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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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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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Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell – a review BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to today be taking part in the blog tour for the latest novel by Caimh McDonnell . This one is a prequel to the fantastic Dublin trilogy series.

Angels in Moonlight introduces us to Bunny McGarry. As we know from the previous novels Bunny has some rather unorthodox policing methods, and although he may be younger in this story he certainly hasn’t changed.  Whilst his methods might not strictly toe the policing line they do get results, and it is those results his bosses want to see when he is tasked with bringing down one of Dublin’s most notorious gangs. What is different in this prequel is that we get to see another side of Bunny, he has a softer side that isn’t always evident in his previous cases. We find out how he met Simone who he has mentioned in the other novels.  Although obviously the course of true love never runs smoothly, and this is no exception in Bunny’s case. On top of work and love life Bunny is worried about his straight laced partner Gringo. Gringo’s marriage is on the rocks but it is clear he is hiding something more worrying.

I am a big fan of humour in my crime fiction and this most definitely has that in spades. Caimh McDonnell manages to mix a police procedural with funny escapades incredibly skilfully. This novel felt like a bit of slower read than the previous ones, but that is rather deliberate I imagine as it gives you more of an insight into the detectives head. The writing is funny, but there is an element of sadness within this novel which for me really made this stand out.

The characters are all well written, and although there are a lot of them they are easy to keep track off. Obviously I don’t want to give away any spoilers but you should definitely look out for the nuns! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend any of this series. I‘m very much looking forward to the final in the trilogy.

Angels in the Moonlight is out now

 

 

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell – a review

I received a surprise copy of this from the publisher and have only just got around to reading it. Exquisite is the new novel by Sarah Stovell, and Exquisite it really is.
The story follows two women and is told purely from their points of view. Bo is a successful author who lives in the lake district with her husband and two daughters. Occasionally she teaches at a creative writing retreat. It is here that she meets our other protagonist, Alice. Alice is a young aspiring writer, who lives in Brighton with her ‘artist’ boyfriend. Alice and Bo soon become friends, but it is then that things start to spiral. As their relationship develops further, you are left not knowing who to trust. Is young Alice being preyed on by a manipulative older women, or is Bo the victim of an unhinged stalker?
Having previously just finished a hard going (but still good) novel, Exquisite was the perfect next read. I loved this and could not put it down, consequently I actually read it over a couple of days (my late marks at work just keep rising thanks to books!) Throughout the novel I couldn’t decide which of the two main characters I believed. As soon as I thought I had it figured out something else would get thrown in that would change my mind.
I felt both characters were well written, and you ended up liking and disliking them both in equal measure. My only slight criticism is that I struggled to place what year the novel was set in. At the start Alice had to go to the library to send emails which surely no one does nowadays? However putting aside that very minor gripe, this was a fantastic book.
The novel was set mainly in the Lake District and using this small, and to me relatively unknown, setting added to the mystery around the character of Bo. Was she really happy living in the quiet town she had chosen for her family, or was she craving some excitement instead? The writing seemed to flow gently, building up the atmosphere around the two women. Without wishing to give away any spoilers there was one scene that was quite shocking, jarring as it did with the rest of the story. This just added to the tension of what I felt was a superbly plotted book.
Exquisite was an excellent novel and I would thoroughly recommend it.

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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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Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown – a review

I went along to a few of the fringe events at this year’s festival, one of which was a writing masterclass which was fascinating. Whilst there I picked up a copy of a couple of Isabel’s novels and as Little Sister was on the top of the pile when I got home this was the first of my new books I read and I’m glad I did.

Little Sister is set on the Isle of Wight. Jess and Emily are sisters who were estranged when young, but recently reconciled. Emily is married to James and she brought up his daughter Chloe as her own. Chloe was delighted when she became an older half sister to Daisy. However now Daisy has gone missing, taken from the family home on New Year’s Eve whilst Jess was supposedly looking after her. The story follows the grief and fear within the family as they struggle to deal with their missing child. We also gradually find out more of the relationship between Emily and Jess and what happened all those years ago.

This was a great quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The cast of characters was quite small which gave the story a claustrophobic feel which is further compounded by the setting on the Island. The story itself is a little bit slow to start but I liked that as it felt the tension was being built up quite realistically. The novel is mainly told from the viewpoints of Emily and Daisy. This means that you are forever questioning who is right and who is wrong, every time you think you know what is happening another twist was thrown at you.

I would thoroughly recommend this novel. It is a great summer read, especially if like me you have ever spent a childhood holiday on the Isle of Wight.

 

 

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