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

And the Birds Kept on Singing – Simon Bourke

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Manchester 1984 seventeen year old Sinéad McLoughlin is in Manchester, staying with a relative about to give birth. The plan is to hand the child over for adoption and return home to Dooncurra, a small town in the southeast of Ireland and carry on with her life as if nothing had happened. Of course there is the small matter of hiding the details from her parents Patricia and Noel, after all being pregnant at seventeen is not the done thing even in 1984 where she comes from, but she’ll cross that bridge when she comes to it.

Sinéad gives birth to her son, and in one version she carries out her plan, the baby being handed to infertile Margaret and Malcolm Philliskirks believing that this is the best future she can offer her son, in another she names her son Seán, and keeps him.

I enjoy a good ‘sliding-doors’ novel and there are few greater decision points in life than whether or not to keep your son or hand him over for adoption so this is one with the stakes already raised sky high.

In one version we follow Seán, through life, eventually growing up in the same town that Sinéad fled. The consequences of her decision reverberating through the family and her son’s life from thereon in. In the other version Margaret and Malcolm are thrilled to be a family but the exited beginnings don’t guarantee a happy-eve-after for them or their son with all the normal events that can effect any family reverberating through the Philliskirks’ life too.

Ultimately this is a coming of age story, or rather two stories. On the one hand Seán could be seen as a product of his beginnings, an Irish boy surrounded by what felt to be an authentic look at life in a small town through the nineties, on the other Jonathan, who grew up in England a boy who has to come to terms with being adopted.

For a ‘sliding-doors’ story to work the two paths have to diverge to ensure the reader follows without too much confusion and of course those characters and events that appear, however infrequently in both stories, need to be consistent. Simon Bourke handles the problems that could trip-up the unwary novelist with ease. This is an author who is skilled at characterisation and in particular, Seán’s story is incredibly powerful giving rise to a real understanding of who this boy is, how he thinks and critically how he reacts. Jonathan’s story is told slightly more remotely but ultimately is no less powerful for that.

Be warned, this is at times a heart-breaking story and unusually for my reading, the teenage scenes being told by a man about a man can be quite difficult to read. There is swearing, drugs and sex with plenty of forays into a teenage boy’s imagination which lend a very sharp edge to the storytelling. This is also a book that made me shed some tears, although at other times it had me smiling at the relationships between siblings, parents and their children, and friendships. There are all manner of interactions without exception giving the reader that feeling of reality which can be hard to pull off, especially in a wide cast of characters.

An enlightening look at a fairly recent past told with a range of emotions and spell-binding for the force of the characters, And the Birds Kept on Singing is one powerful debut novel.

And the Birds kept on Singing is my nineth book I’ve read for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018 having been purchased in August 2017 so I gain another third of a book token! That’s three books earned!

 

First Published UK: 2017
Publisher: CreateSace Independent Publishing Platform
No of Pages: 596
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (February 28)

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 have just finished reading Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh which will be published on 8 March 2018 and I predict will swiftly become a best-seller.

Blurb

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to ask questions about her parents’ deaths. But by digging up the past, is she putting her future in danger? Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie . . . Amazon

I have just started reading And The Birds Kept On Singing by Simon Bourke a book from my own collection and enjoying it immensely.

Blurb

Pregnant at seventeen, Sinéad McLoughlin does the only thing she can; she runs away from home. She will go to England and put her child up for adoption. But when she lays eyes on it for the first time, lays eyes on him, she knows she can never let him go.

Just one problem. He’s already been promised to someone else.

A tale of love and loss, remorse and redemption, And The Birds Kept On Singing tells two stories, both about the same boy. In one Sinéad keeps her son and returns home to her parents, to nineteen-eighties Ireland and life as a single mother. In the other she gives him away, to the Philliskirks, Malcolm and Margaret, knowing that they can give him the kind of life she never could.

As her son progresses through childhood and becomes a young man, Sinéad is forced to face the consequences of her decision. Did she do the right thing? Should she have kept him, or given him away? And will she spend the rest of her life regretting the choices she has made? Amazon

Next I plan on reading Dark Waters by Mary-Jane Riley which will be published on 16 March 2018. This is the third in the Alex Devlin series which began with the brilliant The Bad Things and was followed by the equally captivating After She Fell.

Blurb

Secrets lie beneath the surface…

Two men, seemingly unconnected, are discovered dead in a holiday boat on the Norfolk Broads, having apparently committed suicide together.

Local journalist Alex Devlin, planning an article on the dangers of internet suicide forums, starts digging into their backgrounds.

But Alex’s investigation soon leads her to a much darker mystery – one that will hit closer to home than she could possibly have imagined, and place the lives of those she loves in terrible danger. Amazon

What are you reading? What do you think to my choices this week? Do share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (February 20)

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

This week my opener comes from another book that is waiting patiently on my TBR; And The Birds Kept On Singing by Simon Bourke.

Blurb

Pregnant at seventeen, Sinéad McLoughlin does the only thing she can; she runs away from home. She will go to England and put her child up for adoption. But when she lays eyes on it for the first time, lays eyes on him, she knows she can never let him go.

Just one problem. He’s already been promised to someone else.

A tale of love and loss, remorse and redemption, And The Birds Kept On Singing tells two stories, both about the same boy. In one Sinéad keeps her son and returns home to her parents, to nineteen-eighties Ireland and life as a single mother. In the other she gives him away, to the Philliskirks, Malcolm and Margaret, knowing that they can give him the kind of life she never could.

As her son progresses through childhood and becomes a young man, Sinéad is forced to face the consequences of her decision. Did she do the right thing? Should she have kept him, or given him away? And will she spend the rest of her life regretting the choices she has made? Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Manchester, 1984

“This is not the kind of thing you should face alone, love. Is there someone you could ring? A friend?”
The nurse scanned the patient’s face in search of an answer, but was met with the same blank expression the girl had worn since admission.
“No one?”
A slight shake of the head, a mumbled response, and then back to staring out the window.
“Very well,” the nurse muttered, scurrying off to find someone more worthy of her attention.

I just realised quite how rare it is for a book to launch straight in with dialogue. I’ve read many great reviews of this book and so, despite being warned there may be tears involved, I’m looking forward to finding out how the two stories end up for myself.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Posted in Uncategorized

New Year Book Tag!

 

I came across this tag on Bibliomaniac UK‘s blog and thought I’d have a go.

I think it originated from Bookables which is a You Tube channel. The questions also echo a few posts I’ve seen from other bloggers about books they’ve not managed to squeeze into 2017 so it seems like a good tag take part in to kick off the new year!

How many books are you planning to read in 2018?

My Goodreads Challenge has been set at 130 for the last few years and I plan to set the same goal in 2018 as this works out at 10 books per month and a bonus 10 for holidays.

This year I have read 150 which is slightly down on 2016’s total of 156 but up on 2015’s of 145.

Name five books you didn’t get to read this year but want to make a priority in 2018?

Only five?? Well here goes!

In no particular order – Dead Souls (and Broken Bones) by Angela Marsons, I love this series featuring Kim Stone and I desperately need to catch up.

Blurb

When a collection of human bones is unearthed during a routine archaeological dig, a Black Country field suddenly becomes a complex crime scene for Detective Kim Stone.

As the bones are sorted, it becomes clear that the grave contains more than one victim. The bodies hint at unimaginable horror, bearing the markings of bullet holes and animal traps.

Forced to work alongside Detective Travis, with whom she shares a troubled past, Kim begins to uncover a dark secretive relationship between the families who own the land in which the bodies were found.

But while Kim is immersed in one of the most complicated investigations she’s ever led, her team are caught up in a spate of sickening hate crimes. Kim is close to revealing the truth behind the murders, yet soon finds one of her own is in jeopardy – and the clock is ticking. Can she solve the case and save them from grave danger – before it’s too late?

The Dry by Jane Harper that has appeared on a number of Great Read lists in addition to all the fab reviews I’ve read over the year.

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

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards which I’m a little scared to start as I have a feeling it’s going to make me regret saying I’ll read three books before buying one new one.

Blurb

The main aim of detective stories is to entertain, but the best cast a light on human behaviour, and display both literary ambition and accomplishment. Even unpretentious detective stories, written for unashamedly commercial reasons, can give us clues to the past, and give us insight into a long-vanished world that, for all its imperfections, continues to fascinate.

This book, written by award-winning crime writer and president of the Detection Club, Martin Edwards, serves as a companion to the British Library’s internationally acclaimed series of Crime Classics. Long-forgotten stories republished in the series have won a devoted new readership, with several titles entering the bestseller charts and sales outstripping those of highly acclaimed contemporary thrillers. Amazon


And the Birds Kept on Singing
by Simon Bourke, again based on some superb reviews, and I love the cover.

Blurb

Pregnant at seventeen, Sinéad McLoughlin does the only thing she can; she runs away from home. She will go to England and put her child up for adoption. But when she lays eyes on it for the first time, lays eyes on him, she knows she can never let him go.

Just one problem. He’s already been promised to someone else.

A tale of love and loss, remorse and redemption, And the birds kept on singing tells two stories, both about the same boy. In one Sinéad keeps her son and returns home to her parents, to nineteen-eighties Ireland and life as a single mother. In the other she gives him away, to the Philliskirks, Malcolm and Margaret, knowing that they can give him the kind of life she never could.

As her son progresses through childhood and becomes a young man, Sinéad is forced to face the consequences of her decision. Did she do the right thing? Should she have kept him, or given him away? And will she spend the rest of her life regretting the choices she has made? Amazon

A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward the third in the DC Childs series set in Derbyshire and I’ve got a long weekend there later this months so this one already has a bookmarked date for then!

Blurb

When Detective Constable Connie Childs is dragged from her bed to the fire-wrecked property on Cross Farm Lane she knows as she steps from the car that this house contains death.

Three bodies discovered – a family obliterated – their deaths all seem to point to one conclusion: One mother, one murderer.
But D.C. Childs, determined as ever to discover the truth behind the tragedy, realises it is the fourth body – the one they cannot find – that holds the key to the mystery at Cross Farm Lane.

What Connie Childs fails to spot is that her determination to unmask the real murderer might cost her more than her health – this time she could lose the thing she cares about most: her career. Amazon

 

Name a genre you want to read more of?

I adore crime fiction but in 2017 I read more non-fiction as well as some captivating historical fiction. There were  some books however that almost defied genre type, as with most book readers I’m looking for something different to delight me, whatever genre it fits into but I have pledged to read at least 6 classic reads to up my game in this area.

Three non book related goals for 2018?

Only the normal to try to have a healthier lifestyle, work less and get a dog.

What’s a book you’ve had forever that you still need to read?

Having finally read Room by Emma Donoghue the next longstanding book that’s been with me forever is Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old Jewish girl, is arrested by the French police in the middle of the night, along with her mother and father. Desperate to protect her younger brother, she locks him in a cupboard and promises to come back for him as soon as she can.

Paris, May 2002: Julia Jarmond, an American journalist, is asked to write about the 60th anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv’–the infamous day in 1942 when French police rounded up thousands of Jewish men, women and children, in order to send them to concentration camps. Sarah’s Key is the poignant story of two families, forever linked and haunted by one of the darkest days in France’s past. In this emotionally intense, page-turning novel, Tatiana de Rosnay reveals the guilt brought on by long-buried secrets and the damage that the truth can inflict when they finally come unravelled. Amazon

One word that you’re hoping 2018 will be?

Better…

2017 was a hard year for us so I’m hoping that 2018 will give us a bit of a break and allow me to spend more time reading and less time worrying.

Tag a friend…..

There’s still time to join in if you haven’t already…

 

Happy New Year – I hope 2018 is full of bookish delights!

 

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 3)

My time looking after Bertie is coming to an end as my daughter returns from her holidays later today. As you can see he has thrived under my tender care and I have quite fallen in love with this beautiful tom cat. When sending the latest picture to my daughter and informing her that I was tempted to keep him I got the response “I’m sure I gave strict instructions not to love him too much as I know how adorable he is” Indeed she did, I had a whole A4 sheet of paper of instructions on how to care for Bertie which finished with “Don’t fall in love with him”

This Week on the Blog

It’s been a busy old week beginning with my review of The Judge’s Wife by Ann O’Loughlin, a book set in Ireland split between the 1950s and the 1980s with one of the settings being an asylum.

My excerpt post was for One Day in December by Shari Low which was published on 1 September 2017.

My review of a non-fiction book; Stranger in the House by Julie Summers was a fascinating account of the way lives changed at the end of the Second World War when the men returned. With many perspectives and experiences this made for superb reading.

On Thursday I reviewed Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch, the third book I’ve read by this author and by a whisker possibly my favourite of the bunch.

Friday saw me reviewing my last book for the 20 Books of Summer 2017; The Summer House by Santa Montefiore which was a light read set amongst the upper classes.

This was followed by my review of Wendy Percival’s novella, Death of a Cuckoo which has convinced me to give the genealogist Esme Quentin series a go.

As a bonus post because I am so chuffed that I finished the 20 Books of Summer Challenge this year I sorted these twenty books into categories for a round-up post with a few facts and figures.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe an intriguing psychological thriller that is set in Sweden. Told by three narrators; Emma Boham a sales assistant, a Policeman Peter, and a Henne a psychologist. All three have issues but they are determined to find the killer of a young woman and to discover if the similarity to a crime committed ten years previously or not. This is an example of character led crime fiction at its best and I was instantly drawn into the story.

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



Blurb

A young woman is found beheaded in an infamous business tycoon’s marble-lined hallway.

The businessman, scandal-ridden CEO of the retail chain Clothes & More, is missing without a trace.

But who is the dead woman? And who is the brutal killer who wielded the machete?

Rewind two months earlier to meet Emma Bohman, a sales assistant for Clothes & More, whose life is turned upside down by a chance encounter with Jesper Orre. Insisting that their love affair is kept secret, he shakes Emma’s world a second time when he suddenly leaves her with no explanation.

As frightening things begin to happen to Emma, she suspects Jesper is responsible. But why does he want to hurt her? And how far would he go to silence his secret lover? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I was delighted to receive a copy of the psychological thriller White Bodies by Jane Robins courtesy of my wish being granted on NetGalley. I have been eyeing this novel up ever since I first heard about it having thoroughly enjoyed this author’s non-fiction books The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath and The Curious Habits of Dr Adams. This book is being published in the US on 19 September 2017 but UK readers will have to wait until 28 December for a copy.

Blurb

Sometimes we love too much

Callie loves Tilda. She’s her sister, after all. And she’s beautiful and successful.
Tilda loves Felix. He’s her husband. Successful and charismatic, he is also controlling, suspicious and, possibly, dangerous. Still, Tilda loves Felix.
And Callie loves Tilda. Very, very much.
So she’s determined to save her. But the cost could destroy them all… Amazon

After seeing And The Birds Kept On Singing by Simon Bourke on What Cathy Read’s WWW post, I couldn’t resist buying a copy for myself. I’m a huge fan of writers that can pull off alternative versions of the same premise.

Blurb

Pregnant at seventeen, Sinéad McLoughlin does the only thing she can; she runs away from home. She will go to England and put her child up for adoption. But when she lays eyes on it for the first time, lays eyes on him, she knows she can never let him go.

Just one problem. He’s already been promised to someone else.

A tale of love and loss, remorse and redemption, And the birds kept on singing tells two stories, both about the same boy. In one Sinéad keeps her son and returns home to her parents, to nineteen-eighties Ireland and life as a single mother. In the other she gives him away, to the Philliskirks, Malcolm and Margaret, knowing that they can give him the kind of life she never could.

As her son progresses through childhood and becomes a young man, Sinéad is forced to face the consequences of her decision. Did she do the right thing? Should she have kept him, or given him away? And will she spend the rest of her life regretting the choices she has made? Amazon

I was also lucky enough to be asked by Anne Cater to review The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler which will be published on 5 October 2017 – after all what book lover can resist a book about books? Having read the foreword I know I’m going to love this book, the tone is just right!

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

What have you found to read this week? Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 4 books, discarded 2 and gained 3
Making a Grand Total of 178
Physical Books – 100
Kindle Books – 69
NetGalley Books – 18