The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen: 52 in 52 Book #30

The Apprentice

Upon finishing Tess Gerritsen’s novel The Surgeon, I immediately went online and ordered the sequel: The Apprentice. After waiting a few days for delivery and then a few more as we had a guest over, I got around to reading it…. and finished it less than 24hrs later. I love it when a book grabs me by the mind and doesn’t stop wringing it like a flannel until I’m finished!

Following on a year later from the events of The Surgeon, Detective Jane Rizzoli and the rest of Boston PD homicide unit investigate the antics of another serial killer, who is eventually nicknamed…. The Dominator (bet you didn’t see that one coming). This particular killer has a penchant for necrophilic activities. Thankfully, this book was not nearly as gory as the last one, or at least I have now acclimatised myself to it, but the events are described in juicy and tantalising detail which really helps paint the storyline well.

Also in this book Dr Maura Isles, the latter partner of the Rizzoli & Isles duo, is introduced. The Queen of Death, as she is dubbed, presents a rather glamorous contrast to the tomboyish detective. She’s the medical examiner and conducts most of the autopsies in this book. Although she doesn’t star heavily in this novel, I really liked her character and look forward to reading more about her in the future.

Character development and plot continuation in this novel were excellent. Unlike in many crime series I have read, Rizzoli is shown to be genuinely affected by past events and developments in the story show how she has changed in the year since the Surgeon was locked up. There are also scenes that show a much softer side which allow the reader to see her as more of a human being than an angry, trodden-down-female robot. Other characters also show good plot continuation, although this is rather more diminished than Rizzoli’s.

And as I bring this review to a close, I am already loading up online bookstores to search for my copy of the next instalment The Sinner. I initially was sceptical of this series when it was recommended to me; I couldn’t have been more wrong. If crime novels are your thing, get yourself copies of these books. You won’t regret it.

 

Kat

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Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith: 52 in 52 Book #29

Tears of the Giraffe

Way back in January I kick-started this challenge by reading The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Now, nine months later, I have gotten round to reading the second instalment of the series.

Just like its predecessor, this book is infused with the essence of Africa. From the behaviour of the characters, the descriptions of the land and the traditions, it leaps out of every page: you can almost smell the red dust! This is what I loved about the original book and I’m glad to see the sequel has not lost anything of its African charm. It makes me ache to get back out to Africa and explore the continent some more.

The character development is great too. Now Mma Ramotswe is engaged, we see more of her fiancé and of the new additions to her family. It doesn’t feel forced or rushed and these developments are so charmingly written they put you at ease. Also Mma Makutsi, the secretary for the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency is given a promotion to assistant detective which provides a new character and plotline to follow.

However, as good as they were, I did feel the actual cases in this book were not as intriguing as the first book. Possibly they suffered as a result of the fantastic character development but I felt they lacked some of the suspense of the last book and at various points I completely forgot about what was supposed to be being investigated. They were still interesting and heart-warming but alongside the other plotlines they almost faded into the background. I hope in the next instalment, Morality for Beautiful Girls, the cases will make a comeback and fill me with anticipation and suspense.

If you read and enjoyed The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, you’ll enjoy this book. For anyone who loves Africa or detective novels, this series is a must read.

Kat

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The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen: 52 in 52 Book #28

The Surgeon

In my profession, I see a fair amount of blood. Blood isn’t something that bothers me, neither do organs or bodily tissues covered in the stuff. That was until I started reading this book. I’ve no idea why but the descriptions of the mutilations carried out by The Surgeon, the book’s antagonist, made my stomach turn. I had to stop after the first description and have a glass of water. I did overcome my squeamishness and finish the book but I issue a warning right now: this book is not for the faint-hearted.

Tess Gerritsen tells a wonderfully gripping tale filled with all the gory details you would expect from a doctor turned novelist. Set in the city of Boston, detectives from the homicide unit are trying to track down a killer dubbed “The Surgeon” after a series of murders where victims have been horrifically mutilated. These crimes match similar ones committed a few years before where there is a surviving victim. Working with the victim the police face a thrilling race against time before more women are murdered.

Between the blood-filled descriptions, there sits brilliant plot and character development. The two detective central in the plot, Jane Rizzoli and Thomas Moore are fully fleshed out and believable. They have flaws, desires, history and are believable. Even the backup characters are described well and with enough panache that no one feel two dimensional and boring.

This book is no delicate Miss Marple story or stoic and smart Sherlock Holmes adventure. It’s a delightfully brutal and in-your-face American crime thriller and I thoroughly enjoyed it (in between bouts of nausea). For anyone who enjoys CSI or similar: this is the book for you.

Kat

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: 52 in 52 Book #27

To Kill a Mockingbird

So, I had never read To Kill a Mockingbird before. I was one of very few people it seems who never studied this book at school or had it recommended to me as a teenager, a fact which some of the people I mentioned this to found amusing. At GCSE, I studied Lord of the Flies by William Golding (really good, recommend!) and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (to me, mind-numbingly dull until I discovered the “and Zombies” version) so missed out on the profound and interesting events as told by Scout Finch.

Lent to me by a friend, I started reading this book and without realising it, read the first hundred pages in one go. The book was so comfortable to read. It wasn’t heavy or demanding but gently kept your interest going, listening to a little girl recount playing with her brother and friends and starting school. Reading it was like sitting down with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s in front of your favourite film in your pyjamas: nice and relaxed. Even as the book takes you down a darker path it never feels forced or uncomfortable, except where the book intends it to be. Rape, injustice, murder are all covered in the cosiest of ways.

That’s not to say there weren’t any thought-provoking points made. As a book that is studied by high school children across the globe, this book has more than enough passages and sentiments to keep the little cogs whirring. The way this book delivers these makes it even more amazing. It doesn’t shove these sentiments down your throat at all (or at least, I didn’t feel so). They have been gently slipped into the prose so that it doesn’t feel like an intrusion on the story or that you’re being preached to. Another brilliant part about the sentiments is that they are seen from a child’s point of view. As the book points out, adults have prejudices and often make judgements whereas children are a clean slate. Children will not learn a prejudice unless they are taught it. Seeing the way the different characters react to and interpret events makes this book multifaceted and engaging.

I would imagine that a lot of you have read this before but if you have not, please please please do! I understand why it is coveted as an educational text and why so many people sing this book’s praises. My review does not do this book justice and I do firmly believe this is a book everyone should read in their lifetime.

Kat

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: 52 in 52 Book #26

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This is a book I have been meaning to read for years. After finishing my A-levels, my close friend Charlie and I decided to walk the Isle of Wight coastal path for charity. During the five days it took us to complete this, we talked about lots of things including books. Both Charlie and I were avid readers and were soon recommending future reads to each other. Charlie, horrified that I had never even heard of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy insisted that I must read it. Four years later, I have finally fulfilled my promise on the matter.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy combines sci-fi with humour. The plot centres on the misfortunes of Arthur Dent and his Betelgeusian friend Ford Prefect as they hitchhike their way across the universe following the destruction of Arthur’s house (and planet). From Vogon poetry to a kleptomaniac President of the Imperial Galactic Government, mice from another dimension and a paranoid (and possibly suicidal) android named Marvin, this book entertains from page one until the last sentence.

For anyone who likes sci-fi and has retained the humour section of their brain, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is perfect. It never fails to keep your interest, throwing in twists and turns at every point. This is the first book in a long time where I haven’t been able to essentially guess the ending of the book by about a third of the way through. This made such a refreshing change and made me look forward to the evening just so Jim and I could find out what happens next!

Not that I ever doubted him, but Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy completely lived up to and exceeded Charlie’s recommendation and, as such, I pass on this endorsement to anyone with the intellectual ability to read and comprehend a book. It’s that good. Now to start The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

 

 

Kat

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The Baby’s Coming by Virginia Howes: 52 in 52 Book #25

The Baby's Coming

 

The Baby’s Coming by Virginia Howes was a book I had apprehensions about. I read this during the last stages of my midwifery training and was a little anxious that it might become one of those books (and tv programmes, films, articles…) that just annoys and infuriates me. It’s not necessarily the subject of this sort of book that annoys me but usually the editing, where things aren’t quite right. Just ask Jim what I’m like watching Casualty and you’ll get the picture*.

This book is one of the few midwifery autobiographies that hasn’t driven me to distraction and is now gladly welcomed into my exclusive “Midwifery Books I Enjoy” club alongside Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent and the Call the Midwife trilogy by Jennifer Worth. This is because although some bits did frustrate me, they were the bits that were meant to! Also the way the births and care were described were something I could entirely relate to as a student midwife transitioning into a qualified one.

As an autobiography, the book describes Virginia’s life from her teenage years, through her experiences as a parent, her nurse and midwifery training and finally her practice as an independent midwife. It was interesting to read about some of the experiences she had during her training and think about how much has, and unfortunately also hasn’t, changed.

The main reason I bought the book originally was because I wanted insight into independent midwifery. At this point in time, I have no plans to become an independent midwife but you never know! Virginia describes well the differences between practice in the NHS and independent practice and the benefits and challenges independent midwives face.

Of course, most of the readers of the book won’t be midwives or students and this book caters for the ordinary reader as well. If you like books about birth and babies, this will not disappoint and the descriptions of the births are some of my favourite bits. Some will make you laugh, others will make you cry. All will keep you entertained.

Definitely would recommend this to midwives and students as well as mums, dads, anyone interested in what independent midwifery is and the perspective of an independent midwife.

 

 

Kat

* I shout…a lot…
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The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker: 52 in 52 Book #24

The Golem & the Djinni

Sorry about not posting for a while! I’ve been very busy finishing off my midwifery training! Now I’m off for a few weeks and hoping to do some catching up on my reading.

The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker is a book I’ve extremely enjoyed. It took me a long time to read but that’s a good thing: I got to enjoy it for longer! Set mostly in early 20th century New York, the plot focuses around Chava, a golem without a master, and Ahmad, a djinni who is released from a metal oil pot after several thousand years. It describes their struggles to live and fit in not only as non-humans in a human world but also within the cultural groups populating New York in that time period.

The book is vibrant and colourful. I loved that the chapters alternate between the back stories of some of the main characters and the present day. Going from Little Syria, to Jewish towns in Europe to the Arabian desert might sound a bit haphazard but the book flows beautifully and the variety of people, places and events keeps the reader’s interest spectacularly.

This book also weaves themes of human poverty and struggles with magic and mythology into one single and beautiful literary blanket. There is a piece of plot or character in this book that everyone can enjoy and relate to in some way. The fantasy elements seem incredibly at home with discussions about running a business or someone becoming ill or dying. Nothing seems out of place.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fiction at all. There are more historical and fantasy elements than others but I really do think this is a book anyone could enjoy if they have the time to read it.

 

 

Kat

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