Monday, 29 June 2015

Girl in the woods - Aspen Matis - not about the walk



What the publisher says

Girl in the Woods is Aspen Matis’s exhilarating true-life adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada’a coming of age story, a survival story, and a triumphant story of overcoming emotional devastation. On her second night of college, Aspen was raped by a fellow student. Overprotected by her parents who discouraged her from speaking of the attack, Aspen was confused and ashamed. Dealing with a problem that has sadly become all too common on college campuses around the country, she stumbled through her first semester—a challenging time made even harder by the coldness of her college’s “conflict mediation” process. Her desperation growing, she made a bold decision: She would seek healing in the freedom of the wild, on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail leading from Mexico to Canada.

In this inspiring memoir, Aspen chronicles her journey, a five-month trek that was ambitious, dangerous, and transformative. A nineteen-year-old girl alone and lost, she conquered desolate mountain passes and met rattlesnakes, bears, and fellow desert pilgrims. Exhausted after each thirty-mile day, at times on the verge of starvation, Aspen was forced to confront her numbness, coming to terms with the sexual assault and her parents’ disappointing reaction. On the trail and on her own, she found that survival is predicated on persistent self-reliance. She found her strength. After a thousand miles of solitude, she found a man who helped her learn to love and trust again—and heal.

Told with elegance and suspense, Girl in the Woods is a beautifully rendered story of eroding emotional and physical boundaries to reveal the truths that lie beyond the edges of the map.



What I thought

Firstly let me say this is compellingly readable, I couldn't help but keep turning the pages to discover what happens to Aspen on her journey whilst hiking the PCT trail in the USA.

I love walking and travel and hoped this might provide some insight on what its really like to undertake a really long trek, alone.

BUT and this is a huge but, I don't think I have ever in my life failed to engage with any person as much as the author of this book!! She is quite young, 19 when the book begins, she has led a strange sheltered upbringing which she is obviously desperate to break away from, but - Oh my, this is one self centred, self pitying, inconsiderate, messed up girl.

She is her own worst enemy and I had very little sympathy for her, even when the "awful catastrophic event" occurs. She allows being raped by a fellow student at college to dominate and define her life. I wanted her to say, ok it's happened, draw a line under it, don't allow this to ruin you. But she manages to allow herself to become a professional victim, she lets this one thing define her, every person she meets her first thought is about telling them "I have been raped" and she seems to use this one fact as an excuse to be a complete pain in the neck.

Then she sets off to walk this massive hike, to help herself get over it, and continues to put herself in compromising position, after difficult situation over and over and blames everyone else, her parents, her brother, the other long distance walkers and continues to pigeonhole herself as "the girl who was raped" not the girl who walks.

I had hoped it would be more about the walking and the practicalities of taking a long distance hike, but I got very little sense of place at all from the book. The characters who populate this long distance trail all appear to be misfits and wierdos, and I had to wonder if they are all as dislikeable and twisted as they seem on paper or if its this crazy girls warped view of the world which painted them this way.

I finished the book, was glad she managed to mature a little by the end and find some kind of closure, but I certainly won't be rushing to walk the Pacific crest trail in a hurry, I won't dash out to find anything else written by this woman and the book has failed to inspire me in any way whatsoever, apart from to thank heaven that although I consider myself to be pretty self centred I never have, and never will be, as totally messed up as this misguided young woman whom I could not admire or even empathise with but did pity.

I recieved an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Follow You home - Mark Edwards - tightly woven and tense



The Blurb


It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down.

After a perfect start, Daniel and Laura’s travels end abruptly when they are thrown off a night train in the middle of nowhere. To find their way back to civilisation, they must hike along the tracks through a forest…a haunting journey that ends in unimaginable terror.

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what they saw that night. But as they try to fit back into their old lives, it becomes clear that their nightmare is just beginning…

Follow You Home is a chilling tale of secrets, lies and deadly consequences from the author of #1 bestsellers The Magpies and Because She Loves Me.

My Review

Finished this last night - amazing - completely blew me away. Can this author get any better than this? Nope I don't think so.

This book is a terrifically fast paced psychological nightmare, which had me tensing my muscles, shouting out loud and reading until the wee small hours, I just didn't want to stop devouring it.

This author makes difficult relationships seem the norm, and in this respect, his creations Daniel and Laura, a loving couple travelling together around Europe on the holiday of a lifetime before settling down to domesticity and parenthood, appear rather too cozy and normal. But as expected all is about to change when their train journey through Romania is about to go wrong - very VERY wrong. They end up wandering through a dark forest miles from civilisation, looking for help but what they find is beyond both their comprehension.

What follows is a battle to stay sane against all odds, when returning home the unfortunate pair, realise that despite trying oh so hard they are unable to put the suppressed events which shattered their trust in each other, behind them. Something has followed them home and despite seeming impossible things are only going to get worse.

An amalgum of lies and secrets, things get so crazy and complicated I almost thought at one point that I was going to say "He's gone TOO far this time" but although it pushes against the boundaries of belief it never for one minute becomes too far fetched. It's knitted together so cleverly and tha author ties every loose thread neatly into tight knots, yet still manages to save a stunned gasp for the very ending. Fabulous, huge thanks to Mark Edwards for allowing me this privileged advance read via Netgalley.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Quality of Silence - Rosamund Lupton



The Blurb


On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrived in Alaska.

Within hours they were driving alone across a frozen wilderness

Where nothing grows

Where no one lives

Where tears freeze

And night will last for another 54 days.

They are looking for Ruby's father.

Travelling deeper into a silent land.

They still cannot find him.

And someone is watching them in the dark.

My review

I found this to be a real page turner, even though the storyline is very far fetched. It’s basically a human interest/ love story with a chilling twist.
It’s about Yasmin, who brings her deaf 10 year old daughter Ruby with her to Alaska, they are on their way to be re-united with Ruby’s Dad, the love of Yasmin’s life. Ruby hero worships her Father, a wildlife photographer, he treats her as an equal, communicating with sign language and an innate depth of understanding that brings them closer than Ruby feels with her Mum, who sometimes pressurizes Ruby to conform to the person Yasmin wants her to be.
But the dynamics are about to change. 

On arriving in Alaska Yasmin discovers that her husband is missing after a dreadful accident, and the police believe he is dead. Refusing to believe he is dead, she tells Ruby he is stuck in the snow and ice and off they set to try and find him. Careering chaotically into the frozen wastes of Alaska with no thought but “He can’t be dead” and “Who will look for him if we don’t?” Thrown together in this situation Ruby and Yasmin have to rely on each other for strength and its hard to work out which of the 2 is the stronger. Then there is the insidious realization that in this huge vast freezing wasteland they are not alone after all.

What follows is a cleverly constructed story with lots of contemporary, topical subjects, including coping with deafness and bringing up a deaf child, ice road trucking, wildlife photography, asylum seekers, CB radio, prejudice, and fracking. Bundle them all together and you get a story that’s unusually different and thought provoking.
I loved Ruby for me she is the best child narrator since Jack in Room. About half the book is written first person in her unique voice, one we are never likely to hear vocalized as she never speaks, communicating via sign language and text to voice apps on her laptop. I loved the way she “sees” words in colours and shapes and empathized with her, even if her unusual childhood has led to a wry precociousness which I found easy to overlook.
Ruby is an engaging and unlikely heroine, Yasmin is pretty darned unbelieveable, I know you’d go to the ends of the earth for a loved one but she must be some kind of superhuman because I sure as hell couldn’t tackle what she does.
A lot of the story is set in the cab of a massive heavy haul truck on ice roads, but it doesn’t get boring, we are treated to flashbacks in Yasmin’s and Ruby’s lives and there are some really great characters I wanted to learn more about, like Coby, and Adeeb.

Overall it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read, tense and chilling in more ways than one, with just a touch of the soapbox in the protestations about fracking, although it certainly made me think twice about this subject.

My thanks go to Netgalley for my review copy.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

First one Missing - Tammy Cohen - takes you places you don't want to go.



The Blurb ....

There are three things no-one can prepare you for when your daughter is murdered:

- You are haunted by her memory day and night

- Your friends and family fear you are going mad

- Only in a group with mothers of other victims can you find real comfort.

Welcome to the club no one wants to join.


My review

First one missing is the second book I've read by the popular and competent author Tammy Cohen. She weaves a powerful, taut psychological suspense novel about the aftermath of having a child murdered. She takes a pretty taboo subject and lets us into the minds of everyone whose lives have been tainted by this awful occurrence.

Megan Purvis, the eponymous first one missing, was snatched and abducted at the age of just seven and the discovery of her body on Heathland in London is just the beginning of a spate of dead bodies over the space of several years, all little girls of similar age, all murdered and left in the same area.

The serial killer is sought by the police, whilst the families of the dead girls fall apart piece by piece.

Truly psychologically chilling this book takes you places you never want to go, feel things you never want to exeperience and even get inside the heads of paedophiles and murderers.

At various points throughout the book I suspected almost everyone of being the murderer yet when the final reveal comes it's a shock and a revelation cleverly plotted and hinted at through the book.

If you love twisty emotional domestic noir thrillers with great characters and bursting with emotion you'll enjoy this latest offering by Tammy Cohen (who has also written as Tamar Cohen)

My thanks to Netgalley for my advance ebook copy.

Monday, 15 June 2015

A brutal trade by Faith Mortimer - dark murder in sunny Cyprus



The blurb:

A BRUTAL TRADE - A Diana Rivers Thriller by Faith Mortimer

Even on a small island the darkest secrets can’t stay buried forever…

It began like any normal day in Cyprus…except it wasn’t…the body of a woman brutally murdered and discovered in a shallow grave changes all that.

It is only days later when amateur sleuth, Diana Rivers and old flame, Chief Superintendent Adam Lovell discover a second female victim…only this time the discovery is even more chilling and shocks the island inhabitants.

Joining forces with local policeman, Sergeant Yiannis Loukiades, the three embark on a journey which takes them on the fringes of humanity. Disturbing secrets are unearthed. They are on the hunt for killers who will stop at nothing in their hunt for one vital woman.


As the bodies mount up, the detectives ask themselves one question. What is the reason for the women’s’ deaths and their horrific mutilations?

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Diana finds herself exposed to great danger…in the sights of a lethal individual who’ll put a stop to her meddling. Each move could be deadly… vicious in its outcome…can the team bring a halt to this brutal trade?


My Review

I was lucky enough to read my review copy of a Brutal Trade whilst on holiday in Cyprus, although I needn't have been there to picture it as the author draws on her in depth knowledge as an ex-pat resident of the mediterranean island to set the scene.

It's not your typical beach read however, as its a gritty thriller following the efforts of the local police aided by author and amateur sleuth Diana Rivers, to unravel a series of gruesome murders and a mystery surrounding organ donations, medical misdemeanours and organised crime. It made me look over my shoulder a few times as I wandered the streets of Paphos and Limassol.

This is the first in the Diana Rivers series that I've read and although its number 7 in the series it is so well written that you can easily get into the story and read it as a stand alone, although it does make you want to find out what's gone before.

The victims of this crime are Asian illegal immigrant workers tempted to Cyprus with the promise of steady work and a good income but many fall prey to a gang of criminals with more on their minds than having their housework done!

The book begins with the discovery of the gory, partly dismembered body of a young woman and swiftly draws you into the investigation to discover who is behind this and other similar crimes and why. If you like lots of action, excellent characters and a great setting you won't go wrong with this mystery thriller, which focusses on a taboo and unpleasant subject, that repels your moral sensibilty yet makes you need to read on and discover more. My thanks to the author for providing a copy for me to review.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Only We Know - Karen Perry - filled with secrets and repercussions



Publishers Description

In 1982, an idyllic summer is shattered when three children play a game that ends in tragedy.

Now, thirty years later, Nick, Luke and Katie remain bound together by the truth of what happened that day.

But some secrets won’t stay buried.

And when Luke vanishes and the threatening messages begin, it becomes clear someone else knows the truth – and is intent on justice, no matter what the cost…

My thoughts

I greatly enjoyed Karen Perry's debut novel the boy who never was and was pleased to be offered the chance to read an advance copy of her new book. This chilling thriller about family and secrets and revenge begins in the 1980s in Kenya with a group of children playing by the river when something tragic occurs which is bound to have repercussions which follow them over the years.

It jumps back and forth over a span of 30 years and sees 3 adults with lives bound by tragedy being torn apart you get wrapped up in the storyline although I didn't really find a character I could relate to they are all believable and realistic.

This is a tension filled family mystery and to say too much would be to give the plot away there are plenty of twists to keep you guessing but no massive shocks. If you like people centred family dramas this is a great summer read. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and the Publisher Michael Joseph for my review copy.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

How I lost you - Jenny Blackhurst - fast paced thriller




The Blurb:

They told her she killed her son. She served her time. But what if they lied? I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don't you? My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute for my crime, and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address and a chance to rebuild my tattered life. This morning, I received an envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I truly believe he's dead? If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

My thoughts

I wanted to be blown away by this book, it's my favourite genre, I've found recently I devour and enjoy more psychological thrillers than any other type of book.

The author did a great job of whetting my appetite and reeling me in to the story of Emma, formerly known as Susan and recently released from prison after serving a sentence for murdering her baby son. Things begin to happen which re-inforce her belief that she didn't kill him, but she's been told for years by the medical profession that she is suffering from a mental lapse of memory, a psychosis which makes her forget the details of this terrible event.

However things gather pace and we hurtle towards finding out what really happened, whilst being shown lots of red herrings and the first half of the book had me gripped by the throat, but then, for me it went down hill somewhat in the latter part of the book.

I'm familiar with having to really take things with a pinch of salt in this kind of book but this suddenly degenerated from the tense and compelling storyline to a frankly ridiculous back story that far from explaining things just made me groan out loud and begin to question how far the book had made me accept things happening which began to seem not just unlikely but impossible, coincidence after coincindence began to pall, and I also found it got really confusing. there were a lot of characters to get to grips with and some of them seemed pretty superfluous.

The beginning is great, the ending is pretty satisfactory but the latter middle part is a touch too convoluted for me to give this book more than a pretty round 3 stars.

My thanks to Netgalley for my review copy.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Good Neighbour - Beth Miller - secrets and lies

From an advance reading copy provided by Netgalley

The blurb
Everyone has secrets. How far will you go to protect yours?

After living next to the neighbours from hell, Minette is overjoyed when Cath and her two children move in next door. Cath soon becomes her confidante, a kindred spirit, even her daughter’s babysitter.

But Cath keeps herself unusually guarded and is reluctant to speak of her past. And when Minette witnesses something unspeakable, she begins to question whether she really knows her new friend at all…

An addictive and gripping novel, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Daughter

My Review:

Having lived next door to neighbours from hell I thought I would have more sympathy for Minette than I did, she was pretty annoying to be honest, in fact most of the characters were pretty flawed but that's what makes a book like this believable.

It's a story about lies, and motherhood, friendship and family and misplaced trust. Minette and husband Abe live with baby Tilly in a semi detached house where they have had to put up with neighbours they just don't get along with at all and who have made the first few months of young Tillys life a nightmare, always treading on eggshells trying not to annoy them and rock the boat by giving them cause to "go off on one".

When the neighbours move out and Minette discovers her new neighbour is a single Mum with 2 kids who is approachable and friendly, she begins to relax and the 2 women become friends. Minette is a typical bored, tired and lonely young Mum and is grateful to have a friend nearby. But when she makes an indiscreet decision and trusts Cath with her secrets she never expects to find that Cath has a secret of her own which is even more shocking and unexpected.

I'm trying not to give too much away as the story relies on the layers being peeled away gradually. If you enjoy family dramas with some tense nail biting moments and characters you'll love to hate, you'll probably love this one. It reminded me somewhat of The Playdate

The book has quite a few revelations and shocks and makes for gripping reading, some of it rather disturbing.

I kind of expected another great twist at the end which didn't really happen, the twists are mostly in the middle of the story, however the author ties up all the loose ends very neatly, keeping the reader entertained and satisfied throughout.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

We are all made of stars - Rowan Coleman - heart wrenching and uplifting



The blurb

What if you had just one chance, one letter you could leave behind for the person you love? What would you write?

Stella Carey has good reason to only work nights at the hospice where she is a nurse. Married to a war veteran who has returned from Afghanistan brutally injured, Stella leaves the house each night as Vincent locks himself away, unable to sleep due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

During her nights at the hospice, Stella writes letters for her patients, detailing their final wishes, thoughts and feelings – from how to use a washing machine, to advice on how to be a good parent – and posts them after their death.

That is until Stella writes one letter that she feels compelled to deliver in time, to give her patient one final chance of redemption...


My review

Rowan Coleman - you did it again - tore my heart in two, then sewed it back together. I'm clearly a more sensitive soul than I imagined, I sobbed my way readily throughout this stunning work, but by the end, even though I felt as though I'd been through the wringer, had a big smile on my face. It IS uplifting and it's also heart wrenching, especially if you've ever lost someone and not had the time to say your goodbyes.

This book cleverly tells the stories of several people, there is Stella (Stella means star by the way) who is working as a nurse in a hospice, throwing all her energy into helping people who have a terminal illness, nursing them and caring for them and helping them by writing last letters to their loved ones when they are too ill or tired to put pen to paper themselves. But at home things aren't going smoothly, the love of her life, her husband Vincent, has returned from Afghanistan with his leg missing and his soul in shreds.

These letters form the backbone of the book, one is included at the end of each chapter and even though you don't even get to know a lot of the people for whom these are written these little, poignant vignettes allow a peek into dying peoples lives and hearts and it was often these which tore me up most.

One of her patients in the hospice is Hope, she is only 21 and has Cystic Fibrosis, a life threatening condition which has nearly finished her off, but she is going to live to fight on another day and throughout her life her best friend Ben has been there as her rock, her best pal and we get to know him as well as her (I fell in love with this lovely caring young man, more than a little bit)

There is Issy only 14, she won't see 15 but at the hospice Stella and Hope manage to make her laugh and feel like the teenager she is - not the terminal patient she has become.

Hugh's story seems unrelated at first, he curates a museum, lives alone, apart from his cat, cat's feature heavily in this book! When new neighbours move in, a young single Mum and her son he isn't prepared for the impact these people will have on his existence.

In that impeccable Coleman way these stories intertwine beautifully and the parts make one whole, which is intense, emotional, engaging and truly stunning.

I thought Rowan's "The Memory book"The Memory Book was a fabulous read and that she couldn't possibly outdo it, but this new novel holds its own alongside this. It's gentle and lovely and will appeal to fans of Jojo Moyes

Well done Rowan Coleman (even though I should be really cross with you for the swollen eyed look which is becoming de rigeur after a late night session with one of your books!)

My thanks to the folks at www.lovereading.co.uk who sent me this copy to read and review in advance of publication read my review and others on their site here

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Lie - C L Taylor Blog tour excerpt

I'm delighted to have been invited to participate in the blog tour for the latest exciting psychological thriller The LIE by C L Taylor and have been provided with the following excerpt to whet your appetite - Enjoy!

"Everything okay, Jane?" Sheila, my manager, strolls out from the corridor to my right and puts a hand on my shoulder. She smiles at Gary and his wife but there's a tightness around her lips that suggests she's heard every word we've said.
"We're going." Gary slaps the counter with the palm of his right hand. "But you haven't heard the last from us."
He turns and stalks towards the exit. His wife remains where she is, fingers knotting in front of her, silently pleading with me.
"Come on, Carole," Gary snaps.
She hesitates, just for a second, her eyes still fixed on mine.
"Carole!" He says again and she's off, trotting obediently at his side.
The bell rings as they leave reception and they cross the car park in single file, Steve leading, Carole following behind. If she glances back I'll go after her. I'll make up an excuse to talk to her on her own. That look she just gave me, it wasn't just about the dog.
Look back, look back, Carole.
The lights flash as Gary points his key fob at the Range Rover and he opens the door on the driver side. Carole clambers into the passenger side. Gary says something as she settles herself and she takes off her glasses and rubs her eyes.
"Jane." Sheila gently squeezes my shoulder. "I think we should have a nice cup of tea, don't you?"
I get the subtext: Jack's your business, Carole’s not. 
She heads for the staff room then stops suddenly. "Oh! I forgot to give you this." She hands me an envelope. My full name is handwritten on the front: Jane Hughes, Green Fields Animal Sanctuary. "A thank you letter I imagine."
I run my thumb under the seal and open the envelope as Sheila waits expectantly at the doorway. There's a single piece of paper inside, A4, folded into four. I read it quickly then fold it back up.
"Well?" Sheila asks.
"It's from Maisie's owners. She's settled in well and they're head over heels in love with her"
"Great." She gives an approving nod then heads off to the staff kitchen.
I wait for the sound of her footsteps to fade away then glance towards the car park. There's a space where Carol and Gary's 4x4 was parked.
I unfold the piece of paper in my hands and read it again. There's a single sentence, written in the centre of the page in blue biro:
I know your name's not really Jane Hughes.
Whoever sent it to me knows the truth. My real name is Emma Woolfe and for the last five years I've been pretending to be someone else

If you enjoyed this order your copy now from Amazon

heres a link to my review so you can read my thoughts on this book 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Church of Marvels - Leslie Parry - magnificent



From the blurb:

THE NIGHT CIRCUS MEETS WATER FOR ELEPHANTS MEETS CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE IN THIS COMPULSIVELY READABLE DEBUT

New York, 1895. It's late on a warm city night when Sylvan Threadgill, a young night soiler who cleans out the privies behind the tenement houses, pulls a terrible secret out from the filthy hollows: an abandoned newborn baby. An orphan himself, Sylvan was raised by a kindly Italian family and can't bring himself to leave the baby in the slop. He tucks her into his chest, resolving to find out where she belongs.

Odile Church is the girl-on-the-wheel, a second-fiddle act in a show that has long since lost its magic. Odile and her sister Belle were raised in the curtained halls of their mother's spectacular Coney Island sideshow: The Church of Marvels. Belle was always the star-the sword swallower-light, nimble, a true human marvel. But now the sideshow has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in the ashes, and Belle has escaped to the city.

Alphie wakes up groggy and confused in Blackwell's Lunatic Asylum. The last thing she remembers is a dark stain on the floor, her mother-in-law screaming. She had once walked the streets as an escort and a penny-Rembrandt, cleaning up men after their drunken brawls. Now she is married; a lady in a reputable home. She is sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband's vile mother. But then a young woman is committed alongside her, and when she coughs up a pair of scissors from the depths of her agile throat, Alphie knows she harbors a dangerous secret that will alter the course of both of their lives...

On a single night, these strangers' lives will become irrevocably entwined, as secrets come to light and outsiders struggle for acceptance. From the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular sideshow to a desolate asylum, Leslie Parry makes turn-of-the-century New York feel alive, vivid, and magical in this luminous debut. In prose as magnetic and lucid as it is detailed, she offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past marked by astonishing feats of narrative that will leave you breathless.

My thoughts:

One that does live up to its promise....

I'm rather fond of an atmospheric historical drama, which must have a really great backbone of a storyline and this one fits the bill perfectly. The story seems at first to be several disparate stories about different characters but this classy tale weaves them intricately together to form one, superb, thrilling and emotionally wrenching story which is delightfully different and unusual, peppered with secrets and surprises and poetic descriptions of the era - turn of the 20th century New York, in particular Coney Island.

Our first narrator is Sylvan a night soil cleaner, removing waste from privies in the dead of night and when hes not toiling in this noisome occupation he engages in fist fights, amateur boxing to earn a few extra coppers. One night he finds amongst the waste an abandoned baby girl whom he rescues and thus begins his search for the infants mother.

Odile is a young woman we also meet, brought up in a circus by her unorthodox Mother alongside her beloved twin sister Belle. But the circus is no more, following a tragic fire which brought about the death of their Mother and several fellow performers, and Belle has taken off without a word to Odile. Belle the star of the show, sword swallowing, shape shifting beautiful Belle has left Odile with her slightly humped back and talent for having knives thrown at her whilst suspended mid air.

Then theres Alphie, she has ended up in a womens asylum, with a cruel tattoo around her neck, where the women are treated little better than animals, where few escape and where she waits daily for the love of her life, her husband to realise where his wife is and rescue her.

But everyone is hiding something or has had many things hidden from them and as these secrets are slowly revealed the story grips the reader tighter and won't let go. I am quite sure I haven't done this gorgeous book justice as my mind's still spinning around in the past examining the nunaces of this clever and delectable journey into the past.

Unlike a lot of books I've read recently I really liked Sylvan, Odile and Alphie, the characters in this book are skilfully drawn with a delicate hand and gain real depth and personality. I have seen it compared to The Crimson Petal and the White the Crimson Petal and the storytelling to that of Sarah Waters, such accolades made me very skeptical. But although not quite as raunchy or long as the aforementioned, the writing is in a similar class the characters their names and the historical detail and descriptions are all quite as perfect and the whole is a historical treat you must not miss and which will stay with me for quite some time - magical and magnificent.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Things we have in common - Tasha Kavanagh - creepily enjoyable




The Blurb:


Yasmin would give anything to have a friend… And do anything to keep them.

The first time I saw you, you were standing at the far end of the playing field. You were looking down at your brown straggly dog, your mouth going slack as your eyes clocked her. Alice Taylor.

I was no different. I’d catch myself gazing at the back of her head in class, at her thick fair hair swaying between her shoulder blades.

If you’d glanced just once across the field, you’d have seen me standing in the middle on my own looking straight at you, and you’d have gone back through the trees to the path quick, tugging your dog after you. You’d have known you’d given yourself away, even if only to me.

But you didn’t. You only had eyes for Alice.

My review:

There's something weird about how I came to choose this book - I read a rave review somewhere. Afterwards, thinking it over, I really thought the review had been from a trusted friend whose online bookclub I'm a member of, so I thought "well if she thinks its that good I'm sure I'll love it"

It's probably not one I'd have picked as it's more of a ya theme than I normally choose. But what I found is a very well written, complete page turner of a book.

The narrator is a real misfit, misunderstood teenager, Yasmin 15, overweight, full of angst, grieving for her father who died a few years ago and desperately lonely. She doesn't fit in at home where her Mum and her new partner try to do what's best for all of them, but in the throes of a new relationship their exasperation with Yasmin slips through, alienating her further. They take her to a weight loss specialist then Yasmin comes home and secretly tucks into hidden packs of hobnobs and chocolate.

Throughout the book I wondered when someone was going to identify that she is clearly on the verge of some other mental health condition, maybe borderline aspergers or something, as she fantasises and frets and whispers and obsesses, but they are all so fixated on the fact that she is fat they overlook her other needs.

She is so unlikeable in many ways, so unrelateable to, and yet I found a real sympathy for and huge empathy with her.

At school she has few friends, she is ostracised and bullied, but she has a massive crush on a fellow pupil, the pretty and popular Alice. When Yaz spots a man watching Alice, she becomes convinced Alice is about to be abducted and begins an elaborate fantasy where this happens and she alone rescues Alice, winning her admiration and friendship and becoming a much loved heroine.

Beginning a lengthy internal monologue with the man she suspects of being a kidnapper, it becomes increasingly more apparent that Yasmin is as unreliable a narrator as they come. It seems she is unable to separate fatasy from relaity and her musings begin to take on a horribly fascinating life of their own spilling over to affect her family and everyone she meets whilst she remains as lonely as ever.

Then she is offered the chance to build an unlikely and unhealthy relationship of sorts and seizes it with both hands, transferring all her affections and fantasies elsewhere .... with consequences.

This book reminds me very much of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time it's written as well if not even more engagingly.

The end made me give a little shriek, as in "Nooo you can't possibly leave me dangling here" It's quite unexpected, shocking yet incomplete, yet it's very celever becuase it made me take over Yasmins internal monologue as I wondered and pondered what would happen next, after I put the book down, the story continued to play out in my head.

A very clever, creepily enjoyable book ideal for everyone who is or ever has been a teenager with any kind of issues Oh and theres a sweet adorable little dog to make you go awww, too.

So, whoever it was who reviewed this, and made me want to read it, thank you. I hope I make someone else want to read it because it really is different and thought provoking.
Thankyou too, Netgalley for my e-galley.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Bones of you - Debbie Howells - tense psychological thriller



The Blurb

A stunning, wonderfully assured psychological thriller that evokes Gillian Flynn and Alice Sebold, The Bones of You revolves around a young girl’s murder and one woman’s obsession with uncovering the secrets in an idyllic English village.

I have a gardener’s inherent belief in the natural order of things. Soft‑petalled flowers that go to seed. The resolute passage of the seasons. Swallows that fly thousands of miles to follow the eternal summer.

Children who don’t die before their parents.

When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.

Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.

Weaving flashbacks from Rosie’s perspective into a tautly plotted narrative, The Bones of You is a gripping, haunting novel of sacrifices and lies, desperation and love.


My review:

A very accomplished taut psychological thriller about the murder of a young girl.

Kate is the main adult narrator, she is a gardener who also looks after horses and lavishes her affection on them now her daughter Grace is flying the nest and husband works away a lot. She was befriended by a lonely teenager Rosie who is found murdered in the woods nearby. Kate is devastated, and with more time on her hands than usual begins to worry about how Rosies Mum Jo is coping with the tragic loss of her eldest daughter and offers her support. She soon gets drawn in to the affairs of this fractured family with handsome enigmatic father Neal revealing a vicious cruel side beneath his immculate public persona as a news reporter and younger daughter Della silently seeking support and Jo maintaining a calm exterior whilst everything around her crumbles, and flashbacks of her past reveal a lifetime of abuse and neglect, no wonder she turns to the bottle to cope.

Alongside Kates story is a thread in Rosies voice, speaking posthumously, it makes the book seem to be trying to be like the lovely bones and although it could have been told without this slightly supernatural element, by the end I saw why the author had done it and even shed a tear on the final page.

There is a creeping sense of dread throughout the book as you know something unpleasant is going to be revealed and there are a couple of real twists towards the latter part of the story. But it keeps you guessing and, you will suspect almost every character in the book at some point as little red herrings are scattered before you.

I liked Kate, she is like a dog with a bone and won't give up on Rosies memory. There are a couple of characters in the book, one in particular who is there almost from the start, whom I really wondered why they were there as they seemed rather superfluous, although I was kept wondering whether they would have a bigger part to play than they actually did. I wonder if they were also red herrings?

Overall an excellent book, very enjoyable and one I would highly recommend, especially if you did enjoy the lovely bones, as the author has, I'm certain, tailored this very engaging thriller firmly in the direction of that market, very effectively, even the title remaining true to form. Yet it stands alone as a gripping read.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable - Exceptional readability



The Blurb:


How can a memory so vivid be wrong?

I tried to remember the first time I’d been here and to see the tree through Izzie’s eyes. The oak stood on a rise just above the path; not too tall or wide but graceful and straight, its trunk covered in what I can only describe as offerings – pieces of ribbon, daisy chains, a shell necklace, a tiny doll or two and even an old cuckoo clock.
"Why do people do this?" Izzie asked.
I winked at her. "To say thank you to the fairies."

In the summer of 1986 Robin and Izzie hold hands under The Faerie Tree and wish for a future together. Within hours tragedy rips their dreams apart.

In the winter of 2006, each carrying their own burden of grief, they stumble back into each other’s lives and try to create a second chance. But why are their memories of 1986 so different? And which one of them is right?

With strong themes of paganism, love and grief, The Faerie Tree is a novel as gripping and unputdownable as Jane Cable’s first book, The Cheesemaker’s House, which won the Suspense & Crime category of The Alan Titchmarsh Show’s People’s Novelist competition. It is a story that will resonate with fans of romance, suspense, and folklore.

My Review:

I recently took part in the blog tour for this book, the author wrote a great article about writing books with women readers in mind, however I hadn't finished reading the book at the time, and I have been a little nervous in case I ended up disliking it.

I worried unnecessarily, following her superb debut novel The Cheesemaker's House the Cheesemakers house, Jane Cable's writing skill has matured and become even more well rounded.

I must admit I especially loved her debut novel because of the setting of Northallerton which is on my local patch so it held special meaning to me. The Faerie tree is set mostly in Cornwall, somewhere I'm not very au fait with at all.

But this unusual romantic story grabbed me right from the very start, when recently widowed Izzie, out Christmas shopping with her teenage daughter Claire, spots a homeless man in a shop doorway whom she thinks she recognises from her past, this change meeting is the catalyst for a change of direction for Izzie and Robin who is indeed someone she thought she'd never see again.

A real mystery unfurls regarding whose memories of the past we believe, between Robin and Izzie it soon becomes apparent that one is a less reliable narrator than the other, but whose memories are we to believe and why do they differ so much?

Thrown back together after a long time apart is this perhaps a second chance at love? Both have had their problems, both have suffered grievous loss of a loved one, both have immersed themselves in grief, suffered stress and from depression, has Robin been homeless too long to commit to any kind of relationship or has Izzie hit the bottle once too often?

I was also a little concerned about the possibilty of a supernatural element to the story, with paganism and the eponymous Faerie tree being at the forefront of the story but this is not some airy fairy tale, it is firmly grounded in reality, with a gritty realism seldom found in romantic fiction. I loved every word and just can't recommend this heartwarming, top quality, romantic novel, highly enough, it oozes with exceptional readability and charm.

My thanks to The publishers Matador and Netgalley for my review copy.
You can purchase yours at Amazon  and many good booksellers

A Place called Winter - Patrick Gale - epic historical drama



From the Blurb:

In the golden 1900s, Harry Cane, a shy, eligible gentleman of leisure is drawn from a life of quiet routine into courting and marrying Winnie, eldest daughter of the fatherless Wells clan, who are not quite as respectable as they would appear. They settle by the sea and have a daughter and conventional marriage does not seem such a tumultuous change after all. When a chance encounter awakens scandalous desires never acknowledged until now, however, Harry is forced to forsake the land and people he loves for a harsh new life as a homesteader on the newly colonized Canadian prairies. There, in a place called Winter, he will come to find a deep love within an alternative family, a love imperiled by war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism.

My Review:

This is the first book by Patrick Gale I've read, the historical aspect is what attracted me to it, together with rave reviews from a few friends whose judgement I trust implicitly, Anne on Random Things .... and Karen's My reading Corner .

I have to admit it wasn't quite what I was expecting but I did love it, the storyline flowed so naturally and there are some really great characters together with some exceptionally dislikeable ones. In fact I must admit, unlike many others I was a little impatient with the main protagonist, Harry who had such great propensity for putting his trust in the wrong people time after time and also for rather letting down those who didn't totally deserve it, although I didn't wish him ill of his naivety.

However Harry's story is well worth reading, it jumps back and forth in time, beginning in the middle when he is in a mental institution but as yet we don't know what drove him to this place. As he looks back over his life, from the early years as a substitute father to his brother Jack, then as husband and father himself, we watch helpless as he makes foolish choices and ends up having to take a rather momentous decision, to emigrate and leave behind the family he loves, deemed a kind of punishment for making a rash and foolish attachment he nevertheless sees this as an opportunity to break free from the constraints of domesticity and sets off alone to the far reaches of Canada as an early 20th century settler claiming land and becoming a homesteader.

He adapts pretty well to this huge change of circumstacnces and meets many unique characters all of whom help shape his destiny, but will he ever finally get the chance to be the man he really wants to be?

The characters and story ensure the reader becomes deeply absorbed in the book and in turn I loathed Troals (The Troll) of whom Harry is warned before he even leaves England yet still decides to take at face value and I loved many of the other characters including Ursula the cross dressing Cree.

Fabulous storytelling coupled with immaculate sense of place and descriptions to die for, make this stand head and shoulders above many books set in similar historical settings and definitely one to recommend. My thanks go to Netgalley for providing my ebook to review.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Blog Tour - The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable

I'm delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the new book The Farie Tree by Jane Cable whose wonderful "The Cheesmakers House" was a favourite of mine. In fact I'm rounding off the tour today.



I particularly enjoy books written by women, primarily for women readers and Jane has addressed this subject in her exclusive article for this blog tour.


WRITING WITH WOMEN IN MIND - Jane Cable

In the days when I had an agent he told me that men never read books by women and women read books by everyone. Sweeping generalisation it may have been, but rubbish it was not. I thought about my own other half’s reading habits and realised that just about the only female novelist he regularly downloaded was Kathy Reichs (although he has recently confounded me by buying a cut price suite of Hilary Mantel for his Kobo).

So as a woman writer, am I necessarily writing for other women? I think so, yes. Although a large number of men have enjoyed The Cheesemaker’s House – despite it being a romance, which over 80% of the male sex pretend never to read. But was it written for them? Probably not.

It is said that as a writer you need to work with your typical reader in mind. For me, that reader was probably my mother; intelligent, young at heart, and bored to tears with predictable boy-meets-girl romances. But not someone who wanted to work too hard at a novel either – after all, reading is meant to be a pleasant pastime and not a chore. If she found herself making lists of who the characters were and how they fitted together then she knew it was time to give up on a book.

It’s one thing to recognise writing with a particular woman in mind but quite another to analyse how I write with women in mind generally. I am not an overly analytical author; I see myself as more of a storyteller, really. There’s a pressing urge to share the characters who populate my head and to make their stories so compelling that a reader will want to follow them to the end of the book – and miss them when they’ve finished reading it.

That’s probably the main way in which writing for women, by women, differs; the narrative is driven by the characters and not the action. We are generally so much more interested in other people than men are. You only have to think about the differences in the conversations men and women have on their nights out or around the water cooler to realise that.

Although a good half of The Faerie Tree is written from the point of view of a man, that man is necessarily filtered through the eyes of a woman and so will doubtless appear more credible to female readers than male. However much you watch men and try to see the world from their point of view, a woman writer can never write a man as a man would. Neither can a man create a 100% perfect female character.

That’s not a criticism – it’s a fact. I write about gay men, straight men, mothers, elderly ladies – I have been none of the above. But as a writer I have imagination and, I hope, keen listening and observation skills. As a woman I am fascinated by people and take time to understand them. It’s what we’re comfortable with – it’s what we do.

Here is a lovely photo of Jane and her Mother.



I'm delighted to say I'm reading the Faerie Tree right now - watch this space for my review as soon as I've finished reading it.

Order your copy now from Waterstones or through Matador's own website



Monday, 23 March 2015

Because she loves me - Mark Edwards - Mind blowing mess with your head stuff



From the blurb ....

When Andrew Sumner meets beautiful, edgy Charlie, he is certain his run of bad luck has finally come to an end.

But as the two of them embark on an intense affair, Andrew wonders if his grasp on reality is slipping. Items go missing in his apartment. Somebody appears to be following him. And as misfortune and tragedy strike his friends and loved ones, Andrew is forced to confront the frightening truth.…

Is Charlie really the girl of his dreams—or the woman of his nightmares?


My thoughts ....

Definitely a five star read, this one! A completely compelling and totally terrifying tale of obsession and jealousy and how far one person will go to get the person of their dreams.

I read and really enjoyed Mark Edwards debut novel The Magpies when it was first released but this one blows it right out of the water. It's as tense and taut a psychological chiller as I've ever read, full of red herrings, great characters, and all the twists and turns us afficionados of the psychological thrills genre crave.

Told by Andrew Sumner whom we meet when he thinks he's had a bad time - he is leaving hospital after weeks of gruelling and worrying treatment on his eye following a detached retina. But things begin to look up for him when this leads to an inadvertent encounter with the enigmatic and beguiling Charlotte aka Charlie with whom he begins an intense affair and soon falls head over heels in love with.

Andrew is one of those lucky fellas whose life is filled with women, his best mate's a girl, he's close to his wheelhair bound sister Tilly, even her carer and his cleaner are young attractive women, and he has even managed to remain friends with a couple of his exes, but maybe this isn't as fortunate as at first it would seem as this triggers some insecurities in Charlie and the jealous side of her nature this reveals, worries him.

He has a right to be a worried man, if he thought things were going badly when he first had his eye complaint, he ain't seen NOTHIN' yet! Little things begin to ring alarm bells, someone seems to be stalking him and his friends, things go missing, and accidents begin to happen, all around him. But surely this can't have anything to do with Charlie? She's the woman of his dreams and he really loves her.

What happens is a nightmare and what at first seems to be a little run of bad luck builds to a crescendo of such proportions that his sanity and perhaps his very life are threatened.

What a mind blowing, mess with your head, chilling story this is. I loved it - right to the very last sentence. Bravo Mark Edwards you scared, thrilled and entertained me with your magnificent writing.

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Lie - CL Taylor - tense and toxic


The blurb...

I know your name's not really Jane Hughes...

Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She's happier than she's ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.

Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.

Jane has tried to put her past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won't stop until they've destroyed Jane and everything she loves...

My thoughts

This exciting and fast paced chiller, focussing on toxic friendships, kept me glued to the storyline and turning the pages well into the night.

It's a dual time story, I DO love this kind of book, although the 2 storylines are set over a relatively short period, now, and 5 years ago. I must admit I liked the now part best of the 2 and wish there had been a little more of the storyline set in the present, but the main focus is on the past as there was so much going on, it gets quite frantic in some parts.

Take 4 girls, friends since university, all really different, all in their own ways flawed by their pasts and their own personality failings. Send them off on holiday together, to somewhere remote and frankly weird, and you're just asking for clashes and fallings out. But this goes far beyond a few arguments over the sun tan lotion, this leads to a terrible cataclysm, which none of them could have foreseen.

First we meet Jane who has a job she loves, working in an animal sanctuary, she has a great relationship with her fella and things are going well – but she hasn’t always been Jane, 5 years ago she was Emma and when she was Emma something happened which she just wants to forget about and move on – hence the name change, but someone won’t let sleeping dogs lie and she begins to be haunted by cruel texts and messages taunting her and threatening to blow her cozy world apart.

Back when she is Emma, her friends are Daisy, rich privileged, pretty Daisy who has always been there when Emma needs some moral support.

Al, recently broken up from a long term gay relationship, hurt and bitter.

And Leanne, part of this group of 4 girls, who Emma feels the least kinship with, bubbly and exciteable she can be rather pushy.

Ostensibly to help Al recover from her broken heart, the group plan a holiday and instead of their usual beach, booze and party shindig end up going to a mountain retreat in Nepal, only to discover that what should be the holiday of a lifetime begins to turn sour very rapidly.

It was extremely hard to warm to any of these women, I just kept thinking "Thank goodness they're not in my social group" there wasn't one of them I had much sympathy for, not even the main protagonist really I just wanted to give her a good shake to and ask her WHY for heavens sake, are you friends with these complete wasters? I think they all treated her and each other despicably, which formed the main point of the story but didn't sit easily with me. There’s a lot of bullying and sheer nastiness goes on and I'd have ditched each and every one of them before it got this far!


The storyline, however difficult to relate to, just kept me entertained and interested all the way through and I enjoyed this tense, dark, mysterious novel almost as much as the authors outstanding debut novel “The Accident”

Friday, 6 March 2015

Burnt paper sky - Gilly MacMillan - Excellent read


The Blurb

Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment. Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing.

But what really happened that fateful afternoon?

Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?

The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Burnt Paper Sky is a gripping psychological thriller about a missing child and how the public can turn on a mother following a single, momentary mistake.


My thoughts

You make a tiny error of judgement which results in your 8 year old son going missing, does this make you a Bad Mother? The world begins to think so as Rachel struggles to cope with her beloved Bens disappearance on top of the stress of a broken marriage and family secrets which leak out to haunt her. Finding out who her friends are and are not leave her feeling desperate and isolated.

Jim Clemo the police officer in charge of the investigation around the missing child is stressed too, his new relationship with a young colleague is going well but he wants to conceal it from his superiors at work. We are treated to his story about the case as a series of interviews with a police psychologist following the event so we know something has left him badly shaken but is it the case itself or his own failings which have left him so affected he can no longer sleep?

We follow Mum Rachel's story as events happen, coping with the unthinkable, the loss of a child, alone without a husband to lean on she is barely keeping her head above water when the power of Social media steps in and in this high profile media case "Joe Public" seize on someone to vilify and blame and Racehl becomes a pariah overnight. Hounded by the press, the public crucifying her online and her friends and family begin to show their flaws too. With nobody to rely on but herself, she needs to find an inner strength to cope or go under. She never stoaps believing that Ben is still alive and it is this convction which keeps her going.


This is a very tense missing child thriller which will keep you on the edge of your seat, an extremely well written debut which grips and shakes the reader. For my own personal tastes there is a touch too much emphasis on the police side of the investigation but that is purely my own failing I just can't get away with detective stories, I'm certain many readers will find this adds to their enjoyment. An excellent read. My thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Books for my advance copy.