Thursday, 24 May 2018

Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult-sized hole would have taken longer....

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.

But when human remains are discovered at a former children's home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she's on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it's too late?

I love it when I read and enjoy the first book in a series as I have the excitement of knowing that there are more books about a particular set of characters to read.

This is a real page-turner of a book. Reading this was one of those occasions when I felt slightly cross at real life interfering with my reading pleasure.

The characters are very easy to engage with. Kim Stone is a detective with issues of her own to contend with and it was interesting to see the impact that those issues had upon how she carried out her day to day life as a police detective. She is efficient, strong-willed and driven and does not mind bending some of the rules if she feels the end justifies the means.

The rest of the characters are equally well fleshed out and Ms. Marsons has created a very believable and interesting set of characters that I can hardly wait to learn more about in the next book in this series, Evil Games

We are also given glimpses of the killer in the form of occasional chapters in the voice of the murderer. I found myself re-reading these particular chapters to try and guess who the killer was which, incidentally, I did not manage to do. I had my pet theory as to who was responsible only to be very surprised when the culprit was eventually revealed.

The plot is fast paced with plenty of twists and turns to ensure that I was up way past my bedtime reading 'just one more chapter'. A situation with which, I am sure, we are all familiar with.

If you enjoy a good crime novel then you will really enjoy this book and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

ISBN: 978 1785770524

Publisher: Zaffre

About the Author:

Angela discovered her love of writing at Primary School when a short piece on the rocks and the sea gained her the only merit point she ever got. She wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.

After much urging from her partner she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries. She self-published two of her earlier works before concentrating on her true passion – Crime.

After many, many submissions she signed an 8 book deal with Bookouture as their first crime author.

She lives in the Black Country with her partner, bouncy Labrador and potty-mouthed parrot.  

Friday, 18 May 2018

Jerusalem Stone by Susan Sofayov

On September 15, 2008, Julie Wasserman’s life collapsed. In the morning, she lost her job at Lehman Brothers. That afternoon, she lost her twin brother, Jack, in a car crash. 

A year and a half later, she returns home to Pittsburgh to start a new job and live up to a pledge to visit her brother’s grave every day. With six weeks to wait before the start of the new job, she steps out of character and purchases a plane ticket to Thailand, the one place her brother dreamed of visiting.

She arrives in Thailand, focused on trying to figure out how she is going to live in the world without her twin brother and best friend. But an interruption in the form of a sexy Israeli, Avi, distracts her from this goal. As he tries to make her see that their meeting was beshert, meant to be, she insists that she must return home to live up to her promise to Jack.

Feeling responsible for Jack’s death, Julie believes that he wouldn’t want her to be happy, but would expect her to mourn for the rest of her life. Can Avi find a way to convince her they are bashert and Jack wouldn’t want her to stop living, or is Julie doomed to a life of guilt and unhappiness unless a higher power steps in?

With the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle taking place tomorrow I fancied a bit of romance in my reading. Jerusalem Stone falls perfectly into that category and overall was a good read.

The thing I really liked about this book was the atmospheric descriptions of place. The story takes place in Thailand and Israel, neither places I have been fortunate enough to visit as yet, but I certainly want to now. Ms. Soayov's evocation of the travels of the two characters are extremely well done and she brought the places to life upon the page. The heat, smells and noises were palpable. In fact, the title takes it's name from the type of stone used on the buildings in Jerusalem and her descriptions were so elegantly drawn that I almost felt as though I was there.

If I am honest, it took me a little while to engage with the main characters in this book. Avi seemed too good to be true and Julie was so emotional that I could not imagine than any man would not run a mile when confronted by her tears on virtually every occasion that they met. Of course, she has been through some very difficult times and, therefore, it was not surprising that tears were always just below the surface. However, I think that was exactly the point that the author was trying to make. Avi is not an average man but someone whose understanding of Julie's pain was indeed quite remarkable.

Their relationship was about far more than two like-minded people meeting and falling in love whilst on holiday. Rather, there was something spiritual in their meeting and their love for one another was not confined to earthly reasoning but was determined by a higher power. Whilst the characters in this book are Jewish it is not a religious story. Whether you call it  destiny, fate or God it is about a kind of love that was meant to be.

Without giving anything away I loved the way this story was wrapped up so neatly at the end. I dare not say more as I would hate to spoil your enjoyment of this very satisfying story.

ISBN: 978 16269448556

Publisher: Black Opal Books

About the Author:

Susan Sofayov is a Pittsburgh based writer. She’s married to a wonderful, but completely unsupportive husband who feels she should focus less on writing and more time on her “real job” running the family real estate management company. She has three out-of-the-nest children and an aging small white dog.
She has a BA in English Literature and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA in Teaching from Chatham University.
Her debut novel Defective chronicles a young woman’s battle to live an ordinary life while struggling with undiagnosed bipolar 2 disorder. Her second novel, The Kiddush Ladies explores friendship, forgiveness and self-destruction. It was released by Black Opal Books in December 2016. Her newest work, Jerusalem Stone was released on January 27, 2018.  It takes the reader from Thailand to Israel while focusing issues such as grief, survivor guilt, love and accepting a higher power.
She loves meeting new people by attending book group meetings. Offer her a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and she’ll be happy to talk about her books with your Pittsburgh area group. If your group is outside of Pittsburgh, she’ll pour her own cup of coffee and meet you via Skype. You can reach her at
Finally, Susan suffers from an acute fear of commas and is dependent on a cadre of writing friends to help her put them in their proper place. None of those friends previewed this blog—forgive the comma errors.
Susan kindly gifted me a proof edition of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Autumn by Ali Smith

Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. That's what it felt like for Keats in 1819.

How about Autumn 2016?

Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic once-in-a-generation summer.

Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand in hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever.

Ali Smith's new novel is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. This first in a seasonal quartet casts an eye over our own time. Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu de'esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960's Pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history-making.

Here's where we're living. Here's time at its most contemporaneous and its most cyclic.

From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves.

Here comes Autumn.

I found this absolutely beautiful to read and I am excited that this is the first in a seasonal quartet. The language is poetic and lyrical and I loved every word.

The narrative moves seamlessly through time - moving back and forth from Elisabeth's present to her time as a child and considers her friendship with Daniel. We do see things from Daniel's perspective periodically, which did not always seem to make sense but this is a book that it is best to just go with the flow. Simply to immerse myself in the beauty of this book was a delightful experience akin to wallowing in the waves of a calm sea.

This is a novel which is extremely current. It is set in the UK following the Brexit referendum and the author has her ear very much to the ground in that she expresses how many of us feel. However, it is not a political book but one that considers issues of the present day.

If I had to pick one thing that I liked above all else in this book it would be the humour that is interwoven through the text. Ms. Shaw has a marvellous way of depicting bureaucracy to  demonstrate what nonsense it so often is. Elisabeth's experience in the post office was extremely amusing and her frustration was palpable.

It has been some years since I picked up one of Ali Smith's books but I will not be leaving it so long this time. I am very keen to read Winter, the next book in the quartet, and plan to do so very soon.

Have you read any novels by this author? I would love to hear your thoughts.

ISBN: 978-0241973318

Publisher:  Penguin

About the Author:

Ali Smith is a writer, born in Inverness, Scotland, to working-class parents. She was raised in a council house in Inverness and now lives in Cambridge. She studied at Aberdeen, and then at Cambridge, for a Ph.D. that was never finished. In a 2004 interview with writing magazine Mslexia, she talked briefly about the difficulty of becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for a year and how it forced her to give up her job as a lecturer at University of Strathclyde to focus on what she really wanted to do: writing. She has been with her partner, Sarah Wood, for 17 years and dedicates all her books to her.

Monday, 14 May 2018

A Book a Day for #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek - My Top Seven Books

Today is the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week. According to the charity Mind UK, approximately one in four of us will suffer from some degree of mental health problem each year. Many of us are touched by mental health issues in some way - either ourselves or in supporting others.

I wanted to highlight a few of the books that I have read which deal with this very important subject and have contributed to my understanding of this issue.

So here is my top seven books to consider reading and you can read my reviews by clicking on the book title. One per day for mental health awareness week.

A Horse Walks Into Bar by David Grossman

Forever Yours by Daniel Glattauer

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

Tales from the Underworld by Hans Fallada

Friday, 11 May 2018

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

Dr Ruth Galloway is flattered when she receives a letter from Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli, asking for her help. He's discovered a group of bones in a tiny hilltop village but doesn't know what to make of them. It's years since Ruth has had a holiday, and even a working holiday to Italy is very welcome!
So Ruth travels to Fontana Liri, accompanied by her daughter Kate and friend Shona. In the town she finds a medieval shrine and a dark secret involving the war years and the Resistance. To her amazement she also finds Harry Nelson, who is enduring a terrible holiday at a resort nearby. But there is no time to overcome their mutual shock - the ancient bones spark a modern murder, and Ruth must discover what secrets there are in Fontana Liri that someone would kill to protect.
I think I may have said before that this is one of my favourite series. Well, I was wrong, this is absolutely my favourite and without any shadow of a doubt. Whilst there are other series that I am enjoying reading, none of them are even coming close to knocking this one off its perch. 
This is book is number ten in the Dr Ruth Galloway series and it would have been very easy for them to become somewhat similar. This is absolutely not the case  and each one has a brand new plot and provides new insights into the characters.

I have read all ten of them and have reviewed The Janus Stone (#2)Ruth's First Christmas Tree (#4.5 - a novella)Dying Fall (#5) and The Woman in Blue (#8). You can read my reviews of these super books by clicking on the title links.

Although Ruth Galloway is the main character in the books, all the other characters are well developed too. In fact, each of the books builds on what we already know of them. Despite the fact that the books are so character led it is still possible to read any of them as a standalone. Personally though, I have enjoyed watching this character development by reading them in order.

I also love the way that Ms. Griffiths describes Norfolk where the books are largely set. I have been to Norfolk a few times and her portrayal of the area really is spot on.

The next book in this series, The Stone Circle, is due to be published in the UK early next year and I can't wait.

ISBN:  978 1784296667

Publisher: Quercus

About the author:

Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly's husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area.

She has two children and lives near Brighton.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.

Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures or when they started to appear on their own?

Was it a terrible accident?

Or when they found the first body?

We have just had a wonderfully sunny May Bank Holiday and it was the perfect excuse to sit in the garden and read. This was the perfect book for that as it is an easy to engage with crime novel that I got through in a couple of sittings.

The story is told from the perspective of the main character, Ed, who is now middle aged and looks back to a time leading up to an event when he was young. The narrative switches back and forth between the past and present and I liked the fact that it is easy to tell the difference in voice between the young and mature Ed.

The plot was well handled and the characters fully fleshed and, therefore, totally believable on both counts. There was a distinct creepiness throughout which kept me turning the pages. I did not anticipate the outcome and there was a twist right at the very end which sent a little shiver down my spine and which was a marvellous note to finish on.

As a debut novel this was fantastic and Ms. Tudor is very much an author to watch and has a clear gift for story telling. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

ISBN: 978 0718187439

Publisher: Michael Joseph

About the Author:

C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert. Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, dog walker, radio scriptwriter, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author. The Chalk Man is her first novel.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Library Low Down - 5th May 2018

I had another lovely visit to the library this weekend and found some great books. I am looking forward to reading these beauties.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The story begins in 1962. Somewhere on a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent water of the Ligurian Sea and views an apparition: a beautiful woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an American starlet, he soon learns, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away in Hollywood, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot searching for the woman he last saw at his hotel fifty years before.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

She was fifteen, her mother's golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

Ten years on, Laurel has never given up hope of finding Ellie. And then she meets a charming and charismatic stranger who sweeps her off her feet.

But what really takes her breath away is when she meets his nine-year-old-daughter. Because she is the image of Ellie.

Now all those unanswered question that have haunted Laurel come flooding back. What really happened to Ellie? And who still has secrets to hide?

Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson

Ramshakle and crumbling, trapped in the past and resisting the future, St. Saviour's Infirmary awaits demolition. Within its stinking wards and cramped corridors, the doctors bicker and fight. Ambition, jealousy and hatred seethe beneath the veneer of professional courtesy. Always an outsider, and with a secret of her own to hide, apothecary Jem Flockhart observes everything, but says nothing.

And then six tiny coffins are uncovered, inside each a handful of dried flowers and a bundle of mouldering rags. When Jem comes across these strange relics hidden inside the infirmary's old chapel, her quest to understand their meaning prises open a long forgotten past - with fatal consequences.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

At fourteen, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall; that chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it; that her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world. And he'll do whatever it takes to keep her with him.

She doesn't know why she feels to different from the other girls at school; why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see; why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done; and what her daddy will do when he finds out....