Monday, 14 December 2015

Behind Closed Doors - B. A. Paris - twisty genius

My thoughts

Fabulous read, a real page turner of a psychological domestic noir.

Jack and Grace - the perfect couple, recently married, in the flush of a new relationship, it's hardly surprising that they're so devoted to each other. At first I observed the relationship as others see it, their friends attending dinner parties Grace has carefully and lovingly prepared. They probably envy her - her handsome, successful and very attentive husband. She's so in love with him, she's happily given up her career to make sure he's content. She spends her days caring for their lovely designer home and looking forward to the time in the not too distant future when her younger sister Millie comes to live with them. Their guests certainly want to include her in their social lives, invitations to lunch and offers of friendship are made, despite Grace having let them down by not turning up before.

I then began to see behind the closed doors, once the guests have gone, catching glimpses of Grace's life, both when she first met Jack and in the present. There is something very off kilter but quite what it is I had yet to work out .... and that's when my blood began to run very, very, cold. From small tinkling alarm bells grow huge clangs of disbelief and as teeth clenching realisation dawns to why Grace is like she is, I couldn't put this book down. It switches between now and before with ease, painting a detailed picture of a doomed relationship that is unlike any I've come across before.

Grace is in a situation I can only pray I never end up in. At first I began to think why on earth does she put up with the things she does, but the author very cleverly covers all bases in assuring us that escaping is pretty darned impossible. Jack is evil and manipulates her effortlessly, and I kept thinking "No, for heavens sake, how far can my incredulity stretch" yet, I did end up believing this story and warmed to Grace, especially towards the latter part of the book.

I really can't say too much about this book without giving too much away. It's obvious it's about some form of abusive relationship and I went into it expecting some kind of battered wife story - Oh but this is SO much more than that. It's extremely twisty and so clever it's a work of genius.

That I loved reading this wonderful book from a talented new author is not in doubt. That Jack will haunt my nightmares for some time to come is also assured!

My gratitude goes to the folks at Netgalley for offering this advance copy for review purposes and to the publisher for granting me access to it.

The Blurb:

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace.

He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.

You’d like to get to know Grace better.

But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.
Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Sometimes, the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

Friday, 11 December 2015

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep - Joanna Cannon - The Avenue or Memory Lane?

My thoughts:

What a refreshing and enjoyable trip down memory lane this book is. It was intended to be my Christmas read this year, but reading some very complimentary advance reviews made me long to pick it up sooner and I did, and I read it and I wasn't disappointed!

Set in the long hot school summer holidays of 1976, set to go down in history as "the hot one" and make all of us over 45 repeatedly mutter "I remember when summers WERE summers", even though there was really only the one like this.

In The Avenue, a normal street on an ordinary housing estate live 2 little girls, Grace and her friend Tilly, They don't quite fit in with the other kids but it doesn't matter because they are a formidable duo, full of imagination and ideas.

When a resident of the street a Mrs Creasy goes missing one day Grace decides that she and Tilly will solve the mystery of her disappearance by finding Jesus, who of course knows everything, and as they try, in their own inimitable way, to unravel what is behind the missing woman they uncover secrets and years of cover ups and hidden flaws amongst the residents of The Avenue.

Behind the veneer of suburban respectability lurks a hint of decay, like a vase of flowers on the brink of rotting.

Every resident is harbouring some kind of secret, every person has hidden vices and not so hidden prejudices.

When and if the girls do find Jesus will he bring everyone together or tear them apart?

What unfurls is a melodic story, written in prosaic thoughts and sentences of singular beauty, the voices of the 2 young girls echoing across the intervening years and making me feel their memories were mine.

With the flavour of angel delight, pick and mix and custard creams and the sound of Hilda Ogden on tv in the background we are transported back in time watching the mystery of a missing woman unravel everybody's secrets.

What the book is about at a deeper level is not fitting in and prejudice, friendship and betrayal.

Overall it's an utterly charming and delightful read with a mystery at heart that will have you wondering more than once whether someone is a gentle sheep following the flock innocently or a feisty goat head butting their way through life.

My gratitude to the kind folks at Harper Collins publishing who made me very happy by kindly providing a proof copy for review purposes.

The Blurb

England, 1976.

Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.

And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…

Early Praise
'An utter delight’ Sarah Winman
‘A treasure chest of a novel’ Julie Cohen
‘One of the standout novels of the year’ Hannah Beckerman
‘I didn't want the book to end’ Carys Bray
‘An excellent debut’ James Hannah
‘Grace and Tilly are my new heroes’ Kate Hamer
‘A wonderful debut’ Jill Mansell
‘A modern classic in the making’ Sarah Hilary
‘A stunning debut’ Katie Fforde
‘Phenomenal’ Miranda Dickinson

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Green Room - Faith Mortimer - murder and mayhem

My thoughts:

The Green room is a stand alone thriller in the Dark Minds series by Faith Mortimer.

I found it to be a fast paced, easy to follow murder mystery which I galloped through in a couple of sittings. I just kept turning those pages to find out what was going to happen to our main protagonist Ella.

The book begins with a gruesome and violent murder - of a victim with my name! This wasn't coincidence, I "won" the chance to have my name in print by this author and I was very excited and pleased to have a character named after me. I was however rather surprised how terribly uneasy it made me feel when reading it! This added to the eerie sense of prickling at the back of my neck, though and got me in that spooked frame of mind which is the best way to feel when you're reading a thriller.

There is a serial killer on the loose in and around Guildford and the victims are all dark haired young actresses, connected with the theatre and in particular the Green Room theatre bar.

35 year old Ella, settling into her first flat of her own, is a hard working nurse, the only theatre she works in is an operating theatre so she'll be safe from this brutal serial murderer - or will she? Her boyfriend is a policeman too so she's doubly more likely to avoid becoming a victim. But things start to happen around her which have her wondering if the killer may be closer to home than she would like. A handsome but mysterious man moves into the flat next door, a work colleague is behaving strangely, her parents seem absent more than usual and her love life is on the rocks. Poor Ella, surely things can't get much worse for her? ....

What follows is the chance to watch Ella's life spiralling out of control, to think "no, no, don't go there" and to feel relieved and a touch smug that it's not actually happening to you. Ella no longer knows who she can really trust any more and thats the scariest part for her.

The author cleverly plants lots of red herrings to throw the reader off the track and onto the wrong one and back again.

It's a very tense and creepy book. It's more of a who-dunnit than a psychological thriller to be honest and I really didn't feel I'd got inside the mind and motivation of the killer, once their identity is fully revealed. But it's a hugely entertaining read, very fast paced and gripping and a must read for anyone who enjoys a jolly good scare and loves reading about murder and mayhem.

I was provided with a free copy to read and review, and my thanks go to the author.

The Blurb.....

Ella, a thirty-five year old nurse, believes she has a good life: no money worries, a job she enjoys, a gorgeous apartment and an undemanding boyfriend…until one fateful evening when everything changes. 

A young woman is found raped and strangled near Ella’s home. The latest victim in a serial killer’s rampage across Surrey. 

Ella’s boyfriend Michael, a police constable on the team conducting the investigations of the crime, pleads with Ella to be vigilant at all times…the killer is bound to strike again. 

When a handsome, enigmatic stranger rents the empty apartment above Ella, the brutal death toll rises…but against her better judgement, Ella doesn’t listen to her boyfriend’s warnings about strangers until it is far too late… 

She is convinced that there must be a connection between the murdered women, and for some reason it is all linked to the Green Room…

Monday, 7 December 2015

Excerpt - The Broken Road - Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

Today I'm delighted to share an extract from the new book by Lindsay Stanberry Flynn - The Broken road. I love the cover but haven't been able to fit it into my reading schedule yet so am sharing this extract kindly provided by the author herself. It sounds lovely I hope you enjoy it.

The Blurb:

What do you do when the past returns to haunt you?
When no one around you tells the truth?

Ollie’s life is in crisis. Estranged from his father when he refuses to take over the family hotel, his artistic career is floundering, and his marriage is under strain. His wife, Jess, blames him, but is she as innocent as she appears?

Louise, Ollie’s sister, takes on the hotel in his absence, testing her emotional fragility to the limit. She knows her father considers her to be second best, and her husband is hostile to her new role. 
As the action moves between London, Plymouth and Venice, the family implodes under the weight of past betrayals, leading to a nail-biting, fast-paced climax.

In another emotionally compelling novel from the award-winning Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, the complex ties that both bind us to family and drive us apart are laid bare. Can Ollie heal the fault-lines before it’s too late? Above all, can he salvage his relationship with his young daughter, Flo, before tragedy strikes?

Praise for Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn
Real insight into character Bel Mooney

The pages turn faster than an autumn leaf in the wind Reading Writes

The Extract:


If Ollie had been a lark, things would have been different. He envied larks: the glow of sainthood flooded their lives. They caught the worm; they got things done. If Ollie had been a lark, he’d have been up hours before his mobile buzzed at nine o’clock. He’d already have been for a run, dashed off half a dozen paintings, and made breakfast for Jess and Flo. But Ollie was an owl, not a lark, so he reached a hand from under the duvet, slammed the phone into silence and went back to sleep.

He was sorting through the paintings stacked in the hallway when it rang again. He let himself dream of good news. That new gallery in Highgate might be offering him an exhibition. Or there was a chance the American customer had come good and wanted to commission more of his Hampstead Heath scenes. He studied the painting in his hands: an avenue of lime trees in Alexandra Park. Sunshine pierced the canopy of leaves, spreading a lacework of light on the path below. He’d painted it during a period of inspiration last summer. Jess had loved it: ‘Hey, that’s good!’ she said. ‘You’ve got your magic back.’ She’d kissed him, the sort of kiss she used to give him when they first met.

A dog barked in the street below. A hacking, insistent noise, like a consumptive’s cough. It dragged him away from that summer day made forever idyllic by his painting. Traffic noise from the Holloway Road rumbled through the open window in the kitchen; a magpie screeched in the gardens behind the flats. The mobile had stopped, but rang again almost straight away. He propped the picture in front of the others and ran into the bedroom, snatching the phone from the chest of drawers.

It turns out the call is from Ollie’s father who has come up to London to visit and wants to meet. They don’t get on following Ollie’s refusal to take on the family hotel in Plymouth. Ollie agrees to meet him for a pub lunch, but the atmosphere is strained. And then ...

His father gripped the edge of the table, spreading his fingers wide. ‘But let’s cut to the chase, eh?’ A line of dark hairs sprouted above the knuckles, and the familiar gold signet ring decorated the little finger of his left hand. Physically, Ollie took after his mother’s side of the family, tall, skinny, dark-haired, but his hands with their wide palms and square-tipped fingers were identical to his father’s.

‘You haven’t been down to Plymouth for over a year.’

‘Our last meeting wasn’t exactly positive, was it?’ He fixed his eyes on his father’s face. ‘I seem to remember you said, “Don’t come back until you’re ready to discuss the next steps”.'

‘It’s breaking your mother’s heart, you know.’

‘Don’t do the emotional blackmail, Dad. I phoned Mum last week, and she’s fine.’ Ollie indicated the empty glass. ‘Another one?’

His father shook his head. ‘We need to talk business. I’m sixty-four this year. I’m getting tired, and I want to secure the future of the hotel.’

‘We’ve been through this before. You know how I feel.’

His father’s fingers drummed on the table. ‘I need you down in Plymouth, Oliver. One day the hotel will be yours –’

‘No, Dad!’ Ollie had been determined to keep his cool, but the words exploded from his mouth. The couple at the next table stopped talking and stared at him. ‘I’ve told you. I’m not interested in running the hotel.’

‘The South-West is renowned for its light. You could do a bit of painting on the side.’

‘I don’t want to do a bit of painting. I’m an artist; it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.’

‘It’s your inheritance, Oliver. The hotel has been in the Anderson family for generations, father to son, father to son. You’re my first born –’

‘You’ve only got one child, Dad.’

‘What are you talking about? There’s you and Louise.’

‘The hotel has always been the only child you care about.'

‘Just because I took my responsibilities seriously. I regarded running the hotel as an honour and a privilege.’

‘Even at the expense of your family?’

‘You’re thirty-nine –’

‘Thanks, Dad. I’m well aware of my age.’

‘Come and join me in the hotel.’ Beads of sweat on his top lip were the only sign his father was agitated. ‘I can pay you a proper salary, show you the ropes, and when the time comes, you’ll be ready to take over.’

Ollie thumped his balled fists against his knees. ‘You haven’t listened to anything I’ve said. You can’t ride roughshod over other people’s feelings.’

‘I could have been all sorts of things. I was good at science. I’d like to have been an engineer.’

‘Then you should understand what it means to feel passionate about something.’

‘What I understand is duty. I promised your grandfather on his deathbed that I'd pass the hotel to you, his namesake. And it's your duty –'

'You can't promise on someone else's behalf, Dad.'

'A deathbed promise is sacred. I can still hear your grandfather's voice now: Another Oliver Anderson to take over the hotel. I can die in peace. You're asking me to break that.'

‘And you're trying to make me to feel guilty about something that was nothing to do with me.' Ollie jumped up, his hand knocking against the bottle. It crashed on the ground, and the glass splintered. ‘I’m not taking on the hotel, Dad. Sell it. Do whatever.’

His father looked up at him, grey eyes glinting in the sunlight. ‘I can’t believe it’s come to this. I always told your mother you’d see sense one day.’

‘Leave Mum out of it. Just because she’s had to do as she’s told, doesn’t mean I have to.’

His father stood up and faced him across the table. ‘You’ll regret that.’

Ollie dragged the band from his pony tail and shook his hair free. ‘I doubt I will, Dad. And you needn’t bother with the allowance any more. I don’t want your money.’

The silence grew around them and he sensed other people’s eyes on them. His father’s fists were clenching and unclenching. Their stares locked for several seconds. Then Ollie pushed back his chair and walked away.

Available now for your kindle from Amazon

Visit Lindsay's website here

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Favourite reads 2015

I've decided to choose my favourite reads of the year now because I'm working lots of overtime followed by being away at Christmas and New Year. I hope you enjoy my selection and find one or two new reads yourself.

My main criteria is to choose books which have stayed with me in some way. There are quite a few books which I read, love and give a great review or rating to but a few months later they have faded. If I can read my review and remember the great feeling the book engendered or feel as though I'm revisiting old friends THAT'S when I call a book a raging success.

It always surprises me a little to discover how many of the books I enjoyed most are historical fiction and period dramas. I read a lot of psychological chillers hence many of these make it through but often the books I really lose myself most deeply in are the epic historical dramas with quirky everyday characters in unusual settings, and there are actually too few of these around which fit the bill.

To read my review of any of them click on the title.

A brilliant, heartstopping, thriller which begins rather gently then explodes midway into a grippingly twisted storyline about Jenna trying to rebuild her life whilst re-living nightmares about the hit and run which killed Little Joshua.

A wonderful, epic historical drama with a great sense of place and brilliant characters who stayed with me a long time after finishing it. It tells the life story of Harry who abandons his life and family to become a homesteader in remote aerly 20th century Canada.

A very clever, creepily enjoyable book about a teenage girl who doesn't fit in and will go to almost any lengths to create a friendship.

An atmospheric historical novel which lives up to its promise. Set in turn of the century New York and Coney Island, with circus acts, sword swallowing women, asylums, night soil ceaners and illegitimate babies its brimming with authentic drama.

Emotional wonderful romantic fiction which tore my heart in two and sewed it back together as only a book set in a hospice and peopled by wonderful characters created by the wonderful Rowan Coleman can.

An engaging and irresistibly readable psychological drama with quirky characters and a twist of dark humour. Single parent Roz is th eone who makes the mistake and we watch her life spiral out of control as a result.

A truly magical historical romantic, drama set in a slightly alternative steampunkesque London and featuring a clockwork octopus you'll fall in love with. Unique, original and highly entertaining.

Compelling and poignant, bleak and haunting world war 2 drama that is both thought provoking and dreamlike. It's about the journey made and people met by Owen. trying to find his way home after awakening in a field in 1945 with no memory of who he is or how he got there.

A nostalgic and somewhat tragic story set in the 1980s with a lonely teenage girl becoming invloved with a rather bohemian family. Very atmospheric with a dreamlike reminiscent quality.

A stunning historical family drama set in Ceylon in the 1920s.The description and detail just oozes off the page and I was immersed in the life of newly married Gwen trying to adapt to marriec life on a tea plantation amidst unrest and prejudices.

This historical novel  seized me by the wrist and dragged me back in time to the late 18th century where it beguiled me throughout. Two womens paths cross and shape their lives - convicted criminal Mary Jebb transported to Australia and naive young bride Grace trying to adapt to marriage and life in a crumbling old mansion in England.

Brimming with hidden secrets, family tension, and the overwhelming sense of something nasty lurking underneath the surface. set mostly in the 1960s in a dilapidated cottage by a brooding lake its a tense mystery drama surrounding a young teenage girl who disappeared and Amy who comes to the cottage years later to work as a nanny/ companion.

A chilling and scary look into the mind of a serial killer, takes the reader deep beneath the cold killer to the damaged psyche of a mass murderer I couldn't help but have sympathy for.

A thriller chiller set in Social media land. This murderously scary, twisty who-dunnit is peppered with larger than life characters, scary events and a touch of tongue in cheek quirkiness making it a fun yet dark page turner.

#TheGiverofStars - Jojo Moyes my #Review #historical #histfic

The Giver of Stars by JojoMoyes My Review Recently I was asked the question who is your go-to author? Whose books I'd read regardl...