Posted in Five Star Reads

Five of the Best (June 2014 to June 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.

It should be noted there are typically slimmer pickings for reviews to choose from in June as that is typically when I go on holiday but fear not, there are still some great reads to choose from.

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

From June 2014 I am choosing The Kill by Jane Casey, book five of her spectacular Maeve Kerrigan series. It looks like book eight is due to be published in 2019.

This exceptionally worrying read features a serial killer who is picking off the police in London. The story uses elements that we witnessed from the 2011 riots in London giving the storyline a basis in reality that only serves to give it more credibility. That combined with the media and politicians using the murders to serve their own agendas only ramps up the tension.

As ever Jane Casey includes a wonderful array of characters, the plotting and pacing are spot-on making for absolutely compulsive reading.

Their job is to investigate crime – not become the victims…

A killer is terrorising London but this time the police are the targets. Urgently re-assigned to investigate a series of brutal attacks on fellow officers, Maeve Kerrigan and her boss Josh Derwent have little idea what motivates the killer’s fury against the force.

But they know it will only be a matter of time before the killer strikes again. Amazon

I am a huge Sophie Hannah fan but even given the massive expectation I already have A Game for all the Family was just something else!

Never before have I got quite so far through a book where I’m enormously enjoying what I’m reading but have no clue what actually is going on… the oddest experience and all the more delightful when everything became clear in the end.

The basic premise is that whilst driving to their new house, the Merrison family spot an odd house which resonates.

All goes well with the move he ugly house is more or less forgotten and for the first couple of months the move out of London to Devon proves to be a good one. But then Ellen becomes withdrawn and secretive. Ah but she’s fourteen, so nothing too out of the ordinary! Ellen is spending all of her time working on a story she’s writing for an English assignment and when Justine finds the first couple of pages she’s alarmed. It is very well-written, set in their new house and has more than one murder! Around the same time Ellen becomes distressed about her friend George Donbavand who has been expelled from school for a crime he hasn’t committed. Justine visits the school and is told that George never existed!

The story winds tighter and tighter and is one of the most unusual and yet absorbing books I have read.

Blurb

He’s not your son. It’s not up to you to save him. But you have to try.

After escaping London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine plans to spend her days doing as little as possible in her beautiful home in Devon.

But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to withdraw when her new best friend, George, is unfairly expelled from school. Justine begs the head teacher to reconsider, only to be told that nobody’s been expelled – there is, and was, no George.

Then the anonymous calls start: a stranger, making threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past and a guilty secret – yet Justine doesn’t recognise her voice. When the caller starts to talk about three graves – two big and one small, to fit a child – Justine fears for her family’s safety.

If the police can’t help, she’ll have to eliminate the danger herself, but first she must work out who she’s supposed to be… Amazon

For June’s 2016 top pick I am choosing another innovative writer but this one is a police procedural. Reginald Hill’s Pictures of Perfection is one of my favourites of all of his books. This is the thirteenth book in the Dalziel and Pascoe series, and as with any series they are probably best enjoyed if you read them in order although many, this one included, can be read and appreciated perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.

There is so much to delight in within the pages of Pictures of Perfection, from the links to Jane Austen both ostentatious in the excerpts at the beginning of each chapter and slightly more subtle references within the themes themselves, to the moment in history that the book evokes; this was probably the last moments where ‘village life’ could be portrayed in this manner without those who live in such places laughing at the cliché of ‘Olde Worlde Britain’ that it evokes, one where everyone knows each other better than they know themselves often bound by a common enemy or two.

You’ll be pleased and reassured to know with all the periphery views to enjoy within the pages of this novel, there is also a proper plot with a full-blown mystery or two to be solved

Blurb

High in the Mid-Yorkshire Dales stands the traditional village of Enscombe, seemingly untouched by the modern world. But contemporary life is about to intrude when the disappearance of a policeman brings Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel and DCI Peter Pascoe to its doors.

As the detectives dig beneath the veneer of idyllic village life a new pattern emerges: of family feuds, ancient injuries, cheating and lies. And finally, as the community gathers for the traditional Squire’s Reckoning, it looks as if the simmering tensions will erupt in a bloody climax… Amazon

There were a few books I could have chosen to feature in this post from June 2017 but I have decided to go with Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett because this is not a crime fiction novel of any description!

Instead it taps into the fact that music is the soundtrack to all of our lives. We all recall how we felt about those songs that were the background to early years; the songs we fell in love to and those that we obsessively listened to as we attempt to mend wounded hearts; for many of us there is a tune that can turn back the years to a distant time and place. Laura Barnett has taken this idea and turned it into a densely woven story.

Music is woven throughout the tale about songwriter Cass’s life and we meet some stand-out characters of all types. Cass’s life felt like one I could have been part of, so evocative were the descriptions and so rich in both characters and writing style. This is a book to wallow in with a story that transports its reader to a time and place far away.

Blurb

If you could choose just sixteen moments to define your entire life, what would they be?
Cass Wheeler has seen it all – from the searing heights of success, to earth-shattering moments of despair. She has known passion, envy, pride, fear, and love. She has been a daughter, a mother, a singer, a lover.

A musician born in 1950, Cass is now taking one day to select the sixteen songs in her repertoire that have meant the most to her. And behind each song lies a story – from the day her mother abandoned her, to her passionate first love, to the moment she lost everything. The dreams, the failures, the second chances. But what made her disappear so suddenly from her public life and, most importantly, can she find her way back? Amazon

There was no question about the book I would choose to star as my top read of 2018 – Us Against You by Fredrik Backman is a stunning follow up to Beartown (originally published in the UK as The Scandal). The beauty of this book is the truths that are woven into the story of a small town on the downward slide. The characters are complex with ‘bad’ people doing good and good people doing things that hurt others – I know of no other author who can create such a rich array of characters that reflect real life and create a mesmerising tale for us to meet them in.

I think these two books are among the most quotable of modern books, there are truisms that are expertly woven into a story that will have you experiencing tragedy one moment and wondering at the strength of character of another the next. Everyone in Beartown has a story to tell and Fredrick Backman tells it to us with the love of his creation illuminating the world even when its facing destruction.

Blurb

Beartown is dying . . .

Tucked in a forest in the frozen north, Beartown’s residents are tough and hardworking. They don’t expect life to be easy, but they do expect it to be fair.

Which is why the sudden loss of their hockey players to the rival town of Hed hurts. Everyone needs something to cheer for in the long winter nights. Now they have nothing.

So when a new star player arrives, Coach Peter sees an opportunity to rebuild the team – to take on Hed and restore Beartown’s fortunes. But not everyone in town sees it his way.

As the big game between both towns approaches, the rivalry turns bitter and all too real. Once the stands rumbled with threats to ‘kill’ and ‘ruin’ each other, but the residents didn’t mean it. Now they do.

By the time the last goal is scored, someone in Beartown will be dead . . .

Us Against You is the story of two towns, two teams and what it means to believe in something bigger than yourself. It’s about how people come together – sometimes in anger, often in sorrow, but also through love. And how, when we stand together, we can bring a town back to life. Amazon

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

Five of the Best 2018

January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018

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.

Posted in Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (June 4)

WWW Wednesday green

Hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading Now That You’re Gone by Julie Corbin.  This author first came to my attention with her debut psychological suspense novel, Tell Me No Secrets.

Now That You're Gone

Blurb

When the body of Isla’s brother, an ex-Marine and private investigator, is pulled from the River Clyde, she is convinced he was murdered. When the coroner declares Dougie’s died of accidental drowning and rules out foul play, the police are happy to close the case. But Isla has other ideas.
Determined to find out what really happened the night Dougie died, and why he was even in Glasgow, she starts looking into his unsolved cases. What she finds will put her in grave danger and force her to question everything she thought she knew about those closest to her . . . Amazon

The eagle-eyed among you may notice that this was my next read last week except I failed to read my schedule properly and/or forgot and opened up entirely the wrong book! I read The Long Fall by Julia Crouch instead!

I have just finished The Kill by Jane Casey which was an exceptionally enjoyable read.

Click on the cover to read my review

The Kill

Next I am going to read Someone Else’s Wedding by Tamar Cohen, having enjoyed the two previous books by this author I think I’m in for a treat.

someone else's wedding

Blurb

Mr & Mrs Max Irving request the company of:
Mrs Fran Friedman, mourning her empty nest, her lost baby, the galloping years, and a disastrous haircut.
Mr Saul Friedman, runner of marathons, avoider of conflicts and increasingly distant husband
The two Misses Friedman, Pip and Katy, one pining over the man she can’t have, the other trying to shake off the man she no longer wants
At the marriage of their son James Irving, forbidden object of inappropriate and troubling desire
For thirty-six hours of secrets and lies, painted-on-smiles and potential ruin. And drinks, plenty of drinks.
There’s nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past. As Fran negotiates her way from Saturday morning to Sunday evening she is forced to confront things she’s long thought buried, sending shockwaves through her family, and to make decisions about the future that will have far-reaching consequences for them all. NetGalley

What are you reading this week?

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

The Kill – Jane Casey

Crime Fiction 5*'s
Crime Fiction
5*’s

Maeve Kerrigan is back and if like me you were eagerly awaiting this episode, you won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t read any of this series yet, you are missing out.

Jane Casey’s books contain a superb array of complex characters, not for her the caricature of a policeman (or woman), mother, schoolteacher or member of a gun club. No, instead the characters have layers, even Josh Derwent, Maeve’s superior officer, who spends most of his time being the most obnoxiously sexist man you’d ever have the misfortune to spend time with, turns everything on its head with a kind word or action where you’d least expect it. Maeve, is a real woman too. Yes she is brave but she has a loving side, she is a good counter-balance to Josh and I love her put-downs, particularly when suffixed with ‘Sir’!

Not only does The Kill have the wonderful array of characters, including those from the previous books but it also has a plot that feels current and fresh. The Police are being targeted by an unknown assassin and the media aided and abetted by a politician trying to make a name for himself are keen to point out that the Metropolitan Police have bought this on themselves when they shot and killed an innocent boy. The boys mother provides a dignified display and brief sound bites to the press, pleading for peace on the streets of London. Jane Casey is careful to give her reader the references to connect to the story, most notably the riots in England in 2011, without ramming the point home. For those of us that watched those very real incidents unfold, that is all that is needed to connect to the fear of what would happen if lawlessness was allowed to go unchecked for any length of time.

But this is fiction, and Josh and Maeve are working, along with the rest of the team, to put the pieces together and find the killer and in the best tradition of a good story, just as you thought it had all been worked out there are some more loose ends to tie up!

I have found all the books in this series compulsive reading, the pace is just right, although like me you may need to forgo so sleep or suffer a racing heart as the killing escalates and the violence seems unstoppable. All this is softened with by the perfect ratio of Police work to personal life, moving the story forward while giving the reader more than just endless action scenes.

I was delighted to receive a copy of this book from Amazon Vine in return for this honest review ahead of the publication date of 5 June 2014.  If this series has passed you by, here is The Maeve Kerrigan Series in order:

The Burning

The Reckoning

The Last Girl

The Stranger You Know

Jane Casey’s debut novel was a stand-alone read The Missing where the police are looking for a missing girl, Jenny. In a strange twist Jenny’s teacher, Sarah Finch knows what the family are going through, her brother also went missing as a child.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Teaser Tuesday (June 3)

Teasing Tuesday CB

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read

• Open to a random page

• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to

My Teaser this week is from The Kill by Jane Casey, the fifth outing for the intrepid Maeve Kerrigan.

The Kill

Blurb

Maeve Kerrigan is used to investigating murders. But this time a killer has struck far too close to home…
When a police officer is found shot dead in his car, DC Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent take on the investigation. But nothing about the case prepares them for what happens next: a second policeman dies . . . and then another . . .
The Metropolitan Police struggle to carry out their usual duties, but no one knows where or how this cop killer will strike again. While London disintegrates into lawlessness Maeve’s world starts to fall apart too. For if the police can’t keep themselves safe, how can they protect anyone else? Goodreads


My Teaser

She couldn’t shake the unworthy thought that she’d missed The X Factor for this. Bloody Ruby would have watched it, hours ago, curled up on the sofa in their flat.

Ruby who’d suggested she was only going out looking for badgers with Hugh because she’d fancied him.

I’m enjoying this book, as expected.  One of the joys of reading this series is that you know that each episode is going to have the same great characters, a superb plot and highs and lows aplenty for Maeve.

Please share the link to your teasers, or any other comments you have on this book, in the comments section below.

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (May 30)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

There has been an intervention in this house and apparently I am only allowed to have five new books a month or I have a forfeit. I haven’t agreed to this proposal and since I get my books in both formats and from different sources I’m not sure how the counting is going to work….

I have nothing from NetGalley to share this week which has helped bring my percentage of reviewed to approved items to an all time high of 79.7%!

I did however manage to bag myself a copy of The Kill by Jane Casey from Amazon Vine (thank you for the heads up FictionFan) which has been pushed right to the top of the pile right against my scheduling but I simply can’t wait to read this, the fifth, book in the Maeve Kerrigan series

The Kill

Blurb

COP KILLER STRIKES AGAIN!
The tabloid headlines are lurid but accurate. A killer is terrorising London but this time it is the police who are the targets. And Maeve Kerrigan and her boss Josh Derwent are clueless as to why.
But it will only be a matter of time before the murderer selects his next victim. Amazon

While I was browsing I also managed to select a copy of The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons as another crime fiction author is just what I need to add to my TBR.

The Murder Bag
Blurb

Twenty years ago seven rich, privileged students became friends at their exclusive private school, Potter’s Field. Now they have started dying in the most violent way imaginable.
Detective Max Wolfe has recently arrived in the Homicide division of London’s West End Central, 27 Savile Row.
Soon he is following the bloody trail from the backstreets and bright lights of the city, to the darkest corners of the internet and all the way to the corridors of power.
As the bodies pile up, Max finds the killer’s reach getting closer to everything – and everyone – he loves.
Soon he is fighting not only for justice, but for his own life .. Goodreads

I was delighted to discover that Ruth Rendell has a new book out, The Girl Next Door, due to be published 14 August 2014, which I simply can’t resist. Not only is the subject a historical crime the setting is in Loughton, Essex, an area I visited regularly as a child.

The Girl Next Door

When the bones of two severed hands are discovered in a box, an investigation into a long buried crime of passion begins. And a group of friends, who played together as children, begin to question their past.
‘For Woody, anger was cold. Cold and slow. But once it had started it mounted gradually and he could think of nothing else. He knew he couldn’t stay alive while those two were alive. Instead of sleeping, he lay awake in the dark and saw those hands. Anita’s narrow white hand with the long nails painted pastel pink, the man’s brown hand equally shapely, the fingers slightly splayed.’
Before the advent of the Second World War, beneath the green meadows of Lough ton, Essex, a dark network of tunnels has been dug. A group of children discover them. They play there. It becomes their secret place.
Seventy years on, the world has changed. Developers have altered the rural landscape. Friends from a half-emembered world have married, died, grown sick, moved on or disappeared.
Work on a new house called Warlock uncovers a grisly secret, buried a lifetime ago, and a weary detective, more preoccupied with current crimes, must investigate a possible case of murder. Amazon

I came across a great review of Before The Fall by Juliet West on the blog  A Lover Of Books , another World War I story for the anniversary of the start of the Great War, this has been added (but not yet purchased) to the TBR.

Click on the book cover to read A Lover of Books Review

before-the-fall

Last up this week is a kindle bargain (I know I this is a habit I thought I’d cracked) for 99p I now have a copy of the first in the Aector McAvoy series Dark Winter by David Mark as I really did enjoy Sorrow Bound , the third in this series earlier this year.Dark Winter

Blurb

McAvoy lets his mind drift back to the chaos and bloodshed in the square. To that moment when the masked man appeared from the doorway of the church and looked into his eyes.
‘Is there anything distinctive, Sarge?’ asks Nielsen.
‘Yes’, he says, with the sudden sense that memory is important.
‘There were tears in his eyes.’
DS Aector McAvoy is a man with a troubled past. His unwavering belief in justice has made him an outsider in the police force he serves.
When three seemingly unconnected people are brutally murdered in the weeks before Christmas, the police must work quickly to stop more deaths. It is only McAvoy who can see the connection between the victims. A killer is playing God – and McAvoy must find a way to stop the deadly game. Goodreads

Have you found any good books to read this week?