Smash All the Windows by Jane Davis @janedavisauthor #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

Smash All the Windows

This novel is contemporary literary fiction at its best. It has humanity, emotion and a great story at its heart.

From the back cover:  
It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.

It will take courage to learn how to live again.

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of fiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art. Written with immediacy, style and an overwhelming sense of empathy, Smash all the Windows will be enjoyed by readers of How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall and How to be Both by Ali Smith.

My Review:

This is a wonderful book. It has resonances with real life disasters and what happens afterwards. It’s a tribute to the human capacity to survive and heal and to the power of love that endures after death.

The story deals with the aftermath of an accident on an escalator on the London Underground. It tells of the traumatic effects on some of the victims and their loved ones. The author gradually draws you into each character’s story and she does it with such sympathy, empathy and insight that it makes for a gripping and emotional read. I liked how the grieving process was so honestly portrayed as messy and unpredictable and, at times, all-consuming. The characters couldn’t move on while they waited years for the revised official ruling into what caused the accident. But then even after that happens, comes the realisation that grief doesn’t conveniently stop. And this is portrayed quite beautifully.

A thought-provoking, poignant and uplifting read.

Smash All the Windows is available as a paperback and as an ebook.

Staying in with Anne Stormont

I was delighted to be invited to spend a virtual evening in with Linda over at her Linda’s Book Bag blog. We chatted about my novel Displacement and a bit about its sequel Settlement due out later this year. We also enjoyed a wee dram and some tasty snacks – appropriate to the setting of the book. You can read all about it in Linda’s post which I’ve reblogged here.

Linda's Book Bag

Displacement Cover MEDIUM WEB

I’m so thrilled to be staying in with Anne Stormont today because I feel as if I’ve ‘known’ Anne forever. She has been such a wonderful supporter of Linda’s Book Bag that I’m delighted to welcome her here today.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Anne Stormont

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Anne. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me as I feel I’ve known you for ever.

Which of your books have you brought along to share with me and why have you chosen it?

I’ve chosen Displacement. I chose it as I still feel very close to it and its characters. This could be because I’m currently writing its sequel, Settlement. And I’d like to introduce readers of this blog to…

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Bad Apples by JJ Marsh @JJMarsh1 #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

Bad Apples

A satisfying, delightful, engaging read

Regular readers of my book reviews will know I’m a big fan of crime writer JJ Marsh. So my expectations were high when I came to read Bad Apples, the sixth and final book in the DI Beatrice Stubbs series. My high expectations were more than met but I was also gutted that this was to be Beatrice’s last case. However this meant I savoured it all the more.

 

Back Cover Blurb: Acting DCI Beatrice Stubbs is representing Scotland Yard at a police conference in Portugal. Her task is to investigate a rumour – a ghostwritten exposé of European intelligence agencies – and discover who is behind such a book.

Hardly a dangerous assignment, so she invites family and friends for a holiday. Days at the conference and evenings at the villa should be the perfect work-life balance.

Until one of her colleagues is murdered.

An eclectic alliance of international detectives forms to find the assassin. But are they really on the same side?

Meanwhile, tensions rise at the holiday villa. A clash of egos sours the atmosphere and when a five-year-old child disappears, their idyll turns hellish.

From Lisbon streets to the quays of Porto, Parisian cafés to the green mountains of Gerês, Beatrice realises trust can be a fatal mistake.

 

My Review: As in the previous books, Bad Apples has Scotland Yard detective, Beatrice Stubbs, working alongside police colleagues in Europe. This time the setting is Portugal and as always, JJ Marsh’s writing style ensures the reader really feels they’re there. The cities of Porto and Lisbon along with the Portugal’s mountains are all vividly brought to life with small details capturing so much.

There are two plotlines – one domestic and personal, and one criminal. The supporting cast are wonderful as always including old and loved characters as well as some new ones. And Beatrice is at her lovable and quirky best and still uttering those mixed metaphors of hers such as ‘ears to the grindstone’, ‘long in the hoof’, and ‘a dustman’s holiday’.

The action begins quietly enough with Beatrice, close to retirement and having been promoted to Acting Chief Inspector, preparing to attend a European police conference in Portugal. And for this final working trip, she has decided to combine work with pleasure. So whenever she’s free she intends to join her partner, the wonderful Matthew, and other family and friends at a villa they’ve rented in the Portuguese hills. But it’s not long before there’s a murder and some other sinister events which not only require Beatrice and her colleagues to investigate crime rather than attend seminars, but also threaten the safety of Beatrice and those close to her. Yes, all the usual ingredients of a DI Stubbs plot are there and the story is told with all JJ Marsh’s usual flair. The writing is clever, original, witty and warm and the twists and turns are far from obvious. And the end if both fitting and satisfying.

And so it’s farewell to Beatrice, and here’s hoping she enjoys a long and happy retirement. I’ll miss her. *

 

All the books in this series including Bad Apples are available in paperback and ebook formats and are published by Prewett Publishing. They are also available as two e-book box sets of three.

*PS: adding this to original post. JJ Marsh has been in touch and assured me that although Beatrice has retired, her adventures will continue and three more books are planned. Hurrah!

It’s Who We Are by Christine Webber @1chriswebber #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

ItsWhoWeAre_3Dcov (002)

An entertaining, interesting and satisfying read

As promised in my previous post where I interviewed author, Christine Webber, here is my review of her new novel It’s Who We Are.

From the back cover: Five friends in their fifties find themselves dealing with unforeseen upheaval as they uncover long-hidden and devastating family secrets. Meanwhile, the world around them seems to be spinning out of control. This is a novel about friendship, kindness and identity – and about how vital it is to reach for what enhances rather than depletes you.

My Review: As in her previous novel, Who’d Have Thought It, Christine Webber has produced a perfectly judged contemporary tale. The protagonists are in their fifties and linked to one another through friendship. All five of them are facing challenges some of which are age-related and some of which are simply related to what it means to be human regardless of age or stage.

The various challenges which drive the plot include supporting adult children, coping with ageing parents, facing up to divorce, beginning new relationships, managing the demands of work and facing up to getting older. Bu the overriding theme is the one of relationships, of the ties that bind – familial, romantic and friendship and how they inform a person’s identity.

The five main characters are a great mix. They are realistically drawn and they’re a diverse group but the reader cares about all of them.

This is a story that deals with all of life – its joys, sorrows and imperfections.

All in all it’s a lovely satisfying read.

Book Review: tearing at thoughts by Andy Harrod

tearing at thoughts

Poignant, heart rending and thought provoking writing.

I first read and reviewed the original, online only, edition of this book several years ago. And now there’s a second edition – this time available in print and the author has added some new material.

I loved it first time around and I love this version even more. The writing remains poignant, heart rending and thought provoking.

tearing at thoughts is made up of pieces of short fiction, some of the pieces are very short and reminiscent of haiku, many of them are poetic. The tone is so intimate that, at times, the reader can feel like a voyeur, like they should look away but can’t.

The writing is a stream of responses to consciousness. Sometimes the thoughts are fleeting, and at other times they are prolonged and complex. They are all responded to by the writer. Sometimes the author’s tearing is minimal and the thoughts are simply stated, nudged, worried at. At other times the thoughts are more deeply examined, set in context and ripped apart. It operates on two levels – the physical which varies from a gentle caress to a visceral assault – and the psychological which varies from nudge to probe

The moods of the pieces vary. The fonts, shapes, layouts and presentation vary too. Some are beautiful, comforting and benign. Others are beautiful, disturbing and terrifying.

This is a book that requires to be engaged with and revisited. Reading it is akin to reading poetry, or looking at a painting or listening to a piece of music. You need to read, reflect and then return. Revisiting and further pondering will be rewarded as more and more of what Harrod is saying becomes more and more apparent.

The writing explores what it is to be human, to experience love and loss, to deal with ‘the grapple hook of grief’ but also to remain hopeful. Harrod seems to suggest that life’s setbacks aren’t so much to be recovered from as to be accepted – and that acceptance comes from living in the present while holding the past and future in a precarious balance. His writing indicates that we must carry our pain and loss with us but that we should do it balanced by and alongside our love and our hope.

My favourite pieces from the book remain Love Letters to the Mind (both parts), which I liked for its poignancy and truth and Mist and Trees which I enjoyed as a story and for its evocation of the work of psychologist R.D. Laing.

The book is beautiful in its brevity and it is packed full of human truth. It’s a challenging and rewarding read.

tearing at thoughts is published by Decoding Static and is available as a paperback.

26 Books in 2017: Book 6

See How They Run

See How They Run by Tom Bale – some nightmares you can’t wake up from…

Book number six in the 26-books-in 52-weeks challenge has to be a book written by a man. So, not exactly a narrow field there then.

I read books by male and female authors. I always have – and I’ve never really paid much attention to the gender of the writer. My fiction choices nowadays come mainly from the contemporary and crime genres and both male and female authors are on my favourites list. But choosing just one – and it’s a female author next – is difficult.

So I decided that for this category (and the female one) I’d choose an author who is new to me and in a genre I wouldn’t normally read.

Hence I’m going for the psychological thriller See How They Run by Tom Bale as my Book Six. I was first attracted to/alerted to this book through the wonderful Book Connectors group on Facebook. Several of the book bloggers there were praising it. Indeed their enthusiasm was so great that my curiosity overcame my usual resistance to the manipulations of thriller writers.

I’m so glad I overcame my prejudices. Tom Bale is a talented storyteller and See How They Run was a great read. The characters were interesting, believable and well-realised, and the storyline was taut and well paced.

The suspense and the shocks persisted throughout and there were several hide-behind-the-couch and look-through-your-fingers moments.

WARNING – This book is NOT for:

  • Those of a nervous disposition
  • Reading when alone at night
  • Reading at night if you (a) need to get to sleep at a reasonable time, (b) if you need to get to sleep

Here’s what the backcover blurb says:

How far would you go to save your family?

In the dead of night, new parents Alice and Harry French are plunged into their worst nightmare when they wake to find masked men in their bedroom. Men ruthless enough to threaten their baby daughter, Evie.

This is no burglary gone wrong. The intruders know who they’re looking for – a man called Edward Renshaw. And they are prepared to kill to get to him.

When the men leave empty handed, little do Alice and Harry realise that their nightmare is just beginning. Is it a case of mistaken identity? Who is Renshaw? And what is he hiding?

One thing is clear – they already know too much. As Alice and Harry are separated in the run for their lives, there is no time to breathe in their fight to be reunited. And with their attackers closing in, there is only one choice: STAY ALIVE. OR DON’T.

 My advice:

Risk it, live dangerously and read it!

See How They Run is published by Bookouture and is available as an ebook and audio

 

26 Books in 2017: Book 5

The Old Ways Robert Macfarlane

The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane – ‘a landscape of the feet and mind’

Book number five in the 26-books-in 52-weeks challenge has to be a non-fiction book. It was harder than I first thought it would be to choose just one book in this category. But when you think about it, it’s a wide field.

I have favourite cookbooks and gardening manuals. I also remain fond of my dictionaries, my thesaurus and my world atlas and still favour them over any online versions. I have a much-referred-to field guide for identifying British wild birds. All of these are elderly volumes but still much in use.

Apart from the above reference/instructional works, I also have several books on history, psychology, linguistics, and education. Some of these I’ve held onto since my long ago university days and some are more up to date.

I’m also keen on guide books and travel guides and have amassed quite a collection over the years. The US, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe – all feature and serve as reminders of places visited.

But my most recent reading in the non-fiction section has been from the creative non-fiction shelf. This genre includes memoir and personal, reflective writing, and my favourite so far has to be The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane.

Walking has a way of freeing and inspiring the mind, letting it roam, ponder, and understand. In this book Macfarlane shares the thoughts and insights on life that were prompted as he walked many ancient tracks, trails and paths. It’s a simple concept but beautifully done and I can recommend both the book and the value of taking these, or similar, walks yourself.

Back Cover Blurb:

Following the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond, Robert Macfarlane discovers a lost world – a landscape of the feet and the mind, of pilgrimage and ritual, of stories and ghosts; above all of the places and journeys which inspire and inhabit our imaginations.

The Old Ways is published by Penguin and is available as a hardback, paperback, eBook and audio book.

26 Books in 2017: Book 4

missing-presumed

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner – a subtle and different take on the police procedural.

The fourth post in the 26-books-in-52-weeks challenge has to be about a book published within the last year. Of course, I’ve already reviewed several excellent books from this category as part of my usual book posts here. But rather than ‘cheating’ with a repost of one of them, I’ve gone with the next one in my to-be-reviewed queue.

So book number four is Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner.

This is a crime fiction novel and it’s a subtle and different take on the police procedural.

The refreshing thing about this book was it surprised me and the surprise was a pleasant one.

Regular readers of the blog will know I enjoy crime fiction, but not where the format is lazy, formulaic or dependent on stereotypes. Missing, Presumed avoided all that.

Yes, it had a police search for a missing young female at its centre. Yes, it had a troubled, unconventional, boundary-pushing cop who was under pressure to find her fast. Yes, there was a shoal of red herrings and all served with the required twist.

But Steiner uses the conventional framework well. Her story building is excellent. Characters are not stereotypical – not the police, not the villains and not the victim. The subplots are clever, original and although there are surprises, it all remains credible.

I loved DS Manon Bradshaw. She’s a great addition to the hall of fictional detective fame. She’s richly drawn – flawed, warm, and dedicated

This is the best sort of page tuner – there’s real breadth, depth and substance to the story.

Susie Steiner is up there with Ian Rankin and Ann Cleeves and I can’t wait for her next book.

Type of read: It will draw you in and keep a tight hold. There’s plenty to gasp at and keep you hooked. And a pot of coffee to hand would be a good idea as you’ll be up way past bedtime reading this.

Back Cover Blurb:

72 HOURS TO FIND HER…

A MISSING GIRL Edith Hind is gone, leaving just her coat, a smear of blood and a half-open door.

A DESPERATE FAMILY Each of her friends and relatives has a version of the truth. But none quite adds up.

A DETECTIVE AT BREAKING POINT The press grows hungrier by the day. Can DS Manon Bradshaw fend them off, before a missing persons case becomes a murder investigation?

Missing, Presumed is published by The Borough Press and is available as a paperback, and ebook and an audio book.

 

Anne Stormont @writeanne – Blogger in the Spotlight

I was a guest on fellow blogger, Joanne’s blog last week in her ‘Blogger in the Spotlight’ feature. I thought readers of this blog might be interested to see what I had to say for myself. And many thanks of course to Joanne.

Portobello Book Blog

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I’m delighted to welcome Anne to my blog today. Anne is such a great supporter of reviewers and writers and always generously shares my posts, often with kind words. So it’s her turn for a bit of the limelight. Thanks for agreeing to be part of my Blogger in the Spotlight feature Anne. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?

Thank you for inviting me. I’m a Scot, originally from Edinburgh, and currently living in the Scottish Highlands. I’m a wife, mother and grandmother, and I recently retired from a thirty-six year career as a primary school teacher. I’m also a writer and have published two novels for adults as well as one for children.  I usually describe myself as a kind-hearted but subversive old bat.

What books/authors did you enjoy as a child?

I loved Heidi by Johanna Spyri, What Katy Did and its sequels…

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270 years ago…

The Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre blog is as impressive as the place itself. This most recent post commemorates the 270th anniversary (tomorrow) of this decisive battle.

And in honour of the anniversary my book, The Silver Locket, will be free on Kindle for 5 days from tomorrow. The battle is central to the three 21st century children’s mission in the story. So, if you haven’t read it yet, your aged 9 to 90 – or older – and you like a good old adventure story, do give it a try.

Click here to download the book.

Culloden Battlefield

On the 16th April 1746 the Battle of Culloden took place on Drumossie Muir, near Inverness. The battle lasted less than an hour and saw Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Jacobite army defeated by a Government army led by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.

The battle is considered as a key point in Scottish, European and indeed World history and every year hundreds of people come to Culloden Battlefield to commemorate the battle and all those who fell.

Cull8 Wreaths laid at the Culloden Memorial Cairn

This year we reach the 270th anniversary of the battle and to mark this we thought we’d have a little look back at how the battlefield has changed over the years.

At the time of the battle, in 1746, Culloden was moorland and by all accounts was rather boggy, indeed the name ‘Cuil Lodair’ can be interpreted in Gaelic to mean ‘marshy nook’. Over the years though…

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