Shtum by Jem Lester

imageIf you only read one novel that is released during 2016, I would recommend that it be Shtum by Jem Lester.

Ben and Emma have a severely autistic son, Jonah. They are forced to take the local authorities to a tribunal to get him into a residential school that will be the best option for him rather than the day school that will be by far the worst for all concerned. To help with their appeal Emma convinces Ben that they need to look like they have separated, so even though he doesn’t agree Ben and Jonah move in with Ben’s father Georg. Ben and Georg have a strained relationship but Georg idolises Jonah and Ben can’t help but feel jealous when he overhears Georg tell Jonah about growing up in Hungary. Something that he has never done with Ben.

I will be the first to admit my lack of knowledge regarding autism and even after reading the novel I still know very little. However this had no negative impact on what I read. The story of three different generations of a family, two who had their differences trying to do the best for the third. Ben and Emma had their faults and both dealt with their situation without much regard for each other. But they dealt with it in the only way they could.
I went through the the whole range of emotions whilst reading. I laughed but I also cried. I felt anger, mainly towards the councils, schools and social workers but also at times towards Ben. And I had a huge amount of sympathy towards a family who were trying to do the best thing possible for their child, and were being let down by a system and a feeling of betrayal towards absent ‘friends’.
I have read two books this year when I have felt bereft when I have finished it. This was one of them. Totally different to my usual choice of fiction but I think it’s a book that will be enjoyed whatever your tastes are. I have no hesitation in recommending this novel to anybody who loves to read.

Thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Shtum will be released in April 2016.

The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto

09HC_Kolibri_suojapaperi.inddWhen Scandinavian fiction was the thing that ‘everybody should be reading’ a few years ago I did so. Some I liked , some I wasn’t keen on. The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto is the first book in a series that I know I’m going to love.
Anna is a new police officer in Finland. Almost immediately the team have two investigations. One concerns a young immigrant girl who makes an emergency call for help. The family insist is was a misunderstanding but Anna especially, feels that she could be in danger.
The other case involves the murder of a lone female runner at night. When other murders follow the team are under pressure to find the killer in a case where there appears to be no link.

Anna struggles to feel accepted by certain members of the team at first. Not Finnish by birth, she moved to Finland from Hungary as a child. Esko especially is quite nasty, openly racist and sexist but thankfully this lessens as they get to know each other.
She is also going through a downward spiral into an unhealthy lifestyle. Going from a healthy eating athlete into a junk food eating, smoking and drinking insomniac.
I did find some of the racism hard to read but I suspect that it was quite accurate. I liked the relationship development between the team members and that the reader would get to know about all the members of the team. Anna, like many leading characters in other novels has a troubled life. A family uprooted by a war, one brother killed in the war, another brother who is wasting his life and a mother who thinks she is failing because she hasn’t married and had children.
I will be reading the second book very soon.

Nowhere Girl by Ruth Dugdall

imageWhen I read Humber Boy B earlier this year I found it very difficult to read. Not due to the style of writing or characters, just because of the storyline.
I found this follow up novel Nowhere Girl to be much better. Cate has moved with her young daughter to live with her partner Olivier in Luxembourg. When a teenage girl goes missing at a large fair the police don’t take it seriously much to Cate’s disgust. Olivier is one of the police officers looking into the disappearance and he refuses to discuss any part of the investigation with her. Struggling with the language barrier she along with Bridget, the mother and Eva a teacher start their own investigation.
Taking place at the same time is another story that concerns two teenagers Amina and Jodie. They have both been smuggled into the country from Algeria for the chance of a ‘better life in Europe’. However it is not the life that they and probably their families ever imagined. The two stories merge, events from the past are revealed and things become more desperate.
There is a lot covered in the novel. People trafficking, abduction, child abuse and illness and it made a good read. I am reluctant to say too much about how they are covered because it would be easy to reveal too much. I would have liked to seen an outcome for everybody who features in the novel, there were a couple of characters I really liked. However we may, hopefully see them in future novels. I enjoyed reading about Luxembourg, a country I know nothing about and much to my shame I had to google it to find out where it actually is.
It would work as a standalone but there aspects of Cate’s family life that wouldn’t mean anything if you hadn’t read the earlier books. Nothing is revealed about why certain events mentioned in the book are taking place but if you know what they are you understand her more.
With thanks to Jessica at Legend Press for the copy received for review.

Lost Girl by Adam Nevill.

imageMore futuristic thriller than horror, Lost Girl by Adam Nevill is an image of how life could be in the not so distant future. Set in 2053, ‘the father’ who annoyingly never has a name is trying to find his young daughter who was abducted from their garden two years earlier.
The world is everything that our media warns us about. Extreme weather, disease, lack of food and over population has destroyed everything that is taken for granted.
I found it at times quite difficult to read. I didn’t like that the father never had a name, I thought it made him soulless. Although part of me thinks that it was like this because he could be any father searching for his child.
There were not that many characters in the novel but two who appealed more than any of the others were Scarlett and Oleg. Still not likeable as such, but I felt they were stronger because they showed emotion and regret.
There were a few times when I was tempted to put the novel to one side but the appearance of Oleg made me much more interested in reading and finishing the novel.
I feel that this novel is an indication of how this world needs to change to make the future better. Much more preferable to be kept as fiction and not fact.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Time to Die

imageI’ve always felt very uncomfortable with any form of fortune telling so was uneasy straightaway with Time to Die. Tarot Cards worry me more than any of them and they play a huge part in this novel. The Tarot Card reader Bert, is and has always been a loner. Unwanted as a child and also as an adult he is very unlikeable and very convincing in all of his prophecies. Jennifer and Will start to investigate him when a series of suspicious deaths, including that of the future wife of an old schoolfriend appear to be connected to him.
Jennifer is settled in to her position in her unit, apart from Will they all have their own talents within the paranormal. She is however frightened by the number of ravens that seem to be everywhere she goes. The ravens have always been regarded with suspicion in Haven. She is also upset about the unwelcome reappearance of her father.
I didn’t find it as spooky as the first in the series but I did prefer to read it in daylight. The combined detective/ supernatural storyline works very well and I was forever ‘just reading another chapter’. I hope that there will be more books in this series especially if the storyline that was hinted at in the final chapter is the subject of the next book.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy via netgalley.