Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Good Me Bad Me

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
Published by Penguin
August 2017

Annie's mother is a serial killer. The only way Annie can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. 

With a new foster family and a new name - Milly - she hopes for a fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But as her mother's trial looms, the secrets of Milly's past won't let her sleep . . . 

Because Milly's mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water...

Milly has just arrived at the family home of Mike, Sasha and Phoebe Newmont.  Her mother is awaiting trial on 9 counts of child murder, and Milly (formally known as Annie) is in hiding.  Apart from her foster parents, no one knows who she is or the secrets that she is hiding.  It was tough reading the school scenes between Phoebe and Milly, the bullying, the hatred that seemed to flow towards Milly, and the way that she tried to cope with this.  However it isn't long before you start to wonder about Milly, about how much she knew about her mother's behaviour and what part, if any, she played in the deaths of these children.  She isn't a reliable narrator, as at time there are two voices running through the narrative.  Milly wants to be accepted by Mike and Sasha and when there is a glimmer that she might be about to lose that security again and be moved on, her actions speak louder than words.  Phoebe is right to be suspicious of this girl sharing her home, because there may be more to Milly than meets the eye. 
I didn't find this book as 'thrillerish' as I thought I would to be honest and at one point, Milly thinks her mother has escaped from prison and I thought the book might have been going down a different path, but it didn't pan out that way.  It was a okay read and there were parts of it I really enjoyed  but I think more could have been made of the trial itself and of the crimes committed by her mother, but in the end that isn't where the focus of the book lay; it was to do with Milly herself and maybe there was more there to be revealed?  However, I do disagree that this book is the "new The Girl on the Train" because it isn't; the two books are completely different and there is no comparison between the two.
Happy reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Dry

The Dry by Jane Harper
Published by Abacus
June 2017


I just can't understand how someone like him could do something like that.
Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn't rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.
Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke's death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend's crime.

Karen and Billy Hadler have been found dead in their farmhouse, shot at point blank range it would seem by Luke Hadler, husband and father of the two victims.  Luke then drove his ute to a country lane and turned the gun on himself.  Kiewarra is a small town in Australia where everyone knows everyone and everyone knows each other's business.  This is a murder that is going to be talked about across town by every resident.  Aaron Falk was Luke's best friend when they were at school together, and at the request of Luke's father, he returns to Kiewarra for the funerals of Karen and Billy.  Aaron is not an altogether welcome visitor to his home town however, for some twenty years earlier, he and his father were driven out by the locals for the murder of Ellie Deacon, school friend of both Aaron and Luke whose body was found washed up in the lake that runs through Kiewarra.
Aaron is now a policeman and at the request of Luke's parents, begins to dig into the financial background of the Hadler family, desperate to find something to explain Luke's actions.  Alongside new resident Sergeant Raco they begin to investigate more thoroughly the murders and to probe more closely into the lives of the residents of Kiewarra.
The question is, will Falk and Raco discover who really did commit this crime, or will the ghosts of the past that haunt Aaron over the Deacon killing get the better of him before he has to leave?  After all, neither him nor Luke had a solid alibi on that day in question twenty years ago, and there are some in Kiewarra who know exactly why that is and aren't prepared to keep quiet any longer.
I really enjoyed The Dry especially as it helped to get me out of a reading slump.  The atmosphere of the drought, the need for rain and the fear that goes alongside this is ever present throughout the book.  There are some nasty characters here and you can feel the tension building as old scores are finally settled as the pages turn.  Did Luke Hadler kill his family though - only reading to the very end will answer that question but Jane Harper knows how to keep her readers enthralled right to the very end.  I'm looking forward to her next novel.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Friday, 6 October 2017

Death in the Stars

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody
Published by Piatkus
October 2017

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.
During the eclipse, Selina's friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can't help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths - and whether there is a murderer in the company.
When Selina's elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame . . .

Frances Brody is back with the 9th Kate Shackleton mystery.  This time Kate starts her adventure in Yorkshire, as a chaperone to the stage actress Selina Fellini.  Whilst observing the eclipse, Selina's friend Billy Moffatt, a well-known comedian disappears and later dies.  Selina is then forced to reveal to Kate that he is actually the third of her friends to meet an untimely death this year and she is worried for her own safety.  Can she employ Kate to investigate these incidents, and protect her well-being at the same time?

Frances Brody ties historical events well into her stories.  Set in 1927, the effects of the Great War are emerging amongst some of the men who fought, in this case, in the guise of Selina's husband Jarrod - can his mood swings be responsible for these deaths or it someone else close to the star responsible?  In the close-knit world of the theatre, Selina soons begins to fear who is friend and who is foe but Kate is never one to shy away from danger and is keen to investigate further.  The world of the Northern theatrical stages come to light as Selina continues to perform with the threat of death hanging over her every performance.  Oh, and as an after-read treat, there's a recipe to create your very own Eclipse Cocktail - what's not to enjoy?

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Dangerous Crossing

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
Published by Black Swan
August 2017

England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go ...

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.

What has she done?

This is the first historical novel by author Tammy Cohen, writing under the pseudonym of Rachel Rhys and after this stunning debut, it surely won't be her last.  The book begins with a glamourous woman being escorted off of the ship Orontes after sailing from England to Australia during the summer of 1939.  We, the reader, know that a crime has been committed on board the ship but we do not know the name of the victim, nor the identity of the woman charged with murder.  Our central character is a young woman named Lily Shepherd, sailing for a new life in domestic service after a failed relationship.  On board she soon finds herself in the company of a dazzling pair of first class passengers, the Campbells.  Max and Eliza are on a second honeymoon and their flamboyant ways are soon the talk of the ship.  Lily's berth companions soon fade into the background as she begins to spend more and more time upstairs on the boat, accompanied by siblings Helena and Edward Fletcher.

As talk of an impeding war carries across the ship, can living in such close proximity to a group of strangers, and foreigners at that, ever really be a good thing?  One thing is certain though, sailing on the Orontes is to become a dangerous crossing for some.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Silent Companions

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
Published by Raven Books
October 2017

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband's crumbling country estate, The Bridge.
With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure - a Silent Companion - that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself...

This is a great gothic novel by Laura Purcell in the style of Sarah Water's The Little Stranger in that the principle character is a house, in this case The Bridge, family home of Elsie's recently deceased husband Rupert.  She arrives, a former match girl, to this crumbling mansion where stories and rumours about her new home mean that none of the locals will set foot in her home to even work for her.  Upon exploration with her companion Sarah, they discover some wooden figures, scarily lifelike hidden away in the garret.  Sarah decides that she will like them out in the house as company and they take them downstairs. It is this move that seals the fate of this novel.

The book moves back and forth in time, in the present day, 1866,  Elsie is in an asylum for the criminally insane after a fire at The Bridge which has left her without a voice.  We also go back in time to the 1600s to the lives of Rupert's ancestors which include the mysterious Hetta, born without a tongue.  The silent companions travel throughout the story, and I don't want to spoil anything but they are wonderfully creepy throughout.

The best bit about the book for me though was the ending and I say that because I have a real 'thing' about endings that leave me feeling 'meh' or 'pfff' - don't get me started on Gone Girl again, but this book has a proper ending.  One that made me inhale sharply as I read the final words on the last page.  That is what I want to read in a book, not some flaky 'I'll just finish it like this' ending but a proper, thought out closure and The Silent Companions has this in spades.

Go read, be haunted!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 18 September 2017

See what I have done

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Published by Tinder Press
May 2017

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden - thirty two years old and still living at home - immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent and no one is ever convicted of the crime.
Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie's unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid and a boy hired by Lizzie's uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

I'm not so sure of the youth of today, but I certainly remember the rhyme about Lizzie Borden that goes:
"Lizzie Borden took an axe, And gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one"
However I'm not sure that I remember realising it was based on a real person and a true-life murder mystery.  On August 4th 1892 the bodies of Lizzie Borden's father Andrew and her step-mother Abby are discovered at the family home, hacked to death by a hatchet.  Lizzie becomes the prime suspect due to her behaviour before and after the murders but she is eventually found innocent of the crime and no-one is charged with the Borden killings.  Looking back at the available evidence about the crime and from the trial itself, Sarah Schmidt takes a fictional look at this crime and opens up so interesting dialogue as to whom the killer may actually have been.

I enjoyed this take on a factual account being turned into fiction and it made for interesting reading.  Did Lizzie kill her parents though, this is the key question surely?  But of course I cannot answer that here, you are going to have to get the book and read it to find out for yourself.  All I'll say is that I wouldn't have wanted to get on the wrong side of Miss Lizzie Borden!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 11 September 2017

In conversation with Stephanie Butland

Today on the blog I'm in conversation with Stephanie Butland, author of Lost for Words.
Stephanie Butland
Any advice to anyone dreaming of becoming an author?
Read. Read anything and everything, within your genre and way outside it. Find something to admire in every writer. 

And write. Regularly. Make writing part of your routine and your life. Get into the habit of setting targets and finishing things. It’s relatively easy to dash off 1000 words when you’re feeling happy, well-rested and in the mood. If you want to make a career of writing you need to also be able to write 1000 words when you’re tired, have a towering to-do list and feel utterly convinced that every word you’ve ever written is terrible. So practice showing up. It will stand you in good stead. 

Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
Anywhere and everywhere! I collect things I see, hear, find in a sort of mental kitchen drawer and when a few of them stick together, that’s a novel. For example: LOST FOR WORDS is a conjunction of: 

a postcard I found in a second hand book 

a poetry book I found on a pavement by a bin in Camden in 1990 

a story someone told me about an adoption that went wrong 

watching a contestant called Ted Loveday on University Challenge and thinking ‘Loveday, what an interesting name, especially if you were a bad-tempered night-owl’. 

What are you working on next?
I’m busy with the line edits of my novel that’s out next April. It’s about Ailsa, who has waited all of her life for a heart transplant, and when she gets it finds out what being ordinary is really like. It has tango dancing, Strictly, the Edinburgh Fringe and a lot of flirting. Though there’s a dark side too, it’s been huge fun to write. 

What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
This is a deeply unfair question! But also a fun one, so I’ll play. I’m going to go with all dead people, because it seems mad to waste the opportunity. And all brilliant writers, for the same reason. 

Edith Wharton, Jane Austen, John Updike, Agatha Christie, Samuel Pepys. And D H Lawrence can act as waiter and learn a thing or two about women. 

Thank you Stephanie for taking the time to come and chat on my blog.
Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x