Hastings District Libraries

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The second instalment of J.K Rowling’s adult crime series featuring Comoran Strike is just as satisfying as the first. Writing as Robert Galbraith, she has created a classic detective team in the characters of Strike and his young female assistant, Robin. Strike is an Afghan war veteran, clever and likeable, yet wounded both physically and psychologically. While his personal life is still in disarray, his reputation as a private detective is slowly growing.

In The Silkworm, the wife of the novelist Owen Quine has called Strike to find out where her missing husband is. As Strike investigates, he is drawn into a world of backstabbing authors and the cut-and-thrust of the publishing industry. Quine has just finished a manuscript that has malicious characterisations of almost everyone he knows – so there are plenty of suspects.

I have enjoyed J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith more than her standalone novel The Casual Vacancy. She seems to suit this kind of mystery genre much better and there are plenty of twists and turns, great characterisations, and a classic whodunnit feel. It is worth reading the first Comoran Strike novel The Cuckoo’s Calling, beforehand. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, which is, luckily, already half-written.

Reviewed by Mrs Brown

Catalogue Link:  The Silkworm

Listen to J.K. Rowling talking about the Comoran Strike character

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Under the Paw by Tom Cox

Under the Paw is Tom Cox’s hilarious account of his life with cats – from his first childhood pets, through to marriage to a fellow moggy-lover, and the eventual acquiring of six distinctive felines. 

If you think there is already way too much cat silliness on the Internet – cutesy photos with corny captions, pet blogs and even Facebook for cats – you are probably right. Reading yet another book about someone and their pet cats might seem unnecessary. Yet even if you don’t like cats, Under the Paw is still highly entertaining. Cox, also a music journalist, is an accomplished writer and his self-deprecating humour will have you chuckling as he describes how his life has become completely taken over by cats.

There are wonderful ‘factual’ inserts too – such as his ‘Random Selections from the Cat Dictionary’, a useful guide for those of us who have to deal with things like ‘Gribbly bits’ (the bits of jellied cat meat that escape from the bowl and weld themselves to hardwood floors and kick boards) or ‘Purple mist’ (the special kind of unforgiving cat anger reserved for an owner who has experimented by attaching a lead to its collar).

There are poignant moments too such as the visit to the SPCA to choose a cat, and the loss of another on the road. Then there are Cox’s on-going attempts to understand the ‘troubled, sensitive, artistic black cat’ known as The Bear. Under the Paw is the first of three books Cox has written about his pets, and if you enjoy these as much as I did, you might even want to check out his Facebook page!

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Under the paw

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

A group of men and women are drawn together to form a new support group. Their psychotherapist thinks it will do them good to talk to people with shared experiences. What do they have in common?

They’ve all faced monsters, human and not so human, and they survived where others didn’t.

Stan was partially eaten by cannibals. Harrison hunted monsters. Barbara had the insane writings of a serial killer carved on her bones. Martin never takes his sunglasses off, ever. Then there is Greta, she’s more complicated than the rest combined.

It begins very small, this book, with the first meeting where the group meet each other, and we, in turn, meet them. Comments, observations, memories, small things snowball and become bigger and more connected until an ending you don’t see coming hits you like a slap back to awareness. You can easily get lost in these characters and their fictional lives.

I found it charming, each character so perfectly written, so complex in their nature. Charming but also horrifying, because to consider the things they have survived, you must believe in monsters, not just those in plain sight but the ones lurking inside.

Posted by Cookie Fan

Catalogue link: We are all completely fine

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Lewis Man by Peter May

The second book in a trilogy can often be disappointing, lacking the impetus that drives the first book’s plot, and needing to leave something up in the air to keep the reader keen for the third. Peter May’s Lewis trilogy avoids this pitfall, giving ex-copper Fin McLeod a new crime and another personal dilemma to deal with in The Lewis Man.

The story centres on the discovery of a body in a peat bog, so well preserved it looks like it could be an ancient find, of more interest to archaeologists than criminologists. But an Elvis Presley tattoo soon chalks this one up as a cold case, and a DNA match connects the body with Mr McDonald, the father of Fin’s childhood sweetheart, Marsaili.

Fin has returned to stay on Lewis Island, with a plan to rebuild his parent’s house, but is soon caught up in the case, fearful that a crew of police from the mainland will descend on Mr McDonald, who is now suffering from dementia. It all sets off a sequence of memories for Mr McDonald, and the plot see-saws back to the past, and his childhood of deprivation and children’s homes.

As Fin tries to rebuild relationships with Marsaili and his recently discovered son, events from the past threaten to catch up with the present and the story builds towards a dramatic ending. While there is a satisfying mystery here, May enriches his story with his sensitivity around the issues surrounding memory loss, his evocation of the 1950s and the miserable treatment of orphans.

It all adds up to another powerful novel set on the marvellous, windswept and tussocky island of Lewis - surely this is just begging for a TV adaptation.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Lewis Man

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman

Wealthy or high-ranking people are less likely to listen and focus their attention on others. We all intuitively suspect that – and now the research findings support it. Where we see ourselves on the social ladder seems to determine how much attention we pay, which has the knock-on effect of how much empathy we extend to others. 

Your ability to focus affects many areas of your life and, in his latest book, Goleman describes how we can optimally use this fundamental of abilities. How often do you get distracted by the ping of your text messages or emails? Do you let your mind drift as you read or attempt to get through your daily tasks? Goleman claims that your ability to focus is a key factor in your success. It is in this marshalling of attentive brain power that will help you rise above the crowd and propel you closer to achieving your goals. 

What we pay attention to has an enormous effect on both performance and social interaction. Goleman devotes whole chapters to how business leaders can make small shifts in the way that they relate to others. He also points out that leaders need to have a multi-focused approach – being simultaneously attentive to how systems operate at the organisational level and market, while maintaining levels of high self-awareness. If you are already up with the latest business-think then this may not be news, but I really enjoyed the way Goleman weaves the personal with the professional and gently informs without preaching.

Self-awareness, self-control, delayed gratification, and a good dose of empathy are all vital attributes for a fulfilling and successful life today. The good news is that you can increase your emotional intelligence and your ability to focus. Goleman doesn’t give you exercises to do or takeaway chapter summaries, you learn a bit without straining your brain cells, which makes this a good title to add to your improving summer reading list – not too heavy, not too light – just right.  

Reviewed by Spot

Catalogue Link: Focus

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen

If you’re thinking about some Scandinavian crime fiction,
don’t overlook Danish author, Jussi Adler-Olsen. His Department Q series features maverick detective Carl Morck, a difficult character who doesn’t get on well with fellow officers. In Mercy, Morck returns to work following a shooting that had left him injured and plagued with guilt. His boss is happy to send him to the basement, out of sight and out of mind, to review a stash of high-profile cold cases.

Morck is to be assisted by a Syrian refugee named Assad, who with no police credentials, is expected to do little more than to clean up and fetch files. But Assad is way too smart for that, and his unfailingly cheery countenance is the perfect foil for his boss’s ill humour. The two are set to be a brilliant team.

Somehow their interest alights on a missing person’s case – that of high-flying politician, Merete Lynggard. However we already know all about her because the author has been weaving in scenes to show us that Merete isn’t dead, presumed drowned five years ago, but locked up in an underground bunker. Rather than a cold case, Mercy turns into a race against time to rescue Merete from captors planning her death in the most unpleasant way imaginable. And the reader is left having kittens, waiting for Morck and Assad to figure out what’s going on.

Mercy stacks up well against the Nesbo/Mankell/Larsson novels we have come to know and love so well. Ticking all the boxes for smart characterisation, clever plotting and nail-biting action, the novel is the first of the Department Q series with another three on the shelves waiting to sample. Marvellous.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Mercy

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Turning the Stones by Debra Daley

Take a beautiful young heroine, a smidgeon of witchcraft, a buried secret and a family that will do anything to cling to its ebbing fortune, and you have the makings of a ripping yarn. Turning the Stones reminded me a bit of the novels of Robert Louis Stephenson or Samuel Richardson, with its benighted heroine, Em, and the 1760s setting.

It begins as Em wakes up in a strange bedroom, groggy and bloodied and unaware of how she got there. She discovers a vaguely familiar figure in the room, unfortunately and savagely dead, while the door is locked on the outside. Dressing quickly, Em scrambles out the window before she can be fingered for the crime, determined to make her way to France and the anonymity that might just save her life. Things don’t quite go as planned and Em must throw herself on the mercy of Captain McDonagh, a seaman with an agenda of his own.

Woven into Em’s current predicament, is the story of Em’s growing up with the Waterlands, a genteel family who saved her from the workhouse when she was tiny. Or so Mrs Waterland says. And who is the strange, witchlike Kitty Conneely, and what is she trying to achieve with her desperate incantations?

There are a wealth of secrets, plots and connivings going on to keep the reader well amused. But Debra Daley has a lovely way with words, and Em is a sharp, intelligent narrator with plenty of gumption which prevents the book from descending into melodrama. Turning the Stones is a surprisingly satisfying read and Debra Daley a new author for your watch-list.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Turning the Stones