The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

No. of pages: 305
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Lou Suffern is practised in the art of concealment. He is, also, always overstretched, trying to do too many things at once. His overburdened schedule gives him few moments of peace, even in his sleep. And when he spends time at home with his wife and family, he is always distracted, and, mentally, somewhere else. On a cold winter morning, Lou is on his way to work when he encounters Gabe, a homeless street dweller, sitting outside an office building. Lou is intrigued by him, and contrives to get him a job in the post room. But this act of charity rebounds on him, and Gabe’s presence begins to grate on Lou - particularly when he discovers that the latter seems capable of being in two places at the same time. Christmas is drawing near, and before the season is over, Lou’s life will be irrevocably change by the casual act of kindness he has performed.

Review: Lou Suffern is a very busy business man, so busy in fact he's completely lost touch with his family, even his wife and children. On the way to work one morning, Lou meets Gabe, the homeless man that lives outside his work building. Gabe tries to helps Lou wake up and realise what he's missing, but Lou doesn't like what he's seeing...

I really enjoyed this, and thought it was a lovely book to read over Christmas. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the characters evolved and how it would completely change the family dynamic each time. I liked the moral message incorporated into the story to spend your time wisely as you can never get it back or change what you've done in the past. Would recommend to fans of Ahern's or chick-lit books, it's something to enjoy, but will also make you think too.

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

No. of pages: 312
Rating: 3/10

Synopsis: As a young woman, Roseanne McNulty was one of the most beautiful and beguiling girls in County Sligo, Ireland. Now, as her hundredth year draws near, she is a patient at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, and she decides to record the events of her life.

As Roseanne revisits her past, hiding the manuscript beneath the floorboards in her bedroom, she learns that Roscommon Hospital will be closed in a few months and that her caregiver, Dr. Grene, has been asked to evaluate the patients and decide if they can return to society. Roseanne is of particular interest to Dr. Grene, and as he researches her case he discovers a document written by a local priest that tells a very different story of Roseanne’s life than what she recalls. As doctor and patient attempt to understand each other, they begin to uncover long-buried secrets about themselves.

Review: When the psychiatric hospital where Dr Grene works and Roseanne is a patient is due to be torn down, Dr Grene must assess all of the patients to see if they can be relocated back to the outside world. He becomes particularly fascinated with Roseanne and her story, and goes out of his way to find out why she was admitted to the hospital, but his actions bring to light unexpected secrets and revelations...

This book was such a disappointment. Before starting it, I read over the back cover again, to refresh my memory with what the story was about, and guessed what the big plot reveal would be before I had even started, and the sad thing is, I was correct! The story is so slow going, I thought after an incredibly slow start it would pick up, but the story plods along all throughout the book, flicking between Roseanne and Dr Grene. Another thing that annoyed me was that Roseanne was telling the story of her life, and Dr Grene was finding things out that were completely different, and you never find out which of the two is correct. Overall, I thought it had loads of potential, but it was too slow and too obvious, and was a complete let down.

The Keeper by Natasha Mostert

No. of pages: 388
Rating: 9/10

Synopsis: Mia Lockhart has a secret. Her mother was a keeper, as was her grandmother - women who were warriors, healers and protectors. And when a mysterious man enters her life, she puts this to the test. Adrian Ashton is a brilliant scientist - and a killer. With the aid of an ancient Chinese text, he has mastered the art of capturing the chi of his opponents - the vital energy that flows through their bodies. Mia finds herself drawn to his dark genius. But when he targets the man with whom she is falling in love, she is forced to choose between them. Soon it becomes a fight to the death in which love is both the greatest weakness - and the greatest prize.

Review: Mia is a Keeper - a healer and protector of the fighters in her care. That is until Adrian Ashton suddenly shows up. She's never met him before, but she feels connected to him in some elemental way and it scares her. But when she finds out what he does, and that he's after the man she's falling in love with, she must fight Ash to protect everything she cares about...

This was a really interesting read for me, I liked how the author took martial arts, tattooing, chinese medicine, spirituality, love, life, death and rolled it all into one great read. Being as the killer is revealed on the back cover and right from the beginning, I wasn't sure how the story was going to pan out, but it still held a few surprises that I wasn't expecting and I never felt like it was boring or dragging at any point, in fact the combination of all the different elements kept the whole book easy to read and enjoyable. Would really recommend this book, it's something a bit different and refreshing to read, and you can even learn something along the way.

The Hundredth Man by Jack Kerley

No. of pages: 499
Rating: 6/10
Series: Carson Ryder (Book 1)

Synopsis: A body is found in the sweating heat of an Alabama night; headless, words inked on the skin. Detective Carson Ryder is good at this sort of thing - crazies and freaks. To his eyes it is no crime of passion, and when another mutilated victim turns up his suspicions are confirmed. This is not the work of a 'normal' murderer, but that of a serial killer, a psychopath. Famous for solving a series of crimes the year before, Carson Ryder has experience with psychopaths. But he had help with that case - strange help, from a past Ryder is trying to forget. Now he needs it again. When the truth finally begins to dawn, it shines on an evil so twisted, so dangerous, it could destroy everything that he cares about...

Review: When men start turning up dead with their heads missing, Carson Ryder and his partner are called in. But they need help to solve the mystery, and the help they need has to come from Ryder's very ugly past...

I didn't find this as enjoyable as the book I've read futher into the series, and I don't know whether it was because the storyline was just too slow for my tastes, or whether this book just wasn't up to par as it was his debut novel. The writing itself was really easy to read, and enjoyable in that respect, but I felt the story was so slow moving, the action only happening in the last 60 or so pages in a 500 page book. I liked the characters though, I thought they were well fleshed out and it was easy to get to know them. I will carry on reading this series as I know that it does get better several books down the line, I just wasn't feeling it with this one.

Girls Of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

No. of pages: 300
Rating: 9/10

Synopsis: Gamrah's faith in her new husband is not exactly returned. Sadeem is a little too willing to please her fiance. Michelle is half-American and the wrong class for her boyfriend's family. While Lamees works hard with little time for love. The girls of Riyadh are young, attractive and living by Saudi Arabia's strict cultural traditions. Well, not quite. In-between sneaking out behind their parents backs, dating, shopping, watching American TV and having fun, they're still trying to be good little Muslim girls. That is, pleasing their families and their men. But can you be a twenty-first century girl and a Saudi girl?

Review: This is the story of 6 years in the life of four friends ~ Gamrah, Sadeem, Michelle and Lamees. Following their stories of trying to fall in love and get married whilst sticking to their strict cultural rules, which doesn't make it easy for them at all. Covering issues such as divorce, infidelity, pregnancy, love before marriage and being an independent woman in a male dominated culture, this book, although fiction, is written by a Saudi Arabian woman giving insight to culture so different from our own.

This book was not what I was expecting at all, but it was a great surprise. It is essentially a chick-lit book set in a culture far different from our own, and so the situtations and problems the characters faced were not ones we would necessarily face. For example, if we fall in love with someone, we have the freedom of our own choice to do what we want, no one can stop us. However, if it happens in Saudia Arabia, it has to be in secret unless the male asks for the female's hand in marriage, and even then it's usually only with his family's permission. It was really interesting to read about the culture, although it was hard to imagine such a strict life because the way we live is so completely different. It was a great read though, and something I'd recommend to people interested in other religions or cultures.

A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

No. of pages: 205
Rating: 2/10

Synopsis: Following the widely acclaimed and bestselling The Summer Book, here is a Winter Book collection of some of Tove Jansson's best loved and most famous stories. Drawn from youth and older age, and spanning most of the twentieth century, this newly translated selection provides a thrilling showcase of the great Finnish writer's prose, scattered with insights and home truths. The Winter Book features 13 stories from Tove Jansson's first book for adults, The Sculptor's Daughter plus 7 of her most cherished later stories.

Review: A book of 20 short stories, written from the perspective of a young girl growing up in Finland.

I really did not enjoy this in the slightest, in fact I really struggled to read it, because I found it so incredibly boring. Granted it has lovely descriptions of the Finnish coastline, but that's about the only positive thing I can say. I found it quite confusing that random characters would pop up, but there was never anything to tell you who they actually were or where they came from. I'm interested by reading one of the Moomin books by this author, but wont bother reading any of her other fictional books.
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