Nutshell

I have recently started watching The Zoo on TV. For those of you who don’t know, this is not as the name suggests, a nice family show about zoo keepers and their charges. Instead it’s a series based on the James Patterson novel of the same name where animals are essentially taking revenge on humans in the most gruesome ways they can find.

As someone who has often thought how I much prefer animals to people (although I wouldn’t want to be confronted by a grizzly bear in my kitchen especially if I’d just opened a bottle of wine) this is the kind of programme that gives me a slightly satisfied feeling, animals fighting back. It also rather terrifies me though as it may already be happening. I can’t look at a crow without thinking of the Hitchcock film the Birds which I thought was really scary. I don’t think it helped that for the first few times I watched it, back in the days of the good old video tape I never got to watch the end. Either the film was overrunning so it didn’t record all of it, or the video ran out before it had finished. I even once bought a copy from the local charity shop and the tape mangled before I could watch it all the way through (anyone under the age of 40 reading this will have absolutely no idea what all that is about!) That just made the film even creepier if you ask me, did they get away from the birds or not?

Living near a field I often take the nice route to work which involves walking through a herd of young cows.  I like the cows, yet as I walk through them carrying my leather bag I’m sure they are watching me. They can sense that I’m using their grandmother to carry my sandwiches to work (It’s ten years old and was made from recycled leather so it may actually be more like their great great grandmother) I’ve never actually seen them following me, but I know they are. Every time I turn around they stop and pretend to just be going about their business chewing grass but I think it’s all an act they are just trying to plan their next move.

Squirrels are another one to watch out for. I hate spiders and once heard that if you put conkers round the edges of rooms they give off some kind of odour that puts spiders off coming in. So I like to collect conkers for decorations. Yet there I am happily walking along, eyes on the ground, and suddenly get hit by said conkers. These didn’t just fall they were launched from the tree. Exactly at the spot where a nice little squirrel sat smugly grinning away, clearly warning me off of his nuts.

I think we should just be glad that we don’t live in a country where there are crocodiles and bears, and all we have to worry about are squirrels and cows. Just watch an episode of Zoo if you don’t believe me.

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Only Daughter by Anna Snoestrka – a review

I was given a copy of this via the publisher and as I mentioned in my Q and A with Anna I found this a very enjoyable book.

In 2003 Rebecca Winter goes missing and is never found, one theory being that she perished in a bush fire. 11 years later a young woman turns up desperate after being arrested and claims to be the missing Rebecca. She starts living Rebecca’s life and is welcomed with open arms by her parents and twin brothers. However the imposter soon becomes embroiled in trying to figure out what really happened to Rebecca and ends up in danger herself.

This was a really intriguing concept set in Australia. Can someone persuade a family that they are a missing person? The story is told from the two perspectives of young Rebecca and then the new person pretending to be Rebecca (we don’t get a name) The usual teen angst of a girl shoplifting and fancying boys is mixed with disturbing things happening such as blood in her bed and someone in her room at night. There is also then the account of the imposter and the lengths she will go to in order to not be found out, whilst also trying to find out what really happened to Rebecca.

I must confess that to me this had a bit of a dip in the middle, it starts off really well and I couldn’t put it down. Yet neither of the characters were particularly likeable. Fake Bec clearly lacks morals which does mean you lack empathy with her, yet there is still enough about her that you want to know what is going to happen.  Even though you care about the truth there is a certain detachment felt to both the main characters which made me run out of steam with it a bit. Yet this all changes in the last part of the story with things taking a really terrifying twist.

Overall this was a very interesting book, with a ending that will certainly keep you on your toes. To find out more about Anne read my q and a.

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Only Daughter -Q and A with Anna Snoekstra BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Only Daughter and it is a pleasure to welcome author Anna Snoekstra to the blog. Only Daughter is a gripping read set in Australia. In 2003 Rebecca Winter goes missing, 11 years later a woman appears claiming to be the missing Rebecca. What follows is a twisty read with a really surprising ending.

Thanks for joining me Anna. I really enjoyed your book. What was the inspiration behind Only Daughter

I was interested in the gap between the ages sixteen and twenty-five, the things that happens between those times in your life which can’t be taken back and will shape the person you become.

Do you have a ‘day job’? Or do you manage to write full time?  

I resigned from my job working at a cinema in September 2015, so it has been exactly one year that I have been writing full time. On weekends I often nanny, which is a great way to get a bit of extra income as well as have some fun outdoors! I love children and writing can be solitary, so this is a great balance for me.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you? 

I write out of a shared warehouse space, which gets freezing in winter and blisteringly hot in summer. I try to get there by 8.30, but often fail. Usually I’ll spend my first hour or so replying to emails, tweets and messages. Since I live on the other side of the globe to my publishers and agent, I usually wake up to a very full inbox.

By ten I try and turn the internet off and put my phone on the other side of the room. I’ll pour a coffee and look back on where I left my writing the day before. At the moment I’m working on editing. I work very visually, so I make huge boards with cards for each chapter pinned on them as well as notes and questions. I’ll usually stare at this for about an hour and pull my hair out a bit before getting started.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work? 

Me and my husband love taking mini- day trips. If I had the afternoon off, it would be nice to drive to a little town out of Melbourne. There are so many beautiful little country towns only an hour’s drive away. Maybe if it was an extra special afternoon off we’d stop off at a winery.

That sounds like a lovely afternoon off, especially the winery! Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

I always have a to-read pile towering on the side of my bed. I attempt to read at the very least a book a fortnight, although it’s always tricky to find the time. For crime writers I can’t go past Tana French, she is just amazing. Although, I’ve never re-read any of her books. They were traumatic enough the first time! I always come back to Stephen Kings book On Writing. Every time I re-read it I learn something new.

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next? 

Yes! I’m so excited about my second novel, Dolls. It’s about a young woman who desperately wants to be a journalist, and how far she’ll go to get her story. It will be bigger in length and scope than Only Daughter, but will be dealing with similar themes of young women going to very dark places.

I’ll look forward to that coming out. Thanks very much Anna, its been a pleasure hosting this stop on your tour.

A review of Only Daughter will be here soon, and to read more about Anna visit her other stop today at Alba in Bookland tomorrows tour stops at Gin Books and Blankets and Stephs Book Blog

 

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A Man With One Of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell – a review

I was recently sent a free copy of ‘A Man With One of Those Faces’ from the publisher. There is nothing better than a free book, unless of course it is a free book that turns out to be excellent. A Man With One of Those Faces certainly fits the bill.

The debut novel by Caimh McDonnell is set in Dublin and introduces us to Paul Muchrone. Paul is a loner who lives off a monthly income left by a great Aunt to help tide him over until he gets a job. However he decides to ‘get one over’ on the dead Aunt by refusing to find work. Instead he lives out of bargain bins doing his stipulated six hours of charity work visiting old people in hospital pretending to be which ever relative they mistake him for. During one of these visits, one of the old men try to kill him, because he apparently looks like his son. This then starts Paul off in a race to save his own life, ably helped by Nurse Brigit who was the one who got him in the trouble in the first place technically. There is also wayward Policeman Bunny who is known for his unorthodox methods, a heavily pregnant solicitor and a multitude of bad guys.

Caimh McDonnell was originally a stand up comedian, and the comedy is definitely not something he has left behind. A Man With One of Those Faces combines an interesting crime story, with some truly hilarious writing. The phrase madcap is used alot in reviews but it certainly seems fitting when describing this book.

The characters are all a bit frustrating, and there is a lot of wishing you could shout stop at them but that just adds to the humour of the situation. Paul was not particularly likeable, he has that hard done by attitude that can be really off putting. Yet once he links up with Nurse Brigit you start to see a different side to him and have some sympathy.

The story in this was good, and had some real thriller elements to it. Yet the real bonus is the humour. It reminded me a little of Christopher Brookmyer and the way he manages to weave humour alongside a good storyline. I would thoroughly recommend this novel and am pleased that there will be some more outings for Paul, Nurse Brigit and Bunny.

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Valentina by SE Lynes – a review

I received a free copy of Valentina by SE Lynes from Blackbird Digital Publishing and unfortunately due to annoying things like work getting in the way I have only just got around to reading it.

I can’t believe it took me so long as this was a fantastic read. Valentina is the debut novel from SE Lynes. The story starts with Shona and her boyfriend Mikey, moving with their new baby to Aberdeen. Mikey has got a job working on the oil rigs so sets his family up to a little cottage in the middle of nowhere. He then leaves Shona to starts getting used to life with the on off relationship created by his being on the rig. Having moved to a brand new area Shona quickly gets lonely and soon starts craving adult company. Previously she worked as a journalist so she hopes to find some work locally, while she puts her daughter Isla into nursery. This also gives her the chance to meet other Mums. Shona quickly makes a friend called Valentina and is so grateful for company she overlooks some of the bits about her new friend that seem slightly strange. As the story progresses, the reader starts to see where things are going, but Shona is in the dark.

This was a really interesting storyline, which showed just how easy it is to let people into your lives despite the fact you know nothing about them and don’t know whether to trust them. I found the character of Shona compelling from the start. You can feel her loneliness which translates into a neediness that is immediately jumped on by Valentina. Often this kind of needy character is really annoying to read, but Shona also has a certain steeliness that makes her likeable.

The story is written from the different points of view of the two friends which is perfect for this story as it gives you a real insight into the characters. Although it starts off a bit slowly you soon get swept along. It was obvious what was going to happen with Valentina, although I didn’t guess how far the twist would go, and the beauty of this story was that every time you thought you had guessed what was about to happen it would be subtly different.

I would definitely recommend Valentina especially if you are looking for a nice quick read to fit in around a busy few days.

 

 

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – a review

This was the second novel by writer Ruth Ware who I first encountered at the festival last year (so excited by her debut novel were me and the Sister we even got dressed up for photos!) so I was very pleased to get a free copy of the Woman in Cabin 10 via netgalley.

The Woman in Cabin 10 starts off with a break in at journalist Lo Blacklock’s flat. She is already quite highly strung and this understandably causes her to go into a state of paranoia and panic. In order to help get over the break in she accepts an assignment on a cruise ship. It is supposed to be ten days of pure relaxation and sightseeing. Unfortunately the first night of sailing Lo thinks she sees a woman pushed over board. Despite there not being anyone reported missing she is adamant this has really happened and won’t let it go. Due to her fragile mental state and excessive drinking no one else believes her. Interspersed with us finding out what is happening on board we also hear from her friends and colleagues who are worried that she seems to have disappeared.

Whilst this was an enjoyable read I don’t think it was quite as good as the first novel. It did unfortunately feel a little bit similar to Girl on a Train to me. However saying that, I really enjoyed Girl on a Train so that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The main problem was that I didn’t really like the main character. She was incredibly annoying, and whilst you care about the crime that may or may not have been committed a lot of the time you wanted to just tell her to leave it alone.

Yet despite that I did enjoy reading this. It was another fun fast read and at no point did I guess the outcome which kept me turning the page to find out what was happening. I like the style of novel that uses an unreliable narrator and this certainly ticked that box. The setting on a cruise ship was interesting as it gave it that locked room feel where the list of suspects is limited and you get an incredibly claustrophobic feel.

This is the second book I’ve read recently based on a cruise ship (Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard being the other one) and it is a fascinating setting. Overall I did enjoy this and will certainly be looking out for more from Ruth Ware

 

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The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – a review

This was a book that was being heavily promoted at the recent festival, and although I got a key ring advertising the book I didn’t actually get to pick this one up (lack of money not withstanding, my lack of Olympic weightlifting prowess does mean that you have to draw the line at book buying once the bag becomes too heavy to lift) However the following day when I sat down to go through all my books I was lucky enough to find that the lovely Mr F had snuck a copy of this one into the pile.

The Couple Next Door is about married partners Anne and Marco. They have been invited to a party by their neighbour who is insistent that children are not allowed. When Anne and Marco’s babysitter cancels, rather than stay at home they decide to still go to the party and just take a baby monitor with them. Clearly this is all going to end in tears. When they return the baby has been taken, and their lives start to fall apart.

This was a fast fun read, that would make a perfect holiday book. You know straight from the off that the baby is going to go missing so there is no mystery there, but the story focuses on who has taken the baby and the interplay between the varying cast members.

This was a novel written in the third person which kind of works, although there were some aspects where you almost felt you were being spoon fed a bit too much. There was a lot of telling rather than showing, but that’s down to the style of writing. Once you get used to this then the story soon starts to take off. There were plenty of twists and turns along the way and although bits of it were easy to guess, there was enough red herrings and shocks to keep you interested. One thing that I liked was the fact that it focuses completely on the characters and you don’t really get a sense of place, it could be based anywhere.

The characters are all quite annoying and I didn’t really care about them, but yet I still really wanted to know what was happening. Some of the actions are  bit far fetched but the story carries you along so fast that you don’t mind. Overall I really enjoyed this book and it was clear why it was such a hit at the festival.

 

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