Review: Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland

lost-for-wordsWhat I thought:

I was seduced into reading this book when I realised it was mainly set in a bookshop. And not only that, a higgledypiggledy secondhand bookshop in York.  Being from Yorkshire, York is one of my favourite places to visit and I could quite happily lose myself in bookshops like that for hours (in fact, I imagined it to be a little bit like one near the cathedral that I love going in for its quirkiness).

Aside from the setting, I very quickly fell in love with the protagonist, Loveday Cardew. Prickly, feisty and sarcastic, she had me laughing out loud at several of her one-liners. She basically says and does the things that many of us wish we could, without being concerned with what people might think about her. But Loveday didn’t start out this way. Flipping between her childhood and present day, we learn that before the “incident” there was quite a different Loveday. As we get to know her better, we also learn the reasons that she has become the way she is now.  Loveday was one of several characters in this book that I found incredibly endearing. Archie, the bookshop owner, is a delight, as is his warmth towards Loveday. Nathan, Poet and wearer of cravats, is also a wonderful character.

This is a story about hurt and self-preservation but above all else love, and how to let it back into your life. There is a little mystery running through the book too, as boxes of books that Loveday recognises from her childhood begin arriving in the shop but this is more a vehicle for allowing us to see into Loveday’s past as she reminisces.

Verdict:

Quirky and touching and Loveday is such a fabulous character, I think she will be with me for a while yet.

I received a copy of this book from Bonnier Zaffre via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Review: The Roanoake Girls by Amy Engel

roanoakeWhat I thought:

Firstly, that cover! It’s so pretty (although I was amused once I’d received it to realise that it is the material that my parents living room curtains were in the 90’s). Secondly, I saw a quote from author Sarah Hilary that likened it to Flowers in the Attic for a new generation. I was obsessed with that whole series back in the 80’s. Sold!

The story of the Roanoake girls begins with sixteen-year-old Lane’s arrival at her Grandparents large, rambling Kansas estate in the height of summer after the death of her mother who ran away from this very house many years before. Cousin Allegra, also 16, has grown up in the house after her own mother died when she was a baby. Both are stunningly beautiful, like their mothers and aunts before them, and both are damaged. The intense summer heat is the perfect setting for this claustrophobic and stifling tale and the remote, strange atmosphere of the house all add to the unfolding macabre and twisted narrative.

Lane narrates most of the book, both 10 years ago and in the present day when she returns to the house after a long absence after learning of Allegra’s disappearance. This, and the voices of other Roanoake girls from the past (all of whom either died or ran away) that are interspersed throughout is a great vehicle for allowing the read to piece bits together slowly. I wouldn’t call this crime fiction, or even a thriller, but it certainly has the forward momentum of one. With believable and flawed characters: those who crave love, those who take advantage, and those who are damaged by lack of it.  With deeply disturbing issues at its heart, The Roanoake Girls is not always a comfortable read, but it is a compelling one.

 

Verdict:

This is a dark and disturbing read, but once it gets you in it clutches you are as powerless as the Roanoake girls to resist its lure. Strangely addictive and deliciously twisted, I really enjoyed this book despite the content. It will certainly stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of this book which I chose to read and review honestly. This book will be released in the UK on 7th March 2017.

Throwback Thursday: The Mayor of Casterbridge

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Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is:

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

mayorTaken from my review in 2012:

When I began this book I have to admit that I didn’t think the three words I’d be using to describe it would be drama, excitement and intrigue . In fact, I really had no intention of reading this book at all any time soon as a friend of mine had to study it in school as a teenager and told me it’s the worst book she’s ever read and that had stayed with me and filed into the “don’t bother” part of my brain. But then I saw or heard something about this book (I forget where and what) and that it was about a man who sells his wife and baby daughter at a fayre and immediately I thought that sounds intriguing and off I popped to pick up a copy. How glad I am that I did – The Mayor of Casterbridge has turned out to be one of my favourite books! I loved it!

Michael Henchard is a young man of twenty-one and walking the countryside of Dorset with his wife, Susan, and their baby girl, Elizabeth-Jane, looking for work. They decide to rest a while in a small village where there is a fayre and several drinks later, Michael starts loudly asking for bidders to buy his wife. After accepting 5 guineas from a sailor he wakes later to realise that they have actually gone and when he realises what he has done he swears not to drink a drop more of alcohol for another 21 years (as long as he has so far lived). He starts to make inquiries about where the sailor and his family may have gone but nobody knows who he is and Michael is too ashamed of his conduct to search too effectively and he sets off on the road once more, alone.

The story then fast-forwards eighteen years and Michael is now the Mayor of Casterbridge (modeled on Dorchester in Dorset). It’s difficult to say more about what happens next as I really don’t want to give it away – this book is much better read if you know nothing about the characters and what is to come yet as there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. The fuller title for The Mayor of Casterbridge is The Life and Death of a Man of Character, and that is really what this book is based around – Michael Henchard and his fall and rise (and fall again). The main cast of characters is small enough that we really get to know them well and care about them: Susan and Elizabeth-Jane become part of the story again as does a Scottish traveller looking for work, Donald Farfrae and a young lady, Lucetta Templeman, who gets caught up in something that will come back to haunt her in a big way later in the book.

Henchard really is a man of character, as the title suggests, and he is prone to jealousy, impulsiveness and malice but in turn he can be caring, warm and reflective meaning that the reader never hates him, but actually feels for him as he is his own harshest critic. What astounded me was Hardy’s understanding of human nature: time and time again I was amazed that he had managed to get it so spot on; to really make me feel as the characters did and understand why they behaved the way they did.

What I really loved about this book, though, was the drama. This is why I love all the Victorian books I have read so far – they’re like watching a soap-opera. The Mayor of Casterbridge has it all – love, hate, greed, jealousy, deceit and repentance. And watch out for a scene involving a skimmington-ride (what the Victorians – and those before them – used to do to humiliate people, particularly adulterous women or women who beat their husbands which involved a very rowdy and public parade with effigies of the persons concerned being ridden through town on the back of donkeys) which has extremely tragic consequences.

I just had to share this quote with you too as it made me laugh:

“The present room was much humbler, but what struck him about it was the abundance of books lying everywhere. The number and quality made the meagre furniture that supported them seem absurdly disproportionate.”

Sound familiar? 😉

 


I loved the fact that there were pictures too

 

Verdict:

I heart Thomas Hardy! This is the second book of his that I have read (the first being Tess) and I now fully intend to gorge myself on the rest this year. Forget your preconceptions about dry and dull Victorian literature – this book has it all! A firm favourite now and one I will definitely read again at some point.

Have you read it? If so, what did you think?

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Throwback Thursday: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

throwbackthursdayThrowback Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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From my review in 2011.

I finished this book this afternoon after trying to drag out the ending as long as possible. I did not want to leave these characters behind; I wanted to continue on their journey with them, make sure they were OK – I miss them already.

I have been hearing about this book and have read lots of positive reviews for the longest time but sometimes I get put off by books that have so much hype around them and end up passing them by. Oh how glad I am that I didn’t do this with The Help. It is worth every glowing review, every recommendation and every superlative ever written about it.

The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 and is narrated by three women in turn. Aibileen and Minny are black maids and Miss Skeeter is a white college graduate who mourns the disappearance of her old maid and wants to do something more with her life than marry a local boy and have her kids raised by maids.

The story takes us with these women as the embark on a dangerous journey to try and change decades of prejudice and pave the way for a better life for the next generations. Through the words of each of these women we learn how rife racism and intolerance was back in the 1960’s deep south. There are tales of unbelievable cruelty and humiliation but also tales of tenderness and real love. It was so good to hear a story told primarily from the point of view of the black maids too and refreshing to hear both sides in all its rawness; the distrust and even hatred on both sides. The book also successfully managed to avoid being sensational or over-egging the pudding. Despite the subject matter (which is so important) the book never feels too heavy or preachy: it is as light as one of Minny’s famous caramel cakes and aswell as riotously funny and tender.

I implore you to read this book – you will fall in love with Aibileen, roar with laughter at Minny and rootfor Miss Skeeter for 450 pages. And I guarantee that Miss Hilly is one of the best bitches you will come across in any book! She is truly awful but so brilliantly drawn and you will root for her to get her just desserts (pun intended ;)).

I feel like I have lost friends now I have finished this book. It is a true gem and I highly, highly recommend.

I interviewed the author, Kathryn Stockett, for my blog and she was lovely. The interview can be seen here. Have you read this? What did you think?

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Blog Tour: Evil Games by Angela Marsons & Author Interview

angela-3Evil Games

I jumped at the chance of being part of this blog tour because Angela Marsons is my new author crush! I admit I had never even heard of her or her books until a few months ago when I downloaded Lost Girls (#3 in the DI Kim Stone series) on to my Kindle. I finished it, I downloaded the 4 others and read the entire series in 2 weeks. Kim Stone is my favourite Detective right now. She is direct, ballsy and sarcastic. She is also passionate about her job and makes me laugh out loud.

Evil Games is the second book in this series. I honestly don’t think you have to read them in order, but it’s always good to follow characters as they develop and get to know them. Certainly I would suggest that you read this book before #5 (Blood Lines) as the same character reappears and she is a bloody great one too! Dr Alex Thorne, Psychiatrist and evil manipulator is a fabulous creation and one you just love to hate. She has her own agenda at all times and, believing she is far smarter than everyone else, thinks she is untouchable. But has she met her match in Kim Stone?

Author Interview

On desert island books, sociopathy and scary Editors…

I was intrigued to know more about Angela Marsons and how she came up with her awesome creations and was chuffed to bits when she kindly agreed to answer some questions for this blog tour:

TBW: Kim Stone is my new favourite fictional Detective. How did she stalk you into bringing her to life and is she based on anyone you know (even a teensy bit)?

Angela: I love this question especially because you have deduced that I had no choice in the matter! She was in my head for many years before I allowed her to take control of the pencil and it was purely because she was just bursting to get out and have her say. And she hasn’t shut up ever since.  I think some of her directness does come from me. Previously I managed a large team of security officers which is not a job you can do without an element of assertiveness. Although I do like to think I have better social skills than Kim Stone.

TBW: Who would win in a game of Cluedo: Kim Stone, Hercule Poirot or Inspector Rebus? Why?

Angela: Ha, love this! I think they would all come together with their expert deductive minds and solve the crime together.

TBW: You’ve had five books in the Kim Stone series published now. When you write do you have a plot mapped out from the beginning or do you see where the book takes you? Has Kim or any of the other characters ever surprised you?

Angela: I don’t normally have a plot mapped out as I like to be surprised as I unfold the stories.  I generally have a vague idea of the beginning and the end although sometimes that is subject to change too. Yes, as the characters grow and become more real in my mind they begin to dictate some of the action. I may be writing a scene and it’s not working and often I realise it’s because I’m trying to make one of my characters do something that is not right for their character.

TBW: In Evil Games, Dr Alex Thorne is one of the best characters I’ve come across in crime fiction. Evil, twisted, brilliant. How did you research her and did she ever try to manipulate you into taking the book in her own direction rather than yours?

Angela: This has to be one of my favourite questions, ever. I had always wanted to write about a sociopath from a factual point of view. Not necessarily a hands-on killer but someone devoid of remorse and emotional attachment. The more I read about the subject the more intrigued I became.  I spent many hours reading books on the subject and honest first-person accounts of sociopathy.  I think that on occasion she did try and take over the book as I could write about her again and again so I had to limit myself to ensure that Kim Stone maintained the upper hand.

TBW: Can you give us a sneak preview into what is in store for Kim in the next book?

Angela: In the book that comes after Evil Games – Lost Girls – Kim is involved in a time-sensitive case involving the kidnap of two young girls. I can’t tell you anything about the one I’m working on as my editor would kill me and I’m very, very scared of her.

TBW: Have you ever read a book and thought “damn, I wish I’d written that”?

Angela: Disclosure by Michael Crichton. It was the only book that ever caused me to call in sick for work.  I re-read it a few months later to analyse and understand what it was that the author had do to entrap me in the story so successfully. Needless to say, the film was a complete disappointment.

TBW: Who are your favourite fictional characters from other books and why?

Angela: My two favourites are Tony Hill from the Val McDermid series. I love main characters that are a bit ‘off’ and not quite normal. I think it makes for very interesting reading.  My second favourite would be Kathy Mallory created by Carol O’Connell.  She is a police officer who is borderline sociopathic and is an intriguing main character to follow.

TBW: You’re stranded on a desert island for a year. Which 3 books do you take and why?

Angela: A Mother’s Secret by Renita D Silva – I love this author and all of her books and this one in particular brought me to loud, messy unladylike tears.

Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watsons – This book made me laugh out loud and if I’m on my own I’m going to need a chuckle or two.

Anything by Kathryn Croft as I’ve been dying to read one of her books.

TBW: You can go back to any time period in history for a day. Where and when do you go and why?

Angela: I think it would have to be the day the Berlin Wall began to fall.  It is such a significant event in my lifetime although I didn’t understand the importance when it happened so would like to go back and experience the hope with the knowledge of its meaning.

TBW: Which other authors (of any genre) do you currently enjoy reading?

Angela: Renita D’Silva – Women’s fiction

KL Slater – Psychological thrillers

Alex Caan – Crime

TBW: Is there a question you wish I’d asked you and if so, what is it?

Angela: Yes, the question would be – How highly do you value the input and time from bloggers and reviewers?

My answer – Very highly.  The time and effort that bloggers and reviewers put into their passion for words and championing the books they love continues to both amaze and inspire me.  On each new release of a Kim Stone book the response blows me away even more.

TBW: Quick-fire round:

Favourite colour: Burgundy

Favourite food: Pizza

Favourite animal: Dog

Favourite holiday destination: Wales

Favourite film: A few Good Men

Favourite childhood memory: Christmas mornings with my family.
Thank you so much to Angela for dropping by The Book Whisperer!

How many of this series have you read?


evil-games-blog-tour

Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

behindWhat I thought:

You’ve probably heard the hype. Even if you haven’t read it yet, you must have heard of the brilliant #WTFthatending hashtag that’s been all over Twitter. What a fantastic piece of marketing, as if you’re anything like me and love your Psych Thrillers, I am in no doubt that that would have got your attention like it did mine. The minute I saw it, I HAD to have this book!

This is an incredibly hard book to review, without giving anything away and I really don’t want to do that as the surprise(s) are what finish this fabulous book perfectly. What I can say is that Behind Her Eyes is a book about a marriage that might not be all it seems on the outside. The book is narrated, in turn, by Adele (wife of David) and Louise (has a drunken snog with David and ends up befriending Adele). Who knows about whom? Who has a hidden agenda? Who do you believe?

Unsettling, mind-boggling and at times frustrating, this book had me scratching my head throughout. Just when you think you have it nailed, the rug is whipped from under you again and you are left wondering what the hell is going on. Who is good? Who is bad? Who is telling the truth?

And now to that ending: I read a recent interview with Sarah Pinborough where she explained that she didn’t want to cheat the reader, so although the ending sort of blows your mind, there are subtle clues dotted throughout. I still challenge you to guess though.

Verdict:

The blurb on the back of the book warns the reader not to trust this book. Sage advice. If you’re somewhat jaded by the sea of “you won’t see the ending coming” promises in this genre at the moment, I promise you that this time: YOU WILL NOT SEE THE ENDING COMING! I’m tellin’ ya!!!

Have you read this yet? What did you think? I’m dying to know.

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Review: This Love by Dani Atkins

this-loveWhat I thought:

Dani Atkins is one of my author crushes. Of her 5 books, I have read and adored 4 of them (and still have one to read, which makes me happy). In fact, Our Song was in my Top 10 books for 2016. Dani’s books have a reputation for being tear-jerkers and they really are, but in a way that breaks your heart and lifts it up at the same time.

In This Love, Sophie lives a fairly reclusive life, not allowing herself to get close to many people for fear of losing them, thanks to a tragedy in her teens that has never let her go (or rather she has never let go of). One autumn night, a fire breaks out in her apartment and she is helped to safety by a random passer-by, Ben. What results is a friendship that alters the way Sophie looks at life. With a cast of colourful and endearing characters that surround what has become the authors trademark, a story about life and death, this is yet again a wonderful book to get lost in.

I would have loved to have heard more about some of the characters – what happened after Henry wrote the letter after 72 years? what was the reaction of the wife whose husband learned the piano secretly just for her? Did Carla ever get to any of the places on her travel wish-list? These would almost make stories in their own right and I, for one, would love to read them.

Verdict:

As with the previous books, I found This Love to be pure escapism. Real relationships, friendships, love and romance. Never corny, always charming. This book is about letting go, opening up to new experiences, looking forward and learning to live again. If you’ve never read any of Dani Atkins’ books I can highly recommend them. Feel-good reading at its best.