Posted in Five Star Reads

Five of the Best (May 2014 to May 2018)


5 Star Reads

In 2015 to celebrate reviewing for five years I started a series entitled Five of the Best where I chose my favourite five star reads which I’d read in that month. I will be celebrating Five years of blogging later this year and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.

You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.

My pick for May of 2014 is The Broken by Tamar Cohen, now better known as Tammy Cohen, and this book was her first fully-fledged foray into the psychological thriller genre.

The story is centered around two couples their friendship and the subsequent fall-out when one of the husbands decides his marriage is over, Unfortunately and confides in the friend before his wife.

What follows is an expose of a breakdown of a marriage… and a friendship brilliantly exposing the ripple effect of one man’s decision. Chilling stuff indeed.

Blurb

Best friends tell you everything; about their kitchen renovation; about their little girl’s schooling. How one of them is leaving the other for a younger model.

Best friends don’t tell lies. They don’t take up residence on your couch for weeks. They don’t call lawyers. They don’t make you choose sides.

Best friends don’t keep secrets about their past. They don’t put you in danger.
Best friends don’t always stay best friends. Amazon

In May 2015 I reviewed an amazing book that covered a real-life and fantastical trial that spanned from the late Victorian to the early Edwardian eras. Piu Marie Eatwell named her book The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse which also wins my award for the best title for a book!

In 1898 a widow named Anna Maria Druce applied for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, Thomas Charles Druce. Mr Druce had been a furniture dealer, owning the Baker Street Bazaar, a forerunner of what we know as a department store, but Anna Maria believed that he had been the alter ego of the eccentric 5th Duke of Portland. Her claims meant that Tomas Druce had faked his death in 1864 and spent the next fifteen living at the ducal seat, Welbeck Abbey in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

The book covers claims and counter claims aplenty with a hefty dash of insight into the social history of the time. It made for absolutely fascinating reading aided by accurate research alongside a dramatic and complex case rendered easy to read by this talented author.



Blurb

The extraordinary story of the Druce-Portland affair, one of the most notorious, tangled and bizarre legal cases of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.

In 1897 an elderly widow, Anna Maria Druce, made a strange request of the London Ecclesiastical Court: it was for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, T.C. Druce.

Behind her application lay a sensational claim: that Druce had been none other than the eccentric and massively wealthy 5th Duke of Portland, and that the – now dead – Duke had faked the death of his alter ego. When opened, Anna Maria contended, Druce’s coffin would be found to be empty. And her children, therefore, were heirs to the Portland millions.

The legal case that followed would last for ten years. Its eventual outcome revealed a dark underbelly of lies lurking beneath the genteel facade of late Victorian England. Amazon

There were quite a few contenders in May 2016 but it had to be Daisy in Chains by one of my favourite authors, Sharon Bolton.

Hamish Wolfe is in HMP Isle of Wight prison, convicted of the murder of three young women, fat young women. All is not lost there is a campaign for his freedom and one of the key people they want on side is lawyer and true true crime writer Maggie Rose. This woman has managed to assist in securing the release of seven other prisoners.

I defy anyone to read this book and not to be drawn by these captivating characters who are dancing a dance of attraction, but what are they attracted to? Beauty or brains? Who exactly is manipulating who?

Sharon Bolton is a skilled writer and this book is one of my favourite of all her creations.

Blurb

Famous killers have fan clubs.

Hamish Wolfe is charming, magnetic and very persuasive. Famed for his good looks, he receives adoring letters every day from his countless admirers. He’s also a convicted murderer, facing life in prison.
Who would join such a club?

Maggie Rosie is a successful lawyer and true-crime author. Reclusive and enigmatic, she only takes on cases she can win.

Hamish is convinced that Maggie can change his fate. Maggie is determined not to get involved. She thinks she’s immune to the charms of such a man. But maybe not this time . . .

Would you? Amazon

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins was both engaging and memorable and I immersed myself into a story of a book about a book. There is always something absolutely irresistible in a this device, but The Night Visitor has taken this kernel and added the most memorable characters.

Olivia Sweetman is making her way to address all two hundred guests gathered at The Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons in London. All those people are amongst the jars of organs to celebrate the publication of historian Olivia Sweetman’s book, Annabel, a study of a Victorian woman who became one of the first surgeons, a woman who also had a sensational personal life too, captured within Annabel in her own words. But, all is not as it should be as we find out as this superior psychological novel unfolds and the intricate storyline full of fascinating detail will stay with me for a long time to come.

Blurb

You have the perfect life . . . How far would you go to protect it?

Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.

Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.

As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything. Amazon

The book I’ve chosen for May 2018 is one that I ‘found’ through blogging. Anne Cater invited me onto the blog tour to celebrate the recent publication of The Dissent of Annie Lang by Ros Franey, and I was drawn to the description of a girl who is the youngest daughter of strict and religious parents. A hint at a stay in an asylum for her brother sealed the deal for me.

Annie Lang’s story is set in the Nottinghamshire during the 1920s and 30s when children certainly had no voice but that doesn’t mean they don’t have eyes, or ears and that the secrets that their elders and betters may think are safe, have probably not gone unnoticed.

The characters are brilliantly depicted, Annie’s friendship with Marjorie Bagshaw in particular, the two girls thrown together because of where they live have little in common and the delicate tussle of power is shown as both keep secrets when it will be to their advantage, at one point Annie admits that neither particularly likes the other.

The combination of sparky Annie Lang complemented by a varied cast of characters and combined with a captivating story meant that this book ticked all the boxes for this reader.



Blurb

‘My story starts and ends at railway stations, though of course I can’t know this yet as I clamber off the boat-train at Victoria that warm May afternoon… ‘

Growing up in a strict religious family in the 1920s, Annie Lang is witness to disturbing events that no one will explain. Only the family dog may know the answers.

Six years on, student Annie returns from France to find her beloved brother in a mental hospital and her ally, the Sunday school teacher, vanished without trace. With the help of her childhood diary, and sister Beatrice, Annie turns detective to unearth the truth.

Her journey leads to a discovery so disturbing that she believes it will ruin all their lives, unless they can atone for the past.

Ros Franey beautifully captures that point when a child can sense, and indeed dissent against, secrets that adults think they are too young to grasp. Impulsive, brave and lovable, Annie Lang is formidable when she takes matters into her own hands.

If you want to see what the five books featured on Five of the Best for May 2011 to 2015 were you can do so here

How many of these have you read? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Five of the Best 2018

January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018

Posted in Five Star Reads

Five of the Best (April 2014 to April 2018)

5 Star Reads

In 2015 to celebrate reviewing for five years I started a series entitled Five of the Best where I chose my favourite five star reads which I’d read in that month. Later in 2018 I will be celebrating Five years of blogging and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.

You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.

My choice of review for April 2014 is Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly. This psychological thriller had me absolutely gripped. The plot concerns two friends and following a bit of domestic trouble Natty returns home to find here previous loyal and loving husband Sean, has fallen in love with her best friend Eve. The compulsive angle of the book stems from the observation of how the two women play their respective hands from here on in, That alongside some brilliantly  flawed characters including some wonderful secondary ones; my favourites being the Policewoman Joanne Aspinall and her aunt Jackie as well as Natty’s father Ken. These true to life people served to add another layer of enjoyment to the story

Blurb

Your best friend isn’t who you think she is.

You’ve been friends since university, when you became the people you are today.

You don’t see each other enough but when you do it’s as if you’ve never been apart.

She’s one of the family. You would trust her with your life, your children, your husband.
And when your daughter is rushed to hospital, you’re grateful that she’s stepping in at home, looking after things.

But your best friend isn’t who you think she is. You’re about to find out just how wrong you were. Amazon

Strongly indicating that I read great psychological thrillers in April my five star read for April 2015 was one of the hits of the year; Disclaimer by Renée Knight. When Catherine Ravenscroft comes across a book in her new house she idly picks it up and starts reading, as you do! Imagine her shock when she realises the story is about her, or more specifically, a secret she’s kept for twelve years. The author obviously plays with her reader, swinging the emotions this way and that, but it is so skilfully done, I lapped it all up waiting to find out what surprise she was going to spring on me next.

Blurb

When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up and begins to read.

But as she turns the pages she is horrified to realize she is a key character, a main player.

This story will reveal her darkest secret.

A secret she thought no one else knew… Amazon

April 2016 seems to be awash with brilliant books and I have struggled to choose a favourite and finally have decided to feature a book that is not crime fiction, or a psychological thriller.

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain  by Barney Norris  features five characters whose lives collide. The setting of Salisbury could almost be the sixth character in the book, it’s history resonating through this literary novel. The opening holds a few surprises, but it is worth sticking with flower seller, Rose’s tale as it contains hidden depths which may only become apparent later on…

The triumph of this book was the intersecting of these dissimilar characters, their troubles are their own, the way they deal with those problems are individual and yet there are threads criss-crossing Salisbury that connect them all, some in the past, all in the present. In the hands of a less accomplished writer it would be easy for these connections to feel false, to rely too much on coincidence and yet Barney Norris avoids any clunkiness, there is absolute authenticity in the device as well as the characters.


Blurb

<‘There exists in all of us a song waiting to be sung which is as heart-stopping and vertiginous as the peak of the cathedral. That is the meaning of this quiet city, where the spire soars into the blue, where rivers and stories weave into one another, where lives intertwine.’

One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, a widower – all facing their own personal disasters.

As one of those lives hangs in the balance, the stories of all five unwind, drawn together by connection and coincidence into a web of love, grief, disenchantment and hope that perfectly represents the joys and tragedies of small town life. Amazon

 

April 2017 saw me reviewing Little Deaths by Emma Flint. Not only was this fictionalised account of a true crime mesmerising, it set me on a journey of discovering a whole sub-genre of crime fiction.

This is the sad tale of the disappearance, and sad murders of Ruth Malone’s two children. From the beginning Ruth is condemned for her lifestyle, her working class neighbours disapproved of her social life since her separation from the children’s father.

Emma Flint has provided us with one of the most complex of female characters and each incident can be viewed from differing angles and the conclusions made will depend on which one you personally consider to be most realistic. This creation really takes the book way beyond a simple rehash of the crime itself. I felt I knew Ruth, I could both identify with some of her thoughts whilst at other times wonder why she made life quite so hard for herself, after all she was far from stupid – perhaps that was her downfall?

Blurb

It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.

Noting Ruth’s perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to convenient conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation. Sent to cover the case on his first major assignment, tabloid reporter Pete Wonicke at first can’t help but do the same. But the longer he spends watching Ruth, the more he learns about the darker workings of the police and the press. Soon, Pete begins to doubt everything he thought he knew.

Ruth Malone is enthralling, challenging and secretive – is she really capable of murder?

Haunting, intoxicating and heart-poundingly suspenseful, Little Deaths is a gripping novel about love, morality and obsession, exploring the capacity for good and evil within us all. Amazon

My choice for April 2018 is something of a forgone conclusion despite the fact I revieed many enjoyable books this month – Sharon Bolton takes the top spot though for her book set mainly in 1969 in the small town of Sabden in the shadow of Pendle Hill, the place made famous by the witch trials of 1612. The Craftsman is a chilling novel, no doubt about it with missing children, an undertaker and a young, bright WPC anxious to do her best.

We also see the fallout of the murders thirty years later when WPC Florence Lovelady returns to the town to attend the funeral of Larry Glassbrook a coffin maker. Sharon Bolton manages to keep the two versions of the woman completely in sync without losing any of the comparable innocence of the earlier time period. A stunning novel which is seared onto my memory.

Blurb

Devoted father or merciless killer?
His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago?
Or is there something much darker at play? Amazon

If you want to see what the five books featured on Five of the Best for March 2011 to 2015 were you can do so here

How many of these have you read? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Five of the Best 2018

January 2018
February 2018
March 2018

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

The Craftsman – Sharon Bolton

Crime Fiction
5*s

Oh my! What a brilliant read! This has to be one of the scariest books I’ve read in a long while and yet there a few graphic scenes, what the author does is get into your mind and play with it.

Brilliantly the opening to this book is an author’s message to her readers – a lovely touch, which ends with these words:

The Craftsman is the story of women, and witches. Of the children we love and must protect. And of the men who fear us.

The Craftsman is mainly set right in 1969 when our protagonist WPC Florence Lovelady is visiting the mother of a missing girl of fifteen in the town of Sabden which lies in the shadow of Pendle Hill in the North-West of England. Florence is a strong, educated woman in what was back then, very much a man’s world. At the time we meet her as a young officer she is tagging along with the higher ranking Detective Constable Tom Devine as the superintendent thought a woman officer was a nice touch.

Now every good witch knows and consequently fears, Pendle in Lancashire which was where a number of witches were tried for witchcraft back in 1612. All admittedly a long time ago, but the history just adds to the superstitious small town community of Sabden which is coping with young people going missing gives legs to rumours and supposition. What this brilliant novel illustrates is how the charge of being a witch could all too easily be levelled against a woman, especially when a whole community feels as though nothing is going right, and what is going wrong is almost inconceivable.

I’m not revealing anything the synopsis doesn’t to say that teens were being buried alive in caskets, and nor I imagine do I have then have to explain quite how terrifying this book is. The setting of 1969, an age of comparative innocence, a fresh-faced, if far more intelligent than her superiors are prepared to admit, WPC it seems even more horrific that the murders are not only unusual, but particularly horrific.

Anyway good old Florence is determined to catch the perpetrator and thirty years later we meet her at the graveside of Larry Glassbrook a coffin maker. A man who has been imprisoned for the last thirty years. A man who Florence has visited over the years whilst she was climbing the slippery pole towards the glass ceiling. But, the case from the past is far from over and Florence is drawn back to the beginning of her career.

This novel is cleverly plotted with the parallels between the witches of the past and the present day happenings inevitably drawn, so subtlety and yet so powerful. I loved Florence and was rooting through her both in 1969 and 1999 her character clearly having developed in the intervening thirty years but her drive undiminished. Once again Sharon Bolton has created memorable and lifelike characters to populate one of the creepiest reads of the year. I strongly predict this book making it easily into the top ten reads of the year! Yes – I’m telling you all, you need to read this one, if you dare…

Sharon Bolton is so talented and as much as I loved her Lacey Flint series I have to confess I’ve loved her stand-alone novels even more, if that’s at all possible– you can take your pick from these as they are all shocking, gripping and oh so inventive.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Trapeze who allowed me to read an advance review copy of The Craftsman and to Sharon Bolton for keeping me up all night and caused my dreams in the nights since I read it to be filled with coffins and witches! This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 3 May 2018
Publisher:Trapeze
No of Pages: 432
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Fantastic Fiction by Sharon Bolton

Standalone Novels

Sacrifice (2008)
Awakening (2009)
Blood Harvest (2010)
Little Black Lies (2015)
Daisy In Chains (2016)
Dead Woman Walking (2017)

Lacey Flint Series

Now You See Me (2011)
If Snow Hadn’t Fallen (2012) Novella
Dead Scared (2012)
Like This Forever (2013)
A Dark and Twisted Tide (2014)
Here Be Dragons (2016) Novella

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (April 18)

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

I have started my fourth read from The Classics Club chosen by the spin which chose Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon so I’m going back to the Victorian times to meet this far from insipid lady.

Blurb

‘Lady Audley uttered a long, low, wailing cry, and threw up her arms above her head with a wild gesture of despair’

In this outlandish, outrageous triumph of scandal fiction, a new Lady Audley arrives at the manor: young, beautiful – and very mysterious. Why does she behave so strangely? What, exactly, is the dark secret this seductive outsider carries with her? A huge success in the nineteenth century, the book’s anti-heroine – with her good looks and hidden past – embodied perfectly the concerns of the Victorian age with morality and madness. Amazon

The last book I finished also featured a far from insipid female, this time  WPC Florence Lovelady who takes us back to 1969 in Sharon Bolton’s brilliantly creepy The Craftsman – my review for this book will follow soon.

Blurb

Devoted father or merciless killer?
His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago?
Or is there something much darker at play?

Next on my list is The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet which will be published on 3 May 2018 – not sure if the female protagonist in this book is insipid but I sincerely hope she isn’t!

Blurb

‘No one lives this way unless they want to hide something.’

When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.

On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.

But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . . Amazon

So what do you think? Have you read any of these? Would you like to?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (February 4)

This Week on the Blog

The week started with my review of a book set in the early Victorian times with plenty of wickedness to entertain its readers: The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin.

My excerpt post came from The Girl in the Woods by Camilla Läckberg, the tenth in the Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck series.

This Week in Books featured the authors Martin Edwards, Stuart Turton and Ellen Horan or in other words some non-fiction, an original crime novel quite unlike anything else I’ve read and a historical mystery set in New York.

On Thursday I resurrected my Five of the Best monthly post which features my favourite five star reads reviewed in January for the years 2014 to 2018. I do enjoy reminding myself of the wonderful books I’ve read over the years and it seems as though many of you enjoy this too.

Next up was my review of A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward a crime fiction novel set in the fictional town of Bampton in Derbyshire. I awarded this book the full five stars.

Finally I posted my review of The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner, a contemporary novel which follows the lives of friendship between four women over twenty years.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly a book that has the eclipse of 1999 as a backdrop to a rape trial. The actions of the four main characters involved at the time have consequences years down the line when the eclipse hunters are in the Faroe Islands. I love Erin Kelly’s writing and He Said/She Said is an involved and thoughtful tale, one that really did make me think but I’m delighted to report that Erin Kelly never forgets that she is writing to entertain her readers.

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

Blurb


Don’t be left in the dark.

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack. She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, four lives change forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, she also knows that you can never see the whole picture: something is always hidden . . . something she never could have guessed. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Well I made it all the way through January without purchasing a single book but I have been exceptionally lucky in being approved by NetGalley for three books I’ve had my eye on for some time.

Having impressed me with her first two books I Let You Go and I See You, I was delighted to see that Let Me Lie by Claire Mackintosh will be published on 8 March 2018.

Blurb

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

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.
Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to ask questions about her parents’ deaths. But by digging up the past, is she putting her future in danger? Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie . . .NetGalley

The author Kelly Rimmer contacted me to tell me her latest book, Before I Let You Go was on NetGalley and did I want it? Of course I want to read it, A Mother’s Confession was one of my surprise finds of 2016 and I’ve lost count of the friends I’ve bullied into reading it since then! Before I Let You Go will be published on 27 February 2018.

Blurb

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As the weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhoods, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?

Both candid and compassionate, Before I Let You Go explores a hotly divisive topic and asks how far the ties of family love can be stretched before they finally break. NetGalley

I ‘found’ Sharon Bolton soon after I got my first kindle back in 2010 and she’s not let me down since and last year’s Dead Woman Walking was exceptional. So I was super excited to hear that The Craftsman will be published on 5 April 2018.

Blurb

Devoted father or merciless killer?
His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago?
Or is there something much darker at play? NetGalley

So what do you think? Any of those beauties take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 5 books which is way above average for a normal working week, and I have gained 3 but because 2 of my reads were library books my TBR remains static at 186

Physical Books – 107
Kindle Books – 55
NetGalley Books –24

 

I have banked another third of book token this week and as I haven’t bought any books I’m still in credit!

Posted in Uncategorized

Reading and Reviewing in 2017

Well it’s that time for reflection on the old and setting new goals for the new year so I’m going to start in my traditional way with a few facts and figures.

I have read and reviewed 147 books in 2017, one less than this time last year and boy some of those books have been really worth shouting about!

This amounts to 48, 281 pages 657 pages more than last year so obviously I’ve chosen some longer books to delight me in 2017 – that is an average of 132 pages per day!! No wonder I keep saying I don’t have time to do anything – to be honest that figure shocks even me!

Good old Goodreads tells me that my longest read was The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne was the longest book I read at a whopping 592 pages which was my very last review of 2017

The shortest unsurprisingly was a short story  Promises to Keep by Elizabeth Haynes at a mere 41 pages.

 

 

of the oldest books on my TBR was Room by Emma Donoghue which I finally read earlier this month – this was the book most read by other readers on Goodreads – 926,679 other readers there have also read this popular book, although I suspect many of them did so a little before I did!

The book I shared with the fewest readers was a debut crime thriller The Last Thread by Ray Britain, written by a former Police Officer not only were we treated to a new Detective but the authenticity of the read shone through – this book deserves a wider audience for sure!

A whopping 92 books fell into the crime fiction/psychological thriller categories although the psychological thriller count was down by 8 from 2016 to a mere 35.

My non-fiction reads declined slightly from 15 to 13 book fitting into this category, including a must-read for book-lovers; The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler although a large proportion of these are also crime related.

As always my goal for the year was to read more of my own books so not only did I participate in Cathy’s wonderful 20 Books of Summer 2017 challenge (which I completed on time – go me!) I chose a number of books that fitted with 2017’s obsession with the variety of ways true crime is presented and books inspired by true crime which was kicked off by the brilliant Little Deaths by Emma Flint

I also participated in the Mount TBR Challenge on Goodreads for the first time where I completed 34 of my aimed 36 books purchased prior to 1 January 2017.

 

In all I read 56 of my own books or a relatively respectable 38% of my reads for 2017 which is a vast improvement on the 49 books completed in 2016 and very nearly the 40% I was aiming for. I was spurred on by realising how many superb books I already own with The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell being an early delight.

Of course though I’m a book lover and so this is exactly the time and place to say thank you to all the authors and publishers who have given me copies of your books to review – there are simply too many outstanding reads of the year (although tomorrow I will pick my top ten published in 2017) a whole 92 books read in 2017 were ARCs including Shelter by Sarah Franklin a historical novel set in the Forest of Dean where I lived from 1979 to 1987 – a setting that was also used in The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

As for you all, what you seemed to enjoy most in 2017 were the following Top Five Reviews of the year were:

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly
The Sixth Window by Rachel Abbott
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
Painkiller by N.J. Fountain
Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham

Two of these are from my own bookshelves proving that it isn’t just the newest releases that captures reader’s attention!

Finally at the beginning of December I completed the annual filling in of the Reading Bingo squares with some choices of the year.

 

2018 Goals

Beyond the Goodreads Reading Challenge, I don’t normally go in for bookish goals but I am going to break with the tradition and set myself some (gentle) targets for 2018.

  1. In 2017 I discovered what a wonderful array I have already in my possession and so the target is to read 40% of my own books in 2018. To give me some motivation I have decided to allow myself to buy one book for every three of my own that I read – of course there are some get-out clauses – the annual book sales held on the island are exempt and I will be visiting the library for any must-reads that I don’t own.
  2. The latter clause is important as I really want to up my reading or re-reading of classic novels, I shelved just one book in this category in 2017 although two others could have been put there but I felt they belonged better elsewhere. My target is to read at least 6 so one every other month and the library is the place to go for these. Despite being a library member all of my life, I haven’t visited anywhere near enough in more recent years which is something I feel guilty about.
  3. I am taking part in the Mount TBR Challenge again with an aim of reading 36 books – let’s see if I make it in 2018.

On the blog

  1. I am (very) slowly amalgamating the tabs with the aim of putting all the reviews for 2013-2015 onto one tab – this ongoing project must be completed by the end of March 2018.
  2. My about me page is in dire need of an update especially as it is visited far more often than I expected with 660 views in the last year.
  3. And of course I will shortly display an updated shelf as my header to welcome in the start of 2018.
  4. I always used to write my book review before starting a new book and this habit is being resumed in 2018 – this has been a very busy year and as much as I love blogging it has been a real struggle to fit everything in and I’m hoping this will help me get a better balance, rather than frantically writing reviews at the weekend when I need to endlessly check names (I have a real blind-spot in this department) as well as other elusive details.
  5. Finally I will remember to post each review to Cleopatra Loves Books Facebook page which at best has been intermittent since I set it up earlier this year.

That just leaves me to thank you all for visiting, commenting and writing your own entertaining posts and reviews that has me constantly rationalising my book choices!

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

Dead Woman Walking – Sharon Bolton

Crime Fiction
5*s

What do these items have in common? A hot air balloon, a bunch of nuns and peacocks, well they all come together in one of the most unusual of crime novels, Dead Woman Walking, written by the incredibly accomplished Sharon Bolton.

Perhaps the next question should be what do I look for in my crime fiction? After all I read a fair bit of this genre, and we’ve all read the complaints about the now almost compulsory serial killer or the amount that we have to suspend belief for the story to work or perhaps how tired a format the more straightforward police procedural can seem against the fast and furious thrillers that dominate the charts. Now I’m not saying that I consistently subscribe to these views but I will admit that even if I haven’t written the words myself, I’ve considered their merits more than once. I would say I want a book that feels unique, a story that I can believe in, one that challenges the normal format and one that has me rooting all the way for the good guy but, and here’s the difficult bit, I also like to have my beliefs challenged or at least to look at an issue from a different perspective. Sharon Bolton accomplished all of this in this thrilling tale. Yes, this book is also full of tension and intrigue and there is no better device for this than a race against time.

The day starts so well for sisters Bella and Jessica with a balloon ride to celebrate Bella’s fortieth birthday so both women are up early on the Scottish border. They get into the basket and float up above the landscape, the trees and the large isolated house, they are skimming the landscape close enough to see but far enough up to be just within the safety zone. Then one of the passengers witnesses an act of violence perpetrated by a man against a young woman. The man’s eyes meet those belonging to the person who saw it, and then the balloon crashes.

What follows, and I promise you the above is about all you get in the synopsis, is outstanding. There are so many twists and turns but none seem in the slightest way put into the book for cheap thrills, these were the real deal pirouettes of twists! All of this meant that when they came I had to take a deep breath and assure myself, yes that really happened! And this wasn’t just once, the revelations slipped into the sentence turned the entire book on its head more than once. There is also a Police investigation complete with media presence and behind the scenes differences of opinion along with more dead bodies than I’m usually comfortable with but each distinct part felt as though it was new although of course those nuns and peacocks helped!

Sharon Bolton was already close to the top of my must-read author list and this outing has established her at the number one spot. If you haven’t read any of her books, where have you been? You really don’t know what you are missing. Pitch perfect plotting and dialogue that seamlessly integrates with the characters and situation means that the readers are treated to a read that they won’t forget in a hurry.

P.S. This is probably not the book to read if you have a hot air balloon ride booked anytime soon!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Alison Barrow of Transworld Books who very kindly sent me an advance review copy, up there with the best book post of the year!

First Published UK: 20 April 2017
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages:  368
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Fantastic Fiction by Sharon Bolton
Standalone Novels

Sacrifice (2008)
Awakening (2009)
Blood Harvest (2010)
Little Black Lies (2015)
 Daisy In Chains (2016)

Lacey Flint Series

Now You See Me (2011)
If Snow Hadn’t Fallen (2012) Novella
Dead Scared (2012)
Like This Forever (2013)
A Dark and Twisted Tide (2014)
Here Be Dragons (2016) Novella

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (April 5)

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

At the moment I am reading and thoroughly enjoying The Restless Dead by Simon Beckett which was published in eBook format in February but is out in hardback tomorrow.

Blurb

Once one of the country’s most respected forensics experts, Dr David Hunter is facing an uncertain professional – and personal – future. So when he gets a call from Essex police, he’s eager for the chance to assist them.

A badly decomposed body has been found in a desolate area of tidal mudflats and saltmarsh called the Backwaters. Under pressure to close the case, the police want Hunter to help with the recovery and identification.

It’s thought the remains are those of Leo Villiers, the son of a prominent businessman who vanished weeks ago. To complicate matters, it was rumoured that Villiers was having an affair with a local woman. And she too is missing.

But Hunter has his doubts about the identity. He knows the condition of the unrecognizable body could hide a multitude of sins. Then more remains are discovered – and these remote wetlands begin to give up their secrets . . . Amazon

I have just finished The Special Girls by Isabelle Grey, the third in the Grace Fisher series, which is also published tomorrow, 6 April 2017 – as are a whole heap of brilliant books!

Blurb

A case of historical child sex abuse by a famous doctor is linked to the murder of his young and popular colleague at a summer camp deep in the Essex woods.

A young psychiatric registrar is found beaten to death in the woods close to a summer camp for young patients suffering from eating disorders. It is run by the charismatic, world-renowned Professor Ned Chesham. DI Grace Fisher investigates, but it is not long before she is pulled from the case – to head up a Metropolitan Police review into a cold case involving Chesham himself.

Nearly twenty years ago, one of Chesham’s patients made allegations that he sexually assaulted her. The investigation at the time found no conclusive proof, but Grace soon discovers another victim, and a witness whose account never reached the police. Does this mean the original investigation was bungled? Scotland Yard would certainly like her to conclude otherwise.

As Grace uncovers the lies that led to the young doctor’s murder, she discovers the full extent of the damage done to Chesham’s ‘special girls’ – and the danger they are still in. NetGalley

Next I plan to read Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton and I have a feeling I’m in for a real treat with this one which will be published on

Blurb

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor.

She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all . . . Amazon

So chillers and killers all round for me this week! What are you reading?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (February 19)

Weekly Wrap Up

I didn’t post a wrap up last week as I had gone away on a little jaunt, firstly to London where I met up with Bibliobeth to attend a Book Blogger event organised by Headline books – I had a great evening, had long chats with publicist Georgina Moore (Chief Communications Officer) and authors: Julia Crouch, Alison Weir, Colette McBeth, Amanda Reynolds and Adele Parks as well as some other bloggers – this goes some way to explaining some of the recent additions to my TBR. I had a fantastic evening.

From there I made a trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon where unfortunately the great Bard was fairly silent but myself and my oldest (in that we’ve been friends the longest) friend had a wonderful weekend catching up and having fun. I then made a trip to Malvern to visit relatives before making it back to Jersey via a Post Office so I could send my books home as they wouldn’t fit in my carry-on case!

This Week on the Blog

Well I’m going back to the week before because I simply have to feature my review of He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly which is my favourite read of the year so far. A story of a coupling interrupted in 1999 leads to a court case with a young man charged with rape. What really happened on the day of the solar eclipse that day will have long lasting consequences for all involved.

My extract post this week was from The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir the first in the Children’s House Series.

My This Week in Books post featured among other’s The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, another book to count towards my Mount TBR challenge.

On Thursday my first review of the week was for The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer which I enjoyed far more than I would have been expected since it contained strong supernatural elements.

On Friday I posted my review for Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie. This story of a past murder in Portobello, Edinburgh was then the subject of yesterday’s Put a Book on the Map feature written by Joanne of Portobello Book Blog and Alison Baillie. I’m really enjoying the posts that are the collaboration between the author and book bloggers which really add some context to the books being discussed.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. This sliding doors novel which has three different versions of a life, kicked off by a student falling off her bike in 1958 was exceptionally well written and one of my favourite novels of last year. Each version of Eva and Jim’s life is full of minor details as well as the bigger events which steer them down different paths which made for a satisfying and enjoyable read.

If you click on the cover you can read my full review

The Versions of Us

Blurb

What if you had said yes . . . ?
Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.
The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow. What if one small decision could change the rest of your life? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

So back to the wonderful Headline Book Blogger event where I picked up a much wanted copy of An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth which is due out in June 2017,  which Colette kindly signed for me.

an-act-of-silence

Blurb

These are the facts I collect.

My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him where they had sex. They next morning she was found in an allotment.

Mariela is dead.

Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning
Linda Moscow: loving mother to Gabriel. Linda promised herself years ago that she would never let her son down again. Even if it means going against everything she believes in – she will do anything to protect him. She owes him that much.
Gabriel Miller: the prodigal son. He only ever wanted his mother’s love, but growing up he always seemed to do the wrong thing. If his mother could only see the bad in him – how could he possibly be good?
How far will a mother go to save her son? Linda’s decision might save Gabriel, but it will have a catastrophic impact on the lives of others. What would you do if faced with the same impossible choice? Amazon

After having a wonderful chat with Amanda Reynolds I was delighted that she signed my copy of Close to Me which will be out in April 2017.

close-to-me
Blurb

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia – she’s lost a whole year of memories.
A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?
She can’t remember what she did – or what happened the night she fell.
But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought. Amazon

Bibliobeth bought me her spare copy of Girls On Fire by Robin Wasserman
which is due out in May 2017

girls-on-fire

Blurb

This is not a story of bad things happening to bad girls. I say this because I know you, Dex, and I know how you think.
I’m going to tell you a story, and this time, it will be the truth.
Hannah Dexter is a nobody, ridiculed and isolated at school by golden girl Nikki Drummond. But in their junior year of high school, Nikki’s boyfriend walks into the woods and shoots himself. In the wake of the suicide, Hannah befriends new girl Lacey and soon the pair are inseparable, bonded by their shared hatred of Nikki.
Lacey transforms good girl Hannah into Dex who is up for any challenge Lacey throws at her. The two girls bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live and think they are invulnerable.
But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it’s a secret that will change everything . . . Amazon

In the post I was delighted to receive Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton – one of my favourite authors which is being published on 20 April 2017.

dead-woman-walking

Blurb

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor.

She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all . . . Amazon

From NetGalley I was delighted to be given a copy of Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey which is out next month – and it features Meave and Josh!!

 

let-the-dead-speak

Blurb

When an 18-year-old girl returns home to find her house covered in blood and her mother missing, Detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad must navigate a web of lies to discover the truth…
When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds Kate, her mother, missing and the house covered in blood. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder.
Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. In the absence of a body, she and maverick detective Josh Derwent turn their attention to the neighbours.
The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter definitely has something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighbourhood’s favourite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat or is there more behind the charismatic façade? As the accusations fly, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of conflicting testimonies, none of which quite add up. Who is lying, who is not? The answer could lead them to the truth about Kate Emery, and save the life of someone else. NetGalley

Surprisingly I have more books added to the TBR which will be revealed next week…

What have you found to read this week?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 6 books and gained 10!! so the grand total is 192
Physical Books – 115
Kindle Books – 65
NetGalley Books – 12

Posted in Uncategorized

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!