Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Lie - C L Taylor Blog tour excerpt

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

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

If you enjoyed this order your copy now from Amazon

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

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Church of Marvels - Leslie Parry - magnificent



From the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Things we have in common - Tasha Kavanagh - creepily enjoyable




The Blurb:


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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Bones of you - Debbie Howells - tense psychological thriller



The Blurb

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

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

Children who don’t die before their parents.

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

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

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


My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable - Exceptional readability



The Blurb:


How can a memory so vivid be wrong?

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Place called Winter - Patrick Gale - epic historical drama



From the Blurb:

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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