Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Boy That Never Was by Karen Perry

Three year old, Dillon, disappears when his father, Harry, leaves him alone in their apartment in Tangiers for just a few minutes. Believed to be dead, Harry blames himself for Dillon’s disappearance but his wife, Robin, has never blamed him and they have returned to Dublin to start their lives anew without Dillon.

Five years later whilst walking in the Dublin streets, Harry sees an eight year old boy that he is convinced is Dillon. So begins a spiral of obsession and deceit and a succession of secrets and lies are uncovered which would test the strongest of marriages. But who is the boy that Harry saw? Could Dillon really be back from the dead?

When I began this book I did wonder how everyone seemed to be so calm about the tragedy. After all, the disappearance or death of a child is every parents biggest fear. Yet both Robin and Harry seemed relatively peaceful after such a tragedy. However, their personas were only masking the tumultuous range of emotions that they were both experiencing and little by little these are revealed in the book.

I liked this book very much but it took me a long time to warm to any of the characters. Initially, I found Robin and Harry very hard to relate to but by the end of the book my heart was weeping for them both.

It was no surprise to learn that Karen Perry is a writing duo. Paul Perry and Karen Gillece, are Dublin based authors, and this collaborative work is all the better for being written by two writers with differing viewpoints. This lends credence to the two different voices of Harry and Robin and enhanced the reading experience for me.

This is a compelling read and is told through both a present day narration and a series of flashbacks from both characters. Engaging from start to finish as we witness the passionate determinations of Robin and Harry . Both are carrying secrets and burdens which gradually unfold through the book.

Alongside all of this there is the mystery of the boy in the crowd and as a reader I went through the characters anguish with them. Can the boy that Harry saw really be Dillon? Can Robin cope with Harry’s obsession with the boy when it has taken her so long to finally come to terms with Dillon’s death? All very real human emotions and which ensured that I was totally enthralled by this book.

It is a marvellous read; a story of love, loss, acceptance and hope. I highly recommend this book and think it has the power to draw any reader into it’s story.

ISBN:  978 1405912907

Publisher:  Michael Joseph

Price (based on today’s price at Amazon.co.uk):  £10.79

Total saved so far:  £224.61

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Drumbeater by Clive Allan

When a couple who are out walking on a remote Scottish beach stumble across partially buried skeletal remains they unwittingly set in motion the uncovering of a long held secret.

Neil Strachan is a history graduate and detective and is the ideal man to investigate as the remains appear to belong to a German Naval Officer and date back to World War Two.  His first port of call is to question the few remaining elderly residents who lived in the village during the war. However, all that Neil discovers is an impenetrable wall of silence but he suspects that they know a lot more than they are telling him.

Will Neil be able to discover the mystery surrounding the remains found on the beach and will the locals ever trust him enough to disclose a long held secret?

I approached this book expecting it to be a run of the mill detective story. You know the kind of thing, detective who is full of neurosis but who outwits the system with determination and a slight bending of the rules. There are hundreds of books like that out there. However, the character of Detective Neil Strachan absolutely does not conform to the stereotype and is a breath of fresh air to the detective genre. He is a well adjusted individual who approaches his case with intelligence and sensitivity.  In fact, it’s probably true to say, that by the time I had finished this novel I had developed a bit of a crush on him…sigh…..sigh…..

That said, this novel contained an interesting and thoughtful plot that kept me well engaged throughout.  There were several occasions when the plot twisted in a direction I was not expecting and thus ensured that I was fully hooked by this story.

The narration alternates between the present investigation and the actual events of 1944 and this lends another dimension to the novel. It was very interesting to see how Neil’s thinking corresponded to the actual events of the past.

For once, I have no criticisms to make. It meandered along at an appropriate pace with fascinating characters and an engaging plot. The end of this novel was also wonderfully satisfying and all the loose ends were neatly tied up. I personally like that in a detective novel and often have felt frustrated with other novels of this genre when they are not fully concluded. But this finished off in a very fulfilling manner and the only thing I was left with was the hope that there will be more novels featuring Neil Strachan.

This book will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys detective fiction particularly if you enjoy the cold case scenario. I also think that this novel deserves a wide audience for the very fact that it doesn’t conform to the formula of it’s genre and is extremely well crafted. Mr Allan is clearly a very skilled storyteller and I sincerely hope that there will be a lot more writing of this quality emerging from the authors pen.

ISBN:  978 1783062195

Publisher:  Matador

Price (based on today’s Kindle price on Amazon.co.uk):  £4.99

Total saving so far:  £214.22

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Summer House by Santa Montefiore

Antoinette’s whole life revolved around her husband, George, until he is tragically killed in an accident and her whole life falls apart.

George was the man she had loved and leaned on almost her entire life and they knew everything about one another. At least, that is what Antoinette thought, until a beautiful young woman attends George’s funeral and turns everything she thought she knew about him upside down.

I find it very interesting what attracts us to different books at different times. I have had quite a heavy reading spell recently. Everything I have read recently has had a serious theme and I decided it was time for something a little more light hearted. Wandering around my library my eye fell on this book solely because of the authors name.

When I was a young girl I went to a school called Robert Montefiore in London’s East End. I have very many happy memories from those days. The girl I met on our first day there quickly became my best friend and remains so to this day. So, I have many good associations with the name Montefiore and that was what made me pick up this book and I am very glad that I did.

It is fair to say that this book has its shortcomings. It is predictable and it was easy to guess the route that the plot was going to take but it read extremely well and I could not wait for opportunities to get back to it.

The characters were all simply lovely and I could not dislike anyone; from the grumpy matriarch of the family right down to the butler, each character brought something of their own to the story and the author endowed each one of them with characteristics that made me want to read more about them.

It is true to say that this book is no great work of literature but it was just what I needed to read right now and I enjoyed every page of it. For me, reading this book was like eating a chocolate bar. I would not want my whole diet to consist of it but it was a very indulgent and satisfying snack between meals.

Anyone who likes a book to have a nice feel good factor, is pleasant to read and enjoys a romance will like this book. I shall be returning to my local library shelves to look for more by Ms. Montefiore as I enjoyed reading this one very much.

ISBN:  978 1849831055

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster

Price (based on todays price for the paperback at Amazon.co.uk)   £3.85

Total saving so far:  £209.23

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Dove Flyer by Eli Amir

Kabi’s father dreams of being a rice farmer in Israel, his mother simply wants to return to the Moslem village that she felt safe in before moving to Baghdad. Kabi’s teacher dreams of a society where Jews and Arabs live in equality and his uncle has been arrested for his belief in a Zionist State.

This novel is set during the final years of the Jewish community in Baghdad before their expulsion in 1950 and settlement in Israel. It is the story of Kabi and his family and the final days of their community.   However, as Kabi listens to the dreams of his family and observes the disintegration of the place he calls home he comes to learn that family and community is about much more than the physical place in which he lives.

This book took me quite a while to get into. I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of characters at the beginning and had some trouble keeping up with who was who. However, as the story developed these confusions settled and I plunged into this novel which enthusiasm as this cast of colourful characters came alive on the page.

The novel is rich in atmosphere. I could almost see the sights of Baghdad and smell the aromas of the kitchens and marketplace as I was reading.  It is not often that reading a novel becomes a tactile experience but the storytelling in this book really was sufficient to transport me to the time and place of the setting.

I found this novel both thought provoking and informative and I learned a lot more about the Jewish situation in Baghdad during this time in it‘s history.  The novel made me stop and think a lot about how we define home and belonging and I rather felt that this was the main theme of the novel and was dealt with extremely well.

I am glad that I hung in there with this book as once it got going it ran smoothly and was an evocative and sensitive read. Kabi is an honest and extremely likable narrator and is a character worth spending time with and getting to know.

I did feel that the novel ended rather abruptly so am very excited to learn that there is a sequel to this novel, Yasmine, which is set during the aftermath of the Six Day War in Israel and which takes up their story. I hope to read this at the first opportunity as I was left wanting to know more about this family.

I would encourage you to read this book as it will appeal to many readers. Anyone interested in historical novels or the Israeli/Palestinian situation will find a great deal to enjoy in this book.

ISBN:  978 1905559183

Publisher:  Halban Publishers

Price(todays kindle price on Amazon.co.uk):  £4.79

Total saving so far:  £205.38