Well the weather we endured in February was certainly conducive to staying inside and reading. I think we need to see March coming in like a lamb so we can a bit of respite. In keeping with my plan to reduce e-book purchases I only bought 13 which might seem high to some but is a vast improvement on what I used to buy.
I’ve also managed to purchase several books from Independent Publishers, and succeed in attending a bookish event, so, all in all, a very good February.
E Book Purchases
All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride
A dark night in the isolated Scottish countryside. Nicholas Wilson, a prominent professor known for his divisive social media rants, leaves the house with his dog, as he does every night. But this time he doesn’t come back…
The last thing Inspector Logan McRae wants is to take on such a high-profile case. But when a second man vanishes in similar circumstances, the media turns its merciless gaze on him, and he has no choice.
Then body parts start arriving in the post. Someone out there is trying to make a point, and they’re making it in blood.
The Photographer of the lost by Caroline Scott
If someone you loved went missing, would you ever stop searching for them?
‘This excellent debut is a melancholic reminder of the rippling after-effects of war’ The Times
‘[An] impressive debut… a touching novel of love and loss’ Sunday Times
1921. The Great War is over and while many survivors have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He has been declared ‘missing, believed killed’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph in the post, taken by Francis, hope flares. And so she begins to search.
Francis’s brother, Harry, is also searching. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, he has returned to the Western Front. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last conversation they ever had.
And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they begin to get closer to a startling truth.
A Dozen Second Chances by Kate Field
What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?
Seventeen years ago, Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.
Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again, and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.
With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…
In a famous Scottish town, someone is bent on murder – but why?
On the night of a wedding celebration, one guest meets a grisly end when he’s killed in a hit-and-run. A card bearing the number ‘5’ has been placed on the victim’s chest. DI Clare Mackay, who recently moved from Glasgow to join the St Andrews force, leads the investigation. The following night another victim is struck down and a number ‘4’ card is at the scene. Clare and her team realise they’re against the clock to find a killer stalking the streets of the picturesque Scottish town and bent on carrying out three more murders.
To prevent further deaths, the police have to uncover the link between the victims. But those involved have a lot more at stake than first meets the eye. If Clare wants to solve the case she must face her own past and discover the deepest secrets of the victims – and the killer.
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of the night their family was forever altered.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.
The Modigliani Girl by Jacqui Lofthouse
“There were five members of the Girl Novelists Dry Martini Club. Julia Claiborne – according to Hilary – was the richest.
She had the largest house and the most prestigious address. All of which would not really have bothered me, were it not for the fact that Julia Claiborne was also a strikingly attractive Radio 4 presenter who happened to have written a stack of bestselling romance novels. It was not really Julia’s wealth that troubled me, nor even her talent. I simply didn’t feel that I belonged in her world.”
Anna Bright never wanted to write a novel. At least, that’s what she tells herself.
But a chance encounter with a famous novelist and a surprise gift of an art book cut a chink in Anna’s resolve.
The short, tragic life of Modigliani’s mistress, Jeanne Hébuterne, becomes an obsession and before she knows it, she has enrolled on a creative writing course, is writing about a fictional Jeanne and mixing with the literati.
As her novel grows and takes on a life of its own, Anna feels her own life becoming increasingly irrelevant. She is absorbed by the story of Jeanne, who committed suicide aged 19 following the artist’s death, jumping from a high window in Paris, pregnant with his child. When Anna is invited to take part in a televised literary competition, hosted by an unscrupulous writing guru, she agrees, but later regrets her choice.
Under the gaze of the camera, she has become part of a TV circus; unlike the Bohemian Jeanne, she has sold out. Will she manage to save her sanity and her relationship, before she becomes a by-product of the literary world?
The Winchester Goose by Judith Arnopp
Tudor London: 1540.
Each night, after dark, men flock to Bankside seeking girls of easy virtue; prostitutes known as The Winchester Geese.
Joanie Toogood has worked the streets of Southwark since childhood but her path is changed forever by an encounter with Francis Wareham, a spy for the King’s secretary, Thomas Cromwell.
Meanwhile, across the River, at the glittering court of Henry VIII, Wareham also sets his cap at Evelyn and Isabella Bourne, members of the Queen’s household and the girls, along with Joanie, are drawn into intrigue and the shadow of the executioner’s blade.
Set against the turmoil of Henry VIII’s middle years, The Winchester Goose provides a brand new perspective of the happenings at the royal court, offering a frank and often uncomfortable observation of life at both ends of the social spectrum.
Death in Delft by Graham Brack (pre-order due April)
Three young girls have been abducted from their homes.
The body of one has been found in a shallow grave. The other two are still missing.
The murder has shocked everyone is the peaceful city of Delft and the mayor is desperate to catch the perpetrator before panic can spread any further.
With the bitterly cold January weather intensifying it is doubtful that the other two girls are still alive.
But whoever took them is still at large.
The mayor requests the help of Master Mercurius, a gifted cleric from a nearby university, and local artist Vermeer, who uses his skills to sketch the crime scenes.
Can they find the missing girls before it’s too late? Will Mercurius be able to track down the killer?
Or will more victims succumb to Death in Delft…?
Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out…
A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead. Suspecting he’s next, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas. When he spots a beautiful housewife and her two young daughters stranded on the side of the road, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his trail.
The two strangers share the open road west – and find each other on the way. But Guidry’s relentless hunters are closing in on him, and now he doesn’t want to just survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.
Everyone’s expendable, or they should be, but Guidry just can’t throw away the woman he’s come to love. And it might get them both killed.
The Telephone Box Library by Rachael Lucas
The Cotswolds: the perfect retreat for a stressed-out teacher. And Lucy has found just the right cottage for a bargain rent. All she has to do is keep an eye on Bunty, her extremely feisty ninety-something neighbour . . .
With her West Highland terrier Hamish at her side, Lucy plans to relax and read up on the women of nearby Bletchley Park. But the villagers of Little Maudley have other ideas, and she finds herself caught up in the campaign to turn a dilapidated telephone box into a volunteer-run library.
Along the way, she makes friends with treehouse designer Sam, and finds herself falling for the charms of village life. And it seems Bunty has a special connection to Bletchley and the telephone box, one that she’s kept secret for decades . . .
Four friends visited the island. But only three returned . . .
Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to the isolated island of Elliðaey to investigate a disappearance.
But she finds haunting similarities to an old case – the murder of a young woman ten years ago.
Has a patient killer struck again?
What secrets is the island hiding?
And what price will she pay for uncovering the truth?
Three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture in this heart-wrenching story of love, intrigue and courage.
Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children – four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear.
Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man.
But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths about her family…
School on the Kings Road, Chelsea in the Swinging 60s, the rock-and-roll years, the race riots; this boy has seen it all.
Alan Johnson’s childhood was not so much difficult as unusual – particularly for a man who was destined to become Home Secretary.
Not in respect of the poverty, which was shared with many of those living in Britain’s post-war slums, but in its transition from being part of a two-parent family to having a single mother and then to no parents at all…
This is essentially the story of two incredible women: Alan’s mother, Lily, who battled against poor health, poverty, domestic violence and loneliness to try to ensure a better life for her children; and his sister, Linda, who had to assume an enormous amount of responsibility at a very young age and who fought to keep the family together and out of care when she herself was still only a child.
This Boy is one man’s story, but it is also the story of England and the West London slums which are hard to imagine in the capital today. No matter how harsh the details, Alan Johnson writes with a spirit of generous acceptance, of humour and openness which makes his book anything but a grim catalogue of miseries.
A Degree of Uncertainty by Nicola K Smith
A Cornish town is slowly fracturing under the weight of its growing university…
Prominent businessman, Harry Manchester will not stand by and see his beloved hometown turned into a student ghetto — and many residents and students are relying on him.
But Harry’s stance sets him on a collision course with Dawn Goldberg, formidable Vice Chancellor of Poltowan University, who is set on doubling its size and cementing her career legacy.
As Harry’s marriage falls apart, his business comes under threat, and fellow traders accuse him of halting progress, Dawn is battling her own demons, not least the need to live up to her late father’s expectations and erase the memory of his tragic death.
There can only be one victor in this battle for the soul of a close-knit community…
The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow via Louise Walters Books
Limited edition of 100 very early paperbacks all signed and numbered by the author… officially published on 13 June but these early copies are available now.
Seventeen-year-old Simon’s sister Charlotte is missing. The lonely Fenland village the family recently moved to from London is odd, silent, and mysterious. Simon is epileptic and his seizures are increasing in severity, but when he is told of the local curse of the Naseby Horses, he is convinced it has something to do with Charlotte’s disappearance. Despite resistance from the villagers, the police, and his own family, Simon is determined to uncover the truth, and save his sister.
Under the oppressive Fenland skies and in the heat of a relentless June, Simon’s bond with Charlotte is fierce, all-consuming, and unbreakable; but can he find her? And does she even want to be found?
Roots of Corruption by Laura Laakso via Louise Walters Books
On the night of Samhain, the veil between worlds is at its thinnest, and ancient magic runs wild in Old London.
When Lady Bergamon is attacked in her Ivy Street garden, Wishearth turns to Yannia for help. Who could have the power to harm Lady Bergamon in her own domain? While Yannia searches for the answer, nature herself appears to be killing Mages in Old London. Yannia and Karrion join forces with New Scotland Yard to solve the baffling Mage deaths. But wherever they turn, all the clues point back towards Ivy Street.
Yannia’s abilities are put to test as she races to save Lady Bergamon’s life, and prevent further murders. But with the lines between friends and enemies blurring, she must decide who to trust and how much she’s willing to sacrifice for Old London and its inhabitants…
Mud, Maul, Mascara by Catherine Spencer via Unbound Rading Club
Catherine Spencer was the captain of the England women’s rugby team for three years. She scored eighteen tries for England, won six of the eight Six Nations competitions she took part in, and captained her team to three championship titles, a European cup, two Nations Cup tournament victories and the World Cup final held on home soil in 2010, which thrust women’s rugby into the limelight. All of this while holding down a full time job, because the women’s team, unlike the men’s, did not get paid for their sport.
Mud, Maul, Mascara is an effort to reconcile alleged opposites, to show the woman behind the international sporting success. Painfully honest about the mental struggles Catherine faced during, and after, her career as an elite athlete, it is also warm, funny and inspirational – a book for anyone who has ever had a dream, or self-doubt, or a yearning for a really good, mud-proof mascara.
Indie Book Purchases
The Red Beach Hut by Lynn Michell
A faded seaside town in autumn is the backdrop for this elegiac story of a vulnerable boy and the adult who befriends him. Eight year old Neville, who counts stars and steps and grains of sand, is the first to notice that the red beach hut is occupied again. Abbott is on the run after a disturbing cyber attack. Their fleeting friendship, played out on the margins of sea and shore, brings the honesty and compassion both seek. But others watch, judge and misinterpret what they see while Abbot’s past runs at their heels.
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman
At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her suburban hometown where she works in the fundraising department of her old school, writing thank-you notes to benefactors. Keen to get her life back on track, she buys a sweet but dilapidated bungalow on Turpentine Lane.
Never mind that her fiancé is currently ‘finding himself’ while walking across America and too busy to return her texts, that her witless boss has accused her of fraud, or that her father is going through a mid-life crisis that involves painting fake old masters and hooking up with a much younger woman – Faith is looking forward to a peaceful life in her new home.
But when a policeman knocks on her door asking to look in the basement, she discovers that the history of 10 Turpentine Lane is anything but peaceful.
Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman
Decluttering her tiny New York apartment, Daphne Maritch decides to throw out any belongings that do not spark joy.
These include a high-school yearbook inherited from her school teacher mother, June, to whom the class of ’68 dedicated the volume. June in turn attended every class reunion, scribbling notes and observations – not always charitably – after each one.
When neighbour Geneva Wisenkorn finds the discarded book and wants to use it for her own ends, Daphne realises she wants to keep it after all. Fighting to reclaim it, she uncovers some alarming Maritch family secrets and sets in motion a series of events that prove to be both poignant and absurd.
The publisher is offering a brilliant 2 for 1 deal on the books by Elinor Lipman (which includes free p&p) but they must be ordered before midnight on 8th March. Use the discount code LIPMANIA.
What I Read this Month
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal
London. 1850. On a crowded street, the dollmaker Iris Whittle meets the artist Louis Frost. Louis is a Pre-Raphaelite painter who yearns to have his work displayed in the Royal Academy, and he is desperate for Iris to be his model. Iris agrees, on the condition that he teaches her to paint.
Dreaming of freedom, Iris throws herself into this new life of art and love, unaware that she has caught the eye of a second man. Silas Reed is a curiosity collector, enchanted by the strange and beautiful. After seeing Iris at the site of the Great Exhibition, he finds he cannot forget her.
As Iris’s world expands, Silas’s obsession grows. It is only a matter of time before they meet again . . .
A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman
Paris and the Palace of Versailles have always meant a lot to TV producer Lexie. Her grandma Viv spent a year there, but her adventures and memories were never discussed, and Lexie has long wondered why they were a family secret.
When work presents the perfect excuse to spend Springtime in Versailles, Lexie delves into Viv’s old diaries and scrapbooks, and with the help of handsome interpreter Ronan, she is soon learning more about the characters
that tend to the magnificent gardens, now and in the past.
In amongst the beauty and splendour of the French countryside, a story of lost love, rivalry and tragedy unfolds. Can Lexie and Ronan right the wrongs of the past, and will France play its tricks on them both before Lexie has to go home? Will this truly be a Springtime to Remember…?
The Red Gene by Barbara Lamplugh
When Rose, a young English nurse with humanitarian ideals, decides to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, she is little prepared for the experiences that await her.
Working on one front after another, witness to all the horrors of war, she falls in love with a Republican fighter, Miguel. In 1939 as defeat becomes inevitable, Rose is faced with a decision that will change her life and leave her with lasting scars.
Interspersed with Rose’s story is that of Consuelo, a girl growing up in a staunchly Catholic family on the other side of the ideological divide. Never quite belonging, treated unkindly, she discovers at a young age that she was adopted but her attempts to learn more about her origins are largely thwarted.
It falls to the third generation, to Consuelo’s daughter Marisol, born in the year of Franco’s death and growing up in a rapidly changing Spain, to investigate the dark secrets of her family and find the answers that have until now eluded her mother.
Three very different reads and I enjoyed them all. Mini reviews to hopefully appear, but no promises, in the meantime if you’re taken by the blurb – go for it. You won’t be disappointed.
February’s Bookish Event
Waterstone’s in Liverpool, is proving my saviour in securing a monthly event and this month’s was a cracker. An evening with bestselling authors Lucy Foley (The Hunting Party) and Heidi Perks (Now You See Her) in-conversation with local crime fiction author Caroline England.
Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination. Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages.
Heidi graduated from Bournemouth University with a BA in Retail Management, and then enjoyed a career in Marketing before leaving in 2012 to focus on both bringing up her family and writing. Heidi successfully applied for a place on the inaugural Curtis Brown Creative online Novel Writing Course and after that dedicated her time to completing her first novel, Beneath The Surface. Her second novel, Now You See Her was published by Century, part of the Penguin Random House group in 2018 and became a Sunday Times Bestseller and Richard and Judy book club pick. Her third novel Come Back For Me was out July 2019 and she is now writing her fourth to be released in 2020.
Caroline writes domestic psychological thrillers. Her debut novel, Beneath The Skin was published by Avon HarperCollins in October 2017. Her second novel, My Husband’s Lies, followed in May 2018 and became a Kindle top ten bestseller. Her latest novel, Betray Her, published by Piatkus of Little, Brown Book Group, will be published in paperback in July 2020. Caroline also writes under the pen name Caro Land. Her first Natalie Bach legal suspense, Convictions, was published by Bloodhound Books in January 2020.
As anybody who regularly reads my blog, you will know that my regular refrain regarding books is ‘I’ve got them, I just haven’t read them yet’. Well that applies to all 3 authors and I really need to rectify that, especially as I bought more copies on the night.
It was lovely to see Caroline again, we first met at my local book group and have since met at various other book/blogging events. it was my first time meeting Lucy and Heidi, but after this event I’m determined to catch up with my reading.
The event was primarily to promote the author’s new books, namely The Guest List (Lucy), Come Back for Me (Heidi) and Convictions (Caroline).
On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.
The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.
All have a secret. All have a motive.
One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .
Come Back for Me for Heidi Perks
A DEADLY DISCOVERY.
AN ISLAND WRAPPED IN SECRETS.
A tiny community is stunned when long-buried body is found.
For Stella Harvey the news is doubly shocking. The body has been uncovered in the garden of her childhood home – the home her family fled without explanation twenty-five years ago.
Desperate to unearth the truth, Stella returns to the isolated island. But the community she left isn’t as welcoming as she remembers – and people will go to any length to protect their secrets.
One thing rings true…
You can’t bury the truth forever.
There are two sides to every crime…
Returning home to care for her ill mother, and approaching her fortieth birthday, Natalie Bach is devastated when she’s dumped without explanation by her long-term boyfriend.
Struggling to pick herself up, she’s offered her old job at Goldman Law. Jack Goldman’s estranged son Julian has been arrested for attempted murder and he wants Natalie to find out why.
With the help of fellow solicitor Gavin Savage, Natalie sets out to investigate, but with a series of red herrings ahead, will she ever discover the truth?
And can Natalie avoid her personal problems interfering with the case?
That said it wasn’t all about the new titles. It was also an opportunity to learn about their writing processes, whether they were plotters or pantsers, character or plot driven and their favourite authors and inspirations – Lianne Moriarty got a vote from all three. It was also a chance to learn about forthcoming books. Lucy’s next title will set in a Paris and based in an apartment block overlooking a courtyard. With a mix of characters the question as always will be who is guilty. Heidi’s new book Three Perfect Liars is due out on 12th so not long to wait if you’re a fan. It revolves around 3 women who are all prime suspects when the company’s CEO is found dead. If I’d been more organised I’d have taken notes, so I apologise for my memory and presenting a fairly brief overview of an entertaining evening.
As always after these events, I came away energised and keen to start reading. The question now is, do I sully my pristine signed copies or buy a second copy to read??
My precious signed copies
Thanks for sticking it out this far. Happy Reading!!
Some fantastic looking books here. Glad you enjoyed the Waterstones event. I’m off to one this week to mark the publication of The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel.
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Thanks Cathy, since I got myself a railcard it’s much cheaper to jump on the train to Liverpool, & far less hassle than Manchester (Waterstones is too much of a trek from the station for me these days). I’m keeping my eyes peeled for forthcoming events. Enjoy your event this week xx
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I really like the sound of the Photographer of the Lost – and as ever, am in awe of the amount of reading you get done, Jill! x
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I think you might be mistaking what I buy for what I actually read. They are two very different beasts. That said I read 3 last month, which for me is very good. I’m hoping this is a sign of things to come x
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Enjoying your reading is the important thing – and you were still ahead of me last month! 🙂
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Looks and sounds like a great event and bookish month I love the sound of Lucy Foley’s next book, will definitely be reading that! xx
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I’ve already got my eye on an event in April that looks a cracker too. The next Lucy Foley does sound great. xx
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AMAZING book month! I’m super jealous of your bookish outing 🙂 Happy reading!
I’m lucky that Liverpool is easily accessible and they seem to have a very active Waterstones.
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Wow – I’m so thrilled that you bought a copy of See Them Run – my debut novel. I really hope you enjoy it and thank you so much for including it.
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You’re welcome Marion. I’m partial to police procedurals, especially with a female lead. I also studied and lived in Glasgow and my parents moved to Fife. So it ticks boxes for me. 😀
Mercy! that’s such an ambitious list! i can’t keep up with you and definitely envy your bookish events. they look fun. so glad for you.
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