Definitely a month for hunkering down and enjoying all the books acquired at Christmas, only in my case I’m not prepared to say which Christmas!!
Traditionally it’s also a time for reflection and I have made some book related decisions. I’m loathe to call them resolutions as that is tempting fate, but I have had some thoughts about the way forward. As one of my regular aims is to reduce the number of ebooks I buy, that will remain on the agenda. Bizarrely though I’m also wanting to increase the number of ‘real’ books I buy. This might seem an odd decision in view of the size of my tbr (4000+ and counting) but there is method in my madness.
At my peak I was buying upwards of 30 ebooks a month, which even if they were free or on offer still means I was spending on average £25-30. I’d like instead to put that money towards real books, spent via a book outlet other than Amazon (or one of it’s divisions) and, ideally, to buy at least one book a month from an independent publisher. This seems to me to be a much better use of my money with wider benefits and hopefully an overall reduction in the number of books bought. By buying physical copies it also means I have to read some and clear shelf space for the new acquired titles. As I already possess 13 bookcases, and a husband who I doubt will agree to a 14th, this seems to be sensible way to go.
I already subscribe to the Unbound Reading Club, which for only £25 a year gets me an ebook a month, but more importantly helps support (in a small way) other authors on their journey to publication. I’m also a ‘supporter’ of Louise Walters Books which helps another independent publisher (again in a small way). This expenditure is in addition to any other purchases. I did have a subscription with Reposed (formerly Reading in Heels) but decided to part ways with them in December. This frees up the funds to purchase more ‘real’ books in addition to any savings made from the ebook reductions.
My other aim, was to attend (where feasible) as many bookish events as I could. As I don’t drive this means somewhere that is easily and/or not exorbitantly reached by train. I managed quite a few festivals and events last year, so I’m looking forward to trying to emulate that this year. I can happily report that I’ve already managed one this month – of which more later.
So to the usual book haul, lets see how well I’ve done.
(12 bought – not bad and only £8.90 spent)
SHE ALWAYS WENT TOO FAR
DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Murder is different here, among the fens and stark beaches.
SHE WAS THE ONE WHO FOUND THE KILLERS
The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions.
AND NOW IT WAS KILLING HER
It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.
Salt Lane is the first in the new DS Alexandra Cupidi series. With his trademark characterisation and flair for social commentary, William Shaw has crafted a crime novel for our time that grips you, mind and heart.
Having lost everything after a failed marriage, Beverley Saunders now lodges in the basement flat of a house owned by her best friend Sophie and her husband, Tim. With Bev’s former glittering marketing career in the gutter, she begins to do investigative work for other wronged women, gathering dirt on philanderers, bosses and exes.
But when Beverley takes on the case of Sophie’s friend Angela, who is seeking to uncover grounds for divorce from her controlling husband, Jerry, the shadow Science Minister, she soon discovers that she isn’t the only one doing the investigating…
Beverley has a secret history she doesn’t want coming out – but will she manage to stay hidden long enough to give Angela the freedom she deserves?
Present-day Spain, a time of economic crisis and resurgent populist nationalism. The radical right has just won the election after twelve years of Socialist rule. In the midst of this political upheaval, a series of murders is committed, taking place from Madrid to Barcelona to Valencia. The victims include a politician a real-estate lawyer, doctor, a banker, and a nun. There is no obvious connection between them.
As the country prepares for a return to a certain moral order, radio crime reporter Diego Martin is trying to keep his head above water in anticipation of the expected media purge. When he decides to look into the first murder, he doesn’t have the faintest clue that his investigation will lead far beyond his local beat and put his life at risk. For what he uncovers exposes the roots of a national scandal: the theft of babies from the victims of the Franco regime, crimes—never prosecuted—that were orchestrated by now well-connected citizens who will do anything to avoid exposure.
The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueenby Juliet Ashton
Sadie McQueen has leased a double fronted space in this small cul de sac in a culturally diverse corner of central London. The cobbles muffle the noise of double-deckers roaring past the arched gates. Turn right and you are in a futuristic maze of corporate glass monoliths. Turn left and you see a wide street with many different houses. Towering above the mews are the degenerating tower blocks of an infamous estate. The old folks home and the nearby school are both in need of TLC; the private members’ club that set up shop in a listed Georgian building has been discreetly refurbished at huge expense.
Into this confusion comes Sadie. She fell in love with the street the moment she first twisted her ankle on its cobbles. Her double-fronted unit is now a spa. She has sunk all her money into the lease and refurbishment. She’s sunk all her hope into the carefully designed treatment rooms, the calm white reception space, the bijou flat carved out of the floor above.
Sadie has a mission to connect. To heal herself from tragedy. Sadie has wrapped the mews around her like a warm blanket, after unimaginable loss and unimaginable guilt. Her hard-won peace is threatened, not only by the prospect of the mews going under but by a man aptly named Hero who wakes up her comatose heart.
Sadie has a lot to give, and a lot to learn, not least that some ghosts aren’t ghosts at all.
Annie Beaton’s Year of Positive Thinking by Mink Elliott
It’s Annie Beaton’s 50th birthday! But instead of getting roses and perfume, she gets sacked, her son, Ben, tells her she’s growing a beard and her husband Joe tells her he wants a divorce.
Moving to the countryside to stay in her eccentric aunt’s house, Annie must find her mojo again – and fast. So when she discovers a stack of self-help books, Annie vows to use their advice – from Chicken Soup for the Soul to The Secret – to get her life back on track. Never mind that her 9-going-on-19-year-old daughter, Izzy, is currently engaging Annie in psychological warfare and her adorable 6-year-old son, Ben, spends more time wetting the bed than making friends at his new school…
But now, armed with a load of affirmations/inspirational quotes/positive vibes, Annie’s determined to kick her Crappy Old Year to the kerb and have a brilliantly Happy New Year. Just as soon as she’s had her chin waxed…
Murder at the University by Faith Martin
MEET DI HILLARY GREENE, A POLICE WOMAN WITH A THIRST FOR JUSTICE AND A CAREER ON THE ROCKS
A pretty French student is found dead in her room at an exclusive Oxford college. Everyone thinks it is another tragic case of accidental drug overdose.
But Detective Hillary Greene has a nose for the truth. She quickly discovers that the student was involved in some very unusual activities.
With a shocking cause of death found, the case becomes a high-profile murder investigation.
Adding to the pressure, Hillary’s nemesis is transferred to work with her at the station.
Can Hillary keep her cool and get justice for the unfortunate student?
Never Coming Back by Deirdre Palmer
Your best friend dies. All because of you. How do you go on?
Layla is struggling to come to terms with the death of her best friend, Danni, at a student party almost a year ago. Perhaps she never will – because only Layla knows the truth about what happened that night.
Danni’s parents, Melody and Reece, invite Layla for weekend visits to their Sussex farmhouse home, and she’s happy to accept – until Melody’s increasing dependence on her sends out warning signals. Although she knows it’s time to break away, for all their sakes, Layla’s guilt over Danni’s death has her returning, time and again.
When Layla meets Morgan, the connection between them is unmistakable. But until she confronts the past, she can’t face the future, let alone allow herself to fall in love.
There is only one way out: Layla must confess her secret to Danni’s parents. But can she risk breaking their hearts all over again? And will Morgan still love her, once he discovers the kind of person she really is?
It’s the hardest decision. And time is running out…
A Kiss Behind the Castanets by Jean Roberts
When Jean buys a house in Spain following a breakdown, she dreams of vibrant Spanish art, passionate flamenco, and cocktails at sunset. Her glorified image of life abroad is crushed as she battles rogue tradesmen and vicious local wildlife.
From stalking a neighbour to encountering trees with testicles, will she weather the storms of expat life or wish she had never left the UK?
ONE TERRIBLE CASE ALWAYS HAUNTED DETECTIVE MATT BALLARD. NOW MANY YEARS LATER, THE KILLER SEEMS TO BE BACK. AND THIS TIME HE’S AFTER MATT.
When Matt Ballard was starting out his career, three boys were murdered in the same area, the remote and bleak Gibbet Fen. When the main suspect was killed in a hit-and-run, the killings stopped. But Matt was not satisfied that the real murderer had been caught.
Over 25 years later, Matt gets a photo in an unmarked envelope. It’s of the Gibbet Fen crime scene. And the picture was taken before the murder took place.
More photos arrive, relating to the historic murders, as well as intimate pictures of Matt’s very secret private life.
A KILLER WHO WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO DESTROY A DETECTIVE.
Then another murder happens, with some of the hallmarks of the old case. Has the killer returned or is this just a sick copycat determined to ruin Matt’s life and reputation? Everyone around Matt is in danger as the killer plays mind games with the detective.
In an absolutely breathtaking conclusion, Matt and his team race against time to stop a vicious killer who knows no limits.
West Wales, 1850.
When an old tree root is dug up, the remains of a young woman are found. Harry Probert-Lloyd, a young barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has been dreading this discovery.
He knows exactly whose bones they are.
Working with his clerk, John Davies, Harry is determined to expose the guilty, but the investigation turns up more questions than answers.
The search for the truth will prove costly. Will Harry and John be the ones to pay the highest price?
The Corpse Bridge by Stephen Booth
The old Corpse Bridge is the route taken for centuries by mourners from villages on the western fringes of Derbyshire to a burial ground across the River Dove, now absorbed into the landscaped parkland of a stately home. When Earl Manby, the landowner, announces plans to deconsecrate the burial ground to turn it into a car park for his holiday cottages, bodies begin to appear once again on the road to the Corpse Bridge. Is there a connection with the Earl’s plans? Or worse, is there a terrifying serial killer at work?
Back in his job after the traumatic events of previous months, Detective Sergeant Ben Cooper knows that he must unravel the mystery of the Corpse Bridge if he’s going to be able to move on with his life. As the pressure builds, Ben doesn’t know who he can trust and, when the case reaches breaking point, he has to make a call that could put everything – and everyone – at risk…
1970s London: Young Michael runs past the railway arches and terraces of Vauxhall. Reaching the street on which he lives, he witnesses a young girl fall from a window, her sari floating down behind her. Her lifeless body lies crumpled on the ground. This incident marks the beginning of a period in which Michael’s life threatens to unravel. From his sister’s taunts to a series of house fires, police harassment, his parents’ crumbling marriage and the realisation that the council intends to clear out the slum he calls home, he learns to navigate his way through an array of obstacles, big and small. ‘An extraordinary debut novel, Vauxhall tells a warm and hopeful story of a young boy and the city that surrounds him. A tenderly observed, fascinating portrait of a childhood in South London, as it moves from post-war darkness into an uncertain new era.
Playing Mum by Elizabeth Coffey
Young widow, Pamela Jones pulled up outside her wonderful new home – this was going to be a fresh start. Well, that’s how she had described it to her two young sons. Without the rose tinted specs it was a dilapidated grey cottage, in the middle of nowhere, it seemed. Nestling away in its overgrown grass and bedraggled rosebushes, desperately in need of a good paint.
“It’s going to be an adventure boys, the biggest one yet!” She had told them, excitedly.
But, what had started out as an adventure very quickly became a nightmare. No-one could ever have guessed what was about to happen to them – and worse than that, what terrifying things they would have to do, to dig themselves out of the shocking scenario that fate had cruelly dealt them…
In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone
John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.
With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.
For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.
For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.
Unbound Book Club
A Love of Two Halves by P J Whiteley
’An uplifting Northern novel that will warm your heart and restore your faith in humanity’ – S.J. Bradley
George Mowatt, an entrepreneur, is one of the wealthiest people in Britain. Karen Barnes, a single mum living in a terraced house in south Leeds, is not. When George decides that his third home should be close to the stadium of his beloved football team, they become neighbours. Both George and Karen have been unlucky in love, and the chemistry between them is instant. Yet their lives are a world apart, and their hearts keep missing each other’s beat.
Just as they begin to chart a route to happiness, someone from Karen’s past reappears, and she is forced to reveal a secret she has kept from them both.
A wonderfully original, emotionally complex novel that delves into why Cassandra burned a treasure trove of letters written by her sister, Jane Austen – an act of destruction that has troubled academics for centuries. 1840: twenty three years after the death of her famous sister Jane, Cassandra Austen returns to the village of Kintbury, and the home of her family’s friends, the Fowles. She knows that, in some dusty corner of the sprawling vicarage, there is a cache of family letters which hold secrets she is desperate should not be revealed. As Cassandra recalls her youth and her relationship with her brilliant yet complex sister, she pieces together buried truths about Jane’s history, and her own. And she faces a stark choice: should she act to protect Jane’s reputation? Or leave the contents of the letters to go unguarded into posterity … Based on a literary mystery that has long puzzled biographers and academics, Miss Austen is a wonderfully original and emotionally complex novel about the loves and lives of Cassandra and Jane Austen.
Widows and Orphans by Michael Arditti
Duncan Neville, editor-proprietor of the Francombe and Salter Mercury, is struggling to keep the newspaper afloat. For over 150 years, it has served the two resort towns in Southern England. Duncan’s personal life is in similar disarray, as he juggles the demands of his elderly mother, disaffected son, harassed ex-wife, and doting secretary. Meanwhile, Geoffrey Weedon, a childhood friend turned bitter rival, unveils a plan to rebuild the dilapidated pier, which might revive the town’s fortunes, but threatens its traditional ethos. Lyrical and witty, moving and profound, Widows and Orphans paints a compelling portrait of a good man fighting for his principles in a hostile world.
The Gospel According to Cane by Courttia Newland
Beverley Cottrell had a dream life: a prestigious job, a beautiful husband and new baby boy. But then, one winter afternoon, when her son was barely a few weeks old, Malakay was kidnapped from a parked car. Despite a media campaign, a full police investigation and the offer of a reward, he was never found. Two decades later, Beverley starts to believe that she has finally pieced her life together – until a young man starts to appear wherever she goes. One dark evening the stalker gets past her security door and calls through her letterbox. He tells her not to be scared. He tells her that he is Malakay, her son.
Sympathy for the Devil by William Shaw
London 1969: A detective in love. A crime of passion
The devil: She made a profit from rich men. They paid for her youth. She paid with her life.
The angel: To investigate the prostitute’s murder, DS Cathal Breen isn’t scared to question powerful suspects.
The fall: But when a mysterious man from MI6 calls, Breen begins to fear he’s uncovered a spy scandal.
And then Breen’s girlfriend Helen Tozer, with her ex-copper instincts, gets dangerously involved. Right or wrong, Breen knows he has too much to lose. He can have no sympathy for the devil.
My Indie purchase of the Month is from Dome Press
Sky’s The Limit by Janie Millman
Sky is devastated when she finds that her husband is in love with someone else, even more that it is her oldest friend Nick. She has lost the two most important men in her life and can’t ever trust either of them again.
To escape, she goes alone on a dream trip to Marrakesh and meets Gail, on a mission to meet the father of her child, a man she loved but thought did not want her.
In Marrakesh, Sky and Gail both find unexpected joys – and surprises. For Sky these lead to France, to a
beautiful chateau and a family whose relationships seem as complicated as her own.
What I’ve read this month
The Lighterman by Simon Michael
Life for Charles Holborne seems to be settling down. He has a steady girlfriend, is in demand at the courts, and is back in contact with his estranged family.
Unfortunately, though, he’s got on the wrong side of two of the most dangerous men in London: Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
A shock encounter leads to Charles taking on one of the most important briefs of his career.
But as old prejudices resurface and Charles’s past comes back to haunt him, it seems not only his reputation, but his life could be on the line…
Can Charles settle the score with the Kray Twins? Will he lay to rest the ghosts of the past?
Or will his defence of The Lighterman be the last case he ever takes…?
This is Happiness by Niall Williams
Change is coming to Faha, a small Irish parish unaltered in a thousand years.
For one thing, the rain is stopping. Nobody remembers when it started; rain on the western seaboard is a condition of living. But now – just as Father Coffey proclaims the coming of the electricity – the rain clouds are lifting. Seventeen-year-old Noel Crowe is idling in the unexpected sunshine when Christy makes his first entrance into Faha, bringing secrets for which he needs to atone. Though he can’t explain it, Noel knows right then: something has changed.
As the people of Faha anticipate the endlessly procrastinated advent of the electricity, and Noel navigates his own coming-of-age and his fallings in and out of love, Christy’s past gradually comes to light, casting a new glow on a small world.
The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.
The invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.
But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.
Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal, and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamor of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything… even murder.
You can read my thoughts on the first two here.
What I’m currently reading
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is the intoxicating story of a young woman who aspires to be an artist, and the man whose obsession may destroy her world for ever.
London. 1850. The greatest spectacle the city has ever seen is being built in Hyde Park, and among the crowd watching two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning.
When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.
But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening . . .
Bookish Events this Month
There was one event I’d had my eye on for several weeks but held off getting a ticket until the last minute. As the weather can be notoriously changeable and there was the threatened possibility of snow I made my decision on the day. I have to psyche myself up to go events, especially on my own, and can easily find a reason not to go. However, I caught the train to Liverpool, and as I suspected I would, had a lovely evening in the company of Jo Spain and William Shaw at Waterstones (Liverpool One).
With only an hourly train to rely on, I was there in plenty of time to peruse the book sale (fatal), buy both William and Jo’s books ahead of the later signing session, and nab myself a front row seat. This did mean I couldn’t really tell how well attended the event was, but I was surprised at how few seats had been put out (25??)
I’d already read some of Jo’s Inspector Tom Reynolds series, but not any of the stand alones. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, that I have several but ‘just haven’t read them yet’. The same applies to William. I had a holiday near Rye several years ago and took a day out to visit Dungeness. This forms the background to William’s DS Alexandra Cupidi series so I had already bought The Birdwatcher (but just haven’t …)
I always enjoy hearing what makes a writer decide, or believe they could write. William’s career as a journalist meant he was used to writing but the switch from non fiction to fiction wasn’t an easy transition. William assured us, that his first books, were rubbish (and no he won’t be revisiting them anytime soon). His breakthrough came when he realised that crime novels, something he enjoyed reading, gave him a structure that he was far better suited too. Jo, has also been a journalist, and prior to trying her hand at crime writing worked as a political adviser in the Irish parliament. Her journey to publication was much more fortuitous when she was discovered via the Richard and Judy “Search for a Bestseller” competition. Luckily for us readers, they have discovered their niche and are proving to be very good at it.
It was interesting to discover what inspires them and how they come up with ideas for plot lines and characters. Now that I know Tom Reynolds is a thinly disguised Mr Spain I do hope he doesn’t go off the rails – I’ll worry what that means for Jo’s personal life. William’s daughter is also a source of inspiration, but in true teenage fashion has yet to recognise herself in his books? It certainly adds credence to the adage write what you know, or in this case, who you know.
The evening passed very quickly and all too soon it was time to say goodbye but not before getting my books signed. I’m delighted to report that both Jo and William were as warm, funny, friendly and approachable as I’d hoped they’d be. So I came home a very happy bunny with more books to add the tbr, but more importantly to add to the hallowed signed book shelves. I might also have mentioned a certain Five on Friday feature so watch this space!
My Signed Copies
Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain
It’s June 2008 and twenty-one-year-old Adam Lattimer vanishes, presumed dead. The strain of his disappearance breaks his already fragile family.
Ten years later, with his mother deceased and siblings scattered across the globe, Adam turns up unannounced at the family home. His siblings return reluctantly to Spanish Cove, but Adam’s reappearance poses more questions than answers. The past is a tangled web of deceit.
And, as tension builds, it’s apparent somebody has planned murderous revenge for the events of ten years ago.
YOU CAN RUN
The two boys never fitted in. Seventeen, the worst age, nothing to do but smoke weed; at least they have each other. The day they speed off on a moped with a stolen mobile, they’re ready to celebrate their luck at last. Until their victim comes looking for what’s his – and ready to kill for it.
YOU CAN HIDE
On the other side of Kent’s wealth divide, DS Alexandra Cupidi faces the strangest murder investigation of her career. A severed limb, hidden inside a modern sculpture in Margate’s Turner Contemporary. No one takes it seriously – not even the artwork’s owners, celebrity dealers who act like they’re above the law.
YOU CAN DIE
But as Cupidi’s case becomes ever more sinister, as she wrangles with police politics and personal dilemmas, she can’t help worrying about those runaway boys. Seventeen, the same age as her own headstrong daughter. Alone, on the marshes, they’re pawns in someone else’s game. Two worlds are about to collide.
Until next month, Happy Reading!!
I like your idea of prioritizing physical books and independent publishers. I know from my own experience how easy it is to purchase ebooks and have them ‘disappear’ from sight on your Kindle. I too am trying to read some of the books on my shelves.
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It is so easy to buy an ebook and because you don’t have to give it shelf space you forget about it. Plus I do want to support publishers and bricks and mortar stores more. I don’t have a local book shop so online is the way to go for me, but there are still better (though not always cheaper) choices I can make.
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Fantastic post Jill! Do you enjoy the books from the Unbound Reading Club? I’ve thought about joining but wasn’t too sure. xx
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Thanks Nicki. Re the Reading Club, the titles are hit and miss. Some I’d choose, some are a bit left field but interesting and others not for me. I tend to view it as funding authors to publication and the books are just a bonus.
Thanks Jill that’s very helpful. xx
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I can send you details of what I’ve had since I joined if that helps?
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Oh yes that would be great thanks!
I’ll forward something when I’m at a PC – give me a nudge if I’ve not done it in a couple of days x
Okay will do x
Mercy! That’s a bunch of books! And yes, if I could get to a book event I would. But this little corner of the world doesn’t have anything convenient, unless you’re already in Chicago I guess. I haven’t even been able to find a book club locally I want to join. Still, you are one very ambitious lady!
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We’re a much smaller country though so it is easier. I just want to do things if it’s feasible (and affordable).