In March I read three books, but in April I managed to find a little bit more time and read four. Still no where near my pre-pregnancy average of 8-10 books a month, but I felt like I got some good reading done this month which has helped keep me feeling relaxed and like I’ve had enough time for myself!
In April I read
- Cape May, a 1950s drama,
- Death Comes to Dartmoor, a cosy mystery,
- Roar, a feminist compilation of fables and finally,
- The Never Game, which is a crime thriller.
So quite a mix of genres. The books only had one thing in common – I’m rating them all pretty highly!
All four of these books were a review copy provided by the publishers.
Cape May by Chip Cheek
In Cape May we follow the story of Effie and Henry, who in 1957 are newlyweds at eighteen and twenty, on their honeymoon together at Effie’s uncle home. Unfortunately it’s off season, and Effie didn’t realize how boring the town would be, so their marriage isn’t off to a very exciting start as they seriously consider heading home early. Things are turned on their head when Clara Strauss shows up. Clara is everything that Effie and Henry aren’t – as modern a woman as you can get in the 1950s. Clara likes to party and seemingly has no inhibitions. She’s certainly not held back by any social conventions of the time, and soon Effie and Henry are dragged into the lifestyle of drinking heavily and partying together, together with Clara’s lover Max, and his eighteen year old sister Alma.
What embarks is a few weeks of sexual awakening and exploration, coupled with a fair amount of guilt – culminating in an experience which change both Henry and Effie permanently. Each of the five core personalities stands out, with their own quirks and mannerisms, completely believable. The descriptions of the town, the scenery and the parties draw you in and make you feel like you’re really there, living these weeks with them. The story doesn’t have much substance or plot, but it was still a compelling read, with an interesting wrap-up at the end which gives us a glimpse into the future, and an idea of how much these weeks shaped the rest of Henry and Effie’s lives
Enjoyable and entertaining, a little slow to start, but will soon have you flipping the pages, desperate to see how it ends. Four Stars. Check it out on Amazon.
Death Comes to Dartmoor by Vivian Conroy
Death Comes to Dartmoor by Vivian Conroy is the second in the Merriweather and Royston Mystery series. You will get a better backstory and understand some events that are mentioned by reading the first book, The Butterfly Conspiracy, but it’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy this one. In Death Comes to Dartmoor our two main characters, Merula Merriweather and Lord Raven Royston are travelling together to visit a friend, Lord Oak, who has invited them to see his zoological collection. This should be a welcome break for both after the taxing events of the first book, but their idea of a peaceful holiday is immediately shattered.
Upon arrival they find that there has been a murder, villagers are baying for the blood of their friend and there’s a mystery about an escaped beast. The main storyline is an investigative journey to find the real killer and free their friend from his jail cell, but there’s also an ongoing side story of Merula’s investigation into her own mysterious past. It’s hard to review a cosy mystery without any spoilers, so all I will say that this is an enjoyable and intriguing read, with some fun folklore and a nod to The Hound of the Baskervilles that will appeal to fans of the cosy genre. I’ll definitely be reading book three!
Four Stars. Check it out on Amazon.
Roar by Cecilia Ahern
Thirty stories, each about a different woman, are presented in Roar by Cecilia Ahern – a compilation of allegorical urban fables. They creatively try to portray a current societal issue that women face and offer a solution that revolves around themes of independence, self-awareness, self-care and reflection. Some are predictable whilst others have a twist, but each one tackles a theme that should be something the modern woman can relate to.
For me, the stories which hit home the most were the ones that dealt with feminist issues the least. I had a weird juxtaposition of absolutely loving some stories so much I wanted to immediately share them with my friends, and being so irritated by some that I closed the book.
My favourites – the Roars – include The Woman Who Ate Photographs, The Woman Who Sowed Seeds of Doubt, The Woman Who Was a Featherbrain and The Woman Who was Swallowed by the Floor. These stories I would recommend to all my friends – both male AND female, and honestly could have been reversed in gender.
In the poignant tale of The Woman Who Ate Photographs, a woman recaptures the feelings she felt at the time of a photo being taken by eating it, which should strike a chord with anyone who reads it as we all have memories that we would love to relive. The Woman Who Sowed Seeds of Doubt will appeal to anyone who has ever looked for clarity in their decision making and struggled, only to come to a different realisation than the one they were searching for. The Woman Who Was a Featherbrain is about taking time and caring for ourselves, and The Woman Who Was Swallowed by a Floor will appeal to literally anyone who has ever struggled with an embarrassing or awkward moment and wished the ground would literally, swallow them up. Such great themes, but I honestly don’t see them as being feminist ones.
Some stories shuffled by with more of a quiet meow. I didn’t really identify with the themes of sex and relationships, and was confused and slightly annoyed by the cliche stereotypes portrayed in stories The Woman Who Had a Ticking Clock and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged Her Husband. I actually think that these stories in particular do women a disservice; the theme of women having a biological clock that is ticking away and can only be quietened by finding the correct mate is pretty outdated and borderline offensive so those, who like me, had a child rather late in life.
Ultimately, a bit of a hit and a miss. These contemporary stories are written with humour and pizzaz, quick reads that are best consumed one story at a time with a break between for reflection, but don’t expect them all to hit the mark.
Three Stars. Check it out on Amazon.
The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver
Jeffrey Deaver is an international bestselling author who’s best known for his Lincoln Rhyme series, starting with The Bone Collector. Whilst I am a massive fan of Lincoln Rhyme, I was really excited to meet a brand new character. Colter Shaw, the protagonist in this new character-driven investigative series definitely doesn’t disappoint.
Shaw, a reward-hunter (not a bounty hunter, not a police official or consultant, but someone who chooses to investigate cases where families have placed a reward for a happy outcome) is drawn to the kidnap case of a young woman. It turns out the perpetrator is serial, and he ends up getting drawn into a series of kidnappings based around a popular video game. Shaw is not someone into gaming, coming from a extreme home-school survivalist background, so everything is explained adequately for a non-gamer to understand. The hook at the end of the day, is not the video game tie-in or the background of silicon valley, but the plot of a murderer and kidnapper – and the life of a new victim, 7-months pregnant woman is now at stake, ramping up the pressure. That being said, I do enjoy video games, so this was a treat for me.
Shaw is a man who at times makes it all seem too easy. He’s incredibly intelligent, patient, cool under pressure. He’s charismatic and has sex appeal and is noble to boot. He’s incredibly well trained, has access to a lot of resources and seems to not struggle financially. If there was anything I could say about this book that was negative, it might be that Shaw is a little too perfect, that everything seems to come a little too easy to him. His hook is his upbringing and background – a home schooled childhood, off the grid, being taught by two very well educated parents that have blocked themselves off from the world, and we don’t know why. As the story develops we learn about his survivalist father, paranoia, intrigue and a deepening mystery about what happened to his father and brother 15 years ago and why.
The subplot of Shaw’s family is honestly just as gripping as the actual plot of the story – and this is what’s going to keep people waiting eagerly for the next book, as it feels like we barely scratched the surface.
The characters are all well written, the pace is constantly moving forward with short snappy dialogue and concise descriptive details that really paint a picture. I read the book in a few short days, eager to figure out what was going on. Deaver has created another intelligent, driven character but one that feels entirely different to Lincoln & Sachs or Kathryn Dance – his previous crime investigators. Definitely one to follow.
The Never Game is a fresh, exciting thriller and I can’t wait for more. Five Stars. Check it out on Amazon.
If you’re looking for more fiction recommendations then check out my other monthly book review roundup posts:
- February 2019 – The Forgotten Hours (Family Drama), Smoke and Summons (Fantasy), The Fever King (Sci-Fi / Fantasy), M for Mammy (Family Drama) & Crazy Rich Asians (Romance)
- March 2019 – The Way of All Flesh (Historical Fiction), The Girl Before You (Psychological Thriller) & With or Without You (Romantic Drama).
- April 2019 – Cape May (Drama), Death Comes to Dartmoor (Cosy Mystery), Roar (Short Stories) & The Never Game (Crime Thriller).