Category Archives: Orenda Books
Beast by Matt Wesolowski
Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories… In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old Vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death. Three young men, part of an alleged ‘cult’, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong.’ However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible. Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses people who knew both the victim and the three killers to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire’… Both a compulsive, taut and terrifying thriller, and a bleak and distressing look at modern society’s desperation for attention, Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never return…
It only seemed a short time that I read book one of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories. Now Matt is back with Beast (Orenda Books) the fourth in the series. If you have not discovered any of the books in the series, it is a fantastic gripping series based on a series of six podcasts as online journalist Scott King investigates true-life crimes. And the fourth in the series is not to be missed.
The winter of 2018 saw a bitterly cold period with snow and ice as the Beast from the East held the country in its icy grip, at the same time a successful Vlogger Elizabeth Barton was taking part in a social media challenge and she has been found dead in the ruin on part of the Northumbrian Coast and in what the locals call the Vampire Tower. It was a shocking discovery for those who found her.
Is the case against three young men who were part of a cult as rock solid as many believe? They were convicted and are now behind bars. But for journalist Scott King this is the perfect case for his true-life crime podcast series. Scott now talks to six people as part of the six podcast series to try and get behind what really happened to Elizabeth Barton the bitterly cold night.
Is there really a vampire stalking this part of the coastline just waiting for her next victim or is this really a case of cold blooded murder? The podcast interviews are gripping. The Beast from the East does not just refer to the snow storms but the Ergarth Vampire who many locals say came from Siberia. So this really is a spooky crime investigation for Scott King.
As the six podcast carry on more and more is known and revealed but then just wait until the final podcast. My mind was blown. For Elizabeth Barton who was taking part in the social media challenge ‘Dead in Six Days’ (except your do not really die) but something sinister happened to Elizabeth and the truth is out there. Beast is chilling and sinister and a novel you cannot leave alone. Brilliantly written with a storyline that will make you want to choke on your coffee. Dare you leave this one alone. Perfect as a standalone but you must read the others after. You will be hooked.
If reading about the Six Podcasts is gripping imagine what the audio book would sound like? One I am going to have to look into.
Matt Wesolowski: @concretekraken
Orenda Books: @OrendaBooks
Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of Beast by Matt Wesolowski
Beast by Matt Wesolowski was published by Orenda Books and will be published on 6th February 2020 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Violet by SJI Holliday
Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.
Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.
When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.
Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…
The first things that strikes you is the cover. It really caught my attention. There is something about Orenda Books and not only their authors but the jacket cover designers. They really are outstanding.
I have to say that I loved The Lingering and before that The Deaths of December by SJI Holliday. They are worth checking out especially The Deaths of December as that is a Christmas crime novel worth reading. Now SJI Holliday returns with Violet a chilling novel perfect for this cold winter evenings.
To say this is dark is an understatement, it really is a dark and twisting psychological thriller that will have you glued to the plot all the way through.
Violet has just broken up with her boyfriend Sam and now she meets Carrie and the two end up travelling the world together. Two strangers who happen to meet but this is not going to be any trip for either of them
They end up on the Trans – Siberian Express sharing a cabin. They soon start to get to know each other but this is about to be tested as dark secrets and tension start to emerge. There is something so gripping as a thriller set on a long train journey. It is all here. Shattered and broken characters and minds. The pace is as fast as the changing scenery from the cabin. What are the motives of the two women? Something tells me we are not being told the truth and you get the feeling of unease with these two characters and each has an agenda but what exactly is it? I felt quite uneasy with Violet. Something about her made the hair on the back of neck stand up. This is a captivating and also compelling thriller that I dare you to try and put down. One not to be missed. If you are planning a long train journey ahead of Christmas, then Violet by SJI Holliday is one book I would pack.
Thank you Karen (Orenda Books) and also to Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Violet by SJI Holliday.
Violet by SJI Holliday was published by Orenda Books and was published on 2019 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.
That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.
Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.
How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?
Back in December 2018 I raved about Good Samaritans by Will Carver but now he has returned with the dark and sinister Nothing Important Happened Today (Orenda Books). It can at times easy to refer to a writer as a genius but what Will Carver has given us in nothing short of jaw dropping. A storyline that made me at times gasp for air and made me sit bolt upright even on my journey to the office.
I have written this review not once or twice but this is now my third attempt at writing a review worthy of such an outstanding piece of work but here goes. The story really does not let up from page one until the very last so be warned you may want to lock the door and ignore your phone. This is one book you will need to read this Christmas. How would I describe Nothing Important Happened Today? One word. Sensational. This is not going to be your book that has Christmas written all over it but one that will grab hold of you and take you on a journey. Imagine you are one of nine people who wake up one morning and decide that today will be the day when they head to Chelsea Bridge and jump into the River Thames and for each of them this is where their lives end. But this is where the story begins.
I am not going to say this is an easy topic and some may find the content disturbing. What made all nine want to end their lives in what was a mass suicide. Who and what is behind what has just happened and are their other ‘chosen’ ones to end their lives. This is why I was left gasping for air. Carver has carefully sculptured a novel that takes hold of you and twists your mind and thoughts in a way like no other book I have read in a very long time.
There was one time when I was left with my head in my hands but I know I wanted to know what was going to happen. I wanted answers and wanted to know there and then.
Someone is behind the suicides and through this thriller you get to meet the individuals who are chosen to end their lives as the book moves back and forth through time. You the reader will become entangled with each of the characters involved and this left my head spinning. Mr Carver clearly did a lot of research when he decided to write this book and how he has pulled this one off. All I will say is be prepared. Your mouth will go dry and your palms will sweat even on a cold day. Will Carver you have pulled it off. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books and Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver
Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver was published by Orenda Books and was published on 14th November 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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Cage by Lilja Sigurðardóttir
Translated by Quentin Bates.
As a group of foreign businessmen tries to draw Agla into an ingenious fraud that stretches from Iceland around the world, Agla and her former nemesis, María find the stakes being raised at a terrifying speed.
Ruthless drug baron Ingimar will stop at nothing to protect his empire, but he has no idea about the powder keg he is sitting on in his own home.
At the same time, a deadly threat to Sonya and her family brings her from London back to Iceland, where she needs to settle scores with longstanding adversaries if she wants to stay alive.
Cage (Orenda Books) is the third and also final part in the Reykjavik Noir Series by Lilja Sigurðardóttir following on from Snare and Trap. Goodness how I love these tense edge of the seat thrillers and Cage delivers on all fronts as it was a review copy I was reading I found myself highlighting key parts throughout the book.
Those that have read the previous two novels in the series know that that there are two main characters in Agla and her lover Sonja. For her part in a major banking scandal Agla was locking in prison and know she is out but there is no Sonja to meet her. Agla throughout was a tough no-nonsense character but locked away she has faced her own demons and now she is out she has to face up to life without her lover despite how she feels inside.
Agla has been recruited to look into a scam that spans borders across the world and requests the help of an old quittance in Maria but there is previous with the pair. When Maria realises just how big this fraud is and the scale and who is involved she decides to help Agla. But at the top of this fraud is one man who in in the previous books was the head man of the scams and he will not be stopped and will deal with anyone caught sticking their nose into his business. Ingimar will protect what he has built. All in all, this is an edge of the seat thriller that keep a pace all the way through. What Sigurðardóttir has delivered in the trilogy is a stunning read from book one to the last page of book three. It has everything from drug-smuggling, banking scandals, politics, murder and love. One aspect of Cage I like was that the chapters are short and this makes for a perfect read on the commute to work. (nothing worse than having to leave a chapter half way through). All in all, Cage delivers and I will miss the characters in the series. So now what Lilja Sigurðardóttir what on earth are you going to give us? Highly Recommended.
My thanks to Karen (Orenda Books) for the review copy of Cage by Lilja Sigurðardóttir.
Cage by Lilja Sigurðardóttir was published by Orenda Books and was published on 17th October 2019 and is available to through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Closer I Get by Paul Burston
Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.
Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.
When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.
But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.
A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk just one ‘like’ away…
My goodness how I loved reading The Closer I Get (Orenda Books) by Paul Burston. The idea of writing about the dangers of Social Media and stalking really had my thinking about how we all interact with other. Many will know and follow me via Twitter and there were times when I switched off Twitter while I was reading Paul Burston’s brilliant taught thriller.
Novels are not just about the storyline they are nothing without characters and Paul has created and crafted some wonderful characters with Tom and Evie. Let’s start with Evie. She is totally off her head in fact dangerously and worryingly psychotic. The story opens with what seems like a letter from Evie to Tom and from this moment the reader is inside Evie’s head. Then the story from Tom’s point of view moves back eight months.
Tom is a writer and his first novel was a huge success and became a big screen film starring a major Hollywood actor. But Tom is struggling to find the form of his successful debut as his second failed and now so does his next. He needs to up his game or his agent will not need an excuse to offload him. Tom is side-tracked by Evie who it seems is stalking him on Social Media.
The story is told by both Evie and Tom but who is telling the truth about what really is going on here? Evie clearly has a real interest in Tom and will not leave him alone. It is very clear Evie has some serious issues. As I became part of the storyline to try and understand both Evie and Tom I just became a little uneasy about what Tom was really up to. Was there something he was doing to get Evie to play along. This was beginning to freak me out a little. Were they both as bad as each other. This was brilliant writing from Burston and a very clever storyline. Together with other characters that make up The Closer I get this was a truly chilling and an unsettling read. I needed a cool shower after finishing reading, you will see why when you read it and you will want to. Reading this riveting thriller made me question what really does go via Social Media.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of The Closer I Get by Paul Burston.
The Closer I Get by Paul Burston was published by Orenda Books and was published on 11th July 2019 and is available now through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
A Modern Family by Helga Flatland
Translated by Rosie Hedger
When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.
Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.
A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…
This is really a story many of us can easily identify with. A Modern Family (Orenda Books) by Helga Flatland and beautifully translated by Rosie Hedger. Many will not know Helga Flatland but she is already an award winning author in Norway after her debut novel Stay if You Can, Leave if You Must. This is now her fifth novel and follows three siblings. Liv, Ellen and Hakon and all their respective family members travel to Italy for their father’s birthday celebrations in what should be a grand affair. But what if all does not go as planned?
Their parents are the glue to which the family are bonded. But the glue has come unstuck as the extended family arrive in Rome for the celebrations their parents have an announcement to make. They are getting a divorce! BOMBSHELL! No-one was expecting this. It has come out of no-where and no warning of this announcement.
The initial shockwave is like watch what happens when a pebble is thrown onto a pond. The ripples extend outwards through each the families and how they come to terms with the news their parents have dropped on them. For Liv who is also the elder of the children, this has hit her hard and we follow her world as it has come to a standstill. For Ellen she is more or less the quieter of the siblings and then the young member Hakon who is the brother.
Each of the family member’s lives is now the centre of the story and each one has something of interest to the reader and many like me will find themselves nodding in agreement with certain parts of the storyline. ‘Yes I recognise this from my own family’ I won’t divulge too much about each of the three but they all have their hang-ups in life, just like we all do.
Helga Flatland has hit the nail on the head with A Modern Family as she has written a story that is not a thriller, or a crime novel, nor a romance novel but a novel based on a normal family. This could be my family or yours. This is about a family and each member and how they have come to terms with a piece of news that none were expecting to hear and how they now look at each other and their own relationships.
I want to just congratulate Helga Flatland on such a beautifully written and poignant novel. She describes a normal family with such vibrancy and the characters could be any of us. This is a novel that just reached out to me and one I did not really want to come to an end. Helga Flatland you have nailed it. One book I would recommend for your holiday read this Summer. Highly Recommended.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of A Modern Family by Helga Flatland
A Modern Family by Helga Flatland was published by Orenda Books and was published on 13th June 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Turbulent Wake – Paul E. Hardisty
Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father. Hidden in one of the upstairs rooms of the old man’s house he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of stories that seems to cover the whole of his father’s turbulent life.
As his own life starts to unravel, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, trying to find answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one else left, did his own father push him away?
Swinging from the coral cays of the Caribbean to the dangerous deserts of Yemen and the wild rivers of Africa, Turbulent Wake is a bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love and loss … of the indelible damage we do to those closest to us and, ultimately, of the power of redemption in a time of change.
The first things I have to say is that I am not sure my review will ever do justice to what I found a remarkable novel that took my breath away. Many will know the author for his previous crime novels but Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty is a breakaway from his Claymore Straker series.
Prepare to be totally immersed in a novel that will sweep you up and and carry you along on a journey that involves love, loss and grief. A story told in the past but also in the present. A very personal novel drawn from the authors own personal experiences.
Ethan Scofield is on a journey to the past, the past being home to the very place he was born as his father has died and he must confront the past as his relationship with his father has broken down. It is at this point during sifting through his father’s belongings and discovering some journals that his father had written. These are written for Ethan but inside of the main character there is a lot of anger and you feel it bubbling away on every page. A man whose anger at his father, his former wife and his own daughter. There is anger really at the world at large. A man searching for answers as to why his own father deserted him.
The journals that Ethan is now reading may contain the answers that he is looking for as this is the story of his father’s own turbulent life story. From a young man so full of promise as his travels take to different parts of the world to the woman he loved. There is regret in these journals as Ethan reads of what his father has lost with no chance of turning the clock back. So much pain in the words that his father has written.
I must pass on my gratitude to Paul E. Hardisty for writing a novel that held me on every page and was hard to leave at the end and left with trying to find the right words to describe a novel of such beauty. I am not one for ‘urging’ people to read books that I review but this I would urge you to read. You will not regret it. Find some quiet time and shut the world away and read Turbulent Wake one of my books of the year.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater (Randon Things Tours) for the review copy of Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty
Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty was published by Orenda Books and is published on 16th May 2019 and will be available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech
Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.
Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.
Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …
What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.
Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…
With echoes of the Play Misty for Me, Call Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…
I have been a huge fan of Louise Beech since her debut novel How to be Brave (Orenda Books) was released back in 2015. Just look how far this amazing writing journey has taken Louise to-date. Now comes her latest release Call Me Star Girl (Orenda Books) which hit the bookshops on 18th April. Now I read this back in February and have had to wait ever so patiently to post my review.
To put it simply Louise Beech has blown me away. It can be difficult when a writer changes genre style but Louise has done this effortlessly. Now a psychological thriller writer and it is just sensational. Anyone who has seen the Hollywood film Play Misty for Me starring Clint Eastwood will love this novel.
Stella McKeever is a radio show host and it is her last show and she decides she wants to end with something different. Stella asks her listeners to call in with their secrets, and in return Stella would share some of hers. Dangerous territory for a radio host to enter as you just don’t know how far it could go.
Then a local girl is found dead and it is clear this is murder and there has been a witness and this witness calls the studio to say they saw the murder. The beauty of this tight and pulse racing thriller is that there are not many characters in the storyline so you get to concentrate on the plot.
Stella has her own secrets and these include the relationship with her boyfriend Tom. Then there is her mother and the broken relationship between them both.
There is something about creating a storyline around a radio station at night it is dark and quiet. Just you and your listeners and you set the tone and you can hold them in the palm of your hand. There are many twists and turns in the plot that you just do not know where it is likely to turn next.
The tension builds so much that you could cut with a studio microphone, it is atmospheric and compelling. You might even say disturbing. But either way it is nothing short of brilliant. Louise Beech’s fifth novel is by far her very best and this is why I love Louise Beech’s writing. HIGHY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the review copy of Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech
Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech was published by Orenda Books and was published on 18th April 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl
(Translated by Don Bartlett)
I have loved thrillers and espionage novels for many years but along comes The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl (Orenda Books) and weaves them both together and set in the darkest part of Europe’s history. It set in Oslo in 1942 and Esther just manages to escape being seized by the dreaded Gestapo.
Ester manages to escape to Sweden, but she will never see her family again as they are arrested and sent to Auschwitz. It is while in Sweden she meets the mysterious and yet resistance hero Gerard Falkum. Gerard has fled the Gestapo and has his own story to tell.
There are stories about Falkum murdering his wife Åse who just happened to be Ester’s close friend while they were at school. Are these stories true and why would Falkum kill his wife? But then he dies in a fire. Ester wants answers to how and why her best friend died. There is immense tension all through the story as Ester plays a deadly game that could end in her being arrested by the Nazis and sent to one of the death camps. But Ester want and seeks answers.
The story then flits forward twenty-five years and the mysterious Falkum appears to have come back from the dead and shows up in Oslo. Where has he been all these years. There is danger ahead for Ester and she must use all her courage to keep one step ahead and stay alive. This is a superbly character driven storyline set in a time when many did brave things to defeat the Nazi’s. A tense and compelling plot that has many twists. The movement between different timelines is easy to follow as they are marked at the start of every chapter.
For Ester she seeks answers about her friend and also answers to what happened to her own family. There is incredible emotion at this point as I have read many books on the Holocaust.
It is not hard to see why Kjell Ola Dahl is so highly respected. The Courier is exceptional and is one of the best books I have read so far this year and will take some beating. Six out of Five stars. A MUST READ!
Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl.
The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl published by Orenda Books and will be published on 21st March 2018 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
As another year comes to a close we look back on 2018 and the news might be full of bad news but in the world of books it has been another great year. Sales are continuing to grow in both physical hard copy but audio books are also booming. This really is great news and added to this more independent books shops have opened during the year with the trend set to continue. With the high street struggling like never before it is just heartening to see the growth of sales in books. Just a few years ago some were saying the days of the hard copy book were doomed.
2018 will be a year that I will remember for years to come. So many great books have been read some sadly I have not had time to read and will miss this end of year review. I look back with great memories to take away from this year whether it the honour of being asked blog about some of the books and authors for The 2018 Jewish Book Festival to being invited to assist with a very special book On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders a day surrounded by some of the bravest men and women. Real heroes. Also to be involved with The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize a book prize that is dedicated to books on natural history and the great outdoors. Then of course there was The Lost Words project I launched for Somerset Primary Schools in August which is still going to this very day. The generosity of many that made this a success. To those behind the scenes who helped and are still helping I could not have done this without you. To the many radio interviews not just in Somerset but across the UK and also in Europe. In the early part of the Summer I was invited to take a tour of The London Library which turned out to be an incredible experience a very special place that holds over one million books on over 17 miles of shelving. You walk in the footsteps of literary giants.
So this brings me to my 15 books of 2018. The books that made my year. This was incredibly hard as so many could have made it in.
The choices are in no particular order so there is no number one book just the best of the year.
Our House – Louise Candlish
(Simon & Schuster) 5th April 2018
Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house. The terror of knowing your life is about to be turned upside down and all the possessions of your life with Bram have gone and who are these people moving into the home they never had any intention of selling. Bram has made a dreadful mistake and there is a price to pay. Now there are score to settle. Both have secrets that they kept from each other.
Our House is a gripping domestic noir read that I recall racing through and kept up long into the night.
All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison
(Bloomsbury) – 23rd August 2018
With memories of The Great War still in the minds and memories of the community it casts a shadow across the fields as the autumn harvest approaches. It is 1933 the glamorous Constance arrives from London to write about the traditions of the Suffolk farming community. For Edie Mather adulthood is approaching and the arrival of Constance is seen by Edie to be everything she longs for. But there is something more to Constance than Edie thinks. This is a remarkable and powerful novel from the Costa Shortlisted author of Hawthorn Time.
Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon
(The Borough Press – 11th January 2018
With a Battenburg cover Three Things About Elsie is just a wonderful and delicious story. 84-Year-old Florence has had a fall and as she lies there waiting for help to come she wonders if some part of her past is come back. Florence lives in a flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly and she wonders if the new resident is who he claims to be as he died sixty years ago. It is a beautiful, charming and profound novel from the author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. Three Things About Elsie was longlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.
Something of His Art – Horatio Clare
(Little Toller Books) – 11th October 2018
The year is 1705 and the yet unknown Johann Sebastian Bach is earning a living as a teacher and organist sets off on more than a 250 mile walk from Arnstadt to Lübeck to visit a composer. This was to be a pivotal time for the young J.S. Bach and this short book tells of his walk and Horatio Clare walks in his footsteps and re-traces that walk that was to change Bach’s life. Based on the BBC Radio 3 series of the same Horatio talks of the walk, the sights, and sounds and natural history that would have accompanied Bach on this epic adventure that would see him become the greatest composer.
The Lost Letters of William Woolf – Helen Cullen
(Michael Joseph) – 12th July 2018
William Woolf works for the Dead Letters Depot in East London were he spends his days solving mysteries that include terrible hand writing, missing post codes, torn packages to name but a few. Then he discovers letters addressed to ‘My Great Love’ and suddenly life for William Woolf takes on a whole new perspective. These letters written by a woman to a man she has not met yet, and William now starts to think that he could be the man the letters are meant for. Now he must take on his biggest mystery to follow the clues in the letters and solve the biggest mystery of all. The human heart. This is a charming and romantic novel a wonderful debut. Shortlisted for the Newcomer of the Year – Irish Book Awards.
The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood – John Lewis-Stempel
(Doubleday) – 8th March 2018
For four years John Lewis-Stempel managed a mixed woodland of three and a half acres that is Cockshutt Wood and raised cows and pigs that had free reign through these woods. This is John’s month by month account of his last year managing the wood. Through the lives of the trees and the birds and animals that made this wood their home a sanctuary for the wildlife and also for the author. You are there through the changing seasons through to the final days of John’s management of the woods that became his spiritual home. This is a man in tune with the natural world and one of the country’s finest natural history writers. Longlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.
Anatomy of a Scandal – Sarah Vaughan
(Simon & Schuster) 11th January 2018
A scandal that will rock Westminster. This is a high profile marriage and James has been accused of a shocking crime and his wife Sophie believes in him and will protect the family. Kate on the other hand is the Barrister who believes he is guilty and will make sure he pays for the crimes he has committed.
This is an explosive thriller that will keep the reader on the edge of their chair until the very end. Superbly written with great characters. A story of marriage and power and who has it and how they use it. Totally absorbing and gripping.
The Last Wilderness – Neil Ansell
(Tinder Press) – 8th February 2018
Nature and solitude. Neil Ansell has spent the best part of his life walking the remote parts of Britain but here in The Last Wilderness he takes on the part of Scottish Highlands but doing so as he talks of his hearing loss and hoe this affects his love of the great outdoors and the birds he loved to hear that have now become silent. To be in the wilderness is to be at one with nature. It is indeed a love letter to both the wilderness and to the Highlands of Scotland. The wonderful rich writing of Neill Ansell almost makes you believe you are there walking in his footsteps. A treasure of a book. Shortlisted for The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.
I Love You Too Much – Alicia Drake
(Picador) – 8th February 2018
A novel based in Paris and centred around Paul a quiet and lonely boy who is unloved. He spends his time watching those in his family and his rather glamourous mother Séverine and her musician boyfriend Gabriel. For a boy who closely observes his family and their daily lives, you just know one day he will see something he is not supposed to see.
Paul seeks the friendship of the not so quiet Scarlett and the patisseries of this part of Paris. Paul is crying out to be loved but what if love does not come his way. What then? This is a book I totally loved and still do to this day. So deserving to be read by a wider audience. It is deft and intelligent and so beautifully told. One book I would I would recommend.
Erebus: A story of a Ship – Michael Palin
(Hutchinson Books) – 20th September 2018
Michael Palin tells the story of the ill-fated journey of HMS Erebus and its crew that set sail for the arctic in search of the North West Passage. In 1845 it disappeared with HMS Terror along with their crews. What really happened? A story of the ship and its crew as Palin recounts the adventure and ultimately the biggest naval disaster. Together with photographs this makes for a remarkable read for anyone who has an interest in the sea or adventures.
Dark Pines – Will Dean
(Point Blank) – 14th June 2018
An impressive debut by Will Dean. Dark Pines is dark, chilling and atmospheric. Set in an isolated Swedish town. An unsolved murder from two decades ago a deaf reporter trying to find a story that could make her career. Now Tuva needs to find the killer before she becomes the killers next target. But there are secrets in the pine woods were Tuva must venture. If she solves the crime she could find a way out of the small of Gavrik and finally make a name for herself. Dark Pines is the thriller that really beats all thrillers in 2018 and is the first in a series with Red Snow about to be released in January 2019. If I had to choose my book of the year Dark Pines would be that book. If you have not read Dark Pines and thrillers are your genre, then read it now!
Owl Sense – Dr Miriam Darlington
(Guardian Faber Publishing) 8th February 2018
I have been fascinated by Owls all my life and have been lucky to have travelled and seen many species of Owl in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean and I loved Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington she takes walks with her son seeking species of UK Owls. Then she travels into Europe from France to Spain, Serbia and Finland and close to the arctic lands of snow and ice. But this book not only is a story of a quest for Owls but her son Benji becomes very ill and then suddenly it is also a quest for a cure. Owl Sense brings to life the mysterious lives of Owls and what we are so fascinated with these mysterious birds.
The Lingering – SJI Holliday
(Orenda Books) – 15th November 2018
This dark and creepy ghost story is best read during the dark hours as it really sets the tone. Though you might not want to switch the light off after.
Jack and Ali move have moved into a self-sufficient commune set in Rosalind House, the local village it is said is were witches roamed and the home itself has a dark and sinister past. But it is not long after they arrive that things start to happen. Now the residents and locals are nervous, something or someone is seeking retribution. But why? Terrifying and unnerving. The Lingering really had me spooked. Superbly written and a storyline that holds until the very end.
Take Nothing With You – Patrick Gale
(Tinder Press) – 21st August 2018
Set in the 1970’s West-Super-Mare and only son Eustace has been signed up for Cello lessons by his mother. Music is an escape for Eustace and his lessons from his teacher he cannot get enough of. But it is his mother that is not sure of the glamorous teacher. Soon though it is lessons in life and love that take on whole new meanings for Eustace. This is beautifully told story of coming of age and finding out who you really are told with real compassion. A truly wonderful read.
The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris
(Hamish Hamilton) – 5th October 2017
After everything this year, I could not leave The Lost Words out of my selection for the year. It has been the bedrock of my year.
Imagine a world where children no longer talk of Heron’s, Otters, Bluebells, Acorns, Conkers, Dandelion, Bramble to name but a few. Well there are around 50 words that The Oxford Dictionary for Children removed. What they did not reckon on was Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. Here is the most beautiful book imaginable. In words spoken as Spell-Poems and paintings by the amazing Jackie Morris they both bring these words back to life.
Many people across the country have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to bring this book in into Schools, care homes and hospitals. Even today many more are planned to launch. A truly remarkable book that has a life all of its own. And this story for Somerset has only just begun.
And so there we have it. As the old year ends and a new one is about to begin and so it starts all over again. It has been a pleasure and an honour to work with such incredible writers and publishers and I thank them all for their incredible work.
In 2019 I have some great plans ahead I am honoured to have been asked to be an official blogger for The Jewish Book Festival in early March. I will be podcasting through the year and hope to take the podcast on the road to talk to writers and may be a few publishers. I will be doing my usual book giveaways when time permits and also there will be The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.
Have a happy and peaceful 2019 and remember “We read to know that we are not alone”. Books take us to places and to escape all the bad news of the day.
The Last Word Book Review