Sunday, 2 August 2015

Quick paperback cover reveal - We are all made of stars - Rowan Coleman

Just wanted to give you a quick advance peek at the cover reveal of the upcoming paperback version of We are all made of stars by Rowan Coleman.



The Mountain story - Lori Lansens - thrilling



The Blurb

Five days. Four hikers. Three survivors. From Lori Lansens, author of the national bestsellers Rush Home Road, The Girls and The Wife's Talecomes a gripping tale of adventure, sacrifice and survival in the unforgiving wilderness of a legendary mountain.

On his 18th birthday, Wolf Truly takes the tramway to the top of the mountain that looms over Palm Springs, intending to jump to his death. Instead he encounters strangers wandering in the mountain wilderness, three women who will change the course of his life. Through a series of missteps he and the women wind up stranded, in view of the city below, but without a way down. They endure five days in freezing temperatures without food or water or shelter, and somehow find the courage to carry on.

Wolf, now a grown man, has never told his son, or anyone, what happened on the mountain during those five days, but he can't put it off any longer. And in telling the story to his only child, Daniel, he at last explores the nature of the ties that bind and the sacrifices people will make for love. The mountain still has a hold on Wolf, composed of equal parts beauty and terror.


My thoughts

I've read and enjoyed all the previous books by Lori Lansens starting with The Girls and was delighted when I recieved this, her latest novel to review.

As well as being aware she is an amazingly accomplished author, I liked the idea of the book, I love the outdoors and survival in the wild stories always enthrall me. This is the story, told by a father to his son, of a day out in the mountains gone badly wrong. It's also a story of friendship and family, decisions and sacrifice. Wolf is a brilliant character, his upbringing sadly lacking but he learns loyalty and finds a deep and abiding friendship until something goes badly wrong, leaving him broken and racked with feelings of guilt and loss.

When Wilfred aka Wolf sets out at the age of 18 on what he plans to be his last pilgrimage to the mountain area he loves and respects, he doesn't consider that he might become responsible for anyones survival apart from his own. Joining him in the cable car ascent are three women whose lives are about to become inextricably entwined with his. They all end up stranded on the mountain together with practically NO supplies or appropriate clothing making for a tense and exciting story of survival against the odds which kept me turnig the pages until late in the night.

I was pleased when the 3 women were introduced to the story as I like a book with some female characters I can relate to. BUT I failed to relate to any of these 3 women, who annoyed me almost as soon as they were introduced and instead of growing more likeable in adversity they continued to rattle me.

As a lover of the outdoors I'm afraid I hold the greatest contempt for people who travel with disrespect for the elements. I've clambered uphill, wearing my specialist, all weather survival gear, carrying emergency rations, only to meet women in flimsy summer sandals and thin cotton dresses stumbling down past me and I could shake them I really could, because it's not just their own lives they are putting at risk its the other people with them, the mountain rescue teams who have to risk their lives to come and rescue them if they get into difficulty.

Well these foolish women were like that, one of them is wearing flip flops for Gods sake! And almost everything they do, each decision they make is the wrong one, they are only out there for 5 days and the mishaps and accidents which befall them almost defy belief - but sadly it is believable. It all goes to show what a caring person Wolf is as he takes on responsibility for these hapless souls.

This doesn't detract from the great writing and what turns out a tense and ultimately uplifting story, the womens frailties make it all the more believable and I'm a firm believer that you don't have to like all the main characters in a book to love the book and there are some amazingly strong and realistic suporting characters in here too. It's a super book, one I'd highy recommend to anyone who already loves Lori Lansens and anyone who's new to her writing and likes gritty adventures peopled with real characters with very human strengths and failings.

My thanks to http://www.simonandschuster.com/ for my copy, provided in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street - Natasha Pulley - magical



The blurb

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

My thoughts ...

I want a clockwork octopus! Now that's not a phrase I ever thought I'd hear myself utter but I fell head over heels for Katsu the clockwork octopus in this beguiling and totally charming story.

My beautiful hardback copy of this book was a prize I won in a blog competition. I sort of had mixed feelings about it before I read it, especially when a couple of reviews describe it as steampunk - me and steampunk haven't got a very good history so far. However I wouldn't really categorise this as steampunk. It's really hard to put in any kind of genre-box - it's completely original, totally unique and absolutely. mind blowingly, beautiful. It reads like the bizarre love child of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters and The Time Traveller's Wife

When we meet Thaniel it's London in the late 1880's, he's working as a telegraphist for the Home office and the story just sweeps you into this gossamery historical setting which is ever so slightly skewed from reality. It's magical and enchanting with amazing characters, several of whom are Japanese. On one hand there is Kaito Mori the eponymous watchmaker, delicate, quiet and determined who is a genius at manufacturing delicate clockwork machinery and has the uncanny ability of being able to "remember" the future, on the other there is Matsumoto a dapper young man about town with a penchant for designer clothing who is the unlikely companion of Grace Carrow a bluestocking who studies science, conducts experiments and cross dresses to avoid the female discrimination which is rife in Victorian Oxford.

Thaniel comes into possession of a watch created by Mori and this is the first in a long series of events which change his life beyond recognition, beginning with a bomb blast and the search for the perpetrators of the explosion, seemingly pointing to the gentle and unassuming Watchmaker Mori for whom Thaniel develops a fondness as the 2 share humour and kindness, both qualities which have been lacking in Thaniels pretty mundane existence.

The whole book has a magical dream like quality, EVERYTHING about it is completely original and captivating, from Thaniels ability to hear sound in colour and his penchant for drinking real loose tea, to the Japanese village in Hyde Park, not to mention Gilbert and Sullivan playing supporting roles? It's painted with the most delicate of touches and delectable etherealness yet is also very down to earth. 

The cover is beautiful too with a die cut clockwork front and gold leaf on a velvety black background adding to the complete reading experience I'd have nissed if I'd read the ebook.

I finished reading it late last night and immediately wanted to turn back to the very first page and read it again. I loved it and am left almost bereft by its absence now I've reached the astute and inventive ending.

Finally a huge thanks to Pam Reader http://www.pamreader.blogspot.co.uk/ for hosting the giveaway which allowed me to win this delightful book.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Mistake I made - Paula Daly - irresistably readable



The Publishers Description:

We all think we know who we are.
What we’re capable of.

Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate.

Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.

But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.

Roz has a choice to make
.


MY review

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this latest twisty psychological thriller by Paula Daly whose previous 2 novels I've also enjoyed. This takes us back to her favourite setting of the Lake district to watch the main character - Roz's already crumbling life fall even further apart.

Roz is a single parent, struggling to bring up her 9 year old son George who is the centre of her world, she works hard as a physiotherapist but every penny she earns still isn't enough to clear the huge amount of debt she has ended up with since her doomed marriage floundered and she begins clutching at some very dodgy straws to extricate herself. It's difficult to tell exactly which "mistake she made" is the one in the title as this is one lady who seems unable to make the right decision at any point in her life and it really makes you count your own blessings.

I did get a little exasperated with the hapless Roz at several points, she is pretty amoral and incredibly naive for an educated women, but it was easy to get swept along with the way one bad decision leads to another and I'm reading it and shouting "NO - for Gods sake woman, just say NO"

However it's so engaging and irresistibly readable I could forgive her and found myself rooting for her most of the time. I also enjoyed meeting up with DC Joanne Aspinall again although this time she plays very much a supporting role rather than a starring role as she does in the previous books, and I really missed her Aunt Jackie.

Paula Daly's real strength lies in her ability to create very believable quirky characters and place them in dark situations which she serves up with a wry sense of humour - brilliant.

My thanks go to Netgalley for allowing me yet again the privilege of reading a great book before publication date.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Precocious - Joanna Barnard - compelling and readable



The Description

There are some lessons you shouldn’t learn in school…

Fiona Palmer is (un)happily married when a chance meeting with her former teacher plunges her headlong into an affair.
Intercut with the realities of their adult relationship, Fiona remembers first meeting the enigmatic Henry Morgan as a precocious and lonely fourteen-year-old. Her schoolgirl crush developed into an intense relationship, but it was always one which she controlled.
Or did she?

A controversial, compelling debut novel from an award-winning writer

My review

Precocious is a well written compelling debut novel which is really quite difficult to categorise, I thought there was going to be more of a twist to it expected a psychological thriller and it really isn't this at all. It's sort of a mix of coming of age/ love story and domestic drama.

It's quite probably a tale many of us can relate to, focussing on that teenage crush on a teacher which could so easily get out of hand. The narrator is Fiona who is now 30, married and has never really got over her teenage crush, because for her it was different - she was different and what happened in her past wasn't a mere crush it was love - (wasn't it?)

Even though she is happy with her oh so gentle and tolerant husband, she is missing excitement in her life and when she bumps into her ex English teacher Mr Morgan, she finds the flame which has been on a back burner all these years flares back into life and she rushes without heed into an ill advised and self destructive affair which threatens to consume her.

The story zips back and forth to when she was a schoolgirl, recording her growing pains in a secret diary and feeling every ounce of angst and passion that a handsome attentive teacher can inspire. We watch her fall in love and as the relationship between the 15 year old Fee and her 28 year old teacher develops, it's easy to be swept along and think, as does she, there's nothing wrong with this, they have found each other, kindred spirits despite the age difference and the innate wrongness of any kind of intimacy between the Mentor and the pupil.

Back in the present day we watch her careering along an obvious collision course and begin to see what she has failed to recognise, this man has well concealed flaws - Is Fee going to allow herself to be totally destroyed by them?

It's really very believable and a gripping read, however I was really expecting some sort of OMG moment that never happened and the ending was a little too gentle with several things unresolved, for me to give this very readable and competent debut novel a perfect 10.

My thanks to the publisher Randomhouse for my copy via Netgalley in exchange for sharing my thoughts publicly.

Monday, 29 June 2015

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



What the publisher says

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

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

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



What I thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Follow You home - Mark Edwards - tightly woven and tense



The Blurb


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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Quality of Silence - Rosamund Lupton



The Blurb


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

Within hours they were driving alone across a frozen wilderness

Where nothing grows

Where no one lives

Where tears freeze

And night will last for another 54 days.

They are looking for Ruby's father.

Travelling deeper into a silent land.

They still cannot find him.

And someone is watching them in the dark.

My review

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

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

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

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

My thanks go to Netgalley for my review copy.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

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



The Blurb ....

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

- You are haunted by her memory day and night

- Your friends and family fear you are going mad

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

Welcome to the club no one wants to join.


My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

My thanks to Netgalley for my advance ebook copy.

Monday, 15 June 2015

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



The blurb:

A BRUTAL TRADE - A Diana Rivers Thriller by Faith Mortimer

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

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

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

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


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

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


My Review

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 28 May 2015

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



Publishers Description

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

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

But some secrets won’t stay buried.

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

My thoughts

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 24 May 2015

How I lost you - Jenny Blackhurst - fast paced thriller




The Blurb:

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

My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

My thanks to Netgalley for my review copy.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Good Neighbour - Beth Miller - secrets and lies

From an advance reading copy provided by Netgalley

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

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



The blurb

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

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

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

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


My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Lie - C L Taylor Blog tour excerpt

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

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

If you enjoyed this order your copy now from Amazon

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

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Church of Marvels - Leslie Parry - magnificent



From the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Things we have in common - Tasha Kavanagh - creepily enjoyable




The Blurb:


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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Bones of you - Debbie Howells - tense psychological thriller



The Blurb

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

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

Children who don’t die before their parents.

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

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

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


My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable - Exceptional readability



The Blurb:


How can a memory so vivid be wrong?

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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