Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Normal - Graeme Cameron - darkly humorous and quirky


The blurb:

He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you as you pass him and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving to let you into the lane ahead of him.

What you don't know is that he has an elaborate cage built into a secret basement under his garage. And the food that he's carefully shopping for is to feed a young woman he's holding there against her will--one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her.

This is how it's been for a long time. It's normal...and it works. Perfectly.

Then he meets the checkout girl from the 24-hour grocery. And now the plan, the hunts, the room...the others. He doesn't need any of them anymore. He needs only her. One small problem--he still has someone trapped in his garage.

Discovering his humanity couldn't have come at a worse time.

My thoughts
 
Really enjoyed this quirky book but not quite up to 5 stars for me, found it a little too far fetched but loved the laugh out loud dark humour throughout.

Narrated by a serial killer who keeps a girl captive in a cage in his purpose built cellar, you could be forgiven for expecting it to be a different take on Room Having read that its dark and horrible what I didn't expect was to be laughing so much. The storyline really kept ME captivated, as the narrator develops from sociopathic mass murderer to socially responsible, misunderstood, love-lorn sweetie almost overnight by dint of meeting the right girl.

Its almost too much to believe in, nay it IS too much to believe, but if you can suspend your disbelief and just go with it its a really entertaining and lively, quirky thriller with some great characters.

I loved Annie and felt she was actually the turning point for our reluctant heros change of heart. Erica is one seriously mixed up chick, and Rachel - well she is just plain weird, I'd have liked some input in her voice so we could get to know her motivations.

What I didn't really get from it was much emotional involvement, perhaps thats because the narrator is obviously so far FROM normal that his emotions are flawed and skewed, but I did thoroughly enjoy reading it and it had me fascinated and coming back for more.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Harlequin for my review copy.


Monday, 16 February 2015

One step too far - Tina Seskis - terrifically gripping

Having searched fruitlessly for my original review for this book I loved when I read it nearly 2 years ago I have decided I can't have put it on my blog at the time and just posted it on Goodreads, so in case you missed it first time around here is my review of the exceptional One step too far.


The blurb

No one has ever guessed Emily’s secret.

Will you?

A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life—to start again as someone new?

Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat’s buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can't bury the past—or her own memories.

And soon, she’ll have to face the truth of what she's done—a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far. . . .

My thoughts

The tagline "the book everyones going to be talking about" nearly put me off this book but I thought it did sound pretty interesting and decided to give it a whirl. I'm really glad I did I absolutely loved it.

Its romantic fiction with lots of twists and turns, a psychological chiller with enough twists and whys and what's and who's to keep you guessing and second guessing all the way through - a real page turner.

It tells the story of identical twin Emily, on a train, running away from what would seem to be the perfect life and changing her identity, seeking anonymity and escape but from what or why is not clear and the book keeps us wondering and guessing. Emilys alter ego is Cat and she soon finds some rather seedy digs in London and is taken under the tender wing of Angel, herself an escapee from a difficult past. The 2 young women become firm friends but their troubled backgrounds are perhaps not the best basis to build a new life on and despite giving both the ability to accept and tolerate each others flaws an foibles they lurch from drama to crisis together, eventually becoming reliant on drugs and living an increasingly erratic lifestyle.

We are taunted with glimpses of both girls pasts, but never quite enough to work out why Cat would walk out on a much adored husband and a son she obviously still loves deeply. Her twin is shown to be a very unreliable and unlikeable character, her family rather dysfunctional and her own past obviously conceals some deeply traumatic event which has caused her inability to cope and just run away.

Yet it's only when tragedy occurs once more that Cat/ Emily is forced to confront her past and we discover exactly what has gone on that she couldn't cope with and its truly, deeply disturbing.

A fabulous debut novel which I think would appeal to lovers of books by Diane Chamberlain and who enjoyed books like The Playdate: A Novel or The Rose Petal Beach it's womens fiction at its very best, human interest drama, well written, teasing and puzzling with exceptional characters you'll feel as though you really know. HIGHLY recommended!

I let you go - Clare Mackintosh - devious and cunningly clever thriller



The blurb:

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent's worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .


My thoughts:

WOW - I am completely blown away by this brilliant, heartstopping, thriller. So much that I REALLY don't know how to review it adequately without giving too much away.

I must begin by saying it begins slowly, but if you read it please, please stick with it, as friends in my online book group advised me to when I complained that it was a little slow paced, that I like fast paced thrillers, rollercoaster rides ... but I stuck with it despite a few misgivings and - it - is - AMAZING.

The slow beginning is I think quite deliberate, it almost lulls you into a sense of false security. Very sad at the beginning, it tells the story of Jenna, wracked by nightmares of the hit and run which killed little Joshua running away to remote Wales to try and rebuild her life. It almost seems too easy, she begins to put the past behind her and makes new friends, even meets a special someone - surely this book is just a competent piece of chick lit? Oh no it isn't ... The past isn't always that easy to put behind you and, BANG almost half way through the book there is a real shock factor, that OMG moment I had been told about but still wasn't expecting when it came. The whole story suddenly spins on its axis and we realise that things haven't been quite what they appeared and things are about to get much MUCH darker.

Very much a book of 2 halves, the latter part is taut, violent and brain numbingly, deliciously twisted. This is one of the cleverest thrillers ever, the author has left no stone unturned, I really can't say too much about the actual story as it will spoil it but every loose thread is deftly caught up and woven immaculately into this cunningly inventive novel and I loved the single faint thread of possible ambiguity right at the end.

Ohh I'm getting frustrated here I'm really not doing this amazingly, enjoyably, dark and devious book justice - Please please do read it if you like the twisty psychological chillers I enjoy. I can almost guarantee you'll love it too.

Thankyou to all the members of THE Book Club whose recommendations enticed me to read this fabulous debut novel.
 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Ice Twins - S K Tremayne - chilling and creepy




The Blurb ....


A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

My review

Finished this last night - yet another book I galloped through and enjoyed reading even though the storyline was pretty implausible.

I'm finding that authors recently seem to be pushing the boundaries of credibility more and more in order to come up with ideas which are unique and original. This book is certainly pretty unique, very readable and completely entertaining.

It's the story of identical twins Lydia and Kirstie and as the story begins we know that 7 year old Kirstie is the surviving twin whilst Lydia died recently in a horrible accident. Mum and Dad, Sarah and Angus decide they need a fresh start, and fortuitously inherit a run down old cottage on a remote Scottish Island so up sticks to head off there to start a new life and try to recover from their overwelming grief.

But life on an island is a far cry from their former life in London and predictably things begin to go wrong. Especially when they enrol Kirstie into the little local school and on her first day she throws an almighty Wobbly claiming she isn't Kirstie at all but Lydia and it was Kirstie who died. The twins were so identical even their parents couldn't tell them apart visually but character traits which helped give the girls different identities begin to emerge which suggest that possibly the surviving twin is Lydia - or is she?

Parents begin to take sides against each other, Sarah begins to doubt Angus, and even her own grasp on things starts to slip and as things get out of control we wonder are both twins somehow still present? and was the accident really as blameless as it first appeared. Is this a case of split personality, haunting, or just a very confused and grieving child unable to come to terms with the loss of her beloved twin sister?

The story is creepy and menacing and sucks you in and drags you along for the ride. The bleak remote setting on Skye is well painted and atmospheric and the story simmers with barely concealed hostility and tension, with concealed past events which keep emerging to throw red herrings into the turbulent sea which contains Torran Island. This chilling tale is told with spontaneous magnetism which makes it a captivating read.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent - a survivors tale



The Blurb....
Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties, no home, a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. She's a nobody; she has no-one and that's how she wants it.

But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme Grace, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote and dilapidated house on the edge of a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else's - or so she thought.

Then one night a terrible thing happened in the crooked house, a nightmare of violence out of which Alison emerged the only witness and sole survivor and from which she has been running ever since. Only when she meets academic Paul Bartlett does Alison realise that if she's to have any chance of happiness, she has to return to her old life and confront the darkness that worked its way inside her family and has pursued her ever since.

My Thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed this rather twisty tale about Alison, a young woman who maintains a low profile, keeps herself to herself and is a survivor, literally.

She survived the unthinkable, surviving a horrific event, in her teens which would make the strongest of us crumble. When she went by a different name, when she was Esme, living in the crooked house in a remote rural location her family were cruelly and brutally slaughtered, whilst she cowered praying not to be dsicovered. But to say she esacped unscathed would be a lie. Witnessing such an awful events is bound to leave a mark. Little wonder as an adult she finds it difficult to make friends, to trust people and maintain a relationship. Her judgement can be flawed and whilst holding it together outwardly she can be a little flaky, and who can blame her.

When she finally meets a man she feels she can trust and is given the chance to return to the place she lost everything, she thinks maybe its time to face her demons, but going back can be as hard as moving forward and she begins to doubt her own memories, who can she trust if she can't even trust herself?

The crooked house is a creepy place set in a very tight knit rural location called Saltleigh where the locals mistrust incomers and seem to close ranks together.

Its a clever and twisty psychological thriller, a real page turner. My only small gripe is there are quite a lot of secondary characters to get to grips with and I did get rather confused especially in the middle of the book, when I wasn't sure who was who and who did what to whom any more!

I did like Alison/ Esme and felt sympathy for her, even when at one point she seems to be losing the plot a bit. I just kept thinking how could anyone go through what she had without being a gibbering wreck and admired her fortitude.

It's gripping and exciting and will probably appeal to anyone who enjoyed Broadchurch on tv as it has that same small town closed shop feel.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Kind Worth Killing - Peter Swanson - Devious thriller



The Blurb

From the author of the acclaimed The Girl with a Clock for a Heart--hailed by the Washington Post as crime fiction's best first novel of 2014"--a devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder that is a modern reimagining of Patricia Highsmith's classic Strangers on a Train

My thoughts

A very enjoyable devious thriller, told from several points of view.

Ted who is waiting in an airport lounge when he is approached by the enigmatic Lily. Having a few drinks together he reveals to her that having recently discovered his wife's infidelity he feels like killing her and this notion sets off a whole plot for murder.

But all of those involved in this warped tale aren't what they would at first seem to be, some harbour shady little secrets and some are downright liars.

There is more than one murder and the plot is good and convoluted enough to satisfy the most twisted mind yet easy enough to follow. The characters are all loathsome and pretty darned evil, although I kind of admired one of them in their single minded, totally amoral, determination. I wouldn't like to meet any of them but that's far from a complaint its praise indeed to be able to create characters with hidden depths of nastiness.

Its very clever and a real page turner, great for thriller lovers who adore dirty little secrets and psychological twists.

Thankyou Netgalley and Faber & Faber for my copy.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Second Life - S J Watson - Intriguing and chilling




The blurb:

Julia’s life is comfortable, if unremarkable, until her sister’s brutal murder opens old wounds. She finds solace in her sister’s best friend, Sophie, but when Sophie reveals the extent of her sister’s online life, Julia becomes convinced that the truth about her death lies deep in the dark, sordid world of online chatrooms and internet sex.

What begins as Julia’s search for the truth about her sister quickly turns into an exploration of herself and her own desires. After all, the internet is her playground, and why be just one thing when you can be as many as you like? What could possibly go wrong? After all, it’s only cybersex, isn’t it? No one’s going to get hurt.

But then she meets the dark and mysterious Lukas in an online chat room, and things begin to get very dangerous indeed.



My Review:

The eagerly awaited second novel by the author of the hugely acclaimed Before I Go To Sleep was always going to have a bit of a hard time meeting expectations, following in the footsteps of such a brilliant and much hyped debut novel and it was with some trepidation I began to read this psychological thriller, but I worried needlessly as it turned out to be a gripping and enthralling read.

Julia is the main protagonist, a middle aged Mum with a bit of a past and a few character flaws who is devastated to learn of her younger sister Kate's death. She sets out to discover what really happened in Paris to Kate and as she delves into the murky side of internet dating her sister appears to have been part of begins to build a secret life of her own.

Devoted to her teenage son Connor and her reliable and loving husband Hugh she is nevertheless a bored housewife and when temptation presents itself her addictive personality rises to the surface once more and threatens to undo her carefully woven life.

I was intrigued by the cleverly constructed web of mystery and concealment and rash moves followed by even worse decisions. The book is pretty slow to begin with and for the first 40 or 50 pages I began to wonder if it was going to grab me at some point or not .... Then it abruptly seized me by the jugular!

It begins like a dog quietly gnawing on a large and unwieldy bone, then suddenly the bone is being gnashed and crushed and shaken from side to side and theres no way you're going to get that tasty chunk of cartilage out of Rovers jaws. I felt like that with this book.

It's a very cleverly constructed twisting storyline that intrigues and chills and even when Julia makes some really stupid moves I could kind of see why she did and even though I didn't agree with lots of the things she did, it didn't at any point become unbelievable. I did find her husband a little too easy going, the fact that he has a lot of stuff going on at work being little excuse for his placid attitude towards Julia, especially given her background which is gradually revealed. However I forgive the author this because this thriller did what it says on the tin - it thrilled me as I read on far later into the night than is good for the bags under my eyes!

The ending is not so much ambiguous as indecisive, but its actually not the ending thats important as much as how we get there

A confident and sometimes brazen publication guaranteed to give anyone who has considered using internet chat sites to hook up with a potential mate a sleepless night. Highly recommended and destined I'm sure to be another huge success for S.J. Watson

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Randomhouseuk/Doubleday for my advance copy of yet another outstanding novel.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Keep Quiet - Lisa Scottoline - moral dilemma thriller


The publishers blurb:

After picking up his sixteen-year-old son, Ryan, from the cinema one evening, Jake Buckman decides to let him practice driving home along a seemingly quiet street. It is a decision that will alter the lives of their family for ever, as Ryan hits a jogger, who does not survive. What follows is not a clear-cut hit and run, but a split-second decision by a father who will do anything to protect his son.

But just how much can a parent sacrifice to protect their own child?

And how will Ryan cope with the consequences of his actions?

My review

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive" 

An old saying which sums up this book perfectly, as Jake will discover when he makes a split second decision to protect his teenage son Ryan which sets his life on a downward spiral of terrifying repercussions. When Jake allows Ryan to drive his car at night he doesn't think for one second it will lead to them covering up a fatal accident in order for them both to avoid a prison sentence and keeping it hidden from his wife Pam, who's high powered job as a judge would be compromised too, but one lie begets another and the backlash is so great it seems as though nothing will ever go right again in Jake's life.

I have to be honest and admit the style of writing isn't up to the literary standard I've come to expect from recent psychological thrillers I've read, the characters are very 2 dimensional and unlikeable and the dialogue is stilted, repetitive and downright annoying. So much so, that about 30 pages in I began to think to myself "I may not finish this" .... "I think I'll stop reading it" but the storyline is so fast paced, so relentless, that there wasn't a point I felt I could give up at. I kept on turning the pages to find out what would happen next and before I knew where I was, I was at the end having read the lot in a couple of sessions!

Which is after all the point of a book - to captivate you and keep you wanting to read on. So I forgive the lack of refinement and finesse and applaud the exciting storytelling and sheer gripping entertainment value.

It will be loved by any fans of this authors previous books, I would liken the writing to that of Val McDermid or Linwood Barclay and feel this book wil also appeal to readers who enjoy their books.

A tense and exciting domestic moral dilemma thriller with little depth but tons of compelling drama.

My thanks to Bookbridgr and the publisher Headline for my review copy.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Hourglass Factory - Lucy Ribchester - a Victorian mystery



From Goodreads:

1912 and London is in turmoil...The suffragette movement is reaching fever pitch but for broke Fleet Street tomboy Frankie George, just getting by in the cut-throat world of newspapers is hard enough. Sent to interview trapeze artist Ebony Diamond, Frankie finds herself fascinated by the tightly laced acrobat and follows her across London to a Mayfair corset shop that hides more than one dark secret. 
Then Ebony Diamond mysteriously disappears in the middle of a performance, and Frankie is drawn into a world of tricks, society columnists, corset fetishists, suffragettes and circus freaks. How did Ebony vanish, who was she afraid of, and what goes on behind the doors of the mysterious Hourglass Factory? From the newsrooms of Fleet Street to the drawing rooms of high society, the missing Ebony Diamond leads Frankie to the trail of a murderous villain with a plot more deadly than anyone could have imagined.


My thoughts

The Hourglass factory is set in an era I enjoy reading about, historical fiction set in the early 20th century can immerse the reader in a plethora of sights, sounds and smells and this book sets the scene nicely. It's 1912 and in Fleet street London, budding reporter Frankie George is battling to make her voice heard in the male dominated world of newspaper journalism. When she is sent to get an interview and photograph of Ebony Diamond a suffragette trapeze artist she enters a world of corset manufacturing, circus tricks and secrets.

Its a jolly good old romp through Victorian London at a time of great change, a mystery coupled with social commentary.

What I was hoping for was something a little like Tipping the Velvet sadly it failed to meet expectations on that score, it reminded me more of Silent in the Grave which isn't necessarily a bad thing but it meant my expectations had to be adjusted somewhat.

If you like this kind of Victorian mystery you'll probably enjoy the Hourglass Factory. However for me the characters were just a little 2 dimensional and the book deliberately tries to be a little provocative without the real depth and grit I prefer in my historical fiction.

My thanks to Netgalley for providing my advance copy for review.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Disclaimer - Renee Knight - a cleverly constructed maze of a book


From Goodreads:

A remarkable debut in the vein of Before I Go to Sleep—and already an international sensation—Disclaimer is a brilliantly conceived, deeply unsettling psychological thriller about a woman haunted by secrets, the consuming desire for revenge, and the terrible price we pay when we try to hide the truth

Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day she became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day . . . even if the shocking truth might destroy her.


My thoughts:

If you like your books convoluted this is one twisty turny tale that won't disappoint.

With secrets galore gradually being unpeeled, layer upon layer and red herrings scattered throughout, it kept me guessing and gasping like all the best of psychological chillers.

This is the story of Catherine, a successful documentary maker, who upon finding a novel beside her bed, reads it, only to discover it is based on her past life - a past she has kept firmly concealed, until now when her secrets threaten to erupt and change her life.

It's also the story of retired teacher Stephen Brigstocke a confused and shambling ruin of a man, dealing with loss and loneliness, their lives collide and cause Catherine to face her demons, but can she maintain her carefully constructed life and how much of it is based on lies?

I loved the storyline, cleverly written beginning with you as the reader not really understanding anything, and desperate to be let in on what it is Catherine has kept hidden and why, then as bits and pieces are revealed about Catherines past, sometimes they provide a lightbulb moment and sometimes a shadowy hint like a badly developed negative with a fleeting shadow cast across it and frequently reavealing something rather different than you expected.

One minute I pitied one character, then my perception changed and I scorned them, my sympathies lay with one person then I doubted my loyalties were in the right place.

Perhaps it was a little difficult to really get inside the characters and feel kinship with them as much as I like in a book, but possibly this is part of the nature of the book based on secrets and concealment. The backbone of the story is after all about hoe keeping something deliberately hidden can have huge consequences almost as great as the thing you were trying to hide in the beginning.

I found it a real attention grabber, which I just wanted to read a little more and then a little more still. Until I was quite suddenly at the end and even the ending didn't disappoint. A satisfying and cleverly constructed maze of a book.

My thanks to Random House publishers and Netgalley for allowing me to be one of the privileged few to read this in advance of publication.

Monday, 29 December 2014

The Book of Strange New Things - Michel Faber - an alien environment for me



From Goodreads:

It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling. Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.

Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival. Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.

My thoughts:

I dithered about whether to read this book or not. The subject matter is so far outside my normal comfort zone I wasn't sure I'd be able to relate to it in any way but I LOVE the authors previous books.

I seldom read science fiction - I am an atheist who is totally incomprehensive of any form of religious belief - I prefer my books to have a female protagonist. This book ticks none of my boxes, its about a Christian man, Peter who flies off to a recently colonised planet, to preach his religion to the alien inhabitants.

When I told my partner a little about this book which was keeping me reading 'til the early hours he shook his head and asked "You gotta be kidding - why on Earth would YOU read something like that???"

I found myself lost in an alien environment - although I could accept the aliens, the setting and the people, I floundered in the dark to understand how anyone can live their life by a belief as strong and pretty unshakeable as this.

So why did I love it? It has to be the authors innate ability to grab your imagination, throw you into a situation you'll never be comfortable with and with a few well placed words make you feel as at home as you do in your own bed.

The narrator of the story, Peter, is a pastor, a reborn Christian who together with his beloved wife Bea, looks after the congregation in their Church in England. Their devoutness shines from them in their longing to convert every soul they meet to Christianity, their piety is equalled only by their love for each other, which is why they feel their relationship will be strong enough to survive a lengthy separation and as we meet the couple, Peter is setting off on a journey of immense proportions. He has been employed by a major Corporation at a very generous stipend, to fly to another solar system and be the preacher to an indigenous population of alien beings.

He relishes this new challenge and discovers upon arrival that the population of "Oasans" not only accept but relish his teachings, calling his Bible "the book of strange new things".

Meanwhile back at home, Bea is struggling without Peter, her rock. The world is going through a series of disaster after disaster, which compare sufficently with events that we have witnessed to be believable but which become so frequent and so intense that society begins to crumble. Her letters to Peter become more desperate and cynical but he feels so removed from everything he can hardly imagine what she's going through. He tries to share with her the wonders he is experiencing but fails to be able to put it into words.

What happens to a relationship, when the one abiding concept which brought you together becomes the thing which is now driving you apart?

I did struggle with the religious aspect of the book, I knew I would, unlike the aliens I am unable to just accept, I don't get religion at all and never will. But what I did love were the aliens themselves. The way they speak, the descriptions of their homeland and the workers at the USIC base from where Peter is based were all painted so beautifully I was there!

Michel Faber is immaculate at creating vivid characters and placing them in situations you'd never before considered yet being instantly at home there - as in The Crimson Petal and the White, which paints a graphic picture of Victorian prostition yet was so intensely real to me. I grieve for some of the characters still, 5 years after reading it, now thats what I call skilled penmanship!

Above and beyond everything in the book of strange new things, is the story of a long distance relationship, a situation I could relate to and the resultant crisis of faith, which I couldn't, and it was the picture of this happening from both sides in the couples correspondence with each other that really grabbed me.

The details of the world we know falling apart so quickly was so intense and horribly believable that I almost wanted to find it was all in Beas imagination, sadly it isn't and one of the things which happens which eventually causes her to turn away from religion was so harrowing, I almost stopped reading the book at that point, not far from the end.

When Peter uncovers the Oasans enigma, my heart broke for these small gentle, accepting and trusting alien people.

If you, like me, aren't sure about the religious aspect but something about this book, or my review, tempts you I'd recommend giving it a go, it's well worth the effort (the actual reading is effortless) it's left me with lots of questions and is still in my mind 3 days after I finished it, I felt I needed some time to reflect before reviewing, but overall I'm SO very glad I read it it's good to break free from the mould and succumb to something different once in a while and this was a really great book to round off my reading for 2014.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Girl in the Red Coat - by Kate Hamer - haunting and ethereal



From the publisher

Kate Hamer's stand-out debut thriller is the hugely moving story of an abduction that will keep you guessing until the very last page. Carmel has always been different. Carmel's mother, Beth, newly single, worries about her daughter's strangeness, especially as she is trying to rebuild a life for the two of them on her own. When she takes eight year-old Carmel to a local children's festival, her worst fear is realised: Carmel disappears. Unable to accept the possibility that her daughter might be gone for good, Beth embarks on a mission to find her. Meanwhile, Carmel begins an extraordinary and terrifying journey of her own, with a man who believes she is a saviour.
My thoughts ....

Oooh, what a fabulous debut novel this is. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy just before I went on my pre-Christmas holiday (I was also most unfortunate to come down with a bad dose of flu at the same time which meant the first half of my holiday in the sun, was spent lolling around, recuperating and gave me plenty of time to read)

This haunting and ethereal psychological chiller, the story of a missing child and her Mothers search for her, is written in the voices of 2 of the most compelling fictional characters I've come across in some time.

Narrated in turn by Mother and daughter both experiencing the same event over a lengthy period, from 2 very different viewpoints. Beth, recently abandoned by her husband, single Mum of 8 year old Carmel, a dreamy, slightly fey, bookish and bright. yet completely adored daughter. Still stressed by her husbands betrayal, Beth battles to put her own hurt aside and make quality time with Carmel. One day they head off together to a story tellers festival. In this exciting and lively atmosphere Beth tries to stave off panic attacks and make sure Carmel has a day to remember, but her pre-occupation and momentary lapses of concentration lead to the unthinkable and in a split second her daughter is missing, abducted for a special reason - but by whom and why?

What follows is the story of guilt and self recrimination of a devoted Mum who blames herself for her daughters absence and her conviction that they'll be re-united. Even more compelling is Carmels tale, spanning continents and told in the voice of an 8 year old, the book reminded me slightly of Room [book:Room|7937843] Carmel is special, unique and utterly believeable. Almost a coming of age story we watch Carmel grow, and discover how her life progresses without the maternal love she craves. There is an other wordliness to the telling and the feelings and thoughts which swirl around Beths mind and impeccably written, as is the destiny of a growing girl with exceptional potential.

Due to be released in March 2015 this is definitely one to watch for and already destined to be one of my favourite reads.

Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen - quirky and shrewd


From the Publishers blurb

I am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger. To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last. The twelfth day is getting closer. After that, there'll be no more Christmas cheer for me. No mince pies, no carols. No way out .

But I have a secret. No-one has guessed it. Will you?


My thoughts ...

I was hearing a lot of praise for this book, theres a real buzz about it on-line with blog tours and promotions and reviews popping up with comparisons to Gone Girl Gone Girl and some of my favourite authors and most respected reviewers are saying - read this - it's great! Theres nothing quite like this kind of rumble in the web jungle to pique my interest and also make me a little nervous about reading a book, high expectations can mean an even greater disappointment if it doesn't live up to the hype!

It almost did for me what others promised, but just failed to completely blow me away by the sheer amount of disbelief I needed to suspend in order to accept the storyline. However it's an excellent, well written, chilling, Christmas themed read, and if you're looking for something to read over the holidays you could do a lot worse than curl up with Dying for Christmas.

Our journey begins with Jessica Gold narrating the story of her Christmas, she's stressed as hell, doing her Christmas shopping and takes a break in a busy cafe. Brilliant start - who couldn't relate to that? But this familiar scene rapidly slips into nightmare territory with her unwise acceptance of a lift from an intriguing stranger, Dominic, a brief dalliance to flatter her ego that turns into a kidnap scenario, with many alarming and disturbing angles.

We are held captive, with Jess, as Dominic is revealed to be a hugely disturbed individual, who keeps her locked in his apartment, presenting her, daily, with a range of increasingly bizarre and unsettling Christmas gifts which all reveal a bit more about his own disturbed psyche and unsettling background. 

Then theres - part Two ....

The blurb says Jessica has a secret and no, I didn't guess it, but when her mystery is revealed halfway through the book, thats when things get cunning and even more complex and to call it twisty is like calling molten lava warm.

There is also the parallel storyline of Kim the police officer, struggling to further her own career and to hang on to family life.

Jess is the archetypical unreliable narrator, the characters are all highly unlikeable and I'm growing used to reading books with whom I fail to find an empathy with any character at all, but with this book I increasingly felt the greatest of contempt for every single character created by Ms. Cohen even Kim who I think was possibly created in the hope of having one character we might relate or warm to but I wanted to slap her selfish face too.

Original and quirky, entertaining and shrewd but possibly tries just a little too hard to shock and surprise, following the Gone girl formula from the brief and intriguing synopsis to the highly formulaic cover of a women in red running away in the snow. Does it succeed? theres only one way to find out - you'll have to read it to have an opinion.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Crooked Heart - Lissa Evans - atmospheric WW2 drama



From Goodreads: 

When Noel Bostock – aged ten, no family - is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he ends up living in St Albans with Vera Sedge - thirty-six and drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she's unscrupulous about how she gets it.
Noel's mourning his godmother, Mattie, a former suffragette. Brought up to share her disdain for authority and eclectic approach to education, he has little in common with other children and even less with Vee, who hurtles impulsively from one self-made crisis to the next. The war's thrown up new opportunities for making money but what Vee needs (and what she's never had) is a cool head and the ability to make a plan.

On her own, she's a disaster. With Noel, she's a team.

Together they cook up an idea. Criss-crossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to make a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life.

But there are plenty of other people making money out of the war and some of them are dangerous. Noel may have been moved to safety, but he isn't actually safe at all… 

My Review:

A completely captivating and utterly charming read. Set amidst the uncretainty and struggle of world war 2 it tells the story of young orphan, Noel, an unprepossessing lad who has few friends, sticking out ears and a love of books and an extensive vocabulary which can make him come across as pompous.

Noel has spent his formative years being brought up by his revered Aunt Mattie an opinionated ex suffragette. Watching her slide into senile dementia is a step too far for Noel and he becomes even more insular, meaning that when he is evacuated from London, he is one of the least likely youngsters to be placed in a warm and caring home. He ends up being billeted with the disorganised and brash Vee who always has an eye for making a penny or two (not always strictly above board) and her willingness to accept Noel into her home initially stems from an idea for a money making scam.

In this none too homely billet live Vees mother, with selective mutism who spends her days writing lengthy letters to people in power criticising the war efforts, and including irrelevant facts about her life.

Also her son Donald, thoroughly unlikeable, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and he too has his eye on the main chance - to profiteer from the war.

Vee and Noel thrown together form a formidable duo and when they combine efforts they begin to have a grudging respect for one another.

I like Vee, I thought she had a hard life and was making the best of things. The wartime descriptions seem accurate and very atmospheric, I really felt as though I was there in the public air raid shelters and creeping about in the blackout with my barely there torch.

I shed a little tear towards the end and for me, even though its a quick read it had something of the Book thief about it, I've also seen it compared to Goodnight Mr Tom and I agree if you enjoyed that book you'll probably love this also - I did and will be looking for more books by this, hitherto unknown to me, author.

My thanks to Netgalley for feeding my E-reader with this review copy.


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

My Favourite reads of 2014

Its coming to the end of the year and as I'll be away on holiday for a large part of December I've decided to compile my top 20 books of the year.

My tastes are leaning more towards the psychological thriller genre, but I've also read a few cracking historical books and some lovely family drama/ romantic novels. Not surprising that 17/20 are female authors as I make no bones about often being able to relate far better to characters created by women. Anyway all these 20 got a roaring 5 star review from me and I can highly recommend them all.

Top reads of 2014


Top 3 

One to watch out for in 2015...
The Girl on the train, Paula Hawkins
My favourite read this year is a book which most readers have yet to discover as it's not due for publication until later in 2015. You lucky things!
If you like tangled tales, unreliable narrators, apprehension and tension in your stories look no further. The Girl on the train is waiting to blow your mind - go for it!

Beautiful day, Kate Anthony
Beautiful day is a beautiful read, in fact it's a beautiful offering altogether from Penguin with a delightfully pretty cover and the sheer readability which grabs you from page one.

Keep your friends close, Paula Daly
This rollercoaster of misplaced trust, hidden pasts, secrets, betrayal and psychological mayhem grabs you by the short and curlies from paragraph one.

All the others in no particular order

Who are you, Elizabeth Forbes
It is merciless and barbaric and yet heart wrenching too, it plays with your mind and gets in your head and is as twisted as anything I've ever read.

The Accident, CL Taylor
It's the story of Sue who's teenage daughter Charlotte lies in a coma after an accident. You won't know whether to trust everything Sue tells us, you'll begin to doubt her reliability as a narrator, but you will just have to keep on reading to find out the awful truths in this gripping and haunting novel.

Her, Harriet Lane
A creeping cliffhanger

A trick of the mind, Penny Hancock
A real page turner with flawed characters in a flawless story

Remember me this way, Sabine Durrant
Twisted and devious with a menacing feel which creeps up on you

The hidden girl, Louise Millar
A twisty, psychological, mystery thriller set between bustling London and the quiet rural backwaters of Suffolk

The Testament of Vida Tremayne, Sarah Vincent
This creepy and menacing psychological chiller, looks at difficult family relationships, loneliness, stress and mental health frailties

The memory book, Rowan Coleman
A truly epic novel that will remain in my memory for years after I have forgotten how to use my front door key and how to put on my shoes!

Little mercies, Heather Gudenkauf
A family drama which was like taking part in an unfolding tragedy I could do nothing about but cheer from the sidelines and hold my breath when things got to their very worst

Ghostwritten, Isabel Wolff
A moving and haunting account of how two women's lives are moulded by tragedy and loss.

Where love lies, Julie Cohen
A romantic read with a little darker twist to it

The gilded lily, Deborah Swift
Historical fiction set in grimy, 17th century, restoration London

The vanishing witch Karen Maitland
Historical drama set amidst the peasants rebellion in medieval Lincolnshire where superstition rules.

The Fair Fight, Anna Freeman
Set in 18th century Bristol this is the story of Ruth a pugilist, brought up in a brothel, gritty and realistic iits a fabulous piece of historical drama.

More than this, Patrick Ness
Written for the YA reader yet the adult themes, feelings and emotions make it a must read for any age.
Mr Mercedes, Stephen King
Evil genius from the master of thrills.

The extraordinary life of Frank Derrick age 81, JB Morrison
You'd have to read this book to appreciate its humour and poignancy yet in many ways I found it unbearably sad. It's about old age, loneliness and the importance relatively small kindnesses assume to someone who is alone.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Mr Mercedes - Stephen King - evil genius




From Goodreads:

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the "perk" and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.

Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.
My review

Those friends who know my reading tastes will know and agree with the following summary: I categorically loathe detective stories and murder investigations and what I detest even more are those which form part of a series.

So, when I found out that one of the recent Stephen Kings, Mr Mercedes, was no less than the first in a series of investigative police dramas, featuring a retired cop no less I nearly didn't even start to read it.

I'm so glad I did though - it just goes to show that superb writing style transcends genre prejudice. As usual Kings lithe ability to throw you on a speeding conveyor belt right from the first page, comes to the fore here and what this is is a gripping, taut, apprehension filled whirl.

Right at the start he introduces some characters I was really getting to like, I was rooting for them, thinking yeah its going to be interesting seeing how these guys lives pan out - then BANG! He wipes them out in a horrific and shocking crime spree that is the backbone of the story.

Meanwhile retired cop Bill Hodges sits at home watching daytime tv, getting fat and contemplating the possibility that not just his career but his whole life is over. With nothing much to live for he frets and worries over the one that got away the sick, monstrous perpetrator of one of the most horrifing crimes he ever tried to solve - and failed.

That guy was Brady Hartsfield, Mr Mercedes who ploughed a stolen Merc into a whole bunch of people killing and maiming indiscriminately. Bill doesn't know it was Brady of course he just wonders who could have don ethis and how the sicko could have eluded him and his ex partner for so long. Then a letter arrives that is about to shock Bill out of his apathy. Gradually he discovers he has got something to live for after all - revenge.

We get inside the warped and deluded brain of Brady who makes Norman Bates look like your average sweetheart by comparison. King introduces some amazing characters, who we will in turn, love or loathe but never feel apathy towards. There are his usual wry and witty flashes of laugh out loud humour and above all the tension and horror he excels at, in an out and out thriller that if it had been written by anyone else just wouldn't have worked for me.

Superb, if I loved it diehard thriller fans must surely adore it too. Stephen King you're an evil genius as devious as your characters.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Testament of Vida Tremayne by Sarah Vincent - menacing




From the blurb....

A lonely novelist, A devoted fan, A journal that speaks of unspeakable things… Author Vida Tremayne lies silent in a hospital bed. The forces which brought about her terrifying decline are shrouded in mystery. 


Meanwhile, her estranged daughter Dory is forced to abandon her fast paced city life to be by her mother’s bedside. Dory is resentful. She hates the country and she and her mother were never exactly close. 

Luckily Vida already has a carer, the enigmatic Rhiannon Townsend. A long-standing fan of Vida’s, Rhiannon is happy to take care of the bedside vigil. Dory is free to resume her life. Or is she? 

Then she discovers her mother’s journal. Vida’s chilling testament reveals the trigger for her spiralling into madness. It also reveals the danger that still lurks close by. A danger that will call on Dory’s every reserve of courage if she’s to free her mother, and maybe in doing so, to free herself.

My review: 

I love discovering new authors - I especially love coming across a debut author whose work is so compelling you don't even realise how sucked into the story you've become until you look up and find you've been lost in the book for hours, this is one such book.

In “The testament of Vida Tremayne”, the author has obviously drawn on her own experiences in the world of writing to create this darkly menacing story. It’s deceptive gentle pace belies the sinister under tones and menacing, macabre darkness that seeps into the story like fog.

In this book we are introduced to 3 women, all very different and none of them very likeable, if I’m honest. But you don’t have to like the characters in a book to find what happens to them compelling.

Firstly there is the eponymous Vida Tremayne, a middle aged author who has lost her creativity, it deserted her at about the same time as her husband absconded with a younger woman, and Vida feeling lonely and isolated in her quaint old tumbledown cottage, begins to realise the extent she shut out her own daughter, whilst in her writing heyday.

We are also introduced to her daughter, the impatient, chain smoking, Dory, or Dorothea, living in the city, with a busy career as an estate agent, a string of failed relationships and a desire not to be drawn back into her slightly eccentric Mothers life.

But Vida becomes ill, nobody knows quite what is wrong with her, Dory is summoned to her aid and upon returning to Vidas home, The Gingerbread house, she is surprised and somewhat relieved to find Vida has a friend staying there, the rather hippy, dippy Rhiannon, who seems prepared to take some of the pressure off Dory’s shoulders whilst Vida lies in hospital. Catatonic and unresponsive, has Vida had a nervous breakdown? Is there any hope for her recovery? Can Rhiannon help or has she an ulterior motive?

The story is told in part by Dory and the remainder in the form of Vidas diary notes, which begin to go some way to throwing a little light on what has happened, who the Rhiannon is and where she came from and it becomes obvious sinister forces are at play, with an enigmatic large cat like creature we keep catching glimpses of.

I have read comparisons made, to Stephen Kings Misery and I would also say there is an element of The Thirteenth tale by Diane Setterfield, (although very loosely), the main characters share the same first name Vida, and are authors. I think this will appeal to people who enjoyed the aforementioned book.

This creepy and menacing psychological chiller, looks at difficult family relationships, loneliness, stress and mental health frailties. The settings are painted beautifully, especially the Long Mynd in Shropshire and the Gingerbread house which plays a large part and almost has its own personality. An intensely disturbing yet very engrossing tale and I look forward eagerly to any future work by Sarah Vincent.

Friday, 14 November 2014

A trick of the mind - Penny Hancock - flawed characters in a flawless story


From Goodreads: 

Have you committed a crime ...or are you the victim of one?

Driving down to the cottage in Southwold she's newly inherited from her Aunty May, Ellie senses she is on the edge of something new. The life she's always dreamed of living as a successful artist seems as though it is about to begin. So excited is she that she barely notices when the car bumps against something on the road.

That evening Ellie hears a news flash on the radio. A man was seriously injured in a hit and run on the very road she was driving down that evening. Then Ellie remembers the thump she heard. Could she have been responsible for putting a man in hospital? Unable to hold the doubts at bay, she decides to visit the victim to lay her mind to rest, little knowing that the consequences of this decision will change her life forever.

My Review

I loved this book, it was everything I look for in a twisty tale, with hidden secrets from the past emerging at every turn, flawed characters who turn out not to be everything they at first appear to be and a story that keeps you turning the pages. What more could you possibly want in a book? A cute loveable dog perhaps - it has that too in the ever present canine companion Pepper.

Like Penny Hancocks earlier novel, Tideline, the author draws on her own obvious connection with the river and her own experiences in life, working as a teacher to name just one, to ensure the settings and characters are strong and believeable.

In a Trick of the mind we meet Ellie as she is driving to the cottage she has inherited from her recently deceased Aunt, momentarily distracted whilst driving she bumps a tree branch, it's only upon her arrival at the cottage, when she hears on the news about a hit and run accident on the very stretch of road she has just driven, that she starts to believe it could have been her that caused the accident, knocked somone over in fact and things seem to begin to point the finger at this having been the case her wing mirror is smashed, she distinctly remembers a thud, a tree branch in the road - or was it? Is this just a trick of the mind?

However its also at this point we begin to view Ellie as being of a nervous disposition, she is a worrier and has little nervous quirks like always checking over her shoulder, three times, she is easily distracted and quite imaginitive, not a strong person its almost possible to wonder if she is quite right in the head.

As Ellie sets out to discover whether she has in fact been involved in a hit and run, we too wonder di she or didn't she? As she uncovers more about the evening in question it brings a new man into her life, Patrick. Recently out of a relationship herself her needy side comes even more to the fore, as does her need to atone and nurture and she finds herself falling in love.

As her life begins to change in many ways we see her make increasingly rash and foolish decisions and its only when the past begins to reveal the effects events have on shaping a persons personality that we realise the depths people can sink to.

Revealing many layers beneath the surface just like the river portrayed in one of Ellies paintings of water this book is perfect for the mystery lover who can suspend their belief that because they would never do something foolish nobody else would, the psychological chills are great and it never failed to enetertain me and keep me guessing. A real page turner with flawed characters in a flawless story. My grateful thanks to the folks at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy to review - thus keeping me up until the early hours, reading just one more page!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Invention of wings - Sue Monk Kidd - slavery and racism in the Deep South



From Goodreads:


Hetty "Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.


As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

My Review:

The invention of wings is a historical novel based around the lives of two women, one of them a factual character, Sarah Grimke a revolutionary female rights campaigner.

In the book we are introduced to Sarah on her 11th birthday when the gift she is presented with is a slave Hetty, a little girl known as Handful who is to be Sarahs maid. Thus begins a lifetime of opposition to slavery in the Deep South of USA where slavery is a fact of life and white folk rule and anyone who dares to oppose this is considered a pariah in society, especially if that person is a woman.

The book is an epic tale of early female emancipation and looks rather brutally at the lives of slaves and how their mistresses are no more free than they are, bound by rules and respectability to live a life not of their own choosing. It is also a story of friendship beyond the boundaries of acceptable society.

The book will appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Help, which, by the way I intensely DISliked. I actually preferred the authors previous book The Secret Life of Bees and found it a slightly easier read.

This is a much harsher and harder book to read, however it is superbly researched and told, and perfect for anyone interested in the history of slavery and rascism in the Deep Southern states of America.

I was kindly provided with a copy through Bookbridgr to read and review.








Our Zoo - June Mottershead - full of animal magic


From Goodreads:

Until I brought friends back from school I didn't realise that most people didn't have baby lions in their bedrooms when they were sick, or bring parrots into the house so they wouldn't catch cold.'

Chester Zoo is counted among the top 10 zoos in the world and, with over 11,000 animals and 400 species, it is the most visited wildlife attraction in Britain. Unlike other zoos that owe their existence to philanthropists, explorers or big game hunters, Chester Zoo was the brainchild of one working-class man with a dream he had nurtured since he was a boy: to build a zoo without bars.

June Mottorshead was four years old when her father, George, moved his family to Upton, two miles out Chester, to begin the process of turning his dream into a reality. With no other children around to play with - her sister Muriel was 10 years older - June's friends became the animals. Her closest companion was an orphaned chimpanzee which her sister hadshe hand reared, and for six years the two were inseparable. June soon became the poster girl for Chester Zoo and photographs of her cuddling lion clubs, head-butting a goat or opening the beak of a pelican soon graced the front pages of British newspapers. She was 13 when war was declared on 1939 and, with the backbone of the staff headed for the front, it fell to June to take over as head keeper. Keeping the zoo running while the war waged was no easy task. Despite rationing the animals had to be fed and all of them - penguins, elephants, leopards, tigers, lions, kangaroos and polar bears - needed to be moved into secure locked quarters inside as soon as the air raid siren sounded.

June, now in her eighties, is the guardian of her family's legacy.

My review:


I loved the tv series based on this book. When I was offered a copy to review through Bookbridgr I thought it would take over where the tv series left off, however it's quite different to the dramatisation which I now realise was rather loosely based on the events around the creation and building of Chester zoo.

This book narrates the true memoirs and reminiscences of June Mottershead, youngest daughter of the zoo family who was only 4 years old when the family moved to Upton to turn a run down staley home and its grounds into what developed into Chester zoo.

Most of it is based around what family life was like when you share your home with a menagerie of wild creatures and the difficulties faced by the family and presented by the breakout of world war 2. Obviously the early memories are a little sketchy as June was so young when it all began. 

Although the story takes us forward chronologically from the beginning, it is narrated exactly as if the author is reminiscing about her past talking to us, occasionally she gets sidetracked and sometimes she doesn't explain fully who everyone is or how things came about but as a 4 or 5 year old she probably doesn't remember the early stuff too clearly. Her sister Mew (Muriel) was the main zoo keeper, whilst June was going about the business of growing up in a very unusual set up.

Its a lovely, gentle read, perfect for animal lovers and people who like memoirs set in WW2 and would make an ideal christmas gift for anyone who liked the TV series.