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Sandra Foy "Sandra" (Manchester)

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Chains of Sand
Chains of Sand
by Jemma Wayne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I thought the title of the book and the cover were absolutely perfect. Udi is a 26yr old, 9 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Chains of Sand (Paperback)
Chains Of sand is an emotive book, dealing as it does with the Israel / Palestine conflict. This is Israel’s story and the very human cost of living in a war zone with constant fear. I thought the title of the book and the cover were absolutely perfect.

Udi is a 26yr old, and deeply dissatisfied with his life in Israel. On the one hand he serves his country, fighting for Israel against Hamas in Gaza. But on the other hand he is frequently humiliated by being refused entry to bars and cafes because of his darker skin colour. Udi feels something of an outsider in his own country and has decided he is going to move to London.

Daniel is 29 years old and a Jewish investment banker living in London.He feel the pull of the homeland of Israel strongly, feeling an outsider in London and despite his family and friends fears for him moving to a war zone he is determined to move to Israel, join the army and make a new life for himself in the country where he feels he belongs.

A decade earlier, Dara, a young Jewish girl and Kaseem, a muslim Arab, are living in Jerusalem in a forbidden relationship that looks to have no future.

Three stories are interlinked and I could see quite early on how that was going to happen, but it is no less a book for that. In fact that probably makes the book all the more poignant.

This is a beautifully written book, a searing account of love, loss, identity and belonging. The characters were so well-developed and I took them to my heart even when I disagreed with their choices. Following Udi’s story made me feel that Daniel was at times a little self-indulgent, but the issues dealt with are complex and really give pause for thought.

Whilst this book is the story of what it is to be Jewish and Israeli, it is far from a glorified account. The author does not flinch away from the dark side of Israel and the chapter when a female character on a bus refuses to move for a male is sickening.

There are many different angles that the author comes from, delving deep into the Jewish psyche where nothing is black and white. This is not an easy book to read but it is so worthwhile and deserves to be widely read, especially by people whose knowledge of Israel come directly from the propaganda spouted by the western media.

Many thanks to publishers Legend Press for sending me a copy as part of the Legend 100 club.

Here Be Dragons: A Short Story
Here Be Dragons: A Short Story
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars never getting carried away with fanciful endings that can often ruin good stories. I have never been disappointed by an ..., 1 Jun. 2016
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This may only be a short story, but all stories involving Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury are gratefully received. I have to thank Cleo over at for pointing me in the direction of this book as I had no idea it had been published.

This is Mark’s story of an operation he had to undertake in A Dark And Twisted Tide. The operation goes wrong and an officer is shot. Mark is a wanted man, a suspected murderer.

Full length books or short stories, Sharon Bolton is a totally accomplished storyteller. The pace of the book is unrelenting and the atmosphere of London town and the Thames is palpable.

She ratchets up the tension page by page, until you can barely breath and you can see no way out for anyone. But when the denouement comes, you always feel that she holds the control stick, never getting carried away with fanciful endings that can often ruin good stories. I have never been disappointed by an ending in a Sharon Bolton book.

Flint and Joesbury are two of my favourite characters and if you have never read any of their books you are really missing out. Start at Now You See Me, the first in the series, a book that changed crime fiction for me. You will not be able to stop until you have read them all.

I hope we see a new full-length Flint and Joesbury book out soon, but until then Daisy In Chains is awaiting, tantilisingly, on my tbr pile. I cannot wait for my next fix of Sharon Bolton.

Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me: A feel-good novel of friendship and love (Coffee, Tea... by Caroline James Book 2)
Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me: A feel-good novel of friendship and love (Coffee, Tea... by Caroline James Book 2)
Price: £2.06

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars but is easily read as as a standalone, 31 May 2016
This book is the second in the series after, Coffee, Tea, The Gypsy and Me, but is easily read as as a standalone.

Jo is a grief-stricken widow, the sudden death of her husband has left her bereft. Her friend Hatti, who is recently separated from her philandering husband, is worried about her friend and suggests they go on holiday to see if that helps and take stock of where to go in their lives. Jo’s son is living in Barbados and this seems the perfect destination.

What follows is a fun-filled trip, especially for Hatti, in which they make new friends, indulge in an excess of cocktails and food and find new liaisons.

Back home Pete Parks is yearning for Jo. He is an old friend who has always wanted to be more. Now he fears she is slipping through his fingers and it is breaking his heart.

I found the characters in the book to be entertaining and we hear from different viewpoints, which gives the book a well-rounded feel. Hatti is brilliant, taking life by the scruff of the neck, drinking and eating to her heart’s content and saying yes to absolutely everything.

During the holiday Jo meets rock star ‘Long’ Tom Hendry, both at a low ebb, they find themselves with common ground. I really liked Tom’s character, he had an added depth that can sometimes be missing in romantic comedies. Although I did find it irritating that he had to be called ‘Long’ Tom all the time.

Jo’s youngest son, Zach, is in London making a career as a celebrity chef and it was interesting how the two stories intertwined.

I did think that a few of the chapters were superfluous and didn’t move the story along at all, they could easily have been left out. But this is a well-written story that lovers of chick-lit will not be disappointed with.

Many thanks to the author, Caroline James, for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller: Volume 1 (Detective Erika Foster crime thriller novel)
The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller: Volume 1 (Detective Erika Foster crime thriller novel)
by Robert Bryndza
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars I loved the character of Erika Foster, 26 May 2016
A wealthy socialite is found dead under the ice in the depths of winter. When DCI Erika Foster is called in to investigate, she discovers a seedy side to Andrea Douglas-Brown’s life. Erika’s investigation is somewhat hampered by Andrea’s powerful family who seem to have the police in their back pockets. Nor is she helped by the obnoxious DCI Sparks who feels he should be heading the investigation.

After a series of events, Sparks gets his way and Erika is kicked off the investigation but she won’t lie down. Digging deeper she finds connections with three dead prostitutes and she soon finds herself hurtling towards more danger than she ever thought possible.

This book is the most enjoyable police procedural that I have read in a while. the author keeps the pace of the story going throughout the book. The tension that builds is almost palpable as we race towards a denouement that is perfectly weighted.

I loved the character of Erika Foster, a Slovakian, who has been in England since she was 18 yrs old. She is riddled with guilt and grief; on her last case five people were killed including her beloved husband, Mark. Despite this she has got back on her feet and is determined to find the killer before he strikes again. Erika is a strong, intelligent, forceful,determined lady and I look forward to meeting her again.

I enjoyed the other characters in the book as well. Whether they are awful or eccentric they are all well written and believable.

I think the author, who is better known as a writer of romantic comedies, has turned his hand to crime writing with aplomb and I am very much looking forward to his next crime novel and meeting Erika and her colleagues again.

Many thanks to publishers Bookouture for sending me a copy via Netgalley

This Must Be the Place
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an exceptional read, 18 May 2016
This review is from: This Must Be the Place (Hardcover)
Once in a while a book comes along that leaves you breathless, that takes your world, shakes it up and leaves it spinning on a different axis. This Must Be The place is one such book.

Daniel Sullivan is a native New Yorker now living in the wilds of Donegal in north-west Ireland with his reclusive wife Claudette and their two children. Daniel is a linguistics professor, which is ironic as he often has trouble finding the right words when he needs them. I loved Daniel, even though he trips and falls, crashing along making decisions that are never going to work; his heart is such a good one, he just cannot see the far-reaching effects his decisions have on the people he loves…and then fate lends a hand.

Claudette is a famous film star and director who has run away from her former life and been living under the radar ever since. She comes across as ballsy and domineering, she is extremely strong-willed but at the same time incredibly vulnerable.

When Daniel makes a trip back to New York for his father’s 90th birthday he takes another journey which endangers his whole marriage.

Although at the heart of the book is Daniel and his marriage to Claudette, the chapters are told from many different points of view. Some of them are vignettes: short stories in themselves. But how gloriously coloured they are, how in-depth the lives of these secondary characters. Maggie O’Farrell shows how everyone has a story no matter how fleeting their appearance.

If you like your books told in linear fashion, this may not be for you as the chapters bounce around through time and place with glorious abandon. One chapter you’re in New York 2010, the next L.A. 1994, so many characters, so many countries, so many time zones. But it works, it works so incredibly well.

The writing is beautiful but it is Maggie O’Farrell’s gift for storytelling that takes the book to the sublime. Her weaving in of different strands of a tale is effortless. The insight into the characters and their converging relationships is phenomenal. I cannot imagine anything beating this book for book of the year. Maggie O’Farrell is a treasure who just keeps getting better and better.

Thanks so much to Georgina Moore of Headline for sending me a copy.


Dark Places
Dark Places
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

4.0 out of 5 stars She is very hard to like, although as the book progresses I did find ..., 18 May 2016
This review is from: Dark Places (Paperback)
Libby Day lived through her family being massacred when she was seven years old. her brother, Ben, is now serving a life sentence for the murders, thanks in part to the evidence that Libby gave.

Since then Libby has been sleep-walking through life, no job, no friends; existing on a fund set up by well-wishers. But now that the fund is running out and the book that Libby helped t0 write was not a much of a success, she has to find some other way to make some money. So when she gets an invite to be a guest speaker at the Kill Club, a group of true-crime devotees, she reluctantly takes them up on it. What she doesn’t know is that the Kill Club members believe fervently that Ben is innocent. So Libby sets off on a search for the truth of that horrendous night.

Interwoven in Libby’s story are the events leading up to the murders on 2nd january 1985, told alternately through Patty, Libby’s mother and Ben. The backstory is tense and chilling, filled with the most awful characters imaginable. Ben, at the heart of the story, is a loner and a troubled, easily-led individual caught up with some extremely nasty people. He gets involved in drug taking and satanic worship with a girlfriend who knows no boundaries.

Patty is probably the only character in the book who elicits any real sympathy. She struggles with no money to keep the family farm going, and her children fed. Trying at the same time to keep her revolting ex-husband at arms length.

Libby, who survived the murders by hiding in a cupboard, is a very well-drawn character, in that her whole life has been badly affected by what happened and rather than show us some unrealistically sympathetic character, the author shows us her dark side. She doesn’t work, she is lazy, prone to violence and thieving. She is very hard to like, although as the book progresses I did find myself warming to her.

Never has a book deserved its title more than this one. It is dark, dark, dark. The countdown to the murders makes for very unpleasant reading. I thought this book was a good portrayal of class and values, the effects of money or lack of it, and the boundaries that people, especially teenagers, need.

I would recommend this book if you like reading about dark subjects. if you’re expecting another Gone Girl you will need to think again. I wouldn’t have even said it was the same author. Which says something for the talent of Gillian Flynn.

When She Was Bad
When She Was Bad
by Tammy Cohen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved the writing in this book, 5 May 2016
This review is from: When She Was Bad (Paperback)
There are two parts to this story. On the one hand we have the present day office-based story, where a group of co-workers are jolted out of their comfort zone by the arrival of a new manager, whose mission is to turn around the business, to this end she pits the staff against each other, exposing the dark underbelly of office politics, that a lot of people will recognise in one form or another. On the other hand we have child psychologist, Dr Anne Cater, watching a report of a crime that has been committed. She recognises the accused and we are taken back in time to when she was a junior and her first case involving child abuse towards two siblings.

I loved the writing in this book, Tammy Cohen draws you in with a brilliant first paragraph:

"Imagine we could see the damage inside ourselves. Imagine it showed through us like contraband in an airport scanner. What would it be like, to walk around the city with it all on view – all the hurts and the betrayals and the things that diminished us; all the crushed dreams and the broken hearts? What would it be like to see the people our lives have made us? The people we are, under our skin."

I really enjoyed the first half of this book, it had the feel of a really strong psychological thriller. The office setting was really clever and original. The alternating chapters from Anne’s point of view that gave insight into a horrific case of child abuse and the repercussions from it were strong and affecting.

As the story moved on I really couldn’t see where the connection for the two stories was going to be, and for me that was a problem. The disconnect between the two stories was too much and they felt shoe-horned together at the end. I didn’t feel it mattered who was killed or who did the killing.

Having said that I found the writing to be crisp and the characters well-drawn and I found there was lots to like about the book. I will definitely read other books by this author.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy via Netgalley

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain
Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain
Price: £9.49

4.0 out of 5 stars On the one hand he is falling in love but at home his father is dying, 23 April 2016
Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain is set in Salisbury, with the cathedral as its focal point. The book opens with a descriptive piece about how Salisbury came into being and the five rivers that converge there.

“The startled world, stirred by this confluence of riverways, started to sing bright notes into the blue air.”

The five rivers are used as a metaphor for the five stories contained in the book, moving along side by side, alone, but at the same time connecting, interweaving, sometimes in ways they didn’t realise.

The first story is Rita’s. Rita is a flower seller, with a sideline in drug dealing. She fears she is about to go to prison and wants to connect with her estranged family. We get a glimpse into a life out of control that is raw and authentic.

The second story is Sam’s. Sam is a schoolboy and the two sides of his life are tearing him apart. On the one hand he is falling in love but at home his father is dying. We follow him as he tries to cope with emotions he doesn’t understand and that are overwhelming him.

The third story belongs to an elderly farmer who has recently lost his beloved wife.

The fourth story is that of an army wife who is at home alone while her husband is on tour in Afghanistan and her teenage son is away at boarding school. She is suffering from acute loneliness and depression.

The last story is of Liam, a security guard, who after breaking up with his girlfriend removes himself from his London life and returns to Salisbury burying himself in a dead end job away from any social life.

This book is extremely well written, and the prose verges on the poetic at times, with some moments of stunning perception that leave you breathless. Unfortunately, for me, the character engagement just wasn’t there. During some of the stories, especially the last two there are prolonged bouts of introspection which in some cases instead of coming across as emotional seem more self pitying. Having said that the author is indeed very talented and the way he weaves the connections between the lives into the various stories and how they all come together is very well done.

There is so much to commend about this book and Barney Norris will have a brilliant career ahead of him. His writing is superb and for anyone who likes their prose poetic and their novels literary I am sure this book will hit the mark. I look forward to his next book.
I would give this book 3 1/2 stars.

Many thanks to Sophie Christopher at Transworld Books for sending me a copy.

In Her Wake
In Her Wake
Price: £4.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars and her father’s need to tell her something important and his inability to do so makes the distance feel like a chasm, 19 April 2016
This review is from: In Her Wake (Kindle Edition)
After the death of her mother, Bella returns to her childhood home to comfort her father, but the two have never really had a closeness to their relationship, and her father’s need to tell her something important and his inability to do so makes the distance feel like a chasm.

After another tragedy, Bella finds out things about her life and family that questions everything she has ever known to be true. She finds herself on a journey that takes her to the Cornish coast where she finds people who know more about her than she knows herself.

The descriptions of the the Cornish setting and the weather gives a claustrophobic feel to the book and a deep sense of foreboding infuses the narrative. The Old vicarage, Bella’s childhood home, exudes a malevolence that makes you feel sure that you would never walk through the door.

The depth to the characters in this book is phenomenal. Bella, who we follow as she stumbles through areas of her life that she never knew existed, trying to make sense of the decisions made on her behalf with barely a thought of the devastating ramifications. How she copes, how she struggles, how she feels; Bella is brought to life by Amanda Jennings in a way that touches the deepest part of you.

But the author doesn’t just concentrate on Bella, the other characters are just as well drawn; David, arrogant and controlling; the wonderful Dawn, a survivor, against all odds, trying her best to get through each day; Alice, living with an all-encompassing grief, the sort that rips your heart out and takes away your entire life; Henry and Elaine, the nuts and bolts of this piece; even the lovely Phil who gives Bella, and us, moments of light relief.

Amanda Jennings doesn’t flinch from the stark realities of people’s lives. She exposes the flaws and mistakes but in such an empathetic way that leaves us feeling less judgmental than perhaps would be the case in a lesser author’s hands.

This is a stunning story of heartbreak, identity, love and loss. It has the perfect title, the perfect cover and is the most beautifully written, breathtakingly powerful book.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy.

The Light Between Oceans
The Light Between Oceans
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars just wonderful, 11 April 2016
The book is set in Partageuse, South West Australia. Tom Sherbourne, just home from the First World War takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock to counteract the effects of war; needing the silence and nature to soothe his troubled mind. The island is miles off the coast of Partageuse and the store boat only visits every three months, the lighthouse keeper is granted a month’s leave every three years. Tom is meticulous in carrying out his duties and is principled and disciplined. I loved Tom’s character, his quiet dignity and diligence, the love he felt for his wife. A good man put in a terrible position.

Whilst on leave in Partageuse, Tom meets Izzy, the two fall in love and move back to Janus to start married life together. Izzy’s greatest wish is to have a child and when she suffers two miscarriages and then a stillbirth, she is heartbroken.

The crux of the story comes into being when a boat is washed up with a dead man and a baby inside. Against every moral fibre of his being, Tom is convinced by Izzy to let her keep the baby. You know this is not going to end well.

The descriptions of the island and the lighthouse with the weather and the sense of isolation are just wonderful, so evocative that it has you yearning for life on Janus.

The genius of this book is making all the characters real, normal, flawed individuals who are ultimately good people with such tragic life stories that you really feel for them and understand the decisions made…until you meet the person who has been affected by that decision, who is also a good person who life hasn’t treated at all well. The layers keep peeling away like onion skins and you are forced to confront your own moral standpoint.

The author has created the ultimate moral dilemma and this book is deeply, deeply affecting and so emotional, it had me sobbing through parts of it. The story covers all sorts of emotions; love, guilt, grief, morality, remorse, but with such a deft hand that although it is heart rending, it is also beautiful and immensely readable. Unbelievable that this is a debut novel.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough and as it is going to be released as a film in the autumn now is the perfect time to read it.

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