Saturday, 19 August 2017

#BibliomaniacsBookshelves #SummerReading 19th August


Bibliomaniac's Bookshelves: Summer Reading Round Up
19th August 2017

And so the holidays continue and so too, my mini reviews! Here's what has been going on in the book world of Bibliomaniac!

99 RED BALLOONS by ELISABETH CARPENTER 

99 Red Balloons: A chillingly clever psychological thriller with a stomach-flipping twist

This book came with some impressive reviews from authors who I admire and whose books I devour so I was intrigued to read this new thriller. 

The novel starts with a child being abducted. It's not violent or shocking abduction under cover of darkness - it's more chilling than that. It's premeditated and calculated as the child is coerced by an adult at school pick up. This is not a new or unexpected set up for a crime thriller novel but it is one that sent shivers down my spine and immediately put me on edge. I am forever telling my children not to go off with anyone - and it's not the cliched image of a stranger that I warn them about, it's the person claiming to know them, throwing a few details about me or them into conversation, or claiming that I'm waiting around the corner or running five minutes late, so reading this was like reading my worst nightmare. There was no way I could put this book down once I had started it. 

The story continues with several narrative viewpoints including the child who has been abducted. These chapters were well handled as using the child's point of view and the fact that she is unaware of what is really happening to her ensured that the description wasn't too emotionally overwhelming. The reader was able to interpret the child's naive observations and although recognise the seriousness and danger of the situation, perhaps kept one step removed from it which considering the subject matter, was something I was grateful for. 

Multiple narratives also allows the author to explore the situation from various points of view which is always a great device to create tension and drama. Carpenter uses this device to great effect when it quickly becomes clear that each character has something to hide. I like a book where the reader has to begin to see through what the characters are saying and look for hints, clues and revelations that will help to solve the mystery. 

Initially I thought this novel would be relatively straightforward and the hook of a missing child was enough for me - I was actually gripped by the storyline following the abductors and watching them as they cover their tracks and try to disappear which surprised me but reflects the author's talent for characterisation. However, this book is actually multilayered and complex as a second storyline about  another missing girl is introduced and from here on things become full of suspense, excitement and are woven together in way that is impressively accomplished for a debut author! 

99 Red Balloons is published by 24th August 2017 by Avon.

THE WORD IS MURDER by ANTHONY HOROWTIZ 


I heard Anthony Horowitz talking at Crime Fest in May and have been desperate to read this ever since! Horowitz has a magnetic personality, he is very charismatic and a fantastic speaker - and with this new fiction novel, he is the actual narrator (as himself, the real live Horowitz) so it is no surprise - just a huge relief - that his writing reflects his personality and presence. It really is like listening to him tell the story as if he were reading it just to you. I would love to hear this as an audio book recorded by Horowitz - it would be great fun! 

The Word is Murder has an unusual premise. Horowitz, already working away on novels and scripts which he is contracted to do, is approached by an ex-detective, Hawthorne, who is now consulting on a murder case and would like Horowitz to accompany him and record it all in a book. And so begins an unusual, sometimes strained, slightly mismatched relationship which ultimately results in a partnership that is rather special and very entertaining. 

Horowitz is a highly accomplished author and his writing is immediately engaging and very commercial. It's easy to relax into the story -although it might take a short while to get used to what is going on! The book starts with Diane Cowper entering a funeral parlour and arranging her funeral. Six hours later and she is dead. There is a slight digression as Horowitz recounts where he is in his career and all his achievements but there is an underlying sense of self depreciation throughout so it is charming rather than egocentric. 

Anyway, the main reason this story is so appealing is because as Horowitz says, usually the hardest part of writing a murder story is thinking up the plot, but he doesn't need to do that here! Instead the intrigue comes from whether Horowitz and Hawthorne can actually solve the murder and secondly, how will Horowitz overcome all the challenges this writing project brings. There are some highly entertaining scenes - one involving Spielberg and the mysterious music playing from inside Ms Cowper's coffin at her funeral. There are also numerous passages that will amuse any crime fiction fan as Horowtiz muses on Hawthorne, the process of writing, selling his idea to his agent and subtle (or perhaps not so subtle!) references to other crime partnerships and legends in detective fiction. 

Hawthorne is a captivating character - a great contrast to Horowitz and as astute and intelligent as Sherlock himself, yet direct, blunt and humourless which leads to several altercations and perhaps more drama, tension and excitement for the reader. It is difficult to tell whether you are reading fact or fiction, whether you are reading about real people or imagined characters, but all I know is that I couldn't put it down. Although the book starts in a slightly more unusual way and mixes up observations on being a writer, reflecting on the reader's expectations and the author's back catalogue alongside the discovery of a dead body, as it progresses it becomes more traditional in its execution. There is urgency, twists, revelations, complications, red herrings and a dramatic grand finale! The relationships and dynamics between all the characters are very well crafted and the whole book is exceptionally well executed. 

The Word is Murder is an appreciation of the crime fiction genre and all the greatest crime fiction writers. It's a homage to our favourite detectives and our favourite side kicks.  The Word is Murder follows the conventions of the thriller genre but it also feels new and original. I found this book refreshing, incredibly readable and actually, the word I want to use is delightful!

The Word is Murder is published by Century on the 24th August 2017. 

THE PLEASURE OF READING by ANTONIA FRASER 


This week I read an interesting blog post from @Pamreader called 7 Tips To Improve Your Reading Experience . I'm always interested in advice and suggestions for readers and always nosy about how people read and about people's reading habits. I think my reading experience is pretty sorted (1. Do it all the time whatever else is going on around you & 2. Read anything, everything, this, that and the other) but after reading Pam's article I followed two bits of her advice! The first was to look up this book she recommended and the second was to download it as a free sample first to see if it was my cup of tea or not. 

So I can't really claim to review this book as I have only read the sample but it does look good! Antonia Fraser has complied chapters from 43 writers all talking about their reading experiences, how their reading has changed over time and which books have influenced them. There are chapters from Margaret Atwood, Melvyn Bragg, Carol Ann Duffy, Ruth Rendell and Sue Townsend to name a few. I think this would be a book I would enjoy dipping in and out of and would probably lead to me buying another hoard of books I have missed or forgotten about! I'm going to add it to my Christmas list as it would make a great gift for any book lover. 

And don't forget to check out Pam's post if you want some sound suggestions about how to challenge your reading or get more out the time you spend reading! 

The Pleasure of Reading by Antonia Fraser was published by Bloomsbury in 2015. 

BLOG TOUR

The Queen of New Beginnings 


I was thrilled to be on the Blog Tour for Therese Loreskar's new book The Queen of New Beginnings  as I was a big fan of her first novel, The Queen of Blogging. Loreskar's books are perfect summer reads - quick, fast paced, full of dialogue, written in diary like form and full of humour, entertainment, chaos and disasters as Kajsa tries to negotiate her way through her haphazard life with three children. A mixture of Bridget Jones and Miranda, I enjoyed this and the little bit of escapism and romance it brought with it! 

Read my full review here.

THE JOINED UP WRITING PODCAST


As if it wasn't bad enough that you have to read my reviews and look at photos of all my latest books, this week you could hear me raving about books too! I was absolutely thrilled (and a quite a bit nervous!!) to be invited on to The Joined Up Writing Podcast to talk about one of my recent reads for their regular feature "BookBlogger's Corner". I hope you'll have a listen and I highly recommend subscribing to the podcast as well as it features some great interviews  - and each episode has a different book blogger reviewing their latest favourite read!

You can listen to the podcast here: 



For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my blog bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.co.uk or website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

#TheQueenofNewBeginnings #ThereseLoreskar


The Queen of New Beginnings: a laugh out loud comedy



Kajsa lives in a large house in Stockholm along with her three children and their dog. Since coming clean about lying on her popular blog she no longer has any work. Not only that but she has kicked her husband out because of his sex addiction. 

While her husband is in rehab trying to fix his little problem, Kajsa's mother in law is thrown out of her retirement home and comes to live with her daughter in law.

Then Kajsa receives an unexpected offer to move to a fashionable part of London. But having to look after her mother in law makes life complicated.  

Can Kajsa rid herself of her baggage and make a fresh start with her children in England? 

This laugh-out-loud comedy looks at the daily struggles we all face with our families and asks if starting again is ever really possible. 

I really enjoyed the first book in this series called The Queen of Blogging - particularly as a blogger but actually it will appeal to anyone who uses social media! I found it very amusing and you can read my full review here. I was delighted to find out Loreskar had written another novel and couldn't wait to get back and see what mischief Kajsa had got up to now!

This is a very lightweight, easy read that reminds me of a kind of cross between Miranda and Bridget Jones - Kajsa is sarcastic, funny, chaotic and hapless! But this novel isn't silly or slapstick, it's just about the life of an overwrought mother who seems to get herself into larger and larger scrapes and continuously misjudging situations or somehow making them more painfully cringeworthy.

The novel opens with Kajsa on the phone while the dog eats her wallet and the children run wildly around her, interrupting her, wiping noses on her sleeve, using up all the kitchen roll and then eventually causing her to drop her phone on the floor so the battery rolls out. We've all been there. And to be honest, it's no wonder Kajsa only ever gets half the gist of what anyone is saying to her!

Loreskar's writing is very witty. It is well observed. I could hear the voices of each character - particularly the mother in law who despite her flaws, actually becomes one of the most likeable characters at the end. There is a lot of dialogue which is very well presented through email, text and disjointed conversations. The novel is a bit like a diary form, sections often headed up with the time and this also creates a great pace and a sense of urgency - or panic! It also keeps the tone informal and helps the reader form a relationship with Kajsa.

There are a lot of lists used by Kajsa which are hilarious but also mean the reader rips through the pages as the writing is stripped back so it is almost like a stage monologue at a times. Often her list starts off as a series of observations or explanations about a character's situation or a way of thinking through her current dilemma but then they often wander off into her random thoughts. I liked this way of showing the character and again, it mimics Kajsa's frenetic life.

1. And here I'm sitting.
2. On a Saturday evening.
3. Alone, apart from three sleeping children and a snoring dog snuggled up in my lap. 
4. Who was it that reordered the universe?
5. And made me single?

There is also an element of fantasy as Kajsa arrives in London and meets the very handsome Brad. The reader does have to stretch their imagination a little bit with some of the things that happen to Kajsa but then why not? This is a fun story, a story that is heartwarming and seeks happy endings. It is like watching a good movie on a Friday night and as the reader is rooting for Kajsa all the way along anyway, we're not going to begrudge her anything!

The characters all learn, grow and develop through the story and there are some serious elements to the plot but generally this is read that will make you smile, nod in agreement, snort in recognition of some of the events or relationships and leave you feeling like you have had a well deserved dose of good fun which is definitely something the doctor ordered!

A refreshing burst of fun and a quick, enjoyable, humorous read!

The Queen of New Beginnings is published by Bombshell Books on 10th August 2017.

Don't forget to follow the rest of the Blog Tour and catch up with any stops you've missed!




THERESE LORESKAR 


Therese Loresk√§r started her writing career in 2010 and self-published her first novel which quickly sold out. In 2014 she signed up to a publishing house and her novel "The Queen of Blogging” was released. People referred to the book as a modern “Bridget Jones” and couldn’t get enough of the main character, Kajsa. The next book “The Queen of Blogging 2” was released shortly after and also received lots of praise!

Therese has since published 4 bestselling children’s books, “The Queen of Blogging 1 & 2” have also been recorded and launched as audiobooks in addition to paperbacks in Sweden. Her biggest dream is to have “The Queen of Blogging series” made into films, and she secretly keeps a list in an old drawer of presumptive actors that would do the characters in her books justice.

Therese lives in the countryside along the west coast of Sweden. She has a rather big and busy household, with (one) husband, two children, one deaf cat, five hamsters and a grandmother. When she’s not busy making up stories and writing silly things, she enjoys the nature, people, history, redecorating the house without asking anyone for permission, and all other kinds of creativity.

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my blog bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.co.uk or website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk 

#Yesterday #FeliciaYap #Review

Yesterday: The thriller of the summer

So this seems to be one of the most talked about books of not only yesterday but also today, tomorrow and undoubtedly every day for many months to come - and not because we're Monos or Duos and only retain details of the last 24 or 48 hours, but because Felicia Yap has written a high concept, highly engaging novel which challenges and engages the reader from the first page until the last. It's not a book you're going to forget in a hurry!

How would it feel if you could only remember the last 24 hours? Welcome to a parallel dystopian world Yap has created where there are only two types of people - those that remember yesterday, and those who remember the day before as well. Each morning you start the day by reading your diary entry to tell yourself the facts about who you are and what you do. But what about when the police arrive at your front door because a dead body has been found? And what if the police claim it is the body of your husband's mistress. And that they think she was killed two days ago? A day now lost to your memory and the only way you can tell what you were doing is by reading your diary......

Not only is the premise of this novel -where people have no memory once they reach adulthood- fascinating in its own right, a big enough hook in itself perhaps, this is also a murder story! What makes this book stand out from other crime thrillers is that the police, and the characters, are all so unreliable - they have their official iDiary's with the 'facts' of their days recorded but how can they really solve such a mystery if they repeatedly lose their memories, thoughts, conclusions and discoveries? Without clear memories then there is too much potential for secrets, lies and hidden pasts. It's a great idea for a novel and one that is going to capture the imagination of any reader.

Yesterday opens with a prologue which seems to talk directly to the reader with the use of the second person and "You". The voice is punchy, direct, challenging and establishes tension, a sense of unhappiness and pending threat. It was a great way of throwing the reader into the story with an anonymous voice who raises numerous questions for the reader. Speaking so directly to the reader also forces them to take note and sit up straight as they feel involved and it's clear this is a book that is going to make the reader work as hard as the characters to figure out the truth.

There are multiple narrative voices in the novel which alternate through the book. Each voice is very distinctive and each section is clearly labelled with a time, date and the character's name which means the reader is never confused or lost - something that could happen so easily in a book where the protagonists can never remember what is happening to them. But on the other hand, there is a lot to absorb and follow.

In between some of the chapters are extracts taken from one of the character's own novel, Government Policy, Legal Documents, newspapers and various quotes. I enjoyed these  - or perhaps admired is a better word for it! These extracts help to establish Yap's world more clearly and inform the reader of some of the more mechanical or practical details about this society. They also reveal more about some of the characters and the pressures and dynamics between them. Of course, what it also reveals is the depth of Yap's planning, research and imagination! Yap is obviously highly intelligent and therefore even though on the surface this is a murder story which has to be solved in 24 hours before all involved forget what they have discovered, this is actually a very sophisticated novel that raises many issues like truth, control, manipulation and power. And I think Yap has enjoyed creating a whole bunch of legal policy, a whole fictional novel and a whole host of other documents to convey her world to the reader.

Yap creates a vivid image of Cambridge and her characters are three dimensional and complicated; she has a very strong voice and can create scenes and moments effectively and efficiently. I liked the repetition of the word 'fact' which challenges the reader to think about what a fact is, what happens when someone else is telling you the facts and whether we are defined by facts or by feelings. Claire's emotional and mental state of mind is controlled by the facts she has learned and they are the only thing she has to guide her through her days. I also liked that the husband, Mark, always summed up his decisions or thought process by listing 4 options. But there wasn't much else to like about him really!!!

Sophia's diary is a real breath of fresh air and her chapters are full of energy, vigour and emotion. She's a great contrast to the rest of the cast and Yap handles the tension, suspense and suspicion over this character with excellent control and exposition. It also shows off Yap's range of writing and skill as an author. It also injects pace and drama.

There are echoes of The Handmaid's Tale, 1984 and Noughts and Crosses in Yesterday but it still feels like Yap has something new to say and combining the concept of memory loss and a divided society with a murder mystery balances some serious questions with a gripping crime plot.

This book discusses the issues of power, truth, control, marriage, equality, normality and how we can become imprisoned by what we are told to believe about ourselves. It makes the reader think about what we record about ourselves, what facts define us, what we can't change and how we respond to all of this.

It is an impressive debut and Yap is clearly a very talented writer with a vivid imagination. This is a multi layered, complex and clever story which has been meticulously planned so that the overall effect is polished, fluent and completely believable.

As I said, no one will forget Yesterday.

Yesterday was published on 10th August 2017 by Wildfire.

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my blog bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.co.uk or website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk

#RichardAndJudy #Autumn2017 #AmReading


The Richard and Judy Autumn Reads have been announced and wow, what a list! I have read four of the titles and gave three of them 5 star ratings and one of them 4 stars so I think this is a truly excellent selection too pick your next read from - I'm just glad I don't have to pick an overall winner!!

Here are my reviews in case you want to see my thoughts when I read the books earlier in the year......


There is definitely great depth to this novel, it is ultimately a very gripping read about memory, fault, blame, guilt, trust and betrayal. 

This complex novel includes four different narratives and also shifts between past and present day as the reader learns about the events from the point of view of each member of the family. It is about betrayal, love, families and guilt and raises plenty of challenging points as well as just being an exciting read. It is compelling and if you enjoyed The Good Girl you are in for another treat! 




With echoes of Agatha Christie this is a delicious crime novel set in 1939 and vividly brought to life with beautiful writing and great characters. 

Obviously I don't have favourites and would never want to show bias, but, theoretically if I did, then this might be my top pick from this selection! And I would definitely recommend that you start with it! This novel is so absorbing, immersive, well written and compelling you will be totally swept up in it for the whole duration of the cruise on which the story is all about. 

I also chose this for my Bibliomaniac's Book Club so don't forget to look that up if you want further ideas.....!



This is a engrossing novel with which I became entranced by from the first page. The characters are compelling, beautiful, mysterious and disturbing. It is a mesmerising tale of a family who are bound by love, by hatred, by desperation, by secrets, by obsession. It is a story that haunts you while you are reading and then haunts you for days after. I want to read it again. And again.

There was a slight marmite reaction to this book in the blogging world but I adored it. It is eerie, unsettling, disturbing and at times very difficult to read but it is incredibly well written and the characters are just so well crafted it is well worth giving it a go. There is a dual timeline and the two stories are very cleverly weaved together. The characters are truly fascinating and there is a hint of the gothic about the tale as well as a coming of age theme and also the exploration of a dysfunctional family. Impressive.




I really enjoyed this read and was hugely impressed by the author's writing. Land's has managed to construct a very disturbing and complex character with a voice that will send chills down your spine long after you've finished the last line. There is something deliciously dark and truly thrilling about this novel. Read it. If you dare.

Need I say any more? This is an outstanding read with a chilling premise. Highly original and gripping reading. If you are brave enough, you will absolutely love it! A fantastic thriller! 


For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my blog bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.co.uk or website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk



Friday, 11 August 2017

#CrimeFictionRoundUp #AmListening #ReviewersRecommendations


CRIME FICTION ROUND UP

What's being recommended this week?

I've been listening to the Phil William's show on Radio 5 Live because last night Arifa Akbar and Barry Forshaw were discussing their latest recommendations..... And they came up with some fascinating reads! 

I now have an even longer TBR list! Some of the books they mentioned were already on my list, some I had heard of and some I had to order on Amazon as soon as they started talking about them! There's a great mix of classic crime, crime out this year and one or two still to come in the Autumn. 

If you missed the show you can listen here (the bookish chat is about 2hrs 18min into the show) or have a look below at a few highlights from the show and the books which are now on my TBR list after hearing Phil, Arifa and Barry talk about them! 

What do you think? Would you recommend? Will you be adding to your TBR pile?

ElmetA Talent for MurderThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot, #4)You Don't Know MeGaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey, #12)

Men Without WomenThe Dry (Aaron Falk, #1)The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye (Millennium #5)Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch, #22)

The links below will take you to Goodreads to find out more! 










One of Barry's top recommendations was Dodgers by Bill Beverly. I have read this and highly recommend this - I met Bill at Crime Fest and he is a really lovely, interesting person and this good definitely deserves all the awards and accolade it has received!

Dodgers

Happy Reading! 

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

#BibliomaniacsBookShelves #SummerReading

Anna

When everything is gone, and the future abandoned, what remains for us?

This is a story about Anna, abandoned in a world that has been ravaged by a virus which has killed all the grown ups. Left looking after her brother, scavenging for food, water and survival, she sets off on a journey desperately seeking someone that will have a cure.

It feels strange to say I enjoyed this novel which is so full of terrifying events and graphic descriptions of a world that is rotting but I did. Anna is quite an extraordinary book; a dystopian novel set in the not too far future in a world without grown ups. 

The opening rips the reader out the security of their armchair and throws them headlong into a scene that is more terrifying than any horror film I have seen. The imagery and chilling atmosphere is highly effective and despite the horror, it is compelling reading and stunning writing. We are pulled into a mysterious setting of "crackling neon lights", dimly lit corridors and bodies strewn in unnatural positions indicating painful, reluctant deaths. 

We then move forward four years and meet Anna, our young protagonist, and to an equally frightening scene as she is chased by a dog. It's a bit relentless but the detailed description means the story is very easy to visualise. The reader uses the clues, hints and reactions of Anna to try and determine what is happening to her and what kind of society she is having to operate within. There are plenty of ominous statements like "Cold things had disappeared with the Grown-ups" and a huge sense of foreboding and hopelessness. 

The story is told through Anna's point of view but I did find the flashbacks to Anna's moments with her mother just before she died powerful and poignant. The extracts from her mother's notebook with instructions telling the children how they can try to survive once she is dead were particularly moving. The writing itself for these sections was very practical and yet evoked a sense of desperation. They reflected the full impact of the outbreak of the virus on the world. Anna clings to these pages like a Bible, a litany and the only way she has of connecting with her mother. It's heartbreaking to think of a mother's last words to her children being about how to 'live in the dark' and her knowledge that she was deserting them to a world that was crumbling around them is conveyed well.

Once Anna has set off on her journey the pace picks up and with more characters, more drama, more interaction and more dangerous situations emerging; the novel becomes more action driven. Essentially though, for me this book was about the characters. I was fascinated by Anna's mother and was liked how her presence, influence and own back story was weaved in and out of the present moment. All the key characters were well crafted and easy to picture and hear speaking. 

The high quality prose is sustained throughout the whole book. It is always lyrical and full of captivating imagery despite the bleak, dystopian setting. There is a often a weighty sense of silence and darkness and it is quite an oppressive read in places. But Ammaniti's polished, accomplished writing is exquisite and always eloquent. I enjoyed this novel. It was a challenging read but a rewarding one. 

Anna was published by Canongate on 3rd August 2017

Midwinter Break

A retired couple, Gerry and Stella Gilmore, fly from their home in Scotland to Amsterdam for a long weekend. A holiday to refresh the senses, to do some sightseeing and generally to take stock of what remains of their lives. Their relationship seems safe, easy, familiar – but over the course of the four days we discover the deep uncertainties which exist between them.


MacLaverty is a fantastic writer who is able to capture the human condition and the internal struggles of a person with a deft and accomplished hand. His writing is exquisite and eloquent, lyrical and memorable. It is understated yet full of resonance and the simple thoughts, observations and comments by the characters actually are powerful and moving. His observations about the interactions between people capture each nuance, the things unsaid or the things which trigger a thought process and each is caught and handled with a subtle and deft touch. I especially enjoyed his dialogue between Gerry and Stella and often reread their short, candid responses to each other that reflected a lifetime together, a lifetime of routine, living so closely together and love. 

There isn't much I want to say about this novel - not because there isn't anything to say, quite the contrary, but this is novel that is slow, subtle, mesmerising and to be savoured. It takes place over four days as Gerry and Stella take a break in Amsterdam and at first recounts the minutia of their days but gradually, through a variety of incidents that occur while they are exploring the city, set them both individually on a journey of self analysis. More and more is revealed about the complexities of their marriage. More and more is revealed about them, their aspirations, regrets, fears and how they are haunted by past events or past expectations. 

Midwinter Break is not for readers looking for a plot twist, a shocking reveal or a sentimental journey. It is for readers that like a story that seems like a simple retelling of a trip away but actually raises emotional, thought provoking questions for the characters and actually tells a story that is much more profound than it first appears. It is for lovers of language, effortless prose, well structured, elegant characterisation and for those who like to dawdle, consider and feel.

Midwinter Break was published by Vintage Digital on 3rd August 2017. 


Hush Little Baby


This story is based on a premise that will send a chill through any parent's bones. Your baby's wrist gets broken... how did it happen and who is to blame? There is plenty of tension and heartache in this novel as the pain, remorse and guilt felt by each parent, Richard and Sally, and Richard's teenage daughter from a previous marriage, gradually intensifies as the reader tries to work out who to believe and who to trust. It seems everyone could be culpable which not only makes for a dramatic storyline but also a narrative which constantly challenges the reader's judgements.

I enjoyed the concept and thought it was a brave and highly emotive topic to pick - definitely one of those "what if" scenarios which appeals to that rather vicarious nature we have as humans. I also enjoyed the fact that the novel looks at how people behave under immense pressure, how fragile a family unit can be and how people living under the same roof can actually be so out of touch with each other. There is a lot about the overwhelming love a parent has for their child and the impact of a new baby on a marriage - and a step child.

I thought Barnard captured Sally's exhaustion, her dilemmas and guilt about parenthood and her feeling of inadequacy in comparison to her husband's ex wife well and she was a character who was easy to feel sympathy for. I thought Martha's character (the step daughter) was also well depicted; caught on the cusp of adulthood trying to work out peer groups, popularity, love as well as negotiating the dangers of social media. However, I disliked Richard - I think this was the author's intention, as there didn't feel he had much to redeem himself with! But it is always good to have an emotional reaction to a character whether it was intended or not - this in itself shows the writer's skill and craft! It was good to have three characters to follow and the sub plots and different narratives were drawn together well to ensure a dramatic conclusion.

As this is an honest review I'm afraid I do have to be honest.... unfortunately for me, there were a few things that I felt were perhaps a bit cliched and might have been more interesting had they been left out, but that is only my opinion and I wouldn't want to deter anyone else from picking this book up.

I can see that Hush Little Baby will provoke interesting conversations over a cuppa, a bottle of wine and in a book club. It's a solid psychological thriller and a chilling example of domestic noir.

Hush Little Baby is published by Ebury Press on 10th August 2017.

From The Shadows (Dan Grant #1)

From The Shadows is the perfect title for this new crime series as it is all about what lurks in the shadows and believe me, you won't be turning any lights off ever again once you've read this book - just as you will never get into bed again without checking underneath it first! 

This book has some truly terrifying scenes in it! I loved the anonymous voice that was so deeply threatening and chilled me in the same way the TV series The Fall had with a character who lurks, follows, stalks, sneaks through your stuff, living in the shadows of your life and your home. Shudder. The author had evoked these scenes so effectively that it was like watching an 18 rated movie and the attention to detail meant it was impossible not to visualise what was happening or feel a tingle all down your spine every time this narrative voice intruded into the story. 

But this is not just a murder mystery story, this is a legal thriller and White introduces us to his new protagonist Dan Grant, a defence lawyer. Dan Grant has inherited a case at the last minute and the reader realises very early on that Dan is a lawyer who will stop at nothing and he will follow the evidence to wherever it may lead him and whatever the risk. I don't read a lot of legal thrillers about lawyers and court cases so to me, this character felt refreshing and suitably maverick while still feeing believable. I liked him.

His investigator,  Jayne is also an original character - she's not what you would expect, she is scruffy, downbeat and with a shocking backstory but she is full of grit and very committed to her work. They made a good pairing and from the outset White has established an intriguing plot, set of characters and raised plenty of questions to keep the reader turning the page. 

This is a very readable, enjoyable legal thriller. There is a lot of information at the beginning and a lot of information about the murder, Jayne's past, Dan's colleagues, the defendant and a whole host of conflicting motives and evidence which the reader has to take on board but this also prepares the reader for the fast paced, gripping story that develops. For fans of this genre it will not disappoint!

From The Shadows is published by Bonnier Zaffre on 10th August 2017. 

Waiting For Monsieur Bellivier

"If you want to discover Paris, it's better to sit on one of the city's benches. From there you can study several million people trying to find their place in life." 

This is what Mancebo does, sits outside his shop watching the world everyday - "unconsciously registering everything that goes on in the street." Then one evening, in the wind and rain, a woman appears in the shop - in passages that reminded me of Rapunzel, Snow White and some disney  / dahl mash up fairy tale - and asks him to spy on her husband. Why pay a detective when Mancebo sits opposite the building in which her husband frequents, watching everything that goes on? Why pay a detective when Mancebo would be the last person anyone would ever suspect of spying? He says yes. Why not? 

Then there's Helena, sitting in a cafe and as a joke, or out of boredom, she finds herself engaging in a exchange with a strange man who is furtively seeking out someone for some kind of purpose that appears very mysterious. She doesn't really believe he'll fall for her claim that she is the person he has been sent to meet and it really starts out as a game to see how long she can play along with him but it's amazing how convincing she can be based on such a limited conversation! Before she knows it, she finds herself accompanying him to an office building, being given her own office space and paid money to forward emails that are all written in code. 

I was intrigued by this set up, and I was taken with these characters and what was going on immediately!  I enjoyed the gentle, humorous lilt of the author's writing as she described the characters, their internal thoughts, relationships and decisions. And I enjoyed the setting which was wonderfully evoked. 

It is told in alternating points of view and alternating story lines which weave themselves together as the story line evolves. It did take me a while to acclimatise to the different voices as the narrative switches quite sharply but as one is in third person and one first, one male and one female, there is enough to differentiate the voices. After initially settling in to the story with Mancebo so easily perhaps I was a little jolted by the introduction of the second thread but with a little more perseverance and concentration, I was caught up in the story once more.

I think the thing I enjoyed the most though was the writing style. The prose is understated but simultaneously arresting and evocative, if that is possible!  Rostland is able to convey the sights, smell, touch and sounds of the city, the characters, their environments, the situations they find themselves in with a deft hand and I found it a real treat to read such well crafted prose. There were a few lines that really stood out and really showed some nice observations about the characters. 

Waiting for Monsieur Bellivier will be enjoyed by readers who enjoy literary fiction and is published by Orion on 10th August 2017.

The Room by the Lake

So one day you pack your bag, get on a plane and go to New York. New York, new start. New York, new start. Say it enough and it might happen, but how easy is it to run away from your problems and grief and start somewhere new? 

Not that easy, especially when you are Caitlin and you've never done anything like this before. But then she meets Jake and feels like suddenly there might be a reason to stay after all. He even wants to take her away to the Lake to meet his family. So why not? I mean, it does sound like something out of a horror movie but Caitlin tells him this and quizzes him on whether she is his final victim. He claims this is not the case in his quiet, withdrawn but seemingly harmless manner. .......

This isn't a horror movie and Caitlin isn't Jake's final victim - well, that's not strictly true..... but the fate awaiting Caitlin isn't anything like the fate she feared. It's a lot lot worse. 

I enjoyed this story and I enjoyed Caitlin's character. She appears strong and savvy but actually is broken and vulnerable. She yearns for the peace, solace and space that the commune Jake has brought her to by the lake appears to offer. She is even willing to take part in some therapy and confront some of the issues that are haunting her night and day. But as the days continue, it becomes clear that actually Caitlin is not safe here and it is not going to be 'fine'. 

The author has really exploited the idea of control, sleep, nightmares, waking dreams, fugues and psychosis here. I knew that I couldn't quite trust what was going on and I had suspicions about what might be going on but I was entranced by the spell binding power of the writing in the same way that the members of the commune are caught up in the power of their leaders. The use of flashback, memories and mantras to emphasise Caitlin's fragile state of mind, and her familiarity with mental health, are cleverly interwoven into the story so that the reader feels they are losing a grip on their sanity as much as Caitlin is. 

This is a quick read, thankfully, as it is pretty intense and I think reading in one go meant I was really immersed in the mind of Caitlin. I thought this book raised a lot of questions about therapy, healing, what is real, what is perceived to be real and how we try to find ourselves when we are lost. 

It's a menacing tale and the author has created a novel full of suspense, tension, with tautly controlled moments of anxiety, fear and threat. A chilling read and also a thought provoking one.

The Room by the Lake is published on 10th August 2017 by Head of Zeus. 


For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk

Monday, 7 August 2017

#HollySeddon #DontCloseYourEyes #BibliomaniacsBookClub

Bibliomaniac's Book Club: Bonus Edition!

Don't Close Your Eyes
by Holly Seddon 


What is Don't Close Your Eyes about? 

Twin sisters Robin and Sarah haven’t spoken in years.

Robin can’t leave her house. A complete shut-in, she spends her days spying on her neighbors, subtly meddling in their lives. But she can’t keep her demons out forever. Someone from her past has returned, and is desperate to get inside.

Sarah can’t go home. Her husband has kicked her out, forcibly denying her access to their toddler. Sarah will do anything to get her daughter back, but she’s unraveling under the mounting pressure of concealing the dark secrets of her past. And her lies are catching up to her.

Read my 5* review here

I am delighted to welcome Holly Seddon to my blog today as I absolutely love Don't Close Your Eyes, published by Corvus on 6th July 2017, and I think it makes a great book for a book club discussion.  I am even more thrilled that Holly agreed to answer a few questions about her novel and about her own reading first before we get on to the Book Club questions!

Q&A WITH HOLLY SEDDON



Don’t Close Your Eyes has two main characters, Sarah and Robin, who each take turns in telling their story, one in first person and one in third. There is also a dual timeline between 1989 and the present day. What techniques did you use to help you plan the structure and writing of this story?

I used writing program Scrivener and got a lot of headaches. In all seriousness, this was the most complicated structure I’ve ever written (including my third book, which I’ve just finished editing) and I had to plan it very carefully, chapter by chapter, to make sure that it was seamless for the reader. It was actually even more complex at one point because there were extra points of view but thankfully they didn’t make it past the first draft!

The story is also about twins. Why did you decide to make the sisters twins? Which sister came first when you were creating the story or did they both “arrive” at the same time?

I knew the story would be about siblings and blended families, of sorts, but the character who came to me first was Robin. She basically arrived fully formed, with an attitude, style, history, interests and looks already in place. It was almost eerie!

Growing up I had friends who were non-identical twins and always found that very interesting. There are so many expectations with twins, not least that they’ll be identical in looks and character, so I wanted to show some more shades of grey.

There is a lot about mental health in this novel. What effect did that have on you when writing and how did you ensure that your portrayal was not only so convincing and authentic but also so thoughtful and respectful?

Frankly, it’s hard and nerve-wracking writing about experiences that you know some – maybe many - readers will recognise in themselves or those they love. Experiences that people I care about may have experienced in some form. So I take it very, very seriously. I read a lot and also listen to the experiences of others.

I try to be respectful, to err on the side of showing less, not more. I don’t want to be flippant and I do want it to feel authentic or I shouldn’t cover those topics. Do it right, or don’t do it. And I hope upon hope that I’ve done it right.

(I absolutely think you have done it very well - such a tricky one to get right, but I thought it was very well handled indeed. Hopefully other readers agree!) 

What are your top tips for creating tension and effective plot twists in fiction?

Less is more. So often it’s in the not showing, rather than the showing. The hints and the shadows are where the creepiness lies, I think.

Oh and watch as much Alfred Hitchcock as you can get your hands on! Rear Window was an influence on Don’t Close Your Eyes (which is probably obvious to those who have read it) but as well as the films, my middle son and I got really obsessed with the old 1950s/60s series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which consists of 25 minute episodes of crime, mystery, thriller stories.

Oohh, I did think of Rear Window when I read this, but love the idea of watching the Alfred Hitchcock Presents series! Great tip!

Thank you so much Holly for your fab answers! Now on to a few quick fire questions about your reading! 

If you are or if you were in a book club which book are you reading / would like to read?

I am in a book club and I love it. It forces me to read outside of my genre and, many times, outside of my own interests so I’m exposed to fresh ideas and styles. Last month we read The Power by Naomi Alderman and I had such a book hangover when it finished. God it’s good. I bought a copy for my teenage daughter when I was only a third of the way through because I wanted to discuss it with her too! This month we’re reading The Sellout by Paul Beattie, I’ve not read much yet but it’s made me hoot and howl in despair already.

Great recommendations - I have bought The Power as the lovely Steph at Harpenden Books raved about it so much I couldn't leave without buying a copy! 

If you could ask a book club one question about your book what would it be?

Did you guess the twist? (So far, no one has.)

If you could invite any author / fictional character to a book club, who would it be and why?

Ohhhhh, that’s such a hard one! I went to Harrogate Crime Writing Festival recently and had such a great time. I’ve never met so many authors en masse and I even managed to meet Lee Child, very briefly and awkwardly, so that scratched a lot of ‘must meets’ off the list.  I’m not sure if this is allowed, but can I go for a deceased author? I’d love to meet Agatha Christie. I’d love to know how she was so prolific, I’d love to know if she knew what she was doing when she ran away and I’d love to pick her brains on what makes the perfect mystery set-up.

(That is a great answer!!!! Totally agree with your choice!!) 

What books have influenced your writing? Or which book do you wish you’d written?

Hmm. I’m not very good at saying who has influenced my writing because so much of it is unconscious. I’m quite a visual writer and I think television drama and crime series have had quite an impact on me, not just the new Scandi crop but older shows like Cracker.

Growing up I loved ghost stories (like The Ghost of Thomas Kempe) and adventure yarns (especially Famous Five), the creepier and eerier the better.

I don’t think anyone would liken me to this lot, but as a teenager and young adult I loved Charles Bukowski, Peter Carey, Douglas Coupland and Martin Amis. Yeah, no one is ever going to compare me to them!

I love writers who are crisp and sparing, and I think I’m always trying to get my sentences as simple and clean as possible. Unlike my answers to these questions, sorry!

Do you have one book you are desperate to read this year?

I’m very excited to read I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes of Death by Maggie O’Farrell.  

Thanks so much Holly, these are fabulous answers, some great suggestions and recommendations! I really enjoyed hearing your answers and thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to answer them! 

So now, here are some questions to accompany Don't Close Your Eyes if you choose it as your Book Club read! 

QUESTIONS FOR BOOK CLUB:

The novel is told with a dual timeline and from two different points of view. How challenging, if at all, did you find this as a reader? Did you find this an effective way of revealing the story and the characters?

How authentic did you find the relationship between the sisters? Which sister were you more drawn to and why?

Robin watches another family from her window and makes her own assumptions about what she is seeing. Why do you think the author decided to include this storyline? What point might the author being trying to raise? Does it remind you of any other books or films?

There is a lot about parenting in this novel. What key issues do you think the author is trying to make in this novel regarding parenting and motherhood?

How well do you think this book would transfer to the big screen?  What might be the pros and cons of an adaption? Who might you cast as the key characters?

And, as Holly asked, did you guess the twist?!!


IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY HOLLY SEDDON'S FIRST NOVEL "TRY NOT TO BREATH" 


Amy Stevenson was the biggest news story of 1995. Only fifteen years old, Amy disappeared walking home from school one day and was found in a coma three days later. Her attacker was never identified and her angelic face was plastered across every paper and nightly news segment.

Fifteen years later, Amy lies in the hospital, surrounded by 90’s Britpop posters, forgotten by the world until reporter Alex Dale stumbles across her while researching a routine story on vegetative patients.

Remembering Amy’s story like it was yesterday, she feels compelled to solve the long-cold case.

The only problem is, Alex is just as lost as Amy—her alcoholism has cost her everything including her marriage and her professional reputation.

In the hopes that finding Amy’s attacker will be her own salvation as well, Alex embarks on a dangerous investigation, suspecting someone close to Amy.

Told in the present by an increasingly fragile Alex and in dream-like flashbacks by Amy as she floats in a fog of memories, dreams, and music from 1995, Try Not to Breatheunfolds layer by layer to a breathtaking conclusion.





HAVE A LISTEN TO HOLLY SEDDON ON HONEST AUTHORS PODCAST WHICH SHE CO HOSTS WITH THE FABULOUS GILLIAN MCALLISTER AUTHOR OF EVERYTHING BUT THE TRUTH 

@HonestAuthors







FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HOLLY SEDDON 

Holly Seddon is a full time writer, living slap bang in the middle of Amsterdam with her husband James and a house full of children and pets. 

Holly has written for newspapers, websites and magazines since her early 20s after growing up in the English countryside, obsessed with music and books. 

Her first novel, TRY NOT TO BREATHE, was published worldwide in 2016 and became a bestseller in several countries. DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES is her second novel.

www.hollyseddon.com

Holly Seddon on Goodreads

Holly Seddon on Facebook

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk