Saturday, 28 December 2013

My Year in Books

I thought I would end the year, and welcome in 2014 with a books I've read in 2013 post.  Basically, it's a giant list of what I've read this year!  Are you ready?!

  1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  2. Cuckoo by Julia Crouch
  3. How to Fall by Jane Casey
  4. The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey
  5. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
  6. Stalkers by Paul Finch
  7. The Carrier by Sophie Hanah
  8. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
  9. Aprons and Silver Spoons by Mollie Moran
  10. Someday Find Me by Nicci Cloke
  11. True Grit by Charles Portis
  12. Human Remains by Elizabeth Hayes
  13. Husband Missing by Polly Williams
  14. Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussman
  15. The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill
  16. The Day I Met Suzie by Chris Higgins
  17. Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
  18. The Light Between Oceans by M.L.Steadman
  19. Big Brother by Lionel Schriver
  20. The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison
  21. The Unquiet Grave by Stephen Dunne
  22. Girl Least Likely To by Liz Jones
  23. I Laughed, I Cried by Viv Groskop
  24. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  25. The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace
  26. The Sleeper by Emily Barr
  27. Take your Last Breath by Lauren Child
  28. Murder on the Home Front by Molly Lefebure
  29. The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
  30. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  31. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
  32. Dot by Araminta Hall
  33. The Sacred River by Wendy Wallace
  34. Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus
  35. It's Raining Men by Milly Johnson
  36. A Heart Bent out of Shape by Emylia Hall
  37. The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith
  38. The Boy in the Girl's Bathroom by Louis Sacher
  39. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
  40. Pharaoh by David Gibbins
  41. The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah
  42. A Sixpenny Song by Jennifer Johnson
  43. A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan
  44. The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
  45. Voices by Arnuld Indridasson
  46. The Great British Murder by Lucy Worsley
  47. Forrest of Lost Souls by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf
  48. Just What Kind of Mother are you? by Paula Daly
  49. Like This, For Ever by Sharon Bolton
  50. Not Without You by Harriet Evans
  51. The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey
  52. Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

 It's a longer list than I thought it was going to be.  I do have weeks when I don't manage to finish a book at all, then suddenly can read 3 in a week - how is that possible?

 Of all the books here, only one made me cry (I'm so tough) and that was the emotive The Light Between Oceans which I loved. 

 Beautiful covers awards go to Tigers in Red Weather, Instructions for a Heatwave and The Other Typist.

 And for read of 2013, I have to award the prize to The Ocean at the End of the Lane which I adored - review up next year for anyone who hasn't read it yet.  It's also just won the National Book Award Book of the Year so clearly a good choice!

I've lots to read and review for 2014, highlights are The Goldfinch and The Luminaries as two of the many doorstop novels that have appeared this year.  I've also got the fantastic David Suchet's Being Poirot on my to-read pile plus the newest book from Susan Monk Kidd The Invention of Wings.

What's been your favourite book of 2013 and what are you looking forward to reading next year?

Happy Reading


 Miss Chapter x

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Stranger You Know

The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey
Published by Ebury Press
7th November 2013
Paperback edition

Maeve Kerrigan is hunting the killer who strangled three women in their own homes.  With no sign of a break-in, ever indication shows that they let him in.

Evidence left at the third murder gives Maeve a shocking suspect: DI Josh Derwent, Maeve’s colleague.

Maeve refuses to believe he could be involved, but how well does she really know him?  Because this isn’t the first time Derwent’s been accused of murder…

The garden was quiet, the air still.  As still as the girl who lay under the tree.
     So still.
     Her eyes were closed.  Her hands lay by her sides, palms up.  Her hair spread across the grass like yellow silk.  And the flowers under her were like the stars above her.
     He put out his hand and felt the heat radiating from her skin, even now.  Even in the moonlight he could see the blood on her face, and the bruises around her neck, and the way her eyelids sagged, empty.  Her eyes – her forget-me-not blue eyes – were gone.  Her lip was split.  Her face was swollen.
     She was beautiful.  No one would ever be as beautiful.  She was perfect.
     It surprised him, but he didn’t mind that she was dead.  He could look at her, really look at her, without being interrupted.  Without being afraid that she would say something, or do something, that might hurt him.
     He could touch her.  He reached out again, but stopped himself.
     He could never touch her again.
     His breath came faster.  He wanted to touch himself but he couldn’t do that either.  Not here.
     It was just because he loved her so much.  More than anyone.  More than anything.
    ‘I won’t forget,’ he promised.  ‘I’ll never forget.’
     He almost thought she smiled.

Jane Casey returns with her fourth Maeve Kerrigan novel, and this one doesn’t disappoint.  We join Maeve shortly after her experience with a stalker; she has a new address, and a new man, but some things remain the same.  Her relationship with DI Josh Derwent is as trying as ever, but both of them are going to have to change their attitudes if their careers are to survive.  Three girls have been killed, and the similarity to a cold case from years ago is striking.  Could the same killer be at work, and what is the connection with Derwent? 

The rapport between Kerrigan and Derwent is as good as any police duo that you see on the television.  They are both flawed characters but they work so well together, despite appearing, on the surface, to totally dislike each other.  In The Stranger You Know this is pushed to its ultimate limit.  Jane Casey has written a compelling page-turner that pulls you in many directions in order to work out who the serial killer could be, but again, it’s the relationships of her other characters that work equally as well, so that not only do you have a novel about solving crime, you also have one about human nature and of our relationships with each other.

This is my last review before the Christmas break, so can I wish you all a very merry Christmas and say thank you for supporting me in my new blogging venture.  I hope Santa brings you all some great reads!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Sleeper

The Sleeper by Emily Barr
Published by Headline
4th July 2013
Paperback edition

Lara Finch is living a lie.  Everyone thinks she has a happy life in Cornwall, married to the devoted Sam, but in fact she is desperately bored.  When she is offered a new job that involves commuting to London by sleeper train, she meets Guy and starts an illicit affair.

But then Lara vanishes from the night train without a trace.  Only her friend Iris disbelieves the official version of events, and sets out to find her.

For Iris, it is the start of a voyage that will take her further than she’s ever travelled and on to a trail of old crimes and dark secrets.

For Lara, it is the end of a journey that started a long time ago.  A journey she must finish, before it destroys her….

She should have been back two hours ago.
   A person could not disappear from a train in the middle of the night, but apparently, she had.  She got on at Paddington (as far as we knew), but she did not get off at Truro.
   ‘I’m sure she’s fine,’ I told him.  My words hung in the air, improbable and trite.  I cast around for an explanation.  Once you discounted amnesia and sleepwalking, there were really only two, and neither of them would give her husband any comfort.
   ‘I hope so.’  His face was crumpled and his eyes seemed to have shrunk back under slightly hooded lids.  Everything was sagging as, gradually, he stopped being able to pretend that she might be about to walk in through the door.  His face was, somehow, at once both red and grey, patchy and uneven.
   I had no idea what to do, and so, once again, I started to make coffee.  He was looking at his phone, checking again for messages that might, somehow, have arrived by stealth, even though he had turned the volume right up and called it from the landline, just to see.
   ‘Next train in seven minutes,’ he reported.  I set the coffee pot on the stove, lit the gas under it and left it.  I opened a few cupboard doors, looking for something easy, something that he might eat without noticing it.
   It was strange being in someone else’s kitchen, flung into what I feared was the very early stage of the total breakdown of the life of a man I didn’t even know.  He was halfway off the cliff already, clinging on with his fingers to a flimsy clump of grass.
   I put some custard creams on a plate.

With twelve novels under her belt already, Emily Barr enters the world of the commuter with her novel of strangers on the night train travelling from sleepy Cornwall to the busy city of London.  Lara has given up her city job to move south to focus on her marriage and having a baby.  With failed IVF treatments behind her, and a host of bills to pay, Lara accepts a temporary position in London that means she will have to take the sleeper train to London every Sunday, returning in the early hours of Saturday morning.  Little do either her, or her husband Sam realise what this will entail.  While Sam is pining away for her, Lara has created a new life for herself, one that now involves Guy, a married man who she meets on the train.  In love, and determined to tell their partners about their relationship, Lara and Guy make what is to be their final return journey to Cornwall.  But then tragedy strikes and none of their lives will ever be the same again.

Having discovered Emily Barr shortly after her first novel Backpack was published, and having read every one since, it was probably inevitable that I enjoyed this latest book.  Actually I loved it; the characters, the way she describes Falmouth, her current hometown, with such detail and of this incredible world of the sleeper train, for it is in itself like entering a different world.  The twists and turns that are incorporated into her writing, plus the inevitable element of travel are what make Emily Barr’s novels distinctively her own.  She is a seasoned traveller, and this is by all means apparent when reading any of her books. 

The Sleeper is an easy read but that’s because it is a real page-turner.  I read it in just two days and couldn’t get enough of it.  I loved the character of Iris, Lara’s only friend in Cornwall, who lives this reclusive life in a ramshackle cottage with her mysterious boyfriend, and that of Olivia, Lara’s sister, who is the polar-opposite of her, and harbours a deep hatred of her sibling.  I challenge you to read The Sleeper and not to gasp out loud as the twists and turns of the tale are slowly wrapped together, as I did!

Happy reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 16 December 2013

Cozy Classics - Jane Eyre

Cozy Classics – Jane Eyre by Jack and Holman Wang
Published by Simply Read Books
10th October 2013
Board book edition

If you haven’t been introduced to the Cozy Classics range of books yet, let me tell you about them!  It is a series of classics stories – Moby Dick, Pride & Prejudice and War & Peace to name just three of the titles in the series at present, and it is aimed at children from birth upwards.

Illustration from Tom Sawyer

The whale in Moby Dick

Please sir, I want some more!

Sounds a strange concept, reading Jane Eyre, or any other classic story to a baby, or child, but the idea is simple.  Tell the story through just 12 words, and accompany it with a needle-felted illustration.  It works!

I read Jane Eyre to my seven year old to gauge her reaction.  We read each word and talked about what we thought it might refer to – for example ‘pain’. We then looked at each picture and discussed it’s relevance to the word and what we thought might be going to happen next. 

She loved it!  It’s a fantastic concept and way of introducing children to classic stories that they are not yet able to access, but hopefully, through having this experience, will want to read in their original format when they are older.

The text is clear and simple, and the needle-felted illustrations are delightful.  Hopefully this series will grow and grow as more people discover it.  We certainly want to read more of them here!

Happy reading

Miss Chapter x

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Unquiet Grave

The Unquiet Grave by Steven Dunne
Published by Headline
24th October 2013
Paperback Edition

The Cold Case Unit of Derby Constabulary feels like a morgue to DI Damen Brook.  But in disgrace and recently back from suspension, his boss thinks it’s the safest place for him. 

But Brook isn’t going down without a fight and when he uncovers a pattern in a series of murders that date back to 1963, he is forced to dig deeper.  How could a killer stay undetected for so long?  Could it be luck or are there more sinister forces at work?

Applying his instincts and razor sharp intelligence, Brook delves deep into the past of both suspects and colleagues unsure where the hunt will lead him.  What he does know for sure is that a significant date is approaching fast and the killer may be about to strike again…

Saturday, 22 December 1973 - Derby

The boy looked up from sorting through his football cards to watch him mum light another cigarette.  Her hands were tight and clumsy as she fumbled for her props but, eventually, the hiss of gas and a guttering flame signalled job done.  Tossing her gold lighter on to the coffee table, she took a quivering draw, holding the blue-grey poison in her lungs for a beat before exhaling across the room.
     Jeff watched in silence as she tried to ease back and relax but she couldn’t manage it, at once pulling back her frame to the edge of the sofa, her legs bent double, her tension-wracked shoulders invisible under the uncombed hair.  She played with her housework-reddened hands, sometimes picking at a jagged nail, sometimes swivelling the two rings round her wedding finger.
     ‘I’m hungry, Mum,’ said Jeff, in that way children have of asking for things without actually posing the question.
     Without looking over at him she answered, her voice hoarse and strained. ‘Dad’s home in an hour.’
     Jeff gazed unblinking, waiting for her to crack.  It didn’t happen.  ‘But I’m hungry now.’
     ‘You can have a sandwich when Dad gets home,’ she replied, trying to keep the rising emotion from her voice.  She glanced his way to reassure but it didn’t take.

This is the fourth novel by Steven Dunne featuring DI Damen Brook.  Following on from his previous case, Brook has been placed on suspension and is just returning to the force, a figure in disgrace.  There is only one place for a policeman such as him and that is to be stationed in the basement of the police station working on the cold cases of the Derbyshire force.  But as you can probably imagine, he’s a good policeman, and his instincts soon lead him to reinvestigate a number of murders, that date back as early as 1963.

Unfortunately for Brook, there aren’t many left on the force that he hasn’t already managed to antagonise, so he is left pretty much a one-man team with his enquiries.  But has he discovered a developing pattern that has been left undiscovered by his predecessors, or was the now-deceased DCI Sam Bannon actually on to something when he flagged up the supposed ‘Pied Piper’ killer all those years ago?  If that is the case, Brook only has a matter of weeks before the killer strikes again!

This is a well-written, fast-paced novel.  Despite the plethora of characters that Dunne manages to entwine into the book, it’s a real page-turner.  I couldn’t wait to find out if Brook was right and that there was a link to the Cold Case Unit and if he would catch the killer in time, of if other factors were actually at work.  If you are a fan of crime fiction, which I most definitely am, and haven’t discovered Steven Dunne yet, this is a pretty good place to start.  As for me, I’m off to devour his back catalogue!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Now Without You

Not Without You by Harriet Evans
Published by Harper Collins
7th November 2013
Paperback Edition

Hollywood, 1961: when beautiful, much-loved movie star Eve Noel vanishes at the height of her fame, no-one knows where, much less why.

Fifty years later another young British actress, Sophie Leigh, lives in Eve’s house high in the Hollywood Hills.  Eve Noel was her inspiration and Sophie, disenchanted with her life in L.A., finds herself becoming increasingly obsessed with the memory of her idol’s disappearance.  And the more she discovers, the more she realises Eve’s life is linked with her own.

Sophie needs to unravel the truth to save them both – but is she already too late?  Becoming increasingly entangled in Eve’s world and as past and present start to collide, Sophie must decide whose life she is really living….

A bright spring day, sunshine splashing yellow through the new leaves.  Two little girls stand on the banks of the swollen stream, which rushes loudly past their small feet.
     ‘Come on,’ says the first. ‘There’s magic coins in there.  Gold coins, from the elves.  I can see them glinting.  Can’t you?’ She pushes the short sleeves of her lawn dress up above her shoulders; a determined imitation of the men they see in the fields beyond, backs curved over the soil.  Her brown hair bobs about her head, sun darting though the bouncing curls.  She grins.  ‘It’ll be fun.  Don’t listen to them.’
     The second one hesitates. She always hesitates. ‘I don’t know, Rose,’ she says. ‘They said it’s dangerous.  All that rain…Father said you weren’t to do it again. He said you’d be sent away if –‘
     ‘You believe them, don’t you.’ Rose crosses her arms. ‘I’m not doing all those things they say I do.  They’re making it up.  I’m not bad.’
     ‘I know you’re not.’ The younger one mollifies her sister.
     ‘I didn’t mean to break the jug.  Something happens to me, everything went black, and I didn’t’ know where I was.’ She bites her lip, trying not to cry. ‘I don’t like it. I want Mother and she tells me I’m bad when I do.’

Bestselling author Harriet Evans is back with her seventh novel and it’s sure to do well.  Set in the present day, Sophie Leigh is a British actress living the Hollywood dream, or is she?  Can she trust the people around her, and is her life really as glamorous as it’s portrayed to be?  Sophie has an obsession, she is fascinated by the life, and disappearance, of another successful British actress Eve Noel, and as her own life begins to spin precariously out of her control, is the life of this now-forgotten actress the only reality she has to cling on to?

I haven’t read anything by Harriet Evans before, and having read Not Without You I aim to remedy this immediately.  I loved this book.  It’s an easy read with two distinct characters.  Evans really does manage to capture the atmosphere of both eras that she writes about, which not every author who writes a book with two separate main characters manages.  The Hollywood glamour of the 1960s is masterfully written about, with its darker and seedier side, whilst the Hollywood of today is heavily controlled by the media.  It’s well written and witty with some fantastic characters which in my imagination could easily be replaced with well-known stars of today.  Do I recommend this book, yes but would I want to be a Hollywood actress after reading this?  Most definitely not!

Happy reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 9 December 2013

Like This, For Ever

Like This, For Ever by Sharon Bolton
Published by Corgi Books
7th November 2013
Paperback Edition

Twelve-year-old Barney Roberts is obsessed with a series of murders.

He knows the victims are all boys, just like him.  He knows the bodies were found on river banks nearby.  And he’s sure the killer will strike again soon.

But there’s something else, a secret he’d rather not know, a secret he is too scared to share…

And who would believe a twelve-year-old boy anyway?

‘They say it’s like slicing through warm butter, when you cut into young flesh.’
     For a second, the counsellor was still.  ‘And is it?’ she asked.
    ‘No, that’s complete rubbish.’
    ‘So, what is it like?’
    ‘Well, granted, the first part’s easy.  The parting of the skin, that first rush of blood.  The knife practically does it for you, as long as it’s sharp enough.  But after that first cut you have to work pretty hard.’
    ‘I imagine so.’
    ‘The body’s fighting you, for one thing.  From the moment you cut, it’s trying to heal itself.  The blood starts to clot, the artery or vein or whatever it is you’ve opened is trying to close and the skin is producing that icky, yellowy stuff that eventually becomes a scab.  It’s really not easy to go beyond that first cut.’
    ‘It seems to be largely about the first cut for you, would that be fair to say?’
    The patient nodded in agreement.  ‘Definitely.  By the time the knife touches the skin, the noise in my head is close to unbearable – I feel like my skull’s about to blow apart.  But then there’s that first drop of blood, and the next, and then it’s just streaming out.’

Sharon (formally S.J.) Bolton is back, and with what I believe is her best book to date.  12 year old Barney is obsessed with a spate of murders that are happening in London, near where he lives.  All of them are young boys, of similar age to him.  These murders seem to occur either on Tuesday or Thursday nights, the very same nights when his dad is at work.  Detective Inspector Dana Tulloch is in charge of these disappearances, and unfortunately more children are vanishing.  It doesn’t help that when the media seems to be more aware of the facts than the police do, thanks to a mysterious man who posts on Facebook.  When Barney and his friends decide to turn detective it can only lead to one thing.  Can DI Tulloch get there in time or will more boys disappear?

This is a total page-turner, so much so, that I read it in just 24 hours.  Sharon Bolton can certainly tell a tale.  She manages to pull you into the story to the extent that you are sure you know ‘whodunnit’ only for her to make you change your mind a few pages later.  I was hooked and sped through this, trying to work out who the killer was going to be, but was still guessing until right to the end!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Instructions for a Heatwave

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell
Published by Tinder Press
29th August 2013
Paperback Edition

It’s July 1976 and London is in the grip of a heatwave.  It hasn’t rained for months, the gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper.  He doesn’t come back.

The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father may have gone.  None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.

The heat, the heat.  It wakes Gretta just after dawn, propelling her from the bed and down the stairs.  It inhabits the house like a guest who has outstayed his welcome: it lies along corridors, it circles around curtains, it lolls heavily on sofas and chairs.  The air in the kitchen is like a solid entity filing the space, pushing Gretta down into the floor, against the side of the table.

Only she would choose to bake bread in such weather.

I loved this newest novel from award-winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell, to the extent that I read it in one day.  The cover looks like a beautiful poster from long-ago with its image of children on the beach interspersed with a table set for dinner.  This is such an atmospheric novel.  I don’t remember the heatwave from 1976 and after reading this book, I’m glad I don’t.  The descriptions of just how hot and still the air was during this summer were so well written that I could believe I was there.  Even though it is less than 40 years ago, the way society and people have changed in that period is immense.  O’Farrell mixes the story alongside segments of the Drought Act of 1976 which only increases its ambience.

Gretta’s husband disappears on his way to get a newspaper.  She doesn’t worry until later that day and summons her three children to help her to find him.  Each of them has their own worries to contend with and the book brings them together with all of their problems.  Son Michael Francis is an unhappy teacher looking forward only to the start of the summer holidays; his wife is behaving very oddly and his two children need looking after.  Middle child Monica has a husband who is distant and two step-children who barely know she exists; she hasn’t spoken to her youngest sister for years.  Youngest child Aoife has fled the country for a new life in America, the odd-ball of the family, she has her own demons to deal with.  O’Farrell weaves her magic into this delightful Irish family nest.  Can they all pull together to find out what happened to Robert or will their own problems only cause them to fall dramatically apart?  Perfect escapism especially for these dark, winter nights.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

A Very British Murder

A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley
Published by BBC Books
12th September 2013
Hardback edition

A dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy.  And yet, an endlessly fascinating storyline in popular entertainment.  When did the British start taking such a ghoulish pleasure in violent death?  And what does this tell us about ourselves?

In A Very British Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail.  She revisits notorious crimes like the Ratcliffe Highway Murders, which caused a nation-wide panic in Regency England, and characters such as the murderess in black satin, Maria Manning, who helped bury her lover under the kitchen floor.  Our fascination with these dark deeds would create a whole new world of entertainment, inspiring journalism and novels, plays and puppet shows and an army of beloved fictional detectives, from Sherlock Holmes to Miss Marple.  During the birth of modern Britain, murder somehow slipped into our national psyche – and provided us with some of our most enduring and enjoyable pastimes.

‘It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war…You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open The News of the World.  A cup of mahogany-brown tea has put you just in the right mood.  The sofa cushions are soft, the fire is well alight, the air is warm and stagnant.  In these blissful circumstances, what is it you want to read about?  Naturally, about a murder.’
George Orwell, ‘Decline of the English Murder’ (1946)

As a huge crime novel fan, I just had to get my hands on a copy of Lucy Worsley’s A Very British Murder and very glad I am to have read it too.  I love a good murder, be it on the radio, television or in book form.  But I would never dream of committing one; I hate blood and violence of any kind - so, as Worsley herself asks, why the fascination?

In Part IHow to Enjoy a murder, Lucy Worsley goes as far back as the 1800s, where she investigates a handful of murders that happened across England, and of the popularity of these in the press, through song and on stage.  She also tells of a certain French woman, Marie Tussaud who came to England after the French Revolution and began making waxworks of the famous, which also included those of notorious killers in her Chamber of Horrors. 

Part II – Enter the Detective - here Worsley focuses on the growing role of the detective.  The murder at Road Hill House, written about and dramatised as The Suspicions of Mr Whitcher is one of the cases she examines, as well as those of the infamous Jack the Ripper.  She also looks at the growth of sensationalism fiction, through the works of writers such as Wilkie Collins.

In Part III – The Golden Age, she now turns to the big screen with the works of Alfred Hitchcock and of the growth of the armchair detective through a growing generation of female crime writers of detective fiction, including the works of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and Ngaio Marsh.

I only have one small criticism of the book and that is that in the chapter on the disappearance on Agatha Christie, it claims that she had two children with her first husband Archie.  As a big Christie fan, I’m pretty sure she only had one child, Rosalind, but this doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the book.  This is an easy read, full of facts and details and some fantastic photographs too.  I’ve added a few new writers to my collection of crime fiction as a result!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Literary Gift Company

As today is meant to be the busiest day of the year in terms of internet shopping, I thought instead of a review, I'd mention a book-ish website that I came across thanks to my hubby and his fantastic birthday buying skills. 

It's called The Literary Gift Company and sells all matter of book related things.

For my birthday, hubby bought me

Literary map of the UK and Ireland

and as I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan, he got me this too!

Bracelet made from vintage Agatha Christie books

There's lots of other stuff I'm coverting, I love this bag with a quote from I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith and there's a Christie broach I fancy too!

Worth checking out before Christmas arrives!

Happy reading

Miss Chapter x

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife by A.S.A.Harrison
Published by Headline
21st November 2013
Paperback edition

Todd and Jodi have been together for more than twenty years.  They are both aware their world is in crisis, though neither is willing to admit it.

Todd is living a dual existence, while Jodi is living in denial.  But she also likes to settle scores.  When it becomes clear their affluent Chicago lifestyle could disintegrate at any moment, Jodi knows everything is at stake.  It’s only now she will discover just how much she’s truly capable of…
It’s early September.  Jodi Brett is in her kitchen, making dinner.  Thanks to the open plan of the condo, she has an unobstructed view through the living room to its east-facing windows and beyond to a vista of lake and sky, cast by the evening light in a uniform blue.  A thinly drawn line of a darker hue, the horizon, appears very near at hand, almost touchable. She likes this delineating arc, the feeling it gives her of being encircled.  The sense of containment is what she loves most about living here, in her aerie on the twenty-seventh floor.

At forty-five, Jodi still sees herself as a young woman.  She does not have her eye on the future but lives very much in the moment, keeping her focus on the everyday.  She assumes, without having thought about it, that things will go on indefinitely in their imperfect yet entirely acceptable way.  In other words, she is deeply unaware that her life is now peaking, that her youthful resilience – which her twenty-year marriage to Todd Gilbert has been slowly eroding – is approaching a final state of disintegration, that her notions about who she is and how she ought to conduct herself are far les stable than she supposes, given that a few short months are all it will take to make a killer out of her.

There isn’t much of a surprise to The Silent Wife; we know from the start that the seemingly perfect marriage of Todd and Jodi is on the rocks.  Todd is having an affair, but Jodi is perfectly happy to pretend that everything is just rosy, until Todd reveals he is leaving her.  When her world is suddenly about to be turned upside-down, just how far will one woman go to maintain the life she loves?

If Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was one of the most talked about books of 2012, then A.S.A.Harrison’s similar tome The Silent Wife is set to be the hit of 2013.  This is her first novel, and unfortunately, set to also be her last, given her untimely and unexpected death earlier this year.  Comparisons between the two novels are bound to arise, as they feature a parallel theme - a once-loving couple whose relationship takes a murderous path.  Where The Silent Wife differs in my opinion, is that it has a much better ending than Flynn’s novel.  Read both and compare them to see if you agree, but beware a woman scorned!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Pharaoh by David Gibbins
Published by Headline
26th September 2013
paperback edition

1351 BC
Akhenaten the Sun-Pharaoh presides over Egypt…until the day he casts off his crown and mysteriously disappears into the desert, his legacy seemingly swallowed up by the sands beneath the Great Pyramids of Giza.

AD 1884
A British soldier serving in the Sudan stumbles upon a submerged temple containing drawings of a terrifying god fed by human sacrifice.  The soldier is on a mission to reach General Gordon before Khartoum falls.  But he hides a secret of his own.

Present Day
Jack Howard and his team are excavating an incredible underwater site, but dark forces watch to see what they will find.  Diving into the Nile, they enter a world three thousand years backing history, inhabited by a people who have sworn to guard the greatest secret of all time…

The man carrying the staff of a high priest and the ankh symbol of a pharaoh stood at the entrance to the temple, watching the shaft of light from the setting sun rise up the body of the statue that loomed out of the far wall.  Ahead in the gloom the others stood aside to let him pass forward, sprinkling incense and mouthing incantations as they did so.  They were all present, the priests of this cult and also the priests of the god Amun from Thebes: those who had grown fat on the wealth that was rightfully his, and had doubted his allegiance to the gods.  They had come here, a thousand miles to the south of the pyramids, to the edge of the known world, believing that he had chosen this place to prostrate himself before them, to recant his heresy and purify himself before the gods, to arise once again with the trappings of priesthood that had weighed down his father and generations of pharaohs before that.  He passed them now, men with shaven heads and pious expressions who wore the gold-hemmed robes and upturned sandals that showed wealth, and he felt nothing but contempt.  Soon they would know the truth.

David Gibbins has written seven bestselling novels, and Pharaoh is his eighth.  I love an adventure story, and anything about Egypt, so it seemed that this book would be a win-win choice.  Having not read any of his previous novels, I didn’t know that the main character, Jack Howard, is an archaeological diver, which was an interesting premise.  I don’t know anything about diving so I initially wondered if this book would suit me.  The detail that Gibbins goes into is not so technical to be boring, but explanatory enough that I was immediately interested and could also imagine what it would have been like under the Nile exploring for treasure.

Pharaoh is split into three distinct parts, ancient Egypt, wartime in 1884 and the present day. The section on ancient Egypt immediately captivated me and I avidly turned the pages immersing myself in the reign of Akhenaten.  Now, I’m not a great fan of wartime novels, but have to say that the parts where this was the primary focus were as captivating as the others and I soon found myself reading on to find out what the ending would be once the book concluded in the present day.  Gibbins is sure to have found himself with another bestseller amongst his fans, and I’ll definitely be reading more of his previous work after this.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Orphan Choir

The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah
Published by Hammer
10th October 2013
paperback edition

Louise is bereft.  Her seven year old son Joseph has been sent away to boarding school against her wishes, and she misses him desperately. 

And the neighbour from hell is keeping her awake at night by playing loud intrusive music.

So when the chance comes to move to the country, she jumps at it as a way of saving her sanity.

Only it doesn’t.

Because the music seems to have followed her.

Except this time it’s choral music, sung by a choir of children that only she can see and hear…

It’s quarter to midnight.  I’m standing in the rain outside my next-door neighbour’s house, gripping his rusted railings with cold wet hands, staring down through them at the misshapen and perilously narrow stone steps leading to his converted basement, from which noise is blaring.  It’s my least favourite song in the world: Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.
     There’s a reddish-orange light seeping out into the darkness from the basement’s bay window that looks as unappealing as the too-loud music sounds.  Both make me think of hell: my idea of it.  There are no other lights on anywhere in my neighbour’s four-storey home.
     My lower ground floor next door is dark and silent.  We mainly use it as guest accommodation, and as we don’t often have guests it is usually empty.  It comprises two bedrooms, a playroom-cum-Xbox room for Joseph, and a large bathroom.  All of number 19’s internal cellar walls have been knocked down to make a single, vast area: either a chill-out den or an entertaining space, depending on whether you’re talking to my neighbour or his girlfriend.
     I think the label ‘entertaining space’ worries him because of its public-spirited implications.  The word ‘entertain’ suggests that one might give a toss about other people other than oneself.  My next-door neighbour doesn’t.
    Freddie Mercury’s reflections about supersonic women are making me glad that I’ve never met one: they sound like a bit of a handful – not very easy-going.  I’ve never had ambitions in the direction of supersonicness, whatever it might be.  What I want is far more achievable, I hope: to be warm, dry, asleep.  At the moment, those are the only things I want, the only things I can imagine ever wanting.

All Louise wants is a good night’s sleep.  Unfortunately, her neighbour, nicknamed ‘Mr Farenheit’ by Louise and her husband has other ideas.  He doesn’t want to sleep, he wants to play his music, and loud.  After another night without sleep, after her request to her neighbour to turn his music down goes unheeded, Louise takes things further – she reports him to the council for noise disturbance.  She begins by keeping a diary of the music that is played; only it becomes apparent after time that the sounds she hears aren’t the same of those of her husband. 

After another night of broken sleep, Louise spies an advert in the paper for a new housing development, Swallowfield that promises to be the solution to her problem; for it is an estate where noise is practically forbidden.  Suddenly Louise can only dream of escaping her Victorian city home in Cambridge and moving to the countryside.  It becomes somewhere for her to take her son, Joseph too, once he is on holiday from school.

Seven year old Joseph is a boarder at St Saviours and is part of their choir.  Louise misses him desperately and Swallowfield seems to ideal place for them to spend quality time together.  The only problem is that once they arrive at their second home, after an idyllic start, Louise starts to hear singing again and this time, it seems more sinister.  Whilst I would argue that The Orphan Choir isn’t a horror novel, in my opinion, it is genuinely creepy and builds up to a dramatic climax.  I really enjoyed the story, and thought that both the characters and location were really well developed.  This is definitely worth a read.

Happy reading

Miss Chapter x