Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll publishes 21 April 2016

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Ana FaNelli, previously known as TifAni FaNelli, has it all: she has a fantastic editors job at a top woman’s magazine, a rich fiancé who works on Wall Street, she is beautiful, and has a wardrobe full of designer clothes and accessories. But all this is just a wall she has built around herself to hide a more vulnerable and frightened version of herself. When Ani was fourteen she was involved in a violent incident at her school that still haunts her. Soon to be married Ani is approached by a company who want to make a documentary about those events fourteen years ago. Ani hopes the perfect life she has built will show people how far she has come, but will her facade start to crack under the pressure?
This book was a choice of the book club to which I am a member. I am glad I chose it as I really enjoyed the story. The plot was well paced, building to what actually happened fourteen years age and the events didn’t disappoint. As a reader I was swept along on Ani’s journey into the past and felt like I was there with her. Jessica Knoll represents the problems of being a teenager with great empathy and understanding. Ani, as a character, comes across as shallow and superficial at first, but as the narrative progresses you begin to understand why she is like this, by the end I certainly had sympathy for her and liked her strength of character. The supporting characters were also well developed and very true to life; from the fiancé who doesn’t really understand Ani, to the teenagers who are the main protagonists in the events fourteen years previously. Knoll’s insight into the teenage psyche is excellent.
This is a well written novel and I look forward to other books from Jessica Knoll.

Max Gate by Damien Wilkins published 6 June 2016

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Max Gate is the Dorset home of author Thomas Hardy. The year is 1928 and Hardy is on his death bed. Whilst he lies dying in his bedroom, downstairs decisions ar being made about where his body should be interred. Hardy’s wishes are that he be buried next to his family and first wife, Emma, at the local church in Stinisford. However, his friends, curator Sydney Cockerell and author J M Barrie, feel thay his literary greatness should be acknowledged and his remains be buried in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey. Hardy’s second wife Florence doesn’t know what to do for the best.
The story is narrated by maid Nellie Titterington, who occasionally goes off piste with her narrative. But in her ramblings you do get an insight into Thomas Hardy the man.
This book is beautifully written with lyrical prose juxtaposed with colloquial dialogue: the transition between the two is effortless. The characterisation is detailed and very believable. Nellie draws the readers in so that you feel you are part of Max Gate and the debate about Hardy’s remains.
There is sympathy for Hary’s second wife Florence, who feels jealousy towards his first wife, Emma, and insecure at her position in all this. She was his secretary before his wife and feels she never lived up to her predecessor, she is not even with Hardy when he dies. Again, she gives detail into Hardy the man, not the writer and also the role of women in 1920’s England.
Nearly all the narrative takes place in Max Gate so this is not a book where there is a lot of action. Instead, emphasis is on literary style and characterisation. If like me you enjoy an accomplished, literary novel, beautifully written with detailed characterisation this is definitely a book for you. In my reviews I will very rarely give a 5 book rating but this reaches that grade.

Q&A with Helen Callaghan


Could you tell me a bit about yourself?

In my real life I’m a technical author – people pay me to come in and write software manuals for them. It’s every bit as exciting as it sounds. I live in Cambridge with a hamster called Aleister and lots of books. I’m petty lucky because Cambridge Issa great lace to set a novel.


Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Ever since I can remember. My first book was about talking animals led by unicorns who lived on an island together. I would have been about five then. So far I haven’t been tempted to revisit unicorns as protagonists, but I suppose there is always time. I’m not sure Unicorn thrillers have taken off as a genre yet anyway.

Was the crime genre an obvious choice and why?

Well…yes and no. Dear amy Was actually the first novel I ever wrote “The End” for. I’d written other things previously, which I wouldn’t call crime, but it’s fair to say tat they had a crime component – one was a heist set fifty years from now, the other was about alternate universes, but the heroin was being pursued by someone who wanted to kill her for something she hadn’t done yet, and she had to piece together what that was. So all the books had to be constructed as mysteries; or rather, they didn’t have to be but they were, because that’s the kind of thing I love to read.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Finding time, particularly when you are working, is very hard, but that is a universal problem with all writing. In the case ofDear Amy, which is about abduction, I found parts hard to write and some of the research hard to hack because it scared me – you know, I’m here, in Cambridge, late at night at my iMac, with only little Aleister to protect me…

Do you have a particular place where you write?

No, I don’t. I have an office in the flat I can write in, but sometimes I just love to get out to cafes and tea shops – I’m not sure why, I think that the bustle around me soothes me when the silence in the office is too intimidating. Actually, large parts of Dear Amy were written in the upper floors of the University Library here in Cambridge. In summer the upper stacks are practically deserted and you can get a desk amongst the books with a pretty window view. I often pitched up I the Materials Science section, and that’s why Ara, Eddy’s lover in < em>Dear Amy is a professor of metallurgy.

When you were a child what was your favourite book?

Oh, Lord of the Rings hands down. I was that sort of girl. I also loved Watership Down, but the movie gave me nightmares for years.

Which Authors have influenced you?

The Gothics. I maintain that Dear Amy Is a Gothic novel. My favourite novel is Jane Eyre. I’m also a massive fan of Iain Banks – I always loved how ambitiously he wrote, the tricks and techniques he applied to narrative. As a teenager I loved Anne Rice and Angla Carter and Tanith Lee – I love a good stylist, Colette is my heroine, and I devoured all I could lay my hands on. I read all the Jonathan Kellerman, Sarah Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell…

What type of books do you enjoy reading?

I’ll read most things, I’m quite eclectic. I do love a good thriller though – I recently read Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin and I loved that. I worked in bookshops for about ten years and it’s fantastic for forming your tastes: you get exposed to so much more than you normally would. And you get staff discount. You need one, however, as the money is terrible and the temptation t spend it enormous.

Have you started writing your next book yet, and can you give us an idea of what it is about?

I have indeed! The working title is Morning Star And it’s about a woman whose mother has apparently committed suicide. The daughter starts digging and finds out that her mother has written a book about her youth, which was spent in a cult, and beyond that.. Well, it’s a secret. For now 😉 but it will be another thriller, and hopefully as scary as Dear Amy!

Do you have any advice for other authors starting out?

There are many glib things people say like “Just Write”. But I’m going to to presume folk already know that, so I’d say, Join a good writing group or course. Try a few out. Then you’ll have the commitment to write something for a meeting on a regular basis, and you’ll gain a sense of what it’s like when others read and criticise your work. You can also learn enormous amounts from other people’s mistakes, you’ll meet other writers, and you’ll feel supported. If you can’t get out to one, there are online ones around, but once in it, commit. It’s very rewarding.

I would like to thank Helen for her time and encourage you to go out and but her book Dear Amy When it is released on Thursday. Please see my review.

The Fire Child by S K Tremayne published 16 June 2016


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Rachel did not have the best start in life but managed to escape her childhood in a London council estate and get a degree in Photography. Through her photography she meets widower David Kerthen and his 8 year old son Jamie and her life changes. She marries David and goes to live at Carnhallow House, the family seat, in Cornwall.
David has to work in London so Rachel only has Jamie and David’s mother Juliet for company. It becomes apparent that Jamie is still troubled over his mother, Nina, death 18 months earlier. Jamie is convinced his mother has returned and makes the premonition that Rachel will be dead by Christmas. As Christmas approaches Rachel also begins to wonder what happened to Nina and feels her presence herself. Is Rachel loosing her mind, can she stay alive until Christmas or will Jamie’s premonition come true?
This is a great psychological thriller very much in the style of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca: the questions about the first wife and her death, the grand house and the ghosts of the past encroaching on the present. The characters all have an air of mystery about them, they are not what they seem at first. The interaction between the three main characters is certainly believable if uncomfortable in places, I really sympathised with Rachel being almost thrown in at the deep end to cope on her own with her new stepson ang the Carnhallow House whilst David works in London.
I loved the historical detail given by the author about Cornwall and its mining history. The photographs throughout helped the reader picture the landscape that plays such an important role in the narrative.
Overall, a great story with interesting characters. I look forward to reading S K Tremayne’s first book The Ice Twins.

Letting in the Light by Emma Davies published 14 June

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Ellie decides a change is needed in her life after the breakdown of her relationship. Best friend Jane lets her rent the Lodge, attached to Rowan Hill, in the village of Wickford. A year previously Ellie was in a car accident and her knight in shining armour, who came to her aid, is now her neighbour. Unfortunately for Ellie her knight’s armour is now tarnished and his demeanour is more grumpy and distant.
Ellie’s appearance in the village is like a match to a candle, she brings light and change to the residents of Wickford. Ellie may thinks she is just meandering through life but her relationship with Will and Finn, her neighbours at Rowan Hill, and the other villagers brings hope and new life to both the village and its residents.
Letting in the Light is a good easy read, the narrative flows effortlessly taking the reader gently along with it. The characters are beautifully drawn and in no way stereotyped. By the end of the book you really feel invested in their lives. There is a turn in the plot that I had not seen coming and a topic I have not previously come across. I have to say the subject concerned was handled with compassion and sensitivity.
This is a book that will leave you with a warm heart and a smile on your face.

Author Q&A Sessions

Happy Friday everyone. I am excited to announce that I have 2 author Q&A sessions coming up in June and July.
The first is Helen Callaghan whose book Dear Amy < was my first book review. Hopefully this will happen next week so I will keep you posted. The second is Kate Acton whose first novel Whyte Lies will be published on 16 July.
I will also put a review of her book up. This will happen on 10 July.
If anyone has any questions they would like me to ask please let me know. I would love to hear from you.

You can contact me on the blog, or on Twitter @bookliterat, Facebook Bookliterati or by email Bookliterati@ gmail.com.

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan, Penguin UK publish date 16/06/16

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Dear Amy is set in Cambridge where Morag Lewis is a Classics teacher at a local school and has an advice column in the Examiner paper.
Katie Browne, a student of Morag’s, has gone missing presumed to have runaway from home. A few weeks later Morag’s Dear Amy column receives letters from Bethan Avery, another girl who disappeared from Cambridge twenty years ago. Who is writing these letters, and why now after twenty years? Could they help in the search for Katie?

The concept of this novel is really good and keeps the readers interest throughout. Margot has many facets to her character and endears herself to the reader through her complex character. I found I really wanted her to continue to fight for the truth no matter what the obstacles.
However, I do feel that the supporting characters needed more development. They just seemed to appear with not much introduction. I also felt that their relationship with Margot needed more attention.
The plot also had room for development, I wanted more on the backstory of the missing girls. It didn’t flow at times, the story jumped from one thing to another in parts.
However, I did enjoy the book, it did keep me guessing throughout and I wanted t keep reading to find out who wrote the letters.
This is the authors first novel and if this is anything to go by I will certainly lookout for her future novels.

Hi,
So this is my first blog. As well as reviewing books I will also post occasional thoughts and information about books and reading. At no point will there be any spoilers in my reviews just my feelings about the book. My rating system will not be in stars but in books, and is as follows:-
📖📖📖📖📖 Excellent
📖📖📖📖 Very Good
📖📖📖 Good
📖📖 Not sure
📖 Poor

I hope you enjoy the reviews x