Beach Lawyer by Avery Duff #bookreview

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“After five gruelling years, Robert Worth is just days away from making partner at a powerful Santa Monica law firm. When a client confides in him that senior partner Jack Pierce sexually assaulted her, Robert breaks two of his mentor’s cardinal rules: Never let yourself get emotional about clients. And never make an enemy of Jack Pierce.

Robert crosses Pierce and is fired on the spot, losing not only his job but also his reputation. Advised to go quietly, Robert vows revenge against the ruthless man who betrayed him. But his investigation uncovers a twisted shadow world of sex, infidelity, and deception, where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. Only one thing is clear: Pierce will go the limit to keep his secrets.

This straight shooter will need to use every angle if he hopes to win. But could victory come at too high a price?”

From reading the blurb, I was eager to get stuck into this book as I was hoping that I could find a new author to rival to John Grisham. I love a good legal thriller and this book sounded extremely promising. Sadly, it fell very far short of my expectations.

There are multiple issues with this book, beginning with the pacing. This books starts off extremely slowly. I understand that the author is trying to establish the characters and their place in the hierarchy of the law firm as the footing for the story to come. Unfortunately, he chooses to do this by going into tedious detail of the everyday technical running of a law firm, right down to the minutiae of how lawyers record their time for billing purposes. None of this has any bearing on the plot whatsoever and just serves to drag the story to a crawl, right at the point where it should be grabbing our attention. The opening chapters also include a lot of legal jargon which I imagine would be largely incomprehensible to a non-lawyer – even I struggled – and it really didn’t seem necessary to advance the understanding of the story. There also appeared to be some things happening which, as a lawyer, just didn’t ring true to me at all, unless the US legal profession is totally different to the UK one in fundamental ways. This would probably be unnoticeable to people without a legal background but I have never felt like this when reading an American legal thriller before.

I was also excessively annoyed in the opening chapters by some lazy errors; in grammar, in tense and in a very simple calculation on one page which made me wonder if this book had been edited by anyone other than the author at all, and I continued to feel like that throughout the book.

Further problems in the opening chapters came in the guise of over-writing, stilted descriptions and an uncomfortable use of language. To be honest, it made me cringe quite a lot, and again I wondered if this book had been professionally edited. I tried to make allowances for the fact that this is his first novel and, to be fair, it did seem to settle into a better rhythm further on but I guess I set off on the journey with a less than favourable impression from the opening chapters, which was unfortunate.

We then move on to the plot, which is both so twisted and labyrinthine as to be almost incomprehensible by the end and, at the same time, totally lacking in any real action until the very last pages, where a brief flurry is shoe-horned in, in order to fulfil the ‘thriller’ tag. It really was one of the most unevenly paced books I have ever read. There were so many twists in who were the baddies, who were the heroes and what everyone’s motives were for doing what they did that it was almost nonsensical. When it came down to it, I just didn’t really believe that so many unpleasant, selfish, immoral people with devious intent happened to co-exist in one tiny orbit.

The most damning issue of all was the complete lack of empathy I had all the way through with any of the characters. They were all unpleasant, they were all uncharismatic, they were all shallow and self-centred. I could not bring myself to care what became of any of them. That was the biggest problem – by the end of the book I really just did not care what happened, I just wanted it to be over. Basically, it was too much hard work for too little return, not at all what I personally am looking for in a book of this nature.

I really wanted to like this book and I hate giving a negative review but this book was very disappointing and I couldn’t hand on heart recommend it. However, this is just my opinion and it appears from other reviews that many people loved it. May be I went into it with too high an expectation. If you would like to read it and make your own judgement, the book is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Avery Duff was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he attended Baylor School and graduated summa cum laude. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He then joined a prestigious Tennessee law firm, becoming a partner in five years, before moving to Los Angeles. His screenwriting credits include the 2010 heist drama Takers, starring Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, and Hayden Christensen. Duff lives at the beach in Los Angeles and spends his time writing fiction. Beach Lawyer is his first published novel.

Authors for Grenfell Online Auction #authorsforgrenfell (@hapgoodness @saramegan @mollykh)

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Dear friends

The whole country is aware of the awful tragedy that befell Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 and the plight of the residents who have been left with absolutely nothing and are having to rebuild their lives from scratch.

Today I just wanted to highlight the Authors For Grenfell Tower appeal that has been launched by the literary community. It is an online auction of items and experiences donated by figures across the publishing community in aid of the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund to help those residents affected by the fire.

There are some fantastic items on offer, ranging from signed books to afternoon tea at Claridges with David Walliams, and something to suit every pocket and interest. There is also the option just to donate, without bidding on a specific item.

There are now almost 700 items on offer, so I am sure we can all find something that we would like to bid on to help out this great cause.

I am allowing any books acquired by myself as a result of a winning bid in this auction to be an exception to my book acquisition ban for this year to highlight the importance of this cause.

Bids close at 8 pm today – Tuesday 27 June 2017, so please take a look at the website as soon as you can and make whatever bid or contribution you can afford. These people have suffered a horror that most of us cannot even contemplate in our worst nightmares. Let’s join the literary community in their efforts to do what we can to help alleviate their suffering a little bit.

If you want any more convincing of why you should take part in the auction and join the raft of people displaying the most amazing generosity and love for the people of Grenfell Tower in a way that moves me beyond words, please take a look at the comments on Lot 369 – named character in Philip Pullman’s next book.

The auction website is here. Thank you for taking the time to read this and taking part.

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan #bookreview (@VaseemKhanUK) @HodderBooks

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“Mumbai thrives on extravagant spectacles and larger-than-life characters.

But even in the city of dreams, there is no guarantee of a happy ending.

Rising star and incorrigible playboy Vikram Verma has disappeared, leaving his latest film in jeopardy. Hired by Verma’s formidable mother to find him, Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, embark on a journey deep into the world’s most flamboyant movie industry.

As they uncover feuding stars, failed investments and death threats, it seems that many people have a motive for wanting Verma out of the picture.

And yet, as Chopra has long suspected, in Bollywood the truth is often stranger than fiction…”

This is the third book in the Baby Ganesh Agency series by Vaseem Khan, but the first one I have read (I’d like to say it’s because I’m a maverick, but really it’s just because of my self-imposed book-buying moratorium and the fact that I was given this as a birthday gift!). It doesn’t appear to matter that I am reading them out of sequence, this book functions perfectly as a standalone novel, but I will definitely be going back to read the first two.

The central character of the novel is Inspector Chopra, a retired police officer-turned-private detective in Mumbai and the plot follows him as he tries to unravel the mystery of the kidnapping of a famous but wayward Bollywood actor. He is helped, and sometimes amusingly hindered, in his efforts by a colourful cast of supporting characters, including his cute little elephant sidekick, Ganesha, about whom there is more than a whiff of the supernatural – he appears to have attributes not bestowed on your average baby elephant.

This book is a light-hearted detective story, along the lines of Alistair McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series or the Agatha Raisin books by M.C. Beaton and I believe fans of those series would enjoy Vaseem Khan’s work. The main kidnapping plot is fun and frenzied, with enough twists and turns to keep the grey matter occupied, but the main joys of the book are the characters and the fabulous, exotic setting of Mumbai. The author truly does a wonderful job of bringing all the life and flavour of Mumbai alive in this book, and anyone who likes their stories set in an far-flung location, that is really captured as if it were an additional character in the tale, will not be disappointed.

Inspector Chopra is a character who is very easy to warm to, which is important for the central protagonist in a book of this nature – we need to be rooting for the hero. He is honest, unassuming, moral but very pragmatic and a with a healthy dose of impatience for his old colleagues in the police force and their rules and regulations when they get in the way of his pursuing the case – I really liked that about him. His wife, Poppy, I think perhaps was my favourite character. Not the subservient Indian housewife in a supporting role that you might expect to find, but an independent and feisty woman who is a true partner and support to Chopra, a woman after my own heart. I love writers who include strong and equal female characters in their work.

There is a lovely sub-plot in the book involving flamboyant eunuchs, a long-buried secret and Chopra’s ex-policeman colleague in a ‘fish-out-of-water’ situation that had me grinning from ear to ear. Fantastic fun.

This is a sweet, easy and amusing read with characters you will love, and imbued throughout with all the spice and spectacle of India. If you are looking for a book to warm your cockles and cheer you up, you couldn’t do much better.

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star is out now and you can buy it here.

About the Author

Vaseem Khan first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when he arrived in India to work as a management consultant. It was the most unusual thing he had ever encountered and served as the inspiration behind his series of crime novels.

He returned to the UK in 2006 and now works at University College London for the Department of Security and Crime Science where he is astonished on a daily basis by the way modern science is being employed to tackle crime. Elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order.

The Way Back Home by Freya North #bookreview (@freya_north) @HarperCollinsUK

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“One summer, something happened that changed everything forever…

Born and brought up in an artists’ commune in Derbyshire, Oriana Taylor had freedom at her fingertips in a home full of extraordinary people. The Bedwell brothers, Malachy and Jed, shared their childhood and adolescence with Oriana. In the rambling old house and tangled grounds, their dreams and desires could run free.

But too much freedom comes at a price. Something happened the summer they were fifteen. And now, having been gone eighteen years, Oriana is back.

This is their story.”

 

I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get round to reading this book by Freya North. It was published in 2015 and, being a huge fan of Freya since I first read Sally and always buying her books on publication, it has been sitting on my TBR since then. I have read The Turning Point, which was published last year. I am wondering if I have been subconsciously pushing this down my TBR because of some unfavourable reviews it has been given on Goodreads. If so, it was a mistake – this is Freya North at her best. My apologies, Freya: after all the years we’ve spent together, I should have had more faith in you.

This is the story of Oriana, her childhood growing up in an artists’ colony in Derbyshire, her childhood friendship with two brothers, and the tragic event which drove them apart. Anyone expecting a light, sugar-sweet romance, or a psychological thriller with a twist in the tail would undoubtedly be disappointed in this book. It is neither of those things because that is not, and never has been, what Freya’s writing is about.

What this book is, is typical of Freya’s novels. It is a beautiful and honest portrayal of human emotion, human relationships and human failings. It is bittersweet, moving, genuine–and totally engrossing if you let yourself connect with these characters, who are damaged and far from perfect, but totally real and believable. One of the comments I have read was that people could not relate to the characters because they weren’t totally likeable, particularly Oriana. I think that is part of the genius of Freya’s work – making us care about characters who maybe aren’t immediately warm and cuddly and someone that you would want as a best friend, but are totally plausible and, if you give them time and try and see what Freya is showing you about why they are as they are, you will find that connection with their humanity.

This book is a slow burn, and it is an insight into the minds, thoughts and feelings of the three main protagonists. I guess some people may not appreciate this style of story-telling but it is what gives you that insight into, and connection with, their emotional story. I have seen complaints that the ‘twist’ is too obvious and there is no ‘big reveal’. I think that misses the point. I don’t believe Freya ever meant for the novel to be some big build up to a shocking conclusion, that isn’t her stock in trade. In fact, it is refreshing to read something currently that isn’t hingeing on that particular device to sell itself. This book requires a bit more effort, a bit more emotional involvement on the part of the reader to get the most from it.

I recently read a comment by the author Jane Green, in answer to a question she was asked about the best bit of writing advice she had ever been given. Her reply was that the best advice had been given to her by Freya North and it was to get to know her characters and let them tell the story. Freya obviously practices what she preaches as she writes people as well as, if not better, than almost any writer out there. Her characters are always totally three-dimensional and fully developed and, likeable or not, they are completely authentic in everything they do. And I have never known anyone write such honest sex scenes (although my friends took me to task for a long while after I made this comment and they then read the one involving clowns in Pip, but I stand by my assertion. And no, I won’t go into any more detail, you will have to go and buy it and read it yourselves!). You know these people. If you let yourself invest in their story, you will be rewarded with an intense emotional journey that will leave you wanting to know what happens to them but also not wanting the story to end.

I loved this book. It made me cry twice. It made me stay up until 1 am on a weeknight when I had to be up at 6.30 am the next day because I had to know the end. And it made me wish I had not left it so long before I read it. I can’t give a book higher praise than that. Go and read it immediately. Then read The Turning Point, because it’s even better.

Having read Freya’s work from the very beginning, I can see how it has matured as the years have passed, much as she and I have done (we are a similar age) and I cannot wait to see what is coming next.

The Way Back Home is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Freya North gave up a PhD to write her first novel, Sally, in 1991. For four years she turned deaf ears to parents and friends who pleaded with her to ‘get a proper job’. She went on the dole and did a succession of freelance and temping jobs to support her writing days. In 1995, throwing caution to the wind, she sent three chapters and a page of completely fabricated reviews to Jonathan Lloyd, and met with success: five publishers entered a bidding war for her book.

In 1996 Sally was published to great acclaim and Freya was heralded as a fresh voice in fiction. Her following books have all been bestsellers. Her novel Pillow Talk won the 2008 Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Freya’s most recent novel, The Turning Point, was published in June 2015 (HarperCollins).

Freya was born in London but lives in rural Hertfordshire with her family and other animals where she writes from a stable in her back garden.

A passionate reader since childhood, she was originally inspired by Mary Wesley, Rose Tremain and Barbara Trapido to write fiction with strong female leads and original, sometimes eccentric characters. In 2012 she set up and now runs the Hertford Children’s Book Festival. She is also judge for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s ‘Rural Living Awards’ and Ambassador for Beating Bowel Cancer.