Posted in Book Review, International Thriller, Noir, Thriller

4* #Review -The Island – Ragnar Jonasson – Translator -Victoria Cribb @MichaelJBooks @ragnarjo #PublicationDay #Noir #Crime #Thriller #IcelandSeries #TheIsland

Four friends visit the island.

But only three return . . .

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to the isolated island of Elliðaey to investigate and soon finds haunting similarities with a previous case – a young woman found murdered ten years ago in the equally desolate Westfjords.

Is there a patient killer stalking these barren outposts?

As Hulda navigates a sinister game constructed of smoke and mirrors she is convinced that no one is telling the truth, including those closest to her.

But who will crack first? And what secrets is the island hiding?

Haunting, suspenseful and as chilling as an Icelandic winter, The Island follows one woman’s journey to find the truth hidden in the darkest shadows, and shine a light on her own dark past.

Amazon UK
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I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

‘The Island’ is the second in the #HiddenIceland series of noir crime novels. I haven’t read the first book, but this reads well as a standalone. Hulda is a troubled detective and her personality and emotional pain, make her perfect for the ethos of this series. The story is sinister and suspenseful, but rather than relying on action scenes for its interest and impetus, it delves deep into the characters and their secrets to reveal the plot’s twists and turns.

Hulda is haunted by her past and elements of the crime resonate with her, making her more personally involved with the events at the island and its players than is wise.

The story flicks between different timelines, which demands concentration. You need to enjoy this deep, slow-paced, dark storytelling to get something from this book, but it is authentic and a good example of its genre.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Literary Humour

The Rosie Result – 4* #Review – Graeme Simsion @MichaelJBooks @GraemeSimsion #Autism #PublicationDay #Literary #Fiction #Humour#Family #Friends #Society #DonTillman

Big-hearted, hilarious and exuberantly life-affirming, The Rosie Result is a story of overcoming life’s obstacles with a little love and a lot of overthinking.

Meet Don Tillman, the genetics professor with a scientific approach to everything. But he’s facing a set of human dilemmas tougher than the trickiest of equations.

Right now he is in professional hot water after a lecture goes viral for all the wrong reasons; his wife of 4,380 days, Rosie, is about to lose the research job she loves; and – the most serious problem of all – their eleven-year-old son, Hudson, is struggling at school. He’s a smart kid, but socially awkward and not fitting in.

Fortunately, Don’s had a lifetime’s experience of not fitting in. And he’s going to share the solutions with Hudson.

He’ll need the help of old friends and new, lock horns with the education system, and face some big questions about himself. As well as opening the world’s best cocktail bar.

Amazon UK

I missed out on the first two books in this trilogy, and although I enjoyed the reading ‘The Rosie Result’, I felt I missed out on some of the character development of Don and Rosie, that reading the previous books would give me. In terms of the story, it does read well as a standalone, as this focuses on the problems Hudson, Don’s son is having with his school life.

The book explores being on the autism spectrum, and what this means to the individual, their family, friends and the society they are part of. The tone of the book is lighthearted and many of the family’s experiences are recounted in a humorous way.

The author explores some important topical issues relating to Autism, such as the benefit of an autism diagnosis and the pros and cons of being labelled, and crucially whether autistic children’s behaviour needs to be modified, or should society accommodate them, without the need to conform?

The characters are believable and the issues discussed are handled sensitively and in a readable way. You quickly become invested in the family and want them to have a hopeful, satisfying future.

In summary, even if you haven’t read the other books in the series this is a worthwhile read, I enjoyed it, but if you can read the whole series do. The ending is well-written and realistic, whilst giving an optimistic outlook on the family’s future.

Posted in Book Review, Book Spotlight, Crime, Extract, Thriller

A Beautiful Corpse – 5* #Review Christi Daugherty @HarperFiction- @CJ_Daugherty-@HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #Paperback #PublicationDay #Crime #journalist #Savannah #Extract

It’s a thin line between love and murder…

A murder that shocks a city… 
Shots ring out on one of Savannah’s most famous streets. A beautiful law student lies dead.
  
A case full of secrets and lies…
Three men close to the victim are questioned. All of them claim to love her. All of them say they are innocent of her murder.
 
An investigation that could prove deadly…
As crime reporter Harper McClain unravels a tangled story of obsession and jealousy, the killer focuses on her. He’s already killed, one woman. Will he kill another?

Amazon UK

Extract from A Beautiful Corpse – Christi Daugherty

‘Eight ball in the corner pocket.’

Leaning over the edge of the pool table, Harper McClain stared across the long expanse of empty green felt. The cue in her hands was smooth and cool. She’d had four of Bonnie’s super-strength margaritas tonight, but her grip was steady.

There was a delicate, transient point somewhere between too much alcohol and too little where her pool skills absolutely peaked. This was it.

Exhaling slowly, she took the shot. The cue ball flew straight and true, slamming into the eight, sending it rolling to the pocket. There was never any question – it hit the polished wood edge of the table only lightly, and dropped like a stone.

‘Yes.’ Harper raised her fist. ‘Three in a row.’ But the cue ball was still rolling.

Lowering her hand, Harper leaned against the table. ‘No, no, no,’ she pleaded.

As she watched in dismay, the scuffed white cue ball headed after the eight like a faithful hound.

‘Come on, cue ball,’ Bonnie cajoled from the other side of the table. ‘Mama needs a new pair of shoes.’

Reaching the pocket lip, the ball trembled for an instant as if making up its mind and then, with a decisive clunk, disappeared into the table’s insides, taking the game with it.

‘At last.’ Bonnie raised her cue above her head. ‘Victory is mine.’

Harper glared. ‘Have you been waiting all night to say that?’ ‘Oh my God, yes.’ Bonnie was unrepentant.

It was very late. Aside from the two of them, the Library Bar was empty. Naomi, who had worked the late shift with Bonnie, had finished wiping down the bar an hour ago and gone home.

All the lights were on in the rambling bar, illuminating the battered books on the shelves that still covered the old walls from the days when it had actually been a library. It could easily hold sixty people but, with just the two of them, the place was comfortable – even cozy, in its way, with Tom Waits growling from the jukebox about love gone wrong.

Despite the hour, Harper was in no hurry to leave. It wasn’t far to walk. But all she had at home was a cat, a bottle of whiskey and a lot of bad memories. And she’d spent enough time with them lately.

‘Rematch?’ She glanced at Bonnie, hopefully. ‘Winner takes all?’ Propping her cue against a sign that read: ‘Books + Beer = LIFE’,

Bonnie walked around the table. The blue streaks in her long blond hair caught the light when she held out her hand.

‘Loser pays,’ she said, adding, ‘Also, I’m all out of change.’  ‘I thought bartenders always had change,’ Harper complained, pulling the last coins from her pocket.

‘Bartenders are smart enough to put their money away before they start playing pool with you,’ Bonnie replied.

There was a break in the music as the jukebox switched songs. In the sudden silence, the shrill ring of Harper’s phone made them both jump.

Grabbing the device off the table next to her, Harper glanced at the screen.

‘Hang on,’ she said, hitting the answer button. ‘It’s Miles.’ Miles Jackson was the crime photographer at the Savannah Daily News. He wouldn’t call at this hour without a good reason.

‘What’s up?’ Harper said, by way of hello.

‘Get yourself downtown. We’ve got ourselves a murder on River Street,’ he announced.

‘You’re kidding me.’ Harper dropped her cue on the pool table. ‘Are you at the scene?’

‘I’m pulling up now. Looks like every cop in the city is here.’ Miles had her on speaker phone – in the background, she could hear the rumble of his engine and the insistent crackle of his police scanners. The sound sent a charge through Harper. ‘On my way.’ She hung up without saying goodbye. Bonnie looked at her enquiringly.

‘Got to go,’ Harper told her, grabbing her bag. ‘Someone just got murdered on River Street.’

Bonnie’s jaw dropped. ‘River Street? Holy crap.’

‘I know.’ Harper pulled out her notebook and police scanner and headed across the room, mentally calculating how long it would take her to get there. ‘If it’s a tourist, the mayor will absolutely lose her shit.’

River Street was the epicenter of the city’s tourism district – and the safest place in town. Until now.

Bonnie ran after her.

‘Give me a second to lock up,’ she said. ‘I’ll come with you.’ Harper turned to look at her. ‘You’re coming to a crime scene?’

The music had started up again.

‘You’ve had four margaritas,’ Bonnie reminded her. ‘I made them strong. You’ll be over the limit. I’ve only had two beers tonight.’

Behind the bar, she opened a concealed wall panel and flipped some switches – in an instant, the music fell silent. A second later, the lights went off one by one, until only the red glow of the exit sign remained.

Grabbing her keys, Bonnie ran to join Harper, the heels of her cowboy boots clicking against the concrete floor in the sudden quiet, short skirt swirling around her thighs.

Harper still wasn’t convinced this was a great idea. ‘You know there’ll be dead people there, right?’

Shrugging, Bonnie unlocked the front door and pulled it open. Steamy southern night air poured in.

‘I’m a grown-up. I can take it.’

She glanced over her shoulder with a look Harper had known better than to argue with since they were both six years old.

‘Let’s go.’

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Authentic, fast-paced, with an absorbing plot and a likeable protagonist, A Beautiful Corpse’ is the second book in the Harper McClain series, the crime reporter investigates the murder of someone she knows and uncovers a web of fear, lies and privilege.

This story works as a standalone read and there is enough backstory on the main characters and previous events for this to be enjoyable. However, it’s so good, you’ll want to read the first book too.

The setting is atmospheric and bought to life by the details of the buildings, people and the social ethos. The characters are vividly portrayed and their motivations and interactions with each other believable. The life of a crime reporter is intrinsic to the story and is expertly written.

I like Harper she is driven and skilled at her job and hides her vulnerability well. Her relationship with the police officers, whose cooperation she needs to succeed, is explored and provides some important conflict in the story.

There is an overriding theme to this story, the search for Harper’s mother’s murderer, more clues are discovered in this book but it ends with new questions that may lead the crime reporter into personal danger if she pursues the truth.

The exciting ending is ultimately satisfying, tieing up the plot, but posing further questions for Harper, presumably to be resolved in the next book.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Historical Fiction

The Missing Sister – #BlogTour Dinah Jefferies- 5*#Review @PenguinUKBooks @VikingBooksUK @DinahJefferies

A stolen sister. A daughter determined to uncover the truth.

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25-year-old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Such an evocative read, this story of loss, political unrest and a quest for the truth takes place in Burma during the 1930s, with slips back in time to 1911 and the 1920s.

Belle has left England, for a life as a singer in exotic Rangoon. She’s not the usual type of singer they have, but her talent and independent spirit bring her both admirers and adversaries.

Her mother’s failing mental health blighted her childhood, but after her father’s death, she discovers her parents once lived in Rangoon and had and lost a child there. Can this terrible tragedy explain her mother’s illness and what happened to her missing sister?

Belle’s search for the fate of her missing sister reveals more questions and answers, Oliver an attractive journalist offers to help, but can she trust his motives, or should she rely on the establishment to help her?

The plot is engaging. The perfect pacing adds to the story’s sense of mystery and menace. The political climate is dangerous, and Belle shows her emotional strength as she witnesses unspeakable violence and prejudice.

Full of powerful imagery, both in terms of the geographical and historical setting and the vivid characterisation, this story enthrals the reader. There is a mystery to solve a family tragedy to witness and empathise, and a lovely romance.

A lovely escapist read, which will touch your emotions and inspire your imagination.

Extract from The Missing Sister – Dinah Jefferies

Rangoon, Burma, 1936

Belle straightened her shoulders, flicked back her long red-gold hair and stared, her heart leaping with excitement as the ship began its steady approach to Rangoon harbour. Rangoon. Think of it. The city where dreams were made, still a mysterious outline in the distance but coming into focus as the ship cut through the water. The sky, a shockingly bright blue, seemed huger than a sky ever had business to be, and the sea, almost navy in its depths, reflected a molten surface so shiny she could almost see her face in it. Even the air shimmered as if the sun had formed minute swirling crystals from the moisture rising out of the sea. Small boats dotting the water dipped and rose and she laughed as screeching seabirds swooped and squabbled. Belle didn’t mind the noise, in fact, it added to the feeling that this was something so achingly different. She had long craved the freedom to travel and now she was really doing it.

With buzzing in her ears, she inhaled deeply, as if to suck in every particle of this glorious moment, and for a few minutes, she closed her eyes. When she opened them again she gasped in awe. It wasn’t the bustling harbour with its tall cranes, its freighters laden with teak, its lumbering oil tankers, its steamers and the small fishing boats gathering in the shadow of the larger vessels that had gripped her. Nor was it the impressive white colonial buildings coming into sight. For, rising behind all that, a huge golden edifice appeared to be floating over the city. Yes, floating, as if suspended, as if a section of some inconceivable paradise had descended to earth. Spellbound by the gold glittering against the cobalt sky, Belle couldn’t look away. Could there be anything more captivating? Without a shadow of a doubt, she knew she was going to fall in love with Burma.

The heat, however, was oppressive: not a dry heat but a kind of damp heat that clung to her clothes. Certainly different, but she’d get used to it, and the air that smelt of salt and burning and caught at the back of her throat. She heard her name being called and twisted sideways to see Gloria, the woman she’d met on the deck early in the voyage, now leaning against the rails, wearing a wide-brimmed pink sun hat. Belle began to turn away, but not before Gloria called out again. The woman raised a white-gloved hand and came across.

‘So,’ Gloria’s cut-glass voice rang out, breaking Belle’s reverie. ‘What do you make of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Impressive, no?’

Belle nodded.

‘Covered in real gold,’ Gloria said. ‘Funny lot, the Burmese. The entire place is peppered with shrines and golden pagodas. You can’t walk without falling over a monk.’

‘I think they must be splendid to create something as wonderful as this.’

‘As I said, the pagodas are everywhere. Now, my driver is waiting at the dock. I’ll give you a lift to our wonderful Strand Hotel. It overlooks the river.’

Belle glanced at the skin around the other woman’s deeply set dark eyes and, not for the first time, tried to guess her age. There were a number of lines, but she had what was generally termed handsome looks. Striking rather than beautiful, with a strong Roman nose, chiselled cheekbones and sleek dark hair elegantly coiled at the nape of a long neck . . . but as for her age, it was anyone’s guess. Probably well over fifty.

Gloria had spoken with the air of someone who owned the city. A woman with a reputation to preserve and a face to match it. Belle wondered what she might look like without the thick mask of expertly applied make-up, carefully drawn brows and film-star lips. Wouldn’t it all melt in the heat?

‘I occasionally stay at the Strand after a late night, in fact, I will be tonight, though naturally, I have my own home in Golden Valley,’ Gloria was saying.

‘Golden Valley?’ Belle couldn’t keep her curiosity from showing.

‘Yes, do you know of it?’

Belle shook her head and, after a moment’s hesitation, decided not to say anything. It wasn’t as if she knew the place, was it? She simply wasn’t ready to talk to someone she barely knew. ‘No. Not at all,’ she said. ‘I simply liked the name.’

Gloria gave her a quizzical look and Belle, even though she had determined not to, caught herself thinking back. A year had passed since her father’s death, and it hadn’t gone well. The only work she’d found was in a friend’s bookshop, but each week she’d pored over the latest copy of The Stage the moment it arrived. And then, joy of joy, she’d spotted the advertisement for performers wanted in prestigious hotels in Singapore, Colombo and Rangoon. Her audition had been in London, where she’d stayed for a gruelling two days and an anxious wait until she heard.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romance

One Summer in Paris- Sarah Morgan -5* #Review @HQStories @SarahMorgan_ #PublicationDay #Romance #Family #Friendship

One charming bookshop, two unlikely friends, and a summer in Paris that will change their lives forever…

Grace can’t believe it when her husband of twenty-five years announces he doesn’t want to join her on their anniversary trip to Paris – instead, he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock, Grace makes the bold decision to go on this holiday of a lifetime alone.

Audrey leaves behind heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no knowledge of the French language, her summer adventure seems doomed to fail. Until she meets Grace and everything changes…

Living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, Grace and Audrey form an unlikely friendship. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding each other might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them.

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I love this book and I couldn’t put it down. The two main characters Grace and Audrey are so likeable, despite the emotional wasteland they find themselves in. They are realistic and easy to empathise and you want them to appreciate their true worth and find happiness.

David, Grace’s husband and Linda, Audrey’s mum, lead a varied collection of subsidiary characters that make the story realistic and resonate, but not always in a good way, but that’s a true reflection of life, isn’t it?

The women meet by chance and form an unlikely friendship but both fulfil a need in the other. Grace sees her young self in Audrey and wants to help her discover her true importance. Audrey makes Grace realise she has so much to live for and can be the strong, independent woman she dreams of being.

This is a story of family, friendship and forgiveness. Despite their age difference, Audrey and Grace share similar character traits, most notably a self-deprecating sense of humour, which lightens the dark moments in this story. A hopeful ethos pervades this story, even though at times you feel Audrey and Grace may drown in their sadness. The friendship between them is authentic and the serendipity of their meeting gives the story its magic.

The final chapters bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, the believable outcomes make this poignant tale a lovely, heartwarming book.

A great holiday read, for lovers of family drama and friendship stories that take you on a poignant, angst-ridden journey, lightened with humour and romance. Read this book and escape to Paris for the Summer.