Liz Currently Loves……Ethan Justice: Origins.

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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.

On Comfort Reading…Your Genre and how to expand your taste…

So we all do it don’t we. You read a couple of Crime Fiction novels then you look back years later and realise that you have pretty much read NOTHING BUT Crime Fiction novels. That was me for a long time…if it wasnt Crime Fiction or Stephen King I didnt read it. Did not even give it a second glance. And you know what? There is actually absolutely nothing wrong with that. Reading should be for pleasure, always, with the exception of the sometime reading you have to do for work or school. If you are happy and fulfilled with your reading then heck, leave it alone! BUT I have discovered that there is a world of literature out there that can sometimes excite, inspire and consume you and its not going to be anywhere near your comfort zone. Getting yourself out of the mindset though, can be difficult. You may start a book in a different genre and struggle with it at first – after all, whilst there is a HUGE variety of crime fiction out there – it kind of all has its own voice. Its why you love it…its why its the first thing you pick up…and even within different styles there is always something there that reminds you why you love the genre. So how DO you re-train your brain to allow other stuff to rattle around in there with the stuff you have already. Firstly, a recommendation from a fellow reader whose tastes match yours in a lot of ways but is already doing this “out of the zone” thing, is a great place to start. Thats how it happened for me. My friend Gary, who is also a great lover of Crime Fiction and Stephen King told me one day about this set of books that he had been loving so much that he had taken two days holiday from work in order to finish them. They were the “Felix Castor” series by the amazing Mike Carey. Not my kind of thing at all. A freelance Excorcist? Come on now, really? I’m going to love a story about that? Well I did. Loved it. ADORED it. Read the lot in a week. And so began my relationship with that wonderful new genre – Urban Fantasy. The Matthew Swift series by Kate Griffin, the Jack Nightingale series by Stephen Leather and the wonderfully funny Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch soon followed and these days if I see the words “Urban Fantasy” anywhere I’m pretty much almost guaranteed to give that book a go. No, I don’t love all of them – do you ever? Even if you stick with your comfort zone you will find there are some you just don’t like. Thats ok. Go with the flow.

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Another thing you can try is – fantastic looking covers. Go to your local bookshop and browse. Don’t look at the back of the book to see what its about…don’t look at the tagline if you can avoid it. Just look at the cover art and see if anything grabs your attention. You’ll know if you are just picking up a new Crime Fiction book – or whatever your comfort zone happens to be – so avoid those as well. Just let your heart lead your head. If you see one…BUY one. Just one. And don’t even look at anything that will tell you specifics on what it is about until you open it and start reading. You may hate it. BUT you may love it…and discover a whole new reading world just waiting to open up to you. One day I went to Waterstones and just did this. And funnily enough..I came home with “One Day” by David Nicholls. It was orange. It stood out. It spoke to me in that moment and I took it home and devoured it IN one day. That day it worked for me – I’ve done it again since and found some  AWFUL books. No I won’t name them…I might name your favourite book in the world by accident and then where would we be? Try it though. Its like Christmas. There are a few other ways to go about this, but I’ve found that the two I have talked about expanded my reading horizon by quite a few miles. I now read the Urban Fantasy, and the Comedy and the love stories and the post apocalyptic fiction, Young Adult fiction….you name it I’ve probably tried it at least once. And its fun people – it really is a whole load of fun. Go have some now.

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Ok, so STOP with the spoilers already….

Honestly, this is a subject that truly gets my goat when it comes to reading reviews to find out if perhaps I will fancy reading a book or not. Is that not the POINT of reviews? Its gives other readers the opportunity to see what you thought, get a reasonable idea of the subject matter and decide whether or not it is for them. Now, thinking about that – ARE you going to read a book after you have read a review with comments such as (made up not a real book!) “The author put a brilliant twist in the middle. You thought that Barry was a man but ACTUALLY he is an ALIEN. So I was very surprised. And of course that explained why Barry couldnt eat eggs and by the end of the book, he had developed a stomach and he could eat the eggs!” I mean really. Would you? No you wouldnt. You know where its going and where it will end up and all the information inbetween so you would forget that book and move on to the next. Probably while throwing shoes at stuff. Sorry thats my thing. When I’m annoyed – I throw shoes. So WHY do people do it? Several authors that I know about have suffered this issue lately. If you look at my review of “The Burning Air” by Erin Kelly – Yes there is a twist. Ok? There IS one..and some people are looking specifically for a twisted tale.. But…a reviewer on another site not only said there IS one but told you what it is! I mean REALLY? REALLY? I’m reaching for those shoes right now. Sophie Hannah, Mark Edwards and S J Bolton among others have also suffered this issue. Reviews telling you “whodunnit” sometimes even WHY they did it. Some reviews I’ve read lately just basically tell you the whole story in little bites. Literally. Start to end. Why do people do it? Does it not compute? Other people want to have the surprise. In murder mysteries they like to try and work it out for themselves. Me, I’m inordinately pleased with myself when I’ve beaten the author at their own game. If I read a review that reveals the truth, I’m not even going to bother reading it. And it MIGHT be a great book. A hell of a read. But no. I’ve missed out. Anyone who has read “Gone Girl” …would you have read it if you knew exactly what happened to Amy and why? Of COURSE not. That was the whole point of the book in the first place. So PLEASE reviewers – whether you be book bloggers, professionals, or just someone who enjoys sticking the odd review up on Amazon and Goodreads – STOP. THINK. Would YOU have enjoyed the book had you had all the information you are about to put into your review?  Personally I re-read all my reviews at least twice before posting – because of course, if a book excites you and you have had fun with it, sometimes you can be over enthusiastic in trying to get your point across. The need is sometimes huge to say WHY its such a great read. Why you were on the floor going “Nooooooooo never!”, But its important. You want other people to have that moment…Don’t you?

Liz Currently Loves……The Magpies

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I think if I read any more good books, my head might explode. No, really, it might explode. Luckily for Mr Edwards, the police will not be arresting him for manslaughter because despite the brilliance of his solo novel, I managed to drink a decent cup of coffee just in time having finished it, so my brain is still intact. Just. Jamie and Kirsty find their perfect home (remember that feeling? I do!) and move in with visions of a happy fulfilling future together. At first everything really is perfect. They settle in, meet their neighbours, plan on a baby and basically do everything you do when you are expecting a fairly standard but absolutely terrific future together. Then, slowly and inexorably, things change. At first its little things – pizza’s arriving unexpectedly, subscriptions to magazines they have no interest in, and hoax calls to the fire brigade…but this is just the start. The beauty of this novel lies in the small details and the descriptive prose used to make us feel what Kirsty and Jamie are feeling..to be right there at their side when at first bemusement, then disbelief, then terror strike. Their state of mind and actions are extremely realistic – and the cause of their problem, a particular set of neighbours, are mundane enough in their appearance to be truly frightening. What can you do when anyone you tell looks at you as if you are the mad one? If the Police can do nothing, and indeed can’t even admit there is a problem? These are the issues that face this couple. I read this in a day and some terrific writing means that, having read it, even knowing that my own neighbours are lovely people, I am going to be viewing them with a certain amount of suspicion for quite some time. Sorry neighbours! Brilliant stuff. More please.AND currently only 99p for the Kindle…visit Amazon NOW!

Its 4.30am…

And here I am wide awake. Real life problems keeping me up at night. And here’s the thing – I am doing two things to get me through it. I’m listening to some music and I’m reading one of my “comfort” books…in this particular case its “Lisey’s Story” by Stephen King. The story of a marriage. Ok, its a Stephen King marriage and lets face it those ones are never going to be simple, but still its the right book at the right time for me. I set aside my current books because my head was not in the right place, but I didnt stop reading…oh no I just picked up the one book that I knew was right for me in this moment.  And it got me thinking a little bit more about how the love of a good book can quite literally, in some cases, save your sanity. Previous life issues have had me picking up other King novels – there is a reason he is my favourite author. And NO! Mr Quantrill…NOT HORROR! There are other “go to” books in the mix but its mostly Mr King and his eye to the weird and the wonderful, but with, hey, real people and real life situations in there as well. I read a book and over the course of that book, my feelings and situations clarify themselves. Become something I can handle, cope with…move on to the next thing and leave that particular problem behind. So in a moment, I may actually sleep. I do wonder if other people get this from certain books. Is there one book, one author, maybe even a mix, that can get you through just about anything if you just pick it up and immerse yourselves in the pages? We all have at least one…don’t we?

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Welcome…And yes, its getting there!

So here is my Brand New Website, Liz Loves Books, because, well, Liz does! Its very much a work in progress but at some point you just have to let it out there so here we are. More content is being added daily and you will be able to find the latest great reads right here on the front page. Since I started this endeavour to try and get more people reading I have learnt a lot and I have to give a huge shout out to Mr Mathew Williams an amazing friend who has seen me through this first part of the process and is continuing to do all the technical bits and bobs required for me to be able to manage it perfectly – even with my complete and utter lack of knowledge when it comes to these things. You COULD follow him on Twitter if you were so inclined. https://twitter.com/_mathewwilliams

So here we are. Some of the pages have more content than others currently but I am in the process of adding all the great books I have read lately as well as a few favourites from over the years, so if you keep visiting over the next few weeks and months who knows what you will find? Perhaps a new author to add to your list of “must reads” or perhaps something you might not necessarily have picked up without a little push…when it comes to reading anything goes – you never know what you might find out there in the world. If you are interested, a few of my favourite authors old and new can be found under “favourite authors”…take a look at their websites and find your people! If you fancy some lovely signed books or anything mail order wise the Coles Bookstore link at the top is where you need to be!   So enjoy with me the journey so far and I hope to see you here again soon…

Liz Currently Loves…..The Other Typist.

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With “The Other Typist” Suzanne Rindell has achieved a number of things, all of which add up to make this one of the best novels I have had the pleasure of reading this year. Set in 1920′s America, during the time of Prohibition, it follows the story of Rose, a Police typist, and her blossoming friendship with the newest girl to join the typing pool, Odalie. Their days spent typing up the confessions of criminals, their nights spent in quite a different fashion, we follow the girls over the full course of their friendship from the day they meet. Neither are quite as they appear however, and you will quickly become immersed into their world and you won’t come up for air until you are sure there is no more left to know. Told entirely from the point of view of Rose, you trace their friendship from first meeting to where it all goes, well frankly, a bit pear shaped.
Ms Rindell’s sense of place is fantastic – the best I’ve seen in a long time. An evocative time, when women were just beginning to come into their own in a world that was very much coming to terms with itself, you can almost smell the smells and see the sights right there along with our protagonist.
The writing is witty and clever – Rose is a bit of a prude, and her opinions on how “young ladies” should conduct themselves are at times laugh out loud funny – several times I found myself re-reading certain portions with great amusement – and the excellent prose serves the story well.
Odalie is one of those characters you are unlikely to ever forget (Anyone who has read Erin Kelly’s fantastic “The Poison Tree” and remembers how Biba made you feel will know exactly what I am talking about) and she and Rose are pretty much polar opposites – hence really why the whole thing works so well.
Peppered with supporting characters who are all intrical to the plot and extremely well drawn (I would kind of like to meet the Detective Sergeant) you are swept along on a tidal wave of storytelling until you emerge breathless the other side. If you only read one book this year – read this one. **This review from  “Goodreads” First Read” thanks to Penguin Books.

Liz Currently Loves….The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

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I absolutely adored Ms Kelly’s first novel “The Poison Tree” so I did approach this with some trepidation. However by three chapters in I knew I had nothing to worry about. The story sucked me in, and I completed the book in under a day. The synopsis available (see below) is all the plot detail you need to decide if this novel interests you, so I won’t go into any more detail because I think that the less knowledge you have about where this is all going, the better for your enjoyment. However, I will say this – about half way through the book, the author pulled the rug out from under me, with a superb twist in the tale that I really did not see coming. From then on it was a breathless rush to the finish to see how the heck it was all going to turn out. So Thank you Erin Kelly – Quite Brilliant.

Synopsis:Of course it was love for my children, love for my son, that caused me to act as I did. It was a lapse of judgement. If I could have foreseen the rippling aftershocks that followed I would have acted differently, but by the time I realised the extent of the consequences, it was too late. The MacBrides have always gone to Far Barn in Devon for Bonfire Night, but this year everything is different. Lydia, the matriarch, is dead; Sophie, the eldest daughter, is desperately trying to repair a crumbling marriage; and Felix, the youngest of the family, has brought a girlfriend with him for the first time. The girl, Kerry, seems odd in a way nobody can quite put their finger on – but when they leave her looking after Sophie’s baby daughter, and return to find both Kerry and the baby gone, they are forced to ask themselves if they have allowed a cuckoo into their nest . . .

Liz Currently Loves….Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly

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The main character of this novel was someone I recognised to a certain degree..she was me! Busy mum, often forgetting the little things, sometimes forgetting quite big things, you know the feeling if you are a parent – the school trip you didnt sign the form for, the time you forgot you were supposed to pick them up at 2 and not 3 – we all have parenting faux pas without any real harm occurring. What if that wasnt the case though – what if just once, your mind wandered, and your friends daughter who was in your care, vanished. That is the heart aching problem that faces our heroine – Publicly blamed and ashamed she sets off on a journey to discover the truth and therein lies the plot for this terrifically written novel. A beautifully twisted tale, involving real life problems and concerns, and examining how well we really know the people around us, I was quickly absorbed into the heart of this community and quickly turning pages to discover what was going on. I detested at least two of the characters – nicely done to the author. Others I felt fiercely protective of, a sign of a great character novel. I didnt work out the truth – I was off on a completely different tangent – and I love it when that happens. Highly enjoyable I look forward to more from this author.

Liz Currently Loves….The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

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Darn I didnt want this book to end. I would happily have read on into eternity and an eternal tale is exactly what you will get if you have the good sense to pick up a copy of this book. A huge thanks to the lovely lasses at Harper Collins for the early copy – it means I have had the honour of being amongst the first to read it, and when the rest of the world gets in on the act very shortly, trust me its going to be huge. The back of the book tells me “A Killer who shouldnt exist, A girl who shouldnt have lived, A Thriller that breaks all the boundaries”. Well, yes. But don’t let the “Thriller” tag give you preconceptions – it is thrilling, but trying to put this novel in a genre box is like trying to explain to people why you love your children. The words will come out of your mouth but you are never going to get the sentiment across. ANY reader worth his or her salt will love this book – it transcends genre and just sits happily where it is. A classic in the making.
Harper Curtis is a very bad man. And through a twist of fate he is able to carry out his nefarious acts across history – he is compelled to seek them out, his “Shining Girls”, the ones who must die, the ones he feels in his soul. And die they do. Until Kirby. She lives. And so begins a chase across the decades, a search for the truth that may undo both of them.
The timeslips are brilliantly done. Each chapter in its own space, each period of History cleverly described and researched, you follow Kirby and Harper, The Shining Girls and interconnected characters, over many years and many encounters…until the final resolution, which does not disappoint. Despite the decade hopping you are never lost – often the author will let you know whats coming, sometimes what has come before. You will always know where you are but be aware peripherally that everything can change in an instant. The characters you find within the pages will touch your heart – and if you don’t start looking over your shoulder in case Harper should appear, suddenly made flesh by your reading of him, I’d be very surprised. Or perhaps thats just me! Still, I loved this book. If your passion for reading matches mine, you will too. **this review from competition copy***