Posted in Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller, Scandinavian Crime

A Nearly Normal Family – M.T. Edvardsson 5* #Review @panmacmillan @Mattiasedvard @CeladonBooks #ScandinavianCrime #FamilyDrama #Courtroom #lies #secrets #psychologicalthriller

Every murder case starts with a suspect.

What if the suspect is your daughter?

Would you believe her, or the evidence against her?

THE FATHER Believes his daughter has been framed.

THE MOTHER Believes she is hiding something.

THE DAUGHTER Believes they have no idea what she’s truly capable of . . .

There are three sides to the story. And the truth will shatter this family to pieces.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

‘A Nearly Normal Family’, has all the atmosphere, detail and intrigue of a Nordic Thriller, but the pace, moral questions and twists of an excellent courtroom and family drama. The protagonists are pushed to their limits, making them unreliable, so that even when you think you know, you probably don’t, giving this story the edge and mystery of a psychological thriller.

Told from three points of view, the father (a Pastor), the mother( a Lawyer), and the daughter (a clever, rebellious teenager). The events surrounding the murder are revealed, through each character’s point of view

The father is severely tested, his control of the family threatened and his moral beliefs challenged. What will he do for his daughter who he believes in totally? The daughter uses her intelligence to fuel her rebellion against her parents and their beliefs. She has secrets, one of which has damaged her, but is she capable of murder? The mother’s point of view is left until the end and reveals an unexpected twist. All lie and have secrets, making them unreliable protagonists.

The pace of this story is good, even though it is detailed, it doesn’t sacrifice ease of reading for content and this makes it addictive. The characters are believable, and their actions and motives realistic. You are forced to consider how you would act in similar circumstances.

The daughter has considerable insight, and this makes you question whether does she have severe mental health issues, or is manipulative and uses her personality to achieve her aims.

The final scenes reveal an uncomfortable truth that makes you question what has come before. The perfect ending to this atmospheric, crime based twisty thriller.

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Saga

The House by the Loch – Kirsty Wark – 5* #Review @TwoRoadsBooks @KirstyWark @JMP_Publicity @johnmurrays #Scottish #LiteraryFiction #HistoricalFiction #FamilyDrama #MultiGenerational

Scotland, 1950s
Walter MacMillan is bewitched by the clever, glamorous Jean Thompson and can’t believe his luck when she agrees to marry him. Neither can she, for Walter represents a steady and loving man who can perhaps quiet the demons inside her. Yet their home on remote Loch Doon soon becomes a prison for Jean and neither a young family nor Walter’s care can seem to save her.

Many years later, Walter is with his adult children and adored grandchildren on the shores of Loch Doon where the family has been holidaying for two generations. But the shadows of the past stretch over them and will turn all their lives upside down on one fateful weekend.

The House by the Loch is the story of a family in all its loving complexity and the way it can, and must, remake itself endlessly in order to make peace with the past.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press – Two Roads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Walter witnesses a tragedy as a young boy at the side of the loch, close to his home. It haunts him, throughout his life, even though he could do nothing to stop it. Years later, his family gather at the loch, and once again it is the scene of a tragic event, this time personal, and he wonders if it is his fault and if his family will ever recover.

The setting is beautiful, yet unforgiving, an addiction for Walter, that threatens everything he holds dear.

A multi-generational story, Walter recalls his younger days, his marriage to Jean and their lives at the loch. Addiction and mental health issues irrevocably alter the family, and their effects resonate across the generations. The story’s ethos is predominately sad, but at its conclusion, there is a reckoning, a chance for redemption and a way forward for those left.

The characters are flawed, and therefore believable. Some are self-destructive, but whether the root cause is from nature or nurture, or both is part of what this story explores. The plot is complex, hiding its secrets until the end, The story is engaging and draws you into the family, how they interact and what it means to keep a family together.

Forgiveness, justice and understanding are all important themes. The emotional journey, the characters travel is poignant and often filled with a sense of hopelessness. Ultimately, it is the courage, love and tenacity of the family members, that gets them through the darkness, to survive and make the family stronger.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

Miracle Creek – Angie Kim @HodderBooks @AngieKimWriter #Courtroom #Drama #Thriller #PsychologicalThriller 4*#Review

Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night: trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges, as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.

In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine – a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for “dives”, used as an alternative therapy for conditions including autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

A tragic event at an alternative medicine site leaves two dead, and others severely injured. This story is about the court case that follows over a year later, through the testimonies and thoughts of the people involved at the time, the story explores what really happened and whether the person in the dock is truly guilty.

The courtroom scenes are detailed and enthralling, seen through multi-points-of-view they illuminate the actions, emotions and motivations of the people at the time of the accident and before. All have secrets, tell lies and many have a motive, but are they guilty? The perception is whilst their lies may be insignificant in abstract, they may form part of a conspiracy against justice and the truth.

The people undergoing treatment are vulnerable and deserve protection. The crime is shocking, as are the revelations that follow. It is not easy reading, but there is nothing gratuitous, everything is a piece in the puzzle or an insight into a character’s personality.

Parenting a child with a disability, maintaining your personal identity, as an immigrant, the role of women in society, abuse, culture clashes, society’s expectations and norms, and alternative medical treatments are themes of this complex, well-researched story. They interweave with a pacy, twisty, sometimes controversial plot. Making this story an addictive mix of courtroom drama, family secrets and psychological thriller.

The ending has a final twist, not unexpected, but still shocking. The sense that the guilt should be shared is paramount and is the perfect end for this thought-provoking novel.

The story is original and complex, the characters are well thought out and believable, The courtroom scenes are realistic, but did I enjoy reading it?

The overriding ethos is dark, and almost lacking in hope, showing the worst side of humanity. Also, there is a level of repetition because events are examined from multi-points- of-view. So, the jury’s still out for me. It’s down to personal preference. If you like a mix of courtroom drama and psychological thriller, you should give this a try.

Posted in Book Review

The Two Houses 4*Review – Fran Cooper

 

‘The Two Houses sit grey and brooding beneath a pale sky.
They cling to the hillside, cowering from the wind, because always, before everything up here, there is the wind.
The Two Houses were not always two. But if it is human to build – even up here, in this blasted northern hinterland – it is human to break, too.’

After an acclaimed career in ceramics, Jay herself has cracked. Recovering from a breakdown, she and her husband Simon move to the desolate edges of the north of England, where they find and fall in love with the Two Houses: a crumbling property whose central rooms were supposedly so haunted that a previous owner had them cut out from the building entirely.

But on uprooting their city life and moving to the sheltered grey village of Hestle, Jay and Simon discover it’s not only the Two Houses that seems to be haunted by an obscure past. It becomes increasingly clear that the villagers don’t want them there at all – and when building work to make the two houses whole again starts, a discovery is made that will unearth decades-old secrets…

But who in this village has been hiding them?

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

At first glance, this appears to be a ghost story. While the writing style is atmospheric, creepy and gothic, the content is more grounded. The ghosts are emotional, bad memories and entrenched secrets kept by the living rather than the dead.

Escaping to the country seems like a rest cure for Jay and Simon, reeling from Jay’s emotional breakdown when she discovers she cannot have children. A ceramic artist Jay’s work suffers until she shies away from it and everyone attached to it. Simon loves her but doesn’t necessarily understand her. His constant presence is claustrophobic for his free-spirited wife. She doesn’t want to share her emotions just to make him feel worthwhile.

So when they find a quirky, broken down property, two houses severed in their past. Jay loves it, and Simon who wants his wife to recover agrees, although he is looking for a bolt hole and she is searching for a new life.

The villagers are suspicious of the interloper’s motives and the reasons for this gradually become clear as the story progresses. It’s not just because they want to protect the secrets of the old houses, their way of life has disintegrated with the closure of the mines and farms, young people want to leave, and only the old ones and those who cannot survive elsewhere are left. They want to protect their way of life even if it’s not what it once was.

The characters are realistic, as is their behaviour when confronted with newcomers. Jay becomes obsessed with the house’s secrets to the exclusion of all else, but maybe this is part of her healing process?

The plot reveals its clues and misinformation as it progresses, the pacing is slow because of the detailed descriptions and the internal conflict of the main characters.

Mysterious and suspenseful but not written in a commercial, contemporary style, it is all about the characters and their interaction with the setting. It resonates as you read and the two houses’ story is infinitely sadder than you first imagine.

I liked it and found the ending particularly poignant. It conveys the sense of stability and people becoming as one with the land well. It is slow and maybe too detailed in places, but it does fit with a gothic writing style and is a lovely example of this.

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

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Beneath an Indian Sky Renita D’Silva 5 * Review

 

An unforgettable and heart-wrenching story of love, betrayal and family secrets. In colonial India, a young woman finds herself faced with an impossible choice, the consequences of which will echo through the generations…

1928. In British-ruled India, headstrong Sita longs to choose her own path, but her only destiny is a good marriage. After a chance meeting with a Crown Prince leads to a match, her family’s status seems secured, and she moves into the palace, where peacocks fill the gardens and tapestries adorn the walls. But royal life is far from simple, and her failure to provide an heir makes her position fragile. Soon Sita is on the brink of losing everything, and the only way to save herself could mean betraying her oldest friend…

2000. When Priya’s marriage ends in heartbreak, she flees home to India and the palace where her grandmother, Sita, once reigned as Queen. But as grandmother and granddaughter grow closer, Priya has questions. Why is Sita so reluctant to accept that her royal status ended with Independence? And who is the mysterious woman who waits patiently at the palace gates day after day? Soon Priya uncovers a secret Sita has kept for years – and which will change the shape of her life forever…

A breathtaking journey through India from British rule to Independence and beyond; a world of green hills, cardamom-scented air, and gold thread glinting in the sun, brought to life.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

An evocative, emotional encounter with India from the mid-1920s to the millennium, tracing the lives of three women through their hopes, loves, lies and secrets.
Sita and Mary become friends both finding something in the other that they like and admire, but even at the beginning of their childhood friendship, lies and secrets are evident. A tragic event changes the course of both their lives but fate brings them back together as young women. One suffers the ultimate betrayal, and the other carries a guilty secret that blights her entire life. The women’s lives are full of complex relationships, and the three stories are enthralling, where they intertwine the emotion intensifies, demonstrating their ambition, independent spirit and tenacity.
A beautifully written, thought-provoking story. Set mainly in India, the setting is atmospheric and imaginable through the vividly descriptive prose. Historically the book is set in a pivotal time for India and its people, which provides an opportunity for some and takes away privilege from others, in its wake. A story of childhood dreams, and adult realities and the fine line between good and evil, a lovely way to while away a few hours.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Little Woodford – Catherine Jones – The Secrets of a Small Town Extract and 4*Review

Trouble comes to the sleepy market town of Little Woodford – a world of allotments, pub quizzes, shopping and gossip – the heart of middle England.

Little Woodford has a sleepy high street, a weekly market, a weathered old stone church and lovingly tended allotments. A peaceful, unexciting place, the very heart of middle England.

In Little Woodford, no one has fingers in more pies than Olivia Laithwaite, parish councillor, chair of the local WI, wife, mother and all around queen bee. So, of course, it’s Olivia who is first to spot that The Beeches has been sold at last.

Soon rumours begin to swirl around the young widow who has bought this lovely house. Why exactly did she leave London with her beautiful stepdaughter and young sons? Are they running from someone? Hiding something? Though if they are, they won’t be the only ones. Sometimes the arrival of newcomers in a community is all it takes to light a fuse…

Links to buy

 Amazon: http://amzn.to/2Fe3FEx

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2GuidiU

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2CxMzPe

iBooks: https://apple.co/2C8kPF2

Extract’

Heather walked up the road, under the ancient oaks and yews, across the brook and past the cemetery, the old, rather higgledy-piggledy gravestones basking in the ever-strengthening April sunshine. Above her, the rooks cawed incessantly as they wheeled over the rookery in the trees behind the Norman church, with its weathered grey stone walls and squat tower, and the only other noise was the distant hum of the ring road, the other side of the cricket pitch. The peace of the scene was deeply calming. Sometimes, in the summer, when there was a cricket match on and the bell-ringers were practising, she felt it was the kind of place that John Betjeman could have immortalised in a poem; leather on willow, an occasional spattering of applause, cries of ‘howzat’ and the slightly arrhythmic bing-bong-ding-dong of a peal of bells. Utter cliché but utter English bliss.

She strolled on knowing that she could have phoned Joan to ask about the flowers but she always liked an excuse to take this walk, and besides, she was mindful that neither Joan nor her husband Bert had been in the best of health since the winter – Joan had had a nasty virus and was only recently on the mend – and they might appreciate a visit. Plus, there was every possibility that Bert would offer some of his own flowers from his allotment for the church, and every little helped. Bert’s allotment didn’t just yield a cornucopia of vegetables every year, but dahlias, hellebores, foxgloves, hollyhocks and a dozen other types of flowers that Heather would accept gratefully for the church arrangement whilst having only the vaguest of an idea as to what they were called. And, even if it was a bit early for the best of Bert’s flowers, he would certainly have foliage which, in itself, was very useful.

Towards the top of the road, the quiet was dissipated by the bustle of the high street but Heather didn’t mind. She loved the town’s wide main street with its wiggly roofline, its big market square and pretty Georgian town hall. It mightn’t be the sort of place you moved to for the shopping – Bluewater it wasn’t – but the boutiques and delis, the cafés and the pub and the hanging baskets full of winter pansies and the tubs of daffs and tulips more than made up for the lack of major retailers. And today was market day so there was the extra bustle and activity that always brought. It was a proper small market town, she always thought. Perfect – well, perfect as long as you didn’t scratch too deep. Like everywhere they had problems with poverty, drugs and the occasional crime but there were worse places to live in the country. Far worse. She knew that – Brian had been a vicar in one or two.

She was looking in the window of the cake shop and wondering about treating herself and Brian to a custard tart each when she heard her name being called. She turned and saw the pub’s landlady. As always, Belinda had a smile on her face. She was a life-enhancer, thought Heather. Brian might deal with the town’s moral well-being but Belinda provided an equally important service on the mental health side of things by listening to their woes, being unfailingly cheerful and totally non-judgemental. Her sunny outlook radiated out of her and sparkled out of her blue eyes.

‘Belinda, hello. You well?’

‘Yes, thank you. You?’

Heather nodded.

‘I’ve just been to the hairdresser,’ said Belinda. ‘That always makes me feel better. Good for morale, don’t you think?’

Heather gazed at Belinda’s beautifully cut bob that framed her smiling face and wished she knew. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a professional hair-do. She washed her own hair and pinned it up to keep it out of the way. Not smart or fashionable but suitable for a vicar’s wife. Cheap to maintain, and when it got too long, she hacked bits off with the kitchen scissors.

‘It must be,’ she said, smiling and quenching the tiny pang of envy she felt. ‘By the way, Amy says someone is moving into The Beeches.’

‘Well, if Amy says so it must be true. Anyway, I’d better get on; not long till opening time and I mustn’t keep the punters waiting. Will you be coming to the next book club?’

‘I will. I can’t say I was thrilled by the last choice but it was an interesting read.’

‘Good. Well… Good, you found it interesting, at any rate. If everyone did, it’ll be the basis for a lively discussion.’

‘Will you be there?’

‘Should be if the new girl shows up. We’ve had so much trouble with our part-timers recently. Don’t the young want to earn extra money? And don’t they realise that letting an employer down is more than just bad manners…’ Belinda stopped. ‘Sorry, I was about to go into rant mode.’’

My Thoughts…

Living in a market town is explored in this easy to read story of country life, secrets and gossip. Everyone in the town has secrets, and the characters are complex and vivid, not all of the characters are likeable, and some do border on the stereotypical, but they do work well together in a well-paced plot with lots of opportunity for them to interact and their lives to entwine.

Olivia is the serial committee member, the pillar of the community, so busy doing good; she misses the problems in her own life. Heather is the vicar’s wife; her door is always open, her life is not easy but shares her husband’s calling. She is the community agony aunt, trustworthy, loyal and full of common sense. Bex is the newcomer, attractive, lovely but with a broken heart, children who depend on her and secrets she doesn’t want to share. Amy is a single mum who works hard in the town, she has a good heart but is a terrible gossip which leaves her open to manipulation.

Little Woodford is like a ‘Midsomer’ village without the murders, fun to read with a sense of community, lots of humour, a little romance, and a web of lies and secrets an enjoyable way to pass a few hours.

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

Catherine Jones lives in Thame, where she is an independent Councillor. She is the author of eighteen novels, including the Soldiers’ Wives series, which she wrote under the pseudonym Fiona Field.

Posted in Book Review

A Place to Remember – Jenn McLeod – 5* Review

A multi-generational contemporary romantic saga set in a cattle ranch in Central Queensland, Australia.

A man loses five years of his life. Two women are desperate for him to remember.

Running away for the second time in her life, twenty-seven-year-old Ava believes the cook’s job at a country B&B is perfect until she meets the owner’s son, John Tate.

The young fifth-generation grazier is a beguiling blend of both man, boy and a terrible flirt. With their connection immediate and intense, they begin a clandestine affair right under the noses of John’s formidable parents.

Thirty years later, Ava returns to Candlebark Creek with her daughter, Nina, who is determined to meet her mother’s lost love for herself. While struggling to find her own place in the world, Nina discovers an urban myth about a love-struck man, a forgotten engagement ring, and a dinner reservation back in the eighties. Now she must decide if revealing the truth will hurt more than it heals…

Links to buy

 Amazon: http://amzn.to/2GuGNjy

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2EJp6Ag

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2HyCS6U

iBooks: https://apple.co/2odYDRn

A Place to Remember

Extract

Candlebark Creek, 1985–6

Chapter 1

Young Ava

The massive slab of varnished wood was the biggest tabletop twenty-seven-year-old Ava had ever seen. Still, she almost doubted it could hide the nervous jig in her legs that both hands pressing firmly on failed to stop. She hoped the folder’s contents would be enough to convince the lady of the house that she was perfect for the position.

‘I did say on the telephone that the role is a varied one and not all cookery and not only when we have guests staying. No one on a property like Ivy-May can afford to be picky or precious about their jobs.’ It was fifteen minutes into the interview, and the woman’s expression had yet to shift into anything close to a smile. ‘Your time off is your own, but we all do our share.’

Marjorie Tate paused before slowly rolling up her sleeves as if driving home the point. The action offered Ava a glimpse of hardworking hands: stubby and tanned with a simple gold wedding band and bitten-down nails. Somewhere around forty or forty-five, the B-and-B operator wasn’t old, just plain, as though all her effort went into something other than herself.

‘I do consider myself versatile, Mrs Tate, and I’m always keen to learn new things. I’d also have little need for days off in a town like Candlebark Creek. There aren’t many places to go or things to do.’

For that careless statement, Ava got a raised eyebrow and a minute of the clock ticking above the stove.

‘You seem young to have had so many jobs, although you have provided an impressive CV and an extensive portfolio of dishes.’

‘Thirteen years in the workforce.’ Ava sat straight and proud. ‘The last eleven in hospitality.’ She could see the woman mentally subtracting eleven from twenty-seven. ‘And I was never fired from a job,’ she added, sounding a little too enthusiastic. ‘Some were set contracts, some seasonal. Hospitality can be like that.’

‘Ivy-May B-and-B might be small and out of the way, but I’m aware of the industry’s many facets.’ Marjorie Tate flicked through the plastic sleeves of the folder. She stopped again on the résumé at the front. ‘You have no school certificate listed.’

‘I left school when I turned fifteen.’

‘Before exams?’ Another raised eyebrow, another flick through the folder’s many photographs.

Never before had Ava’s lack of formal qualifications been an issue. Hands-on experience was what landed you a kitchen job, and every role, from waiting tables to making desserts, had added to Ava’s expertise and skills. As confident as she was about her abilities, she still sat with her hands clasped between her knees, fingers crossed.

‘Our son finished high school a couple of years ago and did well. John’s a bit of a dreamer, although there’s no doubting his passion for the land.’ The grazier’s wife with the moon-shaped face – taut, shiny skin, rosy cheeks – reminded Ava of a wooden babushka doll, with its rotund face and multiple hidden layers. The unexpected softness in her voice when she’d spoken her son’s name revealed one. ‘Naturally, he was keen to finish studying early to work with his father. John’s very capable and quite mature for his age. Children in these parts tend to grow up quickly,’ she added. ‘No choice out here. Operating heavy machinery and working bulls requires a sensible head on robust shoulders. But as much as the property had needed more hands at the time, I insisted John stay on at school.’ She peered over the top of thick black spectacle frames. ‘The value of a proper education should not be underestimated. Dreams are more achievable with a thorough education, and it shows discipline. Smart employers insist on such qualities.’

Ava nodded, forcing a smile. Was the woman telling her she was no longer a suitable candidate? Should she try speaking to her feminine side and explain what had happened to drive her from the city to hide in an out-of-the-way country town? Marjorie Tate was more likely to find fault because Ava had allowed herself to be put in such a position in the first place. Unfortunately, Zac had not come with a warning plastered on his forehead. At least he couldn’t find her here and affect her employment chances.

Could he?

My Thoughts…

It’s rare for a story to make me cry, but this tale of lost chances and the abiding love of a mother and daughter did. An epic tale, set in Queensland, Austrailia, Ava and Nina’s story spans over thirty years. You can’t recapture the past, but Ava finds it is not the case but is she prepared to risk her heart again?

Vividly described, you get a sense of the wildness and beauty of the dramatic setting, but mostly the land is unforgiving and demands everything from those who work it. I’ve never visited Australia and probably never will, but this story lets me travel there in my imagination.

It takes a while to get into this story, but each twist and heartbreak and risk Ava takes, draws you into her world past and present until you are emotionally involved and want her to have a happy ending, even when it seems unlikely.

The characters are believable, and their life events realistic, not everything falls into place as Ava’s past collides with her present, but there is hope. She is successful in her career and more importantly her family life, even though she has never forgotten the man she loved and left.

I read the ‘Thorn Birds’ about forty years ago when I was a teenager and still remember it now, and similarly, I think the emotion and poignancy of this story will stay with me too. If you get the chance, read this.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

JENN J MCLEOD photo

After leaving the corporate working world, Jenn J. McLeod decided to travel Australia in a fifth-wheeler caravan and fulfil her lifelong ambition to write. She has since published four novels.

Website: https://www.jennjmcleod.com/

Twitter: @jennjmcleod

Facebook: JennJMcLeod.books