My Spring Reads Column in 17 Degrees Magazine

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Hope you’ve all feeling like Spring might just be around the corner. A huge congratulations to Lindsay Johnston who was the lucky winner of our fantastic #TwelveDaysOfChristmas competition and won the whole pile of Winter picks. It’s been really hard to narrow down my recommendations for Spring, but I hope you find something here that you can enjoy once the weather picks up.

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Sharing my latest column from 17 Degrees Magazine – hope you find something that you’ll love as much as I did.

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A right good story…

You, Me Everything  – Catherine Isaac ( Simon & Shuster  £12.99)

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The gorgeous setting of this book in the beautiful Dordogne took me miles away from all this snow we’ve been having as Jess and her son William head over to spend the summer with absentee dad, Adam at Château de Rossignol, a grand castle that he has restored into a glamorous holiday resort. Adam has never been a dad to William, sending him baby toys when he’s far too old for them and seeming much more interested in his latest girlfriend than being involved in his son’s life. Jess travels to France determined to nurture the father-son relationship without falling for handsome, carefree Adam herself – as she knows how that one ended last time…This novel is perfect for readers who enjoy characters we can really connect with in emotional dilemmas that have us rooting for them. Jess is such a credible creation and we definitely feel for her as she struggles with conflicting emotions as William grows closer to his dad after having him all to herself for all these years. Their long summer in France is sure to send you reaching for Tripadvisor to browse your next holiday destination as it sounds so lovely, but beware –  there’s more to this trip than meets the eye and you’ll be up late turning the pages as soon as you realise that this trip to France might have more complex motives than Jess is initially prepared to admit. You Me Everything is a moving and emotional story about how far we will go for love.  Rights have sold in over twenty-two countries so make sure you read this one before the movie is released!

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Three Things About Elsie- Joanna Cannon ( HarperCollins  £12.99)

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This is another one of those books. A book that I can’t stop recommending to people – just like Eleanor Oliphant last year. The first thing you’ll notice about this book is its gorgeous cover. It’s a Battenberg cake and just like Mr Kiplings, this book is definitely exceedingly good Three Things about Elsie is my new favourite book and I hope you’ll love it as much as I did.

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 had a fall in Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders whether an awful hidden secret from her past is about to resurface; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look identical to a man who passed away sixty years ago?  I’m determined to review this book with no spoilers, as you should definitely uncover the truth about Elsie for yourself. I really got lost in this book and felt like the characters were real people whose lives I was getting a peek into. Joanna Cannon’s new book asks us whether we can ever really know what’s going on below the surface in people’s lives and makes us think more deeply about the fact that tiny decisions we make can have huge and far-reaching consequences. This book is just as delicious as the cake on its front cover and should definitely be enjoyed this Easter with a cup of tea and a slice of Battenberg cake – you’re in for a treat.

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The Stranger – Kate Riordan (Penguin  £12.99)

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Was it simply a tragic accident? Or should the inhabitants of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in?

If you’re pining for Poldark and love a historical epic, then The Stranger might be something to fill the gap. For decades, Penhallow Hall has stood frozen in time, protecting the secrets of its isolated inhabitants. But even beautiful Cornwall is no shelter from the war, and Penhallow must finally open its doors to strangers. This book is set in 1940 and we hear about the nightly blackouts and the constant fear of a Nazi invasion, as three land girls arrive to grow vegetables at Penhallow. The Stranger opens with a church bell clanging to announce the body of a young woman on the beach and we discover how this mysterious event came about as the novel unfolds. Each of the succeeding chapters form a timeline going back six weeks where we slowly learn more about how each of these characters’ backstories might have led to this mysterious drowning.  The strong plotting and skilful characterisation combine to draw you into a story bursting with secrets and Rose, Jane and Diana’s distinct voices all combine to keep you turning the pages. If you like Daphne du Maurier or Lucinda Riley, you’ll love this book and I know that my mum’s definitely going to be pinching it from me for her holidays.

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The Queen of Bloody Everything (Pan McMillan £14.99)

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If you, like me, are a child of the 70’s then you’re going to love this coming-of-age novel. Dido, the main character just wants to fit in – for her family to be just like everybody else’s. Unfortunately for her, her free spirit mother Edie has no interest in being like anyone else – least of all the ‘perfect’ Treveylans who live just next door. Dido falls in love with the Trevelyan family as soon as she moves in next door to them. Angela, the mother, is the perfect stay at home mum; Harry or Harriet is a miniature version of Angela; Tom, Harriet’s older brother, is literally Dido’s boy-next-door first love, and David is the perfect storybook dad.  Dido spends a great deal of her adolescence wishing that she was a Trevelyan and her first-person account of growing up in the 80’s and 90’s will definitely strike a chord with anyone who lived through the legwarmers and Live Aid era. Dido’s relationship with her mum is one of the best things about this novel, as we see her priorities change during the course of the novel. Dido grows up and realises that sometimes the things we want aren’t always what they seem and our relationship with our family is a bond that endures forever, despite all of its challenges. This novel has everything: drama, nostalgia and real warmth at the heart of it;  It’s the kind of book that you wish you could read all over again as soon as you’ve finished and I’m jealous of anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading it yet.

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Non-Fiction Page Turners

Member of the Family – Dianne Lake (HarperCollins £8.99)

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Following Charles Manson’s recent death, Dianne Lake reveals the true story of life with Manson and her involvement with his infamous cult – who became notorious for their series of brutal murders during the long hot summer of ‘69. In this disturbing memoir, Dianne Lake writes about her years of lost innocence with Charles Manson, revealing how she became the youngest member of his Family and offering new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminals.  At age fourteen, Dianne Lake―with a note in her pocket from her hippie parents granting her permission to leave them―became one of “Charlie’s girls,” a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson. Dianne Lake gives a fascinating insight into her induction into this cult, vividly describing how she endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse as Manson’s true vision began to unravel. From the legendary Spahn ranch and the group acid trips to the Beatles’ White Album and Manson’s messiah-complex, Dianne tells the riveting story of the group’s descent into madness from someone who was actually there. This novel is a helter-skelter tour through the kaleidoscopic nightmare that was the tail end of the 60’s and Lake is an unforgettable tour guide. This is a dark and mesmerising tale which will give fans of The Girls by Emma Cline a deeper insight into the heart of darkness that destroyed the Flower Children’s era for good. Unputdownable.

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A False Report – A True Story T Christian Miller/ Ken Armstrong

(Cornerstone £16.99)

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I am a True Crime addict and this is the best of its genre I’ve read in a long time. Its bright red cover is very eye-catching and I literally could NOT put it down until I’d reached the end.  On 11 August 2008, eighteen-year-old Marie reported that a masked man had broken into her home and raped her. Within days, police – and even those closest to Marie – became suspicious of her story: details of the crime just didn’t seem plausible. Confronted with the seeming inconsistencies, Marie broke down and said her story was a fabrication – a bid for attention. The police rapidly convicted her of making a false report and she was vilified as a liar. This book fast forwards a few years and uncovers the police officers who reinvestigated this case and cracked it wide open. Galbraith and Hendershot soon realised they were dealing with a serial rapist: a man who took calculated steps to erase all physical evidence, who photographed each of his victims, threatening to release the images online if the women went to the police. This is a gripping book, a page-turner as tense as any thriller which will make you think hard about the way the justice system operates as well as the way that we look at cases that don’t fit our perception of what rape ‘looks like’. Controversial and challenging, it really makes for an unforgettable read. Absolutely 10/10. It’s definitely going to get people talking this Spring.

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The Boy On The Shed – Paul Ferris (Hodder  £9.99)

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Paul Ferris became a professional footballer and at the age of 16 was the youngest player ever to play for Newcastle United. Coming from Northern Ireland and being a skilful winger with ‘magic’ feet, he was inevitably hailed as ‘the new George Best’. But the story of his time in the game, particularly as a young player, is one of insecurity, injuries, uncertainty, fear and, ultimately, a failure to fulfil his hopes and dreams. This is another book where although the narrator is a footballer, it’s not a ‘football book’, exactly. It is much more concerned with the struggles of growing up in Northern Ireland, a Catholic on a Protestant estate in Lisburn in the 1970s. It is a story of everyday sectarianism and its effects on so many young people;  of battling childhood adversity and coming out on the other side with the love and support of his family – particularly his mother which will definitely strike a chord with so many readers. This book is very relatable and lots of funny stories had me wanting to read them out loud as they were so like some of the stories from my own family. This book will make you laugh and make you cry and you don’t have to have any interest at all in football to read it from cover to cover. Paul Ferris has a fantastic turn of phrase and a great line in black humour that shows what a character he is. I loved it and I’m sure lots of you will too.

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Hunters: Wee Stories from the Crescent  – Anthony Camilleri (Tippermuir £9.99)

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Hunters is a funny, sad, honest and uplifting memoir of growing up in Hunter Crescent in Perth during the 1970s and 1980s –  I always try and include something local or Scottish and I loved this book from Independent publishers Tippermuir. Anthony Camilleri grew up there himself and is a fabulous tour guide of one of Scotland s working-class schemes in all its glory –  with some absolutely cracking stories and superb photographs that will be sure to send you back down memory lane. Hunter Crescent was a sprawling housing scheme just north of Perth city centre, built after an act of parliament calling for slum areas to be replaced with modern housing. For its first thirty-five years, Hunters was a model scheme. By the mid-1970s, however, things had gone horribly wrong and it took a group of dedicated and passionate tenants to get the place back on an even keel. This is a great read, it’ll remind you of Scotland as it used to be – complete with couches in the front garden, New Year parties that go on for four days and lots of real characters. I totally recommend this book if you like to look back on the past and remember the way we used to live, complete with terrible fashion choices and lots of nostalgic 70’s dinners. You’ll love it!

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Crime & Thrillers

The Memory Chamber – Holly Cave  (Quercus £12.99)

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In The Memory Chamber, true death – as we understand it –  is a thing of the past. In the future, you’ll be able to spend the rest of eternity re-living your happiest memories: that first kiss, falling in love, the birth of your children, enjoyed on a rolling loop for ever and ever. Isobel is a Heaven Architect, and she helps dying people create afterlives from these memories. So when she falls for Jarek, one of her terminally ill – but also married – clients, she knows that while she cannot save him, she can create the most beautiful of heavens, just for him. But when Jarek’s wife is found dead, Isobel uncovers a darker side of the world she works within, and she can trust no one with what she finds. I loved this unusual and thought-provoking book. We all have our own private idea of what might be waiting for us on the other side and I was totally intrigued by the sound of a ‘Heaven Architect’ and what they’d build for me.  Holly Cave is a talented and unusual writer who will definitely make you think hard about what you yourself feel about the moral dilemmas faced by her characters. It gives you a momentary feeling of being able to see the world in a different light and will definitely give you lots to talk about. If you like your books a wee bit different, you’ll really love The Memory Chamber and good luck constructing your very own Heaven.

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The Chalk Man – C.J Tudor ( Penguin  £9.99)

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Fans of Stephen King,  look no further: I might just have found you a new favourite book.  C.J Tudor is amazingly skilful of getting right under your skin, like the very best of King’s novels and definitely succeeded in getting me to turn all the lights on before I headed upstairs as I just couldn’t stop thinking about the sheer darkness in this cracking debut novel.  You can feel it in the woods, in the school and in the playground; you can feel it in the houses and at the fairground. You can feel it in most places in the small town of Anderbury . . . the fear that something or someone is watching you. It all begins back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran – the Chalk Man. He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun until the chalk men led them to a dead body. Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk and a drawing of a figure… I don’t want to give any more away as this is such a rattling good read. This book will definitely unnerve you and leave you looking over your shoulder in case something is on the point of dropping through your letterbox. I can’t wait to see what C.J Tudor does next as The Chalk Man had me hooked. An absolutely excellent read – buy it if you Dare!

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The Gathering Dark – James Oswald ( Penguin  £9.99)

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Inspector Tony Mclean is one of my favourite fictional characters. By this time – if you’ve been reading my reviews for the whole year – you must know that I love a bit of Tartan Noir and try to review Scottish crime fiction whenever I can as I think we do it much better than anybody else!  Whether you’re a seasoned fan of James Oswald or meeting Tony Mclean for the very first time, you’ll be drawn right into this unusual and gripping novel in no time. Edinburgh is yet again the backdrop to Oswald’s eighth novel which combines a catastrophic crash with a faint tinge of the macabre. It’s a real testament to the skill of Oswald ’s writing that both the crash and the mysterious events are very well balanced in this novel with neither storyline unbalancing the other. We get a real sense of Tony’s Mclean’s complicated personal life and feel brought alongside him in his tireless search for the truth. This novel really captures the hard work that goes on behind the scenes in police teams trying to solve crimes when everything seems against them and you’ll really empathise with the team as absolutely nothing goes smoothly as this complex investigation proceeds. I thoroughly enjoyed The Gathering Dark and think that if you haven’t already read the last 7 of Oswald’s Scottish crime novels then you’re really in for a treat catching up with Tony’ Mclean’s caseload.

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The Pinocchio Brief – Abi Silver  (Eye Books £8.99)

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If you love a writer that makes you think hard about the way society is going and like to consider our occasionally dysfunctional relationship with technology, then The Pinocchio Brief is sure to be a big hit with you this Spring. A 15-year-old schoolboy is suddenly accused of the brutal murder of one of his teachers. His defence team, consisting of experienced lawyer Judith and young, energetic solicitor, Constance, begin a desperate pursuit of the truth, revealing uncomfortable secrets about the teacher and the school along the way as they try and defend this indefensible act. As we read on, we discover that Judith is hiding her own secrets and risks everything coming to light when it is announced that a new lie-detecting device, nicknamed Pinocchio, will be used during the trial. In their attempt to save Raymond from being convicted for a crime they’re certain he hasn’t committed, how can they persuade him that silence is not the best defence and what else will be uncovered beneath the civilised façade of his boarding school? The Pinocchio Brief is a gripping thriller which really challenges us to think about the way we present the truth. It uses technology to pose questions about the justice system and the chapters narrated by Raymond himself will really stick in your mind for a long time. Abi Silver’s legal career means that the court scenes are extremely realistic and you’ll be drawn in as successfully as any John Grisham courtroom drama. This is a great holiday read that’ll have you turning the pages to reach the conclusion. If you’re jetting off anywhere sunny this Easter, make sure you pack it in your suitcase.

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I have loved reading and reviewing another 12 books for you this Spring.  I honestly can’t believe I’ve been doing this for a whole year now. If there are any genres that you’d like me to recommend or any books that you’ve loved and would like other people to know about then definitely get in touch and I’ll make sure other readers get to hear about them…

If you’ve enjoyed this selection, you can check out my regular book blog at www.ontheshelfbookblog@wordpress.com  or check out my twitter feed  @OnTheShelfBooks to see me posting regularly about great books. Have a fantastic Easter and see you in the Summer for some hot picks for the beach!

Jill

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The Black Earth Blog Tour

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1922. When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoe Haggitiris escapes with her family only to lose everything. Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also lost, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life. Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoe. But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.

I read this fantastic read lying in the hot sun on the jetty at Cettia, looking across the sea towards the Greek islands of Rhodea & Symi and this book provided me with much food for thought about this turbulent time in Greek history. 

The Black Earth is a fascinating and immersive read, describing the lives of Greek singer, Zoe Valavani and British Officer, Lieutenant Tom Collyer, and how their trajectories criss-cross as war tears the country apart. It is a time period that I don’t really know that much about and I love this kind of novel, where I finish it and end up on Google for hours, researching all of the events in the book and looking at maps and photos of the real settings and events that have been portrayed in its pages.

Kazan’s novel begins in 1922 where we meet Zoe who is attempting to escape from Turkey with her parents on their yacht. Tragedy strikes and Zoe is left clinging to the shattered wreck of their beloved boat after a collision robs her of her parents and leaves her alone in Piraeus. This is her first encounter with Tom, but little does she know the way that fate will throw them together as the war rages on around them. I loved the character of Zoe and I found it easy to connect with her grit and determination as she battles to overcome the many obstacles that she has to endure.

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If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I really love a novel where you explore events from more than one perspective.  I think that Kazan is equally skilled at portraying the characters of Tom and Zoe and their characters both engage the reader as they spring to life off the page. Kazan paints a vivid portrait of their struggles to survive in a dangerous and unpredictable time in history. I hate including spoilers so all I’ll say is that Zoe’s talent as a singer makes her stand out, in a historical period where drawing attention to yourself is a risky proposition and there are several tense moments when your heart will definitely be in your mouth.

Tom’s life of ease and privilege before the war has ill-prepared him for the privations and horrors that he will have to endure in Greece – however, he refuses to let the terrifying sights that he has to endure to harden or coarsen him and he remains a sensitive and gentlemanly character throughout the novel. His letters allow us a real insight into his nature and this was a favourite part of the novel for me. Little did he know all those years ago that his fleeting encounter with Zoe would have the ramifications that they do as an adult and I loved hearing his thoughts and reflections on the life he hopes to have when the war is finally over and I really felt that this allowed me to connect with him just as much as Zoe, which is rare for a book told in dual perspective.

The way that Kazan brings the horror and anguish so vividly to life on the page made me totally lose myself in this fantastic read. I couldn’t tear myself away from the suffering that had to be endured and even though Kazan pulls no punches, his description is moving rather than disturbing as he opens your eyes to an aspect of the war that you might not know very much about. The fact that he has a family connection with these events lends The Black Earth an added poignancy and made me remember that even though this is a novel, the stories it tells were very much a reality for thousands of Greeks who found themselves trapped in a conflict that they were powerless to do anything about.

If you love a historical read that brings moral dilemmas vividly to life and enjoy being totally immersed in a powerful and vivid narrative then you’ll love The Black Earth. It’s a powerful story and I found myself quite emotional as it drew to a close, knowing as I did that even though Tom and Zoe were fictional characters, they’d really lived for me whilst I was lost in the book.  I will definitely look out for more from Philip Kazan as the balance of historical detail, wonderful characterisation and emotional punch was a winning combination for me.

I would like to thank Anne Cater for inviting me to participate in the blog tour – I think that The Black Earth looks fabulous in my #OnTheShelfie and  I’ll definitely be looking out for the other blog posts to see what my fellow bloggers thought of this emotional and memorable tale.

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Writer on the Shelf

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PHILIP KAZAN was born in London and grew-up on Dartmoor. He is the author of two previous novels set in fifteenth-century Florence and the Petroc series following a thirteenth-century adventurer. After living in New York and Vermont, Philip is back on the edge of Dartmoor with his wife and three children.

Follow him on Twitter: @pipkazan

Author’s Website: philipkazan.wordpress.com

 

 

Ghost – Blog Tour

 

 

Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think.

Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grandmother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between – everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted.

One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone. Then Tom McAllister arrives – good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart.

As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?

In the end, Langlands House and its inhabitants hold more secrets than they did in the beginning…

I absolutely loved this haunting and absorbing read. It drew me in from the very first paragraph and held me in its spell right until the very final page.

A mysterious house, a curious set up and a compelling main character – these are some of the many reasons that I was so drawn to Ghost and why i’m so grateful to Kelly from @LoveBooksGroup for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. I love supporting books set in Scotland and the setting here was one of the most memorable aspects of Ghost as I really felt like I could imagine myself there at Langlands House with Augusta – the Gus – or ghost of the title.

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Is anyone else like me and love to go online and look for settings of the book that they’re loving, to try and see its world come to life? I love doing it and I found myself scrolling through pages and pages of remote Scottish mansions, trying to walk in Augusta’s shoes.

It was lovely to lose myself in such a Scottish read after two weeks in the sun at Cettia. It’s funny that I get drawn to cold misty books in the cooler weather and like to lose myself in books set in a warm olive grove when I’m holidaying abroad. Augusta’s closed and mysterious world was just perfect for me to reacclimatise to Scotland and I really loved the way that Helen Grant draws the reader in and keeps them guessing about the secrecy and mystery surrounding Augusta and this made me turn the pages rapidly as I sought to uncover the mysteries of Langlands House for myself.

I loved the juxtaposition of the very realistic relationship that is portrayed between Augusta and her grandmother, despite the fact that we gradually realise that her grandmother is the only person in Augusta’s life – quite literally. The deftly portrayed relationship sits convincingly alongside some of the stranger elements of Augusta’s story which means that we allow ourselves to suspend our disbelief and abandon ourselves to Helen Grant’s skilful storytelling as she weaves a strange, compelling and mysterious take around these two isolated women.

 

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I absolutely love atmospheric reads and this will appeal to fans of Rebecca and The Silent Companions who love being immersed in a closed world where creaking floorboards, crumbling turrets and unspoken questions tug at your subconscious as you’re reading. I got so lost in this story that I stayed up far too late to finish it as I could not go to sleep without trying to find out the answers to the many questions that emerged during the course of this mysterious and addictive read.

It’s been hard to review Ghost without any spoilers but I am determined to as I feel that everyone should go on ‘blind’ to the secrets surrounding these characters when they start reading Ghost. Suffice to say, when the closed world that Augusta knows is invaded by Tom, who has come to repair the crumbling mansion she hides away in, her cloistered life comes under threat. Augusta’s literal and metaphorical borders have been dictated by her Grandmother for as long as she can remember – what ripples will Tom’s arrival cause for Augusta’s world and everything she’s been taught to believe in?

This book is a fascinating and memorable read – I’d call it haunting –  if that wasn’t a pun too far! I was very sad to miss the launch for this novel because I was away on holiday, I’d love to have had the chance to chat with Helen as I found Ghost such a wonderful and mysterious read. I can’t wait for another opportunity to meet her and hope that it comes very soon. Thanks again to the lovely Kelly for giving me the chance to share the love for another fantastic read. If you haven’t managed to read it yet, you can buy yourself a copy here

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Writer on the Shelf

Helen Grant writes thrillers with a Gothic flavour and ghost stories. Her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and won an ALA Alex Award in the US. Her other books include the exciting Forbidden Spaces trilogy.

Helen’s latest novel Ghost (Fledgling Press 2018) is set in Perthshire, where she has lived since 2011. When she is not writing, Helen loves to research the lost country houses of Scotland and to visit the sites where possible. Her experiences of exploring these fascinating places inspired her to write Ghost

 

Read all about her writing and some fascinating background information on Helen’s website

 

And catch her on Twitter here

The Madonna of the Mountains

DZm3m4yWAAEMIaT1923: Maria Vittoria is embroidering a sheet for her dowry trunk.

Her father has gone to find her a husband. He’s taken his mule, a photograph and a pack of food: home-made sopressa sausage, cold polenta, a little flask of wine—no need to take water—the world is full of water.

There are no eligible men in this valley or the next one, and her father will not let her marry just anyone, and now, despite Maria’s years, she is still healthy. Her betrothed will see all that. He’ll be looking for a woman who can do the work.

Maria can do the work. Everyone in the contrà says that.

And the Lord knows Maria will need to be able to work. Fascism blooms as crops ripen, the state craves babies just as the babies cry for food. Maria faces a stony path, but one she will surely climb to the summit.

In this sumptuous and elegant novel, you will taste the bigoli co l’arna, touch the mulberry leaves cut finer than organdie, and feel the strain of one woman attempting to keep her family safe in the most dangerous of times.

 

I loved seeing the launch of this novel on social media and the event at Liberty looked fabulous. The book itself is a thing of beauty and the jacket design where Faber and Faber and Liberty worked hand in hand is a thing of sheer beauty that looked absolutely gorgeous in my #OnTheShelfie and is sure to be one of the most covetable books this year. It’s aroused many admiring glances from my fellow holidaymakers and I’m sure it will be a huge success as it absolutely deserves to be.

It was my absolute pleasure to take part in the blog tour today. There are lots of other fantastic bloggers on the tour and their views on this fantastic read are well worth visiting their blogs for. I’d like to thank Joanna Lee from Faber & Faber for asking me to take part in the tour and recommend that you pack a copy for yourself if you’re heading off somewhere hot this summer. You will definitely find Maria’s story hard to forget.

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Writer on the shelf

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Elise Valmorbida’s new novel The Madonna of the Mountains is to be published by Faber & Faber (UK) in March/April 2018.

Her debut novel Matilde Waltzing – also historical fiction – was published in Australia to critical acclaim. The TV President was described by The Times Literary Supplement as “luridly entertaining fiction”, and The Winding Stick was reviewed as “a literary classic”. Her non-fiction work, The Book of Happy Endings, has been published on four continents in four languages.

Elise won the Trailblazer Award (Edinburgh International Film Festival) for her role as producer and script consultant of indie Britfilm SAXON. She wrote ‘The Making of a Guerrilla Film’ story which was published with SAXON the screenplay.

Elise teaches creative writing at Central Saint Martins and Arvon. Her literary agent is Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander Associates.

http://www.elisevalmorbida.com

Keeper – Johana Gustawsson

Another Fantastic #OrendaBooks Blog Tour

 

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Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror. London, 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of 10 years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings. Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s mutilated body is found in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims.

With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes locked up, do the new killings mean he has an accomplice or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose? Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells are again drawn into an intriguing case with personal links.

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I was so excited to receive this for two reasons: the first being that I absolutely adored Block 46. Johana Gustawsson is the Queen of French noir with a Scandinavian twist and a Dark heart. Keeper is the follow up to the wonderful Block 46; featuring duo, Emily Roy and Alexis Castells.

The other reason that I was so excited to receive Keeper as that for as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with Jack the Ripper. From lost manuscripts to Royal connections and links to the Florence Maybrick murder, I’ve followed the trail for years. When I heard that Johana’s new book was another Roy and Castells case – with a Ripperesque twist, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and I can tell you that I read it straight through without stopping. Even though I am on holiday right now in beautiful Cettia, Keeper transported me to colder and darker climes and held me there as I was so lost in its twisty depths…

 

 

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Johana Gustawsson has a unique talent for dragging us in to the murky places within the human psyche. She doesnt shy away from shocking and disturbing the reader and her books are definitely not for the faint- hearted. Where other writers might hint or allude, Johana paints electrifyingly vivid pictures of your innermost fears, and what’s even more impressive – leaves you longing for more..

Once more, in trademark Gustawson style, we have two kinds of dual narrative going on: we have the contrast between the past and the present as well as the switching of locations between Britain and Sweden which makes for an intriguing read that really keeps the pace up and makes sure that the reader is permanently on their toes, turning the pages as we are transported across locations and timelines.

Roy and Castells are hot on the trail of what they presume at first is simply a copycat killer. Richard Hemfield has been convicted of the bloody murders of several women in Tower Hamlets. He is also guilty of murdering Castells’ partner during his arrest which brings a personal and painful angle to this intriguing case for the duo- a killer with his  signature is at large, operating in both locations and with strong links to the original case. The reader is kept wondering whether this is indeed a copycat crime or whether there is something even more sinister at work here and the strong team of Roy and Cassels are just the pair to untangle this tightly woven case, despite the inherent difficulties for them.

I absolutely loved Keeper. I am committed to no spoilers, so this was a really difficult task as I really want you to have the same immersive experience as I did whilst lost in this fabulous and gripping read. Gripping is a word that gets thrown about far too lightly these days, but I guarantee that you’ll agree with my verdict once you’ve read Keeper for yourself! Roy and Castells are fast becoming one of my favourite crime fighting duos as their unique relationship brings something a little different to your average British investigation. The international flavour of Gustawson’s novels is something that I’ve really grown to love and I can’t wait to read about their next twisted case.  This is not a read for the faint of heart: it doesn’t skim over the way that evil can visibly manifest itself and be unleashed where you are least expecting it. Gustawson is skilled at making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and literally catch your breath as you re-read in horror what you’ve just been exposed to – and I can’t get enough of her writing.

Keeper is a bit like my very favourite chocolate: dark with a very unique flavour, continental, sophisticated and extremely moreish. I’m an addict and I am really looking forward to seeing what dark pathways Roy and Castells lead me down in their next outing. If for some reason, you’ve not read Block 46- here’s the link to my review, if you like dark fiction, fabulous characterisation and a unique take on the way that past evils can spill into the present day then you’ll be an absolute convert.

Block 46 Review

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 Writer on the Shelf

 

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Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015

#TeamOrenda have produced a series of amazing blog posts about this novel and if you haven’t read them already then you’re in for a treat. Check out the #BlogTour poster to see who else is creating the #FrenchNoir buzz around Keeper

My partner on the #BlogTour today is the lovely @overduebookblog 

I really enjoyed this Q and A on Johana’s website so I’m sharing the link below for you

Johana Blog Q and A

Author LinksWebsite  Twitter

I chose to read and review  Keeper, sent by the lovely Anne Cater. The above review is, as always,  my own unbiased opinion. I bloody loved it.

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson was published in the UK by Orenda Books

The Lido- take a dip into this fabulous read!

Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how ordinary people can protect the things they love. 

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Am so happy to be on today’s Blog Tour of The Lido and it’s an actual tour today because I’m posting this from gorgeous Cettia this morning. It’s wonderful to be writing about the joys of outdoor swimming when you’re just out of the water yourself and thus fantastic read will definitely have you wishing that you were taking a dip too!

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I absolutely loved The Lido. It’s a warm and uplifting read that will genuinely draw you into its community and name you feel part of Rosemary and Kate’s word as they join together to campaign for their beloved Lido.

Rosemary was a fantastic character that you can totally believe in. When the Brixton that she’s loved all her life starts changing in front of her very eyes, it’s an easy sentiment to connect with – I’m sure lots of you will have had that feeling when you see your favourite shop get turned into yet another trendy vintage barbershop or raw food café. The loss of her husband George us another thing that Rosemary is having to deal with and it’s  easy to see why taking a stand about the potential loss of the Lido is so much more to Rosemary than a conservation issue – she’s trying to show that community and belonging somewhere is more important than making money and that if we don’t speak up for what’s important toys, then maybe we don’t deserve to keep the things we love.

Rosemary’s blossoming friendship with budding journalist Kate is one of the best things about The Lido. You really feel their relationship bloom – drawn together by a common goal and both believing passionately that community and belonging are worth defending. Kate knows that this story could be the ‘Big  Scoop’ that she’s been longing for, and is determined to take this chance to show that her voice might just be able to make a difference.

Libby Page wrote this book from the heart, and it shows.  It presents a picture of the places we come together in our communities – be those libraries, lidos or community centres and let’s face it – never have these placesc been more in need of defending! I’m so heartened to hear that this book has been optioned and will be headed for our screens in the future. I can’t wait to see who will be cast as Rosemary and Kate. I’m holding out for Judy Dench and a young unknown actress myself, but we will have to wait and see.

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The Lido is a wonderful read, the friendship between these two women is a joy to read, despite them being 86 and 26 respectively and you’ll be totally rooting for them to succeed. I loved hearing about Rosemary’s memories of The Lido – where she’s been swimming for over 80 years – and it’s inspired me to visit one the next time I get the chance and explore the joy of outdoor swimming for myself.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Rebecca Gray for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour – I certainly do #LoveTheLido and it’s been an honour to read it early and be part of its story – I’m totally certain that it’s going to be an amazing success. Dip in as soon as it’s published, you’ll love this unforgettable summer read!

Writer on the Shelf

_99454182_lidolidoLibby Page wrote The Lido while working in marketing and moonlighting as a writer. The Lido has sold in over twenty territories around the world and film rights have been sold to Catalyst Global Media.

After writing, Libby’s second passion is outdoor swimming. Libby lives in London where she enjoys finding new swimming spots and pockets of community within the city.

C7G-nJsXQAAR7Yn Libby can be found tweeting @libbypagewrites