Thursday, 28 May 2015

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



Publishers Description

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

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

But some secrets won’t stay buried.

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

My thoughts

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 24 May 2015

How I lost you - Jenny Blackhurst - fast paced thriller




The Blurb:

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

My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

My thanks to Netgalley for my review copy.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Good Neighbour - Beth Miller - secrets and lies

From an advance reading copy provided by Netgalley

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

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



The blurb

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

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

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

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


My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Lie - C L Taylor Blog tour excerpt

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

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

If you enjoyed this order your copy now from Amazon

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

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Church of Marvels - Leslie Parry - magnificent



From the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Things we have in common - Tasha Kavanagh - creepily enjoyable




The Blurb:


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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Bones of you - Debbie Howells - tense psychological thriller



The Blurb

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

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

Children who don’t die before their parents.

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

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

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


My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable - Exceptional readability



The Blurb:


How can a memory so vivid be wrong?

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Place called Winter - Patrick Gale - epic historical drama



From the Blurb:

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Blog Tour - The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable

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



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


WRITING WITH WOMEN IN MIND - Jane Cable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a lovely photo of Jane and her Mother.



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

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



Monday, 23 March 2015

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



From the blurb ....

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

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

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


My thoughts ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Lie - CL Taylor - tense and toxic


The blurb...

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

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

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

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

My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, 6 March 2015

Burnt paper sky - Gilly MacMillan - Excellent read


The Blurb

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

But what really happened that fateful afternoon?

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

The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

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


My thoughts

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

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

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


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

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.