Thursday, 14 December 2017

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

About Three Things About Elsie

There are three things you should know about Elsie.

The first thing is that she’s my best friend.

The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.

And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:

1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

My review of Three Things About Elsie

Three Things About Elsie is such a beautiful book to read, absolutely beautiful. I was instantly drawn to the book by its attractive cover that depicts Battenberg. This in itself brought a lump to my throat, memories flooding in of my nana who loved Battenberg cake. But what this cover does is that it evokes feelings, emotions, and that is exactly what the book does. At times it is very funny, and others it made me weep. It's about the older generation, of how the younger generation interact with them, and of how the two worlds collide. It is a book about memories, of finding who we are, and ultimately, where we are now. This book is so many things, and all are wonderful to read.

The book revolves around Florence, whom we first meet while she is lying on the floor, in her flat in Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. From the moment I met Florence I wanted to know her story. Why she had fallen and who would come and help her. Her voice is so distinctive, it felt like she was really talking to me. I wanted to be her friend, and I wanted to reach into the book and help her.

Jo Canon writes with such empathy and insight that it made me want to cry. I understood completely what it was like for Florence, living in this environment, with other people trying to dictate her day, and what she was feeling. The writing is beautiful, yet straightforward, as Florence is a straight talker and says exactly what is on her mind, and I loved her for this.

As with all great novels there is a wonderful supporting cast. We have Elsie, Florence's friend from when they were young girls, and the narrative constantly goes backwards and forwards in time, sharing these early days with us, and these passages were simply a delight to read. We then have Jack, a man whom she befriends in the care home, and who helps Florence in her quest to discover the true identity of the charming new resident. The most likeable character for me (apart from Florence) as that of Handy Simon. A man who cares deeply about the residents but who finds it difficult to communicate his thoughts and feelings. I really liked Simon, I warmed to him immediately and wondered if he was on the autistic spectrum.

This book highlights the fact that the nursing and medical professions often 'medicalise' older patients, in that they do not see the actual person, but rather a set of symptoms. Florence's story so eloquently and gently explains that she is so much more than the old lady that many younger people see. She has lived an exciting life. Has loved, had friends and has been a young woman, a young woman with hopes and dreams.

Three Things About Elsie is a beautifully written book about the older generation, about history, and about friendship. It was so refreshing to read a book from an older person's point of view that was not over sentimental, but simply told a story from their point of view. It is warm, witty and at times heart breaking, but above all a hugely enjoyable read. Florence will, I feel, stay with me for a very long time.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGaley for an Advanced Reader Copy.

Three Things About Elsie is published on 11th Jan 2018 by Borough Press. It can be found on Amazon here.

Monday, 11 December 2017

A Death in the Night @GuyFSAuthor @Urbanebooks

About A Death in the Night
Book 4 in the thrilling Hampstead Murders series!
When a woman identified as the wife of a prominent lawyer dies at an exclusive women's club, the team from Hampstead police station find themselves thrown into a baffling investigation with very little evidence to offer any guidance.

By coincidence, Metcalfe, Collins and Willis were all attending a vintage dinner dance at the club at the estimated time of death. Can they remember anything between them which might indicate a solution?

Set against a background of professors, barristers, and serial adultery, the fourth in the Hampstead Murders series continues the pattern set by its predecessors: strong, character-driven contemporary narrative written in the spirit of the Golden Age of detective writing. Praised by leading crime-writers, and garnering rave reviews from book bloggers, the books have been described as elegant, intelligent, quirky and 'a love letter to the detective novel'. All agree they are very 'different' from the standard fare of modern crime fiction.

My review of A Death in the Night
A Death in the Night is book 4 in the Hampstead Murders series and I just have to say that I love this series. A Death in the Night is once again a modern day murder mystery but one that is set within the Golden Age, which is slightly quirky and most definitely refreshing. I couldn't help but be drawn into this fascinating world.

Once again we meet all the usual members of the Hampstead police team, Bob Metcalfe, Peer Collins and Karen Willis who at the beginning of the book attend a vintage dinner dance at an exclusive women's club in the area. Unbeknown to them, a murder takes place while they are dancing the night away. What follows is an investigation that is complicated, that throws up very little clues and which implicates a lot of people. I had very little idea who the murderer was until the very end of the book. This is magnificent Golden Age crime writing and I savoured every word.

Although this is a murder mystery, it is actually a comforting and 'cosy up with a warm drink' type of a read, in very much the same way that you would snuggle up and read an Agatha Christie novel. It reels you in from the very beginning, and I very much felt like I was part of the detective team, gathering clues and asking questions to those suspected of the murder. The language that is used, the imagery and the characters are all inviting, and makes for such a pleasant reading experience. I particularly like reading about Karen Willis, the detective who is confident, strong and feminine, I feel that she really is a role model for the present generation.

This book is firmly set in the Golden Age detective era. It's not a gritty blood bath of a book, its not that type of a book,  however it does not shy away from issues of sexuality, relationships, and how women are reprehend in society. This book is based upon good old fashioned policing, tales of morality, and integrity. It really is a refreshing take on the murder mystery novel, and I can't wait to read the next installment in this delightful series.

With thanks to Urbane Publocatins who sent me a paperback copy for review purposes.

A Death in the Night was published by Urbane Publications on 16 Nov. 2017 and can be found on Amazon here.

Friday, 8 December 2017

How to Stop Time @matthaig1 @canongatebooks

About How to Stop Time

HOW MANY LIFETIMES DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN HOW TO LIVE? Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old history teacher, but he's been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen it all. As long as he keeps changing his identity he can keep one step ahead of his past - and stay alive. The only thing he must not do is fall in love . . .

My review of How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time is such a beautiful book. I don't think I have ever read a book that so deeply and gently explores what it is to be human. Of how the past affects us on every level, of how it shapes our character, but that ultimately, in the end, it is the future that can change who we are. We are constant yet changing at the same time.

I honestly didn't know what to expect when I opened this book. I obviously knew that it was about Tom Hazard, a man who does not age like the rest of us, and that although he looks 42 he is actually over 400 years old. So, I expected it to be an exploration of history, and it is, but it is also so much more, it is about one man's search for who he is and how he must learn to live his again.

It is a book that works on so many different levels. It is a book about history,  I loved the chapters set in the past, and of how history is always present, always with us.  It is also a book about self discovery, about learning to love yourself, and it is also a book about the psychology of behaviour. That we all wear different hats and present different versions of who we are, depending upon the role we play. I remember my university drama professor telling us that life is all an act, that we are all pretending, and this is what Tom Hazard does throughout the book. He takes on different roles, different names in order to survive, and this is, in a sense, what we all do. We all play the game, and this novel beautifully illustrates this point, the fine line between our outward appearance and what we really feel. I've never read a book quite like it before. 

How to Stop Time is a fantastical novel but one that is firmly rooted in reality, dealing with issues of love, loss and learning how to live. It's an entertaining read, as he follow Tom's journey, observing how he engages with his students, and the community around him, when all he really wants is to be invisible. It is also about eternal love, and I felt that it was very much a timeless love story for the modern generation. It's a beautifully written book about the human condition that is simply quite stunning. 

How to Stop Time was published in hardback by Canongate Books on 6 July 2017. It will be available in paperback on 14th December, and can be found on Amazon here.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp

About The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness

Sometimes all it takes to make the world a better place is a small act of kindness...

When Ceri Price arrives in the small seaside village of Dwynwen in West Wales, she only means to stay for a couple of nights - long enough to scatter her mother's ashes, and then go back to her life as a successful make-up entrepreneur.

But a case of mistaken identities means she lands a job as the barmaid in the local pub, she unexpectedly finds friendship, and wonders if love might follow... But when the plans for a new housing estate put the local woodland under threat, she fears the way of life here could disappear.

Then mysterious acts of kindness start springing up around the village - a string of bunting adorns the streets, a new village signpost appears out of nowhere and someone provides paint to spruce up the houses on the seafront. Who is behind these acts of kindness and can they help in the race to save the village from the faceless developers...?

Welcome to Dwynwen: Village of Love. Where friendship flourishes and love blossoms...

My review of The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness is such a beautiful book. It truly is, and it reminded me of  what it is to be human. In a world that is dominated by social media, online followers and selfies, this story focussed on the real meaning of living life to the fullest. It's a stripping back life to the absolute basics, that of forming friendships and actually talking to people, and I loved it.

The story begins with us meeting Ceri Price, a thirty-year-old woman who has recently suffered a bereavement, that of her mother who had dementia. Ceri was her carer, and although a successful businesswoman in her own right, having single-handedly set up a make-up business from home using store cupboard ingredients, she feels that her life lacks meaning. We follow Ceri to Wales. as she leaves her married sister behind, to scatter her mum's ashes on her beloved shoreline of Dwynwen, a seaside village in West Wales. What follows is a funny, heart-warming and thought provoking read about the importance of friendship and caring for others.

This book is full of larger than life Welsh characters who you just can't help but love, and for me, I couldn't help but be smitten with Rhodri, the somewhat socially awkward bear of a man with a passion for recycling. He wants the village to be a welcoming place for visitors, and to keep the natural beauty of the area, but others in the village are less passionate and can't see a way to fight the investors who want to change the beauty and stillness of this seaside village. As an outsider, Ceri brigs a freshness and unique viewpoint to this small community. Although she had only planned to stay a few days. after a misunderstanding, she ends up staying a lot longer and becomes sucked into village life, and I loved this.

What I also enjoyed were the multiple points of view. This gave a greater depth to the story, as we read the thoughts and feelings of not only Ceri, but of those who had a huge impact on her life, who made her evaluate her life, and to consider what was truly important in her life. I sometimes find multiple POV confusing, but this was not the case with this book, as all voices were very distinctive.

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness is a stunning story that truly encompasses the Welsh community spirit and you can't help but feel better about life once you have read it. It puts a smile on your face. It is uplifting, shares the best of human kindness and makes you appreciate that life is so much more than material possessions. It really is a feel good book, that is perfect for those cold winter evenings.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an Advanced Reader Copy.

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness is available as an eBook now and is published by Orion in paperback on 22 Feb. 2018. It can be found on Amazon here.

Monday, 4 December 2017

The Doll House @Phoebe_A_Morgan @HQDigitalUK

About The Doll House

Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.

But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…

How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

A gripping debut psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming. Perfect for fans of I See You and The Widow.

My review of The Doll House

The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan is a stunning debut psychological thriller that I just couldn't put down. The chapters are short and fast paced and I was propelled onwards to find out what would happen next. It was such a joy to read.

The novel revolves mainly around two sisters, Connie and Ashley, and that o an unknown narrator. Connie and her partner, Dominic, desperately want children and after three failed attempts at IVF it feels as though Connie will never be a mother. She has lost contact with many friends, due to the fact that they are now mothers, and her relationship with her sister is also slightly strained as Ashley has three children, her youngest still a baby. However, Connie remains optimistic and when a small part of a dolls house is found outside her flat door, she takes this as a sign. However, as more and more parts are found, at her workplace, and then at home, the book takes on a deliciously dark and sinister feel. Who is responsible for leaving the objects that are the exact replica from her childhood dolls house? I'll admit to reading with a cold chill down my spine.

I really liked Connie. I felt as though I understood her. Her need to have a child and that every waking breath was consumed with this thought, this desire, that it blinded everything else in her life. I also felt incredibly sorry for her, as to me she was almost frozen in time, unable to move forward. To her, her life lacked meaning and purpose because she was not a mother. As the book progressed, Connie found herself questioning those around her, as well as her own sanity. Who can she trust?

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the book was also written from Ashley's point of view. This gave greater perspective and insight into Connie's character. I really liked Ashley, and felt that I could relate much more to her than Connie. I'm not sure if this was because she was a mother, or because I have never experienced IVF treatment, but I connected with her, and I thoroughly enjoyed her chapters.

We then also have chapters from an unknown author, a little girl, who grows up as we progress through the book. She details her life with her mother, a life of poverty and making ends meet. The constant question running through mu mind was, who is she? I loved this aspect of the book.

The Doll House is about the past, about family, about sisters,  and the fact that actions always have consequences. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't watt to read more by this author. Perfect to read this Wintertime.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy.

The Doll House  was published by HQ Digital on 14th September. I can be found on Amazon here.

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Silent Children @carolewyer @bookouture

About The Silent Children

The boy studied the bruise turning yellow at the base of his neck. With quick fingers his mother tightened his tie, and pulled his collar high above it. Her eyes alone said, We will not speak of this...

Years later, a man is found shot dead in a local park. On his phone is a draft text: I can’t keep this secret any longer. The recipient is unnamed.

Detective Robyn Carter knows this secret is the key to the case, but his friends and family don’t offer any clues, and all her team have to go on is a size-ten footprint.

Then a woman is found in a pool of blood at the bottom of her staircase, and a seemingly insignificant detail in her stepdaughter’s statement makes Robyn wonder: are the two bodies connected, and has the killer only just begun?

When another body confirms Robyn’s worst fears, she realises she’s in a race against time to stop the killer before they strike again. But just as she thinks she’s closing in, one of her own team goes missing.

Buried in the past is a terrible injustice. Can Robyn uncover the truth before another life is lost?

My review of The Silent Children

The Silent Children is the fourth book in the excellent Detective Robyn Carter series that is set in Staffordshire.  I have been a huge fan of these books from the very beginning and I really enjoyed this one. I will just mention that this book will work very well as a standalone novel. 

The Silent Children kicks into action when a man is found shot dead, in his car on Cannock Chase. What makes this opening chapter even more disturbing is that it is a small child who finds the dead man, and it is this beginning that both chilled me and encouraged me to carry on reading. Who was this man and who shot him? I also wanted to find out how finding the man affected this little boy and his family. This is exactly what Robyn and her team set out to discover. 

The pace and tension then picks up when the body of a woman is found. Are the two incidents connected? This is what Robyn needs to find out, and the hunt is soon on for a serial killer. As ever, we stumble across many suspects and I enjoyed the various leads that the team investigated. 

Running alongside the main plot is another story, that of an unknown author who tells the story of his abusive childhood. These passages I found very difficult to read, but completely understood that they were needed to fulfil the story as a whole. I also feel that the author tackles this subject with great empathy and sensitivity. 

We then also have the ongoing drama of Robyn's dead fiancĂ©, Davies, the thread of this story was left hanging midair at the end of the last book. This backstory fascinated me and I felt that it shed great insight into Robyn's character. What this author also does so well, is that all of these various storylines eventually come together to explain exactly what happened. 

The Silent Children is a book full of hidden secrets that Robyn and her wonderful team have to unearth, and I enjoyed following them down dead ends until the final reveal. It is a gripping thriller of a read.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.

The Silent Children is published by Bookouture on 7 Dec. 2017 and can be found on Amazon here.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

#FirstChapterSampler:stillMe @jojomoyes

About Still Me

Lou Clark knows too many things . . .

She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London.

She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to meet someone who's going to turn her whole life upside down.

Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it'll hurt.

Lou won't know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything.

First chapter review

Still Me is Jojo Moyes third Lou Clark novel, following the number one international bestsellers Me Before You and After You. I have read both books and upon reading the first sentence of Still Me it felt like she had never been away. Louisa Ckark is like an old friend, even after years apart, when you meet up it feels like nothing has changed. This is exactly how I felt when I read Louisa's description of standing in the immigration queue at the airport in New York, on the cusp of starting her new adventure. As ever, she is witty, funny and utterly likeable.

In this first chapter, Lou meets Nathan, her friend, the nurse who cared for Will, and who has arranged this new job opportunity for her. I love Nathan and was so happy to find that he will be part off this story.

I loved the descriptions of early Manhattan, as Lou escaped into the city in search of a cup of coffee. I've never been to New York, but felt as if I was there with her drinking my cappuccino. I was also very intrigued about Llaria, the woman who Lou bumps into while in the kitchen, searching for milk, the morning after she arrives. Llaria is incredibly antagonistic towards Lou and this piqued my interest. I also can't what to meet the Gopkin family, especially the wife.

This first chapter left me wanting more and I can't wait to read the final instalment in the Louisa Clarke trilogy when it comes out in January. 

With thanks to Michael Jospeh books and NetGalley for this first chapter sample.