Posted in 5 Of the Best

Five of the Best (October 2011 to 2015)

5 Star Reads

As I have now been reviewing for over five years I thought I’d highlight my favourite book for each month from 2011 until 2015 to remind myself of the good ones. When we are talking five years ago, they must be good if I still remember them!

2011

In October 2011 I was introduced to a series which is now a firm fixture on my reading list when I was offered a copy of The Reckoning by Jane Casey by Amazon Vine. I was so captivated by Maeve Kerrigan I instantly got myself a copy of The Burning which was the first in the series.

The Reckoning

Blurb

To the public, a killer who targets paedophiles is a hero. And even the police don’t regard the murders as a priority. Maeve Kerrigan is shocked by the violence inflicted during these kills – the victims were made to suffer. She believes no-one should be allowed to take the law into their own hands. However, as this serial killer’s violence begins to escalate, she is forced to decide how far she’s prepared to go to ensure justice is served … Goodreads

2012 yr

My choice for October 2012 is a tough one as I was on holiday during this month and, as always, had spent an age choosing the best books for the trip. The book that made the most impact was The White Lie by Andrea Gillies, a story that spans many years where a number of secrets are slowly but oh so assuredly revealed.

The White Lie

Blurb

On a hot summer’s afternoon, Ursula Salter runs sobbing from the loch on her parents’ Scottish estate and confesses, distraught, that she has killed Michael, her 19 year old nephew.
But what really happened? No body can be found, and Ursula’s story is full of contradictions. In order to protect her, the Salters come up with another version of events, a decision that some of them will come to regret.
Years later, at a family gathering, a witness speaks up and the web of deceit begins to unravel. What is the white lie? Only one person knows the whole truth. Narrating from beyond the grave, Michael takes us to key moments in the past, looping back and back until – finally – we see what he sees. Goodreads

2013yr

My choice for October 2013 was also made from my holiday reading choices, so competition was again fierce but in many ways easier as I read one of my favourite psychological thrillers of all time; The Burning Air by Erin Kelly. If you haven’t read this yet, now is a good time as the storyline spans Bonfire Night!

The Burning Air

Click on the book cover to read my review

Blurb

Of course it was love for my children, love for my son, that caused me to act as I did. It was a lapse of judgement. If I could have foreseen the rippling aftershocks that followed I would have acted differently, but by the time I realised the extent of the consequences, it was too late.
The MacBrides have always gone to Far Barn in Devon for Bonfire Night, but this year everything is different. Lydia, the matriarch, is dead; Sophie, the eldest daughter, is desperately trying to repair a crumbling marriage; and Felix, the youngest of the family, has brought a girlfriend with him for the first time.
The girl, Kerry, seems odd in a way nobody can quite put their finger on – but when they leave her looking after Sophie’s baby daughter, and return to find both Kerry and the baby gone, they are forced to ask themselves if they have allowed a cuckoo into their nest… Goodreads

2014yr

In October 2014 I read Good Girls Don’t Die by Isabelle Grey, a rich book with multiple storylines all rounded up with a good plot – a complete banquet of a book. It has recently been announced that the second in this series, Shot Through The Heart, will be published in March 2016

Good Girls Don't Die

Click on the book cover to read my review

Blurb

You’d know if someone close to you was capable of lethal violence, right?
Dead wrong.
Accused of grassing up a fellow officer and driven brutally out of home and job, Grace Fisher is thankful to survive some dark times and find haven with the Major Investigation Team in Essex.
One female student is missing, last seen at a popular bar in Colchester. When a second student, also out drinking, is murdered and left grotesquely posed, the case becomes headline news.
Someone is leaking disturbing details to a tabloid crime reporter. Is it the killer? Or a detective close to the case?
With another victim, and under siege by the media, the murder enquiry hits a dead end. The review team brought in to shake things up is headed by Grace’s old DCI. Who is going to listen to her now? Amazon

2015yr

October 2015 has been a good reading month but my favourite is The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell which was a rich and engrossing read. With the ‘past’ element of the story was set in 1980 to 1981, years that I clearly remember events from, I felt slightly disconcerted that my lifetime is being portrayed as history… A deeper book than I would have suspected from the cover!

The Shadow Year
Click on the book cover to read my review

Blurb

On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her friends, it offers an escape; a chance to drop out for a while, with lazy summer days by the lake and intimate winter evenings around the fire. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.
Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? Why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?
The Shadow Year is a story of secrets, tragedy, lies and betrayal. It’s a tale that explores the light and dark of human relationships and the potential the past has to not only touch our present, but also to alter our future. Goodreads

January Five of the Best
February Five of the Best
March Five of the Best
April Five of the Best
May Five of the Best
June Five of the Best
September Five of the Best

Posted in Books I have read

A Great Crime Novel Recommendation for Petrona Remembered

This post has been blogged at Petrona Remembered in memory of book blogger Maxine who loved crime novels, please visit the blog to learn more about Maxine and to see what other books have been recommended to her.

When I originally signed up to recommend a novel to Maxine I foolishly thought the task would be easy, I’ve read loads of crime fiction and give people recommendations on what to try frequently enough that the names of those authors trip off my tongue. Giving a recommendation to someone who was as well read as Maxine was tough, so I concentrated on the aspect of crime fiction writing she found most appealing, those that covered a social issue, a political idea or troubling aspect of the human condition. I believe I found the perfect book my choice definitely covers two of these, with a hint of the other, and it is one of my favourite crime reads of all time.

The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

The Burning Air

Lydia opens her diary, picks up her pen and prepares to commit her sins to its pages. Overwhelmed by her illness she finishes her entry stating ‘A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her. They must be the most important thing in her life, but if she is the most important thing in theirs, she has failed.’ These words underpin the rest of one of the darkest stories I have read.

Lydia and Rowan McBride had a successful life, Rowan a headmaster at a prestigious private school and Lydia a magistrate with altruistic nature. Their three children Sophie, Tara and Felix grew up with all the benefits this background afforded them attending their father’s school. Lydia’s husband Rowan, her adult children Sophie, Tara and Felix gather together along with an assortment of partners and offspring over a cold November weekend to scatter her ashes at Far Barn, the scene of many happy family holidays. Without a television or mobile signal and only a tape deck and record player for music being at Far Barn is like going back in time. And so the scene is set for a claustrophobic weekend where the consequences of the past make themselves known. When Felix’s new girlfriend disappears with Sophie’s baby on bonfire night the secrets of the past come tumbling out with each character having a part to play in this well-crafted story.

So where you might ask are those aspects so beloved by Maxine? Well this is a book about obsession which sparks acts of violent revenge, a human condition which left unchecked can cause utter devastation as this novel demonstrates. The cause of the vengeance is someone who believes the family were responsible for a bright, intelligent child from a mixed-up background missing out on the chance of attending the private school, the one that the younger McBride’s attended because their father was headmaster. This single event sparked an obsession with the McBride family that lasted many years the pursuit of revenge having a corrosive effect on all who stepped into its path.

This is a fascinating look at some views about private education, does it provide an advantage regardless of the ability of the child attending? Likewise the converse, if a child is intelligent would they thrive in any educational facility? What does a private school offer children of all abilities that aren’t available in the state system? Or is it perhaps a little more complex than any of those questions? Isn’t it a social as well as a political issue that an education that can be bought is more desirable than the one that the vast majority of children attend?

In many ways The Burning Air is a book about moral issues with degrees of guilt and innocence being far more important, certainly in the background to this story, than the absolutes of right and wrong. I prefer my reading matter not to be black and white and so I think this book will be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on how morally responsible the reader holds the perpetrator.

As I hope you can see there is plenty to think about in this novel but just for avoidance of doubt, it is also a great read, with plenty of twists and turns which I have done my level best to avoid spoiling whilst writing this recommendation post for Petrona Remembered.

Posted in Books I have read

Top 10 Books published in 2013

2013 was a great book reading year for me, I have read many great books of a variety of genres, although as usual the majority were crime fiction! It has been a real struggle to whittle this list down to 10 but here they are, in no particular order!

Click on the book covers to read my reviews.

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

My list starts with a book set in a bookshop. This was a great book for this booklover, with references as diverse as Paddington Bear and 1984 littering the pages, great characters and a bookshop I wanted to work in!

A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them…
The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

Psychological Thriller 5*'s
Psychological Thriller
5*’s

Of course it was love for my children, love for my son, that caused me to act as I did. It was a lapse of judgement. If I could have foreseen the rippling aftershocks that followed I would have acted differently, but by the time I realised the extent of the consequences, it was too late.
A superb psychological thriller set in Devon over one claustrophobic weekend in November 2013 this book rivals Barbara Vine for one of the best books in this genre.

Dot by Araminta Hall

Women's Fiction 5*
Women’s Fiction
5*

a long-forgotten photograph of a man, his hair blowing in the breeze. Dot stares so long at the photograph the image begins to disintegrate before her eyes, and as the image fades it is replaced with one thought: ‘I think it’s definitely him.’
Secrets and female relationships dominate this book. Full of delightful characters with an undertone of humour to lighten the emotions that must surely melt the hardest of hearts.

Apple Tree Yard
by Louise Doughty

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

Safety and security are commodities you can sell in return for excitement, but you can never buy them back.

This powerful book was my surprise find of 2013. A women in court but how and why? At its core this is a book about how we perceive ourselves, through our own eyes and what is reflected back to us in the eyes of others.

Entry Island by Peter May

Crime Fiction  5*'s
Crime Fiction
5*’s

The investigation itself appears little more than a formality. The evidence points to a crime of passion: the victim’s wife the vengeful culprit. But for Sime the investigation is turned on its head when he comes face to face with the prime suspect, and is convinced that he knows her – even though they have never met.

I had the final part of the Lewis Trilogy down as a favourite of 2013 but have decided Peter May can’t have two books on the top ten (but if you haven’t read the Lewis Trilogy I suggest you do!) so have decided his latest book set between a past on the Isle of Lewis and the present in Canada was the winner for fantastic characters along with a well plotted tale of a woman accused of murder and a past that must be found.

What Lies Within by Tom Vowler

Crime Fiction 5*'s
Crime Fiction
5*’s

when a convict escapes from nearby Dartmoor prison, their isolation suddenly begins to feel more claustrophobic than free. Fearing for her children’s safety, Anna’s behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. But why is she so distant from her kind husband Robert, and why does she suspect something sinister of her son Paul? All teenagers have their difficult phases…

This was another great find part psychological thriller but containing elements of so much more; a mystery, a crime and relationships.

A Funeral for an Owl
by Jane Davis

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

Times have changed since Jim Stevens chose to teach. Protocol designed to protect children now makes all pupil/teacher relationships taboo – even those that might benefit a student.

This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you have closed the book. Jane Davis Davis really does bring characters to life, mothers, fathers, friends, teachers are all perfectly described along with their actions and reactions to events. (oh and if you have copy I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements!!)

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Women's Fiction   5*
Women’s Fiction
5*

Because something has happened that will call them home, back to the house they grew up in – and to what really happened that Easter weekend all those years ago.
Lisa Jewell really knows how to write a great story, her books never fail to delight me as they are so much more than ‘chick-lit’ they deal with serious issues without becoming depressing. This is my favourite (I think) of all her novels.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Women's Fiction 5*'s
Women’s Fiction
5*’s

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read
My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Another great story-teller (I read What Alice Forgot after this one) with all the ingredients included; a believable plot, characters that are well-developed and writing that pulls the reader in from the first page, plus this isn’t the story you think it is going to be!

The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

Psychological Thriller 5*'s
Psychological Thriller
5*’s

He’s gone. And telling the truth won’t bring him back…
When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.

A lot of tension in this book, this is definitely not light reading but it is certainly absorbing and haunting.

What did you think of these books?

Does your list contain any of them?

I’d love to see your links to your best reads of 2013 (as I always need more books to add to that TBR!)

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

The Burning Air – Erin Kelly

Psychological Thriller 5*'s
Psychological Thriller
5*’s

Lydia opens her diary, picks up her pen and prepares to commit her sins to its pages. Overwhelmed by her illness she finishes her entry by stating ‘A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her. They must be the most important thing in her life, but if she is the most important thing in theirs, she has failed.’ These words underpin the rest of one of the darkest stories I have read.

Set over a weekend from 1st to 3rd November 2013 Lydia’s family get together at Far Barn in Saxby, Devon to spread her ashes. Lydia’s husband Rowan, her adult children Sophie, Tara and Felix gather together along with an assortment of partners and offspring. Without a television or mobile signal and only a tape deck and record player for music being at Far Barn is like going back in time and that is without the family memories of former holidays. The scene is set for a claustrophobic weekend where the consequences of the past make themselves known. When Felix’s new girlfriend disappears with Sophie’s baby on bonfire night the secrets of the past come tumbling out with each character having a part to play in this well-crafted story.

This was a riveting read with carefully presented twists along the way. Erin Kelly showcases her talents as a master of plotting. The characters that inhabit the pages of this book were distinct and when revelations were made about them these assimilated with previous knowledge with no jarring at all.

This is right up there as one of the best books I have read this year; I’d go as far as to say Barbara Vine has a rival.

Erin Kelly is the author of two other books both of which I thoroughly enjoyed

The Poison Tree
The Sick Rose

Her next book, The Ties That Bind, is due to be published by Hodder next May, which I  am really looking forward to.

Learn more about Erin Kelly  and her books on her website.

Posted in Books I have read

Holiday Reading 2013

Kindle

Sadly the week before my holiday I realised my original Kindle Keyboard had died, the screen just wouldn’t clear previous images. KK did me well lasting 3 years (almost to the day) so it was off to order a newer model to avoid my holiday reading being thrown into disarray!  Being a list maker and my holiday reading list had been in production since May as books were swapped in (and more rarely) out, tracked on eReaderIQ for those crucial price drops  until a select few were chosen to accompany me on my 2013 holiday!

My new Kindle arrived on island, two days later I had the magic card through the letter box instructing me to take my id and card to the post office.  I woke up bright and early on the day of departure, rushed to the PO and quickly transferred the relevant books ready for reading.

So what did I read?

Holiday Pics

Sixteen Sixty-One was an even better read than expected.  I think that anyone who has been in  a difficult relationship will relate to elements of the story related by Natalie Lucas. This is not a poor little me story as I had half-expected, rather it lets the reader see how the relationship started, and why it continued. Best memoir this holiday!

The best historical read was The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore set in the late 1940’s, perfect for book lovers as it concerns the world of publishing and authors!

This is where I confess that for all my planning I had a DNF this year.

The Last Gift

I read about a fifth of this before I decided that I couldn’t spoil my holiday with a poorly researched book. I’m not quite sure what the time setting for this tale but believe it was the mid nineteenth century. The problem I found it hard to believe a number of things:
Parents have only one child following death of twins born when said child was 6 (possible but not typical)
Catholic’s mentioning going to chapel
Being so poor yet far fewer mouths to feed than many at that time (one child was not common at that time)
Mother able to write letters but daughter had to wait until she was a nursemaid to learn how to read them from the governess (which she mastered really quickly of course)

So this one was not for me and Carla Acheson will have to depend on far more forgiving readers than me.

The winner of my award for perfect beach reading was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty mainly for its novel approach to a bit of romance although it must have been windy on the days I read this as my eyes kept watering! This is quite unlike The Husband’s Secret which is one of my favourite books of 2013 but the strength of writing shone through.

I have now added another downfall to e-readers.  Although I find mine essential for holiday reading, when everyone else adopts them I am unable to tell what is being read up and down the beach.  Out of the physical books I did spot The Husband’s Secret was the most common….

My favourite holiday read was The Burning Air by Erin Kelly for sheer mastery of story-telling with this chilling tale set in Devon. The book is set over the weekend of 1 November 2013 and is claustrophobic, surprising and populated by brilliant characters.

I have read books set in the Netherlands, Australia, Birmingham and Devon. I have read lots about mother’s relationships with their child(ren).  I have read two books called The Doll’s House (one by Louise Phillips and one by Tania Carver). I have thought about how I would react in all sorts of scary situations (I usually use my brave alter ego for these wonderings) and in short have read a great selection of books. I will be sharing reviews for each and every one over the next few days.

I’m now off The Guide Dog for the Blind Annual Book Sale because I clearly need some more books!