Category Archives: book review

Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson – a review Blog Tour

I’ve recently been hearing a lot about Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson so I was delighted when I was asked to take part in the blog tour for his novel Whiteout, the latest to be translated into English.

Whiteout is the perfect winter novel to pass a cold evening. Just before Christmas a young woman’s body is found at the bottom of a cliff. Detective Ari Thor gets a call from his old boss Tomas to help investigate the case. Ari, along with his pregnant partner Kristina, travels to a remote village to help investigate whether she fell, or was pushed. When he finds out that this is the same spot both the girl’s Mother and Sister were also found dead, he soon starts to suspect foul play.

Whiteout is a fantastic read. Set in Iceland the novel is incredibly atmospheric and gives you a real impression of a dark, cold, isolated place. The story itself is interesting being a classic whodunit that had me trying and failing to guess the outcome throughout. The crime is set in an abandoned village with only a small number of characters and so you get a real sense of claustrophobia surrounding the story. You also know whilst you are reading it that if indeed it is foul play there is only a very small number of suspects.

The characters were well drawn, and I especially liked the way we get to know the murder victim. Although I must admit to finding the whole pregnant partner story a bit unnecessary. However that may be because although this is the first of this series I have read, it is actually the 5th in the Dark Iceland series featuring Ari Thor. I suspect that there was a lot of back story that I had missed which would have given me a different impression of the characters. However that is not to say the book doesn’t work perfectly well as a standalone. The story alone is superb.

This is a fantastic novel for anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery. It is also a great example of the Icelandic traditional crime story, despite being bang up to date. I thoroughly recommend this to those of you who like your traditional crime stories with an added layer of ice and intrigue.

Thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of Whiteout

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Boundary by Andree Michaud – a review

Boundary by Andree Michaud is a story set in Canada in the late 1960s.  It’s the height of summer and families are arriving at the resort of Boundary for their annual holiday. The place is idyllic, despite the ghost stories surrounding one of the earlier residents Pierre, a trapper who lived in the woods. Unfortunately the peace and tranquillity is soon broken when a young girl called Zaza goes missing. Quickly the mood turns to fear and distrust when her body if found caught in a bear trap.

I have to confess I’m not sure this was a book for me, as I found it very hard to get into. The first half of the story is quite slow. It is very descriptive not only of the setting, but also the inner thoughts and feeling of the characters.  This made it feel very different to the normal edge of the seat thrillers I gravitate towards. However once I got into the rhythm of the prose, it did draw me in. I wanted to keep reading but this was because of the language more than to find out the crime solution.

The story is told mainly from the viewpoints of the detectives hunting the killer but we also hear from young local girl Andree who was fascinated with Zara and her friend. To Andree the girls were seemingly so grown up and glamorous she longed to join in. Unfortunately I didn’t feel that the distinction between the characters voices was particularly clear which meant that I had to flit back and forth in order to keep track of who was narrating. This could of course be also partly due to my habit of skim reading so isn’t necessarily down to the writing. It has also been translated from French so again some of the phrases used were a little unfamiliar.

One thing I did really like about the novel was the sense of a place that you got from it. You could feel the isolation of the lives of those who normally live in the area contrasted with the change during tourist season when it becomes a thriving lake side town. The characters themselves were interesting. I liked the way the detectives interacted with each other, and the pace of the investigation felt realistic.

Overall for me this was a slow burner, that picked up pace in the later stages. However, if you like a well written, descriptive story focussing on people’s emotions and lives as much as the actual crime then this is well worth a read.

 

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Clipped Wings by Jennifer Gilmour – BLOG TOUR

Clipped Wings is not the usual type of book that is found on acrimereadersblog. This is a collection of true stories from survivors of domestic abuse.

Synopsis
‘Just imagine you thought that you had met the man or woman of your dreams. This person was charming and you thought they were the one or perhaps that this was fate; it was just meant to be.
But as the months go by things start to change. Their behaviour towards you isn’t the same, they are more critical, more particular about your appearance, what you do, how you do it, who you see. Time goes by and you feel isolated from your friends and family because that behaviour has now changed to threats, maybe violence and you feel that your identity is all but gone. But still you stay. Where would you go? Who would help you? You are not worthy.
But you are.’

When I was asked to review this I jumped at the chance. Many years ago I was on the Trustee Board of our local domestic abuse charity and saw first-hand people affected by this crime.  However reviewing Clipped Wings is actually quite difficult, suffice to say it is a book that everyone should read.
The stories in this book are disturbing and upsetting. Each story is different yet there are similarities in all the accounts. One thing that really stood out for me was just how isolating domestic abuse is. Often the perpetrator will have alienated their victims family and friends. They will controlling their partner’s every move, every penny and every minute having to be accounted for.
Whilst it is heartbreaking to read some of the accounts and what the people went through in their relationships, it is ultimately an uplifting book. The stories are as much about courage and recovery as they are about violence and abuse.
I would say this book is a must read for anyone who wants to hear first hand how people can survive such terrible abuse and come through the other side.
If you wish to find out more about domestic abuse or want to know where to go for advice and help then visit Yorkshire based IDAS. http://www.idas.org.uk

About the author

Born in the North East, Jennifer is a young, married mum with three children. In addition to

being an author, she is an entrepreneur, running a family business from her home-base.

Her blog posts have a large readership of other young mums in business.

From an early age, Jennifer has had a passion for writing and started gathering ideas and

plot lines from her teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive

relationships, she has drawn on her personal experiences to write this first novel ‘Isolation

Junction’. It details the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally

abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life

and to love again.

Since the publication of her debut novel Jennifer has continued to be an advocate for

those in abusive relationships through her blog posts, radio interviews and Twitter feed.

Jennifer also gained a qualification in facilitating a recover programme for those who have

been in abusive relationships.

Jennifer continues to publicly support those who are isolated and struggle to have a voice.

Jennifer hopes that ’Clipped Wings’ give’s a voice to survivor’s experiences and raise’s

awareness further of the types of unacceptable behaviour which fall into the category of domestic abuse.

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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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