Tuesday, July 04, 2017

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier



They said:-
'O felt her presence behind him like a fire at his back.'
Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day – so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.
The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practise a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Watching over the shoulders of four 11-year-olds – Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant ‘girlfriend’ Mimi – Tracy Chevalier's powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

My thoughts:-

A very enjoyable take on the Othello story, with the action moved to the school playground, Dee and Osei (O) are around thirteen, and puberty is rearing its heated head among their classmates.  O is a newcomer and the only black pupil in the school, son of a Ghanaian diplomat posted to Washington DC.  Dee is the girl who takes her new classmate under her wing, with unforeseen and ultimately tragic results.  It is very clever transposition which works well and demonstrates the universal themes of the original play.  Young Adults will enjoy reading this, but older adults will, too.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

The Ice by Laline Paull


They Said:-

THE ICE is an electrifying story of friendship, power and betrayal by the bestselling, Baileys-prize shortlisted author of The Bees.
It's the day after tomorrow and the Arctic sea ice has melted. While global business carves up the new frontier, cruise ships race each other to ever-rarer wildlife sightings. The passengers of the Vanir have come seeking a polar bear. What they find is even more astonishing: a dead body.
It is Tom Harding, lost in an accident three years ago and now revealed by the melting ice of Midgard glacier. Tom had come to Midgard to help launch the new venture of his best friend of thirty years, Sean Cawson, a man whose business relies on discretion and powerful connections – and who was the last person to see him alive.
Their friendship had been forged by a shared obsession with Arctic exploration. And although Tom's need to save the world often clashed with Sean's desire to conquer it, Sean has always believed that underneath it all, they shared the same goals.
But as the inquest into Tom's death begins, the choices made by both men – in love and in life – are put on the stand. And when cracks appear in the foundations of Sean's glamorous world, he is forced to question what price he has really paid for a seat at the establishment's table.
Just how deep do the lies go?

My thoughts:-

Another very original, thoughtful book by Laline Paull, which is so different to The Bees but which drew me into the lives, dilemmas and values of its characters, and made me ponder the values of our world, where a sense of entitlement can trump good sense, respect of the natural world and blur the demarcations of ownership and stewardship.  Beautiful writing and enthralling story about profound issues.


Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham



They said:-

Internationally bestselling author Mark Billingham’s riveting new novel Love Like Blood marks the return of series character Tom Thorne, “the next superstar detective” (Lee Child), as he pairs up with perfectionist detective inspector Nicola Tanner of Die of Shame on an investigation that ventures into politically sensitive territory.

DI Nicola Tanner needs Tom Thorne’s help. Her partner, Susan, has been brutally murdered and Tanner is convinced that it was a case of mistaken identity—that she was the real target. The murderer’s motive might have something to do with Tanner’s recent work on a string of cold-case honor killings she believes to be related. Tanner is now on compassionate leave but insists on pursuing the case off the books and knows Thorne is just the man to jump into the fire with her. He agrees but quickly finds that working in such controversial territory is dangerous in more ways than one. And when a young couple goes missing, they have a chance to investigate a case that is anything but cold.

Racing towards a twist-filled ending, Love Like Blood is another feat of masterful plotting from one of Britain’s top crime novelists.

My thoughts:-

I just happened to start reading Mark Billington's latest DI Thorne novel after hearing on the radio of a large increase in the number of so-called honour killings (or maybe rather on the reporting of them), so it is an interesting, thrilling and riveting take on a very topical subject.    Tom Thorne is as maverick as ever but doing his best to toe the line sufficiently to prevent him falling foul of his bosses, while pursuing the best bet to unsettle suspects and catch the perpetrators of an odd series of deaths and attacks.  His domestic life with Helen and her wee Alfie is strained by the demands they both experience, being in The Job, but provided a refuge from the horrible crimes being discovered at work,  Phil Hendricks, his mate and handy pathologist, contributes to the story, as well as Nicola Tanner, a detective who is on compassionate leave following the murder of her partner Susan at their home.  There is danger, there are thrills and plenty of suspense and suspects: a very enjoyable and satisfying book.

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman



They said:-


My Thoughts:-

This book is such an enjoyable read, engaging from the start and a clever combination of science fiction with romance.  Luna and her sister, Pia, travel to Brooklyn to sort out their mother's affairs after her traumatic death, and it is there, in Bay Ridge, that they learn more about her past, the identity of Luna's father and extraordinary things start to happen.  I was totally caught up in this wonderful tale, which is beautifully written and well researched for period detail, and although the ending was surprising and satisfying, I now miss Luna in my life.
I have already recommended it (on publication day) to a friend who wanted a good book to load to her kindle, and I'm happy to recommend it more widely.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout


What they said:-
An unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss from the No. 1 New York Times bestselling and Man Booker long-listed author of My Name is Lucy Barton
Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.
Anything is Possible tells the story of the inhabitants of rural, dusty Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, a successful New York writer who finally returns, after seventeen years of absence, to visit the siblings she left behind. Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout's place as one of America's most respected and cherished authors.

What I thought:-

A delightful, satisfying story about a number of townspeople who are facing everyday issues and crises of life and identity which will be 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman



What they said:-
A stunning debut. Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

What I thought:-

Gail Honeyman has created in Eleanor Oliphant a remarkably engaging and endearing character,  for all her lack of social graces.  She is a unique and fascinating personality whose carefully learned life skills are increasingly not a good fit with her life.  I was reminded at times of Don Tillman in The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.  My heart went out to her very quickly and I loved this story, which is beautifully written.  It's an unusual, delightful tale which deserves to be widely read.




The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir



What they said:-

The first in an exciting new series from the author of THE SILENCE OF THE SEA, winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for best Scandinavian Crime Novel.
The murder was meant as a punishment - but what sin could justify the method?
The only person who might have answers is the victim's seven-year-old daughter, found hiding in the room where her mother died. And she's not talking.
Newly promoted, out of his depth, detective Huldar turns to Freyja and the Children's House for their expertise with traumatised young people. Freyja, who distrusts the police in general and Huldar in particular, isn't best pleased. But she's determined to keep little Margret safe.
It may prove tricky. The killer is leaving them strange clues: warnings in text messages, sums scribbled on bits of paper, numbers broadcast on the radio. He's telling a dark and secret story - but how can they crack the code? And if they do, will they be next?

What I thought:-

A jolly good detective and psychological thriller set in Iceland, where the police and specialist psychological trauma service work together to try to elicit facts to help solve a gruesome and difficult murder case.  I found this an interesting story, counterpointing the developing relationship between detective Huldar and psychologist Freyja with the unfolding discovery of victims of a very twisted murderer.  Lots of twists and turns will keep the reader guessing his or her identity, and there is an interesting ending.  Yrsa Sigurdardottir writes really well and is brilliantly translated by Victoria Cribb.  Hopefully the next books in this series will also be made available to us in due course, because I would like to see how Huldar and Freyja's relationship will develop as well as reading more of this author's writing.




Secrets of the Dead by Carol Wyer


What they said:-
Three murders. Three innocent victims. What secrets did they share with their killer?
A bottle of bubble bath and colourful, plastic boats were scattered in small puddles on the floor. In the bathtub lay Linda Upton, fully-clothed, her lips a shade of blue, and her bloodshot eyes wide open.
When a young mother is found drowned in the bath, clutching a receipt saying ‘all debts paid’, Detective Robyn Carter knows it’s just the beginning of a harrowing case. She recognises the signs of a serial killer, and when a second victim with a receipt is found, her worst fears are confirmed.
With the local press whipping the public into a frenzy, Robyn is under pressure to solve the crime yesterday. But her team can’t find a link between the two bodies, and the cracks are starting to show.
Just when her leads have dried up, Robyn discovers an unsettling clue she thinks could unlock the case. But as she chases across the plush carpets and manicured lawns of the wealthy elite, honing in on the killer’s shocking motive, one of her own is put in terrible danger.
The press call him The Leopard for his stealth, speed and brutality. Can Robyn stop the most twisted killer of her career before it’s too late?
A heart-pounding, toe-curling, one-sitting serial killer thriller that will hook you from the first page till the last. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Karin Slaughter.

What I thought:-

An ingenious plot which kept me guessing and reading compulsively to discover the outcome.  There were plenty of twists and it was very enjoyable reading.  Carol Wyer's DI Robyn Carter is an interesting heroine with a tragic past, maverick tendencies and a strong sense of intuition.  I look forward to reading the next instalment of her crime-solving adventures.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Nothing by Hanif Kureshi



An intriguing tale in which Waldo finds himself towards the end of his time, but is not ready to give up on life as he has made it.  His younger wife, Zee, seems to be looking to her own future without him: is it possessiveness or protectiveness that motivates him in intervening in her plans?  I'm not sure why - it's a long time since I read it - but I felt there was something of Lolita in this book, although without its age issues.  It makes the reader think about issues around identity and what matters in life.  Is Waldo reduced to being just a dirty old man, returned to a second childhood?  What of his legacy to the world of film?  Has he been a voyeur in every aspect of his life? He is not very likeable, but it is easy to feel some sympathy towards him.  Plenty to think about.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Lost Children by Helen Phifer


An exciting thriller featuring an interesting pairing of detectives in Lucy Harwin and Mattie Jackson, set in the fictional coastal town of Brooklyn Bay, and dealing with the consequences of historic treatment of  child patients in the local psychiatric asylum.  It's an interesting angle and well handled.  There are twists, surprises, threats and dire danger, making for compulsive, gripping reading.

He said/She said by Erin Kelly



A riveting story, a psychological thriller with an unusual element: solar eclipses.  When Laura and Kit cross paths with Beth at an eclipse festival in Cornwall, nothing will ever be the same again. Who can we trust, is honesty always the best policy or should we protect those we love by keeping them in ignorance?  Integrity and reputation are central to the plot, and each individual's perception of an event will be different.  I've just finished reading this compelling story, and found the twists and turns in the characters' fortunes, their challenges and tragedies believable and the writing excellent.  It's hard to review without giving away too much, but this is an accomplished, enjoyable, intelligent and original novel which is well worth immersing oneself in.  It's a jolly good read.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sleep Tight by Caroline Mitchell



DS Ruby Preston has another murderer to find: this one is extremely creepy and the case is turning out to have leads that come very close to home.  Ruby grew up in the East End and went to school in the area.  She is pursuing a career with the Shoreditch police, while some of her class mates are from the families of local crime lords (including her estranged sweetheart, Nathan Crosby and his brother Lenny).  A girl is found, murdered, in a local park, but then another body, this time staged in an adjacent cemetery to look like Snow White, and crucial evidence is found in the home of someone she cares about.   Ruby continues to go her own way rather than follow procedure. and puts herself at risk rather than let more victims fall to this sinister killer.  There's plenty of suspense and surprises in this compulsive read of a book, and it leaves me wondering where Ruby's cases will next take her.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan


This book is an absolute delight to read: an unusual story (with stories within), mystery, love, friendship, kindnesses and ghosts.  Superbly crafted and beautifully written, it transports the reader into its world and is one of those you can't wait to finish but don't want to end.  A total pleasure, deserves to be widely read and would be an interesting book club choice.

If Ever I Fall by S.D. Robertson


Such a good story, a sort of psychological thriller but with a difference.  It is very much about love and loss, there is suspense and I found it immensely moving.  Well worth reading.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How to be Human by Paula Cocozza



Spellbinding and unusual, Mary's story is one of loneliness, isolation and possible madness.  Living alone in the house she once shared with her ex-partner, financially tied to her unfulfilling administrative job, she values the urban woodland wilderness caught between roads that her garden backs onto.  The part its wildlife plays in her life is something she values, but her neighbours don't seem to feel the same way.  It seems that there is more than one way to be human, in the end - and no (wo)man is an island.  Beautifully written, this is a lovely book.

Born Bad by Marnie Riches


Not a Georgina McKenzie-series book, but a gritty and compelling stand-alone about gangsters in Manchester and how a butterfly-effect type event can unleash an out-and-out war between rival groups.  Both amusing and horrific, it kept me happily entertained and was well worth reading.

Last Breath by Robert Bryndza



Another excellent crime thriller by Robert Bryndza, centred around DCI Erika Foster and her colleagues.  Despite having been assigned away from the Murder Investigation Team, Erika finds a way to attend the crime scene when a body is found in a dumpster in a car park.  Very much led by instinct and intuition, she cannot let it go and begins to look deeper, managing to get herself, eventually, reassigned to the investigation.  This is a compelling and thrilling read, cleverly crafted and plotted, with intriguing and believable characters who are beginning to feel like old friends. Good one, Robert!

Dead in the Water by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards



A detective thriller with an undercurrent of romance and set in the Cotwolds, Dead in the Water makes for pleasurable reading.  Suspend disbelief at the way the local bobby co-operates with private detective and web designer Sarah Edwards when a teacher at her children's school is found dead in the river after the school prom, and that the head teacher calls her in to investigate with no financial discussion - and we know how tight public service budgets are these days.  But, putting these niggles aside, it's a good yarn.  Was the death the result of foul play or a symptom of how far drugs have become a part of school life?  And why has Jack Brennan, with whom Sarah has investigated a case in the past, returned from the States without letting her know?  There is suspense, there is danger and there is a satisfying solution.  Worth spending time with.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister



A compelling psychological thriller about love, trust and guilty secrets.  Rachel used to be a doctor but gave up medicine and has been working in an office.  She meets journalist Jack and they fall head over heels in love.  However, Rachel has experienced a series of traumatic losses which left her with trust issues: these begin to impinge on their relationship, and Jack seems evasive.  The complication is that Rachel and Jack have made a baby.

Just how well can we ever know another person?  Are any of us truly innocent?  And should the quest for truth take precedence over trust?    These are some of the themes explored in this very enjoyable story which begs to be a book club choice because there are so many issues raised and points to ponder and discuss. 

Monday, February 06, 2017

Adventures in Modern Marriage by William Nicholson


An intelligent, enjoyable, and tenderly humorous tale of love, lust, identity and midlife crisis in a world where life and marriage can last way beyond the child rearing years.  Almost a comedy of manners, the characters negotiate their way through a maze of responsibility, morality, excitement, loss, disappointment and fulfilment in a way which will resonate with the contemporary reader.  Adventures in Modern Marriage is a pleasure to read.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi



An unusual story about love, life after death and mourning someone whose manner of death seems totally alien to the person you knew.    Madeline has dedicated her life to caring for her daughter, sixteen year old Eve, and beloved husband Brady - until she takes a fatal fall from the roof of the library where she volunteers.  Eve and Brady have to reconsider everything they thought they knew about her as a result of her suicide, and Madeline wants to help them cope with moving on into life without her, before she lets them go.  It is an engrossing story, moving and gently humorous and an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Everything You Told Me by Lucy Dawson



I experienced some problems reading this tale, because there was a disconnect between what I know and what was being said in it - but this was somewhat explained in the way it all turned out, and I'll say no more, because I wish to remain spoiler-free!  Aside from this difficulty, I thought this a very interesting and unusual story and I could easily identify with poor, frazzled and exhausted Sally, as two of my three children believed that sleep was a waste of their lives.  However, thankfully I never found myself, like Sally, waking alone in the back of a taxi at the far end of the country in pyjamas and a raincoat, and with just enough cash to cover the fare.  This is a pacey and complex story which contains plenty to keep the reader guessing as a nightmarish series of events unfolds and a family's safety and happiness is jeopardised..

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain



I approached this story with trepidation: Nadiya Hussain is an engaging, charming and likeable person on TV, but that does not mean she can tell a story and not all celebrities can write.  I was relieved to find myself quickly immersed and engrossed in the secret lives of the Amir sisters (from the only brown/British Asian family in the small community of Wyvernage).  The book explores themes of identity, family, love, culture and expectations.  A major crisis has repercussions for each of the sisters as secrets are revealed which shake the whole family to the core, and all of them must change.  The sisters are all interesting and likeable, the story is fascinating and very well crafted, and there is plenty to think about.  It is a very good read.

In the acknowledgements at the end, Nadiya gives thanks to her writer.  It is an excellent collaboration.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos


A poignant, gently humourous tale of life with an aggressive brain tumour and the effects on its host, his family and the world.  An original story of hope, love, teamwork, dying with dignity and exploitation, which is beautifully and cleverly told.  Jared, Dierdre, Jackie and Megan are engaging and easily recognisable characters who have to deal with the unthinkable and find themselves prey to greed from many quarters.  I was gripped, I was moved, and was given plenty of food for thought.

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Woman in Black by Kerry Wilkinson


Kerry Wilkinson has created a fascinating character in Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniels and in this, the third in the series, she seems to be learning better to work in a team while retaining her ability to think outside of the box and combine instinct and deduction to solve some of the crimes that fall to her to investigate.

The story starts with a severed hand being left in a very public place in Manchester.  A mother is reporting her son missing and then a package arrives at the police station, addressed to Senior Detective.  The parcel reveals a finger removed from the hand - and DNA evidence shows that the hand and finger are not the missing young man.

Then a second hand and finger surface, and  it is a DNA match for the missing son.  Similar modus as last time, but this time it is addressed to Jessica, so it feels as if it's getting personal, and seems as if there might possibly be a serial killer at work - except there are only hands and fingers, but no further body parts.  Careful scrutiny of security camera footage suggests the hands are being planted by a woman dressed in a hooded black cape and low heels. The search is on for connections between victims, and to discover what is going on.

This is a really gripping story and a very satisfying read.  Happily, there are more cases to enjoy in the series beyond this one, but I am totally hooked on these books and am happily anticipating the next instalment.


The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle


A gripping thriller about what happens when tragedy strikes.  Iris Griffiths is appalled when a plane from her local airport crashes - and her beloved husband has just flown out to go to Florida for a work conference.  The plane in question was on its way to Seattle, so she is relieved that he must be fine, although concerned that she cannot make contact with him.  It then transpires that his name was on the passenger list of both flights and that he is missing...  What is going on?

This is a fascinating tale of deceit and deception, and there are so many secrets for Iris to uncover before she can discover the truth about her husband and her marriage.  Iris is a sympathetic heroine and this is a well-written and cleverly crafted story which makes compelling reading.

House of Silence by Sarah Barthel


I have not read a historic romance for a long time and, despite the cover image suggesting that House of Silence might be one, it is not straightforwardly of that genre.  Set in 1875 Illinois, a young woman's future is determined by the marriage that she makes, and this is the course that Isabelle Larkin is set upon, with her mother eager to confirm her match with Gregory Gallagher, a charismatic political aspirant.  Isabelle is excited by the prospect of a marriage to Gregory, until she is the unwitting witness to him committing a violent crime.  

Isabelle is revolted by Gregory's actions and appalled that no-one, not even her mother, will believe her when she tells them what happened.  Her mother is determined that Isabelle should honour her promise to marry Gregory, but Isabelle is equally adamant that this will not be her fate, even if it means that she will be committed to a sanatarium to avoid scandal and to persuade her to see the error of her ways.  Shocked and fearful for her life, she encourages this by becoming mute and feigning a breakdown.

Her time in the asylum brings her into contact with Mary Todd Lincoln, widow of the assassinated President, who is suffering problems of her own.  A fragile friendship grows up in the face of their common situation, but Isabelle is still not safe and must reclaim her voice to save herself.

The historical context is fascinating and there is plenty of suspense as we are caught up in Isabelle's quest to save herself.  She is a feisty character caught up in a situation of her time and status and interesting to read of in the context of the present.  An enjoyable book.

While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft


Start reading this book in the keen anticipation that it will keep you gripped and wondering about just about every character until its chilling denouement.  

Tara is the main character, and she lives in a South London cul-de-sac with her husband Noah, teenaged daughter Sophie and son Spencer (11).  One night, when her husband is away on business, she pops in to speak to her neighbour, and ends up having a drink with the neighbour's husband.  The next thing she knows, she is waking up in her neighbour's bed, next to Lee - who is dead - with no memory of how this came to pass but certain she had not had enough to drink to explain this lapse.  Shocked, she makes her escape from the house and begins the switchback journey to make sense of what happened, initially deciding not to go to the police.  There are plenty of shocks and surprises along the way and Tara's trust in all of her family is challenged to the extreme.  


The Day She Can't Forget, by Meg Carter


An unusual, intriguing and engrossing thriller which is a thoroughly enjoyable read.  Zeb's mysterious injuries and memory loss land her in hospital, but she is determined to solve the enigma of how she came to be where she was found, far from home, and what had led her into danger.  However, retracing the few steps she can recall could help her find herself - or take her back into peril.  As she seeks to secure the future for herself and her son, Matty, she needs to travel into her misty past.  Who is it safe to trust, and can she even she trust herself?  Plenty to keep the reader guessing right to the end.