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 Books I have read

Cleopatra’s Top 10 Books Published in 2015

Top 10 2015

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

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

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

So in no particular order here we go:

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

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

The Kind Worth Killing

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

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby

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

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

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse

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

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly MacMillan

Burnt Paper Sky

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

Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

Lost Girls

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

Disclaimer by Renée Knight

Disclaimer

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

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

Smoke and Mirrors

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

A Game For All The Family by Sophie Hannah

A Game for all the Family

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

Hidden by Emma Kavanagh

Hidden

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

The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minnet

The Hidden Legacy

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

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

Book reading and blogging has helped me through the most difficult of years and I am so very grateful for everyone’s support, kind words and friendship which has been absolutely amazing – thank you! Now all that is left to say is Happy New Year to you all! To the authors, please give me some great new books to visitors to my blog, please keep coming and adding your comments.

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

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

Posted in Challenge

My Name In Books

I saw this tag on many blogger’s sites in the summer and decided to have a go for myself – I decided to pick favourite reads of all time – I confess, my biggest problem was finding four books that started with the letter O, but I finally located those that deserved a place!

So without further ado I give you CLEOPATRA LOVES BOOKS, in books

Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

One of my favourite books from childhood

Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

My favourite read by this author who injects so much humour into this dark tale

Emil and the Detectives – Erich Kastner

Possibly my very first introduction to crime fiction where Emil and his friends catch a thief

Out of the Silence – Wendy James

A fantastic combination of fact and a historical crime

Precious Thing – Colette McBeth

One of those books I simply couldn’t stop reading

A Judgement in Stone – Ruth Rendell

The best opening line – “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write“.

Thursday’s Child – Noel Streatfeild

My favourite book from childhood – Margaret was my heroine, I read this book hundred’s of time although it sadly out of print now.

Rubbernecker – Belinda Bauer

A sensitive piece of crime fiction featuring a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome

Asta’s Book – Barbara Vine

My favourite of the psychological fiction books written by Ruth Rendell under the name of Barbara Vine which depicts Asta’s life from the turn of the twentieth century.

Cleopatra

 

Like This Forever – S.J. Bolton

The third in the brilliant Lacey Flint series

Only the Innocent – Rachel Abbot

A relatively new addition to my must read list of authors and a fellow channel islander, this is the author’s first novel

Victorian Murderesses – Mary S Hartman

Although published in 1976, this is a fascinating look at the social lives of women during the late nineteenth, early twentieth century as well as detailing some historical crimes.

Evil Games – Andrea Marsons

A fabulous new series which has a complex plot and is backed up by well-formed characters.

Shadow Baby – Margaret Forster

Probably the book I have re-read most as an adult, a well told dual time-line tale, well researched and totally captivating.

Loves

Burnt Paper Sky – Gillian McMillan

A fresh and innovative debut

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe – Agatha Christie

There simply can’t be a list which doesn’t feature the amazing Agatha Christie so while this isn’t her best novel, it did start with an O

One Last Dance – Judith Lennox

A historical saga set during the First World War, this is a story of sibling rivalry and a grand house.

Keep Your Friends Close – Paula Daly

Domestic noir at its best

Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary

There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the sheer brilliance of this book

Books

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

Burnt Paper Sky – Gilly Macmillan

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

On the face of it this is a missing child story with all the horrors that are conjured up by the scenario but the commentary has far more to say about modern society and how we react to such tragedies. For me the appeal of ‘domestic noir’, the category that this book falls into is being able to question ‘What would I do?’ but in this instance the opportunity to examine how we react to this type of news is also present.

Rachel Jenner and her eight year old son Ben take a Sunday walk in the woods near the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol, with their dog. Rachel’s wish is to allow Ben a measure of independence and he is allowed to run on to the rope swing hanging in a clearing – by the she gets to the swing there is no sight of either boy or dog. The police are called along with Ben’s father, John, the man that left his family for another woman, a loss that Rachel is struggling to come to terms with. The police swing into action and the requisite televised appeal is scheduled for Rachel to appeal to Ben’s return. With her every move scrutinised it doesn’t take long for the public to suspect that there she is in some way culpable for the loss of her son.  Someone sets up a blog spelling out her shortcomings and needless to say there is no shortage of commentators, the like of which will be familiar to anyone who has witnessed similar appeals, something I have always found shocking but understandable when coupled with the knowledge that the police often organise these appeals with the aim of studying the body language of those closest to the victim.

The story is told in part from Rachel’s point of view at the time Ben went missing, the emotions she displays are unsurprisingly raw and at times hard to read. The other part of the tale is described by DI James Clemo in part to his psychotherapist a year after the events. The fact that he is seeing a psychotherapist alone is enough to raise the tension, after all the reader wants Ben to be found safe and sound.

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 when a sure line of enquiry ends up at a dead end or discrepancies in stories are revealed. This alone keeps the levels of tension high while allowing the reader to piece together their own ideas of where the truth may lie.

For me having the breaking news excerpts along with the blog and comments gave this book a fully-rounded feel – as I said in my first paragraph – based on the information being released it gave me a chance to examine what my thoughts on the situation may be and I’m sure I’m not the only armchair detective out there, in fact I know I’m not from the number of people who do comment on these types of crimes – although I hasten to add I do not feel my skills sufficiently honed to add the clamour of voices that commit their thoughts to the internet – and in this case it seemed that many of the voices suspected that Rachel was involved – were they right? Well you’ll have to read the book to find out.

I received a copy of this extremely accomplished from the publishers Little Brown Book Group UK to coincide with the publication of the paperback on 27 August 2015 in return for my honest opinion. I’m pleased to report that Gilly Macmillan is publishing this book under the title What She Knew, in the US and it is due out in 2016.

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week In Books (August 19)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lypsyy 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 Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan and I’m still engrossed in the public’s reaction to Rachel Jenner, mother to missing Benedict, who is judged on her performance on the televised appeal for his return.

Burnt Paper Sky

See yesterday’s post for the synopsis and a taster from this book

I have recently finished Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin – my review will follow shortly

Black-Eyed Susans
Blurb

In a grave under a patch of Black-eyed Susans, in a Texas field, a serial killer buries four girls. Three die. One survives. Sixteen-year-old Tessa, after several days with the three corpses, is traumatised. Her evidence in court results in a man being sentenced to death for murder. Tessa achieves a measure of normality and becomes a single mother and an artist.
Now, nearly 20 years later, Black-eyed Susans are freshly planted outside her window and she’s approached by lawyers trying to stop the imminent execution of the convicted man who is still on death row, claiming his innocence.
The story is narrated in alternate chapters by the Tessa of 1995, soon to be a witness at the man’s trial, and today’s Tessa, tormented by the thought that if the wrong man has been convicted, the real killer is free and a danger to her and her daughter. But, we learn gradually, that Tessa has been keeping secrets too. Amazon

Next I am planning on reading is The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly, I have loved her previous two books so I’m really looking forward to seeing what this one has in store.

The Mistake I Made

We all think we know who we are.
What we’re capable of.

Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate.
Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.
But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.
Roz has a choice to make. NetGalley

What are you reading this week?

See what I’ve been reading in 2015 here

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (August 18)

First Chapter

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea 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.

My opening comes from Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly MacMillan, a book which I’ve read some great reviews of over the last few months, my copy is being read in time for the publication of the paperback on 27 August 2015.

Burnt Paper Sky

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? NetGalley

~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

RACHEL

In the eyes of others, we’re often not who we imagine ourselves to be.
When we first meet someone, we can put our best foot forward and give the very best account of ourselves, but still get it horribly wrong.
It’s a pitfall of life.
I’ve thought about this a lot since my son Ben went missing, and every time I think about it, it also begs the question: if we’re not who we imagine we are, then is anybody else? If there is so much potential for other’s to judge us wrongly, then how can we be sure our assessment of them in any way resembles the real person that lies underneath?

Please note that this was taken from a proof copy

Do you want to know more? Have you already read this one?
Please leave your thoughts and links in the comments box below

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (February 20)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

A quiet week on the book front for me this week with just two finds, both from NetGalley. Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly MacMillan is due to be published on 27 August 2015 by Little Brown Book Group UK.

Burnt Paper Sky

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? NetGalley

I also have a copy of The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton whose debut novel Sister was a huge hit and although I wasn’t quite as impressed by her second book Afterwards, I’ve been looking out for her next book for quite a while. The Quality of Silence will be published on 2 July 2015 also by the Little Brown Book Group UK.

The Quality of Silence

Blurb

On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrived in Alaska.
Within hours they were driving alone across a frozen wilderness
Where nothing grows
Where no one lives
Where tears freeze
And night will last for another 54 days.
They are looking for Ruby’s father.
Travelling deeper into a silent land.
They still cannot find him.
And someone is watching them in the dark. NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?