Posts Tagged ‘recommended reads’

The Liar’s Chair, by Rebecca Whitney

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A year or so ago I was at my favourite writing retreat and met fellow guest Rebecca Whitney, who was working on what would become The Liar’s Chair. Sat in front of the fire clutching a glass of wine, I listened rapt as she read an extract. I remember being consumed by the desire to know what happened next. Now finished and published by Pan Macmillan I have my answer.

The Liar’s Chair is the story of Rachel Teller, a prosperous businesswoman who accidentally kills a man in a hit and run incident. It is a taut, gripping plot, with controlling husband David covering up the accident and insisting Rachel and he pretend nothing has happened. But this one act of violence sends fissures across the meticulously cultivated veneer of Rachel ‘s seemingly perfect life, and arouses her husband’s darker side.

I got in the bath to start reading this book and didn’t get out until I’d finished. Wrinkled like a prune and having emptied the boiler of hot water, I was fascinated by Rachel and her plight. But more than simply a tense page-turner, The Liar’s Chair is a stunning psychological profile of a character. Whitney delves through the shadows of Rachel’s life to bring the reader an extraordinary understanding of the woman we meet on the first page. Rachel is a troubled character and I’ve seen a few reviews sighting her as unlikeable, but I think we should be wary of damning protagonists on their likability. This is not a popularity contest, and all too often the question of likeability is only raised in regards to female writers and female protagonists: so unused are we to seeing real representations of women. Rachel is not a two dimensional portrait, but a complex, augmented, fully-formed person. She is very very real. Something I hope we see more of when it comes to female characters.

If you’re in the mood for a pacey psychological thriller, and don’t mind abandoning your plans for the day, then I’d recommend The Liar’s Chair.

The Liar’s Chair by Rebecca Whitney: dark, startling and compelling 4/5

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One Minute Critique: The Dead Ground, by Claire McGowan

| One Minute Critique, One Minute Critique Books

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Full disclosure: I know Claire personally. We’ve got pissed together in a staggering number of places. I’m a writer, I hang out with other writers, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I got round to reviewing a pal’s book. I’m not going to pull the wordy wool over your eyes and neglect to mention our relationship. That’s not cool. But I will let you know my policy for reading and reviewing my mate’s books (whether on a public forum or face to face): only say something if you liked it. Everyone’s different with different tastes, and even a bad book is hard to write. There’s no point needlessly hurting the feelings of your writing buddy if you don’t dig their work. However, if you love it, and you love them, it’s your duty to tell anyone who’ll listen how bloody brilliant it is. And McGowan’s book is bloody and brilliant.

The Dead Ground is the second in McGowan’s Paula McGuire series. Paula is a forensic psychologist in a current day Northern Ireland specialist team investigating missing persons. In The Dead Ground she is investigating a stolen baby and, in case with many dark twists and turns, soon the disappearance of a heavily pregnant woman…and more. Paula is also pregnant and she doesn’t know who the baby daddy is, and whether she wants to keep it. Let’s hear it for an interesting, multifaceted strong female lead. You know, like a real life woman.

Just like McGowan’s first book in the Paula McGuire series, The Lost, this one plunged me into a world I thought I was familiar with from the telly box news. Turns out I know nothing about post- troubles Northern Ireland. McGowan’s writing illuminates a unique culture, in which the tensions of the past permeate the present. It makes for a fascinating and complex backdrop to what is an incredibly gripping, and at times distressing, story. Be warned the prologue is particularly brutal. And to think I’ve slept in the same room as the mind that conjured that up.

 The Dead Ground, Claire McGowan: a heart beating 5/5

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Bank Holiday Books

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Make the most of the last Bank Holiday weekend of summer, and the year, and grab yourself a good book.

For intellectual posing by the pool or in the park: 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, the Orange Prize winner Madeline Miller will raise your temperature with this story about the love between Achilles and Patroclus (yes, they’re both men).  A tenderly written, beautifully described re-telling of a tale that appeared in Homer’s The Illiad.  The story runs in a golden blur across the sand like it’s eponymous hero; and despite knowing what ultimately happens, the book never loses its pace or tension.  I became so entwined and invested in Patroclus’ and Achilles’ destiny I couldn’t put this down.  I kept reading till the early hours of the morning before snivelling into a pack of tissues.  Stunning.

For making you appreciate holidaying with your family isn’t so bad: 

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

First, let me assure you Jeanette Winterson’s autobiographical Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? isn’t the depressing tear-fest you might fear.  Then let me tell you that it is, at times, harrowing.  You cannot read the life story of a girl who was abandoned at birth, adopted by a borderline poverty-stricken family, abused by her religious zealot adoptive Mother and rejected for being a lesbian, without expecting a few tears.  But there is more than misery in this memoir.  There is survival and hope.  Winterson is a strong woman, a strong writer and this is a book to make you value your life.

For the day after murder on the dance floor:

The Fall by Claire McGowan

This is a murder mystery with a difference.  It’s not just the victim who meets a sticky demise; the middle class dream is butchered too.  McGowan joyfully destroys every spoil and sparkle of Charlotte, her spoilt protagonist, when a week before her £40K wedding her banker boyfriend is accused of murder.  Charlotte must seek help from unlikely sources: Keisha, an angry woman with a potentially deadly secret, and Hegarty, the police officer who arrested her fiancé.  I didn’t know crime could be this funny.

For reading on your Kindle, if you’re over the age of 21:

Diary of a Chav: Trainers v Tiaras by Grace Dent

Technically this is a young adult novel, but don’t let that put you off.  Dent nails the language, life and dreams of her Chav protagonist Shiraz Bailey Wood, from Goodmayes Estate, Essex with her trademark humour.  But far from ending up the joke of the book, Shiraz is a hilarious, intelligent young woman you really root for.  This is a stealthily clever read, which made me re-examine my own prejudices as well as laugh so much my organic herbal tea came out my nostrils.  But be warned: there are six books in this series, and once I started I had to read them all.  Worth a cheeky download, innit.

Have a happy bank holiday weekend x

 

 

 

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