Catch-Up Quickies 23

First a quick explanation!

Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.

In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I have been scrunching some of my (overdue) NetGalley reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.

That’s the plan anyway and so far, so good…!

Title:  The Man Who Died Twice
Author:  Richard Osman
Publisher:  Penguin General UK – Fig Tree, Hamish Hamilton, Viking

Blurb:  It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

Review: I absolutely loved The Thursday Murder Club and this second book in the series proves that wasn’t just a one-hit wonder! Book 2 is another warm, witty murder mystery – this time packed with spies, mafia thugs, drug dealers and, of course, the ubiquitous pensioners of the TMC.

Within the pages of this superb crime romp you will find some romance, some pathos, and lots of mystery, tension and humour. I smiled until my face ached while reading and couldn’t put it down between the first word and the last.

One of the aspects I love most here is that, while the antics of Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, Ibrahim and co. cannot possibly be taken too seriously – partly due to the pinch-of-salt plots and partly due to the exquisitely dry humour – the central concept of the books, that the skills and life experiences we acquire throughout our lives are not erased by grey hair and wrinkles, is very real and painfully true. This core tenet allows the reader to joyfully suspend their disbelief and buy into the wonderful idea that a small group of very disparate elderly people can run rings around murderers and other assorted criminals (to the perpetual surprise of anyone who dares underestimate them). And with it comes the secret hope that we, too, will retain our ‘special strengths’ even as our legs and eyesight may weaken.

Plus, having already followed their previous adventure, the characters now feel like dear old friends, who I know and love. I can’t even pick a favourite any more, because the magic is in the interplay between them all.

I’m already desperate for Book 3 in this wonderful series (The Bullet That Missed, out in Sept, pre-order it here!) to go with my Kindle, hardback and audiobook copies of books 1 and 2. You can never have too much of a good thing!

What else can I say? Top author, firm favourite, must-buy, etcetera etcetera. Go and find out for yourselves!

Purchase Link: The Man Who Died Twice on Amazon

Title:  Put A Wet Paper Towel On It
Author:  Lee Parkinson and Adam Parkinson
Publisher:  HarperCollins UK

Blurb:  A heart-warming and hilarious look at life in the classroom from the teachers who host the most popular UK education podcast, Two Mr Ps in a Pod(Cast).

Have you ever wondered what really happens during the day when your precious little angels are at school?

In this book, The Two Mr Ps will take you on a side-splittingly funny journey through the weird and wonderful world of primary schools. It will also explore the pressures of modern-day teaching, revealing exactly what it takes to wrangle a chaotic classroom (or seven) on a weekly basis. From the absolute characters found in the staffroom to school-trip mishaps and everything else inbetween, Put A Wet Paper Towel on It is a must-read for teachers and parents alike.

So sit up straight, four legs on your chair, fingers on lips and get ready to take a trip down memory lane. And remember – when in doubt, just put a wet paper towel on it.

Review: I’ve heard the Two Mr P’s in a Pod(Cast) before and really enjoyed the bantery style of chat that the brother’s bring to their anecdotes of teaching life. Unfortunately, this book is written in that same podcast style, and it just doesn’t work as well when written down.

Anecdotes that would be really funny when told aloud, fall flat when there isn’t the comedic tone and pacing to deliver them and the witty banter feels a bit cringey when memorialised in print.

There is quite a bit of repetition in the material and more than once a subject is introduced then immediately dismissed – “more on that later!” – which would work orally but made me wonder when reading why they would bother to bring it up HERE if they’re only talking about it THERE!

Between the humorous anecdotes is a detailed ‘behind the scenes’ look at every aspect of a teacher or TA’s life, which was really interesting from a parent’s perspective (although I was a bit disconcerted at how many colleagues, parents and children were dismissed as dull or ‘not my kind’ because they lacked ‘the bants’!)

My overall impression was that all of this material would work fantastically in the podcast/radio dialogue format but just doesn’t translate well to the written word.

They’re definitely right about the paper towels though!

Purchase Link: Put A Wet Paper Towel On It on Amazon

Title:  Under the Whispering Door
Author:  TJ Klune
Publisher:  Macmillan-Tor/Forge

Blurb:  Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

Review: This book broke me! I cried and cried and smiled and cried some more.

I wasn’t sure whether this was for me in the first couple of chapters, as I felt I had recently reached my quota of ‘irredeemable, oblivious arsehole redeemed’ stories, but I gladly confess that I was wrong. My life would be infinitely poorer, sadder and less beautiful had I not read this love story (between two men, a girl, an old man, a dog, and the act of living).

Honestly, I cannot rave about this book enough!

The story is touching, funny and heartbreaking, and the death-lore feels RIGHT in a way that I only ever felt before with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, with his Death and the desert.

This is a must-read for me, and TJ Klune has jumped straight onto my list of favourite authors with this book.

Purchase Link: Under the Whispering Door on Amazon

Title:  The Liar of Red Valley
Author:  Walter Goodwater
Publisher:  Rebellion, Solaris

Blurb:  Do not trust the Liar.

Do not go in the River.

Do not cross the King.

In Red Valley, California, you follow the rules if you want to stay alive. But even that isn’t enough to protect Sadie now that she’s unexpectedly become the Liar: the keeper and maker of Red Valley’s many secrets.

In a town like this, friendships are hard-won and bad blood lasts generations, and when not everyone in town is exactly human, it isn’t a safe place to make enemies.

And though the Liar has power—power to remake the world, with just a little blood—what Sadie really needs is answers: Why is the town’s sheriff after her? What does the King want from her? And what is the real purpose of the Liar of Red Valley?

Review: With this book, Walter Goodwater has set up a unique and totally immersive world: paranormal entities on one side of the river and humans on the other (with a little slippage each way) and it’s all held precariously together by the will of the King and the enforcement of the King’s Men.

As the daughter of the Liar and inheritor of the role, Sadie is forced to reluctantly walk the fine line between the two worlds, and the reader is pulled in from the very beginning and is right there with her to the grand finale! The set-up alone is an instant hook – with the function of the Liar and how the process works – and then the casual blending of horror with the mundane keeps you on edge as Sadie’s investigations begin to chip away and the secrets and lies.

There are underlying and overt themes of deception, doing the right thing, what is really real, and of the power of unity against strength. I definitely did NOT see some of the twists and turns coming and was blown away when the truth was finally revealed.

I’d love to see a series based on this setting and characters as it felt there was so much potential for further stories here, and I was really reluctant to tear myself away from Red Valley. I’ll be keeping an eye on this author’s new releases, for example, The Name Thief, which released last week and looks equally intriguing…!

Purchase Link: The Liar of Red Valley on Amazon

Title:  The Last Graduate
Author:  Naomi Novik
Publisher:  Random House UK, Cornerstone, Del Rey

Blurb:  Return to the Scholomance – and face an even deadlier graduation – in the stunning sequel to the ground-breaking, Sunday Times bestselling A Deadly Education.

The dark school of magic has always done its best to devour its students, but now that El has reached her final year — and somehow won herself a handful of allies along the way — it’s suddenly developed a very particular craving . . .

For her.

As the savagery of the school ramps up, El is determined that she will not give in; not to the mals, not to fate, and especially not to the Scholomance. But as the spectre of graduation looms — the deadly final ritual that leaves few students alive — if she and her allies are to make it out, El will need to realise that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules.
Wry, witty, endlessly inventive, and mordantly funny — yet with a true depth and fierce justice at its heart — this enchanting novel reminds us that there are far more important things than mere survival.

Review: Well, first of all, I am thoroughly hooked on this series! This book was just the same as the last in that respect, as once I had turned the first page, I simply kept turning – ignoring all other responsibilities – until I reached the end. I am definitely addicted.

That said, I also found aspects of this book intensely irritating.

The plot, for example, was excitingly unexpected and twisty. I was thrilled to finally understand the role and purpose of the school, as I had been wondering about that since the very beginning of Book 1. But the intriguing storyline is somewhat undermined by such an endless rotation of battles that they became anti-climactic, for El as well as for the reader!

And El, our main character and anti-heroine, is quite frustrating in this instalment too. She spends most of the book constantly sniping and whining, and always looking on the negative side, although to be fair to her, she does shake it off and manage some interesting character development by the end of the story.

The overall series story arc, writing style and concept are fantastic though and will definitely keep me coming back for more. The first book set up the world and characters and introduced how it all works; this second book subverted a few more expectations and offered us a neatly cyclical pattern that even El struggles to circumvent and then leaves us on the mother of all cliffhangers. So, regardless of any minor quibbles I may have, I will be waiting for the next instalment with bated breath!

Purchase Link: The Last Graduate on Amazon

Most of this batch blew me away, and I can honestly admit that having received ebook review copies of them from NetGalley, I still ended up buying three of the five for my physical ‘favourites’ shelf of hard- and paperbacks. So good, I’ll be reading them twice, and then some!

Here’s hoping that you find a few new favourite reads here yourself. Let me know if you do.

Happy heatwave reading and stay cool!


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