Monday, 22 January 2018

Three Things about Elsie

Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Published by The Borough Press
January 2018



There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

This is Joanna Cannon's follow-up to the outstanding debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep which I loved when I read it this time in 2016.  I was slightly worried if she would manage to pull out another wonderful book or whether this would be the dodgy second novel that you sometimes see authors produce.  Having finished the book this weekend I am thrilled to report that this is not the case at all.  This is a very different novel to the first but equally as wonderful.

Our central characters are all octogenarians who live at the Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly - we spend our time with Elsie, Florence and Jack, the managers of the home Miss Bissell  and Miss Ambrose  and the caretaker Handy Simon.  It soon becomes apparent that Florence is suffering from dementia and is threatened with a move to another care home Greenbank if her 'performance' doesn't improve in a month.  Elsie, her best friend, is her helping hand, always telling her to remember three things from the past so that she doesn't forget the present.  Their daily lives are quite mundane until a new resident moves in, a Mr Gabriel Price who seems polite, capable and a friend to everyone.  However, for Florence this sparks a memory of the past, of a man she knew as Ronnie Butler who drowned sixty years earlier.  The trouble is, who is going to believe anything a woman with memory problems says?

Joanna Cannon takes us on a journey with Florence from the present day back through her memories of growing up with Elsie and of the infamous Ronnie Butler.  Who is he and why does Florence think he has now returned from the dead?  There are some wonderful moments of humour throughout, some characters you will both love and detest and some emotional scenes too.  Three Things about Elsie has them all in spades and I predict this will become another huge bestseller.  Grab a cuppa, a slice of battenburg cake and devour the book that everyone will be talking about this year before I run out of superlatives to describe it!!!!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 8 January 2018

The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Published by William Morrow
July 2017


In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth...no matter where it leads.

I loved the real-life element of The Alice Network as the central characters are based around the network of female spies that did indeed help the war effort abroad during the first world war.  The book takes the view point of two very different characters - Eve, a seemingly battered older woman who it turns out was a spy in World War One, and Charlie, an American socialite looking for her missing cousin..For these two people's paths to cross seems unlikely but Charlie is given Eve's name as a last resort to help with finding the missing Rose.  The two, it turns out, need each other, and they journey across France in what is seemingly only in a hunt for Rose, but for Eve is also to close something that has plagued her daily life for many years.  

We live through the first world war as we see what Eve faces during her time as part of the amazing 'Alice Network', seeing what daily challenges she, and the other women around her, face and of the enormous strength and courage that they undertake to help their country.  I loved this part of the story the most, particularly as I have real passion for the women who worked undercover during both wars; of their grit and determination.  The second part of the story shows the destruction and change of Europe after the second world war and of how it affected so many.  Rose and Eve return to a France that has not recovered and this is a very visual novel in that respect.  

It is gritty and violent in parts but also full of passion and drama and I can see why it was chosen as one of the books for Reese Witherspoon's book group last year.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 11 December 2017

Ragdoll

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole
Published by Trapeze Books
October 2017




A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together, nicknamed by the press as the 'Ragdoll'. Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.
The 'Ragdoll Killer' taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them. With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

I saw this on a shelf in a bookshop and decided that it sounded right up my reading street, and I was right!  Ragdoll is a great crime thriller and I'm avidly looking forward to the next book which is due out next year.  Anyway I digress, back to this book....!
A body is discovered hanging in the window of a high rise apartment block in the middle of London.  On investigation it appears that the body has been constructed out of a number of body parts all from different victims - 6 in fact, but who are they?  More chillingly one of the hands has a finger that is pointing toward an apartment in the opposite tower; that flat belongs to Detective William Fawkes - is this a message from the killer aimed directly at Fawkes?
Alongside identifying the victims, the killer also has a list of other people he is going to kill and when he plans to do this.  Fawkes has this information, as too does his newsreporter ex-wife Andrea and now thanks to her, so do the public.  It is up to Fawkes and his team to find these individuals before the killer gets to them first.
This was a real page-turner and I thoroughly enjoyed it, right up to its dramatic climax.  What's more, at the time of publishing this, Amazon have it for sale on their kindle books for a mere 99p so what are you waiting for?!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The House

The House by Simon Lelic
Published by Penguin
November 2017


Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.
So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.
Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.
AND NOW THE POLICE ARE WATCHING THEM.

This is the first novel I've read by author Simon Lelic but as it was recommended by the Radio 2 Book Club and was super cheap for the kindle edition (99p at the time of typing this) I decided what harm could it do to download it and add it to my never ending tbr pile!  As it should so happen, it didn't stay on the pile for very long, and I read it in just two sittings.  For me it seemed to be a book of two halves, I felt the first half of the book was tense and quite spooky but not some much the second half.  This might be deliberate or just the way that I read it but as I put the book down on the Saturday evening I felt a little creeped out, but not at all on Sunday morning when I began to re-read it.
We have two main human characters, boyfriend and girlfriend Jack and Sydney who, as luck may have it, have just managed to purchase a house in the middle of London!  Now you may be a bit judgemental at this point and when you learn about their background think 'now how is this even possible?' but stay with it because all will be revealed at a later point in the tale.
The house - for this is a character in it's own right, is quite frankly spooky from the offset and I certainly wouldn't have been putting an offer in on it if I'm honest with you, however I am neither Jack nor Syd who decided to put in a cheeky bid only to find that it has been accepted by the overseas owner so now they have to move into the building complete with all of the contents that have been left behind.
And so things continue.... Jack makes a creepy discovery in the attic (but it kind of gets brushed aside), things go bump in the night and Syd meets the girl from opposite who has a dead mother and an abusive father in her life.  They both get involved with young Elsie and this is where the story takes a turn for the worst because her father is soon discovered murdered in the alleyway at the end of their garden and Jack's driving licence has been found nearby, but was he responsible?
The book is written in the first person, with each chapter being written by either Jack or Syd which doesn't exactly make them reliable authors.  I like the way the book ended though, I like a good twist to my thrillers.  Whilst this might have some flaws within it, if I'm being picky, it's not a bad thriller to spend your time or money on.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Hanging Girl

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook
Published by Hot Key Books
October 2017


Two girls, one fatal reading . . . because the truth always lies in the cards

Skye's mother believes she has 'the gift' - the ability to see the future. Skye however can only see the opportunity to make money - and happily fleeces her gullible classmates into handing over their cash to hear their futures through Skye's well-worn tarot cards. But it's all for a good cause, right? Skye needs to save her hard-earned cash to go to New York with her best mate Drew. 

Then the local mayor's daughter, Paige, disappears - and Skye has a tip off about her whereabouts. Skye is uncomfortable about the source and masks the tip off as a vision. 

But things get wildly out of control when Paige is found murdered and Skye is a prime suspect . . .

Anyone who knows me knows I have a love for tarot, so when this book appeared on my radar I knew that I had to read it!  It's set in an American high school and features two best friends Skye and Drew.  They are nearing graduation and all both girls have dreamt of is of moving to New York together.  However Skye has forgotten to mention to Drew that she hasn't actually saved the money to be able to afford to go, and even her tarot card readings for her friends at school isn't going to bring in enough cash to help her out.  Then an offer comes her way following the disappearance of the mayor's daughter and she finds it hard to say no to the money that is offered to her.  All she has to do is tell the police that she has had a vision about classmate Paige and her abduction.  

Suddenly Skye is headline news, and her mother is delighted as she has always claimed that she too has been able to 'see things' and aims to help the police with their enquiries.  As the book progresses however, we soon learn that all is not how it initially seems and that Skye may have got involved with something that is soon going to get wildly out of hand.

I did enjoy this book.  It had a few good twists and turns and an ending that I didn't expect.  I'll certainly look out for more books by this author.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Final Girls

Final Girls by Riley Sager
Published by Ebury Press
July 2017


FIRST THERE WERE THREE

The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.

THEN THERE WERE TWO

But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or...

CAN THERE ONLY EVER BE ONE?

All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.

There was a lot of hype surrounding Final Girls when it came out in the summer.  I missed out on getting a review copy so had to buy it as soon as I could to see what all the fuss was about.  I have to admit, the hype is real; I really enjoyed this debut novel by Riley Sager.

The basis is that there are three women in America, all totally unrelated to each other but they have one thing in common.  Each was part of a mass murder and each was the only surviving victim in each situation.  They have been labelled as the 'final girls' by the media.  The first of these women is Lisa, and then she is found dead in her bathtub.  Just before she died she sent an email to Quincy asking her to get in touch with her - Quincy does not.  Then Samantha turns up on Quincy's doorstep and suddenly the two meet for the first time.  Quincy prefers not to think about her past life at all, but with Lisa's death and Sam's insistence that she relive the horrors of that night in the woods, the past seems to be coming back to haunt her.  There is only one person she can rely on to help her through this journey, and that's cop Coop, the man who rescued her at Pine Lodge all those years ago.

Yes there may be some unlikely twists and turns in the narrative, but come on, it's fiction for goodness sake, it's not real life and do you know what, this book has a decent ending.  I didn't work out 'whodunnit and I thought the ending was pretty much perfect - and anyone who knows me, or follows this blog knows I can't stand a weak thriller ending (Gone GirI - I rest my case!). Go get this and spend a few hours immersed in a gripping story.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x 

Friday, 27 October 2017

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror by Cara Delevingne & Rowan Coleman
Published by Trapeze
October 1017



FRIEND. LOVER. VICTIM. TRAITOR.
WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR, WHAT DO YOU SEE?
Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Rose, and Naomi are misfits; still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Life isn't perfect, but music unites them, and they're excited about what the future holds for their band, Mirror, Mirror. That is until Naomi vanishes before being pulled unconscious out of the river.
She's left fighting for her life in a coma. The police claim it was a failed suicide attempt, but her friends aren't convinced. Will Naomi ever wake? What -­ or perhaps who - led her to that hospital bed? How did her friends fail to spot the warning signs?
While Rose turns to wild partying and Leo is shrouded by black moods, Red sets out to uncover the truth. It's a journey that will cause Red's world to crack, exposing the group's darkest secrets. Nothing will ever be the same again, because once a mirror is shattered, it can't be fixed.

Mirror Mirror is the debut novel by top model Cara Delevingne, with some contribution by bestselling author Rowan Coleman.  Obviously I have no idea whether Ms Delevingne wrote the book, came up with the idea, wrote it alongside Ms Coleman but nevertheless they have worked together to produce this YA novel, and it's not half bad.

We meet a group of friends, Red, Leo, Rose and Naomi - misfits in their own ways but united by their love of music and the band that they are in together at school.  Pretty much at the start of the book Naomi disappears - and none of the others have any idea where she has gone.  Her mobile remains unanswered and her family have heard nothing from her at all.  The remaining trio are at a total loss as to where their band mate could have gone to.

When Naomi's body is pulled from the river and is left in a coma, the friends vow to find out what happened to her.  We learn more about the lives of Red, Leo and Rose - all three very different but yet united in their quest to help out Naomi.  When Red notices a mysterious tattoo on Naomi's wrist, the band know that this is something she would never have agreed to - someone has definitely had a part to play in her disappearance!

There are lots of different stories entwined throughout the book, and the twist with Red - nope never saw that coming!  I did work out who the perpetrator was before the big reveal but despite the many a swear word I really enjoyed this book.  Bravo!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x