Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan published 3 November 2016


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In beautiful Banff in the Canadian Rockies Meg and Mitch and Lucy and Tuck have been together since school and now are owners of a snowboard business. But one night, two weeks before Meg and Mitch’s wedding, a Polar Storm comes over the valley and tragedy strikes. Alone in their log cabin, Meg makes radio contact with Jonas and asks him to send for help. In the aftermath Meg, Lucy and Tuck all have to deal with the consequences of what happened and the repercussions which tear their friendship apart.
Meg turns to Jonas to confide in and feels that she can trust him more than her friends. With her life and heart broken apart just who can help her in the coming year.

I love Karen Swan as an author and earlier in the month reviewed Christmas on Primrose Hill which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I think this book is even better. I really enjoy her style of writing, which flows easily and carries the reader through the plot with ease. Her characters are very personable and as a reader you identify with them and care what happens to them. The interaction between different characters is easy and engages the reader.
The storyline is emotional at times but also funny as it follows Meg, Lucy, Tuck and their friends and family in the year after the accident. There are some serious storylines that are dealt with sympathy and verisimilitude, but there is also humour and of course romance.
Each novel I read by Karen Swan is better than the previous, and like a good wine her writing gets better over time.
A brilliant read, highly recommended.

What Remains of Me by A L Gaylin published 1 December 2016


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1980 Kelly Lund, aged 17, is convicted of the murder of Hollywood film director John McFadden.
2010 Kelly, now 47, has been free for five years and is married. She lives quietly, out of the public eye with only her husband an a neighbouring artist for company, but suddenly she is back in the media when her father in law is found dead, killed in the same manner as his friend John McFadden. Kelly is the prime suspect, but she finds support in an unexpected place from a journalist who not only believes her innocent of this crime but also of the murder in 1980, but the question is did she do it or not?

The narrative follows Kelly’s story both in 1980, up to the murder of John McFadden and in 2010 after the death of he father in law. As a character, Kelly was someone I had empathy for: she was brought up by her mother after her parents divorced; her twin sister killed her self when she was 15; and she got in with the wrong friends, drawn by the glitter and money of Hollywood. These factors led her towards a drug addiction and her downfall.
At 47, she enjoys the more simple things in life like driving her car in the night, a feeling of freedom after spending half her life incarcerated.
This is a well written novel of smoke and mirrors where nothing is as it first seems. There are plenty of twists and turns and just when you think you know the truth the plot turns in a different direction. The eventual conclusion is well written with a good twist and one I found interesting.
If you love a good thriller I highly recommend this book.

All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon published 1 December 2016


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Caitlin’s marriage to Patrick is in trouble. He works long hours and she feels he doesn’t understand what she wants anymore. When he gets offered a job in Newcastle he sees it as a new start for Caitlin and their children, Joel and Nancy but Caitlin doesn’t want to leave her house in Bristol where she lived with her Gran. Their decision to separate has tragic consequences for four year old Nancy who turns from a vivacious singing dancing little girl in to a shy little girl who stops talking. The children start to spend some time with their Aunt Eva, recently widowed and lonely and finding it hard to deal with all that she gave up when she married her husband. Both Caitlin and Eva look at their marriages with new eyes, and decide what they really want from their life.

This is a beautifully written heartwarming novel, with engaging characters. I really identified with Caitlin, as I have had an experience similar to hers. She is rather a free spirit but feels she has let everybody down. Patrick models himself on his father who was hard working, but in doing this he distances himself from his family. Eva had it all being married to a famous actor, but now she is on her own with only her pugs for company.. All three embark on a journey where they find out that there is no such thing as a perfect family, and have to adjust to truths about themselves and those around them. I should point out the children are adorable and add much humour but also will pull at your heart strings.
The plot as many ups and downs, humour and sadness but overall it is a story to warm anyone’s heart and make us treasure what we have. A really good, easy read.

It’ A Wonderful Life by Julia Williams published 3 November


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Christmas for Beth has always been a famiy affair. Beth, her husband Daniel, and teenage children Sam and Megan, and Beth’s siblings Lou and Ged always go their parents house for lunch and a game of charades. But this Christmas relationships fail, arguments ensue all of which have a devastating effect on the family.
Over the next year we follow Beth and her family in the fallout. Beth questions her role of mother, wife and daughter after meeting an old boyfriend, and wonders what life would have been like if she had married him. Daniel starts a new job as Head at a local school and is under pressure with an imminent OFSTED inspection, he may be able to help the children at his school but his realationship with his own children is more difficult. Beth’s sister Lou has a string of failed relationships behind her, but how can she tell her conservative family that she is gay. Emotions are high and changes are afoot, where will they be next Christmas?

The book is narrated by Beth, Daniel and Lou and through them we see the different dynamics of relationships within one family. The characters are very likeable and as the reader we feel invested in their future, we want them to be happy. I think many of us will relate to them in some way or another. The plot, similar to the film, works around the theme that the grass not always greener on the other side, and the importance of family. This is an emotional read in parts but still has its humour and feel good aspect that we have come to expect from a Christmas novel.
A good light read that will leave you warm and fuzzy for the festive season.

Losing Juliet by June Taylor published 25 November 2016



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Juliet and Chrissy were best friends at Bristol University in 1989. Juliet was glamorous, popular, fun and care free and from a rich family, the opposite to Chrissy. Chrissy is drawn into Juliet’s world until a holiday in the summer of 1989, they have to go their separate ways and have no contact.
Nearly twenty years later Juliet contacts Chrissy and wants to be part of her life again. Chrissy’s instinct is to keep Juliet away from her and her daughter Eloise. Only Juliet knows what happened in France that summer, and her return could jeopardise Chrissy’s relationship with her daughter and ultimately destroy her life. Bringing the past into the present puts all three women in danger, and could ruin their lives forever; can they survive the consequences of their actions?

This is a well written and engaging book. From the dramatic prologue until the last page the reader is gripped by Juliet and Chrissy’s story. The plot follows their relationship whilst at University in 1989 and in the present with Juliet’s emergence into Chrissy’s life. We see the juxtaposition of their close friendship at University to the present, where Chrissy resents Juliet’s return and doesnt want her in her life. Chrissy is a very haunted, distrusting figure, scarred by her actions in 1989. This manifests itself in her overprotecting of her daughter Eloise, her lack of friends and the security of her home. Juliet is the complete opposite; she is glamorous, lives between London and Rome, is full of confidence and runs her own fashion house. Chrissy resents that she has just been able to continue her life with no obvious effect of the past. Eloise sees Juliet as an escape, she has so much to offer and if Juliet and Chrissy can reconcile Eloise can go away to University with out feeling guilty of leaving her mother alone. These relationships demonstrate how one action is like a pebble in a lake, where the ripples go beyond just those who were there at the time. This book takes us from Manchester to London to France and to Rome, bringing their delights into our lives, with the descriptive quality of the writing.
This is a thriller that has many twists and turns, just when you think you know the what happened in the summer of 1989 the plot takes you in another direction. This is a well thought out psychological thriller, full of detail and atmosphere, and it is will shock you with its twist.

Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell published 8 December 2016


Today it is my pleasure to be on the Blog Blitz for Leigh Russell’s new Geraldine Steel crime thriller Deadly Alibi.
I also have a guest blog by Leigh about the writing process so please read this after my review.


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Geraldine Steele is back with a new case to solve. A woman is found dead in a bin, murdered after a fatal injury to the head. All the DNA leads to he husband Chris but Geraldine is not sure, it all seems too easy. To complicate matters another woman is found dead, also connected to Chris whose alibi is now in doubt. As well as trying to solve this case, Geraldine is also facing a personal dilemma, after the death of her birth mother she learns she has a twin sister Helena, who’s a drug addict. Geraldine is pulled into Helena’s world as she tries to help her and build a relationship but this is dangerous and could cost her her job. Geraldine puts her reputation on the line to find the killer and to help her sister, can she come out of this unscathed?
This is the first Geraldine Steel novel I have read and really enjoyed it. It gripped me from the beginning, opening with three different plot lines that at first seem to have nothing in common but during the novel they begin to converge until they reach their definite point. I love the character of Geraldine Steel, she is a strong character but has family values and feels a certain responsibility for her sister. There is a sense of vulnerability from her past in a relationship that didnt work, I am looking forward to reading pervious books to learn more about her. Brilliant story line that had me guessing until the end, and I found it easy to read as a stand alone story but it has piqued my interest in the previous books.


10 December: Juliet Butler at Bookliterati @Bookliterati

THE WRITING PROCESS​

Until I started my debut novel, Cut Short, I had never harboured any ambitions to write a book. With no intention of looking for a publisher, I simply began writing a story that had occurred to me one day, in a totally random moment of inspiration. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. After writing compulsively for about six weeks, I decided the story was finished. Only then did it strike me that I had, in fact, written a book.
​Fortunate enough to secure a three book deal on the strength of my first manuscript, I continued writing for my first publisher and recently signed my fifth contract with them. Each contract has been for three books. Deadly Alibi, published this month, is the latest in my Geraldine Steel series.
​I have no particular place to write, although I do have a desk in a shared office at home which is my official writing space. But we have quite a busy household, so a lot of my writing is done in bed which tends to be the quietest place in the house during the day.
​For a few years I have been doing all my writing on an ipad, with a wirelessly attached keyboard. My ipad is sync’d with an ipad mini which I take with me whenever I go out. Anything I write on my ipad mini automatically appears on my ipad, so I have an instant back up if needed. The advantage of my system is that I can write anywhere – on a train, in an airport, on a beach – and my work is instantly saved on two devices. Writing on an ipad doesn’t suit everyone, but it works for me – as long as I remember to charge my devices!
​Research is an important aspect of crime novels. I try to make my narratives as believable as possible, because I think that makes them more frightening. So it’s crucial that my forensics and my police procedures are plausible, if not necessarily a hundred per cent accurate. Real police work involves a lot of tedious paperwork. A detective inspector has to spend time working out budgets and processing expenses claims. None of that makes for very exciting reading. So my detective inspector is more likely to be found donning protective clothing before examining the scene of a crime, or chatting to the pathologist conducting a post mortem on a murder victim.
​ My research can be painstaking and complex, such as looking into new techniques in forensic detective work. But it can also be wonderful. As well as visiting different cities in England, last year involved travelling to the Seychelles, Paris, Rome, and Greece, conducting research into locations for my books. The travelling was exciting, but it was also very time consuming.
​Another unexpected aspect of life as an author is the amount of time spent promoting books. Recently I’ve travelled to New Orleans, Miami, Belfast, France, Turin, and Denmark, as well as all over England, appearing at numerous literary festivals and on book tours. It’s all great fun, but sometimes it seems as though there’s little time left for writing!

I would like to thank Juliet very much for inviting me to write a guest post for Bookliterati.

Love Comes Later by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar published 23 November 2016

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Abdulla’s first wife from an arranged marriage died in a car crash three years ago whilst she was pregnant with their first child. He is still grieving but his family have arranged another marriage, this time to his cousin Hind. The only thing they have in common is that neither wants this marriage. As part of the marriage contract, Hind negotiates for a delay of a year so she can go and study for a Masters Degree in London, a year of freedom before the constraints of marriage directed by the privileged life they lead in Qatar.
In London Hind meets Sangita who comes from an Indian family but brought up in America. They may come from different cultures and religions but both feel the pressure of marriage in their cultures and bond over this. But, little does Hind know that this friendship will have a large impact on her future.
I have to admit that I don’t know much about arranged marriage apart from the horror stories in the press, or about muslim or hindu customs. This, however, did not hinder my reading of this book. Both subjects are dealt with great erudition and ease so I felt by the end of the book I knew a lot more. The one aspect of arranged marriage that was a the forefront was the pressure felt by both parties from family members; neither Abdulla or Hind felt they could raise their concerns that this marriage was not for them, they couldn’t even tell each other.
Being set in two different cities, Doha and London, the reader gets to see how wide the gap is culturally between the two countries, and how Hind is free to dress and do what she likes whilst studying in London. This novel gives a great insight into life in a muslim country and its cultures. Luckily there is a glossary of terms at the back of the book so you can check any words that aren’t familiar.
This is a very informative, good read with a twist at the end that came as a surprise.

The Spy by Paulo Coehlo published 22 November 2016

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Mata Hari is a name most of us know. She will forever be associated with being a spy during World War 1, but what really happened?
“the only thing concrete I traded was the gossip
from high society salons.
Yes, I turned the gossip into “secrets” because I
wanted money and power”

This novel tells the story of Mata Hari in two very different letters, where fact and fiction are seamlessly combined to tell the tale. The first letter, that takes up most of the book is written by Mata Hari, whilst in the infamous Saint Lazare Prison awaiting execution, to her lawyer Mr Clunet. In it she looks back at her life, from her marriage that took her to the Dutch East Indies and then her arrival in Paris where she became famous for her dancing, and finally to Berlin which was the beginning of her downfall. The second letter is written by Mr Clunet to Mata Hari. In it he defends his defence of her in court, she lost confidence in him as she knew she was innocent and thought common sense would prevail.
Paulo Coehlo is a well known author whose work has been published worldwide and to critical acclaim. So, it goes without saying that it is a beautifully written novel. It grabs the reader’s interest from the start as it opens with Mata Hari’s execution, and continues to keep the reader hooked, throughout. I found it a very erudite and interesting read with its mix of fact and fiction and and the telling of two versions of events. It is interesting that Mr Clunet feels he has to defend himself, not only to Mata Hari but also to future readers of the letter. He points the finger at the prosecution, who were looking for a scapegoat in the horror of the war, and who better than a beautiful, powerful woman who they believed was a spy. In other words her fate was decided before it went to court, and he could have had no influence on the result.
This is a short novel, so is a great introduction to Mata Hari for those who like their history in bite size chunks. Personally, I would have liked more detail, much of her life is just skimmed over and I felt there was room for further investigation and more of her story. It left me wanting more, I felt I only had half a story.
However, it is still a good read and has piqued my interest so much that I will look for other books on Mata Hari.