Sunday 31 January 2016

Follow Me - Angela Clarke

The ‘Hashtag Murderer’ posts chilling cryptic clues online, pointing to their next target. Taunting the police. Enthralling the press. Capturing the public’s imagination.
But this is no virtual threat.
As the number of his followers rises, so does the body count.
Eight years ago two young girls did something unforgivable. Now ambitious police officer Nasreen and investigative journalist Freddie are thrown together again in a desperate struggle to catch this cunning, fame-crazed killer. But can they stay one step ahead of him? And can they escape their own past?
Time's running out. Everyone is following the #Murderer. But what if he is following you?

What did I think?

This was an amazing debut by Angela Clarke, cleverly utilising the modern day obsession with social media.  I loved the acronyms at the start of each chapter, some I knew like OMG and BTW and others I had never heard of such as FOMO (fear of missing out).  The chapters are quite short and the fast pace of the book means that it falls into the never ending loop of 'just one more chapter'.

Freddie is a journalist who thinks in headlines.  Everything that happens to her causes a headline to jump into her head, especially when she gets caught up in the #Murderer case.  As she gets more involved in the investigation, the headline thoughts stop as she sheds her journalist skin and becomes a social-media advisor to the police.  It was fascinating to see Freddie evolve from a headline grabbing journalist to a compassionate human being.

When she meets up with her old friend, Nasreen, who is now a police officer, there is the added intrigue of what happened when they were younger to make them lose touch with each other.  It was excellent how the social media theme ran throughout the book, as I know all too well about the dangers of Facebook comments being taken the wrong way.

I had no idea who the #Murderer was and, at one time or another, my suspicions fell on almost everybody in the book as I looked at people close to Freddie for any hint or clue that they may have left.  It was a complete surprise when the #Murderer was revealed and I applaud Angela Clarke for successfully throwing me off the scent.

This is a fast-paced modern social media murder tale that had me on the edge of my seat throughout.  An absolutely cracking debut from Angela Clarke and I look forward to reading more from her.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Avon, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Jakob's Colours - Lindsay Hawdon

Inspired by the lost voices of the Romany Holocaust this heartbreaking and tender novel will appeal to readers who loved Sophie's ChoiceSchindler's Ark and The Book Thief.
Austria, 1944. Jakob, a gypsy boy - half Roma, half Yenish - runs, as he has been told to do. With shoes of sack cloth, still bloodstained with another's blood, a stone clutched in one hand, a small wooden box in the other. He runs blindly, full of fear, empty of hope. For hope lies behind him in a green field with a tree that stands shaped like a Y.
He knows how to read the land, the sky. When to seek shelter, when not. He has grown up directing himself with the wind and the shadows. They are familiar to him. It is the loneliness that is not. He has never, until this time, been so alone.
'Don't be afraid, Jakob,' his father has told him, his voice weak and wavering. 'See the colours, my boy,' he has whispered. So he does. Rusted ochre from a mossy bough. Steely white from the sap of the youngest tree. On and on, Jakob runs.
Spanning from one world war to another, taking us across England, Switzerland and Austria, Jakob's Colours is about the painful legacies passed down from one generation to another, finding hope where there is no hope and colour where there is no colour.

What did I think?

I rarely sneak a peek at a book as it drops through my letterbox but the mesmeric cover of Jakob's Colours attracted me like a moth to a flame.  Once I had sneaked a peek there was no going back as chapters flipped back and forth between 'This Day' and 'Before' and I just had to find out what had happened.

Eight year old Jakob is alone at the beginning of the book so it is clear that something awful has happened to his family, and the book is about the Romany Holocaust after all.  In the chapters 'Before' and 'Long Before', Lindsay Hawdon has made sure that the voices of Jakob's mother and father, Lor and Yavy, are heard so evocatively that you forget you are hurtling towards a shocking ending.  As we discover how Lor and Yavy met, the inclusion of authentic Romany language adds additional depth to these already colourful characters.

Jakob is an amazing boy who has survived against the odds during World War II.  There is a part of the story where an old man has hidden Jakob, and two others, in a cupboard so the Germans don't find them.  The compassion that Markus shows is humbling, as he shares his food with his hidden visitors and takes beatings from the German soldiers.  Jakob's will to survive helps him to cope with his self-enforced captivity and he draws strength from his fellow captives, who are willing to sacrifice everything so that Jakob can be free.

Completely devastating and utterly compelling, Jakob's Colours is a book that stayed with me long after reading the final page.  At times shocking, it gives a powerful voice to all those poor souls who unnecessarily lost their lives during World War II.

I received this book from the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday 25 January 2016

Natalie's Getting Married - Rosa Temple

Career minded, Natalie Spencer, had never been in love. She could never understand what all the fuss was about. But when she met Jackson Humphries during Fresher’s Week at university, that all changed.

Utterly infatuated, Natalie quickly discovers the meaning of love and, before she knows it, she's heading up the aisle – for the first time, that is.

This is a tale about four wedding dresses, a runaway groom and a girl who got so carried away, she couldn’t see true love staring her right in the face. 

What did I think?

Well this was a surprising little gem of a book; I simply couldn't put it down.  I fancied a bit of chicklit for a change but didn't expect to be so engrossed in the story that I read late into the night.  This only usually happens to me with a thriller.  So what was different about this book?  It just had that little bit of magic sprinkled throughout, and with Natalie being so desperate to be part of a couple she can't see true love hiding in plain sight like a pantomime villain - it's behind you!

I think we can all recognise something of Natalie in ourselves.  I'm sure we've all longingly mooned over a dreamy boy at school or, in Natalie's case, university.  For Natalie, her dream, and in a way ours, comes true!  Dreamy boy, aka Jackson, finally notices Natalie, falls in love with her and proposes faster than the speed of light.  Dream come true!  Then real life descends in the form of a future mother-in-law from hell.  Will Mummy Dearest convince Jackson to call off the wedding or does he truly love Natalie?

After Jackson comes Liam.  He's perfect and dependable but he just didn't set my, or Natalie's, heart on fire.  It's one of those occasions where he feels more strongly about her than she does about him - eek, time for a sharp exit.  At a New Year's Eve party Liam catches Natalie unawares, and slightly inebriated, and proposes.  Natalie accepts but you just know her heart is not fully committed.  I was crying 'call it off' right until she walks down the aisle.

So after wedding number 2, Natalie leaves London for LA hoping to put her past mistakes behind her.  She can run but she can't hide from love!  Of course, the ending was predictable but I was just ready for a happy ending and this book succeeded in leaving a massive smile on my face.

With misunderstandings, relationship mistakes and wedding dress shopping reminiscent of Narnia, this book will delight and enchant.  It has the perfect mix of laughter and tears, making it a book I will read again in the future when I need a little pick-me-up.

I received this e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Published 14th March 2016 - preorder now from Amazon

The Queen's Choice - Anne O'Brien

Her children or her crown
France, 1399: The Duke of Brittany is dead and his widow, Joanna of Navarre, has inherited control of their land – a testament to her intellect, integrity and political prowess.
Then comes an unprecedented proposal from Henry IV, King of England. The price of becoming his Queen? Abandoning her homeland, leaving her children and sacrificing her independence.
Henry's hold on the crown is unsteady and war is brewing. With the constant threat of rebellion, Henry will trust no-one – not even his new Queen. Crossing the channel is a dangerous prospect. But the union between Joanna and Henry would bring the chance of a vital alliance between two proud states – if they will allow it.
One question. Two paths. A choice that will make history.

What did I think?

I am a big fan of historical books, both fiction and non-fiction, but I don't have a lot of knowledge of English history prior to the War of the Roses so I was intrigued to read a novel of Henry IV and Joanna of Navarre.  Indeed, it was Henry IV’s grandson, Henry VI, who reigned during the War of the Roses so I have Anne O’Brien to thank for expanding my historical knowledge of this fascinating period of English history.  I've also had my eye on Anne O'Brien for a while and have picked up a few of her books on Amazon to read, and I will get round to them a lot quicker now that I have read this one.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that Anne used to be a history teacher as each chapter starts with a location and date, and I do find it really useful to have such a timeline when reading historical fiction.

The Queen’s Choice is a very comprehensive account of this period in history and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It gives an insight into the strained relations with France as well as the competition for the English crown.  The paranoia surrounding the monarch, who has been labelled as a usurper, must have been difficult to live with and I can see why Henry wanted to keep his crown close to him at all times.  I almost expected it to be prised from his cold dead fingers at the end.

Henry IV has to take a back seat in this novel as Joanna takes centre stage, being the subject of the book’s title.  Joanna is an unbelievably strong woman for her time – as Duchess of Brittany she was instrumental in helping her husband with his decisions but found that her voice wasn't heard when she became Queen of England.  Joanna’s story is quite tragic; she left her sons in France to become Queen of England and marry the man that she loved.  Although due to Henry constantly fighting rebellion, she didn’t see him as often as she would have liked and therefore didn’t give Henry the child that she craved.  Tragically, Henry is struck down with a deadly skin illness and Joanna shows that her love for him is more than skin deep.

Anne O’Brien brings history to life in this vivid portrait of Joanna of Navarre.  I felt that I had stepped in Joanna's shoes and lived life through her eyes for a short period of time.  It’s a royal love story with all the treachery and treason of the English medieval court.

I received this e-book from the publisher, MIRA, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Sunday 24 January 2016

Battle for Rome (Twilight of Empire III) - Ian Ross

The Roman Empire is on the brink of civil war. Only Maxentius, tyrant of Rome, stands between the emperor Constantine and supreme power in the west.
Aurelius Castus, promoted from the ranks for valour and loyalty, is now a tribune in Constantine's army. But great honour brings new challenges: Castus is tormented by suspicions that his aristocratic wife, the mother of his child, has been unfaithful. And as Constantine becomes increasingly devoted to Christianity, Castus is forced to ask himself whether he is backing the wrong man.
All know that the coming war will decide the fate of empire. But Castus's own battle will carry him much further - into the shadowy realms of treachery at the heart of Rome itself.
The third book in the brilliant Twilight of Empire.

What did I think?

I've always enjoyed historical fiction and as a lover of Roman history, it's quite surprising that I've never read any Roman historical fiction.  I don't usually like to start reading mid-way through a series but I enjoyed this book so much that I don't think it was a necessity to read books 1 and 2 first.  I'm sure it would enhance the story by reading them in order, but Battle for Rome was immensely enjoyable as a standalone novel.

Castus is a very strong character - he commands the page as he does his army.  Although the book has a lot of fighting in it, and it's no surprise given the title of Battle for Rome, there is the human element of Castus and Sabina's marriage.  As Castus has been fighting across the Roman Empire, it has clearly left a strain on his marriage.  Has Sabina started to look elsewhere for comfort or has Castus' absence left her weak to corruption?

The only time I felt that I was missing something by not having read the earlier books was when Nigrinus was introduced.  I felt that there was some history between Castus and Nigrinus as they clearly detest each other, but there is so much treachery and backstabbing that nobody can be trusted.  I really enjoyed part 3 of the book when Castus is forced to work with Nigrinus and goes on a mission to Rome.  There were plenty of shocks and surprises in store to keep my heart racing.

Ian Ross has written a masterpiece that effortlessly transports the reader from the comfort of their home in 2015 to the Roman Empire in 312AD.  Every clash of sword and shield resounds from each page and, through Ian's descriptive writing, I could almost smell the blood and sweat of the Roman army.  This book has everything you would expect from a Roman epic - there is the opulence and splendour of Rome, power and riches of senators, madness of emperors and the brutality of battle.  I absolutely raced through it and definitely want to read the two earlier books in the series.

Special thanks go to Suzanne from Head of Zeus for sending me a treasured signed copy in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Another Love - Amanda Prowse

In the early years, she was happy.
Romilly had worked hard for her stunning, modern house in one of Bristol's most fashionable suburbs. She adored her gorgeous, gap-toothed daughter and her kind and handsome husband. Sure, life was sometimes exhausting - but nothing that a large glass of wine at the end of the day couldn't fix.
But then, as deep-buried insecurities surfaced, everything started to unravel. A glass of wine became a bottle; one bottle became two. Once, Romilly's family were everything to her. Now, after years of hiding the drinking, she must finally admit that she has found another love...

What did I think?

Having heard so many great things about her, I have been meaning to read an Amanda Prowse novel for quite some time.  So when Another Love popped through my letterbox as the result of a Goodreads Giveaway, it had barely hit the mat before I had ripped it open and turned to the first page.
What an amazing story - it was heartbreaking, uplifting, tear-jerking, joyous, despairing and hopeful - this book really does have it all. Romilly is the most flawed character I have ever come across.  She just doesn't know when to stop drinking and she is almost bi-polar in her outbursts when the alcohol has her in its grip.  Her whole family is affected, none more so than her daughter Celeste and my heart was breaking as each chapter ends with a snippet from her diary.  She loves her mum but she is also afraid of her and it was absolutely devastating reading all of Celeste's feelings.

Romilly's husband, David, clearly loves her but you can feel him getting to the end of his tether and I was wondering how much more he could take.  As Romilly spirals out of control, David asks her to make a heartbreaking choice - her family or the booze.  A decision that Romilly has to live with for the rest of her life - a life that I feared grew shorter every time the bottle hit her lips.

Amanda Prowse has really managed to get under the skin of an alcoholic; the denial, the lies and the feeling of euphoria were all described so well that I felt I was standing in Romilly's shoes.  Alcoholism is a serious battle and I can now see how easily alcoholics can fall off the difficult and long path to recovery.

I did need my tissues at the end of this book as the tears fell down my face, blurring the words on the page.  I think perhaps they were tears of sadness, joy, and even a mixture of both, as the ending wrapped up perfectly.

Now I know why readers get excited when a new Amanda Prowse novel is released - I will certainly be one of them from now on.

I received this book from the publisher, Head of Zeus, via a Goodreads Giveaway.  

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Thursday 21 January 2016

Cobwebs in the Dark (Nighthawk book 3) - Rachael Richey

With NightHawk newly reformed and preparing for a world tour, Abi Hawk finds herself unaccountably insecure about the attention her husband Gideon, the band's frontman, will receive from groupies. In New Zealand for the first leg of the tour and a visit with Gideon's sister, they are faced with a new problem. An outrageous claim pushes Abi's insecurities to new heights, and it takes all their resolve to stick together and sort it out.

Meanwhile their daughter Natasha goes on an adventure of her own, one that places her in danger from an old adversary, forcing Abi and Gideon to summon all their combined strengths to rescue her.

What did I think?

I emitted a little squeal of excitement when I received an email from Rachael Richey, offering me a review copy of the next instalment in the Nighthawk series.  Having read Storm Rising and Rhythm of Deceit, I have been secretly looking forward to this next instalment.  Although you could read Cobwebs in the Dark as a stand-a-lone, you should really read the two prior novels to fully understand the history of Abi and Gideon, and also because they are brilliant entertaining books that you should not miss.

Rachael’s writing style flows so easily that she effortlessly moves from past to present, revealing just enough information each time and leaving the reader clamouring for more.  This ensures that the reader voraciously devours every page and constantly reads ‘just one more chapter’.

The Hawks are written with so much warmth that I felt as if I was a part of their family.  What I found so brilliant about this book was the almost ‘Back to the Future’ feel of it – all of the nearly moments when Abi and Gideon might have run into each other in the past.  I felt like Marty McFly spying on his parents where a tiny alteration to any moment in the past could have changed the course of their history.  It was quite sad how close they came to meeting again but who knows, perhaps they wouldn’t still be together if they had met back then.

It was interesting to learn more about Natasha’s history in this book along with another appearance of Psycho Simon - I couldn't read quick enough to find out what he would come up with next.

This was another treat from Rachael Richey - I feel like I'm part of the Hawk family myself.  I always feel a little sad when I finish one of the Nighthawk books but Rachael leaves a little treat in the last few pages - a tantalising snippet of the next book, so I know I'm going to be reading more soon!

I received this e-book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Published 17th Feb - preorder from Amazon

Monday 18 January 2016

BLOG TOUR: Victim Without a Face - Stefan Ahnhem guest post

I am honoured to be the first stop on the Victim Without a Face Blog Tour.  Thank you to Suzanne from Head of Zeus for putting my question to Stefan Ahnhem and thank you to Stefan for such an amazing guest post.

In this day and age of social networking, I was intrigued by the school photo idea in Victim Without a Face.  When reading Victim Without a Face I was reminded of times when old school friends had posted photographs on Facebook or Friends Reunited and I racked my brain to try to remember everybody in the picture.  There always seems to be one or two names that have disappeared through the cracks, so I asked Stefan Ahnhem if he could remember everybody from his class in school...

Do you remember everyone from your class in elementary school?

My answer to this question is no. To be honest, I couldn’t even remember half of them. Perhaps I am particularly bad with names and faces, but I suspect that a variation on this is true for most people. In a class with more than twenty kids there will always be one or two who have simply slipped out of your mind.

This doesn’t especially matter. After all, it’s likely that everyone will have forgotten a different person. If you and your friends all clubbed together, you could probably make a collective effort and remember everyone in your class. Right?

In Victim Without a Face, that is not the case. Twenty school friends, now all grown up, have all forgotten about a former classmate – a person who was so bland, it was as if they never existed. And it is this person who proves to be the key to everything.

I have always been interested in the effects of bullying, but it was only when I started my research for Victim Without a Face that I learned that being ignored and treated like air is the worst kind of bullying a person can endure.

I was fascinated by an experiment performed by the psychologist Kipling D. Williams which showed that being exposed to social exclusion triggers the same part of the brain as being exposed to physical pain. So I figured that, as with physical pain, social exclusion might make people want to retaliate – to take revenge on those that made them suffer.

These days social exclusion is not just something that occurs behind the schoolyard fence. It happens every day for almost all of us. We update our Facebook status and don’t get the desired number of likes from colleagues. So we enter the office without saying hello. The next time we are snubbed by a friend, we take a mini-revenge by ‘accidentally’ forgetting that friend’s birthday.

The killer in Victim Without a Face takes things one or two steps further (okay three) when he takes revenge on his classmates. But he hasn’t just been snubbed, he has been erased from history, forgotten by everyone. He no longer has an identity in the eyes of the world. What better person to be a killer than someone who has already been a victim, without a face?

Stefan Ahnhem

Stefan Ahnhem is an established screenwriter for both TV and film, and has worked on a variety of projects, including adaptations of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallender series. He also serves on the board of the Swedish Writers Guild. He lives in Stockholm. Victim Without a Face is his first novel.

You can read my review of Victim Without a Face here.
Buy it now from Amazon for the amazing price of 99p for Kindle - click here

Sunday 17 January 2016

The Wind Guardian - Frank Scozzari

The ultimate threats facing United States come to life in Frank Scozzari's fast-paced thriller. With the help of an inside man, a group of determined terrorists siege a nuclear power plant, intending to spread radiation and wreak destruction into the world.

The only thing standing in their way are two misfit security guards, who return to their posts and realize what is happening in the power plant. The two soon find themselves in a battle against time and odds, as the terrorists facing them will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals.

The Wind Guardian exposes the vulnerability of a terrorist attack on one of our nation's nuclear power plants from an insider’s perspective.

What did I think?

I absolutely loved Frank Scozzari’s previous novel, From Afar, so I didn’t hesitate when I was invited to read his next book.  The Wind Guardian was clearly meticulously researched and so thorough that I almost feel like I could now apply to work in a nuclear power plant myself.

It started off with the murder of a security guard and continued at a hundred miles an hour, barely giving the reader time to draw breath.  As soon as the security pass has been stolen at the murder scene, and the night shift commences, the air is crackling with so much tension as you wait for the inevitable to happen.

Two of the guards have a mutual attraction and decide to meet up during their shift.  I loved the couldn’t-care-less attitude of Cameron and Grace as they experienced the excitement of new love.  Without spoiling the story, it falls to Cameron and Grace to save the whole plant when it comes under attack.  It is only due to them sneaking away to a dead zone for a bit of a canoodle that they survive the initial onslaught.

With terrorism so much on our minds now, this book is so realistic that it does actually give you chills while you are reading.  The lengths that people will go to for their beliefs or for money is quite astounding.  At the end of the book, when I finally caught my breath, I was thinking of what might have happened had the plan succeeded.  As much as this story is a 'what might have been', it could very easily be something that might happen. 

This story is written with so much tension; it’s fast paced and gripping.  It has an enough of a human element with Cameron and Grace’s story without it being too mushy.  I think it would make a really good film or tv mini-series and I wouldn't be surprised to see this snapped up and on our screens at some time in the future.

I really have to applaud Frank for writing two very different books; both are excellent and unputdownable for very different reasons. Frank Scozzari is certainly one to watch.

I received this e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Beside Myself - Ann Morgan

Helen and Ellie are identical twins – like two peas in a pod, everyone says. 

The girls know this isn't true, though: Helen is the leader and Ellie the follower.

Until they decide to swap places: just for fun, and just for one day.

But Ellie refuses to swap back...

And so begins a nightmare from which Helen cannot wake up. Her toys, her clothes, her friends, her glowing record at school, the favour of her mother and the future she had dreamed of are all gone to a sister who blossoms in the approval that used to belong to Helen. And as the years pass, she loses not only her memory of that day but also herself – until eventually only 'Smudge' is left.

Twenty-five years later, Smudge receives a call from out of the blue. It threatens to pull her back into her sister's dangerous orbit, but if this is her only chance to face the past, how can she resist?

Beside Myself is a compulsive and darkly brilliant psychological drama about family and identity – what makes us who we are and how very fragile it can be.

What did I think?

This book was both sad and creepy, and completely messed with my head.  What started out as a game for Helen and Ellie, with an identity swap, turned into something a lot more sinister when Ellie refused to swap back.  This is the point when Helen's life spirals out of control and I could have cried in frustration for her.

When Ellie becomes Helen she very easily takes on a completely different persona whereas Helen fights against the enforced Ellie-ness at every chance she gets.  I questioned who was who on several occasions, and I even wondered at one point if they weren't twins at all, but perhaps one little girl with a split personality.

The story mainly revolves around Helen, stuck as Ellie, and how the swap affected her life.  It would appear that she would do anything just to feel some kind of emotion and I felt that Ann Morgan had really allowed the reader to experience this emotional turmoil with Helen (now Ellie).  Helen has completely lost her identity and it's little wonder that she refers to herself as Smudge and her sister as H-ellie.

It's only on reading further that we understand why Ellie wanted to leave her identity behind and I raged at the inability of their mother to comfort her girls when they needed her most.  Yes, she had also lost her husband but it's in a mother's nature to protect her young; a task she failed miserably at.  Just exactly how much she failed did not become clear until the end and we got a glimpse into how selfish she really was.

I am amazed that this is Ann Morgan's first novel, as it is so well written and emotional.  I was unable to put this book down and it left me with the thought that a name is only a label and underneath we are who we are, nobody can ever take that away from us no matter how hard they might try.  It's chilling, gripping, compulsive reading - I couldn't take my eyes off the page.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Bloomsbury, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday 11 January 2016

The One in a Million Boy - Monica Wood

Miss Ona Vitkus has - aside from three months in the summer of 1914 - lived unobtrusively, her secrets fiercely protected.
The boy, with his passion for world records, changes all that. He is eleven. She is one hundred and four years, one hundred and thirty three days old (they are counting). And he makes her feel like she might be really special after all. Better late than never...
Only it's been two weeks now since he last visited, and she's starting to think he's not so different from all the rest.
Then the boy's father comes, for some reason determined to finish his son's good deed. And Ona must show this new stranger that not only are there odd jobs to be done, but a life's ambition to complete . . .

What did I think?

I think this will be one of those quirky books that divides opinion.  Headline have certainly put a lot of effort into the publicity of this book and I do think it is deserved, although it didn't have as much of a magical effect on me as I had hoped.

Ona is a fabulous character - I described the book as quirky and Ona accounts for most of that quirkiness, along with the 'boy' in the title.  Ona is 104 years old and is helped by the local scout group, which is how she meets 'the boy', after unsuccessfully trialling several scouts.  They hit it off immediately and become firm friends, but one day 'the boy' doesn't show up and his father comes instead.  Ona is determined not to like him but fate has other ideas and the two hit it off, showing Quinn that his son was more like him than he realised.

I struggled slightly with 'the boy' - everyone calls him 'the boy' and it's almost as if he doesn't have a name.  It just seems so impersonal when he made such an impression on so many lives, but at the same time it makes sense as it's how Ona refers to him and the book is written mainly from her perspective.  It's probably because she can't remember his name, which is the reason I've heard some older people use such a reference.  So nothing against the book, it's simply because it annoys me in real life too!

One thing that amazed me, and it is testament to Monica Wood's exceptional writing skills, was that my brain could hear the boy's words in the one sided interview transcript with Ona.  I even didn't realise I was filling in the gaps at first, but, without realising it, 'the boy' had gotten under my skin too.

I really enjoyed the boy's obsession with the Guinness World Records.  His enthusiasm was caught by Ona and certainly gave her a new lease of life.  Reading the records at the end, you just knew that the boy's family had a huge part to play in them.

Despite the sad subject matter, I did get a warm glow at the end of the book.  I think it just goes to show that a short life can have a massive effect.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Headline, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Published 5 April 2016 - pre-order from Amazon

Sunday 10 January 2016

Victim Without a Face - Stefan Ahnhem


The first victim was a bully who liked using his fists. The second was a thug who favoured steel-capped boots. Their bodies bore the marks of a killer who knew their sins. A single clue was left at the scene: a class photo from 1982, with two faces neatly crossed out.


There are eighteen men and women in the photo who are still alive - and one of them is the lead detective on the case. Fabian Risk thought he'd left his schooldays behind. Now his classmates are dying for the sins of their childhood ... Who is the faceless killer who's come back to haunt them?


What did I think?

I have read very little Nordic Noir so for me this was something a little bit different and I really enjoyed it.  I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book, trying to read fast but, at the same time, avert my eyes from the horror unfolding on the page.  It's pretty gruesome in some parts but so clever the way that each person was killed depending on what offence they committed at school.  

I loved Fabian Risk as the main character - Risk by name and risk by nature.  He really doesn't care what he needs to do to get the job done, in the same manner as my old favourite, Harry Bosch.  He's supposed to be on leave but joins in the hunt for his classmates' killer and not even second degree burns can stop him.  This even has an effect on his home life, although he barely notices.

I was reading so fast that at first I was confused by the Swedish and Danish names, but it doesn't take long to get used to who is who.  I was intrigued by the rivalry between the two police forces; Swedish and Danish, and it had a great ending to that little part of the story.

Thinking of school photographs, I think it could be true for a lot of us (over a certain age) that we struggle to remember the name of every single person in our class.  We're told that school days are happy days but I can't imagine that bullies or their victims would describe themselves as having been happy.  Perhaps it's true what they say - the quiet ones are the worst.  I'm really looking forward to reading more Fabian Risk - thankfully, Stefan Ahnhem doesn't plan to stop with just this one Risk novel.

With absolutely nothing lost in translation, it's so fast paced, gripping, gruesome and thrilling - I really enjoyed it and I will definitely be looking out for the next Fabian Risk book.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Head of Zeus, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Saturday 9 January 2016

Try Not to Breathe - Holly Seddon

You won't be able to put it down.
Just remember to breathe.

Alex is sinking. Slowly but surely, she's cut herself off from everything but her one true love - drink. Until she's forced to write a piece about a coma ward, where she meets Amy.

Amy is lost. When she was fifteen, she was attacked and left for dead in a park. Her attacker was never found. Since then, she has drifted in a lonely, timeless place. She's as good as dead, but not even her doctors are sure how much she understands.

Alex and Amy grew up in the same suburbs, played the same music, flirted with the same boys. And as Alex begins to investigate the attack, she opens the door to the same danger that has left Amy in a coma...

What did I think?

What an amazing debut from Holly Seddon.  Corvus agreed it should come with a Pringle-type warning as once you open it, you really can't stop reading!

It's such a novel idea to have a main character in a persistent vegetative state.  It's set in 2010 and Amy is not only trapped in her own body, she is trapped in 1995 when she was brutally attacked and left for dead.  She can hear visitors talking to her but she is understandably confused and her attempts at communication go unnoticed.

Alex's life is falling apart; she has lost everything she ever held dear and keeps looking for the answers in the bottom of every bottle. Alex starts writing a freelance piece about the local coma ward where she recognises one of the patients as Amy, whose attack she remembers hearing about.  Alex is determined to find out what happened to Amy 15 years ago and this gives her something to focus on other than alcohol.  Through writing this story, Alex gets stronger and thanks to Amy, perhaps there is still time for Alex's life to be saved.

I loved the way this book was written from Amy's perspective in 1995 through to present day, and through Alex, Jake (Amy's boyfriend from 1995), and Sue (Jake's Mum) in 2010.  There were so many red herrings that I thought anybody could have attacked Amy as I frantically raced through the pages for more clues.  Although Amy was going out with Jake, her head was turned by her 'Secret', but who is Amy's 'Secret'?  Only Amy can identify him...

This is a book that kept me hooked from start to finish.  It is so hard to put down and I highly recommend it.  Holly Seddon is certainly one to watch - I think we'll be hearing a lot more about her.

I received this book from the publisher, Corvus, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon