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A beautifully powerful read that sits in darkness, not an all-consuming menacing murk, but one with pinpricks of light that can be found and felt if you open yourself to the discovery. Stella McKeever is working on her final radio show, she is encouraging listeners to divulge their secrets and waiting another call from a man who claims he knows who murdered the pregnant woman in the city three weeks previously, but should some secrets stay secret? There are times when I think it might be slightly distracting to label a book with one specific genre and for me this is one of them. I know Call Me Star Girl is a psychological thriller, it certainly does thrill, it also made me feel a whole host of other emotions too. Louise Beech excels in writing about people, at their very best, very worst, and everything in between, so I’d rather not pop this book into a pigeon hole but let it fly. Each chapter is headed by a name, and either ‘then’, ‘now’ or ‘with’. I quickly settled into the story while getting to know the characters, they became entirely real to me as I explored the how and why of who they were. While suspicion cut through my thoughts, unexpected slices of deep, aching surprise were served, and there is one particular moment that will stay with me for a very long time. Call Me Star Girl explored my feelings, touched my heart, and is one of my picks of the month, it is a truly glorious read.
20th Anniversary Edition When Griet’s father, a notable tile-maker, is blinded she goes to work for artist Vermeer to support her destitute family. She’s an outsider from the start, a poor Protestant in a well-to-do Catholic household who’s regarded with suspicion by her fellow staff, especially when she alone is entrusted to venture into the master’s studio. Soon enough Griet experiences the magic of artistic creation, of seeing colour anew, of seeing everything anew. But, as her passion for art is aroused so too is an ache of guilt as she grows ever distant from her family. Then there’s the attention and lusts of the handsome butcher’s son who seeks her hand in marriage, and the lascivious approaches of her master’s wealthy patron. The intrigue and tension of the Vermeer household, and the ebb and flow of life in a 17th century Dutch market town are described in painterly detail through Griet’s keenly observant eyes as a swelling scandal spills to the outside world from within the duplicitous household. At once a compelling page-turner and a tour de force of tension and coming-of-age turmoil, this novel remains a must-read for historical fiction fans some twenty years after publication.
This is the first of a trilogy and therefore must, of course, set the scene for those to come. It is about a cult that uses a beautiful old house on a Swedish island as its centre. The leader is Oswald, naturally unbelievably charismatic. Our heroine is Sofia, a sad lost girl suffering from a broken relationship and looking for a purpose in life. An obvious recruit. Oswald asks her to set up his library, an enticing offer. All goes well until winter sets in and brings the fog of the title. It also makes prisoners of those on the island. Then things get spooky. This is a long, slow read with little action but if you are interested in cults then you will find it fascinating.
A sweeping saga set between 1884 and 1889 packed-full of the trials, endeavours, and love interests of five families. This is the start of a new series, and Barbara Taylor Bradford has introduced the different characters quite beautifully. The story glides from London, to Kent, Hull and Paris creating a fascinating full background in which it sits. From the up and coming Falconers to the Trevalians who head a private bank, fine threads connect the characters together, slowly creating a rich tapestry. This isn’t a book to rush through, it’s one to savour, to sink into and become at one with the story. Take time to introduce yourself to each individual, to understand them and where they sit in the story. Allow the highs and lows to fill your thoughts, to lift your heart, and be ready to console your feelings. Master of his Fate is a rather lovely and enjoyable opening to what promises to be a compelling new series.
Oh my word! How to describe this wonderfully clever, deeply dark and immensely satisfying read… every now and then a book comes along that surprises you, in the best possible way, and this is one of them. Five people, connected, somehow, with three murders, how on earth does everything link together? The first paragraphs slipped straight from the page and into my consciousness before awareness hit and I sat bolt upright. Will Carver creates an almost conversational tone which sits at odds with the content, creating a greater intimacy with the words and they land with hammer hard precision. The short intense chapters highlight one of the characters at a time, there is no explanation as to who is the focus, none is needed. A slight jolt of awareness as understanding settled after the first few sentences of each chapter kept me on constant alert. I can genuinely say that I had absolutely no idea where this was going, I stayed in each moment, sucked in the words, and feel as the story has tattooed itself on my mind. Good Samaritans is a provocative, heady, unique, challenging read and it is absolutely blimmin wonderful! Do I recommend it? With my heart and soul, yes I most certainly do!
A thrilling, chilling, shocking tale, perfect if you take delight in an icy shiver scuttling down your spine. A couple leaves their life behind them to join a commune in a former psychiatric hospital, events soon start to spin terrifyingly out of control. The prologue pounced on my imagination, I was immediately hooked and remained so until the very last page was turned. Several different characters take their turn in the spotlight in the present day, while a journal from the past casts a further shadow over proceedings. S.J.I Holliday weaves the different strands of the story together beautifully, each settling over the other while twisting thoughts and feelings. As I read my reasoning teetered one way and then the other. A supernatural presence heightens the tension further and my mind and heart fairly skittered in anticipation at what was to come. The Lingering is an exquisitely eerie tale, and I loved every single word of it.
Thirty very different pieces about extraordinary women, keenly observed and astute. They cover the spectrum from triumphant to pathetic, sad to humerous, surprising to surreal. There is the woman who unravels, another who grows wings, one who secretly paints her grass green, one talks to ducks, one slips through a timeless crack and another is put on a shelf. Some will irritate, others make you laugh or cry. Do not read too many together else you will lose the flavour. I would believe it to be a good bedside book, read two or three a night and take the next day pondering and digesting them before the next batch. I also believe it would make an excellent Christmas present for any woman any age.
Sharpen your thoughts, and pay close attention as this is a fascinating, intricate and complex case. Top Dog follows on from Stockholm Delete, and can I suggest that you do start at the beginning of these two books, otherwise you will be playing major catchup as you are introduced to the many layers of characters. Set in Stockholm, an unlikely pairing continue to investigate a set of horrific crimes exploiting young girls. Author Jens Lapidus is a criminal defence lawyer, the authenticity of his world fully connects with the page. I slowly sank into the story, which as well as flinging heart in mouth moments in my path, was also capable of great subtlety. The translation is beautifully done by Alice Menzies, I felt entirely at home and yet fully aware of the fact that I was in a different country. I was wired and vigilant to changes as I read Top Dog, it really is a hard hitting, absolute wow of a read, I simply loved it.
Bitingly fierce and wonderfully different, Into The Night is a provocative powerful read. Senior Detective Gemma Woodstock investigates a hugely complex case, the murder of a movie star on a film set surrounded by hundreds of people. Although you could easily read this as a standalone, I really do feel that The Dark Lake is a fabulous introduction to Gemma, so if you haven’t read it yet, do buy yourself a copy of both books. Gemma Woodstock is prickly and feisty, her job means everything to her, however she isn’t quite sure where she sits in the world. Sarah Bailey creates a raw, plausible background for Gemma to reside in, and I found myself slowly becoming a part of it. Real human emotions are not only visible, they can be felt, including the unbearably grim and darkly amusing. Unexpected jolts and shocks lie in wait, while everything still feels incredibly authentic, and the rolling ending suited me down to the ground. Into The Night crept up on me, I didn’t realise how actively involved I was in the storyline until I came up for air at the end, highly recommended.
When Levi and Charlotte McAllister’s mother dies, she suffers the post-death fate experienced by many a McAllister woman. After cremation, she re-appears and bursts into flame on the lawn. Fearing his sister is headed for the same end, Levi swears to “bury her whole and still and cold”, which prompts Charlotte to flee southward “towards the bottom of the earth”. What follows is a cleverly twisting story that crackles with intrigue and invention as the lives of an assortment of compelling characters collide. There’s the wildly eccentric coffin maker Levi commissions to make Charlotte’s casket, and the hard-drinking female detective he employs to track her down. There’s the wombat-farmer slipping into insanity, and the young woman who works for him and changes Charlotte’s life. Raw and real, yet also suffused in otherworldly magic, the author has conjured an elemental mythological landscape alongside the true-world Tasmanian setting. I raced through these blistering pages, but this is a book I shall undoubtedly return to.
A quirky, smirky, entertaining slice of fabulous. Covert ops detective Jan Nyman finds himself investigating a death in a holiday village in Finland and a rather striking lady just happens to be the suspect. I will admit to being rather excited about this novel, Antti Tuomainen’s last offering was the wonderful The Man Who Died which was shortlisted for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. The first paragraph of Palm Beach, Finland is beautifully written, it quite literally slapped my attention and I settled in with something approaching ghoulish glee! A wonderful wave of dark humour rolls through this novel gathering raised eyebrows and snorts. The cast increases, the action builds, and oh how my tummy and mind tied themselves in knots as the story spun in ever decreasing eccentric circles. I just want to applaud David Hackston as I completely forgot I was reading a translation. I thoroughly, completely and totally recommend Palm Beach, Finland, do grab yourself a copy and pop a do not disturb sign on your door!
Smart, taut and fabulous, Trap really does deliver a first-class read. Following quite beautifully on from Snare (and yes you do need to have read Snare first) can I just mention the covers, they are stunning in their simplicity and how they link to the novels. Set in Reykjavik just after the volcanic eruption in 2011, Sonja discovers that running away doesn’t solve anything, but declaring war can be just as deadly. Lilja Sigurdardottir ensures sharp shocks of chapters hit with increasing energy. The translation by Quentin Bates is again so fully complete, I existed in this Icelandic world without question. My feelings hovered with regards to the characters, swooping one way and then the other, which felt entirely right, as innocence and guilt are so often two sides of the same coin. A short book Trap may be, it’s also a towering powerhouse of read and I gobbled it up in one intense sitting. Please Orenda, may we have some more?!
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