Latest Reads: My Sister by Michelle Adams

Publication Date: 20th April from Headline

Source: Review Copy

Two Sisters:

You don’t get to choose your family.

She thought she’d never go back home.

But there’s something in her sister’s voice she just can’t refuse.

And hasn’t it always been that way?

What her sister asks, she does . .

A really stand out psychological thriller here from Michelle Adams – great depth to character and setting, beautifully done, not easily anticipated which is a huge plus and generally I’m a big fan of this one.

The two sisters are oh so very different – Irini, given away by her parents, never grasped the full reason, over the years her intermittent contact with sister Elle brings a whole world of trouble. When we meet Irini she has spent a while trying to escape Elle’s vortex, moving and hiding, again we are not sure why but a single phone call brings her back into Elle’s world and back into that destructive sphere of influence.

I loved My Sister for its eloquent descriptive sense, especially of the relationship between the sisters which is difficult to grasp and even harder to hold onto. Michelle Adams brings a sense of menace to the whole story but mostly to Elle who is  definitely a character I will never ever forget. Divisive, out and out scary occasionally, her loyalties questionable but unbending – it is no surprise that Irini cannot stay steady or react logically in her presence. Irini has been formed by that sense of abandonment, that inability to discover why she was discarded. Both Elle and Irini are fascinating, compelling and completely unpredictable, it is gripping gripping stuff.

The plotting is taut and effective – sitting at the heart of it, these two girls, but the multi layered mystery element is completely clever, the resolution when it comes is one of those you go away and think about for ages afterwards. My Sister is about family dysfunction, about parental love and security, about what you do to keep those you love safe. It is a psychological thriller with a whole heap of heart and I was agog at every page. You know how sometimes you actually talk out loud to a book while you are reading it? Ok maybe that’s just me then but “My Sister” and I had many discussions. I could not put it down.

Flipping awesome.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: How To Stop Time Matt Haig.

Publication Date: 6th July from Canongate

Source: Review copy

I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret.

He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him.

The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

How To Stop Time is a beautiful work of fiction – you know I read a lot of books (this is actually book 120 for me of 2017) and I don’t think I have ever read an author that just grasps and conveys the vagaries of human nature quite like Matt Haig does – in a way that makes you feel like he is writing just for you. The emotional sense of his writing is enduring and never anything less than compelling no matter the story being told or the premise that starts it.

So there is that – and How To Stop Time falls firmly under page turner, with a  dash of passionate prose, a smattering of emotional trauma and a big hit of poignant insightful commentary on the human race. Pretty much what this author does in a nutshell.

Tom is one of those characters that will stay with you long after you have finished reading his story – and what a story it is. He is old, plagued (or blessed maybe that will be subjective) with a condition that means he ages at a much slower rate. Not immortal but feeling that way, he is part of history and an observer of it – we see him over time, at his best and his worst, this is a love story with a touch of mystery and is hugely gripping from the very first page until the tear inducing poignant finale.

I won’t give away much, this is one of those books that everyone will come to in their own way and will take from it different things – but Matt Haig manages to bring history alive on the page here through Tom and what he experiences, it almost feels as if you are living it with him. The characters he and we meet along the way all come with their own peculiarities and sense of self, the story weaves somewhat of a magic spell on the reader, or it did on me at least I was totally immersed into this one all the way.

The thing about stories is that they transport you to other places, make you think about other things. When you have a master storyteller at work it becomes so much less about construction and literary merit and all of those bookish things that as a reviewer I’m supposed to be perhaps commenting on –  and just becomes about you, as a reader, in those few short moments of time you are living in that other world. Matt Haig is simply, when you remove the white noise, a master storyteller.

I loved this book. Just that.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Power Naomi Alderman

Publication Date: Available Now from Penguin (Viking)

Source: Purchased Copy (based on a recommendation from Sam Eades)

In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

I’m actually not sure what to say about The Power. It did knock my socks off (so to speak) and it is in the category of “Godarn hot page turner” in my head. It explores many, I suppose Feminist if you want to put a label on things, themes but you know in the end there are far more intelligent reviewers out there who can (and indeed do) dissect that for you and break it down but in the end I just enjoyed the hell out of it. On her website  the author describes it so : “It’s a piece of feminist science fiction – or speculative fiction, or fiction about a fictional thing rather than a real thing (curious concept)”  I think she’s as close as I’m going to get anyway, seeing as how it is her story.

Anyway, the point being it is blinking good. And very very clever both in concept and execution. A novel read if you like. A supposedly fictional twist on historical fact being read in order to offer feedback, ” The Power” charts the time of the Cataclysm, when suddenly women everywhere develop vast physical power which renders them almost unstoppable. Naomi Alderman then proceeds, through the stories of several characters, to turn the world we know upside down into pretty much the opposite of what we have now. She does so in a way that is not a rush to judgement but a subtle changing of the guard – and anyone that thinks a world run by the supposedly maternal side of society is likely to be all puppies and kittens should think again.

With a brilliant eye towards intelligent characterisation and a storytelling touch of genius, The Power envelops you into a world which feels entirely believable, if off kilter.  The things that our characters experience are emotionally resonant and often stop you in your tracks – some of the descriptive scenes are positively heart stopping, all this whilst at every turn the author is making you stop and think.  Also to be honest  she made me wonder if there is any actual hope for humanity. Maybe…

It is intensely absorbing and utterly utterly gripping from the opening salvo to the very last line, which let me tell you is one of the best last lines I’ve read in any novel ever – that moment where you go Oh HA very good and you just have to sit there in awe for a moment.

This one will stay with me, Allie I think especially will keep me up at night – but overall The Power is beautiful. Or I think so anyway. It had everything I want from a novel, the ability to give my brain a work out, challenging my preconceptions on things, whilst telling a very human set of stories and keeping it as real as you can within the speculative fiction genre.

Loved loved loved.

Highly Recommended to everyone.

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Latest Reads: The Lucky Ones Mark Edwards.

Publication Date: June 15th from Thomas and Mercer (one to watch)

Source: Netgalley

It was the happiest day of her life. Little did she know it was also the last.

When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realises she is dealing with a serial killer—a killer whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces.

A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland believes his fortunes are changing at last. Forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, Ben finally finds work. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorising his son, Ollie, disappear. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky.

But he is unaware that someone is watching him and Ollie. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben.

Happiness…and death.

Mark Edwards gives good psychological thriller. Its been true since he started writing them but each book has been better than the last and The Lucky Ones was really excellent, with that genuine addictive quality and a clever, fast moving, considered plot that keeps things nicely unpredictable.

The Lucky Ones is kind of a hybrid serial killer/psychological thriller, as ever the author has created some memorable characters – then thrown them into untenable situations and messed with their happy place (in this case literally) It is gripping stuff, as bodies pile up and nobody can get a handle on anything – in the meantime we follow along with Ben and son Ollie as they both come to terms with a marital split, but suddenly find themselves caught up in something much worse.

I loved the setting here – so beautifully tranquil which made the odd dead body suddenly lying around all the more real – I also thought the police procedural elements were beautifully layered into the wider plot so it all read perfectly, as the story twists and turns towards its ultimate solution you’ll be hanging off every page.

Look to be honest I’m a bit numbed to this genre now reading so  widely in it as I do, but whilst there are occasional good ones and many more enjoyable ones and the very very odd incredible one, I know that with this author I’m in safe hands. I never do anything less than bang through them, completely engaged, immersed into whatever story is being told, the characters never fail to stay with me and I’m never quite sure what I’m going to get. Quality writing, quality storytelling, imaginative plotting and a damn fine read, that I know but as for the rest, well its a mystery.

Whilst I think that “The Magpies” will remain definitively my favourite novel from Mark Edwards (is that somewhat of a challenge? Absolutely!) The Lucky Ones is without doubt one of the best. So yes. Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The End of the Day Claire North.

Publication Date: Available Now from Orbit

Source: Review Copy

Charlie has a new job. He gets to travel, and he meets interesting people, some of whom are actually pleased to see him.

It’s good to have a friendly face, you see. At the end.

But the end of all things is coming. Charlie’s boss and his three associated are riding out, and it’s Charlie’s job to go before.

Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. He never knows which.

I loved The End of the Day. I took my time with it, a novel to be savoured for its utterly beautiful writing, gorgeous descriptive nuances and Charlie, the character at the heart of it, one I will never forget.

The world Claire North has built here is one of many levels, Charlie, who takes on a new role as the harbinger of death whilst learning about life, is so wonderfully normal that you just sink into his world feeling like it is all entirely possible. The End of the Day is melancholy, intense, a book that has something to say in the underneath of it all if you listen to its small quiet voice. The places Charlie visits, the people he meets, some of them in their last moments, just ingrain themselves into your senses, this is a book with that thing called “all the feels”

I actually find it quite difficult to describe with any actually useful thoughts at all, it just IS – Claire North writes with a peaceful complexity, she drew me  into her story without me hardly noticing until I was just living it all right alongside Charlie and the rest of the eclectic, memorable characters I met along the way. Some of the scenes are heart stopping, most of them gently contemplative but ultimately utterly gripping, a book to sink into and leave the world behind.

Overall just total total magic. Magic on the page.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Red Cobra Rob Sinclair.

Publication Date: Available Now from Bloodhound

Source: Review Copy

Carl Logan dedicated nearly twenty years of his life to the Joint Intelligence Agency. Now living in a secret location, under the new identify of James Ryker, he wants nothing more than to be left alone, the chance to start a new life away from chaos, violence, destruction and deceit.

It’s not long, however, before Ryker’s short-lived idyll is destroyed when he is tracked down by Peter Winter, his ex-boss at the JIA. Winter brings with him news of the murder of a woman in Spain, Kim Walker, whose fingerprints match those of one of Ryker’s former adversaries who’s been missing presumed dead for years – an infamous female assassin known as the Red Cobra.

A cyberattack at the JIA led to the Red Cobra’s profile being compromised, and Winter believes JIA agents may now be at risk too, Ryker included. But Ryker knew the elusive Red Cobra better than anyone, and when he sees the grisly pictures of Kim Walker’s corpse, he has news for Winter – she isn’t the assassin at all …

So just who is the mystery dead woman? And where is the real Red Cobra?

Red Cobra is a fast paced, snappy thriller of the kind that I’ve come to expect from this author – one of those again I read in one sitting (well 2 if you count school run bang in the middle, rock and roll lifestyle) I love a good action thriller and this does exactly what it says on the tin. And then some.

This is a spin off from The Enemy Series and sees the return of Carl Logan, albeit under an assumed name, and features female assassin, the Red Cobra of the title – who is entirely fascinating and who I engaged with hugely, I do love a good kick ass woman in a novel, one who takes no prisoners and boogies to the beat of her own drum. So to speak. Especially when they are villains who you love to hate to love.

The plotting is taut and clever, the past/present vibe works brilliantly and Rob Sinclair walks the line between edge of the seat thrills and considered character development beautifully. Twisting and turning the story all the way through it is utterly gripping and totally immersive.

Best yet I’d say. Reading escapism of the best kind. Don’t think about it. Just do it.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Cutaway Christina Kovac

Publication Date: 6th April from Serpents Tail

Source: Netgalley

It begins with someone else’s story. The story of a woman who leaves a busy restaurant and disappears completely into the chilly spring night. Evelyn Carney is missing – but where did she go? Who was she meeting? And why did she take a weapon with her when she went? When brilliant TV producer Virginia Knightley finds Evelyn’s missing person report on her desk, she becomes obsessed with finding out what happened that night. But her pursuit of the truth draws her deep into the power struggles and lies of Washington DC’s elite – to face old demons and new enemies.

If The Newsroom met Gone Girl then had super intelligent kids….

Early reviews suggest The Cutaway may be about to divide opinion – so my opinion, for what it is worth, is that this is blinking brilliant. I LOVED it. I loved the main protagonist, I loved the Breaking News aspects, got all caught up in the story, didn’t have a clue how the mystery element would pan out – not because it is particularly twisty in that sense but more because I was so caught up in the character dynamics and the investigative reporting side.

Christina Kovac writes with a very sharp edge, a genuinely insightful eye towards subtle characterisation and can put together one hell of a story – a bit like her main character Virginia whose sudden obsession with a missing woman puts her on the trail of all sorts of shenanigans. Meanwhile her workplace is in turmoil as a new boss starts messing with the status quo, the police investigation seems to be full of political motivation and there is Evelyn, gone in a relative puff of smoke, tying it all together as we wait to find out what has happened to her.

The “behind the scenes” aspect of The Cutaway really digs you deep into things, I loved the dynamic of the Newsroom, work politics merging with life politics in a tale of possible corruption and murder – I genuinely did not know what the all heck was going on, the author subtly dropping information into the narrative then throwing it back at you later in different context, the plotting, I thought, was absolutely superb. Virginia is a brilliantly intriguing character, I loved her and the supporting cast are just as well drawn.

Look it was just bloody good. I couldn’t possibly do anything but love it with my reading heart so give it a go.

Tense, clever, addictive and different. That is The Cutaway.

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Latest Reads: The Stolen Child – Sanjida Kay

Publication Date: 6th April from Corvus

Source: Review Copy

Zoe and Ollie Morley tried for years to have a baby and couldn’t. They turned to adoption and their dreams came true when they were approved to adopt a little girl from birth. They named her Evie.

Seven years later, the family has moved to Yorkshire and grown in number: a wonderful surprise in the form of baby Ben. As a working mum it’s not easy for Zoe, but life is good.

But then Evie begins to receive letters and gifts.

The sender claims to be her birth father.

He has been looking for his daughter.

And now he is coming to take her back…

Having loved this author’s first book Bone by Bone I was looking forward to The Stolen Child, in the end I read it in one huge gulp of a sitting – like in her first novel, Sanjida Kay writes here with an emotional level that is utterly engrossing and it is genuinely difficult to stop once you start.

Exploring themes of family and adoption, wrapping it up in a twisty tale of suspense, The Stolen Child follows Zoe and her family. Her husband is mostly absent as she faces the daily toil of parenthood with her adopted daughter Evie and her natural son Ben, when Evie starts getting letters supposedly from her birth Father things take a sinister and highly emotive turn.

I love the layers the author puts into the story, not only creating a compelling and realistic family dynamic but giving us a truly atmospheric and taut mystery. Within the confines of the place they live where those Zoe trusts suddenly seem threatening, the tension is palpable throughout the telling and it is utterly utterly gripping from the very first page. The setting is beautifully described, adding to the sense of atmosphere, the truth is cleverly hidden from view making the ultimate resolution wonderfully unpredictable – basically it is everything you want from a psychological thriller but with added depth and perception.

Loved it. Absolutely highly recommended.

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Latest Reads: A Handful of Ashes Rob McCarthy

 

 

Publication Date: Available Now from Mulholland

Source: Netgalley

Susan Bayliss became notorious when she blew the whistle on her boss, a heart surgeon at a renowned children’s hospital. She accused him of negligence, operations were stopped and an inquiry launched. In the end she was the one suspended as a troublemaker.

Now Dr Harry Kent, a medical examiner with the Met Police, has been called out to certify her suicide.

But something about the scene is wrong. Someone held Susan down…

The grieving parents of the children who died demand answers. The hospital is stonewalling. Everyone has secrets – it’s up to Harry and DCI Frankie Noble to find out which were worth killing for.

I was the BIGGEST fan of book one in this series (more details below if you missed it) and with “A Handful of Ashes” I can honestly say this has moved up to favourite series status on my bookish wishlist – one of a handful I’m going to be hotly anticipating every year for as long as they continue. Long may that be…

I’m a sucker for a good medical drama and an even bigger one for a good crime drama – with the Harry Kent series Rob McCarthy brings the two together in a fast, addictive, well considered thriller that just had me blasting through it with little thought to anything else around me. Don’t you love those ones?

In this story we have a suspicious “suicide”, a possible hospital cover up, grieving parents, danger lurking around every corner and our (anti) hero Dr Kent slowly falling apart at the seams whilst trying to help our (anti) heroine Frankie Noble solve the conundrum. She’s not exactly the most grounded police officer ever but both of them are superbly engaging, inevitably flawed but so beautifully described in sheer force of personality that you just get pulled along with them. The plot is  thoroughly twisted, highly charged emotionally and has an ending that had me on the floor. I loved it.

I’d like to give a nod to at least one beautifully written thrilling scene in this involving a fight to save a life – as I came to the end of that chapter I found myself quite literally sitting on the edge of my seat (not that easy in a giant swivel chair) I had to sit and have a nice cup of tea before continuing on. That is not the only genuinely immersive bit of scene setting in A Handful of Ashes but it’s probably the one that will stay with me – What is great about it is that these moments are interspersed with quieter more considered moments and the author digs deep into the multiple layers that make up his characters, insightful writing that means you really feel for everything they go through.

Both the medical and the procedural elements that make up the story feel highly authentic, I am definitely one for the tortured souls in fiction therefore Harry Kent holds my attention (I may be a little in fictional love) and overall this is terrific writing, terrific plotting and well, just plain terrific.

Highly Recommended.

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Also Available: Dr Harry Kent Book One

Dr Harry Kent likes to keep busy: juggling hospital duties with his work as a police surgeon for the Metropolitan Police – anything to ward off the memories of his time as an Army medic.

Usually the police work means minor injuries and mental health assessments. But Solomon Idris’s case is different. Solomon Idris has taken eight people hostage in a chicken takeaway, and is demanding to see a lawyer and a BBC reporter. Harry is sent in to treat the clearly ill teenager…before the siege goes horribly wrong.

When Solomon’s life is put in danger again from the safety of a critical care ward, it becomes clear he knows something people will kill to protect.
Determined to uncover the secret that drove the boy to such desperate action, Harry soon realises that someone in the medical world, someone he may even know, has broken the doctors’ commandment ‘do no harm’ many times over..

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Latest Reads: Method 15/33 by Shannon Kirk

Publication Date: Available Now from OceanView Publishing

(UK release from Sphere titled “The Method”)

Source: Netgalley

Imagine a helpless, pregnant 16-year-old who’s just been yanked from the serenity of her home and shoved into a dirty van. Kidnapped Alone Terrified.

Now forget her

Picture instead a pregnant, 16-year-old, manipulative prodigy. She is shoved into a dirty van and, from the first moment of her kidnapping, feels a calm desire for two things: to save her unborn son and to exact merciless revenge.

She is methodical calculating scientific in her plotting. A clinical sociopath? Leaving nothing to chance, secure in her timing and practice, she waits for the perfect moment to strike. Method 15/33 is what happens when the victim is just as cold as the captors.

Thoroughly enjoyed this! Fast and furious read with a truly engaging main protagonist and a healthy dose of ironic brilliance.

She has been kidnapped – pregnant and held against her will, 16 years old, two FBI agents on the case, you’d expect your normal type of “hang on in there possibly show some guts wait to be rescued” type psychological thriller. Nope. this is not your normal teenager, she has a sharp, focused scientific mind and an ability to turn her various emotions on and off at will. Plus an extraordinarily intense maternal instinct and a tendency towards being vengeful.

Poor kidnappers.

Still, the tension is palpable even though, as she is writing this many years later, a story for her now grown child, you know she’s probably going to be ultimately fine. Or her rather different definition of fine anyway. This is no secret from very early on. The beauty of this one is in watching her plan unfold, see her brain working, whilst her hapless yet still somewhat scary captors continue with their plans to steal her child…

It rocks along this book, hearing from our captive and then from the agent who spends his life looking for the missing – both of them have highly intriguing personalities of differing sorts, there was not a single moment of this that I was not practically hugging the narrative. It gets the blood up, a real rollicking page turner, with a fair few surprises along the way, characters to die for, a whole load of fun despite the premise, although there are some sobering moments that give pause for thought too. Plenty of layers here, I loved all of them.

The final parts of this book make for really cool reading as you see exactly what all the little preparations have been for, making you want to fist pump the air (although my advice is don’t do that you drop the book and then have to scrabble around to retrieve your spot) and I don’t think I’m going to get the image of that heavily pregnant, sixteen year old, angel of vengeance out of my head anytime soon. Can we hope that we meet her again in her adult life? Certainly the author allows for this possibility, with a wonderfully poignant and intelligent ending.

Loved it. Sometimes you just boogie right along with the book tune, this one was rock and roll.

Recommended.

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