The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill – Review.

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About the Book

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with a difference. Set throughout the roaring twenties, it is a wicked fairytale of circus tricks and child prodigies, radical chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians and brooding clowns, set in an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss.
It is the tale of two dreamers, abandoned in an orphanage where they were fated to meet. Here, in the face of cold, hunger and unpredictable beatings, Rose and Pierrot create a world of their own, shielding the spark of their curiosity from those whose jealousy will eventually tear them apart.
When they meet again, each will have changed, having struggled through the Depression, through what they have done to fill the absence of the other. But their childhood vision remains – a dream to storm the world, a spectacle, an extravaganza that will lift them out of the gutter and onto a glittering stage.
Heather O’Neill’s pyrotechnical imagination and language are like no other. In this she has crafted a dazzling circus of a novel that takes us from the underbellies of war-time Montreal and Prohibition New York, to a theatre of magic where anything is possible – where an orphan girl can rule the world, and a ruined innocence can be redeemed.

My Review

I have never read a book like The Lonely Hearts hotel before. In honesty, I have to say that it took me quite a while to get into it. The physical, emotional and sexual abuse received by both Rose and Pierrot at the orphanage was hard to read. And the fantasy used to help Pierrot through it felt strange.
However, when they both left the orphanage I found it much easier to read. Rose was a character that I warmed to the most. I loved her resolve to make her life better. She was incredibly gutsy and loyal to almost everybody she met. Pierrot’s life was more heartbreaking. Apart from the time he spent with his benefactor his life was pretty much a downward spiral under the very strong hold of a heroin addiction. The minor characters were also strong. McMahon, the club boss who was determined to destroy Rose by control. Poppy, messed up and too young for the life she led and just wanting to be loved.
It’s very theatrical and dramatic. At times, it felt like a technicolour fantasy. All the descriptions of the stage shows, Rose’s scenes with the bear were all vividly described. But the scenes I enjoyed the most, the ones that felt more real, were the images of extreme poverty. The fight to survive at a dreadful time in history.
It’s a book that I’m pleased I persevered with. I enjoyed seeing how their lives altered as they got older and how each of them coped after the hardest beginning.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

You can buy the book at amazon or waterstones

The Book of Mirrors by E. O. Chirovici – Review.

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About the Book

A gripping psychological thriller full of hidden fragments and dark reflections.

How would you piece together a murder?

Do you trust other people’s memories?
Do you trust your own?
Should you?

Princeton, 1987: renowned psychologist Professor Joseph Weider is brutally murdered.

New York, twenty-five years later: literary agent Peter Katz receives a manuscript. Or is it a confession?

Today: unearth the secrets of The Book of Mirrors and discover why your memory is the most dangerous weapon of all.

Already translated into 37 languages, The Book of Mirrors is the perfect novel for fans of psychological suspense and reading group fiction.

My Review

When Peter Katz receives a manuscript, he initally put it to one side. He eventually gets a chance to read it and is fascinated by the writing and discovering who murdered Joseph Weider twenty-five years earlier. All evidence points to it being the author but only part of the manuscript is available. Unfortunately, the author has died, the manuscript is missing and he hires a journalist to investigate and talk to people who might have answers. The journalist manages to make contact but in trying to find answers he becomes obsessed and this has consequences on his own life. The remainder of the story deals with the police officer who dealt with the murder at the time. By his own admission, he has made many mistakes. Both in the investigation and his marriage. He isn’t a likeable person, like many in the novel and has spent most of his life alone and full of regret.

The strongest character by a long way was Laura Baines. Cold and manipulative but unlike the detective she had no remorse or regret. It is a strange novel and the ending was a little unexpected. I thought I knew what had happened but I was completely wrong. There was also something hinted at but never revealed, this was left for the reader to consider and was a little chilling. I think the main theme of the novel was obsession. All the characters were obsessed with either an individual, success and fame within a career or the past. But it also showed that there could be a chance for redemption.
I was surprised that the author was based in the U.K. The American setting was very convincing.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

Mischling by Affinity Konar – Review

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About the Book

It’s 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood. As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele’s Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain. That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks – a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin – travel through Poland’s devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it.

My Review

When I first started reading Mischling I was intrigued by the title but had no idea what it meant. When I found out, it was the first of many times that I felt chilled reading this novel. Pearl and Stasha are twins and have recently arrived at Aushcwitz and soon realise the level of danger that they are all in. Very soon after arrival they have the attention of Josef Mengele. Stasha feels that she has the power and will to charm him into getting better treatment for her mother and grandfather. She believes his promises and outwardly accepts all what he does. But in her mind, she only wants revenge.
There is so much about the novel that is devastating. The images created of suffering loss and death were very vivid. But the strength, loyalty and willpower shown by the twins and their friends was humbling. I had to keep reminding myself that the twins were only twelve years old and their friends not much older.
The narrative switches between Pearl and Stasha, both say how they suffer under Mengele, Elma a nurse and Taube a guard. Mengele was evil, I was aware of that prior to reading but the venom displayed by Elma and Taube was just as upsetting. Especially Taube, just as I thought things would be ok. But then there were others, who had no choice but to do what they were told and really struggled coping with their deeds.
Whilst both narratives were fascinating it was Pearl’s account that I preferred. There was part of her story that left me distraught and that image will stay with me for a while. There was a lot to get upset about in the novel but the strength of character, will and loyalty made it much easier to read. It gave a sense of hope that there could be a future for all the ones who suffered.
There will be some who believe that novels like this shouldn’t be written but my opinion is that they need to be. I believe that we are heading into a situation that nobody will remember or be aware of what happened during this time. Affinity Konar was inspired by the twin girls Eva and Miriam Mozes who both survived Mengele’s experiments.
A desperately sad novel that was also full of love and hope.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole – Review

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About the Book

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together, nicknamed by the press as the ‘Ragdoll’. Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.
The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them. With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

My Review

I have been reading a lot of publicity mentions, followed by reviews praising Ragdoll over the last few months but I managed to save my copy to read until nearer publication.
After a high-profile court case goes against Wolf and his team his life changes dramatically. His marriage is over and he has been demoted at work after being forced to take a long leave of absence. But he is regarded as a celebrity cult figure by the media and the public, when a later event proved that the verdict of the court was the wrong one. The ‘ragdoll’ is a body that has been assembled from various other body parts. All the team need to identify the victims and try and prevent further people dying. They are not entirely successful in this matter.
Some of the murders in the book are the strangest and most brutal that I have come across and I read a lot of crime fiction. If they had all been bizarre I think it would have been too much but the balance was right. There was a lot of humour. Not just a little smile, this book had me laughing out loud a few times. Mostly at the expense of Wolf.
Wolf had to be one of the most mixed up detectives that I have come across but he wasn’t the only member of the team that had their issues. Baxter’s problems were the most believable but Edmunds was the one I had the most sympathy for. He never stood  a chance. The only one who seemed grounded was Finley. The media team were as usual, horrendous. Its nearly always a side of a novel that I struggle with and the ones that feature in this novel are the worst you can get.
An unexpected ending, that left me wanting a sequel. There has to be a future for Wolf and Baxter.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

Daniel Cole will be one of the authors participating in First Monday Crime in March. Details can be found here

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared without trace. Then a letter from her father arrives – ‘I need to talk to you. That girl. I saw that girl.’ Has her father’s dementia worsened, or has he really seen Corinne? Returning home, Nicolette must finally face what happened on that terrible night all those years ago. Then, another young woman goes missing, almost to the day of the anniversary of when Corinne vanished. And like ten years ago, the whole town is a suspect. Told backwards – Day 15 to Day 1 – Nicolette works to unravel the truth, revealing shocking secrets about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne. Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls is a brilliantly plotted debut thriller that will leave you breathless.

My Review

All the Missing Girls, apart from being a well written novel is unique. It starts off just like every other novel I’ve ever read but then after the introduction goes to Day 15 in the investigation into the disappearance of Annaleise. Subsequent chapters countdown to day one where everything is revealed.
I found it very strange to read at first, I had to resist the temptation to start at the back of the book and read towards the beginning. As I got further in, however I’m glad I went with the way the author wanted. There were a couple of times I had to flick back but they did lessen as I progressed.
I loved the description of the area, the people, even the accent that Nic did her best to disguise. I didn’t like Everett at all. I thought him cold, elitist and controlling. His only redeeming grace was that he was the only character in the entire book who had to be innocent.
Did it work? Yes, in hindsight it did, helped by the beauty of the writing, the characterisation and the story which was very powerful. I don’t think it would have the same impact if it had been a conventional novel. I had no idea at all who was responsible for anything that had happened either in the past or the present and I like to think that it was a happy ending.
I have never read any of Megan Miranda’s previous books which I gather are a different genre but I would be interested in the future. I would like to thank the publisher for the copy received and the introduction to a new author to read.

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Sealskin by Su Bristow – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

What happens when magic collides with reality? Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous …and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Exeter Novel Prize-winner Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable.

My Review

Donald is very much a loner until he sees Mairhi on the beach. He is fixated, not only is she beautiful she is also a selkie. After he has made it impossible for her to return to the sea he takes her to his home and his mother tells him what needs to be done. From that moment, his life changes completely.
I absolutely adored this novel. I didn’t get into it immediately but from the moment they met the priest I was hooked. The way everything was described – a community full of hard working fishermen and their mainly strong women living in a remote area at the mercy of the weather. Most of whom she touched, including this reader, she entranced. By her simplicity, faith and innocence she gave courage to the ones that needed it and humility to the rest. The ones who were not as nice were terrified by the images that Mairhi could reveal and how that contributed to making that person realise what they were and what they had to lose. Donald was the main beneficiary. I felt that she forgave him and she helped him change from an object of ridicule into a person to look up to.
The story, combined with the setting and having no sense of when it was set in time made for an unforgettable and mesmerising read that had me lost for words when I finished. A gorgeous, heartbreaking book, the only thing missing was a soundtrack to listen to as I read.

With thanks to Karen Sullivan for the copy received and for the chance to participate in the blog tour. You can also see a review at damppebbles where one of my favourite bloggers Emma has a guest post.

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Watch Me by Angela Clarke.

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About the Book

YOU HAVE SIX SECONDS TO READ THIS MESSAGE…
The body of a 15-year-old is found hours after she sends a desperate message to her friends. It looks like suicide, until a second girl disappears.
This time, the message is sent directly to the Metropolitan Police – and an officer’s younger sister is missing.
DS Nasreen Cudmore and journalist Freddie Venton will stop at nothing to find her. But whoever’s behind the notes is playing a deadly game of hide and seek – and the clock is ticking.
YOU HAVE 24 HOURS TO SAVE THE GIRL’S LIFE.
MAKE THEM COUNT.

My Review

Watch Me is the second book in the series that features Nas and Freddie. It could be read as a standalone but I would advise that you read the first book Follow Me before reading. They are strongly linked.
Both Nas and Freddie are emotionally damaged from the events that happened in Follow Me. Nas has moved to a different department within the police where she feels that she hasn’t been welcomed by all that are in it. Freddie is unemployed and back home with her parents trying to forget and recover from an injury she received. When the sister of Nas’s superior officer is abducted she asks Freddie for help.
I did enjoy Follow Me last year but liked this one a lot more. Both characters are more developed and more likeable. I know nothing at all about the social media site Snapchat which features in the book, but I have heard about the damage that such sites can cause when a user is so inclined. Some of the scenes described regarding the abuse that Chloe received were quite upsetting and totally believable.
Nas doesn’t make life easy for herself. Remorse over events eight years earlier and struggling to get past the young, pretty, female and ethnic police officer image and prove that she was good at her job. You could understand to some degree the frustration that her fellow officers felt. Freddie, despite her injury, emotional problems and civilian status is much more level headed and practical. I thought the ending was very clever and different to what I expected it to be.
A good second book in the social media series and I hope it continues. I can certainly see potential for more books and I’m sure it is one I will enjoy keeping up with.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received via NetGalley.

Lies – T.M Logan Guest Post

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Today, it is my pleasure to welcome to my blog T. M Logan giving his top five writing tips.His novel Lies was recently published by Bonnier Zaffre. You can read about the book at the end of the post.

My top five writing tips for aspiring writers

When I was eight years old, my older brothers dug a hole at the end of our garden. It was about three feet deep and two feet wide, behind a hedge where our parents couldn’t see.
When they were finished digging, they told me to get in it.
Why? Because it was a condition of me joining their gang. The Secret Association Society (none of us realised at the time that the acronym was already taken) was all about traps, and poison-making, and setting stuff on fire, and trying to smoke rhododendron leaves. I wasn’t keen on getting in the hole. But I was desperate to be in their gang – so I climbed in, whereupon my brothers covered the hole up with a board and threw some dirt on top. I crouched there in the pitch darkness, gripping my knees, smelling the dark earth and feeling the trickle of soil down the back of my neck. Eventually, they let me out again and I was duly made a member of the SAS. Anyway, the point of the story is this:

1. At some point as a writer, you’re going to have to do things you don’t immediately want to do.

Agents, editors, publishers, copy editors, trusted friends – they may all suggest changes to your manuscript that you don’t necessarily want to make. Try your hardest to listen to them – most of the time they will be right (as I found with LIES). You may have already been through several drafts yourself, and feel you don’t want to make any more changes. You don’t want to get in the hole. But almost everyone’s work can be improved somehow, in some way, through constructive feedback. Which leads me neatly into:

2. Try to get feedback from people you trust.

Getting feedback is tough. Asking someone to critique your work is a bit like walking stark naked into a room full of strangers and asking them to give you marks out of ten. It’s difficult. I’d be the first to admit that I was not very good at it to start with (for a long time I didn’t even share my writing with my wife). The problem is, finding people who want the best for you but won’t just tell you what you want to hear. It’s a judgement call that you have to make. But it’s absolutely worth doing.

3. Write every day.

If you’re serious about writing, you should do it every day. Particularly if you’re trying to get the first draft of a story down. When I start a new story I get a diary, photocopy the ‘Year at a glance’ page at the back, and stick it on the wall next to my desk. Each day I make a note of my wordcount – the aim is 500 on a weekday, 1500 on a weekend day – but it’s less about the number and more about making links in the chain and keeping that promise to myself. If I’ve written for 30, or 50, or 100 days straight, am I going to take a day off and break the chain? Probably not.

4. Every character is the protagonist of his or her own story.

Imagine a clock with no numbers on it. Turn it in your hands. The time it gives will depend on the way you rotate it – one way up will show you 11.15, but flip it over and the time becomes 4.45. The point is: all of your characters should behave as if they are the protagonist. None of them should act as if they are just in a supporting role – they all have their own point of view and are all the central character in their own story. If you can do this effectively, it will help to bring all of your characters to life. Even those who only have a small part to play in your narrative.

5. Let yourself fall into the page.

I love social media. But if you want to be fully absorbed by what you’re doing, put your mobile in a different room. You can’t be listening to your characters, and seeing them in front of you, if you’re constantly being pulled back to reality by your phone pinging with notifications every five minutes. Stephen King calls the process of becoming absorbed in your fictional world ‘falling into the page’. He wrote a brilliant book called On Writing – read it if you can.
Good luck!
@TMLoganAuthor

About the Book

WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS BASED ON LIES? A gripping new psychological thriller of secrets and revenge, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and Tom Bale

When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message

Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie.

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About the Book

A vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.
The charred body of a policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out-shell of his car on the Southend seafront.
To DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell of the Essex Police Major Investigation Team, the two events seem unconnected. But as they dig deeper into their colleague’s murder, dark secrets begin to emerge.
Can Pearson and Russell solve both cases, before more lives are destroyed?

My Review

A police officer is found dead in a burnt-out car. He is being investigated after an accusation of violence and suspected expenses fiddling. His former partner, Cat Russell is questioned throughout about her knowledge and possible involvement. Pearson is the older cop. His marriage is in tatters and his health is questionable. Together they are trying to get answers about Carragher’s death and whether he was a dirty cop. Both officers had their problems. Russell had no family support and struggled at times with attitude of fellow officers who resented her having a university degree. Pearson is concerned about his ex-wife but more so about his health problem.
Donna has recently been released from the care system that didn’t give much in the way of care. She is grieving over a recently deceased friend who she ‘sees’ in visits along with other people who have died who she has had contact with.
I liked this debut novel, I loved the way that the author set out his scenes. It’s not something I have come across before and I thought it worked well. It was like reading a TV script. I liked the partnership of Pearson and Russell, and the relationship that they had with their superior officer Roberts. Much of the novel focuses on Donna and her friend Malc and the reader finds out most of what happened to Carragher before the police do. Again, I thought this was done well, along with a twist at the end.
I am pleased that there will be another book published soon, this could be another series to get interested in.
With thanks to Clara Diaz at Little and Brown for the copy received.

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Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan.

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About the Book

The body is found by the river, near a spot popular with runners.

With a serial rapist at work in the area, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are initially confused when the Hate Crimes Unit is summoned to the scene. Until they discover that the victim, Corinne Sawyer, was born Colin Sawyer.

Police records reveal there have been violent attacks on trans women in the local area. Was Corinne a victim of mistaken identity? Or has the person who has been targeting trans women stepped up their campaign of violence? With tensions running high, and the force coming under national scrutiny, this is a complex case and any mistake made could be fatal…

My Review

Watch Her Disappear is the fourth book in the series that features Zigic and Ferreira and is my favourite one so far. You can always rely on Eva Dolan to write something a bit different and in this book the hate crimes unit are looking into the murder of a transgender woman and other attacks that they suspect are linked. Corrine, the victim doesn’t come across as a very nice person, either as Corrine or in her previous life as Colin. In all honesty, I had more sympathy, if not liking for her family.
All the trans women who featured appeared more confident and happy when they could live their lives as women. Eva demonstrates how the trans community are regarded in society. Some people are supportive but many treat them with no respect and as an object of ridicule. Some of the terminology used by members of the police force excluding Zigic and Ferreira made me cringe slightly and it was believable. Even more believable was the storyline regarding the attitude of certain people on social media.
Alongside the investigation is another that is looking into rape. The two detectives who are involved in the case know who is responsible but it is impossible to prove it. Ferreira is also doing some work on this case and I loved how she could get under the suspect’s skin.
The last third of the novel, when I had figured out who was responsible if not why was impossible to put down. I felt upset for Ferreira who struggled with guilt and frustration at having to stand aside. She has been a favourite character since the first book, I just like everything about her.
I read a lot of series fiction and with all the books that I read I usually fall behind but this is one series that I have kept up to date with. I hope that it will continue.
With thanks to the publisher for my copy received.