Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Fatal Promise – Angela Marsons

Crime Fiction
5*s

The pull I have towards crime fiction isn’t necessarily because I like studying murders or reflecting on the darker side of human nature or even that I have a desire to be a detective, it is more because the range of human emotions is there on a page for me to read, reflect on while at the same time having a mystery to unravel. Angela Marsons uses her latest book to demonstrate, amongst other emotions, grief. The team lost someone dear to them at the end of book eight, Dying Truth and we see them all cope in their different ways with their loss. There is anger, bitterness, sadness and guilt but despite all these human emotions, there is a job to do and they roll up their sleeves and do just that. This in turn gives Fatal Promise a slightly reflective feel, but at this point in the series that is no bad thing at all.

It all starts with a body… doesn’t it always? But this time the body is someone that is known to our intrepid Kim Stone – Doctor Gordon Cordell is found in the woods and so the team have no option but to revisit the case where he originally came to their attention. Although not the most likeable man on the planet, it is hard to see who would want him dead.

Meanwhile as the team had been assisting other teams while Kim Stone was out of action and Stacey who is, I must say becoming a very satisfying character in her own right, is keen to keep hold of one she started, it’s a missing girl and her instincts are screaming that someone should be looking for her.
These books get harder and harder to review. I love Kim Stone’s character, she’s strong and decisive, not keen on being told what to do but conforms enough for the reader to find her bullishness believable. Going back to my first paragraph, modern day crime fiction novelists have a challenging job. Not only do they have to come up with one plot that is credibly thought out and gives the readers enough clues to allow them to feel that they have a chance of solving the crime, they also have to keep the story relevant to the times we live in. No longer can we have maverick detectives spreading their misogyny or the like wherever they go, the readers know that the previous generation of detectives would spend their lives on courses or being put out to pasture, but nor of course do we want to read about someone who only cares about politics, we need our detectives to care about the victims, so that we do too.

Angela Marsons always gets the plotting spot on, and this is no different, in fact having two plots running side by side not only gives Stacey her time in the spotlight but also adds a layer of realism to the juggling of priorities which we know must go on in policing. The author also has the pacing right, some of her books have more of an urgent feel about them than others, and this is perhaps more on the reflective side given what’s come before, but her books always hold my interest and I know I’m in for a real treat.

If you haven’t started this fantastic series, I really urge you to do so, although for once I do recommend that you start at the beginning because they just keep getting better and for me there is no better place to contemplate the variety of experience, we have run down estates to post boarding schools, we have the big tragedies and the every day smaller disappointments and of course we have love and loss!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Bookouture for allowing me to read a copy of Fatal Promise before it is published next week on 19 October 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and Angela Marsons for another entertaining, and thought-provoking, episode in the Kim Stone series.

First Published UK: 19 October 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 386
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books featuring Kim Stone
Silent Scream
Evil Games
Lost Girls
Play Dead
Blood Lines
Dead Souls
Broken Bones
Dying Truth

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Lady in the Cellar – Sinclair McKay

Non Fiction
5*s

So the darker nights have encouraged another foray into Victorian true crime with this, the second book I have read by Sinclair McKay this year.

The Lady in the Cellar refers to a Miss Matilda Hacker who was found amongst the coal in a cellar in a boarding house in Euston Square in London.  She’d been dead for quite some time by the time her body was found in 1879 and at first the police were at a loss even as to her identity. You see her final resting place in a boarding house in a fast expanding London lends itself to a more anonymous lifestyle, one where the occupants lived alongside strangers in rooms of varying sizes and facilities.
Matilda Hacker was an eccentric, she’d moved to London from her native Canterbury on her sister’s death – these two spinsters were a familiar site when they took their daily promenade in their lavish silk dresses, dresses which were far too youthful for the ‘elderly’ women who wore them. After her sister’s death she moved away pursued for rates and other bills she could easily afford to pay and took up residence in boarding houses in the capital. The rise of this ‘new’ way of living is expertly explained within the book.

When she came to Mr and Mrs Bastendorff’s bording house it was to be given a furnished room, the use of the water closet and a cupboard to store food and other perishables. She could buy her own food for the servant, Hannah Dobbs, to cook or she could give Hannah to fetch the items herself both means were used to be fed, watered and generally kept an eye on. As Matilda Hacker was in her late sixties by this time, it doesn’t seem to bad a way of life.

We are also treated to the background of the Bastendorffs, the move of Severin from his native Luxembourg to London alongside his sister and a troupe of brothers is also a fascinating insight into how foreigners assimilated into life at this point in history. Severin was a furniture maker who had set up his own business by the time a body was found in the basement of his house. His wife was English and the pair had four small children. This was the rise of the middle classes, the house, the servant and regular income from the business in the back yard as well as the money they made by renting out rooms within their stylish house.

As you can tell there is plenty of contemporary details to be gleaned and Sinclair McKay presents his story well, long before we get to the trial, which lets face it is where the fun begins. The police decided that the perpetrator was Hannah Dobbs, yes the servant! That must have caused more than a little disquiet amongst the middle-classes, no-one wants a murderer living in their home. There were links to pawn-brokers amongst other clues as to what happened to Matilda’s belongings, but the trial was only the beginning.

This was a meaty story with the tendrils once again illustrating that the Victorians were not quite how they have been painted in more recent history. For those of us who were taught they were all prudes, this seems far from the racy story that Hannah sold to the papers! If you want to know more, you really should read The Lady in the Cellar.

I’d like to thank the publishers White Lion Publishing for allowing me to be immersed into this story that ends sadly for more than one of those who, perhaps completely innocently, got caught up in a murder that captured the nation’s attention. This unbiased review is my thanks to them, and to Sinclair McKay for his diligent research which was relayed to this reader in such a well-structured manner that it became a compulsive read.

First Published UK:  6 September 2018
Publisher: White Lion Publishing
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Non Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

And So It Begins – Rachel Abbott

Psychological Thriller
5*s

An entire rug woven with complicated relationships is the best way to describe And So It Begins, the first psychological thriller to be shared from the pen of the hugely talented Rachel Abbott.

Mark, Evie and Cleo (great choice of name) are all too bound up in each other’s lives for any sort of common sense to prevail, and there is a dead wife hovering over Mark’s shoulder to ensure the intensity is driven to the highest level.

But first lets go to where it begins. A phone call from a woman in distress alarms the local Cornish police and so Sergeant Stephanie King races to the impressive house of Mark, or Marcus North. It isn’t the first time she’s been there, last time his wife was found dead, in the basement. This time it is Mark that’s dead and we know who did it, Evie, his girlfriend, the mother of his daughter. She freely admits that’s the case but our tenacious Sergeant wants to know why.

Mark was married to Mia, hence the impressive house, the money was hers. But his sister Cleo didn’t approve, she barely disguised her dislike of Mia who didn’t give Mark the encouragement and praise he deserved (in her eyes) over his photographic genius. Mia died in what is assumed to be a tragic accident having tripped up running downstairs by an undone shoelace – see our mother’s always warned us that this could happen!

While Mark is in the depths of depression after Mia’s death, Evie walks into the gallery managed by Cleo that showcases his art. She wants to commission a series of photos of herself for her father. Cleo seeing an opportunity to make money and raise Mark’s profile insists that he meet with the young woman with connections, and it is from here that we move towards those opening pages.

This story was pleasingly partly set in the courtroom where Evie stands charged either with murder or manslaughter and it is here that we begin to see how the relationship between the three has been based upon secrets and lies.

Rachel Abbott’s books are so satisfying. This is an author who is able to tell a story and one that is relevant to contemporary life. Her characters, as in the previous books, are fully rounded and although I wasn’t particularly a fan of my namesake I can’t deny she was interesting! Great characterisation isn’t just confined to the key protagonists, from the police, to the lawyers and those that only get a brief look in through the story, they are all ‘real’.

There is no doubt that this is an engaging tale and one that I read compulsively, I needed to know if what I believed was the truth at the beginning was actually the truth but as my reading progressed, like all good psychological thrillers, the writer made me change my opinion, time and time again. However this isn’t a book of trickery, you know the type, when you finally turn that last page and contemplate what you’ve read, you feel like the writer has been playing with you. Not Rachel Abbott, the clues were there, no trickery involved, you just need to look at the puzzle through the right prism.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the author for arranging an advance copy of And So It Begins to be sent to me. This unbiased review is my thanks to her for a hugely absorbing and entertaining read. This is one psychological thriller that you don’t want to miss!

First Published UK:  11 October 2018
Publisher: Wildfire
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (October 10)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

Buoyed up by last weeks rare occurrence of actually finishing three whole books I’m hoping this week’s choices are equally successful.

My current read is one of my own books, and unsurprisingly for me, book three of a series and yes, I’ve not read any others about Sister Agnes!  The Dying Light by Alison Joseph has been on the TBR since 27 October 2014 and it’s starts well…

Blurb

Young and fiercely independent, Sister Agnes Bourdillon has never felt the need of a wimple to express her spirituality. But her strength is tested by her secondment to Silworth, a South London women’s prison.

She does, however, find the work compelling, as she attempts to negotiate the network of bullies and victims, loyalties and hatreds, prisoners and jailers, searching to understand the often violent histories that lie behind each woman.

Then the father of Cally Fisher, one of the most turbulent inmates, is shot dead. The chief suspect is Cally’s boyfriend. Reminded unnervingly of how she is losing her own mother, who is rapidly retreating from reality in a French nursing home, Agnes finds that she too has become entangled in a dark world that stretches further than the prison walls… Amazon

The last book I finished was Sinclair McKay’s Victorian True Crime book The Lady in the Cellar which has recently been published.



Blurb

Number 4 Euston Square was a respectable boarding house, well-kept and hospitable, like many others in Victorian London. But beneath this very ordinary veneer, there was a murderous darkness at its heart.

On 8th May 1879, the corpse of former resident, Matilda Hacker, was uncovered by chance in the coal cellar. The investigation that followed this macabre discovery stripped bare the shadow-side of Victorian domesticity, throwing the lives of everyone within into an extraordinary and destructive maelstrom. For someone in Number 4 Euston Square must have had full knowledge of what had happened to Matilda Hacker. Someone in that house had killed her. How could the murderer prove so amazingly elusive?

Bestselling author, Sinclair McKay delves into this intriguing story and sheds light on a mystery that eluded the detectives of Scotland Yard. Amazon

And next I intend to read Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan as October’s chosen read for The Classics Club.


Blurb

The French Riviera: home to the Beautiful People. And none are more beautiful than Cécile, a precocious seventeen-year-old, and her father Raymond, a vivacious libertine. Charming, decadent and irresponsible, the golden-skinned duo are dedicated to a life of free love, fast cars and hedonistic pleasures. But then, one long, hot summer Raymond decides to marry, and Cécile and her lover Cyril feel compelled to take a hand in his amours, with tragic consequences.

Bonjour Tristesse scandalized 1950s France with its portrayal of teenager terrible Cécile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom. Amazon

So I’ve shown you mine, what does your reading week look like?

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (October 9)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Today’s opening paragraph comes from Murder by the Book by Claire Harman which will be published later this month by Penguin Books UK and with a historical true crime with a literary twist, one that is highly anticipated by yours truly.



Blurb

Early in the morning of 6 May 1840, on an ultra-respectable Mayfair street, a footman answered the door to a panic-stricken maid from a nearby house. Her elderly master, Lord William Russell, was lying in bed with his throat cut so deeply that the head was almost severed.

The whole of London, from monarch to street urchins, was gripped by the gory details of the Russell murder, but behind it was another story, a work of fiction, and a fierce debate about censorship and morality. Several of the key literary figures of the day, including Dickens and Thackeray, were drawn into the controversy, and when Lord William’s murderer claimed to having been inspired by the season’s most sensational novel, it seemed that a great deal more was on trial than anyone could have guessed.

Bringing together much previously unpublished material from a wide range of sources, Claire Harman reveals the story of the notorious Russell murder case and its fascinating connections with the writers and literary culture of the day. Gripping and eye-opening, Murder by the Book is the untold true story of a surprisingly literary crime. Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

1. A Last Walk

At six o’clock on the evening of 5 May 1840, a spare old gentleman of medium height and distinguished but unshowy appearance could have been walking a large white dog along Norfolk Street in Mayfair, just a few yards away from Hyde Park’s northeast corner. He didn’t go very far, nor proceed very fast. Lord William Russell was asthmatic and suffered from a hernia that made walking difficult. He was heading towards a house just off Grosvenor Square, to combine a message for an upholsterer, Mr Barry, with his routine airing before dinner.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well this starts well I think, a good setting of the scene with the soon to be murder victim taking his routine airing… It’s nice to meet him ‘before’ as I’ve found most in this genre seem to greet us with the corpse.

What do you think? Would you keep reading

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

A Jarful of Angels – Babs Horton

Crime Fiction
5*s

I’m not really sure how to categorise this book so I’ll simply say that as a tale of childhood with all the grim realities of adults misunderstanding you the poverty of life driven to the edges by the magical world that only children can create and yet realism seeps through as an adult watches the world filtered through the eyes of children.

Iffy, Bessie, Fatty and Billy live in a small welsh village, the sort that those of us who grew up as late as the seventies can recognise as being every and any small town. There are the local characters, the woman swapping gossip and keeping secrets and the men who roar in the background. There is the local haunted house, I have yet to find a child yet who was free to roam who didn’t have the local haunted house, the graveyards and the like to give themselves a jolly good scare each and every time boredom threatened.

The our children play in the remote town, in the shadow of the pits, in the long hot summer of 1963. They find a garden full of dancing statues, they peer into mad Carty Annie’s wares and they visit the shopkeeper for the sweets that they will suck so hard that they cause burns on their tongues. As the heat rises they are rained on by frogs and they find a skull and they find a jar full of angels. But what does it all mean, if anything? And then by the end of the summer just three of the four children remain, one is missing.

Thirty years later Will Sloane one of the policemen who searched for the missing child, returns to the town. Over the years he has been haunted, as policemen often are, by the case that was never solved. The clues that he is able to uncover lead to interlocking mysteries that beg to be unravelled but it is up to our retired detective to find the right key.

The story itself is everything a mystery story should be, but what lifts this tale head and shoulders above others is the lyrical prose and its powerful evocation of a world not yet forgotten but now I fear out of reach. It is a world that lends itself to the unsaid, the rampaging gossip counteracted by secrets kept well hidden, the adults barely alluding to the terrible things that they know.

Although I didn’t grow up in the Wales, I did spend my formative years just across the boarder albeit at least a decade later than when this story is set. Rarely have I read a book where the children are so well portrayed, so much so that it took me back to my childhood, the excitement at the start of the summer, the adventures that we would have, real or imagined and the characters that played their part in the experience. There were the predictable yells to come home for dinner, to adults wholly unconcerned with how your day had been spent their lives working to a different rhythm full of gossip and sighs and of course those adults who you stayed clear of, the reason to do seldom voiced, its knowledge spread almost by osmosis.

Babs Horton has created a very special book in A Jarful of Angels, one that transcends any real genre and one that means that her brilliantly created characters came to life through her magical prose.

First Published UK:  2013
Publisher: Babs Horton 
No of Pages: 292
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (October 7)

Another frantic week here in Jersey and the autumnal weather has arrived with a bang – I write this with the wind whistling around the house which means that finally life should slow down a bit and I can once more cuddle up under my blanket of an evening, and read.

This Week on the Blog

I started the week with my monthly Five of the Best post revisiting those five star reads from the last five years and reminded myself of some cracking titles into the bargain.

My excerpt post came from the book I have chosen from my Classics Club reads for October, Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan.

This Week in Books featured the authors Rachel Abbott, Liane Moriarty and Angela Marsons.

My first review of the week was for the book I have been listening to on audio book; My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by the hugely talented Fredrick Backman.

On Friday I reviewed Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, a bonkers book which was a fun read and just what I needed.

The week was rounded off with my review of Ronnie Turner’s debut novel Lies Between Us for the blog tour to celebrate the publication of this novel on 1 October 2018.

 

This Time Last Year…

I was reading the non-fiction book The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler in which he has collated ninety-nine authors who for one reason or another are no longer seen on the bookshelves of bookshops or libraries but somehow glimmer on our collective consciousness, and their works fluttered at the edges of many when he kicked this project off.

Unlike so many such lists that are produced this collector of these forgotten authors has brought together a set of authors from the Victorian times up to the more recent, the entire range of genres taking in slapstick comedy through Sci-Fi, poetry, literary fiction and crime. Obviously with so many authors each one gets a brief mention detailing the often prodigious output, why they were popular and why they may well have fallen out of favour as the years rolled on.

This really is the perfect present for any bibliophile.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover.

Blurb

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead.

So begins Christopher Fowler’s foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.

Whether male or female, domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner – no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye.

These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.

This is a book about books and their authors. It is for book lovers, and is written by one who could not be a more enthusiastic, enlightening and entertaining guide. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Just one new book was added to my shelves this week, an unexpected and yet very welcome addition from Katherine Sunderland at No Exit Press! The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby looks just my kind of read partly of course because I do love anything that looks back to the Victorian era.

The Conviction of Cora Burns won’t be published until March 2019 but now’s your chance to put it on the watchlist!

Blurb

To believe in her future, she must uncover her past…
Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…? Amazon

What have you found to read?

tbr-watch

Since I last reported my figures I’ve read 3 books and somehow in the same time I’ve only acquired 1! The total is therefore still tumbling to 161!
Physical Books – 109
Kindle Books – 40
NetGalley Books –11
Audio Books –1

 

I haven’t added any reviews of my own books this week but nor have I spent any tokens so I still have 3 1/3 book tokens. I might be a little short for the annual book sale next week… but hey rules are made to be broken!

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Lies Between Us – Ronnie Turner #BlogTour

Psychological Thriller
4*s

It wouldn’t be overstating things to say I have been very excited to see what fellow book blogger Ronnie Turner would come up with for her debut novel and so I couldn’t have been more delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour to celebrate its publication on 1 October 2018. I’m pleased to delclare that the result was not what I expected with her creation being more subtle and yet far more satisfying than many offerings in the psychological thriller genre.

Lies Between Us is three stories in one, with each one having a separate narrator. Their tales arouse both sympathy and horror along with firing up my nosiness as the author slowly reveals the secrets and lies that are lurking, sometimes in plain sight.

Miller’s story is downright creepy and begins in his childhood in the 1980s. Miller is the child that everyone avoids. Clearly disturbed he carries around the seven deadly sins in a rucksack on his back. But, as he grows he learns to hide these, not because he wants to be nice but because he knows it will allow him to get exactly what he wants.

In the present, successful writer John is happily married to Jules and they have a beautiful daughter Bonnie then one ordinary day while the two are having a minor tiff in the kitchen, Bonnie disappears. The despair is overwhelming and the police have few clues to pursue but they cling to hope as the kidnapper gives them proof that Bonnie is alive, for now.

Also in the present, Tim is in a coma and as his wife Heidi and young daughter visit daily, Masie the ICU nurse is on the side-lines, efficiently doing her job. Maisie is drawn to Heidi and the two begin a friendship as they sit beside the silent man watching and listening to the endless bleeps of the machines keeping him alive. But, Maisie has her own secrets and she thinks she detects that Heidi does too.

These separate stories were clearly signposted and each one had me enthralled in their own right but of course what I really wanted to know was how they were connected.

It was genuinely hard to believe that this book was the author’s debut novel, it was expertly structured with the pacing even throughout. I didn’t get the feeling that I was on a roller-coaster as I do with many in this genre only to find the final swoop is disappointing compared to the rest of the ride, it wasn’t that type of read which in my mind is to be applauded. Instead there was plenty to interest me not only in each of the narrator’s individual stories, but my mind was kept busy trying to connect the seemingly disparate dots.

Ultimately this is a story of obsession but we also meet love, loss, despair and damage to along the way. The genuine exploration of the effects of these was one of the things I enjoyed most about Lies Between Us. Too often I find, having read a wealth of books in this genre, the pointers to the emotions we have all met in our lives are used to move the story on but when examined in the cold light of day, are revealed as just that, devices. Ronnie Turner in slowing the pacing has allowed us to examine them in more detail and therefore experience them second-hand, with feeling.

First Published UK: 1 October 2018
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK

Amazon US – audiobook

Author Bio

Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. Ronnie now lives in Dorset with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. She is currently working on her second novel.

Twitter:@Ronnie_ _Turner
Facebook: @RonnieTurnerAuthor
Instagram: @ronnieturner8702
Website: http://www.ronnieturner.wordpress.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/RonnieTurner

#LiesBetweenUs #WhereIsBonnie?

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on this blog tour – Ronnie Turner has definitely generated interest with her fellow book bloggers!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

A secluded retreat for stressed-out people complete with the promise to change your life in just ten days, pricy and exclusive and just what the doctor ordered for our willing candidates?

I am a fan of Liane Moriarty, she is one of those authors that has a real eye for shining a light on everyday situations and letting her readers see how absurd they are. In Big Little Lies she took the school gates as her starting point, this time we move to the more exclusive setting of a retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House which promises total transformation for those who sign up. This story is completely bonkers but very entertaining.

Tranquillum House is run by Masha, a women we met in the prologue having a heart-attack in her corporate office. Masha is a Russian who moved to Australia as a young woman and following her near-death experience she has become evangelical about saving others from themselves. All the bad things are banned, including any electronics and replaced with healthy smoothies, massages, mindful walking and light fasting.

The first guest we meet is romance author Frances who is not only menopausal but has just had her latest book rejected, readers are falling out of love with romance and she’s obsessing about a bad review. She herself had a thriller in her bag, one which over the days at Tranquillum House she finds less than thrilling… it seems that Liane Moriarty knows her audience!

She is joined by rich young things Ben and Jessica, who come complete with a Lamborghini for him and various surgical enhancements for him. They have signed up for couple counselling in a bid to save their marriage.

There is a family of three, parents Napoleon and Heather along with their twenty-one year old daughter Zoe who are all cloaked in sadness, the cause of which is revealed later in the book. An aging football star Tony, a health junkie Ben and a divorce lawyer Lars complete the guest list. They are all in, and then Masha reveals the start of her innovative treatment plan.

Believe me the thought of being on a retreat doesn’t really appeal to this reader under what I imagine are normal circumstances but this one takes an ominous tone right from the start when the guests are given their orders so perhaps a healthy wariness and lack of funds is a good thing!

This is really a character study, not only of the guests, but of the owner and her chief of staff, former paramedic, Yao. With the guests under the spotlight and in the prime location to reveal their hopes and fears there is so much room for the author’s trademark wry humour, the poking of fun of those earnest health-junkies is tempered by some life-stories that can’t help but tug at the heart-strings! This book should be approached with the aim of enjoying the ride. I said earlier, it’s bonkers, it is but a well-written bonkers book that yet had one foot in reality reflecting society as well as the differences between the generations and one that had me chuckling in delight at regular intervals. If you can’t afford a retreat to make changes in your life Nine Perfect Strangers will go some way to giving you the best medicine, laughter.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin UK for allowing me to read a copy of Nine Perfect Strangers prior to publication on 4 October 2018. This unbiased review is my thank you to them, and the author for such an entertaining read.

First Published UK: 4 October 2018
Publisher: Penguin UK
No of Pages: 451
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other books by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty (2016)
Little Lies (2014)
The Husband’s Secret (2013)
The Hypnotist’s Love Story (2011)
What Alice Forgot (2010)
The Last Anniversary (2006)
Three Wishes (2004)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises– Fredrik Backman

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

I ‘read’ this book in audio format, chosen because I find my normal fayre of crime fiction bizarrely too hard to listen to, and decided a total change of scene might work better for me, I was right.
I’m not however quite sure how to review it but need to illustrate what an impact Elsa, and her Grandmother had on me as I trudged home from work over a number of weeks. Elsa starts by giving us a few pointers about her Grandmother:

“Granny and Elsa used to watch the evening news together. Now and then Elsa would ask Granny why grown-ups were always doing such idiotic things to each other. Granny usually answered that it was because grown-ups were generally people, and people are generally shits. Elsa countered that grown-ups were also responsible for a lot of good things in between all the idiocy – space exploration, the UN, vaccines and cheese slicers, for instance. Granny then said the real trick of life was that almost no one is entirely a shit and almost no one is entirely not a shit. The hard part of life is keeping as much on the ‘not-a-shit’ side as one can.”

Granny is also a little bit mad. One of the early stories we hear is of her throwing turds at a policeman after breaking into a zoo, firing paintballs from her balcony at one of the most enduring characters of all Britt-Marie and driving a car called Audi, all with Elsa in tow of course. Granny and Elsa live in separate apartments in one building and although the main story is about this wonderful pair; Elsa a super bright child who is ‘different’ and Granny who we discover is similarly different and we have a whole host of other characters whose stories we discover along the way. Child characters always worry me a little and Elsa at ‘nearly eight’ is no different. Fortunately she was an engaging child, full of Marvel super-heros, Harry Potter and a stickler for using Wikipedia a useful device for knowing stuff that no normal nearly eight year old would know and of course as she is absolutely integral to the storyline it was helpful that she was ‘different’ a normal child could never have coped with the pressure!

This might sound like a bit of a ‘twee’ tale, and on a level it is. There is the magic of childhood with an overarching fairy tale world invented by Elsa’s Granny, Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. But Fredrik Backman has a way of making this absolutely story for adults. In a style seen again in his far darker tale, Beartown, there are insightful words that cover the range of every situation and emotion.

“Death’s greatest power is not that it can make people die, but that it can make people want to stop living.”

Because sadly, and especially because she is Elsa’s only friend, Granny dies and leaves Elsa with a number of letters to be delivered, all of which apologise to the recipient for something. It is while undertaking this task that the other resident’s stories are revealed. Some with happier outcomes, some less so and those stories also reveal more about Granny than all the stories and madcap activities she carried out in Elsa’s presence. As the book goes on it becomes clear who some of the characters in Miamas really are and in turn gives an explanation as to why they are the way they are. Along the way we see war, we see natural disasters in the form of a tsunami, we see bullying and betrayal and we also see that life goes on. Life and death are seen up close and personal through the prism of a those who have witnessed both.

This is a delightful story which was beautifully narrated by Joan Walker who manages to keep her voice steady as some of the more emotional moments and the combination of an unusual story, expertly translated by Herman Koch gave me much pleasure and company while I clocked up my steps!

“She shouldn’t take any notice of what those muppets think, says Granny. Because all the best people are different – look at superheroes.”

I couldn’t help feeling the world would be a much better place if every child had a ‘Granny’ in their corner to guide them.

First Published UK: 4 June 2015
Publisher:Sceptre
No of Pages: 353
Listening Time: 11 Hours 2 Minutes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US