February 2019 books

The Hunting PartyThe Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I rather liked The Hunting Party, okay pretty much all the characters were obnoxious and in particular one of the reveals (pretty much all of the characters have secrets), seemed to have one of the characters behaving in a way, in response, that didn’t ring totally true, but overall it was pretty gripping. Set at a New Year’s Eve party in the middle of nowhere, in the Scottish Highlands, a group of well off friends with a history dating back to Oxford and beyond, get together to celebrate, except there’s too much history getting in the way and somebody gets murdered.

The book jumps back and forth from present to a few days earlier, so we know that somebody has been murdered but we don’t know who for most of the book because the victim keeps getting referred to as ‘the guest’. This does make it more gripping but it’s also a bit annoying, another thing that didn’t quite ring true, surely if someone has been discovered dead, they will be referred to and thought about by name, even if they’re not that well known by the characters we’re currently seeing the story from? I know it’s a (necessary) device but it did keep taking me out of the story to sort of roll my eyes at the contortions the author was getting into, to avoid spoiling the big reveal.

The Last Days of AugustThe Last Days of August by Jon Ronson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved The Last Days of August, well, love sounds like the wrong word because it’s an incredibly sad, real life story about a porn actress who kills herself, seemingly after online bullying. Jon Ronson and his producer investigate and find that there’s a lot more to the story than it seems. It’s a story about how when one person is gone, you can’t always trust what the people who knew her, say about her, how they may have motives of their own to describe what happened in a different way.

Cold as the Grave: Inspector McLean 9 (The Inspector McLean Series)Cold as the Grave: Inspector McLean 9 by James Oswald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always like the Inspector McLean books but this one was particularly good. There’s a series of mysterious deaths involving the refugee community, a group of people hesitant to involve the police. Kind hearted McLean, promoted now to a level where he really should be just doing paperwork, investigates, uncovering tales of a djinn, terrorising the refugees in the city. If you’re new to the series, read it but don’t start with this one, as there’s some back story you’ll need to discover first, by reading the books in order.

Unnatural CausesUnnatural Causes by Richard  Shepherd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this even more than I thought I would, I found the memoir of the forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd to be incredibly compelling. He personally worked on a large number of the big cases I remember hearing about on the news from the 80s, 90s and into 00s (he’s still practicing) and he also discusses some of the other key cases from that era. He witnessed how forensic pathology and forensic science has changed, not always for the good, thanks to effective privatisation (I used to work in a related field at around about the time that change occurred and he’s right, we have now lost so much of the ability to research and innovate).

Shepherd also writes about how working in such a difficult field has impacted on his relationships and his mental health. Shepherd, like many many others, work with the dark side of humanity, in an effort to bring truth to the forefront for the rest of us, at a huge personal toll to themselves. It’s good that books like these let the rest of us see what is done for us.

My Brother's Husband, Volume 1My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 by Gengoroh Tagame

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this. The story of a Japanese dad and his daughter, who meet the dad’s twin brother’s Canadian husband. This was my first time reading manga, so I struggled at first to get used to the whole right to left thing but once I got into the story, I found it really heartwarming and surprisingly, in a way, tense (I so wanted to have words with Tomo’s mum).

Heartstopper: Volume One (Heartstopper, #1)Heartstopper: Volume One by Alice Oseman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh I absolutely loved this, I don’t often go for love stories but this is so extremely sweet, it makes you want to curl up and squee with pleasure. Heartstopper is a graphic novel about two teenage boys who start out as friends, one friend is openly gay. This was just such an extremely lovely story, I can’t wait for volume 2 to come out.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #1)The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was one of those books which I thought I would like more than I actually did. Set in the world of Jekyll and Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein and others, it tells the story of Jekyll’s daughter, who discovers that her dead father was more than what he seemed. Meanwhile in the city, there are a number of gruesome murders.

The style of the book was interesting, Jekyll’s daughter, Mary, through the course of the story, gathers around her a group of friends and one of them writes their story but the other characters interrupt the narration with

Mary: random opinion
Another character: another opinion

And so on and so on. This was a little difficult to get used to, particularly when listening to it as an audiobook (although the narrator was very good at the voices).

Overall, the story was okay, I liked how stories from that era were intertwined with each other and there was one particular story where I hadn’t read the original, so it’s got me tempted to read that now. The ending of the book very much sets the story up for the next book, I don’t think I’m going to rush to read the next book but part of me is tempted.

The LastThe Last by Hanna Jameson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a very unsettling read, particularly considering the current political climate (Trump isn’t explicitly named but you can tell it’s him). Jon is an American historian, at a conference in a remote hotel in Switzerland and nuclear war breaks out. The story charts his and the survivors life over the next few months, as Jon attempts to investigate the death of a child at the hotel. The story was really gripping and I particularly appreciated certain touches, such as how when something incredibly bad happens, that is caused by a politician, it’s hard to control the anger towards the people who voted for them and also how if you had a bunch of people in one place, who believe they’re amongst the only humans left on Earth, there will be some men who believe it’s perfectly okay to start dictating women’s reproductive choices.

Song of the Dead (DI Westphall #1)Song of the Dead by Douglas Lindsay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Song Of The Dead is the first in the DI Westphall series (it looks like there will be two more, coming out in May and then August, this year). It’s a police procedural with a touch of other worldliness (which is always right up my street), Westphall is either extremely empathetic and overly imaginative or he can sense dead people, it’s left nicely ambiguous. In this one, a murder victim (to which they’d found the body), turns up alive and well in a police station in Estonia, 12 years later, Westphall’s investigation takes him from Estonia to Scotland.

Hell Bay (DI Ben Kitto, #1)Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hell Bay is an atmospheric murder mystery set on one of the islands in the Scilly Isles. DI Ben Kitto is a cop with a tragic past, who returns home to the island to recover but when a girl is murdered, he volunteers to take over the case, causing him to investigate amongst people he’d known all his life. I like murder mysteries which take you to a windswept part of the country, where the environment is almost a character in itself, so I am very tempted to read the next one in the series.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I joined Net Galley just for the chance to read this book early and when I got my hands on it, well, I’m not a very good Net Galley reviewer, as I started reading it in October and have only just finished it in February. The book has a really interesting premise, what if Britain had excelled at the space race, other countries too, so that by 2012, we were looking at the first manned missions to another habitable planet outside the solar system. Even with the advanced technology, it would still take twenty odd years to get there and then when you got there, you wouldn’t want the settlers to be too old, so they recruit teenagers but to get teenagers good enough to be astronauts, they will have had to have devoted their childhoods to it, in special schools. I liked the beginning bit, following the kids in the school, I found that the middle bit, once in space, dragged a little (which is why I stopped reading it for a while) but the ending was really good.

View all my reviews

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