Sunday, 21 January 2018

Our House - Louise Candlish


On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.


What did I think?

I am quite superstitious, so my eyes widened in horror as I saw the date of Friday 13th January 2017 stated on chapter 1.  If I thought that was bad, I ain't seen nothing yet!  What a corker of a book to introduce me to Louise Candlish.

Nothing good can happen on Friday 13th, and this proves to be the case for Fiona Lawson as she returns home to see a new family moving in to her house.  A house she hasn't even sold, but it would appear that her husband, Bram, has...  As the story unfolds via Fi's podcasts and Bram's word documents, we have a front row seat as Bram not only destroys his marriage but Fiona's whole life.  I actually gasped out loud as he unwittingly dealt his final blow and, covering my mouth in horror, I mentally exclaimed: 'well played, Louise Candlish, well played indeed'.

It's always good to read a story from both sides and Our House feels like watching a car crash in slow motion: with Bram and Fi hurtling towards each other at high speed and not knowing who, if anyone, will survive.  The brilliant Our House puts Louise Candlish firmly on my radar and I'll be checking out her back catalogue at the first opportunity.

Our House is a most definite 5 stars from me and a highly recommended read.  You might think you know how it's going to end, but I can guarantee that you'll be wrong.  I loved the unusual format of the podcast transcripts and the word documents that made it feel authentic and true to life, although I wouldn't wish Fi or Bram's life on my worst enemy.  Make sure you pick up a copy of Our House; it's riveting, so very addictive and jaw-droppingly brilliant.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Saturday, 20 January 2018

BLOG TOUR: Deep Blue Trouble - Steph Broadribb


Single-mother Florida bounty hunter Lori Anderson’s got an ocean of trouble on her hands. Her daughter Dakota is safe, but her cancer is threatening a comeback, and Lori needs JT – Dakota’s daddy and the man who taught Lori everything – alive and kicking. Problem is, he’s behind bars, and heading for death row. 

Desperate to save him, Lori does a deal, taking on off-the-books job from shady FBI agent Alex Monroe. Bring back on-the-run felon, Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher, and JT walks free. Following Fletcher from Florida to California, Lori teams up with local bounty hunter Dez McGregor and his team. But Dez works very differently to Lori, and the tension between them threatens to put the whole job in danger. 

With Monroe pressuring Lori for results, the clock ticking on JT’s life, and nothing about the Fletcher case adding up, Lori’s hitting walls at every turn. 

But this is one job she’s got to get right, or she’ll lose everything… 

Breathlessly paced, and bursting with high-voltage action and edge-of-your-seat jeopardy, Deep Blue Trouble is the unmissable next instalment featuring one of the most memorable and fearless female characters in crime fiction.


What did I think?

I was late to the party when I read the AMAZING Deep Down Dead last month, but this gave me the added benefit of being able to read Deep Blue Trouble right after it.  Deep Blue Trouble picks up right where Deep Down Dead left off, but Steph Broadribb includes a brilliant concise recap to remind us and also to benefit those readers who might crazily pick up Deep Blue Trouble first.

In this instalment, much as she can't bear to be parted from her, Lori makes sure that her daughter, Dakota, is safe from harm by sending her to camp.  Meanwhile, Lori's old mentor and Dakota's father, JT, is in prison but is far from safe from the mob who want revenge: a life for a life.  So when an FBI agent offers Lori the chance to get JT's charges dropped, she doesn't hesitate and sets off on her own to bring back her latest target: the slippery fish, Gibson Fletcher, and a missing valuable chess set.  Reporting to the FBI, Lori gets instructions to work with another bounty hunter, Dez McGregor, but JT taught Lori to never work in a team so I prepared myself for fireworks.

The inclusion of a the missing chess set was a stroke of genius as not only were people looking for the missing pieces but, unbeknown to them, they themselves were actually being moved around an invisible board.  I felt like the whole story was a carefully planned game of chess and I put my money on Lori to play the final move and shout checkmate!

This is another top-notch fast-paced thriller from Steph Broadribb and she is definitely on to a winner with such a strong female lead as Lori Anderson.  I love how Lori religiously sticks to her own set of rules and although she's tough on the outside, she shows lots of affection for her family and friends.  The pacing is so fast that you can't help but hurtle through this book as fast as you possibly can and with tantalising unfinished business leading nicely on to the next instalment, I am on tenterhooks for book 3.  I can see that this is going to be a series I will want to read again and again; I can't recommend it highly enough.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Beauty (Tales from the Kingdoms #3) - Sarah Pinborough


BEAUTY is a beautifully illustrated re-telling of the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST story which takes all the elements of the classic fairytale that we love (the handsome prince, the ancient curse, the beautiful girl and, of course, the haunting castle) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. 

It's fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of ONCE UPON A TIME, GRIMM, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and more.


What did I think?

It took me a while to move on to this final book of the Tales from the Kingdoms, but knowing me this would be down to my Cinderella moment when as a 3 year old child I was crying my eyes out at the end as 'I didn't want it to finish'.   I just have to say it one more time: these books published by Gollancz must be the most beautiful hardback books I have ever seen.  Just look at them:


Although ultimately a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty has a proper mixed bag of fairytales in it.  So whichever was your favourite as a child, and you didn't read about them in Poison and Charm, chances are your favourite fairytale character will appear in Beauty.  

I do love the TV show Once Upon A Time, so I was thrilled to find Rumpelstiltskin (dearie) appearing unexpectedly in Beauty.  I loved how Sarah Pinborough brought a little bit extra to his character but I'll not say any more as it will spoil the story.  This is my definitely my favourite of the three Tales from the Kingdoms, it's an absolutely genius characterisation of 'the beast' - so simple yet so clever.

I love reading adult fairytales - although loosely based on our childhood favourites, they remind us of happier innocent times when anything was possible and our imagination could run wild.  With the addition of 'adult' to 'fairytales', you do get a more risqué version of your favourite childhood classic so any demure readers should be prepared to be shocked and slightly uncomfortable.

Beauty is fabulous escapism fiction that will awaken your inner child and allow your imagination to have free reign while you escape from the real world and visit a faraway kingdom from once upon a time.

My rating:




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Monday, 15 January 2018

Beneath the Surface - Sibel Hodge


Dean Hudson didn’t look evil…so what could drive an ordinary boy to kill?

When the teenage son of Holly Gold’s school friend brutally murders his parents before killing himself, her sleepy home town is rocked by the sudden tragedy.

Appalled, Holly investigates. What could have caused the happy-go-lucky boy she remembers to commit such a heinous crime? When another teen commits suicide, she uncovers a horrifying link between the recent deaths and a dark conspiracy to hide the truth.

But someone doesn’t want Holly asking questions and, as she hunts for evidence to prove her theory, she’s dragged into a nightmare that threatens her life and her sanity. Then tragedy strikes again—and this time it’s closer to home…

What did I think?

I can often be found browsing the 3 for £10 on Amazon, so when I saw a few bloggers reading Beneath the Surface it miraculously found its way into my basket.  Feeling a bit guilty about buying yet more books, I wrapped it up and gave it as a gift to my Mam ensuring that I would get it to read it too - RESULT!  There was method in my madness: my Mam has a medical background, having worked in various parts of the health service for all of her working life, so I knew she would appreciate this book.  She didn't just appreciate it, she LOVED it and plans to pass it on to family and friends.

Holly lost touch with her good friend, Jess, when Holly went to London to pursue her career in journalism.  When Holly finds herself back in her hometown, she thinks she has all the time in the world to reconnect with Jess, but then Jess and her husband are found murdered by their own son, Dean.  Nobody can understand what drove Dean to commit such an act, it seems so out of character for him.  So Holly starts to investigate but she doesn't realise how far this web reaches and that some people will do ANYTHING to stop the truth getting out.

Beneath the Surface is my first Sibel Hodge book but I will definitely be looking at her back catalogue.  I love books with even a grain of truth in them, and knowing a bit about pharmaceutical companies, I'm sure that Beneath the Surface has a whole bushel of truth in it.  We know there is big money in pharmaceuticals, and I'm not for one minute suggesting that companies would go to the extremes in Beneath the Surface, but when the board is pressurised into making profit, when do morals outweigh money?  

Beneath the Surface is a very clever thriller that leaves you with so much food for thought.  How many of us walk out of the doctors' surgery with that magical green slip in our hand?  It promises to make us feel better and we put 100% trust in the doctor who gave it to us, but we need to remember that our slip of green turns into another slip of green with the Queen's head on it once we 'cash it in'.  What many people don't realise is that incentives are offered for doctors to prescribe certain drugs.  What I didn't realise is that doctors could prescribe 'off-label' so that if a drug hasn't been recommended for a particular age group, they can legally prescribe it to this untested age group.

This book isn't necessarily about Prozac but I have heard about the effects of Prozac and find it amazing that a common side effect of anti-depressant drugs is suicidal thoughts.  Surely then, it is the wrong drug to administer to a person already depressed and considering suicide?  Then again, if the doctor gets an all-expenses trip to Barbados for prescribing the drug, why wouldn't they prescribe it to all and sundry?  I remember a few years ago when everyone seemed to come away from the doctors with a prescription for codeine.  Now we see news articles about the addictive nature of codeine and I wonder who should be held accountable.  The doctors for prescribing it or the pharmaceutical reps for 'pushing' it?

I've digressed from the book slightly, but you can see how thought-provoking I found Beneath the Surface to be.  It's a cracking thriller with that little bit extra that makes it a book I will definitely remember and continually recommend.

My rating:




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Sunday, 14 January 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Chalk Man - C.J. Tudor



We all have fears we hide from. But in the end they will find us . . .
The Chalk Man is coming . . .
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 the terrible accident?
Or when they found the first body?

What did I think?

Book bloggers definitely know a thing or two about books and seeing so much excitement about The Chalk Man, I didn't need to think twice before joining the tour.  Just a quick word about the cover: it looks really simple but there are splodges of chalk dust that beg to be dusted.  So after stroking the cover and feeling rather melancholy at the end of the Christmas holidays, I picked up The Chalk Man on New Year's Day and DIDN'T PUT IT DOWN!  What a way to start the year and C.J. Tudor has now set the bar at which all other novels in 2018 shall be measured.

Using the tried and tested dual timeline, we are drawn into Eddie's world both in 2016 and back in 1986 when he was 12 years old.  I loved the camaraderie between the 5 friends: Eddie Munster, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and the only girl in the group, Nicky.  Theirs was a friendship that would have lasted a lifetime, had events not conspired against them.

Just as we're just getting to know the 5 friends and we're introduced to their slightly weird new teacher Mr Halloran, the book explodes with an accident at the fairground.  I felt like the whole scene was painted in slow motion as the words on the page magically transformed into a vivid scene in my mind.  The friends get on with their lives and find a novel way of communicating when Gav receives chalks for his birthday.  Thinking the present is pretty lame at first, they soon find a use for the chalks by leaving secret messages for each other...but then one day the chalks point to a body lying dead in the woods.

Although it's only January, The Chalk Man is set to be THE debut of 2018; I'll be astounded if anything can knock it off this pedestal.  I was completely riveted from start to finish; it's so gripping, compelling and twisty that just when you think it has given up all its secrets there are more gasp out loud moments right around the corner.  An absolutely impeccable debut that very deservedly scoops up all available 5 stars.    

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Friday, 12 January 2018

BLOG TOUR: Faking Friends - Jane Fallon


Best friend, soulmate, confidante . . . backstabber.
Amy thought she knew everything there was to know about her best friend Melissa. Then again, Amy also thought she was on the verge of the wedding of her dreams to her long-distance fiancé.
Until she pays a surprise trip home to London. Jack is out, but it's clear another woman has been making herself at home in their flat.
There's something about her stuff that feels oddly familiar . . . and then it hits Amy. The Other Woman is Melissa.
Amy has lost her home, her fiancé and her best friend in one disastrous weekend - but instead of falling apart, she's determined to get her own back.
Piecing her life back together won't be half as fun as dismantling theirs, after all.

What did I think?

How is this my first Jane Fallon book?  I LOVED Faking Friends so much that I started and finished it within 24 hours.  It is rare that I find a book so riveting outside of the thriller genre but this book hooks you so quickly that you have to read it cover to cover to find out how it all plays out.

Amy is pursuing her dream to become an actress and she has a part in an American soap which sees her parted from her fiancé, Jack, who lives in their flat in London.  Amy gets quite a shock when she comes home for a surprise visit and finds another woman's things where hers should be.  This would be bad enough but the other woman is her best friend, Melissa.  With remarkable powers of restraint, Amy doesn't tell Jack and Melissa that she knows their secret but instead plots her revenge...I nearly dropped the book to clap and pump the air - GO AMY!

There is a reason that such proverbs are still being used today: hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and revenge is a dish best served cold.  Amy personifies those proverbs and kept me glued to the pages as her plans played out to perfection.  I was disappointed that my bullshit radar didn't raise the alarm when a new character was introduced, but I think I was so caught up in the excitement of Amy getting one up on Jack on Melissa.  Needless to say, I was metaphorically kicking myself but full marks to Jane Fallon for lulling me into a false sense of security.

I loved the flashbacks to the past as Amy and Melissa's relationship went under the microscope.  I know such toxic friendships exist and think it's amazing that you can't see what's happening until it's pointed out to you, or it's too late.  Which is why the strapline: keep your friends close and your best friend even closer is BRILLIANT!

Faking Friends is a superb book that had me gripped from start to finish.  I couldn't put the book down until I knew how this game of chess would end.  Your move, Melissa.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Seven Seconds - Lisa Compton


Neuro-imaging studies show that there is a brief interval during cognitive processing, just before we make a conscious decision, when our subconscious mind takes over. There is no scientific explanation for what happens during these seven seconds. Olivia Osborne knows. And it’s terrifying. 

Olivia Osborne is a forensic psychologist and former FBI agent who is blessed (or cursed, depending on who you ask) with unique gifts. Olivia is able to sense what others cannot--the spiritual presence of those who have "crossed over," as well as the living who are influenced, or in some cases possessed, by evil. The passing of her beloved Gran was the catalyst Olivia needed to leave the FBI behind and return to her native San Antonio, Texas. But a familiar evil has followed on her heels. 

When a series of brutal murders rock her city, Olivia is pulled into the investigation despite her plans to leave that part of her life behind. What if she isn't supposed to run? What if she was always supposed to stand and fight? 

Seven Seconds is the first book in this exciting new paranormal crime procedural.


What did I think?

I was drawn to this book by the paranormal edge to it, you know it's not just any old crime book when the perpetrator is evil itself.  The paranormal element was just a small part of the book, so people who love crime thrillers and dislike fantasy will still enjoy Seven Seconds.

The character of Dr Olivia Osborne is very well thought out.  Like all women in her family, she has a gift and can communicate with spirits.  As an ex-FBI agent she has returned to her home town of San Antonia and is called on by the San Antonia Police Department to help them with a series of murders.  These murders seem to link to something that happened in Olivia's past and I felt like whatever evil spirit was involved 'then' has unfinished business with Olivia 'now'.

What I found so interesting is that the seven seconds idea is TRUE!  The idea that our subconscious makes a decision before our conscious mind even knows about it is really eye-opening.  If, like me, you think of your subconscious as your spirit or soul, it is very possible that other elements on the astral plane could influence your decisions.  In those seven seconds before our conscious mind takes over, who's to say we aren't open to suggestion?  Scary stuff indeed.

It took me a good few chapters to get into this book, but once I did I was gripped.  I would have liked to explore the paranormal a bit more but I think Lisa Compton has cleverly weighted the normal/paranormal to appeal to many readers.  I am intrigued to see what comes next for Olivia Osborne.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Rupture (Dark Iceland #4) - Ragnar Jónasson


1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all…

In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them. 

Haunting, frightening and complex, Rupture is a dark and atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s foremost crime writers. 


What did I think?

Rupture is another of the Dark Iceland series that is set before Book 2, Nightblind.  Again, I do wish I had read them in the order that they were written rather than the order in which they were translated (and bought), as if I needed such a brilliant excuse to read the whole series again!

I loved the Agatha Christie feel to this book, with Ari Thór investigating a cold case from 50 years ago, all based around an intriguing old photograph.  It has the added menace of a deadly virus outbreak which leads to Siglufjörður being on lockdown, so with nobody being able to get in our out, Ari Thór can concentrate on solving this murder from the 1950's.  I do love the character of Ari Thór; he is such a cool iceman who has no thought for people's feelings and just says what he thinks.  

With the reintroduction of Ísrún, the reporter we met in Blackout, another layer is added as Ari Thór utilises her investigative skills.  Ísrún is investigating a missing child so we have two mysteries to solve in Rupture and I loved untangling the threads of both of these brilliant 'whodunnit' storylines.

Like I have said before, Ragnar Jónasson has the ability to conjure such detailed images in the readers' minds through his impeccable writing.  The scenery is breathtakingly described and I have such a vivid image of Siglufjörður in my head that every time I read a Dark Iceland book, I feel like I am actually there.  I love the pace and length of these books, they pack such a lot into their short length and this is most definitely a case of quality over quantity.  As dark as they are, they always leave me looking forward to my next visit to Siglufjörður.

My rating:




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Friday, 5 January 2018

Deadly Partnership - Richard Gardner


On his retirement, widower Paul Jenkins decides to live with his sister by the sea. But having moved in, the idyllic life that he has been hankering after is thrown into turmoil when he comes face to face with a burglar in the middle of the night.

His impulsive reaction to the intrusion has disturbing consequences when he is confronted with some unsavoury characters. However, it is the dead that he has far more to fear from.

What did I think?

With a first chapter that reminded me of a Peter James book, Deadly Partnership grips the reader instantly and refuses to let go.  I was left with my mouth agape at the end of chapter 1 as the scene was set for a thrilling read.

I loved the way the characters were portrayed, although I didn't particularly like any of them.  When I first read about Paul and his son, Gary, I felt as though Gary was taking advantage of his father's generosity by asking for more money to keep his business afloat.  My feelings soon changed as things progressed, as it became clear that Paul remained in control of every situation he was put in.  

Paul plans to move in with his sister, Julie, who currently lives in the family home.  When Julie becomes involved in spiritualist meetings, the resident medium warns her about letting Paul move in.  Julie doesn't pay much attention to this warning and allows Paul and Gary to renovate the house, but Julie gets more than she bargained for when a restless spirit starts appearing.  With some people willing to do anything to keep their secrets buried, will this spirit ever be able to rest in peace?

The paranormal edge gave this thriller a little something extra and just shows that you might be able to fool the living but you can't run away from the dead.  A hugely enjoyable novel that continued to surprise me at every turn.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Thursday, 4 January 2018

A Different Kind of Lovely - Petra March



"A man with a damaged soul fell in love with a ballerina with a broken body."

When Neal Medwin glimpses Mina Automne for the first time, he's a man whose soul is darkened with memories of a painful past, whereas Mina is a vibrant, strong, young woman. She's a determined ballerina who's carefully planning and painting her life.

Neal steps into her existence and threatens to shatter Mina's plans with an impossible request.

Mina can't help the fragile man who's invading her home, even though their parents used to be close friends and she knows of Neal's hurtful background. She allows him to linger within her lovely and artistic world, however, hoping he might find some peace and solace.

Slowly, their conflict turns into friendship, and eventually into love, until a terrible discovery ruins Mina's projects and forces her to let go of all her dreams, and of her sweet, damaged man.

Neal is unable to fight for Mina and for the unripe love they share, because he's not ready to leave his past behind. He's not strong enough - not yet.


What did I think?

Petra March has such a dreamlike quality to her writing that it's the perfect escapism from our dark and dismal lives (I speak for myself, of course).  I was honoured to try my hand at editing and read an early draft of A Different Kind of Lovely but it was clear that the quality of Petra March's writing shone through every single page.

Neal and Mina are broken in different ways, so it is natural that they would be drawn to one another.  I loved how Neal referred to Mina as his butterfly, both may appear fragile and beautiful on the outside but they are tougher than you think underneath.  What Mina didn't realise at first is how Neal managed to enter her life.  It wasn't an accident that he was in that place at the time he met her, although it was a tragic accident that ultimately brought them together.  I'm being deliberately vague as to get the most out of these books, you should really read them all in order.  The characters are linked in such a way that it's so breathtaking to behold the hand of fate at work.

I was delighted to see some of our favourite characters from the early books and it's like they have grown up in front of our eyes.  I welcomed them as I would an old friend and felt as if I was hovering on the outskirts of their midst seeing events unfold.

Heartbreaking, ethereal and dreamlike, A Different Kind of Lovely will awaken your senses and encourage you to hold on to your dreams.  The strength shown by Mina's character was both uplifting and courageous and it just shows that a person can appear fragile and breakable on the outside but be so very strong and vigorous underneath, and vice versa of course.

Do read these books in consecutive order to get the most out of them, it will really make a world of difference to understand the characters' history and see their development.  Pure escapism with a dreamlike quality, open your heart to Petra March's ethereal writing and her exquisite characters.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Island - Victoria Hislop


The acclaimed million-copy number one bestseller and winner of Richard & Judy's Summer Read 2006 from Victoria Hislop is a dramatic tale of four generations, rent by war, illicit love, violence and leprosy, from the thirties, through the war, to the present day.

On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother's past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone's throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga - Greece's former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip...

What did I think?

When I read my first Victoria Hislop book, The Sunrise, I just knew that I had to read all of her other books, so I was delighted when my fairy godsister offered to loan me her copy of The Island which was Victoria Hislop's first novel.  What an amazing debut, it's absolutely breathtaking and it affected me so much that I found myself getting quite emotional quite a few times.

I have never been to Crete but my parents have been and I heard all about their trip to Spinalonga - the famous Greek leper colony.  What Victoria Hislop does so cleverly is that she breathes new life into history by creating characters you take to your heart so that you walk every step and feel every emotion with them.

The story starts in 2001 with Alexis Fielding visiting the small fishing village of Plaka to find out about her family history, it's a bit of an excuse to get away from her boyfriend for a few days on their holiday to Crete.  Alexis carries a letter from her mother, Sofia, to her old friend Fotini which asks Fotini to tell Alexis the story that Sofia can't bring herself to tell her daughter.  So the story rolls back to 1939 beginning with Sofia's grandparents, Georgis and Eleni, and their two daughters Anna and Maria.  The family are heartbroken when leprosy curses their house and a life on Spinalonga beckons for Eleni, but this isn't the only secret that Sofia has kept hidden from Alexis.

The story of Spinalonga is absolutely fascinating and I could imagine people's fear of leprosy before it was fully understood.  It's so sad to think that people could have been going about their everyday lives then noticing an odd patch of skin and before they know it they are ripped from their family and sent to live on the island.  It must have been soul destroying to be so close to mainland Crete but hopefully the residents made the best of it, as they did in this book.  This multi-coloured, hopeful and beautiful story is the history of Spinalonga that I want to remember and The Island is not a book I will ever forget.

A beautiful, breathtaking debut that breathes new life into this mysterious island and reveals its colourful history so vividly through Victoria Hislop's descriptive and emotional prose.  A definite recommended read and one that I will read again.

My rating:




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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Blackout (Dark Iceland 3) - Ragnar Jónasson


On the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykajvik to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies…


What did I think?

The fantastic cover of Blackout gives some hint of the creeping darkness in this third instalment of the Dark Iceland series - I bought an ebook but I think it would have looked even better 'in the flesh'.

As an ash cloud threatens to turn the country into darkness, a brutal murder is committed in Iceland.  I used to want to visit Iceland, but I'm having second thoughts after all the murders portrayed in Ragnar Jónasson's books; they are so very realistic that you forget they are fiction.  I even think of Ari Thór as an old friend, one who's annoying at times but he is a cool iceman after all.

I felt like there were a lot of characters in Blackout, and being set before book 2, Nightblind, it didn't take much to confuse me.  As much as I didn't know who was who at times, it didn't stop me enjoying the story but I do wish that I had read Blackout before Nightblind.  As I've come to expect with Ragnar's books, the elements are painted as characters in their own right and there was nothing more menacing than an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption.  

I particularly loved the new character of Isrún, a young journalist, who is determined to get her story before the darkness descends.  We dig a little into Isrún's family history which was my favourite part of the story, being almost a dual storyline and the thread which kept me turning page after page.

The whole Dark Iceland series is set to be a classic series for crime fiction lovers.  You don't get much darker than Icelandic Noir and Blackout will have you turning the pages until all its dark and chilling secrets are revealed.

My rating:




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Monday, 1 January 2018

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho


A global phenomenon, The Alchemist has been read and loved by over 62 million readers, topping bestseller lists in 74 countries worldwide. Now this magical fable is beautifully repackaged in an edition that lovers of Paulo Coelho will want to treasure forever.

Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. This is such a book – a beautiful parable about learning to listen to your heart, read the omens strewn along life’s path and, above all, follow your dreams.

Santiago, a young shepherd living in the hills of Andalucia, feels that there is more to life than his humble home and his flock. One day he finds the courage to follow his dreams into distant lands, each step galvanised by the knowledge that he is following the right path: his own. The people he meets along the way, the things he sees and the wisdom he learns are life-changing.

With Paulo Coelho’s visionary blend of spirituality, magical realism and folklore, The Alchemist is a story with the power to inspire nations and change people’s lives.

What did I think?

I have a love of Egyptian history and anything Egyptian so I'm surprised I hadn't picked up The Alchemist before it was my book club read for December.  Just the pyramids on the cover of some editions should have been enough for it to draw my attention but I'm embarrassed to say that I had never even heard of the book.

The Alchemist is written as if it's a fable with the air of magic surrounding it.  There's nothing more magical than an alchemist: one who can turn ordinary metal into gold but what about the treasure within ourselves?  Treasure is what Santiago aims to find - he sets off from Andalusia en route to Egypt, encountering the usual thieves and rogues along the way, but learning lots of life lessons.  He falls in love but never waivers from his mission, despite a few shaky moments.

I really wanted to love The Alchemist but I didn't have any of those eye-opening moments that I expected.  It's a good story but I felt it wasn't quite sure what it wanted to be: a bedtime story or a piece of adult fiction, perhaps some of that was down to the translation.  It seemed very simple at times, reminding me of a bedtime story then suddenly it would be quite serious and frightening.  

I enjoyed the journey I went on with Santiago and it did remind me to look inside myself for my own treasure, but it wasn't a story I think I will remember for a long time.  I'm glad that I read it and it didn't take much time to do so, but it didn't really live up to my high expectations.  I think it is a timeless novel that many people will enjoy, but unfortunately it didn't set my world on fire.

My rating:




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