Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Last Days of Summer – Vanessa Ronan

Crime Fiction 3*s
Crime Fiction
3*s

I have to say this is one of the hardest books I’ve had to review for a long time because I have such mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it is full of beautiful language, on the other, it is in short, a brutal read. In fact I feel sullied after reading it; does that make it good or bad?

We meet Jasper Curtis as he is being released from Huntsville State Penitentiary after serving a ten-year sentence. He is returning to his boyhood home, a home where his sister Lizzie lives with her teenage daughter Katie, and younger daughter Joanne who has vacated her room for her uncle. Lizzie’s husband and father to the girls, left many years ago and up until now they have been a threesome.

Vanessa Ronan does a fantastic job of creating a sense of place in rural America in land surrounded by prairies. The identity of the town and its inhabitants is steadily reinforced by the liberal use of apostrophes across the page during dialogue, something that I can find irritating but in this novel it really worked well to reinforce the setting. And what a setting it is, I don’t think anything lends itself better to crime fiction than a small town setting where everyone knows everyone else, and in this novel in particular, nothing is ever forgotten.

The characters, well what can I say except that they are a rum old bunch! We have the convict, the bitter sister, the teenage girl who think she knows everything and yet understands so little, the Reverend who speaks for the community, not God and a multitude of others who will never forgive the crime Jasper Curtis committed. The only one that was remotely likeable was eleven year old Joanne, and to be honest that is mainly because she is the only innocent in the whole book. Now just because I didn’t like the characters doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to understand some of them, but… and this is the biggie, Jasper is a repulsive man whose views on women in particular made my skin crawl, hence my opening statement about feeling uneasy about how to rate this book. I didn’t enjoy one little book how uncomfortable it made me feel but it did make an enormous impression precisely because of that!

The author increases the tension in a number of ways from the slow incremental hinting at what Jasper really did all those years ago along with a multitude of other half-kept secrets, to the raw anger that bubbles not far below the surface of Jasper and so the feeling of dread grows under her masterful pen. With no chapters to give the reader a comfortable spot to take a break and despite the story which at times seemed to move incrementally forward, I would have thought the switch between character’s viewpoints more prone to pull me out of the story than was actually evident. As the summer rolls on and tensions rise, at least we have a full view of Jasper and his family’s thoughts and feelings and all of this against the background of searing heat in a drought.

Please don’t be fooled by the cover, this is not the gentle story of redemption I was expecting, some of this book shocking even for this seasoned reader of crime-fiction. Be warned if you are averse to overt violence, you will struggle!

Am I glad I read this book? Honestly, I’m still not sure but it definitely is one that I will remember and perhaps in time as the shocks subside I will look back on this book more fondly than I currently feel which explains the middle of the road star rating.

I’d like to say thank you to Penguin Ireland who kindly sent me a copy of The Last Days of Summer. This, my honest opinion (although half-formed) is my thank you to them.

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (May 4)

This Week In Books

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 Little Bones by Sam Blake, a book that will be published in eBook format on 17 May 2016.

Little Bones

You can read the synopsis and a short extract from this book in yesterday’s post.

The last book I finished was The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan kindly sent to me by the publishers Penguin Ireland.

The Last Days of Summer

Blurb

She can forgive. They can’t forget.
After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.
Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle.
Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door … Amazon

The Last Days of Summer will be published tomorrow, 5 May 2016.

Next I am going to read the highly anticipated, the author’s previous two books were great and so different from each other, I can’t wait to see what she has in store for me this time! Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica which will be published on 19 May 2016 by Mira UK.

Don't You Cry

Blurb

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.
Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbour town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where 18 year old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister.
As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger’s spell, Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted rollercoaster ride that builds to a stunning conclusion. NetGalley

What are you reading this week? Do share!

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (April 9)

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.

Spring is here and it has sprung a crop of marvellous books – here’s what’s been added to my shelf in the last week!

Aimee Alexander contacted me to see if I’d be interested in reading her book The Accidental Life of Greg Millar and kindly arranged for me to receive a copy before publication on 26 April 2016.

The Accidental Life of Greg Millar

Blurb

Lucy Arigho’s first encounter with Greg Millar is far from promising, but she soon realises he possesses a charm that is impossible to resist. Just eight whirlwind weeks after their first meeting, level-headed career girl Lucy is seriously considering his pleas to marry him and asking herself if she could really be stepmother material.
But before Lucy can make a final decision about becoming part of Greg’s world, events plunge her right into it. On holiday in the South of France, things start to unravel. Her future stepchildren won’t accept her, the interfering nanny resents her, and they’re stuck in a heat wave that won’t let up. And then there’s Greg. His behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and Lucy begins to wonder whether his larger-than-life personality hides something darker—and whether she knows him at all. NetGalley

I was thrilled beyond measure to be approved by Random House UK to read Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains

Blurb

Famous killers have fan clubs.
Hamish Wolfe is no different. Locked up for the rest of his life for the abduction and murder of three young women, he gets countless adoring letters every day. He’s handsome, charismatic and very persuasive. His admirers are convinced he’s innocent, and that he’s the man of their dreams.
Who would join such a club?
Maggie Rose is different. Reclusive and enigmatic; a successful lawyer and bestselling true-crime writer, she only takes on cases that she can win.
Hamish wants her as his lawyer, he wants her to change his fate. She thinks she’s immune to the charms of a man like this. But maybe not this time . . .
Would you?

Daisy in Chains sounds absolutely brilliant and will be published on 2 June 2016.

I also have a copy of the latest Caro Ramsay book featuring Costello and Anderson, I came late to this series and knowing I’m never ever going to catch up from the beginning now I can’t wait to read the latest, Rat Run, which will be published on 1 August 2016 by Severn House Publishers.

Rat Run

Blurb

A macabre discovery throws disturbing new light on a 20-year-old murder case in the latest tense and twisting Anderson and Costello mystery.
In August 1992, a young mother and her two small sons were brutally murdered in the woods behind their home. Her neighbour Andrew Gyle was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment. Now, twenty-three years later, a macabre discovery throws new light on the case. Could there have been a shocking miscarriage of justice?
Having only just returned to work following an enforced leave of absence, DCI Colin Anderson knows he must make a success of his comeback case. But, as he and his partner, DI Costello, uncover serious discrepancies in the original investigation, it becomes clear that not everyone is telling them the truth. Meanwhile, Costello worries that Anderson is struggling to cope – and his increasingly odd behaviour causes her to begin to think the unthinkable: can she trust her own partner? NetGalley

I also couldn’t possibly resist requesting a copy of Die of Shame by Mark Billingham, a truly talented and original writer. Grove Atlantic kindly approved my request for this book which will be published on 7 June 2016.

Die of Shame

Blurb

Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about shame. A respected doctor, a well-heeled housewife, a young male prostitute . . . they could not be more different. All they have in common is a history of addiction. But when one of the group is murdered, it quickly becomes apparent that someone else in that circle is responsible.
The investigation is hampered by the strict confidentiality that binds these individuals and their therapist together, which makes things difficult for Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner, a woman who can appreciate the desire to keep personal matters private. If she is to find the killer, she will need to use less obvious means. The question is: What could be shameful enough to cost someone their life? And how do you find the truth when secrets, lies, and denial are second nature to all of your suspects? NetGalley

Unsolicited through the post I have a copy of Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris which was sent to me by Doubleday, this book will be published on 21 April 2016.

Fiver Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain

Blurb

‘There exists in all of us a song waiting to be sung which is as heart-stopping and vertiginous as the peak of the cathedral. That is the meaning of this quiet city, where the spire soars into the blue, where rivers and stories weave into one another, where lives intertwine.’

One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, a widower – all facing their own personal disasters. As one of those lives hangs in the balance, the stories of all five unwind, drawn together by connection and coincidence into a web of love, grief, disenchantment and hope that perfectly represents the joys and tragedies of small town life. Amazon

Penguin Books UK thought I’d like a copy of The Last Days of Summer by debut novelist Vanessa Ronan, which will be published on 5 May 2016.

The Last Days of Summer

Blurb

She can forgive. They can’t forget.
After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.
Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle.
Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door … Amazon

I also have a copy of The Butcher Bird by S.D. Sykes despite not having read my Christmas gift of the first in the series Plague Land

The Butcher Bird

Blurb

Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more – something the King himself has forbidden.
Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear.
Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumour, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters.
From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald’s journey is full of danger, dark intrigue and shocking revelations. Amazon

… and if that lot wasn’t enough, I also have bought myself a copy of The Poison Principle by Gail Bell recommended by Hayley from Rather Too Fond of Books following my review of The Secret Poisoner

The Poison Principle

Blurb

When Dr William Macbeth poisoned two of his sons in 1927, his wife and sister hid the murders in the intensely private realm of family secrets. Like the famous poisoner Dr Crippen, Macbeth behaved as if he were immune to consequences; unlike Crippen, he avoided detection and punishment. Or did he? Secrets can be as corrosive as poison and, as time passed, the story of Dr William Macbeth, well-dressed poisoner, haunted and divided his descendants. Macbeth’s granddaughter Gail Bell, who grew up with the story, spent ten years reading the literature of poisoning in order to understand Macbeth’s life. A chemist herself, she listened for echoes in the great cases of the 19th and 20th centuries, in myths, fiction and poison lore. This intricate story, with a moving twist at the end, is a book about family guilt and secrets, and also an exploration of the nature of death itself – as Bell turns to her grandfather’s poisonous predecessors, from Cleopatra, Madame Bovary and Napoleon, as well as looking at Harold Shipman. Amazon

So after that massive selection my poor TBR watch has gone somewhat awry, but they all do look so good!!

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH
Since my last count I have read 3 books, and gained, 8 so the total has shot up to 177 books!
91 physical books
68 e-books
18 books on NetGalley

 

What have you found to read this week? Please don’t tempt me too much!