Tag Archive | Barbara Vine

Mystery & Suspense Challenge 2011 and 2012

Back at the tail end of 2009, I discovered the brilliant Book Chick City, around the time of sign-ups for the Thriller & Suspense Challenge 2010 were happening. Was I tempted? Of course – 12 Thriller or Suspense books in 12 months. What a plan.


Plan didn’t go exactly to plan though, and at the end of December 2010 I was frantically reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger in the hope that I could finish it by the end of the year, and that it would count as a thriller/suspense. Someone else had added it as their book, so I figured I was good on that, then on 30th (I think) I finished it. Phew.


Even before I finished it, I knew I had to do it again, so after the slight name change to the Mystery & Suspense Challenge, I signed up again – promising myself to do better in 2011. 


I thought I was doing ok when we had about 2 months left, even though November was NaNo, so my reading time was limited. I was wrong I had 4 books left to read. Eek. Somehow I powered through the writing madness and continued to read. Then mid December I did a count up, and I’d actually read 13 books. Um, oops. How did that happen? Me thinks someone’s maths isn’t that great (counting to 12 – apparently it’s harder than it sounds!). Just to prove how bad my calculations are – I’ve just recounted, and only have 12. Hmm. Something odd is going on here!


Yay, I completed the challenge again. The only problem is that until today, I hadn’t posted my reviews for them all. Heck, I read them, that’s what counts.


Here’s the list of the books I read (with links to each full review and just a very quick, few worded review here):


January – A Kiss Gone Bad by Jeff Abbott – Brilliant, can’t wait to read the next 2 books in the series


February – Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan – Again, fab. Again can’t wait to read the other 2 books in the series.


February – Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay – I think Barclay is my favourite thriller author at the moment – says it all.


April – Past Mortem by Ben Elton – not as good as some of his other books, but still really good.


June – The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell – Love Jewell so much. This took me a while to get into, but once I was there I was hooked.


June – The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson – Love Koomson and everything she writes – this included.  


August – Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – Took me a while to get into this, and the whole pace was a bit too slow for me.


September – Trams AM by Rob Ryan – Brilliant. Loved from start to finish


October – Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Was hooked from the off – brilliant.


October – The Sculptress by Minette Walters – Love, love, love.


October – Die for You by Lisa Unger –


November – The Birthday Present by Barbra Vine (Ruth Rendell writing as) – slow, and bored me a little.


12 books, 12 months. I loved the challenge so much, that, yep, you guessed it, I’m doing it again in 2012 – yay!


Like the past 2 years, you don’t have to chose the books you are going to read for the challenge ahead of time, but I know for sure that I want to read the next one from each of the series’ by Jeff Abbott and Allison Brennan that I read in 2011. Other than that, I just don’t know, but can’t wait to find out.


Read more about the challenge here and if you’re interested sign up – it’s great – you won’t regret it!

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The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine

It’s late spring of 1990 and a love affair is flourishing: between Ivor Tesham, a thirty-three year old rising star of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, and Hebe Furnal, a stunning North London housewife stuck in a dull marriage. What excitement Hebe lacks at home, however, is amply compensated for by the well-bred and intensely attractive Tesham – an ardent womanizer and ambitious politican.

On the eve of her twenty-eighth birthday, Tesham decides to give Hebe a present to remember: something far more memorable than, say, the costly string of pearls he’s already lavished upon her. Involving a fashionable new practice known as ‘adventure sex’, a man arranges for his unsuspecting but otherwise willing girlfriend to be snatched from the street, bound and gagged, and delivered to him at a mutually agreed venue …

Set amidst an age of IRA bombings, the first Gulf War, and sleazy politics, The Birthday Present is the gripping story of a fall from grace, and of a man who carries within him all the hypocrisy, greed and self-obsession of a troubled era.

I was attracted to this ‘V’ novel (for my A to Z Challenge) for several reasons: it was a thriller, therefore also good for the Mystery & Suspense Challenge; Barbara Vine is a pen name for Ruth Rendell, I’ve never read anything of hers, but used to love the dramas on TV; and I loved the cover – I love sexy red shoes!

Unfortunately I was disappointed. I found the pace quite slow which meant it wasn’t holding my attention very well. I also didn’t really like either of the main characters – Ivor to be honest is a bit of a dick, and Jane is a little mental – which I found a problem, even though I liked all the other characters.

I’ve just looked on Amazon for other reviews of this book to see if I was missing something, and there were a few that said they loved Vine’s previous work and were disappointed in this. That kind of makes me feel better – it also makes me want to read more of her work – both as Vine, and as herself. Unfortunately though, I can’t recommend this one (some people do on Amazon though, so it just shows different people have different tastes!).