My Wonderful Reading Year – March 2020 #Fiction #NonFiction #MyWonderfulReadingYear.

Welcome to a series of posts that chart my wonderful reading year, 2020. I don’t have the time to review all the books I read and wanted I way to celebrate each one. So I’m going to do a monthly post of all the wonderful books I’ve reading that month. Short snappy reviews, simple comments about why I enjoyed them so much.

So welcome to my celebration of my reading in March 2020, a month during which reading has become even more important than normal. 

Well March got off to a stunning start with I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell.  This book is insanely moving, funny and powerful and should be read by everyone!

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My first fiction read of the month was Dead Wrong by Noelle Holton. A highly enjoyable thriller, full of oodles of tension and a fiesty lead character.

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From there I read Beyond The Gravy by Mandy Morton, which was orginal and I very comforting easy read during these troubled times.

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Next came Not Having It All by Jennie Ensor. I found this to be both original and it made me giggle, which given the current climate is a massive recommendation.

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From laughter I moved onto a thriller from one of my favourite authors. Containment by Vanda Symon is the third in the Sam Shephard series and is a fabulous addition to this cracking sequence of books.

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Mexico Street by Simone Buchholz was the second novel from the Indie publisher Orenda Books that I read this month. Its Stylish. Not oodles of description and prose, more tightknit controlled language that gets under your skin and leaves you feeling unnerved.

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My next read this month was Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl and what a book to end on! Controlled and stunning writing, a story that keeps you enthralled and most of all, a moment of humour that delivered a gentle moment of relief from the tension.

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Well that was my reading for the month of March. It was a time when all our lives were thrown into freefall and when books have become even more important than ever.

I’m excited to discover new worlds, countries I have never visited and new writers in the month to come. In a time when we can’t go out, books bring the world to us.

Happy reading all. Sending cwtches from my home to your home.

 

 

 

Book Covers As Art – The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. #BookCoversAsWorksof Art

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THE SUNDAY TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER

Overall Book of the Year and Fiction Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2017 (Nibbies)

Longlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

The Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

Shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award

London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge.

On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith.

As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both.
The Essex Serpent is a celebration of love, and the many different shapes it can take.

 

Not only is this stunning cover worthy to be hung on any wall, but it is perfectly suited to the story within the cover.  When I look at it, I see amongst the trailing plants a coiled serpent, with a flowering head and a stamen forming the flicking tongue. It is bold and yet not over powering. It was the cover catching my eye in my local Waterstones that led me to buying the book and I adored both it gothic atmosphere and the love story within the pages.

 

About the author 

Sarah Grace Perry FRSL (born 28 November 1979) is an English author. She has had three novels published, all by Serpent’s Tail: After Me Comes The Flood, (2014) The Essex Serpent (2016) and Melmoth (2018). Her work has been translated into 22 languages.

You can follow the author on Twitter

Sister by Kjell Da Dahl # Sister #Thriller #Review

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The Oslo Detectives are back in another slice of gripping, dark Nordic Noir, and their new colleague has more at stake than she’s prepared to reveal…
Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…
Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death. Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…
A dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller, Sister is also a tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a moving tragedy at its heart, cementing Kjell Ola Dahl as one of the greatest crime writers of our generation.

‘A triumph of skill, invention and edge-of-the-seat storytelling. As always, not to be missed!’ Denzil Meyrick

Review

I find that when I am stressed and frightened, the things that normally console me, seem to fall to the wayside. Reading is something I’m struggling with, I find it hard to concentrate and hard to sit still, so to be able to read a beautifully written book at this time is especially precious. Sister by Kjeli Ola Dahl, is a polished and exciting read, that kept me engrossed and allowed me to forget things for a while.

Kjeli’s relaxed and yet addictive style of writing is just what I needed. The story flowed along gently, but don’t mistake that for it having no oomph, because it does! It is intricate and controlled, the tension slowly filling the story and the reader with a deep sense of unease. It’s like he drip feeds it into your mind as you read, so that he reveals the secrets behind the death, you not only don’t see it coming, you feel elated that you didn’t see it coming. Then you feel incredibly excited that you were hoodwinked by a writer of immense talent.  I finished it and sat back and thought, wow, that was splendid and how lucky I felt to having been given the opportunity to read it.

It wasn’t just the excitement, the superb prose, the way the book was like reading a well fitted glove that had me so animated, it was the quirky sense of humour that caught me unawares. There was one moment in the book that had me giggling and left me reflecting on how Kjeli knows how to hold a reader in the plan of his hand, yet at the same time appreciates that the occasional light relief allows them to breath, before they are once again plunged into another gut wrenching moment of worrying about Frølich and his friends.

Now, the story itself is convoluted but balanced enough to keep the reader from having to make notes. Especially important at the moment, with so many suffering heightened stress levels.  He takes an murder, adds in a few less clear cut events and merges them into an ending that ties together perfectly.  Poor Frølich is lead a merry dance, lied to, manipulated and threatened. We know he can hold his own, but are left wondering if so many threats will overwhelm even him.

It is a masterclass in storytelling from a writer with an assured touch.  Nothing is over done, but taken to the edge of what we as readers need, distraction and entertainment. A book of such class, I can’t emphasis enough, that this is a writer who worth adding to your too read pile. Class can never be indulged in too much and Kjeli writing embodies it’s very meaning.

About the author 

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One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers (Oslo Detectives series) featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

About the Translator 

Don Bartlett completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbø and Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum series: We Shall Inherit the Wind, Wolves in the Dark and the Petrona award-winning Where Roses Never Die. He also translated Faithless, the previous book in Kjell Ola Dahl’s Oslo Detective series for Orenda Books. He lives with his family in a village in Norfolk.

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Containment by Vanda Symon #Thriller #NewZealand #OrendaBooks #SamShephard

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Dunedin’s favourite young police officer Sam Shephard is drawn into a perplexing investigation when a series of shipping containers wash up on a sleepy New Zealand beach, and a spate of unexplained deaths ensues…
Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.
Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over an assault that left her assailant for dead.
What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…
As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…

Review

This is a very personal review from me, very different and I hope that is okay? I’m struggling to think clearly, but I didn’t want to pull out of a blog tour for an author and publisher that I love.

Dunedin’s favorite young police officer is back and as a result I am a very happy book blogger and more than that, I am a very, very happy reader. It’s another exciting and thrilling segment in this superb series featuring the feisty, reckless, but always heroic Detective Sam Shephard. Her adventures started in Overkill and The Ringmaster and now they continue in Containment. Author Vanda Symon has delivered yet another top notch book and given that we can’t travel currently, gives us a story that allows us to lose ourselves in New Zealand during this period of self isolation. What a glorious gift that is!

The story is set around some rather baffling deaths after a container ship runs aground off the New Zealand coast and the locals start to loot containers that wash up on the beach. Are the deaths connected and if so, can Sam find the killer before more people die?

What I loved about this the third book in the series is the way it made me feel like I was there in New Zealand, not cooped up at home. As Sam traveled around the country hunting a killer and putting her job on the line to get to the truth, I felt removed from all the worries that were clogging up my tattered and frayed nerves. The sense of atmosphere, the way you could almost touch a sky that seemed vast, lifted from my shoulders that feeling of confinement that is engulfing me right now.

The story is top class, but I expect that from Vanda Symon, who always manages to infuse her books with a sense of intelligence and well thought out narrative. From the first page you are thrown into a story that like the beach on which the containers lie, crashes over the reader with endless periods of drama and yet it is also peppered by moments of comedy. Sam as a character battles through not only her boss’s brittle treatment, also a love life scattered with woes, over to settle for safe and loving, or Mr hot pants, who frankly fill her with a compulsion to jump him and blow the consequences. My favorite moment being when she literary feints with an overwhelming feeling of lust. Our Sam is confused, but oh my she is always entertaining. As a character she is determined to catch the killer, but she’s never that typical suited and booted, self contained officer, Sam cries, she gets angry, she risks her life for her colleagues and that is why I love her.

If I had to some up this story in a few words, I’d use dramatic, full of characters that are playing with fire, humorous and best of all, a narrative that leaves you feeling desperate for the next book in the series.

You can by Containment from the publishers ebookstore

There it is also available in all formats from Amazon and Waterstones. 

Also why not look at purchasing this book from your local independent bookshop, many of whom are delivering locally or would be delighted to post books to you. We should all support our local indies.

About the author

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Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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My top 50 historical books. Part 1 #HistoricalFiction #Reading

In these difficult times we all need something to focus on, positives in our lives and for me one of those things is books and book blogging.  So I’m going to press ahead and allow books to help me cope in the weeks ahead.

Today I’m looking at some of my all time favourite historical fiction, with a list of my top 50 favourite books in this genre. I’m going to break it down into five separate blog posts, so you don’t get bored before you reach the bottom.  So here we go!

I should say that these lists are not in a particular order of preference.

1 Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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I know, I have banged on about this book so much, but I love it so much. 

2 The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton 

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What is so perfect about this book, is not just the beauty of the writing, but the way you feels absorbed by the history and emotion of the story. 

3 The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain 

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This is the first and so far the only novel I have read by this author and what an introduction.  Beautiful story, stunning characterisation and it made me cry! 

4 The Girl With The Pearl Earing by Tracy Chevalier 

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This was the novel that really showed me how amazing historical fiction could be. I have loved her books since. 

5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker 

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I first read this book for the first time many years ago and have read it several times since for various literature courses. That it remains one of my all time favourite reads, is a mark of how amazing it is. 

6 The Return by Victoria Hislop

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For me this is one of the best novels around the story of the Spanish civil war and the devastating impact it had on the people caught up in it. I’m a massive fan of Victoria Hislop’s writing and have read pretty much everything she has written. 

7 The Paying Guests by Sarah Walters 

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This is a tender story about love and friendship amid times of unrest and change and it certainly deserves the awards it was given. 

8 A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

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Primarily a LGBT + love story, it is also about a mystery at the very heart of the writers own family and a utterly stunning read. 

9 Small Island by Andrea Levy 

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What a stunning read and one I think should be considered a modern classic.

10 Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller

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This was a book choice from the wonderful Waterstones book club I am a member of and it is stunning. The writing has the power to drag you back to the past and it’s almost like you there with the characters. 

These books can of course all be brought from Amazon and Waterstones on-line, but why not give your nearest independent bookshop a ring and support them in these difficult times. Many will post and some are doing local deliveries.

 

Mexico Street by Simone Buchholz #MexicoStreet #Thriller

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Hamburg state prosecutor Chastity Riley investigates a series of arson attacks on cars across the city, which leads her to a startling and life-threatening discovery involving criminal gangs and a very illicit love story…

Night after night, cars are set alight across the German city of Hamburg, with no obvious pattern, no explanation and no suspect.
Until, one night, on Mexico Street, a ghetto of high-rise blocks in the north of the city, a Fiat is torched. Only this car isn’t empty. The body of Nouri Saroukhan – prodigal son of the Bremen clan – is soon discovered, and the case becomes a homicide.

Public prosecutor Chastity Riley is handed the investigation, which takes her deep into a criminal underground that snakes beneath the whole of Germany. And as details of Nouri’s background, including an illicit relationship with the mysterious Aliza, emerge, it becomes clear that these are not random attacks, and there are more on the cards…

‘Reading Buchholz is like walking on firecrackers. Her prose crackles with wit and off-kilter observation. Mexico Street finds her prosecutor-heroine Chastity Riley on the brink of an existential crisis, self-medicating with fags, booze and as much human contact as she can bear. The plot, which concerns the murder of the prodigal son of a Mhallami clan, is both gripping and achieves an emotional resonance that transcends the genre. It’s her finest book yet to appear in English. Truly a unique voice in crime fiction’ Graeme Macrae Burnet

‘A stylish, whip-smart thriller set in Hamburg, where burning cars soon contain burning bodies, and Public Prosecutor, Chastity Riley finds herself in the midst of what could be a gang war. Go read’ Russel McLean

‘A dead man in a burned-out car kicks off Chastity Riley’s latest investigation across Hamburg and far beyond Mexico Street, the high-rise ghetto where the original crime takes place. With the help of gifted translator Ward, Buchholz has been building Riley into a go-to brand for readers in search of a sassy female investigator with DNA straight out of the classic American noir playbook’ The Sunday Times Crime Club

‘Tautly written … In Rachel Ward’s sharp and idiomatic translation, this is further proof that Simone Buchholz is a writer to watch – a fact that is becoming clear to more and more readers. The influences here are not of German crime writers of the past (or present), but lean and stripped-down American models, which are echoed in the economy of the prose – which means that the 200-odd pages fly by at speed. The appeal of the novel is further enhanced by the fact that Chastity Riley is a very distinctive heroine’ Barry Forshaw, European Literature Network

Review

I was incredibly lucky to attend an Orenda Road Show event a few weeks ago and heard the author read from this intense and addictive read. Therefore when I dived the book I did so with her voice swirling around head and it was amazing!

Mexico Street is many things, too many to list, because you will all get bored. So here are just a few-

Its Stylish.  Not oodles of description and prose, more tightknit contolled language that gets under your skin and leaves you feeling unnerved.

It is of course exciting, because right from the start your hooked by a death, that thought to be suicide, turns out to be murder. Better than that it’s all tied up in past events, which bubbling to the surface, threaten to blow past vendettas apart, exposing lies and secrets.

It’s full of a bucket load of tension that is drip fed to you throughout the book, sometimes your sat there with Chastity in a club feeling all relaxed and next your sat bolt upright, feeling like you have been engulfed by a wave of electric shocks, as the novel reaches a tense and thrilling end.  The imagery used by the writer adds to this and it can’t be ignored, the power it has to keep the reader on edge! Other than Chastity herself, one my favourite things about this the latest instalment in the series, is how Buchholz creates this impending sense of danger right from the first page, with the feeling that cities all over Germany are on fire, cars being torched, seem to morph into a feeling of a approaching danger all around.

It has the type of writing that sucks you in and wraps you in a cloak of nirvana. Really it’s like being in a liberating frame of mind, that is free from pain, worry, and the world around you. The author has a voice that is enveloping, you’re there on those streets with Chastity Riley tracking down a killer, you can hear the voices of her colleagues swirling through your head and you’re sat in smoky clubs with a heroine who in my imagination is like a young Marlene Dietrich. It is not over egging it to say that as a character I adore her, in fact frankly I think she is a bit of a literary heroine! Feisty, smokes too much, drinks to abandon, come on what’s not to like? Chasity Riley makes mistakes, her personal life resembles a disaster area, but she lives life with passion, believes in justice and spends this fabulous book tracking down a killer with a fearless determination. You know as a reader that she is damaged goods, but she is so utterly addictive that you can’t help wanting to spend time with her. She is iconic!

This is another superb read brought to us by Orenda books. So why not purchase it directly from their eBookstore

It is also available from your usual on line retailers such as Amazon in ebook and paperback.  From Waterstones and of course from your local independent retailer!

About the author 

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Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award, and second place in the German Crime Fiction Prize, for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. The next in the Chastity Riley series, Beton Rouge, won the Radio Bremen Crime Fiction Award and Best Economic Crime Novel 2017. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

The writer can be followed on Twitter.

About the Translator 

Rachel Ward is a freelance translator of literary and creative texts from German and French to English. Having always been an avid reader and enjoyed word games and puzzles, she discovered a flair for languages at school and went on to study modern languages at the University of East Anglia. She spent the third year working as a language assistant at two grammar schools in Saaebrücken, Germany. During her final year, she realised that she wanted to put these skills and passions to use professionally and applied for UEA’s MA in Literary Translation, which she completed in 2002. Her published translations include Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang and Red Rage by Brigitte Blobel, and she is a Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.Follow Rachel on Twitter @FwdTranslations, on her blog http://www.adiscounttickettoeverywhere.wordpress.com and on her website http://www.forwardtranslations.co.uk

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Dead Wrong by Noelle Holton #DeadWrong #CrimeFiction

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The serial killer is behind bars. But the murders are just beginning…

DC Maggie Jamieson’s past comes back to haunt her in this dark and gripping serial killer thriller.

Three missing women running out of time…
 
They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…
 
But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.
 
Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…

Review

Having read and loved Book one in the Maggie Jamison’s crime series Dead Inside, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to review the sequel, Dead Wrong.  I’m so glad that I did, it is a gritty, tension filled follow-up and confirmation of Noelle Holton’s excitin carrier as a crime writer.

Maggie Jamieson as the lead character is one of my favourite female leads. Not for her the supporting role. she is front and centre of the story. Even though we see more female leads in crime drama now, it is still are enough to be celebrated when you come across a really great one. Her character is not left to coast through this story, she has many challenges in this new read and developes into a forthright and determined character, read to challenge her suspicions if she feels she is right. I love her and I want more female characters like Maggie in books, for my god children and niece to be inspired by! She is more than a match for the killer in this story and its all down to her intelligence, not to male colleagues that this investigation is so exciting to read. In book series, character development can become stale as authors concentrate on narrative, but I like many readers want more than that and Noelle delivers on this to.  We get to learn more about Maggie’s background, her hang-ups, her fears and especially in this book, her relationship with her brother. It’s things like this that make the story flow and give it a personality, that carries the character from book to book and it’s dealt with here with perfection.

As for the story, I enjoyed the way the writer kept me guessing and kept more than one surprise held back, so that they fell like small shock waves throughout the story.  It made it fast paced, but at the same time it had moments of quiet, that when the next bombshell arrived, the tension ratcheted up so much, you become super grateful for those moments of calm, to allow you a moment to breath.    Because the tension as it builds, I felt like I had to stop and take a breather.

The killer in this story, is one of it’s greatest assets, because you have no bloody idea who it is! Or at least I didn’t. until the writer slapped me in the face with a series of revelations and I sat back and thought, Wow.  No one wants the identity revealed too soon and it isn’t, it’s all so exciting for being fooled hook, line and sinker feels quite delicious.  The killer is her protagonist, but is he or she, her equal, buy the book and find out.

You can buy this book from Amazon and Waterstones 

About the author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and was a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Connect with Noelle on Social Media here:
Twitter: (@nholten40) https://twitter.com/nholten40
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noelleholtenauthor/
Blog FB page: https://www.facebook.com/crimebookjunkie/
Instagram: @crimebookjunkie
Website: https://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk
Bookbub Author page : https://bit.ly/2LkT4LB

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Bloody Fabulous Non Fiction Reads. #NonFiction #Books

I love a good non-fiction read and this year I’m making a big effort to not only read more, but make a serious dent, in the ones that have languished on my rather large to be read pile for quite a while.

I am ashamed to say that I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell has sat on my bookshelf for a very long time and I finally got around to reading it recently and it was flipping wonderful. I was memorised by the writing and the emotional connection with her stories.  Her writing is quiet and calm, yet it creates what feels like a very personal connection to her life. It left me feeling as if I had been given a small look into the events that have shaped the wonderful writer she is.

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You can buy I Am I Am I Am from Amazon and Waterstones

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn was a reading dream for me. I love walking and I love doing this along the coast of our wonderful country.  After this remarkable couple Moth and Raynor Winn lost their beloved farm in Wales and Moth discovered he had an incurable illness, they decided to walk the South West Coast Path and this incredible book is the result. Moving and yet also full of wonderful humour, it is a testament to the power of the human spirit to endure. Raynor Winn is an incredible writer, she has a natural warmth and is incredibly humble. I am looking forward to reading the sequel The Wild Silence when it is published.

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You can buy The Salt Path from Waterstones and Waterstones

I am a massive fan of the Five Fab and as a lover of the TV series, both old and current, I was thrilled to see this book for sale. I loved the story of his life and how it shaped the person he is now. It is funny, honest and a very powerful, emotional read.

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You can buy Over The Top from both Amazon and Waterstones.

Now I admit I am not a fan of Sara Cox because she is a DJ on BBC radio, music is simply not my thing, but I have seen her on TV and liked her friendly, happy nature and so bought this book on a whim. I’m so glad I did, it is funny, moving and more importantly down to earth. I never realised that she has lived such a varied life and I admit, I was curious to know more about the lady we see on TV. It is such a great read and if she were to write more, I would definitely add them to my bookshelf.

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You can buy Till The Cows Come Home book from Amazon and Waterstones .

I have listed links for all these books to the two main book sellers, because I know that is an easy way for so many people to buy their books! Given the worrying time for us all at the moment, especially small independent booksellers, why not consider contacting your local bookshop, many deliver and they are such amazing places. Give them a call and why not order a few books? 

 

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free the Andrew Miller. #Review

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* WINNER OF THE HIGHLAND BOOK PRIZE *

* SHORTLISTED FOR THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE *

The rapturously acclaimed new novel by the Costa Award-winning author of PURE, hailed as ‘excellent’, ‘gripping’, ‘as suspenseful as any thriller’, ‘engrossing’, ‘moving’ and ‘magnificent’.

One rainswept winter’s night in 1809, an unconscious man is carried into a house in Somerset. He is Captain John Lacroix, home from Britain’s disastrous campaign against Napoleon’s forces in Spain.

Gradually Lacroix recovers his health, but not his peace of mind. He will not – cannot – talk about the war or face the memory of what took place on the retreat to Corunna. After the command comes to return to his regiment, he lights out instead for the Hebrides, unaware that he has far worse to fear than being dragged back to the army: a vicious English corporal and a Spanish officer with secret orders are on his trail.

In luminous prose, Miller portrays a man shattered by what he has witnessed, on a journey that leads to unexpected friendships, even to love. But as the short northern summer reaches its zenith, the shadow of the enemy is creeping closer. Freedom, for John Lacroix, will come at a high price. Taut with suspense, this is an enthralling, deeply involving novel by one of Britain’s most acclaimed writers.

‘His writing suspends life until it is read and is a source of wonder and delight’ Hilary Mantel on Casanova in the Sunday Times

Review

This magnificent novel was chosen by the members of the book group I attend and I absolutely adored it.

Rich in period detail, I often found myself feeling as if I was walking the streets of 1809 with the marvellous Captain John Lacroix. It felt as if I was enveloped by the noises and people of the period, so much so that the modern world around disappeared while I read. The writer managed to bring the period and events to life with a deft hand and a feeling for the claustrophobia of the city and the wild openness of the Hebrides.

The characterisation is wonderful. Lacroix initially comes across as a man lying on the edge of death, but as he recovers, he blossoms into a character of immense depth, both emotional and physical. The demons that torment him, give his journey to find peace an added sense of pathos. Each step he takes as he travels north sees him growing stronger physically, yet the memories that torment him can no longer remain buried and as they bubble to the surface, Miller’s portrayal of a tormented man, becomes a tour de force in immersive story telling. Though he is the central character, Miller also gives us Emily, an independent minded woman, whose desperate search for a cure to her worsening blindness seems to mirror Lacroix’s search for freedom and peace. Her role was for me to emphasise his essential humanity and provide a means by which he can gain redemption and as important as she is to Lacroix’s story, her own story should not be dismissed. It gives the tale added depth, discussing her search for a life not dependant on the whims of her brother and the mysterious and absent Thorpe, gives us a view into the reality of life for women during this period, while acting as a narrative tool to take forward Lacroix’s story forward. She is strong and as wonderful as any character in this book. Just as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, was courageous and not subservient to Mr Rochester, neither is Emily to the towering Lacroix.

It is not a novel of grand events! The best way to describe it can be found in Johanna Thomas-Carr’s review in the Observer online (14/8/2018), it is a delicately woven tale of sultry moods. It highlights both the effect war has on those caught up in the conflicts, both military personal and those civilians directly caught up in the horror and those at home. It is one of the best illustrations on post-traumatic stress syndrome I have read in any historical tale. yet does it speaks of it in an almost detached way, through supressed memories and a journey laden with moments of violence, but also quiet tender reflection.

I have never read Andrew Miller before, but it will not be the last time I grab one of his books. Book clubs do not just provide a social connection with other readers; they also bring new authors into a reader’s world. Thank you Waterstones Cardiff Book club for introducing me to this exceptional tale.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He has lived in Spain, Japan, Ireland and France, and currently lives in Somerset. His first novel, INGENIOUS PAIN, was published by Sceptre in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Grinzane Cavour prize in Italy. He has since written five novels: CASANOVA, OXYGEN, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and the Booker Prize in 2001, THE OPTIMISTS, ONE MORNING LIKE A BIRD, and PURE, which won the Costa Book of the Year award in 2011. His most recent novel, THE CROSSING, was published by Sceptre in 2015.

 

 

My Wonderful Reading Year- February 2020 #Fiction #NonFiction #MyWonderfulReadingYear

Welcome to a series of posts that chart my wonderful reading year, 2020. I don’t have the time to review all the books I read and wanted I way to celebrate each one. So I’m going to do a monthly post of all the wonderful books I’ve reading that month. Short snappy reviews, simple comments about why I enjoyed them so much.

So welcome to my celebration of my reading in February 2020 😀

Well the second month of the Year got off to a wonderful start with Wild Girls Spinning by Carol Lovekin. Stunning writing about loss, love and rebirth.

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Then I finished Little by Edward Carey, which is stunning. Macabre in places, but also deeply moving. This is without a doubt my favourite read of 2020 so far.

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Next I finished as book that has sat on my TBR pile for a long time, The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young. A non fiction book I have wanted to read for a while and though I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected, it was still a fascinating read.

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Following this, it was a children’s book Sparky The Dragon Bus by Sue Wickstead. Charming and educational, it’s a great addition to a wonderful series.

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Next came my second non fiction book this month, Over The Top – My Story by Jonathan Van Ness. It was everything I hoped it would be, honest, emotional and a great read. I recommend it to anyone looking for their next autobiography.

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Next came two stunning reads from the publisher Orenda Books.

Beast by Matt Wesolowski is a novel of our times, powerful and haunting, this new episode of Six Stories is simply stunning.

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It was going to be difficult for my next read to live up to Beast’s impact on me as a reader, but Death Deserved by Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier, was superb and the start of an exciting new series.

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My final fiction read this month was The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal. An enjoyable gothic historical thriller and a very impressive debut.

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My final read in February was the stunning The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. Deeply moving and inspiring, I will without doubt be reading her new book.

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Well it has been another wonderful reading month and I can’t wait to see what Match will bring my way.