Thursday, 16 October 2014

The book of You - Claire Kendal - Scary stalker story

From the Publishers blurb

A terrifying psychological thriller about obsession and power, perfect for fans of Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep.

Clarissa is becoming more and more frightened of her colleague, Rafe. He won’t leave her alone, and he refuses to take no for an answer. He is always there.

Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can’t be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand.

Realizing that she bears the burden of proof, Clarissa unravels the twisted, macabre fairytale that Rafe has spun around them – and discovers that the ending he envisions is more terrifying than she could have imagined.

But how do you protect yourself from an enemy no one else can see?

My thoughts

The kind of book that makes you look over your shoulder, not once but several times.

A terrifying diary written by a victim of a stalker, Clarissa is a dainty, fragile, little thing who is being stalked and the book takes the form of a diary she is advised to keep, by the helpline leaflets. The guy who is stalking her is a thoroughly nasty, deranged character with seemingly very little motive for making this girls life a nightmare.

At the same time as writing her diary Clarissa is taking part in jury service which offers her a welcome break from routine and the chance to make some new friends outside her work, where her stalker can reach and manipulate her.

I couldn't really relate to her as she seems a very flaky and needy type of woman yet I could really sense the terror she must have been feeling and as her stalker ramps up his assaults and bizarre gift giving I felt her fear and loathing.

Clarissa is a bit of an enigma, well brought up, she is polite and meek yet has been mistress to a married man, her usual oufits include a hand made dress, coupled with stockings and hand knitted mittens! She also seems a little too keen to get into a relationship whilst she is barely out of one disastrous one and is still being terrified on a daily basis by Rafe the guy who just won't take no for an answer

As the story continues there are scenes of graphic terror and abuse of women, which made me glad it wasn't me yet I had to keep on reading to find out what happens. A scary and rather nasty look inside the mind of a depraved man and his victim.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Love song of Miss Queenie Hennessey - Rachel Joyce

From the publishers blurb Via Goodreads

From the author of the 2 million+ copy, worldwide bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, an exquisite, funny and heartrending parallel story.

When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note to him had explained she was dying from cancer. How can she wait?

A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write a second letter; only this time she must tell Harold the truth. Composing this letter, the volunteer promises, will ensure Queenie hangs on. It will also atone for the secrets of the past. As the volunteer points out, ‘It isn’t Harold who is saving you. It is you, saving Harold Fry.’

This is that letter. A letter that was never sent.

Told in simple, emotionally-honest prose, with a mischievous bite, this is a novella about a woman who falls in love but chooses not to claim it. It is about friendship and kindness as well as the small victories that pass unrecorded. It is about the truth and the significance - the gentle heroism - of a life lived alone.

Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was just the beginning...

My Thoughts

Finished this delightful book last week on my holiday, shed a tear or two over this sweet, emotional story.

For anyone who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry this is a companion novel the author has written to portray the life of Queenie the woman who is waiting in a hospice for Harold, whilst he undertakes his epic walk.

Of course, the hospice setting gives you a hint that it's going to be quite poignant and I did blub somewhat. It's quite a sad little tale in many ways but is told with the same deft lightness of touch and a wry humour, which I so enjoyed in Harold Frys story.

Queenie is dying and her final days in a hospice have been shaken somewhat by the news that an old friend and colleague is walking the length of the UK to see her and she must wait until he gets there, she has already waited a long time to see him again but there is something she feels a burning need to tell him. To fill in the long hours of waiting, between medication, pain and impossible meals with fellow residents, she accepts the advice and help of an newly arrived and understanding Nun, Sister Mary Inconnu, to write everything down in a letter to Harold and this book is the result of her thoughts and confessions.

In it, we learn about Queenies life, her friendship with Harold, her later years creating a wonderful sea garden and discover what it is she is unable to forgive herself for, what she was unable to speak of and as we journey towards her final days we watch her find an inner peace through her reminiscences and remembering.

There are some really heart wrenching moments and I heartily recommend this lovely read and defy anyone not to give a little sob filled gasp near the end when certain facts are revealed, as did I. 

It's a charming and beautiful emotional read and I don't want to give too much away, so my lips are sealed until you read it yourself. My thanks to the publisher Transworldbooks for my lovely advance copy.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Long Fall - Julia Crouch - Mind twisting

From the publisher ...

How far would you go to protect your secrets?

Greece, 1980

Emma takes part in a shattering, violent event. An event to which she is anything but an innocent bystander.
She is only eighteen, but this marks her fall from innocence.
It will haunt her for the rest of her life.

London, now

Kate has the perfect existence: a glossy image, a glamorous home, a perfect family.
But there are cracks.
All is not what it seems.

And now the two worlds are about to collide.
Somebody's out for revenge.
Someone who has been waiting thirty years...

MY thoughts ....

Exciting very twisty dual time psychological mind bender. Provided for me by in exchange for sharing my thoughts.

The dual time layers are headed before and after and are set in 1980 and 2013. The story begins back in 1980 when young Emma sets off travelling despite being quite a nervy, neurotic individual she is determined to find her way around alone. Brought up in Ripon she finds suddenly being alone in France leads her to make a few ill advised decisions which have truly catastrophic results. Heading off to Greece doesn't make her feel much better. She's not used to coping alone. She has had what little confidence she was developing shattered beyond repair and when salvation comes along in the form of slightly older Jake and then Beattie, she clings to the security of the lifeline this budding friendship promises.

In 2013 we are allowed a glimpse into the privileged life of Kate. Middle aged, wealthy and apparently successful Kate would seem to have it all, but her life is blighted by past events, not least of which was the devastating loss of her youngest daughter Martha. But she has managed to turn this around by throwing herself into founding a charity, Marthas wish, dedicated to her late daughters memory she fundraises for a cause close to Marthas heart and this is what has kept her from toppling over the edge into despair. Despite a deep unwillingness to be seen in public, Kate faces some of her many phobias and allows her photograph to be published in a publicity campaign for the charity and despite her reluctance taked part in a tv interview which is about to cause her well hidden past to re-emerge and shatter her well ordered life.

And then .... things become .... FRANTIC

We hop back and forth in time, watching events unfold over which we have no control. The main characters are all deeply flawed, some of the narratives can't be taken at face value and there are many, many hidden secrets, some of which emerge slowly like a trickle of water running down your back and some which burst forth shrieking at you like a banshee to leave your mouth dry and your heart pounding.

I found it difficult to like any of the characters at all, I had some sympathy for Emma, who is shaped almost entirely by circumstance, yet I found her too needy and neurotic to admire. 

I needed to suspend belief a little when events finally reached their rather inevitable climax, but this didn't spoil the fun one bit, after all ghastly and implausible things do happen and people can be as completely abhorrent as one particular individual turns out to be.

A terrifically exciting and mind blowing book which proceeds at breathless pace throughout. My sincere thanks to  the fabulous author and the publisher for this scintillating read.

Round the bend - Alistair McGuiness

Today I'm delighted to be taking part in the virtual book tour for the new travel book - Round the bend - by Alistair McGuiness. I was invited to take part by the lovely Dorothy Thompson at Pump up your book and when I received my free ebook copy I curled up with it to become the armchair traveller this book's perfect for.

Here's what the publisher says about the book:

From the Amazon to the Andes and Kilimanjaro to Cape Town
This adventure story captures the reality and exhilaration of leaving home to undertake Gap Year travel in South America, Africa, Fiji and Australia.
Three things happened simultaneously. The lioness charged, Alistair fled across the parched savannah and his wife screamed for him to run faster. Stuffed deep inside his tattered rucksack was a guidebook containing advice on what to do in wildlife emergencies, which he planned to read if he survived the next thirty seconds. Future plans to climb Kilimanjaro, teach English in the Amazon and live in Australia were temporarily forgotten as he turned to face the pouncing lioness, thinking back to the words of advice from his mother-in-law. "Don't do anything silly, and look after Francine." 

From deep underground in a remote Bolivian mine to the scorched Australian outback, Round the Bend is an adventure travel story. It explores the turbulence of redundancy, the excitement of travel, the anguish of leaving home and the challenges of starting a new life in Australia

My thoughts:

I’m taking part in the virtual book tour for this exciting travel journal, I’d rather be actually taking part in some of the adventures this couple have but being an armchair traveller and reading about it is the next best thing and as so many of the events are MISadventures perhaps it's safer to just sit and read it in the comfort of my own home.

Alistair and his wife Fran are a middle aged couple taking a gap year. Following the shock of redundancy they decide they’d quite like to emigrate to the other side of the world, but to satisfy their longing to see more of the world they have a year visiting places many of us only dream about.

Their journey takes them to South America, then the heart of Africa before finally making it Down Under. The author has a keen sense of humour and a great descriptive turn of phrase which paints a really good picture of the places he’s been and the people he met.

From the humble beginnings trying and failing to learn a foreign language to help him on his travels, to his misadventures and near misses with rhino, lions, etc on safari it’s obvious his self-deprecating style has good reason, he’s one of those haphazard travelers to whom you instantly sense things are going to go awry for – and as other peoples mishaps are fun to read about this makes for a very entertaining read, it had me laughing out loud in many places. I'm glad I didn't go travelling with him, I think I'd have lost patience, he just won't be told!! But if he'd sat quietly in the back of the bus all the way he wouldn't have come back with such great tales.

If you love listening to other peoples travel adventures, pull up a comfy armchair, settle back and head off on safari with Alistair. 

For More Information

  • Round the Bend: From Luton to Peru to Ningaloo, a Search for Life After Redundancy is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
About the Author

Alistair McGuiness grew up in the UK in a town called Luton, which lies 30 miles north of London. Family holidays were spent in County Donegal, Ireland, staying with his Grandmother in their large family home where she had once raised fifteen children.
It was these annual trips that made Alistair realise his Great Uncles were Seanachaís (Irish story tellers). After a few pints of Guinness in the family bar, brothers Barney and Francis would entertain the evening crowds with their recitations of life in rural Ireland. As their rustic voices carried across the crowded room, Alistair would watch and listen as the animated tales mesmorised the overseas visitors.
44 countries and four decades later, Alistair now calls Australia home and in the tradition of Great Uncles Barney and Francis, loves to recite stories. He lives between the beach and the forest with his wife, two young boys and a fun puppy called Peppi. After decades of adventurous escapades Alistair is calming down and has decided to write more and bungee jump less!
He works as a Business Improvement Specialist and has just spent three years as a fly in fly out employee at a remote iron ore mine site in Western Australia. As a trainer and facilitator, he has worked in Europe and Australia and is passionate about helping people and organisations to become successful.
A fun family day for Alistair would be fishing from the local jetty with his boys, taking the puppy for a walk along the beach at sunset and cooking a scrumptious curry in the evening with his wife.
An ideal adventurous day for Alistair would be a days walking and scrambling in the Lake District with friends, followed by a visit to a village pub nestled deep in the English countryside.
For More Information

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Louise Millar Blog Tour - the Hidden Girl and GIVEAWAY

Blog Tour - and book giveaway ...

I'm delighted to be taking part in the Louise Millar Blog tour for her latest book as I'm a massive fan of her work. I was honoured to be able to read "the hidden girl" back in April in advance of publication, and here's a reminder of my review.

Please scroll to the bottom of this post after reading it, to find out how easy it is to WIN a brand new copy for yourself. There are 3 copies to be won.

The review

From the publishers blurb ...

Hannah Riley and her musician husband, Will, hope that a move to the Suffolk countryside will promise a fresh start. Hannah, a human rights worker, is desperate for a child and she hopes that this new life will realise her dream. Yet when the snow comes, Will is working in London and Hannah is cut off in their remote village. 

Life in Tornley turns out to be far from idyllic, who are the threatening figures who lurk near their property at night? And why is her neighbour so keen to see them leave? Plus Will's behaviour is severely testing the bonds of trust. Hannah has spent her professional life doing the right thing for other people. 

But as she starts to unbury a terrible crime, she realises she can no longer do that without putting everything she's ever wanted at risk. But if she does nothing, the next victim could be her...

My thoughts

Louise Millar - author of the brilliant The Playdate is back on top form after her second book didn't quite live up to my expectations, a stunning debut is often hard to follow. Well, its third time lucky with this unusual twisty, psychological, mystery thriller set between bustling London and the quiet rural backwaters of Suffolk. I received my copy from Netgalley so I could review it in advance.

Hannah and Will are a young married couple whose happiness depends on them overcoming past problems and Hannah is convinced their only route to this state is to complete their family with a child for which adoption is the only route left open to the former aid worker and her music producer husband.

The start of the book sees them moving to an old house in the countryside, mistakenly believing that quiet rural life in a rambling old Country Pile will be beneficial to their application to adopt.

For a chapter or two this seems like pretty standard fare, young couple buy spooky old house and things begin to go bump in the night .... But it's no ghost which haunts Tornley Hall. The descriptions are great, I felt as if I was there with her working to a tight deadline to get the house ready for a very important visitor and I shared her anguish when things started to go wrong.

As Will commutes back to London Hannah is left in the isolated spot to mull over their decision and as snow begins to fall, the house proves to be in much worse repair than anticipated and the locals prove unfriendly and some downright sinister she struggled to cope with her usual efficiency and calm. As secrets are uncovered and cracks begin to appear not just in her new home, but in her marriage Hannah battles to hang on to her sanity. 

At first you are led to think there's not really that much going on in the story, it seems almost gentle but don't be lulled into relaxing, the tension is gradually cranked up until you realise that what seemed like minor annoyances are in fact something much more sinister, and as the alarm bells begin to sound, like Hannah you've got far too involved in what's going on in Tornley to back away, deep in the countryside no-one can hear you scream.

This is a sinister and creepy psychological tour de force with so many little twists it really keeps you turning the pages until late in the night and makes you want to check the doors are firmly locked before you do lay your head down to sleep - don't you just love a book which does that?

When the mystery is finally revealed in a crescendo of brutal intensity it really wasn't what I was expecting and made me peer back at some of the things which had happened and see them in a different light. The loose ends are neatly tied up in a satisfactory climactic ending.

Louise has returned to revealing the hidden nastiness which lies beneath seemingly ordinary domestic life and shows that you never really know which of your neighbours you can trust. 

If you liked Louise Millars first book you'll love this ....

Which leads me to my GIVEAWAY for UK entrants only please

To win one of three copies of the hidden girl email with the title "Beadyjans giveaway - the Hidden girl" and name the Title of Louise's first novel and you could be a winner. I'd also love it if you add a comment to this post though it's not necessary to win a copy. The closing date is Monday 29th September. Good luck everyone.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Her - Harriet Lane - a creeping cliffhanger

The Blurb:

Would you be friends with her?

Two different women; two different worlds. Nina is sophisticated, moneyed and damaged. Emma is a struggling young mother who has put her life on hold. After Nina meets Emma by chance, she begins to draw Emma into her privileged world.

But this isn't the first time the women have crossed paths. Nina remembers Emma and she remembers what Emma did. But what did Emma do? How far will Nina go to punish her? And when will Emma realise that her new friend is a disturbing face from the past?

My thoughts ...

I finished this book last night, and when I finished I made a noise  out loud, halfway between a shriek and a groan and my husband came running into the room thinking I'd seen a spider (Yeah I'm a big girl now, but those nasties terrify and disgust me)

It was the sound of, "nooo, don't leave me here", It was a noise of "OMG" and it was a signal of smug satisfaction, of "I kind of knew something like that was coming" and best of all it could be described as "WHAT THE FUCK??"

I was given my copy by a friend, Anne of the great book blog "Being Anne" whose review had me saying “I must read that” and who thought I'd enjoy it. It was totally my cup of tea.

A story of 2 women, Emma the hassled, busy Mother battling with motherhood and always feeling she never quite makes the mark, Nina, successful, mother of a teenager, much more well off, older husband well organised nice home, both women seem a little lonely, neither are particularly likeable but I could easily relate to both of them and their frustrations.

Nina enters Emmas life in the guise of saviour, more than once coming to the rescue at just the right time. Emma is only too pleased to have someone show an interest in her and her chaotic life, and her gratitude and relief are palpable. It’s that easy for Nina to worm her way into Emma’s world and gain her trust, for Nina does it on purpose, she remembers Emma from a long time ago yet Emma has no recollection of this. Nina has an ulterior motive – one which is not purely based on friendship – Oh my goodness no!

We soon begin to see Nina in a different light, she is calculating and cold, has a dark and sinister side, and grows increasingly more evil throughout the book. Yet of the two women I actually admired her the most. She made my blood run cold yes, but I kind of admired her determination to right a perceived wrong she has let fester in her mind over the years until it has consumed her.

It builds quite gently from a story of friendship and everyday life, with a creeping sense of unease into a scene of “Domestic Noir” and we know we are hurtling towards a clifftop and can’t stop!

Reminiscent of Louise Millars excellent “The Playdate” this book explores the theme of female friendship, grudges and secrets and reminds us that we shouldn’t always take everyone at face value. Do you really trust your friends?

Monday, 1 September 2014

Louise Millar Blog tour

I'm thrilled to be taking part in the Louise Millar Blog Tour.
Watch this space on Monday 8th September for a reminder how much I loved her latest book - The Hidden girl
and a great giveaway too!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Sunrise - by Victoria Hislop - thought provoking drama

From the publisher Headline via Netgalley:

In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple are about to open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's façade of glamour and success, tension is building.

When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.

My thoughts ....

As soon as I heard about Victoria Hislop's new book being set in Cyprus, in the recent period history which divided the island, I wanted to read it, having several close friends who live in Cyprus and knowing the present day island well. I also adored the authors work The Island, set on the Cretan Island of Spinalonga, a setting I am also quite familiar with. 

I was thrilled to find her latest book available for review on Netgalley and almost as soon as I was provided with a copy I began reading it and was rapidly immersed into a world of holiday Cyprus at once endearingly familiar, almost every name in the book is the name of someone I know in Cyprus, yet unfamiliar being set a few years before I began to visit the island and located in luxury hotels aeons above the accommodation I am used to.

Much as present day Cyprus is an island of two parts, this is a book of 2 parts - before and after. Before is set in the halcyon days of the 1970s when Cyprus is growing like a pearl in an oyster, forming a jewel in the Mediterranean. Before the days of cheap package tours and bucket shops the city of Famagusta, with its golden beaches, chic city shops and the ultimate in luxury is a shrine to hedonism where the wealthy rub noses with the titled and brush shoulders with celebrities. 

The story centres around the ultimate luxury holiday hotel, the eponymous Sunrise and the families who are involved in its creation from the wealthy and ambitious owner Savvas and his glamorous, privileged wife Aphroditi, to the workers who run the nightclub and hair salon. Be prepared for some lengthy and detailed descriptions of the assembly of a luxurious and lavish grand hotel, at one point it became almost overwhelming, I felt I was drowning in the sumptuous wealth and sheer indulgence and the first third of the book settles you comfortably into a story of glamour and style similar to Tasmina Perry.

Which makes it all the more awful when trouble ignites and peoples lives are ripped back to the bare fabric of fighting for existence. The Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots who inhabit the island are the ones affected by the civil war which erupts, bringing destruction and violence to the lives of every inhabitant. They wait patiently for the Greek government to intervene and rescue them, instead the Turkish army arrive, intent not on peacekeeping but to conquer, and seize the island for themselves, razing much of it to the ground as they pass through. 

Thus begin the days of after, after the fighting, we are plunged into an almost post apocalyptic world of terror and destruction where people are torn from their homes, with no work, no food and very little hope they battle to carry on and we are constantly reminded that this wasn't centuries ago, this is within lifetimes memory of most of us or at least our parents, the horror plays out to a familiar soundtrack of Boney M and Abba and we are reminded that in so many parts of the world, similar events are playing out right now.

This gripping tale follows the lives of 3 families, the hotel owners, and 2 families with members employed in the hotel, one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish. We face the daily struggle to survive alongside them, searching the ruins for food and trying to maintain a semblance of normality whilst the world around us crumbles. Like many conflicts, this is as much about power and greed as wars often are and we learn to trust nobody and discover the lengths of betrayal and deceit some people will go to. What emerges is a powerful and deep story of family ties and friendship written with style and panache and obvious probing investigation by the author which pays homage to her journalistic background. It quite blew me away and I find I keep thinking about it after I've finished it.

Intensely readable, unique and very thought provoking, this is one summer read you won't forget in a hurry. Read it on the beach in your luxury hotel in Cyprus and you'll see the rest of your holiday in an entirely different light.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers Headline for providing my galley in advance of publication.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The vanishing witch - Karen Maitland - bewitching stuff

From Goodreads ....

The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland, author of the hugely popular Company of Liars will thrill fans of CJ Sansom and Kate Mosse with its chilling recreation of the Peasants' Revolt. It offers an intelligent, beautifully researched glimpse of a more deadly, superstitious era ...'A compelling blend of historical grit and supernatural twists' Daily Mail on The Falcons of Fire and Ice The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It's a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust? The dour wool merchant? His impulsive son? The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes? Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones? And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it's time to fight back, it's all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.

My review

When I heard Karen Maitland had written a new book I jumped with joy when I found a copy available for review via Bookbridgr. I accepted my advance copy with gratitude and glee and despite a teetering pile of lovely books all crying out to be read couldn't resist the chance to dive straight into the dark and menacing middle ages.

Karen Maitland truly is the Doyenne of medieval fiction and has excelled herself once more with an epic story brimming with amazing characters whom I either despised, loathed, admired, feared and in just one or two cases actually liked.

Central to this story set in medieval Lincolnshire, is cloth merchant Robert, respected member of the town council, wealthy, ambitious, yet oh so gullible and susceptible to a womans wiles. His wife Edith, mother of their two boys, young Adam and older Jan, is ailing. Robert artlessly allows a poor, attractive, widow he has taken under his wing, to enter their home ostensibly to nurse his wife. The widow, Catlin brings her beautiful young daughter Leonie and her elderly retainer Diot, into the home and soon introduces Edward, her adult son and Roberts life soon begins to spiral out of control. His loyal manservant Tenney and the scarred yet kind Beata look on in horror as the well ordered life they have known is ripped apart and become a sham. Everyones lives are changed subtly at first then with more sinister and darker events. I mistrusted almost everyone at one point or another, and the only person who bumbles along unheedingly is the main character Robert.

The only slight niggle I had with is, surely, SURELY no man could be as easily taken in as Robert, there were points where I wanted to scream at him - "Oh you FOOL" but if he hadn't been a malleable character the story might have panned out very differently.

We also meet another family, local peasants, Gunter a one legged boatman, his wife and children living in a hovel and struggling for every mouthful whose paths cross those of Roberts family and they are dragged even lower by circumstances.

The background is the peasants rebellion and there is a good deal of truly gory and gritty historical fact, which as you know is often stranger than fiction, woven through the book.

The story is narrated by a ghost and there are many references to ghostly characters all based on local legend, so I'd recommend anyone local to Lincolnshire to read this, it's an area I'm not familiar with yet this time travel trip has left me feeling it must be a very atmospheric place steeped in history and legends.

Interspersed with local myths, traditions and beliefs related to superstition and witchcraft the story is as unputdownable as all of Karen Maitlands previous novels. It's authenticity and elegance of prose, subtly draws the reader in and then tightens its grip until you are flying through the pages. I was eager to discover who the sinister character in a dark hood is who keeps appearing, what kind of dark magic is in play and who is bewitching whom?

A tempting, beguiling and truly bewitching read, for the reader who loves their historical fiction to contain a little bit of everything presented with an authentic magical quality.

My thanks go to Bookbridgr and Headline Publishing for my copy.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Thrilled and honoured

My humble blog has made it big! A quote from my review of the new release by Jojo Moyes - the One Plus One has been printed in the front of the book along with quotes from several of my fellow bloggers. I am so honoured and thrilled to be included, I absolutely adored this book and Jojo is one of my top 5 authors.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Under your skin - Sabine Durrant - Didn't see it coming!

From the publisher via Goodreads .....

Gaby Mortimer is the woman who has it all. But everything changes when she finds a body on the common near her home. She's shaken and haunted by the image of the lifeless young woman, and frightened that the killer, still at large, could strike again.

Before long, the police have a lead. The evidence points to a very clear suspect. One Gaby never saw coming . . .

Full of twists and turns, this is a dark and suspenseful psychological thriller that will make you second guess everything. Because you can never be too sure about anything, especially when it comes to murder.

My thoughts ...

I recently read and loved Remember Me This Way and enjoyed the authors' style and storytelling so much that when I came across her previous novel, Under your skin, in my local library I grabbed it (despite having a teetering TBR pile the size of Blackpool Tower). That I took it home and immediately dove into it and barely put it down until I'd finished pays testament to the authors' skill at grabbing, and holding your attention from the outset.

We meet the narrator Gaby right at the start when she stumbles across a dead body when she is out for her usual morning run and we are treated to the full gamut of human emotions as we watch her life unravel as result, when she unwittingly becomes a suspect for the womans' murder. Gaby has a great job as a tv presenter, a nice life in middle class suburbia, a successful husband, a nanny, cleaner and a couple of good friends, all of whom one begins to harbour suspicions against at one point or another. We are also introduced to a couple of police officers investigating the murder, a journalist or two and led to wonder who Gaby's mysterious stalker might be. I really felt for Gaby who is incredibly real, and I couldn't help putting myself in some of the positions she found herself in and feeling her angst and anguish.

It's the kind of classy, convoluted, psychological chiller that always gets me intrigued, plus it's a classic who-dunnit of the best kind. The author presents several possible culprits all totally plausible and scatters the most delicious little morsels of red herrings all along the journey, yet unlike most books of this ilk where I usually congratulate myself on doing the detective work quicker than the police investigators, I must honestly admit - I DIDN'T SEE THIS ONE COMING!

Bravo Sabine Durrant, for a genuinely gripping story with a mind blowing ending.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The cold cold sea - Linda Huber - Dark domestic drama

From the publisher via Goodreads: 
When three-year-old Olivia disappears, her parents are overwhelmed with grief. Weeks go by and Olivia's mother refuses to leave the cottage, staring out at the turbulent sea and praying it didn't claim her precious daughter's life. Not far away, another mother watches proudly as her daughter starts school. Jennifer has loved Hailey for five years, but the child is suddenly moody and difficult, and there's a niggling worry of doubt that Jennifer cannot shake off. As she struggles to maintain control there are gaps in her story that even she can't explain. Time is running out for Maggie at the cottage, and also for Jennifer and Hailey. No-one can underestimate a mother's love for her child, and no-one can predict the lengths one will go to, to protect her family.

My thoughts:

The book begins with a family on a beach, a little girl wanders away from her mother and down to the sea, where the unthinkable happens and she is suddenly out of her depth in deep water.

A chilling, dark, domestic drama set in Cornwall, it's tense and scary, but its also about peoples reactions to tragedy and things people will do when dreadful events take over their lives. Emotional and involving with great twists and touches of "Oh no, don't do that"

The story continues in several different perspectives, those of Maggie whose little girl Olivia went missing on the beach, at first she longs for her daughters return, then as weeks pass and the search grows futile she only longs for closure, her feelings of guilt for not preventing this occurring place cracks in her marriage.

There is also Phillip who is abroad caring for his terminally ill grandmother, aware that his wife Jennifer struggles to cope alone he is keen to get back to her, meanwhile she makes plans for their future but finds it hard to relate to her little girl Hailey who has become sullen and uncommunicative.

Finally we meet Katie a newly qualified infants teacher, keen to make a real difference to her young pupils starting school for the first time, when little Hailey joins her class she tries to get the reluctant child to open up, but can't quite put her finger on whether the little girl is just difficult, or if there are problems at home.

As the story unfolds things become clear that I don't want to reveal as you'll uncover them when you read it, theres no great mystery as to what has happened, you'll be able to work that out yourself, but the twists and turns lie not in what, but why and how and the consequences and repercussions of peoples decisions.

There are a couple of pretty unreliable narrators and though we know their viewpoint is skewed its hard to work out quite how things are going to end. You'll really dislike the way a couple of them behave, but there are also situations where you will think, what would I do? How would I cope? It twists at your heartstrings and then slaps you in the face.

This is a clever, character driven story and it's also about emotions, and reactions to those emotions and how events outside our control can have far reaching repercussions. There are a couple of characters whose actions are quite hard to stomach, although you can still have sympathy for them.

One of the main characters is a little girl you will hold close to your heart and you'll keep turning the pages, hoping beyond hope that her story at least can have a happy ending - but can it? You'll have to read this excellent tangled tale to find out.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Fair Fight - Anna Freeman - Fabulous historical fiction

From the Publishers description (via Goodreads)

For fans of Sarah Waters and THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE, a vibrant tale of female boxers and their scheming patrons in 18th-century Bristol.

Some call the prize ring a nursery for vice . . .

Born into a brothel, Ruth's future looks bleak until she catches the eye of Mr Dryer. A rich Bristol merchant and enthusiast of the ring, he trains gutsy Ruth as a puglist. Soon she rules the blood-spattered sawdust at the infamous Hatchet Inn.

Dryer's wife Charlotte lives in the shadows. A grieving orphan, she hides away, scarred by smallpox, ignored by Dryer, and engaged in dangerous mind games with her brother.

When Dryer sidelines Ruth after a disastrous fight, and focuses on training her husband Tom, Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition. As the tension mounts before Tom's Championship fight, two worlds collide with electrifying consequences.

THE FAIR FIGHT will take you from a filthy brothel to the finest houses in the town, from the world of street-fighters to the world of champions. Alive with the smells and the sounds of the streets, it is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention and fighting your way to the top.

My thoughts ...

Oh my goodness what a tantalizingly excellent read this was. 
I'm always a little wary of books which profess to be "perfect for fans of ..." any of my favourite books, and as both The Crimson Petal and the White and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters are firmly in my top ten of all time I was excited, yet a touch sceptical about reading this brand new debut title.

I was swept into 18th century Bristol immediately by the authors consummate writing skill. The book's written in first person from the alternating viewpoints of Ruth the female fighter, or pugilist, brought up in a brothel, known as the convent, with her very dissimilar sister Dora, who quickly turns to the life of prostitution which Ruth will do anything to avoid, including climbing into the boxing ring to be punched almost senseless by a man twice her size! 

We also follow the life of George, whose tale begins at boarding school when he begins a lifelong, lamentable relationship with the rather needy Perry, whose life we also follow. Narrated by his sister Charlotte, scarred by smallpox and my favourite character by far. Watching her evolve and develop fortitude was rewarding and brilliant and there was one action she took where I literally cheered out aloud - read the book and I bet you'll give her a round of applause too.

I was a little worried that I wouldn't like the focus on female pugilism, but far from it, the topic was unique and original - something difficult to come across in historical fiction and made me want to rush out and begin thrashing the living daylights out of some poor soul !!

I'm delighted to admit the way the book is written does bear strong similarities to the Crimson Petal, in the sheer readability and deep sense of involvement, coupled with the gritty authenticity of the contrast of life for those living at the lower end of the social scale and those deemed "respectable" by society.

As already mentioned, I loved Charlottes character, there are some excellent, likeable secondary characters, Henry and Tom, to name just a couple and even the highly disagreeable people are likeable in their realism and are almost Dickensian caricatures, with quirks, flaws and foibles, the despicable Dora made me quake with rage and I wanted to shake Perry out of his self pity.

I rapidly became deeply involved with the lives of these disparate characters brought together against normal odds, I was immersed in the 18th century world of pugilism, gambling, immorality, loneliness and greed. I held my breath so many times I'm surprised I can now breathe without the aid of an oxygen tent.

And the ending, sheer perfection, although I actually turned the page expecting a few more words, then turned back re-read the last sentence and thought - BRILLIANT. Bravo Anna, this is an epic work of historical fiction I loved reading.

My grateful thanks to Orion books who published it and for making it available through Netgalley who provided my review copy.