Monthly Archives: May 2016

All the Lonely People by Sarah Vincent – Guest Post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Sarah Vincent to the blog. Sarah is the author of The Testament of Vida Tremayne which was published Three Hares Publishing on 7 November 2014. Sarah has written a lovely guest post about the lonely

All the Lonely People

I’ve always found loneliness a fascinating topic to read and to write about.

‘Ah look at all the Lonely People’ the Beatles sang, ‘where do they all come from?’

That was 1966, and it wasn’t until ten years later when I was in my early twenties, living in a new area with two small children and my trusty Remington typewriter for company, that the song began to resonate. I longed to know more about Eleanor Rigby who ‘kept her face in a jar by the door.’ 

I had no real friends to turn to at that time, but books filled the gap. I began seeking out Eleanor Rigby types in fiction, and I didn’t have to look far. Jane Eyre, Rebecca…fiction abounds with female characters cut off from the wider world and forced to make inner journeys as they await some kind of rescue. For contemporary fiction I looked no further than Fay Weldon who’s 70s’ heroines, isolated and struggling with their roles as wives and mothers I could identify with. Loneliness comes in all shapes and sizes. For that particular brand of loneliness that accompanies old age I can think of no finer novel than Elizabeth Taylor’s ‘Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.’ 

We all have periods in our lives, where we feel cut off, set apart and unable to connect with the rest of humanity, and I think this is why the fictional loner has more appeal than the life and soul of the party, birdy-dancing her way through the cast of thousands.

 ‘But Vida’s voice is so lonely.’ When I met my new agent to discuss The Testament of Vida Tremayne, this was virtually the first thing she remarked on. Her look of appalled empathy struck a chord. Vida is a novelist, and most writers are locked away inside their own heads. That is when they’re not faffing about on Social Media of course, something Vida definitely isn’t guilty of!

Often we connect more easily with our fictional characters than with real people. It makes sense if you think about it. As writers, we’re in control of our characters. We put words in their mouths, whereas real people are unpredictable. Vida’s diary is her only friend and confidante. She’s never quite got the hang of Real People. This isn’t helped by the fact that she lives in self-imposed physical exile, in the wild borderlands between England and Wales. 

Driving back from Cregaron through the dun-coloured uplands, the forests that hug the contours of the land like corporation carpet, my mind fretted over the same old question. What am I doing, living here in the middle of nowhere?

But loners don’t have to be writers or live in rural seclusion as Vida does. Even city dwellers can by exiled within themselves. Whether it’s an Anita Brookner heroine, stalking the London streets in her cardigan, or middle-aged teacher Barbara, the narrator of Zoe Heller’s ‘Notes on a Scandal’ watching her clothes spinning round in the launderette, their isolation seeps off the page, drawing the reader in at gut level. It’s not just female characters either. Ishiguro’s butler, Stevens in ‘The Remains of the day’ is one of the most tragically isolated characters I’ve ever encountered. Likewise the man nicknamed ‘Colourless’ in Murakami’s ‘Colourless and his Years of Pilgrimage.’ How I ached for that poor guy to find himself a true friend!

A writer may nurture solitude, but even for writers this has its limits. It’s when Vida’s creative spark dies, that she looks up and realises she has no one. Her husband left two years ago to live with his new woman in France and she’s virtually estranged from her busy London estate-agent daughter, Dory. Her old friends meanwhile have fallen by the wayside. 

Today as I opened the front door, the silence pressed against me like a living thing, the way a cat winds itself about your legs when it wants feeding. It had a swish to it, like silk. I paused, listened. What I would have given to hear Jon’s tuneless whistling right then. I nearly tripped over the rug in my rush to switch on Radio 4, as I always do, just for the comfort of hearing a human voice.

In fiction, it’s when the loner tries connecting with others that things get really interesting.  Brookner’s quiet heroines when they dare step outside the front door, are frequently overwhelmed by stronger, extrovert personalities, while in ‘Notes on a Scandal’, Barbara’s friendship with younger teacher Sheba Hart quickly becomes warped and mutually destructive.

Vida is virtually a recluse, and this makes her vulnerable when she’s contacted by a mysterious fan, Rhiannon Townsend, a woman who slowly inveigles her way into Vida’s life. At what point does a fan become a friend? Vida hesitates at undertaking the strange-sounding Programme which this woman suggests will free her creativity again:   

‘I thought we were friends, Vida.’

‘It’s kind of you to say that but…’

‘And don’t friends help one another? I consider it an honour to be part of the process. By working with a great novelist like you, don’t you see, I can get inside the process; I can see what it feels like from the source.’

This was so heartfelt, so genuine, I felt my eyes filling up.

‘You’ve been so good to me, Rhiannon,’ I said. ‘Well, almost more than a friend, more like a daughter.’

The real daughter Dory, is shocked when, at the news that her mother is catatonic in hospital, she dashes from London to find Rhiannon installed at the cottage. 

Dory stiffens, taken aback at the idea of Vida having a friend: Vida who lived like a hermit, always buried in the latest book. But why shouldn’t she have a friend? God knows she’d need someone out here in the middle of nowhere.

Dory is not a reader, and confesses to never having read her mother’s books. We have to pity her, because for the avid reader of course, books are our friends. Isn’t that why we have this new disease of accumulating more and more books, of the ever-growing TBR list, of downloading endless Kindle offers we’ll probably never get around to reading? As long as we’re surrounded by stories yet to be read, we feel safe and secure, in the knowledge that we’ll never be truly alone.

About the Book:

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“A lonely novelist, A devoted fan, A journal that speaks of unspeakable things…

Author Vida Tremayne lies silent in a hospital bed. The forces which brought about her terrifying decline are shrouded in mystery. Meanwhile, her estranged daughter Dory is forced to abandon her fast paced city life to be by her mother’s bedside. Dory is resentful. She hates the country and she and her mother were never exactly close. Luckily Vida already has a carer, the enigmatic Rhiannon Townsend. A long-standing fan of Vida’s, Rhiannon is happy to take care of the bedside vigil. Dory is free to resume her life. Or is she? Then she discovers her mother’s journal. Vida’s chilling testament reveals the trigger for her spiralling into madness. It also reveals the danger that still lurks close by. A danger that will call on Dory’s every reserve of courage if she’s to free her mother, and maybe in doing so, to free herself.”

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20 books of Summer

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Not usually one who joins in with memes and the like I spotted this one devised by Cathy at 746Books. Cathy is hoping to read 20 books between 1 June and 5 September, meaning she has the mammoth task of reading about 7 books a month. You can read about the challenge on Cathy’s excellent blog here.

I think I’m doomed to failure before I start but I need to make a dent in the TBR and thought that this challenge would give me the push I need. I’ve selected 10 books and I’m allowing myself 10 wildcards so that I can chose my read as my fickle taste dictates. I’m not sure if this is allowed but I’ve learnt that I need to have flexibility in what I’m reading; I need to be able to go where my reading taste takes me, otherwise I find I resent the book I’m trying to plough through. I’ve aimed for a mix of genres, length and topic in my choices. Some are books I’ve agreed to review or are future releases, others simply because they caught my eye when I was scanning the TBR.

I’ll be reviewing all of the books I manage to read and I’ll be using the 20 books of Summer logo picture on each one. I’ll also link back to my reviews on here so I can keep track of how many I have read.

Here’s what I’ve picked (I’ll add the wildcard reads as I pick them)…

 

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Her Father’s Daughter by Marie Sizun

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“A little girl lives happily with her mother in war-torn Paris. She has never met her father, a prisoner of war in Germany. But then he returns and her mother switches her devotion to her husband. The girl realizes that she must win over her father to recover her position in the family. She confides a secret that will change their lives.”

Read my review here.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

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“On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.

The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust – until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.”

The Dog Who Dared to Dream by Sun Mi Hwang

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“This is the story of a dog named Scraggly. Born an outsider because of her distinctive appearance, she spends most of her days in the sun-filled yard of her owner’s house. Scraggly has dreams and aspirations just like the rest of us. But each winter, dark clouds descend and Scraggly is faced with challenges that she must overcome. Through the clouds and even beyond the gates of her owner’s yard lies the possibility of friendship, motherhood and happiness – they are for the taking if Scraggly can just hold on to them, bring them home and build the life she so desperately desires.

The Dog Who Dared to Dream is a wise tale of the relationship between dog and man, as well as a celebration of a life lived with courage. Translated into English for the first time, it is a classic from Sun-mi Hwang, an international bestselling author.”

Read my review here.

Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins

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“A thousand miles east of Mirgorod, the great capital city of the Vlast, deep in the ancient forest, lies the most recent fallen angel, its vast stone form half-buried and fused into the rock by the violence of impact. As its dark energy leeches into the crash site, so a circle of death expands around it, slowly – inexorably – killing everything it touches. Alone in the wilderness, it reaches out with its mind.

The endless forest and its antique folk lore are no concern to Inspector Vissarion Lom, summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist – and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police. A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown terrorism with an iron fist. But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists. Lom has been chosen because he is an outsider, not involved in the struggle for power within the party. And because of the sliver of angel stone implanted in his head at the children’s home.

Lom’s investigation reveals a conspiracy that extends to the top echelons of the party. When he exposes who – or rather what – is the controlling intelligence behind this, it is time for the detective to change sides. Pursued by rogue police agents and their man-crushing mudjhik, Lom must protect Kantor’s step-daughter Maroussia, who has discovered what is hidden beneath police headquarters: a secret so ancient that only the forest remembers. As they try to escape the capital and flee down river, elemental forces are gathering. The earth itself is on the move.”

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola

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“Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola’s THE UNSEEING is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. Perfect for any reader of Sarah Waters or Antonia Hodgson.

‘With this intricately woven tale of trust, self-trust and deceit, Anna Mazzola brings a gritty realism to Victorian London. Beautifully written and cleverly plotted, this is a stunning debut, ranked amongst the best’ MANDA SCOTT

After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?”

Read my review here.

The Wrong Girl by David Hewson

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“Sinterklaas, a beaming, friendly saint with a white beard, was set to mark his arrival in Amsterdam with a parade so celebrated it would be watched live on television throughout the Netherlands. Today the crowds would run into three hundred thousand or more, and the police presence would top four figures. The city centre was closed to all traffic as a golden barge bore Sinterklaas down the Amstel river, surrounded by a throng of private boats full of families trying to get close.’

Amsterdam is bursting at the seams with children trying to get a glimpse of their hero and families enjoying the occasion. The police are out in force, struggling to manage the crowds on one of the busiest days of the year.

Brigadier Pieter Vos is on duty with his young assistant, Laura Bakker, when the first grenade hits. As Sinterklaas prepares to address the crowds, a terrorist incident grips the heart of the city. In the chaos a young girl wearing a pink jacket is kidnapped.

But the abducted child isn’t the daughter of an Amsterdam aristocrat as the terrorists first thought. She’s the daughter of an impoverished Georgian prostitute, friendless and trapped in the web of vice that is Amsterdam’s Red Light District. As the security forces and the police clash over the ensuing investigation, the perpetrator’s horrifying demands become clear. Vos, trapped in a turf war with state intelligence, tries to unravel a conspiracy that reaches from the brothels of the city to the hierarchy of the security services. And at its heart lies an eight-year-old girl, snatched from a loving mother and then ferried from one criminal lair to the next. Her life in the balance as Vos and Laura Bakker struggle to uncover the shocking truth behind her abduction. What is the life of one immigrant child worth in the greater political game emerging around them?”

Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrick Backman

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“The number 1 European bestseller by the author of New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon A Man Called Ove, Britt-Marie was Here is a funny, poignant and uplifting tale of love, community, and second chances.

For as long as anyone can remember, Britt-Marie has been an acquired taste. It’s not that she’s judgemental, or fussy, or difficult – she just expects things to be done in a certain way. A cutlery drawer should be arranged in the right order, for example (forks, knives, then spoons). We’re not animals, are we?

But behind the passive-aggressive, socially awkward, absurdly pedantic busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes.

So when Britt-Marie finds herself unemployed, separated from her husband of 20 years, left to fend for herself in the miserable provincial backwater that is Borg – of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it – and somehow tasked with running the local football team, she is a little unprepared. But she will learn that life may have more to offer her that she’s ever realised, and love might be found in the most unexpected of places.”

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

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“When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind.

But then she meets Joe. A convicted murderer who reminds Lily of someone she once knew, and who she becomes obsessed with freeing.

But is he really innocent?”

The Butcher Bird by SD Sykes

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“Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more – something the King himself has forbidden.

Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear.

Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumour, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters.

From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald’s journey is full of danger, dark intrigue and shocking revelations.”

You can read my review here.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield

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“The Bennet sisters have been summoned from New York City.

Liz and Jane are good daughters. They’ve come home to suburban Cincinnati to get their mother to stop feeding their father steak as he recovers from heart surgery, to tidy up the crumbling Tudor-style family home, and to wrench their three sisters from their various states of arrested development.

Once they are under the same roof, old patterns return fast. Soon enough they are being berated for their single status, their only respite the early morning runs they escape on together. For two successful women in their late thirties, it really is too much to bear. That is, until the Lucas family’s BBQ throws them in the way of some eligible single men . . .

Chip Bingley is not only a charming doctor, he’s a reality TV star too. But Chip’s friend, haughty neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, can barely stomach Cincinnati or its inhabitants. Jane is entranced by Chip; Liz, sceptical of Darcy. As Liz is consumed by her father’s mounting medical bills, her wayward sisters and Cousin Willie trying to stick his tongue down her throat, it isn’t only the local chilli that will leave a bad aftertaste.

But where there are hearts that beat and mothers that push, the mysterious course of love will resolve itself in the most entertaining and unlikely of ways. And from the hand of Curtis Sittenfeld, Pride & Prejudice is catapulted into our modern world singing out with hilarity and truth.”

Read my review here.

Wildcard reads

Death of a Diva by Derek Farrell

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“Danny Bird is having a very bad day. In the space of just a few hours he lost his job, his partner and his home. 

Ever the optimist, Danny throws himself headlong into his dream to turn the grimmest pub in London into the coolest nightspot south of the river. Sadly, everything doesn’t go quite as planned when his star turn is found strangled hours before opening night. 

Danny becomes the prime suspect in the crime, and then the gangster who really owns the pub starts asking where his share of the takings has gone… it seems things are going to get worse for Danny before they get better. “

Read my review here.

The Museum of You by Carys Bray

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“Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.

Darren has done his best. He’s studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.”

Read my review here.

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

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“From the award-winning author of the No 1 bestseller, Unravelling Oliver

‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’

Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder. However, needs must – because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants …

This is a dark, twisty and utterly gripping domestic noir that you won’t be able to put down from the author hailed as Ireland’s answer to Gillian Flynn.”

Read my review here.

Wrote for Luck by DJ Taylor

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“Wrote For Luck ranges from North Norfolk to Chicago, from sordid old antique dealers to glamorous young writers, from glorious local gossips to frustrated academics.These stories abound with gleeful absurdity, waspish humour, and awkward, exquisitely English conversations. But they are also rich in melancholy and the heady sadness of people struggling to find a place in the world. Some are fascinatingly strange; others are uncomfortably familiar. Some are simply hilarious – and all are touchingly human.”

Read my review here.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

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“‘Intelligently written, finely observed and surprisingly moving, this is a book you’ll find hard to put down’ Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project

Companions come in all shapes and sizes.
Companionship lasts forever.

Lily and the Octopus is a novel about finding that special someone to share your life with.
For Ted Flask, that someone is Lily, and she happens to be a dog.
This novel reminds us how to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Reminiscent of The Life of Pi and The Art of Racing in the Rain, with spins into magic realism and beautifully evoked universal truths of love, loyalty and loss, a hilariously sardonic and not altogether reliable narrator, and one unforgettable hound who simple wisdom will break your heart and put it back together again, Lily and the Octopus captures the search for meaning in death and introduces a dazzling new voice in fiction.”

You can read my review here.

An Octopus in my Ouzo by Jennifer Barclay

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“Escape to the sunlight and colour of a wild island in the south Aegean.

When Jennifer moves alone into the Honey Factory on a tiny Greek island, bringing a laptop, her hiking boots and plans for a peaceful life, she has no idea what surprises are in store.

Diving into an exciting new life with a fisherman, she learns something every day. Joining the dancing at local festivals and helping at a café on the beach, surviving winter storms and finding a canine companion, she is faced with both challenges and rewards, and discovers that to become an island woman she must live small and think big.”

Read my review here.

Last Light by C.J. Lyons

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“A brutally murdered family… a wronged man in prison

From bestselling author CJ Lyons comes a new, standalone Lucy Guardino series. For fans of Lisa Gardner, Angela Marsons and Helen H. Durrant

“Everything a great thriller should be–action packed, authentic, and intense.” ~#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child

1987: Lily Martin is horrifically murdered along with her young child in Texas.

Today: Life should be easy after leaving the FBI –  but not if you’re detective Lucy Guardino. Lucy has always seen herself as a normal mum who happened to have a job chasing the worst of the worst. But after a violent predator targets her family and she’s injured, Lucy sacrifices her career at the Bureau.

She joins the Beacon Group, a firm that specializes in cold cases and brings justice to forgotten victims. Lucy fears she’s traded the elite for shepherding a team of amateurs.

Her fears appear justified when she’s partnered with TK O’Connor, an army veteran struggling with her transition to ordinary life. They are sent to rural Texas to investigate a case that’s already been closed with the killers behind bars for twenty-nine years.

But who really killed Lily Martin and her infant daughter? Why was an entire family targeted for annihilation? What price will Lucy pay when she fights to expose a truth people will kill to keep buried?

Last Light is the start of a Lucy Guardino series which can be read on it’s own. If you enjoy captivating suspense, intelligent storytelling, strong and vulnerable characters, and a freight-train pace, then you’ll love this adrenaline rush of a heart-pounding thriller.

You can read my review here.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

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“Prepare for the cleverest, most addictive thriller you will read this year. This is the story of the ill-fated Jack Sparks – a man who plays with fire, and pays the price . . .

THE MOST CHILLING AND UNPREDICTABLE THRILLER OF THE YEAR.

Jack Sparks died while writing this book.

It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.

Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed – until now.”

Read my review here.

The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders

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“Mrs Laetitia Rodd is the impoverished widow of an Archdeacon, living modestly in Hampstead with her landlady Mrs Bentley. She is also a private detective of the utmost discretion. In winter 1850, her brother Frederick, a criminal barrister, introduces her to Sir James Calderstone, a wealthy and powerful industrialist who asks Mrs Rodd to investigate the background of an ‘unsuitable’ woman his son intends to marry – a match he is determined to prevent. In the guise of governess, she travels to the family seat, Wishtide, deep in the frozen Lincolnshire countryside, where she soon discovers that the Calderstones have more to hide than most. As their secrets unfold, the case takes an unpleasant turn when a man is found dead outside a tavern. Mrs Rodd’s keen eyes and astute wits are taxed as never before in her search for the truth – which carries her from elite drawing rooms to London’s notorious inns and its steaming laundry houses. Dickensian in its scope and characters, The Secrets of Wishtide brings nineteenth century society vividly to life and illuminates the effect of Victorian morality on women’s lives. Introducing an irresistible new detective, the first book in the Laetitia Rodd Mystery series will enthral and delight.”

Read my review here.

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

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“Hercule Poirot returns in another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.

What I intend to say to you will come as a shock . . .’

Lady Athelinda Playford has planned a house party at her mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, but it is no ordinary gathering. As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will one she intends to announce at dinner that night. She has decided to cut off her two children without a penny and leave her fortune to someone who has only weeks to live . . .

Among Lady Playford’s guests are two men she has never met the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited . . . until Poirot starts to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murderer to strike. But why does she seem so determined to provoke, in the presence of a possible killer?

When the crime is committed in spite of Poirot’s best efforts to stop it, and the victim is not who he expected it to be, will he be able to find the culprit and solve the mystery?

Following the phenomenal global success of The Monogram Murders, which was published to critical acclaim following a co-ordinated international launch in September 2014, international best-selling crime writer Sophie Hannah has been commissioned by Agatha Christie Limited to pen a second fully-authorised Poirot novel. The new book marks the centenary of the creation of Christie’s world-famous detective Hercule Poirot, introduced in her first book The Mysterious Affair at Styles.”

Read my review here.

Do let me know if you can think of any books I should use my wildcards on, and if you are taking part.

 

 

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Jane Corry Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Jane Corry to the blog. Jane’s debut novel My Husband’s Wife was published in ebook by Penguin on 26 May 2016 and is published in paperback on 25 August 2016.

Jane kindly answered a few of my questions.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT ‘MY HUSBAND’S WIFE’

It explores the relationship between a first and second wife; a criminal; and a child. There are lots of twists. No one is quite whom they seem!

WHAT INSPIRED THE BOOK?

A mixture of prison and marriage! I worked for three years as the writer in residence of a male high-security prison. It was a world I had never been in before. And it opened up my eyes! This coincided with the end of my twenty seven year old marriage. Three years later, I married again. I get on well with my first husband’s wife. But it made me wonder what might happen if one needed a favour from the other… 

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF CREATING A NOVEL?

I start with the kernel of an idea. Then I think about three or four  characters who would work well in it. I give each one a problem or challenge. I start with the first and see where it takes me. I like to write in two viewpoints because it’s a way of reflecting other characters’ personalities and it also moves the plot along. I make sure there is a cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter. I ‘layer’ problems so that when one is solved, there is another. I take about four months to write the first draft; every day, I do about 2,500 words. Then I revise it at least four times to make sure the plot hangs together and the characters are as deep as possible. I use photographs from magazines to picture my cast and I read my work out loud. I live in a world of my own when writing. Then it goes to my editor.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU AREN’T WRITING?

I run every morning with my dog; swim in the sea (in a wet suit); play tennis; do yoga; organise writing groups; walk miles every day; am on a committee to help the  homeless; co- judge the life story section of the Koestler Awards (for men and women in prison and mental institutions); and try to be there for my family.  

IF YOU COULD ONLY READ ONE BOOK FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHICH BOOK WOULD IT BE?

Love this question! It’s by the side of my bed right now and I read a bit every day. It’s called ‘Daily Strength For Daily Needs’, selected by Mary. W. Tileston and was first published by Methuen in 1904. It was amongst my mother’s belongings when she died in her fifties from ovarian cancer. There are three readings for every day to provide inspiration. Some are religious but many are ‘just’ wise sayings. One of my favourite is about how to cheer yourself up. The answer: do something for others. My mother wrote all the family birthdays on the relevant days. I’ve added precious photographs and postcards inside. 

DURING THE Q AND A’S THAT YOU’VE DONE, WHAT QUESTION HAVE YOU NOT BEEN ASKED – AND WHAT’S THE ANSWER?

It’s a question I always ask myself about my characters before I start a scene. What have you just been doing? It could be something simple like peeling an orange. Or it might be committing a crime. Just before I sat down to write this, I was talking to a friend with whom I’d lost touch  over thirty years ago. We ‘found’ each other through a chance remark made by dear friends – who turned out to have been neighbours of my long-lost friend hundreds of miles away. If I put that in a novel, you might think it was too much of a coincidence. But it’s true!  

About the book:

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“When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind.

But then she meets Joe. A convicted murderer who reminds Lily of someone she once knew, and who she becomes obsessed with freeing.

But is he really innocent?

And who is she to judge?”
Read more at on the Penguin website.

 

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Jack Jordan – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Jack Jordan to the blog. Jack is the author of Anything for Her, which he has just re-released and his new novel, My Girl will be published on 4 July 2016. Jack kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Anything for Her.

Louise Leighton’s life has fallen apart, all because of one fateful night. Her husband is an adulterer, her sister is his mistress, and soon, Louise will lose everything she owns. But she never imagined she would lose her daughter. 

Eighteen-year-old Brooke Leighton is missing. It’s up to Louise and the Metropolitan Police to find her. Has Brooke run away? Or has she been taken against her will? And can Louise aid the investigation without mentioning the night where all of her troubles began? 

If she mentions that night, she will incriminate her daughter for heinous crimes. But if she doesn’t, she may never find Brooke; and if she has been abducted, the person who took her may come for Louise, too. 

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you. Sometimes the past comes back to kill you.

2. What inspired the book? 

The bond between a mother and her child is unbreakable, and the love is unconditional. Most mothers will tell you that they would do anything to protect their child. When writing Anything for Her, I wanted to explore just how far a mother would go to protect her child, and at what cost.

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?

I’m definitely a plan, plan, plan writer. When I first started writing, I let my stories lead the way, as I was exploring my abilities and allowing room for experimentation. Now that I’m a published author, I have to know where the story is going before I begin writing my next book. Knowing that my work will be scrutinised, I approach each book with as much detail as possible, so I don’t fall under the pressure. I like to plan each chapter beforehand, so when it comes to writing, I have the plan to follow. Chapters always change, but I really appreciate having the chapter timeline when I sit down to write the first draft.

4. Anything for Her was your first novel. What did you discover about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?

I was really surprised that my characters were able to evoke strong emotions in me. As the person who created them and the problems they found themselves in, I didn’t expect that they would make my heart race or tears well up. Sometimes I would leave my desk feeling drained. It’s a surreal experience. 

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

I must admit I’m not very good at relaxing. When I’m not writing, I’m reading or watching TV. The problem is, those two things inspire future projects, and the next thing I know, I’m back to writing and planning. It’s an unbreakable cycle!  

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

Gone with the Wind. It shouldn’t be my all-time favourite book, as the oppression of African Americans and the martial rape scene featured in the story go against all of my beliefs, but still I find myself adoring this novel. The beautiful writing, the endless tragedies, and the unique ending have a reserved place in my heart. 

7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

The question would be: what don’t you like about being an author? 

Taboo subject alert! The one thing I dislike about being an author is the criticism that comes with the trade. With this particular profession, it’s normal to receive criticism about one’s work, and as an author, you’re expected to take it without a word. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but some comments are difficult to forget. I think some people forget that, behind the book, there is a person who dedicated his or her life to it, and only wrote it to entertain. 

It’s like someone coming up to you during your workday and telling you what an awful job you’re doing. ‘Who even hired you? You’re the worst employee I’ve ever met. You should quit. I don’t even know how anyone could like you or what you do. I can’t believe I wasted my time and money on you.’ 

Of course this is a small con to many pros, and I want my readers to share their true opinions of my work, but sometimes I find that there is a lot of unnecessary venom in the words that, to me, doesn’t seem appropriate for someone who simply tried to entertain you.  

To end on a lighter note, I’ll mention what I think is the best thing about being a writer. 

There is nothing better than hearing how happy I’ve made someone by telling one of my stories. Learning that readers have stayed up until dawn while repeating ‘Just one more chapter’, sworn and gasped out loud, and laughed and cried, makes me tremendously happy, and lucky that I’m able to make a stranger’s day (and in doing so, they make mine!). 

Thanks very much for answering my questions and for appearing on my blog.

You’re very welcome! 🙂 x

About the book:

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“Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you.

Louise Leighton’s life has fallen apart, all because of one fateful night. Her husband is an adulterer, her sister is his mistress, and soon, Louise will lose everything she owns. But she never imagined she would lose her daughter.

Eighteen-year-old Brooke Leighton is missing. It’s up to Louise and the Metropolitan Police to find her. Has Brooke run away? Or has she been taken against her will? And can Louise aid the investigation without mentioning the night where all of her troubles began?

If she mentions that night, she will incriminate her daughter for heinous crimes. But if she doesn’t, she may never find Brooke; and if she has been abducted, the person who took her may come for Louise, too.

Sometimes the past comes back to kill you.” (Image and synopsis from Amazon)

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Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

This week’s first suggestion is Worthless Men by Andrew Cowan, published by Sceptre and was suggested by Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books.

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“It’s market day in an English city two years into the Great War. The farmers are coming in from the country, the cattle are being driven through the streets and that evening a trainload of wounded soldiers is due to arrive.
At the local mansion, its new hospital tents to the ready, waits Montague Beckwith, himself a psychological casualty of the war. In the town’s poorest quarter, Winnie Barley prays that Walter, her missing son, will be on the train (but that her violent husband is not). In the pharmacy, Gertie Dobson dreams of romance while her father keeps unsuitable men at bay. And everywhere is Walter, a ghostly presence who watches as the girl he loved from a distance is drawn into Montague’s orbit.

Weaving together multiple viewpoints, Andrew Cowan creates a panoramic, extraordinarily vivid portrait of a place as individual as it is archetypal. Here is a community where the war permeates high and low; where the factory now produces barbed wire, the women are doing the men’s jobs, and the young men are no longer so eager to answer the King’s call. And here is the tragic story of a casual betrayal, and a boy who proved that those at the bottom of the heap – the worthless ones – could be the most valiant of them all.”

Here’s what she had to say:

“I loved the style of this book; the gradual building up of a picture was immensely satisfying with every page of this 260 page book adding detail to this well-known historical period.”

You can read Cleo’s full review here.

The second book put forward today is Girl at War by Sara Novic, published by Little Brown and was suggested by author Sarah Jasmon.

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“Growing up in Zagreb in the summer of 1991, 10-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy; she runs the streets with her best friend, Luka, helps take care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But when civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, football games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills.

The brutal ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosnians tragically changes Ana’s life, and she is lost to a world of genocide and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival. Ten years later she returns to Croatia, a young woman struggling to belong to either country, forced to confront the trauma of her past and rediscover the place that was once her home.

Girl At War is a haunting, compelling debut from a brilliant young writer, rooted in historical fact and personal experience. Sara has lived in the States and Croatia, and her novel bears witness to the haunting stories of her family and friends who lived through the height of the conflict, and reflects her own attempts to come to terms with her relationship to Croatia and its history. It is an extraordinary achievement for a novelist of any age, let alone age 26.”

Here’s what Sarah had to say:

“Nović creates a beautiful portrait of a family, and of a whole way of life, shattered by violence and the irrationality of partisan fervour….this is primarily a story of growth and rebuilding, and we are not led too far into the darkness. I enjoyed every moment”

Girl at War was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016.

You can read the full review on Sarah’s website. Sarah’s novel, The Summer of Secrets was published by Black Swan on 13 August 2015. You can read a Q&A with Sarah here.

So two more books that deserve to be more widely read. I hope you like this week’s selection. Do let me know if you’ve read either of them, and if you have any suggestions for a quiet book.

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The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – Review

Published by Mira UK (Harlequin in the USA and Canada)

Publication date – 7 April 2016 (UK), 3 May 2016 (USA and Canada)

Source – Net Galley review copy

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“Having been married for over 40 years, 69-year-old Arthur Pepper is mourning the loss of his wife. On the anniversary of her death, he finally musters the courage to go through her possessions, and happens upon a charm bracelet that he has never seen before.

What follows is a surprising adventure that takes Arthur from London to Paris and India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met, a journey that leads him to find healing, self-discovery, and love in the most unexpected of places.” (Image and synopsis from Amazon)

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Arthur Pepper is still mourning the loss of his beloved wife Miriam. On the anniversary of her death he decides it’s time to take her clothes down from the wardrobe and give them to charity. As he is sorting through Miriam’s items he comes across a charm bracelet, one he does not recall Miriam every wearing. Spotting a clue on one of the charms Arthur is soon the trail of the history of the charms. The more he finds out about the bracelet, the more he learns about a Miriam he never knew, and learns more about himself in the process.

I found myself charmed by Arthur and his tale of discovery. I was soon wrapped up in his story, wondering where the next charm would take him and what adventure, or misadventure he would find himself in.

There were some wonderful characters in this book all perfectly drawn. Arthur’s description of grief at the loss of Miriam seemed all too real and his tendency to revert to introspection and loneliness felt true to live. Bernadette is a larger than life character who appears initially to be a busy body but who’s exterior hides a kind, lonely woman who has only good intentions for those she cares about. As Arthur bumbles along on his adventure he meets some wildly different but all wonderful characters, including Lord Graystock, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a real life eccentric member of the aristocracy with a penchant for wild animals, and Mike the former drug addict who helps Arthur when he gets into a spot of bother in London. As Arthur finds out about each charm on the bracelet he finds out more about Miriam. Her personality is rounded out. She is very easily imagined and is as much of a main character in the novel as the others are, even though she is gone before the book starts.

This book is as much about Arthur’s transformation as it is about Miriam’s hidden past. We see Arthur go from merely existing to living again. He rediscovers his zest for life and does things that he never imagined he would. This story shows that when life unexpectedly goes off course, the new paths open to explore are often exciting ones. It is never too late to try new things and to learn to love any new lives we may face.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is the debut novel from Phaedra Patrick. It is an assured, lovely tale of enduring love, grief and finding a new way to live after the loss of a loved one. I look forward to reading more from Phaedra Patrick in the future.

 

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The Champagne in the Freezer by Virginia King – Guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Virginia King to the blog. Virginia is the author of The First Lie, the first Selkie Moon mystery. Her latest novel, The Second Path was published on 20 May 2016. Virginia has also written a short ghost story, entitled Laying Ghosts, as a prequel to the Selkie Moon mysteries. Today Virginia has written a guest post about incendiaries in fiction.

The Champagne in the Freezer

How Writers Plant Incendiaries in their Novels

Novels and movies are full of ‘incendiaries’ – those early events that ‘explode’ later in the story: a look shared between a man and an out-of-bounds woman; a throwaway comment that hints at a secret. As these clues career towards their final detonation – often with a twist – they create suspense while the reader tries to predict what’s coming.

Beats and Consequences

In movies, ‘incendiaries’ are called ‘beats’ which lead to later ‘consequences’. Every tiny fragment has a purpose. Hitchcock was a master at this. Remember in Suspicion – every behaviour the wife observes convinces her that her husband is trying to kill her. The audience is carried along on a wave of escalating beats until the dramatic and unexpected consequence on the cliff.

In novels, writers can plan these beats or they can turn up as the story ‘writes itself’. Then a beat will niggle away at the author until a consequence turns up. The sleeping mind is good at making these unexpected connections.

That Champagne Bottle.

In my ghost story Laying Ghosts the main character Selkie Moon describes what happens when a bunch of people arrives at a beach house for the weekend: 

“Hey Pollyanna,” Stork said when Rina greeted him. He bent to kiss her on the cheek then tried to move to her lips.

She pushed him away. “I’ve told you not to call me that.”

He laughed and winked at me, getting a steely look that matched Rina’s. Was there a collective noun for more than one creep? He shrugged, and conversation turned to squeezing their grog into the fridge, putting a bottle of champagne in the freezer, then opening packets of chips.

Putting the champagne in the freezer seemed like something Stork might do if it wasn’t very cold after their long drive. I had no outcome in mind for the champagne until a couple of hours later in the story when it had been forgotten (by the characters and the author!) and this beat suddenly created consequences. Big consequences. What if the shattering champagne generated a symbolic emotional explosion … with deadly results?

Doris the Shop Dummy

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This process works with mini incendiaries. In Chapter One of my psychological mystery The First Lie, we discover that Selkie Moon is sharing a Waikiki flat with Wanda and her headless shop dummy, Doris:

‘A naked shop dummy sits on a chair at the end of Wanda’s bed, her plastic legs akimbo. Doris. For the first few weeks I kept jumping out of my skin every time I caught sight of her. Wanda has dressed her in a hula skirt and peppered her torso with nails like a woman in a Dali painting. She drapes her with anything from net bags to headbands to leis. Today Doris is wearing a straw hat even though she doesn’t have a head.’

Doris turned up because Wanda is a quirky art student, but unknown to me Doris was creating several beats that would create mini blasts later in the book:

1. In The First Lie, a Dali lithograph plays a deeply symbolic role, including the final scene. This reference to Doris being a Dali-style woman triggered this later consequence in my subconscious mind and created a connection that flows through the book.

2. In The Second Path, Doris appears unexpectedly in several dreams. One dream needed a French theme and I remembered a signpost I once saw in a French village. Two arrows pointed in opposite directions creating a humorous juxtaposition – one said PARIS, the other said TENNIS. The signs popped into my mind and with them another similar word: Doris. Serendipity at its finest. In the dream, the PARIS and DORIS signposts create a kind of ‘dream logic’.

3. In The First Lie and The Second Path, Doris and her ‘headless state’ act as symbols of deeper emotional issues running through both stories.

Your Favourite Incendiaries?

What’s the most surprising or innocuous explosive element you’ve encountered in a film or novel? Avoid spoilers unless it’s well-known.

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A FREE Ghost Story

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Discover the consequences triggered by the exploding champagne by downloading your free copy of Laying Ghosts – a modern 24-page haunted house story inspired by a Russian folktale and tangled up in a murder ballad dating back to the 1700s. It’s a standalone story but also the prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery Series.

About the book:

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“A rock ripped from the soil, a message scrawled in lipstick on the floor, a torn photo, a silver spoon … What do they all mean?

Only her subconscious knows.

When we last left Selkie Moon, she was running towards the source of her deepest primal fear: the sea. Now she finds herself naked on the beach, stunned that she has no memory of the past two weeks.

Recovering at a friend’s house, Selkie wakes up to discover a bizarre collection of items scattered across the floor. Items she apparently gathered in her sleep. Finding the ho’ohihi – the interconnectedness – between them will carry her around the globe, from Honolulu to Sydney to Paris. A dark fairy tale journey filled with fear and despair, laughter and hope, The Second Path has Selkie searching for her place in the world, in her relationships, and in herself.

Searching for home.”

Giveaway of The First Lie

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“Someone is trying to kill you.

When Selkie Moon flees Sydney to start over in Hawaii, it’s to live life on her own terms. But Life has other plans. Though she tries to dismiss the warning as just another nightmare, it soon becomes apparent that someone, or something, is stalking her. Attacked by frightening visions and mysterious compulsions, she must piece together the fragmented clues before time runs out. Virginia King effortlessly blends funky creativity and deep spirituality – with a dash of Celtic folklore – to craft a story of one woman’s fight for truth, and her discovery that the lies we tell ourselves are the most dangerous of all.”

You could be one of ten lucky winners who will choose either a signed paperback or an audio book of The First Lie plus a $15 Amazon gift code. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift code. Enter here.

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Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary – Review

 

Published by Headline

Publication date – 7 April 2016

Source – review copy

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“The young girl who causes the fatal car crash disappears from the scene.

A runaway who doesn’t want to be found, she only wants to go home.

To the one man who understands her.

Gives her shelter.

Just as he gives shelter to the other lost girls who live in his house.

He’s the head of her new family.

He’s Harm.

D.I. Marnie Rome has faced many dangerous criminals but she has never come up against a man like Harm. She thinks that she knows families, their secrets and their fault lines. But as she begins investigating the girl’s disappearance nothing can prepare her for what she’s about to face.

Because when Harm’s family is threatened, everything tastes like fear…”

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. The following is my honest opinion of the book.

A girl, seemingly distressed, runs in front of a car and causes a fatal accident. Marnie Rome and her team are on her trail but before she can be found another girl is found dead. Are the two girls linked? Where have they been staying? It is with Harm, a man who offers shelter to those who live on the streets. But is there more to Harm than meets the eye? Just how safe are the lost girls? After all, home is where Harm is….

There are some authors whose books find you in a quandary. You eagerly await the release of their latest novel but once it is in your hands you want to eek out reading it, delaying the gratification you know will follow, wanting to treasure each moment you have with the world they have created. Sarah Hilary’s books are such books as these. I eagerly await each new Marnie Rome novel, then put off reading it for as long as possible, knowing the wait for the next will be interminable. But then I got to the point I could wait no longer. But worth the wait it was.

It was a joy to return to Marnie’s often dark and twisted world, a world where she has to conquer devilish criminals and her own feelings for her foster brother Stephen Keene, the brother who murdered her parents. Stephen doesn’t feature as much in this story, but he is still there, lurking in the background, casting a sinister shadow over Marnie’s life. It was also great to see more of Noah Jake, and his personal life, insights into his relationship with Dan and background as to the troubled past of his brother Sol. As for the other characters they were all perfectly placed and imagined. They brought with them sadness, fear and pulled the story together perfectly. Particularly Harm, a terrifying yet abstract man, used to hiding his true self, which made the real him, when revealed, all the more terrible.

This case hits close to home for Marnie, involving runaway girls, girls she can see mirroring herself as a teenager. It is with sadness that she can now look back on her actions, and those of her parents, with an adult understanding, one she wishes she could share with the children involved.

A staple of Sarah Hilary’s novels is the choice of an abstract, little known or written about crime or condition as a driving force for the story. This is the case for Tastes Like Fear. Harm casts a strange spell over his victims, one which Marnie and Noah have not experienced before, but find chilling. The clues are carefully revealed, leaving a trail that allows the reader to work out parts of the story just before Marnie and Noah reach the same conclusion. It was as always a great source of reading fun, pitting my investigative wits against Harm, trying to figure out who it was or what had happened.

This is the third novel to feature Marnie Rome and whilst it can be read as a standalone I would urge you to read Someone Else’s Skin and No Other Darkness first, simply so you don’t miss out on such terrific novels.

As always, Sarah Hilary has written a taut, gripping and brilliantly stifling thriller, one which grabs you at the first page and makes you want to cling on until the very end.

In Someone Else’s Skin Sarah Hilary set herself out as one to watch. She is now an author that is firmly on the crime writing scene, and a standout author at that. It is often suggested that genre novels, in particular crime novels, aren’t as ‘worthy’ as literary fiction, not a notion I’d endorse. I’d suggest that whoever says this hasn’t read a novel such as one by Sarah Hilary. She is an author that can be relied upon to create compelling, moving crime thrillers, tackling little mentioned crimes, shied away from or unknown in the wider world but which lend themselves to moving, thought-provoking stories.

Sarah Hilary joins the short list of authors, including Jonathan Kellerman and Donna Leon that I eagerly anticipate. Now that I have devoured Tastes Like Fear I am sadly waiting for the next Marnie Rome novel, and waiting impatiently at that.

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Before the Blog review – United States of Love by Sue Fortin

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title –  United States of Love

Publisher – Harper Collins

Originally posted – Goodreads

Read – 20-23 October 2013

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“Since splitting from her husband, single mum Anna Barnes is enjoying her new found freedom and independence.

However, she didn’t bank on working for Tex Garcia – or the sparks that fly between them. The gorgeous American chef is getting the locals hot under the collar and not just because of his culinary prowess!

One problem: Tex can’t commit and women pass through his life like dishes going out to service! Will it be the same with Anna? One thing’s for sure, this All American man is determined to break her self-imposed rule of never mixing business with pleasure – and add some spice into the mix…”

I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 stars if that were allowed on Goodreads.

Anna comes with baggage – a teenage son, three jobs and an ex husband who’s not quite got his head around the ex part. Tex is a love ’em and leave ’em American who hasn’t really recovered from the death of his wife and hides behind shallow relationships, cutting and running when things get too serious. He sees Anna at first as the next in a long line of conquests but she is adamant she won’t fall for his charms, particularly when she starts to work for him.

This is a different type of love story in that we know Anna and Tex get together quite soon in the book. The story is about how their relationship develops and how they get over the obstacles in the path to true love.

This is a gently paced story but with lots of story arches, showing a whole host of problems that cause the romance to hit rocky ground.

This is the author’s debut but she still clearly has her own style and voice, which can only grow with any further works from her.

I really enjoyed the scenes set in Texas on Tex’s ranch. In fact it would be great to see a sequel based around the ranch and it’s inhabitants!

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Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

This week’s first suggestion is from Emma who blogs at Mrs Red’s Reviews. Her choice is The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, published by Bloomsbury.

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“LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION SHORTLISTED FOR THE WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE

From the moment Alma Whittaker steps into the world, everything about life intrigues her. Instilled with an unquenchable sense of wonder by her father, a botanical explorer and the richest man in the New World, Alma is raised in a house of luxury and curiosity. It is not long before she becomes a gifted botanist in her own right. But as she flourishes and her research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction – into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical. The Signature of All Things soars across the globe of the nineteenth century, from London and Peru, to Philadelphia, Tahiti and beyond. Peopled with extraordinary characters along the way, most of all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker.”

See more at on the Bloomsbury website.

Here’s what Emma had to say about it.

“I wouldn’t call it a romance novel, but an exploration of a woman’s life….The writing flows well and I loved the tone of the book.”

You can read Emma’s full review and see the answers Elizabeth Gilbert gave to Emma when she took part in a web chat on Emma’s blog.

If that’s not enough to tempt you The Signature of All Things was longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize and shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize and has 185 five star reviews on Amazon.

The second book to be recommended this week is The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale, published by Bloomsbury. The Wicked Boy was recommended by Caryl who blogs at Mrs Blogg: The Average Reader.

9781408851142

“Early in the morning of Monday 8 July 1895, thirteen-year-old Robert Coombes and his twelve-year-old brother Nattie set out from their small, yellow-brick terraced house in East London to watch a cricket match at Lord’s. Their father had gone to sea the previous Friday, the boys told their neighbours, and their mother was visiting her family in Liverpool. Over the next ten days Robert and Nattie spent extravagantly, pawning their parents’ valuables to fund trips to the theatre and the seaside. But as the sun beat down on the Coombes house, a strange smell began to emanate from the building.When the police were finally called to investigate, the discovery they made sent the press into a frenzy of horror and alarm, and Robert and Nattie were swept up in a criminal trial that echoed the outrageous plots of the ‘penny dreadful’ novels that Robert loved to read. In The Wicked Boy, Kate Summerscale has uncovered a fascinating true story of murder and morality – it is not just a meticulous examination of a shocking Victorian case, but also a compelling account of its aftermath, and of man’s capacity to overcome the past.”

See more at on the Bloomsbury website.

This is what Caryl had to say about it.

“I’m not sure which aspect of the research all woven into a fascinating narrative, appealed to me the most, but it just about covered a number of my interests in one fell swoop. We have history, social history, Victorian crime and punishment, emigration, family history, maritime history, Gallipoli during the First World War and later in France and Flanders…”

You can read Caryl’s full review on her blog.

So there we have this week’s suggestions. I hope you found something new and appealing to add to the reading list. Do let me know your thoughts on the choices and don’t forget you can nominate your own quiet book too.

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