Reading Wrap Up for March 2020 – and a whoops… I forgot to post my February reads!

Firstly, wishing everyone well in this pandemic!

Well, this is certainly a new lifestyle change to when I was writing my last monthly wrap-up. With the close of my businesses and the re-direction of thoughts, my reading certainly suffered.

So, only seven books this month. Here’s some snappy thoughts on last month’s books… oh and I’ve listed the books I read in February, I wrote a post and just saw it in my drafts – so decided it was a little late to post now – lol!

Are Snakes Necessary? by Brian De Palma (the famous film director) and Susan Lehman – a caricature Film Noir style thriller, a quick, fun & quirky read (check out my previous blog posts for more chat) 3.5/5

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory – set in England, in 1648 – so Civil War and a renegade King as the backdrop for a love story, throw in some witchcraft rumours and you have ‘Tidelands’. I didn’t realise this was the first book in a series, so wasn’t prepared for the abrupt ending. Started well, but I lost my way and I didn’t overly like the male lead. 3/5

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry – beautifully written book, with such powerful imagery (second in a series) based on a young Lakota orphan adopted by former soldiers; it explores the aftermath of the Civil War in America. 4.5/5

Thorn by Intisar Khanani – nice YA fantasy read, based loosely on The Little Goose Girl fairy tale. A princess, an unwanted betrothal, and a malicious sorceress. I enjoyed it. 4/5 YA stars.

Maybe One Day by Debbie Johnson – Hidden letters and a long-overdue reunion form the basis of the plot. This was addictive fun, and I’ll be chatting in more detail later this week as part of the blog tour. 4/5

The Library of the Unwritten (Hell’s Library 1) by A.J. Hackwith – the first book in a new fantasy series based in Hell’s library – a real bibliophile’s book, as book characters come to life, and characters battle to save libraries! I had fun reading this, and will definitely look out for book 2. 4.5

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller – another YA fantasy read with a feisty anti-hero lead and a tormented Shadow King. Great escapism and fun. 4/5

Many thanks to the publishers: Titan Books, Hot Key Books and Orion for sending me books to chat about!

February Booksspeedy chat!

Firstly, a movie serialisation, which is a new format for me. This was ‘Bloodshot’ which comes out this month and stars Vin Diesel. (see earlier blog post for more chat)

Death Deserved by Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger (see blog tour post)

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue. A mystery with a mixed time-frame based on themes of obsession, jealousy and power-play. I liked this.

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda – a clever, puzzle of a novel (see blog tour post for further chat)

Beast by Matt Wesolowski – see blog tour post for more chat, but I loved it.

The Harlech Beach Killings by Simon McCleave – stronger than book one in his DI Ruth Hunter series set in Snowdonia.

The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne – fun YA romance based on misconceptions and set in space. Based on Austen’s ‘Persuasion’.

The Woman Downstairs by Elizabeth Carpenter – see blog tour post for more chat, and I really enjoyed this mystery thriller.

The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag – I struggled a bit with the slow pacing. It’s the first in a series.

Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin – based around a podcast and the investigation of a series of 1970s murders. I liked it.

‘Are Snakes Necessary?’ by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman.

A huge thanks to @TitanBooks and @HardCaseCrime for sending me a copy to read and chat about. For those that don’t know who Brian De Palma is, he’s the world-famous director of more than 30 films! These include ‘Carrie’, ‘Scarface’, ‘The Untouchables’ and the original ‘Mission: Impossible.’ He is considered to be one of the most accomplished filmmakers of the last fifty-years, a peer to Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese.

Susan Lehman is a former editor of the New York Times and author whose writing has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Spy magazine. An attorney by training, she also served as communications director at the Brennan Center for Justice.

‘Are Snakes Necessary?’ is their first novel.

Hard Case Crime ‘brings you the best in hard-boiled crime fiction, from lost pulp classics to new work by today’s most powerful writers.’

The Blurb

When the beautiful young videographer offered to join his campaign, Senator Lee Rogers should’ve known better. But saying no would have taken a stronger man than Rogers, with his ailing wife and his robust libido. Enter Barton Brock, the senator’s fixer. He’s already gotten rid of one troublesome young woman – how hard could this new one turn out to be?

Pursued from Washington D.C. to the streets of Paris, 18 year-old Fanny Cours knows her reputation and budding career are on the line. But what she doesn’t realise is that her life might be as well…

My thoughts

I was genuinely excited to receive a copy of ‘Are Snakes Necessary?’, particularly with a recommendation from Martin Scorsese on the cover (lots of Scorsese fans in my house). We’re a film watching household, and my daughter is studying film for A’Level, so there’s lots of talk of directors, and in particular auteurs. This made a new Hard Case Crime read co-written by Brian De Palma something to look forward to.

Firstly, I read a lot, so I had to adjust myself to the narrative style of this book – it’s very tell and not show. This inevitably leads to surface level characterisations, or types. It that sense, I often felt the book was a little like a ‘pitch’ at times. The characters are introduced, justified and then pulled along as plot devices, rather than being developed. They have ‘through-lines’ but they all seems subservient to the action and plot structure. But with the style of this book, it seems to work.

I found it generally fun, and like the sub-plots feeding the main narrative; the link to Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ (and other film references) was great, and really was full on towards the end. It absolutely reads like a film, I did find it a little unbalanced at times, and much preferred the last 40% of the story – but it is really readable.

It’s a thriller; a dark comedy; a cynicism of human nature, with an intense murder plot orchestrated by a cast of Film Noir-fed caricatures. I think it’s a fitting addition to the Hard Case Crime collection.