Fifty shades of Roxie Brown

roxie Fifty Shades Of Roxie Brown by Lynda Renham Roxie Brown loves erotica and her friend, Sylvie, loves crime … novels of course. On a girls’ night out they meet The Great Zehilda, the tea leaf reader, and suddenly Roxie’s Fifty Shades fantasies about her millionaire boss, Ark Morgan, look about to become a reality. But then she looks through the telescope and her life is turned upside down. Roxie and Sylvie, with help from Sylvie’s flatmate, Felix, set out to crack the case. Can Ark Morgan save her or is he the man she should be running from? Then enter Sam Lockwood and her heart is shot with another arrow. Come with Roxie Brown on her hilarious crime-busting romantic adventure and discover if the love of her life is the man of her dreams or if the man she loves is her worst nightmare.

Roxie Brown is a chambermaid, working for a large hotel. She is something of a dreamer and has cast her boss, Ark Morgan, into the role of her very own Christian Grey. Unfortunately she is stuck with Arsenal fan and all-time loser, Darren.

But everything changes when Roxie is witness to a murder in a flat opposite her own. She enlists her two friends, Sylvie and Felix, to help her find the murderer. Add to the mix two handsome men: the aforementioned Ark Morgan and his business rival Sam Lockwood (both of whom end up as suspects) and the book sets off on a fast-paced journey of misunderstandings and drama.

Roxie, Sylvie and Felix are great characters, full of warmth and fun. Their dialogue is quick-witted and natural, leading to lots of humourous moments.

I loved Rory’s Proposal also by Lynda Renham, it had me smiling for days afterwards and this book is no different. It’s wonderfully uplifting, romantic and funny. Pure escapism. Anybody that enjoys a good romantic comedy will love this book. Sit back, get a glass of wine, break out the chocolate and enjoy.

****1/2

Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy.

The Girls

the girls

The Girls
by Lisa Jewell

You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.

You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.

You think your children are safe.

But are they really?

Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Clare and her two daughters, Grace and Pip, move into their new home after Clare’s husband and the girls’ father suffers a mental breakdown. At first communal living seems idyllic, but is isn’t long before it becomes apparent that the arrival of the two girls has upset the natural balance of relationships in the gardens. Things become more oppressive until one evening one of the girls is found unconscious and no-one seems to know what has happened. As dark secrets of the residents are uncovered, the unsolved murder of a young girl 30 years previously is drawing parallels with the present day.

I love the characters in this book. Pip, who tells the some of the story and is wise beyond her years. Her letters to her absent father give us a deeper insight into Pip and her family. The other main storyteller is Adele, she is the mother of 3 home-schooled girls and the wife of Leo who seems to be at the centre of everything. She sometimes wonders, as do we all at one time or another, if she really knows anyone of her family. Then there is Clare, who is finding adapting to communal life difficult after a traumatic period in her life and constant worrying about her girls. And Rhea who has lived on the gardens most of her life watches the comings and goings with a knowing eye, befriending Pip and giving Adele a lot to think about.

This is the first book by Lisa Jewell that I have read. the premise really drew me in and it certainly didn’t let me down. The characters are wonderfully real with flaws and secrets and lies, but also kindness and goodness; the author makes sure that it is difficult to separate the two. Lisa Jewell keeps the suspense going from the first page to the last, the descriptions of the gardens are superbly atmospheric, the long summer nights brought to life effortlessly.

This is a dark complicated story of human interaction with a dark message behind it which is very apt for 2015: problems occur when you try to hide away from the world. However well-meaning, people cutting themselves off from social interaction with all but a small group causes them to become insular and wary, and no good can come of it.

I would highly recommend this book.
****1/2

Many thank to the publishers for sending me a copy via Netgalley.

The Last Days Of Disco

last days of disco The Last Days Of Disco David F. Ross Early in the decade that taste forgot, Fat Franny Duncan is on top of the world. He is the undoubted King of the Ayrshire Mobile Disco scene, controlling and ruling the competition with an iron fist. From birthdays to barn dances, Franny is the man to call. He has even played ‘My Boy Lollipop’ at a funeral and got away with it. But the future is uncertain. A new partnership is coming and is threatening to destroy the big man’s Empire … Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller have been best mates since primary school. Joey is an idealist; Bobby just wants to get laid and avoid following his brother Gary to the Falklands. A partnership in their new mobile disco venture seems like the best way for Bobby to do both at the same time. With compensation from an accident at work, Bobby’s dad Harry invests in the fledgling business. His marriage to Ethel is coming apart at the seams and the disco has given him something to focus on. Tragic news from the other side of the world brings all three strands together in a way that no one could have predicted. The Last Days of Disco is a eulogy to the beauty and power of the 45rpm vinyl record and the small but significant part it played in a small town Ayrshire community in 1982. Witty, energetic and entirely authentic, it’s also heartbreakingly honest, weaving tragedy together with comedy with uncanny and unsettling elegance. A simply stunning debut.

 

This is a story about working class life in the early 80s, set in the South-West of Scotland. Bobby Cassidy and his friend Joey are fresh out of school with heads full of magic. They set up ‘Heatwave’ a mobile disco.

Unfortunately they find themselves in competition with local gangster the magnificent ‘Fat Franny’. Their adventures are hilarious, but life is not straightforward for most of the characters as it wasn’t for most people at that time. With Thatcher constantly buzzing in the background, like an unwanted wasp, for one reason or another: unemployment, the Falklands; it takes you right back to that era with an authenticity that is rare to find.

There is a mad cast of characters starting with the wonderful Cassidy family; Bobby taking centre stage, lives with his mum, dad and sister. Harry(I loved him) and Ethel’s marriage is in disarray but they plod on, sister Hettie is about to sit her exams. Brother Gary has gone south to join the army just as the spectre of the Falklands rears its ugly head. Gary’s story is bathed in pathos.

Then there is the aforementioned ‘Fat Franny’ a superb creation, Hairy Doug, Hamish May, amongst many others. Even the minor characters have a lot to give to this story and I can’t think of one who wouldn’t be able to hold a book of his/her own: that’s how well-drawn they are.

The descriptions of people are delivered in detail and are frequently hilarious. Jimmy Stevenson, van driver – “…He appeared to be in some degree of proportion from the rear, but from the side and front he looked pregnant. A mass of belly cantilevered precariously over the belt of his flared Farah slacks. The flares themselves partially concealed brown shoes that resembled the meat pasties sold in greggs bakery….His most defining characteristic was his hair – part Charlton sweepover, part Oliver Cromwell bell-shaped bob…” I defy you to be able to picture that man and not laugh.

This book took me right back to my youth, the music that runs, like a golden thread, through the story is perfect and I was downloading as I read. The dialogue is local and takes a short while to get used to, but once you are you don’t want it to stop: I found myself thinking in the Kilmarnock vernacular.

This is such an emotional read, one minute you’re crying tears of laughter and the next tears of sorrow. If you want to know what working class life was like in early 80s Britain, forget academic books: read this. I really didn’t want this book to finish and the only thing that has consoled me is spotting in the acknowledgements that Joey Miller will be back! Can’t wait.

*****

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

Leaves

leaves

Leaves
by John Simmons

Ophelia Street, 1970. A street like any other, a community that lives and breathes together as people struggle with their commitments and pursue their dreams. It is a world we recognise, a world where class and gender divide, where set roles are acknowledged.
But what happens when individuals step outside those roles, when they secretly covet, express desire, pursue ambitions even harm and destroy? An observer in the midst of Ophelia Street watches, writes, imagines, remembers, charting the lives and loves of his neighbours over the course of four seasons. And we see the flimsily disguised underbelly of urban life revealed in all its challenging glory.
As the leaves turn from vibrant green to vivid gold, so lives turn and change too, laying bare the truth of the community. Perhaps, ultimately, we all exist on Ophelia Street.

The residents of Ophelia Street are a mixed bunch. Keith Russell lives with his wife Brenda and son David. Keith is the character that dominates the street. With his idealistic principles and his yearning for Ophelia Street to be the perfect example of a socialist society, he gives no-one an easy ride.

The Fermins; Gerald, local factory owner, and Selene, his sister. After the death of their parents twenty years previously, Gerald took it upon himself to look after Selene, although smother her might be a better word. Her life is slowly leaking away in his house of gloom.

Robert Johnson is the egotistical bully who drives fast cars and manages to get his hands on two of Gerald’s ‘possessions’.

This is a beautifully written book which is split up into the four seasons. The descriptions of the different seasons are vivid showing the street in all its different colours and the way it changed throughout the seasons.

But this is ultimately a story about the people, the residents of Ophelia Street. The characters are so well-drawn: deep and complex. We follow them into their humdrum lives, follow their sorrows, hopes, the drudgery, the hopelessness of no future – “without a future the present becomes eternal” – how true.
But the event that rocks the street is what causes change and many of the residents to re-think and maybe find themselves a future.

The cover of the book with the leaves changing colour through the seasons is really effective and the picture is repeated in black and white through the book at the start of each season and it really does make the book feel extra special.

I really loved this book and the characters have stayed with me since I finished. It has lots of different themes running through: family, memory, idealism, but the biggest one is perhaps just life.
****1/2

Many thanks to Urbane Publishing for sending me a copy.

Blood On Snow

blood on snow

Blood On Snow
by Jo Nesbo

Olav lives the lonely life of a fixer. When you ‘fix’ people for a living – terminally – it’s hard to get close to anyone. Now he’s finally met the woman of his dreams. But there are two problems. She’s his boss’ wife. And Olav’s just been hired to kill her. From the bestselling author of BAFTA-nominated Headhunters, comes Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow: a short, sharp shock of a thriller.

The story is narrated by Olav, the baddie with a heart, he gives us plenty of insights into himself, most of them self-critical, he’s no good at driving inconspicuously, robberies, prostitution (he falls in love too easily). He really doesn’t have a lot going for him, yet in the next breath he is quoting from Darwin and changing the story of Les Miserables, unreliable could be his middle name.

Olav does have one talent, he is a fixer. He fixes people: permanently. When his boss gives him the job of fixing his unfaithful wife, Olav’s problems really begin.

At 198 pages, with a huge font and double-spacing, this book is a short story/novella in the noir genre. Compared with the 500+ pages of his Harry Hole novels this comes as something of a surprise. It is well written and the story keeps the pages turning but you don’t get the layers and depth that you might expect from a Nesbo book. It is a straight-forward read, a one-trick-pony, but nevertheless an engaging read and the author does his usual good job bringing the protagonist to life and showing the gritty underbelly of the criminal world. I really enjoyed the ending.

If it’s a Harry Hole type book that you are looking for you will be disappointed but as a something different from the same author it’s ok.
***

You, Me, & And Other People

you, me & other people

You, Me & Other People
by Fionnuala Kearney

THEY SAY EVERY FAMILY HAS SKELETONS IN THEIR CLOSET . . .

But what happens when you open the door and they won’t stop tumbling out?

For Adam and Beth the first secret wasn’t the last, it was just the beginning.

You think you can imagine the worst thing that could happen to your family, but there are some secrets that change everything.

And then the question is, how can you piece together a future when your past is being rewritten?

Adam And Beth’s marriage is crumbling. Adam has cheated on his wife twice and she has decided enough is enough and she can’t take the secrets and lies anymore. The trouble is, she doesn’t know the half of it.

Adam starts the book as a wretched excuse for a man. He keeps on hurting those closest to him and expects to be forgiven. The author is very clever how she deals with Adam, showing us different sides but at the same time not telling us which side we should be on. And while it’s not easy to like him it’s still very hard not to feel some sympathy towards him despite the fact that he is the orchestrator of his own misfortune.

Beth on the other hand is very easy to like. Pretty, intelligent, kind, generous, someone you would be happy to call a friend. For all the times she gets knocked down she tries to come back stronger. Listening to her emotions is at times heartbreaking and you want only the very best for her.

Adam and Beth’s daughter, Meg, is nineteen years old and has been close to her father, so his behaviour has a deep impact on her and he lets her down time and again. Whilst her father behaves like a child, it is Meg who shows him how to behave like an adult.

I found out halfway through this book that it is Fionnuala Kearney’s debut novel and to say I was astonished is an understatement. It is so accomplished. The characterisation is brilliant and the dialogue flows so naturally you could be in the same room listening to them. I could not stop reading and loved every aspect and despite the sadness of the story there are some really humorous bits; the plane journey had me laughing like a drain.

Can’t recommend this book highly enough.
*****

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