Review: Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

9780008196912What I Thought:

Aside from having a cover depicting cake (sold!) I had high hopes for this book anyway, having read (and loved) The Trouble with Goats and Sheep just a year earlier. In the same way that its predecessor did, Three Things About Elsie gently invited me in by way of a character whose story I immediately wanted to know more about, and whose side I walked by until the final page.

Florence, narrator for most of the book, is 84 years old and living in Cherry Tree home for the elderly with her best friend from childhood, Elsie. Flo is losing her memory and finds it hard to remember the simplest things sometimes,  and being part-narrated by two members of staff from Cherry Tree this also helps us to see how overlooked the elderly become, almost to the point of dehumanisation. There are times in the book when I had to pause and think. One example of this is when Flo is asked about another resident, Mrs. Honeyman, and whether she has lost someone: “only who she used to be” replies Flo.

What I didn’t realise this book would also be, was a mystery. A new resident moves into Cherry Tree; someone whom Flo recognises from her past and someone who causes her distress. Having Flo as our protagonist adds a whole extra level to solving the mystery, as she is an unintentionally unreliable narrator. As Flo picks away at the threads of her memory, supported by Elsie and another resident, Jack, we are able to put together pieces of the puzzle, but only at the same time as Flo, meaning that there are questions, doubts and hold-ups along the way.


Poignant, tender, delightful. A book about friendship, hope and about how our lives can touch others in such a small way but ultimately have the biggest impact. A wonderful read.



Review: Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

A1KeMQs1M0LWhat I thought:

This book started off great guns: I started the book one night before bed “just to see how it is…” and found myself flipping the pages furiously and unwilling to put it down. It was less than halfway through that I then noticed my interest waning and by three quarters I could happily have abandoned it and moved on… but I still liked the idea of the plot and really wanted to see how it would all resolve itself.

Set in a sliding-doors fashion, the first chapter follows Joanna on her night out with friend Laura, from her selfie with a stranger through to unwanted attention from a man that leads to them leaving the club early. Walking back along the canal side, and still upset from her earlier ordeal, Joanna hears quickening footsteps behind her and a split second decision makes her do something that will have long-term consequences for so many. The following chapters are then alternate between reveal (she confesses) and conceal (she runs away).

Such a great idea for a book and one I was looking forward to enormously to see how the consequences of our actions can affect us so utterly. It should have been great. But I got bored: bored of Joanna, whom I found it was difficult to empathise with, bored of the plot which didn’t seem to go anywhere for a huge chunk of the book and bored of waiting to find out how it would all pull together. If in fact, if it had pulled nicely together at the end (by way of a twist or something jaw-dropping) it would quite possibly have redeemed itself but I found the ending to not only be convenient in an attempt to wrap it all up but a bit of a damp squib.

I feel my main issue is that I couldn’t connect with Joanna or any other members of the cast, at all. It wasn’t simply that I didn’t like her; I couldn’t “get” her in either the reveal or conceal stories. That made it difficult to invest in the book overall as I was not engaged.


Not a bad book, just not a great one. I haven’t read Everything But The Truth (McAllister’s first book) yet but I do have a copy and I have heard great things so I wouldn’t be put off reading this at all.

Great concept, not so great execution.

Review: The Pool House by Tasmina Perry

Image result for the pool house tasmina perryWhat I thought:

I have long been aware of the name Tasmina Perry as an author but never been tempted to even venture as far as the first page in any of her books, simply deciding that they weren’t for me. What then drove me to select this on a whim? I have no idea but I am SO glad I did – I loved it!

Mysteries are my favourite genre so when The Pool House started with a murder I was hooked anyway but add a luxurious Hamptons Beach House and I was instantly transported to the glamorous world of young, rich socialites who will do anything to rise to the top. Being everything that I normally despise about society, these self-serving, ruthless individuals, when blended together with sunshine and New York night life, make a heady cocktail of shenanigans that fizz off the pages.

Jem and her husband Dan have moved to NYC from London to live the dream and Dan to pursue his career in publishing. When they are invited to house-share a beach house in the Hamptons with three other couples every weekend in the summer, they jump at the chance. Not quite able to believe their luck, they settle into their new lifestyle quickly and all is well until Jem discovers that the couple who had the room last year didn’t have quite so much luck when Alice was found dead in the swimming pool. With the group reluctant to discuss what happened last summer, Jem – with the help of neighbour and famous thriller writer, Michael Kearney – sets out to uncover what really happened that night, but it seems she may be meddling where she’s not wanted…


This book was so good! I was so engrossed in the story that I could have actually been there and what’s more, I’ve discovered that a lifestyle that would actually be my idea of hell is actually damn good fun to read about. I loved it so much that I’ve gone on to download three more of Perry’s books.

Fun, pacy and with oodles of glamour and also incredibly well written, I am now a firm fan. Highly recommended!



NB/ I requested a copy of this book on Amazon Vine in return for an honest review. The Pool House by Tasmina Perry is published in the UK in September 2017 by Headline. 

The Book Whisperer’s Month in Review – March 2017

month 1

March appears to have been a mixture of Historical and crime fiction for me, with 7 books read in total, and all bar one having been reviewed (the missing one to come shortly). I’ve discovered 5 brand new (to me) authors and out of those 5, four of them were debuts.

I have listed them in order (best first), although I really enjoyed all bar one (of the ones I finished – there are also some that didn’t make the cut because I couldn’t finish them). The stand out books for me this month were Larchfield and Six Stories. Links to full reviews in the book titles.

Larchfield by Polly Clark


Larchfield was a book I felt I wanted to savour and not attempt to read quickly due to my ever-increasing TBR pile. It was a book I looked forward to getting back to when I wasn’t reading it, not because it was a great thriller or mystery and I needed to know what was happening, but because I was happy in the company of the characters and the gorgeous prose.

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski


A great book: original, engaging and written by an author that is one to watch. Highly, highly recommended!

The Girl Before by J P Delaney

girl before

I found this to be a real page-turner and  I thoroughly enjoyed it. The chapters are short, there are unreliable narrators so you’re never really clear on what’s real and what’s not. It was pacy and entertaining and I give it a big thumbs up.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey


I think I wanted to love this book more than I did. And that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it – I did, very much. Perhaps it was a case of great expectations and it didn’t quite hit the mark. Would I recommend? Yes, I absolutely would.

Fierce Kingdom


I liked the fact that this isn’t your normal type of thriller and, there were genuine edge-of-your-seat moments that ensure those pages kept turning. And I actually didn’t see the end coming…

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain


I loved this book and was moved by it, and yet there were parts that left me strangely cold. The boys, as adults, seemed hardly to have matured at all which is a shame and in terms of character development, I didn’t feel there really was any. Or perhaps that was the point? The blurb talks about the book being about friendship but I found it very one-sided, and never really felt the friendship in maybe the way I was intended to. That said, I would still highly recommend this book: Rose Tremain is a fantastic writer.

After the Crash by Michel Bussi


Review to follow.

The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin


I am left with a feeling that is somewhere between perplexed, disappointed and scratching my head with incomprehension. Unbelievable motives, unconvincing and clichéd characters and a feeling that I have wasted several hours of my life. Every now and then I would have a moment of hope / joy when I thought the book might just get back on track again but unfortunately those were all too infrequent and brief.

Have you read any of these or are you planning to? I’d love to hear what you think.

Blog Tour: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

sixBlog Tour:

I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Six Stories for several reasons:

  1. The book is fantastic and original (and a little bit scary!)
  2. I had the privilege of meeting Matt last month and listening to him talk about the book
  3. It’s published by the fabulous Orenda Books


The Book – What I thought:

Deliciously original! I do love it when I come across a book with a format that hasn’t been used before. Hats off, and then some!

Told through the medium of podcasts, the book is split into the stories of 6 people who were around at the time of the death of a 15-year-old boy, Tom Jeffries, in 1997 on Scarclaw Fell in the middle of nowhere. It is hosted by a mysterious podcaster who wears a mask in the hope that his subjects will open up to him more due to the anonymity.  The podcasts grow rapidly in numbers of listeners as each story is aired, and there becomes somewhat of a frenzy around them as we work up to the final one.

But, hang on…. Six Stories isn’t just any thriller. It’s a damn scary one at times! Nanna Wrack terrified me so much that I daren’t stay up reading it on my own. I can’t remember the last time a book had that effect on me (in fact, I’m not normally a fan of horror or spooky but this was really well done).

A great book: original, engaging and written by an author that is one to watch. Highly, highly recommended!



Author Interview:

I am really thrilled to have had the opportunity to ask Matt some questions for the blog tour.

TBW – Six Stories had quite a few “hide-behind-the-sofa” moments. Did you intend to make the book a bit scary or did it just turn out that way?

Matt – Coming from a horror background, I think the horror just wound its way naturally into the story. I didn’t plan it; it just sort of happened that way. I was supposed to be writing my first crime novel after all…I honestly didn’t expect the response to the scary parts…it’s terribly humbling! Scaring people is something I’ve always strived to do in my writing.

TBW – Nanna Wrack! Explain yourself! 

Matt – Nanna Wrack is a sort of amalgamation of cautionary folktales from across the world. Cross-culturally, there are many bogeymen (and women) that haunt wild places, from Africa to the Arctic. Folk tales, mythology and cryptozoology are great passions of mine and I felt like Nanna Wrack is a bit like me putting my stamp on a crime story. I also like to entertain the idea that Nanna Wrack is nature perhaps fighting back at a world that is shifting away from nature…

TBW – Crime by podcast: how did you come up with this idea? 

Matt – I was a latecomer to Serial and binged it in a few sittings. I loved this fresh new format and the way it left you with more questions than answers. I figured if no one else had written a book in this style, I would do it first, then when a better writer than me did it, at least I could say it was my idea. I didn’t even know if it work work this way, but I had to try.

TBW – Which podcasts do you listen to and can you recommend any for crime fiction fans?

Matt – I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts rather than fictional ones. for me, truth is always scarier; my favourites at the minute are My Favourite Murder, Last Podcast on the Left, True Crime Brewery, Case File and They Walk Among Us.  For fictional ones, I quite enjoyed The Black Tapes and Tanis.

TBW – Did you alway want to be a published author? How did you get to where you are today with your debut novel just being released?

Matt – I’ve wanted to be an author, ever since about year 8. I’ve had many jobs in my time but they’ve always felt secondary to writing. I got here by perseverance; I didn’t stop writing, I went to every workshop, every event, everything that would help improve my craft. I joined a writing society at university. I wrote plays, poetry, short stories, sent stuff out , got rejected again and again and again. Maybe being stubborn is a better term for me…that’s the advice I’d give to any aspiring writer; be stubborn, never let that dream die.

TBW – If you weren’t a writer what would be your dream job?

Matt – If I wasn’t a writer, my dream job would be working with animals, maybe in a sanctuary for abused and rescued farm animals, up on a hill, near a forest, far from civilisation. Or reindeer herding in the Arctic circle.

TBW – Are you working on another book? If so, can you give us any sneak previews?

Matt – I’ve just finished another one which, I’ll let you know, is not as original in terms of format as Six Stories. The intention of writing something stylistically original was just how Six Stories happened, it was just what fell out of my brain. I will say the next one has less of a horror element and is more of a crime ‘procedural’ but is equal in terms of darkness.

I’m currently half way through something that I don’t want to reveal yet, but let’s just say fans of northern grimness won’t be disappointed…

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

Matt – Rik Mayall – Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ. This book never fails to make me laugh out loud. Rik Mayall was and still is one of my all time heroes and this autobiography is written so distinctly in his voice.

The Voynich Manuscript – a 15th century codex from Italy that is either a piece of linguistic genius or an elaborate prank. I discovered this when I was studying Linguistics at university; it has never been deciphered and whilst I’m no expert, a year on an island might give me a good chance.
The Necronomicon – by Abdul Alhazred. A year alone on a desert island is going to send me insane, I might as well pre-empt it and become a slave to the Great Old Ones.

TBW – Which other authors should we be reading and why?

Matt – Everyone should be reading Johana Gustawsson, a French author who’s just been snapped up by Orenda. I managed to get my paws on an advance copy of ‘Block 46’, a dark, brutal serial killer tale, the writing is magnificent. She’s going to be big! I would also advise anyone who hasn’t, to read anything by Lauren Beukes; she’s an incredible writer at the very top of her game.

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

Matt – I wished you’d asked me about food, no one asks me about food. Your answer would be hummus. All the hummus. Lebanese hummus. Nothing compares.

TBW – Quick fire round:

Favourite colour: Green
Favourite food: Turkish / Lebanese
Favourite holiday destination: Finland
Favourite animal: Cow
Favourite film: Dead Man’s Shoes
Favourite childhood memory: walking in the woods on an icy new year’s day.
TBW – A new book is already written – hurray!!!
Have you read Six Stories yet? What did you think?



Throwback Thursday: East Lynne by Ellen Wood


Throwback 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:

East Lynne by Ellen Wood

Whenever I mention this book to anyone they tend to look at me blankly. Why this book is not better known, I will never know. In fact, I might just start a one-woman campaign to get more people to read it. Here is my review from 2010:


What I thought:

Eat your heart out Wilkie Collins. What a fantastic book this is! I just loved every minute of it (and there were a LOT of minutes – for some reason it took me an age to read). For about three weeks I felt like I was living in the middle of a Victorian soap-opera. There was murder, betrayal, divorce, disguises and death and all this set among a backdrop of stately homes and horse-and-carriages. What’s not to love?

I can’t understand why this book is not better known or held in higher esteem. Hallelujah for Oxford World Classics reviving this book (with a fab cover too). I haven’t read anywhere near the amount of Victorian classics that I want to yet but for me, this ranks among my favourites now. Classed as a sensational novel in the 1800’s when it was written, this book was serialised in a weekly newspaper. How I would have waited with baited breath for each new edition to hit the news- stands!

The books main character is Lady Isabel Vane who lives at East Lynne (a grand stately home) with her Father. When her Father, the Earl of Mount Severn, dies and his debts are discovered Lady Isabel is proposed to by the lovely young lawyer, Archibald Carlyle (much to the heartache of one Barbara Hare who, unbeknown to Archibald, is in love with him). Lady Isabel and Archibald seem happy together and go on to have three children, but all the while Archibald is helping Barbara Hare to clear her brother’s name for a murder that was committed some years ago and for which he escaped the scene of the crime and hasn’t been seen since. With all the clandestine meetings between Archibald and Barbara, Lady Isabel is overcome by jealousy and in the heat of the moment abandons her entire family for a man of very dubious character. I don’t want to say too much else for fear of spoiling the book for anyone, but needless to say that this is most definitely not the last we see of Lady Isabel (or the “cad” she ran off with). With misinterpreted conversations galore, hushed secrets and Christmas-cracker disguises this book gallops along with you not daring to let go.

I can honestly say that, for me, there was not a dull moment in this book. It is very accessible and easy to read, even for those who find Victorian literature hard going, and long though the book was, I was sad when I came to the end.


I think I can honestly say that the sensational novels of the Victorian era are some of my favourites, having also loved Lady Audley’s Secret (Mary Elizabeth Braddon) and The Woman In White (Wilkie Collins). I love the dramatic storylines and the fact that you can almost hear the swish of the stage curtain at the end of a chapter and the “DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN”!!!

Fabulous book. Highly recommended! Why oh why is this book not better known???

Review: A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde

a-secretWhat I thought:

Katie Fforde always comes up trumps. I was first introduced to her books about 10 years ago when I was looking for something heart-warming and escapist and started with Practically Perfect (which included a rescued greyhound called Caroline – and I am a sucker for books with animals in them) and I instantly fell in love with the way the book took me somewhere else entirely. I have since read almost all (with just one or two left for when they might desperately be needed).

A Secret Garden has all the ingredients of Katie Fforde’s books that I love. An unlucky-in-love protagonist (or two) and a dashing, brooding Mr Darcy type. I have to admit, though, that the men in A Secret Garden were not as aloof as most of the male characters start out being; they were nowhere near as grumpy or oblivious to the attentions of the women around them which I found a tad disappointing.

Lorna is a gardener and Philly is a plantswoman and they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds, where both of them come to work on a project that puts them in the path of potential new suitors. There is the supporting cast of quirky characters too, that I have come to expect from Katie Fforde, this time in the form of Philly’s Grandpa and Lady of the house, Anthea who inject some real humour into the book. And what I really love about these books is that everyone seems so frightfully posh (but down to earth so relatable).


Katie Fforde’s books, for me, are like curling up by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate. It’s so easy to slip between the pages to that familiar world of sweet, but not sugary, funny and romantic. A Secret Garden is a real joy to read.