Posted in bloggers, Books, Politics, Reviews, Thriller

Book Review: The President Is Missing – Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Well, I never thought I’d see the day when a former President of the United States becomes a novelist.

This is the book that is sure to generate a lot of discussion as readers flock to their nearest bookstores to buy the snazzy looking cover that has BILL CLINTON written in its front cover in big bold letters, all caps.

If nothing else, the strange pairing between the former leader of the free world and one of the world’s most prolific writers (so prolific that people suspect others ghost write his novels) will be enough to get even the most negative of naysayers so curious that they’ll actually end up buying the book.

This was how it was in my case anyway. I’m not a big James Patterson fan but the fact that a former president co-wrote this intrigued me so much that I put it in my to-read list and bought it the day it was released here in London.

I mean think of all the insider secrets he could couch as “fiction”; think about the possible dirt he could have on the world’s most powerful nation, and all the stuff he can share about what it’s REALLY like to live in the White House.

giphy-3.gif

I have to say, people who feared that he’d give away state secrets can rest easy. For all the hype, there wasn’t anything in this book that we haven’t read in other political thrillers and dramas except perhaps that everything in this book is validated and believed to be factual because of Bill Clinton’s presumed input.

Can I just say though, the fact that it opened on an impeachment trial was too ironic for words, and it had me pissing myself laughing. I didn’t know whether to mock him or to applaud him for having the balls to write what must have been one of the most embarrassing periods of his political life into a novel.

giphy-4

I resisted reading the initial reviews on Goodreads so that I would go into it with an open mind. And I’m glad I did that because I know a lot of people are being really critical about it. Come on guys, give the man a chance huh? What else is he supposed to do now that he’s no longer politically active?

And I have to say, while this book is not going to win the Nobel Prize for fiction anytime soon, its actually not bad. It started off really slow, and President Duncan felt like a really bland character who is destined for martyrdom. It certainly didn’t feel like Bill Clinton was fictionalising himself, although it would have been more entertaining if he did. Everyone loves a good scandal, right?

Instead, President Duncan felt almost too perfect. Sure, he had moments of doubts and moments where the public questioned his motives but the readers always get the sense that this guy is a hero: he loves his country, he’ll fight to the death to protect it from people who mean to do it harm.

And while cynics may find this a cause for criticism, maybe we should take a good hard look at ourselves and question why we find it so hard to believe in a character who is still pure and driven by altruistic motives. I think the reason will show too much about ourselves and the world we live than is comfortable.

Anyway, I was bored for the first 50 pages of  this book. It felt like they were all wasting precious time endlessly discussing options rather than actually doing something, which is my whole beef with politics in the first place. I mean, they’re sitting on a ticking time bomb and they waste half a day to discuss all the 50 ways that things could go wrong? Come on.

We did eventually get some action when readers find out what it is our characters are dealing with, and the fight sequences were genuinely good. I also like the subterfuge, the misdirection and the subtle balance of keeping foreign relations friendly even when you just want to tell someone to f**k off.

However, the main plot was not too original. In fact, Dan Brown had already done something similar with Inferno and Origin. This felt a lot like the latter, only without the religious undertones and, of course, the intrepid Robert Langdon. I’m not going to give too much away, but I would say that the plot is another cautionary tale against our ever-increasing reliance on technology and the Internet.

I did like the twists and turns that the novel took, especially on the last few chapters. I did GUESS the twist as early as 40% into the book, and I thought the President was monumentally stupid for not having seen it coming, but hey, what do I know?

I did not like the ending. The whole chapter before the epilogue felt utterly self-serving and useless, it had no ties whatsoever to the book. I would have happily skipped it but I could never let any part of any book go unread, so I read the whole darn thing and was rolling my eyes the whole time.

So to sum it up, this book was OKAY. Forget everything you hear about its authors and read it with an open mind and you’ll find that the plot was actually good and the writing pretty engaging. I applaud Bill Clinton’s gumption to venture into fiction-writing, and I hope he’ll come up with another one soon, maybe something that has Monica Lewinsky in it. A romance, perhaps?

Who knows? If this book tells you one thing, its that anything is possible.

 

Posted in bloggers, Books, murder mystery, Reviews, Thriller

Book Review: Ordeal By Innocence – Agatha Christie

Well, I suppose they can’t all be masterpieces.

MmEz_f-maxage-0

Although I’ve only just recently started plowing my way through her massive body of work, I’ve been a fan of Ms. Christie from the moment I cracked open my first Hercule Poirot mystery.

I think she is a true master of the crime/thriller genre, and she manages to tell a tale without having to turn a book into something you can pound a nail with. I was very impressed with ‘And Then There Were None’ and ‘Murder at the Orient Express’, and just last month I saw ‘Witness For The Prosecution’ at the county hall with my sister and was blown away by a plot that was deceptively simple but in actuality layered and intricate.

So I had really high expectations for this book. I mean, the premise was promising and characteristic of some of her great works. A woman murdered at her family home, a son accused of the crime and sent to prison, and a last-minute witness that gave evidence to the fact that the son was sent to prison for a crime he never committed.

gKDaO

This meant that the killer is still at large and could be ANYONE. So sister turns against brother, husband turns against wife, lover turns against lover, as the hunt for the real murderer commences.

All very gripping, presumably. HOWEVER, I found myself increasingly frustrated as the book went on for several reasons which I will try to enumerate in this post. First of all, I found it ludicrous that a stranger would ever be given license to investigate a murder when he had no jurisdiction, experience or even any sort of ties to the family. I mean, really, what business was it of his?? The witness/protagonist in this book toed a really fine line between good samaritan and busybody.

Secondly, I know that having people trapped in one setting and unable to escape each other’s company is a hallmark of her work. BUT. There was something about this plot that felt almost recycled to me. Maybe its pure coincidence and stems from the fact that the last five books of hers that I’ve bought were all relatively similar plot-wise, but while reading this book I found myself thinking that I’ve read this all before.

Thirdly, my God, towards the end of the book I just wished she’d shorten the length of the novel rather than subject us all to the needless repetition of facts that we ALL ALREADY KNEW. Like, all the clues were explored and thought over by so many characters; random people were examining the murder from all angles in several different chapters and at that point I just wanted to throw my hands up and say, OKAY, I GET IT. THESE ARE THE FACTS. NOW SOLVE THE MYSTERY ALREADY.

tyrionreading_1428565536

And then when the mystery was solved, it was such a bloody letdown. After all the build-up, the twist almost felt like an anti-climax. I mean, okay, a part of me thought it was really clever and I can see how Agatha Christie has influenced the murder mystery genre because I felt like I’ve seen this twist in an episode of Castle or some other tv crime series. I suppose I just didn’t warm up to how this story was told, which is a shame because now that I think about it, it was actually quite a good story.

So there’s a BBC adaptation of this starring the incomparable Bill Nighy that I’m hoping would be better than the book. Maybe this is a plot that works better as a live action tv series rather than a book? I don’t know. I feel like I’VE just committed a crime by giving an Agatha Christie book a bad review but I have to be honest.

ordeal by innocence 2

Hopefully, the next three books I have lined up will be better. Maybe I should stick to the Poirot or Miss Marple mysteries.

Anyway, I would love to hear what you all think. If someone can tell me how the BBC production is, I’d appreciate it!

Cheers, bookworms.

Posted in Books, Reviews, Thriller, Writing

Book Review: The Woman In The Window – AJ Finn

At this point in my reading career I should know better than to START READING A BOOK at 9 in the evening when I have to get up early for for work the next day.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

But, you know.

So I’m a little short on sleep this morning. This book was soooo worth it.

First of all, I have a love/hate relationship with books who have an unreliable narrator. I know it adds nuance to the story but it also adds a level of frustration for ME. I like figuring things out on my own but with a protagonist like Anna Fox, you can’t take anything she says or observes at face value.

Anna is an ex-psychologist who’s suffering from an extreme case of post-traumatic agoraphobia. She keeps in contact with her estranged husband and daughter sporadically. The only other connections she’s made in the last year are online ones in a community called Agora.

She’s not been able to leave her house in Harlem for the last ten months. She has her food and prescription drugs delivered and she spends her time drinking merlot and spying on her unsuspecting neighbours. When The Russell family moves in in the house across the road, Anna develops an unhealthy obsession with them, observing them day and night. As a result, one night she sees something that she wasn’t supposed to see.

I loved the premise of this book, despite as I said the unreliable narrator. I like how Anna has to struggle to get people to believe her because her state of mind is so unstable.

I like how she’s obsessed with old black and white thrillers a la Alfred Hitchcock and that these movies play out in the background while all these terrible things are happening. It adds a layer of creepiness to the book as the movies often parallel what’s happening in real life.

The house itself, and the fact that it encompasses the sum total of her existence, adds to the claustrophobic feeling of the whole book. As a setting, its really evocative.

Honest truth, I skipped to the end because it was coming up to the point where I really had to sleep if I was going to be of any use at work the next day. But the twist was so compelling that I still ended up reading and finishing the whole thing anyway.

The story moves at such a brisk pace and its a total page turner. You’ll find yourself turning page after page after page and there’s no use telling yourself you just want to read another chapter because the chapters don’t help. They’re of variable lengths and some of them are only two pages long so you have to read more.

There were two twists in this story. Both I saw coming but brushed off because I didn’t think it was possible. Mild spoiler ahead but I thought the most likely outcome was that this was all in Anna’s head and the neighbourhood doesn’t really exist and she’s created some kind of fictional place in her head because she’s gone completely bonkers. But no, that wasn’t it. Sorry, if that’s one of the theories you come up with then you’ll have to come up with another one.

Anyway, some of the truths we discover in this book really broke my heart. Anna really is at the heart of this book and you will feel for her. She’s made a lot of mistakes and she’s suffered greatly for her errors in judgment.

She’s a cautionary tale about how one tiny decision can change the course of your life. But she really is someone you want to root for and you’ll be anxious for her to find a satisfactory ending. Or you know, to make it through the ordeal alive.

I highly recommend this book especially for fans of The Girl on The Train (I think this is better) and just fans of the psychological thriller genre in general. Maybe buy it on Kindle. At the moment, its only the hardback edition that’s out and this book is good but maybe not worth shelling out for hardcover.

I’d love to know what you guys think! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Posted in murder mystery, Reviews, Theatre, Thriller

Theatre Review: Witness For The Prosecution

For my sister’s birthday, I got us both tickets to see a production of Agatha Christie’s Witness For The Prosecution. Having just become massive fans ourselves, we thought it would be a good night out and plus, who doesn’t love a good murder/mystery?

First of all, the venue itself is amazing. I was excited when I heard it was going to be at the County Hall and in the room where Parliament used to meet in the 20s. The entrance is on Belvedere Road which is just across St. Thomas Hospital and at the back of the London Eye.

We were really chuffed when we got inside the actual theatre. Its set up so you can pretend you’re at the Old Bailey, which I think is the old criminal court near Newgate Prison. It had jury boxes and everything, and if you’ve got money to spend you might want to get a seat in the jury box for a more immersive experience. You may or may not get to participate in the actual play so get your best thespian voice ready.

It was worth splurging for stall seats because you’re really close to where the action is. Also, they were really roomy and comfortable so you don’t ever feel like you’re practically sitting on top of your neighbour for the duration of the show.

The play tells the story of Leonard Vogel, who’s been accused of murdering a rich woman that he’s befriended and goes to visit once or twice a week. His arrest is based on the testimony of the housekeeper who swore she heard him talking to the victim around 5 minutes before the time of death.

The play unfolds like a courtroom drama, and I had initial misgivings about that because I thought it would be very dry and boring. I could not have been more wrong. The actors were so good and the story itself is so riveting that you won’t even notice you’re halfway through the first act already.

There were also some unexpected lighthearted and even comedic moments, usually aimed at the Britishness of the British. Because this play was oh-so-British, from insulting each other politely (no one does this as well as the British) to offering tea during times of crises and even the British attitude towards foreigners…it was all very well done.

I have to say I guessed the plot twist about 3/4 of the way into the play but I was still shocked when THE BIG REVEAL was unveiled. I love how, just like in other Agatha Christie works, she manages to convey so much without having to bombard the audience or the readers with unnecessary details. You are instead led through a series of truths, half-truths and out and out lies and its up to you to make heads or tails of it to come to your own conclusion.

Overall, I had a really great time and I’d highly recommend this play to both theatre lovers and fans of the crime and murder genre because I can guarantee you’ll have a great time.

Click on the link here to go to the website, wherein there’s a tab for you to buy tickets. The shows are incredibly popular so the weekends might be fully booked but there’s plenty of seats during the weekdays and it doesn’t really last that long. Its finished by 10 and there are good transport links around the area (Waterloo, Embankment and Westminster stations and a lot of buses).

Cheers and Happy Birthday to my sister Arlene (shown on the photos with me)!! xx

Posted in Books, murder mystery, Paranormal, Reviews, Thriller

Book Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

I very rarely give five star ratings anymore but I am happy to give this book the first of hopefully many to come this year.

This book absolutely blew me away. It kept me up at night and awake at the crack of dawn. It weighed heavily on my mind for two straight days; I was thinking about it over breakfast, while I was reading my emails, when I was arguing with a colleague and I even spared it a thought while I was swiping through Tinder. Lol

This is like a supernatural version of an Agatha Christie novel. A colleague asked me for a synopsis of it and she wanted me to be succinct so I told her its like if Murder On The Orient Express met Groundhog Day and they had a baby then that baby is this book.

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at the night of the ball during a weekend house party. I don’t think that’s a spoiler because duh, the bloody title gives that away. That is not the main point of the novel. The point is that she is doomed to be murdered again and again until someone solves her murder.

Aiden Bishop is the man tasked with this herculean task. And you would think he’d have a fighting chance if the day repeats itself over and over again because hey, at least you’ll learn from the mistakes of the previous day right?

There’s always a catch; and the catch in this instance is that every time the day resets Aiden wakes up in the body of a different house guest which will serve as his host until he either falls asleep or dies.

More to the point, this whole sequence of events is actually some kind of loop and at some point he will intersect with himself in his past and future hosts, in which case he will need to figure out how to either influence future events or change the course of the day without fucking everything up basically. It gets terribly complicated in the best way possible.

This book was completely mind-boggling. I am simply amazed at its level of complexity; the amount of attention to detail it must have taken to keep everything straight and to make sure nothing gets missed must have taken heaps and heaps of notes and post-its and cross-referencing, not to mention meticulous editing. I simply don’t know how Stuart Turton did it but I, for one, am glad that we have this fantastic book as evidence of his hard labor.

The best kind of murder mysteries are the ones where everything is so unpredictable that you’ve given up trying to wade through all the false information and red herrings to try and solve the mystery yourself. This was what I did with this one. I just prepared myself for the unexpected, and told myself this is one mystery that I will not be able to solve. And I was right, I did not see that ending coming.

Utterly unpredictable, compelling and compulsively readable, this kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I’ve read so many of these that I am very rarely surprised but well done, Mr. Turton, you’ve managed to do the impossible.

For my American readers, this book is out in the US sometime in September. For UK readers, get thee to your nearest bookstore now!

Five Jumping Up and Down Stars!

Posted in Books, murder mystery, Reviews, Thriller

Book Review: Into The Water – Paula Hawkins

So I was thinking about how I was going to approach this review and I thought about being neutral about it and keeping what I really thought to myself, but then I remembered something: This is MYblog, not some editorial piece where I am obligated to be diplomatic about my opinions. So below is an honest review of a book that everyone seems to think is great but I found somehow…unsatisfactory.

Let me just say this about the author: she is a damn good writer. Even when I struggled with the plot, even when nothing made sense, I kept going because the prose was just so damn readable. I have a weakness for books where the writing just flowed and I’ve probably stuck by books with plot holes the size of the hole in the ozone layer purely because I was enamoured of the writing.

So books like these, just like Paula Hawkins’ debut The Girl on The Train, capitalise on confusing their readers right? That’s fine. But it seems to me with this book that the author is confused herself; she couldn’t quite figure out whether she was writing a thriller, a murder/mystery or a fantasy novel.

As a result, there were a lot of things that were thrown into the plot that I thought were completely unnecessary. They muddled things up so much that in the middle of the book, I found myself asking ‘what in the hell is the plot?!’ and ‘what is the point of all of this?‘ and also, do I really care enough about these hateful characters to see this thing through to the end?

tenor

I did finish the book, by the grace of God. 

The plot centres on the Drowning Pool, a river in the town of Beckford. I’m not sure if this town is fictional but its supposedly set somewhere in England and probably not a place I’d go visit anytime soon. Anyway, this pool has claimed a lot of “troubled” women’s lives going back to the days when witch trials by water were a thing.

The latest in this long line of victims is Nell Abbot, mother, neighbour, friend and sister to Jules. Nell was obsessed with this pool’s history and the true story behind each woman’s death, and in the process of uncovering the truth she sets off a chain of events that lead to her broken body being found in the very pool she found fascinating. Did she jump? Was she pushed? How did she come to be there?

I find it really sad that the book did not live up to the promise of its premise. There were a lot of things wrong with it but I think it all boils down to the lack of a tighter plot.

I tend not to read reviews prior to reading a book because it tends to colour my own opinions of it, but I gave in to temptation with this one and I agree with the general consensus in the reading community that the cast of characters in this book was simply too big. When the inevitable Hollywood film adaptation comes how are they going to afford to pay all those actors? In addition, no one was likeable in this book. So you have a bunch of characters that no one really cares about running around town making a mess of things and as a reader, you just don’t see the point.

Don’t get me wrong, each individual backstory was quite interesting. The teenage suicide, the troubled family, the rebellious daughter, the sister with a turbulent history with the victim…taken separately they were strong storylines. But together they just didn’t make sense or add to the overall narrative of the story in my opinion (it felt almost like you were reading two books). You could have taken out one arc and the main plot line would have still come to its inevitable conclusion.

And the conclusion itself, well, these things always have a plot twist don’t they? And the most interesting thing about this book is that the plot twist is that THERE IS NO PLOT TWIST.

DopeyWhiteGopher-max-1mb

I saw the end coming from a mile away and it was heavily hinted at a third of the way into the book. I didn’t like it. I like being taken by surprise when I read these things; even if I’m usually clever enough to make good guesses I still get satisfaction from being taken on a journey to discover the truth. There was none of that satisfaction here. Totally predictable.

Anyway, thank goodness I bought the hardbound edition of this  book for a steal in one of the Oxfam charity shops because I would not pay 18 quid to buy this. It was so-so at best, and if anyone wants my copy you are welcome to it.

Overall rating: 2 stars