Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (January 14)

Well I’m finally on the mend and returned to work on Wednesday so all is far better in my world than it has been. On the book front I am strongly considering joining The Classic Club in part due to my New Year’s resolution to read or re-read at least six classic books in 2018. The other part is my fellow blogger Fiction Fan has been putting the pressure on and I’ve been raiding her own list of classics for this challenge, in my search for books for my own list.

So far my list stands at around 25 books with a surprisingly large bias towards female writers. I have to find at least another 30 books to find and I suspect some of these may well be crime fiction classics sourced from The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books compiled by Martin Edwards. Any suggestions will be gratefully received, my definition of a classic being fairly loose with any book that is more than approximately 50 years old qualifying.

This Week on the Blog

A busy week with four reviews posted over the course of the week starting with my one for Faking Friends by Jane Fallon which was one of five of my reads published on 11 January 2018.

My extract post this week was from The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin which will be published on 1 February 2018.

On Wednesday I was part of the Blog Tour for Peter May’s novel I’ll Keep You Safe which included an intense extract from the book which was followed on publication day of my review of the novel. Peter May’s descriptions of the Outer Hebrides was once again the backdrop to this crime fiction novel.

Friday was another Blog Tour, this time I posted a review for Turning for Home by Barney Norris a thoughtful and insightful novel centred around an eighty year old widower and his grand-daughter.

Finally my week finished with my review of some historical crime fiction inspired by the trail of Madeline Smith in Glasgow for the murder of her lover, Emile L’Anglier; Blackmail, Sex and Lies is written by Kathryn McMaster

This Time Last Year…

I was reading After She Fell by Mary-Jane Riley the second book in the Alex Devlin series which features the protagonist as a reporter investigating the apparent suicide of a friend’s daughter at an exclusive boarding school in North Norfolk. Mary-Jane Riley has painted a wonderful selection of characters, some nastier than others, against the brilliant backdrop of the setting, all with a lightness of touch so that the picture is painted while the action is taking place.

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

Blurb

There are so many ways to fall…

Catriona needs help. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Elena was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near her boarding school. The death has been ruled a suicide, but Catriona isn’t convinced.

When her old friend, journalist Alex Devlin, arrives in Hallow’s Edge to investigate, she quickly finds that life at private boarding school The Drift isn’t as idyllic as the bucolic setting might suggest.

Amidst a culture of drug-taking, bullying and tension between school and village, no one is quite who they seem to be, and there are several people who might have wanted Elena to fall… Amazon

If you haven’t read this one yet, now is the time to do so as not only does it have a fab new cover but the third in the series, Dark Water is due to be published on 16 March 2018.

Stacking the Shelves

Well I still haven’t bought any new books but I do have some acquisitions nevertheless.

From Lovereading UK I have a copy of The Story of Our Lies by Helen Warner which will be published on 8 February 2018.

Blurb

Four friends. Twenty years. One powerful secret.

There are certain dates on which you’ll always remember where you were… The day Princess Diana died. 9/11. The London 2012 opening ceremony.

The same is true for Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa who have been best friends since they met twenty years ago.

As history has moved on around them, they have seen each other through everything. From Sophie’s secret fear that she doesn’t actually want to be a mother despite having two kids, to Amy’s perfect-on-the-outside-abusive-on-the inside marriage to Melissa’s spiralling alcoholism and Emily’s single motherhood.

But could a lie that spans just as long tear them apart? Amazon

From NetGalley I have a copy of Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall which I was exceptionally pleased about having been a fan of this author for a while and chose her last book Dot as one of my top ten published books of 2013. Our Kind of Cruelty will be published on 3 May 2018.

Blurb

This is a love story. This is a tragedy.

This is a book about a break up so bad that when you put the pieces of the love story back together, what you get is murder.
Mike understands that most of us travel through the world as one half of a whole, desperately searching for that missing person to make us complete.

But he and Verity are different. They have found each other and nothing and no one will tear them apart.

It doesn’t matter that Verity is marrying another man.

It’s all just part of a plan: you see, Verity and Mike play a game together, a secret game they call ‘the crave’, the aim being to demonstrate what they both know: that Verity needs Mike, and only Mike.

Verity’s upcoming marriage is the biggest game she and Mike have ever played. And it’s for the highest stakes.
Except this time in order for Mike and Verity to be together someone has to die … NetGalley

I was also lucky enough to be provided with a copy of The Girl in the Woods by Camilla Läckberg, the tenth in the tenth in the Fjällbacka Series which will be published on 22 February 2018.

Blurb

A missing child
When a four-year-old girl disappears in the woods just outside Fjällbacka, the community is horror-struck. Thirty years ago, a young girl went missing from the exact same spot, and was later discovered, murdered.
A murder
Back then, two teenage girls were found guilty of the killing. Could it really be a coincidence that one of the girls – now a world-famous actress – has just returned to Fjällbacka? Detective Patrik Hedström starts investigating, with his wife, bestselling crime writer Erica Falck, by his side.
A community torn apart
But as Patrik and Erica dig deeper, the truth becomes ever murkier, because it seems that everyone in the tight-knit community is hiding something. And soon, the residents must confront the fact that they could be harbouring a murderer in their midst… NetGalley

And lastly I ‘met’ Vicky Newham through social media and distinctly remember the day she announced that she had a publisher for her novel Turn A Blind Eye. Vicky has kindly supplied me with a copy of her book which will be published on 5 April 2018.

Blurb

A dead girl.
A wall of silence.
DI Maya Rahman is running out of time.

A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:
I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.

At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.
Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim. Amazon

2018 appears to be continuing with some appetising books – what do you think? Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 3 books and appear to have gained 6 so my TBR has taken a swift about turn to 188

Physical Books – 110
Kindle Books – 55
NetGalley Books –23

 

I have banked another third of book token this week and therefore purchased no new books in 2018.

Cleopatra’s Top Ten Books Published in 2013, 2014 & 2015

Cleopatra’s Top Ten Books Published in 2013

 

2013 was a great book reading year for me, I have read many great books of a variety of genres, although as usual the majority were crime fiction! It has been a real struggle to whittle this list down to 10 but here they are, in no particular order!

Click on the book covers to read my reviews.

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

My list starts with a book set in a bookshop. This was a great book for this booklover, with references as diverse as Paddington Bear and 1984 littering the pages, great characters and a bookshop I wanted to work in!

A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them…
The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

Psychological Thriller 5*'s
Psychological Thriller
5*’s

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.
A superb psychological thriller set in Devon over one claustrophobic weekend in November 2013 this book rivals Barbara Vine for one of the best books in this genre.

Dot by Araminta Hall

Women's Fiction 5*
Women’s Fiction
5*

a long-forgotten photograph of a man, his hair blowing in the breeze. Dot stares so long at the photograph the image begins to disintegrate before her eyes, and as the image fades it is replaced with one thought: ‘I think it’s definitely him.’
Secrets and female relationships dominate this book. Full of delightful characters with an undertone of humour to lighten the emotions that must surely melt the hardest of hearts.

Apple Tree Yard
by Louise Doughty

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

Safety and security are commodities you can sell in return for excitement, but you can never buy them back.

This powerful book was my surprise find of 2013. A women in court but how and why? At its core this is a book about how we perceive ourselves, through our own eyes and what is reflected back to us in the eyes of others.

Entry Island by Peter May

Crime Fiction 5*'s
Crime Fiction
5*’s

The investigation itself appears little more than a formality. The evidence points to a crime of passion: the victim’s wife the vengeful culprit. But for Sime the investigation is turned on its head when he comes face to face with the prime suspect, and is convinced that he knows her – even though they have never met.

I had the final part of the Lewis Trilogy down as a favourite of 2013 but have decided Peter May can’t have two books on the top ten (but if you haven’t read the Lewis Trilogy I suggest you do!) so have decided his latest book set between a past on the Isle of Lewis and the present in Canada was the winner for fantastic characters along with a well plotted tale of a woman accused of murder and a past that must be found.

What Lies Within by Tom Vowler

Crime Fiction 5*'s
Crime Fiction
5*’s

when a convict escapes from nearby Dartmoor prison, their isolation suddenly begins to feel more claustrophobic than free. Fearing for her children’s safety, Anna’s behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. But why is she so distant from her kind husband Robert, and why does she suspect something sinister of her son Paul? All teenagers have their difficult phases…

This was another great find part psychological thriller but containing elements of so much more; a mystery, a crime and relationships.

A Funeral for an Owl
by Jane Davis

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

Times have changed since Jim Stevens chose to teach. Protocol designed to protect children now makes all pupil/teacher relationships taboo – even those that might benefit a student.

This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you have closed the book. Jane Davis Davis really does bring characters to life, mothers, fathers, friends, teachers are all perfectly described along with their actions and reactions to events. (oh and if you have copy I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements!!)

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Women's Fiction 5*
Women’s Fiction
5*

Because something has happened that will call them home, back to the house they grew up in – and to what really happened that Easter weekend all those years ago.
Lisa Jewell really knows how to write a great story, her books never fail to delight me as they are so much more than ‘chick-lit’ they deal with serious issues without becoming depressing. This is my favourite (I think) of all her novels.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Women's Fiction 5*'s
Women’s Fiction
5*’s

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read
My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Another great story-teller (I read What Alice Forgot after this one) with all the ingredients included; a believable plot, characters that are well-developed and writing that pulls the reader in from the first page, plus this isn’t the story you think it is going to be!

The Cry by Helen Fizgerald

Psychological Thriller 5*'s
Psychological Thriller
5*’s

He’s gone. And telling the truth won’t bring him back…
When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.

A lot of tension in this book, this is definitely not light reading but it is certainly absorbing and haunting.

Cleopatra’s Top Ten Books Published in 2014

2014 was a fantastic reading year for me although even I was shocked to see that I’d marked a whopping 42 books as 5 star reads this year! Yes that’s quite a lot but to be honest I award stars on instinct when I review and (conceitedly) assume those who look at my reviews read the words, rather than depend on this arbitrary system. One reason I enjoy choosing my Top 10 is because it is interesting to see whether on reflection this instinctive scoring holds true for me. Surprisingly it does and I didn’t feel I had to downgrade any of my choices this year but for those of you who assume I ponder and deliberate and weigh up the merits of one five star read against another, I’m sorry, I don’t.

Fortunately as this post concentrates on books published in 2014, I’ve been able to remove a few of my choices, but as you can imagine it was quite a task to get the list whittled down to just 10. As a compromise some books that I love were featured on my blog post Reading and Reviewing in 2014 !

To help with the decision making I have decided to pick the best from some other genres too starting with Historical Fiction. The winner this year is my most recent five star review

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests

What can I say, beautiful engaging writing, three-dimensional characters, great period detail and…. a crime! This book has a slow start but don’t let that fool you, I had to slow down my reading towards the end as I didn’t want the story to end. Set in the early 1920’s Sarah Waters captures the herald of change with the classes and the genders having to adapt to a new way of life.

My Non-Fiction choice isn’t strictly a book that was published in 2014, that originally occurred back in 1974 but it was republished in 2014 (and this is my blog so my rules!)

Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman

Victorian Murderesses

This book looks at Middle Class Victorian Murderesses in the United Kingdom and France during the Victorian period. It is far more than a recap of the crimes as the author makes a link between the time, place and class of woman to commentate on women’s lives during this period. A fascinating and far more scholarly work than I anticipated.

My Surprise Find of the year:

Interlude by Rupert Smith

Interlude

I don’t know what made me choose this book, but I’m so glad I did. Told between past and present this has a book in a book, historical details and a cast of characters whose actions are at times reprehensible but who are entirely human made up of good points as well.

A Slow Burner of a novel award goes to:

That Dark Remembered Day by Tom Vowler

That Dark Remembered Day

This superbly written book invites the reader to absorb every word as it lays the groundwork for what happened on the day in question. The groundwork begins in 1983, the year I became a teenager and the details took me right back to that era. It’s no coincidence that Tom Vowler’s debut novel What Lies Within made my top ten listing for 2013 with this almost understated but perceptive writing.

Best Debut Novel:

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver

One of my favourite types of novel that concentrate on the why of a mystery rather than the who. Unravelling Oliver peels back the layers of the man who starts this book by saying ‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’ The multitude of narrators that have interacted with Oliver through his life create a satisfactory background to the man and it isn’t as straightforward as you may imagine.

Favourite book from an established Crime Series. This was a tough one as all the latest books from series I follow, especially Sharon Bolton’s and Peter James’ produced great books this year, however my final choice for this category features Maeve Kerrigan

The Kill by Jane Casey

The Kill

DC Maeve Kerrigan is caught up in a spate of police killings in the fifth in this series. Once again Jane Casey gets the balance of the police investigation to the personal lives of the characters we know and love (I admit to a little crush on DI Josh Derwent) with a story that is told at the perfect pace. If you haven’t read this series I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Best Start to a New Crime Series goes to a series that features another woman, Detective Grace Fisher, a crime reporter and missing students.

Good Girls Don’t Die by Isabelle Grey

Good Girls Don't Die

There was so much to love in this book, a great plot multiple storylines, well-rounded characters all backed up by a decent plot, in fact there was so much going on in this book to enjoy I felt like I’d read a banquet of a book by the time I’d finished.

There were two New to me author’s whose books were so good I had to read more – and after tossing a coin between the winner and Colette McBeth I award this one to:

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly

Keep Your Friends Close

This choice is another book peopled by well-rounded, if flawed characters. Natty’s husband Sean falls in love with her friend Eve but it appears that this isn’t the first time Eve has behaved in this way, the fallout is spectacular.. After reading this book I immediately bought a copy of Just What Kind of Mother Are You? which was equally as good.

My final two choices are simply two excellent books that I loved and have recommended far and wide ever since I read them.

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place

When a boy is found murdered in the grounds of an exclusive girl’s school the police need to penetrate the secretive world of teenage girls, not a task for the faint-hearted. Not only does this book have all the requisite ingredients for a great read; characters, plot and pace, it is also an enormously fun read, so much so I dubbed it ‘Mallory Towers for Grown Ups’

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Little Lies

Another book set in a school, this time in a primary school and the action takes place at a fund-raiser. Liane Moriarty has created such wonderful characters, brilliant dialogue and the most bizarre murder scene ever. This is a book that packs a punch with much more lurking beneath the seemingly light exterior. This author also made my 2013 top 10 list with The Husband’s Secret.

Cleopatra’s Top Ten Books Published in 2015

Top 10 2015

Well 2015 has provided me with a great selection of books, so good that I originally had 50 (yes 50!!) books that I had awarded the highest five stars too – now even I can’t pretend that 48 books equals 10. What to do? Well as I decided back in 2013 when I started this blog to feature books published in that year I got to discard some of the older books and two got carried forward to next year – that left me with a mere 39 books to select from.

With such a selection to choose from I’ve had to accept that it is inevitable that some great books are not featured this year but I’ve finally settled on my final list which despite me assuming that my best of each month posts would reflect these closely, this exercise has just proved to me that sometimes it is after letting a book settle a while that you realise those that have really made an impact.

This year is particularly crime heavy, even for me but I hope I’ve managed to show what is available across the spectrum, it isn’t all serial killers and missing children you know!

So in no particular order here we go:

If you click on the book covers you can read the full review for each book

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

The Kind Worth Killing

A modern take on Strangers on a Train which is ingenious; Ted and Lily meet in an airport lounge and for a bit of fun Lily suggests they should only tell each other the truth. On the flight Ted reveals that he wants to kill his wife as she has been unfaithful, Lily taking the moral high-ground offers to help him. If you like your book with plenty of twists and turns, this could be just the right book for you.

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby

Perhaps you, like me enjoy books that really delve into the psyche of the characters? If so Pretty Baby will provide just that along with a story which will keep you gripped. Heidi decides to befriend a young woman, Willow when she sees her at a train station with a young baby. Unsurprisingly her husband Chris isn’t totally up for the idea especially as Willow and Ruby look like they are becoming a permanent fixture in their lives with little thought for their own daughter Zoe. The placing of the narratives by Chris and Heidi in the past in relation to Willow’s, as told to a third-party, in the present casts a dark shadow over each episode and the full story is gradually revealed.

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse

The only non-fiction choice this year not only had a killer of a title, but it also had one of the most riveting stories I’ve ever read, more so because it was true! The book covers the story behind a number of court cases that spanned a decade which all centred on the belief that Thomas Charles Druce, the owner of a Victorian Bazaar was actually the 5th Duke of Portland, an eccentric and reclusive man. As I say this is a fascinating look at not only the court cases but also gives the reader a glimpse of how real people behaved during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods which isn’t quite how the history books portray it.

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly MacMillan

Burnt Paper Sky

Ok so now we do have one missing child story for the mix, but there is far more to this book than the heart in the mouth search for a lost child. Set in Bristol this book gave me an idea of what sort of information I react to when I read or see media reports about crime – what triggers in the news cause me to make snap judgements about the truth behind the news? A very clever book that made me think as well as being totally entertaining from an investigative perspective with this unfolding chronologically I needed to know the outcome.
Note readers in the US can read this under the title What She Knew in 2016

Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

Lost Girls

Angela Marsons had her debut novel published in February 2015 and this was her third book featuring the likeable Detective Kim Stone – yes you read that correctly, this is the third in the series. I could easily have included all of her books but this was my favourite premise. More lost children I’m afraid… Two friends are kidnapped but the kidnapper has an extreme way of pushing up the money they will receive, the two sets of parents are pitted against each other! As you can imagine the fallout is spectacular.

Disclaimer by Renée Knight

Disclaimer

Back in April I predicted this book would make my top ten reads of the year, and it has, one book that didn’t need to settle, I knew this was a hit more or less from the first page. It was also one of the hardest to review as there is so little that can be said about the plot without inadvertently spoiling it for others. I liked that the author skilfully manipulated my emotions, over and over again. If you want a book that is full of surprises, choose this book. I have recommended this far and wide (in the real world) and everyone who listened, has loved it!

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

Smoke and Mirrors

Missing children again, but this time back in history being set in Brighton in 1951. In the second in the Max Mephisto the book is far more a complex puzzle with a feel of an old-fashioned detective novel with clues rather than forensics at the fore. Tied in with a production of Aladdin there is links to another murder years before all to be solved by a wonderful cast of characters. Fancy trying a different type of crime fiction – this could be for you.

A Game For All The Family by Sophie Hannah

A Game for all the Family

The queen of psychological thrillers completely wowed me with this, a stand-alone novel which had me utterly and completely confused. Now I see you scratching your heads because that doesn’t sound like fun but therein lies the genius of this book. Told in part in a story written by a teenager and part in real-life the writing was thoroughly entertaining even if I couldn’t for the life of me work out what the point was – rest assured there was a point and I don’t think I’ll ever forget this amazing read.

Hidden by Emma Kavanagh

Hidden

Want a mixture of investigative and psychological crime fiction? Hidden opens with a shooting at a Welsh hospital and the descriptions aren’t for the faint-hearted. What follows is an in-depth look at the crime from multiple viewpoints over an ever-changing time period before and after the shooting.. the result is amazing – this complex structure worked, against all odds.

The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minnet

The Hidden Legacy

This debut novel is another book that has an opener that will become seared on your memory when a young boy sets fire to two girls in a school playground yet the opening is backed up by a thoughtful, deep and in places deeply moving novel with some of the most consistently rounded characters I have ever had the pleasure to read about. With a mystery legacy for one woman and secrets bubbling throughout, this is a book that made me think about all manner of moral questions. Most definitely the surprise hit of the year for me!

So my top ten is just that – ten great books that have stamped themselves onto my memory in a variety of ways.

If you want to see more of the 144 books I’ve read in 2015

Reading and Reviewing in 2015
Reading Bingo for 2015
2015 Book Reviews with links

Posted in Uncategorized

Reading Bingo 2017 edition

reading-bingo-small

This is one of my favourite posts of the year so there was no question of me repeating this following my relative success in filling in the squares in both 2014, 2015 and 2016

I purposely don’t treat this like a challenge by finding books to fit the squares throughout the year, oh no! I prefer to see which of my (mostly) favourite books will fit from the set I’ve read.  As you can imagine this becomes a bit like one of those moving puzzles where one book is suitable for a number of squares… and then I’m left with empty squares which I have to trawl through the 137 books I’ve read and reviewed to see if any book at all will fit! This keeps me amused for many, many hours so I do hope you all enjoy the result.

Click on the book covers to read my reviews

A Book With More Than 500 Pages

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood clocks in at 560 pages beautifully and tantalising revealing a story of Grace Marks an Irish servant who in 1843 was accused of Thomas Kimner and Nancy Montgomery in Ontario, Canada. We meet her some years later when Dr Jordan becomes interested in studying her case and we hear what she has to tell him whilst she stiches quilts for the Governor’s household. This fictional story is one of a number of books I’ve read this year which are inspired by true-crime and Margaret Atwood’s skill with her pen did not disappoint at all. I have also watched the Netflix series which stays remarkably true to the book

 

A Forgotten Classic

I only have one title under classics this year so I present another Beryl Bainbridge novel this year.  one of the author’s later novels published in 1981. The story is set in Moscow and I’m reliably informed is supposed to illustrate the Kafkaesque nature of the country at that time, but sadly I just ended up being mightily confused by this novel although I was very much taken with the description of air travel at this time, far less regimented than the flights we take these days.

 

A Book That Became a Movie

I haven’t watched the film of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas which was released in 2008 but I was very taken with the book written by John Boyne which tells the story of Bruno, a young German boy whose father is posted as a Commander to Auschwitz. Young Bruno begins talking to a boy of a similar age to him through the fence separating and segregating the Jews in the camp from the outside world. Through a child’s eyes we are exposed to the horror of the camp something that is made much worse because of the innocence of our narrator.

 

A Book Published This Year

As a book reviewer I have read lots of books published this year but decided to feature one from a debut author Ray Britain, this author having been a member of the Police Force in the midlands until his retirement when he decided to turn his hand to crime fiction. The Last Thread is the first in the DCI Stirling series and despite being a realistic glimpse into policing is still a mighty fine story too. The opening scenes bring home the realities of policing when despite an effort by our protagonist to intervene, a teenager plunges from a motorway bridge onto the road below.

 

A Book With A Number In The Title

The Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate was originally published in 1940 and bought to a whole new generation of readers by the British Library Crime Classics series. As might be expected the twelve is in relation to the number of men and women that sit on the jury in this courtroom drama. With the book split into three distinct acts, the background to the jury, the charges and the deliberations all brilliantly and engagingly executed. This is backed up by brilliant postscript.

 

A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty

Always one of the hardest spaces to fill, I have no-one that falls into this category this year.

A Book With Non Human Characters

The Good People by Hannah Kent is set in south-west of Ireland in 1825 and 1826 and is full of fairies, not of the Disney variety though, these are the fairy folk, that Irish folklore had walking amongst them. These fairies were as wont to carry out evil acts as they ever were good. With Nóra Lehay having the misfortune to lose her husband at the same time it becomes clear that her child is mute opens her up to gossip and isolation amongst the locals. A beautifully written story which despite being moving is quite a bleak tale.

 

A Funny Book

I don’t read many funny books so this year’s entry comes from Caimh McDonnell who nabbed this spot on the reading bingo last year. Angels in the Moonlight combines laughs with Crime Fiction in the most perfect mix, especially in this book, the prequel set in 1999. The crimes are not minimalised or overshadowed by inappropriate humour but the strong element that runs through the book allows the reader to feel a wide range of emotions as we follow our intrepid hero Bunny.

 

A Book By A Female Author

The story of a Singer sewing machine might sound pretty dull, but The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie is anything but. We first meet our machine at the factory in Clydebank where in 1911 ten thousand workers went on strike, Jean being one of them although her loyalties are divided between her boyfriend and her family. We later meet the sewing machine in the hands of Connie who we learn about in part through the records she keeps of what she’s made on it. Lastly it is found by Fred in his recently deceased Grandfather’s flat. A story of all those big emotions across three separate lives. Brilliantly presented and executed with precision.

A Book With A Mystery

This box always makes me smile because pretty much all the books I read have a mystery of some description in them. Before the Poison is a standalone novel by Peter Robinson featuring a historical murder trial which examines the roles of a woman’s morals in the likelihood of her being accused of murder, this time in the 1950s. In the modern tale of this story a recently bereaved composer becomes wrapped up in the story of Grace Fox who was accused of murdering her husband one snowy winter’s day. Aided by a diary Chris examines the story closely which has a personal link to the school he attended as a child. Fascinating and disconcerting as I couldn’t quite believe this was pure fiction.

 

A Book With A One Word Title

This year I have just one book which is a one word title, perhaps they are falling out of fashion? Fortunately it is a book that I loved. Shelter by Sarah Franklin is set in 1944 in the Forest of Dean which is where I lived before leaving home to make my way in the big wide world. The author shapes her story around the Lumberjills posted to the Forest to aid the war along with the Italian Prisoners of War who worked alongside them. The story was realistic and heart-warming and despite a difficult relationship with the area as a teenager, Shelter, made me appreciate some of its better qualities.

 

 A Book of Short Stories

CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards is a fabulous collection of short stories from a wide range of popular crime fiction writers. I loved exploring the different styles and places that are featured within this collection which well and truly bought home to me all the possibilities this form has to offer the reader. My copy now has a firm place on my bookshelf as it will be invaluable when seeking out some of the longer novels of those who appear in this brilliant book.

 

 Free Square

I’ve chosen The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell for my free square for the simple reason this would have easily been featured in my top ten post of the year, except it wasn’t published this year. I love an unpredictable story and Rose who works in the Police Precinct in 1920s Brooklyn is the protagonist for just such a tale. Through her eyes we see what happens when Odile enters the typing pool, elegant sophisticated Odile is the star of the show but does Rose know her secrets? The journey back to early scenes is all in this book, and what a wonderful journey the author took me on.

 

 

A Book Set On A Different Continent

Regular readers of this blog won’t be in the slightest bit surprised that this book has made it onto the Reading Bingo. A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys was my First Book of the Year for a very special reason. Although the book opens as Lilian Shepard boards the Orentes from Tilbury Docks she is travelling to start a new life as a servant in Australia. Through her eyes we see the world as she makes the journey across the seas, meeting her fellow passengers including many that the social mores of England would have stopped her from socialising with, but life is different on an Ocean Liner. The brilliant period details of a world on the brink of war alongside fabulous characters and a mystery made this one of my favourite books of the year.

 

A Book of Non-Fiction

I’ve had a bumper year for excellent non-fiction reads but as many of them are crime related I’ve chosen The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler which is crying out to be on the bookshelf of booklovers up and down the land. The style of writing is often as irreverent as it is succinct with the author puts his own spin on why an author has been forgotten but interspersed between the 99 authors are longer chapters looking at subjects as diverse as The Forgotten Disney Connection and The Forgotten Booker Winners.

 

The First Book By A Favourite Author

In March I read the debut novel Everything But the Truth by Gillian McAllister and having really enjoyed being sucked into the moral dilemma she posed,I have also read her second novel Anything You Do Say later in the year – so yes, she is a favourite author. Starting with a glimpse of a text on her partner’s phone Rachel Anderson starts to dig, and once she’s started all manner of fall-out commences. This book packed a real emotional punch because not only was it cleverly presented but it also was jam-packed full of realistic characters who behave like ‘real people’

 

A Book I Heard About Online

Since blogging I find most of my new author finds on-line and to be honest, it is fairly easy to persuade me I must read all types of crime fiction but one blogger had a special reason for recommending this novel, Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie to me, because she lived in the place of the fictional scene of the murder Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh. Thirty years later the case is reopened and the wounds that never really healed split apart once more. With convincing characters and a solid sense of place this was one recommendation I’m glad I didn’t pass by on.

 

A Best Selling Book

Lisa Jewell is the master of drawing me into a story from the very first page and Then She Was Gone lived up to that early promise. This is the darkest of the author’s novels yet and on the one-hand seems to be a fantastical tale but it is so underlined by truths that this aspect only becomes apparent when you examine the story closely, yet move the prism to one side and all seems to be completely believable. Ellie Mack disappeared on her way to the library. She was just fifteen years old and her disappearance blew the remaining four Mack’s apart. Several years later her mother Laurel, meets a man in the local café and everything changes once more.

 

A Book Based Upon A True Story


Ah so you thought I’d come unstuck by using Alias Grace earlier on in my Reading Bingo but fortunately this year has been the year when I sought out books inspired by true crimes and Little Deaths by Emma Flint was the first one of the year. This book is based upon the life of Alice Crimmins who was tried for the murder of her two children in New York in 1965. The thrust of the story is that Alice was tried for her morals rather than being based on evidence. I became so immersed in Alice’s tale that I was simply unable to put this well-researched book aside.

 

A Book At the Bottom Of Your To Be Read Pile

2017 was the year I made a concerted effort to read some of my earlier purchases that have been languishing on my kindle. Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves was purchased way back in 2012 and is the fourth in the brilliant Vera series. In this outing a body is found in a sauna at a health club Vera visits in a short-lived attempt to tackle her lifestyle. What more can I say, fab characters, a proper mystery with clues to be solved and the best non clichéd detective to walk the beat.

 

 A Book Your Friend Loves

I went on holiday to Crete in 2016 and visited the island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony. On my return I told my friend all about it and she urged me to read The Island by Victoria Hislop which she’d already read. Well eventually the book made it to the top of the TBR and I fell in love with the story, bought even more alive because I’d trod in the footsteps of the fictional characters that I read about. This is almost a saga story following one family from the nearby town of Plakka and the realities of life on a leper colony in the relatively recent past. A book that I won’t forget in a hurry and a delight to read.

 

 

A Book That Scares You

I rarely get scared by a book but the cover of Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham was enough to give me the willies. This is another true crime read, the brutal murder of a mother by a daughter and her friend in New Zealand in 1954 and perhaps because of the senselessness of the crime this book got to me far more than many of my reads in this genre. The girls lived in a land of make-believe, and had an intense friendship which was about to be halted due to Anne Perry’s move to England. The author investigates the girl’s earlier lives and comes up with some theories but none quite explain why this rare act of matricide was perpetrated. The fact that one of the girls became a mystery writer just adds another level of intrigue.

 

A Book That Is More Than 10 Years Old

2017 has been a year where I have explored a selection of books written about  true crime and so it would have been remiss of me not to include what is widely considered to be the first in this genre. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, published in 1966 tells the story of the murder of The Clutter family in Kansas. We learn about the victims in the lead up to the murders and afterwards the characters of the murderers are revealed. The amount of research that must have gone into this book is immense and this was carried out by the author and his close friend at the time, Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

The Second Book In A Series

I loved Mary-Jane Riley’s first book, The Bad Things which I read towards the end of 2016 so it was no surprise that After She Fell was purchased so I could find out more about Alex Devlin in this, the second book in the series. Alex Devlin returns to North Norfolk to investigate the death of a friend’s daughter. What she uncovers at the excusive boarding school that Elena Devonshire attended undermines the coroner’s original finding of suicide. There are multiple viewpoints, a whole heap of well-defined characters and a set of events that will have the readers longing for Alex to reveal the truth.

 

A Book With A Blue Cover

So last year I had a wealth of blue covers to choose from and even commented how they were becoming more popular; not so this year! Fortunately The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is an excellent choice because not ofound was from a mixed genre form of Memoir combined with true crime. This was engaging and interesting in equal parts telling the story of a true-crime as well as showing the legal files alongside the memoir section that examines the consequences of crime on its victims. Fascinating although far from an easy read.

 

 

Well sadly I’m a square short, I really do need to start picking up some younger author’s works but on the whole a pretty impressive year, if I do say so myself.

How about you? How much of the card could you fill in? Please share!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Lying Game – Ruth Ware

Psychological Thriller
4*s

I love a psychological thriller that is based on female friendship because on the whole this is one of the most underused relationships within this type of fiction. In The Lying Game we meet four women who built their friendship at boarding school – yes, I also can’t resist boarding school fiction either probably a hangover of my love of Mallory Towers as a child. The four girls were well passed the midnight feast escapades by the time they met, well into their teens and their illicit acts had more to do with alcohol, cigarettes and escaping across the marshes to one of the number’s nearby cottage.

Now an adult, Isa has a young baby and in the early hours she receives the text she hoped she never would, just three stark words that chill her ‘I need you.’ The text comes from Kate, her friend in Saltern, the one who never left the area where the four friends boarded. As Isa makes her excuses and takes the train to Saltern, she’s wondering whether Fatima and Thea are also making their way to the cottage. Needless to say they also received the text. And the reader, having read the opening chapter knows why – a dog has made an unwelcome discovery on the marshes.

The four girls, now women, were quite different and rarely the gentle exploration of religious beliefs was welcomed by this reader as we see how Fatima’s relaxed approach as a teenager has altered as she has grown, married and had a family. Now a doctor she wears her headscarf and follows the teachings as a Muslim. Thea is not so secure in life, struggling to find her calling she marshals her life with too much booze and too little food. And Isa, with her position in the legal profession on hold while she’s on maternity leave, appears to have put the past behind her. As for Kate, she has clung on, living in her artistic father’s house in Saltern, the scene of their childhood escape route, and ignoring the rumours that still swirl around the village as she clings to the past.

This is the sort of novel you can race through with ease and although it starts slowly, I was invested from the first page wondering what secrets the four were hiding. The title comes from the time the four became friends, excluding the other boarders in the type of friendship that is peculiar to some teenage girls. There was no room for anyone, or anything else in their lives and any potential hangers-on were kept at bay by the game devised by Thea – ‘The Lying Game’ invented to play pranks, not on any new girls, but those popular girls, and teachers, the ones who made sure their superiority was not in doubt.
Although the book didn’t have the huge twist that readers have come to expect from the genre, the exploration of friendship, both as teenagers, and adults was perfectly executed and the setting was brilliant. I felt I was there with the women, looking out over the landscape, in the unique cottage or even in the somewhat shabby boarding school with its endless staircases.

The Lying Game would make the perfect holiday read, escapism bound up with truths that many readers will identify with.

I am very grateful to the publishers Random House UK who provided me with a copy of The Lying Game which was a thoroughly engaging read; this unbiased review is my thanks to them. For those of you who prefer to read paperbacks, this one will be published in that form in March 2018.

First Published UK: 15 June 2017
Publisher: Harvill Secker
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Ruth Ware

In a Dark Dark Wood
The Woman in Cabin 10

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

Sweet Little Lies – Caz Frear

Crime Fiction
5*s

Cat Kinsella is a Detective Constable in the Met, in keeping with the fictional detectives we know and love she does a bit of a shady back-story and is being closely mentored by the SIO DCI Kate Steele after falling to pieces following a recent murder but as we are to find out there is something far darker in her background.

This is a police procedural with a dash of psychological thriller elements and has an overwhelming original feel to it that I was drawn in instantly into Cat’s tale. With the majority of the book set in the present day at the Met following the discovery of a woman’s body in park in Islington, London. What Cat doesn’t tell her fellow officers is that she knows the victim, Maryanne Doyle, or rather knew her, from a holiday to Mulderrin, on the west coast of Ireland back in 1998. Cat was just eight whilst Maryanne was a glamorous teenager who had no time for little kids, unless they had a Tinkerbell necklace that matched her belly button piercing. You’ll have to read the book to find out what that little mystery is about because as the readers find out first-hand through the younger Cat’s eyes as we travel back in time, most convincingly, to an age when Cat was keen on the Spice Girls, adores her father although the secrets they share sometimes make her feel uncomfortable. Why? Well she saw him flirting with Maryanne Doyle before she disappeared sparking a police search, and then he told the police he didn’t know her.

For all the frivolity of the Spice Girls and the like from the 1990s and the appealing character of Cat, at both ages, this book has a complex plot and the investigation throws up all sorts of problems not least when Maryanne’s husband realises that what he thought he knew about her life was false with a capital F. The officer’s biggest problem is to try to sift the truth from the lies. That brings me to the title, none of the lies are ‘sweet’ or even ‘little’ so perhaps Caz Frear should be held accountable for a misleading title? I forgive her though because this is definitely one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. As Cat struggles with her feelings towards her father, her fears that he knows more than he’s letting on this is a portrait of a dysfunctional family that doesn’t go overboard. Instead we are treated  a family who to the untrained eye rubs along as well as most, even if Cat is keen to avoid them over the festive turkey!

The author has balanced the need for memorable characters in the police procedural without letting their lives overshadow the crime itself. Although I was rooting for Caz, I liked this young woman who was living what I imagine is a fairly typical contemporary life, in a room in a house in London, no fancy riverside apartments for our detective! She has split loyalty of the most fundamental kind and so it is easy to wonder not only what she is going to do, but what I would do in the same position.

With brilliant characterisation alongside inspired plotting this is a book that you will not want to put down until you turn that last page. I’m not at all surprised that it won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition 2016, it is very hard to believe that a book that ticks all the boxes so decisively is a debut novel.

I’d like to say thank you to the publishers Bonnier Zaffre who sent me a copy of Sweet Little Lies  months ago, before it was first published in June! I’m sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it but belated thanks for allowing me to read such a fresh and inviting book. I can’t wait to see what Caz Frear comes up with next.

Crime fiction lovers, if you haven’t read this book yet it appears to be at an absolute bargain price for the kindle with the paperback version having been published just this week.

First Published UK: 29 June 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
No. of Pages:  470
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Book of Forgotten Authors – Christopher Fowler

Non-Fiction
5*s

If you are looking for a gift for a bibliophile you can’t go far wrong with this wonderful book that I know I will treasure and refer to for years to come.

Christopher Fowler 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.

As is likely with a collection of this kind there were many authors I knew, some whose name I’d heard of, but many that had never crossed with my life – the brilliance being I loved reading the author’s succinct comments about those I’d known while having a real interest in seeing what I may have missed out on with those unknown to me.

The second chapter covers Virginia Andrews which is included for those of us of a certain age, I honestly remember seeing this book in all the houses of my contemporaries for many years when they were the certain finds in charity bookshops.

It seems that the feverish hothouse atmosphere of life in the attic appealed to the temperament of teenaged girls, who clearly wanted to have their most macabre fears about sex confirmed and bought the books in their millions.

Many of the links indicate those authors whose work was used for TV or films or radio series including Leslie Charteris who wrote nearly one hundred of the Saint adventures:

Simon Templar, the man who used Catholic Saint’s names as false identities. He is the world’s greatest thief, but he uses his powers against despots and villains, although the police are forever trying to put him behind bars. He leaves his calling card at the scenes of his crimes, comprising a stick figure with a halo.

Some authors included were collectors who passed on the baton to others following their demise including Harry Hodge who was the author of Notable British Trials series which included one of the criminals, Madeline Smith, who has popped up in much of my reading around poisoners. Madeline Smith was put on trial for poisoning her lover with arsenic laced cocoa. A latter contributor to the series was John Mortimer who provided the 1984 collection.

Apart from the wonderfully surprising mix of authors interposed between the authors themselves there are chapters that cover subjects as diverse as The Forgotten Booker Winners, The Forgotten Disney Connection and my favourite The Forgotten Nonsense Writers which includes a wonderful piece about the trick book Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames – The D’Antin Manuscripts, the English-language nursery rhymes written homophonically in nonsense French. Even the manuscript’s title, when spoken aloud, sounds like “Mother Goose’s Rhymes” with a strong French accent, a copy of which had graced my bookshelf as a pre-teen but that I’d completely forgotten about.

This truly is a book that will resurrect unique memories for every bibliophile as well as providing a wealth of information as well as a long list of books to seek out from their forgotten place in English literature. I will leave you with another author in the Forgotten Nonsense Writers, Hilaire Belloc and his Cautionary Tales for Children:

squarely aimed at terrifying middle-class children into good behaviour with gruesome moralistic poems which included… and Matilda who Told Lies and was Burned to Death.

The latter a poem my mother was often found to be quoting to the young Cleopatra amid some transgression and for which hearing about Matilda yet again meant I probably should have had a heavy dose of counselling to omit the memories – sadly this book bought them flooding back but also noted

It rather makes you wish for modern-day versions: Darrell who Stared at his Phone and was Crushed by a Cement Mixer.

I was honoured to receive a copy of The Book of Forgotten Authors as part of the blog tour promotion – this review is my heartfelt and honest thanks to all involved.

First Published UK: 5 October 2017
Publisher: Riverrun
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

CHRISTOPHER FOWLER

A typical example of the late 20th century midlist author, Christopher Fowler was born in the less attractive part of Greenwich in 1953, the son of a scientist and a legal secretary. He went to a London Guild school, Colfe’s, where, avoiding rugby by hiding in the school library, he was able to begin plagiarising in earnest. He published his first novel, Roofworld, described as ‘unclassifiable’, while working as an advertising copywriter. He left to form The Creative Partnership, a company that changed the face of film marketing, and spent many years working in film, creating movie posters, tag lines, trailers and documentaries, using his friendship with Jude Law to get into nightclubs.

During this time Fowler achieved several pathetic schoolboy fantasies, releasing an appalling Christmas pop single, becoming a male model, posing as the villain in a Batman comic, creating a stage show, writing rubbish in Hollywood, running a night club, appearing in the Pan Books of Horror and standing in for James Bond.

Now the author of over forty novels and short story collections, including his award-winning memoir Paperboy and its sequel Film Freak, he writes the Bryant & May mystery novels, recording the adventures of two Golden Age detectives in modern-day London.
In 2015 he won the CWA Dagger In The Library award for his detective series, once described by his former publisher as ‘unsaleable’.

Fowler is still alive and one day plans to realise his ambition to become a Forgotten Author himself.

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 20)

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

My current read is The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti, a tale which starts with birds falling from the sky, this along with the feathers that accompanied the book makes me incredibly glad that I don’t have this particular phobia.

Blurb

Where did they come from? Why did they fall?

In a ​quie​t​ town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the​ ​reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a student, Lucia Hamm. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are ​having an affair, throwing the town into an uproar and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.

Nate​’​s coworker, Bridget Harris, is determined to prove his innocence. Bridget knows the key to Nate​’​s exoneration and the truth of Lucia​’​s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of ​t​h​e missing girl’s journal.

The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti​’​s signature chillingly satisfying twists and turns.Where did they come from? Why did they fall?

In a ​quie​t​ town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the​ ​reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a student, Lucia Hamm. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are ​having an affair, throwing the town into an uproar and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.

Nate​’​s coworker, Bridget Harris, is determined to prove his innocence. Bridget knows the key to Nate​’​s exoneration and the truth of Lucia​’​s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of ​t​h​e missing girl’s journal.

The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti​’​s signature chillingly satisfying twists and turns. Amazon

The last book I read was Helen FitzGerald’s My Last Confession – a psychological thriller with a Probation Officer and a murder as the two main protagonists.

Blurb

When she starts her new job as a parole officer, Krissie is happy and in love. Then she meets convicted murderer Jeremy, and begins to believe he may be innocent. Her growing obsession with his case threatens to jeopardise everything – her job, her relationship and her life.

Perfect for fans of Julia Crouch, Sophie Hannah and Laura Lippman, My Last Confession is a dark and compelling psychological thriller that traces a young parole officer and her dangerous obsession with a convicted murderer. Amazon

Next I will be reading Bad Girls from History: Wicked or Misunderstood? by Dee Gordon.

Blurb

You wont be familiar with every one of the huge array of women featured in these pages, but all, familiar or not, leave unanswered questions behind them. The range is extensive, as was the research, with its insight into the lives and minds of women in different centuries, different countries, with diverse cultures and backgrounds, from the poverty stricken to royalty. Mistresses, murderers, smugglers, pirates, prostitutes and fanatics with hearts and souls that feature every shade of black (and grey!).

From Cleopatra to Ruth Ellis, from Boudicca to Bonnie Parker, from Lady Caroline Lamb to Moll Cutpurse, from Jezebel to Ava Gardner. Less familiar names include Mary Jeffries, the Victorian brothel-keeper, Belle Starr, the American gambler and horse thief, La Voisin, the seventeenth-century Queen of all Witches in France but these are random names, to illustrate the variety of the content in store for all those interested in women who defy law and order, for whatever reason. The risque, the adventurous and the outrageous, the downright nasty and the downright desperate all human (female!) life is here. From the lower stratas of society to the aristocracy, class is not a common denominator.

Wicked? Misunderstood? Nave? Foolish? Predatory? Manipulative? Or just out of their time?

Read and decide. Amazon

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

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

Then She Was Gone – Lisa Jewell

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I have been a fan of Lisa Jewell’s writing for many, many years and through those years her writing has gone from light-hearted rom-coms via a very good historical fiction book through the shades of grey to Then She Was Gone which is very dark indeed.

Laurel Mack’s daughter Ellie was on her way to the library ten years ago when she went missing. The police believed she’d run away, but there were no sightings and Laurel and her husband Paul disintegrated under the weight of not knowing what had happened to their precious youngest daughter,  a girl who was just fifteen and about to sit her GCSE’s. With Ellie predicted high grades and no known problems at home she is remembered forever as a pretty teen by her parents and her older siblings Hanna and Jake, and if truth be told, she was her mother’s favourite.

What had Laurel’s life been like, ten years ago, when she’d had three children and not two? Had she woken up every morning suffused with existential joy? No, she had not. Laurel had always been a glass-half-empty type of person. She could find much to complain about in even the most pleasant of scenarios and could condense the joy of good news into a short-lived moment, quickly curtailed by some new bothersome concern…

 …That was how she’d once viewed her perfect life: as a series of bad smells and unfulfilled duties, petty worries and late bills.
And then one morning, her girl, her golden girl, her lastborn, her baby, her soulmate, her pride and her joy, had left the house and not come back.

So ten years down the line when Laurel meets a friendly single father in the local café she has got used to her own company, unlike Paul who has a new wife Bonny, Laurel has not been interested in meeting someone new. And then Laurel’s introduced to Paul’s daughter Poppy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ellie.

This is a book where the author gives enough pointers for what you assume is the answer to the main mystery fairly early on in the book and in doing so lets the characters walk off the pages and into your life where you will be hard pushed to forget them easily. But beware, not everything is quite as it seems and this novel turns out to be simultaneously a fantastic tale and yet on the other one that is entirely believable probably because the characters we meet are ones that are so realistic.

The narration is mainly done by Laurel, a woman who you can’t but help to sympathise with for her loss but also we here from Ellie, Lloyd and Noelle a strange but still realistic woman who has links to both families all of which reveal to us aspects of the tale that Laurel is blind to. The change in narrator and time periods are expertly handled and this is a psychological thriller which brilliantly hinges on the characters rather than high-octane action, making for a satisfying read because despite changes genres Lisa Jewell still writes with a sharp eye for details and emotions that we all experience while we are hopefully living slightly less dramatic lives than the characters in this book.

I highly recommend  Then You Were Gone  the perfect book to slip into the suitcase for a holiday read; I will now I sit and wait for Lisa Jewell to write her next book.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of Then She Was Gone before publication today, 27 July 2017.

First Published UK: 27 July 2017
Publisher: Century
No of Pages: 432
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

My favourite Lisa Jewell books:

click on the covers to read my reviews

Before I Met YouThe House We Grew Up InThe Making of UsThe Truth About Melody Browne

Lisa Jewell Novels
• I Found You (2016)
The Girls (2015)
The Third Wife (2014)
The House We Grew Up In (2013)
Before I Met You (2012)
The Making Of Us (2011)
• After The Party (2010)
The Truth About Melody Browne (2009)
• 31 Dream Street (2007)
• Vince and Joy (2005)
• A Friend of the Family (2004)
• One Hit Wonder (2001)
• Thirtynothing (2000)
• Ralph’s Party (1999)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Blood Sisters – Jane Corry

Psychological Thriller
4*s

If you want a good psychological thriller to keep you engaged on the sunbed this year, you could do an awful lot worse than pick Jane Corry’s second novel, Blood Sisters.

Alison teaches art at evening classes, being talented but far too introverted to brave standing in front of a room full of teenagers it feels that this is the perfect solution, the trouble is, it isn’t enough to pay the bills and keep the wolf from the door, even when supplemented with her stained glass creations. Then she sees an advert to become the artist in residence at the local open prison, Alison applies and is successful and soon it is time for her to give those men who are deemed near to release a chance to find their own way of expressing themselves through art.

Kitty her half-sister is severely disabled and lives in a care home, unable to speak so that others can understand we do hear her rather fruity take on life through her thoughts which are ordered and often perceptive. Kitty was determined before her accident and that quality wasn’t removed by the accident.

With Alison becoming increasingly anxious that someone has discovered her secret, one which we can’t help but feel has its roots in the accident that both girls were in some fifteen years previously, the book soon takes on a dark and claustrophobic feel.

While neither sister was particularly ‘likeable’ both having more than the odd quirk, I did like the way the author chose to promote the lives of the disabled which felt like it was invested with far more than a gimmick in mind. The depiction of Kitty’s and the fellow resident’s, most notably Margaret and Jonny was sensitively but realistically done. This author isn’t one for fairy tales, the characters we meet have the feeling of real people even if in the earlier part of the book I did wonder how many coincidences we were expected to believe in but rest assured, even this part of the psychological thriller writer’s armoury is later revealed to be not exactly what I’d earlier assumed. While the scenes in the prison were in part used to increase the tension to the uppermost threshold, Jane Corry easily avoided the use of clichés when describing the men incarcerated there.

Given the title you can be forgiven for wondering if this is a book about a pair of siblings and their lives, and of course it is in part, but there is far more to this book than an event in the past, even if that is the hook that everything else revolves around.

Jane Corry has categorically proved with this second book (her first, My Husband’s Wife also being totally gripping) that not only can she write the twistiest and turniest of engaging thrillers but that she has nailed the absolute must for writers of this genre, her books are compelling precisely because the characters, no matter whether they are in prison or hospital or just clinging onto everyday life, are believable and consistent. People are complex and those who feature in Blood Sisters mirror that complexity in a terrifically satisfying read.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Penguin  for providing me with a copy of Blood Sisters, this unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 29 June 2017
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 464
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (April 23)

Weekly Wrap Up

Well it has been definitely feeling more spring like here in Jersey and I’m delighted to say that having read some really fantastic books over the last few weeks I’m also feeling rejuvenated.

This Week On The Blog

The week started well with a five star review for Dead Woman Walking by the exceptional writer that is Sharon Bolton, although the review was one of the hardest I’ve ever written, with so much that I wanted to say falling under the category of ‘spoiler’ this was pretty much a gush fest.

My excerpt post this week came from Want You Gone by Chris Brookmyre a tale of blackmail in cyber land.

This Week in Books featured the authors Felicity Young, Netta Newbound and Sarah Schmidt, the first two keeping me on track with my Mount TBR 2017 challenge.

On Thursday I posted my review of The Killer on the Wall by Emma Kavanagh, a psychopath, a psychologist and a small town alongside Hadrian’s Wall made for a perplexing thriller.

Next came my review of Emma Flint’s Little Deaths which was an outstanding read inspired by the true events of the murder of Alice Crimmins in 1965. I have to say I’m really taken with the recent superb output in this sub-genre of crime fiction – why hasn’t it been given a snappy name? Or perhaps it has but I’m oblivious?

Yesterday I posted my review of Simon Said by Sarah R Shaber, the first in the Simon Shaw series about a forensic historian.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge which sparked my interest in, wait for it, the true crime which inspired this book. I finally read the book about the young girls who carried out the murder this year in Anne Perry and The Murder of the Century by Peter Graham. Harriet also led to me reading more work by this talented author and I have another waiting on the TBR – I do love it when a single book sends you on a journey of discovery.
Harriet Said is set in Formby soon after the end of World War II and scarily creates the intense friendship between Harriet and the nameless friend who narrates out tale. With precocious behaviour coupled with pretence of innocence this was a truly disturbing read.

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

Blurb

A girl returns from boarding school to her sleepy Merseyside hometown and waits to be reunited with her childhood friend, Harriet, chief architect of all their past mischief. She roams listlessly along the shoreline and the woods still pitted with wartime trenches, and encounters ‘the Tsar’ – almost old, unhappily married, both dangerously fascinating and repulsive.
Pretty, malevolent Harriet finally arrives – and over the course of the long holidays draws her friend into a scheme to beguile then humiliate the Tsar, with disastrous, shocking consequences. A gripping portrayal of adolescent transgression, Beryl Bainbridge’s classic first novel remains as subversive today as when it was written. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Just one purchase this year because I visited one of the most tempting blogs I follow; Confessions of a Mystery Novelist which is crammed full of knowledge on crime fiction from past to present. This week Margot’s spotlight post was on  A Jarful of Angels by Babs Horton.

Blurb

The remote town in the Welsh valleys was a wonderful, magical- but sometimes dangerous place in which to grow up. It was there that Iffy, Bessie, Fatty and Billy experienced a plague of frogs one summer,stumbled upon a garden full of dancing statues, found a skull with its front teeth missing- and discovered just what it was that mad Carty Annie was collecting so secretly in those jars of hers. But at the end of that long, hot summer of 1963,one of the four children disappeared.

Over thirty years later, retired detective Will Sloane, never able to forget the unsolved case, returns to Wales to resume his search for the truth. His investigation will draw him into a number of interlocking mysteries,each one more puzzling than the last. Amazon

Already on the TBR shelf for publication in June is Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett who wrote The Versions of Us which thrilled me last year.



Blurb

Alone in her studio, Cass Wheeler is taking a journey back into her past. After a silence of ten years, the singer-songwriter is picking the sixteen tracks that have defined her – sixteen key moments in her life – for a uniquely personal Greatest Hits album.
In the course of this one day, both ordinary and extraordinary, the story of Cass’s life emerges – a story of highs and lows, of music, friendship and ambition, of great love and great loss. But what prompted her to retreat all those years ago, and is there a way for her to make peace with her past?

Daughter. Mother. Singer. Lover. What are the memories that mean the most? NetGalley

In July Bonnier Zaffre is publishing the debut novel Shelter by Sarah Franklin, the second book of the year that is set in The Forest of Dean where I grew up. This one, unlike The Doll Funeral is set long before I lived there though.

Blurb

It’s 1944 and Connie is a trainee ‘lumberjill.’ She’s been transferred from blitzed Coventry to the Forest of Dean to learn the lumberjack trade as one of the women forming the backbone of Britain’s war effort. She’s nursing a huge secret and running from her tragic past, and will soon have to make a life-changing decision…
Women like Connie are finding opportunity and liberty like never before, but in this explosive moment of history everything is changing for women … and nothing is changing. Then, as now, is the price Connie must pay for her freedom too great?

This is a novel about imprisonment and escape, about what makes a family, about solace in nature as civilisation is ripping itself apart, about renewal after devastation, about searching for safety, about love and about what personal liberty means for a woman. NetGalley

What have you found to read this week? Do share, I’m always on the lookout for a good book!

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 4 books and gained just 1!! Yes just one book has made it across the threshold this week, and so the grand total is hurtling downwards to 187, a low previously seen in early March
Physical Books – 112
Kindle Books – 58
NetGalley Books – 17