Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

Beneath The Surface Everyone Lies- Fiona Neill – 4* #Review @MichaelJBooks #FionaNeill #FamilyDrama #Secrets #Mothers #Daughters #LiteraryFiction #BeneathTheSurface

After a chaotic childhood, Grace Vermuyden is determined her own daughters will fulfil the dreams denied to her.

Lilly is everyone’s golden girl, the popular, clever daughter she never had to worry about. So when she mysteriously collapses in class, Grace’s carefully ordered world begins to unravel.

Dark rumours swirl around their tight-knit community as everyone comes up with their own theories about what happened.

Consumed with paranoia, and faced with increasing evidence that Lilly has been leading a secret life, Grace starts to search for clues.

But left to her own devices, ten-year-old Mia develops some wild theories of her own that have unforeseen and devastating consequences for the people she loves most.

Beneath the Surface explores the weight of the past upon the present, the burden of keeping secrets and what happens when children get caught in the undercurrents of adult relationships. 

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

A complex and insightful exploration of the modern family.

Grace, Patrick, Lilly and Mia are on the surface an ideal, nuclear family. As the story progresses, the layers are peeled away, and the controlling behaviour, emotional damage, lies and secrets are revealed, and the family implodes.

This stories most poignant message is that children need protection, sometimes even from their parents, to ensure negative behaviours, unrequited ambitions and hopes, are not instilled into them.

Mia’s chance discovery during a family barbeque has a devastating effect. Not, only the revelation, but the chain of events it catalyses, and the secrets it forces to the surface.

The characters are multi-layered and realistic, Mia is the antithesis of Lilly, the ‘golden child’. They are both intelligent but influenced by their mother’s attitude towards them.

The story is suspenseful, with an underlying layer of menace. You are constantly waiting for something bad to happen, and this makes it riveting and unnerving to read. The authenticity of the setting, and characters adds to this.

I like the ending, it brings together everything that has gone before, through nail-biting action scenes and a poignant, yet hopeful final end.

Advertisements
Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder in a Country Garden – 5* Review – Betty Rowlands @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP #MurderMystery #cozymystery #MelissaCraigMysteries #publicationday

A perfect country garden is full of flowers and gently buzzing bees… But the man lying dead beneath the trees can no longer see the beautiful scene.

Melissa Craig is thrilled that summer has arrived. She has decided to give up her career as an amateur sleuth and enjoy a quiet life in her beautiful cottage. The only digging in Melissa’s life now happens in her garden.

However, when a keen beekeeper is found dead, covered in multiple stings, her new resolve is tested. As she gets to know the family of the dead man, she realises he was no saint. Could someone have possibly wanted him dead? Could this be a very clever murder?

As Melissa starts to probe the victim’s friends and acquaintances, another member of the family is also stung to death. Who could have turned the bees against their keeper? And when will they strike again?

With the residents of Upper Benbury now fearful to open their windows to the summer air, and the police treating the deaths as accidental, Melissa must solve this case herself. To find the killer with the sharpest sting, she may have to delve deep into the hive…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

After reading book one in this series ‘Murder at Hawthorn Cottage’, I said in my review’ that the book is ‘The quintessential cozy mystery… the storyline is fast-paced and engaging… builds to an adrenaline fuelled ending, full of action and powerful imagery. An enjoyable, escapist read that I suspect may become my secret addiction.’.

Now, after reading book twelve ‘Murder In A Country Garden’ the end of the series, all these things are still true, and since I have read twelve books in under eight months the stories are addictive.

If you enjoy dastardly crimes, committed in beautiful country settings, with larger than life characters, who all have secrets, but are not all murderers this series is for you.

Melissa Craig is the perfect reluctant detective, with sound knowledge of crime, and how its perpetrators are motivated, from her career as a crime novelist. Melissa is perfectly placed to discover the truth behind the crimes she discovers.

The last book in the series can be read as a standalone, as the story is complete and the main protagonist and characters are well described. The plot is clever and full of twists and the family where the deaths have occurred very mysterious. For fans of the series, we get to enjoy the final instalments of developments in Melissa’s private life, which adds depth and authenticity to this likeable retro cozy murder mystery.

This is an enjoyable end to a lovely series.

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.