A God In Ruins

a god in ruins

A God In Ruins
by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson’s dazzling Life After Life, one of the top selling adult books of 2014, explored the possibility of infinite chances, as Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy – would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

A God In Ruins is the companion book to Life After Life, Kate Atkinson’s magnificent book about the Todd family but in particular Ursula who died and was re-born on a regular basis. In A God In Ruins it is Teddy’s story that we follow, Ursula’s beloved brother, and while we don’t have the time-altering structure of Life After Life, we have timelines flitting backwards and forwards between Teddy’s younger years, his war years and his post-war years. Juxtaposing the different timelines gives a different perspective on characters and their behaviour. The monstrous Viola, Teddy’s daughter, is blazingly angry towards her father and treats the ‘war hero’ appallingly. Later we find out she has her reasons but we also see how unforgiving she is and how bitter it has made her.

Atkinson takes us deep into the heart of her characters and leaves us caring deeply for most of them. Not only Teddy but his wife Nancy, daughter Viola and his grandchildren Sunny and Bertie. The chapter given over to Sunny’s childhood is heartbreaking and is a book in itself.

The way Kate Atkinson injects humour into what are sometimes harrowing circumstances with just one or two well-placed words is genius and captures life, especially English life of this period, perfectly.

The chapters on war, Teddy’s war as a part of bomber command flying Halifax planes, are brilliant slices of drama that take you on journeys that you would really rather not know about let alone participate in. The horror is brought to life unflinchingly.

There are huge themes at work in this book; war: man’s fall from grace; fate: how life can change in the blink of an eye; human nature: how much can it survive and keep going.

This is a hard book to review because there are so many aspects to discuss and I obviously don’t want to spoil it for anybody. So you may as well just go out, buy it and read it. It is wonderful.
****1/2
I have taken 1/2 a star off for the use of the American z spelling throughout this book, churlish I know but it annoys me and I can’t think why you would in this very English book.

Follow You Home

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Follow You Home
by Mark Edwards

It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down.

After a perfect start, Daniel and Laura’s travels end abruptly when they are thrown off a night train in the middle of nowhere. To find their way back to civilisation, they must hike along the tracks through a forest…a haunting journey that ends in unimaginable terror.

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what they saw that night. But as they try to fit back into their old lives, it becomes clear that their nightmare is just beginning…

Follow You Home is a chilling tale of secrets, lies and deadly consequences from the author of #1 bestsellers The Magpies and Because She Loves Me.

Daniel and Laura are travelling around Europe. On the Romanian leg of their journey they have an horrific experience which ends their trip and sees them back in London and unable to continue their relationship.

The two agree never to speak of what happened but as events take them over and other people are fatally drawn into the horror, they are forced to face what happened head on.

Daniel is a likeable character and as the book is told mostly from his point of view we live the ordeal through him. He turns to drink to try to cope with not only what he saw in Romania and losing his girlfriend but also the fact that someone or something has followed them home. Daniel recruits the services of Edward Rooney, a private investigator, and the two characters work well together.

Laura is much more of an enigma, as Daniel tells most of the story we don’t get to know her nearly as well. We know that whatever happened has affected her deeply and she has closed herself off not wanting to confront her demons.

I was very much looking forward to this book having read Because She Loves Me and absolutely loving that, and whilst it was chilling in places and I enjoyed Daniel’s character, I felt the book as a whole fell a little short. The lengthy ‘we can’t tell anyone anything’ mantra of the first half of the book began to lose any tension that it may have had at the start and just became annoying. When we did eventually find out what had happened the thought that struck me was that there could not be any reason that justified not speaking about it and at the end I still felt that.

I would still say to anyone considering the book to definitely read it, it has many good elements about it, it just didn’t work overall for me. But it has garnered many many 4 and 5 star reviews and, not for the first time, I am in a minority of about one.

Thanks to the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, for sending me a copy via Netgalley.

Why authors should never comment on negative reviews of their own books

What a brilliant post from thoughtscratchings.com

Thought Scratchings

6a00d834515ae969e2017c35817072970bYou’ve written a book. It’s been published. Your agent told you that he/she has never read a book like it. Your publisher has told you that your voice is entirely unique. The quotes from celebrities on the front cover of your book reinforce this sense of untouchable brilliance. The first fifty amazon reviews have flooded in from industry people who are encouraged to display kindness. Traction begins…but all of these opinions are inherently biased.

Then comes the first negative review from Jeremy, from Hounslow. Your brain immediately reacts by telling you that Jeremy must be mentally ill. Then you decide he must be a troll. (Because you’ve convinced yourself that you are so special, that there are people alive who spend their free time attacking your books, hoping you say something, because that’s how you think they think they will get famous. Even though nobody read your last novel.) So…

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Little Black Lies

little black lies

Little Black Lies
by Sharon Bolton

In such a small community as the Falkland Islands, a missing child is unheard of. In such a dangerous landscape it can only be a terrible tragedy, surely…

When another child goes missing, and then a third, it’s no longer possible to believe that their deaths were accidental, and the villagers must admit that there is a murderer among them. Even Catrin Quinn, a damaged woman living a reclusive life after the accidental deaths of her own two sons a few years ago, gets involved in the searches and the speculation.

And suddenly, in this wild and beautiful place that generations have called home, no one feels safe and the hysteria begins to rise.

But three islanders—Catrin, her childhood best friend, Rachel, and her ex-lover Callum—are hiding terrible secrets. And they have two things in common: all three of them are grieving, and none of them trust anyone, not even themselves.

In Little Black Lies, her most shocking and engaging suspense novel to date, Sharon Bolton will keep the reader guessing until the very last page.

This is the story of two women who used to be the very best of friends until a moment of carelessness shatters everything between them and leaves them both broken empty shells.

It is also about missing children and how a small isolated community deals with monstrous events; on the one hand finding it impossible to believe it could be one of their own, but, paradoxically, turning into a pack of vigilantes with very little provocation.

The story is told from three viewpoints; firstly Catrin, who has lost three children, two in an accident and one stillborn baby. Her grief is all-encompassing and the only outlet she has is hatred towards the woman who ruined her life. She spends her life mapping out how she is going to get her revenge. To be inside Catrin’s head is a very difficult place to be. There is no respite from the horror of her life and it is only made worse by the uncomfortable knowledge that you would probably feel the same way.

The second viewpoint is Callum, ex-soldier, suffering from PTSD after serving in the Falkland’s War. He was involved with catrin but she has no room for him now in her life.

The third viewpoint is Rachel, the target of Catrin’s hatred. She is also suffering; from a guilt that there is no chance of ever lifting.

The backdrop to the story is one of the Falkland Islands, although it and its wildlife are brought so vividly to life it is almost an extra character. The bleakness of the landscape and the power of the sea give the story extra resonance. Sharon Bolton uses her words and descriptions masterfully.

A lot of people are saying this is Sharon Bolton’s best work and I am not going to disagree with them. For me Now You See Me will take a lot of beating, but this is right up there with it. I don’t often give five stars but this is one of the occasions when five stars are fully justified.
*****

Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy via Netgalley

Snowblind

Snowblind

Snowblind
by Ragnar Jonasson

Siglufjorour: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thor Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose. Taut and terrifying, Snowblind is a startling debut from an extraordinary new talent, taking Nordic Noir to soaring new heights.

Ari Thor is a former theology student turned police officer living in Reykjavik with his girlfriend. he is offered a position in Siglufjordur, a small, isolated fishing village in northern Iceland, where you could live for 20 years and still be considered an outsider if you weren’t born there.

Leaving his girlfriend behind, Ari Thor makes a new start. He is reliably informed by his colleague Tomas that nothing ever happens here. And it seems to be that way until the suspicious death of a local author occurs. Even so the local police force and townsfolk find it very difficult to believe this could be anything but an accident. But when a woman is found close to death in the snow, attitudes have to change.

Ari Thor is a brilliantly drawn character, very likeable and different to the usual police officer/detective character in that he is young and inexperienced. His personal life is in turmoil and his professional life isn’t much better. As an outsider he is given no respect and his opinions don’t matter. He is a police officer with no power. But when he starts putting pieces of the jigsaw together people have to start taking notice.

All the supporting characters have great depth in this closed circle crime book which is reminiscent of Agatha Christie with all the secrets and lies and the isolation of the suspects. This is a brooding, atmospheric book; with the darkness and constant snow there is a claustrophobic feel to everything, which is heightened to the nth degree when there is an avalanche and the one road in and out of the village is blocked.

Despite all the darkness, Iceland comes across beautifully and the descriptions of Siglufjordur had me scampering to the computer to google images of the place which is now on my wishlist of places to visit.

A quick mention has to go to Quentin Bates who has done a brilliant job translating this book from Icelandic to English.

Snowblind is the first novel in a new series and is published by Orenda books. It is fabulous and I am looking forward to the next one.
****1/2

Many thanks to karen at Orenda books for sending me a copy.

The Second Coming: A Love Story

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The Second Coming: A Love Story
by Scott Pinsker

Two men claim to be the Second Coming of Christ. Each claims the other is Satan in disguise. But only one is telling the truth.

In The Second Coming: A Love Story, the devilish new novel by Scott Pinsker, the culture war between Red America and Blue America turns shockingly real when two self-declared saviors appear on earth. The first “messiah” attracts legions of liberal and secular-progressive followers with his message of New Age brotherhood, quickly becoming the darling of the left. The second “messiah” preaches fire-and-brimstone traditional Christianity, gaining a grassroots army of conservative worshippers ready to battle to the death.

The thought of mixing together religion and politics would have many people running for the hills, but that is exactly what Scott Pinsker has done in his novel, The Second Coming: A Love Story, and what’s more it works beautifully.

This is an imaginative concept; two men, Joe and Israel, both claiming to be the Messiah and each claiming the other is Satan. Both gather disciples and followers as they travel around America preaching their different brands of religion. One is a traditional hell and damnation type, while the other is all New Testament liberal. But who is the real McCoy?

The disciples are very well-drawn. Margaret Magdala, a former criminal lawyer, and Peter, a former homeless drifter, on the one hand. David, a homosexual former speech writer and his partner Michael, on the other. Through their arguments, differences and struggles their voices come through as very real.

The book touches on many theological and philosophical points, but it is done with a light touch and never preachy. Considering the subject matter it is a very easy and entertaining read. But it is also thought provoking and imaginative. The author does well not to take sides but presents each POV equally, putting the onus on you, the reader, to make up your own mind.

I have to admit that the parallel universe involving crows and worms totally escaped me, but nevertheless this is an interesting read and if you’re looking for something a little bit different then this could be the book for you.
****

Keith Nixon – The Corpse Role Blog Tour

the corpse role

Today I hand the blog over to Keith Nixon on the penultimate day of his blog tour for The Corpse Role. To read the review click here.

keith Nixon

Keith Nixon has been writing since he was a child. In fact some of his friends (& his wife) say he’s never really grown up. Keith is currently gainfully employed in a senior sales role meaning he gets to use his one skill, talking. Keith writes crime and historical fiction novels. His crime work is published by leading indie house Caffeine Nights.

My Ideas and the writing process…
Usually the idea for a book comes from a single point, one thought that at the time seems like it could be interesting. The challenge is then to turn this one kernel into a living, breathing set of characters and narrative. Overall writing a book is a bit like building a structure, adding bits, taking bits away, sometimes knocking the whole thing down and starting again. One idea tends to lead to another…

In The Corpse Role this idea was … well, I can’t say as that will give the twist away at the end! Sorry. I also wanted to explore a new genre for me, police procedural – I’ve written in humour, crime and historical fiction genres previously. So, the next stage was to build a case for the lead detective, DI Charlotte Granger, to follow. Here it was a security van robbery and the fallout that ensued after the event. The corpse of the van driver turns up in a shallow grave, two years after he went missing. The story is written from two perspectives, past and present – the robbery and the investigation, with the timelines joining at the end. Again, I’d love to say more, but it’ll give stuff away.

I started writing The Corpse Role around April 2014, commuting up to Manchester from Broadstairs for a new job. I had some time in the evenings and the novel began to take shape. I finished it in January this year, however in between I did take the odd break to move house (twice), some major and minor work on two other novels, review books for two websites, keep up the day job and the family. Between then and now activity on Corpse itself was getting beta feedback, having the novel edited, a cover designed and getting it out. It’s surprising how time consuming this can be.

It tends to take me at least six months to write a book. The crime novels take less time, primarily because the research required is less than the historical fiction stuff, which is just the opposite as they require massive investigation and understanding. I like to ensure the facts are accurate, but the most important task is to tell a story that holds the reader’s interest.

So far the response to The Corpse Role has been very good, the masterful Ken Bruen provided a cover blurb! He’s a top man. So the genre move wasn’t a bad idea…

Follow the blog tour: next stop is http://cometbabesbooks.blogspot.co.uk/

Thanks to Liz and keith for having me as part of this blog tour.