Monday, 16 January 2017

BLOG TOUR: Relativity - Antonia Hayes

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

What did I think?

Ethan captured my heart so very quickly as he's such an inquisitive and gifted little boy but, like every child who is different, he is a magnet for bullying.  He can see physics: sound waves, shifting air and light refracting that is invisible to the naked eye.  The boys at school call him Stephen Hawking, which is certainly not an insult, although the boys are not bright enough to realise this.  It is perhaps in Ethan's genes as his dad, Mark, was a theoretical physicist but Ethan has never met him.  His mum, Claire, protects him from his own history, a history where Mark was accused and convicted of an unthinkable act and served time in prison.  Now Mark has returned and he and Ethan are drawn to each other like they have their own magnetic field.

Antonia Hayes completely enveloped me in such exquisite narrative that I couldn't bear to put the book down and found myself reading far later than planned.  Relativity is filled with beautiful poetic lines such as: "pink light scattering through the window, making the white kitchen tiles blush", leading me to double check that this was actually a debut novel.  The common thread running throughout is physics and I actually felt like I was learning things along the way, with subtle explanations and examples of physics being woven into the story.

Relativity is a book that is as special as the boy who stars in it.  As Ethan's story unfolds and we find out what really happened with Mark, it sometimes becomes difficult to read.  I did involuntarily gasp out loud and felt an icy grip around my heart at the pain and horror this little family had to go through when Ethan was a baby.  So heartbreaking, beautiful and poignant yet terribly funny at times, Relativity is an amazing debut that once you pick it up, has its own gravitational pull causing you to hold on and never let go.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion. I am releasing my review as part of the blog tour.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Loving Husband - Christobel Kent

Fran Hall and her husband Nathan have moved with their two children to a farmhouse on the edge of the Fens - a chance to get away from London and have a fresh start.
But when Fran wakes one night to find Nathan gone, she makes a devastating discovery. As questions about her husband and her relationships start to mount, Fran's life begins to spiral out of control.
What is she hiding from the police about her marriage, and does she really know the man she shared her bed with?

What did I think?

I had high hopes for Christobel Kent's The Loving Husband after seeing it on social media, but sadly it didn't really deliver for me.  I felt quite indifferent about the whole story and unfortunately as soon as I turned the last page it became a forgotten story for me.  That's not to say it's all bad, as there is enough of a hook to keep a bit of interest and it's a reasonable enough story but the characters are so flat and unemotional that I wasn't bothered what happened to them.

It is clear from the start that Fran and Nathan Hall have a bit of a strange marriage.  It would appear that Nathan has only shown affection to Fran twice, resulting in their two beautiful children.  Fran remembers Nathan coming to bed one night and apparently completely out of character snuggles into her and one thing leads to another.  A few hours later Fran wakes up to find the bed empty and she finds Nathan dead in a ditch outside.  The police investigate and predict Nathan's time of death prior to the time that Fran said he came to who was in the bed with her and how the devil didn't she know it wasn't her husband?  Fran becomes the prime suspect in Nathan's murder and she doesn't help herself by keeping things from the police.  As the events surrounding Nathan's death and the story of his marriage unfolds, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. 

All in all, it was a reasonable story with a satisfactory outcome but nothing really to write home about.  I think I have read so many great psychological books lately that the bar has been raised quite high and therefore many books will fail to deliver.  Although I'm sure some people will love this book, it left me feeling flat, apathetic and disappointed.  

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Friday, 13 January 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Dry - Jane Harper

I just can't understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn't rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke's death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend's crime.

What did I think?

What an absolutely outstanding debut; I even had to double check that it was actually a debut novel as it is such an accomplished work of fiction.  2017 has certainly got off to a fantastic start as The Dry raises the bar for all future debut novels.  It is a stunning piece of literature and one that I know I will be recommending time and time again.

The story starts with the death of the Hadler family and what appears to be a seemingly loving husband and father, Luke Hadler, killing his wife and son before turning the gun on himself, leaving a massive question unanswered: if a man decided to kill his family and then himself, why would he leave his baby daughter unharmed in her cot?  This is a question that Luke's childhood best friend, Aaron Falk, asks on his return to his hometown for the funeral.  It is clear immediately that Falk isn't welcomed back with open arms and we learn that this isn't the first mysterious death to hit Kiewarra.

Falk, as a teenager, was previously questioned over the mysterious death of his school friend, Ellie Deacon, when Ellie pointed a finger from beyond the grave.  A piece of paper with Falk's name written on was found in Ellie's bedroom, leading her family to jump to conclusions and harass the Falk family into leaving town for good.  Startling similarities to Ellie's case appear when a piece of paper is found in the last reading book of Luke's murdered wife.  Written on the paper is a name and phone number that raises more questions than answers for Falk.

Never have so few words in a sentence been so tantalising and causing of a reading frenzy than the four words that are repeated throughout The Dry:

"Luke lied. You lied."

Obviously I wanted to know what had happened to the Hadler family, but equally intriguing was the death of Ellie Deacon from years earlier.  A double mystery, both as captivating as each other as you naturally wonder if they are linked.  Not only do we have the mysterious deaths, but the town is being affected by a terrible drought.  The literary canvas is painted with exquisite narrative as we read of the children's paintings showing brown fields and Falk suddenly realising it's eerily quiet because the roar of the river has been silenced.  The lack of water does indeed make everyone crazy and Falk's poor car seems to experience the worst of the town's craziness.

With each captivating page making you thirsty for more, The Dry creates a reading thirst that is impossible to slake until you have turned the final page.  A breathtaking, outstanding and mesmeric debut by Jane Harper that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

I have released my review as part of the blog tour and I know who really killed the Hadler family - make sure you find out too.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden

The beautiful cover of The Bear and the Nightingale gives a little hint as to the magic that is hiding within the pages.  Based on Russian fairytales and myths, it is an outstanding fairytale for adults and you can read my review here.  As part of the blog tour, I am thrilled to be able to share the first chapter with you.  Happy reading!

Now wrap up warm and enjoy a brief frosty visit to Russia (click on the arrow in the top right corner to read full screen).

You can buy The Bear and the Nightingale from Amazon by clicking here and I recommend that you treat yourself to the beautiful hardback.

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Sunday, 8 January 2017

BLOG TOUR: Lying in Wait - Liz Nugent

I am delighted that my first blog tour of 2017 is for the fabulous Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent.  I was very lucky to get the opportunity to ask Liz Nugent some questions and I'm sure you'll find her answers as entertaining as I did.  Firstly I'm sharing my review so you get a feel for what the book is about and the reason for some of my questions.  Happy reading!

From the award-winning author of the No 1 bestseller, Unravelling Oliver
'My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.'
Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder. However, needs must - because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants ...
This is a dark, twisty and utterly gripping domestic noir that you won't be able to put down from the author hailed as Ireland's answer to Gillian Flynn.

What did I think?

Lying in Wait must have the best opening line EVER!  It is on the cover and in the blurb so I'm not releasing any spoilers by stating it again here:

'My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.'

I had little doubt from this most excellent first sentence, that this book was going to be slightly on the dark side, but I could never have guessed how deliciously dark it was going to be.  Talk about a dysfunctional family - Lydia reminded me of the fabulous Bette Davis in one of my favourite films, The Anniversary.  A cruel and clever matriarch ruling her family without them even realising they are being ruled.  Tremendous!

Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons are doing very well for themselves.  They live in a huge house with their son, Laurence, but beneath the perfect facade lies THE most dysfunctional family I have ever read about.  Lydia is absolutely crazy as a coconut and Andrew and Laurence do everything they can to please her.  Just how far they go on behalf of Lydia is enough to make your hair curl, and does she appreciate it?  Not one little bit.

When Andrew kills Annie Doyle, Annie's family register her as a missing person and her sister, Karen, never gives up hope of finding out what happened to Annie.  Annie was estranged from her family so when she sends mysterious letters reassuring her family that she's ok, they breathe a sigh of relief.  Wait a moment, wasn't she killed in the first sentence?  Aha!  I told you this book was dark.

There is so much I could say about this book but I fear I may spoil some of the story if I continue, needless to say a brilliant opening line deserves an outstanding ending and Liz Nugent doesn't fail to deliver.  I have read so many fabulous reviews of Liz Nugent's debut, Unravelling Oliver, but I have not yet had the chance to read it; if it's half as good as Lying in Wait, it will be money well spent.  

Lying in Wait is a deliciously dark and constantly surprising story.  Never has the well used line 'hooked from the start' fitted so well; you can't fail to be hooked from the start with this one and Liz Nugent definitely reeled me in.  A fabulous book - I loved it.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Now for my Q&A with Liz Nugent.

Q: What inspired you to write Lying in Wait?

A: A man once told me that he strongly suspected his father had murdered a prostitute in the 1960s. He had no evidence or no way of proving it. He never had the courage to challenge his father and went to his grave wondering. He told me this story about 25 years ago and he is long dead now. I always wondered what it would be like to grow up in a house where you suspect your father is a murderer.

Q: Lying in Wait has an amazing first line. Did you come up with that first and build the story around it or did you think of it as the story went on?

A: Originally, in the first draft, Laurence was the main character and the first line was ‘We were all liars in my family but Mammy was the best liar of all of us’. Then in the second draft when I had decided that Lydia was the main character, the first line was ‘Technically, it was manslaughter’ but it didn’t tell the reader enough about the character so I cut that first line and made the second line the first line ‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’ This way, the reader knows exactly what kind of person they are dealing with.

Q: As reviews often show that readers were 'hooked from the start', how important do you think first lines are?

A: I like to grab the reader from the get-go and I like to write first person narratives so that the reader is automatically in the head of the character. The first line should set the tone for the book and let the reader know immediately what kind of book they are reading. I’ve only written two books and the first lines of each are so often quoted that I have quite a challenge ahead of me now for how to start book 3!

Q: I had a mental picture of the fabulous Bette Davis as Lydia whilst reading Lying in Wait. If Lying in Wait is made into a film who would you like to see playing Lydia?

A: That’s a great suggestion! I think it does have that film noir feel about it. If they were to cast an Irish actress, I would suggest Cathy Belton who can do charm and menace equally well, but if we’re talking international, I think Julianne Moore would be great.

Q: If you only had one chance to sell Lying in Wait, what would you say to encourage people to read it?

A: The strap line on the front cover is designed exactly for that purpose and my editor and I came up with lots of suggestions but in the end they went with the opening line which I hope is a good selling point!

Q: Lying in Wait is often very dark; how does the mood of your book affect you when you're writing?

A: It really doesn’t at all. As soon as I close the laptop, I am back to my humdrum suburban life and my mood is completely unaffected. My friends are so surprised that I write such sinister stories because in real life, I am fairly light-hearted and up for a laugh.

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing?

A: Inhabiting another character’s head for a while can be very liberating particularly when they are really despicable. You get to say things you wouldn’t dream of even thinking!

Q: When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

A: I love going to the theatre and I love tv drama series. I just inhaled Peaky Blinders and I’m catching up on Line of Duty. So, so good.

Q: I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading Unravelling Oliver but which book did you enjoy writing the most and why?

A: That’s like asking me to choose between my children! But I have to admit that writing isn’t always enjoyable. It is work and like any job, you can have good days and bad days. I wrote Unravelling Oliver over the course of about six years while I held down a fulltime job, whereas Lying in Wait was written in two years when I had no other commitments.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what we can look forward to from you in the future?

A: I’m 48 years old, married, no children. I live in Dublin. My background is in theatre and television production. I am number 5 of nine children. I am an atheist. I don’t like cats or coffee. I am more comfortable in jeans than dresses. I love roast chicken dinners. I read across all genres. I hate ironing but I don’t mind supermarket shopping. I am very tidy. I love sunshine and wish we got more of it in Dublin. I love France. I love going to the theatre. I’d like to live closer to the sea. I have seventeen nieces and nephews and I adore them all.

Hopefully, I will keep writing books with a sinister edge though sometime in the future, I’d like to write a stage play.

Thanks so much Michelle for the great questions and for taking part in this blog tour!

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About Liz Nugent

Liz was born in Dublin in 1967, where she now lives. She has written successfully for soap opera, radio drama, television plays, short stories and animation for children.

Liz’s first novel Unravelling Oliver was published to critical and popular acclaim in March 2014. It quickly became a firm favourite with book clubs and reader’s groups. In November of that year, it went on to win the Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year at the Bord Gais Energy Book Awards and was long listed for the International Dublin Literature Prize 2016. She was also the winner of the inaugural Jack Harte Bursary provided by the Irish Writers Centre and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Dec 2014. Her second novel, Lying in Wait, was published in July 2016 and went straight to number 1 where it remained for seven weeks. Liz won the Monaco Bursary from the Ireland Funds and was Writer in Residence at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco in Sept/Oct 2016. In Nov 2016, Lying in Wait won the prestigious RTE Ryan Tubridy Listener's Choice prize at the Irish Book Awards.

Aside from writing, Liz has led workshops in writing drama for broadcast, she has produced and managed literary salons and curated literary strands of Arts Festivals. She regularly does public interviews and panel discussions on all aspects of her writing.

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Trap - Melanie Raabe

I know who killed my sister.

I wrote this novel for him.

Twelve years ago, Linda's sister Anna was murdered. Her killer was never caught, but Linda saw him. Now, all these years on, she's just seen him again. On TV.

He has since become a well-known reporter, and Linda - a famous novelist and infamous recluse - knows no one will believe her if she accuses him, so she does the only thing she can think of: she writes a thriller about a woman who is murdered, her killer never caught. When the book is published, she agrees to give just one media interview. At home. To the one person who knows more about the case than she does.

He knows what happened that night and she wrote a book about it but, when the doorbell rings, neither of them can be sure how the story will end.

What did I think?

I really liked the sound of this book: a battle of wits between the victim's sister and the murderer.  How very clever to write a book about a murder in order to trap the murderer, which Linda plans to do without ever leaving her home.  A home that has become her self-inflicted prison and her whole world.

Linda Conrads is a reclusive author.  She has chosen to live her life behind closed doors, never stepping over the threshold into the outside world for the last 11 years.  A world that no longer contains her sister, Anna, who was brutally murdered 12 years ago.  It was Linda who found her sister's body and also glimpsed the killer as he fled the scene.  Now, 12 years later, Linda sees his face on TV reporting on a news story, so she hatches a plan to get Victor Lenzen to confess to Anna's murder.  Linda writes a book about her sister's murder containing facts only the murderer will know and invites Lenzen to interview her about the new novel.  Will Lenzen take the bait or is Linda's memory of events not as clear as she thought?

I absolutely rocketed through The Trap and thought it was really unusual to have a book within a book, as we are treated to chapters from Linda's new book.  I didn't really warm to Linda, though.  She seemed a bit one-dimensional as I never really felt as if I knew what she was feeling - perhaps something was lost in translation from German to English.  The story itself, however, is tense and gripping as events unfold and a shadow is cast over Linda's memories - has she remembered events as they really happened, or is she remembering only what she wants to remember?  Linda may be stuck inside her house but the reader was stuck inside Linda's head, sifting through the confusion to get to the truth.  

I think The Trap is well worth reading as long as you remember that it has been translated from German, so the characters may not be as well developed as they might be in their mother tongue.  If you're looking for a fast-paced, tense, mindbender then you'll love this, but will you be able to separate fact from fiction in The Trap?

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

No Bed of Roses (Love Heals Book 1) - Jean Gill

Should some secrets be left buried in the past if you want a second chance at love?

Helen Tanner runs her own business, spends her evenings out with friends,anything to avoid memories of the tragedy she left behind. She lives alone and likes it that way.Until, that is, a dark-haired vet walks into her shop and into her life. Her first unpromising encounter with Dai Evans turns into a tumultuous affair. As passion grows into love, Helen is forced not only to consider a new future, but to face up to a troubled past.Should she tell her lover what causes her nightmares? Will this family man still want her when he knows the truth?

Heart-rending and powerful, No Bed of Roses is a story of loss, love and healing. Jean Gill's characters always feel like real people: complex, thoughtful, and with believable histories and motivation. We really want Helen and Dai to be together and all that stands in their way is the human damage caused by loss and guilt. How can they live with Helen's ghosts? 

What did I think?

I'm a big fan of Jean Gill's Troubadours series so I was interested to see Jean turn her hand to something outside of the historical fiction genre.  As if I could have doubted it, Jean makes the transformation impeccably with deep complex characters that you can't help but care about.

Helen lives in a small village in Wales where she runs her own wool shop.  When local vet, Dai Evans, walks into her shop one day to buy a present for his wife, the electricity between them is palpable and the pair begin an affair.  When Dai splits up with his wife, he thinks Helen will be pleased but she pushes him away.  The reader knows that something terrible happened in Helen's past but she hasn't shared this with Dai.  When he was married, Helen was quite happy to be the other women and keep Dai at arms length so he doesn't get too close to her, but now that he is free she doesn't seem too keen.  Does she not love him or does she think he won't love her if he knows her secrets?

In No Bed of Roses, Jean Gill's warm wonderful writing takes on a comforting edge like one of the jumpers her main character, Helen, was knitting.  With such a keen sense of place, I felt like I had been swept away to the Welsh Valleys and then to rural France as Dai took Helen to face her demons.  Cheating on his wife aside, I loved Dai's loyalty to his family and in return applauded their warm virtual embrace of Helen when she was introduced.  I did find the ending a little abrupt but possibly because I wasn't really ready to leave the story.  I will certainly be looking out for the next book in the series, More Than One Kindanother novel set in both Wales and France as we follow Helen's friend, Neil, on his teaching exchange. 

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon