Some good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them then… #13

Yet another plundering from my pre-blog capsule reviews on the trusty spreadsheet. Im not quite running out of meaningful reviews yet, so here is another mixed bag from 2007…

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn

A gripping first novel about a group of outsiders. From the nine-year-old loner cub-detective Kate, to Kurt the insomniac security guard and Lisa the disenchanted record shop manager – they all spend most of their days behind the scenes at the shopping mall. Despite being outsiders, they find their lives intersecting with spooky consequences. The author is superb at capturing the ordinariness of the daily grind, and the extraordinariness of the empty mall at night. A thoughtful read and very promising debut. (8/10)

[Now: This 2007 novel went on to win the Costa First Novel Prize, putting Birmingham indie publisher Tindal Street Press on the map.]

We Have to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Intense and scary, I can’t say I enjoyed this book – it’s more of a compare and contrast experience with your own life! None of the characters are sympathetic, but then the whole thing is written from Eva’s point of view. I’m left with the nagging suspicion that he did it to impress his mum … very confusing and overlong, but I’m glad I read it.

[Now: Published in 2003. This was a 2007 book group read – I think we had a good discussion about it. I’ve not read any more by Shriver since… Should I?]

The Moneypenny Diaries: For Her Eyes Only by Kate Westbrook

A very clever and entertaining novel, the first of a planned trilogy, that manages to fill in the gaps around Fleming’s James Bond books convincingly. Written as diaries edited after Moneypenny’s death by her niece, we get a realistic backstory of Moneypenny’s childhood in Africa; her recruitment into the secret service; and her relationships with boss M, the 00 agents and other MI6 employees.
The starting point is Bond’s return to work after the death of his wife Tracy Draco (at the end of OHMSS), and coincides with the real events of the Bay of Pigs debacle and the Cuban Missiles Crisis. The use of real events alongside Fleming’s fictional ones gives some gravitas to the novel. Explanatory footnotes on all the people involved – real and imagined, and the workings of the secret service all add to this pseudo-realism.
A brilliant and worthy addition to the Bond-lover’s reading list – I can’t wait until the next one! (10/10)

[Now: NB: Published in 2005, it was retitled as ‘The Moneypenny Diaries: Guardian Angel‘ for its paperback edition. There are two sequels, somehow I’ve never got around to reading them, and lately with the plethora of non-Fleming Bond novels I find my enthusiasm for them has waned, (but not for Fleming’s originals).]

You Suck by Christopher Moore

If Carl Hiaasen or Elmore Leonard wrote vampire stories, they’d be like this. Dialogue driven tale of vampire lovers and their friends and enemies, including their minion teenager goth Abby who is totally besotted with the whole idea.
Good fun, especially the first half but the plot accelerated so much towards the end that it was less involving for that. Great fun though. (7/10)

[Now: Pub 2007. Moore’s books are great fun – his retelling of King Lear from the Fool’s POV was brilliant (here)]

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Having seen the superb TV series, you are compelled to compare and contrast it with the original novel, which was pretty closely adapted for the first half; you can certainly picture the actors in the book. The ending however is very different, and without giving the game away, too nasty for the TV! It also sets up the sequels of which there are now two – I shall read them.
Ultimately I did enjoy the TV series more – with its amazing star in Michael C Hall who makes Dexter a character you almost have to love – an avenging angel rather than sadistic serial killer! The book however, with its confessional first person narrative is a fantastic new take on the serial killer genre. (9/10)

[Now: Pub 2004. I did read the next book. Dearly Devoted Dexter, too, but concentrated on the TV series after that]

Have you read any of these?

10 thoughts on “Some good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them then… #13

  1. Laura says:

    I loved What Was Lost! Sadly I was really disappointed by O’Flynn’s next novel and haven’t read anything else by her. I did a couple weeks’ internship at Tindal Street Press back in 2009, before they went under.

    Shriver is so awful these days I feel uncomfortable recommending her, but many of her earlier novels are really very good. I don’t think Kevin is her best by any means. Two of my favourites are Checker and the Derailleurs and Double Fault.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’ve not read more of O’Flynn, sad to hear TSP went under. Thanks for the tip to read early Shriver rather than later.

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    An interesting selection, Annabel! I have reservations about Shriver – never read her, but not happy with her public persona nowadays… A very religious friend tried to get me to read this, but I can’t say I was particularly drawn to it! (And I wondered why she was…)

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’ve not read Shriver since reading Kevin, although I’m not saying I wouldn’t read another of her novels. She’s become rather controversial hasn’t she? It gets very awkward when you feel you can’t read an author because of their personal views or actions – difficult!

  3. Rebecca Foster says:

    We read What Was Lost for my work book club back in the days when I worked at a London library.

    Kevin is one of my favourites by Shriver, but, like Laura says, she’s gone off the boil nowadays.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I imagine What Was Lost would make a good book group read actually. Early Shriver, I’ll look for in the library…

  4. Liz Dexter says:

    I loved What Was Lost, and Paul Magrs’ All the Rage which is also set at the start in a shopping centre always reminds me of it. The author’s very nice. And our dear old last cat was called Morgan when we got him, and we’re Dexters so that was always a bit of a smile at the vets when they called out his name.

  5. Lisa says:

    We Need To Talk About Kevin was great. COLUMBINE (n.f ) goes well with it. No clue how I missed Money penny but I’m going to track it down!

Leave a Reply