Category Archives: Authors D to F

Reviews by author surnames D to F

Blog Tour – The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards *Review and Author Influences*

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be taking part in Mark Edwards’ blog tour for his latest novel The Lucky Ones. I’m thrilled to be sharing my review AND I have the man himself taking part in Author Influences, so you can find out about Mark’s favourite books and authors. But first find out more about The Lucky Ones

The Blurb

It was the happiest day of her life. Little did she know it was also the last.
When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realises she is dealing with a serial killer—a killer whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces.
A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland believes his fortunes are changing at last. Forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, Ben finally finds work. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorising his son, Ollie, disappear. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky.
But he is unaware that someone is watching him and Ollie. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben.
Happiness…and death.
The Lucky Ones is the terrifying new thriller from the #1 Kindle bestselling author of Follow You Home and The Devil’s Work.

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Mark Edwards’s books and so I was incredibly excited to receive an advance copy of The Lucky Ones. So what did I think? Is it as good as his other books? ‘As good as’ is an understatement … I think it’s his best yet and I absolutely loved it!

Set in a small village in Shropshire, this normally peaceful village has been rocked by a series of killings by who the media have dubbed ‘The Shropshire Viper’. DI Imogen Evans, a detective recently transferred from the Met, is the lead on the case and has her work cut out finding the killer. Ben, with his son Ollie, has recently moved back to the Shropshire village where he grew up following the separation from his wife. Little does he know he is going to be the Viper’s next target.

The prologue of The Lucky Ones drags you into the story and from there on it just doesn’t let you go! Perfectly paced, Edwards ruined many a planned early night as once I started this book I just could not put it down. It is utterly gripping!

The characters are great, and Edwards makes full use of telling the story from three perspectives. We follow DI Imogen Evans in third person narrative as she investigates the spate of killings. Imogen is struggling to adjust to life in a rural area after being part of The Met. Imogen is likeable and while she certainly has issues from her past she is not the cliched detective that we so often see in crime novels. Ben is immediately likeable as the single father who is adjusting to his new life after a recent run of bad luck, and we see things directly from his perspective through first person narrative. Then we have the chilling voice of the killer. I always love to get into the mind of the killer and Edwards provides this as parts of the story are told directly by The Viper. This is a killer with a very skewed view of life and death and this makes him intriguing and interesting.

The premise of The Lucky Ones is great and totally different as the killer focuses on making his victims, bizarrely, happy! If something is too good to be true, it probably is could be the lesson learned from The Lucky Ones. Edwards had me constantly thinking I had it all figured out as to who the antagonist was to then prove me totally wrong and clueless. He led me up so many garden paths I was beginning to feel like a horticulturalist! This book totally kept me enthralled and on my toes!

If you have to read only one thriller this year make it The Lucky Ones … You will not be disappointed. Utter perfection!

The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards is published by Thomas & Mercer on 15 June 2017 as an £8.99 paperback original.

A huge thank you to Mark Edwards, Lisa Shakespeare at Midas PR and Thomas and Mercer for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

And now I hand you over to Mark to tell you about his author influences…

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
When I was at primary school I mainly read comics – everything from 2000AD to Whizzer and Chips! – but my first favourite author was John Wyndham. I was desperate to read Day of the Triffids after watching the BBC adaptation. My dad took me to our local book shop to get a copy and the bookseller told him it wasn’t suitable for children. Luckily, he ignored her attempt at censorship.

A few years later, after I’d devoured Wyndham’s back catalogue, I read and loved the first two Adrian Mole books. I still quote them to this day and spent half my life looking for a girl, like Sharon Botts, who will do anything for 50p and a pound of grapes.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
It was the only subject I was good at. I loved writing stories, many of which were pretty dark and gruesome. I wrote a story about a house with walls that oozed blood when I was nine or ten. Later, when I was at secondary school, I was awarded the English Prize two years in a row. It remains the only literary prize I’ve ever won.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I mostly read crime novels and psychological thrillers. Elizabeth Haynes’ Into the Darkest Corner was the first of the current wave of psych thrillers that I read and it made me realise that was the kind of book I wanted to write. I was fortunate to start publishing psych thrillers – and domestic noir – just as it took off and became the most popular genre.

Having said that, I think the market is so saturated now that it’s getting harder to be original and fresh. There seem to be a lot of identikit domestic thrillers around at the moment, which is one reason my new book, The Lucky Ones, subverts the usual psychological thriller plot line by turning everything on its head…

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I love a good ‘end of the world’ novel and have always wanted to write one. I would love to pen something like Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy – something really epic and dark.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
It’s not a very original answer but it was initially Stephen King and James Herbert, plus Clive Barker to a lesser extent. I was a huge horror reader as a teenager and that was when I first started to dream about being a writer.

Then, in my early twenties, I read The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which remains my favourite book. It’s perfect in every way, and I yearn to make readers feel as I felt when I first experienced that book.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Yes, quite a few. The aforementioned Donna Tartt, along with Bret Easton Ellis, Mo Hayder (my favourite crime writer), Elizabeth Haynes, Paula Daly, CL Taylor…I could go on and on.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
This happens nearly every week! One that stands out is I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. That twist is so good – I think Clare really raised the bar with that and I’ve been obsessed ever since with coming up with a twist that good. To mention one more, I loved The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer because it was so funny. Every line is read-aloud brilliant.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Most of my psychological thrillers have been influenced by things that happened to me. The Magpies was based on my own experience of neighbours from hell; Follow You Home was inspired by a real-life disaster on a train in Europe. I don’t really base books on real crimes, although I had to research Harold Shipman for The Lucky Ones as my killer uses the same method to murder his victims. It’s terrifying that Britain’s most prolific serial killer was not a prowling Hannibal Lecter type but a seemingly trustworthy, mild-mannered medic. Although, come to think of it, both Shipman and Lecter were doctors…

A massive thanks to Mark Edwards for taking the time to answer my questions brilliantly. You have made my month!

About Mark Edwards

After a career that has taken in everything from answering complaint calls for a rail company to teaching English in Japan and being a marketing director, Mark now writes full-time.

He live in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, three children, a ginger cat and a golden retriever.

Connect with Mark

Website: www.markedwardsauthor.com

Twitter: @mredwards

Facebook: @markedwardsbooks

Follow the rest of the tour…

Continue reading Blog Tour – The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards *Review and Author Influences*

Blog Tour – Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl *Review*

Thrilled to be hosting one of today’s stops on the Faithless blog tour alongside Clues and Reviews and to finally be able to share my thoughts on the book by Kjell Ola Dahl.

The Blurb

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal…

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again.

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

My Thoughts

Faithless is my first venture into Dahl’s books and I guess I did have some concern as to whether I would be able to get into the story as I had not met Oslo detectives Frølich and Gunnarstranda before. Much to my relief the story works well as a standalone and you can instantly pick up with the characters and not feel as though you are missing out on any back story. One of the reasons, I feel, for this is the concentration on the crime and police procedures rather than the personal lives of the detectives.

From reading the above it may come across that I didn’t get a feel for the characters but this is not the case. We do get an insight into the private life of Gunnarstranda and Frølich and a sense of the relationship between them, however, it is in addition to the main story at hand and not in your face. The death of a woman Frølich knows and the involvement of an old friend certainly makes the case in Faithless personal to him, yet it is done in such a way that it never detracts from the main crux of the story. Memories from Frølich’s past re-surface and his feelings about being involved in a case in which he knows the victim adds a great layer to the story with it becoming very much a welcome addition rather than a distraction.

I really enjoyed the police procedural aspect of Faithless which is written with an authenticity that highlights the instincts that come after years in the profession and does not overly rely on modern technologies in order to discover who committed the murder. In addition, Dahl expresses the feelings and thoughts that the detectives have towards their colleagues and the work they do in a candid, realistic way which gives the characters and the book a whole added layer. Faithless is a refreshing change from the emotionally challenged detectives we often see in crime fiction.

Dahl is a skilled writer and in Faithless he has written a story that threads and winds its way around leaving you guessing and counter-guessing, never knowing where you will end up. The tension starts subtly and quietly descends into a darkness that leaves you stunned and totally taken aback. The translation by Don Bartlett is fantastically done and I never felt that something was lacking or lost in translation as I have in other translated novels. To be fair, however, this has never been an issue with books published by Orenda and they have restored my faith in translated fiction.

Faithless is a subtly disconcerting read with an ending that takes you totally by surprise. I liked it for its genuineness, its realism and the fact it concentrates on the nitty-gritty detective work. If you like police procedurals that take you into the heart of the work detectives carry out you will enjoy Faithless.

Published on 15 April 2017 by Orenda Books.

A huge thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy in exchange for my review and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. You can catch the rest of the tour at the other fantastic blogs…

 

Blog Tour – Mystery At Maplemead Castle by Kitty French – *Book Review*

I am absolutely delighted to be one of two hosts on the Mystery At Maplemead Castle blog tour today. This is the second book in Kitty French’s The Chapelwick Mysteries series and was one of my hotly anticipated reads of 2017.  So what did I think of it? Did it live up to expectations? You bet it did! Carry on reading to find out what the book is about and my review…

The Blurb

Welcome to Chapelwick, a leafy English town in the hills of Shropshire, where chocolate pecan cookies come with a helping of sabotage.

Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers… literally.

A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?

Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.

Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?

An utterly hilarious, gripping, spooktastic read for fans of HY Hanna, MC Beaton, Gina LaManna and Jana DeLeon.

My Thoughts

Mystery at Maplemead Castle is the second book in The Chapelwick Mysteries and heralds the much welcome return of Melody Bittersweet and her ghostbusting agency. I was very excited to get my hands on this book after loving the first book The Skeletons of Scarborough House (previously titled Melody Bittersweet and the Girls Ghostbusting Agency).

If you haven’t read the first book, don’t worry, this book works perfectly as a standalone–although you are really missing out on a treat and should read it–as French introduces the characters in the first chapter which also helped as a great refresher for those, like me, who have a terrible memory.

The second case Melody’s new ghostbusting agency has been assigned to is at Maplemead Castle. Owned by brash American couple Lois and Barty Letterman, they have let out the castle to be used as a film set but some of the actors won’t step foot inside the place until it is cleared of its resident ghosts. How difficult can this be for psychic Melody? Very, when you add into the mix rival psychic and ex-boyfriend Leo Dark, reporter Fletcher Gunn who Melody should hate but finds herself attracted to and the ghosts of a circus troup! This is an unconventional, eccentric mystery and it works brilliantly.

The characterisation in Mystery at Maplemead Castle is fantastic. Told in first person narrative by Melody, French has a way of writing that makes you feel as though you are conversing with an old friend. I was drawn in immediately and found it really difficult to put the book down. You can’t help but fall in love with quirky, sugar-addicted Melody, her mother, champagne-swigging grandmother, slightly-scary-but-lovable Marina and sweet, geeky Artie. Then of course there is Lestat; Melody’s food obsessed, farting pug! You could really see yourself having a pint down the pub with Melody and her friends and family. French has also taken great care with the peripheral characters including the ghosts Melody has to try and send back to the other side.

The humour is wickedly funny and starts from the very first page. I love the references to popular culture French uses, demonstrating her sharp wit. There is also a depth to this book and I found myself being really moved by the final chapter. I was also touched by Melody’s experiences of being ‘different’ to everyone else and how this has made her feel throughout her life. French effortlessly combines comedy with poignant moments.

I love everything about Mystery at Maplemead Castle! It is quirky, has great characters, ghosts, a mystery, will-they-won’t-they romance and is pee-your-Wonder-Woman-pants funny! Fantastic…roll on book three in the series!

Published 16 March 2017 by Bookouture.

A huge thank you to Kitty French and Kim Nash at Bookouture for the advance copy and the invite to take part in the blog tour.

Purchase Links –

UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2kQqows
US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2kd2Qjp

Be sure to catch the rest of the hosts on the blog tour

 

 

 

Book Review – Miss Christie Regrets by Guy Fraser-Sampson

The Blurb

The second of the Hampstead Murders series finds the team of detectives dealing with corpses at two iconic Hampstead locations. Though the killings are separated by several decades Superintendent Collison is convinced there is a connection between them, and in trying to prove it finds himself caught up in the shadowy world of Special Branch and a cold war drama worthy of John Le Carre.

When Agatha Christie emerges as a key figure in their enquiries the team must find ways to investigate her life in Hampstead, and scramble to identify and secure vital evidence before it is destroyed.

Praised by fellow authors, the Hampstead Murders offer a truly different kind of crime story, speaking to a contemporary audience yet at the same time harking back to the Golden Age of detective fiction. Intelligent, quirky and mannered, they have been described as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’. Above the series hovers Hampstead, a magical village on a hill hauntingly evoked, the elegance of an earlier time, and the elegiac memory of the Queen of Crime herself.

My Thoughts

After thoroughly enjoying Death In Profile, volume one in the Hampstead Murders, I eagerly anticipated the second book Miss Christie Regrets. It was a pleasure to return to the characters in Hampstead’s Serious Crime Time and the pace and tone of Fraser-Sampson’s prose.

Fraser-Sampson has a way of writing that transports you to another era while simultaneously keeping you within the present day. The mix of old-world charm and modern-day workplace political issues makes for a great combination and adds a unique quality not seen in current crime fiction.

When bodies are found at two of Hampstead’s iconic buildings Detective Simon Collison suspects that they are connected despite the deaths being decades apart. The discovery that Agatha Christie may somehow be involved results in a present-day tale with an historical slant.

With murders taking place within Hampstead’s Burgh House and Isokon Building I found myself intrigued about these two settings as well as the connection with Agatha Christie. I found myself resorting to Google to find out more and it became clear that Fraser-Sampson has undertaken careful research in order to be historically accurate. As a fan of historical fiction, I love that Fraser-Sampson has managed to seamlessly combine historical fact with detective fiction. I found myself totally drawn into the story, the characters and their world.

What I really love about these books is the return to the good old-fashioned detective story with the emphasis being on the process of eliminating suspects and evidence finding. Don’t take me wrong by my use of the phrase ‘old-fashioned’ as I mean this in a complimentary way. You get right into the nitty-gritty of the police work, and are constantly trying to piece the evidence together to try and work out who did it. With the addition of tongue-in-cheek moments when Fraser-Sampson refers to detective fiction as being unrealistic, Miss Christie Regrets is both charming and amusing.

Does it work as a standalone novel? Yes it does, however I feel the reader would benefit from reading the first volume, Death In Profile, to have gained knowledge of the characters’ history. I enjoyed spending time with the familiar characters and continue to be interested in how their stories will progress. Fraser-Sampson has given just enough information about Tom Allen to make him a character I want to know more about, and the relationship between Bob Metcalfe, Karen Willis and Peter Collins is a thread in which I am dying to know what the outcome will be. Fraser-Sampson has created interesting characters that easily sustain a series of books.

It’s fair to say that I have developed a real affection for this series and Miss Christie Regrets is a great follow-up to the first. I found it both interesting, charming and, strangely, comforting. If you want a change from your usual crime novel definitely check out the Hampstead Murders. It appeals greatly to my love of the classics and modern crime fiction adding a welcome change within my reading. While I enjoyed the first in the series I have to say I enjoyed Miss Christie Regrets even more, and I look forward to seeing where Fraser-Sampson takes us next.

A huge thank you to Guy Fraser-Sampson and Urbane Publications for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Published on 12 January 2017 by Urbane Publications.

Blog Tour – The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher *Book Review*

I’m absolutely thrilled to be one of today’s blogs, along with Laura Bambrey Books, hosting for The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher blog tour. Did I enjoy Kerry Fisher’s latest book? Read on to find out…

The Blurb

Would you risk everything for the man you loved? Even if you knew he’d done something terrible?

‘A heart wrenching and gripping tale. I was hooked from the very first page.’ Write Escape

Lara’s life looks perfect on the surface. Gorgeous doting husband Massimo, sweet little son Sandro and the perfect home. Lara knows something about Massimo. Something she can’t tell anyone else or everything Massimo has worked so hard for will be destroyed: his job, their reputation, their son. This secret is keeping Lara a prisoner in her marriage.

Maggie is married to Massimo’s brother Nico and lives with him and her troubled stepdaughter. She knows all of Nico’s darkest secrets – or so she thinks. Then one day she discovers a letter in the attic which reveals a shocking secret about Nico’s first wife Caitlin. Will Maggie set the record straight or keep silent to protect those she loves?

For a family held together by lies, the truth will come at a devastating price.

A heart-wrenching, emotionally gripping read for fans of Amanda Prowse, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain.

My Thoughts

Do you ever really know what goes on within a marriage?

I eagerly anticipated reading The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher after really enjoying her previous novel, After The Lie. There is always a little trepidation in reading the latest novel by an author you have previously enjoyed as you hope it will live up to the expectations you have. I am pleased to say that Fisher has delivered again with an enthralling book that is unputdownable.

Told in first person narrative by the two main characters Maggie and Lara, The Silent Wife tells the story of Maggie who has joined the Farinelli family as Nico’s second wife following the death of his first wife and Lara who is the second wife of Massimo, Nico’s brother. While Lara struggles to maintain the public façade of her marriage and that of Massimo as doting husband and father, Maggie makes a discovery about Caitlin, Nico’s first wife, that could potentially devastate her husband and stepdaughter. The story lines make for compulsive reading as you eagerly anticipate what the outcome will be for the two women and the family as a whole.

Covering emotive subjects such as the difficulties that come with blending two families together, domestic abuse, and the dynamics of families; Fisher writes with empathy and yet also a wicked sense of humour which serves to draw you into the characters making The Silent Wife an emotional yet never maudlin read. Fisher writes with honesty about the subject of the emotions a second wife goes through in relation to her feelings about her predecessor that few would admit to out loud. Her depiction of domestic abuse within a relationship is also realistic and Fisher has clearly researched this subject carefully.

You cannot help but care about the main characters and Fisher has done a great job of giving both Maggie and Lara their own unique voice. That sense of the way we view other people compared to the reality and how they actually feel about themselves really comes through and is portrayed brilliantly.

I raced through The Silent Wife, finding it compelling and interesting. There were sentiments and responses I could really identify with and Fisher writes with an emotional intelligence. There is so much to think about and discuss it would make a great read for a reading group.

All-absorbing, emotionally acute and yet funny The Silent Wife is a compulsive read about secrets, lies, the complexities of families and keeping up appearances. A highly recommended read that will have you both laughing and crying and desperate to know the final outcome.

A huge thank you to Kerry Fisher and Kim Nash at Bookouture for the advance copy and the invite to take part in the blog tour. This is my honest and unbiased review.

Published on 24 February 2017 by Bookouture.

Purchase Links

UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2gO2YZt
US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2g9Uhay

About Kerry Fisher

Born in Peterborough, Kerry Fisher studied French and Italian, and taught English in Corsica and Spain before climbing to holiday rep and grape picker in Tuscany. She eventually returned to England to ‘get a proper job’, and spent two years in features at Essentials magazine. She now lives in Surrey with her husband, two teenagers and a very naughty lab/schnauzer called Poppy.

http://www.kerryfisherauthor.com/

Be sure to check out the rest of the hosts on The Silent Wife blog tour –


#AroundTheUKIn144Books Challenge Book 4 – County: East Sussex  

 

Review – Death In Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson

DeathInProfile

The Blurb

The genteel façade of London’s Hampstead is shattered by a series of terrifying murders, and the ensuing police hunt is threatened by internal politics, and a burgeoning love triangle within the investigative team. Pressurised by senior officers desperate for a result a new initiative is clearly needed, but what?

Intellectual analysis and police procedure vie with the gut instinct of a ‘copper’s nose’, and help appears to offer itself from a very unlikely source – a famous fictional detective. A psychological profile of the murderer allows the police to narrow down their search, but will Scotland Yard lose patience with the team before they can crack the case?

Praised by fellow authors and readers alike, this is a truly original crime story, speaking to a contemporary audience yet harking back to the Golden age of detective fiction. Intelligent, quirky and mannered, it has been described as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’. Above it all hovers Hampstead, a magical village evoking the elegance of an earlier time, and the spirit of mystery-solving detectives.

My Thoughts

 I really enjoy reading crime novels, but every now and again I feel the need for something a little bit different from the norm. Death In Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson filled this need brilliantly. This is the first volume in The Hampstead Murders and it will definitely be a series I follow.

An interesting mix of modern day police procedural and old-school crime/detective novel, Death in Profile is quite unlike anything I have read recently. There is enough of the modern day—the nature of the crimes, methods of investigation—to keep you gripped and wanting to know ‘whodunnit’ and yet it is simultaneously soothing and comforting.

Initially it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of Fraser-Sampson’s style of writing, largely I think due to being used to the majority of crime novels being written in a certain way, but once I did I eagerly anticipated returning to the book after a break from reading. It transported me back to another era regardless of it being set in the modern day. The characters and the way they engage with one another took me back to a time when manners, consideration and politeness where a common day occurrence and I found this a real welcome break from modern-day life. There is a real charm to the characters within the book and I look forward to spending time with them again in volume two.

Fraser-Sampson draws on the Golden Age of crime novels throughout Death in Profile both in style and to add to the story, giving it an interesting twist. Add to this the copper’s instinct versus theorising and intellectualising aspect of crime solving and the use of psychology to aide investigations, the novel surprised me and made me think differently about the ensuing police investigation within the pages.

I really enjoyed Death in Profile and have no hesitation in recommending it. It was refreshing and engaging and if you are looking for a crime novel with a twist on the norm look no further. This promises to be an interesting series that will be on my ‘go to’ list when I’m feeling the need to escape from it all.

A huge thank you to Guy Fraser-Sampson and Urbane Publications for my copy in exchange for my unbiased and honest review.

Published on 18 March 2016 by Urbane Publications.

Review – History Of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

History of Wolves

The Blurb

Even a lone wolf wants to belong…

Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in an ex-commune beside a lake in the beautiful, austere backwoods of northern Minnesota.  The other girls at school call Linda ‘Freak’, or ‘Commie’.  Her parents mostly leave her to her own devices, whilst the other inhabitants have grown up and moved on.

So when the perfect family – mother, father and their little boy, Paul – move into the cabin across the lake,  Linda insinuates her way into the family’s orbit.  She begins to babysit Paul and feels welcome, that she finally has a place to belong.

Yet something isn’t right.  Drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand, Linda must make a choice.  But how can a girl with no real knowledge of the world understand the what the consequences will be?

My Thoughts

 History Of Wolves is an intricately told tale of a teenager’s experience of being the outsider and the consequences of naively made decisions made in order to belong. To be honest, even after a few days mulling over this book I’m still not really sure what I think about it and have found this review quite challenging to write.

Written in the first person, Linda narrates as a thirty-seven year old reflecting on her life as a teenager, interspersed with glimpses of her life as an adult. There is no clear line of demarcation between these different time points as you see in other books, ie separation through chapters, however it flows well and is not confusing. I rather liked this more complex structure and it is well executed.

Linda grew up on an old hippy commune in Minnesota with parents who largely give her free rein. This causes difficulties for her at school as she is marked out as different by the other pupils. I didn’t particularly like Linda, or any of the characters, however this wasn’t a problem for me as I often get as much out of disliking a character in a book as I do those I like. Linda comes across as a voyeur as she comments and observes her fellow pupils, teachers and later her new neighbours who she becomes tied up with. Some of her actions and thoughts are questionable, yet understandable given her upbringing.

The pace is slow moving, taking a while in my opinion to get to the main crux of the story. What I initially felt was the main storyline turned out not to be so and this led to my interest in it waxing and waning as I read. When I eventually thought I knew where the story was going it changed again. Linda’s teacher is found guilty of possessing indecent images of children, however the story then becomes dominated by another theme. I still haven’t fully figured out the role this story line played, is it a red herring or have I just failed to see it’s relevance?

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away as it came as a surprise to me and I would hate to ruin this for future readers, but the eventual reason for the trial Linda refers to in the beginning relates to a religion and it’s devastating consequences. What eventually occurs is, however, both thought-provoking and shocking. Fridland is great at drip feeding snippets of information that eventually make sense and giving that feeling of something not being right that you just can’t put your finger on. Her use of prose wonderfully sets up the sense of time and place with the cold and barren nature of teenage Linda’s surroundings shining through from the pages.

An intriguing book that has certainly stayed with me, causing me to swing between liking it and not really liking it. It is a book that I may re-visit as I get the feeling it is a book that could be enjoyed more the second time around. Read it without the expectation that it will immediately grip you but will take you on a slow-burning journey you won’t forget in a hurry.

Thank you to Emily Fridlund, Grove Atlantic and Netgalley for the copy in exchange for my review.

Published in the UK on 3 January 2017 by Weidenfeld and Nicholson.
Published in the USA on 3 January 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press.

Review – My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

My Sister's Bones

The Blurb

Kate Rafter is a high-flying war reporter.  She’s the strong one.  The one who escaped their father.  Her younger sister Sally didn’t.  Instead, she drinks.

But when their mother dies, Kate is forced to return home.  And on her first night she is woken by a terrifying scream

At first Kate tells herself it’s just a nightmare.  But then she hears it again.  And this time she knows she’s not imagining it.

What secret is lurking in the old family home?  And is she strong enough to uncover it…and make it out alive?

My Review

It’s not often I read a book that takes me totally by surprise but My Sister’s Bones is one of those books. It was not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting your usual psychological thriller, however, this book is anything but.

The book starts with an intriguing prologue and a killer first chapter that immediately draws you in, raising numerous questions, leaving you thirsty for more. What follows is a dark, all absorbing story that covers some pretty heavy issues. Childhood trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, grief and alcoholism are some of the themes within the book. Clearly carefully well researched, Nuala approaches these issues with an understanding and portrays them wonderfully in her writing clearly getting across the impact of each.

The novel is spilt into three parts, narrated in the first person by main character Kate and later her sister Sally. This works effectively in giving the reader an insight into each character’s perspective of their current lives and their past. Returning to her home town for the first time in years following her mother’s death, Kate, a war journalist, is forced to re-visit her past and the traumatic events she has faced.

We first meet Kate when she is in the police station being assessed by a mental health worker trying to establish if she requires being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Nuala has written this perfectly getting across Kate’s perspective of the assessment and her attempts at self-preservation. The book has an eerie feel to it as Kate begins to see a small boy in the garden of her mother’s home. It is clear quite early on in My Sister’s Bones that Kate is suffering from PTSD following the atrocities she has seen in Aleppo. Added to the fact that the second voice in the novel, that of her sister Sally who is an alcoholic. I did wonder if this was a case of unreliable narrators. I truly had no idea at all what direction this book would take and couldn’t begin to guess what the outcome would be.

This is also a story about the relationships between sisters and the different ways they experience their childhood, how this impacts on their lives, shapes the adults they become and how they cope with life events in the future.

A gradual unravelling of the truth and a multi-layered plot makes for compulsive reading and this is a very accomplished debut novel. Surprising, emotionally charged and dark, My Sister’s Bones is a fantastic psychological thriller that needs to be added to your TBR list.

Thanks to Nuala Ellwood and Penguin Books for the advance copy.

Published in Ebook by Penguin on 1 November 2016 you can purchase a copy HERE.

Published in hardback on 9 February 2017.

Favourite Books – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca Daphne du Maurier

The Blurb

Last night I dreamt I went Manderley again…

Working as a lady’s companion, the orphaned heroine of Rebecca learns her place.  Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise.  Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man.  and the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers…

My Thoughts

Du Mauriers classic novel about a young woman who meets Maxim De Winter while working as a ladys companion in Monte Carlo and quickly marries him. Maxim is a wealthy man who lost his wife, Rebecca, in an accident a year ago and is the owner of Mandeley, a beautiful home on the coast, well know for its parties. On returning to Manderley following their marriage the narrator is haunted by Rebecca and the fact that she can not live up to her much loved and adored predecessor.

We never find out what the narrators name is and this adds to the feeling that Rebecca permeates everything at Manderley. We see the insecurities in the narrator, her sense of being unable to ever live up to Rebecca and compete with the dead woman, her worry that Maxim will never love her the way he loved Rebecca all compounded by the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, and others remarks about how she is not like Rebecca.

At times I felt incredibly frustrated by the narrator and doubted if Maxim had any breadth of feeling for her, however when the truth unfolds it all makes sense and I feel Du Maurier deliberately portrayed her this way in order for the reader to feel sympathy and root for the couple in circumstances in which you wouldn’t normally.

This book is beautifully written and Manderley almost becomes a living organism in itself and a central character in the novel. This and the use of weather to highlight the psychological states of the characters is very well done and is reminiscent of one of my favourite novels, Wuthering Heights. More than just a love story or a Gothic novel, this book also uses psychology to progress the story and the characters.

It is difficult to write a review that does not spoil the story and give away the twists at the end for those who have not read it. I loved this book, it kept me wanting to read more and the prose is stunning. It is firmly on my list of favourites and one that I return to again and again.

Published 9 February 2012 by Virago.

First published May 1938.

Reviewed 16 January 2016

 

Review – Melody Bittersweet and the Girls Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French

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The Blurb

Life’s tough for Melody Bittersweet.  

She’s single, addicted to sugar and superheroes, her family are officially bonkers, and she sees dead people.  Is it any wonder no-one’s swiping right on Tinder?  

Waking up lonely on her twenty-seventh birthday, Melody finally snaps.  She can’t carry on basing all of her life decisions on the advice of her magic 8 ball; things have got to change.

Fast forward two months, and she’s now the proud proprietor of her very own ghostbusting agency – kind of like in the movies but without the dodgy white jumpsuits.  She’s also flirting with her ex Leo Dark, fraternising with her enemy in alleyways, and she’s somehow ended up with a pug called Lestat.  

Life just went from dull to dynamite and it’s showing no sign of slowing up anytime soon.  Melody’s been hired to clear Scarborough House of it’s incumbent ghosts, there’s the small matter of a murder to solve, and then there’s the two very handsome, totally inappropriate men hoping to distract her from the job…

Welcome to Chapelwick, home of the brand new and hilarious Girl’s Ghostbusting Agency series, where things really do go bump in the night.

 

My Review

Melody Bittersweet and the Girls Ghostbusting Agency was an absolute delight from the fantastic cover to the end of the book.

Hilariously funny, I read some of this on a train journey and got some funny looks off other passengers when I could not help but giggle out loud. Melody Bittersweet has all of the right ingredients for a great read – fantastic characters, great setting, wicked wit and a mystery. I found the book totally engaging from the very beginning.

Melody is a psychic who is looking to kick-start her life following her twenty-seventh birthday by setting up the Girls Ghostbusting Agency with her best friend, Marina, and Artie, who gets a job with them through unusual circumstances. Love is also something Melody hopes to find, but finding the right man who understands her ‘gift’ is not easy. I adored Melody and she is definitely someone you would want to hang out with. Kitty has done a great job of making Melody, her friends and family easy to relate to (despite psychic powers!) and created down to earth, funny, extremely likeable characters. Lestat, the one-eared pug is brilliant!

The fact that this book also has a mystery that needs to be solved is another great plus. Yes, the book has what you would expect from what I guess is chick lit, but the supernatural element makes it totally unique and more enjoyable in my opinion.

I read this book during a difficult time and it was exactly what I needed to cheer me up and it provided some much needed escapism. You cannot help but get drawn into Melody’s world and I loved reading about the antics she and her friends got up to. If you want a book that takes you away from it all, check this one out. There isn’t anything about this book that I did not like and all there is left to say is “Hurry up with the second Melody book Kitty!”

Thank you to Kitty French, Bookouture and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Published on 14 July 2016 by Bookouture.