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 But then Ellen becomes withdrawn and secretive.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 Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Us Against You – Fredrik Backman

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

Last year I read a book about hockey. I made the point that I don’t like hockey but I did love the book called at that time The Scandal but now better known as Beartown. I will leave you booklovers to imagine my excitement when I heard there was to be a follow-up book and even greater pleasure when I was able to turn the pages of Us Against You.

We are back in Beartown primarily to see how a town that lives for its hockey is getting on after the shocking events in the first book. Do not read this book if you haven’t read the first one because you will be missing out on a very special experience indeed.

“The greater the mistake and the worse the consequences, the more pride we stand to lose if we back down. So no one does.”

I’ll be honest, there isn’t one big event in Us Against You and because of that it confirmed to me that Fredrik Backman’s strength is in his characters. Beartown might be small but it is full of characters of all descriptions and yet this author has loving created many of them so well that you will be drawn to those that maybe in real life you simply wouldn’t take the time to get to know. Of course the delight for me was meeting up with some old favourites.

Top of the list is Peter Anderssen the General Manager of Beartown Hockey team who has held onto his position until now but there are moves afoot to only have one hockey team in the region and that honour looks like being conferred on Hed – so it is the Bulls against he Bears. In the way that life often goes, the instant drawing up of direct competition means that hatred spreads in its wake as passions are roused to even higher levels.

“The worst thing we know about other people is that we’re dependent upon them. That their actions affect our lives. Not just the people we like, but all the rest of them: the idiots.”

We therefore have Peter’s wife Kira still struggling for her time to shine in her career, his daughter Maya and his son Leo. We see the old hockey coach and the boys who played hockey who mainly switched teams to Hed. Interesting to see how that plays out over a summer when hockey isn’t played, it’s planned. Switch scenes to the five uncles sat in the Bearskin pub where Ramona is still a steady presence in a changing world.

“At some point almost everyone makes a choice. Some of us don’t even notice it happening, most don’t get to plan it in advance, but there’s always a moment when we take one path instead of another, which has consequences for the rest of our lives. It determines the people we will become, in other people’s eyes as well as our own.”

Enter the snakelike politician Richard Theo who decides to use hockey although he seems to like the sport just as much as I do to win. Winning is more important to Richard than anything else it seems and his snaky dealings could make him a pantomime villain but again, the author has given him just enough depth that I was able to resist hissing every time he appeared.

“Lies are simple; truth is difficult.”

I loved this book, perhaps not quite as much as The Scandal but a great deal. I think these 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.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin UK for allowing me to read a copy of Us Against You ahead of publication on 14 June 2018. A beautiful read of ordinary lives which had me cycling through the entire range of emotions. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 14 June 2018
Publisher: Penguin UK
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (May 30)

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

My current read is Us Against You by Frederik Backman, the follow up to the book I read and loved as The Scandal that has now been renamed Beartown in the UK too. Us Against You will be published on 14 June 2018.

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

I’m still crying after my last read which was Only Child by Rhiannon Navin which has an adorable child narrator to navigate us through a world of pain.

Blurb

We all went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home.

When the unthinkable happens, six-year-old Zach is at school. Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, he is too young to understand that life will never be the same again.

Afterwards, the once close-knit community is left reeling. Zach’s dad retreats. His mum sets out to seek revenge. Zach, scared, lost and confused, disappears into his super-secret hideout to try to make sense of things. Nothing feels right – until he listens to his heart . . .

But can he remind the grown-ups how to love again?
Narrated by Zach, Only Child is full of heart; a real rollercoaster of a read that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. Amazon

Next up, since I predict it will be June by then, I will be reading the first book from my 20 Books of Summer 2018 Challenge, Seven Days In May by Kim Izzo.



Blurb

As the First World War rages in continental Europe, two New York heiresses, Sydney and Brooke Sinclair, are due to set sail for England. Brooke is engaged to marry impoverished aristocrat Edward Thorpe-Tracey, the future Lord Northbrook, in the wedding of the social calendar. Sydney has other adventures in mind; she is drawn to the burgeoning suffragette movement, which is a constant source of embarrassment to her proper sister. As international tempers flare, the German embassy releases a warning that any ships making the Atlantic crossing are at risk. Undaunted, Sydney and Brooke board the Lusitania for the seven-day voyage with Edward, not knowing that disaster lies ahead.

In London, Isabel Nelson, a young woman grateful to have escaped her blemished reputation in Oxford, has found employment at the British Admiralty in the mysterious Room 40. While she begins as a secretary, it isn’t long before her skills in codes and cyphers are called on, and she learns a devastating truth and the true cost of war.

As the days of the voyage pass, these four lives collide in a struggle for survival as the Lusitania meets its deadly fate. Amazon

So quite a different looking reading week for me this time!

What do you think? Do any of these take your fancy?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (May 13)

I hope you my UK readers had a fab and sunny Bank Holiday Weekend last week. I decided to take a few days off blogging to enjoy the sunshine and devoted my time to learning a new knitting technique which meant watching YouTube videos, a lot of muttering (well actually swearing) but I eventually cracked it. I can know brioche stitch in two colours!

Thanks to Margot at Joyfully Retired giving me a handy tip to pretend a famous storyteller had come to visit to tell my their story, I have also mastered listening to audio books – she was right pretending there is someone there made a difference to my concentration and I am now converted and have another scarf well underway! I’ve now had to add an extra tab (and colour) to my excel spreadsheet to keep a count of audio books too!

Anyway I returned to blogging to find that WordPress had altered the font which confused me for a while but I expect I’ll get used to it and with a renewed enthusiasm for a month of reading before I go on my holiday.

This Week on the Blog

I have reviewed three books, two of which are due to be published on 17 May 2018, even better they were all really enjoyable!

My first review was for Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell, set in 1950s New York this tale in the world of publishing gained the full five stars from me.

I then reviewed my copy of The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings; a dark gothic tale set in Cornwell in the summer of 1986.

My final review of the week took me to Brighton with The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson, a dark tale from this accomplished author.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading one of my favourite books of 2017 – The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins was both engaging and memorable as I immersed myself into a story of a book about a book. There is always something absolutely irresistible in a this device, but The Night Visitor has taken this kernel and added the most memorable characters, a plot that is underpinned by meticulous timing so that I became bound up in Olivia’s fight for her reputation long before I understood why she was needing to fight in the first place.

You can read my full review here, or click on the book cover.

Blurb

You have the perfect life . . . How far would you go to protect it?

Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.

Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.

As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Well my self-imposed ARC ban in April is over and I have some lovely new books to share with you all.

First up is one that I was longing to read, and I have to confess I requested my copy at the end of April but hey rules are meant to be broken!

Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys is the second historical novel by this author (aka Tammy Cohen) with a stunning cover to be published on 26 July 2018.

Blurb

1948: an English housewife trapped in a dull marriage escapes to the South of France to claim a mystery inheritance. But rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge, and now they want her out of the way …

She didn’t have an enemy in the world…
until she inherited a fortune

London 1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage, in a gloomy house, in a grey suburb.
Out of the blue, she received a solicitor’s letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance but in order to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera.

Eve discovers her legacy is an enchanting villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea and suddenly, life could not be more glamorous.

But while she rubs shoulders with film-stars and famous writers, under the heat of the golden sun, rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge. Rivals who want her out of the way.

Alone in paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before events turn deadly…

Reminiscent of a Golden Age mystery, Fatal Inheritance is an intoxicating story of dysfunctional families and long-hidden secrets, set against the razzle-dazzle and decadence of the French Riviera. Amazon

I also was lucky enough to be approved for a copy of The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware which will be published on 28 June 2018.



Blurb

When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.

There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.

Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life… Amazon

I also have a copy of Us Against You by Fredrik Backman which is the sequel to The Scandal which I adored. Us Against You will be published on 14 June 2018.

Blurb

Can a broken town survive a second tragedy?

The follow-up to the international bestseller Beartown. A small, broken town sits on the edge of a frozen lake surrounded by a forest, its wounds still raw from a tragedy that tore its fragile community in two. Beartown has lost its way. Now the cold and dark that surround the snowbound town creep in, and so do new conflicts and tensions.

What was once a friendly rivalry with the neighbouring town is beginning to turn sinister and Beartown braces itself for another tragic blow. How far will the people of Beartown go to preserve their reputations for a second, deadly time?

Us Against You is a spell-binding exposition of small-town life in all its flawed complexity. NetGalley

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 6 books and I have gained 5 the TBR has fallen by one to 178
Physical Books – 112
Kindle Books – 49
NetGalley Books –16
Audio Books –1

 

 

Since my last post I have two thirds of a  token so it looks like I will be able to have a small treat for my holiday reading as I’m 1 2/3 of a book in credit!