Monthly Archives: October 2017
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
The journey that was Elmet all began on a journey and the end result for Fiona Mozley is that Elmet is a compelling and dramatic debut novel that ended up becoming shortlisted for one of the most prestigious book prizes The Man Booker Prize.
Elmet is dark and there is also something very Gothic in its setting and telling. Set in the Yorkshire countryside and is a dramatic telling of what is a family that is troubled. The narrator is Daniel and he lives with his sister Cathy together with their father John who is a fighter and not one to mess with.
John takes his children and they build a house and settle in. Their mother who seemed never to be close was never around the children and then just disappeared they then lived with Granny Morley and all seemed to be working well. They went to School and now they have retreated from society and live in the woods. While Daniel seems to be the quieter preferring to read, Cathy likes to explore the woods.
The family are now separated from the real life and people of the town and so they more or less live off the land and fend for themselves. There is Vivien with whom their father has some sort of relationship with and now the children will be taught by Vivien. But trouble is not far away as Daddy has built the house with his own hands. But now the man who claims to own the land Mr Price has come to call. He claims the land is his after their mother handed over the deeds as some sort of repayment against debt she had. At this point my thoughts were running away with me, was there something going on between the children’s mother and Mr Price? What follows is a chilling threat to their very existence and it is real and dark. Now the struggle over the families very existence begins. This is a family that is close and will stay that way through to the end. However, it ends. They will stick by each other.
When the book moves into the final stages the pace increases and this is where it got so fast that I just wanted it to slow down a bit. Now the nail biting finale is coming up a battle for survival. Sweeping, dark and dramatic are words that came to mind and also resembles the surrounding countryside. The book left me with a headache but not in a bad way it was just I became so involved in this drama that was being played out. This is an incredible breakthrough novel that was never going to deliver an ending that is satisfactory.
Elmet deserved its place on the shortlist and was one of my tips to win, many have sung its praises. Let’s be clear this is not a feel good book and not one to read if you need cheering up. I loved Elmet and many who come to discover it now will also come to love Fiona Mozley’s writing. It left me wondering what is to come next from this very exciting new writing talent. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley is published by John Murray and was published on 10th August 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Viking Fire by Justin Hill
Being a very big fan of historical fiction, I was delighted when I received a copy of Viking Fire by Justin Hill. This is a sweeping story of the last Viking Harald Hardrada and I was so impressed by Justin Hill’s writing telling the story of Hardrada from his youth in 1035 when wounded in battle to the adventures Russia to the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Harald Hardrada had ambitions and that drove him from the land of his birth through the continent and being a Christian when he reached Jerusalem he spent time discovering the religious sites. He meets Kings and Queens and but also loses friends. There are battles won and lost both on and off the battlefield. This is a story told very much by Haldrada himself and with recollections. Hill has used this to great effect and makes this epic tale really flow.
The incredible research into the life of the last Viking by Justin Hill makes this book all the more impressive. Most people who love history and the story of the Vikings and of Harald Hardrada should read this as even I thought I knew a fair bit but when you read this and his recollections of his youth and his subsequent exile made me rethink my own knowledge. This is just so superbly written and told.
It was though Hardrada’s wish to return home rich and with an army and vengeance was the word being spoken of. To correct a wrong that was done many years before. You may imagine being a Viking there would be plenty of violence through his life but Hill is saying here is that Hardrada was more than just a warrior but something more, he was intelligent and bright with it. But the one thing he has a lot of is desire and determination and the will to survive and grow, both in stature and wealth.
The people and places he encounters all help to leave an impression on Harald and not giving too much away here this is a stunning telling of his life and his adventures and the bloody battles. A truly wonderful story and brilliantly told. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to for Amelia Reid the advanced review copy of Viking Fire.
Viking Fire by Justin Hill is published by Abacus and was published on 7th September 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Dead Lands by Lloyd Otis
There is something about a 1970’s novel that I know will capture my imagination. So it was a great pleasure to be asked to take part in the Blog Tour for the debut novel Dead Lands by Lloyd Otis. A thrilling crime novel with a 1970’s London skyline.
This is a gritty fast paced crime thriller from a new writer with whom I hope to hear more from in the future. After a woman body is found the race in on to catch the killer and so DI Breck and DS Kearns are brought in to get the killer off the streets before he strikes again. Alexander Troy is picked up and but Troy has other ideas after his arrest. The opening is violent and leans towards brutal but this is what makes this crime novel work. The scene is set for a violent thriller.
Going back to the 1970’s meant going back to the old ways of police work and that meant banging on doors and lots of foot slogging to find avenues of enquiries. How times have changed! Credit to Otis for creating such a great pair in Breck and Kearns and how they each go about their detective work. Despite their own issues.
The London skyline of 1977 is very different and this really brings home how times have changed in methods of policing. The dreadful ‘Racial Profiling’ that took place made areas of London tense. So here in Dead Lands the author has succeeded in bringing the setting and historical aspect of crime and policing really jump off the page at you. If you got in the way, then the chances are you are going to get hurt or worse. You tend to forget just what the 1970’s where really like. Here it all is here in Dead Lands. Now the body count is rising and Breck and Kearns must get in there and get to grips with what is happening and fast and just who really is Alexander Troy?
At times harrowing and gritty but also complex this is terrific first crime novel that presses all the right buttons and delivers. Just think of the 1970’s and it is here. From the police to the streets and everything in-between. Nothing is left out. Yet again Urbane Publications have found another fantastic writer and a gritty pulsating debut. If you enjoy a thriller without the modern technology, then pick up a copy of Dead Lands and head back to the late 1970’s.
Thank you to Matthew at Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy of Dead Lands.
Dead Lands by Lloyd Otis is published by Urbane Publications was published on 12th October 2017 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen
Being a big lover of Scandi Noir novels and having read Antti Tuomainen’s The Mine earlier last year I always knew I was going to love The Man Who Died which is I have to say a thrilling read from beginning to end and a hero that you will cheer on all the way with plenty of twists in the storyline that will have you glued to every page.
One of the great aspects of The Man Who Died is that we get to see the black humour that lies within Tuomainen the writer. And this book had me smiling all the way through. Antti Tuomainen is a real class act when it comes to writing Scandi Noir novels and add in life and death with so much black humour that makes this book even so much incredible. Inventive and very readable with great characters.
Jaakko Kaunismaa is a successful businessman he is at the prime of his life at just 37 years of age. But something is not right and now his doctor has just given him the news that is dying. Actually to be more precise he is being slowly murdered someone wants him dead and he is being slowly poisoned by, the cause is by prolonged exposure to toxins. His condition is in an advanced state with every organ now affected.
Jaakko decides that he must find out who is slowly killing him before it is too late add to this his business is being threatened by a rival business. What follows is a rollercoaster of a read with some bizarre twists and turns for good measure. Time is not exactly on Jaakko’s side as he goes about finding his killer. Despite his imminent demise his humour is just what makes this book even more incredible.
The emotions that our hero goes through from one moment to the next are all exposed to the reader. Despite the thriller aspect of The Man Who Died, this is a novel about life and living for every moment and also love. Jaakko is a wonderful character and one I just loved from page one. It is hard not to like him. You are cheering him on through every page.
With Antti Tuomainen giving the reader to false moments along the way he really is such a great writer, he gives the reader so much. This may be a little different from some of the other Scandi Noir out there but Tuomainen has delivered a real masterpiece of writing. Not a book to let pass you by. I must congratulate David Hackston for his excellent work in translating The Man Who Died. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy of The Man Who Died and also to Anne Cater for kindly arranging the Blog Tour.
The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen is published by Orenda Books and was published on 10th October 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir
How much do I really enjoy a really good Icelandic crime novel and here is one that I read in one sitting during one sleepless night and loved it. Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir is the first in a series of Reykjavik Noir Trilogy. This is an exciting new name in crime writing and one I believe we will be hearing a lot more from.
Sleepy Iceland you say? Well I don’t think so. After reading a number of crime novels set on Iceland this really is becoming a hotbed for major crime writing at its very best and in Snare this novel deals with drugs and drug smuggling. There is a lot of tension in this fast moving novel that erupts like an Icelandic Volcano.
We find Sonia who is a single mum and has just gone through a turbulent divorce and all the financial costs that go with it. At the heart of this story is that Sonia is devoted to her son yet is struggling so she resorts to the criminal world of smuggling drugs in and out of Iceland. While at the other end of the spectrum is Bragi who works in Customs based at the airport and is determined to stop the drug smuggling that he knows is going on. This is a novel that has everything you would want from a thriller. When you add into the plot the financial crime and the violence that comes with the drug smuggling trade then you know what is coming.
Buried within the storyline is a story of a single mum who is desperate to bring up her son at the same time Sonia embarks on a relationship with another woman so add relationships in this and it becomes quite a potent story being told here and one that explodes. I warn you now. This is one book you will not put down. Just you try!
This is a dangerous game being played out by the lead characters and when you start to deceive and start playing dirty then. Sonia is one hell of a character that has been created by Sigurdardottir one very determined woman who is trying never to be caught. Reading Snare is like watching a great film unfold in your mind, so brilliantly thought out and planned. There is risk on every page and DANGER lurks around every corner and screamed out at me. The writing is just superb and great credit again must go to Quentin Bates for the translation.
If you are looking for a stunning crime novel that delivers on many levels, then Snare is a five star read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy of Snare.
Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir is published by Orenda Books and was published on 1st October 2017 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Are you following the Snare Official Blog Tour?
I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
If life teaches us one thing it is that each day is precious and that we need to live each day and grab hold of life and never let, go. The Costa Awarding writer Maggie O’Farrell has released a memoir like no other. In I Am I Am I Am she talks openly about the 17 near death experiences that she has gone through. It is a frank and an astonishingly beautiful written memoir.
Each chapter is named after a part of the body so the book starts with the Neck and moves onto Lungs, Spine, Legs, Pelvis Abdomen etc. The opening chapter is shocking for Maggie when she was just 18 years-old. While she was in between shifts at a job while she was studying she takes a walk. She passes a man while she walks up to a tarn. She thinks nothing of it but then he is there when she is heading back down. Now she is concerned. He was clearly waiting for her. What happens next is nothing short of frightening. She basically escaped with her life. I will not reveal anymore here but this is a life changing moment for Maggie O’Farrell. Each of the chapters not necessarily in order more a skip back and forth through her life and dramatic medical dramas that she deals with the incredible resolve of a woman a writer is not going to be bowed and beaten by any of the threats to her life. There is one chapter were she is on a flight when the flight to Hong Kong suddenly is out of control and there is panic among the passengers the fear is palpable as the aircraft plummets. Then there is the direct threat to her life while in Chile when a would be mugger holds a machete to her throat. Anyone of these threats to your life could and would challenge anyone.
Life is precious and threats to our lives can happen at any time with little or no warning. One chapter that hits O’Farrell hardest is the life-threatening problems that face her daughter and continue to do so daily. I Am I Am I Am is the closest you will get to a love letter to that one thing we hold dear and that is life. It struck me that with everything that Maggie O’Farrell has come through it has made her stronger and more determined to live life and to help her cope with the worries and concerns for her daughter. I have learned through experience that we are not alone and there are those we can turn to for support someone to listen to us in times of need. Deep inside us is that inner strength and resilience that we call upon when our lives are being rocked by threats.
I Am I Am I Am being nothing short of a literary gem. A powerful heartbeat to life and a lesson to cherish every moment and each other. I speak with experience of near death challenges which is why I was drawn to reading memoir. How many times have we thought what If I done something differently? Life is just a fraction of a second away from uncertainty. I have learnt over recent years to greet each day and live for every moment.
This is a book that will touch your soul, written by a writer at the top of her game and she tells it with passion for life. Never one to dwell but to live and to love. Very much a life-affirming book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell is published Tinder Press and was published and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
It is New Year’s Eve in 1984 and 85- year-old Lillian is heading out to a party to see out the old year and see in the new one. Why take a cab when you can walk and this is indeed what Lillian does and walks around the whole of Manhattan. This is the story based on the life of Margaret Fishback who took 1930’s New York by storm a city she loves. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is a delightful and charming book written by Kathleen Rooney and is packed full with memories of a remarkable woman and a bygone era.
In her day Lillian was the highest paid advertising woman in the world a real force to be reckoned with. She moved to New York in 1926 when she just about old enough to look for a job. After a series of rejections Lillian was offered a job at R.H. Macy’s were she was to write promotions to advertise the great department store and all this on her own with no help. The advertising rhymes really catch on and then these end up being publishes.
During this story that takes place over just one evening Lillian recounts her life story and also the love of her life Max, for whom she falls head over heels. He is everything she dreamed of. They marry and she then has to leave her role when she is expecting their son. Lillian recounts the break-up of their marriage and a change in the life she had Lillian spells out how this affected her with some painful memories that are recalled.
Lillian may be in her eighties but she is still bright as a button and smart with it. She walks through Manhattan a city that she has loved since she arrived searching for a dream job. She passes sights and recalls memories from the past she befriends passers-by and people from all walks of life on that New Year’s Eve, bar tenders and even criminals. This is her city and Lillian is holding court.
A love letter to the city that never sleeps and the changing face of New York from the 1930’s to the mid 1980’s from the heady days of Jazz to the colourful and troubling 80’s. A wonderful and charming read and one that made me smile at the wit and charm of a wonderful and colourful character it is just as if both Lillian and New York have both grown old together. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney is published Daunt Books and was published on 29th June 2017 and is available through Daunt Books, Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.