The Rosie Effect

The Rosie Effect… affected me!

The Rosie EffectThe Rosie Effect is the follow up to Graeme Simsion’s hugely successful novel The Rosie Project.

Before I continue this review I would firstly advise anyone (who hasn’t already) to read The Rosie Project first before this one. I feel like it’s quite necessary to learn about the characters and fully appreciate the story.

We rejoin Don as he is enjoying married life – until his new wife Rosie drops the earth-shattering bombshell that she’s pregnant. This causes no end of problems for the couple and, combined with the stress of Don’s friend Gene moving in with them and an unfortunate incident with the police, results in the couple’s marriage becoming increasingly strained despite the future birth of their child. Is this the end of Don and Rosie’s happily ever after?

I was so relieved that this novel is just as humorous as The Rosie Project – Don is still the same entertaining character with a love of order and routine, who unwittingly gets into the strangest situations just because he is ‘different’ (as people keep saying to him). Although he is highly intelligent and knows a LOT, he is very aware of this in a non-arrogant, ‘this is just how it is’ way which makes him so endearing as a character. He still seems unaware that he (probably) has Asperger’s syndrome (despite having given a presentation on this before in The Rosie Project) and, though Rosie ultimately loves him for the way he is, she worries about his future as father. As a result there are parts of the novel that are quite heartbreaking and emotional; at times the story is sadder than I was mentally prepared for when starting this book, but I really enjoyed the variance in tone anyway. The first book was overall a little more light-hearted overall but the sadder parts of this novel just make the story more rich and absorbing.

The descriptions throughout the novel are truly brilliant but what shines through the most in Simsion’s writing is the character descriptions and the ways he truly builds the characters so that they feel like real people I could meet one day.

I never wanted this novel to end- it made me laugh and it made me feel sad but it never left me feeling disappointed! I feel like it would appeal to readers of any age and gender – how can you not love this book?

Bring on book 3 (if there is going to be one- I really hope so?!)

Have you read either The Rosie Project or The Rosie Effect? If so what did you think?

Rating: 5/5

** Disclaimer: An advance copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review, thank you Penguin UK! **

The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place review

The Secret Place by Tana FrenchThe Secret Place by Tana French is set in a wealthy teenage girls’ boarding school in Ireland. Fifteen year old Holly (who incidentally is the daughter of detective Frank Mackey, apparently a character in previous books in the same series- I haven’t read the previous novels!) is a boarder at the school and takes a postcard she has found to Detective Moran, which features an image of murdered schoolboy Chris Harper and has written on it “I know who killed him”. Chris’ murder took place on school grounds a year ago and so Detective Antoinette Conway (who originally worked the case) re-opens the case and, as someone who has met and gained the trust of Holly before, takes Detective Moran with her too.

The novel mostly takes place over 1 (intense) day but so much happens within this time frame, and a lot of the novel involves flash backs to the months leading up to the murder and the time directly afterwards.

The reader is plunged deeper into the lives of the 8 girls who are the Detective’s main suspects, and in my opinion their typically teenage problems and worries only seem exacerbated by being at boarding school and constantly surrounded by their peers. I have to admit that some of the teenage ‘chat’ and slang got on my nerves a bit – but I am aware that this is just because I find the way teenagers talk quite annoying, to be frank: “Marcus Whiley is a douchewipe” and “God, don’t be so gay” being two examples. I can’t deny however that French really captures the spirit and language of teen girls. She also develops brilliant characters, all of whom seem to have their own secrets…

Detective Stephen Moran, whose perspective part of the novel is told from, is really likeable and even his cold, sarcastic colleague Collman ends up seeming quite agreeable. We also read the point of view of some of the girls, though these narratives are not written in the 1st person. This gives us a well-rounded, varied story that never failed to keep me entertained. French develops all the characters really well throughout and the fact that you’re never quite sure who is telling the truth or remembering events correctly adds to the mystery and intrigue!

I love the way the novel really takes its time and never feels rushed; French builds the characters and the storyline so well and I never felt impatient with it. From descriptions of in-depth teenage conversations to the deliberating of the two Detectives, the pace is fast enough to keep readers immersed in this alien (to most) world of boarding schools with their politics and wealth. It is also interesting that none of the girls’ parents appear properly in the novel, even in the flashbacks, apart from Holly’s dad, Detective Mackay. The girls often seem quite independent despite having rules and regulations to adhere to and the novel highlights the fact that anyone can be threatening, even if you don’t traditionally view young girls in this way; from Joanne’s sexual advances to the fact that one of the schoolgirls must have committed murder, they are in reality capable of a lot more than might appear.

The dynamic between Moran and Conway was really amusing to read. Moran is a laid-back, good natured guy who can speak on a level with the girls, and yet he doesn’t really seem to have any true friends. Conway, however, is very prickly, abrupt and at times downright rude. Together they truly have the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine down to a fine art! Their interactions aren’t too clichéd and seem quite realistic insofar as their working relationship slowly warms up as they spend more time together.

I have to say I don’t know exactly what the other ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ novels are like as I haven’t read them; from briefly researching the series afterwards it seems that the other books all focus on different detectives, but Detective Frank seems to be a popular and often revisited character. I am surprised that I hadn’t heard of this series as it’s had fantastic reviews – and I love Detective/ crime stories! I am actually really glad that I read it without knowing anything about the other series as it meant I got to appreciate it as an individual novel with no context or expectations.

Overall I felt this novel was tense, exciting and a little sad at times- and it did it all brilliantly!

I will certainly be reading the others in the series and recommending them as a book club title (In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbour).

Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5)
Daughter book cover

‘Daughter’ review: Naomi, WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?

Daughter book coverDaughter by Jane Shemilt is narrated from the perspective of Jenny, whose daughter Naomi doesn’t return home one night. A desperate search for her ensues and, a year on, the family are still none the wiser – but the effects of her disappearance have taken its devastating toll on them all. Daughter highlights the pain of losing a child, particularly when there is no closure for the family. The book reveals, bit by tiny bit, the events leading up to the night of the disappearance, and all the way through I was thinking ‘maybe this happened to her‘ or ‘maybe THAT happened to her‘ or… ‘she’s DEAD?‘.

I do like a novel that keeps me guessing!

As more and more information about the lead up to Naomi’s disappearance come to light, it’s obvious that Jenny becomes increasingly paranoid, suspecting everyone of deceiving her in one way or another, from their family support worker Michael to her own husband! There are various thoughts from Jenny which suggest this to the reader – “Perhaps he [husband Ted] didn’t like that, so he had – what? Raped her? Killed her? He would know how to; he would know precisely how to block the carotid artery, or crush her trachea.” She also thinks of Michael: “Could it be because he had done it before and he knew how to behave as if nothing had happened?” and “Could he be playing a game?” Because we are hearing events from Jenny’s perspective, this paranoia therefore only adds to the tension throughout the novel.

Naomi is the only thing on her mind; the majority of the time when she uses the word ‘she’ you know it’s Naomi who she is referring to, because who else would a mother care about when her own daughter is missing? The hunt for her daughter takes up Jenny’s entire world, and it’s interesting to consider the way this inevitably affects the rest of her family who overall seem like quite realistic characters. I really loved the development of the characters throughout the novel; they seemed real to me and, although I couldn’t imagine what this situation would be like, I felt like Jenny and her family seemed like valid representations of the horrors of literally ‘losing’ a loved one.

The struggle to raise a child ‘successfully’ is a prevalent theme throughout the book. It’s not just Naomi out of Jenny’s children who has issues; no one in their family is perfect and it really made me think about how hard it must be to raise children, and how much pressure there is to get it right. Scary stuff really! We learn, as Jenny does, that Naomi wasn’t such a ‘good girl’ after all and Jenny herself has made mistakes as well.

The story jumps from the present tense and back again to the events leading up to the night of her disappearance, and the reader finds out more about the family’s life through Jenny’s memories. I loved reading the past tense aspect of the novel but it left me wanting more of the present tense narrative as I was so intrigued! Where are you Naomi? Where did you go? Each section is headed by the time in relation to Naomi’s disappearance and this really emphasises how Jenny’s sense of time is intrinsically connected to this awful night.

The language itself was quite easy and enjoyable to read. I felt that the novel was written incredibly well and presented to the reader a mix of emotions, from the happier memories Jenny has before Naomi disappeared to the dark, devastating time afterwards. Powerful descriptions made the characters feel like real people and left me feeling completely immersed in the story. Although the ending wasn’t what I expected, I felt both hugely satisfied and emotionally drained by the end of the book!

This is a gripping, poignant story which kept me intrigued throughout and a novel which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a skilfully written mystery story!

Rating: 4/5

**Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from Penguin publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review, thank you to the publisher for providing it!**

The Cuckoo's Calling & The Silkworm front covers

Robert Galbraith’s ‘Cormoran Strike’ novels: fantastic detective stories

The Cuckoo's Calling & The Silkworm front coversThe Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm are the first 2 books in the ‘Cormoran Strike’ series by Robert Galbriath (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling). They both feature private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin.

In The Cuckoo’s Calling private detective Cormoran Strike is instructed by John Bristow to investigate the death of his sister, celebrity supermodel Lula Landry, who seemingly fell to her death from an upstairs balcony months before. John doesn’t believe that this is the truth and the more Strike explores the circumstances surrounding her death, the less he believes that she fell too. Although Cormoran’s private detective business is not doing particularly well, he knows that he needs to hire an assistant. The recruitment agency make a mistake and accidentally send Robin, who is actually after an for HR job, but she stays for the day and turns out to be a brilliant and eager assistant.

I really enjoyed the way that the novel reflected the celebrity obsessed culture we currently live in – it felt very relevant to today’s society! Cormoran’s father is a famous rock star and the way he is always trying to keep that quiet so as not to be known simply for his father’s achievements seems admirable. He is a good-natured (but sometimes grumpy) man who may not be perfect, but is certainly a great detective- however I felt that it is Robin who is the most likeable and agreeable character. She is hard working, puts up with her sulky, demanding fiancé and takes a significant pay cut simply because she likes the work Strike does and wants to be a part of it. She doesn’t seem to be a typical ‘feminine’ character either– though there is a significant contrast between her and the more ‘masculine’ Strike, she isn’t painted as a helpless woman at all. She is often very valuable to the investigation and is very able.

The only part of this novel that I wasn’t as keen on was the ending –though I don’t think it was a bad ending per se, I didn’t find it wholly believable. Despite this, I enjoyed reading The Cuckoo’s Calling so much that it didn’t really matter to me that the ending was perhaps a little far fetched… (I don’t want to give anything away so will leave it at that).

Book 2 – The Silkworm continues following Strike and Robin as they investigate a different mystery: where has notoriously eccentric author Owen Quine disappeared to? His wife wants Cormoran to find him; he has disappeared many times before -seemingly for attention- and so no one is overly worried when he doesn’t return home. However, the fact that he has just written an insulting book, with characters that seem thinly disguised as being based on people he knows, makes Strike begin to worry that he might be a victim of a revenge attack. As they continue to try tracking him down they unearth a grisly discovery that puts suspicion on half of the publishing industry and even his own wife!

I think I actually enjoyed this storyline more. I enjoyed reading about a book that explored the publishing industry and the bitchiness, dramatic nature of the authors and their agents, but I didn’t feel it was too dramatic or ridiculous. Without giving too much away about the story, I enjoyed both the main detective storyline and the side stories about Cormoran and Robin’s private lives, because both characters are developed incredibly well and over the two novels made me want to know more about them in future books. I think that’s one of the things the author excels at – creating believable characters that have hidden depths to them. That seemed to be a popular aspect with reviewers when The Cuckoo’s Calling fist came out, with many commenting on the character’s richness and depth before it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. When you are aware of who the writer really is, then you think (or I did anyway): “of course the characters are well developed!” Whatever your opinion of Harry Potter and however much people argue that these novels should be kept completely separate, the characters in the Harry Potter series were well developed and had a richness about them that made me want to know more about them, even the minor characters. This is certainly true in these two books.

Rowling has commented upon detective series as having a long potential life because “unlike Harry [the Harry Potter series] where there is an overarching story, here you are talking about discrete stories. So as long as your detective lives you can give him cases.” She has also said that she has 7 Cormoran Strike stories in the pipeline, all of which I can’t wait to read! I hope they are all as enjoyable and real page turners like the first two have been.

Something that I felt strongly throughout both books is that Galbraith manages to maintain an air of suspense and intrigue despite keeping the ‘danger’ levels for Cormoran and Robin relatively low. I never really felt that they were properly at risk in either of the books, even when they worked out who the perpetrators were, but the novels didn’t need this element of danger to keep me interested… and that, I feel, is truly skilled writing!

Rating for The Cuckoo’s Calling: 4.5/5
Rating for The Silkworm: 4.5/5