Book Review for THE HEATWAVE by Kate Riordan

the heatwave kate riordon

SYNOPSIS

Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was troubled. Elodie is dead.

Sylvie hasn’t been back to her crumbling French family home in years. Not since the death of her eldest daughter Elodie.

Every corner of the old house feels haunted by memories of her – memories she has tried to forget.

But as temperatures rise, and forest fires rage through the French countryside, a long-buried family secret is about to come to light.

Because there’s something Sylvie’s been hiding about what really happened to Elodie that summer.

And it could change everything.

MY THOUGHTS

Oh how I loved this book!

It had all the ingredients I like in a novel. A tense psychological thriller, a buried past, sun, heat and the South Of France.  What a great book to loose yourself in at the moment.

I was whisked off to the building heat and tensions of a heatwave gripping The South of France as we follow Sylvie, as she heads back to France, to her old family home after receiving a letter to say there has been some damage to the empty property after a small fire.  Born and raised in France, Sylvie has been living in London for over 10 years, seemingly leaving home after traumatic events.  Needing to take her daughter with her she reluctantly heads off with a view to sort things out and finally put the house on the market, where it can be sold and finally gotten rid of once and for all.

As we enter the house and dust off its cobwebs so too do we learn, via flashbacks, of the mysteries that surround Sylvie’s first daughter Elodie, a brilliantly created character. The fear, pain and love that Sylvie experienced back then is wonderfully written along with the day to day happenings, some compellingly mysterious, that take place as we stay at La Reverie.  Evocative and captivating, tiny details in the narrative superbly evoke time and place with wonderful characters and the gradual build of tension throughout the book.

We slowly learn of the story that surrounds Elodie and read the reactions of both family and locals as the truths begin to surface.  Like the summer fires that surround the village, enclosing in on the house, so does the past and bringing with it it’s present danger.

Wonderful smaller characters add even more to the novel, bringing with then their own perspectives and past actions.

I don’t want to give any more of the story line away and spoil it for another reader but I was utterly absorbed in this book and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.  A sultry thriller that also had a wonderful dose of the french sun and way of life.  This has definitely gone into my top five reads of the year so far.  Loved it!!!

Available from BookShop.org https://uk.bookshop.org/a/1882/9781405922623

Amazon EBook https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heatwave-southern-gripping-psychological-suspense-ebook/dp/B08111P5CS/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3HEX5TP2I81CO&dchild=1&keywords=the+heatwave+kate+riordan&qid=1604425610&s=books&sprefix=the+heatwave%2Cstripbooks%2C173&sr=1-1

#bookreview #newrelease YOURS CHEERFULLY by @ajpearcewrites @picadorbooks @CamillaElworthy

proof copy

Published by Picador Books

Released June 24th

352 pages

https://uk.bookshop.org/a/1882/9781509853946

SYNOPSIS

Following the departure of the formidable Editor, Henrietta Bird, from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, is still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, but bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.

When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty, and standing by her friends.

Every bit as funny, touching and cheering as AJ Pearce’s debut, Dear Mrs BirdYours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship, a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.

MY THOUGHTS

Like many others I adored reading Dear Mrs Bird. The wonderful characters and brilliant friendships that featured in this book came to life on the page, so when I heard that this new book by the author follows some of those characters into the next chapter of their lives I couldn’t wait to read a copy.

Following the departure of Mrs Bird, the start of the novel fills the reader in on the new structure of The Women’s Friend Magazine. Mr Collins (Guy) is now Editor, Mrs Mahoney takes on the Help Column and it is much to Emmy’s relief that she is given another go at working on the regular slot, of replying to the letters received from it’s readers and we are introduced and reintroduced to the rest of the team. Emmy and Charles have grown even closer and Bunty is still recovering from the traumatic events which befelled her in Dear Mrs Bird.

The authors style of writing had that warm feeling for the characters soon returned back to me and it was as if I was just reading on from the previous book.

In this new novel, the Ministry of Information calls on women’s magazines to help them recruit more female workers to the factories etc, as much needed help and supplies is needed to help the men out fighting. Mr Collins asks Emmy to accompany him to the first meeting and Emmy immediately knows this is something she can really get her teeth into and not only help, but prove to herself and others that she can be a real journalist. But when she meets a young women called Anne and the others at the Chandlers factory, Emmy is soon shown that recruitment isn’t really the main problem for many female workers.

Meanwhile we still get to read of the personnel lives of the characters as the author yet again does a marvellous job of portraying relationships at this time in history. The feel of the city, rationing and the wonderful vocabulary used make for a super read, and one which I very much enjoyed.

The book highlights the facts of what it was like for women to work in the second world war and uses it’s characters to really bring home the difficulties they faced. Once again the author really describes the emotions and fears people had at this time, particularly with family and loved ones and that ever present fear of if they will see them again.

As before we learn of some of the worries and problems women faced through their letters to the magazine but also follow the characters as they experience little rays of light at this dark time.

A warm and wonderful read.

Many thanks to Camilla Elworthy at Picador Books for sending me this proof copy. And a quick shout out to the beautiful sprayed edge version I’ve seen, which, if there are any left, will definitely be landing in by basket!

#bookreview #blogtour #newrelease SLEEPLESS by @romyhausmann @JoeChristie @QuercusBooks #Sleepless

Many thanks to Joe Christie for sending me a proof copy of this book. I really enjoyed reading the author’s first book Dear Child so was very keen to read this new one.

Sleepless

Published June 24th 2021

Published by Quercus Books

336 pages

https://uk.bookshop.org/a/1882/9781529408362

SYNOPSIS

It’s over, my angel. Today I’m going to die. Just like her. He’s won.

It’s been years since Nadja Kulka was convicted of a cruel crime. After being released from prison, she’s wanted nothing more than to live a normal life: nice flat, steady job, even a few friends. But when one of those friends, Laura von Hoven – free-spirited beauty and wife of Nadja’s boss – kills her lover and begs Nadja for her help, Nadja can’t seem to be able to refuse.

The two women make for a remote house in the woods, the perfect place to bury a body. But their plan quickly falls apart and Nadja finds herself outplayed, a pawn in a bizarre game in which she is both the perfect victim and the perfect murderer . . .

MY THOUGHTS

Having read and enjoyed Dear Child, I was looking forward to this second novel, which didn’t disappoint. Concentration is needed for the first part of the book as there are three different story lines, with different characters to follow, but I like a mystery which keeps me on my toes.

The three story lines involve Nadja and Laura, as Laura asks for her old friend’s help after she has killed her lover! The story of Nelly Schutt, a young woman who was murdered five years before, plus interspersed between these stories are anonymous letters from yet another different time line.

I was unclear how these three strands would ever connect, but that same feeling of not quiet knowing what was going on, intentional I’m sure, was just what I wanted, reminding me of Dear Child and with a similar dark, sinister feel and cleverly written twists and turns, but this time with a slower moving pace, made for an interesting and enjoyable read.

The book covers some deeper questions and topics which were well written, and the group of often dark and unlikable characters works perfectly within the story. The end sees all that’s happened come together, as the pace and suspense builds wonderfully with a great finish.

I found this a compelling and multi layered read, which was well written and translated, and thought it another clever novel from this author.

#bookreview #blogtour Foregone by Russell Banks @noexitpress @OldcastleBooks #newrelease @holliemcdevitt #FOREGONE

It’s my stop on the blog tour today and I’m delighted to share with you all my review. Many thanks, as always, to the publishers No Exit Press/ Oldcastle Books for my proof copy.

Russell Banks, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is one of America’s most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Common Wealth Award for Literature. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.

SYNOPSIS

At the center of Foregone is famed Canadian American leftist documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife, one of sixty thousand draft evaders and deserters who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam. Fife, now in his late seventies, is dying of cancer in Montreal and has agreed to a final interview in which he is determined to bare all his secrets at last, to demythologize his mythologized life. The interview is filmed by his acolyte and ex-star student, Malcolm MacLeod, in the presence of Fife’s wife and alongside Malcolm’s producer, cinematographer, and sound technician, all of whom have long admired Fife but who must now absorb the meaning of his astonishing, dark confession.

Imaginatively structured around Fife’s secret memories and alternating between the experiences of the characters who are filming his confession, the novel challenges our assumptions and understanding about a significant lost chapter in American history and the nature of memory itself. Russell Banks gives us a daring and resonant work about the scope of one man’s mysterious life, revealed through the fragments of his recovered past.

proof copy

MY THOUGHTS

Leonard Fife is a mythologised Canadian American documentary filmmaker. He is so well known everyone knows his story, how he came to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, how he found his early stories and developed his campaigning style. Through the course of the book, effectively in soliloquy, a terminally ill Fife sets the record straight, exploding myths and exploring the truths behind the life he has led.

As a filmmaker it’s inevitable that the last interview is itself filmed. It’s a highly stylised production for national Canadian TV, with a single spotlight, so Fife (and the reader) can’t be sure who is listening. He has worked with the film crew for years, there are squabbles across the group, historical animosity and yet a willingness to get this last interview of a dying man, perhaps as a way to revive flagging and stalled careers.

Fife is a cantankerous, demanding old man. His life story builds in pieces, initially apparently at random, the story cleverly taking breaks then restarting elsewhere. At times it’s deliberately incoherent, as the reader it’s sometimes not clear if these are true events, muddled memories or the confusion of a medicated, seriously ill man. The spontaneous and random decisions of Fife’s early life are at odds with the person we are presented with at the start and it’s hard initially to believe the stories can be true. This ambiguity with the insistence of the director that they should focus on the “real”, received history keep you guessing and engaged. If the story we are told is true Fife was a serial runaway, reinventing himself in a new place and happy to perpetuate convenient misunderstandings if they suit him. This interview is his final confession to the lies that made the myth.

A compelling read written in Bank’s true style, with intelligence, grit and raw truth. As I read Fife’s ‘confession’ I began to dislike him more and more, but the style of writing constantly kept me on my toes, trying to work out what was true and what was not. I’m still trying to work that out now! A very interesting read.

THE AUTHOR

Russell Banks

RUSSELL BANKS has published ten novels, six short story collections, and four poetry collections. His novels Cloudsplitter and Continental Drift were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Two of Banks’s novels have been adapted for feature-length films, The Sweet Hereafter (winner of the Grand Prix and International Critics Prize at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival) and Affliction (which earned a ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Oscar for James Coburn). 

Info

Foregone by Russell Banks

Published June 22nd 2021

Paperback edition

Publisher No Exit Press

320 pages

Purchase link https://uk.bookshop.org/a/1882/9780857304599

#bookreview #newrelease THE PROMISE BY DAMON GALGUT @vintagebooks #ThePromise #NetGalley

Publisher Chatto and Windus

Published June 17th 2021

304 pages

SYNOPSIS

The Promise charts the crash and burn of a white South African family, living on a farm outside Pretoria. The Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for – not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land… yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled.

The narrator’s eye shifts and blinks: moving between characters, flying into their dreams; deliciously lethal in its observation. And as the country moves from old deep divisions to its new so-called fairer society, the lost promise of more than just one family hovers behind the novel’s title.

In this story of a diminished family, sharp and tender emotional truths hit home. Confident, deft and quietly powerful, The Promise is literary fiction at its finest.

MY THOUGHTS

So subtle and cleverly written, I’m not even sure how to begin to explain how this book is put together, but it works, and I found I couldn’t stop myself wanting to read on and learn more about these characters.

Spanning from the 1980’s to present day the story is about a white South African family called the Swarts. The book opens with the death of the mother (Ma) and on her death dead, as the farther sits with his wife, the youngest child, Amor, overhears the mother make her husband promise to give the little house their maid Salome lives in with her son, to her, in recognition of the time and care she has given to Ma during her illness. This promise stays with Amor and over the coming years we quickly learn it is of little importance to the remaining members of this decidingly fractured family.

We are introduced to each member of the family at Ma’s funeral and as the book continues we learn from the characters themselves more about each of them and how the family disintegrates as a unit. The plot is slow moving and often sad but the amazing way this book is written and the overall feel of the book kept me enthralled.

The narration is done in a way I have never come across before. Moving around constantly from third, second and first person, at points they seem to be talking to the reader, at others the narrator when talking of a character in the third person seems to enter their thoughts, giving us the dialogue within their head, and with no speech marks it takes a little getting used to but I did. At times it felt like I was watching a play with a narrator and characters all on stage with my head turning back and forth to each as they speak.

Key figures within South Africa’s past are mentioned and so to are the water shortages, power cuts and even sporting events like the Rugby and along with the dynamics within the family, their religions, mental heath, alcohol consumption, and affairs, it all adds up to a wonderfully rounded but subtle look at one family over the years.

The story is divided up into chapters about each of the family members, learning a little of their past from when the book begins, but mainly watching their lives unfurl as the decades move along and each time we see Amor returning home with that Promise.

A really engaging, atmospheric and wonderfully written novel.

Many thanks to Mollie Stewart at Vintage Books for bringing this book to my attention and my advance readers copy via Netgalley.

CRÈME DE LA CRIME #TheakstonAward @HarrogateFest @Midaspr

I’M DELIGHTED TO SHARE WITH YOU ALL TODAY, THE SHORTLIST FOR THEAKSTON OLD PECULIER CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2021 I’m excited to be able to share the six authors shortlisted for the award after being chosen by a public vote and the prize Academy.

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SHORTLIST REVEALED FOR THEAKSTON OLD PECULIER CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2021

#TheakstonAward | @HarrogateFest |

harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com

ELLY GRIFFITHS | ROSAMUND LUPTON | BRIAN MCGILLOWAY  

ABIR MUKHERJEE |CHRIS WHITAKER | TREVOR WOOD

Harrogate, 15 June 2021: The six authors shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year are today unveiled after being chosen by a public vote and the prize Academy.  Now in its 17th year the most coveted prize in crime fiction – presented by Harrogate International Festivals – celebrates crime writing at its best, transporting readers around the world from Calcutta to California to the frigid North Sea.

This year’s longlist recognises author Chris Whitaker who hopes to claim the trophy on his first ever nomination with We Begin at The Endapowerful story of crime, punishment, love and redemption set in coastal California.

Sunday Times bestselling author Rosamund Lupton’s thrilling story of gunmen opening fire on a Somerset School has clinched a coveted spot on the shortlist. Three Hourssets the clock ticking for the hostages in a nail-biting exploration of white supremacy and radicalisation.

The creator of Norfolk’s best loved forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway Elly Griffiths is hoping that her seventh prize nomination takes her one step further to take the title. The twelfth novel in the whodunnit series, The Lantern Men sees Galloway return to the fens to hunt down a serial killer.

Trevor Wood’s meteoric rise continues as the debut author goes from being selected for Val McDermid’s highly respected ‘New Blood’ panel at the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival to being shortlisted for the coveted trophy with his acclaimed novel The Man on the Street. As a former naval officer, Wood brings to bear remarkable insight in this story of a homeless Falklands veteran with severe PTSD turned criminal investigator.

Scottish-Bengali author Abir Mukherjee is vying for his latest Wyndham & Banerjee novel Death in the East – described by The Times as “the best so far of an unmissable series”. A mesmerising portrait of India, Assam and East End London, perhaps this third nomination for will prove lucky for the account-turned best-selling author?

The final title on this year’s shortlist is Northern Irish author Brian McGilloway’s second nomination for political thriller The Last Crossingwhichlooks atThe Troubles from the perspective of view of former operatives who like to think they have moved on.

The six shortlisted books for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2021 is:

The public are now invited to vote for the winner via www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com and the winner will be announced on the opening night of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Thursday 22 July, and will receive £3,000, and a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakston Old Peculier.

Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “This is it: the crème de la crème of crime. This shortlist really does showcase the breadth and depth of the genre. It’s going to be a fiercely fought prize this year so make sure you vote for your favourite. Until then, I look forward to raising a glass of Old Peculier at the winner’s announcement on 22 July!”

The award is run by Harrogate International Festivals sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with WHSmith and the Express, and is open to full length crime novels published in paperback 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021 by UK and Irish authors. The longlist was selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee, and representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd, the Express, and WHSmith.

ABOUT THE FESTIVAL AND DETAILS OF THE LONG LIST

ELLY GRIFFITHS | ROSAMUND LUPTON | BRIAN MCGILLOWAY  

ABIR MUKHERJEE |CHRIS WHITAKER | TREVOR WOOD

Harrogate, 15 June 2021: The six authors shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year are today unveiled after being chosen by a public vote and the prize Academy.  Now in its 17th year the most coveted prize in crime fiction – presented by Harrogate International Festivals – celebrates crime writing at its best, transporting readers around the world from Calcutta to California to the frigid North Sea.

This year’s longlist recognises author Chris Whitaker who hopes to claim the trophy on his first ever nomination with We Begin at The Endapowerful story of crime, punishment, love and redemption set in coastal California.

Sunday Times bestselling author Rosamund Lupton’s thrilling story of gunmen opening fire on a Somerset School has clinched a coveted spot on the shortlist. Three Hourssets the clock ticking for the hostages in a nail-biting exploration of white supremacy and radicalisation.

The creator of Norfolk’s best loved forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway Elly Griffiths is hoping that her seventh prize nomination takes her one step further to take the title. The twelfth novel in the whodunnit series, The Lantern Men sees Galloway return to the fens to hunt down a serial killer.

Trevor Wood’s meteoric rise continues as the debut author goes from being selected for Val McDermid’s highly respected ‘New Blood’ panel at the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival to being shortlisted for the coveted trophy with his acclaimed novel The Man on the Street. As a former naval officer, Wood brings to bear remarkable insight in this story of a homeless Falklands veteran with severe PTSD turned criminal investigator.

Scottish-Bengali author Abir Mukherjee is vying for his latest Wyndham & Banerjee novel Death in the East – described by The Times as “the best so far of an unmissable series”. A mesmerising portrait of India, Assam and East End London, perhaps this third nomination for will prove lucky for the account-turned best-selling author?

The final title on this year’s shortlist is Northern Irish author Brian McGilloway’s second nomination for political thriller The Last Crossingwhichlooks atThe Troubles from the perspective of view of former operatives who like to think they have moved on.

The six shortlisted books for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2021 is:

The public are now invited to vote for the winner via www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com and the winner will be announced on the opening night of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Thursday 22 July, and will receive £3,000, and a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakston Old Peculier.

Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “This is it: the crème de la crème of crime. This shortlist really does showcase the breadth and depth of the genre. It’s going to be a fiercely fought prize this year so make sure you vote for your favourite. Until then, I look forward to raising a glass of Old Peculier at the winner’s announcement on 22 July!”

The award is run by Harrogate International Festivals sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with WHSmith and the Express, and is open to full length crime novels published in paperback 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021 by UK and Irish authors. The longlist was selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee, and representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd, the Express, and WHSmith.

Fresh Water for Flowers by Velerie Perrin #bookreview #newrelease @Valerieperrin_ @EuropaEdUK @Midaspr @Gabriellamay24 #FreshWaterforFlowers #blogtour

cover

Fresh Water for Flowers

Published by Europa editions

Paperback released June 10th

ISBN: 9781787703117

https://uk.bookshop.org/a/1882/9781787703117

SYNOPSIS

Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Her daily life is lived to the rhythms of the hilarious and touching confidences of random visitors and her colleagues―three gravediggers, three groundskeepers, and a priest.

Violette’s routine is disrupted one day by the arrival of police chief Julien Seul, wishing to deposit his mother’s ashes on the gravesite of a complete stranger. Julien is not the only one to guard a painful secret: his mother’s story of clandestine love breaks through Violette’s carefully constructed defences to reveal the tragic loss of her daughter, and her steely determination to find out who is responsible.  

The funny, moving, intimately told story of a woman who believes obstinately in happiness, Fresh Water for Flowers brings out the exceptional and the poetic in the ordinary. A delightful, atmospheric, absorbing tale.

MY THOUGHTS

How do I even begin to review this book and give an insight into what it was to read it.

I adored this novel and fell into it’s pages from the moment I picked it up. I literally fell!

I swam, walked and sat amongst it’s wonderful assortment of emotions, stories, scenery and characters and don’t think I’ve ever read a novel with such a multifaceted story line.

Our main character, Violette, lives and works as a cemetery caretaker in a small town in Bourgogne. Her life appears simple as she spends her days growing vegetables and flowers, attending to the needs of the cemetery and spending parts of day with her colleagues, the local priest and those that come to attend funerals and visit the tombs and graves afterwards.

However, we soon learn a simple life is not what Violette has led, as we read we learn of the amazingly bittersweet backstory to our main character and meet the lives that have touched Violette over the last 25 odd years.

Brilliantly translated by Hildegarde Serle, the author uses dual timelines, 1st person narrative from Violette, 2nd person narrative from the perspective of other characters, and it all works beautifully, with some of it coming together at the end.

The book has an array of back stories and tales of those who come into the cemetery. The beginning shows us present day Violette and is intersperse with small, chapter length stories, of those that are buried within the beautifully kept grounds of the cemetery. It then goes on to tell us the backstory of Violette, her husband and the relationships they have both had which have impacted on their lives. We learn of heart-breaking events and emotions but also touching tales of friendship, courage and moving on.

The characters are an absolute joy to meet. Some complex and lost, others full of love and laughter. It really is a book that transported me away and took me on a journey of the most bittersweet story.

The settings are wonderfully evoked (I could have sat in the garden amongst her vegetables and flowers with the sun on my face for ages) and the pace, rhythmic flow and writing are sublime. Poetic, moving and with great sensitivity, yet even though I was sad to come to the end, I was left feeling light and soothed by reading it. Utter joy!

Hugh thanks to Gabriella Drinkald for bringing this book to my attention and sending me my copy to read. A definite contender for my read of this year and one I strongly recommend you read.

The Author

Valérie Perrin is a photographer and screenwriter who works with (and is married to) Claude Lelouch.  Her first novel, Les Oubliés du Dimanche, has won numerous prizes, including the 2016 Lire Élire and Poulet-Malassis prizes. Fresh Water for Flowers is her first novel to be translated into English and an international sensation.

Hildegarde Serle graduated in French from Oxford University. After working as a newspaper subeditor in London for many years, she obtained the Chartered Institute of Linguists Diploma in Translation. She is the translator of A Winter’s Promise and The Missing of Clairdelune, atmospheric, absorbing tale.

#bookreview #newrelease THE OUTSIDERS by @james_corbett @EyeAndLightning Published May 31st 2021

cover image

As always, huge thanks to Eye and Lightning for my EBook copy of The Outsiders ahead of publication day and many apologies for this slightly late review. The Outsiders was a smashing read and released to the world on May 31st so is available to buy now!

SYNOPSIS

Liverpool 1981.

As the city burns during inner city riots, Paul meets two people who will change his life: Nadezhda, an elusive poet who has fallen out of fashion; and her daughter Sarah, with whom he shares an instant connection. As the summer reaches its climax his feelings for both are tested amidst secrets, lies and the unravelling of Nadezhda’s past. It is an experience that will define the rest of his life. The Outsiders moves from early-80s Liverpool, via Nadezhda’s clandestine background in war-torn Europe, through to the present day, taking in the global and local events that shape all three characters. In a powerful story of hidden histories, lost loves and painful truths ambitiously told against the backdrop of Liverpool’s fall and rise, James Corbett’s enthralling debut novel explores the complexities of human history and how individual perspectives of the past shape everyone’s present.

MY THOUGHTS

In the summer before he goes to Cambridge, Paul falls in love with Sarah. As the summer passes Paul falls into the orbit of Sarah’s mother, Nadezhda, an enigmatic poet, famous in London literary circles in her day who married and moved to Liverpool, starting a family with Sarah’s now absent father.

At a drunken party on the night of her unexpected death Nadezhda confides a sensational story of her life in wartime German and subsequent escape. Through a series of missteps and the lies of Paul’s schoolboy friend, Christopher, Nadezhda’s death drives a wedge between Paul and Sarah with Paul leaving for Cambridge and a career in journalism without reconciling with Sarah. Throughout adulthood Paul pines, never settling down, throwing himself into work in the warzones of Europe

The story cleverly uses the events of Liverpool’s modern history, from the Toxteth riots through the Hillsborough tragedy and it’s rebirth as a regenerated cultural centre as staging posts, as a Liverpudlian and then a journalist Paul and his friends stories are cleverly weaved into this history. The dialogue and relationships of Paul with his friends, as they move across each others lives, coming and going, is honest and believable. There are some lovely subplots with Paul’s ex-friend Christopher building a career on a willingness to lie until he earns his comeuppance.

Eventually Paul begins working to verify Nadezhda’s story, it’s told as a mystery, with Nadezhda cast as an unreliable witness and Paul having to piece together seemingly contradictory sources and rumours to build the final tale with the pace picking up as time passes and those who knew Nadezhda become fewer. In the background is Paul’s yearning to understand what happened with his lost love Sarah.

Only as the book begins to draw to an end does the real truth about the night of Nadezhda’s death and do we hear first hand what happened to Sarah.

With a storytelling style reminiscent of David Nicholls or Nick Hornby this is an engaging book of lost love and discovery.

I really enjoyed reading this book and thought it was a fantastic debut. The flow and structure really kept be engaged and the insight into each character was very well written. Another fantastic release from this publisher and one I would recommend.

THE GIRL WHO DIED by Ragnar Jónasson #bookreview #newrelease @ragnarjo #TheGirlWhoDied @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks @JenLovesReading Publishing June 10th

Tasty Proof Pack!

SYNOPSIS

‘TEACHER WANTED ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD . . .’

Una knows she is struggling to deal with her father’s sudden, tragic suicide. She spends her nights drinking alone in Reykjavik, stricken with thoughts that she might one day follow in his footsteps.

So when she sees an advert seeking a teacher for two girls in the tiny village of Skálar – population of ten – on the storm-battered north coast of the island, she sees it as a chance to escape.

But once she arrives, Una quickly realises nothing in city life has prepared her for this. The villagers are unfriendly. The weather is bleak. And, from the creaky attic bedroom of the old house where she’s living, she’s convinced she hears the ghostly sound of singing.

Una worries that she’s losing her mind.

And then, just before midwinter, a young girl from the village is found dead. Now there are only nine villagers left – and Una fears that one of them has blood on their hands . . .

MY THOUGHTS

This is the fifth Ragnar Jonasson novel I have read now and he really has become an auto read for me. Still wonderfully Scandi Noir, as you would expect from this author, but with more of a chilly ghost story like feel to this new stand alone novel, I devoured it over a weekend. Wonderfully atmospheric, the lack of daylight and a slightly unreliable narrator made this a wonderfully creepy read.

Set in 1985/6 it follows Una, a thirty year old substitute teacher currently living in Rrykjavik. Unsettled, unsatisfied and with money constantly running tight, she is looking for a change of scene. Still suffering mentally from the suicide of her father and a growing disconnection from her mother, she has little to keep her in the city.

When her friend Sara comes round with a copy of the newspaper, she shows Una an advert for a teaching position in a very remote village called Skalar, in the very north-eastern tip of Iceland. With a population of only 10 people the advert is headed ‘Teacher Wanted At The Edge Of The World’ and persuades Una to apply.

Una gets the position and finds herself lodging in one of the houses in the village with a woman called Salka and her daughter, one of the two children Una will be teaching during the time of her stay. However the house has a strange feel about it and Una learns of an unsettling story of a young girl connected to the house.

With not a lot else to do in the village after her teaching duties have finished, Una tries to connect with the few others living there, but they all seem to be extremely private people and she doesn’t feel that welcomed so starts to have second thoughts about taking up the job. She however, meets Thor. More of her own age to the other villagers she feels a connection between them.

The story that follows is a wonderfully creepy tale, as we see Una become increasingly isolated as the winter darkness sets in, her evening sightings of the ghost of the girl, in the local story and her increasing intake of wine, all add to the unsettling feel of the book, and as the other residents start to turn against her, hiding secrets they clearly don’t want anyone outside the village to learn about, things start to become menacingly tense and the book takes on a claustrophobic quality the this author writes of so well. With a traumatic event happening at the Christmas service, and a stranger knocking at Sulka’s front door, is Una about to get involved in something dangerous? As she learns more of this isolated community the answer may turn out to be a definite YES.

An enthralling thriller read with a touch of the supernatural. Recommended reading.

THE SKYLIGHT by Louise Candlish #QuickReads @readingagency @midaspr @louise_candlish #TheSkylight

I’m so pleased to be highlighting this years Quick Reads list and today I’m sharing my review of one of those titles. The Skylight by Louise Candlish.

SYNOPSIS

Louise Candlish, The Skylight (Simon & Schuster)

They can’t see her, but she can see them… Simone has a secret. She likes to stand at her bathroom window and spy on the couple downstairs through their kitchen skylight. She knows what they eat for breakfast and who they’ve got over for dinner. She knows what mood they’re in before they even step out the door. There’s nothing wrong with looking, is there? Until one day Simone sees something through the skylight she is not expecting. Something that upsets her so much she begins to plot a terrible crime…

MY THOUGHTS

This wonderfully tense and compelling read had me hooked right from the very start. So much drama packed into just 89 pages it will have you glued to the page!

Simone and her boyfriend Jake live in a second floor flat. Unknown to anyone else, Simone can see directly down into the kitchen of the flat downstairs, owned by a couple called Gus and Alina. She can see what and when they eat and who joins them for drinks and a spot of dinner. If they are having an argument, rushed and late to leave the house or in an ordinary everyday mood. Until one day she sees………………………….

No. I’m not going to reveal anymore as it would be all too easy to spoil the plot but I found it a fantastic suspenseful read which I enjoyed every single page of. Tension, suspense, Louise Candlish’s writing, concentrated down into a double strength version of domestic noir. Brilliant!

About The Author

Louise Candlish is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Other Passenger and thirteen other novels. Our House won the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards. It is now in development for a major TV series. Louise lives in London with her husband and daughter.

Louise Candlish, author of The Skylight (Simon & Schuster) said: It’s an honour to be involved in this [next] year’s Quick Reads. Reading set me on the right path when I was young and adrift and it means such a lot to me to be a part of literacy campaign that really does change lives.”

All Six Of This Years Titles

OYINKAN BRAITHWAITE: The Baby is Mine (Atlantic)

LOUISE CANDLISH: The Skylight (Simon & Schuster)

KATIE FFORDE: Saving the Day (Arrow)

PETER JAMES: Wish You Were Dead (Macmillan)

CAITLIN MORAN: How to Be a Woman, abridged (Ebury)

KHURRUM RAHMAN: The Motive (HQ)

One in six adults in the UK – approximately 9 million people – find reading difficult, and one in three people do not regularly read for pleasure.

As you may know, Quick Reads plays a vital role in addressing these shocking statistics by inspiring emergent readers, as well as those with little time or who have fallen out of the reading habit, with entertaining and accessible writing from the very best contemporary authors.

This year Quick Reads is celebrating its 15th Anniversary, which means that over five million copies of Quick Reads titles have been distributed since the life-changing programme began in 2006. To celebrate, for every book bought until 31 July, another copy will be gifted to help someone discover the love of reading.

CELEBRATING THE 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF QUICK READS:

SHORT BOOKS AND GREAT STORIES TACKLING THE ADULT LITERACY CRISIS

27 May 2021 | £1 | #QuickReads

Huge thanks to Hannah Bright of Midas Publications for the copy of The Skylight to read and review and for the opportunity to help highlight this years Quick Reads.

HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Eva Carter #bookreview #newrelease #HowToSaveALife #NetGalley @KateWritesBooks #MantleBookClub @MantleBooks

Released tomorrow May 27th 2021 by Mantle Books I’m delighted to share with you today, my review for this heart-warming and honest novel

cover image

SYNOPSIS

A heart stops. Their story starts.

‘A sweeping, brave, epic love story. I was hooked from the very first page’ – Josie Silver

Sometimes saving a life is only the start of the story . . .

It’s nearly midnight on the eve of the millennium when eighteen-year-old Joel’s heart stops. A school friend, Kerry, performs CPR for almost twenty exhausting minutes, ultimately saving Joel’s life, while her best friend Tim freezes, unable to help.

That moment of life and death changes the course of all three lives over the next two decades: each time Kerry, Joel and Tim believe they’ve found love, discovered their vocation, or simply moved on, their lives collide again.

. . . Because bravery isn’t just about life or death decisions; it’s also about how to keep on living afterwards.

MY THOUGHTS

No one can ever tell how they may react in a crisis but this is exactly what teenage St John’s Cadets Kerry and Tim find out one New Years Eve in 1999. At a party the A level students, who have been close friends for years, watch as golden boy Joel, fit, heathy, gorgeous Joel, destined for the premier league, falls to the ground and has a cardiac arrest. Kerry rushes over and immediately uses her training and starts to perform CPR whilst onlookers call for an ambulance. Tim….freezes….for 18 whole minutes.

The story follows these 3 teenagers over the next 20 years as we see how their lives are affected by this and other elements and decisions they make about their futures.

I enjoyed reading this book. I found the characters likable and believable and the story was a heart warming, easy one to follow but which also touches on serious matters like mental health, drugs, expectations of others and caring for a sick parent. The author writes of how the two teenagers, who are both planning on studying medicine at university, deal with the events of that New Years Eve, and how the aftermath along with things already happening in their lives impacts on the decisions they then go on to make. We also read of the impact and mental and physical changes this has on Joel, which I thought was especially well done and researched.

The characters move in and out of each others lives over the course of the next 20 years as it mainly focuses on their love life, relationships, career and mental health.

I really liked the way the author combined this heart warming tale of young lives, with the subject matter of life after cardiac arrest. I felt the author had researched the topic well or had indeed personal experience of it and found the parts of the story which addressed recovery, physical, mental and emotional impact very interesting.

The chapters are written from the different perspectives of each of the main 3 characters and also headed with the year it is based in. There were some nice touches of dropping in key news events from the time and also the inclusion of A Guide to the Chain of Survival. I found the way life within a hospital was written very believable and enjoyed the parts showing the hierarchy within hospital’s for staff and trainees that exists. I particularly liked the character of Kerry and was eager to see her life turn out for the best for her. There are a number of smaller characters which add nicely to the story and found I it an enjoyable, interesting quick read.

Many thanks to the publishers for my advanced copy via NetGalley.