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Reading Bingo 2016

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 and 2015

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 136 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

Small Great Things

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult clocks in at 512 pages covering the injustice of a Ruth Jefferson, the only African-American nurse on duty when a baby gets into difficulty. With the parents white supremacists who want to blame someone Ruth is charged with murder. Not a comfortable read and I applaud the author for wanting to address racism and using an absorbing tale to do so.

A Forgotten Classic

Harriet Said

I came late to Beryl Bainbridge so I’m going to count this as a modern classic. I’ve read three of this author’s books so far, my favourite being Harriet Said. The story is based upon a murder case involving two teenaged girls in New Zealand, a case that was also the inspiration for the film Heavenly Creatures. The author creates two young teenage girls using them to reveal the push and pull of their relationship which is ultimately their undoing.

A Book That Became a Movie

Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain has lots to recommend it although I admit some of the politics towards the end, went over my head, but the tale of a young woman nursing through World War I, having put her hard one academic ambitions on hold, was incredibly poignant. With the inevitable loss of friends and family her grief for herself and her generation is palpable The film was released in 2014 to great acclaim.

A Book Published This Year

The Ballroom

As a book reviewer I have read lots of books published this year but decided to feature one from my historical fiction selection. The Ballroom by Anna Hope tells the tale of life in an asylum in West Riding, the year being 1911. With a mixture of men and women housed in the asylum the author not only writes us a great story, but has accurately researched what life was like from the perspective of inmates and attendants.

A Book With A Number In The Title

The One in a Million Boy

I give you not one but two numbers in this title: The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood is a book I denoted  ‘quirky’ but I’m so glad I read it. The story concerns the relationship between Ona Vitkus, a Lithuanian immigrant who has lived in the US since she was just four, and a boy Scout with a passion for the Guinness World Records. Touching without ever being overly sentimental this is one that will linger in my mind for quite some time.

A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty

Fiver Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain was written by Barney Norris who was born in 1987. This book not only touches on the history of Salisbury but weaves stories of five fictional characters in a literary, but oh so readable way. An accomplished novel that doesn’t let an obvious love of language interfere with a great story.

A Book With Non Human Characters

Little Stranger

Well I’m giving you double for your money with this book, not only is there a ghost in The Little Stanger by the fabulous Sarah Waters, there is also a Labrador that plays a key role in the subsequent downfall of the Ayres family. This spooky story is narrated by a country doctor in 1940’s Warwickshire and has plenty of other themes to enjoy even if you, like me, are not a fan of ghostly goings-on.

A Funny Book

A Man With One of those Faces

A Man With One Of Those Faces is a crime fiction novel written by stand-up comedian Caimh McDonnell. I know crime mixed with humour doesn’t sound as if it should work, but it does! A Man With One of Those Faces is full of observational humour with some truly entertaining characters without sacrificing a great plot with a whole heap of action to keep you on the edge of your seat.

A Book By A Female Author

My Husband's Wife

So many great books by so many fab women – in the end I chose My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry which falls into one of my favourite genres, psychological thrillers of the domestic variety. This tale mixes past and present with a whole heap of flawed characters and is told by two separate narrators Lily and Carla and they reveal more and more about themselves, and those around them. An extremely tense read which was utterly satisfying.

A Book With A Mystery

Pictures of perfection.jxr

What better mystery can there be than that of a missing policeman on Dalziel’s patch? Pictures of Perfection is the fourteenth in the Dalziel & Pascoe series written by the outstandingly talented Reginald Hill and this book was an absolute delight to read. With a horrific opening scene, the book then switches to the more genteel setting of a country fair in 1980s rural Yorkshire. Fear not though this isn’t window dressing, the plot is superb with a proper mystery to be solved.

A Book With A One Word Title

Viral

Like last year I have read six books that have a single word as their title but I have chosen Viral by Helen Fitzgerald because of the very contemporary storyline. Viral examines what happens when a sex act carried out in Magaluf ends up online for all Su Oliphant-Brotheridge’s friends and family to see but despite that taster, this story didn’t go in the direction I expected it to.

 A Book of Short Stories

manipulated-lives

Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel is a collection of five novellas all looking at manipulators and the effect on the lives of those they choose to manipulate. The author picked five different characters and settings to explore this theme and I have to admit, not being a huge fan of short stories, the common thread was far more appealing to me than some other collections.

 Free Square

Lying in wait

For my free square this year I have decided to go with the book with the best opening sentence; Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent:
My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’
With the rest of this book more than living up to the first line there was so much to love not only does the author keep the tension stretched as taut as could be, despite that opening revelation we have a wonderful Irish setting as background.

A Book Set On A Different Continent

The Woman on the Orient Express

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford is a novel that ends up in Baghdad recreating a trip to an archaeology dig that Agatha Christie made following the divorce from her first husband. This wasn’t so much of a mystery rather a historical novel using Agatha Christie herself as the centre of the story of three woman all making this trip for very different reasons. An unusual and rewarding read with an exotic setting along with a fantastic mode of transport.

A Book of Non-Fiction

Did She Kill Him

I have read some brilliant non-fiction books, mostly about murders, and a fair proportion about poisoners, my interest (or obsession) of the year, so I am going with Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun. Florence Maybrick is the subject of this book, a middle-class woman living in Liverpool in 1889 when she stood trial for the murder, by arsenic, of her husband. While the majority of the book is relatively sympathetic to Florence, the author cleverly takes apart the arguments in the last section leaving the reader to make up their own mind if she was guilty or not.

The First Book By A Favourite Author

In Bitter Chill

I enjoyed In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward so much earlier in the year that I had to buy the second in the series, A Deadly Thaw. The setting in Bampton Derbyshire was stunning which made the awful tale of the disappearance of two girls back in 1978 all the more shocking, especially as only one of those girls returned home. Rachel Jones went  home but now an adult a suicide prompts her to find out what really happened all those years ago.

A Book I Heard About Online

The Versions of Us

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 crime fiction or psychological thrillers, I’m more resistant to other genres. But all the rave reviews about The Versions of Us by Laura Bennett, a sliding-doors novel had me intrigued – and what a great find this was. The incident that kicks off the three different lives in The Versions of Us is a student falling off her bike whilst studying at Cambridge University in October 1958 and the three tales that follow are all equally brilliant. This was an absorbing read especially taking into consideration the complicated structure.

A Best Selling Book

Love You Dead

Peter James’ Roy Grace series consistently makes the best seller list, and also happens to be my favourite police procedural series so it is only right and fitting that Love You Dead is featured for this square. For those of you who also enjoy not only the mystery but also reading about Roy Grace (and his beautiful wife, Cleo), some key story arcs are cleared up in this, the twelfth book in the series. Mystery fans don’t need to worry either, the key plot is a good one featuring a pretty woman at its heart.

A Book Based Upon A True Story

Buriel Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year! With the Icelandic landscape as a backdrop to Agnes Magnúsdóttir’s final months awaiting trial for the murder of two men, we see the family she had been sent to stay with learning to adjust to the stranger in their midst. Be warned if you haven’t read this book, it is devastating, I had grown to love Agnes and yet her fate was sealed and no amount of wishing can change the course of history.

A Book At the Bottom Of Your To Be Read Pile

The Mistake

The Mistake by Wendy James is a book inspired by a true event rather than based upon it and one that had been on my TBR for a couple of years.  In The Mistake we meet Jodi Garrow whose comfortable life as the wife of a lawyer unravels when a nurse in a small town hospital remembers her from years before when she gave birth to a little girl, there is no sign of that baby and Jodi does her best to cover up the truth but the media are determined to find the truth.

 A Book Your Friend Loves

blood-lines

I introduced a friend to the wonders of DI Kim Stone this year and she loved the series, in fact, despite not being a book blogger, she told me about the upcoming release of Blood Lines by Angela Marsons before I knew it was happening!  This series goes from strength to strength and her characterisation underpins a fantastic multi-stranded mystery as our protagonist tries to find the link between the stabbing of a compassionate, well-loved woman and a prostitute.

A Book That Scares You

A Tapping at my Door

I rarely get scared by a book but from the opening excerpt of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe this book had me well and truly spooked by A Tapping At My Door by David Jackson. With opening scenes of a woman hearing a tapping sound, I was glad I wasn’t reading this on a dark night on my own. But this isn’t just a spooky police procedural, it is incredibly clever – I can’t tell you exactly how as that would spoil it but this was a book with a superb plot, probably one of the best I’ve read this year. That with a lively and interesting character in DS Nathan Cody, a Liverpool setting and more than a dash of humour, means it was an all-round great read.

A Book That Is More Than 10 Years Old

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I decided to pick the oldest book that I’ve read this year and this one was first published in 1926 so in fact 90 years old; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is considered by many to be one of the best written by Agatha Christie and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book narrated by a doctor and one of my very favourite detectives, Monsieur Poirot leading the search for the murderer of Roger Ackroyd, killed in his very own study if you please – oh and of course the door was locked!

The Second Book In A Series

the-kill-fee

I have a love of 1920s London and Fiona Veitch Smith’s creation Poppy Denby, journalist at The Daily Globe had her second outing in The Kill Fee, this year. The mystery had its roots in Russia and the revolution and Poppy romps her way around extricating herself from ever more tricky circumstances made for a delightful and informative read.

A Book With A Blue Cover

The Museum of You

I can’t let this square go without asking has anyone else noticed the increase in blue covers? The one I’ve chosen was my surprise hit of the year; The Museum of You by Carys Bray – a story about a twelve-year-old girl putting together an exhibition about her mother wouldn’t normally make it onto the TBR, let alone be loved so much… but the lack of overt sentimentality in this book along with an exceptional array of characters made it a firm favourite for 2016.

Well look at that, for the first time ever I have completed every square!

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

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Manipulated Lives – H.A. Leuschel

Short Story 3*s
Short Story
3*s

This is a compilation of five novellas each demonstrating the different ways those who seek to manipulate others operate. The author has used a number of different types of relationships to expose the psychology of such a partnership and although the end results are disturbing, it is often the case that the beginning there were no great big warning lights and claxons.

Although the tie in this anthology is the manipulator the characters are quite distinct, as to a certain extent is there particular brand of abuse. In the first tale we meet the narcissist old and ill in a hospital bed and his story alternates with his visitor. This clever tale gives us a picture of a life lived bending other’s to this man’s will using any means possible to reach his object, reflecting on a life right back to childhood. In the second story Tess and the Tattoos we have an elderly woman contemplating the choices she’s made in her life whilst the third, The Spell has younger characters, a woman, a man and a young child which is once more a reflective tale. The fourth story is Runaway Girl, and probably my favourite of the collection has a 15 year old girl as the subject whilst the last story is the story of a woman who comes to motherhood fairly late in life.

The author has clearly researched her subjects, one has to hope from a safe distance and as all of these stories are reflective it is entirely appropriate that the traits we know are associated with manipulators are replayed by the narrative although I have to confess this reflective nature made me feel less involved with the actual events because the very nature of recollection is to put a spin on things to be told ‘I should have realised…’ didn’t adequately give me any sense of when the realisation came, what the subject told themselves through those first signs etc but this is a personal preference possibly due to wanting to know whether I would have spotted anything, given the same situation.

What this book does give us is a chance to relate this wide selections of both the perpetrators of this trait and their victims to those characters we all know for whom this style is the one they prefer and of course in certain situations it is one that is held in high regard. Only yesterday a job advert went out with one of the key skills was ‘An influencer’ now putting aside the business jargon, what the company wants is someone who can persuade a whole room full of people (if not the entire office, company and maybe even the world) to be persuaded that what is being proposed is the only right course of action – the same skill as a man convincing a woman that of course she wants to be at his beck and call to the detriment of the rest of her life, or the young boy who convinces his mother that he can do no wrong!

Sometimes it is hard for authors working on a themed collection like this to separate the voices out and I was a little worried when we came to Runaway Girl who was much younger than the rest of the characters in the book, would the author be able to switch away from the almost cold and distant narratives of the previous narrators to the naturally more impulsive actions of a teenager, and she did, which is possibly why I enjoyed this story the most as the mixed emotions of the moment came shining through.

I’d like to thank the author for forwarding me a copy of this book, it has been a unique experience for me as I rarely read novellas and never before have I read an anthology built around a personality type.

First Published UK: 28 June 2016
Publisher: Independent Publishing
No of Pages: 274
Genre: Short Story – Psychological
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (November 2)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lipsyy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I’ve just started reading While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft which is one of those psychological thrillers that promises to make compelling reading.

while-you-were-sleeping

You can read an excerpt and the synopsis in yesterday’s post

I have just finished Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel which is a collection of five novellas examining the lives of those touched by manipulators extraordinaire!

manipulated-lives

Blurb

Five stories – Five Lives. Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance? Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim. In this collection of short novellas you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth. Amazon

Next up is Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. It’s a while since I’ve read anything by this author and the subject matter of this one has me greatly intrigued.

Small Great Things

Blurb

When a new-born baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.
What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.
Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.
It is about opening your eyes. Amazon

So that’s my week sorted – What are you reading this week? Do share your links and thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (October 16)

Weekly Wrap Up

Thank you for those of you who sent lovely messages due to my absence, unfortunately I had a rather nasty bug followed by a business trip to Stockholm where internet access was an issue! I did however manage to make a trip to see my friend before flying back to Jersey. We talked about everything as best friends of too many years to count are wont to do but books got a mention, and as I’d lent her my copy of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (she really is a very good friend and can be trusted with my books) we decided that we’d watch the film at the cinema. It was a little disconcerting to see palatial homes backing onto train lines in the opening sequence instead of those I’d imagined from the UK scenery however all in all it was faithful to the book and far better than I’d feared. Plus it allowed us to rest our voices for a while so that a quick G&T soon had us chatting long into the night.

On my return to ordinary life I was delighted to see a quote from my review in the paperback edition of My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor which appeared alongside a number of other blogger’s wise words.

my-husbands-son-png

Picture courtesy by Abbie of Bloomin Brilliant Books

You can read the entire review here if you should so wish

This week I posted my review of Ward Zero by Linda Huber, a psychological thriller set in a hospital which kept me guessing. Sadly I think by the time I got to this one I’d overdosed yet again on the genre and have made a deliberate decision to step away for a while and have promptly fallen into a string of historical crime books, both fiction and non-fiction, so expect a different flavour on the blog while I review them all.

On Tuesday’s Post I featured an excerpt from The Two O’clock Boy by Mark Hill, a former book blogger and now a fully-fledged writer, which I’ve just started reading, and I have to say early impressions are very favourable indeed.

Wednesday’s post also had the addition of the Man Booker shortlist book His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet which I’ve now finished, a review will follow shortly.

I have also written and published my review for The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett which was excellently executed crime fiction, and the beginning of a series featuring David Hunter – I can see that I will be adding more books by this author to the TBR before too long.

This was followed on Friday with a review for a brilliant historical crime book, this one loosely based on an actual crime known as The Edgeware Road Murder in 1837. Debut novelist Anna Mazzola has added layers to the known facts creating an incredibly engrossing book, The Unseeing. I gave this one the full five stars with no reservations at all.

I then moved to the 1920s with a woman Private Investigator and my review of Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody reveals how well the author not only created a book that is set in such a good era but also has a cracking plot and a strong woman as the protagonist.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Girl With No Past by Kathryn Croft an accomplished psychological thriller that had me captivated – it was one of those books where from the first page, there was no doubt that something awful is going to happen.

 

The Girl With No Past

Blurb

Years spent running from your past. Today it catches up.
A gripping psychological thriller for fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.
Leah Mills lives a life of a fugitive – kept on the run by one terrible day from her past. It is a lonely life, without a social life or friends until – longing for a connection – she meets Julian. For the first time she dares to believe she can live a normal life.
Then, on the fourteenth anniversary of that day, she receives a card. Someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the life Leah has created.
But is Leah all she seems? Or does she deserve everything she gets?
Everyone has secrets. But some are deadly. Amazon


Stacking the Shelves

maths-theoremSomehow despite not having read anywhere near as much as normal, see paragraph one, I am still acquiring books at a fair old rate – here is what’s appeared since by last wrap-up and I have an inkling there are a few more on the way with the postman. Discussing this in brief with fellow blogger Fiction Fan, we have decided that this is due to Cleopatra’s Theorem – the number of books that are acquired are always more than the reading rate, the slower you go the more that appear, it’s probably worked out using the picture to the right but since it’s a mathematical fact there is nothing to be done!

From NetGalley I had to request a copy of Tattletale by Sarah J Naughton because Liz of Liz Loves Books wrote such a tantalising review. I’m presuming I will be in the right frame of mind for some psychological thrillers by the time this is published in January 2017.

tattletale

Blurb

The perfect brother. The perfect fiance. The perfect lie.
One day changes Jody’s life forever.
She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.
One day changes Mags’s life forever.
After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiancé Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don’t quite seem to fit… NetGalley

In the post I received a copy of The Devils Feast by M.J. Carver from Penguin books, they couldn’t have known my genre of the month is historical crime – could they?

the-devils-feast

Blurb

London, 1842. There has been a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London’s newest and grandest gentleman’s club. A death the club is desperate to hush up.
Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate, and soon discovers a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club’s handsome façade-and in particular concerning its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, ‘the Napoleon of food’, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.
But Avery is distracted, for where his mentor and partner-in-crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death was only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister? Amazon

And Harper Collins’ Carina offered me an exciting new debut, For All Our Sins by T.M.E. Walsh which is to be published later this month. This was original self-published by the author for the kindle so some of you may have read it.
for-all-our-sins

Blurb

Years ago there was a silent witness to an act of evil. Now, a twisted killer is on the loose fuelled by revenge.
Called to the brutal murder of a priest, it is immediately clear to DCI Claire Winters that the victim’s death was prolonged, agonising…and motivated by a lust for revenge.
The killer has been clever, there are no clues, no leads. But Claire Winters has never let a killer remain on the streets. Looking for an answer at any cost Claire begins to get closer to the victim’s family, but what it reveals turns her murder case into something far more sinister…
When one body becomes two, and then three, Claire finds herself in a race against time to connect the dots between a host of devastating secrets, before the killer strikes again. Amazon

Lastly I have a copy of Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel, a series of five novellas which is available for reading now.

manipulated-lives

Blurb

Five stories – Five Lives. Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret.
All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth. Amazon

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH

Since my last post I have read 4 books, and gained 4 and so my TBR remains steady at 181 books!

91 physical books
69 e-books
21 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?