The Broken Road

the broken road

 

The Broken road

by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

 

Ollie’s life is in crisis. Estranged from his father when he refuses to take over the family hotel, his artistic career is floundering, and his marriage is under strain. His wife, Jess, blames him, but is she as innocent as she appears?
Louise, Ollie’s sister, takes on the hotel in his absence, testing her emotional fragility to the limit. She knows her father considers her to be second best, and her husband is hostile to her new role.
As the action moves between London, Plymouth and Venice, the family implodes under the weight of past betrayals, leading to a nail-biting, fast-paced climax.
In another emotionally compelling novel from the award-winning Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, the complex ties that both bind us to family and drive us apart are laid bare. Can Ollie heal the fault-lines before it’s too late? Above all, can he salvage his relationship with his young daughter, Flo, before tragedy strikes?

 

This book is the story of a dysfunctional family. At the heart is the family hotel in Plymouth, which is the life-blood of Oliver and Louise’s father. He desperately wants his son Oliver to take over the hotel, but Oliver has no inclination towards hotel management. He is an artist and despite not having much success at the moment, it is what he loves.

Louise, Oliver’s sister, however, would dearly love to take over the hotel, and is far better suited to it. If her father could just see it she is more like him than Oliver will ever be. But their father has a traditional mindset, and his son must inherit.

Both Oliver and Louise have more troubles than just their father and the hotel, as both their personal lives are intermingled and in crisis, thanks to an incident that occurred a few years earlier.

The characters of Oliver and Louise are very well done. Both have suffered heartbreak and have come through. but both still have people in their lives who let them down, whether that be partners or parents or both.

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn shows what a mess families can be. However they look from the outside there is more often than not inner turmoil that can be overwhelming.

This is a good story with the characters’ crises tumbling one after the other. Once or twice it was a little predictable and I had to suspend my disbelief, but I didn’t mind doing that as the story more than kept me engaged and I always wanted to know what was going to happen.

The book is set between London, Plymouth and Venice and the author gives a really strong sense of place. I especially loved the feel of Venice, one of my favourite places.

A good read that I would recommend.

***1/2

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A Spool Of Blue Thread

a spool of blue thread

 

 

‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…’

This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.

From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century – four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home…

 

I have always loved Anne Tyler’s writing. She creates depths to her characters that other authors can only dream of. Her stories tend to be of families; their ups and downs, the good times, the seemingly mundane and the crises and tragedies. How you can live with people and never really know them

In this book we meet the Whitshanks. Red and Abby and their four children: Denny, Stem, Jeannie and Amanda.They live in a wonderful house that was built by Red’s father, Junior, and it is almost a character in itself. The stories passed down through the family tend to have the house at their heart. It is symbolic of the social and financial success of Junior and Red Whitshank.

Red and Abby are now alone. Their children have all moved out and, all except Denny, are settled with families of their own. Denny is the black sheep, the one that no-one can quite understand. In and out of jobs all the time and his private life is just that: much to the vexation of Abby. He has caused Abby and Red the most trouble of all their kids and everyone treads on eggshells when he’s around for fear of upsetting him. Red made an off-the-cuff remark to him about his not having any work and Denny left and was not heard of for three years. His parents (and his siblings) can’t decide whether to be furious with him or worried out of their minds.

As health issues start to affect Red and Abby, their children rally round, Stem and his wife and children move back home and more surprisingly so does Denny. But this just serves to unearth secrets and lies and deceptions.

The narrative is not a linear one. It starts in the 21st century, but then moves back to when Abby fell in love with Red, then further back to Red’s parents; Junior and Linnie Mae. This was the favourite part of the book for me. The characterisation of Junior and Linnie Mae is utterly brilliant. Whatever your initial feelings about the two; Anne Tyler manages to draw you into their world and show you that things are not always as straightforward as they seem. Utter genius.

It has been said that this may be the last book that Anne Tyler will write. I sincerely hope not.

*****

 

 

 

Stacking The Shelves

stacking the shelves

 

Stacking the shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves. These can be physical books or e-books. Books you have bought or borrowed, or have been given. All can be added.

This week I have been approved for three books, a little excessive seeing as I am trying to clear my backlog, but I really couldn’t resist these and I have been quite good lately.

First up is, When She Was bad by Tammy Cohen.

when she was bad

Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years – they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in ….

Now, there’s something chilling in the air.

Who secretly hates everyone?

Who is tortured by their past?

Who is capable of murder?

 

Next is Another Love by Amanda Prowse

another love

 

In the early years, she was happy.

Romilly had worked hard for her stunning, modern house in one of Bristol’s most fashionable suburbs. She adored her gorgeous, gap-toothed daughter and her kind and handsome husband. Sure, life was sometimes exhausting – but nothing that a large glass of wine at the end of the day couldn’t fix.

But then, as deep-buried insecurities surfaced, everything started to unravel. A glass of wine became a bottle; one bottle became two. Once, Romilly’s family were everything to her. Now, after years of hiding the drinking, she must finally admit that she has found another love…

 

And lastly, The Widow by Fiona Barton.

the widow.png

 

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

All these books look fantastic.

My last book is, In The Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride. I bought this when I went to see him at Waterstones’ and managed to get it signed. Stuart is a lovely man and I would recommend going to see him if he is at a store near you. 🙂

in the cold dark ground

Sergeant Logan McRae is in trouble…

His missing-persons investigation has just turned up a body in the woods – naked, hands tied behind its back, and a bin bag duct-taped over its head. The Major Investigation Team charges up from Aberdeen, under the beady eye of Logan’s ex-boss Detective Chief Inspector Steel. And, as usual, she wants him to do her job for her.

But it’s not going to be easy: a new Superintendent is on her way up from the Serious Organised Crime Task Force, hell-bent on making Logan’s life miserable; Professional Standards are gunning for Steel; and Wee Hamish Mowat, head of Aberdeen’s criminal underbelly, is dying – leaving rival gangs from all over the UK eying his territory.

There’s a war brewing and Logan’s trapped right in the middle, whether he likes it or not.

So that’s my haul for this week, and I am looking forward to all of them.

What are you reading; feel free to leave a link. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q & A with david Videcette; author of The Theseus Paradox

Today I welcome David Videcette to the blog. His book The Theseus Paradox is one of the best thrillers of 2015. To read my review click here.

Here he answers some questions about his book and his writing.

david videcette q &a image

 

1) Tell us a bit about how The Theseus Paradox came about. 

I worked on the Anti-Terrorist Branch at the Met during the time of the 7/7 London bombings.
I went out to work on the 7th of July and came home two weeks later wearing the same clothes and with 56 people dead.
I lived that case for five years and had to move up to Yorkshire to investigate the bombers’ lives. My daughter had been born down in London a very short time before the attacks and I missed many of the milestones during her early years. The victims’ and bombers’ families became almost more important than my own. I lost touch with friends and family. I became consumed with tracking down bomb factories and suspects to find out who else had helped the four bombers undertake the atrocities.
I started writing my thriller, ‘The Theseus Paradox’ about two years ago. In a way, I wrote the story to help me process what happened during that time.
The idea of the book is to make people think a bit more about the motives behind terrorism, but in a page-turning way. The Theseus Paradox is deliberately written with very short chapters, so that people can grab a bit of escapism and enjoy the story without it getting thrown at them all in one go. I’ve tried to reveal bits of the case slowly so that the story unfurls before your eyes just like it does with the lead character, Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan.
Unlike many thrillers, you only see the things that Jake sees and you only get the bits of the investigation a real police detective would see. Some stories are written from various different perspectives, but in ‘The Theseus Paradox’ you really are deep in the police investigation, so you have to use your own detective ability too. You can enjoy investigating the case along with Jake, and go on the exactly the same rollercoaster ride he does.

The thriller will also raise money for the Police Dependants’ Trust. http://www.pdtrust.org
The charity has launched a new initiative called the National Welfare Contingency Fund which will help police officers with mental health issues after a major national incident such as a terrorist attack. I also wanted to raise awareness of the important work of the 7/7 Memorial Trust: http://www.tavistocksquarememorialtrust.org

2) Have you always wanted to write and had you done any writing before The Theseus Paradox?

I have never attempted a book before, although I have written many blogs and I’ve been involved in a consultative capacity with the television shows, ‘The Bill’ and ‘Crimewatch’.

During my time in the police, I was also followed around by a BBC film crew for a year on a documentary called ‘Burgled’, where the BBC was given unprecedented access to the best performing burglary squad in the Met. It was a fascinating experience. The only negative bit about it was that they wanted me to wear exactly the same outfit every single day to ensure continuity!

theseus review poster 2

3) How long did the book take to write and was it more difficult than anticipated?

The Theseus Paradox is a story I’ve had in my head ever since I finished working on the case back in 2010. It took about a year to write, then six months to kick into shape and another six months to bring it to sale. I think the writing is the easiest bit. The hard part is getting it to market. You have to be a marketer, a PR person, a social media whiz, a supply chain expert and a one-person sales team – all completely alien skills when you’re just used to being a detective.

4)I really enjoyed the character of Jake, he’s totally believable. Will we be seeing him again?

I’m thrilled to hear that you like Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan. Unfortunately, he’s so obsessed with finding the answers to his investigations that he doesn’t always get the time to form proper loving relationships. Jake had low self-esteem in childhood and he still needs that reassurance to feel confident about himself – so because he always wants to feel needed and desired, sometimes he makes the wrong decisions in adulthood!

His heart is in the right place, though, so even when he chooses the wrong path, he will get there in the end. He has at least three more concrete adventures to recount, so you cannot escape him anytime soon! I’m currently working on the sequel. This one will be even more explosive than the first.

david videcette image
David Videcette, former detective with the Anti-Terrorist Branch who worked on the 7/7 London bombings.

5) What sort of books do you like to read?

Because I like to base my stories around real investigations and cases of which I have experience – most of the material I read is non-fiction. Everything I write has a basis in truth. So I am a huge consumer of news, reports and factual sources.

If I do read crime fiction, the book has got to be believable and have some basis in reality – and most importantly be written by someone who knows police procedure. If I read a detective novel and it is clearly apparent to me that the author has no experience or knowledge of how the police actually works, it turns me off instantly and I lose interest.

My guilty pleasure is the big screen. I have to say that as an escape, I will often go to watch a big blockbuster film rather than pick up a book.
6) How does your writing day work? 

I have to be in the right frame of mind to write. I need a trigger. I can’t write when I’m in a good mood. If I’ve had an argument, I can usually knock out a couple of thousand words in an hour or two. My editor likes me best when I’m grumpy or depressed. She says I’m always much more productive that way!
7) How can people connect with you on social media?

Come and join me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DavidVidecette @DavidVidecette
Or chat on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DavidVidecette
You can subscribe for news at my website: http://www.DavidVidecette.com
Or get info by liking ‘The Theseus Paradox’ on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheTheseusParadox
The Theseus Paradox is available on Amazon for Kindle here: http://hyperurl.co/KindleTheseusParadox
Or in paperback here: http://hyperurl.co/TheTheseusParadox

theseus paradox review poster

Many thanks to David for answering my questions.

To purchase a copy of The Theseus Paradox click here

 

Guest post with Clare Pedrick, author of Chickens Eat Pasta

Today I have a lovely guest post with Clare Pedrick. Her book, Chickens Eat Pasta, is her account of upping sticks and moving to Italy, buying a ruin of a house and her journey to transforming it into a home. I have this book to read and am looking forward to reading and reviewing.

 

Clare and house

Clare and her Italian house.

Almost exactly a year ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to get my book finished and published, once and for all. I had been working on it for a long time, as I knew that it was a compelling story, and one that deserved to be told, if only for the sake of my three children. For in a sense, Chickens Eat Pasta is their story, in that it helps to explain where they came from, and what led up to my meeting their father, in what was a fairly unusual mix of coincidences, luck and I suppose destiny, if you believe in that kind of thing. I know I do, though it was the last thing on my mind when this adventure all started.
I say adventure, because that’s exactly what it was, at least at the beginning, before there was any question of love being involved. Romance was another thing that was very low on my list of priorities when I decided, one day completely out of the blue, to buy a crumbling old ruin in the wilds of central Italy. It was partly a break-up with my long-term boyfriend that set me off on this journey in the first place. That, and the loss of both my parents, and the incessant rain that drummed day after day on the roof of my little Georgian house in Brighton, where I worked as a reporter on the local newspaper. All in all, I was feeling pretty miserable. And then by chance, one dreary Sunday morning, I spotted an advertisement in the Sunday Times for an old house in Umbria. As I say, I am intrigued by coincidences, and the events that followed were just full of them. For a start, a closer look revealed that the estate agent lived just a few streets away from my own home, even though the advertisement was in a national newspaper. And I just happened to have time off work owed to me, as the holiday my boyfriend and I had booked that summer had been hurriedly called off when we broke up after seven years together.
The very next day I went round to see the estate agent, who showed me a video of chickens eating pasta – hence the title – in a tiny mediaeval village surrounded by spectacular hills and valleys. And just two days later, I was on a plane to Italy. I don’t want to give away too much, but the book tells the tale of what many people thought was a rush of blood to the head. I was only 26 at the time and didn’t know a soul in Italy, least of all in the very remote and isolated hamlet where I bought my house. My older brother thought I had completely lost all reason. I had bought an old ruin with hardly any roof and no running water or electricity in the middle of nowhere.

This was my house when I first saw it

The house as it was.

To be honest, the villagers I encountered were also clearly perplexed. That part of Italy is still very traditional and it was really quite unthinkable that a young woman should be buying a house and doing it up, all on her own. People kept asking me where my parents were, or at least why I didn’t have a husband. They simply couldn’t understand.
With hindsight, it’s probably just as well that I didn’t think too carefully before plunging head first into my new life and all that it involved. There were some quite dramatic culture shocks in store, and even though I spoke Italian – I had studied it at school and university – the people here spoke a strong dialect that was very hard for me to understand. They also lived in a time warp, with women washing their clothes in the village piazza’s public fountain. In England, I had owned a washing machine and a dishwasher. In my new home, I didn’t even have a stove to cook on, but had to rely on the system that local people had used for generations, cooking food over the open fire, boiling pasta in a cauldron that hung from a big iron hook. I also underestimated the weather. I think most people associate Italy with a hot, sunny climate, but in winter, when I bought the house, it was bitterly cold in the Umbrian hills, and even after my house had been given a roof, it still had no heating other than the fireplace, and plenty of cracks for the wind and the cold to filter through.
As things turned out, and especially given the serendipity that brought me here in the first place, I was extremely lucky. I met some wonderful people and made some lifelong friends, many of whom feature in the book. And then, just when I was least expecting it, I did indeed fall in love, although I really hadn’t meant to. That relationship brought its own problems, and there were a great many ups and downs and heartbreak on both sides. I’ve deliberately written the book more as a novel than an autobiography – although the events are based on very solid truth – and I think a lot of readers have found themselves caught up in the love story as it unfolds. There is quite a strong sense of suspense throughout, so you are constantly wondering how things are going to work out.
These days, the house is very different from the old tumbledown wreck that caught my breath that first time I set eyes on it. It has a new roof, central heating and even a swimming pool, which is an idyllic place to sit and watch the sun set over the rolling hills and see the fireflies that dance around in summer evenings, or scan the skies for shooting stars.

my house now

The house now.

Of course, life is not always perfect here and, as I look out over the Apennine Mountains in the middle distance, I see that the first snow has fallen and the long winter is about to take hold. That first winter that I spent here was one of the coldest on record, and many of the olive trees that are such a central feature of the local landscape died as a result. But come March, the first wild asparagus will be appearing on the hillsides, and local people will be out scouring for them, as will I, using wooden sticks to push aside the undergrowth and ward off any errant vipers. Life goes on here much the way it has for generations, with seasonal rituals that often revolve round gathering food, and turning it into simple but delicious dishes.

I will never really understand what led me to the newspaper advert on that rainy Sunday morning all those years ago, and I could never have imagined the overwhelming change it would make to almost every aspect of my life. But I’m extremely glad that I didn’t pay too much heed to the voice of reason. Sometimes, being reckless really can pay off, and at the end of the day, I suppose that’s what Chickens Eat Pasta is all about.

Winter tightens its grip on the Umbrian landscape

To buy the book click here

 

 

 

Nightblind – BLOG TOUR

NightBlind BF AW 2

Nightblind

by Ragnar Jonasson

 

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Today it is my turn to host the very popular Nightblind blog tour. I read Snowblind, the first in the series, last year and it was one of my top ten reads of the year. To read my review click here

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The peace of a close-knit Icelandic community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark Arctic waters closing in, it falls to Ari Thor to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik where someone is being held against their will…

 

Ari Thor is back. After his superb debut in Snowblind, it is good to meet him again. It is now five years down the line and Ari Thor is re-united with his girlfriend and they now have a young son. All to the good: except that it’s not. The relationship has more cracks than a dried up cricket pitch and Ari Thor has been overlooked for the position of police inspector.

However, the new police inspector is also having no luck, he is shot at point blank range whilst investigating a derelict house. This is the only piece of good fortune Ari Thor has; as it would have been him investigating if he had not been sick.

Tomas, Ari Thor’s old colleague, is recalled from Reykjavik to help out with finding the killer. Their partnership works well, one cautious and slightly reserved, the other somewhat brusque and confident. One belonging to the area, the other still something of an outsider.

The hunt for the killer leads them to the local mayor, who is not all that he seems, and his deputy, who also has some dark secrets that she is trying to escape.

Throughout the book are pages of a diary written by someone incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital. These vignettes drip feed the back story of the murderer throughout the book to great effect.

Ari Thor is a wonderfully complex character, struggling to fit into a closed community  he carries secrets from his past that affect his personal life. I want to know more.

The real strength in Ragnar Jonasson’s writing is in his creation of atmosphere. He uses the setting of Siglufjordur, an isolated village in Northern Iceland, to create feelings of foreboding. He also uses the weather. The wind and the rain and the encroaching, all-encompassing darkness are as much a part of the book as the characters.

It is an unusual strategy to go five years down the line then backtrack to the intervening years and I am really interested to see how that works. There is a small preview of Blackout, the next book in the series, at the end of Nightblind and I am already hooked.

You can follow the blog tour here:

Nightblind Blog tour

Nightblind is published by Orenda Books on 15th january 2016.

To purchase a copy click  here

 

Playing With fire

 

playing with fire

 

Playing With Fire

by Tess Gerritsen

 

A beautiful violinist is haunted by a very old piece of music she finds in a strange antique shop in Rome.

The first time Julia Ansdell picks up The Incendio Waltz, she knows it’s a strikingly unusual composition. But while playing the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her young daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence. And when she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a dark secret that involves dangerously powerful people—a family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

 

There are two timelines to this book. The present day one which involves Julia, a violinist, who stumbles across music for an unpublished waltz in an antique shop in Rome. When she plays the music it seems to have a profound effect on her three year old daughter; making her want to kill her mother. The second timeline is set just before and during World War II. This story follows Lorenzo, a Venetian Jew, and delves into the horror that was the Holocaust.

For me, I’m afraid, this book just doesn’t work. The two storylines have no need of each other and are held together by the flimsiest of threads. Tess Gerritsen should have have told one or the other; preferably Lorenzo’s story which had enormous potential. As it is the character development is wafer thin, leaving you turning the pages knowing exactly where it is going, and what should have been an emotional and heartbreaking story turns into something that is merely sentimental.

I am a huge fan of Tess Gerritsen. Her Rizzoli and Isles books are some of my favourite crime books, but I think here she got caught between wanting to tell a different story and trying to please her crime fans with a tagged on thriller story, the ending of which is sadly not worth the wait.

**

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