A(nother Review): Capture or Kill by Tom Marcus

After five years of writing blogs the inevitable is finally happening and my blogs are colliding with my work.

 

We’ve just relaunched the Thumping Good Read Award– a prize that WHSmith ran from 1992-2003 and for the next seven weeks my blogs are going to coincide with the seven featured titles in-store.

 

It might appear that I’m selling out slightly and becoming a corporate mouthpiece for ‘The Man’ – but the truth is, a few months ago, I spent a lot of time reading a lot of books, and darn it, I’m going to use that for personal gain if I can.

 

I’m also actually really excited for Thumping, it’s a great prize that will celebrate the best of commercial fiction – and hopefully it’s exciting for the authors too – the winning writer will get £10,000!

 

You can find out more by visiting the WHSmith blog here

 

Meanwhile, on this blog, you’ll find my thoughts about each of the books and about the experience of choosing the shortlist.

 

First up is Capture or Killby Tom Marcus.

 

What can I say about this book?

 

Literally, what can I say? When it was first submitted, we didn’t actually receive a copy of the book straight away because MI5 were still going through it and checking to see if they would allow it to be published.

 

I’m not even sure if I can say that!

 

Capture or Killis about Matt Logan an MI5 agent who – driven by personal tragedy – leaves behind his life to become part of a deniable unit known only as Blindeye. No rules stand in their way, they can do anything they need to to achieve their mission, but if they’re caught doing what they’re doing, the government will claim they acted alone.

 

Think 24 when Jack and Chloe go a bit rogue and you’ve about got it.

 

I loved 24, but this isn’t exactly my normal sort of book. That was a challenge for me during the whole reading process, trying to find brilliant books across multiple genres. What we didn’t want was seven amazing crime titles, or a whole raft of tearjerkers (suspect the collective noun for that is probably a tissue).

 

The whole point of Thumping Good Read is to showcase a title for everyone. A whole family could buy the lot and everyone would find a different title they loved.

 

The rest of this year’s shortlist are all brilliant books in their own right, including some thrillers – but Capture or Kill is relentless action from start to finish. But that’s not all.

 

In a way, the genres that I don’t normally read were the easiest to put forward for the shortlist. They all have great stories that transcend the genre that they’re being presented in, so that even if you’re not necessarily into the heart-pumping action of a spy thriller you can still enjoy it.

 

And if you DO love heart pumping-action and detailed descriptions of the undercover operations then you’re in for an extra treat, because this has all of that and more.

 

In short, it’s a Thumping Good Read.

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A(nother) Review: The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, this might at first appear to be a bit of a left-field choice for me to read, but I like to keep my reading tastes broad and try all genres from time to time.

 

The House of Hopes and Dreams is about a glass architect named Angel who suddenly finds herself bereaved – and simultaneously out of a job. She moves in with her best friend – TV host Carey who has just unexpectedly inherited a large country estate. Mossby is an old house in desperate need of some love and attention, and the two broken-hearted friends set about fixing it and uncovering the house’s many secrets.

 

I was really surprised about this book, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. Initially, I thought it was going to be largely a love story, and while there are elements of this in there, it ended up – as the title suggests – being more about the house itself.

 

It becomes a character in its own right throughout the story, and as a reader, you start to feel satisfaction with each step they take in restoring it to it former glory.

 

The two main characters Angel and Carey are engaging and you really start to root for them, even if perhaps Angel does move on from the death of her partner perhaps a little too quickly. That may be my biggest criticism of this book, but it is indicated early on that since his stroke eighteen months previously, Julian wasn’t really himself, and that in reality she had been grieving for him since then.

 

It was a bit of a stretch for me, but if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and see past the small things, you can enjoy the story for what it’s meant to be.

 

This is a story about moving on, about love and friendship. And about a house.

 

Some of the books I would say are my favourites (A Little Life, Tin Man)are those thay have made me cry, dug into the emotion inside and opened the well.

 

This isn’t that sort of book, but it taps into a different kind of emotion. It makes you feel good, positive. It digs into you in a different way and still worth a read.

 

The House of Hopes and Dreams is available now from Bantam Press

A(nother) Review: The Lido by Libby Page

Community.

 

It can be a bit of a dirty word.

 

It is often a word viewed as a bit hippy-ish. WI groups, PTA’s, the Christian groups that go litter-picking on a weekend. It’s all very wholesome.

 

I know as I sit at my desk looking out of my window that the community I live in is not exactly one I want to be part of. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not me. I like my community with a little bit more bite, more GIFs

 

But it is one I’m part of, if only passively. If I wanted to be an active part of it, I could. It’s my choice.

 

Fortunately, I belong to many communities, not just the one I live in. There’s my work community, my friends, and my online communities.

 

One of my communities – the book-loving community, which if you’re reading this, you’re a part of! – has been going crazy for a particular book over the last few months. If you’re bright (it says it up at the top of the blog there ^) , you’ll have worked out I’m talking about The Lido by Libby Page.

 

The Lido is the story of what happens when a young journalist – Kate – is sent to cover the potential closure of Brockwell Lido, and while there she meets Rosemary – an eighty-something stalwart of Brixton.

 

They are at either end of their lives, but they have something in common. They’re both lonely – Kate, particularly – but their joined efforts to save the lido bring them – and many others together.

 

This is a really sweet book, and you get to know Kate and Rosemary both really well – but as well Page does a good job of making you care about the other members of the community, and the lido as well.

 

You really do feel part of the community and you begin to care. I started getting angry about the potential closure of the lido, reality started to blur with the fiction – which has to be the ultimate goal of any writer.

 

I enjoyed seeing the community build around Kate, lifting her from her depression. At the same time, the book raises some very pertinent concerns about the nature of public services, how often their value is higher than the money which they bring in.

 

The Lido is a feel-good novel, the kind that makes you feel better about the world we live in. It should be on everyone’s summer-reading list.

 

The Lido is available now, published by Orion