September Book Haul

September has been quite a month for book buying.  Here are the new additions to my shelves:


Bought books

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton. I have been researching hard-boiled crime fiction for some time now, and the Alphabet murders always show up. So, thanks to Abebooks, I got myself a second-hand review copy.

Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter (Grant County Thriller #1). I have never read anything by Karin Slaughter either and the series feature pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton.

The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen. I am a huge fan of the TV show Rizzoli & Isles so, why not try the original series?

Purity by Jonathan Franzen. I enjoyed Freedom and was quite intrigued by the premise of his latest novel. Plus, lucky me, I found this hardback edition for 12€.


For review books

The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly. I love all of Daly’s books, and she has even been around answering some questions.

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward. I have been Twitter friends with Ward for some time now, and we finally met last May at CrimeFest, so I am super excited about her debut novel, which has been compared to Gone Girl.

Summer Re-Cap, Autumn Plans, and Life

It’s been a while since things got personal here, at Books & Reviews. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you know life has been kind of hectic in the last few months and the blog has suffered from it. I am still reading and writing, but for my PhD. I am also working part-time at my alma mater doing paperwork, and basically learning how things get done at my Gender and Diversity MA. But now summer’s over. I had time to work, relax, read, go to the beach and enjoy myself like I had not done in my life, and here are some stories, news, plans, and chit-chat.

Despite my PhD supervisor and my Mum’s predictions, I managed to actually relax and not work at all during August. My two best friends were leaving for America, so we spent a couple of lovely days in my parents’ house by the beach. We managed to say goodbye to each other for the last time without actually realising it, making the situation much easier for everyone. They are now back home, doing what they love, and we keep each other posted all the time – thanks 21st century social media!

View from my parents' house at the beach. Night bliss.

I also read a lot, even though this year I have not read half as many books as I did last year. But it is fine. I am trying not to give myself a hard time about this, and just read a bit every day, even though that means cutting on sleep time. I am also writing a lot, for my PhD, and some little creative things again. It feels good.

Now that autumn is here, I would like to read something atmospheric. I know I read mostly crime fiction so, finding an atmospheric read should not be difficult. But, can you believe I have never read any Shirley Jackson? And although I do get the references to And Then There Were None – or Ten Little Niggers, as I like to call it, don’t you love early 20th century covert racism? – I have never read it either. So, these two are on my TBR list, inspired by your RIP reading lists.

Autumn is, basically, a count-down to Christmas on my mind. Every month puts me closer to that magical time of the year I am the happiest – and most excessive – person on Earth. If you are a Christmas freak yourself, you can follow the Official Santa on Twitter to get your daily count-down to Christmas tweet. You’re welcome. This is also that time of the year someone at home catches the flu, and we keep passing it on to each other for months, like an old copy of a good novel, except for the fever, and being sick. Let’s keep our fingers crossed on this one, and let’s hope the flu shot actually works this year.

So, what are you doing after Summer’15? Any stories that you would like to share? :)

It’s Monday. What Are You Reading?

I am joining you all today, sharing what I’m reading:

In my free time: Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane. A good friend of mine who also adores crime fiction kept insisting on my need to read Stephen King and Denis Lehane so, a few months back I bought a second-hand copy of Lehane’s most well-known novel and I’m carrying it on my handbag everywhere I go. That’s how much I love it.

Gone, Baby Gone

For my PhD: Detective Agency. Women Rewriting The Hard-Boiled Tradition by Priscilla L. Walton and Manina Jones. I never thought I would write about hard-boiled crime fiction for my PhD, yet here I am, worshipping this book and everything it says.

Detective Agency

What are you reading?

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Apparently, someone says Twitter does not sell books. Well, I beg to disagree. I came to know of Ruth Ware’s debut novel In a Dark, Dark Wood as I have been in the past years: over Twitter. In fact, during the most recent of my trips to Wales, I pestered a lovely, very kind Waterstones Cardiff employee because I could not find that “new crime novel, about a wedding and a murder”. And this two months prior to the book’s publication so that you know how much I heard about it, and how eager I was to read it. It was also Twitter who gave me the title, since I had forgotten it. It is bookish Twitter appreciation day, it seems, so thank you to everyone – and especially to the publisher for sending me a review copy – for making it possible for me to read In a Dark, Dark Wood.

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Someone’s Getting Married

Someone’s Getting Murdered

Nora has no seen her childhood friend Clare in a decade when a mysterious email invites her to Clare’s hen… and not to her wedding. A successful crime fiction writer, and totally independent at the age of twenty-six, Nora dwells for day whether to accept the invitation or not. She finally does, but why does Clare want to reconnect with Nora? And why would anyone organise a hen in a luxury house in the middle of the Northern woods?

The premise for In a Dark, Dark Wood is one only a few crime fiction readers would not feel attracted to, and the book’s tag line is good enough to attract those who would not be so sure, for a wedding and a murder are two events that hardly go together. As readers, we are given quite a lot of information about the story: what is happening, where, the fact that someone will die. But we are not answered the three most crucial questions in crime fiction: Who? by Whom? and Why?

In a Dark, Dark Wood is the perfect exercise on crime fiction and women’s representation. All but one of the main characters are women, and what is more traditionally feminine than a hen party? Ware makes a huge effort to deconstruct the meaning of these parties, and weddings in general, from Nora’s point of view as an outsider. Why invite someone to your hen but not to your wedding? What is expected of the bride and her friends during the event? Why is a luxury house in the woods not the right place to throw a hen party? All the complex, and traditional social constructions that come with these rites of passage are laid bare by Nora’s first person narration.

However, I had one big issue with the book, and that is that I saw the end coming. This is not a bad thing per se, as it is quite a usual problem with readers of crime fiction. I enjoyed the rest of the book once I figured out what was going on, and I do not really thing it takes away from the reading, more than knowing a dog barks when an unknown person approaches, as Sherlock would put it.

So, In a Dark, Dark Wood was the addictive, thrilling, and women-led crime novel that the buzz promised, and I know I will read more of Ware’s works in the future, were she to keep publishing – which I really hope she does.

The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Maeve Kerrigan #4)

A few months back I read some wonderful reviews about the Maeve Kerrigan series in some of your blogs. Later on, I came across Jane Casey over Twitter, and after much talking about our common interests, which include Ireland, London and crime fiction, she kindly offered to send me a couple of her books featuring London-based, Irish DC Maeve Kerrigan, for which I will be forever grateful. Last August, The Stranger You Know (Maeve Kerrigan #4) made it to the top of my TBR pile while searching for a good police procedural to take away with me to my holidays. Spoiler alert: I could not have chosen a better book!


The Stranger You Know is the forth in the Maeve Kerrigan series, and although I usually read procedural series in order, I was so glad Casey had sent me this novel personally, that I forgot about the previous installments in the series. I have to admit I am very happy that I did this. The Stranger You Know can be perfectly read as a stand-alone, because the author makes a huge effort to situate the reader, and there is no trouble at all deducing the personal relationships between the main characters. Also, now that I know how much I love DC Kerrigan, I know I still have three other books to get to know her past, and how she came to be one of my favourite fictional detectives.

If there is something remarkable in The Stranger You Know, it is the crime in itself, something that had not happened to me for a few reads now. It seems that recently, crime fiction has been more of a character study than a good, thrilling case, but this novel changed it. As a huge fan of the TV show The Fall, I could not but see the resemblances to the also Irish production, while noting that Casey’s story has nothing to envy to the silver screen. The inclusion of a cold case gives the narration more depth, and allows the author to prove her skills at portraying teenager social relationships mixed with social expectations, and that first love that makes your head spin round. Kerrigan is brought to the team investigating the murder and postmortem amputation of three young, hard-working, upper-middle class women in their London houses when the second victim of the so-called ‘Gentleman Killer’ turns up. There are no apparent similarities between the victims except for the modus operandi, and Maeve’s true calling to the investigation by her boss, Godley, comes from a darker place than she expected:

‘Charlie wanted you to be involved because you have more in common with the victims than the rest of us do’.

From that moment on, Kerrigan devotes all her efforts – in the typical and ever inspiring crime fiction way in which no one sleeps and eating is overrated and usually forgotten – to capture the killer that is threatening London’s young women. In the process, she even feels identified with the killer, in the sense that they are both getting sleepless nights, and adrenaline rushes from the women: him from the killing, her from the detecting process. Even though this is typical device, I will never get tired of the moral and emotional process that ties the detective with the killer, and Casey nailed it by making Kerrigan subvert what everyone thought she had to do – identify with the victims – to what she finally did: identifying with the killer.

The fact that the series main character is a woman does not always mean that there is anything remarkable about women’s representation. But, add the crimes, a pregnant forensic doctor, an Irish mother, a Lesbian co-worker and her partner, and London’s young, professional women that include two migrants, and the scope of female characters you get is wide and diverse. I was very pleased to read things such as ‘everyone has an accent’ as a reclaiming of the many englishes – no capital C needed, for there is not such hierarchy – versus the supposed London English, which I dare say may come from Casey’s own experience in London as an Irish migrant. Finally, I was particularly diverted by DI Josh Derwant’s irreverent tone, which usually stood for the Patriarchal discourse, and Kerrigan’s impossibility to shout up or stop herself from proving him wrong, and letting him know so.

What can I say? The Stranger You Know has made me fall  in love with DC Maeve Kerrigan and her spotless, always on-point detective work. I will be reading more of her, and possibly of Casey. Stay tuned for a review of the next book in the series, The Kill.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

I first learned about Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill on Twitter, when it was described as “Mean Girls meets The Handmaid’s Tale“. I love Mean Girls, and I have not read The Handmaid’s Tale yet, but I love everything Atwood writes, and I am sure her masterpiece is no exception. So I requested a review copy, and Alainna Hadjigeorgiou at Quercus books made sure I got one within the week.

OnlyEverYours Review

Only Ever Yours is a dystopian, feminist novel. I am not shocked at all that many people have compared it to Atwood’s fiction. O’Neill herself read English at Trinity College in Dublin, admiting that “I was always drawn to the more feminist modules, taking classes such as Gender and Sexuality studies and Post-Colonial Women’s fiction” (source). The main character, freida – yes, like the painter, no, no need to use a capital letter in O’Neill’s work when referencing women – is facing her last year at an all-girls school where women are trainned for their life in the EuroZone, that is, what is left of Europe after we, lovely human beings, almost destroyed Planet Earth. But this school is different to what we understand as education nowadays. The girls are weighed-in and taken pictures of every morning. Standards must be upheld! These are the wives of the future leaders of the Euro Zone. These are the women that will give birth only to sons. These are the women that – in a survivial of the most beautiful, and patriarchal-oriented – are going to destroy each other to be chosen by the best husband.

O’Neills narrative about the struggle of these girls against the constant images they are subjected to feels painfully familiar. ‘You are never enough’, the subtext that 21st century women are constantly subjected to is turned into an overt narrative: Never thin enough, but too thin if you take it too seriously. Never enough made-up, until you go too far and look like a whore. However, there are deeper concerns in Only Ever Yours, feminist concerns that I would like readers to discover by themselves, because I found out the ridiculousness of these arguments while reading the novel, and next time those same arguments cross my mind – and they will, they always come back – I will laugh out at them and remember that constant improvement, and perfection, do not exist.