Monthly Round-Ups

Monthly Round Up – February 2019

Welcome to February’s Round Up – a quick look at the books I’ve read during February.  There’s a great selection of 9 wonderful books, all completely different in genre and style and all, in my opinion, worthy of a read:

Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz – Chasity Riley Book 2.

On a warm September morning, an unconscious man is found in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of the biggest German newspapers. Closer inspection shows he is a manager of the company, and he’s been tortured. Three days later, another manager appears in similar circumstances.

Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect … to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the elite world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred … monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

A smart, dark, probing thriller, full of all the hard-boiled poetry and acerbic wit of the very best noir, Beton Rouge is both a classic whodunit and a scintillating expose of society, by one of the most exciting names in crime fiction

My Review: Having read Simone’s first book Blue Knight (see my review here) last year I was delighted to be invited on to the blog tour for the next book in this fascinating series, Beton Rouge.

Once again, it’s a quick read with short chapters and Chastity Riley is back, drinking too much coffee and alcohol, smoking too many cigarettes and generally being the brilliantly sharp, sarcastic and super dry character she was in the first book.

This time Chastity deals with a hit and run, two naked men tortured and left in a cage outside their offices and a new work colleague.  To be perfectly honest, and in my opinion, the cases Chastity has to deal with in both stories whilst intriguing and interesting pale into insignificance next to the brilliant characterisation and phenomenal prose Simon Buchholz uses.  Most of the dialogue is utterly magical and at times I had to pause reading and re-read some of her expressions because they are simply wonderful.

I actually would happily read about Chastity doing her weekly shop in a supermarket as she is such a fantastic character.  Totally and 100% recommend this book.

The Taking of Annie Thorne – CJ Tudor

One night, Annie went missing.

Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst.

And then, after 48 hours, she came back.

But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what.

I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same.

She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

My Review: As a huge fan of The Chalk Man I was very excited to see that CJ Tudor had a new book and was delighted to be asked to join the tour.

Firstly let’s talk about our main character Joe Thorne.  Returning to his childhood home of Arnhill, a pretty grim and dismal mining town, he manages to get a job in his old school teaching English.   However, nothing is exactly what it seems here; Joe is returning under a rather dodgy and dangerous cloud; he has nasty people chasing him and on top of that his sister was killed under suspicious circumstances in Arnhill when she was 8.

The Taking of Annie Thorne is a creepy and dark story with elements of supernatural aspects, however what really struck me is the incredible writing, the ability to bring the characters to life and give them a voice in the readers head.  Joe’s humour and self depreciating personality was a joy to read.

Dark, funny, creepy and gripping – if you enjoyed The Chalk Man – then you will love The Taking of Annie Thorne.

The Secretary – Renee Knight

Look around you. Who holds the most power in the room? Is it the one who speaks loudest, who looks the part, who has the most money, who commands the most respect?

Or perhaps it’s someone like Christine Butcher: a meek, overlooked figure, who silently bears witness as information is shared and secrets are whispered. Someone who quietly, perhaps even unwittingly, gathers together knowledge of the people she’s there to serve – the ones who don’t notice her, the ones who consider themselves to be important.

There’s a fine line between loyalty and obsession. And when someone like Christine Butcher is pushed to her limit, she might just become the most dangerous person in the room . . .

My Review: I absolutely LOVED Renee Knight’s debut novel Disclaimer which I read in August 2015 and eagerly (impatiently) awaited her second novel which FINALLY has arrived.

The Secretary is a tense and gripping page-turner which I absolutely devoured in less than a day.  The main character Christine Butcher is a secretary/personal assistant to Mina Appleton, a TV personality and CEO of a national supermarket chain.  She’s been a loyal and trusted employee for 18 years and narrates the story through her own slightly warped and often unreliable point of view.

Now, I was a secretary for over 12 years and believe me when I say that the line between being professional and appearing obsessive can get very blurred (let’s not talk about the time I had to go shopping with my boss’s heavily pregnant mistress to furnish her nursery and ensure his wife and children didn’t find out!), so I was quite empathetic towards Christine and understood why she was unwavering in going that “extra mile” for her boss.

We know from the start of the book that something has happened and the entire story is filled with a sinister and tense undertone.  Christine’s voice throughout the book appears to be calm and collected, but her actions are anything but.  The Secretary is, in my opinion, a fantastic psychological thriller with fascinating characters and an intelligent story line.  Highly recommended by me.

A Gift for Dying – MJ Arlidge

With just one look, she knows how and when you will die . . . 

Nothing surprises Adam Brandt anymore. As a forensic psychologist, he’s seen and heard everything.

That is, until he meets Kassie.

Because she claims to have a terrible gift – with she looks into your eyes, she can see when and how you will die.

Adam doesn’t believe her, obviously.

But then a serial killer starts wreaking havoc across the city, and only Kassie seems to know where he’ll strike next.

Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her.

He just doesn’t realise how dangerous this trust might be . . .

My Review – Review to follow on 7th March as part of the blogtour.

The Passengers – John Marrs

Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

The new gripping page-turning thriller from the bestselling author of THE ONE – soon to be a major Netflix series.

When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.

The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife – and parents of two – who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?

My Review – Review to follow on 25th March as part of the blogtour.

Louis & Louise – Julie Cohen

ONE LIFE. LIVED TWICE.

If you could look at one life in two different ways, what would you see?

Louis and Louise are separated by a single moment in time, a strike of chance that decided their future. The day they were born is when their story began.

In one, Louis David Alder is born a male.
In the other, Louise Dawn Alder is born a female.

Louis and Louise are the same in many ways – they have the same best friends, the same parents, the same dream of being a writer and leaving their hometown in Maine as soon as they can. But because of their gender, everything looks different. Certain things will happen in their lives to shape them, hurt them, build them back up again. But what will bring them back home?

My Review:  I’m a huge fan of Julie Cohen both as a writer and person and one of her earlier books Dear Thing is still one of my favourite books, so when I saw that she’d written a new book that seemed to blow away all the bloggers I was eager to read it and I also choose it as the first book for my real-life book club which is meeting in March.

Reading the blurb, Louis & Louise appealed to me because it sounded intriguing, thought-provoking and original.  A type of literary “sliding-doors”.  One story told through two voices and Julie Cohen manages to weave a fascinating tale giving both Louis and Louise a credible voice.

Growing up in a small town called Casablanca both Louis & Louise have the same friends, the same goals and aspirations and dreams.  However their world is shattered on Graduation Night when something catastrophic causes Louis & Louise to leave town and stay away for 13 years, until both are forced to return home and face issues they’ve tried to hide for over a decade.

This novel explores the differences in sexes, how our parents treat us differently, how society views us and reacts to situations based on gender.  Without doubt this book will makes you think twice and whilst the world is certainly not perfect yet, there is hope that our future generations see beyond our gender and treat people for who they are rather than what’s between their legs.

The Whisper Man – Alex North

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys. Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home. Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window…

My Review:  Ever since Hayley Joel Osment muttered those spine-tingling words “I see dead people” to Bruce Willis back in 1999 any book or film featuring little children talking to “imaginary” friends gives me the heebie jeebies and THE WHISPER MAN is no exception.

There is so much to say about this book, but I don’t want to give anything away so all I can tell you is there is a sick psychopath out there abducting little boys in the present, a sick serial killer serving life in prison for abducting and killing little boys 20 years, an emotional damaged DI who’s determined to catch the killer and then there is little Jake and his dad Tom Kennedy.

Oh my word; Tom Kennedy is the most wonderful character – a grieving widow who’s wife died suddenly and unexpectedly and now finds himself trying to raise his sweet, overly sensitive 6 year old son Jake by himself and is struggling.  My heart broke into a thousand pieces every time Tom told us his story and his feelings.  His honesty and raw emotions were so real that it was sometimes difficult to remember this is a work of fiction.

Then there is little Jake – grieving over the loss of his beloved mummy, frightened and confused by things happening around him but such a sensitive sweetheart I wanted to give him a cuddle and tell him everything was going to be ok.

THE WHISPER MAN is so chilling, creepy and unsettling that I had to stop reading several times to catch my breath and remind myself it’s only a story.  This is a superb book and I highly recommend it – but remember to make sure your doors and windows are closed.

Blood Orange – Harriet Tyce

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.

Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

My Review.   Aaaaahhhhhhhhhh I don’t know how to write this review so it will make sense.  There were so many things about this book that I really didn’t enjoy and yet so many things about this book that I was utterly gripped by and couldn’t actually turn the pages fast enough.  So, I shall try to break it down and start at the beginning.

Our main protagonist is Alison – a 40-something successful female barrister with a stay-at-home husband and cute 6 year old daughter Tilly, and what appears initially to be the “perfect” life.  However it is soon apparent that Allie has problems, big, ugly, inexcusable problems including excessive drinking, having a sordid affair with a colleague and completely neglecting her husband and daughter.   I’m not even going to pretend to like Allie or say I could relate to her because I absolutely could NOT – she made me very angry and very disappointed and at no time could I feel an iota of sympathy or excuse her behaviour.

Then there is Patrick – her manipulative colleague and often brutal lover – another revolting character that made my skin crawl – what the hell does Allie see in this pig?  He made me want to have a shower in bleach every time he touched her.

Blood Orange‘s main story starts when Patrick assigns Allie her first Murder case to defend.  A woman has been caught red-handed having stabbed her husband 15 times with a knife in their bedroom.  However this is a twisted, dark psychological story so nothing is as it seems and the reader is led in multiple directions trying to follow the case and watch Allie try to salvage her personal and professional life.

I can think of 2 high profile books I’ve read in the past few years where I absolutely HATED the main characters but loved the books, the writing style, the pace, the storyline and BLOOD ORANGE falls into that category too.  In my opinion, any author who can make the reader feels so much emotion (good or bad, disgust or admiration) towards a fictional character is one to look out for and follow her career closely.  As much as I really disliked all the main characters I literally COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN.

Definitely a MARMITE book, but as I love marmite I’m happy to recommend this.  Car Crash fiction writing at it’s best!

All We Ever Wanted – Emily Griffin

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

My Review: First up, I started reading this book because I’d seen it recommended on my FB book club and it wasn’t until I was over half-way through and I went to update my Goodreads App that I realised this wasn’t the book everyone was discussing, although the title and the author’s names were very, very similar – however by this point in the story I was so engrossed it didn’t matter!

All We Ever Wanted is a really interested, thought provoking tale of today’s teenagers, social media and how far we as parents will go to protect our children. This story touched me as a parent of teenagers and having once (a long long long time ago), been a teenager wild child myself.

The story is narrated through the three main characters; Nina Browning, an exceptionally wealthy married mother of one teenage son, Finch who lives in Nashville surrounded by opulence and luxury and a husband who believes everything can be fixed by money. Tom Volpe, the single dad raising his teenage daughter Lyla who has a full scholarship to the prestigious Windsor Academy where she is surrounded by entitled and often spoilt students and Lyla, the headstrong teenager who finds herself in the centre of a scandal and caught between her father’s fury and her own embarrassment.

Throughout the story, I was constantly questioning both parents behaviour and action – what would I do in that situation? do I agree or sympathise with Nina – is Tom overreacting or if it were my daughter in a compromising situation would I act the same?

This is a fascinating story of wealth, power, entitlement, self-respect and family values. I would definitely recommend it to parents and young adults

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