Books Reviews with the Curious Ginger Cat

Books reviews, book tours, cover reveals and anything else book-related.

Blogger Blast: Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler

on
Thursday, 16 May 2019
Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler



Huge congratulations to HS Chandler for today's publication of her new courtroom drama, Degrees of Guilt, and thanks to Orion Books for providing me with an advanced copy of the book for review.

Title: Degrees of Guilt
Author: HS Chandler
Publication Date: 16 May 2019 (ebook), 5 September 2019 (paperback)
Publisher: Orion

Twitter: @HSCinkpen

Blurb

When you read this book, you will think you know every twist in the tale.

Maria is on trial for attempted murder.

She has confessed to the crime and wanted her husband dead.

Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide her fate.

She embarks on an illicit affair with a stranger, and her husband can never find out.

You may think you know who is guilty and who is innocent.

You will be wrong.

Review

Degrees of Guilt is a page-turning courtroom drama set predominantly in Bristol Crown Court and focusing on two people involved in the Bloxham trial.

Maria Bloxham is accused of the attempted murder of her celebrity husband of 18 years, Dr Edward Bloxham. Scratching under the surface reveals that their marriage may not have been quite as rosy as you might expect.

Charlotte 'Lottie' Hiraj is a juror assigned to the Bloxham trial. She feels immediate sympathy for Maria because her marriage is also on the rocks. Lottie feels that she is losing her sense of self since becoming a wife and a mother.

The book explores the darker unhealthier side of relationships, a particularly topical issue in light of the recent #MeToo movement.  It also explores some emotive issues such as marital abuse and self-harming in a thought-provoking way. It explains how women can find themselves unable to leave an abusive relationship but also considers whether the situation is as clear-cut as suggested.

Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler

I love a good courtroom drama and one of the most fascinating parts of this story for me was the actions and group dynamics of the jury. The author has a background in law herself and she has cleverly not fallen into the trap of sensationalising the setting or the trial, bringing a real sense of authenticity to the book. Whilst we never really know what goes on in a jury room, it strikes me as somewhat illogical to allow such an important decision as someone's guilt or innocence to rest with a group of people who more often that not will have some preconceptions/bias and whom may be easily pressured to align their views with other members of the jury in order to bring their jury duty to an end. The criminal justice system really is shockingly vulnerable to human fallibilities and to those barristers who are happy to twist evidence in order to get the win. In Maria's case, the tension quickly ramps up as we wonder whether justice will prevail?

Chandler has produces a compulsive and shocking story, full of suspense and twists and turns. Just as you think you know where the story is heading, it will flip around and sprint off in another direction. 

Degrees of Guilt is a gripping and entertaining read. Thoroughly recommended for fans of courtroom dramas, legal thrillers and psychological thrillers.

Many thanks to Orion for providing me with an early copy of the book for review.

About the Author


HS Chandler
HS Chandler is the pen name of Helen Fields. As HS Chandler she writes psychological thrillers and legal thrillers. With a background as a criminal and family law barrister, she now runs a media company and writes the Callanach crime series.










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Book Review: Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

on
Wednesday, 8 May 2019
Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan


Title: Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel
Author: Ruth Hogan
Publisher: Two Roads
Publication Date: 7 February 2019
Genre: Women's Fiction

Blurb


Tilly was a bright, outgoing little girl who liked playing with ghosts and matches. She loved fizzy drinks, swear words, fish fingers and Catholic churches, but most of all she loved living in Brighton in Queenie Malone's magnificent Paradise Hotel with its endearing and loving family of misfits - staff and guests alike. But Tilly's childhood was shattered when her mother sent her away from the only home she'd ever loved to boarding school with little explanation and no warning.

Many years later, Tilda has grown into an independent woman still damaged by her mother's unaccountable cruelty. Wary of people, her only friend is her dog, Eli. But when her mother dies Tilda goes back to Brighton and with the help of her beloved Queenie sets about unravelling the mystery of her exile from The Paradise Hotel, only to discover that her mother was not the woman she thought she knew at all.

Review 


My husband insists that the first line in a novel is the most important. It has to set the scene, introduce a character, provide context, generate intrigue AND, most importantly, it has to capture the reader’s attention. So, when I read the first line of Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel - “My mother killed my father when I was seven years old” – I knew I was on to a winner. That line ticks all of the criteria above and more. How could anyone not feel compelled to continue reading?!

Returning to Brighton following her mother’s death, Tilda finds herself at a metaphorical crossroad and decides to stay for an extended period whilst deciding in which direction her life should head next. Initially somewhat ambivalent about her mother’s death, the discovery of some old diaries gives Tilda the opportunity to get to know her mother better and to understand her childhood from an adult perspective.

The book is written in two parts and told in a split timeline with one narrative from the older Tilda’s perspective as she re-visits her childhood haunts and one from the younger Tilly who explains how Tilda’s childhood has shaped her present life. The two narratives come together at certain points, revealing important events from Tilda’s past.

As with Hogan’s earlier works, the characters are vibrant and appealing.  Tilda (formerly Tilly) is 46 years old single and wary of people. She is cautious, reserved and slow to trust people. This is a striking contrast to the bright, bubbly and adventurous little girl that she used to be. In part 2 of the book we meet Queenie Malone and her eccentric mother. They are simply marvellous supporting characters, adding a great sense of fun to the book from the moment they first appear within the pages. With the eclectic mix of staff and residents at the Paradise Hotel, it’s not difficult to see why Tilly so adored her time there. I should also mention the other supporting characters of Daniel, Joseph Geronimo and Miss Dane, all of whom help Tilda to understand her past and move forward with her life.

Despite the colourful array of human characters, my favourite and the most endearing character has to be Eli the dog. Hogan always adds a hint of the supernatural into her books and, in this case, Eli is one of those hints (I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that). I was reading a book earlier today in which the author said that when a person dies they don’t leave us but instead leave an imprint or a negative of themselves that stays with us, in a similar way that an amputee still experiences an itch in a missing limb. I suppose this is what we mean when we say that someone’s spirit stays with us. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do like the thought that a person or animal’s imprint can remain with you after they’re gone. It’s a comforting thought.

The story is ultimately a beautifully written, tender exploration of the mother-daughter relationship, the complexities of families and the power of friendship. The book also explores some darker issues of mental health, depression and loss.  If that all sounds a bit deep for you, don’t worry! Those issues are dealt with gently and sensitively, focusing more on acceptance, forgiveness and hope. It is a warm, poignant and thought-provoking tale. Ultimately, Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel proves to be a charming and uplifting read, like a burst of sunshine on a drizzly day.

Thanks to Two Roads and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of the book for review.

About the Author (in her own words)


Ruth Hogan
I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford: my sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me. as a child I read everything I could lay my hands on: The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets and gravestones. I was may about dogs and horses, but didn't like daddy-long-legs or sugar in my tea.

I studied English and Drama at Goldsmiths College which was brilliant, but then I came home and got a 'proper' job. I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (I was definitely a square peg in a round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage) before a car accident left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously. It was going well, but then in 2012 I got cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing and the eventual result was The Keeper of Lost Things.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering partner (who has very recently become my husband - so I can't be that bad!). I am a magpie, always collecting treasures, and a huge John Betjeman fan. My favourite word is 'antimacassar' and I still like reading gravestones.



AUTHOR'S CONTACT LINKS



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Book Review: I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney [Audiobook]

on
Saturday, 4 May 2019
I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Title: I Know Who You Are
Author: Alice Feeney
Publisher: HQ (HarperCollins)
Publication Date: 16 May 2019
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller

Website: www.alicefeeney.com
Twitter: @alicewriterland
Instagram: @alicewriterland
Facebook: @AliceFeeneyAuthor

Blurb


The highly anticipated new novel from the international bestselling author of Sometimes I Lie, Alice Feeney's new novel is her most twisted and nerve-wracking thriller yet.

Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can't remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you've done. And I am watching you.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn't seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she's hiding something and they're right, she is - but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she's never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

I Know Who You Are will leave your heart pounding and your pulse racing.this is the most twisted thriller you'll read all year.

Review

I Know Who You Are is the story of Aimee Sinclair. She is that actress that you recognise, but cannot quite remember where from. On the verge of fame, things seem to be going pretty well for her until she arrives home one day to find her husband, Ben Bailey, gone and her bank account emptied. The police suspect Aimee of some nefarious deed, yet whilst it is true that Aimee is hiding something, it is so much more than the police (or the reader) could have anticipated!

The book then takes us to 1987 Ireland to meet six year old Ciara, a motherless child being raised by an unloving and abusive father. Ciara's desperate wish for a pair of red shoes brings her into contact with Maggie, a meeting that will turn her life upside down.

The story continues via a mix of present day account and flashbacks, as the two narrative threads gradually intertwine.  The author cleverly and deftly weaves a twisty, complex yet plausible plot which is utterly gripping and ultimately jaw-dropping. There are so many twists and turns that you will not want to put this book down!

It is the characters that truly make this story. They are all unreliable, unpredictable and utterly fascinating. Aimee comes across as quiet, sweet and reserved; crippled with shyness and self-doubt despite choosing a career in the spotlight. Whilst it would be difficult not to sympathise with someone who has been through so much, is so alone and who has had to struggle so hard, it is oddly difficult to warm to Aimee as a character. This may be because she holds back so much from the reader. This made me feel as though I didn't really know Aimee or understand her motivations. She is used to playing a part for her job, and yet it feels as though she continues to play a part in everyday life too. Just who is the real Aimee?  Despite Aimee being the main protagonist, I found myself drawn to Maggie. Menacing and unbalanced, her character delves into a particular level of darkness that left me intrigued as to what (if indeed there were any precipitating factors) caused her to be like she is.

If you want to escape into a twisty thriller, then I Know Who You Are is the perfect book for you. It is dark, disturbing and hugely addictive. This is a story that will make your blood run cold and make you question how well you really know your nearest and dearest. With some very clever plotting, I was a good way through the book before I thought I had guessed the ending and even then I wasn't quite there - I do love a book that can take me by surprise!

I listened to the audio version of the book, read by Stephanie Racine, and I absolutely loved that version - great choice of narrator! The seamless switch between accents really helped me to be absorbed into the story and particularly helped bring the character of Maggie to life.

Thanks to HQ and Joe Thomas for providing an advanced copy of the audio book for review.

About the Author

Alice Feeney
Alice Feeney's is a writer and journalist. She spent 15 years at the BBC where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Poducer and One O'clock News Producer.

Alice has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.

Her debut, Sometimes I Lie, was a New York Times and international bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty languages, and is being made into a TV series by Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros. starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. 

Her second novel, I Know Who You Are, will be published in Spring 2019.


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Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

on
Tuesday, 30 April 2019
Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward


Title: Beautiful Bad
Author: Annie Ward
Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: 5 March 2019

Website: www.annie-ward.com
Twitter: @_Annie_Ward
Instagram: @annienighward
Facebook: @anniewardbooks

Blurb

Things that make me scared: When Charlie cries. Hospitals and lakes. When Ian drinks vodka in the basement. ISIS. When Ian gets angry. ... That something is really, really wrong with me.

Maddie and Ian's romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British Army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian's PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son Charlie; and the couple's tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of shocking crime.

But what in this beautiful home has gone so terribly bad?

Review


The majority of thrillers are told at breakneck speed, grabbing the reader’s attention and rushing towards the big reveal. By comparison, Beautiful Bad is a thriller that demands patience.

The story begins with a 911 call originating from a upmarket neighbourhood in Meadowlark, Kansas. Upon attending the scene, police officer Diane Varga finds a pool of blood and evidence of a struggle. Who is the victim and who is the perpetrator…?


Skipping back 12 weeks, we are introduced to Maddie Wilson and the story begins, being told through a sequence of chapters that alternate between flashes from the present, letters written as part of writing therapy sessions and flashbacks from key moments in Maddie’s past.  Once a budding travel writer living in the volatile Balkans, Maddie is now a dutiful wife to Ian and mother to Charlie living in small town USA. Ian is a former soldier now working in private security overseas. As the story progresses, the reader is quickly led to wonder what has happened to Maddie that causes her so much fear and anxiety. The story is very well plotted and the three narrative threads, skipping between time periods and narrators, allow the tension to build at a steady pace. The author carefully reveals clues to the reader at specific moments throughout the story, allowing the layers to be gradually peeled back.

It is clear from the start that both Ian and Maddie are unreliable narrators and the story is infused with a darkness from the very first, covering issues such as mental health, PTSD, alcoholism, paranoia and violence. As Maddie’s therapy sessions with the unconventional Cami J progress, Maddie and Ian’s relationship is explored in more depth, both the good and the disturbing. We also learn more about Maddie’s relationship with her former best friend, Joanna. It is a story that will cause the reader to reflect on how past trauma can slowly leak into the present. The author is in no rush and takes her time to show how the past can have such a significant impact on the present. It is sad to see how the exuberance of youth is slowly extinguished by experience, trauma and regret.

On a slightly brighter note, I loved the strong sense of place within the story. The tale takes us from Bulgaria to Macedonia and then on to the USA, during which the author uses descriptive and evocative prose which allows the reader to experience these places referred to within the story. I felt not that I was being told about a location, but rather that I was experiencing that place for myself.

There is nothing more satisfying in any book than a good ending. As part of a publisher’s challenge, I had to email Quercus with my prediction for the ending when I reached page 328. Looking back on my email I think I was pretty close to working out the ending, although there were still a few surprises left for me. Ultimately, the tale culminates in a wonderfully twisty yet satisfying ending.

Beautiful Bad is a tense and tightly plotted domestic thriller that will grab a reader’s interest from the very first page. It is intelligent, thoughtful and chilling. A perfect choice for those who appreciate a suspenseful mystery or a bit of domestic noir.

About the Author


Annie Ward


Annie’s sophomore novel and first psychological thriller BEAUTIFUL BAD will be published by Harper Collins/Park Row books in March, 2019.

Annie received a BA in English Lit with an emphasis in Creative Writing from UCLA and an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute. While studying at AFI, she sold her first short screenplay to MTV/ BFCS Productions. Starring Adam Scott, STRANGE HABIT became a Grand Jury Award Winner at the Aspen Film Festival and a Sundance Festival Official Selection.

After film school, Annie moved to Eastern Europe to work for Fodor Travel Guides, covering regions of Spain and Bulgaria. She remained in Bulgaria for five years spanning a civilian uprising and government overthrow. The novel THE MAKING OF JUNE, which Annie wrote with the Bulgarian revolution and Balkan crisis as its backdrop was sold to Penguin Putnam and published to critical acclaim in 2002.

During Annie’s five years in the Balkans she received a Fulbright Scholarship, taught at the University of Sofia, and script doctored eight screenplays for Nu-Image, an Israeli/American film company that produced a number of projects in Bulgaria for the SyFy Channel. She was later the recipient of an Escape to Create artist residency.

She lives in Kansas City, Kansas with her family.



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Book Review: Dark Pines by Will Dean (Tuva Moodyson Mystery 1)

on
Thursday, 25 April 2019

Dark Pines by Will Dean

Title: Dark Pines
Author: Will Dean
Publication Date: 7 December 2017 (ebook) 14 June 2018 (paperback)

Twitter: @willrdean

Blurb

For fans of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects and Peter H√łeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, a brand new debut crime writer introduces a Scandi-noir Tuva Moodyson Mystery

SEE NO EVIL

Eyes missing, two bodies lie deep in the forest near a remote Swedish town.

HEAR NO EVIL

Tuva Moodyson, a deaf reporter on a small-time local paper, is looking for the story that could make her career.

SPEAK NO EVIL

A web of secrets. And an unsolved murder from twenty years ago.

Can Tuva outwit the killer before she becomes the final victim? She'd like to think so. But first she must face her demons and venture far into the deep, dark woods if she wants to stand any chance of getting the hell out of small-time Gavrik.

Review

Set in a rural Swedish forest, Dark Pines is the creepy debut thriller by British author, Will Dean.

The story follows local reporter, Tuva Moodyson, as she investigates the gruesome discovery of two bodies both found brutally murdered in a way that is reminiscent of the unsolved ‘Medusa’ murders from 20 years earlier. Is this merely a coincidence or do the recent murders hold secrets about those earlier crimes?  Tuva finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the investigation. With a career-making case landing on her desk, she has to face her demons as she follows the story into the forest. This may finally be her route out of Gavrik.  

The remote Utgard forest proves to be a claustrophobic and disturbing setting for the tale, and the small isolated town of Gavrik provides very little relief from that oppressive and suffocating feeling that surfaces each time Tuva heads back down the icy tracks into the forest.

The author has created a curious and creepy cast of local characters, giving an unnerving feel to the story. In particular, the two elderly woodcutting sisters who hand carve wooden trolls decorated with human hair and nails - it makes me shudder just thinking about it!

The protagonist, Tuva, is a fascinating and engaging character. Deaf, bi-sexual and awkward, she is also loyal, determined and brave.  A townie through and through, Tuva has exiled herself to the Swedish wilderness to be nearer to her dying mother. Tuva's disability is dealt with in a sensitive and realistic way by the author (I have some awareness of deafness through a close family member and I am aware that the author uses a beta-reader with hearing difficulties to ensure that this part of the character is told as authentically as possible). For me, this makes the story all the more convincing.

The story is well-planned and well-written, advancing forward at a good pace. The tension builds quickly and relentlessly as the tale progresses and the twists and turns are revealed, before culminates in a nail-biting and satisfying climax.

For his debut novel, Dean has produced a riveting, tense and atmospheric thriller. Dark Pines is a fantastic book and one of the best crime thrillers I've read for a long time. I would highly recommend, particularly to fans of crime fiction and Nordic/Scandi Noir.

Huge thanks to Margot Weale at Oneworld Publications for providing me with a copy of Dark Pines for review.

About the Author

Will Dean, author
Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying law at the LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it's from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.









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Blog Tour & Book Review: The Golden Hour by Malia Zaidi (A Lady Evelyn Mystery Book 4)

on
Friday, 19 April 2019
The Golden Hour by Malia Zaidi


I am delighted to be hosting today's stop on the blog tour for The Golden Hour, book 4 in the 'Lady Evelyn Mysteries' series by author Malia Zaidi. A big thanks to Emma from damppebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.


Title: The Golden Hour (A Lady Evelyn Mystery Book 4)
Author: Malia Zaidi
Publisher: Bookbaby
Publication Date: 26 March 2019

Website: https://www.maliazaidi.com/
Blog:  https://www.princessandpen.com/
Twitter: @MaliaZaidi
Facebook: @MaliaZaidiAuthor

Blurb

London 1927

Lady Evelyn Carlisle has barely arrived in London when familial duty calls her away again. Her cousin Gemma is desperate for help with her ailing mother before her imminent wedding, which Evelyn knew nothing about! Aunt Agnes in tow, she journeys to Scotland, expecting to find Malmo Manor in turmoil. To her surprise, her Scottish family has been keeping far more secrets than the troubled state of their matriarch. Adding to the tension in the house a neighbour has opened his home, Elderbrooke Park, as a retreat for artistic veterans of the Great War. This development does not sit well with everyone in the community. Is thesuspicion towards the residents a catalyst for murder? A tragedy at Elderbrooke Park’s May Day celebration awakens Evelyn’s sleuthing instinct, which is strengthened when the story of another unsolved death emerges, connected to her own family. What she uncovers on her quest to expose the truth will change several lives forever, including her own. 


With the shadow of history looming over her, Evelyn must trust in her instinct and ability to comb through the past to understand the present, before themurderer can stop her and tragedy strikes again.

Blog Tour, Guest Post & Book Review: A View to a Kilt by Wendy Holden

on
Tuesday, 16 April 2019
A View to a Kilt by Wendy Holden

Title: A View to a Kilt
Author: Wendy Holden
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication Date: 3 April 2019

Website: wendyholden.net
Twitter: @Wendy_Holden
Facebook: @WendyHoldenAuthor

I am absolutely delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for A View to a Kilt, the hilarious Scottish-themed novel from author Wendy Holden.

Blurb

Forget about Cool Britannia and Gallic Chic. Scotland is having a fashion moment...

London's most glamorous glossy magazine is in trouble. Advertising revenues are non existent, and if editor Laura Lake can't pick them up, she's out of a job.

According to those in the know, Scotland is having a fashion moment. Haggis tempura is on Michelin-starred menus, smart spas are offering porridge facials, and a chain of eco-hotels is offering celebrity bagpipe lessons. So Laura's off to a baronial estate in the Scottish Highlands to get a slice of this ultra-high-end market.


It's supposed to be gorgeous, glitzy and glamorous. But intrigue follows Laura like night follows day. And at Glenravish Castle – a shooting lodge fit for a billionaire – Laura finds herself hunting for a scoop that won't just save her job, it could save her life...