book reviews , different studio guests each week. Join us every Thursday between 12 and 1pm on Radio Scilly 107.9fm or log on to radioscilly.com.

Missed any programmes? See below for list of guests, books and other details discussed.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Robert Galbraith – Cuckoos Calling


 book reviewed by showhost March 2015
Having watched an episode of the ‘Casual Vacancy’ on tv ( which was based on the book written by JK Rowling) and finding it very strange I didn’t know what to expect from this book written by the same author.

Cormoran Strike is a big burly private investigator – ex war hero, who fought in the Falklands, for which he received serious injury and lost part of his leg.  Cormoran has a not too happy childhood with a drug addicted mother and being an illegitimate son to a famous druggy pop star father who doesn’t want to know him.  He has just been turfed out of his (well officially her) home by his wealthy fiancée and is now living rough in his office.  But maybe his fortune is changing when he is approached by a lawyer, John Bristow, who is sure that his recently deceased, famous, adopted super model sister, didn’t commit suicide but was murdered.  Lula Landry is the adopted daughter of a wealthy family and John Bristow, her adopted brother, is convinced that she had no reason to commit suicide
The police had investigated this at the time of her death but they found no substance to support this theory.  John Bristow chose Cormoran Strike because he was friends with his adoptive brother, Charlie, who died at a young age after an accident at a quarry.
Cormorans skepticism begins to change as he investigates and delves into previously ignored footage and witness statements, helped at times by his temporary secretary Robin.

I really enjoyed this crime book.  It isn’t a fast and furious crime page turner (like Simon Kernicks books) but a detective novel with a strong lead character and the scene expertly set.  The author vividly describes the time and place to enable you, the reader, to imagine you are there with Strike and his newly acquired temporary secretary Robin.  A good novel needs a strong lead character which you get to know and like (Lisbet Salander for instance) and this has it in Cormoran Strike.  All the characters in the book were very well portrayed and I feel there is a good partnership starting up with Cormoran and Robin. Looking forward to reading the next one ‘Silkworm’.  Watch this space….

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Joan Woodcock - Matron Knows Best

Review written by Maggie Perkovic and read live on the bookshow on 26th Feb 2015
This is a true story of Joan Woodcock who started her career in 1966 as
a cadet nurse, where Matron is very much in charge.
She loved the work and put up with the more unpleasant areas without complaint.
No university training for her,,just basic knowledge and of course the dreaded
exams which she studied for and managed to pass.
During her career she worked on hospital wards, casualty units, out in the community ,
as well as stints in prison and in a police unit dealing with sexual assaults.
From  an early encounter with an axe injury to a patient who swallowed their
suppositories. to daily dealings with difficult patients and all kinds of bodily
fluids Joan shares her memories with laughter.warmth and tragedy, and she
praises the now defunct matron system which ensured clean wards and cared for
patients..
Reading this book makes one realise how much has been lost by constant changes
in the NHS, professionalism and patient care being replaced by too few staff
and those in charge not understanding what is happening on a day to day basis.
Very good, Maggie Perkovic,

Jodie Picoult - Leaving Time

Review written by Maggie Perkovic and read live on the bookshow on 26th Feb 2015
I have always been a fan of this author's books and this one is another cracker.
Jenna Metcalf was with her mother the night she disappeared, but she remembers
nothing. At thirteen Jenna reads and re reads her mother's journals hoping to find
a clue in the meticulous recording of her scientific research on elephants.
Using her savings Jenna employs a private detective and a psychic hoping
something will come to light. What happens is a gripping and fascinating
story of a woman who loved her little girl dearly,  whose husband, a brilliant
and dedicated elephant carer whose mind is starting to imagine strange
and unlikely scenarios, changing from a sensible human being to an unknown
quantity. There is betrayal and a sense of loss through out and an in depth
knowledge of elephants. The denoument is startling. Very good. Maggie Perkovic

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Dan Jones - The Hollow Crown

review written by Sue Major and reviewed by her on the bookshow on 26th Feb 2015
 
This is a slice of late mediaeval history , being a lively account of the Wars of the Roses and the rise of the Tudors. The complex inter-relationships of families and titles are made mostly comprehensible by Dan Jones , but there are many of them ...and you have to concentrate!  At times it's difficult to follow all the detailed  threads and remember who is who.....but, it's written  as an entertaining tale and Dan Jones has a real talent for doing his best to keep you interested, whilst giving you historical facts .
The turmoil of the years between Henry V and Henry VIII is clearly shown  and the ebb and flow of power and royal favour underpin the book. You have to stick with it, and it delivers in spades.
  It's a big read, but fascinating in spite of it's weightiness. I enjoyed it immensely.

Ann Cleeves - Blue Lightning



review written by Sue Major and reviewed by her on the bookshow on 26th Feb 2015

Detective Jimmy Perez takes his fiancee to Fair Isle to meet his parents , but when bad weather cuts the island off from Shetland and a body is found in the bird observatory , Jimmy takes charge of the investigation.

This novel concludes Ann Cleeves series of four novels set in Shetland, and her descriptions of the scenery and the tense, charged atmosphere on remote Fair Isles are superbly tackled.  She did after all live on Fair isles for a time , working at th Bird Observatory .
 The characters are well drawn.....I particularly liked the calm ,  reserved nature of Inspector Perez, and his methodical seemingly pointless observations and questions to  those who may or may not be suspects.  The plot was clever, and I didn't have an inkling of the villain until virtually everyone else had been eliminated
However, I didn't get the point of the final dramatic events.....and I thought it a bit unnecessary....it added nothing to the story.

I did enjoy the book, and will certainly read the others in her Shetland series. I've seen her  TV detective Vera.....but Jimmy Perez is a much more credible, engaging character.

Jo Jo Moyes - Night Music

This audio book review was written by Ro Bennet and read live by her on the bookshow 19th Feb 2015.

This is another book by Jo Jo Moyes which I really enjoyed. I discovered that I can download audio books from the library so I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book as I potter around the house and do chores. I can even listen when I’m gardening! 

The only problem I have found with downloading these audio books its that the choice is limited. I have put in loads of suggestions and well known authors to no avail. A couple of the books I downloaded I deleted almost immediately. One because I found it too stupid for words and the other because the narrator’s voice irritated me to distraction. 

At the moment I am listening to the unabridged version of Wolf Hall and the Narrator, Simon Slater,  is excellent. There is a little icon where you can see what other books the narrator has read which is an excellent idea - except I have never heard of the book they mention in this case.  BUT you can listen to a preview, which is also an excellent idea. 

So, back to Night Music - as usual the characters are well drawn. I really disliked some of them and absolutely loved others. 

The book begins with downtrodden Laura Mc Carthy taking some food to Mr Pottisworth, a thoroughly unpleasant, nasty old man. She’s been taking care of him for 9 years, in the expectation that he will leave his home - called The Spanish House to her and her husband Matt when he dies. Matt who is another unpleasant character, is obsessed with the prospect of owning this house which he considers his due. He is constantly planning how he will renovate it. 

Meanwhile Isabel Delancey, a professional violinist and recently bereaved widow is living in London with her children, 16 year old Kitty and 9 year old Thierry. Paralysed by grief, and shock after husband’s fatal car crash, she has not been coping well and has neglected household affairs. She is shocked when she is informed by the solicitor that her finances are in a dire state. The reader finds out the reason for this during the course of the book. 

Then she discovers that she has inherited The Spanish House because a distant relative has died intestate. So the family is uprooted and move from the city to this house which is in a dreadful state of repair, in the middle of nowhere, with limited funds. Along comes Matt who offers to renovate it with the help of Byron Firth a local odd job man - and at a cost. 
Of course Matt, a ruthless man,  has his own agenda and has not given up hope of eventually owning The Spanish House by fair means or foul. 

There is a lot of suspense, my heart was sinking as I could see this poor woman floundering out of her depth, depleting her finances and resources  and her children struggling to cope in an alien situation and location while quietly being undermined by someone they were trusting. Of course Isabel also met with disapproval because as a musician she was rather unorthodox for many of the villagers who lived nearby.  

There are interesting twists and turns and unexpected heart warming incidents, so it wasn’t all gloom and doom. Kitty fortunately is more practical and down to earth than her mother and is a likeable character. Thierry has been mute since his father’s accident and in due course the reader discovers the reason for this. 

It was an interesting book, an easy read and a page turner which kept me engaged. I found myself really rooting for the family and hoping that there would be a happy outcome. I would definitely recommend it. 

Lindsey Davis - Enemies at Home (Falco the New Generation Flavia Albia)

This audio book review was written by Ro Bennet and read live by her on the bookshow 19th Feb 2015.

This is another library audio book that I have thoroughly enjoyed. The narrator is Lucy Brown who is excellent. 

I have read most of Lindsey Davis’ books about Didius Falco the Roman informer and I have enjoyed them all, as I love her style and her witty sense of humour. I had intended to finish those books before reading the series about the new generation, which focus on his adopted daughter Flavia Albia who has also become an informant. But when I put Lindsey Davis’ name into the library audiobook search, this is the only book that came up. It’s not even the first book in the series, it’s the second, but it’s ok as a stand alone, although I will read the first book once I have read the rest of the Falco series.

I’ll give you some background to the story which has been gradually unfolded during the original Falco series: 
Falco was born on 20 or 21 March 41 AD  His father is a somewhat shady auctioneer. While Falco is still young, his father leaves his mother and the family home to live with another woman. When his brother is killed, Falco is effectively head of the family.
Falco joins the Roman Army and serves in Britain during the Boudiccan Revolt. 
He met his wife, Helena Justina, the divorced daughter of a senator while on an investigation in Britannia. He and Helena now live together with their two daughters. Falco and Helena adopted Flavia Albia, a British child, whom they rescued in London when she was found hidden after her parents were killed. 

The Ides of April  is the first book about Albia’s role as informer. It is AD 89, Albia is 28. Presumably her father has retired - but I won’t know until I read the last book in the first series.

This is from the official Book Description:
In Enemies at Home, Albia is portrayed as a remarkable woman in what is very much a man's world: young, widowed and fiercely independent, she lives alone on the Aventine Hill in Rome and makes a good living as a hired investigator. An outsider in more ways than one, Albia has unique insight into life in ancient Rome, and she puts it to good use, going places no man could go, and asking questions no man could ask.

Even as the dust settles from her last case, Albia finds herself once again drawn into a web of lies and intrigue. Two mysterious deaths at a local villa may be murder and, as the household slaves are implicated, Albia is once again forced to involve herself. Her fight is not just for truth and justice, however; this time, she's also battling for the very lives of people who can't fight for themselves.

Enemies at Home presents Ancient Rome as only Lindsey Davis can, offering wit, intrigue, action and the further adventures of a brilliant new heroine who promises to be as celebrated as the much loved Marcus Didius Falco and his wife Helena Justina, her fictional predecessors.

In Ancient Rome, there were more slaves that free citizens. Consequently, 
often the people Romans feared most were the “enemies at home,” their own slaves. Because of this, Roman law decreed that if the head of a household was murdered at home, and the culprit wasn’t quickly discovered, his slaves—
all of them, guilty or not—were presumed responsible and were put to death. 
All the slaves would have been executed anyway, for failing to protect their owners.

So, when a house is burglarized,and the owners are found dead in their bedroom, their household slaves know what is about to happen to them and they bolt to the Temple of Ceres for sanctuary.

This makes them the problem of local magistrate, Manlius Faustus. Faustus therefore recruits informer Flavia Albia to investigate the murders.

This is another gripping read by Lindsey Davis - she’s very adept at building up suspense and I had no idea who the murderer was. Her descriptions are so vivid I really feel like I am drawn into first century Rome. I can picture it and smell and hear it - and almost taste it. Lindsey Davis is a clever and well informed woman and you can appreciate the amount of research that has gone into giving these books their authentic flavour. I find it interesting to read about the varied lifestyles, from senators to slaves, their homes and what they ate and wore and their customs etc.  And beside this they are excellent murder mysteries and a guaranteed good read. Heartily recommended!