I’ve been reading from the Pigeonhole App again.

This time it’s the intense You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott. Abbot has been on my list to watch for a while now. I’ve read a lot of good reviews but never quite got round to it. Today I finally did. Onto the review!

Blurb

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon. A gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But then a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community weeks before an all-important competition. Everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries to hold her family together. But she finds herself drawn, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.
 
You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.

My Review

You get a jist from the blurb, this is a murder mystery. BUT, it revolves around family and the anchor that is Devon. Devon is a gymnastics prodigy. Her family have given everything to make her dream come true. When a supposed hit-and-run rears it’s ugly head, rumours begin to swirl. The novel details the hows, the whys, the confusion, melted into the intense mania of elite gymnastics.

The characters are intensely written. Katie is a mother overwhelmed and terrified by her daughter who is changing in ways she can’t control. Eric, the father, is obsessed with Devon’s dream – he’ll do anything to make her success a probability. Drew, the little brother notices the smallest details. He’s often forgotten and left in Devon’s shadow. He’s written wonderfully. Finally Devon – she’s a whirlwind that keeps her feelings close to her chest. She’s described regularly as a hard, perfectly smooth nut. It’s a perfect description of a teenage girl caught up in the stressful world of elite gymnastics.

The writing is sublime. Abbot is brilliant at writing about the psychotic world of teenage girls. The pain, the hurt, the secrets. Abbot has a way of manipulating the reader so you never quite know where to point the finger. I like the fact that the secret could be given away and you would still read on. The execution of the writing is spot on. The death brings a lot of secrets to the light and Abbot perfectly understands how to manage each character as it slowly unravels.

Final Thoughts

I loved the exploration of claustrophobia, secrecy and female adolescence. The story is full of suspense, and I liked the perspective of transition between girl and woman. Watching Katie try and control her daughter, whilst trying to push away multiple characters that wear on Devon. It’s exhausting and exciting. I like the theme of greatness and sacrifice and how to two mix, and how it affects little Drew. It creates a destructive but very exciting narrative, which I loved.

Abbott also manages to capture tiny moments (with a lot of meaning) in perfect clarity. Here’s an example.

He’d never woken up, and the only sound now was his breathing, hoarse and ragged. For a second she thought she saw his lashes lift, the white of one eye looking at her, but she was wrong.

It’s a brilliant story that had me hanging onto every word. Read it.

AmazonGoodreads 

 

Is there a better feeling than getting hold of a free book?

No, I thought not.

When I invested in my new Kindle I immediately searched the Kindle store for new free books. It’s not that I don’t like paying for books (I really do.) Free books on the Amazon tend to be the first step into a new series of books, and I wanted to find my new series. The one you buy all 56754 books from and read in under a week. Just me? I thought Breaker by Rob Aspinall was right up my street. Here’s what I thought.

Blurb

Can the villain become the hero?

Meet the tough new antihero with a very particular set of skills. Charlie Cobb – aka ‘Breaker’ – is a mafia enforcer on the gritty, crime-ridden streets of Manchester, England.

He’s the guy the mob send in to scare the worst of the worst. The legendary underworld ‘fixer’ who keeps the peace between rival gangs. But after his idealistic daughter, Cassie, makes him swear to give up his life of crime, Breaker finds himself torn between two futures. Be the merciless assassin who pulls the trigger on young murder witness, Danny Platt? Or act as protector, taking on vicious crime boss, Ivan Rudenko?

Breaker (Charlie Cobb: New Crime & Action Thriller Series)

My Review

The book follows the life of Charlie Breaker who is frequently getting into scraps and scraped. Named after preference of breaking people limbs (nice,) he has a new job. But it’s not going to be easy. With Rudenko breathing down his neck and his daughter giving him a stern look, he needs to get out of this without a bullet in his chest.

This book was described as ‘frantic fun’ on Goodreads and I have to agree. Charlie is a dirty character who can’t help but like. His rough language and inability to leave anything alone he’s a gem. The book is a non-stop action thriller full of mean characters and gripping gripes. It has a smidge of humour and sarcasm and the use of Manchester as the location allows for a lot of slang. I for one loved this.

In terms of narrative the story is (fairly) plausible. You will need to accept that Charlie is comic-like in terms of character. Whether kicked, shot, smashed into he’ll get up and carry on ten minutes later. But, it’s all part of the fun. The characters are written with depth. Frogger (one of the bad guys) is very well written. Although a secondary character Aspinall gives all of his characters guts. They have quirks that help to give depth to the storyline.

Only gripe would be it’s quite short. I would have like a little more. Maybe Cassie involved more than giving her Dad a stern eye. Although I’m sure this will come with books later in the series.

Final Thoughts

Overall this is a really well written book. It’s got bite, drive and danger. Mix in with the brilliantly written main and secondary characters and you’ve got a winner.

Breaker (Charlie Cobb: New Crime & Action Thriller Series)

Breaker (Charlie Cobb: New Crime & Action Thriller Series)

GoodreadsAmazon 

I don’t have a To Be Read List. It’s okay – I haven’t lost my mind.

When I started blogging I learned of the sacred ‘To Be Read List.’ Book bloggers appeared to have theirs written to the t. Or tattooed on their left leg. It might be 1000+ books but they had one. I, being new was a fraud and created a TBR. It featured a lot of popular books, highly rated and classics. It sat on a piece of paper and every so often I would add to it. I would cross books off and add them back on again. I wrote multiple posts on books that were on my TBR, books I wanted to read maybe.

But here’s the fraudulent bit. There’s no list. I mean the old list is hanging around somewhere but it’s not tangible. It’s not sat waiting on Goodreads, or listed in my email inbox. It’s been years since I’ve had one. But I’m coming clean, so here’s why I don’t believe in a TBR.

I don’t have a To Be Read List. It’s okay – I haven’t lost my mind.

It puts books on a pedestal.

I will never forget the soul that told me 1984 was their favourite ever book. And that it would be mine too as soon as I read it. I shouldn’t have believed them. But I did. Stupidly. Having a TBH made me make pedestals out of books. It’s happened multiple times and ruined tens of books. (NOTE: I did like 1984 – not my fave though.)

I’m a fickle reader.

I enter a book-shop, I see a book I like the look of, I buy it. Suddenly everything on the list is shifted back. Books originally on the list has stayed there for weeks/months/years. I can remember a few. Wolfhall is still on the list, oh, and Eleanor and Park. But I don’t like the idea that they’re suspended on a list because maybe, the next time I wander into Stones it’ll be the one I pick up.

It scared me

During my early days of blogging I did have a very long list of books to read. I would add any books that interested me or I would download them on my Kindle, maybe write them in my journal. The list grew and grew. The classics part of the list felt like a monster towering over me. I will read Frankenstein, and Anna Karina. I will attempt Tolstoy. But it became something I avidly avoided. As I added more books to it I strayed further and further.

I’m constantly changing as a reader

I think reading is seen as a constrained activity. It’s old/doesn’t change/doesn’t grow. The phrase I detest is ‘reading is boring.’ You’re just reading the wrong thing. Reading does grow – and so do we as readers. Things happen – politics, natural disasters, cures for illness and these all inspire books. It could be fiction, it could be non-fiction, either way I’m constantly changing and a TBR felt too static.

The forgotten books

There’s nothing better than entering a bookshop and seeing a book that once sat on your TBR. You walk in, spot it. Think – shit yes, I meant to get round to that. You pick it up and take it home. Devour it.

I’m sorry if I gave any of you readers a heart flutter. Do you have a TBR? Should I think about creating one again. Let me know. I’m off to read some Murakami I had forgotten about.

I don’t have a To Be Read List. It’s okay – I haven’t lost my mind.

I don’t have a To Be Read List.

I’m addicted to free crime thrillers.

I got picky with my reading and decided to download another free crime fiction book onto my Kindle. IT FELT like the right thing to do. The problem with being a reader is that you’re always looking for the next thing to dig your teeth into. I struggle after reading one genre to skip to another. There’s something comforting about sticking your finger into another plum pie (so to speak.) That sounded rude. I’ll move on- THIS is the last free crime thriller I download*.

Violence in the Blood by Mark Newman

Blurb

Crime Lord Malkie Thompson’s spent 25 years killing, maiming and blackmailing his way to the top. He’s got everything he ever wanted, except his health. The knives are out. His rivals sense blood. Their time is now. But Thompson’s not going down without a fight.

Violence in the Blood documents Thompson’s rise to power from the backstreets of Glasgow to the industrial heartland of the Midlands.

Join the rampage as Malkie and his crew blaze a trail of mayhem and destruction north and south of the border.

My Review

Why did I download this? I like the idea of a tale about a criminal gang. Question is, did I enjoy it?

Yes, yes I did. Writing about criminal gangs can become bogged down. There are often a lot of things to fit and bob in. Detail is important to immerse the reader in the tale. This worked well. The pace is frantic and hectic. It moves with pace, and all the writing is spritely if stomach churning. The rival mobsters feel real and threatening. They are violent, use any method possible (baseball bat anyone?) and are brought vividly to life.

Malkie is told in brilliant technicolor. He’s a menace, a monster and a brilliant character creation. I felt both sorry for him at times and appalled. The ability of the author to play with the reader’s emotions despite the questionable behavior of the main character shows a lot of skill.

But, there are problems. The writing is very good at describing police procedures and the like and the torture scenes are very graphic. There’s a lot of blood, guts and gore. A lot of death too. But, because the book is so short, you don’t really care for the characters because we barely know them. Other than Malkie everyone is a whitewash of a character. A couple of minor details poke through but other than that, very little character distinction.

There are plots and subplots which I enjoyed but this book felt like a spoiler to the big event. This happens a lot with free books. They tend to have a killer starting read that gets the reader involved which then spans into a series of 15 books. This one just didn’t have quite enough to encourage me to continue with the series.

Final Thoughts

Gritty gang warfare is a great way to describe this book, but I wanted double the content. Probably double the gore too.

* For now.

Violence in the Blood by Mark Newman

Violence in the Blood by Mark Newman

 

 

 

Before we went to France I downloaded a lot of books onto my Kindle. I had just bought my new Tangerine Fire and wanted to try it out. I had read the very popular You Had Me At Hello a long while back and hadn’t come back to the short story sequel. Wanting a couple of short reads for the holiday I downloaded this to let you know what I thought. I also want to update you on my Kindle purchase. I still love it – maybe more than my old fire. The thinner design makes it feel more like a book and the colour is just beautiful. More on my Kindle in a post soon let’s dive in.

After Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

Blurb

A short story sequel to the bestselling romcom You Had Me At Hello!

In You Had Me At Hello, the one who got away came back… but what happened next?

Together, apart and then back together again, Rachel and Ben had a rollercoaster ride to get here. But now happily in love and partners in crime once more, it feels like it’s all been worth it.

But when a face from the past reappears, misunderstandings come between them once more.

Can they hold on to their happy ever after?

My Review

After Hello is the epilogue to You Had Me at Hello, McFarlane’s first novel. I was a little worried I had forgotten the characters in the book but I shouldn’t have at all. Each came back to me with clarity. McFarlane is great a reworking information into the story without bogging it down. I was soon up to speed with anything I had forgotten.

It is a really short read which dissapointed a little. It does pack a punch – the writing is fun as always. This isn’t the type of book you pick up for an intense read, it’s a short and flirty in style. It was nice to re-visit the characters and see how their lives are progressing after the ending. As with the first novel McFarlane dives into the realities of a relationship. Often books skim how relationships form and all the little arguments that can bubble under the surface. They are pivotal in this read and I liked the realism.

It was quite easy to guess the ending – it was a very smooth, or soft read. I think it could have been drawn out and played with more. As a reader who left the first book a while ago, more twists and turns would have made this a more grabbing read. It’s a brilliant book for a commute or a ferry ride. It feels satisfying but not electric. It has also made me want to read more from McFarlane – I have my eye on ‘It’s not me it’s you.’ I gave up romantic books towards the end of 2016. This author has made me want to rethink that.

Although it was quite an ordinary chick-lit, it drew me in, in a way a number haven’t. There was a homely, comforting feel which I don’t get from the thriller/crime books I’ve been reading.

Final Thoughts

The book After Hello is an easy read and if you’ve read the book You Had Me At Hello definitely give this a go. It’s a flirty fun book with a lovely ending. Perfect for a lunch-break or just a moment on the sofa with a glass of Merlot.

AmazonGoodreads 

After Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

After Hello by Mhairi McFarlane