Monthly Archives: January 2018
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
I am not sure about you, but I just love a political thriller. Many will have watched Apple Tree Yard the excellent TV drama that hit our screens in 2017. If you enjoyed that then you really will enjoy reading Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan. It is fast and pacey and a real page turner. One book that will have you cancelling your Sunday and will want to curl up and really get into this timely political drama.
James is a very successful public figure a man who has the perfect life. A wonderful wife in Sophie and a doting father. But for some, that is not enough, they want more. James Whitehouse is a Junior government minister and only the Prime Minister’s closest friend and one destined for great things but now his world is completely rocked by a sex allegation by his political researcher. James is pleading innocence and now his life is just beginning to fall apart. His marriage and family and his political aspirations all come under scrutiny in this thumping and gripping drama that is played out in a London courtroom. Will his close friend still stand by him now?
Enter Kate the prosecuting barrister is going to make James life extremely difficult and will do everything in her legal powers to find this man guilty of his crime. James is accused of raping his researcher Olivia Lytton and this was said to have happened after their affair came to an end. Now for Sophie her world has been torn apart by her husband’s secret life and her life with her husband James is now under the microscope of the media.
In the tense courtroom room Kate is neither holding back or afraid of confronting James and sordid details start to come to the surface. And will Olivia hold up in court while giving evidence in graphic detail. She has to hold her nerve or the defence will latch on to this and sense she could crack. There are some interesting questions being posed here as all the leading characters start to examine their own lives and that includes Kate. Has she let this case get to her and is this a case that is becoming ‘personal’. Anatomy of a Scandal is just a superbly written drama and brilliantly played out. Credit to Sarah Vaughan for the immense research and a gripping courtroom drama that you just cannot leave alone. You want to know what is coming next. What is it about the dark corridors of political power and some men who think that they can get away with whatever takes their fancy. Is this a case of sexual consent or something much more sinister? Then there are the secrets and lies in a marriage. This is just pure class. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you Jessica Barratt for the review copy of Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan is published by Simon & Schuster and was published on 11th January 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops
The Feed by Nick Clark Windo
It is my great pleasure to host my day on the Blog Tour on publication day for The Feed by Nick Clark Windo.
An incredible post-apocalyptic debut novel set in in a futuristic world where life as we know it has completely collapsed. So what is The Feed, it is fact Social Network, but this is a Social Network that is everything, everyone’s real life and everything you do and even buy is through this medium. This is not the Social Network as we know it today. It is everything, it drives your every moment. Lives are lived purely by it and through it. But what if you don’t or try to avoid?
Fast forward six years and the world has ceased as we knew it then. For the main characters Tom and Kate, they used Social Network but for Tom he was different from everyone else and fought back as he resisted its addictive power. But now everyone eyes him with concern. Why would they not? After all it was his own father that was the creator of the being that was The Feed. So why was Tom so keen to avoid it? Both Tom and Kate have survived The Feed’s collapse and with it the world as a whole. Now ordinary people who lived by The Feed now have to fight like wild animals to survive from one day to the next, not just to feed but to avoid being ill as this now kills. Cures have been lost now and suddenly the fight for survival meant if you were weak you did not survive.
So now trust comes to the fore and just who can you trust? Tom and Kate have a six-year-old daughter and now Bea has gone missing, she is nowhere to be seen and who is going to help find the precious daughter, with all the modern trapping of the type of technology that could help locate the missing daughter now gone, hope is fading and now they have doubts over even if they trust each other let alone anyone else that is out there.
The Feed is a dark and intensely satisfying novel that will test your senses and also at the same time will you also doubt the key characters of Tom and Kate? Just how far will technology take us into the future, this was my question to myself after reading The Feed. My answer is one of worry. Technology is a great tool, but in the wrong hands it can destroy are very fabric of society. This is a book that will ask you so many questions. Nick Clark Windo’s writing really captures the time in the future and there is a genuine likeness of the main characters and your pulse rate will be quite high at times as this is fast paced novel brilliantly executed dystopian novel.
Thank you Katie Brown at Headline for the review copy of The Feed by Nick Clark Windo
The Feed by Nick Clark Windo is published today 25th January2018 by Headline and is published on 2018 and is available NOW through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops
How to follow The Feed Official Blog Tour
Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik
This is the story of Rachel Malik’s own Grandmother, but told in a fictional novel that I found so tender and loving. Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is a remarkable debut from an author I am really looking forward to reading more from in the future. If like me, you missed the hardback copy when it was released in April 2017 then you will be delighted to know the paperback will be released on 1st February through Fig Tree (Penguin Books UK).
Before the outbreak of World War II Rene Hargreaves walked out on her husband and three young children. Her husband had an addiction to gambling. But to walk away from three young children is something that is nothing short of a crime. Rene had to break free and soon she found herself with a new life on ‘Starlight Farm’ living with Elsie it would not be long before they both would become totally inseparable from each other. Rene’s new life had begun.
Both women at first are different from each, Elsie is more a woman who enjoys the peace and freedom of being on her own and does not bother too much with locals but Rene comes across as more the opposite. But now Elsie has offered a chance to Rene on the farm. Both find that theirs is a unique relationship and it seemed to just right for each other. Despite the constant pressure of running a farm and with some of the locals looking on hoping they would fail and seeing a land grab opportunity.
Hardback edition – 27th April 2017
The ever present threat of World War II finally arrives and everyone’s lives are about to change. Details of Rene’s past are now shared and then the past comes back to haunt Rene with consequences that will have dire effect on both Rene and Elsie’s lives.
There is so much about this story and how Rachel Malik weaved a fictional account of her grandmother’s life. It is a book that just written so eloquently and reads so gently. There are secrets to uncover and a painful past that has far reaching consequences for them both. This was not an easy life for Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves but their life was a quiet and gentle life. They wanted to bother no-one and wanted no-one to look into their lives. But sadly in the early 1940’s life was not going to leave them alone. This is a story of love and loyalty to each other and also of secrets from the past. Beautiful and rich a story I really fell in love with and one I hope you will too.
Thank you Hannah Ludbrook for the review copy of Miss Boston & Miss Hargreaves
Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik is published by Penguin (Fig Tree) and the PB is published on 1st February 2018 and is available to Pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
“I will live to leave this place. I will walk out a free man. If there is a hell, I will see these murderers burn in it”
Over the years I have read many book on the Holocaust and every book has me asking the same questions about man’s ability to reach the levels of inhumanity. Just recently I have been reading about The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. The story of one man Lale Sokolov. By the end of this book I was in tears not just at Lale’s story but man’s shocking brutality. My words here will never do justice to such an important subject. All I can do is to just ask you to read it for yourself. Lale’s story will stay with me and those who have read The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
Lale Sokolov’s was a smartly dressed intelligent man in fact a lady’s man. All that was to change in April 1942. Lale was born into a Jewish family and he volunteered himself to save his other family members. Of course at this time Lale had no idea what was coming or where he would go to work for the Germans. They were crammed onto cattle wagons and the train then set off to the Nazi death camp that was Auschwitz. On arrival he was tattooed with the number 32407. No longer would he be known by his name but only by his number.
Like many others he was put to work at Auschwitz in building the blocks that would eventually house the many thousands that would end up at the death camp. Within a short time Lale became very ill and was cared for by a French man called Pepan, this was the very man who tattooed his number on arrival.
After Pepan was taken away and never to be seen again Lale being intelligent and speaking many languages was given the role of ‘Tätowierer’- The Tattooist and would be responsible to tattooing the numbers of the thousands of new arrivals that would be working at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Those not selected were sent to the gas chambers.
It was on one of those days that he was tattooing the women as they arrived that he met one particular young woman and her name was Gita she was given the number 34902. In the hell that was Auschwitz-Birkenau Lale fell in love with Gita. Lale was determined to survive and also that Gita was to survive and they would both one day be free. Over the coming years Lale manged to survive being sent to his death. He was indeed a survivor. Because he was given the role of ‘Tätowierer’ he was seen by many as collaborating with the SS as this role was directly working for the Political Wing of the SS and meant that he was protected to a degree. But others had come to trust Lale and he helped many by giving them food. If caught, he would face certain death. Lale will do things to survive that he would normally never consider. Thousands were being murdered in the gas chambers or just murdered because a guard said so. Death stalked everyone at Auschwitz. From one moment to another you never knew if you were going to die. ‘If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day’
The sheer horror of life at the Nazi death camp that is Auschwitz-Birkenau and the scale of the killing is something no-one can comprehend but survive both Lale and Gita did despite being separated towards the end of the war as Auschwitz was cleared because of advancing of the Russian army. The was near its end and the Nazi’s were in their final death throws. Both Lale and Gita survived and found each other and later married.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz reads like a novel because that is exactly how Lale wanted it to read and is based on the many interviews between Heather Morris and Lale himself. For all these years Lale himself kept his secret, and it was only after the death of his beloved wife Gita in October 2003 did he feel the time was right to finally tell his story that he kept a secret to protect his family and this is when Heather Morris started to spend time with Lale and for Lale to trust her. And so he began to tell the story, his own story a remarkable and life-affirming story of daring to live while in Auschwitz.
Heather Morris has written an incredible story of Lale and Gita’s survival. How she manages to portray the evil that went on inside the death camp on a daily basis. The despair that must have prevailed the pain and hunger. Knowing death was just moments away.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a powerful and deeply moving story of survival and also a remarkable love story. Both Lale and Gita’s story will stay with me forever as these stories must be told for future generations to understand and to learn. Let us remember and let us never forget. Ludwig “Lale” Sokolov died in October 2006. HIGHY RECOMMENDED.
Such has been the demand for this story there have been a number of bookshops that never received stock in time and that a second print run is now underway.
January 27th marks Holocaust Memorial Day. On this day I light a candle to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The day marks the anniversary of when Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Russian army in 1945.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is published by Bonnier Zaffre and was published in the UK on 11th January 2018 and is available to through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine
This is the story of a woman who is not happy at just being no-one and this woman wants to be something more. This is the story of Amber Patterson who is that woman. In The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine we see a woman who wants a share of the lifestyle of the wealthy. Amber Patterson is manipulative and wicked. But she does not care she wants the lifestyle that she craves and she has a plan.
Amber Patterson has set her sights on the wealthy lifestyle of a couple Daphne and Jackson Parrish and her desires on Jackson to get the life she believes she deserves. So now Amber’s plan to worm her way into the lives of this couple be befriending Daphne all seem to be going according to plan.
For Daphne Parrish and her husband, theirs is the life that is just perfect. She is beautiful and the perfect life with her wealthy husband Jackson and their two children. Now all Amber has to do is just set about catching the eye of Jackson and let everything fall into place or so she thinks. The problem with Amber is that she has a past, the skeleton in the closet and this is about to wreck her plans.
This is a novel is narrated by the main characters Amber and Daphne and at first we see how Amber sets about her plan that is just set out so perfectly even though you detest this character already. This woman is set about to destroy a family for her own insatiable greed.
In the second part we hear from Daphne, and then in the final part we come to the gripping finale. It would be so easy for me to go into detail here but this is a novel that many will enjoy. The characters are so well created and you may hate Amber who is the perfect jealous greedy woman who wants Daphne’s role in the family. But saying that what about the golden couple themselves, they too have their own secrets hiding away just waiting to be told.
A story with a few twists that will throw you off course The Last Mrs Parrish is a dark and thrilling suspense filled rollercoaster that many will enjoy. A superb psychological debut.
Thank you to Felicity Denham at Harper Collins for the review copy of The Last Mrs Parrish.
The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine is published by Harper Collins and was published on 28th December 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops
How to follow The Last Mrs Parrish Blog Tour
This is How It Ends by Eva Dolan
If you are a fan of Eva Dolan then This is How It Ends (Raven Books) you will not want to miss. I could not put her latest book. It is just so incredibly compelling and Eva’s writing is just superb. It just grabs hold of you and does not let go. This is a story of modern day London and a body in a part empty house. But how will it end?
If you have read any of Eva Dolan’s previous crime novels then you will know you are in for a thrilling read, but in her latest novel this is more of an ambitious approach. Straight from the beginning you are drawn into the plot. This is not Eva’s previous crime detective style of novel this is a new approach and how it really works.
Straight from the off you meet the main characters of this plot, activists against property developers, but these are the sort who will go straight to action as opposed to just talking about it. The two main characters are Molly who is a battle hardened campaigner who is not afraid of demonstrating and then there is Ella who is a Phd student who is also a dab hand at blogging.
There is a tower block that developers have their eye on for a lucrative property development and both Molly and Ella do not want to see them get their hands on this and squeeze out the ordinary hard working people of this part of London.
Now add in to the story a body of a man in the tower and hidden in the lift shaft and did this man meet his death. Only two people really know what happened to this man and it is their secret so now we have a story based on lies and also deceit and throw in a little matter of trust between the two women. The story just gets more tense at the turn of every page. It is just superbly written by a writer who is now at the very top of her game. We have two utterly brilliant characters both so different in age and also in background, they have a secret but what happens to their secret and what happens to Molly and Ella. This is a timely novel and there is so much in this book that the reader will discover. A totally brilliant piece of writing and a book destined to be a bestseller. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
This is How It Ends by Eva Dolan is published by Bloomsbury Raven and is published on 25th January 2018 and is available to Pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
My first read of 2018 was a bleak and disturbing novel by multi award winning author Louise Erdrich. Future Home of the living God is not an easy read and is a post-apocalyptic novel. A dystopian story set as the World as we know is coming to an end. Everything has changed and all living creatures will be affected by what is a massive biological shift.
Set in a future America were biological chaos reigns. Something has gone shocking wrong as the world in which we know is going backwards and women are giving birth to babies that are not of this time but a more primitive species of belonging to a time long ago and we are talking primitive here and that is not all that is going on. Strange animal that are prehistoric suddenly appear. I have to admit to really struggle at times while I was going through the opening chapters. This is a brave novel by one of America’s great writers.
I had the feeling of walking into an alternate universe but in the end I was really pleased I stuck with this powerful story. The main character is Cedar, a young native American woman, she is pregnant and looking forward to motherhood. But things are not going to go as Cedar hopes in a story of running and hiding and also a fight for freedom. Cedar are narrator takes us from her home in the secluded woods to various locations including an underground railroad that helps pregnant women escape the government that wants them confined to a tribe reservation.
Through our narrator we get a real sense of what is happening on the outside. If only we knew just how we got here in the first place may have helped the story at the very beginning. A missing piece of the novel that the reader will have to decide. One thing is happening more than 70% of pregnant women are dying during childbirth. No explanation is given as to why?
This is a story of loss and also grief. Future Home of the Living God was written by Louise Erdrich back in 2002 and as much as I am pleased that I stuck with this I think it could have helped by adding more detail as to why? I just kept asking myself this question. There are many characters that through Cedar we meet and through her we take this journey in a world that has changed forever.
There are times in our lives we have to make decisions no matter how difficult and the ending might not what we hope for. Not a happy tale and in any shape or form but that is exactly how Louise Erdrich designed this novel to be.
In a world were woman are fighting for their basic rights and a society that has changed and regressed this is more than just a novel but in our current times a significant novel.
Thank you Ella Bowman for the advanced review copy of Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich.
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich is published by Corsair and was published on 4th January 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Dark Pines by Will Dean
I have to admit to really loving book covers as there are times when a book cover just screams at you and with the debut thriller Dark Pines by Will Dean it really does just encapsulate everything this exciting debut is all about.
Journalist Tuva Moodyson is sent to investigate a series of murders in the small Swedish town of Gavrik, being a reporter here mean you generally report on small town issues for Tuva who moved back to Gavrik from London to be closer to her mother who is very ill. Being a reporter in a big city meant being on call for major news stories happening all the time but in Gavrik not much was happening until now that is. Now with the discovery of a mutilated body deep in the pine woods all that changes for Tuva. A killer is out there and could strike again.
This could be such an important break for Tuva is she can find a link between this murder and three other murders from years back then she could be on to finding clues to the killer and if there is a link then the killer could strike again. But there is one thing about Tuva that you should know. Tuva is deaf and in the bid expanse of the woods this could pose a real danger to her. As soon as I realised this my pulse rate rocketed as you can almost realise and sense the danger that she could find herself in. What a real character Tuva is she is now one of my favourites in crime novels.
There is something about how she goes about investigating the murder and the local communities close to the scene of the crime. She uncovers some strange locals including two creepy sisters. Add into the mix a series of red herrings as the police move closer to their potential ‘target’.
This is going to be a massive hit with any reader who loves Nordic crime noir as this is a dark and at times foreboding tale. How Will Dean describes the locality and the dark pine forest is totally bang on. I really could not put Dark Pines down and when I did I just wanted to go straight back as I felt I was missing something.
A gripping and haunting debut crime novel and I just hope Will Dean is now busy writing book two with Tuva at its heart. I want to read more of our new heroine.
Dark Pines is a must read Winter fireside crime novel and launches 2018 with a bang. I have a feeling this is already one of my big hits for this year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Dark Pines by Will Dean is published by Point Blank and was published on 4th January 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
First Review of 2018.
I have to admit to being a bit of a fan of Joanna Cannon’s writing and loved her debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, one of those books that left an indelible mark on me. I lost count of how many copies I ended giving away to family, friends and also prize giveaways on my blog.
Joanna Cannon returns with her second novel Three Things About Elsie which is officially released into bookshops on the 11th January (The Borough Press). The first thing that will strike you when you go and buy a copy is the fabulous Battenberg themed cover. It is one of the most striking of covers. A cake themed cover. This could really catch on.
I am deeply humbled to have been mentioned in the Acknowledgements. I never thought that when I started talking about books that one day I would end up seeing my name in print. Thank you Joanna.
There are books that come into your life and move you in a way that makes you look at life in a new way some books make you appreciate not only yourself but others around you. I felt this in Joanna’s debut novel but in Three Things About Elsie this is much more evident. Joanna Cannon has a way with words that when she writes she writes from the heart and is telling YOU the reader a story with a message contained within that she would like you to connect with. This story is tender, warm and humane. I personally think it is better than The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and I never thought I would say that.
The story opens with Florence Claybourne lying on the floor after a fall at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. There Florence lies waiting to be found. Imagine for a moment an elderly person falling and lying just waiting and hoping to be found. What goes through their minds during this time? Scared and frightened and alone. For Florence as she lies on the floor of her flat she is thinking of recent days and trying to make sense of her memories. How has the past returned is it at all possible?
Florence has a best friend and her name is Elsie and it is Elsie who helps Florence remember things. They have known each other for sixty years. But Flo has a secret from the past. Literally a ghost has appeared at Cherry Tree in the form of a man who died all those years ago. What is going on? So now it is down to Florence and her best Friend Elsie to solve the mystery. How I really enjoyed reading how they go about proving something they believe is not right. At times I laughed at what they got up to. Thanks to Joanna’s wonderful vivid writing you are there with them.
There is a problem though for Florence the manager at the home thinks that Florence is causing problems at the home and is threatening to move Florence to Greenbank. This she believes is where you go to die and she does not want to be sent there. ‘You can’t make me’ she exclaims early into the book.
Elsie is always there for Florence as she always has been through the last sixty years. Now more than ever and this is the true meaning of friendship. There are so many wonderful characters there is Handy Simon and Miss Bissell and of course Miss Ambrose. Characters make novels and the people you meet here in Three Things About Elsie are real and they help make this such a wonderful humane book and really enjoyed meeting them.
Over recent weeks I have spoken a lot about hope and here Joanna Cannon gives us all hope. The real hope of friendship, tolerance and understanding of the things we hold dear and of course love. This is a book of sheer tenderness and an understanding of age and how memory can play tricks with us as the years move on. There are books that are like a warm duvet on a cold winters night. Three Things About Elsie is that duvet. As we enter a New Year full of hope this is a novel that acts as a beacon of humanity and so many facets of this book that I just loved. Heart-warming and sympathetic.
When I first left School I worked in care home for the elderly I was the Handyman (John) and shared some moments that were funny but also those that are tender and humane. Let us not forget the people who live there are real people with lives and still are living.
Grab some Battenberg and settle down with a book that you will read and then read again. A book to be loved and shared. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
My thanks to Ann Bissell (Harper Collins) for the Advanced Review Copy of Three Things About Elsie.
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon is published by The Borough Press and is published on 11th January 2018 and is available to Pre-order through Waterstones, also Amazon and all good bookshops.