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The Nidderdale Murders by J R Ellis - Review

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

I think I was auto approved for this title on Netgalley, so thank you very much to Amazon for granting me access to this. This book was published in September 2020. I was granted an electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Okay so this is the fifth book in the Nidderdale Murder series, although it's the first one I've read. As is usual with these crime series, it works as a standalone novel, as it only briefly references previous books, and it's easy to get to grips with the main characters. Our DCI here is Jim Oldroyd, who I thoroughly liked, and his underlings were pretty good too. They are usually based in Harrogate, but this book takes them on to the Yorkshire Dales, to a small village there. 

The first victim is a man called Fraser. He used to be a judge, but he's retired to the manor house in the village and owns the local grouse moor. He invites his friends to come and shoot there quite often, and on those occasions the group uses the local pub and has lots of food and spends a lot of money. So the publicans need his business even if they don't like him. 

On one of these occasions, one of the pub staff is upstairs in her bedroom just as the party is finishing. Fraser leaves the pub and is shot by someone with a shotgun. The member of staff, Kirsty, sees the perpetrator when he looks up at her, and identifies him as local handyman Alan Green. 

The local police can't really cope with the investigation, so that's when Oldroyd and his crew step in. They start to look into Fraser's life, and while there's certainly a lot of people who would have a grudge against Fraser, the witness is so sure she saw Alan Green that they are at a bit of a loss, especially as he's now missing and can't be found. 

Someone else is shot later and again, there seems to be an obvious culprit, who again has vanished... 

I liked this a lot, it was an easy to read crime novel but with quite a lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing up to the end. I did catch one of the twists - not outright but I noticed something and thought, 'well, that's not quite right', and it turns out to be one of the twists. It was so cleverly done!

I'd give this a good four out of five, and will definitely look to read the others in the series!

Stranded by Stuart James - Blog Tour

Friday, October 23, 2020


Hello, welcome to my blog for my stop on the tour for Stranded by Stuart James. If you've never been here before please do have a look around my blog. I often read crime thrillers so there's plenty of reviews here for you to read. 

I was intrigued by the premise of this book, so signed up for the tour. I liked Ben and his family and I felt sympathy for them. The book is quite gory and grisly in parts and the ending really got to me!

Here's the book description:

A family trapped. A psychopath on the loose. Let the game begin…

What could be more innocent than going on holiday?

As a family drive along a quiet country lane on their way to the airport, they meet a stranger standing alone in the middle of the road.

Steering them along another path, he tells the driver, Ben, that a tree has fallen and there’s no way through.

But as they make their way along the diverted route, they come across a coach blocking the road.

Getting out of the car Ben goes to investigate and is horrified to find the passengers tied to their seats.

Then a discarded phone starts to ring…

If Ben calls the police, everyone on board will die.

Let the horrific game begin…


And here's the author's bio:

I have always loved scary stories, especially ones that shocked me, left me terrified, looking under my bed or in the wardrobe before going to sleep.

There was just a fantastic buzz whenever I watched or read something that took my breathe away.

I remember going to my nan’s house in Ireland as a youngster with my mother and sister, on the West Coast, staying in a cottage, surrounded by miles of fields and my family sitting around the table in the kitchen at night telling ghost stories. Going out and exploring derelict farmhouses in the middle of nowhere. I remember clearly the field at the end of the road was supposed to be haunted by headless nuns.

My cousins often remind me of the great times we had, frightening each other and running for our lives whenever we’d see something that didn’t look right.

This is why I love nothing more than to tell a story.

I started writing three years ago, penning The House On Rectory Lane which has just won The International Book Award in horror fiction. I got the idea from something that has often seemed scary to me. I know that a terrifying story has to be something that you’re frightened of doing, something that makes the hairs stand on the back of your neck, something that fills you with dread, yet also with excitement.

To me, the thought of going to a house in the middle of nowhere, upping and leaving a busy town and moving to the country is something that scares lots of people and me: the seclusion, the quiet, the darkness. That’s what inspired me to write my first novel.

My second thriller is called Turn The Other Way, which was a world wide number 1 best seller and stayed at number 1 for 19 weeks in the US.

I have multiple stories running, past and present. A family who want answers from the surgeon responsible for their daughter’s death. A young woman looking for her parents after they go missing from a party. A couple driving home and hearing screams for help from the back of the van in front of them. A serial killer on the loose in North London, dragging victims off the street.

I’m so grateful when people not only read my thrillers but also take the time to get in touch and leave a review. To me, that is the greatest feeling, hearing from people that have enjoyed my work. I know then that I’m doing something right.

My third thriller, Apartment Six, was published in January of this year and was a number 1 hot new release on Amazon for 4 weeks.

Stranded goes on pre-order Monday October 12th on Amazon and is released October 19th.

I’m 47, married and have two beautiful children. Currently, I’m a full-time plumber but would love nothing more than to make a living from my writing. I hope I write stories and people continue to enjoy them for years to come. That would be completely amazing and a dream come true.

stuartjamesthrillers.com

@StuartJames73

https://www.facebook.com/stuartjamesauthor/

Five Little Words by Jackie Walsh - Blog Tour and Review

Thursday, October 22, 2020



I'm thrilled to welcome you today to my blog for a stop on the tour for Five Little Words by Jackie Walsh! I previously reviewed The Secrets He Kept on this blog, so when the opportunity came up to read another of Jackie's books I jumped at it. 

Here's the description of the book:

Five Little Words... Can destroy your life

'Wowwow, wow, this book had me guessing all the way to the end!' ☆☆☆☆☆ Reader Review

When new mother, Laura Caldwell, opens the card dropped through her letterbox, she expected to see a heartfelt note, congratulating her on the birth of baby Shay.

Instead, she sees a message that makes her blood run cold. 'Your husband is a murderer.' It couldn’t be true, could it? Not Conor, her adoring husband. He couldn’t be behind the brutal killing of local barmaid, Vicky. Not him.

But while Laura fights to discover the truth about her husband, she’s also holding dark secrets of her own; secrets she’s spent years trying to hide. Could the card be a desperate attempt at revenge – or could her husband really be a murderer? There’s a tangled web between this perfect couple – and the truth might just destroy them...

Here's Jackie's bio:

Jackie Walsh lives in Dublin with her husband Paul and dog Layla. She is a member of the Irish Writers Centre and The Irish Crime writer’s group. After years spent building her own business she decided to take time out and pursue her interest in writing. With a lot to learn, Jackie attended classes, writing groups and travelled to lots of festivals and launches She secured a publishing deal with Hera Books who published Familiar Strangers and The Secrets He Kept in 2019 and Five Little Words in 2020.

Twitter: @JackieWalsh_ie


And here's what I thought:

I was intrigued by the premise, about a person who has just brought home her baby when she hears an accusation about her husband, so I signed up for this blog tour. I read this book while I was on holiday in September and it was perfect holiday reading. 

Laura is an outsider in the village. Conor is the heir to a brewing empire in a little town about an hour away from Dublin. I didn't like Conor much, I could truly believe he was a murderer! He didn't want to inherit the brewing empire, but the premature death of his dad, Seamus, who baby Shay is named after, meant he had to. Laura and he haven't known each other very long. Conor was seeing a girl called Olive, who still works for him at the brewery, when he met Laura, but broke it off when Laura was pregnant. He and Laura got married quite quickly and now obviously have a baby, but it starts to dawn on Laura that she doesn't know her husband at all really. 

They live in a big house and have an ex employee of the brewery, Pat, living on the grounds. Laura finds it difficult to fit into the house, to not feel like she's just a lodger there. She also struggles to get on with Conor's overbearing mother, Maggie. She used to live in the house and does somewhat treat it like her own still. Laura is desperate for just some time with Conor and Shay, but Maggie doesn't know where she's not welcome. 

As for the girl who was killed, Laura had only met Vicky a couple of times, as she was a local barmaid. She doesn't know of any relationship between Conor and Vicky, but now she's suspicious. Then there's Conor's best friend, Noel, who Laura doesn't trust. 

Laura is close to her sister, Amanda, who still lives in Dublin but who is a sympathetic ear for her, and a good auntie to Shay. Laura has secrets of her own, secrets about her painful past, which she hasn't yet shared with Conor, and now feels like she can't. 

I really liked the book - it kept me reading and was compelling. I loved the setting, I could imagine the house and village really well. I liked Laura and felt a lot of sympathy for her. I thought the set up was a good one and enjoyed the mystery. I'll definitely read something else by Jackie Walsh, I think she has a way of telling a story that I really like.

Please do check out the other stops on this tour! 

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons - Review

Sunday, October 18, 2020

 


I can't remember where I heard of this book, but it appealed to me and it was available in my library system, so I requested it to come to my local library and then picked it up. I haven't been in there since early March and it was quite weird. I could only walk one way round the library and a lot of the non fiction was jumbled up and in the wrong place. The reservations were on a shelf in the middle of the library. I did have a look at some other books, and wasn't sure if that meant they would need to be wiped or quarantined, so I left them out on the shelves in case they did need to be. I got my reservation and went to the desk, but the librarian couldn't touch the book, so I had to kind of reach under the screen between us so she could have access to the barcode. I find that quite odd really - if I'd known I wouldn't have put it on the desk but held it, open, but the librarian didn't tell me to do that. Oh well, I suppose it's just more weird things in this pandemic. The library was quite empty; I hope people do still use it so it doesn't get closed. 

Anyway, the book. It's set in the sixties and is about Juliet Montague and her children and family. At the beginning of the book she is turning thirty years old. She's got the day off from her job in her father's spectacle factory, so she goes from her home in Chislehurst into London and there she meets a painter, Charlie. She commissions a painting of herself from him.

She already had a painting of herself, aged nine, when an artist bartered a portrait of Juliet in exchange for some glasses with her father. But her husband, George Montague, took the painting with him when he disappeared on Juliet's birthday eight years earlier. George was a Hungarian war refugee and gambled away a lot of the family's money. When he took the painting he also took some money and some premium bond certificates. 

Juliet is from a Jewish family, and since George disappeared she is an aguna, a woman neither married nor divorced. She can't get a religious divorce because only men can divorce women in Judaism, but she's not free to start another relationship. She is more or less shunned by the community, and doesn't go to synagogue anymore. Her mother despairs, but her dad is very fond of her and becomes very proud of her.

Through Charlie, Juliet meets other artists and opens a galley in London to exhibit them. Over the years, she does better and better at this, much preferring the job to working for her dad. She meets ex war artist, Max, a reclusive figure with whom she starts a relationship - something which she asks the children to keep from their grandma. 

The book is told in vignettes, spanning maybe a year each. The book itself concentrates mostly on the sixties, but towards the end are parts from the 80s and the noughties. Juliet meets a succession of artists, all of whom want to paint her, and the stories of all these paintings are told within the chapters. I liked this - it's a good way to make a novel span so much time, and I liked most of the artists Juliet came into contact with, even if I felt like she was a bit of an unlikely muse. 

The first half of this book REALLY dragged for me. I can't really say why, but I wasn't enjoying it at all. My partner told me to read something else but I was determined to finish it. The second half picked up a lot. I liked the relationship between Juliet and Max, and I liked the odd point of view we got from Leonard, Juliet's son. I liked Juliet and sympathised with her, and didn't blame her for never going to shul with her dad. 

I liked the fact that the family were Jewish and how this impacted their lives and thoughts, but the book wasn't about them being Jewish per se. I liked all the little bits of the culture that were present in the narrative, and how Juliet often recognised this in other people. There's a brilliant bit with a character who has to be based on Brian Epstein, I loved him. 

I would read something else by Natasha Solomons for sure, even though I felt like the first half dragged here for me. I have recommended this book to my book group because I think a few people there would enjoy it. I'm giving it four out of five because the second half made up for a slow first half. 

A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby - Review

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


I had heard loads of good things about this book on Twitter so when I bought a bunch of books off Waterstones a few months ago I added this as I was intrigued and it was only a few quid. I knew it had fantasy elements which isn't usually my jam, but I was determined to keep an open mind. It turns out that I like fantasy when it is rooted in the modern world but has magical elements, and I don't really like ye olde worlde fantasy when the world is totally different. Now that I know that, I may well choose some more fantasy books to read!

Okay, so the main character here is Safiya. She is thirteen years old and at the beginning of the book lives with her dad. Her parents are divorced and her mum lives in a flat nearby. Her best friend is Elle. Elle and Safi's mum seem to have more in common than Safiya does; they go to the theatre and Safi misses out on buying tickets to a video game convention that she wants to go to. Later, Safiya and her mum have a huge argument and Safiya storms out. 

Then Mum has a stroke and ends up in a coma. Safiya is obviously devastated. She goes to visit her mum, and then slips into a kind of dream world. She's back in her mother's home in Kuwait, where the young Aminah grew up. Safi sees her mum's experiences as a young girl and as she does so begins to unlock more understanding about her mum.

At the same time, Safi's friendship with Elle is in trouble. Safiya has always been very much in Elle's shadow, very much the follower to Elle's leader, but then she learns how to stand up for herself. I loved this aspect of the book - it was so true to how friendship as a young teen is. When it hurts and you're growing, but growing apart. I loved this so much, as well as Safiya's new friends and how precious they were. 

Safiya's dad, James, is white, but her mum is from Kuwait and grew up in a Muslim family. This culture is depicted really richly and in a really beautiful way in the book. I don't know too much about Kuwait but I could picture it perfectly and really liked it. I liked how the narrative wound its way through Aminah's past and things that were precious to her, and how while these things were different to Safiya's interests but she still understood why they were precious - which again is something you have to learn about growing up. 

This is a sold middle grade novel with lovely fantasy elements and strong relationships. I loved the ending. I liked Safiya's relationships with both her parents. My only criticisms are from a writing point of view - there are a few continuity errors that I couldn't help but notice and which annoyed me! But I'm giving this four out of five. 

Fattily Ever After by Stephanie Yeboah - Review

Friday, October 9, 2020

 

As you may know, I am a fat woman, and I like to read books about fat people, both fictional and non fictional. I have a tag for the books I've read about fat people. Some are much better than others. I find it difficult when thin people write about us, because they often don't know what it's like to live in a fat body and they write about us in really grotesque ways (this is one of the reasons I hate Every Day by David Levithan...). So when a fat person writes a book about radical fat acceptance, I often buy it because I want to support that person, I want there to be more books by fat people, and I know that we are marginalised and need all the support we can get. 

I know OF Stephanie although I don't know her personally. She's a clothes blogger and we have several friends in common. I like her style, she always looks amazing. So when I saw that she was writing a book at her body and fatness and radical fat acceptance, I immediately ordered it. It arrived at the end of August and I picked it up almost immediately too. 

A lot of the political stuff isn't particularly new to me, but Stephanie wrote about it in a way that is really accessible for people to whom fat acceptance is a new concept. Stephanie writes about her experiences as a fat child and a fat adult, which I really liked. Plus, she's black, meaning there's an extra layer to her marginalisation, one that I have never experienced and never will and which I liked reading and learning more about. I liked Stephanie's careful dissemination of the intersections of fatness and race and how both have affected her life. She's younger than me, and came to fat acceptance in the early 2010s when she started her blog, which is slightly after me but the story of which really resonated with me. I liked reading about her journey and where she is now on her path, and how she encouraged others - especially fat black womxn - to walk alongside her. One thing I've learnt is that thanks to society and the media we are bombarded with anti-fat messages every day, and even though I am a confident person I sometimes get down about my body and have to remind myself why actually I am free to live my life however I see fit. Reading books like this is almost a medicine against all the fat shaming I encounter - it's like a little booster and I come away feeling positive and rejuvenised. 

The book is really colourful - there's lots of patterned pages and lots of pull out quotes printed big, which are both eye catching and serve as a radical manifesto for Stephanie and lots of us like her. There's also some truly gorgeous illustrations which add to the words gorgeously. Stephanie writes in a fun and funny way, meaning that while this book touches on a lot of radical concepts, it's not at all dry or academic. I really liked this book, and would recommend it to anyone! 

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield - Review

Monday, October 5, 2020


Where did I get it? I bought it a few weeks ago. I saw Kathryn talk about the book in one of the YALC at Home panels, and thought it sounded interesting, so bought it on eBay I think. 


What's it about? Ava is sent an invitation to attend some kind of gathering at a pier near her house which has been abandoned for years. The place burnt down and is now left alone by the locals, full of rumours about what happened there. Ava's invitation is basically blackmail - there's a photo on the front about a secret she has, and she doesn't know who else knows that secret. 

When she turns up, there are nine other teens there. One, Jolie, is her best friend, although the two of them have been growing apart recently and there's a lot of resentment between them. Another, Clem, is a really popular boy at school but he and Ava have been working together on a project with her photography and his music. They kind of had a thing, but it's fallen apart and Ava isn't too pleased to see him. Among the other teens are a posh boy called Teddy, an ice queen called Esme, and a boy called Noah who kind of mysteriously disappeared a year ago and hasn't been seen since. 

The pier appears to not be abandoned - there's lights and music and in every reflection there is a man. The old owner of the pier, Baldo, was a magician, and his assistant, Whispers, is the man who appears in the reflections. He can also get into people's heads, and he suggests that each of the teens kill the others in order to protect their secrets. 

Now, I will say a couple of things. Firstly, in reading some reviews of this book, I saw that a few people didn't realise it was in the horror genre and thought there would be some physical explanation for the supernatural happenings. That's an easy mistake to make and I have to say I veered towards wondering that a few times - I hoped someone would be behind it and there would be a rational explanation. As it was, it is pure horror, and if you read that you should know that.

Secondly I felt like there were parts that were written really well, that were genuinely terrifying and which spooked me. There's a great bit with some mirrors that I really liked. But there's lots of bits which are probably supposed to be scary but which just turn out confusing. For instance, as Ava is a photographer, she keeps taking photos. As time goes on, it becomes evident that time is behaving strangely, and there's photos on the camera that Ava doesn't remember taking. Tha's really scary! I love that! But there's no resolution to it, it's baffling as to why it happens, and as a reader it left me unsatisfied. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I think the premise is great but there was a lot going on and too much left unfinished. It took me a week to read this which is unbelievable for me, but it just wasn't gripping me. 

I also thought some of the secrets the teens were being blackmailed with were ridiculous. A few made sense but at least one left a bad taste in my mouth, too 


What age range is it for? 14+ 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, although it's not really a focus


Are any main characters people of colour? I don't think so 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think there's some mental health stuff going on with at least a couple, which could have been expanded upon and I'm sad it wasn't. 


Is there any sex stuff? No 


Are drugs mentioned or used? They're mentioned, and used, but again this was kind of said in passing and not unpacked enough for me. 


Is there any talk of death? Yes, and actual deaths, some of which are graphic. 


Are there swear words? No I don't think so
 

What criticisms do I have? I think I've been quite critical and I'm sad about it because I wanted to really like this book 


Would I recommend the book? Honestly, no 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I had such high hopes for it! 

 

What do I think of the cover? I like it, I think it's eyecatching. I will say also that I don't quite understand the title. Good girls don't seem to really.... die first? I was expecting the title to link in a bit more. 

 

What other books is it like? I don't know any 


How many stars? Three out of five. I will give the author another go, though! But this one just didn't hit it for me. 

 

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