Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Wych Elm – Tana French

Crime Fiction
4*s

Having been an ardent follower of this author’s crime fiction in the Dublin Series, I was very excited indeed to hear she was publishing a stand-alone novel. It would be so easy to say this is different to that series but since one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this author’s books is the fact that each one had a unique feel which sets it apart from most crime fiction series.

This book does however focus perhaps more on the psychological aspects of crime than her previous novels with a house also playing the part of centre stage.

Happy go-lucky Toby has had an easy ride of life and when things have gone wrong he has used his charm or has been rescued by a hefty dose of luck. Life is good until he is attacked by burglars in his flat and is hospitalised. The result is that Toby is broken, both mentally and physically. With his elderly uncle Hugo being in failing health the family decide that as a temporary measure Toby should move in to keep him company. This works well returning Toby to his seemingly idyllic childhood in the Irish ancestral home and his very fond memories of time spent with his two cousins under the less than watchful eye of their batchelor uncle while their parents went off and made merry over the summers of their youth.

Anyway there is Toby coming to terms with a brutal attack, the loss of ‘himself’ and at the same time staring death in the face as the cancer that has taken up residence in his uncle’s body makes the loss of this important man inevitable. Then a skull is found by his young niece and nephew in the hollow of the wych elm in the garden bringing a whole different kind of horror to their door.

This is a long book and one that has an entirely different feel to many that the term psychological sums up. It is slow moving, our chief protagonist Toby is presented as something quite easy to grasp but equal to any mystery concerning bodies stashed in a tree Toby is left to unravel the mysteries of his own past. He is forced to examine his blindness to the injustice that seemingly ravaged around him without his registering it on any level. This is a modern tale in the sense that it concentrates on the social concerns that perhaps only the privileged in life can afford to focus on. I have to admit I did struggle a little because in many ways this book is an attack on the main protagonist with his easy privileged life, son to two professionals, never a worry in his life being knocked because his life wasn’t awful. It isn’t just that he is privileged in the way that he had enough food or warmth or clothes, but his privilege is further emphasised because he wasn’t a minority in terms of his gender or his sexuality. His crime it seems is that he didn’t recognise, as a child, that others got bullied for such things. I have to admit the strident tone adopted around this strand of the story did at times cause me to question the reasoning behind it, thereby pulling me out of what is a complex and interesting story.

This is a book that truly stands outside the norms of crime fiction because it is a book about people and society and the beliefs we tell ourselves and each other. The visible and the invisible both are uncovered by Toby our narrator through his own particular journey in search of the truth.

I’d like to say a belated thank you to the publishers Penguin Books UK who allowed me to read a copy of The Wych Elm ahead of publication of this edition of 21 February 2019, although it is possible to get a copy of the same book named The Witch Elm in the UK already. Confused? Yes, me too!

First Published UK: 21 February 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (November 6)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

My opener this week has been chosen from what for me has been a long awaited book; The Wych Elm by Tana French.

Blurb


‘For me it all goes back to that night, the dark corroded hinge between before and after, the slipped-in sheet of trick glass that tints everything on one side in its own murky colours and leaves everything on the other luminous and untouchable.’

One night changes everything for Toby. He’s always led a charmed life – until a brutal attack leaves him damaged and traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at his family’s ancestral home, the Ivy House, filled with memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins.

But not long after Toby’s arrival, a discovery is made: a skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden.

As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself. Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

1

I’ve always considered myself to be, basically a lucky person. I don’t mean I’m one of those people who pick multi-million-euro lotto numbers on a whim, or show up seconds too late for flights that go on to crash with no survivors. I just mean that I managed to go through life without any of the standard misfortunes you hear about. I wasn’t abused as a kid, or bullied in school; my parents didn’t split up or die or have any addiction problems or even get into any but the most trivial arguments; none of my girlfriends ever cheated on me, at least as far as I know, or dumped me in traumatic ways; I never got hit by a car or caught anything worse than chicken pox or even had to wear braces. Not that I spent much time thinking about this, but when it occurred to me, it was with a satisfying sense that everything was going exactly as it should.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well I was already looking forward to this one but opening the cover and remembering just how quickly Tana French can grab my attention, even when scene-setting, merely underlined the point for me.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (November 4)

Well it’s good to be back after an unscheduled extended break. In short I’d run out of books to review and we all know you can’t be a book blogger if you are not reading books so I factored in a week’s break, and then I caught the lurgy which put paid to both reading and reviewing!

All’s well now although life is still hectic, and how on earth are we in November already??

This Week on the Blog

Well despite my main reason for taking a break was the lack of books to review, I managed just one in this my first week back blogging…

My excerpt post was from The Lies We Told by Camilla Way, a psychological novel that seemed suitably scary for Halloween week.

This Week in Books featured the authors Elizabeth Haynes, Elly Griffiths and Ann Cleeves, three women brim full with talent.

On Thursday it was time for Five of the Best spanning the Octobers 2014 to 2018 and reminding me of some fantastic five star reads.

And then we get to the review! Murder by the Book by Claire Harman delves into a Victorian true crime and examines the role that a popular book may have had in inciting violence. Fascinating stuff.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre a shocking but many layered story about a boy who accidently kills his young friend.

The scene is set beautifully in the small town of Beauval in France where Antoine lives with his mother. His father decamped to Germany and consequently he has a distant relationship with him. The crux of the story is that Antoine hides Rémi’s body and returns home to his loving mother and shelters as much as possible from reality. He has a child’s view of the world, realistically depicted, and alternately buries his head in the sand and suffers the awful anxiety about his crime being discovered.

We then see Antoine years later, as an adult and come to view the events in a slightly different way but it is really the author’s skill in nailing the small town setting as well as it’s inhabitants. Layer on top of that the reader’s conflict about the discovery of the ‘crime’ and I think you’ll understand why this is one of those books I can’t forget.

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



Blurb

Antoine is twelve years old. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother in Beauval, a small, backwater town surrounded by forests, where everyone knows everyone’s business, and nothing much ever happens. But in the last days of 1999, a series of events unfolds, culminating in the shocking vanishing without trace of a young child. The adults of the town are at a loss to explain the disappearance, but for Antoine, it all begins with the violent death of his neighbour’s dog. From that one brutal act, his fate and the fate of his neighbour’s six year old son are bound forever.

In the years following Rémi’s disappearance, Antoine wrestles with the role his actions played. As a seemingly inescapable net begins to tighten, breaking free from the suffocating environs of Beauval becomes a gnawing obsession. But how far does he have to run, and how long will it take before his past catches up with him again? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

One thing I have managed to do in my absence is obtain a variety of new books! This week I’m going to share my new additions from NetGalley.

The Liar’s Wife by Samantha Hayes is due to be published on 22 November 2018 by Bookouture and promises to be a shocking psychological thriller.

Blurb

When Ella wakes up in hospital following a hit and run incident, she is scared and confused. Close to tears, her eyes fall on a get-well-soon card on the window sill and the nurse reassures her that her loving husband will be back soon.

But Ella has never been married… Amazon

I am also delighted to have a copy of The Wych Elm by the talented Tana French which is out in paperback already but due to be published for the kindle in February 2019!



Blurb

‘For me it all goes back to that night, the dark corroded hinge between before and after, the slipped-in sheet of trick glass that tints everything on one side in its own murky colours and leaves everything on the other luminous and untouchable.’

One night changes everything for Toby. He’s always led a charmed life – until a brutal attack leaves him damaged and traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at his family’s ancestral home, the Ivy House, filled with memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins.

But not long after Toby’s arrival, a discovery is made: a skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden.

As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself. Amazon

I have also been gratefully provided with a copy of Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly who is one of my favourite contemporary authors. Stone Mothers will be published on 4 April 2019.

Blurb

You can’t keep the secret.
You can’t tell the truth.
You can’t escape the past…

Marianne was seventeen when she fled her home, her family, her boyfriend Jesse and the body they buried.

Now, forced to return, she can feel the past closing around her. And Jesse, who never forgave her for leaving, is finally threatening to expose the truth.

Marianne will do anything to protect the life she’s built; the husband and daughter who must never know.

Even if it means turning to her worst enemy…
But Marianne may not know the whole story – and she isn’t the only one with secrets they’d kill to keep. Amazon

In February 2019 the hardback version of Jane Harper’s third novel The Lost Man will be published and I’ve been fortunate to be provided with a copy in advance of this date.

Blurb

He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects… Amazon

The excitement about all of these upcoming releases is just what I needed having lost all oomph for life over the last couple of weeks!

What have you found to read?

tbr-watch

There has been the annual book sale since my last report and the numbers have jumped to 171!!!

Physical Books – 115
Kindle Books – 37
NetGalley Books –17
Audio Books –2

I have added one review of my own books since my last count and although I bought new books at the annual book sale, they were excluded in the terms and conditions, but my copy of The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes was not.

 

I therefore have 2 2/3 worth of book tokens!


Posted in 5 Of the Best

Five of the Best (August 2014 to August 2018)


5 Star Reads

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

As I found when putting this post together my reads in August tend to be a mixed bunch as I attack my TBR for 20 Books of Summer but this is also the time of year when I review some real gems!

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

My choice for August 2014 is The Secret Place by Tana French – a writer of exceptional talent who has written a series of crime books that are all completely unique. This is my favourite of them all though even five years on!

When a boy is found murdered in the grounds of an exclusive girl’s school the police need to penetrate the secretive world of teenage girls, not a task for the faint-hearted. Not only does this book have all the requisite ingredients for a great read; characters, plot and pace, it is also an enormously fun read, so much so I dubbed it ‘Mallory Towers for Grown Ups’

An absolutely compelling read that shouldn’t be missed.

Blurb

The photo shows a boy who was murdered a year ago.
The caption says, ‘I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM’.

Detective Stephen Moran hasn’t seen Holly Mackey since she was a nine-year-old witness to the events of Faithful Place. Now she’s sixteen and she’s shown up outside his squad room, with a photograph and a story.

Even in her exclusive boarding school, in the graceful golden world that Stephen has always longed for, bad things happen and people have secrets. The previous year, Christopher Harper, from the neighbouring boys’ school, was found murdered on the grounds. And today, in the Secret Place – the school noticeboard where girls can pin up their secrets anonymously – Holly found the card.

Solving this case could take Stephen onto the Murder squad. But to get it solved, he will have to work with Detective Antoinette Conway – tough, prickly, an outsider, everything Stephen doesn’t want in a partner. And he will have to find a way into the strange, charged, mysterious world that Holly and her three closest friends inhabit and disentangle the truth from their knot of secrets, even as he starts to suspect that the truth might be something he doesn’t want to hear. Amazon

In August 2015 I was caught up in the psychological thriller Burnt Paper Sky now known as What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan, which examines the story behind the ‘missing child’ headlines. A big part of this book is to examine how we react to such news as presented by the media.

This is the story of an investigation with a difference as the main thrust of the book looking at the characters involved, including Ben’s close family, his aunt and his mother’s oldest friend along with other secondary characters. The timeline is kept linear so that the reader shares the frustrations of those looking for answers whilst giving them space to try out their own theories.

A brilliant example in what has become a crowded genre and in my opinion one that shouldn’t be missed.

Blurb

Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment. Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing.

But what really happened that fateful afternoon?

Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?

The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? Amazon

I’ve chosen a nonfiction read for 2016’s choice, Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colqhoun which examines the life of Florence Maybrick, a Victorian lady living in Liverpool and tried for murder in August 1889.

The author has used an unusual but exceptionally effective structure in her examination as to whether Florence did poison her husband using arsenic. First we are presented with the facts in line with a more generous view of Florence than she is given by many researchers (I have read a few books featuring this suspected murderess). Then, towards the end the author presents the evidence from the other perspective, if Florence did harbour murderous intent, how do the facts stack up then! A brilliant construct underpinned by sterling research resulted in a fabulous read.



Blurb

In the summer of 1889, young Southern belle Florence Maybrick stood trial for the alleged arsenic poisoning of her much older husband, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick.

‘The Maybrick Mystery’ had all the makings of a sensation: a pretty, flirtatious young girl; resentful, gossiping servants; rumours of gambling and debt; and torrid mutual infidelity. The case cracked the varnish of Victorian respectability, shocking and exciting the public in equal measure as they clambered to read the latest revelations of Florence’s past and glimpse her likeness in Madame Tussaud’s.

Florence’s fate was fiercely debated in the courtroom, on the front pages of the newspapers and in parlours and backyards across the country. Did she poison her husband? Was her previous infidelity proof of murderous intentions? Was James’ own habit of self-medicating to blame for his demise?
Historian Kate Colquhoun recounts an utterly absorbing tale of addiction, deception and adultery that keeps you asking to the very last page, did she kill him? Amazon

 

My pick for August 2017 is one of the best examples of an author using a true crime as inspiration, a sub-genre which preoccupied my reading during 2017 but the most outstanding of them all was Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood which tells the story of Grace Marks accused of killing Thomas Kimner and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery.

Set in Canada this author demonstrates her exceptional skill in making her reader’s believe that this really is an account of Grace, telling her story and putting the record straight. The portrayal of a woman, imprisoned for many years for a crime she did not commit? Was it all down to her accomplice or do the things she reveals in her accounts about her mistress, her life before and her ambitions indicate that she is guilty – the reader decides. Absolutely fabulous I read the book prior to watching the serialisation on Netflix which is also well worth watching – I wanted a quilt by the time I’d watched them being created by the actress who played Grace, Sarah Gedddon.



Blurb

Sometimes I whisper it over to myself: Murderess. Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt along the floor.’
Grace Marks. Female fiend? Femme fatale? Or weak and unwilling victim? Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery. Amazon

August 2018 reviews were a bit of a mixed bunch but there was one crime fiction read that stood out; The Dry by Jane Harper set in Australia during a drought the weather is integral to the storyline.

In fact this police procedural is really two solid mysteries, both well-plotted and convoluted enough to keep the keenest of minds whirring away. But the real skill is Jane Harper’s ability to bring the characters to life. Now you may not like them all but you won’t forget many of them, I can assure you of that. So not only do you have brilliant plotting you also have great characters the small town setting which alongside the weather which should they be placed in the dock, would surely be pronounced guilty.

If you haven’t read this book, I truly urge you to do so.

Blurb

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime. Amazon

Five of the Best 2018

January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
July 2018

Posted in Reviewing Habit

Reading and Reviewing in 2016

g reading-2016

 

Well here we are nearly at the end of 2016 and as usual I will soon be posting my top 10 books published this year – but here is a chance for those books not published this year to have their moment in the spotlight as well as indulging me in my love of facts and figures.

So far I have read, and reviewed 148 books in 2016 which add up to a total of 47,624 pages which tells me 2016 has been spent reading even more books than normal! On the whole 2016 if nothing else, has been a fantastic year of books for me.

 

 

Goodreads tells me that the longest book I read was Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain with 562 pages, whilst I am only one person out of five on the site to have read a book set here in Jersey,  Standing in the Shadows by Jon Stasiak.

 

101,541 other Goodreads readers have also read Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight with me, making this my most popular read in 2016Psychological Thriller 4*s

Did She Kill HimAs usual my reading matter is crime heavy with 87 books equating to 59% falling squarely into the crime fiction or psychological thriller categories, but of course they can crime also features in my historical fiction section as well as popping up in the non-fiction category. This year I have had the pleasure of reading many true crime books featuring Victorian poisoners including the fabulous Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun

 

Pictures of perfection.jxrOne of my goals for 2016 was to read more of my own books to get a balance with all the wonderful books I receive for review. In 2015 I only read 34 of my own books, this year I have read an impressive 49 or 33%! I read 20 of these (some very belatedly, as in earlier this month,) for Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer which provided some exceptional reading in the form of Pictures of Perfection  by Reginald Hill

 

In 2016 I read 65 authors who were new to me, down from 71 in 2016 and of course once again, I have met some fantastic Buriel Ritesauthors who I hope will be revisited in 2017, including Burial Rites by Hannah Kent which I finally got around to reading early this year – I was blown away and it is one of my favourite reads of the year so I’m looking forward to The Good People which will be published early next year, aka very soon!

 

I also discovered #49786eBeryl Bainbridge via her book featuring two teenaged girls, in Harriet Said, enjoying a Harriet Saidtotal of three of her books this year alone.

So there’s a small taste of what I’ve been reading. In 2017 I plan to finally hit my target of 40% of my reading to be from my own selection of books with the help of the Mount TBR Challenge on Goodreads and of course Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer Challenge which she’s confirmed she will be running again this year. Funnily enough I have plenty of books to chose from, especially with the Christmas additions.

 

As for you all, the Top Five Reviews of 2016 by viewer are as follows:

  1. My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor
  2. The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish
  3. Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
  4. Kindred by Steve Robinson
  5. The Trespasser by Tana French

top-five-reviews

Coming very soon are my chosen top ten reads published in 2016– you can see all 148 books read and reviewed so far here or for a more compact view check out those books I chose for 2016 book bingo!

I’d like to thank all those authors and publishers who’ve given me a fantastic selection of books, the readers and commenters on this little blog and those who connect with my reviews via twitter, you have all made my world brighter in 2016.
Happy reading everyone and here’s to a Happy New Year full of more fabulous books!

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

The Trespasser – Tana French

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Oh my!! I really don’t know how this author does it but once again Tana French has come up with yet another book with an authentic feel, that bears no resemblance to those that came before it. The Dublin Murder Squad, of which this is the sixth, is not a traditional series rather one or more characters from a previous book appears in a later one, and the crimes they tackle are as varied as the characters that populate the pages.

In The Trespasser Antoinette Conway, one of the detectives who appeared in the previous novel, The Secret Place, is the lead detective on a slam-dunk domestic killing of a young woman. Antoinette’s partner on the force is another detective we met in the previous book, Steve Moran, who has now found his way onto the Murder Squad. The partnership isn’t the easiest, Antoinette still being brusque and feisty and by now thoroughly fed-up with not being accepted by the rest of the team. Both are pleased to have a case of their own to run and will even put up with the arrogant Detective Bresslin overseeing their work to get away from the relentless night-shift and the unrelenting stupid crimes that occur on it.

Having never been in a Murder Squad any more than I’ve attended a girl’s boarding school, the author has created what feels like an authentic recreation of the world that Conway and Moran inhabit. The atmosphere, the décor and the smells are all served up along with the language, by which I refer to the dialogue and the jargon that surely really exist? The book is set fairly and squarely in Dublin and as in the previous novels modern Ireland is gently explored without overpowering the main plot.

The centre of the plot is all about the murder of Aislinn Murray a young woman, identikit to the numerous other women with straight blonde hair and a pout to match, who has had her head bashed in. There is no forced entry to the house and the table is set for two so all the junior detectives need to do is find the dinner date – it’s so easy that Antoinette is frustrated, she really wants a big case, one where she can do some real detective work. When they meet Aislinn’s friend Lucy the pair get a hint that there could be more to the tale, but with Bresslin looking for a quick win with such an obvious suspect, is Antoinette’s reputation for being feisty going to work irreparably against her?

This is a long book, one packed full of details which you really don’t want to miss. As good as the plot is, and it’s fantastic, the most spellbinding part is the unveiling of the characters. The victim is not quite the thick, look-obsessed and no taste girl that the detectives had her pegged at. Nor is the boyfriend quite as boring as he first seemed and with Antoinette herself the biggest mystery of the entire plot there is plenty to absorb and wonder at as the layers of their characters are peeled back to show the reality behind the façade. But be warned this isn’t a straightforward ride with Tana French not adverse to some manipulation of her reader’s feelings; I found my sympathy and concern for a number of characters waxed and waned as different interpretations to the facts seemed certain, and then slid away to the ‘I’m just not sure pile’ all of which meant that I suspected everyone and trusted no-one until pretty much the very last page.

I really can’t express quite how amazing this series is; I’ve loved all the books and each time a new one comes out it becomes my latest ‘favourite’ I’m not going there this time, but if you want a different kind of crime fiction, this series is a definite place to visit.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book for review purposes from the publishers Hodder & Stoughton ahead of UK publication on 22 September 2016. This is my unbiased opinion of the book.

The Dublin Murder Squad books:

In The Woods

The Likeness

Faithful Place

Broken Harbour

The Secret Place

First Published UK: 22 September 2016
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 480
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 7)

This Week In Books

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

At the moment I am reading (ok well just about to start) The Trespasser by Tana French, the fifth in the Dublin Murder Squad series. This has to be one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year so I’m hoping for great things. The Trespasser will be published on 22 September 2016.

The Trespasser

Blurb

Antoinette Conway, the tough, abrasive detective from The Secret Place, is still on the Murder squad, but only just. She’s partnered up with Stephen Moran now, and that’s going well – but the rest of her working life isn’t. Antoinette doesn’t play well with others, and there’s a vicious running campaign in the squad to get rid of her. She and Stephen pull a case that at first looks like a slam-dunk lovers’ tiff, but gradually they realise there’s more going on: someone on their own squad is trying to push them towards the obvious solution, away from nagging questions. They have to work out whether this is just an escalation in the drive to get rid of her – or whether there’s something deeper and darker going on. NetGalley

I have just finished the epic tale which follows Juliet Winterton in The Jeweller’s Wife by Judith Lennox

The Jeweller's Wife

Blurb

1938. As England awaits the outbreak of war, Juliet Winterton journeys from the Mediterranean to the Essex countryside to begin her life as the beautiful young wife of a London jeweller.
But beneath her husband’s intelligence and ambition, lies a cruel and ruthless man. And when dashing politician Gillis Sinclair comes to stay at Marsh Court, Juliet is drawn to his irresistible charm.
So begins a passionate affair that will have consequences far beyond anything Juliet imagines. For Gillis Sinclair is hiding a dark secret and, as the next generation of Wintertons grows up, Juliet fears that they, too, will be tainted by the past… NetGalley

Next I am going to be reading The Murder at the Vicarage for the Agatha Christie Blogathon organised by Christina Wehner for 16 to 18 September 2016.

The Murder at the Vicarage

Blurb

’Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a service!’
It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later. From seven potential murderers, Miss Marple must seek out the suspect who has both motive and opportunity. Amazon

Have you read any of these beauties? Do you want to?

Let me know what you are reading this week by adding your comments or leaving your link below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (July 31)

Weekly Wrap Up

Well there was no wrap up post last week because I was in Copenhagen meeting Hans Christian Anderson as part of a trip with my daughter and her two bridesmaids.

Cleo Beth and Hans

We chose a very hot weekend, with the temperature tipping 30 degrees centigrade, not the best weather for a bride-to-be whose mission was to see as many of the sights of Copenhagen as possible including of course The Little Mermaid! The commentator on our boat tour informed us she was disappointingly small and insignificant!! We all had a fantastic trip, this is one city I definitely want to revisit and especially as unsurprisingly they make the most fantastic Danish pastries!!

It’s been a sad week too with us marking the first anniversary of Owen’s passing which we spent together remembering happier times of a darling son and brother.Multi-coloured house

 

 

 

Last Week on the Blog

In amongst the highs and lows I managed to post a bumper crop of five reviews on the blog this week:

Monday I posted my review of the true Victorian crime book featuring the murder of a young maid-of-all work in Greenwich, London in Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane by Paul Thomas Murphy.

This was followed by my review of Blind Side which was part of Jennie Ensor’s blog tour. This book takes in the terrorist activities in London in 2005 as well as examining the effects of war on soldiers in a well-written and engaging style.
In my weekly mid-week post I highlighted my current and upcoming reads including Claire Mackintosh’s, I See You which I am sad to be separated from having been called on to socialise with real people (again!)

My review of The Beauty at the End by Debbie Howells was posted on Thursday swiftly followed by my eighth read in the 20 Books of Summer on Thursday, the classic The Shrimp and the Anemone by L.P. Hartley.

Yesterday had me posting my fifth review of a book by Liane Moriarty, her latest offering Truly Madly Guilty.

I’m now completely up to date with my reviews for what seems like the first time in an age!

Stacking the Shelves

I’ve got five NetGalley finds since my last post starting with another Victorian True Crime with a poisoner to boot!

Mary Ann Cotton – Dark Angel by Michael Connolly will be published by Pen and Sword on 1 September 2016. There is a note that states that this book will tie in with a ITV drama Dark Angel which is due for airing in the autumn.

Mary Ann Cotton

Blurb

A female thief, with four husbands, a lover and, reportedly, over twelve children, is arrested and tried for the murder of her step-son in 1872, turning the small village of West Auckland in County Durham upside down. Other bodies are exhumed and when they are found to contain arsenic, she is suspected of their murder as well.
The perpetrator, Mary Ann Cotton, was tried and found guilty and later hanged on 24 March 1873 in Durham Goal. It is claimed she murdered over twenty people and was the first female serial killer in England.
With location photographs and a blow by blow account of the trial, this book challenges the claim that Mary Ann Cotton was the ‘The West Auckland Borgia’, a title given to her at the time. It sets out her life, trial, death and the aftermath and also questions the legal system used to convict her by looking at contemporary evidence from the time and offering another explanation for the deaths. The book also covers the lives of those left behind, including the daughter born to Mary Ann Cotton in Durham Goal. NetGalley

I’m absolutely delighted to have received a copy of The Trespasser by Tana French, the sixth in the Dublin Murder Squad series, books that are loosely connected with each other but that are also readable as stand-alones. The Trespasser will be published on 22 September 2016.

The Trespasser

Blurb

Antoinette Conway, the tough, abrasive detective from The Secret Place, is still on the Murder squad, but only just. She’s partnered up with Stephen Moran now, and that’s going well – but the rest of her working life isn’t. Antoinette doesn’t play well with others, and there’s a vicious running campaign in the squad to get rid of her. She and Stephen pull a case that at first looks like a slam-dunk lovers’ tiff, but gradually they realise there’s more going on: someone on their own squad is trying to push them towards the obvious solution, away from nagging questions. They have to work out whether this is just an escalation in the drive to get rid of her – or whether there’s something deeper and darker going on. NetGalley

Lastly I have a copy of Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult which promises a look at prejudice. It’s a while since I binge read everything this author had published and now feel that it is time to pick up another.
Small Great Things

Blurb

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

Small Great Things is to be published on 22 November 2016

I also have a copy of The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola which was published on 14 July 2016.

The unseeing

Blurb

It is 1837 and the city streets teem with life, atmosphere and the stench of London. Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, has been sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding.
Edmund Fleetwood, an idealistic lawyer, is appointed to investigate Sarah’s petition for mercy and consider whether justice has been done. Struggling with his own demons, he is determined to seek out the truth, yet Sarah refuses to help him. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone with a child would go willingly to their own death?
THE UNSEEING is a vividly written novel of human frailty, fear and manipulation, and of the terrible consequences of jealousy and misunderstanding. NetGalley

Lastly I have a copy of Pierre Lemaitre’s Blood Wedding which was chosen because of all the fabulous reviews floating around the blogosphere. Blood Wedding was published on 7 July 2016.

Blood Wedding

Blurb

A gripping standalone psychological thriller about marriage, manipulation and murder by the internationally bestselling author of Alex
Sophie is haunted by the things she can’t remember – and visions from the past she will never forget.
One morning, she wakes to find that the little boy in her care is dead. She has no memory of what happened. And whatever the truth, her side of the story is no match for the evidence piled against her.
Her only hiding place is in a new identity. A new life, with a man she has met online.
But Sophie is not the only one keeping secrets . . . NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH
Since my last post I have read just 4 books and gained 5 so the total this week is now standing at 176 books!
89 physical books
67 e-books
20 books on NetGalley

 

Posted in Uncategorized

On My Bookshelf – A Rainbow of Books

On My Bookshelfv1

I decided to look at the rainbow in this occasional series of posts where I take a look at books that are sitting on my bookshelf – and yes I’ve made one!

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The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that these aren’t the usual book-covers but fortunately for this post, proof copies don’t always look like the finished article!

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Death at the Priory by James Ruddick, read in June 2014.

This book takes a look at the unsolved Victorian murder of Charles Bravo, a man who died a painful death having ingested antimony in 1876. With three suspects, his wife, Florence, the housekeeper Mrs Fox and Dr Gully who had previously had a relationship with Florence, this book examines why the case wasn’t solved. An interesting well-written book which I thought took a fair and measured look at the evidence. For Agatha Christie lovers, this case was referred to in her novel Ordeal by Innocence

 

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The Secret Place by Tana French, read August 2014

If you haven’t read Tana French’s brilliant novels, you really should!
When a boy is found murdered in the grounds of an exclusive girl’s school the police need to penetrate the secretive world of teenage girls, not a task for the faint-hearted. Not only does this book have all the requisite ingredients for a great read; characters, plot and pace, it is also an enormously fun read, so much so I dubbed it ‘Mallory Towers for Grown Ups’
This book made my Top Ten of 2014 reads, it was in the parlance of some of the characters – amazeballs!

 

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Interlude by Rupert Smith, read November 2014

What book-lover can resist a book about a book? Not me that’s for sure.

In this wonderful novel we meet Helen, a bored wife and mother who decides to do something for herself, she joins an evening class in creative writing. Helen’s grandfather was a literary novelist and she decides to investigate his life – with excerpts from his book Interlude the truth in the past is unveiled. A perfect book for lovers of past and present connections that should have been more widely celebrated.
This book also made my Top Ten list for 2014.

 

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The Moon Field by Judith Allnatt, read November 2013

No list is complete in my view without a good war-time story, this one is set in World War I. A combination of coming of age and the true horrors of war Judith Allnatt spins a convincing and emotional tale which begins with George meets Violet, in the course of his rounds as a postman. At just eighteen, George heads off to war with his friends, on the front-line trying to stop the German advance into France. A great book that was out in time to mark the centenary of the start of WWI.

 

 

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The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minett, read October 2015

This book starts with an absolutely riveting piece of writing about a boy who sets fire to two girls in a school playground – but, there is far more to this story than might appear. In a story that spans decades the themes of revenge are obvious but the undercurrent question of what is morally right, and what is wrong is a compelling one. It is a rare book that asks such big questions while still producing a tale full of action and surprises.

 

 

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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, read December 2014

One of my favourite reads of last year, and one that has had me determined to re-read all this authors previous books, The Paying Guests is a sumptuous read. In the hands of this author I positively embrace the small details that may seem insignificant but all go towards building a picture of a household, events that culminate in a court case, no less. As well as being an enjoyable read the author is treated to what life was like for women from different classes in England in the 1920s.

 

 

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The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley, read December 2011

As you can see I had to go much further back to find an offering for violet, and this is another book with a historical bent, this one has the tale of Grania in modern day Ireland combined with a wartime romance in London. The Ryan family and the Lisles’s have been entangled for a century. With a cast of characters that are appealing including a foundling child, this is a book to get lost in and enjoy!

 

So that is my trip through the rainbow complete, I do hope you enjoyed it!

More posts from my bookshelf can be found here:
On My Bookshelf
On My Bookshelf – What’s in a Name?
On My Bookshelf – Women’s Lives

Posted in Books I have read

Cleopatra’s Top 10 Books published in 2014

2014 was a fantastic reading year for me although even I was shocked to see that I’d marked a whopping 42 books as 5 star reads this year!  Yes that’s quite a lot but to be honest I award stars on instinct when I review and (conceitedly) assume those who look at my reviews read the words, rather than depend on this arbitrary system.  One reason I enjoy choosing my Top 10 is because it is interesting to see whether on reflection this instinctive scoring holds true for me.  Surprisingly it does and I didn’t feel I had to downgrade any of my choices this year but for those of you who assume I ponder and deliberate and weigh up the merits of one five star read against another, I’m sorry, I don’t.

Fortunately as this post concentrates on books published in 2014, I’ve been able to remove a few of my choices, but as you can imagine it was quite a task to get the list whittled down to just 10.  As a compromise some books that I love were featured on my blog post Reading and Reviewing in 2014 !

As regular visitors are aware I read a lot about crime fiction although I dip my toes in other genres from time to time. To help with the decision making I have decided to pick the best from some other genres too starting with Historical Fiction. The winner this year is my most recent five star review

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests

What can I say, beautiful engaging writing, three-dimensional characters, great period detail and…. a crime! This book has a slow start but don’t let that fool you, I had to slow down my reading towards the end as I didn’t want the story to end. Set in the early 1920’s Sarah Waters captures the herald of change with the classes and the genders having to adapt to a new way of life.

My Non-Fiction choice isn’t strictly a book that was published in 2014, that originally occurred back in 1974 but it was republished in 2014 (and this is my blog so my rules!)

Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman

Victorian Murderesses

This book looks at Middle Class Victorian Murderesses in the United Kingdom and France during the Victorian period. It is far more than a recap of the crimes as the author makes a link between the time, place and class of woman to commentate on women’s lives during this period. A fascinating and far more scholarly work than I anticipated.

My Surprise Find of the year:

Interlude by Rupert Smith

Interlude

I don’t know what made me choose this book, but I’m so glad I did. Told between past and present this has a book in a book, historical details and a cast of characters whose actions are at times reprehensible but who are entirely human made up of good points as well.

A Slow Burner of a novel award goes to:

That Dark Remembered Day by Tom Vowler

That Dark Remembered Day

This superbly written book invites the reader to absorb every word as it lays the groundwork for what happened on the day in question. The groundwork begins in 1983, the year I became a teenager and the details took me right back to that era. It’s no coincidence that Tom Vowler’s debut novel What Lies Within made my top ten listing for 2013 with this almost understated but perceptive writing.

Best Debut Novel:

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver

One of my favourite types of novel that concentrate on the why of a mystery rather than the who. Unravelling Oliver peels back the layers of the man who starts this book by saying ‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’ The multitude of narrators that have interacted with Oliver through his life create a satisfactory background to the man and it isn’t as straightforward as you may imagine.

Favourite book from an established Crime Series. This was a tough one as all the latest books from series I follow, especially Sharon Bolton’s and Peter James’ produced great books this year, however my final choice for this category features Maeve Kerrigan

The Kill by Jane Casey

The Kill

DC Maeve Kerrigan is caught up in a spate of police killings in the fifth in this series. Once again Jane Casey gets the balance of the police investigation to the personal lives of the characters we know and love (I admit to a little crush on DI Josh Derwent) with a story that is told at the perfect pace. If you haven’t read this series I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Best Start to a New Crime Series goes to a series that features another woman, Detective Grace Fisher, a crime reporter and missing students.

Good Girls Don’t Die by Isabelle Grey

Good Girls Don't Die

There was so much to love in this book, a great plot multiple storylines, well-rounded characters all backed up by a decent plot, in fact there was so much going on in this book to enjoy I felt like I’d read a banquet of a book by the time I’d finished.

There were two New to me author’s whose books were so good I had to read more – and after tossing a coin between the winner and Colette McBeth I award this one to:

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly

Keep Your Friends Close

This choice is another book peopled by well-rounded, if flawed characters. Natty’s husband Sean falls in love with her friend Eve but it appears that this isn’t the first time Eve has behaved in this way, the fallout is spectacular.. After reading this book I immediately bought a copy of Just What Kind of Mother Are You? which was equally as good.

My final two choices are simply two excellent books that I loved and have recommended far and wide ever since I read them.

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place

When a boy is found murdered in the grounds of an exclusive girl’s school the police need to penetrate the secretive world of teenage girls, not a task for the faint-hearted. Not only does this book have all the requisite ingredients for a great read; characters, plot and pace, it is also an enormously fun read, so much so I dubbed it ‘Mallory Towers for Grown Ups’

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Little Lies

Another book set in a school, this time in a primary school and the action takes place at a fund-raiser. Liane Moriarty has created such wonderful characters, brilliant dialogue and the most bizarre murder scene ever. This is a book that packs a punch with much more lurking beneath the seemingly light exterior.  This author also made my 2013 top 10 list with The Husband’s Secret.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at my personal favourites of 2014 and I hope you all find books to love in 2015.