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

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

I Found You


I Found You by Lisa Jewell
Published by Century
Hardback Edition
14th July 2016

 

'How long have you been sitting out here?'

'I got here yesterday.'

'Where did you come from?'

'I have no idea.'

East Yorkshire: Single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home.

Surrey: Twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

I haven’t read anything by Lisa Jewell in ages; when she first came on the scene as an author I eagerly brought every one of her books; having just read this I'm not sure why I stopped!  Within the space of two weeks I have just finished this and her previous novel The Girls – she hasn’t lost any of her magic though her books are probably billed as being less ‘chick lit’ than they were in the beginning.

Back to the book in question, I Found You is set both in Surrey and East Yorkshire with a dual narrative between single mum Alice and new wife Lily.  One day Alice sees a man sitting outside her house on the beach in the rain.  He looks lost.  Her penchant for gathering in waifs and strays doesn’t stop her from approaching him and she discovers that he is suffering from amnesia – he can’t tell her anything about himself for he doesn’t even remember his own name.  Back in Surrey, Lily is increasingly worried about her husband who has failed to come home from work, the police don’t take her concerns seriously at first until she continues to hound them; then she makes that startling discovery that by all accounts the man she has married is an alias – he doesn’t actually exist.

I’ll leave you to make your own connections with the story here without giving anything away but the book kept me turning the pages long into the night to ensure that the story took the path I wanted it to.  I adored Alice as a character, she seemed so realistic and someone you would actually want to be friends with and the book had the ending that I so desired which made me very happy when I reached the end.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Saturday, 10 September 2016

In conversation with Jane Brittan

Today I am lucky enough, again as part of the UKYACX  blog tour to be in conversation with Jane Brittan.  Two years ago, with her friend and fellow writer, Lisa Taylor, Jane set up Blowfish Books – a small, London-based, indie publishing company for YA and crossover books. The Edge of Me was their first title and it went on to be nominated for the 2016 Carnegie Medal and was a finalist in the Bath Children’s Novel Award. It’s now with agents under consideration for TV and foreign rights sales. Jane says "We are super proud of our achievement there, and hope to go on to do more. We started small because we wanted to make our books the best they can possibly be, but we hope to be looking at taking on new YA authors very soon. Lisa’s book, Summer at the Methane Lakes is coming out soon – it’s a dark, crunchy, crossover sci-fi with some serious twists and we’re very excited." 


Jane Brittan

Any advice to anyone dreaming of becoming an author? 

It’s like any other goal in life, the first thing is to just start: to try to park all those reasons for not doing it and to flex those digits. I never plan my books. I start with a persistent voice in my head saying ‘write me down’ and if that voice works, if it feels truthful, then usually a story will follow. Another crunchy piece of advice someone once gave me, is to write with your senses – because stories should be an experience for the reader, you need to be able to draw on touch, smell, sound, etc, to flesh out a scene and take them into that experience so they can fully enter your world.  

Oh, and always, always, write what you want to write – honour your truth and your own voices not anyone else’s. 


Where do you get your writing inspiration from? 

In the previous answer, I talked about voices or a voice that wont go away – a kind of possession – and it’s those voices that sort of tell me the story they want to tell. When I wrote The Edge of Me, the voice of the main character, Sanda, was in my head before I even knew what I was going to do with her. I wanted to use war as a setting but didn’t know how at that point. It was only when I started writing her, that her story started to emerge. I recalled sitting in my flat, back in the early 90’s, with my first baby in my arms, watching reports of the Bosnian War on CNN: stark brutality, mass murder unchecked, ‘ethnic cleansing’, starving men at barbed wire barricades – those images lodged themselves in my brain and stayed there. So I wanted to take a tiny part of that – a bitter secret kept for years – and make it mean something for Sanda in the story, but also, just maybe, for the reader.   My new book, Bad Blood, the first instalment of two, again, started with a troubled voice: a boy this time – Ben. I wanted to send him on a very dark journey that begins with his finding his scientist father dead at the wheel of his car in their garage at home and leads him to discover the true nature of his father’s work, and how what he did will affect not only Ben but many, many thousands of innocent people.  

My father was a scientist – he worked on highly classified ‘star wars’ projects for the military. He killed himself in 1987 – like Ben’s dad – in his car in a locked garage with the engine running. Between the years 1982 and 1989, more than twenty-five other senior military scientists, all working on similar top-secret programmes, died in odd or suspicious circumstances. In most cases, verdicts of ‘open verdict’ were recorded on the deaths. Questions were asked repeatedly in Parliament, books and articles were written about the cases pointing to some sinister conspiracy and cover up.  

My brother found my father dead that morning. He was sixteen years old.  

Obviously Bad Blood deviates almost at once from my own family’s experience but I certainly drew on the pain and the not knowing. We still, to this day, don’t know the truth of what happened, and why my father did what he did. I wanted to see a way that Ben could grow through it, even though the answers he finds are so deeply affecting and terrifying, and, in some way, to let him heal. 

 

What made you write for the YA market? 

I’ve always loved coming-of-age stories. When everything can seem to pivot on a single moment in time. I love the breathlessness, the urgency of them, the way that everything and nothing can mean everything. All stories are journeys in one way or another, but, when they’re good, when they work, stories about growing up, about finding yourself, can be the best, the most important of all. Because finding your truth and making that mean something is what every human being on the planet has done, is doing, or is about to do. 

I have two sons and a daughter, and three stepsons, between 16 and 25, so I have or have had a HUGE number of young adult voices in my life to soak up! 


What are you working on next? 

I’m tweaking Bad Blood #2, to get it ready for release in the new year. Bad Blood #1 does end on a cliff hanger, so I don’t want to leave readers waiting too long!  

I have a standalone book that will come out after Bad Blood, which is a real departure from the last two. It’s called The Reckoning, and it’s set in Arizona in the 1860’s and the 1880’s and tells two parallel stories, both about love and both about revenge.  

Right now, I am working on a dark dystopian series with the working title of the Isle of Dust. The first is written, and I’m starting on the second. It’s set in post-apocalyptic London, in a community that lives on the Isle of Dogs.  

 

If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save? 

Wow! Good question! Assuming everyone I love is safe: photographs, my children’s cards and drawings, and my trusty laptop!  

What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party? 

The man who works in the launderette on my high street; Beatrix Potter; Sir Joseph Banks; Biggie Smalls; and my father. 

Thank you Jane for being part of my blog and I'll be reviewing two of her books here on Miss Chapter's Reviews shortly! Don't forget if you want to find out more about the authors and events for both the YA and MG market, pop over to twitter and search for @UKYACX


Happy Reading

Miss Chapter