Review: Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Hands down this is one of my favourite books of the year, and yes I know it’s only April but this totally blew me away.


THE BLURB

For a while, Daisy Jones & The Six were everywhere. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era. And then, on 12 July 1979, they split. Nobody ever knew why. Until now. They were lovers and friends and brothers and rivals. They couldn’t believe their luck, until it ran out. This is their story of the early days and the wild nights, but everyone remembers the truth differently. The only thing they all know for sure is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked barefoot onstage at the Whisky, their lives were irrevocably changed. Making music is never just about the music. And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops and the feelings begin.


MY REVIEW

Why don’t I listen to people when they tell me I need to read something? I kept seeing review after review telling me how good this was but despite having an ARC sitting on my kindle waiting to be read I kept putting it off (given I did exactly the same thing with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo I really should have known Reid wouldn’t let me down). The thing is, this is just not the kind of book I typically go for. If someone told me I’d be giving a book set in the 70’s music scene 5 stars I wouldn’t have believed them but this just worked for me and I loved it.

There may not be much in the way of a story, they form a band, write some songs, have some arguments and take a lot of drugs, and it often doesn’t really feel like it’s going anywhere but I honestly couldn’t have cared less. There’s just something so compelling about these characters that I could quite happily read about them sitting around having a chat. They are so complex and well rounded that it’s difficult not to feel drawn to them and I came away from this story wishing they were real.

The format of this novel is a little unusual, something that I think readers will either love or find incredibly irritating. It’s written as a series of interviews with the members of the band, their friends and family and others who were around at the time but jumps around from character to character to get each of their perspectives on events in a chronological order. It reads very much like one of those documentaries you see about big famous bands where facts and key events are interspersed with the recollections of those involved (I love those programmes).

It is a little choppy at times, is a lot more tell than show, and took me a few pages to get used to it (I can understand why a lot of people say the audio’s worth getting) but it suited me. I love books that are predominantly dialogue, they just work for me, so while I felt a little distanced from both the characters and the moments, I still had a very real sense of who they were. It all felt incredibly real and completely believable, so much so that yes I did Google to check it was fictional. It was also wonderful (and sometimes funny) to get contrasting views of the same events.

I’m not sure I would really say I could relate to the characters or that I even really liked them or connected to them but they did fascinate me. You could argue some are a little stereotyped, there’s the messed up rich girl (Daisy), the egotistical and controlling lead singer (Billy), the sleazeball (I’m naming no names here) and the hot headed band member who doesn’t feel he’s being allowed to shine, but I found it incredibly easy to imagine each and every one.

Some voices and stories I did prefer to others, Karen for example as keyboard player is very much in the background as far as the band goes but had for me one of the most powerful stories and was incredibly likeable. I also liked Warren the drummer, who’s clearly incredibly talented but is so relaxed and unbothered by all of the drama, and Graham, Billy’s brother who seems happy to let his brother bask in the limelight.

It’s actually Billy and Daisy who are probably the least likeable of all. Both are battling addiction problems, are selfish, egotistical and think the world revolves around them but I will admit there’s something very charismatic about both of them and put them together and it’s down right electric. There’s so much tension and chemistry between them it’s impossible not to be captivated by them and I loved the way the dynamic between them shifted and changed.

The whole story is however enthralling and I loved every single second of reading it. Reid’s writing is magical and for me the only bad thing was the ending (and only because it was over).

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This in no way influenced my review and if you need any more convincing I bought a copy too.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party


THE BLURB

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?


MY REVIEW

One of my favourite tropes in the thriller/mystery genre has always been (and probably will always be) the group of people stranded in a remote location with a killer in their midst. There’s just something so primal about it, both in terms of the way the characters when under threat revert to their base urges (fight or flight) and the genuine chills it gives me as a reader. I have always found this idea of being trapped with no way of getting help a bit terrifying and who doesn’t love a few chills in this kind of story.

Needless to say as soon as I discovered The Hunting Party was about a group of old friends snowed in at a hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands with a killer among them I knew I had to read it (and not just because of the Highland setting).

So did it deliver? Well yes and no. It’s very well written and as a character study, absolutely wonderful but I felt it was a little lacking in the creepiness and tension I so badly wanted. I did really love the way in which the author portrayed the friendship dynamics within the group and the ways in which they’ve changed since they first met (well most of them) at University. They are not the same people now and despite the best efforts of some, have grown apart (and grown up) and lost the closeness they once had. They may think they know each other well but how well can you really know someone, even if they were once your closest friend.

What makes this an even better read is that these characters are for the most part, deliciously horrid. Interested primarily in appearance and position, they are self centered, vain, bullying and nasty. They may have been friends at some point (although I have my doubts) but now they’re more like competitors, trying to outdo each other with their successes. There are also more than a few secrets and grudges being held.

It’s safe to say there wasn’t a single one of them I liked. There was the odd aspect of certain characters that I could relate to or recognize in myself and I did have some sympathy for the poor lodge manager and gamekeeper who had to look after them (and had some secrets of their own) but most of my enjoyment came from watching these nasty people tear each other apart.

Where I felt a little let down however was in the murder mystery. It lacks the tension and the chills it needs to make it a truly thrilling and unputdownable read and I think this is due in part to the format. There are dual timelines running throughout, the first starting right after the discovery of one of the guests bodies (we don’t know which one), and the other a few days before as the party make their way up to the lodge. I personally was not a fan of this approach as I never felt truly in the moment and consequently there was no sense of danger.

There is definitely some mystery to it and it does keep you guessing, firstly which of these horrible people has met a sticky end and then who was behind it and why, but there was none of the killer in our midst tension from the party I was hoping for. This is probably in a large part due to the post murder events being told from the pov of Heather, the lodge manager, with the other guests (the party) barely featuring. I also found it a little silly the way in which the identity of the victim was concealed from the reader, with the author avoiding even gender pronouns so as not to reveal whether it was a man or woman.

All of these criticisms are probably starting to make you think I didn’t enjoy it but I really did. It may not have been exactly the story I was expecting to read but I genuinely enjoy character studies of unpleasant people. There’s just something fascinating about not knowing what someone will do next and Foley has created some well rounded and believably nasty characters.

Overall I would recommend this to anyone who likes a more character focused mystery and doesn’t mind it not being action packed or chilling.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. All views are my own.

Review: In Bloom (Sweetpea #2) by CJ Skuse

In Bloom (Sweetpea, #2)
In Bloom
by C.J. Skuse

Dark, twisted and laugh out loud funny. If you enjoyed Sweetpea I think you’ll love this. If you’re easily offended or don’t particularly like swearing or violence in your books I’d maybe steer clear.

Spoiler alert: as this is a sequel there may be some spoilers for the first book from here on in.


THE BLURB

The darkly comic crime sequel to Sweetpea, following girl-next-door serial killer Rhiannon as she’s now caught between the urge to kill and her unborn baby stopping her.

If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream it: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME. ME!

Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free.

Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex-lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws’ garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?


MY REVIEW

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been a big fan of C.J. Skuse for a few years now and I probably enjoyed Sweetpea way more than I should when I read it last year. Needless to say I was very excited about getting my hands on a copy of follow up In Bloom and it did not disappoint. It’s every bit as dark, twisted and funny as the first book.

I’ve always kind of described these books as a combination of Bridget Jones Diary and Dexter. The story is told in the form of journal entries as MC Rhiannon describes her day to day life, her relationships with family and friends, and those people she’s met who she either wants to kill or has killed in a brutal and bloody fashion for some real or perceived misdemeanor (or just because they annoyed her).

This time however it’s a little more Bridget Jones Baby than Diary as Rhiannon is up the duff as the story begins. Rather than the focus being on her relationship with her fiance (who was having an affair with one of her co workers) and the guy she was cheating on him with, this time it’s all about the horrors delights of pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy unfortunately doesn’t seem to agree with Rhiannon, mostly because the side effects (lethargy, morning sickness, hearing the voice of your unborn child in your head) interfere with her acting on her murderous urges.

To make matters worse, as she murdered the baby’s father and framed her fiance for murdering a few other people she killed, she’s having to keep a fairly low profile and ends up staying with her almost in laws, something that could drive the most calm and collected person off the deep end.

I really loved how Skuse moved the story forward with this book. I have to admit I was worried it was going to be more of the same and by the end of the first book the joke was beginning to wear a little thin but that was not the case at all. There are still a lot of the elements I loved, the kill lists at the start of every chapter (I’m tempted to start doing them myself) and Rhiannon’s often spot on observations of what we’re all probably thinking (it’s not just me is it?) and incredibly dark humor but it felt like her character really grew and developed.

I loved how brutally honest she was about being pregnant and the associated discomforts, the pressure put on you by everyone to eat the right things and do the right things and to fit in with all of the other mummies. How your body is no longer really your own and how the attitude of others changes towards you. It was wonderful to see Rhiannon within a different social circle and living with Craig’s parents. Some of the interactions between them were laugh out loud funny but so familiar.

I have to confess though that this time around I struggled a little with the serial killer, side of the story. When I read the first book the brutal and bloody murders didn’t bother me too much (not sure what that says about me) but this time it felt a bit nastier and a little more uncomfortable to read. I guess the author had to step it up a bit to keep the shock value but this seemed a lot more gruesome and bloody. I consider myself pretty shock proof but there were definitely a few reading through the fingers moments even for me and there was one death in particular that I found especially hard to read.

Other than that I very much enjoyed this book. I thought it maybe drifted a little in the middle but otherwise the pacing was spot on and that ending was perfect.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Mini Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

 

Cherish Hard (Hard Play, #1)

Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet, funny and very steamy, I found it difficult to resist reading at every opportunity.


THE BLURB

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh kicks off her new Hard Play contemporary romance series with a sizzling story that’ll leave you smiling…

Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.


MY REVIEW

This is only my second Nalina Singh book and the first contemporary romance from her I’ve had a chance to read but it won’t be the last.

Main characters Sailor and Isa are extremely likeable and from pretty much the first page the chemistry between them had steam rising from my kindle. Both are troubled by events from their childhood, Isa pretty much ignored by her family who thought work was more important and Sailor by a father who walked out on the family leaving them destitute, and they’re looking for very different things in life. When they meet however they just can’t resist getting involved despite expecting it to end in disaster.

I had a lot of love for Isa and the way she fought for her family but honestly Sailor has to be the sweetest, kindest and sexiest man alive. The secondary characters were also brilliantly done and I loved how the author worked in a lot of diversity as well as issues such as arranged marriage, bullying and neglect.

The pacing is spot on and I absolutely loved a lot of the dialogue. Sailor and Isa definitely have a lot of chemistry and the sparks certainly fly between them at every interaction but there’s a lot of affection and humor between all of the characters.

I only really had a couple of small niggles the first of which was Isa’ s inner alter ego Devil Isa. That was wandering a little too close to the Fifty Shades inner goddess for me (although I promise it’s nowhere near as bad). I also would’ve liked a bit more struggle, a few more obstacles on the path to “Twue Love” but maybe I’m just mean.

Overall though I did love this book. It’s funny, sweet and has just enough chemistry to keep you going back for more.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has not influenced my review.