Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review: The Missing by Jane Casey

The Missing is author Jane Casey's first novel; a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a young girl who is a student in the class of teacher, and main character, Sarah Finch. The body of this student is found by Sarah herself and the case takes her back to the unsolved disappearance of her older brother when she was a girl. These two events are related in parallel story-lines which inevitably come together at the end of the book.

Those who like to read thrillers will not be disappointed with the way that the story takes a number of twists and surprises. Beginning with a slow pace the story gradually builds and culminates in a grand ending that draws the reader into thinking that it was predictable but then provides an unexpected twist.

The characters in The Missing are well-written and are perhaps the biggest strength of this book. In a literary world where female heroes are always beautiful, super fit, ultra-intelligent and confident Sarah Finch is a breath of fresh air - uncommitted to her job, lacking in confidence and prone to making really poor decisions; a typically naive young person. An unprofessional but effective police officer, a withdrawn mother, a world-weary senior policeman and an unwanted admirer are all interesting and realistic characters that I can believe in. Such are the characters that some reviewers claim that there are holes in the plot when actually these events just demonstrate that these are realistic characters and not the cliched, perfectly aware characters that are so common in this genre.

Overall this is an excellent novel; well-told, interesting with good characters and the twists in the plot that one expects in a thriller.

I would highly recommend The Missing to those readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries. This is the sort of book that one will read very quickly due to its page-turning nature.

Score: 9/10

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Books to be Reviewed: The Shining Serpent by M. A Hadi

Thanks to M. A. Hadi for sending me a copy of his novel The Shining Serpent for reviewing. This is the story of a mother searching for her kidnapped child in war torn Iraq with some mysterious assistance.

"Within the chaos of a war-torn Iraq, Sarah tries to live a peaceful life with her young son. But everything changes drastically when her son disappears. Contemplating suicide by day, and seeing strange realms by night, she meets a dark serpent who promises to help her. With new found belief in herself, she sets off in search for her son. But who is this mysterious entity? And will she be able to overcome the hazards that lie ahead?"

A review will appear on this website soon. For those who wish to purchase it now it is available for Kindle here - The Shining Serpent Kindle edition, or the paperback is available on

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book Review: Baking Cakes In Kigali by Gaile Parkin

In Baking Cakes in Kigali author Gaile Parkin takes readers into a community of locals and immigrants all of whom interact with the central character of the story, Angel Tungaraza, who is a mother and independent businesswoman in post genocidal Kigali, Rwanda.

The strength of this book is the moral and emotional fortitude shown by Angel and the large number of supporting characters who are all revealed through their interactions with her; the large majority being meetings with her whilst they are ordering cakes for special events in their lives. It quickly transpires that Angel is most aptly named as she provides many visitors a friendly ear and gently pushes them towards making decisions that will improve their lives; this is a book about people, their lives and their feelings.

The dialogue in this story is gentle and easy to read and the messages contained within them are equally gentle and easy to understand, often very heartwarming but occasionally verging on cliche. Nevertheless, the interactions that provide the dialogue make this something of a feelgood book.

Like everything in life, though, there are problems. Whilst Baking Cakes in Kigali is strong on characters and positivity it is a little weak on plot. Like many books that focus on feelings and characters, the plot really only consists of a string of incidents which ultimately result in an emotional change - in this novel it is a sense of closure for the main character and her husband. This is okay but for those readers who like an intricate plot, it leaves a feeling that something is missing. This lack of a rich plot also means that characters can come and go without influencing the overall story, and Baking Cakes has too many characters that are interesting but just disappear without the reader finding out what happened to them. These issues are a shame because overall this is an enjoyable book to read.

I would recommend baking Cakes in Kigali to a variety of readers who wish to try something a little bit different as very few novels focus on female African characters, but those who like books that focus on people's feelings and choices in life will really enjoy this.

Score: 7.5/10