A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall
Just once in a while a book will land on my door mat for review and I know this is going to be something rather special. The wonderful A Thousand Paper Birds out now by Bloomsbury is the debut novel by Tor Udall. This is a novel that is to be cherished like a very rare plant specimen to hold and to cherish time and time again. Just look at the cover design it is a thing of real beauty. Then you start reading the book itself. Your heart is stolen.
A Thousand Paper Birds is a novel that is incredibly moving and poignant. It explores love and grief as well as the beauty that nature can only bring. There is a very special place that is close to my heart and never did I believe that one day a novel would be written with Kew Gardens at its very heart. This is not just a book it is the purest of love songs.
Loss is incredibly painful and so very personal and for Jonah he cannot let go and pain is beyond anything imaginable his wife, his love and best friend Audrey died suddenly leaving just memories. For Jonah and Audrey together they shared a love and friendship and also a love of Kew Gardens, now Jonah is alone with the memories of their visits. He is trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife and trying to understand the world around him and of his own life which now feels empty. There is a void in his life or maybe he thinks that his own life now seems pointless without Audrey.
As Jonah retraces their steps they took together through the gardens the reader is introduced to a number of Characters, all play a part in Jonah’s life and the life of Kew Gardens from the intrepid and always busy head gardener, there is Chloe the artist that is just a bit different and there in the back of Chloe’s memories is on an incident within the gardens that will not go away and there is Milly the child who loves to smile and loves life and the gardens who finds beauty around every corner. What happened to Audrey is so tragic and sudden, one minute there, and then she was never to come home never again to be held by Jonah.
Through the pages of Audrey’s diary, we get to know her so much better which just adds to the poignancy of the story. So has Jonah ever read the pages of her diary or would it be just too painful? The raw emotion pouring out of this beautiful book just left my heart aching. At times I had to put the book down just to think about what I was reading and to compose myself.
There is so much to love within the pages of this story that at times it leaves you breathless in the Udall’s writing. This is poetic writing at its best. Tor Udall has managed to bring the majestic beauty of Kew Gardens and weave the most beautiful of stories through it. Through a window given to you by the writer you enter people’s lives and see how they are linked together. It is at times so very raw yet at the same time compelling. You never want to reach the last page as with the very best books you never want them to end. So the window closes but does it really? The gardens are real and now this very special place for me will now be just that more precious. This is a book for all the seasons a book that will not leave you in a hurry and you will not forget it. A Thousand Paper Birds is without doubt my book of 2017. Delighted to HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Thank you to Philippa Cotton for the advanced review copy of A Thousand Paper Birds.
A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall is published by Bloomsbury and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
On the cover jacket there is a quote “When friends become enemies there’s no limit to the damage they can do” and there is the real crux of this incredible novel by M.L. Rio. In If We Were Villains there is a touch of Shakespeare and may be that in no small part is due to the fact the author M.L. Rio is a Shakespearean scholar.
What a debut novel this really is. A story of how friendly rivalry among good friends can turn into something much more sinister and here it really does. Oliver Marks is studying Shakespeare at a renowned Arts Conservatory. There he is with a group of other friends but with Oliver he always has this doubt that he will be playing a ‘bit part’ in one of the others plays. There is friendly rivalry among the group. Like any group of friends there are always moments when you disagree or just fall out with each other, but then when things turn ugly something is bound to happen and it does. One of the group is found dead and no the suspicions start.
So it is that Oliver was charged and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Fast forward a decade and Oliver is released with the truth out of what really happened. And what of the remaining group, what part did they play? Each one of the characters in this dazzling murder mystery with added Shakespearean quotes throughout the story.
M.L. Rio’s plot is something so very unique and unlike anything I have read I the crime genre. It is so different is just extraordinary. A novel of revenge, and of lust with each of the characters having the sort of personalities that are destined to make an Impact on each other with the resulting scenario. As a lover of thrillers and the personalities involved I found these leading characters so intriguing and was trying to get inside their mind sets. If you mention the word Shakespeare to anyone then the reactions tend to be straight love him or hate him so it will be interesting to see how this novel goes down with the readers.
I guess the one burning question is now how does M.L. Rio follow this? Another thriller with more Shakespeare? I for one would not complain.
Thank you to Lydia Gittins for the advanced review copy of If We Were Villains
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio is published by Titan Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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Being Simon Haines by Tom Vaughn MacAulay
I am sure that I speak for many that when we were young we all had dreams about what we wanted in our careers and then tried to aspire to achieve them. Meet Simon Haines is just that sort of a guy. Tom Vaughan MacAulay’s debut novel is about chasing his very own dream.
For Simon Haines his dream is that partnership at the prestigious law firm Fiennes & Plunkett for these past year Simon has put in blood sweat and tears not to mention the gruelling long hours, lost weekend to achieve his ambition. Within a matter of just a few weeks or so he will know if his dream and the rewards that go with it will be his. It is part of his DNA he wants this more than anything and he believes it is his reward for the sacrifices he has made over the years on relationships and friends that have come and gone. Now it is this close and he wants it so badly.
Now Simon heads of to Cuba for a break by himself before he finds out if his dream that will change his life has come true. There he spends time on this break alone touring Cuba and while there he discovers something else and that is his old former self, the old Simon Haines not the current driven and determined Mr Haines. Is this an epiphany moment? During this time, he meets some interesting people not to mention the culture of Cuba.
This is book that does not really read like a novel it comes across as something different, something more personal as we discover Simon from his early days. A story set against a backdrop of a world that seems be changing by the hour and along with it the people. Dream and aspirations and what makes us who we are. A captivating debut and what that left me asking a few questions. Thought provoking. I really enjoyed Tom’s style of writing and how he made the story read like a memoir.
Thank you to Red Door for the advanced review copy of Being Simon Haines
Being Simon Haines by Tom Vaughan MacAulay is published by Red Door and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke
I Know My Name (Harper) is the debut psychological thriller from the pen of C.J. Cooke. This is a thriller with more than just the usual twists and turns. It could well be described as dark and disturbing. Just what goes on in the minds of some people. If you like your thrillers like this, then you are in for a treat.
A woman wakes up on a Greek Island she does not know how she got there, she does not recall anything. Luckily there are a group of people on the island that want to help her. But who is this woman? Meanwhile in London Lochlan’ wife Eloise has just vanished without trace and no-one knows where she is her two young children have been left without their mother.
So now we see the story told from both Eloise and Lochlan. The real stories lie behind each character, Eloise is just desperate to find out who she is and how and what is she doing on a Greek Island. She wants to know were home is and to return. Imagine waking up on a strange island not knowing even what your name is and not recalling anything. Frightening thought. Meanwhile for Lochlan he too is looking for answers what has happened to his wife, why did she just walk out on her two young children while they slept with no warning.
Now you have to try and get inside the minds of some of the characters and try and find out who they really are and also what they are really like. Cooke really plays with the reader throughout the book as she tries to play on the suspicions of people and then keeps them guessing and this moves the story along at great pace. With each new chapter you are not sure of anyone.
A deeply thought provoking story I know My Name is a page turner of a thriller being compulsive and compelling.
Thank you to Harper Collins for the advanced review copy.
I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke is published by Harper Collins and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett
From the author of the bestselling The Versions of Us Laura Barnett returns with her second novel that is destined also to be a bestseller and the perfect read for these long Summer days. Greatest Hits follows a singer songwriter now in her 60’s Cass Wheeler. Each chapter contains the words of each of her songs. Along with the book comes an album of each of the songs featured in the novel sung by the Mercury-Nominated singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams.
Greatest Hits is a novel is set over the course of one day starting at 8am and Cass Wheeler is in her studio listening the catalogue of her songs. The reason for this is that Cass withdrew from the music scene and from life in general after an awful personal tragedy.
There are through the course of the day flashbacks through her life from the fractious relationship with her mother and to her love Ivor Tait this is a man she loved but their relationship was at times fraught and in the end sad. Each of the 16 songs that Cass wrote and sang and now find their way onto the Greatest Hits album really talk to the reader about the life that Cass has led and also a tribute to the music of this country through the 1960’s and 70’s. This is an outstanding beautiful book and Barnett has written a novel that spins a web that captures the reader to the very last.
There is real beauty in the writing of Laura Barnett and the characters she creates and in music there are songs that bring back memories for us all be it happy or sad. Sometimes a song will play on the radio and instantly you are transported back to a moment in time to a lost love or to happier times and this is very much the lyrics contained in Greatest Hits. Music has played a vital role in my life and may be this is one of the reasons why I so loved this novel about life, love and sorrow. Like the strings of a Guitar Greatest Hits played with my heart strings. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
I can also recommend the soundtrack that accompanies the book the songs are just sublime with both Kathryn Williams and Laura Barnett working together on the writing of the songs.
Thank you to Rebecca Gray for the advanced review copy of Greatest Hits.
Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett is published by W&N and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Mother of Darkness by Venetia Welby
A debut novel from Venetia Welby that captured my attention when I was asked if I would review. At first I was not quite sure what I would make of Mother of Darkness but I have to say this is quite a debut novel, it is lyrical and at times darkly comical.
This is a novel that seems bleak and dark with a drug-fuelled background, which brings with it all the usual insecurities that goes with this. We are introduced to Matty Corani whose life is about to be turned inside out. Living in the back streets of Soho. Matty’s life is just falling apart by the day thanks in no small part to his pal Fix who supplies Matty with his drugs to help him escape from his real life nightmare.
Matty has no other real friends or family to count on and spends his days perched on his window ledge watching the world go by in various states of drug filled hours. Nothing seems real and yet it is real. Matty is just escaping from life that is catching up with him. Women come and go in his life and none will provide a stable lasting relationship. The clues to Matty’s decline are there at the beginning of the story. This is a very lyrical debut novel and it is very easy to get lost in the storyline, do you feel for Matty or will you just be one of the passers-by that he sees pass beneath his window. Fix is Matty’s shield against reality with everything that has happened to him you have to feel some sympathy but at the same time you just want to bring him to his senses before it is too late. His is on a downward spiral. The fact that his is also lying to his psychotherapist does not help his case. This is a Greek tragedy in more than one sense. If this sounds bleak at times it really is but there is something in the story and also in Welby’s writing that makes this a powerful debut set against the backdrop of Soho. A clever and brilliant debut. Some may say brave as it will be interesting to see how Venetia Welby follows this.
Thank you to Grace Vincent at Quartet Books for the advanced review copy.
Mother of Darkness by is published by Quartet Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Lighterman – Simon Michael
The third book in the series starring the barrister Charles Holborne by Simon Michael titled The Lighterman was released earlier this month and an outstanding legal thriller based in the 1960’s and is a terrifically absorbing read.
For anyone new to the series the barrister Charles Holborne was formally known as Charles Horowitz, why you may well ask. This you will have to dig a little deeper into the previous two in the series. 1960’s London and the Krays are at their height and Holborne has had previous with the Krays and in this era of the gangs of London and the corruption that was going on at the time, it is all here in The Lighterman. Even within the police force there is corruption and Charles Holborne has to be at his very best to be ahead in the case. We will also have a glimpse into the time of the blitz when he was a teenager and his family were bombed out of their home and moved to the safety of Wales only for Charles to run away and heads back to London and stays with relatives. This is where he ends up working on the river as a ‘Lighterman’ These are formative years for Charles Holborne and when years later he began in the legal profession he had to change his name to be ‘accepted’.
This time around the case is very close to home as his has to defend his cousin Izzy who is accused of murder, but to confront the case the past also must be confronted and this will not be easy and the Krays are never too far away and are keeping more than a keen eye on the case and also on our barrister.
For anyone who has not read the first two books in the series you need not worry this can be read as a standalone book as there is enough in the background of the story to give you an insight and will also make you want to read the previous two. I really enjoy a thrilling courtroom drama and this delivers. With the added Krays lurking not too far away this is one book that anyone who enjoys a thriller will want to read. Question is will there be a book four? An ideal Father’s Day gift. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Matthew at Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy.
The Lighterman by Simon Michael is published by Urbane Publications and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig
I have to admit that I am new to Amanda Craig’s novels and when her latest The Lie of the Land (Little, Brown) landed on my desk, it was just what I was looking for, and how I enjoyed this multi-layered novel that is life in very much today. An absolute joy to read and one of those books that you just do not want to leave alone for very long.
Meet Quentin and Lottie Bredin, they have three children and live in London, sadly the recession has hit the couple hard and both lost their jobs. Now despite everything they know that they can’t afford the sky high living costs of the big city. Quentin has had many affairs and Lottie has had to cope with his appalling behaviour and is rightly very hurt. There is no money even for a divorce, so the only answer is to move away and they set up home in Devon. Not everyone who lives in the city can adapt to the life living in the countryside. So now they have to downsize and no-one in the Bredin household is too happy at their new home. A sad looking home it will be. But why on earth is the landlord offering such cheap rent? The rock star landlord could be hiding a secret or two here. Amanda Craig has written a wondrous modern novel of how we live today. At times it is superbly witty and the characters you will come to know and love and possibly even not. This is also part psychological thriller.
Quentin and Lottie do not want to talk to each other and hardly surprising considering Quentin’s adventures away from the marriage. There are so many rich characters they you will meet within the pages that I would be giving away the rich tapestry of the story. And it is just superb in all its forms. Then there is the ending. No spoilers here but simply is breath-taking. I loved The Lie of the Land. I can now see why Amanda Craig is so loved by many fellow authors and readers and I now happily join those ranks. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Amelia Reid at Little, Brown for the advanced review copy.
The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig is published by Little, Brown on 15th June and will be available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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The Photographer by Meike Ziervogel
Set against the backdrop of the Second World War The Photographer by Meike Ziervogel is a deeply moving story inspired by her own family history. At the end of the war eleven million people fled from east to west lives destroyed by war. This is a story that is so beautifully written and a story with so much packed into under 200 pages.
The couple at the heart of this story are Albert and Trude who met in 1933, Albert is a photographer and his photographs have appeared in magazines in Paris and Berlin, but Albert has his flaws but the couple are happy and together they have a son called Peter. But Trude’s controlling mother Agatha has never been happy with the union and eventually she has the chance to report Albert and he finds himself sent to the front to fight.
At the end of the war Albert has survived but is scarred by the everything that has happened both in terms of the fighting and also how Trude’s mother decided to report him. During the fighting Trude and her son have to flee for their lives as the Russian army is advancing. Now the war is over they are re-united via the Red Cross Albert finds Trude and Peter at a refugee camp. With everything that has happened can Albert and Trude rebuild their lives find the love they once shared. Like millions of others shattered by war the process of starting again begins. How can the couple forgive Agatha for her betrayal?
I read The Photographer in one sitting a compelling story that actually is an impressive piece of writing and one that resonates in current times with the refugee crisis that we see and read about in the media.
Thank you to Salt Publishing for the advanced review copy.
The Photographer by Meike Ziervogel is published by Salt Publishing and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Fierce Kingdom – Gin Phillips
A mum takes her young son to the zoo in what should be a really special time, but then them events take place that means they have to run and hide in fear of their lives, gunshots are heard then panic sets in. A killer is roaming the grounds of the zoo and the intent is to kill. Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips is a compelling and gripping thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last. This is one of the most anticipated novels of the summer and is sure to be a bestseller.
4.55pm and Joan and her four-year-old son Lincoln have spent the day at the zoo and it is nearly closing time so they head towards the exits, then Joan hears what she believes is gunshots.
Over the course of the next hours Joan has to think about how to not only how to run and avoid being seen by a madman with a gun who out to kill. She has to try and keep Lincoln from crying, that would attract real and grave danger. I always knew that this was going to be a gripping and tense thriller and how this delivers on every level. At times it left me breathless as you run with both Joan and her young son trying to hide and hope you are not found. Joan as a mother wanted to protect her precious son from this crazed madman. Why was he here killing people? What was his motive? I don’t think I have raced through a book so quickly I just wanted to know what was coming. You just knew something was going to happen.
I have to give credit to Phillips as she has written some incredibly strong characters for Fierce Kingdom, they are just so real which gives this novel such an edge. Incredibly powerful writing creating such dramatic scenes. The idea of setting this within a zoo is just mind blowing there are so many places and buildings not to mention the wild animals. I read this while in hospital and was caught reading during a sleepless night. The book caught the attention of some of the nurses looking after me.
So what we have in Fierce Kingdom is an extremely well thought out thriller that at times is very dramatic and for some would be traumatic I for one despite the setting felt claustrophobic I was there and I wanted to help them escape. The ending is just as dramatic and I for one never really foresaw the ending. This is pulse racing and edge of your seat thriller that will be one book I am delighted to recommend for your Summer reading list. You will not be disappointed.
Thank you to Alison Barrow for the advanced review copy of Fierce Kingdom
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips is published by Doubleday on 15th June and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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