Gone Girl

I bought Gone Girl  by Gillian Flynn two weeks ago and decided to read it as soon as possible so as to avoid spoilers. I’d been lucky enough to go from the publishing date til today without hearing anything more than it was the story of a marriage and it all started when the wife disappeared so that the novel was a mystery/thriller/crime one. Good. Everyone who had also read it thought I was fine knowing that, neither too little nor too much. So, on Saturday night I tucked into bed and started reading. It took me longer than I expected (I finished it yesterday evening) but overall I’m glad with my reading since I’ve been working on my dissertation and trying to keep reading Anna Karenina.

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Although I usually post a full description from Book Depository, I’ll adhere to what I said above: the less you know about Gone Girl, the better. It is a mystery novel and if you aren’t the type who reads the ending before the beginning (I hope there’s not many people like this!) you’re better only knowing it’s the story of a marriage. Author Gillian Flynn had already written a few other mystery novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects – which I’m dying to read – where people were very lonely and disconnected from each other, so she wanted to experiment with the idea of a marriage. I think this is a great idea. The institution of marriage has evolved a lot in recent times, especially thanks to feminism and the redefinition of marriage as a civil institution as well as a religious one. It is also very interesting how marriages have an appearance in society, almost-fixed gender roles that are now – thankfully – being redefined. Also, how marriages work as an identity: we never know what’s going on behind closed doors. And even if we think we do know, we actually don’t. This is the idea behind Gone Girl and it works spectacularly well. What really makes it work is how Gillian Flynn creates two different, distinctive voices: Nick’s and Amy’s and how reliable and plausible they both are. If anyone still doubted female writers cannot write convincing male characters, this book will prove them wrong, although I hope those people are a minority.

I highly recommend it to anyone who likes mystery and/or crime novels and in search for a good read. Despite being a NYT best-seller (are you a little bit snobbish like me and the “NYT best-seller puts you down when picking a book?) it is good, even dense and I, at least, had to put it down a few times to rest even though I’m afraid I was tired of reading and writing all day. So, yes, this is a great novel and I highly recommend it, especially if you want to read it before you encounter any spoiler or watch the movie even though it’s on its very early stages with Flynn herself adapting it and Reese Witherspoon producing.

This is how much you need to know if you haven’t read Gone Girl yet and I hope I haven’t over shared. Now, from this point on I’ll discuss SPOILERS from the novel, so continue reading at your own risk!

Author Gillian Flynn and actor/producer Reese Witherspoon will work together in the movie adaptation of Flyn''s bestseller "Gone Girl" with Flynn herself adapting the text.

Author Gillian Flynn and actor/producer Reese Witherspoon will work together in the movie adaptation of Flyn”s bestseller “Gone Girl” with Flynn herself adapting the text.

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Out Today

Two great books are out in the UK today. I was kindly sent advanced review copies for both of them and already read and reviewed them a long time ago. But today, seeing pictures of those amazing authors – two women I admire – signing copies and meeting fans, I just wanted to dedicate them this post and the best luck.

The Promise by Ann Weisgarber

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  • You can read my review here.
  • Ann kindly allowed me to interview her. Read the interview here.

Ann has been a dear to me for some months now. After our interview, we kept exchanging emails and I met a wonderful, generous and kind woman, a professional both as a writer and as a social worker in every sense of the word. Lately, just when I was told I was fired, she supported me and encouraged me to keep working and don’t lose my faith in myself. She is now in the UK signing copies and promoting her second novel The Promise which I highly recommend: it follows a Northern piano teacher moving to Galveston, Texas in the late 19th century after she marries a long-time friend for practical reasons. There, her quick, Northern accent and her lady-like manners will be just a little part of her struggle to adapt herself to a society she could have never dreamed of.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

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  • You can read my review here.

Kate Atkinson entered my life in 2010 and I think she’s never going to leave. I fell in love with everything in her novels and although I haven’t talked to her directly, she’s been in contact with me through her publicist for which I’ll be forever thankful. Her latest novel Life After Life- not a Jackson Brodie one – follow Ursula Todd as she tries to live her life perfectly in the first half of the 20th century.

Best of luck to both of them. And to the readers, don’t forget to pick up your copy (or copies!)  to tuck into bed and enjoy two of the most relevant reads of 2013.

Body of Evidence

Body of Evidence is the second of the Kay Scarpetta novels. My wonderful man bought me a gorgeous hardback edition containing both Postmortem and Body of Evidence. I read Postmortem last Christmas and decided to read a book (Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper) before facing Scarpetta #2.

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From Book Depository:

A reclusive writer is dead. And her final manuscript has disappeared …Someone is stalking Beryl Madison. Someone who spies on her and makes threatening, obscene phone-calls. Terrified, Beryl flees to Key West – but eventually she must return to her Richmond home. The very night she arrives, Beryl inexplicably invites her killer in …Thus begins for Dr Kay Scarpetta the investigation of a crime that is as convoluted as it is bizarre. Why would Beryl open the door to someone who brutally slashed and then nearly decapitated her? Did she know her killer? Adding to the intrigue is Beryl’s enigmatic relationship with a prize-winning author and the disappearance of her own manuscript. As Scarpetta retraces Beryl’s footsteps, an investigation that begins in the laboratory with microscopes and lasers leads her deep into a nightmare that soon becomes her own

First of all, the main attractive of Body of Evidence, as in the rest of the Kay Scarpetta novels, is Kay herself. She is a middle-aged woman, professional, beautiful, a good cook and very, very, intelligent. Every time I open a Scarpetta novel, I want to work harder than I already do and somehow, I’m inspired by her. I’ve also learnt that a woman may need to work harder than a man to be recognized the merit she legitimately deserves even though these two first novels were written and set in the early 1990′s. This gives the novel some vintage feeling: DNA is a novelty, computers are something I would certainly not recognize, mobile phones do not exist and everyone keeps using public telephones. If you’re accustomed to read modern crime novels, this will struck you as too outdated at the beginning, but with Body of Evidence, I set my mind to think in an early-1990′s mood as I try to do when reading Sherlock Holmes’ novels. It certainly gives the text a different feeling.

For all those crime fans out there, you already know Patricia Cornwell is an incredible crime writer in the most commercial and addictive sense. Someone at Goodreads described her books as the  “popcorn” of the genre and I agree. But I would also like to highlight how complex and well-tied the plot is: everything is connected and although I’m one of those readers who like to stop and try to solve the mystery, it was impossible for me to figure out any of these. One thing I did not like though is that it follows a similar plot structure to Postmortem and somehow, Kay is way too involved in the case (with all its consequences, good and bad). Also, Body of Evidence is very meta: the victim is a writer so that will put Kay in touch with more writers and even the publishing world. For us readers, this makes the story much more interesting.

I would recommend Body of Evidence to any crime fiction fan although I really doubt if there are many out there who haven’t read Cornwell yet. It took me some time, but now I couldn’t be happier I discovered her novels. Kay Scarpetta is a true role model and it inspires me to be better at my job and spend more time doing research. After all, she has a degree in Medicine, another one in law and is connected to the FBI. Her personal life may be a mess, but characters need to be flawed to be more likable, and for Kay, it’s her personal life what makes everything more difficult. Oh that and how wonderfully amazing she is!

The Secret Keeper

I became a Kate Morton fan some years ago, not only because I like her stories, but because I find her style very inspiring. Every time I pick up a Kate Morton, the writer in me craves for a notebook and a pen and millions of colorful stories flood my mind and The Secret Keeper was not an exception. I would like to thank Sophie from Mantle for sending me a review copy months ago and patiently waiting for my review.

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Note: This is the cover for the US edition.

From Kate Morton.com

1961: On a sweltering summer’s day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can’t wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.

2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds–Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy–who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatally entwined…

If you ever read anything by Kate Morton, you know her books are all about layers: present and past are connected through characters, both past and present too. The Secret Keeper follows Morton’s typical style and connects events from WWII, the 1960′s and 2011. The chapters and divisions are so well-organized and details so greatly described that making the right connections is never a hard task for the reader: of course, we are asked to do such connections and sometimes a notebook and a pen can be helpful, but nothing too complex.

What surprised me the most about the book is that it explores WWII while Morton is more well-known for 19th century and gothic stories and settings. I was surprised but I was also pleased. WWII is one of those historical periods I cannot read without sobbing like a baby for hours, but Morton’s approach, although extremely poignant, was not like that. The characters are everyday man and women who are worried about their own survival and – for better or for worse – do not care about what is going on in Germany, for seeing London and their own families and houses devastated is enough to bear. This point of view humanized the characters in an incredible way, making them more approachable.

The characters are much more complex than those in her previous works. In The Secret Keeper there are no good and bad characters at first, although as the novel progresses, the division becomes clearer both for the characters and their actions. Their characterization is so well-done that sometimes goes against the plot itself (those of you who read it know what I’m talking about) but they are definitely a pleasure to read.

I would recommend The Secret Keeper to anyone who likes cozy, high-quality mysteries. Morton has done it again, she has created – and resolved – a family secret with a central and passionate love story with a complex structure and much historic accuracy. For those who haven’t read anything by her yet, this would make a great start, as would do any of her other books really. But beware, Morton’s colorful and polished style will stimulate your imagination and make you long for your own stories and characters.

You can read The Secret Keeper‘s first chapters here.

Check Kate discussing The Secret Keeper and her writing process:

Postmortem Kay Scarpetta #1

I didn’t think I would read another book before the new year began. These days are filled with family meetings, lots of food, presents to enjoy and cozy evenings in bed watching films. So, when the always wonderful Mr. B&R gave me my Christmas presents, I couldn’t belive my luck: all films and books! Lucky me, I started browsing the books and felt immediately attracted to a one of the titles: Patricia Cornwell’s two first novels on the Scarpetta series: Postmortem and Body of Evidence. Although they come together in one volume, I will review them separately since I’ve planned to read another book between them.

Postmortem

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From Book Depository:

A serial killer is on the loose in Richmond, Virginia. Three women have died, brutalised and strangled in their own bedroom. There is no pattern: the killer appears to strike at random – but always early on Saturday mornings. So when Dr Kay Scarpetta, chief medical officer, is awakened at 2.33 am, she knows the news is bad: there is a fourth victim. And she fears now for those that will follow unless she can dig up new forensic evidence to aid the police. But not everyone is pleased to see a woman in this powerful job. Someone may even want to ruin her career and reputation …

I started hearing a lot about Patricia Cornwell this year. Her last Scarpetta novel was published, then I saw her on a Criminal Minds episode being praised by the geeky and lovely Dr. Spencer Reid and finally she showed up on an academic article I was reading. So, I insisted on how much I wanted to read her novels and how I though Dr. Kay Scarpetta would be the kind of character I would like being a medical examiner. And I was right, I loved her.

Postmortem was written and published in 1990 and has a clear 1990′s flavour, it is clearly dated in that aspect: DNA analysis is still something new and PCs are a technological wonder only available for professionals and rich people. I personally grew up with a computer at home and hearing about DNA, so while I was reading how DNA analysis may not be accepted at court, it sounded weird, outdated, but still lovely. This was the time of no mobile phones, no total and complete access to the Internet and all the information it contains.

Regarding the plot, it as the perfect rhythm which will make you stand on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. It is divided into chapters with the perfect length but that will keep you up till the wee hours of the day, they are the kind of  “just one more” chapters that end with a mystery that will make it impossible to put the book down. There is also a remarkable amount of technicism, but Cornwell makes forensics easy to understand for the reader, no wonder she’s known to be the creator of the “forensic thriller”. No scientific or medical knowledge is needed, but those who have them will enjoy the descriptions and have fun examining the technological developments since 1990.

There are no words to describe Kay Scarpetta. She is the kick-ass main female character you’d like to meet, be friends with or even emulate. Like many of our modern detectives, she is flawed, but she is also intelligent, compassionate, a hard-working woman in a male-lead world who needs to stand up for herself just because she is a woman and, as a consequence, underrated. Scarpetta is an inspiration and a character you love to spend your time with and with every page you turn, you get to peer at her inner life until she becomes a deep, complex character.

One quick word about the edition shown in this post: It is part of a collection of the 20 novels Kay appears in. Volume I includes the first two novels published in a hardback, high-quality edition. What I loved the most is that coat seems to actually be stained with blood: if you leave the book around, a quick glance will make you think there is some stain in the coat. When looked directly you can clearly see a big, red stain with smaller drops around. It caught my attention because of how original and effective this little detail was. Cover designs like this one are much appreciated!

Finally, I would like to comment on the crimes she investigates. Don’t panick, no spoilers here, but just a word for future readers: I was a little bit scare, or let’s say revolted. They could easily be taken out of a Criminal Minds episode and even though I like the TV show, there are days I cannot watch it, it’s too much. Postmortem is not one of those episodes I could not watch, but it is definitely much more violent and upsetting than Kate Atkinson’s or a cozy mystery. I would only recommend Cornwell to real fans of crime novels.

A Question of Identity

I was kindly sent a review copy of A Question of Identity by Susan Hill a few days before it was released. I had no idea Hill had a detective series and I really wanted it to be part of my Halloween reading. Eventually, it took me longer to finish, but now I can finally say I know who Simon Serrailler is!

From Book Depository:

This title is the seventh “Simon Serrailler” crime novel. How do you find a killer who doesn’t exist? Duchess of Cornwall Close: sheltered accommodation, a mix of bungalows and flats, newly built and not quite finished. Despite the bitterly cold weather, elderly residents are moving in. They don’t notice the figure in the shadows. Someone who doesn’t mind the cold. Then, one snowy night, an old lady is murdered – dragged from her bed and strangled with a length of flex. DCS Simon Serrailler and his team are aware of bizarre circumstances surrounding her death – but they keep some of these details secret, while they desperately search for a match. All they know is that the killer will strike again, and will once more leave the same tell-tale signature. The break comes when Simon’s former sergeant, the ever cheerful Nathan Coates, tracks down a name: Alan Keyes. But Alan Keyes has no birth certificate, no address, no job, no family, no passport, no dental records. Nothing. Alan Keyes does not exist. “A Question of Identity” introduces a new and chilling element into the “Simon Serailler” series: it takes the reader inside the mind of a deranged killer. This is Susan Hill’s most thrillingly imagined crime novel to date.

At first, it took me some time to get to know the characters, plus I had never heard of Serrailler, so I had no idea who was who and how they were related. As I kept reading, I slowly met the characters and hinted their relationships that, for now, have been developed in the past seven titles, so I do not really think I grasped everything as it is. I must admit this might have been one of the reasons why I did not really enjoy the novel. Sure, the characters are well-developed, clearly intertwined and the crime Serrailler faces is a good one, but I felt I was a stranger to everyone in the novel.

The case is very interesting and very Criminal Minds. Don’t get me wrong, those of you who think the TV show is nasty, there is nothing like that in the book, but there is a psychological background that reminded me of Quantico team. Hill clearly explores the problems of identity and reference. Are we the same although we change? If we are chubby and we lose weight, do we really feel different? And, if you really want to do something but suppress your desires, are you a better person for doing so?

I am really happy I read A Question of Identity at this time of the year. The whole novel has snow, rain and coldness that make the crimes even more uncomfortable. This is not a cozy mystery/crime novel although there is no blood or too many descriptions. The novel focuses on characters and the psychology behind them, what motives them, what makes them act like they do, etc. So, I would describe it as a psychological crime novel.

For crime fiction fans, I would say A Question of Identity is an entertaining book and it has all the previous Serrailler success behind, but I must say I hinted who the killer was. Not that I had any evidence, I really do not think Susan Hill gives so many clues, but there was something. What? I cannot tell you. Those of you who read crime novels know what I am talking about. It felt awkward.

Regarding Serrailler and my first impressions. All I can say he is the kind of semi-tortured, sexy English detective that appeals to a wide audience. He is blonde, he is intelligent, he is a great detective and he cares for his family, but there is something dark about him (probably explained in the previous novels, but I do not really know for now).

So, I would recommend this novel to anyone who already knows Simon Serrailler. For those who, like me, had no idea he is, I recommend it too, the story is good, but I think we would had better started from the beginning. Every time I feel like reading a good but quick and easy crime novel, I will think of Simon Serrailler.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I started reading Cloud Atlas back in August along with Leah from Books Speak Volumes. We both wanted to read it and decided that we could make the most of the book by discussing a section a week. So, during the last eleven weeks, we have exchanged our views and have benefited from each other’s opinions. Not only that, but we have also forged an amazing bookish relationship.

From Book Depository:

By the author of THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, David Mitchell’s bestselling and Booker Prize-shortlisted novel was one of Richard & Judy’s 100 Books of the Decade and has now been made into a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagans California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified dinery server on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation the narrators of CLOUD ATLAS hear each others echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small. In his extraordinary third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.

I had first heard of Cloud Atlas on the Internet, reading things like “this is more complex than Cloud Atlas” and I did not understand why. After reading it, I can tell you people were right. Cloud Atlas is a complex book, one of those that makes your brain work really hard to make all the connections so that you can slightly understand the story.

Cloud Atlas is divided into eleven sections, dealing with six different characters set in very different times and places in the past, the present and the future. The book has a matryoshka style meaning that every section is related to the following one in a narrative level: basically, each section contains the previous one. And so on, and so forth: it is up to the reader to make the necessary connections. Like Leah herself said: “SO META.” This makes the book really complex but also very interesting from a narrative point of view. You can see Mitchell worked hard at tying it up all together at a narrative level, but at the same time, at a thematic level: from the first section, set in the 18th century, to the ones set in the future, slavery, the subjection of the other and how it helps to construct our own identity string together the six different scenarios.

Now comes the difficult part. Do I think Cloud Atlas is a great novel in terms of technique, narration devices and themes? Yes. Did I enjoy it? No, I didn’t. To put it simply, this book is not something I would read had it not been turned into a movie I’m definitely watching with Mr. Books&Reviews. I am not the biggest sci-fi fan, so that explains it all. But do not get me wrong. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in present-day fiction or sci-fi. It is incredibly well-written, the characters are complex and although it makes you work hard, it pays off. This is what literature is about: thinking.

I would like to finish this review by saying there were some parts I enjoyed, specially some quotes like the following:

Books don’t offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.

The Casual Vacancy

When The Casual Vacancy news flooded the world some months ago, I was super excited for J.R Rowling publishing an adult book, a typically English book and for the description provided on many websites, it almost felt like a modern Cranford. So, I bought it and finally after a lot of waiting (never trust the mail system) it arrived at the beginning of October and although it was not what I expected, it was a great reading.

From The Book Depository:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

First thing you need to know is that there are a lot of characters, so I highly recommend drawing family trees and keeping the piece of paper nearby while reading. This is, after all, the story of a little town. I would even say the town herself is the main character and the families become secondary: it is the relationships they form from being in the same town that create the characters, it is what define them. For me, it was very interesting to see how the place affected her inhabitants and how the town manipulated them. Why I say that a place can manipulate people, I blame Foucault, Derrida and Rossi Braidotti.

But what I liked the most about Rowling’s writing is how she deals with social problems from what is clearly an insider’s view. We all know how she wrote the Harry Potter series after finding herself “as poor as you can be in the UK without being homeless” and with a little baby girl to care for. It was then that she benefited from social welfare and, in The Casual Vacancy, that social welfare is discussed from two opposite points of view: those who want to stop it and those who want to keep it. What is most interesting is that neither sides are good or bad, they are all grey. They are all perfectly drawn, human characters. They are believable.

Regarding the characters, the book explores all ranges of social class: from those who benefit from social welfare to those who rule the city, from lawyers and doctors to unemployed drug addicts, from healthy people to incredibly sick and disturbed ones, from youths to grown-ups. They are all connected and they are all vulnerable thanks to their belonging to the community that Pagford is. Not only do they need each other, but they live for each other, because human beings are after all, social animals.

So, I would recommend The Casual Vacancy to anyone who is in search for a long, complex but highly enjoyable reading. It is 500 pages long and it contains adult language (the F-word appears a lot), but at the same time is a realistic portrait of a human community. It is, very much the English and community-oriented counterpart to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. A novel typical of the 21st century.

Finally I would like to make a quick note on Rowling’s side regarding social welfare. She has said:

I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism. On the available evidence, I suspect that it is Lord Ashcroft’s idea of being a mug.

Although she is clearly pro-welfare, she presents both sides and portrays them as faithfully as possible. Both sides have powerful arguments and they are worth hearing, but it is our own personal choice what remains.

The following part of the review contains SPOILERS:

I really enjoyed the book, but was super surprised by:

  • How Barry ignored his own family. I’ve seen examples of people who care too much about outsiders and not enough for their own families but reading how angry and disappointed Mary was gave me a taste of what it is to someone like that. Pure cruelty under a mask of social conscience and a good image in the community.
  • Colin’s dirty secret. I seriously don’t know how Tessa could love him or how Fats was not afraid of him. Or how he dared to work in a high school. I could not pity him, I tried but then the “what if he was the headmaster of your children’s high school?” thought came around and that was it.
  • Krystal’s fatal ending. Rowling made a really good point for those against welfare: Krystal wanted to take advantage of the system and was willing to risk it all to have Robbie because somehow, the system had failed her. Tears came to my eyes as they found his body and she then locked herself in the bathroom. I knew what she was thinking of and did not question for one moment whether it was the right decision or not. I spent the whole novel wondering how she put up with everything. I couldn’t.

What do you think? Are there any other moments that surprised you?

 

 

 

Suggested Halloween Readings

I think I’m not alone when it comes to themed readings and this month, it’s Halloween! I have been thinking of what I’d like to read and what I’d suggest if anyone asked me, so, I combined it with my passion for lists and decided it was time to write this post.

Books I’d love to read for Halloween:

1. Dolly by Susan Hill

I loved The Woman in Black and I’m dying to read her new book! I read it in two sittings and it scared the dead out of me. The atmosphere is eerie ala Rebecca. We spend the book asking ourselves: What are we really scared of?

2. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

I’ve been planning to read something by Winterson for some time now, but have not really been attracted to any of her books. The Daylight Gate takes place in the Jacobean era and  involves witches and Catholicism. Could it get any scarier?

3. The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe

I saw Alexis Castle from TV show Castle reading it for a Halloween project and since then I’ve wanted to read it but never really did it. I think Halloween 2012 is the perfect time to do it, isn’t it? You can also read it for free here.

Books I’d recommend:

1. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

For those who want a quick, passionate and catchy reading. It is dark, eerie and full of the Victorian/Gothic enviornment that we nowadays like so much.

2. The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

There is something supernatural about this short story: the main characters seem doomed from the very first page and it is so beautifully written, it makes the perfect reading for a rainy, dark evening. Read it, here.

3. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

Another short story, especially representative of Poe’s style and attention to the minimal detail both in descriptive and formal terms. A second reading can help to reveal a second meaning to the story. Read it, here.

Have you planned any Halloween readings this year?

Review: The Coroner

The publishers at Mantle Books kindly sent me The Coroner by M.R.Hall, the first on the Jenny Cooper series, a month ago and I was in awe when I opened the parcel because I really, really wanted to read it. The best part was that I had no idea what was waiting for me…

From Book Depository:

When lawyer, Jenny Cooper, is appointed Severn Vale District Coroner, she’s hoping for a quiet life and space to recover from a traumatic divorce, but the office she inherits from the recently deceased Harry Marshall contains neglected files hiding dark secrets and a trail of buried evidence. Could the tragic death in custody of a young boy be linked to the apparent suicide of a teenage prostitute and the fate of Marshall himself? Jenny’s curiosity is aroused. Why was Marshall behaving so strangely before he died? What injustice was he planning to uncover? And what caused his abrupt change of heart? In the face of powerful and sinister forces determined to keep both the truth hidden and the troublesome coroner in check, Jenny embarks on a lonely and dangerous one-woman crusade for justice which threatens not only her career but also her sanity.

The first thing I would like to say is that I love Jenny Cooper. I admire her and I would want to be her if I could still grow up. But I can’t, so I just allow myself to admire her complexity. M.R Hall has created a truly human female main character even now that women are writing male main characters and has made her so human as a literary character can be, which is a lot. As I kept reading The Coroner, I found myself more attracted to Jenny and her troubles and, even though I can only partially relate  to her anxiety problems, I understood her. And her daily survival, struggle and coping were so inspiring that I was thankful for having encountered her.

The novel, divided into chapters, is full of legal vocabulary but not so much as to get lost. M.R. Hall makes huge efforts to help the reader understand everything without being patronizing or losing any detail. The style is accessible and I had no problems following the plot or any of the cases, from a legal point of view.

The pace is something I would like to highlight: The Coroner is one of those unputdownable books, one in which you never lose interest. I think all credit goes to the author and his use of time: the reader gets to see a development but in a not too-long period of time so that you never get bored.

As any crime novel, it reflects on some of our society’s worst flaws. However, due to the legal nature of the plot, non-English people may find it difficult to identify the system (legal, political etc) that is portrayed in the novel. I did not have any problems, but had to check some positions on the internet so as to compare them with those of my country. Once you research a little bit, it is all easy to understand.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a great, “five stars” reading and especially to crime fiction fans. I think it is very difficult to be disappointed with The Coroner and Jenny Cooper. I am glad we’ll be seeing so much of her in the future: the series continues and The Coroner is being adapted as a TV show. So, keep your eyes open!

Loving the novel so much as I did, I dared to ask M.R. HALL for a short interview. I had a lot of questions regarding the novel, especially why he had chosen to write a woman instead of a man as the main character. Lucky me, I got all my answers and more! You can read the exclusive interview here:

Special thanks to the publishers at Mantle Books for sending me a review copy of The Coroner in exchange for my honest review and to M.R.Hall for answering so quickly and so sincerely the questions of a huge Jenny Cooper fan.