Posted in 5 Of the Best

Five of the Best – Five Star Reads (January 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 January 2014 is historical fiction. Wake by Anna Hope features  The Hammersmith Palais de Danse acts almost as a character in its own right. The ‘real’ characters are:
Ada, 45, whose son never returned from the war.
Evelyn almost 30 lives with a friend, another spinster and goes to work each day in the Pension Exchange interviewing the wounded.
Hettie who lives with her mother and shell-shocked brother Fred who is employed as a dancer at The Hammersmith Palais de Danse.

This was a beautiful, if incredibly moving read, bravely, published in the hundredth anniversary of the start of the war, containing far more anti-war sentiment than many set in this time period.

Blurb

Remembrance Day 1920: A wartime secret connects three women’s lives: Hettie whose wounded brother won’t speak; Evelyn who still grieves for her lost lover; and Ada, who has never received an official letter about her son’s death, and is still waiting for him to come home. As the mystery that binds them begins to unravel, far away, in the fields of France, the Unknown Soldier embarks on his journey home. The mood of the nation is turning towards the future – but can these three women ever let go of the past? Amazon

I read one of the biggest psychological thrillers of 2015 in January of the same year: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins which although not the first big title featuring a ‘girl’ also helped to spawn a whole ream of other books with girls in the title.

My conclusion was that it is an accomplished debut, written by an author who has exactly the right balance of ingredients for a psychological suspense novel, a well-plotted mystery, a handful of life-like characters, events revealed at the right time and an ending that didn’t disappoint.

Blurb

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train… Amazon

I was a little bit further behind the times with my five star choice for 2016 as Burial Rites by Hannah Kent had been published in 2013. The story of Agnes Magnúsdótti, the last person to be executed in Iceland left its mark on me. This nuanced tale of a woman accused of murder living within a family whilst she awaited her fate is coiled with superstition and dread.

Blurb

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover.

Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.

Based on actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving novel about the truths we claim to know and the ways in which we interpret what we’re told. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, in which every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? Amazon

January 2017 was always going to feature a book that is incredibly special to me (you can read why here). A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys is a historical tale set on an ocean liner at the brink of WWII. Not only is it a brilliant piece of social history, it has visits to far-flung places whilst encompassing a brilliant story with fabulous characters. The closed environment provides a somewhat combustible mix of characters, all bought brilliantly to life by the clothes they wear, their chatter over dinner along with how they chose to spend all their time while their new home, and life, inches closer – and there is a mystery – what more could you want?

Blurb

England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.
What has she done? Amazon

I always find it hardest to judge a favourite book closer to the time I read it but for the top review of 2018 I am choosing Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan which consists of a rape trial, Oxford University and Number 10 Downing Street. An explosive mix of the highly privileged and a scandal that has the power to destroy those in power. This is not only a triumph of impeccable timing given the state of politics and rape trials of the moment, it is also immensely readable.

Blurb

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it.

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes. Amazon

If you want to see what the five books featured on Five of the Best for January 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.

Posted in Uncategorized

Cleopatra’s Top 10 Books Published in 2017

Once again I have awarded a whole array of books the magic 5 stars which means whittling this down to a mere ten quite a task indeed, one that I have been pondering since the start of December in fact… so without further ado here are the ten books published in 2017 that I consider to have been truly outstanding and memorable reads.

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys 

For those who haven’t heard me endlessly wittering on about this book in 2017 this book sits on my historical novel shelf. Not only is it a brilliant piece of social history depicting life on a ship at the start of WWII, it has visits to far-flung places whilst encompassing a brilliant story with fabulous characters. The closed environment provides a somewhat combustible mix of characters, all bought brilliantly to life by the clothes they wear, their chatter over dinner along with how they chose to spend all their time while their new home, and life, inches closer – and there is a mystery – what more could you want?
And for those of you who haven’t heard, I have a cameo role in the novel following winning an auction run by Clic Sargent in 2016.

The Long Drop by Denise Mina

This book is one inspired by the true crimes perpetrated by Peter Manuel in 1950s Glasgow. It’s atmospheric tackling the weighty topics of innocence and guilt whilst brilliantly depicting a time and place in a way that shows off Denise Mina’s talents to the full. The storytelling is nuanced and assured with details oozing out of each sentence, not just about the crimes but about the characters, the essence of the lives they lived and the Glasgow of that age before the slums were cleared and Glasgow was cleaned up. While this isn’t a linear story telling, it is all the more captivating because we wait for the details; the half-eaten sandwich left abandoned at the murder scene, the empty bottle of whisky left on the sideboard for the police to find after the shock of the broken bodies left in the bedroom have been discovered.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Cyril Avery, the protagonist of this meaty book, has earned a place in my heart. The story which follows one man from shortly after conception until 2015. With its unusual structure, we sweep in seven-year intervals into his life and then onto the next meeting new and old characters along the way. A book that is funny and poignant which took me on a journey from delight to sorrow and back again in this sweeping saga set mainly in Dublin. A book of times and attitudes which is surprisingly uplifting.

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase 

You know you’re onto a good thing when you open a book and know before you’ve finished the first page that it’s a book to curl up with. In this story set in 1950s England we meet four sisters one summer, a year that will change their view of the world forever. This is a summer that will have repercussions for years to come as innocence is lost. The mystery at the heart of the book is the disappearance of Audrey, their cousin who vanished five years earlier but this is also a book with recurring themes from the bonds between sisters, the ghosts of the past who can cast shadows over lives, the difficulties in growing up with those relationships between friends and mothers all getting an airing. I closed this book with a tear rolling down my cheek.

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

I wasn’t sure what a mixture between true crime and a memoir would be like but this was a book that I picked up to feature in my excerpt post and simply couldn’t put it down again. When Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich joins a law firm in New Orleans as an intern, whose work is based on having death sentences overturned, she feels she is about to start the career she is supposed to have. The daughter of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti the death penalty. But all that turns when she watches a video of Rick Langley who has been convicted of killing a six-year-old boy, Jeremy Guillory. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the crime is awful but what shocks the author most is that she feels so strongly that Rick Langley should die for the crime he committed. She no longer believes what she thought she did and that has consequences on her life and the more she tries to understand why she draws parallels with her own life. This is a difficult subject but written with intelligence shot through it.

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister


This ‘sliding doors’ scenario is a brilliant way to demonstrate a meaty moral dilemma.Two friends meet for their regular Friday night out at a bar in London and meet a man who is slightly too pushy, deciding to leave they part ways and Joanna walks home taking the route by the canal when she hears someone following her. Now ladies, we’ve all been there – unable to tell whether the threat running through your head is real or imagined. What happens next will change Joanna’s life forever. With sparkling dialogue which is entertaining yet realistic and faultless plotting this book had me captured right from the start and didn’t let me go until after I had turned the last page.

Dying Games by Steve Robinson 

This series features my favourite genealogist Jefferson Tayte. Although the majority of the action happens in the present day the seeds of the action in Dying Games belong firmly in the past. In Washington, DC the FBI are interested in Jefferson Tayte, aka JT, so he breaks off his Scottish trip with his fiancée to return to answer their questions. A serial killer is leaving clues with a genealogical bent and it is now a race against time to stop any more people losing their lives. Steve Robinson has produced a real puzzle within this thriller! Or perhaps I should say lots of mini puzzles which require different aspects of genealogical research to solve. This will ensure that those readers who have hit a brick wall in their own family history research can put things into perspective; unless you are in the unlikely position of having to find a particular person’s details otherwise someone else may die!

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly


In He Said/She Said the story moves backwards and forwards from 11 August 1999, the time of the solar eclipse, to fifteen years later when Kit is planning to travel to the Faroe Islands, chasing another eclipse and we learn what an impact that first meeting had on all four characters and the ripples haven’t decreased with the passing years. The story line is gritty, as may be expected from the title the heart of the matter is a trial for rape and the details of what happened are told from a number of perspectives. This is an involved and thoughtful tale, one that really did make me think and I’m delighted to report that Erin Kelly never forgets that she is writing to entertain her reader and she avoids bashing the reader over the head about rape, and the trials that all too rarely follow such an accusation. I believe it is a sign of a writer who has confidence, not only in herself, but of her readers to air the important issues this

The Scandal by Frederik Backman

Despite being no lover of sports and definitely not ice-hockey this book which centres round a small town in Sweden’s obsession with the sport had me captivated. Frederik Backman writes in a style that repeats phrases and themes from one section to another so when the book got tough, and it does, the stylistic flair kept the momentum going forward while the reader comes to terms with what has been revealed. There are issues galore and normally when I say that, I’m not being complimentary because it can feel as if the author is leaping from bandwagon to bandwagon. That isn’t the case with The Scandal where the issues in the book are tightly linked to the players on a personal level. The Scandal turned out to be  thought-provoking, intelligent crime novel.

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins

I’m not going to lie, I was drawn to this book by its striking cover but what I found within the pages exceeded my expectations by far. Olivia Sweetman is making her way to address all two hundred guests gathered at The Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons in London. All those people are amongst the jars of organs to celebrate the publication of historian Olivia Sweetman’s book, Annabel, a study of a Victorian woman who became one of the first surgeons, a woman who also had a sensational personal life too, captured within Annabel in her own words. But, all is not as it should be as we find out as this superior psychological novel unfolds and the intricate storyline full of fascinating detail will stay with me for a long time to come.

So what do you think? Have you read any of these titles or do you want to?

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have visited me here on my little corner of the internet, as well of course as the authors and publishers who have provided me with so many great books to read throughout the year. I look forward to discovering new places, people and dark plots in 2018 and do hope you will all join me on my journey.

You can check out my list of reviews written in 2017 here
Or perhaps you want to check out my Reading Bingo 2017 Edition or you can check out my look back over the past year reading and reviewing along with my goals for 2018 here.

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, Five Star Reads

A Dangerous Crossing – Rachel Rhys

Historical Fiction 5*s
Historical Fiction
5*s

A Dangerous Crossing was my First Book of the Year 2017, a book that I was especially looking forward to due to the fact I’d won a charity auction run on behalf of CLIC Sargent to win my name in a book, and this was the one! Rachel Rhys has penned her first historical fiction novel, although you may have met her penmanship under the name Tammy Cohen where she’s written a mixture of contemporary and psychological fiction.

The book opens with a scene from the end of the journey from Tilbury docks to Australia with a dockside arrest, a scene that stuck in my head as the trip took us on a magnificent journey across high seas with the occasional stop in some far flung land. For Lilian Shepard has left her family following a disappointment in love to be a domestic servant in Australia, she is going to see the world and has grabbed the chance of an assisted passage to do so. Despite the confined nature, albeit on a fairly large liner, the Orontes, Lily learns more about life during the journey than she could ever have expected.

The year is 1939, the month is August and the rumours that the Germans are going to precipitate a war are getting harder to ignore. Lily’s father, who has been mute since the First World War is worried and now her adored brother may be in danger. Lily has decided to write a diary of her passage across the world, so that she doesn’t forget anything, but given the characters she is about to spend five weeks of her life with, that seems unlikely.

orontes

Rachel Rhys paints a brilliant picture of life on this ocean liner so that I felt that I was completely transported. Ask me;  I can describe the hot laundry where the guests wash and dry their clothes, the small cabin that Lily shares with Ida and Audrey, two fellow assisted travel passengers, the deck where they walk to work of the huge amount of food they are served to break up the boredom and the first class cocktail bar where Lily joins Max and Eliza Campbell for games of cards and gossip. Life on the ocean liner is nothing like anything Lily has experienced before. Max and Eliza are huge characters but despite muttered warnings Lily is drawn to them like a moth to a flame, the question is, will she get burnt? At the other end of the scale there are the Jews fleeing the life they have known, wearing the only clothes they own on board and unsurprisingly, given the point in history; a minority of passengers who have sympathy with the Nazi’s views on them. On a closed environment, a somewhat combustible mix of characters, all bought brilliantly to life by the clothes they wear, their chatter over dinner along with how they chose to spend all their time while their new home, and life, inches closer.

I loved every minute of the journey especially the observations Lily makes as she chats with her dining companions, the snippets of information that are revealed along the way of the main cast of characters means that it is apparent that no-one is quite what they first appeared to be. Everyone has secrets that they would prefer had been firmly left behind with their family and friends when they stepped up the gangplank to begin their journey for a new life.

This is truly one of those books to get immersed in, the glamour of the first class passengers, the uncertainty of the time, the snapshots of the countries they visit from Gibraltar to Egypt along the way provide a backdrop to the pitch-perfect atmospheric story, so expertly told.

This review may seem biased, I make no apology, it is, but I am sure that even if you haven’t been lucky enough to have a cameo role (look out for Cleopatra Bannister who appears in the last section) there is so very much to enjoy, as this story rolls along with the waves it rides on.

I am very grateful to have received a signed copy of A Dangerous Crossing from the author, ahead of publication on 23 March 2017 by Doubleday, a story not to be missed.

First Published UK: 23 March 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (January 4)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lipsyy 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

I am currently reading Redemption by Jill McGown as part of my Goodreads Mount TBR challenge which will see me reading 36 of my own books over the next year. I loved this series when it was first released but not having read them all at the time, due to availability at the library, I vowed to read them all on kindle when they were re-released in 2014. I’ve got a long way; this is the second in the series, previously released with the title Murder at the Old Vicarage.

redemption

Blurb

A white Christmas. Deepening snow isolated the village from the outside world. By the time the body in the vicarage was discovered, Byford was cut off altogether . . . A domestic murder – Chief Inspector Lloyd thought it would be an open and shut case. But it turned out to be as complex and perplexing as his relationship with Sergeant Judy Hill. And both of them seemed to be slipping from his grasp . . Amazon

The last book I finished was the amazing A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys which will be published on 23 March 2017 which I chose to read for my The First Book of  the Year 2017 for very special reasons. So if you’ve read that, you’ll know I was pre-disposed to enjoy this book, it surpassed my expectations – I loved it!

dangerous-crossing

Blurb

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever
1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.
But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.
By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again. Amazon

Next up is Relativity by Antonia Hayes which promises to be ‘Genuinely difficult to put down’ according to Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project.

relativity

Please see yesterday’s post for an excerpt and the synopsis

What are you reading this week? Feel free to leave your links, answers or any other random comments about books in the box below.

Posted in Uncategorized

The First Book Of The Year 2017

The lovey Sheila at Book Journey is on a mission to get as many pictures of books being read on 1 January 2017, so pop on over to see how many she managed to get!

The book I have chosen as the first read of the year is A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys which will be published on 23 March 2017, chosen by me for a very special reason…

The 6 March 2016 would have been my son Owen’s 22nd birthday, the day we had designated as the one where we would spread his ashes, and because the fates were determined to do their very worst, it was also Mother’s Day here in the UK. Owen’s birthday had coincided with Mother’s Day only once before, when realising Mum would do without her day, as his birthday was far more important, we exchanged cards that cold March morning with his to me saying ‘Celebrating OUR special day xx’ For the two special days to coincide this year, my first without him, seemed almost too much to bear – but as they say, the show must go on, and it did.

owen-2012

In memory of Owen pictured here in 2012

At the same time a group of authors were holding an auction to raise funds for CLIC Sargent, a charity that supports children and young adults from the moment of a cancer diagnosis onwards. Now we didn’t have the support of this charity, but I’m well aware of the different needs of someone Owen’s age to a cancer diagnosis. It is particularly tough that at a time when youngsters think they are invincible, that they are forced to confront something so tough.  That’s not to say we had no support, we did and all the healthcare professionals we met were exceptional, but on a small island there was no-one else Owen’s age, dealing with that kind of news, and I wish there had been something more tailored to his needs.

The closing date for the auction was, yes – 6 March 2016, and I was determined to give funds to this charity, and to do so, I had to win an auction. I entered several knowing that we would be having our special meal for Owen at the time it closed. Having eaten a lovely meal and raised my (final) Gin and Tonic, I checked the website and was thrilled to see I had won the prize I really wanted – to be named in one of Tammy Cohen’s books! When the formalities were done, she told me (I had to keep it secret) that she was writing a historical novel and she didn’t think my name would fit in that one, so did I mind waiting, I didn’t – and then she surprised me – I have a cameo role in A Dangerous Crossing under her pen name Rachel Rhys! How cool is that? She kindly sent me the proof a while ago and it was instantly reserved for this post.

dangerous-crossing

Blurb

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again. Amazon

So with a huge thank you to Rachel Rhys especially for her kind words in my signed copy, and in the sincere hope that my small donation will help another young person, I’m eager to see what my cameo role is!

Now the point of Sheila’s post was to collect pictures and unhappily I’ve had a vicious virus since Christmas, so here I am hiding behind A Dangerous Crossing so not to scare you all too much. After all it is New Year’s Day not Halloween!!

read-into-2017

What is your first read of 2017 going to be?

Wishing everyone of you much health, happiness and good books in 2017.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (November 7)

Weekly Wrap Up

Well the wind and rain has started here so all the more excuse to tuck myself up and enjoy some good books.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with a five star review of My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood which reflected my pleasant surprise at how the author’s decision to feature the main protagonist as a war reporter was used in such an intelligent way. This book was just full of surprises.

Tuesday had me featuring the opening paragraph from While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft, her latest psychological thriller where we meet a married woman who wakes up naked in bed next to her neighbour, only to realise he’s been murdered. I’ve finished this read now, and my review will follow shortly.

My weekly This Week in Books post indicted that my next read would be Great Small Things by Jodi Picoult which I’m currently immersed in.

Another review on Thursday, this time for Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan which featured the world of vloggers amongst many other things, in this exciting, high action thriller.

On Friday I reviewed For All Our Sins by T.M.E. Walsh, the first in a series featuring DCI Claire Winters. There was a lot to enjoy in this debut and enough to ensure that the next book has made it to the wishlist…

Which brings me neatly to my re-visit of the TBR Book Tag in which I first counted and confronted my TBR on 6 November 2015 – see how my TBR fared over the year here.

This Time Last Year

I read one of the books that made it to my Top Ten list for 2015 – The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minett which absolutely wowed me. On the surface this is a book with a truly shocking opening and a woman who inherits a house and doesn’t understand why. On a deeper level the reader is challenged to question whether right and wrong is as black and white as we would like it to be.  See my review here

The Hidden Legacy Cover Reveal

Ellen has received a life-changing inheritance. If only she knew who had left it to her . . .

1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.

2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .

Recently divorced and with two young children, Ellen Sutherland is up to her elbows in professional and personal stress. When she’s invited to travel all the way to Cheltenham to hear the content of an old woman’s will, she’s far from convinced the journey will be worthwhile.

But when she arrives, the news is astounding. Eudora Nash has left Ellen a beautiful cottage worth an amount of money that could turn her life around. There’s just one problem – Ellen has never even heard of Eudora Nash.

Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country in search of answers. But they are not the only ones interested in the cottage, and Ellen little imagines how much she has to learn about her past . . . Amazon


Stacking the Shelves

As anyone who read yesterday’s post will know, I need to seriously cut down on the number of books I acquire so be warned, this may be the last bumper post for a while…

From NetGalley I have been lucky enough to receive a copy of Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land, I just can’t resist the early hype for this psychological thriller which will be published on 12 January 2017.

good-me-bad-me

Blurb

‘NEW N A M E . NEW F A M I LY. S H I N Y. NEW. ME .
‘ Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. But out of sight is not out of mind. As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly. A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.
Good me, bad me. She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…

I saw a wonderful review for The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy on The Quiet Knitter’s Blog and was delighted to be approved a copy too. The House of Birds was published on 3 November 2016.

house-of-birds

Blurb

Oliver has spent years trying to convince himself that he’s suited to a life of money making in the city, and that he doesn’t miss a childhood spent in pursuit of mystery, when he cycled around the cobbled lanes of Oxford, exploring its most intriguing corners.
When his girlfriend Kate inherits a derelict house – and a fierce family feud – she’s determined to strip it, sell it and move on. For Oliver though, the house has an allure, and amongst the shelves of discarded, leather bound and gilded volumes, he discovers one that conceals a hidden diary from the 1920s.
So begins a quest: to discover the identity of the author, Sophia Louis. It is a portrait of war and marriage, isolation and longing and a story that will shape the future of the abandoned house – and of Oliver – forever. NetGalley

My pre-ordered copy of fellow blogger, Margot Kinberg’s book Past Tense dutifully arrived on my kindle on publication day 1 November 2016. If you haven’t visited Margot, I can’t recommend her blog highly enough, here is her publication day post

past-tense

Blurb

A long-buried set of remains…a decades-old mystery

Past and present meet on the quiet campus of Tilton University when construction workers unearth a set of unidentified bones.
For former police detective-turned-professor Joel Williams, it’s a typical Final Exams week – until a set of bones is discovered on a construction site…

When the remains are linked to a missing person case from 1974, Williams and the Tilton, Pennsylvania police go back to the past. And they uncover some truths that have been kept hidden for a long time.

How much do people really need to know?

It’s 1974, and twenty-year-old Bryan Roades is swept up in the excitement of the decade. He’s a reporter for the Tilton University newspaper, The Real Story, and is determined to have a career as an investigative journalist, just like his idols, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. He plans to start with an exposé article about life on the campus of Tilton University. But does everything need to be exposed? And what are the consequences for people whose lives could be turned upside down if their stories are printed? As it turns out, Bryan’s ambition carries a very high price. And someone is determined not to let the truth out. Amazon

I have also been lucky enough to receive a proof copy of A Life Between Us by Louise Walters which came with a lovely handwritten note from this author who delighted me with her earlier novel Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase. A Life Between Us will be published on 28 March 2017.

a-life-between-us

Blurb

Tina’s sister Meg died in a childhood accident, but for almost forty years Tina has secretly blamed herself for her twin’s death. During a visit to her Uncle Edward and his sister Lucia, who both harbour dark secrets of their own, Tina makes a discovery that forces her to question her memories of the day Meg died.

As Tina finds the courage to face the past, she unravels the mysteries of her estranged parents, her beautiful Aunt Simone, the fading, compassionate Uncle Edward, and above all, the cold, bitter Aunt Lucia, whose spectral presence casts a long shadow over them all.

The second novel from the author of MRS SINCLAIR’S SUITCASE is a gripping tale of a family’s disintegration and eventual redemption. Goodreads

I also was posted a copy of A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys, again with a lovely message which made my day. A Dangerous Crossing will be published in April 2017.

dangerous-crossing

Blurb

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever
1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.
But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.
By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again. Goodreads

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH

Since my last post I have read 3 books, discarded two part-read books that I’m not going to pick up again, and managed to gain 5 and so my TBR is standing at 181 books!

95 physical books
68 e-books
18 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?