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Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

Local Girl Missing

I found the title and premise of this book very interesting and was really pleased to have a chance to download it from Netgalley. There were lots of things I really enjoyed about it and that made it stand out from the rest.

Firstly, I enjoyed the setting very much. I have a bit of a weakness for out of season holiday towns in the cold of winter and this book captured it perfectly. As Francesca goes back to her home town to confront the ghosts of the past, we feel with her the cold of the sea spray and the wind and rain.

We find out that Francesca’s best friend Sophie went missing when they were both teenagers and now a body has been found. As Francesca reconnects with the people and places of her past the story unfolds.

The way that Francesca interacts with people from her past is also interesting and skilfully done. The significance of some of the things that happen isn’t what the reader thinks it is.

These twists and turns lead towards some surprising twists and revelations at the end.

I found this to be a proper page turning read and I read it in two days while on holiday. The story is told in two strands – a present day one involving Francesca and one from the past telling Sophie’s story in the lead up to her disappearance. I found both narratives gripping and cleverly entwined as the past catches up with the present and the secrets about what really happened to Sophie are revealed.

An all round enjoyable read with plenty of surprises.

My review copy of this book was obtained via Netgalley.

You can find out more here.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Sandlands by Rosy Thornton


I have previously enjoyed reading Rosy Thornton’s novels, so I was really pleased when she offered to send me a copy of her new volume of short stories.

Sandlands is a delightful collection and, like all the best short story collections, it has unifying themes running through it.

The most obvious is the setting – the stories highlight various locations around Suffolk. But it is the way that the setting is used in the stories, and the collection as a whole, that really brings them to life.

One of the most striking motifs running through is the feel of the land itself. The hardness of  the ground after a frost, the dragging sogginess of mud underfoot when the fields are water logged. The stories are effective in making the reader feel in a very visceral way the connection the characters have to the place where they live.

As well as the significance of place, the threads of the stories reach out to each other across generations and across time. The importance of family and heritage underlines the themes of birth, death, life and the fragility of existence.

I like the way Rosy Thornton has played around with different forms of storytelling within the stories. In one we have a narrative told through a series of love letters, in another the use of photographs and video is central to the tale. These techniques give an extra layer of meaning and interest to the collection.

Each story contains little jewels in its own right as well as forming part of a cohesive collection. The ailing fox gently coaxed back to life, the owl watching over a cache of letters, the pub piano, the bells in a church tower, the rare plant blooming in an unexpected place.

What makes this collection stand out for me is the quality of the writing. It is full of emotion and sensitivity and gives the stories a sense of delicate poise that make them a joy to read. The characters, the places and the episodes are all exquisitely drawn and leave a sense of having really stepped into someone’s life for a brief moment.

If I had to choose favourites, they would probably be these two.

The Level Crossing - a woman comes to terms with tragic events from her family's past and contemplates her own future as she runs by a railway line.

Mad Maudlin - video images of a pub, a piano, and photographs. And something going on that is far more than meets the eye.

I suspect that this is a collection that different readers will all take something different away from. And that is how it should be.

I recommend this book to all lovers of short stories, and also to those who might be new to reading the form.

Thanks very much to the author for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

And you can find my reviews of some of Rosy’s other books here

Sunday, 3 July 2016

US Readers! Late Checkout on special offer

Late Checkout

by Alex Walters

Great news for readers in the US! For the next seven days my husband's book is on special offer. You can pick it up for just 99c.

Reviewers are saying - "Intelligent, intriguing and I want to read more."
"Well written crime novel, with engaging characters and plot to keep you turning the pages."
"I cared about the characters and the crime is intriguing. So, I might add, is Murrain’s unique little ‘talent.’'

You can buy Late Checkout here.

Or download a sample here.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Montecristo by Martin Suter


When Jonas Brand finds himself on a train from Zurich to Basel from which a stock trader appears to have thrown himself to his death, he gets caught up in a series of events that will ultimately place him in grave danger. Jonas is a film maker. He is mainly engaged in making short pieces for a celebrity lifestyle channel, but he wants more. He wants to pursue serious investigatory journalism, and also make his own film.

So when, having temporarily shelved the material on the train incident, he finds himself investigating what looks like a case of banking fraud he sees it as a chance to take his work more seriously.

He is helped by a colleague Max, a widower who has let his life go off the rails since his wife died, who urges him to follow up his investigation into bank notes with identical serial numbers. Max’s knowledge of banking tells him there is something serious going on and he helps Jonas find out more. But their joint interest in the case leads them both into danger.

I found this thriller interesting in that it gave glimpses into the worlds of both banking and film making and introduced some intriguing characters, of which Max was probably my favourite.

The plot is complex and involved and I found it a real page turner. The ending was somewhat low key for a thriller, but it left me thinking which I always think is a good thing in a book.

I recommend this book to thriller lovers.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here

Montecristo was translated into English by Jamie Bulloch.

Friday, 17 June 2016

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

My Husband’s Wife

My Husband’s Wife is a very complex story, and it is also very much a story of two distinct halves. The second half revisits the characters of the first half, but picks up their stories fifteen years later.

The book starts with newly-weds Lily and Ed. We know they are having problems in their marriage, and that there is something Lily should be telling her husband and isn’t. But we don’t know what. We also meet their neighbours, Francesca and her young daughter Carla. Their story is told from Carla’s point of view, firstly as a child and then later as an adult.

The first half spends a lot of time setting up the various characters and scenarios and at times it can feel a little slow moving, but it is well worth bearing with it. Trust me – you do need to know all this!

It is then in the second half that the story starts to really take off as it chases towards its dramatic climax. All the secrets and lies of the past come together to set the stage for a mighty battle of the characters towards the finish.

One of the interesting things about this book is that most of the characters are pretty unlikeable. They are selfish, they lie to each other and scheme to get their own way. And yet, Jane Corry has pulled off the clever trick of getting the reader interested in them and invested in their stories despite this.

Part of the complexity of the story is the way in which it deals with moral issues. Right and wrong, justice and injustice, truth and lies. As the story goes on we find out more and more about the characters’ motives and their inner lives and the layers of secrecy are peeled away to reveal what is really going on.

Fast moving, gripping and emotional. I recommend this to anyone who likes a thriller with real depth to the characters.

This book is available as an ebook now, and will be released in paperback on 25th August. 

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Late Checkout by Alex Walters - Special Offer

Late Checkout

by Alex Walters

Great news! Until 6pm tomorrow (UK time) Late Checkout is on special offer for a mere 99p! Get it while you can.

We also, for today only, have Murrain's Truth on FREE offer. So, if you love a bargain, why not scoot over to Amazon and get both!

You can buy Late Checkout here.

And you can download Murrain's Truth for free (today only) here.

If you read and enjoy them, we'd really appreciate a brief Amazon review!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Late Checkout by Alex Walters - Winners!

Late Checkout 

Thanks to everyone who dropped by over the weekend to read our posts about Late Checkout and to enter the two competitions!

We have winners!

The winner of the competition for the story about the best mishap in a hotel is Awen, with this gem. 

'We went to a hotel in Malta two years ago. It had a balcony with sliding patio doors. One evening I was sitting on the balcony with my Ipad writing, husband asked if I'd like a glass of wine (silly question) As he brought the two glasses of wine out, he closed the door with his elbow, to keep the insects out of the room... and locked us out. We couldn't climb over to anyone else's balcony to knock on their door to tell reception. There wasn't any one around to shout below, and to make matters worse, we'd put the bolt on the main door too. Neither had our phones to phone the hotel reception. I tried emailing the hotel reception... no reply. After a while I had the idea to use the SMSmessage app on my Ipad to message my son's Iphone! Husband despaired as son never answers his phone! I text,' Are you around?' Obviously his mum asking a weird question from Malta got him worried, I got an almost instant reply. "Yeah, you ok?" I explained we were trapped on our hotel balcony, dad had shut the door behind him and it locked, and needed him to phone Hotel reception and ask them to rescue us, although the bolt was also on the room door." Reply? "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!" He did phone them and sent a message that the porter would rescue us soon. After another 30 minutes we could see the handle being wiggled then a knife blade working on the door frame and lock and another 15 minutes later the porter opened the door. We were very pleased to see him as there were loads of biting insects gathering near my bare arms and legs. Apparently, he carries his trusty penknife around with him, as we were not the first people to get locked out. We were so grateful, but he wouldn't take a reward ! After that we threw a towel in the door way to stop it closing.'

There were some other great contenders though, so do have a look at the comments on the competition post as well.

The winner of the competition to share the most interesting thing about your home town, which took place on the Alex Walters blog, was Mandy with this spooky offering.

'I live in Hitchin in Hertfordshire. There was a road in Hitchin that was once called Dead Street, because not a single person living there survived the plague of 1665. More cheerfully, the first translator of Homer, George Chapman, who was believed to be the rival poet in Shakespeare’s sonnets, was born and brought up here. The house is said to be now extremely haunted.'

Congratulations to both winners. I will be in touch in the next couple of days to ask for your addresses so that I can send you your signed books!

Meanwhile, don't forget you can buy Late Checkout here.

And you can read a sample for free here.