Friday, 23 June 2017

Review : Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine

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Published by : Black Swan
(Paperback - 15 June 2017)
Copy - Received from Publisher

The Blurb

I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was like tasting for the first time. Like discovering colour . . .

It is 1919 and the war is over, but for Emeline Vane the cold Norfolk fens only are haunted by memories of those she has lost. In a moment of grief, she recklessly boards a train and runs from it all.

Her journey leads her far away, to a tiny seaside village in the South of France. Taken in by cafe owner Maman and her twenty-year-old son, Emeline discovers a world completely new to her: of oranges, olives and wild herbs, the raw, rich tastes of the land.

But when a love affair develops, as passionate as the flavours of the village, secrets from home begin blowing in on the sea wides. Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline's diary, and begins to trace a story of betrayal, love and bittersweet secrets that will send him on a journey to discover the truth...
 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Every now and then a book comes along whereby when I finish it I think to myself - I will read that again and again - some examples for me include Little Women and The Great Gatsby, more recently Gone Girl and I Let You go.  Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeline has just added itself to that list.

Now I must admit the cover of this book, well, it didn't enthral or entice me into reading it.  I found it a little dull and twee and was worried the book would be too, perhaps more something my mother might enjoy.  THIS WAS NOT THE CASE AT ALL.

Inside the reader finds a joyful, pleasure in the beautiful and quite frankly, mouth-watering, story of Emeline Vane.  Disappearing in a puff of mystery when she was just 19, in 1919, she is presumed long dead by the family of 1969 which is our starting point.  With the family eager to be able to sell the derelict manor house sitting on prime real estate to a developer they must seek proof she is actually dead.  They enlist the help of small time solicitors Hillbrand and Moffat and the case falls newbie Bill Perch.

Written between two narrators, Bill Perch in 1969 and Emeline Vane in 1919, the world of Emeline is slowly unravelled explaining to the reader the events leading up to her disappearance and pieces together what happened afterwards.  As Bill Perch's investigation continues he begins to feel a bond and obligation to Emeline Vane to discover the truth - he believes she is still alive - going against what he is being paid to do.  Thus not only do we go on Emelines adventure but Bill's as well.

There are a whole host of quirky characters within this novel, who open both narrators eyes and I loved them all, particularly Emeline's 'boss' Clemence, with her warm and wise motherly love for the town which she cooks and lives.  The author's use and descriptions of recipes and ingredients are so passionate and vivid you can almost smell the tomato's and garlic roasting.  I loved the stories behind them and, at this point, Kudos must go to Madeline for her research of the traditions and cultures of the cuisine of the time.

Although this is tale told gently and with amazing locations and settings the mystery is kept really strong throughout.  It keeps you wondering and turning the pages and I was desperate for Bill to discover what happened to the scared 19 year old who gave up everything she knew in order to have a real life.

It was totally absorbing to read about the women's world of the time and I think if I was Bill Perch I would have been inclined to through caution to the wind and do exactly the same as what he does!  This was one of those books whereby you near the end, but still so much is to be discovered and I loved the ending - I wished there had been more of it, a longer scene between the two final characters that went deeper and into more detail.  The final sentence by Bill really made me smile.  For me it would have been the perfect place to end - I personally didn't really feel the epilogue was really necessary.

Beautifully paced and written with a gentle hand I can not recommend this book highly enough and as such Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeline receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :

About the Author

After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura Madeline chose instead to focus on studying English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge.

She now writes fiction under three different psuedonyms.  Laura lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting family in Devon, eating cheese and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Housom.

Laura can be found on Twitter @esthercrumpet.

  

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Tour and Review : Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to showcase the new psychological thriller by Sarah Stovell
Exquisite
With thanks to Orenda Books for involving me in the tour and an early copy of the book.

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Published by : Orenda Books
15 June 2017
Copy : Paperback Received from Publisher

The Blurb

Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Meet Bo, writer - talented and successful.  Meet Alice, writer - unpublished and unconfident.  These are the two fascinating female leads in this well crafted, beautifully written psychological thriller, Exquisite, by Sarah Stovell.

A story with many rich themes; obsession, love, passion, revenge, betrayal, fear to name but a few, we follow the lives of these two damaged women who's paths cross with devastating consequences.

It is always difficult to review a good psychological thriller without committing the cardinal sin of letting out plot spoilers.  This particular thriller isn't typical in the massive twists and turns sense.  You know what is going on but you never sure just how far it is going to go.  It doesn't have moments where it points the finger at every character that comes into contact with the protagonist leaving you thinking - what if?  What it has is two fantastically unreliable narrators leaving you thinking what the hell is going to happen next...

Neither Bo nor Alice are massively likable, but I found that only added to heightening the tension as I wasn't quite sure who I wanted to root for, at least for two thirds of the book, then it became glaringly obvious.  It is a very claustrophobic atmosphere that is created by Madeline, cleverly developed along with the intensity of the relationship between the two characters.

The author has used environment and setting to its absolute max in this novel.  Bo is set in the vast, but isolating and quiet Lake District.  A place that can have such beauty but also can hold grave danger.  Bo, we gather, has experienced severe trauma in her lifetime and she longs for an ordinary life, a content life where she can keep everything in her hornet's nest buried deep.  She loves being a mother but has vowed to never be like her own.

Vibrant and chaotic Brighton is the home of Alice.  The girl who experienced a terrible childhood with her mother also but had the luck to be placed with a good foster family who encouraged her to go to University where she discovered her creative side, and is seeking an environment to flourish in.  Being taken on my Bo, from her writing perspective is all she could wish for.

Of course for anyone who reads this who is also a writer at heart this book is doubly enthralling.  It is interesting to see the story of the successful and the aspiring.  With the two different view points I particularly liked the way this tied in in the last third of the novel.

This book has great pace, writing and structure.  It is a real page-turner with dare I say it - exquisite - use of imagery regarding the Lake District.  And the ending - just ... chilling...

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell receives a Very Pink Notebook review of :


About the Author

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart.  She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University.  Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

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Saturday, 10 June 2017

Review : This Family of Things by Alison Jameson

The Very Pink Notebook is pleased to review
This Family of Things, a beautiful literary work by Alison Jameson. 
With thanks to Rosie Margesson of Transworld Publishers for the ARC copy.

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Published by : Transworld
8 June 2017
Copy : Paperback - Provided by Publisher

The Blurb

On his way back up from the yard Bird had seen something white and round – a girl who had curled herself into a ball. Lifting her was like retrieving a ball of newspaper from out of the grass or an empty crisp bag that someone had flung over the ditch. She seemed to lack the bones and meat and muscle of real people. She felt as if she was filled with feathers.

On the day Midge O’Connor comes hurtling into Bird Keegan’s life, she flings open his small, quiet world. He and his two sisters, Olive and Margaret, have lived in the same isolated community all their lives, each one more alone than the others can know.

Taking in damaged, sharp-edged Midge, Bird invites the scorn of his neighbours and siblings. And as they slowly mend each other, family binds – and the tie of the land – begin to weigh down on their tentative relationship. Can it survive the misunderstandings, contempt and violence of others?

A poignant and powerful study of the emotional lives of three siblings and the girl who breaks through their solitude.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

I must admit the first chapter of this book left me a little flat, I wasn't quite sure where it was going to go, what the hook was, or the intrigue.  But I loved the fluid, poetic style of writing so I continued on with an open mind.  And I am so glad I did.

This is a beautiful book.  It searches deep into the human soul and takes you on an emotional journey with four people who are very ordinary and in search of nothing, but everything at the same time.  Now, being more a reader of psychological thrillers I had to get over the urge to think things might take unexpected turns or twists, because this is not that sort of book.  Instead you just need to read, absorb and enjoy the story about the lives of the characters.  There are no hidden agenda's just the exploration of the way the mind works in one man and three women who have all kept themselves in relative isolation for one reason or another.

Although the main protagonist is Midge Connors, the story involves Bird, Margaret and Olive Keegan, three siblings, in equal measure.  The story looks closely at the relationships the four manufacture between each other and the relationship they have with themselves.  Midge arrives in the Keegan household after Bird discovers her in a heap on his driveway, following being ejected from the car in which she travelled with her violent father.  Once the two meet, although they try to forget about each other, a bond has been forged and they are drawn to each other.  But each has their own demons and life throws many obstacles in the way of a happy existence - the question is whether they are strong enough people to withstand what fate puts in their way.  In the meantime the two sisters, Margaret and Olive are also assessing the option of love in their lives, something they have both held back from for various reasons, instead only choosing to trust in one another.  The question they must ask is : Are they too old to change?

This is a true tale of love, hate, discovery, loss and empowerment.  I enjoyed the journey of each of the characters and it was told in gentle, heartfelt and emotive fashion with beautiful use of language and imagery.  I really liked the structure of the novel it helps to really define quite a long timescale and compartmentalise the stages in the characters lives.

This is a novel that will tug at your heartstrings and make you think.  Sometimes it will leave you scratching your head, wishing the characters to make a different choice, but ultimately it will leave you feeling like you have read a really good book. 

This Family of Things by Alison Jameson receives a Very Pink Notebook Rating of :  



About the Author

Alison Jameson grew up on a farm in the Irish midlands, a secluded and beautiful place that continues to inspire her work.  She is the bestselling author of This Man and Me, which was nominated for the IMPAC Literary Award, and Under My Skin.  Her third novel, Little Beauty, was published by Doubleday Ireland in 2013.  An English and History graduate of University College Dublin, she worked in advertising for many years before becoming an author.  Home in Dublin where she lives with her husband and son.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Review : Friends and Liars by Kaela Coble

The Very Pink Notebook wishes a fantastic publication day to
Kaela Coble for Friends and Liars.

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Published by Atlantic Books (Corvus)
01 June 2017
Copy : Paperback received from publisher

The Blurb

It has been ten years since Ruby left her hometown behind. Since then she's built a life away from her recovering alcoholic mother and her first love, Murphy. But when Danny, one of her estranged friends from childhood, commits suicide, guilt draws Ruby back into the tumultuous world she escaped all those years ago.

She's dreading the funeral - and with good reason. Danny has left a series of envelopes addressed to his former friends. Inside each envelope is a secret about every person in the group. Ruby's secret is so explosive, she will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it hidden from those she once loved so deeply, even if that means risking everything...
 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Friends and Liars, the debut novel by Kaela Coble, follows the web of lies and deceit woven by a group of childhood friends, Ruby, Murphy, Ally, Emmet and Danny who promised each other they would always be honest.  But when one of the friends suddenly dies, the past is not going to stay buried.  Forced together for the funeral deceased Danny leaves one final act of love or is it hate?  In five letters - each addressed individually to the members of the group (or The Crew as they liked to call themselves) their biggest secret is revealed - but how does Danny know all of these?  And why is he forcing them to face what they have worked so hard to keep hidden?

These are all questions that are investigated throughout the course of the novel.  The reader is mainly given the viewpoint of Ruby to journey with both in 'now' and 'back then'.  Ruby is the one that got away, the one who left and never looked back.  However, the voices of the only other female of the original group Ally, and Steph the girlfriend of one of the boys is also introduced to give a better all round picture.

And that is how this novel seems to work, it starts as a murky picture with lots of unclear edges, and gradually as each secret is slowly revealed you start to build up a full picture of what life was like for the group as they grew up and eventually went their separate ways into adulthood and thus come forth the secret revelations, the fall outs of those and the eventual acceptance that you never really know everything about anyone.

Coble holds the suspense well but gives you enough snippets to keep you engaged and wanting to know more.  The big secrets are Ruby and Murphy's so these of course are the last to be revealed, but you are given hints and indications as to what they might be (some red herrings, some not) from quite early on.  The writing flows nicely with good dialogue and use of environmental description of the small town in which they group up and to which Ruby has had to return to the funeral, in helping to heighten the constant feeling of entrapment finds herself in now she has returned.

What I also liked about this novel was the use of the characters past to help paint the picture as to why things happened.  Sometimes in novels this is used briefly but by the 'now' and 'back then' alternating chapters you get to see whole scenes played out and you need this to really understand why the group were so needy for 'The Crew' to be just that.  They all needed the extra support of one another, but as a teenager, was it all just too close and intense?

I loved that the opening and final chapter is written from the viewpoint of Danny, looking around at the others from his place beyond the grave and I liked his very distinct style, it fits perfectly with his character as is portrayed throughout.  The tone for the start and then the end, I really enjoyed, a very satisfactory ending.

Friends and Liars is an enjoyable read and I would recommend it heartily.  Therefore it receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

Kaela Coble is a member of the League of Vermont Writers, a voracious reader, and a hopeless addict of bad television and chocolate.  She lives with her husband in Burlington, Vermont, and is a devoted mother to their rescued chuggle, Gus.  Friends and Liars is her first novel.




Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Review : Don't Wake Up by Liz Lawler

Don't Wake Up

Published by Bonnie Zaffre
18 May 2017
Copy : Ebook from Readers First

The Blurb

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn't a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she's unharmed - and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This novel has one of the most eerie opening chapters I think I have read.  It takes, what I would assume to be most peoples fear, and lays it bare on a page.  Alex Taylor, hospital doctor, wakes up and finds herself on an operating table - as if that is scary enough on it's own, she finds this isn't an accident, she is there for a reason, someone is very upset with her and wants to make her pay.

Of course, Alex - for reasons unknown to her - is set free from this horror and finds herself being discovered by a search party.  Lucky her.  What is not so lucky is no one believes her story about her abduction and as her world gradually unravels she even starts to question her own sanity.

This is certainly a punchy opener and it would be impossible for the novel to continue in such a explosive way, but it certainly continues at a pace and with the same eerie darkness.  Having said that it is not grotesque or gruesome, it more just plays on common fears and it makes you live out what would be a pretty nasty dream.

Alex quickly realises that although she was freed from her ordeal it is far from over and her abductor has not finished with their work.  What continues is a women, with no support on her theory of what happened, finding herself getting deeper and deeper in a situation she can not control.  A game of cat or mouse where she is most definitely being used as the play thing.

When the big reveal comes I was quite surprised, the author does well to cast reasonable doubt over most of the characters and I was constantly wondering if it was maybe him or her, or if indeed Alex did imagine it all.  If I was being brutally honest, maybe the truth when it came to light was a little on the far fetched side of the radar, but to be honest, I enjoyed the journey of getting to the truth that didn't bother me and I thought the author went to great lengths to try and give the reason for what happens. 

Coble uses common fears to really pump up the heartrate in this novel, which is clever.  I certainly found the use of locations really did put me on edge, the use of hospitals and their maze like nature really helped with the atmosphere of the novel, mirroring the maze of puzzles that work through Alex's mind and therefore the readers. 

If you enjoy a gritty thriller then you will enjoy Liz Lawler's Don't Wake Up and it receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :






Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Tour and Review : Troll by D.B. Thorne

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the Troll by D. B. Thorne
blog tour.  With thanks to Kate at Atlantic Books (Corvus) for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by : Corvus Books
01 June 2017
Copy : Paperback provided by the publisher

The Blurb

Years ago, Fortune gave up on his daughter, Sophie, after a troubled adolescence.  Now she's gone missing, vanished without trace. And after weeks of investigation, the police have given up on her, too.

Driven by guilt, and a determination to atone for his failures as a father, he takes on the search himself. He soon finds that his daughter had been living in fear of a vicious online troll who seemed to know far too much about her. Could Sophie's disappearance be linked to this unknown predator? Fortune is about to discovers that monsters which live online don't always stay there...  

The Very Pink Notebook Review


If you want a psychological thriller of epic proportions then Troll by D. B. Thorne is a must read.

This novel starts unsettling and bit by bit gets darker and more twisted, but in a very real and also moving way.

Told in a two-fold narrative, the story is pinned together by Fortune, a 54 year old successful businessman, but failed father and husband and Sophie, Fortune's daughter who is missing, presumed dead.

It is difficult to try and review this book because I do not want to give anything away, so all I will say is the author has done an amazing job of deconstructing and reconstructing a very intricate and complicated plot in a way that will make it impossible to put down (Case in point - I read this in one day!)  It is so clever and well thought out, I would love to know, from a writers perspective, how the author went about planning and plotting for this one because I am not sure I would have known where to start.

I also said that although dark, this is a moving book.  And it really is.  It looks at the dynamics of dysfunctional families, the relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, in a deep way. 

The novel tackles several difficult themes - again I won't mention specifics because I do not want to hint or reveal anything, but just to say they are handled well, so you can feel the power of them but you are not left with a stomach turned.  Again, this is done through excellent writing by D. B. Thorne.

With it's clear and clever structure, flawless writing, strong characters and excellent use of locations this is definitely one of the best psychological thrillers I have read this year and I will certainly be making a point of picking up the other books by this author.

Troll by D. B. Thorne receives nothing less than a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

D. B. Thorne has worked as a writer for the last 15 years, originally in advertising, then in television and radio comedy.  He has written material for many comedians, including Jimmy Carr, Alan Carr, David Mitchell and Bob Mortimer.  He was a major contributor to the BAFTA-winning Armstrong and Miller Show, and has worked on shows including Facejacker, Harry and Paul and Alan Carr : Chatty Man.  Troll is his fourth novel.

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Tour and Review : Two Lost Boys by L. F. Robertson

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the Two Lost Boys by L. F. Robertson
blog tour.  With thanks to Philippa at Titan Books for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by : Titan Books
16 May 2017
Copy : Paperback provided by Publisher

The Blurb

She knows he's guilty, but guilty of what?

Janet Moodie has spent years as a death row appeals attorney. Overworked and recently widowed, she's had her fill of hopeless cases, and is determined that this will be her last. Her client is Marion 'Andy' Hardy, convicted along with his brother Emory of the rape and murder of two women. But Emory received a life sentence while Andy got the death penalty, labeled the ringleader despite his low IQ and Emory's dominant personality.

Convinced that Andy's previous lawyers missed mitigating evidence that would have kept him off death row, Janet investigates Andy's past. She discovers a sordid and damaged upbringing, a series of errors on the part of his previous counsel, and most worrying of all, the possibility that there is far more to the murders than was first thought. Andy may be guilty, but does he deserve to die?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Two lost boys is a well written legal drama.  Being a big Grisham fan I was really happy to be asked to review this title and it did give me the nostalgia of reading a JG novel.  It is what it says, it is a legal drama, and we are taken through it via female protagonist Janet Moodie. 

Moodie is living a lonely life following the death of her husband and flying of the nest by only son Gavin.  She has retreated to a quieter world, away from the city and death row and stares that make her feeling guilty about her husbands suicide.  What the reader is left with is a very simple women who is just trying to recover from a massive trauma. 

I think it is her own life upsets which compels are to tackle the case of Marion 'Andy' Hardy.  She is convinced that although guilty for sure of some part in his crime the truth has not actually come out.  She is convinced his past is the key to his way out of a death penalty.  And that is what the book investigates.  The reader is merely on the journey with Moodie and fellow investigator Dave as they try and delve into the family history and events that could have made Andy the person he is today. 

This is not a story that is going to set your world alight with twists and turns.  But, if you enjoy reading about the structure and routine that goes into the legal world in something such as a death penalty appeal, then you will enjoy this book.  It's writing flows easily and clearly, it keeps a steady pace and you really do get a good feel for the characters.  It really is quite a sad and morose story.

On occasion I did find some of the chapters a little repetitive and wasn't quite sure how they had moved the plot forward, but on the whole I did thoroughly enjoy the tale told my L. F. Robertson in this book.  The ending I at first found a little flat, but as the day wore on I realised it was a very realistic ending and, actually, I quite liked that.

Two Lost Boys by L. F. Robertson receives a solid :


About the Author

L. F. Robertson is a practising defence attorney who for the last two decades has handled only death penalty appeals.  Linda is the co-author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Unsolved Mysteries, and a contributor to the forensic handbooks How to Try a Murder and Irrefutable Evidence.  She has had short stories published in the anthologies My Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes : the Hidden Years and Sherlock Holmes : The American Years. 

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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Tour & Giveaway - Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty

Book Giveaway

To celebrate the upcoming publication of
Reconciliation for the Dead (Claymore Straker Series 3) by Paul E. Hardisty (Orenda Books) 
The Very Pink Notebook is hosting a giveaway!

To get your hands on a copy of this gritty thriller click on this link and retweet the pinned tweet - Simple!  A winner will be selected at random on publication day (30 May 2017) and notified via twitter.

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Published by : Orenda Books
30 May 2017
Copy for Competition : Provided by Publisher

The Blurb

Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier. It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.


Praise for Paul E. Hardisty

‘A solid, meaty thriller – Hardisty is a fine writer and Straker is a great lead character’ Lee Child

‘A trenchant and engaging thriller that unravels this mysterious land in cool, precise sentences’ Stav Sherez, Catholic Herald

‘Just occasionally, a book comes along to restore your faith in a genre – and Paul Hardisty does this in spades’ Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review

This is a remarkably well-written, sophisticated novel in which the people and places, as well as frequent scenes of violent action, all come alive on the page...’ Literary Review

‘Hardisty doesn’t put a foot wrong in this forceful, evocative thriller … the author’s deep knowledge of the settings never slows down the non-stop action, with distant echoes of a more-moral minded Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne’ Maxim Jakubowski


About the Author

Canadian Paul E Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist.  He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa.  He was Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels.  In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana's.  Paul is a university professor, visiting professor at Imperial College, London, and Director of Australia's national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaption research programmes.  His debut thriller was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger and Telegraph thriller of the year.  He lives in Western Australia.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Review : The Vinyl Detective - The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel

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Published by : Titan Books
9 May 2017
Copy : ARC copy received from publisher

The Blurb

His first adventure consisted of the search for a rare record; his second the search for a lost child. Specifically the child of Valerian, lead singer of a great rock band of the 1960s, who hanged herself in mysterious circumstances after the boy's abduction.

Along the way, the Vinyl Detective finds himself marked for death, at the wrong end of a shotgun, and unknowingly dosed with LSD as a prelude to being burned alive. And then there's the grave robbing...
 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The second in a trilogy, The Vinyl Detective - The Run-Out Groove, is another well written, laugh out loud (well, I did) confident offering from Andrew Cartmel.

Thrust back into the world of the Vinyl Detective (name of the character is, as yet, not revealed - which must be quite tricky for the author to work around!) I did wonder how similar the storyline would be to the first, given essentially at the beginning the protagonist was after another rare record.  I need not have worried, it is vastly different and again, despite the humour running throughout it is actually a serious plot.

Packed with another set of punchy characters, I was glad to see the return of some others, namely Nevada, Tinkler, Stinky and Fanny and Turk (the cats) and to travel around the rocker scene of past era's in the search for the truth about wild child Valerian.  We are given a colourful history of the women in question via people who were close to the singer, and discover some uncomfortable truths about her family along the way.

Of course, when the truth is somewhat misty, it is usually so for a reason and the Vinyl Detective and Co quickly discover there is someone that wishes for it to remain that way.  Not quite sure if they are in 'Paranoia Heights' after their last dramatic escapade, the gang must try and determine who they can trust, if anyone.

Although it didn't have me quite as 'on the edge of my seat' as book number one, I did thoroughly enjoy book number two and would again highly recommend it.  I also learned what, exactly, a Run-Out Groove is.

As such The Vinyl Detective - The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

Andrew Cartmel is a novelist and screenwriter.  His work for television includes Midsomer Murders and Torchwood, and a legendary stint as Script Editor on Doctor Who.  He has also written plays for the London Fringe, toured as a stand-up comedian, and is currently co-writing with Ben Aaronovitch a series of comics based on the bestselling Rivers of London books.  He lives in London.

The Vinyl Detective Books

The Vinyl Detective The Run-Out Groove is out on 9th May 2017.
The Vinyl Detective Victory Disc is out May 2018.
    

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Review : The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel

26109016
Published by : Titan Books
10 May 2016
Copy : Paperback - Received from Publisher

The Blurb


He is a record collector — a connoisseur of vinyl, hunting out rare and elusive LPs. His business card describes him as the “Vinyl Detective” and some people take this more literally than others.

Like the beautiful, mysterious woman who wants to pay him a large sum of money to find a priceless lost recording — on behalf of an extremely wealthy (and rather sinister) shadowy client.

Given that he’s just about to run out of cat biscuits, this gets our hero’s full attention. So begins a painful and dangerous odyssey in search of the rarest jazz record of them all…


The Very Pink Notebook Review


Behind the slapstick style jacket of Written in Dead Wax lies an extremely complex plot which Andrew Cartmel delivers with both ease and humour.

I absolutely loved the way this book has been written, it is plain, straight-forward and down to earth.  Even though it has a lot of information about vintage record collecting, all it's quirks and anomalies, it is never once dull, boring or pretentious.  This is all down to the protagonist, the Vinyl Detective himself - an ordinary, run of the mill, cat loving chap - who happens to have an absolute and complete obsession with finding and collecting / selling (depending on how broke he is) - you guessed it - Vinyl.  And not just any vinyl, Jazz, which as it turns out can turn into a rather sinister business.  And it is the Vinyl Detectives plain ordinariness which makes him so endearing to the reader.

Scraping by on lucky finds of unusual vinyl's and selling them on the net is a far cry from where he finds himself when beautiful, intelligent and sharp-witted Nevada enters his life with the opportunity of a lifetime - unfortunately for him, he finds that because of the opportunity it could possibly be a short lifetime because the more involved he gets in finding the elusive vinyl he is commissioned to track down, the higher the body count becomes... but he is so honest and normal about everything the title of 'hero' is not out of place.

Add to the mix a couple of geeky and typical guy friends, you have a mix perfect for a good injection of humour to punctuate what actually becomes a fairly serious storyline including murder most foul, robberies and sabotage.

Now, when I started reading 'Side One' (clever huh!) I was enjoying it most certainly, but you quickly realise there is going to be far more to this book than merely the hunt and race to find the vinyl, then you reach 'Side Two' and a whole different pace begins.  'Side Two' I read in one sitting - I could not put it down and was pleased that the humour I was enjoying so much did not dissipate.

I liked how complete this book felt, it had a clear beginning, middle and end with all questions getting answers.  I thoroughly enjoyed all the dialogue between the characters and at one point or another I questioned them all, which again demonstrated confident and tight plotting and writing.

I am already looking forward to reading more in the first person eyes of The Vinyl Detective and discovering if Nevada sticks around, if Tinkler still has an obsession for grapes and if the cats manage to survive the 'road to rehab' (see opening chapter of book!)

The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel gets a must read Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

Andrew Cartmel is a novelist and screenwriter.  His work for television includes Midsomer Murders and Torchwood, and a legendary stint as Script Editor on Doctor Who.  He has also written plays for the London Fringe, toured as a stand-up comedian, and is currently co-writing with Ben Aaronovitch a series of comics based on the bestselling Rivers of London books.  He lives in London.

The Vinyl Detective Books

The Vinyl Detective Written in Dead Wax is available NOW.
The Vinyl Detective The Run-Out Groove is out on 9th May 2017.
The Vinyl Detective Victory Disc is out May 2018.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Tour and Review - Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the tour for
Kjell Ola Dahl's, Nordic Noir, Faithless
With thanks to Karen and Anne at Orenda Books
for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by Orenda Books
15 May 2017
Copy - Received from publisher as part of Blog Tour

The Blurb

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again. 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Although the blurb notes that the characters are 'back' and this novel is one in a series, it is perfectly readable as a stand-alone book.  I have been lucky enough to read quite a lot of Nordic Noir this year so when Faithless came onto the radar I was looking forward to reading it.

I have to say, I did struggle a little bit to actually get into it initially.  I found there were a lot of characters and story-lines and it all seemed a little disjointed to me.  I did find I had to go back and re-read parts on several occasions, but this is a slow burn book and gradually things did come together and I realised just what a complex plot the author has written.

The tone of the book - as you can gather from the synopsis - is very dark, however, Dahl has written in some absolute gems of cutting humour via the characters interaction and dialogue when in the police station / work environment setting.  For me, it made the characters very real and relatable.  Everyone knows the sort of characters you get at work and how annoying some of their habits can be and the author has tapped these into the story really well, lightening up what could be a rather grim read.

As I said, I did have to re-read a few sections and for me the writing didn't flow quite as easily as I like, but still it is confident and powerful writing with particularly nice use of imagery of Norway and
use of the weather to really add to the atmosphere building within the plot.  This book gives a very good lesson in showing and not telling.

If you like a gritty, complicated, police procedural novel to sink your teeth into then Faithless is a must read for you.

Faithless (Oslo Detectives) by Kjell Ola Dahl receives a Very Pink Notebook Rating of :

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Image result for faithless kjell ola dahl
  
 
About the Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjovik, Norway.  He made his debut in 1993 and has since published fifteen novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frolich.  In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he has also been awarded both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015.  His work has been published in fourteen countries.  He lives in Oslo.

About the Translator

Don Barlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk.  He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbo and Karl Ove Knausgard.  He has previously translated The Consorts of Death, Cold Hearts, We Shall Inherit the Wind and Where Roses Never Die in Gunner Staalesen's Varg Veum series.



Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Review : Amnesia by Michael Ridpath

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Published by Corvus (Atlantic Books)
04 May 2017
Copy - Paperback from Readers First


The Blurb

Alastair Cunningham wakes up in hospital with almost total amnesia. But he knows that something terrible happened in his past, something that haunts him still. A young family friend, Clémence is called in to help rekindle his memory. Retreating with Alastair to his remote cottage, Clémence finds a peculiar manuscript hidden away from prying eyes. Reading the prologue, she discovers a murder by someone very much like a young Alastair. The victim? Clémence’s grandmother, Sophie. Could this kindly old man truly be a killer? Clémence becomes determined to find out what happened all those years ago, even if she must risk everything to do so…


The Very Pink Notebook Review

This book starts in the thick of the action, immediately drawing you in and encouraging you to read on. Within the first few chapters the author establishes, very confidently and clearly, the two main characters, Clemence and Alastair who develop a clever and sometimes amusing, relationship.

Trying to regain his memory and piece together his life becomes a novel within a novel as the two read a seemingly autobiographic manuscript they find back at the cottage.  The reader is taken back to Alastair's life as a young man at University and the relationships he develops there which result in long reaching consequences.  A truly tangled web of deceit is woven involving love lost, money and murder.

At first it seems clear, the reader is being told the true story via the novel, but several elements do not quite make sense and Clemence is not convinced things are as straightforward as the book suggests, and indeed they aren't, thus you are then taken on a blind excursion of discovery to find out just what piece of vital evidence has been taken away and why and by whom...

The use of the environmental setting, dark and brooding Scotland in winter, seems to be the perfect backdrop for the tone of the novel, as in looks can be deceiving. The beauty of Scotland can draw you in but be lethal if not handled correctly. Well written and paced this novel is gripping and enticing.  I had my suspicions about half way through of what may happen at the end and although it did there was also so much I did not see coming!  I have to say, the final two pages of the novel were brilliant and I loved what the author has done - it certainly made me smile. 

I will most certainly be reading more from Michael Ridpath.

Amnesia receives a must read Very Pink Notebook Rating of :


Monday, 24 April 2017

Review : Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister

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Published by : Penguin Random House
09 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Reviewer Purchase


The Blurb

It all started with the email.

Rachel didn't even mean to look. She loves Jack and she's pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she's seen it, she can't undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn't Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

My purchase of this book followed lots of hype and rave reviews on Twitter and I do love a debut novel, especially in the domestic noir / psychological thriller genre. 

Everything but the Truth isn't a read with one eye story, but it is an intriguing insight into how quickly people can jump into a life with someone they barely know and the subsequent consequences.  Protagonist Rachel finds this out after falling pregnant by relatively new boyfriend Jack and as it comes to light that Jack may not be quite who he seems, Rachel has to question - is anyone perfect?  And along comes the debate about how much of someone's past should and can be brushed over.

Rachel wrestles with many issues over the course of this book, but essentially they all boil down to 'relationships'.  The relationship between herself and her mother.  The relationship she has as a doctor with patients.  Her own romantic relationships.  They are cleverly woven in and out of the main plot of discovering Jack's past.  Told from only the viewpoint of Rachel we learn about her own chequered history, which certainly muddies the waters about her reliability about what she is perceiving and although this isn't a book that goes at staggering speed or has big epic scenes, it is a real page turner.  The issues it deals with are very possible and does make you question - what if?  It is confidently written and the characters are well rounded and developed, all of them with their own flaws, they could easily be people you could know in your own life.

Everything but the Truth is a well plotted and enjoyable debut novel.

The Very Pink Notebook therefore gives this book :

 



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Review : A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

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Published by : Doubleday
23 March 2017
Copy : Paperback received from Alison Barrow

The Blurb

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This novel is a drama suspense of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  With beautiful, languid story-telling, I was completely absorbed into the world of Lily Shepherd, on passage aboard the liner, Orontes, to a new adventure to Australia.  Lily, herself 'tourist class', is somewhat caught in the middle of a class war on board.  She is given a glimpse into the world of First Class by the scandalous and morally outcast socialites, The Campbells, whilst also learning passengers may sit on the same class level aboard the great ship are not all seen as equals.  Add to this the tumulus background rumbling of a World War on the brink of an imminent break out, the ground on which these characters find themselves are truly unsteady waters.

Lily is somewhat naïve to the world and you find yourself loving her for it, it makes her an honest narrator, if not always reliable given her limited knowledge of the world.  This novel is about so many things but what stood out for me was the personal journey of Lily who grows and has her eyes opened to the harsh realities of the world more in three weeks than she has her entire life.

Lily is more than a likable character, she is lovable.  I found myself wanting to protect her from the harsh reality of life.  She is still so childish in many ways which only goes to highlight the complex lives of the other people on board.  If only they had lived such a sheltered life as Lily, maybe they would be better for it.  Although we learn Lily is running and mourning her own drama, compared to the others it seems so innocent. 

Lily is truly like a central orb in this novel from which everyone rotates, all wanting and needing her for their own selfish gain.  However, Lily is not as weak as she may exude, after all she has chosen and made happen this adventure many would only dream about.

At the end of the book the author notes mention the novel is inspired by the real life diary of a young female passenger who really did embark on a personal journey to Australia and the novel is richer for it.  Beautiful vivid imagery combined with a powerful plot and complex yet likeable characters make this book a compelling read. 

And by the way, you may think you see that twist coming, but you really haven't...

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys gets a Very Pink Notebook Review of :





Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Tour and Review : Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the tour for Sherri Smith's psychological thriller Follow Me Down.  With thanks to Philippa Ward at Titan books for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by : Titan Books
21 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received from Publisher as part of blog tour


The Blurb

THEY SAY ONLY THE GUILTY RUN

Mia never intended to go home again, but has no choice when her twin brother goes missing.  Back to the people she left behind, the person she used to be, and the secrets she thought she'd buried. 

Her brother Lucas, a popular teacher, has disappeared on the same day as the murdered body of one of his students was pulled from the river.  Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas's affair with the teenager, and unable to reconcile the media's vicious portrayal of Lucas with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he's innocent, why did he run?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

If you like gritty psychological thrillers combined with the dynamics of messed up families then this is a book for you.  Follow Me Down is a very dark and twisted tale and when I say twisted I mean it, in every possible sense.

The reader is thrown right into the story from the first page, when protagonist Mia, a Chicago based pharmacist, receives a call from the police alerting her to the fact her twin brother Lucas, popular school teacher who still lives in the small minded town they grew up in, is missing.  However, not only is he missing, he is wanted.

Smith has cleverly filtered the story through the mind of Mia, you are in her head and go on the journey of discovery as solely seen through her eyes.  The problem with her eyes is they are often tainted by abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol - unreliable narrator alert.  Obviously Mia is convinced of her brother's innocence, or is she?  Even as an unreliable narrator, the author manages to pass every conceivable idea through Mia's mind, who tries to weigh up the probability of these things happening.  She then starts piecing together parts of the puzzle that is the situation and finds things and people in the small town are not always what they seem.  Slowly, and a little crazily, she starts to form a picture of what was going on right up to the day the body was discovered and her brother went missing. 

As I said, there are so many twists and turns in this book you can get quite dizzy, but that is brilliant because every possibility is really quite feasible and I had absolutely no clue as to where this ride was going to end, and what a well executed ending it was, with all ends tied up, some of them somewhat messily for the characters.

This novel has a host of unlikeable characters and this may be a little controversial, having seen some other reviews, but I actually didn't dislike Mia at all.  I also loved their narcissistic mother Mimi as well.  In fact, in the end I really felt quite sorry for her.

This book has a complex plot that Sherri Smith has managed to deconstruct and deliver in an easy, fast paced and exciting novel.  I would highly recommend it to psychological thriller lovers that like their work on the dark side.

Follow Me Down receives a highly recommend Very Pink Notebook rating of :


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About The Author

Sherri Smith spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump.  She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side.  Follow Me Down is her first thriller.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Tour and Review : Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for the new book by Matt Wesolowski, Six Stories.  With thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for involving me in the tour and for an early copy of the book.

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Published by : Orenda Books
30 March 2017 (Print)
Copy : Paperback - Received from publisher

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries' mysterious death. And who's to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you'll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The first thing that caught my eye with this book was the artwork.  At first glance I thought I was looking at the scratchings of an audio recording, but on closer inspection it transpires to be a wide angle shot of very tall trees and their reflection, but this is all very deliberate and once you read this book you discover why.

Just from the blurb the setting, Scarclaw Fell, made my skin crawl.  The author instantly creates such a chilling atmosphere I actually felt physically cold while I was tucked up under my duvet reading.  The great outdoors of the Fell - it's brooding darkness and wildness, it temperamental and ever-changing mood is the perfect environmental setting.  For me, the place entirely matched the themes of this book.

The body of a teenage boy, Tom Jefferies, is discovered a year after he went missing on a trip to Scarclaw Fell.  What follows is a case of discovery, but in a fairly unique way.  The reader is not taken on the journey via the police investigation, which by the time we enter the story is already done and dusted.  It is not the story of Tom's family trying to find out what happened to their son.  It is not a journalist, the story and its potential sensation has already been put to bed.

Instead it is a pod-caster, Scott King, who just enjoys pulling together information of mysterious events of cases that have been closed.  What the reader is then presented with are the facts of the night - through the eyes of people involved and or close to the deceased.  Meaning - extremely unreliable narration - which is the for the reader, or listener should I say, to decide how much is accurate when almost everyone closely involved had an agenda and at the time was an angst ridden teenager.  But don't get me wrong this isn't one of those frustrating novels that you can't find an anchor point to cling on to because we have the neutral insight of Scott King himself.  The voice of King summarises the facts giving opinions from both sides of the coin, always leaving the reader / listener to draw their own conclusion.

The unusual penmanship of the novel with its original structure and style, I didn't know if I would get on with at first.  Could I read a book in the style of a script of a pod-cast?  Would it get annoying?  The answer no, I quickly realised it didn't matter.  What you have is a really good story, told really well.  With the multiple viewpoints the script is kept varied and pacey even though it is the same story told by six different voices and always moving the plot forward.  I enjoyed the summary sections at the beginning and the end of each pod-cast by King and being taken to the present day with Scarclaw Fells owner and body finder Harry. 

For me this novel reminded me of The Blair Witch project, where things not happening and dark issues being alluded to but not shown in graphic detail are actually more frightening than anything else.

I loved the ending of this novel and felt it stayed true to the author's intent.  Six stories is a distressing tale looking at extreme ends of teenage group dynamics and parenting issues to name but a few of the things it touches on, whilst telling the story of what happened to Tom Jefferies on that fateful night in 1996.

Six Stories get a highly recommend to read Very Pink Notebook Rating of :


  

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Orenda - SIX STORIES Blog Tour