I have so many posts that I need to catch up on – I have seen a lot at various theatres etc, I have read a lot of books, but I have been SO tired that I haven’t been up to blogging for a while. I am determined to get over that.
Another side-effect of being so tired is that actual READING has been a little tiring. However, I have managed to get around this with a wonderful discovery that I made.
Because I have a library card with Waltham Forest, I am able to ‘take out’ free audiobooks! And I felt moved to share this with you
I am not sure which boroughs this comes under, but I am sure that you can check for your own. If you head over to OneClickDigital, you can sign in with your online library membership (I am sure that you can get yours from the library that you signed up with if you don’t have yours to hand – luckily I did!)
Even better, you can download the app onto your phone or iPod (I have an Android, and that definitely works) and then you can listen to your audiobook straight away!
Ok, so it’s not as grea as Audible where I have been getting audiobooks for a few years, but it is FREE as it’s through the library. There’s not a massive choice, and you only have limited options (eg you can’t choose the narrator speed, which I always increase), but it is FREE. And really easy to use. And I have already listened to loads of great books.
I’m dead impressed – and always looking for new books that are read by great barrators. i will post some of the latest that I have listened to soon. Promise!
“We would like to invite you to come to London to meet my agent, Lex Millington, of Millington Bussell, for afternoon tea and a chat about the publishing business at this year’s Romance Writers of Great Britain conference, which will be held at the Coram Hotel in Bloomsbury, London.”
Invitation To Die is apparently the first full-length story starring Emily Castles (she has already appeared in novellas Three Sisters and Showstoppers but these don’t need to be read to enjoy this book). I have to admit that I haven’t read these, but I may well go back and do so!
Twenty-something Emily Castles is unemployed, and so when romance author Morgana Blake offers her a job helping out at a conference in London, she readily accepts.
However, when American blogger and book reviewer Winnie Kraster accepts an invitation to the same conference, she doesn’t realise she has made a fatal mistake.
The Romance Writers of Great Britain’s annual conference atrracts its usual oddball characters – the authors, and for the first time book review bloggers, but a real-life murder mystery becomes the theme this year, rather than lust and love.
Emily Castles starts half-heartedly investigating the increasingly strange and suspicious goings-on of the conference attendees, making notes in her ‘sleuth’ notebook. But can she in fact manage to solve the case?
The two previous Helen Smith books that I have read have been a little surreal, whimsical and slightly odd. This book, although featuring larger than life characters who act in slightly strange ways doesn’t seem to carry that little bit of magic – it felt far more of a conventional murder mystery.
I’m not saying that it wasn’t good – it was very good indeed, and I loved the characters, but there wasn’t that little element of whimsy that I was secretly craving.
I loved the way that it felt almost like a modern day Agatha Christie. All the characters were assembled and quite captive, and were all addressed at the end by the sleuth, suggesting and then discounting why various people could and then weren’t the killer!
An intelligent, likeable contemporary heroine and a clever plotline. Being a book reviewer, it felt particularly poignant – and makes me very wary of giving bad reviews in the future
Still holding the coveted title of ‘My Favourite Author’, if he publishes, then I will read! I received this as an ‘Uncorrected Proof’ review copy.
This is the second book featuring young Jasmine Sharp, 21 years old and working as a Private Investigator. Following the high profile Ramsay case that she solved in Where The Bodies Are Buried, Jasmine has got a bit of a name for herself.
When she is approached by a sickly older woman to find her sister who went missing without trace more than 30 years ago, Jasmine expects it to be a pretty easy case to solve.
The case has a personal pull for her tpp, the missing woman having been a promising actress. As Jasmine followed her late mother’s footsteps, training to be an actress, she finds herself pondering on the life that both herself and her mother could have had, and feels an almost kinship to the missing actress.
What she doesn’t expect is the dark and twisted path the investigation leads her down – sex, drugs, ritualism and possibly even murder?
The trail is so ancient and the ‘players’ are amongst some of the most respected in their fields – so is Jasmine ever really going to be able to find out the whole truth?
I am loving Jasmine Sharp – I was a bit concerned that I would be missing Jack Parlabane from many of Brookmyre’s previous books, but Jasmine is superceding my expectations. Her opening scene is pure genius.
She’s feisty, intelligent and razor-sharp – she may not have Parlabane’s sarcasm and cutting wit, but she has Glen Fallan once again – handy with a gun and a fist and generally a dead dodgy guy. Emphasis on the dead there as that is what he has meant to have been for the past 20 years. Fiercely protective of Jasmine, he is a formidable force to be reckoned with.
Also making a reappearance is Detective Catherine McLeod, covering a murder that Jasmine’s own investigation touches upon yet again. But will she be able to solve the case before Jasmine using good old-fashioned (and legal) police work?
I am so glad that this series isn’t disappointing me – although i would still relish a Jack Parlabane reappearance
It was very timely too that on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral (when Cameron was spouting all sorts of tripe) while reading this book, I read this phrase relating to the ‘video nasty’ uproar in the 80s (does anyone remember that):
“It was a convenient distraction for the Thatcher government too,” Finnegan added. “Nothing like a moral panic to take people’s minds off mass unemployment and riots on the streets.
I am overly excited to see that the third in the series – Flesh Wounds – is due out in August!!
I received this as an Advance Review Copy but it was actually published on 2nd April.
Set in Coden, Alabama in 1974, the story is told by Mimi Bosarge. Recently graduated at 21, Mimi is happy as she has landed a job as live-in tutor to the Henderson’s. A picture perfect, happy blonde all-American family who have moved to Coden from California, restoring the great house of the town (Belle Fleur) to its former 1940s glory.
At the start of the summer, Mimi’s social worker grandmother Cora (who raised Mimi after her parents died in a fire) introduces 16 year old Annie to the Hendersons, asking whether they would be able to foster her. Annie seems both beautiful and tragic – she has amnesia, with no knowledge of any of her own history or family – and noone appears to be missing her.
Being so happy, wealthy and generous, the Henderson’s welcome Annie with open arms and hearts. All of them except oldest daughter Margo who seems both suspicious and jealous of Annie. When Margo disappears, Mimi’s suspicions of Annie are also raised and she embarks on a mission to uncover the truth of Margo’s disappearance and uncovers more about Annie than she is comfortable with.
As evil seems to descend on Belle Fleur, Mimi realises that Annie’s arrival has disturbed something old and dark, and she appears to be the only one to suspect the truth.
I like being scared. I thrive on the feeling. I love a good horror film, and I especially love a good creepy story. However, I have found that my niche for being scared is a very small one. Too many horror films these days are just gore, and not enough suspense – or are too unreal to be scared by as they could never possibly happen in real life.
I think these is why I enjoy J-horror and K-Horror so much. They are usually based around things just on the edge of reality. A lot of ‘out of the corner of your eye’ inexplicable stuff. I like that.
For something to give me the willies (ooer), it generally has to be based in reality, usually with a supernatural element, preferably around a family and occur almost entirely in their home – where they should feel the most safe. If there is a dark-haired child featured, even better! this is especially difficult to get across in a book.
The Darkling manages to tick all of those boxes.
I can imagine this being made into a very sinister film – if it didn’t get the terrible Hollywood gloss treatment. The breakdown of Mrs Henderson, the malevolent creatures, Mimi’s uncertainty of reality and fight to turn suspicions from herself, a young girl’s disappearance , the house’s disturbing history – all good, meaty horror stuff.
There were times when the story repeated itself a little – I wished that there could have been some differences on the occasions that Mimi encountered the ‘nester’, but I can forgive the occasional lapses in variety as I zoomed through the book, desperate to know the ending – even though I had an inkling of what I might find there!
R B Chesterton is apparently a pseudonym of Carolyn Haines who wrote the Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries series of books. I’m afraid that meant nothing to me, but it may well do to others!
I received this as an Advance Review Copy, which was a little misleading. I read the blurb about it and remember thinking “This sounds like an old-fashioned Southern crime thriller”.
The truth is that the book (due for publication on 16th April) is actually just a reprint. The book was originally released in 1940, and was (I believe) Ross’s only published book – a bit of a one-book wonder.
The story is set in a small North Carolina town during the Depression – the kind of town where everyone knows everyone and where there are complex shifts of power due to gossip, money and friendship.
The narrator of the story is Jack and starts when his land is repossessed for unpaid taxes, and then he drifts into working for his friend Smut Milligan as he embarks on a new venture to build a roadhouse.
Smut has a propensity for illicit dealings – moonshine, gambling and an eye for the girl married to one of the richest men in town.
The majority of the book is a kind of gentle narrative of life in that kind of town in the 1930′s, and I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely. There was then the turning point of the story, where Smut’s greed for money and power overtakes his common sense and morals, and Jack becomes embroiled in an event that he would much rather not have.
How the two of them deal with the fallout from this, Jack’s inner turmoil and his need for redemption carry the story through to its inevitable conclusion.
The book is a curious mixture of gentle innocence and harrowing violence that works extremely well, BUT you have to be prepared for the fact that it was published in 1940!
The use of the n-word throughout can only be expected given the time and location, and the derogatory picture of the black population and the somewhat ‘backward’ hicks is obviously not unusual when you consider it was written.
Reading it in 2013 however, some of the terminology jarred somewhat, and I found it quite difficult to ignore. I know that this is a slightly unfair criticism, and that if you knew when the book was originally written before reading it, you would expect this kind of language, and adjust your mindset for it. However, I kind of went into a little blind – which I realise is my own fault.
The story is excellent though, and I can imagine it making a great character-led film, as the characters are fantastic and really come to life.
If you can handle the ‘of-the-time’ language, and enjoy character stroies with not a lot of action, you’ll probably love this slice of American history!
They Don’t Dance Much will be (re)published on 16th April 2013.
I received this as an advance review copy, but didn’t manage to read it until a couple of weeks after it had been published. Oops!
Mums Like Us is a weekly group for ‘normal’ mums. Those who don’t manage to hold down a high-flying job, look immaculate every moment of the day, exercise before the rest of the household is up, have perfect children and throw extravagant parties for their successful husbands.
Mums Like Us is for the average mums. The ones who can barely prise their eyes open in the morning, often do the school run in their PJs, whose houses are a permanent sticky mess and who plonk their kids in front of the TV to eat their dinner while they open a bottle of wine.
Stella Smith is the Chairwoman of the group and the story is written in the form of direct addresses or emails from her to the club members, or news stories. Interspersed are emails from her husband to his brother or members of his mediochre football team of fellow dads.
There are elements of the book that I absolutely loved – the idea of ‘Mother Superiors’ – those that look down their nose at other mums who just don’t seem to cope as well as them and have as amazing a life. Those who think that your average mum just isn’t trying hard enough – and we’ve all encountered them, haven’t we? Especially at that Mother Superior hallowed ground that Stella coins the ‘Nasty Childbirth Trust’.
My experience of the NCT in Stoke Newington was one of the key elements to put me off the area completely – so hearing it coined so vehemently in this book was a wondrous feeling for me!
The idea of mums being ‘good enough’ – the Mums Like Us slogan really is something I could buy into. Just this week, I have been feeling that eternal guilt of parenthood. And The Girl is 13 years old – no little toddler. I have always had that feeling that I haven’t done the right thing for her, and I don’t think that’s any different from most mums.
So – lots of great things in the book, which were tugging at all the right strings – as well as being very funny.
However, the format just didn’t quite work for me. The form it took as a form of address just grated occasionally – it felt very unnatural. It was the same with Matt’s emails. They both revealed so much intimacy that I felt they wouldn’t really have done in ‘real’ life. It felt that what they were saying was really what they would have been thinking in their head, which was perfectly natural, but you wouldn’t share that with a roomful of people!
I also wasn’t sure of the way that Stella addresses the group as ‘lardies’ rather than ladies. many of the ‘good enough’ mums I know are stick then because they’re trying to do too much at once, so it felt a little derogatory to insinuate that mums that don’t try to hard will all be a bit porky.
Unfortunately, being within the first line of the book, it took me aback somewhat, and I’m not sure I ever really warmed to Stella completely after that.
So, unique, witty, vociferous and with a good strong message…but it just didn’t quite hit every spot for me due to the format.
I would recommend that all those ‘good enough’ mums read it though. Preferfably with a glass of wine…or two!
I received this as a review copy. I have to admit, until I saw it, I had never even heard of Nina Post – let alone read any of her books (of which there appear to be four!) – but i will be very happy to read others at some stage! Perhaps when my massive ‘To Read’ pile has dwindled somewhat!
The ‘Danger’ in cat world actually refers to Detective Shawn Danger – a homicide detective brought in to investigate the murder of a rich paper heiress who has been found with her head bludgeoned in.
In an attempt to solve the case, Shawn also has to investigate the apparent murder of the heiress’ 50+ year old tortoise (who had once attended boarding school), work out why she had been obsessive about the weights of her collection of anvils and get to the bottom of why she hired such a bunch of misfits to work in her mansion on such odd tasks as ‘investigating coincidences’.
Not only this, but Shawn’s is trying hard to avoid his own family (who wouldn’t want to avoid sisters that used to make him play ‘North Korean Dictator’?), has found a potential love interest and is having to placate his cat Comet who is a little put out when a number of ideantical cats seem to be appearing at Shawn’s house every hour.
I love a little bit of surreal, and this certainly does contain a bit of surreal.
Shawn is a fantastic character. he’s a bit of a loner, at loggerheads with his family, only has Comet for company and really throws himself into his work – which results in him being a very good detective. However, he is extremely likeable, and a bit cocky. The ‘dates’ he goes on are very amusing – I would have enjoyed those kinds of dates
“Can’t you get in trouble for taking me on a wretched, terrible date?” “The department doesn’t have rules in place for date quality. We’re free to go on whatever quality of date we like.”
When you take the slight oddities out of the book, and the ‘other world’ and ‘another Danger’ that Shawn often sees on an old TV (he can’t stand the other smug Danger), this is just a plain and simple detective story. But it is one with very strong characters, a likeable not-too-damaged hero and quite a few ‘grin’ moments, if not laugh out loud.
I really enjoyed it.
I was lucky to get this as a review copy.
We meet Emily as she is boarding a train to London, early one morning. She is running away from her home and family in Manchester – obviously with a very heavy heart.
She isn’t just running away, she is starting over. Trying to become a new person, including taking on a new name. But why would a bright young woman – a wife, a mother – leave her family, her beautiful home, her career and the life that she has?
We go back to the circumstances of Emily’s birth and her twin sister Caroline, who seems like the negative of her. Caroline seems to have ‘been trouble’ her whole life, and this has obviously had some kind of effect on Emily and her own life.
As Emily arrives in London and finds a new home, friends and job (a little too easily for my liking!), we realise that she is desperately depressed and that there is something in particular that has forced her away from the family that she loves…and that Caroline seems to be at the centre of it.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was going to be your average chick-lit type “girl starts over, and look at the fun she has along the way before she realises that what she had was better” kind of book, but it was a lot deeper than that.
It deals with a far darker side of life really – and even when Emily seems to be on an upward spiral, she is spiralling downward at the same time.
i was gripped from the beginning, wanting to know what had happened, how any mother could leave their small child in that way, what Caroline could possibly have done and whether Emily would ever let her family know that she was OK in London.
Cleverly written, with unexpected twists and turns that keep you turning tha pages (or in my case, clicking the button!)
One Step Too Far will be published on 15th April 2013.
I got this when it was free on Kindle back in September (it is now £1.96) but hadn’t got around to reading it. However, there seemed to be a few people in a group I belong to singing its praises, so I thought I’d finally give it a go!
Shortly after arriving at work one day, Charley dies whilst sitting at her desk. She then finds herself in a mysterious and wonderful world called Avalon by its inhabitants.
One of those inhabitants is sent to guide her, and she finds that she is actually her daughter. This confuses Charley as her 20 year old daughter is not actually dead, although she is brain-dead, and has been since her heart stopped 17 years earlier. Far from the lifeless husk that she knows as her daughter, this young woman is bright and beautiful and full of love for her.
As she travels through Avalon, encountering more wonders and strange creatures, Charley wonders whether she has really died, or whether she has lost her mind.
I really didn’t like this and I feel extremely guilty that I didn’t like this, as I suspect that this is a real personal story and that the author has probably used writing this book as something cathartic.
It put me on edge at first as when Charley first dies, it all feels very obviously ‘Heaven’ and all the religious contexts that go with it. It all felt very nicey, nicey, floaty, dreamy, serene and, well, heavenly. Far far too twee for me.
But there came a point just over halfway through where it suddenly seemed to turn into a kid’s adventure story, chopping through the forest on a quest meeting lots of magical creatures.
I couldn’t work it out at all. I guess Charley was meant to be on some kind of journey – a voyage of discovery about herself, and coming to terms to the truly awful thing that had happened to her daughter.
I guess that it’s all about acceptance and over-coming fear and guilt, but it felt far too clunky to me. The two halves of the story were very formulaic – the ‘death experience’ dreamy bit followed by the quest bit. And the two sitting within the same story just jarred a bit.
I can imagine that if the author sat down and TOLD me the story, there would be passion and tears and something real about it, but I’m sorry to say, none of that came across in my reading of it. It left me feeling a little annoyed and rather bored.
I am very excited to have received the email above from the organisers of World Book Night. For some reason, because I was successful last year when I gave out 20 copies of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman (which was my first choice as it is one of the best books EVER!), I thought that it would be weighted against me and my application wouldn’t get through for this year.
I have to admit to not being quite as excited by the shortlist this year as I had last year, and I wondered what had happened to all the ones I had voted for, but The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness is definitely a book that I voted for through the whole process, and as you can see, it was my number one choice (you can see my review of it here).
I was a little wary at first as this is the first book in a series of three AND considered a ‘young adult’ book, but then I thought that was what would make it perfect to get people reading even more that don’t necessarily read usually.
I will probably be foisting them on random people in the Rose & Crown like I did last year, but if you are in Walthamstow, and would be interested in reading this, let me know and I will reserve you one of the 20 copies!
Roll on Tuesday 23rd April!