Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Baltimore Boys

The Baltimore Boys by Joel Dicker
Published by MacLehose Press
May 2017

NOVEMBER 24, 2004

The day of the tragedy. The end of a brotherhood.

The Baltimore Boys. The Goldman Gang. That was what they called Marcus Goldman and his cousins Woody and Hillel. Three brilliant young men with dazzling futures ahead of them, before their kingdom crumbled beneath the weight of lies, jealousy and betrayal. For years, Marcus has struggled with the burdens of his past, but now he must attempt to banish his demons and tell the true and astonishing story of the Baltimore Boys.

This is the follow-up to the fantastic debut The Truth about the Harry Qubert Affair which I absolutely loved.  I guess that it is sometimes true that an amazing debut is usually followed up by a not-so-great second novel and whilst I wish it wasn't, I do feel that this is the case with The Baltimore Boys.

Marcus Goldman features in here as the main character but there are no links to the first novel so if you haven't already read it, don't feel that you need to in order to enjoy this book.  Marcus and his two cousins Woody and Hillel are inseparable whilst growing up, but a tragedy tears them apart.  We are left wondering if it has anything to do with singer Alexandra, a former love of Marcus' and friend to the three boys whilst growing up, who makes an unexpected reappearance in Marcus' life when her dog is found wandering on his property. 

The story weaves back and forth between the boys' youth and the present day as Marcus tries to come to find sense in his childhood, of his relationship with Alexandra and why his family, the poor relations, were treated so badly by the richer side of his father's family.  As you may expect, there are twists and turns as the story unfolds and it's certainly a worth-while read.  I'll certainly look out for the next book by Joel Dicker, of which I am sure there will be many more.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Shadow Year

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell
Published by Orion
June 2013

1980. On a hot summer's day five friends stumble upon an abandoned cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. Isolated and run-down, it offers a retreat, somewhere they can escape from the world. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise...

Three decades later, Lila arrives at the remote cottage. Bruised from a tragic accident and with her marriage in crisis, she finds renovating the tumbledown house gives her a renewed sense of purpose. But why did the cottage's previous inhabitants leave their belongings behind? And why can't she shake the feeling that someone is watching her?

Okay I admit it, this book has sat on my bookshelf for nearly four years without being read and I cannot think of a single reason why that is.  Hannah Richell's second novel tells of five uni friends who are so despondent at being separated after living together that when they discover what appears to be an unowned run-down house hidden in the middle of a wood, they decide to stay there and become self-sufficient for at least a year.  Simon, who makes himself the unelected leader of the group, think this will be a utopian moment, a step into Henry Thoreau's Walden.  Couple Ben and Carla throw themselves into the mix as best as they can, and Kat, well she will do anything that Simon suggests.  Mac is the outsider of the group, the hanger-on that gets invited along for the ride.

The year passes and it's not without it's ups and downs. The winter is harsh and soon the group discover that this journey isn't going to be as easy as they first imagined.  Simon is reluctant for them to tell anyone where they are and they are totally reliant on the land for survival.  After writing a letter to her younger sister, Kat soon finds Freya on their doorstep begging to be allowed to stay with them.  Her arrival will throw the group into a turmoil that they cannot escape from.

Present day sees couple Tom and Lila struggling to reconnect after the loss of their baby daughter as a result of Lila falling down the stairs at their London house.  She cannot remember the accident and she remains depressed.  A letter from an unknown source arrives out of the blue, informing her that she is now the owner of a cottage (the cottage above) and in order to find herself again, Lila journeys north to see what she has been bequeathed. It is love at fist sight for her and she throws herself in to renovating the cottage, but this too comes at a price, as Tom feels more and more alienated by her behaviour.

Clearly our two stories are entwined within each other but the reader has to go a long way into the book to find out how and why these stories overlap.  Hannah Richell keeps the suspense going until the very last page.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Crow Girl

The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund
Published by Harvill Secker
14th April 2016
Hardback Edition

It starts with just one body – tortured, mummified and then discarded.

Its discovery reveals a nightmare world of hidden lives. Of lost identities, secret rituals and brutal exploitation, where nobody can be trusted.

This is the darkest, most complex case the police have ever seen.

This is the world of the Crow Girl.

I began this book after a recommendation by a friend.  It's dark and frankly quite disturbing at times, and just when you think you have it all figured out in your head as to what's going on, then 'boom' the author throws you a curveball to shred all of your theories - or at least that is what happened to me anyway!

Let's not beat around the bush here either, this is a very long novel - over 700 pages but actually it doesn't drag and yes, maybe some of the length could be reduced but I didn't mind it too much, it just seemed like I was reading it for a very long time when I normally wizz through books so much more quickly.

Set in Sweden, we follow the lives of cop Jeanette Kihlberg, a working parent who barely sees her son and her stay-at-home husband Ake who is insistent that one day he will become an acclaimed artist, and psychologist Sofia Zetterlund, who has some, shall we say, rather disturbing clients.  When the body of a mummified child is discovered, Jeanette is on the case.  As her workload deepens, her path crosses with that of Zetterlund and the pair strike up a relationship to try to find the perpetrator.  I don't want to reveal too much of the plot here, but let's just say that there are more bodies to be found, more twists to be revealed and sometimes more detail than you might want to know!

If crime/thriller novels float your boat, then The Crow Girl is certainly worth a read.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Friday, 28 October 2016

The Plague Charmer

The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland
Published by Headline Review
Hardback Edition
20th October 2016


Riddle me this: I have a price, but it cannot be paid in gold or silver.

1361. Porlock Weir, Exmoor. Thirteen years after the Great Pestilence, plague strikes England for the second time. Sara, a packhorse man's wife, remembers the horror all too well and fears for safety of her children.
Only a dark-haired stranger offers help, but at a price that no one will pay.

Fear gives way to hysteria in the village and, when the sickness spreads to her family, Sara finds herself locked away by neighbours she has trusted for years. And, as her husband - and then others - begin to die, the cost no longer seems so unthinkable.

The price that I ask, from one willing to pay... A human life.

I haven’t read a Karen Maitland novel since she published Company of Liars back in 2009 and to be honest, I’m not sure why not.  When I got sent The Plague Charmer to review during the summer holidays I began it instantly.  Set in 1361, the book is situated in Exmoor in a remote village called Porlock Weir.  Our central narrator is a dwarf called Will who sees and hears most of what goes on around him, principally due to the fact that people presume he cannot hear or understand them.  One day a strange package is washed up on the shore and shortly afterwards a woman is rescued from drowning.  She brings with her a message for the villagers, warning of a breakout of the plague that only she can prevent – if they will only pay her price.

The villagers refuse and soon the plague makes the return that was predicted. The villagers panic and soon families are ostracised in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading across Porlock Weir.  However it appears that the disease can and will strike anywhere and even those with connections are not safe.

There are loads of characters in Karen Maitland’s books and sometimes it is a little confusing to remember who is who at times; thankfully she always includes a list of them at the start of her novels which is of immense help to the reader.  I really enjoyed this trip back to Medieval England and even the length of almost 600 pages seemed to wiz by.  I’m already looking forward to her next book and in the meantime I’m off to read her previous books!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Friday, 7 October 2016

Death at the Seaside

Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

Published by Piatkus

6th October 2016
Paperback Edition

Nothing ever happens in August, and tenacious sleuth Kate Shackleton deserves a break. Heading off for a long-overdue holiday to Whitby, she visits her school friend Alma who works as a fortune teller there.

Kate had been looking forward to a relaxing seaside sojourn, but upon arrival discovers that Alma's daughter Felicity has disappeared, leaving her mother a note and the pawn ticket for their only asset: a watch-guard. What makes this more intriguing is the jeweller who advanced Felicity the thirty shillings is Jack Phillips, Alma's current gentleman friend.

Kate can't help but become involved, and goes to the jeweller's shop to get some answers. When she makes a horrifying discovery in the back room, it soon becomes clear that her services are needed. Met by a wall of silence by town officials, keen to maintain Whitby's idyllic fa├žade, it's up to Kate - ably assisted by Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden - to discover the truth behind Felicity's disappearance.

And they say nothing happens in August . . .

This is the eighth Kate Shackleton mystery, and is set in Whitby where Kate has ventured for a relaxing holiday to visit her old school friend Alma, and her goddaughter Felicity.  As readers of Frances Brody will know, Kate can’t go anywhere without a mystery following her, and her trip to the seaside town is of no exception.

Trawling the streets of the Whitby, Kate reminices about buying her wedding ring from the local jewellers shop, and ventures inside to buy Felicity a bracelet she has seen in the window.  However, what she doesn’t expect upon entering the shop, is to find the owner Jack Phillips, lying dead on the shop floor.  Things begin to deepen further when it turns out that Alma is in a relationship with Mr Phillips and to make matters worse, Felicity seems to have vanished but no one knows to where she has disappeared!

As a reader we do know where Felicity is going, so are privy to two sides of the story as she undertakes her own adventure; and Kate endeavours to solve the suspicious death of the jewellery shop owner and discover Felicity’s whereabouts.  Set in the 1920s this is a mostly gentle step back in time to the days when crime was no less violent than today but where the pace is so much slower.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Fire Child

The Fire Child by S K Tremayne
Published by Harper Collins
Hardback Edition
16th June 2016


When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.

But then Jamie’s behaviour changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the spectre of his late mother – David’s previous wife. Is this Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?

As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie’s outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife’s untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie’s words:

‘You will be dead by Christmas.’

I really enjoyed S K Tremayne’s debut novel The Ice Girls so was eagerly looking forward to reading her next story.  Set in Cornwall, Rachel is the second wife to David who lives in this huge house with his son Jamie and his mother.  But the glamour that is perceived of their lives on the outside is not necessarily how it is on the inside.  Rachel becomes increasingly worried by Jamie’s behaviour as he routinely claims that his mother is still alive and he makes chilling predictions to Rachel that seem to come true. 

David is increasingly distant and Rachel begins to question the man whom she has married – how well she really knows him, or Jamie, or of what actually happened to Nina.  Rachel can’t leave it alone though and starts to dig into the past despite feeling that she ought to actually leave it well alone.  However by this point it’s too late for she has revealed things she cannot forget.

I loved the location of this book, in some ways it reminded me of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Carnhallow House makes for a great setting which incorporated alongside the wild countryside of rugged Cornwall gives the book an extra feeling of tension.  My only negative about the book is the actual title itself which I didn’t think really fitted in with the whole story but aside from that, it made for good reading.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 19 September 2016

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Published by Orion

Paperback Edition

22nd September 2016


Everyone has a story . . . but will they get the happy ending they deserve?

Emilia has just returned to her idyllic Cotswold hometown to rescue the family business. Nightingale Books is a dream come true for book-lovers, but the best stories aren't just within the pages of the books she sells - Emilia's customers have their own tales to tell.

There's the lady of the manor who is hiding a secret close to her heart; the single dad looking for books to share with his son but who isn't quite what he seems; and the desperately shy chef trying to find the courage to talk to her crush . . .

And as for Emilia's story, can she keep the promise she made to her father and save Nightingale Books?

Julius Nightingale, owner of Nightingale Books has passed away and it is left to his only child Emilia to decide what to do with the bookshop based in Peasbrooke in the Cotswolds.  For someone who is used to travelling and moving around whenever the mood takes her, how will Emilia cope with having to put down roots again in what was once her family home?

Emilia is in her thirties and now an orphan.  Her mother died in childbirth and she has been raised single-handedly by her father ever since.  Her father Julius loves books and the story weaves back to his short-lived love affair with her American mother and Emilia’s childhood.

Emilia now has to decide what to do with the bookshop.  Initially she wants to continue running it but then soon discovers that her father was pretty useless where money was concerned and the business is in rather dire financial circumstances.  Cue the arrival on the scene of Jackson, a businessman with every intention of taking Nightingale books away from Emilia so that he can make a fortune on the land it sits upon.

There are a whole plethora of characters in this book and I have to admit I loved its idyllic charm and appeal.  From the young to the old, everyone is looking for someone in one form or another. If only it were so easy to find love amongst the shelves of a bookshop! 

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x