Posted in Uncategorized

I Spy Book Challenge

I love a good challenge and, when I saw this one on Secret Library Book Blog written by fellow Jersey resident Nicki, and I knew I had to give this a go. After all I had those I-Spy books as a child and was always desperate to find the illusive items so hopefully I’ll do better here.

 

Find a book on your bookshelves that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example for each category. You must have a separate book for all 20, get as creative as you want and do it within five minutes!! (or longer if you have way too many books on way too many overcrowded shelves!)

1. Food

 

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

 

 

2. Transportation

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

 

 

 

3. Weapon

 

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup

 

 

 

4. Animal

The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy

 

 

 

5. Number

 

 

Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate

 

 

6. Something you Read

 

Postcards from the Past by Marcia Willets

 

 

 

7. Body of Water


The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish

 

 

 

8. Product of Fire

 

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan

 

 

 

9. Royalty

 

The Lost Empress by Steve Robinson

 

 

 

10. Architecture

 

My Life in Houses by Margaret Forster

 

 

 

11. Item of Clothing

 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

 

 

 

12. Family Member

 

A Mother’s Confession by Kelly Rimmer

 

 

 

13. Time of Day

 

 

The Two O’clock Boy by Mark Hill

 

 

 

14. Music

 

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett

 

 

 

15. Paranormal Being

 

The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davis

 

 

 

16. Occupation

 

The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty

 

 

 

17. Season

 

Dark Winter by David Mark

 

 

 

18. Colour

 

 

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

 

 

19. Celestial Body

 

Under A Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

 

 

 

20. Something that Grows


Flowers for the Dead by Barbara Copperthwaite

 

 

 

Yay all twenty items found but perhaps it took slightly longer than five minutes…

How many are on your bookshelf? Consider yourself tagged if you enjoyed this post!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Turn a Blind Eye – Vicky Newham

Crime Fiction
4*s

Vicky Newham has already had great success with Turn a Blind Eye with the TV rights to Playground Entertainment who produced The Missing. This is the first in a two book deal with HQ featuring a new detective, DI Maya Rahman. Having read this debut novel, I’m not at all surprised.

DI Maya Rahman has returned from Bangladesh following the death of her brother and so it is testament to her work ethic and her love of the community that she serves, Tower Hamlets in East London, that when she gets a call about the murder of the headmistress at her former school, Mile End High School, she is straight onto the case. The first thing you need to know is this is a detective who is smart as well as hard-working and loyal.

One of the most appealing things about this book is the setting, the cultural diversity of the area allows the author to give these characters the type of back stories which aren’t often on offer in contemporary crime fiction. Best of all though whilst never minimising the difference in culture the author steers clear of stereotypes and instead each character, whatever their background, is a real person, as complex as humans tend to be. As Vicky Newham lived and taught in a school in the area for many years, this isn’t surprising, but it is refreshing.

Back to the story – the murder happened in the school and there is something always appealing about this setting although the focus is more on the teaching and support staff than the pupils the murder happening on a training day. Once the scenes of crime investigators arrive a cryptic note is found alongside the body of the headmistress, Linda Gibson. It contains a Buddhist precept, “I shall abstain from taking the ungiven”

From this Maya works with her team to discover as much as they can about the dead woman, the school and the Buddhist precept. Maya works closest with DS Maguire who despite the Irish name is an Australian who is missing his aborigine wife and two children who are still in Australia, waiting for the right time to join him in Tower Hamlets, and the two are getting to know each other in this book. There is a nice lack of police politics within the book with the political angle squarely on the local area, chiefly the education department, which to my mind is as it should be and makes for a far more interesting read. The tension is raised by threats from the local education department that if the killer isn’t found, and quickly, that the school will be shut down and that could spell disaster for the unsupervised children, and by default the local community and the police.

It will be no surprise that there is another death and matters from the past that need resolving before DI Rhaman and DS Maguire are able to get their man or woman!

This was an engaging crime fiction read, a great start to a new series which it has a real contemporary feel. I might have needed a bit of persuading that the motive was sound but overall this was a solid police procedural which demonstrated that the writer understands both plotting and timing which makes such a difference to the readability. I definitely want to revisit both the characters and the area again and will be watching eagerly for the next in the series.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Vicky Newham for sending me a copy of Turn a Blind Eye. This review is my unbiased thanks to her for introducing me to the strong and interesting protagonist of this new series.

First Published UK: 5 April 2018
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Skin Deep – Liz Nugent

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I wondered when rigor mortis would set in, or if it already had.

Liz Nugent the author with the killer first lines does it again with her third novel Skin Deep! Not only is the first line a shocker she has confirmed to me that perhaps my preference in psychological novels is for the slow build rather than the flashy twists and turns. Slow burn should never be confused with boring, rather in the context of this book it means that every word matters, it has been considered and it means something.

Once I had cleared the bottles away and washed the blood off the floor, I needed to get out of the flat.

Cordelia Russell is living on the Côte d’Azur using her looks and her charm to get by. But her age is catching up with her, no longer do the gentlemen wish to buy her food and drink for the pleasure of her company. But what journey had Cordelia been on before she arrived and realised that beauty is only skin deep.

I could probably have been an actress. It is not difficult to pretend to be somebody else. Isn’t that what I’ve been doing for most of my life?

This is a novel that explores the very worst of human nature, it pulls the reader to places that they would rather not know, insistently, gradually but before you know it you are face to face with it. This is an author who makes you need to know more on one level although you are repelled on another. This is a book where whether it is descriptions of flies buzzing round a corpse, or descriptions of settings, whether that be the blue sea of the Mediterranean or the bleakness of the tiny Island of Inishcrann , which translated from the Irish language means The Island of the Tree, the words used easily conjure up everything.

At the start of Part One, we meet a young girl whose doting father calls her the ‘Queen of Inishcrann’ and she believes that is her destiny. She is the eldest of four children born to the islander and his American wife. The other three children are boys and not favoured by the father. And we all know what is likely to happen to spoilt little madams, don’t we? Well you might think you do…

In between the bleak life in the cold and the strange characters on the island we are treated to some folklore tales, those that root the island in the past. Horrid stories far from the fairy tales that we mock shudder at now. This just underpins the darkness, the bleakness and even if you can’t conceive of the ending, you know it will be bad. These are sinister tales that will play on your mind as much as the story unfolding before you.

The more books I read, the more I appreciate this kind of superb plotting. The kind that makes you want to read the first page, and go back to the beginning with your newly found knowledge as you know some fantastic magic has been woven but you want to see how the stiches were made.

If you want to feel empathy with the characters you read about, you will struggle with this book. This book isn’t populated with lovely people, although you might catch a glimpse of one or two trying to step out of the shadows. But in the main, those living on Inishcrann are superstitious and somewhat out of touch with the norms of life. Too few people trying to stop the authorities from declaring the island inhabitable, means that arguments are quick to flare, to fester and to poison. And as the little girl grows and moves away, to Ireland, perhaps the time for goodness has passed. But, you will be compelled by the characterisation, and it will be up to you to decide whether the character is born, or made.

This is the third book that I have read by Liz Nugent, each one easily gaining five star status and each one leaving me amazed at the blackness of her imagination and gratitude that she sets it out with such graceful and engaging writing.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Penguin UK for allowing me to read a copy of Skin Deep prior to publication, today, 5 April 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author, Liz Nugent for a dark compelling read.

First Published UK: 5 April 2018
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US audible only


Previous Books by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver WINNER of IBA Crime Fiction Book of the Year 2014
Lying in Wait Featured in the Richard and Judy Spring 2017 Book Club

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (April 4)

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

Now that I’ve read all the millions of books which were being published on 5 April 2018, I hoping to squeeze some of my own books into April’s schedule as well as some exciting upcoming publications.

I am currently reading Smash all the Windows by Jane Davies which will be published on 12 April 2018.

Blurb

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.
If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of metafiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art. Written with immediacy, style and an overwhelming sense of empathy, Smash all the Windows will be enjoyed by readers of How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall and How to be Both by Ali Smith.

That was after catching up on the seventh in the superb DI Kim Stone series, Broken Bones by Angela Marsons before the eighth is published in May!

Blurb

They thought they were safe. They were wrong.

The murder of a young prostitute and a baby found abandoned on the same winter night signals the start of a disturbing investigation for Detective Kim Stone – one which brings her face to face with someone from her own horrific childhood.

As three more sex workers in the Black Country are murdered in quick succession, each death more violent than the last, Kim and her team realise that the initial killing was no one-off frenzied attack, but a twisted serial killer preying on the vulnerable.

At the same time, the search begins for the desperate woman who left her newborn baby at the station – but what at first looks like a tragic abandonment soon takes an even more sinister turn.

When another young woman goes missing, the two investigations bring the team into a terrifying, hidden world, and a showdown puts Kim’s life at risk as secrets from her own past come to light.

As Kim battles her own demons, can she stop the killer, before another life is lost? Amazon

And next I am catching up on another series, this time Rebecca Muddiman’s Murder in Slow Motion, the fourth in the Gardner and Freeman series which was published on 25 February 2018.

Blurb

Katy Jackson is missing, last seen at her neighbour’s house. DI Gardner and DS Freeman think Katy’s boyfriend, Andrew, is overreacting. She’s been gone just a few hours. But next door there’s evidence of a struggle and blood throughout the house. When they realise Katy’s neighbour is police officer Dawn Lawton, and that Dawn is missing too, it becomes impossible for Gardner to put his personal feelings aside, driving him to put his own career on the line as he tries to find his friend.

As Gardner and Freeman unravel both Katy and Dawn’s secrets, they discover neither woman’s life is what it seems. And when everyone has something to hide, how do you know who to trust? Amazon

So what do you think? Have you read any of these? Would you like to?

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (April 3)

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.

I thought I’d go with an older book this time, one of my classic crime fiction reads for The Classic Club which was first published in 1946. The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin was written at a different time with different needs, but lets see how different the opening page is…

Blurb

Richard Cadogan, poet and would-be bon vivant, arrives for what he thinks will be a relaxing holiday in the city of dreaming spires. Late one night, however, he discovers the dead body of an elderly woman lying in a toyshop and is coshed on the head. When he comes to, he finds that the toyshop has disappeared and been replaced with a grocery store. The police are understandably sceptical of this tale but Richard’s former schoolmate, Gervase Fen (Oxford professor and amateur detective), knows that truth is stranger than fiction (in fiction, at least). Soon the intrepid duo are careening around town in hot pursuit of clues but just when they think they understand what has happened, the disappearing-toyshop mystery takes a sharp turn…

Erudite, eccentric and entirely delightful – Before Morse, Oxford’s murders were solved by Gervase Fen, the most unpredictable detective in classic crime fiction. Amazon

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Well first it starts with a map, ok, a fairly rudimentary one but I can’t resist a map!

And then the book starts, straight into an action scene.

 

1, The Episode of the Prowling Poet 

Richard Cadogan raised his revolver, took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The explosion rent the small garden, and like the widening circles which surrounded a pebble dropped into the water, created alarms and disturbances of diminishing intensity throughout the suburb of St John’s Wood. From the sooty trees, their leaves brown and gold in the autumn sunlight, rose flights of startled birds. In the distance a dog began to howl. Richard Cadogan went up to the target and inspected it in a dispirited sort of way. It bore no mark of any kind.

‘I missed it,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘Extraordinary.’

 

But perhaps not as different as you might imagine?

Would you keep reading? Hint – I did, and my review will be posted soon!

Posted in 5 Of the Best

Five of the Best – Five Star Reads (March 2014 to 2018)

5 Star Reads

In 2015 to celebrate reviewing for five years I started a series entitled Five of the Best where I chose my favourite five star reads which I’d read in that month. Later in 2018 I will be celebrating Five years of blogging and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.

You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.

My choice of review for March 2014 is That Dark Remembered Day by Tom Vowler which is a very cleverly presented book with the groundwork precisely laid before revealing what happened on That Dark Remembered Day.  In 1983 Richard had returned from the Falklands, his final posting before discharge from the arm and at its heart, this book is a reflection on the damage that war inflicts on those who are sent to fight. Part the story of a reluctant soldier, part the story of growing up in a small town but absolutely unforgettable. That Dark Remembered Day was longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker Prize in 2014.

 

Blurb

One family, one town, devastated by one tragic event.

Can you ever know what those closest to you are really capable of?

When Stephen gets a phone call to say his mother isn’t well, he knows he must go to her straight away. But he dreads going back there. He has never been able to understand why his mother chose to stay in the town he grew up in, after everything that happened. One day’s tragic events years before had left no one living there untouched.
Stephen’s own dark memories are still poisoning his life, as well as his marriage. Perhaps now is the time to go back and confront the place and the people of his shattered childhood. But will he ever be able to understand the crime that punctured their lives so brutally? How can a community move on from such a terrible legacy? Amazon

I was spoilt for choice for five star books reviewed in March 2015 but have decided to chose a non-fiction book The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides In The Bath by Jane Robins which recreates the story of Bernard Spilsbury’s rise to become, what today we know as expert witnesses. To do this she principally uses the trial of George Smith of three women who died after drowning in the bath to examine both forensic scientist and his methods. Spilsbury worked night and day testing his ideas, either in the mortuary or in the lab in his house and soon bodies were exhumed and theories espoused. In one chilling experiment to work out how the women could have been killed without a struggle female swimmers dressed in bathing costumes were recruited for experimentation. This book is a great mixture of a historic murder trial with some well-researched information about the scientist whose word could spell the end for the accused.

Blurb

Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham and Margaret Lofty are three women with one thing in common. They are spinsters and are desperate to marry. Each woman meets a smooth-talking stranger who promises her a better life. She falls under his spell, and becomes his wife. But marriage soon turns into a terrifying experience.

In the dark opening months of the First World War, Britain became engrossed by ‘The Brides in the Bath’ trial. The horror of the killing fields of the Western Front was the backdrop to a murder story whose elements were of a different sort. This was evil of an everyday, insidious kind, played out in lodging houses in seaside towns, in the confines of married life, and brought to a horrendous climax in that most intimate of settings – the bathroom.

The nation turned to a young forensic pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, to explain how it was that young women were suddenly expiring in their baths. This was the age of science. In fiction, Sherlock Holmes applied a scientific mind to solving crimes. In real-life, would Spilsbury be as infallible as the ‘great detective’? Amazon

I love crime fiction and struggle to keep the number of series I follow to a minimum. In March 2016 I picked up In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward and fell in love with the Derbyshire setting and the police team which includes DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs.

This is an intricate mystery which has its roots in 1978 when two girls went missing in Bampton, but only one returned. Even better The ending was perfect, the book whilst having plenty of surprises does not bring a motive and character out of left field, rather staying true to the more ‘old-fashioned’ crime novels where the perpetrator is justly identified from combing the evidence which all makes for an incredibly satisfying read.

Blurb

Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide.

Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago.

This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that are closest to you. Amazon

In March 2017 I posted my review of Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister and was delighted to find this is a psychological thriller with a moral dilemma at its heart.

Rachel and Jack are going to have a baby.

One night Jack’s iPad lights up and half-asleep Rachel reads the email sent which mentions an event that she knows nothing about. Rachel begins to wonder how well she knows Jack especially when the short reply he gives the next morning, isn’t wholly convincing.

With the reader gaining insight into Rachel’s life and her persistent digging into the lie she believes Jack has told her this is a taut and brilliant psychological thriller. There is no doubt that Gillian McAllister knows how to weave a tale that is complex and has space built into the narrative that allows the reader to put themselves into the character’s shoes, and yes to make judgements on that tricky morality scale.

Blurb

It all started with the email.

Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.
But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.
Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost? Amazon

My choice for March 2018 is a really tough one with two excellent non-fiction books as well as a number of fiction reads that gained the magic five stars I am going to pick The Killing House by Claire McGowan on the strength that this is the best wrap-up of a story arc I’ve read for a long time.

Claire McGowan created Paula Maguire, a forensic psychologist who finds missing people. The team she works for is on the border between North and South Ireland so inevitably there are links back to The Troubles. In fact Paula’s own mother went missing when she was just thirteen, and whilst each individual book has its own mystery, what happened to Margaret Maguire is a thread that runs through the series.

I love the style of storytelling, and in The Killing House, we are transported back in time to hear the voice of one person held by the punishment team who have them held captive to find out the information for their cause. There are some horrific characters in this book but all held together by the basic goodness of many others, even those who may have done wrong in the past. The author has a way of differentiating between those who got caught up in the times, and those who enjoyed being part of it, exceptionally well so that the reader is able to look at this point in history at a personal level.

Blurb

When a puzzling missing persons’ case opens up in her hometown, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire can’t help but return once more.
Renovations at an abandoned farm have uncovered two bodies: a man known to be an IRA member missing since the nineties, and a young girl whose identity remains a mystery.
As Paula attempts to discover who the girl is and why no one is looking for her, an anonymous tip-off claims that her own long-lost mother is also buried on the farm.
When another girl is kidnapped, Paula must find the person responsible before more lives are destroyed. But there are explosive secrets still to surface. And even Paula can’t predict that the investigation will strike at the heart of all she holds dear.
Amazon

If you want to see what the five books featured on Five of the Best for March 2011 to 2015 were you can do so here

How many of these have you read? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Five of the Best 2018

January 2018
February 2018

 

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (April 1)

Happy Easter Sunday to you all, I do hope you’re enjoying plenty of chocolate!

 

I’m using the long weekend to get a bit more reading squeezed in after the distractions of recent weeks.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with my review of A Trick to Time by Kit de Waal, a touching, yet never mawkish. This tale of a doll-maker in Birmingham was brim-full of wonderful characters.

On Tuesday I was on the blog tour for Twin Truths by Shelan Rodger, my post included a piece by the author about our fascination with twins as well as my review for this surprisingly deep book.

This Week in Books really highlighted my aim to read the remaining books on my shelf to be published on Thursday 5 April 2018 featuring Claire McGowan, Vicky Newham and Liz Nugent.

My next review was for a book with letters written to a magazine agony aunt in 1943 – Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce was historical fiction with a difference.

Our House by Louise Candlish received the full five stars in my review. I was amazed at the ease I was drawn into Fiona’s life told via a podcast in which she explains how her house was sold from under her feet. Brilliant!

I returned to crime fiction for my final review of the week. I have followed Claire McGowan’s Paula Maguire series set on the border between Northern and Southern Ireland from the start, and in The Killing House we were treated to the brilliant conclusion to the story arc.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading A Time for Silence by Thorne Moore which is mainly set in Pembrokeshire, Wales. When Lorna finds the farmhouse that her grandparents lived in at the time of World War II, she is shocked to discover that her grandfather had been killed by person, or persons unknown. To distract herself from the grief at the loss of a close friend she decides to find out all she can, but perhaps it would have been better never to have known? This is a book that so accurately evokes a time eloquently capturing the unwritten rules that governed generations which from a contemporary point of view are almost impossible to comprehend. Sarah has no such compunction eager to knock down the walls of silence that have covered up the wrongful death of John and changed the course of the family as they moved away from Pembrokeshire.

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

Blurb

When Sarah, struggling to get over tragedy, stumbles across her grandparents’ ruined farm, it feels as if the house has been waiting for her. She is drawn to their apparently idyllic way of life and starts to look into her family history. Only to learn that her grandfather, Jack, was murdered.

Why has nobody told her? Sarah becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Gwen and Jack. But are there some family stories that should never be told? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Well last week I confirmed that I had spent my three book tokens gained from reading ten books this year from my own shelves and here’s what I bought.

I have Famous Trials I and II by Harry Hodge in their smart green penguin jackets which I bought from World of Books – expect to see more of these creeping onto my bookshelf.

Blurb

Descriptions of four famous murder trials that took place in Great Britain and were famous in their day: Madeleine Smith, whose innocence or guilt has never been solved; Oscar Slater, who was first declared guilty and later proved innocent, with the help of famous figures such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Hawley Harvey Crippen, a seemingly mild-mannered man who murdered his wife and brutally destroyed her body; and William Palmer, a man from a respectable Victorian family with a taste for the racetrack and murder.

The facts of the four cases and their trials can be found in other places; the pleasure of this little book is in the elegant prose used to retell those facts. Goodreads

Blurb

The four trials recorded in this book are particularly compelling, partly because of the wealth of forensic skills they demonstrate and partly because of the successful piecing together of scanty evidence.

Herbert Armstrong’s generosity with arsenic aroused suspicion as to the true cause of his wife’s death. Field and Gray were two bumbling, inept murderers who failed even to receive the mercy the jury requested. George Smith invented numerous identities and married, deserted or murdered for money, while Ronald True was mentally deranged besides being dangerous and greedy. Goodreads

I also treated myself to a copy of Mrs Woolf and the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service by Alison Light after being so impressed with her research into her own family tree and the resultant book Common People.

Blurb

Loathing, anger, shame – and deep affection: Virginia Woolf’s relationship with her servants was central to her life. Like thousands of her fellow Britons she relied on live-in domestics for the most intimate of daily tasks. Her cook and parlour maid relieved her of the burden of housework and without them she might never have become a writer. But unlike many of her contemporaries Virginia Woolf was frequently tormented by her dependence on servants. Uniquely, she explored her violent, often vicious, feelings in her diaries, novels and essays. What, the reader might well wonder, was it like for the servants to live with a mistress who so hated giving her orders, and who could be generous and hostile by turns?

Through the prism of the writer’s life and work, Alison Light explores the volatile, emotional territory which is the hidden history of domestic service. Compared to most employers in Britain between the wars, Leonard and Virginia Woolf were free and easy. Life in the Bloomsbury circle of writers and artists was often fun. Yet despite being liberal in outlook, these were also households where the differences in upbringing and education were acute: employers and servants were still ‘us’ and ‘them’. The women who worked for the Woolfs, like other domestic servants, have usually been relegated to the margins of history, yet unearthing their lives reveals fascinating stories: of Sophie Farrell, the Victorian cook and ‘family treasure’, who ended her days in a London bed-sit; Lottie Hope, the parlour maid, a foundling, who’d been left on a doorstep like a parcel; and Nellie Boxall, the Woolfs’ cook, who was finally dismissed after sixteen years of rows and reconciliations, only to find herself a more glamorous job.

Mrs Woolf and the Servants is a riveting and highly original study of one of Britain’s greatest literary modernists. Ultimately, though, it is also a moving and eloquent testimony to the ways in which individual creativity always needs the support of others. Amazo

From NetGalley, which I need to give up until next Lent, I have been approved to read a copy of The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell, with one of the most stunning of covers. But it wasn’t only the cover that drew me in, I adored this author’s book The Shadow Year as well as her previous book The Secrets of the Tides. The Peacock Summer will be published on 28 June 2018.

Blurb

If she could reach back through the years and warn the person she once was, what would she say? … What would she say to the ghosts who now inhabit her days? So many of those she has loved are now nothing but dust and memory.’

At twenty-six, Lillian feels trapped by life. Her marriage to Charles Oberon has not turned out the way she expected it would. To her it seems she is just another object captured within the walls of Cloudesley, her husband’s beautiful manor house tucked away high in the Chiltern Hills. But, with a young step-son and a sister to care for, Lillian accepts there is no way out for her. Then Charles makes an arrangement with an enigmatic artist visiting their home and his presence will unbalance everything she thought she knew and understood.

Maggie Oberon ran from the hurt and resentment she caused. Half a world away, in Australia, it was easier to forget, to pretend she didn’t care. But when her elderly grandmother, Lillian, falls ill she must head back to Cloudesley. Forced to face her past, Maggie fights to hold herself and her family’s legacy together as she learns that all she thought was real, all that she held so close, was never as it seemed.

Two summers, decades apart.

Two women whose lives are forever entwined.
And a house that holds the dark secrets that could free them both. Amazon

What have you found to read this week?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 3 books and since I have gained 4 so my TBR has risen to a total of  188
Physical Books – 113
Kindle Books – 54
NetGalley Books –21

I have banked absolutely no book tokens this week and spent 3 so I’m just 1/3 books in credit!

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

The Killing House – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction
5*s

For the sixth episode in this series set on the border between North and South Ireland Paula Maguire returns to Ballyterrin from her new London home for a wedding. Home to where her determination to discover more about her mother’s disappearance when she was just a teenager are strongest.

This is the best series about ‘The Troubles’ that I have read. Paula Maguire’s personal story along with those of her friends, including Aiden whose father was shot dead when he hid under a table as a young boy, really underline what it was like for those who lived there at this time. But the series isn’t just about the past, in this book two bodies have been found at a remote farmhouse and Paula Maguire is asked, as a former member of the missing persons team, and forensic psychologist, to find out who they were.

As in the previous books in the series, Paula’s work in the present is told alongside her determination to understand the past. This is easier said than done when what she discovers could be devastating for her former Police Officer father and the life he now has as husband, father and grandfather. Paula Maguire is just the type of protagonist I like most, she is brave and yet conflicted, she makes mistakes and she tries to put them right and she loves and loses along the way – in other words under Claire McGowan’s pen she has truly come to life.

I love the style of storytelling, and in The Killing House, we are transported back in time to hear the voice of one person held by the punishment team who have them held captive to find out the information for their cause. There are some horrific characters in this book but all held together by the basic goodness of many others, even those who may have done wrong in the past. The author has a way of differentiating between those who got caught up in the times, and those who enjoyed being part of it, exceptionally well so that the reader is able to look at this point in history at a personal level.

The current investigation, and the resultant politics which take into account the peace process are fascinating to learn about. The legal challenges in respect of crimes committed many years ago are put into the context of how the victims and their families, and of course the police officers, are trying to bring comfort in the form of knowledge, without the firm expectation that those who killed will face a trial. This book is full of the action which also underpins the series with danger around many a corner for all involved. There were many fast page-turning moments where I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next.

There is never any doubt at all about the setting, the turns of phrase, without going to ridiculous lengths to recreating the accent, remind you on every page, the remoteness of some of the places describe and of course the interactions between the characters which are both heart-warming at times and so very practical at others.

I suspect that this is the last in this series, and I will miss Paula and what a ride it has been! This book has been meticulously plotted to ensure that the story arc which precedes it is wrapped up properly and although I think the time was right, I will miss the characters which I have invested in over the entire series. It was lovely to be given a proper conclusion to Paula’s personal story which I’m sure mirrors, at least in part, the stories of many others who lived through this time.

As this is what I suspect is the final episode in the series, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one, you really should read the books in order.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for providing me with a copy of The Killing House, which will be published on 5 April 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them, and of course the author for a brilliant and satisfying read.

First Published UK: 5 April 2018
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

The Paula McGuire Series

The Lost
The Dead Ground
The Silent Dead
Savage Hunger
Blood Tide

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

Our House – Louise Candlish

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Every time I see Louise Candlish has a new book out, I dance a little dance. Why? Because in the crowded psychological thriller arena she takes a sideways look at modern life to create tales that are on the edge of credulity, and yet, so believable when they flow from her pen.

Such is the story told in Our House. If you read the synopsis you would doubt how realistic it is for a woman, mother of two boys, to return home unexpectedly one afternoon to find that her house has been sold and her possessions are nowhere to be seen. Really? I thought as my eyebrows shot up way past my hairline… that simply couldn’t happen, could it?

What makes this book particularly brilliant is the detailed plotting and the structure of the book. Fiona tells us her story via a podcast called The Victim where women, it is mainly women, explain how they’ve been duped, betrayed or hurt to an audience who comment along as the show unfolds. As I said, oh so modern and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that a variety of this idea is a real thing! Fiona takes us back to the time when she split up with her husband Bram through the last few months where they settled on a ‘birds nest’ arrangement for custody of the boys. And with my finger firmly on the pulse of modern life, I already knew this is where the children of a broken partnership stay put in their own home and the parents swap in and out like weather house men and women to care for them on designated days. At other times, when they were not in the house, Fiona and Bram stayed in a small rented flat. Oh so modern but you have to wonder how practical in real life…

Bram tells us his side of the same story, where we find out everything that Fiona doesn’t know, via a letter. This is a man tormented by his mistakes and trying to put things right. And despite all that he confesses to, Louise Candlish makes him quite a likeable man. I think this is key to the plotline retaining such a sense of realism and so despite my initial reservations I had no trouble believing the events that unfold.

Along with the two versions we are grounded in the present, Friday 13 January 2017 the day Fiona discovers her house has been sold and her estranged husband and sons are missing. It is the day that the remnants of Fiona’s life that she has been clinging to disintegrates.

Of course Fiona and Bram don’t live in isolation – their house after all is worth millions, in a sought after area which has risen in value. They have neighbours who try to do the right thing following the breakdown of the couple’s marriage, keeping the links in place, if weakened by the change in status quo. The author has a brilliant eye for the way people behave and so just as I so enjoyed her previous novels set in similar upwardly mobile settings, the characters her really do make the story come alive.

If you like your domestic noir to be something out of the ordinary you really must read Our House. The unbelievable is turned on its head, the characters so lifelike you will feel you know them well all in an undeniably up-to-date setting. A fully deserved five stars from Cleopatra Loves Books.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an advance copy of Our House, this unbiased review is thanks to them and the author Louise Candlish for yet another gripping read!.

First Published UK: 5 April 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Reviews of other books by Louise Candlish

The Disappearance of Emily Marr
Other People’s Secrets
The Sudden Departure of the Frasers
The Swimming Pool

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Dear Mrs Bird – AJ Pearce

Historical Fiction
4*s

London 1941 and Emmeline Lake, Emmy to her friends, sees an advert in the paper for what she thinks will lead to her having her dream job, to be a Lady War Correspondent. Sadly for Emmy the job is working for the formidable Mrs Henrietta Bird sorting out the letters for the woman’s weekly magazine Woman’s Friend.

Emmy shares rooms in Pimlico  with her friend Marigold who is known to everyone as Bunty, and it is this close friendship and mutual support that gives them, and one suspects many of other young women, through a world which is dominated by war. Everything from the lack of clothes to bombs are a part of daily life during this time and that’s not even considering the constant threat of death of your nearest and dearest!

Emmy is a nice girl, engaged to be married and she has known Bunty since childhood but she also carries out shifts on the telephone volunteering for the fire service and sees the men go out on call to rescue those when the bombs fall.

So when Emmy starts her job with Mrs Bird she is taken aback, but not quite a quivering wreck, even though the magazine’s agony aunt makes the word brusque sound like a stroke with a feather. She is given instructions of all the words and phrases which determine that the letter is unsuited to the magazine. The instructions rule that these letters should be cut up the very instant the banned word is read, and put into the bin. The words include: Marital relations, Pre-marital relations, Extra-marital relations, physical relations, sexual relations in general (all issues mentions, suggestions or results of), illegal activities, political activities and opinions, religious activities and opinions (excl. queries regarding church groups and services), The war (excl. queries regarding rationing, voluntary services, clubs and practicalities), cookery…

This would seem to cover many such letters however the page is headed up:

Mrs Henrietta Bird Will Help
There’s nothing that can’t be sorted out with common sense and a strong will.


Mrs. Bird is here to answer your worries. For a postal reply in confidence, send a stamped addressed envelope but please note that Mrs Bird’s postbag is a full one, so there may be a temporary delay.

Yes, you read correctly all you need is common sense and a strong will! This is the time of the stiff upper lip and there appears to be none so stiff as Mrs Henrietta Bird’s. Emmy is able to pass a few suitable letters to Mrs Bird whose inevitable response is along the lines of try harder, do better and the like but she spends most of her time chopping up letter after letter into pieces as very few are above the very high morality bar that has been set by Mrs Bird. But on reading a letter from In a Muddle written by a seventeen year old girl who has repaid her boyfriend who takes her to dances in a way that she knows is very wrong, she is moved to do something… but Emmy, is it the right thing to do?

This book starts off lightly fully creating a life of a young woman in wartime London but as it progresses the harsh reality of war-time is confronted and the humour of the first part fades into the background. This is a unique read which not only has wonderful characters but also a real sense of time and place which transported this reader with ease. It also highlights the role young women took during the war, something like being a volunteer for the fire service sounds relatively easy until you realise what those calls would have consisted of, and all of this on top of a full day’s work thinking about the problems of the readers of Woman’s Post!

This is a wonderful debut that I think would be perfect Sunday evening TV viewing such is the perfect mix of sweetness, female friendship along with some drama and a dollop of historical details.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Pan Macmillan for providing me with an advance copy of Dear Mrs Bird, this unbiased review is thanks to them and the author AJ Pearce for a delightful read.

First Published UK: 5 April 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction 
Amazon UK
Amazon US