Liz Currently Loves…..The Dead Tracks by Tim Weaver.

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So, having loved “Chasing the Dead” the first in the David Raker series from Tim Weaver I started in on The Dead Tracks with a great sense of anticipation. I wasnt even anywhere near that place called disappointed. Weaver is actually an excellent surname for this particular author – he weaves an intricate and twisted tale that swallows  you up until it finally spits you out satisfied and wanting more.

In this instalment, David is asked to track down a young girl called Megan..the police enquiry into her disappearance has stalled and her parents are desperate. As he investigates he is drawn into a dark place and finds himself involved with a historical serial killer, a police cover up and more missing girls – and finally he finds himself heading for the dead tracks…..

David Raker really is a superb creation. Suffering after the loss of his wife, he is bound and determined that no-one should go through that and it drives him determinedly on towards his goal despite personal danger and heartache. The story itself is terrific – it flows beautifully with such page turning influence that you will find yourself reading into the early hours simply to discover the next clue…3AM today found me finishing this tale, bleary eyed but happy. Chasing the Dead had a wonderful solution – The Dead Tracks manages to pull this off again but in a very different way. I wasnt so much stunned by the ending as I was intrigued by one of the main characters and their psychology..I kind of hope we might find out more about them in future novels but I have a feeling that particular story is done.

Tim Weaver is fast heading up the list of my favourite must read authors – I am lucky enough to still have “Vanished” on my kindle, sadly sadly it will have to wait a little while due to my backlog although my backlog may well get more backlogged if I find I can’t wait…. and later this year “Never Coming Back” which is now very high on my list of priorities. You can find a review of “Chasing the Dead” in the Crime page of this website and I highly recommend you start there and don’t stop. Happy Reading folks!

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Books. Then comes the TV show…..

So, on Monday, Stephen King’s “Under The Dome” premiered in the U.S. and it got me thinking about when books you may have loved are turned into mini series or series in general. Later this week I will talk about film adaptations but for now, lets stick with television. I havent yet seen Under The Dome but I have to admit I have not been that enamoured of Stephen King adaptations in general when it comes to mini series. Bag of Bones, one of my favourite King books was on a while back – with Pierce Brosnan in the lead role. Anyone who has read Bag of Bones might wonder at that rather weird bit of casting. Mr Brosnan did his best of course, but really, with the changes to the story as well, it just didnt work for me. Now of course, you can’t expect television adaptations to be exactly the same as the novels – the visual medium is far different to the one you may create in your head while reading a novel – but personally I’ve always found that the best adaptations are true at least to the spirit of the story that inspired them.

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Another of my favourite series of books  – The Lynley Novels from Elizabeth George – became a very popular television show. I watched it. Again I wasnt too happy with the casting but hey, if I ruled the world and all that…but it was pretty good. It definitely had the SPIRIT of the novels in there, even though after the initial series the story took a very different turn than had happened in Lynley’s literary life, it still stayed fairly true to its source material. In the case of the Lynley mysteries it was very much a case of actors moving on and therefore changes having to be made to reflect that. At least they didnt cast a different actor in the role and expect you just to accept it – hey we’ve seen that happen yes? And doesnt it drive you mad? So in my opinion this adaptation was better than a lot that I have seen. Lets look at a (from this readers point of view) bad adaptation that still managed to be a terrific show…..

 

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Who reads Kathy Reichs? The Temperance Brennan novels are superb. Entertaining and absorbing I have yet to read one I disliked. Temperance has a cool name and a cool personality to go with it – so when I heard that they were to be the basis of the tv show “Bones” I was very excited. I watched the entire first series and found that it bore little to no resemblance to the books, apart from the name of the main protagonist. The “Bones” of the show was a very different kettle of fish to the Temperance of the novels – the supporting characters were all pretty much new – and yet I loved it once I was able to view it as a completely separate entity. Sometimes you have to do that because often tv adaptations are NOT that loyal, they simply take the bare bones – pun intended! – and turn it into something people will love to watch. Bones is going strong and although I left it behind a series or two ago you can’t deny its popularity or that it worked!

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So. I’m interested in opinions. Do you love it when a favourite book or series of books hits our television screens? Do you approach them with trepidation or a sense of anticipation? I am very much looking forward to seeing what they have achieved with “Under the Dome” – from reading articles in the media and from Mr King himself it seems as if this is going to be great. But will it actually be? We’ll see. Do you have a favourite book or series that then became a show you are obsessed with? How about Dexter? True Blood? Both great adaptations and shows I watch avidly. I wonder what will be next……

Liz Currently Loves……The Killing Game by Jack Kerley

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The latest Carson Ryder novel from Jack Kerley was one I had been looking forward to and wow, what a great addition to this series (Start with “The Hundredth Man if you are only just starting). In this instalment, Carson ends up embroiled with a killer who apparently kills randomly and without motive. Every investigators nightmare according to Carson…but is there really no motive?

These books are always brilliant but I have to say that this one is definitely a favourite. I won’t say over much because if you have not read Carson’s story so far I really wouldnt want to spoil it. For those of you who HAVE I will say – the usual suspects are back including the randomly brilliant Jeremy and the always entertaining Harry. The story as always is involving, exciting and will get the old brain cells working overtime. This is a cat and mouse game – and its not clear whether Carson will end up victorious and don’t you just LOVE books like that?  The ending was stunning. I never saw it coming and yet it made perfect sense. I’m fairly sure that there are not many readers out there who WILL see it coming – Mr Kerley you are very clever and I see to my absolute delight that Carson will be back in December. Wow what a Christmas present that will be! And to finish this review I offer a very special thanks to Hannah and Kate. They know what for!

Liz Currently Loves…….Business as Usual by E L Lindley

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I dived into this book a couple of days ago not sure quite what to expect – I’ve had it sat on my kindle for a while because I thought it looked interesting but it wasnt one of those books I would immediately go for. I’m glad I did  however – I had the greatest fun reading it. Georgie Connolly is a terrific character – feisty, fun and flawed, she is a girl after my own heart. One that does things on fearless impulse, often finding herself in hot water because of it, but hey she just gets back up and does it all over again! A documentary film maker, this story finds her investigating the seedier side of “gentlemans clubs” and getting embroiled in the dark world of sex trafficking and murder.

I enjoyed this book for several reasons. The story flowed, didnt stutter. Georgie sits firmly at the centre of it but those around her all contribute to the reader’s knowledge of her character and their own. Its a dark tale in places to be sure, but that all adds to the ambience. The mystery element is well imagined and all the supporting cast of characters add their own import to the tale. James was great – and I look forward to seeing how his relationship with Georgie develops over future novels. And how did I know this was really good? I spent quite a bit of time shouting at Georgie about what she was doing. Because quite often I was sat there, head in my hands going “NO she DIDNT do that did she?” People say that about me in real life you know…

So to sum up. Fun to read, easy to read but involving and yes. I will definitely be reading more.

Blog Tour – Mercy Row by Harry Hallman

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Mercy Row is a novel set in 1920’s and 1930’s Philadelphia. It’s the story of the rise of a North Philadelphia crime family who was also responsible for building the homes and factories that make up this blue collar area of the city. Despite the violent trials and tribulations caused by rival gangs from South Philadelphia and Chicago Jacob Byrne and Franklin Garrett, with the help of the Irish immigrants that settled the Kensington area, build a formidable Irish mob.

This legal and criminal enterprise kept North Philadelphia free from the Mafia for two generations. Jacob’s and Franklin’s organization was built on the blood of those who opposed them, the sweat of the laborers who built North Philly and the tears of the wives and mothers whose loved ones were lost in the struggle.

 

Harry Hallman
Hallman was born in 1944 and raised in the Kensington section of North Philadelphia. His father was Harry Hallman Sr., a champion billiards player who also owned a poolroom located at Allegany Ave. and Lee Street, called Circle Billiards. In his youth, the younger Hallman spent many hours after school at his father’s pool hall. These youthful experiences laid the groundwork for his novel Mercy Row, including the colorful language used in the text.

He served four years in the US Air force including two tours in South Vietnam as a photographer. He is married to Duoc Hallman, who he met in Vietnam, and has two children, Bill and Nancy and one grandchild Ava.

Hallman is a serial entrepreneur who has created several marketing services companies and continues to work as a marketing consultant.

“My favorite possession, from my childhood, is a baby book my sister gave my mother (Florence) when I was born. There’s a passage in this book, written by my mother in 1991 when I was 47, that seems to sum up what I have endeavored to be all my life. It reads:

– Bud (my childhood name) grew up to be a great boy and man. Gruff, but a heart as big as could be.-

This is what a man from the Kensington section of Philadelphia is.”

Hallman wrote this book, in 2012, when he was 68 years old. This is his first novel.

 

Social Media Links:

Web site www.mercyrow.com

Facebook ihttps://www.facebook.com/mercyrownovel

Twitter https://twitter.com/mercyrow1

Goodreads.com Book page is https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17563290-mercy-row

 

Review

Admittedly I wasnt that fond of this book upon completion but that is not to say that it did not have its redeeming features. For me, as a first novel it didnt live up to the standard of many other debuts I have read. First lets get the bad news out of the way from this readers point of view. I didnt feel that the story flowed that well and even allowing for the subject matter I felt that the bad language was way overdone – and bad language in novels generally does not bother me one iota, however here it did feel rather gratuitious. That kind of thing is always in the eyes of the beholder however, and the next reader along from me may disagree! I also felt that the characterisation was rather static – not fleshed out enough if you will and I didnt really relate to any one therefore for me it fell a bit flat.

However, having said the above I would also say the author definitely has something. The story was there – no doubt about that. Also Mr Hallmans sense of place was very well done – I may not have related to the characters so much, but for me the biggest character was Philadelphia. The nuances of the period of time were also quite clever – again I would say not QUITE there but still nicely done. If you are interested in stories from this time period and you like a good “crime family” story I would certainly say give this one a go…all readers are different and it may not have been for me but thats not to say the next person would not get great enjoyment out of this.

To finish I would like to say – this book has not put me off reading further offerings from Mr Hallman because I think that he could write a GREAT novel. This one, for me, just wasnt it.

 

Which Serious Series of Books?

So today my thoughts have turned to that wonderful thing – books in a series. We all have our favourites – the ones that can’t be missed. The ones that we chomp at the bit for, and I thought I would tell you about some of mine. In return, I hope to hear about some of yours – perhaps ones I SHOULD be reading but have missed out on. In order to not be overwhelming I’m going for my top three. You of course, may tell me about as many as you like!

First and foremost we have Mr John Connolly and that wonderful creation Charlie Parker. Mr Parker is a Private Investigator. But is that all he is? Tragedy gives him focus – and he lives in those grey area’s of life. The people who surround him do as well. The magnificent Louis and the heartfelt Angel. A killer and a thief…two characters who are worthy of their own set of novels (and indeed Mr Connolly did give them one of their own!) Each novel also has its own nightmare. I’d call them “The Bad Guys” but that doesnt even begin to cover it. And Mr Connolly’s ability to use a hint of the Supernatural without ever completely going down that road means that each book brings its own answers – and its own unending questions. I hope Mr Parker lives for a long time. I hope that when John Connolly finally completes his story that he will have a happy ending. But thats in no way certain….

Every Dead Thing is the first in this series. If you havent picked it up already I would HIGHLY recommend that you do.

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So, moving on. How about that wonderful literary detective Inspector Lynley? Not met him? Oh you should. He’s posh. Except really he’s not. He may be the 8th Earl of Ashington but his heart is in catching killers. And catch them he does! Along with the indomitable Sgt Barbara Havers and with the help of his great friend Simon, the lovely Helen and his first love Deborah, no murderer is safe from detection. But these books offer so much more than intriguing mysteries. Inspector Lynley’s own ongoing life dramas could be novels in themselves. And the characterisation and people you meet in each separate novel are always brilliant. Sometimes Lynley and cohorts are only secondary. The wonderful “Playing for the Ashes” brings us Livie, a girl living on the edge. This is more her story than anyones….and it remains to this day one of my favourite in the series. “A  Traitor to Memory” gives us Gideon Davies, a violin playing virtuoso who has lost the ability to play – unlocking his past is key to his future and this is his story. Of course Inspector Lynley is always around and almost always is the one who unravels the tangles – but hey, Havers also stands on her own two feet. She gets her book, Simon and Deborah also get theirs. This amazing cast of characters has kept me company for many happy times over the years. Elizabeth George will have her own page here soon – my rereading schedule includes all the Lynley novels so keep a weather eye out. Just in case you don’t want to wait for my reviews, the first in the series is “A Great Deliverance”. Start there. And don’t stop.

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For my final choice I was torn. That other great literary detective, Sophie Hannah’s creation Simon Waterhouse is equal in my mind to Lynley. However, if you visit Sophie’s page on this very site you can find out all about him and see why you should perhaps give them a go. Instead I’ve chosen Nelson Demille and John Corey. Wisecracking, totally male John Corey. A man I would happily marry. In the first book to feature him, Plum Island, he is on leave from the NYPD recuperating from injuries received in the line of duty. Living the quiet life on Long Island he is asked to consult on the murder of two biologists who worked on the mysterious Plum Island. By getting involved he finds himself entangled with the FBI and the CIA – an entanglement that will follow him through future novels and have a huge impact on his life. Corey is a superb character who grows in stature with every book but also somehow stays reassuringly familiar – he won’t let you down! Mr Demille is the master of misdirection, often you will scratch your head in wonder at the sticky situations Mr Corey ends up in but they are all extremely enjoyable and make for a fantastic reading experience. Wait until you meet The Lion. Enjoy!

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So there we go. My kind of top 3 series. Of course I follow many more literary greats in their ongoing tales  – but have I missed any? Please do leave me a comment telling me YOUR favourite series of books and why. Perhaps I’m missing out and if you follow my blatherings on Twitter or elsewhere you know thats something I HATE to do! Happy Reading folks.

Liz Currently Loves…..The Devil and the River by R J Ellory.

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Having been a huge fan of Mr Ellory’s writing since the magnificent and still unbeaten (although only just!)  “Candlemoth” this is a book that I have been chomping at the bit for. Literally. It was in my diary. On my phone reminders. On my calender. Finally it arrived and I delayed reading it. For as long as I could – because once these novels are read, they are read…and lately I’ve been trying to control my chronic impatience on these things. I managed a few days. Then off I went. Was it worth the wait? Yes indeedy it was.

The story follows Sheriff Gaines as he investigates the murder of Nancy Denton. 20 years ago she disappeared from her home town, the town where Gaines is now Sheriff, presumed a runaway the case went cold. One day the river offers up her body – perfectly preserved – and so begins a journey back into the past. An emotional one for all.

Of course as usual, its the characters that are key here. Sheriff Gaines, a Vietnam war survivor has his own issues – ones that influence him as he takes this journey. His background, his feelings are as much a part of the solution to the mystery as anything else – and the emotional response I had to how he felt about war and life were key to my reading heart being right there with him while he is sorting out the truth from the lies. This is also a story about friendship and love – Nancy’s “circle” of friends, including the powerful Wade family are terrifically well written and well rounded characters, every one of them with their own influences to bring. The final solution may surprise you, it may not but by the time you get there it won’t matter. Its why I love Mr Ellory’s books – its the people you care about – where they end up, whether they can find happiness, what they become. The mystery element is always very much secondary to the people involved in it. Always within the pages there is someone I can relate to – in this case Nancy’s best friend – and that folks, is the key to a darn good book. Give this a go – if its the first Ellory for you its a great one to start with. If not, this is a great addition and you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

If you live here…you MUST be a reader it seems.

So, more ponderings from me this morning on life, the universe, everything and of course books! Anyone that has been following these meanderings of mine will know that my life has changed recently in a huge way. Now a few weeks have passed we, in our house, are very much settling into our new family unit and routine. One silver lining from all my clouds has been the fact that my wonderful daughter Melissa has moved back in with me – and with her came a young man named Jamie. A wonderful young man and just the type you would want for your daughter, he had one tiny flaw.  He was not a reader. You know I understand these people exist, those that have not yet discovered the wonder of books but in actual fact I havent met many! And yet here he was. Mel and I often have our head stuck in a novel, ignoring the world around us – my two small children adore being read to and often demand stories at the most annoying of times – enter Jamie, who understood full well that Mel loved her books but perhaps didnt quite realise what a family affair it was. Well he does now! He made the mistake of mentioning casually that he wouldnt mind getting his reading head on – and of course both Mel and I were absolutely delighted. So. What did we start him off with? Having no clue what genre he might like or what might appeal generally we went with the obvious – the recent book that everyone in this house has read, loved and then insisted that everyone they met ever also reads it – The Humans by Matt Haig. You can find my review for this book hanging around this site of course AND my blogpost about how it affected me during my traumatic time – but for Jamie it was simply the book we gave him. What happened I hear you cry – did he love it? Did he actually read it? YES is the answer. He did indeed read it and enjoy it. Now, both Mel and I are offering the occasional recommendation for what else he may like, but generally Jamie will be deciding for himself. Yes he wants to read more books. And I have no doubt that given some time it will be all of us with our head stuck in a novel ignoring the world around us. So there you go. My family reads. All of them do. And now I realise, some of our “extended” family – those friends who are around, who pretty much live here anyway, could also do with a little push in the direction of the wonderful world of books. Look out Stewart – when was the last time YOU picked one up? Happy Reading folks!

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Liz Currently Loves……Someone to Watch Over Me by Madeleine Reiss

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OUT NOW!  – and its a Corker. See original review from “Coming Soon” below and put it on your list!

 

Well. Where to start. Maybe with a huge thanks to the girls at Harper Collins who sent me an advanced copy of this book. Lets say this. You want this book for when you are sitting on the beach. I said it would be the read of the Summer and I don’t think I am wrong. You want this book if you need to curl up under a blanket indoors because as often happens, British Summertime never arrives. You want this book even if you are not having a holiday, just because I’m telling you – you want this book.

 

Carrie falls asleep on the beach, very briefly, and when she wakes up her 5 year old son Charlie is gone. We’ve all done it – taken our eyes off them for a brief moment in time, usually without consequence – but the consequences for Carrie are severe, and here starts her story. Living with the guilt sometime later, she has moved on as much as is possible under these circumstances, and life is continuing. A series of events sets in motion a possibility of closure..but what exactly will Carrie have to face to achieve this? In the meantime, on Charlie’s last day on the beach, he met and played with another little boy – Max. Max’s mother Molly is facing her own personal issues and tragedies, and interspersed with Carrie’s story we also have Molly’s. What will happen when the worlds of these two women collide? You will have to read to find the answers – and trust me, you want to do that.

I both laughed and cried while I was reading this book. It will take you in unexpected directions. It will tug at your heartstrings and make you consider the people in your life and what they mean to you. It is also a great mystery story – the two sides of this novel if you like come together perfectly – and by the end I was a bit of an emotional wreck in the best “reading” way possible. I wish I could start again. In fact I’m sure one day I will. The characters are real people facing real situations and it speaks to the feelings of grief and horror and that “how can this happen to me” feeling that everyone gets at some point in their life. The fact that I am going through something myself at the moment – nothing at all as heartbreaking as the loss of a child, but still heartbreaking in its own way – means that this book was extremely meaningful for me at a time I needed an outlet for that kind of emotion. This is why books speak to us isnt it?

So, to sum up. Great story. Great characters. Emotive and brilliantly written – you will love it. Don’t miss it.

Liz Currently Loves…..The Unquiet Grave by Steven Dunne.

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So. Another in the series featuring DI Damen Brook, I have been looking forward to this one and it didnt disappoint. DI Brook, back from his latest “leave” is stuck investigating Cold cases – a job he neither wants nor is particularly interested in. Determined to toe the line though, he dives in with a modicum of enthusiasm…until something peaks his interest. And of course, this IS Damen Brook we are talking about so soon he is going off at a tangent in his own way and the possibility of a hidden killer begins to emerge. With its foot firmly in the past, this novel covers decades – from the sixties onwards – and each little part of the whole is beautifully written. With subtle changes to the writing style giving each period in history its own feel, the main bulk of the story follows Damen as he sorts through the myriad of information, forgotton memories and lost details that together will give him the solution he seeks. And trust me, its quite a solution. Until DI Brook told me the whole story I didnt get the whole story – but its all there. And with hindsight makes perfect sense. So a clever crime novel, a “whodunnit” but also a tense race against time to save a life. And what was truly brilliant? I was honestly not sure whether or not the clock would be beaten and Brook would emerge triumphant- and you won’t be either. You want me to tell you don’t you? I know you do..well I won’t. Because why on earth would I spoil your fun? Or allow you to spoil mine while I watch you swim in the sea of wonderful confusion, twists and turns that is “The Unquiet Grave”.

My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy of this book. I will be talking about it again nearer its release date of the 4th July and its entirely possibly you may find an expansion on the above thoughts – there is a lot to this book. For now I want you to put it on your lists folks. And if you havent met Brook yet – well what are you waiting for? You have time! For the events leading up to “The Unquiet Grave” it is fine to start with “Deity”. A tip for readers, I know that its helpful to know if a series MUST be read in order. Mr Dunne’s books are all stunning in their own way – but each can be read on its own merits.

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