The Inconvenient Need To Belong by Paula Smedley – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

In the summer of 1953, twenty-year-old Alfie steals away from his troubled childhood home in London to start a new life in Exeter. His own life.

And at first it’s everything he ever dreamed it would be. For the first time in his life Alfie feels like he belongs.

Today, in a care home in the Midlands, eighty-six-year-old Alfie is struggling to come to terms with his dark past.

Alfie’s story is one of regret, the mistakes we make, and the secrets even the most unassuming of us can hold. But it is also a story about family, friendship, the things we should treasure and protect, and how the choices we make can shape our lives and the lives of others.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Every now and again I like to read a book that is a bit different and I’m so glad I chose to read this lovely novel. I found it to be one that made me think about the world a little differently.

Alfie is the main character in the novel, much of the story concerns his life in a care home. He is in his 80s, lonely, set in his ways and looks forward to his visits to the library on Wednesdays where he can write to his pen pal and the park on Saturdays where he chats to Fred. Only one of these activities is really allowed, his visits to the park are noticed by Julia, a care nurse, but she chooses to let him carry on.

The other part of the story concerns his life when he was much younger. The many mistakes he made, the people he loved and the family he left behind. He wasn’t an easy person to like, but I had a lot of sympathy for him. Especially towards the end of the novel when I realised how lonely he felt. 

It wasn’t a book that had me in floods of tears but it was one that made me appreciate a lot what tales all those who live in a care facility have to tell. Their memories, good and bad. Reading the letters exchanged with his pen pal and reading about his meetings with Fred, I got to know the real Alfie. Not just the cantankerous, often unfriendly elderly man. 

A lovely story that I was very happy to read. 

The Secret Of Strangers by Charity Norman – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for a group of strangers whose paths cross in a London café  their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives? 

Another tense, multi-dimensional drama from the writer of the Richard & Judy bestseller AFTER THE FALL.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This is the first book I have read by Charity Norman and after finishing it I know I need to read her other books. Even though it is based around a serious crime it is concerned more with what led to it and the private lives of the gunman, his hostages and the police negotiator who is trying to get all of them to safety.

There are only a few pages that concern the shooting in the coffee shop, instead most of the novel focuses on the reasons why it happened and the way the small group in the coffee shop bonded. I had to decide if Sam was giving true account of what his life was like. Was Robert a saint and Sam spoiled, ungrateful, badly behaved and a disappointment? Or was every word that Sam said a true reflection of what his life was like. There were also some upsetting accounts of the hostages lives, especially one near the end. I just can’t imagine how people recover from experiences like the one described. I thought the ending was perfect. Friendships formed and promises kept. Even from one who made me mutter occasionally.

If you decide to read this book please take my advice and have a box of tissues nearby. It is one very emotional read. 

Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald – Blog Tour Review

About The Book

Single-mother Fran returns to her sleepy hometown to care for her dying father when a devastating bush fire breaks out. A devastating, disaster-noir thriller from the author of The Cry.

Fran hates Ash Mountain, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.

She returns to her hometown to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.

As old friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…

Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that you will never forget…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I first became aware of this book at a roadshow event last year. Having visited Australia a few times, each time seeing  the after effects of a bushfire and loving Australian fiction I was eager to read it. And what a book it is, it’s one that I will be recommending to everybody.

When Fran returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, along with her daughter it is with reluctance, it wasn’t a happy place for her as a teenager. The reasons why are revealed throughout the book which covers the events from 30 years ago, the first few days after Fran’s arrival and the day of the fire. There are a few narrators but mainly it is Fran.

Many people will have seen the devastation of the bushfires in Australia on the news earlier this year. What this novel shows is what it is like for those who had to live close by. There is the fear, the smell of burning and death, the way the fires destroy everything in their path, the knowledge that many neighbours have lost their lives. And the uncertainty about many others.

But there is also some humour. Fran is funny, sarcastic and down to earth. What you see is what you get. She feels hurt at the nickname she has had to endure for thirty years but deals with it the best way she can. I adored her. And I laughed at the freezing cold temperatures in Adelaide, 23 degrees! 

Absolutely wonderful. 

The Saracen’s Mark by S. W. Perry – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Betrayal has many guises…

London, 1593:
 Five years on from the Armada and England is taking its first faltering steps towards a future as a global power. Nicholas Shelby – reluctant spy and maverick physician – and his companion Bianca Merton are settling into a life on Bankside. But in London there is always a plot afoot… 

Robert Cecil, the Queen’s spymaster, once again recruits Nicholas to embark on a dangerous undercover mission that will take him to the back alleys of Marrakech in search of a missing informer. However, while Nicholas hunts for the truth across the seas, plague returns once more to London – ravaging the streets and threatening those dearest to him. 

Can Bianca and Nicholas’ budding relationship weather the threats of pestilence and conspiracy? And will Nicholas survive the dangers of his mission in a hostile city to return safely home?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Jackdaw Mystery series is one of my favourites. Not only because of the characters but also because it takes place in my favourite period in British history. There is something about the power, corruption and fear that enthrals me and all of it comes across in this series.

There are two threads throughout the novel. One concerns Nicholas’s time in Marrakech, the connection between there and the Tudor court was something I wasn’t aware of and the other concerns Bianca and her attempts to stay safe from the plague that is crossing London and her having to come to terms with her feeling of abandonment with Nicholas going to Marrakech. But these two threads are connected and both are in danger.

Whilst I enjoyed reading about Nicholas in Marrakech, learning about the customs and the medical knowledge, and seeing the danger he faced it was Bianca’s story I preferred. The plague that brought fear, empty streets and mounting death but also the threat from power. But the way Bianca dealt with all, knowing that either could end her life had me hooked. 

As usual I spent time on google researching the real life characters and events and enjoyed every minute. I hope that this series continues. 

The Creak On The Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, translated by Victoria Cribb – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day …

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Creak On The Stairs is the first in a new crime series which is set in Iceland. One of the reasons I enjoy Icelandic Noir is that it’s easy to assume you are reading ‘cosy crime’ but it’s not long before you start to see the darker thread. This book was no different and the truth is slowly revealed when you read the accounts from the past. When you see what the victim was like as a child. How she suffered from the neglect, bitterness and the worst betrayal you can imagine. And how she dealt with it.

Elma was a character I liked immediately, she seemed more ‘streetwise’ than her colleagues and was more willing to delve further. Maybe less worried than the others with living away for so long she was less concerned about offending those in power. I felt that Akranes was a close knit society, the type where there were many secrets, plenty of suspicions but nothing ever discussed.

I appreciated the way Elma developed friendships with the rest of the team, with slight promises of the way things could develop. She obviously struggled with her emotions concerning her previous relationship and was unwilling to discuss it. When the full extent of what happened there was revealed at the end I understood her attitude to starting again more. Her relationship with her family was convincing, especially with her older sister, much of their interaction made me smile.

It’s a fascinating novel and I’m very much looking forward to more by this author.