Recently Read – Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson

Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson

Genre; (Icelandic) Crime

blackoutOn the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykajvik to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies… Dark, terrifying and complex, Blackout is an exceptional, atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s finest crime writers.

My thoughts:

I don’t like reading books in a series out of order, so I kept Nightblind (the second book released) on my bookcase, until Blackout had been released as I knew that Blackout was the genuine book two in the series. And I’m so pleased that I did. Ari Thór’s timeline is intact. Everything is following on from where we left it in Snowblind.

Ari Thór’s personal life isn’t a happy one. And to be honest, he isn’t the happiest protagonist I’ve ever read. In fact he’s quite a blunt, humourless kind of guy. Very matter of fact and job focussed. This fits nicely with the pace and tone of the book, though. The cold setting of Iceland, even in the brightly lit summertime, is hidden under the ash cloud of the erupted volcano, providing a wonderful eerie undertow.

The characters are all well drawn and have their own stories and problems. You want to know more about them and you want to get to the bottom of the investigation with Ari Thór, you want to know what happened and why. This has a feel of a very classic kind of whodunnit, rather than a faster-paced police procedural and I think a lot of this has to do with the setting and the leisurely kind of way Jonasson writes. Beautifully, with fairly short chapters, neatly and concisely, but at the same time, without haste. You can sit back and relax and enjoy your time in the Northern region.

If you like more classic crime whodunnits in wonderful settings then this book is one for you.

Recently Read – The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Genre; Crime

cabinIn this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

My thoughts:

This is going to be one of my top reads of the year. That says it all about this book.

I haven’t read In a Dark Dark Wood, Ware’s debut, which has been optioned for a major movie adaptation and is to be produced by Reese Witherspoon herself. So, with the knowledge of such a great debut before it, I have to admit to feeling a little trepidation going into this book. I didn’t know what to expect with Ware’s writing and could this possibly do the debut justice? – which I hadn’t read.

I didn’t have to worry in the slightest. I was immediately pulled into the book by a gripping scene and I was held there by Ware’s utterly fabulous writing. Her style is sublime. She has you completely relating to the protagonist Lo, with little nuances and thoughts thrown in. There’s nothing clunky or out-of-place. It ebbs and flows as beautifully as the oceans with which she sets the story upon.

And as for the story, you have a cast of characters aboard a small vessel and Lo trying desperately to figure out what has happened. It’s sinister and I couldn’t put it down. What I particularly loved were the few chapters that Ware randomly interspersed throughout the story which was from the outside the cruise point of view. These gave a real spine-chilling feel to what we were witnessing onboard the cruise. Really really effective.

And even when you think you have it all figured out – she changes things again. It’s utterly brilliant.

This is a must read for all crime fans.

With thanks to the author and publisher for my copy.


This is one of the few remaining books that I have left to review. Soon these Recently Read posts will be closing so I can focus on my writing. I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to read such great books.

Recently Read – Beneath The Ashes by Jane Isaac

Beneath The Ashes by Jane Isaac

Genre; Crime (police procedural)

ashes‘A smart, intelligent and tightly woven police procedural with real depth of human emotion at its heart.’ Rebecca Bradley, Author of Shallow Waters

An intense and gripping narrative style, perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, S. J. Watson, Holly Seddon and Sophie Hannah

The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.

When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.

Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.

Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?

My thoughts:

You might notice a certain person’s name in the blurb above, so I can’t get away with saying I don’t know Jane. I feel really quite honoured that she would have my name featured so prominently like this. So thank you, Jane!

But, yes, what I’m quoted as saying above is quite true. This is a great book – as are the previous books of Jane’s and the first Jackman book – that not only takes you through the police investigation but does it in such a way that you are emotionally invested and can’t help but keep turning the pages.

To be honest, I’m a little bit in love with Jackman. I don’t know if it’s something to do with his name, but he does remind me of Hugh Jackman. He’s a strong man who knows what he’s doing and is in control of things. He has a dog – who doesn’t love the image of a man and his dog!  – and he has a really warm heart, one that sometimes confuses him. And there’s even a section in here where he gets to be quite *heroic.     *sexy.

I was lucky enough to read this very early and the blurb is true, everything is not as it seems and this does keep you turning the pages because it’s really confusing as Nancy is scared and confused, little can be ascertained about her missing boyfriend. Circumstances just aren’t as they seem.

Jane does a brilliant job with the plotting for this, keeping all the different strands going without dropping any and then pulling them all together neatly right at the end in a brilliant climax.

You’ll enjoy this if you like a solid police procedural with a clever mystery and a handsome detective with a good heart.

With thanks to the author and publisher for my copy.

Recently Read – Death Comes Knocking by Graham Bartlett

Death Comes Knocking by Graham Bartlett

Genre; Non-fiction

deathFans of Peter James and his bestselling Roy Grace series of crime novels know that his books draw on in-depth research into the lives of Brighton and Hove police and are set in a world every bit as gritty as the real thing. His friend Graham Bartlett was a long-serving detective in the city once described as Britain’s ‘crime capital’. Together, in Death Comes Knocking, they have written a gripping account of the city’s most challenging cases, taking the reader from crime scenes and incident rooms to the morgue, and introducing some of the real-life detectives who inspired Peter James’s characters.

Whether it’s the murder of a dodgy nightclub owner and his family in Sussex’s worst non-terrorist mass murder or the race to find the abductor of a young girl, tracking down the antique trade’s most notorious ‘knocker boys’ or nailing an audacious ring of forgers, hunting for a cold-blooded killer who executed a surfer or catching a pair who kidnapped a businessman, leaving him severely beaten, to die on a hillside, the authors skillfully evoke the dangerous inside story of policing, the personal toll it takes and the dedication of those who risk their lives to keep the public safe.

My thoughts:

I seem to be enjoying quite a bit of non-fiction at the minute and this is another that joins the ranks of interesting factual reads.

Graeme Bartlett was a high-ranking officer in Brighton and Hove and recently retired, but during his service, he became friends with Peter James. This is an account of the interesting jobs he came across during his career. Written with Peter James, they have linked the real life stories of Roy Grace’s career, linking books up with locations or types of cases mentioned.

The mixture of cases in the book holds something of interest for everyone, from fraud to murder, drug problem changes and public order policing. What I particularly enjoyed about it though was how Graham interspersed his own real life through the pages. As his career progressed, we learned how his home life was progressing, including  some very difficult personal moments that I thought was incredibly brave of him to share.

In this book you will learn about real-life policing, the fantastic camaraderie, interesting real-life cases including photographs and if you’re a Peter James fan you’ll enjoy linking the real places with the fictional stories, and you’ll learn about the man behind the stories as there is a character in the James’ books based on Graham Bartlett.

I enjoyed this so much I became a bit melancholy about my old job, but as I tweeted Graham and told him this, he reminded me I was wearing my rose-tinted glasses. It’s always easy to think fondly of the past, but policing in today’s climate when the cuts are digging deep and morale is low, is a hard job to do. I loved it while I was there, but I love what I do now. Read this and get a real insight to policing.

 

Recently Read – Daisy In Chains by Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Genre; Crime

daisyFamous killers have fan clubs.

Hamish Wolfe is no different. Locked up for the rest of his life for the abduction and murder of three young women, he gets countless adoring letters every day. He’s handsome, charismatic and very persuasive. His admirers are convinced he’s innocent, and that he’s the man of their dreams.

Who would join such a club?

Maggie Rose is different. Reclusive and enigmatic; a successful lawyer and bestselling true-crime writer, she only takes on cases that she can win.

Hamish wants her as his lawyer, he wants her to change his fate. She thinks she’s immune to the charms of a man like this. But maybe not this time . . .

Would you?

My thoughts:

OK, today we have more book love. But, would you be surprised to hear that considering the author is Sharon Bolton? I adored her previous standalone book, Little Black Lies, as you can see in this Post. Daisy In Chains is equally as stunning a read. And another of my holiday reads. I really did get to read some great books as I lay about in the sun this year. I made some good choices.

I adored reading about Maggie Rose. She is a strong female and has her own distinct sense of self that I was envious of. She had the courage to wear her hair blue and not care what people thought. She was self-assured and confident and she wasn’t taking any demands from Hamish Wolf or his fan club.

Hamish Wolf, in prison for the murder of several young women was once a well-respected doctor and there are people who believe his innocence. He’s an interesting character. You never quite know how to take him, which makes the writing absolutely brilliant.

And then you have the investigating detective on the case Pete Weston and his team, who are the middle of Maggie and Hamish. They are trying to make sure their case is still tight in case Maggie does decide to take his case, but they seem to have a good working relationship as Maggie is wooed by the project to support Wolf’s appeal.

The characterisations are solid and believable and really draw you in. The story is a complex web which will leave you guessing until the last-minute. I mean – does a book like this end with him being guilty or innocent? It really could go either way and you need to read it to find out…

You won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough to find out what on earth is happening, though.

An absolutely fantastic read.

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for my copy.

Recently Read – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Genre; Non-fiction (Social commentary)

shameFrom the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world’s most under-appreciated forces: shame. ‘It’s about the terror, isn’t it?’ ‘The terror of what?’ I said. ‘The terror of being found out.’ For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us – people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work. Once their transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know they’re being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job. A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice. But what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people’s faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control. Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws – and the very scary part we all play in it.

This edition includes a new chapter about Jon Ronson’s own public shaming, encountered thanks to the publication of this book.

My thoughts:

I can’t rave about this book enough. No matter how much I have raved about any book on this blog, this is one book I think everyone must read. And I kid you not, with that bolded out statement. I am deadly serious. If you’re using social media, then you need this book in your life and you need to read it quickly before you keep typing into your tweet stream or Facebook feed. It’s that important.

This book scared the living daylights out of me.

I was already aware of the power of social media before I read it. It was one of the reasons I picked it up from the shelf in the bookshop. I’d heard about it and had an understanding of where it was coming from.

We’re a society using public shaming to control people/organisations/governments. To make change happen. It can be for the good. But when directed at a single individual, it can be terrifying. 

Have you ever heard of someone who has hurt a friend on social media by their words or actions and then gone on to castigate them for it, making it public so others can see the error of their ways? Or have you seen a wrong doing already circling and shared the tweet or Facebook post, sharing the outrage?

It’s this simple act. You/me, a single person, who makes the whole monster. A monster who is uncontrollable and who, actually, the offending person, really doesn’t deserve that level of anger. Yes, they may be an ignorant idiot, but fired from their job? Don’t kid yourself.

One guy in this book was at a conference, sat with a friend, he made a remark that could have been taken as sexual innuendo (to his friend) about the slide on the screen in front of them (a dongle joke – it was a tech conference). A woman sat in front turned around, took his photo, indignantly tweeted it and it went viral. He lost his job.

It’s that easy.

Was he wrong? I don’t know, maybe if she was really that offended, then he should have thought about how loud he was speaking or if it was an appropriate place etc, but did he deserve to be publicly shamed and lose his job? Absolutely not.

Now, you may say you wouldn’t tweet something like that, but this weekend I saw a Facebook post where a woman was rude on a plane. She’d been rude to a family who had a child with an invisible illness (autism). She’d said can they shut that kid up. A few times I believe. Yes, she was rude. – But, the family took her photo (side profile) and shared a Facebook post saying they hope she was sleeping well because their daughter was distressed and in the hospital, hashtag autism (because obviously that was going to get more shares – cynical, me?) It had, when I saw it, 106 thousand shares on Facebook.

Did that rude woman deserve her photo and this story to be this big because she was so rude? Some would say so. But what if she was invisibly ill? And it was giving her a bad day? And now she has this. And what if she actually loses her job because she works in a place where she needs to be polite and her employer sees it? The family, if they felt like voicing outrage could have simply created the s

The family, if they felt like voicing outrage could have simply created the same post but without the photo and it would have had the same impact for them, the same sense of outrage and disgust that they felt someone had behaved badly to them and their daughter, but adding the photo and potentially identifying her adds a whole other realm to it.

I once read and shared a blog post where an invisibly disabled woman wrote an open letter to another woman who had tutted at her for using a disabled toilet. It was an amazing blog post. She was using a colostomy bag that was full to bursting and the other toilets were full and if she hadn’t rushed into the disabled toilets there could have been a real mess (if I remember it correctly). A powerful post, identifying a problem in society, without the need to publicly castigate the specific individual.

Our actions have consequences.

Where we think we are sending one tweet in support, we are actually building a momentum, an avalanche, a deluge that sweeps away the person at the other end. It completely washes them away.

Yes, Twitter is great for getting big organisations to listen to the masses, but not to target an individual. It smacks of playground bullying in the extreme.

Really, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s fascinating. And not just about how you can affect the lives of others, but also how people are watching what you tweet…

This is an interesting TED talk by Ronson on one of the topics in this book.

Recently Read – Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Genre; Crime

LyingThe last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden.

Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart.

But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own.

My thoughts:

I loved Liz’s debut, Unravelling Oliver, which you can read my raving review of, Here and I wondered if she was going to be able to follow-up such a fantastic debut. I needn’t have worried.

I needn’t have worried.

Lying in Wait is an assured and equally mesmerising novel. There is a belter of a first line…

My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.

It drags you kicking and screaming straight into the story, wanting to know what happened, doesn’t it? Who is this woman who is talking in such a cold manner about Annie Doyle being killed? Why did the husband kill her and who is Annie Doyle, why did she deserve to die?

It’s all answered through three very strong narratives. The wife, Lydia, her son Laurence and Annie’s sister, Karen.

And with three narratives, you have to make sure that each person has their own voice. They are distinct in their own right, and Nugent does this with ease. Lydia is cold and manipulative, Laurence, we see grow from a child to a man within the confines of this cold upbringing and Karen we watch search for her missing sister, her twin sister and we watch as she refuses to let it go even as the years drag on.

This story twists in quite a dramatic way and I was left shocked. But the writing is beautiful and it is handled brilliantly and is all done in keeping with character traits. It is yet another corking book from Liz Nugent who is now an author who is fast becoming a name I must read whether I’ve read the blurb on the back or not.

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for my copy.

 

Recently Read – Year Of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Year Of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Genre; Autobiography

yesThe mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder chronicles how saying YES for one year changed her life―and how it can change yours, too.

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the uber-talented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say NO when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.

And there was the side-benefit of saying No for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.

Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: just for one year, try to say YES to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed―and the result was nothing short of transformative.

In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life―and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.

My thoughts:

This is absolutely going on one of my best-of 2016 list already.

It’s that good. In fact – You must go out and buy it right now.

But, you have to buy it as an audiobook, to get the most out of it. Yes, you heard me right. I’m turning into a bit of an audiobook junkie aren’t I? Who’d have thought it. But I am.

And I’ll let you into a little-known secret. If you are an Amazon Prime customer and you haven’t previously tried Audible then you can get 3 months of Audible for free, on trial before paying for their subscription service. Which, I now think is well worth it – but that’s a whole other post, which I will probably do another day. But, for you Amazon Prime customers who are already making the most of the 1 terabyte of storage and year free delivery, this more than adds to that annual fee making it seem as if you are stealing from them! Just go to your Prime bar in your browser, search for 3 month audible trial and you will find it.

Anyway, back to the book! If you don’t know who Shonda Rhimes is, she is an amazing writer who, as described above pens the US television shows, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and more recently, The Catch. She also wrote Private Practice. She is relentless. And her work is so character driven I am obsessed with it. Listening to the audiobook, it’s like she’s personally talking to you, telling you about her life, how her year of yes came about. And if you’re a writer this will resonate with you so much. She used to turn down so many invitations. Until one day her sister called her out on it. She preferred to stay out home in her mismatched pajamas, writing. But after her sister’s words, she decided she would say yes to all invitations for a year. The other bonus material for an audiobook is when she does talks for universities or other such occasions, they have been recorded and instead of the text of her talk being in the book, with the audiobook, you get the live talk broadcast directly into your ears!

Not only is this an autobiography about Shonda’s life and how transformative it was for her, it’s insightful and you will find yourself nodding along with it or simply recognising traits you maybe hadn’t realised you had.

She roars with pride at being a working mum and not being able to do it all. Telling the world that if she pretended she could, then she would be doing so many people a disservice. She has help and she so desperately needs that help. She’s not ashamed to say that.

She talks about her writing, about writing characters in the LGBT community and the Black and Asian communities, in disabled communities. She is angry that people think she is spotlighting them, when she is merely normalising on screen what is happening in our society.

She is an amazingly strong woman and this is an audiobook I will definitely listen to again and one that will make me sit down at my laptop and start typing some more.

If you’re a writer in need of some inspiration or an inspirational read then this is for you. If you’re anyone in need of inspiration or an inspirational read, then this is also for you!

Again – A. Must. Read.

Recently Read – Guns by Stephen King

Guns by Stephen King

Genre; Essay

gunsIn a pulls-no-punches essay intended to provoke rational discussion, Stephen King sets down his thoughts about gun violence in America. Anger and grief in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are palpable in this urgent piece of writing, but no less remarkable are King’s keen thoughtfulness and composure as he explores the contours of the gun-control issue and constructs his argument for what can and should be done.

King’s earnings from the sale of this essay will go the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

My thoughts:

I bought this book on Audible . It only took 45 minutes to listen to. It’s not a long read.

It is a hard-hitting read, though. King pulls no punches.

What did shock me about this was something he says about one of his own novels and gun crime. The story around it is unbelievable, particularly for a writer to listen to, and his response, measured.

Though, his response is not measured when he relays an argument he read online that a woman posted about why semi-automatic weapons should be kept. Her argument being that they are simply tools, like a spoon.

A spoon. Yes.

This isn’t a completely anti-gun rant. King admits to having his own registered weapons. But, he makes solid arguments for tight control and even talks about people who have accidentally shot family members believing them to be burglars. So I have to wonder if I actually heard him correctly when he said he owned some. (It’s not him narrating.)

From a UK resident perspective and in light of very recent events, this made for a strong read/listen and if you are interested in this topic and you like King, I’d recommend reading how he views this volatile topic.

Recently Read – Monument To Murder by Mari Hannah

Monument to Murder by Mari Hannah

Genre; Crime (police procedural)

MurderWhen skeletal remains are found beneath the fortified walls of an ancient castle on Northumberland’s rugged coastline, DCI Kate Daniels calls on a forensic anthropologist to help identify the corpse.

Meanwhile, newly widowed prison psychologist Emily McCann finds herself drawn into the fantasy of convicted sex offender, Walter Fearon. As his mind games become more and more intense, is it possible that Daniels’ case has something to do with his murderous past? With his release imminent, what exactly does he have in mind for Emily?

As Daniels encounters dead end after dead end and the body count rises, it soon becomes apparent that someone is hiding more than one deadly secret…

My thoughts:

I love reading series fiction because you can really get involved with the characters. There is more opportunity to become involved with their lives as the writer has a longer arc to play with for storylines for any character they choose. So, after finishing the Ellie Griffiths, Ruth Galloway series (as far as it’s come) earlier this year, I had to decide on another series to start or finish and I realised that I had been reading Mari Hannah’s Kate Daniel’s series but had now become a little behind, so this was a perfect series to catch up on next.

I will start with a disclaimer, by saying that Mari is a friend, so take these thoughts as you will.

It had been a while since I had spent any time with Kate Daniels, but it felt like slipping onto a sofa with a glass of wine and a good friend when I picked up Monument to Murder. In fact, I’d kind of forgotten just how much I’d enjoyed Kate’s company.

She has a great relationship with her DS and the rest of her staff. She’s firm but she’s also fair. She also has a complicated love life! Which adds a more sensitive side to her and it’s nice to see because she is very efficient at her job.

I loved the setting for Monument to Murder. The rugged coastline that is attended at a particularly cold time of year and I adore cold settings! Mari Hannah sets it in your mind beautifully. And with an added chill factor.

I liked the two strands of this novel. It, at first, seems as though there are two completely different stories being told and even though that was the case, I was thoroughly enjoying each part of them. Every time we moved from one to the other, I was being held there by great storytelling and real characters that made me want to know more, that made me want to find out what happened next for them. But, of course, you’re not going to have two random stories running through a novel. They do converge and converge brilliantly and smoothly.

The antagonist Walter Fearon is suitably creepy, even his name is enough to give me the creeps. He’s not someone you’re going to want to meet in a hurry. This is where Mari’s work as a probation officer has come to serve her particularly well, I imagine. She has crafted a brilliant character in Fearon.

This is another solid book in the Kate Daniels armoury and I’m looking forward to catching up with Kate again.