Sunday 8 November 2009

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick ****/*****

OK, this is supposed to be a young adult's book and it was supposed to be for my daughter to read, BUT having read it and been so engrossed by it, it didn't seem fair to not include it here.

I found it took a little while to get past the classroom "setting the scene" stage, but once it did, I find this to be an incredibly compelling read. The heroine, Nora, is caught between a growing attraction for her new class partner and a disturbing feeling that he is playing with her mind. If someone IS stalking her, who is it? her new class-mate, the new student from a posher school with a murky past or even one of the teachers? or is she imagining it all? There's a good mix of menace and romance as a series of bizarrely scary incidents build in intensity to a nail-biting climax.

As I said, this was a book I enjoyed immensely. I'm not a fan of graphic violence in novels and, as a teens book, this manages to maintain the atmosphere of danger and threat without it.

Two different star ratings for this; 5 as teenagers read, 4 as adults. Only given it 4 stars as at times it seemed a little lacking in depth of characterization and it is based on what is effectively a well- worn story - girl is attracted to boy who might not be all he seems, is he the good guy or the bad? but I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Bradshaw Variations by Rachel Cusk * * * *

I found this a refreshing change from a lot of my recent reading. It's a harder book to review as I liked it a lot and it's always easier to say what was wrong with a book.
An enjoyable, engrossing book, charting a year in the lives of the Bradshaws told from the perspectives of various family members - the elderly mother, the three sons, their wives .Not a book of fast paced action but one of the gradual unfolding of characters, their lives, habits, histories and hopes, with the search for artistic inner self-exploration thwarted by the outer world of work and on-going family life .
Why only 4 stars? The title is taken from a musical concept and music plays an important part in the life of at least one of the major characters. Unfortunately I felt, as a totally non-musical person, that some of the analogies were lost on me - on a second reading I might take the time to find out what they mean.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

The Good Bride Guide by Matt Dunn * * *

I picked up "The Ex-Boyfriends Handbook"by Matt Dunn a couple of years ago almost accidentally in a Padstow charity shop and really enjoyed it - chick lit from a male perspective, a light fluffy Nick Hornby. So I was rather looking forward to reading "The Good Bride Guide" when it arrived through the post box. Sadly, it didn't live up to my expectations. It's OK but nothing really special. I suppose I'd been expecting an improvement, perhaps deeper character analysis or twistier plot, as Dunn matures as a writer but this book moves him to the "read and pass on" end of the market.

Basically, Ben Grant decides, seemingly on a whim, that it's time to settle down,marry and start a family. Having had no success at choosing his own life-partner, he enlists the help of his parents who provide him with a series of unbelievably bizarre blind dates all looking for Mr Right. Does he find True Love? does he settle for second-best? should he give up his artistic dreams and go back to the day job? well, it's a chick lit novel, so there's probably not a great deal of suspense about any of these questions.

It takes a long while to get going, the plotting is rather contrived and none of the characters really come to life. I was particularly annoyed with the portrayal of his parents - these people, not much older than myself, live in some sort of time warp where the average married woman stays home and looks after children and everyone listens to Frank Sinatra.

If you're looking for a light read for holidays or the commute or while waiting for kids, it's great; read it and pass it on.