Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean & Me

coffee tea

 

Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean & Me

by Caroline James

 

‘The time to be happy is now…’ Jo remembers her late husband’s words but is struggling to face the lonely future that lies ahead. A heartbroken widow, Jo finds herself alone with ghostly memories at Kirkton House – a Cumbrian Manor that until recently, she ran as a thriving hotel. Her two sons have moved away, Jimmy to run a bar in Barbados, and Zach to London to pursue a career as a celebrity chef. Middle-age and widowhood loom frighteningly and Jo determines to sell up and start again, despite protestations from colourful friend, Hattie and erstwhile admirer Pete Parks.

Hattie convinces Jo to postpone any life-changing decisions by enjoying a Caribbean holiday but their holiday sets off a course of events that brings mayhem and madness to Jo and her family. Confused and anxious for her future, can life really begin again for Jo?

 

This book is the second in the series after, Coffee, Tea, The Gypsy and Me, but is easily read as as a standalone.

Jo is a grief-stricken widow, the sudden death of her husband has left her bereft. Her friend Hatti, who is recently separated from her philandering husband, is worried about her friend and suggests they go on holiday to see if that helps and take stock of where to go in their lives. Jo’s son is living in Barbados and this seems the perfect destination.

What follows is a fun-filled trip, especially for Hatti, in which they make new friends, indulge in an excess of cocktails and food and find new liaisons.

Back home Pete Parks is yearning for Jo. He is an old friend who has always wanted to be more. Now he fears she is slipping through his fingers and it is breaking his heart.

I found the characters in the book to be entertaining and we hear from different viewpoints, which gives the book a well-rounded feel. Hatti is brilliant, taking life by the scruff of the neck, drinking and eating to her heart’s content and saying yes to absolutely everything.

During the holiday Jo meets rock star ‘Long’ Tom Hendry, both at a low ebb, they find themselves with common ground. I really liked Tom’s character, he had an added depth that can sometimes be missing in romantic comedies. Although I did find it irritating that he had to be called ‘Long’ Tom all the time.

Jo’s youngest son, Zach, is in London making a career as a celebrity chef and it was interesting how the two stories intertwined.

I did think that a few of the chapters were superfluous and didn’t move the story along at all, they could easily have been left out. But this is a well-written story that lovers of chick-lit will not be disappointed with.

Many thanks to the author, Caroline James, for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

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The Girl In The Ice

the girl in the ice

 

The Girl In The Ice

by Robert Bryndza

 

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong… resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?

 

A wealthy socialite is found dead under the ice in the depths of winter. When DCI Erika Foster is called in to investigate, she discovers a seedy side to Andrea Douglas-Brown’s life. Erika’s investigation is somewhat hampered by Andrea’s powerful family who seem to have the police in their back pockets. Nor is she helped by the obnoxious DCI Sparks who feels he should be heading the investigation.

After a series of events, Sparks gets his way and Erika is kicked off the investigation but she won’t lie down. Digging deeper she finds connections with three dead prostitutes and she soon finds herself hurtling towards more danger than she ever thought possible.

This book is the most enjoyable police procedural that I have read in a while. the author keeps the pace of the story going throughout the book. The tension that builds is almost palpable as we race towards a denouement that is perfectly weighted.

I loved the character of Erika Foster, a Slovakian, who has been in England since she was 18 yrs old. She is riddled with guilt and grief; on her last case five people were killed including her beloved husband, Mark. Despite this she has got back on her feet and is determined to find the killer before he strikes again. Erika is a strong, intelligent, forceful,determined lady and I look forward to meeting her again.

I enjoyed the other characters in the book as well. Whether they are awful or eccentric they are all well written and believable.

I think the author, who is better known as a writer of romantic comedies, has turned his hand to crime writing with aplomb and I am very much looking  forward to his next crime novel and meeting Erika and her colleagues again.

Many thanks to publishers Bookouture for sending me a copy via Netgalley

 

 

VOTE NOW! Annual Bloggers Bash Awards NOW OPEN

BLOGGER AWARDS are here!!! First posted at sachablack.co.uk

Sacha Black

VOTE NOWThis is it. The waiting is finally over.

The Bloggers Bash Awards are now open for voting.

We had a HUGE number of nominations, over 350, so thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate.

Voting Closes June 9th at 12pm. The winners will be announced on June 11th at the Bash. If you can’t make it then a winners post will go live at 5:15pm on June 11th.

Choose carefully, you can only vote ONCE per category. There are 10 awards, (so it’s a long post) make sure you vote in them all.

Good luck to all the nominees.

Disclaimer: The committee has done their best to coordinate the nominations and to ensure, where possible, we gave nominees a choice of which category they wanted to be in. Due to time constraints and limited resources this may not have always been possible.

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Dark Places

dark places

 

Dark Places

by Gillian Flynn

 

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

 

Libby Day lived through her family being massacred when she was seven years old. her brother, Ben, is now serving a life sentence for the murders, thanks in part to the evidence that Libby gave.

Since then Libby has been sleep-walking through life, no job, no friends; existing on a fund set up by well-wishers. But now that the fund is running out and the book that Libby helped t0 write was not a much of a success, she has to find some other way to make some money. So when she gets an invite to be a guest speaker at the Kill Club, a group of true-crime devotees, she reluctantly takes them up on it. What she doesn’t know is that the Kill Club members believe fervently that Ben is innocent. So Libby sets off on a search for the truth of that horrendous night.

Interwoven in Libby’s story are the events leading up to the murders on 2nd january 1985, told alternately through Patty, Libby’s mother and Ben. The backstory is tense and chilling, filled with the most awful characters imaginable. Ben, at the heart of the story, is a loner and a troubled, easily-led individual caught up with some extremely nasty people. He gets involved in drug taking and satanic worship with a girlfriend who knows no boundaries.

Patty is probably the only character in the book who elicits any real sympathy. She struggles with no money to keep the family farm going, and her children fed. Trying at the same time to keep her revolting ex-husband at arms length.

Libby, who survived the murders by hiding in a cupboard, is a very well-drawn character, in that her whole life has been badly affected by what happened and rather than show us some unrealistically sympathetic character, the author shows us her dark side. She doesn’t work, she is lazy, prone to violence and thieving. She is very hard to like, although as the book progresses I did find myself warming to her.

Never has a book deserved its title more than this one. It is dark, dark, dark. The countdown to the murders makes for very unpleasant reading. I thought this book was a good portrayal of class and values, the effects of money or lack of it, and the boundaries that people, especially teenagers, need.

I would recommend this book if you like reading about dark subjects. if you’re expecting another Gone Girl you will need to think again. I wouldn’t have even said it was the same author. Which says something for the talent of Gillian Flynn.

This Must Be The Place

this must be the place

 

This Must Be The Place

by Maggie O’Farrell

 

The dazzling new novel from bestselling, award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE crosses time zones and continents to reveal an extraordinary portrait of a marriage.

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex-film star given to shooting at anyone who ventures up their driveway.

He is also about to find out something about a woman he lost touch with twenty years ago, and this discovery will send him off-course, far away from wife and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

Maggie O’Farrell’s seventh novel is a dazzling, intimate epic about who we leave behind and who we become as we search for our place in the world.

 

Once in a while a book comes along that leaves you breathless, that takes your world, shakes it up and leaves it spinning on a different axis. This Must Be The place is one such book.

Daniel Sullivan is a native New Yorker now living in the wilds of Donegal in north-west Ireland with his reclusive wife Claudette and their two children. Daniel is a linguistics professor, which is ironic as he often has trouble finding the right words when he needs them. I loved Daniel, even though he trips and falls, crashing along making decisions that are never going to work; his heart is such a good one, he just cannot see the far-reaching effects his decisions have on the people he loves…and then fate lends a hand.

Claudette is a famous film star and director who has run away from her former life and been living under the radar ever since. She comes across as ballsy and domineering,  she is extremely strong-willed but at the same time incredibly vulnerable.

When Daniel makes a trip back to New York for his father’s 90th birthday he takes another journey which endangers his whole marriage.

Although at the heart of the book is Daniel and his marriage to Claudette, the chapters are told from many different points of view. Some of them are vignettes: short stories in themselves. But how gloriously coloured they are, how in-depth the lives of these secondary characters. Maggie O’Farrell shows how everyone has a story no matter how fleeting their appearance.

If you like your books told in linear fashion, this may not be for you as the chapters bounce around through time and place with glorious abandon. One chapter you’re in New York 2010, the next L.A. 1994, so many characters, so many countries, so many time zones. But it works, it works so incredibly well.

The writing is beautiful but it is Maggie O’Farrell’s gift for storytelling that takes the book to the sublime. Her weaving in of different strands of a tale is effortless. The insight into the characters and their converging relationships is phenomenal.  I cannot imagine anything beating this book for book of the year. Maggie O’Farrell is a treasure who just keeps getting better and better.

Thanks so much to Georgina Moore of Headline for sending me a copy.

*****

 

 

 

 

GUEST POST: LYN FARRELL, AUTHOR OF THE WACKY MAN

Today I am delighted to welcome author Lyn Farrell to the blog. She has done a lovely post about how starting a blog really helped her writing and the completing of her book.

Her debut novel, The Wacky Man, is garnering rave reviews and I cannot wait to read it. I also have to say that the cover is absolutely stunning.

the wacky man

Blurb

My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’

It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone . . .

Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised. As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

 

FROM A BLOG TO A BOOK

I’ve been thinking about the long road to finishing my novel, specifically about a time where the writing hadn’t being going well and the manuscript very neglected. I had an allotment at this point and was giving my team mates regular updates on everything I was doing there. My colleague Mike said ‘You should write a blog.’ This could have been a polite way of telling me not to take out my enthusiasm on my work team but, despite my initial scepticism, I started a blog and it did wonders for my writing.

I got into the habit of writing twice a week. I also learned how to edit and hone the pieces, found more literary ways of telling stories about the seasons, the flowering of plants, the wildlife I saw there in the early mornings and the sense of peace and quiet I managed to carve out in a busy city. I wrote of newly discovered things; leaf cutter bees and the links between Marie Antoinette and potato flowers, the tiny flies called no-see-ums that attack your most delicate parts. I put links to Chekov and T S Eliot, to songs by Dylan and art made up of cauliflowers.

The most unexpected benefit was that I started looking at my novel in a different way; not as a struggle but as a progression, as something to be nourished and grown the way you might take any seedling to maturity. I had a more technical eye for it; focusing in on paragraphs and chapters and links between the different parts of the story the way I linked allotment events in my blog. I even incorporated a piece I’d written for the blog into the novel.

I’ve been asked a lot recently about the advice I’d give to other writers. I would of course say never give up and that everything you write now is a stepping stone to writing better stories in the future. But I would also say, try a blog. It gives you the freedom to experiment with your writing, to play around with structure. It gives you the motivation to write as well as the discipline. It is said that the deepest learning happens when you’re not even aware that it’s going on. That certainly happened for me. I had great fun, rekindled my creative spark and managed to finish my debut novel.

Lyn Farrell

 

Lyn G. Farrell is the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary and The Wacky Man is her debut novel.
Lyn grew up in Lancashire where she would have gone to school if life had been different. She spent most of her teenage years reading anything she could get her hands on.
She studied Psychology at the University of Leeds and now works in the School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.

Follow Lyn Farrell on Twitter @FarrellWrites

You can purchase a copy of The Wacky man here

 

 

When She Was Bad

when she was bad

 

When She Was Bad

by Tammy Cohen

 

YOU SEE THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH EVERY DAY.

BUT WHAT CAN’T YOU SEE?

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?

 

There are two parts to this story. On the one hand we have the present day office-based story, where a group of co-workers are jolted out of their comfort zone by the arrival of a new manager, whose mission is to turn around the business, to this end she pits the staff against each other, exposing the dark underbelly of office politics, that a lot of people will recognise in one form or another. On the other hand we have child psychologist, Dr Anne Cater, watching a report of a crime that has been committed. She recognises the accused and we are taken back in time to when she was a junior and her first case involving child abuse towards two siblings.

I loved the writing in this book, Tammy Cohen draws you in with a brilliant first paragraph:

Imagine we could see the damage inside ourselves. Imagine it showed through us like contraband in an airport scanner. What would it be like, to walk around the city with it all on view – all the hurts and the betrayals and the things that diminished us; all the crushed dreams and the broken hearts? What would it be like to see the people our lives have made us? The people we are, under our skin.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book, it had the feel of a really strong psychological thriller. The office setting was really clever and original. The alternating chapters from Anne’s point of view that gave insight into a horrific case of child abuse and the repercussions from it were strong and affecting. 

As the story moved on I really couldn’t see where the connection for the two stories was going to be, and for me that was a problem. The disconnect between the two stories was too much and they felt shoe-horned together at the end. I didn’t feel it mattered who was killed or who did the killing.

Having said that I found the writing to be crisp and the characters well-drawn and I found there was lots to like about the book. I will definitely read other books by this author.

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