The Book Whisperer’s Month in Review – March 2017

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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.

Blogger Recognition Award


Although not a newbie into the book blogging world (The Book Whisperer actually kicked off in 2009), I am a relatively new returner after a couple of years hiatus (more later) so I am chuffed and delighted to be nominated for this award by Renée IT’S BOOK TALK, especially as she is one of my favourite recently discovered blogs.

Rules of this award

Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
Write a post to show your award
Give a brief story of how your blog started
Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to
Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide a link to the post you have created

How I got started

The Book Whisperer started back in December of 2009 after a suggestion from a friend on a group I was a member of on Goodreads. I didn’t actually know that book blogging was a “thing” back then but I quickly discovered a whole world of like-minded people who shared my passion for all things bookish. My blog readership grew quickly and I made lots of friends both online and also in person after meeting up a few times. In about 2014 I had a major book slump and as a result I stopped blogging for quite a while (not deliberately but I just stopped posting apart from the odd review for Netgalley). At the end of last year I decided to resurrect The Book Whisperer and have fallen in love with it all over again. It’s good to be back 🙂


This is supposed to be two pieces of advice but speaking from personal experience, while it’s amazing to be part of such a great group of like-minded people, it’s also easy to get carried away and do too much and then burn out, so I have included a few more tips.  Try to remember:

  • This isn’t your job (although if someone wants to pay me to do this full-time, I’m listening… 😉 ).
  • Don’t feel pressured to read every book you’re sent (you can’t)
  • Don’t feel obliged to do book tours (you don’t have to do them all – personally speaking, I only do the ones where I have already read the book and loved it or it is a publisher or author I know and respect)
  • I know how much fun it is to get so many gorgeous shiny, new books sent from publishers but read some of your own choices too (back catalogue books by one of your favourtie authors, something you’ve ordered from Amazon or picked up in a bookshop on a whim)
  • Remember why you started blogging in the first place. Keep it fun and if it starts to feel like a chore, either take a break or change what you’re doing to please you.

15 Fantastic blogs

I have included blogs I love from the first time I blogged (some of whom I have met in person) and blogs I have recently discovered where I not only enjoy reading their posts but they have also really welcomed me into the fold, either by liking and commenting on my posts or engaging with me on Twitter. A fabulous bunch of people in no particular order:

She Reads Novels – Helen

Beyond Eden Rock – Jane

Reading Matters – Kim

Savidge Reads – Simon

Annabookbel – Annabel

Dees Rad Reads and Reviews – Dee

My Chestnut Reading Tree – Jo

The Quiet Knitter – Kate

The Misstery – Annie

Rather Too Fond of Books – Hayley

Fiction Fan – Fiction Fan

The Last Word Book Reviews – John

Cleopatra Loves Books – Cleo

Damp Pebbles Book Blog – Emma

Random Things Through my Letterbox – Anne

Have a little look at their blogs and enjoy!









Throwback Thursday: The Road by Cormac McCarthy


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 Road by Cormac McCarthy

the-roadTaken from my review in 2010:

I read this book in a day – I just found it impossible to put down. Although it’s bleak I found it to be written in a gentle, almost dream-like way which I loved.

The story is of a man and his son (whose names we never learn) who are travelling south during the harsh, post-apocalyptic winter. They set off along the road with their cart and all their worldly belongings in it. We never find out the reason that the road and the fields and whole cities are burnt and abandoned; we are left the imagine for ourselves if it is due to war, asteroid etc.

I have read many reviews, since reading this book, that seem obsessed with knowing what happened to bring them to where they were. For me, that reason didn’t feel important – whatever had happened was years ago and clearly they had got past the “why?” etc and were just focused on survival. The book was like a snapshot in time which is why we never really find out anything other than what is going on right then.

The relationship between the man and boy is beautiful and so tender. It’s one of the most touching and important relationships I can remember reading about. The backdrop that McCarthy managed to pain in my mind was bleak and burnt and gray. Imagine having to survive through that? Not just life as you know it gone forever but how on earth would any survivor (and there are some whom the man and boy meet on the way – all struggling too) even begin to set up a new community? There were no animals left, no crops. Where would you even start? Would there even be a point?

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? I have heard mixed reviews on this book but I still think about it all these years later. That’s the sign of a powerful book.


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


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?