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Friday 16 June 2023

June Book Reviews

Dear friends. You can't beat reading on the beach, and I will soon be doing it! Seeing this deckchair outside a local bookshop made me smile.

There are books for everyone in this month's round-up, plus you'll find many more in the #WhatsOnYourBookshelf link-up. 

In the 2023 Reading Challenge on Good Reads, I've read 49 of 100 books and am 4 books ahead of schedule. 

Let's dive in, starting with my top read of May/June: 


The story:  it's set in Morocco in 1968 at a time when the country is undergoing great change as France relinquishes colonial rule. Mathilde, tending the roses on the farm that her husband has built into a huge success, is confident that with her two children now grown up, there will be plenty of opportunities for them. She looks forward to a life of comfort in retirement with husband Amine. But the changes are not always wholly positive in this family saga.

My thoughts: Slimani writes beautifully (and the translation is wonderful) so I was keen to read this after reading one of her previous novels, Adele. How evocatively she writes. I smell the roses, I press my nose to the window to look at the sweetmeats. Characters are often licking their fingers as they eat in a truly sensual experience. 

The children of Amine and Mathilde, Aicha and Selim, are very different from each other. Selim is happy to "hang" with the hippies who arrive in Morocco in droves.  Aicha is the first member of the family to go to university and medical school, but her chosen specialty of gynecology is looked down upon in the largely patriarchal society. Men are happier in the old ways and we see toxic masculinity and a male dislike of women doing well in business or science, rather than traditional roles. Slimani draws on her family history and her dual French and Arabic heritage in very subtle ways to highlight inequities and culture clashes. A rich and multi faceted read. 

The Dead Don't Speak by by Claire Askew

My first introduction to DI Birch and what a corker it is. DI Helen Birch is recovering after being shot but is finding it hard. She wants to be back at work. She starts doing some unofficial research for a friend, a newly promoted sergeant, after a tall, thin man with a black Golf crosses the police radar for solo attacks on small time criminals. The criminal fraternity doesn't seem to know him. Birch is determined to find out who it is, and bring him to justice, but unable to walk well and at constant risk of reprimands from her furious senior officer, she finds herself on her own.

Taut and gripping, with a couple of twists I didn't see coming.

The Other Mothers by Katherine Faulkner 

The story: Tash has been searching for a story to launch her freelance career. She also wants some new friends to help her navigate motherhood. At her son's new playgroup she spots the other mothers: sleek, the sophisticated, successful. She manages to get into their circle and Tash discovers the kind of life she has always dreamt of; their elegant London townhouses a far cry from her cramped basement flat and endless bills. But it's not what she expected.

My thoughts: The yummy mummies are not very likable characters, as you would expect, and Tash is a bit confusing because on the one hand she is disparaging of their endless coffees and high end gym wear, but on the other, pushing herself further into debt by joining their coffee club and drinking good wine at their townhouses. 

Tash's journalistic background comes to the fore as she discovers a mystery around one of the nannies, and realises there has been a cover-up. A good pace with a few red herrings and several twists. The sort of book you must devour quickly to find out what really happened.

After That night by Karin Slaughter 

This is the 11th book featuring GBI investigator Will Trent and medical examiner Sara Linton, but my first exposure to them. It took me a while to get into the groove and understand what was going on, but once I'd grasped that the couple "have history," and Linton, in the last 15 years, has overcome a personal trauma by becoming an ER doctor, it was easy to pick up the pieces. 

There's less crime in this novel than in the usual Slaughter books but it's no less interesting because instead we're looking at patterns and cold cases, which always fascinate.  One night a young woman is brought into the ER in a critical condition, and before she dies she tells Sara Linton who killed her.  Linton is determined to get justice for Dani Cooper, and finds that her case bears startling similarities to the assault against her, 15 years ago. 

The usual nail biter from this expert of the genre. 

The Other Couple by Diane Jeffrey

Publisher's Description:

Kirsten and Nick are enjoying a weekend away in North Devon until, on their drive home, they accidentally run over and kill a man. They have too much to lose to call for help, and no one can know the real reason they’re here. Instead, they make a split-second decision to conceal the accident.

Meanwhile Amy is waiting for her husband of 10 years, Greg, to come home for the Sunday roast.  He doesn't show up. The police believe he left of his own accord. But Amy is convinced someone must be behind Greg’s disappearance, and she won’t give up until she gets justice – or revenge.

Kirsten finds that Nick is seemingly untroubled by concealing the death of Greg, and has made sure his body has been disposed of, and won't ever be linked to him and Kirsten. 

But they reckon without the determination of Amy, who is furious at losing her happy family life and wants revenge on whoever did it.

Throughout the book we read the thoughts of someone who is clearly in prison and we try to figure out who it is and who this person is writing to. 

There are a couple of gasp-worthy twists which made this thriller highly enjoyable, and the revenge is highly original. 

Bellies by Nicola Dinan 

It all starts with a meet cute: boy meets boy, when Tom buys Ming a drink. Shortly after they move to London to start their next chapter, Ming announces her intention to transition.

A tender, gentle and thought-provoking read.  The transition means Ming, who's Malaysian, can no longer go home because there would be a backlash. 

It's the first novel I've read about a romance where one of the couple decides to transition. We feel that we really understand the two main characters, their flaws and their strengths, and we're behind them all the way. A Must-Read for anyone seeking a complex story of love, self acceptance and challenge.

This book is published on June 29, thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for the eARC.

The Birdcage Library 

Dear Reader, the man I love is trying to kill me......

It's 1932. Emily Blackwood, adventuress and plant hunter, travels north for a curious new commission. A gentleman has written to request she catalogue his vast collection of taxidermied creatures before sale.

On arrival, Emily finds a ruined castle, its owner haunted by a woman who vanished five decades before. And when she discovers the ripped pages of a diary, crammed into the walls, she realises dark secrets lie here, waiting to entrap her too. A treasure hunt begins, over two timelines, one in the 30s and the other 50 years earlier.

My Thoughts:

An unusual storyline that continues to develop. 

Beautifully written, feeling at first like a gothic intrigue with a mysterious castle and even more mysterious owner. 

I'm not usually keen on the idea of treasure hunts and finding clues, but Berry managed to hook me in.

The pace is a little slow. 


No Comment by Jess Mcdonald 

Problems at the Metropolitan Police in London have been in the news for several months but this book approaches it from a different angle, the view of a woman hired in a pilot programme to fast track new entrants into the role of detective within a year. 

Jess Mcdonald is excited at the prospect of joining the police and has an idealised view of the difference she hopes she will make. 

After training, which takes place at the state=-of=the-art Hendon training college, and at a  rundown police station, she is drafted into the CSD, or the "rape squad." She finds it very difficult to make an impact in this division. Resources are spread very thinly - and unlike TV police dramas, the work is always solo and lonely. The elephant in the room is always the discrepancy between the objectives of the Crown Prosecution Service (lawyers) and the police who want to try to achieve more prosecutions for victims of domestic abuse and rape. 

There is also a lot of resentment among police who graduated the "hard way" and had to do two years in uniform before being considered for detective. 

Mcdonald is crushed to be bullied by a male manager, whose copious notes on her failings are inherited by his successor who if anything treats her even more badly.  She talks to their superiors and her grievances are upheld, but there's no proper investigation.  Meanwhile, all the colleagues she trained with and became friends with are, one by one, leaving the Met.  As does Mcdonald, who leaves the police exhausted and disillusioned. "I so wanted it to be different., The disconnect between how I thought the role would be and the reality was undeniable." 

Essential reading for the new Metropolitan police commissioner Mark Rowley. 


Hope you enjoyed this month's round-up and have found at least one book to pique your interest. Here's my summer holiday reading. I'll be reviewing these over the next few weeks. 

I'm Joining Sue from Women Living Well After 50, Donna from Retirement Reflections, Joanne from And Anyways and Debbie from Deb's World for the  What's On Your Bookshelf  (#WOYBS) link-up. 

Sharing this post with  #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Rena at Fine WhateverTalent Sharing Tuesdays at Scribbling Boomer, #Neverendingstyle at The Grey Brunette, Final Friday/Traffic Jam Weekend at Marsha in the Middle Senior Salon Pitstop at Esme Salon 


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