Monday, 24 July 2017

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne



About The Upstairs Room

Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.


My review of The Upstairs Room

The Upstairs Room is a modern gothic ghost story that I could not put down. It's deliciously clever, thought provoking and ultimately disturbing...I loved it!

The book centres around Eleanor and Richard who move into their dream new home in Lichfield Road, East London, with their two young daughters, Rosie and Isobel. The house was a quick sell, as the previous family simply up and left, leaving the home vacant for its new occupants. Their new Victorian home is vast, and as they have pushed themselves to the limits financially, they are forced to take in a lodger, Zoe, who is 27, to make up some much needed money.

This book is very much a contemporary drama, that highlights the issues of today. Those issues of trying to peruse a career with small children, childcare, the mortgage and the life work balance. All of these issues are tackled with empathy and realism, I believed in these three characters. Eleanor the mum who wants it all but is struggling to find her own identity, Richard the provider who wants the dream home, and Zoe, the young woman who has a string of disastrous relationships behind her and who works in an art shop but is not an artist. They all fascinated me, and were incredibly real to me, I think because of the amount of detail that was given to their daily lives and their innermost thoughts. For me, the most interesting was Eleanor. Perhaps this was because she was a mother like me, meaning that I could best identify with her. I felt the most empathy towards her, I wanted her to enjoy living in her new home, to be happy.

The ghostly element comes form the Upstairs Room in their new home. This aspect of the story is very well written, and I can't say any more without spoiling the story. I do think that houses hold memories and that you get a feeling about a home as soon as you set foot in it. This is what happens to Eleanor when she visits the house for the first time. She gets an odd feeling when she goes up to the top floor, but she can't explain why this is so. I do believe that you get a sense of a home when you visit it for the first time, that good or bad vibe, and this is what the author so eloquently describes. The way in which Eleanor reacted to this upstairs room, felt very real to me.

This book is unsettling, and blends beautifully the supernatural world with the normal everyday world that we all live in. The author does so in such a way, that I believed in what I was being told. The Upstairs Room is a gothic tale for the modern era. The hosing crisis that we are all in at the moment, plays out beautifully in this novel, albeit with a ghostly twist. If you love counterparty fiction that is a little bit different, then you will love The Upstarts Room...I most certainly did.

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

The Upstairs Room published by Picador on 27 July 2017 is available to pre order from Amazon here.




Friday, 21 July 2017

The Thousand Lights Hotel @EmyliaHall #BlogTour



About The Thousand Lights Hotel


When Kit loses her mother in tragic circumstances, she feels drawn to finally connect with the father she has never met. That search brings her to the Thousand Lights Hotel, the perfect holiday escape perched upon a cliff on the island of Elba. Within this idyllic setting a devastating truth is brought to light: shaking the foundations upon which the hotel is built, and shattering the lives of the people within it.

A heartbreaking story of loss, betrayal, and redemption, told with all the warmth and beauty of an Italian summer.


My review of The Thousand Lights Hotel

I absolutely adored this beautiful 'summer read'. The Thousands Lights Hotel is a magical and breath-taking read about loss, identity, family and love. I found myself completely immersed in this fabulous Italian world and I never wanted to leave.

The novel revolves around a young woman, Kit Costa, who has recently lost her mother to cancer. Her mother's death makes Kit question her life, where she is and where she is headed, and as a result she decides to made contact with the father she has never met. What ensues is a story of love, friendship, longing and a journey of self discovery.

Kit's story is a most readable one. I found myself immersed in this strange world with her, learning about the local customs and its people. Although a travel writer, she has never been to Elba, and she soon finds herself feeling at home. This rubbed off on me, I also felt like I knew Elba, I could taste the wonderful Italian dishes and visualise the twinkling lights of the hotel. I too was lulled into the romance of the area and the story of Romeo and Juliet that the island thrived upon.

The Thousand Lights Hotel is a story of grief, but also one of hope. The author writes so beautifully and candidly about the grieving process. The emotions captured upon the page consumed me and invaded my thoughts. I felt so desperately sad for this young woman, in the fact that she now felt so alone in the world, the bond between her and her mother,  Rosa was such a special one. This brings me onto Rosa. Although we only learn about her in the past tense, she has such a powerful voice within this novel. We learn about her through Kit and through Valentino, Kit's father. We learn about the decisions she made in life and of her relationship with her daughter.

This book is also about the role that fathers play. Valentino and Kit have never met, that is until she turns up at the hotel. I couldn't wait to read their encounters and how they would react to each other. Initially I thought that I wold despise Valenino, but I grew to love this man. A man I feel who was misunderstood, fiercely protective and incredibly lonely.

The writing is poetic, and simply beautiful, The author certainly knows that less is more, with each word carefully considered to evoke an entire set of emotions. The passages describing the Elba nightlife and the hotel are incredibly descriptive, and the dialogue between characters is incredibly direct upon the page. I adored this book, from the beautifully stunning cover with the sparking lights and sea views, right through to the final chapter.

This Thousand Lights Hotel is pure delight from beginning to end. Be transported to Elba, have faith in love and believe in yourself. It's such a magical read.

The Thousand Lights Hotel, published by Headline Review on 13 July 2017 is available to buy from Amazon here.

With thanks to Headline Review for a paperback copy of the book for review purposes.


About the author




Emylia was born in 1978 and grew up in the Devon countryside, the daughter of an English artist and a Hungarian quilt-maker. After studying English and Related Literature at the universities of York and Lausanne, she spent five years working in a London ad agency, before moving to the French Alps. It was there that she began to write. Emylia now lives in Bristol with her husband, the comic-book writer and children's author, Robin Etherington. Her first novel, The Book of Summers, was a Richard & Judy Bookclub pick in 2012.


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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Stalker by Lars Kepler #bookreview @HarperCollins


About Stalker


The groundbreaking fifth thriller in Lars Kepler’s bestselling series featuring Joona Linna. Perfect for fans of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo.

CLOSE THE CURTAINS

A film arrives at Stockholm’s National Crime Investigation Department showing a woman in her own home, plainly unaware she is being watched. The police don’t take it seriously … until she is found murdered.

LOCK THE DOOR

When the next video arrives, Detective Margot Silverman frantically attempts to identify the victim. But it’s already too late. Because at the time the video was sent, the killer was already inside their house…

BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

Soon Stockholm is in the grip of terror. Who will the Stalker target next?

My review of Stalker



Stalker is the fifth book in the Joona Linna detective series that is set in Sweden. I read The Hypnotist, the first book in this series many years ago and have enjoyed all of the books in this series. I do feel that to get the absolute best from this  book, and to fully understand the characters, you do need to read the books in order, but this novel will still work very well as a stand alone.

The story is told in third person present and I found this style very easy to read, while adding to the menacing and slow tone of the narrative. This is a slow read, and a rather long one, but in true Nordic Noir fashion, you do need to take your time while reading it, so as to become fully immersed in these characters lives. The slow and descriptive nature of the novel also helped me to understand what it must be like to live in Sweden. I love Nordic Noir and Stalker fits very nicely into this genre.

The plot is incredibly complex, with many different characters being introduced along the way, some incidental, and it did became a little confusing at times, but all were important to enhance and further the plot. The main trio, as I saw them, were Margot Silverman (detective), Joona Linna (ex detective and presumed dead) and Erik Bark (a psychiatrist and hypnotist who is also Joona's best friend). All three play a pivotal role in tracking down the stalker/killer, and I liked all of them.

This is a dark and menacing read about the victimisation and personification of women. Many of the scenes featuring the stalker are graphic and I did find them upsetting. It is also an oppressive read, in the fact that I felt at times that it was difficult to breathe wile reading because of the sheer terror that these victims faced. It frightened me, and not many books truly scare me. I think this is because the novel was incredibly realistic, in that it was so easy for this individual to stalk victims, to film them, to then carry out the brutal and planned murder and to then post what they had filmed onto the internet. It was shocking to read.

Stalker is not an easy read, and it would be wrong to say that it is an enjoyable read, because it is not. But it is does make you think about how women are portrayed via the media, and of how women are often seen as victims. But the most satisfying part of this novel is that the lead detective  is a woman, who is completely fearless and who will do all she can to seek justice.

If you love Nordic Noir, want a challenging read, that is a slow burner, and will raise many moralistic and social questions about the kind of society that we live in, then Stalker is a good choice.

Stalker, published on 1 June 2017 by Harper Collins, can be found on Amazon here

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

About the author

Lars Kepler is the pseudonym of Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril & Alexander Ahndoril, both critically-acclaimed writers under their own names. Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril’s first novel Stj√§rneborg (Castle of Stars) has been translated in several languages while Alexander Ahndoril’s novel The Director, about Ingmar Bergman, was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. They live in Sweden.The Hypnotist is the first in a series featuring Detective Inspector Joona Linna.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Swimming Lessons @ClaireFuller2 @Fig_Tree_Books



About Swimming Lessons

'Gil Coleman looked down from the window and saw his dead wife standing on the pavement below.'
Gil's wife, Ingrid has been missing, presumed drowned, for twelve years.

A possible sighting brings their children, Nan and Flora, home. Together they begin to confront the mystery of their mother. Is Ingrid dead? Or did she leave? And do the letters hidden within Gil's books hold the answer to the truth behind his marriage, a truth hidden from everyone including his own children?

My review of Swimming Lessons
 
Oh, what a wonderful book! I've had Swimming Lessons on my TBR pile for a long time and was so happy when I was finally able to sit down and read it. This book is such a delightful read about family, love and what keeps a family together. It is a book about the role that a mother plays in bringing up her daughters and how the loss of a mother figure impacts upon the whole family. It is a topic that is dealt with sensitively, with empathy and with huge insight. It really is a beautiful book.
 
The entire book hinges upon what happened to Ingrid. Wife to Gill, and mother to Nan and Flora. Is she dead or is she still alive? What happened to her? We learn about what happened to her at the same time as the characters in the book, via letters that Ingrid wrote to Gill before she went missing, all of which are hidden in various books around their home. Gill, a retired University Professor hoards books, because he likes to read what people have doodled in the margins, his home is overflowing with bocks. These letters are beautiful, heartfelt, and allow us to learn about Ingrid. We learn of how she met Gill, their early life together, and of the younger Nan and Flora.
 
Swimming Lessons is a detective story of sorts. I wanted to learn about what happened to Ingrid, but also about what happened to Gill. Why his life dramatically changed and the man who he eventually became for his daughters. It is a novel of discovery, for everyone involved. Flora is young and deeply affected by her mother's disappearance. She is trying to find her way in life. Nan is a midwife, the older sister, and the one who became the surrogate mother, but at what cost to her?
 
This novel is a tale about a father and his two daughters, the bond that they share. It is also a narrative for lost mothers. The writing is truly poetic, delving deep into human behaviour and emotions. Swimming Lessons truly is a tale of love, hope and family. I highly recommend it.

Swimming Lesson, published on 26 Jan. 2017 by Fig Tree, can be found on Amazon here.


About the author
 
Claire Fuller is the author of Swimming Lessons (published 2017), and Our Endless Numbered Days (2015) which won the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction. www.clairefuller.co.uk

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Court of Lions @JaneJohnsonBakr @HoZ_Books Blog Tour





About Court of Lions

An epic saga of romance and redemption. Court of Lions brings one of the great turning points in history to life, through the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada.

Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate's life forever.

Court of Lions brings one of the great turning-points in history to life, telling the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada, as they both move towards their cataclysmic destinies.

Extract


It was past eleven by the time the meal came to a lazy end with an assortment of fresh fruit from the market, and creamy homemade yogourt, and glass upon glass of mint tea accompanied by little pastries that tasted of almond and orange and honey. These were arrayed on the plate in such an intricate way that Kate was suddenly struck by their likeness to Moroccan tiles. There were crescents and stars, tiny squares and hexagons. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “They’re exquisite! Just like zellij!”
“You are kind.” Brahim beamed. “Even now that I am retired I cannot help but return to my old trade.”
“You made these?” Kate was amazed. She thought of her own father, shooing away the acrid smoke caused by setting fire to the sausages he had left too long under the grill in an ill-fated attempt to feed his family.
 “Once a tile maker always a tile maker, eh, Papa?”
“As a master zellij worker, Abdou has not yet felt the need to turn his hand to pastries,” Brahim said, giving his son’s head a gentle push with the flat of his hand.
It was such a gesture of affection that Kate felt her heart clench. She should be with Luke, giving him the warmth and stability of a loving home, not leaving him in the hands of her sister, no matter how much Jess cared for the boy. One guilt slid into another as Kate realized that in all these hours—this lacuna of joyful hedonism—she had not even thought to check her phone. While father and son joked together about Abdou’s failings in the kitchen, she snuck a look at her mobile. No message, no emails, no missed calls. Nothing. The absence left a hole inside her, a small pit of anxiety. Well, it was too late to call her sister now. She’d try again in the morning. When the table was cleared and Khadija, Fatima and Salka were in the kitchen with Brahim, washing and drying the glasses (Kate having been firmly told her help was not required), she found herself alone with Abdou, who leaned suddenly across the table and ran a finger across her forearm. A shock of electricity thrilled through her at his touch, making her head so woozy that he was forced to repeat his question.
“What gave you these scars, Kate?”
 Mortified, she pulled her sleeve down to cover the marks of her self-harm. “Oh, it was nothing.”
“‘Nothing’ like the scraps of paper?”
 “Touch√©. Why wouldn’t you talk about them in front of your family?” She paused. “Are they all your family?”
The dark eyes became golden crescents of mischief. “Maybe.”
Kate pressed her lips together to prevent a more direct question escaping. “Fatima seems lovely,” she said at last.
“She is indeed lovely.” He watched her mercilessly. “But by omission, Salka is not?”
 You’re digging yourself a hole. “Salka is lovely too,” Kate lied. “You know she is not. My cousin is descarada.”
Between them they worked out that this equated to “minx” in English, and Kate felt an absurd rush of relief, but it was short-lived. Didn’t cousins marry in many other cultures? Anyway, why did it matter? This man was nothing to her: she’d only just met him. But he inhabited her dreams by day and by night. And she felt the aftershock of his electric touch still.
 “She lives here, your cousin?”
 A lazy smile. “She lives here. The whole family lives here.” He let the moments stretch annoyingly. “Except me, of course.”
 Kate felt her shoulders drop. “Oh. You live somewhere else?”
 He lounged back on the cushions, so that the candlelight gilded his cheek and the tendons of his neck. The gesture was brazenly sexual: it offered his body up to her view, and he knew it—she knew he knew it. Then he tilted his head toward her. “Would you like to see where I live?”

Court of Lions is published by Head of Zeus on 6 July 2017. It is available from Amazon here.

About the author


Jane Johnson is from Cornwall and has worked in the book industry for over 20 years, as a bookseller, publisher and writer. She is responsible for the publishing of many major authors, including George RR Martin.

In 2005 she was in Morocco researching the story of a distant family member who was abducted from a Cornish church in 1625 by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa, when a near-fatal climbing incident caused her to rethink her future. She returned home, gave up her office job in London, and moved to Morocco. She married her own ‘Berber pirate’ and now they split their time between Cornwall and a village in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. She still works, remotely, as Fiction Publishing Director for HarperCollins.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Ice Lake @johnlenahan @KillerReads #BlogTour



About Ice Lake

…WHERE EVERYBODY LIES. AND SOME PEOPLE KILL…

An electrifying debut crime novel and the first in a new series featuring psychologist Harry Cull. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Peter May.

AN ABANDONDED BODY
Deep in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the body of a man is found – shot three times, dumped under the trees where the local kids will find him.

A HAUNTED PSYCHOLOGIST
Psychologist Harry Cull, tormented by his past, arrives in the picturesque town of Ice Lake to help with the murder investigation. There he unravels a web of lies and deceit that leads to the dark heart of a community torn apart by fracking, drugs and murder.

A DESPERATE KILLER
It’s not long before the second corpse turns up, this time a lawyer left for dead in the forest, and Harry finds himself on the trail of a twisted killer – who will do anything to keep the town’s darkest secrets buried.




My review of Ice Lake

I absolutely loved this book! I had no idea of what to expect when I opened the first page of Ice Lake. Would it be a grizzly crime thriller? Would it feature a handsome and witty male protagonist? Would it be an exciting and enjoyable read that offered a completely different take on the crime genre of today? The answer to all these questions is yes, and so much more.

Harry Cull is invited to Ice Lake, situated in Northeastern Pennsylvania, by his friend , State Trooper Eric Cirba. A body was found in the woods, and it is up to the local police and Harry to find out who the murderer is. And all I will say is that this realty is one twisted killer.

As soon as I started to read Ice Lake, I knew that I would love it, and this was partly responsible to the strong and likeable character of Harry Cull. It only took me a few pages to fully realise his character and that the two of us would soon become friends. He's that type of guy, you can't help but like him. Throughout the course of the book we learn more about him, his past and why he does what he does. It's not just Harry who fascinated me, but all of the characters were interesting in their own way, even Todd who runs the local 'store'. I gradually warmed to him over the book.  Another character who I loved was that of MK, Harry's neighbour, a nurse and a woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and do her own thing.

This book is packed full of  dark humour, and this works refreshingly well, given the dark subject matter. This kind of humour is right up my street. It doesn't make light of what is happening, but rather helps to give balance and a time to reflect upon what has happened. I found Harry to be a very funny guy, as were most of the inhabitants, albeit it in a subtle sarcastic way.

Ice Lake deals with some serious issues, those of drugs, fracking and dangerous lies, but all issues are there at the heart of the story, they are part of it, part of who the characters are and the story helps to explain what it is like to live in modern Northeastern Pennsylvania, in a remote area. I have no idea what this life must be like, but the descriptions of the environment and the people living there, helped me to feel as if I was living there, breathing the smell of the woods and drinking coffee in Todd's.

Ice Lake was such an enjoyable read. I am so very happy that this book is the start of a new series, as I want to learn more about Harry... and 'that's no lie'...

With thanks to Killer Reads for the advanced manuscript copy

Ice Lake is published by Killer Reads an imprint of Harper Collins on 7 July 2017. It is available from Amazon here.

About the author

John Lenahan is a popular TV magician who toured with Jack Dee, Lenny Henry and Victoria Wood. He starred on a prime time BBC1 TV show, had his own BBC2 series, and was the voice of the toaster in ‘Red Dwarf’. His fantasy trilogy Shadowmagic, an award-winning podcast that received over 100,000 downloads, was published by HarperCollins and sold over 70,000 copies across all editions. Ice Lake is his debut crime novel, the first in a new series featuring psychologist Harry Cull.


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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Other Twin @LucyVHayAuthor @OrendaBooks



About The Other Twin


A stunning, dark and sexy debut thriller set in the winding lanes and underbelly of Brighton, centring around the social media world, where resentments and accusations are played out, identities made and remade, and there is no such thing as the truth

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India's death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India's laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its wellheeled families, The Other Twin is startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth...



My review of The Other Twin

The Other Twin is like a breath of fresh air. Never before have I read a book and had absolutely no clue about what was going on. This was one twisty, gut wrenching and punchy book that quite literally kept me guessing until the very end.

The novel revolves around Poppy, a woman who returns to her family home in Brighton after learning about the death of her sister, India. Poppy has lived in London for many years and had not spoken to India for a long time. She returns to find out what happened to her sister, as she believes that her sister was pushed from the bridge, that she did not jump. She believes that her sister would not take her own life. It is this personal investigation that leads Poppy into the twisted lanes of Brighton during the night time hours, and into the seedier side of Brighton life.

This novel pulls no punches, it really doesn't and I loved the blunt, and almost brutal way in which the novel is written. The language is incredibly direct, it helped me to feel as if I knew these characters, inside and out. The plot is similar to those lanes in Brighton, it is  incredibly twisted, and I was kept in the dark for most of the novel about what was actually going on, but this was the great lure abut this story, the not knowing. This though, for me, was only really part of the story. The other part was about the colourful characters, learning about who they were and their relationship with one another. They all fascinated me, and although not incredibly likeable, I wanted to know more abut them.

Poppy is fascinating. A young woman, a teacher, educated and full of life who fled to London for a different kind of life, but who feels like she has never been away, once she steps off the train in Brighton. The ties of family are heavy in this book, the ties that bind and the ties that define who you are. For Poppy, The Other Twin is very much a story of self discovery, and that she is really still finding her place in the world.

This novel is hugely current and uses social media and online blogging to great advantage. Chunks of the novel are exerts from India's blog, which help Poppy to learn more about her sister, the sister that she lost contact with and who no loner knows. Modern day life is there, on screen, for everyone to read about, and this novel will surely create conversation about the modern day blog and that personal thoughts and secrets are no longer personal.

The Other Twin is incredibly clever, a tale of family, of identity and of believing in who you are. It is a book for our modern day world. It is a chilling and compulsive read with razor sharp writing that echoes the themes of our modern day society. This is a disturbing read, but an important one. It left me thinking about the characters, the decisions they made and the society that we live in. This really is a thought provoking novel and a highly recommended read.

With thanks to Orenda Books who sent me a paperback copy.

The Other Twin published by Orenda Books on 3 July 2017 can be found on Amazon here.