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Welsh Annie (Wetherby)

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Fragile Lies
Fragile Lies
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Secrets, love and illusion, 13 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Fragile Lies (Kindle Edition)
Laura Elliot - do you know, I thought that name was familiar! I've just checked my kindle and her two earlier novels, Stolen Child and The Prodigal Sister, caught my eye a while ago, and are both sitting there, awaiting my attention. But now, new book, new publisher - Laura Elliot is now with Bookouture, Fragile Lies is published in trade paperback and for kindle on 13th February, and what an exciting partnership this is going to be. I've been totally engrossed in this book for the last couple of days - anyone who likes the same books and writing as I do is just going to love it.

The book starts intriguingly and explosively. An un-named couple are having the latest in a line of illicit overnight stays in an out-of-the-way hotel when the possibility of discovery forces them to flee. The night goes from bad to worse when, following a break-in at their car, they run down the apparent vagrant who stole their goods and leave him where he falls.

The book then changes direction a little, and picks up the story of Lorraine. A successful artist, her life has been blown apart by the breakdown of her marriage, and her grief is palpable as we follow her to her new home in Trebawn, where she spent her childhood summers. Initially unable to do much more than stare out of the window or walk on the beach, boxes still cluttering the house, we watch as she starts to rebuild a life for herself and her daughter, supported by the wonderful community around her. We hear about her childhood - when arguments could be forgotten with a knock on the caravan window the following morning - and about her growing up, with close and fierce friendships and the passion of youth.

Lorraine's story is interspersed with the thoughts of the distraught father, Michael, sitting at the bedside of his son, waiting - perhaps in vain - for him to come out of the coma in which he was left on the night of the hit-and-run accident. Again, we hear some background to his life - a son used as a pawn by his mother, lives falling apart every bit as painfully. And we feel his desperation to find out who did this dreadful thing to his son.

This is a wonderful character driven story, with the most vividly drawn characters both major and minor. Lorraine hooked me in from the very first encounter, through her efforts to build the relationship with her daughter, equally damaged by the break-up and a typically complex teenager. The author allows us into her head, and we share in her thoughts and emotions. I loved her early story too - her childhood and adult friendships, with Virginia, Razor/Ralph and Adrian at their centre. The author has a real gift for characterisation - Virginia transforms quite perfectly from the "vampire bitch" of her youth into the serene and highly competent business woman, Ralph from singer with a punk band with his edge of dangerousness into the driving force of the advertising agency he runs with Adrian.

But above all, this is a wonderful story incredibly well told, full of secrets, love and illusion, lies and revenge, which will keep you gripped well into the early hours - well, that's what it did to me anyway! The writing is wonderful - superb descriptions of the settings, dialogue that flows beautifully and realistically, with emotions you feel with all your being, exceptionally well drawn characters, twists and turns and revelations, and an ending that is absolutely perfect.

I'm always wary of "if you liked" comparisons, but I found real parallels with the writing of Liane Moriarty, Lucie Whitehouse and Zoe Heller. The story - although developed in a totally different style and direction - also recalled Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities. But comparisons really aren't appropriate or necessary, other than in encouraging you to read it - Laura Elliot is a wonderfully talented writer. I'll most certainly be going back to read her two earlier novels, and am looking forward keenly to seeing what she comes up with next.

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Bookouture for my advance reading e-copy.

Second Life
Second Life
Price: £1.88

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a read I enjoyed, 12 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Second Life (Kindle Edition)
Did everyone read Before I Go To Sleep? I did - and I loved it as much as you probably did. You might have been to see the film too - spotting the parts where the film didn't follow the book, marvelling at Nicole Kidman's limited range of facial expressions, debating whether Colin Firth was the right choice to play the husband - and wondering if the plot gaps that were so visible in the film were there in the book too (surely not!). That book - the author's first - received such stellar acclaim that it was always going to be a hard act to follow, and I couldn't wait to read Second Life, to be published on 12th February by Doubleday.

I very rarely review a book I didn't enjoy, but I'm going to be honest about this one - this review will quickly be overtaken by others from people who loved it - and say that this wasn't the book for me. There were a few reasons for that. The whole premise of Julia's addictive personality and the way she got into the online chatrooms was fine - maybe not particularly original, but well handled. But the way she acts thereafter - I know you sometimes need to suspend disbelief when reading a thriller, but this woman makes one bad decision after another, not changing direction when every rational bone in her body tells her to do so, putting her family and life on the line way beyond the limits of credibility.

But I decided to roll with it, see where the story went. The writing is fine - keeps you turning the pages. The family relationships, the interactions with friends, Julia's relationship with the bottle - all well enough done. Had the sex scenes had more of an erotic edge, I guess the book could be read on that level - but they didn't quite hit the mark for me. I found Lukas' dramatic personality change considerably less than convincing too. And as for the twist at the end - I flipped back through the book to see if I should have seen it coming, but the clues really just weren't there.

Am I being harder on this one because of the book that came before? Would I have liked it better had it come in a plain brown wrapper rather than with the fanfare of trumpets and the author's name on the cover? I'm not sure really - I think I actually might not have read it through to the end. On the author's name alone, I'm sure this book will be an enormous best seller - but I'm sorry to say it wasn't a read I enjoyed.

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Doubleday for my advance reading copy.

The Doll's House: DI Helen Grace 3
The Doll's House: DI Helen Grace 3
Price: £3.66

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really excellent, 12 Feb. 2015
I'm not really much of a series reader - with a few noteworthy exceptions like Peter James' Roy Grace novels and Nicci French's Frieda Klein series. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Helen Grace book by M.J. Arlidge, Eeny Meeny, but less engaged by the second, Pop Goes The Weasel. I'm so glad though that I continued to read with the third book, The Doll's House, published in paperback and for kindle on 12th February by Penguin. This was one of those books that keeps you up into the early hours, and I really loved it.

The story is very strong - a body found buried on a beach by a young family on a day out, the body of a young girl with dark hair, bright blue eyes and a bluebird tattoo on her shoulder. And it soon becomes clear that the girl was the victim of a serial killer, one who starves his victims to death, all with a similar appearance - and missing girl Ruby Sprackling also fits that profile. The story itself is darkly chilling, all the more so because we view it through Ruby's eyes as she tries to stay alive.

But in addition to that, we have the continuing struggles of DI Helen Grace - a complex and fascinating character, wrestling with her history of horrific abuse, fighting against the prejudiced views and downright dislike of her senior officers, sometimes not acting as professionally as she should. I particularly liked her relationship with her pregnant DC Charlie, drawn into the story, her complex dealings with her tormentor Jake, and her interactions with grieving father Daniel.

The background and motivation of the serial killer is exceptionally well done - made wholly believable, almost sympathetically drawn. And Helen's new team is quite fascinating - the competitiveness of the female officers who have to fight to be seen, her young black second in command working to gain the approval of his father.

The story is quite perfectly paced, the tension unremitting, and it all builds to an explosive climax:, an over-used expression it might be, but this book really was quite impossible to put down. When I wasn't reading, it was constantly in my thoughts - I was almost afraid something would happen to Ruby while I wasn't watching.

Well done M.J. Arlidge - you'd almost lost me there for a while, but I now can't wait for the next in the series. And there's not too long to wait - the fourth in this series, Liar Liar, is due out in September.

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Penguin for my advance reading e-copy.

A Vintage Wedding
A Vintage Wedding
Price: £6.17

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious, 12 Feb. 2015
This review is from: A Vintage Wedding (Kindle Edition)
Every so often, there's something wonderfully pleasurable about setting aside the latest psychological thriller or challenging literary "must read", and escaping into the world that Katie Fforde creates so well. A Vintage Wedding is Katie's 21st novel and is published by Century (Random House) on 12th February in hardback and e-book formats.

If you've read any of the author's books before, this one will delight you, delivering everything you are expecting and hoping for. I'm a bit of a Katie Fforde fan, but if you've never read her books before, and like your reading deliciously light, with romance, thoroughly likeable characters (and some you might like less), some twists and turns, a beautiful Cotswold setting, light touches of humour and a heart-warming story, you really can't do much better.

Lindy is a single parent, struggling financially while bringing up her two young boys but surrounded by her supportive family. Beth is jobless, staying in a gifted holiday let while working out how she can turn her life around, escaping from her controlling mother, and organising her sister's wedding. Rachel works as a self-employed accountant, living in her perfect white home ("wevet" on the Farrow and Ball paint chart), not lighting her wood burning stove for fear of spoiling its perfection, sleeping between pristine high threadcount white sheets and polishing her white bath.

But when rough-round-the-edges Raff delivers Rachel a load of logs, Charlie from the farm sells Beth a slightly smelly van for £300, and the girls decide to set up their enterprise organising on-the-cheap weddings, things are about to change for them all. Throw into the mix a dilapidated church hall and an unexpected brush with the music industry, add a surrounding community who pull together to provide support, reintroduce Beth's horrendous mother - and you have everything you need for a really lovely read and a few hours' total feel-good escapism.

My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.

Not Forgetting The Whale
Not Forgetting The Whale
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly perfect, 12 Feb. 2015
ack in 2013 I discovered a book that left a profound impression on me, but that very few of my book-appreciating friends seemed to notice. That book was The Coincidence Authority - read my review here and you'll see how much I loved it. So I was really quite excited when I saw that John Ironmonger had a new book on the way - Not Forgetting The Whale is published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson on 12th February in hardback and for kindle - and even more delighted when I managed to get my hands on a pre-release e-copy.

When you anticipate a new release so keenly, you sometimes prepare for disappointment - books sometimes have a tendency to frustrate, to let you down. But not this one - this is one of those rare books that I'll be thrusting into the hands of friends and urging them to read it, it's so thoroughly perfect.

Joe Haak washes up naked on the beach at St Piran in Cornwall, and is taken into the heart of the community of 397 people who live there: a fin whale seen in the bay is washed up shortly afterwards, and the village pulls together to return it to the sea. This is when we first start to meet the individuals who make up the community, and what wonderful individuals they are, all drawn in vivid detail. From the curmudgeonly retired doctor who provides Joe with a home, to the rigid vicar and his flighty wife, the nurse from Senegal with the beautiful singing voice, the perceptive primary school teacher, the beachcomber, the naturalist, the writer of romantic novels - they're all drawn quite perfectly.

Joe was formerly an analyst with an investment bank in the City where he designed a computer programme - Cassie - capable of predicting ailing stocks by analysing news sources and identifying links and impacts. Details of his former life are told in flashbacks as he adapts to his very different life in St Piran, and are thoroughly fascinating. Joe fled when Cassie predicted a global catastrophe, and the village pulls together to survive the challenges that follow.

The story is thoroughly wonderful, the characterisation absolutely entrancing, and the themes around networks and communities and the unpredictability of human nature quite unforgettable. I guess you'd call it a post-apocalyptic novel, but overall I found it a fascinating exploration of how a very specific community of people react to a global event, and how people's resilience and capacity for love will always surprise you. If you enjoy your books a little quirky, a little different from the norm - well, you're going to love this one.

My thanks to netgalley and publishers W&N for my advance reading e-copy.

The Crooked House
The Crooked House
by Christobel Kent
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive reading, 1 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Crooked House (Hardcover)
On the cover of my copy, Alison Pearson describes this book as "Broadchurch meets Rebecca" - I'm not so sure about Rebecca, but the Broadchurch comparison is absolutely spot-on. Saltleigh is an isolated and close-knit community with a bleak landscape, where no-one is quite what they seem, and people are still talking about the family massacre that rocked the community thirteen years before. When the surviving daughter Esme - now known as Alison - returns to the area, against her better judgement, to attend a wedding, it's obvious that things are never going to go well. Layers of lies and secrets are slowly uncovered, all leading up to an explosive and unexpected conclusion.

The characters aren't particularly likeable - even Alison, understandably damaged as she is following her history. Many of the Saltleigh inhabitants are damaged individuals - alcohol dependent, mentally unstable, convicted of other crimes, affected by violence and death in their midst - but this is a community that has strangely pulled together to bury its secrets until Alison's return begins to rock the foundations.

I have to say that it wasn't a pacy edge-of-your-seat thriller - it's very dark and claustrophobic, filled with menace, and the reader is an observer watching the layers being removed. The writing is quite superb, not a word wasted - the setting is really vividly described in its hostile bleakness, the emotional layering is quite perfect, the tension sustained to the point it physically hurts, the large cast of characters carefully and clearly drawn, the story thoroughly mesmerising as it slowly unfolds.

This is a very different thriller, and one that I'm sure many readers will thoroughly enjoy. I thought it was quite compulsive reading.

The Ice Twins
The Ice Twins
Price: £4.75

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling and gripping, 1 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Ice Twins (Kindle Edition)
You're going to have to trust me on this one. You lose one of your beautiful twin daughters in a freak accident, the remaining twin is having nightmares involving her dead sister and you're having doubts about her identity, and your marriage perhaps isn't holding together as well as you want it to. So maybe you just might think twice about moving to a dilapidated cottage on a Scottish island, with a barely working telephone, over-run with rats, and that can only only be reached by boat (a boat you don't have) or by crossing treacherous mudflats at low tide.

The absurd thing about this wonderful book is that it all seems quite acceptable - in fact, a wholly understandable attempt at a fresh start. And when things start to turn a little stranger - when the child is found cowering in a corner at the local school, when the dog undergoes a personality change, when the weather gets stormy and strange visions start appearing in mirrors - the book still sweeps you along with it all, sitting on the edge of your seat, feverishly turning the pages to find out what happens next.

This is a book that really shouldn't work at all. In addition to all the strangeness, the book then introduces a child psychologist speculating over the phone about the effects of a sibling death on a surviving twin, and other possible consequences on the family. You might be forgiven for thinking it all sounds a bit ridiculous.

But I have to say it's honestly one of the most thrilling and gripping books I've read in a very long time - everything was put on hold while I read it cover to cover, and in the brief moments I put it down I couldn't stop thinking about it. It's quite superbly done - the writing is very strong and readable, the descriptions of the environment so vivid you can smell and feel it, the supernatural elements wonderfully unsettling and just the right side of both terror and silliness. I absolutely loved every moment.

The Ties That Bind
The Ties That Bind
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 27 Jan. 2015
I've read books by Erin Kelly before, but it's been a long time. The Poison Tree was excellent - a Richard and Judy Summer Read in 2011, I found it totally gripping, a really well written dual time narrative, with eccentric but convincing characters and a genuinely shocking ending. Then came The Sick Rose - equally excellent story telling, well developed and fascinating characters, great tying together of different time frames, and a real sense of suspense throughout. Then came the flood of other thriller writers, and Erin Kelly vanished from my radar for a while - although I've obviously been aware of her involvement in the novel version of series one of Broadchurch, and the "shorts" accompanying the current series.

But I decided to rediscover her writing through The Ties That Bind, which will be published in paperback by Hodder on 29th January. This is a very different book from the ones I'd read before, and I'll admit to being ever so slightly put off when I realised its focus was Brighton gangland in the 60s. But I needn't have worried - this was a wonderful old fashioned thriller with a very modern twist, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The focus of the story is actually Luke Considine, living in Leeds, a writer of true crime who has recently been thwarted - for a whole range of reasons - in finding a suitable subject. While working in a bar at an art gallery to make ends meet, he meets new partner Jem (Jeremy), who has just purchased a very expensive painting and enjoys a very different lifestyle which he's happy to share with Luke. Their affair is very well drawn, with their initial pleasure at being together soon becoming claustrophobic and obsessional. Luke flees to Brighton, where he comes across the story of Joss Grand and the murder of Jacky Nye, and we follow his story as he builds up his research, manages to get the elusive Grand to tell his story, but always has one eye over his shoulder in case Jem comes in pursuit.

The characters are excellent, including Luke himself - he's eminently likeable, and has a good clear "voice" throughout, and we share his enthusiasm and excitement as he assembles his research for his planned book. Sandy, with her private archive and secret past, is a wonderful creation who absolutely fascinates: Joss Grand is also beautifully drawn as he reveals his murky past. Even the minor characters are excellent - I loved Luke's next door neighbours with the wife obsessed with the detail of reproducing vintage clothing. The story twists and turns as Luke tries to identify the girl in the red coat who witnessed the murder, the tension building wonderfully - in relation to Joss Grand's story and Luke's past - to a really explosive ending.

A really enjoyable read, and one I'd really recommend to anyone who enjoys a really good story well told, an edge-of-your-seat thriller and the very best of writing. I loved it.

Who Are You?
Who Are You?
by Elizabeth Forbes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously disturbing..., 22 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Who Are You? (Paperback)
I so wanted to be original when writing about this one, but it's really difficult. Looking at other reviews, I can see that other people have used "seriously disturbing", "all-consuming" and more, so what more can I say? I read this book in one sitting on a hot afternoon in the garden - well, I say "one sitting" but I did break off twice because it was really difficult to read on through the dreadful cruelty these two appalling people are capable of inflicting on each other. I say "appalling people", but Lizzie Forbes does something so clever in this book - because the story is told from both viewpoints, you find yourself sympathising with and feeling for them both at times, however you try to resist. The character development is quite superb, the writing both taut and flowing, and the narrative sweeps you up and carries you with it, whether you want to be carried or not. So dark, horribly chilling, and - yes - seriously disturbing.

At a rational level, I have to say that I liked Nearest Thing To Crazy better: at an emotional level, Who Are You? would be really difficult to better. I'm dying to see what this wonderful author comes up with next - what an amazing talent.

Die Again: (Rizzoli & Isles 11)
Die Again: (Rizzoli & Isles 11)
Price: £7.49

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tess Gerritsen still has her magic touch..., 21 Jan. 2015
It's a very long time since I last read a book by Tess Gerritsen. But I still remember being totally gripped by the early books in her Rizzoli and Isles series - everyone who loves an edge-of-the-seat thriller should (must!) read The Surgeon and The Apprentice, and the whole series was must-read for me until something went a little wrong with Ice Cold (also released as The Killing Place). I did stick with the series - her writing is consistently excellent, and I like the main characters a great deal better than those in the TV series based on the books. But, after a bit of a break and given the number of excellent new writers producing books along similar lines, I wondered if Tess Gerritsen's books would have kept their magic for me. The answer, I'm pleased to report, is a resounding "yes" - I read this book in one sitting, and loved every moment.

When the book opens, joining a diverse group of people on safari in Botswana, I wondered at first if I was reading the right book. But stick with it - you're soon back in Boston with Jane Rizzoli investigating the gruesome death of a famous taxidermist, and Maura Isles joins her for the post mortem. The murders come thick and fast, with the team struggling - by deduction and forensic examination - to identify a link between the victims. Meanwhile, the Botswana thread continues - a writer of men's adventure books and his wife, a Japanese couple, two young girls and a man met in a bar, the guide and the spotter - and turns into a story of survival in the most extreme of environments. The stories draw together, with the help of death in a zoo big cat enclosure and a snow leopard pelt - and we see Jane and husband FBI agent Gabriel travelling to Africa to continue their investigation. The whole book is absolutely engrossing - a fantastic story, full of twists and turns and false leads, and the outcome is a genuine surprise although all the clues are there.

In addition to the excellent story, there are other things I love about Tess Gerritsen. Her characters are drawn so well - we already know Maura and Jane well, and it really does help if you've read the other books, otherwise some of the references to past cases and attachments will pass you by. But there are other strong characters too - Johnny Posthumus the safari guide, Molly the author's wife, Jane's work partner Frost with his softer side, the other investigating team with its camera-ready leader and quiet industrious sidekick. Her research and descriptive powers are superb - you feel the chill as the cougar watches Maura from a neighbouring enclosure, feel the mosquitos and fear as the last survivor from the safari struggles to stay alive. The descriptions of the murder scenes and the ensuing investigation are pretty graphic too - this isn't a book for the faint-hearted. But there are light moments too - one wonderful one involving a cat and a box.

With so many thrillers around these days, psychological or otherwise, it's easy to forget those authors who've been doing it so well for a long time. That would be a big mistake - Tess Gerritsen most definitely still has her magic touch.

Die Again (the 11th book in the Rizzoli and Isles series) was published by Bantam Press (Transworld) on 1 January. My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.

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