If We Were Villains ARC

If We Were Villains ARC

If We Were Villains by M.L Rio
Published by Titan Books
Ebook
Expected publication 16 June 2017
400 pages
Review Copy

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I was given an ARC by the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.

As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.

When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

EXTRACT

 I sit with my wrists cuffed to the table and think, But that I am forbid / To tell the secrets of my prison house / I could tale unfold whose lightest word I would harrow up thy soul. The guard stands by the door, watching me, like he’s waiting for something to happen.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

If We Were Villains is a great read and held my attention from start to finish. This book reminded me a lot of The Secret History by Donna Tartt which is also a great read. I liked the layout of the book, split into scenes and acts like a play. The characters are all well-written and really come to life, especially Oliver who is a great first person narrator. The book is a little darker than I expected at times but this works really well. If We Were Villains has an almighty twist towards the end when Oliver reveals what really happened the night his friend died. A twist can work really well or completely ruin the book depending on how it’s written. Rio really pulls it off. I had no idea what really happened so the truth floored me a little. My only issue is that Richard, the murdered friend, gradually turns into a cartoon-like villain in the weeks leading up to his death so when he breathes his last his friends are sort of relieved. I thought this was a bit over the top. Nevertheless, If We Were Villains is a great mystery and well worth a read if you’re tired of police procedurals.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

BLOG TOUR: Winter Downs ARC

BLOG TOUR: Winter Downs ARC

winter-downs-cover-by-jan-edwardsWinter Downs by Jan Edwards
Published by Penkhull Press
Ebook
Published 3 June 2017
238 pages
ARC

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I was given an ARC by the author and voluntarily reviewed it. I am delighted to take part in the blog tour

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose.

Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?

Winter Downs is first in the Bunch Courtney Investigates series.

OPENING 

The first gunshot flushed a clamour of rooks into a yellowish sky to circle their tribal elms.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I really enjoyed Winter Downs. This book has a charming feel of an old fashioned mystery novel in the vein of Miss Marple or something similar. I thought the characters were great, well written, made of flesh and blood. I loved Bunch; the name suits her better than her real name, Rose. She’s a great heroine, feisty, determined to prove her friend and sometime lover did not kill himself and refusing to back down even though everyone else thinks she’s barking up the wrong tree. I loved her. I really liked the plot as well, how all the little seemingly unconnected threads (Frampton’s death, the murder of a Land Girl and her soldier lover) are gradually, bit by bit revealed to be linked. I kept second guessing what was going on and I’m glad to say I was barking up the wrong tree. I liked the way Winter Downs ended. I really enjoyed the book, would like to read the entire series and recommend the book.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars

Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars

NETMiss Treadway & the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson
Published by 4th Estate
Ebook
Published 12 January 2017
289 pages
NetGalley

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I was given a review copy by the publisher via NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT 

How do you find a missing actress in a city where everyone’s playing a role?

A mystery, a love-story and a darkly beguiling tale of secrets and reinvention set in 1960s London.

Soho, 1965.

In a tiny two-bed flat above a Turkish café on Neal Street lives Anna Treadway, a young dresser at the Galaxy Theatre.

When the American actress Iolanthe Green disappears after an evening’s performance at the Galaxy, the newspapers are wild with speculation about her fate.

But as the news grows old and the case grows colder, it seems Anna is the only person left determined to find out the truth.

Her search for the missing actress will take her into an England she did not know existed: an England of jazz clubs and prison cells, backstreet doctors and seaside ghost towns, where her carefully calibrated existence will be upended by violence but also, perhaps, by love.

For in order to uncover Iolanthe’s secrets, Anna is going to have to face up to a few of her own…

EXTRACT 

‘Look, out into the darkness, Iolanthe had told her.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars isn’t what I was expecting at all. I thought it would be a straight forward mystery, and there are mystery elements but also has literary elements. I really loved the setting. The author brings London in the 60’s vivid life. I enjoyed reading the book for the world-building alone. There are plenty of characters in the book. What I liked was how they were all strong and well-written and none over-shadowed the others. This book has a great cast of characters and this is handled well. I was compelled to read the book from start to finish because I was enjoying it so much. I enjoyed the book much more than I expected and was pleasantly surprised when it exceeded my expectations. Well worth a read.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Elizabeth Is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin
Paperback
Published 1 January 2015
275 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book with a red spine’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago…

Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son – not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something.

Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war.

Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum. 

EXTRACT 

‘You know there was an old woman mugged around here?’ Carla says, letting her long, black ponytail snake over one shoulder.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I’m not completely sure how I feel about Elizabeth Is Missing. I was wavering between giving it a three or star but went with four stars in the end because it made me cry a little. This book isn’t what I was expecting and I didn’t like some of it. One issue I had is the way the book handles dementia. Maud’s dementia is quite far advanced. I felt she was at the stage when she couldn’t be left on her own. She was wandering out of the house and could easily have come to harm because she was so confused. I felt her family were neglectful of her at first. I thought Maud, however, was a great character, very realistic of someone with dementia. My gran, who’s been dead for sixteen years, had dementia. She came to live with my family when neighbours told my mum she was wandering the streets in her night-dress, looking for her dog that had died ten years before. Maud reminds me a lot of her. She’s a well written character. I found the narrative confusing at times. I didn’t mind that it moved back and forth in time. I like this structure in novels. It just wasn’t always clear what time we were in. I suppose this helped to convey Maud’s confusion but it could have been handed a bit better. The title is a misnomer – Elizabeth is not missing, it’s just Maud’s memories of her are missing and confused in her head with her sister’s disappearance thirty years before. I felt a little bit cheated. Never mind, Elizabeth Is Missing does involve a mystery, just now what I was expecting. There is a lot of misdirection, caused by Maud’s memory and I suppose it’s good the author went in an unexpected direction. I ended up really liking Elizabeth Is Missing and would recommend it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Dead Certain

Dead Certain

Dead Certain by Adam Mitzner
Published by Thomas & Mercer
Ebook
Expected publication 1 June 2017
348 pages
Kindle First

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WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Ella Broden is living a double life.

By day, Ella works as a buttoned-up attorney on some of the city’s most gruelling cases. By night, she pursues her passion for singing in the darkest clubs of Manhattan.

No one knows her secret, not even Charlotte, the younger sister she practically raised. But it seems she’s not the only one in the family with something to hide. When Charlotte announces she’s sold her first novel, Ella couldn’t be more thrilled…until she gets a call that her sister’s gone missing.

Ella starts investigating with the help of Detective Gabriel Velasquez, an old flame in the NYPD, and what she finds is shocking. If art imitates life, then her sister’s novel may contain details of her real-life affairs. And any one of her lovers could be involved in her disappearance.

Desperate to bring Charlotte home, Ella works through her list of suspects, matching fictitious characters with flesh-and-blood men. But will it be too late to save the sister she only thought she knew?

EXTRACT

 I have news!

For someone who fancies herself as a writer, Charlotte’s texts are extremely heavy on exclamation points.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I really enjoyed Dead Certain. I liked the way the novel was structured, littered with extracts from Charlotte’s novel in progress, providing links to her disappearance. I liked the use of novel-within-a-novel in this book. I thought the characters were excellent, well written and very real. I liked Ella the most. Her bond with her baby sister was very touching. Dead Certain has fantastic pacing. I liked the chapters from the killer’s point of view which take place towards the end of the novel. His indifference to the woman he’d killed as chilling, especially when his real identity is revealed. I love the ending of Dead Certain. I really enjoyed this and would recommend it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Fall In One Day ARC

Fall In One Day ARC

NETFall In One Day by Craig Terlson
Published by Blue Moon Publishers
Ebook
Expected publication 16 May 2017
327 pages
NetGalley

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I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher via NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

In the summer of 1973, fifteen-year-old Joe Beck lives in a small Canadian city near the U.S. border where he watches dark-suited politicians lie on TV during something called Watergate. So when his best friend Brian goes missing, Joe has a hard time believing that adults ever tell the truth.

Joe learns that Brian left town with his father after Brian’s mother ended up in the hospital. He listens to the news reports for information, but nothing is being said. Eventually, Joe launches his own investigation, using a tape recorder—just like the American president—to help sift through the clues. Feeling that everything is up to him, Joe embarks on a perilous and enlightening journey to decipher a mental institution diary full of secrets about a drug called LSD, and uncover the truth about Brian’s father and save his best friend.

OPENING 

‘Out of sight’ was a thing Karl said when him and Dennis thought something was extra cool.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I thought Fall In One Day was great. Joe’s got a great voice and he narrated the story really well. I really enjoyed the elements of mystery that are woven through the storyline. Why did Brian’s dad take him? Where to? Why did he hurt Brian’s mother? Does Brian really want to be found? Will Joe be able to make something of the meagre clues left behind? I thought Joe’s search for Brian, aided by his brother was really well written. The characters are all well written and really come to life on the page. Brian’s father is a very sympathetic character once it’s clear what’s happened to him to cause his behaviour. Fall In One Day is well written. I loved the descriptions and detail that brought everything so vividly to life. This is an engaging, enjoyable mystery novel and well worth a read.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Killing Bay

The Killing Bay

The Killing Bay by Chris Ould
Published by Titan Books
Ebook
Published 21 February 2017
352 pages
Review copy

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I was given a copy by the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

When a group of activists arrive on the Faroe Islands to stop the traditional whale hunts, tensions between islanders and protestors run high. And when a woman is found murdered, circumstances seem designed to increase animosity. To English DI Jan Reyna and local detective Hjalti Hentze, it becomes increasingly clear that evidence is being hidden from them, and neither knows who to trust, or how far some people might go to defend their beliefs.

OPENING 

HE WORKED ON HIS KNEES NOW, AS IF PRAYING.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I enjoyed The Killing Bay a little less than its predecessor, The Blood Strand. I really like the setting. Faroe is brought to vivid, memorable life. Faroe reminds me a lot of the setting for Camilla Lackberg’s novels. I really liked the characters. They were well-written, interesting and in some ways mysterious. The plot has some good elements. A lot happens and questions are left unanswered. I felt the novel is bit bogged down in the middle and could have done with some chapters being cut that seemed like fodder and didn’t drive events. The novel is so enjoyable that this wasn’t as much as an issue as it could have been. I love the setting and the intriguing characters. I look forward to the trilogy’s conclusion. What I like about The Killing Bay and The Blood Strand is that despite the often grim subject matter neither book gets too dark or depressing and there is a lot of fun to be had reading both books. The Killing Bay is well worth a read if you want something different from the usual blood and guts crime novels with interchangeable urban settings.

RATING

4 STAR RATING