Review of The Anniversary (short story collection)

The Anniversary by Veronica Henry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – The Anniversary. Image by KL Caley


📖 A collection of short stories which all revolve around an anniversary of some kind (finished off with a few recipes from the Hairy Bikers). This book contains short stories from Fanny Blake, Elizabeth Buchan, Rowan Coleman, Jenny Colgan, Philippa Gregory, Matt Haig, Veronica Henry, Andy McNab, Richard Madeley and John O’Farrell.

✍️I’m pleased to say that the entire collection was enjoyable and featured quite a range of stories, timelines and writing styles. See below a quick summary of a few of them to whet the appetite:

The Other Half by Fanny Blake is about a young single mum who has taken on a taxi job to support her family after her husband ran off with her best friend. It’s a funny, warm, light-hearted story with a great ending.

Moment of Glory by Elizabeth Buchan is a wonderful flash into the second world war. Ellen, now a stay-at-home mother, was working at a top-secret signals base. She gives us a little insight into life at the station. It’s a sweet uplifting story, championing motherhood. The type of tale you would expect to find in a people’s friend magazine.

Birthday Secrets by Rowan Coleman is an intriguing little tale giving an insight into families discussing LGBTQ+ within the household and opening up to partners/parents about it. It’s a kind, positive story and handled with a brilliant sense of positive normality.

May Day by Philippa Gregory was my favourite story of the bunch. It follows Henry VIII sixth wife, Katherine Parr but more interestingly it tells the story of St Tryphine, a woman forced against her will to marry her father’s husband. Exploring her husband’s castle, she finds some secret rooms which contain several of the murdered remains of her husband’s previous wives. The two stories are brilliantly woven together. Historical fiction at its finest.
💭 Overall View: Needless to say, I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world-leading authors. Well worth the £1 cover price and highly recommended.

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The facts are only ever a part of a story. Philippa Gregory
The facts are only ever a part of a story. Philippa Gregory Quote.

Review of Six Foot Six

Six Foot Six by Kit de Waal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – Six Foot Six

📖 This is a really cute little book. A fun and easy read.

✍️Timothy flowers is six feet six inches tall. The story follows Timothy as he goes about his day on his 21st birthday. However, when he is in the midst of his day he meets Charlie who is a builder and offers him a day’s work. It becomes clear that Timothy has some kind of learning disability and is more childlike than an adult. In many ways, Charlie takes advantage of Timothy using his size for both menial labour and for a bit of intimidation. Yet the friendship between the two flourishes into a heart-warming tale.

📖 I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Charlie parks outside the house with the basement and tells Timothy to get out.
‘I’ll be back in a bit. You just carry on.’
Timothy doesn’t move.
‘What you waiting for?’ Same job as before. Go on.
‘I don’t want to go down on my own.’ Timothy is thinking of the broken room and the Brute hiding in the corner.
Charlie looks up at the ceiling of his van and shakes his head. ‘Christ. Come one then. But I’m not paying you to be sitting on your arse all bloody day.’ He starts the engine and drives off. ‘When we get back, you’ll have to work twice as hard and twice as quic. Got it?’

👓 This book covers some really complex issues (disability, vulnerability, domestic abuse) but the author handles them in a subtle, gentle way. I became invested in Timothy (and Charlie) and I really wanted the day to go well.

☠️ Any Negatives: Not a negative as such, and I have never read Kit De Waal’s work before so this may already exist, but I would love to see this story in a longer works or a sequel.

💭 Overall View: It is well worth the £1 cover price to read this. An unexpected but pleasant little tale. Another “quick reads” win which I would highly recommend it to any (mature) reader.

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Review of Lockdown by Peter May

Lockdown by Peter May

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Cover - Lockdown by Peter May
Cover – Lockdown by Peter May


📖 I loved the premise of this book but I especially loved the Foreword. May began researching and writing this book in 2005, but there was little interest in the book world for it and some editors thought the idea of London in lockdown too far-fetched. If only they’d known then what we do now.

✍️The book itself centres around detective Jack McNeil who is asked to investigate the mystery of a murdered child’s bones. Jack himself is on the last day of the job instead of taking things easy and wrapping up he finds himself on a chase across London to unravel the case. His own family are hit with heartbreak in relation to the virus.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

(Page 273)
‘I’ll scream!’ she said in a voice made so tiny by fear that it barely penetrated the dark.
MacNeil said breathlessly, ‘If you scream, then so will I.’
Something in his voice stopped her struggling. She lay on the ground below him, gasping for breath, a strange wiry creature in a tweed jacket and skirt with a white blouse and pearl necklace. ‘Who the hell are you?’ she gasped.
‘Detective Inspector Jack MacNeil. Who the hell are you?’

👓 I would just like to mention I love Peter May’s work. His Lewis trilogy is a personal favourite, and I would highly recommend that collection to anyone. I wish stars were out of 10 instead of 5 as this book is a solid 7 out of 10.

👫 Jack McNeil is a great character. Your usual flawed policeman, with a troubled family/home life and a girlfriend within the medical department. All quite cliché but you do warm to him and find yourself willing him to succeed.

Dr Sarah Castelli is another great character. A clever, fearless, sixty-year-old Canadian. She’s tough as old boots and will do anything to get the answers she needs. The only problem with Dr Sarah Castelli is that despite the pivotal part she plays in the book and particularly the finale, we are only just introduced to her on page 277 of a 399-page book. I feel like such a crucial character to the plot should have been introduced and established earlier, not just thrown in towards the end.

🗺 This book is set in London and whilst it is probably trying to be realistic (and perhaps to Londoners it is), for me, it felt a bit like we were being dragged from pillar to post with every great London eye mark thrown in for effect.

💭 Overall View: I did enjoy this book and Peter May’s writing style is brilliant. The characters were interesting and the plot was clearly very well researched. I wish the book had maybe been edited a bit to tie some of the strands together a bit neater. You would think everyone would avoid the mention of Lockdown never mind actively choosing to read about it, but I’m glad I did. Brilliant crime drama, very dark in places, fast-paced and full of action.

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