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!