Posted in 5 Of the Best

Five of the Best (August 2014 to August 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. I will be celebrating Five years of blogging later this year and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.

As I found when putting this post together my reads in August tend to be a mixed bunch as I attack my TBR for 20 Books of Summer but this is also the time of year when I review some real gems!

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

My choice for August 2014 is The Secret Place by Tana French – a writer of exceptional talent who has written a series of crime books that are all completely unique. This is my favourite of them all though even five years on!

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’

An absolutely compelling read that shouldn’t be missed.

Blurb

The photo shows a boy who was murdered a year ago.
The caption says, ‘I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM’.

Detective Stephen Moran hasn’t seen Holly Mackey since she was a nine-year-old witness to the events of Faithful Place. Now she’s sixteen and she’s shown up outside his squad room, with a photograph and a story.

Even in her exclusive boarding school, in the graceful golden world that Stephen has always longed for, bad things happen and people have secrets. The previous year, Christopher Harper, from the neighbouring boys’ school, was found murdered on the grounds. And today, in the Secret Place – the school noticeboard where girls can pin up their secrets anonymously – Holly found the card.

Solving this case could take Stephen onto the Murder squad. But to get it solved, he will have to work with Detective Antoinette Conway – tough, prickly, an outsider, everything Stephen doesn’t want in a partner. And he will have to find a way into the strange, charged, mysterious world that Holly and her three closest friends inhabit and disentangle the truth from their knot of secrets, even as he starts to suspect that the truth might be something he doesn’t want to hear. Amazon

In August 2015 I was caught up in the psychological thriller Burnt Paper Sky now known as What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan, which examines the story behind the ‘missing child’ headlines. A big part of this book is to examine how we react to such news as presented by the media.

This is the story of an investigation with a difference as the main thrust of the book looking at the characters involved, including Ben’s close family, his aunt and his mother’s oldest friend along with other secondary characters. The timeline is kept linear so that the reader shares the frustrations of those looking for answers whilst giving them space to try out their own theories.

A brilliant example in what has become a crowded genre and in my opinion one that shouldn’t be missed.

Blurb

Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment. Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing.

But what really happened that fateful afternoon?

Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?

The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? Amazon

I’ve chosen a nonfiction read for 2016’s choice, Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colqhoun which examines the life of Florence Maybrick, a Victorian lady living in Liverpool and tried for murder in August 1889.

The author has used an unusual but exceptionally effective structure in her examination as to whether Florence did poison her husband using arsenic. First we are presented with the facts in line with a more generous view of Florence than she is given by many researchers (I have read a few books featuring this suspected murderess). Then, towards the end the author presents the evidence from the other perspective, if Florence did harbour murderous intent, how do the facts stack up then! A brilliant construct underpinned by sterling research resulted in a fabulous read.



Blurb

In the summer of 1889, young Southern belle Florence Maybrick stood trial for the alleged arsenic poisoning of her much older husband, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick.

‘The Maybrick Mystery’ had all the makings of a sensation: a pretty, flirtatious young girl; resentful, gossiping servants; rumours of gambling and debt; and torrid mutual infidelity. The case cracked the varnish of Victorian respectability, shocking and exciting the public in equal measure as they clambered to read the latest revelations of Florence’s past and glimpse her likeness in Madame Tussaud’s.

Florence’s fate was fiercely debated in the courtroom, on the front pages of the newspapers and in parlours and backyards across the country. Did she poison her husband? Was her previous infidelity proof of murderous intentions? Was James’ own habit of self-medicating to blame for his demise?
Historian Kate Colquhoun recounts an utterly absorbing tale of addiction, deception and adultery that keeps you asking to the very last page, did she kill him? Amazon

 

My pick for August 2017 is one of the best examples of an author using a true crime as inspiration, a sub-genre which preoccupied my reading during 2017 but the most outstanding of them all was Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood which tells the story of Grace Marks accused of killing Thomas Kimner and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery.

Set in Canada this author demonstrates her exceptional skill in making her reader’s believe that this really is an account of Grace, telling her story and putting the record straight. The portrayal of a woman, imprisoned for many years for a crime she did not commit? Was it all down to her accomplice or do the things she reveals in her accounts about her mistress, her life before and her ambitions indicate that she is guilty – the reader decides. Absolutely fabulous I read the book prior to watching the serialisation on Netflix which is also well worth watching – I wanted a quilt by the time I’d watched them being created by the actress who played Grace, Sarah Gedddon.



Blurb

Sometimes I whisper it over to myself: Murderess. Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt along the floor.’
Grace Marks. Female fiend? Femme fatale? Or weak and unwilling victim? Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery. Amazon

August 2018 reviews were a bit of a mixed bunch but there was one crime fiction read that stood out; The Dry by Jane Harper set in Australia during a drought the weather is integral to the storyline.

In fact this police procedural is really two solid mysteries, both well-plotted and convoluted enough to keep the keenest of minds whirring away. But the real skill is Jane Harper’s ability to bring the characters to life. Now you may not like them all but you won’t forget many of them, I can assure you of that. So not only do you have brilliant plotting you also have great characters the small town setting which alongside the weather which should they be placed in the dock, would surely be pronounced guilty.

If you haven’t read this book, I truly urge you to do so.

Blurb

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime. Amazon

Five of the Best 2018

January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
July 2018

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 #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood #20booksofsummer

Historical Fiction 5*s

The year is 1843, the place is Ontario, Canada and the victims are Thomas Kimner and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery. Thomas had been shot whilst Nancy had been strangled.  James McDermott, Thomas Kimner’s stable hand and Grace Marks his maid were apprehended trying to escape to America and put on trial for murder. James McDermott was hanged whilst Grace was imprisoned for life. These are the facts that Margaret Atwood uses as the base of her multi-faceted novel to bring Grace’s story to life, whether her version comes close to the truth the reader will have to decide.

“I have of course fictionalized historical events (as did many commentators on this case who claimed to be writing history). I have not changed any known facts, although the written accounts are so contradictory that few facts emerge as unequivocally ‘known.’”

 By the time we meet her Grace has been imprisoned for quite some time. A model prisoner she is engaged as a maid to the Governor of the prison where she is being held. Petitions for her release have been a feature of those who protest her innocence but one man, the fictional Dr Simon Jordan wants to use her to explore her sanity, he has a goal to open a private clinic and a case study that gets attention could help him along this road. But is or was Grace ever insane? Why else would a young maid suddenly turn on her employers and become a notorious murderess? Or is there other elements to the story that the Victorian values of the day could not or would not see?

It is the conversation that Grace has with Dr Jordan that gives us her background, the long arduous journey from Dublin, the trials of living with a feckless father and younger siblings to care for and Grace’s ‘escape’ into working life as a maid, with friends who teach her the ways of the world. No one can say Grace’s story is anything but captivating and it’s bolstered by the picture of Grace recounting it whilst stitching at the table in the Governor’s house. Grace explains to Dr Jordan about the quilts that every young woman should have before she marries, the stories behind the different patterns these objects that were in every household having their own stories to tell. And of course the Doctor doesn’t know what is true and we are reminded of the uncertainty of the narrative by some fairly nifty switches from the first to the third person, denoting thoughts and words within the text itself. This gives the narrative a nebulous feel, the truth surely lies somewhere within the book, but it may be you have to decide where.

I was enchanted not only by Grace’s own story but the way that she uncovers the lives of many other women in the course of her conversations with the good Doctor. From her mother, to her friend and fellow maid Mary Whitney and Nancy the Housekeeper and mistress of Thomas Kimner then up the ranks to the daughters of the Governor who still covet a quilt for their own dowry but will have someone else carry out the minute stitching for them. Each is worthy of a story in their own right leaving me stuffed full of life-like characters by the time I turned the last page on Grace Marks and her story.

Alias Grace was my sixteenth read for my 20 Books of Summer 2017  challenge, a fine example of a true crime being used as inspiration for a novel, and a highly accomplished one at that.

First Published UK: 1996
Publisher: Virago
No of Pages: 560
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (August 9)

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

I really need to ramp up my reading (and reviewing) to try and complete the 20 Books of Summer 2017 before the deadline – it’s going to be tight!!

At the moment I a reading Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah a favourite author of mine and whose books never fail to surprise me. Did You See Melody? will be published on 24 August 2017.



Blurb

Pushed to breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life? Amazon

I’ve just finished The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne which was a brilliant read and one from my list of books that have been sat on the TBR for what seems like forever.

‘Some things are just sitting there, minding their own business, waiting to be discovered. Like America. And other things are probably better off left alone’

Nine-year-old Bruno has a lot of things on his mind. Who is the ‘Fury’? Why did he make them leave their nice home in Berlin to go to ‘Out-With’ ? And who are all the sad people in striped pyjamas on the other side of the fence? The grown-ups won’t explain so Bruno decides there is only one thing for it – he will have to explore this place alone. What he discovers is a new friend. A boy with the very same birthday. A boy in striped pyjamas. But why can’t they ever play together? Amazon

Next up I am going to read Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood which although I’m really looking forward to reading it, I am wondering why or how I managed to pick books with so many pages for the reading challenge – deep breath for what promises to be 560 pages of pure joy!

Blurb

Sometimes I whisper it over to myself: Murderess. Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt along the floor.’
Grace Marks. Female fiend? Femme fatale? Or weak and unwilling victim?
Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery. Amazon

So that’s my reading week – What are you reading? Do share in the comments box below!

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017

20 Books of Summer 2017 – Part 2 #20booksofsummer

Cathy at Cathy 746 has a yearly challenge to read twenty books over the summer months starting on 1 June 2017 and running until 3 September 2017, and once again I’ve decided to join her.

My aim this year was to read all twenty books in the allotted time span but the plan has been somewhat disrupted, however despite only posting reviews for books 1 – 5 of the challenge (you can see the original list the master page here) I have actually finished reading the first set of 10 with reviews to follow,  and so it’s time to choose the next set in the hope I will magically get these read before the cut-off date!

The links below will take you to the Goodreads description

The Ripper of Waterloo Road by Jan Bondeson

The Spider and the Fly by Claudia Rowe

Dear Mr M by Herman Koch

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Stranger in the House by Julie Summers

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

The Summer House by Santa Montefiore

The Judges Wife by Ann O’Loughlin

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie

My original second list looked a wee bit on the bleak side so I chose some cheerier books to break it up but never fear there is plenty of murder to get me through August!


I will continue to tweet my way through the challenge using the hashtag #20booksofsummer to demonstrate when one of my reads is part of this challenge!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I seem to have a big pile of books to read!

Any of these take your fancy?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (July 23)

Weekly Wrap Up

Well the last time I posted a weekly wrap up was 11 June 2017 and I want to thank all of you for bearing with you through my erratic posting. The brief story is that I went on holiday to Kos where I planned a funeral for Mum, we returned to Jersey following the funeral in the UK. Meanwhile my partner’s father was admitted to hospital in Spain where he lives and subsequently intensive care so I ended up making an unscheduled dash there; happily he is very slowly recovering and I am now home again.

My sunflower went to stay with my daughter & son-in-law in their new home, she moved out of our home the weekend before we departed for Kos and once more I have an empty nest! What we hadn’t considered that it would grow so much that we couldn’t get it in the car to bring it home so I now have visiting rights. The new home has a new addition to the family, Bertie the rescue cat who can be seen here with my fabulous sunflower!

Bertie and the Sunflower

This Week on the Blog

Wednesday featured an author post by Chris Curran entitled Ideas and Where They Come From. Chris Curran’s latest book Her Deadly Secret was published on 21 July 2017.
As you can imagine my reading over the last six weeks or so has been somewhat erratic but I but I have read a fair few books so the week ended with a run of three reviews from my backlog…

They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen
Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf
An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane by Paul Thomas Murphy a non-fiction book about the historical true crime committed against Jane Coulson in 1871 in Greenwich, London. The author’s expert research uncovers not only the details of the crime but that of the subsequent trial including contemporary news reports. With a conclusion that you may or may not agree with this book paints a vivid picture of the life and times of victim and perpetrator.

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

Blurb

In April 1871, a constable walking a beat near Greenwich found a girl dying in the mud – her face cruelly slashed and her brains protruding from her skull.

The girl was Maria Jane Clouson, a maid for the respectable Pook family, and who was pregnant at the time of her death. When the blood-spattered clothes of the 20-year-old Edmund Pook, alleged father of the dead girl’s unborn child, were discovered, the matter seemed open and shut. Yet there followed a remarkable legal odyssey full of unexpected twists as the police struggled to build a case.

Paul Thomas Murphy recreated the drama of an extraordinary murder case and conclusively identifies the killer’s true identity. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

So despite not being at home very much at all some books have still managed to find there way into my house – I am sharing a small selection here!

From NetGalley I was lucky enough to be approved for Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict which will be published in January 2018.

Blurb

In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances.  Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie.  Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy.

With capturing insight and sunning heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.  NetGalley

I also was delighted with my copy of Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre after being blown away by Blood Wedding which I read last year. Three Days and a Life was published on 13 July 2017.

Blurb

In 1999, in the small provincial town of Beauval, France, twelve-year-old Antoine Courtin accidentally kills a young neighbour boy in the woods near his home. Panicked, he conceals the body and to his relief–and ongoing shame–he is never suspected of any connection to the child’s disappearance.
But the boy’s death continues to haunt him, shaping his life in unseen ways. More than a decade later, Antoine is living in Paris, now a young doctor with a fiancée and a promising future. On a rare trip home to the town he hates and fears, Antoine thoughtlessly sleeps with a beautiful young woman from his past. She shows up pregnant at his doorstep in Paris a few months later, insisting that they marry, but Antoine refuses.

Meanwhile, the newly discovered body of Antoine’s childhood victim means that the case has been reopened, and all of his old fears rush back. Then the young woman’s father threatens Antoine with a paternity test–which would almost certainly match the DNA found on the dead child’s body. Will Antoine finally be forced to confront his crime? And what is he prepared to do to keep his secrets buried in the past? NetGalley

I received a copy of Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood earlier this month for my birthday – the present giver cleverly knowing that I haven’t ever got around to reading this book since publication in 2009. As this is going to be a Netflix series soon I can now avoid the shame of confessing I haven’t read it every time someone asks!

Blurb

Sometimes I whisper it over to myself: Murderess. Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt along the floor.’ Grace Marks. Female fiend? Femme fatale? Or weak and unwilling victim? Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery. Amazon

I was thrilled to receive a copy of the winner of Richard and Judy’s Search for a Bestseller launched by Bonnier Zaffre – Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear was published on 29 June 2017.

Blurb

WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub.
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT
Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone? Amazon

And most recently I received a copy of Good Friday by Lynda La Plante which is the third book in the Tennison series, the first having recently shown on TV under the name Prime Suspect which I thoroughly enjoyed. Good Friday will be published on 24 August 2017.

Blurb

During 1974 and 1975 the IRA subjected London to a terrifying bombing campaign. In one day alone, they planted seven bombs at locations across central London. Some were defused – some were not.

Jane Tennison is now a fully-fledged detective. On the way to court one morning, Jane passes through Covent Garden Underground station and is caught up in a bomb blast that leaves several people dead, and many horribly injured. Jane is a key witness, but is adamant that she can’t identify the bomber. When a photograph appears in the newspapers, showing Jane assisting the injured at the scene, it puts her and her family at risk from IRA retaliation.

‘Good Friday’ is the eagerly awaited date of the annual formal CID dinner, due to take place at St Ermin’s Hotel. Hundreds of detectives and their wives will be there. It’s the perfect target. As Jane arrives for the evening, she realises that she recognises the parking attendant as the bomber from Covent Garden. Can she convince her senior officers in time, or will another bomb destroy London’s entire detective force? Amazon

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read loads of books and it would appear gained even more!! The spreadsheet is out of control but my best guess at the current figures is:

Physical Books – 103
Kindle Books – 59
NetGalley Books – 15
The current total is therefore 177