Author Archives: kirk72
Desperate Mary Grace Winters knew the only way to save herself and her child from her abusive husband was to stage their deaths. Now all that remains of her former life is at the bottom of a lake.
As Caroline Stewart, Mary Grace has almost forgotten the nightmare she left behind nine years ago. Slowly she has learned to believe that her new life, and new identity, is here to stay.
Then her husband uncovers her hidden trail. Step by step he’s closing in on her and everyone she loves. Now Caroline must decide whether to flee again or whether the time has come to stay and fight..
We knew we were in for a good chat.
The first thing that came up was that it clearly showed it was Rose’s first book. We found it cartoony with stereotype characters and a plot that has been over used many times before. We didn’t find it to have a lot of originality although one of our group has read several more books and assures us Rose gets better and more original and you can see her progression as a writer as the books continue. It was also surprising that based on all the above Rose had re-written the storyline several times before it was sent to a publishers.
One of the reasons for picking the book was to be able to discuss women crime writers and how they are often bracketed as romantic suspense writers instead. We compared Rose to James Patterson whose characters are always falling in love and being smoochy but are clearly labelled crime writers although with Patterson his females always end up dead. With this book it doesn’t seem to know what it is – suspense or romance. It’s labelled romance but the storyline is about domestic abuse a subject that did not sit well with any of the group. We found so many of the characters to be unlikable as well.
One reader did not like the romantic element of the book stating and I quote: ‘too much kissy kissy’. This seems to be a common argument on Goodreads too. We did though go back to Patterson who has a very similar level of romance and sex scenes but is not picked up on for it. We also discussed how Rose follows a similar pattern to dark fantasy writers (a subject that came under much scrutiny) in taking minor characters from one book and making them major players of the next one.
Overall we found the book difficult to read as we couldn’t get into the flow. Also, it was boring and frustrating. One reader said it was a mess. There were no redeeming qualities. It was soap-opera-esque and a bit too real life.
Told you we had opinions!
This months tangents:
- The book and film of The Martian
- Mills and Boon does physics
- How long did it take you to give up on Patricia Cornwell?
- Can you name a British female author that writes a good crime thriller (we settled on Val McDermid who we are reading next)?
- The kindle knows all your secrets….
SCORE – Nora Roberts does it better
It is 1537, a time of revolution that sees the greatest changes in England since 1066. Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church and the country is waking up to savage new laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers ever seen. Under the order of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent through the country to investigate the monasteries. There can only be one outcome: the monasteries are to be dissolved.
But on the Sussex coast, at the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control. Cromwell’s Commissioner Robin Singleton, has been found dead, his head severed from his body. His horrific murder is accompanied by equally sinister acts of sacrilege – a black cockerel sacrificed on the altar, and the disappearance of Scarnsea’s Great Relic.
Dr Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, has been sent by Cromwell to investigate. But Shardlake’s investigation soon forces him to question everything he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes . . .
This was one of those random picks where some of us got to read a book that has been sat on the shelf for a long time. It was my pick and I wanted to read something along the lines of a previous pick ‘The Name of the Rose’ but without all the latin and for the most part we enjoyed it with praise for the religious debates contained within the story.
After several other books such as Wolf Hall which present different perspectives on Cromwell we found it interesting to see a book written with the common viewpoint of Cromwell in mind – a man responsible for the sacking of Catholic churches.
We found the book to be set just past medieval times – which seems to be a favourite period amongst the Outlaws – but still at a time when history was interesting and as one reader said ‘before history got modern and boring’. Set around the time of Anne Boleyns death; we enjoyed Sansom’s depictions of myths and conspiracies as to why she was beheaded.
It was also a dangerous time and we had a good chat about those in the Kings favour who were often in fear of his mood swings resulting in the loss of their heads. How often people were afraid to speak up especially if they disagreed with the Kings opinions such as with religion. Church was a huge part of people’s lives and we discussed how people would be fearful of having opinions as that could also lead to the loss of one’s head.
We discussed the tradition of patronage and the blossoming egalitarian reformists and how despite reform and our protagonist had been such a person, how he still believed in patronage with his assistant Mark; brought to London after growing up on his father’s farm.
As the crime was set in a monastery we talked about dodgy priests, with one reader commentating that some of the best forgers were from medieval times. This was something from the book, where several priests wrote false land documents.
We discussed which point in the book everyone figured out whodunnit with a varying degree of answers from midway discussions on the constant talk of marshes and a point where it was mentioned several times how heavy certain boxes were by people who shouldn’t be moving said boxes! (spoiler free sentence!). There were far too many co-incidences in the story such as the commissioner at the monastery also being the one to investigate the alleged lover of Anne Boleyn.
We had a little chat about assistant Mark – a man so in love he was prepared to overlook the fact his girlfriend was a murderess who chopped off people’s heads. I have a comment – must be the tight trousers – which I think was to do with Marks constant habit of getting into trouble with women.
With Shardlake himself we liked how he was a flawed individual, weary of the reform he had helped to move forward and prone to tantrums, such as when he lost the girl (Rose) to Mark.We liked the fact that it made him more human-like. Also his hunchback made him an outsider, like the monks helping him to form strong relationships on the way to solving the crimes.
Lots of red herrings in the book which made it enjoyable and we decided it had an air of Agatha Christie about it. We loved the way the story was constructed and the way it was set – descriptions of the journey, the smells of London and so on. It was very easy to visualise the times.
This months tangents (not many this month):
- Henry VIII wives
- How medieval crime solving would have been so much easier if they had mobile phones rather than having to travel by horse a hundred miles to pass a message on.
- The church of Spain claiming to have the head of John the Baptist as a boy. Then whose head did he have as an adult????
TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
JOHN LE CARRE
George Smiley, who is a troubled man of infinite compassion, is also a single-mindedly ruthless adversary as a spy.
The scene which he enters is a Cold War landscape of moles and lamplighters, scalp-hunters and pavement artists, where men are turned, burned or bought for stock. Smiley’s mission is to catch a Moscow Centre mole burrowed thirty years deep into the Circus itself.
This month’s book was a classic spy thriller. For a few of us our first taste of this story came from the recent film of the same name although one reader remembers a TV show with Alec Guinness in the 1980’s. The book is also part of a trilogy with everyone remembering the third book Smileys People but no one recalling the second The Honourable Schoolboy.
We felt it was a slow burner and found ourselves slowing down our reading pace to accommodate this. Everyone agreed the writing was beautiful and we liked that there was no attempt to explain certain things such as the slang words used in the book. It’s spycraft language and Le Carre expects his readers to understand it as everyone uses it in the book.
We thought the character of Ricky Tarr was like James Bond without the glamour. This led us to a Man from UNCLE tangent and the fact that no one should have to watch the new Fantastic Four film.
As per usual my notes make no sense a few weeks after the session but we talked about the Fry & Laurie sketch Control and Tony and their take on British spy’s
We thought the book was of it’s time but made better by the fact Le Carre was a real ex-spy and discussed the fact he owns a mile of cliff near Lands End. This led us to discussions on rows and rows of filed and the reliance of paperwork rather than google and computers of todays super spies.
More tangents – this time comparing Gary Oldmans’ nondescript face versus his overacting face. We agreed that in the film of this book he had his nondescript face which helped the movie.
There are no straight lines in the story, it weaves in and out of various threads meaning teh reader has to concentrate which is not always good for the MTV generation who want fast pace and short chapters. We also liked that there was no definitive ending but did discuss the different ending to the film.
Every weekend, in basements and parking lots across the country, young men with good white-collar jobs and absent fathers take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded for as long as they have to. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything.
Fight Club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter and dark, anarchic genius. And it’s only the beginning of his plans for revenge on a world where cancer support groups have the corner on human warmth.
* * * * * SPOILERS* * * * *
The evening started with the usual jokes – let’s go home early seeing as we can’t talk about it. Most people had seen the book and watched the film with only one person never previously giving in to any hype.
We talked about masculinity and how the club started as a way of getting back at absent fathers mostly by beating the…stuffing…out of each other. Although at points the characters were described as whiney teenagers blaming everyone but themselves for their behaviour.
Everyone seemed to have a different idea of when they first realised that Tyler and the narrator were the same person. We were quite surprised that you never learn the name of the narrator. Some people realised they were the same person as Tyler was never in the same room as Marla.
This book broughT up lots of questions such as who taught Tyler/Narrator how to be a projectionist, how to make soap from human fat and so on especially as the guy had an office job. Where did he get the chance to learn these skills? Also why was Marla storing her mother’s fat? (to use as Botox apparently)
One reviewer questioned the incoherence of the book and the strange sense of time and wondered if it was deliberate. They questioned whether it was simple bad writing or the author trying to show the effects of a fevered mind. One reader said all the characters needed a good slap.
We went off on an imdb tangent – a common occurrence in this book group as we looked up all the other films Meatloaf had been in before discussing rumour of Fight Club 2; the graphic novel.
Moving onto anti-consumerism with the Narrator blowing up his flat and old life, Somehow this got us on to the Cottingley fairies, not just a tangent but an entirely different discussion group altogether!
It was also seen as an antidote to the mass of women’s romances at the time
That moved us onto the success of the book and how it’s now more famous as an idea and possibly not as good as we’d remembered. We talked about how the author is always thought to be Tyler and the real life Fight Clubs that appeared.
We accepted that Marla was important as a plot point and to move the story on but there’s not enough on her cancer and there could’ve been more done with her. That got us onto whether men could write female characters.
I have ‘space bunnies’ written in my notebook but no idea why….
Lastly we talked about the movie again as Hollywood changed the ending opting not to blow up the building but placing him in a mental institute.
Another common theme in Outlaws as so many books have been made into films with a happy or in this case happier ending
Date: 20th May 2015
OVER SEA, UNDER STONE
Like many adventures, this one began with a holiday in Logres (land of the West and King Arthur), the discovery of an ancient map and a search for a buried grail.
But then it turned into something much more important and frightening.
This is the first of the five books which form The Dark is Rising sequence.
Getting back on point we discussed how this book was originally written for a competition and it wasn’t until a few years later that the author went back and continued the series which resulted in the series being named after the second book rather than the first.
Our books seem to have recurring themes of children whose parents have died. It made a nice change in this book to have the parents alive, if mostly absent.
We had to guess the ages of the children as they weren’t given. Based on studying two years of Latin we guessed eldest child Simon to be about 12 or 13. Most of us ignored the Latin bits!
We thought the descriptions were really good and gave a good sense of menace.
SPOILER alert: We discussed how long it too people to guess that Merry was Merlin which had various results,
Some found Simon and Jane annoying but others like Jane for being sensible and not being a wimp. It made a nice change that she got to do things rather than sit around sewing. We applauded her for her bravery and even when not wanting to go on the boat it was due to gut instinct and not liking the eventual bad guys.
Quote: ‘How long does it take to realise it’s a ****ing cave’ said in relation to the children trying to follow the clues. Why did they not just walk around the headland? But then we joked about how you wouldn’t have a book.
It was hard to work out who the villains were. They were obvious in knowing who they were but there were vague hints of the main villain being perhaps a devil but there were pagan overtones. The bad guys were reassuringly bad and we liked that they seemed to enjoy what they did.
We talked about Mrs Polk. We enjoyed her turning out to be bad and joked about how it was her putting on the head gear that solidified that she was not one of the good guys. But we laughed at the fact that she still made sure they had a packed lunch before arranging for Barney to be kidnapped!
We chatted about how in a lot of books of the mid-1900’s the middle class are good kids, working class kids with accents turn out bad. They must also be rude and have bad manners. Bill was a local kid with an accent so was clearly a criminal.
A few readers were inspired to find out what happens next.
Who’s the new Arthur? It’s not made clear. We didn’t think it was myth-y enough but the language was simple and easy to follow but definitely of its time.
7 / 10
I AM PILGRIM
A breakneck race against time…and an implacable enemy.
An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid. A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square. A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smouldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan. A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.
One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey.
We had an interesting debate as to what constitutes scary with some of us saying a gruesome scene of mutilation was the scariest part but others finding that the threat of mass genocide far scarier.
We had a good chat about the upbringing of both Pilgrim and Saracen with one reviewer saying Pilgrim’s was too easy. He didn’t have any struggles. We compared both main characters upbringings and wondered if anyone had every written a book where the adopted and foster kids aren’t happy?
Looking at the book in a historical context it seemed to work but we found it very filmy before discovering that plans were already in place to make a film. Not surprising as the author is a screen writer in Hollywood. We discussed who could play the characters which proved quite likely. One reader (ok me) wanted Tom Cruise no matter how old he may be.
One reader said the book was full of ‘whoops, there’s a co-incidence’ moments; although they were nicely woven into the story.
It’s a book where it’s easy to suspend belief. We did agree that the ending was nicely tied up in the Hollywood style although one reader said she got through the 700 pages of the book and thought ‘Is that it?’ She found that after putting in lots of effort to read it and then not like it especially the ending was annoying. One person found the back stories frustrating while others enjoyed then giving some context to the two main characters and making them more believable.
We briefly discussed Pilgrim’s health and how he must be super-fit to survive the water boarding.
We discussed using the little disabled child for emotional manipulation and also the tension in the law and order between the 9/11 hero police officer and Pilgrim with Pilgrim having no issues using the child and the more morally ambiguous nature of the retired spy who had no issues putting the child’s life at risk if it meant keeping the world safe.
We looked at the change of Pilgrim’s life after gaining his father’s painting collection. The others saw the realisation that his father loved him after all and believed in him. Me being me saw him happy that he was now rich. Ooops
MISS SIMILLA’S FEELING FOR SNOW
It happened in the Copenhagen snow. A six-year-old boy, a Greenlander like Smilla, fell to his death from the top of his apartment building. While the boy’s body is still warm, the police pronounce his death an accident. But Smilla knows her young neighbour didn’t fall from the roof on his own. Soon she is following a path of clues as clear to her as footsteps in the snow. For her dead neighbour, and for herself, she must embark on a harrowing journey of lies, revelation and violence that will take her back to the world of ice and snow from which she comes, where an explosive secret waits beneath the ice…
Straight into the discussion this month as we talked about whether a man can write effectively as a female narrator. The general feeling was yes but we did wonder whether that was because the translation was so good and if the characterisation of Smilla was equally as good in its native Danish. We did agree that she does come across complete as a person and a character.
We then asked if any scientific understanding enhances the enjoyment of the book. Mostly because I didn’t understand the science bits and so found the book hard to read. Everyone else loved those parts with some exploring further after reading.
For some reason we questioned Smilla’s sense of direction which led to a lovely story of Helen not being able to find her way out of the toilets in a shopping mall. I love book club!
We then moved onto the cultural divide of Greenland versus Denmark and how it’s not often you see something written from a Greenlandic point of view discussing how this affects our characters.
Going onto then what seems to be a new part of Outlaws – discussing the film adaption as so many of our choices seem to have been made into movies lately. As usual it seems to have been Americanised with the ending completely re-written so there is a definitive finish rather than the books ambiguous ending. We agreed we found the book ending more refreshing and liked the idea of the reader drawing their own conclusions of what happened to the characters.
Also why was Jim Broadbent in the film?? Not your typical Scandinavian actor. Although we agreed he’d be a better choice for The Mechanic than the actual one of Gabriel Byrne. Speaking of which – discussing the Mechanic we wondered why no one was ever happy in a Scandinavian novel.
We enjoyed the writing style commenting on the choice of words used in the translation and how they flowed really well. A good mix of some Danish and German words thrown in. We liked the alternate theory of why dinosaurs died out – being attacked by parasites although it would be difficult to prove.
ALONG CAME A SPIDER
He had always wanted to be famous. When he kidnapped two well-known rich kids, it was headline news. Then one of them was found – dead – and the whole nation was in uproar. For such a high-profile case, they needed the top people – Alex Cross, a black detective with a PhD in psychology, and Jezzie Flanagan, an ambitious young Secret Service agent – yet even they were no match for the killer. He had the unnerving ability to switch from blood-crazed madness to clear-eyed sanity in an instant. But was he the helpless victim of a multiple-personality disorder – or a brilliant, cold-blooded manipulator?
The first thing we discovered was general group confusion as to who the detective was. One of us had him confused with the psychologist in the Jonathan Kellermans books, while another thought he was Lincoln Rhyme from the Jeffery Deaver series! This was nicely summed up nicely that there is now just one big American cop and we all agreed that they are all starting to blend into one. There seems to have been a collective decision for everyone who originally owned the book to have got rid of it which didn’t bode well for the rest of the discussion!
This book was the first in the Alex Cross series and was published in 1993. Straight away the book got a fair bit of stick. We found it to be formulaic and Cross was a difficult character to work out although the police procedural timescale was more realistic than in a lot of other books. None of us could decide if we found the idea of the villain with a split personality a good thing or not.
It was interesting to see that there was no point of view from Gary Murphy/Soneji even though quite a few other characters had their own personal chapters. One member called him a photo fit sociopath, which made it hard to believe in him. We compared him to ‘the joker in Batman’.
Another member meanwhile made us laugh wondering how Cross never gets tired – he is quite the super man: playing piano, work, parenting and everything else.
Was the book dated? No one could really remember the racism but don’t think much has changed in regards to that. Some things we did decide were dated included the annoying habit of constantly wearing sunglasses. Since the books release we now have mobile phones, social media, selfies, internet stalking and creating fake profiles all of which would be done probably by Murphy/Soneji in these days.
Jezzie Flanagan: We had a good chat about the femme fatale. For some reason I have written down ‘Forgot to press the space bar’! I think that is in reference to the silly spelling of her name. The general agreement was that despite being the only female character of note she didn’t quite ring true and were disappointed that she had to use sex to move forward and blowing her high flying career for money.
This sent the group off into what makes a good female character which was a fantastic conversation that I didn’t write down so you will have to use your imagination. 😉
We also wondered what would happen if one of the characters was gay. Getting confused again with the Kellerman books again there!
So one of us found it boring, another over the top and a different member thought some of the characters were cartoony. We agreed that we didn’t want to be a member of Cross family seeing as so many of them get injured or killed, leading to comparisons with Kate Adie!!
We then wondered if Helen had been reading a different book to everyone else again as she kept wondering where Angeline Jolie was.
Cross’ relationship with his boss came under criticism as there was no explanations for the political battles they had and made us wonder what the point of those were.
Switching to the film version we discussed the shortened time frame and how films must have happy endings.
Some quick notes: the plot was too complex but the book was easy to read with short chapters being a positive. However many quickly lost interest. The characters were strong and defined even if not always believable. We liked Cross and Sampsons relationship.
Would we read more? Most said probably not however if it was on a shelf in a holiday cottage or hotel then maybe.SCORE