Category Archives: book review

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody – a review BLOG TOUR

As anyone who knows me knows, I’m not normally a fan of historical fiction. Despite a degree in history, on the whole I prefer my crime to be a more modern gruesome experience. However I do like my crime to have smart powerful women and a good mystery, and the Kate Shackleton series most definitely has those.
I was lucky enough to read a previous novel by Frances and despite my initial reservations I absolutely loved it. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for Frances’ latest novel Death in the Stars.

Death in the Stars is set in 1927 and starts during the total eclipse. The enigmatic Italian singer Selina wants to view the eclipse from the Giggleswick School. According to the Astronomy Society this is going to be the best vantage point. She asks Mrs Shackleton to accompany her and her friend Billy on their flight to the school. During this visit Billy is found dead, which increases Selina’s fears that people close to her are dying in suspicious circumstance. Kate Shackleton runs an investigation agency so is clearly intrigued and starts to look into what is happening.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. This is the 9th novel in the series. I haven’t yet read all of them although am looking forward to going back to the start. However, each of her novels work just as well as a standalone one. I really enjoy all the background in the stories. The descriptions of places ranging from windswept Yorkshire Dales, to inner city Leeds variety houses really bring the stories to life. I think the character of Kate Shackleton is intriguing; although some of her back story has been revealed in the books I’ve read so far it is her that makes me want to start the series from the beginning to find out more about her life. She comes across as a Miss Marple type with added glamour and confidence.

Death in the Stars is an absolutely charming book, and its setting in the 1920’s is the perfect backdrop to this cast of characters. I would recommend to anyone who likes a bit of glamour and gentleness with their murders. This series has definitely changed my mind about historical fiction.

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody was out on the 5th October.

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Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech – a review

I was sent this book as a surprise by the publisher. I have to confess to not really looking closely at it as I assumed it wasn’t really for me, the book not being a traditional murder mystery. However having recently seen some excellent reviews I decided to give it a go and I’m glad I did.
Sometimes as soon as you read the first page of a novel you can tell by the style of writing that it is going to be something special. This was definitely one of those books. Maria in the Moon is the story of Catherine. She is living with her friend Fern after her house was one of many flooded during the storms in 2007. She volunteers at the local flood crisis line. Until the age of 9 Catherine was always called by her full name, Catherine-Maria, however at some point during her ninth year people stopped using the Maria. She has no recollection of why or what else happened that year. However gradually she starts to remember things as memories of the past start to resurface.

This was a superb read that I genuinely stayed up stupidly late reading as I didn’t want to stop. It is utterly compelling and incredibly heartbreaking. Catherine is an interesting character. I flitted between feeling incredibly sorry for her and wanting her to just speak up for herself more. One of the elements I really liked about this book was that despite it being very disturbing there are also elements of humour that really bring the novel to life. The descriptions of the flooding are really heartbreaking, skips in the roads and people being displaced are quite upsetting especially when you know this actually happened. Yet this is what makes this book so great, it really is a superb read.

This is the first book I’ve read by Louise although I think it is actually her third novel and it definitely makes me want to read her others. Maria in the Moon is a heartrending book that will stay with you long after the finish, I thoroughly recommend it. 

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The Other Twin by LV Hay – a review

I was given a copy of this via Lovereading and actually read it a few months ago. 

The Other Twin starts with Poppy finding out her sister India has fallen to her death. Poppy then returns to Brighton for the first time in years in order to try and prove that her sister didn’t committee suicide. Whilst back in Brighton she meets up with her old boyfriend Matt, and his wealthy family who own half of the city. She also uncovers the mysterious Jenny who it seems had an online friendship with India. Yet what are they hiding?

The Other Twin was an interesting novel that kept me gripped through to the end. I liked the way the story was told, and the quality of writing meant that it was an easy fast read. I was certainly kept guessing right until the end. My only slight criticism, is that I did find the story a bit difficult to place in a time. It was clearly modern day as there were blogs and phones in use. Yet the characters seemed quite old fashioned to me, (there was a lot of legging wearing which is very 1980) and without wishing to give anything away this old-fashioned quality became even more obvious towards the end. The characters whilst interesting were hard to warm to, but this gives the story a certain edge of the seat quality.

The Other Twin was a nice summer read that I would recommend, despite my misgivings over their clothing choices.

 

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The Monster’s Daughter by Michelle Pretorius

I was sent a copy of this by the publishers Melville House, and I agreed to review it having already said that historical fiction isn’t really my thing. This however sounded interesting as it was described as a historical thriller set in South Africa which is a country that has always intrigued me.

The Monster’s Daughter is the debut novel by Michelle Pretorius. The novel is a story in three parts. It’s a thriller, a historical novel and also a bit science fiction. It starts in 2010 when we are introduced to Alet, a disgraced police constable who has been reassigned to the small town of Unie. Here she discovers the body of a woman burned beyond all recognition. Her investigations soon lead her to believe there is a serial killer stalking women.  Alongside this murder mystery we are treated to a potted history of the country’s violent past, starting in 1901 at the height of the Boer war. Linking these two elements are Tessa and Benjamin who were in a British concentration camp where a doctor was conducting some grim experiments.  

This was not an easy read. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and the jumping around of the timelines meant that it was sometimes hard to keep up with the story. However considering it included both science fiction and historical elements, two things I’m not a huge fan of in my crime novels, this was completely worth the effort.

This was a superb novel. The writing was incredibly evocative and upsetting at times. I had a very basic knowledge of South African history and found this part of the novel absolutely fascinating. The violence and hatred jumped out of the page as we travelled from the Boer War, through Apartheid to the present day. The landscape and the heat, alongside the tensions of the time were evident, all the while with the back drop of a modern day murder investigation.

The characters themselves, whilst perfectly well rounded, for me did come secondary to the historical elements. The story was interesting and I think just the modern day part on its own would have been a decent story, yet the rest of elements were really what made this an absolute stand out book.

Sometimes it is good to read something out of your usual type and The Monster’s Daughter was definitely one of those times.

 

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Broken Branches – Q and A with M Jonathan Lee BLOG TOUR

I was lucky enough to be contacted recently by Hideaway Fall, a new publisher based in Yorkshire. They  asked me to join the blog tour for an interesting novel, Broken Branches by M Jonathan Lee. Broken Branches is about Ian and his wife and son who move into the family home after the death of his brother. When things start to go wrong, Ian sets out to prove that the cottage is cursed. This is a story of grief and a families reaction to tragedy that I really enjoyed. It is an intriguing read and I’m delighted to be able to welcome the author M Jonathon Lee to my blog.

Thanks for joining me Jonathon. Firstly can I ask, what was the inspiration behind Broken Branches?

A very good question. My grandfather passed away the year before last at age ninety-seven. As a family we began looking through some old documents and I realised that in each generation a child had predeceased their parents. This got me thinking about a potential ‘curse’. Further to this we found an old photograph, about a hundred years old, which simply said “George, the Dog Hanger” on the back. This became part of Broken Branches. It’s funny where inspiration suddenly appears from.

Do you have a ‘day job’? Or do you write full time?

I write full, part, time! After my third novel (A Tiny Feeling of Fear) I gave up my well paid job in this city to focus on writing. I do still spend a day or two a week working on tax and accountancy, but have far more time to write nowadays.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

I tend to get up around 7 and begin writing as soon as I’m up. Definitely in my PJs. I tend to write until 11ish and then break for a couple of hours. Maybe read or watch a film, or catch up on emails and social media. I then begin again and maybe do another three hours in the afternoon. I’m unhappy if I don’t get to 3,000 words a day.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

I get a lot of pleasure from the simple things such as gardening or taking the dog out. I also really enjoy watching films. I’m fairly easily pleased to be honest. If I can have the perfect evening give me loud music at a gig any day

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

Yes. I tend to develop an obsession with a writer and then read everything I can get my hands on. I go through long phases of reading true crime or biography and then back to novels. Joseph Connolly never fails to excite me. I’ve just finished a marathon of everything Vincent Bugliosi ever wrote which included buying old out of print copies online.

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next?

I’ve just about finished my fifth novel, How Was I Supposed to Know How It Would Be? This book focuses on a man who would do anything to swap his life for the relative peace and ease of his neighbour opposite. But, how much does he actually know about what happens across the road. And when he finds out does he really want to swap?

That sounds fascinating, no one really knows what happens behind closed doors!

Thanks very much for joining me Jonathon, and I would highly recommend reading Broken Branches.

Broken Branches by M Jonathan Lee is out now (£8.99, Hideaway Fall)

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Don’t Say A Word by AL Bird – a review BLOG TOUR

Recently I had a week over in Finland, and was very excited to receive a bumper crop of books through the post on my return. One of said bumber crop was the latest novel by author AL Bird, Don’t Say A Word, and I’m very pleased to be taking part in this blog tour.
Jen is working as a legal secretary and devotes her life to looking after her son Josh. When she gets asked by her boss to help out on the case of Rhea Stevens she sees it as a good opportunity to further her career. However unfortunately it soon seems that the case is a little too close to home. When Jen receives cards from people in her past, she begins to fear both for herself and her son.

I very much enjoyed this novel. It’s obvious from the beginning that something has happened which makes Jen go into hiding. What this is becomes clear as the story unfolds, but there is a twist that I really didn’t see coming.  I have to say it was this bit that really made the story stand out amongst others for me.

I really liked the ending and whilst I am not one for giving spoilers away I felt it made a nice realistic end to a novel rather than just the ending that people would want. I did feel that some of the actions of the main character of Jen weren’t really in keeping for a person who had been through what she had. I also felt that there were a few too many characters that were involved in the final ‘reveal’ which did make it a bit confusing but this was a very minor irritant.

Most of the story is told from the viewpoint of Jen. We get a lot of her internal thoughts and feelings which gives us a real sense of the fear and claustrophobia that Jen is feeling.

I really enjoyed this story and would like to thank HQ publishers for my preview.

This is the second novel by AL Bird, my review of her first novel is here https://acrimereadersblog.com/2016/04/07/the-good-mother-by-al-bird-a-review-blog-tour-2/

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He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly – a review

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this via netgalley.

He Said, She Said focuses on Laura and her husband Kit. They are eclipse chasers, so basically they go round the world watching total eclipses. On one of these trips when they first meet, Laura sees what she presumes is a rape. Her and Kit are then called as witnesses, to testify against Jamie the perpetrator. He says that the sex was consensual, but Beth the victim states that it was rape. It’s his word against hers.  15 years later and Kit and Laura are in hiding. They are no longer friends with Beth, having changed their names and now live practically ‘off the grid’. However it’s clear that when Beth tracks them down, things are not going to end well.

I really enjoyed this book. It is told mainly from the viewpoint of Laura and switches between past and present easily. There were lots of descriptions of eclipses and weather but I found that interesting and felt it added to the stories atmosphere. This was not a fast paced novel but was more of a gentle story that unfolded whilst keeping the tension high. There were lots of twists and turns that kept my interest, and you were never quite sure who was telling the truth.

I did find both Kit and Laura a little annoying, clearly they were going to have secrets, all good characters in novels do. Yet you would think that for people in hiding they would be more inclined to be open with each other. However the story itself is good so I could overlook this and the ending was truly a surprise.

Erin Kelly is an author who manages to take a relatively mundane setting and turn it into something different. This isn’t a book that will necessary grab you by the throat straight away but it is one that after I finished kept me thinking. I have read a number of Erin Kelly’s books and would highly recommend them all.

 

 

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