back and thank me later!

But come back next Monday anyway. Now that I have whetted your appetite with some new books, I’m going to start moving into a mixture of new and older fiction. Some of them may be books that I have been meaning to read for years, others, like next week’s book, things that I stumbled across at the library. Next Monday I will review ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson. Thank goodness they increased the number of characters in a tweet, otherwise I would never be able to tell people that I was reviewing this…

Book Review 12 – Genuine Fraud by E.Lockhart

Some authors use their initials instead of their first names A.A. Milne, J.K. Rowling and H.G. Wells are some examples that spring to mind. It makes you wonder if H.G. Wells’ mum used to shout, ‘H.G. dinner’s ready!’ Did A.A Milne’s friends drop by and ask him, ‘A.A. fancy coming out for a pint? If the car breaks down on the way, you can fix it… oh my bad, wrong AA.’

The author of ‘Genuine Fraud’, E. Lockhart has joined the rankings of the initialled authors. Is Lockhart male or female? Are they actually in possession of a first name? Nobody knows. It’s classified information. I honestly have no idea. Oh alright then, she is called Emily and it turns out her real surname is Jenkins, but I am really letting out all the secrets now!

Lockhart is primarily a childrens and young adult writer. If like me, you are less young and more adult then you may not have heard of her, but she has also forayed into adult fiction. ‘Genuine Fraud’ however falls firmly within the young adult category. Despite which I genuinely enjoyed it. Who said grown ups can’t read childrens fiction anyway? The biggest Harry Potter fans I know (yours truly included) are all over 30.

Sometimes I surprise even myself with the lengths that I go to for ‘book art’…

‘Genuine Fraud’ deals with the enigmatic friendship between the central character Jule, and her uber-rich pal Imogen. Jule is not your average 18 year old. There are dark sides to her personality fuelled by a childhood filled with neglect and abandonment. You can’t help but empathise with Jule, even when she behaves in ways that we would not expect from our protagonist.

The quirk of the book is that the story is told entirely backwards. Entirely not well….oops I mean, well not entirely! Because of course that wouldn’t make any sense, but we gradually move further and further back through Jule’s timeline. And as we do this we uncover all sorts of shenanigans. I have mentioned in previous posts that I have a habit of trying to second-guess fantastical plot twists. Well I have to admit that I was still at it with this book, but it almost didn’t matter because it was that kind of book. You know, the kind where even the most trusting reader will expect the unexpected.

I’m always intrigued by the feeling I have when I’ve finished a book. Sometimes I am exhilarated, sometimes I’m gutted it’s over. I finished ‘Genuine Fraud’ with an unexpected sense of sadness. I’m not sure if that was Lockhart’s intention or not, but Jule seemed so wholly unanchored, so bereft. It felt melancholy to leave her to her lot, but I am no longer privy to Jule’s life so I’ll just have to deal with it! Genuine Fraud, is tense, dark and cleverly constructed. If you are a fan of non-linear fiction then this is a definite go-to.

Next Monday I’m reviewing ‘The Daily Struggles of Archie Adams (Aged 2 and 1/4) by Katie Kirby. Come prepared for some laughs!