Having loved Anna Hope’s debut novel Wake I was really looking forward to reading her second novel The Ballroom.
It is set in 1911 at Sharston Asylum on the Yorkshire moors. Charles is a doctor who has an interest in music. He gets a position there and his wish is to improve the lives of the patients. He decides to play in an orchestra every Friday evening, patients are selected to attend so that they can have a dance. It is the only time that they get to meet patients who are the opposite sex.
John and Ella are just two of the patients there, and they meet on one of these evenings. John was very reluctant to attend. He is at the asylum after tragedy affects his personal life. Ella has been admitted after breaking a window at the asylum where she had worked since she was eight years old. She had only wanted to see the sky. Both of them have good friends in Dan and Clem. Dan is a bit of a rebel, a seaman who yearns for his freedom. Clem is happy with her books and is one of the few who has family visitors. John and Ella start to fall in love and try to make contact away from the dance. They are helped in this by Dan and Clem. At the same time Charles has become obsessed with John and is also following with great interest the debate in Parliament regarding eugenics.
A fascinating book to read. I thought that most of the blame when disaster struck was down to Charles. A man, very unhappy in his personal life who couldn’t be honest about his feelings. He feels under more pressure and gets vindictive with his decisions. I enjoyed the love story between John and Ella. Two people who shouldn’t have been there and trying their hardest to be together. But the most fascinating character for me was Clem. I thought her role in the novel was amazing, I don’t want to reveal why. To do so will be a spoiler but she will be the character who I will think about for a while. There also all the minor characters, some who remained nameless but all essential to the setting and they all felt real. I liked the way it ended, it was a bit of a surprise but it worked and was very fitting.
I knew that people were placed in asylums that shouldn’t have been, I was told stories throughout my teens about why people, especially women ended up there. Thankfully attitudes have changed.
With thanks to Alison Barrow for the copy received.
After You Die is the third book in the Zigic and Ferreira series and is one that I have been waiting impatiently to read since the cliff hanger ending in book two. It was well worth waiting for!
Unlike the first two books, which involved hate crimes against those from a different country this was about hate crime aimed at a disabled blogger. Holly was paralysed in an accident a few years previously. Her accident caused her parents marriage to breakdown, her mother was active on dating websites and she had very little contact with her father who blamed himself. When Dawn is murdered, Holly is left to die from natural causes in her bedroom.
Ferreira has just returned to work after a bad injuries she suffered while on active duty. She is still affected by them, both mentally and physically but is determined to prove that she can cope despite concerns from her colleagues. Zigic is fighting to keep the case in the hate crimes department and is angered by restrictions placed on him when a potential witness needs to be interviewed. Nathan was an enigma, I kept on reading just a little bit more to find out what his past was and why Zigic was having to hold back.
A lot of people have views on the right to die issue. The topic was handled very well in the novel. I imagine that the abuse that Holly received via her blog was pretty accurate. She was a great character, one of the nicest and definitely one of the bravest people in the book. She had a big impact on Ferreira who was desperate to get answers into the killings.
Quite sad at times, especially the storylines with the younger people who feature. It was harder to feel any sympathy or warmth towards any of the other characters. The crime itself was very cold and calculating. Probably one of the most calculating that I have read for a while.
The Zigic and Ferreira detective series is one of my favourites. I’ve enjoyed each book, you get to know the main characters a little more in each one but their personal lives don’t impact the main story. If you haven’t read them I would recommend reading in order.
With thanks to the publisher and the author for the copy received.
Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him. The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will. Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all. Dark, chilling and complex, Nightblind is an extraordinary thriller from an undeniable new talent.
Snow Blind was amongst my top ten books from 2015 so I was pleased that Night Blind was published just as I finished it.
It is set roughly five years later, with three books covering the period between the two still to be published. This did feel slightly unusual but both books could easily be read as a standalone or out of sequence.
Ari Thór is back in a relationship with Kristen and they now have a young son. I struggled to like her, and at times I thought that Ari felt the same. What he did love was being part of a family which is something that he had missed out on.
The claustrophobic atmosphere was still there but not as much, the little town wasn’t as cut off from the rest of the country as it was when Ari first moved there. Even though he had now lived there for five years he was still considered to be an outsider. He found it difficult to accept that everybody knew him and his family but he didn’t know them. I found this quite amusing and could imagine it being very accurate. It also made me smile how offended Tomas was when he noticed that changes had been made to his old home.
It felt like a fairly ‘quiet’ read for most of it.Much of the novel focuses on the investigation into the policeman’s murder but there were also some sinister diary excerpts from the 1980s. You aren’t told who the diary belongs to and I couldn’t work it. I was then taken completely by surprise by a couple of very convincing violent scenes, one in particular left me feeling a little bit tense.
I now have my second signed Ragnar Jónasson novel, but thanks to Karen Sullivan for providing a proof copy for review.
See below for details regarding the blog tour.
A great debut novel by Holly Seddon, Try Not To Breathe is an excellent read that you will not want to put down.
Alex is a freelance journalist whose life is a wreck. Her marriage had collapsed due to her alcoholism and both have a major influence on her life. The alcohol controls her whole life, she only works certain hours then she can be back home with nothing to disturb the drinking. Amy is the same age and from the same area but her life could not be more different. She was attacked fifteen years earlier and has been in a comatose state since.
Alex is trying to write her come back article in which she is looking at comatose patients and how they might be more responsive than people think and Amy is the patient on who she focuses.She starts to visit her, plays music that she knows she likes and tries to get some answers on who attacked her.
I really liked Alex, she knew she had to get her life back on track and was trying her hardest to prove to herself and people around her that she would succeed. The addiction was fascinating, I’ve never read a book where it showed how controlling it could be. How she accepted the consequences that the addiction was having on her health.
The narrative switches between the characters and time since the attack. Amy’s narrative was quite eerie, it showed that she was aware that her life was different, she knew who attacked her but she didn’t know why she had no contact with most people she knew or how life had moved on.
It didn’t go the way I thought it would, there were a few surprises during the read and I think I suspected most people who were in the book.
This was a really addictive read, yet another that is likened to Girl on a Train (I really wish they wouldn’t do this). I found it nothing like, but it is a very strong novel and will probably be a huge success.
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy received.
My top eleven books of the year are listed below. It should have been ten but the last book I read had to be added and I didn’t want to remove one. They are in no particular order.
Lost Girls by Angela Marsons
The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto
How To Be Brave by Louise Beech
The Lost by Claire Mcgowan
In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Normal by Graeme Cameron
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
Devastation Road by Jason Hewitt
Shtum by Jem Lester
Snow Blind by Ragnar Jónasson