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Cleopatra’s Top 10 Books Published in 2017

Once again I have awarded a whole array of books the magic 5 stars which means whittling this down to a mere ten quite a task indeed, one that I have been pondering since the start of December in fact… so without further ado here are the ten books published in 2017 that I consider to have been truly outstanding and memorable reads.

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys 

For those who haven’t heard me endlessly wittering on about this book in 2017 this book sits on my historical novel shelf. Not only is it a brilliant piece of social history depicting life on a ship at the start of WWII, it has visits to far-flung places whilst encompassing a brilliant story with fabulous characters. The closed environment provides a somewhat combustible mix of characters, all bought brilliantly to life by the clothes they wear, their chatter over dinner along with how they chose to spend all their time while their new home, and life, inches closer – and there is a mystery – what more could you want?
And for those of you who haven’t heard, I have a cameo role in the novel following winning an auction run by Clic Sargent in 2016.

The Long Drop by Denise Mina

This book is one inspired by the true crimes perpetrated by Peter Manuel in 1950s Glasgow. It’s atmospheric tackling the weighty topics of innocence and guilt whilst brilliantly depicting a time and place in a way that shows off Denise Mina’s talents to the full. The storytelling is nuanced and assured with details oozing out of each sentence, not just about the crimes but about the characters, the essence of the lives they lived and the Glasgow of that age before the slums were cleared and Glasgow was cleaned up. While this isn’t a linear story telling, it is all the more captivating because we wait for the details; the half-eaten sandwich left abandoned at the murder scene, the empty bottle of whisky left on the sideboard for the police to find after the shock of the broken bodies left in the bedroom have been discovered.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Cyril Avery, the protagonist of this meaty book, has earned a place in my heart. The story which follows one man from shortly after conception until 2015. With its unusual structure, we sweep in seven-year intervals into his life and then onto the next meeting new and old characters along the way. A book that is funny and poignant which took me on a journey from delight to sorrow and back again in this sweeping saga set mainly in Dublin. A book of times and attitudes which is surprisingly uplifting.

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase 

You know you’re onto a good thing when you open a book and know before you’ve finished the first page that it’s a book to curl up with. In this story set in 1950s England we meet four sisters one summer, a year that will change their view of the world forever. This is a summer that will have repercussions for years to come as innocence is lost. The mystery at the heart of the book is the disappearance of Audrey, their cousin who vanished five years earlier but this is also a book with recurring themes from the bonds between sisters, the ghosts of the past who can cast shadows over lives, the difficulties in growing up with those relationships between friends and mothers all getting an airing. I closed this book with a tear rolling down my cheek.

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

I wasn’t sure what a mixture between true crime and a memoir would be like but this was a book that I picked up to feature in my excerpt post and simply couldn’t put it down again. When Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich joins a law firm in New Orleans as an intern, whose work is based on having death sentences overturned, she feels she is about to start the career she is supposed to have. The daughter of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti the death penalty. But all that turns when she watches a video of Rick Langley who has been convicted of killing a six-year-old boy, Jeremy Guillory. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the crime is awful but what shocks the author most is that she feels so strongly that Rick Langley should die for the crime he committed. She no longer believes what she thought she did and that has consequences on her life and the more she tries to understand why she draws parallels with her own life. This is a difficult subject but written with intelligence shot through it.

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister


This ‘sliding doors’ scenario is a brilliant way to demonstrate a meaty moral dilemma.Two friends meet for their regular Friday night out at a bar in London and meet a man who is slightly too pushy, deciding to leave they part ways and Joanna walks home taking the route by the canal when she hears someone following her. Now ladies, we’ve all been there – unable to tell whether the threat running through your head is real or imagined. What happens next will change Joanna’s life forever. With sparkling dialogue which is entertaining yet realistic and faultless plotting this book had me captured right from the start and didn’t let me go until after I had turned the last page.

Dying Games by Steve Robinson 

This series features my favourite genealogist Jefferson Tayte. Although the majority of the action happens in the present day the seeds of the action in Dying Games belong firmly in the past. In Washington, DC the FBI are interested in Jefferson Tayte, aka JT, so he breaks off his Scottish trip with his fiancée to return to answer their questions. A serial killer is leaving clues with a genealogical bent and it is now a race against time to stop any more people losing their lives. Steve Robinson has produced a real puzzle within this thriller! Or perhaps I should say lots of mini puzzles which require different aspects of genealogical research to solve. This will ensure that those readers who have hit a brick wall in their own family history research can put things into perspective; unless you are in the unlikely position of having to find a particular person’s details otherwise someone else may die!

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly


In He Said/She Said the story moves backwards and forwards from 11 August 1999, the time of the solar eclipse, to fifteen years later when Kit is planning to travel to the Faroe Islands, chasing another eclipse and we learn what an impact that first meeting had on all four characters and the ripples haven’t decreased with the passing years. The story line is gritty, as may be expected from the title the heart of the matter is a trial for rape and the details of what happened are told from a number of perspectives. This is an involved and thoughtful tale, one that really did make me think and I’m delighted to report that Erin Kelly never forgets that she is writing to entertain her reader and she avoids bashing the reader over the head about rape, and the trials that all too rarely follow such an accusation. I believe it is a sign of a writer who has confidence, not only in herself, but of her readers to air the important issues this

The Scandal by Frederik Backman

Despite being no lover of sports and definitely not ice-hockey this book which centres round a small town in Sweden’s obsession with the sport had me captivated. Frederik Backman writes in a style that repeats phrases and themes from one section to another so when the book got tough, and it does, the stylistic flair kept the momentum going forward while the reader comes to terms with what has been revealed. There are issues galore and normally when I say that, I’m not being complimentary because it can feel as if the author is leaping from bandwagon to bandwagon. That isn’t the case with The Scandal where the issues in the book are tightly linked to the players on a personal level. The Scandal turned out to be  thought-provoking, intelligent crime novel.

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins

I’m not going to lie, I was drawn to this book by its striking cover but what I found within the pages exceeded my expectations by far. Olivia Sweetman is making her way to address all two hundred guests gathered at The Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons in London. All those people are amongst the jars of organs to celebrate the publication of historian Olivia Sweetman’s book, Annabel, a study of a Victorian woman who became one of the first surgeons, a woman who also had a sensational personal life too, captured within Annabel in her own words. But, all is not as it should be as we find out as this superior psychological novel unfolds and the intricate storyline full of fascinating detail will stay with me for a long time to come.

So what do you think? Have you read any of these titles or do you want to?

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have visited me here on my little corner of the internet, as well of course as the authors and publishers who have provided me with so many great books to read throughout the year. I look forward to discovering new places, people and dark plots in 2018 and do hope you will all join me on my journey.

You can check out my list of reviews written in 2017 here
Or perhaps you want to check out my Reading Bingo 2017 Edition or you can check out my look back over the past year reading and reviewing along with my goals for 2018 here.

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

The Scandal – Fredrik Backman

Crime Fiction
5*s

Is a book more rewarding if you spent the first section wondering whether or not to put it aside for something that doesn’t revolve around a sport that you have no interest in, only to find yourself completely drawn into the both the story and writing style? Whatever the answer, this is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year despite the uncertain start.

At the beginning of the book we hear shots but soon the action switches to a game of ice hockey. Now I wasn’t a fan of the straightforward hockey on proper ground being much smaller than my peers, no good at running and it was freezing cold, doing the same on ice only has peril written all over it as far as I’m concerned. But through the game we get to meet all the inhabitants of Beartown a small town in Sweden whose whole identity seems to be wrapped up in the game. Man, woman or child, if you live in Beartown then the fortune of your dwelling place depends on the success of the various teams ordered by age, if a little muddied by aptitude.

Those shots I mentioned kept me wondering as the action switched from the ice to the town and back again as young boys were ready to make their mark against the opponents whilst others failed in their efforts. Beartown Ice Hockey team are about to play in the semi-finals, and they want to win.

This book is full of diverse characters albeit a set that are united by their love of the game, or what it can mean for Beartown, a town that has been a long time in the decline. We see the board members sponsors, the coach, the General Manager, the fathers, mothers and sisters of the players as well as the team themselves. We even know a great deal about the woman who cleans the ice rink, the changing rooms and the offices for the club. Everyone is involved in some way or another. But the focus of the book isn’t about the game, or not directly, it’s about something that happened after a game and the consequences on all involved.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I really wasn’t sure that this was a book for me and yet the writing was at pared down yet eloquent, holding so many truths of life that I wished I had read it when I was younger and still had some of the important thoughts that were shared.

Hate is simple. So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that’s easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe – comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanise our enemy…

The writing style alone had me convinced, with phrases and messages carried through from one scene to another – when the book got tough, and it does, the stylistic flair kept the momentum going forward while the reader comes to terms with what has been revealed. There are issues galore and normally when I write that in a review I’m not being complimentary because it can feel as if the author is leaping from bandwagon to bandwagon. That isn’t the case with The Scandal where the issues in the book are tightly linked to the players on a personal level. The author hasn’t offered up platitudes or worst case scenarios, instead the author has a nuanced take and provides what I felt was a balanced path, best of all leaving the reader to come to his or her own opinions.

This is a story of friendship between males and females, yes despite the kernel of the action being a boys ice hockey team, there are some females who are also central to the story. It is also the story of those other major relationships of being a parent, a sibling, or a partner, of being loved and loving others. Most of all this is a tale of how loyalties can be divided and sometimes sitting on the fence isn’t an option. It is in fact a remarkable book that had me in tears more than once.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin UK who allowed me to read a copy of The Scandal or Beartown if you are a US reader. This review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Fredrik Backman for a remarkable story which I’d love to tell you more about, but it really does have to be read and admired with little or no idea what you will find within its pages. I suspect readers will take away different messages. I feel that this is a book that we should see on school book lists and book clubs across the world.

First Published UK: 10 August 2017
Publisher:  Penguin
No. of Pages:  432
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (October 31)

First Chapter
Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea 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.

This week my opener comes from The Scandal by Fredrik Backman which was published in the US as Beartown.

Blurb

For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together – or pulls them apart.

Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. A bright new future is just around the corner.

Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.

With the town’s future at stake, no one can stand by or stay silent. Everyone is on one side or the other.
Which side would you be on? Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro


1

Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger.
This is the story of how we got there.

2

Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang.

It’s a Friday in early March in Beartown and nothing has happened yet. Everyone is waiting. Tomorrow, the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s junior team is playing in the semi-final of the biggest youth tournament in the country. How important can something like that be? In most places, not so important, of course. But Beartown isn’t most places.

Bang. Bang Bang-bang-bang.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

I’m very fond of small-town settings in books although I have to admit shootings are one of my least favourite methods of killing so I’m looking forward to seeing how this one works out for me.

I included the first paragraph of the second chapter as the synopsis for the book starts with the first and I wanted to give you all a little more.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?