Books

ARC Book Review: The Hidden Keys by André Alexis

I received an ARC of The Hidden Keys in a recent Goodreads giveaway, so of course, I have to thank Serpent’s Tail for giving me the chance to win and read this book :)

Also apologies for bad image quality of the book :(

This book was a strange one… but strange in a good way. I mean, you’ve got a talented thief, a wealthy and old heroin addict, an albino thug with an interesting and uncomfortable nickname, an eccentric architect who turns dead animals into mantlepiece objects, and a really confusing puzzle involving different artefacts and a deceased father.

I don’t know. I suppose it’s valuable. But this isn’t about money or wealth or anything like that. It’s about finding what my father hid. If I had time with the other mementos, I know I could figure this whole thing out. I was always good at treasure hunts.

The story starts when Tancred Palmieri meets up with ageing drug addict Willow Azarian in a bar. She reveals to Tancred about her deceased billionaire father, Robert Azarian, and how he left each of his five children an artefact – a Japanese screen, a painting that plays music, an aquavit bottle, a framed poem, and a model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Although these have sentimental values to each child, Willow is convinced that each artefact is also a clue that will lead her to the location of her late father’s fortune, so she convinces Tancred to steal these items for her, so they can solve the puzzle.

However, the other children believe that this was just a way of distracting her from her drug addiction, and there is no such thing as a puzzle or fortune, and with growing competition from others, can Tancred and Willow discover the truth before it’s too late?

 

I will admit, this isn’t necessarily a book genre I would read. But I actually enjoyed The Hidden Keys, which, to be honest, surprised me a little. I guess it was the combination of a) trying to work out the puzzle for twenty minutes or until I got a headache, and b) the interesting characters in this book, that really made me want to read on until the end.

Eh, might have to try out more puzzle books in the near future then. :)

Book Review: The Girl on the Train

“One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl. Three for a girl. I’m stuck on three, I just can’t get any further. My head is thick with sounds, my mouth thick with blood. Three for a girl. I can hear the magpies, they’re laughing, mocking me, a raucous cackling. A tiding. Bad tidings. I can see them now, black against the sun. Not the birds, someone else. Someone’s coming. Someone is speaking to me. Now look. Now look at what you made me do.”

Like Southern Rail, I’m only a couple years late on this train journey, but here I am now!

 

The Girl on the Train story starts with Rachael Watson, an alcoholic who takes the same 8.04 train from Ashbury to Euston Station every morning, and the 17.56 evening train back, to convince her roommate Cathy that she is still working, although she was fired three months ago.

And every day, on her train journey, she always stops at Witney, outside of her favourite house – 15 Blenheim Road, a few houses from her old house, where she looks in and sees her perfect, imaginary couple “Jess and Jason” on the balcony.

Everything was going fine, until one day, Rachael sees “Jess” kissing another guy on the balcony, and everything changes for Rachael. Then, the next day, Megan Hipwell (or “Jess”) goes missing, and noone knows where she went.

But Rachael, heavily drunk, was there the night Megan disappeared, and she could sure that she remembered something, but she had another one of her blackouts.

What really happened that night in Witney?

 

Seriously, this was one hell of a train ride! It took me a while to get through it (as I lost all motivation to read), but once I got back into it, I just couldn’t put it down.

I can see why it’s compared to Gone Girl – literally, none of the characters in this book are likeable, which normally I wouldn’t like in a story, but The Girl on the Train is an exception. Everyone has their own little secrets, their own little lies, and even though you couldn’t give a shit about if they all got hit by the 8.04 train, it made it even more exciting to read about their troubled pasts.

This was a great psychological thriller, and I’ll be honest, I couldn’t work out what was real, what was fiction, and more importantly, who did it, until the last fifty pages or so. Which is disappointing, as I worked out the last two thrillers I read… so there goes my flawless run :D

But I can understand why people don’t like this book – after all, if you loved Gone Girl, then there’s a very good chance you’re going to love The Girl on the Train… if not, more. But if you couldn’t physically stand to read Gone Girl, then I’d probably advise giving this a miss.

My rating? 5/5

Book Review: Then She Was Gone by Luca Veste

This was supposed to be out last week, but I’ve been really ill over the past few days as I’ve been getting used to my antidepressants, so sorry about that. :(

Anyway, the review of Then She Was Gone by Luca Veste

 

Tim Johnson is walking with his daughter Molly through Liverpool, in order to keep her away from his psychotic partner, when he is suddenly attacked. To his horror, after waking from unconsciousness, Molly is gone. However, the police think he’s lying and made this story up, as there is nothing suggesting that he ever had a child. Then, when the blood of a Polish woman is found at his former home, Tim Johnson is arrested for the murder, although Tim protests his innocence and wants the truth about his missing daughter.

A year later, Sam Byrne is guaranteed to become a Tory MP for Liverpool, which would make him the first in a generation. However, when he unexpectedly disappears, DI Murphy and DS Rossi are sent to investigate, where they discover a shocking side to the popular MP, and uncover a serious revenge killing spree that will keep you reading late at night.

 

Honestly, I couldn’t put down this book. I don’t know where to start because I don’t want to ruin the plot, but it had everything – lies, twists and turns, revenge-killing, cliques… even a little bit of political humour and subtle references to a former Prime Minister and his ‘pig antics.’

One thing in particular that I also loved about this book is how the city of Liverpool is portrayed by Veste, especially regarding the city itself, and people’s opinion and prejudices towards politics. I mean, I’m not a Liverpudlian myself, but I can already tell from this book that there’s more chance of Everton winning the league than a Tory MP being elected in Liverpool. In all seriousness, it’s clear that Veste knows the city well, and this is evident in his writing. He’s made this story more authentic.

Then She Was Gone is the fourth installment in the DS Murphy and DI Rossi series, and although I didn’t read the preceding books beforehand, I didn’t need to. This was a perfect standalone novel and a great introduction for me into Scouse Noir.

I can’t wait to read more Scouse Noir in the future!

Overall rating: 5/5

 

Book Review: Crime Song by David Swinson

*I won Crime Song in a recent Goodreads giveaway, so before I start my review, I’d like to quickly say a massive thank you to Hodder Books for running it and allowing me the chance to read this book 👍*

Synopsis:

Frank Marr was a former cop in the D.C. police after he was forced into early retirement due to his drug addiction. Now a private investigator, he takes on a case close to home – to spy on his cousin Jeffrey as a favour for his aunt, who suspects that he was dealing drugs. After a long night of surveillance in a nightclub, he returns home to find that his house has been burgled, and his possessions have been stolen – his laptop, his flat-screen TV, his turntable, his vinyl and CD collection and his .38 revolver. At the crime scene, a body has been left on the kitchen floor, and it doesn’t take Marr long to recognise who it is. It’s Jeffrey. In Crime Song, Frank Marr unravels the mystery towards what happened to his stuff (and Jeffrey), taking him deeper into a network of thieves, crooked cops and drug addicts, in a mission which could get him killed.

Review:

Crime Song is different to most crime thriller novels that I’ve read recently. It’s more of a “let’s cut the bullshit out, and get down to BUSINESS”, one man solving a case with virtually zero fucks given. Like some nitty-gritty crime series that the BBC would show (just without 99% of the swearing)

The pacing of this story was really good – everything didn’t happen at once, nor did it become so slow that it became unbearable to read. It was right in the middle and was consistent throughout the entire story.

The main character, Frank Marr, was also easily likeable, despite his flaws, such as his drug addiction and saying ‘fuck’ every other sentence, which was annoying to read at first, but you get used to it eventually.

The side characters were pretty interesting too – even if they have their flaws like Marr, I noticed that I started to feel empathy and anger towards them at the end. I suppose that being an ex-cop himself, Swinson knows about this stuff well, and how good people can get themselves involved in bad situations, and his previous knowledge as a cop really showed in Crime Song.

I think that’s why this book stood out for me – it’s not just a simple case of finding out “who dunnit?”, it actually goes much deeper, and if it wasn’t for exams, I could have easily finished it in a day or two. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and now I need to read The Second Girl in the near future too.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Book Review: Find Me by J.S. Monroe

I wasn’t really expecting to write a review for this book – I thought it was just going to be a book that I read on my iPad, to pass the time, and forget about it forever. NOPE. This turned out to be a LOT better than I had imagined.

First of all, let’s start with the book synopsis (I love that word). Five years ago, Rosa, a Cambridge student who had recently lost her father in a car crash, jumped off a pier. Although the body was never found, the coroner confirmed she was dead, after an unknown caller told the police they saw someone jump.

Jar Costello, Rosa’s girlfriend, believes that she is still alive. Everywhere he goes, he sees hallucinations of her. Only this time, he sees her boarding a train. Was it Rosa? Or is he hallucinating again?

As Rosa’s aunt Amy discovers an encrypted folder called “Rosa’s Diary” on her hard drive, Jar’s quest is to decrypt and find out the contents of it, to discover the truth about Rosa. Except, the truth isn’t that obvious, as Jar discovers, with the help of friend Carl and former freelance journalist Eddie, someone is playing him. But who?

 

There were so many twists and turns in this book, that I had no clue what was going on at times. Forget zero to a hundred, Find Me went from zero to 10,467. It went from a standard “is she alive book” to government conspiracies, and then animal torture to cure… depression as an alternative to tablets…?

(Also, I’d like to quickly commemorate Jon Stock for mentioning my hometown Swindon in the book. As a result, he gets a bonus “Matt Point” – congratulations! :D)

Now, a slight trigger warning about this book. If you’re someone who is an animal right activist, then maybe it’s not for you. Personally, I struggled reading about it a little. Other parts of the book I also struggled to read was when we had Amy’s, Martin’s and Jar’s POV, all at roughly the same time. It took me a moment to work out which person I was reading about every time.

Nonetheless, Find Me is a fantastic thriller, and if you’re a massive fan of other thrillers that keep you up until two in the morning (which is what I did), then there’s a very good chance you’ll love this too!

Overall rating: 4.5/5

 

Review: Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Honestly, I wish I had found this book earlier.

The first time I had heard about Reasons to Stay Alive was in my Creative Writing class. We all had to talk about a book we had read recently (mine was Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan), and someone in our class spoke about this book, and immediately, I knew I needed to read it ASAP.

In this book, Matt Haig talks about his own personal experience of having suicidal thoughts, social anxiety and depression, and as someone who deals with these issues myself, I felt like I could have used this earlier. It explains depression and anxiety perfectly; it is so easy to understand, unlike most self-help books out there, that anyone could read about it.

But I suppose the main reason why I loved it was because I could relate to 90% of the book. As a man who is going through a dark time at the moment, you start to convince yourself that you’re the only bloke with mental health problems, even if people say otherwise. I don’t know any guy who’s suffering from anxiety and depression like me, so to read this and actually think “Wow, people were actually telling the truth…”, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

Not only was it relatable, but it was funny (which for a self-help book, I was pleasantly surprised), and inspiring. As Matt Haig said: “Words – spoken or written – are what connect us to the world, and so speaking about it to people, and writing about this stuff, helps connect us to each other, and to our true selves.” And after reading this, it’s made me inspired to write about my life too.

Now, obviously, it hasn’t cured me. I’m not “myself” again, I’m not perfect. And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect it to. However, I know that I will re-read this book in the future, again and again. This book will be my religious text for the next few months, even years, until I can finally get better… if that day ever happens.

Rating: 5/5