Posted in 5 Of the Best

Five of the Best (December 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

My choice for 2011 was a book that when I initially reviewed it, I wasn’t overly sure how to interpret the narrative of this very dark book which centres on the obsession one (female) teacher has for one of her pupils – not as good as Notes on a Scandal , but The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman has more to offer than is immediately apparent.

The Kingdom of Childhood

Blurb

The Kingdom of Childhood is the story of a boy and a woman: sixteen-year-old Zach Patterson, uprooted and struggling to reconcile his knowledge of his mother’s extramarital affair, and Judy McFarland, a kindergarten teacher watching her family unravel before her eyes. Thrown together to organize a fundraiser for their failing private school and bonded by loneliness, they begin an affair that at first thrills, then corrupts each of them. Judy sees in Zach the elements of a young man she loved as a child, but what Zach does not realize is that their relationship is—for Judy—only the latest in a lifetime of disturbing secrets.
Rebecca Coleman’s manuscript for The Kingdom of Childhood was a semifinalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition. An emotionally tense, increasingly chilling work of fiction set in the controversial Waldorf school community, it is equal parts enchanting and unsettling and is sure to be a much-discussed and much-debated novel. Goodreads

2012 yr

In December 2012 it was a historical murder that kept me entertained. Ruth Dugdall who is more known for written a crime series featuring Cate Austin, explores The Story in the Red Barn, a true crime from nineteenth century Britain in The James Version.

The James Version

Blurb

A fictionalised account of true events which shocked nineteenth century Britain. The story of ‘The Murder in the Red Barn’, this book describes the events through the eyes of Ann Marten, a woman suffering guilt and despair following the terrible history of her family, as she tells her tale to a reluctant young rector. James Coyte has taken up his called in Suffolk, but sinks into his own despair as Ann’s story unfolds. Goodreads

2013yr

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a must-read (or now watch) for all lovers of psychological thrillers and I picked this one up in December 2013 and joined the legions of fans who loved this dark tale… ok it may be a tad unrealistic in parts and have a cast of wholly despicable characters but it certainly had me turning the pages at a rate of knots.

Gone Girl

Click on the book cover to read my review

Blurb

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? Goodreads

2014yr

There is no contest at all for my favourite read of December 2014 which was without a doubt The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, this sumptuous story follows what happens when Mrs Wray and her daughter Florence accept that their straightened circumsatances mean that they have to rent out some rooms to lodgers. Set in 1920s London, this book is one of the best examples of historical and mystery fiction.

The Paying Guests

Click on the book cover to read my review

Blurb

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa — a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants — life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.
With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life — or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be. Goodreads

2015yr

I have just finished my favourite read of the whole of December 2015, The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood a superb psychological thriller for those readers who love wry humour and a whole bucketful of secrets.

The Darkest Secret

Click on the book cover to read my review

Blurb

Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help.
My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family’s holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old.

When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.
But what really happened to Coco?
Over two intense weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second twelve years later at the funeral of her father – the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed… Goodreads

I hope you have enjoyed my trip through my December reads, if you missed the previous months you can find them here although sadly I didn’t manage to do the list for July and August.

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
October Five of the Best
November Five of the Best

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

The Darkest Secret – Alex Marwood

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

Well what great timing! This was a fantastic and addictive read, my favourite kind so finishes off my reviewing for 2015 on a high note.

The Darkest Secret reminds me a little of a Jilly Cooper novel but with secrets instead of bonking. Seriously everyone is keeping them, from themselves from others despite living in a claustrophobic world of rich and successful families all dependent on each other in some way.

Little Coco Jackson has gone missing from her father’s house, except it’s only his house until he sells it and in fact he’s just road testing it for his fiftieth birthday – yes this author sets the scene so very well; fifty year old man and a daughter called Coco, who can’t paint a picture with just that snippet? Sean Jackson is a successful property developer, living with his second wife Claire and their twin daughters, Ruby and Coco, he has a mistress waiting in the wings, who just happens to be one of the guests at his birthday party along with Charles Clutterbuck a MP and his wife Imogen, the PR couple Robert and Mara along with Dr James Orizio with his bag of tricks and his wife Linda. The party is completed with a selection of small children and in their entirety they descend over the seaside property for the August Bank Holiday weekend in 2004. Sean’s two teenage daughters from his first marriage. Indy and Millie, departing early sure that their father and certainly their Step-Mother don’t want them there.

The book opens with an email, this was before Facebook and the like, to spread the word about missing Coco, a massive police investigation followed but twelve years later when Sean dies she is still missing… The story in the present is told by Camilla Jackson who has the unenviable job of identifying her father, a man she hasn’t seen for years. Are the secrets going to be revealed at the gathering for Sean’s funeral? You bet they are!

Despite the sad nature of the subject matter of this book, the number of pompous and self-absorbed characters there is plenty of dark humour in this book that had me not just gripped, but thoroughly entertained, from the first page and made me reluctant to put it down for the entire four hundred page stint. This is superbly plotted with enough red-herrings to ensure that the reader is never quite sure who they should be watching the closest while the pace is a brisk one, one where the tension never lets up, after all there are plenty of mini-dramas to keep the reader entertained so this book doesn’t suffer with the mid-book slump which sadly seems to afflict psychological thrillers.

Alex Marwood plays a blinding hand with the characters too, I’ve mentioned that some of them weren’t people I’d chose to spend my spare time with, but some of them, given a different perspective I became very fond of, yes, I really did get involved with this book, one of those I was sad to finish and if it weren’t for the fact that The Darkest Secret is due to be published for the kindle on 1 January 2016, with the paperback following on 7 January 2016, it would have made my Top Ten books published in 2015.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Little Brown Book Group whose generosity in allowing me to read this book has resulted in this gushing review, but only because I loved it so much and I was delighted that this lived up to the brilliant Wicked Girls by the same author.

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (December 23)

This Week In Books

Hosted by 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 The Thirteenth Coffin by Nigel McCrery

The Thirteenth Coffin

Blurb

Stretching along the shelf, standing upright, were twelve wooden coffins. Nine were closed, and three open . . . with little dolls standing inside them . . .
It was supposed to be the most special day of her life – until the unthinkable happened. Leslie Petersen is shot dead on her wedding day. With the bride’s killer vanished without a trace, the investigation into the murder grinds to a halt before it’s even begun. But then, the decomposing body of an unidentified homeless man is found in an old Cold War bunker, and DCI Mark Lapslie makes a bizarre discovery. Hidden near the body is a shrine full of miniature wooden coffins. Each coffin contains a little doll, all dressed differently. One of the dolls is dressed as a bride – could this be a link to Leslie’s murder? And if so, who do the other dolls represent? Can Lapslie and his team stop the countdown of the ‘dying dolls’ before it’s too late? NetGalley

I have recently finished The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith which is a mystery told through the eyes of a female reporter.

The Jazz Files

You can read the synopsis and a taster from this book in yesterday’s post

Next up I plan on reading The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

The Darkest Secret

Blurb

Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help.
My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family’s holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old.

When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.
But what really happened to Coco?
Over two intense weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second twelve years later at the funeral of her father – the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed… NetGalley

What are you reading this week? Do share!

See what I’ve been reading in 2015 here

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (November 21)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared.

Mindful of the TBR, and you can see quite how bad this is in this post, I have only added a few books to my pile in the last three weeks!

First up I have a copy of The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood, whose debut novel The Wicked Girls was a huge hit with me!

The Darkest Secret

Blurb

Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help.
My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family’s holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old.

When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.
But what really happened to Coco?
Over two intense weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second fifteen years later at the funeral of her father – the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed…
Taut, emotive and utterly compelling, an unputdownable ‘ripped from the headlines’ novel that you will want to talk about with everyone you know. NetGalley

The Darkest Secret will be published on 7 January 2016

I also have a copy of No One Knows by J.T. Ellison because I found the synopsis intriguing and as you all know I am a sucker for a psychological thriller!

No One Knows

Blurb

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on. She just wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Who anonymously sent Aubrey her favorite cocktail at the bar where Josh stood her up? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious and strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?
As her heroine faces the possibility that everything she thinks she knows about herself, her marriage, and her husband is a lie, New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison expertly peels back the layers of a complex woman who is hiding dark secrets beneath her unassuming exterior. In a masterful thriller for readers who love Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins, Ellison pulls you into a you’ll-never-guess merry-go-round of danger and deception. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…no one knows. NetGalley

Publication date for No One Knows is 22 March 2016

And when I spotted Moon In a Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier I simply had to get a copy. Following my review of Boxes by the same author this was widely pronounced by his fans to be his best book.

Moon In a Dead Eye

 

Blurb

Given the choice, Martial would not have moved to Les Conviviales. But Odette loved the idea of a brand-new retirement village in the south of France. So that was that. At first it feels like a terrible mistake: they’re the only residents and it’s raining non-stop. Then three neighbours arrive, the sun comes out, and life becomes far more interesting and agreeable. Until, that is, some gypsies set up camp just outside their gated community. NetGalley

I also purchased one e-book, The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley, a former BBC Journalist. I came across this book on Postcard Reviews, a blog well worth checking out for as Tracy features some fabulous books, and the review of The Bad Things was so good it made me weaken!

The Bad Things

Blurb

Alex Devlin’s life changed forever fifteen years ago when her sister Sasha’s two small children were snatched in broad daylight. Little Harry’s body was found a few days later, but Millie’s remains were never discovered.
Now Jackie Wood, jailed as an accessory to the twins’ murder, has been released, her conviction quashed by the Appeal Court. Convinced Jackie can reveal where Millie is buried, Alex goes to meet her.
But the unexpected information Wood reveals shocks Alex to the core and threatens to uncover the dark secret she has managed to keep under wraps for the past fifteen years. Because in the end, can we ever really know what is in the hearts of those closest to us? Goodreads

PicMonkey Collage TBR

So since the 6 November when I counted up the TBR I have read 6 books, discarded one as a DNF, and gained 4, leading to a grand total of 170 books!

81 physical books
71 e-books
18 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?