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Steph's Books

I love and have always loved reading. I usually read one at once but at times I will read two. I have a book end which states 'Caution! Bookworms bite when disturbed.

I See You

I See You - Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go was one of my favourite books from 2015 and I was thrilled that it won the Theakston’s Crime Novel of year at last week’s festival.
It is set in London and has two main characters, one is Kelly a police officer who is determined to prove her worth after events in her past affected her career. The other is Zoe, a mother who is separated from her children’s father and in a new relationship with Simon a journalist. When she sees a photograph of herself in a local papers classified section she is worried and upset. Even though those close to her don’t take it seriously she soon realises that a different woman’s photograph feature each day. She decides to contact the police when she suspects that it could be more sinister.
The narrative switches between both women and infuriatingly always does so at a crucial point. This made if a very quick read because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Even if I should have been asleep. I did figure out some of what was going on in the background but had no idea at all who was responsible for the photos.
It’s a brilliant read, a worrying storyline if you are a commuter. The levels of paranoia from Zoe and guilt from Kelly were very believable. There was probably not as many twists as there was in I Let You Go but they are there and they are shocking. By the end I was minus a few fingernails and convinced that I had just read one of the best novels in recent months.
Very highly recommended, you won’t want to put it down.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware

Having loved Ruth Ware’s debut novel In a Dark, Dark Wood last year I was looking forward to her latest book. A stand-alone it features a young travel journalist Lo who is excited to be given the chance to report on a new cruise. She has had a few problems, had a break in that left her injured and suffers from anxiety.
There were only a few people on the ship, all of them were on board to publicise the cruise and she was eager to make a good impression. She is nervous, feeling claustrophobic and has quite a bit to drink. When she finally gets back to her cabin she hears a disturbance from the cabin next door and sees what she thinks is a body being thrown into the sea. She reports it to security and is told that she must be mistaken because the cabin is unoccupied.
The level of claustrophobia was quite high and I found it to be a little intimidating. I felt the same tension as Lo when she was walking through the ship. There was also a feeling of isolation, being out at sea with no way of making contact with anybody who wasn’t on board.
I thought that Lo was a great character, she had her faults but refused to back down to the ones who didn’t take her seriously. There were a few parts that I really admired her for how she coped with what she experienced. There were also parts that didn’t really work for me but I still did enjoy the book a lot. It has convinced me not to go on a cruise though.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

A Country Road, A Tree

A Country Road, A Tree: A novel - Jo Baker

A Country Road, A Tree is one of the most convincing novels that I have read that shows the suffering experienced during WW2. It takes place in France and is based on the life of Samuel Beckett. At no point in the novel is the main character named although other characters are.
I knew nothing at all about Samuel Beckett and I had no idea when I started reading that the novel was based on him. I noticed a couple of reviews that mentioned it was in the Author’s note which my proof copy did not have. So for me the novel was just about people struggling to survive the war years experiencing hunger, danger, loss and betrayal alongside devotion and lifelong friendship.
At times it was difficult to read, there is no glamorizing of events here. You read about overcrowded railway stations with not enough trains. People moving across France with the possessions that they can carry. They are hungry, dreaming about what they would like to eat most whilst others who aren’t as worried are feeding their dogs black market ham. When friends are taken away by police they decide that they have to do more to help and get involved with the resistance.
It wasn’t all gloom. The relationship between the characters in the novel, especially Samuel and Suzanne was lovely to read. I felt that they were devoted to each other but at times she felt frustrated by him especially when he gave away much needed items or placed them in danger.
Completely different to Longbourn, the previous novel but one that I enjoyed a lot more and I would like to thank Alison Barrow for my proof copy received.

Where Roses Never Die

Where Roses Never Die (Varg Veum) - Don Bartlett, Gunnar Staalesen

Where Roses Never Die is the first book I have read by Gunnar Staaleson. It’s a great introduction to the Private Investigator Varg Veum. He is a troubled man, very much alone for the last three years and spending too much time drowning his sorrows in Aquavit.

When he is asked to try and find out what happened to Mette Misvær twenty-five years earlier he uses the case to try and get back on his feet, both emotionally and financially. The local police tolerate him and there is definitely bad feeling with at least one of them.

The case is all about uncovering secrets, and there are plenty of them. Some are seedy and Varg struggles to hide his disapproval. Some are devastating and cause more suffering when he forces memories to be discussed.

I loved Varg’s character. He was a morally strong, often cynical person who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind even if it meant getting hurt. All sides of society were present, the ones who were down on their luck and wanted to stay invisible and the ones who had no regard for anybody else. And all felt very believable.

I hope the earlier books will all be translated, at the moment there are three that have been. I would like to read them in order and get to know more about Varg.

Deadly Harvest

[ { DEADLY HARVEST (DETECTIVE KUBU MYSTERIES (PAPERBACK)) } ] by Stanley, Michael (AUTHOR) Apr-30-2013 [ Paperback ] - Michael Stanley

Deadly Harvest is the fourth in the series that features 'Kubu'. I've not read the earlier books but after reading this fabulous one I plan on doing so very soon.
There was so much about it that I enjoyed. The very first thing was the little sketch on the back of book of the hippo, the mammal which gives Kubu his nickname. And then there is his love of cookies, like him I don't need much of an excuse to have an extra one! And I loved that each part of the novel takes its name from a quote from Macbeth which given the main subject matter was very fitting.
Witch Doctors and the muti is the main theme and how it is regarded by the people who feature in the novel. Even the ones who insist that they don't believe still understandably fear it. Certain parts of it had me feel more than a little spooked, especially when there are unexplained noises around certain people.
It's not all about superstition. Politics and the impact of AIDS are also a big part of the storyline. I never knew that deaths caused by AIDS was so high in Botswana and the novel demonstrates very well how so many families are affected.
I had a great sense of Botswana, I could hear the characters talk as I was reading, and experienced the atmosphere in the bars and at demonstrations.
It didn't matter that I hadn't read the previous books, I never noticed any spoilers or even mentions of previous cases or Kubu's personal life. I'm looking forward to reading more about him and Botswana soon.

With thanks to Karen Sullivan for the copy received.

Girls on Fire

Girls on Fire - Robin Wasserman


Girls on Fire is a slightly different read for me and one that I would struggle to select a genre for. It should just be labeled Read Me.
At the beginning a teenage boy takes his own life. When the school he attended goes into mourning two teenage girls Lacey and Hannah (Dex) become friends. It's a strange and slightly unsettling friendship. One of them is 'damaged', has an obsession with Kurt Cobain and gets no family support. The other is a nobody, never one of the popular kids and often ridiculed by Nikki who is another key character in the novel.
It is very disturbing. Each chapter tell either Lacey's or Hannah's version of events and how they are handling the situation that they are in. I couldn't decide who was the better friend to Hannah out of Lacey or Nikki, both of them told lies and there was betrayal and manipulation everywhere.
Religion and Satanism also have a role to play, some of the storyline has references to both and show how belief in either had an affect on all concerned.
It's a great book, very clever, very unsettling. It made me feel very relieved that I'm no longer a teenager and that when I was I never met anybody like the characters that feature.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

Willow Walk

Willow Walk (Banktoun Trilogy) - SJI Holliday

Willow Walk is the second novel in the Banktoun trilogy. There are a few references to the first book Black Wood, no spoilers, but I think that the book is one that will be enjoyed more if you know what had happened previously.
From the beginning you are aware of the violence and tragedy and the feeling is in the background all the way through. There are two storylines, one concerning drug use in the local area and one that involves Marie and how the life that she has struggled to rebuild is now threatened by her past. While reading the part concerning Marie I spent much of the time looking over my shoulder at every noise. The letters and one part when she realises that the person she fears most is very close were very intimidating,
I love Davie's character and it makes a change to read a crime novel where the lead detective has a normal life away from the job.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received for review.

A Tapping at My Door

A Tapping at My Door - Audible Studios, David Jackson

David Jackson's previous novels were set in New York, I've read the first but have them all. And it was very good. This new series featuring Nathan Cody is set much close to home in my favourite UK city, Liverpool. I like to read a novel set somewhere that I am familiar with. When Cody first appeared I could picture exactly where he was and was laughing when he chased his prey through the shopping area. I could also picture another scene very clearly, but this wasn't one that made me smile. It takes part in one of the most eerie parts of the city.
At times it's quite intimidating, not just the parts that involved the killings but also when the police had to go into areas where they weren't welcome, and it was very believable. But there is also some humour at times, especially Cody's reaction to some that he deals with.
It's one of the few novels that I have read where I felt some empathy towards the killer and revulsion towards a victim. I can't really say more, to do so would be too much of a spoiler but if you have read it you will probably know what I mean.
Often when I'm reading I picture which actors should appear in lead roles if is ever televised. This is a novel that would definitely make great TV and I'm absolutely certain on who I would pick to play Stella. She would be perfect for the role.
It's a fantastic novel, the first in a new series that has huge potential.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received, the e book version also arrived on my kindle this morning.

Daisy in Chains

Daisy in Chains - Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains is the latest novel by Sharon Bolton. I love her Lacey Flint novels but have always felt more on edge reading her standalone novels.
Maggie is a lawyer who writes true crime novels and gets murderers released from prison when she can prove that a verdict is unsafe. She does so, even if she thinks they are guilty. Hamish Wolfe, in prison for the murders of three women wants her to be his lawyer and get him released. He insists that he is innocent. She is initially determined not to get involved but has started researching his case and agrees to meet him. He is definitely charming. He has power in prison because of his medical skills but you can sense danger around him. The police are keeping a close eye on her, not wanting her to find anything suspect but also because of suspicious activity around her.
I found it impossible to put down, convinced that I had worked everything out but when I reached the end and saw how much I had missed I wanted to reread straight away. It's very clever. and extremely difficult to review without spoilers. So all I can say is if you like an intelligent thriller that will have you sat on the edge of your seat this is definitely for you. Pick a day where you won't be disturbed because, believe me, when you start to read it you won't stop. I'm absolutely convinced that Daisy in Chains will be amongst my top ten books of 2016.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received for review.

The Shadow Hour

The Shadow Hour - Kate  Riordan

The Shadow Hour is a beautiful written account of two women who both worked for the same family. Harriet's story takes place in 1878 and her grand daughter Grace's in 1922. Grace goes to work at Fenix House at Harriet's insistence. The house is now in a dilapidated condition, very different to how it was in Harriet's time. A few family members are present in both times and one servant, Agnes.
Straight away Grace realises that Harriet's story of her life there is inaccurate and as you get further into the novel the truth starts to come out.
It's a lovely novel to read. Out of the two I preferred Grace to Harriet. She seemed to be a lot warmer and less brittle. One of the strongest parts of the novel was the account of the decline of the house and the family over the years. That Grace could still see the beauty underneath the neglect felt very believable. My favourite character was Agnes, headstrong, mouthy and sarcastic but also very loyal to the family and Harriet. I could sit and listen for hours to her talk about her life at Fenix House.
I plan to read Kate Riordan's novel The Girl in the Photograph very soon.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

The Midnight Watch

The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian - David O. Dyer Sr.

I didn't really know way to expect when I started reading this novel but I found it to be a fascinating and at times heartbreaking read. John Steadman is a journalist. His personal life is a mess but he finds solace in becoming a champion of the ones who have been failed. When he suspects that something is not quite right with the accounts of those onboard the SS Californian he becomes obsessed with learning and revealing the truth.
It was hard to warm to most onboard the SS Californian. Herbert Stern wasn't supported by his captain when he notified him about what he was seeing from the stricken Titanic but for some reason remained loyal to him throughout the investigation. It seemed like he was the only one who mourned any loss of life. Some of others were just concerned about selling their accounts.
The final section of the novel, about the Sage family was devastating to read. A fictionalised account of a family who were actually onboard and all perished. I could just imagine the fear that they felt when along with so many others they watched lifeboats sail away half empty.
I very much enjoyed this novel and would like to thank the publisher for the copy received.

A Siege of Bitterns


I love reading crime fiction and I enjoy bird watching so I jumped at the chance to read this new book that features both. The first in a new series it focuses on Saltmarsh in Norfolk one of the more well known birding communities in the UK.
Domenic Jejune is new to the area, he was preceded by his reputation when he ended up in the public eye after solving a highly publicised case. Not much is revealed about the case, maybe there will be a prequel or more will beA  revealed in future books.
I have read some reviews where the reader felt that there was too many bird references but it worked well for me. Perhaps with being familiar with hides, birding communities and the passion shown by them. And not forgetting the birds, some of them I have been lucky enough to see. I did however struggle with some of the environment and political issues, but this is only down to my lack of knowledge. With regards to the crime I had no idea who the culprit was. I probably suspected everybody who featured. There were quite a few red herrings, especially towards the end.
My favourite character was Maik, a well respected extremely likeable person, Holland the complete opposite. Jejune will probably grow on me ( and his team). I think that he will be a character you get to like when you know more about him. I am looking forward to the next in the series that is released later in the year.

With thanks to Real Reader and the publisher Oneworld Publications for the copy received.

The Passenger

The Passenger - Lisa Lutz

I had been aware of Lisa Lutz for a while but this is the first of her books that I have read. It definitely won't be the last, I really enjoyed reading this novel. Tanya is the first name that we know the main character by. She goes on the run when her husband dies suddenly. Not because she is responsible for his death but she knows that her true identity could be revealed.
She starts to make her way around the country, adopting different identities on her journey. She gets close to some on her way, Blue, Domenic and Andrew to name just a few. One of my favourite parts of the novel was when she built her friendship with Andrew and his family and I was sorry that she had to leave them.
The book is divided into sections and features her life under each identity. At the end of each chapter, emails are shown between her and Ryan, its unclear who he is you just know that he was involved in what ever happened to make her go on the run. When it was revealed what actually happened it want what I expected but there were still a few surprises to come.
It was a fun book to read, very fast paced, at times humorous and there was always a sense of danger. Most people seemed to sympathise with her but I was really unsure what to think of Blue. She was definitely a threat at times,but I like to think that in her mind she was doing the right thing. Even if her way was slightly unconventional.

With thanks to Titan Books for the copy received.


Ripper Jax

Modesty Blaise - Ripper Jax - Enric Badia Romero, Peter O'Donnell


It's a least thirty years since I read any type of comic strip fiction, it took me a while to settle back into it but once I did it was great fun. I had never heard of the Modesty Blaise books even though they were published over a period of around forty years. They did feel a little dated with the style of writing and the illustrations but it didn't stop me enjoying the four different stories that are in this collection.
Ripper Jax, the first story in this collection was my favourite one, it was a good introduction to Modesty and Willie. There wasn't really any mention of how they met or previous missions so I just read each of the stories as stand alone. The main point that came across in each story was that every member of the team were loyal to their friends and devoted to each other. If they owed a favour or somebody was in trouble they would try their hardest to rectify the situation.
I imagine that the series has a big following for those that love this type of fiction, for me it was a complete change. Not something I would read regularly but one that I would dip into every now and again.

Jihadi: A Love Story

Jihadi: A Love Story - Brandon Yusuf Toropov

Jihadi will probably be one of those novels that I will be thinking about long after I finished it. I will say that it's not the easiest novel that I've read, it was much easier to read with no background noise, that way I didn't miss anything.
The book is mainly about Thelonius, Fatima and Mike, how they connected and the consequences on their lives. And throughout the whole novel is a second narrator. At first you don't realise who this person is, just somebody a little annoying who places a few notes. These contradict the accounts from other people and there are constant references to the The White Album by The Beatles. I found this quite confusing, I don't know the album so didn't really understand the connection. When I realised who the narrator was I was flicking back the pages to see what I had missed. The same happened with The Raison. The scenes featuring Thelonius and The Raisin were one of the most fascinating, and at times, upsetting in the book.
Fatima was completely out of her depth and trying to do the best for her mother and younger sister but didn't realise the danger that she was in until it was far too late. I loved her strength of character and how she refused to change her story to match that of the heavyset woman, one of the most dangerous characters to feature in the novel. I found both her and her husband very intimidating.
I like to think that there would only ever be one Mike but I suspect that I might be disappointed. He was the complete opposite to his brother who had a conscience and tried to do the right thing. Thelonius and Fatima came from different countries and different cultures but they shared the same belief about their countries leaders. The author doesn't take sides at all, instead he shows that there are good and bad people on both sides of the conflict.
The most heartbreaking parts of this novel I was reading whilst sat on a train, that was thankfully very quiet.

Bone by Bone

Bone by Bone - Sanjida Kay

It is a long time since I read a full book in one day but this novel was impossible to put down for long. I think the reason was due to the subject matter, bullying.
It is told by both mother and daughters point of view. Autumn was trying her hardest to keep things from Laura but was understandably struggling. She didn't agree with the way that Laura was dealing with it, feeling that it made it worse for her. Laura knew that she had made a big mistake but guilt and fear made it difficult for her to ask anybody close to her for help.,Levi did have his problems, these became more evident towards the end but it wasn't just him doing the bullying. Other children and their parents were just as cruel. Laura was also being bullied although in a different way to Autumn. Her bully was ensuring that she would be isolated and helpless in every way.
I found it at times to be really intimidating. Laura and Autumn shouldn't have had to go through what they did, but sadly it happens and the author has done a fantastic job of highlighting the situation that some families must be going through.

With thanks to the Corvus for the copy received.