Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Review: Council (Helga Finnsdottir #2) by Snorri Kristjansson

I requested this book because I loved the first one in this Viking murder mystery series and was really looking forward to reading more about Helga. I wasn't disappointed!

Council is set about five years on from the first book, Kin. Helga has settled in Uppsala, near the court of King Erik. She is well regarded as a healer and is now in her first serious relationship. The King has summoned all who owe him fealty to a council and, with rumours of an imminent attack, tempers are fraying, even before the discovery of a body. Can Helga solve the murder before anyone else is killed? And can King Erik get everyone to work together to prevent a war?

I love the character of Helga and it is so refreshing to read a murder mystery set amongst the Vikings! I'm fascinated by history and I enjoyed the appearances of real-life vikings Harald Bluetooth and Styrbjorn the Strong! My favourite part of the story was when Helga joins a party of spies heading to Harald Bluetooth's court. Although I thought I'd worked out one of the twists I was completely wrong. The ending was extremely nail-biting and I also liked that there was a hint of the next adventure to come.

The pace is slow to start with, which didn't bother me, but I can appreciate some readers might not like this. There were also a lot of characters, which could be confusing at times. But I'm sure anyone who enjoys stories about vikings, or historical mysteries that are just a little bit different, would love reading Council.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book, which will be published on 16th May 2019.

Thank you to Snorri Kristjansson and Jo Fletcher Books (Quercus) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Friday, 3 May 2019

Review: A Chance on Love by Louise Allen

I'm a huge fan of Louise Allen and I've been catching up on the books of hers I haven't read.

A Chance on Love is a short story/novella of about 30 pages, that should only take about 30 minutes to read.

It is 1809 and Lady Johanna Holt arrives in Calcutta to escape from a scandal, with the full intention of turning right around and heading back home again. Instead of her cousin, she is met off the boat by Sir Alexander Darvell and persuades him to give her a tour of the city.

To say much more than that would spoil the story for you, but it's a sweet Regency romance, with engaging characters and a beautiful setting. Recommended!

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Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Review: No One Home by Tim Weaver (David Raker Missing Persons #10)

Where has Tim Weaver been all my life? Not sure how (because I love the kind of mystery/thriller that he writes), but I'd never heard of him until now. I requested this book because the premise appealed to me: an entire village goes missing? How does that work? Well, the village in question is more of a hamlet but the story is a clever one and I really enjoyed it.

David Raker specialises in finding missing persons. He has been contacted by the relatives of nine missing villagers, who gathered together for a Halloween dinner party and then vanished. Their houses are immaculate, there is no evidence that anything happened and no clues to solve the mystery. Running alongside this is a story set in Los Angeles in 1985, about an American detective trying to solve a suicide that might be a murder. Are the two events connected?

No One Home is a completely gripping read, full of twists and genuine surprises. I particularly loved the character of Joline 'Jo' Kader, who has to battle against 1980s sexism and misogyny to solve her case. It did take me a few chapters to get into this story, because I hadn't appreciated that this is #10 in a series and I hadn't read any of the others! The only thing I didn't like was the long explanation at the end of the book as it seemed repetitive, but don't be tempted to skip it because there is a rather excellent twist following it!

I really enjoyed No One Home and plan to go back and read some of the earlier stories in this series. It's fast-paced, with lots of nail-biting moments, and I can see it appealing to fans of authors such as Harlan Coben and Lee Child.

No One Home is due to be published in the UK on the 16th May 2019

Thank you to Tim Weaver and Michael Joseph for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Review: The Boy Who Lived with the Dead (Albert Lincoln #2) by Kate Ellis

I love Kate Ellis! She's one of my all-time favourite authors, mainly because her plots are so fiendishly clever I can never work out 'whodunit'. Or if I do, my guess will be only a small part of the story. I don't know how she does it!

Kate Ellis is mainly known for her 'Wesley Peterson' archaeological mystery series - set in the present day but with a historical mystery threading through the stories. The Boy Who Lived with the Dead is the second in her 'Albert Lincoln' series and is set during the years following the First World War. This is not a time period I'm familiar with, and I found it fascinating to read how such a a horrific war continued to affect people, not only the soldiers.

If you've not read the first book in this series, A High Mortality of Doves, you do need to do so. The plot of that book is mentioned throughout this one, with huge spoilers. Having said that, you can read this one as a stand alone - just be aware of those spoilers!

The Boy Who Lived with the Dead starts in 1920. The title refers to a young boy called Peter, who lives in the lodge bordering the cemetery because his father is the gravedigger. A few years earlier, Peter's twin brother was murdered and left for dead in the local stone circle. Inspector Albert Lincoln was unable to solve this murder and it has haunted him ever since. Now he's back to investigate the murder of a woman and the disappearance of her baby. Are the two cases connected? Did Peter witness the murder from his bedroom window? Or is he lying about that, the way the entire village believes he lies about everything else?

The Boy Who Lived with the Dead is basically the perfect murder mystery! It's brilliantly plotted and I love the characters! Albert is traumatised from the events of the first book, not to mention the war and his unhappy marriage. Peter is suffering from the loss of his twin. He has no friends and most adults dismiss him as being a fantasist. I loved Peter's teacher, Gwen Davies, who tries to solve the murders herself, and I also enjoyed the way practically the entire village had a secret to hide!

If you love traditional/classic murder mysteries, you will adore this book. It's one of my favourite reads this year - I can't wait for the next one!

Thank you to Kate Ellis and Piatkus for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Sunday, 7 April 2019

Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

This book caught my eye because of the cover and I'd heard lots of good things about it.

Quincy, Sam and Lisa are the sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, leading the press to nickname them 'the Final Girls'. Each one is beginning to rebuild their lives, when Lisa is unexpectedly found dead in mysterious circumstances. Should Quincy and Sam be worried? Has someone started targeting the Final Girls?  

I'm not reading as much crime as I used to because if you've read as many as I have, the plots begin to feel a little familiar! However, Final Girls is extremely well written, with very engaging characters, and I particularly enjoyed the modern writing style. I have to admit this kept me reading when I was convinced I'd worked out exactly what was going on. But it turned out Riley Sager had some excellent twists up his sleeve and the ending completely threw me. I do love books like that!

I think my favourite character was Sam, because of the way she kept pushing at Quincy to remember the night her friends were killed. And I loved the way Quincy's life began to unravel as her memory came back! I can't say much more because of spoilers, but I really enjoyed Final Girls and would recommend it to anyone who loves twisty thrillers, and references to those old-style horror movies where a bunch of teenagers head off to a cabin in the woods and get killed off one by one!

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Review: Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

I was attracted to this book because of the cover - I love magpies! I'm also a huge fan of Michelle Paver and her chilling ghost stories (Dark Matter and Thin Air). Wakenhyrst is written in a different genre: a gothic historical mystery set in a spooky old manor house - my favourite kind of book!

Wakenhyrst starts in 1966. A journalist has written about a notorious murder that occurred in 1913, implying that darker forces might have been involved: witchcraft, in other words. The man accused of this murder spent the rest of his life in a lunatic asylum creating sinister paintings, often featuring a woman surrounded by demonic imps. Back in 1913, Maud lives alone with her father at Wake's End. Haunted by a mysterious event in his past, he becomes obsessed with the idea that demons are all around us and records these increasing rambling thoughts in his diary. Maud is equally obsessed - with escaping the claustrophobic confines of the manor house to run wild in her beloved fens.

Wakenhyrst is at heart a gothic mystery. Who was murdered in 1913? Who murdered them - and why? Are the fens really haunted by ghosts and demons, or do they exist only in the mind of Maud's father? And were the rumours true? Was Maud really guilty of witchcraft?

I loved the practical, no-nonsense character of Maud, her instinct for survival, and her sweet romance with Clem. And I adored the tame magpie, Chatterpie! Michelle Paver is a brilliant writer, excelling at creating an atmosphere of subtle menace that builds towards a shocking finale and a supernatural twist. The story is subtle; it's a slow burn of a tale, that won't suit the reader who loves jump-shocks and big dramatic twists, but this was a five-star read for me. So I have no hesitation in recommending it, particularly to anyone loves a spooky, gothic mystery; a kind of Shirley Jackson crossed with Daphne du Maurier.

Thank you to Michelle Paver and Head of Zeus for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Friday, 22 March 2019

Review: A Duke in Need of a Wife by Annie Burrows

I love reading historical romances, they are perfect escapism, and I always find myself turning to Annie Burrows when I'm in need of a comfort read - in this case I was in bed with the flu! 

Sofia is an unlikely heiress and has had an unconventional upbringing. She spent the first ten years of her life with her father, a serving soldier (and the second son of an Earl), who had sole responsibility for her after her mother (the daughter of a Portuguese wine merchant) died. When Sofia goes to live with her aunt and uncle after her father's death, they are horrified at the way she has been brought up and work hard to turn her into a proper lady.  

It is sad the way Sofia tries so hard to fit in with the stuffy English, only to keep being rejected. She even hears the man she loves admit he only wants her for her money. So when the Duke of Theakstone invites her to a bride-finding house party, she knows he's never going to want to marry her, no matter how desperate he is to find a wife, because she feels she's just not good enough and never will be.

A Duke in Need of a Wife is a sweet story that's a lot of fun. The antics of the back-stabbing would-be brides are hilarious and I loved the scene where poor Sofia ends up in the lake. Much of the humour comes from Sofia's thoughts and what she really thinks about these awful people. I don't know how she manages to keep quiet! And I adored Snowball the dog.

Recommended to fans of light-hearted historical romances and authors such as Georgette Heyer. This was a five-star read for me.

Related Posts:

The Marquess Tames His Bride (Brides for Bachelors #2) by Annie Burrows
The Major Meets His Match (Brides for Bachelors #1) by Annie Burrows
The Debutante's Daring Proposal by Annie Burrows
Once Upon a Regency Christmas (anthology) by Louise Allen, Sophia James and Annie Burrows

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Review: The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans

I've not read anything by Harriet Evans before but I was attracted to this book by the cover and the title (I love gardens!). I also really enjoy stories featuring old houses and family mysteries.

The story has two timelines. One takes place from 1891 to 1919, and the other over the period of a year in the present day. In the past, renowned artist Sir Edward Horner has almost bankrupted his family by buying back his most famous work, The Garden of Lost and Found, which shows his children playing in the garden of his wife's ancestral home. In the present his great-granddaughter, Juliet, unexpectedly inherits the house - and tries to solve the mystery of why her great-grandfather destroyed the painting he loved.

The chapters set in the past, about Edward and his wife Libby, were enthralling but very sad. My favourites were those set in the present, about Juliet's new life as she separated from her husband and attempted to bring up her children in a very dilapidated old house. Her children, Bea and Isla, were complete monsters, very resentful of their move from London to a house in the middle of nowhere; I loved them! Isla, in particular, was very funny. I also enjoyed the notes written to Juliet from her grandmother, explaining how to care for the house and garden, and the various jobs that needed doing at different times of the year. The story has some clever twists; one near the end took me completely by surprise! 

The Garden of Lost and Found is a lovely, heart-warming story about the importance of family, and the consequences of keeping secrets and how they can affect the following generations. I would recommend it to fans of authors such as Kate Morton, Eve Chase and Lulu Taylor. One of my favourite reads this year! 

Thank you to Harriet Evans and Headline Review for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Review: Run Away by Harlan Coben

I'm a huge fan of Harlan Coben, especially his stand-alone novels, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of Run Away.

Simon Greene and his wife Ingrid seem to have the perfect life - until their eldest daughter becomes addicted to drugs and under the control of her abusive boyfriend. When she disappears, following a suspicious death, Simon has a race against time to track her down. This is one of those books where the less you know, the more you will enjoy it, so I'll stop there! Harlan Coben excels at the kind of story where it takes time for the reader to work out what is going on; I don't want to spoil it for you!

Run Away has a slightly different hero to the author's more recent books (more subdued, less wisecracks), mainly because Simon has had to face the nightmare every parent dreads: that his beloved child is in trouble and won't let him help. The story races along, with Simon venturing further into a dangerous and thoroughly seedy world he barely knew existed, making some unlikely allies along the way. And there are some excellent twists, which I only guessed because I have an interest in the subject.

My favourite characters were the very ruthless Ash and Dee Dee, who reminded me of Pumpkin and Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction, and Simon's smart-talking lawyer, Hester. And I loved that Nap from the author's earlier novel, Don't Let Go, also made a brief appearance.

I loved Run Away and I'm sure Harlan Coben's regular readers will too. It should also appeal to fans of authors such as Lee Child and Linwood Barclay, and anyone who enjoys a cracking good thriller with emotionally engaging characters and jaw-dropping twists.

Thank you to Harlan Coben and Cornerstone (Random House UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben 

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Review: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I downloaded this book because it has a pretty cover and it's about the music industry - and I love music! However, I didn't realise it was written in the style of magazine interviews, with rapid changes in points of view. Normally I hate that kind of thing but fortunately I stuck with it, and was immediately drawn into the story, falling completely in love with the characters. It is utterly, utterly brilliant!

The Six are a rock band founded by Billy Dunne and his brother in the mid-1960s. By the 1970s they have a certain level of success but their manager suggests they should join forces with Daisy Jones for their second album. Daisy is an original wild child. Her wealthy parents don't care what she does and she spends most of her time hanging around bands, getting stoned, and trying to write edgy songs when she has no real experience of life. Billy, now a reformed addict/alcoholic, only wants to write happy love songs about his wife. How are they going to make this album work without killing each other - or falling for each other?

Daisy Jones and The Six is an incredibly detailed, behind-the-scenes style story about a rock band, and the writing and recording of an album, with all the drama and clashing of egos you might expect. (I suspect the author was inspired by Fleetwood Mac!) The characters are not immediately likeable: Billy leaves his wife at home to go on tour, spiralling into various addictions and womanising, and Daisy is completely self-absorbed, needy, and entitled. But it's a lot of fun watching them learn to work together, and help heal each other.

The best bit about this book is that it is so well-written and the author's research is so detailed (she's even written songs for the band), you'll start believing The Six are real. My favourite character was Warren, because he's so matter-of-fact about the benefits of being in a rock band, but I also loved Billy because he tries so hard to do the right thing. Daisy is fascinating, but I really wouldn't want to be her friend! 

In conclusion, Daisy Jones and The Six is absolutely brilliant, and particularly recommended if you're a fan of music, or films such as A Star is Born.

Thank you to Taylor Jenkins Reid and Cornerstone (Random House) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.