Friday, 17 January 2014

The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared

The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

You just got to buy something with that title, haven't you? My friend recommended it to me. Swede Allan Karlsson climbs out of the window of his old folks' home to escape his 100th birthday party. He gets to the bus station, buys a ticket to somewhere random, and accidently steals a suitcase containing a large amount of money from a thug. The thug, of course, follows him on the next bus. And thus begin Allan's adventures.

Alternating chapters give Allan's back story. At 100 years old you'd expect him to have a lot of back story, but maybe not quite this much. In Forrest Gump style, he seems to have been present at many pivotal moments in history. He helped invent the Atom Bomb in 1940s US. Then he gave the secret away to the Soviets. He befriended several US presidents, had a young Kim Jong Il sit crying on his lap, and had a large amount of money given to him by Mao Tse-tung. As you do.

It's the most quirky of all quirky books. Told in a detached, amused voice, and maybe takes a little while to get used to the style, but in the end I couldn't put it down. Loved it. So unusual!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The War of the Wives

The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

Lent to me by my neighbour, who was interviewed by the author as part of the research for this book. Say no more!

Simon Busfield has been found dead in unusual circumstances, though the police initially assume it's a suicide. His wife Selina is at the funeral along with her teenage and adult children, when his other wife, Lottie turns up with her teenage daughter. Simon's been leading a double life - partly in London with Selina and partly in Dubai, later also London, with Lottie, for the last twenty years.

The story is told in alternating first person sections, from Selina and Lottie's POV. Each go through the classic stages of grief - denial, rage, depression, acceptance. As events unfold it seems Simon wasn't as wealthy as Selina at least assumed, and was involved in some shady business deals - could he have been murdered?

There are all sorts of twists and turns and plot developments in this book. It's beautifully written - the two women have very different voices. I was totally caught up in it and could not put it down. Definitely recommended.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Another catch-up

It's all going to pot on this blog, isn't it?

Here's what I've read and enjoyed in the last month.

His Brother's Keeper by Sally Quilford
Part 1 of a series, a supernatural thriller. There's a vigilante in a seaside town where an oil company are about to start fracking. Investigative journalist Rachel Cohen is sent to look into it and meets enigmatic local businessman Gabriel Henchard. As usual for a Sally Q novel, lots of twists and turns and it keeps you reading and guessing. The ending is open but a bit abrupt - definitely leaving the way open for a second or more books in the series.

Loving Protector by Sally Quilford
A Regency romance, which is doing brilliantly on the website. Calista meets the dashing Brook Windebank when he rescues her and her family from a highwayman. She falls in love with him, but doubts he has any interest in her. This book has all the ingredients of the regency period - balls, social niceties, an unpleasant stepsister - bit like a Cinderella retelling. Very readable and enjoyable. Sally has a knack of writing books in all genres which you just can't put down once you've started them.

4 little books on research techniques by Helen Kara
Helen's a friend who had published a major book on researching and evaluating the results of research. She's now published short extracts of these books as Kindle ebooks, and I skim-read them. Very useful for anyone who ever needs to do any market or social research - questionnaires, interviews etc.

So You'd Like to Open a Wool Shop by Kath Kilburn
I really wouldn't, but Kath's an online friend and I was interested in her experiences. This book is very readable, useful if you are considering starting a small business, and pretty amusing in places too, as Kath tells you how to avoid the mistakes she made.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
An agent I met last year, when asked what the next trend in publishing would be, commented that if something like Gone Girl ever landed on her desk she'd snap it up. So I had to read it!
This is a psychological thriller. Nick's perfect wife, Amy, has disappeared. The sitting room looks as though it's been made to look as though she was abducted. But the details aren't right, and the police (and reader) begin to suspect Nick of having possibly murdered Amy. The book is told from Nick's point of view, and interspersed with extracts from Amy's diary. But this is a masterpiece in unreliable narrators. Although at the start you like Nick then begin to distrust him, is he really guilty? Or is there more to it.... With more twists and turns than the road to Alpe d'Huez, this is a hugely enjoyable book and one which will stay with me for a long time.

A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams
One of two books by this author I won in the Authors for the Philippines auction. It's the second of a series about a set of families living in the village of Hope Christmas. The novel covers an eventful  year in their lives, in which one farmer has a major accident which alters his personality; a teenage girl gets pregnant; another extended family fight over which school a son goes to and who he should stay with at weekends. It's an enjoyable tale though I would recommend reading the other in the series, Last Christmas, first, so you know the characters.