Author: Kiss My Book

Coming Up For Air by Sarah Leipciger

Coming Up For Air spans time and continents to give three separate stories pulled together by a common thread. Whimsically, I expected the characters of the stories to meet or link together in some way but the book is not written as a light-hearted fairy tale, it has such depth and intelligence and took me to places of harsh reality, atmosphere and emotion. Each is linked by water, breathing, death and grief.

Sarah Leipciger is a skilful writer and has created an unforgettable story superbly written. If you liked The Light Between Oceans, Once Upon A River and All The Light We Cannot See, you will love Coming Up For Air.

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

It’s hard not to have Erin Morgenstern in mind while reading this book, with fairy tale and folklore interspersed throughout the story.

Mouse is born to Marina who finds herself taken in by a travelling circus. Unwanted and unloved, she is taken under the wing of Serendipity Wilson who teaches her from a young age to become a funambulist, taking to the highest tightropes at the very top of the Big Top.

Being a circus, the characters are weird and wonderful in equal measure, and Mouse being such a quiet little thing, can move around the periphery of people and relationships without being noticed, least of all by her parents. The whole story is centred around who and where a grown up baby is. Starting at the circus, learning about Mouse’s parentage, and ending up in New York, is one hell of a journey for a little girl, then young woman, to process and come to terms with. Serendipity Wilson with her bright orange hair, is a constant through the story and in Mouse’s life.

A story well written and well told, although I did get moments of ‘where is this going’ around the middle of the book, but overall, I’m glad to have learned the story and journey of Mouse and Serendipity Wilson.

I Know You by Annabel Kantaria

Taylor, who is a complex, intense and manipulative character, has recently moved from California to Croydon and as her husband works, she is lonely and friendless. She joins a walking group and fixes her sights on Anna, another similarly aged woman who is also expecting her first baby – perfect friend material. More characters come into play as she joins a book club set up by one of her neighbours.

Interspersed through the chapters is an unknown narrator, a media stalker who knows intimate details which give creepy and sinister overtones throughout the book. We don’t know who is being stalked – it could be Anna, it could be Taylor – and I love that it keeps us on our toes wondering who is going to have their life devastated. This is a thought provoking read of what we give away about ourselves on social media. We trust our friends in what they see but what if one of your followers goes rogue?

I’ve read several books by Annabel Kantaria and I’ve enjoyed all of them. She’s a brilliant plotter and knows how to tell a rich, fulfilling and flowing story. She’s definitely an author I look out for.

Secrets of A Serial Killer by Rosie Walker

Zoe is a typical teenager – loves her mum, obvs, but wants the freedom to dress how she wants and go out with her mates, schoolwork can wait. Helen and Tony are divorced with Zoe living with Helen and going to her dad’s some weekends. It’s Tony’s turn to have Zoe but she’s quick to eat her evening meal, fiddle with her phone and run off out saying she’ll be back at 10.30pm – only she doesn’t come back. Zoe has met up with her boyfriend and gone to a pub to meet her friend Abby and Abby’s boyfriend, but Abby is being her usual controlling self and gets Zoe talking to a guy at the bar who plies them with drink.

Helen is shocked, stunned that her daughter is missing and that little seems to be happening with the police to get her back. She doesn’t yet realise that she holds a vital clue, but something is niggling her mind, like picking a scab, that someone knows something of Zoe’s kidnapping.

The chapters when Zoe tells her story are harrowing yet exciting. We all love the gory bits, and this book is quite graphic and gory in places. (There’s no nasty sex or rape scenes if that bothers you). Zoe is a likeable character and I felt sympathy and compassion when reading about her.

There is also an aside story of two young cousins, daring each other into doing scary things and visiting the nearby lunatic asylum which closed several years ago. Both stories run parallel and then intertwine to give a semi-conclusive ending.

Secrets of A Serial Killer is cleverly plotted and very well written. It flows well and we get a good back story to each character so we know their personality and understand their thoughts. I would definitely recommend this book and I look forward to more from Rosie Walker.

Epitaph by Anita Waller

I’ve only recently been introduced to Anita Waller’s books and this is just my second, but I’ve been bitten by her bug and will be reading more.

This one is written as a stand-alone novel but does have some of the same characters as in the Kat and Mouse series. These characters have also made me want to read that series starting at the beginning with Murder Undeniable.

Wendy and Doris have an unusual holiday planned but as family secrets start to surface, their plans go awry. A body is found in the river but it’s clear that death came before she hit the water. As more and more people are connected to the dead young woman, all with airtight alibis, Doris and Wendy work together to separate the wheat from the chaff and solve the murder.

Set in and around Sheffield and the Peak District, Epitaph is written with tenderness and wry northern humour. A cleverly plotted murder mystery with charming characters who will get under your skin.

Dead Inside by Noelle Holten

four-stars

 

Out of nowhere and starting with a bang, Dead Inside is Noelle Holten’s debut novel and begins a new police procedurals series.  Holten is a former Senior Probation Officer and has used her skills and experience in creating this gripping crime thriller.

DDead InsideC Maggie Jamieson has been reassigned from homicide to a new team dealing with domestic abuse.  More is actually learned of her move from homicide in the second book in the series, Dead Wrong, after convicting “The Chopper” of several murders. Lucy Sherwood works for the probation services and works closely with the police, especially when the violent men Lucy is working with start to pile up in the morgue.  There are quite a lot of characters, which throws in red herrings for who-dun-it, but all play a necessary role.

Dead Inside is a quick read and so compelling that I immediately followed on with book two – which is even better!

 

 

 

 

The Teacher by Katerina Diamond

Five Stars 1

I first read The Teacher shortly after it first came out in March 2016 and it was so remiss of me not to review this amazing debut at the time. The plot and writing is superb and I’ve been a fan of Diamond’s work ever since. I recently picked up the audio version from my library just to revisit the beginning of the Miles/Grey series, and to see if their ‘voice’ and intonation was as I imagine.

The Teacher

Set in the Cathedral city of Exeter, a spate of gruesome, ritual style murders has the city’s constabulary running round in circles. We are introduced to DS Adrian Miles and DS Imogen Grey, how they were placed together as partners and a little of their complex personal lives which continues through the series. Miles made an error in a past case which has him in the dog house with his bosses, but Miles knows personal details which he sees as an insight to the serial murders and begs to be back on the case.

We meet Abigail and Parker, both flawed and complex characters who are natural loners but actually manage to get on with each other. There are some amazing characters and descriptions in this book, we all have insecurities, shyness and complexities which are beautifully choreographed into these characters.

Each of the Miles/Grey books in the series can be read alone and you will get a full story with a satisfying conclusion, but to get the best from the series, you need to read them in order starting with The Teacher.

 

Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar

four-stars

 

Katherine is late for work on the first day of new ownership of the magazine where she has worked for twenty years as an editor. She jumps into a taxi only to find Lily has also got in beside her.

Precious You

Katherine makes a mental character assassination of Lily, and as the journey progresses it becomes clear that Lily is starting her internship at the same magazine. As the days progress Lily succeeds in trashing everything Katherine does at the magazine and piece by piece takes apart her life, her home and her man.

This is a car crash of a book. Both Katherine and Lily are dreadful, damaged characters and you can see the devastation to come to Katherine’s life from a mile off. Even though the outcome is obvious the reading is compulsive. This is certainly one of those unputdownable books and a great debut.

 

 

 

She Did It by Mel Sherratt

4 and half 1

 

Mel Sherratt is a crime, police procedurals and psychological suspense writer, and if you’ve not read any of hers before, She Did It is a great stand-alone one to start with.

She Did It

The two main protagonists, Tamara and Ester, are both liars and have their own agenda but for different reasons. Tamara runs a publicity business but is broke, lonely and needs to prove herself to her parents. Ester is aggressive, devious, a thief and murderer and Tamara wants to be best friends. The two women are poles apart in class and wealth but while the two rub along well together, there’s no denying that they each know their place. There’s never a dull moment following Ester wearing wigs and disguises, as she picks pockets to fund herself. But then there’s the small question of a gun and dead body.

This is an absolutely riveting read, one I couldn’t put down. It felt special, like the first time I read a Martina Cole.

 

 

 

HIM by Clare Empson

Five Stars 1

Catherine has had such an impacting shock that it has temporarily rendered her mute. We start the book with Catherine in a nursing home being visited and cajoled by her husband and two children.

Him

From her inner thoughts, we visit the past fifteen years in which she met Him, Lucian, the love of her life but then something happened that caused her to take a different fork and marry Sam instead. Her love for Lucian was and still is, all consuming, intense, obsessive, addictive – He was the one. After hearing of his mother’s death, she re-visits Lucian and almost falls into his chaotic and hedonistic lifestyle again. But something so devastating happens during those few days that she runs back to her husband mute.

It’s beautifully written, many elements resonate with my own life, and it brings back subtle memories of Donna Tartt’s Secret History which is one of my all time favourites. HIM is now one of my favourite books and it’s intense, addictive love caused me to create a new tag on this site – Adictive, Obsessive Love.

 

Between You And Me by Lisa Hall

4 and half 1

 

I love a good twist in a book, getting that ‘WOW’ moment when everything flips on its head is better than a bar of chocolate for me. Between You And Me has the best twist I’ve read for a long time, so much so, I had to go back and re-read the last couple of chapters just to make sure.

Between You And Me

This is a psychological thriller based around domestic abuse. To outsiders Charlie is charming, but in reality is a dominating manipulator and Sal gets the brunt of anything that Charlie doesn’t like. This only happens behind closed doors in their own home, and when Charlie begins to use Maggie, their daughter, as a bargaining tool, Sal has had enough and schemes to leave, taking Maggie too.

Tension is high all the way through, there’s never a dull moment, the reader always wondering what Charlie will mete out next on Sal. Lisa Hall is a great writer and I can thoroughly recommend all her books if you like a taut, gripping read.

 

 

 

 

SHE by HC Warner

four-stars

She is a book of two halves. First we start with Ben and how shattered he is when his long-term girlfriend, Charlotte, leaves him.  He was about to propose but she didn’t get to know that.

She

Then in a whirlwind romance he meets Bella, she quickly becomes pregnant and they marry, but everything is on her terms. Bella, the ‘She’ doesn’t come over as a very nice person and I’m sure if it wasn’t for the baby, their relationship would not have lasted. She’s rude to his parents and he’s no longer allowed to see his friends. The brass neck of the girl makes for perfect poolside reading. Part two, and the story flips to Bella’s version of events. I can’t say it made me like Bella any more but one or two things slipped into place. There’s quite a bit of repetition of events with living Bella’s slant and perspective, but this just confirmed what a schemer she is.

I found She to be a cleverly plotted book and quite refreshing in its unusualness.

 

 

Have You Seen Her by Lisa Hall

4 and half 1

 

Laurel goes missing on Bonfire Night under the noses of her mother Fran, and nanny Anna.

Have You Seen Her

Immediately tension is high as the evening’s organisers and then police are called in to search for the little girl. It quickly becomes clear that Anna has something to hide about a previous nanny job and is frightened of being recognised by the press and having her past dug up. There are also obvious problems with Laurel’s parents’ relationship, Fran and Dominic, who struggle to hold it together in front of the police. This is a story of every parents’ nightmare.

There are revelations, twists and red herrings at every chapter end and the pace is quick and exciting. Lisa Hall is a great writer and I can thoroughly recommend all her books if you like an edge-of-your-seat read with massive twists.

 

 

# Me Too by Patricia Dixon

4 and half 1

 

Once again, Patricia Dixon has created a topical story using believable, everyday characters.

Me Too

The female lead character, Billie, wanted to travel the world but at the last minute her more grounded boyfriend Stan, decided to stay at home – Billie went anyway, and with the events that followed, she bitterly regrets that decision.

While Billie was away, Stan moved on with his life and Kelly entered his home and life. Within a year, Stan was in prison for the rape and assault of Kelly. Billie is devastated but finds it difficult to decide who is telling the truth. Stan’s letter gives his version which Billie so wants to believe, but then Kelly is equally believable so who does she trust? There were so many red herrings, twists and turns that I didn’t know who was telling the truth.

Patricia Dixon has the knack of writing about friendly, lovable characters and giving them a topical, realistic issue to deal with. She explores the impact on not only the characters’ lives, but those of family and friends around them. I’m never disappointed with a Dixon book and always look forward to the next.

 

His And Hers by Alice Feeney

Five Stars 1

 

His and Hers

Alice Feeney never fails to give a good depth crime thriller with tension and suspense. In this one, we get His, DCI Jack Harper, and Her, TV presenter Anna Andrews, perspective of a series of murders centred around a village from their past.

We quickly learn that Jack and Anna used to be married and that the first murder victim is known to both DCI Jack Harper and Anna Andrews. After murders two and three it looks like Anna’s circle of school friends are being targeted. It’s also clear that the DCI Jack Harper is being framed, or at least he thinks so.

I found this story to be utterly gripping, full of twists and at any one time I could fit any of the characters into being the murderer.  I very much recommend this and all other novels by Alice Feeney.

 

How Many Lives Has Scuffo? by Mac Black

Three and a half Stars3

 

Review by Alice

How many lives has Scuffo? is a light-hearted book with clever jokes and a simple plot. Yet the two go very well together to create a novel one might read if they were in need of a good laugh. It is altogether quite a positive book with its exploration of cats and the myth of their nine lives.

How Many Lives Has Scuffo

The book starts in the late 1950s where readers are introduced to the vicar ‘Harold Scuffington’. He is turned into a cat at a Christmas fayre by a magician, he then finds out he will not be able to return to his human form. He continues to explore his newfound life as a cat getting into some unpredictable situations as he begins to use up his nine lives.

The book is aimed at an adult audience because many of the jokes could be difficult for children to understand however some able teenagers would also enjoy the book.

 

 

 

 

Liars by Anita Waller & Patricia Dixon

4 and half 1

 

Liars

Some dual writer partnerships work really well – husband and wife team Nicci French, Greer Hendricks & Sara Pekkanen – and this Waller-Dixon is seamless and flows beautifully. I know Patricia Dixon‘s writing very well but have only read one of Anita Waller‘s books, both are accomplished writers in their own right, and I guessed quite early on who wrote which character.

Wendy and Nell have been friends since primary school and know each others deepest secrets.

Nell travels Europe for work and they write to each other constantly, that is until and Wendy marries a man who Nell knows is a creep and a womaniser and Wendy’s letters become sparse and formulaic. When Nell returns to Sheffield, Wendy’s husband is unexpectedly nice to her until she’s due to fly back to France and then shows his true colours when he brutally attacks her, both verbally and physically.

There is suspense, intrigue, love and friendship, as well as the odd murder or two. The mix of psychological/crime writer with romantic suspense writer works really well to give softness and reality to quite nasty, sometimes vicious, characters and situations. Very much recommended.

 

Five To One by Chris Chalmers

four-stars

Five To One

The book opens with a helicopter coming down to land on Clapham Common at five minutes to one on a sunny lunchtime. There are too many people around and the pilot realises he’s got it wrong the moment the tail rotors clip trees just out of his sight. The story then introduces several sets of characters who are strangers to each other, but who are all connected by being on Clapham Common at five to one when the helicopter crashes. We delve into the lives of four sets of ordinary people who have extraordinary things happening in their lives which climax with the helicopter crash.

Chris Chalmers’ writing is modern, engaging, flows well and he is a great observer of people. Humour, even at the darkest of times, is liberally scattered throughout the book – confident and sassy.

Chris Chalmers

 

Chris Chalmers website

 

 

34 Days by Anita Waller

4 and half 1

 

34 Days

Anna is in an unhappy marriage. Ray is not a kind person, and now that her children are grown up she decides to take back control of her life. On the day of her 35th wedding anniversary, she packs her bags and leaves her home and Lincoln for good.  Ray is furious but believes she will go back to him after a few days but, as she finds herself a modern apartment in a new town, she starts to feel safe and joyously elated. Then Jenny, her daughter-in-law, drops two bombshells which rocks Anna to her core.

This is a serial killer thriller like no other. I’ve never before read such an impacting and unique storyline – family secrets past and present, murder to hide murder – and I rushed through the book needing to know whether Anna and Jenny’s secret, their lives, were safe.

Anita Waller is a fabulous writer. She creates friendly, believable characters and puts them in monstrous situations. This is the first of her books I’ve read, but now I’ve discovered her I have several earmarked for the top of my reading mountain.

Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

4 and half 1

 

Rules For Perfect Murders

I’ve been meaning to read Peter Swanson’s books for a while and this is a perfect introduction to his clever plotting and unique writing style. Each of his books are stand alone stories so you can start with any book.

Malcolm Kershaw owns a bookshop called Old Devils which specialises in crime and mystery novels. He loves classic crime and he once listed his eight favourite murders on the bookshop’s website, ones he thought were impossible to solve. It seems there is a link between some recent deaths and the perfect murders listed by Malcolm.

This is a cleverly plotted whodunnit style crime novel. It’s written in first person which I really like, it gets you inside the head of the character, and I found the whole book to be gripping, fast moving and very entertaining.

 

 

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd

four-stars

This is a curious yet compelling book. From being a small girl, Lauren Pailing has visions of parallel lives in other dimensions when shards of light or sunbeams strike near her.

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died

At the age of thirteen, Lauren knows that she has died in an accident but she is conscious enough to open her eyes and recover from her injuries. She carries on her ‘life’ while at the same time her parents hold her funeral.

I found it a bit confusing to start with so just keep on reading for the parallels of life to fall into place. Through each of Lauren’s lives ran the same theme of a close friend of her father having gone missing and this held a strong bond and focal point to her memories of friends from other parallels and her own parents.

I could see plot holes throughout several lives, not just Lauren’s but others around her too, but it was such a fascinating concept that I just had to keep reading to see what happens.  A book with fabulous imagination as well as truly likeable characters.

 

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

four-stars

 

This is a most unusual and bizarre concept.  Seth wants a family.  He is legally married to Thursday but she unfortunately can’t have a baby.  He had divorced Tuesday because she’s a high flying lawyer and doesn’t want a family, but he still lives with her on Tuesdays.  Monday is pregnant with Seth’s baby and Seth believes he has the perfect life – three wives who know almost nothing about each other and sees them in rotation.

The Wives

The narrator of the story is Thursday.    I realised a few chapters in that the reader does’t know her name but that doesn’t matter, all is revealed later.  The ‘wives’ don’t know each others names, and know only very basic things about each other – just how Seth wants it. Unexpectedly, Thursday finds out the name of Monday and can’t help but trace her identity on social media. When she meets Monday/Hannah, she sees bruises on her arms and becomes suspicious of Seth.

I found The Wives to be unorthodox and totally gripping. A romantic suspense perfect to read poolside or on the beach.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Five Stars 1

Much talked about by authors, publishers and on social media following accusations of plagiarism. Kate Russell had her hand forced and revealed that this fictional story is actually based on her own life and has taken fifteen years to write.

My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa is a disturbing, provocative, powerful and stunning debut novel. The pupil teacher relationship changes subtly. He seeks Vanessa’s approval, yet he’s always the one in control, manipulating.  The story runs on two timelines – present day when the ‘me too’ movement emerged, and going back to when Vanessa was boarding at High School at the start of her relationship with Jacob Strane. 

This is not a gratuitous sleazy story.  It is very well written and gets to the crux of grooming  (Jacob Strane is a master of grooming).  It shows how the process is often misunderstood, misinterpreted that a consenting schoolgirl knows her own mind, is in full control of a situation with a man three times her age.  Her friends knew, the school knew, her mother knew, yet nobody did anything.  And then there’s the guilt, Vanessa feels guilt.  This is a masterpiece.

 

The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Daré

4 and half 1

 

The Girl With The Louding Voice is a debut novel rich in culture and has an amazing character, Adunni.  It’s written in the style of a rural Nigerian girl speaking in a very basic form of English which is quick and easy to slip into and sometimes comical to read.

The Girl With The Louding Voice

Adunni is a fourteen year old girl from a small village in Nigeria. Following the death of her mother, the family becomes poorer and her father negotiates a husband for her in exchange for the ‘bride money’.  She becomes the third wife of an older man and is trapped in a life of servitude instead of getting the education she so wants.  Being a spirited and brave girl she escapes her husband and then taken to Lagos to be housekeeper in the wealthy household of Big Madam and her lecherous husband.  At first excited going to the big city, she quickly realises she has been trafficked and will not be paid any wages.

This is a powerful and emotional story of female injustice and slavery, yet ultimately is a story of believing in yourself, that you can achieve whatever you want in life.

I have one hardback copy of this book ~ brand new and unread ~ available to purchase here.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World by Elif Shafak

Five Stars

10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World

Set mostly in Istanbul, Turkish writer Elif Shafak, has created a quirky, rich and wonderful book in the telling of Leila’s death. We are given a countdown of each of the minutes after death when parts of Leila’s body are shutting down. Each minute tells of milestones or strong memories of her life, the family who disowned her and the friends she made along the way. Right up to the point she realises she’s made a grave error and then her body is discovered.

Elif Shafak has woven real life issues of gender inequality into this story of amazing and strong women in a man’s world. Leila is an intelligent and modern woman and is often put down by men half her worth. A true gem of a book that I’ll be telling all my friends about.

 

A Bit Of A Stretch by Chris Atkins

4 and half 1

 

Chris Atkins was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. He’s not the stereotypical prisoner we’re used to hearing about – he doesn’t do drugs, in fact he doesn’t even smoke, he’s middle class and got a degree at Oxford – and as a way of coping with prison life he writes down a little about each day.

A Bit Of A StretchHis diary of life inside Wandsworth is both fascinating and horrifying and makes for compelling reading. There are ways of climbing the hierarchy system and being an educated man, Chris is able to get close to the top. This enables him to avoid twenty-three hour ‘bang up’ like most of the other prisoners and have a few comforts like a duvet, his own clothes, a kettle and use of the library.

Chris has written an honest account of his time in Wandsworth, sometimes negative about the system, often positive about his outlook. He doesn’t make excuses for his wrong-doing and we see the raw emotion of losing his family, especially his young son. It’s well executed, a real eye-opener, and I found it very difficult to put down.

 

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

four-stars

Twelve year old Edward Adler is the sole survivor of a plane crash. The book switches between being on the plane in the hours running up to the crash, and Edward living with his mother’s sister and her husband. There is a marked difference between Eddie before the crash and Edward, as he is now known, after the crash. Everyone says he’s lucky – lucky to be alive – but Edward feels far from lucky having lost his parents, brother and his whole life as he knew it.

Dear Edward

The time with the passengers on the plane has a feeling of doom – the weather is awful, the turbulence is bad – but knowing something about several of the passengers gives emotion and realism to the eventual tragedy. I recognised many of the similarities of the true plane crash of Air France flight 477 in 2009 in this story, which added to the authenticity leading up to the disaster.

Edward finds difficulty in conveying his feelings to his new family, and his only friend is Shay, the girl next door who he trusts and confides in completely.

A compelling story which kept me gripped when reading about being on the plane, and fascinated in Edward’s progress, both physical and emotional, after losing everything.

 

Smash All The Windows by Jane Davis

4 and half 1

 

Jane Davis is one of the best self-published authors out there and her books are all well worth reading. Smash All The Windows is Jane’s ninth novel and is the winner of The Selfies Best Self-Published Work of Fiction Award 2019.

Smash All The Windows

The story is of a disaster in an over-crowded London underground. The crowded escalators keep moving down onto fallen people at the bottom. People are piling on top of one another and the weight and lack of oxygen is too much to bear. Someone must be to blame – or should they? Is there any such thing as an accident? It’s Friday evening and everyone wants to go home, but should they have been stopped from entering an already too busy station?

Jane has written from the perspective of several victims on their way to the disaster and also from family members struggling to understand, live with, and survive the death of their loved ones. She is an extraordinary and intelligent writer who writes sensitively of a fictional disaster which has echoes of the real-life Hillsborough disaster.

 

 

Jane Davis 1

 

Jane Davis’ website

Jane Davis’ Amazon profile

Jane Davis on Facebook

Jane Davis on Twitter

 

 

Books by Jane Davis

 

 

The Confession by Jessie Burton

4 and half 1

 

After the enormous success of The Miniaturist and The Muse, this is the third novel by Jessie Burton. The Confession is a wonderful story but, apart from the beautiful writing, don’t expect it to be anything like The Miniaturist.

The Confession

The book fluidly moves between the dual narratives of the early 1980s and present day. Rose was abandoned by her mother Elise, as a baby and was brought up by her father. Rose is obviously curious about her mother and after a little heart-to-heart with her father, he gives the name of a well known author Constance Holden, as being in a relationship with Elise in the 1980s. Rose uses duplicitous means to get a job with Constance to hopefully find out more about her mother. The book goes back to when Elise first fell under Connie’s spell and follows their relationship to America where Rose was born.

This is a powerful story of complex relationships, emotions and feelings, incredibly well told in the richest of literary words by Jessie Burton.

 

I have one hardback copy of this book ~ brand new and unread ~ available to purchase here.

 

By Jessie Burton

 

 

 

 

Silence of The Girls by Pat Barker

Four Stars

Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019, Silence of The Girls has a barbaric and graphic start as Achilles enters the city walls and conquers Lyrnessus, home of Briseis. She was queen of the land and is taken as a war trophy by Achilles to serve as his personal slave.

The Silence of The Girls

Achilles is a complex character while Briseis is an astute and perceptive character.

Briseis narrates her story of her life with Achilles, Patroclus, Agamemnon and other Greek warriors, and gives perspective from slave women during the war years of Troy. The second part of the book takes more narration from Achilles and, after a particularly personal grief, becomes more dark and depressing.

This is a very readable re-telling of the Trojan war, or rather the effects on the women during the war.  Excellent writing with some stunning scenes and poetic moments.  If you enjoyed Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles, you will probably love this one too.

 

 

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

4 and half 1

 

Beautiful Bad is truly one of the most psychological of psychological thrillers. The story builds and builds, goes back in time several years from the day of the killing, returns to the day of the killing, goes back a few weeks before the day of the killing, and all this back story really intensifies the suspense.

Beautiful Bad K

The book starts with the police entering the house after a distressing call to 911. There is so much blood inside that there has to be a body – we don’t know who is dead until close to the end of the book, it is just referred to as ‘the killing’. We are taken back to when Jo and Maddie were best friends and both had a love of eastern bloc countries, their languages and the cultures. Jo lives in Macedonia and Maddie lives in Bulgaria but they get together, often in dangerous travelling situations, as often as they can. The two girls meet a group of men, including Ian, who they party and drink with and this is when the friendship starts to go awry.

Ian is working in security for army officers, escorting individuals and companies in war torn areas of the middle east and Africa. He is clearly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, drinking astronomical amounts of vodka and doesn’t seek professional help. Ian and Jo have some history, possibly a relationship, when Maddie isn’t around, and later when Maddie and Ian are married, she still doesn’t know why Ian and Jo hate each other so much.

The past story meets with present time and all secrets are laid out to be shouted about. I thought the description of their lives in the eastern bloc countries was intense and fascinating. The tension and suspense was high throughout and I loved the twisted turnaround ending.

 

The Passengers by John Marrs

4 and half 1

 

The Passengers

Set in the very near future where driverless cars are the norm, eight cars have hijacked their passengers and are taking them on a course set for collision in two and a half hours time.

Each chapter introduces a new major character (there are no minor characters here) who we learn a little about up to the point of them being locked in their cars. Each character is then written in rotation and find that they are not all they first seemed. As I was reading, I kept thinking that in in a few years time as driverless technology progresses, this could be reality. I found it to be very gripping with authentic characters and plotline.

John Marrs is an excellent weaver of realistic fantastical stories and I can thoroughly recommend all his books – ‘The One’ is a particular favourite of mine.

 

John Marrs

 

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Tribute : The Cleaners Series, Book 1 by Chris Knoblaugh

Review By Alice

Tribute

Twelve year old Miguel lives with his single mother, sisters and the men who rent all the floor space from his mother. She was already a mess before her older son, Juan, was shot and killed at age 15 Miguel believes Juan was killed by a gang increasingly his grief begins to consume him whilst distracted in school by thoughts of what happened, he is suddenly overwhelmed by a sense that his brother is inside him. Juan’s ghost is there to listen to Miguel’s thoughts and direct his actions.

Tribute is a very fast paced novel with multiple storylines happening at once. It has some quite dark moments but is still very informative of gang life in northern California and how kids and teens so easily get caught up in it all. It is also very supernatural with its demons and ghosts and resurrected priests.

It has some swearing so would be suitable for ages 12-14 but I think it really depends if the children’s parents want them to read a book with swearing as everyone’s parents have different views.

 

This Is Gomorrah by Tom Chatfield

Four Stars

This is not my usual kind of story at all but the blurb of the book sounded so intriguing, I just had to read it. Just to give you a slight idea of the Dark Web – it is over 500 times bigger than the web as most of us know it and is 99% of the internet you can’t Google. It’s not illegal to access and you can’t ‘accidentally’ find yourself in there.

This Is Gomorrah 1

Azi is a hacker working on the Dark Web in his garden shed. He sees himself as mostly a good guy hacker, he doesn’t exploit companies or hold their data to ransom but he’s capable of severe meddling. After seeing some serious terrorist related information passed to him by an internet ‘friend’ he is within minutes visited by unknown people who persuade him to arrange to meet his friend Munira, and leave the country. For a while in the book I was unsure who were the good guys and who were bad, so I just kept reading with an open mind and accepted it as told until it more fully unfolded. I don’t want to say more about the actual story, but I did find it quite gripping, also amazing, and wondered where the story would end up.

It has a dual storyline with Azi and Munira in the main but also Kabir in Syria trying to make his escape. It also occasionally goes back to Azi’s childhood when he first started his passion for computers. I’ve been around since “dial up” using a 3.1 machine, in fact before then I used a Vic 20 without internet access, so sympathised with Azi in his frustrating early days – kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it.

This Is Gomorrah is well worth a read and think it might suit men and those with computer and internet knowledge more than others – though I enjoyed it so give it a go. It’s well written and Tom Chatfield has certainly got a technological, streetwise and astute mind.

 

 

Thin Air by Lisa Gray


Four Stars

 

Jessica Shaw is a private investigator. She specialises in missing persons and while trawling through online pictures of various missing people wondering which job to take up next, she receives an email with a picture of a three year old with the message ‘your next job’. Jessica recognises the little girl as herself, and with a little bit of investigation realises that she was once that missing person.

Thin Air

The investigation which she obviously has to take up, makes her feel her whole life was a lie and she just has to find out what happened to her murdered mother, who the man was who brought her up, and who her real father is. Someone from the past wants to keep things in the past, and as Jessica faces things head on she unwittingly puts her life in danger.

This is a very intriguing storyline – not knowing you’re a missing person – and it is cleverly written with a dual story of a very brutal murder of a young student. The two stories seem to be separate, and so many years apart, but all is revealed at the end.

 

 

 

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

five_stars

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, one of the best I’ve read for a while. Having read and loved The Thirteenth Tale, I knew I’d be in for a good solid story with Once Upon A River. Several times during the book I was reminded of the writing style of Charles Dickens – a story with proper grounding and characters with personality.

Once Upon A River

Set in 1887 on the banks of the River Thames, much of the story centres around the The Swan, a local inn where storytelling is the entertainment and where more beer means more embellishment. One evening, an injured man stumbles in carrying a young girl who appears to be dead. A little girl who sometime later is alive. This is a time when superstition and supernatural blurred into real life and a dead girl coming back to life is a fantastical story for all to tell and re-tell.

The girl has three possible identities, she is either Alice, Amelia or Ann, and none is certain of her identity even when she lives with two of the families claiming her.  The girl herself has lost the ability to speak and there is frustration from the Vaughan’s who desperately want her to be Amelia, their daughter who disappeared two years ago.

The river plays a large part of the story and to add to the strange goings on with a child coming back to life, there is rain, more rain, and inevitable flooding which seeps into their homes and lives as the river becomes a torrent.

Amidst superstition and folklore there’s also skulduggery, ransoms and beatings.  Once Upon A River is a fulfilling story which has a depth of storytelling which is rare these days.  I absolutely loved it.

 

 

Sleep by C.L. Taylor

4 and half 1

C.L. Taylor never fails to grip you from the very first pages.  

Sleep

The opening chapter is a killer! Then, Anna is driving three work colleagues back to London in atrocious weather, just following the rear lights of the car in front because conditions are so poor. One of them feels ill and wants to open one of the back windows. This knocks Anna’s concentration and before she realises what’s happening, the car spins out of control and rolls. On waking in hospital, Anna comes to realise that two of her passengers are dead and one has serious life changing injuries. As Anna recovers, she has the feeling that she’s being watched and followed. Scared, having just broken up with her boyfriend and needing a new start in life where nobody knows who she is, Anna takes a job as a hotel receptionist on the remote Scottish island of Rum. The holidaymakers are flaky and flawed and as a storm comes in, Anna realises that whoever was following her in London is still following her now.

Sleep started off like her novels usually do – normal, believable characters but in unusually tense situations – but once it got going, Anna is put in an isolated situation with a new group of characters. It reminded me very much of an Agatha Christie style whodunnit with red herrings throughout and only a limited number of people out to get Anna.

C.L. Taylor is brilliant at creating suspense, that nail-biting, seat-of-your-pants thriller that keeps you turning pages. I’d recommend any of her books.

Cally Taylor

 

 

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The Feud by Amanda James

4 and half 1

 

Chapter One opens with Kenver Penhallow and his family escaping from their home during the night which is well ablaze. Kenver and Wenna do a quick head count of their children and realise that little Jago is missing, last seen in the barn looking after a sick puppy. The barn is a pile of charred wood and the little boy is perished. The language in this chapter is old Cornish, told of the olden days, of a time 200 years ago when the Feud began.

The Feud

Matt Trevelyar moves to St Agnes in Cornwall after giving up teaching in London following the sad death of his wife. Within days, he receives messages in no uncertain terms that he is not welcome and that he should return to London. Not easily put off, Matt takes up his teaching position in the local school and starts to make enquiries with the locals about who might want him to leave. He learns of a feud between two families, one of which he is a descendent.

The characters are a delight to read about and are realistic for small village life. Lavender is typical artist-hippy, and when Matt and Lavender first meet it’s obvious that love will blossom – but how do they overcome the fact that he is a Trevelyar and she is a Penhallow.

This starts out as a vicious crime but is ultimately a romantic suspense novel. Amanda James is a talented writer and writes beautifully about her beloved Cornwall.

 

Amanda James

 

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The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

4 and half 1

 

This is one amazing book!! I was first attracted to this book because I saw a clip on BBC TV that after actually flying one of these early machines, Rebecca Mascull went away and re-wrote all the flying parts of the book. It looked so very interesting and I just had to read it. The story roughly covers a period of ten years from 1909 when Auntie Betty arrived to the Dobbs family, and is set mainly in the Humberside and Lincolnshire areas.

The Wild Air

Della Dobbs is a quiet child, doesn’t speak if she can get away with it, and has a father who ‘chooses’ to be an invalid and doesn’t care for his girl offspring. When Auntie Betty arrives from America, Della’s interest is piqued by Betty’s talk of America and, in particular, kite flying. In those early days, Della and Auntie Betty make their own kites – simple ones, box kites and introduce more strings. The strange little boy on the beach is fascinated by the two women with kites and Dudley quickly forms a friendship with Betty and Della. For years, Della and Dud correspond while Dud is away at school and Della grows up and moves on to aeroplanes.

Della is an absolute inspiration to young women. She never gave up in learning to fly, no matter how tough the male aviators and mechanics made it for her. As war approaches, the men go off to fight and the women are expected to do the jobs left behind. Della is hugely practical, a mechanic in her own right, and begins to be taken seriously in a man’s world.

There’s so much to this book that it’s difficult to put in words, without giving the whole story away, just how fabulous the characters are and how the weaving of each of their own stories fits into Della’s life.

There’s love, tragedy and death packed into this fabulous story, and is enjoyable whether you have an interest in flying or not. It’s superbly written and very well researched. 

I would certainly, without a doubt, read anything written by Rebecca Mascull.

Rebecca Mascull

 

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Codename Villanelle: The Basis For Killing Eve

4 and half 1

 

When a book goes to screen I always try to read the book before it appears at the cinema or TV. I did this one the other way round, and I’m so pleased I did. After watching the Killing Eve series, I just had to read the book – Villanelle was under my skin. After reading a few book reviews, I realised that it wasn’t liked by all but I felt that watching the series first gave a head start on Villanelle’s character.

Codename Villanelle

With visual characters already in my head, I quickly got into the story, slightly different from the TV series, and immediately loved Oxana (later becoming Villanelle) and Konstantin. The book does flip about and has a rushed, almost the book in a draft form feel about it, but this staccato, slightly detached writing style really fits with Villanelle’s character. She is seriously flawed, crazy and uncontrollable at times and her lack of emotion makes her a perfect assassin.

Eve is a character who seems to be always running on catch-up. She never makes dinner with her husband even when they have guests round. She’s uncomfortable in fashion and barely has time to do her hair or apply make-up – she knows she should make more of an effort but it just doesn’t seem to work for her. The final straw is when she’s kicked off her job of finding the mystery female assassin who killed on her watch. She knows she’s close and just has to find this cold killer.

Villanelle has certainly got under my skin and I now have to read book two before it hits the screen.

 

Villanelle

Three Men On Their Bikes

Four Stars

Three Men On Their Bikes

Harry, George and Ian take up cycling as a way to keep fit and to give them a weekend interest. After three months of one hour rides to the pub on a Sunday lunchtime, they decide they are ready for a cycling holiday over the Pennines – then the fun starts!

These beginners ‘accidentally’ get into a race with seasoned cyclists and get help from other cyclists in different ways. Narrated by Ian, we get an amusing take three different personalities spending intense periods of time together, including sharing a bedroom, all three together! There is much for the three men to learn about themselves and each other – some good traits, some not so good. It sometimes reads very much like a younger version of Last of The Summer Wine, there’s very little new ground here but an amusing and entertaining read.

 

The Closest Thing To Flying by Gill Lewis

Purplefourstars

Review by Alice

Semira and Hanna, her mother, have been in Britain for four years. They are under the “care” of Robel, a vile, pot-bellied people trafficker, who makes sure her mother doesn’t learn English or get paid, leaving her dependant on his scant goodwill.

The Closest Thing To Flying

They live in a house packed with people in similar circumstances. One day, Semira finds herself buying an old hat on a market stall, strangely drawn to the bird that decorates the hat. When she takes it home, she discovers there is an old diary hidden inside the hat box, written by a young girl called Hen over 100 years ago. Semira finds herself caught up in Hen’s story, finding in it an escape from her own life that is full of hunger and loss. She finds that she is challenged by the girl in the diary to speak up in her own life and fight for her place in the world.

I liked the feeling of escape and joy that Henrietta feels when she learns to ride a bike, and how that becomes mirrored in Semira’s story as she is also introduced to cycling through her new friend. This meeting then leads to more revelations in Semira’s life, about who she is and where she comes from. I also really liked the resolutions we get to some, but not all, parts of the story – it was interesting that not everything is resolved. It is a good bedtime book, perfect for children around 9-10 and older who are confident readers.

Those Who Lie by Diane Jeffrey

 

Four Stars

Emily Klein doesn’t know her husband Greg is dead until the day of the funeral. From her hospital bed, she doesn’t yet know that she killed him. Once home and beginning to recover from the dreadful car crash, she sees her husband at a distance, in coffee shops, around town and in his car, yet when she gets home the car is on the drive.

Lies 1

Posts appear on his Facebook account and she begins to get text messages from him, it can only be him as he’s the only one who called her Alice when her name is Emily. She thinks she’s losing her mind and the reader is reminded of her past when  she was in a mental institution after killing her father.

The book switches back to her childhood home with her sister and their abusive father. We get an idea of Emily’s mental state and the reason behind her spell in a mental institution. Emily’s sister is key throughout the story giving support when she’s just lost her husband. Most of the story is in present day, just a few switches to childhood as memories resurface.

Emily’s friends are all under suspicion of imitating Greg and she doesn’t know who to trust or believe. There are several twists and jaw-drops before all lies are revealed and unravelled at the end.

Diane Jeffrey

 

 

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Rosie and Ruby by Patricia Dixon

five_stars

Rosie and Ruby was first published under the title Three Mothers, (Trois Meres) and was Patricia Dixon’s second novel. Her writing and storytelling in this book is flowing and confident, not afraid to tell it how it is.

Patricia Dixon - Rosie and Ruby_cover
Briefly, this is the story of cousins Rosie and Ruby, starting with their childhood and teenage years living in Manchester with their parents. Both have equally awful mothers in different ways, and both girls, and later young women, come to terms with and overcome the mental scars that haunt them for years. Rosie follows her dream of being a hotelier and ends up in France, while Ruby marries her wealthy whirlwind heart throb who turns out to be a violent and vicious monster. I don’t want to give the whole story away so won’t go any further with that.

There were tense and, at times, quite viciously nasty parts in this book and I can see that a more sinister genre was waiting to escape – Over My Shoulder by the same author.

Patricia Dixon writes fluidly and interestingly and never leaves any loose ends. When a new character comes on the scene she gives a concise and engrossing outline of who they are and what sort of personality they have.

Whose books are hers similar to? Well, the Manchester element reminded me of Mandasue Heller but her warmth and friendship within the story is much like Patricia Scanlan or Maeve Binchy – lovely fulfilling stories. I have read all Patricia’s books and the warmth, emotions and characters never fail to give me a fuzzy loved feeling.

 

TrishandOwen

 

 

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The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J. Halpin

4 and half 1

 

Review by Alice

The Peculiar Peggs

The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods is about a town called Suds where children have been disappearing for a long time. Poppy arrives in this town to live with her grandma, who makes her follow these strange rules and soon she befriends the weird Erasmus. The two children team up and try to solve the mystery of the disappearing children.

The Peculiar Peggs is a book, that shows that imagination with an eerie atmosphere can make an excellent combination. This is definitely not your average ‘two kids team up to solve a mystery’ there are so many more layers to unpeel that just keep getting better and better!

I think this book can be for anyone because although the main characters are two innocent children, it’s so much more dark and creepy than you ever anticipated.

 

Death’s Dark Veil by Patricia Dixon

Five Stars

Death’s Dark Veil opens with someone on their death-bed being taunted and observed by ghostly figures. She knows who they are and knows they have come to escort her to the next world, but their descriptions are terrifying and I wondered if she could ever rest in peace.

The firstDeath's Dark Veil chapters introduce two very different characters, Georgie and Ivy, and these two young girls create the theatre for a very dark and dangerous show. Each has a tragic start to their adult lives but grow into strong and capable young women. We follow them individually to the time their lives collide at Tenley House, the Gothic towering home of first Daphne and Kenneth, then Georgie and Kenneth, as well as a dreadful old bat mother-in-law, Phyllis. Evil is all around, too many deaths for comfort (and coincidence), so who is behind these suspicious deaths?

Well written in a dark and menacing way with a good amount of humour to keep things light – the nick-name for curmudgeonly Phyllis, (Syphilis) had me howling.  There are gasp out loud moments at tragedies and deaths, and there is a great twist at the end.  I certainly didn’t guess the outcome and I loved the ending.

 

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The Tale of Maximillion The Mouse by Mac Black

5 Stars Coloured

 

Review by Angela

This is a very endearing story of Maximillian The Mouse and is suitable from the age a toddler will listen to a story through to age 7 or 8, depending on the child’s ability. Appropriate and colourful illustrations accompany the rhyming text with nothing to scare a young child. The vocabulary is rich and varied with lots of words to stretch a child’s spelling, conversation and understanding.

Maximillion Mouse

Maximillian is an active and creative little mouse, and has to try to outwit Camilla the cat. An amusing and satisfying story for boys and girls, daytime or bedtime.

The book is soft backed with glossy front and back pages, the writing is large enough for youngsters to follow with their fingers and the illustrations match the wording on the current page.

 

Katerina by James Frey

Purplefourstars

I haven’t read any of Frey’s previous novels and only when looking at other peoples reviews of this book did I realise there was massive controversy surrounding his book A Million Little Pieces. I have read this book ‘blind’ in that I haven’t read any of his previous work nor did I know about the controversy prior to reading Katerina in the hopes that my review is accepted as totally unbiased.

katerina

To start with I found the strange sentence construction and lack of punctuation difficult to follow and not easy to take in, but the more I read, the better I got at ‘getting’ it. It’s James Frey’s unique writing style and he has every right to write and punctuate, as an artist, as he wants. It’s raw and passionate and at times so gut-wrenchingly sad and pathetic. It’s full of profanities (don’t read if you don’t like unnecessary swear words – it’s full of, and punctuated by, the f-word) but I strangely got to like it and felt his anger, disgust, hate, fear and love pounding through.

It’s written over two timelines and two countries – Paris in 1992 and Los Angeles in 2017. Jay is a disillusioned, non-conforming young student in America and decides to sell unwanted personal items and make fast money from drugs to fund himself in Paris, France. We go back and forth from Jay in Paris to Jay’s present day and really just learn his background, his strengths, weaknesses – oh, the weaknesses!!! loves, life and beliefs, and, of course, meeting Katerina. It’s a roller-coaster of a young life which I read with loathing and longing in equal measure.

It’s written like a memoir and after the furore I’ve now read about Frey’s earlier ‘memoir’ novel A Million Little Pieces, it feels like this is ‘the real thing’ or at least has put some reality into the fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed Katerina and now need to read the very controversial Million Little Pieces.

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Christmas Spirit by Nicola May

 

Four Stars

 

Christmas SpiritThis is a lovely Christmas themed story, short enough to read in an afternoon. The characters are endearing and different from each other with just jilted Evie, funny man-mad Beatrice, and c and thought provoking Yves.

Evie has split up with her boyfriend just before Christmas and so she’s upset, penniless and not looking forward to Christmas at all. To keep her mind off her ex-boyfriend on Christmas Day, she agrees to work in a homeless shelter serving food. Here she meets enigmatic Yves and meets him at various places over the next few days.

A heart-warming Christmas story with a touch of magic and an unexpected twist.

 

Indecent by Corinne Sullivan

3-and-half-star

I enjoy a good slow burner of a book but the burn has got to be really worth the slow. For the first half of this book, I was disappointingly waiting for something to happen, for the story to take off. We really got to know Imogene, our leading lady, during this time but she was such an insular, detached sort of person that nothing had really happened in her life to create a story about. We learn of her insecurities, lack of confidence, lack of experience with the opposite sex and the propensity to pick her face all the time.

Indecent

Imogene is an apprentice teacher at a prestigious boarding school for boys, and works under the supervision of other tutors. She knew and understood the rules of the school and what her relationship to the students should be, but her lack of experience or stupidity has her taking personally any interest from the boys.  This naivete sets her on a course of inappropriate behaviour and reckless abandon of school rules. and I could see a mile off that this was going to end badly.

What I couldn’t get out of my head while reading, was if the sexes were changed – Imogene was a male teacher at a girls boarding school – is that it would blatantly have been a very uncomfortable read about grooming and paedophilia.

The final third of the book did pick up in tension as we see the excruciating obviousness of Imogene’s demise. She can’t cope with work or indeed life, and her lack of relationship experience leads her away from all sensibility.

Very well written, and certainly worth reading if you like a slow burner.

 

Viking Wolf by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

4 and half 1

 

Viking Wolf

This is the second instalment of the Viking Warrior series, Viking Thunder being the first. Viking Wolf carries on where Viking Thunder left off and opens towards the end of the crossing by boat from England to Erik’s homeland. Elswyth and Faline took the decision to leave their village where both had bad memories and nothing to stay for, and joined the Vikings on their ship home.

Elswyth meets Erik’s brother and feels a shiver of danger, not wanting to be left alone with him. On Erik’s home turf, Elswyth feels that she is looked down on and not to be trusted by his kin folk. She slowly makes friendships when sickness sweeps the village but is mistrusted by some. There is plenty of Viking folklore, lust and eroticism to keep the reader entertained, with the story moving at a good pace and a touch of fantasy giving a very satisfactory ending.

As with each of Emmanuelle’s books, this is very well written and edited and I look forward to the next in this action-packed Viking series.

 

First in the series: Viking Thunder  Viking Thunder 2

Four by Andy Jones

4 and half 1

An intimate story of three friends when a new lady joins to make the foursome. We are first introduced to Sally, a GP, who is married to Alistair. Their marriage is taking a bit of a battering and they are attending marriage counselling in an effort to save their marriage. We then meet Mike who has recently divorced and has a little girl who has emigrated with her mother. He used to be at university with Sally and were a little more intimate than Alistair knows about, and also now works with Alistair. Faye is a young actress and is introduced by Mike to Sally and Alistair after she has just performed a part as a naked schoolgirl on stage. Faye is flirtatious and after an evening of drink, drugs and a dare game called ‘never have I ever’, the couples swap and end up sleeping together.

Four

The main theme of the book is the analysis of what that one reckless night has done to each of them individually and as couples. Then, about half way through the book, there is an unexpected twist which has further connotations.

I found the book to be well written and delved deeply into areas I’d not thought about. It felt realistic and the characters were all believable. There was tension throughout because of the embarrassment felt by each of them in the cold light of day. It was refreshing to read a male author’s viewpoint of some very intimate and emotional situations and I will certainly look out for more by Andy Jones.

The Bad Mother by Amanda Brooke

3-and-half-star

The Bad Mother

The Bad Mother is a rather chilling tale of expectations and realities of becoming a new mother. Lucy is expecting her first baby but rather than all the excitement of buying all the baby things and decorating its room, Lucy is worrying about lapses in her memory, a complete loss of confidence and her capabilities of looking after a new baby. Lucy’s mother puts it down to ‘baby brain’ and hormones but her husband isn’t so sure it’s as simple as hormones, he’s convinced it is a mental problem which she may have inherited from her father.

For a good way through the book I was trying to convince myself that all Lucy’s problems were down to her husband, Adam – well, the blurb on the cover tells us this – but thought that was too simple and that there must be a twist. I disliked Adam as a character from early on. He comes over as a whiny, spoilt, petulant person who likes to get his own way.

After Lucy and Adam’s little girl is born, things don’t get any better and Lucy is convinced that she is a danger to her baby and incapable of keeping her safe and cared for. The story moves at a reasonable pace and finally comes to a head in a breathtaking way.

This was a well written book touching on many issues but I didn’t find it a page-turner, it should have been shorter instead of reiterating the same things. I would have liked to have known what made Adam tick. His upbringing was similar to many children but they don’t all act like him, just what clicked in his brain to make him so selfish and duplicitous. Equally, why did Lucy so quickly and easily change from being a strong, confident, working woman with many friends into a whimpering wet lettuce.

 

 

The Rival by Charlotte Duckworth

4 and half 1

Helena is a confident and successful business woman heading her own department in an international make-up company. Then Ashley is interviewed and taken on and everything goes out of kilter.

The Rival

The story is told in a present day and back a year or so style, and although I felt that sometimes the timeline wasn’t quite clear (only realising we’d gone back/forward after a paragraph or two,) it worked well to show how quickly Ashley was taking over and Helena was spiralling down with pregnancy, childbirth and depression.

Both main female characters had their faults, pushy, deceptive, unfaithful etc., and the author making them both unlikeable at times made them feel realistic, more true to life, just a bad combination when they got together.

I thought the book was well written and well plotted, it had a couple of unexpected twists at the end and I enjoyed it very much.

 

If He Wakes by Zoe Lea

Five Stars

Rachel suspects her husband is having an affair after finding messages on a Twitter account which has been left open on her laptop. She goes to the hotel she believes he is meeting someone, only to see her husband’s car hitting a pedestrian and driving away from the scene of the crime.

If He Wakes

Meanwhile, Rachel’s friend and business partner Suzie, is having an embarrassing time at the bank after finding that her bank cards don’t work. Her account has been suspended because of her massive unauthorised overdraft with the threat of her flat being called in as security. Suzie, of course, knows

nothing of the debt.

Two very gripping and interesting storylines from the very start and the tension just keeps building.

The police question Rachel and her husband about the hit and run, and Suzie is trying to piece together what the missing money has to do with her missing boyfriend. This very quickly becomes one of the most gripping and suspenseful books I’ve read. There is an intense feeling of the runaway train having left the track and is heading towards disaster with nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Very well written, fabulous characters and nails bitten to the quick!

 

Zoe Lea

 

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Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany

4 and half 1

Best Kept SecretA powerful and impacting story of how Cadence struggles with work and bringing up a toddler after her marriage falls apart, and turns to the bottle to help her cope with life. Only it doesn’t, it devastates her life in the most sobering way possible when her husband finds her passed out from drinking with their son in the room, taking him away and filing for custody of four year old Charlie.

From sinking so low Cadence, with help from her sister and alcoholics’ meetings, lifts herself from the depths of despair to fight to gain the right to see her child.

A raw and emotionally charged story portraying the destructive effects of alcohol.

Amy Hatvany

 

 

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Corkscrew by Peter Stafford-Bow

Five Stars

Corkscrew

This is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. The book opens with Felix Hart being interrogated by an unknown ‘authority’ to the point he feels he’s not going to get out of the meeting alive. From here, Felix tells his life story from being an orphan expelled from a prestigious school, and his decision to do work which he enjoys – drinking wine.

Felix gets into some terrible scrapes yet always seems to come up smelling of roses. His career in the wine industry prospers and takes him around the world drinking fine wines and dallying with the ladies. Felix is a very likeable character even though he’s a cad and a drunk much of the time.

 

The language is a little ripe at times and there are a few rude scenes but so hilariously executed. Excellently written and brilliantly plotted.

 

Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale

Five Stars

Patrick Gale’s writing is exquisite. I haven’t read many of his novels but each one I have read has been perfectly told, at just the right pace with a large dose of compassion and tenderness.

Take Nothing With You 1

Eustace is an only child but he wasn’t his parents’ only child. Much of his insecurities stem from the fact that he survived when his siblings didn’t, although he doesn’t know that from his parents. The story begins with Eustace as an adult just having been told he has cancer. He has also just fallen in love and doesn’t know if he can tell his new love of his recent diagnosis. We mostly see Eustace growing up in the old peoples’ home where he lives with his mother and father. He’s a bit of a strange young boy; he enjoys ballet but when his father is angry after seeing him ‘prancing around’ he is forced to change course and learns to play the cello. Eustace has a gift for music and becomes quite an impressive young player.

Eustace’s mother is remote and fragile until she starts taking Eustace to Bristol at the weekends to stay with Carla his cello teacher, and her two gay friends. Mother becomes more alive than ever she is at home and Eustace sees a wonderful new side to his mother, especially when drinking wine with Carla. Eustace’s cello lessons, as well as his private schooling, become a stretch too much for his parents, and at the age of thirteen has to attend the local comprehensive school. He didn’t have an easy time at the private school, he is a slightly weird child, and relies heavily on Vernon, his one friend who also moves to the comprehensive with him.

This is a coming of age story which is sad and touching on so many levels. It’s not unexpected that Eustace is gay, but in the wrong school with the wrong people he’s a jigsaw piece that doesn’t fit, but put him in the right setting with musical and artistic people, Eustace flourishes. As he grows, there is tragedy, laughter and raw emotion, until we meet Eustace again with his new love in the present day.

Take Nothing With You is a beautiful literary piece. It’s impeccably written by a talented master of the pen and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up any of Patrick Gale’s books. Totally recommended.

 

Sweaty and Pals Smile by Mac Black

4 and half 1

Review by Angela

Sweaty and pals Smile is the third instalment of the ‘Sweaty’ trilogy, with Sweaty and Pals being the first and Sweaty and Pals Again the second. Much in the same vein as the first two books, there is good clean fun between Derek and his faithful pals.

Sweaty and Pals Smile

In this book, Derek and his pals have all moved up a school year, with Derek and Curly having a new teacher, if only for a short time before getting yet another new teacher! The lovable old characters are all still there – smarty-pants Alison Brown and cross Mr Murdoch, as well as new-comers along the road, twins Nicole and Tiffany. There’s fun with teams of trolley racers organised by the local supermarket, Bisko’s, and a girly birthday party which the boys have to suffer!

This lovely paperback by Mac Black is well written with perfect length chapters for children’s bedtime which are complete little stories in themselves. Young children will love the realistic and funny tales of school days, taking photographs and shopping at the supermarket. The pages are liberally littered with wonderful and often amusing illustrations.

Mac Black

 

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Walls by Emma Fischel

Four Stars

Review by Alice

When his parents separate, Ned Harrison Arkle-Smith is less than impressed with their ingenious plan to divide the family home into two – a mum side and a dad side. They hope this will help everyone cope better with the split, but Ned is furious, hating the walls and the changes they make to his much-loved home. As if this is not change enough, his best friend is acting strangely and a new girl has discovered his special place.

Walls

Narrated by Ned, Walls introduces us to and explores some of the emotional experiences of divorce through his eyes living with his two sisters, and his parents who have decided that they can no longer continue to live together. However there’s a slight twist to their living arrangements . . . as they continue not to live strictly ‘together’. The book teaches kids a lesson in friendship in a way they can relate to more than if their parents tell them what’s wrong and what’s right. A fun and intriguing concept that readers will delight in.

In my opinion Walls is aimed at children in primary school because a lot of the story is teaching children lessons in how to cope with friendships that might upset them.

 

 

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

 

4 and half 1

I love Karin Slaughter’s writing style and how she’s developed and matured over the years, from her early days of the Grant County series and through the Will Trent series. Pieces of Her is her fourth full length standalone novel. It’s cleverly written over two timelines thirty-two years apart which are not at all confusing, you won’t get them mixed up, although the plotline itself is quite complicated.

Pieces of Her

In the first chapter we meet Laura who is undergoing chemo for breast cancer, and her daughter Andrea, at a restaurant chatting about Laura’s illness and that Andrea should move out of the family home and get a place of her own. Andrea’s life is stale and stagnant and needs something to give her a push to the next chapter in her life. While they are chatting, a gunman opens fire on people around them and Laura is caught in the gunfire. Andrea is like a frightened rabbit and can’t move from behind her mother and is almost shocked into a stuttering silence when Laura speaks with the shooter and one of them ends up dead.

Andrea’s life then takes off in a completely different orbit as she tries piecing her life together, questioning her mother’s past and now facing much danger. The story goes back to events over thirty years ago and we start to understand the events then with what is happening in Laura and Andrea’s life today.

This is a fast paced crime story, sometimes graphic and gory but always gripping. At times it’s heart stoppingly intense and fast paced with chases and danger at every turn.

 

Karin Slaughter

 

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Over My Shoulder by Patricia Dixon

Five Stars

This is a dark and addictive story of how lovely Freya becomes manipulated and controlled by Kane. Freya’s character is portrayed to be a normal working young woman of the 1990s. She has a very real personality, the sort of girl we could have worked with and from a family we could know of. She meets Kane whilst at work and quickly becomes quite besotted by him, even though she has a steady boyfriend. From the start, Kane is a manipulator and engineers meetings with Freya until their relationship takes off, just as he had planned it. Kane is a complex character and is a truly nasty piece of work. Kane has a beautiful and kind young woman by his side, but his cruel side surfaces when least expected, and as Freya becomes more isolated from her friends and family, her traumatic life becomes insufferable.

OMS

Much of the early and middle part of the book is set in 1990s Manchester and and shows a reflection of how times have changed in such a short time; the lack of technology, few mobile phones and attitudes of the police. Later, we move forward to the present day to conclude the story in a nail bitingly tense final few chapters. It is truly a gripping and shocking story from start to finish and just shows how easy it is to fall in with the wrong people.

Patricia Dixon writes in a very relaxed and northern style and her characters are totally believable. This book covers a lot of issues which might shock some readers, so be warned there is some violence and domestic abuse. Patricia Dixon has written sympathetically and emotionally about some very difficult issues and I think she’s done a great job of giving realism to a fictional story. This is her first psychological suspense novel and I do hope she writes more in this genre.

I was asked to be an early reader of this book and feel very privileged to have seen the story grow and change. Fourteen months after the first spark of an idea, several edits, a cut of around 50 pages, and a few tears along the way, Patricia now has a very gripping, tight plot which I feel rivals the ‘Behind Closed Doors’ style psychological books. Very well worth reading and there’s even a cameo of me in the final chapters!

Patricia Dixon

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They Don’t Know by Patricia Dixon

4 and half 1

 

I’ve read all of Patricia Dixon’s books and I’m struck each time by the warmth of her writing. She oozes love and care for the characters she’s created, and in turn they give friendship and reality to the story.

They Don't Know

There is a short prologue which relates to a time near the end of the book. We then start chapter one with Daisy, who lives in France with her parents, leaving the family home to go to university in Manchester, England. She’s an astute girl but is also shy and very nervous about the whole university process and getting accommodation. During the wait in the long queue she meets Adam, who is also a little nervous, but after a few minutes of small talk they hit it off and it’s obvious they will become good friends.

There is also a little back story of Adam and his brother Ryan which fills in their personalities and why each are like they are – quite different but both troubled. Once all three meet up, they become a solid force to be reckoned with, nothing will ever break them.

Adam is a good looking lad, and when Fliss can’t get him to be her boyfriend, talk about him being gay is spread around. Adam is hurt about the false and personal allegations and confides in Daisy his true feelings and unusual sexual orientation.

This is a very moving book; there is love, emotion and deep friendship as well as a dreadful tragedy which rocks them to the core. The character description is exquisite, you can picture what each of them look like. They feel so real and have definite individual identities. This is a love story with a difference, and I adored the references to songs, especially Kirsty MacColl’s They Don’t Know.

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The Promise by Katerina Diamond

Five Stars

If you’ve been following Katerina Diamond’s Grey and Miles series you certainly won’t be disappointed in The Promise, fourth in the series. If you haven’t read any of the earlier books in the series it’s best to start with The Teacher, but The Promise works well as a complete story in itself.

In the opening chapters a young woman, Erica Lawson, is found strangled, sexually assaulted and bleached clean; then it happens again to another woman. When a third body is discovered, Grey and Miles know they’ve got a serial killer on their hands.

The Promise

The book is written in three interweaving parts:

– A back story, almost in diary form, of a young woman first meeting her boyfriend who becomes very abusive. This part of the story, at first, doesn’t seem to have much relevance to the main story but later on, it is the key main part.

– The return from America of Connor and his abusive father. This kid is such a mixed up, angry and impassioned character. Diamond writes so competently about the mental complexities of teenage children.

– Present day in the busy run up to Christmas, with Imogen Grey and Adrian Miles desperately trying to stop further murders which they know will take place if they don’t catch this serial killer. These two have come a long way since The Teacher in their own individual relationships as well as their working partnership.

There’s never a dull moment, hardly a chapter end you want to stop at even to go to bed. Katerina Diamond has fast become my favourite crime writer and I just know I will love every book she writes.

KD

 

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The Imogen Grey & Adrian Miles series, in order (so far.)

 

 

 

 

One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

4 and half 1

 

Amber and Vicky are best of friends until Vicky does something unthinkable and illegal. This is a tense and chilling tale of what started off as Vicky leaving the house for ten minutes while her baby was asleep, but unforeseen circumstances ricochet her life off into a catastrophic direction.

One Little Mistake

 

Amber now has a serious hold over Vicky and she takes full advantage of taking over or ruining everything that is important to Vicky’s life.

There is a back story from eighteen years earlier which fits together perfectly with the final third of the book.

One Little Mistake is well written, precisely plotted and perfectly paced. There’s never a dull moment and the anticipation of what Amber will do next is nail biting. A great debut novel, and I can’t wait to read more by Emma Curtis.

 

Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster

 

Four Stars

Review by Alice

Esme is a fifteen-year-old girl who lost her mother at the age of eight.  Everyone else seems to have moved on, thinking that Ariane was lost at sea, so why can’t Esme?  But, Esme doesn’t lose hope, she goes searching for her mother to a world full of wonder and magic.
Esme's Wish

Esme’s wish is a book, that showcases the importance of family and trust. This book is very good although it would be even better if we found out a little more about Aaron, Esme’s father, I think it would make the story more interesting.

I think this book is for young adults but is  appropriate for eleven-year-olds and above.

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Foster

 

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Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

4 and half 1

 

I’ve read each of B.A. Paris’ books, starting with the amazing Behind Closed Doors, and feel that I know her style and will never be disappointed. Bring Me Back is no exception and from the very beginning I was sucked into the night when Finn and Layla pulled in at a lay-by in France, and when Finn returned to the car Layla was gone. Finn was suspected of her murder but without a body he was allowed to return to England.

Bring Me Back

Twelve years later he is about to marry Ellen, Layla’s sister, when there are sightings of the presumed dead Layla around the town. Finn becomes more freaked out when Russian dolls are left by his house and car which only has meaning between Finn, Ellen and Layla.

B.A. Paris creates a level of suspense which continues throughout the book. Just as you think one part is solved, another unknown pops up. I changed my mind so many times during the book of what happened to Layla and though that felt annoying at the time, it smacks of a good plot.

 

 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Four Stars

This is an old fashioned who-dun-it style crime story but with a fantasy twist. No year is mentioned but I feel it is set around 1900 – give or take a decade or two.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered each evening for seven days. Aiden Bishop has the task of solving the crime from the perspective of eight guests at the celebratory party at Blackheath before he can leave the house. Each morning he wakes in the body of a different guest and re-lives the same day using the skills of the ‘host’ body to his advantage. Some host bodies seem, at first, to be of little use in solving the murder but each has something, even if it’s only being in the right place or hearing the right conversation, to find who did it.

This book is quite unique and requires a high level of concentration to remember what has already been learned and to keep up with new perspectives of repeated events.  It’s very well written and the author must have an amazingly well organised mind to create such a faultless and intricate plot as this one.

 

We Were Young By Cat Clarke

Four Stars

This is the first book by Cat Clarke that I’ve read and thought that the plot and storyline were very good. What I was a bit disappointed with was that the sixth word in the book was an ‘f’ word and that by the end of chapter 1, our young female protagonist had drunk excessive amounts of alcohol and had meaningless sex.

We Are Young

The storyline is full of modern issues, such as parents’ divorces, sexual orientation, music etc. One

of the main issues this book deals with is suicide and death and coping with the death of a young person and how it affects their family.

The main characters are well developed and we get to ‘see’ inside their heads. Most are likeable, except the one or two we’re not supposed to like.

I would say that this is written for the older teenager.

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

Five Stars

This is a brilliant holiday read, full of toxic friendships that you just know are going to end in tragedy.

The Cliff House

Tamsyn lives in a Cornish village with her family who struggle financially since the death of her father. She has an unhealthy obsession with the house on the cliff which her mother is the cleaner, and thinks nothing of occasionally stealing the key, snooping around the house and using the swimming pool – until she is caught by the teenage daughter, Edie.

Edie is rich, rude and rebellious whereas Tamsyn is loved, poor and friendless. A friendship with Edie is almost too good to be true for Tamsyn and she spends as much time as possible with Edie in the Cliff House. That is until it all starts to turn sour.

This is a book I found hard to put down. The anger and hatred coming from Edie is palpable and add teenage hormones, alcohol and motorbikes to the mix and you have one very gripping summer read.

Amanda Jennings

 

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Now You See by Max Manning

4 and half 1

 

Max Manning has created a modern serial killer who likes to upload photos of his victims moments before and after their deaths. He is always one step ahead of the police and taunts them with his messages and following on Twitter.

Now You See

Chief Inspector Dan Fenton is in charge of the investigation but things become personal when his daughter’s nanny is targeted by the killer.

Blake’s ex-girlfriend is the first to be murdered and is a prime suspect for no reason other than being the ex-boyfriend. When Fenton finds himself thrown off the case, he and Blake set out to catch the killer.

This is quite a clever concept, well written, very fast paced and kept me guessing to the end who the killer was.

The Fear by C.L. Taylor

Five Stars

This is the shocking and chilling story of Lou (Louise) who was taken to France by an older man who she thought of as her boyfriend when she was just fourteen. It’s told over two timelines, when Lou was fourteen, and eighteen years later when she wants to confront the man who took advantage of her.

The Fear by C.L. Taylor

Louise as an adult is still fragile and has so many hang-ups from what happened in her past that she can’t maintain a relationship as an adult. When she suspects that another girl is being groomed by Mike, Lou has to step in to try and stop him. Things go way more crazy than she ever anticipated when Mike becomes locked in a cage! I don’t want to give any more of the story away, but take it from me, this gets seriously gripping and just when you think the end is sorted there’s another knock out twist.

C.L. Taylor has a natural talent for suspense and maintaining a good pace. She knows how to pull the reader in and leave them gasping for more at the end of each chapter and always ends with a brilliant twist.

 

 

Cally Taylor

 

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My Husband’s Lies by Caroline England

Four Stars

My Husband’s Lies is the story of seemingly ‘normal’ people on the outside, but scratch below the surface and we have some problem relationships, flakey marriages and unhinged individuals.

My Husband's Lies

The book’s opening chapters introduce each of the ‘cast’ at Nick and Lisa’s wedding. There are quite a lot of characters introduced at once and you do have to remember them as couples as well as individuals, so attention is required from the beginning.


Caroline England has a lovely writing style and has woven interesting and topical plots for each of her characters. Very quickly this becomes a book which is difficult to put down as the ends of several chapters have cliff hangers. Many issues are explored – adultery, deceit, sexuality and, of course, the husband’s lies – but seeing both sides of the story seems to help negate blame, probably because the characters are so likeable.

From the start, when a guest at the wedding is about to jump from a hotel window, there is a feeling of doom, ‘this can’t possibly end well’ throughout the book but I certainly didn’t expect the explosive and shocking ending served to us. On finishing I felt bereft, I needed to know more, but ‘more’ doesn’t matter in the context of this whopping finale.

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The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Four Stars

This is cleverly written using first person for Vanessa, now, in present day, and third person for ‘Nellie’ some years earlier when she was working as a nursery teacher and preparing for her marriage to Richard Thompson.

The Wife Between Us

Vanessa comes across as an unstable, slightly damaged woman following the breakdown of her marriage to Richard. We learn in the early chapters of Vanessa’s difficult relationship with her mother, her rather chaotic single life when she lived with her girlfriend Sam, and her more steady near normal life living with aunt Charlotte.

As Richard is preparing to marry his new fiancée, Vanessa turns stalker to warn her off Richard. I wasn’t sure for a good way into the book whether Vanessa was jealous and wanted the engagement to end so that she could get back with Richard, or if she wanted some sort of revenge just to spite Richard.


The Wife Between Us is unusual in that it is written by two authors but it does read as one smooth flowing story, no guesses at all as to who wrote which parts, and seamlessly and cleverly weaves in and out of Nellie’s relationship with Richard, how he is controlling and manipulating every step of their marriage.

The ending has a good twist but I would have liked to know more about Richard and his sister and what happened with their parents, why was Richard like he was. A good psychological story of complex and flawed characters.

 

Anna by Amanda Prowse

4 and half 1

Anna is the first of two books making up a whole love story, Theo being the second. Having only read Anna (for the moment) I would say that this is a complete stand-alone story in itself, there is no ‘cliffhanger’ and you don’t need to read the two together, but reading Theo might make you change your mind about the balance of their relationship.

Anna by Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse has a natural and easy to read style of writing, is a master at crafting relationships and interactions within family life, and I therefore found Anna a delight to devour. This is quite an unusual concept to have two books written about the two protagonists of the one love story. I can only think of one other book I’ve read in which half the book was written in the viewpoint of the female and flip the book over to read the same story from the viewpoint of the male, so depending on which order you read them, you may have differing views of the main story.

Anna’s story is set over three decades so we get snippets of Anna as a child with her mother, during and after tragic circumstances leaving her in a children’s care home, her working life and her time with Theo. Anna is a lovely well balanced and grounded character despite sad circumstances surrounding her upbringing. She is a character you can like and warm to, she feels like your friend. I love the way Amanda Prowse has given her weaknesses as well as strengths, which brings Anna to life in a very real way. She has a great little coping mechanism for when things get too much for her or if feelings of anxiety are becoming overwhelming, The Alphabet Game, in which she goes through the alphabet listing things around her or how she is feeling to give herself thinking and breathing time – not a bad one to use in our everyday life.

There are some interesting characters to meet along the way – Jordan was the best thing that came out of the disaster of living with her aunt and uncle, and angry Shania becomes one of Anna’s best friends.

I was so pleased when Anna and Theo first met, I’d been anticipating the moment from the very beginning, and felt that they gave off good natural vibes for a long term relationship. It’s not a smooth ride though, and I will definitely be reading Theo to understand his life and hang-ups and hopefully see that they do eventually get a happy ending.

Anna & Theo

Amanda Prowse

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Dorchadas House by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

4 and half 1

From the start, this gothic style short story feels atmospheric and eerie. There is a feeling of unease from Chapter 1 when Iris is caring for her father. Nothing certain is said but there is a disturbing feeling. After her father’s death, Iris travels by boat to a Scottish island to take up a new position with Mrs McInnes, overseeing the re-decoration of Dorchadas House and afterwards to deal with the guests of the newly furbished house.

Dorchadas House

There is a tense yet curious atmosphere with wary locals and the strange newcomer to the house and island, but it doesn’t take long for Iris to meet and become physical with Mrs McInnes’s two sons, Eachainn and Neas. The two brothers are quite frightening characters, brusque and mocking, yet Iris has strong feelings of lust for having both brothers. And then there’s the old Laird, upstairs sick in bed, never seen but Iris hears strange noises, footsteps in the corridor at night and strange wailing like a baby.

There is more than a hint of fairytale/folklore with a smooth, flat topped stone with a hole large enough to crawl through, at the centre of a maze in the garden. A hint that entering and passing through the stone circle is a kind of fertility ring.

The attention to detail and the use of language gives this book depth of time and place. The writing and editing is impeccable and the story telling exquisite. By the end you will want to visit one of these ancient Scottish islands for yourself!

∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞ 

 

Emmanuelle de Maupassant

 

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Sweaty and Pals Again by Mac Black

4 and half 1

Review by Angela

This is a lovely follow on from Sweaty and Pals. The main theme is fun and adventure for Derek (Sweaty) and his five pals. The style of writing, the length of chapters and the illustrations are very much like the original book and reading it felt very much like carrying on a school year later with more adventures of the Blytheton Road Gang.

Sweaty & Pals Again

The familiar characters we loved are still there, Gran, Grandad and the children’s favourite teacher, Miss Taylor, as well as the rather grumpy neighbour, Mr Murdoch. There are plenty of newcomers too with a couple of girls showing their faces to this all boys gang.

The chapters are just the right length to read one at bedtime and each chapter is a complete short story in itself. Young children will love the realistic tales of birthday parties, trips to the zoo on a bus and making the best of a rainy day inside. The illustrations are lovely and simple and depict the story perfectly.

 

 

Red by Libby Gleeson

4 and half 1

Reviewed by Alice.

Red tells the story of a girl who wakes up with no memory and only a single word uttering from her mouth, jay-martin.  After a cyclone destroys her city, a boy named Peri finds her, and as she does not know her own name, nicknames her Red.  Red’s only possession is a locket, a locket full of secrets.  Can Red find out the truth about her past? Can she take the secrets to where they must be revealed?

Red

Red is a fantastic book, it shows an example of the independence of a teenager and how self-sufficient they can be. This book is very different to any children’s book I have ever read. I love how the story has many twists and turns – you never know what is coming round the corner.

There is never a dull moment in Red, it can keep you captivated for hours on end!

It is suitable for ages from nine to thirteen. Libby Gleeson mostly writes children’s books so she is

accustomed to writing for all ages under eighteen.

 

 

 

The Perfect Girlfriend

4 and half 1

If you like a tense story of a manipulative, bunny-boiling stalker then this is the book for you.

The Perfect Girlfriend

The book opens with a short prologue of Elizabeth as a child on the day her little brother, Will, died while he was in her care. We then very quickly move on to present day when Elizabeth, who now uses her middle name, Juliette, is coming to the end of her air steward training. This isn’t her preferred career choice, no, this is solely to facilitate her obsessive stalking of her ex-boyfriend, Nate, who is a pilot. Their relationship finished several months ago but Juliette just can’t let him go. He doesn’t know it yet, but he soon will.

Juliette changes work rosters to enable her to crew on the same flights as Nate, and when he is away she lets herself in to his apartment knowing how long he will be away for, and snoops, takes photos of private documents and even stays overnight. She is scheming, devious and intelligent with it.

Nate is the brother of Belle, Juliette’s school friend who was more of a mental bully than friend, and Juliette being a little unhinged has kept track of both of them to mete out her revenge.

Juliette is a fabulous character, I loved her neurotic, unbalanced personality and she makes for great reading. This is Karen Hamilton’s debut novel and I think she has done a great job of creating a seriously flawed yet likeable character in Elizabeth/Juliette. Her writing keeps you on your toes all the way through the book – I wondered where some of the crazy situations were going and was never disappointed when Juliette’s intentions were revealed. The pace is fast, is never dull, and has just enough description to let us realise what devastation she has caused. The only slight disappointment was the ending, I wanted more, more of the life all the main characters were leading. I’d got used to Juliette’s scheming ways and I didn’t want it to end.

 

Jungle Kings & Awesome Kindness

Authors Nancy King & Mary Jo Sterling and Illustrations by Cora Hays

Five Stars

Review by Angela

Jungle Kings

Jungle Kings is book one of a mini children’s series in which virtues, morals and friendship are the main theme. An enchanting story of an elephant calf, Bentley, who meets a lion cub, Carson, and they become friends and playmates. The parent and other adult elephants and lions are a different story, but the depth of friendship of the baby animals rubs off onto the adults.

Awesome Kindness

Awesome Kindness is a story of three zebras, two who are kind and playful and one who is bad tempered and a little bit mean. The two kind ones overlook the temper and meanness and still ask him to play with them. The story is a gentle way of letting children see how to overcome being bad tempered and join play with others without feeling embarrassed, and equally, being friendly towards someone who isn’t always nice.

The illustrations in both books are absolutely beautiful. They are full of colour and emotion and really add to the story, in fact they almost tell the story. Cora Hays is truly talented.

One thing about this book which I’ve not seen in young children’s books before is that certain words are printed in orange or blue. At the back of the book there is a Word Power page for the blue words, a bit like a dictionary for children, and Turning A Phrase for the orange words, which explains phrases like ‘time flies’, ‘butterfly kisses’ and ‘living in harmony’.

The second book in the series, Awesome Kindness, isn’t a story which follows on but is a continuation of jungle animals and their friendship. Each book can be read independently and in either order.

 

The Secret Mother by Shalini Boland

4 and half 1

I’ve read all of Shalini Boland’s earlier thriller style novels and I must say that she has a great knack of creating suspense and getting your heart racing.

The Secret Mother

Tessa Markham arrives home to find a little boy in her house who insists on calling her his new mummy. Her automatic reaction is to call her estranged husband, Scott, who she is secretly hoping to get back together with. Scott gives her short shrift and implies that she might have ‘taken’ a child and because of her mental state forgotten what she’s done. Tessa has had a terrible few years following the death of one of her twins at birth and then the remaining twin son died at age three. She is in a sad place after her split from Scott and it’s easy to say that she is emotionally unstable.

We feel the emotional heartache of Tessa’s situation with the police seriously thinking she has abducted the child and the pressure is exacerbated by the media camping outside her house and workplace once the story hits the headlines. She does get a glimmer of a lifeline from the most unexpected of people, but at the same time I was screaming ‘don’t do it’ as she pursued this lifeline.

This is one of those books that you don’t want to put down, it really is a page turner and the suspense got my heart racing reading in bed – not a good time. I woke with the story so far in my head and couldn’t wait to get into it the next day. Parts were a bit predictable and I did have a suspicion of the ending, but this didn’t distract from the need to find out for myself how it ended.

Shalini Boland

 

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Joyful Trouble by Patricia Furstenberg

3-and-half-star

Review by Angela

Ana and Tommy, aged 9 and 5, are staying with their grandparents. Their grandfather is telling them a story of ‘Trouble’, a Great Dane dog who was signed up to join the Navy – and this is based on a true story – yes, really! This reality made the story for me. I must admit that it’s not the most gripping of children’s stories, but knowing that there was an element of reality and truth to the story, it gave additional intrigue. Trouble, later to be named Joyful Trouble, is a big slobbery dog who loves to hang around with the seamen of Simon’s Town near Cape Town. Being such a lovable dog he was adopted as ‘one of their own’ by the seamen and travelled, slept and ate with them.

Joyful Trouble

The two children are lovely to hear about, especially inquisitive and spirited 5 year old Tommy, and the dialogue presents polite, well spoken children.  The grandfather is with the children for the whole of the time in the book so there is always adult talk and guidance. The grandmother is fairly stereo-typical, cooking, feeding the children and preparing picnics etc., but an obvious stable character for children.

For UK readers, just be aware that this is written by in South African English and is, at times, a little strange to our ears. 

 

 

Gaby’s Angel by Janet Hoggarth

Four Stars

Review by Alice.

Gaby’s Angel tells the story of a girl called Gaby who loses her best friend. But when Emily comes back as her very own guardian angel, life is a whirl of sleepovers, makeovers and parties with mates. But Emily can’t stay in Gaby’s world forever – she’s on a mission to show Gaby that life is full of new possibilities.

Gaby's Angel

I really enjoyed Gaby’s Angel because it shows how someone dying can change your life forever but that, in the end, love and friendship are the things that matter most. My favourite character was definitely Emily (the angel) because she always sees the bright side of things even in a world of darkness. She’s also a very funny character to read about with her sarcastic sense of humour and her sassy personality.

I think that Gaby’s Angel was aimed at children from the age of nine to twelve years old as some of the content is a little mature and a little sensitive. There is a little bit of lubby-dubby content.

 

 

Janet Hoggarth

 

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Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools by Victoria Twead

4 and half 1

I absolutely loved this book. It’s packed with humour and ‘feel good’ factor, and if you have ever undertaken moving house to a foreign country this will ring true on so many levels.

Chickens, Mules & Fools

Vicky decided that she and her husband, Joe, would move house and live in Spain because she was fed up of the grey days and rain of England. After a little persuasion, Joe agreed to a five year plan of living in Spain with a clause to return to England if they didn’t settle for any reason at the end of the agreed term. This book is the first of a series of six (so far) and covers the move from their Sussex home to a tiny village of just five permanent residents in the mountains behind Almeria, to five years later when they have to decide whether to return to the grey skies of England or stay in the home they’ve made and with the chickens they love.

We meet their lovely neighbours and makers of home made wine, Carmen and Paco, who through a language misunderstanding called Carmen ‘Bethina’ for several months.  We live through the Fiestas, the dancing, the heaviest snowfall since records began, fallen trees across the one treacherous mountain road into the village, and the antics of the ‘Gin Twins’. And the chickens – oh, such fun these caused as well as income from their dozens of eggs each week.

Between each chapter is a recipe for typical tasty Spanish tapas, salad, stew etc., complete with instructions of how to make the recipes. This really is an amazing little book and if you go to their website at victoriatwead.com there is a free section with photographs to compliment this book.

Victoria Twead

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Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit

Four Stars

At the front of this book is a ‘Dear Reader’ and a short explanation of how this book came about. It’s loosely based on a true story but, of course, we don’t know which parts are fact and which are fabrication to bolster a sinister fictional story.

The book has been translated from German and has an unmistakable precise, clipped, Germanic feel. It is also compared with We Need To Talk About Kevin and I can see some similarities, but this is not so depressing.

Fear

This is one of those stories that starts at the end, we know what the outcome is. In this case, we are told in the first chapter that Randolph’s father has been sentenced to imprisonment, at the age of seventy-seven, for shooting in the forehead at point blank range, Randolph’s basement neighbour, Dieter Tiberius.

The story then goes back and forth in time from when Randolph and his family first moved in to their apartment above Dieter, and back further to give us a view of Randolph’s childhood with a father he was scared of who ‘collected’ guns and was a master marksman.

At first, Randolph, Rebecca and their two children, have a good relationship with Dieter. Dieter bakes cakes and biscuits and even leaves plates of them on their doorstep. All goes well until the day Rebecca meets Dieter in the laundry room and he makes a lewd comment about her underwear. Then the accusations start that he hears them sexually abusing their children. Randolph needs to clear their name before social services are called in to remove their children.

Much of the book, although there are many facets to the story and characters, is of Randolph’s struggle with the brick wall legal system in trying to prove their innocence and that Dieter Tiberius’ is guilty of slanderous assaults on them.

I really enjoyed the book. The characters are well developed and interesting to read about. There is an element of tension with the promise of doom running all the way through – this can’t possibly end well. This is a realistic, sophisticated and grown-up version of the usual psychological thriller.

 

A Very English Scandal by John Preston

4 and half 1

This is quite a fascinating and almost unbelievable story of Jeremy Thorpe’s rise to leader of the Liberal Party. It is told over a few years at the height of Thorpe’s parliamentary career, through to his self inflicted, reckless demise.

Told in the main from the perspective of Peter Bessell, this is an absolutely riveting story of the dangers of homosexuality by a member of Parliament at a time that it was illegal. Being illegal, any whisper of homosexual behaviour was open to blackmail and, in this case, led to attempted murder.

A Very English Scandal

Jeremy Thorpe obviously had a charm and charisma among his Party members and constituents which back in the 1960s and early 1970s would not be easily visible to viewers on television news programmes or radio reports.  The book starts roughly at the time that Thorpe met his nemesis, Norman Scott (or Joliffe as he was in the beginning.) Norman Scott seemed to be under Thorpe’s spell, yet at the same time he appeared to be a sponger, always going back to the moneyed man when he was broke with the same excuse of the missing National Insurance card – why didn’t he speak with the relevant employment office of the time and request a new card for himself? Once the ‘get rid/murder’ words had been spoken, there was an unease that they were truly meant – they were, but because this was so unbelievable from an MP I wasn’t sure that the intent was the actual killing of someone.

The highlight of the book is Part 4, set later in 1979, in which the court case takes place. We are introduced to George Carman QC representing Thorpe, and Judge Peter Taylor. The summing up is so biased that it is embarrassing, giving further validation of the accusation of an establishment cover up.

I thought it was alarming the ease of which money intended for the Liberal Party disappeared to Thorpe’s private funds, and that corruption was probably rife in those days. It is also disturbing that there were known cover ups which have since come to light from that time of Jeremy Thorpe, Jimmy Saville and Cyril Smith who seemed to have been well acquainted, were reported and covered up.

The book is well written in a sensible chronological, almost diary form in parts, which makes for easy flowing reading. If this were fiction, readers would say it was too far fetched to be believed. A really good memoir of politicians without the politics.

 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

five_stars

Review by Alice.

Harry is back for another year at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  With Sirius having died only a few months ago, life becomes much harder especially since he, Ron and Hermione are now N.E.W.T. students. 

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince

Furthermore, with a new teacher added to the mix and Draco Malfoy acting stranger than usual, how can Harry survive his sixth year at school ?

I really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because it raises lots of questions of who Harry can trust and who trusts Harry. Additionally, I really think that you discover more of the emotional side of the characters as they are definitely starting to grow up.

I believe that J.K. Rowling aimed this particular book at thirteen plus but many people such as myself think that the book is appropriate for children from nine or ten years old. I started this series at the age of eight and a half and I really enjoyed it.

 

J.K. Rowling

 

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The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

 

4 and half 1

The Art of Hiding is a stand alone novel (not part of any series) and is a beautifully written, very emotional story of loss, family coming together and seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

The Art of Hiding

Nina is watching her son, Connor, play rugby at his very expensive school. She’s a step away from the other parents because she doesn’t quite fit in. She has the stylish clothes and drives the right car but she isn’t one of them. At that moment, she gets a phone call from a hospital doctor informing her that her husband, Finn, has been involved in an accident and to get to the hospital right away.

Devastated Nina’s life starts crumbling around her. The place she calls home, the cars, jewellery – all of it, is a castle in the sky. With little more than the clothes she could pack in a box, she and her two boys flee to her childhood town, right back at square one with small pokey rooms and cast off furniture. But, she has her sister Tiggy living close by.

Nina and Tiggy learn a few home truths about each other and Nina’s sons, Connor and Declan, learn to live without the luxury of modern accessories. Life is hard, really hard, but Nina is strong and has to pull this off because she has two boys relying on her. There is an unwritten cloud of suspicion hanging over Finn’s accident and it’s interesting to see how much mother and son think along the same lines but neither will actually say it out loud.

Amanda Prowse has a lovely way of dropping values and morals into her stories and focuses on the importance of family, love and happiness. She puts life into perspective and her characters get to take a good look at themselves for what they have and what they are. Yes, there’s a lot of sadness and grief in this book but by the end there is a feeling of accomplishment and promise.

Amanda Prowse

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Poppy DayA Mother's StoryThe Food of Love

 

 

 

 

The Idea of YouAnnaTheo

 

 

 

 

 

Things We Never Said by Nick Alexander

four-and-a-half-stars

The book opens with the prologue at the aftermath of Catherine’s funeral.  It is a little bit sad but it is a good opportunity for the reader to be introduced to the main characters – Sean, April and Maggie.  After everyone has left the wake, Sean, now a widower, is visited by his neighbour and friend, Maggie, just to check on him and also leave him a simply wrapped cardboard box.  Sean later opens the box to find that Catherine has left him twenty-nine numbered envelopes, each containing a photograph and a cassette recording of her memories of the time the photograph was taken.  The first instructs him to open the envelopes at weekly intervals.

Things We Never Said

The chapters of the book start with a short description of each photograph of the weekly opened envelopes, and then the verbal contents of the cassette which Catherine recorded during her final weeks in hospital. We go back to the beginning of Catherine and Sean’s relationship when they first met at a fairground and hear from Catherine her first hand impression of meeting Sean. The following chapters give milestone markers of their marriage, the birth of their daughter, April, and various parties and workplace memories – some of which even Sean had forgotten about.

I thought this was a very clever, if not quite unique, way of telling the story of an, at times, troubled marriage through snapshots of memory. Although the premise sounds depressing, it has very uplifting and amusing moments. It is written with emotion and sensitivity and also shows how father and daughter come to terms with the loss of wife and mother in different ways.  I am ashamed to say that this is the first book by Nick Alexander I have read, but it won’t be the last.

 

Nick Alexander

 

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The Half Life of Hannah     The Bottle of Tears     The Other Son

The French House     The Photographer's Wife     Things We Never Said

 

Defiance by Eric Gardner

3-and-half-star

This is an action packed, fast paced apocalyptic style thriller. The book opens with Gabriel being forcefully taken from his own home in front of his wife and children. Outside the house, a woman in a van is orchestrating the whole operation including intercepting the anticipated emergency phone call to be made by Gabriel’s wife moments after his abduction. At that point, just a few pages in, I was hooked and just didn’t know who to trust – Gabriel must be somebody bad for the authorities to take him in that way, but then again, were they really the authorities?

Defiance 1

The story moves back a few days for us to understand why Gabriel was taken from his home. There is a long conversation between Gabriel and his friend Naheen, in which Naheen tells of a prophetic dream/premonition he’s had in which Gabriel changes the world and Naheen sees only black. Moments before Gabriel is abducted, he hears on the news that Naheen and his family have all been brutally murdered. The story then moves to Afghanistan where an archaeological dig is taking place and after a sand storm, there is a marvellous revelation. From here the story takes off Indiana Jones style!

Hoping the above has whet your appetite with intrigue, I shall say no more about the story but it is quick paced and, although at times I wondered where the story could possibly be going, it all comes together by the end. You will then need to read book two to follow the series for further revelations to unanswered questions.

Available on Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk

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The Angel by Katerina Diamond

five_stars

This is an absolutely stunning book, a great story perfectly executed.  It was one of the few books that I had to have a day to get over, I just couldn’t start another book because it played around my head for hours.

We start with a prologue from back in 1986 and I tried to keep all this in mind whilst reading the rest of the book knowing that there would be some relevance later.  When I finished the book, I totally got it but had to come back and re-read the prologue, just to reassure myself.

The Angel

Chapter 1 starts right up to date in 2017 with the opening line Gabriel Webb was a killer.  He didn’t know it yet, but before the day was out he would know what it felt like to take someone’s life. I was intrigued from the start and just had to know who had died, how and why Gabriel would take someone’s life.

Gabriel is a complex character, in fact all the characters are flawed and complex but this makes for excellent reading.  He and his girlfriend, Emma, are both Goths, they dress for themselves and are misfits in society, but underneath all the black trousers, chains and face paint are two loving and caring people.  As the first line indicated, by the end of the day Gabriel was sitting in a police cell being questioned about a body.

The two detectives, Imogen Grey and Adrian Miles, could solve this case quickly but Imogen has a nagging feeling and a soft spot for Gabriel, and too many coincidences play on Adrian’s mind, that they have to dig deeper. They have their work cut out to solve the murder and obvious mystery surrounding it, the case is not at all straightforward and it really takes its toll on both of them, particularly memories coming to the surface for Imogen. The murder is not simply about one person killing another, it’s so multi-faceted, wheels within wheels that in reality, it’s doubtful the case would really be solved.

The chapters mostly run in turn with Gabriel’s life and then the two detectives. I couldn’t wait to get back to Gabriel’s chapters to find out how he was surviving in the young offenders’ detention centre. He had such a hard and violent time and was totally unprepared for it – a real eye opener.

I loved all the characters, Imogen and Gabriel particularly, and they were so well constructed that they felt like real people, someone I might know.

This is the first book I’ve read by Katerina Diamond and although this one is book 3 in the detective series it is a complete story and can be read as a stand alone novel. I would totally recommend starting with book 1, The Teacher, and move on to book 2, The Secret – I’ve already loaded them onto my Kindle ready to start over again.

KD

 

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The series so far (in order)

The TeacherThe SecretThe Angel

 

 

 

 

 

Copy Cat by Alex Lake

Four Stars

Sarah Havenant is a little mystified when an old school friend sends her a message on Facebook asking which account to send her a friend request. Sarah only has one Facebook account so she searches for herself and finds two of her.

Copy Cat

At first, Sarah thinks one of her friends is playing a joke because all the photos on the fake page are of her close family and even within her own home, but these aren’t pictures Sarah’s taken and she hasn’t even seen them before.  It’s got to be someone close until, one by one, her friends and even her husband, think she is doing this to herself.  Things escalate, threats start, even one of her children goes missing, but still it appears that she’s losing her mind, she’s even beginning to question her own sanity. Throughout, Sarah feels certain that it is one particular friend doing all this to her but she can’t find proof and she can’t think of a good reason why she or anyone else would do this. Then one of the most terrifying things happens, imprisoned with no one looking for her she just about gives up on life.

Copy Cat is a fast paced chiller of a story, a good puzzle for the reader because there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for the terrible things happening to Sarah Havenant. The characters are well developed and we meet each one in turn getting a good handle on their personalities and traits.  The ending did seem a bit rushed, or more that everything exciting was crammed in to the last few pages giving an unrealistic ending. This is the first of Alex Lake’s novels I’ve read and I would be happy to read her earlier two or any future ones in the pipeline.

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After AnnaKilling KateCopy Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shrive

four-and-a-half-stars

The Stars Are Fire is a tragic fictional story based on real events in Maine, east coast of America, in 1947. This is a sophisticated story of love, loss, tragedy and striving against all odds to do the best for your family.

The Stars Are Fire

Grace is in a fairly loveless marriage with Gene. They have two children but they weren’t conceived in the raptures of which Grace’s friend, Rosie, talks about, in fact, Grace hardly dares believe that bedroom relations can be pleasurable. Times are very hard in spring 1947, and Grace’s only happiness is spending daytimes chatting with Rosie, sharing the odd half grapefruit which was difficult to come by. There has been nothing but rain for weeks and everything is sodden and muddy until, all at once, it isn’t. The sun shines, the ground dries up and it continues like this until everything is tinder dry. With the drought, the inevitable fires start and when one night Grace and Rosie’s husbands go off to help put out the fires, the two women have to abandon their homes and rush to the waters edge to keep safe. When only one of the husbands returns, there are tough days ahead, both emotionally and financially.

Shreve’s writing style is quite fine, always beautifully written, and I think you have to have read two or three of her books to really appreciate the subtlety and nuances which seem to speak louder than the written word. Her books are not particularly gripping or un-put-downable, but do have a certain intrigue and sophistication, and I found those qualities in this book.

Anita Shreve

 

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The Pilot's WifeStrange Fits of PassionLight on Snow

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Sonata by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

four-and-a-half-stars

Italian Sonata is the second volume in Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s noire trilogy, the first being The Gentlemen’s Club. This one is a full and complete story in itself but to get the most from the characters, particularly Maud and Henry, I would advise you to read The Gentlemen’s Club first.

Italian Sonata 1

Italian Sonata is set in 1899, mostly at a castle on cliffs high above the sea near Sorrento, Italy. Henry fell deeply and unconditionally in love with Maud in The Gentlemen’s Club and this book follows straight on, travelling through Europe for Maud and Henry’s honeymoon. Henry’s sister, Cecile, at the insistence of Maud, accompanies them on their honeymoon. Part way through their European tour, Cecile stops off at the ‘Castello’ for a few days to give Maud and Henry time and privacy on their honeymoon. Little does naïve Cecile know that she is a sexual pawn between debauched Lorenzo and his promiscuous sister. The Castello holds its own dark secrets and before long Cecile is out of her depth.

Emmanuelle’s writing is impeccable. She writes beautifully and poetically of places, people and, of course, erotic sex scenes.  She uses different language depending on the scenes – sweet roses and moist petals for loving scenes, and thrusts, clenches and aggression for brute sex.

This noire series is a work of art.  The eroticism, especially in The Gentlemen’s Club, is second to none and, unlike many other books of the erotic genre, Emmanuelle’s have a great storyline.  There is a good sense of time and place with the countries of Europe being accurately and beautifully described, and the dark, gothic feel of the castle, the clothing and smells, puts you right back to the turn of the Victorian century.

The Gentlemen's Club 1Italian Sonata 1

 

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Emma In The Night by Wendy Walker

four-and-a-half-stars

Without feeling like a text book, this is the best and most detailed story of a narcissist I’ve read.  It goes into great analytical detail of what a narcissist is and what their needs, feelings and insecurities are.

Emma In The NightSisters, Emma and Cassandra Tanner, have been missing for three years. Many presumed they’re dead until Cassandra turns up on her mother’s doorstep.  Cassandra was not the favoured child as her and Emma were growing up and their narcissistic mother, (Mrs Martin to her daughters!) without laying a finger on them did and said some cruel things, things which play on the mind, make you learn to think like they do, act like they do.  Therefore, when Cassandra returns after being missing for three years, she plays her mother like a fiddle – drip, drip, little bits of information, mentally torturing her mother.  Only Cassandra knows the truth of the missing years but Dr Abby Winter has worked most of it out and is one step ahead at the crucial time.

The chapters alternate between Cassandra (Cass), written in first person, and Abby, written in third person, and give points of view of the ‘missing time’ from Cass and the development of the police investigation from Abby. I really liked the personal, up close chapters written in first person and they were complimented by Abby’s third person view.

If you really like to psycho-analyse, this is the book for you.

Wendy Walker

 

 

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All Is Not ForgottenEmma In The Night

 

 

 

 

 

Web of Scars by Farah Ali

Four Stars

If you like your psychological characters to be absolutely psychopathic nutcases, then you’ll love reading about Hester in Web of Scars.

Web of Scars

The opening chapter is of a car crashing down a cliff side with Frances being the only survivor. Her friend and fellow passenger, Rosie, is dead and so is Rosie’s daughter, Nilah.  After so much heartache, injury and relationship deceit, Frances leaves her husband and goes to live in her grandmother’s house which she has recently inherited.  She tries to start a new life for herself with the comfort and familiarity of her childhood neighbours and village, continuing to write her series of children’s book for income. Things really start to take off when Frances hires Josh and Hester to tend the enormous garden.  Josh is a lovely quiet local man with an unfortunate stammer and Hester is a vile and evil individual – except she’s sure to have Frances only see the good in her.

Lots of things mysteriously start to go wrong for Frances and we, the reader, get to see Hester’s cruel and vicious ways.  But why? Who is Hester, why is she so cruel and what has any of this got to do with Frances?

Written in third person, each of the chapters have the individual characters’ viewpoints and a full picture emerges around their relationship to and with Frances.  This gripping story gives a climatic end, allowing the reader to breathe again for the final concluding chapter.

Farah Ali’s Amazon author profile

an Trodai: Scolai by John Breen Wren

Five Stars

Well written and well told, a story of ancient Ireland from an American author with strong Irish roots.

an Trodai Scolai

This first book of a trilogy tells the story of Scolai, born of an invading Viking warrior and a young village girl who dies in childbirth.  We follow Scolai’s early years growing up with his adoptive parents and his longing to be a great warrior when he sees and is told of the numerous battles going on in early 900’s Ireland.

John Wren is not afraid to ‘tell it as it is’ and if you have already read any of his previous books you won’t be surprised that there are plenty of severed arms, heads and spilled guts.  The story and Ireland is well researched and told with a slight American slant and even a touch of mystical folklore.  The Celtic names and place names add to the authenticity but can be a little difficult to pronounce.  There is a glossary of words and characters at the back of the book which is both informative and helpful.

This was a pleasure to read and I very much look  forward to reading an ​​Trodai: Laoghaire, the second instalment of this trilogy. an Trodai Laoghaire

 

 

John Breen Wren

 

 

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The Man I Thought You Were by Leah Mercer

Four Hearts 1

Oh, what an emotional roller-coaster.

The Man I Thought You Were 1

Anna and Mark have the perfect marriage filled with love, thoughtfulness and care for each other. One evening as Anna is busy preparing a meal awaiting the return of Mark from his work at the bank, Mark walks in straight faced saying he needs to talk. Within minutes he’s walked back out of the door having told Anna that he’s leaving her. Struck totally dumb, Anna believes he will be back in an our or two, then be back for the weekend and, when he still doesn’t return, he’ll be back before work on Monday – he’s left the car, his clothes and mobile phone, so he’s bound to be back.

As the days turn into weeks, Anna seeks the help from her sister, Sophie, and Mark’s father in trying to trace him.

The book is written with ‘Anna’ and ‘Mark’ chapters, so we get each character’s perspective and view of what’s happening and how each are coping emotionally.  I don’t want to give too much away about the story and Mark’s reasons for leaving Anna, but what I initially thought started out a bit chic-litty with the wonderful marriage and an affair thrown in, was completely wrong. This is a very grown up story of sadness and grief, and my heart skipped beats at crucial moments and I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear through the penultimate chapter.

Leah Mercer

 

 

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Tess Bloom (Chemical Attraction Series) by Holly Hudson

3-and-half-star

This is a very delightful story of Tess Bloom, a perfumerer, living in Paris with her daughter, Natasha.

Tess Bloom

Unfortunately, Tess has lost her sense of smell and is finding it increasingly difficult, almost impossible, to stay on top of her job. The bills are piling up and then there is a phone call telling her that her mother has died back home in Ohio. From here, Tess and her daughter go back to Ohio for the funeral and to sort the house ready for selling and each have adventures which were totally unexpected.

Tess Bloom is a likeable character and the story is well plotted and interesting with a splash of humour here and there.  There is an element of predictability but the story telling is so flowing and charming that it really doesn’t matter – the journey to the end is a pleasure.  It could do with a bit of proofreading (I had a private giggle at Tess laying prostate on the floor when I’m sure she would have been prostrate) and if you can ignore the little errors, there is a really great story here.

 

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Five Stars

What an incredible debut and so brilliantly written.

Eleanor Oliphant is so obviously not ‘fine’.  She’s had an unfortunate and horrible childhood, in and out of foster homes, no family or friends, and an unsightly burn scar on one side of her face.  But, in Eleanor’s eyes, she has a job, a home and can look after herself so, she’s absolutely ‘fine’.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine 1

The book is split into three Parts – Good Days, Bad Days and Better Days. Good Days is the setting of the scene, we get to know Eleanor and her foibles.  She is a strange, complex and eccentric young woman, one who you could imagine maybe being a bit picked on or seen as weird.  After helping a collapsed man in the street, she begins to build a friendship with Raymond, her work colleague.

During Bad Days and Better Days, Raymond is an absolute rock for Eleanor. Written with sadness and pathos, the Bad and Better Days are a revelation into how childhoods and their traumas can impact on later life.

Gail Honeyman has written a truly amazing book and has cleverly woven a lovable character in Eleanor Oliphant and her sad life.  There is much to laugh at as well as giving the reader deep and caring feelings for this strange young woman.  I came to love Eleanor Oliphant and was truly sad to reach the end of the book and the end of my time with her.  I haven’t read a book quite like this since A Man Called Ove was released.

 

Yesterday by Felicia Yap

3-and-half-star

From the initial ‘blurb’ and genre listing of psychological/thriller/mystery, I din’t expect this book to be fantasy/science fiction at all.

Yest

This is a world of mono’s and duo’s – mono’s remember just one day, duo’s remember two. Mono’s are inferior to duo’s. Mark and Claire are a mixed marriage; Mark is a duo and Claire a mere mono. The body of Mark’s mistress has been washed up on the river Cam and Claire initially suspects her husband might have something to do with her death. Hans is the detective trying to solve what he suspects is murder, by the end of the day. He needs to do this within a day because he is a mono but also needs to keep this fact from his duo colleagues.

I found parts of this book confusing and also I wanted to shout “What does it matter? all will have forgotten in three days time anyway” – only they didn’t seem to forget everything, which just added to my confusion of how all the mono/duo memories worked.

I can’t say it’s a favourite book for me, but will probably appeal to fantasy/sci-fi readers.

Felicia Yap

 

 

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Sweaty and Pals by Mac Black

four-and-a-half-stars

Review by Angela

Sweaty and Pals is a good fun read for children of around seven years and upwards to read for themselves, or for parents to read to younger school starters.

Sweaty and Pals

The illustrations are bright, funny and add more depth to the already interesting and amusing stories.  The chapters are set out at just the right length to read one at bedtime and each are a complete short story.

Derek ‘Sweaty’ Toozlethwaite doesn’t live with his mum and dad, he lives with his grandparents.  We don’t get to know why in this children’s book, you will need to read the later adult series to learn why and who his parents are.  In the first few chapters, we meet Sweaty’s ‘gang’ or playmates, and we learn how Derek got his nickname ‘Sweaty’ – and it’s not because he’s sweaty or smelly.  We see Sweaty having a few new experiences – starting school, going to the opticians and going with his friend to the hairdressers – all showing young children in a fun way that these are normal and exciting things to do.  There are chapters with morals, but not in an obvious way, and chapters of reasoning, like why you need to go to bed, even if you don’t feel sleepy.  But most of all, the chapters are fun filled and will be loved by young children.

 

My Fight For My Family (The Mega Pig File) by David Jordan

3-and-half-star

This is a fact based novella partly set out in diary form, partly a memoir.  I’m finding it incredibly difficult to give a star rating because it’s not like the usual fiction stories I read and it’s not written as a memoir or biography either.

My Fight For My Family

David Jordan has given a written statement of what happened to his family when he tried to get improved housing conditions for his partner and their baby daughter. This one action triggered a nightmare of fighting to keep their first daughter, then subsequent son and daughter, for the next eleven and a half years.

Jordan gives a run down of all the happenings – letters, phone calls, visits, meetings and Court Orders – and to be perfectly honest, I read with shocked amazement the contradictory remarks, lack of help or respect, incompetence and ineptitude of social services towards this family. Far from being a body of professional people working to help families stay together and be safe, they seemed to go out of their way to obstruct these parents being with their children and gave little or no reason of what they were doing wrong, why they were ‘bad parents’.  I am quite aware that I have only read one side of the story and that it’s not possible for me to get confirmation of the validity of this story.  Notwithstanding that, if only half of this is true, it makes for a very concerning read.  Not only has a great injustice been done to this family, possibly with long lasting mental effects, but an astronomical amount of public money has been wasted on what seems nothing more than a witch-hunt.

I was curious about the end of the title of the book – The Mega Pig File.  This relates to the name given to Mr Jordan’s file at the social services offices. I couldn’t believe a public office would dare to do that!

The actual writing could do with some editing with regard to the structure of the book, but for a lay-man to put his family’s experience down on paper, David Jordan has done incredibly well with this book.  It is very easy to read, compelling in places, and flows reasonably well, if a little stilted at times and awkward in asking and answering his own questions.  Well worth a read, if only to assure yourself not to start off any unnecessary contact with family and social services – it could back-fire badly.

 

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Four Stars

This is quite a slow burner of a book, so much so that I felt I didn’t want to carry on with it when I was about 25 – 30% of the way through – but I’m so glad I did.

Best Day Ever

The scene is being set during the first three quarters of the book – yes, that’s a lot of scene setting but it is worth the wait to get a very satisfying ending. Paul is a narcissistic psycho with an ego the size of Greenland. He is a big ‘I am’ and I quickly came to dislike him. He brags about what a lovely little wifey he has got and what beautiful little boys he has, when in fact, his children are scared of him and his wife has no life because he’s such a control freak and has isolated her from all her friends and family. The major part of the book is a car ride from their marital home to their lakeside second home where he is planning ‘the best day ever’ for his lovely wife, Mia. Paul reflects over parts of his life during that car ride giving the reader an insight into his childhood and relationships with family and past girlfriends. There are lots of little hints in the narrative, such as – “I never did get the blood stain off the band” (watch band) to tease us into thinking he did something really bad in the past.

The final quarter or so of the book becomes tense and fast paced. Things start to unravel so we see the true Paul and the strong Mia emerge. I felt a bit disappointed with the ending as far as Paul is concerned (I wanted nasty things to happen to him,) but after reading the author’s notes at the back of the book, there’s a hint of the possibility of a second book with Paul’s character.

Kaira Rouda

 

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Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler

four-and-a-half-stars

From the very first words of this excellent debut by Liz Lawler, we feel the chilling horror of Alex’s realisation of what’s happening to her. She slowly wakes to the sounds of beeps and metal instruments but is still in the grips of anaesthesia to be clear what’s being done to her. She’s an emergency room doctor at the hospital and is comforted by the familiar sounds. She’s thinking hard – what can have happened to her, has she been in an accident? As she looks down, she sees that she has a green operating gown on, her thighs are up and calves in stirrups, her arms are velcroed down and her head in blocks with a neck collar, all holding her still.

Don't Wake Up

Then the only person in the room with her, a doctor, tells her there’s nothing wrong with her. Alex is seething at her treatment, then the doctor tells her to shut up or her lips will be stapled together. Terror runs through her veins, this obviously isn’t a real doctor and she’s being held on an operating table in a compromising position at the mercy of this person. From here on, the story becomes a real page turner. It becomes very clear in the first few chapters that Dr Alex Taylor isn’t believed. She claims she was kidnapped and possibly raped, but all examinations of her show nothing has happened to her body. She is so frustrated by her situation – she knows this was real, it really happened to her but no one will accept it as true.


When another young woman turns up at the emergency room in strange circumstances, and then yet another close to dead actually in Alex’s parking space outside her home, things really start hotting up. What is the connection? Have they got similarities with Alex’s unexplainable experience?

Alex’s personal life is pulled apart, her past, her relationships and her mental state. The characters are well drawn and the hospital emergency room and procedures feels very real. I just felt that the story was a little bit too far fetched – all the pieces fell in front of Alex, but it does make a very good fast paced read, perfect for lovers of chilling thrillers and suspense.

 

Viking Thunder by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

Five Stars

This short story is another raunchy masterpiece by Emmanuelle de Maupassant. Erotic literature isn’t my usual choice of reading but Emmanuelle’s professional writing style and interesting storylines always make for a good read.

Viking Thunder 1

This story goes way back to the days of Viking invasion, days when we were still living in mud and straw huts and hunting boar in the woods. The descriptions of their home, the clothes they wore and the smells, all give a satisfyingly real feel – you can imagine the matted hair, coarse dresses, the men’s leather bodices and the smell of animal and humans living close together. Being a short story, about an hour’s reading time, the characters are briefly described in their appearance and who’s who, but there just isn’t time to delve into their personalities.

Elswyth is the lead female character who herself is the offspring of a previous Viking raid. She has the flaxen hair of the Norse or Northmen, and is seen as ‘different’ by the others in the village. When the village comes under attack, Elswyth’s husband is brutally murdered in front of her as are all the men of the village. Just some of the women and children are spared for their ‘usefulness’ to the savage Vikings. The Viking leader, Eirik, takes a liking to Elswyth and, in true Viking nature, he takes her as he wants her. But, there is more than a spark of wantonness in Elswyth. Viking Thunder’s sex is raw, base and earthy – what do you expect, it’s about invading Vikings.  An excellent start to this Viking series.

Emmanuelle de Maupassant

 

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The Friend Request by Laura Marshall

four-and-a-half-stars

Remember the peer pressure at school? You were a nice person really, but those popular girls you so wanted to impress and be part of, they made you say and do things you didn’t want to do; do things you knew you shouldn’t do. That’s just how Louise feels in trying to be best friends with gorgeous and popular Sophie. Then Maria, the new girl at school who quickly became Louise’s best friend, she disappears after a party, falls off a cliff into the sea. No body was ever washed up or found.

Friend Request

Twenty-six years later, Louise gets a friend request into her Facebook account from Maria Weston, coinciding with a school reunion in a couple of weeks time. From chapter 2 we go back to 1989 when the group of teenagers were at school and what started as mild bullying and peer pressure started. The two timelines neatly explore the girls personalities and the back timeline answers questions and gives explanations of the present timeline.

I found much of the book to be quite gripping. The question on both the characters and the readers mind continues through to almost the end of the book – is Maria Weston alive and has she come back to seek revenge? There are lots of tense moments, never any dull ones, and the telling of the story, the plot, is very well thought out and realistic. I can hardly believe that Friend Request is Laura Marshall’s debut novel, she reads like a seasoned author. I can only expect that future works will be even better.

laura-marshall

 

 

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Tin Man by Sarah Winman

five_stars

This one made a deep emotional impact on me – it’s the only book I can honestly say made me teary eyed – twice! On reading the first few pages, I thought it felt very much like Kate Atkinson’s Behind The Scenes At The Museum, another book which made a big impact. It also had similar emotional overtones of A Man Called Ove.

Tin ManThe prologue introduces Dora and Leonard Judd, parents of Ellis, while Dora is still pregnant with Ellis. It is only a short prologue but gives an insight of the early life Ellis would have had and his mother’s strength of character.

The first half of the book is written in third person of Ellis – Tin Man – so called because he works in Tinny Bay, the area of the car factory which knocks out dents of car panels. It took me a short while to get used to the minimalist punctuation of the writing style – no speech marks so therefore had to concentrate on who was speaking. We go back and forth through Ellis’s life, back to a young teen when he first met Michael after both boys became motherless. Their bond and closeness started immediately and never left either of them, even when Ellis met his darling Annie.

In the second half of the book the writing switches to first person and we hear Michael’s very sad and detailed account of his life with and without Ellis. Throughout the book, particularly for Michael although it is Ellis who is the artist, a print of one of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings which Dora won in a raffle in the prologue, features strongly.

I really don’t want to give too much of the story away because this isn’t a book of plots and twists, it’s the discovery of self and each other, so you really need to experience this for yourself. You may already have guessed or some might like to take this as a ‘warning’ that the story is mostly of gay love, not graphic, but so delicately and sensitively told.

S Winman

 

 

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The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

five_stars

This book is so addictive – I just couldn’t put it down!

Cherry really wants to lift herself up out of the poverty she is born to, and being a very intelligent young lady, she acquires a position in an estate agency in the affluent Kensington area of London. When Daniel walks in to the estate agents to purchase a multi-million pound apartment, Cherry seems to fall on her feet when Daniel asks her for a viewing and a date.

The Girl Friend

Daniel’s mother, Laura, initially is intrigued and excited to meet Daniel’s new girlfriend, but their first meeting doesn’t get off to the start that either Cherry or Laura hoped for.

There is much manipulation, deceit – oh my goodness, the whopping lies – from both Laura and Cherry in their battle to win Daniel. Laura needs to protect her son from Cherry and Cherry needs to get Daniel on her side and have him put a ring on her finger.

This is a bat and ball game of subtle, and not so subtle, jibes, quips and down right spiteful viciousness between Cherry and Daniel’s mother. As time goes on the hatred intensifies and the poison between Laura and Cherry increases. But one lie is so big that it is more catastrophic to the teller than who it is aimed at if it gets out. This can’t possibly end well for either of the two women and as vile words turn into murderess intent, the pace quickens to the point that you just cannot put this book down until you get to the climatic end.

When I first started this book I thought ‘hmm, a bit chic-litty’ but very quickly it became clear that this is not a light humorous summer read, this is deeply chilling and, if you can imagine having a few million pounds at your disposal as well as a holiday house in St. Tropez, has a very real feel. It’s well written and the plot I found faultless. The characters are minimal but each plays an important role – no extras or bit parts here. If you like an intensely chilling, quick-paced read, then this is certainly the book for you.

Michelle Frances

 

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Deceit In May by Roz Ryszka-Onions

Four Stars

This is a fluid and easy to read suspense story set mostly in the south of England.

Deceit In May

Keira is clearing and selling the family home she shared with her parents. She’s too sad to stay there after first her mother, then father, were shot in an apparent suicide pact. The story begins with her just moving in to a waterside home when a neighbour, Toby, turns up on the doorstep with a much welcome cafetiere of coffee. The two get on amazingly well and quickly become friends. A few days later when out shopping, Nathan introduces himself to Keira and the two very quickly start dating. Keira likes both Toby and Nathan and there is an obvious battle taking place in her head and heart which one of them she wants to be with, not to mention the jealousy between the two men.

Very quickly after moving in to her new home, Keira feels uneasy following a series of unusual events – banging on her door, damage to the property, and even items going missing from inside the house. After nearly being run off the road, she realises that these incidents are part of a serious scare tactic, possibly relating to her parents’ deaths which she starts to question as being a suicide pact.

Keira doesn’t know what she is mixed up in and the story becomes very fast paced with a good few tense and gripping moments to keep the reader captivated.

Her past is part of a conspiracy she knew nothing of which goes to the heart of British aristocracy, businesses and politics. By the end of the book, with a little help from a private investigator, the bad guys have been sorted from the good, leaving Keira to set up home and live safely with her man.

This is the first book I’ve read by Roz Ryszka-Onions and I’m surprised that I’ve not seen her several books or her name mentioned on the many social media sites, pages and groups which I frequent. Her writing style is easy to read, flows well and is quick paced – well worth picking one up.

 

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

five_stars

This is an amazingly tense and impacting story. It’s set over just a three hour timeline with very few characters, in fact, most of the book is mother and four year old son, Joan and Lincoln.

Fierce KingdomVery briefly so as not to give too much of the plot away, Joan and her son Lincoln are packing up to leave the zoo close to closing time. Lincoln doesn’t want the zoo trip to finish and Joan is having a tussle getting him to put a spurt on before the zoo gates are locked for the night. As they get close to the gates, it becomes clear to Joan that the cracking noises she’s been hearing are gun shots and around the exit path are bodies laid dead. Thinking quickly, Joan back tracks with Lincoln to try to hide from the gunman/men. I will say no more of the story, you really need to read this for yourself.

Every moment with Joan and Lincoln is tense and gripping. Imagine trying to keep a four year old quiet and occupied for goodness knows how long the siege will last. Joan doesn’t want to frighten Lincoln with the reality of what’s happening, that could lead to noise and tears, but she needs to instill in him the seriousness of their situation to make him obey her instructions.


The chapters are set into time frames starting at 4.55pm when Joan is coaxing Lincoln to get ready to leave the zoo which closes at 5.30pm, through to the nail-biting concluding climax at 8.05pm. There are some lovely moments of tender conversation between mother and son and also times of great frustration with such a young child needing the toilet, food and non-stop chatter.

This really is one of the most intensely riveting books I’ve ever read. I found it difficult to put down for a meal and at bedtime, and my thoughts stayed with the siege at the zoo for days afterwards. It’s certainly a book to be recommended and an author to watch out for.

Gin Phillips

 

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Should You Ask Me by Marianne Kavanagh

Four Stars

This is an unusual and quirky story set in wartime 1944 with two past timelines giving the personal lives of Mary and William.

Should You Ask Me

William was injured earlier in the war and now has a desk job as a police officer in a sleepy town in Dorset. His back story is just a couple of years earlier but he has a lot of hang-ups and carries a lot of guilt about his survival over others during his time serving in the Army.

Eighty-six year old Mary’s back story is the book’s main storyline and when two bodies are unearthed during the war, she feels compelled by past knowledge and guilt to hand herself in as being responsible for the bodies.

The way Mary tells her story to William, the police officer taking her statement, is a work of art. She goes off at tangents (all relevant to the plot) and rambles her way through what happened all those sixty-two years ago, irritating William by her long-winded way of telling who the bodies are and how they died. There is not a moment of boredom for the reader, it is a cleverly crafted book full of nostalgia and pathos, but annoys the life out of William with her whole week in giving her statement.

This is a beautifully written book, quite unusual in its style of telling, and certainly one I will recommend to my friends.

Marianne Kavanagh

 

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One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

four-and-a-half-stars

This is a great mystery/crime story aimed at young adults but can be enjoyed by anyone from teens upwards.  I can just remember my teens and I often read Young Adult, I love the fresh originality with a touch of fantasy after some of the more heavy going women’s fiction I read, although this one doesn’t have the fantasy element.  What I did have a little ‘difficulty’ or issue with, was the very American-ness of the writing – lots of ‘dudes’, characters who are ‘pissed’ without a drop of alcohol being consumed, and the young dude’s non-English names (Cooper, Ashton, Addy, TJ.) – if you can get passed that, then the story is quite original and rather gripping.

One Of Us Is Lying

The opening chapters find five teenagers getting detention at a privileged school, Bayview High.  Three are unlikely to step out of line but one, Nate, is often found in detention.  The three unlikelies rightly feel annoyed that they are suffering a detention because they all think that mobile phones (cells), which aren’t allowed in class, were planted on them.  The fifth, well, he ends up dead.  With only those four present in the room this is a really intense twisty turny who-dun-it style story.  For most of the book I honestly couldn’t make up my mind who the culprit was, then it started to dawn on me. I’m not usually very good at guessing endings to books and whether you do or don’t guess correctly is of little relevance.  It’s the journey to the end which is important and this was one very clever telling of quite an original story.

The chapters take turns with the characters and we get to know and love each of them well.  The characters are well developed and each have their complexities.  There’s never a stuttering moment and can honestly say that my interest was kept at a high level all the way through.  Karen McManus has created an amazing debut and I think One of Us Is Lying will be loved and talked about by teenage readers.

Karen McManus

 

 

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After She’s Gone by Maggie James

Four Stars

This is an emotionally overflowing novel from the start. Written from the perspective of Lori, sister to Jessie, daughter of Dana Golden, we learn of their slightly disfunctional family set up. Dana split from her husband some years ago and has now moved Jake Hamilton and his son Spencer in to their home. The story begins with sweet sixteen year old Jessie not coming home. She’s never done this before and her mother, Dana, is seriously worried something bad has happened to her. Lori is also worried but tries to keep a calming atmosphere around her mother.

After She's Gone

Meanwhile, step-brother Spencer wakes on the floor of an unknown room feeling very groggy and unable to remember anything of the previous night. There has been a spate of fires in properties around the city and as Spencer is gradually coming round, he smells smoke and realises he needs to get out now. As he is leaving, from the corner of his eye he glimpses an arm on the floor near him. Upon closer inspection he realises it is the dead body of his step-sister Jessie.

Spencer knows this looks bad for him. He can’t remember any of last night, his step-sister is dead on the floor and he has scratches, like from fingernails, on his back.

Lori is struggling with grief of losing her little sister and trying to hold things together for her mother who is in a fragile state, and she’s only holding it together because she has a loving and understanding boyfriend, Ryan. Lori suspects almost each person in turn and by the last few chapters of the book we, the reader, know who the murderer is, but Lori is in much danger.

Maggie James has an easy flowing style of writing. She writes as you would think and speak which gives a feeling of realism to her characters – you could actually know and mix with these people. Her stories are brimming with tension and there’s always something going on to keep the interest level up. After She’s Gone is no different and is certainly a compelling and action packed read.

Maggie James

 

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Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Five Stars

This is one of those books I’ll be telling all my friends about. It is totally gripping, keeps you guessing and has an unexpected twist at the end.

I was initially drawn to this book by its tagline – I am in a coma, my husband doesn’t love me any more, sometimes I lie.  I love stories with lies and deceit, they always have strong psychological turmoil between the characters.

Sometimes I Lie

The story is written over three timelines – Now, whilst Amber is in a coma – Then, the days leading up to Amber’s accident – and Before, written as diary entries from 1991.  The diary entries give a deeper background of the lead characters, how their minds work and why they have become disturbed complex people.  Amber writes as much as she can think about in her diary as a child but if she can’t express herself she writes three facts for the day. In the present, while Amber is in a coma, she carries on with this three facts style in her mind and that’s how we get the tagline on the book cover.

The story becomes very complex, not confusing or muddled but you do need to pay attention, and much of the scary part is while Amber is in her coma and she hears everything around her. She can’t yet remember what happened to her but she suspects her husband has something to do with her accident, she doesn’t trust him and feels frightened when he visits.  She’s not convinced Claire, her sister, has her best interests at heart and so desperately needs to remember what’s happened to her.  There are some sinister characters, her ex-boyfriend who has access to her as he works in the hospital, and a little girl who Amber doesn’t think is real keeps paying her mind a visit.  Who is Jo? Why is it so important to see Madeleine off the radio show that Amber works on? and what about the recognition of Madeleine’s house?  Such a lot keeps your mind flicking back and forth wondering what the relevance is of a new piece of the story.

As psychological thrillers go, this is one of the best I’ve read.  Some of the phrases used are so very eloquent and really describe a situation well, paints a picture with words. This is one I will certainly recommend and look forward to more by Alice Feeney.

Alice Feeney

 

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The Gift by Louise Jensen

Four Stars

The gift of life. A heart donated to a dying young woman, Jenna, gives her her life back. But what about where the heart came from, someone had to die to be able to donate it, and what about their family.

The Gift

“Oh Jenna. That’s completely unethical. How did you trace them? I’m going to have to report this, you know” “You know it isn’t encouraged . . . it can be incredibly distressing for everyone”

With the internet and social media it is very easy to find almost every accident and death and trace who they were and where they are from. Jenna has been experiencing dreams and visions which seem so very real to her, although they have actually happened. Some of the visions are a bit scary and she feels that her donor, Callie, was being chased, was in danger and that the accident she was killed in might not have been an accident.

There’s a lot of speculation of whether cells have memory and Louise Jensen has given us a good fictional story based on Jenna’s donated heart having memory of its life when it belonged to Callie. There are some amazing stories out there – just Google it – and this is a clever concept to use to write about the unfolding of a crime.

Louise Jensen

 

 

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The One by John Marrs

Four-and-a-Half-Hearts

 

This book seems to be a re-naming of A Thousand Small Explosions by the same author, so if you’ve read that one, this is not a new book.

This is a fabulous read, I couldn’t put it down. Just imagine that a gene had been discovered which tells who your perfect life partner is, The One who is for you. You may be perfectly compatible with others but to get The One is a match made in heaven, gives off a thousand small explosions.

The One

We start with fairly short chapters introducing six random subscribers to Match Your DNA, an international company matching your DNA with one other somewhere in the world.  We very quickly learn a little about the lives and ‘getting together’ of Mandy, Christopher, Jade, Amy, Ellie and Nick.  Most have taken the test and are with their perfect partner and others are curious to see who their perfect partner is even if they are with someone at the moment. 

Each of the characters’ lives are interesting and different, Christopher, for example, is a serial killer and we follow him through his murders and also his love life, while Ellie, who set up Match Your DNA, is scared of anyone getting too close because they may only want her for her billion pound fortune.

The premise of the story is quite thought provoking in many ways – if you’re happy and in love with one person would you jeopardise that love for a perfect match? Would you cheat on your perfect match in the likelihood they will take you back because your love is so deep? The chapters of each character are fairly short so there isn’t a moment of getting fed up with one or another character, and each are lovely and easy to fall back into. For a book about love and finding happiness there’s also a lot of sorrow and pathos. Some perfect matches are dying or seriously ill, but John Marrs has a wonderful compassionate way of writing so that even the sad parts are engaging and thought provoking.

This is the first book I’ve read of John Marrs and was so impressed that I have just purchased another of his books. He has a good fluid way of writing and I would have thought that this book has a degree of enjoyment for everyone.

John Marrs

 

 

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Baby Love by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

4 and half 1

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. Emmanuelle de Maupassant is known for her writing of erotic fiction and I wasn’t expecting too much ‘steam’ with the book being about the pregnancy of the main character. Well, even with a heavily blossoming tummy you can have a lust or two with hunky Italian lotharios hanging around!

Baby Love

Baby Love is written in the style of a diary and also uses text and phrasing as if you had written your own diary, cutting out all the ‘me’s and ‘I’s which are obvious really.

Delphine’s husband is good looking and good in the sack, he knows it as well as Delphine . . . and so does the lady next door! It’s terrible timing when at Christmas, Delphine finds herself pregnant and husbandless.  I’m sure we’ve all made the wrong choice of bloke somewhere along the line and can feel for the bleak outlook of her life. I loved Delphine as a character, she didn’t deserve the hand she’d been dealt, and I sympathised with her situation.  Delphine has hit rock bottom when her well meaning sisters come to the rescue and cause more hilarity at the spa they’ve booked the three of them into.

Overall, a very good and funny story with moments of pathos. The wry outlook on life and the ironic humour makes this a well worth satirical read.

Emmanuelle de Maupassant

 

Visit Emmanuelle’s website for articles on sexuality, writing craft and recommended reads.

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All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan

Four Stars

This is the first book I’ve read by Donal Ryan but it won’t be the last.  He has an economic way of writing which I like but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in substance.  The short, often staccato, sentences are potent and impacting.  This is a very Irish book with lots of words and phrases which could be a bit tedious for some but read in the right accent gives a full on ‘I am there, in Ireland’ feel to it.

All We Shall Know

The story centres around Melody and her failing marriage to Pat after revealing she is pregnant with another man’s child. Both Melody and Pat have unstable personalities, both fly of the handle, blame each other, fight at the drop of a hat.  Melody carries this anger through her pregnancy and has some raucous and sometimes amusing outbursts. Much of her time is spent at a traveller’s campsite with Mary, cousin of the baby’s father, and we experience a little of the traveller’s lifestyle.

The chapters are cleverly headed by the week numbers of Melody’s pregnancy and we can imagine her baby’s progress and size as the weeks move on. I was also very conscious of this being a male author writing of a very feminine time of a woman’s life – I think he did it expertly.  The ending was surprising and I did question whether a mother could actually do that.

Donal Ryan

 

 

Donal Ryan’s Amazon author profile

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington

Five Stars

Gripping and intense, laced with mystery and intrigue, this is a real page turner.

Briefly, (and without spoilers) seventeen year old Sophie is brought home from a drunken Saturday evening out with her friends by the police. She was found in a dazed and drunken state close to where the body of her friend is later found. Sophie has no memory of the whole of the evening.

Her parents are in a strained marriage and her mother, Karen, has panic attacks and agoraphobia since she herself was attacked two years earlier. The story is told from three main perspectives in short sharp chapters – Sophie, her mother Karen and Detective Inspector Lindsay Wade. We deftly move between the three characters in a race to find the killer of Sophie’s friend, Erin, before the stalker who Sophie realises is following her, strikes again.

The book touches on several issues – anxiety, agoraphobia, grief and loss as well as teenage secrecy and withholding information. Sam Carrington is a confident writer of crime and suspense and I found it a real pleasure to tramp through the book as fast as I could. I thoroughly recommend Saving Sophie and will be watching out for future publications by Sam Carrington.

Sam Carrington

 

Sam Carrington’s Website

 

 

 

 

 

The Stepmother by Claire Seeber

4 and half 1

 

I really enjoyed this book and found I’d devoured half before I realised what time it was. It’s written in a very easy flowing way with short sharp chapters switching between Jeannie and her sister Marlena.  The characters are well developed, quite complex because of their background and upbringing, and likeable to the reader because we can easily relate to them.

If you’ve been a step-mother, or indeed a step-daughter, you may be able to relate to the anxious first few meetings.  If those meetings don’t go well and you then throw into the pot that the child/children are teenagers, their father is the apple of their eye and their mother is glamorous and jealous, well, scary things can happen and in this book they really do.  I am a step-mother to a boy and girl and I know I tried too hard to make them like me, so I can fully relate to Jeannie’s over the top efforts with Scarlett and Luke. Thankfully mine didn’t terrorise me into submission!

Very loosely, the story is set around Jeannie and Matthew meeting and marrying in quick succession. Matthew is a wealthy businessman with teenage twins and an ex-wife you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of.  Jeannie comes from a complex and broken background, has hardly had any serious relationships and finds herself swept off her feet by Matthew who is probably on the rebound.  Jeannie moves into Matthew’s former matrimonial home and when his children visit she finds she is on edge and feels a bit of an outsider in her own home.  The narrator of the story keeps referring to Snow White and this does feel very much like a grown up version of the old fairytale.

This is a very readable dark and sinister fairytale of sorts, complete with locked rooms, dead birds, secrets and wicked women.  I enjoyed it very much and will certainly read more by Claire Seeber.

Claire Seeber

 

Claire Seeber’s Website

The Gentlemen’s Club by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

Five Stars

The Gentlemen's Club

This is the first erotic book I’ve read for a long time and I’m so glad I did, it’s also one of my ‘Out of Comfort Zone’ reads and not knowing any erotica authors, either good or bad, I had a troll around online booksellers. There were loads with creamed this, hard that and stretched the other but most were either not rated or only one or two star rated.  I also decided that a kinky looking cover was not the best way to ensure a well written gripping story of passion, so I took my chances with this one – The Gentlemen’s Club by Emmanuelle de Maupassant.

Emmanuelle’s creation is more literary in style than most erotic books, giving an irresistible story of eroticism mixed with Victorian life, and was a real pleasure to devour. The Gentlemen’s Club is a beautifully written noire novella set in Victorian London.  It has been well researched, has exquisite descriptions using a rich and varied vocabulary.

Maud lives with her Great Aunt, playing the convincing role of quite a lady by day but, come evening, she dons a lace mask and becomes a wondrous seductress at an elite gentlemen’s club.  This is not dirty, base sex, this is theatre, an art form, where the audience participates as much as the seducing actresses.  This is a clever story of Henry becoming obsessed with Maud.  She debases him, ridicules him, taunts and tantalises him, yet he still goes back for more.

If this book had little or no sexual content it would still be a compelling and clever story (there are few modern erotic books you could say that of.)  The sex, however, is varied and original and so very erotic.  I think I could go so far as to say that this is probably the most erotic book I’ve ever read and certainly the one with a first-rate storyline.  I can thoroughly recommend and I look forward to reading Volume II of this noire series.

 

 

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Five Stars

This debut by B A Paris is a stunning psychological thriller at it’s very best. It felt so simple and easy to read that I devoured it in great chunks. I feel that the simplicity comes from there being very few characters. Grace and Jack are at the fore the whole way through with Millie, Grace’s sister, not far behind.

Behind Closed Doors

Simply told, yet Jack is such a complex character, a true unbalanced psychopath. He has so charmingly wooed and courted Grace and is the apple of Millie’s eye. Until the moment of marriage when BANG! the real Jack makes his debut. He is cruel and manipulative, his remarks are cutting, he is totally sadistic and spiteful. What he might do next had me on the edge of my seat. It’s creepy and subtly dark and the tension becomes unbearable.

The story is set over two very close timelines – present time, and the time of Grace and Jack’s marriage just a few months earlier. The timelines come closer together the further we read through the book until the final gripping chapters are in present time giving a very taut and satisfying finale.

You need to read this. I really don’t want to give any clues of the plot away but you will need to set time aside to read as this is not a pick-it-up-put-it-down sort of book. I haven’t read one as good as this little gem for a while.