#fridayreads

‘The Hunting Party’ by Lucy Foley #FridayReads #BookReview #crime #thriller

hunting party

Hive     Waterstones

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

I love a good thriller where the story is character-driven, and this doesn’t disappoint.

A group of friends gather in a hunting lodge to celebrate New Year, but their apparently close friendships aren’t all they seem. In fact, they don’t seem to like each other very much.

Heather is the manager of the lodge, she’s there to escape something in her past. Doug, the enigmatic gamekeeper, is also hiding something. And the so-called friends seem to be hiding a lot of things from each other.

The story is told in flashbacks from the day a body is found, back and forth with the New Year celebrations, so we know what all the tension is leading up to – but we don’t know who the victim is or who did it. And there are so many skilfully placed clues and red herrings that the final revelation is a real surprise.

The landscape is almost a character in itself, beautifully described and so atmospheric.

There were just a couple of things that didn’t work for me. There was one aspect of the final outcome that didn’t quite ring true but I won’t say what that was for fear of spoilers. Also, I liked Heather so much, but I felt as though I didn’t get to know enough about her or her history.

That said, this is a really gripping and enjoyable read.

4 stars

 

‘Do Not Disturb’ by Claire Douglas #FridayReads #BookReview

do not disturb

Hive     Waterstones

Could your dream home be your worst nightmare?

After what happened in London, Kirsty needs a fresh start with her family. 
And running a guesthouse in the Welsh mountains sounds idyllic.

But then their first guest arrives.
Selena is the last person Kirsty wants to see.
It’s 17 years since she tore everything apart.

Why has she chosen now to walk back into Kirsty’s life?
Is Selena running from something too?
Or is there an even darker reason for her visit?

Because Kirsty knows that once you invite trouble into your home, it can be murder getting rid of it . . . 

Having just moved from the south east of England to a small village in West Wales, I was intrigued to read this book.

It’s a great idea, with lots of different strands that are really interesting and that do keep you turning the pages to see what’s at the bottom of all these weird events.

I liked Kirsty and sympathised with her, particularly the situation she was in with her mum, grateful for the help, but irritated by her behaviour, and not able to say anything because of the gratitude! A horrible situation to be in.

But – there were so many strands here that it didn’t feel as if enough time was given to any of them. There was such a lot that could have made this into a much more satisfying novel, particularly the story around Selena and Ruby, and the resentment Kirsty felt towards her husband.

One of the ‘red herrings’ was dealt with so quickly and with no real depth whatsoever which was hugely disappointing.

And, as someone who has moved to Wales, I found the idea of the locals resenting the ‘incomers’ a bit of a tired old stereotype.

The ending too felt a bit odd and definitely needed to be developed further. The implications of the ending are absolutely huge and could be so interesting. But again, there was no real depth.

A real shame, because this could have been so good. There was a lot I really liked, but I wish it had been better.

three and a half stars

‘BAD’ BY CHLOE ESPOSITO #BOOKREVIEW #FRIDAYREADS

bad

Hive   Waterstones

She stole the life she wanted. Now someone wants to steal it back . . . 

Alvie Knightly may be waking up in the Ritz, but her life is no bed of roses.

Firstly, she has the mother of all hangovers.

Secondly, her beautiful, spoiled twin sister Beth has just been found dead in Sicily – and the police want Alvie for questioning.

And thirdly, Alvie’s hot new boyfriend has vanished with every penny of the millions they stole from Beth.

But he picked the wrong girl to mess with.

Alvie will pursue her ex to Rome in a game of cat and mouse that only one of them can survive.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned . . .

But can Alvie get revenge before her crimes catch up with her? 

I absolutely loved the first in this trilogy so was so looking forward to this one. The first book, ‘Mad’, is funny, weird, different, and Alvie is all of these things too. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy ‘Bad’ nearly as much.

The things that happen in ‘Mad’ work so well because they are shocking and unexpected and you can’t quite believe the things that Alvie gets up to. In ‘Bad’ it’s either more of the same (so it’s no longer a shock) or things are just ridiculously out there, so much so that it doesn’t feel as funny or as compelling.

There are some really funny moments, and I do love the author’s writing style. It just all felt a bit ‘samey’.

It’s a real shame, because I think Alvie has so much potential – she’s so different to all those wishy-washy female characters out there. I’m hoping this is just a glitch though, and I will give the third book a go. I just hope the Alvie we know and love is back to her mad, bad and dangerous best.

3-stars-out-of-5

‘Your Closest Friend’ by Karen Perry #FridayReads #BookReview #thriller

closest friend

Hive    Waterstones

Keep your friends close. And your enemies closer.

Cara shouldn’t have survived the attack. But at the last moment, a stranger snatched her to safety.

In the hours that followed, she told her Good Samaritan secrets she’d never told a soul.

Not even her husband. Especially not her husband.

In the aftermath, Cara is home, healed and safe. Which is when the anonymous threats begin.

Someone knows things about her that they shouldn’t.

Cara’s Good Samaritan offers to help – to save her all over again.

That night, Cara made a friend for life. But what if she isn’t a friend at all?

This has a really gripping beginning, and had me hooked from the first page. Radio producer Cara is on her way home when she finds herself caught up in a terrorist attack and is pulled into the safety of a coffee shop by a stranger, Amy.

Frightened, in shock, and still a little drunk from her evening out, in the hours they are hiding, Cara finds herself confiding her darkest secrets to Amy.

This sets the ball in motion for a twisty thriller, told from both Amy and Cara’s points of view.

The writing is really strong, and each scene adds to the slightly surreal, claustrophobic nature of the story. It’s a clever tale, and really intriguing. I got so frustrated with Cara at times, for not being able to see what was under her nose – proof of a storyteller that knows how to keep her reader engaged!

It’s a good, solid, well written thriller, and I’d definitely read more by this author.

4 stars

 

‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ by Arundhati Roy #FridayReads #BookReview

Ministry

Hive  Waterstones  Amazon.co.uk

At magic hour; when the sun has gone but the light has not, armies of flying foxes unhinge themselves from the Banyan trees in the old graveyard and drift across the city like smoke…’

So begins The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy’s incredible follow-up to The God of Small Things. We meet Anjum, who used to be Aftab, who runs a guest-house in an Old Delhi graveyard and gathers around her the lost, the broken and the cast out. We meet Tilo, an architect, who although she is loved by three men, lives in a ‘country of her own skin’ . When Tilo claims an abandoned baby as her own, her destiny and that of Anjum become entangled as a tale that sweeps across the years and a teeming continent takes flight…

I absolutely adored ‘The God of Small Things’ – one of the best books I’ve ever read – and this novel, ten years in the making, is just as good.

This is a tricky book to explain; it’s almost impossible to summarise, so I won’t even try. It is so intricately woven and so complicated, but it isn’t difficult to read – in fact it’s an immense pleasure to do so because every single passage is so beautifully crafted. Arundhati Roy is a remarkable writer, a genuine talent and I heartily recommend this book not only to those who love to read, but also to those who write, because we could all learn a thing or two from the writing here.

I didn’t know a great deal about Kashmir before I read this book. The horrors of that ongoing conflict are told through some fascinating and compelling characters – which makes it all so much more disturbing. But the book is also life-affirming and positive, the kindness of strangers, of friends, of family overcoming the bloodshed and the violence.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I hope it doesn’t take the author another ten years to write her next novel.

5 stars

‘A Speyside Odyssey’ – a lovely Christmas gift #ChristmasBooks #Fridayreads

A Speyside Odyssey - High Res Cover Image

I had the pleasure of working with Dr Norman Matheson on his lovely book ‘A Speyside Odyssey’. I don’t usually do book promotions, but this is a very special book and one that will make a truly lovely Christmas present.

The book has been endorsed in a foreword by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles.

Filled with beautiful illustrations, ‘A SPEYSIDE ODYSSEY’ details the fascinating life story of the Atlantic Salmon as it undertakes one of the most remarkable, and most deadly, journeys in nature.

The story begins with conception in a remote highland burn, and follows the hazardous journey the salmon take through small tributaries to the River Spey, and from the estuary on to distant oceanic feeding grounds.

After gorging for one or more years on the prolific food sources of the North Atlantic, the odyssey draws to its conclusion as, with remarkable accuracy, the salmon complete the long journey home to spawn in the burn of their origin.

The salmon’s life-cycle provides a unique background for a natural history of Speyside. As the year unfolds, the changing topography of the landscape and river, the details of bird and animal life, wild flowers and salmon fishing lore are brought to life in words and beautiful watercolour illustrations.

‘A SPEYSIDE ODYSSEY’ is an emotive celebration of natural history in a breath-taking and captivatingly beautiful area of north-east Scotland.

The author’s profits will go to the Atlantic Salmon Trust – a charity dedicated to salmon and sea trout survival.

‘A SPEYSIDE ODYSSEY’ is available from Troubador, Hive, W H Smith and Waterstones, as well as Amazon.

About the Author

Norman Matheson, a retired surgeon, has been captivated by nature since his boyhood in upper Speyside. As a lifelong salmon fisherman, he is known throughout the Spey and Aberdeenshire Dee. He has published extensively. As an artist, he has illustrated children’s picture books and the illustrations in this book are his work. He was awarded an MBE for voluntary work in the visual arts.

 

 

‘The Language of Kindness’ by Christie Watson #BookReview #FridayReads

kindness2

Waterstones.co.uk  Amazon.co.uk

Christie Watson was a nurse for twenty years. Taking us from birth to death and from A&E to the mortuary, The Language of Kindness is an astounding account of a profession defined by acts of care, compassion and kindness.

We watch Christie as she nurses a premature baby who has miraculously made it through the night, we stand by her side during her patient’s agonising heart-lung transplant, and we hold our breath as she washes the hair of a child fatally injured in a fire, attempting to remove the toxic smell of smoke before the grieving family arrive.

In our most extreme moments, when life is lived most intensely, Christie is with us. She is a guide, mentor and friend. And in these dark days of division and isolationism, she encourages us all to stretch out a hand.

The NHS is something that should be protected, but unfortunately we tend to take it and those that work in it for granted. With the slow, sneaking privatisation that’s going on at the moment, and the understaffing caused by Brexit, this is definitely a time when we should be celebrating the nurses, doctors and support staff that work so hard under some of the most stressful conditions.

This is a timely book then, well-written, packed full of really interesting historical detail and lots of real life experiences too. Some of these are hard to read, because you can feel the grief that Christie feels in these moments. And it’s lovely to read an account that actually shows what a nurse does – they don’t make the tea or put flowers in vases, you know! I admit I have a personal axe to grind. My sister has been nursing in the NHS for thirty-five years, my daughter’s first few days were spent in the neo-natal unit, one niece is a health visitor, another is a mental health nurse, and, with a son with mental health issues, I’m more than aware of how woefully underfunded and understaffed this area of the health service is. All of these wonderful women in my family are intelligent, well-trained, capable and professional, and they deserve the utmost respect. And the stories in this book show why.

Too often these types of books are sentimental and shmaltzy, and can almost feel voyeuristic – nosing in on a stranger’s grief and tragedy. This book isn’t like that at all. Christie shows great respect to the patients she has nursed and this is a fascinating book.

Emotional, but not sentimental, honest but not gratuitous, this book shows why we should value our NHS, and fight to keep it.

5 stars

‘The Craftsman’ by Sharon Bolton #BookReview #Fridayreads

craftsman


 

Waterstones   Amazon.co.uk

Devoted father or merciless killer?

His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago?
Or is there something much darker at play?

Strong, believable female protagonist? Tick. Witches? Tick. Page-turning drama? Tick. And lots of scares and surprises along the way too.

I love scary films and scary books but I’m not a fan of horror and cruelty for the sake of it. There needs to be a good story, compelling characters that I can really care about, and a hint of the supernatural never goes amiss either. ‘The Craftsman’ ticks all the boxes.

The story follows two timelines – Florence as a young, naïve, female police officer in the seventies, dealing with all the sexism and prejudice that goes with that. We meet her thirty years later too, at Larry Glassbrook’s funeral. Larry was a sadistic murderer, and Florence was the one who put him away. But not everything is at it seems – not then and not now.

Beautifully crafted, intelligent and exciting, ‘The Craftsman’ was an absolute pleasure to read. As someone who is a bit obsessed with the story of the Pendle witches, the references to them and their tragic story went down incredibly well, and it was all so well drawn together.

Dark, disturbing, fabulous!

5 stars

‘Now You See Her’ by Heidi Perks #FridayReads #BookReview #Thriller

now

Waterstones   Amazon.co.uk

Charlotte is looking after her best friend’s daughter the day she disappears. She thought the little girl was playing with her own children. She swears she only took her eyes off them for a second.

Now, Charlotte must do the unthinkable: tell her best friend Harriet that her only child is missing. The child she was meant to be watching.

Devastated, Harriet can no longer bear to see Charlotte. No one could expect her to trust her friend again.
Only now she needs to. Because two weeks later Harriet and Charlotte are both being questioned separately by the police. And secrets are about to surface.

Someone is hiding the truth about what really happened to Alice.

I really like the idea behind this novel. Charlotte is looking after Alice for her friend – something Harriet never usually allows. Alice is nervous, timid, shy, a bit like her mum. Charlotte, on the other hand, seems confident, sociable, the opposite of Harriet.

She takes her eyes off Alice for a few minutes – and Alice is gone.

This is the part of the novel that really interested me – Charlotte’s reaction, her guilt and distress. We can all imagine how dreadful we would feel, and the way Charlotte reacts is portrayed really well. And Harriet’s reaction too is really convincing. It would be so hard to forgive someone in those circumstances. That’s the stuff of a really gripping tale.

But that’s not what this story is. There’s more to Alice’s disappearance than meets the eye. And that’s where, for me, the story fell down. Without giving too much away, when the ‘twist’ was revealed, I was left feeling a bit confused, because the character’s story up until then, her reactions and emotions, hadn’t led to this. And while it’s the mark of a good twist that you’re shocked and surprised, then there’s the dawning realisation when you think back on what you’ve read and remember little things that pointed to this all along. For me, that was lacking, and so the twist didn’t work.

It’s well-written, and the author can obviously write. It’s just a bit disappointing.

three stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

‘Our Kind of Cruelty’ by Araminta Hall #bookreview #fridayreads

cruelty

Waterstones   Amazon.co.uk

Mike and Verity have a special game. The Crave.

They play it to prove what they already know: that Verity loves Mike. That she needs Mike.

Even though she’s marrying another man.

Now Mike knows that the stakes of their private game are rising.

This time, someone has to die…
Mike adores Verity. She’s everything to him. His troubled background makes him crave security and love and he thinks Verity is the answer to everything. And he thinks she feels the same. At first she does, and she’s a willing participant in the excitement of their game. But when things change, Mike can’t accept it. And the story gets incredibly dark.

I’m really in two minds about this book. It is well-written, well-paced (not a twisty, turny roller coaster, but a good, slow burner), it’s gripping, and involving. It’s also an extremely thought-provoking and honest account of how women are treated, of how assumptions are made of them, how they better not like sex, or they will be judged. And I think that’s something very important.

That said, I did feel that Mike’s character was a little stereotypical. He’s badly affected by his childhood but there must be something else that makes him behave the way he does. It can’t be that simple. It’s a rather flat portrayal of mental health problems and it does get a little tiring, as someone with experience of mental health issues, to see such ‘easy’ motivations for unlikeable characters.

That said, the scenes that explore the treatment of Verity are excellent, timely, valid, important – the novel is well-worth reading for this alone.

Recommended.

4 stars