Posted in Books I have read, Books I want to Read, Five Star Reads

The Liar’s Room – Simon Lelic

Psychological Thriller
5*s

This is one of those books where you have to hang onto your seat and follow the ride wherever it takes you, and oh my goodness what a ride it is!

Susanna is a counsellor and on the day we meet her she has two new clients to meet. When the first one, Adam Geraghty walks through the door he seems familiar but she can’t work out where she knows him from. And then he starts to talk…

Susanna is probably more on her guard than the average counsellor because she has a deep and dark secret. The type of secret that is worth saying goodbye to her old life, and starting somewhere else with a brand new identity, all evidence of the past covered over. So now she leads a narrow life which consists of her, and her daughter Emily who is now fourteen years old. Susanna loves Emily and sees her role in life, above all others to keep her safe.

So much of this novel is the conversation between counsellor and counselled which gives the book an incredibly claustrophobic feel. The dialogue between the two is captivating and made all the more so because we know Susanna has something she is trying to hide, but what it is and why she needs to keep it quiet is eked out in a way that had this reader conjuring up different scenarios, most widely off-beam. On one level it is fascinating to watch the game that is being played out in front of our eyes. The weighing up of options on the one hand with the absolute determination to keep the upper hand on the other gives us an immediate view of how liars operate which felt quite unlike anything else in the genre. Yes we often come across manipulative characters and we even see them in full flow but to have an entire book that is based upon a sustained conversation is very unusual indeed.

Although some of the themes have quite naturally been explored by other writers, this is an author so sure of his penmanship that the reader is left to draw their own conclusions to what these might be and he doesn’t go down the well-worn path of what is often trodden by writers in this genre; prepare to be surprised.

The Liar’s Room is clever, very clever. Yes, once I got quite a way into the book, I was able to discern some of what had either happened, was happening or would happen, but I was a long way off the entirety of the answers to all the myriad of questions. This is both spell-binding and compelling and terrifically well written and has firmly cemented Simon Lelic as an outstanding writer. I was already a fan having read and loved The Child Who and more recently The House, and The Liar’s Room has just added to my admiration of an author who can create some basically unlikeable characters but with enough credibility to keeping it real which meant that I couldn’t feel a bit of sympathy for them on at least on some level.

This would undoubtedly be a terrific book club read which I’m sure would provoke some lively discussion because of the strong reactions it is bound create.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin who allowed me to read a copy of The Liar’s Room ahead of publication in paperback on 9 August 2018. Thank you also to Simon Lelic for keeping me up way past my bedtime in order to find out what happened, and then later still as I pondered what I had just read.

First Published UK: 28 July 2018
Publisher: Penguin 
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

No Further Questions – Gillian McAllister

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Well the fabulous Gillian McAllister is back with another book that will make you think. Whilst this isn’t quite such an obvious moral dilemma as in her first two books, it constantly begs the questions ‘What would I do?’ and just as importantly, ‘How would I feel?’

There’s a trial, oh how I love a fictional trial, all the drama and none of the boring bits. There are two sisters; Martha and Becky. Martha is married to Scott and they had a daughter Layla who died at just eight weeks old. When Layla died, Becky was in charge informally employed by her elder sister as a nanny while she was in Kos setting up a base for a charity schooling refugees.

The prosecution say that Becky is responsible for Layla’s death. Becky is pinning her hopes on the trial to answer the questions about what happened to her daughter that fateful night. And don’t let us forget the mother of the opposite sides. What a position to be in. How does a mother comfort both daughters in such a situation.

As in all of her previous books Gillian McAllister makes statements about society as a whole. Yes the trial is concentrated on the night in question but what the media want to know is why Martha wasn’t there. The same question isn’t directed to Scott because as this book demonstrates, men are seen as irrelevant in this type of scenario. To be fair, Scott also feels guilt at being away, but he’s not held accountable by the public in the same way.

We learn all this from the narration by the two sisters, alternated throughout this gripping book. We hear about their views of themselves, their relationship with each other, their memories, their fears and of course their view of the court case. The endless wishing and hoping makes this book an exhausting read at times, but oh so worth it, I simply wasn’t prepared to part with it for a moment.
The characterisation is spot on with neither sister presented as flawless individuals, both are complex, like you are I. But of course a court case has lots of other characters to explore, , the ex-husband of Becky, their son Xander, the nosy neighbour and the Defence and the Prosecution, both strong women who look at the evidence and present it to the jury in a different way. I particularly liked the Judge and his faithful dog Rumpole, even he is given a bit of a back story to bring him to life.

I can’t stress quite how powerful a read this is. Like Martha I didn’t want to believe Becky was guilty as charged, but sifting through the same evidence as the jury even given fonder memories of the pair augmented by those of their brother Ethan, how could it be anything but. The power comes from a family breaking apart, the loss of Layla to them all, their divided alliances and the feeling that nothing will ever be the same again makes it a sad read too.

I now have to say a huge thank you to Penguin for allowing me to read a copy of No Further Questions. This review is my unreserved, and unbiased, thanks to them and Gillian McAllister for another memorable read. Even better the eBook is at available at an absolute bargain price at the moment, so don’t miss out.

First Published UK: 2 July 2018
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US (Audible only)

Previous (brilliant) Books by Gillian McAllister

Everything But The Truth
Anything You Do Say

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

Skin Deep – Liz Nugent

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I wondered when rigor mortis would set in, or if it already had.

Liz Nugent the author with the killer first lines does it again with her third novel Skin Deep! Not only is the first line a shocker she has confirmed to me that perhaps my preference in psychological novels is for the slow build rather than the flashy twists and turns. Slow burn should never be confused with boring, rather in the context of this book it means that every word matters, it has been considered and it means something.

Once I had cleared the bottles away and washed the blood off the floor, I needed to get out of the flat.

Cordelia Russell is living on the Côte d’Azur using her looks and her charm to get by. But her age is catching up with her, no longer do the gentlemen wish to buy her food and drink for the pleasure of her company. But what journey had Cordelia been on before she arrived and realised that beauty is only skin deep.

I could probably have been an actress. It is not difficult to pretend to be somebody else. Isn’t that what I’ve been doing for most of my life?

This is a novel that explores the very worst of human nature, it pulls the reader to places that they would rather not know, insistently, gradually but before you know it you are face to face with it. This is an author who makes you need to know more on one level although you are repelled on another. This is a book where whether it is descriptions of flies buzzing round a corpse, or descriptions of settings, whether that be the blue sea of the Mediterranean or the bleakness of the tiny Island of Inishcrann , which translated from the Irish language means The Island of the Tree, the words used easily conjure up everything.

At the start of Part One, we meet a young girl whose doting father calls her the ‘Queen of Inishcrann’ and she believes that is her destiny. She is the eldest of four children born to the islander and his American wife. The other three children are boys and not favoured by the father. And we all know what is likely to happen to spoilt little madams, don’t we? Well you might think you do…

In between the bleak life in the cold and the strange characters on the island we are treated to some folklore tales, those that root the island in the past. Horrid stories far from the fairy tales that we mock shudder at now. This just underpins the darkness, the bleakness and even if you can’t conceive of the ending, you know it will be bad. These are sinister tales that will play on your mind as much as the story unfolding before you.

The more books I read, the more I appreciate this kind of superb plotting. The kind that makes you want to read the first page, and go back to the beginning with your newly found knowledge as you know some fantastic magic has been woven but you want to see how the stiches were made.

If you want to feel empathy with the characters you read about, you will struggle with this book. This book isn’t populated with lovely people, although you might catch a glimpse of one or two trying to step out of the shadows. But in the main, those living on Inishcrann are superstitious and somewhat out of touch with the norms of life. Too few people trying to stop the authorities from declaring the island inhabitable, means that arguments are quick to flare, to fester and to poison. And as the little girl grows and moves away, to Ireland, perhaps the time for goodness has passed. But, you will be compelled by the characterisation, and it will be up to you to decide whether the character is born, or made.

This is the third book that I have read by Liz Nugent, each one easily gaining five star status and each one leaving me amazed at the blackness of her imagination and gratitude that she sets it out with such graceful and engaging writing.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Penguin UK for allowing me to read a copy of Skin Deep prior to publication, today, 5 April 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author, Liz Nugent for a dark compelling read.

First Published UK: 5 April 2018
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US audible only


Previous Books by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver WINNER of IBA Crime Fiction Book of the Year 2014
Lying in Wait Featured in the Richard and Judy Spring 2017 Book Club

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

Common People – Alison Light

Non-Fiction
5*s

For those of us who have done some research into our family trees it is often harder if you are born into the more common class, that of the common people. Alison Light had little idea beyond a few stories passed down about her grandparents when she embarked on her own project which was initially to find the grave of her grandmother who had died when her father was just a small child. The search was prompted by her father’s ill health and this initial search led her to wonder about her ancestors and what place they had in the world.

The author, like the majority of us I suspect, had no nobility or infamous people to seek out. She had some tales which hinted at better things, but nothing concrete and of course some of the historical research she undertook disproved the little she thought she knew. What she did find was the dates and places for the key events in a life; birth marriage and death. The beauty being that as a historian those snapshots in addition to some census records, enabled her to delve into the life of people as wide ranging as a needle maker who worked from home and a kitchen assistant on a ship.

Alison Light does a fantastic job of illustrating just how precarious life was for those who were common people when the death of a man could mean absolute devastation for a wife with young children with no family to support her. Even those with family were not immune these people living hand to mouth anyway making a living from seasonal work as and when they could find it. Not so very different from the zero hours contracts that we hear so much about nowadays!

Not only does the author give us a good picture of the lifestyle of those working class men and women, she also gives us an insight into the areas they lived in and how this did influence the type of work they did, none more so than towards the end of the book when she describes Portsmouth from her own childhood back in time when this was an important port for both the Merchant and Military Navy. In turn the neighbourhood in the wider sense is altered due to the absence of all the men who worked at sea leaving more of the dockside jobs to the older men but on the whole leaving a neighbourhood dominated by the women except when the men returned from their voyages.

Alison Light’s paternal family were on the whole staunch Baptists and the link between this church and the politics of the working class is knowledgeably explained. I had no idea of quite how closely entwined the pairing of the non-conformists and politics were although I could see the appeal of being preached to by a man from within your own community rather than the educated churchmen who played the same role in the Church of England.

There are inevitably sad stories from times when poverty, not only individual, but of entire areas meant that death was far more part of daily life, the lack of clean water and so many families living on top of one another meant that diseases like Tuberculosis spread unfettered. One of the saddest tales was that of a woman born into the workhouse, orphaned soon afterwards and who died decades later in the local asylum. However, the author is quick to remind us that as tempting as it is as family historians to get fixate on the death of an ancestor, it is the life they lead between the certificates that is far more enlightening.

Common People is the type of history I most enjoy, brilliantly researched and informative touching on the social lives of many of our ancestors but also acknowledging how important tracing our own families are to make sense of our place in the world. This is a book jam-packed full of details which informs and entertains throughout.

Common People is the tenth 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 and one third books earned!


 

First Published UK: 2017
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 356
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Close to Home – Cara Hunter #BlogTour

I was delighted to be asked by Poppy from Penguin to be part of the blog tour for this debut crime novel which was published in December 2017. Close to Home introduces DI Adam Fawley in this nail-biting crime fiction novel. But before we get to my review I asked the author Cara Hunter why she chose Oxford as the scene of the crime.

Why is Oxford such a capital of crime?

It’s all Morse’s fault, of course. The books started it, but it was the TV series starring John Thaw that really sealed the city’s fate. And since then, of course, we’ve had Lewis and Endeavour too. If you believe even half of what you see there can’t be a (thinly disguised) college that hasn’t lost at least half a dozen dons to murderous revenge or professional rivalry. Don’t get me wrong, I am the most immense fan of the whole franchise, but it does make Oxford a mite crowded for anyone wanting to set their own crime series here. I could have chosen somewhere else, of course, but I live in Oxford, and whoever it was who said ‘write what you know’ is dead right. That was one important reason I wanted to set the Fawley books here; the other is because there’s a lot more to Oxford than ivy-clad quads.

Being a university town definitely shapes the sort of place this is: there’s a big student population, and a high proportion of academics, many of them from overseas, and some of them (like the students) only here for a few years. And surrounding the ancient beautiful centre you have a ring of very different communities, from the industrial area round the Cowley car plant, to the genteel suburb of Summertown, to areas like Osney and Jericho, which bear witness to the city’s industrial past (the two-up-two-down Victorian cottages in Jericho originally housed workers at the nearby Oxford University Press).

These different ‘satellites’ have their own distinctive atmosphere and appearance, but even if the geographical areas are clear and self-contained, the same doesn’t go for the people. I’ve always been intrigued how much intermingling there is here between very different groups of people – how many connections there are that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. It makes this beautiful city a rich and diverse place to live and work in, but it also makes it fertile ‘terroir’ (as the French say), for conflict, misunderstanding and tension. Everything you need, in fact, for the perfect crime….

Cara Hunter January 2018

My Review

Crime Fiction
5*s

Wow! This is one of the most nail-biting crime fiction novel I have read for quite some time. DI Adam Fawley presides over a police investigation into eight year old Daisy Mason’s disappearance one summer night while her family were holding a barbecue. No-one saw her go but how can a child disappear into thin air?

This was a compelling read, a real page-turner with twists and turns aplenty. These and many of the other well-worn phrases apply to Close to Home and once again I’m going to struggle to explain what exactly this book offers that makes it stand out from a crowded genre.

I really liked the use of different types of written material in the book, within pages of Daisy’s disappearance the news is out and the twitter feed, oh so realistically created is recreated on the page, just check out those twitter handles, the sentiments shared in the 140 characters and compare them to everything you see, even if you don’t want to, on your own social media feed. A few pages further on we have the transcript of a police interview with a suspect, we have bulletin’s from the media, a birthday message and a story written by a child, all of which adds to the texture of the book, it tells a story without needing to verbalise some of the conflicting views the reader themselves may have.

The characters are also well-formed. I have a feeling some will be universally disliked but Adam Fawley is a likeable detective, not an alcoholic although he does have a bit of baggage, but who doesn’t and it’s the kind of problem which is likely to produce a hefty amount of sympathy. He has a good team who are in the main supportive of each other, a fairly inoffensive bit of rivalry between a couple of officers but not the angst ridden teams with endless pressure piled on from above that is the normal crime fiction fare.

The plotting is meticulous, I actually went back to the beginning to check some facts and I’m convinced that this book has undergone some rigorous editing to make sure that all the strands line up perfectly. The reason why I mention this aspect is because the storyline switches direction a number of times with a piece of evidence turning everything about-face and yet the structure of the book means it has gaps. We see one part of the investigation while elsewhere another piece of evidence is being investigated and so the simultaneous actions taking place are partly told with the answers not necessarily being revealed for a few pages.

All of this gives a fresh feel to this crime fiction series because I am delighted to announce that DI Adam Fawley will be back in the summer in Cara Hunter’s second novel In The Dark, a book that I am really looking forward to reading.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin for providing me with a copy of Close to Home thereby allowing me to get hooked on another crime fiction series! This unbiased review is my thanks to them and Cara Hunter for presenting me with a puzzle to entertain me.

First Published UK: 14 December 2017
Publisher: Penguin 
No of Pages: 385
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Cara Hunter is a writer who lives in Oxford, in a street not unlike those featured in her series of crime books. Her first book, Close to Home, was picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club, and this is her second featuring DI Adam Fawley and his team of detectives.

To find out more about Cara Hunter, follow her on twitter @CaraHunterBooks.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Faking Friends – Jane Fallon

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

This book was just what I needed in the post-Christmas haze, a story of revenge played out in exquisite detail between Amy and her best friend Mel.

Jane Fallon has the knack of making what could be a flat tale of a friendship gone wrong into one where I genuinely cared about some of the characters, a book that made me wish that some of the lovely people that surround Amy were in my life too, although I have to say I’d give Mel a miss.

Amy and Mel grew up in a small village near Maidenhead in Buckinghamshire, best friends since the age of eleven when Mel offered the hand of friendship which Amy grasped willingly. Mel, even at that age knew she was going to be famous and the fabulous caricature which is Sylvia, ensures that she is turned out for any auditions with ringlets in her hair and blue eye-shadow pasted to her eyelids. Amy stayed in the background and decides to go to university to study history but the girl’s friendship is too strong for the separation to lead to a cooling of their relationship.

When we first meet her Amy returns from working in America for a surprise visit. She heads for her flat that she shares with her fiancé Jack to prepare for Mel’s fortieth birthday party. Surprised (understatement intended) to find another woman’s belongings in her home, complete with toiletries in the bathroom, she determines to find out who they belong to.

The scenes are set with just enough drama to be entertaining without over-egging the pudding which could tip them into farce. Amy has decided not to confront Jack with what she knows until she has made a plan, and for anyone who has for whatever reason, had to be evasive with the people they are closest to, will recognise the awkwardness this quickly causes.

Most of the story is told from Amy’s perspective interspersed with the girl’s back-story of the long friendship which adds depth to the narrative in the present time as Amy decides to get down and dirty to get her own back. Later on we get some input from Mel herself, something that threw me at first as I didn’t see it coming, but was well worth it as we see the set up some action which plays out like a slow-motion car crash.

As is usual in this domestic noir type story there is a romance, friends that go above and beyond the call of duty. The problems of living on the outskirts of North London, the cost of rent, the lack of fashionable shops and the trek to get anywhere useful are all dotted through the narrative thus appealing to all those commuters that will probably see this book advertised on the tube. With guest appearances by a cat, a seventies rug and a various assortment of furniture, this book is sure to appeal all of us who want to believe that life doesn’t end when a relationship does.

I love a bit of fun and frippery, Jane Fallon has the ability to make me chuckle and wince in the space of a page but even the revenge planned and executed isn’t nasty with a capital N. In my opinion those who wronged Amy got everything they deserved!

I’d like to say a big thank you to one of my favourite publishers, Penguin UK who allowed me to read a copy of Faking Friends ahead of publication on 11 January 2018.

First Published UK: 11 January 2018
Publisher: Penguin UK
No of Pages: 447
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Scandal – Fredrik Backman

Crime Fiction
5*s

Is a book more rewarding if you spent the first section wondering whether or not to put it aside for something that doesn’t revolve around a sport that you have no interest in, only to find yourself completely drawn into the both the story and writing style? Whatever the answer, this is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year despite the uncertain start.

At the beginning of the book we hear shots but soon the action switches to a game of ice hockey. Now I wasn’t a fan of the straightforward hockey on proper ground being much smaller than my peers, no good at running and it was freezing cold, doing the same on ice only has peril written all over it as far as I’m concerned. But through the game we get to meet all the inhabitants of Beartown a small town in Sweden whose whole identity seems to be wrapped up in the game. Man, woman or child, if you live in Beartown then the fortune of your dwelling place depends on the success of the various teams ordered by age, if a little muddied by aptitude.

Those shots I mentioned kept me wondering as the action switched from the ice to the town and back again as young boys were ready to make their mark against the opponents whilst others failed in their efforts. Beartown Ice Hockey team are about to play in the semi-finals, and they want to win.

This book is full of diverse characters albeit a set that are united by their love of the game, or what it can mean for Beartown, a town that has been a long time in the decline. We see the board members sponsors, the coach, the General Manager, the fathers, mothers and sisters of the players as well as the team themselves. We even know a great deal about the woman who cleans the ice rink, the changing rooms and the offices for the club. Everyone is involved in some way or another. But the focus of the book isn’t about the game, or not directly, it’s about something that happened after a game and the consequences on all involved.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I really wasn’t sure that this was a book for me and yet the writing was at pared down yet eloquent, holding so many truths of life that I wished I had read it when I was younger and still had some of the important thoughts that were shared.

Hate is simple. So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that’s easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe – comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanise our enemy…

The writing style alone had me convinced, with phrases and messages carried through from one scene to another – when the book got tough, and it does, the stylistic flair kept the momentum going forward while the reader comes to terms with what has been revealed. There are issues galore and normally when I write that in a review I’m not being complimentary because it can feel as if the author is leaping from bandwagon to bandwagon. That isn’t the case with The Scandal where the issues in the book are tightly linked to the players on a personal level. The author hasn’t offered up platitudes or worst case scenarios, instead the author has a nuanced take and provides what I felt was a balanced path, best of all leaving the reader to come to his or her own opinions.

This is a story of friendship between males and females, yes despite the kernel of the action being a boys ice hockey team, there are some females who are also central to the story. It is also the story of those other major relationships of being a parent, a sibling, or a partner, of being loved and loving others. Most of all this is a tale of how loyalties can be divided and sometimes sitting on the fence isn’t an option. It is in fact a remarkable book that had me in tears more than once.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin UK who allowed me to read a copy of The Scandal or Beartown if you are a US reader. This review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Fredrik Backman for a remarkable story which I’d love to tell you more about, but it really does have to be read and admired with little or no idea what you will find within its pages. I suspect readers will take away different messages. I feel that this is a book that we should see on school book lists and book clubs across the world.

First Published UK: 10 August 2017
Publisher:  Penguin
No. of Pages:  432
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde – Eve Chase

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

I opened the book and instantly felt at home with the story, I knew within a couple of pages that this book would suck me in, and it did. I adored the mystery of what happened to Audrey back in the fifties and I was equally enchanted by Jessie’s story in the present day, a life so different despite the earlier time period being easily within living memory.

So I suppose you want to know what it’s about? In the present day Jessie who has a teenage stepdaughter Bella, still so obviously grieving the loss of her mum and toddler Romy to contend with dreams of an uncomplicated country-life with her family. Her husband Will is more hesitant but can see that Jessie has fallen in love with Applecote Manor but will the house live up to Jessie’s hopes and dreams and build a better future away from dead Mandy’s ghost hovering in their London house?

Right from the start I warmed to Jessie who is honest about those gaps we all have between how we’d like life to be, and what the truth actually is. Later in the book she freely admits to posting pictures on Instagram portraying what she wants but there is something very dark and shadowy at Applecote Manor, a presence that Bella believes means that they will never be happy there. Is this teenage angst or does the house hold a secret? Well of course it does!

In the 1950s we meet four sisters, three born within a year of each other, the beautiful Flora, the athletic Pam and the serious Margot whose viewpoint dominates the past part of the storyline and these three are joined by the younger Dot who trails after her three elder sisters during a summer heatwave while they are staying at Applecote Manor. This is a summer that will have repercussions for years to come as innocence is lost.

And then there is Audrey who went missing five years before the summer we experience with the Wilde sisters and it is this that is the mystery that is the heart of this book.

There are so many themes packed into this deeply evocative story, from the bonds between sisters, the ghosts of the past who can cast shadows over lives, the difficulties in growing up, friendship and mothers all get an airing. Each storyline in the past is echoed in the present but not in an obvious way, it is the subtlety and the lightness of touch that makes this such an impressive read, with the beautiful Cotswold setting the pivot of the strands that paint the bright pictures from the hot summer in the past with the cold and wet days as Jessie struggles to build a future for her family.

Alongside the many themes this is also a difficult book to neatly fit into any one genre – it has a central mystery, a historical time period and there are times when the writing became so dark it could be considered domestic noir and it is a coming-of-age story. Whatever the genre, it is brilliant a book that I truly lived, I didn’t just picture the sleigh bed up under the port-hole window at the top of the house, I could swear I had lain down on it myself and I knew the characters, all of whom were honestly drawn, no-one was flawless and none were clichés and they were all distinct, even the secondary characters. All in all I feel sure enough to pronounce that Eve Chase is an author who has an enormous amount of talent so I have already ordered her debut novel Black Rabbit Hall which had high praise heaped upon it when it was published in 2015.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin who allowed me to read a copy of The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde, this review is my heartfelt thanks to them and Eve Chase for a wonderful journey that had me experience the full range of emotions and I closed the book with a tear rolling down my cheek. Readers in the US will find this book under the title The Wildling Sisters.

First Published UK: 13 July 2017
Publisher: Penguin UK
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

Broken Heart – Tim Weaver #20booksofsummer

Crime Fiction
3*s

A car-park in Somerset is the scene of the disappearance of Linda Korin who drove in one day, left her car and was never seen again. The police investigate but are unable to come up with a satisfactory query of what happened the most likely explanation is that she went into the sea, a theory that doesn’t really stack up as the tide was out at the time her car is captured on CCTV going into the car park. After months with no news Linda’s sister in America asks David Raker to take on the case.

Tim Weaver has produced something quite special with this series, Broken Heart being the seventh book. We have crime fiction but the focus is on missing people rather than dead bodies and in doing so often uncovers tales which are mulit-layered and unusual. Here we have a woman in her sixties, and although she is beautiful having been a former model and actress in second-rate horror movies, she is not the typical crime fiction victim.

The story had me engaged, from the start I was trying to work out how the facts presented could be, you see this is one author that doesn’t ‘cheat.’ There is no trying to gloss over incontrovertible facts by having random witnesses lying for no good reason all the many problems to solve, and there are lots within this novel, are unravelled fairly. After a skype meeting with Linda’s sister, Wendy Fisher he begins to look at her early life with her husband who had been a famous film director until he was exiled from Hollywood to Spain for being a communist.

Having read and been engaged in the lives of the subjects, as well as fully entertained by David Raker himself in the previous books I found this one veered perhaps down a too convoluted path for me although I am mindful that due to events in my personal life I wasn’t perhaps in the right frame of mind for any book at this time. So my observations are that there was more violence in this episode than the previous books in the series and the expose into film making was fascinating but perhaps a little bit too ‘nerdy’ for those of us who aren’t as thrilled by the subject as Tim Weaver as a result the endless playing of sections of a film, a director obsessed by his star and lost copies of films made years previously which included fairly lengthy explanations of how originals need to be stored to keep them from deteriorating slowed the pace down for me. If you have a love of old Hollywood movies, especially those naff horror ones, then you will love this aspect. What is not in doubt that there is a complicated mystery to be solved and my sleuthing didn’t even come close.

Ultimately although the storyline was inspired by the film world, underneath, as in all good books this is about people and you don’t have to have an interest in the parts to be interested in how others behave.

Broken Heart was my tenth read in my 20 Books of Summer 2017  Challenge.

First Published UK: 28 July 2016
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

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

The House – Simon Lelic

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Wow!! Words fail me – well almost because this wouldn’t be much of a review if it had no words at all.

In short this book is scary, not altogether surprising since it features an old house in London jam-packed with the previous owner’s belongings including a collection of stuffed birds.

Told through a written letter between Sydney Baker and Jack Walsh detailing all the events and most intriguingly the secrets they’ve kept from each other. The author’s choice of this somewhat unusual writing style becomes absolutely clear but not until far later, in the meantime the freshness of the exchanges between the pair are hypnotic and make for totally compelling reading.

When you’re caught inside a dungeon, even the faintest flicker in the dark is like a promise of daylight. And if it turns out not to be, if it turns out instead to be a burning staircase… Well. You take your chances anyway.”

Now I don’t usually go in for gothic type books but if they are all as excellent as The House, I might well change my opinion. Only incrementally are the cause of the strange smells, the sounds that keep Jack on edge at night and the other events that turn their new beginning into a nightmare revealed in what I think is a masterclass of suspense writing. Yes, so far, all so textbook, albeit in the advanced section, but there is an element which really brings this book to life. The narrative in the first person is so well written, so close to actual speech that you can hear Syd and Jack talking to you it felt that real. There are moments of tenderness which alternate with phrases that capture the language those who practice defiant guilt, we hear of hard times behind the couple and hopeful times ahead and mixed amongst all of this are some genuinely funny moments as well as phrases that conjure up a whole heap of emotions behind what appears to be the throw-away lines.

Now I’ve seen enough horror films in my time to know never to go wandering about alone when there’s a suspected zombie in the vicinity, feline or otherwise. But there was no way I was going back to sleep, not until I’d at least had a quick look around. Plus, countering whatever fear I felt, I heard my dad’s voice telling me to stop behaving like a six-year-old.

About the only thing my father was afraid of was the prospect of maybe one day being called upon to express and emotion that wasn’t indignation.

There is misdirection aplenty and with a setting in a creepy house, two very dissimilar protagonists, ex-junkie Syd and the more laid back, but not entirely without issues Jack. Add to that the background of the purchase I was unsure what direction the book was going to take from the outset, but boy did I enjoy the journey.

But honestly right? The truth, the whole truth and nothing but. Honestly then, what I thought when I walked into the house was that it was somewhere Jack and I could be together until we were old. A forever house, that’s what they call it on the property shows, which when I hear it always makes me want to puke. But that didn’t stop me thinking it even so.

In case you haven’t got it, I loved this book, it is definitely one of my books of the year because not only was it compelling reading (if I’d known how compelling I would have waited for a less busy time so that I didn’t keep having to put it aside) but it had dark parts, light parts and each one was perfectly placed. The House delighted me whilst scaring me, it engaged me and inspired me to really look at the writing to try and work out what it was about it that made this book one that I’d have happily started all over again the instant I turned the last page.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin who allowed me to read a copy of The House prior to publication on 17 August 2017 (psst it is currently at an absolute bargain price for pre-order for the eBook in the UK) and the author Simon Lelic for delighting me, this review is my totally gushy but absolutely unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 17 August 2017
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 342
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US (Audible only)