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

Musing Mondays (March 17)

musingmondays51

Hosted by Should Be Reading
Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…• Describe one of your reading habits.

• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!

• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

My Musing this week is What Makes a Good Read?

Over the weekend I started reading The Next Time You See Me by Holly Goddard Jones and the moment I opened the first page it was clear that this was a book I’d love. That got me thinking, what it is about certain books where you know from the start that you are in for a good read?

This book had none of the obvious hooks for me. It wasn’t the location. I love books set in London as a place I have fond memories from both childhood as well as an adult; this book is set in a small town in America. London

I didn’t immediately identify with the first character, Emily, a young bullied schoolgirl. Although never in with the cool kids I got through school unscathed with nothing more than the general teasing that happens to everyone, and yet something called to me. Was it the first scene sat in a classroom? The young Emily in awe of the poised and amusing Christopher, certainly something that I can relate too, but that surely isn’t enough to warm so immediately to a story?

The genre is spot on, I love a good mystery, but as I read a lot of them although often grabbed by a startling sentence as in Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent, I don’t usually immediately think ‘this is going to be special’

You can read my reviews by clicking on the book covers below

Unravelling Oliver

I’m afraid I still can’t articulate how I knew that this was one of those special books although the style of writing is insightful without being wordy.

There are writers whose books I am always sure I will enjoy, I have spoken before about the feeling of being wrapped in a duvet of familiarity when reading Barbara Vine.

Lisa Jewell always writes a rattling good tale which engages me from the first page, quite an accomplishment as she writes about varied subjects.

… and the list goes on of writers who I go to for a guaranteed good read. However, when I consider the number of books I must have read, it is far rarer for a new author to grab me quite the way Holly Goddard Jones has. Are there components to a book that make you fall in love with it or are you like me and sometimes a book just gels and it is love at first page?

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

Unravelling Oliver – Liz Nugent

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

Unravelling Oliver is one of those books that I knew I would love as soon as I started reading it.
‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’
These words written by Oliver about what he did to his wife on 12 November 2011 in Dublin. After I had read his words I was chilled, here appears to be a man with no remorse and no motive so what made Oliver batter his wife Alice so badly that she was left in a coma.

The publishers, Penguin Ireland, tell us; ‘Unravelling Oliver, is a complex and elegant study of the making of a sociopath in the tradition of Barbara Vine and Patricia Highsmith,’ and I can’t disagree. As regular readers of my blog know, Barbara Vine was the author who introduced me to the concept of the why someone did it, rather than the whodunit in the mystery novels I already loved and this is a genre which when done well is my favourite type of read.

In this tradition Liz Nugent has employed some of the characters that Oliver Ryan came into contact with during the five decades of his life to reveal small but telling details. Told as if they are giving interviews to the media as monologues, each character gives us a little more insight into Oliver’s character and the events that shaped his life. Barney who was Alice’s boyfriend before Oliver and met him the night he attacked Alice is the first to have his say but there are plenty of others who have encountered Oliver during his life.  Throughout the book Oliver, and others who have met him, unwrap the things he thought he had kept hidden and unravel his life, so that as readers we get an insight into the why of this charismatic, but deeply flawed character.
The originality, cleverness and fantastic characters which peel back the layers of Oliver over the years along with evidence of previous events presented in one way by Oliver and another by alternative narrators was a sheer delight to read.

I am delighted that the publishers gave me a copy of this book in return for my honest review as I wouldn’t have wanted to miss meeting Oliver Ryan, you can meet him too when this book is published on 6 March 2014.

Posted in Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (February 19)

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 The Fall and Rise of Lucy Charlton by Elizabeth Gill

The Fall and Rise of Lucy Charlton

Blurb

1920, Durham. Since she was a child, Lucy Charlton has dreamed of working with her father in the family solicitor’s firm. But a scandal shatters her dreams and, when her father disowns her, she finds herself on the streets, fighting for survival.
Joe Hardy has returned to London after the Great War to find his life in tatters – his father is dead and his pregnant fiancée has disappeared. Then Joe learns he’s unexpectedly inherited an old river house in Durham from a stranger called Margaret Lee. With nothing left for him in London, he makes arrangements to travel north and claim it.
Lucy’s determination has finally secured her a job as a legal secretary, campaigning for the rights of the poorest in society. As Joe arrives in her office to collect the keys to his new home, she promises to help him uncover information about his mystery benefactor. But before long, the past comes back to haunt them both, with shocking consequences…NetGalley

I have just finished The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes which I will be reviewing later in the week. Jojo Moyes has an amazing ability to make this reader both laugh and cry by writing about characters that I fall in love with.

The One Plus One

Next I will be abandoning the loveliness and returning to the psychopaths by reading Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver

Blurb

Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, Alice, who illustrates his award-winning children’s books and gives him her unstinting devotion. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease – enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades. What unfolds is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation.

Only Oliver knows the lengths to which he has had to go to get the life to which he felt entitled. But even he is in for a shock when the past catches up with him. Amazon

What do you have to read this week?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (January 17)

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!
From NetGalley I have a copy of Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver
Blurb

‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’Liz Nugent’s gripping novel of psychological suspense, Unravelling Oliver, is a complex and elegant study of the making of a sociopath in the tradition of Barbara Vine and Patricia Highsmith.Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the leafy suburbs with his wife, Alice, who illustrates his award-winning children’s books and gives him her unstinting devotion. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease – enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and puts her into a coma.In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades. What unfolds is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation.Only Oliver knows the lengths to which he has had to go to get the life to which he felt entitled. But even he is in for a shock when the past catches up with him. NetGalley

Due to be published by Penguin Books (UK) on 6 March 2014

Following a visit to Book Lover’s Attic the author John Terracuso kindly offered me a copy of his book A Fool Among Fools

A Fool Among Fools
Synopsis

It’s 1986 and Michael Gregoretti is a struggling copywriter at a big New York ad agency, trapped on accounts no one else will touch.Toss in one insane boss, a sweet and sassy gal pal, a dreamboat boyfriend with cold feet, a wisecracking roommate and what might be the worst TV commercials ever made, and you’ve got a witty, wonderful story that will keep you laughing until the very last page.

I was also gifted a copy of Tea Cups and Tiger Claws by Timothy Patrick
Tea Cups and Tiger Claws

Blurb

When identical triplets are born in 1916, newspapers from across the country cover the story, and the babies become little celebrities. Unfortunately, this small portion of fame, combined with a much larger portion of parental greed, leads to some sleazy bargaining, and the triplets are split up parceled out to the highest bidders. Good fortune shines on two of the baby girls and they go together to live in a hilltop mansion. The third baby isn’t so lucky. She ends up with a shady family, in an abandoned work camp, in the same small town as her sisters.
The two girls on the hill grow up to become renowned beauties presiding over a world of glamour and privilege. The other girl, the leftover one, grows up in shabbiness, under the cloud of her sisters’ magnificence. But this girl has something her sisters will never have: ambition. Her name is Dorthea Railer, and she dreams about eliminating her sisters and taking their place in society. Amazon

I have also found out about two books that have gone on my must reads

Thursday’s Children by Nicci French, a continuation of the days of the week series which I have on good authority will consist of eight books! No blurb yet but this is due to be published by Penguin on 10 April 2014

Thursday's Children

Another continuation of a series. number eight of the Patrik Hedstrom series completes my finds for this week:

Buried Angels by Camilla Läckberg

Buried Angels
Blurb

Easter, 1974. A family vanishes without a trace from the island of Valö outside of Fjällbacka. The dinner table has been exquisitely set, but everyone except the one year-old daughter Ebba is gone. Are they victims of a crime or have they voluntarily disappeared?
Years later Ebba returns to the island and the old summer camp where her father ruled a boarding school with an iron hand. She and her husband Tobias have recently lost their three year-old son, and in an attempt to overcome their grief they have decided to renovate the house and open a B&B.
Erica Falck’s interest is piqued – she has researched the tragic and mysterious history of the family, and looks forward to meeting Ebba.
But the couple have barely settled in before they are subjected to an attempt of arson. And when they begin to remove the floor boards in the dining room, they find dried blood underneath… Goodreads

Also due to be published on 10 April 2014 by HarperCollins; not the best planning because I can’t read both these much wanted books on the same day!