Book Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Name:  The Escape Room
Author:  
Megan Goldin
Number of Pages:
368 (Paperback)
Published:
August 8th 2019 by Trapeze (first published July 30th 2019)
Genre:  Thriller

Goodreads

‘Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.’
In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to get ahead.
When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.
Tempers fray and the escape room’s clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on the precipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they’ll have to solve one final puzzle: which one of them is a killer?


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

In The Escape Room four colleagues are trapped in an elevator for the duration. And what a bunch they are; I don’t think I’ve encountered such a wholly unlikable group in a novel for quite a while. When I first started reading there was a moment I was hesitant. I decided to read on a little further, and suddenly, something just hooked me.

There are two narratives. In the current setting a group of four colleagues from Stanhope and Sons have been lured to a ‘meeting’ which becomes an apparent escape room challenge.
They’re all highly successful, ruthless, competitive and in danger of losing the lucrative jobs that keep them in such high-flying lifestyles.
When the clues to their escape start to become increasingly personal, their survival instincts kick in and the tension mounts as their hopes of rescue begin to fade.

The other narrative follows the rise of new recruit Sara Hall, who joins Stanhope with good intentions; she hopes to be able to support her parents with part of her salary. Over time Sarah admits she has become more used to the ruthless attitude the company encourages and of her fellow employees.  She’s not particularly comfortable with some of her choices though, and forms a friendship with another colleague, the brilliant Lucy, whom the team tolerate mostly for her financial acumen.

The chapters go back and forth between the two narratives and leave you wondering just what happened to the two more likable characters of Sara and Lucy, and which of the elevator group, if any, will make it to the end of their ordeal as secrets and betrayals finally come to light and the truth about why they were selected for the escape room is revealed.

The Escape Room is fast paced, compulsive reading, a tale of bad behaviour, endless ambition and the desire for revenge, of secrets exposed and wrongs righted in an elaborate way. If you’re looking for an entertaining read to see you through these last days of summer then The Escape Room might be one to try.

 

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Book Review: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Name:  Good Omens
Author:  
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Number of Pages:
384 (Paperback)
Published:
March 5th 2019 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.
So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.
And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Apparently 2019 is the year of my discovering new-to-me authors whose works have been around for a while and then wondering how on earth I’ve missed out on them for so long.
I picked up Good Omens after watching the new tv series; I wanted to see if I would enjoy the book as much as I’d liked each colourful, bizarre, entertaining episode of the show, and it turns out… I did!

Would I have picked this one up had I not watched the series first? In all honestly, possibly not, the story may have sounded a bit too bizarre, but once I started reading, I found it difficult to tear myself away from the world of Crowley and Aziraphale. So, how to describe Good Omens?

The end is nigh, but years previously there was a mix-up involving a group of chattering nuns and a certain demon which resulted in an epic mistake… the Antichrist is missing. It’s a problem because the demon in question, Crowley, and his heavenly counterpart Aziraphale, have come to enjoy their existence on Earth and their Arrangement which sees neither good or evil triumph completely and keeps things ticking over quite nicely so they can enjoy all this world has to offer and each other’s company at the same time – unlikely as it may seem, the angel and the demon have formed a solid friendship over the many years of their existence.
So, neither of them really want the upcoming apocalypse to begin, and set out to locate the Antichrist and see if they can put a stop to it all.

I love these two central characters and their companionship. They’re so different yet they work so well together and balance each other out. I enjoyed every page of them together, whether it be trying to discover the location of the missing Antichrist, or planning to go for lunch at the Ritz.

There were so many little moments in Good Omens that made me smile, so it’s probably the first impending-apocalypse novel to achieve that. It’s a quirky, fun, bizarre caper of a novel with all manner of randomness – aliens, a 30-ft-tower of fish on the M6, the Bikers of the Apocalypse, a unique approach to team building exercises and Crowley’s poor Bentley, eventually willed on by nothing more than his own imagination. I laughed a lot throughout this book.

The characters, aside from the angel and the demon at the heart of the story, are so varied. There’s Anathema Device, descendant of the witch/creator of the Nice and Accurate Prophecies… and Newton Pulsifer, descendant of the Witchfinder Major behind Agnes’ eventual demise, and a group of kids, the Them, who live in the idyllic Tadfield, growing up alongside Adam, who is more than he realises. Oh, and a hellhound called Dog.
And that’s before I get to Shadwell and Madam Tracy, who make an unlikely team and get involved in averting the end of the world as we know it.

Good Omens is certainly one of the most unique books I’ve read recently, and I doubt I would ever have picked it up had I not checked out the tv series first. What a treat I’d have missed. Plots, sub-plots, random moments of laugh-out-loud humour, colourful characters and imaginative situations, Good Omens has all this going for it. Can’t wait to check out other books by these authors in the future.

Book Review: Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

Name:  Twisted
Author:  
Steve Cavanagh
Number of Pages:
352 (Paperback)
Published:
May 21st 2019 by Orion
Genre:  Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

BEFORE YOU READ THIS BOOK
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THREE THINGS:
1. The police are looking to charge me with murder.
2. No one knows who I am. Or how I did it.
3. If you think you’ve found me. I’m coming for you next.
After you’ve read this book, you’ll know: the truth is far more twisted…


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

I picked up Twisted, glanced at the brief synopsis and ventured online to try and find out more before I started reading. As it happened, quite a few reviews said this thriller worked best the less you knew, and I decided to stop looking before I ended up tripping over inevitable spoilers. Guess what? They were right! The less you know, the less you see coming and that makes for an enjoyable read.

It makes Twisted a great book to recommend, but a little tough to review, so I have a feeling this will be fairly short, but that by no means reflects on the book at all. I just don’t want to risk giving anything away…

Twisted is about books, writing, hidden identities, betrayals and deceptions, and that’s about all I’ll say in terms of plot. It’s cleverly plotted and perfectly titled, for just when you think you’re getting a grip on the ‘who’, the ‘how’ or the ‘why’, there’s the next twist, delivered at the perfect time to leave you reeling and rethinking your ideas as you read on.

Twisted certainly delivers a fast-paced thriller. It is a page-turning read that builds the suspense and raises the stakes right through to the very end. It draws you in and keeps you guessing. This is the first Steven Cavanagh book I’ve read, but I already have a copy of Thirteen and after enjoying this one so much I can’t wait to discover more of this author’s work.

Book Review: A Book of Bones (Charlie Parker #17) by John Connolly

Name:  A Book of Bones (Charlie Parker #17)
Author:  
John Connolly
Number of Pages:
720 (Hardback)
Published:
April 18th 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre:  Thriller, Mystery, Supernatural

Goodreads

The new thrilling installment of John Connolly’s popular Charlie Parker series.
He is our best hope.
He is our last hope.
On lonely moor in the northeast of England, the body of a young woman is discovered near the site of a vanished church. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull.
Each is a sacrifice, a summons.
And something in the darkness has heard the call.
But another is coming: Parker the hunter, the avenger. From the forests of Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border, from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London, he will track those who would cast this world into darkness.
Parker fears no evil.
But evil fears him . . .


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

A Book of Bones is the 17th in the Charlie Parker series, but only the second book I’ve read after picking up The Woman in the Woods earlier this year. What a find this series is! I don’t know how I missed it for so long. The stories offer a wonderful mix of crime and supernatural and some memorable characters. This story begins shortly after events of The Woman in the Woods, and I am glad I read that book first.

A Book of Bones follows Charlie Parker and his allies Louis and Angel, along with rare book expert Bob Johnston who is knowledgeable in the ongoing search for the Fractured Atlas, an old book said to have enough power to alter the world forever.
Parker is in pursuit of the lawyer, Quayle, and his sidekick, a woman known as Pallida Mors. When last we saw this pair Quayle believed his search for the scattered pages of the Atlas was almost complete and that everything was about to change.

The search for this dangerous duo takes our heroes across Europe and to Britain, where a series of murders is keeping the police occupied. We follow D.I Nicola Priestman and her team as the body count rises, each being discovered at a site of historical significance.

There are stories within the main story, historical events of a strange nature, from a disappearance from an archaeological expedition to a murder in Whitechapel, and these tales added atmosphere and creepiness to the modern-day search for Quayle and Mors. I loved these interludes almost as much as the main narrative.

A Book of Bones is a vast and epic tale, and one that draws you in right from the start. Towards the end I couldn’t stop reading ‘just one more chapter’, but I didn’t want it to end either! At least I have the rest of the series to discover whilst eagerly awaiting the next chapter of Charlie Parker’s story.

Book Review: The Woman in the Woods (Charlie Parker #16) by John Connolly

Name:  The Woman in the Woods (Charlie Parker #16)
Author:  
John Connolly
Number of Pages:
496 (Paperback)
Published:
February 21st 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton (First published April 5th 2018)
Genre:  Thriller, Mystery, Supernatural

Goodreads

The new thrilling instalment of John Connolly’s popular Charlie Parker series.
Charlie Parker aids the police when a buried, semi-mummified body of a woman is discovered. She apparently died of childbirth. Parker has to find out who she was and what happened to the child.


My Rating:

 

My Thoughts:

Better late than never, as they say. This is the first John Connolly/Charlie Parker novel I’ve ever read, and I’m so glad I did. It’s not all bad, coming late to a series, because this being book 16, I have a whole back catalogue to discover at my leisure.
I actually started with The Woman in the Woods because the latest instalment, A Book of Bones caught my eye thanks to the striking cover, but I went on to read reviews saying it wasn’t really a book to begin with as it featured themes covered in previous stories, so The Woman in the Woods became my starting point.
Obviously I don’t have the familiar feeling of returning to well-known characters that comes with being a long-term reader, but I don’t feel anything was lacking, or that I struggled to keep up by delving into the series so late, and there’s a summary at the back of the book (I read the paperback) of Parker’s previous adventures for those who don’t want to go in totally blind.

The Woman in the Woods offers a wonderful mix of thriller, mystery, murder and something a little spooky and supernatural, a great mix that kept me turning the pages long after I should have put the book down. The plot is complex and engaging, featuring multiple storylines and many colourful characters. The supernatural element was wonderfully written, just the right amount of eerie without being too scary.
Parker becomes involved in the case of a corpse found in the woods. A huge tree has fallen, apparently without reason, and unearthed human remains. When it becomes apparent that the woman had recently given birth, the fate of the child, whether alive or dead becomes of interest to several parties, not all of them good.

There are adversaries in the form of the creepy lawyer Quayle and his associate Pallida Mors, the strange woman with her grey appearance and unpleasant smell who kills without qualms or mercy. What a duo. They’ll stop at nothing in their aim to find out what happened to a woman called Karis and her child, and when Quayle and Parker become aware of each other, you can imagine there’s going to be a scene at some point.

As for Parker’s allies, I loved Louis with his recently discovered joy of reading and list of top 100 books to read. His partner Angel is recovering in hospital after surgery, and as Louis thinks anxiously of the future he still throws himself into helping Parker with his latest case.
I also liked Moxie Castin, the man driven to discover what happened to the woman found in the woods, and Parker’s daughter Jennifer, a ghostly presence with whom Parker speaks and who plays her own role in the case of the Woman in the Woods.

As the story progressed the search for missing book pages was mentioned, which was fascinating. I believe this may carry on in the following book, so I’m glad that I read The Woman in the Woods first, to have a little background information. I won’t say more as I’m close to spoiler territory possibly here.
The whole idea of this book and what it may potentially do, and the way another book is incorporated is creepy and a little magical.

The Charlie Parker series is definitely one I’m glad to have finally discovered. I don’t know why these books have never caught my attention before, but I recommend this one for anyone looking for an exciting story, great writing, characters to love and hate, and a great deal of suspense. I cannot wait to start A Book of Bones and see what’s next for Charlie Parker and his allies and enemies.

 

Book Review: A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher

Name:  A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World
Author:  
C. A. Fletcher
Number of Pages:
365 (Hardback)
Published:
April 23rd 2019 by Orbit
Genre:  Post Apocalyptic

Goodreads

When a beloved family dog is stolen, her owner sets out on a life-changing journey through the ruins of our world to bring her back in this fiercely compelling tale of survival, courage, and hope. Perfect for readers of Station Eleven and The Girl With All the Gifts.
My name’s Griz. My childhood wasn’t like yours. I’ve never had friends, and in my whole life I’ve not met enough people to play a game of football.
My parents told me how crowded the world used to be, but we were never lonely on our remote island. We had each other, and our dogs.
Then the thief came.
There may be no law left except what you make of it. But if you steal my dog, you can at least expect me to come after you.
Because if we aren’t loyal to the things we love, what’s the point?


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

At the beginning of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is a note asking readers not to reveal any of the secrets found within the story. Call me instantly intrigued. I couldn’t help but wonder what I was about to read, and more to the point, how I would be able to write about the book and stay true to this request? Well, here goes my attempt…

The world as we know it has gradually petered out as people stopped being able to reproduce. Everything seems to have ended quietly as the last generation aged, with no new generation to take their place. Griz has always lived on an island with his family – parents, siblings and dogs. They’re surviving, having endured various tragedies and joys along the way.
Then someone new arrives, and suddenly Griz is thrown into chaos when the stranger steals Griz’s beloved dog Jess.
With little thought for anything else, Griz goes in pursuit, determined to take back his dog and return home to his family. But the adventure will take him a long way from home.

For a world left desolate and mostly empty there is still a great deal of wonder to discover, and when Griz reaches the mainland a whole world beyond anything he’s read about in books opens up. There’s such atmosphere in the locations, they’re so vivid in their solitude and ruination as nature takes over where humans have long since departed. So many images stuck in my mind, abandoned places and remnants of the way life used to be.

Griz has a wonderful imagination and loves books and stories, and there’s a great sense that the stories of bygone times survived even where the people could not, and that stories still have power, even in a world that has fallen apart.
His own story is written in a notebook to an unknown boy in a photograph that Griz found whilst scavenging. It gives him some focus as to who he’s telling his tale to, even though the two have never met and never will.

There’s a bleakness to much that Griz finds, but also something very hopeful about the journey, and the world that remains. In a dangerous situation, there’s appreciation of the small things – a temporary safe haven, the chance to listen to music, or to find something new to read, and meeting new people, although they are few and far between and don’t always have the best of intentions.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is a book to lose yourself in. Melancholy, dangerous, a difficult venture with the odds stacked against Griz, it still offers hope, courage, friendship and plenty of surprises and revelations along the way. It’s a book you really should experience for yourself, and one you’re not likely to forget quickly.

 

Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Poirot #4) by Agatha Christie

Name:  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Poirot #4)
Author:  
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages:
286 (Kindle)
Published:
March 17th 2009 by William Morrow Paperbacks (Oiriginally published June 1926)
Genre:  Mystery, Crime

Goodreads

In the village of King’s Abbot, a widow’s sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study–but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow’s blackmailer. King’s Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd’s wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim’s home. It’s now up to the famous detective Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King’s Abbot to garden, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd–a task in which he is aided by the village doctor and narrator, James Sheppard, and by Sheppard’s ingenious sister, Caroline.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the book that made Agatha Christie a household name and launched her career as a perennial bestseller. Originally published in 1926, it is a landmark in the mystery genre. It was in the vanguard of a new class of popular detective fiction that ushered in the modern era of mystery novels.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

My love for Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot is still fairly new. I’m working my way very slowly through the Poirot novels and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, well, it’s left me a little lost for words actually.
I did not see that coming! You know the sort of twist that makes you see the whole thing in a totally different light, and almost sends you zipping back to the beginning to read the whole book again? This book has that twist.
It’s certainly put me on my guard for future Christie reads, but I doubt that will do me any good – I don’t think I’ve actually worked out the identity of the killer in any that I’ve read so far, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, because that’s Poirot’s job..

Poirot. I still like him. He’s self-assured, pompously certain of his own miraculous crime-solving skills, and it may become insufferable if he wasn’t always so very right. Nothing gets past the great detective, nothing! He has a certain charm about him, a way with words and manners that is a joy to read and watch as people talk to him and end up revealing more than they maybe intended to.
There’s a comic air about him that makes him endearing, such as his entrance in this novel – lobbing a vegetable marrow over the fence into his neighbour’s garden, where it almost hits Dr. Sheppard who is outside in his own garden at the time. And so these two new neighbours and eventual crime-solving team meet for the first time, after some speculation that Poirot is actually a retired hairdresser.

Sheppard himself narrates this tale, which obviously centres around the murder of title character Roger Ackroyd. He serves almost as the replacement Hastings, going along with Poirot to investigate, trying to work out what the great man is thinking, and failing at every turn.
He has a sister, Caroline, local gossip and general nosy neighbour, who has her domestic network of investigators, from maids to friends to bar staff to cleaners. It’s amazing that this small community can’t actually solve the murder without Poirot’s help!

I don’t want to say too much more because the last thing I want to do is spoil this book for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading it yet. A crime is committed, there are many suspects, and many colourful characters with many hidden secrets, and all you need do is sit back and watch Poirot at work. Twists, red herrings, suspicions, all add to the narrative, but the ending is what makes the book. It’s a solution that I doubt I’m ever likely to forget…