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Cleopatra’s Top 10 Books Published in 2016

top-ten-2016-v-2

Once again I have awarded a whole array of books the magic 5 stars which means whittling this down to a mere ten quite a task indeed, one that I have been pondering since the start of December in fact… so without further ado here are the ten books published in 2016 that I consider to have been truly outstanding and memorable reads.

The books have been listed in no particular order and you can read my full review by clicking on the book covers.

 

A Tapping at my DoorA Tapping At My Door by David Jackson
First up is a book which started with Edgar Allan Poe’s spooky poem The Raven to reveal not only a depth of characterisation but a real sense of the Liverpool setting. This is  a new series, featuring DS Nathan Cody, a detective with a troubled background and a Cop Killer on the loose.  I’m a fan of a good police procedural anyway but this was a deeper exploration than many in this genre. These characteristics may have been the icing on the cake of a fabulous plot which had me gripped throughout.

 

The Ballroom

The Ballroom by Anna Hope
Focusing on three characters who are residents of Sharston Asylum in 1911, The Ballroom was an exceptionally well researched look at life in an asylum as the treatment of those afflicted by mental illness was developing fast. What was far more shocking was the ‘crimes’ committed that may have had you detained at this time. I particularly love books that manage to inform at the same time as entertaining, the main story was never lost throughout the extraordinary amount of detail. In a personal twist Anna Hope dedicated this book to her Gt Gt Grandfather who was admitted to Menston Asylum (the inspiration for this book) in 1909.

 

The Apprentice of Split Crow LaneThe Apprentice of Split Crow Lane: The Story of the Carr’s Hill Murder by Jane Housham
This non-fiction examination of a Victorian crime is among the best I’ve read and also looks at life in an asylum at a slightly earlier time period of 1866. The crime examined is a shocking one, not least because it involves a child and the motive had me stunned. Jane Housham delivers her research in an engaging manner with care taken to look at the characters involved, both victim and accused and their families as well as recreating the setting to enable the reader to have a sometimes all too clear picture of what happened on Carr’s Hill in Gateshead one awful day.

 

house-of-birds The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy
So I move onto my choice for historical fiction and it is a while since I’ve read such a well-constructed dual time-line novel. With both parts, the modern time featuring Oliver and Kate, and the past in 1920s Oxford featuring the downtrodden wife Sophia and her love of books, The House of Birds had me gripped in both halves. Whilst the narrative isn’t fast-moving, the language is beautiful and the tale told had me running the gamut of emotions because of the fantastically drawn characters. This was one of those books that I lost myself in for the duration, and beyond.

 

The Swimming Pool The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish
A newly renovated swimming pool is the setting of this latest psychological thriller by Louise Candlish and one which examines female friendship. I really enjoy books that are set over a relatively short period of time, particularly when the characters lives are altered forever by some event, and here in the space of a single summer Natalie’s life is changed by meeting the glamorous Lara. My original review states the dénouement is brutal, it is but brilliantly so!

 

Out of Bounds Out of Bounds by Val McDermid
Val McDermid has used one of my favourite devices in this, the fourth in the DCI Karen Pirie series set in her native Scotland. When a cold case of twenty years is has a breakthrough due to the death of a teenage joyrider, Karen Pirie is determined to find the truth. A brilliant paring with a somewhat dim second in command served well both to provide lighter moments and inform the reader without a hint of patronisation. Reading Out of Bounds  I was reminded of the many shades that this brilliant author injects into her books, whilst delivering a fantastic story.

 

Daisy in Chains Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton
Moving swiftly from one reliably brilliant author to another… Sharon Bolton has truly excelled herself in this standalone novel. Told in a linear fashion, no needs for fancy bells and whistles for this book, we meet Hamish Wolfe imprisoned for the murder of three women at HMP in the Isle of Wight. His mother is campaigning for his freedom and enlists true crime writer Maggie Rose. This is a crime novel that goes beyond simple innocence or guilt and justifiably made for compulsive reading. There are characters in Daisy in Chains which I will never forget!

 

The Museum of You The Museum of You by Carys Bray
In a rapid shift away from the darkness, The Museum of You relays the summer Clover Quinn decides to turn her mother’s former bedroom into a display about her life. Clover has never known her mother and the project helps the awkward pre-teen fill her first unsupervised summer. This book had just the right mix of pathos and humour, one of the best depictions of this age group. I fell in love with Clover and the earnest way she builds her display, knowing that she is likely to find some difficult truths along the way. It is a very rare book indeed that makes me shed real tears – this book was one of them!

 

In Her WakeIn Her Wake by Amanda Jennings
I’ve seen In Her Wake featured on many of the top ten book lists doing the rounds this month, and having absolutely been blown away by this original tale, I had to add it to mine too. This wonderful book follows Bella who finds following the death of her parents that her entire life is founded on a lie and decides to discover the truth. Filled with wonderful characters, an enticing premise and beautiful language the story takes in myths and evocative settings resulting in a haunting tale which was delightful to read.

 

Lying in wait Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
With so much to admire about Lying in Wait from the first killer line ‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’ to the clever structure whereby we learn all about Lydia and Andrew Fitzsimons through Lydia’s own words, those of her son Laurence and Annie Doyle’s older sister Karen who take it in turns to narrate this novel. Set in 1980s Ireland this book also gave me moments of nostalgia without ever dragging me away from the captivating story. This is a book that should be gone into knowing as little as possible, that way you will get the full benefit of this author’s skilful and surprising plotting.

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

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have visited me here on my little corner of the internet, as well of course as the authors and publishers who have provided me with so many great books to read throughout the year. I look forward to discovering new places, people and dark plots in 2017 and do hope you will all join me on my journey.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Posted in Uncategorized

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 Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (June 29)

This Week In Books

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

Last week went a bit awry so while I fully intended to be reading Testament of Youth, deadlines mean that I have shuffled the books and have a different collection to share with you this week.

I am currently reading The Shrimp and the Anemone by L.P. Hartley which is number 8 in my 20 Books of Summer Challenge.

The Shrimp and the Anemone

An evocative account of a childhood summer spent beside the sea in Norfolk by brother and sister, Eustace and Hilda and is the first in a trilogy of tales about these siblings. The Shrimp and the Anemone takes place when they are children, The Sixth Heaven when they are in their early 20’s, and Eustace and Hilda finalises the trilogy when they are in their late 20’s.

I have just finished Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant a fast-moving psychological thriller which unusually has a man as the protagonist.

Lie With Me

My review will follow shortly but in the meantime you can read a synopsis and a taster from this book, see yesterday’s post.

Next up I am planning on reading Liz Nugent’s second novel, Lying in Wait which will be published on 7 July 2016. If you can’t wait that long, and haven’t already done so I highly recommend her debut novel: Unravelling Oliver!

Lying in wait

Blurb

Another absorbing, twisty, brilliantly observed story of murder in high places.
The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden. Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.
While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart. But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own. NetGalley

What are you reading this week? Fancy any of these? Please share in the comments envelope below

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (March 5)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared.

Well funnily enough, despite my good intentions I have more new books to share with you all!

From NetGalley I am delighted to have received a copy of Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent. This author wrote one of my favourite reads of 2014, Unravelling Oliver.

Lying in wait


Blurb

FROM THE NUMBER 1 BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF UNRAVELLING OLIVER, 2014 IBA CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR Another absorbing, twisty, brilliantly observed story of murder in high places The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden. Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation. While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart. But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own. NetGalley

Lying in Wait will be published on 7 July 2016.

I also have a copy of Shot Through the Heart by Isabelle Grey, another author who has delivered great books, in fact I began my review of the first in this series, Good Girls Don’t Die by saying, ‘For anyone who thinks that the good old police procedural has had its day, think again.’

Shot through the heart

Blurb

Blurb

Who can you turn to, if not the police?
Essex, Christmas Day. As the residents of a small town enjoy their mince pies, shots ring out in the street. Five people are gunned down before the lone shooter turns his weapon on himself.
Grace Fisher, now Detective Inspector, is tasked with making some sense of this atrocity – all the more sensitive because the first of the victims was one of their own: a police officer. The case throws her back together with crime reporter Ivo Sweatman, but as she investigates it becomes clear that the police connection goes much deeper than she thought.
As the evidence of corruption grows and she is obstructed at every turn, Grace knows she is walking further into danger. Then, her young key witness disappears…
What far-reaching compromises will Grace have to make to safeguard the innocent? NetGalley

Shot Through the Heart will be published by Quercus on 24 March 2016

I also got through the post as a complete surprise a copy of The One In A Million Boy by Monica Wood courtesy of Headline ahead of publication on 5 April 2016.

The One in a Million Boy

Blurb

Miss Ona Vitkus has – aside from three months in the summer of 1914 – lived unobtrusively, her secrets fiercely protected.
The boy, with his passion for world records, changes all that. He is eleven. She is one hundred and four years, one hundred and thirty three days old (they are counting). And he makes her feel like she might be really special after all. Better late than never…
Only it’s been two weeks now since he last visited, and she’s starting to think he’s not so different from all the rest.
Then the boy’s father comes, for some reason determined to finish his son’s good deed. And Ona must show this new stranger that not only are there odd jobs to be done, but a life’s ambition to complete . . . Goodreads

I also purchased a couple of books in a weak moment. I simply couldn’t resist a copy of Mrs Maybrick by Victoria Blake when the author commented on my recent review of The Last Woman Hanged  mentioning that she had researched and written this book about a similar poisoner in Liverpool rather than New South Wales at around the same time. I do know a little about Florence Maybrick, having read the marvellous Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman. You can find more about Victoria Blake fro her blog here

Mrs Maybrick

Blurb

Florence Maybrick was a 19 year old Alabama belle when she married Liverpool cotton-broker James Maybrick in 1881. She was convicted of his murder in 1889 after arsenic was found in his corpse. However, it was never established whether she administered the poison or whether Maybrick himself took the fatal dose. This Crime Archive title examines the murder, trial and controversy through Home Office files held at The National Archives. Amazon

And lastly I bought a copy of The Narrow Bed by Sophie Hannah, book ten in the Culver Valley Crime series which I adore.

The Narrow Bed

Blurb

A killer that the police are calling ‘Billy Dead Mates’ is murdering pairs of best friends, one by one.
Before they die, each victim is given a small white book…
For months, detectives have failed to catch Billy, or work out what the white books mean. And then a woman, scared by what she’s seen on the news, comes forward.
Stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck has one of Billy’s peculiar little books. A stranger gave it to her at a gig she did a year ago. Was he Billy, and does he want to kill her? Kim has no friends and trusts no one. How – and why – could she possibly be Billy Dead Mates’ next target? Amazon

Now for an apology – I haven’t been able to answer all your lovely comments this week or visit your blogs, something I intend to rectify this weekend! I had to cross the water to the UK which caused internet access issues and then I’ve been overwhelmed at work… normal service should resume now!

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH
Since my last count I have read 6 books, and gained, 5, so the total has reduced by a massive 1 giving a now miniscule number of 171 books!
85 physical books
71 e-books
15 books on NetGalley

 

What have you found to read this week?