Preparing for our 2014 Year In Review

Rob and I are getting ready to put together our 2014 Review of the Year podcast for you. There have been some fantastic books that we’ve loved this year, but we’d love to know your thoughts too, so we’re sharing the categories with you in case you’d like to get in touch and tell us some of your favourites from 2014. Continue reading “Preparing for our 2014 Year In Review”

Review: Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders by Kate Griffin

London, 1880.
In the opium-laced streets of Limehouse the ferocious lady Ginger rules with ruthless efficiency.  But The Lady is not happy.  Somebody is stealing her most valuable assets – her dancing girls – and that someone has to be found and made to pay.

Bold, impetuous and with more brains than she cares to admit, seventeen-year-old seamstress Kitty Peck reluctantly performs the role of bait for the kidnappers.  But as Kitty’s scandalous and terrifying act becomes the talk of the city, she finds herself facing danger even more deadly and horrifying than The Lady.

This thrilling historical mystery takes us deep into the underworld of Victorian London.  Take nothing at face values, for Kitty is about to go down a path of discover that will have consequences not only for herself, but for those she holds most dear… Continue reading “Review: Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders by Kate Griffin”

Review: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge, and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence services.  The year is 1972, Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism and faces its fifth state of emergency.  The Cold War has entered a moribund phase, but the fight goes on, especially in the cultural sphere.

Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is sent on a ‘secret mission’ which brings her into the literary world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer.  First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man.  Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life?  And who is inventing whom?  To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage – trust no one.

I was very excited to begin Sweet Tooth as I have great respect for Ian McEwan as a writer, having greatly enjoyed Atonement (*sob*), Solar and Enduring Love.  I was especially intrigued as I knew it had been discussed as a mixture of literary fiction with the spy thriller genre, which I love.

I can confirm that Sweet Tooth doesn’t disappoint.  Serena’s journey from slightly awkward teen to member of the British secret service, via a not-completely-satisfactory degree and affair at Cambridge, was fascinating.  I love reading stories set in places I’ve visited myself, so I found the passages set in and around Cambridge, and in London, particularly enjoyable – McEwan really captures the setting expertly without spending more than a few sentences on it.  He saves his words for his intricately woven plot.

Despite being described to me as a spy thriller, Sweet Tooth moves at a leisurely pace.  McEwan doesn’t hurry us, and spends plenty of time on Serena’s time at university and her affair with a lecturer, as, without that, we wouldn’t fully appreciate the later sections where he moves into the echelons of the secret service.  I really enjoyed this more literary take on the genre – it’s a refreshing change from the conventions of tiny chapters and cliffhangers.

I really enjoyed the way that the era was evoked; the petering out of the Cold War, the strikes,the gradual modernisation of London, and of espionage. And of course, it’s a book about books.  I love a book about books.

The only thing that didn’t win me over completely Serena herself.  At times, I found her rather cold.  I was totally convinced by the character and at times found myself getting quite cross with the way she talks about her ‘fat friend’, in a way that I hope most women wouldn’t.  I know that she’s supposed to be a bit spiky and awkward but I found it a bit tasteless to include those comments.  As a reader, I find it hard to enjoy a book if I don’t fully sympathise with the main character.  As a result, while I’d definitely recommend Sweet Tooth to others, I’m not sure I’d reread it myself.

Kate Neilan

Weekend Reads: Mystery Genre’s Terrible Secret, E-Book Inheritance, What Facebook Knows About You and Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom

Each weekend we round up some of the best articles or features that you may have missed during the week. Sit down with a coffee (other beverages are available) and enjoy.

The Case of the Mystery Genre’s Terrible Secret – (The Millions)

The biggest secret in crime fiction is that there are only four ways to tie up a mystery. Get ready to have an entire genre irrevocably spoiled.

Will Your Children Inherit Your E-books? – (NPR)

What happens to your e-books when you die?

What Facebook Knows About You – (Technology Review)

The data that Facebook knows about you and the effects it can have on society.

The Newsroom: Are news anchors really that important? – (The Guardian)

Will Aaron Sorkin’s major series The Newsroom do for journalism what his acclaimed West Wing did for US politics?