Monthly Archives: December 2016

My books of the year for 2016

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My Books of 2016

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What a year 2016 has been even as I sit at my desk during the Christmas holidays this year of years is still taking its toll on us. I have to admit that I will not be sorry to the year come to an end. On the literary front this year has been nothing short of exceptional. We have seen so many incredible books released over the course of the last 12 months and along with so new writing talent has emerged with memorable debut novels. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been passed copies of a lot of these books to review.

So at this time year we tend to look back and review our year now coming to an end and it is the same with our literary year. I have decided to go with 15 books this year as choosing 10 would be just impossible. I have to admit that I struggled to from 30 to 20 then my best 15 books of the year. So without further ado here is my 15 favourite books of 2016. They are in no particular order as to choose a number one book of the year would be nothing short of madness as I would be changing my mind hourly.

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So my first choice is a debut novel by Ian McGuire called The North Water released in February to acclaim by many who have since read it. Published by Scribner UK. When I reviewed this before publication I raved about Ian McGuire’s stunning book. I said it would win literary prizes and it was eventually Longlisted for the Man Book Prize 2016. Set aboard a Whaling ship in 1859 and bound for the Arctic Circle Patrick Sumner has left the army with reputation now in shreds, he is now the ships surgeon and this is to become an ill-fated voyage. During the voyage a young cabin boy is found murdered and now the voyage is doomed. A fast paced gripping novel that at times is incredibly dark and haunting. A novel of sheer brilliance and now set for TV in the not too distant future. One book I waved the flag for and still do. I f you have not read it. It is a must read.

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My next choice is In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings and published by Orenda Books in March. If I said to-date this novel so far has received 137 five star ratings on Amazon. I could happily just leave it there as that alone says enough. Bella embark on a journey of discovery after a tragic family event destroys her. Now on the Cornish coast Bella starts to uncover truths that threaten her existence. A story so incredibly told, it is chilling and emotive.

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Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh and published by Jonathan Cape was published in March and another novel Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016. Eileen Dunlop is a young disturbed young woman. Trapped in an existence she cares little for. Living as a carer for her alcoholic father and a day job in a local prison. Her life is lived daily in fantasies and self-loathing. Then the beautiful Rebecca Saint comes to work at the prison things start to take on a more, dark and sinister note. Set on the coast of New England and a backdrop of a snowy winter. At times funny but this is a twisting and sinister story with a plot that sends Eileen in a spiral of decline. A shocking and terrifying read. But brilliantly written from a new name in the literary scene.

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Next is another debut novel Bone by Bone by Sanjida Kay and published by Corvus. A debut psychological thriller. Laura’s nine-year-old daughter Autumn is being bullied at School and with little help from the school itself things soon start to take on a sinister note when one day Laura finds her daughter surrounded by other children and being taunted. Laura loses herself-control for one moment with devastating consequences. Now life will not be the same again. A nightmare with no ending. A superbly written thriller from another new name.

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From the award winning author Elizabeth Strout came a novel in February that I so loved. My Name is Lucy Barton published by Viking. A story of a mother/daughter relationship. Lucy Barton is recovering in hospital from surgery. Out of the blue her mother appears. Nothing strange in that you may think. But Lucy has not spoken to her mother for some years, their relationship strained to the point of neither one or the other seemed capable of making the first move in repairing the relationship. Lucy decides it is time to confront the past and her own failings. This is sheer brilliance. Told through the voice of Lucy herself. An exquisite novel that will prove the test of time. All Lucy wanted to be was a writer. A book that cries out to be read. A classic.

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Midwinter by Fiona Melrose came too late in the year to appear in many book choices of the year. Published by Corsair in November I knew very quickly this was something rather special and not just the cover. Just the very opening of the book suggested this was going to be very very good. I was not to be disapointed. Set against the backdrops of Suffolk and Zambia. A book of grief and guilt and how we each deal with it. Father and Son Landryn and Vale Midwiter struggling to survive as farmers in Suffolk but not only struggling in this aspect but also with each other. The past hangs over them like the darkest winter day with little sign of it lifting. They have both never come to terms of the death of wife/mother Ceclilia. It has never been spoken of. But the time has come. Add to the story a fox who has made its home on the farm. An incredible story that is just heartbreaking and yet elegant in Melrose’s prose. Another fabulous debut and a writer to look out for in the future.

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Another debut novel by Joanna Cannon The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was released in January and published by The Borough Press. I have to admit that I have taken this book to my heart. Set in the long hot summer and the drought of 1976 and tells the story of two girls Grace and Tilly both ten-year old and the friendship that at times is tested. Mrs Creasy has gone missing and convinced that God if found will have the answer. So they both now set about trying to locate God. So this is what they must do. A wonderful tale of a bygone era that now seems to be gone forever. A book that will make you laugh and for those of us who remember that summer brought back so many memories I thought I had left buried in memory. The characters are just so incredibly placed and the story is so well written that you fall for it very quickly. This is a coming of age story to be cherished. Are you a Goat or a Sheep? The paperback has just been released and as I write this I an delighted to see that The Trouble with Goats and Sheep has been selected at one of the books for WH Smiths Richard & Judy`s Book Club. 

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From the award winning author of Wasteland came Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift in February and published by Scribner UK. Set in 1924 With World War I still fresh in the minds this is a story of a society that has still failed to grasp the enormous loss of life in the war. Life will not be the same as it was before. It is Mothering Sunday and the son of a somewhat wealthy family climbs out the bed he has shared with the maid Jane Fairchild. She wanders the house naked and Paul is off to see his fiancée who is rich. Meanwhile back at the big house Jane is 22 and alone her employers are out for the day as was customary for Mother’s Day. Paul sets off to see his future wife Emma Hobday but is that really were he is going? We move forward sixty years and Jane is now a well-known writer and is looking back at that moment and a shocking event. This is a masterpiece of writing.

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In July came The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena published by Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers). So you are invited to your neighbour’s house for a dinner party but they do not want you to bring your baby to the party. Anne and Marco decide that the baby will be fine and they will make regular trips to check on their baby daughter. Their regular babysitter has let them down. All should be ok. So you think. You knew it was going to happen. The baby is taken from her cot at the end of the dinner party. How could this have happened. They have been checking every half an hour and there was a baby monitor. Anne blames Marco for everything. A stunningly tight twisting psychological thriller that has got Gone Girl written through it. The tension palpable throughout and the ending is shocking. Gripping tense thriller at its very best, compelling and realistic.

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One of the most acclaimed releases of the year was the The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead released through Fleet in October. This book even received the highest of praised from Barack Obama. The Underground Railroad tells the story of Cora a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Cora has suffered and worse will be coming. She knows her only way to survive is to escape the hell that she is enduring. A new slave arrives on the plantation and Ceasar tells her of the Underground Railroad a way to finally escape. They both know if caught they will face a brutal death. The journey takes Cora to new places in a time of pre-civil war America. A powerful novel that that will leave the reader as in no doubt of the terror and horror faced by slaves. This is quite frankly one hell of a stunning novel it shook me and it will shake you. A classic.

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How much do I love Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Released in April by Sceptre A profoundly moving story set against the backdrop of the start of World War II sees the author use stories from his Grandfather to help set the story of a group of people who directly affected by war. Heart-breaking tale of love and friendship. Three lives become entwined in a beautiful story that will shape lives. The story moves from the Blitz to Malta and a story that will move you. Breath-taking in its telling Chris Cleave has told a story using memories from family members to weave a story that will last a lifetime.

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Waves is the debut novel by Jared A. Carnie This book touched me with its sheer beauty and setting. Published by Urbane Publications in September is story of Alex living in Essex stuck in a rut with his job and his long time relationship has collapsed and now Alex is looking inwards not really sure of what road he should taking in life. Then along comes his friend James who persuades Alex to go with him to The Outer Hebrides. The remoteness of The Isle of Lewis gives peace and quiet away from the drudgery and a world away from Alex’s life in Essex. The beauty of this story in in the writing and it’s at times brutal setting. Carnie’s descriptions of the landscapes just pour from every page. This is wonderfully evocative breakout novel that will make you want to go and find your own remoteness and contemplate your very own life. A writer that I am looking forward to hearing more from in the future.

 

My next choice is in way similar The Outrun by Amy Liptrot is the Wainwright Prize winner for 2016 and was shortlisted for the Welcome Prize. Released in January by Canongate Books. Amy Liptrot grew up on Orkney and fled the remote island life for a new life in London. The life she was living on the farm and her father’s illness were more than she could bare she craved another life. Once in London Amy’s new life collapsed in the worse way possible. Alcohol became more than just a way of life it was in fact her life morning, noon and night. Amy’s life was spiralling out of control. A decade after leaving Orkney she returns. Now Thirty years old and in dire need of getting herself clean. It is in fact the nature on Orkney that saves Amy’s life. Spending days swimming and studying the islands wildlife turned her life around. A book that is life affirming and the majestic beauty of how Amy describes the beauty of the natural history of Orkney shines through every page. Beautiful, start and brave. The Outrun needs to be read.

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The second book from Louise Beech following How to be Brave was released in September by Orenda Books. The Mountain in My Shoe is a powerful psychological thriller. A move away from Louie’s first book tells the story of Bernadette and Connor. For Bernadette she has finally had enough of her dominating controlling husband and it is time to get away to a new life. Meanwhile young Connor a heartbreaking story in its own. He loves the boxer Muhammad Ali but Connors life is not easy, a life within the care system that at times fails him. Connor’s story is told in his lifebook, but this is now missing. Both Bernadette and Connor have befriended each other. Louis’s writing is breathtaking and you feel for both Connor and Bernadette and want the best for both. Beautifully written and how Louise brings characters to life in this story and one that should not be missed. Another writer I am looking forward to hearing more from.

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And so to my final book choice of the year and it is a masterpiece of writing. The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola released through Tinder Press in July and is set in London in 1837. Sarah Gale has been arrested for her part in the brutal murder of Hannah Brown. Sarah is accused of being an accomplice to James Greenacre. It is said they killed Hannah and then dismembered her body. Hannah was to marry James. If found guilty there is only one punishment. Hanging. Sarah appeals for mercy and Edmund Fleetwood takes up her case. This is yet another stunning debut novel that has set the bar very high. A nerve wracking read that sets the tone for a did she really do it or no she is completely innocent all the way through book. It is no surprise to hear that the

works in law when you read The Unseeing it really is brilliantly researched. You get the feel for Victorian London from the appalling gaol conditions to life on the outside you can almost fog closing in on you. The good news if you have not yet read The Unseeing is that the Paperback is out on 26 January.

So there we have it my fifteen books of 2016. This was always going to be a difficult book selection and if your book is not here, it is not because it was not good enough, it is just the standard is so high this year. I read 119 books this year with many more still to be read. I will endeavour to get through as many as I possibly can.

I have to admit that 2016 has been a year that I will be pleased to see the back of. This year has been incredibly challenging for many of us taking into account both BREXIT and Trump and also those that we have lost this year. My hope is that 2017 is a happy and peaceful year for each of you. Books will be playing a more prominent role in our lives as we move on during the coming years. I for one will do my very best to make sure I showcase the very best books and writers. At this time, I am working on a number of projects one is a podcast were I will be talking about books and talking to writers and publishers. More news on this to follow.

I believe we are entering a golden age in writing with more and more people reading which can only be a good thing surely? In the run up to Christmas I visited a lot of bookshops and it was pleasing to see people buying books for gifts to go under the tree. Long may this continue. There are some incredible books coming in 2017 and as I write this the books are arriving all the time and they look superb.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank you for all your amazing contributions whether it has been on my blog or through following me on Twitter, you will never know just how appreciative I am. I do though have to thank all those wonderful publishers who have trusted me with copies of books. I am deeply humbled. Karen at Orenda Books you are amazing. Your energy and passion are a shining example. Alison Barrow you simply are a legend. (doffs cap.) To Matthew at Urbane Publications. My message is Simply just keep publishing the outstanding books and thank you to all the book PR people who play such an important role. Take a bow each of you. Now little word to all the hard working bloggers out there. You know who you are. You are all amazing. We do this for love because we are passionate about books and writers. At times though we do question why we do this I guess though it is more out of exhaustion than any other reason. My message to each of you. Never give up.

Happy New Year everyone.

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The Huntingfield Paintress – Pamela Holmes

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The Huntingfield Paintress – Pamela Holmes

I have to admit to knowing very little of the story of Mildred Holland and a church in the village of Huntingfield in East Suffolk. The Huntingfield Paintress was a story just waiting to be told. Painstaking research by Pamela Holmes and the story is now being told.

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This is really is an incredible beautifully told story of Mildred Holland the wife of the vicar of St Mary’s Church in the village of Huntingfield, Mildred defied the conventions of being a vicars wife in 1850 a time in rural Suffolk of depression being surrounded by farmland and the villagers being poor. Water-borne disease nearly claimed the entire village.

When the couple married it transpires life is great for Mildred, unable to have children of their own after Mildred lost a child she has to find something to keep her interested and having spent the early years sketching churches while travelling they finally are given the parish of Huntingfield. The villagers eye Mildred with suspicion as she defies all conventions of how a vicar’s wife should be. She suffered from depression after settling in the village she clearly feels that she does not fit in to village life. After visiting another church in Southwold she is inspired by the art she sees and now she has a vision to re-create the glorious ceiling in their own church for once before St Mary’s did have a stunning ceiling until Henry VIII came to power. This is Mildred’s calling and despite a fear of heights she sets about in bringing back the church’s glory. In doing so she upsets some of the locals who seem to want to cause harm and distress during the project. This story brings alive the 19th Century English life in all greyness.

This is a celebration of the work of Mildred Holland and her incredible self-sacrifice in bringing back the colour to the church of St Mary’s and in doing so causing her permanent damage to her back. The final result is something to behold and Mildred’s life and work are a living testament to her. The Huntingfield Paintress is a celebration of her life and her calling. It brings colour to what was a dull and grey period in history. A charming and delightfully written story and a stunning debut.

Thank you Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy.

The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes is published by Urbane Publications and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Fell – Jenn Ashworth

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Fell – Jenn Ashworth

When a book speaks to you in such beautiful prose as in Fell by Jenn Ashworth you know that it is worth savouring every word on every page. This is a stunning atmospheric and haunting tale set on the Morecambe Bay coastline. Like the shifting sands of the bay this story moves from the past to the present day.

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Annette Clifford returns to the long abandoned family home she has now inherited, the house has been empty now for some time and mother nature has long since moved in to claim it as her own with two Sycamore trees and the ever present gregarious starlings. There is something spooky and creepy about the house that was her parent’s home. Now the spirits of her parents have woken at the arrival of their daughter Annette. The past was a painful experience and now the spirits of her parents want to make some sort of amends for this. A haunting tale that moves from the early 1960’s to the present day a story that is narrated by the spirits of her parents.

In the story we find out about the character Timothy Richardson who moved into the family home in 1963 a real mysterious man who claimed to have healing powers. At the time Annette’s mother (Netty) was very poorly. But there is something about Timothy and his reasons for want to stay in the house. There was something sinister in Timothy and I came to loathe his presence in the story. Yet he is a leading character yet I so wanted him out of the house. I just became totally hooked on the outstanding writing of Jenn Ashworth and her beautiful way she moves the story like the shifting sands of Morecambe Bay. Little moments of life at that time come to life in the storyline like the can of warm cola just add to the beauty of Fell.

There are moments of real disturbing scenes when we are back in time and Timothy is bringing back to life dead rabbits and the moment when he manages to get Netty to bring up a never ending tide of salty sea water is a little squeamish to say the least. But Timothy presence seems to shape the lives in the household while not really aiding the ailing Netty. Why is he here? What does he want? So the spirits of Annette’s parents have woken to try and find the words to speak to their daughter. Fell is an astonishing book and knowing the area well I knew this was going to speak to me in through the landscape as well as the words and I deliberately left the book on my desk to read in December and if you have not yet read Fell this is the month to read it. It comes into to its own at this time of year. It is mysterious and mystic and dark and the landscape all plays its part in the perfect wintertime story. Fabulous.

Thank you to Nikki Barrow at Sceptre for the advanced review copy.

Fell by Jenn Ashworth is published by Sceptre and is available through all good bookshops.

The Cruelty of Lambs by Angelena Boden

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The Cruelty of Lambs by Angelena Boden

The beauty of reviewing books is that you get to read so many outstanding books written by some incredibly talented writers and the year 2016 has proved to be a real classic year and now in Angelena Boden here is another one of those writers. In her debut novel The Cruelty of Lambs Angelena Boden has written a thriller based around domestic abuse. I urge you to read on.

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Iain Millar is an acclaimed Cellist but now his entire life lies in ruins. What could possibly have happened to make this happen? Iain was teaching at a school when some pupils made allegations of a sexual nature against Millar and he was forced to leave the job he loved. But for Iain things only got worse. Now his wife Una is against him as her own business is suddenly struggling and she believes there is a connection between the allegations that have ruined he career and now her own. At the same time Iain decides to fight to clear his name and his reputation. The strain on the marriage is at breaking point and all the blame lies with her husband. With Una being successful woman and her business taking her to different locations around the world it is all coming as a shock and she vents her fury at Iain who has now shrunk into his own world and his ‘priceless’ cello for which Una suddenly is eyeing up as a quick source of revenue. The two children are hardly seen as their mother tends not to keep in touch and Una prefers the company of men she meets on business trip or on social occasions.

Iain a quiet man by nature is now falling into a spiral of depression the life he once loved is now nothing more than a distant memory and over the course of the half year that this novel is based on it shows just how suddenly and quickly life can fall apart especially a marriage were one is the stronger dominant half and seeks to psychologically damage the other as with Una. At times this deeply shocking to read but at the same time incredibly riveting a tense thriller being played out and you have no idea how the story will end for both.

The story is so well written with characters so believable you actually think you know them very well. At times you feel totally helpless as you watch a marriage descend into anarchy. With the story based on domestic abuse not from the man but from the woman in the marriage this is an important read and one I would strongly recommend.

Thank you to Matthew at Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy.

The Cruelty of Lambs by Angelena Boden is published by Urbane Publications and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Dark Fragments by Rob Sinclair

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Dark Fragments by Rob Sinclair

From the author of the bestselling Enemy series come a new tense thriller Dark Fragments that has all the same fast paced ingredients to keep the crime loving reader on their toes from the opening page through to the very last.

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Dark Fragments is a Psychological thriller of the highest standard and Sinclair introduces us to a new character Ben Stephens. For Ben life is just falling away and he seems to be losing grip of reality. He would describe himself as a hardworking family man father to Chloe and Harry. Some years previously his wife Alice was murdered and justice has never been served on the killer. This is a story as told by Ben himself and is a real page turner. Ben has since remarried to Gemma the very woman who he was having an affair with before Alice was murdered but now this marriage is heading for troubled waters and Ben is looking for answers to the past.

Ben owes money to a local hoodlum and he is now looking for Ben himself and his past is rapidly catching up with him. As the tension becomes palpable Ben’s sister suddenly comes into the story except the two have not really spoken for a number of years and she is a Detective with the Police and she is starting to sniff around and the questions are starting to come.

Just who did kill Alice and why have the police not caught the killer? The characters are well written into the novel and you will make up your own mind about each one and their own motives as you become sucked into the gripping novel. This is another stunning thriller by Rob Sinclair and if you want a good edge of your seat read over Christmas add Dark Fragments to your wish list.

Thank you Rob Sinclair for the advanced review copy.

Dark Fragments by Rob Sinclair is published by Bloodhound Books and is available in paperback.

 

Guest Blog – Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

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Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

Today I am delighted to welcome to my blog Rachel Amphlett the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels. Rachel has written a Guest Blog to talk about her new novel which is part of a new series involving Detective Kay Hunter. Here Rachel talks about the origins of a series and how the new series came about. 

The origins of a series

After writing two novels in the Dan Taylor espionage series in quick succession, I wanted the opportunity to explore a new character that had been going around in my head for a while.

Several months ago, an idea popped into my head that comprised an entire scene.  An accident had occurred, and a police detective had pulled over to the side of the road to see if the attending emergency services required assistance.

That one idea morphed into several pages of a new notebook. However, the more I wrote and the more I fleshed out the character, new ideas cropped up and it soon became apparent that I had a new series on my hands. Moreover, what I thought was going to be the first book in the series will likely be the third or fourth. And, unlike my espionage thrillers, this series centred around a female police detective in the UK.

Meet Kay Hunter.

As I fleshed out the ideas, one story in particular stood out for me as a way to kick off what I plan to be a new series. I began jotting down the various scenes that were going around my head, and then plotted the story out so that I had some sort of coherent plan to work on. I spent two weeks plotting about half of the story, and then began to write. Scared to Death came together really quickly. Once the story took hold and the characters started to stamp their authority on it, it became a very easy process.  I think because time is of the essence for the investigating team, this sense of urgency translated to the actual writing and, I hope, to a fast paced read.

The one word I would use to describe Kay is “resilient”. She’s been through a hell of a lot in both her professional and her personal life, but I think this makes her more human and definitely someone to whom readers can relate.

She isn’t a quitter, but neither is she invincible. She realises that she can’t do everything on her own and compared to some fictional detectives, she is a team player – most of the time.  When writing Scared to Death, I tried very hard to avoid any cliches that might normally be associated with a crime thriller. I didn’t want Kay to be a lone wolf, striking out on her own to solve the case with no help. There’s just no way that would be believable.

I also wanted to give the team around her a chance to shine, so Kay isn’t always the one that makes the breakthrough in an investigation.

 I hope readers enjoy Scared to Death, and I’m really looking forward to sharing Kay Hunter’s next investigation in the not too distant future.

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The Review:

This is a new series by Rachel Amphlett in Scared to Death we meet Detective Kay Hunter. The book really starts fast and quick. A young girl has been taken and her panic stricken parents are doing everything they can to find her it is a desperate situation as they fear the worst for their daughter and when things turn out in the worst possible way, I could the pain and anguish and the sheer helplessness as well as the obvious grief pouring out of the pages.

Detective Kay Hunter is smart and a tough character and misses no stone that needs to be turned over. Though she may have a few secrets lurking in the shadows she and her team need to act quickly to stop the killer in his tracks before he strikes again. Time and speed are of the essence here. This is a superb crime novel that hits the ground running from page one and keeps the reader really on their toes. Rachel Amphlett’s writing is something to discover she knows how to write a crime novel and add some twists to keep everyone guessing. Thoroughly gripping read and if crime fiction is your favourite. This then is a must read.

Thank you to Rachel Amphlett for the guest blog and advanced review copy of Scared to Death.

The Scared to Death Official Blog Tour Continues

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The Mine by Antti Tuomainen

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The Mine by Antti Tuomainen

A new name for me in Scandinavian crime noir in Antii Tuomainen and in The Mine we have a what is a real corruption plot and a story that just quietly creeps up on you and with characters that you just know you are going to be gripped by. The story is so well crafted and with the excellent translation by David Hackson a story that looks at environmental issues and then corruption that cries out to be uncovered. But is there anyone ready to take up the challenge?

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Janne Vuori is a journalist for a small newspaper in Helsinki and out of the blue receives a tip off but this tip-off is anonymous and is this is in connection to some illegal mining in Northern Finland. As Janne has a keen interest in environmental issues he cannot ignore this tip off.  But there is more at stake here that Janne realises. Investigating this story will put himself and people around in real danger.

Janne is totally dedicated to his craft as a journalist but he is also proud of his family but from what I read in The Mine Janne seems to out his work ahead of his family, but what is the story being played out with his father. There are some secrets here but what. The key part of the story is the mine itself and the truth that is literally being buried deep and there is an environmental story that will impacts and then there is the corruption that runs through key characters.

There is another story that worms its way into the reader and that is the hitman. What is his role in the drama being played out? Key members of the board have been murdered. Why? Both men could well come face to face and the killer seems to have an array of targets and is good with a gun. The story though not fast paced is chilling as it is gripping. The storyline is so well thought out and the writing is hypnotic as is the locations with the bone chilling cold that seems to come through the pages thanks to the outstanding prose of Tuomainen.

There is so much to praise in The Mine a complex crime thriller that delivers on all fronts and if you enjoy the chilling atmospheric of the landscape that goes with the plot then look no further than Antti Tuomainen’s The Mine. I have a feeling we will be hearing much more of Tuomainen in the years to come.

Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.

The Mine by Antti TuoMainen is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

The Finnish Invasion Blog Tour Continues

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The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

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The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

Before I give my thoughts on Amanda Prowse’s latest release, I have to admit to having a family member who went through a serious eating disorder and how this affected the entire family. This was always going to be a difficult read for me as it brought it all back. The Food of Love is so well researched and beautifully written. Amanda Prowse has never been afraid of writing about issues that affect many of us. I have a real soft spot for Amanda’s writing and she is back to her very best with her latest offering.

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Meet the Braithwaite family, a family just like any other. Freya who is a happy loving wife and mother. Lockie the father that just wants to support and make his family happy Freya and Lockie have been married now for 19 years and two beautiful teenage girls in Charlotte and Lexi. Just a normal family full of normal every day cares and worries of school and work. There is so much love between Lockie and Freya that it radiates throughout the book and from every page which feeds through the family unit.

One of the great skills that Amanda Prowse has as a writer is she creates characters that we can all identify with in our own everyday lives she is one of the best storytellers and the stories themselves are so very real. For Freya’s youngest daughter Lexi life is becoming difficult and when she starts to lose weight it becomes apparent that something is very wrong. Lexi has now been diagnosed with Anorexia. This is devastating news for the family and we watch as Lexi’s condition deteriorates and becomes very serious. Anorexia at its worst can be fatal. I speak from personal experience as to what this can do to family and loved ones. You feel totally helpless and daily life outside of the family just passes you by.

For the Braithwaite family this is exactly what happens at first denial and this does happen in cases like this and when you have given your all to your family it hits you like a brick in your face. Why our family? What have we done wrong? There are no simple answers to any of the questions a family full of love ask of themselves. A family full of love will always stand together and they surround Lexi with love. I must warn the reader there will be tears at times through The Food of Love. It is heart-breaking and poignant. A book that when you start to read you will not want to stop.

It is hard for me after so many years to read this incredible book as it brought back memories and I have tried to banish to the recesses of my mind. But the more we talk about the issues such as Anorexia the more understanding we will all become. Even today it pains me to say this it is still a taboo subject and clearly this should not be this way at all.

Yet again I congratulate Amanda Prowse on such a well thought out and researched novel that is packed full of love and tenderness. The Food of Love is such an important book for anyone who wants to know what life is really like beyond the front door of a home with a family member suffering with dreadful illness.

I know I will not be leaving this book as the story will now linger with me as for me it is real and raw. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Thank you to both Amanda and Simeon for the advanced review copy.

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse is published by Lake Union Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

The Food of Love Official Blog Tour Continues

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The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto

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The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto

This is the first crime novel from Kati Hiekkapelto I have read, but The Exiled is the third in the series featuring Anna Fekete and I have become an instant fan of Kati’s writing. Normally the stories are set in Finland but with The Exiled is set in the Balkans.

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Anna Fekete is visiting her mother in Serbia to the village of Anna’s birth, she is on holiday, but something happens to Anna that will change her holiday plans. Anna has her handbag stolen but the culprit who stole her handbag is found dead at the scene. It becomes clear that certain items have been taken from the handbag. Now the tense gripping drama starts to unfold. Who is the dead thief and just who is behind the robbery?

The Exiled is a deeply complex and twisting crime drama played out at a slower pace than I had expected but that is not a criticism for me this helped with the drama that was being played out. Most crime dramas are played out at a faster pace and sometimes there is a struggle to keep up but this slower paced novel really worked for me it helped me get to know the key characters and also the locations. With the refugee crisis that has engulfed central Europe over recent years this also plays a key role in the story as the wave of refugees crosses Europe and gives insight as to what they face as well as the countries and society in general this is key to part of the plot and this I found incredibly insightful. At times it can be difficult reading but this is the real world that we are living at present and cannot be ignored.

For Anna now mixed up in a robbery and also a murder she is faced with some incredibly difficult situations that will involve corruption and questions about the past. The Exiled is a terrific read and left me wanting to read Kati Hiekkapelto previous two novels in the series The Hummingbird and The Defenceless both superb tense crime thrillers from one of Finland’s most celebrated crime writers.

If you enjoy a crime drama with mystery that is both captivating and tense, then I recommend you discover Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Exiled.

Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.

The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

THE FINNISH INVASION OFFICIAL BLOG TOUR

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Guest Post: Vikki Patis – Weltanschauung

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Guest Post: Vikki Patis – Weltanschauung

Vikki Patis: Writing As Therapy

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Vikki Patis is a writer and blogger at The Bandwagon, where she reviews books, interviews authors, and gives her opinions on a wide variety of topics, from feminism to fibromyalgia. She’s recently published a collection of short stories, Weltanschauung, and is here today to talk about using writing as a form of therapy.

On The Bandwagon, we don’t shy away from writing about difficult things. I regularly use my blog to get something off my chest, to write about something that happened to me. I’ve made The Bandwagon a space for people to open up and share their stories, and in turn I’ve received countless emails and messages about how reading such articles has helped others to deal with their own trauma, and to continue on their journey of healing. Which is what it’s all about really, isn’t it.

I also use fiction as a similar release. I’ve hidden inside books since before I can remember, using it to escape reality. And now I use my own writing to do the same thing. Weltanschauung, my recently-published collection of short stories, is full of pieces of me. Harbinger tells the story of Zoe, and her ability to see death. As she grows up, she learns that others can see it too – they’re called the Harbingers, and they’re feared by society, to the point of violence. Harbinger describes what it’s like to be different, to sit on the outskirts of society, but to continue doing what you’re doing because you know it’s right.

Being an outspoken woman on the internet can come with a whole heap of problems. People want to shut you up, tell you that you’re wrong. But writing is my only form of therapy. Talking about things like sexual assault and everyday sexism helps us to deal with it, to heal. They tell you to write what you know. Although the stories in Weltanschauung may seem like fiction, every single one contains a piece of reality, a piece that I’ve taken out of myself and put into my story, to get it out of me, and out into the world.

Weltanschauung is available on Kindle and in paperback now. From 16th – 18th December 2016, Weltanschauung will be available for only 99p! For more information, join the Facebook event here. Follow Vikki on Twitter: @VikkiPatis

 

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