Fiction

 Reviews of general fiction books can be found right here.

Publication Date: Available Now from Little Brown UK (Fleet)

Source: Netgalley

Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship. 

The Burning Girl is a beautifully written and really engaging coming of age tale, following the ups and downs of the friendship between Julia and Cassie – once inseparable, then peripheral, it is a story of growing up and growing apart.

Told from Julia’s point of view, we meet the girls when they are young, a little wild at times, but utterly joined, neither of them can imagine a time or a life without the other in it. But sometimes nurture tells, Cassie has a very different home and family life to Julia, as they reach high school and beyond it becomes apparent that both are faced with very different choices.

I loved this story – I was rooting for both Julia and Cassie – and Claire Messud brought them both to vivid life on the page even though we were seeing through one filtered eye. Julia loves her friend even when they are no longer close, ultimately though the hard truths hit her, you can’t save everybody. The friendship between them dies slowly and there is no one point that you can say there, its done. The descriptive prose is hugely immersive, the community in which they live, the people around them, all the little ups and downs that affect how they are, all come into play and this is somewhat of a page turner.

Mostly I found it to be hugely insightful. It got me thinking back to those friends I remember from my young years who have fallen by the wayside with no great fanfare. There one day, gone the next, you may never know how their lives play out. The feelings that Julia has about her friendship with Cassie hits home on more than one level and whilst Claire Messud uses a slightly more dramatic set of events than might be usual to show this dying friendship, it is authentically believable.

By the end of The Burning Girl I was slightly melancholy, inclined to think about my own coming of age and where it lead me, this is thought provoking and very very real.

Definitely recommended.

You can purchase The Burning Girl HERE 

Publication Date: 27th July from Simon and Schuster UK

Source: Netgalley

What happens to the girl left behind?

A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith behind.

After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow is edgy and original, a hair-raising exploration of the ripple effects of an unthinkable crime.

I read this in one sitting because the writing was beautifully done and I appreciated the way Susan Perablo enveloped you into the plot as a reader – starting with a traumatic event and then showing us the aftermath through the eyes of one mother and her daughter.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a wonderfully deep character exploration, a book that give you a real sense of feeling about the characters in it – Meredith had a quirky outlook from the start and seeing that change and alter after the event was utterly compelling. Claire, Mum, too now having to deal with a problem befalling her second child after her first had already suffered was cleverly drawn, occasionally unlikable but doing her best to stay standing.

It is a gentle story in a lot of ways despite the violent event that kicks it off – a kind of rolling picture reel of different senses and feelings – there is somewhat of a disconnect, in fact the character I related most to was Meredith’s brother Evan – a quiet and steady background influence.

I think it may suffer from its description. This is not a thriller. It is not even really a mystery and there are no real resolutions as is realistic to most things in life. So don’t go into it expecting those things. This is a strong, emotive family drama, an exploration of recovery and an insightful glance into a modern, middle class family whose lives have taken an unexpected turn.

Definitely recommended for fans of Literary character study.

You can Purchase The Fall of Lisa Bellow HERE

 

Publication Date: 11th May from Random House (Vintage, Hogarth)

Source: Netgalley

Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

This is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series where different authors take on retellings of Shakespeare, presumably to make it more accessible.

In “New Boy” it is Othello that is under the spotlight – Tracy Chevalier moves the action to a school playground and sets it over a single day – the narrative of the play transitions really well to this environment, closed and clique – New Boy “O” arrives at an all white school and meets “Dee” – friendships form, relationships develop then one jealous and destructive lad shatters everything.

I enjoyed this – the author brings a sense of atmosphere, a special kind of tension to the storytelling, if you know the play you’ll know things are not going to end well, if you don’t then you’ll find it utterly gripping. This is not a straightforward plot redevelop, nuances are added to fit in with the setting, the language used is cleverly insightful, casual racism, playground politics all used to great effect.

The claustrophobic school setting makes this work – this is the first of these I have read but if the other authors tackle it as well I’d like to read the others. As a Shakespeare fan I loved seeing this pan out, it was intriguing, emotive and really rather good.

You can purchase New Boy HERE

 

Publication Date: March 2017 from St Martins Press

Source: Netgalley

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

I enjoyed Almost Missed You – it was beautifully written, I think I liked the writing more than the story probably which was compelling but peppered with rather divisive characters who I had problems relating to on the level I prefer.

Still, it was a cleverly insightful examination of those things that can make and break relationships, the secrets that can become so large to the person holding them that they think there is no way of speaking them out loud – ending up with everyone concerned being in untenable situations.

Finn runs away from his wife taking their child with him. Suddenly and with no explanation. What follows is an exploration of why he did that, past events overtaking him with sudden repercussions. Jessica Strawser shows many levels, telling it from several viewpoints, including Caitlin, friend to both and this is a beautifully paced family drama.

I found it fairly fascinating to be fair. Finn annoyed me to the point of growling. Seriously insular, his reasons were entirely selfish – yes ok there are psychological issues here he’s not entirely unsympathetic but mostly I wanted to slap him hard. That is ok right? Caitlin would rather leave her supposed best friend in agony rather than face up to her own secret and basically Violet was a dishcloth. Yet they held me in their grip the entire time, I wanted to know the outcome for all.

In the end I think it would be fair to say that for me this was a solid read that makes me want to read more from Jessica Strawser, but perhaps it did not quite light the fire under me that it could have done due to my personal dislike of the characters within.

Recommended for fans of womens fiction and family drama.

You can Purchase Almost Missed You HERE

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Publication Date: 7th April from Hatchette Books Ireland

Source: Netgalley

On the cusp of adulthood, in their final year of college, they struggle to hold on to the one thing they hold dear — their friendship.

But then a split second decision one night changes everything …

The Privileged was an interesting and intriguing story – mostly about friendship and the ties that bind, decisions made that change lives and how you hold onto relationships when everything starts dividing you.

Amanda is a fascinating character, around which the other two in this friendly trio move – three very different girls, Amanda is truly privileged but that doesnt necessarily equal happiness and that exploration within the plot was brilliantly done. Multi layered, Emily Hourican weaves an engaging and emotional story around Amanda, Stella and Laura, one moment in time causing them to drift apart and years later as they are drawn back together as trouble looms.

I loved the atmospheric sense the author brought to this and the realistic threads that ran through the group dynamic, it was absolutely about that friendship between the three of them and how the differences in temperament and outlook informed it. Events around them causing things to change but the core remained – it was beautifully constructed and elegantly told.

Definitely recommended.

You can purchase The Privileged HERE

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Faber

Source: A wish was granted via netgalley

Memory, the narrator of The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father.

But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers? Moving between the townships of the poor and the suburbs of the rich, and between the past and the present, Memory weaves a compelling tale of love, obsession, the relentlessness of fate and the treachery of memory.

The Book of Memory and I were at odds with each other for the first little while. The language Petina Guppah uses is rich and beautiful, peppered with local dialect and at times challenging to follow, but ultimately worth the effort.

The Book of Memory is exactly that – not only of the person narrating the story, Memory herself, but also memory itself and the way it flows backwards to points in time without any particularly cohesive order. The descriptive prose is haunting and gorgeous, I got a real feel for the streets upon which Memory lived, the shock of the culture change as she moved onto other things and a sharp knowledge of all the characters she met along the way – or at least of her interpretation of them.

It is a literary novel, the narrative tells a life story – Memory has to be seen as an unreliable narrator because it is simply her own world view of those things that have happened to her. It is entirely fascinating and at times very moving, with a sharp influx of ironic humour and a brilliantly placed sense of time that speaks to wider issues within its setting.

I enjoyed it, admired it whilst not being completely in love with it and would definitely recommend it for fans of literary fiction with entirely wonderful yet not wasted language. The Book of Memory is short and sharp – a little gem to be savoured on a quiet afternoon. Give it a go.

You can purchase The Book of Memory HERE

 

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Publication Date: 25th Feb 2016 from Tinder Press

Source: Review Copy

Lizzy lives with her father, Julian, and her brother, Ig, in North London. Two years ago her mother died, leaving a family bereft by her absence and a house still filled with her things: for Margaret was lively, beautiful, fun, loving; she kept the family together. So Lizzy thinks. Then, one day, Lizzy finds a letter from a stranger to her father, and discovers he has another child. Lizzy invites her into their world in an act of outraged defiance. Almost immediately, she realises her mistake.

Look At Me is a beautifully written family drama, absolutely chock full of fascinating characters and although short packs quite a punch.

Lizzy and her family are mourning the loss of her mother – when she one day discovers that she has a half sister she rashly reaches out – and in doing so changes everything.

I loved the family dynamic, the bohemian yet closed nature of the relationships between Lizzy, her brother Ig and dad Julian – and Sarah Duguid does a wonderful job of shaking up the status quo by inserting Eunice into the mix – a ball of energy that makes everyone reasses life and love.

The author has a fine eye for walking the character line – Everyone you meet here is well drawn and compelling. I loved Lizzy and the way she fell into things, as for Eunice, well. She exhausted me just reading about her I could easily imagine how having someone like her in your life would keep you on your toes.

It is an intriguing and clever take on the state of grief – emotionally resonant but very real – done in a way that keeps you turning those pages to find out the outcome for Lizzy and co – and whether Eunice would end up being a blessing or a curse. Her actions and the consequences made for a really really great read.

Recommended

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: January 14th from Bloomsbury UK

Source: Netgalley

Helen and Ellie are identical twins – like two peas in a pod, everyone says.

The girls know this isn’t true, though: Helen is the leader and Ellie the follower.

Until they decide to swap places: just for fun, and just for one day.

But Ellie refuses to swap back…

And so begins a nightmare from which Helen cannot wake up. Her toys, her clothes, her friends, her glowing record at school, the favour of her mother and the future she had dreamed of are all gone to a sister who blossoms in the approval that used to belong to Helen. And as the years pass, she loses not only her memory of that day but also herself – until eventually only ‘Smudge’ is left.

Beside Myself tells the story of twins, a childish game that goes horribly wrong and the echoes of that throughout the life of at least one of the twins.

Ann Morgan is a stunning writer – the use of language in this novel is really very good and atmospheric, I enjoyed the reading of it for that reason, I just wish I had been more enamoured of the story itself. You know how sometimes it just doesn’t quite work for you as a reader? That was the problem I had with this novel. One of those “No Two people ever read the same book” moments.

So in Beside Myself two twins swap places one day to tease their mother and others. One twin however likes her new personality and doesn’t want to swap back. The other twin loses her mind. Thats basically it in a nutshell although of course there is a lot more to it than that. I just got a bit lost is all…

There were not really any characters I liked. Thats not a problem usually I’m a fan of unlikeable characters that make you crazy,but in Beside Myself there was not any one of them that gave me the other side of that – the need to root for them and get behind them. And it all was a little unlikely. The speed at which the originally confident and bossy twin fell into a practical coma seemed unrealistic. Same with the less confident, bumbling twin who suddenly took on her sister’s traits with no real hiccups. And the mother, honestly. Anyway…

When we move forward in time, we meet one of them after they have moved away. She has mental problems and well, is just strange. She gets pulled back into the vortex of family when her Sister has an accident – from there things picked up a bit for me, I was intrigued to find out what would happen with this “swap” scenario, whether anyone would actually bother to notice all these years later, and for a while in the middle I was totally in it.

Sadly the ending didn’t really do it for me either. I was hoping for a bit of a twist to make me go “ooh” but the twist was more of an “oh” moment it really just continued in the same vein for the majority of the book and ended up vaguely annoying me.

This is an exploration of personality and as such will probably work really well for a lot of readers and certainly Ann Morgan’s writing ability and talent is right up there – to the point that I will definitely be interested to read anything else she writes. But Beside Myself didn’t really work on a lot of levels, due to my own personality being vaguely grumpy about unlikely plot holes at the moment.

I’d definitely recommend this though if you are a fan of psycologial thrillers – because what is sauce for the goose is NOT necessarily what is sauce for the gander and there is a lot to admire in “Beside Myself” as you can see from other reviews.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Headline

Source: Bookbridgr

In a remote Cornish cove, on one of the last days of summer, Robyn Swinton is drowning. She is saved – just – by local boy Jago Winters, and it is a moment that will change both of them forever.
Over the next seven years, Robyn and Jago’s paths lead them in different directions, to city streets and foreign shores. Will the bond forged that day Jago dragged Robyn in from the sea be strong enough to bring them back to one another, or has life already pulled them too far apart?

Now anyone that knows my reading habits well will know that romantic tales are not really my thing. I make an exception for Emylia Hall because for whatever reason, her novels (previously I’ve loved The Book of Summers and A Heart Bent out of Shape both of which I’d highly recommend) just capture something in my usually cynical heart and make me go all soppy and stupid. That I would say is a good thing to be occasionally.

It is I think, something about the beautiful mix of atmospheric sense of place and the very authentic and emotive characters that this author brings to all her novels. The Sea Between Us is no exception to that rule – I fell for Robyn and Jago and rooted for them all the way, at the same time I was fully immersed into the gorgeous prose that allowed me to visualise the beauty of Cornwall, a place that I love and know quite well.

The novel follows our two as life seems insistent on keeping them apart – there is a strong sense of fate running through the narrative, some moments that tug on the heartstrings, an eclectic cast of external characters to keep things intriguing and all the way you are wishing and praying for a happy outcome. It just drags you in and keeps you turning those pages.

I am most definitely NOT a romantic dreamer in the normal run of things. But just for a while, reading this book, I fully believed in all that stuff. I’m not promising a happy ending mind, you’ll have to find out for yourself on that score. But as the story twists and turns, opportunities missed, life unfolding, you will be utterly captivated. And maybe…just maybe….

Clever. Intuitive and descriptively immersive, I’m a huge fan. Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Publication Date: Available Now  from Head of Zeus

Source: Publisher Review Copy

A young woman is brutally murdered on an island near Stockholm – a haunt of wealthy retirees and arty weekenders. Suspicion falls first on a family of Iraqi refugees, initially welcomed into the community but gradually feared and shunned. But then, as the victim’s story begins to unfold, suspicion begins inexorably to fall elsewhere.

Lena Sundman was rude, dysfunctional, and very young. Everything a fastidious man like Dan Byrne disliked. Hiding out on the island after the sudden death of his wife, Dan finds himself strangely drawn to the troubled girl, starting from the moment he reluctantly rescues her in the teeth of a gathering snowstorm.

In The Name of Love is a slowly gripping and intricately haunting novel about love and loss – and murder.

Dan retires to the island life after losing his wife unexpectedly – atttempting to withdraw from the world completely, still he finds other people won’t let him be and despite himself he gets caught up in parts of the community. At the behest of a friend he sets off to rescue a girl trapped in a storm – and so begins a beautifully written and engaging life story that will keep you turning the pages to the end.

This has an unusual construction – the death of Lena Sundman is very much in the end game – instead we watch the path unfold towards the inexorable fact of her death and learn about the islands inhabitants and about Dan himself who is one of the more intriguing fictional characters I have come across lately.

Patrick Smith does not so much give us a murder mystery to solve as he does a character conundrum – Dan and his motivations and actions form the anchor in this story and around him the author weaves a character driven drama that is both emotive and often intuitively ironic.

This book will leave you questioning many things. But it is a brilliantly written novel, something a bit different and definitely comes recommended from me.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available now

Source: Author Review Copy

In 1913, young Irish emigrant Eva Downey is trapped in London with a remote father and hostile stepmother. When she is awarded a legacy from an old suffragette to attend a finishing school in Kent, she jumps at the chance. At the school, she finds kinship and later falls in love with her teacher Christopher Shandlin, her intellectual equal.

But when war breaks out and the man she loves refuses to fight, Eva’s fanatical stepsister Grace pushes her to make a choice. She must present him with a white feather of cowardice, or no money will be given for her sister Imelda’s life-saving treatment in Switzerland. Caught in a dilemma, Eva must choose – and her decision will have irrevocable consequences for her and Christopher and haunt her for the rest of her life.

So historical fiction then. Not my favourite. Except on occasion – this being one of those occasions. Absolutely enthralling.

Susan Lanigan has a great depth of literary styling that puts you bang into the era she is re-creating here. The anchor to the tale, that of the giving of white feathers to those refusing to fight in the war, is a very intriguing one – the prejudices if you like of a time now past, this is the state of play Ms Lanigan draws from to write this very emotional and addictive story.

Eva is a fascinating and well drawn character, her terrible choices stark and unrelenting, the knock on effects of which will be long reaching…the sense you get of an independently minded woman back in the age when women were not allowed to be such things is really well done and kept me turning the pages. The backdrop, that of the first world war is authentic and obviously well researched.

A really beautifully written story that encompasses not only Eva’s story but that of women in general at the time – the challenges and problems they faced in what was already a difficult and traumatic period in history. If you love Historical fiction you will definitely want to take a look at “White Feathers” and if you are not, then this is perhaps the novel I would point you towards if you wanted to take a stroll out of your comfort reading zone.

Really good. Really very good.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: October 22nd 2015 from Little Brown

Source: Netgalley

When Lapérouse leaves France in the Spring of 1785 with two ships under his command, he knows that he sails with the full backing of the French government. This is to be a voyage of scientific and geographical discovery – but every person on board has their own hopes, ambitions and dreams.

Landfalls is a fictional account of a real historical journey – some beautifully vivid writing and  in depth and cleverly drawn characters made for a really terrific read and something a little different for me – I do like different.

It does take a while to get going – but the core feel of it will draw you in anyway – the author focuses on a selection of characters, not only those engaged in the voyage, but those they encounter and she weaves a stunningly evocative story that is engaging throughout.

I knew nothing about the historical reality that this tale is based on, now I am aware of it I actually think that made this better – there was no expectation of anything, no knowledge of what may have been to come for the characters you end up getting so involved with. Naomi Williams explores many emotional and practical themes here and it is seriously excellent – one of those “sink into another time and place” novels that makes reading such a wonderful thing.

A very authentic feel tells me that the research was done to perfection, Naomi Williams has a very impressive voice which she imparts into her characters and if you like Historical fiction (which yes I tend not to, but occasionally like now I’m partial to – it has to be good) you will love this and I think it is one that will stay with me.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Publication Date: Available Now from Crown

Source: Netgalley

Georgia, Charlie and Alice each arrive at Harvard with hopeful visions of what the future will hold. But when, just before graduation, a classmate is found murdered on campus, they find themselves facing a cruel and unanticipated new reality. Moreover, a charismatic professor who has loomed large in their lives is suspected of the crime. Though his guilt or innocence remains uncertain, the unsettling questions raised by the case force the three friends to take a deeper look at their tangled relationship.

First of all Bradstreet Gate WILL suffer because of the insistence on the connection to The Secret History – I would strongly advise putting that comparison out of your mind before going into this one because for me, it just doesn’t hold water. Its that thing that because this novel deals with a group dynamic within a University setting and there is a murder, that it must necessarily be Secret History like. It isn’t. I don’t think it’s even TRYING to be. So there’s that.

So Bradstreet Gate then, taken on it’s own merits, for me was a pretty good story, beautifully written and follows along with a group of University students and their interpersonal relationships. Not only between themselves but with the wider community and specifically one particular Tutor who is later accused,but never charged, with murder.

I really enjoyed the novel but there are several issues. Storrow, as a man accused and as a character is a bit wishy washy so the whole part where everyone was fascinated by him fell flat. Despite my best efforts I could not find a reason why all these people were falling over themselves about him. He was annoying. And obviously egotistical to the point of being, well, just annoying.

Having said that the wider cast I found intriguing and I got very caught up in their stuff – especially the dynamic between Georgia and Charlie, and Alice on her own who, for me, literally kept the book on it’s feet. Alice seems to be the one that the author has invested some real emotion into, she is troubled, sharp cornered and endlessly compelling. If the book had been about HER with all the rest circling around her rather than around the rather pale Storrow, this might have been a 5* read for me.

I found it addictive. I wanted to find out the resolution (yeah shame about that one really) and I wanted to mostly know where Alice would end up (better but still hmm not quite satisfied)

I didn’t like the end. If you are going to write an ending like that you need to have engaged the reader beyond the point that they are reading solely to find OUT the ending – which I’m not sure the author achieved here. Yes sometimes you can pull off a non ending ending when the reader is then compelled to think things through, wonder, come back to it in their head. In the case of Bradstreet Gate, I read the end, shrugged and moved on.

So its a good read while you are in it. I love this kind of story, and for the record I’m not a HUGE fan of The Secret History or of Donna Tartt generally, way too wordy and rarely ends up actually getting anywhere for me – so in some ways I preferred this and would refer you to my first comments.

A fun, often intriguing, kills an afternoon mystery character drama. Give it a go. It’s not over involved it’s free flowing and a nice little read.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Publication Date: Available Now from Picador.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Jim Harrison is a test pilot in the United States Air Force, one of the exalted few. He spends his days cheating death in the skies above the Mojave Desert and his nights at his friend Pancho’s bar, often with his wife, Grace. She and Harrison are secretly desperate for a child-and when, against all odds, Grace learns that she is pregnant, the two are overcome with joy. While America becomes swept up in the fervor of the Space Race, Harrison turns his attention home, passing up the chance to become an astronaut to welcome his daughter, Florence, into the world. Together, he and Grace confront the thrills and challenges of raising a child head-on. Fatherhood is different than flying planes-less controlled, more anxious-however the pleasures of watching Florence grow are incomparable. But when his family is faced with a sudden and inexplicable tragedy, Harrison’s instincts as a father and a pilot are put to test.

Admittedly I’m struggling a little with this review because this book was as near perfect as it’s possible to be when it comes to genius storytelling, emotionally resonant use of language and the ability to get you right in the heart.

Set against the backdrop of the space race, in a bubble of time and place that the author brings utterly vividly to life, The Last Pilot is a character drama that deals with themes of love, loss and family that will speak to each different reader in it’s own way. A truly gifted blend of history and fiction, the  sheer exhileration of those in the programme, offset against the life of one family in the public spotlight means that The Last Pilot will stay with you forever.

I really did love everything about this – Benjamin Johncock writes with a truly unique and gripping style, there is a quiet passion to the prose that just gathers you into the moment and wraps you up in the feel of it. The characters are inspired, all of them, but I will truly hold onto Jim, Grace and Florence for a long long time and I’m positive that this is a book I shall return to again and again.

The hook may well be in the wonderful interpretation of an era gone by, a time when humanity was attempting to spread its wings – that in and of itself would have made for a fascinating novel. But the heart of it is in the people, their daily struggles, the authenticity of a life less ordinary within an ordinary life – there is where this story shines like a beacon, a very special once in a lifetime read that I truly cannot recommend highly enough.

That’s all she wrote.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1250066646/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_uk-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Little Brown UK

Translated by Anthea Bell

Source: Netgalley

Sebastian von Eschburg, scion of a wealthy, self-destructive family, survived his disastrous childhood to become a celebrated if controversial artist. He casts a provocative shadow over the Berlin scene; his disturbing photographs and installations show that truth and reality are two distinct things.
When Sebastian is accused of murdering a young woman and the police investigation takes a sinister turn, seasoned lawyer Konrad Biegler agrees to represent him – and hopes to help himself in the process. But Biegler soon learns that nothing about the case, or the suspect, is what it appears.

 

I’m going to struggle to review this one because I really liked it but it drove me beautifully mad. And if you want me to lay out the reasons for why I liked it I’ll be hard pressed to do so.

The story is a straightforward family drama really. The first half deals with a boy who has a difficult childhood and grows up to be a photographer/artist whose strangeness is, well strange. Actually this whole book has a strange feeling about it – a kind of weird “other” vibe all the way through.

Then the second half of the book turns into a legal drama come murder mystery. Kind of. Difficult to say much else without spoilers. And really up until that point not a lot happens at any kind of pace and yet it is so compelling that you keep turning the pages anyway.

After that point things fairly rocket along to the end – an end that had me re-thinking everything that had gone before it. Not because it was a complicated solution but because it was a simple one. The author has themes of reality and perception running through the narrative that resolve themselves ultimately in a rather erm strange way.

Yes ok I’ve used the word strange a lot. But that was how it struck me. It is a tale of two halves, the first being fairly slow yet gripping the second being darkly humerous (the poor lawyer who ends up with the case, not sure he’ll ever be the same again)and perhaps even more intriguing.

Would I recommend it? Yes. But I seriously can’t tell you if you’ll love it or not. Whether you do or don’t it is a clever little tale. One that I think will stay with me.

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Publication Date: Available Now from Randomhouse UK Cornerstone.

Source: Netgalley

You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.
You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.
You think your children are safe.
But are they really?

“The Girls” is a beautifully written family drama come psychological thriller – to sum it up simply, it is full of vibrant colourful characters involved in deliciously dark goings on…

After a fire destroys their home, Clare and her two daughters Pip and Grace move into a flat overlooking a community garden – in the garden all the kids from the surrounding homes mill about together, doing what kids do. 30 years ago a young girl called Phoebe died in the garden..as Clare, Pip and Grace become part of the whole, events are set in motion that may have tragic consequences…

As always with Lisa Jewell it’s characters first – she sets the scene with a great eye for detail when it comes to people and their motivations – writing with a style that is so involving that you sink into the lives of this fictional group and feel every moment with them.

I loved Pip – we see her letters to her absent father and hear her thoughts on what is going on around her – she often provides a birds eye anchor to proceedings and is a really beautifully drawn character. The cast as a whole are all highly intriguing, from Adele with her brood of three home schooled girls and her perfect husband, to Rhea the pensioner who has seen it all and Clare herself who is struggling to fit in and get used to a very new kind of bohemian inclusive lifestyle. The garden is a character in and of itself with its nooks and crannies and wide open area’s where the kids roam free, missing tea, out until all hours, creating their own little bubble in the world.

As the arrival of Pip and Grace upsets the balance within the relationships, the story ebbs and flows – constructively speaking it is really well done, with the end at the beginning so to speak and then the events leading up to and after – the whole thing is entirely enthralling and the minute nuances and little details that Lisa Jewell embeds within the story keep you fascinated from first page to last.

“The Girls” is an ensemble character driven drama with added mystery, gorgeously complex, utterly authentic and a truly addictive reading experience.

Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Publication Date: 2nd July 2015 from Orion

Source: Review Copy

Everyone thought we were dead.
We were missing for nearly two months; we were twelve. What else could they think?
They were glad to have us back, of course. But nothing was the same. It was as if we had returned from the dead, as if we were tainted somehow. We were not the same.
And it was true, though not in the way they thought.

Pretty Is – a book I read a while ago but held off on reviewing until nearer publication, is a beautifully atmospheric, haunting and emotional read that will both tug on the heartstrings and absolutely enthrall you.

At it’s heart a story of a friendship and bond developed under the most extreme of circumstances, Pretty Is also ticks the boxes on mystery and intrigue, although this is very much secondary to a character piece that gives a snapshot of two very different, but equally fascinating women.

Thrown together when both are kidnapped, Carly May and Lois develop a very up and down but seemingly solid relationship – flash forward to years later, we meet them as grown women who have lost contact and are living very different lives. As the story unfolds from both points of view, the author weaves a clever web, showing different interpretations of past events and leading both Carly and Lois into an uncertain future.

The truth about what happened all those years ago comes out in beautiful little snippets of information – a film that is being made based on the kidnapping bringing the two girls together again but not, perhaps, in the ways you might expect. It is all genuinely gripping – there is a marvelous psychological depth to both of the main protagonists that just immerses you into their lives and holds you, riveted, until the final pages.

This is a stunning debut – sure to be one of the standouts of the year, it is difficult to believe that Maggie Mitchell has not written endless novels, honing her craft, but nope this is a first – which is very exciting. An author to watch for sure “Pretty Is” comes very highly recommended from me.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Electric Monkey

Source: Purchased Copy
Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself. 
He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.
He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins.

I picked up Charm and Strange for two reasons. One was that “Delicate Monsters” by the same author had recently been recommended to me and because I had already loved “Complicity” which had put Stephanie Kuehn firmly on my reading radar in the first place.

Now I’ve finished this I’m honestly not sure what to feel about it. It was a pure read for me – straight through pretty much, it is utterly gripping and has some dark themes and beautiful writing that just really appealed to me. It was really horribly sad in places, uplifting in others and extremely difficult to review because this is a life story, a story that is haunting and delicately constructed – a novel best read cold.

At it’s heart is a boy who struggles daily to recognise life, more importantly to place himself in it – his past stalks him, his future confounds him, the reason for his confusion being slowly revealed over time.

The author has a touch of storytelling genius in her for sure, writing here a character driven, powerful and emotionally resonant tale that will stay with you long after finishing. And that is really all I can say.

I’m now going to move straight on to “Delicate Monsters”. My list of must read authors just grew by one.

Happy Reading Folks.

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Publication Date: 7th July from Samhain Publishing.

Source: Netgalley

The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum.

He’s the hospital’s newest, and most notorious, patient—a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side.

Luckily he’s in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don’t have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.

This was a clever little novel – haunting, often very disturbing with some great characters and a really intriguing premise. I hesitate to put it in a box – it is part thriller, part character drama, part horror leading to a very eclectic and interesting read.

Very impressive for a debut in its construction and multi layered themes, a look at the treatment of the mentally ill using a deliciously dark format and idea – this draws you into a strange world where not everything is as it seems.

Beautifully deep, the author having obviously taken the time to research the subject matter, this is fiction with a strong dose of reality weaved into the narrative. As you take a walk on the wild side with the inhabitants and physicians of Sugar Hill asylum, you will be engaged and absolutely fascinated.

This is a novel best served cold – I didn’t really have much idea of what was coming when I started it, frankly I just got caught by the cover. What I found was a really most terrific and well written tale which makes me want to read more from this author as soon as possible.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Headline

Source: BookBridgr

Lola Durand hates her stepmother. It’s a cliché but it’s true.
Lola Durand can’t get through to her father. He never wants to talk about the things that matter: why they had to move to Paris, why he had to marry evil Agatha, and how they can get through the heartache of her mother’s death together.
If he won’t listen, she’ll show him. She’ll show him the truth about his new wife and then her life can go back to normal, just the way she likes it.

“For Holly” is a highly compelling family drama with a mystery element that starts off slowly but inexorably draws you in. Written in the form of a diary/letter, it pretty much follows Lola on a path through grief after the death of her Mother. The whole thing is fascinatingly emotional as we see her self destruct, even though she cannot see it herself…

I really thought this was a genuinely beautiful yet very sad at times story – Lola is a remarkably drawn character with a strong voice and an engaging and intriguing story to tell.

It is a haunting and intelligent take on the grieving process, wrapped up in a well constructed tale – you know that Lola has done something, that there are secrets waiting to be revealed, this keeps you right in the moment. On the way to the resolution though, we can see the raw pain and horror of losing someone we love, how that can change us, change everything. It is authentic, moving and absolutely gripping.

Just a mention as well to the scene setting which is pitched perfectly – set in France the location comes to life as Lola describes her life there, comparing and contrasting to her other life in London – the heart of the story is given a real boost by the fact that you can see and feel the locations where the events are taking place.

Overall then, really excellent. I’ve loved all of Tanya Byrne’s novels so far, she manages to give us something different every time. “For Holly” is a strong addition to her stable, a touching and exquisitely written novel with real heart.

Happy Reading folks!

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Publication Date: 4th June from John Murray

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Magnus McFall is no stranger to trouble, but he never expected a life sentence. He is arrested just as a pandemic called ‘The Sweats’ hits London. Growing public disorder results in emergency powers and he finds himself imprisoned without trial. An unlikely alliance with long-termer Jeb and a prison riot offer the opportunity of escape. The two men force their way through the devastated city and head north into countryside fraught with danger. Magnus is unsure if Jeb is an ally or an enemy and soon he is forced to decide how far he will go in order to survive.

The first novel in the “Plague Times” trilogy, A Lovely Way to Burn, was a favourite for me so I was very excited to read the second book in the series. Easily read as a standalone novel “Death is a Welcome Guest” is in a lot of ways a quieter, more contemplative look at the world first realised in “Burn” focusing on a different set of characters and telling a different kind of tale…

The story is set as the sweats begins to really take its toll – we meet Magnus, a comedian, whose life seems to be coming together just as the world falls apart. A rather “murphy’s law” set of circumstances see’s him jailed then stuck there as people are dying like flies. After making his escape rather reluctantly in the company of his cellmate, the pair seem stuck together. Magnus wishes to find his family but the times he now finds himself in are dangerous ones and he and Jeb are about to get a taste of a new kind of community…

This instalment was a slow burner in a good way – the characters are developed slowly but surely, put into situations that test their moral compass, Magnus especially is given a lot to think about. Louise Welsh uses her story to examine where the cracks are in our society and most especially to look at human nature in both its good and bad forms giving a lot of pause for thought on what might happen should the worst happen.

She manages to give us a little murder mystery in there as well, another platform from which to explore how we treat each other, it is a very cleverly constructed and often emotional tale that will draw you in. I love how the world is developing in the aftermath of the plague, I am going to be very interested to see how the author completes the trilogy – will both these tales merge or will there be another completely different viewpoint? No idea but can’t wait to find out.

Whilst Magnus was a great anchor for the story, I found myself more drawn to Jeb whose background we don’t really find out until much later – one of the intriguing aspects about the ongoing story for me was the assumptions that Magnus made about Jeb which coloured some of his actions – the friendship (yep not really a friendship but I can’t think of another word!) that develops between these two is highly engaging.

I love how the two novels in the series so far stand together yet apart – both bringing something different to the building of this world – and allowing the reader to choose the order in which to read them.

Overall this is shaping up to be a really great trilogy, one that will stay with me. I cannot wait for the finale.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Publication Date:Available Now from World Editions

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Growing up in the old rectory of a peaceful Dutch village with her beautiful, eccentric mother and their two endearing male ‘lodgers’ Ludo and Duco, Lucy is the popular, wildly imaginative leader of the preschool set until a bizarre crime rocks her world. Lucy’s friends turn on her, and from one day to the next she becomes a much-bullied scapegoat. When her mother is sent to prison for murder, Lucy and her ‘uncles’ leave the village to start over in the Outer Hebrides, where she soon becomes part of a gang of equally wild and audacious Scottish children. But even here, in this remote corner of the world, the past has a way of catching up with her

The Darkness that Divides Us is a really beautifully written family drama, with a hint of mystery – the writing is darkly atmospheric and it has a really intense construction about it that works really well and hooks you right in.

It is basically the story of one girl and her family – Lucy, who we meet at a very young age, has a life completely influenced by a tragic event when she was a child. Starting pretty much at that point then in several timelines showing her grow up with the consequences, this is at turns intense, very sad and always highly compelling.

The authors use of language (superbly translated from the Dutch by Hester Velmans) just has a way of making you feel every moment through very matter of fact prose and there is a stunning poignancy to the whole novel that resonates.

The two main settings (The Netherlands and the Outer Hebrides) come to vivid life around the characters and overall this is a really good if poignant and often very emotional read.

Definitely recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Publication Date: July 7th 2015 from Lake Union Publishing

Source: Netgalley

We don’t believe that our lives can change in an instant—until they do.

Olivay, widowed for a year and sleepwalking through life, meets Henry by chance. She takes him to her Los Angeles loft, thinking it will just be for the night. But the following morning, bombs detonate across the city; mayhem and carnage fill the streets; and her loft is covered in broken glass and her own blood. Henry is skittish, solicitous, and strangely distracted. Who is this man she’s marooned with as the city goes on lockdown? Why is she catching him in lie after lie? Is he somehow connected to her husband’s death and the terrorist attacks outside?

Seriously, I don’t know how I feel about this book. It is strange and yet beautiful, absolutely compelling but slowly drawn out – there is a wonderful poetry to the prose and an odd underlying tension throughout. It gripped me utterly, I started it this morning and here I am done. And yet I do not now how I feel about this book…

Olivay lost her husband to a terrible accident. Sometime later she meets a man whilst out in one of her rare forays beyond her front door and brings him home with her. Then bombs go off and suddenly they are stuck together, but who exactly is he? And, indeed, who exactly is Olivay?

This is a claustrophobic and intelligently engaging psychological drama – two characters, one setting, a real play on emotions and a story of actions and consequences. The author slowly slowly and with really haunting detail gives us a portrait of this woman and this man, brought together possibly by chance, by coincidence or maybe not. The truth lies hidden beneath many layers that Deborah Reed gradually peels away for the reader, letting them see through to the core.

Purely character driven, a touch of literary genius, really stunning writing and that underlying tension I mentioned earlier is created through a very deft use of language and a really gorgeous play on words, sinking you into this story and holding you there enthralled.

The ending is subtle, takes a while to absorb, the book has left me emotionally wrung out and pensive. This is one that will stay with me for a long time and that I’m sure my mind will worry at and reassess – the kind of read that is truly thought provoking for reasons beyond my ken.

Definitely highly recommended – with the caveat that it will not be for everyone – but still give it a go. Although I have done my best it really is a book that defies description. Take from it what you find there.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Publication Date: May 21st 2015 from Pan Macmillan

Source: Netgalley

In All Involved, Ryan Gattis weaves a narrative from the perspectives of people whose stories of the riots were never told–members of the gang underworld. Inspired by unprecedented access to the inner workings of these organizations, Gattis channels their experiences into a gritty, cinematic tale that is both shocking and devastating. Though the events of this book are fiction, every word is infused with authenticity and intimacy. Evoking the anger, the uncertainty, and the turmoil of those six days, Gattis turns Los Angeles from merely a setting to a living, breathing entity.

So “All Involved” by Ryan Gattis is actually a truly brilliant piece of fiction with a factual base. After many people had been raving about it, I was looking forward to it – but for some reason it didnt get to me in the way that it seems to have done with many other readers.

I liked it. I didnt LOVE it. Having said that you can’t take away from what it is – A dark, authentic and genuinely thought provoking piece of literary drama. Whilst I understand completely why it is much admired, I did not get “All Involved” with this one, for some reason I did not have the emotional connection to it that I expected to have.

It is possible that this is because I had such HIGH expectations, sometimes that can be a bit of a problem – in this case it was. My admiration for this novel rests solely with the prose, imagery and construction for which I give it a solid 3* rating and a recommendation that you give it a go for yourself.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

Publication Date: Available Now from Pengu24728721in Uk – Michael Joseph

Source: Netgalley

Fallen in love?  Trusted a stranger? So when Jay tells Romy his darkest secret, she only wants to help.
Destroyed your family? But Romy’s actions could be the catalyst that tears her world apart…

An interesting and intriguing read for me this one – especially since I have been the mother of a teenage girl, with all the highs and lows that can bring so could relate in a lot of ways to what Ailsa and Romy go through in this story.

Romy is “The Good Girl” – never having given her parents a moment of worry, the one they rely on to be self sufficient, ever practical and not really requiring much parenting – leaving them to focus on their other children (who are not quite so easy) and themselves as they go through a marriage crisis. Romy however is about to take a wrong step, forcing everyone to reconsider their own actions and attitudes.

There are several layers to the story, all of which are compelling – told in alternate parts by Ailsa and Romy, we start with the news that Romy is in trouble then find out what has led up to it. Beautifully written with two very distinct voices in Ailsa and Romy but with those little subtle “tells” that clarify the mother/daughter relationship, it was very addictive reading, knowing what is coming and simply wishing you could stop it.

Fiona Neill takes an unrelenting look at social media and how it can explode a life, at the same time she gives us a very authentic family drama with some complex interpersonal relationships. Some great characters in here, I imagine everyone will relate to someone and as the story ebbs and flows and external influences take their toll on Romy during her delicate coming of age, it will completely grip you.

Dad Harry was a great character, being a scientist there is a lot of pretty cool information on the brain, how it works, especially when it comes to teenage thought processes – it was an interesting thread running through the narrative that gave it a solid background. Youngest son Ben was gorgeous – I totally fell in love with him, Luke the elder brother was brilliantly normal in many ways and wait until you meet the neighbours!

Overall I thought this was a terrific read – some important issues raised for sure, entertaining in both an informative and often very emotional way, it had a lovely depth to it, great writing, great storytelling and overall one that I would definitely recommend.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication date: Available now from Headline

Source: Bookbridgr

A burned-out L.A. detective . . . a woman of mystery who is far more than she seems . . . a grotesque, ancient monster bent on a mission of retribution.

So the first collaboration between family members Jonathan and Jesse (also two of my favourite writers when it comes to their own work – check out the “Delaware/Sturgis” series from Jonathan if you havent already and for a mind blowing fun filled absolutely insane novel try Jesse’s “I’ll catch you” – I was extremely interested to see what this was like.

I loved it I have to say. An excellent blend of mythology and crime fiction, a serial killer thriller with a fantastical twist, I found it fascinating, eminently readable and totally engrossing.

It is very very different to either of the Kellermans’ “usual” novels so be prepared to come at it as something utterly new – the story is unexpected in a lot of places and is very creepy at times, I loved the sense of menace throughout and there is some beautifully descriptive world building.

The mythology is explored in a very engaging fashion and given a modern twist, but also told as a past “myth” which gave the present day happenings a lovely sense of place and time. I loved the characters and really hope there is more to come – especially with relation to a very intriguing father/son relationship.

Overall then a very good read – it won’t be for everyone, granted – if you are a fan of either Kellerman and are looking for a similar read to their other novels you won’t find that here. However their trademark skill is still right here, beautifully written and absorbing I would definitely recommend you give it a try.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: 9th April from Tinder Press

Source: Bookbridgr

On the same day that retired police inspector Auguste Jovert receives a letter from a woman claiming to be his daughter, he returns to his Paris apartment to find a stranger waiting for him.
That stranger is a Japanese professor called Tadashi Omura. What’s brought him to Jovert’s doorstep is not clear, but then he begins to tell his story – a story of a fractured friendship, lost lovers, orphaned children, and a body left bleeding in the snow.

The Snow Kimono is a strangely wonderful and poetic read, honestly I found a lot of it a bit odd but beautiful and very compelling.

It is quite difficult to say what it is about – the narrative follows a tale being told, to a person who is not sure why he is hearing it. It is a complex and elegantly woven story, a puzzle within a puzzle that twists and turns its way towards understanding for the reader.

There is a journey made up of memories here, a gentle unfolding of lives with a very clever construct that makes it highly addictive even as a slow burner. Despite being unsure where it is taking you, you will know that you absolutely want to get there – indeed as you head into the final chapters you may find it very hard to put aside.

Absolutely gorgeous prose, often giving a creepy and unsettling feeling, what I call a chilly read, one that will stay with you long after finishing. A really really good read.

“In Japan we have a saying. If you want to see your life, you have to see it through the eyes of another. But what if what you see is not what you want to know”

What will be seen in The Snow Kimono? I would recommend you find out.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Head of Zeus

Source: Publisher Review Copy.

Some secrets destroy you.
Rob and Anna have only just met Owen and Kim. Now they’ve boarded their handsome old boat to travel to a far off island in the Caribbean.
With only the four of them on board, it should be paradise: lazy afternoons spent snorkelling; long nights enjoying the silence and solitude of the sea.
But why does Owen never sleep? Why is he so secretive about his past? And why does Kim keep a knife zipped into her money-belt? Anna can usually get people to talk… but this time, does she want to?

So,it seems to have been a bit hit and miss with readers this one, personally I enjoyed it although it IS a slow burner and very much character driven rather than full of action – I found the characters fascinating however and therefore very much enjoyed the read despite it eeking out the drama and slowly drip feeding the suspense.

You basically have a cast of four – yes others are involved towards the end, when things come to a head, but for the majority of the story you spend your time with Rob and Anna who have taken a detour from their holiday to join Kim and Owen on their boat. As they face both calm and storm, the relationships falter, stop and start and it becomes clear that each of our protagonists have issues. Some fairly standard, some which may become dangerous.

I was engaged by Anna who always assumes the worse case scenario – being a litte like that myself I sympathised with her when others did not take her fears seriously. The beauty of the writing for me was in how you could see it from both sides – I may have felt for Anna but I was also annoyed by her sometimes constant whining. The others all had their “thing” and I was very much compelled to keep reading and find out what was going to happen to this very eclectic and opposite bunch of people.

The mystery element is low key – Owen doesnt sleep and Kim hides knives and you have to wonder why. But even then, its not really about that so much as it is a kind of claustrophobic snapshot of the lives of four very different people with very different issues.

If you like character driven drama then this is for you. Whether you like this one or not will very much depend on how you react to the people involved. It leads you slowly and inexorably towards a very intriguing final denouement and I found it clever and appealing throughout and occasionally very gripping.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: March 26th 2015 from Pan Macmillan

Source: Netgalley

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.
But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.

A brilliant novel this – although very uncomfortable reading at times, at the heart of it is an amazingly drawn character, Anna, who I absolutely detested. It was entirely a love/hate relationship though because I loved reading about her.

Anna then, lives in Zurich with her husband (who I can’t say I liked much either) and her children…she is unhappy although for what reason she can’t quite fathom, and embarks upon a series of affairs, makes a new friend, goes to a therapist and slides from one mood to another with no real rhyme nor reason. When things go horribly wrong, the consequences are harsh.

This is so well written, a true character piece because this book basically IS Anna. Her thoughts, her feelings, her actions and inactions, stumbling from one thing to the next. At times coming across as inherently selfish, definitely obsessive and beautifully flawed, I spent half of my time while reading this shaking my head at her and wishing she would, for the love of everything, stop being such an idiot. I really felt as if I SHOULD feel quite sorry for her, after all emotional issues are very hard to deal with, this comes across very well, but somehow, somehow, I simply wanted to throw shoes at her.

To be fair to Anna she has quite a  bit to put up with on the marital front. Bruno is not unkind so much as rather ignorant and dismissive of Anna’s unhappiness. The whole dynamic between Husband and Wife is fascinating – they seem permanently at odds yet often terribly together. Her relationship with new “best friend” Mary is also intriguing – Anna does not particularly want a friend and yet Mary does her best anyway. In fact Mary was probably the only person I met in this story that I had a soft spot for.

The writing is excellent, even the mundane parts of Anna’s life are somehow made interesting, her sexual encounters are audaciously described and there is a hugely intelligent psychological depth to the whole thing that makes it utterly captivating.

This is a book that will definitely get your blood up one way or another – I found myself growling at it quite a lot, in the best way possible, it is a superbly crafted story that will stay with you for a long time. Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Corsair.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

When fifteen-year-old Becs meets Bracken, she is convinced she’s found her soul mate. So what if he’s much older? He understands her, she feels free with him and when he holds her she feels safe. But is she? Some young women in the local area have recently been sexually assaulted. It’s the talk of the school. And when Bec’s best friend Mary-Jane becomes the latest victim, the true dangers hit home: just as Becs is starting to wonder about her future with Bracken – poor M-J rapidly shrinks away from life. . .

This was a beautifully evocative story, quite heart wrenching but so atmospheric and with an authentic sense of place, I was left feeling vaguely melancholy at the end.

We meet Becs – Becs is a child of the 70’s, she and best friend MJ roam their world fairly carefree. Then Becs meets Bracken, he is older and intriguing and she falls in love. Meanwhile MJ experiences a traumatic assault and begins to withdraw from her life.

It is quite difficult to capture the ambience of this novel in a review – it is elegantly written and the characters are brought to vivid life. Becs is a typical teenager, coming of age and to an awakening of her emotions, led towards adulthood possibly way too early by her interaction and relationship with Bracken. This has the added affect that she misses how unwell and deeply disturbed MJ is becoming – the friendship falters just at the time that it is most needed.

This flows beautifully, it pretty much has its own soundtrack, the musical memories interwoven into the plot giving it that added frission, the setting is beautifully described and realistically drawn. Set against this backdrop is a tale of friendship, love and growing up, the decisions we make that can define us and the true nature of hindsight. The very definition of a  coming of age tale, I would highly recommend this.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: 5th March from Corsair/Little Brown

Source: Publisher review copy

Set over the last half of the twentieth century, Onward Toward What We’re Going Toward is the epic story of the decline and fall of an American family.
Postwar newlyweds Chic and Diane Waldbeeser are determined to carve out a life for themselves and their son, Lomax, in Middleville, Illinois, but when ten-year old Lomax dies, Chic and Diane take refuge in religion, haiku poetry, doll collecting, food, and bowling as they try to make sense of their overwhelming grief and guilt.

A sprawling, beautifully written and often highly emotional family drama here, terribly compelling, with a hugely addictive ambience and some wonderful imagery which brings the story to life in a gorgeous way.

It is an eclectic writing style that Ryan Bartelmay has which may take you a while to get your head around, but you are drawn into this world almost without realising it. Ambitious perhaps but so very well done I loved it, was disturbed by it, got emotional over it and generally speaking just absorbed it into my psyche where I’m sure it will stay.

Chic Waldbeeser is a truly unforgettable character, they all are really, as the novel charts the ups and downs of the lives of this so called “average” family you will be utterly fascinated and unable to look away. It is haunting but often funny, very believable and highly entertaining. I won’t speak much to the detail of it, there is so much in here to be discovered and it is most definitely a journey worth taking.

This is not necessarily a story that will give you a happy outcome, but it is definitely a realistic yet imaginative take on life, love and everything in between – you will, if you are like me, be left with a wistful feeling of nostalgia by the end of it. I kind of wish I could start it again with no prior knowledge. Certainly it is a novel I shall return to in the future.

Overall then a beautifully done, sometimes odd but always compelling tale of Family. You can’t choose them for the most part but you can love them. And you will.

Highly Recommended

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available now from Odyssey books.

Source: Netgalley

Marriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant — The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land.

A collection of beautifully written and interlinked stories, I very much enjoyed this one – the last story, written by Shelly Davies, really brings it all together. Really very good indeed.

The stories focus on English women and their move to a strange new land – each one leading to the next, beautifully interwoven and painting a vivid and compelling picture of the era, the life and the problems faced. There is a mixture of different emotional resonances to each one, some darker than others, the connection between them becomes more obvious as you read onwards, a lovely domino effect that gives the whole thing an extra frission.

The theme of mothers and children is a strong one running throughout the narrative – something that I found fascinating. I read this slowly over the course of a week or so, taking one story at a time and letting it sink in – for me that worked really well.

I would definitely recommend this one for fans of historical fiction, with an authentic twist – gorgeously done.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date; Available Now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: BookBridgr

There are six homesteads on Blackasen Mountain.
A day’s journey away lies the empty town. It comes to life just once, in winter, when the Church summons her people through the snows. Then, even the oldest enemies will gather.
But now it is summer, and new settlers are come.
It is their two young daughters who find the dead man, not half an hour’s walk from their cottage.
The father is away. And whether stubborn, or stupid, or scared for her girls, the mother will not let it rest.

Wolf Winter was a wonderfully chilly read that I read mostly wrapped up in my duvet – set in the 1700’s we meet a family who have just arrived on Blackasen Mountain. It is a new start for them but  when the sisters  discover a body, they become embroiled in the myths, legends and realities of life in this harsh environment.

I found that this one gripped me more and more as time went on – early in the novel the scene setting is superb, which by the time the really haunting part starts to kick in has put you right into the atmosphere – it is one of those books that envelops you in its aura, a wintery, beautifully written tale with some wonderfully drawn characters.

It is part crime fiction part family drama – with some strong female leads, the most intriguing of which for me was Elena who is actually more peripheral. Maija and her daughters, who sit right at the heart of the story, are elegantly described and I loved how the author gave a real sense of what it was like for women in that time through their thoughts and actions. Maija is determined to discover what happened to the dead man but is held back by superstition and hidden secrets – and there is a storm brewing..

I was highly intrigued by how much influence the Church had, the priest who does not care but somehow does, is an excellent character through whom we can see the nuances of how things worked, this arc I found completely fascinating.  The story also has a haunting, dark edge to it that can be quite disconcerting, occasionally reading late at night I found myself jumping at shadows.

Overall a terrific novel – atmospheric and authentic, I look forward to more from this author. I will be first in line.

Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: March 12th 2015 From W&N Orion Publishing Group.

Source: Netgalley

Even monsters need peace. Even monsters need a person who truly wants to listen – to hear – so that someday we might find the words that are more than boxes. Then maybe we can stop men like me from happening…  A prisoner sits on death row in a maximum security prison. His only escape from his harsh existence is through the words he dreams about, the world he conjures around him using the power of language. For the reality of his world is brutal and stark. He is not named, nor do we know his crime. But he listens. He listens to the story of York, the prisoner in the cell next to him whose execution date has been set. He hears the lady, an investigator who is piecing together York’s past. He watches as the lady falls in love with the priest and wonders if love is still possible here. He sees the corruption and the danger as tensions in ‘this enchanted place’ build. And he waits. For even monsters have a story…

I had to ponder for a while before writing this review because although I read this book in one sitting I was not immediately sure whether or not I liked it or loved it. Ultimately I think it falls somewhere inbetween…

Beautifully written, it is the tale of a Prison. One prisoner on death row watching and listening to all that goes on around him, as the story of another prisoner unfolds. He see’s magic within, despite the circumstances…

It was kind of a strange read. As I said, even now I’m not sure entirely what I thought of it. Poetic prose and a gently addictive flow to it makes you keep reading on, mostly in my case to find out what happens between the lady and the Priest. It read more like a fairytale than anything else, the premise has such a dark heart, yet it is also the tale of some very disturbed individuals.

It definitely sucks you into another world for the duration of the story, it is the kind of tale you imagine being told around a campfire, this is not a long read and certainly not a perfect one but it has that hint of something special that really appealed to me.

A very very hard novel to review. Overall I would recommend giving it a go and seeing what you think.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date:  Paperback 26th Febuary 2015 Kindle available now from No Exit Press

Source: Publisher Review Copy.

Wolves have come for the children of Keelut. Three children have been snatched from this isolated Alaskan village, including the six-year-old son of Medora and Vernon Slone. Wolf expert Russell Core arrives in Keelut to investigate the killings and learns of the horrifying darkness at the heart of Medora. 
When her husband returns from a desert war to discover his boy dead and his wife missing, he begins a maniacal pursuit that cuts a bloody swathe across the frozen landscape. As Core attempts to rescue Medora from her husband’s vengeance, he comes face to face with a dark secret at the furthermost reaches of American soil.

This was a fast and haunting read – extremely atmospheric, beautifully written, with a dark heart.

When wolf expert Russell Core arrives to help Medora track down her son’s body and track the wolf that took him, he embarks on a dangerous and violent journey where not everything is as it first appears. When Vernon arrives back from war to discover the tragedy, he is after vengeance and begins a bloody pursuit across the Alaskan landscape.

I read this in one sitting – descriptively speaking it is extremely well done, although very violent in places which may disturb some people. For me it just added to the haunting feel this read gives you, often quite frightening but always pulling you along in order to find out what has happened to the children of Keelut and what will happen to Medora and Russell.

Medora is a fascinating character – not terribly likeable, I found it hard to have sympathy either for her or Vernon, despite their tragic loss. Everyone in this remote and cold location live a hard life, there are secrets waiting to be uncovered that are both horrifying and intriguing all at the same time. I was enthralled and, to be honest by the end, somewhat confused by certain parts.

Overall a terrific read, although I would perhaps have liked a little more closure when it comes to certain plot arcs, however this was a chilling and expressive story and I would recommend it for fans of Literary thrillers.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: 27th January from Sourcebooks.

Source: Netgalley

Upon relocating to snowy Madison with a distant physician husband, New England native Claire Spruce is besieged by a dark past when her first love finds her again. Breaking decades of silence, old flame Dean offers an intoxicating, reckless escape from motherhood’s monotony. Enchanted by his return, while yearning for her own mislaid identity, she agrees to repay a favor that could incinerate her marriage and her child’s well-being. What Burns Away is a story of loyalty, family and the realization that the past is nearly always waiting for us in the future.

I thought this was a fabulous read, unexpectedly so to be honest. I must thank friend and fellow book blogger Maxine for recommending it to me, because otherwise it may have sadly passed me by.

So we have Claire then, generally unhappy having moved away from her home and feeling increasingly isolated from her workaholic husband, she embarks on a flirtation via social media with her first love, Dean. Things take a dangerous turn as Claire tries to recapture her sense of self and may end up exploding her whole life in the process.

Beautifully written this – it just flows along, capturing you in Claire’s story, her emotions and her actions, sometimes you are nodding along, sometimes you want to scream at her to THINK first. The themes running throughout the story are all emotive and authentic – after all as we grow older that sense of those things we may have missed can often solidify in our mind. I especially related to Claire – she grew up at the same time I did, things like the Challenger disaster setting the scene, putting you right along with her during the flashback portions of the tale.

Whilst I did not  always find Claire  likeable, often a bit entitled and whiny, a lot of what she goes through is understandable. Her husband is distant, as a Doctor his work keeps him away for long hours, while Claire is at home with a young child. This resonated with me, as someone who also has been at home with the children, her loss of self image rang utterly true.

There are a lot of surprises along the way, this is not always as straightforward as it seems – as such it is an intelligent and clever  drama with fascinating themes of love, family and loyalty and exploring in an engaging and utterly captivating way how every action has consequences. I hesitate to say much more about the full intensity of the plot, but it will definitely give you pause for thought and may end up completely surprising you.

Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: 15th January 2015 from Penguin

Source: Publisher Review Copy

When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton whose only traces remain in a few tantalisingly blurred photographs. Why will no one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?

Teaser Review: Full review nearer publication.

I absolutely adored this story – told in two timelines as we follow Alice as she arrives at Fiercombe Manor and Elizabeth Stanton, a previous resident who is somewhat enigmatic, this gripped me from the start and is written so beautifully and with such great poignancy that it stayed with me long after I had finished it. The two main characters are appealing and genuinely fascinating, separated as they are by years but both living strangely parallel lives.  It really was a most terrific read and I loved every minute of it.

This will certainly be going on my Highly Recommended list when I write up a fuller review and I would definitely encourage everyone to add it to their reading lists for the New Year.

I was lucky enough to recently visit the inspiration behind the story, Owlpen Manor in Gloucestershire and you can read all about that here. Again I would encourage anyone who can to visit there themselves – beautiful and peaceful I had the best time. Links to the Owlpen website can be found in the article.

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/kate-riordan-the-girl-in-the-photograph-and-owlpen-manor/

 

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Publication Date: Available now from John Murray/Two Roads

Source: Netgalley

Blythe, a sixteen-year-old Kansas schoolgirl is abducted and kept in an abandoned silo by a survivalist, who is convinced that the world is about to end. A chilling novel of survival and hope and heart-stopping plot twists. NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS…

The good news: I read it in pretty much one sitting today so it is very gripping.

The bad news: Thought the end was a let down,also this is as well, a book of two halves and I found the second half a bit disappointing although I can see what the author was trying to do.

The kidnap plot/sub theme was far superior to my mind – done extraordinarily well, a young girl kept underground for years by a survivalist, her day to day life, her initial determination to escape and how she is worn down, psychologically speaking this was intelligently drawn and absolutely compelling.

I can’t tell you what happens in the second half because that would spoil it, but once that portion got going, although I was eager to keep reading and find out what was going to happen, it was clear fairly shortly that I was not going to be quite so engaged. It is difficult to say why – perhaps because of the way the first part of Blythes story was told, I was expecting something different to what I ended up with and maybe wanted more for her.

Overall though, very well written and it will be entirely subjective as to whether or not you go “Wow” as things progress or, like me, feel that the second half lacked the emotion and drama of the first.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available now

Source: Netgalley invited to review.

Grace Sachs, a happily married therapist with a young son, thinks she knows everything about women, men and marriage. She is about to publish a book calledYou Should Have Known, based on her pet theory: women don’t value their intuition about what men are really like, leading to serious trouble later on. But how well does Grace know her own husband? She is about to find out, and in the place of what she thought she knew, there will be a violent death, a missing husband, and a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for herself and her child.

I’ll be fair and say I’m not HONESTLY sure what to say about this one. It was sold to me as a psychological thriller but it was not that so much as one womans journey through a time of crisis – as THAT it was good for sure.

I liked the writing, there is some wonderful prose here and it, I think, could be given the “Literary” tag if you like to put books in boxes – as such there is a wide appeal there, it just was not really for me.

Grace is a marriage counsellor and this was kind of a “physician heal thyself” themed novel, as a woman who looks after others and even has a bestselling book on the subject, she struggles to see through the cracks in her own life. There are a lot of threads running through it that deal with what I call “problems of the wealthy” which really did not appeal to me, although admittedly some of it was fascinating.

As an intriguing look at how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world it works very well, I can imagine a lot of people getting a lot out of it. Still, it was not quite what I was expecting, nor did it ultimately satisfy me entirely.

A very well written novel that was just not my cup of tea.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Serpents Tail

Source: Netgalley

One hot summer’s day, John Cole decides to leave his life behind.
He shuts up the bookshop no one ever comes to and drives out of London. When his car breaks down and he becomes lost on an isolated road, he goes looking for help, and stumbles into the grounds of a grand but dilapidated house.
Its residents welcome him with open arms – but there’s more to this strange community than meets the eye. They all know him by name, they’ve prepared a room for him, and claim to have been waiting for him all along.

I have to admit to being a little disappointed with this one. Thats not to say it is a bad book but the blurb seemed to promise something different (in my opinion) to that which it delivered. When I started I thought there was going to be some mystery, perhaps something a little odd going on, but in the end it was all rather mundane.

Having said that, I did get somewhat caught up with this eclectic bunch of characters – John breaks down on his way to his brothers and seeking help in a nearby house, he is disconcerted when they seem to be expecting him- then, well, he stays.  It took me a little bit of suspension of disbelief at this point, because although he was feeling rather poorly in the heat, it did seem entirely unrealistic that, if you arrived at a strangers house for reasons that could not at all have been planned, then find that they seem to have been expecting you all along and know your name, you wouldnt think “hang on a minute” and high tail it back to your car toote suite.  Maybe its just the horror movie buff in me….

Anyway, once I’d moved passed that I started to become just a little fascinated by the people John encounters in the house – Hester the matriarch, Walker who I’m still not really sure about, Eve the piano player, Elijah the preacher who has lost his faith, Alex who is somewhat odd and Claire, a childlike woman who has a rather strange outlook on life. For a while I was entranced – they danced off the page, not really clarified but appealing none the less. As John becomes embedded into their world, there is some beautiful haunting writing and an uneasy feeling created in the reader that is intelligently done.

But then nothing really happens. Their day to day interaction has a kind of a plot twist running through it to do with the danger of flood and disaster that may or may not be caused by an approaching storm, and some other things I suppose, but it kind of went a bit flat. Which was a shame really, because there was a great deal of potential here.

Even now I’ve finished it (I found the ending to be a bit sudden as well) I’m still not really sure what I think about it. I have since discovered that the author had a strong religious upbringing which explains a lot of religious allegory that threads in and out of the story, but I think perhaps I am not the right audience for this in the end.

Well written, with a good premise, I just didnt feel the execution quite lived up to the promise – however having said that there is a lot here to appeal, one of those “its not you its me” moments when it comes to reading. I just wish that there had been slightly more depth given to some of the characters, it was a “character set piece” if you like, and perhaps too much attention was given to one or two characters over the others which made the whole thing feel a bit disjointed.

Lovely prose though. Can’t really fault that. But not for me.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from David Fickling Books.

Source: Publisher Review Copy.

Award-winning author Philip Murdstone is in trouble. His star has waned. The world is leaving him behind. His agent, the beautiful and ruthless Minerva Cinch, convinces him that his only hope is to write a sword-and-sorcery blockbuster. Unfortunately, Philip – allergic to the faintest trace of Tolkien – is utterly unsuited to the task. In a dark hour, a dwarfish stranger comes to his rescue. But the deal he makes with Pocket Wellfair turns out to have Faustian consequences.

This book was totally insane in the best way possible. I really really have no idea how to review it if I’m honest but I’ll do my best and we will see how we go.

Wonderfully weird and terribly  clever I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this one – Philip Murdstone, ex teacher, is encouraged to write a Phantasy ( Yes I can spell!) not his genre but hey its the fashion – but he really doesnt want to do that. So, erm well, other things occur. If I describe them I’ll give away the sheer joy of this, it is witty, ironic, funny and sad in equal measure and takes apart the publishing industry in fine fashion with a wry eye and using a set of circumstances that are beyond my powers of speech.

The character names alone are enough to bring a smile – Minerva Cinch (ha) his agent is a wonderful character, the strange people who live near Philip,  who resides in a mostly isolated cottage on Dartmoor,  are brilliantly caricature but all the more believable for it and this is a beautiful, magical, bizarre and preposterous fantasy come black comedy that will have you tied up in reading knots but enjoying every last minute of it.

Loved the beginning, loved the middle and thought the ending was fabulous – it is all written in a unique style and with some eclectic prose that matches the tale being told perfectly. It defies description in a lot of ways but if you like a good fantasy story that takes things both extremely seriously and not seriously at all, you will adore this.

It is going to be a subjective novel for sure but I would absolutely say give it a go – it is the most fun I’ve had with a book for ages.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Orion.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

An enigmatic toymaker who lives as a recluse in an old mansion, surrounded by the fantastical beings he has created. An eerie figure that watches from behin the curtains of a locked room. Strange lights that flicker through the mist from an abandoned lighthouse. A shadowy creature that hides deep in the woods and has already claimed one life. These are elements of a mystery that will bind Irene to Ismael during a magical summer in Blue Bay, when her mother becomes housekeeper to the secretive toymaker, Lazarus Jann.

This was a superb and very creepy read, aimed at children but also perfect for adults, one which I read in one sitting and enjoyed thoroughly.

After the death of their Father, Irene and Dorian move with their mother who has a job with Lazarus Jann a reclusive toymaker. This is a house of mystery though and a peculiar adventure is about to begin..

Haunting and atmospheric, I found this novel to be beautifully written – the first one from this author I have read, and it is storytelling at its best. Absolutely enthralling from start to finish, with some lovely little twists and turns and some poetic prose, it may have you jumping at shadows even as a “grown up” and young adults who adore to be spooked will love this one entirely. A picture painted with words,  it really was terrific stuff.

The mythology created is rich, the characterisation is really excellent  – especially that of Lazarus, an enigmatic man who is difficult to pin down, and the sense of foreboding is very well done and will keep you off kilter.

A gothic feel throughout, a very addictive read and one that I would highly recommend to both young and old alike.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: 30th October 2014 from Tinder Press

Source: Netgalley

It is the summer of 1972, and Katie has just turned eighteen. Katie and her town, Elephant Beach, are both on the verge: Katie of adulthood, and Elephant Beach of gentrification. But not yet: Elephant Beach is still gritty, working-class, close-knit. And Katie spends her time smoking and drinking with her friends, dreaming about a boy just back from Vietnam who’s still fighting a battle Katie can’t understand.  In this poignant, evocative debut collection, Judy Chicurel creates a haunting, vivid world, where conflicts between mothers and daughters, men and women, soldiers and civilians and haves and have-nots reverberate to our own time. She captures not only a time and place, but the universal experience of being poised between the past and the future.

This was a beautifully written novel for the most part to be sure but for me it did have its ups and downs – We follow Katie in the 70’s along with a group of eclectic and sometimes engaging, sometimes confusing characters on the brink of growing up in a place that is also teetering on the brink of change.

On the hugely plus side, Judy Chicurel has captured the sense of the decade brilliantly – firmly placing the reader in the place our characters inhabit and giving a sense of the differences in attitudes then and now. However to be honest I really struggled with the first half of this story – too many people, too much going on and WAY too much swearing, perhaps an attempt to give the characters flesh and bones but for me it just kept kicking me out of the tale…

Having said that I am very glad I stuck with it, because from about the halfway point I suddenly realised I was immersed in this world with these people and really did want to know what happened to them – the flow suddenly kicked in for me, perhaps as I got used to the style – and I went from picking this up and putting it down again to avidly reading through to the end.

It is an evocative tale with some intriguing insights and some cleverly drawn relationships, the best part of it being Katie who the author captures perfectly, but I think perhaps the pudding has been over egged slightly which caused me the initial issues – over wordy sometimes, considering the book itself is not that long, I admittedly skim read over some of the longer paragraphs that did not seem to be getting me anywhere.

I would definitely recommend trying  this novel for yourself, especially if you like a good coming of age tale and would recommend that you stick with it if you find yourself reacting as I did at the start, because ultimately there is a pay off for the reader that is surprising and engaging and the heart of the story, the ambience and the premise is really very good.

Happy Reading Folks

 

 

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Carina UK

Source: Netgalley

Nobody’s life is ever perfect. Families tell lies. People keep secrets. But the life which Will and Ellie Spears have built together is as perfect as it’s possible to be.
Until one day something is let slip. A discovery is made. And all of a sudden Ellie and Will’s life falls down, as acceptance gives way to an obsessive search for answers. Families tell lies. People keep secrets. But sometimes the truth is much more dangerous.

So my second novel from Amy Bird then, having read the highly addictive “Three Steps Behind You” a while back and once again we have here a brilliantly flowing, psychological thriller come mystery come character piece which will keep you turning the pages until you are done.

Will and Ellie are happily married and expecting a baby – Ellie feels stifled by her mother in law, as an orphan herself she finds the attention from Will’s parents rather unwanted – but still she tries her best to be nice. When she discovers that all is perhaps not what it appears in that family, she puts both herself and Will on a self destructive journey where secrets will be revealed and reactions intense…

Ok so I’ll be honest. I really didnt like either Will OR Ellie. But in that kind of a “Gone Girl” way where not liking them is actually key to being desperate to know what is going on, I could hardly bear to put this down. Hidden layer after hidden layer is revealed, a wall of domino’s tumbling down which will change their lives forever – and this definitely leaves you with the feeling that sometimes it is better to be oblivious…

I found Will to be rather smug, then rather whiny then intensely annoying and obsessive about the whole thing. It made him EXTREMELY fascinating as a character, and as you learn more about his mother, you can hardly blame him for his faults. Then we have Ellie, who talks herself into believing she is doing the right things – she frets over how manipulative Will’s mum is but frankly, there is no-one in this tale more manipulative than Ellie herself..VERY clever, done with a stark realism and examining some emotive subjects which I won’t go into so as not to spoil things, this is a character driven tale with some terrific twists and turns that will keep you on your toes.

Told mostly from the point of view of either Ellie or Will, the story ebbs and flows, different people having different pieces of the jigsaw but nobody putting it together correctly until BAM – it is way too late to stop the freight train and things take a very sinister turn.

Overall an extremely readable, intriguing and beautifully constructed novel, with some subjects worth contemplating, some characters you will love to hate to love. Frankly I’d run and hide from the lot of them, but they will certainly stay with me.

Highly Recommended for fans of psychological thrillers, family drama and mystery.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Mulholland Books.

Source: BookBridgr

‘I’ve chased him for over twenty years, and across countless miles, and though often I was running, there have been many times when I could do nothing but sit and wait. Now I am only desperate for it to be finished.’

In 1944, just days after the liberation of Paris, Charles Jackson sees something horrific: a man, apparently drinking the blood of a murdered woman. Terrified, he does nothing, telling himself afterwards that worse things happen in wars.
Seven years later he returns to the city – and sees the same man dining in the company of a fascinating young woman. When they leave the restaurant, Charles decides to follow…

Really REALLY a most excellent read as far as I am concerned. Some dark and seemingly mystical themes all tied up in a novel of obsession, love, loss and right at the heart of it all a battle of wills between two unforgettable characters.

Charles Jackson, during wartime, was witness to an unspeakable act of violence from which he never really recovers. From then on, in sometimes subtle and sometimes violent ways this impacts on his life as he becomes obsessed with one man and his proclivity for blood…

There is a haunted and evocative feel to the prose with some stunning imagery, dark exploration of man’s obsessive nature and adds in a gritty realistic tone that makes even the fantastic seem entirely plausible. Whilst this is not a supernatural novel, it has supernatural undertones, done with subtlety and flair which allows the reader to interpret things in different ways – the true nature of “Verovkin” , a man Charles seems willing to hunt to the ends of the earth, is never truly clear. He was absolutely fascinating – but not NEARLY as fascinating as Charles himself, as he develops and changes.

A scientist and Doctor who is hunting for a cure for Haemophilia, at first Charles is a pragmatic man with his head firmly in reality, but as things progress he grows steadily wilder and much darker in character. By the end he is truly a changed man. This book is really his journey from light into darkness – and as such is addictive reading and often very frightening. I found the whole thing completely riveting, and it had one of those endings which makes you take a step back and consider what has gone before.

Overall very very good – recommended for readers who love a tense, atmospheric novel which could not be said to be any one thing. Excellent stuff.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now.

Source: Author review copy.

“DON’T NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF DOIN’ THE RIGHT THING.”
A twister’s coming. A big one, a monster F5–a mile wide and eight miles tall.
The writhing finger of death hurls across the prairie toward Graham, Oklahoma, one Friday afternoon in May, 1963, on a collision course with the lives of 4 people—each of whom has already planned a personal rendezvous with death in some other form that day.

I loved this it has to be said. I can’t REALLY put my finger on why exactly, it was just a feeling, a total immersion into this tale of people living a small town life, all with very different characters and viewpoints, in a period of their lives where death is approaching – in the form of a Twister perhaps, but also in other ways. Some lovely writing and great depth of character make this a very evocative and often emotional read.

I particularly found the complex and intelligent interweaving of the characters lives to be very engaging – I was very fond of Joy, a teenager who in that selfish way they have could not see past the end of her own nose and the complicated relationship she had with father Mac was very realistic. The sense of place was brilliant, putting you on the spot, and there is a quiet sense of menace about proceedings as the Twister moves ever closer. Both as a story based in reality and an analogy for life, the whole thing worked very well.

Death is the central theme in a way, with all of our main characters linked to it in some way – and as well as our main protagonists there is an eclectic cast of supporting characters all adding to the whole and painting us a picture one step at a time.

Overall then a really stonking good read. Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: 19th August from Mulholland Books.

With thanks to the author and publisher for the review copy via Netgalley

After an engagement that ended in tragedy, all Yuko Moriguchi had to live for was her four-year-old child, Manami. Now, after a heartbreaking accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation.
But first, she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that will upend everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a maniacal plot for revenge.

Well. Ok that was an amazing read for me, totally addictive I barely put it down. My first reaction upon completing it was to go a little bit Bill and Ted. “Messed up dude” was my actual thought.

And indeed, there were some messed up characters within the pages of “Confessions”, often for good reason as the story developed but occasionally just because. Such horrific happenings and yet told mostly in a very matter of fact and straightforward fashion – through several layers and several voices, we find out the what, why, when and who and as much as this is a book of confessions it is also a book of consequences. Like a nest of Russian dolls one thing leads to the next and to the next and irrevocably to a final showdown which for me, was immensely satisfying if very dark.

My first foray into Japanese fiction – I can certainly see why it was a bestseller, perhaps the Japanese “Gone Girl” not in story at all but in capturing the imagination and creating a word of mouth buzz that obviously worked well and for good reason. Watching the thought processes of some very twisted minds as they play out scenario’s that are at turns fascinating, horrifying yet very believable this is intensely creepy and profoundly disturbing.

The prose is staccato in nature, most especially from the teacher’s point of view, giving a sharp and often detached feeling to the whole thing, as perhaps someone in shock one step removed from events may describe something – it gives a particular resonance and ambience to the tale being told and creates an edgy atmosphere that may play on your nerves – it certainly did on mine. Some very creative writing right there and almost perfectly constructed.

From the moment Yuko starts her goodbye speech to her students, to the very end where she has the final word, you will be enthralled, often uneasy and absolutely wanting to know what is going to happen. This is not a book where you will love the characters, perhaps not even relate to them, or root for one or the other but more a psychological thriller that will edge its way into the very darkest recesses of your mind and linger there…waiting to jump at you out of the shadows.

This is not a horror story and yet it horrifies. It is not really a crime story although there are crimes involved. It is a story of the darker side of human nature, one of vengeance and ramifications and oddly, childhood and coming of age. For me it was perfectly poised and certainly one of the best books I’ve read this year for getting me obsessively involved in its pages. Its ok, I’m breathing again now…

I can see why it won’t be for everyone – if you want kittens and rainbows stay away. If you can’t cope with a story that is utterly dark with very little hope of redemption for anyone then stay away. But if you want a book that will get into your head and make you shiver then get this now.

From me it comes Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Publication Date: Available now from Hesperus Press.

Source: Publisher review copy.

Germany, World War II. Two English pilots are shot down and crash land behind enemy lines. The area swarming with German troops, they have only minutes to crawl from the wreckage and make their escape.
Boarding a train reserved for wounded SS men on the way home from the eastern front, they ditch their clothing and personal belongings and pose as German soldiers, hiding for days in soiled, bloody beds, feigning unconsciousness. But their act is too convincing and they find find themselves being transferred to Alphabet House, a mental hospital for those damaged by war. How will they escape? And for how long can you simulate insanity without going crazy for real?

The first thing I have to say is that this must have been extremely well researched, the detail is magnificent, horrifying and yet strangely fascinating. Set in two parts, the first following two friends, trying to evade capture, who end up in a mental institution in Germay, the second portion of the novel deals with the fallout many years later.

I thought this was cleverly done – the first half is fairly slow moving, allowing the story to unfold at a pace that truly allows you to take in what these two friends are going through – descriptively speaking it is very disturbing but absolutely compelling, you can’t look away. The second half is faster moving, also difficult to review properly without spoilers, but for me it made a tale of two halves if you like – and the ending was unexpected.

Very different from the “Department Q” series but still with the author’s unique style – this is not a war story as much as it is a story of friendship under extreme circumstances, character driven throughout, often violent but always engaging and thought provoking. I can see that it will not be for everyone, but I found it to be an excellent and moving story, haunting and evocative, with some truly edge of the seat moments.

Overall a very good read indeed.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available now from Randomhouse UK Cornerstone.

Source: Netgalley.

After trying to help Benjamin Pearl, an undernourished, nearly feral eleven-year-old boy living in the Montana wilderness, social worker Pete Snow comes face to face with the boy’s profoundly disturbed father, Jeremiah. With courage and caution, Pete slowly earns a measure of trust from this paranoid survivalist itching for a final conflict that will signal the coming End Times.
But as Pete’s own family spins out of control, Pearl’s activities spark the full-blown interest of the F.B.I., putting Pete at the center of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.

So I started this novel yesterday morning and was not really enamoured after the first couple of chapters – I’m not sure why, I found the initial set up to be kind of slow – but the writing was beautiful so I kept on and here we are today and I’m finished. I really could not put this down once it kicked in, and I was right in that story all the way, despite its often meandering quality and some distinctive structuring that meant I had to keep my head in the game..

It is an emotional, often violent read to be sure – and I don’t really mean violent as in blood and guts, but more mentally speaking, dealing as it does with the vagaries of social work and some of the experiences our main protagonist has will give you pause for thought. It is a complex story, multi stranded, looking at many issues, and definitely one to make you sit up and take notice. The story of the survivalist family and their attitudes is absolutely fascinating – and it is strange to realise that people like this really do exist. The character defining journey Pete Snow takes as he deals with this and his own family issues is absolutely one of the best I’ve seen in any novel lately, he is truly compelling.

Very hard to review without spoilers it has to be said, but this is a remarkable debut, and one of those books where now I’ve finished it I’m still not sure what I think of it. A slow burner that turns almost on a dime into a rollercoaster breakneck speed of a read, it is one of those novels that will suck you in inexorably with each passing chapter. Did I love it? Yes I think I probably did. Don’t ask me why though. Kudos to the author.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: August 14th from Randomhouse UK Cornerstone.

Source: Netgalley

When fourteen-year-old Sophie Monroe suddenly vanishes one night it looks at first as though she’s probably run away from home. Her computer and mobile phone have gone, and she’s taken a bag full of clothes.  However, as the police investigation unfolds a wealth of secrets from the surrounding community start coming to light..

An intriguing and emotional read this one, the tale of a missing schoolgirl which throws up all sorts of underlying issues within a community and the police officer responsible for finding out what happened to her.

A wonderful mix of family drama and mystery, this is a gripping tale – mostly, I think, because of the emotional resonance this case has for Andrea Lawrence, our main protagonist, who’s sister went missing years before and was never found…her thoughts and feelings as she attempts to find Sophie add a fascinating depth to a tale often told.

There is some beautiful writing here that breathes life into a community who have lost one of their own – and gives a real insight into the hidden turmoil that can lurk just beneath a seemingly idyllic place. Add to that a realistic and sometimes pragmatic look at the secrets that can lurk “behind closed doors” and you have a terrifically constructed tale that will keep you turning pages long into the night.

I’ve been blessed recently with many great reads within this genre – this one is excellent, I always find the best ones are absolutely character driven and not necessarily focussed entirely on the one event – Susan Lewis pulls many threads together to tell many stories of different lives here, and it is cleverly done and very moving.

This may be my first novel from this author but it will definitely not be my last.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Pan Macmillan.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the lovely review copy.

When you abandon the rules, can you ever go back?

Mia Allen has never quite adjusted to living in England. She misses her friends in the States and feels restrained by small-town family life near Oxford. Her husband Kit, on the other hand, loves the sense of community here and his job as a school teacher in a private school.  Like Mia, Kit’s boss Charlie is also looking for more excitement in her life. Her marriage to emotionally-distant Rob has left her frustrated and yearning for more. So when she and Rob are invited to dinner with Mia and Kit, she jumps at the chance to make new friends.  One evening, the increasing attraction between all of them moves up a notch, and it’s not long before the seductive highs of these new friendships lead to desperate lows. Can any of their relationships survive this unconventional arrangement?

So this is my first novel by Tess Stimson and it was really completely out of my reading comfort zone…I’m not a huge fan it has to be said of any type of erotic fiction and also mostly not drawn to relationship fiction or love stories.  For me, if you are going to write a sexy book, the sex STILL needs to be secondary to the plot and the characters  – otherwise, well frankly, you might as well just watch a bit of soft porn –  Which I never really feel the need to do either…

Tess Stimson however has walked the line perfectly – yes there are some very erotic moments in this novel, but they are moments and they are absolutely part of a much larger and more intriguing plot. Mia and Charlie are two women who when they meet through Mia’s husband develop an immediate friendship chemistry. When the two couples start getting together socially this develops into a strong sexual attraction. But can the concept of an “Open Marriage” ever really work? That is at the heart of this story and I was fascinated throughout.

I really liked the two very different relationships Ms Timson has drawn here – that of Mia and Kit, who are a true love match and Charlie and Rob who have been having problems before this new social interaction began. It is cleverly done, we are told the story from both Mia and Charlie’s perspectives, both looking at things from a very different viewpoint and having very different agenda’s. Having two extremely strong yet contrasting female protagonists makes for some terrific reading – and my sympathies ebbed and flowed between the pair of them with every new chapter. As things get darker, the line between truth and memory blur, it is truly compelling.

This is not all about the women – Kit and Rob are again very different and yet very intriguing characters and although we only ever really see them from the female perspective, their personality traits shine through – and again my sympathies ebbed and flowed. Rob especially for me was extremely captivating psychologically speaking and all of the four are intelligently drawn and very easy to follow along with.

So yep, I rather loved it. Unexpectedly – which is ALWAYS the best thing that can happen when you open a book and what I live for.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available now from Randomhouse UK Cornerstone.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via netgalley.

In the early hours of an April morning, Maya stumbles into the path of an oncoming bus.
A tragic accident? Or suicide?
Her grief-stricken husband, Adrian, is determined to find out.
Maya had a job she enjoyed; she had friends. They’d been in love.
She even got on with his two previous wives and their children. In fact, they’d all been one big happy family.
But before long Adrian starts to identify the dark cracks in his perfect life.
Because everyone has secrets.
And secrets have consequences.
Some of which can be devastating.

So my second Lisa Jewell book in as many weeks – and certainly there will be more coming up for me in the future – if anything I enjoyed this even more than “The House We Grew Up In” – I read it pretty much in one sitting.

In “The Third Wife” Ms Jewell delves into the psychology of a fractured family – one that on the surface looks magical, everyone having moved on and accepted the changes but underneath the surface there is a whirlpool of resentment and hidden secrets. Absolutely compelling throughout, at the heart of it sits the character of Adrian, a man who is in love with love.

Once again it is the characters that pop – all beautifully well drawn, absolutely realistic and with a sharp emotional edge that keeps you turning the pages to see what will happen to them. Using past and present, as we learn how Maya went from happily married and blissfully ignorant to realisation that everything is not as perfect as it appears, and the events leading up to her death, alongside Adrian’s grieving process and his coming to an understanding of how things were and are, this was fascinating and poignant reading.

I was totally hooked into this family throughout – both of Adrian’s ex wives are wonderful to behold, the children all have their own little quirks and foibles and the emotional resonance of how the adult affairs affect them is insightful and often very sad. A complex tangled web of sentiment is unravelled slowly and surely before our eyes as the truth emerges from the fiction created by Adrian of how well adjusted everyone around him appears to be – the depth of his tunnel vision will at times astound you, and yet it is easy to understand why he suffers convenient blindness to the realities of how his actions have consequences.

Absolutely remarkable writing, that sticks you front and centre of the story as it unfolds, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via netgalley.

1984 – Suffolk, England.
When 17-year-old Eva goes missing at sea, everyone presumes that she drowned. Her parents’ relationship is falling apart, undermined by guilt and grief. But her younger sister, Faith, refuses to consider a life without Eva; she’s determined to find her sister and bring her home alive.
Close to the shore looms the shape of an island — out of bounds, mysterious, and dotted with windowless concrete huts. What nobody knows is that inside one of the huts Eva is being held captive. That she is fighting to survive — and return home..

I read Saskia Sarginson’s debut novel “The Twins” and absolutely adored it so I was looking forward to the latest one with glee and gosh, it was very good indeed, I barely put it down start to finish.

Eva is missing, presumed drowned. Whilst her parents make desperate attempts to cope with their horrific loss, younger sister Faith is absolutely determined that Eva is alive and on an island, a haunting and seemingly deserted ex government property, just across the water. What nobody realises is that Faith is right…

This was basically another great family drama from Ms Sarginson – with a sibling relationship at the heart of it, multi stranded as we hear from various people at various times, it was a terrifically clever spiders web of a tale, connecting each part of the story to the next. Also using past and present to give an understanding of how things were at the time of the accident, the interconnecting lives of all the people concerned are intricately and delicately shown.

There is great heart and style to the writing here that keeps you deeply involved with every action, motivation and emotion of the characters as they traverse the waters of some difficult times. Add to that an evocative sense of place, Suffolk comes alive within the pages and puts you firmly in the centre of the action. Exploring themes of love, loss and the meaning of family, I found this extremely addictive reading with some genuinely memorable characters.

Overall a most terrific read and comes highly recommended from me.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Tinder Press.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via Bookbridgr.

They say you know instinctively who to trust.
Alice is normal; she’d never do anything rash. But when she sees her husband one day with a younger girl, she knows at once that he’s having an affair. And it must be stopped.
Vic loves her friend Michael, more than he knows. He wants happiness, and thinks he’s found it with the magnetic Estella. But Vic feels sure she can’t be trusted – and she needs to make Michael see that too.
They don’t know Kaya; her life is tougher than they can imagine. But Kaya’s a survivor, and she’s determined to find a way out of her miserable world.

So, Strange Girls and Ordinary Women which involved a bit of both – and admittedly I was a little bit up and down on this one. After a fairly slow burn, a little way through it suddenly kicked in big time for me and I was hooked. Then it has to be said, I felt a little let down by the ending – offering as it did closure on some things but not on others and also, for me, being very abrupt. Overall though these are small downsides in what was a very compelling tale.

We follow along through a period of the lives of three women – Alice, Vic and Kaya – who become linked through a series of events, affecting all of them in different ways. The prose is beautiful, almost musical, and carries you along as each of the characters face very different hurdles, yet all are caught up in the same small whirlpool of time. They are all easy to relate to in different ways and the main magic of this for me was actually in their very differing personalities and ways of approaching things. The majority of the story was totally enthralling, as we go from one to the next and see things unravel for each of them.

There is a lot to love here – the strong female protagonists who also show very human weakness, the layers of plot exquisitely placed to offer both questions and answers and the examination of how women view themselves and each other. It is intelligent and well written and I was often enchanted.

Yes ok, personally I wish that the final denouement was more solid and that perhaps the start was a little more full on, but that is a purely subjective viewpoint – overall this is a wonderful book with some enigmatic and enthralling characters, and some wonderful settings –  I definitely want to read more from this author.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Publication Date: Available now from Cutting Edge Press.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

Alex, a career officer in an elite regiment, returns from Afghanistan a changed man. He has left the Army behind and is attempting to forge a civilian career as a security advisor. His wife, Juliet, is delighted. She, Alex and their son Ben now live in a well-appointed house in a leafy London suburb.
But all is not well. Juliet’s research on the internet suggests that Alex is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but pride means that he will not seek professional help.
Finding solace in web forums, Juliet is offered the use of a cottage and is urged to remove Ben to a place of safety. After a lot of secretive planning and the financial support of Alex’s mother who had suffered at the hands of her husband, Juliet and Ben escape the tyranny of their home with the hope of starting afresh…

I read Elizabeth Forbes debut novel “Nearest Thing to Crazy” and loved it dearly, but with “Who Are You” Ms Forbes has upped the ante and given us an edgy, chilling and absorbing story, much darker in tone but equally addictive, that will leave you reeling.

It is always terribly difficult to review a novel that is as utterly captivating as this one is – especially when the subject matter is one close to the heart of some real life issues – and captures the essence of trauma so perfectly that you just know every single thing here could absolutely be true. The most emotional thing for me was the real authenticity the tale as a whole had – the basis of it being how you can lose someone completely even as they are standing right next to you..

Alex and Juliet found each other, two people who were escaping difficult times, got married and were seemingly set for Happy Ever After. Then Alex returns from war a changed man. Violent and unpredictable,  it makes Juliet fear for her life and for her son, yet she cannot quite bring herself to leave. As she seeks solace online, events begin to spiral out of control and she realises that she cannot stay for love alone.

Extremely cleverly constructed – getting the point of view as we do from both Juliet and Alex – the line drawn between what Juliet does and what Alex perceives gives the whole thing an added depth and it is page turning stuff. Brutal in places this is not always easy reading but it is ever compelling and absolutely captures the realities behind PTSD and all its consequences. The characters live and breathe inside your head, and the moral compass is blurred. I often felt sorry for Alex despite his actions and also quite often disliked Juliet intensely despite what she is going through. As in real life, right and wrong are not always clear cut. Completely fascinated, even during the heart stopping moments, I could barely look away.

Overall this is superb. Yes its a psychological thriller in many ways – it twists away and turns things around on you – but the soul of it is something very different. A tale of the human spirit this one will stay with you long after finishing it.

Not to be missed.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Paperback 17th July 2014 from C&R Crime. Kindle edition available now.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the netgalley review copy.

Grandmother Ruth Sutton writes to the man she hates more than anyone else on the planet: the man who she believes killed her daughter Lizzie in a brutal attack four years earlier. Ruth’s burden of grief and hatred, has only grown heavier with the passing of time, her avid desire for vengeance ever stronger. In writing to him Ruth hopes to exorcise the corrosive emotions that are destroying her life, to find the truth and with it release and a way forward. Whether she can ever truly forgive him is another matter – but the letters are her last, best hope.

So I seem to be on a run of the most brilliant books at the moment, lucky old me, and this was not an exception to the rule. I read this fast, it was so emotionally charged and also extremely addictive it was very difficult to put aside.

Ruth writes to the man who she believes killed her daughter. She is grieving but it is an angry and unforgiving grief that is eating away at her soul. As she starts at the beginning, from the moment she realises Lizzie is gone, the whole story unfolds in the most heart wrenching manner possible, one that will often bring a tear to your eye.

There is a rare truth in the writing here – as a  recovery from loss, grief is both a weird and sometimes wonderful thing that does not always follow predicted patterns and is  unique to each individual.  The well known and often quoted “stages” aside, here the author has managed to portray grief  at its disconsulate depths and follow a path along which many have travelled but few could describe. For Ruth it starts as a journey of anger and sorrow and unbelievable horror, and that comes across in every thought she has. Beautifully written, it is not hard at all to imagine that Ruth is a real person describing real events and you will feel for her every step of the way.

This is one of those novels where I can’t really explain how it affected me, again I think this is one that will have a different kind of resonance for anyone reading it. Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one certainly, anyone who has lost someone to violence even more so. Absolutely stunning.

Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Available Now from Quercus.

Historical Fiction.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

1635, and Europe is in the grip of the brutal territorial and religious struggle of the Thirty Years’ War. Fear stalks the town of Aberdeen as a ship recruiting for the wars lies at anchor in the river mouth. A sinister figure watches from the shadows as apprehension grows and culminates in the disappearance of the son of a Highland chief – a student of Alexander Seaton. When the frozen body of a young woman is found in the garden of a prominent citizen, Alexander becomes more deeply embroiled. He realises that the figure in the shadows is known to him and has come for him. He can hide from his past no longer.

Review by Gary Shepherd.

First off and unfortunately, I’ve come to this fourth in the series featuring Alexander Seaton having not read the previous novels. Without giving too much away this dents the emotional wallop the ending would otherwise have had…

That being said, it was still a terrific read. The author, in common with C.J. Sansom and Hilary Mantel, manages to convey a perfect sense of the atmosphere of the period. Seaton is that best of all heroes, ultimately good but flawed, in that he doesnt discover the solution to the mysteries until they are almost presented to him. This is an unusual tale in that there are several mysteries seemingly unconnected but ultimately interwoven at the end, hence why Seaton is so confounded and doesnt see the links until its almost too late. This keeps you guessing right up until the very end.

Characterisation is excellent, the only slight downside comes again from arriving at this point, as the relationships previously drawn come to a head, with shocking results, and some of the ambience is lost due to not having those relationships in your head already. Historically speaking the author has evoked a perfect sense of the time and events in which this novel is set and this backdrop provides an extra dimension to the enjoyment of the novel.

I will definitely be going back and reading the other 3 in the series (in order) and would recommend that you start at the beginning with “The Redemption of Alexander Seaton” in order to fully appreciate this brilliantly written and evocative novel.

Also Available:

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Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to the author for the review copy.

A young couple arrive on the Greek island of Crete and begin prying into the execution of a beautiful English woman during the German occupation sixty years before. They enter a labyrinth of forbidden love, betrayals, murder, greed and vendettas, old and new.

So I wasnt quite sure what to expect going into this one – what I found was a wonderfully addictive story (I read it off and on in a single day), an absolutely tremendous sense of place (I feel like I have actually been to Crete) with some brilliantly drawn characters and an absolutely compelling premise.

I do love a novel where past seeps into present and there is much to discover lying just beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary lives. Sixty years ago a young woman, Marianna, is hanged as a spy, her baby left to starve. Move to current times and a visitor to the island, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Marianna, sparks off an expansive tale of vengeance, love and betrayal.

It is a beautifully woven multi stranded story, cleverly plotted to keep you turning the pages, with a high level of characterisation and one of those that it is extremely difficult to review without spoilers – beautifully written, emotional often, horrific sometimes and with an ending that made me draw a sharp breath, there was a great depth here that was somewhat unexpected.

Sometimes a novel comes along for me, that I am expecting to enjoy, but then surpasses that and ends up surprising and delighting me. This was one of those books and I was sorry to leave it behind me, I will certainly be reading more from this author.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: Available now from Randomhouse UK Cornerstone.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via netgalley.

Lester Ferris, sergeant of the British Army, is a good man in need of a rest. He’s spent a lot of his life being shot at, and Afghanistan was the last stop on his road to exhaustion. He has no family, he’s nearly forty, burned out and about to be retired.
The island of Mancreu is the ideal place for Lester to serve out his time. It’s a former British colony in legal limbo, soon to be destroyed because of its very special version of toxic pollution – a down-at-heel, mildly larcenous backwater. Of course, that also makes Mancreu perfect for shady business, hence the Black Fleet of illicit ships lurking in the bay: listening stations, offshore hospitals, money laundering operations, drug factories and deniable torture centres. None of which should be a problem, because Lester’s brief is to sit tight and turn a blind eye.

Well, “The Gone Away World”  is in my top 5 favourite reads of all time, not only because of its wonderfully quirky nature but because every time I read it again I get something new from it. “AngelMaker” gave me another beautiful reading experience so I was dying to dive into this latest one and once again the magic happened.

The thing I love most about Nick Harkaway as an author is that he writes in a unique style, despite being pointed towards other so called “similar” books in those endless recommendations we all receive from places like Amazon, I have never found anything that comes close to the sheer illusion and enchantment he can infuse into his varying stories. In this case there is something different again, but once more allowing his individual and dare I say it, slightly crazy outlook on life to shine through. And as far as storytelling genius goes, you don’t get much better than this.

Here we meet Lester, killing time whilst waiting for the end to come for the Isle of Mancreu, pretty much sleepwalking through life until he makes a friend and, well, then things happen. Yeah. Don’t really want to say much more, the whole story unfolds with gorgeous, sprawling and delightful effect, holding you in that world, walking alongside the people who inhabit it, and going on that adventure with them. Pretty much as with “The Gone Away World” I emerged sometime later blinking into the sunlight. Well, this being the UK the rain, but still. I was dazzled.

What else can I say? Characterisation is as ever top notch, creatively speaking this is a marvel and yes, not everyone will love the way that the author puts words on the page, but I’m fairly sure everyone will appreciate the sheer grace and artistry of it. If you want my negatives, well, sorry I don’t really have any. The Gone Away World still remains my favourite of the books so far, but this one enthralled me and surprised me and I don’t ask for more. The only problem now is, waiting for another spell to be cast. Its the chronic impatience that will kill me.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Available now from Gallic

Translated superbly once again by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

When the body of a Scotsman turns up on board a Channel Tunnel train at the Gare du Nord, Parisian detective Roland Desfeuillères finds himself in charge of a murder investigation. Roland decides to travel to London – and not just in order to progress the inquiry. It’s also a chance to escape his troubled marriage. Arriving in a city gripped by the financial crisis, Roland immerses himself in the victim’s hedonistic lifestyle, as he searches for the motive behind the crime. But the longer he walks in the dead man’s shoes, the more Roland discovers about himself . .

This was a wonderfully quirky and sometimes quite dark tale, driven by some beautifully drawn and intriguing characters and with an eye definitely cast towards the ironic side of life. Its not a long read but its a darned good one, mainly I think because Roland Desfeuilleres is SO much fun to follow along with – his actions and reactions to situations thrown at him will have you sometimes laughing and sometimes shaking your head in disbelief.

When a body turns up on the Channel Tunnel train, Roland decides he wants to pursue the killer onto the streets of London – kind of falling into the investigation as a way of escaping his desperately troubled marriage to a rather difficult (well I thought she was difficult!) woman. As he attempts to find out more about the victim, he finds himself more and more aware of himself and his life.

The start sucks you in as we meet the murder victim still very much alive – in a brilliantly humerous set of events that see him eventually get on that train for France. Unfortunately for him, he is not going to make it to the end of his journey. Enter some eclectic lovely French characters including Roland and we are off on a wonderful reading journey. Back in good old England we have another magnificently drawn bunch of people and at the heart of all this sits Roland – a character I shall miss very much now this tale is at an end.

Terrific and evocative, I recommend curling up on a rainy afternoon with this one and letting it transport you into other lives.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Publication Date: 22nd May 2014 Pan Macmillan

Thank you to the author and publisher for the Advance Reading Copy.

1916. Across the channel, the Great War rages; in London’s East End, with her husband away fighting, Hannah Loxwood struggles to hold everything together. But when Hannah takes a job in a cafe, she discovers a glimpse of freedom away from her needy young children, her spiteful sister and desperately ill father.
While the conflict drags on, Hannah battles with the overwhelming burden of ‘duty’. She has sacrificed so much for a husband who left her behind, a husband who may never come home. Then, when she meets Daniel – thoughtful, intelligent, quietly captivating – Hannah finds herself faced with the most dangerous of temptations.

This is a wonderful novel, beautifully evocative of the time and place and absolutely heartbreaking in very many ways, I was enthralled throughout.

When Hannah’s husband goes off to war, she is left with her two young children to live with her Sister and Brother in Law. Needing to find additional income, she takes a job in a nearby cafe – where she meets Daniel and from there her life changes forever.

As a picture of war torn Britain this is extraordinarily fascinating…the background and the claustrophobic atmosphere of life in general is brilliantly captured. Most of all the sense of what life was like for women then – especially those whose husbands were in the trenches – is compelling and emotional.  Young men not at war are viewed suspiciously no matter what their circumstances and soldiers wives are expected to behave in a certain way – all adding to the pressure cooker that Hannah is about to fall into.

I was back and forth on my sympathies in this story – the characterisation is so realistic I almost felt as if I was sitting in judgement upon Hannah as much as her peers were. With temptation in her path and no sign of her husband returning you can hardly blame her for feeling that there was a better life worth living – and risking everything for. As the storytelling ebbs and flows you will one minute be right with her and the next begging her to stop, before she goes past the point of no return. The supporting cast of characters are all well drawn and equally alluring, and give an eclectic mix of differing viewpoints that add to the overall ambience and beauty of the tale.

I can’t say too much more without spoiling it – what Hannah decides and where it takes her I leave you to discover for yourself. Safe to say I had a few tears at the end and on an emotional level this one will stay with me for a long time.

An extremely addictive, passionate and poignant read, based on a true story, this is yet another excellent debut to look out for in 2014.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Thank you to PIQWIQ for the review copy.

For most men, the trenches and mud of Flanders were a place of gruelling dread. For Captain Hugh ‘Bulldog’ Drummond, DSO, MC, they were an addiction. Returning to civilian life after the end of the war, Drummond drifts in ennui, craving the excitement, until in desperation he places and advert in The Times… and very soon he finds himself chasing the spectre of a criminal mastermind through international conspiracies and old treasures hidden for hundreds of years.

A rollicking adventure set in 1920’s London and re-booting an old classic – admittedly I have not read the original Bulldog Drummond books but I sure am inspired to do so now if this is the kind of terrific and exciting story I can expect.

Straight into the action, starting us off with a bank heist, this was a wonderful mix of action and characterisation – although I would have liked it to be longer to get a better sense of the people and settings. As a short story it worked very well for me, I devoured it very quickly and was completely immersed in the tale throughout.

I cannot offer a comparison to the original – what I CAN say is that I would like more from Mr Deas using this character, preferably in the form of a full length novel – there is some terrific writing here and it was over way too soon! As a short, sharp dose of reading adrenalin though it comes highly recommended from me, and I hope that my wish for a longer, even more satisfying instalment will be fulfilled.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you kindly to 280 steps for the review copy.

Set in Russia and in the English seaside town of Hastings, Under a Russian Heaven follows James Eastaway, a young Englishman working as a teacher in a provincial Russian city, whose carefree life as a fledging expat spirals out of control after he meets the beautiful daughter of a local businessman.

A short sharp and intriguing read – clever pacing and a distinct “noir” feel to the prose gave a wonderful atmospheric touch to proceedings, putting me in mind of classics of years gone by.

James was a compelling character, all the more so as his life spirals out of control, I was fascinated as I watched things develop. The author keeps you right in the moment always, often using dark ironic humour to achieve this.

The settings are extremely well described, making you see the people and the places in your minds eye and adding to the overall ambience of the reading experience.

All in all an accomplished and clever story – I would love to read a longer length novel by Mr Walker – the only negative of this one for me was that I would have liked more.

Recommended – particularly for fans of Modern Noir.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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You are about to discover the secrets of The Quick –

But first, reader, you must travel to Victorian England, and there, in the wilds of Yorkshire, meet a brother and sister alone in the world, a pair bound by tragedy. You will, in time, enter the rooms of London’s mysterious Aegolius Club – a society of the richest, most powerful men in England. And at some point – we cannot say when – these worlds will collide. 

HA! Well, I went into this one with absolutely NO CLUE what to expect. And please, if you will, do the same. I’m sure there are some reviewers out there who will dissect this one for you and give away all its secrets – avoid. AVOID. Read this. I tell you nothing…

Well, I’ll obviously have to tell you SOMETHING. And that something is this. It is marvellous. The perfect word. Beautifully gothic, wonderfully flowing, absolutely and utterly divine. Because it is both exactly what it appears to be and also absolutely nothing of the kind. Genuinely involving characters, a wild sprawling landscape of beautiful storytelling and one of those books that left me joyful about my love of reading and about the fact that I can yet be surprised. And delighted.

I don’t know what else to say. You can’t review this book without giving away that which makes it magnificent. So ha. I guess that will have to do. If you want to know more you will have to join the club…

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Adam Blaine returns to his childhood home to bury the father he despised. Here, reunited with his equally relieved and long-suffering family, he becomes aware of the suspicious circumstances surrounding his father’s death. A death that, Adam will soon discover, is born of a long-hidden truth, and a chequered family history that may not be as black and white as he thought.

I am a huge fan of Richard North Patterson – for me, at least so far, his definitive works are Degree of Guilt and the linked Eyes of a Child – whose stories haunt me still. I have had “Fall from Grace” on my shelf since its release but for some reason had not gotten around to it. It wasnt until I was having a chat to the lovely Andrew from Jo Fletcher Books that I realised it was part of a trilogy – for which, having finished it, I am extremely grateful.

This is family drama, a hint of legal drama and a mystery all wrapped up in one but with less of a political leaning than Mr Pattersons more recent novels. Perhaps heading back more to his roots when such stories as the ones mentioned above and others such as Silent Witness were born. For me this is the heart of this writer – and whilst his political novels are all excellent and frankly, taught me a lot, I prefer this style more. (Although I must give a nod to “Exile” as one of the best books I have ever read)

The trademark character depth is here, Adam Blaine returns home after his Father’s death having been away for a decade and cutting all family ties. As he heads into the maelstrom of some unexpected developments, not least of which is being made his Father’s executor, he begins to realise that there are hidden depths to his family that not even he was aware of.

The thing this author does with aplomb is explore the hidden intensity of relationships – those things that we can never know about our parents, or each other, the secrets hidden and the lasting, often poignant resonance of the things never said. As Adam realises its very possible his father was murdered, he is bound and determined to discover the truth – and save his family from more heartache. Having cut himself off in an effort to be a better person, he may find he is more like his Dad than he would like to admit..

The Blaine family as a whole are fascinating  – absolutely fascinating. Clarice Blaine seems cold, but is she really or has she been made that way? Ben, Adam’s Brother is a gentle soul – or is he? Adam himself is a bit of an enigma – I hope to find out more in the next books as I still don’t feel I know him well.

Its all about the characters – and the setting. Martha’s Vineyard comes to life here, a beautiful but insular place to live, where fame and wealth seem the key to being accepted and yet its real artistry is in its landscapes. A character in its own right, the descriptive prose gives excellent visual cues and you can place the characters right there. Wonderfully done.

Very enjoyable, highly addictive and for me, putting the author right back on my radar, I recommend this whole heartedly. Very soon I will find out what is next for the Blaine’s and those caught up in their world, can’t wait to do so.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via netgalley.

A witty, sharply observed debut novel about a young woman who finds unexpected salvation while working in a quirky used bookstore in Manhattan.

So we all know that “chick lit” is not my thing but this one involved a bookstore. Which absolutely IS my thing. Plus to be honest having finished it I think the “chick lit” tag is a little off kilter. So anyway, I settled down to see who I would meet within the pages and had a wonderful, witty and insightful reading experience alongside an eclectic mix of highly well drawn characters.

Esme is highly intelligent but quite naive. When faced with an unexpected pregnancy she has a lot of life choices to make. When she starts working at “The Owl” she very much finds comfort and friendship and starts to sort her life out..

If you are a book lover this one will speak volumes. In a lot of ways its a whole other world and Esme is a terrific character to follow down the rabbit hole because she is so beautifully flawed, needing to find herself and her place in the world. And what better place to start than surrounded by books?

In a lot of ways this is a modern fairytale – the heart and soul of love and life is in here, with a snapshot of different outlooks and different ways of living, the supporting cast are all perfect. Esme’s wealthy boyfriend made me growl, but I adored George, the bookstore owner with a passion

This is also extremely humerous ESPECIALLY if you are British I would say – I laughed out loud at some of the ironic mishaps with the difference in terminology and there are also many heartfelt emotional moments to offset the laughs. All in all a very well constructed and charming tale, one that I will return to again.

Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

Christmas time. Mistletoe and wine. The season of domestics, religion, adultery, drugs, hangovers, alcohol, parties, fights, unwanted gifts, football matches and goodfucking will to all men.
And that’s just one tour of duty on a TSG van.

I read “Pocket Notebook” some time back and was struck by the sheer excellence of the characterisation and storytelling there – a dark and compelling tale – and here Mr Thomas has pulled that off yet again.

Full to the brim of ironic humour and terrifically realistic characters (one of which you may recognise) with a definite eye towards the darker side of life, this was one I sunk right into only to emerge later with a tendency to swear  – ok I always had a tendency to swear – still, this book took hold of my life for a good 24 hours of reading bliss.

I fell in love with Vince (What? I hear you cry – Yep he was beautifully nasty) felt a kinship with Martin as he struggles to control the uncontrollable and watched with growing alarm and yet a sense of adventure as events overtook common sense. I don’t want to say much more, but if you like your novels full of the unexpected and an authentic yet often frightening look at human nature then you will love this.

Not many writers could pull off a van as a main character but Mike Thomas does – the TSG (Territorial Support Group) Van is definitely a major influence, the “ugly bus” of the title, the way it is absolutely ingrained into the whole is magnificent. Absolutely wonderful storytelling.

All in all I would highly recommend this one and I’m kind of hoping that we will hear more from some of these characters in the future – over to you Mr Thomas!

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Thank you to the author for the review copy.

In this Young Adult retelling of one of William Shakespeare’s most memorable plays, join C.E. Wilson as she breathes new life into Othello, the second book in her series Shakespeare for Everyone Else.

When Archer decides that he’s had enough of Orion and Devony running what he thought was going to be his school he takes desperate measures to ruin everything. Through lies and betrayal, deceit and deception, Archer will stop at nothing to get what he wants, and he doesn’t care whose lives he has to destroy in the process.

So a great idea this, the author takes Othello, brings it bang up to date, gives it a thoroughly modern twist but keeps all the heart of the original right on in there. A difficult one to pull off but done in a great way here.

I’m actually a big fan of Shakespeare’s stories but I do struggle with the language, beautiful as it is and I love what the author has done here – given it a whole new twist and still giving the nuances and discussion points that make Shakespeare such a great teaching tool.

Add to that its fun! A good story well told for the Young Adult audience, I imagine that a great thing to do would be to read the original and then read this – in fact it did encourage me to re-visit the base material. I know that there are more in this series available already and coming soon – personally I want to see what happens to Romeo And Juliet.

All in all a terrific read, a great Sunday Afternoon spent and I will definitely read more. Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

I purchased this book a while ago and as is the way of things with my reviewing schedule I have only just managed to pick it up – inspired by the fact that it appears on the Bailey’s Prize Longlist in amongst some other terrific novels.

This is a beautifully written book, bringing into stark focus the bleak landscape and hard living conditions in the Iceland of the day and telling a fictional yet well researched account of a real life murder. Utterly compelling and often heartbreaking, this is a must read for Historical fiction fans and fans of intriguing stories with a real human twist.

Agnes is fascinating – as we learn more about her life and the horrific events that have brought her to where she is, awaiting her death, you will be right in the heart of the storm and desperate for her to find some way out. As a snapshot of the life and laws of the time this is compelling stuff – some wonderful prose and a terrific feeling of authenticity throughout will keep you right in the moment.

I was transported to another time and another place during the reading of this one, it was an emotional and inspiring reading journey in a lot of ways and comes highly recommended from me.

Can’t wait to see what this author brings us next.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Paperback Publication Date: March 13th 2014 from Headline.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the copy via netgalley.

For Hadley Dunn, life so far has been uneventful – no great loves, no searing losses. But that’s before she decides to spend a year studying in the glittering Swiss city of Lausanne, a place that feels alive with promise. Here Hadley meets Kristina, a beautiful but elusive Danish girl, and the two quickly form the strongest of bonds. Yet one November night, as the first snows of winter arrive, tragedy strikes.

I adored “The Book of Summers” so was eager to read the next novel from Emylia Hall and if anything I probably adored this one even more but in a very different way.

This is a love story, a coming of age tale with a hint of mystery that flows gently off the page, first embedding you into the beauty of Lausanne seen through fresh new eyes, then taking you on a journey. Hadley’s journey, as she forms friendships, falls in love, suffers a tragic loss and comes to terms with it. Beautifully done, utterly captivating and at times a very emotional experience.

I loved the characters – Hadley herself, so determined to make the most of her year, the eclectic group of students she finds herself housed with – Chase I was particularly fond of and would have liked to know more about – some whom I was not so fond of. And of course Kristina, perfectly drawn, slightly bohemian Kristina – Hadley’s constant companion and friend, someone who dazzles her and shows her an unexpected life. As they find Lausanne together their relationship is compelling.

Ms Hall is developing a trademark with her settings – in the evocative “The Book Of Summers” I ended up determined to visit Hungary. Now, I am equally determined to visit Switzerland. Her own experience of the places that provide the backdrop to her stories makes them pop off the page as real, living breathing entities in their own right. I love that I kind of feel I have already visited. I have a half formed plan to await a few more novels from her and then go on a whistlestop actual tour of all the places I’m sure I’m going to be visiting virtually during the next few years. I can’t wait to find out where next…

Overall another wonderful read, another peak into another place and another life – one that will make you ponder life and love, joy and pain, with some realistic and heartfelt characters that will stay with you. I miss Hugo already.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via netgalley.

A son returns to the small town where he grew up, where his mother still lives and where a terrible event in his childhood changed the lives of almost every person living there. As the story unfolds through the eyes of the son, the mother and finally, the father, the reader experiences the taut build up to one day’s tragic unravelling, and the shock waves that echoed through a once happy family and close-knit community. Will they ever be able to exorcise the damage of that day or do some wounds run too deep?

So I read Tom Vowler’s debut novel “What Lies Within” and thought it was stunning for all the right reasons and was very much looking forward to another tale from this author.

If anything  “That Dark Remembered Day” was an even better read for me – one of the types of books that I love, where characters are key and past events influence present times, a psychological insight if you like into the things that make us who we are. These types of stories are hard to pull off in a way that will make you remember them, especially when you read as much as I do, but stay with me this one will.

Stephen returns to his hometown reluctantly, to check on his mother who is unwell. When he was growing up there, tragedy hit the inhabitants and the shockwaves from this are still present in a lot of ways now, years later. Right at the heart of the matter, Stephen has his own issues to deal with. As the story unfolds, told in flashback and present  time, a picture emerges of the repercussions and heartache caused.

The novel encompasses some real life events that I remember quite well – this added to the ambience of the whole for me…a teenager at the time, watching the news but not really understanding the full impact of it. Mr Vowler mixes up the fact and fiction beautifully – giving an added impact to the background of the story.

Overall a beautifully written character driven tale and one that definitely puts Tom Vowler firmly on my must read author list.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to the author for the review copy.

In a world where almost nothing is truth and isolation is the purest form of self-deception, the possibility of hope exists only in the heart and mind of a young woman who chooses to follow an unknown path in order to save everyone she knows and loves. Before long, she discovers that her most vital beliefs are based on a deception that will rock the foundation of her entire people. To save them, she must learn to open her heart and sacrifice…everything.

A strange one this for me because it wasnt QUITE what I was expecting ultimately, it was something very different and yet quite beautiful.

We meet a girl, her brother and her family – in the village where she lives they are part of a group responsible for keeping the fire burning at all times.  Using the bark from the Sacred Tree that grows at the heart of the community and provides them with everything they need, it is imperative that it never goes out, so the “shadows” are kept at bay. Through a series of events, she becomes mistrustful of her elders and realises that there are hidden secrets. Bound and determined to ensure the safety of herself and those around her she embarks on an epic journey of discovery.

The underlying themes about belief systems, faith, the real meaning of truth and how accepting we are of what we are taught, are extremely well done here. I am not a spiritual person generally but in a lot of ways this is a very spiritual book – as we take this journey with our main protagonist it evokes a sense of something more and leads to questions of faith v reality and what that can mean.

It has a Post Apocalyptic feel to it, I believe that each reader will take something very different from it and the ultimate resolution will provoke discussion. Before that there is a great adventure to be had here – It is an easy flowing read, the characters are compelling and overall it is a fascinating, well imagined story with a possibly controversial but certainly thought provoking premise.

Kudos to the author for taking a well known genre and giving it a simple twist of fate.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Translated by Jane Aitken.

Thank you kindly for the review copy.

Fabien and Sylvie both knew their marriage wasn’t working. But when Sylvie is involved in a fatal car accident, Fabien is stunned to discover she had a lover who died with her. Harbouring thoughts of revenge, he tracks down the lover’s widow, Martine, and begins stalking her. Fabien is desperate to get Martine on her own. And that won’t happen until he deals with her protective best friend, Madeleine..

So this is the second book from Pascal Garnier, sadly no longer with us, that I have read – and once more I was struck by the sheer power of the writing, even though he has a wonderful straightforward style about him. It grips you very early on and whilst being extremely intense it is also incredibly easy to read.

In this story Fabien is shocked to discover, after her death, that his wife was keeping secrets from him. Various ironically dark thought processes lead him to a desperate need to track down Martine, with  dreams  of revenge…but he may be out of his depth. You know the saying “Oh what a tangled web we weave..” ..well that is this book in a nutshell. If there is one thing that Pascal Garnier does with aplomb its irony.

This is not a happy tale  – but it is addictive, paced perfectly and a lovely example of noir with a twist that will keep you happily turning the pages until you find out what is ultimately in store for all the characters. I actually grew quite fond of Fabien although he has stunningly bad judgement and you do want to yell at him a lot. Still, its those characters that make a reading experience real and Pascal Garnier also does real very well.

All in all another wonderful little read from an author that will be sadly missed. I am extremely pleased that Gallic is bringing his stories to our shores and kudos to the translator who did such a brilliant job.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Thank you to the author/publisher for the advance reading copy.

If you will be a great man’s mistress you must pay the price…
1372, The Savoy. Widow Lady Katherine Swynford presents herself for a role in the household of merciless royal prince John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, hoping to end her destitution. But the Duke’s scandalous proposition leaves her life of pious integrity reeling…

Right so first of all I should be clear – I’m not great at History, and I do not read many historical novels. This one being based on real people and events, for me it was an absolutely brand new story. Having read the blurb from the author at the back I understand how she has built the story up around the little that is known of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt – and done so beautifully.

I found the whole thing highly intriguing and it made fascinating reading. From the wonderfully drawn background and sense of the time, to the characters and the events surrounding them I was engaged and enthralled throughout. At its heart there is an emotional love story and some truly terrific characters.

It has certainly encouraged me to find out some more of the fact behind the fiction – and also given me a great reason for reading more books like this one. In fact I have just added Devils Consort by the same author to my next batch of purchases so you may hear about that one sometime soon.

Recommended for fans of Historical Fiction based in fact and for anyone who has not read in this genre before and are looking for a good place to start.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Thank you to the publisher/author for the review copy.

When Conrad Sands returns a wristwatch to an old flame after 20 years apart, a remarkable chain of events begins. The watch passes through the hands of a gold-digger, a journalist, an enchantress and a professor. It touches the lives of a rogue art collector, a domestic helper, and an environmental campaigner. It influences a reverend’s apprentice, a kept wife, and a self-made man. All of them are strangers, yet all are intricately linked in ways that none of them see. A deeply thought-provoking debut novel from Starr Wood, “Once Upon a Timepiece” is a gripping portrayal of humanity’s relationship with time and the unseen threads of history that bind us together. Told through a series of twelve inter-connected short stories, it explores memory and regret, ambition and weakness, and the texture of time that lies behind all our lives.

A series of 12 short stories, all linked by a 1946 Breitling Chronomat wristwatch, this was a beautiful little read. I am a fan of short stories although these days it is hard to find great ones – in this case I thought they were almost perfect, linked as they were so although each one is an entity in and of itself, overall it has the “novel” feel.

Creatively speaking this is a stunning piece of work – each tale holds you in its thrall, often unexpected, always having a high level of characterisation, each one draws you in subtley but surely. Each linked in fascinating ways and with great effect, this was a terrific reading experience.

I read one each day and that worked for me really well – giving time to absorb one before starting on another. Overall Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Thank you to the author and publisher for the lovely paperback copy.

I know what my husband would say: that I have too much time on my hands; that I need to keep myself busy. That I need to take my medication. Empty nest syndrome, he tells his friends at the pub, his mother. He’s always said I have a vivid imagination. Marta and Hector have been married for a long time – so long that she finds it difficult to remember her life before him.

So I have just this second finished this one and wanted to get my thoughts down straight away as its one of those books that I’m fairly sure I will ponder. Again. For a while.

Marta and Hector have been married for many years – since their son left home Marta has struggled to maintain an equilibrium – which isnt helped by the fact that she has stopped taking some kind of long term medication – the exact nature of which remains unclear. As we follow her through daily events and she starts to get flashes of someone elses life, it becomes apparent that all is not well. But is there something wrong WITH her or has something wrong been done TO her. Therein lies the heart of the story…

I have a love/hate relationship with this one. Marta was kind of annoying. That isnt a bad thing, it was just the way it was for me – BUT I was compelled to keep reading what she had to tell me and try and separate the fact from the fiction. Its cleverly done – she leads a fairly mundane life on the surface, the book she keeps referring to “How to Be A Good Wife” is pretty much how she flows…looking after her husbands needs, looking after her childs needs, sticking to a very firm routine and quietly accepting of the fact that there is not a lot of HER there. As she spirals downwards though, things become very dark..

I’m definitely going with “marmite” for this book – personally I thought it was terrific in and of itself, and well written with a very slow build up of tension that gripped me throughout. The ending was a fitting one considering the ambience of the piece and it is entirely driven by the Marta character -it is simply her story, but it will divide opinion of that I am sure.

This is a novel with a lot of talking points and a psychological aspect that is both fascinating and chilling and it will stay with me for a while that is a definite.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to Avon Books for the copy via a Goodreads Giveaway.

It is 1910 and Maria, a talented young girl from the East end of London, is employed to work as a seamstress for the royal family. As an attractive girl, she soon catches the eye of the Prince of Wales and she in turn is captivated by his glamour and intensity.

I had heard good things about this one so despite it being slightly out of my reading comfort zone, I was very pleased to receive a copy. And it is indeed a terrific and compelling story.

Multi-layered storytelling at its best we follow Maria, telling her story via cassette tape sometime in the past, alongside Caroline who has discovered a beautiful patchwork quilt in the present – as she investigates its origins, the trail leads her back towards  a hidden love story..

Quite haunting in places – especially with a view to the outcome for Maria – hidden away she does indeed become “The Forgotton Seamstress” of the title and there are many intriguing aspects interwoven into the story. The descriptions of sewing and quilting are truly fascinating and now a subject I want to know more about – alongside that we have intriguing soundbites on psychiatric care and the institutions of Maria’s time and place.

I loved both the women for different reasons – and the quilt is a whole character in and of itself – the three of them make for an excellent and evocative reading experience. Recommended for those who love Historical fiction and a past/present interwoven narrative with heart.

Happy Reading Folks!

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My grateful thanks to Quercus for the lovely review copy.

To commemorate Chitralekha Nepauney’s Chaurasi – her landmark 84th birthday – Chitralekha’s grandchildren are travelling to Gangtok to pay their respects. All three harbour the same dual objective: to emerge from the celebrations with their grandmother’s blessing and their nerves intact: a goal that will become increasingly impossible thanks to a mischievous maid and a fourth, uninvited guest.

My grateful thanks to Quercus for the lovely review copy.

To commemorate Chitralekha Nepauney’s Chaurasi – her landmark 84th birthday – Chitralekha’s grandchildren are travelling to Gangtok to pay their respects. All three harbour the same dual objective: to emerge from the celebrations with their grandmother’s blessing and their nerves intact: a goal that will become increasingly impossible thanks to a mischievous maid and a fourth, uninvited guest.

So I really enjoy a good bit of family drama, especially when it is well formed and often hilarious as is the case right here.

An eclectic mix of brilliantly portrayed characters come together and over the course of a funny, insightful and often emotional story we learn more about them and where they have come from.

It is a cultural soundbite about an area and a people I know little about -or knew little about until I read this book – the background is fascinating, covering many little rituals and observations on life that are endlessy intriguing. Set against the backdrop of the Gorkhaland movement I learned a lot as I went.

My favourite character was Prashanti,without a doubt, but they are all marvellous people to reside with for a while, some of them formidable indeed.

An absolutely captivating tale. Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you kindly to Head of Zeus for the review copy.

They thought they had been rescued. They were wrong…
When a boat appears out of a raging storm, Johnny and his new bride Clem don’t think twice about stepping on board to take refuge, especially as it is crewed by a bohemian couple who represent everything they want to be. But all is not what it seems. And when they finally open their eyes to the truth, the boat is in the middle of the vast open sea…

The best word I can use to describe this particular novel is “haunting” – absolutely. I’m aware that it is based (not sure how loosely) on events from the authors life but during the reading of it I put that aside – trying to work out where fact leaves the story and fiction begins, or how much of a mix and match make up the world within, would be almost impossible and probably best left alone..

Johnny and Clem, newlyweds, are on their honeymoon – drifting from place to place working as they go, no particular plan in mind, they get themselves into a bit of trouble. Like a small miracle, Frank, Annie and their daughter Smudge take them in and offer them shelter…seemingly living the life that Clem and Johnny aspire to, they travel on together and a friendship develops.  There is darkness just below the surface however and as things take a sinister turn, Johnny and Clem realise there is nowhere to run.

This is an intriguing tale to be sure and one that creeps up on you in unexpected ways. With a deft touch, Clara Salaman can take you from sunshine to rain in moments – a sudden look, a slight feeling, a seemingly innocent event, all building in your subconcious until, very much like Johnny and Clem, you realise that there is something very wrong here.

Some beautiful descriptive writing gives this one its haunting feel – and I loved the fact that the characters got right into your senses as well as your thoughts – I could almost feel the sea breeze along with Clem and sense the currents of the ocean along with Johnny. There is also a sense of wonder that goes along with the happier portions of the story that is quite exhilarating.

I was hooked by this one the entire journey. If I had one tiny bugbear, its that for me, the ending didnt quite hit me as I expected it would. That is purely subjective however and each reader will take their own thoughts and feelings away from this one. I would definitely recommend it, especially for those who like a book with great psychological insight into its characters and an authentic sense of place and time.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Love Potion – is a collection of six short stories with a mixture of humour, intrigue, renewed love, second chances, first love and destined romance.
Quick easy reads, ideal for a coffee break.

Right well, I don’t really do romance, its not a thing I’m particularly fond of in fiction generally with perhaps the exception of Jilly Cooper and the whole Riders series which I tend to devour when I’m having a hissy fit of some kind whilst chain smoking and generally growling at the world. But I find Samantha Bacchus to be particularly lovely and entertaining in Twitter world so when I saw she had published some of her short fiction I was very interested to have a look and I DO like to go out of my comfort zone occasionally and leave the general blood death and tears behind me. So I tootled off to Amazon, purchased a copy and decided that it looked pretty perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

What we have here is a collection of six short but extremely sweet stories based on love in a variety of its incarnations and I was exactly right about it being perfect Sunday reading. I would also recommend it for those of us who like a little something to dip into during coffee breaks or lunch hours – I read this today in and around doing other things, and I was highly entertained by some wonderful tales, at turns heartfelt and hilarious and with a healthy dose of irony on occasion.

Lovely writing style, a tendency to give you pause to nod your head wisely and knowingly and some great characters to meet along the way, I had a lot of fun.

The art of the short story is not dead. Here is the proof.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Coming January 16th From Tinder Press.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

Jacob has not been seen for a few days. That’s because Lizzie snapped last Monday and killed him. Over the course of the following month, with no other option at hand and no income, Lizzie will use her best skill–cooking–to dispose of Jacob. When she finds unexpected kinship with an isolated misfit, she will be tested: Will Lizzie confess or will her new friend be an unwitting accessory to her crime?

Funny and disturbing, SEASON TO TASTE is a novel about the definitive end of a marriage, and its very strange aftermath.

So, here we go – I don’t think I have ever read a novel QUITE like this one before but oh I loved it – be warned though it is probably not for the squeamish! At turns darkly ironic, humerous and endlessly fascinating, this is a compelling and devilish look into one woman’s psyche and her rather odd and violent, yet effective way of ending her unhappy marriage.

On impulse one day Lizzie kills her husband – having then to come up with a plan for body disposal she chops him into handy joints, pops him in the Freezer and over the course of the novel uses her culinary skill to make a meal of him, quite literally. Yuck I hear you cry. And yes I suppose so – but in the intelligently creative hands of Natalie Young it is less yuck and more yum…in the reading sense of course.

As we follow Lizzie on her quest, with her lists to keep her on track and her growing relationships outside of the family home making her reconsider her future plans this is a captivating and often enchanting tale despite the subject matter, or perhaps even because of it. It is certainly a unique take on things and Lizzie has a crazy but appealing side to her character. Written in a snappy and matter of fact style, it has perfect pacing and witty prose that will keep you on the journey with Lizzie from start to finish. Will she get away with it? Well, you will have to see..

Its possible this book spoke to me on a deeper level because I am currently in the midst of a separation and Divorce myself – who knew that it was not a Lawyer that I needed but simply a giant stock pot? And in a marketing twist of pure genius, along with the review copy I received a handy wooden spoon….

Terrific. Give it a go!

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to the publisher and author for the review copy.

It’s 1963. Billy Driscoll and his best mate, Peter ‘Rooksy’ Rooker, have the run of their street. Whether it’s ogling sexy mum, Madge, as she pegs out her washing, or avoiding local bully Griggsy, the estates and bombsites of Pimlico have plenty to fire their fertile imagination.

Do you remember when you were 13? I have vague memories of that time of my life when the world was opening up and everything felt important. Barry Walsh has captured the sense of that perfectly here, as we follow Billy Driscoll through life, friendship, love and a growing understanding of the fallibility of adults.

This is a “coming of age” tale but it is so much more than that. This is a witty and heartfelt look at one boy facing the world head on and is beautifully written. Set in the evocative 60’s, a sense of that time and place is ingrained in the pages. Nostalgic, fascinating and compelling I loved this one.

Recommended for fans of well written drama with heart.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Beth Lowe has been sent a parcel.
Inside is a letter informing her that Marika, her long-estranged mother has died. There is a scrapbook Beth has never seen before. Entitled The Book of Summers, it’s stuffed with photographs and mementos compiled by her mother to record the seven glorious childhood summers Beth spent in rural Hungary.

The Book of Summers is a wonderful evocative tale of childhood memories brought back to life through unexpected means and the effect this has on the present day.

Beth has buried a lot of her past for reasons we are unaware of early in the novel and as she recalls those memories of summers spent in Hungary we begin to get a picture of her life and the people in it. The descriptive prose utilised by Emylia Hall here is stunning – I almost feel that I have visited those places myself – the sights, sounds and day to day life of a completely different culture bursts from the page.

So deeply immersed was I in Beth’s summer holiday world that the reason for her ultimate estrangement from her Mother came like a punch to the gut even though I was expecting it – Ms Hall puts you right in the moment and uses just the right amount of misdirection to keep you focussed on the time you are in – you forget that you already know at some point these holidays stopped.

It is a beautiful book to be sure, a book of life, love, growing pains and the secrets families keep – I was right in it all the way. If I had one small niggle it would be that I wished for more about Beth’s life in England to offset the Hungary images which were so well drawn – more of a juxtaposition if you like –  but that aside this is a perfect novel to curl up in a chair with and get whisked away to another world.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Coming March 2014 from Atria Books.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via netgalley.

An epic saga of two remarkable women and two love stories spanning the years from 1920s India to modern-day England. In the gilded years before World War I, Anahita is a bright and curious Indian girl who never thought she would come to England. But as the companion to a royal princess, she is given rare access to a world of privilege and is sent to an English boarding school. When she meets young Lord Donald Astbury, they share a special bond that is only made stronger by their harrowing wartime experiences. Pressured by his family to marry Violet, an American heiress, Lord Astbury must say good-bye to a love that will haunt him for the rest of his life

I don’t actually read a lot of Historical/saga Fiction although I have been getting far more into it lately, this particular story was compelling and beautiful and had me hooked right from the start.

Rebecca Bradley, an American Actress, is on location in England at Astbury Hall – the owner, Lord Anthony Astbury is stunned by her strong resemblance to his Grandmother Violet. When Rebecca finds some old papers written by an Indian girl who visited Astbury Hall back in the twenties, an age old love affair comes to light.

I adored the characters in this novel – Annie particularly. So real and yet ethereal, their story is a compelling one. The parts of the book set in India were very beautifully described and the sense of an era was extraordinarily well done. And this author is not afraid to write an epic – this is a long book but there are no wasted moments, every word paints a picture.

I’m not usually a fan of love stories either, it has to be said that I usually find romance on the page to be rather over dramatic – in this case however, it was fascinating to see a world where two people are torn apart by the very circumstances of their birth – and its all quite emotional. There is the odd twist in the tale, not everything is expected and frankly I loved every minute of it.

I simply must seek out more novels from Lucinda Riley…Very soon.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Thank you to the publisher and author for the review copy.

Eilidh Lawson’s life has hit crisis point. Years of failed fertility treatments, a cheating husband and an oppressive family have pushed her to the limit. Desperate for relief, Eilidh seeks solace in the only place she’s ever felt at home – a small village in the Scottish Highlands. There, Eilidh slowly begins to mend her broken heart but soon learns she is not the only one in the village struggling to recover from a painful past.

Well. Surprising. See I don’t really do love stories. Or stories with a spiritual twist. I have to admit that I went into this one with some doubt as to whether it would be for me. But it was absolutely wonderful.

Eilidh’s story really touched my heart – as she struggled to create a family and was thwarted at every turn, eventually retiring to the peaceful Scottish Highlands to recover her equilibrium it was heart wrenching stuff.

Jamie, left behind to care for his daughter alone after her mother leaves him is also struggling. Eilidh and Jamie were once friends briefly – perhaps they can help each other.

Then you have Elizabeth, watching from beyond over her loved ones, influencing events as far as she can in order to bring happiness to those she left behind.

All cleverly done, with beautiful prose and an emotional pace, this one had me hopeful and tearful. Its a poignant tale of love, loss and happiness sought. It may bring a tear to your eye but the overall sense at the end is one of hope.

Recommended for fans of Love stories with a twist.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Coming 2014 from Gallic Books

Translated from the French by: Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz

Thank you to Gallic for the lovely surprise of a copy of this book in the post.

The three figures in the photograph are frozen forever, two men and a woman bathed in sunlight . . .

The chance discovery of a newspaper image from 1971 sets two people on the path to learning the disturbing truth about their parents’ pasts.

Helene Hivert discovers a photograph of her mother, a woman she knows little about, and advertises for information about the two men pictured with her – so starts a correspondence with Stephane Crusten, and a journey of discovery. As the two start to piece together the past, painful possibilities arise.

This is classic, beautiful storytelling – a tale of family secrets and age old dilemma’s coming to light in a compelling, sometimes sad, perfectly paced novel. Written with a rich, evocative prose and giving voice to two elegantly drawn people who are seeking answers about their childhoods and their parentage, Ms Gestern breathes life and soul into her characters as the people in the photo come to life.

Told via letters between Helene and Stephane, interspersed with descriptive chapters of other discovered photo’s, we follow avidly in their wake as they begin to learn more about their history and where they have come from. Each newly discovered nugget leads on to the next – like a literary  game of pass the parcel, each layer reveals another and another until finally the gift of full disclosure emerges. At turns fascinating, heartbreaking, passionate and astonishing, this one will touch your reading soul.

It may bring a tear to your eye – it did to mine- ultimately this was that very wonderful thing, an absolutely fulfilling reading experience. Exquisite and inspiring.

My thanks to the translators without whom I may never have read this story – an outstanding job.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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Coming December from Gallic Books

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

 

It is 1919. On a summer’s night in Normandy, a newborn baby is left in a basket outside the home of Albert and Jeanne Arnaud. The childless couple take the foundling in, name him Jean, and decide to raise him as their own, though his parentage remains a mystery.

Though Jean’s life is never dull, he grows up knowing little of what lies beyond his local area. Until the day he sets off on his bicycle to discover the world, and encounters a Europe on the threshold of interesting times .

I adored this novel. Evocative and compelling we follow Jean on a journey through life and through a very specific time in History, I was completely and utterly fascinated during the entirety of the reading experience. I have read a lot of novels set around each of the World Wars but I think this is the first for me set in a world holding its breath…and that is kind of the feeling I got throughout this story.

Jean sets off on his bicycle…what he will find we cannot imagine, and he is a perfect host on a journey of discovery. At turns irresistable, passionate, moving and eloquent you will soon find yourself lost in the pages. I say no more – if you love Historical stories you will adore this. Even if it is not your normal choice I would still recommend you give this one a try. It has a very particular feel about it and may surprise you. The sense of place is just amazing and the desriptive prose is beautiful. A character with true heart and a peek at a world now behind us makes this a heartfelt read.

When I was done I was inspired to look up some information about the author, and was surprised to find, considering the quality, that much of his work remains unavailable in English.  Michel Déon is a member of the Académie française. Born in Paris in 1919, he is the author of more than fifty works. I’m kind of envious, and wish I spoke a few more languages! Hopefully Gallic will sort that out – I would love to read more from this author.

And a final nod to translator Julian Evans – thank you Mr Evans.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Fiction

 

London waitress, Pippa Taylor has no interest in horses or country-living. But when she inherits Peace Offering, a hopeless racehorse, she embarks on a career change in order to see her late uncle’s wish to run him in the Grand National come true.

 

Now funnily enough, apart from the obvious exception of Jilly Cooper I don’t usually read “horsey” books these days. This despite being a rider myself, who as a child used to indulge in quite a few childrens books with a horse theme – most specifically the Flambards trilogy. So when I was offered a chance to review this one I was immediately transported back to those days…

Of course this is a book for adults – one that takes us into the world of Horse Racing and all that entails, and I enjoyed it very much. Our protagonist, Pippa, is thrust into this world, one she initally has no interest in, and as we follow her along the way its a lot of fun.

You have some romance, some intrigue, all set in a wonderfully colourful world with well drawn characters and an entertaining and lively story.

One possible drawback is the occasional over use of bad language – if that sort of thing bothers you then take that into account before diving into this one..however it did not detract from a great little story for me. I will certainly be reading on.

Thank you to the author for the copy of this book to review.

 

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Charlie Lowe has two obsessions: saving the Stoneford Village Green from unscrupulous developers and researching her ancestor, Louis Augustus Duran, whose mysterious origins elude her.

When a freak lightning strike and a rogue computer virus send her back to 1825, Charlie discovers she must persuade a reluctant Sarah Foster to marry Duran, or two centuries of descendants -including herself- will cease to exist.

My sunday side read this week, Persistence of Memory by Winona Kent was an interesting story – and a great way to spend my Sunday afternoon. I polished it off earlier today and have to say it was very enjoyable.

Perhaps not my favourite “type” of story, this was still well written and involving. Charlie finds herself trying to marry off Sarah to a man who is, well lets say not the most appealing of gentlemen. I found the whole thing quite amusing. Ok you have to suspend disbelief slightly more than usual when you find that Charlie still has a working mobile phone – even so this was a humerous and enchanting tale.

A short read but a clever engaging one I would recommend this for lovers of Historical fiction, time travel and romance.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to the author, publisher and netgalley for the review copy.

1867. Eliza Caine arrives in Norfolk to take up her position as governess at Gaudlin Hall on a dark and chilling night.

 

Well this was an interesting tale to be sure. I’m still in “consideration” mode as to whether or not the author was writing with a very tongue in cheek frame of mind or in a completely serious one…either way it works out rather nicely…

All the ingredients for a classic gothic ghost story are here – the grieving young lady taking up a position as governess, strange happenings on the way to said position – and upon arrival a totally unexpected greeting. Children..no parents….and a distinct air of unease about, well, everything.

Its certainly a nod in the direction of such novels as Henry James ” The Turn of the Screw” and Daphne Du Maurier  “Rebecca” and has that same peculiar sense of sublime writing…however as I said earlier, one has to wonder if Mr Boyne was having a bit of fun with us, the readers. There is a lot of cliche here along with a lot of clever supernatural drama..but all mixed up together, hence my still being in consideration mode…

Eliza is an interesting character and cleverly drawn in whichever way you come at this novel – her determination to get to the bottom of the mystery, despite everyone around her seemingly determined to keep secrets is in opposition to the fact that, well, frankly anyone with an ounce of sanity would run as fast as they could and never look back, children or no children. I mean really, five previous governesses in a very short timescale wouldnt give you a clue that this was not the best place to hang your hat? Her somewhat romantic yearnings are typical of the era, yet she has some modern views which make her commendable.

You really do have everything you need here – mysterious caretaker, tight lipped locals, strange noises, genuinely creepy goings on at times – for a spectactularly fun to read ghost story. And thats exactly how I would describe it….

So over to you. Parody, Homage or a bit of both? No matter what, highly enjoyable.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book received via Netgalley – thanks to all concerned.

 

When Alice Hart’s husband runs off with his secretary, she runs off with his dog to lick her wounds in a North Yorkshire village. Battling with loneliness but trying to make the best of her new start, she soon meets her neighbours, including the drop-dead gorgeous builder Richard Wainwright and the kindly yet reticent cafe owner, Owen Maltby. All is not what it seems however. Why does she start seeing Owen when he clearly isn’t there? Where – or when – does the strange crying come from?

 

I was very much looking forward to this one – having not read a good “ghost” story for a while,this seemed like the perfect remedy. And it was…

As we start following Alice on her journey, I was immediately involved…it probably helped that Alice is a lot like me at her heart – not sure where life is going to take her, suffering the loss (albeit not death) of her Husband and just trying to find her way. Enter the roguish Richard and the enigmatic Owen, throw in some strange occurrences with a hint of history and you have a great mix for a great story.

Slowly drawing you in, at times you may wonder if Alice is a bit barmy (again I relate as I often wonder that about myself!) as she starts to see Owen all over the place when he is not actually there…and her nights are often filled with a strange “crying” sound that she cannot track down. Spooky, yes. And beautifully written so you are right there with her..

As she delves further into village life and discovers more about those around her, so the true story emerges…and its a compelling one. Apart from that I will not say…but if you like a good ghostly tale you will certainly enjoy it.

Some great characters in here -Alice of course, I also particularly loved Adam and trust me, you will want some of his baked goods. In the background of the tale a distinct snapshot of life in a place where everyone knows everyone else and secrets are hard to keep..

All in all a terrific read and one to curl up under the duvet with and hope that you don’t start hearing strange noises in the night….

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you to the publisher, author and netgalley for providing me with a copy of this lovely heart warming book.

 

Brett Bohlinger seems to have it all: a plum job, a spacious loft, an irresistibly handsome boyfriend. All in all, a charmed life. That is, until her beloved mother passes away, leaving behind a will with one big stipulation: In order to receive her inheritance, Brett must first complete the life list of goals she’d written when she was a  girl of fourteen….

 

Now I don’t do chick lit…no really I don’t, she says with a list as long as the wall of China which does include a fair few novels that could be referred to as such – but when I saw a few of my fellow bloggers on Twitter, those who know a good book when they see one, raving about the beauty of “The Life List” I thought what the heck and took the plunge..

And beautiful is a great way to describe this story  – Brett would seemingly already have it all. A man she believes she is in love with, a high power career and the expectation and intention of taking over her mother’s business in the future. Her mother however, as mothers do, knows better – that true happiness doesnt come with possessions and money.

At first I was as horrified as Brett at the stipulation in the will. The relationship described between mother and daughter is a close one – why then, I asked myself, would she put Brett in such an untenable position when she would obviously be grieving. And yet. As Brett started her journey I began to see exactly what Mum was up to – and I immediately switched sides!

Wonderful characterisation and a terrific flowing prose makes this easy to read and you will easily drop in and out of Brett’s journey of discovery – egg her on, feel disappointed when she trips, cheer when she succeeds….and come to an understanding of just how clever Brett’s mother was. Of course the path to happiness is not easy – think back to YOUR goals at the age of 14 – how many have you achieved? And were they realistic in the first place….

All in all a terrific tale, heart warming and fun. Give it a go. You will feel better for the experience….

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thanks to the author, publisher and netgalley for the copy of this novel.

 

Jen, Andrew, Lilah, Natalie and Dan were inseparable at university, but in the seventeen years since they left they have hardly seen each other. Until Jen invites them all to stay at her house in the French Alps. The house where they once spent a golden summer before tragedy tore them apart.

This is the second book I have recently completed that made me cry. Floods of tears in fact. Again, a story of family – this time a family of friends – reminded me of a quote I love. “Friends are the Family we choose for ourselves”. For me, truer words were never spoken..

The Reunion follows the story of such a family – formed during their years at University it seems as if this is a unit that will always be together, supporting, loving, responsible for each other far beyond the peripheral boundaries of friendship and yet, when tragedy strikes they are torn asunder. Sometime following the event, they gather once more in France and when age old resentments and deeply held secret emotions begin to emerge it appears as if some things may be irretrievable.

Written from several viewpoints, and set in multiple timelines, this was an exceptional read as far as flow, characterisation and sheer storytelling goes…I could barely put it down, determined to find out what the outcome was going to be for all of this group of friends, from the haunted Jen, the dogged Andrew, to the never happy Dan, the seemingly steady Nat and the audacious Lilah..every one of them held me in their thrall throughout. The shifting boundaries of their relationships,  the ebb and flow of their emotions and the constant need they all have to “fix” everything was both fascinating and kind of like watching a car crash in slow motion – you KNOW they are often heading for disaster and yet you can’t look away.

Whether or not this is ultimately a tale of Redemption you will have to read to find out. And I strongly suggest you do. Evocative, emotional, brilliant stuff. More please.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Free spirited Rose brings up her identical twin girls Isolte and Viola in the countryside of Suffolk – Allowed to run wild, they have a quiet but wonderful life. Fast forward and Viola is struggling with an eating disorder, often hospitalised whilst Isolte has a seemingly good life working in the magazine industry. Just what is it that has set the Twins on two surely separate paths….

Oh what to say about this story…if I were to use one word “haunting” might perhaps be appropriate. Beautifully written certainly – with two wonderful and connected characters at its heart it is immediately absorbing and utterly compelling. These two girls, connected so closely by blood and yet torn apart by life events, will surely touch your heart.

Written at various times from the point of view of both Isolte and Viola, we hear their separate versions of incidents of their childhoods, events beyond those years and how they view each other and those around them. Utterly fascinating on every level you both will and will not want to finish their story – I was bereft at the thought of leaving them behind and yet impatient to find out how it all turns out for them.

The relationship between the Twins is of course the mainstay of the tale and yet Saskia Sarginson has managed to immerse us into the world of those characters who interact with them – John and Michael particularly – with just as much appeal.  When the story is done you will look back on it fondly.

All in all a terrific read – one that had me turning the pages until late into the night once more and also one that left me with a tear in my eye…Superb.

A little note: Anyone that follows me knows I’ve always got my eye out for great cover art and this one is eye catching and rather beautiful. I am pleased to have it on my shelf.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Thank you kindly to Gallic books for offering me a copy of this book for review.

**Based on real events****

In the form of a letter to his local SS officer we hear the story of French Academician and Nazi sympathizer Paul-Jean Husson, as he deals with his passion for his German daughter in law Ilse…and his hatred of the Jews…

This is a difficult one for me. I read it pretty much in one sitting – the story as it unravels kind of demands that level of attention – and as a look at that period of History and at least one man’s changing fortunes and ideals, it is extremely compelling.

A confession. Yes. Strangely fascinating and yet harrowing in places. I found it difficult to read and yet even harder to put down…I have not read many stories about the Occupation of France prior to this one and this is a very different view from the rooftops…I have given no spoilers and no indication. The power of the story is in the telling of it…

Stylish writing but over burdened with words I felt upon occasion, it was not a “flowing” read but once you get used to the overall tone of the book this is not a problem.

I really can’t tell you whether you will like this book or not because I honestly have no idea whether I did . It certainly gave me pause for thought. In my Amazon and Goodreads reviews I am giving this one 3 stars because I can’t give it 3.5 which is what I would actually say it was for me.

Very much in the eye of the beholder – if you are interested in this period of History then I certainly would not let this one pass you by. If you want pure escapism this is not really for you…it is a harsh and unrelenting tale but I’m sure one that will stay with you.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

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First of all my grateful thanks to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this wonderfully moving book. Tony Black, well known for his outstanding crime fiction takes a break from that and I for one am very pleased that he did.

Joey Driscol moves his family to Australia in the hopes of a new beginning. For a time the family live happily but when Joey’s wife disappears back to their native Ireland, taking their son Marti with her, Joey is forced to follow if he is to see them again.

This is such a beautifully written story – the characters and the settings come to life and the ups and downs of daily life and those things that can haunt us are brilliantly imagined but oh so realistic. The relationship explored between father and son is magnificent, not just Joey and Marti but Joey and his own father- heart wrenching and appealing, the demons Joey must face from his past in order to secure his and his families future will keep you turning the pages until you are done. My heart was with his wife – Shauna – she suffered as I suffer – a lot of what she has to face to deal with the “Black Dog” are things that I have had to face myself. What made this all the more wonderful for me was seeing the other side. Joey lives with Shauna’s issues – decisions they take and have taken both separately and together make up the world that Marti finds himself living in….if the family are ultimately going to find redemption, its going to be a hard road. I felt for each and every one of them.

This is an emotional story to be sure. Poignant yes. It also has its humour – cleverly paced and bittersweet I highly recommend that you pick a copy of this up as soon as it is available. Mr Black can write more than crime fiction thats for sure. I hope he continues to do so.

Find out more about Tony Black here http://www.tonyblack.net/

Follow him on Twitter here https://twitter.com/TonyblackUk

 

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First of all thank you kindly to the author for a copy of this book to review.

 

So firstly I’m going to say – I’m popping this under “Fiction” but there are quite a few “hooks” here for a wide range of readers. A wonderful quirky novel which perhaps could also be described as Urban Fantasy, Thriller or mystery. Frankly I’ll call it just plain fun…

 

Augustus Baltazar (Its ok you can just call him Stu ) is a Paranormal Investigator, with few friends, plenty of skeletons rattling around in the proverbial closet and a tendency to enjoy his nights out. Best friend Mike gets “sidekick” status and along with the women in their lives they get caught up in all sorts of shenanigans involving weird goings on, shadows that haunt them and a man on fire…..

 

I loved the narrative style of this novel – descriptive prose always works best when you are reading a story of this type – it allows you to see things from a birds eye point of view and take in the whole scenario with each chapter. Moving along at a great pace with some real humour along the way, its an interesting world to live in for a while to be sure. Dark at times with a lovely little mystery at its heart, your mind will constantly turn over the possibilities whilst reading. As the start of a series it works very well – there is obviously more to come and some twisty turns ensure that when more DOES come you will want to be there.

 

Characterisation is terrific – I especially liked DI Joe Merrick, a man with issues , who pops in and out offering insight with a wonderfully quirky tone. Stu and Mike are everymen as I like to say – but hey, not really! Brunette bombshell Jenny may get under your skin…

 

It won’t be for everyone – if you like chick lit this is not for you. If you like almost anything else you might find something here to enthrall you. Or you might not. Either way its worth a try! In my goodreads and amazon review I am offering it as a 4* because I get a feeling this series is going to grow on me…and I can’t give 6.

 

All in all a terrific read and another reason why, when you are choosing a book to dive into, you don’t necessarily need to look to the huge publishing houses with their marketing machines (although of course a terrific book can come from anywhere- all are welcome in Liz’s reading world) but can sometimes find a little gem right on your front doorstep. In my case literally. Thank you Mr Burnsoll!

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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So first of all I should say that I usually avoid Mafia/gang related fiction because its not really my sort of thing. A bit like religious conspiracy thrillers I tend to find them all a bit samey. However, occasionally I’ll dip my toe in the water so to speak because as with all types of book there are the good and the bad. And this one was good. Very good in fact. Whilst this genre is never going to be top of my “to read” list I’m very pleased I picked this one up and gave it a go. My Sunday Side Read this week, I enjoyed it very much.

 

Blurb.

Undercover cop Alex Vaughn goes deeper than ever into the organized crime family of Buffalo, NY. Motivated by justice and revenge, he seeks out the assassin that laid his friend Jack low.

Professional killer Rafael Rontego traverses the deadly politics of Buffalo’s mafia underbelly. In a city whose winter can be just as deadly as those wielding power, Rontego tries to stay ahead of the game.

Their two worlds collide in this epic thriller that takes the reader on a search for self, justice, and truth.

 

 

So this book has a great opening “hook” and it didnt take me very long to get immersed into the story. I love that the lines between good and evil are blurred here – you may well start off rooting for one character and end up with a complete turnaround by the end of the book. Twists and turns along the way keep you turning the pages and the finale is extremely good and will leave you wanting more…

 

I loved Rafael – Not sure I was supposed to but I did. And this is a well written, flowing tale of murder and mayhem with great characterisation, well rounded and fleshed out so you can really get to know them. The backdrop of Buffalo, NY is well described and the author has a great sense of place.

 

So all in all thoroughly enjoyable – if time allows I shall certainly be reading the next in the series and if you havent read this type of fiction before you may well want to start with this one.

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Note: This is NON FICTION but I do not have a page for that just yet!

 

Thank you kindly to the author for the copy of this book to review.

 

Considering this is not a book I would have picked up on my own, I enjoyed it very much!

The authors tale of a move to New Zealand it was at times funny, insightful and heart warming. Jamie has a lovely turn of phrase in her writing that keeps you engaged with her story from start to finish. I giggled wildly on occcasion especially during some very wry commentary on the culture shock and nuances of language that can flummox you when moving within a completely different community. And the mime, well. I’m laughing now just because writing this review has taken me back…

 

As a sneak peak into someone elses world, it works terrifically well – it makes me want to keep a diary, although mine would be somewhat less interesting. I started this novel as a brain break from the rather dark mystery thrillers I was reading and I was up well into the night last night so I could finish it. It may be non fiction but it could easily be read as such…and wow what a terrific film it would make! If only time travel were possible I would suggest to the author that she do it all again with a camera man in tow..

 

Jamie lives with us in the UK now….and yes, we use the term “rubbish” not “garbage” as well…at least she may well have been prepared for that.

 

Terrific stuff. I can’t wait for more….I’m kind of hoping she is writing a book about moving to the UK. Would live to see us Brits through her eyes.

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Post Apocalyptic Fiction

 

Thank you to the author for the copy of this book to review.

 

After a natural disaster, Cody is stranded in the Arctic Circle…far away from home, friends and loved ones he embarks on a journey to find them, and the elusive “Eden” rumoured to be the last safe haven.

I am a huge fan of post apocalyptic fiction, and for me this was in the top half of the draw as far as good ones go. Its certainly compelling, and Mr Crawford keeps up the pace and interest throughout the book. I think its difficult to do anything unique in this genre these days and so the only downside for me was a certain amount of predictability – having said that, the characterisation was great, the story well imagined and it was very difficult to put down once I’d started!

It is quite a dark read..Dean Crawford has a good eye for human nature…when its a fight for survival the worst in us can emerge and that subject is tackled well here. Emotionally speaking you will feel for the characters, especially Cody as all hope appears to be fading. I was rooting for them all the way. The twists and turns will keep you turning the pages…and the resolution I believe may divide opinion. I thought it was spot on.

I felt that the second half of the book was far superior to the first half  – not that the first half is bad, don’t get me wrong –  perhaps I would call it a “slow burner” but once the initial set up if you like, was complete I barely stopped reading until the end. This is the first novel I have read by this author but it certainly won’t be the last. I’m hoping perhaps for a sequel to this…over to you Mr Crawford! (Tell me tell me!)

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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So we come to “The Radio” perhaps a book I wouldnt normally pick up but it was wonderful. Thank you so much to Mr Lee!

Meet George Poppleton. Henpecked husband and father and one of the most loveable characters you are ever likely to meet,one day he finds an old transister radio in his loft. As it becomes a bit of an obsession, we learn about his life, whilst in the background daughter Sam and Wife Sheila plan a wedding….

This book made me laugh so much, I’m glad I didnt have stitches anywhere because I would surely have been on the way to the hospital….equally it was in places terribly sad and poignant as we learn about the loss George has suffered. A real snapshot of family life but with an eye to the ironic, it was perfect reading. Black humour pervades the pages, you may inappropriately giggle at times but as George moves ever further away from reality and things go wrong you will not want to stop reading. Oh and I will NEVER look at a garlic baguette in the same way again…

The writing flows from the page in terrific style – one of those books you live while you are reading it, and will stay with you when you are done…I am quite sad it is over.

Peppered with amazing characters quite aside from George himself – wait until you meet Auntie Lesley – never the less it is bittersweet. A beautiful novel to read and let yourself get absorbed into, I am assuming (and hoping) that we will meet them all again one day. Please read it. You won’t be disappointed.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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Historical Fiction – Thank you to the author and netgalley.

 

First of all I should perhaps make clear that I havent read “The English Monster” which precedes this novel but it did not detract from my enjoyment of “The Poisoned Island” one bit.

LONDON 1812: For forty years Britain has dreamed of the Pacific island of Tahiti, a dark paradise of bloody cults and beautiful natives. Now, decades after the first voyage of Captain Cook, a new ship returns to London, crammed with botanical specimens and, it seems, the mysteries of Tahiti.
When, days after the Solander’s arrival, some of its crew are found dead and their sea-chests ransacked – their throats slashed, faces frozen into terrible smiles, John Harriott, magistrate of the Thames river police, puts constable Charles Horton in charge of the investigation.

The way I would describe this novel in one word is “Rich”.  The prose is terrific and draws you straight into another world. Characterisation is top notch and as someone who doesnt really “do” historical fiction I was immediately hooked. The streets of London live in this book – familiar places but with an unfamiliar way of living, the sense of place is amazing. The mystery is intriguing…and although I know absolutely nothing about this period in History it all felt very authentic.

Its difficult to review this book – another one where almost anything you would love to say will probably include spoilers…I think I’m just going to leave with this. If you are looking for something highly intriguing, a little bit different to the norm and have an interest in History then this one is for you. Certainly, although I am late to the party, I shall be picking up a copy of “The English Monster” soon. Nicely done Mr Shepherd.

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

 

 

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This review from my good friend and fledgling writer the lovely Miss Amie Johnson

Follow Amie on Twitter here : https://twitter.com/amieblinks

 

Ps I Love You’, ‘If You Could See Me Now’, ‘A Place Called Here’; three of my many favourite titles, each written by the uniquely talented Cecelia Ahern. An Irish born author who succeeds with her creative imagination. Designing original ideas that excite her readers through granting them an exclusive look at a world where they can use her words to face their fears, answer some of life’s unavoidable questions and relate to her characters emotional states. She has taken me to a world where imaginary friends are real and a place where everything that’s ever gone missing, including people, end up. ‘One Hundred Names’, however, is a little bit more realistic.

 

‘One Hundred Names’ begins in an emotional place. Kitty Logan, a journalist whos career has been faulted by a scandal, is to loose the woman who taught her everything she knows about writing to cancer, something a lot of people can relate to. Whilst at her bedside Kitty curiously asks ‘what is the one story she always wanted to write?’ Kitty finds the answer consists of a list of one hundred names, no explanation or connections between these people. Kitty returns to the hospital to quiz her friend but is too late. Back at work she is assigned the task of writing the story for her friend and this is where the books pace picks up.

 

We follow Kitty through her rare ups and many downs with finding these one hundred people and solving their connections. I found myself reading into late hours of the night to discover the secrets Ahern teases you with. After each chapter I thought I’d cracked the code only to read on and find that none of my guesses were right. It is a fantastic book to keep your mind ticking!

 

On our journey we meet many more of Ahern’s wonderful characters and learn their individual stories; from a shy, retired woman to a man who hears other peoples prayers. These intriguing characters in Kitty’s world made me plead for Kitty to befriend them. But there were those who I wanted to reach into the pages and strangle!! This is an important component in any book, I find; the authors ability to make readers react to their words. To trigger an emotion from each reader about each character. The best authors know how to excite their readers to the point that they are trying to hide their grin, that stretches from ear to ear, whilst on the public bus to work. Sadden them to the point of crying in bed, surrounded by snotty tissues. Relieve them with a happy ending, adding in plenty of surprises to keep them on their toes, wanting to know more. All very key features that, I think, makes a book good reading material. And whilst Ahern succeeds these things in this work, for me, it is not Ahern’s best. It was too realistic for Ahern. She needs to revert back to her dreamlike story lines that immerse readers into a fictional creation that leaves them wondering how she comes up with such fantastic ideas and unthinkable twists. Although this isn’t shown as much in ‘One Hundred Names’ I would still say it’s worth a read due to it’s unexpected ending which tugged at the heart strings and left me with one final feeling; hope.

 

Cecelia Ahern, in my eyes, you are up there with the great writers. You continue to please me with your words and every time you announce a new book I wonder (excitedly) what it will possibly be about! So, if you ever fancy a good read and enjoy comedy, romance, mystery and relatable story lines, but also have lots of imagination to spend, pick up ‘One Hundred Names’ or any of Ahern’s collection. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Thanks Amie!

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Available now

Thank you kindly to Legend Press and Cassandra Parkin for the copy of this novel via netgalley.

In an abandoned house in the West Country a small eclectic group of people gather – including young Davey, escaping from life , who is welcomed into their midst with one caveat – he asks no questions. 30 Years previously, Musican Jack Laker is writing a comeback album…and in abandoning one girl for another sets into motion a wave of events that will ripple through the years until  they reach Davey’s shore..

I have posted this review under Fiction – you might also consider it as a mystery novel but for me it was all about the beautiful characters and flowing almost poetic prose – sometimes its hard to put a book into a single genre. Cassandra Parkin has created some wonderfully witty and heartfelt folk here – I loved each and every one of them from the hilariously honest Priss (my favourite) down to the less than likeable but still intriguing Evie. As you follow events both in the past and the present, you will get inexorably caught up in their world…a world as harsh as it is breathtaking. The house is almost a character in itself – there is a definite atmosphere about it and you know it is hiding secrets…but what those secrets are it refuses to tell.

The story unfolds over both the time periods in a charmingly delightful manner – it is gentle yet fascinating. You care less about what they may be hiding from than you do for the people themselves and what they might do next. The Summer We All Ran Away is the closest I’ve come expressively speaking to Agatha Christie – you feel like you are reading an age old tale yet in a modern setting. Of all the wonderful books I have read lately this is the one that has made me feel true nostalgia for those early days of my reading life – when wide eyed I would emerge from a story and suddenly realise it wasnt real. But it feels real when you are in it…doesnt it?

Happy Reading Folks!

 

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The Book Thief – A book I loved with all my heart but found it impossible to put into words. So instead I made Sharon Sant do it!  ( https://twitter.com/SharonSant )

 

Sharons Review

I’ll be brutally honest here; when I began this book I hated it. I thought that it was pretentious and over-written and ever so slightly jarring, even though I thought that the idea of Death as a narrator was the biggest stroke of genius ever. But so many people had so much good to say about it that I didn’t want to give up on it.  I’m so glad that I didn’t.  What started out as a book I didn’t think I would get on with at all became a story that will be branded on my consciousness for a long time to come.  Just like sushi, I realise now that I needed to acquire the taste for Zusak’s unique writing style, but once I had, I couldn’t get enough of it.  Through Death’s omniscient and touchingly sympathetic narration (this Death is not the traditional image of Death as an unthinking demigod who scythes humanity down, but a Death who connects emotionally with each soul he takes), Zusak weaves an epic tale that takes in the whole sweeping panoply of the second world war but still manages to draw it all, every consequence of every action and every decision, back to one little girl. Liesel Meminger, the girl in question, and the cast of supporting characters are sublime; there wasn’t a one that you could say wasn’t utterly fascinating and well-rounded.  I had a particularly soft spot for Rudy, the boy who was always trying to get a kiss from her; he just stole my heart, as did Liesel’s foster Papa, Hans.  Zusak’s poetic prose was so evocative of the time and place, I felt like I was standing on a German street watching the bomber planes come over, or hiding in the bomb shelter, or sitting next to the Jew in the basement. I also loved the smattering of German mixed in with the prose; it lent such an authenticity to the book.  Death takes us backwards and forwards through events, so that most of the time we actually already know what event the narrative is driving us towards, but that does not lessen the impact when we get there.

And here is where I have to warn you that I cried.  I’m known for crying quite a lot, but I cried like a baby, so people with normal crying thresholds will only cry a little, but you will still cry just the same.  If you don’t, you have a stone where your heart should be.

 

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A short but beautiful and quirky read, “Moon in a Dead Eye” follows a group of elderly people as they move into a gated community, hoping for the good life in the sun. Unfortunately it doesnt quite live up to expectations – as a new build there are only two couples and one single lady living there – and the social activities advertised are not forthcoming as hoped. A social secretary finally arrives and things begin to look up. But of course, with a tight knit group such as this there are always going to be unseen tensions…

I adored this book but I am finding it quite difficult to say why exactly. It was just, well, GOOD! It kind of meanders along as you get to know each individual person and their foibles, and a lot of the book is really just how they settle in, react to each other and to their new surroundings and what they do to pass the time. The author however somehow manages to impart a sense of menace….like something is hovering just beneath the surface that you can’t quite put your finger on. Ok so the caretaker is a somewhat sinister character but that in and of itself is not all of it. So I’d say its clever writing. Pascal Garnier definitely had an eye to the ironic…and he also managed a fair bit of humour.. still you felt all the way through that perhaps something was coming.

Was something coming? Well you will have to read it to find out. And I would say do so if you want something a little different and unexpected, but also purely for the genius of the writing. The turn of phrase and the way it flows is terrific. Perhaps not a book I would normally have picked up I am grateful to the publisher for sending me a copy to review. Otherwise I might have missed out and that would NEVER do.

 

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“I Have waited and You have Come” from Martine Mcdonagh is a little gem of a tale that absorbed me into its pages and kept me up last night…groan…caffeine required!

Set in a Post Apocalyptic world, we follow Rachel who fends for herself and spends as little time as possible in the company of other survivors. Then she seemingly attracts a stalker, someone who invades her solitary existence…and everything changes.

This is very much a character driven novel. The relationship between Rachel and Jez is intriguingly difficult to contemplate – exactly who is stalking who? Ms Mcdonagh has done a terrific job of exploring the nature of obsession – and the world in which these characters reside make that all the more disturbing. I was wondering a lot of the way through how much was simply inside Rachel’s head – and it is mostly her story although we do hear from Jez through the form of diary entries. Her mental state, already fragile at the beginning of the story seemingly deteriorates as time goes on and its compelling stuff. Very clever indeed.

Yes the Post Apocalyptic part of the tale is well drawn  – but its not really the point. The characters are the point. I really enjoyed this book – it did disturb me. I’m sure that was the intention. Now I have read both of this authors books (After Phoenix, a study in grief, is also superb) so I await her next with bated breathe. Happy Reading Folks!

 

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What a wonderful evocative novel. Following Ichmad Hamid whilst he lives his life caught up in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, within 3 pages my heart was hurting. Ichmad is wonderful, thoughtful, intelligent, determined to help his family survive and his character literally leapt off the page. We follow him as he receives a scholarship to study in Israel and later moves to the USA, from there he does what he can.

This was heart warming and heart breaking in equal measure. When I got to the end I didnt want it to be over and yet the ending itself was uplifting. If you have any interest in the real life issues that affect people caught up in this part of the world then you should certainly read this. And even if you don’t its a beautifully written intense tale that will touch your heart. And that as they say, is all there IS to say.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

 

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Ok, so I both loved and hated this book in equal measure. The story, that of a marriage disintegrating slowly but surely and told from the point of view of both of the partners, is compelling indeed. However the more I read on, the more I realised that I had no sympathy for either of them. Frankly they deserved each other! Sometimes though, having a book peppered with completely unlikeable characters works – and in this case it did. Instead of rooting for one or the other, I just found myself fascinated by the psyche of both…and actually getting quite cross with the pair of them. Jodie is a doormat. Yes she is. She runs the home with super efficiency, puts up with her husband’s philandering and generally just enables him in his quest to do exactly what he likes. Todd doesnt know what he wants. He wants Jodie at home doing her thing, but he also wants to have the freedom to stray. And for some unfathomable reason, for a long time it works for both of them. Until Todd meets a woman who knows what SHE wants and from there this half life that both Jodie and Todd have been leading is going to come to a head….

The beauty of this book is that I didnt really know where it was going to end up. Both the major players have huge emotional issues and are seemingly unable to form coherent thoughts on what it is they think should be happening. The breadth of misunderstanding between the pair of them is amazing. And yet, it seems realistic. Hearing from first one then the other, seeing each different event from their individual points of view, works extremely well. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive….that saying is oh so true here. Comparisons have been made to “Gone Girl”. No. Sorry. Not sure where that came from, in my opinion it doesnt do either novel any good.  The simple comparison yes – we hear from two players in an ongoing long term relationship – but other than that “The Silent Wife” is completely different.

Cleverly written, not needing to rely on too many twists and turns, I am saddened that we will not get more from this author who passed away this year – I think the reading world has lost something without ever knowing it had gained it in the first place. I would highly recommend you don’t let this one pass you by. You may not LOVE it. But it will compel you to read to the end.

 

 

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Well I read the first one of these and really couldnt find the words. However my very good friend Storm DID manage to find the words and has very kindly allowed me to use her Goodreads review for this page here. Thank you Storm.

Storms Review

The irony of rating these as a 1 star (the author could spell) and yet having read all 3 books is not lost on me. However, being hit bestsellers, you find yourself willing them to get better and anticipating that you will indeed be rewarded for sticking with them…well it turns out I’m never going to get those days back!

The leading (ahem) ‘lady’, Anastasia Whatsherface, wasn’t the best modern role model for young women – and no I don’t mean because she liked it rough in the bedroom! Fill your boots love! – but because she was probably the most pathetic lead character I’ve ever come across; needy, snivelling, and presumably with a very sore bottom lip.
And Christian Grey was spoilt, childish and manipulative – hardly charming or sexy in my opinion.

I suspect James had a word count quota beyond her capabilities – hence the ridiculous amount of repetition, for example ‘Oh my!’ showed its face perhaps every other paragraph. And Anastasia biting her lower lip in order to seduce Mr Grey at every opportunity was my own personal torture!

I don’t like to give such negative reviews, and kudos to James for making a huge buck out of essentially one page of writing and some extensive copy and pasting, but I just cannot comprehend the success, and am even embarrassed to say that yes I’ve read ‘those’ books – and not in a naughty, flushed face kind of way.

 

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So, Mr Croxall did such a great review for me, here he is again, reviewing for us this time “Dream On” by that lovely lady and all around great writer Terry Tyler.

 

We’ve all fantasised about being rocks stars; the bellowing roar of an arena filled with thousands of adoring fans, smashing up expensive guitars on stage, epic champagne-fuelled parties – surely it’s the dream existence? Well, in Terry Tyler’s Dream On, a group of wannabe rockers realise the music scene isn’t all glitz and glamour.

Having spent a large proportion of my formative years playing guitar in a small-time band, I immediately identified with central character and band member, Dave; his lusting over Gibson Les Paul’s and recurring daydreams of playing Wembley are very reminiscent of my (and I’m sure many others) mindset when I was practicing dodgy chords in my teenage bedroom.

Throughout the novel, the grimy side of the music industry is portrayed perfectly and the pressures of ‘real’ life versus musical ambition is an enthralling theme, transmitted through some excellent writing.

Of course, this isn’t just a novel for wannabe rockers, the characters are written superbly and there will almost certainly be at least one any reader can identify with. The book also has some excellent funny moments too; so often comedy in books falls short of the mark but not here.

Overall, a brilliant read – give it a try, you won’t be sorry you did!

 

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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.

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After Phoenix is a family drama, set against the backdrop of 1970’s Britain and tells the story of one family dealing with the loss of a loved one. After Phoenix dies, each member of the family deals with their grief in different ways – and you will feel for them every step of the way, sometimes understanding, sometimes not, the steps they take to bring their lives back into some sort of order. A very real examination of grief, and in a way redemption, this story is absorbing and well written. Heart wrenching and life affirming in equal measure, the author has managed to give real insight whilst still being entertaining and making you want to turn the pages – your heart will ache but it will also laugh..and what more, really, can you ask for from a novel? I’ll allow you to read for yourself how each family member deals with their trauma, you need to take this journey with them to really get the best out of it – anyone who has ever lost someone special will see parts of themselves in there I guarantee it. Personally my reading heart was with Penny, and her determination to just be, yours may end up going elsewhere – but you will find yourself completely in their world and hoping against hope that ultimately all will be fine.  My huge thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book – I loved it. I shall be reading more. Hopefully very soon.

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A tale of two brothers – Michael and Robert – this story was both very grim but also an extremely realistic portrayal of those hidden things within families. Of the two I preferred Robert despite his character – possibly because as a person I’m beginning to understand there is darkness in everyone, and that drew me to him. The relationship between the two is fascinating – Michael in many ways is a shadow of Robert but I found it interesting how they were both different and the same. Well written, with some what I call “morbid humour” it is easy to read and absorbing. The sibling rivalry was fascinating to me as I am an only child – I never had to sail those waters! To finish, I would say if you like a family drama, but with a bit of grit to it, this book is for you. Enjoyable. My thanks to Daniel Brevitt for sending me a copy to read.

 

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So we come to “The Humans”. Anyone who has read my blogpost “How a book speaks to you” (see directly below if you are reading this at publication and not on the fiction page) will know that this book is now a very big part of my life. One I will read again. One I will use to get me through the tough stuff. And isnt that amazing? And it could work for you…but lets leave that behind us for now and talk about the book as a book. As entertainment, as fiction as an amazing read and one that will absorb you entirely into its pages. Because it will. This story will amaze you. It will touch your soul no matter where you are in life. It will, I promise. Maths Professor Andrew Martin makes a miraculous breakthrough. But someone is watching…someone who thinks that we are not ready for such things. And they decide to put a stop to it. However as in life, these things don’t ALWAY’S turn out how you have planned them. “Andrew”, instead of carrying out the things he is supposed to be doing, ends up entangled into life. With humans. And their foibles. And despite his efforts to continue on his mission these pesky human people with their quirks and their feelings and their stuff just keep getting in the way…and so begins a journey of discovery. An awesome, wonderous journey of discovery. And peanut butter. Well, who DOESNT love peanut butter? Oh and don’t forget Newton the Dog. Very important stuff don’t you know! Witty and insightful and brilliantly written in a way that makes it easy to love, Matt Haig has given the world something. He has certainly given people like me something miraculous – my faith in the human race is somewhat restored. And if you know me in real life you understand what a gift that is. Still, even just as a random book you pick up because you fancy it suddenly, its pretty darn good. So read it. Not everyone will love it – we are all different – but don’t hesitate to give it a go because if you don’t I promise you – you are missing something,well, super cool. And we all need a bit of that in our lives.

 

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I’ll be honest – I would never have picked this book up if I hadnt “met” the author on Twitter and found her to be a lovely person – its not really my sort of thing. Or so I imagined. Well I was wrong. It was wonderful – a great day’s reading. Five women and a “Wishing stone” form the basis for this story, Ruth having obtained the stone by nefarious means finds herself in all sorts of trouble! Its insightful writing and it has a great style – you immediately feel comfortable with the prose. The leading ladies are women you can relate too – My favourite was Petra but they all have everyday issues and worries. There are some twisty turns and it may not turn out quite how you expect. Lovely. I’d better get Ms Tylers other books pronto!

 

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I’ll be honest and say I had to make an effort to keep on with this book, because it didnt immediately grab me but I am glad I did – ultimately it was a very good read. Carrie is a chat show host – a female Jeremy Kyle who digs into the underbelly of society and exploits it for fame and gain. I found her extremely unlikeable (probably the point but you would have to ask the author!) and spent most of the first part of the story grimacing at the pages. We also learn about her son, and her ex husband amongst various other characters. When tragedy strikes at the heart of Carrie’s family, I found myself intrigued to find out what it would do to her character. Would she gain a real insight into the people she exploits for her show and ultimately become a better person? That,for me, was one of the reasons I enjoyed the book – waiting to find out. The mystery element is there, who did what to who and why, and this is not fully revealed until the end, so if you are a lover of Crime fiction you should also enjoy it for this reason. Told in real time and flashback its cleverly done, although one little bugbear is that there are a few “scenes” if you like that seemed pointless, didnt add to the ambience of the tale, and were never referred to again. Overall though, this didnt interfere with my enjoyment – I thought it was very good and for me, was more about the characters than the mystery, I was far more interested to see what Carrie would do than I was in the resolution of the crime element of the novel. I will certainly be reading some more from this author in the future.

 

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Finn Fell. With these chilling words starts “After the Fall”, a novel about a family and their move to New Zealand. Through a series of flashbacks from Mum, we discover how they came to be in NZ, what has happened to them since they arrived and the true nature of the accident that has befallen Finn.Charity Norman has written a terrific novel about what really could be any family – yours, mine, your next door neighbours. They are normal, happy people, very well drawn and it is easy to move into their world. A pretty stunning comment on some of the social issues that can affect families in these times (I don’t want to say too much, as this would have to include spoilers) you are right there with Martha and Kit, as they begin life in a new country, with all the challenges that brings, and as the story unfolds you find yourself rapidly turning the pages to discover how they cope with some very hard issues and choices. It was a book that makes you think…what would YOU do if you found yourself in their situation. It stayed with me long after finishing the last page and I will certainly be reading more from this author. Very very good.

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I read this book over a weekend not long ago, and one thing that strikes me now looking back on the experience of it, is how quickly I became immersed in the world Matilda Wren has given us here – you wouldnt think that a novel with an Essex setting could be so addictive but somehow it is. The author also has an interesting writing style – the way the story spins its twists and turns is unusual and extraordinarily well done. I really don’t want to tell you about the plot, oh no I don’t…because really, it is a tale of its own, not one to be put in a “genre” box and certainly not one you want any preconception of. I will say, the phrase “This ain’t no fairy tale” drifted through my head whilst I was reading it – and I will also say that the final confrontation is something else – I’m always a happy bunny when a book delivers its initial promise and that can happen less often than you would think. Characterisation is top notch, you will easily “see” the people that occupy this story. A slight warning, this is not for the faint of heart, it is violent and the language can be colourful, but it is not gratuitous it all adds to the ambience of the reading experience as a whole. I have been reliably informed that there is a sequel on the way. Well, I would say that falls under the “Excellent News” category. I will be one of the first in line.

 

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My latest blogpost talked about Genre Reading and getting out of your comfort zone, and occasionally trying something a bit different. Well thats what I did with “Ethan Justice” a novel that perhaps I would not have picked up in the ordinary course of things but now I have I’m glad I did. It was one of those enjoyable books that kind of flows over you, pulling you along with it and when you are finally done you realise you’ve had a great time! John Smith, pretty much living off his parents and basically drifting from day to day, suddenly finds himself having to reassess his life. Then a night of drunken debauchery with a high class prostitute sends him tumbling into a whole new world – one of shadowy goverment agencies, pyschotic killers and well, just general mayhem.

The writer has a great style – it took me  a few pages but then it kicked into high gear and we were off. The only time you hear a “first person” side is from the most evil of the characters…so evil you will LOVE him and that is a clever tactic that works really well within the context of the rest of the novel. Savannah the stereotypical “hooker with a heart of gold” turns out to be perhaps less stereotypical than you would expect and John Smith – yes you heard me, and yes that humour is worked well into the book – is interesting and engaging. I’m not sure what genre you could put it in safely – a lot goes on in this book and its all highly entertaining – spy thriller might be the closest I could come but really its just terrific fun and if you’ve got a rather boring Sunday ahead, this would be the perfect solution.

My thanks to Mr Jenner for sending me a copy of this book to review. I had a wonderful time reading it.

 

3 Responses to Fiction

  1. gold says:

    I was more than happy to find this net-site.I wished to thanks to your time for this glorious read!! I undoubtedly having fun with every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

  2. WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. ?

  3. CJ Harter says:

    Hi Liz
    I just enjoyed your Amazon review of I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. I was struck that you enjoyed the “utterly compelling character arcs” and “very emotional storyline”. I wondered if you would be interested in reviewing my novel “Rowan’s Well”, a psychological thriller involving a heinous crime committed within a family. I tried posting details here but the server seems to recognise that as Spam!
    I would be happy to send you a complimentary review copy if you would like to look at it or, in the first instance, to email you a link to my Amazon page so you can check the book out?
    Many thanks for all your reviewing and blogging. It’s helpful and a lot of fun.
    Happy Reading
    CJ Harter

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