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To cull or to keep, that is the question…

Any book lover will know that there is nothing better than getting your hands on a new book. It might be the latest novel from your favourite author, the book that everyone is talking about or a newly discovered gem from a charity or second hand book shop. Adding it to the book case or to the toppling TBR pile it soon becomes part of the furniture (unless it’s a library book of course, otherwise you’ll also be adding to huge return fine to the collection). It might be read immediately, or else sit languishing in its place until the mood takes you and that is the book you must read.

Then there is what to do with the book once it’s read. Some of us will simply put it away, back on the shelf, or onto a shelf containing books that have been read. If that’s full it might go in a box under the bed, and when there’s no more space under the bed, into the garage, or wardrobe or any small nook or cranny. There are those of us who will simply drop it off at their local charity shop or donate them to friends or relatives. For the thing I’ve noticed about readers, we are either cullers or keepers.

Since I started blogging the amount of books entering the house has increased quite dramatically. I’m lucky enough to sometimes receive advance copies, which I am always grateful for and never expect to receive. I very rarely request a book so any books I do receive tend to be surprises that I make space for on the shelves. Then of course there are the books I buy myself. And yes, even though I do receive copies from publishers I still buy books. I have my favourite authors whose books I always have to buy. I see books talked about on social media and covet a copy so buy it when I see it, there are those books I need that I have to buy, in addition to those I just want. I trawl charity shops and local bookshops to see what catches my eye, and I’ll buy a book just in case I might want to read it one day – the fear still there that I may run out of things to read. And after all, authors don’t write books just for the love of the written word. For many this is their only income so by buying books I help in my own way. And I can even do this by borrowing from a library as an author receives a small royalty every time one of their books is borrowed.

Until very recently that flow of books was one way. My house is very much the Hotel California for books, they can check in but never leave. I would occasionally part with one, lend them to people who would even less frequently, never return them. There may be some where I had accumulated more than one copy, so those I would pass on.

I admire those who can easily shed themselves of a book once it’s fulfilled its purpose. It has entertained for those few hours or days and now is to be moved on, passed on to someone else to discover and enjoy. There is something freeing about not having the old overtaking the new, and of course ebook readers never have to worry about the possibility of being killed by their toppling book collection.

However it began to dawn on me that I may have too many books (no there is no such thing and yes I have known for a long time that I have many, many years worth of books dotted around the house). My husband had kindly surprised me with a reading room. After turfing the kids out of their playroom (for playroom read toy dumping ground and to be fair they play in every other part of the house other than that room…), he chose me a lovely new carpet, and furnished it with a beautiful desk and, the best bit, a wonderful set of double shelves. Now came the fun part, filling those shelves. There I was happily day dreaming that the books I currently have would fill perhaps three quarters of the space and that I’d have room to grow the collection. It soon became apparent that I would need much more than the reading room could hold. So then it was decided that the wardrobes in the spare bedroom could turn into bookcases (I manage with fewer clothes, but fewer books, never). It was all planned, I’d be able to rescue the books under the bed and those languishing in the garage – checking for spiders obviously before I moved them into their new home. So the great move began. And it seemed to be going well. I started a shelf for unread books and one for read novels. Then I had to expand both, so some were sorted into fiction, non-fiction and classics. Then, alphabetised. Then they started to be double shelved. Then just thrown on where any random space could be found. And still there was about half left to be moved from the garage.

(The reading room – this picture is now very out of date as those shelves are not so neatly packed – it’s more like book jenga at the moment)

I could avoid it no longer. A cull was inevitable. But how was I to choose? Yes I may have had that copy of Tara Road for approximately 10 years and still no read it but how knew when I might have a Maeve Binchy emergency. I know I may have stopped reading the Scarpetta series a gazillion years ago but those battered paperbacks might be worth some money. But away they must go.

I had already rediscovered books I’d forgot I had. Some of these I of course wanted to read immediately. Others I soon realised I probably never would read, especially as I couldn’t even remember how long I had them.) Some I had read but kept in case I would ever read them again. I realised I probably never would, even if I did manage to read every single unread book I owned. So into the clear out bag they went (after of course, checking on the internet that they weren’t actually super rare and therefore super expensive first editions).

After much deliberation I managed to cull around 40 books, no mean feat for a first time culler like me. Feeling rather pleased with myself I popped them all in a large bag and moved them firstly downstairs, then into my car to be dropped off at the charity shop. There they remained for many weeks until I brought them back into the house again after I had to empty the boot of the car. Then after complaints that putting them in a bag for people to trip up over was not technically getting rid of the books I did what any normal adult would do – gave them to my mum. Who said she would take them to the charity shop – after she’d had a look through the bag first of course…

 

(parting is such sweet sorry…)

So I have now made the transition from keeper to culler. I know it’s not painful, I know I’ve forgotten half of the books I’ve given away already which just proves that I was probably never going to read them. And I know I can always buy the book again or borrow it from the library if I really do ever want to read one of them. Now I just need to tackle the rest of the books in crates in the garage. And I should probably make a stab at culling the ones I’ve crammed onto the shelves, if they aren’t packed in too tight that is….

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The Dark Circle by Linda Grant – review

Published by Virago

Publication date – 3 November 2016

Source – review copy

“The new novel by the acclaimed author of Upstairs at the Party and the Booker-shortlisted The Clothes on Their Backs.

The Second World War is over, a new decade is beginning but for an East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent to learn the way of the patient, they find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched.”

Twins Lenny and Miriam are shocked to discover they have both contracted Tuberculosis. Whisked away to a sanatorium in the Kent countryside, they soon find themselves mixing with people they would never normally be associated with. They bring with them a rebelliousness, one which they discover may not be what sees them through their stay in the Gwendo, but which may have a lasting effect on themselves and their fellow patients.

Don’t read this book expecting a happy story. It is quite a dark tale, the claustrophobia and intuitionalism of the sanatorium hanging heavy over the story. The early treatment of TB was often barbaric and Linda Grant’s narrative made it all too easy to imagine the distress and pain the patients went through. The story is peppered with light moments, the slight rebellions of the characters, some which caused less ripples on the surface than others.

There are a variety of characters, each unique, showing that the terrible illness crossed social boundaries, was indiscriminate with those it infected. Linda Grant’s characterisation meant that each was well drawn, bringing their own slant to the story. Lenny and Miriam were not particularly likeable, at least at first. They are quite selfish characters, thinking only of what betters their own lives and quite condensing and dismissive of others who are different to them.  As their stay in the sanatorium grew, so did their characters, Lenny becoming less gregarious and more thoughtful, Miriam stepping out somewhat from behind her twin’s shadow. This is very much a character driven piece, a study in how the fledgling NHS started to work away at social boundaries and class divide and though set in the 50s, echoes some of the political and social climate of today.

There are echoes of a prison to the sanatorium and indeed many of the patients refer to themselves as inmates, and become institutionalised. There is little freedom for the patients. The fitter of them can attend the local village but most are ordered to remain in bed, sleeping outside in the cold or shut away from the outside world. It is this sense of imprisonment, of control by others that leads some of the characters to rebel, to upset the status quo in order to survive, both physically and mentally.

The Dark Circle of the novel’s title can be many things. It is the scars on the lungs of the tuberculosis sufferers. It is the circle created by those patients not chosen for the innovative cure. It is the ripple left by the rebellious actions of the patients and the condescending view of the new National Health service by others. It is the group of survivors from the sanatorium, forever bound together by their time in the Gwendo.

I did read this in two parts, with a gap between the second reading, but I am glad I picked up the book again. This is not an easy read, nor is it light entertainment. It is however a well written, intriguing and thought-provoking tale.

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A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys – review

Published by Doubleday

Publication date 23 March 2017

Source – review copy

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“It was a first class deception that would change her life forever

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.”
Read more on the Penguin website.

Lily Shepherd is setting off on the trip of a lifetime – she is moving to Australia to enter into domestic service, and to hopefully leave behind the past that haunts her thoughts. She is soon caught up with life on board, making friends with siblings Helena and Edward and soon dazzled by Max and Eliza from the first class deck. She soon realises that things are not as they seem with her new friends, but is it too late for Lily to not be affected by them. Though Lily knew when she set off that her life would never be the same again, little did she think that it would change so irrevocably before she even arrived in Australia.

The book is wonderfully reminiscent of the old fashioned, golden age novels of the past. This is a story that soon draws the reader in, allowing them to be encompassed by a tale that appears to be glamorous and inviting but underneath is darker and more thought-provoking.

Whilst there is murder and mystery on board the Orentes, there is much more to the story than that. There is the mystery surrounding Lily’s reason for being on the ship and for the reasons the other passengers are travelling to the other side of the world. There is the potential love stories, and hate stories between the passengers and it is a commentary on the class structure of the time.

The characters are all extremely well drawn. There are a variety of characters, each one with individual traits and quirks that makes them easy to imagine. Lily is essentially a good character. She is reliable and moral and though resistant at first is seduced by life on board. This makes her more susceptible to others and the story follows her path, showing how she is changed as a person as the ship sails closer to its final destination. Eliza and Max are complex characters as in their own way are Helena and Edward, all of them battling their own demons. All are described in a way that the reader can easily imagine them, and given that this is a character driven story, this element is vital.

Setting the story on an ocean liner allows the tale to take a closer look at society. It puts the societal norms of the day under the microscope, class divisions are blurred and normal social lines crossed and briefly forgotten. It also highlights the anti-Semitism and xenophobia that was rife in the time leading up to the second world war, where people were open about their prejudices. Due to the current political and social climate this makes the story all the more impacting as a result.

The writing is evocative, the reader can easily conjure up images of the sleek ocean vessel and its inhabitants. The atmosphere of the ship is vividly portrayed, there is a sense of how the passengers feel, a mix of excitement, dread and fear for a war that may or may not break out. There is a hint of Agatha Christie about the novel, a closed room mystery feel despite the fact that the setting is the middle of the ocean.

Although there is murder and mystery there is so much more to this story. It is a story of life and death, of love and hate, understanding and intolerance and a study in society. A Dangerous Crossing is the debut novel written by Rachel Rhys, which is a pseudonym of a well established crime writer. I do hope that we have more books from Rachel Rhys soon.

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Book Bingo

So I’d seen Book Bingo posts from the fabulous bloggers Cleo over at CleopatraLovesBooks and Marina at Finding Time to Write. I thought it seemed like a fun way of looking at the books I had read over the year so thought I’d give it a go myself.

 

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Book with more than 500 pages

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Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. A tongue in cheek re-write of Pride and Prejudice, this novel certainly didn’t feel like it was 502 pages long.

A forgotten classic

This is one I’ll have to skip this year, but I’ve made a note to read more classics, forgotten or otherwise, next year

A Book that Became a Movie

Bit of a cheat because the author is also making a film of this book but I’ll say Fever at Dawn by Peter Gardos.

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A book published this year

Bit of an easy one in that most of the books I’ve read were published this year. The hard part is choosing just one. I’ll go with When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen, my first of her books but which won’t be my last.

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A book with a number in the title

Just managed to fill this square with The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

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A book written by someone under thirty

Given I have no idea how old an author is when I pick up a book I’ll have to leave this one blank.

A book with a non human character

Turns out I’ve read three such books this year, and I had been inclined to say none. The one I’ll use for this square is the thought-provoking The Man I Became by Peter Verhelst

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A funny book

Possibly a bit of a cheat but I’ll pick Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell, a warm novel shot through with humour.

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A book by a female author

Again lots to choose from here, though again I don’t tend to look to see if the author is male or female. I’ll go for The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders.

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A book with a mystery

Turns out the majority of my reading is in the crime/thriller category so lots of titles could fit this square on the board. I’ll choose The Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh for this square, an engaging novel about kidnap and ransom.

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A book with a one word title

Again a couple to choose from but I’ll have to go One of the stand out mystery/crime books for me this year (though it isn’t published until next year) was Ragdoll by Daniel Cole.

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A book of short stories

Since blogging I’ve discovered a love for short stories and I’ve read two collections this year. The one I’m choosing for this square is Sweet Home by Carys Bray, a lovely collection of stories.

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Free square

This is one of my stand out books for this year. It was a joy to read and I’d urge anyone to give it a go. I’m choosing The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace.

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A book set on a different continent

I like to read books from a variety of locations so I’ve a few to choose from including books set in North America and Africa. But I’ll go for The Dry by Jane Harper which is set in Australia.

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A book of non fiction

Initially I thought I wouldn’t be able to complete this square then realised I’ve actually read three non fiction books. I’ll definitely be making room for more on the to read pile next year but my choice for this square is Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

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The first book by a favourite author

I have lots of favourite authors and its often difficult to decide if a new author is going to become a favourite. That said I read both books by Liz Nugent this year and have to say she fits the bill as a new favourite author. Her first novel, Unravelling Oliver was a great read.

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A book you heard about online

As literally 100% of my reads now come from online recommendations this is list could basically be all of the books I’ve read this year. I’ll pick Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher for this square as it’s a book I don’t think I would have read if I’d not seen it online and it’s one I loved.

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A best selling book

I don’t really follow the best seller charts, so unless a book sells so many it is all over the media then I’ve not really a clue. But if I had to guess I’d say that R&J Bookclub pick The Ballroom by Anna Hope would have been a bestseller.

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A book based on a true story

Turns out I have a few that could cover this square too. I’ll go for The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola, a wonderfully atmospheric and well researched novel about a woman accused of murder in Victorian England.

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A book at the bottom of your to read pile

I have long since lost sight of my to read pile, and have decided to no longer attempt to tame it or try to read in order of receiving the books but I guess one of the books I’d had the longest out of the ones I’d read was The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer.

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A book your friend loves

This one has to be filled by In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings, much loved by the blogging community.

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A book that scares you

I don’t really read scary books, or I should say that books rarely scare me. The Last Days of Jack Sparks was however found to be creepy by many readers.

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A book that is more than 10 years old

Can’t fill this one this year. All the books I’ve read are far younger than a decade old.

The second book in a series

I love a good series and since blogging I’ve found loads to satisfy my series craving. One of my new favourites features Oswald De Lacy and I read the second book in the series – The Butcher Bird by S.D. Sykes, this year.

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A book with a blue cover

A couple of choices for this square but I’ll go with The Museum of You by Carys Bray, a lovely story of growing up and moving on.

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So I managed to fill 22/25 squares. How many would you fill?

 

 

 

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The Book of Mirrors by E O Chirovici – review

Published by Century

Publication date 26 January 2017

Source – review copy

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“A gripping psychological thriller full of hidden fragments and dark reflections.

How would you piece together a murder?

Do you trust other people’s memories?
Do you trust your own?
Should you?

Princeton, 1987: renowned psychologist Professor Joseph Weider is brutally murdered.

New York, twenty-five years later: literary agent Peter Katz receives a manuscript. Or is it a confession?

Today: unearth the secrets of The Book of Mirrors and discover why your memory is the most dangerous weapon of all.

Already translated into 37 languages, The Book of Mirrors is the perfect novel for fans of psychological suspense and reading group fiction.”
Read more on the Penguin website.

A literary agent receives an intriguing manuscript. Drawn in by the covering letter sent by Richard Flynn, he starts to read the submission. Soon he is enthralled by the manuscript which describes how Richard Flyn came to know Joseph Weidner who was brutally murdered 25 years ago. When the manuscript abruptly ends the agent tries to track down the story. But what is the true story? How much do memories warp over time  and what really happened all those years ago?

I very much enjoyed this interesting crime novel.

The book’s theme is that memory can become warped or altered, either immediately after a traumatic event or over a period of time. This can be the brain’s natural way of dealing with trauma or through being manipulated. The question is how much can we trust our memories?

The book is divided into three parts, each with a different narrator. I thought this device worked extremely well. The first third deals with the manuscript and is almost a story within a story. The reader is lured in with Richard’s tale, reading the manuscript in time with the agent. The first impression we get of the characters is through Richard’s eyes. This effects how we view the characters as they appear during the remainder of the book. For things appear to not be as Richard remembered and the reader is challenged to decide who and what to believe. The voice of each narrator is slightly different as is their own take on the case. Some were involved in the case, others not, but the reader has to decide what to believe.

The story draws the reader in, the use of a story within a story is a great technique of adding a layer to the narrative. Conversely, the use of narrators who are not directly involved in the incident has the effect of separating the reader from the tale, a distance that could make the story too remote, without enough layers to make the reader care about the protagonists but luckily the author manages not to cross that line. There is the constant niggle that the main players in the murder story can’t be trusted. The reader is led to question who is telling the truth, or rather whose memory is the more accurate.

The Book of Mirrors is an engaging book. I found myself nearly a third of the way through the book after initially picking it up to see if I wanted to read it. It also makes you think about whether your first memories are actual memories or images created as a result of what we think happened. I will add though that the book seemed more about who could be trusted than whether the memories mentioned in the book were true or not, that’s to say more about the manipulation of truth and different view points tag memories of events.

This book nearly didn’t happen in that the author had nearly give up hope of being published. A kind, and very honest publisher who loved the book but knew he couldn’t honour the advances the book deserved advised EO Chirovici to try one more time. Luckily he did as his book was snapped up by a London agent and to date has sold in 30 territories.

An entertaining, clever story, told in an engaging manner that fit the story. I’ll be keen to read more work by EO Chirovici in the future.

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2016 reading highlights

So it’s that time of year when the best books of the year lists emerge. I am always in two minds as to whether to do my own list. For starters I am so indecisive I can’t narrow books down to a certain number. And I always feel bad about books that I’ve left out. There’s no way I can do a list in order. If I name a book number one on the list I might offend the other authors that didn’t make it to number one! Plus I’m never really sure if anyone cares what my humble opinion is on the top reads of the year. After all, it’s just my opinion and I’m unlikely to cause a huge spike in sales. But I’ve been kindly advised that people are interested and I have to admit I’m nosy so always interested in what books other reviewers have picked, to see if the same books appear and to see which gems I might have missed.

So with that in mind I’ve decided to bite the bullet and do a list of my top reads of the year. Any I’ve read and not reviewed yet, or any I read until the end of the year will have to appear on next year’s…

The Song Collector

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The Song Collector tells the story of Harry Fox-Talbot, struggling with the loss of his wife. Beautifully told and flitting between the present day and the time he met Edie, we see how the two meet and fall in love, and how divisions from the passed may finally be reunited.

The Finding of Martha Lost

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A story that has stayed with since reading it in March. The Finding of Martha Lost is a wonderful tale of Martha, left at Liverpool Lime Street train station as a baby. Having never left the station the authorities are about to find her and remove her from the only home she has ever known. Helped by her friends Martha must find out who she truly is, and opens up her world in the process. Reminiscent of Roald Dahl this is a magical, all encompassing novel that wraps itself around you and never truly lets go. Too many people are missing out if they haven’t read this book.

When She Was Bad

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We spend 35 hours a week with them, see them more sometimes more than family, definitely spend more time with them than friends. Some we get on with, others we secretly can’t stand. But how well do we really know the people we work with? A true psychological thriller, this taut story drags you along, keen to find out what happens to one of the characters, and why.

Daisy in Chains

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There is a fascination with serial killers that often extends beyond what could be classed as the norm. For some women, the lure of a multiple murderer is too much. Writing to the incarcerated we often hear of women who marry their murderous pen pals. Daisy in Chains tackles this phenomenon with a gripping tale of  Hamish Wolfe, convicted serial killer who asks true crime writer Maggie Rose to look into his case.  Oh so cleverly done.

Death of a Diva

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First in a series of crime novels published by the renegade Fahrenheit Press, this story of Danny Bird investigating the murder of an aging TV star he finds in his pub is peppered with humour and leaves you waiting for the next in the series.

The Unseeing

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This debut novel from author Anna Mazzola is the riviting tale of Sarah Gale, accused of the murder of her love rival. Based on a real murder this book vividly evokes the horrors of Victorian prison and the subjugation women at the time had to endure.

The Secrets of Wishtide

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First in a new series I was soon charmed by this tale of murder and intrigue featuring the refreshing Laetitia Rodd. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly gentle storyline, this book also looks at the way women were held in society in Victorian England.

Tastes Like Fear

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Sarah Hilary has firmly cemented herself on the crime writing scene and quickly became one of my favourite authors in the genre. Tastes Like Fear doesn’t disappoint. Marnie Rome has to face possibly her most dangerous foe to date. One girl is found dead, others are missing and its a race against time to find them before they meet the same fate.

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew

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Susan Fletcher’s novel of the reimagined relationship between Vincent Van Gogh and Jeanne Trabuc, wife of the warden of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, the asylum in which Van Gogh spent some time is a joy to read. The relationship between Vincent and Jeanne slowly develops and the painter opens Jeanne’s eyes to the world around her, and that much closer to home. Beautifully told.

The Constant Soldier

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Inspired by photographs of SS officers from the Second World War, this is a moving and well written account of a wounded German soldier who returns home from the front to find a woman from his past incarcerated in an SS camp. Determined to free her, he has to infiltrate the camp and work with the SS officers he loathes.

Lying in Wait

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Opening with one of the best lines I’ve read in a long time, this is the chilling tale of the lengths a woman will go to achieve her aims. The characterisation is fantastic, Lydia, truly chilling and the book is shot through with an underlying thread of malice.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

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Having passed me by when it was first released I was recommended this book by the publisher when I asked for recommendations for books about books. This charming tale is the story of A.J. Fikry, owner of Island Books, who grumpily recommends books to his customers. When he happens to find a baby left in his shop his life changes in unforeseen ways.

The Missing Hours

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Dealing with the oft ignored area of kidnap and ransom, this is a gripping and tightly woven tale of a woman who vanishes for a few hours. The police try to piece together where she went for those few hours and whether her disappearance is linked to the murder of a local solicitor. Fascinating and entertaining.

Orenda books have their own place in my heart so I have to mention the novels I have read from this publishing house this year. Treats included Deadly Harvest, In Her Wake, Nightblind and The Bird Tribunal.

Bit of a cheat but these are the books to be published in 2017 that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Dry

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Already a best seller in Australia, this darkly compelling novel of the brutal slaying of a family in the outback is conversely claustrophobic as small town secrets try to bury the truth of what happened to the Hadler family.

Ragdoll

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Subject to a publisher battle to secure rights and with those rights sold to over 32 territories to date this gruesome yet highly original tale of a serial killer who leaves a body made up of six victims had me hooked. This isn’t even published yet and I can’t wait for the next book from Daniel Cole.

The Keeper of Lost Things

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This novel cast it’s spell over me, I was soon caught up in it’s pages. This is a charming yet gentle read of friendship and love and the meanings we attach, or don’t attach, to the physical objects we deal with every day.

The River at Night

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Image you just feel like a relaxing break with your friends. Imagine one of your friends has a different idea and books a white water rafting trip. Then imagine if that trip takes a deadly turn. A battle for survival that drags the reader along much like a white water river.

The Vanishing

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Described as perfect for fans of Jane Eyre, there is something decidedly more dark and sinister about this gothic moorland tale. Captivating from the outset, this book is full of wonderfully evocative writing.

I also have to mention The Trouble With Goats and Sheep which appeared on my best of list last year but was published in 2016. It still stays with me as a memorable and enjoyable read. If you haven’t read it yet the paperback is released on 26 December 2016.

Now I can’t wait to see what bookish treats 2017 will have to offer.

 

 

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Heaven’s Rage, An Imaginary Autobiography by Leslie Tate – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Leslie Tate to the blog. Leslie is the author of Purple and Blue and his latest book, Heaven’s Rage was published on 1 December 2016.

Here Leslie talks about writing Heaven’s Rage.

HEAVEN’S RAGE, AN IMAGINARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY

If you’re like me, when you look back at childhood, the scenes in your mind are set aside, somehow, from the world they were in. There’s an abstraction about them, a kind of still life quality that gives them an unreal feel. So it seems that things back then might not have actually happened, and that what we call our past is fragmentary, as if each memory was a dream or a working hypothesis.

In my book, Heaven’s Rage, I attempted to describe those early experiences and other formative ‘hot spots’. So I started by piecing together a story from the pictures in my head, backed up by things I’d heard from my family. My ‘imaginary autobiography’ soon grew into a series of lyrical movements exploring my wider creative memories. I wanted to get close to how we really remember, which seems to me to be more in discrete cameos than connected narratives. And by using different styles – including novelistic writing, psychological theories, dialogues and poetry – I was able to visit and revisit the key moments in my past, including addiction, cross-dressing, childhood dreams and late-life illness. Switching between styles allowed me to sample my experience, focussing on states of being rather than actions, while approaching each incident from more than one angle. And the common thread that ran through all the scenes was the power of the imagination.

As I wrote Heaven’s Rage in parts, I had to go back afterwards and either substitute new material for scenes I’d already covered or offer a different viewpoint. As I did so I began to question myself. Was I simply making up a self-justifying version of events? Was I shaping what had happened too much? And was the language driving me to simplify my experiences into a linear narrative, rather than the truth? The answer to all three questions was both yes and no. Words impose order and priorities. Like fiction, they go their own way and won’t be fitted to pre-set formulas. Words can also, at times, can take you down a tunnel where there’s only one way of putting it – usually after repeated edits, and certainly not what you’d intended to write. So, although I was working from central incidents, a kind of retrospective elaboration crept into my story. And as my autobiography expanded, the themes took over from the personal anecdotes – not a bad thing, because it provided distance and a breathing space for the reflective reader. In the end it seemed that the act of writing a so-called factual autobiography had created my own independent, ‘fictionalised’ life.

But the experiences were authentic, and recognisably mine – imaginatively and emotionally, which is how memory works. What we believe happened maybe a construct, but it’s true for us, and shapes who we are. There’s a stageyness about life, as if we were engaged

in continuous attempts at personal reinvention. In Heaven’s Rage I set out to explore how these pre-conscious beliefs affect our behaviour, so the book examines what you might call the schemas of the heart.

To quote my own blurb: ‘Heaven’s Rage is an imaginative autobiography. Reporting on feelings people don’t usually own up to, Leslie Tate explores addiction, cross-dressing and the hidden sides of families. Writing lyrically, he brings together stories of bullying, childhood dreams, thwarted creativity and late-life illness, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage – William Blake.’

About the author:

Leslie is also a novelist, currently working on a trilogy exploring free love, traditional courtship, open marriage and late-life romance. The first two parts are already published.

* Book one, Purple, is a coming-of-age tale set in the 60s. To find out about Purple, go to http://leslietate.com/shop/purple/.

* Book two, Blue, is about open relationships in a 90s feminist collective. To read about Blue, go to  http://leslietate.com/shop/blue/.

* Book three, Violet, which brings the story up to date, will be published in 2017.  Leslie’s website is www.leslietate.com.

To find him on Facebook go to Leslie Stuart Tate (personal) and Leslie Tate (author page).

His Twitter handle is @LSTateAuthor.

About the book:

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‘Heaven’s Rage is an imaginative autobiography. Reporting on feelings people don’t usually own up to, Leslie Tate explores addiction, cross-dressing and the hidden sides of families. Writing lyrically, he brings together stories of bullying, childhood dreams, thwarted creativity and late-life illness, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage – William Blake.’

http://www.lulu.com/shop/leslie-tate/heavens-rage/paperback/product-22943294.html or

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The Art of Coincidence by Louise Beech – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Louise Beech to the blog. Louise is the author of How to be Brave and her latest novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was published by Orenda Books on 30 September 2016.

Today Louise talks about coincidence.

The Art of Coincidence

 

A reader of The Mountain in my Shoe – the lovely Elaine Ross, wife of infamous David F Ross – recently messaged me to say that she had just read the line, ‘coincidences mean your life is on the right path,’ and a chapter or two later when she read the time and looked up, it was actually exactly the same time. Spooky, we all (in this particular thread) said. And it is. But I love coincidences. In fiction we have to really work hard to make them work. To make them more than a cheap trick created to lazily tie together dangly strings we want neatly joined.

 

But in life, they simply happen. (Actually, they do in fiction, but more on that later.) And they often happen around me when I’m writing. This is why I truly believe they are more than merely coincidence. They are synchronicity, which psychiatrist Carl Jung described as an ‘acausal connecting (togetherness) principle,’ ‘meaningful coincidence,’ and ‘acausal parallelism.’ Exactly. Well, erm, almost exactly.

 

Just as taxi driver, Bob Fracklehurst, in my latest novel says, I think coincidences are little clues that the universe drops to let us know we’re thinking of doing the right thing. On the right path. There are numerous coincidences in The Mountain in my Shoe. Huge ones really. Ones I took quite a gamble on, and hope people accept. I accept them because I know they happen in this, our real world.

 

When I was writing a particular scene in the novel, a little pop-up appeared on my computer. A friend, Helen, was telling me Muhammad Ali had died. I was quite literally typing his name at that exact moment. I’m constantly typing other words that at the exact moment someone says on the radio or TV. Years ago, when I was wondering whether to write my current novel, which follows a boy in the care system, I turned on the TV with the question in my mind. A BBC documentary was on and the narrator said, ‘children in the care system need recognition.’ That was sign enough for me.

 

How to be Brave began in such a curious manner (a psychic told me to write what was in my head about my family history and my daughter’s health) and it was a journey of further coincidences; of random meetings with lifeboat families, on trains, via people who knew people. Lots of little coincidences led to my finally (after years and years) being published.

So they’re very special to me. Mean a great deal. So perhaps readers will understand why in The Mountain in my Shoe I gave such poetic value to them, and always will in my fiction.

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About the Book

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”  A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself …

On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.

Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.”

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Mason Cross – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Mason Cross to the blog. Mason is the author of The Killing Season and The Samaritan and his latest novel to feature Carter Blake, The Time to Kill, was published by Orion on 30 June 2016.

Mason kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about The Time to Kill

In the first two books (The Killing Season and The Samaritan), we found out that Carter Blake is a skilled freelance manhunter with a murky past in a classified special operations unit. In The Time to Kill, that past catches up with him. 

Blake receives an email attachment of an Interpol black notice showing an unidentified man found dead in the Siberian wilderness. He used to work with the man, and he realizes his former colleagues are sending him a message: he’s next. 

From there, it’s a race against time as Blake has to make his way across America with an elite team of trained killers hot on his heels.

2.  What inspired the story?

This one was inspired by my love of chase thrillers, like The Bourne Identity, 3 Days of the Condor and North by Northwest. I’ve always enjoyed thrillers focusing on a lone man on the run facing impossible odds, and wanted to make my own contribution to the genre. 

It also grew naturally out of the character of Blake. I was interested to see what would happen when the tables were turned and the hunted became the hunter.

  3. The Time to Kill features Carter Blake, who featured in your previous novels. What do you find are the benefits and downsides to writing a recurring character? 

The major benefit is you’re never starting from a completely blank slate: you have the protagonist and a rough idea of what the setup is going to involve. That said, I was careful to make Blake’s occupation flexible enough that I can drop him into different locations and different kinds of story. That way it doesn’t become formulaic. 

The downside is related – you don’t get to throw everything out of the window and do something completely different from what’s gone before. But there’s always standalones for that. Overall, I think the advantages really outweigh the disadvantages.

From a commercial point of view, it’s good because readers invest in series characters, and are more likely to pick up your latest book if they like the character.

4. You recently attended Bloody Scotland, an annual literary festival in Stirling that celebrates all things crime fiction. Can you tell us some of the highlights of the festival? How important do you think literary events are and what makes them so enjoyable?

I think it was the best Bloody Scotland yet this year. There were a lot of highlights, from catching up with other writers and readers to see Mark Billingham perform with the country band My Darling Clementine. 

My panel was a blast – I was appearing with Steve Cavanagh and GJ Brown. We were chaired by Catriona Macpherson and the theme was (Not) Born in the USA, because the three of us write very American thrillers despite not being Americans. It was a really interesting discussion with a lot of laughs, some intentional…

So far I’ve attended several lit fests in the UK, including Edinburgh, Crimefest and Harrogate, and I’m looking forward to venturing further afield in the near future. I think literary events are hugely important as it’s the only time writers really get to interact face to face with readers. It’s also fun to catch up with other writers and compare notes.

5. 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 a little of both. I write a fairly detailed outline before I get started, usually 3-4 pages. That’s really so I have a reasonable idea of where the story is going and that there’s some sort of ending. As I write, I change lots of things as I come up with new ideas. The ending is usually completely different by the time I get there. 

It usually takes me four to five months to get to a decent first draft, and then I’ll usually go through another couple of rounds of edits with my publisher. By the time it’s actually printed, I’m usually sick of the sight of it!

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

I have a full-time job and kids as well as writing a book a year, so at times it feels like I don’t have time to do anything else. Right now I’m on a break between editing book four and starting book five, which is nice. I’m trying to catch up on all of the television I haven’t watched and books I haven’t read while writing! When I have free time, I like to go for long walks, exploring different cities. I love going to the cinema and concerts too.

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

Argh, that’s a tough one. Actually, it’s an impossible one… I’m tempted to say Stephen King’s On Writing, as it’s such an inspiration. But I kind of think I should choose a novel, so let’s say Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. It’s an absolute classic and the book that made me want to be a crime writer.

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

Good question! 

Something I don’t think I’ve been asked is, “What else would you like to write, other than books?”

And the answer is: My books are very much influenced by my love of the visual storytelling in both movies and comics, and would love to write them someday. In comics, I’d love to do a Batman or Punisher story, and I have a few ideas I think would work best on the big screen. 

About the book:

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It’s been five years since Carter Blake parted ways with top-secret government operation Winterlong. They brokered a deal at the time: he’d keep quiet about what they were doing, and in return he’d be left alone.

But news that one of Blake’s old allies, a man who agreed the same deal, is dead means only one thing – something has changed and Winterlong is coming for him.

Emma Faraday, newly appointed head of the secret unit, is determined to tie up loose ends. And Blake is a very loose end. He’s been evading them for years, but finally they’ve picked up his trace. Blake may be the best there is at tracking down people who don’t want to be found, but Winterlong taught him everything he knows. If there’s anyone who can find him – and kill him – it’s them.

It’s time for Carter Blake to up his game.

High-stakes action, blistering tension and a deadly game of cat and mouse, THE TIME TO KILL is the must-read new thriller from Mason Cross.

 

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2017 releases – a glimpse into the future

It’s getting to that time of year. The nights are drawing in, the heating is getting switched on and the brochures are being perused. Yes, it’s time to decide how much of our Christmas and sales money to save and which 2017 titles we must get our hands on. I’ve been lucky to have already received a few review copies for 2017 titles and what I’ve read so far have been fantastic. There will of course be hundreds of great books for us to devour over the course of next year but these are just a few of the ones that have caught my eye.

So in January save a little of your sales money for a couple of these fabulous sounding titles.

Sirens by Joseph Knox will be published by Doubleday on 12 January. I’ll let the blurb do the talking:

The runaway daughter of a dirty politician.
The unsolved disappearance of a young mother.
The crime lord who knows the city’s secrets.
The disgraced detective on the edge of it all.

Many questions. Not many answers. Not yet.
SIRENS (Read more on the publisher’s site.)

Defender by G X Todd is also out on 12 January and is published by Headline. Pilgrim lives in a world where it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice and those that do keep quiet about it. But he listens to the voice that tells him to buy a drink from Lacey. There is a reason for them to meet. Pilgrim just doesn’t know what that reason is yet.

It would seem that 12 January is a bumper day for books as Good Me Bad Me by Ali Lands is also published by Michael Joseph then. Annie’s mother is a serial killer. Handing her into the police isn’t the end. As her mother’s trial approaches Annie can’t sleep. She has a new name and a new family, but is she her mother’s daughter after all?

Also out on 12 January is The Dry by Jane Harper, published by Little, Brown. Already a huge hit in Australia, The Dry sees Federal Agent Aaron Falk return to his home town of Kiewarra for the funeral of childhood friend Luke Hadler, his wife and son. Luke is believed to have shot his wife and son before turning the gun on himself. Aaron begins to have doubts as to the circumstances of the Hadler’s deaths. As he investigates secrets from his own past, secrets he shared with Luke, threaten to rise to the surface. Deftly told, with a gripping storyline and claustrophobic feel The Dry is a highly entertaining read.

You can read my review of The Dry here.

Little Deaths by Emma Flint will be published by Picador on 12 January. Set in 1965 Queens, New York, Ruth Malone wakes one morning to find her two children missing. Judging Ruth’s made up face, provocative clothes and signs of a less than salubrious life outside motherhood, the police leap to conclusions. So does journalist Pete Wonicke. At first. But as he watches Ruth he discovers the darker side to the press and police. Is Ruth really guilty of murder?

Another 12 January release is The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin, published by Simon and Schuster. Marcus Twentyman and his sister Hester live in White Windows, sitting on top of the Yorkshire Moors. Annaleigh, a foundling, enters service at White Windows and discovers all is not as it seems. As she grows closer to Marcus she finds herself drawn into a world of intrigue and darkness.

12 January also sees the publication of The River at Night by Erica Ferencik, published by Bloomsbury. Win Allen is recovering from the death of her brother and emerging from a bitter divorce. All she wants is to spend some time with friends. One of those friends, Pia organises a white water rafting trip in the Maine wilderness. Just nature and themselves. No other people. No phones. No help.

Also out this month is Rattle by Fiona Cummins, published by Pan Macmillan on 26 January. Rattle tells the tale of  a psychopath who curates a sinister museum. A museum which needs a new addition to the collection. Both Jakey Frith and Detective Clara Foyle have what he needs and must battle to stop him.

Another 26 January publication, this time by Quercus, is The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney. Jane can’t believe her luck when she finds the rental home of her dreams. Living by her landlord’s long list of exacting rules is a small price to pay. Then she discovers that the previous tenant, Emma, died mysteriously and she begins to wonder if she will share the same fate. Written under a pseudonym The Girl Before has been sold in 35 countries and a film version directed by Ron Howard is due on the silver screen soon.

Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan is published by Harvill Secker on 26 January. The fourth book to feature detectives Zigic and Ferreira from the Hate Crimes team, Watch Her Disappear sees the pair investigate a serial rapist, who’s latest victim is transgender. Records are found to showing a series of violent attacks on trans women and Zigic and Ferriera must find out who is to blame for the heinous crimes.

Another book out on 26 January is Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan, published by Doubleday. Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left to breathe. Adrift in space they hold onto each other looking back to earth and the world with rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves with. What happens when you find love in a world where it is banned?

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough is another 26 January publication, this time from Harper Collins. David and Adele seem the perfect couple. But why does she hide things and why is he so controlling? When David’s new secretary, Louise gets drawn into their world she realises there is something wrong with the marriage. And someone will go to any length to protect it’s secrets. The fact that the book has the hastag #WTFthatending, gives a clue as to what could lay inside the covers.

Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch is published by Headline on 26 January. Louisa Williams is trying to make a fresh start after a horrific incident. Her husband, Sam is dead, killed in a car crash along with their two children. Sam had said Louisa would never get away from him, that he would hound her if she tried to leave. Sam also betrayed her with another woman, Sophie. Now Sophie wants what Louisa has left, she wants the life she thinks she deserves and want to take away Louisa’s reputation in the process.

2 February sees Michael Joseph publish Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolas Obregon. Set in Tokyo, Inspector Iwata, newly transferred to Homicide has a new partner and an old case. A family of four murdered, the killer then eating ice cream and surfing the web before painting a black sun on the bedroom ceiling, it is a case that caused the original investigator to kill himself. Fearing police corruption Iwata knows he has a short amount of time to stop the killer, before he strike again, or before Iwata is taken off the case.

Out in February is My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood, published by Penguin on 9 February. Kate Rafter is a war reporter. She was the one that managed to escape her father, unlike her sister Sally. When her mother dies Kate returns to the family home. On her first night she hears a scream. When she hears it again she realises she can’t put it down to a simple nightmare. She must discover the secret hidden in the family home. Even if it might kill her.

Honeymoon in Paris and Other Stories by Jo Jo Moyes is published by Michael Joseph on 9 February. A collection of short stories, Jo Jo Moyes writes tales of love, loss, liberation and laughter.

Also out on 9 February is Find Me by J.S. Monroe, published by Head of Zeus. Five years ago Rosa walked off Cromer pier at night. Grieving for her father the coroner held her death was a tragic case of suicide. Her boyfriend, Jar, never agreed. He sees her everywhere, hallucinating visions of her. Then he receives an email ‘Find me Jar. Find me, before they do…’ Is Rosa dead? If so, who’s playing mind games with Jar? I’ve received a proof of this which is cleverly split into two halves, one where the reader must guess where they think Rosa is with the second part flipped over is see if Jar (and the reader) were correct.

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer is published by Faber and Faber on 16 February. Ruby lives with Barbara and Mick. They aren’t her real parents. She’s been told to say that the bruises on her arm and the black eye she sports are from falling down the stairs. She won’t say that she’s going to find her real parents. Or speak of Shadow who sits on the stairs, or the Wasp Lady she sees. She did tell Mick about the lady in the forest and that she saw death crawl out of her. Mick may say she was lying but she wasn’t. Ruby hunts lost souls. She’s going to find her real family and won’t let Mick stop her.

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole, published on 23 February by Trapeze, the new imprint from Orion. Ragdoll sees protagonist Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes recently returned from a lengthy suspension after a highly emotive incident faced with a corpse made up of six bodies. The killer, dubbed by the press as the Ragdoll Killer, has released a list of his next six victims. Wolf must find the murderer before the six people on the list are murdered.

Ragdoll was pre-emptively bought by Trapeze for a six-figure sum, has had rights sold in 32 countries and TV rights have already been sold. Having read Ragdoll I can predict big things for it. Daniel Cole has written an absorbing, highly entertaining tale, that would be perfect for adaptation and will be an author to look out for in the future.

You can read my review of Ragdoll here.

Also published on 23 February by Borough Press is The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan. Chilbury Village, Kent. It’s 1940 and the village women have taken against the decision of the vicar to close the choir given the male singers are at war. When music professor Primrose Trent arrives the female inhabitants take it upon themselves to form an all woman singing group. For members of the group, being able to sing will help them copy with life during the war in different ways.

Another book out on 23 February is The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott, published by Sceptre. Edgeworth Bess, notorious prostitute and pick pocket tells her tale from her Newgate cell. Speaking to hack Billy Archer she tells the story of how she and Jack Sheppard, apprentice turned house-breaker, formed their criminal partnership. But Archer has his own secrets and as the gallows draw closer, the question is who will escape them?

On to March which sees the publication of The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel from Hodder and Stoughton on the 9th of the month. The Roanoke girls are rich and beautiful. Lane Roanoke goes to live with her grandparents after her mother’s suicide. Lane enjoys the benefits of being a Roanoke but she discovers that Roanoke girls either run or die. Lane has to decide which option she will choose.

Also out on 9 March is Between Strike and Flame by Stephanie Butland, published by Zaffre. Loveday Cardew’s job in a York bookshop is her refuge. A poet, a lover, a friend and three mysterious packages enter the bookshop and recall unsettling memories for Loveday. Will she be able to right a wrong from the past and re-write her own story in the process?

The 15 March sees Orenda Books publish Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski. In 1997 the death of Tom Jefferies is ruled as misadventure. Not everyone is convinced. The tale of what really happened is held by a close group of friends. 2017 and famed journalist Scott King attempts to take the six testimonies. As each interview is revealed you will have to decide who is telling the truth, and work out how Tom really died.

March also sees another new title from Trapeze, Tattletale by Sarah Naughton, published on 23 March. One day Jody’s life is changed forever. Unable to trust anyone, she shuts herself off. But then she meets Abe. One day Mags’ life is changed forever. She receives a call, her brother, Abe, is in hospital and no one knows what has happened. Then she meets his fiancé, Jody. She begins to piece together the life that she had left behind years earlier. But then notices that those pieces don’t seem to fit…

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys will be published by Doubleday on 6 April. Inspired by a diary found in the home of the author’s mother, A Dangerous Crossing sees Lily Shepherd leave England in 1939 on an ocean liner heading to Australia. Seduced by the on board atmosphere Lily finds herself mixing with people who would normally ignore her. However she soon realises her fellow passengers aren’t as they seem. When the ship arrives, two passengers will have died, war will have been declared and life will have changed forever.

Also out on 6 April is The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti, published by Tinder Press. Described by Ann Patchett as ‘One part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade’ this tells the story of Samuel Hawley, who having spent years on the run settles in Olympus, Massachusetts with his daughter Loo. Samuel finds work and Loo struggles to fit in. Plaguing them both are the twelve bullet wound scars that Samuel bears, gained in a past that is threatening Loo’s present.

April also sees the publication of My Sister by Michelle Adams, which will be published by Headline on 20 April. Again, I’ll let the blurb speak for itself:

You don’t get to choose your family.

She thought she’d never go back home.

But there’s something in her sister’s voice she just can’t refuse.

And hasn’t it always been that way?

What her sister asks, she does . .

Oola by Brittany Newell is published by Borough Press on 20 April. Oola and Leif meet at a party and fall for each other. They find themselves mansion sitting across the US. However, their decision to stay in a Big Sur cabin could lead to them falling out of love, and could possibly destroy them.

‘Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty wacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one…’ The school ground ditty is well known and the fascination with Lizzie Borden inspired Sarah Schmidt to write See What I Have Done, which will be published by Headline on 4 May. When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered, Lizzie Borden, 32 and still at home, becomes chief suspect. Found innocent at trial, no one else is ever convicted. But the other members of the Borden house have their own stories to tell, from Lizzie’s older sister, to the house maid, to the boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to solve a problem.

2 May 2017 sees the latest novel from Graeme Simsion to be published by Michael Joseph. The Best of Adam Sharp tells the tale of Adam, who though content with life, can’t help wonder what life would have been like if he hadn’t split from Angelina Brown, a strong-willed actress he knew 20 years ago. Then Angelina gets in touch and Adam may have the chance to find out what could have been.

Also published on 4 May, this time by Picador is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor Oliphant wears the same clothes everyday, eats the same meal for lunch and always has the same two bottles of vodka at the weekend. Nothing is missing from her life, except sometimes everything. She’s never been told that life should be better than just fine. But an act of kindness is going to show her just how much better life can be when things aren’t just fine.

Out in June is You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood, published by Michael Joseph. An unnamed defendant stands trial for murder. Just before closing speeches he sacks his barrister and gives his own defence speech. He reveals he was told to leave some things out. But he thinks that if he is going to prison for life then the truth must be told. He talks through eight pieces of evidence against him. The reader, the member of the jury, must keep an open mind. After his speech is finished only one question needs to be answered. Did he do it?

Calling Major Tom by David M Barnett is published by Trapeze on 29 June. Everyone knows someone like Tom. He’s the cantankerous neighbour who complains about your garden, the one who tuts when you don’t have the correct change. Tom is happy on his own. But underneath that miserly exterior there is a lonely, sad man. And he’s about to meet a family who will change his view of the world.

In July Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown will be published by Trapeze, on 27 July. Sixteen years ago a child goes missing, a sister remembering nothing of what happened. Now they are reunited and Jess moves in with Emily. But then a baby goes missing and Emily’s life begins to fall apart. Was she right to trust Jess?

We’ll have to wait until 16 November for Trapeze to publish The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman. Introducing new recurring characters Jennifer Dorey and Michael Gilbert we see journalist Jennifer return to her home in Guernsey to work for the local paper. When she looks into a local drowning she finds a pattern of deaths occurring over the last fifty years. Together with DCI Michael Gilbert their investigation will take them into the island’s Nazi past.

Also out next year will be The Gallows Pool by Ben Myers published by Bluemoose Books. There will also be loads of paperback editions of great 2016 books which will follow in another post.

So are there any books that tempt you? Will your 2017 to read pile spill over. I know I had better get reading to make space for some fantastic sounding titles.

 

 

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