Category Archives: Tinder Press
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
The Story Keeper – Anna Mazzola
I was a massive fan of Anna Mazzola’s debut novel The Unseeing and now Anna returns with her second novel The Story Keeper (Tinder Press) Can it live up to her first novel? It my view it really does.
Set on The Isle of Sky in 1857 this is a story of missing girls and folklore. This is a time of huge change for the people of Sky at a time of poverty since the Highland Clearances and the locals are not keen on outsiders coming in and are viewed with suspicion.
Arriving on the on Sky from London is the mysterious Audrey Hart who is collecting stories of the people of the community. It is not long before their suspicions of Audrey are heightened when she discovers the body of a girl on the beach. When more bodies are discovered the locals turn to long held myths to account for the girl’s deaths.
Audrey grew up with myths and old folklore stories of Scotland as this was where her mother came from, but her mother died in circumstances that were never fully explained and this is why Audrey now feels more at home on Sky than in the oppressive home of her father and step mother.
Now girls are disappearing and Audrey is certain that they are being abducted. Trying to separate fact from the old stories from the Crofters. They believe that the deaths can be explained as victims of the unforgiven dead. Audrey has other ideas. Could it be that the answer to Audrey’s own questions about her mother’s death be linked?
The Story Keeper is a great multi-layered gothic tale and the characters are superbly drawn with Audrey leading the way, though from a troubled young life she is determined to get more out of life than what her father wishes for her.
The story starts slowly and gathers momentum against the backdrop of the Isle of Sky which in its self plays an integral part of the storyline.
The story is chilling yet beautifully told. This actually is a perfect autumn read as the dark nights draw in. Pour yourself a large glass and settle down With The Story Keeper.
Thank you to Jenni Leech (Headline) for the review copy of The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola.
The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola was published by Tinder Press and was published on 26th July 2018 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Take Nothing With You – Patrick Gale
I have been so very lucky to have read many great books ahead of publication a number spring to mind and now joining this list is Take Nothing With You (Tinder Press) by Patrick Gale. Why oh why is this the first book by Patrick Gale that I have read. I know that many are going to fall headlong into Patrick’s latest on publication. It is just beautiful in every sense of the word.
Because I am writing this sometime ahead of publication I do not want to give too much away. The story is about Eustace who has fallen in love again but now he is suffering from Cancer. Life is a little complicated for Eustace the man he has fallen for is not aware of how he feels.
For now, his very best friend Naomi is his closest friend and he chooses to let Naomi in on his feelings. At this time of his life and successful in his career, he is starting radiotherapy treatment and it is his Cello music that he is listening to put together by Naomi that suddenly takes Eustace on a journey back through his life to the 1970’s and Weston-Super-Mare and when as a young boy Eustace was signed up for music lessons. Eustace is struggling to find himself and he starts to learn the Clarinet but as time passes he knows this is not for him. But then he discovers the Cello and his world is changed. The overwhelming power of music. He is at one with his Cello as this becomes his escape from the problems within his family which is at best difficult. It is around this time that Eustace is now discovering his true self and his own inner feelings regarding his sexuality. At this time Naomi arrives in his life and their friendship is destined for a lifelong friendship. The trust that builds between the two is heartfelt. Patrick’s writing of Eustace’s life is so beautifully handled and told. The characters are rich and many. Each add to the story in their own way from the music teacher to school to his home life and friends. Eustace will come up against many barriers and at times this is extremely sad, but through the book there are many laughs to be found.
If I say anymore I will be giving the story away. All I will say is that I love this book so much it practically hurts. The story moves at a constant pace so that the reader will cherish every word. It is beautiful, tender and moving. If you have read any of Patrick Gale’s previous novels you are going to love Take Nothing With You.
Thank you to Go Georgina Moore for the review copy of Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale
Take Nothing With You was published by Tinder Press and will be published on 21st August 2018 and is available to pre-order Waterstones, Amazon and also through your local independent bookshop.
Patrick Gale is on tour from July through to November with Take Nothing With You.
In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
The debut novel from Guy Gunaratne’s sensational debut novel In Our Mad and Furious City is story based on 48 hours and a community and three friends who live on or close to the Stones council estate in North London. This is a story of three young men and the series of events that led up to riots taking place and rising tensions.
An off duty British soldier is brutally killed by a black Muslim man and tensions bubble to the surface and riots start to breakout. Was the killer an extremist? For the three friends Ardan, Selvon and Yusuf are all different yet they are on the fringes of the claustrophobic estate. This is an incredibly powerful novel that at times is so tense that you feel that one spark while reading this novel could explode into chaos and anarchy.
Gunaratne tells his story of a divided community and country. It is written with incredible passion and shattered dreams of those living on the estate. London is a city of those who dare to dream of great things but it is a city that can leave you in despair and can crush those dreams. There is also a cast of those who live on the Stones Estate who lend their voice to this complex storyline. There is Caroline who was sent from Belfast to London by her family during the troubles, she has demons of her own to contend with. We also hear from Nelson who moved to the UK from the Caribbean and now in his later years still recalls the bad times of the Fascist Oswald Mosely. There is long history of troubles echoing from the past.
In Our Mad and Furious City crackles with tension all the way through, the prose is excellent and mixed with numerous accents and dialects. The real story of this debut novel is not just about this council estate in London, it is a story of what is wrong with the country and the world we are living in. This is not just ‘another debut novel’ it is an incredibly important book. Not an easy book to write because of the subject but Guy Gunaratne is a writer to look out for in the future.
Thank you to Georgina Moore at Headline for the review copy of In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne.
In Our Mad and Furious City is published by Tinder Press and was published on 19th April 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Imagine for a moment that you were told the exact date that you were going to die? If you believed what you had just been told, how would that change you as a person and the life that you would lead? Indeed, would it actually change anything at all?
Author Chloe Benjamin has done just that with her mesmerising novel The Immortalists (Tinder Press) and the four young siblings that take a trip on a summers day that will have profound effects on the lives that they will lead.
It is a Summer’s day in 1969 and Simon (Seven), Klara (Nine), Daniel (Eleven) and Varya (Thirteen) take a trip that unbeknown to each of them will change how they live their lives from this moment on. They take a trip to see a fortune teller who they hear has the power to inform of the exact date a person will die. One by one they learn of the date but they do not share this information with each other but try to understand what they have just been told.
From this day forward their lives will be forever linked with this moment and the piece of information that each was given. So now what happens to the siblings after they find out the date they will die?
The book is broken down to cover each of the siblings and starts with Simon to runs away to San Francisco where he is free to live the life he has chosen within the gay community and his life that he fulfils is lit up with the people he mixes with and as he trains to be a ballet dancer. For Klara her dream is to be a magician and show the world the magic that is around them. Daniel joins the military and the daily strict guidelines that this brings but all does not bode well for Daniel and his story is one of sadness. As for Varya she has dedicated her life to science and the longevity research. Was this anything to do with the meeting with the fortune teller but her Jewish faith seems to bring her comfort.
The real beauty of this book is how Chloe Benjamin tells the story of each of the individuals. Each story is just beautifully told and with a degree of sensitivity that it deserves. Each story they share with the reader their intimate lives with love, loss family bonds and death. We all have a destiny but how do we each shape our own destiny over time, here in The Immortalists Benjamin has crafted a superb novel that will ask questions of each of the family members and is thought provoking. At times I did think the information passed on by the fortune teller started to erode members of the family and in the end their own families as time went on.
Plenty of room for talking about this novel and it would make a terrific Book Club choice as the questions that it asks through each of life’s journey’s for the siblings.
Thank you Caitlin Raynor (Headline) for the advanced review copy of The Immortalists
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is published by Tinder Press and was published on 8th March and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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.
Tin Man – Sarah Winman
A beautiful bright yellow cover heralds what is quite simply a stunningly beautiful novel inside. Tin Man by Sarah Winman begins with a painting of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers being won in a raffle. A story of friendship, love and loss a story of two boys as friends that drifted apart and then reunited. A beautiful story that I found so difficult to leave. Although on short at just around 200 pages once started it was over so quickly as I could not put it down.
When both Ellis and Michael were boys they entered each other’s lives and they were inseparable. They were the best of friends. But as they grew life would play its part. Annie then enters their lives and the story then moves on to see Annie and Ellis marry and Michael departs their lives and moves away to London for his own reasons. Time moves on for both Ellis and Michael.
The novel is split between the story through Ellis and then later through Michael and his thoughts as he travels through Europe and the memories he recounts especially the days spent in the South of France with Ellis when for those precious days the two became one. For those brief moments in their life anything was possible.
Sometimes we believe a life plan is set out for us only never to be fulfilled a life that could have been so different. But sometimes life can only but give us a brief glimpse of what could have been and then cruel reality. Sarah Winman writes with such emotion. The characters in Tin Man are just so incredible. Lives so fragile and so precious. All three share the same one aspect and that is love. This is not just writing this is a story set to poetry it is that remarkable. It is all here every human emotion. Love, loss friendship and loneliness. It will move you, it break you and put you back together again. Like a precious vase the human heart is capable of being broken and shattered yet it can also heal.
Tin Man by Sarah Winman is one of those books that will make you realise just how precious we all are. A difficult review to write without giving too much away. It is emotive and powerful. I expect to see this beautiful book in many reader’s books of the year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Tin Man by Sarah Winman is published through Tinder Press and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Today sees the release of two of this year’s biggest must read books. Paula Hawkins follows up from The Girl on the Train with Into the Water (Doubleday)and a debut novel by Sarah Schmidt called See What I Have Done. (Tinder Press) Two books that are going to be on everyone’s TBR lists this Spring and Summer.
For the first time I am running today on my blog a double book review. Starting with Paula Hawkins Into the Water.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Imagine for a moment trying to sit down and write your next novel. Ok you say but what if you were the author of the massive international hit that was The Girl on the Train Then not for a moment can I begin to imagine what Paula Hawkins must be thinking as today see’s the release of her new thriller Into the Water. (Doubleday) Although some readers found that The Girl on the Train with its narrator that we know as unreliable to say the least. Paula Hawkins has gone a different route this time around as this new psychological thriller is very different and if this is at all possible it actually is better that her monster hit that captured the imagination of readers across the globe and was also a massive success on the big screen that starred Emily Blunt.
What you will find with Into the Water is that here is a thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat as this is a stunning thriller with more than just the usual twists than your average read. This is an ambitious attempt to move away from the formula that gave Hawkins so much success, here there are more characters and the plot is so layered that is gives more to the reader. There is even something Hitchcock about this book and one that many readers will flock to. The story is set in a small riverside town, and the opening sequences are nothing short of horrific as a woman is tied up and then drowned by a group of men. At this point I had to re-read this first part as I was not sure if this was a current event or was this a past event from history and if so was history to play a major part in the novel. A chilling start that set the tone for what was to be a gripping thriller. It is now August 2015 and this little riverside town now becomes centre stage and a small of that river that has a notorious history that involves the drowning of witches. But there has been a much more recent drowning a middle aged woman called Nel Abbott is found dead in this stretch of water but how was this possible? Now let your imagination play with you here. Some including her daughter think Nel planned to end her life but Nel’s sister Jules is not sure. Now the history of this part of the comes to the fore as other deaths by drowning come to light. It also appears that Nel was taking a keen interest into the drownings has she taken some if its secrets and the towns secrets with her.
There are many character here that have a story to tell and they do this in bite size chapters that play a part in telling the real story of what has been going on in this small town. Some of these characters are hiding the truth and it also appears that Nel was not liked by many in the town. Question is why? Add into the story a psychic and you have the recipe for a thriller that is just building page by page with suspense until the very last moment. If you are going to read Into the Water on a train journey, be warned you may miss your stop but at least it stop you looking at people’s homes through the window of your carriage.
My thanks to Alison Barrow for the advanced review copy of Into the Water.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins is published by Doubleday and is released today 2nd May and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
It is the morning of 4th August 1892 and the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered in their home. They have been brutally murdered with an axe. It was Lizzie Borden who discovered the mutilated body of her father. Here in See What I Have Done (Tinder Press) the debut novel by Sarah Schmidt she tells the story with fact and fiction in a gripping and riveting debut.
I have to admit to not knowing the story of the brutal murders that took place in the Borden home so before I started to read the book I did a little research to prepare myself for the book. Once I started I became hooked on Sarah Scmidt’s telling of the story using both facts and then using fiction to re-tell the infamous story.
When the Police arrived at the family home in Fall River, Massachusetts it becomes clear there was only one suspect and that was Lizzie Borden. Could she really have taken an axe to her stepmother and to her father? Despite the fact that there was other people in the house the police believe that she was responsible for the murders. Lizzie Borden was then tried and acquitted. To this day the murders remain unsolved in what remains one of the most heinous crimes the axe that was used in the murders was never found.
There are a numbers of characters that Scmidt focuses on in the novel with Lizzie and her sister Emma who at the time of the murders was not present in the family home, then there is the girls Uncle John and then the maid, Bridget. With the facts of the case already known Schmidt then weaves a dark and claustrophobic story. Behind the front door of the family home clearly all was not well. To say this was a troubled family even dysfunctional, there was many things quietly bubbling away under the surface in that steaming hot summer. The entire story just jumps out at you and leaves your pulse racing. This is an incredible first novel that is visceral and truly compelling. Schmidt’s writing is dark and chilling and the palms of your hands become sweaty or was that blood oozing from the pages of this disturbing read. This was clearly a family with many problems hidden behind the shutters of the windows as if they were keeping the secrets from the outside world. The parts of the story as told through Lizzie Borden leave you cold and wondering about her sanity and left me in cold sweats. See What I have Done is a Superb first novel and one I highly recommend.
Thank you to Georgina Moore for the advanced review copy of See What I Have Done.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt is published by Tinder Press and is released today 2nd May and available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Unseeing – Anna Mazzola
The Last Word Review
As debut novels go this is something rather special. Anna Mazzola with The Unseeing has managed to create a story which is based on an actual true story. From the moment you pick this book up with its eerie eye in the centre of the cover you know it is going to be something outstanding and believe me The Unseeing captures the reader’s attention from the opening page.
The setting is London 1837 and Sarah Gale has been sentenced to hang for her involvement in the brutal murder of Hannah Brown. Edmund Fleetwood has been charged with investigating the case of the murder after Sarah files for mercy. But something is not right, Sarah is not forthcoming with any information that will help her case, why? If the investigation fail’s Sarah will surely hang. So why is she not helping Edmund?
There is something very unique about the way Anna Mazzola has written The Unseeing you get a real feel for the time and the place, at times dark and foreboding the tension is palpable as we the day for Sarah’s execution getting ever closer but still she refuses to pass on information that could save her life. Just about the only statement she gives throughout is that she played no part in the murder of Hannah Brown. Taking into account that she is imprisoned awaiting her fate, she is also a mother and her child faces a bleak future is she hangs. For Edmund he is rather keen to make his mark and impression on this investigation and this is testing him. The public have already condemned Sarah and want to see her on the end of the rope for her part. This indeed is both a complex and challenging investigation. The interviews between Edmund and Sarah are incredibly revealing. This is a story with many twists and turns before we find out what happens to Sarah. Some of the answers to my own questions were not as I thought. The research carried out by Mazzola on an actual crime that took place in the nineteenth century must have been difficult and painstaking trying to piece together actual facts and create a gripping debut novel that is worthy of many plaudits.
Throughout the story I was not sure of Sarah a character that one minute you believed then you were unsure of what she was hiding. I warmed to Edmund as he went about trying to put a case together that would save her life. He came across in the end as a genuine man.
The Unseeing is a book a highly recommend, the perfect read for the autumn as the days grow shorter.
Thank you to Tinder Press and Bookbridgr for the review copy.
The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola is published by Tinder Press in hardback and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.
In a Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca Mackenzie
The Last Word Review
An evocative story of a missionary school in China. Poignant yet funny. An enchanting debut novel
At the end of 2016 we may look back and declare this year to be one of those incredible literary years. Two months into 2016 and already we are seeing some truly outstanding books being released including debut novels and I include In a Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca Mackenzie in this.
We all know China as a land of mystery and legends. What Mackenzie presents to the reader here is a beautifully told story of a boarding school set high on a misty mountain and that of a ten-year-old Henrietta S. Robertson who is sent to the school. Set at the outbreak of WWII Etta as she is known sent there so both her parents can continue their Missionary work teaching Christianity to the Chinese.
As Etta makes friends at the School including one she names as ‘Big Bum Eileen’ they soon realise that they are missing in their lives and set about make a secret society called The Prophetess Club with new names and mystical secret powers. The brave girls set about exploring the grounds of the School. Harmless fun at first as the girls are missing their parents and with very few teachers present to control them the girls then cross the boundaries soon something happens that will have dire consequences for Etta. It is now 1941 and Japanese forces have moved into China and the world that seemed so far away from Etta and her friends is now a dangerous one and soon the Japanese soldiers are running the school. Life for Etta is now one of grave danger and the story so poignantly told by Mackenzie takes a darker route.
In a Land of Paper Gods is a story told through the eyes of a young girl in a beautiful land of full of mystery and a unique culture from the one she knows but it is one of great danger so far away from home and separated from her parents the story of Henrietta is set over a period of ten years and follows her from the young girl seemingly so alone and afraid to one of a young lady so confident and assured and making her way through life. A story of incredible imagination at times funny but also one of bravery as a teacher who becomes a surrogate mother to Etta and to watch their story unfold in a time of incredible uncertainty and mortal danger.
Henrietta is an unforgettable in this coming of age story one that you will find extremely hard to leave alone especially as you progress into the second half of the story and one that at times is horrifying.
A stunning debut novel from Rebecca Mackenzie and one that has left an indelible mark on this reviewer. Yet another brilliantly written first novel and one that deserves many plaudits. I now find myself wondering what became of Henrietta now that we leave her. In a Land of Paper Gods, a story that I will not forget in a hurry.
I am extremely grateful to Ella Bowman at Headline for a review copy.
In a Land of Paper Gods written by Rebecca Mackenzie and publishes by Tinder Press and is available from all good book shops.